Morning, everyone. I was having tea this morning, on my front porch, reading a book I haven't looked at in years. I came across a poem I'd forgotten about entitled Longing by Annette Lynch. It inspired me to write this little one-shot. ConYuu, certainly. And, as always, I don't own anything having to do with KKM, 'ceptin' my little stories.
"Good morning, Conrad." Gunter murmured, as though hesitant to break the quiet peace blanketing the castle.
"Good morning," Conrad replied.
Gentle smiles are exchanged, then only the subdued sounds of a teaspoon against china, the click of cream pitcher's lip against the side of the cup. Conrad accepts the cup and saucer, inclining his head in thanks, and takes his place at the small table. In these pre-dawn hours, he and Gunter perform their morning ritual and Conrad wonders, absently, when the last time was that he drank his morning tea in the sun.
This is the pause, the deep breath inhaled before other sounds intrude marking the beginning of another day in Shin Makoku. Being a soldier first, Conrad understands that time marches steadily forward, advancing the narrative of their lives in a relentless campaign to overtake the future. And he wonders sometimes, when was it that he began leaving his bed before the sun was up. There must have been a first day—a day where he awakened, stretched, and left the lazy warmth of his bed, bare feet tingling on an icy stone floor—that signaled the end of careless youth and heralded the beginning of responsible adulthood. Gunter silently offers him a document. He lays it to the side—not quite ready to read it.
A castle is a city unto itself, his father told him when he was a child. And a city has its own life. This castle, for example, existed as a planning base, military stronghold, and the center of government for a country in the midst of change. So, as if it were waking itself, the castle began to come alive. The first few echoing steps of soldiers during the changing of the guard, the first tendrils of smoke from the ovens rising in the air from the kitchens, an audible stamp and whinny of a horse anxious for his morning oats were like the tentative stretches of a man coming out of his repose.
"Good morning, Gwendal," Gunter said, softly, as Conrad's elder brother stepped out onto the balcony. It was not yet light—the sky the same iron and steel grey of the General's hair. Conrad smiled at his brother and nodded. Gwendal tipped his chin in acknowledgment, and took the proffered cup and saucer from Gunter. Gwendal would have already burnt one candle to the nub, signing documents and reading reports, this morning. If he appeared a shade more irritated than usual, Conrad didn't mind.
The distant sound of gates opening, accompanied by the creaking of wooden wheels and clop-clopping of hooves announced the arrival of the first delivery of the day, breaking the companionable silence.And now, by tacit agreement, the morning meeting could commence.
"I hope this will be the cart from the harbor," Gunter said, sipping his tea audibly. "Yesterday, Yuri-heika mentioned he would like fish for breakfast, but Doria has informed me that we have none."
"It would be better if it was the cart from the forge, then perhaps I could chain Yuri-heika to his desk and he might actually do some work. If it isn't, he will escape again." Gwendal muttered.
"His majesty is so noble, so warmhearted," Gunter sighed. "Though, I do sometimes wonder if it is his desire to know more about Shin Makoku that causes him to behave so recklessly…or if it is just that he doesn't want to spend time with me. Perhaps…perhaps he dislikes me?"
"Heika adores you, Gunter," Conrad said, picking up the document at his side—prepared to read it now. "It is just that he is young, and this world is still unfamiliar to him. He has never been asked to work this hard before, and he pays attention as long as he can, he is just restless."
"Restless youth. So romantic," Gunter sighed as his thoughts drifted. "Today I shall teach Yuri-heika about the Collier Uprising, and how the Ninth Maou, Cedric-Heika, led the army of young mazoku in suppressing the rebellious malcontents."
"All he did was take a few boys out in the fields of southern Shin Makoku and allow them to practice their sword skills by ridding the farmers' lands of groundhogs." Gwendal grumbled, adding more sugar to his tea.
"And what will you do today, Conrad?" Gunter asked, ignoring Gwendal's mumbling with delicate sensibilities.
"He'll aid and abet the deserter," Gwendal muttered. "You can't protect him from his responsibilities forever, Conrad."
"There's where you're wrong," Conrad said quietly. "I will protect Yuri-heika from any danger, any harm, but I will assist him in his duties and help him wherever I can. As long as I am alive, I will never stop working toward building the future Yuri has envisioned."
The sun was over the horizon now, the first bright rays falling across the table. The glow obscured the gentle blush on the soldier's cheeks. Conrad turned his attention to the paper in his hand—the day's schedule, for all of them, written in Gunter's steady, beautiful script. Wolfram was slated to take a small patrol around the castle perimeter this morning, at the same time Conrad was scheduled to oversee Yuri's sword practice. He glanced at the adjutant. The older man's smile was serene, knowing.
"Thank you," Conrad whispered.
"Unmade love hangs like dangling legs with no floor to touch." Gunter's expression was wistful.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Gwendal asked.
"It's just a line from a poem," Gunter sighed. "Yuri-heika brought me a book of poetry back from earth. Such a rare gift."
Conrad knew his old teacher wasn't speaking about the book, and he agreed.
"Thank you," Conrad said again, pushing back from the table and standing. "I will go and wake Heika, now. I will see you both again at lunch."
Gwendal grunted, shrugging his shoulders, then draining his cup and standing. "I'm going back to my office."
Gunter stood and gathered the sheaf of papers next to him. "I must check on the castle's foodstores and make my quarterly inventory of the treasure room."
Conrad walked through the halls of the now-awake castle. He greeted everyone he passed with a kind smile. He found Yuri, still asleep, snuggled deep into his bed—Greta and Wolfram nearby. He touched the young ruler's shoulder, and smiled when the Maou slowly opened his eyes.
"Mmmm. Is it already time to get up? It's so early!" The boy's voice was sleep-filled, drowsy.
"Good morning, Heika. Did you sleep well?"
"It's Yuri, Nazeukoya! Say: Good morning, Yuri."
Conrad allowed himself one brief touch—the simple brush of the king's bangs from his eyes.
"Good morning, Yuri."
My goal in this one-shot was to capture Conrad as a portrait. I'm not sure how successful I have been in doing that. As ever, thank you very much for reading!