I Don't Own Kyou Kara Maou.

Well, I think this fic is best served with warnings aplenty. First, this is not for the Wolfram lover in you. While discussing abusive relationships with a colleague today, I was nudged in my brain by this idea. So, first, let me just say upfront--if there's a bad guy in this fic, it's Wolfram. There, warning made. Second, I don't know how much humor I can inject into this one, and though I prefer comedy most of the time, I reckon this is just likely to be dark, dark, dark. Third, It's a CONYUU pairing, but give it a chance, because it may take a bit to get there. There is a touch of one-sided Yozak/Yuuri, but nothing to distract from the main pairing. Ok, those are the warnings, then. Otherwise, thanks for reading and giving this one a chance. I foresee much trouble ahead for our Conrad in this story--but I feel confident that he can render the exact assistance that Yuuri requires. Oh, one more thing--there is a double U Yuuri in this one, because it just felt right. So, into the depths we go--thanks again for reading.


Chapter One: Isolation

It started on a public day—one of the days of the season when Yuuri, in his role as Maou sat in his office and listened to the complaints, concerns, and wishes of the general citizenry. The king did not need to look out the window to know that the line of people waiting to see him stretched through the halls, down the steps, and out the entrance gates of Blood Pledge Castle. Instead, he tried to sit up straighter in his chair and pay attention to the latest complaint—a farmer who felt the color of his neighbor's barn was a direct insult.

"If you're always looking at your neighbor's barn, I wonder how you have time to tend your own crops?" Yuuri mused aloud, resting his chin on his hand.

"Heika! You are so wise," Gunter cooed from somewhere behind his chair.

"Y—Yes, your majesty," the farmer said. "I will look to my own household first and try not to be so concerned with the affairs of others."

"Mind your own business," Gwendal said tersely, and showed the man to the door.

The next person in line was called for. Yuuri waited, wondering what it would be this time. Oh, Heika! Help me! My Cat lost all her fur, it must be a curse! But as the time passed, and no one came in, Yuuri held his breath and made a wish.

"Conrad? Is that…everyone? Is no one else waiting?"

"A moment, please, Heika." Conrad called from the doorway. "It's all right, you can step this way." This last was directed to the door in a much kinder voice than even his normal kindly voice.

Yuuri frowned slightly as a slim young woman entered the room, hesitating just at the doorway. She seemed nervous, as though she might just turn around and bolt. Yuuri watched her. She was slight, not any taller than he was. She had light pink hair that was pulled back into a modest braid, and she wore the simple, neat clothes of a married Mazoku woman. Her eyes were green, he thought, though it was difficult to tell as her gaze darted around the room like a scared bird seeking some kind of escape. Frightened bird. Yuuri didn't know why he had that thought, but it was enough to fix his interest on the woman.

"Won't you come in?" he asked, politely. "I am happy to hear your concerns today."

The woman's eyes landed on him and widened. He realized he was still frowning a little, and maybe that's why she looked a little teary all of a sudden. She really was timid. However, she did advance another step further. Then her eyes landed on a scowling, arms-folded, eye-twitching, Gwendal. She let out an audible gasp and stepped back again. Why was she frightened of Yuuri's chief military advisor?

"I—I'm sorry. Please excuse me, Heika. Coming was a mistake. I didn't mean to bother you. I'm sorry. I won't take up your time. The woman turned to flee, but at Yuuri's nod, Conrad's gentle hand on her shoulder restrained her.

"My people are never a bother to me," Yuuri said soothingly, as though speaking to a scared, wounded animal. "I have all the time in the world to listen to you, Ma'am. And I would like to listen, and help if I can."

"Would—would you really try to help, Heika?"

"Yes." He answered simply. "But I have the feeling that you are here with a personal matter, right?"

She nodded, still held by Conrad's hand.

"Then let's talk about it privately, ok? Are you hungry? Thirsty?"

She shook her head quickly.

"Well, I'm famished. I missed lunch today. So, maybe you could come with me while I get something to eat? There are some snacks right through this door, and tea too, I bet—right, Gunter?"

"Of course, Heika! I have requested your favorites. The antechamber is prepared."

"Thanks. So, Ma'am—won't you step in here. It'll be just the two of us—and we can talk."

"O—ok." She said, taking a deep breath. She looked like she wanted to cross the room, but she glanced at Gwendal again and paled.

"Gwendal," Yuuri called, gaining his advisor's attention. "Can you come help me with my chair? I seem to be stuck…must be the carpet."

The general looked irritated and confused, but complied with the king's request. As soon as he was out of her path, the young woman hurried across the room to wait at the side-door. Yuuri let Gwendal pull his chair back and as he stood, he whispered, "Please stop frowning, Gwendal, you're only making things worse!"

Then he said in a louder voice, "Gunter, would you please take over for me for a little while? I will be back as soon as—your name, Ma'am?"

"Pepper. Pepper Bach."

"Very well, Mrs. Bach," and Yuuri knew that everyone in the room was aware it wasn't the woman's real name. "Gunter, I'll be back as soon as Mrs. Bach and I solve her problem, ok?"

"I would be honored to act as a substitute for your majesty, not that there could ever be any substitute for my wonderful Heika—whose nobility, kindness, and wisdom can never be paralleled—"

"Gunter," Gwendal said, sighing. "He's gone already. Let's just call the next one in."

"I do wonder what it's all about though," Conrad said softly, as he opened the door to admit another concerned citizen.

--O.o.O—

"I don't know where to begin," the woman said as Yuuri poured tea for them both.

"My mother always says that starting at the beginning is always the best way. Why don't you tell me your real name and we can start there?"

"Leah. My name is Leah, Heika."

"Well, my name is Yuuri—and now we can be friends, ok?"

The woman was blushing. "I couldn't call you by your name, Heika…"

Yuuri waved his hand impatiently. "I insist. So, Leah, won't you tell me what's troubling you?"

"I—I am married, Heika, but you probably guessed that." She hesitated a moment longer, then words seemed to rush from her mouth. "I don't know when it got so bad, or maybe it's always been this bad and I didn't see it. But, my husband loves me, I know that he does, he just can't…control his temper sometimes, and when I do things that make him angry, or when I upset him, he loses his temper and then he…"

She trailed off, looking at Yuuri, tears sliding down her cheeks.

"So, he hurts you?" Yuuri asked, as softly as he could.

She nodded.

"How long has this been going on?"

She told him, then, about the twenty years of marriage she had endured thus far. She explained her husband's triggers, and about losing their baby when he beat her severely. She told him about how things got worse after her parents died. She told him about how she lied to the neighbors, and how she learned to take a punch without crying. She told him about lying in bed, stiff with fear, because he had been out late drinking and she never knew if he was coming home angry—to beat her, or feeling amorous, which meant worse. And as she spoke, Yuuri felt a sick, sinking feeling in his stomach. Some part of him had known this would be her story from the moment she peeked into his office, but he still felt shocked. He wasn't qualified to help her understand what was going on inside of herself—he couldn't even understand why he thought the things he did in his own mind. But he understood what it felt like to be frightened, to be unable to sleep at night, to have to hide your pain and your bruises from the people who would want to help you but wouldn't be able to. He understood because Leah's story was, in a small way, his own.

"Leah, you never have to see him again. He is never going to hurt you again—I am going to protect you." Yuuri said, his vow soft but stern. "You are coming to live here in the castle, and work here. You will be safe."

"Oh! I cannot, your majesty. I can't!" She gasped out. "He would find me easily and then, well, I don't want to think what he'd do. Isn't there—I mean, I was hoping you could…fix him? You know, make him…loving again?"

"Even the Maou can't do that," Yuuri said sadly. "If a person changes, they have to do it themselves, and I think it must be a very hard thing to do, because people don't change very often, do they?"

Leah nodded, and Yuuri knew she was thinking the same thoughts he was—maybe they were the ones who needed to change.

"He'll kill me," she whispered.

"I won't let him."

"But…the General…the one in the green coat. My husband wears the same sort of uniform. He will easily find me here."

"Your husband is one of my soldiers? One of Gwendal's soldiers?" Yuuri couldn't explain why, but that knowledge enraged him. He had always thought of the soldiers as honorable men, sworn to protect himself and Shin Makoku—how could one of them ever…

He didn't finish the thought. He knew very well how a man of supposed honor could act in the way Leah's husband did.

"I will speak to Gwendal, and he will take care of your husband. Don't judge my General, please, by his appearance. Underneath his harsh exterior, he is kind and gentle. Look—he knitted this for me." Yuuri reached into his pocket and pulled out his love-worn, much cuddled neko-chan.

"It's a…raccoon? He knitted you a raccoon?"

"It's a kitty." Yuuri said, smiling. This must be how Gwendal felt whenever he mis-labeled the man's creations.

Suddenly, the young woman just burst into tears. She buried her face in her hands. Apologizing through her sobs. "Forgive me, Heika. I just didn't think anyone would ever help me."

Yuuri put his arm around her shoulder, not minding at all that his shoulder was getting wet. "I won't tell anyone about this, Leah, except for Gwendal, Gunter and Conrad—they will have to help us. Other than that, though, it will be a part of your past that you don't have to talk about until you want to, ok?"

"Thank you, Heika."

Yuuri rubbed her shoulders gently, still feeling a little sick to his stomach from the stress, but relieved as well. At least he would be able to help her. So, sitting on the small sofa in the little antechamber attached to his office, Yuuri comforted one of his subjects. The hug was innocent, friendly. But his heart still clenched in fear when the door opened, and Wolfram burst in.

"What do you think you're doing…Yuuri!" The blonde's voice was low, silky and dangerous.

--O.o.O—

Conrad didn't mind rearranging his schedule when Yuuri called a meeting between himself, Gunter and Gwendal. It was actually a rare occurrence—the young Maou didn't usually instigate such conferences, so it definitely had to be important. And, perhaps, it would allow him some insight into what Yuuri had been thinking lately. It seemed that in recent months the younger man had become more reticent—less likely to just say what he was thinking. In fact, he hadn't been acting much like the Yuuri Conrad had always known. Frankly, it troubled the older man. Conrad had patiently borne the distance, but he didn't like it.

Everyone summoned was already in Gwendal's office when Conrad arrived—except for Yuuri. He was about to ask the king's location when the young man himself arrived.

"Sorry for being late," Yuuri said, hurriedly. "I—I had to do some things. Are we all here? Ok."

"What is on your mind, Heika?" Gunter asked, smiling at the Maou.

"The woman who came to see me today, you remember? The one with the pink hair that I talked to alone…?"

"Yes, Heika?"

"She's married to a soldier, apparently one of your guards, Gwendal—that's why you scared her so much. Anyway, he's been beating her for a long time, and I've decided to intervene."

Conrad sat back in his chair, working hard to keep the surprise from showing on his face. Yuuri was speaking quietly, but his expression was earnest.

"Are you certain of this, Heika?" Gwendal asked, his scowl darkening.

"I believe her." The boy said, his voice suddenly harsh. "You didn't talk to her—I did. And I believe her! And we are going to help her. I made a promise!"

"Heika." Gunter's voice was gentle. "Of course we are going to help. Such behavior is shameful—reprehensible. What would you like us to do?"

Conrad reached out to put his hand on Yuuri's shoulder, but the young man flinched away from him and tried to cover his action by walking over to the bookshelves. He made a show of staring at Gwendal's animal collection.

"I want her to stay here, in the castle with us. And she needs a job, something not too strenuous because she's been pretty badly injured over a long period of time. Gisela has already looked her over, and right now she is in the upstairs maids' chambers. And I want you to do something about her husband, Gwendal. His name is Hinman."

Conrad watched his brother's face. The scowl etched itself deeper still. "He has always been one of my most trusted soldiers, Heika. It is hard for me to believe—"

"I knew you wouldn't believe me." Yuuri whispered.

No one spoke for a minute and Conrad stared, bewildered by the boy's words.

"I do believe you," Gwendal said carefully. "I was going to say that it is hard for me to believe that I misjudged his character so completely. I want to ask your forgiveness, Heika—not question your judgment."

"O—Oh." Yuuri blushed, his head tipping down so his bangs fell across his eyes. "I'm sorry, Gwendal. I'm really sorry."

"Heika, you never need apologize to your loyal subjects. I keep telling you that." Gunter said as though the outburst never happened.

"Would you like me to have Hinman executed, Heika?" Gwendal asked.

"What?" Yuuri looked almost…frightened, Conrad thought.

"If it is your will that he be executed, Heika, it shall be done. He certainly would never be able to hurt another woman."

"I…I…Execution? I don't know about that, Gwendal. I can't…I never wanted to be that kind of Maou."

"Perhaps Hinman could be sent to the far borders…until his fate is decided?" Conrad suggested.

"Yes. Yes, that's a good idea." Yuuri looked a bit relieved. "Ok, Gwendal, lose the man somewhere, ok? Send him so far away that he can't hurt Leah again."

"It will be done tonight. He is already on duty—has been all day."

"Don't let him go home first, though, ok? I don't want him to know that Leah has already escaped." Yuuri said this anxiously. He seemed to think it was very important.

"Of course, Heika. Anything else?"

"Just one more thing, Gwendal…a strange request, but I would appreciate it all the same."

"Yes, Heika?"

"Could…could I take one of your animals to Leah? She is all alone, really, and no one understands what she's been through. Sometimes it helps to have something to hug…" The boy's voice drifted off in a whisper.

Conrad didn't know why, but his heart was racing. Yuuri was saying something, directly to him he thought, but he couldn't figure it out. There was something important happening and he couldn't understand it. He remained calm, seated and listening attentively, however, his inner turmoil only increased when Gwendal selected a large, floppy-eared bunny (that looked more like a bear) and handed it to the Maou.

"Will this do, your majesty?" the man asked.

The boy clutched the stuffed animal to his chest. "Yes, it's perfect. Thank you, Gwendal. I hope she will find you a little less terrifying now. I told her, also, that I would keep this information between the four of us, ok?"

"Is that wise, Heika?" Conrad asked. "Are you sure you don't want to tell anyone else—the staff?"

"No, thank you, Conrad. I made a promise. I intend to keep it."

"Very well…Heika."

Conrad waited, hoping, but Yuuri only nodded to him. Yes, there was something definitely wrong with the Maou of Shin Makoku. It had been four months, two weeks, and three days since the young king had corrected Conrad Weller for not using his given name. Not that the soldier was keeping track.

--O.o.O—

Yozak Gurrier checked his packs one last time, making sure he had everything he needed before he set out on his next assignment. He scowled for a moment—he was missing his lucky ball gown. He couldn't leave without it. Turning from his horse, he headed from the stable back toward the castle. He met Yuri-Heika in the middle of the courtyard, and the king was carrying the spy's dress.

"Yo! Many thanks, Heika—I was just coming to get that."

"I…I heard from Gunter that you are taking a trip?"

"Yeah," Yozak laughed, winking at the king. "Not much of anything exciting, I'm afraid. But, you never know, I might get to wear that dress again, yet."

"Is it…is it a dangerous assignment, this time?"

"Nope. There happens to be two communiqués from Von Voltaire-kyo that require delivery to a little town down south. It also happens to be near my favorite fishing spot—so I offered to take them and thought I'd have a little time off. I'll be back in four days, though. No later than that."

"Yozak…" The king looked over his shoulder and swallowed.

The spy watched as the king fisted his hands in the pretty pink dress. "It has wrinkles enough, Heika…careful."

"Oh! Oh, I'm sorry! Yozak, I didn't mean to—"

"Hang on, Kiddo. I'm only teasing." Yozak held up his hands in a peaceful gesture. Why was the king acting so skittish? He couldn't really think that Yozak cared about the dress he was going to stuff into a saddlebag anyway? "What's the matter, Yuuri?"

"IreallyjustwantedtoaskifIcouldgowithyou!" The words exploded from the boy's mouth.

"I…Can you say that a little slower?"

"I…I just wanted to ask if I could go with you." The king repeated, this time understandably.

"You want to take a trip with me? But…it's going to be really boring. Do you even like fishing?"

"I don't know," the boy answered. "I've never been before. But, I would really like to get away. Just for a little while."

There was something in the kiddo's voice that disturbed Yozak greatly. It sounded like a wistful kind of desperation—and that didn't make sense at all, but he knew there was something going on. Yozak had much too much experience with rescuing damsels, soldiers, prisoners, and royalty in distress not to recognize a plea when he heard one.

"Well, it's ok with me, Kiddo. Let me just go talk to Conrad—he'll probably want to come along. I guess the royal brat will want to tag along, too, eh?"

This time, the spy's wink was not met with a smile. Instead, the king seemed to curl in on himself. "No!" he whispered harshly. "I don't want to go with anyone else, ok? Just us."

For a half a heartbeat, Yozak felt strangely awkward. Why would the king want to travel alone with him? He stamped down the warm feeling—this was not a love confession in the making, despite his sometimes fanciful dreams—this was an escape. He was certain now that something was desperately wrong with the Maou.

"Ok, Kiddo, but I can't just kidnap you. We have to tell someone."

The boy seemed to think that over for a moment. "Gunter," he said, firmly. "We can tell Gunter and get him to cover with something."

"Are you sure, Heika? Not Conrad?"

Yozak had no idea why he tortured himself like this sometimes. He knew very well that the first person in Heika's heart, despite his engagement to Wolfram, was and always would be Conrad. He knew it, so there was no need for him to continue to pick at the wound—prompting Yuuri to always show his feelings for the captain, thereby allowing Yozak to feel that exquisite longing pain of unrequited love.

Therefore, it was to his everlasting surprise that Yuuri shook his head violently. "I can't…No. Not Conrad. Gunter."

"Ok, Heika," Yozak said, as though he was discussing the menu for dinner. "How about you go to the stable and get Ao ready, and I'll just nip inside, tell Gunter, and get a few of your things together?"

The look of relief on the king's face was so painfully obvious that Yozak had to clear his throat and avert his eyes.

"That would be really great. Thanks, Yozak."

"No problem, Kiddo. I'll be back in no time. Would you put my dress in my bag—it's on my saddle."

"Yes…yes, of course!"

Yozak was pretty sure he could have asked the king to stand on his head and sing Shin Makoku's national anthem and he would have done it. The boy clearly had no desire to go back into the castle. Well, he thought, as he headed in to find Gunter—the next few days would be interesting if nothing else.

Yozak found Gunter in the library. The beautiful man was reading a book and making notes.

"Your excellency? I have a request."

"What can I do for you?"

"Heika has asked to come with me on my little holiday. He is insistent, however, that it just be the two of us. He doesn't want to discuss it with Wolfram…or Conrad." He let stress fall heavily on the captain's name.

"I see."

Yozak arched an eyebrow. He has expected tears and an emotional wail from the lavender-haired man. Instead, the older mazoku simply looked up from his notes, an expression of interest on his face.

"Well, yeah. And he said I should tell you, but no one else. Do you know what's going on?"

"No," Gunter replied after a moment's thought. "Heika has not confided in me, but it is clear that something is bothering him. Perhaps he feels comfortable enough with you to talk about it?"

"I couldn't say. But, I'm happy to take him with me. I'll protect the kiddo with my life, though I don't anticipate any problems."

"You will be prepared. Just in case, correct?"

"Of course."

"Then I believe it may be a good idea for his majesty to accompany you. I will handle the explanations."

"You're really worried, aren't you?" Yozak said, in wonder. He had seen Gunter like this before—usually before a battle.

"Just take care of his majesty, Yozak. I would do anything for him, and if what he needs is to spend time with you then that is what I want for him."

"I need to get some of his things together—clothes and materials for four days. Traveling light. He doesn't want to tell Wolfram, though…and I need to get into his room."

"Wolfram is training at present. He will be busy for at least another hour."

"Ok, then. I'll just pack for him and head out."

Yozak had his hand on the door handle and was turning it when Gunter's soft voice stopped him.

"Conrad is in Gwendal's office at the moment. He will be leaving in less than twenty minutes."

"How do you know these things?" Yozak muttered.

The older man simply smiled. Yozak opened the door and hurried to complete his tasks.

--O.o.O—

"Why did Yuuri have to go back to earth now? He never said anything to me about it, and I'm his fiancé—I should be the first to know!" Wolfram's petulant demand was met with resigned silence by those present at the table.

Conrad watched as Gunter frowned, his violet eyes squeezing closed. The man canted his head to the side. "I don't know, Von Bielefeld-kyo. I was walking with Heika in the gallery and when he stopped to admire the roses I had cut for him with such love, he was sucked into the vase and disappeared. It could be that there is something on Earth for Heika to take care of. But I will wait for him—forever if necessary—he shall know the depth of my love by my constant vigilance!"

"What? I guess you're going to cry now?" Wolfram muttered, his tone surly. "You spend too much time dreaming about my fiancé!"

"Oh, Heika! How I miss you already!" Gunter sighed, pressing his hand to his heart.

Gwendal simply shook his head and folded his arms. "Typical. I guess I'll go to bed early tonight, since I'll have to handle his work as well as mine tomorrow."

Conrad tapped his lips with his finger. Something wasn't right. If Yuuri had been drawn back to Earth, either by his own power of Shinou's, then why hadn't Conrad felt that little prickle on the back of his neck he always felt when Yuuri was traveling across dimensions? No. Something was not right. He watched Gunter carefully, but his old teacher wasn't giving away any clues—he seemed truly distraught that Yuuri was gone. Gwendal, clearly, had no suspicions. His older brother was just muttering into his soup and glaring at his knife as though there were a certain young king at whom he might like to throw it. But it was Wolfram's behavior that surprised him the most. He expected a bigger tantrum. Instead, the young man appeared oddly calm, though he was obviously planning something. The rhythmic drumming of his younger brother's fingers on the table indicated that much.

When dinner was actually served, Wolfram turned his face away from the plate and sniffed. "I don't want this. I hate fish—take it away."

The maid rushed to follow his instructions, and in her hurry accidentally slipped, causing some of the fish to land on Wolfram's coat. The younger man shoved his chair back from the table, roughly knocking against the girl. "Are you stupid?" he shouted. "How can you be a table-maid if you're so unbelievably clumsy? Get out of my sight!"

The girl ran out, in tears, Conrad guessed.

"Wolfram! It was an accident." Gwendal's voice was stern. "There is no need for you to be so hotheaded."

"You didn't mean it, did you, Wolfram?" Conrad said, quietly, trying to come to his little brother's defense. The behavior was uncalled for, of course, but Conrad couldn't help but try and smooth things over. It had been so many years since he and Wolfram were close, now that they were trying to repair that relationship Conrad wanted to do everything he could to foster that amity. "You'll apologize to Amy, won't you?"

"Amy? Is that her name? Hmph. She should be fired for stupidity." Wolfram sniffed. "Just because Yuuri is so wimpy that he recklessly allows himself to grow too close to the servants doesn't mean the rest of us should. It was never like that before he came."

"Wolfram--!" Gwendal hissed.

"Oh, Gwen, don't be so hard on my Wolfie…he's really a good boy, aren't you?" Cheri-sama said indulgently.

"Mother, you shouldn't speak such things aloud. I'm a man now." Wolfram objected.

Cheri-sama laughed, got up and hugged her youngest son tight. When Wolfram was blushing and objecting, the rest of the company settled back down to eat—and the moment passed. Conrad, however, looked at his brother thoughtfully. Had he always been this churlish? Spoiled, privileged, arrogant—yes, all those things, but there had never been maliciousness in his actions before. Something about the expression in the boy's eyes chilled Conrad, though. He turned the situation over in his mind. He wished Yozak was still in the castle. He would have welcomed his best friend's counsel and company just at the moment. Yuuri was gone, though if he was honest, Conrad had to admit that the king's physical absence was no different than his physical presence—the young man had been successfully avoiding him for months. But, with both Yozak and Yuuri gone, Conrad felt the bite of loneliness keenly.

Later that night, after everyone had settled into their rooms and Conrad had made his last check of the castle, he sat at his desk. He picked up the baseball sitting there, turning it over in his fingers. The memory of the last time he'd asked Yuuri if he wanted to have a game of catch came back to him. They had been in Yuuri's office, the boy reading and signing papers while Conrad looked out the window.

"Heika? Are you feeling a little tired? Maybe you would like to have a break and play catch?"

"Oh. Well, no thank you, Conrad." The young man had said, not even looking up from the papers he was reading. "I really have to finish this work for Gwendal. Another time, ok?"

When had it come to that? Another time, ok? That's all he heard from Yuuri now. The Maou never had time, it seemed, to take walks, or play baseball, or go into the village. Gwendal still grumbled, but he had also remarked that Yuuri must be growing up because in the past months the young man had thrown himself into his work with a determined sort of passion. Conrad felt…put aside. He was still the king's protector, of course. Even if Yuuri didn't seem to want to acknowledge him, Conrad still accompanied the boy to diplomatic functions, stood guard at his office door, and made sure that he was safe. But from the moment the king entered his chamber at night, until he came down to the breakfast room in the morning, it was as if Conrad ceased to exist. Yuuri never sent him notes anymore, or told him with his eyes that he needed a break from any of his duties. Conrad had thought, at first, that his king was simply maturing—moving on from boyish pursuits to dedicate himself to his role as ruler. Now, he wasn't so sure.

What he did know, the only thing he knew for certain, was without Yuuri's attention Conrad felt as though he lived in a world of perpetual rain. There was no warmth in the world without Yuuri's sunshine smiling down on him. Had he done something wrong? Had he offended the boy in some grievous fashion? Why had the Maou withdrawn from him—when they had been so close?

Conrad sighed.

He cared, far more than he should, he knew. He cared. The king had withdrawn from him and it hurt. In fact, it tore his heart apart. He sighed again, tidying the small amount of clutter in his room. Maybe it was inevitable, this parting. Wolfram seemed to rarely leave the King's side anymore—leaving the boy alone only when the king was in his office, working. Even Greta was excluded from the royal bedchamber, and that could only mean one thing. Conrad pressed a hand to his rebellious stomach. The organ seemed determined to heave up the contents of dinner at the mere thought of what that might actually mean. He knew he had no right to be hurt, or to be jealous. It was perfectly normal for engaged couples to indulge in sexual activities—but somehow he had just never believed it would ever happen. He had somehow convinced himself that the engagement would not last.

He had been wrong, it would seem.

In the end, it didn't matter though, he thought as he blew out the candle. His room fell into darkness. No, he would always love Yuuri-Heika and because of that love he would endure any amount of pain. He had, after all, made a promise he intended to keep—he would never leave the Maou's side. But, his heart whispered quietly, Yuuri is still somewhere in Shin Makoku, and you know it—who is by his side right now?


And there we have chapter one. I know it is not my usual offering, and I can't say for sure how many chapters it will take me to bring it to conclusion, but I will try to update daily as has been my habit. Thank you so much for reading, and while reviews are lovely and always appreciated, I am most thankful that you took the time to read it at all. -- SN