My dear readers, my friends. We're at the end. I'm sorry and pleased at the same time. And I don't want to waste time up here since I have written a lengthy end note. So, here's the wrap-up, I don't own KKM, and I'll see you at the bottom of the page…
Epilogue: A Spy in the House of Love
Yozak Gurrier was a man for whom life held few surprises. This was not, as many supposed, because he was so full of experience that there was little he had never seen, although there was truth to this statement. It was because he was a man accustomed by training, circumstances, and his own nature to being alone. He stamped hope and desire out of his character as ruthlessly as he sometimes extracted information from informants in pursuit of his job. Therefore, when life brought about something unusual, or exciting, he was able to enjoy it for the few brief moments it might last. Perhaps it was this reason, as well as the calm solitude the action brought to him, that he enjoyed fishing so much.
And if he was man for whom wonder had little impact, then he was also a man for whom acceptance was simply a tool for living. He considered this as he packed his bags, preparing for his yearly vacation—those four days of silence with nothing but the wind, sun, water and if he was a little lucky, a few fish. He found himself looking forward to the trip, if only to release a little of the tension that had building in him since Yuuri-Heika had asked his best friend to marry him. He looked at the second fishing pole, leaning against the side of his horse's stall. He had intended to bring that one for Yuuri, but given the events of the past few weeks, he knew there would be no need. The young Maou was too busy to even consider leaving the castle for a few days. The spy hadn't taken the time to ask, of course. What would have been the point? Anyone could see that the King was swamped with social obligations since his engagement to Conrad Weller had been announced.
He smiled to himself. There had been, at first, a great deal of controversy over Shibuya Yuuri's choice of partner—just as he'd known there would be. It was true: For all that the king had done to stamp out the prejudice and lingering hatred between the two races, there were still many conservative hard-liners on both sides of the fence that objected to the match. The initial whispers had turned quickly into shouts of discontent. Conrad and Yuuri, however, had weathered the tide of disapproval with grace and fortitude. If there were hands working behind the scenes, well, Yozak didn't mind the occasional uncivilized negotiation. No one could argue, however, the peace and prosperity that Yuuri, in his role as Maou, had brought to Shin Makoku—it was that coupled with the strength of the people he'd surrounded himself with that had allowed the King to carry the day. Maybe people were still unhappy with the match—prejudice, after all, takes a great deal of effort to un-learn—but there did not seem to be violence looming in the future. For that, then, Yozak was grateful. Perhaps the two men that mattered most to him in the world would be allowed their happy ending. He could only assist in bringing that to pass as he was able.
"Sir? Gunter-sama has sent me to find you. They are asking for you in the main hall."
"Ah, well. Guess I better poke my pretty face in, then," Yozak replied with a cheer he didn't feel.
He really didn't want to attend the official engagement party.
But, he thought, shaking his head in resignation, he could never deny a request from his King. And he never would.
So, he made his way into Blood Pledge Castle, stopping first to speak to Gisela-Gunter's adopted daughter. They'd been friends a long time, though truth be known, more acquaintances now. She told him that her father had explained the return of the King's maryoku, and with it, the Maou was a result of Yuuri finally accepting what had happened to him and forgiving himself for it. When the young man had shut himself off from the world, choosing to keep his pain private and blaming himself for it, he had broken his internal connection to that part of himself that would always demand justice. Apparently, the Maou was now visiting Ulrike-sama weekly at Shinou's temple, learning to control his power which had somehow seemed to increase exponentially since the day he'd proposed to Conrad. Very few people actually knew the details of what had really transpired that caused the break-up of Sir Wolfram Von Bielefeld and Shibuya Yuuri—the official explanation being that they had mutually decided they were incompatible. Yozak detested the lie. He still wanted to string Wolfram up by his toes and flay him slowly for his abuse of the tender-hearted, beautiful man that was Yuuri.
Gwendal caught his arm next, cloistering him in a corner for a good twenty minutes explaining that he would be needed directly after his vacation to travel to Francshire and investigate these rumors of a militia forming in Dai Shimaron. Adelbert was there, and apparently Wolfram was somewhere nearby. Although the forbidding general would not admit it, Yozak suspected he was worried about his youngest brother. While Gwendal would never really forgive Wolfram for his actions, they were still family, and Yozak understood that. He'd heard that Wolfram had been beaten up pretty badly several times during his past year of travel, and in Yozak's opinion, those experiences would only do him good. Adelbert was more difficult to judge. Yozak had watched, from a hidden location, when the great warrior heard the whispered intelligence that Von Bielefeld's banishment had stemmed from some action against the King. That the man thought it was merely political differences was probably what saved Wolfram's life. Yozak neither admired nor agreed with Adelbert—in fact, he detested the arrogant bastard—but he did believe in Adelbert's remaining devotion to the vessel that carried his beloved Julia's soul. He considered…one word of the events that really transpired between Yuuri and Wolfram, and the blonde would no doubt meet his end on the edge of Adelbert's sword. Yozak was holding that trump card in case he ever needed to play it. For now, though, he would merely watch the youngest of Cheri-sama's children and see if the brat could one day become a Mazoku to be respected.
Yozak passed the refreshment table, stopping to share a glass of punch with Greta. She was eager to tell him all about her adventures with Cheri-sama as they sailed the high seas. She said that she had many letters from her Papa Wolfram and that he was working hard to find what had been lost. She said, too, that she had helped her adoptive grandmother with growing flowers aboard the ship and she pointed to a basket on the table. The large blooms, which looked like a cross between a rose and a violet, had deep purple flowers with tips so dark they almost looked black. He leaned down, at the girl's insistence, and sniffed. Their perfume was gentle, understated, but very pleasing. Then he was told that they were called "Resiliant Yuuri's Infinite Heart." He smiled, the slightly sad twist of the corner of his mouth lost on the princess who was so proud of the flowers. She pressed one into his hand. He stared at it for a moment and tucked it into his breast pocket. Then she told him that her Daddy Yuuri had cried for twenty minutes when Cheri-sama presented them to him. Just like Yuuri, the spy thought.
Finally, after he had pressed as many hands as had been held out to him, chattered with the other well-wishers concerning the future happiness of the royal couple, and speculated on how many children the union might produce—because it was already known that Princess Greta wanted another adopted brother or sister right away—Yozak stepped out onto the balcony to enjoy a brief moment of respite. His face hurt from wearing his genial smile for so long. He leaned against the railing, supporting his weight on his forearms—his hands clasped together, and stared out into the distance, seeing nothing in particular. Oh, Yuuri, he thought. I'm never going to get over you, am I?
"There you are. I've been looking for you."
Yozak closed his eyes and wished, fervently, to disappear. The last person he wanted to see right now was the Taichou.
"You found me, Captain."
His captain, his best friend, his ex-lover, and the fiancé of the man Yozak loved came to stand beside him, adopting a twin pose at the railing.
"Congratulations, Conrad," Yozak said, sincerely. "I am honestly happy for you. You've loved him for a long time, and I'm so glad you're finally together."
"I have," Conrad replied, his voice soft. "I have loved him from the moment I met him, maybe even before. I think you fell in love with him almost as quickly, certainly by the time we'd left Bandarbia Island with Morgif."
Yozak's heart simply stopped beating, or at least it felt like it did. He struggled to breathe. He tried shaking his head, but he just ended up sighing. He couldn't deny it.
"Has it been so obvious?"
He felt the captain's warm hand on his shoulder. He wanted to shrug it off, a small part of him rebelling against the other man's endless kindness. He didn't want to be pitied, he wanted to be loved! But he couldn't. Because he loved Conrad, too, even if it was a different flavor of the emotion these days.
"I've seen you in a thousand different situations and in a thousand different lights. I think I know you pretty well. I remember when you loved me at one time, too. But in all the years we were together, you never looked at me the way you look at him sometimes. And no, it's not obvious. Not at all. But who else would understand more than me? I've loved him in secret for all this time. I think I can recognize a kindred spirit."
"I'm so sorry," Yozak whispered. "I've never tried to interfere, Conrad. I never would. I just…"
"…love him and you can't explain why?" His friend finished for him.
Yozak nodded his head, feeling lower than the lowest snake in the garden.
"Don't apologize, my dear, dear friend. I understand, you know, better than you think. Loving Yuuri is something that happens whether you want it to, or not. He is the sun for all of us, I think, and we need him to survive."
"You don't hate me?" Yozak finally turned to gauge Conrad's expression. He saw nothing there but understanding and affection.
"I never could. Besides, we all owe you a great debt."
"Without your love and guidance, Yozak, Yuuri might not have ever forgiven himself, and found his way back to the Maou inside of him. We talk a lot, you know. He told me some of the things you've talked with him about. I owe all my happiness to you—don't try to deny it. I do. And I could never thank you enough."
"What are friends for?" Yozak replied, relying on his humor to get his point across.
"You've been my friend for more years than I can count," Conrad said as he reached out to embrace the handsome spy. "And I will always love you," he whispered in Yozak's ear. "Thank you for making this possible for me. Thank you."
"I love you both," Yozak whispered back. "And I want you both to be happy. I mean that."
"I know you do." Conrad straightened and between the men a look of complete understanding was exchanged. "Are you getting ready to go somewhere? I heard that you were."
"Yeah. I am going fishing. If you don't mind, I'd like to get going. I just…need some time."
"Be safe," Conrad said. "You carry precious cargo."
Yozak just nodded and turned to go. It took him another half hour to get through the crowd of people, and an additional half hour to escape Gunter's overly dramatic soliloquy concerning the magnificence of everything Yuuri. By the time he reached the barn, he thought his head might explode, since his heart was certainly threatening to implode in his chest. However, he was able to calm himself, checking his packs one last time. As he turned to leave, he saw a familiar shape illuminated in the afternoon sun. Standing in the doorway, clutching a couple of lumpy bags, stood the Maou.
"Where are you going?" the boy asked, his eyes wide.
"It's my vacation time, Kiddo," he replied, his voice filled with its usual booming cheer. "Aren't you supposed to be at your party?"
The king's lips twisted into an annoyed smirk, making Yozak laugh with the first mirth he'd felt since the fateful slap heard around Shin Makoku.
"Ugh, did you go to that thing? I swear, I think I'm going to scream if one more person corners me and asks me what I'm going to wear. But, more importantly, why are you leaving?"
"I thought I just explained that…fishing." Yozak cocked his head to the side.
"Well, yeah…" The king looked down at his shoes. "But, you said we could go together. I packed all my things and everything, and Conrad said he'd cover for me, so we could slip away unnoticed. But…I don't get it. Were you going to leave without me? Did you change your mind? I mean…It's just that I thought…"
"Yuuri," Yozak whispered, then cleared his throat trying to dislodge the lump that had stuck there. The powerful king was still, sometimes, just a boy. "I didn't change my mind. Not at all. I understand that you're really busy now, and I didn't think you would still want to come."
"You're my friend." The Maou said simply. "And we made a promise."
"But what about the wedding plans—the ceremony is next week, isn't it?"
The boy nodded. "Yeah, but Conrad says it's tradition that the bridegrooms not see each other for seven days before the actual ceremony, so, this works out, too. If I'm not here, then I can't see him. I think it's a stupid tradition, but, even if it wasn't something like that, I'd still go with you. This is our thing…right? I mean, I thought we were going to do this every year. Unless you don't want to?"
Yozak Gurrier, daring spy and loyal retainer, looked down at his king and smiled. He knew very well there was no such pre-marital tradition in Shin makoku—this was all the Taichou's doing. "It's definitely our thing, Kiddo. And I wouldn't miss it for the world. I'll help you get Ao ready, and the second pole is right here. If we work together, we can be out of here in less than ten minutes."
"Ok," Yuuri agreed, grinning that grin that always made Yozak's heart melt. "I'm so glad I caught you! I wouldn't have if Gunter hadn't already packed most of my stuff."
"Well, let's not have his excellency's efforts go to waste."
Within minutes, the Maou of Shin Makoku and his bodyguard were mounted on their horses, gear packed, and chatting away about nothing in particular and everything of importance—leaving Blood Pledge Castle at a leisurely pace. Turning back in his saddle, to take a last look at the castle before they left through the gates, Yozak saw Gwendal, Gunter and Conrad standing on the balcony outside the reception room. Conrad lifted his hand in a silent farewell, and Yozak understood what his friend had been talking about before. He did, indeed, carry precious cargo with him…and he would lay down his life to return Yuuri to his fiancé's side if that's what he was called upon to do. But, this was going to be a pleasure trip, with three added days of peace and enjoyment. Of all the gifts Yozak had ever received in his life—this was by far the best.
-Really, really, the end-
Rather lengthy author's note:
Wow. It's the end. I can't quite believe it, but here we are, really, at the end. I hope this epilogue answered a few of the lingering questions anyone may have had, and I wanted to take the time to answer a few things in this note.
First, How can I thank you for reading this story? It would be impossible for me to truly tell you how much it means to me that so many of you read and remained interested in a tale that certainly doesn't seem to fit the usual bill of fare. I am glad, so very glad, that so many of you were willing to accept Wolfram in a different role than the one he traditionally is cast in. And, Scyth, let me point out here that I was shocked, and really nonplussed when you honed right in on my choice of Adelbert as a route for information from Yuuri. The reason I chose him above anyone else, or an original source of info, was because I wanted to let Yozak have that little tidbit to say about unleashing Adelbert if Wolfram got out of line. I also kind of wanted the threat to linger, because the consequences of actions can be extremely long-reaching and perhaps something that Wolfram, as I thought of him, should have been thinking about all along.
Also, Strega and Twitty, you were so careful in your reading and I am so glad that you enjoyed the supporting character storylines as much as the primary plot line. When I write, I write chapters before I answer reviews. I write with a plot idea in my head, with certain details that I know will come out, and then, as I write, I try to listen to what characters, whether original or borrowed as in fanfic, would really say. That's what helps me flesh things out. So, I knew, for example, that Yozak would be the character that would help reveal Yuuri's abuse. I also knew that there would be an affection for Yuuri in his make-up, but, as I was writing, even though he is not my creation, his character in my story started to take over. It was very hard to rein him in, and the epilogue only made sense from his point of view (as I was writing it). I wish there had been some way for me to give him as strong a happy ending as Yuuri and Conrad's, but he was destined for bittersweetness from the beginning, I think. So, sad. It hurt me to write it.
And how can I thank you regular reviewers? Sillvog, Mintyflake, Huneycup, C. Reed, crsg, and sweetsally—I am honored, really, that you spent time corresponding with me through reviews and the story as well. I'm not easily described as a greedy person, so, when I have been able to answer questions, or have a dialogue, I probably learn more than anyone. Your reviews were so helpful, and really kept me motivated. I mean, can anyone turn down chocolate mint cookies? I think not. I can't believe this story garnered so many reviews from you all and others, too. Amazing to me, really! Thank you, thank you, thank you. And if I missed anyone by name, or have missed a review, just let me know--please. :-)
Finally, now that we're all done, I thought I would share with you the structure I used as the basis for my premise that Wolfram has the ability to be someone who could turn to abuse. At work, we look for these signals…and they are available for research on the net, too.
1. Quick involvement- the perpetrator pushes for a commitment or major event to occur very early in the relationship. Wolfram insists on the accidental engagement, and very early on begins to assert his authority as Yuuri's fiancé (I'm talking about the anime)
2 Isolation –the perpetrator begins asking you to spend less time with your friends and family and more time with him. You end up no longer maintaining close relationships with friends or family members. (How many times does Wolfram complain about Yuuri going home, or spending time with others as he's a cheating wimp?)
3. Suggestions for change- the perpetrator has lots of suggestions on how you can improve your appearance, behavior etc. You begin to make changes solely based on these suggestions. (Wolfram, in the anime and books, is constantly nagging Yuuri about his unkingly behavior.)
4. Controlling behaviors- the perpetrator influences your decisions on hobbies, activities, dress, friends, daily routines etc. You begin to make fewer and fewer decisions without the perpetrator's opinion or influence. (Yuuri is always giving in on these things with Wolfram. And who wants to pose for portraits made out of bearbee poop anyway?)
5. Information gathering and pop-ins – the perpetrator wants to know the specific details of your day and rarely leaves you alone when you are not with him, such as when you are at work or out with friends. (Yeah, like Yuuri could get on a boat without Wolfie?)
6. Any forms of abuse – the perpetrator may use name calling, intimidation, humiliation, shoving, pushing or other forms of abuse to get you to do whatever they want you to do. (Um, this is self-explanatory, ne?)
Now, I know this is not how Wolfram is portrayed in the anime, and I'm not really a wolfram hater, but, I thought these were interesting and kept them in mind as I was writing.
So, that's it then…I guess until I get the next one started. I really, really thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed this fic as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'll be answering linked reviews soon as I can. I just want to get this posted before it gets too late. I am truly grateful, and thankful, too. See ya in the next story! --SN