Ok, so…I had this request by ReverseHarem888…for a gunter/yuuri fic. What a hard challenge! Sure, I could have written a quickie one shot, but, that didn't seem to fit. Of course, RH had to hook me completely by asking for a strong, sexy Gunter…and that really is a challenge because the pretty one is often characterized, even in the anime, as somewhat two dimensional—but he's more than just a nose-bleeding, tear-spilling advisor. Now, any of my readers know that I thrive on the ConYuu pairing, and possibly throwin' love to Yozak/Yuuri, but this…wow, a significant challenge for me. So, I got to thinking…how can I write something that shows the Gunter that I think I see when I read. So…we'll try this. Now, I've always seen Gunter as an extremely strong, badass, sensitive-by-choice sort of super-smartie. He's romantic, rather a poet, and all that taken into consideration…I've set this story up in the form of a fairy tale at the beginning and end of the chapters…I suppose the question then might become—who, exactly, is narrating those fairy tale excerpts…? Teehee. So, the usual disclaimer…Me own KKM? Ha! I wish. And, thanks for reading—even if it is ONLY ReverseHarem. Comments welcome, as always, and my gratitude firmly in place. So…here. We. Go. And see you at the bottom of the page….
The Twelfth Treasure of Shin Makoku – A Fairy Tale
Once upon a time there was a young Demon-King, a Brave Soldier, An Implacable General, A Daring Spy, A Jealous Prince, and a Beautiful Demon Scholar of great renown. The beautiful demon—as lovely and pale as the moon shining on a soft summer night—was a being without compare. The demon was more beautiful, in fact, than the brightest star, nobler than the strongest hero ever to roam the world. He was faithful, constant, devoted, intelligent, kind, and possessed great magic. And though this demon had lived for many centuries, and experienced many adventures, through out his long, long life, he had always been alone. Then, just when he had given up hope, despaired of ever meeting with another being who could capture his heart, the beautiful demon came to the court of the handsome Demon-King. There, he discovered a heart so pure and shining, that he instantly devoted his life to the service of the Maou-Heika. Until one day, having gathered all his courage and pride, he gave to the demon king a treasure—a gift beyond price—but his offering was rejected. Ashamed and embittered, the beautiful demon left the court of the demon-king, vowing never to return. Instead, he turned his face toward the horizon, determined to walk his lonely, solitary path…not knowing that the jealous prince plotted against him in secret…
Part One: Thievery in Blood Pledge Castle
Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction. – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
This is where we are. This is where we've been. This is how I fall in love with you again. –The Last Goodnight.
These are not all of the many simple things you can find wrong with me…once would you tell me please—what do I do right? Jimmie's Chicken Shack.
Who knows exactly how a man finds his limit—that end point when enough is enough and he is no longer willing to tolerate the daily injustices, the tiny insults to his character, and the lack of appreciation for his innate abilities. Wise men have said that even the strongest men have such a bottom line—a streak carved into the sand of their lives which they will not cross. And if this was so, then Gunter Von Kleist was a man whom had discovered his. It began on a clear morning in Shin Makoku. The sky was blue, the air was fresh, and the birds were content to wake the inhabitants of Blood Pledge Castle with their raucous calls of "Bad Omen! Bad Omen!" All in all, just another day in Demon Paradise. Except, it wasn't just any other day. At least it wasn't to Lord Von Kleist.
Nerves humming in anticipation, Gunter suppressed what he might have actually described as the spring in his step. Today was important, special, and if he hurried he would be the first to see Yuuri-heika—well, first apart from the princess, and that was as it should be…and first apart from Wolfram, and that was not as it should be, though he continued to work on accepting the situation as it stood. Regardless, his would certainly be the first gift that Yuuri-heika would see, and that was what was really important.
"Good morning, Heika," he murmured as the young, sleepy Maou came out of his chamber.
"Morning, Gunter," the king said, scratching his head and yawning.
"How did you sleep, your majesty?" He could barely keep himself from asking the boy about the gift he'd left for him in the night, but, it wouldn't be as satisfying to drag the Maou's appreciation out himself.
The young man huffed out a bitter laugh. "Didn't. I think I might need a bedroom of my own. Between Wolfram and Greta, I don't get any rest. I don't mind Greta, of course, but of all the aspects of Wolfram's character for her to mimic—I could have asked for better than abusive sleeping patterns."
"The Royal Chamber is yours, solely, your majesty," Gunter reminded him. "If you are not amenable to sharing, you may set forth strict boundaries as to who may enter."
"You don't talk to Wolfram very much, do you Gunter?" Yuuri-heika stretched as they walked down the hall.
"As little as possible," Gunter said—as serious as the King had been sarcastic.
"Probably smart. Oh well. What's on my plate for the day?"
Without showing his disappointment, Gunter produced the Maou's schedule for the day from his folder. The king covered another yawn with the back of his hand and looked over the appointments Gunter had carefully copied from his datebook. The tall adjutant kept his eyes firmly fixed on the hall in front of him. He knew from experience that it didn't do for him to watch Yuuri-heika too carefully in the morning—the boy was altogether too adorable. Gunter loved the sleepy expression in the Maou's beautiful black eyes. He loved the way the King's entire body seemed to shake out of sleep by the time they reached the dining room, and the way he would always stop, right before the doors, shake himself all over—as though gathering his forces together—then the young king would burst into dining room as though he had all the energy in the world, ready to face the day. Gunter loved Yuuri-heika's youthful exuberance, supported the young man's political agenda which had, thus far, brought the most peaceful era to the country since the Original King himself sat on the throne, but, mostly, Gunter Von Kleist loved Shibuya Yuuri, Harajuku Furi, twenty-seventh Maou of Shin Makoku.
Gunter was well aware of the rumors that circulated about him. He knew that he was always the last chosen in the gambling pools when it came to the running debate over who the Maou would finally name as his consort. He knew that he was often the butt of cruel jokes, and that mimicking him in the right pubs in the village could get a man a free drink—but none of those things mattered to him. He had been alive far too long to worry about any of those small, trivial matters. But…the Maou's reaction, or rather, lack thereof to his gift…? Now, that bothered him. So, he broke his own rule and gave the ruler a verbal nudge.
"Heika? Did you notice anything special this morning, anything different?"
Just before Yuuri-heika did his body-shake-dining-room-door-burst, he turned to the taller man, confusion plain on his handsome features. "Different? No, not really. Pretty much the same as every other day." The Maou shrugged. "Ok, ready? Let's go!"
Then the slim young man shoved the doors open and bounced into the dining room. Gunter followed in his wake, a small frown marring his perfect, beautiful lips.
Breakfast in Shin Makoku had always been one of Yuuri's favorite times of day. He liked seeing everyone together, of course, but it was also nice to finally escape the confines of his own room. Wolfram's night time sneak attacks had, recently, become more pronounced, and the Maou was still unsure how to handle the situation. Apparently hoping that it would just go away was just wishful thinking, but, at least when the day began he could put that particular problem out of his mind and concentrate on the tasks set before him.
Conrad smiled at him when he took his place next to the tall man. "Good morning, Heika. How did you sleep?"
"It's Yuuri, Nazukeoya! Did you hit your head this morning and forget again?"
Yuuri grinned when Conrad laughed. He had come to love this interplay, depended on it, really. He didn't know what he would do if he didn't have his steady, strong protector in his life. Conrad represented everything Yuuri himself wanted to be. The man was cool, calm, brilliant, patient, strong, valiant, handsome, and devastatingly sexy. In fact, Conrad was perfect, except of course for his hideous sense of humor—but even that was endearing to the young Maou. He knew that his hero worship of the tall soldier was more than evident to the rest of the court, but Conrad had been his first, and still most important, link back to his own home when he'd first come to Shin Makoku. It was humbling, too, to know that this amazing man had been looking out for him since before he was born. Yuuri knew, of course, that the soul inside of him had once belonged to Conrad's beloved Julia-san and the fact that the man still looked at him and saw just him—just Yuuri—and not some faded copy of the woman he'd had such strong feelings for, well, Yuuri would always be grateful for that. Besides, it was Conrad who came to his rescue—daily it seemed—not only from the outside, evil-intentioned of the world, but in a thousand smaller ways, as well. If he needed a break from Gwendal's scowled demands, then Conrad was there. If Yuuri needed to hide from Wolfram, Conrad always managed to secret the young king away until the danger had passed. The soldier had confidence in him—believed in him—and that had helped Yuuri to find a small measure of confidence in himself.
"So, what will you do with yourself today, Yu-uri?" Conrad asked, nudging the Maou with his shoulder in a subtle gesture of shared humor.
"Well, Gunter has me scheduled for lessons at noon—Gunter, does that mean I don't get lunch today?"
"I would never dream of such a thing, Heika!" The tall adjutant looked almost—wounded?
"I'm only teasing, Gunter, really. Don't get upset. But, honestly, what are today's lunch plans?"
"If you would look again, Heika, you would see that you are slated for a working lunch with Lord Von Voltaire. There are many documents waiting for you this morning, as well as your weekly briefings on troop movements and foreign relations."
Yuuri looked again and saw where he'd missed lunch. He frowned a little bit. That meant four straight hours hunched over the table in Gwendal's office, trying to discern the words of a language still somewhat difficult for him to read. But, he thought, he had escaped two days last week to accompany Yozak and Conrad to the sea. The official reason had been a visit to a local village that had been restored after a vicious attack by those not allied with Shin Makoku. The real reason had been so the three men could enjoy a little time off, and Yuuri could have a break from Wolfram's incessant nagging. Recently, the blonde prince had stepped up his efforts to march Yuuri to the altar. The mini-holiday, had, therefore, also turned into an impromptu strategy meeting. Consequently, the Maou really did owe some time to his long-suffering general. It was the least he could do, so, when Conrad tapped Yuuri's knee, under the table, with his own—Yuuri tapped back twice. It was their silent signal. Conrad's tap meant—Do I need to rescue you? One return tap meant, yes, please! Two taps—a negative. No, Yuuri would work hard today. He was determined.
"So, I have lessons from noon until three. What are we studying today, Gunter?"
The lavender-haired adjutant glanced up. Yuuri smiled at him, feeling suddenly shy. He didn't know why he was behaving this way with Gunter lately. He'd known the man for as long as he'd been in Shin Makoku, and while he was sometimes still embarrassed by his advisor's effusive displays of affection, it was not the demonstrative, overwhelming Gunter he found unsettling. No. It was the quiet, serious, thoughtful Gunter that made his tongue tie up in his mouth and brought a flaming blush to his cheeks. Sometimes, when his tutor looked at him, Yuuri had the idea the older man was trying to communicate something to him, something special, but he was just not getting it. He supposed he was either imagining it—or too young to understand.
"Today we will continue our discussion on the human rebellion during the reign of the fifth Maou—Bethel-Heika. Also, I have devised a new method of assisting you in character recognition for our language, Heika. If we have time today, perhaps you could look at it?"
"S—Sure, Gunter. That could really help if it works. Then maybe I won't be so slow when it comes to Gwendal's work."
The adjutant inclined his head, his cheeks showing a dusky pink, while Gwendal made a disbelieving sound in the back of his throat that clearly said—I'll believe it when I see it.
Conrad knocked Yuuri's knee, under the table again. Yuuri responded, once more, in the negative. He didn't want to be plucked from his lessons today, though he couldn't exactly say why that was so. The tall soldier's sudden, knowing smile made him blush hot with embarrassment.
"B—but it looks like I have the late afternoon for sword practice with you and Yozak today, Conrad. Maybe this evening, if I'm free, we could squeeze in a practice?"
"Certainly," his knight said, smiling. "I am free after our practice until dinner. We're all meant to be here for tonight's meal, are we not, Gunter?"
"Yes. That's the plan."
"Why? Is there something special happening?" Yuuri asked, looking around the table.
"Not unless there's something else going on that I don't know about." Wolfram's sharp voice cut through Yuuri's thoughts as the Maou saw his fiancé stroll into the dining room—late as usual.
"I—I don't think there is," he answered in confusion.
Yuuri chanced a glance at his advisor, but Gunter's face remained inscrutable. Although, the young Maou thought he saw the beautiful man's pretty eyes narrow slightly at Wolfram's entrance. Pretty eyes? When, exactly, had he started associating that particular adjective with his teacher?
"Gunter-sama," the blonde prince said in a haughty tone as he passed the adjutant's chair, "why don't you ever schedule time for me and Yuuri? I still have to finish his portrait!"
"I do not intentionally exclude you, Von Bielefeld-kyo. Yuuri-heika has many responsibilities, but he has personal time allotted each day—how he chooses to spend that time is his decision. If you are requesting a formal audience with the Maou, then, of course, I will be happy to schedule you at the king's convenience."
Yuuri was surprised by Gunter's cool response. The formal tone was not something he was used to when it came to his tutor. He was used to the Gunter who fawned a little too much, and who wrung his hands when he thought Yuuri was upset. But this Gunter, the silent, cold man who returned Wolfram's angry glare with a sedate stare seemed so…above the fray. He reminded Yuuri of Gwendal for a moment, and the king wondered if it was just because the beautiful demon was so much mature than Wolfram could ever hope to be.
"I shouldn't have to schedule an audience with my own fiancé. I'm sure you remember who Yuuri is engaged to, don't you, Gunter?"
"If any of us were ever to forget, Von Bielefeld-kyo, I'm sure you would be the first to vociferously remind us all."
Yuuri stifled a little laugh behind his napkin, then decided to ease the tension in the only way he knew how. "I have about an hour before Gwendal and I get to work, Wolfram. What if I make some time for your painting right now?"
He didn't really want to do it, but Yuuri really didn't want to deal with the headache of a whining Wolfram for the rest of the day—the blonde would no doubt find ways to interrupt everything he tried to do for the rest of the week unless he got some attention.
"But, I haven't eaten!"
"You didn't have to sleep in, Wolfram," Conrad pointed out, his smile in place. "But, Hei—Yuuri is making time for you right now. If food is more important, however…."
Wolfram turned bright red and turned his angry glare toward his older brother. "Nothing is more important to me than Yuuri."
"Well, let's just go get this finished, ok?" Yuuri said, sighing.
He gave the table a general look of apology, then excused himself, following Wolfram from the dining room as the blonde man began to extol his own talent as an artist—and to criticize every action Yuuri made as Maou.
Following Wolfram through the castle, Yuuri found his thoughts returning to Gunter and the older man's cool attitude toward his somewhat restive fiancé. Wolfram was many things, obstreperous, vain, arrogant, dismissive and quick to anger. He was, also, often bold and courageous when it came to action. With Greta, the young mazoku was thoughtful, willing to play games, and even showed a modicum of patience. Still, it felt as though he was trying usurp Gunter's place with the princess as well. Gunter had taken charge of Greta's basic education when she'd first been adopted by Yuuri, however, Wolfram often interfered, preferring to invoke his right as Yuuri's fiancé in order to remove the girl from the school room, then teach her in the fashion the prince felt was more appropriate to her station. Yuuri was not a Maou to stand on ceremony, but appearances meant everything to Wolfram. As Yuuri waited in the doorway of Wolfram's chamber, while the other man rifled through a closet to gather some of his painting supplies, that thought struck home. Hanging out of a carelessly closed drawer, the king noticed a long, lavender ribbon draped over the wood. No doubt the ribbon belonged as an accent to one of the prince's outrageous nightgowns. Yuuri sighed and looked around the room. It was a large, spacious apartment, and Wolfram should have been very comfortable sleeping in it—except it now resembled a store room more than a bed chamber. And why shouldn't it? Yuuri despaired, truly, of ever having his room to himself again—despite Gunter's suggestion that he could set the limits as to who could come in. Maybe he could discuss it with Conrad later, at practice.
"You ready, wimp, or are you going to stand there all morning daydreaming about your next conquest," Wolfram said, irritably. Then he muttered under his breath, "Cheater!"
"Ok, ok, let's go, Wolfram. I'm ready."
Yuuri followed Wolfram to the gallery, still puzzling over his teacher's increasingly distant manners. It's not as though the beautiful man was ever rude—Yuuri didn't think Gunter would know how to be offensive. But, the fact remained, that something was on the older man's mind. Yuuri just didn't know how to begin the subject, or ask him what he was thinking. Conrad. Yeah, that was definitely the answer here. With his thoughts distracted in such a way, Yuuri spent the next 45 minutes being chastised for his inattention to Wolfram's instructions, but no matter how he tried, he couldn't get the image of Gunter's slightly sad smile out of his mind.
The image of his tutor's displeasure followed Yuuri through the morning. As he sat at the conference table in Gwendal's office, affixing his seal to and signing innumerable documents, he thought about the graceful curve of Gunter's fingers. He had watched the man flip through paperwork of the type that Yuuri was currently struggling to understand with the practiced ease of an adept. The young Maou didn't think he'd ever be so skilled, but, maybe this new learning method for the mazoku language would help.
"Gwendal…?" Yuuri asked. "May I ask you a question?"
"What is it, Heika?" Gwendal's voice was quiet, even and sounded just a little distant, which made sense as the tall general was reading.
Yuuri stumbled over his question in his mind. Maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to bother Gwendal with something that really was nothing more than just a feeling he had. For as many years as he'd known his General, Yuuri was still intimidated by the strong demon. Sure, he'd learned to stand up for himself from time to time, and whenever he was certain that what he was doing was right—even when he couldn't explain it, he was able to tell Gwendal just how he wanted things done. But, he didn't know about this.
"Heika?" The man asked again.
Yuuri looked up to see piercing, indigo eyes trained on him. He knew that Gwendal couldn't help it, assessing situations and making harsh decisions was something the somber man did on a daily basis. So, while he recognized that Gwendal wasn't trying, per se, to make him feel like an enemy captive he was about to interrogate—he managed to do just that.
"I—I was just wondering…" Yuuri said, finding a great deal of interest in his thumbnail. "Have you noticed anything wrong with Gunter lately? He seems…a little different to me."
"Does he?" Gwendal said, placing his quill back into its holder, braiding his fingers together, and resting his hands on his desk. "In what way?"
"I can't say exactly," Yuuri replied. "He just doesn't seem…as Gunter-ish. And I know that doesn't make sense, but…do you know what I mean?"
"It would be a mistake, Heika, to try and place Lord Von Kleist into any single category. Perhaps it is not so much Gunter that has changed as your majesty's awareness is simply increasing."
"Well…you and Gunter are friends aren't you? I mean, you're close, right?"
"We are colleagues, Heika. And we have a great deal of respect for one another. We are often at odds, as I'm sure you've seen, when it comes to the policies that you have championed, but I would say that we are friends, yes."
Yuuri remembered, suddenly, the first duel he'd fought in Shin Makoku—when Wolfram had broken the rules of the contest and summoned his maryoku to aim fire in Yuuri's direction. Gunter had been going to intervene, but Gwendal had prevented the adjutant from acting—wanting to see if Yuuri's own magic could be called forth. They were friends, yes, and he'd seen them work together successfully for many years, but every so often, they were polar opposites.
"So…you would tell me if you thought there was anything wrong with Gunter, right?"
"Heika, if you are concerned with Gunter's well-being, I suggest you ask him directly."
Yuuri nodded, but swallowed anyway. There was no way he was going to do that. It had taken all his courage just to broach the subject with Gwendal. No way was he ever going to be able to ask his teacher directly. What if he was wrong—how embarrassing would that be? What if he was right—that might even be worse! He wanted to do something to bring some happiness back to Gunter's sad eyes, but he didn't want to set him off into a paroxysm of emotion, either. No, his first inclination had been the right one—get through lessons this afternoon and then talk it over with Conrad.
The general's weary sigh brought him out of his thoughts. Yuuri watched as Gwendal opened his desk, removed something, then got up to walk over to Yuuri's chair.
"You've worked very hard this morning, Heika," The dour man said, as though a little surprised. "You even worked while eating. Here."
Gwendal held out a small, cute animal—a pig for sure! Yuuri could tell this time, because it was pink.
"Is this piggie for me, Gwendal? It's so cute, thanks!" Yuuri's happiness was genuine. He actually enjoyed the little animals that Gwendal knitted, and it had become a sort of reward, as well. He knew he'd pleased his grim advisor whenever he was gifted with some small, fuzzy creature. He grinned and looked at it again—yep. Definitely a pig!
"It's a salmon."
The door opened to reveal Gunter. "Are you finished, Heika? It's time for lessons."
"Yes," Yuuri said, giving Gwendal an apologetic smile.
As he followed his adjutant from the general's office, he couldn't help heaving a sigh of relief. "Great timing, Gunter. Thank you."
"It's my pleasure, Heika." The graceful man didn't sound in the least surprised, neither did he question Yuuri's meaning.
During his lecture, Gunter noticed that Yuuri-heika actually seemed not only to be paying attention, but was engrossed in the subject. It was a rare occurrence when the Maou showed even the slightest interest in the historical information that the older mazoku tried to impart, so this turn of events was nothing short of delightful. It almost made up for the fact that the king had yet to mention anything at all about his gift, but there was still time—the day was young and it was possible, of course, that the Maou was just waiting for the right time. There was no way, of course, that Yuuri-heika hadn't seen the present—Gunter had left it right beside his bed, on the table, when the King and his fiancé had been sleeping. He had invested everything of himself in this particular gift, for this special day—the anniversary of that which had come to be the most important event in Gunter's life. He was sure, by dinner time, Yuuri-heika would find the right moment to talk to him.
"Gunter," The young man said, turning his large, beautiful black eyes on him. "If Bethel was so opposed to peace with humans, then why did he attend the conference?"
"Bethel-Heika was a cunning ruler, your majesty. According to his journals, he felt it would be wise to know what the enemy was planning. So, he traveled with his most trusted advisor, his personal bodyguard, and his most cunning spy. He thought that the four of them would be enough of a delegation to be impressive and yet not so overwhelming that the humans would become suspicious."
"And was he successful, or did his plans get discovered."
"It was actually a little of both," Gunter said, leaving his place by the bookshelf and coming to lean against the large library table in order to be closer to the King. "He was able to send his spy to infiltrate the human servants' quarters, which yielded a wealth of information. Humans do seem to be terribly fond of talking, and his spy was said to have been very persuasive especially amongst the maids."
"So, he would have given Yozak a run for his money, eh?" The boy laughed.
"Something like that," Gunter replied, allowing himself a small smile at the Maou's mirth. "Bethel-heika, however, ran into something he didn't quite expect."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, he met and instantly fell in love with a human princess."
"Really?" The young man's eyes widened further still, and he leaned toward Gunter, his attention focused in a way the older man had never seen from him. "Do you think that's possible, Gunter? I mean really, is that just what historians say now, or do you think he really fell in love with her at first sight. Do you really think that can happen?"
"I know it can," Gunter said quietly. And he did know. From experience. "However, the information doesn't come from historians as much as it comes from Bethel-heika's own journals."
"He wrote about her?"
Gunter nodded. "Constantly. From the moment he met her until she died."
"How romantic," the boy breathed. "Do we have the journals or have they been lost?"
Gunter pushed off the table and walked across the room. He scaled the ladder that reached up to the second tier of books, his fingers dancing across spines for a moment, until he came to the volume he wanted. He plucked it from the shelf and returned to the king's side.
"Here," he said. "You can see the entries yourself. The writing is a bit arcane, but considering what you learned about our language today, this might be a good chance to put your new skills to use."
Yuuri-heika reached out to touch the book, then drew back. "Are you sure it's ok to touch it? If this is Bethel's diary, then it is several thousand years old, at least!"
"Indeed," Gunter agreed. "But it's all right. My maryoku protects the pages, Heika—of all the books in the library, in fact. It is my charge as the keeper of the castle documents to protect them and keep them safe. Apart from actively trying to destroy this journal, by throwing it in the fire, or slicing it with a knife, you will not harm the parchment. It is a simple spell, but effective."
"Are you kidding?" The king gasped. "Gunter, that's amazing! I had no idea you could do that."
"Perhaps you thought I was only good for fueling Anissina-dono's hateful inventions?"
The boy blushed bright red, and Gunter smiled at him. Sometimes it was such a joy to tease the young ruler. "I'm only joking, your majesty. The truth is that when I took this position over from Von Grantz-kyo, I simply replaced his spell with one of my own. It has been this way since the library was begun."
"Adelbert?" Yuuri-heika looked stunned. "Adelbert was the keeper of the library before you?"
Gunter laughed softly. "Oh goodness, no. I would never let that brute near anything so important, Heika. His Grandfather, Marcus Von Grantz, was keeper before me."
"Just…just how old are you, Gunter?" The maou whispered.
"Old enough to know better," he replied, more to himself than to the king. "But still young enough to have hope. Now, shall we look at this entry, Heika?"
Leaning over the king's shoulder, Gunter pointed out the passage where Bethel-heika first described the human princess whom had captured his heart. He bit his lip gently, listening to his heika stumble over the words, but was really very pleased at the progress the young man was making. In a gesture of encouragement, Gunter reached out and patted the Maou's shoulder. Suddenly the boy's body hunched over and his gasps of "Ow! Ow! Ow!" had Gunter on his feet in a flash.
"Heika? Heika! Have I injured you? Oh, Heika, I'm so sorry! I never meant to hurt you." He exclaimed.
"No, Gunter," the king gasped out between gritted teeth. "It's just a muscle cramp, in my back and shoulder. I'll be ok."
"Oh, Heika…It's my fault for working you so hard," Gunter said sadly, his concern welling up inside him. "Come here, let me help."
Gunter drew the tense young man up from his chair, Bethel-heika's diary forgotten. Helping the king cross the room, he gently eased the boy onto the window seat, then settled behind him, using his hands to begin to massage the Maou's shoulders. "Do you have a headache, too, Heika? Your back is a mass of knots!"
"Just a little one," the younger man admitted.
"It's all the close-work you've done today. You've been reading and staring at documents all this time. Look out the window, Heika—focus on something far away."
Gunter frowned, working his fingers firmly, though carefully, deeper into the tight muscles of his king. This was his fault. He had pushed his young master too hard, and now Yuuri-heika was suffering. He felt the tears sting his eyes, but he endeavored to keep them at bay. He knew it made the young man uncomfortable when he cried, but sometimes he just couldn't help it. His hands froze in place when the Maou groaned deeply.
"No, don't stop, Gunter, please. That feels really good."
Blushing, and feeling the pressure behind his cheeks increase, Gunter prayed his nose wouldn't gush forth with blood. But, really, was it his fault that the Maou sounded so very tempting? His wicked, recalcitrant mind quickly supplied him any number of scenarios during which he might hear the same words from the young man he worshipped. However, given the command, he resumed his massage, working the muscles into smooth alignment and restoring physical balance to Yuuri-heika's body. As the boy relaxed, his back swayed closer and closer to Gunter's chest, until he was finally resting against the adjutant. Gunter adjusted his shoulder so that the king could lay his head against it. He brought his fingers to the young man's temples and rubbed them in gentle circles, watching as the boy's beautiful eyes closed in contentment.
"What happened to her, Gunter?" he asked in a sleepy voice. "The woman that Bethel loved."
"He had her killed, Heika."
"What? That's awful! Why?"
"Well, it is a sad tale," Gunter replied, quietly, still rubbing the king's temples. "The princess was as devoted to Bethel-heika as he was to her, and though they kept their love a secret—both understanding that neither human nor mazoku would approve of the affair—Bethel-heika entrusted his personal bodyguard with the secret. The knight appeared to be on their side, even acted as a go-between and confidant. But, he was a jealous man and had entertained designs on the king himself. So, while acting as though he was a friend, he secretly worked behind the scenes to make it appear that the princess was giving information about the mazoku's plans to her father—our king's enemy. When Bethel-heika found out, he was heart broken. He wanted to give her a chance to explain herself, so he asked his knight to set up a meeting for them. With that opportunity, it was easy enough for the knight to manipulate the situation—which he did—and made it appear that she truly was guilty. Heartbroken, the king ordered his guard to execute her, which the man performed with some glee. I will spare you the details."
"That is so terrible, so very sad," Yuuri-heika said, a frown on his handsome face. "Did he never find out about his bodyguard's treachery?"
"Yes, years later. Although he'd already taken the guard to his marriage bed. When the truth came out, though, Bethel-heika had his guard executed, and died a short while later—far before his time. Some say of a broken heart. Shin Makoku was left in chaos and there were a series of civil wars fought over the eventual succession. Shinou Heika was none to pleased, and apparently chose Gilbert-heika, the sixth maou, also known as the imbecile-king. He was not a clever or brilliant man, Heika, but he was earnest and afraid of conflict. His greatest contribution to Shin Makoku stands in the form of Shinou's temple, which he had built into the structure you see today. Before it was a much simpler building."
"I feel so sorry for them, Gunter. I can't imagine anything like that happening—it's so horrible. It would be like Conrad betraying me…or Gwendal. I can't even think about it."
"And you needn't, Heika," Gunter said, stroking the Maou's hair, almost afraid to breathe the moment was so peaceful, so perfect. He wished time could stop, right here, and never move forward again if it meant he could feel Yuuri-heika next to him. "None of us will ever betray you. We all love you, Heika. We love you."
"I love you guys, too," the Maou said, sleep heavy in his voice.
"Kiddo! Are you in here? The Captain sent me to—" Yozak's deep, booming voice cut off abruptly as he threw open the door to the library. "Oh. I'm sorry, your excellency. I've interrupted something…" The spy's grin and knowing wink brought another rush of blood to Gunter's already flaming cheeks.
"No, that's ok, Yozak. I had a rotten shoulder cramp and Gunter was just helping me out. I got a little sleepy, that's all." The Maou said, opening his eyes and sitting up.
"I see that," the tall, cheerful man said, giving Gunter another mirth-filled look.
"I feel really good now, though, Gunter. Thanks!" Yuuri-heika said, smiling over his shoulder at him. "Is it time for sword practice?"
The adjutant nodded. He couldn't help but feel disappointed. To have the special moment between him and the man he cared about interrupted by the one being guaranteed to spread rumors throughout the country was bad enough. However, he couldn't help but notice that even after such a close conversation, Yuuri-heika had still not acknowledged his gift.
"Is it ok if I go, Gunter?" The maou was still smiling at him. "Are we finished here?"
"Yes, Heika," he said, forcing his voice to remain steady. "We're finished."
Gunter waited several long minutes after the king had left with Yozak before he packed up the materials they had used that afternoon and left the library himself. There was enough time before the evening meal that he could return to his own chambers and maybe take a short rest. His emotions were usually not difficult for him to handle, and he often preferred to be demonstrative as opposed to simply holding his feelings inside. However, today was very strange. He had been as close to the king today as he ever had before, and yet, still the young man seemed completely oblivious to what Gunter had tried to tell him with his gift. He knew Yuuri-heika well enough to know that he wouldn't intentionally toy with his affections—in any sense, but it was just so…strange. He wanted nothing more than to be close to the young man, to protect him and help him, just as he had done for all these years since he came to Shin Makoku. He knew, or thought he knew, that the idea of Yuuri-heika ever having any romantic feelings for him was simply fantasy on his part. He accepted that. But, he wanted the king to understand the sincere depth of his emotion, his loyalty. All he wanted was a small acknowledgement. A word, or a look, of simple encouragement—just to know that his efforts were not taken for granted, or overlooked as unimportant. He supposed he was growing selfish in his old age. He passed a mirror and smirked lightly. Old age. For all of his beauty, he knew his reflection did not remotely resemble the way he felt on the inside. He had been alone, quietly, for so very long. He was not often lonely, and had never been lonely at all since Yuuri-heika came to Shin Makoku, but he felt the return of that negative emotion like a thief stalking in the night.
So consumed with his thoughts was he, that Gunter didn't side-step Wolfram in time as the blonde came striding down the hall. The two men collided, and the box the young prince was holding fell out of his grip, landed on the floor, and opened—the contents spilling out. Gunter stared for a long moment, his apology dead on his lips. He took a deep breath, concentrating on keeping his heart beating.
"What do you have there, Von Bielefeld-kyo?" he asked.
The boy shrugged lightly, picked himself up and then shoved the items back into the box. "I don't know…just some junk that was taking up space in our bedroom. Yuuri told me it wasn't important and asked if I'd put the box in the trash on my way out."
"H—Heika said that?"
The prince nodded and sauntered past. "Yeah. See you around, Gunter-sama."
"See you…" Gunter repeated, staring at nothing, feeling tears roll down his face as he walked back to his room. His gifts. The gifts he had chosen for his Heika…all of them, categorized as…worthless and to be discarded?
The beautiful man stopped and leaned heavily against the stone wall. This wasn't happening, and yet…it was. A maid passed him, hurrying faster when she saw his present state. He shook himself and continued to his room, his sense of betrayal growing with every step. The king didn't have to love him, of course he didn't…Gunter had never expected his romantic feelings to be requited, but considering how much of his life he had devoted to the twenty-seventh Maou of Shin Makoku, Gunter thought he deserved better than to be discarded along with the rest of the day's trash. How many times had he bitten his tongue, or wailed, when everyone else in the castle got to take off on an adventure with Yuuri-heika? How many times had his opinion been passed over when it came to solving a problem in favor of Conrad's, or Gwendal's. He wasn't jealous—no it was nothing so simple as that. He had merely been…unworthy. The king, for all his kind talk, didn't value him. That was obvious. There were others who would always rate higher in the Maou's esteem.
Gunter Von Kleist was many things. He was a scholar, a gentleman, an aristocrat, a warrior, a poet, a strategist, a magician, and even an exceptional cook…but he was, at his heart, a proud mazoku. Regardless of what anyone else might think, he also had his limits…and now he knew what those limits were. Gunter Von Kleist had, officially, had enough.
Conrad was laughing so hard his sides hurt. Sword practice with Yuuri had gone better than he had planned, the boy even managed to move Yozak around the courtyard a few times—a first for his sparring partner. Then, after a long drink of water, it had been with great pleasure that he accompanied Yuuri to the baseball field. He hadn't had a lot of time to spend with the King recently, and he'd missed their walks and their chats. Time seemed to be going by so quickly, Yuuri was growing physically by leaps and bounds, though he was still the same slim, lithe boy that Conrad remembered—just a bit taller. In maturity, however, Yuuri seemed to be making great strides. He was working harder, longer hours and everyone in the castle noticed how the king was taking his responsibilities seriously. Still, the tall soldier missed the time he was able to spend with Yuuri, just the two of them, so even these brief respites were more than welcome. It warmed his heart and made him so proud that he was as close to the king as he ever had been, that it felt right to slip his arm around the young man's shoulders as they shared jokes and stories on their way back into the castle. It made him happy to see Yuuri laughing easily, naturally—somehow still holding onto that innocence that had made Conrad love him from the beginning.
He hoped, therefore, that Yuuri was pleased with the next surprise. Gunter had worked for months, after all, to plan the perfect party to celebrate the anniversary of the first day that Yuuri had arrived in Shin Makoku. The best part, of course, was that Conrad knew it would be a complete surprise to the young king. Even after all this time, he still had trouble negotiating the time differential between Earth and this world, so, it was understandable that the young man didn't recognize this day as different from any other—and that would make the joyous occasion even sweeter. Yuuri was their king, the man they all looked to for guidance now, and to give him any measure of happiness—well that was Conrad's great privilege and private pleasure.
Steering the young man toward the dining room, knowing that Yozak had already gone ahead to get everyone prepared, Conrad grinned to himself. His godson would have a perfect night—a great party where he would be surrounded by his friends and loved ones. Nothing could be better. So, when the door to the dining room opened, and Yuuri stepped inside, the look on his face was priceless as the room erupted into shouts of "Surprise, Heika!"
"What?" Yuuri said, startled but smiling. "What is all this? Conrad?"
"It's your surprise, Heika," he replied, pulling the young man into a warm hug.
"Yuuri!" The boy corrected him automatically. "But, a surprise party? Why? It's not my birthday."
"Not yours, perhaps," Gwendal said, his voice stern as ever but a smile evident in his usually serious eyes. "But a sort of birthday for us. This is the anniversary of your arrival in Shin Makoku for the first time. Many happy returns of the day, Heika."
Yuuri blushed, causing Conrad to smile again and throw decorum to the wind as he leaned down to kiss the king's forehead. "We are so thankful, Yuuri. And so proud. Come and celebrate with the people who love you."
"Besides, Young Master," Yozak said as he came up and ruffled Yuuri's hair. "Gunter-sama has worked forever to make this party perfect for you. You have to enjoy it now, or else he'll cry."
"Gunter did this?" Yuuri said, still in obvious shock. "Well, where is he? I want to thank him."
No one had an answer for that, but Conrad wasn't overly concerned. He imagined the tall adjutant was in his room, probably fussing over what he was wearing, or making last minute adjustments to whatever gift he had chosen for the Maou.
It wasn't until two hours later that Yuuri had approached him again, drawing Conrad away from a conversation with Gwendal to speak to him privately.
"Conrad, where is Gunter? Have you seen him? I've looked for him but I still haven't found him."
"Still?" Conrad frowned. Too much time had passed and he was instantly as concerned as Yuuri appeared to be. "Yozak," he called, waiting for the spy to come to his side. "Have you seen Gunter?"
"No, Taichou. Not since I came for the kiddo this afternoon, in the library."
"Was everything ok?"
"I would have said everything was better than ok. His excellency was acting as pillow for one quite tuckered out maou."
Conrad nodded, taking Yuuri's arm and leading him from the party. "Come on, we'll go to his room. Perhaps he is unwell."
The Maou followed him, the quickness of his steps telling Conrad more than his words could about his unease. When they reached Gunter's rooms, Conrad knocked. There was no answer, but the door swung open, as though it hadn't been fully latched.
The room was bare.
Well, it was almost bare. There was a pile of books and papers on the desk, but otherwise the shelves were bare, the adjutant's heirloom, and lethal, sword was gone from its place on the wall, and the closet door stood wide open, empty as the rest of the room.
"What can this mean?" Yuuri asked as he picked up the top sheet of paper from the stack on the desk. The king read the words, then handed the page to Conrad. The soldier read the words, shook his head in disbelief, and then read them again.
"This is Gunter's resignation, Yuuri. He's left the castle—and it seems he does not mean to return."
"But, he left his things…" The boy broke off as he began to look through the materials still on Gunter's desk. As he lifted items and read book titles and sifted through the papers, his calm actions became frenzied. "Conrad," he cried out, tears standing in his eyes. "These are things I gave to Gunter—present from me! He took everything with him except the things I've given him over the years. It's me…he's not resigning his position. He's resigning from me!"
Yuuri hurled himself into Conrad's arms, surprising the older man with the force of his tears. "Shhhhh…" he whispered, stroking the Maou's hair. "Don't worry, Yuuri. There's some kind of explanation for this. We'll get to the bottom of it, I promise."
"But…what could have happened?" The boy cried in Conrad's arms. "We were having such a good day, and everything was fine. Why would he do this?"
"I don't know, Yuuri," Conrad murmured, trying to calm him down. "But, we'll figure it out. Don't worry, ok?"
"But he's all by himself, and what if he gets hurt, or something? He's not safe, Conrad!"
"Gunter is strong, Yuuri. He'll be safe, I'm sure. Trust me, trust him, ok?"
The boy nodded against Conrad's chest and the soldier thought it might be best to return the king to the privacy of his chamber, away from the prying eyes of the castle gossips. As he was walking, Yuuri tucked in the curve of his arm, he caught a flash of Yozak's bright hair in the shadows. "Gwendal," he mouthed silently to his friend, and waited until the spy nodded to let him know that the message had been received.
They hadn't been in Yuuri's chamber for five minutes before Greta came bursting in, shouting, "Happy Arrival Day, Yuuri!"
The young king collected himself the best he could, and accepted his daughter's hug, but even the little girl could tell he was upset.
"Uncle Conrad, why is papa Yuuri crying? He looks like Uncle Gunter did earlier."
"Greta?" Yuuri asked, seizing the little girl in his embrace and trying to appear calm, before Conrad could move. "Did you see Gunter this afternoon? He was crying? Do you know what happened?"
The little girl looked at the floor, and turned her head.
"Greta, sweetheart, do you know something?" Conrad asked gently.
"Well," she said, dragging the word out to at least eight syllables. "I…I don't want you to be mad at daddy Wolfram, but he made Uncle Gunter cry."
"What happened, honey?" Yuuri asked. "I promise you won't get in trouble, but it's really important that you tell the truth right now."
"Well, I was playing pirates earlier—and I know I'm not supposed to because pirates are violent, but I was—and I saw when Daddy Wolfram and Uncle Gunter accidentally ran into each other in the hall. Daddy Wolfram dropped a box and some neat things fell out. Uncle Gunter asked what he was doing, and Daddy Wolfram said the things were just junk you didn't want anymore and he was throwing them away. Then Daddy Wolfram left and Uncle Gunter started to cry. Then he walked away, and later, when I was playing outside, I saw Uncle Gunter leave the castle on his horse."
Conrad looked at Yuuri who returned a blank stare. "I have no idea, Conrad," he said. "I never told Wolfram to throw anything away. I don't know what the box had in it."
"I have it, Papa," Greta said, looking shy. "They were really pretty things, and I thought they might be treasures, so I followed Daddy Wolfram and took the box out of the garbage when he wasn't looking."
"Greta, honey, can you go get the box, please?" Conrad asked. "It's really important."
"Sure, Uncle Conrad. If they belong to Papa, then I don't want to steal them, that's..pilf…pilflering…pilfering, and Yozak says that's bad."
The little girl ran to her room, ostensibly, or wherever she had secreted her treasure, and Conrad waited with Yuuri until she returned. She handed the box to Yuuri and the Maou carefully poured the items inside out onto the bedspread. Conrad looked over the small items. There was a slim volume, possibly poetry. A tiny painted miniature or some kind, several other things—an acorn, a jewel, a ring, a piece of cloth, a shard from a mirror, a pressed flower, a tiny bottle filled with a purple colored liquid a knife, and an intricate piece of braided art that was black and lavender, affixed to a long ribbon. It was this ribbon that seemed to capture all of the Maou's attention. His expression was thoughtful, but…dark.
"Greta, baby," he said softly. "Run on to the kitchen and have Doria give you some Maou Cookies, ok?"
"You mean it? All right!" She shouted, running out of the room.
When Gwendal entered the room, Wolfram was on his heels. Conrad opened his mouth to explain, but Yuuri cut him off.
"Wolfram," he said, his voice quiet and equally as hard as that of the Maou who lived inside him. "Get everything of yours that you have in this room and get out. You are not, ever, to come into this room again. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yuuri…?" Conrad's brother exclaimed, his huffing breath indicating he was getting ready to work up into a stellar tantrum. "What are you talking about? I'm your fiancé and I have every right to be in this room!"
"Not anymore you don't." Yuuri growled, tears coming down his cheeks again. "I don't know exactly what you've done, but I know you're responsible for this. You stole these from me…and I didn't even know they existed. Your jealousy and your arrogant presumption have cost me someone very dear. Get your things and get out of my sight."
" But you can't—"
"Get out!" Yuuri shouted, his hair starting to lengthen and whip around his face.
Conrad grabbed the Maou and held him tight in his embrace. Gwendal, competent and unshakable as always, hauled Wolfram out of the room by the scruff of his neck. Without the visual reminder of Wolfram, Yuuri began to calm down, the air around him settling back to normal.
"Conrad," he said, tears falling afresh. "We have to find Gunter. We have to."
"We will, Yuuri. I promise." Conrad vowed, his heart breaking for his young king's sadness. He had so many questions, and very little information to go on, but he had given Yuuri his word and he had no intention of disappointing him.
…and so did the beautiful demon set out on his singular journey. Heartbroken and confused, not knowing he had been deceived by the jealous young prince, the wise scholar sought to disappear into the multitudes. He carefully covered his tracks, hiding all knowledge of his background and person. He blended in with the common folk, hoping to simply fade away until even his name had been forgotten.
The Demon-King, however, was distraught without the beautiful, wise counselor at his side, and cried many bitter tears. The young ruler was not so easily dissuaded, however, and determined to journey out into the world in order to find his missing courtier…thus began the quest of Shibuya Yuuri, the Demon-King, to find the twelfth treasure of Shin Makoku.
Wow…there was a lot in that chapter. Now, I don't know how long this one will take, and I can't promise to update daily, because school has begun for me again, but I'll get it sorted within a couple of weeks, at most, I hope. I don't know how you will feel about this story…but I think it's about time that Yuuri, for all his fumbling, learns that a man worth having is a man worth pursuing. Now, RH requested pervy….not sure if I can deliver on that, but I can make good on romance and adventure, I hope. So, ReverseHarem888…this one's for you…See you next time…SN