Title: The Consorts
Synopsis: Encountering another ruler's harem opened Yuuri's eyes to matters he was previously oblivious to. Yuuram
A/N: Do I know the direction this fiction is taking? Nope. *Freaks out*
"HEIKA!" Gunter's voice bounced off the walls of the hallways of Blood Pledge Castle. Said man was flying across said corridors in a flurry of white robes, lilac manes cascading his back, the ends of his hair swishing as he swerved around each corner. "HEIKA!" said voice held a frantic quality, as though a matter of great importance was perched at the tip of his tongue, ready to spill off his lips the moment the Mazoku laid his eyes on his darling Majesty.
Or may be it was just the overbearing, overdramatic perspective he tend to take on. Knowing Gunter, the latter seemed more likely.
Yep, yep. An ordinary morning, an ordinary routine, with ordinary 'Bad-Omen' fowls screeching unwelcome, unpleasant tunes. Gunter collided against a piece of porcelain somewhere and Gwendal rested his head on his knuckle, another line marring the broad expanse of his temple, a sigh escaping his mouth.
"HEI-!" Gunter barely managed to stop himself from banging against Greta. The brown-haired girl yelped, burnt sienna eyes widening, as the Administrator screeched to a halt. "Your Highness!" the man gasped, bending down to catch his breath, "Did you happen to see His Majesty around?"
The princess looked aside, pondering. Greta was no longer a child; over the past few years, she had grown to an attractive teenager, her form filling out to curves, her hair resting on her shoulders in soft curls. In a year or two, thanks to Yuuri, who'd gotten himself engaged at fifteen and set a new record, suitors would flock to the Castle to woo her. Eventually, Greta decided to protect her foster father. "His Majesty is here," she replied.
"Your Highness," Gunter spoke exasperatedly, "You know I'm not talking about the Prince Consort," he cast a dismissive glance at Wolfram von Bielefield-Shibuya, who had been walking with his adoptive daughter after they finished breakfast. Aware that he had been written off, the blonde sneered and averted his gaze from Gunter.
Yuuri and Wolfram had gotten hitched a couple of years ago – the reception was an epic event to be put in history texts and remembered centuries to come, such grandness, the sheer number of nobles and diplomats from all over the Alliance – and Gunter was still displaying his disdain to most people who crossed his path, even to the person concerned. He was all smiles to Yuuri, though, the hypocrite.
As 'Queen', Wolfram should have the power to end the disrespectful treatment. But the Administrator behaved in front of the public and foreign politicians, so Wolfram let it slide. Besides, anyone in the Castle knew that the marriage was a mere formality, that the relationship between the King and the Prince Consort did not change a wink. That said matrimony hadn't even been consummated, and was unlikely to be consummated.
For all his theatrics and uncomfortable, unnecessarily closeness to the Maou, Gunter worked capably and there was never any doubt about his loyalty. Wolfram didn't wish to strain Yuuri's rapport with Gunter.
"The wimp is hiding in the Treasure Room," Wolfram sighed and gave away his husband's location, his emerald irises still trained on the dust ball below Shinou's portrait. Why was it there? He sighed inwardly. He would have to find the gossiping maids and tell them off. Wolfram was supposed to handle household matters flawlessly, dammit. They were his duties as Prince Consort. Now that he couldn't be a soldier anymore he should have had more time to devote to those.
Greta pouted at the Mazoku who was her father but didn't appear like one because he looked about three years older than her in appearance, before glaring at Gunter.
"Thank you, Wolfram," Gunter deliberately left out the blonde's title – again – and proceeded, ignoring the heated stare on his back. Before he disappeared down the passageway, though, he paused. "You may want to go to the study. There is an external affair to discuss. I have informed His Eminence, Gwendal and Conrad about it," the Mazoku spoke without facing his 'superior'.
"Thank you, Sir von Christ," Wolfram responded, equally detached, frowning at the dust bunny. He waited till the sound of Gunter's footsteps could no longer be heard before he turned to Greta. "I'm sorry, Greta," Wolfram smiled apologetically, "It seems like I can't teach you to paint today."
"It's all right," Greta's scowl transformed to a reassuring smile in the blink of an eye. She disliked the dispirited expression on the fire-wielder's face, and hated Gunter with vehemence to be the one to put it there. "I can go to Anissina-san or Grandma Cheri to pick up a dress for the Anniversary!" she grinned.
The word had the opposite effect. Wolfram attempted to curl his lips upwards, but something went wrong in the process and the smile was crooked, shards of a broken vase pieced back together with glue. "You do that," his hand reached out to pat her on the head, but halted midair.
'Daddy Wolfram?' Greta arched an eyebrow.
The Prince covered his slip with a wave of his hand before he presented her another feeble mockery of a smile and walked away.
Wolfram entered the study to find his brothers, the Great Sage and the man who resented him sitting around a rectangular mahogany table with his husband, who was sulking and moping like a spoilt kid two decades his junior, lower lip sticking out a mile away. Large obsidian eyes glared at him accusingly the moment his boots hit the carpet over the tiled floor. Unsettled by the intensity of the pitch-black darkness, Wolfram threw his gaze, masking it with a snort. "Only wimpy kings flee from their duties," he stated haughtily.
"Don't call me a wimp," Yuuri replied, a reflex just like one he gave each time Conrad addressed him 'Heika'. "It was just a breather! I can't work continuously!"
Wolfram snorted again. "Even after I halve your workload you still have something to complain?" As Prince Consort well versed with Shin Makoku's politics, Wolfram had the authority to sign documents pertaining internal affairs, such as licenses to open businesses and permission to build bridges and the like. External affairs such as ambassadorial relations with other nations, matters of Defense and Trade still had to be handed over to Yuuri, but Wolfram had lessened the piles of papers waiting on the King's desk considerably. The moment Yuuri learned that fact, he'd uttered, 'had I known about this I would have married earlier!' and earned a whack on the head.
Yuuri's cheeks reddened with anger and humiliation and before the squabble could escalate to an all-out skirmish that made Wolfram more upset, Gwendal cleared his throat. "Gunter," he sent the lilac-haired Mazoku a sharp look, "Would you start the briefing right now?"
"Of course," Gunter coughed and positioned himself next to Yuuri, splaying a few sheets of parchments over the smooth surface of the furniture for the King to read. "Heika, do you remember Yekaterina?"
At the double black's blank look, Wolfram fought the sigh bubbling to his lips. "A country sharing a border with Cavalcade. She's larger than Francia, and she specialises in farming and extraction of iron and steel. Yekaterina is known to make the best swords. The Emperor of Yekaterina, Kranos, had declined to join the Alliance when it was offered to him years ago," he elaborated.
"That was because Empress Pamellia hated Mazokus," Gunter added, "Emperor Kranos wasn't particularly opposed to the idea, but there are many human concubines in his harem that aren't cozy with that, and Emperor Kranos is known to be…"
"A womanizer," Wolfram spoke as Gunter finished his sentence with, "very fond of his wives." The blonde's emerald eyes blazed when Gunter shot him a look. "What? That's the truth!" he retorted. "I know that I'm not supposed to say that outside this room. Geez, do you take me as an idiot?"
"No, Wolfram," Conrad stepped in as Gwendal sighed and began to massage his head, "You're always so blatantly honest – which is not bad – but we're just worried-"
Taking a deep breath, the blonde opened his mouth, and everyone readied himself for a loud, lengthy whine when Yuuri committed a crime. "You mean, a ruler is allowed to have more than one wife?" he asked, innocent and almost jovial.
Three pairs of eyes shifted to Wolfram, who was frozen in place, his own eyes wide as saucers. The former Rutenberg warrior stretched his hand to touch his brother's shoulder, but his fingers could not even brush the silky fabric of Wolfram's shirt – after becoming the Prince Consort, he stopped donning his blue uniforms that were unbefitting for a King's husband and wore ensembles of black and white, various shades of green or blue, vests, frilly shirts, embroidered robes, which were gifts from other nations. (The black signified he was a member of the 27th Maou's Imperial family. As Prince Consort, he was also a trophy – there was a need for him to appear beautiful.) Before Conrad could comfort him, Wolfram answered, calmly, "Of course it's not unheard of. Mother had three husbands, didn't she?"
Yuuri was still oblivious. "Didn't Cheri-sama divorce before remarrying?" from his tone, one could tell his curiosity was genuine.
Wolfram shook his head. "Technically, Mother was still married to Dan Hiri when she gave birth to me. There wasn't a formal annulment of marriage, right?" he peered at his Little Big Brother, who nodded, reluctantly.
"The 25th Maou had umpteen wives and husbands, too," Wolfram continued, Conrad, Murata and Gwendal still eying him concernedly. 'Stop, Wolfram,' Conrad bit his lips, 'Just stop, please!' his thought wasn't delivered to the fire-wielder's head. Instead, the blonde prattled. "Usually, one is assigned to be the 'official wife'. The Queen or Prince Consort, the one with the power to sign certified papers and receive foreign guests. Other wives or husbands warm the King's bed and are entitled to private chambers and luxuries without having to handle household matters. That's how it is in Shin Makoku. I hear Yekaterina Emperors divide their concubines to several ranks, the higher the rank, the more involved they are in politics, the larger the part of the Castle they can command." Wolfram turned to Gunter for confirmation.
For once, Gunter didn't seem too happy about the Wagamama Pu's pain. "Yekaterina has many provinces, ruled by feudal lords. They will send their daughters to the Emperor to be his wives. Yekaterina's army is pretty renowned – the Kingdom doesn't have ambitions like Shimaron's, but has her own share of colonies who send maidens to be the Emperor's concubines as well. They act as ambassadors, in a sense-"
A vein popped on Gwendal's forehead. "Enough about the concubines," He barked, effectively stopping Gunter from droning on. "What business does Yekaterina wants with Shin Makoku?"
"Well…" Gunter pointed at the piece of paper right under the Maou's nose. "Empress Pamellia passed away, and Empress Haruhiko, the woman appointed to replace her, expressed her interest in being a part of the Alliance. She sent an Imperial Invitation to Heika to visit Muscovado, Yekaterina's capital."
The prospect of getting out of Shin Makoku to travel to an exotic country caused the beginning of a face-splitting grin to spread on Yuuri's face, but several other faces folded at that. "Wait a second," Wolfram frowned, "She's the one who's interested, she should be the one to visit Shin Makoku and come to the Blood Pledge Castle!"
Gwendal nodded in agreement. "She may intend to hold Heika hostage there." A couple of wrinkles were added to his massive collection. "We can't allow that."
"Come on!" The double black shot to his feet, "I've gone through more dangerous, more spontaneous trips and I'm still in one piece, am I not?"
Two pairs of eyes, steely cobalt and fiery green, glared at him, and if looks could kill Yuuri would have been six feet under. "We would prefer not to have our hearts in our mouths, Heika," Gwendal spoke, before Wolfram could bellow his opinions and hurt ears. "I wasn't particularly happy about those 'adventures' either," the eldest brother reminded his King sourly.
"About that…" Gunter put down an object on top of the paper nearest to Yuuri. It was a piece of jade, a Chinese Dragon finely engraved on the cuboids Yuuri could see light reflected off each scale. "What is it?" the double black peered at his lavender eyed Advisor.
"A symbol traditionally bestowed by Yekaterina to her provinces and allies promising her loyalty. By sending this here, Yekaterina has proved her seriousness about joining the Alliance," Gunter answered solemnly. "This is a chance we have to seize."
Gwendal still seemed skeptical. "What if the Empress is lying? We don't know whether the jade is as important as she hypes it to be."
Gunter brought another piece of paper to their attention. "The Empress wishes for the Maou to visit her to bestow him a gift."
"So tell her to bring it here," Wolfram gave a dismissive gesture, "How huge can it possibly be, anyway?"
"It says…" Gunter read, "She would like to have the Maou choose his present."
Silence shrouded the place like a suffocating cloak, sucking the breath off everyone's lungs. Everyone, but the oblivious Yuuri, who understood not the implications of the words. "Oh! I wonder what it'll be! Can it be an oversized pet? Nothing as wild as dragons, I hope?"
Murata's dark eyes swept past the elegant scrawl of the Empress' penmanship and he spoke for the first time. "The Empress has invited you too, Prince Consort, as well as any number of bodyguards the Maou requires. Sending Yozak and Conrad with Shibuya should be enough, right? Besides…" he titled his head, hiding behind the glare of his spectacles again. "A group of Japanese Earthlings moved to Yekaterina centuries ago…they occupied one of the provinces, managed to get themselves exalted to feudal lords." At questioning glances, Murata gave his trademark vague smile, "It was one of my past lives. I was the son of one of the men who were miraculously transported to this world. That province pretty much preserves the Japanese culture and livelihood. The Empress…her name is Haruhiko. She may be from that province." His smile widened, "Yuuri has higher chances of achieving an understanding with her. I do feel this is a chance we must not miss."
Yuuri grinned before turning to the three half-brothers, large eyes pleading.
Conrad was the first to sidle with him. The brunet seldom opposed any of his godson's 'escapades', anyways.
Gwendal sighed. "Do whatever you want," he looked away, fingers twitching slightly.
Yuuri turned to the man he'd married. The blonde looked strangely preoccupied, the shade of his green of his eyes dulling. "Wolf?" a hint of concern crept into his voice.
Wolfram raised his hand to comb golden tresses away from his face. "I'll order Lasagna to pack your belongings and get your royal suits ready." He spun on his heels and headed for the door.
"Good!" Yuuri jogged to catch up with the blonde, "We should tell Greta too! She'll be happy to-"
"Yuuri," Wolfram spoke as Murata said, "Shibuya!" and two "Heika," could be heard simultaneously. Five pair of eyes assessed each other quickly before they reached a silent agreement. "Yuuri," Wolfram repeated, "I don't think it's a good idea to bring Greta to Yekaterina with us."
"B-But-!" Four heads nodded before the King could protest. Yuuri's brows furrowed. "Why?" he asked in puzzlement.
"You will find out," Murata remarked as the rest adjourned for the morning, "in time."
Since I may be using these terms a lot, I may have to explain them...
Wagamama Pu: Little Lord Brat, Selfish Loafer (tho I find that they're not really apt as translation. I'll stick to Wagamama Pu)
Heika: Your Majesty (Geika: I don't know whether it means Your Highness or Your Eminence so I'll stick to English. Ditto for Your Excellency)
Henachoko: wimp (Henachoko iuna: don't call me a wimp)
Nazukeoya: the person who named me