Wolfram Von Bielefield was sitting in his bedroom, shuffling through his papers, when he heard a crash and scream from outside. Only for a moment he paused, dropping all the documents he was holding in his hand, swearing to himself because it had taken him a half an hour to order them. But that was no matter… From outside, he heard a frightened cry of Yuuri, and he rushed out into the hallway to a scene that was not quite what he expected.
Greta was laying on the ground with her hand on her knee, her tea and cookies spilled all over the place in a mess that looked a lot like his horse's colic medication. The young girl was in tears, hand grasping the bleeding spot, and Yuuri was doing his best at not keeping his cool. Rolling his eyes, not at Greta but at Yuri, he leaned down to grab the little girl's hand.
"You okay, Greta?" he asked wearily, looking into the little girl's glistening eyes. "Let's go get Gisela, shall we?"
Yuuri was standing there, black eyes open in surprise, staring at them both as if he had never thought of the idea. Indeed, he was still standing there doing his impersonation of a statue, acting as if the world had just collapsed all because his daughter had managed to skin her knee. 'Wimp,' he thought. 'All kids have this kind of trouble sometime. He needs to learn to get his head on straight.'
"Yuuri," he said wearily, knowing deep down that Yuuri and Greta had the deeper bond. His daughter would feel better if she was with her 'first father.' "Why don't you take care of Greta, and I'll go get the maids to clean up the cookies…."
"Right." Yuuri finally got out of his daze.
Wolfram shook his head. "Wimp…."
The last thing he heard down the hallway was "Not a wimp."
Smiling wearily to himself, he walked off down the hall, though his heart felt a familiar tug of pain. He frowned to himself, staring at the wall.
In the next week, he would be sleeping by himself in his own bedroom. As it was, Yuuri's mother and father would be coming for a visit, along with Shori. (Yuuri's older brother) Since Yuuri had asked him politely…or, more rather, desperately, that he sleep in his own room, he had reluctantly agreed. He decided not to be offended, since he knew that the earth culture was different than theirs, and perhaps it was considered something quite rude to share the same bedroom before marriage.
Somehow, though, apart of him thought it was just Yuuri trying to kick him out.
After some time, he finally managed to find a maid, who scurried off to clean up the mess. 'Finally,' he thought. 'Now I can actually get back to organizing my report….Well, reorganizing it anyway.' Just when he was about to turn, however, a tall figure came striding around the office, dark hair in a pony tail, purple eyes flashing like a hawk's right before it came upon its prey. Wolfram gulped.
"There you are," Gwendal muttered. "I've been looking all over for you…."
"I'm just finishing my report." Wolfram barked back, feeling anger rising up his throat. Truth be told, he was feeling defensive because his heart was hurting. Never would he let on about that. "It's not due until tomorrow…I don't understand what the problem is."
"The problem is that the town north of here has just been raided…." Gwendal said, eyeing his little brother carefully. Wolfram nodded his head, understanding at once. "I want you to take your men and figure out what happened….Sounds to me that it's just a casual disturbance, no call for worry, but it's the second one this week."
"Nothing serious was taken?"
"No." replied Gwendal. "Nothing at all. They burned down four or five houses….All half human's homes….and then left. I think it's a typical example of racism, but we don't want to raise an alarm quite yet, especially since your majesty is preparing for his parent's arrival here."
Both of them drew silent for a moment as a maid appeared at the end of the hall, and Gwendal dragged Wolfram into his office where they could talk in more privacy. A doll was on the desk, which made him raise an eyebrow for a moment before Gwendal spirited it away. Wolfram stared at his brother quietly, waiting for the rest of the report.
Gwendal shuffled through his papers again. "No one was harmed. All amateur work, it would seem. Relatively easy to avoid."
"Alright." Wolfram nodded. "I'm on it."
"One more thing…."
Wolfram raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"
He was riding on his horse with his men behind him when his stomach tightened in warning. There was a foul smell hanging in the air, thick and stuffy like baking human flesh. It took Wolfram only a moment to understand what the smell was, along with the screaming that had filled the entire village. Off in the distance, he could see a stagnet, heavy smoke cloud hanging angrily in the air as if it dared him to come closer.
Turning to his guard, he said, "This looks bad…Everyone be on your guard."
There was a chorus of "Yes, sir." from everyone.
They galloped recklessly down the path, nearly plowing down a woman and her three children on their way out of the tpwn. Judging by the terrified looks on their faces, he knew that things were bad. The horse skidded to a stop right outside the village, a shrill whine of terror on its muzzle. Wolfram dug his heels in, frustrated, and the horse charged forward.
The town was built relatively like a figure eight. There were two village sides, the north and the south. The upper one was more high class, the lower more a stronghold for the poor. There was a mote around each side, with a rickety, wooden bridge going between each part. Strangely, this time it appeared as if the richer section of the town was burning to the ground.
He charged through the village towards the upper part of the village, stopping to realize why everyone was panicking: the bridge from the upper section had been half torn down, most of the wooden planks missing. No one on the other side could get out, and they were all being burned alive. Screams shot through the night like a chorus, the thick air so dense that Wolfram was forced to tie a piece of cloth around his mouth to keep from choking. His men did the same.
"You…." Wolfram pointed to ten men on his guard who blushed and jumped as if he had just kissed them. "Go cut down the biggest tree we can find. We're going to need it to make a partial bridge…."
All of them nodded, galloping off into the night. Wolfram turned towards the other men, seeming weary, realizing that they were all looking a little frightened. The second in command stepped forward, "What about us, sir?"
"Get some water…." Wolfram commanded. "And make it fast…."
There were two left, none of them relatively good fighters. He signaled for them to come with him, and they followed in awe. He approached a nearby blacksmith's house, searching the back for wood. There was one in particular that would work: It was long, though thinner than he would have liked, but would serve as a makeshift bridge until they could fix the problem at hand.
He placed it across the mote, looking down at the five hundred foot drop below him. Even he gulped nervously. The wood was only a good two inches thick, and he would have to pray that it would support him when he tried to climb across it. With a nervous nod, he looked at his other men.
"I'm going to gather everyone from the other side and have them make a line." he said. "Tell the soldiers with the water to leave it here….and have the others set the tree trunk across the mote to make a safe bridge. I'm going to do my best to make sure that everybody gets out of here alive."
From behind him he caught sight of a man rolling on the ground, as his shirt had caught fire. 'Looks like getting everyone out unscathed is an unlikely option….' he thought. 'But alive we can still do.' With that thought, he lunged across the plank, hoping that he wouldn't lose his footing halfway through. Unfortunately, this was the least of his worries.
The plank gave a large, horrendous snap, his men gasping behind him, and he lurched forward with all of his might, taking a flying leap before landing halfway on the gravel with a painful thud. 'That's going to leave a bruise,' he thought. But when he looked down, seeing the wood break on the sharp rocks in the water below, he gulped, grateful that all he received was a light chest pain.
He stumbled to his feet, mumbling an explicit that he would never want Greta to hear. Then he caught the sound of more screaming, and rushed into the village, speaking to everyone he could find. Eventually near everyone in the town was waiting where the bridge once was, nervously staying close together in one group as if the fire would burn them less if they were together.
Though Wolfram was almost certain that everyone was waiting by the mote, he entered the houses anyway, after giving the okay to his men as they brought forth an exceptionally large tree trunk in a group of ten. It would be a slow process, since most would have to mount the log like a horse and pull themselves along, but it would be better than not going across at all.
He went into the first house, seeing no one, continuing this around the village. The air was so heavy and dense with smoke that he felt as though he was inhaling thick pudding. 'No one lost,' he thought wearily. 'Not under my watch.'
As he entered a small home, the fire burning its way through the ceiling, he had his second close call with death. The wood planks moaned in warning, and he felt his stomach clench a second before the fiery rafters splintered and fell, nearly crushing him. One of the planks caught his arm on the way out, filling his arm with a sharp pain, making him scream. Blood dribbled like a river down his limb and onto the cobblestone flooring, filling the cracks like a reservoir of crimson.
Then he heard a shriek, loud and frightened like a child when they lost their parent. He rushed to the source of the sound, which was a house that was slowly being burned to cinders. He rushed inside, his nose giving him the warning before his eyes: human flesh. That was what the smell was. Even though he considered himself well learned in the way of death, he was not braced for what he saw when he entered the house.
There, laying on the floor like demented marionettes, were bodies of all shapes and sizes. Half of them were sizzling like bacon in a fryer, but some were dead of something else, something worse. 'This was the house that got burned first,' he thought, looking at the damages. 'They had tried to put it out but failed.'
In the corner was the source, his screamer. She was eight months pregnant and sobbing, sweat trailing down her back. Her face was covered in painful sores, half her profile scratched off by what looked like human fingernails. Quietly, he withheld a gasp, running over to her.
"What's going on!?" Wolfram cried, grabbing her. "You've got to get out of here."
"C-can't!" the woman howled, in agony. "Please. I'm g-going to d-die anyway. M-my baby! S-save my baby! I c-can die, but n-not my baby!"
With a growl of frustration and confusion, he hauled the woman outside and into the alleyway. At least they were safer from the fire here. He grabbed her hand, watching as she pushed him away again. 'I can't keep dragging her.' he thought. 'She'll get hurt….and there's no way I can get her over the log this way.'
"What's the matter." he kneeled, coughing from inhaling too much smoke. "Are you in labor!?"
"No!" The woman was fading fast. Wolfram held her head, fighting away the panic in his mind. "D-dying….B-but my b-baby, he can s-still live."
"We can get you medical help if you'll stand."
Just when he tried to stand up, the woman grabbed his hand with an expression on her face that made even Wolfram pause. She was crying now, tears and drool rolling down her face, eyes bobbing in their sockets and rolling around like the marbles he had seen once on earth. He leaned down again, touching her face, realizing that her breathing was fading.
"I don't understand." he said finally. "What do you expect me to do!?"
The woman pulled out a dagger from underneath her skirt, handing it to Wolfram and forcing his fingers around it. Then he began to understand. 'No,' he thought. 'I can't do that…I've stabbed people before, but I've never cut open an innocent woman while she was still alive.' Wolfram stared at her with his eyes wide, bottom lip trembling.
"No," he whispered. "I can't…not that."
"Please…." the woman sobbed. "I d-don't care about m-me….Even with h-help, I'll die….But my baby….my baby….."
"I don't know what I'm doing!" His voice took on a new octave that he had never heard before. "What if I hurt your baby?…We should at least wait for someone medical."
"It'll be too late…." The woman grabbed his hand, steering it towards her stomach. "Save my baby….Please….If you were me, you would want the same thing."
Deep down, he knew it was true. He would want to have his life take before his child's…..But why now!? And why him!? He couldn't cut her open, even with all the soldier training he had…It felt sick and wrong, more like he was a demented murderer than a warrior for Blood Pledge Castle.
He took one look at her face, seeing the tears deep within her eyes, pouring down her cheeks in rivers. Finally, he nodded, feeling his fingers shake as his hand balanced itself above her stomach. The woman had to help him with the first incision, burying the dagger in her flesh, dragging it downward. How she could face death so easily, he would never know. 'Love,' Wolfram whispered in his head. 'She loves her baby enough that she would be willing to do anything, even die, for it.'
When he looked at her face, he thought of Cecilie. Would his mother had done it for him? Would she have so readily sliced herself apart in order to have him survive? He wasn't so sure he could picture it.
But he shook his head, focusing on the task at hand, his hand wavering only for a moment. The next part was the worst. He shut his eyes, a single tear drizzling down his cheek, as he dipped his fingers into her now open body and searching for the baby. Eventually he felt something more solid than the rest--her child--and he pulled it out.
"Look." he whispered, trying to show the woman.
But she was already dead, her empty eyes staring at the ceiling. After all that she had given up for her child, she would never even be able to see it with her own eyes. Wolfram reached up to touch her cheek, discovering that she had a necklace around her neck. He took it from her slowly, tucking it in his pocket to remind himself what he was living for.
Then he looked down at the baby, wrapping it in a blanket, attempting to rub it to life like he had once done with a premature foal in the stable. But nothing happened….His eyes widened, and he rubbed it harder, breathing out his nose and crying out "No, no, no, no!" until his words became shrieks that lit up the night far more boisterously than any fireworks.
Gerard had heard the screaming from Wolfram, and had grabbed his horse as fast as he could, charging up towards Blood Pledge Castle with a mission in mind. He stumbled into the grounds, knowing that he was covered with blood that was dripping on the floor, making it so everyone who was nearby shrieked. 'Where is everyone!?' he thought. 'Oh, that's right….dinner.'
He half-stumbled, half-jogged to the dining room, bursting in. A strange silence filled the room as they stared at him: his bloodied clothes, his half-mad eyes from the smoke. Gwendal was the first to react, standing up quickly and saying to him quietly, "Wolfram's in trouble, isn't he?"
Wolfram lay the baby down with its mother, touching its wet head that was covered in blood. Then he leaned down and kissed the poor woman's forehead, even though it was drenched with her own body fluids. He held the necklace close to him in his pocket still, though. He didn't think that he would ever forget this night. Somehow it seemed to be everything that nightmares were made of.
Outside he heard the sound of familiar voices: Yuuri, Conrad, Gwendal, and Gunther. He stood up slowly, stumbling out the door almost mechanically, looking across the mote to see them standing around looking horrified. Everyone must have crossed over fine, he thought, licking his lips and tasting the blood from the woman's forehead. He then put his hand against his mouth, as though it would help him close it from the horror and shock of the night.
After he stumbled across the log, he saw Conrad's eyes flash to his, and a gasp escaped from Yuri's lip. For a second he wondered if they could see the evil of what he had done, all for nothing. But then he realized that he was covered head to toe in blood, even his face smeared with it from when he leaned forward to deliver the woman her kiss.
Even his hair was now crusty. It no longer looked remotely blonde and golden anymore, but kind of decrepit and unhealthy, just like his heart.
"Wolfram!" Yuuri cried, the first to ask. "Are you alright!?"
Usually his concern would have made him feel pleased, but tonight he could only see that woman's face, begging and begging for her baby's life. And he had failed her. Two deaths, all for something so utterly purposeless as being born half human.
"I'm fine." Physically, anyway. Mentally he felt as though somebody had hit him with a horse carriage. "Just fine…"
Gwendal looked at him. "Any casualties?"
This was not the question to ask. His eyes immediately flickered to his brother's face, then he stumbled off to the side, falling to his knees. Even Conrad gave a slight cry of concern as he vomited all that he had for lunch on the ground like a brightly colored soup. His hands went back up to his mouth, trying to fight away the tears.
Yuuri made a motion that showed that he was about to grab Wolfram's shoulder, but he barked out into the night, "Don't touch me!"
The power of the sentence seemed to echo, as if even the victims of tonight knew the significance. Gunther's eyes widened, mouth tightening. Wolfram breathed, realizing what he had just said, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. He staggered slowly to his feet, turning towards Yuuri.
"Sorry," he muttered.
Yuri continued to stare before saying, "You sure you're okay, Wolfram?"
'If you consider suicide fine, then….' "Yeah, I'm alright."
No one looked like they believed him.