Things Left Unsaid


Author's note:

This story is the result of a challenge that a good friend gave to me. So, I'll just call this one an "experiment." As usual, the following story is just for fun and no profit. Please take none of this seriously—

Chapter 1


"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
~ Henry Ellis


"Oi! I said, 'no,' you wimp! What are you thinking of?!" Wolfram shouted, urging his horse forward with as much speed as the animal was capable of.

The black blurr that was Shibuya Yuuri had just taken off in the direction of a woman's scream. How Wolfram hated himself, now, for humoring his fiancé into letting him visit the village of Whitmore-Smythe along the eastern borderlands.

Two of Wolfram's men, wearing the blue uniforms of his elite guard, followed closely behind. The second man shouted over his shoulder at the new recruit, "Go tell Lord Weller where we're going!"

The young fire wielder, new to the guard, nodded his head enthusiastically and made note of the animal trail that they were riding along. He'd do his best to bring help immediately.

Yuuri stopped abruptly when the frail body of a human woman fell across the trail a few meters in front of him. From the way her corpse met the ground, it was only too clear that she was beyond help.

Yuuri, furious, glared at the group blocking his path. "How could you?!" he demanded, tightly holding onto the reins. This was inexcusable. He looked again at the woman. She appeared to be a peasant with bleached blond hair mostly tucked into a white, cotton cap with straps that dangled down both sides of her ears. Her simple dress was brown and long sleeved. She wore only one shoe and her palms were slashed from something sharp driven into them. The stab wound deep in the back no longer bled.

"How could you?!" Yuuri demanded again.

Yes, these were the thugs who were harassing the village and killing women for their pleasure—off and on—for the past month.

A lasso with stone charms woven into the strands found its way around Yuuri's shoulders and the rope pulled tightly, pinning his arms at his sides. At the other end was an extremely tall, ape-like human with a wide, flat nose and dark brown hair that was dull and lifeless.

"Where's the woman?" he demanded.

"Woman? W-What woman?!" Yuuri shouted back while struggling to get the ropes off. He didn't see any woman other than the dead one before him.

"You know! The woman wearing the blue uniform and short blond hair on the white horse outside the hotel," a human with rat-like features and a thread-bare light green shirt called back.

"Woman?" Yuuri whispered to himself. Only when he heard the sound of a horse thundering on the path behind him did he realize it. "Oh, no…Wolfram!" Onyx eyes widened impossibly and he stared at the ape leader again. "You're talking about…Wolfram, right?"

"YUURI!" Wolfram bellowed. He could see a group of eight dangerous-looking humans blocking the path. Rough men who were unwashed and unshaven. His soldier's instincts were telling him that rescuing the double black would be the priority and that no matter how it looked to the outside world, (honor could certainly wait) he would do what was necessary to get his fiancé back unscathed.

"That's her! That's the one!" the rat man said to his cohorts, a finger pointing, and Yuuri's heart froze at it.

The double black shook his head "no" and called to Wolfram, "Get out of here, Wolfram! It's too dangerous! Go!"

Even from a distance and over the sound of hooves hitting dirt, Yuuri could make out the distinct "W-I-M-P!" aimed at him.

Two men charged forward on horses tied up on the other side of a large tree near a cave entrance. "Go get the Mazoku," the ape ordered and the two skinny followers grunted in agreement, each armed with a lasso.

The first horseman met up with Wolfram, swinging his rope while the second went around them and chose a different target—the first of Wolfram's men.

Yuuri saw a third man jump for his horse and streak in Wolfram's direction. He avoided the blond Mazoku in favor of the second of Wolfram's men.

Wolfram wasn't in any mood to be toyed with by a knuckle-dragging human with a silly rope. He knew how Yuuri saw things but, he was not going to let this man off so easily. As the lasso swung menacingly, Wolfram simply made a fireball in his hand. He was about to throw it when the lasso came down upon his shoulders and the flame died immediately.

"Damn!" Wolfram cursed, glancing at the rope with esoteric charms strung through the strands. The small rocks that pressed against his arms burned and he felt his body sag in the saddle.

The human jumped down from his horse and walked over to Wolfram, taking the reigns easily from stiff, white-knuckled fingers. "Come on…pretty, pretty," he chortled as he returned to his horse. "We're having a party and it won't be a celebration without you."

Wolfram gritted his teeth at the thought of what these men had in mind. The horse clomped easily enough behind the man and Wolfram's heart grew heavy with each step that neared him to Yuuri.

"Wolf!" the double black called.

Wolfram hung his head a little. This was mortifying. He glanced behind him only to see that his two subordinates were doing much worse and succumbing to the stones far more easily than he was. The blond glanced at Yuuri again. He didn't seem to feel the effects. Wolfram wasn't sure if that was a blessing or not.

"This one's not like her," the ape-like man said with distain, kicking dirt over the body of the woman. "From a distance, she could have been a Mazoku." Then, he turned to Wolfram. "But, we know for certain you are, my pet. Thanks for showing us fire!" And with a deep, rumbling chuckle, he turned away.

Sitting cross-legged, the four of them were lined up against the far wall of the cave. Yuuri, Wolfram, Wilks, and Colins were all tied with ropes looped around their throats that snaked down, over the shoulders, and bound their wrists from behind. Should they lower their tied wrists, the ropes would constrict and they would no longer be able to breathe.

Add to the fact that the ropes were exactly like the ones that had caught them in the first place.

"Lean on me a little," Wolfram whispered to Yuuri. The double black had gagged twice when he grew tired and lowered his arms. With a slight sigh of relief, he leaned his left elbow against Wolfram's curved over back and took a break.

"What are they doing?" Yuuri asked, now watching the eight men putting on their green hoods and cloaks as they prepared a large, stone altar by applying some kind of white, gelatinous goop. To the double black, it looked like someone had mixed sugar, 7UP, and corn starch together. Then, he blinked when he saw the man in the corner with the black marble mortar and pestle pour some kind of white powered substance into the mix and then the two of them poured the second batch over the altar.

"I'm not sure," Wolfram whispered as he tried to scan the room without drawing attention to himself. It was a cave that had been carved with symbols that held no meaning for him. There were still uneven sections on the walls that held no adornment and was rough, as nature carved it out. But, the rest was outlined in a dark, blackish green paint and the scent of allspice filled the air, making Wolfram feel nauseous.

The rat-like one, being obvious even with a hood because his nose was exceedingly sharp, brought out a scroll and placed it on a small table in front of the altar. With reverence, the scroll was opened up—the top and bottom edges, irregular and tattered.

Wolfram noted that, now, presiding at the altar was the ape man. The rat was reviewing the scroll and the six other followers stood close to their prisoners. Collins and Wilks' slight whispers, which his sharp ears caught, were now coming across like hisses. Surely, they'd get caught for talking and be punished. Wolfram hoped that more help would come soon. Where was Conrad anyway? As painful as it was for Wolfram to admit, they needed Conrad to come and help them. And, for Yuuri's sake, his ego would accept the help.

"Get the woman," the ape man said. "It's time."

Wolfram's green eyes widened in curiosity. "Woman?" he parroted. Were some of the followers female? Or was there a woman in the cave and he just didn't notice?

"I don't think that…I mean…" Yuuri blathered until one of the men guarding them came up and kicked the double black in the shins as hard as he could.

Yuuri doubled over with a shout of pain and then he gagged from the ropes binding him.

"Stop it!" Wolfram shouted, getting to his feet and being surprised that they'd let him get away with it. Maybe, these humans saw him as intimidating. And they should! he thought angrily.

"Bring her over," the rat ordered and, suddenly, Wolfram found himself being roughly manhandled in the direction of the altar.

"Wait!" Wolfram shouted and Yuuri cringed at it. "Are you telling me that you think I'm…?" But the blond got no farther than that. The cloaked figure on Wolfram's right had doubled up his fist and punched as hard as he could. Blood poured from Wolfram's mouth, down the front of his uniform, and spotted on the cave floor. He blacked out for a second and had to be steadied on his feet.

The sound of snickering made Yuuri sick. He closed his eyes and shouted, "Stop!" But no one listened.

All eyes were fixed on Wolfram as he struggled to stay conscious.

Both hooded men nodded reverently as they were pointed to. One man had twin jars of hand thrown pottery painted green and filled to the brim with liquid. For convenience, they were already waiting by his feet. All he would need to do is reach down for the right one at the right time.

Other, much larger, jars were closer to the prisoners and their guards. But what they contained, only the cultists knew.

"According to the ancient text, we need to strip this one," he gestured to Wolfram with a depraved grin, "from the waist up. Bare breasts and all…" He motioned to the other handler. "You! Get the mucilage ready with the messianic elixir."

"Breasts?" the blond breathed to himself, blood drops still falling from his lower lip. Now, he understood. "WHAT?!" Wolfram bellowed as rough hands tore at his coat and untucking his white undershirt. "You think I'm a girl?!

He struggled—thrashing down and side to side while his captors roared with derisive laugher.

"Don't be modest!"

"…Over in a minute…"

"Show us the puppies with the pink noses!"

Then, the rope pulled—cutting off Wolfram's air and almost sending him to his knees.

A hand grabbed his forearm.

"Cut off the clothes!"

"Cut off the clothes!"

Wolfram struggled as sharp knives ripped, starting with the cuffs—shredding the material up to the shoulders.

Why not? The show would last longer.

Hands tore at the white shirt and popped off the buttons up to Wolfram's cat's eye navel.

A hissed chant. Hissed words, sharp and cruel followed. Freezing cold goo was smeared against Wolfram's left side, thick drips making way for his lower abdomen. He struggled again as something sharp was shoved into the flesh on his side and something small and round inserted. He recoiled, shrieking at them using every curse word he'd ever known.

With a roar from the group, the last of the buttons were torn away and the white shirt was tossed to the floor.

The cultist with the jars gasped, "What? This really is a guy!"

In that moment, Wolfram's men both ran for the oversized jars, knocking them over in the direction of their guards. And they were quite pleased with the distraction until they realized that the containers were filled with acid and, not thinking, they wiped the burning red liquid onto their sleeves and trousers—suddenly hearing a sizzling sound as the material began to fall apart. Their hands felt like they were on fire and the sudden pain never ending.

Seeing his chance, Yuuri ran forward, determined to get Wolfram away from the two men holding him. He wormed his way in between the man with the jars and Wolfram.

Yuuri felt large, callused hands on him. Both of Wolfram's guards must have joined in. The double black kicked repeatedly—knocking over one jar and breaking the second into gaping shards.

"You bastard!" the rat shrieked. "You have no idea what you've just done!" His face was turning blood red and he was white around the mouth. "All of this work! Our last chance! Over!"

Yuuri fell onto his butt and stared up, mouth open slightly—doing his best not to lower his wrists.

Taking that as his cue, the man who had the jars withdrew a dagger from his robes.

He's going to kill Wolfram! He's going to kill Wolfram! All because of me, he's…!

The cultist with the dagger smiled down at Yuuri. Killing the weak asshole in front of him would be easy and, maybe, they'd use his body—putting the black haired head on a spike to keep out anyone who would dare enter their sacred chamber in the mountain.

But he didn't get the chance.

Yuuri's hair grew longer. His shoulders grew wider and his body taller. A blue glow engulfed him, rising him up from the floor as the ropes fell away, dropping heavily to the ground.

"We shall be released," The Maou ordered as he raised a hand into the air. He pointed a finger at the red acid on the ground, purifying it, and turning the hateful liquid white. He made water dragons appear and they quickly made their way for the altar. The heavy, stone altar was easily lifted and thrown into the nearest wall. The Maou grinned as a gale blew around him as he ordered the dragons to wash the cave clean—making waves of liquid that drove the cultists out of the cave.

Only the wall carvings and the painted ceiling remained the same.

Conrad appeared at the mouth of the cave for only a second before he ducked back—surprised by the rat and the ape-like man trying to escape.

He wouldn't let them, though. And, by the looks of it, he wouldn't have to raise a finger. He could make out two of Wolfram's men giving chase.

Good. The soldier turned back to the scene.

Conrad discovered that The Maou had Wolfram cradled in his arms, now. Bare-chested, he was being carried out of the cave bridal style—a manner that the fire Mazoku would have taken extreme dislike and embarrassment to had he been well. But, what was more unusual, or maybe "unsettling" as Conrad interpreted it, was the look of deep concern in the powerful spirit's eyes. Conrad had never noticed such an expression before on The Maou's face. And that worried him to no end as the seconds ticked.

Walking to a sunny patch of green grass near the horses, The Maou whispered soothing words to Wolfram in a deep but loving undertone. But the blond was only half awake, hand clutching the side where the cultists had coated him with the gunk. He felt wrong somehow and his hand covered a red, golf ball-sized pocket of flesh that was starting to sag from him.

"I shall try…" The Maou said as he laid Wolfram down. He knelt next to the blond and gently removed his hand, trying to see. He placed a hand directly over the swollen flesh and was driven back by sudden shock.

The Maou glanced at his own hand. It was crimson and he shook it, as though stinging.

Wolfram moaned.

Black slitted eyes stared curiously as the flesh changed shape—now developing red, sinewy tendrils growing at an alarming rate.

Wolfram turned his chin up, meeting his eyes with an apologetic glance. "You can't really help me, can you?"

The Maou shook his head. "…Healing this is not possible…"

The blond soldier nodded grimly. If The Maou couldn't do it, then this was, indeed, grave news. "But…you tried for my sake…and, for that…I thank you…" He did his best to give The Maou, his Yuuri, a brave smile. Maybe, Gissela could help him. Maybe. But, he had doubts. Yuuri, in his "maou form" was almost infinitely powerful.

With a hand brushing back his long hair, The Maou sat down beside Wolfram and sighed—his body slowly becoming more rounded and boyish. The blond watched with a distant smile on his face as Yuuri reverted to the "Wimp" he was so fond of.

Even if his feelings weren't returned, this moment together meant a lot. Maybe, it would be their last. And Wolfram tried to etch into his heart the image of Yuuri returning, coming back to him.

From behind, a horse blanket was wrapped around Wolfram's shoulders and he turned to see that it was Conrad.

"Yuuri would want me to," his brother said with a shrug to hide his concern, and Wolfram knew it was the truth. Wolfram could only nod weakly in agreement and then curl up in the blanket, lying next to Yuuri's prone form.

Together. They were together, side by side.

One last time.

He would just close his eyes for a minute. That's all he needed to do.

But, it still tugged at the back of his mind. His body had changed and he could feel the difference—a kind of rounded, bubbled, bloated feeling on his side. And the sudden fatigue was concerning him, but not enough to keep him awake. And with tears he didn't understand, Wolfram fell into a deep sleep.

Without a knock, the door flew open on its own accord, smacking solidly into the stone wall. Wolfram's limp, blood-covered body was hauled into Gissela's infirmary by Conrad along with Wolfram's two other soldiers.

Gently, the brunette soldier placed his brother down on an empty bed with the words "I'll be right back." But Gissela knew where he was going. He needed to be the one to get Gwendal. He had to be the one to tell him the news. Anything else was unacceptable.

Gissela turned to her unexpected patients. Unlike the blond who was wrapped securely in a light blue horse blanket, the other two men had what appeared to be chemical burns on their hands with parts of their uniforms faded and eaten away in places—leaving exposed skin red and raw. They were cursing at the blistered skin. Unable to move on their own, they were being helped in by two of Conrad's most trusted soldiers.

Noting the burns and giving a quick glance to Wolfram—whose bleeding lip had stopped oozing long ago—Gissela took charge of the situation.

"Why didn't you just remove the uniforms?" she asked harshly. This would be common sense.

"It didn't get bad until right before we got here," Wilks gritted as he was unceremoniously stripped down by the green-haired healer. "And I know I didn't feel anything for quite awhile."

"Of course you didn't," Gissela said, exasperated. "Those uniforms are thick."

What didn't come off because the material had stuck to oozing skin, was going to hurt. She produced a pair of scissors and began cutting the remaining cloth off wearing the thickest gloves that she had.

While working, Gissela ordered her first and second year assistants to attend to Wolfram, who appeared to be asleep.

"We were lured into a trap," Wilks moaned piteously as Gissela motioned for her assistant to bring in water to wash the wounds.

The second soldier, Colins, in the next bed nodded, struggling to breathe and not just take in gulps of air. He had made the mistake of touching the tip of his nose at some point and breathed in the fumes. His wrists hurt like hell, too, but if Wilks wasn't going to complain about the blisters and burnt skin from the esoteric stone charms in the ropes, neither was he. He wasn't a wuss. "They had those blasted esoteric stones! And, before we knew it, they bound us."

"Oh, my!" the pink haired assistant next to Gissela exclaimed. She was handing cotton and bandages over as instructed. "They intended to capture and then kill you!"

"That's not it," the first soldier breathed. "They belonged to some cult…I think… then they poured…"

"WHAT THE HELL?!" screamed the brunette Mazoku man attending Wolfram.

The room silenced and Wolfram's men suddenly turned in his direction.

The blond, who had been naked from the waist up when he was brought in, had the horse blankets removed from his body revealing a thick, gelatinous substance glistening over his stomach, side, and ribs. There was a red, fibrous outer coating which hung like a small, pouch-like meat bag which fell flaccidly to the side.

The male healer unbuttoned Wolfram's military trousers only to reveal more red, meaty strands. There was an organic smell that hinted of cut beef on a hot summer's day.

"Finish up and give those two the sleeping tea," Gissela rasped quickly to her assistant as she made hurried steps for Wolfram's bedside.

The blond turned his head left and right, eyes clamped shut, one arm at his side and the other draped off the bed.

From the glistening on the palms, it was obvious to Gissela that Wolfram had tried to brush the substance off of himself, but had stopped at some point. Maybe, he'd passed out from the pain or he had to defend himself from the cultists again with no time allowing.

Whatever the case, he was in dire straights now.

"Whatever should we do?" the assistant asked, trying to mask his horror in front of the patients. He'd been warned that he would see things in the infirmary and on the battle field that would haunt him in nightmares. But this was not a bad dream.

It was real—horribly, horribly real.

The door opened and Conrad entered, head turned to the right to speak with Gwendal who was at his side. "I left Yuuri Heika with Mother and Greta because…Oh, great Shinou! WOLFRAM!"

Their eyes disbelieving and wild, the brothers turned to Gissela for an explanation. Wolfram's body was covered in something that they couldn't distinguish, but a most gruesome sight it was.

"What is that on him?!" Gwendal demanded hotly. He thought he would vomit and came very close to it in spite of his years of active military service.

On instinct, Gissela wanted to throw them out. But, at this point, there was no helping it. They would probably fight and argue to stay, wasting time. "I don't know," she answered honestly. "We've never seen anything like it before."

"Then, cut it off of him, woman! And clean him up!" Gwendal shouted as he went to his brother's bedside and took his thin, pale hand.

Gissela shrunk back a little. Gwendal wasn't the leader of the Mazoku Army for nothing. He could be very intimidating when being protective. Usually, she could stand up to him. However, this time it was different. "I…uh…"

She could feel the eyes of everyone in the room on her.

"Do it!" he ordered as he sat on the empty bed next to Wolfram.

The healer bit her lower lip, thinking. She really wanted to buy time, to mull things over before acting. "We really should take him to the operating chamber," she countered, "and make preparations."

"N-o-w," Gwendal gritted out and Conrad placed a hand on his shoulder, trying to calm him a little.

Reluctantly, Gissela motioned to her assistant to get a scalpel and it was rushed to her on a silver tray. She narrowed her eyes in concentration—trying to decide where to start. "I know how to remove leeches," she prattled, "but it's not like that. This structure seems alive but totally different from the animal life I'm used to seeing. So, we'll try this first…" The room, still quiet, seemed to make every second seem an eternity. If she could just get part of this—whatever it was—off, and maybe see the inside of it, she wouldn't be working in the dark any longer.

Gissela began to cut very gingerly at the nearest thick strand.

"NO!" and, immediately, Wolfram threw his head back. He pressed a hand to his chest and his lips turned blue. Between deep, agonized breaths he gritted "Hurts! Hurts!" Wolfram's mouth opened impossibly wide, gulping air as his fingers clawed into his chest.

"Wolfram! Wolfram!" Gwendal called, holding onto his brother's other hand which had tightened impossibly around his own.

"Oh, hell!" Gissela hissed darkly to herself, struggling to take Wolfram's other hand. She pulled it away from the chest so she could do her job. A green, healing glow came from her hand and she concentrated hard on healing the cut strand back into place. Finally done with the task, she traced the line it made back to Wolfram's heart. "Damn," she muttered and then hovered her hand over the other red strands that were becoming more and more pronounced and web-like by the minute.

"…Not good…"

Gissela forced herself to concentrate.

"What is it?" Conrad asked in her ear as he leaned over. "Please tell us."

She shook her head, hands falling helplessly into her lap. Then, she leaned back to meet eyes with him. "I can't get it off. I'm so sorry."

"WHAT?!" Gwendal roared from across Wolfram's body. He looked every inch the lion that was protecting a small cub.

Meanwhile, the blond had collapsed in the bed and was struggling to breathe, producing a deep wheezing sound. His shoulders curled in, hands pressed against his chest once more. Every breath shook him.

Gissela pushed away the hands and placed a healing glow over the blond's chest once more. "I tried…but…I just can't get this off," she said quietly, feeling like a failure, "because these strands are connected in a strange way." She narrowed her eyes. "They appear to lead straight to his heart. By cutting them, I could give him heart failure." She hovered her hand over the meaty lump and followed a line with her finger. "This part…here…seems to be connected to his digestive system…taking in nutrients." She turned from Conrad to Gwendal and said, suppressing a shudder, "It appears to be some sort of parasite."

"That can't be!" Conrad exclaimed, sick inside for his little brother's sake. Hadn't he promised from the moment of birth that he would protect him?

The Mazoku administrator's blood boiled. "So, what I'm hearing is that you can't remove the thing even if it's attached to his heart and feeding off of him at this very minute?" Gwendal said furiously. Anger seemed to be all that he was capable of. Then, he turned to Wolfram's men. "What about those bandits…or cult freaks…or whatever they are?" He could feel his blind anger abating with the thought of interrogating prisoners. "I want to see them!"

The first soldier raised himself up on his burnt elbow, small patches of skin on his arms pink and raw lined in blackish, curled away skin that was, even now, getting bandaged. "I…killed them..." His eyes filled with guilt and shame. What a mistake it had been for him to do that. Certainly, the cultists would need to be interrogated so that they could understand what the men had done and why. "I was able to escape with Collins…and…" He motioned to the man next to him. "I hurled fireballs at anything that moved. I set them all on fire…robes, hair, anything that would burn. I killed them. I'm sure of it." Then, he glanced at Conrad. "Yuuri Heika…will be furious with me…punish me, right? I know he doesn't want us to kill anyone, but…"

Wolfram, his commander and the maou's fiancé, was important to him. And, it was a well known fact that Wolfram's elite guard more than just admired their commander. They were a little in love with him, too.

Conrad gave a pained nod to Gwendal. He'd been there and witnessed Wolfram's men acting out in blind fury. It was understandable.

The second soldier added. "I used my earth magic to fight them, too. I hurled sharp stones at their weak points…including the back of the head. So, I should be disciplined, as well."

Gwendal folded his arms against his chest. "How many of them were there?"

"We think we found eight beaten and charred bodies. But, right now, it's hard to tell," Conrad said quickly, seeing how Collins and Wilks were starting to succumb to the sleeping tea. Their eyes were half lidded and Wilks had lowered himself down onto the bed on his stomach.

"Did they find anything at the scene?" Gwendal asked Conrad.

"We found a very old scroll and I had one of my men sketch down any markings or carvings left in the cave that could help us." Conrad straightened up but kept his eyes riveted on Wolfram. "All of that information is being studied by Günter right now."

"Good." Gwendal turned back to Gissela, frustrated. "I don't care how long it takes…" He jabbed a finger in her direction. "…Find a way to kill it!"

She shook her head as she tucked back a piece of her green hair behind her ear. This time, Gissela was in total agreement but she knew she could do nothing for the moment. Her hands were tied. Maybe, her father could decipher something based on the scroll and the cave markings. "We'll keep working on it, however…" Then, her eyes grew determined. The mantra "Do no harm" kept chanting in her head. "…As for right now… if I kill it, I kill him, too. And neither one of us would want that."

"I'll call Mother," Conrad said, trying to pull himself together from the piteous sight before him. "We're going to have a family meeting."

While Wolfram was moved to the small quarantine infirmary for more privacy, a meeting was being held in Lady Cheri's private tea room in her suite. The round table was covered in a lacy, antique table cloth with matching curtains at the window. The scent of vanilla and Mazoku Breakfast Tea filled the room along with a plate of untouched biscuits.

A maid quickly poured tea into the cups and scurried away.

Conrad glanced at the door to make sure it was shut properly. It wasn't the original door, of course, because Wolfram burned that one down when he was twenty-one. The replacement didn't quite reach the floor—which was a good thing. He looked beneath the door to make sure that there were no shadows of eavesdropping servants.

"Why is he here?" Gwendal asked in almost a growl. He motioned to Yuuri. And the double black blanched at it.

"I asked him here," Lady Cheri said evenly, "because he is Wolfy's fiancé."

Gwendal gave an exasperated look which clearly said, "The engagement's a lie and I can't believe you keep ignoring that."

Yuuri didn't miss it at all. "I care about Wolfram," he defended.

"And if he dies…?" Gwendal stopped himself from going on thanks to Conrad putting a brotherly hand on his arm. What he would have said was, "And if he dies, would you care the way a fiancé should?" But, he knew, that would just be taking his anger and frustration out on a third party. And that "third party" was, unfortunately, his king.

"First," Lady Cheri said carefully to keep her tone even, "I've been told, while waiting…that there is…something….attached to my baby." Tears formed. Real ones. "How horrible!" She pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes.

"Gissela says that it's some kind of parasite that's feeding off of Wolfram." Conrad wanted to console her but she needed to know everything. Glossing over the truth wouldn't help because she would, in time, discover the whole story anyway.

"And there's no way to get rid of it?" Yuuri asked. "Back home, we can use medicine to kill tapeworms and stuff. I could go back and try…"

Conrad shook his head. "Gissela thinks that if we try to kill it, Wolfram won't survive. We watched her work on him and it almost stopped his heart."

Lady Cheri stifled a sob.

"We can't just let him die," Yuuri said with certainty. "We have to do something."

Conrad placed elbows on the table and his head in his hands. "Yes, but what?"

Yuuri looked at his godfather and felt sorry for him. Never had he seen Conrad at a loss. He always had a plan. He knew what to do.

There was a banging at the door. "I'll get it, My Lady!" was called from the other room. Lady Cheri's Lady-in-Waiting, Isabeau, opened the door hesitantly with a "Yes?" She blinked her dark purple eyes in curiosity.

A first year healer, mostly out of breath, huffed as he was bent over from his sprint. He turned his head in the direction of those seated. "Lady Gissela requests that all of you come. It's regarding the health of Sir von Bielefeld."

"Wolfie!" Lady Cheri gasped.

Conrad and Gwendal exchanged grim looks. They helped their mother get to her feet and escorted her to the door.

Yuuri couldn't speak or think. All he knew was that he had to be by Wolfram's side. And, as they made their way toward the infirmary, the double black quizzed Conrad about all he'd seen and heard. It was awful of him to do it, he knew, but he just had to know.

Not knowing was too painful.

The knob rattled first. Turning to the opening door, Wolfram's green eyes couldn't mask the spark of fear within them. Quickly, he searched the small group of people for the face he wanted most and seemed relieved when Yuuri entered the room last, following the others.


He needed him.

Some part of Wolfram wanted to extend an arm, reach out a hand—hold his hand and feel the warmth and security there. A lifeline. But, he was certain that the double black would reject his touch. And the shame of reaching out to someone only to be rebuffed would be too much. Something inside of him would break.

Wolfram shook the thought from his head. I'm an idiot. No, he would get through this—somehow—and survive this on his own, as usual.

Steeling himself before he could do it, Wolfram forced himself to glance down at the bulbous thing attached to him covered in strands that were thickening almost before his eyes. It was dewy-wet now and moving, shifting. It was slightly bigger than when The Maou had tried to heal it. Moreover, there seemed to be something inside the bag and it had grown quickly just after Gissela had placed her healing magic on it to examine the contents. And the pain of that sudden growth was beyond measure.

The blond's body arched off the bed. "That hurts!" Wolfram barked at her and got a scowl back from Gissela.

The healer, with careful precision, pulled out a dark yellow stone tucked into the underside of the meat bag as the others crowded around her. "This was hidden…and, I think, this combined with my healing magic made the parasite much bigger." She nipped her lower lip for a second and glanced apologetically at the others in the room. "I was only trying to analyze, not cause growth."

"That may have been their plan from the start," Conrad said in a way he hoped took the edge off. "And who knows what that alter was made of? It might have had within it something very similar to our own magic…considering that humans have none."

Removing the stone was a relief but Wolfram was forced to breathe in shallow breaths now. His eyes were full of tears from the pain and there WAS pain—growing.

Weak and eyes half open, he glanced at Yuuri again and met his worried stare. This might be the last face he would ever see. And, if it was, he had no regrets. He'd fought hard and with honor. Yuuri… Even if the love had been one sided, it was enough that he had these years with the double black. And his feelings were his own. No one could rip them away from him, even in death.

"Take this stone to Anissina for analysis," Gissela ordered her pink-haired assistant. The woman bowed with a small tray in her hands. The stone was wrapped in cloth and placed on it. Without a word to anyone, she left.

"I'll ask my father to let me have access to his private collection of medical books and…" The pinkish lump of flesh shifted on its own, catching Gissela's attention. She gaped as it moved again.

"What just happened?" Conrad asked, pointing to the still shifting hunk of flesh.

"I-I don't know…exactly. I'll try to peek inside…see what's in there…" With a timid green glow from her hands, she began to scan.

"Stop it!" Wolfram recoiled in the bed, groaning loudly. One palm was over his heart and the other over his stomach. He was in pain, struggling, head thrashing… "N-No more!"

"Wolf!" Yuuri called as he wove his way from the back of the group. He knelt next to the bed. He placed his hand over Wolfram's hand, fingers laced over his heart. The double black knew that this would mean the most to Wolfram.

The pain was growing—white hot.

Labored breathing.

The blond squeezed his emerald eyes shut and screamed a victim's scream, body arced back into the bed.

Yuuri, still beside the bed, draped an arm over Wolfram's shoulders as he pressed his cheek against the blond's.

Please stop!

Please stop!

Gissela…someone… please, make it stop!

In the background, Yuuri could hear the healer issuing orders in angry tones. There were footsteps. Healers moving forward. Conrad and the others moving away. All Yuuri could do was hold Wolfram and pray that this moment would end.

That was all.

It had to end.

It just had to.


In Gissela's office, the healer was joined by Yuuri, Conrad, Gwendal, Günter, and Lady Cheri around a wide table that smelled vaguely of medicinal herbs and dusty tomes.

"As you have all witnessed, the parasite grew again." Gissela leaned back in the chair with her arms folded defensively. She looked at no one as she spoke. "Add to the fact that the host…"

"You mean, my brother…" Gwendal corrected and got a light, tearful glare from his mother which was telling him to "shush."

"Yes, well…" The healer pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the sweat from the side of her slender neck. "If you haven't noticed, he's suffered some very unusual effects this time." She glanced at Günter and said, "Do any of the medical texts or historical texts mention this kind of thing?"

The lilac haired adviser shook his head. "I will keep diligent in my search, however…"

"However?" Conrad said.

"Well, you can see it for yourself. He's grown—physically. He's suddenly three centimeters taller than he was before this episode. We compared it to his military charts. I'd say he's 168 cm. And, he's aged."

Yuuri hummed an agreement to it. Had the blond been on Earth, he would have believed that Wolfram had already graduated from high school and was starting his college life.

"We measured his feet. They are a full size larger. And his fingers have plumped out, too…and are more squared off than before."

Lady Cheri put a lace hankie to her left eye. "Yes, his hands…very much like his father's in that regard."

"His hair is much thicker and very long," Günter noted dryly.

Yuuri glanced away awkwardly. Yes, he would notice hair, wouldn't he?

"Yes, well…" Gissela glanced somewhat disapprovingly at her father. "What we need to do now that he's stabilized is to get him back to eating again. And, that's going to take effort because we couldn't get him to take a bite the first time he woke up."

Suddenly, Yuuri found himself being stared down by everyone in the room. "W-What?" He sweat dropped.

"You can do it!" Wolfram's mother said with hands clasped before her breasts. Her face seemed hopeful again even if her eyes were shining with tears. "We can count on you, can't we? Make my poor Wolfie eat."

Yuuri's jaw dropped a little.

"It would be a good thing," Conrad chimed in. "It's something, I think, only you can do…because he trusts you. In fact, we all do." Then, to sweeten the deal, he added, "And, for a few days, I'm sure you can skip your lessons and paperwork so that you can spend breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my little brother."

Gwendal nodded a reluctant approval. Yuuri, in his opinion, was getting off easy, but it couldn't be helped.

The stares continued and Yuuri felt himself caving in. This was for Wolfram's good and Conrad, especially, was requesting it.

"Oh, and snacks. He should have two snack times, too," Gissela said with a thin smile. "We just need him to eat."

"But, why won't he eat?" Yuuri asked her and saw the smile fade from her face.

"Because, once he realized that a parasite was attached to him…that we couldn't kill it…he…uh…." She actually squirmed in her seat a little and it made Yuuri uncomfortable.


Briefly, Gissela took in the faces around her and then continued with "He didn't want to keep feeding something that was living off of him." Then, she leaned forward with a determined look. "But, if we are going to remove it, I need a patient that is in the best possible physical state. And, in this case, it means…eating."

"And if this plan doesn't work?" Gwendal asked gruffly. "If Yuuri Heika doesn't have the power of persuasion to make my little brother give up this hunger strike?"

"Oh, I wouldn't call it that just yet," Lady Cheri said, trying to keep her own spirits up as well as that of the group.

"Then, we'll force feed him. And, I guarantee that he won't like it," Gissela promised, "because I'll be doing it myself."

Yuuri waved his hands in front of the group, palms forward almost submissively with a forced, unhappy smile on his face. This had gone too far. "I'll do it! I'm sure that he'll listen to reason."

"Then, you'll do the job?" Conrad asked. "Thank you, Yuuri. We are in your debt." He gave a polite bow.

"No, it's okay…really." Yuuri's forced smile lingered as he placed a hand on the back of his head in embarrassment. "I'm sure it will all turn out okay."

"If you wave that spoon of oatmeal in front of my face again, Yuuri, I promise you you'll find it wedged in a very tight, kingly orifice of my choosing!"

Emerald green eyes blazed and Yuuri sat back a little. A few minutes ago, he'd perched himself on one side of the bed with a modest bowl of apple cinnamon instant oatmeal that he'd brought from Earth. The smell was delicious and, in the past, Wolfram more than liked the stuff. In fact, he ate a whole box of it by himself.

"Why are you being so difficult, Wolfram?"

Clearly, this wasn't going to work. And, he was starting to kick himself for believing that Wolfram cared for him so much that he'd be willing to do anything he asked.

"Why, Wolf? Huh?"

The blond, who was now slack-jawed, looked deeply into his eyes—huffing—and rasped, "Because, I'm going to throw up."


Wolfram wasn't joking. With a hand pressed to his drooling mouth, he motioned with the other hand for the chamber pot under the bed and Yuuri only just managed to drag it out and uncover it when the blond leaned over and vomited up all of the water he'd been drinking. The ex-prince heaved hard, stomach muscles tightening, and then heaved again.

The splattering sound echoed sickeningly from within the pot.

Yuuri put the oatmeal down on the small table near Wolfram's bed so that he could hold back the waist-length blond hair that Wolfram was sporting thanks to his unexpected growth spurt.

"I'm sorry, Wolf… I-I didn't know." He patted the head and then made a clumsy attempt at a pony tail by bunching up the long locks in his fist. The hair was heavy and the fly away ends were hard to hold.

"And I hate…this hair," Wolfram coughed in between fits.

I'm sure he does, Yuuri thought. It's exactly like his mother's. And, even when it's short, Wolfram feels like he has to remind me that he's a man.

Wolfram made a motion—trying to sit up—and the young king let go of the silky strands.

"Maybe," Yuuri suggested as Wolfram straightened, "we can cut it later on."

The more mature-looking former prince wiped his mouth on the neatly folded napkin. "I guess… Just cut it and toss it."

Yuuri shook his head. "No, actually, I'd kind of like to …uhhh….have it?" He saw Wolfram's astonished expression but kept babbling on anyway like the fool he was. "Kind of a keepsake…you know?" There seemed to be such a shame in throwing something that beautiful away.

Wolfram made a vague gesture that Yuuri took as "no." "Why do you keep ignoring the rules and the culture of this world…? What good are Günter's lessons anyway?" That statement seemed to be more for his own sake than Yuuri's. Then, suddenly, sincere green eyes met black. "To give one's hair away, even a lock of it, it is a sign of affection…as in…something lovers do." The blond's face fell a little, eyes distant. "Let's just…not go there."

His words were bitter, no mistaking it.

The blond sighed as he slouched down in the bed, trying to get more comfortable because his back was killing him. His eyes trailed down to the lumpy blankets that were, mercifully, covering him so he wouldn't see—wouldn't be reminded so easily. He knew full well that sharing the bed with him was the meaty, now swelling, bag with tendrils that were reddish and growing. Very soon, he'd no longer be able to get out of bed to get to the privy.

How long could his body take the strain of the parasite? How long after that would he be dead? Dead and still attached to this…thing?

"No more pretending, okay?" Wolfram stated in a harsh undertone and Yuuri instantly knew what he meant. But it didn't make him feel good—not the relief that he always thought he'd get from Wolfram pulling away from him. He had hoped that the two of them would come to have a deep and lasting friendship in the end. But Wolfram, he knew, had wanted much, much more. He wanted to be married and to have a family—something he felt he didn't have while growing up in the castle.

But, now, things were different. Wolfram was different.

"Wolfram, I…"

"Wha-?" Wolfram muffled with a mouth full of lukewarm oatmeal. He swallowed. "You were just sitting there…staring off into space. And this smelled kind of okay…so…?" He smacked his lips as he dug in for another bite.

"But a minute ago, you didn't want it," he countered.

"Yeah," the blond agreed, rooting around for a chunk of apple. "But that was a minute ago."

"That's weird, Wolf."

"Shut up." And, then he eyed the double black sitting next to him. "And, while you're busy shutting up, go get me some milk or I'm gonna gag again."

Yuuri sighed, "Cold or warm?"

Green eyes bulged. "Ewww! Who would want cold milk with this crap?" He twirled an oatmeal smudged spoon in the air between two fingers.

"It's not crap, Wolfram. It's oatmeal."

The blond scraped the bottom of the china bowl. "It's oaty-crap and I want some milk." Then, he aimed the spoon at Yuuri again like a pointer. "And put some strawberry juice in the milk. Yeah, that's it. Strawberries."

Lord Brat was determined and Yuuri threw up his hands in defeat. "Okay, Wolf. I'll go get it." But, as he made his way out the door, he thought with relief, I can't believe I got him to eat. After a day and a half…I finally did it.

"Okay, the next card I put down is…the Red Phoenix Ace?" Yuuri asked hesitantly. "Right here… Right?"

Craning his head, Wolfram leaned over as much as his body would allow so that he could peek at Yuuri's card.

They were both on Wolfram's hospital bed playing Double Dragon with Yozak's favorite deck. The space between them was where they were laying out the cards in a jagged, inverted pyramid. This game, the double black discovered, was very much like solitaire but they each had to take turns—working as a team—to get every card in the right place. This was a basic game that new recruits had to play to teach them to rely on a partner. And, since it was a game that his soldiers all knew how to play, Yuuri wanted to learn, too.

"Yes, put it there," the blond agreed with a vacant expression that was quickly becoming second nature to him after being trapped in the bed for three solid months.

Trying to stay strong, to stay sane, was putting a strain on Wolfram. On most days, he simply wanted to shut down. And he'd often force himself to nap throughout the day just as an escape. Yuuri would be in his lessons or signing papers anyway. So, it wasn't as though he had to do anything like entertain him like he usually did when Yuuri came to visit. Wolfram felt that he was obligated to do that—to at least show that kind of courtesy to his… Well, he wasn't sure what they were to each other anymore anyway.

Wolfram's mind wandered as he put down the Black Tortoise Seven card in the appropriate spot. Less than a minute later, he watched with vague interest as Yuuri said, "Oh, good!" because he drew the perfect card to place on top of it.

"Was that okay?" Yuuri asked, seeking praise.

"Yes," the blond answered, trying to keep his focus. But it was hard.

Yuuri smiled at him and joked, "Well, I wouldn't want you to get mad and throw a fire ball at me or something."

The ex-prince shrugged lightly and extended a palm. A tiny flame—as though from a match—burned within his hand. "My magic is low these days. Believe me, I'm no threat to anyone."

And I can no longer protect you. Can't you see that?

Yuuri bit his lower lip in embarrassment. He'd really stuck his foot in it this time and just when they were having a pleasant time, too. Why hadn't someone told him this was happening to Wolfram?

"Don't worry about…" Wolfram's breath hitched when he felt the meaty bag, which had grown much larger in size, shift next to him. The creature was awake again and moving.

The blond cringed and the card between his fingers dipped down, almost dropping before he caught it.

Please, no!

"Oi…Wolf?" Yuuri said in an undertone laced with worry. He placed a hand on Wolfram's shoulder to steady it and convey his concerns.

Instead of giving comfort, it did the opposite. It reminded the ex-prince of how feeble he was now. Weeks ago, when the dizzy spells had started, he remembered putting a hand to his head and hearing the same thing, "Oi, Wolf?" in that frightened tone that was so unlike a king. It made Wolfram sick at heart just knowing that he was the one who made Yuuri react like that. And, now, it was happening again but for a different reason. There was no way he'd tell Yuuri about the shifting parasite.


"Wolf?" Yuuri said in a stronger tone, now shaking the blond bishonen a little.

Wolfram whispered a soft "sorry," and placed his card down as though nothing had happened.

"Are you okay?" Yuuri insisted and looked into green eyes that had pupils wide, fearful.

Wolfram smoothed over his features, determined to be strong. "The same as yesterday." He shrugged off Yuuri's hand to gesture to the double black to place down the next card.

Yuuri leaned into Wolfram's face. "That's not an answer."

The blond shook his head slightly at that. "I know." He glanced again and said, "Your turn."

At this point, Yuuri couldn't decide whether to keep going or not. There was something wrong with Wolfram—again—and he was getting pretty tired of the blond keeping his symptoms to himself. It was even more maddening the day Wolfram refused to talk to Gissela and shot back with, "Well it's my job to know and it's her job to find out." At that point, the double black wanted to strangle him. "She can't do anything if you don't tell her." But he shouldn't have said that because Wolfram lowered his voice dangerously with, "She can't do anything for me now."

It was Wolfram's tearful eye-shine that got the better of him. So, he let the matter drop. But, after that, he made his visits more often and for longer periods of time. Apparently, he was the only one Wolfram was half way willing to open up to. So, for the time being, Yuuri decided to be a better companion and a closer friend.

Raven eyes saw it. Wolfram cringed and took a quick breath, holding it.


The blond glanced at him and then chewed on his lower lip as though trying to decide something important.

"There's something…isn't there?"

The blond turned to him, still making a choice.

He's trying to get the courage to confide in me, the double black thought. I wish he would. It would be much easier if I knew what was going on…what his body is doing.

He watched Wolfram place a card down and, speaking with as casual a voice as he could, he asked, "Could you do something for me…?"

That was another thing Yuuri had noticed. For months now, Wolfram avoided speaking his name. There was no "Yuuri" in any of his sentences. There was no reference to being a "fiancé," either, for that matter. And, he'd kept an ear out for any usage of "Your Majesty" –which Wolfram added to sentences when he was thoroughly pissed.

No, none of that. And it felt lonely because Wolfram's words to him were stiff and lifeless on even the best of days.

"If I could help, you know I would." Yuuri tried to put on a happier face and asked, "Does it involve getting you some water or a snack?"

Yes, he'd get him something and, then, the blond would open up to him.

Wolfram shook his head as Yuuri put his card down.

"Back in…the bedroom…in the dresser where I keep my trousers…" Wolfram pretended to examine his card. He focused on Black Tortoise Four, running the tip of his finger over the edge.

"You want your...trousers?" Yuuri, inwardly, scoffed at that. Wolfram had been wearing hospital gowns for weeks and weeks. With the damp, meaty bag connected to him and the tendrils, there was simply no way he could fit into anything else.

The blond shook his head. "There's a dagger with a rosewood handle that I keep hidden there." Green eyes turned to Yuuri with purpose. "I want you to bring it to me."

Yuuri scratched his head. "Why would you want…?" And then it hit him. HARD. "Wolf, I can't believe you! You can't be serious!" Yuuri's outrage was clear. But Wolfram's expression was serious, too, and the double black was appalled. "Do you really think that I'd bring you something that…?!" He couldn't finish the sentence. It made him sick inside.

Wolfram fisted the front of his companion's black jacket and pulled with all of his might. "No, you're the one who doesn't get it! I want to end this!" he said in a bloodthirsty tone. "I don't want to be like this anymore. I'll cut myself free from this…this thing! I've waited long enough!"

Frightened, Yuuri grabbed Wolfram's shoulders and dug in his nails. "Gissela has told us over and over that when she tried, you almost died!" He leaned forward, livid that Wolfram would conceive of something so self-destructive and, then, to ask for his help.

"Did you hear me, Wolfram? You'll die! And it won't be a painless death, either!"

"Yes, I'll die," Wolfram agreed, eyes filled with angry tears. How tainted he was now. How impossible for him to be the way that he was ever again. Not good enough for Yuuri. Not good enough. "I'll die but, for a few seconds, I'll be free. And nothing…and no one…can take that away from me."

Onyx eyes widened.

He's serious! He's really thought this through.

Yuuri grabbed Wolfram and took him into his arms, almost sobbing, "Stop…just stop talking. No more! Please, Wolf, no more…"

Before Wolfram realized it, he could feel warm tears on his cheeks—tears that weren't his. Yuuri was crying softly, rocking him and clutching him as though he'd disappear if no one held onto him.

Yuuri cried his name. That hurt more than anything in any argument they'd ever had.

Wolfram let his head fall back onto his shoulders as he listened to Yuuri sob against him. He had done it—reduced his king, his ex-fiancé to tears. It was a desperate but foolish request. And, even if Yuuri had complied, he would have blamed himself for the suicide for the rest of his days.

I was selfish, Wolfram thought. But I was just so desperate in that one moment…

"Promise me," Yuuri rasped, shaking the blond from his regret. "Promise…" It sounded like an order. "You won't take your own life."

Wolfram stopped the soft, circular movements of his hands on Yuuri's back. He'd been comforting him this whole time and never realized it. The blond shook his head sadly at himself. He'd sunk so low.

Maybe, he deserved this fate and a long, lingering death could somehow atone. It would certainly make Yuuri feel better.

"Agreed," Wolfram sighed, barely able to meet the unwavering, tear-stained look boring into him. "I won't seek my freedom again."

"It was death you wanted," Yuuri argued with more force that he'd realized, face wet and eyes red. He rubbed his nose on his sleeve.

"Semantics," the blond countered evenly.

"Then, maybe, I'll go tell your brothers what you asked me to do." Yuuri stood up from the bed, anger setting in as well as a new distrust of Wolfram's motives.

"Do as you like," Wolfram said in a hollow voice as he settled down in the bed, placing his head on the pillow. "It's not like I can get out of this bed and stop you…my king."

The double black turned from the door, the knob in his hand. That was a low blow and he paused to wipe his wet face with the back of his hand. "That was pretty rotten of you. You know that I hate that."

"Goodbye," Wolfram said in a soft tone. "I tried to be honest with you…to tell you how I truly felt…but, as always, it was never enough."

"That's not fair!" Yuuri practically bellowed and, as a result, he could hear the scurrying of servant feet outside the door, not wanting to get caught up in another Yuuri-Wolfram whirlwind argument.

"I'm glad life is unfair…or I'd come to think I deserved everything that ever happened to me." And, with that, Wolfram folded his hands on his chest and closed his eyes.

Pale as he was, for a brief second, Wolfram resembled a corpse and that image in his mind unnerved the double black.

Yuuri placed a palm over his eyes. He could feel tears pricking again. Whether they were out of fear or frustration, he didn't know. "I'll stay with you," he blurted out and Wolfram opened an eye.


"I said I'll stay with you…until the end." The blond was only acting this way because he felt afraid and alone.

At that, Wolfram felt a glimmer of hope—soft and warm. But, in the next moment, he realized who he was and where he was. Reason came flooding back to him and he nodded with understanding, regarding the double black warily now.

"I will," Yuuri promised with more resolve than before. "I'll be with you until this is over with..."

Now, I see what he means, the blond thought. Out of pity, he wants to be by my side until the end comes. He sighed again and turned his eyes away. I suppose I can grant you that last wish…King Yuuri…if the sight of it will somehow soothe your conscience.

Following that hideous lapse in judgment, Wolfram truly began to suffer. He was never left alone. If Yuuri wasn't there, bringing him books and watching him sleep, Conrad was in the room with him—talking over old times and discussing military tactics and stratagems used with his elite guard—the training of which he'd taken over.

Wolfram watched his face.

Conrad had been told. Yuuri, the wimp, must have said something to him after being cornered into a confession. Briefly, the blond wondered who else knew of his request for the dagger and how suicidal they must think him now. Not that he ever cared about his reputation. They could add "insane" next to "the king's virgin whore" (not that he was either of those things) and "Little Lord Brat."

The lumpy meat bag actually writhed this time and, to compensate for the strands straining, Wolfram folded his arms over his chest so tightly it was hard to breathe.

"Something?" Yuuri asked, eyes wide and taking a seat next to him.

"Why don't you find something to do?" Wolfram returned abruptly. Instead of arguing back, the suggestion was promptly ignored in that maddening Japanese fashion that Shori was notorious for. Apparently, Yuuri could be like that, too, when the situation called for it.

Wolfram found himself getting impatient and he locked eyes with Yuuri. "It's like I've been telling you, I…" And then, a sharp intake of breath. The blond bolted upright in the bed, fingers clutching at the blankets and digging in so hard that his knuckles were white. A groan escaped him.

This was embarrassing. Embarrassing as hell. Weak. Why wasn't he stronger than this?

"Wolf!" Yuuri cried, sitting next to him and putting his hands on Wolfram's face, trying to get him to focus on him. Instead, Wolfram's vision was at some point far off—drawn there by burning pain and pressure.

His face turned to ash, a death-pale taking over.

"We need Gissela!" Yuuri decided, getting up and making a run for the door to her office.

It was flung open and his rushed footsteps died away.

Alone now, Wolfram allowed himself to lie back in the bed as gingerly as he could. He was sweating profusely and panting was the only way to clear his head. This was probably it and his heart was beating wildly.

Maybe, it would all end before Yuuri got back with Gissela. He hoped to hell that would be the case. He didn't want anyone to see.

No one.

Please, let this end!

The bag was leaking from all sides, staining the bed sheets pink along with another fluid, somewhat amber in color, spreading out, too. The stench which billowed was that of sweat mixed with blood. And all of the red, web-like strands to Wolfram began to beat and pulse—straining as it tore away.

Wolfram convulsed again, turning his head away from Yuuri. When had he come back in? Maybe, Yuuri was speaking to him. Maybe. But Wolfram found himself capable of little more than groaning out the double black's name as a final goodbye.

Pain and four walls. Nothing else existed.

"Hold on, Wolfram! Stay with me!" Yuuri urged, holding Wolfram's hand with Conrad crouched down behind him with a palm on his shoulder. "Please, Wolf!"

Gissela, now dressed for surgery, approached the bed as the meaty bag suddenly ruptured and an infant fell out of it.