The Haunting Of Yuuri Shibuya
Thanks to all of you who reviewed. Your encouragement and comments are always important. I love hearing from all of you!
Warnings: extreme violence. (you're all gonna be really mad at me….)
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The Haunting of Yuuri Shibuya Chapter 16 – The Devil Inside (The Twenty-Sixth Day)
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Wolfram wandered aimlessly among the labyrinthine halls of the castle. His entire life had been spent running among these halls, so his feet where content to take the lead and allow his troubled mind to ponder.
Alphonse's story replayed over and over again in his mind. Wolfram had always known Alphonse to be levelheaded and calm, he had never seen the man look so distraught and miserable…it was unnerving.
Wolfram didn't know much about Niklas. He just remembered that when Alphonse laid eyes on the young half-breed, he was instantly smitten and did everything he could to win Niklas's favor. Alphonse followed Niklas everywhere until the shy and nearly mute young man had no choice but to pay him head. Theirs was essentially a whirlwind romance, Alphonse and Niklas could barely keep away from each other and were the talk of the academy. Niklas's past was an enigma to Wolfram and the tidbits that Alphonse shared with him on occasion proved that the other soldier knew only marginally more about his paramour than he did. All Wolfram could determine for sure was that Alphonse would do anything for Niklas and vice versa.
Wolfram was away at Bielefeld when the beautiful romance turned tragic when Niklas came down with a mysterious illness. Contact with Alphonse had been very limited during that time, but from what he could tell from the rare letters was that Niklas had caught some disease that made him violent and unstable, leaving Alphonse desperate, angry and confused.
Wolfram finally returned to the palace two weeks after Niklas's death and attended his funeral. There were only a handful of people there. Niklas' family was not in attendance. It was Wolfram, Alphonse, his brothers and a few friends from the academy. The circumstances surrounding Niklas' death were obscured and forbidden within the palace walls.
Niklas' suicide faded into the background and the rest of the castle populace moved on from the tragic event. Even Alphonse, after a three-month absence, returned to his duties as Wolfram's second in command and eventually regained his old laidback nature…though it seemed forced. Wolfram didn't bother to think on it much for he was busy with the new Demon King and his recent engagement.
'Look at him! Really look at him!'
'I'm always looking at Yuuri," Wolfram thought bitterly. 'So much so that I'm surprised I don't run into walls.'
But Alphonse's words kept repeating themselves over and over again in Wolfram's mind. He had never seen Alphonse so distraught and desperate. Not since Niklas' death.
Alphonse's words also held true to the visions and feelings Wolfram had had for the past few weeks. He shuddered at the memory of that terrible nightmare when Yuuri murdered his entire family, claiming that he was "sick." Wolfram could still see the bloodied water and broken bodies of his brothers floating in the shallow red liquid. He remembered the vision in his uncle's dining room…of Yuuri standing so frail and broken pleading with him for aid.
Wolfram's hand drifted up to his throat…he remembered the dream where Yuuri tried to kill him….
Wolfram came to a stop. His instincts had led him to the royal bedchamber. The door was closed and locked to keep out unauthorized personnel from entering the king's bedroom…But really it was to keep any unsuspecting maid or page from entering and incurring a violent outburst from the king.
The Yuuri that Conrad described to him was not the Yuuri Wolfram knew. Yuuri would never attack anyone or scream the foulest curses at those he loved and cared for. It was so unnatural and uncharacteristic of the young king that Wolfram didn't want to believe the truth that was so plainly laid before him.
His hand rested on the brass handle. Wolfram hesitated. Yuuri should be alone inside his room sleeping off the heavy medication that Marko had given him that morning. Wolfram didn't want to disturb Yuuri if he was asleep.
But Wolfram's hand was already turning the handle and the door slowly creaked open to reveal the dim room inside. Wolfram cautiously stepped in, braced for some nonexistent attack as he entered the royal bedchamber.
The room was empty.
Yuuri should have been sleeping on the bed, tucked under the covers the way Wolfram had left him earlier. But the covers lay strewn about and without their previous occupant.
Wolfram stepped further in. The room suddenly became very cold and threatening. The hairs on Wolfram's neck stood on end and his hackles rose. His hand drifted towards the small dagger he kept on his person at all times and silently wished his sword wasn't in the closet. Some thing was very wrong.
He felt like he was being watched – stalked as he searched the room for his fiancé. Keen eyes scanned the room for any evidence of foul play, but found none. The heavy aura grew around him and Wolfram was filled with the urge to flee back into the hallway.
"Yuuri?" Wolfram called out. "Where are you?"
Silence. Wolfram grew even more worried. Where was Yuuri?
Drawn to his right, Wolfram turned to look toward the massive wardrobes and had to bite back a startled yelp.
Yuuri was perched atop the massive wardrobe, crouched like some gargoyle holding a small item in his hands. The king stared down at Wolfram with fathomless eyes through stringy hair.
There was nothing but malice and hatred pouring off of Yuuri's presence and for the first time in his life, Wolfram was afraid of his own fiancé. Wolfram stood frozen and dumb under the cold glare from the king. Yuuri's face was stone cold and blank, but Wolfram could feel the cruelty emanating from him as he perched still as a statue atop the piece of furniture.
Alphonse's warning repeated in Wolfram's ears.
'It might not be him!'
"Yuuri?" Wolfram whimpered, not daring to make any sudden movement. It was like confronting a rabid beast in the wilderness that was ready to kill at the slightest infraction.
Slowly, Yuuri uncurled himself and sinuously climbed down from the wardrobe, his gaze never leaving Wolfram.
Wolframs blood ran cold and he felt trapped. Yuuri stood straight and turned towards Wolfram, inky pupils were even blacker thanks to Yuuri's impossibly white skin.
A movement from Yuuri's side. Wolfram dared to break the gaze and see what the other man was holding. Wolfram nearly gasped when he recognized the little box filled with the "special tea" his uncle had given him to help sway Yuuri's affections toward him. He didn't know he brought it with him. It must have gotten thrown in with his haste.
But that didn't explain why Yuuri had it or why he seemed to be so angry.
"Yuuri?" Wolfram said again. "What's wrong?"
Yuuri held out the tea cube to Wolfram. Knuckles turned white as Yuuri's grip tightened around the cube. Little flecks of tealeaves snowed down onto the floor.
When Yuuri finally spoke, it was slow and mocking.
"Did you really think this was going to work?"
Wolfram was speechless. He had no idea how Yuuri could have known what that was.
"I don't understand- "
"Did you really think that some tea could change the way I feel about you?" Yuuri snapped.
Sneering in complete disgust, Yuuri threw the tea cube into the fire that Wolfram hadn't realized was lit. The flames rose and hissed. The room was filled with the scent of burning tea.
Yuuri slowly advanced to Wolfram. The prince took a step back.
Yuuri noticed this and gave a contemptuous snort. "You recoil from me? Your beloved fiancé?"
"Yuuri, it's not what you think," Wolfram tried to explain while every muscle in his body screamed at him to run for it. This wasn't Yuuri.
"You would poison me for your own selfishness?" Yuuri snarled, advancing ever closer to Wolfram who continued to retreat into the bedroom.
"Yuuri, I would never - ," Wolfram's pleas were cut off by a hard force colliding into his jaw. The soldier was flung backwards and fell into a heap on the floor. A shaking hand slowly lifted up to feel the small trail of blood from Wolfram's now split lip.
Wolfram was in complete shock. The metallic taste of his own blood was on his lips when he was finally able to put together words.
"You…..you hit me…" Wolfram said, barely comprehending what had just happened. "You hit me!"
Yuuri said nothing as he watched Wolfram on the floor. With unnatural speed, he pounced on the frightened demon, curling his hands around his neck and pinning him to the ground.
Images of the nightmare at the inn flashed across Wolfram's vision as he tried to throw Yuuri off of him. After all, he was a trained soldier and Yuuri could barely swing a sword. It should have been easy to turn the tides in his favor. He grabbed Yuri's forearms to dislodge him, but his fiancé only grunted and quickly subdued Wolfram. Wolfram could only stare up at the twisted face of his fiancé as unnaturally strong fingers tightened painfully around his neck.
Yuuri smiled cruelly and lifted Wolfram's head by his neck to slam it down repeatedly onto the hard floor.
"You betrayed me!" Yuuri shrieked, emphasizing each word by slamming Wolfram's head into the floor. "I gave you everything and you still left me for my brother! You told them my weaknesses! I trusted you! I trusted you, Rufus!"
Tiny stars flashed before his eyes as Wolfram heard the maniacal rants of the stranger in Yuuri's body over the sounds of the panicked guards outside who were trying to break in the door.
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Conrad urged his legs to run faster.
A guard had found him in Gwendal's office going over different logistics with his brother. The guard was nearly hysterical, stammering about the king attacking Wolfram and that the door was barred by some unseen force.
Conrad didn't have to be told twice, without thinking his body was already pushing past the frightened guard and heading towards the royal bedroom with Gwendal right behind him, both driven by fear for their youngest brother.
As the two men drew nearer, they heard a scream, followed by an animalistic roar, and desperate pleading. When they finally reached the hallway of the royal chambers, the doors were flung open, hanging askew from bent hinges, and there was no one in the hallway.
Conrad and Gwendal drew their swords and slowly crept up to the door. Inside, the room was dark, the storm had renewed its efforts and rain beat against the window, the only sound to be heard.
"Be careful," Gwendal whispered as Conrad made to enter the room.
Conrad nodded and carefully pushed the door aside with a creak.
The air in the room was heavy and freezing. There was a menacing presence all around them, coiled and waiting for their first move, but with the knowledge that they were disadvantaged.
Conrad scanned the room. The fireplace burned a strange reddish green color and filled the room with a spicy, herbal scent that Conrad didn't recognize.
He took a step further into the room and nearly slipped on something wet. Conrad reached down with his hand to feel the thick, sticky substance. The smell hit him before he could touch the pool of blood and his sense immediately heightened.
He tried to push the door in more but was stopped by a large object on the floor. Conrad peered around the doorframe and his blood turned to ice when he saw the mangled corpse of one of the guards.
"Wolfram?" Conrad called out into the room. Trying the fight the growing terror in his gut. He gripped the handle of his sword to the point of being painful as he ventured forth in search of his baby brother.
"Wolfram?" Conrad called out again just as he heard Gwendal's whispered curse as he laid eyes on the dead guard.
This time, he was answered by a weak moan coming from the other side of the giant bed. Conrad rushed to the sound, hoping that they weren't too late.
Conrad dropped his sword when he saw the broken body of his little brother lying in a heap on the floor. Conrad's mind went blank as his fear overcame him at the sight of the little brother he had failed to protect. He fell to his knees beside Wolfram's prone form and carefully gathered him into his arms.
"Wolfram!" Conrad struggled to speak. "Wolfram, wake up!"
Slowly, Wolfram turned his head to reveal his badly bruised face. Bloodshot eyes stared up blankly at Conrad, just barely comprehending who was talking to him.
"Wolfram, what happened?" Conrad asked desperately, fearing the worst.
Wolfram's lips trembled, trying to form words to warn Conrad of the danger he was in. The soldier leaned forward until his ear was almost touching Wolfram's swollen lips.
"Conrad!" Gwendal shouted, drawing his sword. "On the ceiling!"
Conrad looked up into the corner of the ceiling. There suspended right above where he left his bait, was the king of Shin Makoku, his beloved godson, limbs bent, clothes smeared with the blood of his victims, nails digging into the wood to hold him up in his crouched position as he smiled grotesquely down at his godfather.
But what affected Conrad the most was that Yuuri's face was contorted beyond recognition into a terrible grin with slanted eyes framed by long, stringy hair.
The creature moved with uncanny speed, leaping down from its perch, tackling Conrad to the ground, sending Wolfram tumbling to the floor. Conrad was assaulted by claws and teeth and struggled to defend himself.
"Yuuri, snap out of it!" Conrad shouted over the creature's howls.
Out of the corner of his vision, Conrad noticed Gwendal quickly pulling Wolfram away from the chaos. More guards joined them and immediately tried to pry Yuuri off of the captain. This only seemed to upset the creature more as his screams drowned out the confused shouts and orders of the other guards who tried to help him.
Conrad tried to grab Yuuri's arms and pin the smaller man to the ground, but it was of no use. Yuuri's strength had increased tenfold and Conrad found himself hanging on to the defensive, all the while torn between utilizing his skills and holding back to protect his king and godson.
"Yuuri, stop!" Conrad said, this time trying to reach the boy with his native Japanese. "Yuuri, it's us! Calm down!"
But Conrad's words didn't reach the king. It was another being inhabiting the young man's body who had no knowledge of the foreign tongue nor did it care.
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"Why hasn't the king done anything?!"
Gilbert overheard the conversation of three women standing underneath the awning of a dingy looking pub.
"We're all going to starve this winter!" said the first woman, holding a basket of sub-par looking fruit. "The rains have drowned the fields! We'll be lucky if we can salvage a fourth of what we planted."
"My cousin has a friend who works in the palace," said the second woman, an elderly female with long grey hair. "She says that the king has fallen ill with a terrible disease that makes one go mad! She says that the friend actually saw him attack one of the guards like some wild creature!"
"How horrible!" said the third one, a petite lady holding a broom.
"Well, he'd better recover soon!" said the first one. "I've got a nephew in the military and eh says that Dai Cimarron is planning to attack us while we're weak!"
"I certainly hope that never happens," the second one said with worry.
"It will," said the first one grimly. "If the king doesn't recover and help us!"
The conversation faded into the background as Gilbert moved further away from the women, heading always toward the palace that lorded over the capital city.
Gilbert stopped dead in his tracks unaware of the indignant glares he received from the people meandering behind him. Through the steadily falling rain, he fixed himself upon the looming silhouette of Blood Pledge Castle.
The spirit had made its move. The dark power had shifted and concentrated itself into a single point within the palace walls. It had fully regained its consciousness, was self-aware and was initiating its final plans to destroy everything from inside.
"I'm out of time,' Gilbert thought exigently, picking up his pace once again on a straight path towards the castle. The muddy streets and downtrodden crowds did little to hinder him. His rain-soaked cloak swished back and forth at his feet as he neared the end of his journey.
Gilbert had no idea what awaited him inside the palace gates. He only knew that it was the strongest dark presence he had ever come up against and he only prayed he had the spiritual strength to confront it.
He had consulted his runes several times over his journey, and every time they gave him the same message in one way or another. A fallen spirit….a wronged person who died many eras ago had found a pathway through the king and was using him to exact some kind of vengeance. For what reason and upon whom, Gilbert would have to ask the spirit directly. But for now, he knew that the spirit was deadly, intelligent and had the advantage over the ignorant castle inhabitants.
The dark clouds swirled and coiled above the spires of the palace. The sky emanated darkness from above the great fortress. Only a truly powerful spirit could influence the weather to this degree. Such a spirit could only possess god-like powers to have such control over the atmosphere.
The "local ghosts" as Gilbert called them, were wary and even warned him of the omnipotent spirit that permeated the kingdom. They were the ghosts of people long dead and forgotten, the ghosts of the poor and unwanted that lurked the shadows, well out of sight of the living, except for Gilbert, whom they called out to from their hiding places among the alleys and abandoned buildings of the capital.
They were frightened of the presence. Such a power only reminded them of the hell that awaited them - should they ever decide to cross over. Many times, Gilbert had to force such ghosts to make the final journey, even if it meant damning them to an afterlife of atoning for their sins. Which for many meant eternal torment. Gilbert didn't blame them for choosing to haunt the living.
Gilbert took little time to strategize. Such a thing was a luxury for someone in his line of work. Ghosts were perpetually unpredictable, so a strategy could not be formed until Gilbert discerned the nature of the spirit in question. However, he tried to concoct some plan of approach, should the spirit be as violent as it was powerful.
'I have no desire to harm my own kind…'
The words of the shadow on the road replayed in Gilbert's memory. He had never experienced disinterest from a spirit before. Usually, they killed and tormented indiscriminately, but his spirit had a plan and perception that Gilbert hadn't seen before and it unnerved him slightly.
The looming shadow of Blood Pledge Castle grew even larger as he made it past the outskirts of the capital and trudged through the mud up the sloping road that led to the front gates. All the while he knew that the spirit that tortured the king had sensed his presence.
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Yozak and Gunter pushed their steeds to the limit as they approached Shinou's Temple in steadily pouring rain.
Gwendal had received a frenetically scribbled message of distress from the shrine maidens early that afternoon. The note hastily claimed that the Sage had locked himself in his chambers f0r days, refusing food and water, choosing to stay in his room surrounded by gigantic piles of books and old manuscripts. The maids had left him alone until the screaming and strange voices began a fortnight ago. But when they tried to break in the door, they were met by an impenetrable force and could not reach the hapless sage.
It had been six days since the sage had come to the castle and just as quickly left. Yozak would never forget the sheer panic on the younger man's face and that in itself despaired him, for the sage was the unshakable strategist, stolid and calm no matter the situation. To see the sage so upset and terrified, disturbed Yozak greatly. He would have gone after him and brought him back, but after the Murata's departure, everything went to shite and he, Conrad, Gwendal, and Gunter were preoccupied with sedating a mad king and keeping a struggling country afloat.
There had been no time for answer, no time for closure or help. The sage was their last hope and when that failed, they all lost whatever hope they had and they truly felt that they would lose King Yuuri and their kingdom. Gunter had combed the archives and libraries looking for some sort of answer only to come upon even greater mysteries that seemed insignificant but the advisor said that something in his gut told him that they should explore the mystery of this Elberich and what happened thousands of years ago when their kingdom was a bunch of feudal tribes.
Gunter had found little no mention of Elberich in any historical text. The small snippets he had been able to scrounge up were vicious diatribes against Elberich and his apparent involvement in a mysterious event known as the Massacre at Chicane. Elberich's name and this event came up within the same passages, no matter what manuscript Gunter had in his hand. But the texts were letters between close acquaintances and the event went unexplained and Gunter could only surmise that it had something to do with the founding of the Demon Kingdom.
They forced their horses to stop at the looming gates of the Temple. Gunter and Yozak were thoroughly soaked to their skin by the heavy rain that had started right after their departure. The roads were little more than rivers of mud and rocks leading up to the ancient Temple of the True King.
Gunter was the first it dismount, his grey robes stained with mud and debris from the journey. The gates opened up as sons as he neared them with Yozak fast behind him and they were greeted by Ulrike and two pale-faced shrine maidens.
"Your Excellences," Ulrike said shakily as she curtsied. "We are most relieved that you are here."
"What has happened, Ulrike?" Gunter asked as he sped past them to enter the Temple. Ulrike and the maidens quickly feel into place behind him and tried to explain their strange and terrifying situation.
"It is the Sage," She said worriedly. "He returned from the palace six days ago, looking as if the gates of hell were trying to swallow him up if he didn't move fast enough! He said nothing to anyone, but he went straight to his rooms and locked himself there. He has emerged and he does not touch the food that the maidens bring him."
"He has been in his rooms for six days?" Gunter asked in disbelief.
Ulrike nodded. "He refuses to come out and when I've asked of his well-being, he only says to leave him be. My hope is that you could help him."
"We will try," Yozak said when Gunter didn't answer right away, too focused on getting some much needed answers.
Gunter stopped abruptly and gave Yozak a grim look. "We will go to him…and then search the archives for answers."
Yozak nodded and Ulrike made to lead them to where Murata stayed at the Temple.
"We will need access to your archives, Ulrike," Gunter said shortly.
"O-Of course," Ulrike said as she lead them deeper into the temple. "You may have whatever you require."
"Thank you," Gunter said curtly.
Ulrike led them up a winding staircase until they reached the furthermost parts of the temple. Both men felt the same heavy atmosphere at the palace and it seemed to grow stronger the closer they got to their destination.
Ulrike came to a stop a good ten feet away from the door, as if some great danger was hidden behind it. She turned towards the two men, a mixture of hope and fear as she explained to them;
"He's inside," She said. "He has refused to come out for any reason. Sometimes, we hear the sounds of yelling and crashing."
"Why have you not tried to break in the door?" Yozak asked as he walked up and tried to shove the doors open. They didn't budge.
Ulrike shook her head sadly. "No one here brave enough to try. When we would call out to him, he would order us to stay away. And besides, he sealed the door with magic that not even I can break."
Yozak shouted through the door. "Your Grace! It's Yozak and Lord von Christ! We need your help with King Yuuri! He's gone completely mad!"
There was a muffled shuffled noise, a small groan and then silence. Yozak banged as hard as he could.
"Your Grace! What's going on! We need you to help us save the king!"
"Your Grace!" Gunter called out beside Yozak. "I must implore you to let us in! We are in a desperate situation…if you don't help us, I fear the kingdom will suffer more than it already has! We are in a state of total chaos!"
"Let me…" Yozak offered, shoving Gunter out of the way.
"Your Grace, we will force open this door if you don't come out on your own!"
Again, total silence.
"Fine then," Yozak muttered and rammed the door with his shoulder.
"Yozak!" Gunter exclaimed, startled by the loud bang of the broad shouldered man ramming the door.
Yozak said nothing and only continued to slam his body into the door over and over again. While simultaneously yanking at the handle to force it open.
The door finally gave away after a great effort on the spy's part. Yozak clumsily caught himself from falling and stood up in the dark room.
"Your Grace?" Yozak called hesitantly into the darkness.
He stepped forward into the room and stopped when his foot pressed down on a pile of broken glass.
"What the hell?" Yozak stared at the seemingly benign collection of glass shards and next to it a piece of bent wire. Yozak picked up the wire and upon further inspection found it to be a pair of destroyed spectacles.
Gunter ventured into the room, scanning the space for any sign of the sage. He noticed the twisted eyeglass frame in Yozak's hand and sucked in a tense breath.
"This isn't good," Yozak said, reaching for the sword at his side. Gunter also drew his own blade and they cautiously entered the inky blackness.
"Bring us a light!" Gunter hissed at the waiting High Priestess, who nodded quickly and went to fetch a torch.
Yozak felt around the floor in front of him with his foot, it seemed that the floor was littered with various objects thrown around, but there was no sign of the sage.
"Your Grace!" Gunter called out. "Where are you?"
Both men froze when a low shuffling noise came from one of the adjacent rooms
"Your Grace!" Gunter shouted in growing panic. He pushed past Yozak to frantically search for their only hope.
Yozak followed Gunter, but stopped short when his nose was assaulted by the pungent scent of burning skin. The only reason he knew the smell immediately was because of his past in the war. It was a smell that could never be forgotten.
"Your Excellency, step back!" Yozak ordered, fearing foul play. He moved to stand at Gunter's side, sword positioned in front of them for any unseen attacker.
"Your Excellences!" Ulrike called from the doorway holding a lit torch. "I have brought light!"
Yozak quickly retrieved the torch and returned to Gunter's side. The room was illuminated by the red glow of the flame, revealing the destruction that lay around them.
"Great Shinou," Gunter whispered in shock.
The room looked as if some great animal had attacked it. Furniture, tapestries, drapes and books lay torn to pieces around them. The walls were covered in long, deep claw marks. The rank smell grew even stronger as they slowly walked further into the room.
After a while, they both noticed that there was a pattern to the claw marks. Carved deep into the walls were various runes, symbols, and calligraphy from every kind of dialect known in the kingdom, some dead, some still vernacular.
"They all say the same thing," Gunter said quietly, having greater knowledge of language than the spy. "Justice."
Sure enough, Yozak happened to find the collection of symbols from the king's native language that his Maou side often carved into the landscape when he exacted his judgment on his enemies.
"Justice," Yozak echoed.
A low thump from just beyond the pool of light cast by the torch caught the men unawares. The thump was followed by the sound of chains clinking together in the darkness. And then a weak moan.
Yozak and Gunter rushed forward. The light of the torch cast upon the pathetic body of the once great sage.
The image before them was so many kinds of wrong that it left them struck dumb.
The sage the wisest man in the universe, was dangling limply from a pair of shackles crudely attached to the wall. The scent of burned flesh was strongest and the light revealed why; he was covered in grotesque burn marks laid down by the still smoking iron rod at his feet.
Yozak was the first to act. He handed the torch to Gunter who caught it somewhat clumsily, and rushed to free the sage.
"Your Grace!" Yozak called out, gently shaking the man as he lowered him down from his chains. "Can you hear me?"
Murata stirred slightly but made no indication that he heard Yozak.
"Ulrike! The Sage needs medical attention now!" Yozak heard Gunter shout behind him.
At the sound of Gunter's voice, Murata started to awaken. Yozak listened raptly for any coherent affirmation of the Sage's condition.
"Your Grace," Yozak tried again. "Murata!"
Glassy eyes blinked up at him, unseeing and terrified.
"He won't stop…" Murata rasped.
"Who won't stop?" Yozak asked in confusion.
"He…won't stop….until we're all dead….Until…the entire kingdom is destroyed."
"What are you talking about?"
Murata slowly turned in Yozak's arms and weakly reached for a tattered book tossed to the side. Long fingers gripped the ancient looking tome and placed it in Yozak's confused hand.
"He wants revenge…he wants justice…Elberich…"
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Gwendal was going to kill King Yuuri.
That was his one heart's desire as he watched the healers practically sew his baby brother back together. The extent of the damage was shown in all its horrid glory when they peeled the remains of his clothing from his body.
Fractured bones, scratches and bites along his arms, a concussion, strangulation, and a black eye. That was what the king did to Wolfram in only a few seconds before the guards finally broke down the door and stopped the fight.
"Poor bastard…" Gwendal thought morosely, recalling the battered body of one of the guards being dragged away to the morgue.
Wolfram was laid, stripped down to his undergarments, on a thin cot. He was unconscious save for the occasional whimper when a healer was a little too rough with the stitching and Gwendal had to suppress his older brother protectiveness and not scold the healer for his callousness.
It broke Gwendal's heart to see Wolfram, his vibrant, passionate brother, reduced to a mere waif on a bed, barely able to move. In all his years of mentoring Wolfram's burgeoning military career, he had never seen the younger demon sustain such injuries. Even in the most dangerous of battles, Wolfram never came out with anything more than a bruise or two, despite being in the heat of it. To see him like this was too much for the general.
Gwendal was overcome by despair and anger. Everything they had tried, everything they had hoped was for absolutely nothing! All the medicine, the therapy, the feigned ignorance of Yuuri's deteriorating condition meant nothing and their entire world was left to rot as Yuuri's disease threatened to drag them all down into insanity along with their king.
Wolfram was innocent. He had done nothing to deserve this and yet he was the one Yuuri attacked first. Yuuri had struggled against Gwendal and Conrad, but never outright attacked them in cold blood with an unmistakable intent to kill. If the guards hadn't broken in and circumvented Yuuri's attention, then Wolfram wouldn't have survived.
Gwendal's pity was interrupted when Marko entered the room.
Marko stood, dressed in his usual dark grey robes, only the slightest hint of apprehension was present on his face as he surveyed the damage done to the youngest demon prince.
Looking genuinely confused, he turned to Gwendal. "What has happened here? Where is the king?"
The bitterness in Gwendal was more than eager to assault this new target.
"He's bound in chains in his room. Anything that can be used as a weapon has removed." Gwendal explained tersely.
Marko averted his gaze to the floor in contemplation. "This….is most disturbing. I've never seen the transformation have such an affect on a single person…"
"You were supposed to have all the answers!" Gwendal hissed. "You told us that you knew what was going to happen and that it could be alleviated! That if we gave him the medicines and kept him isolated that we could weather this change with little damage!"
"Are you going to try and blame me again?" Marko said in contempt. "I said I could alleviate the symptoms yes, but I also mentioned that this is the first time something like this has happened in the history of the change. Everyone else before him is either dead or bound in chains somewhere in an asylum! I am not lying to you when I say that I have done everything I can think of and that I am as lost as you!"
"You're the only one here with any idea of how to handle this!" Gwendal shot back, frustrated and hopeless, he jabbed a threatening finger a the doctor. "You are the only one how can stop this form happening! The kingdom is on its knees and our king has become an animal! If he can't be helped then Shin Makoku will fall and we'll be carrion for our enemies!"
Marko was silent for a long moment. He regarded Gwendal with grim resolve.
"When I worked with the last Verschmelzung." He began. "His family was a lot like you. They let their entire village burn down before they let themselves consider the worst possible solution. When the medicine and treatments no longer work and it becomes a choice of your own preservation versus his own…terrible sacrifices must be made."
Gwendal immediately knew what Marko spoke of. "That is not an option!" he growled.
Marko inclined his head towards where Wolfram lay. "Look at what he did to your brother, his own fiancé. Is this the king that you know? If he was willing to murder his future husband…what else is he capable of? He has become too dangerous."
No matter how dire their situation, Gwendal would never agree to what Marko was suggesting. "No...we would never do that….Yuuri is not like your previous patients! He is the Demon King and we would never end his life deliberately. What you speak of is murder and treason!"
Marko was unmoved. "What are you willing to do to save the kingdom, Lord Voltaire? Shin Makoku is in ruins. The people risk starvation. I'm sure that your enemies are licking their chops as word reaches them of the mad king - "
"Be silent!" Gwendal snarled. "You overstep your boundaries, Doctor Marko! If it were another time, I would have you thrown in the dungeon for speaking about the king in such a way!"
Deep in his gut, Gwendal knew that what Marko suggested was not far from the truth. He too had thought of what the other families of past Verschmelzungs had done when the burden became too great. Yuuri's condition had permeated the entire kingdom, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake. He could only imagine the secret plots and conspiracies being conjured by the likes of Dai Cimarron and others who saw the opportunity to seize the weakened kingdom. He too had thought of what might have to be done in order to save what was left of their kingdom…even sacrificing their beloved king.
But he would never let Marko know that.
"We have to save the king." Gwendal said vehemently. "If we don't then the kingdom really will fall to ruin."
Wolfram stirred weakly from his spot on the bed. Immediately forgetting Marko, Gwendal knelt down at his little brother's side as Wolfram struggled to lift his head from the pillow.
"Wolfram, don't move!" Gwendal admonished him gently. "You're seriously injured."
Wolfram ignored his brother's warning and struggled to push himself up, but fell back when his strength was spent.
"He is…in his room." Gwendal said after an awkward pause. Was Wolfram's obsession with Yuuri so self-destructive that he would ask for him after being nearly killed by him?
"I must see him! He needs me!" Apparently so.
"Wolfram, he tried to kill you!" Gwendal exclaimed. "You cannot see him!"
Before he could finish his sentence , Wolfram was already shaking his head.
"No…" He whispered. " That wasn't him! Yuuri is trapped somewhere. That's someone else in his body!"
Gwendal started to respond, but was cut off when an irate Waltorana burst into the room.
"Where is the king?!" The Bielefeld patriarch demanded. He stopped short when he saw his nephew lying vulnerable on the bed. "Wolfram!"
Rudely shoving Gwendal aside, Waltorana took one of his Nephew's hands, concern clearly visible across his face. "Are you all right?"
Wolfram ignored his uncle. "I need to be with Yuuri."
Waltorana was incensed. "You certainly will not! I won't allow that madman near you! As a matter of fact, you can now consider your engagement broken!"
Wolfram stared up at Waltorana indignantly. "But, Uncle! You don't understand! - "
"This has gone too far!" Waltorana exclaimed, standing to his feet to face Gwendal and Marko. "I am appalled by the incompetence of you all! You let the king become a wild animal and you allowed him to attack my nephew! For what purpose!? Why did you keep this a secret?"
"Because we knew that you and other Aristocrats would be more of a hindrance than a help." Gwendal said, not backing down from Waltorana's imposing presence. "The fewer people knew the better. You have made it very clear what you think of Yuuri. The last thing we needed was of you to find another reason to undermine his rule!"
Waltorana scoffed. "Well it seems my concerns were true! He is not a worthy king if he is no longer sane! This disease you speak of has completely immobilized him! He is no longer fit to rule!"
"Uncle, we have to help Yuuri!" Wolfram protested weakly. "We're the only ones that can help him!"
"As soon as you are strong enough, I'm taking you back to Bielefeld" Waltorana said with finality. "You will never set foot in this place again!"
A small part of Gwendal agreed with Waltorana. An even smaller part wanted to join him and Wolfram in Bielefeld and never see this palace again.
They were truly at the end of their rope. What allies and aid they might find was trapped by the mud slides and torrential rain that plagued the kingdom.
His mother was stranded in a harbor in Caloria, Anissina was trapped in her family's lands, the entire estate surrounded by mounds of eroded dirt from the mudslides, and Gisela was in the Christ territory, nursing the refugees who sought the estate's higher land from the floods. Their allies were in various states of disarray and supplies were dwindling due to trade routes being buried under mud and debris.
They were truly alone.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * THYS * * * * * * * * * * * *
Conrad watched the foaming creature before him in disgust and fear.
He and several other guards had managed to subdue the king and were forced to chain him to a heavy wooden chair in the royal bedroom.
They had sustained several injuries because of their reluctance to manhandle their monarch. Yuuri was incredibly violent as they tried to subdue him. He bit and snarled and scratched at anything and anyone who came within reach. Gone was the sweet and gentle godson Conrad knew and loved and in his place was some monster that wore his face and cursed him as he chained his ankles and wrists to the chair.
They had all been so hopeful just the other day! Marko had declared Yuuri on the road to recovery, his godson had shown some tiny resemblance to the young man he had once been. Everything was looking up for them and they could finally begin the road to recovery and bring stability back to the kingdom.
A small moment of reprieve that they thought was the end was merely an interlude to true disparity. Yuuri not was getting better, he was not going to return to being the gentle soul they all loved and obeyed. No, he would digress into something even more heinous than what he was now. He was completely lost to them.
The thrashing, murderous and foulmouthed thing that cursed the very air Conrad breathed was not his godson.
Conrad's mind drifted back to what Dr. Marko had said about the other Verschmelzungs he had studied. Those that survived were often violent and eon had destroyed an entire village and murdered his family before locals were able to bring him down. The others had been put out of their misery by exhausted family members who no longer had the strength to help them recover. Either way, it all seemed like death was the only solution.
Could he even fathom it? Could he ever bring himself to end his godson's life? He remembered that Marko had told them that the time may come where they will have to make an impossible decision and determine if saving their king's life was more important than saving the kingdom.
"Are you going to kill me, Conrad?" Yuuri drawled at the soldier.
Conrad froze at the grating sound of Yuuri's voice and only stared in silence as the thing that looked like Yuuri grinned maliciously.
"It's in your nature..." The thing continued. "You're a coldblooded killer, an attack dog for the crown…You can't save anyone…"
"Be quiet, Yuuri!" Conrad hissed.
'Yuuri' only grinned wider. "You can't save Yuuri…You can never save him…he will die and it will be your fault…just like Julia- "
Conrad struck the thing hard. He didn't even think that it was his godson's face.
* * * * * * * * * * * * THYS * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Alphonse hastily threw on a cloak and grabbed his sword as he rushed out of the castle.
That was it! He was going to find the other Verschmelzung if it killed him! The night's events proved that they had waited long enough…too long actually. Alphonse had tried to follow protocol but it had been for naught. He would have to seek out this other fused being and force him back if he had to! It was their only hope of saving the king and Shin Makoku.
Alphonse had not seen the damage the king had inflicted on Bielefeld. He had heard the frantic whispers of the palace staff that were witness to the event. A guard was killed by the king's bare hands, the Lord Bielefeld was nearly beaten to death by his own fiancé, and Lord Weller and Lord Voltaire were forced to chain the king like a rabid animal to a chair.
Everything had fallen apart. They were out of their league. He should have just sought out the other fused being sooner. He should have just ignored the rules and gone searching on his own and damn the consequences. Alphonse would have gladly risked his military career if it meant saving the king.
He had to find the Verschmelzung before more people were killed.
'I won't sit around anymore!' He thought fervently as he ran down the great steps of the palace entrance to the stables. He would need a good horse to travel the muddy roads. 'I'm the only one who can help them!'
'Even if he's crazy," Alphonse thought as he mounted his horse, ignoring the warning pleas from the stable boys about the dangerous roads. 'I have to bring him back. He might know something. Anything!'
Alphonse barked an order for the gates to be opened. The guards hastily pulled the gates apart as Alphonse urged his mount into a gallop.
He hadn't made it ten yards past the gate before he yanked his horse into a halt to stop from barreling over the figure standing in the middle of the road.
"What the- who are you?" Alphonse demanded, angry that someone would stand in his way.
It was a tall, thin man, dressed in garishly colorful clothing covered by a sharply contrasting brown traveler's cloak. Pale hair and a bandana framed a narrow face set with icy blue eyes that stared at and through Alphonse with recognition as the man simply stood there calmly.
"My name is Gilbert Cocteau," The man replied in a smooth, quiet voice. "I think you've been looking for me?"
* * * * * * * * * * * * THYS * * * * * * * * * * * *
I apologize for the long wait. I hope this chapter is everything you hoped it would be. I wanted to get this chapter out as soon as I could so I apologize for any small typos. I tried to fix them all but I always miss something.
Everything is coming to a head. The next chapter will be some much needed explanation and hopefully a solution. Will Yuuri's friends be forced to make the impossible choice for the sake of the kingdom?
As always, please review! They mean a lot to me and they help me become a better writer