Flowers and Farewells
by Tetra26 aka Batty Gal
Summary: Wolfram was there until the end for King Lanzhil, his friend of almost sixty years. Wolfram and Lanzhil. Friendship. Character Deaths.
As Wolfram walked down the hallways of the castle in Big Shimaron, he sadly acknowledged that it would be probably be the last time he did so during his friend's lifetime.
For over fifty years he had been coming there regularly, having forged an unlikely friendship with King Lanzhil after the king decided that he no longer wanted to rule like his predecessor, Belal.
They had first become acquaintances shortly after Lanzhil had signed the peace pact, back when Wolfram still didn't trust him. Lanzhil had come to an event at Blood Pledge Castle, and Wolfram had stayed nearby and glared at him for quite a time.
"You still do not believe I have reformed, do you?" Lanzhil had asked him, and Wolfram had been startled by the sadness in his voice – as well as the loneliness. Wolfram had not missed that everyone in the room had pretty much stayed as far away from Lanzhil as they could, also not trusting the king.
For many years, Wolfram had wondered what it was that caused him to speak up – to say what he did next.
"If I can change, so can you!" he had said, suddenly. "I spent all of my childhood hating humans the same as you hated mazoku. If I can change enough to accept a half-human as the Maou, as well as a human daughter, I don't see why you can not have changed enough to accept Mazoku."
He still remembered how the king had smiled after his words; it had been the first time Lanzhil had ever really smiled in his presence. After that, things had become a blur as he and Lanzhil had pretty much stuck with each other the rest of that night, discussing everything under the sun. It would be many years from then that Lanzhil would confess to him that he had not completely reformed at that point, and had actually been planning to get closer to the enemy in order to strike – but that Wolfram's words had touched him.
After that night, whenever they came across each other, they had been warm to each other. Wolfram had become somewhat of an ambassador for Shin Makoku and Big Shimaron relations, and he often visited Lanzhil.
As the years progressed, so did their friendship. Wolfram had been present when Lanzhil had signed the decree outlawing mazoku discrimination in Big Shimaron. Lanzhil had returned the gesture years later when Wolfram officially took over his Uncle Waltorana's position as one of the Ten Nobles.
Wolfram had been there when Lanzhil had married his wife, Lena. Lanzhil had been there by Wolfram's side as he watched Yuuri marry a woman from Rochefort. Wolfram had been the one there calming Lanzhil down as his wife gave birth, while Lanzhil talked Wolfram out of making one of the biggest mistakes of his life in marrying a charlatan out of desperation and loneliness.
Like many relationships, tragedy brought them even closer.
Lanzhil's first son, Ennis, had lost his life after falling down an abandoned well. He and his then-pregnant wife had been completely devastated, and Wolfram had spent a few weeks in Big Shimaron to watch after them both.
It got worse for Lanzhil when – three months later – his wife died during childbirth. His son had survived, however – and Wolfram had helped to watch after him as Lanzhil grieved. Twenty years later, his surviving son, Elliot, had perished at sea alongside his wife Vivienne, leaving behind their son, Eckhardt. Lanzhil had been the one to raise him in their absence.
Wolfram's life was not without tragedy, either. An epidemic washed over mazoku lands, killing off a quarter of those that lived there. Wolfram had lost his mother and many friends and acquaintances of his to the disease, and had – with a heavy heart – closed off Bielefeld to outsiders in order to prevent it from spreading any further within his territories.
Several of the other Nobles were not happy with his actions, and brought him up for tribunal in order to decide whether or not he should keep his position. Even though he was a human king from a human country, Lanzhil had thrown his support behind Wolfram.
Lanzhil had stood there, passionately speaking out about how Wolfram had essentially been a huge reason why peace worked so well between his country and theirs. By the time he had finished with his speech, Wolfram had no longer cared what the vote outcome would be. That he had someone who backed him up like that made him ready to accept whatever they threw at him.
It had taken them less than ten minutes after Lanzhil's speech to make a decision, and Wolfram was pleased with the decision. He was certain that Lanzhil's support had pushed them in favor of voting for him to keep his position.
Theirs had been an unlikely friendship in the beginning, but it was a friendship nevertheless. Every step that Wolfram took down those halls, his heart grew heavier and heavier upon knowing that their friendship was at its end.
"It didn't take you long to get here at all," Lanzhil said, once Wolfram entered his room.
"I took one of those newfangled trains," Wolfram replied.
"Ah. It's amazing how so many things have changed in my lifetime."
Wolfram did not reply, instead choosing to take in his friend's demeanor.
Lanzhil looked like a shadow of his former self, so very thin and sickly. It broke Wolfram's heart to see his friend like that. He willed himself not to show how upset he was on the outside, opting to keep things as normal as they usually were between them.
"Where's Eckhardt?" Wolfram asked.
"He went to the wedding of a schoolmate of his. I swear, they get married younger and younger these days!"
"Twenty is not all that young in human years to marry."
"His friend is seventeen."
"Oh. Yeah, I guess that makes a difference."
"More than that I suppose he can't take it, seeing me like this."
"I hate that I missed your inauguration," Lanzhil said.
"It's understandable. It was a low-key event, I didn't want a whole lot of ceremonial things going on."
"I still wanted to see it happen. I hate this," Lanzhil said, weakly flinging his hands downward towards his body.
He was almost broken by Lanzhil's small and resigned voice. To think that this was most likely the last day he would ever see him alive was killing him inside.
Wolfram watched as Lanzhil closed his eyes, his chest rising and falling slowly.
They sat in silence for several moments, as Lanzhil rested.
"Wolfram?" Lanzhil said, breaking the silence.
"Help my grandson be a good king," he said. "Though I've managed to help change the views in this country in favor of peace, there are still some who would like the old ways to return."
Wolfram took his hand. "I will do so. You have my word, friend."
"Thanks so much, friend."
Wolfram's chest tightened at the weak smile Lanzhil gave him.
"I can't take being stuffed in this room! Let's go visit my garden!" Lanzhil said. His excitement was a little exerting to him, and Wolfram watched as he struggled to bring his coughing under control.
"Are you sure it's a good idea? Your nursemaid might not be happy with it," Wolfram said, unsurely.
"Damn all the nursemaids in the Shimarons! I want to go outside," Lanzhil rasped out.
"Very well, I'll carry you out."
Lanzhil's special section of his royal garden was something to marvel at.
Over a thousand of types of flowering plants grew there, warm and neutral and cool colors blooming alongside each others. Daisies and primroses were Lanzhil's favorites – and he had over a hundred different types of each of them.
After Wolfram sat Lanzhil down in a white metal chair, he took in the breathtaking beauty of the garden a few moments more, before pulling another chair from the other side of the table and sitting beside Lanzhil.
"How have you been?" Lanzhil asked, his voice weaker than before.
"I'm fine," Wolfram answered, lightly. "Still becoming used to my new position."
"Is it much harder than what you were doing before?"
"Very much so. As Maou, I have a lot more responsibilities and duties."
"I can't believe Yuuri stepped down."
"He wanted to spend more time with his family in the years he has left. I can hardly blame him."
A comfortable silence fell between the two, a common occurrence when they were together. After several moments, Lanzhil spoke once again.
"And what of you, Wolf? Do you plan on finally starting a family?"
"I have no immediate plans on doing so, but I won't rule it out. I was thinking on adopting again, one day."
"I wasn't just talking about children, I was thinking about marriage."
Wolfram sighed. Lanzhil never failed to bring that up around him. "Maybe, one day. Right now, I have a lot of things to do."
"You've been using that line on me for decades now," Lanzhil said. "I just don't think you should spend the rest of your life alone."
"I'm not alone, Lanzhil. I have family, and I have friends. Plus, there's other ways of taking care of any of my needs outside of that."
"That still doesn't stop me from worrying about you."
"I will be fine, Lanzhil. Trust me." He smiled down at Lanzhil, who weakly smiled back.
"I do," Lanzhil said. "I hope you'll name one of your ten kids after me."
"Ten? In no way will I ever obtain that many kids!"
"You would deny a dying man's request?"
"In that case, yes!"
The two chuckled together, before the over-excitement sent Lanzhil back into another coughing fit. "I'm sorry," he rasped out, after bringing it under control.
"It's alright," Wolfram said. "It's always alright."
After yet a few more moments of silence, Lanzhil spoke up, addressing what both of them knew was going to happen, but had avoided discussing directly.
"Looks like this will be the last year I get to see my garden bloom," Lanzhil said, sadly.
Wolfram said nothing, and simply waited to see where Lanzhil was going with the conversation.
"Those royal blue ones with the yellow centers, I planted them because they remind me so much of you."
"I remember. The ones you gave me have multiplied many times over in my royal gardens. The ones you dedicated to my mother did not survive, however. They died a year after she..."
He could not finish; the pain of his mother's death – as well as Lanzhil's upcoming one – was far too much for him to deal with.
"I guess all great things must come to an end, though I wonder if there is anything great about me," Lanzhil said, sighing.
"Do not knock yourself so much, Lanzhil; you have done many a great thing," Wolfram chided. "You have touched so many lives, and I'm certain that History will remember you as one of the greatest kings this country has ever had."
"If things don't crumble the moment I pass on," Lanzhil muttered.
"I will do my best to see that it does not," Wolfram said. "Trust in your grandson also, Lanzhil. He admires you, and he grew up in this peaceful time. I think – between the both of us – we've told him enough horror stories about the past that he will do all he can to keep things as they stand now. Even if some others might try to influence him, he adores you so much that they will never matter."
"This is hard on him," Lanzhil acknowledged, wheezing hard. "He cannot stand to see me like this. Sometimes, Wolfram, I wish my lifetime could be as long as yours. I mean, look at me. I look and feel every year of my age. You don't look a day over thirty in human years."
"Sometimes, Lanzhil, I wish I had your lifetime," Wolfram admitted. "It would be easier if things were as they were all those years ago – when mazoku stuck with mazoku and did not much care about humans and half-mazoku. But now, we're all friends – and it's painful to outlive the humans you do get attached to. Especially when you care so much for them, like I do with you."
"This is really the end, isn't it? This is my last Summer," Lanzhil rasped out.
Wolfram reached out, and grabbed his friend's frail, age-spotted hand. He held it with one hand, while stroking it in a way that he hoped Lanzhil found reassuring that things would be fine.
He held on and continued his stroking motion in silence, as Lanzhil's breathing became even more rattled. He was still holding on an hour later, as Lanzhil's eyes acknowledged the world for one final time before slowly closing. He held on even as his own eyes filled with tears, spilling over as he silently sat there and continued absentmindedly stroking Lanzhil's hand.
He held on, until the new King of Shimaron discovered them, gently pried his hand away, and held onto him.
Wolfram worked quietly – on his knees – at the gravesite, digging yet another small, shallow hole near Lanzhil's tombstone. He had already dug three of them in a horizontal row, and sprinkled each one with a bit of plant food.
King Lanzhil's grave had been placed – appropriately – in the center of his special garden, where the white metal chairs and table once stood. While Lanzhil was surrounded by the flowers he loved, Wolfram had brought along four special ones.
Though he was busy running his country, he had made sure to take the special time to learn as much about botany – and especially cross-breeding flowers – as he could. It had been a hard task, but three years after Lanzhil's death, he was satisfied with results that he had achieved in his attempts to breed.
After he was happy with the depth of the hole, he prepared it the same way as he had the others, adding in a bit of plant food. Once that was done, he placed the sack of plant food aside and grabbed the first plant, loosening it from its small pot.
In the first hole, he gently placed a plant which had crimson and pink flowers with heart-shaped petals, in honor of Lanzhil's beloved wife and his son Elliot's wife as well. " This one is 'Lena and Vivienne Capture Hearts', Lanzhil," he said out loud, remembering how bright Lena's smile had been – and how much Lanzhil had loved her.
Wolfram had not been as exposed to Vivienne, but from the little interaction they had with each other, he had ended up holding a high opinion of her. He gently filled in the spaces around it with dirt, patting it down and making sure the plant was secured, before moving on to the next one.
In the second hole, he placed a plant with tiny bell-shaped flowers that were such a pale yellow, they almost seemed white. "I call this one 'Purity of Ennis and Elliot', Lanzhil, after your sons."
He remembered being there for the birth of Ennis, and how proud and happy Lanzhil had been. He also remembered being there five years later as Lena died after Elliot's birth, and the sadness that Lanzhil had displayed over losing yet another loved one so shortly after his first son had died.
A bit of Lanzhil had died that night. The death of Elliot, twenty years later, had taken another part of him away as well. Wolfram more than understood the feeling; he had not been the same after his uncle and mother had passed away within two years of each other.
He sighed at the memories, filled in around the plant with dirt, and moved on to the third hole. In that one he lowered another plant, this one with royal-purple flowers with a yellow center, and diamond-shaped petals. "This is the one I named after you, Lanzhil. I call it 'Lanzhil's Redeemed Peace'. I think it's fitting, don't you?" he said, his voice cracking slightly.
He closed his eyes, repressing tears that wanted to surge forward at the memories of Lanzhil's death. Once he gained his composure, he filled in the hole around the flower he planted for Lanzhil.
He moved on to the fourth hole he had dug, sighing as he placed in that one a golden brown flower with scallop-shaped petals. "Your grandson wanted to name this 'Eckhardt, Master of the Universe', but I convinced him to stick with 'Eckhardt Continues the Legacy'," Wolfram said, shaking his head at the memory of arguing over the name with him.
"Convinced me? You made me stick with that name," King Eckhardt spoke up from behind him.
Wolfram had not even sensed Eckhardt coming up behind him, and jumped slightly. "Do not sneak up on me like that," he grumbled. He quickly filled in the hole around the plant. "Besides, convincing and making are the same, right?"
"Not even close," Eckhardt said, his tone filled with amusement.
"Well Lanzhil, these are the flowers I created for you. It's... not much, and it means so little since you're gone and can't appreciate them. In retrospect, I realize I should have done this while you were alive," Wolfram said. He vaguely felt embarrassment for speaking to the dead in front of Eckhardt.
"Even though my grandfather is not here, it means a lot to me," Eckhardt said, gently. "It also means a lot to you as well. It's not necessary to trivialize that."
"I guess you're right," Wolfram said. He gathered the tools he had used to plant the flowers and was about to stand, when Eckhardt spoke out.
"Dig one more hole, please – there's something else that belongs beside those flowers," Eckhardt said.
"What else belongs there?" Wolfram asked.
He heard as Eckhardt walked closer to him. Once he was standing right behind him, Wolfram glanced around and looked up, noticing what the king was holding.
"I've had this potted in my room since I was fourteen," Eckhardt said. "I think it would be more in place right here. After all, those four flowers represent my family, and how fitting it would be for your flower to be there as well. You are like family to me. You were to my father and grandfather as well. And – from what I hear – you were like family to the grandmother and uncle I never got to know. And right now, you are the only family I have left."
Wolfram was deeply touched by Eckhardt's speech, unable to respond. He simply stared into the king's golden brown eyes. Eckhardt gave him a childlike smile, reminding him of the past when the grown young man standing in front of him had been a small boy. He remembered the days of Eckhardt running around and scaring Wolfram and Lanzhil into a frenzied fit – as well as causing flashbacks of the tragedy of Ennis – whenever he disappeared or got himself into dangerous situations.
"I'm afraid this plant is too big to plant it in a way where it will not shade your flower too much," Wolfram said, finally.
"Maybe my flower needs the shade until it can establish itself enough not to rely on yours. Or maybe it will always rely on you."
"Somehow, I don't think we're talking about flowers anymore," Wolfram said, smiling. He turned back and quickly dug yet another hole. "I'll dig up and plant a smaller one of those flowers over here. Logically, that plant you're holding would shade yours in a way that would kill it. Keep it in your room, close to you. That way, it will always watch over you."
"Say... If I live that long, will you be there at the end watching over me like you did grandfather?" Eckhardt asked.
Wolfram felt pain not only over the memory of the death of Lanzhil and all of his other loved ones, but over Eckhardt's acknowledgement of his own mortality and how Wolfram would likely outlive him as well.
He stared up into Eckhardt's face, noting that the man was biting his lip nervously at the thought of death.
"I'll be there for you until the very end, if I can," Wolfram reassured him.
He reached out his hand, and Eckhardt grasped it and pulled him to a standing position. "But right now, let's not think about those things," Wolfram said.
"Very well. I have had a lunch prepared for us. Want to take a break and go inside?" Eckhardt asked.
"Have it brought out here. This garden needs to be more than a celebration of death, it also needs to be one of life. The same way a flower withers away, eventually another blooms in its place."
"You're right. A celebration of life, and new directions to take within it. Perhaps even a celebration of new relationships; friendships and more," Eckhardt said.
It had not escaped Wolfram's attention that Eckhardt was still holding on to his hand. It reminded him of how he held onto Lanzhil's hand as he slowly passed away. He also remembered Lanzhil's worries about him.
"Perhaps," Wolfram said, thoughtfully.
Author's note: Author's note: I actually started this story in May 2009 – but got as far as the beginning of the first garden scene and ditched it. A few days ago, I came across it while going through my LOL KILL IT WITH FIRE fic folder, and decided it was worth finishing. It's different from what I normally do, but it was fun to change things up.