I do not own Kyo Kara Maoh!, nor do I make any profit from its use…I only own the love I have for its characters, its warmth and wit and the hidden truths and gentle wisdom its author has woven throughout the storyline…
Chapter 1 "Q's and…A's"
Ken Murata, the former Daikenja, the Great Sage of Shin Makoku, also known as the Great Demon Kingdom, was furious.
No. It was worse than that.
He was livid.
Pushing his glasses up on his nose with one finger, his mouth in a tight line, he stared down at Ulrike as she apologized profusely, her pale cheeks red with embarrassment.
"I am so sorry, Geika. I have tried, but Shinou Heika will not answer. No matter what I do, he remains silent."
The double-black smiled a smile that would have made even a shark from Earth turn tail and run. "It's not your fault, Ulrike. Why don't you take a break and let me have a try?"
Blinking up at him with wide amethyst eyes, she hesitated, unsure of what to do. She knew something terrible had happened…was happening…and that it involved Yuuri Heika…and that somehow Shinou Heika had a hand in it…but…
Murata's smile softened as he watched the 800 year-old medium bite her lip in indecision. "Don't worry, Ulrike…I won't be too hard on him…after all, it's not like I can KILL HIM AGAIN…is it?"
Eyes widening as her mouth formed a little 'o', she shook her head, then bowed deeply, her long tresses forming a river of silver at her feet. "As…you wish…Geika." She stammered, and then quickly took her leave, shutting the heavy double-doors of the Temple's inner sanctum behind her to ensure that there could be no prying eyes.
Smile fading, and eyes now hidden by his spectacles reflective glare, Murata sighed deeply. 'Coward', is what he thought. However..."You might as well come out…I'm not leaving." When nothing happened, he continued, anyway. "I told you once that I had grown very fond of Shibuya and I warned you not to do anything to hurt him…that one day your meddling would have consequences that even you would not be able to foresee."
"If I had left it up to those two idiots, nothing would have ever happened...besides, I've done very little…really…just whispered some vague 'nothings' into Von Bielefeld Waltrana Kyo's ear. He took it from there."
Murata turned at the sound of the voice to face the blond-haired specter of the Demon Tribe's first King that had materialized behind him. "Yes, he most certainly did…" he replied in irritation, and then continued flatly, "I'm sure that you're aware that the engagement has been called off…but there has been another…development."
Shinou's eyebrow rose slightly as he smirked and cocked his head to the side, his clear bright blue eyes showing no remorse for his subterfuge whatsoever. "Development…?" He questioned, his tone bordering on amusement, "…Explain, my sage."
Raising his head slightly until his dark eyes became visible to the other, along with the spark of anger within them, the double-black's own voice held a warning note. "I find no humor in this situation, at all, Shinou Heika. And, this time, it will be you cleaning up your little mess…not me. Do you understand?"
Yuuri Shibuya, 27th Maoh of Shin Makoku, sighed forlornly, his obsidian eyes scanning the bleak winter landscape outside through the kitchen window of his small, Japanese 'two-story' without really seeing much of anything. His mother, Miko (please, call me 'Jennifer'!) Shibuya, went about her favorite task in the kitchen (making her 'famous-in-two-worlds' curry) and humming to herself a new ditty she had heard, seemingly without a care-in-the-world, but with the unhappy sound from her youngest son, she glanced his way, her brown eyes softening in concern. There was something deeply troubling her 'Yuu-chan'; he wasn't sleeping and he wasn't eating and he wasn't talking and he wasn't playing baseball…it was all very confusing, as he had been home just a week before (although she wasn't sure how much time had actually elapsed in the Great Demon Kingdom as time seemed to flow differently there) and had been in such high spirits; especially after the little 'talk' that they had had…
Then, two days ago, he had shown up at the front door, dripping wet, as usual, looking as if both worlds had ended and he hadn't been told…pale-faced, agitated and silent. He had barely spoken a word…even Shouri's (her eldest son) ranting-and-ravings had failed to get him to open up and tell them what was wrong. Her husband, Shouma Shibuya, had met with even less success when he had tried after returning from work later on in the day.
That night, after everyone had retired and silence had fallen over the usually happy home, Shouma had commented that if he were a betting man, and he wasn't (being in the banking business, that would be rather silly – you were supposed to save money, not throw it away needlessly) he would almost swear that his youngest son was suffering from a broken heart. It was then, and only then, that his wife had told him of the conversation held a few days before between herself and Yuuri – after all, she had promised not to say anything…but now…
"What was the conversation about?" Shouma had asked, his brow creased with worry. Miko had looked over at him from her side of the futon with a sad smile.
"Well, you see…he wanted to know…"
Life in Shin Makoku had settled down into a familiar and comfortable pattern after the episode of the Divine Sword and the return of Shouri to Earth and Saralegi Heika to his kingdom. Slowly, but surely, Yuuri's magic had returned, as did Shinou's – it had been most amusing to everyone concerned (but especially to the reincarnated Great Sage, Ken Murata, who watched with a curiously wicked gleam in his eyes) as the Original King's size grew in accordance with the return of said power – until the Shrine Maidens began making such a fuss over him as he reached what could only be described as the 'toddler' size. He was 'cute', one had to give him that (even Von Voltaire Gwendal Kyo had a blush on his cheeks at the sight) but his annoying personality grew right along with his body, and soon had his old friend (and everyone else) sighing in resignation. It seemed the 4000 years before Yuuri, and the three years after Yuuri, had done nothing to temper that in the least.
Still, something important had changed. Yuuri couldn't help but acknowledge that fact. Something seemed 'off' to him; out-of-kilter – not quite 'right'. He'd made a couple of attempts at asking if anyone else had noticed, but the confused looks that he received soon squelched any further questions that wanted to escape. He'd finally realized that he was the one who had changed – that the strangeness he felt only happened when he was alone…with Conrad.
Conrart; he mentally corrected himself. He had been trying to break the habit he had of calling his Godfather by the name he had been given (mistakenly) when he had arrived on Earth, but it was difficult. He liked 'Conrad'…not that he didn't like 'Conrart'…
In truth, he would have 'liked' the man no matter what his name…
"Is there something on your mind, Yuu-chan?" His mother had asked.
The black-haired teen had jumped nearly a foot in the air as the relative silence of the living space was broken. He didn't respond to the question right away; his mother had almost given up on her expectation of an answer when he began to speak quietly, choosing his words carefully as he went along. "You know…when I first went to Shin Makoku, the Great Demon Kingdom, I made quite a fuss about being engaged to another guy…I mean…it was just weird. The whole idea of it made me…really uncomfortable…"
Miko Shibuya had nodded. "I understand…" she commiserated, "Go on…"
"Then…so many things happened; the adventure with Gwendal in the desert, Hube and Nicola…and I realized that who you love isn't what's important – love is a gift – it shouldn't matter what package it comes in – after all, what's more important, the wrapping paper or what's inside the box?" Yuuri had scratched his head, his cheeks flushing slightly. "Am I making any sense?"
Miko had merely smiled and nodded and waited for him to continue.
"Anyway…after I thought about it some more, I realized that the way I felt was entirely due to what I'd been exposed to on Earth as I was growing up…society's mores and prejudices…but that I'd never really considered the question for myself…"
"And…?" Miko had gently prodded.
Yuuri had blown out a soft breath, gathering his courage. It was now, or never. "I came to the conclusion that I'd been fooling myself. I'd always believed…always took for granted…that I would get a girlfriend sooner or later…after all, that's what boys do, right? There were…are…plenty of pretty girls…really beautiful women…in Shin Makoku…and as the King, I probably could have my pick; even as inexperienced and clumsy as I am…Gwendal even as much as said so when we were being transported to the courthouse in Suberara…"
"I've never seen them as anything more than friends. I've never been interested in them as anything more than that."
"I see." Miko's eyes had softened as she looked at her youngest. She had an idea where this conversation was heading – she could only hope that she was wise enough to help her son find his way – whatever that might turn out to be; and be there to lend a shoulder to help with whatever hurt might lay along that way. She knew from experience that love was never easy – to obtain or to keep – it was a bumpy road, but well worth the effort. However, some roads were bumpier than others. "So…?"
"So…?" Owlish eyes had blinked at her, unsure of what she was asking.
Miko had cocked her head at her son, a twinkle in her brown eyes. "So…is there someone that you are interested in?"
Yuuri had immediately gone an interesting shade of red all the way to the tips of his ears, causing his mother to glomp him and squeal loudly. "There is! There is! Isn't there!?"
"Mom, please! This is SERIOUS!"
Releasing him, his mother pouted. "Call me 'Mama'!" She had demanded, apologizing almost in the same breath. "I'm sorry, Yuu-chan. Go on."
Turning away, the young man had frowned. "There is someone…"
"I take it that someone is a male…and it's not Wolfram…" She had watched as her son's shoulders slumped and his head dropped.
"I tried…I really did…After I knew that I…liked guys a lot more than girls…but there was just…nothing there…every time that I looked at Wolfram, all I could see was…"
"A friend…" She had finished for him and watched him nod.
"I know that I'm not being fair to Wolfram. He's a really good guy and I care about him a lot and he deserves to be with someone who really loves him – who's in love with him…"
"But he cares about you and you don't want to hurt his feelings; is that it?"
"Is he in love with you?"
Yuuri had been totally startled by the question; he had stared at her, wide-eyed, his mouth opening and closing like a fish-out-of-water a few times before finally snapping shut. Truthfully, he'd never really considered that as a possibility; hadn't wanted to, chalking up any so-called 'feelings' the blond had shown towards him as being due to nothing more than friendship or a warped sense of 'duty'. "I…don't…know…" He had answered, his mouth suddenly dry, "Why else would he stay?" He had mumbled to himself, trying desperately to think of another reason and coming up empty. He had been starting to panic when he had heard his mother sigh as she came to sit in the chair across from him at the table.
She was quiet for a moment, considering all the possible answers to her own question; then she had smiled in sudden understanding. "He's the youngest son of the former Demon Queen; yes?"
"His oldest brother is a General, a superb military tactician and leader. His middle brother is a champion swordsman, a battle-hardened veteran and a model soldier. Doesn't leave much for the youngest, does it?" Her gentle smile had widened a bit as she continued. "Of course, if one is engaged to the King…that's one way to 'stand out', don't you think?"
Yuuri's mouth had dropped open in shock, as his mother's words had registered.
"Always standing in his brothers' shadows must be very hard for him. It's no wonder he clings to the one thing that draws attention his way – that makes him feel important."
"I…see…" Yuuri's shoulders drooped further. "Then…how can I break the engagement without hurting his feelings…or more importantly, his pride?"
It was time to be blunt. "You can't…" she had answered, and watched as the boy blanched. Taking a deep breath, Miko Shibuya had continued, "…but what you can do is to show him that his importance has nothing to do with you – or being your fiancé – and everything to do with him being himself. He has a worth all his own – he just doesn't realize it." Her expression softened further. "You can't take all the hurt away, Yuu-chan, but it can be tempered."
Yuuri had looked at his mother, his large, dark eyes showing his uncertainty and his desperation. "Even if I can figure out how to do that, it still doesn't guarantee that…" He had flushed again, an even darker shade of red, his voice loosing volume as his confidence flagged with each word spoken. "You see, he's older…and so handsome…and strong…and perfect…and I'm just…me…and…"
"Conrad." It wasn't a question. Yuuri had blinked at her in surprise.
"How do you do that!?"
Miko had smiled. "It's a 'mom' thing." She explained, then added, "Somewhere in this conversation is a question waiting to be asked, isn't there?"
The ebony-haired teen had fidgeted for a moment, his gaze flitting from wall-to-ceiling-to-floor in his nervousness; and then he had looked back at her, his heart laid bare in his dark eyes. "I need to know…how do you…how can you tell…when you're…in love…"