"Yuuri, no." I whisper.
He walks over to me, and takes me into his arms. I latch onto him, not wanting to let go. But I don't have the strength. I can only lean onto him, heavily.
"Don't worry about me, Wolf." He whispers. "I'll figure this out. Just please go with the others. They'll take care of you."
I bury my face into his chest. I want to tell him so badly that I want him to be the one to take care of me. But something is holding me back.
Yuuri gently pushes me back, and peers up at Conrart, who lowers himself down to our level. I'm pulled against my older brother as Yuuri rises to his feet. Hurried breaths escape me as I struggle to move towards him. Conrart has little trouble with keeping me in place.
This can't be happening. Yuuri goes to stand by Saralegui. I didn't want this. I didn't want to put Yuuri in such a position. I didn't want him to sacrifice his freedom for me.
"What the hell, Saralegui?" Richard asks, stalking over to the throne. "You told me that I can have Wolfram in exchange for my help."
"Did I?" Saralegui feigns forgetfulness. "Hmm…I don't quite remember saying that."
"What?" Richard growls, outraged.
"Come on, Wolfram." Conrart urges, softly.
"We can't just leave Yuuri here." I argue, unable to yell any longer.
Conrart averts his gaze, and I can tell that he's going to do as Yuuri says. But he's going to regret leaving Yuuri behind. I let him haul me to my feet, but I'm not going anywhere. Not without Yuuri.
"Talk to him." I tell Yuuri, who appears to be distraught at my hoarse voice, and surprised by my words. "Negotiate. Don't give into him. He's your friend, isn't he?" I turn to Saralegui. "Isn't he? Don't do this to your friend, to the man that you love. You're going to break his heart."
I don't know why I'm even trying, but I'm desperate. If Saralegui truly loves Yuuri, then he'll let him go. He won't force him to do something that he doesn't want to do.
Saralegui stares at me, blankly, and I see that my words mean nothing to him. A moment passes before he laughs, shrilly. He doesn't have to say anything. That chortle is enough to tell me the truth.
He doesn't love Yuuri. Not like I do. He never did. The only person that he seems to love is himself.
"Go! Now!" Yuuri shouts.
Conrart throws me over his shoulder, and dashes out the room alongside the others. Weakly, I reach out a hand to Yuuri, tears gathering in my eyes, as the door is shut behind us, the sound of Saralegui's laughter echoing in my ears.
We retreat to Caloria.
The whole trip there, I'm stuck in a daze. I couldn't do anything. Could I have done anything differently? Could I have possibly broken away from the marionette that I was forcibly tied to? I feel like I almost broke the strings. If I pushed myself harder, would I have been able to regain complete control of my body?
And Yuuri. How is he doing right now? How is he faring with this most unfortunate circumstance? Is he trying to talk to Saralegui like I vehemently suggested? He has to be. That's how Yuuri is. A pacifist. Someone that'll look beneath the surface of a person, past all the murk. But, after all that's happened, could Saralegui possibly have a shining light blanketed by darkness?
I don't know. But for Yuuri's sake, I hope that there is.
Lady Flynn graciously grants us shelter. She asks about Yuuri, real worried, even more worried about the answer she receives. I do my best to play it off like I'm ok, but I can't. My bones have been reduced to jelly, and I can barely keep my heavy eyelids up. Conrart takes notice, and asks if she'd show us to our rooms. He becomes my crutch, and helps me get into bed. He tells me that he'll get me something to eat and drink, but I don't say anything in return. My eyes are glued to the window, transfixed by the curtain of rain.
"Rain, rain, go away." I rasp the song I've heard Yuuri sing many times, as if it could cast a spell, and wash away everything that's occurred.
I have to wonder. Has Yuuri caused this rain? Is he crying? The image of him sobbing all alone in a room devoid of love and affection enters my mind, and my heart hurts.
"Come back another day."
I don't want this to be real. I wish I had the power to turn back time, to get the chance to become a successful decoy, and invade Saralegui's castle with Yuuri and the others. But I don't. All I could do now is accept that cruel truth, and move on from there.
My eyes slide shut.
What can I do now?
The sky wept that night, as if mourning the loss of our King. Greta did too, burrowing into my chest, soaking my white undershirt with her tears. I knew that I wasn't enough for her and that I wouldn't be able to fill the void that Yuuri had left behind.
We both slept in the King's chambers. The bed sheets still smelled like him – a gentle scent that provided a small sense of comfort in knowing that some part of him remained in this world.
"Rain, rain, go away. Come back another day." Greta sang.
"Where did you learn that song?" I asked, tenderly.
She sniffed. "From Yuuri." Two tears trailed down her face and I used my handkerchief to wipe them away. She held onto my wrist. "Do you think that he'll ever be able to come back?"
My heart slammed against my chest. "I don't know."
I wake up, the dream of that memory vivid in my mind. Greta must be worried sick about us, wondering when we'll be back home. That day seems so distant now. Taking the severity of this situation into account, I assume that that day can be weeks, even months away.
I huff and dig the heels of my hands into my eyes. Yuuri isn't acquiescing to Saralegui's will, is he? There's no need, considering the distance between me and him. Surely, his influence isn't that great. It can't be permanent.
I put a hand over my heart. It doesn't hurt. It's beating like normal.
I sigh, relieved.
It's just not possible. Don't get worked up over nothing. I chastise myself.
Then I think of Eileen. Where did those bastards put her? Did they throw her into some dusty cellar somewhere, just so I couldn't reach her? No. Saralegui isn't the type to just chuck something that useful off to the side.
A chilling realization hits me.
Saralegui is going to use her power to dominate Big Cimaron. He's going to hypnotize her, and coerce her to do things that she promised herself to never do again.
I slam my fist onto the bed, producing a dull, drum-like sound. That scum. That under-handed madman. He wouldn't dare!
I'm going to kill him.
I think of Yuuri and I'm appalled by my own thoughts. I used to think that taking someone's life was the answer; that eliminating the problem would be the solution. That's how a war is won. Lives must be sacrificed. It had been nothing but a fact to me, something that I was so detached from, something that I couldn't understand the meaning to.
I get it now.
This must've been what Father felt; a rage akin to magma that flows within me that yearns to erupt. It's unstoppable. Even now, after thinking of Yuuri, I still feel it. The intense need to cause destruction, to end the life that's more than willing – eager, even – to corrupt the one person that has offered him friendship, and a clean slate.
The only way to atone for that dirtied slate is to stain it with his blood.
"Ah, you're awake." Conrart says, startling me. He doesn't seem to notice. He merely shuts the door behind him with one hand while balancing a silver platter of food with the other. "How are you feeling?" Gingerly, he hands me the tray, making sure that it's steady on my lap.
I take a bite of the eggs before I let go of the spoon, which clinks against my plate. "Have you ever…?" I stop myself short, not wanting to bring up any sore topics. I know how much remorse he still carries in regards to the war. It has scarred him and I don't wish to be the one who picks that wound open again.
"Have I ever what?" Conrart asks, kindly.
I hesitate. Should I even bring this up? Conrart seems to be open to any subject. Should I take advantage of that? Or would that be too insensitive of me?
I look at Conrart, and his expression tells me that he can handle anything that comes his way.
I take a deep breath. "Have you ever…?" My frown deepens. "What's war like?"
All signs of cheer are gone, and I regret asking. He must be reliving what had happened. The shadows of the past have reclaimed his happiness, and I feel horrible to have been the one who caused that.
"I'm sorry." I say, trembling. "I shouldn't have asked."
My heart plummets. He rarely speaks like this, his voice so cold and rough. It brings me back to when he trained me to become a soldier. The benevolent and gentle Little Big Brother that I knew had been overtaken by a strict drill sergeant. This change rattled me to the core at first, even to the point of hurting. Over time, the shock dulled until I became so numb that I didn't feel anything at all. Now I feel that pain rising from the depths like a dolphin seeking vengeance.
"You have to be on constant alert. You can't let your guard down, not even for a second because that one second is the difference between life and death."
I shiver, violently. That one second at Vernon had cost one of my soldiers his very life, one that was cherished by his mother and father. I've been told that his downfall wasn't my fault. Even so, I still believe that it is. As his commanding officer, he had been my responsibility, and I failed him. If I hadn't let my guard down, that one second would've ended up in our favor.
This must be the guilt that's lingered in Conrart's heart ever since the war.
Silence permeates the air and the only thing that can be heard is the violent patter of rain.
"Wolfram," he says, his softness returning. "I know that you've had a taste of what it's like. And I never wanted that for you. I trained you, yes, but that's because I wanted you to be able to defend yourself. I can handle you doing border patrol, but when it comes to actual battles…" His hands fist on his lap. "I don't want you to be exposed to the horrors of war. To be truthful, I don't want you to be involved in this situation any longer."
His words set off a fuse within me. "No, you are not going to send me back! I know that I messed up. I let my guard down. But I won't make that mistake again."
"Your condition will only worsen if you stay here, Wolfram." He objects, looking me in the eye. "It'd be best for you to return to Blood Pledge Castle and recover your strength."
"I can recover here just fine!" I retort.
Unexpectedly, Gwendal enters the room. "You will return to the castle." He grounds out. "I'll take you back by force if I have to."
"Big Brother, what are you…?"
"Yozak sent me a carrier pigeon, requesting my immediate aid. My men and I are on stand-by until word gets back on what King Saralegui's next move is. It's clear that he's targeting Big Cimaron so I stationed some of my soldiers at the border. We'll stop him before he even sets foot in Big Cimaron."
I'm incredulous. Gwendal plans to ambush Saralegui and his sentry. He might as well be declaring war on Small Cimaron. "But…why? This is not what Yuuri would want. He wouldn't want anyone to die!"
"Don't be foolish!" Gwendal snaps, and I flinch. "The life of our King is of the utmost importance. If dozens of humans have to die in order to get him back, then so be it."
"What?" I say, shocked, then turn to face Conrart, whose eyes are downcast. "Do you honestly believe what he's saying, Conrart? Yuuri wouldn't want this! You should know that better than anyone! If he were here right now, he'd scold the both of you for even thinking such things. He'd tell you to use your words, not your swords, to come up with a solution. And I know that there's a better solution than this. There just has to be!"
"There isn't." Gwendal says with intense resolution. "In an ideal world, what you're saying can be done. But that's not the reality in this world. To get out of the predicament, blood must be spilled, and lives must be sacrificed. Think of it this way, Wolfram. If you had to choose between our King and King Saralegui, who would you save?"
I stare at my tray, imagining the scenario. If Yuuri and Saralegui were hanging off a cliff, and I could only rescue one, I'd pick Yuuri without hesitation. I wouldn't care about Saralegui. But what about Yuuri? I know that he wouldn't like it, regardless of how many times that heathen stabbed him in the back.
He may be evil, but he's still a person. Yuuri would say.
Gwendal and Conrart leave me with my maelstrom thoughts, and the sound of the rain pounding mercilessly on the window.
It doesn't look like it's ever going to let up.
luvdawinx: XD I know the feeling. I've felt that intense hatred for other characters in the past, Saralegui included. It just really sucks whenever a character is an asshole, but he's treated like a good guy when he hasn't done anything to deserve it. That's one of the things that pisses me off the most. I'll probably have Teezo give him a nice kick in the ass for ya. ;)
damons-hot-as-hell: I do hope that that's an amazed wow. :)
theabridgedkuriboh: He did it to save the man that he loves above all else. :D
Winry1021: Aw, thank you so much, babe! That I shall do. :D
Sawyer Fan: I've read the first four chapters of the manga, and I have to say that: IT. IS. SO. AMAZING! The art is magnificent. And I love the little differences it has from the anime. I love when Wolfram first shows up with Gwendal by his side, looking so badass. Richard is so stupid. I made him that way on purpose. He's a power-hungry idiot. Saralegui is power-hungry too, but (to his villainous credit) he's smarter. I do hope that this chapter was worth the wait. Thank you so much for your wonderful review! :D
ninadotran3: Wow, much luck with everything! It's tough having a lot of work. It's even tougher balancing your workload with your free time, and I'm so happy that reading my story can help you relax. Aw, you're very welcome! And thank you for being such a loyal reader and reviewer to my story. :)
sweetandspice: Thank you, sweetie! :) I feel ya. Nice icon, by the way. It's so beautiful, and it's so calming to the soul.