Lady Tilly comes outside to inform me that Yuuri has finished eating. I'm hesitant to go back inside. Truth be told, I'm still torn. I have the option to return to Shin Makoku with Yuuri, and I'm so tempted to change my mind, but I have to squash that temptation. I can't turn tail now. I have to keep my promise.
My heart seems to beat harder with each step I take towards Yuuri's room. I stop in front of the door, my hand hovering over the knob. This is going to be a difficult conversation, but it has to be done, and I have to be the one to initiate it. I take a deep breath before turning the knob. Slowly, I open and close the door, and I know that I'm just prolonging the inevitable.
After I compose myself, I walk over to Yuuri, and lower myself down onto the edge of the bed. He licks his lips, and pats the space beside him. I'm about to object, but then I reconsider, deeming it best to oblige, assuming that it'll soften the blow somewhat.
"What did you want to talk about?" He whispers, taking both of my hands into his. My pulse quickens, and I feel heat spread from ear to ear, and I imagine that it's very apparent to him that I'm blushing like mad. Despite the situation, I can't help it. His hands are holding mine in such a secure and loving grasp as he runs his thumb over my skin. I look up into his onyx eyes, seeing his confusion and worry. My eyes trail down to his lips, and I want to kiss him and never stop. But not now.
I shift my gaze to our hands, and swallow in a futile attempt to cure my parched throat. It's hard for me to find the words that I want to say, and it takes me quite a bit to locate the right ones, but Yuuri doesn't rush me. He waits patiently for me to start. When I finally settle on how to begin, I look at him, and say. "You can't stay here, Yuuri."
He blinks in surprise. "W-what?"
"Your life will be in danger if you stay here. Belar intends to take your life, and both he and Saralegui are determined to conquer each other and Caloria." His eyes widen further. "I know that you have a strong sense of justice, Yuuri, and that's one of the things I admire most about you, but you have to remember that you're the king of our nation. The people of Shin Makoku can't afford to lose you."
"No, I'm not going back, not without you." Yuuri says, squeezing my hands tight.
"You have to." I say, quietly, bringing up my hands to caress his face. "Believe me. I want to go home, but I refuse to turn my back on my duty to you. I want to see to it that your wishes for peace are fulfilled." I crane my neck up to osculate him. Instantly, he intensifies the kiss, moving on top of me so that my head is cushioned against his soft pillow. My body grows hot with passion, and I flush under his touch as he works his fingers underneath my shirt, and over my stomach. I moan into his mouth at the ticklish sensation that has me yearning for more.
But now isn't the time.
I pop our mouths apart, but Yuuri doesn't stop there. He nips my neck, and pushes our bodies closer together. I groan at the contact, and draw my knees up, my toes curling in my sandals.
"Yuuri," I murmur.
He kisses the back of my ear, and whispers. "I don't want to lose you. I almost lost you before when Soushu took your heart, and when Saralegui used my power to seriously hurt you." He puts his arms around me, as if to form a cocoon that'll keep me warm and safe. My heart that was beating so fast before is now slowing down, nearly stopping. "I can't even fathom leaving you here where you can get hurt again."
I wind my arms around his torso, and peck his cheek. "I'm not going to promise that I won't get hurt because injury is unavoidable in battle. I can't make any promises, really. All I can say is that I'm determined to return home to you when everything is resolved here."
"But I don't…" He trails off, sobbing.
"You have to, Yuuri. The people back in Shin Makoku are depending on you."
"B-but they'd be wondering where you are."
"Clareta and Sir Jackson have been covering for us, remember? When you get back, Clareta will be there to continue playing my part, and Sir Jackson will return to his village."
He wings his leg over my waist to lie down beside me. His face is etched with concern. I brush my fingers against his cheek.
"Please, leave this to us, Yuuri." I plead, desperately. "Please." I nestle against his chest, his heart beating erratically in my ear. I want this heart that has brought such bliss into my life to keep on beating, and continue bringing tranquility to this world as well. He won't be able to do that if any harm befalls him here, or worse…I bite my lip as tears gather in my eyes.
I remember the nightmare I had all those months ago about a powerful swordsman that murdered Yuuri in cold blood. It felt so real, like it actually happened. I had been helpless, literally rooted to the ground as Yuuri's body had been pierced through. I shiver violently just thinking about how he collapsed, how frigid he was when I was finally able to reach him, and how still he was, so lifeless. I'm unsure as to whether or not this nightmare was a warning, but what I do know is that I'm not going to let it come to pass. I'll tie him up, gag him, and force him back home, if I have to.
I feel Yuuri's chest rise and fall with a heavy sigh. "I get what you're saying. I know that I have responsibilities back home, but I have a responsibility to you too. You're my fiancé."
I smile, and move to kiss his lips with a feather-like touch. "I can take care of myself. Besides, Conrart is here to watch over me."
His reluctance is tangible. If our positions were reversed, I know that I'd feel the same way that he does. To leave a fiancé on the battlefield is simply unthinkable. I'd want to stay and fight by my beloved's side, to have Yuuri in my sight, so that I can see to his safety personally.
"I don't have much of a choice, do I?" Yuuri asks, tangling his fingers in my hair. He looks beside himself with grief.
"I'm afraid not." I say, my voice just below a whisper. If we weren't so close, he wouldn't have been able to hear me. But I can tell that he heard me. He is even able to make out how frightened I am because he tucks my head underneath his chin, and holds me with all that he has.
Our hearts pound in tandem against each other. It's bittersweet. We both know that we can't stay like this for too much longer. We can't be truly content until all of this is over.
Suddenly, Yuuri pulls away, and sits up, and for a second I think that maybe I did or said something wrong. But that apprehension is quickly replaced with bafflement as he takes my hand, silently encouraging me to move back to the edge of the bed.
"Yuuri, what are you…?" My eyebrows shoot up. I can tell by his movements that he's weak, but he pushes through the lethargy. His head rolls about though and I know that he's experiencing a dizzy spell. I'm about to steady him, but he waves at me to stay put, and settles down on one knee. It's preposterous for a king to kneel before his consort. Normally, it's the other way around, and I know that I shouldn't be that surprised; this is Yuuri that I'm talking about, but he's never done anything like this before.
"On Earth, this is how people propose to the one that they want to spend the rest of their lives with."
"But we're already engaged." I cut him off, gently.
"Please, Wolf, let me finish." He says, warmly, taking my left hand with both of his, and plants a vehement kiss that ends with a smooching noise on my palm. My face flares up with heat, and I stare at him with wonder as he continues. "I didn't propose to you properly when we first met, and it wasn't the right time at all. So now I want to propose to you, and let you know that I want to marry you right after everything settles down." I open my mouth to say an awful truth about the possibility that I might not make it back alive. But he stops me short. "Don't. You will make it home to me. I know that you will. You're strong and I know that you can make it through this."
His belief in me tugs my lips upward, and it gives me hope that I will survive the storm, and make it to the bright, sunny days that are sure to follow.
I nod and beam at him. "I will do everything in my power to make it home to you, to Gwendal, to Greta, to Mother." I chuckle when I imagine Yuuri telling her everything he just told me. As soon as he gets back, she'll track him down once she gets word that he's returned, and ask him about everything that's transpired here. She's sure to drag every last detail out of him. Her demeanor will go from grave to overjoyed, for sure. She'd insist on planning every part of the wedding, just like she did when she organized the celebration Shin Makoku had months ago.
Just then, his eyes glaze over with a fire that spreads inside my core. He uses my knees to push himself to his feet, but as soon as he does, he stumbles. I shoot up to prevent him from falling over. In the process, I lose my footing, he leans onto me, and we both topple onto the bed, side by side. One look at him has me breaking out in giggles.
He looks bemused, but smiles nonetheless. "What's so funny?"
I smile against his lips, and suck on his bottom lip before pulling away. "Nothing. You just made me so happy."
It was hard for Yuuri to stop kissing me. I didn't want to stop either. I didn't want that bliss to end, for our worlds to separate again, but it couldn't be helped. He was beginning to doze off, and I knew that he needed his rest before his trip back home tomorrow.
I float out of the room, but when I shut the door behind me, my feet are back on the ground again. Gwendal is leaning against the wall, like he's been waiting out in the hall for a while. My mind flashes back to the conversation we had hours prior, and the unwarranted scolding that I received from him has me scowling. As usual, Gwendal bears a stony expression, which makes me even angrier.
To think that I've actually wanted to be just like him.
"Wolfram," he says in that demanding voice of his.
"Save it, Gwendal." I snap, earning his surprise. "I'm staying, and that's final. I trust that you'll ensure that Yuuri has a safe voyage back to the Great Demon Kingdom."
The last thing I expect him to do is chuckle, and that has my eyebrows launching towards the sky, practically hitting my hairline. "You're more adamant than I thought, talking to me like that." He shifts from one foot to the other, and crosses his arms. "I deserve it after the way I spoke to you before. I didn't mean to sound that austere. It's just…" I see his fingers dig into the fabric of his shirt, his hands pale and shaky. "You're my little brother. It's my responsibility to keep you safe. I can't do that if we're an ocean apart." He grits his teeth, and his body tenses up even more. "I don't want to lose you for good this time."
I know what time he's referring to, and that's when I was overtaken by the Great One who had been under the Originators' dark influence. I was used as a pawn in their game, just like Shinou had been, and that almost cost me my heart.
I step closer to him, and put a hand atop his quivering one. "You won't." I insist. "I will survive this. Conrart will too."
Hi large, calloused hand envelops mine. That's a big move for him because he's anything but a touchy feely person. He must be more worried than I thought. "How can you be so certain?"
I give his hand a squeeze. "Because we're strong."
He releases a heavy breath. All of his masks fade into nothingness, and his emotions are openly displayed on his face. Annoyance, helplessness, concern, and then finally, faith. He lets go of my hand to rub my head. "Stay strong." He says.
They're just two words, but they carry a lot of meaning. He believes that I can handle this, that I'll make it back home. He sees that I have the strength to do so.
I nod, and give him a tight-lipped smile. It won't be easy, but I'm determined to carry on, to end this war, and return home to a new beginning.
Night falls, and it's not that different from the rest of the day, only a tiny bit darker. I lean on the windowsill, and stare out at the endless black sky that's dotted with a few stars. Sleep seems to be impossible for me to obtain. I can't stop thinking about tomorrow. Yuuri will be leaving, and I'll be left with Conrart and his men to deal with two power hungry tyrants and their brainwashed troops. It'll be onerous, considering that we're outnumbered by hundreds, if not thousands of soldiers. I know that numbers aren't everything, that quality trumps quantity, so we'll have to come up with trenchant strategies.
What troubles me most is how tricky it'll be to do anything without any casualties.
I bite down on my thumb nail, anxious about what unexpected turns are ahead. I don't want to kill anyone, but our enemies indubitably don't share the same sentiment. What if one of our men gets murdered? I think of Corporal Grimm's lifeless body, and shake my head. I can't let that fear paralyze me. Too many people are depending on me to pull through for them.
Someone knocks on my door, and I roll my eyes, not in the mood for any company. I figure if I keep quiet the knocker will assume that I'm asleep. But he doesn't. He has the nerve to enter the room without permission. Without turning around, I can tell who it is. "What do you want, Your Eminence?" I ask, removing my thumb nail from my mouth.
"I wanted to talk to you about an important matter earlier, but you blew me off before I could bring it up." He says, soberly. "King Saralegui is wrong about many things, but he wasn't entirely wrong about Shibuya's blood. Like me, his human side dominates. It's not permanent, however." My eyes enlarge. "One day, someday soon, I'm guessing, his demon blood will cause him to age much slower, like Lord Weller, which means that you won't outlive him." He closes the gap between us, and smiles, forlornly. "I'm not quite sure where that leaves me in the grand scheme of things. I'm not as powerful as Shibuya." Lightly, he touches my left hand. "If you would, I'd like to heal your wound. It'd be no good to go into battle with an injury like this."
He puzzles me, switching from one topic to another so quickly, a dozen emotions flickering on his face, much too fast for me to read. But what he says makes sense. Being a human, Lady Tilly can only do so much to completely heal my shoulder. I'm not sure how good His Eminence's healing magic is, but it wouldn't hurt to find out. As a half demon himself, I assume that he can heal me much faster than Lady Tilly can.
With that thought in mind, I sit down in a nearby chair, my body almost as stiff as the wood that I'm sitting on. I unbutton the first couple of buttons so that my bandages are showing. Carefully, he removes the bandages by cutting through the white strips with a miniature pair of scissor that he produces from his pocket; he must've gotten it from Lady Tilly. He disposes the dirtied bandages into the garbage, and holds his hands over my wound, conjuring an emerald light.
I wince. When Yuuri heals me, a comforting warmth courses through me. His Eminence's touch is so much more intense, to the point of scorching. It couldn't have been longer than a minute, but each second that passes feels like hours. Finally, the burning sensation fades, and the pain is gone.
"There," he says with a small smile. "Good as new."
I look to see that the stab wound has vanished. It shouldn't come as a shock that the Great Wise Man has this kind of power, but I still am. I haven't seen His Eminence heal anyone in alt he years that I've known him. What's even more surprising is that he chose to heal me, and he even went so far as to reassure me about something I've been worried about ever since Saralegui mentioned it.
I blink up at him as I hurriedly button up my shirt. "Why are you helping me?" I ask, suspiciously.
"Do I need a reason?" He shoots back. "I just want to help you. Is that so bad?" I don't know how to answer that. It's not bad, per say. It's strange and unheralded and I'm not sure what to think of his abrupt attention towards me.
He moves his head back and forth and laughs, self-deprecatingly. "Forget I said anything." He says, walking to the door.
Before he can leave, I have to say. "Thanks."
He stops, and looks at me over his shoulder. "You're welcome." He smiles, and leaves me alone with my thoughts.
My eyes widen as I'm hit with a shocking realization. The way he gets close then steps back, it's a dance that I had to learn when I thought that Yuuri would never love me back. Whenever I was near him, I was happy and hopeful, but then the truth would come and wipe away all traces of my delusion and replace it with bitterness and hurt.
Was that why my wound felt like it was on fire when he was healing me?
Yuuri and I part in the morning. It's agonizing to have to end our embrace. It feels like a big chunk of my heart has been torn out. Before we separate entirely, he slips a piece of paper into my hand, and murmurs. "I'll be waiting for you."
I bob my head, unsure of what to say.
We share one last hug before His Eminence beckons him to board. "We better go." He says.
I tense, uncomfortably, recalling the startling realization that I had about him last night.
"Have a safe journey back." Conrart says, regarding Yuuri, His Eminence, and Gwendal.
"Thank you, Conrad. Be careful, you two." Yuuri replies.
"We will." Conrart assures.
I watch them get on the ship, a sense of dread overwhelming me. As they sail away, Yuuri waves at me, and I wave back until I can barely see him. Conrart claps a hand on my shoulder. "Are you ready to head back?"
I nod. "Yeah."
"Wait," Lady Flynn says. She walks over to us, her boots sounding on the wooden dock, her teal dress swaying back and forth with each step. "Lord Weller, I have men that can assist you in this battle. It won't even out the odds by much, but I'm positive that you'll find them useful."
"That's kind of you to offer, but it'd be best if they stayed here to defend Caloria, just in case the enemy gets past us. I'd advise you to keep them at the ready. Two kings are intent on gaining dominance over your nation. You're going to need all of your men to prevent that from happening." Conrart's voice has the tone of a captain ready for battle. His words are powerful, but as a leader herself, Lady Flynn doesn't buckle underneath the pressure.
"I'll do that." She says, confidently. "Be careful out there."
Conrart nods. "You too."
We return to Burleigh where Lady Tilly makes us lunch. I hold off on eating to read the letter that Yuuri gave me. The sound of me unfolding the paper permeates the room, and my heart thumps so hard.
His Demon Calligraphy has improved. Aside from a few smudges, his handwriting is neat and legible.
I wish that I can stay. I really do, with all my heart. More than anything, I want to protect you, and keep you safe. But I know that I can't, and that just kills me. To think that I can't do anything to keep the man I love safe – it makes me feel horrible and ashamed.
I've been thinking a lot about what you said, about having responsibilities as the king, and how everyone treats me like I'm the most important person in the social chain. I don't think that's right at all, to put my life above everyone else's for a shallow reason like that. I mean, I know that I'm important, but it doesn't make you nor anyone else any less important. A king is nothing without his people, and as a king myself, I can say without a doubt that I'm just as dependent on my people as they are on my leadership. It's a lot like teamwork, really. If one person fumbles, the whole team can fall apart.
That actually reminds me of a conversation that we had four years ago. It was when we went inside that building to fight monsters, remember? We fell through the floorboards and found ourselves among a bunch of cocoons. You insisted that we slay them before they can eat us, assuming that they would. I said that everyone should get equal amounts of love. Now I realize how naïve that was of me, and how scandalous that must've sounded to you. I was wrong because I can't possibly love someone as much as I love you. You were right. That kind of love is reserved for only one person.
I still believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. Everyone deserves a chance. Everyone deserves kindness. All you could do is give that person kindness, and see what they choose to do with it, and move on from there. I believe in giving people chances too, and that there is goodness in everyone, even those who seem like they're pure evil.
I know that you think this is foolish of me, that I shouldn't put that much trust in a person like that. Don't get me wrong, and please don't misunderstand me. I know that you don't like Sara, but I want you to understand that he was a good friend to me in the past. Whatever his intentions were, we had good conversations, and I enjoyed his company. It sucks to see someone like that make such horrible decisions that hurt not only me, but the people around him. I don't want to associate with such a person. The old me would try to revert him back to who he was when we were friends, but now I know that's impossible. The only person who can control his actions is him, and he must be punished for what he's done.
I want justice. I don't want anyone to die. I know how unrealistic that sounds. Every war comes with casualties. That's a fact. I don't like the idea of you killing someone, but I hate the idea of someone taking your life. So do what you can to survive, and come back to me.
A/N: Ooh, it appears that Ken Murata has feelings for Wolfram. I don't know where this development came from, really. I just wrote whatever came to mind, and this just happened to pop up. What do you all think about this?
Sawyer Fan: I'm so happy that you enjoyed the previous chapter! It's always nice to read what you thought about each scene in every chapter, and I thank you for your compliments and insight and of course your jokes about Berias and Saralegui. XD Thank you so much for your support for this story and for me personally as well! I'm gonna have more bumps in the road because you know that's life, but I'm determined to overcome each and every obstacle and become stronger. I love life, and I want to enjoy the journey, learning new things along the way, and cope with every bad thing that happens in a healthy, productive fashion. I wish you the best for the upcoming year! Much love and hugs!
soulxspirit125: I'm glad that you liked that moment. I loved writing it! Thank you for your kind words. :D
luvdawinx: I'm glad that I was right about Berias being overprotective of Saralegui. Awww, you're so sweet. That was a very emotional moment, and you're right. Eileen deserves the best funeral. I'm looking foward to writing that scene. Oh, my God. I know exactly what you mean! I've never had a boyfriend before, and I absolutely adore anime characters that are either straight in a pairing or apart of a shounen-ai pairing. It's difficult to find a real guy that doesn't suck. Gwendal can come off as really harsh sometimes in regards to keeping Wolfram safe, but he means well. Yozak is an awesome spy, and I love him as a character too. He's definitely going to appear more in the upcoming chapters. Thank you so much for your support! You rock!
DreamDancer99: Thank you so much! I do hope that you enjoyed this chapter. :)
theabridgedkuriboh: Thank you! That's such a big deal to me, ensuring that my readers can get immersed in my story, and drown inside another world. :D
Pippy: Thank you so much! I'm so happy that you think my story is awesome! It means a lot.
Winry1021: Dawww! Thank you soooo very much, babe! You flatter me so much. You're quite beautiful yourself, gurl. ;D