Gunter von Kleist has always been a knowledgeable man. He even taught me the history of Shin Makoku as well as other countries when I was younger. I admired his knowledge, and his passion for our country and its history.
It's funny how a matter of perspective can change after a few decades.
I cross my arms, trying to quell my temper as Gunter teaches Yuuri about the 15th king: Blake von Amnchadth. In his time, he's fought battles such as The Battle at Argon Hill, and The Rebellions of 2222, and he won them both, along with many others during his rule. While his skills on the battlefield were a force to be reckoned with, his morals were atrocious.
Like Yuuri, he was a tremendous flirt. However, he took it to the next level, engaging in impure relationships with many noble women, and even had his own Concubine.
He was a sick man. Completely and utterly sick.
What's worse, Gunter is taking every opportunity to praise Yuuri, whether it's on his morals or his passion in keeping peace and not spilling blood or being such a kind and generous king. All the while, he's swooning all over Yuuri. In front of me, his fiancé.
"…and what's more, you don't use any cruel methods of torture to get people to talk." He prattles on. "You're truly a boon, heaven-sent from the Great One himself to bring peace and prosperity, not only to the world, but to my heart!" He takes a hold of Yuuri's shoulders, and I just snap.
I roughly push him off Yuuri. "Hey, keep your hands off him, Gunter! He's my fiancé, not yours."
"My word, Wolfram!" Gunter says, recovering from his stumble. "Why must you be so brash? I'm merely complimenting His Highness' many accomplishments as Shin Makoku's king. I couldn't help but touch the body of which such nobility and benevolence come from."
"I'm appalled at how crude and shameless you could be." I retort, slamming a hand on Yuuri's desk to snap him out of whatever trance he's in. "Are you just going to sit there and take that, Yuuri?"
"Settle down, Wolfram." He gives me an uneasy smile. "There was no harm in it. Gunter was just being friendly."
My eyes widen. This is unacceptable. Absolutely unbelievable. He'll let Gunter get away with touching him. He'll let anyone get away with it, and that makes him no better than the 13th King.
"Damned pig." I hiss, stalking towards the door.
"Wolfram!" Gunter reprimands.
I make sure to slam the door hard.
I was so stupid. What in the hell was I thinking last night, spilling my guts all over Yuuri? I must've been out of my mind to tell that stupid wimp anything.
I regret it.
"Lord von Bielefeld!" I hear one of my soldiers call. Sergeant Quinn Palmer. I turn around to watch him run up to me. "There's a raid in Vernon. The men stationed there sent a messenger to report that humans from Small Cimaron have invaded their territory, and they require our assistance."
"Understood. Gather the troops and prepare to head out."
I hurry to the stables to get my horse. Vernon is a village in the Bielefeld Lands that's closest to the ocean, which is troubling since it's located far east from here, and we won't be able to get there until sunset.
"Inform Gwendal of my departure." I tell Dakoskos.
"Yes, sir. Please return safely." He says this so politely, it makes me sick.
It appears as though Yuuri's insincerity is catching on.
I harrumph as I mount my horse, and grip the reins, whipping them to get Frida running. Immediately after, I hear my men's horses galloping behind me.
Our journey to Vernon is quicker than I thought it'd be. We close in on it sometime in the afternoon. However, before we can enter the village, we're ambushed.
Everything happens so fast. The trees rustling, the arrows being shot at us, the group of men jumping out of the bushes.
My men and I react quickly, pulling on the reins of our horses to avoid running into the arrows that pierce the ground before us. Layers of panicked neighs break out, and we all dismount our horses, allowing them to take off so that they won't be harmed.
"Get back!" I bark, bringing a hand up to my face. I hear my troop pile up behind me. Once they're out of firing range, I rise my hand above my head, and call out to the elements. "All particles that dwell in flame, I summon you!" I form a giant fire lion, and bring my hand down to aim the assault at the enemy. The lion charges at the lot of them, knocking them out. When they're down, the men on the sides rush at us, armed with swords.
My men are prepared to take them on, metal slamming against metal, producing sharp and harsh sounds.
I engage in battle with one of the black hooded individuals, and I'm able to defeat them easily because their sword technique is too sloppy and frantic. He falls to the ground as I swipe the sword right out of his hands. I point my sword at his neck. "Taggart, Porter, detain this one!"
"Sir!" They shout, immediately complying.
"Einhardt, Boden, Dayton, take your men and come with me! Taggart, Porter, tie all these men up!" They all oblige, and my group darts into the village.
I'm shocked to see that there are soldiers collapsed on the ground. I have my healers tend to them, and lead the rest of my group to the main source of the disturbance at the main estate of the Mayor. His mansion lies on top of the hill, and it's been set on fire.
A gate surrounds the perimeter of the mansion, and I have my men burn parts of the iron gate so that we can get in. Once we're beyond the gate, I have a couple of my water wielders extinguish the flames.
As soon as the flames are gone, I rush into the building, my men bringing up the rear. There are screams coming from the top floor. A mix of male and female screams that make my skin crawl, and shocks my whole body into full consciousness. I rush to the scene.
A few men and women are being assaulted by multiple men in black; the mayor and his family. I use my sword to slice at their ankles, causing them to stumble back. "Boden, you and your men, get them out of here!"
They do what I say at a fast pace as my men and I tie up the enemy. After I do so, a bloodcurdling screech breaks out, causing me to whip my head around to see that one of my men has been stabbed. Acting fast, I slice at the attacker's arms, and have my men detain him while I tend to my fallen officer.
I recognize him as Corey Grimm, a corporal. Immediately, I see the blood pooling out of his chest, and locate the wound. I tear his shirt open, popping buttons off in the process. I grit my teeth, seeing that the stab wound is too close to his heart, if not, his heart might've been pierced.
My attempt to heal the wound is a failure.
I refuse to believe that he's dead, that his heart was punctured. So I order one of my healers to see to it that he's fixed. Inglebert holds his hands over Grimm's chest, and casts a green light upon it. When the light dims, I'm shocked to see that the wound has not been healed.
"I'm sorry, Your Excellency, but his heart…it's been stabbed, and…we lost him." He hangs his head with shame.
When I return to Covenant Castle, I go to Gwendal's office to report what had occurred in Vernon. After all of the men were detained, we escorted them to Uncle's castle where he said that he'd deal with them, ordering his men to put them in the dungeons. I tell Gwendal that there was a casualty, and that we properly transported the body of Corporal Corey Grimm back to the castle. As I report this, I fail to keep my composure, my body quivering with anger, helplessness, and sadness as I recall how pale Grimm was, and how much blood spilled out of his heart.
I've never failed one of my men before, and I wonder what the hell I did wrong. I try to pinpoint a time, but I can't think of just a single time of my wrongdoing because I feel like I did everything wrong.
"You're relieved of your duties." Gwendal says when I'm finished reporting.
"You will not so much as train with your men until further notice. Am I understood?"
I glare at the ground. "Yes, brother."
That night, I decide to sleep in my own room. Yuuri is surprised by this and Greta is displeased. However, I can't deal with them right now. Besides, I don't deserve to be in their presence. I don't deserve to be in anyone's presence. So I skip dinner.
I failed as a commanding officer. One of my own men died before me, and I couldn't do anything about it.
I sit in bed, pulling my knees up to my chest.
I'm really no good.
A knock at my door startles me, but I ignore it, pulling the sheets over my head as I pretend to sleep. Whoever knocked decides to enter, despite not being given permission. I tense up, an indescribable rage boiling up inside of me. Why can't I just be left alone?
I hear a tray being placed onto the nightstand before my bed.
"I know you're awake, Wolfram." It's Yuuri. My heart beats harder and faster. "You're not this still or quiet when you're asleep."
"Go away," I snarl.
I feel the bed dip beside me. "What's your deal? You stormed out on me this morning then you come back all pissed off. Did I really upset you that much?"
"Everything isn't about you, Yuuri."
In the next instant, Yuuri flings the sheets off me, and gets in my face. "That's it. I've had enough of your nasty attitude, Wolfram. You called me a damned pig this morning and I have every right to know why."
"You know what you did. You flirted with Gunter right in front of my face."
"I wasn't flirting. God, just because I'm nice to someone doesn't mean that I'm flirting with them."
"Then make that clear to the other party next time. It's obvious that Gunter has a thing for you."
"What?" He asks, seeming to be caught off guard by this fact.
"Stupid, clueless wimp." I mutter.
"Wha…I…wow, now that I think about it, what you said makes sense."
"Of course it does. Now shut up and leave."
His forehead creases with anger and confusion. "I won't leave until you tell me what's going on."
"No. It's none of your damn business."
The way he scolds me by simply saying my name sends me over the edge.
"What part of no don't you understand? No matter how much you insist on getting the truth, I won't give it to you. You know why? Because I hate you!"
He looks shocked, and hurt, and I'm just as surprised. I'm angry, but those words…they're a lie.
Silently, he gets up to leave the room, and I have to resist the strong urge to cling to his waist to stop him from leaving, and fall apart in his arms.
I want to tell him that I don't hate him.
The one I really hate is myself.
I oversee the burial of Corporal Corey Grimm, making sure that it's held at a proper venue. I watch as his mother and father mourn the loss of their only child, feeling a pang of guilt, and shame.
Once their son is laid to rest, they approach me, and I'm expecting a well-deserved verbal thrashing. Instead, I'm thrown for a loop when they both bow and smile at me with tears in their eyes.
"Your Excellency, we can't ever thank you enough for guiding Corey and making him a better man. Before he joined your army, he lost his way, and didn't know his purpose in life, but you gave him one." The mother says.
With his arm about his wife, the father nods at me. They leave me to my maelstrom thoughts. Why are they thanking me? I failed to protect their son. They should be cursing my name.
I just don't understand.
"You shouldn't do that."
I startle from my musings and turn away from the flower bed to see His Eminence.
"Do what?" I ask, narrowing my eyes.
"Sink into a shell. I've noticed that that's your defense mechanism, and that you think it makes you strong to hide behind a wall, but it doesn't. It makes you weak, and if you keep that up, you'll only drown in your misery."
I harrumph and stand up. "Nonsense. You don't know what you're talking about." I'm about to walk past him when he says.
"I know what happened, and I want you to know that it's not your fault."
I shake my head. "You're wrong!" Then I dash into the castle, and lock myself in my chambers.
The nightmares worsen over the next few days. Instead of the solider, I dream about Yuuri being in his place. I dream about his family glowering at me, blaming me for Yuuri's demise. For those few days, I can't stop crying, and I stay in my chambers to hide my tear-stained cheeks.
On the second day, Conrart comes to visit me as I'm in the middle of a new painting. So far, I've finished painting the black sky with lightning, and I'm working on painting a dark, tumultuous ocean.
"Everybody is worried about you, you know." Conrart says.
"Is there something you needed?" I ask, continuing to stroke my brush across the canvas.
"Wolfram, you should know that brushing me aside won't make me go away."
"I might've let you do so in the past, but now I refuse to leave my little brother by himself to fall apart."
I throw the palette and paint brush onto the ground, roughly, whipping around to face him. "Don't treat me as if I'm some broken toy that needs to be fixed!"
"I'm not, and I didn't apply such. I'm only saying that suffering in silence isn't going to help anybody, especially yourself." Conrart puts his hand on my head, and ruffles my hair. "Mother is worried sick about you. Gwendal is too although he's trying his best not to show it. Greta is left wondering whether or not she did something to upset you and Yuuri hasn't been himself since the other night." He removes his hand. "I don't want you to isolate yourself, Wolfram. All I want is for you to let us back in. Let us back into your heart and allow us to assist you in picking up the pieces."
I don't deserve this.
"Get out! Now!"
With one last look of sympathy, Conrart complies.
On the third day, I assure Greta that she's done nothing wrong, and apologize to her for acting the way I have. She embraces me, and forgives me, as I expected her to. She really is such a sweet girl. Truly the best daughter that I can ask for.
I even apologize to Yuuri, who looks at me strangely as I do so. "What are you apologizing me for?"
"For being nasty with you, saying that I hated you." I answer, evenly. "I didn't mean it."
That night, I'm plagued by nightmares. Although I was anticipating it, I wasn't prepared for it.
It all starts in a land that looks so familiar yet foreign at the same time. I'm in combat with this faceless man, who's able to parry my swipes without breaking a sweat. This isn't good. I'm beginning to lose my cool. This man's skills are obviously top notch, and he's holding back.
I'm mad. He's making fun of me, mocking my swordsmanship, and I'm not about to let him get away with that.
Then, all of a sudden, his movements become faster and swifter. I struggle to block each strike, barely managing to do so. Damn it. His skills rival that of Conrart's, and he's the best swordsman in Shin Makoku.
I have to find an opening. Even the greatest of swordsman have a weak point. It takes a while to spot it, but I do once I notice the twitch in the man's shoulder. He falters due to that, and I take full advantage of that, stabbing at his shoulder. Instantly, he drops his sword, and recoils backwards, clutching at the inflicted wound.
"Wolfram!" I hear Yuuri shout.
I look to the source of his voice, seeing him approach a ways behind the faceless man, who grabs another weapon from his pocket. I see the glint against the metal and recognize it as a dagger.
I gasp. "Yuuri!"
Instantly, I dash towards him as fast as I can, barely breathing, only one thought going through my mind. I have to get to him. I have to save him. But I don't seem to be getting any closer to him. I don't understand it. It doesn't make any sense. It's as if I'm running in place.
"No, Yuuri, run!" I scream.
It's too late.
The faceless man has launched the dagger straight into Yuuri's heart.
Suddenly, he's gone, and I'm left with Yuuri bleeding profusely in my arms. I cry and beg him to hang in there and stay with me, refusing to believe that he's going to die, but then he stops moving and I check all of his pulses to find that he's stopped breathing.
"No," I whisper, shaking him. "Yuuri, wake up." I put a hand to his cheek.
I'm shocked once my hand makes contact with his skin.
He's dead because I wasn't strong enough to save him.
I hold him close until my sobs subside. Once they do, I gently set Yuuri's body on the ground. I cast one last look at his pale, lifeless face before I rise to my feet, and head over towards a cliff, intending to put an end to my useless life.