Chapter 7
If Lord von Kleist couldn't even manage this trifle, his powers were sorely lacking. No wonder one had to listen to people saying again and again these days what sissies the men of today were, along with their magic.
Lady Anissina von Karbelnikoff's bright blue eyes flashed as they bored down on their prey. Gunter stared intently at a point on the ground and muttered softly under his breath.
"His Majesty must have already found Gegenhuber. He must have given a wonderful performance on the Magic Flute. Ahh, my beloved Majesty! How pure and classy and beautiful these songs must be. And eye-opening as well!"
And so Gunter went on singing praises of his beloved king.
"The flute calls the rain, no, the storm forward. When the fine, silky black hair of His Majesty gets wet, it becomes even darker and shines even more beautifully..."
"You said the Magic Flute would make it rain?"
As Gunter heard the voice of the demon, shivers ran down his spine.
"I also heard the name Gegenhuber? I do not like this man at all. He still holds on to this obsolete idea that love between men and demons is wrong."
The unfailingly calm way she spoke proved that she would not let herself be ruled by her anger, and that inspired boundless fear. Gunter did not dare turn around to look at her.
"How much had Susannah Julia suffered because of this man..."
When she spoke longingly of the name of their deceased friend, her voice trembled ever so slightly.
"Sending Gegenhuber on the search for the Magic Flute was one of the few decisive measures Gwendal ordered. Still, I did not expect that he would really find it."
"Anissina ...?" Lord von Kleist timidly asked.
The Red Devil had carried in an enormous green shield with a precious jade plate on top. She grabbed the retreating Gunter, dragged him to the shield and put the plate on his palm.
"Right, and now just imagine in your head that it's raining."
"If you would be kind enough, perhaps briefly explain to me first, what effect would this strange design have?"
"Don't ask unnecessary questions. If you provide the magic, you'll see for yourself."
Gunter had feared this. But after a sleepless night, he had already come up with an excuse for this specific situation that he now found himself in.
"But... that will not do, my dear! You could be planning to overthrow this nation and commit the high treason against His Majesty! If you want to improve your technology for this purpose, I would never assist you in any possible way. That would make me an accomplice in your plot. You must know the purpose of my life is solely for the protection of His Majesty... "
"It's a rain spell, Gunter."
"A rain spell? What a vile deed! Ah... Excuse me? Did you say a rain spell?"
Thrown completely of his track, Gunter couldn't say another word.
"Exactly. We will no longer have to depend on the unreliable power of the Magic Flute. From now on we can use our own magic to make it rain. I have heard that our neighboring countries have been suffering from water shortages for some time. If my invention proves successful, with one blow, our demon tribe will command awe and terror all over the world! I hereby present to you the magic rain spell device, the 'Rain Frog'!"
"The 'Rain Frog'... I'm suddenly overcome by an uncontrollable appetite for insects." Was it perhaps because of the fact that the green shield and the jade plate Gunter was now balancing on his back and his head make him look like Kawako, the Japanese water spirit who has the appearance of a frog?
It was a child, not the flute, which had let out the cry.
The child's loud cry came in from the street. Shas was the first to run out of the room. I hurriedly followed, pulling a grumpy Gwendal behind since he was still chained to me. He told the bride, still in her wedding dress, to stay inside.
"Leave my boy alone! Don't you dare touch him!" Roared the grandfather.
Surrounded by five children, who had thrown him on the dry ground, Jilda was howling from the top of his lungs. His bag had been thrown on the street, from which some of vegetables had rolled out. Suddenly, the grandfather fell tumbling to the ground - the kids had brought him down and started fighting ruthlessly for the contents of the bag. This robbery took place openly in public under the most beautiful purple evening sky. The children were ten years old and they were all bigger than Jilda. This had clearly gone too far!
"Hey! Hey! It's quite cowardly to rob a smaller child!"
The children picked the fruit and the bottle of water from the bag and stood up, turned around to leave. Shas crawled over to his grandson.
A boy from the group looked at me.
"Small? He's much older than us."
Damn, they were right of course. I had forgotten that Jilda was half demon.
"Even so, he's still smaller than you! Give the bag back right now and leave them alone. And apologize yourselves... "
One of the boys threw something at me.
Yes, think! Although I had never left the reserve bench, I still had more than a decade of experience as a catcher. Even without a glove, I would be able to catch the balls from the tiny tots of the Little League.
I wanted to bow my head to the front left, but I could not lift it because of the heavy chain. I tilted my head to one side instead and missed the dangerous ball in a hair's breath. It got Gwendal behind me. Not a good idea, children!
"He just doesn't grow," shouted a boy. "It doesn't make any difference whether he eats or not."
There was neither sarcasm nor hatred in his voice. His tone was as if he was stating a matter-of-course fact in the world.
"And if he does not grow, he will not grow. Then he can't become a soldier to earn his own living. Why waste food on a dwarf like that, who will eventually turn out to be no good. It's true!"
"Who has put this horrible nonsense into your head?" I exclaimed in shock. "Try saying that to your parents or anyone else! How messed up are you?! There is no need for everyone to sign up as soldier!! Don't you have any dreams?"
"We can't drink dreams," replied one of the boys.
"Will dreams make the cattle healthy again?" asked another, while he kicked Jilda with his thin legs. "Will dreams make the fields green again? If I can have more food by dreaming, I'd happily sleep for days at a stretch! As much as I can!"
These were his last words before he flew three yards through the air. Gwendal had resorted to the law of the jungle. He bent down and meticulously picked up the scattered coins.
"I had said that the boy can keep the change. Not you."
"To hell with your money!" the boy cursed.
Without standing up, he quickly slipped away from Gwendal. The other children slowly moved backwards to secure the escape route.
"We do not want your dirty money! I can see your chain, you are but criminals on the run! How could you be so stupid, hiding away in this old man's house? Shall I tell you something...?!«
Darned, we forgot to hide the chain!
Shas, who could finally free his legs, picked up his grandson. Jilda was still sobbing quietly.
"The old man sold even his own daughter to the authorities for money."
"Don't give me that crap," I shouted.
That had to be a lie! Shas was the grandfather of a half-demon child, who approved of his daughter's marriage to a demon. After all, he had helped us.
Suddenly we could hear the footsteps of some dozen pairs of boots around us. At dusk, the lights lit up the streets from all directions and in no time we were surrounded by a group of people.
"Do not move!" a voice commanded.
"Please tell me this is not true," I moaned.
But unfortunately, we were indeed surrounded by about thirty soldiers with guns in their hands.
The grandfather dodged my eyes and turned away. He held Jilda in his arms.
What had these children said? How would one earn his living, if he couldn't become a soldier?
Shas had no sushi hairstyle, and, on top of that, he limped. In addition, he was too old to join the Army.
"Well, yeah. He'd do everything for his grandchild, "I said.
(The rest of the chapter was translated by [info]kannnichtfranz here.)
"We were informed that fugitives were hiding here!" bellowed a soldier. "Identify yourselves! What is your crime?"
I would also have liked to know that!
A man with a double chin, who could've easily been mistaken for Johann Sebastian Bach, had asked that question in an authoritative voice. Probably he was the boss. His Bach-face was crowned by a sea urchin sushi haircut.
"Gwendal, what do we do now? Our criminal file keeps getting thicker."
"How should I know!"
"Oi, we'll have no whispering!" called the soldier. "This afternoon, a bride was kidnapped from the church, and you two match the description of the culprits."
The bride! I'd almost forgotten her. Gwendal and I were sure to figure something out, but Nicola was pregnant.
"No idea what you're talking about. We haven't seen any bride!" I said, intentionally loudly.
The food had been carted off, and the boys had all disappeared. Any curious onlookers had been chased away by the soldiers, and even Shas had retreated a few steps with Jilda in his arms.
More than anything, I just wanted to start crying, but I couldn't allow myself that. Nicola was more important.
"Have you seen a bride here anywhere?" I asked Gwendal in the hope that he would play along.
Lord von Voltaire took the stage with fierce, flashing eyes, exuding self confidence.
"It's true, we are really on the run. But as you all can see, we are just an eloped couple," he said.
"Yes, exactly!" I said and presented the back of my right hand, with the Sea World stamp.
"Why would we possibly be interested in other people's women?" Gwendal continued.
"Well said, darling! We are so in love, we only have eyes for each other. Isn't that so?"
"How right you are." The honest face that Gwendal pulled at these words was worse than creepy. I stretched as far as I could to try and put my arm around Gwendal's shoulders. The chain was too short though, it didn't quite work.
Someone kicked me in the gut, and I sank hard to my knees. "If you are hiding the bride, you will bitterly regret it!" roared the boss.
"Boss!" a younger man called over to us. He sounded like his voice was breaking with puberty, and he waddled as he carried an armful of white material. "I have the bride's dress!"
"Good, look over there, men!"
Excellent, Nicola had escaped! But without her dress. What was she wearing now as she ran through the streets? Could she be naked? Oh no, no pregnant bride would ever do something like that!
"How boring," murmured the boss to himself and snapped with his tounge. "Arrest them! But first, logistics. What are your names?"
Hm, good question, what were our names again? Nothing occurred to me. Luckily Gwendal was more successful.
"My name is Yanbo," he said.
"And my name is Mabo," I said quickly.
Yanbo and Mabo -- the droll little mascots of the weather report on TV. It'll be hot and sunny again tomorrow!
It wasn't exactly the ideal time for it, but as our well-guarded carriage rocked back and forth, I fell asleep. The stress and the extreme exhaustion had finally forced me to find some rest. Even the clattering jolts from the wooden wheels seemed as relaxing to me as the rolling of the waves at sea.
"Good show, little one!" '
"Spare me your sarcasm, Gwendal," I murmured.
"I didn't say anything."
Then it must've been the plump soldier who rode with us in the small cabin. As I woke up, I found myself leaning on Gwendal's shoulder. I sat myself upright hastily. It was just as embarrassing as if I'd fallen asleep on the shoulder of a complete stranger in the subway.
"Try to get some more sleep," said Gwendal.
"I can't do that if it's just me who gets to make himself comfortable," I protested. "After all, you are also exhausted, and you'd certainly have a right to be annoyed if the person right next to you snores happily away. And anyhow, for the time being we're still considered an eloped couple. We can't let any bad feelings seem to come between us."
The older brother snorted quietly. Was that a laugh?
"I think maybe you are something of a freak."
"I am a freak? Are you trying to rile me up? Wait just a minute, if we're not careful, the guard can hear everything we say."
"Use the high language of the demons. It'll be very difficult for them to understand what we're saying then."
And just what was that, again? I had never heard of it. But it didn't matter, our guard was in the middle of a nice nap, so we could speak normally.
"Why are you always so keen to get yourself into trouble?" Gwendal stared stiffly ahead as he spoke, his scowling eyes not looking at me. "You are the king. You had the opportunity to leave all the state responsibilities to your underlings while you reveled in hedonism."
"Unfortunately I have no idea how to revel in hedonism," I replied.
"Isn't there anything that appeals to you? Riches, delicacies, women?"
Naturally I didn't have anything against those things. It's true that I'd never found myself in the possession of much money, or a gourmet kitchen, and especially girls, but surely I would like all those things. "At the moment, baseball is the most important thing to me," I said in the end.
"Then why don't you just occupy yourself with baseball?"
"I'm already doing that, have been for almost ten years."
"So, baseball is not dependent on the office of the demon king?"
"No, enthusiasm is the only thing that one needs."
"Then find a more expensive hobby."
Gwendal turned to face me -- I'd never seen such a clueless expression from him before. His scowling eyes had lost a tiny bit of their confidence.
"Is the role of the demon king to while away the tax money of his people? Do you really think that that's the way a demon king should behave?"
"No, but... up until now, all the demon kings that have been chosen from the ranks of the commoners have acted in that fashion."
"I didn't know that." After all, I was chosen through a public toilet, out of the clear blue sky. When I was informed that I was supposed to be the demon king, I knew absolutely nothing about the world of the demons. I hadn't been prepared, neither mentally nor spiritually.
"I'm just a baseball boy, like you find on every corner. It's impossible for me to be able to do the job as well as you could. There's nothing I can do but follow my instincts to decide what is right. Maybe I'll go down in history as a bloody beginner, a weakling, and the worst leader of all times. But what else can I do? I have only my puny sixteen years of experience to draw on."
Since the reassurance I craved never came, I lost my courage then. The carriage abruptly began to swing back and forth, and the soldier spoke some nonsense words in his sleep. Through the barred window, the sky, long since gone dark, could be seen.
"And if I do make a really backwards decision, then there are enough competent people around to stop me from doing anything too stupid." Luckily I would always have Günter, Conrad, and Wolfram, my unintentional fiancé, on my side. And let's not forget Gwendal, who would watch my every step with an eagle eye, and who loved his country more than anyone else.
"Gwendal, you'd definitely stop me, right?"
Gwendal relaxed his jaws, and a bunch of little wrinkles built up around his eyes. His smile was so peaceful and warm, like I'd never imagined possible.
"Can I ask you something?"
"What is it?"
"Who's Yanbo? How did you come up with that name so quickly?"
"Ah... that's the name of the little one I was taking care of not long ago."
"I knew it, you do have secret children!"
"Yanbo is a bunny rabbit."
Just a second, come again?
"Did you really say 'bunny rabbit' just now?!"
Before I could get an answer, the carriage came to a halt. The door was opened, and we stepped out, flanked by guards to the left and right. If there were sunglasses and pipes, our entrance would have been perfect. Then we'd have looked just like General MacArthur in the schoolbooks of Japanese history, as he strode up the gangway. Wasn't this contingent of soldiers extremely overdone, just to accept an eloped couple into custody?
We were led into a stone building that looked just as if the first floor of the parliament building had been transported into it. At the entrance there was a sign, but as always, I couldn't read the letters.
"What is this place?" I asked Gwendal.
"The family court."
We stepped inside. In the background, music that sounded like it belonged in a horror film was playing.
"Gwendal?! What's wrong with you? You look terrible." His forehead and neck were covered in sweat, though it was relatively cool in the building.
"The power of exorcism... the entire building is full of it..." Gwendal murmured resolutely.
"What do you mean by that? I don't smell any incense, and I don't see any smoke around, either. Or does it have something to do with the weird music?"
"What music? I don't hear anything."
He could only move forwards very slowly and all hunkered over. I didn't feel bad myself, but the demon stone that lay against my chest had become hot.
"In there!" shouted a soldier, and gave me a push.
When I stumbled inside, I found myself in a sort of courtroom. It was medium-sized; about the size of a lecture hall. The walls and floor were made of highly polished, milky white stone. Four old men sat at a podium; presumably the judges. They each had just enough white hair remaining to be built into the standard Iroquois hairstyle. Although there were seats available, I didn't see one single spectator. On the other side of the wooden railing, there were neither lawyers nor witnesses.
In the middle of the room were three people, arguing with each other. Two men held a loudly crying woman by each arm and seemed to be playing tug of war with her; neither would let go. One of the man eventually fell over backwards, and apparently, the decision was met.
The puffed up guy, who had never let go of her arm, left the room. His chest was swollen with pride, and he had the woman, who'd lost consciousness from the pain and shock, slung over his shoulder.
"Just" was not exactly the right word for what went on here.
Since no one else was around, apparently it was our turn.
"Yanbo and Mabo!" called one of the judges. "Ohoho, two men!"
As we were shoved front and center, I realized that one of the judges was not nearly as old as I'd thought. He seemed to have dyed his hair white on purpose. His head was the only thing sticking out of his spherically-shaped clothing. It was brown from the sun and had deep laugh lines -- he looked like a Japanese good weather doll.
"Those chains look quite heavy," he said to us. "The tall one is Yanbo? You are a demon? As I see it, you don't look too well, but that's not surprising. This building is protected with the power of exorcism. For demons with magical powers, this place is far from comfortable. So, let's get this done! You two will surely be relieved to get out of those handcuffs, am I right?"
This man didn't give the impression of a judge at all. He was more like an amiable uncle who talked fast. His speech was not authoritarian, nor did he use complicated expressions to make himself seem important. Perhaps we had a chance, if we explained our circumstances honestly. A "not guilty" verdict even suddenly seemed within the realm of possibility.
"I was told you'd eloped," the friendly uncle continued. "Although I looked for a search warrant, I couldn't find any that matched you, oddly enough."
"You see, it was like this," I began, but was immediately interrupted.
"In order for us to remove the chains, you must convince me that you are really going to separate. You must swear that you will reunite with, and marry, your predetermined lawful partner, and start a family."
"Bu...but that thing about the law..law..lawful partner is n..n...not that simple," I stuttered.
"You were persecuted, and everywhere you went people pointed their fingers at you -- a life of shame. If you'd known before that all of this stood before you, you surely would have remained reasonable and not gone against the will of the Gods, not fallen into the puddle of sin of such a reprehensible relationship."
"Puddle of sin?" I repeated in disbelief.
I had a bad feeling about how fast and happily this uncle could prattle on. He didn't listen to others at all! This judge just hauled off and ranted about his world views. He openly spoke about his opinions on men and women and same sex marriages. And then finally he spoke himself out.
"How foolish your deeds were, you've had to experience for yourself," he said to us. "Here and now I want to hear from you two, how very abhorrent you find each other."
How stupid could this get? I mean, no couple would elope together if their feelings were so superficial that they'd allow themselves to be convinced to separate merely with a bit of chatter. But whatever. Getting rid of these damn handcuffs took top priority.
"You are so right," I began. "To be completely honest, I really regret it. What could I have been thinking?! I must have been crazy."
The judge gestured at me to continue with his right hand. The other three judges didn't move a muscle.
"Actually, it was clear to me from the beginning, that it would never turn out well with this guy here. We don't get along well at all. To him, I'm nothing. He always treats me like a dumb kid and is gruff with me. It's true, isn't it?"
"Mhm..." rumbled Gwendal.
It really looked like he was sick as a dog. We needed to see to it that we got out of there as soon as possible.
"When I wanted to elope with him, he was always going on about how I was just a dead weight around his neck. We can't even talk normally to each other."
If I'd done as Gwendal had demanded, and stayed out of this, we would never have gotten to this point. I would be spending my hours in that vacation home in Karbelnikoff, and enjoying the feel of the sun on my stomach at the beach. Gwendal might have found his cousin and returned with the magic flute by now. The thing at fault here was my pigheadedness!
I wanted to do what I thought was right. That's what landed us in this mess. All of my decisions had been wrong. I hadn't come one step closer to being an ideal king -- not one single millimeter. But I was an expert at making trouble for my companions. Since I'd come to this world, people were always having to pull me out of my own self-created messes, even Gwendal. And I had constantly accused him of hating me. It was high time for an apology.
"I'm so sorry, I was an idiot," I said to him.
Gwendal's thundering bass usually shuddered through all your bones, but it had gone weak, quiet, and hard to understand. Although he was barely managing to keep to his feet, he straightened his back.
"In my eyes, you are not such a terrible king," he said.
"That is not very convincing!" said the judge. "You must hate each other enough that you never want to see each other again. That's not the impression I've got right now."
He threw an elongated, gleaming piece of steel at our feet. A clanging noise rang out.
"Pick that up!" ordered the judge.
I stopped short. Before us lay a shortsword with a blade of about twenty centimeters length. The grip, that looked like ivory, was decorating with carvings. Rust-colored flakes had been left behind in the fine grooves. That was blood!
"Pick up that blade! One of you must stab the other with it."
"W...what?" I stuttered.
"Even if it ends in death, no one here will be blamed for that. Come on! Get it behind you. You want to be free of your chains, surely!"
Of course we wanted that! But not like this!
Gwendal slumped unsteadily down to a crouch and picked up the shining blade.
"Gwendal...?" I said tentatively.
He had set one knee down to the ground. Perhaps he didn't even have the strength to stand any more. He looked up at me and pressed the sword grip into my hand.
"You're right handed?"
"Yes, but... I... I can't do this."
"You don't have to kill me straight away."
He touched his left shoulder and watched me with his scowling and cool expression.
"This spot would be relatively bearable. Come on, do it already!"
My fingers trembled pathetically.
"What's wrong?" said Gwendal with suppressed impatience and irritation. "It's not the first time you've held a sword. Do it just like last time."
Last time? But those were completely different circumstances! I'd had a much longer and mightier sword in the duel with Wolfram and with Morgif in the arena. And this time I wasn't being attacked. I just had to reach out and stab. Probably it wouldn't even bleed that heavily. Nonetheless!
"This is just crazy," I murmured. I couldn't see my way through it, to injure someone without a battle or any provocation. "We aren't even mad at each other! On the contrary, we have just barely begun to understand ourselves better. If you think that it's so easy, then you do it! Could you really stab me for no reason with this filthy weapon?"
Gwendal's mouth opened slightly as he pulled a face that said this was no more than he'd expected. In this short moment, Conrad's tortured smile was mirrored in his face. Yep, they were in fact brothers.
"No," Gwendal finally said.
"See, I told you! This whole thing is just completely sick. Absolute rubbish! We should prove our intent to separate by going at each other with a knife? This isn't the middle ages! And all of this in front of a theoretically dignified judge, who looks on smiling with happiness? You've all lost your marbles! And do you know what stinks the worst?"
I pulled Gwendal back to his feet, then turned back to the four men in the judges' seats.
"I hate it when people like you try to tell me how I should manage my own personal relationships! If I want to hate a person, I don't need any outside help to do it! And when I like a person, it's the same! I won't let anyone give me orders me about whether I should separate from someone. I won't let it happen! Yanbo and Mabo will draw no blood!"
I snatched up the ivory grip and flung the sword to the ground. At the clang of metal, all the guards in the room drew in a quick breath.
"Come on, Gwendal, we're out of here! We'll find someone else who can get these chains off of us."
"Stop! Those chains can only be removed here!" There was impatience in the judge's voice.
"What now?" Gwendal asked me, as if it were no big deal. He never even bothered looking at the judge.
I turned around and wanted to go after the short sword. The judges eyes went wide, and they laughed. Cold sweat ran down my back. I
couldn't tell which of the four judges it was who spoke.
"You've made your feelings on the situation quite clear. If that is truly your position, you don't need to let yourself be swayed. It is my decision that the chains shall be removed."
"Really this time?" I asked in disbelief.
But just as I began to believe in our luck, a cold pain at my neck rang through my body. My eyes went dark, and it only took a few seconds for me to lose consciousness.
"Yuuri!" I heard a voice in the distance.
For the first time, Gwendal had called my name.
(This translation was originally posted here. Please do not repost elsewhere.)
|Back to Chapter 6||Return to MA Series||Forward to Chapter 8|