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Yup, I should be working on my thesis today (like every other day) and instead I wrote another story. But I'm hoping that getting this one out of my head will make more room for thesisy stuff. The brain works that way, right?

Title: Depature
Author: Lukoni
Fandom: Kyo Kara Maoh!
Characters: Gwendal
Word Count: ca. 1300
Summary: Gwendal prepares to leave his family behind as illness catches up with him.
Rating: G
Warnings: Impending character death
Spoilers: Not really.
Notes: Set perhaps a year or two after the end of the series, though I haven’t actually finished watching then 3rd season, so if this contradicts anything revealed there, my apologies.





Departure

Some days it was hard to believe he was dying, Gwendal thought as he stared into the fire. Today he had felt fine, for instance. But yesterday was excruciating and he had been hard pressed to make it through his meeting with Gegenhuber with any semblance of his usual fortitude. Time was running short. He was fortunate to have time to prepare, however. Many people did not get such a luxury. With a faint smile, he picked up a knitted squirrel from the floor by his feet. He had knit that one after he’d first met the Maoh and was sure the kingdom was doomed. He’d never been more wrong. Shin Makoku was flourishing under Yuuri’s rule. In fact things were running so smoothly that it had barely caused a ripple when Gwendal announced he was giving up his post at Blood Pledge Castle in order to spend more time managing his own lands. Conrad took his place as head of the army, and Günter took over his remaining duties. In a matter of weeks he was out of the Maoh’s castle and safely away from prying eyes that might notice his growing weakness, or possibly witness one of his blackouts. He stroked the squirrel’s soft white belly once before tossing it into the flames.

As he watched it flare up then turn to ash, he wondered how long it would be before someone would be doing this to his own body. Or would he fall in the end far from anyone and simply rot under the open sun? Staying home was not an option. Nothing terrified him more than picturing the looks of sorrow and pity on the faces of his family. He couldn’t bear for them to suffer while he wasted away, a pathetic shadow of his old self. He wanted them to remember him strong and tall and healthy. He was selfish, he knew. But that wasn’t going to stop him.

Now, with the last trace of his creative endeavors destroyed, safely beyond the mockery of subsequent generations, he had only one more task to perform and he could go. Voltaire Castle was safely in the hands of his cousin and heir, Gegenhuber. He’d bullied the man into coming to learn the management of the realm under the pretense that Gwendal was going to Svelera to negotiate a trade agreement and would be gone at least two months. It was about time, Gwendal had insisted, that he take his role as heir seriously. Hube had finally come and brought his family with him. Gwendal was happy to see children in the castle once again, and hoped there would be many more. He marveled that he now lived in a world where the head of one of the ten noble families would be married to a human. That a half-breed would someday take over the role. It was a world he’d never thought he’d witness, especially watching his younger brother grow up among such hatred and controversy. It was a shame to leave such a world, filled with so much promise. But better than leaving one ravaged by war, with no hope for the ones left to fight without him.

Gwendal stood and retrieved his sword from its scabbard, hanging from a hook beside his bed. For several moments he just stared fascinated at his reflection in the blade. His eyes looked tired, he couldn’t disguise that, but no one could tell from looking that his left eye was completely blind now, had been for nearly a month. Even Gisela didn’t know, since he’d come to his healer here in Voltaire when he began to suspect things might be worse than just the average headache. Magritte had told him the damage was progressing steadily and could not be reversed. She didn’t know what it was, only that it was like a darkness seeping into his head from some point around his eye. Gwendal suspected it was contamination from Soushu, but did not enlighten the healer, only asked that she check her brothers for similar sensations when they next came to visit. How she was able to do so without rousing their suspicion, he would never know, but she managed it and assured him they were healthy as a pair of field oxen. He blinked himself free of the memory and regarded himself one last time. A stern face, never beautiful but kind sometimes. Had his father looked like that? He couldn’t quite remember. Had his mother really found such a face attractive? Such a delicate flower she had named for her ridiculously large son, Secret Gwendal. How will you like this secret, Mother? He wished he could tell her, to say goodbye to her properly, but, he was ashamed to admit, he couldn’t do it, couldn’t face her tears and her sympathy, couldn’t disappoint her yet again. Ugly, childless and now dead. What a way to repay a mother’s love.

With a quick flourish he slid the sword behind his head, and, pulling taut with this other hand, he jerked the blade up and severed his pony tail in one simple motion. It was as long as his arm, soft and smooth, the one thing about him that wasn’t harsh and unyielding. He slowly coiled it up, remembering how his determination to grow it was sparked after hearing one of the maids talking about how long his father’s had been. He placed it gently into a silk-lined cedar box and stared at it with a pang of sadness. He’d wanted so badly to be able to take his place, to make his mother happy and look after her, but she’d found others to do that for her instead.

He opened a trunk at the foot of his bed and laid his sword and scabbard inside. It had no use where he was going, though, now with Yuuri on the throne, it had little use here either. Next to it went the box he had just filled, and now he was ready to go. He thought of the other things he was leaving behind – his horse for Gunter, for who else could manage the proud animal once Gwendal was gone? For Greta his set of knitting needles, in hopes they would be used with greater success than they so far had been. His white quill for Yuuri, as a fond reminder for him to take the mundanities of running his kingdom seriously. For Anissina he left nothing, for she was not sentimental. His youngest brother would get his sword, now that its last duty had been performed. Wolfram was young enough to be a son, and that would have to count since Gwendal had none of his own to whom to bequeath it, as his father had him. For Conrad he left a key to the front gate of Voltaire castle. It was not meant literally, of course, but he trusted his brother would understand what it meant – that Conrad would always be welcome in Voltaire lands. And so this last gift for his mother - his hair, to remind her of his father, whom she had loved so long ago.

He silently shut the lid of the trunk, then donned his cloak, putting up the hood to hide what he was missing. It was still dark and it was not difficult to slip out of the castle unnoticed. A drowsy stablehand asked why he was not taking Starfire, but Gwendal easily put him off saying he wanted to be sure the horse was available for breeding season, and took his gelding instead. His sentries seemed unsurprised to see him out so early and let him pass without comment. Once he was sure he was out of sight of the castle and village, he pulled the hood back and let the wind blow through his shortened locks, feeling it caress his neck for the first time in decades. With no destination in mind, he rode toward the setting moon, hoping it would lead him to a good place to die.
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