“When I said I wanted to go camping alone, that meant by myself, not by myself with another person.”
Wolfram laid his uniform jacket aside. “You need protection.”
“I’m in the courtyard,” Yuuri said with a glare.
“Trouble has a way of latching onto you worse than Günter,” Wolfram said, opening a small satchel that he’d brought with him. “It is my duty to protect wimps like you.”
“I’m not a wimp,” Yuuri protested automatically, “and I want to be alone.”
“You can be alone with me here.”
Yuuri sighed and flopped back on the bedroll. He’d thought by agreeing to camp in the castle’s courtyard, he’d be undisturbed. He should’ve known better. Wolfram hadn’t left him alone since the day he’d arrived in Shin Makoku.
Rain pattered softly against the outer walls of the triangular tent. A small lantern hung from the support pole overhead, casting shadowy silhouettes on the pale canvas. Coarse string tied shut the slit door and a thin bedroll stretched across the lumpy ground. Wolfram sat cross-legged by the door in his shirtsleeves and blue uniform trousers, damp blonde hair curling around his face. With his knees bent, Yuuri’s bare toes touched Wolfram’s thigh. The tent wasn’t made for two.
Folding his hands under his head, Yuuri stared at the arch of the tent, listening to the light rain tap against the canvas. He’d planned to stay outdoors, under the starry sky, but the drizzle had forced him undercover. He could’ve easily gone back into the castle and camp another night, but he wanted the time to himself to think about his upcoming birthday.
He would be sixteen soon, an adult in Mazoku eyes, and he’d have to make the decision he’d been dreading: where to call home. He had to choose between Earth and Shin Makoku. No more waffling on where he wanted to be. No more being homesick for one place when he was in the other. No more thinking that once he finished his Kingly game, he’d go back to being a normal high school teenager whose only ambition was to play baseball.
The decision wasn’t easy and he’d been wrestling with it more the closer he came to his birthday. Earth had his parents, his brother, his old friends, and baseball. His only responsibility was whatever chores his mother gave him. In Shin Makoku, he was responsible for an entire nation. His time was never his own and he did more studying in a week than he would in a month of school. He faced danger on a daily basis much more perilous than having his head stuck in a toilet. He hadn’t played baseball in ages, despite a field having been built for him, and holding a sword was nothing like holding a bat, especially since Morgif liked to bite.
But in spite of all that, in Shin Makoku he was needed. He was reshaping a world, bringing peace and tolerance to a divided sovereignty. He didn’t expect all violence to be erased, but it shouldn’t be caused by something as simple as who your parents were or whom you loved. His efforts were paying off, too, as more and more countries formed alliances with his kingdom. He’d met and befriended a lot of people, human and Mazoku alike, all of who immediately made themselves at home in his heart.
Yuuri turned his head and shifted his knee. He’d almost forgotten Wolfram was with him. Wolfram sat silently with his sword across his lap, polishing the blade with a rag. His arm moved in small circles, the corners of his lips tilted down in concentration. His hair had dried in disarray.
Yuuri would miss Wolfram if he left. He’d miss the entire family he’d made here: Konrad, Gwendal, Günter, Lady Cheri, and especially Greta. But Wolfram…
Love came softly like the rain tapping against the tent. Yuuri pushed onto his elbows, causing Wolfram to look up. The lantern light made Wolfram’s features seem sharper. Yuuri’s heartbeat quickened and butterflies fluttered in his stomach. Despite all his protesting and insistence that it would never be, he realized it was too late. He was in love with Wolfram.
His emotions must’ve been reflected on his face, because Wolfram looked startled a moment, before he ducked his head with pink splashing across his cheeks. “What are you staring at, wimp?”
“Nothing.” Yuuri dropped back down and pillowed his head on his hands. Simply because he realized his feelings didn’t mean he wanted to admit them. “We’re going to play baseball tomorrow.”
“I refuse to play if Weller is pitcher-ing. He throws the ball at my head purposely.”
“That’s because you lean forward when you’re going to swing,” Yuuri said. “We’ll work on that until you can hit a homerun out of the park.”
“I can’t wait,” Wolfram replied sarcastically.
Yuuri smiled to himself and pondered creating a baseball league in Shin Makoku. Wolfram shifted by his feet, his thigh warm against Yuuri’s bare toes. The lantern light cast shadows dancing on the pale canvas walls of the tent and the decision was made without further need for thought.
The rain continued its soft patter outside.