"Day of... Promise?" Yuuri asked, raising his eyebrow in confusion. "Just what is this holiday all about?"
He had been putting on his shirt when Günter had barged in that morning. After Yuuri shook Günter awake after he fainted, Günter had started rattling about having to make a promise to him on the Day of Promise.
"Basically, Your Majesty, every twenty years mazoku people make a promise to themselves and those they are closest to on this day. They can make promises at any time during the day, but their final promise of the day must be to themselves."
Günter paused, as if waiting to see if Yuuri understood him.
"The promise you make to yourself could be anything – for example, I might promise to work harder. The promise you make to other people could be something small, like promising to do a task for them, or something bigger – like promising to love the Maou for the rest of their life," Günter said.
"Something tells me that last one is the promise you are going to make to me," Yuuri said, apprehensively.
"Of course!" Günter said, excitedly. He placed both hands on Yuuri's shoulders, and looked deeply into his eyes. "Your Majesty, I promise to love you for the rest of your life. In fact, I believe that even after you're long dead and gone, my heart will always belong to you."
Yuuri laughed, nervously. "I, uh... appreciate it? Though, what makes you think you'll outlive me?"
"Your Majesty, have you forgotten that full-blooded mazoku outlive half-mazoku?"
"Oh. That. Yeah, I guess you will outlive me."
"Though, I can't help but become teary-eyed upon thinking about a world without you, Your Majesty. Oh, I just... I just..."
Yuuri looked around for a quick escape as Günter broke out into loud sobbing, ready to flee from that entire conversation.
"I know Little Lord Brat has probably already promised to love you forever, Your Majesty, but my love is just as important!" Günter sobbed, sinking to the ground and clinging to Yuuri's leg.
"Ah... I haven't even seen Wolfram today! He wasn't in our bed when I woke up this morning. Though, if he's going to be promising something like this I think it's all for the best," Yuuri said.
"Your bed, Your Majesty," Günter said.
"I was just correcting you by reaffirming that it's your bed."
"That's what I said."
"No, you said 'our' bed, not 'your' bed?"
Yuuri laughed. "Oh, Günter. There's no way that I'd mistakingly refer to my bed as our bed. You and I aren't even like that."
"Your Majesty, I didn't think you were referring to me."
"Yes. I thought you were referring to Wolfram."
Yuuri thought back to the actual sentence he had used. "Oh! Ah well, you know what I meant. My bed. It's just, I'm so used to Wolfram being in it with me that it just slipped out."
"Yes, Günter?" Yuuri asked, extracting his leg from Günter's grip
"Do you have a promise for me today?" Günter asked, dabbing at his eyes with his robe as he stood.
"I... suppose? So, what do I do? Do I just promise you something?" Yuuri asked, unsurely.
"Yes, but you have to make me a promise that you intend to keep!"
"Wait, this is a promise that people seriously follow? Is it a crime punishable by death or something weird like that if the promise is not kept?"
"No, nothing will happen to you if you don't keep your promise. Though, most people make promises that are easy to keep – and those that do make big promises and don't keep them usually have a good reason for not doing so. For example, Wolfram once promised to hate Conrart forever. He's broken that promise, though."
Yuuri looked at Günter in shock. "Wolfram actually promised something like that?"
"Yes, and he didn't take his promise lightly, either. He did every thing he could think of to express his hatred for Conrart – up until you came. The saddest thing about it was, twenty years prior to that promise – when they were still on good terms – Wolfram and Conrart promised to love each other forever."
Yuuri thought about the situation with Wolfram and Conrad, and it made him feel sad. The thought of Wolfram promising to love his brother forever, and then taking it back and promising to hate his brother forever, depressed him for some reason. He thought that maybe his promise to himself would be to quit neglecting his own brother, Shouri.
"I do wonder if Wolfram will make a promise to someone this year, though," Günter said.
"Why wouldn't he?"
"Well, he hasn't made a promise on this day since he made that last promise to Conrart. And, for that matter, Conrart hasn't made a promise since, either."
"Well, Wolfram has changed so much. He may very well promise you something, at the very least."
Yuuri was overwhelmed with his new knowledge about the Day of Promise, and Wolfram. A huge part of him wanted to disappear before Wolfram had a chance to promise him anything, but another wanted to find him and hear if he had a promise for him – and what that promise was.
And perhaps make his own promise.
"Are you going to make me a promise?" Günter asked, his voice small.
"Sure, why not? Let's see, I promise you that I will pay more attention to your lessons. How about that?"
Yuuri smiled down at Günter. When he got no response other than a blank stare, he spoke again.
"Did I do it wrong?"
"No, Your Majesty! That was fine! It's just..."
"That was so very... "
"What?" Yuuri asked, stunned.
"Nothing. Just, nothing. I guess I've really lost to Wolfram this time."
"What do you mean you've lost to Wolfram? And what do you mean by this time?"
"Nothing, Your Majesty. I have mourning – I mean – work to do."
"Wait, Günter! I want to know what you mean!"
I promise to hate you for the rest of your short, filthy, half-human life!
Conrart hated how his negative memories were more numerous, and more vivid, than his positive ones.
Ask him to remember the Day of Promise when he and Wolfram were small children – and his brother promised to love him for life – and he could only recall declaring his love as well and then hugging Wolfram. Ask him to remember the Day of Promise that came twenty years later, and he could remember every detail, down to what he and Wolfram were wearing, Wolfram's expression of disgust directed toward him, the exact words Wolfram used, and even the smell of lavender that was in the air at the time.
Ever since that day, he had been wary of the Day of Promise. It had been another reminder to him that he wasn't a real mazoku, and he really had no business participating in it. Even though many others made promises to him, he hadn't made a promise since that day.
This time, however, he might make a few promises. Even if it were just to Yuuri and Yozak.
He longed for the day when he could finally promise Wolfram something again. After all, he had kept his promise so far.
He had never stopped loving him.
Conrart heard the footsteps behind him, and didn't even have to turn around to recognize the person approaching him.
Yozak's familiar laugh rang out. "Uncanny. You're the only person that can do that to me."
Conrart smiled. "It's because I know you so well. Just like I knew it was you approaching, I know why you're here. You've come to make me a promise."
"Busted. I figured you were at this spot. You were here last time this day came around, brooding."
"So, what will it be this year?" Conrart asked, ignoring Yozak's last sentence. "That last promise you made almost got you arrested."
"It was worth it, however, just to see Gwendal's face when he found the throne glued to the ceiling. At least I kept my promise to cheer you up!"
Conrart laughed at the memory of his mother's and Gwendal's reactions to the prank. "Yes, it definitely cheered me up. So, what's this year's promise?"
"I, Yozak, Lord of Ale, Pranks and Womanly Attire, promise to make this Day of Promises the best one you've ever had."
Yozak then moved aside, and Conrart saw that Wolfram was peeking from behind a pillar.
"Anything he has to say comes from his own heart. I only promised to bring him to you, to say what I expect he wants to say, after I noticed him wandering around your bedroom door," Yozak said. He walked closer to Conrart, and pecked him on the cheek. "I'll fulfill my portion of this promise later," he said, winking.
Conrart was far too stunned to say anything as his jovial mate walked off, whistling. By the time he turned back around, Wolfram had already reached him.
He stared down at Wolfram. Wolfram stared back up at him. For several moments, they stood looking silently at each other. Finally, Conrart smiled at him and spoke.
"Good morning, Wolfram. You look well-rested and energetic today," Conrart said. He realized it sounded weak and redundant, but it was all he could come up with.
"As do you, brother," Wolfram replied.
It was enough for Conrart. Even if Wolfram didn't speak another word, just knowing that – finally – Wolfram could once again call him his brother without a second thought made him happier than he had been in years. He didn't think that Wolfram could say anything else that could do so.
"About my last promise-"
"It's in the past, Wolfram. It doesn't matter anymore-"
"I apologize. For everything."
The day was already full of surprises, and it wasn't even breakfast time yet.
Conrart couldn't prevent himself smiling, and this time it wasn't superficially. "Wolfram, I promise that I'll never believe that promise you made me last time."
"Brother, I promise that I'll never make such a promise to you again."
Conrart fully acknowledged that he had been wrong by thinking that Wolfram couldn't say anything that would make him happier.
"I love you, little brother," he said, upon Wolfram wrapping his arms around his waist.
"I love you too, little big brother," Wolfram said, as Conrart returned the gesture.
Gwendal went to bed grumpy, had grumpy dreams, and woke up grumpy.
He hated the Day of Promise. Hated it with the fire of a thousand Wolframs. That day had brought nothing but hardship to him all his life.
"Good morning, Gwendal!" Yuuri said to him, as he entered the dining room for breakfast.
"Good morning," he grumbled back, sitting down. He acknowledged the others with a nod.
He concentrated on his plate of food, ignoring the various chatter around the table. Just as he downed the last bit of his juice, Anissina spoke to him.
"Gwendal, has anyone made a promise to you this morning?" Anissina asked.
"Not yet," he said, warily.
"Well then, let me be the first. I promise to make you the sole subject of my next ten experiments!" she said, happily.
Gwendal didn't even bother to mask his look of sheer horror. Already, this day was shaping up to be the very thing he thought it would be.
"In that case, Gwendal, I promise to not oppose you being the sole subject of Anissina's next ten experiments!" Günter said, gleefully.
"What kind of promise is that?" Gwendal and Yuuri asked, simultaneously.
Gwendal looked at the Maou, who seemed as disturbed as he was by the promises from Anissina and Günter.
"One you can't take back!" Anissina and Günter replied at the same time, causing Gwendal to narrow his eyes and the others – with the exception of Yuuri – to laugh.
He was certain that entire stunt was planned between Anissina and Günter, which furthered his belief that the Day of Promise was more of a day of annoyance.
"Well, I guess I'll be the one to make Gwendal a good promise," Yuuri said. "Gwendal, I promise to take on more of what's supposed to be my responsibilities anyhow."
Gwendal looked at Yuuri, stunned by his words.
"I mean, you're always doing it – and even though I get out of a lot of it, I do feel guilty for slacking off. I can't expect for you to do what I'm supposed to be doing as Maou for forever. But, I'm thankful for all you've done for me – and this country. That means a great deal to me."
Gwendal wasn't the only one shocked as everyone at the table fell silent. After several moments, Yozak spoke up.
"Wow, Your Majesty. When you get poignant, you really get poignant. And this time, you don't even have any alcohol in you! I'm proud of my little Maou, all grown up," Yozak said.
Gwendal watched with annoyance as Yozak wiped away an imaginary tear.
"Still, I do agree with His Majesty. Gwendal really has done a lot for this country – even if he's mostly done it in the background."
Several people nodded and murmured their agreement with Yozak.
"So, since His Majesty has made you a nice promise, so will I," Yozak said. "Gwendal, I promise to stop sabotaging your underwear drawer by replacing those plain ugly thongs you wear with more dainty things."
"Do you really mean that?" Gwendal asked. He was beyond tired of reaching for underwear and coming up with something that looked like he tied a few pieces of yarn together.
"I promise!" Yozak said, and though Gwendal was sated by the promise, he didn't doubt that Yozak would come up with something worse to annoy him with.
"In that case, I guess I can make a promise to Gwendal as well," Wolfram said, causing Gwendal to do a double-take. Wolfram hadn't promised anything to anyone the past few Days of Promise.
By the way Conrart was beaming at him, and how both his and Wolfram's eyes were suspiciously red-rimmed, Gwendal took it to mean that Wolfram had finally taken back that ridiculous promise that he had never truly meant in the first place.
It warmed even him.
"Big brother, I promise to take on some of your duties sometimes just so that you can have more free time for your personal life."
"He doesn't have a personal life."
"He'd have one if he had more time to himself."
"In that case, I promise to take on a few of your duties, Günter," Conrart said. "I agree with Wolfram. Gwendal could use a little free time. This way, Anissina can use you instead of Gwendal more often in her experiments."
"What?" Günter asked, horrified.
It was Gwendal's turn to revel in glee, and he couldn't prevent himself from smiling.
Yozak laughed, heartily, and started to clap. "Now this is brotherhood! Well played, you two. Well played."
As Günter bemoaned his fate, Anissina spoke up once more. "Well, Gwendal, do you have any promises for us?"
Gwendal thought about it for a moment. Usually, he rolled his eyes during the Day of Promise, but since Yuuri, Wolfram and Conrart had put him in a better mood, he decided to at least try.
"I suppose I have a few. Your Majesty?"
"Yes?" Yuuri asked, hopefully.
"I promise that you will stop running into dire situations without thinking them through."
"Yes, Your Majesty?"
"That's sounds more like a demand, not a promise," Yuuri said, laughing nervously.
"Close enough. Wolfram?"
"Yes, Gwendal?" Wolfram asked.
"I promise to knit you a replacement for that animal I made that you lost all those years ago."
"Wasn't that a rabbit?"
"It was an owl. Conrart?"
"I promise to join you at that tavern you've been trying to get me to go to with you and Yozak all these years."
"I look forward to it," Conrart said.
"I promise to not kill you in your sleep," Gwendal said, causing Yuuri to look alarmed and Yozak to crack up.
"What kind of promise is that?" Yuuri asked him like he did Anissina and Günter earlier.
"The kind I'm most likely to break," Gwendal said, flippantly, causing Yozak to laugh even harder.
"Yes?" she asked.
"I promise to run as fast and as far from you as I can, when necessary."
"Good thing I invented that Kohi-powered bike," she said, unfazed by the threat.
"What?" Günter asked, still brooding.
"I promise to finally help you make that project you've been working on for His Majesty a reality."
Günter looked at him, shocked. "That project? Really?"
"That project. Really."
"Um, what is that project, and why does it sound like I'm not going to like it," Yuuri asked, suspiciously.
"Oh Gwendal, I could kiss you!" Günter said, finally back in better spirits
"Do it and die," Gwendal said, quickly.
"Cheater! How dare you cheat on me by making death threats to other men!" Yozak said, mockingly imitating Wolfram.
"I caught that, Gurrier," Wolfram said. "If I hadn't already made you a promise, I'd promise to avenge myself for your blatant disrespect of my character."
As Yozak and Wolfram exchanged barbs, he felt a hand gently squeeze his knee. He looked over to the person it belonged to, and noted the wide smile on his face.
"Thanks, Gwendal," Günter said.
"I still want to know what that project is," Yuuri grumbled.
It had been a long day full of surprises and redemption.
Wolfram felt free, far freer than he had felt in ages, after his conversation with Conrart. It had probably been the hardest thing he'd ever done, but Wolfram was glad he had did it.
It made the next promise he was about to make seem easy in comparison.
As he entered the bedroom, he noted that Yuuri – already wearing his pajamas – was sitting on the edge of the bed with a thoughtful expression on his face. Wolfram thought the Maou looked cutest when he was thinking hard about something, and stood there for several moments simply gazing at Yuuri.
It was awhile before Yuuri finally came back to reality and noticed that Wolfram was there.
"Oh, Wolfram!" Yuuri said.
"Hello, Yuuri," Wolfram said, closing the door behind him. "Are you ready for bed?"
"I guess," Yuuri said, slowly. Wolfram noticed that he was looking at him almost expectantly.
Wolfram walked over and pulled his own pajamas out of the wardrobe cabinet. He stripped, making small talk with Yuuri during the process.
"Who did you make a promise to, today?"
Wolfram didn't doubt for a moment that rumors had already spread. After all, Sangria had caught him hugging Conrart.
"Let's see... Gwendal, Yozak and Conrart. What about you?"
"Just Gwendal, Günter, Conrad, and Anissina. I heard what you promised Gwendal, what did you promise Yozak and Conrad?" Yuuri asked.
"I promised Yozak that I'd help him prank Gwendal."
"You want to pull a prank?"
"Well, not really. I sort of owe Yozak for something he did for me."
"What did he do for you?"
"He gave me a push in the right direction."
"Oh... well, what did you promise Conrad?"
"I promised him that I'd never make a horrible promise to him again. Now what were your promises aside from the one you made to Gwendal?"
"I promised Günter that I'd pay more attention to his lessons and Anissina that I would work harder on Women's Rights issues.
"I promised him that I wouldn't give up so easily when he tries to teach me more advanced sword techniques."
"Those are important promises to keep."
"As are yours. I still have one more to make, though."
"Do you know what promise you're going to make yourself? I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with my final promise."
"Me either," Yuuri said. "Wolfram, are you ready to hear my promise to you?"
Wolfram blinked. "Yuuri, you don't have to make me a promise," he said.
"No, I want to! You don't have to make me one, but at least hear me out."
"Yuuri, I am going to make you a promise before I make my final promise, but I will hear you out."
"Wolfram, I... well... um..."
Wolfram sighed as he pulled his nightgown over his head. "How about this? We'll make our promises once we're in bed and the room is fully dark. Is that alright with you? I don't really want to say what I have to say until it's completely dark anyhow."
He looked over at Yuuri, who was biting his bottom lip.
After Yuuri crawled into bed and settled down comfortably, Wolfram extinguished the lights in the room. He climbed onto his side of the bed, taking care that his body didn't touch Yuuri's.
The room was silent for several minutes before one of them would speak up.
"Wolfram, are you asleep?" Yuuri asked.
"No, I'm not. Now what was it that you wanted to promise me?"
"You go first."
"Why do I have to go first? You were getting ready to spill not too long ago."
"I guess I lost my nerve? Please, go ahead."
Wolfram sighed before opening up his mouth to make his promise.
"Yes, Wolfram?" Yuuri asked. Wolfram thought he sounded almost... hopeful?
"I promise to ease up on you about this engagement thing."
There was dead silence for several moments.
"I wasn't expecting that," Yuuri said, slowly.
"Well, I've been full of surprises today," Wolfram said.
"Wolfram, when you say you will ease up on me about our engagement, what do you mean by that?"
"What I mean is, I'm essentially setting you free."
There was yet more silence before Yuuri spoke again.
"Why did you feel like you needed to wait until it was dark to tell me this?" he asked.
"I am too much of a coward to see how happy you're probably looking upon hearing it," Wolfram said, quietly.
Wolfram waited for his words to sink into Yuuri's brain. He waited to hear a laugh, a whoop of joy, or anything that would let him know that Yuuri was happy with his promise. Hearing Yuuri's reaction would hurt, but far less so than seeing it, too.
"Wolfram, does this mean that you won't sleep with me anymore?"
"If it must. If you want, I can leave tonight."
"No! I mean, no. I'm so used to you here, it's not the same without you. I don't want you to leave me alone."
Wolfram decided to take that sentence literally instead of reading into it too much. "Very well."
"I'm ready to make my promise to you, Wolfram," Yuuri said, softly.
"What is it?"
"I promise to flirt shamelessly with Greta if you don't take back your promise to ease up on our engagement."
"What?" Wolfram half-questioned and half-exclaimed, shooting straight up. "That's not what you wanted to promise me! You're only doing so because you heard my promise!"
"Well, I changed my mind."
"You can't just change your mind on your promise!"
"If you change yours, I'll change mine back to the one I was going to say!"
"Idiot, my promise is to benefit you! Change yours to the one you were going to give me initially."
"I refuse to change it, but I will append to it. If you ease up on me, I'll flirt with Conrad too!"
"Yuuri, I promise I will throttle you if you flirt shamelessly with my brother and our daughter!"
"There you go, it looks like you changed your promise! Problem solved."
"I won't stand for this trickery!"
"Wolfram, I promise to make you not promise me that again!"
"Yuuri, you cheat so much that you even cheat at holidays!"
As the Day of Promise came to an end, the people of Blood Pledge Castle made their final promise to themselves at varying times.
As Anissina settled down in her bed for the night, she promised herself that she would take it a bit easier on Gwendal and Günter. She decided to advertise in the local paper for a lab assistant. Or ten.
After Gwendal had helped Günter with the final plans for Günter's project, he checked into his own bed, promising to take a trip in the near future. He needed a vacation, even if he didn't want one.
Günter, after writing up the order for his project for Gwendal to sign, turned in himself. He promised to do his hardest not to melt into a bloody-nosed pile of goo when the order – which was thirty life-sized statue replicas of the Maou posed with a lemon like in Stoffel's portrait – arrived.
Conrart, his chest still rising and falling rapidly after having made love with the person curled up beside him, promised that he would finally make their relationship more official. They had long been more than friends who often slept together, and he thought about the various ways he could express it to Yozak.
Yozak, after feeling Conrart's lips press against his forehead, promised himself that he'd quit pranking Gwendal so much – and instead target Günter. He couldn't wait to meddle with the order for his project so that what they received would not be statues of the Maou, but of himself in a ball gown.
Wolfram was in bed beside Yuuri, mind boggled over how Yuuri's reaction to his first promise was the one he least expected. Still, he promised himself that he would at least try not to become so upset over small issues involving the Maou and the people who made eyes at him. Though, he couldn't deny that the door that he had tried to close that night had instead cracked open a little wider, letting the light of hope shine in quite a bit more than it had ever done.
Yuuri, long after Wolfram had finally went to sleep and snuggled closer to him, made his own promise to himself. The initial promise to Wolfram that he had decided on – before Wolfram's own promise was revealed to him – was to quit dodging Wolfram's questions about their relationship. Since that particular promise had been abandoned, he revised it for the promise to himself.
Yuuri promised that he would allow himself to be more open about his feelings for Wolfram.
He hoped that, by the time the next Day of Promise came around in twenty years, that he could make more promises after having kept the ones he made this time around. He also wished that – in twenty years – Wolfram would still be by his side when he made his final promise for the holiday, before drifting into the land of dreams.