Rating/Warnings: PG-13 for swordfighting and Wolfram's speedbump (mpreg)
Summary: Greta is growing up way too fast, and Yuuri has a plan to keep her away from the scary boys.
AN: Thanks to ramen_addict for the beta, and to the various people I bounced ideas off of on IM. This is the story that To Bandarbia, With Love was the backstory for.
Never Too Old
"Once upon a time there was a princess…"
"Daddy," Greta rolled her eyes as she settled against her pillows, "I'm too old for bedtime stories!"
"Are you?" Yuuri asked, peering at her in mock-confusion from his seat on the edge of her bed. "Are you sure?"
"I'm sixteen! Besides," Greta added when Yuuri didn't look convinced, "I need to get my rest for the big banquet tomorrow."
"Well, that's true," Yuuri admitted. "It won't do to have the Maou's daughter greeting the human ambassadors with bags under her eyes."
"And Alford will be there too, right?" Greta's eyes were shining with a light that Yuuri did not exactly like the looks of.
"Ye-es," he said slowly, tucking the blankets up to her chin and wishing he weren't suddenly noticing the way her face had lost its babyfat and how her hair was straightening from little-girl curls to a more mature wave.
"He's so handsome!" Greta sighed, rolling over onto her side away from Yuuri. "Good night, Daddy."
Yuuri sat on her bed for a long few seconds, his hand resting on Greta's shoulder until she sleepily asked if he was all right.
"Sure." Yuuri shook himself and stood up after giving Greta's shoulder a last squeeze. "Good night, Greta-chan."
"Of course she's growing up," Wolfram rolled his eyes, peering at Yuuri from over the top of a book bound in shiny purple leather. Pregnancy had certainly not improved Wolfram's taste in reading, Yuuri had been disgusted to find. "She's human, after all."
"But Wo-olf," Yuuri whined, flopping down on the bed beside him. He plucked the book out of Wolfram's hand with disdainful fingers and dropped it over the side of the bed. "She's too young for boys!"
"You were younger than her when you got engaged to me," Wolfram pointed out, retrieving his book easily and dusting off the cover. He laid the book flat over the slight bump in his abdomen.
"That was different," Yuuri insisted. He reached over and pushed the book off Wolfram's middle. "Don't touch my kid with that, you'll pervert his tastes before he's even born."
"That's ridiculous," Wolfram informed him, but set the book on the bedside table. Yuuri shuddered when he noticed Anissina's name in lurid pink script on the spine. "I'm sure his or her tastes will have nothing to do with what I'm reading, which there is nothing wrong with. Certainly no more than sleeping on a mattress which hides a dozen or more of the perverted comics you keep bringing back from your world."
"I told you those aren't mine!" Yuuri screeched, sitting up in indignation. "My mother keeps slipping them into my bag! And don't change the subject! Greta likes boys!"
"There there," Wolfram soothed, tugging Yuuri against his shoulder and ruffling his hair. "Don't get upset, I'm sure she'll experiment with girls some too. Why don't you get some sleep, hmm?"
"That's not…" Yuuri began to protest, but the way Wolfram was rubbing his scalp was making his eyes droop, and Yuuri yawned and filed the discussion away for the morning.
"You just wait," Yuuri said darkly to Yozak when he failed utterly to appreciate his Maou's distress. "When that one turns sixteen, you'll see that I have perfectly legitimate concerns."
"I'm sure you're right, Your Majesty," Yozak agreed, efficiently shifting the two-year-old daughter and picture book in his lap into a more stable position. Arielle tossed her orange curls and set her chubby little face into a perfect Weller pout.
Sighing, Yuuri turned his attention back to where Conrad was sparring with Greta. Yuuri had insisted during a period of upheaval several years ago that his daughter learn to defend herself, and after the thirty seconds where he taught Greta everything he knew about sword-fighting, Wolfram had taken over the task.
In the last year, both Greta's proficiency and Wolfram's pregnancy had convinced all involved that it was better if Conrad took over her lessons. Yuuri felt a swell of pride as he watched his daughter's blade flash against his godfather's with a good deal more skill than his ever would.
The glinting of the morning sunlight off the swords caught Arielle's attention as well, and she squealed in glee, stretching out her hands towards the pretty. She struggled harder, and finally managed to slip Yozak's grip, making straight for her father.
"Oi, Weller!" Yozak called, setting the book aside. "Heads up!"
Yuuri shook off his shiver of uneasiness, knowing that Conrad was more than cautious enough of swords near his daughter, and chuckled along with Yozak when Conrad swung Arielle up onto his shoulders and held her steady with one hand as a handicap when he picked up sparring with Greta.
"She's getting pretty good," Yozak commented, setting the book on the ground between them and relaxing back onto his elbows.
"Mmhmm," Yuuri acknowledged the compliment. His eyes strayed to the cover of the book, which featured a swooning princess on a sort of dome and a bunch of knights crashing into each other. "What book is that?"
"Oh you know," Yozak waved a dismissive hand, "the one about the king who doesn't want to give away his daughter's dowry, so he makes the suitors do these ridiculous contests."
"You don't say." Yuuri's eyes lit up with interest, and he scooped up the book and began paging through it.
"Whew!" Conrad said when the sparring match ended, trudging over and dropping Arielle into Yozak's arms. He wiped his forehead and was still catching his breath. "Your Majesty, I'm proud to announce that your daughter can completely thrash me with a handicap."
"Don't call me that," Yuuri muttered. When he looked up from the book, his eyes held a rather disturbing gleam. "She's that good, hm?"
"Ye-es," Conrad answered, eyeing his Maou. "Yuuri, what are you reading?"
"Nothing!" Yuuri quickly slid the book back into Yozak's hands and stood up. "Say, have you seen Murata around?"
Yozak and Conrad exchanged glances when the Maou went off in search of the Great Sage, before Greta approached, grinning victoriously.
"Wasn't Daddy here a minute ago?" she asked. Her expression soured a little when she spotted the book in Yozak's hands. "You know, I never liked that story much."
"Hmm," said Conrad.
"Hmm," said the Great Sage.
"Oh come on!" Yuuri wheedled. "It's not like we can have just anybody marrying the princess of Shin Makoku. This is the perfect solution!"
"Shibuya, have you talked to Greta about this?" Murata inquired.
"Of course not." Yuuri waved him off. "What does she have to do with it?"
Murata took a moment to eye Yuuri thoughtfully, thinking that Shinou had sure been right when he'd said that there'd never been a Maou quite like Yuuri ever before. He hoped for the sake of his next few reincarnations that this was a one-time deal.
"Your Majesty," he said finally, "I think you should think about this carefully before proceeding. And at any rate, shouldn't you be getting ready for the reception tonight?"
"Oh crap!" Yuuri exclaimed. "What time is it? Wolfram's going to kill me!"
The Maou dashed off to appease the fashion whims of his fiancé, and the Great Sage set out to have a few choice words with the princess in question.
The reception did nothing to cool Yuuri's fervor for his new idea, and in fact, after watching Greta giggle her way through several traditional dances at the side of Alford Markina, he called an emergency meeting of his cabinet.
"Let me get this straight," Gwendal said after a moment of collective silence. "You want to have Greta duel anyone who asks for her hand?"
"Who was in charge of keeping His Majesty away from the punch, because you're fired!" announced Please-Share-With-Everyone-Kun-Version-3.7 from on top of Gwendal's head, blinking merrily.
"Gwendal, can't you get rid of that thing?" Wolfram demanded.
"Be glad it isn't No-Gender-Discrimination-Kun," Conrad commented, "or we'd all be dead right now."
"I was going to say Conrad should fight them at first, because nobody can beat him," Yuuri further elucidated his plan, "but then I thought we should take Greta's feelings into account, and anyway, Conrad said she's really good!"
Another long moment of silence followed that pronouncement.
"Gunter, isn't there some rule about this?" Gwendal finally snapped, turning to the Royal Tutor, who quailed at the sudden attention.
"Well," Gunter wrung his hands, "er…"
"I think it's a good idea," came a voice from the doorway.
Everyone whirled to find Greta smiling at them, hands neatly folded in front of her and cheeks flushed from dancing. Several cabinet members began shuffling their feet.
"See!" Yuuri demanded, victorious. "My daughter has some sense at least!"
"Greta," Conrad began, but Greta took a few more steps into the room and interrupted.
"I'm the princess of Shin Makoku, aren't I?" she asked, tilting her head prettily to one side. "Gwendal, you've been getting proposals for an alliance through arranged marriage for months now, haven't you?"
Gwendal grunted a reluctant agreement, and Please-Share-With-Everyone-Kun-Version-3.7 added an enthusiastic "And how!"
"And Gunter, it isn't very proper for Shin Makoku royalty to marry a man who can't even beat a princess with a sword, is it?" Greta blinked innocently.
"No, of course not!" Gunter looked immensely relieved.
"Obviously I can't marry just anybody," Greta finished.
"You're being strangely silent," Conrad turned to Murata, who was smiling, expression unreadable behind his glasses. The torchlight of the room glinted eerily off his lenses. "What do you know about this?"
"She is the princess of Shin Makoku," Murata shrugged. "The Maou must do what's best for the Demon Kingdom."
"Please, Daddies?" Greta somehow made her eyes look even larger and put on the royal pout Celi had spent a week teaching her. "You're the ones who wanted me to able to protect myself, after all."
"Fine, have it your way." Wolfram caved in exasperation, getting a big hug from Greta as a reward.
"And Shibuya bats it out of the park!" Yuuri crowed, snatching up Greta to twirl her around, making her squeal.
"You are all freaks, and I am going to hide in my own castle for the duration," Please-Share-With-Everyone-Kun-Version-3.7 announced.
"The hell you are," Conrad smiled, snatching at Gwendal's sleeve with an iron grip to keep him right where he was.
Greta set the whole business off to an auspicious start by defeating Conrad un-handicapped within the week. When questioned about it, Conrad told Yuuri that it wasn't her skill that had suddenly improved so much as her determination, and Yuuri had seemed satisfied with this proof that his plan was a very good one.
The situation built up slowly, as word of the challenge of the princess of Shin Makoku trickled out through the neighboring kingdoms, until several months later, Greta was handing half a dozen nobles a month their increasingly elaborate hats.
Soon the exaggeration of the story from one person to the next about the undefeatable princess had nobles from kingdoms that had previously had absolutely no interest in marrying into Shin Makoku making the trip to try their luck.
Gunter, faced with a continuous stream of ambassadors from far-off places to instruct Yuuri in the customs of, was in heaven. Conrad had foiled several of Gwendal's attempts to flee early on, but he had finally settled down enough to enjoy the steady supply of foreign dignitaries with whom he could discuss military strategy. Murata merely seemed bemused by the whole business.
Greta seemed unphased, either by the suitors themselves or by her growing reputation for swordplay. She still practiced in the mornings with Conrad and Yozak, although now she had advanced to taking them both on with an increasing measure of success. Many afternoons found her taking long afternoon rides into the countryside, and when Yuuri asked her about it, Greta said that it helped her unwind after so many stifling state dinners in a row.
Half a dozen months more, and the number of suitors Greta was disappointing had increased to at least two or three a week. More than one of the losers had informed Yuuri on their way out that they hoped his daughter enjoyed spinsterhood.
With several weeks to go until Greta's seventeenth birthday, Yuuri was beginning to worry that his plan was working just a bit too well.
"Honestly, what did you expect?" Wolfram demanded, tugging at the pillow that was supporting his aching back. "The whole point was that she was really good so that nobody would get to marry her."
"That wasn't exactly the point," Yuuri muttered, uncomfortable with the fact that it actually had been. "I just…"
"Didn't want the scary men touching your little girl?" Wolfram inquired. Yuuri reflected sourly that hormones made Wolfram's intuition bitingly accurate, but had done nothing for his tact. "I'm glad this kid of yours is a Mazoku, because even if it is a girl, we won't have to do this again for a long, long time."
"It might be a half-blood, you know," Yuuri replied petulantly. "And why is it my kid all the sudden?"
"Because it's kicking my kidneys," Wolfram groused, giving up on the pillow entirely and tossing it across the royal bedroom. "And your inferior human blood better not have interfered with centuries of proper Bielefelt breeding."
"Snob," Yuuri accused affectionately, tugging Wolfram up into a sitting position and then sliding in behind him. Wolfram yelped when Yuuri dug thumbs into his lower back, but then relaxed into the massage. "Stop changing the subject. What if there isn't anybody who can beat Greta?"
"You're the Maou, idiot," Wolfram reminded him, voice deepening with pleasure. "Call the whole thing off if you're concerned."
Greta flatly refused.
"I'm the princess of Shin Makoku," she said firmly, setting down the basket of muffins she had made on Yuuri's desk. "I can't marry just anybody."
Yuuri deeply regretted all the time he'd spent in the human world, leaving his daughter alone with her other, ridiculously stubborn, daddy. He noticed that the book tucked under Greta's arm was entitled Advanced Swordplay for the Modern Princess and resisted the urge to bury his head in his hands.
"But Greta," Yuuri glanced pleadingly at Murata, who merely grinned back, "don't you think this is getting just a little out of control?"
"It really isn't any different than before," Greta shrugged. "There's just a few more of them now."
"Daddy," Greta interrupted smoothly, eyes wide and innocent. "You didn't really want me to marry any of those people, did you? The one last week who had that nervous tic and kept knocking over his wineglass?"
"No…" Yuuri admitted. Murata helped himself to a muffin and dropped one into Yuuri's hand.
"Or the one Monday who couldn't talk about anything but his horse's bloodlines?"
"No." Yuuri sighed and began to shred the little crinkly paper off the bottom of the muffin. "I'm just worried about you, sweetie. What if nobody's better than you?"
"Don't be silly, Daddy," Greta laughed and leaned across the desk to kiss Yuuri's cheek. "I've got to go. Eat your muffin, Daddy says you've been skipping breakfast again."
Greta trotted merrily on her way, and Yuuri heaved a sigh.
"Ooh, blueberry!" Murata exclaimed. "Try it, Your Majesty, they're really good."
"Murata," Yuuri grumbled, "has anyone ever told you that you're a crap advisor?"
"No." Murata grinned, and Yuuri took a large bite of muffin.
"Can't you talk some sense into her?" Yuuri begged Conrad. He would have been on his knees, but Gunter had informed him tersely that that was truly not becoming for the Maou. "You know I've got to announce at least an engagement by her seventeenth birthday. There's only a week left!"
"Your Majesty…" Conrad began, but was interrupted by Gwendal coming in the door.
"Alford Markina is requesting an audience, Your Majesty," he said.
"Alford?" Yuuri perked up immediately. "Well, don't keep him waiting, let him in!"
Gwendal pulled the door back open and waved Alford in. The young hero strode in, smiling, and Yuuri stood and came around the desk to shake his hand warmly.
"You're looking well, Your Majesty," Alford commented. "Nice hair."
"Eh?" Yuuri put a hand to his head and tried to flatten down a few flyaways. "Oh, Wolfram's got me growing it out, he thinks it'll make me look more regal, but really it's just getting in my way. What brings you to Shin Makoku?"
"Well, you see," Alford's smile took on something of a sheepish cast, "I've come to challenge your daughter to a duel."
Yuuri froze. "You've what now?"
"This is getting good," Gwendal leaned over to mutter to Conrad. "Good thing you made me stick around after all." Conrad rolled his eyes, and Gunter shot Gwendal a reproving glance.
"Your Majesty," Alford drew himself up to his full height, which was still a good six inches taller than Yuuri, growth spurt or not, "I would like the opportunity to try and win Princess Greta's hand." Alford relaxed just a little. "Only, I was hoping you might put me up for the night and set the swordfight for tomorrow morning? I'm a little tired from my trip, and I want to give it my best effort!"
"Okay," Yuuri said limply, still a bit shell-shocked. Conrad offered to take Alford to a room to rest before dinner, and Alford shook Yuuri's hand again enthusiastically before exiting.
Yuuri stood very still for a long moment, hand still hovering stupidly in the air, then he turned slowly to Gunter and Gwendal.
"What am I going to DO?" he wailed. "Gunter, fix it! There's got to be some sort of Mazoku tradition for this! I order you to fix it right now!"
"This whole thing was His Majesty's idea, you may recall," Gunter pointed out, twiddling nervously with his sleeve.
"That's why I have YOU!" Yuuri exploded, the frustration of the last few weeks pouring out in a heartfelt royal foot-stomping. "You're supposed to talk me OUT of these things!"
Gunter shrugged helplessly and looked at Gwendal, who sighed.
"Might I suggest," he crossed his arms and looked down his nose at Yuuri, "that Your Majesty go inform Greta of this turn of events? But I would not advise throwing a tantrum in her presence like a two-year-old."
"Fine," Yuuri grumbled, setting his foot back down and striding from the room with dignity. "I'll take care of this myself."
Slamming the door on the way out felt really, really good, though.
"Greta," Yuuri stared at his shoes, "you don't have to go through with this."
"Hmm?" Greta looked up from the end of Yuuri and Wolfram's bed, where Wolfram was brushing her hair. "It's only dinner, Daddy."
"No, I mean," Yuuri sighed and looked up, "I mean the duel tomorrow morning. I know you like Alford, so…so I won't be upset if you don't want to fight him." Wolfram looked up at Yuuri from over the top of Greta's head and raised an eyebrow. Yuuri blushed a little but barreled on. "I just don't want you to be disappointed if he doesn't win. I want…I want you to be happy."
"Thank you." Greta smiled up at him beatifically. "But you worry too much, Daddy." Wolfram gave Greta's hair a little pat to show he was finished, and Greta stood up and straightened her dress. She twirled a little for her parents' benefit. "Think Alford will like my dress?"
"Yes," said Yuuri helplessly, as Wolfram muttered a dark "He'd better not like it too much." Greta laughed and kissed both her daddies on the cheek before skipping out of the room. Yuuri flopped down on the bed beside Wolfram with a moan.
"Get up, idiot!" Wolfram exclaimed. "You're wrinkling the silk!"
"Wolfram," Yuuri rolled over onto his side to peer at his husband sadly, "I hate Alford right now. But I'm rooting for him. What does that mean?"
"It means Greta has grown up," Wolfram answered, sliding knuckles across Yuuri's cheekbone. "Or maybe that you finally have. Now I mean it, get up, there's no time to change."
Yuuri obediently crawled off the bed and let Wolfram pat his clothing smooth, still deep in thought. When Wolfram tried to move away, Yuuri seized his wrist and dragged him closer before wrapping arms around his shoulders and hugging him tightly. The large speedbump Wolfram was hauling around made the hug a bit awkward, but Yuuri didn't mind.
"What's gotten into you, wimp?" Wolfram asked, hugging him back. "You're messing my hair all up."
"Let's not go to dinner," Yuuri mumbled, words muffled by Wolfram's shoulder. "In fact, let's not do tomorrow, either."
"Idiot," Wolfram said gruffly. He pulled back far enough to kiss Yuuri thoroughly, then spun him around by the shoulders and pushed him towards the door. "Now get moving."
"Greta! Alford!" Celi waved her pink handkerchief from her usual chair. Arielle was sitting in her lap, waving as well. "Good luck to both of you! Do your best!"
"What is it with your mom and duels?" Yuuri whispered to Wolfram, who was also seated due to his delicate condition. Wolfram grunted a non-committal reply.
Out on the field of combat, Conrad was warming up with Greta, who looked up and waved cheerfully when she caught Yuuri's eye. Slightly further away, Yozak and Alford were sparring lightly as well.
"Ah, just in time!" Anissina announced, making everyone twitch. She marched into the courtyard followed by Doria, Lasagna, and Sangria, who were wheeling in a large metal contraption on a cart. "We can now test my new invention, Place-Your-Bets-Kun! Gwendal, get over here."
Radiating displeasure, but knowing it that it was too late to flee, Gwendal trudged over and had the usual maryoku-sucking device strapped to his head. Anissina then picked up a slender metal rod that was attached to the device by a long wire.
"Place-Your-Bets-Kun measures the health and power of each fighter," Anissina explained, "and determines the winner before the contest even begins! I just use the sensing rod to take each person's data…" Anissina waved the rod vaguely in the direction of Greta, and the machine gave a soft beep. "Gwendal, more power!"
Gwendal's scowl deepened, the vein on his forehead throbbing, and Place-Your-Bets-Kun beeped louder.
"And now the other…" Anissina moved the rod over to Alford, and the machine beeped again. "And now Place-Your-Bets-Kun will predict the result with absolute accuracy!"
Place-Your-Bets-Kun beeped and whirred, colored lights blinking furiously. Yuuri tried to look disinterested and failed miserably, Gwendal looked pained. Finally the machine spat out a thin strip of paper with a victorious 'pa-ching!'
"And the winner will be…" Anissina announced, tearing off the paper and peering at it. "…Yozak?" Yuuri groaned and slumped against Wolfram's chair. Anissina opened the side of the machine and began switching around wires.
"Have I missed anything?" Murata asked, trotting out into the courtyard.
"Nothing intelligent," Gwendal grumbled, taking the helmet off his head and dropping it into Anissina's hand with a look of distaste.
"We're ready, Your Majesty," Conrad said, sheathing his sword as he approached. Yozak wasn't far behind him. "The duel will start on your word."
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather Sumo wrestle?" Yuuri called to Greta and Alford. He gave a soft 'Oof!' as Wolfram elbowed him hard. "Fine, fine. Let the duel begin!"
For a second nothing happened, as Greta and Alford stared at each other, both tensed to spring, then Greta shot forward in a blur of motion. Yuuri blinked, and Alford had already driven her back, and the two circled each other for a few steps. Greta lunged again, the scrape of metal on metal making Yuuri twitch, and Alford drove her back with a shove, dust kicking up around the heels of her boots.
Yuuri had half-hoped that the match would be a quick one, as many of Greta's had been, but Alford and Greta were too well-matched for that, and as the minutes ticked by with neither able to get an upper hand, it became clear that the duel would be a long one.
The flow of the fight went back and forth between Greta and Alford, the dust cloud around their boots obscuring the finer points of their footwork, while the spectators cheered and shouted encouragement. Only Yuuri was silent, his fingers turning white with the force of clenching around the back of Wolfram's chair.
His breath caught in his throat and his nerves snapped when a rock caught Greta's foot as she slid it back, making her stumble, and Yuuri leaned forward to storm in and stop the fight. Conrad's hand on his shoulder checked his movement, his fingers digging into Yuuri's shoulder almost painfully.
"Relax, Your Majesty," he ordered, then his stern face melted into a small smile for Yuuri. "It'll be okay."
Yuuri bit his lip, but stayed where he was, and turned back to the fight. Greta had regained her balance and only slid back a few steps; she knocked Alford back a little to create a second to steady herself, then pressed her advantage.
Unphased, Alford hopped back to let Greta's attack swing completely wide, and then stepped in and dealt her a ringing blow against her forearm with the flat of his sword. Greta's yelp was audible across the courtyard, making Celi and Yuuri both gasp, but she kept her hold on her sword with her left hand and skipped out of Alford's reach while she shook the sting out of her right.
"Come on," Wolfram muttered, "I taught you better than that." Yuuri suppressed a chuckle despite himself and dropped one hand from the back of Wolfram's chair to rest on his shoulder.
Greta circled warily, trying to keep her hurt side out of Alford's reach, but Alford was more than good enough to drive his blows at an angle that tended to turn Greta to his advantage. He thwapped the same place a second time, and the bend of Greta's right wrist grew visibly awkward.
Out of desperation, she threw her weight behind a drive that Alford should have been able to evade just like the first time, but his foot slipped on the same batch of pebbles that had tripped Greta. Alford went down hard, eyes wide with surprise as he crashed into the dirt and skidded a few feet on his back, sending up a huge dust cloud.
Yuuri yelped, suddenly remembering that he actually wanted Greta to lose, and squeezed Wolfram's shoulder until he yelped too.
"Kick him while he's down!" hollered Yozak, and Conrad elbowed him hard when Arielle cheered something very similar. Celi whooped and waved her handkerchief.
Greta swung hard to try and disarm Alford while he was disoriented, but he held his sword up with two hands to block and kicked her feet out from under her. The scuffle that ensued kicked up even more dust, until there was absolutely no way to tell what was going on.
When the dust cleared a few moments later, both duelists were streaked with dirt and gasping for breath. Alford was on his feet with his sword at Greta's throat; Greta was flat on her back, her sword on the ground well out of reach.
"Alford wins?" Yuuri blinked.
Greta's expression changed from shocked to wild glee in about a half-second, and before anyone knew what was happening, she'd knocked Alford's sword out of his hand and leapt up into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist and kissing him soundly.
"Hey!" Yuuri shouted, jaw dropping. "Stop molesting my daughter!"
"I think she's molesting Alford, Your Majesty," Conrad remarked dryly. A red-faced Alford was indeed trying to set Greta down, but she wasn't being very cooperative.
"It was perfect!" Greta exclaimed, dragging Alford over to the others. "Just like we practiced!"
"Practiced?" Wolfram enquired, raising an eyebrow. Greta stopped abruptly, and blushed just a little.
"Daddy," she said, still grinning, "you didn't really think I was just riding around aimlessly in the forest all those afternoons, did you?"
"And just what did you have to do with all this?" Conrad asked a suspiciously cheerful Murata.
"Whoa whoa whoa!" Yuuri exclaimed, waving his hands. "You were doing what with Alford in the forest?!"
"It's so romantic!" Celi gushed, making Gwendal purse his lips. Gunter looked horrified and shrilled that he knew, he just knew a girl her age needed a chaperone!
"I may," Murata admitted, making everyone else fall silent, "have had a little to do with it."
"A little!" Greta laughed. "He came up with the whole thing after Daddy told him about his 'plan' to keep me away from boys. We asked Alford to help train me in secret during the banquet, but then after a while…" Greta trailed off and reached to squeeze Alford's hand. Alford blushed harder.
"You were conspiring against me the whole time!" Yuuri exclaimed, pointing at the Sage.
"Conspiring is such an ugly word," Murata answered reasonably. "I prefer to call it planning ahead."
"Told you Murata was behind the whole thing!" Yozak said smugly as Conrad handed over a few coins. "Yozak wins again!"
"Kick a miles down!" shouted Arielle, clapping her hands in glee.
"That," Yuuri said wearily as he stripped off his formal jacket, "was one hell of a birthday party. We don't ever have to do that again, right?"
"No," Wolfram's face was deadpan as he leaned his purple-bound book against his swollen belly, "of course not." Yuuri stuck his tongue out and reached over to snatch the hated book out of Wolfram's hands.
"I can't believe Greta's getting married," he grumbled, tossing the book aside and sitting down beside Wolfram.
"In six months, idiot." Wolfram poked Yuuri in the side. "You don't pull aristocratic weddings out of thin air, as you may recall."
"Vividly." Yuuri shuddered, remembering Celi backing him into corners with her hands full of fabric swatches and china patterns. "It just wasn't real until I made the announcement tonight, you know? She looked so happy…she'll be happy, right?"
"Yes, Yuuri." Wolfram let his hand flop back down to his stomach and rolled his eyes. "Man of her dreams and all that. Shame that seems to have skipped a generation."
"Hey!" Yuuri protested. "I'm completely the man of your dreams!"
"Of course you are," Wolfram soothed, a smile twitching at the corner of his mouth. He reached for Yuuri's hand and tugged him down to lay against his side. "When I was a little boy I always dreamed of marrying the low-class, bleeding heart, human Maou."
"You forgot to mention my rugged good looks and piercing dark eyes," Yuuri grumbled, shifting around until he could press a kiss to Wolfram's stomach. Wolfram chuckled, his hand resting warmly on Yuuri's hip. Yuuri's attempt at a return smile was a bit pathetic. "It'll be quiet around here without Greta."
"Are you kidding me?" Wolfram snorted. "Listen, if you think it's too quiet living in the same castle as my mother and my brothers, and Gunter, and that damned Sage, with Kohi and shrine maidens and dragons trooping in and out all the time, I'm sure," Wolfram patted his stomach with a sharp smile, "we can find something to keep you occupied."
"Hmm." That sure put a silly smile on Yuuri's face, and Wolfram had an inkling that he might have just suggested something he'd regret later. "We don't want this one to be an only child, after all, he might turned out a spoiled brat like you…" Yuuri laughed as Wolfram swatted the back of his head, then settled his cheek against Wolfram's stomach and addressed the bump affectionately. "Of course, you'll grow up a lot slower, so you'll be my baby for a long long time."
"Why don't you do something useful down there," Wolfram's sharp tone was flatly contradicted by his smile, "and tell your kid to settle down. My kidneys are never going to be the same."
"You aren't too old for bedtime stories, are you?" Yuuri murmured, his eyes closing halfway as he felt flutters of movement against his cheek. "Once upon a time, there was a princess whose daddies loved her very, very much…"