A man's pained wails echoed into the plains, coming from a nearby forest.
Screaming, of course, was not uncommon in the midst of a skirmish, and it was generally hard to even discern one shout from another. Yet these particular sounds originated away from the fighting, piquing Sakura's interest and concern.
Initially, the young Hoshidan princess had been dutifully following her siblings and retainers at a safe distance, knowing that she shouldn't get too closely involved in the fray of the battle. Hearing the cries of a man in pain made her veer from her path, though, and without much thought she was soon breaking off from the main army to investigate.
After walking almost fifty yards through the trees, following a trail of blood, she finally found the source of the noise. It was a Nohrian soldier whose stomach was cut wide open, the wound likely inflicted from the sword of a samurai. Sakura could tell immediately that the injury was fatal, since the penetration of the blade had damaged multiple organs beyond repair, and she was surprised he'd even managed to drag himself this far.
Regardless, she readied her healing rod. She knew that her siblings would scold her for attempting to heal a Nohrian - Takumi in particular - but it just wasn't in her nature to let anyone suffer when there was something she could do to help.
It was all in vain, though, as she'd predicted. No rods nor healing incantations would help this man.
She kept trying, but the result remained the same. Despite her best efforts, the Nohrian did not seem to have much time left in this world.
"It hurts," the man whimpered, his eyes opened but unseeing. He sounded so small and afraid, and that was enough to make Sakura's heart break for him. "Oh, gods, please help me! Mother, help me!" he cried out, panicked.
"Shhh," Sakura soothed, taking one of the man's hands in hers and holding it firmly. "It's okay now. Don't b-be afraid. M-mother's here," she then told him.
Sadly, this wasn't the first time she'd pretended to be a dying soldier's mother, and it likely wouldn't be the last. Many of the wounded that she'd attended to had called out to their mothers with their dying breaths. To Sakura, though, being a good healer didn't just mean healing those who could be saved - it also meant comforting those who couldn't be.
At the very least, she'd always wished that she could quell her anxious stutter when talking to someone in their final moments. The Nohrian didn't seem to mind or notice, though. At her words, he quickly calmed and even smiled. "Yes… Mother," he responded. But then his hand went limp and slipped out of her fingers, and Sakura knew that he was gone.
A familiar pain rippled through her as she watched yet another young soldier die. Even though this man was Nohrian, it didn't lessen the sadness. After all, if both Hoshidans and Nohrians sought comfort from their mothers in their dying moments, how different could they ultimately be from each other?
"Sweet dreams," she told the dead man while gently brushing his eyelids closed with her hand. She resolved to add him to her prayers that night in the hopes of easing his journey to the next life.
Standing up, she brushed the dirt off of her dress and grabbed her Sun Festal. Right when she was about to leave and return to the battlefield - as she was sure that her siblings and retainers would be worried about her by now - she heard a branch crackling from a few yards away. Looking up sharply, she saw a young man, maybe two or three years older than her, watching her with interest.
Fear instantly seized Sakura as she identified the man to be Nohrian. In fact, she recognized him by his black, purple, and gold armor, as well as his blond hair. This was one of Corrin's brothers, a prince of Nohr.
Sakura couldn't stop herself from trembling under his gaze. He looked so stern and serious, although there was a hint of curiosity lighting up his eyes.
The two stood in silence for a while, just looking at each other. Clutching her rod tightly, Sakura waited for him to speak. She shifted her gaze to the ground, no longer able to stand his intimidating glare.
"That man," the prince stated, finally breaking the silence. "He is Nohrian."
"Y-yes," Sakura nodded, still avoiding eye contact.
"I saw you try to heal him, and then comfort him as he died. Why would you do that?" he finally asked.
At this, she looked up at him. "I'm a h-healer," she said simply, and from the exasperated look on the prince's face, this wasn't the right answer.
"Surely, you can't be this dense?" he wondered. "That man was your enemy, and probably wouldn't have hesitated to run that lance of his right through you had he not been dying. So, I ask you again - why?"
Sakura shrugged. "I g-guess it just seemed like the right thing to do," she responded.
The prince raised his eyebrow at that and then smirked, letting out a slight chuckle. "I see. You remind me of my brother."
His words cut her, and Sakura quickly looked away, biting her lip. She wondered if he was referring to Corrin, her brother. The brother that had chosen to side with Nohr against his Hoshidan siblings, against his true family. The brother that she'd spent her entire life wanting to know and love. The brother that her mother had died to protect, and yet, he'd still chosen to side with Nohr.
If she had been looking at the young prince, she would have seen his confusion over her visceral reaction. Soon, though, realization dawned on him. "Ah, I recognize you now. You're one of the Hoshidan princesses... Princess Sakura."
Sakura looked back up at him, unable to hide the raw pain from showing on her features. "That's r-right. So if you plan to kill me… just g-get it over with," she told him. Sakura had never been brave, but all of her sadness and anger in that moment, brought on by thoughts of her brother, was fueling her courage.
The Nohrian prince looked a bit taken aback. He waited a few moments while he contemplated his options. To Sakura, he seemed like the type of person that always considered his next move carefully... not at all like her brother, Takumi, who was similar in age to the young prince, but always acted brashly.
“I won’t kill you, of course,” he finally said with a sigh. “I probably should incapacitate you, or at least capture you. Not only are you a princess of Hoshido, you’re also a healer, and having you treat our enemies will only make things more difficult for Nohr. Yet, Corrin would never forgive me if I did you any undue harm. And, as for capturing you… consider my letting you go as a repayment for a debt owed.” he said, nodding over to the dead man. “But... I suggest you go quickly before I change my mind.”
There could be no doubt that this was meant as a warning. Sakura could tell by the way that his eyes suddenly turned dangerous. She nodded at him in response, signaling that she understood, but she made no move to leave. It made no sense for him to let her go, and they both knew it. Was the young Nohrian prince perhaps not as cold and calculating as she’d originally thought?
She watched as he turned around and muttered something to himself. She couldn't quite make out what he was saying, but heard the words "Corrin" and "going soft." She saw him scan the area quickly, and then turn back to face her.
"I don't suppose you've seen a horse anywhere nearby?" he asked tiredly. "My steed got skittish during the battle and bucked me off. She then ran somewhere in this direction."
Sakura shook her head. "A-are… are you hurt?" she inquired.
He smirked at her. "I don't need healing, if that's what you're asking. Unless that thing can do something for my bruised pride?" he asked rhetorically, nodding toward her Sun Festal.
She shook her head again, her eyes wide, and the young prince chuckled. "I thought so. In that case, I better go find my horse before this battle ends without me."
He bowed slightly toward her to acknowledge his leave, and then started walking away.
"W-wait!" she cried out, surprising herself and him. He turned around again, this time with his right eyebrow arched in question. "May I have your n-name?" Sakura asked, her cheeks tinting red at her forwardness.
With that, he smiled at her, making him look much kinder than his stern face or haughty smirk usually afforded. "It's Leo," he told her.
"P-Prince Leo," Sakura said with a curtsy. "Th-thank you for your kindness."
He turned away from her and scoffed, but before he could comment, a loud noise erupted throughout the woods. Within seconds the ground between them started to disappear, turning into some kind of strange, purple air. As this air replaced the area under Leo's feet, he fell into the newly-formed abyss with a surprised and startled look on his face. Sakura screamed, but before she could run for help, she found herself falling in as well.
Soon after, the purple mist closed up and the ground reappeared, leaving no sign of the two royals that had been standing there only moments earlier.