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Beloved Older Sister

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No one ever just visited the Tea Ceremony club room.

The club, and by extension, its room, was infamous in the Krakenburg Education Institution. Just next to the cafeteria, the empty room would be a perfect spot to spend your lunch in solitude... if it weren’t for the strict entry regulations. A pair of rough-looking girls guarded the door during school hours, throwing out anyone and everyone who tried to sneak in. No one ever made it inside without an invite from the incredibly selective leader, Camilla. Invites were incredibly hard to come by, and no one could make a connection between those who received one. There was no one trait that unified the delinquents, the student council president, or the shy, intimidating bear of a guy that were known to have received an envelope.

It was a mystery how anyone was deemed worthy to receive an invitation.

Corrin was no exception, she still had no idea how she managed to attract the purple-haired girl’s attention in the first place. She had no special place in the brain-bending academics that Leo enjoyed, nor did she have a gift for leadership like the student council president, Xander. Perhaps, it was her similarity to Elise and her kindness that drew Camilla’s gaze to her.

Whatever it was, Corrin was endlessly grateful for both the chance to become friends with the older girl and her family, and the spare key to the club room, given to her by Elise as a token of friendship.

“Before I say anything, I need both of you to swear that, no matter what happens, the information I entrust to you will not leave this room,” Corrin ordered, staring both of the blondes down as she locked the door.

“Of course!” Elise promised immediately, even crossing her heart and lifting her left palm into the air. “Not a word outta me!”

“Surely you can’t be that ashamed of your math grade?” Leo asked, eyebrow quirking at Corrin’s caution. The albino flushed, before shaking her head furiously.

“I-It’s not about math! I just need both of your strengths!” Corrin declared, before pointing at the younger girl. “Elise, you’re good at empathizing with people. Understanding them and their motivations and everything. I need that.” She turned to look up at Leo. “While, Leo, you’re good at strategizing and figuring out how to get the best possible outcome. Minimum losses, maximum reward. I need that too. I need both of you for this problem.”

Leo nodded slowly. “Alright. What sort of problem is it?”

“It’s a long story, and a bit complicated…” Corrin sighed, before gesturing at the tables. “I can get you some snacks and make some tea so you aren’t bored by it.”

“Oh, oh, let me help!” Elise hopped around excitedly, already moving towards the spare closet they kept the china and the tablecloths. “I can set the tables!”

“You don’t know the proper method,” Her older brother stated. “You can’t just set it up like a dinner table.”

“Then I’m gonna need your help, Leo! Show me your super smart etiquette training stuff!”

Corrin laughed, before heading to the cafeteria to set up the kettle and grab a few cookies.


 Elise nibbled on a biscuit with a huge grin on her face. Corrin had gotten her absolute favourite, chocolate-vanilla swirl cookies! Or whatever the real name was. Elise liked her name for them better.

Leo was drinking tea, looking all poised and regal and fancy-looking. He even stuck his pinky out!

All in all, it would have been perfect tea party material, if it weren’t for the way Corrin stared into the depths of her teacup without touching it, and kept sighing and frowning. Seeing Corrin frown was enough to make Elise stop smiling.

Elise hated seeing her friend sad! So she swallowed her cookie really really fast and poked Corrin’s nose!

“What did you want to talk about, Corrin?” Elise asked sweetly, hoping her good mood would make Corrin happy, just a little bit.

Unfortunately, Corrin’s smile just then wasn’t a real, happy smile. It was the smile people gave her when they didn’t want Elise to know they had just been crying or screaming. That was the smile people gave when they were troubled but didn’t want to show it.

Leo seemed to pick up on it too, with his, “Out with it. I won’t tolerate having my time wasted, not even by you, Corrin.”

Corrin chuckled, before sighing again.

“Alright. It happened a while ago. I was screaming, ‘no, no, please, I’ll do anything, just don’t take me there’ to-”

“You were being threatened?!” Both siblings demanded in unison. Corrin waved her hands about frantically.

“No! I know it sounds like that, but-!”

“Ryoma, please! There’s no way I can go in there! They’ll drug me and stab holes in my teeth!”

“Corrin, if someone punched you in the mouth, they’d end up with a fist full of cuts! You need to let the dentist file down your teeth, before you bite a hole in your tongue!”

“No, no, please, I’ll do anything! Just don’t take me there!”


 “You’re afraid of the dentist?” Elise gasped.

Corrin turned away, red with shame, a hand pressed over her mouth.

“You would be too, if they used a grinding wheel on your teeth…” Corrin mumbled.

“I have a feeling there’s more to the story than that, though,” Leo noted.

Corrin chuckled nervously, the hand over her mouth moving to rub the back of her neck.

“Well, uh, you know how you guys thought I was being threatened? Haha… Camilla thought so too. She also… had a very… unique way of dealing with it.”

“What did she do?!” Elise asked with wide eyes and a wider mouth.

“She, er…. She… might have started running towards us from at least six buildings away-jumped-on-top-of-a-fire-hydrant-to-flip-off-it-then-land-in-front-of-us-and-” Corrin paused to breathe, “Ahahaha… um, she… might have… kind of jumped at him and er…”

“And er?” Leo prompted.

“She kicked him in the sacred orbs!” Corrin blurted out, before covering her face with her hands out of shame.

“HOW DARE YOU TOUCH HER! I’LL DESTROY YOU WHERE YOU STAND!”


“She absolutely pummeled him,” Corrin stated, noticing how Leo and Elise’s chests swelled with pride. “She beat my older brother into unconsciousness.”

“Older… brother?” Elise echoed, eyes widening.

“Oh. That must be…” Leo searched for a word, wincing when he found none suitable for the occasion.

Corrin groaned. “It kind of got worse. See, my little sister was coming home from first-aid training! So she was there with a first-aid kit!”


 


“SAKURA WE NEED YOU PLEASE HELP!”


“That’s good!” Elise exclaimed.

“And Camilla helped,” Corrin added with a dark expression.

“And?” Leo sipped at his tea.

“Ryoma woke up, and they all talked.” Corrin sucked in a breath and slowly let it out, massaging her temples with one hand.


“I must know, how did you get that strong? You could down a grown man with one strike!”

Camilla chuckled before uttering a soft, “I suppose that’s what happens when there’s a threat to the ones I love, though I must apologize again for attacking you, sir.”

“It’s understandable, I’m aware of how the situation could have seemed to an outsider,” Ryoma said as Camilla tied up his broken arm. “Though, I’d prefer it if I wasn’t called a sir. I am only seventeen.”

Before Camilla could react to that (shocking) piece of information, Sakura piped up.

“W-wow… you’re really good at making slings… we just learned this in class, but you’re a-as good as our teachers…!” Sakura gasped, watching Camilla work.

“Oh, so you’re learning how to perform first-aid?” Camilla ruffled Sakura’s hair, making a blush appear on the younger girl’s face. Sakura nodded shyly. “That’s wonderful. My little sister is doing the same thing. Maybe in the future, I’ll go to the two of you for any scrapes or bruises I get.”

“I-I-I, okay!” Sakura stammered more than usual, completely enthralled by Camilla’s voice, words, and… pretty much everything.

“You are.. A kind woman, and noble too, judging from how you immediately jumped in to defend a friend,” Ryoma admitted, his cheeks… a little red? “It’s admirable.”

Corrin was pretty sure she sounded like a dying animal in that moment, but her siblings were paying too much attention to Camilla to notice.


 

“They both interrogated me after. Who was she, her name, her hobbies and interests and school and if she was dating anyone,” Corrin stated solemnly. “Sakura spent the next three hours researching what it would take to open a clinic and blushing whenever anyone asked why. Ryoma told Takumi and Hinoka that he got his injuries from a heroine of beauty and justice. They thought he was loopy on pain medication.”

“They’re both in love with her?!” Elise demanded. Leo, on the other hand, was at a complete loss for words.

“And I don’t know what to do!” Corrin wailed, despair in her eyes. “You know what the worst thing is, though?”

Leo’s expression would best be described as a mix between ‘it can get WORSE?’ and ‘well at least I’m not directly involved.’

“They go to Shirasagi High.”

The half-eaten cookie dropped to the table.

“Our biggest, meanest, jerkiest, super determined rivals?!”

“The ones who vandalized our school sign to call us scum.” Leo’s eyes narrowed with disdain.

“That… that was my little brother,” Corrin admitted sheepishly. “They… they take this rivalry thing very seriously.”

“They can’t take it more seriously than Xander, right?” Elise wondered. Xander had actually stood up and taken a break (practically unheard of!) from his duties as student council president, all to encourage the girls’ volleyball team to beat Shirasagi’s in their match.

“Hinoka is the captain of the girls’ volleyball team.”

“Hold on. Is Ryoma, by any chance, the captain of Shirasagi’s kendo team?” Leo inquired, familiarity hitting him.

Corrin gulped and nodded.

“And Takumi, Takumi…” Elise paused to think, before brightening when she realized it. “That’s the archery guy, isn’t he?! The one who sometimes goes up against Leo in chess!”

Corrin nodded again.

“And Sakura…?” Leo couldn’t quite remember any achievements linked to that name, unlike the others.

Nervous chuckles emerged from Corrin’s lips. “Elise, you remember that girl you declared to be your rival after her mochi beat your cupcakes in the baking competition?”

The light left Elise’s eyes as she felt a snarl come on her lips. Corrin didn’t notice as she went on.

“Well, the ace of the school and his little sister are in love with Camilla, and none of them know that they consider each other rivals. They’re also determined to dig up any information they can on her, for which they use me, their innocent sister who doesn’t deserve any of this. Any ideas?”

Elise and Leo exchanged a glance, managing to construct a plan in a split-second, communicating in a way only long-time siblings could.

“Their little crushes on Camilla are harmless,” Leo declared. “After all, they go to different schools. They would only meet if you introduced them formally, or if they met at another competition.”

Corrin brightened at the words, a hesitant smile on her face.

“Yeah, all you really gotta do is wait it out!” Elise exclaimed excitedly. “Give them honest answers, maybe leave out that she’s from Krakenburg, but tell them what you can about her!”

“So, nothing needs to be done?”

“It’s not as if you can stop them from admiring her,” Leo said wisely. “Simply humor them until they forget she existed.”

Corrin mulled over it for a few moments, before beaming at her friends.

“You’re right. Thank you two so much for your help.” Corrin stood to give both of her friends a huge hug.

“Hehehe, no problem!” Elise hugged back, while Leo begrudgingly allowed the contact to happen. “We’re happy to help!”

“Yes, you can come to us with any problem. No matter how strange or impossible, we’ll do our best to help.”

“You’re the best.”

Corrin was, at the time, completely unaware of what was going through the siblings’ minds.

One had to wonder if she would still call them the best if she knew what they were planning.

‘Crushes can be a total distraction! If my ultimate rival has one, then, then, then, it’s only a matter of time before I can TOTALLY CRUSH her!’

‘Having the eldest, and apparently leader, incapacitated will kill morale and his effectiveness on the field. While unconventional, in a war, one must take advantage of any resource they can get their hands on.’

Well, obliviousness was bliss, right?

Chapter Text

Camilla had been sympathetic when Xander walked in on a tea party and flatout collapsed on the couch. She patted his back, set aside some tea and snacks for him, laid a blanket over him, and cooed over how ‘you’ve been working so hard, darling, take a break, you deserve it’.

Corrin was oblivious to it at the time, but when she looked back at the memory, she really, really, really wondered, if the purple-haired woman knew that she was (technically) the source of at least half of Xander’s stress that day.


 Two days before

Corrin wasn't sure what to expect when Leo pulled her into the empty library after school to hand her a pack of papers. Maybe some work from the student council, everyone knew Xander needed the extra hands with whatever big event was going on next. Or homework, if she fell asleep again and didn't notice. Or maybe just study notes, since she's abysmal in anything related to-

"Wait, what the-?! Birthday, hobbies, favourite food, dislikes?!" Corrin half-screamed, half-skimmed over the words. "What is this?!"

"A profile for Camilla," Leo answered casually, as if that were a perfectly normal thing to have and give to people. "I've worked on it with Elise to ensure that the answers are as accurate as possible. Elise also volunteered to help you act out the part."

“I-I see?” Corrin nodded along.

“So that you’re prepared for any question they might have.”

“I...I, alright…?”

“I expect you to have read and memorized the entire thing by this time tomorrow,” Leo stated.

“I have homework,” Corrin realized dejectedly. “I don’t have time.”

“Then bring your homework here, I’ll help you.” Leo glanced at her shellshocked expression, before smirking. “Unless you’d rather figure out Mr. Gunter’s lesson from what little of it you were awake for?.”

“No, no, I’ll take your help! Please, teach me everything!”

Corrin’s pleading face was so adorable that one just couldn’t say no to her. Not unless you were strong enough to withstand watching the glimmer of hope in those bright red eyes fracture and fade away, or how Corrin would look heartbroken yet resigned afterwards.

Leo might have been weak to that face, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t have fun teasing her.

“Hm, but teaching you an entire course in exchange for you reading a profile seems a bit one-sided, doesn’t it?” He mused.

“I-I’ll do anything! Anything at all!” Corrin promised. Leo could only be thankful Niles wasn’t there, Naga knew how he would interpret that. “I’ll get a basket of tomatoes! That new fantasy book!”

“While tempting, there’s nothing I want right now. So, let’s say that you owe me a favour,” Leo offered.

“Okay! Thanks, Leo!” Corrin beamed at him, and Leo couldn’t help but return her smile.


 Surprisingly enough, that evening, Hinoka was the one who wanted to most information on Camilla. Ryoma was ordered to rest and he couldn’t deny Sakura’s orders, Takumi was listening but pretending not to care about such things, and Sakura was satisfied with sketching for the moment.

"Does she do any sports or training?"

"She's good at horseback riding, soccer, and volleyball," Corrin answered easily, recalling the packet's suggestions.

"And how does she treat you?" Hinoka narrowed her eyes. "No... strange interests, or anything?"

"She's really nice. She treats everyone like they're her little brother or sister, and-"

"She's fire incarnate."

All the heads in the room turned towards Sakura.She  was kneeling before the coffee table, her pen paused in the moment.. Corrin's eyes widened at the drawing before her, a woman with hair as red as flames and a gentle smile.

"She's passionate and p-protective, hot enough t-to burn any who cross her. But she's a-also soft and warm and comforting, like a fireplace i-in the winter. And..." Sakura's cheeks became as red as the sketch's hair. "She's just as beautiful."

Takumi slapped his hand to his forehead and groaned, which was exactly what Corrin felt like doing.

Hinoka, on the other hand, looked like she wanted to kill someone.

“I can’t believe you two,” Hinoka announced. “I’m going to do some extra weightlifting.”

“More like you don’t want to listen to more of Sakura’s romantic poetry…” Takumi sighed. Sakura went through a haiku phase once, introduced to it by a friend of Hinoka’s… whatever you called Azama.

“I can’t watch this either… I need to, er,” Corrin fumbled for an excuse, she couldn’t say homework, with Leo’s help, she breezed through all of it-

Wait, Leo!

“I need to call a friend, be right back!” Corrin yelled, all but running from the room. “I’ll be talking with him all night, very, very private, please don’t interrupt!”

Takumi was baffled, while Sakura absentmindedly waved goodbye. And then Takumi groaned again.

“Oh no. Please don’t be another lovesick idiot!” Takumi pleaded with whatever ancient deity was available. “Naga, spare me…”


The divine dragons did not save Takumi. In fact, they only screwed him and Corrin over even more.

It started the next afternoon, with Hinoka finishing her workout a bit early. Normally, she would finish up at exactly 3:40, and head over to Krakenburg to pick up Corrin. But, without Setsuna and Azama around for Hinoka to babysit, Hinoka ended up completing the set in record time. It was almost depressing to realize how much time she wasted taking care of them.

An hour early didn’t make much of a difference, Hinoka decided as she started to walk. She could spend the time wandering around, maybe seeing if her rivals were practicing just as hard as she was.

Her experience with Krakenberg was limited and flooded with hostility. It was her uniform’s fault and she knew it. Just from the golden five-petaled flower embroidered on her jacket, people knew she was an enemy, know she was unwelcome, know that she shouldn’t be on their territory. From the moment she stepped past the gates, people start staring.

“What are one of those stuck-ups doing here?” A girl snarled.

“You’d think they’d be smart enough to make their spies less conspicuous,” Hinoka heard a white-haired guy tell his friend.

“Please say the others didn’t come too… It’d be a pain if another fight broke out…”

Hinoka ignored the glares and whispers that surrounded her as she walked. It didn’t matter what they said. She had some familiarity with the school’s layout from when they hosted competitions there. Past the cafeteria was the gym, where there were probably teams practicing…

And then she froze.

A door sat next to the cafeteria, a nameplate denoting it as the ‘Tea Ceremony room’ . That wasn’t important to Hinoka. The fact that there were two girls standing guard was strange, but not as strange as one of those girls. Bright red hair done up in long pigtails, arguing passionately with her stoic friend…

Hinoka’s eyes widened at a thought.

If… if those pigtails were undone, they would look like waves of flames.

She would look like the girl Sakura and Ryoma kept talking about.

A surge of protective instincts took over Hinoka as she stomped over. The two tensed as she approached, looking like they were almost ready for a fight.

“What are you doing here?” The other redhead sneered.

“None are permitted inside without an invitation,” The blue-haired girl stated flatly.

“I have some questions for you,” Hinoka grumbled, glaring at red pigtails and black ribbons.

The pair of guards exchanged a glance, before Hinoka’s opponent stepped forward.

“Fine, but make it quick. I won’t forgive you if you waste my time,” She snapped.

“Did you intend to seduce Sakura and Ryoma?”

Her brown eyes widened at the words.

Who?

“My big brother and little sister! Are you aware of their feelings or not?!” Hinoka demanded, taking a step forward instinctively.

“What- step off! First it’s Lucina, then it’s Noire, every single older sister in the area yells at me for trying to [CENSORED] their siblings! It’s so annoying! Why do you think I would even-”

Something in Hinoka (most likely her self-restraint) broke.

You make a habit out of seducing people’s siblings?” She hissed, grabbing the other redhead’s shoulders roughly. Her voice dropped down to an ominous whisper, declaring, “This is unforgivable.”

But before Hinoka could start yelling or growling about how dare you, was beating up Ryoma not enough, do you have to crush their hearts too, I’ll kill you-

The blue-haired girl punched her in the face.

Hinoka didn’t waste a second before retaliating, striking her back in the stomach. She felt a hand try to pull her back, and she punched that person too. Before she knew it, she was taking hits and lashing out blindly, trying to take down two girls at once. A confident smirk spread across her lips as she shoved the pigtailed girl into the door.

It didn’t matter if she had two opponents. For her family’s sake, she would win, no matter what.


“It’s getting rowdy out there…” Camilla noted, frowning in dissatisfaction as another crash shook the table, causing tea to spill onto the tablecloth.

“Must be someone trying to sneak past the guards,” Charlotte said, with no small amount of smugness in her tone. “After all, we’re an exclusive, high-class group. It’s hard to find someone who isn’t envious of us!”

“...they’re fighting awfully hard.” Benny sighed.

“Should I go and stop them?” Silas asked, looking to Camilla for guidance.

“No, you darlings just sit tight, I’ll take care of this.” Camilla gave them all a gentle smile, before a scream came from the other side of the door.

“P! Is for pulverize! E! Is for eviscerate! R! Is for ruin! I! Is for impale! I am Peri of the Student Council! For breaking the rule of not fighting on the school grounds, I'll break your bones!

“O-oh dear…” Camilla grabbed a spare tray and flung the door open. She immediately surveyed the situation.

Selena and Beruka were battered and bruised, along with a girl wearing the boy’s Shirasagi uniform. They were tired, exhausted even, but still they ran from the student council member, who kept swinging at anyone in her range, not just the offenders. Arthur was already nursing a nasty bump, the poor dear.

Camilla caught sight of someone stumbling, cursing as they fell to the floor. Peri cackled, raising the baseball bat high above her head. Camilla moved before she could think.

“Say goodbye to your brain!”

Peri swung down, only for her bat to make a dent in Camilla’s tea tray.

“Back off!” Camilla barked, tossing the busted tray aside. She took advantage of Peri’s shock to wrench the weapon out of her hands, holding it firmly at her side.

“What?! No! You can’t stop me, I was just getting to the good part!” Peri whined.

“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten what Xander told you, dear." Camilla’s smile was sweet, dangerously so as she turned to the girl behind her.

“Hold this, would you?” Camilla asked, handing the bat to the redhead. She seemed stunned, but still took it. “Thanks, darling.”

She turned back to Peri, a frown pulling at her lips.

“'Excessive violence is unacceptable and to be met with discipline’,” Camilla recalled Xander’s words. “I might not have Xander’s power, but I have a few ideas for a suitable punishment.”

“B-But she started it! I was punishing them!” Peri wailed. “It’s not fair to get mad at me! It’s not fair!”

“You attacked people who weren’t involved,” Camilla stated with a cold stare. “For that, you are banned from any room you might find a weapon.” She glanced at Beruka, who was struggling to stand. “And Beruka is in no shape for any fighting. You’ll have to wait for her to recover, since she’s the only one willing to fight you at all.”

She felt a sickly sweet smile appear on her lips as she dealt the final blow.

“And for attempting to attack the guards of my club, you are no longer welcome to join us.”

Peri ran off, wailing about the unfairness of life and how she hate-hate- hated Camilla and her stupid club. Camilla ignored her to turn back to the redhead.

“Thank you for your help, dearest,” Camilla said with a grin.

“You… saved me?” The gravelly voice gave her a start.

Camilla kept her smile on her face as she realized, oh , this wasn’t Selena, it was the Shirasagi girl.

“Well, of course, sweetie. It’d be a crime to let a face as cute as yours get scarred,” Teasing came as easily as breathing, and her little remark was rewarded with a bright red blush. “Need help getting up?”

“N-no, I’m fine!” The girl jumped to her feet, only to land on her toes more than her feet. She would have fallen over, if not for Camilla grabbing her by the biceps and steadying her. That only made the other girl’s face even redder.

“Careful. You wouldn’t want to fall for me, would you?”

A strangled yelp came out of her mouth, and Camilla chuckled. She patted the shorter girl on the head as she spoke.

“Just kidding, sweetheart. Stay here for a moment, I’ll fetch my friends and get you all to the infirmary.”

The short-haired girl nodded, seemingly in a daze, probably from all the injuries she had gotten.

Camilla didn’t notice how red the Shirasagi student, Hinoka, she said, had gotten when Camilla’s way of escorting them turned out to be holding them by the hands and having them trail behind her or all the hostile glares the girls shot each other behind her back.


“Peri’s been inconsolable, I’ve had to stop her from attacking random students ten times this morning…” Xander sighed. “And the paperwork for the merge, as well as making sure everyone is informed of keeping Peri away from the storage rooms and kitchen and…”

Camilla gave him another pat on the head.

“Another cup of tea?” Camilla asked, already pouring a cup.

Xander nodded, greedily gulping the drink down.

“Why did I not let her get expelled already?” Xander sighed once again.

“She does her paperwork neatly and makes good snacks,” Corrin reminded him.

“Surely there was some other reason I thought it was a good idea,” Xander said pleadingly.

“Laslow said something about a dead mom and you were so moved you immediately decided to add ‘ get Peri therapy’ and ‘protect Peri’ to your goals,” Corrin added.

“Ah, yes, that sounds right.” Xander nodded. “Remind me to kick him out of every single one of his clubs as soon as possible. We all know he only joined half of them to flirt.”

“He makes the best tea, though,” Camilla protested softly. “I would miss him terribly… And so would you.”

“I would not,” Xander declared.

“You like fencing with him,” Corrin pointed out. “Plus, he made the Benny Amendment.”

“I suppose he does do good work,” Xander conceded. “Sometimes.”

“So you'll reconsider kicking him out of the Tea Ceremony Club?” Camilla grinned.

“I’ll decide once I finish my cup,” Xander stated


 Corrin didn’t expect anything weird when she got home. True, Hinoka was silent throughout their walk home, but she had just gotten beaten up.

So the first question was, admittedly, a bit of a surprise. Corrin half-expected her sister to spend the entire walk moping.

“Corrin. You said you were in the Tea Ceremony club, right?”

“Uh, yeah, I am,” Corrin answered, almost wincing at how Hinoka’s cheeks turned a bit pink.

“And… do you know that lilac-haired girl? The one who protects the members?”

“Ahaha… yeah, she’s the leader!”

“You know her name?” Hinoka asked hopefully.

“S-she asks us to call her Big Sister!” Corrin screamed.

“Oh…” Hinoka looked dejected by that. “Could you tell her…” She turned away, cheeks even redder as she coughed into her fist. “Nevermind.”

“Big sister Hinoka…?”

“I’ll tell her myself, after I’m strong enough to return the favour.”

Corrin nodded along, even though, inwardly, she was about to scream.

“Hey, Corrin.”

“Ahaha, yeah…?”

“Does that Big Sister girl always call people things like dear and sweetie?”

Corrin plastered a smile on her face as she nodded. “Y-yeah, she’s really, really affectionate like that.”

“I see.” Hinoka frowned, almost looking disappointed. Corrin didn’t want to think about why.


“How am I supposed to tell her, ‘Hey, big sister, you know the girl you like, she’s the same one Ryoma and Sakura like’?!” Corrin almost sobbed into the phone.

Leo paused, before inquiring, “Are you sure this person is Camilla? Your sister seemed very vague about it.”

“She asked me about the Tea Ceremony club and the ‘lilac-haired girl’ who protected it. Protected it! Not even run it! She also wouldn’t stop asking, ‘hey, does that girl always call people things like sweetheart and dearest?’ There’s no way it’s not Camilla!” She let out a pitiful moan at a sudden thought. “Takumi is the only one who doesn’t like her. The only. One.

“That’s unfortunate.”

“What happened to the ‘devil’s own luck’?” Corrin bemoaned. “There’s no w-”

She was cut off by rapid knocking on the door.

“Someone’s at the door, got to go,” She declared.

“Alright,” Leo said patiently, right before she hung up.

She stepped over, opening the door to find a frantic Takumi.

“What’s going on?”

“Hell.”

Without another word, Takumi guided Corrin down the stairs, though he stepped them before they were all the way down. Instead, they were crouching near the middle of the steps, peeking at an… animated discussion in the living room.

“Camilla is a woman who makes a living off of seducing little siblings! You shouldn’t get involved with someone like that!”

“I doubt that, Hinoka. I met her myself, and she was noble-”

“She beat you up!”

“T-to protect Corrin!”

“No matter how you think of it, that’s suspicious!”

“She was beautiful and b-brave and wonderful!”

“Along with righteous and kind.”

“You’ve let her looks blind you to the truth!”

A nervous smile appeared on Corrin’s face.

“How… how about we just spend the night playing games or something?” Corrin offered.

Takumi let out a sigh of relief. “Don’t complain when I beat you at fighting games.”

“I should be the one saying that,” Corrin shot back as she started ascending the steps.

“Yeah right! As if you could win against me!” Takumi followed after her, a smile on both of their faces.

Chapter Text

Charlotte gritted her teeth together, furiously tapping out her words.

[BENNY I SWEAR TO FUCKING NAGA IF YOU ARE LATE I WILL DESTROY YOU AND EVERYTHING YOU HOLD DEAR THIS IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DAYS OF OUR LIVES AND I WONT EVER FORGIVE YOU IF YOU WUSS OUT]

Seriously! She was already at the competition grounds, and where was he?! Nowhere to be seen! And Charlotte would see him, considering he was almost twice her height and built like a bear! Even if he was hiding behind a tree, Charlotte would see h-

Her phone displayed a new message, but it wasn’t an apology like she expected.

[Who are you, how did you get this address, and why does it sound like you’re planning something illegal.]

Charlotte’s eyes narrowed.

Instead of ‘numberonebearlover’ , she had written her message to ‘numberoneabouttokillyou’ . What kind of edgy email was that?

Regardless, she still threatened some stranger to physical harm, so she wrote a message in return.

[sorry! meant to send this to my friend, benny, he’s late for the track and field competition!]

[And this is so important that you threaten him with bodily harm because…]

[because theres a cash reward, obviously. I need him here so we can get as much as possible for food, heating, and extra stuff for family. And me, since i deserve pampering after all the work i do]

[So you’re married with a job, I take it.]

Charlotte would have spat out her drink, if she were drinking something.

[WHAT GAVE YOU THAT IMPRESSION??? IM IN HIGH SCHOOL. BENNY IS MY BEST FRIEND AND WE WORK TOGETHER SO OUR FAMILIES HAVE FOOD TO EAT. GOOD FOOD TOO, NOT THAT INSTANT NOODLES SHIT]

[Don’t insult instant noodles in front of me.]

[not like you can do anything to stop me] She grinned as she typed out the words, before hearing her name being called.

“Benny! Finally! I thought you weren’t gonna show up!” She called out as her friend ran up to her.

“Sorry,” Benny exhaled, before trying to recover his breath. “Bus was delayed.”

“At least you’re on time. The competitions haven’t started yet,” Charlotte noted as she typed one last message.

“Yeah. Ready to go?”

“Just a sec.”

[benny’s here, gtg kick ass now]

“Ready.” She stood up with a smile on her face.

Chapter Text

Corrin gulped.

She knew she was doomed, from the moment her mom turned to her from across the dining table and asked, ‘What about you, Corrin, how are your friends doing?’

Sure, she tried to delay the inevitable. Corrin mentioned everything from how Leo helped her with her homework ( “What a kind boy, would you like to bring him home one day?” ), how Keaton had brought another bug to class and Laslow freaked out and threw a desk at it ( “A-another bug…? How many t-times did that happen?!” ), how Silas had started working with his mother ( “He’s working towards his dream. I can respect that.” ), to how Benny had actually managed to befriend a bear (“Is Krakenberg a zoo?! No, don’t answer that, it’s obvious from the animals in the classrooms.” ) but it wasn’t enough.

And with a tired sigh, Corrin let loose the words Ryoma and Sakura were hoping to hear.

“And Camilla’s still doting on her siblings everyday, and me.”

“H-how many siblings?” Sakura asked.

“Four,” Corrin answered without thinking.

“Interesting. Do you know…” Ryoma hesitated, which was never a good sign. “...what interests her?”

“Uh, steak? And candy. And clothes.”

“No, not like that. Though it's good information to have.” Ryoma’s cheeks were turning as red as his hoodie. “What interests her in… people.”

Mom giggled at the sight, whispering something to her husband about Ryoma’s crush. Takumi groaned, Hinoka twitched impatiently, Sakura was waiting eagerly, and Corrin felt like crushing her food with her forehead.

“Strong people,” She said after a pause, her plastered-on smile faltering when she noticed how Ryoma perked up and how Sakura frowned. “And cute people.” Ryoma’s grin wavered, and Sakura looked hopeful. “But most of all, strong and cute people.”

Then they both looked dejected.

“Enough about that serial-sister seducer,” Hinoka grumbled. “How are you doing in the Tea Ceremony club?”

“Our leader is-” Corrin paused, tensing as Hinoka’s gaze immediately intensified immensely. She pulled her smile up again, cheerily saying, “-thinking of ordering new teacups!”

“She… she likes that sort of stuff?” Hinoka asked.

“Big Sister likes pretty things,” Corrin stated. Hinoka’s brows furrowed, and Corrin could almost see the failed attempts at applying makeup and smell the scorch marks on the bathroom sink. She hastily added, “B-but, what she likes most is strong women!”

Hinoka cracked a smirk at that.

“On the subject of-”

“Can we talk about something other than girls?” Takumi interjected. Corrin shot him a grateful, almost-teary smile, and he scoffed and rolled his eyes. “ Anything else?”

“Yeah, how was your day, Takumi?” Corrin asked eagerly, beaming at her brother.

“Pretty okay,” Takumi answered simply. “I need more work on my archery, though. I missed a target today…” His expression immediately darkened at the thought of his talents diminishing.

Mom laughed gently. “Takumi, dearest, you’re plenty skilled. One miss isn’t enough to ruin the value of all the bullseyes you hit.”

“Yeah, you’re really good! I’m glad to have a little brother that’s so talented!” Corrin piped up.

“He never fails to make us proud.” Ryoma nodded.

Takumi let out a squawk, his face bright red.

“There, there, big brother…” Sakura patted his shoulder.

“You know it’s because we love you, right?” Hinoka grinned at him.

Dad followed the conversation with a twinkle in his eyes, the small smile on his face a sign of his approval.

Takumi didn’t see it, though, because his face was pressed against the table in an attempt to hide his embarrassment.


 

“Letting you and Elise play with my hair is a favour?” Corrin asked, amusement in her eyes as she felt Elise pull strands into a loose braid.

“It gets Elise off my back, so yes, it does,” Leo retorted, running his fingers through Corrin’s hair to find knots and tangles.

“You say that, but I know you wanna make Corrin just as pretty as I do!” Elise grinned. “But seriously, use a brush! You’re so slow when you use your fingers! I want to braid that side already!”

“He’s just doing it to make this last longer than it needs to,” Corrin stated. “Probably thinks it’s funny. Joke’s on you, Leo, I’m enjoying this.”

“You’re an odd one. Wouldn’t most people be screaming and crying at the thought of such horrific treatment?” Leo asked exaggeratedly.

“I guess I’m braver than most!” Corrin declared, and Elise started giggling madly.

“Like Leo could hurt a fly! He’s too much of a softie to hurt anyone!”

“Elise, stop slandering me!” Leo protested.

“Can’t be slander if it’s true,” Corrin retorted.

“Yeah, listen to Big Sis! She obviously knows everything there is to know!” Elise exclaimed.

“Then why is she horrible in math?”

“Obviously it’s because math is terrible and awful and no one likes it,” Corrin huffed.

“Except Leo,” Elise added.

“Except Leo,” Corrin agreed.

“Why are you two teaming up to belittle me?!” Leo demanded.

“Now, now, dear,” A new voice cooed, and the trio turned to see Camilla in the doorway. “It’s just a bit of fun, isn’t it?”

“Big sister! Want to help us turn Corrin into a princess?!” Elise offered, a huge grin on her face.

“What do you think I came here for?” Camilla asked, a grin on her face as she revealed a dress from behind her back. Leo rolled his eyes, before releasing Corrin’s hair and moving away.

“And where do you think you’re going?” Corrin wondered with an amused smile.

Someone has to stop Camilla from going overboard, and it’s not going to be me,” Leo retorted. “Besides, Xander needs a break, anyways. He spent the night writing and essay and the morning doing paperwork.”

Contrary to Leo’s expectations, Xander did not stop their sisters. Instead, with a rather wry grin, he piled textbooks on top of Corrin’s head, saying it was to help her “royal posture”.

It was thoroughly ridiculous, yet they all enjoyed it in their own way.


The rest of the day's events were Hinoka’s fault entirely. Had she kept to her daily routine, the situation would be awkward, but not lead to anything worthwhile. She would get one conversation with the object of her affections, and only one. Hinoka and Ryoma and Sakura would keep pining, of course, but with zero interaction with their crush at all, their love would fade away with time. They would remember their amorous inclinations as nothing more than a folly of youth, and go on with their lives.

But, obviously, that didn't happen. We wouldn't have much of a story left if it did.

What actually happened was Hinoka deciding to train longer, with hopes of impressing a certain someone with her strength. Realizing that her deviation from routine meant that she couldn't pick Corrin up, she asked her little brother to do it instead.

Takumi grumbled and griped and groaned, but he did it anyways. Only because Hinoka would get mad and annoy him if he didn't, not because he enjoyed helping his sisters or anything. It's not like he went over early, realized he looked weird just waiting by the doors, and then went to wait by the gates. Takumi just hated being around so many rivals and stayed as far as possible. With his arms crossed and his face dour, he waited for Corrin to show, glancing through the crowd every so often to spot her white hair.

He just didn't expect Corrin's hair to be done in a complicated bun, braids looping around her head. Or for her to be wearing anything but the dark and ugly Krakenberg uniform, let alone a mint-green dress that fell past her knees, covered in frills and lace and a ribbon at her neck. Or a bunch of people following after her, still in their uniforms. It seemed more like he was staring at a rich socialite and her bodyguards, rather than his sister and her friends.

Needless to say, Takumi was pretty shocked. His eyes flitted from Corrin's hair, to her dress, to the blonde trio in the back, to the out-of-place purple-haired girl next to Corrin, then back to Corrin herself.

It must have showed on his face, since instead of a cordial greeting, the first words out of Corrin's mouth were, “Takumi, are you okay?”

And yeah, he was in the process of doubting his eyes, but his ears had yet to betray him. So when Corrin's hesitant, quiet voice reached his ears, he knew he had to answer. It was a law of conversation, when someone addressed you, you replied, since it would be rude otherwise. And Takumi knew the laws of conversation, so he did.

“What the [CENSORED] are you wearing? You look like a giant watermelon.”

Of course, he knew the laws of conversation, but that didn't mean he was any good at it.

Thankfully, his sister had spent enough time around him to just laugh it off. Un-thankfully, her entourage had not spent that time around him.

The purple-haired girl growled, visibly bristling at Takumi’s words. The blonde boys glared at him, their eyes narrowing to slits. The little blonde girl tried to mimic that expression, but looked more like she was pouting at him. But before they could do anything to act on their aggression, Corrin held out a hand.

“It's okay, it's okay!” She exclaimed. “He’s just teasing his big sister! Takumi's weird like that!”

Corrin chuckled awkwardly, and in that split second, everything started to go to [CENSORED]

Takumi noticed right away how the guy he beat in chess flinched. The smallest girl’s jaw dropped and her eyes widened as she let out an audible gasp. He took a bit longer to notice how the older boy’s face soured, as if someone had just told him his favourite character died if you chose the wrong path in a game.

What Takumi didn't notice, however, was the look of quiet wonder on the purple-haired girl’s face. Had he noticed, he would have assumed that someone had told her the best news in her life and she was waiting for it to sink in.

But he didn't. So he, like everyone else, was completely blindsided by the sudden ear-splitting squeal that ripped through the air just then.

The reason behind the screaming was clear enough, once you uncovered your ears long enough to decipher her babbling. Which meant no one knew at all.

“Corrin is my unofficial little sister so if she has a little brother it’ll be like when Leo joined the family or Elise or Azura or even Corrin!!! A new little brother!!! It's official, welcome to the family!!!”

The next few seconds were a blur to Takumi. He felt fingers running through his hair, arms around his arm, and his cheek being pinched, all in seconds. And all set to nonstop chatter.

“Oh my gosh you're so cute and your hair is perfect for braiding and ribbons! You could fit so many ribbons and oh my, you're so strong!! So hard-working, so athletic!!! You're wonderful, darling, ah, I've been blessed with an incredible addition to my family!!”

Naturally, actions garnered reactions. Corrin's reaction was a gaping mouth and a twitching eye, while the tallest boy only looked exasperated. The reedy little bookworm was stifling laughter, while the pigtailed girl wasn't even trying to hold back her booming cackle.

And Takumi?

WAAAAAAAARGH! GET OFF ME! WHAT ARE YOU, A SHAMELESS IDIOT?!”

“Nope~! I'm your new older sister! ⭐️”


 

“What. Was. That, ” Takumi demanded, still winded and flushed from their hasty escape.

“Big Sister likes you?” Corrin offered with an uncertain smile.

“If that's what she does to people she likes , then I'm glad I'm not her enemy!”

“Then why did you call her an enemy? Right to her face, too.” Corrin repeated his words, trying to sound like him too. Didn't work much, she sounded like a bad puma impression, but she tried. “‘We're rivals! Enemies! Don't you care about the competition between our schools at all?!’”

“I so do not sound like that,” Takumi grumbled, “And I just wanted her off me! How was I supposed to know she would go ‘my little sister goes to Shiraragi too, I could never think of her as an enemy and you are just the same way!’ Urgh.”

“Your impression is even worse than mine,” Corrin noted. “You aren't even close to her voice.”

“I wasn't even trying!” Takumi protested. “If I actually tried, I would do much better than you!”

“No way! I don't believe it!”

“Are you doubting me?!”

“No, but no one can outdo me! My Takumi impression is pitch-perfect!”

“Try ‘worse than a dying parrot’ !”

“Is that any way to treat your big sister?!”

“If anything, I'm the bigger one! I don't see Mom asking you to reach the top shelf!”

“I’ll get taller! Until then height jabs are a low blow!” Corrin screamed.

“Low blows are the only way someone can hit you!” Takumi declared. “Punches would go right over your head otherwise!”

That last straw shattered what was left of Corrin's restraint.

“Takumi.” Corrin smiled, even though she was fuming, exuding an aura of dark smoke and anger. (The same smile as her mother, actually.) “I will drag you back there and let her baby you to death.”

Takumi paled.

“You wouldn't.”

“She looked so sad when I said we had to go!” Corrin wailed dramatically. “It strangles my heart to see my friends so morose! So dejected! So forlorn! My very soul is screaming for me to do anything to make her smile again!”

“And you're okay with selling out your brother for that!?” Takumi demanded.

“I'm not the one who spent the first week insulting me and refusing to call me a family member,” Corrin mentioned, and Takumi flinched.

“L-low blow… I thought we agreed to forget that.”

“I'll stay away from low blows if you do, Corrin offered.

“Deal,” Takumi agreed, and they shook hands to prove it.

“I guess I won't have to let your new older sister have you after all!” Corrin said cheerfully, grinning as they kept walking home.

Takumi shuddered. “How about we don't see her again, ever?”

“Hmm, depends. Am I your big sister, regardless of height?”

“You're several months older,” Takumi deadpanned.

“Yes or no, Takumi?”

“I guess so,” Takumi conceded.

“Then I guess I'll keep you guys apart.”

“You're definitely the big sister!” Takumi corrected frantically. “Very much bigger! I'm in awe of how big and old you are!”

“I'd say I feel flattered, but no one wants to be admired for their age,” Corrin retorted.

“You're the worst!”

“Love you too, Takumi!” Corrin laughed, though she swore to herself that she would never let Takumi meet Camilla again.

Takumi was the only sibling she had that didn't crush on Camilla. One was better than none, and she wanted to keep it that way. (Though she wouldn't object to changes that raised the number instead of lowered it.)

There was no way that promise would go unbroken. We wouldn't have a plot if it did.

That weekend, Takumi's classmate had to go over to his house for a project. She told her family in advance where she was headed, informing them of when she would be back.

Now, had Hinoka been the one to pick Corrin up, the name Takumi would mean absolutely nothing to Azura’s siblings. Leo would offer advice about effective work habits, while Elise would joke about Azura doing her presentation in the form of a song. Xander would nod and tell Azura to be careful on her way back, and Camilla would coo and fuss and say she was so, so proud of her little sister, being so responsible. Garon would offer Azura a place in his school, saying she would succeed and surpass her peers at an incredible rate. Arete would roll her eyes and tell her husband, “Azura made her choice, she will continue going to the school she was before, our marriage shouldn't force her to change schools because of your stupid feud”, which would cause a squabble firmly in Arete’s favour. Azura would be stoic and impassive the entire time, yet enjoy the attention.

But, that didn't happen, of course.

When Azura mentioned Takumi's name, recognition flashed in her siblings’ eyes.

Leo, Elise, and Xander remembered it as the name of Corrin's jerk brother and chess rival to Leo. Camilla remembered it as the name of Corrin's darling, adorable little brother.

It didn't take much effort for Elise and Leo to convince Xander to come. One mention of Takumi’s insults and scorn towards Corrin, and Xander’s protective instincts did the rest. Camilla was swayed the moment Elise said ‘new brother’.

Though, they knew Azura wouldn't be convinced, so they didn't tell her that they would be following her to this Takumi’s house. Azura seemed to have a problem with being followed around without her knowledge, given the glare and the “Leave,” her siblings got when she saw them.

But, of course, that didn't work. They were still there when Corrin opened the door wide, prompting the albino to scream.

“WHAT ARE YOU ALL DOING HERE?!”

Chapter Text

“WHAT ARE YOU ALL DOING HERE?!” Corrin demanded, before recoiling a bit. “And… Uh, what are you guys wearing?”

Xander shot a meaningful glance at Leo, before clearing his throat. Leo tensed, before erasing any trace of fear from his expression. Elise just did a twirl, making her dress skirt flare out. Camilla smiled and unintentionally did an alluring pose. Azura looked appropriately nonplussed about the situation.

The real story started with one simple fact: Azura was the only one with any substantial amount of time to prepare her clothes. She chose clothes similar to her school uniform, formal and clean and a bright white top.

The others had to improvise.

Elise did fine, because all of her dresses were cute with all of her stockings. No matter what she chose, she would look good.

Xander, on the other hand, had divided his closet into three sections; formal, semi-formal, and casual. The casual section was made up entirely of clothes that were gifts from friends and family. It was also the section that had seen the least use out of the three. He had no idea what the situation counted as on the formal-casual scale, so Leo preemptively ended his agonizing and fussing by picking out two articles of clothing from his casual section for him. Unfortunately, Leo had grabbed shorts from Peri and a top that was a gift from Niles to Laslow and then to Xander. He looked like a mess.

Though, Leo wasn't much better. To be fair, his outfit would probably be good, if he didn't put on his shirt inside-out and backwards.

And Camilla wanted to make a good first impression on her new little siblings, so she grabbed her best dress and her favourite cape and put her hair into a mussed-up-but-still-attractive bun.

But Corrin didn't get that explanation, since Leo and Xander refused to say, Camilla didn't want to seem too eager, Elise didn't think she had anything to explain, and Azura did not want to explain. So Corrin assumed that they were the weirdest family in the entire town.

“I need to work on a project with Takumi,” Azura said, her voice ridiculously melodious. “You can kick the others out.”

“I… I'm tempted,” Corrin confessed, but only in a whisper to herself.

“Corrin, darling, you have such a wonderful house! So cute and homely!” Camilla declared as she hugged the shorter girl.

“Corrrrrrriiiiiiiin!” Elise jumped in on the hug too, almost knocking Corrin to the floor. “I'm so glad to see you! It's a great day now!”

Xander steadied them with a hand on Corrin's shoulder. “Excuse us. We don't mean to intrude.”

“Though, I’m sure you'd rather have us inside than sitting on your lawn for the better part of an hour,” Leo said with a roll of his eyes.

Corrin was about to answer, but then the door, which had been slowly closing behind her, got slammed into the wall.

“What's going on out here?!” Hinoka demanded, rushing out with a broom in her hands.

“Corrin, are you okay?! I heard a scream!” Sakura exclaimed, bringing a first-aid kit with her as she ran onto the scene.

“No one will hurt my siblings!” Ryoma declared, rushing in with a practice sword in one hand.

“What's with all this racket?!” Takumi carried a vacuum cleaner, since he was doing chores with his mom and Corrin. He still brandished it threateningly at the other family.

There was a small pause where everyone had to assess the situation. And then the silence was broken with cheerful words and an oblivious, innocent sort of unintentional ruination.

“Sweetheart! Schoopie-pie! Honey-dumpling! Cuddle bear!” Camilla screamed, a huge grin threatening to split her face in two.

It was the sort of moment that would go down in history. Two families, on opposing warring factions, meeting dramatically on the fields of the home of one. How there was a moment of calm, where they did nothing but stare for a few seconds, hesitation shining in their eyes.

And then all hell broke loose.

Takumi was the first to react, recoiling with a shriek. Sakura’s jaw dropped, Ryoma’s face turned pale, the colour transferring to Hinoka's rapidly reddening cheeks. Leo and Elise barely held back their snickers, Xander offered nothing but sternness, and Azura didn't care at all. Corrin had curled up on herself and covered her ears in a pointless attempt to block out the chaos.

And, of course, Camilla was confused and innocent, wondering just what had gotten into all of her new siblings.


 Whose bright idea was it to invite everyone inside again?

Who actually thought it was a good idea to ignore the obvious tension between everyone involved (well, minus Azura, who couldn’t care less) and decide to coop all of them in a room together?

Oh. Right. No one involved was thinking. Corrin had tackled Takumi to keep him from getting in Leo’s face. Elise cheered her on, while Xander shoved his little brother behind him and adopted a protective stance. Camilla was oblivious to Ryoma and Hinoka attempting to approach her, and Sakura held the door open and invited her inside.

Azura watched with uncaring eyes as everyone started going inside, only for Sakura to shut the door behind Camilla. Right in Xander’s face. Yep.

A wonderful start to all sorts of friendship.

YEAH. RIGHT .

The only thing the situation could be described as was awkward.

So very awkward.

For one, there were only seven chairs at the dining table. Sakura immediately gave one up to Camilla, before sitting down next to her. Ryoma and Hinoka claimed another two seats, right across from her so they could presumably have a better view. Or something like that. Azura sighed and sat down so she could ignore everyone and work on her project. Takumi refused to let any of their rivals take one of their spots at their table, so he forced Corrin into a chair and sat down on the last one.

"So this is how the kind and noble Shisaragi students treat their guests," Xander noted, with more than a hint of contempt in his voice.

"You must earn your spot at our table," Ryoma retorted.

"Oh, is that so?" Camilla asked, her lips parting into a soft 'o' shape. "I'll give up my seat, then. I know I haven't done anything to earn mine."

"You have!" Hinoka protested. "You protected the vulnerable!"

"W-what my big sister said!" Sakura nodded fervently, almost desperate to keep Camilla next to her.

"But we can't have my siblings stand up forever..." Camilla wondered, before considering something. "Oh, how about this!"

She stood up, pulled Corrin up, and set Leo down in her spot. Before Takumi could protest, Camilla pushed Corrin down again, until Corrin was sitting in Leo's lap.

"What," Corrin said flatly, before Camilla set off once again.

With one arm, she scooped Elise up, the pigtailed girl laughing as she was lifted into the air. Azura was so preoccupied (or just plain apathetic) that she didn't even react when Elise was plopped into her lap. Camilla gave both of her little sisters a kiss to the forehead before moving on to Xander.

And then stopping, because there was little she could do. She couldn't make Xander share a chair with with a complete stranger, because she loved him enough not to force him through that uncomfortable situation. Plus, Camilla herself was tall enough that she would block his field of vision if she sat on his lap. And, well, sitting on the floor wouldn't be very nice.

There was little she could do, save for giving up her own seat.

With a tiny, resigned sigh, she moved to set him down-

"Hold o-on!"

Camilla perked up at the sound of the quiet voice. Her eye flitted over to the girl next to her, already standing.

"I-I'll give up my seat! If that's okay with you, of course," She said sheepishly.

Camilla couldn't stop the smile from spreading across her face as Xander took a seat. And she couldn't resist the cute, round cheeks of that pink-haired girl, or how adorable and shy she was...

Camilla's maternal instincts drove her to wrap her arms around Sakura, who was becoming a perfect example of thermodynamics. The smaller girl froze at the sudden contact, before slowly heating up to a boil. The exact formula was as follows: x amount of compliments minus five (5) shyness levels, squared with ten (10) additions of PDA (Public Display of Affection)  equaled Sakura's redness level. It should have been noted that Camilla dispensed compliments at a rate of about fifteen per second. 

It took a 'What a kind soul you have!', 'You're just so sweet!', 'You're so cute''You're a darling', and a 'Aren't you just precious?' for Sakura to reach half her blushing potential.

It took vivid descriptions of how adorable Sakura was (with added doses of 'you'd be a perfect addition to our family' and 'I could carry you in my arms for hours!') for Sakura to turn so red, her ears burned.

The reaction tally was something like the following:

Ryoma and Hinoka were stewing in jealousy disguised as protective older sibling instincts. Or maybe it was protective older sibling instincts disguised as jealousy. One or the other. Takumi had formally introduced his forehead to the table. Corrin was rapidly losing hope that her siblings would ever forget their crushes on Camilla. Xander was sighing at Camilla adopting yet another honorary younger sibling, inwardly admonishing himself for even letting her having a younger sibling club in the first place. Azura just didn't [CENSORED] care.

And Elise and Leo, our co-conspirators?

'I... I can't believe this! My biggest rival just manipulated the heck outta Camilla! She needs to be protected from this menace! That no-good bully is going down!'

'No... we underestimated the enemy! We have to reconsider our plans! We can't use her and her siblings' crush on Camilla as a weapon if she actually succeeds in courting her!'

Their eyes met, and they communicated in a split second, the way only long-time siblings could.

'New objective: Sabotage the pink-haired mastermind manipulator!'

It should be noted that Sakura was too busy dying of happiness to actually notice the new plan, though.


Corrin was... well, a strange blend between concerned, horrified, exasperated, and somehow still attracted to the mess like she was watching a train wreck in process, but that seemed to be her default mood lately. But the despair thing was new.

It started with a small fight between Leo and Hinoka regarding overexertion during athletic activities. Probably. It could have also started with Elise demanding that Camilla lift her up and swing her around, the resulting force almost launching Elise into a wall. Or ten seconds after that, when Hinoka and Ryoma and Sakura started fawning over her strength and Takumi, angry, bitter, dickish-but-still-lovable Takumi, had to point out that Elise might have needed medical attention. It could have even been Leo ordering Sakura to take care of his little sister for... some reason, even though they barely knew each other and kind of didn't like each other. But Sakura was too intimidated to say no and brought Elise to the kitchen to be treated. Or maybe she just deeply understood the deepening darkness in Azura's eyes, to the point that Corrin started feeling it too.

Or maybe, just maybe, it was the moment when her mother walked in, and the following exchange happened:

"Hello! I assume you're Corrin's friends from Krakenberg?" 

"Yes, and I assume you're Corrin's second older sister?" Camilla retorted.

Mom laughed. "I'm much too old for that, dear. I'm her mother."

"You must be joking! You're twenty at the youngest!"

From that moment on, Camilla won over the mother. And when you won over the mother, you automatically won over the father, because Sumeragi was the kind of man who trusted his wife implicitly, especially her judgments on the characters of others.

Coincidentally, that moment was also the death knell for Corrin's last desperate daydreams (or delusions) of Mikoto and/or Sumeragi disapproving of their children liking Camilla for some reason and separating them forever (most popular reason was for the sake of saving their children from trying to get married at seventeen or younger. Second most popular was a demon hiding in Camilla's eye or something).

Corrin was reduced to watching everything with her signature mix of corcern, horror, and exasperation, balanced with enough interest to keep her from just walking away like Azura did. There was still a chance of Corrin changing her mind, though.

Mostly because Elise came back and inserted herself in the conversation in the worst way possible.

"Wow, Big Sister! Everyone likes you a ton!" Elise exclaimed excitedly, ignoring Takumi's outburst of 'I don't!'. "Your girlfriend would be jealous!"

Mom giggled, because the girl was already so mature. Leo smirked, like he planned this all along. Xander groaned. Takumi reintroduced his forehead to the table. Corrin was considering doing the same.

And Camilla?

Camilla just laughed it off.

"I told you already, darling," Camilla said casually. "I'm not seeing anyone. Me and Selena aren't like that."

This had the exact impact you'd think it would.

Sakura, in the process of walking through the doorway, suddenly lost her balance and fell flat on her face. Ryoma gaped, Hinoka gasped, and Leo was silently applauding his sister's wit.

Camilla barely had a second before three buzzing flies were upon her, demanding answers. She was asked things like 'who is Selena?' and 'are you interested in dating?' and 'you're single?'

Camilla, for her part, did surprisingly well with all the talking.

"Selena is my friend, very spirited and fiery- no, haven't found anyone I'm interested in, yes, I'm single, darling- No, I don't have any preference, I'm sorry, little cutie, I didn't hear that, oh, what my preferred date is-?"

"Naga," Takumi groaned.

"Naga save us," Corrin agreed.

"You'll be fine," Leo reassured Corrin.

"...how long are you going to stay like that?" Xander wondered, sending a pointed glance at Leo and Corrin.

It was at that moment that the two of them remembered that Corrin was still seated on Leo's lap. 

And Corrin didn't really care, actually? Once she got over the initial shock of suddenly being forced into Leo's lap, he was actually pretty comfortable. He was a lot softer than you'd expect, really.

"Yeah, it's kind of weird," Takumi added, causing his sister to snicker. He gave her a quick, "What?!" 

"I didn't think I'd live to see the day you'd agree with a Krakenberg student, that's all!" Corrin exclaimed between giggles.

"It's not even an agreement! It's just completely obvious that this situation is weird!"

"Hahaha don't be silly!" Corrin waved it off with one hand, giving a kind of, sort of, one-armed shrug with the other arm at the same time. "It's like when you sit in the mall-Bantu's lap and tell him want you want for the Dragon Feast."

"So... something for children," Leo pointed out.

"Leo, shut up," Corrin retorted.

"Why should I?" Leo asked haughtily.

"Do I have to make you shut up?"

"Perhaps."

Corrin then turned, just to put a hand on his jaw. Takumi half-expected them to kiss, but then Corrin literally shoved his mouth shut. She even put a hand at the top of his skull to hold his jaw in place. Leo entertained the idea for a minute, before retaliating.

By means of tickling.

Takumi watched blankly as they practically started wrestling on the chair, somehow not falling over despite trying to kill each other. He then looked back up at the background, where his mom was smiling fondly at everyone fighting over that purple-haired girl like it was child's game. 

"Why is my family so weird," Takumi demanded flatly, before turning to Xander and going, "Why is your family so weird?"

 "My family isn't weird," Xander responded, shooting Takumi a nasty glare.

Takumi's answer was to arch a single eyebrow, wave one hand at Leo and Corrin's tickle fight, and the other hand at where his siblings were still fawning over the purple-haired girl. And where the girl with the ridiculous pigtails was just encouraging them.

"You are currently seeing this, right?"

"You're forgetting a crucial detail," Xander stated. "Most of the participants in this mess are members of your family."

"We're never this crazy on our own!" Takumi exclaimed. "This started because of you guys being in our house!" Takumi suddenly realized something. "Why the [CENSORED] are you people even here in the first place?!"

"In order to protect our sister from a belligerent and ill-tempered individual." Xander shot him a meaningful stare. Takumi's expression became the most dignified of grumpy faces in return.

"You better not be talking about me!" The archer snapped.

"And if I was?" It was Xander's turn to lift one eyebrow, somehow making the expression look much more regal and refined than Takumi did. Somehow.

Maybe it was the fact that he wasn't a simmering ball of rage, like Takumi was. It was pretty obvious, especially when Takumi just lifted his fists in response.

"Then you either put 'em up or get out!" Takumi yelled angrily, like an angry man with anger problems.

"How crude," was Xander's only answer to that. An ear-grating sound left Takumi's mouth at that.

But before Takumi could swing at anyone, he felt himself being lifted up. And then he was staring at the ceiling, with his back curved weird and blood rushing to his head. Fortunately for him, the person carrying him soon realized their mistake, and switched to lifting him in a bridal carry.

Unfortunately for him, the person carrying him was the girl who proclaimed herself his older sister and tried to dote over him.

"What are you doing?! Put me down!!" He demanded. His demands were met with a hand patting him on the cheek. 

"No need to get so fired up," She said gently. "I just thought it would be best if you weren't about to fight with Xander."

"Afraid I'll beat him up?"

She just laughed in a sisterly fashion. "I suppose I simply think of the reason as a bit silly. Everyone is unique and special, so why take offense? Saying our families are weird is the same as saying they're special."

"Awwww..." Elise cooed in the background, before glancing at Takumi's other siblings. Camilla's wannabe love interests were frozen in shock. Corrin couldn't even be happy about pushing Leo off her chair, because she was internally screaming. 

Corrin's screaming was not without cause. She was observant, after all. She tended to spot things few others saw.

Xander was too busy sighing over the perceived adoption of another sibling, Sakura, Hinoka, and Ryoma were jealous, Azura stopped caring long ago,and Mom dismissed everything as teenager antics, but Corrin saw it.

Her eyes were focused on the way Takumi gaped at Camilla's gentle smile, the slightest hint of a blush on his face...

She refused to see it. She refused to believe it. She refused to think it was happening.

But the quiet sound of what might have been a high-five behind her brought her back to reality, and she mourned.

'Naga, I thought I asked for the number of crushing siblings to go DOWN, not up!'

Chapter Text

Niles grew up in the worst slums the Nohrian side of town had to offer. Which said a lot, considering that most people thought the Nohrian side in its entirety was the town's slums, compared to the Hoshidan side. Where the eastern half had plentiful food and money, the western half had few resources and fewer amounts of food. Niles lived entirely off of stolen goods and school lunches, one more than the other. In a way, he was lucky that there weren't many cops in his part of the town; less people to avoid after a theft. In another way, he was unlucky that there weren't many cops in his part of the town, since that meant that any upstart with either money or weaponry could come in and try to establish some sort of hierarchy. Or worse, someone could start doing whatever to whomever, and no one would stop them.

Like Gazak. 

The man had been terrorizing the streets for a while, going after anyone with a pulse. No one knew what happened to those he got his hands on. No one could ask, no bodies were found, and since there was no evidence of a crime, no legal action could be done. No one ever reported homeless people missing, after all. All you could do was avoid him as best you could. It was easier to count how many didn't know to avoid the streets after dusk than to count how many did.

Like the silver-haired boy Niles had an eye on.

Rich guy who went to his school, despite Krakenberg being known as a street rat's only hope of getting any sort of education. He was nice to everyone, seemingly too innocent to realize there were so many people eager to see him squirm. Silas didn't even seem to realize that he stuck out like a sore thumb, wearing his fancy sweater vest and slacks and wristwatch in a broken down street filled with eyes hidden in the darkness. He didn't even know that Niles had been tailing him, even though it had to have been at least twenty minutes. 

Niles grinned. He almost wanted to tease him about it. But, the thing about rich people was that they had so much, they wouldn't even realize it if a few bills or jewels here and there went missing. It made robbery a bit too easy.

He crept behind the other boy, quieter than a corpse, reaching f-

Niles didn't get to finish that thought or that action, because Silas grabbed his wrist, yanked the one-eyed boy over his shoulder, and flipped him. To Niles, one moment he was stealing, the next, he was staring up at the sky, his heart suddenly going haywire. Silas' face quickly came into view, concern in his eyes.

"I'm sorry, are you alright, Niles?!" He asked, and Niles couldn't do anything but stare for at least ten seconds, completely tuning out SIlas' worried babbling. 

Because he didn't hear the "Oh boy, you're injured, I'm sorry, let me help you up," Niles was caught completely off guard by Silas grabbing his hand and pulling him until he was standing on his own two feet. It felt more like he was relying on Silas to stand, the warm hand holding his was the only thing keeping him from falling over again. Or something.

"I'm sorry for that, I thought you were a thief for a second!" Silas said cheerily, shooting him a sweet smile. "I'll be off now, have to continue my patrol. See you at school tomorrow!"

Niles couldn't even fucking respond. He just waved and Silas waved back, and Niles had the distinct feeling that, even though he was the burglar, Silas was the one who stole something from him just now.

"See you tomorrow, huh?" Niles said to no one in particular, a grin on his lips. "I'll hold you to that."

Chapter Text

"Of course I don't have a crush," he said. "Don't be stupid, Corrin," he said.

While blushing. And holding a bouquet of flowers, newly ripped from the school's garden and carefully washed. And when Corrin pointed out the obvious, when she asked as sweetly and gently as possible, "Why in the blazing heavens are you giving her flowers, then, Takumi?", you know what he did?

You know what he had the audacity  to claim, to her face, with all the sweaty-faced, tense-lipped, twitching-eyebrow finesse of a lying child?

"I-it's a peace offering, okay?! I just want to say that I respect her enough not to pick fights with her brothers anymore!"

"Eternal rivalry," Corrin rebutted. 

"I... am mature enough to set that aside f-"

"You vandalized our school sign to say we're scum."

"Well, that was in the past!" Takumi insisted, puffing his chest out with bravado. "I'm a changed man!"

Corrin just groaned.

She didn't want to deal with this. She figured that the soccer competition would be another day of cheering for her school's team and no classes, because that's what competition days boiled down to for someone with no stake in the school-wide competition. Like her, and the zero point zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero five percent of people who didn't care. For everyone else, it was rivalry and screaming. Which included her siblings. 

Corrin expected them to be so enthralled by the game that they forgot that Camilla went to Krakenberg. Corrin did not expect Takumi to call her up to the roof and ask her for advice on how to give a bouqu- no "peace offering" to "the purple-haired girl- oh don't look at me like that you know who I mean!".

"Just. Hand it over," Corrin ordered. Takumi did just that. And with the subtle, fine-tuned, expertly-crafted finesse of a master manipulator, she lied.

"She's allergic to flowers," Corrin said with a smile, before she tossed the entire thing off the roof.


Mozu didn't believe in fate or destiny or whatnot. For the supposed root of every known thing ever, it never seemed to bear any fruit, or have any branches you could see. No, people who said it was the root of everything, and that you had to dig around in the dirt to find out were the kind of people who took anything and said it was proof of their claims. Nothing supported the idea, so Mozu disregarded it. It was easier to believe that it was someone's efforts that determined their futures, anyways, easier to think that if you worked long and hard, you'd bring about a feast of produce.

But, well, Mozu was suddenly reconsidering her previous stance on the concept of fate manifest and destiny. Mostly because she didn't have any other way of explaining what the [CENSORED] happened to her in the course of a single day.

First of all, Hayato dropped by while she was gardening. This was normal. Mozu tended to mess around in the school's plentiful flower gardens whenever she had the free time, and as her friend of several years, Hayato found it necessary to make sure she didn't do something stupid like miss lunch to pull weeds or forget about tests because there was an infestation. He was nice like that.

Mozu only vaguely remembered the moments leading up to the capital-I Incident, but everything immediately following the beginning of the Incident? Clearer than a pond on a windless day. She remembered the feel of dirt under her nails and sweat sticking to her skin after her hard work as she set aside her gardening tools. She remembered the way Hayato's voice trailed off in the middle of another scolding comment, remembered how he looked up and suddenly-

Flowers fell from the sky. Mozu really wished she was joking about that but she really wasn't. Flowers slowly drifted down like a calm snowfall, and the world seemed a million times clearer, brighter, and more colourful to Mozu in that one instant than she ever recalled it capable of being.

"What...?" Hayato's voice came out in a hushed whisper, and Mozu couldn't stop staring. Were his eyes always that- that shimmery?! Did his lips always look that soft?! When did his hair start looking like, like the finest silk one could buy?! What the goshdarn heck?!

And then, Hayato did the worst possible thing. He managed to catch two white blossoms in his hands, and you know what he did? You know what he had the [CENSORED] audacity to pull?

He smiled, letting out a little laugh, before calling out Mozu's name. And it was not fair how, despite him saying her name so many times before, her stomach seemed to liquefy at the way he said it. And then.

And then he just. tucked her hair behind her ears. and placed the white flowers there. 

Hayato snickered, before saying, "You know, I'm pretty sure I saw something like this on TV. I'm supposed to say something like 'lovely flowers for a lovely lady', right?"

"Don't you even think about it!" She snapped viciously.

Mozu was fricking offended, alright?! How dare her childhood friend look so cute. How dare he suddenly seem attractive. That-that was an attack on twelve years of friendship! And they were both fourteen! Hayato wasn't allowed to seem like a viable dating option!

He was a dork! He believed in wizards since he was five and she was four! He refused to admit that he still had a fondness for playing in the snow and that he liked sweets! He was afraid of the dark ever since they got lost in that forest together and they started hearing the sounds of something moving in the shadows and he clung to her every single time he had to go through a darkened place and- and he studied! Hayato actually managed to sit down and read his textbooks somehow and helped her out and taught her patiently even though she knew he could be annoyed by how some people couldn't grasp certain concepts because as much as he didn't admit it he cared about her more than everyone else and it was pretty cute-

Oh gods no. 

No no no no no no no no no no no.

Mozu screamed.

Hayato stared at her in alarm, and she only barely managed to shift her gaze until she was glaring behind hi-

was that a patch of torn-up dirt

WHY WAS THERE A PATCH OF TORN-UP DIRT IN  HER GARDEN.

"They tore up my flowers," She seethed, all panic at her possible infatuation gone. "They tore up my flowers."

Hayato winced.

"Mozu, please don't do anything drastic."

"Drastic is murder," She retorted simply. "I'm not gonna kill them."

He stared at her with disbelieving eyes, and Mozu simply smiled back.

"I'm not gonna kill 'em," Mozu repeated as she stuck her trowel by her side. "I'm just gonna give them a stern talkin'-to."

Hayato was not convinced by her much-too-innocent smile, but he didn't argue. He just let out a resigned sigh and followed her on her quest for vengeance.


 Corrin managed to go down exactly one flight of stairs before something went wrong again. 

She got a text from Xander telling her that Elise got bored and started exploring the hallways, please keep her from sabotaging the vending machines or stealing the school's graduation pictures or whatever prank she could be attempting, thank you and enjoy your day, sighed, and headed down the hall. And then her eyes spotted a trail of red on the floor.

Thankfully, it wasn't a blood trail. Un-thankfully, Corrin knew, just from the smell alone, that those were, in fact, flower petals. 

Her stomach decided that was the perfect moment to attempt to pull off a stunt that wouldn't be out of place at the Olympics. That wasn't the worst part.

The worst part was that, deep in the confines of her own mind, on a level so deep that it might as well have been engraved into the basis of her soul, she knew it was a bad idea. She knew that it would be better to, you know, check out the game. Or stop Elise from, well, wreaking havoc on the school. Or ignore it entirely. She knew nothing good could ever come from deciding to follow the little red trail. 

But she did, and she found Sakura sitting on a classroom floor, staring into a bouquet of red roses like it had just killed her family. That is to say, emptily, listlessly, and hopelessly.

"Sakura...?" Corrin greeted warily. "What's going on?"

Sakura stared at her with wide eyes, not even realizing that Corrin had entered. 

Corrin walked over slowly, not wanting to scare her sister with sudden movements.

"What's on your mind?" She asked gently, crouching down to be at Sakura's eye level. 

"Um... it's... well. I just. Thought for a second, that she might l-like these flowers, because... they're pretty like she is. But... there's no w-way she'd want them from me, right?" Sakura frowned, tears welling up in her eyes. "S-she would just reject them and hate them a-and it's kind of pointless and w-why did I even think it was a good idea I'm so stu-"

Corrin pulled her sister into a hug, shushing her thoughts.

"You're not stupid, okay, Sakura?" Corrin said reassuringly. "You really, really thought she would like them! That's very kind of you! You don't have to make yourself give her anything, though! I know Camilla would still like you, flowers or not! It's fine, it's all fine, okay?"

Sakura nodded into her chest, leaving a bit of a wet spot in Corrin's vest. Corrin didn't mind, though. She just ran her fingers through her sister's short hair and let her calm down.

"Corrin..." Sakura spoke up after a while, pulling away to look at her older sister. She couldn't keep it up though, gnawing at her lip and sending glances out the window as she spoke. "E-er, I don't think I can... I don't think I'm ready to give her anything, but... I'd like to talk to her? If that's okay?"

"Of course it's okay. Camilla would love to talk to you," Corrin promised, inwardly screaming at herself.

"Do y-you know where she is?"

"Outside, watching the game," Corrin answered, hiding a wince behind a smile.

"Thank you a lot, Corrin." Sakura returned her smile with a grin so bright, it could have blinded her. "I'll... I'll see you later!"

Sakura waved, before rushing off. Corrin waved back, before noticing something.

The smell was still there.

The flowers were still there.

"It's not like she needs them anymore..." Corrin reasoned to herself as she picked them up and stood. "She doesn't want them, and what if people are allergic? It would be horrible if someone had an allergic reaction because I left this here..."

But instead of tossing them in the trash, Corrin took the logical course of action. She logically picked up the flowers and logically held them as she logically walked to the otherside of the room, then logically sticking her bleeding finger in her mouth after she logically pricked one in a logical attempt to logically remove the wrapping and logically toss it in the trash, but later, she was busy logically opening the window and logically throwing them out.


Mozu almost managed to get inside the doors before something went wrong again. 

First, she bumped into someone. A someone in the Krakenberg uniform. She apologized, of course. School rivalry be damned, her ma taught her to be polite! 

Then, the someone turned around to smile at her and reassure her it was okay. Hayato mumbled something about something else grumpily because he was a grump and then it happened again. 

The flowers fell out of the sky.

Again.

 

And just like before, Mozu's heart just stopped. She noticed shining blonde hair, a few strands dyed light purple. She noticed the smell of roses. She noticed twin ribbons and then that smile- that beautifully bright grin that turned you into mush and kind of killed your cognitive abilities? And Mozu just kind of blanked because she wasn't equipped to handle two capital-I Incidents in less than an hour.

Thankfully, Hayato jabbed her in the ribs, managing to bring her back to earth.

"She's staring at you! A polite suggestion here; say something, stupid, before you embarrass yourself!" Hayato hissed quietly. What a helpful friend. He was so nice and Mozu wasn't sure how she could have gotten through her days without his help. He even reminded her when to talk. What a good friend. Wow. She loved him a lot-

Mozu mentally slapped herself and tried to speak.

"Tried to" being the key words in that sentence.

Because, in all honesty, the sounds that came out of her mouth was probably incapable of being called speech. They weren't even communicative sounds. They could only be called the babbling of a baby trying to test out their tongue and vocal chords. The cute girl was staring at her weird and Hayato looked like he was about to ram his head into the nearest tree. 

Thankfully, Hayato covered her mouth before she could let out more "um"s and "uh"s and "ah"s and "er"s, speaking for her.

"She's shy around strangers," Hayato claimed, despite knowing that wasn't true. "My name is Hayato and this is Mozu. And you are?"

"My name's Elise," The adorable girl answered. "It's nice to meet you!"

"Likewise," Hayato replied, uncovering Mozu's mouth long enough for her to go "I-I, uh, uh-huh!".

Hayato's eye started twitching at that, and then he turned to Elise (WHY WAS HER NAME SO PERFECT) with a smile, going, "Hey, have you ever been to this school before?"

Elise hummed, pursing her beautiful lips and answering, "Well, I have before, but just for competitions!"

"Soooo, you probably haven't been to the flower garden, then!"

That made interest spark in her violet eyes and Mozu lost the ability to breathe.

"Flower garden?"

"Yeah, Mozu goes there all the time, she can show you! Unfortunately, I have to talk to Mr. Yukimura, so, I'll leave you to that!"

Mozu managed to blink. She saw Hayato sweep a flower petal off of Elise's shoulder, then watched him rush through the doors, and then spent a few seconds looking at Elise's expectant expression- 

And then it clicked in her head.

She was going to kill him.

Or thank him.

Or kiss him. 

One of the three.

Yeah. 

She made a strangled yelp thing in the back of her throat, then started walking to the flower garden. Elise followed after her with a heart-stopping smile, somehow not noticing the phone number stuffed into her collar.


 

"Hinoka," Corrin said slowly. "What. Are. You. Holding."

"P-promise blossoms!" Hinoka exclaimed. "They're a symbol of my dedication to become stronger and repay her for th-"

"Cherry blossoms do not mean promise," Corrin hissed, narrowing her eyes at her sister. 

"Well, I didn't really search it up before, but I thought it would be fitting, right?"

"Fitting," Corrin echoed. She bit back the 'You're attempting to romance your sister's crush with the flowers your sister is named after'.

"Yes, fitting! Because we protect little siblings and... yeah! Do you think she'll like it?" Hinoka asked hopefully.

Corrin groaned. And then she decided, to heck with it. She would have to dabble in insanity to prevent insanity, apparently. 

"Beat me in a fight, and I'll tell you."

"What."

"You want to be stronger, right?" Corrin huffed, dropping into a fighting stance. She did her best to remember how it went in Hinoka and Takumi's sports anime, and summoned the spirit of every anime rival ever to fuel her in the next few moments. "Come on, then, sister! If you can best me, then you can truly give those flowers to her or something! Anyways, prove the worth of those words, right here, right now!"

Just to top it all off, she gave the best 'bring it' gesture she could.

Hinoka stared at her like she was a moron. 

"Are... are you serious?"

"Of course I am! Show me the strength of your feelings, sister!"

"I... I..." Hinoka hesitated, before looking determined. She gently set the flowers on the ground and mirrored Corrin's posture.

Corrin's thoughts could be summarized in one word: '[CENSORED]'.

Hinoka rushed at her and-

...gently... tried to... tip her over...

"Are you serious?" Corrin asked with a raised brow.

"I don't want to hurt my baby sister!" Hinoka protested.

Corrin gave her a flat stare.

"You clearly aren't taking this seriously," She stated. "There is no passion or fire in your eyes. You have no actual drive to do this. How can you make a promise based on such empty feelings?"

Hinoka looked like Corrin had just revealed the truth of the universe to her or something. 

Corrin decided not to dwell on that. She ducked into a somersault, stole the flowers, and resolved to throw them out the nearest window.

She also did not dwell on Hinoka screaming "THANK YOU FOR SHOWING ME THE TRUTH" or something like that as she ran away.


Mozu didn't know why she didn't expect it to happen. She encountered Sakura, a shy yet friendly classmate, near the flower garden, even managing to strike up a conversation while Elise was admiring all the colours and smells, which managed to calm down Mozu's heart rate. 

And then, of course, flowers started falling from the sky.

Mozu did not notice Elise looking very satisfied and mischievous and stuff because she was suddenly noticing how cute Sakura was. And soft. Cute and small and soft and wow did she always look like a girl you could curl up next to and cuddle with?

"I need to talk to my brother, thanks for showing me around Mozu bye!" Elise screamed before running off, and Mozu was left alone with Sakura.

And Mozu forgot several things, like a) what they were talking about, b) whether she was expected to say something or not, c) what the right thing to say was, and d) how to say anything that wasn't 'wow you're cute'.

Thankfully, Sakura said something. 

Said something was actually, "Mozu? Are you okay?"

Mozu, to her credit, performed much better than she had in the presence of Elise.

It should be noted, though, that this is like praising someone for making it over a bar that was set on the ground. 

"Y-yes, yes, I'm very okay! Totally okay! Why w-would you ask, I'm the picture perfect of okayness! I mean, perture- no, no, uh, perfect picture of okaynicity!"

Sakura blinked slowly.

"I... Um. Alright?"

"What are you even doing," Another voice said flatly, making Mozu jump into the air. She whipped around, spotting that familiar headband-

(She did not spot the sudden smile on Sakura's face.)

"H-Hayato?! What are you doing here?! Aren't you talking to Mr. Yukimura?!"

"Are you kidding me?! I was giving you time to ask that other girl out!" Hayato groaned in exasperation. "Not chat with Sakura for five hours about flowers!"

"Well, thanks for shoving me together with a cute girl with no instructions!" Mozu shot back. 

"Seriously?! You don't need an instruction manual to chat someone up!" 

"Yes, I do!" Mozu screamed. "I needed all the help I could get just to say something to her, and you ditched me!"

"'Just to say something to her'?!" Hayato echoed incredulously, gesturing wildly at her. "You have a miraculous meeting straight out of a romance novel and an hour alone with her, and you didn't even say a word to her?!"

"Stuff it, will ya?! I'm working on it!" 

"You can't work on it! She goes to another school!"

"Well, I... Shut up!"

"Excellent argument there, debate-dominating, in fact! 'Shut up!'"

"That wasn't an argument, that was an order!" Mozu insisted. "Shut up, right now!"

"Make me!" Hayato challenged.

"You really want that?! Y'know I can hit harder than you!"

"But you love me too much for that," Hayato stated.

Mozu sputtered a bit, face flushing before she grumbled, "No I don't!" 

It was at that point that Sakura started snickering. The two of them turned to her in surprise, before Mozu glared at her best friend.

"Hayato!" Mozu screamed. "Look at what you did! Now the little lady's laughing at us!"

"Little lady?" He repeated with a smug grin. "You're barely a centimeter taller than her! What does that make you?"

"Taller than you, for one!" She retorted, wiping his cheeky smile right off his face. 

"Wh- no way! Last I checked, we were the same height!"

"Then check again, shortie! I betcha I'm at least three centimeters taller now!"

"No way! I'm the taller one now!"

"Prove it!"

"Fine! I'll grab the measuring stick!" Hayato yelled, before stomping off.

Another giggle brought her attention back to the pink-haired cutie- CLASSMATE, in front of her.

"O-oh, sorry 'bout that, S-Sakura..." She chuckled a bit, awkwardly trying to laugh it off. And probably failing.

Thankfully, Sakura was a lot better at the laughing bit.

"No, i-it's fine! I was just thinking, you two get along really well!" She said with a smile. 

"Well, y-yeah, we've been friends since we were kids and all..." Mozu chuckled awkwardly.

Sakura joined in on the laughter. 

If her smile was a tad too knowing or amused, Mozu didn't pick up on it. 


 "No," Corrin said the moment she saw Ryoma. "You absolutely cannot give that to her."

"But-"

"I realize that there is something undeniably romantic about Mom and Dad meeting at a lake and immediately walking through a flower field after but you cannot emulate that. For one thing, that bouquet isn't even coordinated."

"Uh-"

"You just threw together the ones you thought she would like with no regards to composition, didn't you."

"Perhaps-"

"Also, for one, there is no way you will be able to get her alone to give that to her with the crowd and her siblings and giving it to her in front of people is asking for trouble, and worse, gossip!"

"Er-"

"For another thing, you can't imitate Mom and Dad's first meeting, because you aren't even near a lake! The closest thing you have is the swimming pool! There is no such thing as a romantic stroll by the swimming pool! That just sounds like an excuse to gawk at swimsuits!"

"Um-"

"Plus, you included white lilies! The chastity flower! Or the lesbian flower! Neither of them are helping your case!"

"Oh-"

"And she's allergic to pollen!"

"I-I didn't know-"

"Just, give that to me! I cannot let you give that to her and sabotage yourself like this!"

Ryoma sheepishly gave her the bouquet, which she chucked out the window.


It was a very good thing that none of Corrin's actions had consequences that could negatively impact her life at all.

Chapter Text

"What," Leo said flatly, gaping at the albino.

"What?" Corrin echoed. "It's a solid plan. It'll totally work."

"But, it's just..." Elise couldn't find the right words, so she chuckled nervously. 

The pigtailed girl tried to find a delicate way to word her question, while her older brother had no such compulsions.

"Corrin. Have you lost your mind."

The fact that Corrin only laughed in response was not reassuring to either sibling.

"I just realized something, you know?" Corrin smiled, somehow looking gentle and murderous at the same time. "I don't want to be like those protagonists who only get thrown around by fate and do nothing but what's asked of them!"

She puffed her chest up, one hand on her hip and the other pointing at the spot between the two blondes.

"I want to be the creator of my own future! I'll create my own path, my own way to survive the insanity of my new life!" She let out a sharp laugh. "I'll fight fire with fire, insanity with insanity! At least if I'm heading to hell, then it's going to be a hell of my own making!"

Elise still couldn't find anything to say to that. Thankfully, Leo did.

"It's official," He stated. "She's lost it."

Corrin didn't hear him though. She was too busy executing step 0.5 of her plan. AKA, prep work, AKA tossing her uniform off. 

Elise and Leo didn't have the time to cover their eyes. They didn't have to, either.

Because, for whatever reason, Corrin was wearing a ninja costume under her uniform.

"Woah," Elise said with a gasp.

"Have you been wearing that all day?!" Leo demanded.

"Well, duh! I don't have time to change when I'm doing my job!" Corrin exclaimed cheerfully.

"What job," Leo asked, his tone flat and dry.

"Obstructing love and delivering justice!" Corrin struck a pose, before laughing. "I'm on a mission to prevent Camilla from ever returning anyone's feelings!"

And with that, she did a somersault out the door.

"Will... will she be okay?" Elise wondered after the moment or two needed to process what the heck just happened.

"I think we broke her already, actually," Leo answered.


It should be noted that Corrin had no idea what being a ninja actually entailed. Her idea of ninjas came from movies, cartoons, and books. So, it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone that she thought ninjas were acrobatic, jumped on trees a lot, threw bladed weapons everywhere, and screamed dramatically.

Actually, her mental image of ninjas was closer to howler monkeys armed with knives. Mixed with Kaze's brother for better results.

The dude was an interesting character. She only met him once, at the party she threw for Sakura's birthday, but what an impression he left.

He stomped in there, scarf covering half his face and scar over one eye, grabbed Kaze, and lectured him. The words that left his mouth would be better suited to a book or a scholar than a high school student. And the repeated mentions of 'honour', 'family name', and 'foolishness' were not lost on Corrin.

So, she was a howler monkey armed with experience in acrobatics and parkour and the attitude of a Saizo.

That would surely end well. She would surely succeed in her task, except for the part where she crashed into a door. And then spent a few seconds on the floor, staring up at the ceiling and wondering about the universe. Also, why did humanity have to invent bright lights that shone in her eyes. That was an important question too.

Anyways, the sound seemed to alert the people inside. Why there were people inside a classroom after school, she would never know.

(If she hadn't just crashed into a door, she probably would have come to the conclusion that they were doing some extra studying or something. Or having [CENSORED]. You know. Reasonable assumptions.)

Silas, being the kind soul he was, just had to check on her. As he helped her sit up and asked what happened, Felicia followed after, staring down at her impassively.

"Are you okay?" Silas asked.

"Corrin, why the flipping hell are you in a ninja outfit."

"M-my name's not Corrin!" Corrin exclaimed, jumping up like Corrin would, looking very much like a Corrin, because she was a Corrin.

"Um, pardon?" Silas stared at her strangely, and Corrin took that as her cue to pull a page out of the ninja mangas.

So she began laughing like a madman, puffing her chest out in a show of bravado. Despite not having any actual bravado, she could hopefully fake it well enough to fool everyone involved.

"Corrin, you must be joking! I'm not Corrin!" She declared, before abruptly wondering what the hell she was doing.

That moment of reconsideration quickly left her, because, hey, she was trying to roll with things now. So she rolled with it.

"I'm the magic ninja of love and honesty!"

"Did you hit your head?" Felicia demanded flatly.

"Nope! I really am the veritable thing!"

"I... I don't think that's what veritable means..." Silas mumbled. "Look, Corrin-"

"Not Corrin."

"Okay, uh, not-Corrin, can I check your head?"

"You'll find nothing but prophecies and energy balls of love."

Now, by this point, Felicia and Silas had managed to sneak up on her, and begin patting her head for bumps. They didn't find any though, since Corrin hit more of her back than her head. So they were forced to accept one of two scenarios:

One: Their reasonable, calm, polite, normal friend Corrin had suddenly lost it to the point that she started prancing around in a ninja outfit and calling herself the ninja of love.

Two: There was actually a Corrin lookalike that happened to be a ninja of love. That was in their school. For some reason. And also kind of crazy.

So. Either they accepted that their friend had gone nuts or accepted that there was... an actual... ninja. Of love. At their school.

The two reached the same conclusion at the exact same time.

"So, uh, miss Ninja of Love, what are you doing here?" Silas asked.

"And, er, do you do... ninja stuff. Yeah," Felicia added.

Inwardly, Corrin was applauding herself for expert lying skills. She did not know that they only believed her because the other option was accepting that she was kind of nuts.

"Of course I do ninja stuff! It's in the name. Right now, I'm doing the ninja-est of things, like setting soulmates together and tearing people who were not meant to be together, well, apart!"

"...okay," Felicia said quietly. "Okay. Cool."

"Wait, so like... matchmaking... and anti-matchmaking?" 

"Cockblocking. The word is cockblocking, Silas."

"I'm not saying that!"

"It's the right word, and you know it."

"It's improper!"

"Well, uh, yeah, I gotta go... separate people, bring other people together, so, like, you two..." Corrin mumbled, before turning and running and jumping out the nearest window. "See ya!"

"Wait. Did that ninja of love just say she brings people like us together?" Felicia asked.

"I... I think so?" Silas replied uncertainly.

"...huh. So. That means we're probably like a thing now."

"H-huh?! Don't just decide that on your own!" Silas protested, face bright red. "I mean, we're just classmates, plus, outside of us studying for that test together, I hardly talk to you, and I've never even seen you without those sunglasses-! We don't know each other well enough to date!"

"So, we can't fulfill our destiny as soulmates or whatever until you see my eyes," Felicia concluded.

"Were y-you even listening to me?!" Silas demanded, right before Felicia took off her sunglasses.

And then, like a switch had been flipped, she switched personalities entirely. The calm, stoic delinquent suddenly started warbling and turned bright red.

"K-kyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" She screamed, voice suddenly higher pitched. "W-w-w-what should I do?! I've n-never had a boyfriend before! Or a g-g-g-girlfriend! I'm t-t-totally inexperienced!"

"W-wait, calm down..." Silas offered, not having any idea what was happening. "It's gonna be okay. We can just take it slow and- wait, we're not even dating!"

"But... if we're not dating, then the ninja of love person was wrong..." Felicia said timidly.

"We can... try to get to know each other...?" Silas offered lamely.

"A-ah! Okay! My name is Felicia-"

"I already know your name! We're in the same class!"

"S-sorry! I forgot! Then, we can probably try to walk home together or something-"

Felicia's words were cut off, because she stepped forward and immediately tripped. 

Silas stared at the downed delinquent warily as she groaned on the floor.

"How... how did you turn out to be this kind of character...?"


 

'I wasn't able to find Camilla and warn her away from my siblings, so this mission is a failure...' Corrin thought sorrowfully.

And then she pumped herself up and got excited again.

'But this is just my first time, so I'll do better next time! Look out, love lives! I'm going to sabotage the heck out of you from now on!'

Chapter Text

It just wasn't Sumeragi's day. Or week. Or month. In fact, the guy was just about ready to give up and say it wasn't his year, if not for the fact that it was barely April.

Still, the bouquet of flowers in his hand was an unwelcome reminder of his failures. 

He knew his youngest daughter would love it if he brought home a vase of flowers for her to enjoy, and that was the only reason he kept them along. Despite his already terrible mood plummeting every time he saw them.

Even though the flowers were detrimental to any attempt to cheer up, he couldn't quite get rid of them yet. He just couldn't look his children in the eye after that last spike of pain to end a terrible day. So he walked, because he wasn't ready to return to his home yet.

Sumeragi sighed. He was being immature. He couldn't just leave his kids alone at home forever. And tomorrow would surely be better. 

Just as he decided that and turned back, though, he tripped. A rock got stuck under his dress shoe and then he started tumbling down a hill full of trees and grass. Twigs caught in his beard, flowers were crushed, pebbles scratched at him, and to top it all off, he landed in a disheveled heap at the bottom. Sumeragi just barely avoided falling into the lake.

"Oh dear, are you alright?" A gentle voice asked, and Sumeragi lifted his head with a groan.

A dark-haired woman sat at the edge of the lake, coffee brown eyes staring at him in concern. A purple bruise rested just under her left eye. Her hair was tied into a ponytail, a white hoodie already stained with dirt. She seemed to have been relaxing and enjoying the view, so Sumeragi did exactly what his mother had taught him to do in such a situation.

"I-I'm incredibly sorry for interrupting you, ma'am!" He exclaimed. His body ached from forming bruises, but he forced himself to bow on his hands and knees for forgiveness. "I swear, it was unintentional, and I'll leave right away!"

"Wait wait wait, that's unnecessary! Please don't strain yourself, you just fell down a hill!" The woman waved her hands at him in an attempt to calm him. It only made her look more agitated. 

"I'm perfectly fine," Sumeragi lied through his teeth. "Still, I must apologize again for intruding."

"Nonsense! I don't own this lake," She stated, eyes going back to stare at the water. "Everyone is welcome to admire the view."

Sumeragi followed her gaze, catching the sunset reflect off the waves.

"...It is quite beautiful," He found himself saying.

"I'm sure the view will be better once you sit down instead," She hinted. Very blatantly.

Sumeragi took it, though, and sat next to her. 

The setting sun dyed the world in amber shades, light dancing off of the lake's surface. The two watched the sights, until he spoke up.

"So... why are you here?"

"Hm?"

"Pardon me if this seems intrusive, but... it seems like this is a spot where you try to forget your worries," Sumeragi noted. "It's calming and peaceful, exactly what one would need after a long day."

"You're rather observant," She said with a smile. The smile didn't last long, though, as a sigh left her lips. "I suppose... I suppose I'm trying to adjust to a move. My little girl, Corrin, doesn't seem to understand it, though. She keeps asking me about her old school and her friends, as well as why we had to move at all..."

"Small children tend to adapt. She'll be so enthralled by the new friends she'll make and parks to visit that she'll forget in a week."

"Actually, she's fourteen," The woman corrected.

"Ah, she's the same age as my younger son," Sumeragi observed.

"How many children do you have?" 

"Four," He answered. She nodded pleasantly in response, until the moment the true meaning of the word hit her and she was left with a sense of 'WAIT, REALLY?!'. Sumeragi decided to spare her the awkward attempt to ask and just explain. "I went to adopt one scrap, but the four of them were inseparable. So I adopted them all."

"That's very kind of you," She said sweetly. 

"If only other women thought the same thing," Sumeragi grumbled, a glance sent at the crushed flowers still in his hand.

"A date gone wrong?"

"A date that never started," He corrected. "We were getting along so well on that site, but then when the subject of children came up... she suddenly cancelled."

"Maybe next time." Her hand came up to pat his shoulder, and he sighed once again. Though, this time, tension left his body with the air, and he smiled.

"Maybe," He agreed, tilting his head up to look at the sky. "It's getting dark. We should probably get back."

"I suppose so." She stood up carefully, dusting dirt off her jeans. Her hand reached out for him, and she pulled him up easily.

"You're stronger than you look," Sumeragi noted, impressed. 

The woman laughed and thanked him, before realizing, "I never got your name, actually."

"Sumeragi."

"I'm Mikoto. Nice to meet you." Mikoto reached her hand out for him again, but he didn't take it. Instead, in what could only be called a stupid impulse, handed her the flowers.

"I think it'll look better in your home than mine," He explained before she even asked. 

She blinked down at the bouquet, before blushing. 

"T-thank you! Um, h-h-h-have a nice day- night, S-Sumeragi!" She stammered, before running away.

Sumeragi had very little idea what to make of that, but he found that his mood had been improved somehow anyways.


 

A year later, when they were seriously considering dating, they both agreed that, in the event that their kids asked how they met, they would spice it up and add extra romance and drama. Just to keep the kids interested.

Chapter Text

It was absolutely safe to say that Xander was only alive thanks to coffee. Tests have been conducted on whether or not a human being could survive without sleep. Those tests would have been demolished by Xander and his tendency to not sleep for a week with homework, Student Council papers, and coffee mug in hand. Scientists have wondered if it was possible to replace blood with any other actual liquid. The answer is, in short, yes, because Xander drank so much in a day that he probably had coffee running through his veins. 

Unfortunately, this had two consequences on his life. One was that Xander never actually seemed to rest. He was either dead on his feet, drinking coffee, or moving forward. The other was that Xander took coffee very, very seriously. 

So, when the coffee machine in the Student Council room (long story) was broken (longer story), Xander was, predictably, dead on his feet. Actually he was more 'passed out on a cafeteria table'. Terrifyingly enough, he was somehow still working on a history paper. And a budget paper for a dance or something. At the same time. With different hands. 

"My poor bunny wunny bear...!" Camilla fretted, flitting about around Xander's corpse as she asked, "Do you need a comforting hug? A good night story? A blankie? Good night kisses?!"

"....coffee...." Xander groaned.

"But this is the first time you've been close to sleeping in half a month!"

"Is that... is that even possible?" Corrin asked, turning to Leo.

"Even if it wasn't, Xander would somehow still do it."

"Naga... he doesn't know how to stop."

"How have you not noticed this before?"

"If you two have time to comment on anything, you have time to help!" Camilla snapped.

"What do you want us to do, beat him into unconsciousness?" Leo inquired, just as Corrin asked, "You want us to knock out your brother?"

"I appreciate your enthusiasm, but not like that," Camilla chided sweetly. "Think gentle, soothing songs, soft pillows, silk sheets, dimly-lit candles..."

"That's a fire hazard."/"In the state he's in, he's more likely to burn down the building."

"Then, bunnies! And teddy bears, like the one Elise used to cuddle when she was a child that she got as a gift from Leo, though he always let Elise sleep in his bed if Honey-Snookums wasn't enough-"

Corrin and Leo exchanged a glance, conveying something along the lines of 'She's going to end up rambling about childhood memories forever, isn't she?' in less than a second. 

Thankfully for the pride and dignity of everyone involved, someone stepped in just then, making his bombtastic entrance with a flourish.

"IT IS I, ODIN DARK! HERE TO GRANT THE AZURE SKY'S REQUEST, I HAVE COME BEARING A GIFT FOR THE DARK LORD!"

The exclamation was so loud, Xander twitched in his sleep. In another school, students probably would have turned to stare at the crazy ten-grader suddenly screaming like that, but everyone was just too used to everyone else's antics to do so. Thus, the only people staring were Leo, Corrin, and Camilla. Selena was staring for a bit from her lunch table, but then she got so annoyed she slapped her hand over her eyes and started praying for Odin to stop.

Leo just sighed.

"Hey Odin," Corrin said casually, right before Odin set a cup of coffee near Xander and struck a pose.

"Why are you so unnecessarily ex-" Leo didn't get to finish that complaint, because Xander woke up from Sleep Mode just then. Or, to be more precise, he detected the scent of caffeine and lunged for it. Camilla made a very interesting face at the sight of Xander chugging steaming hot coffee like a madman. 

"What the actual heck," Corrin hissed.

"I've theorized that he seared off his tastebuds a few years ago, and I see now that I might have been on to something."

"Don't drink it so fast! You might get a stomachache!"

Xander ignored them. He just set down his empty cup and stared at Odin intently. Eyes harder than steel, voice resolute and commanding, he spoke with his trademark seriousness.

"Marry me."

"...what," Leo said flatly.

"W-wh-wh-wh-WHAT?!" Odin yelped in response, instinctively jumping away.

"What in the actual heck?" Corrin added.

"I owe you my life," Xander proclaimed, exhaustion and caffeine addiction making his voice sound super dramatic and also dead inside at the same time. "Let's spend our lives together."

Odin was torn between accepting anything that could make him sound awesome and, you know, rebutting this sudden possibly semi-marriage proposal from a guy he only knew through his friend and only helped because of said friend.

"I-I mean, Odin Dark aides all who need his, er, aide! But, uh, isn't this a bit... sudden?!"

"You're right. I should have thought this through," Xander agreed, and Odin sighed in relief, his shoulders relaxing. Much too soon. "I'll start the wedding preparations immediately."

"WHAT-!? HOW DID YOU EVEN COME ANYWHERE EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE TO THAT CONCLUSION?!"

"I should have known that you would have wanted a proper wedding instead of- mmmmnrrrghhhhhsmaushsssm," Xander explained, even as his face was smushed into the month's assembly plans.

"Ignore him," Leo ordered, straightfaced and dignified, even as he smushed his sleep-deprived older brother's face into the month's assembly plans.

"No, don't!" Camilla exclaimed excitedly. "Let him speak about that wedding!"

"Do you really hate Xander that much?! If he goes on a rant like that because of his fatigued state, he'll never live it down!" Leo specifically jerked a thumb at Charlotte, who was filming everything from behind Benny. She was having trouble holding the camera up though, because she was too busy laughing.

"Of course I don't hate him! I love him! That's why I want this first love to work out!"

"Love?! He's about to pass out! There's no way you can call this delusion love!"

"Mrrrnahsjah," Xander mumbled. And then he turned his head to stare right at Odin and flap his mouth open and shut. 

Odin was looking incredibly uncomfortable just then, so Corrin just grabbed him and ran. Ignoring Camilla's wailing and Xander's smushed cry of anguish, Corrin dragged Odin into the empty hallway. Then, she spun him around and grabbed him by the shoulders so she could stare him in the eye. That way he knew it was serious.

"Get the frick outta here," Corrin commanded. Odin was looking at her with a rare expression of terror and anxiety, before gulping and nodding without a word. 

So he ran. He almost made his way to his locker, but then he was grabbed from behind and his eyes covered. Odin let out an undignified yelp at the sudden 'being-dragged-around-another-corner' thing, until his captor spoke.

"Guess who~?" A suggestive voice asked, and Odin immediately relaxed in his arms.

"Niles, my brother-in-arms!"

"You have two more guesses."

"But you're... you're clearly Niles," Odin argued. "The innuendo-laden one, He who stole the very skies, defender from the shadows, eternal-"

"Wrong, wrong, wrong, and definitely wrong." In a split second, Niles' tone went from jovial and teasing to... suggestive and even more suggestive. "You know, you might have to face a punishment for messing up..."

Odin laughed, before shrugging off Niles' hold and standing up. Niles didn't try to stop him or anything.

He found that he was face-to-door with the door to the Student Council room. 

"Niles....?" He asked, right before Niles threw an arm over his shoulder and started whispering.

"Look, relax, I've got a plan, got it?" Niles reassured him. "There's half an hour left for lunch. That's more than enough time for me to break in, grab the busted coffee maker, and replace it. All you have to do is keep the almighty one off my back. You can do that, right?"

"Of course!" Odin exclaimed immediately, striking a pose. "No task is too great for the powerful Odin Dark! I would swim the Seven Seas, conquer the unconquerable, taste Felicia's cook-"

"Okay, have fun talking to Xander!" Niles exclaimed innocently.

"W-wh-wh-wh-WHAT?!" Odin screamed.

"What?" Niles asked in return. "I thought you could handle anything."

"I can! ...but maybe you, er, need a lookout instead? You know. So no one sees you breaking into the Student Council room?" Odin offered  sheepishly.

Niles pointed at Charlotte, who was tapping away on her phone like she never even left the cafeteria. Charlotte waved a halfassed wave before going back to texting. Odin made a strange face at that.

"What?" Charlotte replied without even looking up. "You know this would basically be a livetweet goldmine." Odin made another face, but before he could say anything, Charlotte said, "And don't give me that face, I'm sending it to one person. just to prove that my school is officially more insane than their school."

Odin turned back to Niles with his eyes narrowed and brows drawn together, mouth gaping in a silent 'why did you think this was a good idea?'

"As long as that coffee maker is broken, the Student Council has to deal with an annoying, whiny president," Niles began to explain. "So, if we fix it, the Student Counil is grateful to u-"

"His innuendos aren't working so he wants to do this to get Silas to like him or something," Charlotte interjected, summarizing all of it in a sentence.

"Oh."

Niles almost looked tense because of that, so Odin did what any good friend would.

"Fear not, for your saviour will surely prevail in his assigned task!" Odin proclaimed. "I shall entice the dark lord with my many charms and stories of heroism!"

And before he could chicken out, he started running for the cafeteria. 

'It won't be that bad,' He reasoned. 'Leo and Corrin will be there to restrain him.'

(Camilla just had the bright idea of getting some of Xander's work done for him so he could rest more, and just started leading Leo and Corrin to the Student Council room.)

'Maybe he'll be asleep! He's probably so tired, he can't even do a thing!'

(Xander was running laps around the cafeteria, adding in a cartwheel for no reason.)

'Yeah, I can totally handle this! Go Owain- I mean Odin!'

(Jacob gave Xander five whole cups of coffee because he thought it would be funny. They were extra sugar too.)

Odin was a good friend. Good enough to keep Xander from doing stupid things, because Laslow probably wouldn't want his boss dead as he tried to repair the coffee maker.


 

[haha shit he's actually crazy enough to break into the sc room for his crush

FUCKING NAGA THERES SOMEN O IN HERE ALREADY

theyre arguing about whether its better to replace or repair. planned obelswhatever or something.]

[I don't think planned obsolescence applies to a coffee machine broken with a mace.]

[tell that to lazzy and peri]

[I don't know either of those names, nor do I care enough to learn.]

[who spat in ur cereal this time]

[I had noodles for breakfast.]

[babe no youre supposed to have a nice healthy meal three times a day and if u keep replacing those nice healthy meals with instant noodles

then i will find you, break into your house, cook you a delicious hot meal, and then smash it into your face]

[I am not a child. I don't need you to admonish my eating habits.] 

[you say that but honestly your eating habits are worse than this kid i babysat once

he didnt want to eat anything but cream puffs and licorice

you dont want to eat anything but instant noodles 

ergo]

[I'm surprised you know how to use the word 'ergo'. Well done.]

[you know it's times like these where i have no clue if youre being sarcastic or not

so im gonna just pretend its sincere and be like 'yeah of course, im a woman of many talents'] 

[Suit yourself.]

[you know, comments like that are really not heFUCJ

NILES THREW A BOOK AT LASLOW BUT IT HIT ME SO IM GONNA KICK BOTH OF THEIR ASSES]

[Make them suffer.]

Charlotte did just that.

When Camilla, Leo, and Corrin arrived at the Student Council room, the first thing they saw was Charlotte beating Laslow and Niles into unconsciousness. With a desk lamp.

"CAN'T WE TALK THIS OUT?! MAYBE OVER TEA OR DINNER?!" Laslow pleaded.

Charlotte's only answer was a terrifying cackle that resonated throughout the room. Despite... the room not having any properties that would have allowed it to create echoes. 

"Hey, Laslow, don't worry about fixing the coffee machine, my dad said we could-" Whatever Silas was about to say was lost forever, because he stumbled onto a scene he had no right seeing. 

Corrin patted him on the shoulder as he stared in shock. Niles let out a cry of anguish at that, from a mixture of jealousy, humilation, and actual physical pain.

The cry of pain brought Charlotte back to her senses, bringing a stop to her manic laughter as she turned to look back at the door. She yelped when she realized she had company, hastily shoving her lamp behind her back. Laslow wisely took the opportunity to hide behind Xander's desk.

"H-hey there!" She greeted with a plastic smile. "What are you guys doing here?"

"Helping Xander finish his work," Camilla answered, somehow not fazed at all.

"Uh... shouldn't you be... y'know, pissed and stuff?" Corrin asked. "Like you were with Peri."

"What are you talking about?" Camilla wondered innocently.

"You kicked Peri out of your club for fighting people with a baseball bat," Leo pointed out.

"That was with a baseball bat," Camilla reasoned, despite... you know, her logic not being reasonable.

"She's still hitting them with a metal thing!" Corrin pointed out indignantly.

"Do... er, should I come back later?" Silas asked, though he relaxed a bit when Corrin petted his hair.

"No!" Niles protested immediately, only to clear his throat and try to cover up the desperation in his voice with a bad flirty line. "I mean, I hate seeing you leave, but I love watching you go."

"...what. What are you even saying," Leo demanded.

"I, er, I don't understand?"

"Ignore him, ignore him!" Charlotte waved her hand dismissively at the Niles on the floor. She even dropped her lamp on his head, eliciting a new groan of pain from him. "If there's anything I can do for you, just say the word."

"We can handle the work by ourselves," Leo stated.

"Actually, I might need a little help, considering the person I hoped to ask is a bit..." Silas glanced at the whimpering desk, "Incapacitated."

"Oh, of course!" Charlotte batted her eyelashes at him, earning a groan from Niles. Or maybe it was just a groan of pain as she stepped over him to get to Silas. "Ask away!"

"I need help carrying the new coffee maker upstairs, because it came with a lot of extra parts I wasn't expecting..." Silas admitted, a sheepish smile on his lips as he rubbed the back of his neck.

Corrin brightened at the sound. 

Silas and Charlotte went to grab the machine, Camilla and Leo were already organizing papers, but Corrin could only focus on one thing.

And that was swinging the window open and throwing the obsolete coffee maker away.


 

"You told him there was a magical coffee brew on the roof," Odin echoed, too dismayed to even put a flowery spin on his words.

"I didn't," Jakob clarified. "I asked if he was in a state so susceptible that he would believe me if I told him of a brew that potent taking up residence on the roof. However, he never answered."

"Jakob, he's trying to climb up the building," Odin pointed out.

"If you're trying to impress me with your impeccable talent for pointing out the obvious, you really ought to pursue more worthwhile endeavors."

"Jakob, he's almost at the second floor!" Odin screamed.

"The second floor of a two-story building. He's almost achieved his goal, should we continue supporting him?"

"He might die!" 

"Well, considering the part where he just got hit by that window, it's becoming increasingly likely that he will," Jakob said casually, just as Odin made the sort of sounds that only left the mouths of very, very, very desperate babysitters.

Odin started running. He didn't really have a plan, but he knew that nothing good could come out of letting Xander just hit the ground. 

"Ah, Corrin just threw a coffee maker out the window," Jakob noted. "At this angle and trajectory, it will most likely strike the caffeine addict in the uppermost region of his skull, shattering it upon impact, spilling his intelligence-deprived brain matter all over the-"

"OH COME ON!!!" Odin screamed, adrenaline making his legs move faster.

Just before the moment Xander hit the ground, and the coffee machine Xander, Odin charged into Xander from the side.

Realistically, this would have done nothing but send Xander and Odin skidding towards the ground. Because tackling the guy wouldn't stop the problem of him falling from a great height. Actually, it would probably make them start falling with enough extra force and a change in direction to send them tumbling over the ground. Possibly even bounce a few times.

Worst case scenario, they could die from hitting their head the wrong angle. A step up from that was a few broken bones, possibly some ribs. Which could still kill them, considering broken ribs were sharp and pointy and situated right over vital organs like the heart and lungs. Then, in unrealistically idealistic conditions. the two would end up bruised and scratched, but with no real serious injuries. Of course, the scratches could always become infected, so they would still need to seek medical attention for everything.

But that didn't happen, because it was too gross and not romantic enough for the genre.

So, the end result was that no one was hurt and somehow Odin's save managed to make flowers appear out of nowhere and bubbles to happen. Because it was a romantic scene, despite the fact that Xander was basically drunk and/or hopped up on caffeine. Plus the part where Odin thought of Xander as less of a romantic option and more of an overgrown baby who kept almost dying. And the part where Jakob was barely holding back giggles in the background.

Odin tried to catch his breath, carefully making sure Xander was okay and safe in his arms. Then the lunch bell rang, and Odin was so panicked he dropped Xander on the sidewalk.

Epitome of romance right there.


Xander woke up in his bed. On his desk, there was one report about the optimal actions to take for the next five years, a slightly-crumpled school trip budget paper that was filled with half-assed answers, a folder of wedding plans done in cursive, and a bottle of sleeping pills. They each had sticky notes on them.

The report had some Leo-ese for 'I took care of this for you. Take care not to overwork yourself. I'll take care of Student Council work while you're gone.'

The sticky note on the wedding plans simply said, 'Please remember to actually BUY A RING before you propose this time, bunny bear.'

The sleeping meds had Elise's handwriting all over them. Literally. 

'XANDER YOU BIG IDIOT I TOLD YOU YOU NEEDED TO SLEEP AND YOU DIDN'T LISTEN AND THEN YOU PASSED OUT BY THE SCHOOL ENTRANCE AND I HAD TO MAKE ODIN CARRY YOU TO OUR HOUSE YOU BETTER THANK ME AND HIM AND CAMILLA AND LEO AND CORRIN FOR TAKING CARE OF YOU NOW GO TO SLEEP AND NEVER DO THIS AGAIN'

Corrin had two sticky notes. One was the expected 'We were worried about you, don't do it again, get some sleep' message. 

The other was written in scratchy black ink and obviously written in a hurry.

'WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN, MERGE WITH SHIRASAGI HIGH SCHOOL?!?!'

Chapter Text

"I want an explanation," Corrin stated, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at Xander. Any ounce of intimidating prowess she had was shattered by Camilla pouring her a cup of tea and Elise chewing on cookies next to her and Leo calmy sipping his own cup of tea. It was like watching an angry child being forced to play tea party.

"The school is broke," Xander admitted. "It's being called a merge, but that's really only to give us some sense of dignity. It's our last ditch effort of making sure the school closing down won't stop these students from having an education.*"

Xander took a sip of tea as Corrin and his siblings digested the information.

"It was inevitable," Xander confessed as well. "The only reason this hasn't happened two years ago is because father used all of his life insurance money on keeping the school running."

"Unsurprising, considering how expensive it must be to get clothes for every single student for free," Leo added. 

"And the free food," Elise piped up. "They never charge anything for cafeteria food ever."

Camilla couldn't even add anything, because she was wiping away tears at the thought of her father's school being shut down.

Corrin still had her eyes narrowed and eyebrow high though, asking, "Isn't... isn't life insurance something you get when someone else dies?"

"My mother got hit by a falling tree that just so happened to be struck by lightning while out on a picnic date with father," Xander admitted casually, and Corrin's eyes softened.

"It was a tragic time...!" Camilla sobbed, before hugging Xander tightly. "My poor father and my poor, poor brother, so lonely and morose!"

"I'm... I'm sorry-"

"Then, barely a year after, my mother got hit by a car while father was walking her home from the bar." Leo's tone was so incredibly nonchalant that Corrin almost thought he was saying something else. And then the meaning of his words caught up with her and she froze.

"W-wait, your mom too-!?" Corrin gasped as Camilla added Leo to the hug pile.

"My mom died of her sickness and spent her last moments screaming for dad to save her!" Elise confessed cheerfully, already running to Camilla for her hug.

"Wha- HAS EVERY WOMAN YOUR DAD EVER LOVED DIED?!" Corrin demanded in disbelief.

"No, Leo's mother was a friend he bonded with over the pain of losing their spouses, and then she died and Leo had no one else to take him in, so he was adopted," Camilla informed her over Xander's head.

"Though, now that I think about it, there was that one time he tried to get a blind date and then the place was robbed and his date got shot..." Elise mumbled thoughtfully.

"That's just... that just makes it even worse?" Corrin's expression could be summed up as the result of pity and horror mixing until they were inseparable. "How can he even be in a relationship with anyone at all?! How is he a functioning human being?! How has he not shut down over the crippling fear of every woman ever around him dying?!"

"It's the power of his love," Camilla said sweetly, her siblings nodding along.

"THAT DOESN'T EXPLAIN ANYTHING!"

Camilla shushed her and hugged Corrin tightly. Corrin was squished between Leo and Xander as she felt a hand patting her head.

"I know you're anxious about this sudden change in your life, but we're here to support you," Camilla promised. "You can always rely on me for a spot of tea and a sympathetic ear."

Corrin didn't really get what was happening. They went from talking about the principal's unfortunate tendency of having women die around him to Camilla hugging her and comforting her for some reason? Did Camilla think she was lashing out because of the stress of the merge or something?

'...I don't hate it though...' Corrin thought, though it was really more of a mental grumbling than anything else. 'I mean, I can get why my family would like her, she's really sweet and supportive and-'

Corrin shot upright, suddenly screaming.

"Uh, Corrin?" Elise stared at her with wide eyes. 

Corrin didn't answer before grabbing her wrist and Leo's and fleeing.

Camilla and Xander stared at them, before Camilla broke into a fond smile with a chuckle.

"The wonders of youth..." She sighed happily.

"You're a year older than them, two more in Elise's case," Xander pointed out.

"And that makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it?"

"I... suppose."


 

"What is it?" Leo asked as Corrin gasped for breath in the drama club's changing room.

"If... merge... they... near her..." Corrin wheezed. "Sibling... drama... all... die..."

"Sibling drama kills your family?" Elise translated tentatively. "Because... they're all merging into one superbeing near Camilla-levels of power?"

"What." Leo's tone was as flat as his stare.

"Crush on Camilla means sibling drama which will kill our entire family!" Corrin screamed desperately, before moving to grab the essentials. 

"Oooookay?" Leo was hit with the sudden realization that he was the most sensible person in the room. The thing that hit him was the sight of Corrin running around, tossing a skirt over her arm and holding a pair of fake glasses between her teeth.

Corrin hadn't prepared her outfit in advance, so she had to change. However, despite the high levels of anime all around, it wasn't a fanservice scene. Even if it were an anime, the camera would only show Leo and Elise getting hit in the face with pieces of Corrin's clothing before Corrin got changed instantly. Into the Shisaragi high uniform. The one that was always used as a sign that a character was stupid in the school plays.

 

"What are you doing."

"Breaking into the school."

"Wha- WHY?!"

"Corrin, I advise-"

"I need to get to my siblings and convince them that they cannot date Camilla. At all. Ever, because they all like the same girl, even if they don't know it, so if they even try, they give each other away to each other, and then they fight and kill each other and make the house frigging explode."

"That... Corrin, I highly doubt that could ever-"

"Also, they're trying to date your sister," Corrin pointing out, specifically choosing a tone of voice to make Elise and Leo writhe with fury. "Your beloved older sister, who loved you and protected you and supported you is being pursued by your biggest rivals."

The two paused. 

It took them all of two seconds to reach a conclusion.

"They called us scum..." Elise sneered.

Yes, sneered. Because even one as kind and innocent as Elise could become embroiled in pettiness and anger should the right circumstances arise. Even someone as logical as Leo could discard rationality in certain cases. 

The Hoshidan side of town in general counted as the right case in the right circumstances. 

"Very well then," Leo said immediately. "I'll take notes for you in history. I'll tell the teachers you had to leave for a job interview."

"Leo, did I ever mention that I love you more than words could say?" Corrin asked.

Elise gasped.

"If you have, I don't recall," Leo teased. "Perhaps you should start saying it more often?"

Elise gasped.

"Heh, sure, after this, I'll call you every night just to tell you how much I love you!"

"Didn't you say you loved me more than words could express? How would you even try to say it?"

"With lots of heart and feeling, duh! As long as I try to express it, I'm sure my complete and utter adoration will reach you!" Corrin replied, before checking her phone. 

Her eyes almost bugged out at the time. 

"Shoot! Lunch's almost over, I gotta go right now, or classes will end before the time I get there!" Despite her panic, she smiled and shot a wink at Elise and Leo. "I'll see you guys later, probably!"

Leo and Elise waved as Corrin ran, at least until Elise nudged Leo with a mischievous grin.

"What?"

"Hehehehe, nothing!"


 

Considering the fact that Krakenberg and Shisaragi some distance away from each other, one would expect that it would take a while for Corrin to make her way from the Nohrian district to the Hoshidan district. But no, she had the magic ninja power of a bus pass in her arsenal. With that ancient, mystical, all-powerful ability, she made it through the school doors just as the final bell rung. 

Now, while Corrin had visited before, her visits were always limited to sports events, competitions, and cooking competitions. This meant that she really only knew where to find the gym, the library, the gym again, and the kitchen. Some were easier to find than others. So, she was guessing when she rode the escalator upstairs. Corrin pretty much blindly hoped her randomized route would take her to one of her siblings so she could "subtly convince" them to give up on Camilla. 

It really shouldn't have worked. Shisaragi had three floors, several dozen rooms to a floor, and enough decorations to completely befuddle any unknowing passerby. If one wasn't confused by the fountains and flowerpots, they woud be distraught by the multitude of windows, light fixtures, and doors all over. Any one of the automatic doors could lead to the gym, a club room, or a science lab. The chances of luck alone getting you to the right place was somewhere close to one in a million.

So, clearly, it worked. Because a million-to-one chances always win in anime.

Corrin made it into one of the twenty tenth-grade classrooms, miraculously getting the one Takumi was in. She even managed to get there before Takumi left. He was busy glaring at his notebook, so he wouldn't be leaving for a while, either.

His friends were standing and talking around his desk while he sat down. Oboro and Hinata bonded with Takumi over having the same hairstyle in kindergarden, and even in high school, they all wore ponytails. Because the laws of anime dictated that Corrin burst into the conversation at the precise moment of maximum drama, the tail end of their conversation has been included, so that the audience may know just how dramatic the situation was.

Oboro groaned, her face already locked into a glare.

"What's up with you guys?" Hinata wondered, looking back and forth between Oboro and Takumi, who was brooding over his lackluster notes.

"I just can't believe we have to let those goddamn Nohrians in our school!" Oboro exclaimed. "It's so unfair! Why do we have to deal with those thugs and murderers and-"

"Just give them a chance, Oboro," Takumi cut in, shutting his notebook with a gloomy look.

"Takumi, you cannot be serious. They're awful! They're just, so, so, so- urgh!" 

Hinata patted Oboro on her shoulder as she screamed.

"'s a bit weird for you to be saying that, though. I mean, you did vandalize their sign," Hinata pointed out, making Takumi flush red.

"It was just because I was pissed about losing the chess game! It's not like I automatically hate them all!" 

Hinata, for once, didn't believe him, but he nodded anyways.

"But my sister's coming over too, and she has... some friends there, and it's not like I'd want them to hate me..." Takumi continued, pouting a bit.

"Ah, your sister! Corrin's possibly the one bright spot in that dark, twisted hellhole!" Oboro smiled, before her eye twitched a bit. "But, her... choosing to be friends with... with those people, even though she could be with us and you, my wonderful Takumi... it's just... how-"

"She'd have to be a good person to get my sister's approval," Takumi stated, cutting Oboro off before she could rant about Stockholm syndrome or something.

"She?" Hinata wondered.

"She....?" Oboro echoed, clutching the edges of Takumi's desk so hard that her fingernails left marks in its surface. "Have you been talking to any woman that's not me or your family?"

Takumi instinctively shuddered, before opening his mouth to explain in a completely okay and non-offensive way.

It was at this moment that Corrin burst in, heading straight to Takumi's desk.

"E-excuse me!" Corrin exclaimed, despite not having any idea what she was going to say. She was rolling with things, that was what she was trying to do. Despite her attempts at confidence, her words came out shaky and timid. "You... you people look very kind, so, er... can you please help me?"

Hinata and Oboro blinked at her, while Takumi looked... well, mix up a bottle of disbelief and exasperation, and you'd have a pretty good idea of what his expression was.

"What the hell are you doing, Corr-" Takumi's words were cut off by Corrin suddenly screaming.

"My name is Coraline! I'm, I'm really new, and I'm lost, and I tried to go to the bathroom and now I can't find where I'm going!" Corrin rambled on.

"You know each other?" Hinata asked, looking between Takumi and Corrin.

"You do look like a girl I know..." Oboro muttered. "Kind of like Takumi's s-"

Corrin was screaming in her head. Sweat dripped down her neck, she had no idea what she was doing, and she was winging it.

So she opened her mouth and spoke.

"Actually, actually... When you think about it totally logically, the adjective 'female', or the title of 'girl', they're both completely meaningless in this conversation, situation, scenario, etc."

"Huh?" Hinata was confused, and so were his friends.

"I mean, seriously, in this context, they're totally irrelevant, if you keep sticking to scripted definitions of such terms then you're bound to get blindsided completely in situations like this, I mean, come on, you're kind of totally assuming everything, aren't you? Because you've got no clue what you're talking about, believe me about that, okay? Discard every single thing you know about any sort of gender whenever I come into the picture, or else you'll be very..." She hesitated, trying to find the right word, "uh. Sad."

"What are you even saying," Takumi demanded.

"I'm a boy," Corrin blurted out.

...

...

...what.

"What," Takumi said flatly.

"What?" Oboro echoed, with Hinata too surprised to say anything about it.

"I told you, didn't I? All meanings of the word 'gender' are meaningless when it comes to me, I warned you about this. Even though I seem to fit into the mold you already have of people you can call girls, I'm a boy. If you asked me why, I wouldn't say it's because of some odd reason, no, not at all." Corrin paused to breathe. "It's not because I have a fetish for wearing skirts or anything, I just want to see if I can fool everyone. Ah, not because I'm a trickster or prankster, I'm looking to become the best actor in the world, yet with my face, I might even be asked to play female roles. So I wear these clothes to see if I can pull it off and have a ton of varied talents."

"What the hell," Takumi repeated.

"So... you wanted to see if you could be a convincing girl?" Oboro asked, completely blindsided by whatever the hell Corrin was spouting.

"Yep! My name's actually..." Corrin laughed, both at herself and her pain, as she fumbled about for a name. "Carl. Carl Cloverfield, new student, and pleased to make your acquaintance."

"You totally had me fooled!" Hinata exclaimed excitedly. "If you didn't tell me, I wouldn't even know!"

"The Drama Club president's gonna be glad to see you!" Oboro said with a smile. "I'm the costume designer, you can call me Oboro!"

"Oh, yeah, forgot about that part. My name's Hinata."

Oboro and Hinata looked at Takumi in expectation. Takumi refused to meet their gaze.

"He's Takumi." Oboro sighed, somehow sounding affectionate and exasperated at the same time.

"Don't mind him, he's moody," Hinata said. "And grumpy."

'I know that already,' Corrin thought.

"And takes a long time to warm up to strangers."

'Definitely,' Corrin agreed mentally, recalling the first several weeks of hostility in her new household.

"And grumpy."

'You said that already.'

"But he's a total sweetheart once you can get past th-"

"Stop talking about me like I'm not even here!" Takumi snapped.

"Sorry!" Oboro fretted. "I just wanted to make sure she- he knew that you're a great guy!"

"I'm sure he is." Corrin smiled, despite her inward screaming because she just wanted to talk to Takumi and get him to not like Camilla, not pretend to be a crossdressing boy and awkwardly introduce herself to people she already knew.

Unfortunately, fate was not about to let her escape the predicament she got herself in. Because that just wouldn't be any fun.

"Wait, weren't you talking about some fancy costume you needed to make for the new play?" Hinata recalled suddenly.

"I-I was!" Oboro gasped in astonishment, before grinning at Corrin. "The Drama Club's gonna do practices today for the new play the president came up with! You should totally come, he would recruit you on the spot!"

"If you need help finding the room, we can totally show you the way!" Hinata offered.

"Um."

Corrin looked to her brother.

Takumi ignored her in favour of putting his stuff in his bag. A clear message was sent. 

'I'm not helping you here.'

Corrin gulped, before doing exactly what this 'Carl' person would do.

Her eyes widened with wonder, before letting a squeal leave her throat. She smiled so wide, her face began to hurt.

"You mean it?! You actually mean it?!" She asked delightedly. She didn't wait for a response, just hugging them both. "Thank you both so much! You're-you're amazing, incredible, wonderful, I owe you the world! There is no storm I wouldn't face for you!"

The thing was, though. Corrin was only trying to be convincing. She wanted to be good enough to avoid suspicion, so she could get through one day and never go through the entire 'claim to be a crossdressing actor boy' thing ever again. But she messed up.

Her false enthusiasm was not only convincing, it was endearing. She slipped into the role so easily that Carl had become an entity entirely separate from Corrin in their heads, but not only that, Carl had become adorable.

Adorable enough to make Oboro and Hinata blush.

Corrin was almost shaking with nervousness as the two stared her down silently. The pair interpreted this as excited trembling.

That was just even more adorable.

If Corrin knew what was going through their heads as they walked her through the hall, she would have screamed.

As it were, Takumi was doing enough screaming for the two of them.

'DEAR NAGA, WHY?! WHY DID YOU MAKE MY BEST FRIENDS FALL FOR MY SISTER ?!'


 

Corrin was about sixty percent sure of one thing: Oboro [CENSORED] knew.

Hinata cheerfully asked about her, wait, no- his interests, likes, dislikes, anything, really. Corrin made them all up on the spot, mixing and matching traits from her friends until Carl became his own sort of person. A person who liked all animals, but especially bears, cried at princess movies, wanted to become a rich actor to provide for his family and make his parents proud, had a twin sister in a boarding school, excelled in history (ahahahahaha, no) and liked spicy food (she couldn't stand the stuff).

Hinata, he ate it all up. He believed every word, absorbing every statement she said and accepted it as the truth.

Oboro? 

The only thing she said since leaving was a short, sweet, and simple, "Are you Nohrian?"

"Pardon?" Corrin demured in response.

"Are you Nohrian?" Oboro repeated, the look on her face cold enough to freeze a volcano.

"Oh, I'm not. I'm from the northern coast," Corrin blurted out. Despite the country not having a northern coast.

Corrin was sweating, but at the same time, wasn't it better in the long run for her to be discovered? She wouldn't have to explain to Oboro or Hinata why their new friend wasn't actually at school and see them sad, or actually do drama practices, or anything. In all actuality, being caught with such an obvious lie was a blessing in a curse's guise. She was truly fortunate to have hit it, so she could run away and convince her family not to like Camilla. In game terms, getting a game over was actually better for her, so she could restart the level instead of dancing around spells on low health.

(Un)Fortunately though, she had enough good luck to have a nearby samurai guard her from damage.

In other words, Hinata just said, "You mean, Ferox?"

And like a fool damned by her own hand, Corrin plastered on a smile and nodded.

Oboro relaxed, nodding in approval. "I hear they've got good sports teams there."

"Possibly, yes," Corrin agreed. Despite improvising everything, she was enough of a good actress to slip into the role of Carl Cloverfield naturally, even while she was swearing and sobbing internally. "But, enough about those barbaric bloodsports! I'd really rather talk about the costumes, the fight scenes, the quality in this school's historical production of 'The Rise of Chon'sin'! It was amazing, almost professional, even! It's what inspired me to attend this school in the first place!"

Corrin knew she said something wrong the moment she noticed the pair's reactions. It was the sort of instinctual thing that one could not hone, an ingrained ability to read others at a single glance. Even if she wasn't born with that, though, she would know something was off.

Because Oboro was holding her hands to her mouth, eyes almost watering with the force of her grin. Hinata was standing tall, pride forcing out his shoulders, broadening his grin, making him shine brighter than the sun's rays. It [CENSORED] burned to look at, especially since those reactions were way too strong for just one comment.

"You think so?!" Oboro gasped. "I designed those costumes! I worked for months to make them perfect and-"

"Heh, I might not be the best actor, but I'm one of the best in the kendo team! They had me stand in for main hero dude during the fight scenes!"

Something in Corrin's head broke. The wall separating her inner thoughts from her outer being collapsed, and she immediately started bawling. Oboro and Hinata panicked, moving to comfort her over whatever they could have said wrong-

But, like a true actress, she brushed it off, exclaiming, "I can't believe it! I'm surrounded by these wonderful people! I'm so much closer to my dreeeeeeeaaaaaaam!" 

Really, she was a perfect fit for the drama club.


 

"The president's a bit busy now, so we can just sneak in," Oboro reassured her, pulling Corrin towards the girls' changeroom.

"Uhh..." Hinata said, making Oboro pause.

"What? I'm just showing Carl where to ch-" Her face fell as she recalled the supposed problem with that. "-oh."

"You forgot," Corrin said flatly.

"I-I'm so sorry, it won't happen aga-"

"Don't worry, it's fine. After all, doesn't this mean I'm so good, I can make you believe I'm a girl even when you know the truth?" Corrin asked, sending a wink at Oboro. That wink made Oboro freeze up for a second, blush, and hastily flee the scene.

It would also make Oboro question years of her crush on Takumi, and what it meant for her sexuality if her heart stuttered around a boy who looked so convincingly feminine for a few weeks. But Corrin didn't know about that.

Because, at the moment, she was more worried about the part where she accidentally signed up to change in the boy's changeroom? With boys? That were probably mostly undressed? 

And Corrin would have to undress around them, which would reveal her, and also probably end badly. But she wouldn't mind the mostly undressed boys part... provided that the boys in question were decently attractive and not buttfaces. 

Corrin belatedly realized that she wouldn't mind being surrounded by attractive, partially-undressed people regardless of which changeroom it was in. But that was something to consider when she wasn't on the verge of having her cover blown before she could even approach her siblings.

Hinata, ever so oblivious to her plight, guided her to the boy's changeroom. Unable to say anything to extract herself from the dilemma she created with her own hands, Corrin stepped in.

And realized that, since practice was already in session, there was no one inside.

Also, she had no idea what she would change into, since she wasn't even part of the play beforehand.

Feeling stupid, she just made her way past benches, numerous racks of clothes, and vanities to reach another door. Given that it was labeled 'STAGE', Corrin had a pretty good idea of what she would walk into.

Except she didn't. 

Corrin expected lights and bad props in front of an obviously hand-painted background. Stagepeople would be running around with scripts as the actors went through their lines. Given her vague idea of what a drama club was actually supposed to be, she expected this to be true, give or take some minor adjustments.

And then, instead of that, the moment she stepped out, a boy's voice called out "HOLD IT!"

Racked with the sudden thought that she did something wrong, Corrin froze. She stayed still, eyes darting around the environment wildly as she expected something to happen. 

First thing she observed; holy guacamole did Shisaragi High not know how to chill.

When she heard 'school stage', she expected a little platform in front of the cafeteria or something! NOT AN ACTUAL ENTIRE AUDITORIUM WITH THREE LEVELS OF SEATS. AND GIANT RED CURTAINS. AND AMAZINGLY HANDCRAFTED PROPS AND BACKGROUNDS THAT WERE PROBABLY PROFESSIONAL-PAINTED . 

How?! How did they have so much money?! How could they ever afford any of that?!

Second thing: The drama club members were all staring at her.

There was a boy with orange hair and sheets of paper in his hands, looking her over with an appraising look. His uniform was neat, save for the tie, which he stuffed into his pants pocket. Behind him, a stoic girl with a dark ponytail and bangs covering one eye was organising a makeup kit. Oboro had a grin on her face as she grabbed a kimono.

And the last girl, standing in front of a gigantic screen filled with painted cherry blossom trees, on a convincing replica of a small pile of rocks, sent her a glare that could rival Medusa's.

"You're perfect!" The boy declared. "Kagero, Oboro, get to work!"

"Wha-" was all she managed to say before the Oboro threw the kimono over Corrin's uniform.

"Hold still," The other ponytailed girl said, holding a makeup brush to Corrin's face almost menacingly.

Given that her name was Kagero and makeup was a form of art...

Well, let's just be glad that Corrin hadn't entered any beauty pageants that day.

"W-w-wait, what's going on?!" Corrin demanded. In her flustered state, her voice somehow managed to raise to a pitch so high, everyone else heard it become deeper.

"Preparing you for your big debut, duh!" Oboro said with a grin. "You look great."

"I believe I did well," Kagero added, pride in her voice.

"Kaden, are you sure about this?" The last girl asked melodiously. Despite her soft tone, however, there was a hard edge to her tone. Her eyes, her posture, her voice, everything about her screamed 'glacial' in Corrin's direction.

Corrin gulped under Azura's piercing glare. That glare was borderline murderous. And by borderline, she meant 'The only thing stopping me from killing you where you stand is the concern that my clothes would be ruined by the act.'

Despite her cousin being pants-wettingly terrifying, Kaden just laughed and scribbled something on his papers.

"It's fine! Perfect, even! I've been hoping for something to add to the script!"

"You're practicing despite the script not being finalized?!" 

"He's eccentric," Kagero offered.

"He's incredible," Azura corrected harshly. "Not everyone can turn something as obscure and random as flowers suddenly falling out of the sky into a work of art."

Corrin vaguely heard Hinata cheering for her- Carl, cheering for Carl as she tried to process that.

"You only say that because he lets you sing and pet his cat," Oboro retorted, earning her a horrifying glare. 

Kaden did not hear them, because he was writing and muttering and crossing things out and erasing and writing. Finally he held a paper up to his face and kissed it.

"Kaden, you are a genius!" He exclaimed. "As creative as I am beautiful!"

"Uh," Corrin said in response.

"Okay, you are now the husband, you need to stand over there for a bit until you float, er, walk probably, over and reunite with your wife on the rock!" 

"She doesn't know the story," Kagero corrected. "And not part of the club."

"He," Oboro corrected. "That's a boy. And he wants to join."

"Amazing! Such a good actor that I believed he was a girl!" Kaden exclaimed. "This is perfect!"

"Again, she- he just walked through the door," Azura said flatly. "Do you really think that's enough to warrant this?"

"It's fate, Azura!" Kaden declared. "Fate gave me this marvelous actor! Just like the flowers, the song, the rain!"

Azura just stared at him like she couldn't believe she could put up with him most of the time.

And then she stared at Corrin like she could eat the albino for dinner if Corrin pissed her off. Corrin shuddered.

"...I'm.... Carl... Cloverfield?" Corrin introduced herself tentatively.

"Earn your keep," was all Azura said in return, before she turned away and stormed off with all the subtlety of an inferno in the arctic.

"She's a little abrasive, but good," Kagero offered comfortingly.

"She warms up to people slowly," Oboro added. "Like. Turtle slow."

"No idea what you guys are talking about," Kaden stated bluntly. "She hugged me when we first met."

Corrin blinked. She had known Azura for years, and never once did Azura hug her.

"Kaden!" Azura screamed, whipping around so hard that her hair hit her in her face.

Corrin couldn't help but snicker. 

"You think this is funny?" 

And Corrin intantly regretted that, because Azura was mad. Azura had never been mad with her before, she hd always been snippy and irritable and Corrin was scared. Azura was stomping towards them and even Kagero was keeping her mouth shut, because even a single word could set the singer off-

"DO YOU MIND?! SOME OF US ARE PRACTICING ACROSS THE HALL, YOU KNOW!" 

Hinoka kicked the door open. 

Hinoka actually kicked the door open.

And then Sakura and Ryoma burst in after her.

"And some of us are making romantic poetry!" Sakura exclaimed.

"And studying the language of flowers!" Ryoma added.

"Why are you here?!" Corrin demanded. "What are you people doing?!"

"This...." Kaden grumbled darkly, his face shadowed.

"Oh no," Azura said flatly.

"This... is..."

Oboro and Kagero winced in advance.

"PERFECT!" Kaden declared, scribbling over his script madly.

"Did someone call?" Subaki asked, appearing out of nowhere. Corrin shrieked in response.

"No," Kagero answered.

"No," Oboro echoed.

"No," Azura said empathetically.

"Subaki, please tell them to stop being so loud so I can focus on my poetry!" Sakura ordered.

"And my workout!"

"And my studies!"

"Of course, Sakura!" Subaki bowed. "She asks that you stop be-"

"Stop," Azura demanded. "Go away."

"What the heck is going on."

"The drama club president is using this as inspiration," Kagero explained, pointing at Kaden, who was still writing all over his papers and muttering like a man possessed. "Those three," She pointed at Corrin's siblings, "Are just insane. And Subaki is odd."

"...th-the... nutcase is the drama club president," Corrin whispered in horror. Oboro flinched at the words, knowing exactly what would come next.

"OH THAT'S IT!" Azura screamed, pointing at Corrin. "I can tolerate having my song interrupted. I can tolerate Kaden suddenly recruiting a random person we don't even know, I can even tolerate these guys showing up out of nowhere! But I cannot let you people insult Kaden's skills!"

Before anyone else could react, Azura threw them out of the drama club room. Everyone was thrown out. Everyone. Including Oboro and Kagero, who were actual members of the drama club.

Except Subaki. He just did that thing where he disappeared out of nowhere. 

Kaden was the last one left, and while Azura hated the thought of hurting him and making him and his cats cry, she had to.

"Azura, hear me out," Kaden said suddenly, interrupting her attempt to throw him out.

"Huh?" She couldn't help but respond.

"So the widow sings the song she always sang with her husband, right? Then a demon taking his form shows up, but she knows it's not him because of the way he sings. The moment she figures this out, a horde of demons appear to kill her and feast on her fear, but then the actual spirit of her husband shows up, and they sing together, and it's so full of love and happiness that the demons run away in disgust, and her husband's spirit fades away. The widow can finally let go of her pain because the love between her and her husband will always be there, even after he's gone. Cue sunrise and curtains."

Azura paused.

"It's... it's wonderful," Azura admitted, too busy trying not to cry at the idea to throw him out.

"Great!" Kaden grinned, beaming with pride, before he noticed something. "Wait, where did everyone else go?"

"...the new guy got hurt, so they're escorting him to the infirmary," Azura lied. "Minus Subaki. He just did that weird teleporting thing and left."

"Oh, okay."


 

"You okay, Carl?" Oboro asked.

"Yeah, just fine, except for the possibly broken ankle," Corrin grumbled from Kagero's grip on her.

"Azura can't throw that hard," Kagero told her. "You'll be fine."

"I feel like she threw me into a rock."

"You'll be fine."

"...soooooo! Anyways," Oboro said awkwardly. "You... uh, write romantic poetry, Sakura?"

"Y-yeah, I do... just a hobby, but r-recently, I've had a lot of inspiration!"

"And Ryoma, didn't take you for the type to like flower language!" Oboro continued, embolded by Sakura's positive response.

"Well, it's good to diversify your knowledge. Especially if it's something as useful as that."

"And Hinoka, you're working harder than ever! New determination or something?"

"You could say that... After all, there's someone who likes strong girls out there."

Oboro laughed, and Corrin belatedly realized that she was near her siblings in disguise, so she had the perfect chance to sabotage them.

A grin made its way on her lips.

"Someone's in love, huh? Or, rather, three someones."

"Wha-?!"

"T-t-th-that is-?!"

"HWUOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOGH?!"

Corrin and Oboro couldn't help but snicker at those reactions. Kagero, however, could. And simply chose not to. Because not even Ryoma's loyal friend could keep a straight face when faced with the upright pillar of morals suddenly screaming and blushing like mad.

"Whaaat, am I wrong or something~?" Corrin asked teasingly.

"You're-you're not, but, uh, that's..." Sakura trailed off, too embarrassed to say more.

"You're wrong!" Hinoka exclaimed, falsely, wearing a bright blush as proof of her lies.

Ryoma made an odd birdlike sound, before managing to say, "I...perhaps."

"You guys are totally in denial!" Oboro giggled. "What's she like?"

"Or he," Kagero added.

"Or he," Oboro amended.

"She," All three of them said at once.

"Oh, interesting, tell us about them!" Oboro requested, in a way that couldn't really be called a request, since you couldn't really deny it.

Corrin made a squeaky sound. Kagero apologized for jostling her, even though she didn't.

"She's protective and kind," The three siblings began in unison, "willing to jump into danger in a heartbeat for-" 

And this is where they stopped talking in unison, Hinoka swerving away from the others to say "even a stranger!" while Ryoma and Sakura continued, saying "the one she loves!"

And Hinoka, being Hinoka, became hostile at the thought.

"You're talking about the girl who fought Ryoma," Hinoka realized.

"You're talking about a stranger you only met once," Ryoma shot back.

"Yeah! That's right!" Sakura exclaimed, trying to act tough since she was agreeing with Ryoma.

"Twice!"

"Like that's any better!"

"Yeah! You tell her!"

"So... love at first sight...?" Oboro wondered out loud.

"Yes," Kagero confirmed. "For the three of them." Her statement completely crushed Ryoma and Sakura's bravado, just by reminding them that they were being hypocritical.

Hinoka, being the mature one in that situation, stuck out her tongue at her siblings.

Ryoma and Sakura, being even more mature, responded with, "At least we know her name."

"Hey! I totally know her name!" Hinoka lied. "It's..."

"You don't know," Sakura stated.

"You don't know," Ryoma echoed.

'You don"t know,' Corrin, Oboro, and Kagero thought at the same time.

Unwilling to gave up, Hinoka used her ultimate secret technique.

Which was to call Corrin's cellphone and ask for the answer.

The cellphone that was in Corrin's pocket.

The Corrin whom the others thought was a boy in a skirt named Carl Cloverfield.

Corrin looked like she was about to cry as everyone stared at her.

"...uh, Carl, aren't you going to take that?" Oboro asked, pointing at Corrin's pocket.

"I'm... too interested... in this.. conversation... to... answer..." Corrin forced out through gritted teeth.

"I applaud your enthusiasm, but it's distracting," Kagero said bluntly. "Take it."

And so, with everyone's eyes on her, Corrin glanced at the caller ID. And made a face so forcefully displeasured that her frown strained her neck, her eyebrows would leave creases, and her nose would forever remain crinkled.

"Who is it?" Sakura asked cautiously.

Had this been asked like, an hour beforehand, Corrin would have answered with nothing but "um" and "uh" and "er". But, somehow, her clumsy bumbling and hasty excuse-making throughout the day was enough to level up her acting stat to a point where she could pass the skill check. Or maybe it was just because she was using her already high lying stat while she was confident.

So, through the power of charisma, she managed to craft an elaborate tale of tax evasion and intrigue, a story of betrayal by a trusted friend and financial failure. Had anyone bothered to actually try to check her story whatsoever, it would have fallen apart in an instant. Yet, because of the absolute confidence in her voice, the power in her posture, the certainty in every word, they didn't even question the logistics of her story. Her capacities with communication were so great that she could make them accept her words as truth. It was as if she was a herald from the heavens, proclaiming a message from her Divinity herself, for all they didn't question her.

Or, in other words, she threw complete bull at them and the others were so baffled that they all collectively didn't notice that Hinoka never got a response on her cell.

It was completely silent in the hallway for a few seconds. And then Oboro swore revenge on the traitor and then Sakura pointed out that revenge was pointless since the plot failed and Oboro said it was revenge for just attempting to hurt Carl like that. Hinoka asked about the part where a high school student somehow owned a theater. Kagero pointed out that Rinkah was technically the chief of an entire tribe. Ryoma felt miffed, since he wanted to say that but Kagero said it first. The topic had safely been diverted away from any potentially dangerous romance topics.

Corrin felt so proud, she gave herself a mental pat on the back.

And then stopped, because, while everyone was chattering and not noticing her, she noticed some texts on her phone.

It was a message from Leo. He wanted to tell her that he finished her notes and would put them in her locker. Corrin was not alarmed by this, because Leo had snuck so many notes into her locker in exchange for food and favours that she just gave him her combination at one point.

But he had also attached a picture. And Corrin immediately made a sound akin to a dying rat inside a snake bitten by a velociraptor in the back of her throat.

Because, among the books, notebooks, textbooks, magazines, and random trinkets strewn around her locker, there was one thing clearly visible on the hook. A bright red lanyard, holding a card with her face on it. The card said, in bold lettering, "PERMITTED TO VISIT AT ANY TIME."

Leo, being Leo, sent her an exasperated message at the sight.

[Why did you even bother disguising yourself?]

Corrin could not answer. Not Leo's question, nor the others' attempts to ascertain whether or not she was okay.


 

Bonus

When Corrin returned to Krakenberg, she returned to a classroom in tatters. Leo attempted to pry a desk from its resting place in the wall as Keaton soothed a bunny rabbit. Charlotte and Benny were gathering up broken floorboards. Felicia was irritably cleaning up glass from the broken window. Thankfully, they were on the first floor, so nothing could have fallen very far. Flora and Jakob were sweeping dust away from the numerous new holes in the floor. Silas had thrown someone’s sweater over a sobbing Odin, tentatively trying to cheer the other boy up. Niles was standing guard near them with a pocket knife. Over in the corner, a furious Miss Nyx was chastising Xander, her anger causing a dark cloud to fall over the room.

Corrin walked over to Jakob, who immediately blushed, straightened his tie, and cleared his throat.

“What… what happened…?” Corrin asked.

"I'm so glad you asked," He said with a smooth smile. "The caffeine addict attempted to give the delusional nincompoop a bouquet of flowers, then those flowers were thrown away like hazardous waste. Then the rabbit hidden in the wild dog's bag went to investigate. The good-natured fool went to fawn over the animal, which prompted the pinnacle of depravity and the juxtaposition of clumsiness and intimidation to clash. Their fight caused a book to strike Charlotte, who promptly threw a desk at them. Flora joined in the fight to stop Charlotte from murdering her sister, and Benny attempted (and failed) to call a ceasefire. Eventually, Miss Nyx snapped and threatened everyone involved to stop, lest she go to prison for violence against minors."

"...okay. Okay then. Thank you," Corrin replied politely, even though her mind was still processing everything. "Excuse me."

She went over to Miss Nyx and Xander, her fingers clutched into fists.

"Excuse my absence and any possible rudeness, Ma'am, but may I speak to my friend?" Corrin requested, wearing a smile coated in sugar and dipped in poison. "I need to say a few things to him."

Xander shuddered instinctively.

Miss Nyx, with all the wisdom of someone who had already been to prison, recognized the killer intent behind that smile. 

"Five minutes, child," She stated.

"Thank you."

Corrin had the decency to wait until her teacher's back was turned before grabbing Xander by the ear and yanking.

"What. Were. You. Thinking," She demanded frigidly.

She expected stammering. She expected nervousness and fear. She expected him to make up excuses and lie and basically do anything to get out of the painful situation.

However, despite her awareness of infinite worlds, infinite possibilities, the millions of millions of millions of choices any one person could make, Corrin was not expecting Xander, stern, stoic, respected, straight-laced Xander, to blush.

"Despite my actions in my crazed state, he... he still saved my life, and I simply thought I ought to thank him for that," Xander answered in the slightly bashful way one would associate with a partial truth. He didn't look her in the eye, smiled wistfully, colour in his cheeks...

Anyone with eyes could see the underlying affection in his words.

So Corrin picked him up and threw him through the broken window.

Chapter Text

That morning, Azura almost woke up in a good mood. Then, she remembered.

And then she didn't even want to make her way out of bed.

Her mom called for her, several times over. Azura didn't remember how many times she was called before she dragged herself down the stairs. 

Azura didn't feel quite there. Her body spoke and ate and walked, but her mind was so far off, she might as well be on another planet. It was only thanks to routine that she made it to school safely. She almost wished she didn't make it safely. Almost anything would be better than the gaping emptiness in her chest. She didn't want to take another step forward. She just wanted to collapse and cry. 

But she couldn't. She had to keep moving.

Her life went on like it never happened. The girls around her chattered about sweets and swordsplay from the kendo club. She had to fill out questions and schoolwork like any other day. The teachers droned on about mathematical equations, grammatical constructs, Azura didn't even know. She couldn't focus on anything.

Time passed. Azura felt every second tick on like her heartbeat, but was so numb to it that an hour could pass before she could realize it.  Class ended, and she couldn't even remember what time it was.

She had to be reminded to leave the classroom and go home. She had to be reminded to be careful of the storm. She had to keep herself moving, even when her mind was as cloudy and distant as the rapidly-greying sky.

"Hey, wait!"

Azura almost didn't hear it. It was only when a hand tapped her shoulder that she realized that she was the one being called.

An orange-haired boy grinned at her. She thought she saw him around the drama club once.

"You're Azura, right? I'm Kaden."

"Okay," She said, waiting for him to leave.

"I've heard you sing in the music room before! You're really good, you know? Your voice is beautiful!"

"Okay," She repeated, somehow sounding even more uncaring than last time.

"Especially that one song, you know, the one that's like... la lalala la la laaaa lala la laaaa lalala la laaa lalalalaaaaa..." 

Azura flinched at the notes. She recognized them immediately. Of course she did, they were practically synonymous with her childhood.

 Without thinking, she raised her voice in response.

"You are the ocean's grey waves, destined to seek... life beyond the shore, just out of reach..." Her breath caught in her throat, and her voice wavered. "Yet... the waters ever change, f-flowing like time, the path is... yours to..." 

She couldn't finish the song before she felt tears prick at her eyes.

She couldn't even look at Kaden, too ashamed, too upset from her building tears. She had no idea how this complete stranger would react to her just bursting into tears in front of him. Azura didn't want to burden him like that, so she held her tears and waited for him to leave.

She failed. The dam broke, and tears flowed down her cheeks.

And then she heard him drop his bag.

"Got a phone or something? Like, electronic?"

"No, uh, it's all in my bag..." She answered awkwardly.

"Okay, good, this won't wreck anything then!" Kaden exclaimed cheerfully.

"What are you-"

And then Kaden yanked her out into the rain. 

"What are you doing?!" Azura shrieked, the water immediately hitting her like a glacier. His hands, in contrast, were warm on hers.

"I always wanted to dance in the rain with someone!" He replied with a huge grin.

"So you just drag me out into the rain?!"

"Haha, yeah!"

"What's wrong with you?" Azura demanded as Kaden twirled her around.

"I wanted to repay you!"

"This is your way of repaying someone? What are you even repaying me for?"

"The song! It was beautiful!"

Azura couldn't respond to that. She just looked down at her feet, unable to take the reminder-

"...you're just spinning us around," Azura noted, still looking at their feet. "You don't know how to dance, do you?"

"Nope!" Kaden admitted cheerfully.

Azura sighed, before stopping Kaden. He gave her an almost catlike smile as she fixed their position, holding his hands correctly.

"Just follow my lead," She instructed. "I step forward, you step back."

And then Azura yelped. And glared at him.

"Backwards. You step backwards." 

"Sorry!"

"Right foot, Kaden."

"This is my right foot!"

"If it's right from my view, it's your left."

"I thought you meant right from your point of view!"

"Why would I ask for that."

"I dunno, dancing is weird!"

Kaden laughed freely at that. It was infectious in a way Azura couldn't describe. Maybe it was because she didn't know other stranger who would take her dancing in the rain after she started crying.

For the first time since her father died, Azura smiled.

(She went home that day with his uniform blazer over her shirt, since they realized too late that the school shirt became see-through in the rain. Her mother fretted and fussed, though difference between Azura's mood leaving the house and entering the house was so big she couldn't help but notice.)

Chapter Text

"I'm just saying..."

"Corrin!" Takumi exclaimed, face bright red. He was really tempted to just flop down and scream into Corrin's pillow.

"Takumi," Corrin shot back, devious grin on her face. "She thinks of you as a little brother. Like, actually thinks of you as a little brother."

"I should have never asked you for help..." Takumi grumbled.

"Wow, rude, I'm totally helping you," Corrin said flatly. "Like helping you figure out that having feelings for a girl who actually calls you 'little brother' really sounds a lot like you having a sister co-"

"Why are you still talking?!"

"Because I'm not done dispensing my sisterly wisdom."

"More like you want to keep embarrassing me!"

"If you knew, why did you bother asking in the first place?"

"I don't know!" Takumi screamed instinctively, holding his face in his hands. "I actually don't know!"

Corrin stared at him.

"I... don't know, okay?" Takumi admitted, peeking at his sister through his fingers. "I don't know why I like her and I have no idea why I asked you!"

"Because I'm the person who knows her?"

Takumi looked at her blankly.

".........sure. Sure, that's the reason."

"It's definitely not the reason."

"I said it's the reason, so stop prying!"

"You asked me because I'm the one everyone else goes to for love advice? Because I seem more reliable? Because you think I might have an idea of what to do here?"

"Are you saying that you... don't actually know what to do?" Takumi asked doubtfully.

"No," Corrin answered. "I know what she likes in a guy."

'Kinda,' she added mentally.

"Are you going to tell me?"

"Depends."

"On what?!" Takumi squawked.

"Pay me."

"What the hell?! I'm your brother!"

"I still need payment for my services," Corrin recited, using the same line she remembered Keaton using when he was running the wolf pack.

Takumi considered it.

"What do you want?" He asked harshly.

"A map of your school."

He paused.

"You just want to avoid getting lost, don't you," He accused in a monotone.

"Deal or no deal?" Corrin gave him a pointed look.

"Deal. I'll go look for it," Takumi decided as he got up from Corrin's bed.

"Nice doing business with you," Corrin said with a grin. "I'll tell you as soon as you get back."

Takumi nodded, making his way out.

And the moment he was in the hallway, he paused.

"...why is there a line here?" He asked, obviously not to Corrin.

"I have the right not to disclose that information!" Hinoka yelled.

"We must be patient to achieve the results we desire," Ryoma said wisely.

"I wanted love advice but you were already in there so I waited and then Ryoma and Hinoka waited after me," Sakura confessed.

"Okay then." And then Corrin heard Takumi's footsteps and realized that he decided he didn't care enough to keep asking.

And then Sakura walked into her room with an air of confidence around her and Corrin had to suppress a groan of dread.

"Good evening," Her usually-timid little sister greeted.

"Good evening," Corrin echoed, already feeling wary.

"Do you mind if I ask you a few things?" Sakura inquired.

"Uh, how much is a few?" 

"Just a little bit, I swear," Sakura promised. 

"Um."

"I'll be in and out before you know it."

"What."

"It'll be over, lickedty-split."

"Er."

"It's just a quickie, don't worry too much."

"I-"

"Please?"

Sakura stared at her with an anticipatory grin, eyes bright and happy and oh no she was cute and Corrin couldn,t say no to cute things-

"Just a little bit," Corrin conceded. And immediately regretted it.

"Great!" Sakura exclaimed, pulling out a notebook. Corrin let out an almost inaudible sound that expressed all the 'urghhhhh' she was feeling.

(On the other side of town, Leo suddenly got the feeling that Corrin did something stupid.)

"Uh that doesn't look like a little bit-"

"What kind of style of clothes does she wear?"

".............efffffffffancyyyy?" Corrin answered uncertainly.

"Formal? Like, dresses and stuff?"

"Uh, yeah. That."

"So, she's incredibly refined...!" Sakura squealed to herself, jotting it down. And undoubtedly adding a few hearts.

“Uh huh,” Corrin agreed.

“Does she like ribbons or bows better?”

“There’s a difference?” Corrin asked.

“Yeah. Ribbon is what Takumi wears. Bow is more like… puffy? And shorter.”

Corrin nodded, despite not really getting it.

“Bows,” She declared, even though she didn’t know the answer. “The poofier, the better.”

“I see…” Sakura muttered. “So she likes people who can pull off cute clothes? Like girly or lolita or semi-formal or frills…”

“Yeah. That.”

“Do you know if she likes short hair or long hair better?”

“I’m more concerned with how you’re only asking what kind of looks she likes,” Corrin confessed, feeling her older sister instincts kick in. “Are you really going to go out of your way to dress up for her?”

“U-uh…” Sakura blushed. “I just figured, she might like me better if I looked pretty…”

“What if it worked?”

“Huh?”

“What if you did dress up like that, and she did like you?” Corrin asked.

“Well, that… I think we’d be…” Sakura giggled bashfully, grinning from ear to ear. “I’d be more than okay with that….”

“No, I mean, what if you dressed like that, and she only liked you for your face? Would you still be okay with that?”

Sakura froze.

"I... didn't consider that..." Sakura frowned. Her eyes were distraught as she gnawed on her lower lip in thought. She looked so troubled by Corrin's suggestion that Corrin couldn't help but stand from her chair to sit next to her little sister on her bed.

"Listen, Sakura," She said with a gentle smile, laying a comforting hand on Sakura's shoulder. "You're a good kid, you know? And I know that Camilla will adore you when she meets you. Don't worry so much about clothes and hair and catering to her interests and just be yourself, okay?"

Sakura looked up at Corrin's reassuring smile and blinked. Then, slowly, a shy grin bloomed across her face.

Which was good for Corrin. She didn't know how long she could hold back the 'I mean yeah, she'll adore you but it will never be in a romantic light because Camilla thinks of you and everyone as a little sibling, but she will still adore you no matter what you wear?'

"Thank you so much, Corrin," Sakura said. "I guess I was thinking about it too hard."

"You were," Corrin admitted bluntly.

"Thank you for your advice." Sakura beamed at her. "You're the best older sister ever."

Corrin actually felt her face change colours at that.

"...don't tell Hinoka I said that," Sakura added.

"It'll be our secret," Corrin promised.

Sakura nodded, before wishing her a good night and leaving.

Corrin kept smiling, until the door was fully closed. Then she sighed because trying to be sisterly was exhausting. She didn't have time to be super exhausted, though, because just then, Hinoka walked into her room.

"Good evening," Hinoka greeted her stiffly.

Hinoka refused to look at her. In fact, Hinoka had stationed herself by Corrin's dresser, pointedly staring at one of her little sister's posters. Her face was as red as her hair and she was clenching her fists so tightly, her arms were shaking.

Corrin felt her eye twitch at what was bound to happen.

"Good evening, big sister," Corrin said simply, quickly schooling her expression back into a demure smile. "How are you doing?"

"I... need to... a-ask about... something," Hinoka forced out each word, and Corrin's smile was feeling more and more forced with every second. "About... um, just... my exercise r-routine- hahaha!"

'That was such a fake laugh,' Corrin mused, as she patiently asked, "What about your exercise routine?"

"Just... just wondering, you know... because, I'm wondering... if leg muscles or arm muscles or abs are more important... t-to volleyball, of course!"

"I've never touched a volleyball in my life. I have no idea what muscles are important," Corrin stated bluntly, leaving out the 'So stop using that as an excuse and just say what you want to say already!'.

"E-er... okay." Hinoka looked dejected. But she wasn't leaving.

"So," Corrin started, since she had the feeling she would be waiting all night if she waited for Hinoka to say it herself, "why did you really ask me?"

"I just... wanted an idea of where I should focus my routine...?"

"Because..."

"Because... I thought... you would... know what... what..." Hinoka almost managed to say it. And then she got flustered. "-w-w-w-w-what kind of things are necessary to a good workout! Yeah!"

"You would know better than me," Corrin pointed out. "Also, you could have asked Ryoma or the gym teacher."

"B-because, I'm thinking about... p-p-picking up fencing as a hobby! I mean, woodshop, or carrying stuff, or whatever you do with your free time!"

Corrin sighed in her heart.

'Hinoka, you're terrible at lying, and it's freaking obvious that you're trying to avoid saying that you're trying to impress your crush when she shows up at school on Monday,' Corrin wanted to say. 'Please, for the love of the Divine Dragons, just say it already.'

But, that would be mean, so she was forced to just stare at Hinoka with her plastered-on smile and wait it out.

"Hinoka," She chided, taking a leaf from Camilla's book. "Please."

'Please stop this painful display, please just say it honestly, please just stop.'

"I... just... wanted to get to know you?"

"I'm your sister."

"I... okay!" Hinoka wailed, covering her face with her hands, peeking at Corrin through her fingers. "I just... wanted to impress her! I didn't know what she liked, so I just- I asked you!"

'FINALLY.'

"Okay. You want to impress her," Corrin repeated, the truth being out in the open taking a huge weight off her entire being.

Her relieved smile seemed absolutely radiant, which Hinoka mistook for her being supportive.

"I do."

"I mean, you should probably start with learning her name!" Corrin exclaimed happily. "Also, her birthday, grade, likes, dislikes, interests, family name, friends, hobbies, allergies, favourite food, favourite colour, favourite animal, preferences in a partner, and so much more that I'm probably forgetting..."

Corrin had hoped that reminding Hinoka that she barely knew her crush would dissuade the older girl. Just a little bit. Because honestly, her siblings barely knew Camilla at all why were they so infatuated?

Unfortunately for Corrin, and fortunately for Hinoka, her kind, wise little sister's words served as the exact inspiration Hinoka needed to discover a way to progress past her problems. 

"Thank you for shining the light of truth on me!" Hinoka declared, before running off.

Corrin blinked. She had no idea what just happened.

But to be honestly, it was probably anime antics.

Corrin sighed, and, just like before, put on a smile just as Ryoma entered the room.

"Good evening," Her older brother greeted awkwardly, "I trust that you're doing well?"

Corrin nodded. He asked another question about her day, and she nodded. A few minutes into that pattern, and her neck muscles were becoming as sore as one's thumb would be after mashing A to get through screen after screen of unskippable dialogue.

"I'm glad your day has been treating you well," Ryoma said. "If you'd allow your older brother to be so cruel as to trouble you on such a good day..."

"I'm fine," Corrin swore, even though her smile was stiff and emotional exhaustion was eating at her. "You can ask me anything."

"Would you know how to gain the approval of her family?"

"Beat her entire family in horseback races, then one after the other, starting from the youngest and ending with the oldest, beat her siblings and parents in a wrestling match while wearing twenty pound weights," Corrin said with the straightest face she could manage.

"I see."

Corrin was so shocked by his absurd acceptance that her face fell.

"You do know that their entire family has been riding horses since they were like, babies, right?" Corrin asked.

"I was not aware of that, but I thank you for the helpful information."

"Also, Azura alone is strong enough to lift six people." Technically not a lie, since Corrin didn't say 'at the same time'.

"Alright."

"What do you mean, 'alright'?! You have no chance of winning!"

"Despite the difficulty inherent in such a premise, it is still possible to reach victory," Ryoma said wisely. "It requires skills I do not have, yet it is still possible to reach victory."

Corrin was tempted to slap her hand to her forehead and call him the biggest idiot she's ever met. She was tempted to tell him to his face that he met this girl twice. She wanted to tell him that there was absolutely no reason for him to skip so many steps in the process of wooing Camilla.

But.

But that would be rude. But that wasn't what a supportive sister would say. But that would be cruel, to destroy their innocent hopes of a requited love, just like that. But she was expected to be kind and supportive and sweet, even though it was so exhausting. But she was expected to care, even though it was killing her.

Each time she felt the desire to speak up about how her own thoughts, a million reasons silenced her. 

So, as Ryoma went on about honour and virtue, kindness and bravery, she simply smiled, nodded, and kept her mouth shut until he was satisfied. And then he wished her a good night and left before Corrin could tell him she was bluffing.

Corrin sighed. And then she remembered that Takumi was coming back. 

She smiled, but her heart wasn't in it. She waved Takumi in from the hallway, struggling against her fake smile to look welcoming and sisterly.

Takumi took one good look at her, and then turned away from her room.

"Wait. Didn't you want help?"

"Do you realize just how damn late it is?" Takumi shot back. "Some of us need to sleep."

"Or play online games with Oboro and Hinata," Corrin joked.

Takumi squawked indignantly, turning to glare at her. The expression on his face was so funny that she couldn't help but laugh.

And somehow, that took some weight off her chest.

She wasn't sure if she was actually crying or not, but she made the motion of wiping away tears all the same. 

"Seriously, it won't take that long," Corrin promised. "And besides, I'm supposed to help with my siblings' problems, aren't I?"

Takumi was silent. 

And then he walked over to her and handed her the map.

Corrin examined it carefully, talking as she grabbed a pen.

"The girl you like, well, she's obviously a very maternal person," Corrin explained. "She's sweet to everyone, not just her family, and treats pretty much everyone just like a little sibling. So, you can get her attention by being really cute.”

Takumi made a face at that, though Corrin didn’t see it, since she was busy circling areas and jotting notes.

“But, to be honest, she finds just about everyone cute. If you want to be a step above the others in her head, get along with her family,” She instructed, leaving out the part where Leo and Elise and Xander kind of hated his guts already. “Then you can actually try to impress her.”

“Okay,” Takumi said. “Quick question, though.”

“Yes?” Corrin responded, looking up from her doodling curiously.

“Why are you vandalizing my map?”

“Oh. Oh, ” Corrin realized. Then she spun her chair around so she could show him her work.

“This,” she began, pointing at one circle on a classroom noted to be empty, “is probably where the Wolf Pack’ll set up. This spot over here is gonna be Felicia’s territory, since she likes being near the basement, so I warned you to stay away. The kitchen is where Effie will stay, and Arthur will be near, and you want to be careful if you’re going to be near Arthur. And this place,” she pointed at a room on the second floor with a multitude of skulls and warning symbols around it, “is where Peri will be. Avoid her at all costs.

“What,” Takumi said flatly.

“Wolf Pack,” She said simply, pointing at the empty classroom, before moving her finger over the kitchen. “Caution,” then, at the Peri spot, “Avoid at all costs.”

“... Wolf Pack, ” Takumi echoed.

“It’s just their name,” Corrin admitted casually. “The Wolf Pack operates in abandoned classrooms, if you see a door with a pouch with small folded papers in it hanging from the doorknob, that’s them. Don’t read any of them. If you ask for something with a monetary value, you’ll be expected to pay the money's worth back within the week, with interest. After you place your request in the bag, you'll be contacted within three days. Doesn't matter if you didn't sign your name, or printed the paper, or asked someone else to deliver it for you. They will find you. They will grant your request, but after that, you're in their debt, and if you're asked to do a favour for them, you can't refuse. If you try, you'll be sorry. Just get it over with as fast as possible, and try not to screw up."

Takumi stared at her like she was absolutely insane.

"What. What? What- is this even made of high school students?"

"I mean, yeah, but it's not like you're ever gonna find out who."

"So. Let me get this straight," Takumi began, his eyebrows scrunched together in an incredible fashion. "Anyone in your school could be part of what is basically the junior high mafia, and we are going to meet them on Monday."

Now, had Corrin been in a good state of mind, she would have corrected Takumi. But, she was tired and she had to deal with all her other siblings, so she just did what she did all night; smile and nod.

"Ooooooooooooooooooooookay then. Is there anything else weird and/or otherwise dangerous about your school I should know?"

"As soon as she can, she's going to become leader of the Tea Ceremony club," Corrin informed him, pulling open her drawer and taking out a small charm depicting a purple rose. "You need one of these to get in. The guards will eventually learn your face, but until they're familiar with you, you need this."

Takumi almost thanked her for the charm, before realizing something.

"You're going to ask for payment if I want that, aren't you?"

"Nope."

"Huh?"

"'Cuz I'm never giving this up," Corrin retorted with a cheeky grin. "You want one, get your own."

Takumi let out a groan.

"I should have never asked you for help."

"Hey," Corrin shrugged, "I was helpful, I actually told you something useful! Several useful things, actually."

"Will you tell me how to get a pin?" Takumi asked, though he clearly didn't expect her to answer.

"I already told you," Corrin stated, tossing him his map back. "It's up to you to actually go through with it."

Takumi caught it, before staring at her writing so hard, his eyes might have burned through the paper.

And then he nodded, and stood, resolute. 

"I see. Thanks Corrin." He smiled at her as he left, and Corrin mirrored it.

She kept that smile on until he was out of sight, and sighed.

Her chair spun as she stood, already moving towards her drawer to grab her phone. Nimble fingers quickly got the number she wanted, and she waited.

"Evening, Corrin," Silas' voice greeted her. "Anything I can do for you?"

"Just wanted to ask how you were doing," Corrin said, trying not to let her fatigue leak through as she flopped down on her bed, chest hitting the mattress. She hugged a pillow to her chest, holding it under her chin as she talked. "Anything exciting going on with you?"

"Well, my sister sent a letter," Silas said so sincerely, Corrin's heart lightened at the sound of his voice. "She's doing well, she's working harder than ever to be a good weightlifter!"

"Incredible," Corrin replied, letting out a fond sigh as a small smile made it on her face.

"Oh, and I've passed by old man Hubba on my way to the library, he's doing well!"

"I'm glad."

"He was with his friend, and they were both happy to tell me about their grandchildren and some history tidbits I didn't know. Did you know that there's a class meant to teach royalty how to handle being challenged to combat for the crown by a member of the Flame Tribe?"

"I didn't," Corrin admitted. "Can you tell me?"

"Of course!" Silas' tone was eager and exuberant, and Corrin could feel her stress melting away. "Flame Tribe people usually pass on authority from chief to successor with a fight, any time, anywhere. Some of them apply this thought process- methodology? - um, either way, sometimes they actually try to get into royalty that way. And it's considered dishonourable to refuse a challenge, so in order to keep the throne and keep the Flame Tribe's respect, there's a special way to do it."

"Interesting."

"Yeah, the ruler is usually gonna tell the Flame Tribe to fight against the entire army in order to see if they're worthy of fighting against them. Usually just fighting an entire army on your own is going to be enough to totally wipe you out, right? But there are cases where some members actually did that."

"Whoa."

"I don't know exactly how they managed to do it, but it's amazing, don't you think? But if they beat the entire army, then the ruler tells them to challenge a general. The generals are obviously gonna be a step above the soldiers, plus the member of the Flame Tribe is gonna be tired and injured, so they never get past this part. But if they do, then the ruler will fight them."

"Really?"

"Yep! But, the moment the ruler is injured, it counts as an attack against the crown, so every guard in the vicinity is allowed to take them down!"

"Really cool, Silas."

"Haha, glad you think so!" Corrin could almost picture the way he was smiling, just from his tone. "I'd be glad to share more random facts with you if you still feel bad."

Corrin was silent for a few seconds.

"Dammit Silas, how do you know these things?" Corrin asked, only vaguely alarmed. 

"Because I've been your friend for years, Corrin," Silas answered wisely. "You can tell me about it, or you can choose not to. I'll be here either way."

Corrin smiled as she twirled a bit of hair around her finger.

"You're pretty much the nicest guy this side of Valm," She stated. "But you don't have to worry about me."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, i'm just tired. Everyone wants my advice."

"You're incredibly kind, but sometimes, you just need to know when to stop, for your own sake."

She sighed.

"Yeah," She lied, her tongue feeling like wood in her mouth. "I will."

Silas didn't press, only asking, "Ready for Monday? It's gonna be a big day, so be sure to get your rest."

"I will, I will, you mother hen," Corrin promised with a gentle laugh. "Just be sure to follow your own advice."

Silas laughed in turn, and wished her a good night.

While Corrin felt better, she still didn't want to sleep, so she absentmindedly checked her unseen texts.

And then she almost dropped her phone.

Elise and Leo had both texted her, their messages showing the same photo.

Just a single piece of paper, with half a schedule printed on it. It had half the classes she had that semester and the same locker number on her own schedule. The only other thing that differed from her own aside from the half-empty boxes was the name.

'Carl Cloverfield.'

[I apologize, Corrin, I couldn't persuade Father to preemptively nip this problem in the bud. He told me to inform you that all the teachers in this schedule have been instructed to expect a Carl Cloverfield in a girl's uniform from now on.]

Elise's text was even simpler.

[Dad thought this would be funny.]

Corrin was struck with just one thought at this.

'I should have never asked you for help.'

Chapter Text

"I'm sorry, you're planning on what?

"Do I need to go over the plans again, or what?" 

"I kind of got lost around the time Arthur happened."

"Okay, I'll explain it one more time. On the day of the merge-"

"No, I mean, are you insane."

"That's irrelevant."

"It's... kinda relevant."

"Elise, look at it this way. My siblings would start fighting the moment they realize they all have a crush on the same person. Your dad's planning on introducing all of his kids at that ceremony. If we don't do this, they'd realize they all like the same girl and fight and die."

"That doesn't mean your plan isn't absolutely insane."

"Sometimes you need to use insanity to win a war."

"Well, I mean, she has a point."

"Okay, but where are you going to get the... you already have a tuxedo. Where did you even get that? Did you have that under the table the entire time?"

"Don't worry about it too much, Leo. I've got a plan."

"That is the most ominous sentence I have ever heard coming from your mouth."


Monday came, and the students gathered in Shisaragi's famous flower gardens to hear the former Krakenberg principal speak. He stood on a makeshift stage, standing at a podium. His voice carried over the sizable crowd thanks to the help of speakers set up by the edges of the stage. His children waited by the stairs, waiting for him to call for them.

"Thank you, thank you," Garon proclaimed to the field of students, though only those from Krakenberg applauded him. Those from the eastern half of town kept silent.

His kids made their way onto the stage, four figures smiling (except for Azura) and waving to the crowd (except for Azura).

"My own children will be joining you in this school, and I'd like to introduce my sons, Xander and Leo, and my daughters, Azura, Elise, and-" Garon had turned to wave at his kids, only to realize a conspicuous absence. "What?! Where is my-"

A loud, booming cackle from behind prompted everyone to turn and stare. And then gasp, because there was a masked person on the roof, holding a female figure with a weird mask over her face and her limbs restrained.

"Your daughter is mine now, old man!" The.... mysterious figure declared, voice emerging from the speakers. People began to whisper to each other, wondering what was going on. 

"What?! How dare you! Return her immediately!" Xander screamed, stealing his father's microphone so his voice could reach the person on the roof.

"You..." Garon growled, glowering so much, one could see the new wrinkles forming on his face.

"Nope, I stole her fair and square. And I plan on keeping my treasures."

"You won't get away with this!" Elise exclaimed angrily, just as Leo did the sensible thing and tried to call the police. And failed.

Azura just slapped her forehead.

The person on the roof laughed once more.

"You insult me! You think I'd allow you to call for help that easily?! No, no one here shall ever be able to tell the tale of what happened to the police!" 

The students began checking their phones, only to find that the person was right.

And then a student stepped forward, hands on his hips and chest puffed out proudly.

"Hold it, evildoer! You'll be brought to justice!" Arthur announced.

"I'd like to see you try."

Arthur dashed forward heroically and immediately tripped over a rock, tumbled forward, and crashed into the door. The door turned out to be a push door, so, with his fall, he pushed it with enough force to slam it into the hallway wall, which made a section of it fall down and hit him in the head.

The crowd was whispering and mumbling and generally wondering if everything was a joke.

"Arthur! No! You can't fall here!" Effie caught him, holding him in her arms. "Wake up! We need you!"

"Arise, Herald of Heroism!" Odin yelled. "If not for you, who will rescue the headmaster's daughter?!"

"She won't be rescued," The person on the roof said confidently. "There's no one to stop me!"

"Yeah, not by idiots like you!" Selena shrieked from the crowd.

"You don't know when to stop, do you..." Niles sighed.

"This is... worrying," Benny said.

Odin felt his conviction waver for a bit, before his bravery came back full force. Mostly because Laslow gave him a thumbs up.

"You plan on running and hiding like a coward, don't you! A snake, no, a rat hiding from the watchful eyes of justice! You coward!"

"Coward..." The word was hissed through clenched teeth. 

"Yeah! Coward!" Charlotte called out. "You're a stinkin' coward!"

"Not brave enough to confront us," Beruka stated.

"Running and hiding!" Peri added.

"...very well. I'll give you all one chance to save the girl," The person stated. "Just one."

An envelope was pulled out of a pocket, thrown to the ground so hard, it seemed embedded in the dirt. Keaton was kind enough to pick it up and deliver it to Xander, though it was just because it was littering otherwise, not because he cared, got it?

"A letter from someone named... Phantom Thief Sied!" Xander exclaimed in horror, ripping the envelope open.

Everyone watched expectantly, waiting for him to read it out loud. Except he didn't. He just read it to himself, folded it back in the envelope, and passed the thing to his dad.

"I swear, I'll find her, father," Xander promised, before jumping off the stage and running off. His siblings stared after him mutely.

There was a moment of silence where everyone wondered what the heck was happening, so Garon cleared his throat.

"Forgive me for the... inconveniences regarding today," He said. "Forgive me, but the safety of my children is of the utmost importance to me, and I will be spending my time attempting to find my daughter. I will leave matters of direction to the most capable on my staff, Ms. Maria Nyx."

Ms. Nyx's face soured and she shot Garon a capital-L Look.

Garon winced. Her eyes narrowed, and she held out her hand. He handed her the letter. Ms. Nyx stepped up to the podium and made a 'hmph!' sound before speaking into the mic. Garon took that as his cue to leave.

"Well, I suppose there's no reason we can't kill two birds with one stone," Ms. Nyx stated as she scanned the letter. "This letter has, among useless flowery language and boasting, one useful bit of information. It says, in plain language, that the young girl will be found 'in the shadows in the plain face of sun'. Those from Shisaragi, use those brains of yours and search the school for areas you think could fit that description. Those from Krakenberg, follow them, and you shall obtain some familiarity with the layout of the school. And get Arthur some ice, while you're at it."

"You intend on using our esteemed students as patrol dogs," A voice piped up, serene and judgmental in the same breath.

Ms. Nyx glanced to the side of the stage, where Mr. Yukimura was smiling without grinning. Elise and Leo backed away from just the tension between the teachers, while Azura didn't care enough to do anything except scan the crowd with vacant eyes.

"In order to save a young woman. A noble cause, one would think."

"If this isn't some elaborate farce," Mr. Yukimura said. "I sincerely doubt anyone would be bragging and posturing about like that after a kidnapping. Are you certain she hasn't simply skipped the ceremony?"

"The headmaster's daughter would never dream of such a thing. And while the so-called thief acts like a fool, I will take the safety of my students seriously," Ms. Nyx snapped. "A feat it seems you cannot claim to have accomplished the same."

A string of gasps surged from the crowd. While there was no reception or internet, people were still filming the two anyways.

"You truly expect someone to call themselves 'Phantom Thief Sied' and be serious about it?"

"Zeed, kidnapper of Princess Tiena, eleven twenty-two," Ms. Nyx answered flatly.

"His existence is debated! There's no archaeological evidence of his exploits!"

Azura just sighed at Ms. Nyx's retort, hopped off the stage, and waded through the crowd towards the door. Elise and Leo hesitated, exchanged a glance, then followed her.

The others just followed along, leaving the two bickering history teachers behind on the stage. 


"So, how long do I stay here, Corrin?" Camilla asked, taking a sip of her tea. 

"Until someone finds you," Corrin answered, fixing a wig on one of the fake-out dolls.

"Are you sure you don't need help with that, dear?"

"I'm fine Camilla," Corrin reassured her, turning to smile at the older girl. Though it looked a bit odd, with her mask falling over most of her face despite constant attempts to adjust it. "It's my event, so I should be the one handling it, right?"

"I suppose. Though I can't help but feel bad, doing nothing but drink tea while you work so hard..."

"What are you talking about? You're working hard as this scavenger hunt's grand prize. You're giving up your chance to explore your new school so everyone else can explore and have fun," Corrin told her. Which... which was technically true. "So don't worry about anything, and just stay here, okay?"

"Alright. So, Silas is distributing the item cards now?"

"Yeah, he already started." Corrin nodded, checking her phone to see his text. She left out the part where people thought Camilla was actually kidnapped.

Well, the wig was on and secure, Corrin's mask in place, and phantom costume smoothed out, so Corrin stood and threw the doll over her shoulder.

"I'll see you later," Corrin said, already walking away.

"Wait," Camilla called out, in a request that simply couldn't be refused.

"Yeah, Camilla?" Corrin turned to stare, and Camilla set down her cup.

"I'm proud of you, Corrin," She stated seriously, sisterly, and just a touch maternally. "It's wonderful that you organized something on this scale to help smooth over the tensions between everyone. You're incredibly kind, and it warms my heart to see you go to these lengths for the sake of others."

Those words hit Corrin's heart, hard. 

"T-thank you...!" She forced her mouth to curve up into a smile, even though her voice was stiff and strained. "That... that means... so much to me... because... that's true, yeah... Probably..."

Camilla stared at her, and Corrin began fidgeting. 

"I mean, yes! I believe that! I totally believe in that! Thank you! That was really nice! I feel like a good person! Yeah!"

Camilla blinked, her lips forming a flat line.

"ANYWAYS I'LL SEE YOU LATER BYE."

And then Corrin fled.

Camilla laughed to herself, before drinking some more of her tea.

And then a girl managed to fall in. Yes, for realsies, she fell in from the ceiling vent, even making a little blam sound when she hit the floor. She didn't even lift her head afterward.

Camilla stared for a few seconds, not expecting someone to drop in so soon. That pause lasted all of six seconds, before she realized that a) her guest might have been hurt, and b) she had a guest.

So, in the most sister-maternally way possble, she helped the other girl up, setting her in the chair opposite her.

The other girl seemed dazed. Given that, for one, she had just faceplanted on the floor, and secondly, people tended to react to that to people like Camilla, Camilla dismissed it as normal. Short teal hair fell over one eye, the visible eye a matching shade of blue. She wore the Shisaragi uniform, so Camilla pulled out a tea she heard those eastern types liked.

She was about to start preparing the tea, only for the blue-haired girl to interrupt.

"So... you're the princess character, right...?" She asked slowly. "I've never met a princess before... Kinda exciting."

"I'm no princess, but I can assure you, I'm just as excited to meet you," Camilla responded. "My name is Camilla Ryder. And you are?"

"Oh. I'm Setsuna. Setsuna Madotsuki."

"Well, then, Setsuna, would you like some tea?"

"Yeah, I'd like that."

Camilla grinned, before standing. "I'll just fetch you some."

"I can do it," Setsuna replied, standing up as well.

"No, I insist, you're my guest!" Camilla retorted.

"You're new to the school, so I should be helping you."

Their eyes met for a second, and they came to an understanding. They would handle their dispute in the most mature way possible.

By racing over to the kettle and fighting over it physically, of course.

Outside, the others might have noticed a slight clattering sound. That noise would probably be dismissed, since everyone was embroiled in a dramatic chase. To be specific, lots and lots of people were chasing down Phantom Thief Sied, who, in reality, was Silas after being convinced that everything was an altruistic attempt to unite the school's in a common goal and help erase some of the animosity between them, running around and trying to act on the vague instructions Corrin gave him. Which amounted to 'act really weird and suspicious like a cartoon villain so everyone chases you and tries to stop you'. Despite his best efforts, he had only succeeded in attracting half the school.

The people who weren't chasing him were chasing some other guy in a mask and suit. Who was actually Corrin, taking on the role of Carl, which meant that she was a girl pretending to be a boy who usually dressed as a girl but in this case was dressed as a guy.

So that would mean that there were two entirely separate dramatic chases happening, in the same building, with two guys (?) who looked similar, and obviously, there was no way that would end well.

They would obviously meet, cause mass confusion, possibly fight to the death, and ruin someone's hair. Or, alternatively, get cornered by everyone because someone tripped and fell and hurt themselves and had to get supported by their friend. Which, would lead to Garon walking up to the crowd while slowly clapping. He would applaud them for their noble efforts and cleverness, casually revealing that everything was a set-up for reasons that were entirely fabricated by Corrin, and by Corrin he meant Carl. This move would singlehandedly boost Carl Cloverfield's reputation to the point that everyone knew his name and the part where he was a student who was actually supposed to attend classes. And want to be his friend, as in interact with Carl, and she accidentally let it slip that Carl was in the drama club which meant that Carl was also expected to actually participate in the drama club.

The author would like to invite the readers to take a guess which scenario ended up happening. 

(The moral of the story is this: Even when Corrin wins, she loses.)

(Additional moral: Hinoka needs better friends.

Proof? A text exchange, witnessed just that night in her home.

[WAIT WAIT WAIT WAIT, YOU MET THE LEADER OF THE TEA CEREMONY CLUB?!]

[WHERE?!?!?!?!]

[in the room with the teapot]

[she made really good jasmine tea with the fancy silver spoon]

[okay but HOW DO YOU GET THERE]

[through the vents]

[?!?!?????!!!!!!?!?!?!?]

[Astounding answer, Setsuna. I applaud you on your clarity.]

[Azama, shut up])

Chapter Text

It was an obvious question.

Anyone who knew them had the same question, didn't they?

Even Hayato was curious. So, one day, when he was relaxing on Mozu's bed and counting the knots in her wooden ceiling, he just asked. 

"Hey, Mozu," he called out, turning onto his stomach to look down on her.

She didn't even look up from her book, simply going, "Mmm, yeah?"

"Why are we friends again?"

Mozu opened her mouth to retort, only to pause and turn towards him. She looked downright baffled as she just said, "...pardon?"

"I meant, I'm the weird Wind Tribe kid, right? How come you choose to associate with me?"

"How old are ya again?" Mozu asked, giving him a pointed stare. "I'm assumin' you're young enough to recall how we met."

"'Course I do," Hayato replied, adjusting himself so that he was leaning on his elbows. "We were four and at the park, some kids tried to take my headband, you punched them, and I thought you were a boy and you thought I was a girl."

"You really had to include that part," Mozu noted dryly. 

"I mean yeah, it's hilarious to look back on," Hayato commented. He paused for a bit, before his expression soured slightly. "But, I'm just wondering... Why did you even get involved? Wouldn't it have been easier to just ignore it?"

"Wouldn't be right, would it?"

Hayato hummed in response, and Mozu ducked her head.

"Okay, that was just... half the reason," Mozu confessed, shutting her book so she could focus all her attention on her best friend. "But the other reason's embarrassing." 

"Can't be more embarrassing than rabbit-print undies," Hayato quipped immediately.

Mozu lifted her book menacingly. Her very thick book on fairytales that could probably break bones by being dropped too far.

"Anyways, I won't make fun of you for the reason."

Mozu stared at him.

"Unless it's actually really dumb," he added honestly.

With an impressively impassive expression, Mozu lifted her book above his head in preparation.

"You love me too much to do it," Hayato said defiantly.

"No, I don't." 

"You do."

"Wanna bet?"

"I'd bet my life on it," Hayato stated. 

They had a brief match of wills, before Mozu dropped her book and sighed.

"You're weird," Mozu huffed, pouting as she leaned back on the bed.

"You're acting like you're a paragon of normalcy, farm girl," Hayato retorted.

"My farm keeps you fed."

"You say that like it would stop me."

"What, d'you have no sense of gratitude or something?"

Hayato looked at her weird.

"Seriously? Seriously?"

"What?" Mozu responded, making an odd face at him.

"Nothing. Go back to your lame fairytales, why don't you," Hayato grumbled.

"Tell me."

"Don't feel like it."

"Hayatoooooooo," Mozu whined, climbing on top of the bed and glaring down at him. "You're in my room, you do what I tell you."

"Funny, I don't remember having any rules like that when we're in my room," Hayato said dryly.

"It's only because you never tell anyone what to do! Even in projects, even when you're supposed to be a perfectionist, you just give suggestions and give people ideas!" Mozu blurted out, before realizing something. "Do you... do that on purpose?"

"Yeah. I can't tell anyone what to do or what to think," Hayato answered honestly.

"Why?" Mozu sat down next to him, staring at him curiously.

"Freedom above all else is one of the core beliefs of the Wind Tribe," Hayato told her. "We think everyone is free to think what they want, say what they will, and decide what to do. Trying to decide for them would be like taking that freedom from them, so we don't." He suddenly shot her a smirk. "Even if we see someone about to mess up really badly, the only thing we can do is give advice or out view on the situation."

"I'm ignoring your dumb face because I'm curious," Mozu informed him, before her tone took a turn for the curious. "So... can ya tell me more? Please?"

"'Bout what, rocks?"

"The Wind Tribe, idiot."

"Should've been more clear then."

"Are you gonna tell me or not!?"

"Only if you actually answer me after."

"I have no idea what you're talking about!"

"The so-called embarrassing reason you helped me out that day," Hayato told her, the smile dropping off his face. "I want to know why."

Mozu's eyes darted towards the other side of her room, before slowly drifting back to Hayato's expression.

"Fine," She spat out after a while. "But if you laugh, I'm throwin' you out into the pig pen."

"Deal," Hayato said, before starting.

"Well, for one, Dad tells me the Wind Tribe used to live in these huge villages on top of mountains. They used to live in them before most of them were wrecked in the war, he says they were nice windy places near cliffs and stuff."

"You think he misses his village?"

Hayato thought about it for a second, before answering with, "Don't think so. Dad told me you always keep moving around from village to village whenever you feel like it, so you don't get attached to the earth."

"Is getting attached a bad thing?" Mozu wondered.

"Doesn't help your chances of getting all the way up there," Hayato replied, waving his hand at the ceiling vaguely.

"What," Mozu said flatly.

"Paradise above the sky. Can't be easy for a soul to get up there when you're attached to the ground."

"So, it's like Naga's realm? Ideal afterlife and all that?"

"Basically. It's the world of the spirits and the realm of the winds that everyone wants to get into. Kinda like a popular zoo movie or something."

"...zoo?"

"Ten spirits; the rat, the ox, the monkey, the horse, the rabbit, the snake, the dragon, the bird, the tiger, and the sheep. The ox stays behind for those on earth to help them become exemplary, he gets the Oxscana dior, the others can grant protection and other things. They have different variations of the Animalia dior."

"I have no idea what that is."

"The songs and dances me and my dad do."

"Wait, so like, singing while dancing? Or separate songs and separate dances?"

"I mean, Dad's getting old," (A faint 'Not too old to have some fun!' came from downstairs.), "so I handle the dancing while he sings. But it's usually supposed to be singing and dancing at the same time."

Mozu mulled over the thought. And then she realized something.

"So... you can sing?" She asked slowly.

"Ish."

"Liar."

"I didn't even do anything to deserve that one," Hayato noted.

"You lied."

"About what?"

"You can sing," Mozu stated, absolute certainty in her voice. "I heard you."

Hayato looked at her weird.

"I don't even remember the last time I sang," he admitted. "Might have been years."

"I heard you when I was a kid," Mozu told him. "I was watching my ma plant her carrots and then I heard someone singing. And it was real pretty, so I kept trying to get outside to hear it more, so my ma kept teaching me how to plant stuff. And then I was dropped off at that daycare, and I heard those guys picking on you, and when you yelled at them, I realized you were the singing guy next door. 'fore I knew it, I slugged one of them in the face and tried to help you."

Hayato stared at her flatly.

Mozu stared back.

He said nothing, and Mozu started to fidget under his gaze.

Finally, after what felt like a full five minutes of silence, Mozu snapped.

"S-say something, stupid, would ya?! I thought you wanted to hear me tell you why I helped you!"

"I did," Hayato answered, still looking at her weird. That face was oddly indecipherable.

"Well!?"

"We don't actually have to wear the headband," Hayato said simply. "It's actually really bothersome, it's kinda itchy sometimes, and sometimes I smack myself in the face with the things on the sides."

"O...kay? Where are you going with this?"

"It's annoying and unnecessary, but it's one of the only things I have left from my birth parents." Just to punctuate his words, he took off the headband and toyed with one of the golden pieces. "I love my dad, but my birth parents gave up their lives to save me from the fire that took our village, so there's always going to be a part of me that misses them and wants to meet them and honour them. So it's one of my most precious possessions."

Hayato turned his head towards Mozu and smiled. Somehow, he said all he wanted to say, with that expression alone.

Mozu was a mix between flustered and baffled, unaware that her gesture had meant so much to him.

They settled into a comfortable silence, before Mozu blurted out the first thing on her mind.

"Hey, Hayato."

"Yeah?"

"Can you sing a song for me?" Mozu requested shyly.

"Sure," He answered. "If you can sing for me too."

"I can't sing!" Mozu protested. "I sing like a dying mule!"

"Debatable. No one can be that bad."

"I can!"

"Even if you were, I wouldn't back out."

"You're a masochist now?!"

"Nah, it would be great blackmail material." Hayato grinned evilly as he took out his phone.

"I'm gonna murder ya!"

"Aren't you overreacting?! I was joking!"

"How was I supposed ta know?!"

"Will you calm down if I teach you how to sing a song or something like that?!"

Mozu paused, successfully distracted from her attempt at a murder.

"Is... is that legal?" She wondered.

"I fail to see a law saying Wind Tribe songs are illegal now," Hayato deadpanned.

"I didn't mean it like that!" Mozu snapped. "I mean, I'm a Naga worshipper! Ain't it weird for me to be singin' your songs?!"

"Our friendship in general is weird. I think you should have noticed that by now."

"Hayato," Mozu said impatiently.

"Me and my dad are the only Wind Tribe people you know," Hayato began to explain. "My dad wouldn't care and would probably tell you to do what you want, and I'm the one offering. Plus, you're free to do whatever, including learn our songs."

"Okay..." Mozu sighed. "But don't blame me if I mess it up."

"You can trust me, right? Because I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that you'll be great."

Hayato was right, much to Mozu's chagrin.

(After the capital-I Incident, Mozu couldn't even hum without thinking of this moment and blushing.)

Chapter Text

There was an incredible tension in the room, emanating from the dark-haired woman at the head of the table. Her presence was so foreboding that, her husband, in some sort of precognitive wisdom, had already said he would be arriving home late, in the hopes of arriving after the storm had subsided.

Her children kept their heads bowed like guilty criminals shuffling towards the prison gates. They were all collectively waiting for the moment the ball dropped and everything exploded, but Mikoto would not give them that relief. 

Instead, she smiled. She made polite conversation, dragging out the moment as long as possible. It was enough to make all but Corrin break out in a cold sweat. Mikoto asked about their day, how they were adjusting to school, 'any new friends?', and such. 

Her children responded in turn. Ryoma spoke of Kagero's flustered state in class, Corrin told her that her friends were adjusting well (ish), Takumi talked about the weird guy by the archery targets, Hinoka called Azama a jerk as usual, and Sakura mentioned how she got the nickname of Saku-B, since there were two other Sakuras in her class.

It went on like that, until the quiet question that made the children flinch. Except for Corrin, who seemed to not have a fear of death.

"So," She started with a gentle voice. "Care to explain, anyone?"

"E-e-e-e-e-explain...?" Sakura stammered.

"Yes, Sakura." She addressed all of her children with a grin that would make a convicted murderer cry for their mother. "How did you manage to get into this mess on the first day of school after the merge?"

Her children instinctively began to play the part of statues. Not one dared to move an inch. Except Corrin. She was too busy drinking milk to care.

"Well then," Mikoto started off, her words like a pair of tweezers to a frog's nerves, poking and prodding to see what made it twitch, "I suppose I'll never know why Ms. Yuugiri told me why my oldest son showed up to class soaking wet, then."

Ryoma flinched, and Mikoto immediately pounced on his moment of weakness.

"Yes, Ryoma?" She asked with a sickly sweet smile. "Would you like to say anything?"

"P-pre... precautionary measures," Ryoma managed to stammer.

"I'm afraid I don't understand. Could you say that again?"

Ryoma was sweating bullets. Even if no one could see it under his hair. He begged for someone to save him, before making eye contact with Corrin. Somehow.

Corrin sighed, before setting down her milk carton.

"I'll tell you what happened to him," Corrin said aloud. "He was being an idiot."

Takumi gave her a weird look at that. Sakura couldn't help but snicker, while Hinoka seemed horrified by the casual disrespect of her older brother.

Unfazed by her daughter's bluntness, Mikoto simply inquired, "Was he?"

"Definitely." Corrin laced her fingers together behind her head, propping her legs on the table with her elbows in the air.

'What kind of delinquent are you...?' Takumi wondered as Corrin began explaining.


 

Note: this is from Corrin's point of view, and thus only about 60% accurate.

"Bla bla bla, something, date Camilla and get married, hahaha," Ryoma blabbered on.

"Don't be weird, Ryoma! You're still in high school!" Corrin protested heroically.

"I... already bought the engagement ring though!" Ryoma declared, tears in his eyes. "I cannot let it go to waste! I shall propose at once!"

"Calm your follicles, Big Brother!" Corrin exclaimed. "You aren't even dating yet!"

"I cannot control myself, for it is my warrior's heart that makes it so!"

"I've no choice-" Corrin grimaced as she reached under her uniform jacket. "Force will bring you back to your senses!"

"Aha! But I am the ultimate kendo man! How could you ever hope to defeat me?!" 

"With this!" Corrin pulled out the hose and attached it to the faucet on the roof. (It existed so that the janitors didn't have to lug mop water up three flights of stairs.) "Special technique: Rising Dragon Flash Flood!"

"GWARUGHAHAHHHVBHAAAAAAAA!" Ryoma screamed as he was drenched. The evil spirit that had possessed him (also known as hormones and impulsivity) was purified! Hooray! 

A rainbow glittered in the sky, a celebration of Corrin's triumph.

(Unbeknownst to Corrin, the rainbow she caused was seen by two girls walking to school together, who stopped and stared at the sight.

"Woah... Amazing! This has to be a good sign! My fortune was right, wasn't it?!" Orochi gasped excitedly, eyes practically sparkling.

"...beautiful," Kagero muttered in return. 

Orochi did not see how Kagero was staring at her instead of the rainbow. She was too busy being happy, because her fortune said to look out for a sign of good luck before confessing to the person she loved.)


 

"...what, so this is a fighting manga now?" Takumi wondered flatly.

Hinoka wiped away tears. "What a touching story!"

Mikoto gave her albino daughter a blank stare.

"So," Mikoto began, "Ryoma showed up to class soaking wet, because you soaked him to stop him from doing something stupid."

"Yep," Corrin said, Ryoma agreeing shamefully.

"B-but... uh, why did you have a hose?" Sakura inquired.

"I thought he was gonna do something stupid, so I got the closest thing I could tie him up with," Corrin explained earnestly.

"I see." Ryoma nodded in understanding. "I cannot claim that I am unhurt by your words, though I do see the grain of truth in your speech."

Mikoto gave the two of them an odd look, before turning to her oldest daughter.

"Alright, then, Hinoka, your turn."

Hinoka paled. And started shaking.

"What exactly happened in the music room?"

"N-nothing! It happened outside the music room!" Hinoka blurted out, before paling at her mistake.

"What could you be talking about?"

"Um, uh, er..." Hinoka gulped, before trying to explain.


Note: This is 100% accurate.

Hinoka ran through the halls faster than most of the people on the Track Team, legs straining from the exertion. She was breathing hard, but she didn't dare slow down. Because, well, for... reasons, she had shown up to school exceedingly early. And then she realized, oh, school was about to start, so she couldn't keep looking through the school for that gi- room- reason that is mysterious and unexplained as of yet.

('...are you serious?' Takumi wondered, just as 'You're kidding me, right?' went through Corrin's head.)

So, basically, she was running. And she passed by the music room, but then the workers were moving a new grand piano into the room. Unable to avoid the giant instrument, Hinoka did the obvious thing.

She jumped.

Except, instead of clearing the piano as she expected, she ended up landing on it. And that meant that her momentum of very fast made the piano start rolling in that direction. And the workers, having been frightened by the UFO launched in their direction, had let go, meaning that they couldn't stop the piano from moving. 

Now, had the girl on that piano been anyone but Hinoka, she probably would have been okay, because there was no way she would have enough speed to make the piano go that fast. Except it was Hinoka, who was probably capable of beating several horses in terms of horsepower.

So, basically, the piano was moving at speeds that would beat a racecar. In a school.

There was hope for Hinoka, though. Far off in the distance, she could see Azama and Setsuna, carrying a large gym mat. Hinoka knew that, if she got their attention, she could get them to hold the mat in a position where she could safely jump off and not die.

Confident in this plan, she screamed at them.

But they didn't [CENSORED] move.

Setsuna, upon seeing a large fast-moving object heading in her direction, had the same instinct as any other human being would have in her situation. She felt the urge to move out of the way. 

However, being Setsuna, she thought she would be okay if she just ducked. 

Hinoka knew that Setsuna could no longer help her. But, there was still time for her to signal to Azama, so she screamed at him to help her. Quickly, because if he waited much longer, she would pass him and also fly off.

"AZAMA! HELP ME!" She screamed.

"I'm afraid I can't do that if I don't know how!" Azama said in return.

"HURRY! THROW THE MAT IN FRONT OF ME-" She ordered, right before the piano passed Azama.

"Oh, yes, good morning, by the way!" He said while waving. Hinoka screamed in response, so he added, "I do so hope that you are doing well, my friend!" 

And, just to make things worse, the piano of pain hit Setsuna. Who, at the time, was crouching in the exact position needed to be a ramp to one of the piano's wheels.

"Have fun on your trip!" Azama interjected cheerfully.

As a result, the piano leaped into the air, Hinoka still on its back, always with one side higher than the other. This had the odd, unintentional effect of making the piano tilted as it flew, forcing Hinoka to lean to the right to avoid falling off. But then, that just made the piano turn to the other side, which made Hinoka have to move to adjust. Thanks to Hinoka's strong legs, this made the turning motion speed up, until the piano was basically a high-speed drill with a log-roller on top. 

"And there she goes!"

A giant spinning piano with a log-roller on top of a drill crashing into a window would probably end badly for everyone involved, but mostly the window. Those glass shards could hurt a lot of people. Thankfully, Hinoka's helpful little sister, Corrin, was there to help.

Being ever-so-kind and thoughtful, she did what anybody would do if their older sister was log-running on a grand piano that was more like a drill that was rapidly approaching the nearest window as they walked down from the roof.

She ran over, as fast as she could, and opened the window.

Forty-eight seconds before Hinoka's arrival, there was a boy with brown eyes and a girl who couldn't stop shaking, standing among the flower fields.

"So, how come you called me out here?" The brown-eyed boy wondered as he observed the blossoms.

"W-well, there's just..." The girl gulped, before forcing her back straight and her eyes to meet his. "I've been wanting to tell you something, and I swore that I would tell you the moment I saw you, Syaoran."

He blinked at the determined look in her eyes, before nodding.

"Alright. I'll listen."

She sucked in a breath, balling her hands into fists as she all but screamed it.

"Syaoran, I lov-"

"Look out!"

And then he tackled her, since a piano crashed into the ground where she had been standing. They rolled away, safely coming to a stop among some freesias. Syaoran had accidentally landed on top of her, but the dangerous situation had pushed all suggestive thoughts out of his mind. The same could not be said for his friend, who was blushing up a storm, even as he helped her up.

She couldn't find the courage to speak, but her grip tightened on her letter. One way or another, she would thank him, and then hopefully confess her feelings!

...was what she thought, right before a falling redhead crashed into her crush from above. The two lost consciousness right then and there, laying in a pile for the few minutes it took for the girl to both scream in despair and go get help.

She didn't even get to thank him.


 

Mikoto had her eyebrows drawn together in the most peculiar fashion as she slowly asked, "So, in essence, you were running in the hallway, accidentally rode a piano, fell out a window due to the machinations of others," she paused to give Corrin a capital-L Look, "ruined part of the garden, broke the grand piano we just replaced, and crashed into a boy, landing him in the nurse's office for most of the day."

Five seconds passed in silence, before Hinoka guiltily said, "Yes."

"I'm more impressed by the part where the kid survived," Takumi declared.

"Yeah, plus, he isn't stuck in the hospital! Usually something like that would break bones, right?!" Corrin exclaimed.

"You're right," Mikoto admitted. "Since the boy was lucky to be so unharmed, I'll reconsider your punishment."

"Mother..." Hinoka gasped in awe.

"How kind...!" Ryoma wiped away a tear.

"I'll make it even harsher," Mikoto stated, destroying that hope in one fell swoop. You're lucky your actions didn't result in worse harm, so I must work harder to teach you that recklessly running and jumping around is dangerous."

"Harsh," Corrin said.

"Don't you speak. You have to clean the windows, wash the car, and take care of the lawn for the month."

"Sure."

"Why are you so calm...?" Takumi wondered.

"All my crimes have been revealed. Can't get any worse now. Can't say the same for you and Saku, though." Corrin grinned innocently

And with that, suddenly, everyone was looking at him and Sakura.

Sakura started shaking after about two seconds, but what really did it for Takumi was the smiles on his mother and Corrin's faces. They were truly mother and daughter, with the exact same sickly sweet grin that could make a prison-hardened criminal cry.

He lasted about seven seconds.

"I don't need you to spell it out!" Takumi screamed, before covering his face in despair. Everything after that came out as a fast-paced monotone droning sound. "I was out practicing my archery alone since the club had been on pause for all the new people when a girl startled me and I let go of the arrow too early. The arrow managed to ricochet off of the target, which shouldn't even be possible, by the way, and then it skimmed off the ground to hit a guy from Sakura's year in the ankle and then he started screaming and the girl was saying something about 'poor Arthur' and I messed up! What more do you want from me?!"

Takumi's head made a 'bonk' sound as it met the table.

'He's been scolding himself this entire time,' Mikoto realized, offering no reprimands and no gestures but a pat to the head. The head which was glued to the table.

"Sakura, do you remember what happened today in your home ec class?"

Sakura kept her tearful eyes fixed on the table as she nodded.

"Would you be so kind as to tell me?" She asked gently.

"...okay."


Sakura absolutely had to make the most high quality sweets she could in an hour and a half. She had calculated that she needed around three to five to pass the course requirements. Those rough, rushed, sloppy cookies were already in the oven, which meant she had an hour and ten minutes to make four batches of cookies for Camilla!

She just needed to find the sugar, and her plan would be in motion!

Her eyes scanned the room, spotting the bag on a table a little ways away. Saku-K was heading for it too, but, if Sakura was fast, she could snatch it away quickly.

Unfortunately, Saku-K was more athletic and thus faster, so, even though Sakura was closer, they got there within seconds of each other. They both grabbed the same bag at the same time, and their eyes met.

"Um... excuse me, I need the sugar for a bit," Sakura said timidly.

"I thought you already finished your cookies," The other girl replied, giving her odd, shifty eyes. "Not to be rude or anything, but I think I might need it a tad more right now. Sorry." 

She didn't mention how she was making extras for Syaoran as he was recovering in the nurse's office, which, unfortunately, was her best chance at not getting into a fight

"Sorry, but aren't you finished your cookies too?" Sakura shot back with a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "What could you be doing with so many extra cookies?"

"T-t-t-t-that's a-a secret!" The other girl exclaimed, turning her head away to hide her blush.

Unfortunately, Sakura misinterpreted this. 

'You're making too many sweets for yourself,' was what she thought, actually concerned.

"Are you cheating on your diet?" was what came out of her mouth.

The other girl froze.

'Wh-what did I do to give Saku-B that impression?!' She thought. 'Do I look like I need a diet?! D-does he like slender girls better?!'

"I... might be," She said, lowering her head in shame. She was already going through a mental list of internet searches for the most efficient diet method.

"Then you don't need this," Sakura reasoned, grabbing the bag with a grin. "I wish you luck with your diet!"

And with that, she turned away to leave.

Now, while Sakura actually meant to be nice and all, it was very easy to misinterpret her words and actions as those of a girl who was kind of being a [CENSORED], but trying not to act like it. 

'D-did she just-!?' And misinterpret she did.

"Wait a second!" The other girl screamed, running after her and grabbing for the bag. "I still need it!"

Sakura didn't let go.

"Didn't you say you were on a diet?!"

"I said I might be! There's a difference!" She yanked at the bag. 

"You-" Pull. "Need-" Tug. "To-"

The 'make up your mind' part was cut off by a yelp as the other girl stomped on her foot, an unfortunate habit gained after a lifetime of dealing with an annoying older brother.

"Please just hand it over! I really need it!"

"No! I need it too!" Sakura protested, putting aside the part where her foot hurt.

And then the bag ripped into two, and they fell back on the floor. The pile of sugar they desired was on the floor, contimated and unworthy of Camilla's mouth, and everything was awful.

Sakura screamed.


 

"I have no idea what happened after that," Sakura confessed. "I just stood up and I was in my next class."

"Your teacher says you broke a spatula, ate half the class' cookies, stole a girl's hair accessories, and tried to eat sugar off the floor," Mikoto said flatly.

"...I don't remember that."

Mikoto sighed.

"All of you, go to your rooms. I'll figure out what to do with you later."

Her children obeyed, leaving Mikoto alone to grab a glass of water and some headache pills.

 


Later that evening, when compiling all the data they got out of Corrin and gossip around the school, Leo and Elise came to a startling conclusion.

"Even though we didn't do anything, they all sabotaged themselves..." Elise muttered gleefully.

"Takumi almost managed to impress her, if you count 'making her think of you as a little brother even more somehow' as impressive..." Leo said thoughtfully.

"We don't even need to make things worse, do we?"

"I suppose... I've never seen a group so success-averse in my life," Leo noted, his tone so horrified by their incompetence that it almost wrapped around to become admiration.

Chapter Text

"The school board has decided that all classes shall be divided between Nohrians and Hoshidans," Ms. Nyx stated. "Your classes are all assigned to be as far from the Hoshidans as possible, and all clubs, sports teams, and volunteer work will be carried out separately as well. In short, the rivalry is still on, and most of you will only see a Hoshidan at competitions or in passing."

As she spoke, the door swung open, and Setsuna entered the room. She slowly staggered towards a seat, speaking only once she had sat down.

"Sorry I'm late, Ma'am..." She muttered sleepily, pulling out a history textbook. That was written in Hoshidan. And also the wrong grade.

Ms. Nyx didn't even bother being surprised. She just amended her previous statement by adding, "Except for her."

And then Mr. Yukimura dropped down from the ceiling and demanded that Ms. Nyx return his student. Ms. Nyx retorted by saying that Setsuna walked in of her own volition, and "I wasn't aware that the morally-upright Hoshidans had decided that free will was a sin to be abolished."

As they argued and bickered and fought, Leo just sighed and grabbed his book. He was used to reading as chaos unfolded around him, and continued his research into the realm of romance stories. 

It was around the time Ms. Nyx decided to stop playing around and threatened Mr. Yukimura with a curse that Leo realized something incredibly important.


 

"The protagonists depend on their support system to progress in their romantic endeavors," Leo said the moment he walked into Elise's room. Elise didn't even react to her brother just walking in, she was too used to doing the same to him.

"Please say that in smaller words," Elise requested, going over her homework in pencil.

"In any romantic story, it's only thanks to the actions of a third party that there is any romantic progression," He reiterated, before glancing at Elise's papers. "And you missed a step there."

"I hate chemistry."

"You only hate that you don't know how to do it right," Leo corrected. "If you want to do your chemical equations right, then this is what you need to do."

He picked up one of her sparkly pink pens and a piece of line paper and started helping.

They spent twenty minutes working before Elise abruptly spoke up.

"You mean they need wingmen to do anything! They're useless on their own!" She exclaimed.

Leo looked at her oddly, slightly irritated from having his explanation interrupted.

"Yes, precisely."

"So if we want to sabotage those guys—" Elise looked at Leo with a capital-L Look, and like a true partner in crime, he understood immediately.

"Little Sister, I like the way you think."

"Hehe, I do too!"


 

It was almost frighteningly easy to get into Corrin's locker to steal her notebooks. Leo just had to suggest that a few someones were planning something, and she put on the ninja outfit and ran before he could even suggest anything else. Leo probably needed to tell her to change her lock and not give out her password so easily, ideally sometime after he was done breaking into her locker and stealing her stuff.

It might come as a surprise to some, but Corrin was a bit of an airhead. She never had the attention span needed to pay attention in class, nor did she have the motivation to study in anything but subjects she particularly liked. Her memory failed her often, and while she might have had the determination to carry out her tasks with all her effort, she frequently forgot what she was doing the moment she was distracted.

So, when they were children and when Silas wasn't available to remember things for her, Leo suggested she try her hand at keeping a journal. Just to keep track of things she wanted to do or things that happened to her so she could actually give an answer to people who asked if her day went well.

Which, conveniently, meant that Corrin had a record of people she saw around her siblings and their names.

Actually, it was easier than Leo thought it would be, since he expected to have to leaf through day after day to find recurring names.

Instead, he stumbled on a single page, entitled 'Guest List for Sakura's Birthday Party'. On it, she had written down multiple people, with specific notes as to their relationship to the birthday girl or her siblings. Except for Charlotte, whose written reason for her presence was that Charlotte needed emails to meet her quota for some part-time job's advertisement campaign, and Corrin promised to help with that.

With that, Leo assembled a list of targets and sent it to his little sister, who added the very important detail that he almost forgot.

She added that, even though the would-be romantic options were from Shisaragi, they still technically had access to the Wolf Pack, if they ever found out about it.

Leo added that to the list, although he had his doubts anyone could question them. Or even interact with them, considering that he had never seen the group inside that mysterious classroom.

But Elise said she would try it, so he left that to her. 

A decision he would later regret, but only a little bit compared to everything else.


 

They had a set system in place.

When Felicia signalled them from the hallway, Benny opened the door to switch the bags out. He passed the bag of notes to Keaton, who handed the notes to his dogs, Princess and Skullface.

"Princess says it's a request from Niles," Keaton said, patting him on the head and taking great care not to dislodge his pink ribbon.

He passed the note to Flora, who examined it, before snapping her fingers. Charlotte passed her a paper and she began writing immediately.

"He needs enough food to get through a weekend, we need about six meals' worth," Flora stated. "He either pays the cost of the food afterwards, or does us a favour."

"We know he can't pay." Charlotte sighed, staring over at the other dog and the skull and crossbones charm clipped to her ear.

"Write down that he walks Skullface for two days," Keaton ordered. "Have someone who owes us a favour drop off the food."

Flora nodded, jotting it down. "Where do we drop it off?"

"He moves around a lot, so we need a place he will definitely pass by," Benny chimed in.

"Silas' house," Charlotte declared, like it was the only possible option, serious even as she didn't take her eyes off her phone. "Silas needs to be the one who gives it to him too."

"He doesn't owe us anything. We cleared his books after he gave us two bags of dog food," Flora recalled.

"Then we have someone who owes us a favour drop it off at his place," Keaton said it like it was the simple solution. "The rest will follow."

Then he started the cycle again with another note, passing it to Charlotte when neither of his dogs recognized the scent.

"It's Elise's handwriting, the short girl with huge bread twintails from ninth grade," Charlotte announced dismissively after a moment's pause. "She wants to ask about our matchmaking policies."

"Your department," Flora told her, just as Benny piped up.

"Text from Felicia. There's a girl with twintails waiting outside to see if she can catch us."

"Give her five minutes to leave, then Felicia will take care of her." Keaton's order was heeded by everyone except the girl on the other side of the door, who slid a note under the door to them.

Benny picked it up and read it aloud to the others in the group.

"'I'm giving you fifteen seconds to answer before I take drastic measures.'" 

"What," Flora said flatly.

"I'm texting as fast as I can!" Charlotte screamed in frustration.

"Hey, why is this kid making these kinds of demands of us!?" Keaton demanded, outraged and and offended. "We try to help people and they think they can do this stuff to us...!"

And then another note came, one that made the dogs growl.

"She says she's done waiting," Benny read out loud, just before the door exploded with a cry of "TWINTAILS MARBLE SCREW!!!"

To make it simple, a breakdown of the events shall be given in slow motion.

First, reacting to the danger, the dogs began to bark wildly, prompting Keaton to stand with them in a defensive stance. Benny's instincts told him everyone was in danger, so he grabbed the desk Flora was using to use it as a shield. Flora blinked at her workstation suddenly being disrupted, the shift in balance almost causing an error in her work. Thankfully, she managed to grab the paper and write the appropriate information correctly. Charlotte, sensing something interesting was going to happen, started recording things in her phone.

A split second later, an almost literal whirlwind of love and pigtails gave the door a spinning kick that broke it in half and several splinters. The halves and several splinters of the door bounced off of Benny's makeshift shield to lodge themselves in the floor. The whirlwind of love and pigtails landed on her feet and one outstretched hand, standing and posing eagerly.

"Hey there!" Elise exclaimed eagerly. "I just wanted to know a few things-!"

Benny instincitvely shuddered at the words, and also the sight of Felicia's unconscious body slumped against the wall behind Elise.


 

[good news! they agreed to let me know if any of the siblings ask them for info or help! ^u^]

Leo looked at the text with pride, taking it as inspiration for his own mission.

He planned on questioning Takumi's friends, Hinata and Oboro, as to whether they would help him with love problems and how well they would do so.

The good news was that they hung around Corrin when she was... uh, "crossdressing", so he knew what they looked like. The bad news was that Oboro kept glaring at him every time he even passed them in the halls, so approaching them was... difficult, to say the least. He had no doubt that approaching them would get stares, not only from the Hoshidans, but from those on the Nohrian side too. It would be difficult to get them to even say hi to him, let alone tell them anything personal.

So, well. He had two options.

The first option was to put on a wig, some glasses, and the Shisaragi uniform and pose as... uh, "Carl" and get them to answer him. If, they ignored the obvious different in height, voice, eye colour, facial structure, way of speaking, mannerisms, body, and habits, it would be a good way of getting their answers without suspicion.

The second option was to make and act on a semi-complicated plan that would cause several rumours that could infringe on his life later on, with the added side effects of possibly ruining several people's love lives and making things complicated.

Of course he went with the second one. He wasn't ruining his pride like that. Leo would rather fight a divine dragon than wear a Shisaragi uniform.

(It should be noted that this was akin to saying you would want to both fight and anger one of your world's gods. In the highly-conservative nation of mostly devout Naga Worshippers, where non-believers were considered outcasts at best or misguided souls tricked into worshipping demons and/or dark dragons at worst. Had Leo said that out loud, he would have been charged and sent to a juvenile detention center.)

Which was why he wound up stealing Corrin's glasses from her locker too.

"Excuse me," He called out to the two, walking up to them slowly. He chose to approach them in their classroom, just after the day's classes had ended, since the witnesses would put them more at ease. However, the feeling of an entire classroom's worth of Hoshidans staring at him and wondering why he was there was an uncomfortable feeling, to say the least.

Oboro started glaring at him the moment she saw his uniform, while Hinata looked more curious and confused.

"What do you want," Oboro spat out.

"You know that girl, right? The one in the Drama Club with red eyes and white hair?" Leo asked, acting innocent.

Hinata and Oboro exchanged a glance.

"Yeah, we do...?" Hinata answered, trying to act natual and casual and failing. "What about hi- her?"

Oboro elbowed him in the gut to take over for him. "What do you want with her?! We'll never let a Nohrian creep like you anywhere near her, you bastard!"

"...that was a little harsh," Hinata admitted.

Leo took a moment to feel a little awkward about the obvious hostility.

"...she... dropped her glasses, and I don't know where she is, so I was hoping you could give them to her," Leo said, letting his voice run dry.

"...oh," was all Oboro could say to that.

"We can give it to her!" Hinata blurted out, taking the glasses far too quickly to ever be passed off as natural. "Don't worry about it! Thanks a ton, pal!"

Oboro looked disgusted by the fact that Hinata would even call him that, though she added a "thanks, I guess" with a grunt.

"Are... are you always so protective of your friends?" Leo inquired, giving them an odd look.

Hinata blinked, while Oboro answered with, "You're Nohrian," like that answered everything.

Leo let out a sigh of relief in knowing that Camilla would never be a viable love interest for Takumi in Oboro's eyes.

Hinata mistook this for an actual sigh of sadness, and said, "No, no, it's not like she thinks all Nohrians are bad people or anything! It's just that we learn in class that your side of the country and city is really bad and poor and descended from cultists! Nothing against you or anything!"

Leo didn't even know how to respond to that.

"What, like it's not true?" Oboro demanded. Leo could only feel offended and uncomfortable in response.

"If you really want to know so badly, then take a look into your own country's history," He snapped in a frigid tone, "I'm sure you'll find plenty on what you've done to us."

Before Oboro could respond, he clicked his tongue and stormed out of the room. He knew that the others in the classroom were watching him, but, well, they had been watching him since he entered.

Hinata and Oboro exchanged a glance, before Hinata gave the glasses to Oboro and ran after him.

"Wait! Wait, wait, hold on!" He called out after the blonde, dashing through the hallway to catch up to him.

Leo endured the incessant screaming until Hinata was right behind him, before rounding on the other boy with a frightening glare.

"What?! You didn't have enough fun in the classroom?! Why did you follow me!?"

"I'm sorry!" Hinata exclaimed, stunning Leo. "That totally made you uncomfortable there, right?! Having Oboro glaring at you, and stuff, and I didn't do much to help- I get why you're mad!"

Leo gave him a doubtful stare. 

"Do you?"

"Well, even if I don't, I can learn and do my best to understand!" Hinata declared earnestly.

"That's... alright then," Leo managed to say.

Hinata beamed, and, mistaking this for assent, grabbed Leo's hand before dashing through the hallways.

"Where are we going?!"

"You can't shoot the air in a hallway, we would cause traffic!" Hinata explained, dragging Leo up the stairs.

"Isn't it 'shoot the breeze'!?"

"Probably, yeah!"

Leo had absolutely no idea how to handle that kind of action from that kind of guy, so he was silent when Hinata brought him to a classroom on the third floor. Silent, yet out of breath. 

Hinata, on the other hand, was calm (as calm as he could be, anyways) and only breathing a little faster than usual as he flung the curtains open.

"Look! We can see all of the flower gardens from here! Do ya like it?!" Hinata asked excitedly. "I found this place with one of my friends last year, and it's a great spot to eat lunch or just admire the view! The sun shines over here and it can get warm enough to make you wanna take a nap too- it won't beat grass and you gotta move some desks out of the way, but it's still nice and sunny here!"

Leo blinked as the other boy rambled on and on, baffled by his energy and befuddled by his enthusiasm.

"What... are you doing? What are you trying to do?" Leo found himself asking, interrupting a story about feeling like a cat in the sun. 

"Huh?"

"Why are you being so nice to me? Are you an idiot, or have you somehow not noticed the uniform?"

"Well, I brought you up here because I felt bad that you were upset cuz of what Oboro said and wanted to cheer you up," Hinata admitted bluntly.

"Ah, so it's pity," Leo declared, his stare already becoming more and more frigid.

"Yeah, that and I wanna be your friend," Hinata added on, not noticing how shocked Leo looked by it. "You seem super interesting! And it takes guts to walk up to two Hoshidans just to be nice and return something when you could have just left it at the office when there's this weird tension thingy between us and also Oboro hates you, so...!"

He looked at Leo with a bright grin. Leo had absolutely no idea what to do, since this was not in any of his plans.

"I can't just call someone my friend when I don't know them," Leo stated. 

"My name's Hinata! Nice to meet you, and you can ask me anything you want!" Hinata extended his hand to Leo.

"Leo," he said curtly, shaking his hand for the briefest amount of time possible. "If a friend of yours needed love advice, what would you do?"

"Help 'em, duh! I might not be smart, but I always gotta try my best for my friends!"

Leo noted that down mentally, before recalling his plan to access how effective someone would be in such a scenario-

"What about you?"

"Pardon?"

"If a friend needed your help, what would you do?" Hinata asked.

"I... would help them, of course. To the best of my ability."

"I knew it! We're kindle spirits!"

"Kindred?" Leo offered, slightly impatient.

"Aren't they the same thing?"

"No, they are not."

Leo didn't realize it then, since he was too busy correcting Hinata's assumptions. He had absolutely no idea that the messy-haired, perpetually-smiling boy who couldn't even tie his tie right had decided in that moment, that, no matter what happened, the two of them would end up as friends. It was the same kind of single-minded determination that won over Takumi when they were six and Oboro when they were seven. Honestly, Leo had no chance the moment he approached him.

Thankfully, Hinata was at least kind of useful, so Leo got something out of it. Aside from just a persistent friend, of course.


 

Hayato sat at his desk, writing down dates and events as Mozu laid down on his bed and did whatever with her phone. 

Then, her phone chimed and Mozu fell off Hayato's bed with a shriek, landing on the floor in a slump. Hayato didn't look up from his homework, responding only with a calm, "You okay?" as he added details about the final battle of the Plegia-Ylisse war.

"I'm not okay!" Mozu screamed. "What do I do?!"

"I would suggest getting off the floor, probably."

"T-T-The cute girl texted me! The one with the pigtails!" Mozu wailed, her back on the floor and her legs up against the bed to point up at the ceiling.

Hayato's pencil paused. He pushed himself around to turn towards Mozu with a smug grin.

"So, what did she say?"

"'Hi there, this is Elise, I found this phone number in my uniform, who are you?'" Mozu read off with trembling hands.

Hayato blinked. He was pretty sure that he included Mozu's name with the paper...

Oh, yeah, right. Plegi- sorry, Nohrians had a different alphabet. They were forced to adopt a new alphabet since the country's new rulers were concerned that their writing was too close to demonic hell-runes for Grima or something.

"I mean, you can answer the question," Hayato offered, before realizing something. "Wait, how are you even texting? Don't your phones have different keyboards?"

"You underestimate the powers of the internet," Mozu replied, showing her phone to him. He quickly recognized the white and blue background of the all-purpose translation site, and nodded.

"So, did you answer yet?" Hayato asked, making Mozu jump.

"U-uh, I need to word it right! I'm... How does 'I'm Mozu Tinshin, class 1-C in Shisaragi, daughter of Donnel a-'"

"She asked for your name, not your dating site profile! Don't you think that's too much information?!"

"Just my name, then?! Ohhhh, but what if that sounds impersonal or curt or-"

"Oh great spirits why," Hayato lamented, before standing up, walking over to Mozu, and snatching the phone.

"W-W-W-WHA—!? HAYATO?!"

"'Hi there! I'm Mozu, don't know if you remember me, I'm the girl from the flower gardens!', smiley face, flower," Hayato said in a falsetto as he typed. "'Hope you're enjoying your new school!'"

Mozu screamed as he sent the message.

"What are you doing?! What are you doing?!" Mozu screamed as she grabbed for the phone in horror.

"Helping you!" Hayato shot back, shoving Mozu's face away with one hand. "All the stars in the sky know you would take years to reply on your own!"

"That doesn't mean you can sound so eager! You make me seem like I'm-I'm, I'm probably expecting her to do something!" Mozu wailed. "Like talk to me later or at school or something!"

"You mean something called being friends?" Hayato asked with a tone so blunt, he could have been used as a weapon. "Yeah, that's just so terrible."

"You little-!" Mozu's anger was disrupted by another chime from her phone. She jumped back so far, Hayato no longer needed to shove her away, which he took advantage of to type with both hands.

"'I'm enjoying it, but... it seems like not many Hoshidans like us...', sad face with tear, 'I'm actually really happy you're there, since I have at least one GF at the new school!', big smiley face, flower, pink flower, other flower, heart, sparkles."

"...GF?" Mozu asked, unfamiliar with the newfangled texting terms.

"Girl friend," Hayato answered.

"G-GIRLFRIEND?!"

"Yeah." 

"B-but, but we barely even talked before and we only met once-! One time! And, and-"

"I'm telling her you have an arranged marriage to Chon'sin's Crown Prince if you aren't interested," Hayato said blandly.

"IT'S NOT THAT I'M NOT INTERESTED! It's just, isn't this moving too fast?!"

Hayato fought to prevent himself from snickering.

"'Don't worry about it!,' star, 'I'll be your friend, Elise!'"

"And now you're saying she's just a friend?! You're cruel!"

Hayato was almost visibly trembling from his attempts to not laugh hysterically.

"It's called 'playing hard to get', Mozu," Hayato said as he fought to not smile. "With a girl like this, the only way to get through to her is to make her realize she wants you, since she'll misinterpret every signal you give her."

"What are you, some kinda advice fairy in a game?" Mozu demanded.

"Basically, yeah," Hayato replied as he skimmed over Elise's reply. "She's asking you a favour."

"Huh? What? Cuz I'd do anything for her!" Mozu exclaimed in a rush, before getting embarrassed and adding, "...and everyone else, too."

"She wants you to ask Saku-B about why she keeps staring at Elise's sister."

"Ooooookay...? I mean, I'll do it 'n all, but why?"

"Apparently, Saku-B's either a pervert or she hates this Camilla person, and Elise really doesn't want stuff like that happening to her sister."

"Tell her I'll do it!" Mozu declared, moved by Elise's sisterly love.

"Yeah, 'kay," Hayato said with a nod.

Mozu was about to start rolling around and freaking out over having a conversation with Elise and also talking to Sakura in the near future, only to remember that she wasn't the one who talked to Elise.

When she remembered that, she sat up properly and, before she could back out, hugged Hayato.

Hayato tensed at the sudden touch, having no idea what she was thinking.

"…thanks a ton, Hayato," she said, burying her face in his shoulder.

Hayato let out a breathy laugh and relaxed. His hand set down the phone to pat her head in return.

"Yeah, yeah, you owe me for this, Tinshin."

"Jerk," Mozu shot back with a laugh.


 

"Behind the school's storage shed at lunch... this is either a love confession or harassment, and I delight in informing you that I don't care for it either way," Azama said in lieu of a greeting.

"It's nothing like that!" Hinata reassured him with a laugh. "I wanted to ask for a friend what you would do if a friend needed your help with love advice."

"Is there any point to it?"

"Well," Hinata hummed, "it's a good question if you want to see if someone is a good friend or not, right?"

Azama shook his head, tutting his tongue with disappointment. "No, as expected, you're rather close-minded. Bonds themselves are transient and feeble in face of time's inevitable passing, so why encourage someone to pursue something so pointless?"

Hinata, who only had a vague idea of what those words meant yet had a lot of spirit, answered as best as he could.

"I guess it's 'cuz love makes you feel new things and act and react and in different ways! It changes you, right?"

If Azama's eyes were open, they would have gained an intense shine at that.

"So, love can cause unpredictable changes in someone?" Azama inquired.

"Yeah!" Hinata answered eagerly.

"And it can provoke strong emotions in a person?"

"Yup!" 

With a grin that stretched from ear to ear, Azama simply said, "I see."

("Oh gods..."

"You okay Ricky? You're looking pretty pale, but don't die on me just yet!"

"It's not that bad. I just... I felt the sudden, terrible feeling that our son just got... inspired somehow."

"Nyahahaha! Well, he needed a hobby aside from fatalism and cheerfulness!"

"...Naga, have somehow I failed as a father and husband?")


"I think Azama said he would help," Hinata reported dutifully, trailing after Leo as he walked through the halls. "I think."

"Thank you, Hinata," Leo replied, managing to actually sound sincere. He glanced around a lot, prompting Hinata to speed up a bit to poke his head into the blonde's field of vision.

"Whatcha looking for?"

"A certain club room," Leo answered gruffly, continuing to walk. Hinata slipped into place next to him.

"Might be able to help, then! What club?"

"Tea ceremony club," Leo stated, which made Hinata pale.

"U-uh, the Krakenberg one, right?! You don't mean our Tea ceremony club! You can't!"

"Is there something wrong with your Tea ceremony club?" Leo asked, looking at Hinata dubiously.

"Er.... Hahahahaha...? It might be.... y'know... 'cuz Mr. Yukimura's in charge, and he's insanely strict, so..." Hinata claimed.

"You're not telling me all of it."

"I'm not telling you all of it," Hinata echoed with a defeated sigh. "But seriously! Why would you want to join the ninja training ground club?! You would die! Even if you want to exercise, the kendo club is way better! They don't have exploding projectors there!"

"Projectiles," Leo corrected. "And, to ease your concerns, I shall inform you that I am indeed looking for the Krakenberg Tea ceremony club."

Hinata sighed again, this time in relief.

"Good! I don't want my buddy dying just yet!"

Hinata did not notice Leo staring at him like he had just grown three heads and a beard, because he had just noticed three girls standing by a door and blocking part of the hallway.

"I'll ask it again, how did you get this?!" Selena demanded, holding a pin with one hand and pointing to it with the other. "There's no way an airhead like you actually managed to meet Lady Camilla and convince her to give you membership!"

"Setsuna Madotsuki, if you don't name who you stole it from, I'll remove you from the premises. Forcibly, if I have to," Beruka added.

"Lady Camilla...?" Setsuna repeated in a daze. "I thought she was just Camilla something Ryder..."

"SEVERAAAAAAAAA!" Hinata screamed, before launching himself at the redhead to the surprise of everyone present. Beruka tensed and prepared for a fight, except Hinata hugged her instead of an attack.

"Hinata! Stop, we're at school! You're embarassing me!"

"We'll leave you to it," Leo stated, grabbing Setsuna by the elbow and leaving Selena to her fate.

"YOU'RE NOT GOING TO HELP ME?!" Selena screamed. 

"Sevvy, why would you need help because of a hug from me?! You let me hug you since we were born!" Hinata exclaimed.

"NOT AT SCHOOL!"

Beruka seemed stoically nonplussed by the situation, even as Selena started screaming that Hinata forgot which name she was using and that he needed to let go because he would wrinkle her uniform.

"We'll leave you to it, then," Leo repeated, pulling Setsuna aside.

"Bye bye..." Setsuna waved as Leo pulled her away.

"Are you willing to answer a question?" Leo asked, having the distinct feeling that she would just miss his point entirely if he tried to be discreet and trick her into it.

"Shoot," Setsuna answered.

"If a friend was in need of romantic advice, would you help them? And if so, how?"

Setsuna hummed in thought for half a minute.

"I'd... do my best. Tell them to give lots of cups."

"Cups," Leo repeated in slight disbelief.

"Cups are good," Setsuna explained.

"...we're done here," Leo decided, turning his back on Setsuna to return to the club room.

Because of that, he completely missed how Setsuna's lips quirked up behind him.

But, of course, if he didn't understand, she wouldn't explain. How was she supposed to explain how much a tea lover would adore new tea sets and the person who gave it to her?


Camilla was a little surprised when Hinata followed Selena and Leo into the club room, but when the two explained their relationship to him, she immediately declared him a member and thus part of the family. It was just what she did and all.

So, while Leo was there, Leo took the time to ask what she would do if one of her little siblings needed romantic advice, seeing as she considered Corrin's siblings family.

The result—

Instant regret. 

She spent the entirety of the lunch break alternating between grilling Leo for details, teasing, sobbing that her little brother was so, so grown up, and handing the others refreshments. Beruka and Selena pretended not to notice. Hinata wound up getting excited and suggesting a few things himself, which made Selena and Camilla freak out. Even Setsuna got dragged into it, saying that she would trust a sister's judgement for what to do in that situation and just encouraging her.

It was then that Leo decided the only option was to fl- sorry, make a strategic exit. 

It was then that he decided to text Elise about the idea of going to Corrin.

Since, well, she was related to the idiots, and had a sensitive heart, so if she was persuaded to stop thinking it would wreck her family and was convinced into actually helping... well, her plans were crazy enough to work. She would be dangerous if left unchecked.

The text reached Elise as she was fending off attacks from Hana and Subaki. The two had attacked her for the crime of wandering into a Hoshidan classroom and casually asking them about their friend's love life, under the impression that she was trying to sabotage Sakura/Saku-B's happiness. 

(Hey, they weren't exactly wrong.)

Elise, being a normal person with normal reactions upon hearing that she got a text, did three very simple things that were standard for cell phone users.

Step One: Verify your surroundings!

The first step was very, very important, in no part because no one wanted to clog up hallway traffic or forget their place in a line for a minor text. Elise verified her surroundings, taking note of where she was. 

What she learned, or rather, confirmed once again was this:

1) She was in a Hoshidan classroom right before lunch break ended, so people were entering.

2) Subaki had teleported behind her and aimed an elastic band gun at her back.

3) She was surrounded by desks.

And 4), Hana was charging at her at an angle by jumping on top of the desks, screaming as she prepared to swing her (fake) sword.

It was obviously an environment she would not be comfortable checking her phone in, seeing as Elise was raised with enough manners to recognize that getting in someone's way as they were readying a sword strike was very, very rude.

So, Elise moved onto step two.

Step Two: Remove yourself from the situation!

The easiest way to remove herself from the situation was just to sit down on the floor. So Elise did. 

She knew that Hana was aiming for her head. Elise also knew that, from the jumping stab that Hana was most likely to attempt judging from her speed, velocity, and angle, the sword-wielding girl would have a very difficult time adjusting to minor changes in her target's behaviour, such as suddenly dropping to the ground. On top of that, Hana's speed, velocity, and angle meant that, in case of her not hitting Elise, the next availble obstacle for her to crash into was Subaki, which would stop him from shooting rubber bands at Elise's head and more importantly, reading her texts behind her back.

Elise did not account for Subaki suddenly teleporting out of the way, but, well, it took him out of the situation. It still counted as a win.

Hana, who could not suddenly stop or change her momentum, wound up accidentally tackling another guy in her class. His name was... Shaoran or something like that. Shaoran-or-whatever-his-name-was ended up toppling backwards just enough to fall out the open window. His panicked flailing as he did so accidentally resulted in him accidentally kicking a love letter that a brown-haired girl was about to accidentally slip into his notebook, accidentally wait for him to read it, and accidentally confess. The love letter flew up and got stuck in the light overhead, where it overheated and caught fire. The guy who kicked it crashed down on Arthur, who was cleaning up the garden as punishment for accidentally wrecking school property before.

The brown-haired girls who witnessed this were in shock and utter horror at what happened. Elise was delighted, because she had managed to proceed to step three safely.

Step Three: Check your text!

Elise gleefully snapped her phone shut after reading the text, practically skipping out of the classroom. She left with a bounce in her step, a twinkle in her eyes, a chaotic mess and devastated classroom behind her, and a hall pass she stole on her way out.

Elise wandered through the halls, searching intently for her next target. And then her ears pricked up at a distinctive sound of dread.

'I'd know that zombie-like groaning anywhere!' She realized. Just as she was going to call out Corrin's name, the girl dashed past her in her ninja outfit. Elise's eyes widened as Mr. Yukimura gave chase on the back of a giant lion puppet thing while also wearing a ninja outfit. An army of creepy dolls followed, aiming blunt arrows at Corrin with tiny, tiny bows. Elise had no idea how the teacher was controlling all of that, given that he was only holding two marionette crosses and he had at least two dozen puppets, not to mention the immense difficulty of steering a puppet that you're sitting on, but she decided not to question it. For the sake of her sanity.

"You imposter!" Mr. Yukimura screamed, aiming another round of tiny, tiny arrows at the fleeing albino. "You're a cheap, bargain brand fake ninja, and for infiltrating our school, you deserve the ultimate punishment!"

He did the ninja thing with his hands and suddenly all the dolls were holding guns. Elise had no idea where the guns came from or why they were so tiny, but they fired. The tiny, tiny bullets converged on Corrin's location, or her location before she whooshed away, leaving nothing but a large, multi-coloured paint splatter on the floor.

A green-haired guy in a ninja outfit (where did everyone keep getting these things) was carrying Corrin bridal style. Apparently ninja outfits meant you could make things appear and disappear at will, up to and including yourself.

Elise had to blink the sparkles and the passion pentagons out of her eyes to actually observe properly, missing the part of the conversation where Mr. Yukimura asked the legitimate ninja to hand over the traitor.

"She's no traitor," The green guy replied smoothly. "She is under my tutelage. Please do not interfere with any more of her training."

They exchanged a nice long look, as Corrin just seemed like she was on the verge of punching everyone involved, including herself. Just before Corrin could actually punch anyone, the ninjas exchanged a curt, traditional ninja nod, and then the green guy disappeared. 

Elise blinked, and then Mr. Yukimura was standing in front of her, in his teaching clothes and none of his dolls in sight.

"What could you be doing here, miss? Don't you have to be in class soon?" He asked, voice calm and serene.

"I asked to go to the washroom, but I got lost," She answered, showing him a hall pass that totally wasn't stolen or anything.

Mr. Yukimura nodded.

"I'll see you there," The teacher decided. "Please step a little to your left."

Elise did that, and then Mr. Yukimura pulled out a wooden rod on a string, using it to spin circles around Elise's spot on the floor. In an instant, she fell through. She was in a transparent underground tunnel, moving without ever touching a wall, momentum always going forward even though physics didn't work like that. Elise would have questioned why the school had an underground tunnel network anyways, if her suspension of disbelief wasn't a [CENSORED] miracle worker.

'Ninjas,' She found herself thinking as she emerged from the tunnel in the girl's restroom. 'Those goddamn ninjas.'

She didn't get to talk to Corrin in school that day.

Thankfully, they managed to drag Corrin to their house after school ended.

Though, uh, with some add-ons.

Mozu was shaking behind Elise as they made their way towards the Ryder house. Hayato reassured Elise that it was because Mozu had never been to the Nohrian side of town before, so she wasn't used to the cracked roads, smell, or scary-looking people in the alleyways. Elise just laughed and told them that that was Beruka, and she slept in the alleyways because she refused people's pity and offers of a place to sleep.

Leo was also bringing his own friend over, though he had to fight to get Niles and Odin away and to stop them from asking Hinata to compare ..."weapons" and also stop crying over Leo cheating on them or whatever they were doing.

Corrin, however, kept drawing everyone's stares, in spite of the fact that she was napping. 

Or maybe it was because a ninja was carrying her.

Everyone really wanted to ask about the ninja, but the Shisaragi students kept quiet out of respect and what may have been a little bit of fear, Odin and Niles had been convinced to break into Laslow's house for fun again, and Leo and Elise had learned to not ask questions until they were safely indoors. Since, well, Corrin could get worked up and accidentally run into a stop sign and hurt herself, you see.

So, well, when they got inside, Garon wasn't home because he was working, Arete wasn't home because she was also working, Camilla was spending time outside with friends, and Xander probably fainted somewhere again. Which meant that the house was thankfully very quiet and also that no one would question the siblings bringing lots of people into Elise's room. 

(Which was very good, considering that their dad had threatened a guy with an axe the last time he thought his kids had a love life.)

The ragtag group sat in a circle on the carpet, Kaze being very gentle with the tired girl in his arms. Mozu and Hinata were giving him weird glances. Hayato was more concerned with looking around the room like he was trying to memorize it.

"Miss, you have to wake up," Kaze said, earning a groan in response.

"You call Corrin 'Miss'?" Elise asked.

"Ah, so her name is Corrin."

"Yeah, Corrin Byakuya-H—"

Leo's words were cut off by Corrin kicking him in the face. By accident, of course.

"Good morning, children I met like one time!" Corrin declared cheerily from Kaze's arms, waving at Hayato and Mozu excitedly enough to almost whack Kaze in the face too. "I guess we've all been kidnapped together then!"

"Did you drop her on her head somewhere along the way?" Leo asked.

"Of course not."

"I think she's just bored," Elise offered.

"Hiya!" Hinata greeted. "Nice to meetcha, my name's Hinata!"

Corrin laughed the kind of laugh that could only be made by someone who was a second away from screaming and was already internally screaming.

"Nice to meet you too, Hinata, as in a person I have never interacted with before at all!"

From then on, introductions went around the circle.

"I-I'm Mozu, Mozu Tinshin! I'm honoured to make yer acquaintance!"

"Hayato Tsukuyomi. I'm here because Mozu would spontateously combust and die if she went here alone. Please think of me as an extension of her will."

"HAYATO!"

"Elise Lilium Ryder! I hope we can all be friends!"

"Leo Ryder."

Leo would have said a very formal followup, if Corrin hadn't snickered and went, "Aren't you forgetting something, Sebby?"

The temperature in the room dropped.

"If you ever call me that again, I will kill you."

Now, normally this was a response that woud make Corrin either laugh hysterically or ask "But what about the baby?!", since she had read a book like that and wanted to be as dramatic as possible. Had she taken the latter option, Leo would have immediately replied that the baby would go into Garon's care, and Corrin would accuse him of being heartless and marrying her for money and probably cheating on her with Hayato or something. Everything would dissolve into soap opera nonsense, and absolutely nothing would get done.

Thankfully for the sake of sabotaging love and efficiency, Kaze was there.

And Kaze's response was to throw a protractor at Leo so hard, it sliced off part of his hair and got embedded in Elise's door.

The result was screaming. Hinata and Mozu were screaming because "HE REALLY IS A NINJA WE MIGHT DIE", Elise was screaming because "THAT WAS A PERFECTLY GOOD DOOR WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH IT NOW", Leo was screaming internally, and Hayato was so annoyed by the screaming that he just decided the answer was to hop out Elise's window for a second.

"Why did you do that?" Corrin asked in a bored-sounding tone as Kaze adjusted his grip on her.

"He said he would kill you."

"Yeah. 's a joke. He couldn't kill anything if he tried."

"Ah. Is that true?"

"Yeah. You probably oughta say sorry."

"Alright."

And, with Corrin still in his arms (she didn't bother moving since she was comfortable), he bowed to the ground.

"Please forgive me, Sir Leo, I will do my utmost to refrain from such behaviour again. Please, feel free to puni-"

"Don't," Corrin interjected as Leo told him to get up, "if you add that last part, they'll think you're a kinky [CENSORED] who probably wears a ninja outfit because he has a cosplay fetish."

"I see."

"Are you seriously going to just say 'I see' in response to that?" Hayato piped in from the window. "I mean, that sort of thing typically warrants a bigger response."

"It does? I have no idea what those words meant, though," Hinata replied instead.

"We're never gonna be able to ask them to help..." Elise sighed, making Mozu's ears prick up.

In accordance with the pigtailed girl's wishes, she jumped up and screamed, "WHAT ARE WE ACTUALLY DOING HERE?!"

Everyone's conversations stopped to look at her, at which point she felt embarrassed and sat down again.

"We wanted to ask for your help," Leo stated.

"Y'see, we need help protecting our beloved older sister, and you're just the people we need!" Elise finished off.

"Our sister, Camilla, she's too popular, and troublesome people are flocking to her."

"So, we wanted to ask for your strength and support and such!"

"Of course, there are a few people we would support in pursuing Camilla, but that's not important for now."

'Have you two always been this in-sync?' Corrin wondered.

"I totally help you!" Hinata declared. "Anything for a pal!"

Mozu, cowed into silence by her embarrassment, looked to Hayato for help. Hayato sighed, and from the window, he exclaimed,

"'I will definitely help you! Anything, anything at all! Just say the word!' is what Mozu wants to say, but can't because she lost her voice from screaming."

"Thanks, Hayato!"

Hayato slapped his hand to his forehead and groaned.

"Why are you like this..."

"I've got a ton of plans in store for those guys!" Corrin said cheerfully.

"Then permit me to aide in any way I can."

"No, no it's fine," Leo retorted immediately.

"We're good. We are very good for now," Elise reassured Corrin, before adding, "Actually, all we need to do is talk to, uh, Ka-ge-ro...? If that's how you pronounce it."

Mozu and Hinata froze.

"Th-the legendary super ninja?!"

"The right hand woman of the kendo club's star?!"

"An actual human being with a weird reputation?" Hayato offered.

Elise ignored the trio to woefully lament, "Oh, but we could find no way of contacting her! We needed to question her about the kendo guy she's friends with!"

"You mean, Ryoma?" Hinata asked.

"Yes, he's one of the individuals we are taking an interest in for his potential relationship with our sister, along with his siblings," Leo stated.

"Ohhh, I get it!" Hinata had a huge grin on his face. "Then I'm definitely, definitely helping!"

"That's the spirit!" Corrin cheered. "We go all-out in our attack on love, fighting with our hearts, our bodies, and our soul!"

"I'll give my all in this!"

"My comrade!"

"My pal!"

"Are you going to stop anytime soon?" Hayato asked as Hinata and Corrin high-fived.

"I know how to contact Kagero," Kaze spoke up.

"Woah, that's great!" Elise exclaimed.

"Y'mean, those new-fangled ninja scroll communication things?!"

"You do realize that ninja techniques have been around longer than our country, right?" Hayato asked.

"I will do my best to not disappoint," Kaze said, right before taking a phone out of his pocket and calling her.

"A ninja using a cell phone," Hinata noted blandly, as Kaze took out a scroll and a brush and an ink pot.

"A ninja scroll communication thing!" Mozu gasped.

Kaze wrote faster than the wind as he spoke, managing to create a transcript of their conversation as it was happening. In Hoshidan and Nohrian. Even though everyone could hear him, they still had no idea what he was talking about. When they actually paid attention to his spoken words, it seemed like... he might have been speaking in code?

The transcript read something like:

"Are you busy right now?"

"No, but I have a limited amount of time. Please make it short."

"I heard from my brother that Ryoma is taking a particular amount of interest in a Nohrian student. Is this true?"

"How did your brother get this information in his condition?"

"He has an informant. I'm confirming the truthfulness of those claims right now."

"And he couldn't ask me himself?"

"He has another operation that must be carried out immediately."

"I see. I can confirm that Ryoma is indeed interested in a Nohrian student. We've nicknamed her 'the Black Rose'. He does not intend to harm her. We've yet to see how she feels about him in return."

"Even if it isn't a mission assigned to you, would you help him?"

"...are you kidding me?"

"Pardon?"

"I have been spending the last day and seven hours going over my life and realizing that I've been in love with Orochi for years and panicking over the fact that she's visiting my house later on. I have twelve different outfits on my bed and I can't choose anything and how can I help Ryoma with his love life if I cannot even handle my own." 

"I see." 

Kaze looked up from his writing for a second, because Corrin poked him and pointed him towards the siblings, who were trying to get his attention.

Leo whispered something in his ear, and Kaze wrote down, "You could go to your friends in the Drama Club. I hear they're particularly willing to help out in terms of love."

Corrin managed a baffled expression at that.

Kaze nodded on the phone at Kagero's response, before rolling up the scroll and handing it to Elise.

It was a fairly quiet moment, with lots of peace along with the slightly awkward atmosphere now that everyone had no idea what to do now.

Thankfully, Azura kicked the door open and froze the room over with a single glare.

"Why are you people here," Azura greeted them in the most friendly way possible. "And why are you in my little sister's room."

"Love antics," Hayato answered.

"Dad will murder you with an axe, get out and take your stuff," Azura ordered. Hayato made a 'alright then' gesture, hopped in to grab Mozu, and left through the window.

Azura turned towards Hinata, who went to Leo and threw an arm over his shoulders. Leo managed to look vaguely annoyed by the action, though he didn't move Hinata's arm.

"We're buds now! We're bonding over our passionate spirits and shared determination!"

"Dad will murder you with an axe, get out and take your stuff."

"Alright, it's been a while and I gotta be getting home soon anyways," Hinata said cheerfully. "It's been fun! Invite me over again, ya hear?"

Leo waved him off as he climbed out the window. Begrudgingly, of course.

"You should be getting home soon too, Kaze," Azura told the ninja. "Say hi to Saizo for me."

"Of course," Kaze replied, though he looked to Corrin for her orders.

"Also, if you're going to walk her home, you should at least put her down first. Her mom will murder you with a staff if she sees you bridal carrying her."

"Thank you for the advice."

"Yeah, we'll see you tomorrow then!" Corrin exclaimed as Kaze helped her climb through the window.

"She got another Jakob," Azura noted when the two were gone.

"By the way, Azura, you're friends with Corrin's siblings, right? Would you ever help th-"

"No."

"I didn't even finish the question!" Elise protested.

"Doesn't matter. They're not getting my help."

"That seems.... unexpectedly harsh," Leo noted.

"Those assholes owe me money," Azura answered.

They left it at that.

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

"You have breathed your last!"

"I won't lose!"

"Oh, THAT'S IT!"

"I-It's all me!"

"No mercy!"

"Sweet dreams!"

"Nothing but cinders!"

"You're going down, scumbag!" 

'We're dead, so very, very dead!' Corrin found herself thinking.

At precisely four pm in the hallway in front of the nurse's office, the situation had officially passed the point of no recovery. Now, Corrin might not have realized it, but it was like, ninety three percent her fault. Possibly ninety four. It was a long, long, long story, which started with Corrin, pretending to be Carl, at the Drama club with Kaden and Oboro and Azura and Kagero, AKA the only other members. 

(And Kagero was only there half the time, since she was also in the Tea Ceremony Club.)

"Carl, quit fidgeting! I'm trying to fix this outfit!" Oboro ordered, scowling as she tied a sash around Corrin's waist.

"But I can't breathe!" Corrin protested.

"It will be over in a moment," Kagero advised her wisely.

"B-but..." She pretended to be bashful, something that made Oboro's heart throb. "It's not my fault, you know? After all, we're a movement away from a very, very uncomfortable position."

"What?" Oboro managed to say.

"I heard that you typically don't wear underwear with these kinds of outfits, so, even though I'm embarrassed, I did it for the sake of the script..." She turned around and propped up Oboro's chin with her fingers, staring into the other girl's eyes faux-hesitantly. "But it's fine, because it's Oboro who's helping me with this, right?"

Oboro dropped the sash and jumped away, screaming and stuttering and blushing. Corrin started laughing her [CENSORED] off.

"Juuuuuuust kidding, of course!"

"Quit messing around," Azura declared from her seat, glaring at Corrin and Corrin alone. "It's antics like this that drive away new members."

"Hey, if I recall correctly, this club was a boneyard before I even came!"

"You're at it again?" Kaden asked wearily. The Drama Club president was kneeling on the floor by Azura's feet, looking like a cat relaxing at the floor by his owner's chair. "Honestly, it's fun to see Azura so riled up, but if you're so loud, I can't focus on my new script."

"You started another one?! We're not even halfway through practicing the first one!" Corrin protested.

"Yeah, well, the one about the singing widow was fine, but then I got the awesome idea of a play about a goddess who watches over the world, yet struggles with her inability to improve life for its inhabitants!" Kaden exclaimed excitedly, almost jumping in place from eagerness.

Azura grinned slightly and patted him on the head as he rambled, slowly causing Kaden to feel more and more relaxed. The boy started to blink blearily, before resting his head on Azura's lap and falling asleep.

"Lovebirds," Oboro and Corrin said in unison.

Azura shot them a freezing glare, looking frightening and condescending at once.

"Are you idiots? This is purely platonic."

"Purely unplatonic, y'mean."

"Yeah, you couldn't be more unconvincing if you tried, Azura!"

"How enviable..." Kagero muttered. 

Corrin flinched at the noise, though the motion was so small that hardly anyone noticed. Also working against her was her ability to fake a smile at any time, so no one realized there was anything off about her when Oboro asked Kagero what she meant.

The answer was simple. Kagero needed help with her feelings for Orochi, because of reasons detailled enough to need a chapter and a half to fully explain.

She tearfully (well, for her, anyways, which meant a vaguely troubled expression) begged her friends for help, and they responded in turn.

Their answers were:

Oboro: "Don't worry about it and do your best to confess! There's nothing about you that she wouldn't like! Tell us if you need more help, like with planning outfits for a date or something!"

Azura: "...Okay. So what's stopping you from just asking her out again? I stopped listening a sentence in."

Kaden: "The only answer is to leave a love letter in her locker without your name and craft a scavenger hunt so she can puzzle over who sent it to her and then dramatically realize it's you after you've spent twelve volumes being her supportive friend and confidant."

Carl: "Well... actually, I read an article on fortune-telling, and it told me that for your star sign, your destiny in love would be tied to a sudden encounter somewhere unexpected! Wouldn't that mean you go somewhere new, encounter someone, and get that person to help you (and never ask me again, please)? Of course, that's just what I think..."

Corrin's voice trailed off as she realized Kagero was staring at her.

"...what?"

"Fortune-telling..." Kagero repeated in a daze. She jumped up unexpectedly, making Corrin flinch. "That's it! Thank you!"

"U-uh... you're... okay then," Corrin managed as Kagero bounced up off the wall, kicked a hole in the ceiling, and leapt up through it.

"Well, yeah. That certainly happened," Oboro added.

Up there, Kagero managed to run into Hinoka, who immediately stopped and asked if she was her soulmate.

Now, should this sound odd, please view the following excerpt from a conversation between Hinoka and Corrin the night before.


"...Hinoka?" Corrin stared at her older sister warily, watching as the redhead bandaged her knuckles. The older girl was covered in bruises and little cuts. "What... what did you do?"

"Check out a few clubs," Hinoka answered.

"And what did you really do?"

"C-check out some clubs!" Hinoka insisted, rapidly turning red. "Why would I be doing anything else, huh?! I'm not lying! I was checking out the clubs!"

"You're already on the Sports Club and on speed-dial for all the sports teams in our school! Why would you need another club on top of that, huh?!" And then Corrin realized it. "You were trying to find the Tea Ceremony room."

Hinoka fidgeted. Her eyes were looking anywhere but Corrin's face as she tried to deny it, but Corrin was not having it.

She very much wanted to scream about how insane Hinoka was and all, but Sakura was also in the living room and Corrin didn't want to swear around her.

So, with all her anger and annoyance, Corrin gently tied the bandage for her and smiled.

"I know you can do it, Hinoka!"

'Except you really shouldn't, considering everyone else in the family is gunning for her.'

"And I'm sure you're on the right track."

'Kinda, I guess.'

"You'll find her in no time!"

'Which is what scares me.' 

"In fact, I learned from my friend in the Drama Club that there's a girl in the Hoshidan Tea Ceremony Club with big boobs and hair over one eye who is really polite to everyone!"

'Hey, I'm not technically lying, right?'

"I mean, she might look different from what you're expecting, since, well, ninjas, and all, but I think it's a lead you should totally check out!"

Hinoka gasped in awe, thanking her sister for revealing the truth.

She just had to see through the Tea Ceremony club's leader's disguise and defeat her in combat to ask her out!


Long story short, Hinoka got her ass kicked.

And then, since Kagero thought it was a test to see if she was worthy of the love advice, she resolved to care for Hinoka until she was in a good enough condition to tell her, which meant pulling her out of the crater in the wall and dragging her to the nurse's office to be cared for.

Now, around this time, Corrin- sorry, Carl had been called out for something by three classmates in Shisaragi's math class. Carl- er, Corrin, apologized to the Drama club and said it would take up most of the day.

Those classmates brought Corrin to the mostly-empty-since-Shisaragi-was-so-big-they-had-a-million-empty-rooms storage room by the nurse's office. They tried to harrass her, since they actually believed to be a crossdressing boy, into stripping so they could take humilating photos and blackmail her into doing whatever they wanted.

Now, Corrin might have found it inconvenient to have to figure out two schedules at once, learn two different manners of speaking, take notes in two different languages, have friends completely avoid her depending on which uniform she was wearing, go to Drama club, find excuses for why she wasn't at club when she was acting as Corrin, have to act like she wasn't close to friends because they didn't recognize her, and not accidentally break her fake glasses all the time, but that didn't mean she wanted to be exposed or anything.

Sure, it would be easier to not do any of that, but also, she managed to get used to it and having to adjust to changing that lifestyle would be an even bigger pain. 

Plus, she was in-character, and she had a feeling Carl wouldn't want to be naked in a storeroom no matter what his genitals were.

So, Corrin did exactly what the character of Carl Cloverfield would do.

"Perverts." She stared at them flatly, sounding very disappointed and exasperated at once. "Gods, how can you pray to Naga every day with such sinful desires on your mind! You could make a statue cry with all your deluded fantasies!"

"What," one of the wannabe bullies managed.

"And, well, I know I'm attractive and all, but this is really not how you court people! At all! If I were being confessed to, I'd want it to be a spur of the moment impulse, brought on by the sudden realization of love! Not being called out to a storage room like some obscene story! Also, I can't handle three people at once. If you really want a piece of me, you'll have to take turns," she went on, easily extracting herself from their leader's grip in his baffled state.

"Hey! We're in control here!" The leader tried to exclaim. 

"Control your hormones, then," she shot back. "You guys get riled up way too easily."

The trio were stunned into silence as Corrin left the room.

And then they realized that Corrin left the room.

"HEY!" 

The trio burst into the hallway behind Corrin, who was ignoring them and walking away. They were about to chase after her, when three things happened.

One: A sharp whistle pierced through the air, before a furious voice called out, "No roughhousing in the hallway!"

Two: A fighting machine targeted the trio, beating them in an instant.

Three: Niles' sultry voice reached everyone's ears as he said, "Well, you three didn't last long at all."

Corrin turned around to see Silas, Niles, and Felicia standing behind her. Felicia was standing over the remains of the three, while Niles was making comments.

"Are you okay-" Silas froze when he saw Corrin's face, before dragging Corrin away. He didn't even bother telling his companions when he dragged her behind the stairs. "Why are you wearing that?"

"Because going to school naked would break a lot of rules?" Corrin replied, before flinching. She was still in Carl mode! She couldn't be in Carl mode when talking to Silas! You couldn't snark at Silas, he was too nice and you'd feel guilty and awful for it!

Silas, to his credit, merely blinked at that.

"But... Corrin? Where did you even get that? You stopped wearing glasses in middle school, so won't those hurt your eyes?"

"They're fake!" Corrin blurted out guiltily. "Please don't worry!"

Silas' eyes became more confused and- gah! They were practically shining with concern and supportive curiosity! 

"I won't press you or anything," he said patiently, "but if you want to tell me, I'm here."

"U-uh..." She wound up chuckling awkwardly, suddenly staring at the other wall. "I'm- I'm Carl right now! Don't call me Corrin!"

"Okay. Do you mind if I ask who Carl is?"

"A Shisaragi student! He's, well, yeah he's a guy but he's wearing a skirt because he's practicing acting and he's in the Drama club..." Corrin mumbled, blushing intensely. "And there's only a few people that know, so... he'd appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone..."

"Alright," Silas told her with a smile. "I won't tell anyone, okay? You want to go back to Felicia and Niles, or should I walk you back somewhere else?"

"I can go back to them..." Corrin muttered, letting Silas hold her hand and lead her back.

Predictably, Niles and Felicia reacted poorly.

"I'm your girlfriend! Not this random chick we picked up!"

"We're not dating just because a ninja of love suddenly said so," Silas repeated wearily for what must have been the millionth time.

"Because you're too taken by me, right?" Niles asked with a wink.

"Yeah right, you [PROHIBITED] [OMITTED] son of a [CENSORED]!" Felicia screamed.

"Excuse me?!" Niles was offended, right when Felicia stepped up and shoved her chest into Niles'. 

"That's right, punk, I said that! What are you gonna do ab-"

Silas sighed and took off Felicia's sunglasses. She immediately stumbled back, whimpered, and blurted out twelve apologies.

"Hmph," was Niles' response, so Silas beckoned him with a simple, "Niles."

That convinced the two to make up and promise to get along for the next fifteen minutes.

Corrin kinda felt bad when she realized Silas was happy about that.


Takumi was there because of two reasons; Corrin, and his own failures as a sensible human being.

(Not that he realized the second bit.)

The previous day, he went up to Corrin and demanded to speak with her. Given that she was in her Krakenberg science class at the time, the Nohrian students around them whispered in concern, worrying that Corrin would be hurt and that the perpetrator would face no consequences for the crime.

A girl snuck pepper spray into Corrin's pocket under the pretense of a goodbye hug, when Takumi's patience snapped.

"It's alright, it's okay, I'll be fine, Flora, he's just my-" Corrin's attempts at being reassuring was cut off by Takumi grabbing her wrist and forcibly dragging her out into the hallway. "Hey! Takumi! What are you doing?!"

"What are you doing?!" Takumi returned the question. "You're acting weird!"

"What do you mean?" Corrin asked, looking at him with oddly docile, shiny eyes. "I'm in Corrin mode. This is how I act."

"...weird," Takumi said again, before shaking his head. "Never mind. I wanted to ask about-"

He cut himself off, because Corrin had disappeared into the classroom to help a girl who tripped. And then she explained a math problem to a tall guy who looked like he could fight bears for a living, and then she helped this weird dude with white and black hair find his pet bunny, and then she remembered to hand a blonde girl a new ribbon that looked identical to the one already in her hair.

Needless to say, he kept a tight grip on her when he dragged her outside again.

"Listen to me, would you?! I want to know why that headband dude you hang out with is following Hinata around!"

"...eh?"

"The blonde headband dude!" Takumi repeated. "The one who looks like he wakes up everyday and decides to be an [CENSORED]! Azura's brother!"

"Oh, Leo."

"Yeah, that guy! Why is he interested in Hinata!? Is he planning on mugging him or something?!"

"No, it's..." Corrin looked away, trying to figure out an excuse. After all, 'Leo tricked Hinata into working together with him and me and Elise with a plan that keeps you and all of our siblings from making any sort of romantic progress with Camilla, ever,' didn't quite roll off the tongue well.

Takumi took this as an admission of guilt.

"It's what?! Why are you not telling me?!" Takumi demanded.

"Because it's forbidden love!" Corrin blurted out. 

Takumi was so shocked, he took a step back and let his hand fall to his side.

"A rich Nohrian is but an impoverished beggar to the poorest of Hoshidans..." Corrin narrated mournfully, letting some of her inner Carl-ness slip out. She held her hand to her mouth to look more dramatic and also hide a huge grin. "Knowing the hostility between the regions, he must watch from afar, wishing for friendship at best, yet the worst that could happen is utter hatred!"

"I'm sorry, what?" Takumi managed. "I know the words that are coming out of your mouth, and I can string them together in a sentence just fine, but what you're saying doesn't make sense at all."

"It's a love thing," Corrin lied with a straight face, even though, internally, she was sneering at the thought of possibly having to deal with even more love issues, and this time from someone she wasn't even related to. "Leo wants to make out with him. Ideally in a nice, abandoned storage room or in the nurse's office when the nurse is out."

Takumi's face was completely indescribable when he heard that.

The following day, he had taken to following after Leo to make sure he was not tricking Hinata into anything shady. Leo, feeling like someone was about to try to kill him again, asked Camilla to accompany him, seeing as she already had experience fighting off someone with a knife. Takumi was, admittedly, blindsided by the appearance of his crush, but Hinata's safety came first.

So, well, when the pair got a text at 3:48 pm exactly and headed to the nurse's office, he followed, obviously.

The text came from Elise, who usually volunteered in the nurse's office when she was free, who was worried about Sakura, who was there because of a conversation with Corrin the night before.

The conversation went a little something like this;

"B-Big Sister... what can you tell me about that girl?! Please, I need some way of approaching her and bonding with her!"

"Uh. Which one?"

"The beauty with purple hair, of course!"

"Oh, okay," Corrin said, thinking of Elise's purple streaks. It was an honest mistake and totally not a way of sabotaging anyone, how dare you even think that. "Loves cute things. She shows up at the nurse's office a ton, and she likes cats."

That was the reason why, at 2:45 on the dot, she showed up in the nurse's office. And promptly deflated because Camilla was not the volunteer there that day. The baguette hair girl in her year spared her a caustic glare and went back to organizing the medicine cabinet.

For fifteen minutes, Sakura loitered there, since the other girl never explicitly told her to leave. Sakura didn't really have anything to do, at least until a tall, scary, blonde guy with noodle hair kicked the door down and dragged two people in by their ears. Despite one of them smouldering.

With his left hand, he dragged Ryoma in for the pigtailed girl to treat. With his right hand, he dragged Rinkah in and deposited her on a bed, throwing a fire blanket over her.

Because, well, she was on fire a few minutes ago.

Basically, Ryoma remembered how Corrin told him to beat Camilla's entire family in horseback races and wrestling matches, and went to Rinkah, leader of the Wrestling Club, for help. 

Rinkah's reaction to his burning passion was to spontaneously combust as she agreed to wrestle him. She didn't use a lighter or anything. It was just a Flame Tribe tradition to ignite with no external cause whenever they got fired up.

Unfortuntely, Ryoma's long, delicate, beautiful hair was flammable. So, when they wrestled... they wound up in an uncomfortable situation.

Thankfully, Xander was there with a fire extinguisher. Mostly because he smelled fire and knew that his work would be ruined if the sprinklers came on and soaked the papers, but he could pretend it was done out of genuine concern for their lives.

So, the siblings were in place for the opening act, and all they needed was the catalyst arriving at 3:53 pm.

Which was the oddball group of Silas, Corrin, Felicia, and Niles, right after Corrin got changed because she was more confident in her ability to stop a fight as Corrin than Carl.

In the hallway outside the nurse's office, they had an interesting conversation.

"[This dialogue has been removed for violating the rules and restrictions set in place by the rating.]," Niles innuendo-ed, winking at Silas.

Corrin made an interesting expression at that.

"What does that mean, Niles?" She asked innocently.

"U-uh," Niles managed, nervously looking at Silas, who looked uncomfortable.

"We're almost at the nurse's office, so... I can tell you after!"

Corrin pouted grumpily. 

"Are you treating me like a child? I can handle it!"

"It's... it's not that, but..." Silas managed, when Felicia tapped him on the shoulder.

"I can explain!" Felicia exclaimed way too eagerly, before apologizing and toning it down. "B-but... I'm too nervous without my sunglasses, so... can I please have them back?"

"Alright... just don't fight with Niles, okay? And Niles, don't fight with Felicia, either."

The two agreed in unison, so Felicia got her sunglasses back just before they reached the door.

"Oi, Corrin! Isn't it obvious?! Niles means 'I want to have sex with you!'" Felicia exclaimed, stunning the other three.

Her voice was loud enough that everyone on the other side of that door could hear. And, well, they couldn't exactly hear the quotation marks...

So the siblings broke down the door and threatened Niles ominously just as the clock struck the start of four pm.

However, everyone's reactions paled in comparison to Silas', since he couldn't hear quotation marks either.

Mostly because Silas immediately knocked Niles on his ass, stomped a foot to his chest, and generally acted murderous, murderously proclaiming, "Touch her, and you're dead.

Even the protective siblings of death stepped back a bit at that.

And then they bumped into each other and realized that they were all together in the same place.

Corrin almost screamed when she realized she had horribly, horribly failed in her mission to keep her siblings away from Camilla.

Chapter Text

"Sis, we have to go home now!" Corrin screamed, grabbing Hinoka and throwing Ryoma over her shoulder. "Takumi, Sakura, you have homework to do! Let's go!"

"Oh my, and I was hoping to spend more time with everyone!" Camilla lamented. "But, if it can't be helped..."

"It can be helped! It can totally be helped!" Hinoka screamed, breaking out of Corrin's grip. "N-not that I particularly want to, or anything!"

"Yes, I would love to get to know you," Ryoma added from Corrin's shoulder.

"...so blatant in their intentions...!" Takumi noted. 

"Can I become yours?!" Sakura exclaimed, rushing to the purple-haired girl, prompting Takumi to question everything he ever thought he knew about life.

Camilla actually paused at the words, before smiling once again.

"Of course, darling!" Camilla patted Sakura on the head. "We just need the papers to change your last name, and it will be done!"

Corrin looked to Leo and Elise, who shook their heads. Elise in particular mouthed, 'It's funnier this way,' at her. Xander, well, he was running out of adrenaline after Niles was taken care of. He was less half-asleep and more nine-tenths-asleep. Kagero had decided to take care of Niles since her love advice person was busy, Silas forgot everything that had happened in the past ten minutes and was looking around in confusion, Rinkah was trying not to be on fire, and Felicia decided that she didn't care enough to not walk away.

So, basically, no one was gonna stop Corrin's siblings from fawning over Camilla.

Corrin was about to despair, until Camilla proved she was plenty capable of plenty of things.

"Once we get those adoption papers, you can be my precious little sister!" She declared, striking Sakura like a lightning bolt. As if that weren't enough, she turned to hug Hinoka and pulled Takumi along too, adding, "All~ of~ you~ are my adorable itty-bitty little siblings from now on!"

Corrin wound up snickering behind a hand at how Hinoka froze and Takumi looked like someone just socked him in the stomach.

And then Ryoma decided to go, "I'm afraid I cannot be a little brother to you. Fortunately, I am perfectly qualified for the role of boyfr-"

Thankfully, Camilla cut him off and said, "Age isn't important, sweetheart! All that matters is that the love overflowing from my heart to yours is purely familial! It was written in the stars, completely incapable of ever being anything else!"

Leo and Elise were visibly trying not to laugh their [CENSORED] off.

A strange gurgle came from Xander's throat, and Camilla had the delightful idea of bringing everyone to the new Tea Ceremony clubroom for a cup of tea. Everyone. 

Corrin's siblings were quickly revitalized by the invitation after the four-person total party kill, Xander was dragged into it, Kagero went with it because destiny, Silas was fine with it, Niles went because there was free food, Corrin was forced to come because Hinoka picked her up and loudly exclaimed she was come when it seemed Camilla would be disappointed by her refusal, and... uh.

"Who goes there?!" Rinkah demanded. "I'll not go with some suspicious knave who can't beat me in battle! Leave me be!"

"So, you're saying that you'll come with me if I beat you in a fight?" Camilla replied with a grin.

"Don't make that challenge so lightly. I'm no mere student, I am Rinkah Oogami, Chieftain of the Flame Tribe by the Trial of Flames!"

(Excerpt from A Cultural Overview of the Flame Tribe: In the Flame Tribe, Trial of Flames refers to the act of defeating two flaming bears, followed by all other contenders for the position of leadership, which is then followed by the current owner of the position, in order of ascending danger and strength. The new recruit is then subject to training, which typically involves exercise in brutal heat, repeating mantras while suspended over a bonfire (See: Bonfire Areas in the Flame Tribe, page 35 for more details), and the awakening of a new Aura of Fire. (See: Aura of Fire, page 12 for more details)) 

"Impressive," Camilla said, a sudden smirk on her face. "I almost feel bad for how badly I'll beat you!"

"You talk a big game... let's see if you have the strength to back it up!" Rinkah's smile could only be called murderous in that moment. "I accept your challenge!"

"May the best woman win!"

Xander decided to take a nap on the infirmary bed as they were fighting. Kagero was taking notes on their technique. Silas was worried and Niles was reassuring him that it wasn't that bad, fights happened all the time, and it wasn't like they had knives or baseball bats or something, right? Elise and Leo were amusing themselves by seeing how Corrin's siblings were so impressed by Camilla's fighting skills that they didn't even notice being poked or having hands waved in front of their eyes, and Corrin was sitting on the floor, eating popcorn. 

Thankfully, Camilla was smart enough to realize the complications of fighting in the nurse's office, what with the delicate medications and tables and beds and all. So, she did what anyone would do in such a situation.

She tackled Rinkah so hard, they smashed through the window.

Rinkah's reaction was to laugh.

"You've got strength, I'll tell you that! But, I'll show you the real power of the Flame Tribe!"

"Bring it!" Camilla answered in turn, ripping off her sleeves and vest to let her fight better.

"Ah. They're dead," Elise noted blandly, poking at Ryoma's face. He was completely unresponsive.

"Must be her muscles," Leo replied in the same uninterested tone. "Everyone loves muscles."

"Heh, that's a true warrior's spirit! I'm getting fired up!" Rinkah exclaimed, before actually, literally, catching on fire.

No, we are not joking.

It's just what the Flame Tribe did. Catch on fire when in times of high emotion with no external cause.

It's part of the reason why the Flame Tribe is considered one of the most powerful forces in the world, despite not having their own country or actual formal government that can't be taken over by a fifteen year old at a moment's notice. It's just hard to argue with people who can set themselves on fire whenever they want.

So, essentially, Camilla was in a tough spot, going up against someone who was actually, literally on fire, so she did the most sensible thing that anyone would do in such a situation.

She charged at the person who was actually, literally on fire, grabbed her by the skull, flipped her, grabbed her by the ankles, spun her, and then threw her into the nearest body of water. Which happened to be a puddle on the ground, because Mozu was peacefully watering the flowers behind the corner, completely oblivious to the flaming fight the other way.

Mozu obviously freaked out when a flaming person showed up near her flowers. Her immediate reaction was to throw the watering can at Rinkah's face. Her second reaction was to break the head off a rake (don't worry, she could reattach it later) and smack Rinkah with it three to four times. Hayato, who was napping in a tree before he heard his best friend scream, jumped down behind Rinkah and used his experience with dancing to quickly kick, shove, and hit Rinkah in the back, propelling Rinkah facefirst into a strike by rake.

She wound up on the ground. Hayato and Mozu exchanged a high-five over her unconscious body, when Peri happened.

"Dead person! Can I have her?"

"It's a crazy person! Run!" Hayato screamed, right before Mozu grabbed him by the wrist and did just that.

"She's not dead," Camilla chided the blue-and-pink haired girl. "And you scared away the little ones! I was hoping to invite them for some tea after that impressive display!"

"Sorry, Camilly..." Peri said mournfully.

"Now, now, how about you help us carry her to the clubroom, and all is forgiven? I'll pour a cup of tea for you," Camilla offered.

"Wait didn't you-" Leo's reminder was cut off by Elise covering his mouth with her hand.

"It's funnier this way," she told him.

Leo shot her the most exasperated glare he could while having half his face covered.

And so, Peri was coerced- er, persuaded into carrying Xander and Rinkah up to the Tea Ceremony room.

Silas volunteered to care for Rinkah and Xander as they were unconscious. Niles tried to help too, only to be met with a dazzling 'no, I can do it myself, please don't trouble yourself for my sake and enjoy the party' smile which left him on the floor. So, Silas took care of him too.

"Thank you for coming here, darlings," Camilla said as Beruka set teacups in front of everyone. 

"The tea's wormwood with peppermint," Selena added curtly, glaring at almost everyone as she poured the tea. "Made by that pervert."

A round of thanks came from Leo, Elise, and Corrin (and Peri!), who were tea room regulars, who all got their cups poured normally. Selena blatantly missed Hinoka's cup and got tea all over her spot, then looked at Ryoma for four seconds, wondered how the hell he drank tea when he was... that, and decided not to risk it and skipped him. She stared at Kagero warily, pouring very, very slowly as she tried to ascertain whether or not Kagero would kill anyone or not, then went to Sakura. Sakura, who was gazing at Camilla longingly, did not even notice Selena's look of disgust or how her cup was still empty. Then, Selena very obviously assessed Takumi, who glared right back and looked like he was ready to fight her.

Selena's reaction was to pour him a cup of tea normally, giving him the stink-eye and a whisper of, 'I didn't do it for you. It's only because you know Hinata, you hear?' before leaving.

Beruka stayed behind a bit to hand Hinoka a hankerchief, before leaving as well.

"Where are they going?" Takumi asked, examining his teacup like he fully expected it to be poisoned.

"Guard duty," Leo answered.

"They like-like Big Sis, so they help her with her tea parties and make sure no one interrupts," Elise said with a smile, her grin only widening when Ryoma dropped his teacup onto the table.

"They what?!" Hinoka demanded.

"They help with the tea parties and make sure no one interrupts," Leo told her simply.

"Smartass," Corrin noted as she sipped her tea.

"C-Camilla..." Sakura could barely get the name out before sobbing, wondering if her first love was extinguished so soon.

Hinoka flinched, since... uh, she still didn't realize that the leader of the Tea Ceremony club was named Camilla.

"I'll fight that [CENSORED] for making my sister cry."

It should be noted that Camilla had absolutely no idea what was happening.

"I'll promise to give you a challenge then," she stated.

"You're... accepting?" Hinoka gasped. "So honourable...!"

She left out the part about a leader accepting punishment in place of her subordinate and stuff like that, because it was so clear it didn't need to be said.

'...they do realize that it's not the end of the world if some people have a crush on their crush, right?' Leo found himself thinking as Ryoma took out his sword and was promptly struck with a slipper to the face from Kagero.

"This tea is delicious," Kagero stated as she disarmed Ryoma with her legs alone. On top of that, she was drinking her tea calmly, and also not spilling a single drop. "Might I have a name to whom I could send my thanks?"

"The maker is Laslow, a boy from my class and member of the Student Council. He's a member of this club as well, so you might see him around if you stay," Camilla answered calmly.

"Lazzy's great! He gets embarrassed when you tease him and he says funny things and he's fun to talk to!" Peri added.

"Thank you," Kagero said solemnly. "I'll be sure to drop off my regards."

"I'm sure he'll appreciate it," Camilla replied, completely unaware that, in three hours, Laslow would go home to a letter resting on his bed and become absolutely convinced that he had been targeted by Hoshidan assassins. "Might I know your name as well, then?"

"My name is Kagero," the ninja told her, sparking off a round of introductions. 

Corrin was in the middle of telling people her name when she realized that Hinoka and Takumi still didn't know Camilla's name. And then she realized that, if they realized that their crush had the same name as Sakura and Ryoma's shared crush, they would start thinking things.

She was so anxious that she almost broke her teacup in her grip as she made a joke about premature greying.

And then it was Camilla's turn.

"I'm the leader of the Tea Ceremony club, but really, you can all call me your new big sister! ♡ " She exclaimed with a smile.

"Beautiful..." Sakura whispered in awe, recording it in its entirety with her phone.

"Marvelous..." Ryoma echoed, mirroring the action despite... possibly (?) lacking hands. 

"What the actual hell," Takumi said, just as Corrin asked, "What are you, perverts?", and Leo went, "The absolute pinnacle of socially acceptable behaviour."

Takumi gave the other two an odd look, so Corrin just smiled and sipped her tea.

"You didn't give your name," Kagero observed, right before Corrin choked and started coughing.

"Corrin!" Ryoma screamed, panicking alongside Hinoka.

"K-keep coughing!" Sakura encouraged her. "Please don't die!"

"Hold on! I'll help you!" Hinoka declared, rushing behind Corrin.

"Hinoka no-" Takumi's attempt at calming the situation down failed when she punched Corrin in the back, causing Corrin to collapse to the floor. "Goddammit, Hinoka."

"She hurt Corrin!" Peri roared, standing up with a fork in hand. "I'll kill her!"

"Peri," Camilla called out, commanding her to stop with a single word.

"You guys massively overreacted," Elise noted. "Corrin woulda survived just fine, considering her drink just went down the wrong pipe, but then that strike to the spinal cord could result in massive complications in health and back problems later on in life, if not immediately."

"I'm unimpressed just looking at them," Leo stated with a slight sneer.

"Now, now, it was an honest mistake," Camilla said gently. "Let's all sit back down and return to our conversation. Corrin, are you well enough to keep going, or do you want to rest with the others?"

"I think I'll si-" Corrin paused at the sight of the look on Ryoma's... f..face (?!) and then decided it would be better to stay instead of letting that blushing mess unattended around Camilla.

"Wonderful," Camilla replied when she heard Corrin's answer.

Corrin breathed out a sigh of relief, but of course, it was just at that moment that Camilla turned to Kagero and said, "Oh, I almost forgot! My name is Camilla Ryder, though you can call me whatever you'd like."

Corrin screamed.

"Corrin, what the hell?!" Takumi demanded, just as Leo flicked her in the head and went, "We're in public, pipe down."

The two glared at each other, but Corrin was more freaking out because, between Sakura freaking out over finally knowing "her future family name" and Ryoma blushing, she was watching Hinoka sweat and squirm.

''Camilla...' Hinoka's thinking,' Corrin guessed, going off of Hinoka's facial expression alone. ''Isn't that... the person who beat up Sakura and Ryoma-!?' We're all gonna die... she's starting to put the pieces together!'

And then Hinoka shook her head.

'U-uh. 'No way, there's no way, the Leader of the Tea Ceremony club is too sweet to do that!' is what she's saying!? Hinoka?!'

And then Hinoka gasped and her eyes lit up.

'Oh no. She's going, 'Oh gods! She's taking on her subordinate's name so my anger will be directed at her instead! Going to such lengths to protect those under her, how incredible can someone be?! She's just-''

"-so noble...!" Hinoka whispered under her breath, watching Camilla with eyes filled with admiration. 

'You're kidding! You must be joking!' Corrin wailed in her head, holding her face in her hands in despair. 'Why is my big sister such a muscle-brained idiot?!'

'Her ability to circumvent logic if it gets her a conclusion she's satisfied with is borderline terrifying,' Leo added on mentally.

'What a formidable foe!' Elise bit her napkin and tore it to shreds, leading to three out of four siblings watching jealously as Camilla handed her another one.

'Peri wants to join in too!'

'Why are you all psychic?!' Takumi demanded, earning an odd look from the others.

But, well, Corrin's blood pressure was dropping now that the risk of Hinoka fighting her other siblings for Camilla's hand had passed, so she was breathing a little easier-

"So, Camilla, I'll be honest, I've been hoping for love advice from a fateful encounter today after what my good friend Carl said earlier," Kagero said. "Might I ask for your perspective?"

Corrin almost shattered her cup. Again.

Takumi, Leo, and Elise all shot her a look.

'Entirely your fault.'

'Yeah, totally.'

'What did you expect, running around in a role like that?'

And then the three held a long stare between the three of them, though it was less a staredown between three people and more two people versus Takumi. The two siblings, though, turned their heads and huffed, a tiny bit of respect for the Hoshidan being born in them.

"I-I wanna hear it too! Please, give us lots of love advice, Camilla!" Sakura exclaimed, pulling trick twelve-sixty from the book of 'Surefire Romance Strategies Pulled from the Pages of Chon'sin Literature': Ask your crush for advice on how to pursue someone to use those techniques on them!

"Yes, just in case, you can ask me as well!" Ryoma added, pulling trick nine-eighty-three from the book of 'Surefire Romance Strategies Pulled from the Pages of Chon'sin Literature': Try to look cool in front of your crush!

"Not you. Gods, no, not you," Kagero answered immediately.

"Beat me in a fight, and I'll hand them over," Hinoka offered, trying to pull trick three-thirteen from the book of 'Surefire Romance Strategies Pulled from the Pages of Chon'sin Literature': Fight for your crush's honour!

"I already did. I don't need your advice anymore, though, but thank you for the thought."

'Two outta four defeated! Two more to go!' Elise exclaimed.

"Ohhhh, I got an idea already!" Peri declared. "Why dontcha dress up a bit?"

'Wait, the hell do you mean, two more to go?!' Takumi demanded.

"Dress... up?" Kagero echoed in confusion.

'Don't worry about it, Takumi, it's fine,' Corrin reassured him.

"I suppose that would mean wearing your hair differently, wearing some makeup or new clothes, and the like," Camilla explained, most of Corrin's siblings hanging off her every word.

'Just be quiet and also fail horribly,' Leo instructed him.

"Yeah, or earrings! Like, I bet if you let your hair down and wore shiny, shiny jewelry, you'd get lots of attention!" Peri said happily.

'Corrin, just what is your definition of 'fine'?!'

"Is that so?" Kagero wondered.

'Money you have to pay as punishment for a crime.'

"Though, you're already beautiful, so I'm not sure if it will do much..." Camilla sighed.

'Smartass,' Takumi thought, sticking his tongue out at Corrin. Corrin gave him the stinkeye back.

"Trust me, it will totally work!" Peri exclaimed confidently. She took a look around before settling on Corrin because she was pretty, right next to her, and looked so immersed in her 'conversation' that she probably wouldn't even notice. "Look, Corrin-Morrin's super super pretty, right? But if you tie her hair up and give her sparkly earrings, then-"

Peri reached out to demonstrate, which, in hindsight, was a bad move.

Corrin's next move completely killed any conversation at the table, mental or otherwise.

She grabbed Peri's wrist before she made contact, then turned towards the cotton-candy-haired girl.

"You try it, I'll kill you," Corrin promised, and though she was smiling, there was something in her voice that seemed to indicate she wasn't entirely joking.

The room fell silent. Even Camilla, constantly-smiling Camilla, seemed perturbed by the threat.

And then a blush slowly bloomed over Peri's cheeks. 

"Corrin, that wasn't very nice!" Silas called out from the other side of the room. "And Peri, you can't invade other people's personal space like that! Both of you, apologize to each other!"

'He... knew that Peri was trying to touch her without even looking?!' Kagero gasped in awe, eyes shining at the thought of finding a promising new recruit for her Tea Ceremony club.

(She was completely unaware of the fact that Silas knew Corrin so well that he knew the only three things that could ever provoke such a reaction from her and just figured it out from there.)

The two apologized, before Camilla laughed a bit.

"I don't think you need to go quite so far, though. The dressing up thing, I mean," she said, looking at Kagero directly. Kagero seemed baffled when she realized she was the one being stared at. "You're a polite, pleasant person to be around from what I can tell, and I have quite an eye for character," she tapped at her visible eye with a grin, "All you need to sweep your person of interest off your feet is honesty and courage, no doubt."

Kagero felt an inexplicable twinge in her heart, before smiling shyly.

"T-thank you. It means a lot to hear that."

"Of course, serving tea and offering advice is what I do."

"S-s-s-so cool!" Sakura gasped.

"Incredible...! Absolutely incredible!" Ryoma added.

Hinoka could not comment, because she broke her teacup by squeezing it too hard.

"Uh. Hinoka, your hand is bleeding," Takumi told her.

"I can see the shards stabbing you," Corrin noted.

"I'm fine," Hinoka forced out through gritted teeth.

"You're going to stain the tablecloth!" Elise snapped.

"If you do, can I keep it?" Peri asked. "Can I make you bleed more?"

"Peri, you can't ask people that!" Silas piped up. "And I have a first aid kit here, so please let me bandage your wounds!"

"I'm fine!"

"If you're scared of blood, you can hold my hand," Camilla offered. "How would you like that, darling?"

And then Hinoka fainted.

Fade to black, end credits, cue scene of her parents sobbing over her gra-

Oh yeah, she wasn't dead yet.

When she woke up, her head was on a soft, soft thing, a warm hand was in hers, and she could hear a gentle voice above her...

"Wake up."

"Mmm..." Hinoka replied, wondering if she was in heaven.

"Are you going to wake up anytime soon?!" A shrill voice demanded.

And then Hinoka opened her eyes.

The hand holding hers belonged to Elise, and the lap she was resting on was Leo's. Predictably, Hinoka jumped up and almost immediately fell to her knees.

"Wha—?! Bu-buh-but, the, it wasn't her-?!"

"No way! Big Sis is too busy with her actual friends to do this!" Elise said with a bright smile.

"Of course, we were concerned for you, so we helped in our own little way," Leo lied with a straight face.

"Be nice to her, you two," Silas' gentle voice requested, before looking down at Hinoka. "And be careful, alright? You might feel a bit nauseous from fainting, so take your time resting. I already bandaged your cut."

And then he heard a wolf whistle from behind him, where Niles was resting on a couch and turned in the exact position needed to catch a nice view of Silas' posterior.

Taking his eyes off Hinoka for the briefest moment, Silas suplexed the guy.

Despite that, he gave the redhead a concerned, yet upside-down stare as he went on, not changing his tone at all. 

"Try to avoid doing anything that could wreck the bandages, okay? And be sure to go to an actual doctor soon, there might be tiny chips and fragments in your cut that I wasn't able to pull out."

Niles made an odd sound at that, so Silas dropped him and dusted himself off. If this work wasn't given a general rating, a description of how Niles moaned at the pain would be given, but, since this work did indeed have a general rating, so that description will be skipped over.

"Take care of yourself, Hinoka. I'll check on the others now."

Hinoka just kinda stayed there. It might have been a mix of despair at embarrassing herself and also actually being faint. Thankfully, she had the body of a warrior, so she was fine. Leo and Elise certainly thought so, anyways, considering that they didn't bother checking on her.

"Niles?" Leo poked at the fallen dude in a vague mix of pity, apathy, and the slightest amount of exasperation. "Are you going to be okay?"

"I'm much better than merely okay," Niles said in a breathless tone.

"Hey, hey, Xander! You doing alright?! Want pillows or something?!" Elise asked, nudging her brother.

"...remind me again why I actually allow myself to speak to you?"

"I need to work," Xander stated, sitting upright. Elise shoved him back down.

"Because you're attracted to my boundless charms?" Niles quirked his eyebrow, causing Leo to sigh. "I'm sure there are plenty of reasons why you keep ta-"

"Don't even think about it," Leo and Elise ordered at the same time, in the same tone, with the exact same menacing sneer.

("They're like twins, huh?" Takumi noted from the table.

"It warms my heart to see my little siblings getting along so well," Camilla replied with a tearful smile.)

"Quit flirting with people aside from your target! Are you trying to sabotage your own chances?! Or are you just that daft?!"

"You can't work, you're sleeping! If it's student council work, we can force Corrin to do it! You know she can't say no!"

"Hey!" Corrin screamed from the other end of the couch, where she was helping Silas check on Rinkah. 

Rinkah, who heard that, bolted upright, accidentally startling Corrin into dropping what she was holding.

She was holding the first aid kit. And she dropped it on Rinkah's head.

"Ah. You're awake," Corrin observed blandly. "Sorry about that bump on your head."

"It's you!" Rinkah cried out in return, sitting up properly and avoiding Silas' attempt to hand her some ice. "From Krakenberg, right? Where are we?"

"Yes, I'm Corrin. This is the Tea Ceremony room, in the Krakenberg side." Corrin looked over to the table, where Camilla was waving them over. "I'm handing you over to the boss now."

It was then that Rinkah recalled some very important things.

"You!" She roared, stomping over to Camilla.

"Would you like some tea?"

"It's rather good," Kagero commented.

"Yup! Made by Lazzy!"

Takumi nodded as he sipped his tea. Sakura and Ryoma tried to do the same, only to find that their cups were empty.

"You dishonourable scum! You got others to fight on your behalf to defeat me!"

"I never asked those children to fight you. They chose to because you were too close to where they were playing," Camilla retorted.

"Children...!?" Sakura squeaked, wondering in horror whether Camilla considered her a child or not.

"They're two years younger than you at the most," Takumi pointed out.

"Irregardless!" Rinkah went on, only to be interrupted by Leo immediately going, "It's regardless!" 

"Nah, it's irregardless," Corrin said with a snicker.

"Corrin, I hate you."

"Wow, irregardless of the circumstances, shouldn't you be nicer to her? After all, you-"

"NILES."

"IT DOESN'T MATTER!" Rinkah smashed her fist into the table, making it tremble and crack. "Fight me again, coward! I'll beat you, one-on-one!"

Camilla stared at her quietly, her eyes drifting down to the Flame Tribe chieftain's fist. She took note of the fact that she might have to buy wood glue later, and kept drinking her tea.

"I refuse. It's teatime, and I'd rather continue chatting. If you'd like, we could continue this another time-"

And then Rinkah decided to do something stupid.

She picked up the teapot, removed the lid, and chugged the whole thing from the top. Then she set it down, wiped off some tea from her face, and glared at Camilla once again.

"Now will you hear my challenge?"

Camilla swore under her breath, standing from her chair. Kagero tensed, dragging Takumi and Sakua away to where the injured, resting, and the caretakers were.

"Stay here! I'll protect you," the ninja reassured them as Camilla charged at Rinkah.

"I wanna join in too!" Peri exclaimed jovially.

"Hey! No roughhousing in the clubroom!" Selena ordered as she kicked the door down.

"We'll put you down," Beruka promised.

Kagero pulled a knife out of nowhere, and by nowhere, we mean her ninja hiding place. Peri didn't have a baseball bat, but she did have a chair. Thankfully, Beruka had a spray can of mace and a taser that was 100% not stolen or anything. Selena had a... sword. She had a sword. In school. Alright.

Anyways, as Kagero was protecting the others from flying debris and other such projectiles with the countless knives she kept in the holster strapped to her thigh, Rinkah and Camilla were duking it out, mano a mano, a one-on-one no holds barred beatdown or whatever. And Ryoma was just stuck in the chaos since Kagero forgot about him.

It was an interesting way to spend the afternoon, until Miss Nyx and Mr. Gunter walked in and separated everyone.

Predictably, all of them were in trouble.

Somehow, though, despite the club leader literally fighting someone on school grounds twice, the club was still allowed to go on. Peri was informed once again that her behaviour was unacceptable and that, if she ever tried to hurt someone again, not even her father's bribes could keep her from being expelled. 

So, well, Camilla and Rinkah got slapped with having to help around the school for fighting, Peri got a stern warning and a detention, Beruka and Selena got a silent nod and a secret candy behind everyone's backs for stopping Peri, and the others got a warning to, y'know, not get involved in stuff like this ever again.

If this seems a little lax to you, please remember that Miss Nyx was so scary, her old students thought having to meet her again was more terrifying than the war they fought in.

(At that moment, Tharja and Henry sneezed, prompting their husbands to offer them a tissue.)

Also, Mr. Gunter was a two-time war veteran who could still kick [CENSORED]. And kept an axe in his office just in case. 

So, it was punishment in its own right.

As the kids went home, two events occurred that would eventually change the entire school.

The first was that Camilla, feeling bad for ruining such a good afternoon, offered everyone an invitation to a picnic in a park on the western side of town that weekend, saying she would bring extra refreshments. Rinkah refused, saying that she would not eat with Camilla until they had a proper fight that wasn't interrupted. Kagero apologized since she had to visit a friend's house that day, and Peri was too sad over getting a detention to accept. Silas wanted to accept, but his mom needed extra hands with her work, so he hesitantly said no. Niles couldn't because he had to take care of Keaton's dogs.

Of course, Corrin's siblings would absolutely not refuse. 

Since the little ones (yes, Hinoka and Ryoma were little too, even if it was only in her heart, shush) were so excited, Camilla decided not to risk it and ask the Wolf Pack for help providing extra delicious desserts. 

(Elise would have liked to interfered, except she had a bet going on with Leo to see if the idiot quartet would sabotage themselves somehow. Also, she belatedly realized that she never threatened the Wolf Pack into agreeing to mess with Camilla's requests, only Corrin's siblings. Damn!)

Charlotte, well. She worked with it, but not before complaining to her email buddy that she was so limited in ingredients because of her low price range and the lack of good food in the Nohrian half of town that it was decreasing her food's quality.

Not only did she get quality eggs and fruits and vegetables delivered to her locker the next school day, but she got regular gifts of food from that point onwards. It sparked something in her, and that spark would continue growing and growing until she had a blazing passion that would destroy the institution known to students as Shisaragi High School.

In the Byakuya household, on the other hand, Corrin had a conversation with her mother that went something a little like this;

"You alright, Corrin?"

"Yeah."

"Oh dear, you really are troubled... ah, well, at least we have this Saturday to cheer you up!"

"Something's happening on Saturday?"

"The picnic, of course!"

"T-the picnic?!"

"Did you forget? I talked to my sister and we arranged a picnic this Saturday. She's bringing all her children, so you get to see the park again and talk to your friends; Camilla, Xander, Elise, Azura... ohohoho, and I can't forget Leo, can I?"

"Wait. It's a... family picnic?"

"Yes, of course, though, if some purely unfamilial feelings happen to crop up because of the circumstances... well, even if Azura's your cousin and Azura's their sister, there really isn't any blood between any of you aside from that."

Corrin screamed in response. Mikoto figured it was a symptom of adolescence and went to order dinner.

Corrin, however, could not extract herself from the situation so easily, and when her siblings found her, there was absolutely zero escape.

Really now, she was beginning to think that some ancient god must have loved to make her suffer. Ryoma had spent three hours that night, asking about everything from Camilla's favourite foods to what kind of shoes Camilla wore, Sakura spent those same three hours practicing a love confession in the mirror, Takumi was screaming and blushing furiously at the idea of a date, and Hinoka had broken a punching bag thinking of Camilla's smile.

'How in the world am I supposed to tell her siblings that Camilla invited them all out to a family picnic?!' was what she thought in her hopelessness.

Leo and Elise, however, were thinking solely of the idea of shoving those words in the idiot quartet's faces. 

They were absolutely determined to show them that Camilla would never, ever see them as romantic options. Call it sadism if you would, but they simply had a desire to raise the pining fools' hopes as high as they could soar, only to shoot them down and stomp them into the ground. 

Years in the future, they would laugh and call it a mistake of puberty, but it was only because of those mistakes that they could destroy Shisaragi from the ground up.

And the second incident from that afternoon that would change things for good?

Well, back in the staffroom, Mr. Yukimura happened to witness the pair of Nohrian teachers disciplining the students, and, intrigued, he tried to approach Miss Nyx after work.

The woman was seated at her desk, papers strewn about wildly as she worked. 

"Might I bother you for a question?"

"If it's tips on how to be a better teacher, I'm afraid I cannot help you," Miss Nyx retorted, not even looking up from Corrin's assignment. She typically frowned upon the idea of letting someone pass by copying off another person, but... she honestly feared that, if Corrin couldn't go to Leo for help, then she wouldn't be able to pass the class at all.

"Sorry, but I'd rather not take advice from a teaching novice," Mr. Yukimura replied with an easy grin as he settled into the chair next to Miss Nyx. Hopefully Ms. Amara wouldn't mind.

Had Miss Nyx been any less perceptive or patient than she was, the encounter would have ended right there, as she would have angrily blurted out just how long she had been teaching, cause a heated argument, and possibly get her fired.

However, with her level of perception and patience, she simply answered with, "Mr. Yukimura, I'll give you this bit of advice as a concerned human being rather than an experienced teacher; don't say things that can be easily misconstrued as provocative. It could land you in trouble."

"Oh, and might I ask how you got that impression?" Mr. Yukimura replied, a slight glint in his eyes.

"Your joking tone, for one. Implies you don't take me seriously. You assuming the other person a novice would rub most people the wrong way, seeing as they would take it to mean that they're inexperienced. In a way, you're subtly insulting their skill, saying you mistook them for a rookie like that."

"Impressive."

"I assume you didn't come here to gawk at my examination of your words, Mr. Yukimura, or else we could be here all day."

"Of course, I'll get to the point." He was staring her down with a smile, assessing her without showing it. "I was hoping to ask about one of your students. A certain Corrin Byakuya, though her name might be listed as Corrin Byakuya-Hydrain."

Miss Nyx bristled at the thought, though she kept her expression stoic and her tone cool as she spoke, not lifting her eyes off her paper.

"I cannot confirm nor deny her presence in my course. You'd best take this up with the principal. We have a strict policy of not giving out our students' information, for security reasons."

"And academic ones?"

"She isn't in any of your courses, so I have no obligation to tell you anything," Miss Nyx almost growled.

"Really, now," Mr. Yukimura replied with a smile.

"Might I remind you that it is illegal for teachers to take such a specific interest in students like that?"

"Oh, how you wound me, assuming I have such intentions. I'm simply asking as a man who knows her father."

"...right. Then I'd suggest you ask her father, then."

"If it were really so easy to speak to the dead, we wouldn't bother burying them."

Miss Nyx paused.

"...what?"

She suddenly had the feeling that she had made a very, very big mistake.

"It goes against your policies, of course, but I feel I have an inkling of an idea why she would struggle in your classes. If I know her right, then she would do her best, yet earn average-to-high grades in all subjects... except for history and religious studies."

"That's," Miss Nyx tried to find a proper response, tried to find a way to shut him out, tried to not notice the dissonance between his words and his smile, but those words were throwing her off. 

(Dead parents weren't uncommon in Nohr. Hoshidan men who managed to have personal details and accurate guesses about the girl who dodges questions with a smile, however...)

And so, she blurted out the first thing to come to mind despite everything in her rational mind telling her not to.

"Fight me!" 

Mr. Yukimura stared at her blankly.

"I mean, let's have a duel. A battle of the minds to decide whether or not I can trust you," Miss Nyx desperatedly offered, "I'm rather proficient with chess."

She breathed out a sigh of relief. Hoshidans played the Chon'sin version of chess! She could beat him or he would refuse, and either way, he wouldn't be able to be so shady and ask—

"How wonderful, I enjoy a good game of chess myself."

"W-well, we still need a chessboard!"

"I have one right here." Mr. Yukimura presented a chessboard he got out of nowhere.

'DAMN YOU NINJAS.'

"Well. Alright, may the best player win!" Miss Nyx tried.

And failed.

Horribly.

"So, will you finally let me ask the question without trying to change the subject now?"

"U-um, ah, well, I'm too distracted to hear it!"

"...really?"

Miss Nyx, possibly because of the recent conversation, channelled a Corrin. And by that, we mean she rambled and went with the first thing she thought of that seemed like a good idea.

"I... was so distracted, because I swore long, long ago that I would only give my heart to someone who could best me in a game of chess! And you did that! So, as long as these feelings are in me, then I cannot answer your questions adequately!"

"Okay."

"Yeah, so, that means-"

"Will you go out with me, then?"

"What."

"Will you go out with me, Miss Nyx? You've said it yourself, you have feelings for me, and I'm interested in you, so, unless you were lying just now, what's the harm in seeing where this will take us?"

Oh. Oh.

He was calling her bluff. 

"Alright. Very well then. I suppose we can work this out."

"Splendid."

Yep.

The second event that would eventually shatter Shisaragi was Miss Maria Nyx accidentally agreeing to date Mr. Yukimura.

Chapter Text

Papa teaches me everything in the world. He brings me food and reads me books and tells me to be good. If I'm good, one day, I can leave.

I want to leave. It gets boring in here with nothing but books we already read and a bathroom.

I want to know when I can leave.

But Papa gets mad when I ask. I don't like making Papa mad. 

Normally, Papa is happy and smiling and says I'm a good girl. But when he's mad, he yells and throws my books and says I won't ever get to leave here.

Papa gets mad when I make mistakes and when I'm being bad. I try my best to not be bad. I don't ask when I can leave and I clean up my books and I wash my hands and I pray before every meal. He likes it when I do that. He smiles when I do that and I like it when he smiles.

I think I might be good enough to leave soon. He hasn't been getting mad in a long time. But I don't know. Time is weird. It always feels so long when I'm waiting and so short when I look back on it. Papa tells me that the time when I sleep is night and the time I'm awake is day, but I don't know what that means.

I want to leave soon. I want to see more of the world.


"Hey, hey, mister, what are you doing? What's in that bottle?"

"Be careful! That blood is precious! It's incredibly precious!"

"Is it Mommy's blood?"

"Yes. I'm collecting it carefully."

"How come?"

"I don't want to waste a single drop. That's how precious it is."

"Why is it precious?"

"Because it's part of your mother."

"It's important because it's Mommy?"

"Yes."

"Hey, mister, do you love Mommy?"

"Of course I do. I love her more than anything."

"I don't get it, mister. If you love Mommy, then why is she sad?"

"Because there's still corruption inside her."

"Huh?"

"Never mind. It's too complicated for a child to understand."

"Hey! Peri is old! Peri can understand it!"

"Then I'll start by explaining love to you, little one." 


The door was unlocked today.

I think that Papa finally decided I'm good enough!

It's scary. But I'm happy. I'm really, really happy. 

It takes a few moments for me to open the door. Papa always left by twisting the round part and pulling, but it's really tall. But I manage to do it!

The first thing I see when I open the door is a bunch of weird floor planks. They're like the wood in the room I was, except the planks are getting higher and higher. But, they're always high enough that you can step on top if you're on the plank right below it.

It's scary. I think I might fall off. But I wanna see the world outside, so I keep a hand on the wall and go up really, really carefully.

I look back over my shoulders sometimes when I go up. It's so weird! I feel so high, but until just now, I didn't know that you could go up higher than a stack of books! I'm taller right now than I've ever been!

I don't really know where I end up. It seems like a big weird room with lots of doors without the door parts. I walk through the space where a door should be, and the floor is really soft! It's softer than the wood planks in my room! 

It's a room with a short table and blankets hanging from the walls and shelves and a long chair and a black box thing on a stand.

I walk up to the black thing and put my hand on it. It's flat. And it feels kinda weird. Like... fuzzy.

I wonder if it's one of those window things you see in books? Where you can use it to see outside? But I couldn't see anything through it... that would mean it was closed... how sad. 

But I don't have the time to be sad! I'm exploring!

I sit on the long chair thing. It's so comfy! And there are pillows! They're really nice to hug! 

I almost wanna sleep on the long chair thing, but I have to keep exploring!

The shelf is really tall. A lot taller than the shelf in my room. The books look the same though. They're all on religion and history. They look more complicated than mine, though. Maybe I'll ask Papa to read those to me next time!

I don't wanna pull one of the blankets from the wall, that would make Papa mad. So, I figure that I've seen everything interesting in the room, and go through another one of those spaces where a door should have been. 

The floor in this new room is cold on my feet. I don't like it. 

But the room is full of drawers with flat tables on top. I can reach the table from here, but it's as cold as the floor! 

Strangely smooth, though.

I see a big tall thing between more drawer-table fuse-y thingies, and it has doors! I'm excited to see what's on the other side, so I try really, really hard to open it...

And it's really, really, really, really, REALLY cold.

And the stuff on the other side is just a shelf with some food on it.

It's the first time I've seen something like this, so I should be impressed, but... I'm just disappointed.

And cold.

Oh well! Time to keep exploring!


"Why do you think people get married, little one?"

"Because they love each other?"

"That's right. They love each other so much, they don't want anyone else to have the other person. That's what marriage is. Being devoted to each other for eternity."

"Eternity?"

"Forever."

"Forever? So Mommy and Daddy are together forever?"

"No. No. I love your mother far more than that bastard! I will never allow him to see her again, she's mine."

"M-mister? Did Peri say something wrong?"

"Yes. You did. Never mention your father while you're in this place. You wouldn't want to ruin your mother's surprise party, would you? This party is about the two people who love her the most showering her with love. That's you and me. No one else. Understood?"

"But why are you mad?"

"Because, because- I'm the person who loves her the most. Wouldn't you be mad if someone tried to steal your favourite doll from you? Wouldn't you be angry if someone tried to steal the thing you treasured most from you?!"

"I w-would be mad! I'm mad, mister...!"

"Yes, that's it! You would be angry to have your treasure taken from you! And she is my treasure, I adore her and worship her to an extent no one else does! She's mine! And I love her, I want her to love me and me alone. I am the only one who can make her flushed, make her smile, make her cry, make her bleed! I would do anything for her, as long as she will love me in return, and that, dear Peri, is why I can hurt her. I will hurt her to carve my love into her soul. So that she can love no one but me for eternity."

"Is that what love really is, mister?"

"Yes."

"I think I get it... okay. I think I do, but can you keep explaining it to me, please? It's kind of complicated."

"Of course, little one. Now, go and wake up your mother. I have another surprise for her."

"Okay!"


 

I found an actual door.

It made funny sounds when I opened it. Like it didn't open a lot, and it was complaining about me opening it.

The room inside was dark. And there was something on the floor making noises. It was too dark for me to see, but it looked like a lumpy pile. It sounded like me when I got upset and felt bad about being bad and making Papa mad.

I wonder if this pile made Papa mad too? And maybe it was locked in its room until it was good enough to leave, just like me?

I don't want to let it out if Papa didn't think it was good enough to let out yet. Papa would be mad if I did that, and I wouldn't be able to leave again if he got mad.

So I close the door behind me and leave.

Papa said I wasn't allowed to leave because other people were bad. They would hurt me and they would turn me into a bad person too. I don't want to be bad. I want to be a good person.

I want to be a good person and be able to learn more about the world. I love reading with my Papa, but the books are old and all say the same things! They say that Naga is good and we worship her and she helps us, and that the War of Shadows was when she personally helped Archanea win, but I don't know what they were fighting against or where Archanea even is! Do I live in Archanea? Is it close by? Can I visit it someday?

I look at the maps and the pictures of places and I imagine what it's like to be there. I have so many questions that I'm not allowed to ask Papa.

Is it really possible to see lots of people at once? I've never seen anyone but my Papa before. Do they really use markets and the barter system? What's money? Why do flowers look different in every picture I see? Is the world really as big as the maps say? Do other people have to be good until they can leave? Do stars exist? Do tiny, four-legged, furry animals actually exist too? Is Naga really a real person? Is it true that I'm a reincarnation? What is a reincarnation? Does the ocean exist?

I want to think of more, but then my feet get cold again. I stepped on more of those cold squares.

I look down and I see something I've only ever seen in books.

Shoes! So many shoes!

There are black ones and red ones and brown ones and blue ones. Some are tall and some are short. Some of them have string in holes in them. They smell weird and they're all too big for me. But it's so cool!

When I step on them, I really can't feel the cold squares! They really do protect your feet! Amazing!

But the real amazing thing is right in front of me.

It's a door, but this one is special. It has a bright flat thing in it. Like the window in the room with the long chair, but this one must be open! 

I try to pull it open, but it doesn't. It doesn't work when I push it, either.

I want to cry.

Am I not good enough to go outside this door yet? When will I be good enough to go outside this door? Will I ever be good enough?

But then I see a circle above the round part of the door. It has a flappy thing, like the picture books you need to pull and wiggle to make it move.

I try to pull it but it doesn't move. So I try to wiggle it, and it flips over with a click!

My heart feels so jumpy when I try to open the door again. It opens this time.

And I almost start crying.

Just the air is so, so different from my room! It smells good and it makes me feel like I've stepped into another world! And it's so bright! 

I step out and I close the door behind me. I'm on a floor that feels rough and weird on my feet. I want shoes. Maybe I'll get shoes if I'm good.

I step down a floor plank. It's still made of the same rough thing that makes my feet feel scratchy. I feel like I might fall over if I do it wrong.

Does Papa really step down all the planks I stepped up to get here? Because it's so much work! He does so much work just to see me!

I feel myself smiling when I get down from the plank and see something beautiful.

It's grass! It really does exist! 

I don't want to step on it. I might hurt it. So I sit on the plank and poke it.

It's wet. My hands are a bit wet from touching it.

I think I'm crying.

But I can't stop looking around. The world is so big compared to before! I want it to keep growing! I don't want to go back to that small room being my entire world.

The grass stops in front of me thanks to some brown floor squares and a black floor with some lines on it. On the other side of the black floor is another set of brown floor squares and more grass, and a... it's a 'house' from the books! And there's another 'house' on both sides, and another 'house' and another, and another, and- does it just keep going?!

Was the world I lived in just now just one part of one big 'house' in a world full of them? 

"Hey! What are you doing here?"

I scream and fall into the grass. They're soft and wet and now my dress is wet. Papa will be so mad...

A person is running up to me. I think it's a boy. He's stepping on the grass. It's the first real person I've ever met aside from Papa! 

He's holding someting round, I think it's called a 'ball'. His hair is grey and it goes up and curls back. He wears shoes on his feet.

He must be a very good person. He gets shoes and he gets to go outside. I trust him.

"Who are you?" He asks.

I almost don't know how to answer. You answer that with a name, right? But Papa always calls me 'my child' or 'demonspawn' when he's mad and I don't think those are names. 

But sometimes... sometimes he calls me something I think is a name. 

"Grima. My name is Grima."

The boy looks at me weird before laughing.

"You're really weird."

"Sorry."

"My name is Silas. Do you have a name?"

"I don't know," I admit.

"Then, can I call you... hmmm, you've got white hair, so maybe I can call you Robin?"

I shake my head.

"Papa says that's a real person. I don't wanna take someone else's name."

"Huh? But lotsa people are named Robin. My mom says it's because everyone wants to name their kid after a 'mar-tyr'." 

"What's that?"

"Someone who died for a good cause, I think."

"Woah! Silas, you know a lot!"

"Huh? I mean, it's just what my mom told me and-"

"Can you tell me if stars exist?! Are dogs real?! Where are we on a map? Where is Jugdral?!"

"U-uh, stars exist, yes, we're in western Mokushu, and north, I think!"

I almost started crying. Again.

I could find out more about the world! I could- I could- it was just-

"I'm really happy. Thank you a lot. Thank you!"

Don't cry.

Don't cry don't cry don't cry don't cry don't cry.

Papa gets mad when you cry.

Don't make Silas mad.

I don't want to make Silas mad.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm sorry! I'm really, really sorry!"

"No, no it's okay! I'm just worried about you!"

I don't know what to say to that.

"What does being worried mean?"

"I... I want to know if you're okay, and if you're not, I want to help you be okay."

Okay? Does he mean good? Am I being bad?

"I'm sorry for being bad," I say in advance, already used to the words. "I'll be better, I promise. Please... you can be mad at me."

"I'm not mad at you!" Silas yells, and I flinch. "I'm sorry, just, you haven't been bad. You asked me questions and smiled and I was surprised but I'm not mad! Okay?"

"Okay...?"

Silas is quiet for a while. Before I can say sorry again, he asks me something.

"Can I call you Corrin?"

"Corrin?"

"Yeah. Corrin is a superhero in a show I watch. She's super nice and curious and strong. She reminds me of you."

"Isn't Corrin a real person?"

"Nope!" He smiles at me. "She's like, a character in a comic book that got her own show! So you can use her name if you don't know yours, right? It's not stealing her name if she doesn't really exist, right?"

I feel happy. I don't know what a 'show' is, or a 'comic book', or a 'superhero', and I want to ask, but, I care more about the fact that Silas gave me a name. That was something special.

(But I felt kinda guilty. Papa said that only good kids got names. I wasn't worthy of a name yet.)

"Yeah. That makes sense," I tell him as I wipe my face with the back of my hand.

Silas doesn't seem to know what to do, but he holds his 'ball' out to me.

"Hey, Corrin, do you wanna play catch?"


"Mommy! Mommy! M— huh? Mommy, what are you doing?"

"Peri. Listen to me. We are leaving. We can't stay here anymore."

"Huh? Does Mommy not like the surprise birthday party Peri and Mr. Joker set up for her?"

"No. Mommy doesn't. Peri shouldn't either. Mr. Joker doesn't let us leave, that makes him bad. So we have to leave. We need to go back to Daddy, okay?"

"Mommy... talking about Daddy isn't allowed here. Mr. Joker gets mad when you do. I don't want him to be angry with you, Mommy."

"Peri...?"

"Mr. Joker told me to get you. He's waiting for you, Mommy. He made you a special birthday surprise! Do you think he'll bring us somewhere else, Mommy?"

"No, oh gods, no..."

"Mommy? Why do you look scared? Do you not want to wear a blindfold again?"

"No. We can't. Peri, listen to me. We need to leave. Now. Forget everything that man has ever told you."

"Why? Mr. Joker treated me like a grown-up. He explained marriage and love to me, you know!"

"Peri! No, no, this is not love. This is nothing like love. I'll tell you everything I know about love, as much as I can, but first, we have to leave."

"I don't wanna. Mr. Joker will explain it to me. He said he would tell me if I got you to go to your surprise."

"Please! Please, just do what I'm telling you! I'll buy you anything you want, I'll teach you about love and marriage and everything you can think of! I'll be a good mother! I'll do anything if I can convince you to leave, so please..."

"Silly mommy. Peri already loves you! You're the beeeeeeeeest mommy in the world!"

"Then listen."

"What's taking you so long, little one?"

"Oh gods...!"

"Mr. Joker!"

"What the hell have you been telling my daughter?!"

"Relax, my love. I've only told her the truth."

"I am not your love."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Joker. Mommy didn't wanna go."

"Not my love? How about darling?"

"Stop! I don't want you calling me any of that!"

"You're right. It's far more romantic when we use our names instead."

"Get the fuck away from me! I don't love you! I have a husband!"

"You'll forget about him."

"Mommy, Mr. Joker's gonna get mad!"

"I couldn't care less about this rat! I will never, never love you, you twisted monster!"

"...then I suppose I have no choice."

Mommy screamed.


 

"This is... fun."

"It is, right?"

"Thank you for showing me how to play catch, Silas!"

"Hehe, anything for a friend, right?"

"...what's a 'friend'?"

Silas makes a surprised face, and then the ball hits him in the head.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry, are you okay?"

"It's okay! It was an accident, I'm not mad!"

I start crying again.

"My house is right next to yours, so I can just grab ice! It's okay!

I'm almost reassured by that.

And then...

"Demonspawn. I told you not to leave unless I allowed you to, didn't I?"


"Mommy?"

'Run.' 

"You're making weird noises, mommy. Was Mr. Joker too mean this time?"

'Run! Peri, get away from here!'

"It's okay. Mr. Joker will bandage you up soon. He's just resting for a bit. He got so excited trying to keep you to himself that he ended up stabbing himself a bit."

"...eri..."

"You're leaking a lot of blood. Mr. Joker will be sad that he can't collect this."

"...r...r..."

"That's a funny gurgling sound, mommy."

"...ur... Peri..."

"...mommy? Are you okay?"

"Y...ou... have to——"


"—RUN! GET OUT OF HERE!" Silas screams at me. 

I can't move.

Papa is mad. He tried to hurt me to get me to listen, but Silas got in the way.

"You dare to try and help this devil escape its divine retribution? You insolent little child!"

"What's so divine about the crazy cult man showing up on my lawn to punch a kid?!"

Papa moves to hit Silas again.

"Papa! Papa, you're mad at me for leaving! Please don't hurt him!"

"Stay quiet, you! You've already proven yourself unworthy of leaving. Ever. Don't make me punish you further by making demands!"

(Silas felt something shift in him. She... how long did someone have to be locked up to not know what stars were...?)

"But...! Why are you mad at him?!"

"You never listen to me, do you? If you ever paid attention, you would know. It's because I'm worried about you. I don't want others to corrupt you. You were already born into evil. That's why I've done my best to ensure that you grow up to be a good person. But you've defied me."

"Stop talking!" Silas ordered, throwing his ball at Papa's face. "She's not a bad person!"

"And what would a brat like you know of good and evil?"

"A lot more than the jerk who just hit a kid!"

"You...!"

Papa tries to hurt Silas.

"HEY! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HIM!"

A big person hits Papa in the stomach. They've got really short hair.

I see a wire hit Papa. He shakes and then falls to the ground. 

"Are you two okay?!"

Another big person with short red hair and red eyes rushes over. 

"Kjelle? Mom?" Silas asks.

"Don't worry, Silas," The person he called Mom pulls out weird bracelets and makes Papa wear them. "Kjelle, call the police. Tell them that we need Libra, he's the closest thing we've got to a child psychologist."

"Got it," Kjelle pulls a small window from a pocket.

"Silas, what's happening?"

"Kjelle, that's my big sister, she's using her phone to get the police here. My mom, well, when they get here, they'll call her Sully, but you can call her mom too, she's a police officer, and she just shot a taser at the crazy guy to stop him."

"...that's my Papa."

"Why is your Papa crazy?"

"Silas," Kjelle says, giving him a mean look. "You're not wrong, but that's rude."

"Sorry."

I want to ask what a phone is. What a police officer is. Why the police is coming here. What a taser is.

But, somehow, I can't say the words.

I just break down crying.


"I'm sorry, sir, but she's made no progress in her recovery. We can't even mention what happened with her mother and the kidnapper without her screaming and sobbing and laughing."

"That's enough. You are dismissed."

"But, sir—!"

"I want to see my daughter."

"...understood."


"Kid, someone came to pick you up," Sully told me. I stopped playing superheroes with Silas and his sister to see what's happening.

A woman appeared in the 'doorway'.

Brown eyes and black hair tied up. She's really big.

"Shall we go home, Kamui?"

"Is Kamui my name?" I ask. The woman seems surprised.


"Peri? I'm here to come see you."

"Who are you?"

"Your father! I'm your father! Your Papa!


"What... what are you saying, Kamui? That's the name we chose for you-"

"Right now, Silas and Kjelle are calling me 'Corrin'. It's the name of a 'superhero' they like, but I like it too. I don't like 'Kamui'."

"A-alright, then, Corrin. Let's go home. I know I haven't... I haven't been a good mother to you, but I'd like to try. I'd like to be worthy of being called 'Mommy', eventually, so please let me take care of you."


"Huh?"

"Papa?" One asks, just as the other asks, "Mommy?" in the same tone.

"What are you talking about? I've never met you before."

The two broken dolls continue on with what they were doing, oblivious to the shattered heart they caused.

Chapter Text

"This is the worst thing that has happened to me today and it's not even nine am."

"Corrin, it's three pm." Leo shot her a look as they sat together on one of the picnic blankets. "We're just waiting for the others to come back with all the sweets Camilla brought. Nothing even happened yet."

"I know!" Corrin cried out, loud enough to get her a glare from Beruka, who was trying to nap on the park bench. "I know, but I'm freaking out because you never know what could happen! They could kill each other! Elise could kick them all in the face! Maybe Laslow will show up out of nowhere with a knife! Xander could fall asleep and Ryoma could let him rest on his shoulder and Camilla would be super impressed and—!"

"Corrin, calm down."

"Calm down?! Calm down!? You want me to calm down when there is the impending doom looming closer and closer to my family as a whole?! You want me to calm down when everyone is going to fawn over Camilla and die?!"

"Yes, because you are blowing all of this entirely out of proportion."

"Shut up, Leo!" Corrin almost angrily threw a plastic spoon at him. She only stopped because her conscience reminded her that it was littering.

"No one is going to die. Sure, it'll be annoying to deal with, but it's not the end of the world."

Corrin glared daggers at him. Leo plucked the spoon out of her hand to add to the plates.

"What? If you have a reason to think that people will actually die because of a high school crush, I'd like to hear it," Leo told her.

Corrin gave him an oddly emotional look for a few seconds, before turning her face away with a huff.

"I have my reasons."

"And they are...?"

"Reasonable."

Leo gave her a flat stare.

"Do they even exist?"

"They exist!" Corrin insisted. Leo's expression was all the answer she needed. "It's the truth!"

"Right."

"Leo! I have my reasons! I just can't remember them!"

"Corrin, have you ever considered going to a doctor for your various memory problems, because-"

Corrin froze at the suggestion, tensing her shoulders before she forced herself to relax.

"Shut up, Leo." 

"I'm serious."

"Don't care. I'm never going to a doctor."

If the water bottles had eyes, they would have frozen over at the sight of Corrin's smile. Unfortunately, Leo was just as good as conjuring blizzards as Corrin.

"Alright then, crack your skull open on a roof. See if I care," Leo retorted frigidly.

By the time their families had returned with armfuls of sweets, the atmosphere between them was sub-zero.

Concerned mothers (and concerned Camillas) exchanged glances, deciding at once to hold back on interfering and start the picnic. They could nudge the two together later, after everyone else started to have their fun, and make sure they made up.

Unfortunately, the people involved were... yeah...

Garon and Sumeragi were obviously looking like they wanted to reach for weapons. Mikoto had to nudge Sumeragi until he could even acknowledge Garon's presence.

“Garon,” He greeted stiffly.

“Sumeragi,” Garon repeated in the same manner.

Mikoto sighed, gave up, and went to go see if the kids needed more help with all the food. Arete had already given up and reached inside the picnic basket for the emergency rations of wine.

Both men waited only a moment before starting their year-old tradition.

Smack talk.

“So,” Sumeragi started with a smirk, “Your team has lost the most recent volleyball game. Have they lost their edge?”

“Focus on athletics all you want, Sumeragi. It will not save you from the fact that your students have lower grades than mine on the midterms.”

“What can you learn from textbooks and papers that you cannot from experiencing the world with your own two eyes?” Sumeragi asked, before pausing. “Ah, that's right, you wouldn't know.”

“I know that your idea of experiencing the world is picking up a sport and sticking with it for the rest of your life.”

“Devotion is an admirable trait!” Sumeragi declared, before pulling out his trump card. “And your daughter seems rather devoted to winning singing awards for our school!”

“And your daughter wins medals and trophies in fencing, all for the glory of Krakenberg!” Garon shot back.

“She has picked up the sword, a path that shall not lead her astray! I know her unwavering determination shall not-”

“Cut the mystic attempts to sound profound!” Arete screamed, pointing her wine glass at them. “And stop arguing! I don't want to spend all this time drinking just to drown you out!”

"Mom, you're already drinking," Azura pointed out, already putting in her headphones so she could ignore everything.

“You two are working together now, so please try to get along,” Mikoto phrased her words as a request, but her tone made it clear that it was an order, instead.

“Yes ma'am…” The two men said in unison.

Mikoto's sickly sweet smile lessened in sheer murderous intensity at that.

Thanks to that, the group finally felt comfortable to kinda eat, and by kinda, we mean that Takumi was the only person sensible enough to try to get food first, while the others were embroiled in a weird seating placement battle.

Essentially, there were two picnic blankets, a red one and a blue one. The parents had already taken their seats at a nearby bench table, having set it up so their kids would have to talk and get along. However, Azura had already taken a spot at the blue one, and Xander was dutifully eating next to her.

The heart of the battle was the fact that each blanket had just enough space for five people! That meant the group would be divided into two!

What complicated things were that each person had their own idea of the ideal arrangement. All of Corrin's siblings wanted to sit at the blanket Camilla chose, even Takumi. Corrin wanted none of her siblings near Camilla, but she would also love it if she wasn't at the blanket Leo chose. Camilla was fine with any arrangement, so long as everyone was getting along happily.

And Elise...

"Listen up, scumbags," she pulled Corrin's siblings into a huddle formation, glaring at all of them. She kept her voice low so her targets wouldn't notice, though Corrin and Leo were too busy glaring at each other to pay attention. "I want to make it clear that this in no way means that we are friends, and I will never approve of any of you."

('How cute!' Camilla thought. 'Elise is making friends!')

"...okay," was the general response.

"But you can do something for me, and I can do something for you. If you help me, I can help you get with my big sister."

She waited for the declarations of shock to die down before continuing.

"If. And just so you know, if you screw up, I will make your dating lives hell."

"What would you like us to do?" Ryoma asked eagerly, only to draw back and go, "...because it's the right thing to do, you know, helping someone. Not because you offered to help with... yeah."

"Everyone sit on the red blanket. Big sis will join you. I won't interfere with you as long as the picnic is on. But if I need your help, you come, and if I ask you to do something, you do it. Got it?"

'Why does this little girl remind me of the mafia...?' Takumi wondered as he and his siblings agreed.

The moment their formation was broken off, Elise switched to a cheerful smile and joyous tone so quickly, one could have gotten whiplash from it. Hinoka sure did, though it might have also been from the rush for the red blanket that they all did.

"Big sis!" She tugged Camilla's arm down. Camilla leaned over in response, letting Elise whisper in her ear.

Camilla's expression became curious, then contemplative, then content. She nodded at Elise with a smile, patting her littlest sister on the head before heading to th-

And then she realized Corrin had jumped into her spot.

Fortunately, Elise planned for this.

"Hey, Corrin! Over there!" Hinoka ordered.

"Why?"

"We are part of the Hoshido-Nohr Unity Alliance! Our goal is to unite the school in love and harmony!" Ryoma declared with a pose.

"Using everything from school events to things such as these, we will achieve peace and happiness!" Sakura added.

The two looked at Takumi expectantly.

"Do I really have t-"

"Yes."

"...we want to be able to sit with at least one Nohrian, for the sake of our schools," Takumi said flatly.

"I'm Nohrian," Corrin responded in turn.

"You're also our sister. You don't count," Takumi shot back.

"Take Leo."

"I refuse," Leo called out from his spot on the blue blanket.

"X-Xander?" Corrin offered.

Xander didn't respond. He was using his laptop to type up a paper with one hand, eating a sandwich with the other hand, and drinking coffee with the...other, other hand. Apparently, Xander was either switching hands so fast it seemed like he had three arms at once, or he just grew an extra arm if need be.

"If you expect any significant amount of progress to be made while he's multitasking, I'm disappointed in you as a human being," Azura said scathingly, switching to another song.

"Elise!" Corrin was desperate, yet hoping that Elise would support her just to sabotage their crushes—

"HYAAAAAAAAAAH! I HATE YOU SO MUCH! DIE, DIE, DIE, ALL OF YOU!" Elise screamed, suddenly kicking at Corrin's siblings' faces.

"Ow! What the hell?!" Takumi demanded.

"As you can see, we are on very, very bad terms. If you expect us to sit together on the same blanket, there will be death," Elise promised.

"And they have such a noble goal, too...!" Camilla wiped a tear away. "How can I not help them?! Corrin, I know you adore your siblings, just as I do, but please, understand!"

Corrin could not find an appropriate response. And so, she was lifted up by Camilla and placed on the blue blanket. Right next to Leo. A little too close, in fact.

Elise gleefully plopped into the spot between Xander and Azura, chewing a donut happily.

There was no better way to describe the situation than awkward.

On the blue blanket, we had two people who had no interest in speaking to each other, a Xander too preoccupied to speak, an Azura who didn't want to talk, and Elise. Elise had a plan, ish. Her plan basically depended on information she got from Corrin (who exaggerated like it was her sacred duty) and Azura (who rarely, if ever talked, and if she did, she never included all the details) being accurate.

"So, I hear there's a new person in the Drama Club? And I heard they get along great with that guy you're interested in, right, Azura? You think they'll start dating soon?"

Azura almost dropped her music player into her applesauce. Her expression... was better off not being described, really.

Yeah.

Elise's plan was basically "irritate a demon into a rampage and hope for the best".

So, anyways, on the red blanket... uh. 

Well. Corrin's siblings were so excited to eat with Camilla that they pretty much forgot about what to do after that point. 

So, aside from Takumi, who would be too embarrassed to pull off any moves ever, the siblings were flirting. Badly. 

With someone whose level of obliviousness was so high, the mere thought of applying the concept of power levels to something so vast and unending was ridiculous.

For the sake of clarity, please view the following, obviously totally hypothetical scenarios.


 

Scenario one:

Robust Redhead: U-uh, Ma'am, if you want me to get you anything, please tell me! I'll do anything to make you happy!

Camilla: Dear me! How adorable! Knowing you would go to such extents for my sake makes me so happy... though I would be far happier if you dropped the 'Ma'am'. It sounds much too formal for the relationship between us...

Reddened Redhead: W-W-WHAT?! I mean, do mean do you- Mean do you wh— W-W-WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!

Camilla the Destroyer: Why, I mean that you should call me Big Sister, of course! Now, let your Big Sis feed you some treats, alright, schmoopie-pie~?

The redhead's soul took a formal leave.


Scenario two:

Stammering Sweetheart: Camilla, are you interested in anyone right now?! Romantically, I mean?!

Camilla: Ohoho~ So we're discussing love matters, then? Is there anyone in your class you find cute? What's their name, how old, have you asked them out yet? Come on, tell Big Sis everything!

Surprised Sweetheart: Wh- but I asked about you—!?

Camilla the Callous: But my love affairs are rather disappointing, and your Big Sister would love to hear all about you, little Sakura!

Screaming Sweetheart: H-hyaaaaaaaaaaaaahnggghhhhhh-?! (T-That smile?! I can't say no?!?!)

Super Sad Sweetheart: O-okay... okay.... *sob*

Camilla the Bloodthirsty Destroyer of Souls: Splendid!

The sweetheart sobbed internally for a while.


Scenario three:

Hair: So, C-

Camilla the Super Callous Bloodthirsty Destroyer of Souls, Hopes, Dreams, and Romance: Big. Sister.

Hair faced instant death. 


Essentially, Takumi was the only one not dying by Oblivion Runes, because he was the only person who seemed to realize that making plans to seduce someone immediately after formally becoming acquainted with them was kinda weird.

Not that this spared him from overall death or whatever, since Camilla was Camilla.

It started when Camilla asked how everyone's classes were going. Since the others had both a skewed perspective of what was considered cool or not and a desire to impress Camilla, er, well.

Let's just say that Hinoka bragging about crashing a piano into the flower gardens and crashing into a guy action-style was the highlight of that conversation. At least until Takumi spoke up.

"Fine," Takumi answered gruffly, poking at his food with his utensils. "Had a test, think it worked out. What about you?"

Camilla's eye practically lit up.

"I'm doing just fine, even if I'd rather be drinking tea than studying. Though, if you need help with anything, feel free to ask me for help!"

"I'll be fine on my own!" Takumi snapped quickly. "I'm perfectly capable of studying on my own!"

"Now, now, Takumi, I never doubted your skills. I simply wanted you to know that the option was available to you."

"A-ah." Takumi felt really awkward, so he softly apologized.

"It's alright, dear... if you tell me something interesting."

"Interesting? Like what?"

"Surprise me."

The other three on the red blanket were watching the conversation jealously. How could Takumi possibly converse with their crush so easily, they wondered, what was his secret?

Despite Takumi doing nothing except, like, not being totally insane.

Maybe that was why they couldn't get a date. Or maybe it was because they kind of officially met her a day ago.

Or maybe it was just the arrival of a trope that appeared in almost all romances; the love triangle.

Even though there were like four people with a crush on Camilla, and Leo and Elise who were sabotaging them. Also, Oboro liked Corrin's alter-ego Carl along with Hinata, yes, Hinata as in the guy Takumi thought Leo had a crush on. And Mikoto thought Leo and Corrin were meant for each other. Plus, Mozu had a crush on Hayato, Sakura, and Elise at the same time, while Sakura thought she was cute with Hayato, Hayato was aggressively wingmanning her with Elise, and Elise wanted to get her with Sakura. And this isn't even getting into the pining Ryoma's best friend was doing, or the entire mess with Silas and Felicia and Niles, and also Xander either being in love or sleep-deprived.

Yes, maybe it was too much to ask for sanity in this type of situation.

But, well, at least there was a situation on the red blanket. On the blue blanket, no one dared to talk after Azura almost killed someone, and everyone could feel the tension between Leo and Corrin. However, Elise seemed to be the only one who actually cared. 

(About the second part. Everyone cared about Azura almost killing people because no one wanted to die.)

"Seemed to be" was the key word. Xander would have cared if he noticed, Azura noticed but figured they would sort it out on their own, and Leo and Corrin were acting like they didn't notice but were hyper-aware of the other.

However, despite everyone caring, kinda, Elise was the only one who would do anything.

Which was why, when Sakura went to get herself a soda, opening it as she walked, Elise stuck out her foot.

Sakura went down with a yelp, the soda smacking Corrin in the forehead and spilling all over her clothes. 

"Oh gosh, are you okay?!" Elise gasped.

"I-I'm okay!" Sakura called out.

"Just wet," Corrin said with a sigh.

"You should go wash up, Corrin. And you better check yourself out in the mirror," Elise instructed. "There's a washroom over by the broken barbeque."

Sakura hurriedly pulled Corrin to the washroom, leaving the group behind.

"Ah, you must have tripped over the clutter by our blankets..." Camilla added, sending Elise a Meaningful Glance. "We should probably clean up."

"I can't get up at the moment," Xander replied, even though he missed the Meaningful Glances sent in his direction.

"Oh! How about a game? We play Rock Paper Scissors to decide who tosses the trash?" Elise "suggested".

"Huh? Why would we do th—"

Hinoka was then struck in the stomach from two different elbows, and also had an empty juicebox pitched directly at her forehead.

"Are you an idiot?! Don't you want to look like a good sport in front of my sister?!" Elise whisper-screamed.

"Read the damn mood! They're up to something, and we signed up to help with it!" Takumi hissed in the same tone.

"Whoops, I mistook you for the trash can, how silly of me, " Azura managed in a deadpan.

"Y-yeah! I totally agree!" Hinoka blurted out.

"Leave me out of it," Leo said immediately.

"What if I say pretty please?" Camilla asked.

"No."

"I'll give you a tomato," Elise told him.

"That would mean more if we didn't have tomatoes in the kitchen."

"I'll hand you study notes for the next year," Xander offered.

"I'll succeed with my own effort."

"I'll punch Ryoma in the face for you," Azura promised.

"Wait what," Takumi replied. "What."

Leo paused.

"He's actually considering it..." Hinoka noted.

"Alright."

"Ah," was Ryoma's entire reaction to the idea.

"Sorry, but also, this is for that time you broke into the Drama Club and gave me a headache," Azura said as she rolled up her sleeve.

"That's fair, and I accept your ang-— GAAAARGH?!"

"Was that too light of a punch? I can try again..."

"S-stop taking your anger out on him!" Takumi tried to intervene.

'Sorry, Ryoma, but this is for the sake of reconciliation between Corrin and Leo!' Camilla thought as she handed Ryoma a cool drink to press against the bruise.

"Let's all play now!" Elise exclaimed happily.

And yes, the game was heavily, heavily rigged against Leo.

Not only did Xander type instructions at them on his laptop in really big font and show them behind Leo's back, not only did his sisters use their years of living with him to try and figure out what he would do, not only did everyone practically become psychic in order to win, but they threw away their individuality and moved as a single unit, their hearts beating in unison as they conspired to win. No longer were they enemies, no longer were they friends, no, they were one being in the arms of the universe, moving as destiny herself willed it.

"My," Mikoto said with a smile, watching as the children were deeply embroiled in a super serious game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, "I'm so glad they're geeting along well."

Thanks to their newfound status as a singularity, they beat Leo easily. However, they could not maintain that state for long because it was hurting their souls. So when Camilla offered to help him with the trash, she was alone in her offer. 

(Not that Ryoma and Hinoka didn't try, of course. It's just that Elise and Azura and Takumi held them back.)

Camilla didn't let him refuse, and so, the two tossed out the trash, passing by the washrooms on the way there.

"So, what happened, exactly?" 

"I don't know what you mean," Leo huffed, glaring at a nearby dead tree.

"You're a smart boy, Leo," Camilla told him. "I know you're trying to avoid the question."

"Or it could be that you asked something far too vague."

"Alright. What caused the tension between you and Corrin?" Leo moved to speak, but Camilla cut him off. "And don't say there isn't any, I know that, normally, if I left you two alone, you'd be laughing and bickering in seconds."

Leo sighed.

"It's nothing."

"Leo."

"I said, it's nothing!" Leo snapped.

"You don't want to tell Big Sis anything, then..." Camilla muttered to herself, before getting an idea. "Then, what would you want to tell her?"

"Pardon?" Leo paused.

"If I were Corrin and I were willing to listen, what would you say to me?"

"That you were an idiot," Leo said flatly, turning his back to leave.

Camilla's blank stare and cutting silence stabbed at him, and Leo felt ashamed enough to give an explanation. He kept his back to her as he went on.

"I mean, I know you're anxious. I know there's something you're not telling me. And it's frustrating. We trust each other with so many other things, but you get mad at me for, what, asking you your reasons?" Leo grimaced, guilt entering his tone. "Was it because of the way I asked? If it was something serious then I should have known not to be as abrasive as always... argh, dammit all."

He was met with the sound of the branches creaking in the wind.

"I know I'm not as understanding as Silas. I'm not as gentle or understanding as him, but still. If I can help, I'd like to. If it's something I can do, I'll do it. I don't want you to be scared of confiding in me."

A pause.

"It's not you that I'm scared of."

Leo froze.

"I'm scared of telling anyone. Everyone. My brothers and sisters don't know. No one at school knows. Silas only knows because he grew up with me as it was happening."

That was definitely not Camilla's voice.

"I don't know how to say it, I'm scared of saying it, and I don't know what will happen if I say it. I'm sorry, Leo. I didn't... it's because I'm so scared that I made you feel useless."

"I don't blame you for being scared. I was harsh about it," Leo told her, turning to face her.

"I don't blame you for feeling like that, I was shutting you out," Corrin replied in turn.

Behind the dead tree, Camilla and Sakura exchanged a small fistbump, before they quietly left to give the two some privacy.

(They told Mikoto that Leo and Corrin went off on their own. Mikoto's reaction was ecstasy in a single expression. Arete stomped on her foot for being weird.)


"The sun is starting to set," Corrin observed, sitting next to Leo on top of a stairway set into one of the park's hills.

"Yeah. It is," Leo agreed.

"Guess we've been here for a while."

"I suppose we have."

A moment of silence passed between them.

"Hey, Leo. I've got a question."

"What is it?"

"How do cars work?

"As in, the engine?"

"Yeah. Sure."

"Well, first, the pistol comes down and the cylinder fills with a mixture of air and fuel. Then the valves in the cylinder close as the mixture is compressed for more efficiency. Third, a spark ignites the mixture and the force pushes the pistol down again. Finally, the resulting smoke is pushed out through the exhaust valve."

"That's a lot of big words."

"... you grab fuel, squish it, shove it where it needs to go, and then get rid of the smoke."

"Oh. That makes sense."

"Any more questions?" 

"Why does meat turn brown when you cook it?"

"The heat sets off a chemical reaction with the components in the meat, causing the flavour, the colour, and the texture to change."

"Why is blood red?"

"Your blood cells are naturally red, but they turn a brighter red thanks to the hemoglobin in them."

"Why is the sky blue?"

"You know how white light is all the colours together?"

"Yeah."

"Blue is the one that reflects best off of the air in the atmosphere."

"Oh. Okay."

Corrin was silent for a moment.

"Hey, Leo."

"What is it, Corrin?"

"I have a question."

"Alright. What is it?"

"Is it sad that I... no, I mean, if you met someone that never knew all the things you took for granted, someone who never knew that the sky could turn different colours, that meat was red before you cooked it, that cars existed, that...that families aren't supposed to fall apart, that you aren't supposed to avoid doctors with all their tests... would you pity that person? Treat that person any differently?"

"That depends," Leo replied.

"On what?"

"If that person were pitiful, I would pity that person." 

Corrin tensed at that.

"However," Leo went on, "it's possible that this person is a complete idiot."

"...what?"

"A simpleton who thinks with her heart before her head, rushes in headfirst, doesn't think of consequences, frets easily, cares deeply about her friends and family, is charming in her simple determination, and fun to argue with," Leo said, shooting Corrin a slight smile. "And, if I were to meet an idiot like that who didn't know all the things I took for granted and didn't know things I considered common knowledge, then I'd sooner treat her like the idiot I bicker with than a person to be pitied. Does that answer your question, Corrin?"

Corrin stared at him blankly for a moment, before a puff of air left her in a rush. She started laughing loudly, feeling like all the stress she had been carrying had left her in seconds.

She wiped a tear away, telling him, "Good to know, then."

"Got any more questions?"

"No, but..." Corrin's smile dropped a bit, shoulders slumping. "Thanks. Sorry."

"What for?"

"I heard what you said, and I know that you won't... I mean, I know you'll support me, but I still don't think I can tell you. I don't think I'm ready to tell you."

"That's alright," Leo reassured her. "I'm not going to force you. As long as you know I'll be in your corner."

"Thanks, Leo."

They exchanged warm smiles as they decided to stay there a little longer.


 

When they returned, Xander had fallen asleep on Ryoma's soft, soft, soft hair cushion.

Leo gave Corrin an amused expression, to which she replied with a smirk.

And then they got close enough to hear what was being said.

They thought it was hilarious so they hid behind a tree to eavesdrop.

Elise had gotten everyone else to sit together with the blankets set beside each other. Their parents were so happy that they were all getting along, but Elise was dominating the discussion... 

"Hinoka is a very attractive person, if you're into people with muscles and legs! Her legs could go on for miles! And that wind-swept hair could... yeah! She's a good person and would fight people for you!" Elise exclaimed. 

She absolutely did not want to do this, but she could not go back on her word.

"And Sakura, well, she's cute and charming and sweet and... and cute, and cute... and.... uh. If you ignore the age difference, then... she's... cute?"

"Interesting," Camilla said, obviously baffled yet trying to placate Elise's random presentation of dating profiles.

"And, Takumi! He's a catch! I mean, who doesn't want a guy who can shoot you in the heart, right?! And like, beautiful hair! And I guess his attitude is attractive, I think!"

Camilla gave her a patient smile. 

"That's nice, dear, would you like more sweets?"

"Yes, but Takumi could murder you! Like, he could probably 'bang, bang, bang'! You know?"

"...how is that a good thing?" Takumi asked.

"Who doesn't appreciate good death," Azura commented emo-ly.

"Uh, yeah, Camilla, you like people who can kill you, right?"

Camilla didn't know how to respond to that.

"I suppose I appreciate combat skills?" Camilla offered tentatively.

Takumi slapped his hand to his forehead.

"I was set on fire and survived," Ryoma stated.

"I can bench anything," Hinoka added.

"I can smack people with a stick," Sakura told her.

"That's very impressive, sweethearts."

"Elise is talking about me being good at archery!" Takumi blurted out. "I'm not gonna randomly try to kill people! I might be skilled enough to shoot you in the heart, sure, but I won't kill you!"

"You're good at archery? Impressive. You must have worked very hard."

Takumi blushed.

Elise saw that as a sign that she ought to continue talking.

Unfortunately, all she could come up with for Ryoma was 'polite' and 'great hair'.

"What is she doing?" Corrin managed.

"It's reverse psychology!" Leo hissed. "By trying to bring out their good sides, she's only making them show their bad sides in front of Camilla!"

Corrin gasped.

"Your little sister is a genius."

"And, on top of that, if she seems romantically interested in any of them, Camilla will support her and avoid any romance with them!"

"Your little sister is a super genius!"

However, before they could return to the group and tell Elise this, Corrin was revealed to be psychic.

As in, just then, a chilling scream rattled the park, and everyone turned to see Odin, held by a strange person with a knife at his throat.

Before anyone could move to help, two teenagers moved in, swords at the ready.

"Get away from him!" Selena screamed, leaping off a bench to swing at the assailant.

"Hasn't anyone told you to ask before you sweep someone off their feet?" Laslow quipped, grinning as he stabbed at the kidnapper.

The end result should have been blood, except this was a shoujo, so obviously no one died and Selena and Laslow looked cool doing it.

Corrin almost screamed.

Because Odin was blushing.

And being saved by two knights in shining armour was enough to make you fall for them right.

Which meant that Xander had a possible coffee crush on Odin who just fell for two people at once. 

"Oh goodness of the world, why hath thou forsaken us..." Corrin swore.


'What the hell is this...?!'

Charlotte had grown used to the strange deliveries of ingredients to her locker. Her email buddy wouldn't admit how they did it, but she was willing to let them have their secrets. She was grateful, anyways. 

But this gift set her on edge.

It was not from her email buddy. She checked the email address. It was associated with no other name, no social media, nothing. It was made specifically to be anonymous. 

A short list of Shisaragi students were sent to her, with their names, photos, phone numbers, and email addresses.

The only other thing included in the message was a simple, 'I know you'll use this for what's right.'

'What does that even mean?! What are you trying to get me to-'

Charlotte froze, looking over the names once again.

Sakura Byakuya. Oboro Jutsushi. Mozu Tinshin. Hayato Tsukkyomi. Takumi Byakuya. Hinata Matoi.

Something was wrong.

"Charlotte?" Flora's voice broke her out of her reverie. She was... she was in the school library, slacking off on her studies.

She knew her email buddy wasn't showing up, they told her they were busy for once, but she checked her email anyways, when she found that...

"Call your sister, call Benny and Keaton. We need to have a meeting," Charlotte ordered.

'I need to figure out what's going on here.'

Switching accounts, she started typing, completely forgetting about her schoolwork.

[It's time for you to repay our kindness.]

Chapter Text

"Azama, I hate you," Hinoka stated.

"Now, now, I act only out of concern for your wellbeing!" Azama claimed. 

"I was... worried about you," Setsuna said sadly. "You seem sad because of love... so I asked Azama, and he said he knew a great guy to talk to..."

"Yes, I've only known him for five minutes, but any man convinced to listen to someone's troubles for the meager price of our gratitude must surely be a good soul."

"I can't believe you're making me do this."

"It's for the best," Azama promised.

And then Hinoka got pulled into one of the many empty storage rooms and shoved into a chair that was obviously not meant to be a recliner yet forced to be one anyways. As in the back of the chair was broken and resting on a stack of boxes. There was a random curtain behind the forced recliner and Hinoka could see the silhouette of a person behind it. 

And then Setsuna decided it was too drab, pulled out a table (from... some...where...), and put various knickknacks on it, like a lump of clay. Then she pulled out a radio, started playing some classical music, and then decided to spice it up.

So she just pulled out a violin and played along with the song.

"So," the voice on the other side of the screen started off, and Hinoka heard the sound of a pen click as she stared up at the ceiling. "How have you been doing, lately?"

She knew she was supposed to be... being counselled, but... the forced recliner was positioned under a light, so with the light shining in her eyes, she felt like she was being interrogated.

"Fine," Hinoka managed through gritted teeth, because if she backed down and refused a light in a staring contest, then she was not worthy of the Tea Ceremony Club's Leader's affection.

"You sound very distressed."

"I will overcome it," Hinoka promised, before smelling something odd.

At the cost of failing her self-proclaimed challenge, Hinoka glanced to the side.

And gasped because Azama, goddammit Azama, had decided that Setsuna was right, and he just had to help. 

So he lit a bunch of scented candles around the room. And by 'a bunch' we mean that there were candles on the floor, on the desk, taped to the wall, balancing on top of Setsuna's head as she kept playing the violin. Basically if anything in the room shifted even the tiniest bit, everything would be on fire.

"That's a very admirable attitude to have," the attempted counsellor said. "However-"

"Cut it out! Everything will burn!" Hinoka screamed.

"Don't worry, Hinoka, I've chosen the most relaxing candles I could find in five seconds at the store for this. You will relax."

"I shouldn't be relaxing in circumstances like this!"

Along with the music, she heard a pen scribbling.

"You seem to be lashing out at those you love as they try to support you. Could it be that you're scared of getting help?"

"I don't want your help! I want to not be here when the entire place burns down!"

"Oh dear... you really are resisting treatment..."

"If the candles are putting you on edge... I suppose we don't have a choice..." Setsuna mumbled.

"Setsuna, help me grab the waterfall," Azama ordered.

"HOW IS THAT SUPPOSED TO HELP?!"

"You need to start breathing and calm down. Try telling me about your week so far."

"AARGHGAGHABRA!?" Hinoka replied, not to the would-be therapist, but to the sight of Setsuna jumping over the candles while still playing violin, and helping Azama carry in a giant waterfall fountan by propping a foot under it and lifting it up. She just hopped backwards until she could put it down. 

"I see, I see... so it's been stressful."

"No, I, I just- No! What are you doing?!" Hinoka demanded, watching as Setsuna and Azama threw some candles in the fountain. Setsuna still somehow did it with her feet. While standing. 

It should be noted that she was wearing shoes during this.

"Asking about your week, jotting down notes, stuff like that."

And then the waterfall caught on fire.

Something in Hinoka died at that. It was probably the part in charge of rationale and reasoning.

"You want to know about my week? FINE! It sucked! It totally sucked!" Hinoka screamed. "And I'll tell you exactly why!"

And so she decided to segue into a flashback.

Because it's more fun than Hinoka just screaming the entire chapter.


So, well, uh.

Hinoka was invited to do something because she was technically part of the Tea Ceremony club (and the redhead subordinate who told her this emphasized the 'technically'.) She thought it was a special outdoor party.

It wasn't. 

It really, really wasn't.

There were tables, sure, but only Corrin and Silas and Laslow were sitting at them. Selena and Beruka were holding hairbrushes that were supposed to represent microphones.

Almost everyone there had no idea why they were there. Except for like, Hana and Subaki, who were there to protect Sakura, Oboro who was there because she thought Hinata and Takumi were getting tricked into something, Kagero who was there because she wanted to be there for her friend, Orochi who just went with Kagero, Rinkah who was there to fight people, Peri who was also there to fight people, Setsuna who forgot to say no at any point of the process, and Azama who thought it would be hilarious.

"Selena Tiamo here, on behalf of the Tea Ceremony club's leader, we greet you cheerfully or whatever," the redhead read off her cue card. 

"Beruka Striker. We're commentators, the people at the table are judges, you will be fighting for prizes and for fun. Woo."

"Ah, crimson cashews, Camilla, why'd you have to add so much sappy stuff...?!" Selena groaned, right before tossing the cards. "Look, losers, we're organizing a fighting tournament for Camilla's amusement and also to make you guys friends or something! We've got paper and pens, write your name down and put it in the box so we can organize the brackets! We fight in the square we made in table in front of the table, if you leave, you lose!"

"If you do, you can win: Our boss's eternal love and admiration, along with a gift basket and some coupons for the movies (first place), a hug from our boss and a couple candles (second place), and a hundred gold (third place)," Beruka read in her emotionless tone. "Special thanks to the Wolf Pack for funding us and providing gifts. We love you lots, heart, heart, heart."

(Note: The cheapest thing in the entire game is 150 G. They basically offered two dollars.)

Obviously, Hinoka had to win. And also Sakura and Ryoma. 

(Takumi was probably the only one to realize that they weren't serious about the love and admiration part.)

And also Rinkah who was determined to win to face her again, Hayato, who wanted to win for movie coupons, Charlotte who was aiming for third place with laser focus, Felicia, who liked winning, and Leo and Elise who were willing to fight entirely to prevent the siblings from getting Camilla's love, and Xander, who was willing to fight because if their dad wasn't there, then he'd threaten her dates with an axe for him.

It was an odd way of making people make friends. It became even odder when Beruka and Selena began distributing weapons, from fake swords to baseball bats to... puppets? And fans?

"Our first match is...!"

Beruka pulled out the names and handed it to Selena.

"Jakob versus Peri! Our snarky butler versus the bloody berserker!"

"Jakob is fighting with a simple, yet beautiful pocketknife, solid steel construction with an easy-to-hold grip," Beruka narrated, sounding excited for the first time since the event began. "It offers great precision, however, he's going up against Peri, who's wielding a baseball bat with an extra durable aluminum barrel. Peri clearly has the advantage in reach and power, but it's still possible for Jakob to prevail. I think."

"I wonder how he'll hold up," Corrin mumbled sadly, worried for her friend.

Silas held her hand reassuringly, while Laslow made a bad pun about a strike zone that made Corrin laugh.

"Nope, no, no, I refuse, I surrender, I resign as a fighter, I will never pick up a knife for the rest of my days, not even to cook, no," Jakob said immediately.

Jakob's pleas were ignored.

"Jakey! Come onnnnn, don't you want to fight?" Peri asked happily.

"Not against you!" Jakob snapped.

("Do they have some kind of history together...?" Laslow wondered out loud.)

"Whaaaaa-? But that's so mean! Jakey! I hate you! I really, really hate you!" Peri sobbed.

Jakob ground his teeth together.

"Stop crying, would you?! You're humiliating yourself!"

"B-b-but— you don't wanna fight me!" Peri wailed. "Even though I wanna kill you so much! I love you that much, but Jakey, you-"

"That's not love."

Peri went silent.

"I'll kill you... I'll destroy you for questioning Mr. Joker's ideals!"

Jakob flinched.

"Forget about my- forget that man, Peri, he's just-"

Before he could finish, Peri swung her bat at him.

"Peri! Stop!" Jakob begged as he dodged.

"I'll kill you!" Peri roared, striking again. Jakob sidestepped the attack.

"Listen to me! I don't want to fight you!"

"You hate me! You don't want to kill me!" Peri's voice became hysterical as she kept trying to hit Jakob.

"I don't h—"

"I hate you I hate you I hate you I love you, I hate you I love you I hate you love you hate you love lovehatelovehatelovehate—"

"At this rate, they won't stop when someone's unconscious!" Corrin yelped.

"Someone stop the fight!" Silas pleaded.

Beruka sprung into action, tackling Jakob out of the way right as Peri was struck by Effie's fist, which was kind of like being hit by a meteor and then a flying truck into a tree. Possibly because she did go flying and did actually hit a tree.

Peri was unconscious, so they called off the match and went to the next one.

"It's Felicia and..." Selena paused, both for dramatic effect and to read the Hoshidan writing. "Mozu!"

"Alright," Felicia said, stepping up with a grin on her face and a pipe over her shoulder. "Who's up against me, I'll kick your ass!"

"Don't go too far..." Silas said with a sigh.

"Don't worry, babe, I'll make you proud."

"We're not dating!"

"U-um... I'm Mozu," a tiny mousy girl said, stepping up to Felicia in the clearing in front of the judge's table. She was practically hiding behind the staff she chose.

Felicia froze.

"You want me to fight a kid?! She's like, twelve!" Felicia screamed.

"I'm fourteen!" Mozu protested.

"She's like twelve!" Felicia repeated. "I-I can't fight her, this is like handing me a baby and asking me to throw her in a blizzard, I'm out. Bye."

She patted Mozu on the head before just walking out of the square.

"And Mozu wins by default!"

"E-eh?!"

"G'job, Mozu!" Hayato cheered. 

"This is so barbaric..." Hana said with a scowl.


"And then it was my turn," Hinoka said with a sigh, her voice hollow as she poured her heart out to the counsellor.

"What happened after that?"


"A PERFECT PINWHEEL KICK! TEN POINTS TO KAZE!" Corrin screamed eagerly.

"I say ten points for sheer style, on top of the hundred he got for that dazzling performance!" Laslow declared.

"That... well, it was impressive, but... is... is she okay?" Silas asked. "She's not getting up..."

"And there you have it, folks! Not only did Kaze eliminate Hinoka without getting a single scratch on him, he won over the judges too!" Selena was getting surprisingly into it for something Camilla forced her to do.

"Kaze will advance to the next round," Beruka added.


Hold on. You can skip to the end right now if you don't care for the tournament arc antics. Hinoka's sobbing will remain the same. If you do so, please skip to the end. You can find it by using CTRL+F and looking for the § symbol.

If you would like more tournament arc antics, please continue.


 

"Damn! It looks like the two are evenly matched!" Selena announced eagerly.

"Odin can attack at a distance with his ranged weapons, but Hana is quick and light on her feet. He might have power, but that means nothing if he can't hit her!" Beruka explained. "While Hana is fast enough to dodge, but the toy sword she chose, while an accurate replica of the curved swords the people of Chon'sin and Hoshido prefer, is made of plastic! It doesn't hit hard at all!"

"She's barely nicking his defenses here!" Selena exclaimed. "It'll take hours for her to beat him, so Odin, hurry up and take her out!"

"A commentator isn't supposed to be biased..." Silas lamented.

"Shut up, you!"

"O cursed flame, I summon thee, child of Muspell!" Odin declared, before tossing twelve boomerangs at Hana at once.

"Cut the crap!" Hana slashed them out of the air. "I'm here to protect my beloved Sakura! I don't have time to waste on fighting you!"

"Then face my divine wrath! INFINITE INFERNO FLAME!"

He launched more boomerangs, which curved and converged in one attack, their returning arc to strike Hana. Hana did a roll to dodge, but, she forgot something.

All their fight, she had been darting around Odin's attacks as he stayed rooted in one spot. While Odin might have been able to fight from a distance, he was capable of moving.

But Hana forgot about that, so she was completely blindsided when she was shoved out of the ring.

"I apologize for the nature of my deception. It was an honourable def-OW!"

The cry of pain was because Hana got a critical on him when she struck him for revenge.

Selena sighed and ordered for her to be taken away. Effie dutifully knocked her out.

"I give Odin a solid seven for that technique!" Corrin said with a grin.

"Good job, buddy! You did it!" Laslow smiled, making Odin blush.

"Yeah, it was a good fight, I give it an eight!" Silas applauded.

"Next up is... ohohohoho! Amazing! This is bound to be interesting, folks!" Selena said excitedly when she read the names Beruka handed her. "We have Krakenberg's famous and deadly Frozen Viper, up against Shisaragi's infamous soon-to-be Cheftain of the Flame Tribe! That's right, it's Flora versus Rinkah!"

"Knock 'em dead, sis," Felicia told her sister before she stepped up to the ring- er, square.

"Are you really worthy of being called something like the Frozen Viper? I see a child before me," Rinkah told her.

"Odd. I didn't think the girl who won the leadership of the Flame Tribe at such a young age would call me a child," Flora gave her a merciless grin. "Let's have a good fight, alright?"

She curtsied, before Rinkah rushed at her.

It should be noted that Rinkah's fighting style involved getting up close and personal to grapple with her opponents. 

So, essentially, the fight had been determined the moment the two combatants were chosen.

"Amazing! A five-hit combo, and Flora's knocked Rinkah away!" Selena gushed. 

"They're both fighting unarmed, but, from what I learned of their history (by asking Silas), those in the Flame Tribe typically fight with clubs and the like. And I know from experience that Flora favours fighting with knives, though she hasn't brought her gloves with her. That could mean that she plans on fighting unarmed for the duration of the fight!" Beruka speculated.

"She wears gloves when fighting? Wouldn't that hurt your chances?" Selena asked as Flora warded off another approach by kicking Rinkah in the face. Laslow gave her ten points for looking beautiful during it.

"Not her gloves. They're made to have a better grip, keep her from accidentally cutting herself, and look cool."

Selena laughed. "You said that last bit so seriously!"

And then Rinkah started laughing.

"You're better than I thought," Rinkah said as she wiped her mouth of dirt. "I'm done holding back."

And then Rinkah set herself on fire.

"She's entered some kind of super mode?!" Selena gasped.

"No, no, I read about this in a history book!" Silas declared, standing from his chair. "She's channelling her Aura of Fire! Whenever a person in the Flame Tribe is super determined or in times of high emotion, they can set themselves on fire with no external cause!"

Flora seemed stunned as Rinkah rushed ahead again, faster than before! Before Flora could knock her back again, Rinkah grabbed her wrist! Flora tried to strike Rinkah with a knee and a kick, only for the Flame Tribe girl to dodge and move behind her, locking her arms around Flora's body!

"In this state, the Flame Tribe citizen will be faster and stronger, and pursue their goal with singleminded focus!" Silas concluded, just as Rinkah threw Flora to the ground harshly.

"Surrender yet?" Rinkah asked with a smirk.

"Flora! What are you doing?! Kick her ass!" Felicia screamed. 

"That's right! I won't forgive you if you lose!" Charlotte added. 

"I'll give ya food if you win!" Keaton... well, he tried.

"Do your best!" Benny roared, making Hayato jump.

"A-amazing! Flora's friends are all supporting her!" Selena wiped a tear from her eye. "N-not that I'm touched or anything!"

"...and yet no one is cheering for Rinkah," Beruka noted.

"She's scary and no one really knows her that well," Sakura explained.

"Go Rinkah..." Setsuna managed.

"...except for her."

"Show us your power, my mentor!" Ryoma cheered.

"And my brother," Sakura amended.

Rinkah chuckled.

"So, how are you going to respond to their expectations, Miss Frozen Viper?"

"If you think I'm going to disappoint them, you've got another thing coming," Flora replied with a grin.

She jumped up, pulling something black from her pockets.

"Flora brought her gloves...!" Beruka whispered in awe.

"That's my sister!"

Flora let herself smile a little less... death-y as she put on her gloves, before pulling out her knives.

"Those are real knives, aren't they?! We can't allow those-"

"She's keeping the sheaths on!" Beruka interrupted, stopping Selena. "She isn't going to let them cut anything."

"I can allow it," Corrin said.

"Yes, it would be a crime to not let these two blooming flowers fight at their best," Laslow added.

"Ah, but it's only fair if Rinkah can get a weapon too," Silas realized. "Rinkah, do you want a weapon?"

"Fetch me a bat," Rinkah commanded before throwing off her uniform jacket.

Yes, she was wearing nothing under it except for a sports bra.

"D-damn," was Selena's first response.

"Impressive abs," Laslow added.

"Aren't you two doing something right now?!" Odin screamed.

"Oh, right, get her a bat! Yrah, I'll do th—"

"I already got her one," Beruka told her.

"Oh," was Selena's reaction as she realized that Flora and Rinkah were already fighting again.

Rinkah swung at Flora, only for Flora to jump to avoid it, stabbing at Rinkah precisely. Except, Rinkah grabbed her wrist and flipped her over, stamming her into the ground! Flora gritted her teeth in pain, before throwing her knife at Rinkah's face.

Rinkah jumped back, letting go of her wrist. Flora leapt up to attack, catching her falling knife as she danced, stabbing and slashing at Rinkah with precise, practiced movements.

"That's our Flora!"

Flora grinned, stepping in for one last strike to the shoulder, except—!

Rinkah thrusted her bat at Flora's stomach at the last second, knocking her back. She dropped one of her knives from the sudden strike, the covered blade falling to the ground. Flora held her stomach with a pained gasp, her other hand holding on tightly to her other knife.

Rinkah's fatigue caught up to her, and she used her bat to prop herself up.

"You fought well..." Rinkah managed as her flames sputtered out. "Miss Frozen Viper."

"You too... Chieftain."

A second later, the two fell to the ground.

"A double knock-out!" Selena screamed.

"They were truly evenly matched!" Beruka was actually amazed by it.

The crowd went wild as Rinkah and Flora were added to Effie's collection of unconscious people.

And then Selena announced the next fighters, and Effie had to enter the square herself.

Her opponent was Oboro, who had, for some reason, included her family name. The pronunciation of which completely baffled every Nohrian there except Selena.

Well... Oboro might have gotten stronger when she was up against Nohrians, but she was up againt Effie, the ironclad defender. Effie, the defender of the world. Effie, the inspiration for shields. Effie Stonewall, strong enough to break boulders and use tree branches to pick at her teeth after she ate bear meat for breakfast.

(Benny shuddered.)

So, well, yeah. Sorry Oboro.

Oboro joined Effie's collection of unconscious people.

"...oh fuck. The next fight is between Elise and Xander," Selena noted blandly.

Xander looked horrified by the thought of ever harming his sister.

Elise dragged him into the ring anyways and challenged him seriously.

To a thumb war.

The commentators and judges just rolled with it.

"It's a special side hook- Elise just flipped it around!"

"Their techniques are well-matched, as expected for this family! But eventually, one will slip up and fail...!"

"Ten points to Xander!"

"Laslow, you've been giving out tens the entire match! Tone it down!"

"I've been wondering this for a while, but do the points actually mean anything? Why are we here? Like, they've been giving out points, but no one has been recording them and I'm fairly convinced you might have just arranged for us to be judges so it would look cooler or someth-"

"Silas, you're undermining the foundation of our newfound society," Corrin told him as Beruka explained how tickling your opponent's palm was a viable technique. "Like, we're forming bonds through battle, earning trust through fights! You can't mess with that!"

Silas' eyes widened in horror when he realized what he had done.

"She's right!" Laslow said with a smile, before dropping his voice to a conspiratory whisper. "I'm not supposed to tell you this, but I'm not one for secrets. Truth be told, our mission is to get both sides of the school to get along. No more of that Nohrian-Hoshidan nonsense!"

Silas' heart began to feel warm.

"That's... that's so admirable!"

"So, how's about it, are you willing to help us out?" Laslow asked, winking at Silas.

"Yes! I am!" Silas exclaimed eagerly.

"Sure!" Corrin smiled.

"STOP FLIRTING WITH MY SISTER!" Takumi screamed at them from the crowd.

"You want me to flirt with you instead?"

"I'LL MURDER YOU IN YOUR SLEEP."

"See? We're making friends."

Silas felt a lot less sure of anything.

And then Elise lost the the thumb war and struck Xander from behind to knock him to the ground.

"That was a dirty trick!" Selena gasped.

"How dishonourable...!"

"If being dishonourable is what I need to do to get Xander to sleep, then it's what I'll do!" Elise proclaimed, helping Effie drag him to the collection of unconscious people. "He might be working hard on his essay and Student Council work, but that's not reason to miss six nights of sleep!"

"Dishonourable, but for the sake of her familly...!" Selena amended.

"She does what must be done. I like her."

"You're doing great, Elise!" Corrin cheered.

"And the next match is... Ryoma versus Hinata!"


Wait, you're seriously going to read all of it? When you can skip to the end right now by using CTRL+F and looking for the § symbol?! But it'll feel like it drags on forever! Like it's over a hundred chapters long! What are you doing?!

Fine, but if you stick around for the second round, I'm questioning your sanity.


"They're both skilled swordsmen!" Beruka gasped. "But, Ryoma is obviously more experienced...!"

"THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR, HINATA?! KICK HIS ASS!" Selena screamed.

"Selena!" Laslow hissed. "You don't know him, remember?!" 

He gestured to the crowd, and Selena grumbled.

"It's not that I actually support you or anything, dumbass! I just can't stand the thought of a hairball winning the grand prize!"

"Ahahaha! Okay! I'll do my best to make you proud, Sev-"

"SELENA," Laslow said for him.

"...idiot."

"BEAT THAT OTHER GUY, RYOMA!" Hinoka demanded. It was totally because Ryoma was her brother and not because she still had a grudge against that other redhead or something no way.

"You know Hinata," Takumi said flatly. "He's been to our house."

Hinata got ready for the next attack, knowing he could get counterdamage in with Triple Threat and hurt Ryoma a fair bit—

And then Ryoma got a critical hit.

And launched Hinata into the nearest tree. 

And got him struck by the special lightning special effects around his sword.

Selena was furious as Hinata was added to the collection of unconscious people.

"Disqualified for excessive violence," Selena decided immediately.

"That was a rule?" Silas asked.

"That isn't a rule," Beruka told her.

"Disqualified for excessive violence," Selena repeated.

"Oh, it's because he hurt your b-" Laslow rapidly covered Corrin's mouth.

And then Takumi shot him with a foam arrow.

"So, the next round is... Leo and Benny!" Selena declared.

"...you're not gonna disqualify him for attacking a judge?!" Laslow demanded, yanking the arrow off his forehead.

"Please, a foam arrow isn't gonna kill you."

"It's the thought that counts!"

And then Leo... well.

"Benny, I'll pay for your dinner for a week if you let me win."

"Deal."

"You should have made it a month! If a hot guy is offering money, you squeeze him dry!"

"..." 

"...alright, that's one way of winning a fight," Beruka decided.

"It's blatant cheating, but it's Leo so I'll let it slide," Corrin said as Selena and Beruka set up the next fight.

"Corrin, you're not supposed to do that," Silas told her.

"I haven't heard of a rule against it, so it must be allowed!" Laslow declared.

"Wait, you're seriously letting him just bribe his opponents?!"

"Silas, he needs the money, but he's too nice to accept it if you offer it normally. Framing it like he's doing Leo a favour is possibly the only way to get him to accept," Laslow whispered in his ear.

"QUIT FLIRTING WITH MY BOYFRIEND!" Felicia screamed.

"Would you rather I flirt with you inst- OW, ow, yeah, I figured."

"...did she just... throw her sungl-"

"I-I-I'M SO SORRY!"

And then they heard a crash.

"She threw her sunglasses." Silas sighed.

"Maybe watching the fight will help you cheer up?" Corrin offered.

Which was right before a foam arrow almost hit Silas in the nose.

"Takumi!"

"It wasn't me!"

Takumi pointed at the actual match going on. Orochi was dancing around Setsuna's attempts to shoot foam arrows at her, firing back with fake rubber snakes.

"They're both long range fighters, but Orochi is more versatile and mobile compared to Setsuna," Beruka commented. "I'm interested in how this will play out."

Orochi paused, before wondering if she would get disqualified for tying Setsuna up and throwing her out of the ring. Then she realized that the rules were so lax that she probably couldn't be disqualified even if she tried.

"Setsuna~ Can I put you in a special outfit~? I just need to see your hands for a moment, so can you put down that bow please?"

"Okay..." Setsuna agreed, droping the bow.

"She fell for it," Selena noted in awe.

"She fell for it," Beruka echoed.

"She fell for it..." Hinoka sighed in despair.

"Ah. Orochi, Kagero is waving at you."

"Huh?"

"Over there..."

"I-I don't see anything...?"

"Then go closer."

"Wh- Setsuna?!"

And then while she was distracted, Setsuna shoved her out of the square.

"Wait, did the airhead just win?!"

"Technically," Beruka said with a shrug.

"That, that cannot possibly count," Orochi stated.

"Hey, it counted for Odin," Laslow told her.

Orochi huffed, before laughing. "Ah well, too bad I couldn't look cool in front of a crowd."

"Orochi... behind you."

"Huh?"

"O-Orochi!" Kagero called out. "You did great! I-I, I think you were very cool!"

"Kagero...!" Orochi turned red. And laughed. "I was very impressive, right?!"

She ran up to Kagero to hug her and be showered in praise and love, only for Selena to call out the next combatants. 

"Kagero and Sakura!"

"OH COME ON!" Orochi screamed.

"Selena! Let them have their moment!" Laslow ordered.

"Rules are rules," Corrin said with a shrug.

"None of this is regulated," Silas reminded her.

"I surrender immediately!" Kagero exclaimed.

"A-alright?!" Sakura replied as she did a U-turn to go back to the crowd.

And then Orochi got her hug from Kagero.

"Doesn't that just warm your heart?" Laslow asked. "They're so in love."

"W-WH-WHAT?!" Orochi screamed. "Where did that come from?! We're best friends and she's just hugging me tight and comforting me after I lost and-"

"Kagero, do you wanna kiss her? Like, now...?" Setsuna asked.

"E-er..."

"Kagero...?"

And then Laslow and Setsuna exchanged a glance, and knew at once what was to be done.

Laslow darkened the area around them, not enough to cause total blindness, but enough to mask them from view a little. And gave them sparkles. The sparkles were important. Yes, even though they were outdoors.

There was a simple, scientific reason why, of course. 

The reason was that love made anything possible. Especially weird backgrounds, random flowers, passion pentagons, and sudden sparkles.

The slighter longer explanation was that Laslow was so attractive that he could attract photons to him, thus darkening the area. And of course, he could control his aura of attractiveness, making areas photons would be attracted to for the sake of sparkles and love.

(If he was so attractive, why couldn't he land a date, you might ask. Well, the simple answer was that, while Laslow might have been capable of controlling how beautiful he was at any given moment, he couldn't control his mouth the same way.)

And then Setsuna pulled out the piano.

Yes, she just had a grand piano on hand, just in case.

Hinoka shuddered at the sight.

In the darkness, Kagero felt emboldened. Or maybe it was because of the romantic music, sparkles, and singing that they just bribed Azura with half a chocolate bar to provide.

"Orochi... I love you! Will you go out with me?!"

"Yes...! I will!"

"Orochi!"

"Kagero!"

And then everyone applauded. Except for Corrin, who was screaming.

It was an excited scream.

Probably.

"SOMEONE GET THOSE LOVEBIRDS SOME PRIVACY!" Selena ordered.

"On it," Benny replied, easily carrying Kagero and Orochi. Yes, at the same time.

"I wanna do battle music," Setsuna decided randomly, putting her giant-ass piano away to pull out her violin.

And then she played the most incredibly awesome, violent violin song ever known to man.

"You know what, keep doing that, it's a great atmosphere for a fighting tournament," Selena said. Beruka passed her two names, and she read them aloud. "Charlotte and Hayato!"

Of course, it took about half a second before Charlotte surrendered because she could not fight that child.

Which, of course, pissed Hayato off.

Their volley of insults was legendary.

"Shortstack!"

"Hag!"

"You're the kind of customer that makes waitresses fill up their glasses to the brim in the most subtle 'fuck you' possible in the industry!"

"Well, you're the kind of person that makes people working customer service start praying for salvation!" 

"If I were your server, I'd poke a hole in your take-out bags!"

"If I were your customer, I'd throw it at you!"

"You're a half-pint, foot-tall, skinny-ass midget! It'd be like throwing confetti at a balloon!"

"What's that supposed to say about you, huh?"

"You fucking brat!"

"I'm not the one who said it!"

Benny returned, only to sigh and carry Charlotte away. 

"YOU BETTER HOPE I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN, OR I'LL THROTTLE YOU!" Charlotte swore.

"GOOD LUCK FINDING ME THROUGH ALL THE LAYERS OF SHEER BITCH YOU WEAR!"

(Later, Benny and Mozu would admonish their best friends for arguing so loudly. Their response would be a confused head tilt and a simple question.

"What are you talking about? I was making a friend," Charlotte would add on, "I like that kid's spirit," while Hayato would say, "She seems interesting." 

Mozu and Benny would be very, very confused.)

And then it was Kaden's turn.

Kaden, who had been napping on Azura when the rules were explained.

Kaden, who didn't get why he was being asked to fight this weird blonde dude, or why a tree suddenly fell or-

Yeah. Kaden was up against Arthur, who... accidentally made a tree fall on him.

Azura freaked out.

"Kaden! Kaden, are you alright?!"

"Azura... avenge me...!" Kaden cried out as Effie picked up the tree with one hand and him with the other. "Avenge me!"

"I will!" Azura promised tearfully, grasping his hand in hers.

And so, when Azura was up against Niles... well.

"D-damn! I didn't know you were that into dominating peopl- oh my, urgh-" Niles managed, despite being on the ground and Azura stomping on his body.

"Shut up. Hurry up and lose. I need to avenge Kaden."

Arthur shuddered.

"Why must you wait? You can simply run out and attack him, right here, right now... I'll let you."

Azura twitched.

"Isn't it what your darling Kaden would want?"

Azura was tempted to, but then she just whacked him again.

With her feather duster.

Yeah. She somehow managed to beat Niles up with a feather duster.

It was obviously her win, so the commentators stopped her before she killed him with the power of feathers.

Azama felt an intimate connection with this new troll.

Speaking of Azama. Well.

"So I'm up against the man responsible for Krakenberg being called a zoo? How interesting! I do so love animals! Say, how do you enjoy roast dog, I would be happy to serve it for you!"

"I'LL KILL YA!"

Keaton won by throwing rocks at him.

Azama deserved it.

And the last match of round one...

"Subaki versus Takumi!"

"Did somebody call for perfection?"

"Oh good gods why."

"Sorry, dear, but I'm afraid I haven't achieved godhood yet," Subaki states sadly as he teleported behind Takumi to dodge an arrow. "Try again in a few minutes."

"I like him," Azama said. 

"I just want to tear his ego in half!" He said, at the same time as Niles talking to Leo.

"Are you my other half?" Azama asked as Takumi just gave up and tried hitting Subaki with the bow. Leo sighed and just walked away.

"No, my heart belongs to another," Niles answered, just as dramatically.

"Then, my long-lost brother?" 

Takumi started screaming in frustration, before just trying to walk out of the square because he didn't want to deal with any of this.

"Perhaps."

Niles and Azama exchanged a nod. They knew from the start their friendship was the kind of friendship that would end with someone's knife in someone's back. But it would be hilarious.

By gods, it would be hilarious.

In the background, Subaki had teleported behind Takumi again, asking if he could really give up so easily when his love life was on the line.

Takumi's reaction, possibly predictably, was to punch him in the face.

Yeah, he dodged because nothing in the world could touch such a supreme being, but he did it beautifully and really, being able to witness Subaki's sheer beauty should be enough of a consolation for anyone.

Except for like, Takumi, who was pissed off and roundhouse kicked the guy out of the ring- we mean square.

Subaki landed on his feet, outside the ring, and gave Takumi a thimbs up, proud that he found his determination to win.

Takumi threw his bow at Subaki's head.

Subaki dodged by reclining. On what? Nothing. That's how cool he was. He even struck a pose since he was having so much fun with his recliner-less reclining.

"That's the end of round one! Good job to everyone who was participating, thanks to all the fighters!" Selena announced.


OH COME ON YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY HAVE THE PATIENCE TO READ SO MANY MATCHES.

YOU KNOW HOW YOU CAN SKIP TO THE END. WHY ARE YOU NOT DOING IT?! WHAT ARE YOU.


Selena checked her phone, whispering to Beruka, "We gotta wrap it up soon?". Beruka nodded stoically.

"But, well, since someone fucked up and got himself disqualified, we actually have an uneven number of people. So the second round is an all-out brawl between all of you. Whoever's left standing is the winner!"

"Good luck!" Corrin called out.

"Selena, Effie wants to talk," Beruka pointed out.

Selena listened carefully to the complicated gestures Effie made.

"Huh? Oh, wait, you want to sit out? To take care of the unconscious people? Okay, you're really nice, wait fuck I didn't say that I said you're made of lice, ANYWAYS ALL-OUT BRAWL NOW."

If you expected anything but chaos... well. Sorry.

Sakura and Takumi were chased down by Elise and Leo. Despite Takumi insisting that he wanted nothing to do with it. Arthur was screaming and running because Azura had started launching things at him the moment the match began. Keaton was helping her because she offered him dog food in exchange for taking Arthur down. They had just managed to launch Odin at him when Setsuna hit them all with more foam arrows, while she was aiming at something else.

And in the middle, Mozu and Hayato were left completely untouched, because no one else had the heart to harm them. They were like, twelve.

And so, after ten minutes, they were the only ones left in the ring. Square. Square ring.

Azura walked out after she knocked Arthur out of the ring square since she had no further interest in participating. Kaden gave her a huge hug when she did, and she actually smiled and patted him on the head. And then Keaton hugged Azura too and Kaden started hissing.

Sakura and Elise's fight was so epic, it exploded and knocked them both out of the square.

Odin was out because he rolled too far after being thrown and went out-of-bounds. 

Setsuna pretty much dragged Leo out because she insisted. Insisted on what, she never specified.

Takumi walked out willingly because he: A) didn't want anything to do with this nonsense, and B) had the feeling that, if he won, Camilla's siblings would murder him. Possibly his own siblings too, if they actually realized they all liked the same person.

(Oh come on, it was totally obvious! Only an idiot wouldn't notice!)

"So we're the only ones left," Hayato noted.

"Uh-huh."

"Well, I don't want to fight you, so..."

And then Hayato got up to leave.

"W-WAIT!" Mozu cried out, going from sitting to kneeling on the floor dramatically and reaching her hand out to him. "Don't go! Hayato, you can't do this!"

"Sorry, Mozu, it's the only way. Someone's gotta win, and I'd rather it be you than me."

"But— HAYATO!"

And then Hayato got disqualified for stepping over a line made of tape.

"Congratulations, Mozu! You won the first annual whatever tournament!" Corrin managed happily.

"BUT I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT'S GOIN' ON!" Mozu screamed. "Everyone's fighting in matches and stuff and I wasn't payin' any attention to the rules and what are we fighting for?!"

"The love and eternal admiration of our boss," Beruka answered simply.

"...who's yer boss?"

There was only complete and utter silence for five, long, long seconds. And then you could hear Hayato swearing loudly.

And then applause came from the crowd.

"Bravo, bravo!" Ms. Yuugiri chuckled as she clapped. "You all put on a marvelous show. And might I add that telling Miss Nyx that Mr. Yukimura was looking for her in the library, telling Mr. Yukimura that Miss Nyx was looking for him in the history classroom, and telling Mr. Gunter that the principal was looking for him was a genius move?"

"Thank you," Selena said, not even flinching. 

"Send my compliments to your boss, and hand me front row seats for the next one, alright?"

"Of course, Ma'am."

And with that, the first annual whatever tournament came to a close.

(They gave Setsuna the candles for being such a great musical accompaniment and because Hayato didn't want to burn his house down by accident.)


§

"The tournament was just... the collection of unconscious people, the trickery, the layers of sheer bitch, the auras of attractiveness, and the confession! And someone who didn't even know her won her love! Aaaaaaaaargh, I don't know how to deal with this!" Hinoka screamed.

"I see, I see."

"I can't believe I lost in the first round of a tournament the heroine of my heart organized! She could have been there, been watching as- I embarrassed myself! I will never be a bride now!"

"...I think I found your solution," the counsellor told her, standing and approaching the screen.

"What?! What could possibly mend my broken heart?!"

Niles appeared, and in the most dramatic monotone possible, he told her,

"You need to get laid."

Hinoka broke a little bit more inside.

So broken was she, in fact, that she didn't notice Niles laughing his ass off and thanking Azama for the opportunity to mess with someone like that.


"Charlotte?"

Benny poked at Charlotte's shoulder. She barely reacted.

With a troubled sigh, Benny sat next to her on his family's old sofa.

"What's going on?"

"Just checking the mail," Charlotte answered. She shot him a grin. "Camilla managed it perfectly."

"You mean she...?"

She presented the phone to Benny with a flourish.

Camilla had sent the group a high-quality photo of every single attendance sheet in their school, Nohrian and Hoshidan alike.

"When did she even-?"

"Must've broken into the staff room while the fighting tournament was on," Charlotte said in admiration. "Even convincing the teachers that she was trying to cover up the fighting tournament instead of the break-in, while also making people from both halves get along... no wonder Keaton tells us to stay on her good side."

Benny nodded. "It'd be scary if she wasn't on our side."

"Yeah."

And then Charlotte froze in realization.

"...I can't read half of them," Charlotte stated. "They're in Hoshidan."

"Alright?"

"The person who sent the phone numbers and the emails to me— the names are in Nohrian!"

Benny seemed absolutely baffled by her statement.

"Benny, there's someone trying to work both sides! Someone who knows how to read and write in both languages, someone who knows the Wolf Pack, someone who has connections to both sides!"

"Charlotte, what are you trying to say?" Benny asked pointedly.

"There's someone trying to manipulate us," Charlotte said seriously. "They're hoping I do something with these names, no, these people! That we do something, that we play right into their hands! And we need to figure this out! I won't forgive anyone trying to set us up for anything!"

"Then... what do you want to do?"

Charlotte went back to the attendance sheets.

"Back me up, Benny. I've got a few people I need to investigate." 


In her own house, Corrin sneezed.

Chapter Text

Kagero rather liked being part of her school's Tea Ceremony club.

The exercises they did, the tea they drank, the atmosphere of the room, it all reminded her of home.

Well, she had been living in the country for years now. Perhaps it was time that she stopped thinking of Chon'sin as her home.

But, then again, there was hardly any difference, was there?

The war between Plegia and Ylisse ended with invaders from Chon'sin annexing the weakened countries on behalf of their new ruler, Walhart. So, everywhere she went, there were paintings from Chon'sin, people from Chon'sin, buildings like that of Chon'sin... hell, even the writing was the same.

So, had Kagero really moved at all? It was a fascinating question.

She decided to try and paint it.

A world so different, yet so similar... she thought of making a forest with identical trees, yet in hugely contrasting colours. Yes, that would do it. She could easily find the ink she needed if she tried.

She wondered if she could send a photo back to her brother. He was resting in a hospital back in their home country, surely asleep considering the time difference, but he was bound to appreciate it... maybe. Ish. 

Maybe she'd have better luck sending it to her mom, or maybe—

"Kagero! How come you're just sketching here?! I've been waiting for twenty minutes!" 

Kagero snapped to attention as Orochi ran up to her.

"Jeez! You haven't even left your club room yet?! What, were you too relaxed from drinking all that tea?!" Orochi pouted. "Seriously, what do you guys even do in that club?"

"It's essentially what you said," Kagero answered.

Orochi laughed, before peeking at her sketchpad.

"What, were you drawing a forest fire? Maybe a boneyard?"

"It's home."

Orochi giggled again.

"Ah, I see now! I love how cracked and ominous our cherry blossom trees look! They've got a very unique appeal, Kagero!"

"You think?"

"Of course!" Orochi's smile suddenly turned mischievous. "Now, I'll forgive you for being super late for walking home together, but only if you let me watch you paint it! I love seeing you work!"

Kagero's lips quirked up into a smile.

"I'll let you keep it."

Chapter Text

"So we've got a plan, then," Keaton said, sitting with one leg crossed over the other and Skullface in his lap, one elbow on the edge of a desk so his knuckles could prop up his face. "We want to get info on the list of suspicious people Charlotte assembled plus the names in that weird email. I'm in charge of learning their schedules with Princess and Skullface here. Do you know your roles?"

"I go straight for any information I can find on any of the suspects," Charlotte answered. 

"My targets are Takumi Byakuya, Hinata Matoi, and Oboro Jutsushi," Flora stated seriously.

"Since you said I'm 'cute and cuddly', I've been assigned to handle Hayato Tsukuyomi, Mozu Tinshin, and Sakura Byakuya," Benny told him, his tone conveying both a certain exasperated obedience and a general sense of 'This is a very bad idea.' If Keaton noticed either of them, he ignored it.

"And I'm working as backup in case someone gets in a fight," Felicia concluded.

Keaton grinned.

"Good. You know what you oughta do, so do it! I expect a progress report by the end of the week!"

"Yes, sir!"


 

"Corrin's out sick?" Charlotte asked.

She had shown up nice and early to catch Corrin before class started and arrange for a conversation later, but Silas seemed upset when he walked in, and Charlotte, well. Letting Silas just be upset was like kicking a puppy, and all the gods knew Keaton would kill her for hurting a puppy. So she asked him what happened as he sat at his desk, Charlotte still standing in front of him.

"Yeah, she is," Silas answered sadly. "I'd go visit her, but... well... with her family and all, you know how it is."

"They don't want a Nohrian around her," Charlotte stated bluntly.

"I-I mean, it's more compliated than that, but-"

"You don't have to try to defend them, Silas."

"No, really, her family is made of good people! I know that! Her mother has a good reason for not liking when I visit, so... I can just hope for her to get better soon and welcome her when she gets back. That's good enough, really."

"You're too much of a pushover!" Charlotte exclaimed. "If you want to visit her, visit her! Who gives a damn what her family thinks!"

"I don't actually know where she lives!" Silas protested.

"I can tell you where she lives if you let me come along," Leo piped up as he emerged from the window.

"...were you listening in on us?!" Charlotte demanded. "And why are you entering from there?!"

"Because Elise got Ryoma and Rinkah to fight in the hallway," Leo answered simply. "Well? Do you want to know or not?"

"I do, but-"

"No buts!" Charlotte interrupted. "I'm going, and if you want to go, then no matter what your damn politeness tells you, I'm dragging you along!"

Silas had very little idea how to react to that, until he realized that Charlotte was willing to play the 'bad guy who forced you to come' just to get him to visit his friend.

So, he smiled and thanked her.


 

Bright light overhead.

Ominous figure. 

"I'm sorry."

Shining knife.

Can't move.

Body weak.

"It's for your own good."

Pain.

Screaming.

"I'm so sorry."

Blood. 

Hurts—


 

When they made it to Corrin's house, they were welcomed by Corrin's screaming piercing through the air.

Charlotte's blood ran cold at the sound. Leo tensed, sweat beginning to form on his neck.

Silas immediately tackled the door, but he couldn't make it budge. Charlotte pushed him aside and kicked the door down.

"Her bedroom should be upstairs!" Leo told them, and they quickly ran up the steps.

Her bedroom door was open when they found her.

Her room was an absolute mess. Tissues were scattered on the floor, having missed the trash can beside her bed, she had knocked over her desk chair, and Corrin was sitting on the floor, her knees tucked to her chest. Her blanket was still wrapped around her, and she had obviously just fallen off her bed.

Corrin's hands were clamped over her ears, tears dripping down her face as she whispered frantically to herself.

"Please- please don't hurt me— please, I thought I was being good—!"

Charlotte's heart dropped when Corrin's voice died and gave way to a hysterical cry. She seemed so... so small and helpless.

('How can this kid possibly manipulate anyone?' Charlotte found herself wondering.)

Silas was the first to cross the threshold, kneeling in front of her slowly. Corrin shrunk away from him.

"I'm not going to hurt you," Silas said slowly. "I don't have any weapons, see?"

He showed his hands to the shaking girl, watching as she processed the sight of his empty hands.

"You can relax," Silas reassured her. "We're friends. Remember?"

Corrin gulped, before her eyes flicked to Leo and Charlotte in the doorway.

"M-my... ears... they can't see my..." 

Silas turned towards them.

"Please don't tell anyone," he pleaded. 

"I swear it," Leo promised.

"Yeah. We're friends. And friends trust each other," Charlotte said, guilt weighing down her shoulders. 

"What do you want to do, Corrin?" Silas asked gently.

Corrin hesitated, before letting her hands down to grab at her shirt anxiously.

The two blondes froze.

The top half of both her ears had been ripped off. 

"You can trust them," Silas swore. "It's okay."

"I... really?" Corrin asked in a quiet voice.

(Corrin invited her to her little sister's birthday party, just to help her with her job. Just to help her get those emails, when she could have easily just ignored that rant to Benny she happened to overhear.)

"We won't do anything to you," Leo stated.

(Corrin found out about the Wolf Pack, but. She never spoke a word of it. No one knew, Corrin kept that secret for her-)

"It's okay."

Charlotte really wanted to scream that it wasn't okay, she tagged along because she didn't trust Corrin despite her being Corrin, that she was there on false pretenses and the such, but. She could not explode around a crying Corrin. No, she just would not.

Screaming around someone so, so vulnerable would not end well. Charlotte wouldn't be able to live with herself if she made Corrin's breakdown worse, so she smiled sweetly and told Corrin she was loved and supported.

To prove it, Charlotte cleaned up her room in an instant, put Corrin back in bed, and ran out, claiming that she would make food for her in the kitchen.

When she got downstairs, she paused to catch her breath. Charlotte doubled over, resting her hand on the living room's sofa as she tried, except she accidentally knocked it over.

(In Corrin's room, she jumped at the sudden sound, clinging to Silas as she tried to forget all about her dream.)

Charlotte panicked at the clattering sound, only to pause.

A sofa did not clatter to the floor, she realized as she set it back in place.

A phone trapped between the sofa cushions, however, did.

Corrin's phone was on the living room floor, right in front of their TV. 

Glancing around, trying to ward off the feelings of guilt gnawing at her, she stepped over to the phone and picked it up. It wasn't cracked. She was just checking if she broke it. It was what a friend would do. She wasn't doing anything wrong. She was just concerned for everyone.

She gulped as she turned it on, her heartbeat picking up as it activated. 

If she could just get into her phone, she could see if Corrin sent that email. She was acting for everyone's sake when she wanted to find the mysterious manipulator. It was the right thing to do.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" A frigid voice demanded, almost making Charlotte drop the phone again.

Leo was standing in the doorway, face blank yet still seeming like a glare somehow.

Her expression didn't change, though. She was a good enough liar to know not to flinch at sudden questions.

"Accidentally dropped Corrin's phone, checking if I messed anything up."

Leo didn't seem convinced, but Charlotte wasn't gonna push it.

"I thought you were cooking," Leo said, almost accusatory as he stepped around the couch to approach her.

"It's more that I wanted to give them privacy, y'know?" Charlotte shrugged, before leaning back on her hands, the phone between her palm and the floor. "Like, yeah, I wanna make her food, but I feel like if I start now, I might finish it too soon and interrupt something."

"Is that why you left so suddenly?" Leo was standing over her now, though from his expression, it seemed more like he was looming over her. Charlotte stared back with a carefully-maintained, perfectly bored-seeming expression.

"Yeah, it was. What about you?" Charlotte returned the question, knowing that it would break the interrogation-like atmosphere.

"I followed you. Had a feeling you were up to something."

"There are better ways to flirt with a girl, dude," Charlotte retorted with a smirk.

"Not interested."

Charlotte laughed.

"Look, I don't care what you're planning. Just leave Corrin out of it," Leo ordered. 

"Damn knight in shining armour."

"I'm telling you this because Camilla would destroy you if she found out. And she will find out."

If Charlotte wasn't fully aware that Camilla could destroy her, in every sense of the word, she would have made a joke about that. As it were, she just huffed. 

"You like Corrin a lot. Know her well?"

"Well enough."

"Tell me something then. How good is she at planning things out?"

Leo started laughing.

Charlotte stared at him for a few seconds, before his chuckles died out.

Goetium agar siam,” he cursed, which when translated literally meant something like ‘A plague upon your crops, cows, and ancestors’, but nowadays was used more to mean either ‘Go to hell, your family misses you!’ or 'what the hell'. "You're actually serious."

"What, she can't?"

"She can't even remember how to spell the country's name!" Leo exclaimed in exasperation. "Even if she tried to, she would forget what she was planning after falling asleep!"

"...seriously?"

"I'm serious."

"It's still mean," a voice piped up from the doorway.

"'s not like he's actually wrong, though, Silas."

"Thanks Corrin," Leo replied.

"No problem."

"You really shouldn't be agreeing with these kinds of things..."

And then Leo and Charlotte realized that Corrin and Silas were standing in the doorway, Silas helping Corrin stand. The grey-haired boy helped Corrin to the couch, where she eagerly flopped down.

"...how long have you been listening?" Charlotte asked.

"Er, about the time you asked if Corrin could plan ahead?"

"She still can't," Leo reminded them.

Despite being feverish, Corrin still had the mental fortitude necessary to send Leo a completely flat stare. 

"Thanks, Leo," she said in her hoarse voice.

"Don't strain yourself too much," Silas chided her gently.

"What caused you to think that Corrin had any ability to plan things out whatsoever again?" Leo asked, looking back to Charlotte.

"...damn, you're not letting this go, are ya?"

"No. I refuse to."

"Keaton's gonna frickin' kill me..." Charlotte hissed under her breath, though no one heard. Her tone was deliberately casual, never revealing any emotional attachment to her post at all as she spoke. "Favour for the Wolf Pack. Supposed to be looking for people who can read Hoshidan and Nohrian, have ties to Shisaragi students, and know of the Wolf Pack, since someone fitting that description is planning something."

Silas and Leo nodded, completely accepting that answer.

"So I might have... done something?"

"Yeah, you send anything to them recently?" Charlotte inquired. "Like, yesterday."

"I don't remember. Did I do that?" She looked at Leo, who flatly replied with,

"You didn't."

'Why are you asking him?!' Charlotte and Silas thought at the same time.

"But I might've. Leo, where's my notebook, if I asked them for anything I would have written it down..."

"You forgot it in the classroom yesterday so I brought it here for you," Leo answered, pulling the notebook out of his pocket. 

"You're the best, I love you a lot," Corrin declared immediately, before looking at Silas and going, "no offense."

"None... taken..." Silas said in return, still utterly baffled by what was happening in front of him.

"You didn't write anything down about emailing the Wolf Pack, but you did write down that you needed to give Benny some flowers soon since Ben Day is coming up. Did you remember to do that?"

"I'll just grab some from the garden."

(Mozu suddenly got the urge to kill someone.)

"So you didn't try anything?" Charlotte managed.

"No. I don't think so."

And then Charlotte went from sitting on the floor to bowing with her head pressed to the ground.

"Then I am so sorry! I should have never doubted you! I really shouldn't have! In return, I swear upon all the power that I have, I'll make it up to you! Anything at all!"

"H-hey, that's..." Silas really tried, but he couldn't find the words to dissuade Charlotte.

"I'm trying to think, but I don't really want anything except for, like, maybe my siblings not dating Camilla...?" Corrin managed blearily.

"Your siblings?" Charlotte echoed.

"Ryoma Byakuya, Hinoka Byakuya, Takumi Byakuya, and Sakura Byakuya," Leo told her, making a spark of recognition go off in her eyes.

Charlotte ran off without a word, already dialing the number.

"Hi, this is Elise, I'm busy right now, please leave a message—" Her voice rattled off as Charlotte made it outside.

"You have the full support of the Wolf Pack in anything that you do to sabotage those four," Charlotte stated as she managed to set Corrin's front door back in place. "In fact, we encourage you in your endeavors. Do everything you can to stop those four from dating people, soldier."

Sakura suddenly had the feeling that something very, very bad was about to happen to her.

Ryoma would have gotten the same feeling, but he was unconscious from fighting Rinkah, and Hinoka was too busy fighting Rinkah to avenge Ryoma to notice something like that.

And Takumi... well, it was complicated.

See, Benny and the sisters had split up to go after their targets, since a group of Nohrians approaching a lone Shisaragi student could only end so well for the 'don't be suspicious' part of their mission statement.

Though, Felicia accidentally dropped her sunglasses, and by the time she got them back, she was lost in the Shisaragi halls and had no idea where to go. And then she accidentally flinched and tripped into a green-haired guy who guided her to her locker to get her stuff and then to her classroom, which wasn't where her sister or Benny was. And she couldn't leave, because Mr. Gunter was there early and would have had questions if Felicia left right after the hot guy who escorted her there left.

So, she was incapacitated without doing anything. Which meant that she couldn't help when, not if, when her fellow members got into a fight.

Flora, meanwhile, snuck around to where she was supposed to be, since she had the sense to actually use the map provided to students. She peeked around the door to see if the three she was supposed to observe were there, when Hinata snuck up behind her.

"You lookin' for Carl too?" Hinata asked, before cursing. "Shoot! I mean, Caroline, argh, I'm no good at this secret thing!"

"U-uh, can you start from the top, please?" Flora managed to ask politely.

"The cute guy who goes around in a skirt and pigtails. You might see him talking to Leo, y'know, the headband guy."

"Wait, this Carl is friends with you and Leo?" 

"Yeah, he's pretty friendly! I've seen him hang out with Leo's little sister too, and of course I'm friends with him and so is Oboro, so," Hinata didn't really know where he was going with that sentence, so he just laughed.

Flora's eyes took on a serious shine as she asked, in the friendliest tone she could manage, "He sounds very friendly. Do you know if he can read Nohrian? I would be interested in being friends, but I'm shy, so texting is all I can manage."

"Oh, yeah, he can read Nohrian. He translated some weird emails me and Oboro got."

And then Flora blinked.

"Weird emails? Have you been sent spam?"

"Not totally sure, really! I've been trying to learn to read Nohrian, but it's still a little tricky. Sorry if that's rude, though."

"Oh, no, no, I don't mind at all, in fact, I might be able to help! I'm Nohrian, so of course I can read it..."

"Wow, you're really nice! Thanks-" And then Hinata realized he didn't know her name. "Ahaha, sorry, I saw you at the fighting tournament, but I didn't catch your name. Your fight was cool, though!"

"Thank you. My name is Flora. It's nice to meet you." Flora curtsied, then offered out her hand with a pleasant smile.

"Ah, Hinata! I hope we can get along!" Hinata managed, shaking her hand eagerly after a pause. "Sorry, I just kinda forgot that my sister told me that sometimes the people at your school don't use last names when introducing themselves."

Flora froze, staring up at Hinata with a blank face.

"...how would your sister know that?"

Because Hinata was both dumb and good-natured, he blurted out the answer without thinking, before realizing what he just said and freaking out.

Flora had the sense to pull him aside into an empty end of the hallway instead of next to the door of the classroom before swearing she would not spill his family's secret.

Takumi, who was headed to class, managed to walk by just as Flora said, "After all, you're just like me. Let's keep each other's secrets and get along, alright?"

He had a feeling something very shady was going on, and was about to walk away before he heard Hinata cheerfully agree.

'Fuck! Someone's trying to dupe him again!' Takumi thought, trying to go to intervene when he saw the girl around the corner and realized she was the girl who carried knives on her at the fighting tournament.

Now, while Takumi was a good friend, there was a certain kind of reckless stupidity required to mess with a girl he knew was probably armed while he had nothing but a biology textbook, his notebooks, and the sparkly pen he stole from Oboro and never returned.

So, he tailed them instead. Because, as much as he wanted to charge in screaming and tackle the girl, he actually had something called a sense of self-preservation.

As he was tailing them, he overheard bits of their conversation. Flora was asking Hinata about Hayato and Mozu, saying that her friend, Benny, was doing a favour for the Wolf Pack, and needed information on them.

Hinata was confused, and Flora explained to him that the Wolf Pack was a group in their school who did "favours" for people who left them a request, but would expect "compensation" in return.

Okay, Takumi was the one who added the quotation marks. But, given that he thought the group was the junior high mafia, he had a reason to. 

And, well, there were very few things that could cause any type of mafia to take that sort of interest in, like, twelve year olds, and none of them were good. Takumi liked Hinata and wanted him to be okay, but he had more faith in Hinata's ability to protect himself and not be duped into things than he did the actual twelve year olds.

"Oh, good morning, Takumi!" A cheery voice greeted him as he passed by the lockers.

"SORRY CAMILLA, CAN'T TALK, STOPPING THE JUNIOR HIGH MAFIA FROM KIDNAPPING CHILDREN," Takumi replied as he ran to the gardens, since that's where the two kids always were.

Camilla, sworn defender of children and little siblings everywhere, obviously could not just stay still after hearing that.

So she snapped her fingers, and Beruka brought her an axe. A big one. And she joined Takumi in running.

Of course, people assumed she was chasing him down with an axe to kill him. But they were becoming friends, probably?

"What's going on?! What's the situation, Takumi?!" Camilla demanded as they turned the corner, a hallway and a half away from their destination.

"A guy named Benny is supposed to be investigating Hayato and Mozu for the Wolf Pack! I overheard that knife girl telling Hinata! We gotta stop whatever's going on!"

Camilla slowed to a stop, grabbing at Takumi's sleeve to stop him too.

"Huh?! What are you doing?! Aren't we supposed to-"

"Benny is a shy teddy bear who couldn't hurt a soul," Camilla said seriously. "Though, I have to say, it does sound ominous if you don't know all of it."

"All of what?" Takumi asked, still on edge.

"The name 'Wolf Pack' might sound scary, but it's because the guy in charge likes dogs," Camilla explained. "Whenever someone doesn't have enough food to get through the night, need some money, or something similar, they can ask the Wolf Pack for help, but at the cost of either repaying them, doing them a favour, or helping them help someone else."

Takumi's eyes widened, but he didn't feel totally relaxed yet.

"Then why would they want kids?"

"No idea!" Camilla exclaimed cheerfully, making Takumi falter. "But we can check it out and see if we need to intervene."

Takumi nodded and kept moving, a bit slower since he wasn't in as much of a rush now that he knew that the situation wasn't 'imminent kidnapping'. Camilla easily caught up and walked by his side, smiling even with an axe over her shoulder.

"So, where are we going?"

"Flower gardens. Mozu might be in her first year here, but she got a reputation for devoting all her free time to taking care of the flowers. Hayato's her friend, so he's probably there too."

"You seem to know them rather well. Are you friends?"

"Nah, Sakura's just in their class. She thinks they're meant to be together," Takumi told her with a snort. "Not too sure how she thinks that, seeing as they argue like siblings, but it makes her happy to gossip about it, so what's the harm?"

"Seems like you're a rather responsible big brother," Camilla noted, respect in her voice.

"Maybe to the one little sister I have, yeah, but I get the feeling she likes you more than me all of a sudden."

"Oh, don't be silly! I'm a new face she met, how could I ever compare to her darling older brother?"

Takumi would have liked to reply with some kind of snarky comment about how that wasn't the 'like' he meant, but he felt like Camilla wouldn't like the idea of her new little sister having a crush on her.

So instead, he flatly said, "Hmm. I wonder."

"Whatever could you mean by that?" Camilla asked sweetly.

"I wonder," Takumi repeated, a slight teasing smirk on his face.

Camilla pouted at that.

"And now you're just teasing me, sweetheart. Could it really be so bad to satisfy my curiosity?" 

"Hey, it's my first time teasing instead of being teased," Takumi huffed defensively. "Let me enjoy it, would you?"

"Awww, but if you say that, I won't be able to resist teasing you!"

"Oh no. What have I done to myself," Takumi said flatly.

Camilla laughed, just as they heard a crash outside. They exchanged a glance and immediately rushed to the flower gardens.

"Shit! He called backup! Mozu, I'll distract them, so—!"

"Hayato, you dummy! I'm not running without you!" Mozu screamed over the downed Benny's prone body.

"Mozu!"

"Hold on, this is-" Camilla didn't get to talk before Mozu splashed her with the hose.

"Saku-B's brother, you run too!" Mozu urged. "We can hold 'em off!"

"Now wait just a second here!" Takumi screamed. "What the hell happened?!"

"There was a creepy guy following us, and now there's a girl with an axe here, what more do you need to know?!" Hayato demanded.

"Hey, is that Benny?" Takumi asked Camilla as she wiped her face with her sleeve. He offered his scarf to her, and she took it hesitantly as she nodded. "Benny, what were you asked to do with these guys?"

"Ask if she was the one who gave Charlotte those vegetables," Benny answered. It was technically true. It's just that he realized he wanted to ask it after he started looking for information on them and realized she could garden.

"The ribbon girl from the tournament?" Hayato asked. Benny nodded.

"U-uh, yeah, a family friend asked me to hand them to her..." Mozu answered.

"...we hit him over a misunderstanding," Hayato realized.

"And we splashed her over a misunderstanding."

"We're really sorry," both of them apologized in unison, bowing on the ground.

"It's okay!" Camilla replied. "I don't mind, it is rather hot today, isn't it? And it's understandably, really, I'm a frightening person, with my big scary axe and all, right?"

"Yeah... sorry I couldn't actually approach you and say it outright. It would have cleared everything up."

"We can start over, right? Try and make sure we don't screw up this time?" Mozu asked.

Benny nodded, and Camilla used Takumi's scarf to wipe away her tears of joy at the sight.

"It's nice to meet you," Benny said with a gentle smile. "I hope we can be friends."

Yup. The reason why Takumi didn't notice the feelings of Very Bad Thing Approaching was because all of that happened.

The next day, Charlotte received two important pieces of information: that, according to Corrin's phone, she never sent anything, not even on an alternate account, and that Corrin didn't even know Hayato and Mozu's contact information in the first place. 

Flora's suspicions grew stronger with every detail Hinata told her. Felicia had managed to accidentally both befriend a ninja and accidentally get that ninja on her team in a fight againt Beruka and Selena. 

(Unfortunately, Kaze and Felicia lost. Fortunately, no one got in trouble for it.)

And Benny? 

Benny had managed to find a shrine devoted to the fallen during Hayato and Mozu's special tour of the school for him yesterday. That day, he came early, with a bouquet of flowers, when he heard a voice behind him.

"Why are you here?" Oboro demanded, her voice laced with acid.  

Benny had the sudden feeling that something very, very bad was about to happen to him.

Chapter Text

"This is a memorial to the deceased," Oboro said in a clipped voice. 

Benny has never felt so terrified of a girl smaller than him before, and he was friends with Charlotte. And he knew Elise.

"Yeah," Benny managed, hoping he wasn't sweating obviously. "I wanted to drop off flowers."

The blue-haired girl was silent as she walked over to the memorial.

"Stay on your side," she ordered harshly. "I won't fight with someone remembering the dead, but if you do something, I can't guarantee what will happen."

"Okay," Benny replied, so very, very relieved she wasn't on the verge of killing him. "...I'm sorry for your loss."

Oboro stayed quiet for a long, long time.

And then she said, "...same to you."


 

"You seem rather miffed," Mr. Yukimura noted, standing over Miss Nyx's chair with a grin. 

Her only response was a silent, irritated glare.

"Now, now, don't be like that," Mr. Yukimura chided gently. He held a coffee in front of her face. "A cup of coffee for your thoughts?"

Miss Nyx practically swiped the drink out of his hands, which made Mr. Yukimura's smile grow. Miss Nyx replied with a 'don't think this makes us friends', before she took an eager sip. And then she grimaced.

"My faith in your tastebuds has fallen immensely. I don't think you can taste anything if you actually think this much sugar could appeal to anyone."

"I am flattered by the thought that you ever had faith in my tastebuds," Mr. Yukimura replied with a smile. Miss Nyx rolled her eyes. "So, since you accepted my bribe, you'll answer my question, right?"

“Miria agar gotodor," Miss Nyx cursed, which used to mean ‘May you be struck down by divine retribution’ but meant something more like ‘Get hit by a truck, bastard!’ nowadays. "I won't answer anything about my students, you persistent dastard."

"Oh no, I wasn't asking anything of the sort. I was simply curious as to why you and the other Nohrian teachers were so adament that we not celebrate Exalt Day this year."

Miss Nyx almost choked on her coffee.

"Are you daft?! Of course celebrating Exalt Day with half a school's worth of Nohrians here wouldn't be a good idea! And it falls on Ben Day this year, too!"

"I'm afraid I don't understand. Could I trouble you and ask what you mean?"

"...only because it would be tandamount to suicide to not know, what with the current condition of our school."


 

Laslow paced around the empty classroom as he waited for his call to connect, anxiously checking the doors to see if his defenses were insufficient.

He had blocked off the doors with several desks and chairs before clearing his throat. Despite his anxious pacing just a second before, his voice was light and carefree as he greeted the caller.

"G'morning to you, Morgan, how's your school treating you?"

"Inigo, I know you're terrible with timezones, but it's evening," Morgan replied, trying to sound snarky but being much too happy for it. "But I've been well! Lucina and Brady, they're really fun to be around, and Gerome fixed my coat for me! Kjelle dropped by this week, too, even though she graduated a long time ago, she gave us all a huge hug!" A chuckle slipped through his lips. "But she did say it was for the training, so..."

"Ahahaha, maybe she's too embarrassed to admit her adoration of you little ones. She isn't the only cool beauty I know with that attitude."

"Little ones? Inigo, you're only a few years older than me."

"And what a difference those few years make, little buddy."

Morgan laughed.

"But... I was hoping for your help with something."

"Yeah?"

"I found one of Mother's old battle strategy journals. I tried to read it with my dad, but we can't read the language."

"You mean...?"

"I think it's written in Old Plegian," Morgan told him.

Laslow gulped.

"I-I wonder why your mother would write her journal in that language? Maybe it's a decoy, meant to give enemy intelligence agents the wrong idea if they got it?"

"Hmmm... I don't know my mother well enough to say whether that's the case or not, but this could be my chance to learn more about her!" Morgan exclaimed eagerly. "You've been studying in the Plegian side, er, I mean, Nohrian side, so could you help me?"

"I can, but..."

"But?"

That innocence made Laslow falter.

"Are you so sure you'll like what you find?"

"Huh? What do you mean? Why would I not like finding out more about my mother?"

"Look Morgan," Laslow took in a deep breath, steadying himself for what he was about to say. "You're attending a school in the heart of what used to be Ylisse. That's her territory. They adore her. Her birthday is a national holiday, the Exalt herself makes speeches about her greatness. But the further west you go, the further you go into what used to be Plegia, the more complicated it gets."

Laslow paused to breathe and swallow down his doubts about what he was about to ask.

"Are you willing to let go of the mother you idolized to learn what she was really like?"

It only took Morgan a second to answer.

"Of course."

"Then, I suppose I should tell you the full story of the war."


"Who are you mourning?" Benny asked slowly, sitting as far from Oboro as he could in the courtyard surrounding the memorial.

"Why do you want to know?" Oboro demanded.

Benny gulped, before holding out half the bouquet to her.

"I thought you would want to give them something too."

Oboro stared at him in silence once again. Just before he retracted his arm, Oboro took a single white rose from the offering.

"...thanks."

"No problem."

Just when Benny was about to accept that they would spend more time in awkward silence, Oboro spoke.

"My parents were killed by protesting Nohrians right after the war ended. They crossed over to our side of the city and smashed everything in their way, killing everyone they came across."

Benny made a slight hum at that, and Oboro kept talking.

"I've hated Nohrians ever since that day. I glare at people in your uniform in the hall, I get tense whenever a Nohrian is near me, I don't even bother hiding my hostility, and-"

"Yeah."

Oboro hissed in a breath of air.

"We learn that you guys are descended from insane cultists in class. I can't forget that bloodthirsty crowd that broke through our windows. We're told that you guys, you deserved what happened, but you're just sitting there and- and listening to me! You gave me flowers for my parents even though you don't even know me and I've thought of all of you as scum!"

"Yeah. I did."

"Why?!" Oboro demanded.

"...I guess it's because I've been taught by my dad to be kind," Benny answered her slowly. 

"Your... dad?" Oboro echoed.

Benny nodded.

"The flowers were for him."


"Your exalt, no offense, has committed too many crimes against us for any of us to be able to stomach the idea of playing along with a day that exists to idolize her," Miss Nyx told him.

Mr Yukimura nodded in a slight sort of confused acceptance as he sat down in the chair next to her. He would have told her that he wasn't taking any offense until he knew the full story, but she kept speaking before he could.

"Starting a war and killing our king because they heard he was an insane cultist, well, we could have been okay with that. They weren't wrong."

Mr Yukimura stiffled a snicker at that.

"Not being able to practice our religion? We could have accepted that, since, frankly, the only reason anyone even bothered was because it was the only one we were allowed to practice. But," and Miss Nyx paused, a sneer on her face and poison entering her tone. "Taking our language? Rolling over when Chon'sin took over and dragging us down with them? Encouraging crimes against us as punishment for what a mad king did? We cannot accept that."

She had her hands in fists so tight, her nails were digging into her palm.

"She might be nothing but a puppet for the Valmese Empire, but we hate her all the same." 


"I don't blame the Exalt for going mad with grief," Laslow said slowly. "The war started when she was fourteen. Barely a year older than you. Her friends and family were forced to become soldiers, and she joined the war effort too."

On the other end of the line, Morgan froze at the thought of children the same age as him and his friends being forced to take up arms. 

"Her sister, the Exalt-in-waiting at the time, was abducted and made to be assassinated to force the Ylissean troops to surrender. Instead, she jumped off that cliff willingly, right in front of her sister and the team meant to rescue her."

Laslow sighed.

"After that, it was two years of fighting, two years of almost dying in every battle. But, your mother's tactics were getting them closer and closer to victory. And then, in one last desperate attack, they killed the king, but at the cost of her brother's life... and your mother's."

"And then Chon'sin came, because they had been taken over by Valm," Morgan said hopelessly, already knowing the end of the story from his history class.

"Yes. The Exalt, barely two years older than you, was forced to wear a crown soaked with the blood of both her siblings, taken over by Chon'sin and Valm, and rules both her own people and the descendant of the Plegians. Is it any wonder that she hated the world?"

Morgan was silent.

"But, still... those on this side consider what she did next the absolute breaking point. It caused your mother's reputation to be stained just by being associated with her in the past."


"If you don't mind me asking... what is this 'Ben Day'?" Mr. Yukimura asked.

Miss Nyx went silent.

"I told you before that asking how long I had been teaching was a sore spot."

"You did," Mr Yukimura confirmed.

"Because... that damn Exalt..."


"Your mother is seen as an innocent scapegoat at best."


"Robin, the Genius Tactician, was born as part of King Validar's scheme to revive Grima."


"Because your mother was born, the Hoshidan half was afraid that another breeding program would begin if left unchecked." 


"Thanks to a bullshit excuse like that...!"


"Because of that fear..."


"They targeted the children."


"The Exalt gave the order to have every school on the Nohrian side shut down."


"They say that the powers above hijacked her order, making it an order to torch the schools to the ground. But ordering that, and pretending she was faultless in it is exactly the kind of cruel and cowardly tactic that woman would use!"


"She didn't want to kill them, of course. She just planned to shut down what she thought were schools corrupted by the Grimleal's influence."


"But, because she apparently did not want to do it, that bastard Excellus sent Chon'sin soldiers to do it for her."


"The Chon'sin soldiers brought their spouses and children, integrating with the former Ylissean people to become the Hoshidan people."


"It pisses me off just to think about it. Those damn bastards covered their ears and eyes when investigating the Nohrian schools, to say they had no sign of life in them when they torched the building, and now I have to work with their children?! I'm lucky Krakenberg survived, or else I might have cursed someone."


"Krakenberg only survived as long as it did because it's smack dab on the border between the Hoshidan half and the Nohrian half of the city, so the principal claimed that it wasn't on the Nohrian side."


"How it survived? Garon used a loophole, but it caused the Exalt to cut off all government funding to our school in response. Our headmaster had to pay for everything with his own money."


"It was severely understaffed, depended on donations and volunteers, and the rules were lax to the point that anyone could get out of class if they said they had to leave for a job..."


"That school was our children's only hope of education in this city. Is it really any wonder why we rioted?"


"My dad was a teacher," Benny told her. "He went down distracting fanatic Hoshidans so his students could run."

"...you mean, in the school attacks? The ones they conducted to root out all those who had been touched by the Grimleal?" Oboro asked pointedly.

"My father was a kindergarten teacher," Benny replied, hostility entering his tone for the first time in their conversation.

Oboro's face fell.

Benny moved to stand up.

"I'm... I'm sorry-"

"It's better if you stop assuming things about Nohrians and Hoshidans instead of trying to apologize," Benny told her in a clipped tone as he left.

Oboro sat there in silence for a while.


"So that's why you don't want to celebrate Exalt Day," Mr. Yukimura said with a frown. "I'll see what I can do."

"Huh?" Miss Nyx's eyes widened.

"I can't simply do nothing after hearing your story. I'll try to convince Sumeragi of your point of view." He shot her a wry smile. "And if that fails, I'll get his wife to do it."

Almost immediately, he remembered a conversation from a few years ago.

'I can't enroll her in one of your fancy schools!'

'If it's cost, Mikoto, please trust me! I know the headmaster, I can work something out!'

"...Thank you, Mr. Yukimura."

'She has nothing but the basics and an intimate knowledge of history and religion!'

'Then we can arrange for a tutor! All that matters is—'

'I can't, Yosuke! Do you honestly think she could survive in that school?!'

"Ah. Yeah, not a problem," Mr. Yukimura replied distractedly.

'She's nine years old and runs off to wander the city alone! Mikoto, do you think you can just let your daughter run around, doing whatever she wants?! She'll get kidnapped! She'll be dead in the street by next week if you don't get your act together! What are you going to do!?'

'I DON'T KNOW!' Mikoto screamed, tears running down her face. 'But I can't let her go there! You want me to send a girl with pointed ears, just like the dragons, to a school full of devout Naga worshippers?! At best, they'll idolize her and never let her grow up normally! Nowi never got to go to school because she was either kidnapped by cults or sent to the church for her own protection! At worst... at worst...! They'll think she's Robin's reincarnation, Grima and all!'

"Mr. Yukimura? You're acting strange—"

Mr. Yukimura remembered the end of that particular day.

'Mikoto—"

"She, she ran, she fought and struggled and—"

"Mikoto!

"Gods, I-I've failed her as a mother, no wonder she prefers Silas over me, no wonder—"

"MIKOTO!" He grabbed her wrist, forcing her to look at his face. 

She was sobbing. That wasn't why her hands were wet.

'Mikoto! Whose blood is on your hands?!'

Mikoto began to hyperventilate.

"Mr. Yukimura!"

He barely dodged the impending slap to the face Miss Nyx tried to give him.

"Wha—!?"

"You were acting like a man possessed, suddenly going so pale and mumbling something about blood!" She yelled. "What's gotten into you all of a sudden?!"

Mr.  Yukimura paused, before doing the only thing he could in such a situation.

He smiled and laughed.

"Am I to believe that you're concerned about me? What a shock!"

"Yes, I am capable of being concerned about you. I apologize for the shock," Miss Nyx retorted flatly.

Mr. Yukimura's smile froze on his face, though it was hard to tell the difference between his stunned smile and his normal smile.

"It's nothing but an old memory," he told her. "More importantly, shall we convince the school board to spread the knowledge of Ben Day?"

Miss Nyx glared at him.

"I am fully aware that you are trying to change the subject. The only reason I'm going along with it is because Benjamin Benoit Sr's legacy deserves to be preserved."

"I expected nothing less from you."

If Mr. Yukimura's smile was filled with more respect than usual, Miss Nyx didn't notice it.


"So... my mother died killing her insane cultist dad and stopping a weird plot to destroy the world, but immediately after her death, everyone was taken over and her country's people have very, very mixed feelings towards her as a result," Morgan summarized. "At best, she's an innocent scapegoat whose birth and very existence was used to justify a war. At worst, she's a traitor to her people."

"Yes, essentially," Laslow said, noticing that a very annoyed teacher was banging on the door and demanding he open up. "So, stew on it a while. If you still want to know about your mother, even knowing all this, I'll be there for you."

"...alright. Thank you, Inigo."

"It's only natural, right, little buddy?"

Morgan laughed.

"Maybe. I'll see you later, have fun at school."

"Yeah, don't cause too much trouble for my mom, alright?"

"Which one, Inigo?"

"You know what, I'll be safe and say both of them."

"Haha, I promise not to cause too much trouble."

They ended the conversation, and Laslow took apart the barricade.

"Alright, I know this looks bad," he started off, "but I had a good reason for locking myself in here!"

"I would just love to hear it, Laslow," Mr. Gunter stated.

Laslow gulped.


Oboro was hiding behind the memorial shrine. She was crouching down awkwardly, her leg bent at an odd angle in her haste to conceal herself.

She had a good reason to, of course.

She heard approaching footsteps, and a simple question.

"You sure this place is safe?"

Oboro knew that voice. Even if her voice wasn't as bombtastic as when she was announcing, she still had the same voice.

"Yeah, I do. Oboro's the only one who visits this place regularly, and she's always gone by now."

Oboro paled at that voice.

"But still, you can't talk to me at school! You almost blew my cover and ruined my mission! Camilla's the only reason more people aren't on my back for this!"

"Sorry, sorry, it's just... this is the only time I can see you, Sevvy. I know you have a good reason but... I miss you, y'know? Mom does too, and Dad wants you to visit every once in a while."

"I need to place my mission above all else."

"I know that. I know it's important, I know that you're protecting the heir to the—"

"Keep your voice down! The walls have ears in this kind of school!"

"I'm sorry. Super sorry."

"Look. I'm only saying this because I haven't seen you guys in a while, and it's messing with my brain."

A pause.

"...I miss you too. I'm sorry I can't visit more often."

"Sevvy..."

"When this is all over, I'll buy you something nice, okay? There are stores in the Nohrian side that might have things you'll like. I'll—"

"Don't worry about it! I'll be fine, I just want my big sister to come home safe, y'hear?"

"Heh."

"Finish what you have to do. You'll get lectured to death if you half-ass it!"

"Urgh, don't remind me! Just when I thought I was free of Mom's long-winded speeches...!"

Hinata laughed, and Selena trapped him in a headlock in response.

Oboro, watching them from behind the monument, could only think of what that tall Nohrian told her.

What was she... supposed to do now?

Chapter Text

'Lord Excellus,

Continuing from our prior conversation regarding the various groups scattered throughout the Nohrian terrain, here are the findings agreed upon by myself and my advisors. Please, if you've any objection, tell me at once.

The Fire Tribe is an invaluable ally. We must welcome them into our territory at once and prompt them to loyally serve us. Their might shall serve our cause well. 

It is a shame the Wind Tribe's villages were destroyed in the war. Their unique perspective allows them a certain philosophical ingenuity that would amaze our scholars. Should we find any survivors, we shall welcome them into our territory and grant them refuge.

As tribute to a loyal soldier in the war, we wish to invite the Beastclans to join our Emperor's cause, as their strength would be welcome and their extinction would be a waste. We have predicted that this would require naught but a few soldiers, as only the Wolf and Fox tribes have displayed any sort of resistance to the idea.

However, if there is any one group that could ever potentially pose a threat to our cause, it would be the Ice Tribe. 

We understand that the Empire worships the Fated Pairing, the first rulers of Valentia, and so, their religious affiliation differs from the terrain of Hoshido. We take the time to humbly thank Lord Excellus once again for convincing Emperor Walhart to allow this pitiful nation to continue to worship the Divine Dragons.

However, because of our loyalty to the Church of Naga, the Ice Tribe could become a threat.

I dare not presume that Lord Excellus would ever lower himself to learn the details of so barbaric and disgusting a race, and so, I provide a short explanation.

The Church of Naga posits that, upon the final triumph of Her Holiness, Naga looked upon the world and saw that Her grace was not needed for the time being. In preparation for an event said to bring the world to the brink of destruction, Naga had Her kind and Her magic sealed away behind the Dragon's Gate. 

Worshippers of the Divine Dragons see this as a sad, yet necessary act. And so, they worship any child born with the characteristics of the dragons, seeing it as a blessing bestowed upon us by Her hand.

The Ice Tribe, however, despises Her and all She does, spreading lies and slander about Her to justify their hatred.

They see the Divine Dragons as the root of all evil in this world, the cause of all trials humanity must face. They believe that Naga's request for heroes to combat the evil of dark dragons caused nothing but unnecessary deaths, and worship Nils, the ice dragon who created the seal upon the Dragon's Gate, for they see the suppression of Naga's powers as an act of good. 

If there were ever a group that could become the next Grimleal, it would be the Ice Tribe.'


 

"Aaaaaaaaand done," Lissa said, exhaustion in her voice. She was trying to sound upbeat, but... it wasn't working. "Damn you, Excellus, and the fact that you make me look up so many big words."

"A cup of tea, milady?" Frederick offered, already holding a cup and a teapot.

"No. I'm just going to go to bed for now. Seal the letter for me and send it off," Lissa ordered.

"Of course, milady." Frederick bowed as she exited the room.

A typical servant would have never read the letter's contents, or take any action aside from that which was demanded of him.

In this case, however, Frederick was not a typical servant.

After sealing and sending off the letter, he told his friend to meet him at the nearest hotel, citing that he had a long day of work.

"Hey, Freddybear, miss me much?" Gaius greeted him with a smile, his everpresent lollipop held in his lips.

"Of course," he said, pecking Gaius on the cheek.

"Woah, woah, woah there, save it till we're inside! Aren't you the one who said no one can know?!"

"I apologize," Frederick stated, his face going as blank as a slate. "I will refrain from showing such affection in public."

"Hey now, I didn't tell you to get all serious on me here. I just told you to be patient. Geez, you knights and your seriousness..."

Gaius all but dragged him into the hotel room, pressing their lips together eagerly.

If there were cameras in their room, mics in the pillows, they would have witnessed nothing except two lovers in passion's embrace.

They wouldn't have noticed how Frederick slipped a paper into Gaius' pocket, or how Gaius' smile turned a bit more knowing at that.

Anyone who bugged their calls wouldn't have noticed that "a long day at work" was not a code for meeting up and trying to hide their illicit relationship. The idea of blackmailing the Exalt's most loyal knight with his relationship with a petty thief was far too exciting for them to notice what was hidden just below the surface.

When Gaius was hidden away from sight, taking up residence in Anna's shop, he opened the folded paper and read it.

'Kilma has a month or two at most. His people are going to be forced to convert. Help as many of them escape that fate as possible.'

"Crêpes, how do you keep getting me into these kinds of things..."

"What kind of things, Uncle Gaius?" A young boy, no older than ten, poked his head into the room curiously.

Gaius grinned at the sight of Olivia's son. While he slept on their floor for convenience most of the time, he had managed to get the little scrap attached to him somehow.

"Nothing much, just ol' Freddy asking for some more quality time with Uncle Sweets here. Now, why don't you run along and see if your mom'll mind if I nab some of her sweets?"

"Mom says no eating the merchandise," Inigo replied immediately.

"What about Olivia?"

"She made some pie for us, but she said not to eat it in the living room."

"If she says something like that, we just have to," Gaius told him with a smirk. "Go ahead and grab it, I'll be waiting here for you."

At Inigo's hesitant look, Gaius promised that neither of his mothers would ever catch wind of what they did. And then he had to promise that it certainly, definitely, totally would not happen, in that order.

But, well, Inigo agreed eventually.

And if Gaius tossed the note in the fireplace before he got back, well, no one had to know.

Chapter Text

(11 - The end result)

"What is it with you and pinning me to walls?!" Oboro demanded impatiently, as Selena held her arms behind her back and shoved Oboro's face into the storage room wall.

"Shut up, didn't you learn from yesterday to keep your mouth shut?!"

"Like I can do that when you're doing this to me!"

"Urgh! Stop being a pain and hear me out!"

"Oh, yeah, like you can ask me to hear you out!"

"It's about Hinata," Selena stated through gritted teeth. "I don't care what you think of me. I don't care if you keep on hating Nohrians. I don't care if you try to kill me, for hell's sake. But for the sake of everything that's good and just in the world, don't hurt Hinata."

"...huh?" Oboro replied eloquently.

"I'm the rotten one in our entire family. He's an airhead who couldn't do anything wrong if his life depended on it. Hate me all you want, but if you do anything to him, I will murder you," Selena promised with a voice dripping with poison, though it got gentler as she added,

"...don't hate him just because he had the misfortune of getting someone like me as an older sister."

'Is she... just playing the bad guy so I don't hate him...?' Oboro wondered.

"Okay," she found herself answering.

If Oboro had turned around sooner, she would have seen the slightest hint of a smile on Selena's face as she let the younger girl go.

"Good."


 

(10 - A few minutes before that)

"I didn't notice any suspicious behaviour," Camilla told Charlotte. "Even when they were surrounded by people of the opposite school, they did nothing out of the ordinary."

"Is that so?"

"Yes. I'm afraid that's all I have to report, darling."

"Thanks for the info, Camilla. You're really superb."

Camilla thanked Charlotte for the praise, before returning to her locker.

On the way there, she saw Flora following that Carl guy Hinata kept talking about. Flora was hiding behind Benny, peeking out every so often and moving when Carl did.

Camilla thought it was adorable, and added it to her list of missions in life.


(9 - The afternoon a day ago)

Garon kicked his front door down with an axe. Arthur hid under the table, because he had already suffered enough. Mozu flinched, but then Effie made her move in Panoply and she found herself continuing the game. Without Arthur, though, since Azura took over his spot. Xander just kept working, and Flora and Felicia barely looked up and said hi to Garon before going back to helping Xander with student council work. Beruka didn't even bother reacting.

"WHO IS ROMANTICALLY PURSUING MY CHILDREN?!" He demanded.

Azura reacted first. Barely.

"Welcome home dad, don't make a mess or mom will get mad."

She set down two (fake) 10000 G bills, and Mozu screamed as Azura took her hotels.

"Welcome home, father! I hope you had a great day!" Camilla answered.

"The redheads are trying to get alone with your kids," Corrin told him as she poured herself a glass of tap water. "They already lured Leo and Elise into their rooms, alone."

Garon's angry stomping could be heard throughout the house.

Granted, yeah, it was a small house with three bedrooms, but also, Garon was a man with very strong legs. And arms. And an axe.

The conversation that happened was about the same for both Hinoka and Sakura.

It went a little something like this.

Garon: What are your intentions with my child?!
Either one: WHY DO YOU HAVE AN AXE?!
Garon: Answer me!
Either one: OKAY OKAY I WANT TO DATE HER—
Garon: WHAT—
Either one: I-I mean, no, I don't, I don't like her, I mean, who has heard of her, gosh—
Garon: HOW DARE YOU HATE ONE OF MY CHILDREN THEY'RE ALL AMAZING. 
Garon: But... sometimes in romance stories, the main couple is made from people who hate each other!
Garon: SO YOU ARE STILL A THREAT TO MY CHILD'S CHASTITY.
Either one: Screaming.
Garon: OUT. OUT OUT OUT. DO NOT APPROACH MY CHILDREN UNLESS YOU HAVE A RING. OUT.

And so, Sakura and Hinoka were kicked out of the house before they even made the slightest amount of progress with Camilla.

And that was the precise moment Selena and Oboro walked in, a weird air between them, and slightly abused bag of groceries in Oboro's hand.

Garon, who had returned to the entrance to try to return his axe to its rightful place (the kitchen), paused at the sight of yet another redhead.

"Selena! I thought better of you than trying to seduce one of my children!"

"Uh, what?" was her only reaction.

"...okay, so. So Nohrians are just always armed," Oboro said blandly.

"Shut up, you!"

"Don't tell me to shut up, you insane harpy!"

"Insane harpy?! Coming from the idiot with no self-preservation and a—"

"Enough!" Garon smashed the end of his axe into the floor, almost cracking the poor, delicate surface. And then he pointed his axe at Oboro, who grimaced. "She is my child." He pointed the axe at Selena next. "You have been trying to seduce her."

"...come again?" Oboro replied.

"You can't adopt a kid you don't even know!" Azura screamed from the living room. 

"Okay but she has not been trying to seduce me! More like the opposite! And there's no way th—"

Oboro did not realize that her words were taken as 'I have been trying to seduce her' by everyone listening (which was everyone) instead of what she actually meant. And so, she was completely shocked when Garon just walked away.

He walked away to put the axe down somewhere his children and their friends wouldn't get hurt by falling on it, so he could hug Oboro with both arms. Oboro, who was no longer used to receiving affection from actual parental figures, had no idea how to react.

"You have grown so much, learning your heart's desires and pursuing them so intently! I have never been prouder of you!"

"BECAUSE YOU NEVER MET HER BEFORE, YOU LUGHEAD!" Azura screamed once again.

Oboro was still baffled. 

If she knew what they thought, she would be even more confused, since why would she be hitting on the girl who tried to kill her?


(8 - Where Selena and Oboro were before walking in)

"What," Selena said impatiently, glaring at Oboro.

They were walking back to Camilla's house together, having bought various snacks from the nearest convenience store. Thankfully, no one targeted them for robbery.

Oboro gathered up her courage and leaned in, whispering, "I overheard your conversation with Hinata yesterday, and I—"

Selena immediately shushed her.

"Let's talk about it someplace quieter, alright?"

Oboro followed behind the older girl as she walked into an alleyway, anxiously twisting the straps of her shopping bag.

"So, I wanted to— Argh!"

Oboro made a groan of pain as Selena turned her around and shoved her to the wall. With all the expertise of someone experienced in takedown maneuvers, she pinned Oboro to the wall with her forearm, forcing Oboro's back to the wall. As if the pressure across her shoulders wasn't enough, Selena pulled out a switchblade and pointed it at Oboro's neck.

"You should be more careful," Selena told her, an undercurrent of mockery in her voice, "This side of town is very dangerous. The police are understaffed, so they can't investigate every single disappearance, right? It would be a shame if a Hoshidan got her pretty little neck slit because she couldn't keep her mouth shut."

"Wait! I-I didn't, I'm not going to tell! Get off me!"

"Keep your voice down," Selena ordered, inching her forearm closer to Oboro's sensitive, delicate throat. "Or you might attract the attention of some unsavoury people. Wouldn't want that, right?"

"You're unsavoury enough!" Oboro blurted out.

"Excuse me?!"

And then Oboro realized that, well.

She had made a very dangerous girl very, very, very angry.

It wasn't Selena.

"You're an idiot! If you had just heard me out, then we could have avoided all this! I was going to tell you, no, I already told you! I'm not going to tell anyone! We could have left it at that, but noooooooo! You just had to play the violent Nohrian thug and pull out a knife!"

Selena almost looked stunned by this.

"Get off of me, scum," Oboro ordered. "You have my word that I won't tell a soul. And if that's not enough, well, I like Hinata enough to not want his reputation damaged by everyone knowing he's related to a brainless ruffian like you!"

"Are you an idiot or what, yelling at the girl who's got a knife to your throat?!"

"Did you expect me to just bow down and follow your demands without a single protest?!"

"What the hell's going on in here?!" A male voice demanded.

Oboro and Selena turned to the end of the alleyway, where Odin was standing with a plastic grocery bag in his hand.

"Selena of the Moon, what lunacy hath taken you?! Why does your heroic blade now point at an innocent?!"

"Odin, now is not the time," Selena urged him.

"Nonsense! Let her down, you've already attracted peering eyes and odd ears from your yelling!"

"Odin, she knows about—"

"I don't care," Odin stated, dropping all his dramatics and grandiose tones. "Put the knife away, let her down. Now."

"...is that an order?" Selena asked, feeling obliged to add a 'sir', though she didn't.

"Yes. It is."

And so, Selena let Oboro down.

"T-thanks," she managed to tell Odin. "I guess."

"Of course! A dashing hero always knows when there's someone in need!"

'Yeah right, I can see the grocery bag!' Oboro thought.


(7 - Why they were getting groceries in the first place)

They sat on the living room floor in a circle, trying to pretend they were actually doing the thing they said they were there to do. They weren't. Sakura, Camilla, and Hinoka were trying to get Selena and Oboro alone together, but Selena found their attempts weird and off-putting. Oboro just groaned at their un-subtlety. And Beruka had no idea what was going on, but just calmly let it happen.

Not that they actually managed to succeed in getting anywhere or anything. Everyone else was interrupting everything.

Leo and Corrin had burst into the living room to serve them refreshments four times, even though Corrin didn't live there. Elise's game of Panoply ended with Arthur accidentally pissing off Azura again and triggering a lecture that resonated throughout the house, Mozu seemed to ask Camilla where to find the bathroom and the kitchen five times a minute, and then Effie accidentally flicked Arthur's face too hard as punishment for losing a game, which caused him to fly through the air and destroy their supply of sweets.

(During all this, Felicia and Flora helped Xander with his work peacefully and without destroying anything.)

It was borderline impossible for a conversation to start, let alone for someone to nudge it in the direction they wanted it to. 

Which made Camilla sad. And her missions were going so well, too...

Obviously, Hinoka and Sakura could not let this be, and so—

"The snacks are ruined! Totally ruined!"

"I can't exist without my soft drinks!"

"YOU TWO, BUY SOME MORE!"

And so they shoved Selena and Oboro together. Camilla was delighted. They loved seeing Camilla delighted.

Of course, that didn't last long, since, the moment Oboro and Selena begrudgingly left together, Elise grabbed Sakura and Leo grabbed Hinoka.

"Sakura, we're friends so come on! I need your help with some love matters!" Elise declared as she dragged Sakura away.

"Hinoka, I wanted to ask your opinion on something! But it's embarrassing, so let's discuss this elsewhere!"

"W-w-w-w-what?! But, but, but I—!"

"Hold on, hold on, what?! I didn't—!

"My, I'm so glad they're making friends!" Camilla exclaimd cheerfully.

"...okay," was Beruka's only reaction as the two were dragged away.


(6 - How they got to the Ryder family's house )

"Holy shit!" Hinoka screamed.

She had been prepared to carry Sakura away from danger when they were first approached by the muggers.

She had not been prepared for Camilla hitting the muggers with an axe Beruka pulled out of her schoolbag, or Selena pulling out a sword from a scabbard hidden under her uniform, or Beruka pulling out a collection of knives from her jacket.

"Do you just... always carry that on you?" Oboro asked hesitantly, looking at Camilla. "Like, at school?"

"Well, it's better to be armed at school than to be unarmed going home," Camilla replied. "Don't worry, this one is a fake replica." A bright smile came on her face as she hefted it over her shoulder. "Alright ladies, let's keep moving!"

Oboro suddenly had many, many more doubts about everything.


(5 - How Mozu got there)

"Gurhgh flaphabme?!"

Elise glanced at Hayato, who retorted with, "shut up, she's doing her best."

"I didn't say anything."

"Still. Anyways, ahem... 'YA WANT ME TO WHAT?!' is what she's saying," Hayato translated.

"Come over to my house," Elise repeated.

"She's kinda screaming internally right now," Hayato informed her. "So, how come you want her to come?"

"Camilla is inviting lots of strangers to her room and it's gonna be awkward so I want a friend there with me."

"Alright, Mozu can probably handle it." He looked at his childhood friend, and with the cool, frigid exterior of a million blazing suns, he urged her on with nothing more than a single glare. "Alone." 

"Actually, I already invited Arthur and Effie, too," Elise told him.

"Yeah, alright, but Mozu gets what she should do, isn't that right, Mozu?" He nudged her. If un-subtlety could be used as a power source, he would have been capable of powering an entire city.

"Ehem. Mhrpmmph. Schrmmrp."

"Yeah, that's a yes."

"You know what, why don't you just come along too, Hayato, the more the merrier, right—"

"Can't, my house is pregnant."

Elise immediately cracked up.

"You couldn't find a better excuse?!" She demanded, almost cackling her butt off.

"S-shut up! I was put on the spot! I'd like to see you come up with better!" Hayato retorted, blushing.

"Can't go, my dad asked me to do chores, can't go, I have extra classes after school since I failed a test, sorry, I can't go, my sister's bachelorette party is today," Elise listed off with a smirk.

"Well then, I can't go because my sister's bachelorette party is today."

"Wow."

"Hayato, you don't even have a sister."

"I have you."

"Wow," was Mozu's only reaction.

"What, am I supposed to be crushing on you or something? Conceal my feelings for you for years because it would ruin our friendship? Because that's pretty much the only way childhood friends seem to work in romance stories."

An odd sound left Mozu's mouth at that.

"You read romance stories?!" Elise asked excitedly. "I'm officially recruiting you into the romance story book club, population; me and Leo!"

"Do I get a say in this?!"

"Are you going to say no?!"

"I-I, I mean, I wasn't, but only because you asked me to! It's not like I want to!"

"Liar! Liar, liar, liar!"

"Hey!"

Mozu watched them interact energetically, and wondered which one she was more jealous of; Hayato or Elise.

(They were all unaware that Camilla had seen this.)

(She had made it her secondary mission to get them together.) 


(4 - Before that, friendly concern from Charlotte)

"Heard you invited some people on the other side to your place," Charlotte noted, hands in her vest's pockets as she walked up to Camilla.

"What of it?" Camilla asked, shutting her locker and making her way to the Tea Ceremony Club room.

"I want you to be careful. Benny had a run-in with a really hostile girl yesterday, and I don't want anything to happen to anyone. Flora and Felicia are heading over later to drop off some papers Xander will 'accidentally forget'."

"You sent them to...? You don't need to worry for my safety, Charlotte. I'll be fine," Camilla promised.

"I know that. Just... tell me if they act weird or anything, okay? Better to be safe than sorry."

An odd look entered Camilla's eye at that, and she nodded.


(3 - How Sakura and Hinoka got there)

"You're what," Hinoka said flatly.

"Inviting you and Sakura over to my house to study," Camilla replied with a smile.

Hinoka flinched so badly, she tripped over her own feet and almost smashed her face into the floor. The only reason she didn't was because Camilla caught her. Predictably, this made nothing better and everything worse.

"B-but, uh, we're in different years...?" Sakura pointed out hesitantly, hoping she wasn't ruining her Naga-sent chance with that comment,

"I'm aware," Camilla told them. "Truth be told, I simply want to give Hinata's friend, Oboro, a chance to speak with my friend, Selena. I think they would get along well, and Oboro was interested in the plan! The only problem is, well, she would be uncomfortable with so many strangers around, and so I wanted to ask if you could help..."

"Yeah, of course!" Hinoka jumped at the chance.

"We'll totally help them talk! No matter what it takes!"

Camilla giggled, before ruffling both of their heads.

"Thank you, darlings, you're such sweethearts! I'm so grateful for your help!"

Sakura and Hinoka swore to do whatever it took to get those two alone together. It was purely out of a selfless desire to make Camilla happy and not anything weird shut up.


(2 - How Oboro got there)

Oboro was pretty sure of one thing: Hinata [CENSORED] did not know.

He acted completely normal. He didn't even seem to notice anything was off, even with the way Oboro looked at him and tried to hide it. His only concern was that Carl was majorly out of it, to the point that he had accidentally tried to take a seat in one of the Krakenberg classrooms.

"Carl, you have Math with Ms. Yuugiri today," a blonde with a headband told the glasses-wearing boy.

"Oh, hey Leo! How's it going?" Hinata asked cheerfully.

"Do something interesting while I was sick?" Carl added.

Oboro felt very, very awkward as they spoke. 

She knew that Hinata was probably nicer to Nohrians because his sister was one, but... Carl? As far as she knew, Carl never met this guy. How were they able to strike up a friendship so easily?

That large boy's words floated around her skull once again.

If... if Hinata and Carl could both get along with Nohrians, then surely, there had to be some good Nohrians, right? 

Oboro couldn't handle looking at their interactions anymore, so she turned her head away. That's when she spotted them.

"Lady Camilla, all I'm saying is that letting Beruka wrestle someone to the ground can improve your life in a myriad of ways."

"You're better at fighting, Selena. You'll be best for the role."

"No way! If anyone's better, it's you!"

"Now, now, darlings~"

Oboro felt her breath hitch at the sight of those long red ponytails.

"Oboro? You feeling alright?" Hinata asked.

Oboro tried to say "yeah, I'm fine" and "don't worry about me" at the same time.

She wound up saying, "I'm worry about me."

Carl and that blonde guy followed her line of sight.

('ANOTHER person after my sister?!' Leo thought, just as Corrin wailed internally.)

"Oh, my GOSH!" Carl screamed loudly, drawing the eyes of everyone in the hallway. "You have a crush on HER?!"

"I didn't say that!" Oboro protested.

"You were saying it with your eyes! They were saying 'heart heart, throb throb'!" 

"You need glasses!"

"Yeah, that's why I'm wearing them!"

Hinata and the blonde guy both had to stiffle a laugh by pretending to cough.

"Huh? What's going on here, dears?"

The purple-haired girl walked over. The red-haired girl and the blue-haired girl trailed after her like a pair of bodyguards.

"Oboro can explain it," Carl said with a huge grin.

"This idiot is being weird and saying that I have a crush on you! I don't! I was just staring at her—" 

Oboro had pointed at the redhead in her haste to explain herself. She didn't realize that this was very much a mistake.

Because, well, since the prior topic of conversation was a crush, and then Oboro said that...

Camilla basically made it her mission in life to get them together.


(1 - Before all that, friendly concern for Charlotte)

[so... yeah. thats my situation.]

[Are you a fool?] 

[EXCUSE ME?! YOU ASKED ME WHAT WAS ON MY MIND AND I TOLD YOU AND YOU CALL ME AN IDIOT?!]

[I didn't. I just expressed doubt in your capacity to think.]

[RUDE.]

[I wouldn't say it if I didn't have my reasons.]

[THEN LEMME HEAR EM, BITCH.]

[You are far too trusting.

You stop suspecting Corrin because you feel bad for her and she told you she couldn't have done it. You have no proof backing her up. 

On top of that, you told details of this investigation to someone whose name you don't know and whom you only know through email conversations. What would you do if I turned out to be the person you were searching for?

And, not only that, you didn't notice a glaring flaw in your hypothesis.

Multiple people could have been working together for this. 

All it takes is one Nohrian and one Hoshidan who have connections to each other. They would both know their own languages and have ties to people on their own sides.

The only odd thing is that the Nohrian part of this scheme seems to have an intimate knowledge of your group.

Watch your back carefully.]

[the hell are you trying to say?!

that theres a traitor in the wolf pack?!]

[It's possible.]

[theres no fucking way! no one in our group would do that!]

[Again, you're too trusting.

But, if it's true that there's no traitor in your midst, then it wouldn't hurt to check.]

Charlotte huffed as she read that message, a slight scowl on her face. Wouldn't hurt to check, huh? Wouldn't hurt to doubt her friends, huh?!

But she found herself going to the photos of the class list anyways, found herself scanning her class' list.

(She felt a bit guilty about it. It was practically an unspoken rule in their school that no one could pry into anyone else's information. If they didn't tell you, you couldn't ask, since there were some things that you just don't tell people. Sometimes last names were one of those things.)

Benjamin Benoit Jr. Corrin Byakuya.Charlotte Greenfield.

Her eyes almost glazed over as she scanned it. The names were exactly what she expected. Silas McMaster-Knightley, Leo Ryder, Niles [Zero Last Name Available], Keaton didn't have a last name either, Odin's last name was so ridiculous she bet it was made up, no one would ever name their kid 'Odin Dark Falchion'... 

And then she froze. Reread the last two entries a few times, to make sure it was real.

The letters didn't change.

Staring her in the face were the words,

Felicia Tsukuyomi.

Flora Tsukuyomi. 

'What... what the hell?'

Chapter Text

"You threatened someone with a knife?" Laslow repeated in disbelief.

"Hey, she eavesdropped on my conversation with Hinata!" Selena exclaimed defensively.

"There's no need for the knife!" Laslow exclaimed. "And she might have figured out about Owain, too!"

"Nah, she's not that smart."

"Treat this seriously, would you?! This is our Crown Prince's safety we're talking about here!" Laslow declared. "If people find out, we'll have to deal with more assassins, more kidnappers, and more suck-ups! Not to mention how much chaos it would cause on the Krakenberg side!"

"I am treating this seriously. All she could tell from our interactions was that Odin, the crazy weird dramatic guy, could order me to stop. That could mean anything."

"It's still skirting the line!"

"I don't want to hear it from you when you're the one drinking tea inside the club room with him when I'm always standing guard outside!"

"Chaos can break out inside too! Peri tends to happen a lot!"

"You two need to quiet down more," Odin told them, lying down on his bed and flipping through a comic book. The two bodyguards paused at his words,  "I get where Inigo's coming from, you're being really reckless, Severa, but isn't it a bit much to assume my cover is blown because of one slip-up? We need to observe a bit more before coming to conclusions."

The pair huffed, feeling an odd mix of pride and shame for being simultaneously validated and chastised.

"Not that it would matter much if our cover was blown."

The two reacted in unison.

"Owain, what are you saying?!"

"Your highness, you're kidding, right?!"

"If your cover is blown now, then what was the entire point of setting up fake identities and living in Nohr?!"

"We followed you to Krakenberg for your own protection! There's no way we can let your identity slip!"

"Weren't you the one who insisted on going to Krakenberg?! What happened to you 'needing to avoid Shisaragi at all costs'?!"

"I'm not going to suddenly reveal myself to the entire school," Odin retorted, flipping another page. "I just think that we've established enough of a rapport with the other students that it wouldn't matter."

"With all due respect, it isn't as simple as that," Laslow tried to appeal to his sense of logic. "The school is still in flux. There's no stability between the two halves, hell, they might still be at war right now. Imagine that, suddenly, it's revealed that you're the son of the Exalt that Nohrians hate so much. Wouldn't that just contribute to the calamity?"

"It would, but you could start the mission over with my sister," Odin pointed out.

"Don't force your sister to pick up the pieces of a mess you made!" Selena scolded him. 

"Milord, please stop acting as if you're expendable. We came here for you. Because you didn't want to go to a school that would care only for your status, and because you needed to learn more about the country you would be leading in the future. So, please remember that it wouldn't be the same without you."

Odin felt himelf smile a little at that.

"Alright. Then we should probably talk about how to handle Hinata's friend in the future."

"Yes, sir," the two answered in unison.


 

"So," Charlotte started off, sitting on a desk in the empty classroom. "Were you ever going to tell us about Tsukuyomi?"

Flora and Felicia paused.

"I don't know who you're talking about," Flora told her.

"One of the guys from the email, duh!" Felicia groaned, rolling her eyes behind her sunglasses.

"Huh. That's funny. I thought there were three of them." Charlotte's eyes seemed to go ice-cold in that moment. "How did you know that I wasn't referring to one of you?"

Their expressions didn't change and they didn't speak, so Charlotte went on.

"So, what, you just weren't going to tell us that your... what was it, little brother or something, was involved in this?"

"We're not related to him," Flora stated.

"Class records say otherwise."

"What's the point of this?" Felicia demanded. "Okay. We hid this from you. We didn't lie, but we hid it from you. What now, are we gonna cry out of guilt for doing that to our best friend or something?"

"No. You're going to tell me why you're trying to hide this," Charlotte told the two. "Look, I'm not trying to guilt you. I'm not trying to be mad. Everyone has their secrets, but for the love of Shanty Pete, why would you hide this when his number and contact info got spread to a group of strangers?"

Flora and Felicia actually looked surprised at that.

"What?! You think I was gonna threaten him or something?! I was asking because I'm worried that someone's targeting him and the others in the list for some reason! And maybe it's all a plan to make us ruin those guys and then our deeds will be exposed to the school to ruin the Krakenberg side and—"

"Wait, you didn't drag us here to accuse us of masterminding this?" Felicia asked in stunned disbelief.

"...was I supposed to?"

"Oh come on! With the dark atmosphere, shady expression on your face, and all, were we supposed to think otherwi—?!"

"Felicia, shut up," Flora told her sister, before turning to Charlotte. "We had nothing to do with this. We just didn't want to tell you because we wanted to protect him."

"Our code of honour won't allow us to not protect him," Felicia added. 

Flora sighed and Felicia's mouth tugged a bit at the corners at that.

"There's a story here," Charlotte noted. "You don't have to tell me. I already pried enough into your business. But if you need some ears, I'm right here."

The twins exchanged a glance, communicating through it the way only long-time siblings could.

"We'll tell you," Felicia decided.

"Since we didn't trust you to not... you know, tie him up and question him about his involvement."

"What kind of person do you think I am," Charlotte demanded flatly.

The twins only laughed in response.

"You can't tell anyone else, okay?"

"About your story?"

"No."

Flora's eyes seemed brutally cold as she stared into Charlotte's.

"That we're from the Ice Tribe."


Six years ago


Standing before a courtroom of Hoshidans, Chieftain Kilma addressed his people for the last time.

"I stand here, accused of discrimination against the Naga worshippers. How ironic. Sent off to die in this foreign land, because they say I hate the ones casting stones at me because of their hatred! We have never hated those who worship Naga. It is their own foolishness and blind devotion that causes them to lash out!"

The crowd, made up of the people of the Ice Tribe, the Ylisseans who feared what the Ice Tribe could become, and the Chon'sinese, began to scream. 

The Ice Tribe cried out for their leader, mournful and angry. The Hoshidans called for him to be locked away.

"Nils' blessing is still upon us! The dragon of ice who has sealed away their goddess will never abandon us! Keep that in your hearts! They may beat us, they may kill us and destroy our home, but they will never kill our beliefs, our legacy!"

The guards rushed to subdue the members of the Ice Tribe, two grabbing at Kilma on the stand.

"Until the day we can be proud of our heritage again! We will meet again!"

His eyes searched the crowd for two children, two girls with blue and pink hair.

"My children... Be strong, be wise!"

The bailiffs took Flora and Felicia away, and that was the last they ever saw of their father.

They were brought to an institution. An entire village's worth of people, living together in a single building no larger than your average walk-in clinic.

There was never enough food. Never enough water to take care of all of them. Never enough beds, never enough medicine, never enough supplies to live off of... The rooms smelled of rot, rust, and decay, and they were never allowed to pray. If they did, then what little food they managed to grab from the understaffed cafeteria was taken away.

It was insufferable.

The walls shook with the sobs of children and babies who could not understand why they were separated from their homes. Their parents tried to quiet them, but they often cried as well. Attempts at escape were made daily, accomplishing nothing but another drop in medical supplies. 

They were rotting and dying.

One ill man caused twenty more to fall sick. There wasn't enough medical supplies to help them. The guards would not answer their pleas for aide.

And then, one day, the door opened.

The people in that building, so broken by despair, did not look up at the light entering the room. They thought it was the guards, there to beat them and belittle them. 

In the silence, Flora and Felicia held hands and tried not to cry.

Instead of the guards' brash voices, they heard someone else.

"Oi, you gonna escape or what? I didn't spend all that time picking the lock for nothin', you know."

An orange-haired man with a lollipop in his mouth addressed them all casually, and the people of the Ice Tribe allowed themselves to feel some level of hope.

"There's been a bureaucratic error," he told them. "The guards on the last shift forgot to lock the doors, and the guards on this shift are showing up a few... hours late. In the unlikely case that you'd want to escape, I'd say you'd have about... two hours to run and hide away. Of course, the Nohrian side of town is forty minutes away on foot, and everyone knows how much the police hate looking there..."

He didn't manage to finish his sentence before the crowd rushed out, pushing and crowding on their way to the outside. The only ones left were the people who were beyond saving, and...

"T-t-thank you, sir!" Felicia cried out, clinging to his leg as she sobbed.

"Felicia! We have to run too!" Flora scolded her. "But... thank you."

The man's response was to crouch down and ruffle both of their heads.

"Not a problem, kids. It's a piece of cake for a guy like me. Now, how about you quit crying and have a sucker? Tykes like you need sugar to be the annoying brats you're meant to be."

He handed them a pair of lollipops. Raspberry and blueberry. Their eyes practically shone as they opened the wrappers.

"Go on and join the others. Anna and her sisters are gonna smuggle all of you outta the country with their caravans."

They went to do just that, but of course, if things went according to plan, Flora and Felicia would never end up living in Nohr.

"I can't... keep walking..." Flora gasped, bending over and placing her hands on her knees. "Tired... hungry..."

"Flora, we have to keep going! We'll lose the others at this rate!" Felicia screamed, shaking her sister.

This only made Flora almost fall over on the street.

"Hey... why are those girls alone in the city?"

"We should call the police, they'll find their parents."

"Oh no, the poor dears look like they might faint!"

While those words were a sign of concern and care from the people, it made the twins panic. Police were the people who took their father away, police were the people who brought back anyone who ran away, police were the one people Flora and Felicia had to avoid at any cost!

So Felicia grabbed Flora's hand and ran for it.

In her panic, she did not realize that she was only increasing the distance between them and the rest of the Tribe.

They ran down streets and turned down alleyways, getting themselves deeper and deeper into the labyrinth that was was the urban landscape they were in. They hid in a rundown alleyway, behind a dumpster, hearing the sounds of footsteps and cars, chatter and noise that made them cover their ears.

"I... I want to go home..." was all Felicia managed to say as tears cut through the grime on her face.

"You can't cry! You'll make noise!" Flora shushed her.

"B-but I...! I don't want to be here! I want dad back! I want to go home!"

"Felicia!"

"You're running from someone, aren't you," a new voice came from behind them.

The two froze, before turning around in a panic.

A child their age, with white hair and blue clothes stood behind them.

"If you want to run, follow me. I know these streets."

They did just that.

The other child brought them away from all the lights and noise to a quieter area. Dirty streets gave way to green lawns and houses, simple buildings with numbers in front of them. In front of one house, a boy a year younger than them was practicing a dance.

He did a backflip, only to catch sight of them in midair.

The moment he landed, he ran to the house, and the twins wondered if they had to run again. They turned to address their guide, but the white-haired child was already gone.

"Oh heavens, look at you..."

A large, bald man towered over them, before kneeling down and addressing them face-to-face. The dancing boy hid behind the man, staring at the two warily.

"My name is Fuga Tsukuyomi. This is my son, Hayato. We have a bath, water, food, and medical supplies. If you'd like, you can come inside for as long as you want."


"We owe Fuga and Hayato our lives," Felicia concluded. "There's no way we couldn't try to repay them after that."

"They gave us a place to rest, food, water, treated our wounds, let us use their last name to keep people from discovering that we were runaways from the Ice Tribe... we owe them everything."

Charlotte hugged them.

"Charlotte...?"

"Yo, what the hell do you think you're—"

"Shut up and accept the friendly affection and support, bitch."

The two were silent, before hugging Charlotte back.


"Y'know, Halloween's coming up, but I didn't get a costume yet," Corrin noted, chomping on a cookie in the Tea Ceremony room.

"That shall not do! Hallow's eve is the celebration of spirits and ghouls! To not wear their countenance is shameful indeed!"

"He basically means, 'it's embarrassing to not have a costume on Halloween,'" Laslow translated, drinking some tea.

"You know, you could always wear noth-" Niles' joking suggestion was cut off by Silas shoving a cookie in his mouth. Silas obviously recoiled when Niles licked his fingers, making Leo sigh.

"Stop that," Arthur admonished Niles, which he ignored.

"Hm, well, it is a rather large festivity... perhaps we should invite everyone to the Nohrian festival!" Camilla declared happily.

"Corrin, what are you doing?! That's a romance flag if I ever saw one!" Elise hissed.

"Trust me," Corrin whispered back, before going, "Actually, I was thinking of having a party at my house! There's a special gimmick though."

She stood to whisper something in Camilla's ear, pulling back with a smile.

"I understand!" Camilla exclaimed, clapping her hands together in delight. "Now, let's get you a costume!"

Camilla got out her phone and started searching for costumes in Corrin's size, throwing an arm over the albino's shoulders to pull her close as they searched.

"No way, it's October, not the middle of the summer. That one is embarrassing. No."

"What about..."

They both paused at the next item in the store.

"What?" Leo asked.

Camilla wordlessly showed her phone to the others.

"...bunny girl costume," Elise read quietly.

The costume involved makeup in the shape of tribal markings, a wig with bunny ears already mixed into it, furry shorts, and a crude approximation of Panne's armour. It was supposed to be a tribute to her and her Clan for her fighting for Ylisse in the war, but...

"That's just awful," Keaton got up off the floor to say. "It's just plain rude to even consider wearing that, let alone in front of other people."

"You're right," Camilla said as she nodded thoughtfully, bringing her phone back to between her and Corrin. "Let's think of another costume." 

It was just then that Hinoka burst in, having heard nothing but the tail end of that conversation.

"Don't listen to him! I think you'd look great in a bunny girl outfit, Ma'am!"

Everyone present stared at her in silence for a while.

"Can I murder her?" Keaton asked.

"No, don't," Corrin answered. "She's thinking of the sexy one, not the one we saw, because she's a dumb pile of HORMONES."

Hinoka could not refute that. Even if Corrin was doing it by being rude, she was still saving her. Kinda.

Keaton left with a huff, and Hinoka stood around awkwardly.

"Would you like some tea?" Camilla offered in the silence.

"U-um, er, yeah!" She sat down in a rush, feeling everyone's eyes on her. "So, what was that exactly?"

"If you're asking the situation, you just told her that you wanted to see her in a Rabbit Clan Halloween costume," Niles said simply. "If you're asking why Keaton's mad, well, we'll have to punish you."

"Niles," Silas chided.

"What?"

"Stop that."

"Only if you give me a treat, sweeti-" 

Silas shoved another cookie in his mouth, quickly retracting his hand before Niles could do anything weird.

"What he means is that it's Keaton's own story to tell. If you want to know why he doesn't like these depictions of the Beast Clans... well, you'll have to ask him."

"Can't guarantee you'll survive it, though," Elise added.

"I pray for your safety, friend," Arthur told Hinoka.

"I... I think I'll just stay here."

Camilla poured her a cup of tea. She took it rather hesitantly.


"Really, Benny, one of these days, we need to drag that boy into our house and give him some place to rest!"

"Yeah."

"It's not good for a growing boy to keep sleeping in a graveyard... I'm almost scared to ask what he eats."

"...yeah."

The next time, though, Keaton refused and refused and refused. He said that it was because he loved his graveyard, but really... 

It was more because he had no idea what he would do in return for that kindness. He was grateful for the offer, but he wouldn't be a leech. 

Keaton had survived the massacre of his clan. He could survive this.


Kaden woke up with his head on Azura's lap, her fingers running through his hair gently. Sunlight filtered through the leaves of the tree they were sitting under to light up her face.

"What time is it?" Kaden asked quietly.

"There's still a half hour left of lunchtime," Azura replied with a soft smile. "You can keep sleeping if you want. I'll wake you up."

Kaden gulped, turning his face so he was mumbling into her thigh.

"...had a bad dream."

"You did?"

She brushed some hair behind his ears, and he nodded.

"Can... can you sing me a song?" Kaden pleaded. "Please?"

"Of course. Any requests?"

"I just want to hear your voice."

"Alright."

She began singing a lullaby to him. Azura wasn't surprised when she felt tears touch her leg.

Sometimes, Kaden thought of her song as the most inspiring thing he had ever heard. Sometimes, he would listen and excitedly tell her the ideas he had, writing it down so quickly his handwriting was illegible, babbling about it at a speed that she wouldn't be able to keep up with. Other times, he could manage a calm conversation, laughing and joking even with her taciturn disposition.

But sometimes, she mused as she sang, smoothing over stray strands of hair, sometimes, he would be hiding tears as he quietly asked her to sing.

"Azura?"

"Mm. Yeah, Kaden?"

"Your voice sounds like my mom's."

She felt her throat go dry at that.

"It does?"

"Yeah. My parents used to sing me lullabies. I don't remember how they used to go, but it felt like this," he told her, turning onto his back so he could look up at her. "Nice and cozy and safe."

"I'm glad I could make you feel safe, Kaden."

Kaden smiled up at her.

It was the sort of sad, almost teary smile that she hated seeing on him.

So she curled her back to kiss his forehead, lifting herself up just in time to see his blushing face.

"There you go. You're beautiful when you blush."

"I'm always beautiful," Kaden mumbled in response.

"True," she wore an amused smile as she twisted a lock of his hair around her finger. "Do you want me to keep singing, or do you want me to listen?"

Kaden hesitated for a second, before grabbing her wrist. Azura paused, before turning red when he pressed a kiss to the palm of her hand.

"Now we're even," Kaden said with a laugh.

"K-Kaden..."

"I'm lucky to have met you, you know?"

"I'm lucky to have met you too."

"No, I mean it as in, I'm lucky to have even survived long enough to meet you," Kaden informed her, his tone suddenly serious.

Azura's smile dropped, a silent nod serving as a signal for Kaden to keep going.

"I remember bits and pieces of my old life. The smell of the fire pit when we cooked meat, how fluffy the clothes were, my parents singing me songs before going to bed... we had our own language, our own way of writing too. I remember that we had a special system to make rainwater water our crops, but I could never figure out how it worked. I was supposed to be the next head of the Fox Clan when I grew up."

"You're speaking in the past tense," Azura noted.

"Yeah. 'cuz almost everyone in my Clan is dead."

"Gods..."

"I cried for days after that. My adoptive parents hated the sound. It took me years to learn the language, and then I learned why my people died. Do you know why, Azura?"

"No, I'm afraid I don't."

Kaden sneered, pointed canines on full display. His grip on her wrist tightened to the point that it was painful.

"They died because of a misunderstanding, Azura. The adults in our village didn't understand the soldiers that came to invite us to formally be part of Hoshido, and attacked in self-defense. Their response was to raze our village to the ground."

Azura could say nothing in response. She let her hand rest on Kaden's cheek in a silent show of solidarity, and Kaden averted his eyes from her face.

"I was adopted by normal Hoshidan people. I never met any other survivors from my village, and I don't know if there are any more. I..." His voice hitched as tears began to collect in his eyes. "I might be the only one left, and I'm forgetting, Azura. I don't think in my old language anymore! I try to write my scripts in it, I try to practice stringing the words together, but...! I'm scared of forgetting it! I'm scared of losing the one thing I have left of my heritage!"

Azura wiped away his tears with her thumb and gulped.

She did not know the words to comfort someone. She did not know how to even try.

But this was Kaden, so by gods, she would try.

Her traitorous tongue did not produce words in her moment of need. 

Instead, she ended up singing to him.

Kaden stared up at her with wide eyes, and Azura brushed her hair to the side to return his gaze fully.

"I don't know how to help you. I don't know what to do, I don't know anyone who can help you, and I don't even completely understand what you're going through. But you said I make you feel safe, and if that's all I can do, then I will do everything I can to make you feel safe and protected so you can figure it out."

Kaden was silent for a few seconds, before a chuckle burst from his lips.

Azura was confused. Laughing was not the intended response, but then again, she had no idea what the intended response was in the first place. She just wanted to help him feel better.

"You sound like a robot. Or a secretary," Kaden told her as he laughed.

"...sorry."

"But, that's just you, y'know, Azura? You're bad at expressing yourself and you talk like a book half the time and sometimes your face scares people away because no one can tell what you're feeling, but you're still really nice and sweet and you try to help people anyways."

His smile was gentle as he spoke.

"Thank you, Azura. Means a lot that you care."

"Of course I do, Kaden."

And then, after that...

Hmmm, well, you get the picture.


"You're training harder than usual," Rinkah noted as she passed by the kendo hall, stepping inside and making the club members pause. "Something happen?"

"Master Rinkah!" Ryoma exclaimed, stopping in the middle of his exercises. 

"Don't call me that," Rinkah ordered as she stepped over to squat next to where Ryoma was doing sit-ups. Somehow. "Your club members are staring."

"I apologize. Halloween is coming up, so I've getting overexcited."

"You're excited for a festivity?"

"Of course. Are you not?"

"We in the Flame Tribe have no time for such trivialities."

Ryoma looked dejected. S...somehow...?

"What a shame. My little sister is hosting a party. I was training for that event."

"A party?" Rinkah repeated. "Why would you need to train for a party?"

"Because I'm to challenge six people in a row if I've any hope to succeed."

Now, a normal person would have probably questioned any of this. Rinkah, however, was born into a Tribe where strength was everything and fights were everything from a friendly greeting to a problem-solving technique.

So, not only did she not question it at all, she stood up and burst into flame.

"Then what are you doing, then?! Fifty more sit-ups! We're going to be running laps around the school after, then meditating until your fiery spirit is unlocked!"

("Ah, they're at it again," Hana noted.

"Better get going before everything gets set on fire," Hinata replied.)

"I've been meaning to ask, but what do you mean by 'fiery spirit'? Does it have something to do with your... you know..."

"Gorgeous figure? Yes," Rinkah answered. "My fiery spirit is what allowed me to become this strong."

"I'm not entirely sure if I have that kind of fiery spirit," Ryoma told her, eyeing her flames. SOMEHOW.

"Nonsense! Everyone on this planet has it, they've just been told otherwise!" Rinkah's flames grew stronger as her volume did, and the club members readied their fire extinguishers. 

And then she pointed at a random guy, who yelped because a crazy flaming lady was pointing at him and screaming, "YOU! Do you pray to Naga?!"

"Y-yes! I do!"

"Even though you are a dragon?!"

"WHAT?!"

It should be noted that this is the equivalent of a crazy flaming lady walking up to you and screaming "YOU ARE GOD".

"All of you are born with the power of the dragons inside you! That's what the Flame Tribe is built on! A wise man once questioned the Book of Naga, wondering why the goddess would ask a mortal for help in situations that seemingly received divine intervention! The answer is that we are all divine!"

(The religion professor whose thesis accidentally caused the Flame Tribe to exist would be rolling in his grave, if he weren't, you know, dead and buried. His work was supposed to prove that mankind did not need gods, not make mankind think they were gods!)

"We have the souls of dragons and wills of fire! Whatever situations we encounter, we can overcome with our own strength! That's why, you can definitely unlock your Aura of Fire and become even stronger!"

"Rinkah..."

Ryoma was so touched by her inspiring words that a small spark ignited on the top of his head.

"YES! This is it! This is the birth of a new strength in you—!"

"His hair is catching on fire!"

"This is not an aura! This is just him on fire!"

"Extinguish him! Extinguish him!"

It was rather short-lived.


Note: It seems that we can't show Hayato's story yet. 

Instead. please have a review of the Wind Tribe.

1) They believe in excellence of the mind and body being necessary to reach the paradise above the sky.

2) They worship the animal spirits with song and dance. The ox gets a special song, because it remained fixed on the ground to guide wayward souls.

3) They have unique styles of dress.

4) Their villages were torched during the war.

5) There aren't many survivors, but what members still live typically live off of the Exalt's gold and serve her and her children loyally.

That will be all until more is discovered.

Chapter Text

In the land of Hoshido, there was a 

boy

girl

who lived in an affluent, noble family.

This child was

inferior

superior

when compared to the others in the family

He was pressured to catch up.

She was revered as a prodigy.

Pressure began to build up.

He had to be perfect to be worthy of love.

She had to be perfect to avoid their disappointment.

One day,

He began to wonder, 'have I done enough?'

'Am I not perfect yet?'

She began to think, 'I will never be the perfect girl they want.'

'No matter how hard I try, I'll disappoint them someday.'

'I must be perfect. I have to be, to be loved and accepted.'

'I can't be perfect. I don't care if I'm hated or ignored.'

'I must keep trying.'

'I can't keep doing this.'

'I'll work as hard as I can!'

'I give up.'  

'I'll become someone everyone can be proud of.'

'I have to disappoint everyone eventually.'

"Wow, Subaki, you're really impressive!" Sakura clapped.

"Setsuna..." Hinoka sighed. "Why are you such an airhead...?"

Hearing that, a smile came on 

his

her

face.

Chapter Text

Our Story So Far...

Corrin Byakuya's life sure is hectic! She's the stepsister to four eccentric souls, attends a school with a bitter rivalry with the school her siblings go to, and, worst of all, her siblings all fell for the same girl! While Camilla is oblivious to all of their crushes, Corrin can't stand the thought of her family being torn apart by romance drama, so she teamed up with Camilla's siblings, Leo and Elise, to stop love in its tracks!

When we last left off, Corrin decided to throw a Halloween party to keep love from happening! Huh? Why does Halloween exist if the people of this world have a completely different history, religion, and cultural development than our world?! Don't ask those kinds of questions! Everyone knows Halloween is just an excuse to wear cute costumes in these kinds of stories!



 

"How in the goddamn hell did you manage this," Leo said flatly, looking around at the living room. Everything was black and orange. There was confetti and a banner hanging from the walls. They had pumpkin-shaped pillows. Snacks, both store-bought and handmade, were piled on a table. "You had two days to prepare."

"Anything is possible when you believe in it with all your heart and never give up," Corrin answered, showing Elise how to tie the knot of a balloon.

"How did you even convince your parents to agree to leaving the house alone for this?" 

"Power of alcohol."

"Where did you even get all of this?! How did you even set it up?! I thought your siblings were busy getting last-minute costumes!"

"Jakob and Takumi and Silas were free, and they helped because the bonds between our hearts are strong enough to support each other in our times of need, no matter how dire."

"You're making a friendship speech just to distract me."

"Yeah, a little."

"Alright," and Leo paused to sigh and pinch the bridge of his nose, "can you at least, for the sake of my sanity, tell me why in the world there is a copy of you sitting on the couch."

"Yo," the clone greeted in the most chill manner possible.

"I reclassed to ninja, so I had access to the Replicate skill," Corrin replied.

"I... what? What?"

"My Skill growths aren't high enough for me to make good use of Lethality, so I went for the Mechanist class line."

"What."

"Makes sense," Elise said, nodding as she tied off a balloon.

"I mean, Carl was on the guest list, plus, it's too much of a shame to waste that cute witch costume I found online, even if Camilla already found me a costume."

"If you could make a copy of yourself this entire time, why didn't you use it for Carl at school?!"

"You kidding me? I just reached Level 15 after weeks of grinding! Of course I couldn't use it before now."

"I... I just. I give up. I don't understand you at all."

Leo turned to leave, only to run into another Corrin in a maid outfit.

"Want some sweets? Sakura made 'em."

Leo's only answer was a series of increasingly exasperated and baffled glares sent Corrin's way. Despite Corrin not turning to look, she still knew that he was looking at her and answered,

"Unit Logbook. Got her off an online battle."

Leo's expression was flat enough to be used as a table for twelve very, very long seconds.

"You are a discordant being who thrives off of chaos and unrest. I have no idea how you keep thinking of the things you do, let alone actually do them, and I will never understand how you managed to accomplish this."

"Thank you."

If anything, that only made Leo give up harder.


Parties were odd, Corrin realized as Effie lifted her up and put her in the closet. She thought she was in total control of the situation, but she really wasn't.

See, after the intro to the party, where everyone was stepping in one by one so their costumes could be described in lavish detail, Corrin stopped several fights from breaking out by blowing a whistle.

(Even though she totally wanted to see if Oboro could take on Charlotte.)

"Alright everyone! This is a strictly no-fighting-allowed zone, since we are united here to celebrate and stuff!" Corrin cried out into the crowd. "Plus, it would make everything harder if you're shoved in the closet with someone you hate!"

"I'm sorry, what," was the crowd's general response.

"This is a super special party because I'm too impatient to wait for Valentine's Day! When the lights go out, names will be called, and you've got to find one of the closets in the house to stay in for seven minutes! Don't worry, they're covered in glow-in-the-dark tape so you can find them!" Corrin exclaimed cheerfully. 

She spotted Ryoma and Sakura and Hinoka looking around for Camilla, and felt her grin become something much less innocent.

"Thank you to my friend, Camilla, in charge of the lights and pairings!" 

And, with a flourish, she swooshed her cape to reveal Camilla, holding the controls for the lights and decked out in her lovely vampire costume. She was seated on the living room armchair, surrounded by snacks like offerings at the foot of a queen's throne. She regally rested her hand in the bowl with slips of paper sitting on the armrest, looking every bit like a noblewoman or some such thing.

"Yes, yes, thank you darlings," Camilla said to the cheers from her friends and gasps. 

"So, you guys will get along, for the sake of our high school life togeth—"

And then Camilla shut off the lights.

"Whoops! Seems I did it a bit too early, but you were just about done, right?"

"Uh, right-"

"Marvelous! So you can explain it for everyone! The lights went out, and what happens next?"

"You call out the names, and those people head into a closet," Corrin went along with it.

"I see!" Camilla pretended to rummage around in the bowl, before pulling out the papers she had been holding the entire time. She held it up to her eye and acted it like she didn't already know what they said. Not that she could have actually read it in the dark. "It says Leo and Corrin! What a surprise!"

"What," was Corrin's reaction.

"Well, off you go to the closet, then!"

And then, because Corrin tried to run, Effie had to tackle her and throw her in.

"Great going, genius," were Leo's first words to her as they sat in the storage room by the washroom. "Now what?"

"Now, we just sit in here for seven minutes and get right back to sabotaging love," Corrin huffed, crossing her arms over her chest.

"...wait, you mean your plan involved things other than just making sure Camilla was occupied for the night so none of your siblings could run off with her?"

"Of course! Love is one of the most destructive forces mankind has ever faced! I could never let people fall into the wretched claws of—!" Corrin screamed, forcing Leo to get her to quiet her down by pressing a hand over her mouth. 

They wound up falling over in the cramped closet, with Corrin on the floor and Leo looming over her with his knee between her thighs.

Of course, despite this being the shoujo development of all shoujo developments, Leo and Corrin were Leo and Corrin.

"Have you never heard of being quiet?!" Leo hissed. "What will you do if someone overhears you ranting like a madman?!"

"Oh please, I set the music to eighty decibels at least!"

"Like that's going to help if you scream your head off!"

Yes, they were still in the compromising position. Yes, they cared more about arguing than that.

"Seriously?! I'm trying to help you out with this entire sister thing and you're scolding me for my volume?! Do you want my help or not?!"

"Help?! You're more of a nuisance than a help, if you keep charging in recklessly! What was even your plan for tonight!?"

"Huh?! Aren't you supposed to be smart, Leo?! I set it up so no love antics could happen, with Camilla being in charge of putting everyone in closets!"

"You're trying to sabotage love by getting Camilla to put people alone in cramped, dark spaces for an extended period of time!"

Corrin tried to fire back with something, but her voice died in her throat when she realized he had a point.

"Corrin, you're an idiot," Leo said flatly.

"...shut up."

A moment of quiet came in the closet. They could hear the conversations and the music from outside. They still did not realize their position, so neither of them moved.

"...Azura didn't wear the costume Camilla got for her, did she?" Corrin asked, looking to the wall instead of at Leo's face.

"Huh? What's this about?"

"Don't get the wrong idea or anything. It's not like I set this up so everyone could get along. I just think it's sad that Camilla tried to get her involved in a family tradition but got snubbed at the last minute."

"To be frank, I don't think Camilla really cares. She got to make you wear the costume instead," Leo pointed out. "...even if it did require a few... adjustments..."

Both of their stares went down to Corrin's chest.

(Outside, Azura suddenly felt the need to murder someone. Kaden's presence convinced her not to, because he managed to calm her down with a smile.)

"But, anyways, you better take this chance to get along with her and lots of other people, even if you are a total loner nerd who's too shy to try and too abrasive to admit it."

"Hey."

"What, am I wrong?"

"Shut up. You're the moron whose plan to dissuade love is only going to end up encouraging it."

"Oh come on, Camilla is a sane, rational human being!" Corrin protested. "She won't just go all gung-ho and start flinging people into closets! She'll probably stick to people she knows gets along well as friends and not risk anything at all."

"I suppose you're right," Leo agreed. "But I'm still never letting you live this down."

"That's fair."


"MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Camilla cackled, absolutely mad with power. "You, with the hair! Closet, now, with Xander!"

The bowl of names was shattered on the floor. She didn't need a stupid bowl of names when she had an eye and a knack for couples. Not like she could even read them anyways, with the lights being off whenever she made a decision.

"Ryosei. She means Ryosei," Beruka told the crowd.

"Ryoma, idiot," Selena corrected.

"Who else?!" Camilla laughed as Effie threw Xander and Ryoma into a closet. She could already hear a fight breaking out, but she didn't care. All she cared about were potential relationships. She would have everyone be happy and in love or her name wasn't Camilla Ryder.

"Kagero and Orochi," Kagero informed Camilla stealthily.

"Kagero and Orochi!" Camilla called out, prompting the two to thank her.

"Silas and Felicia should get some time together, they're dating too," Selena said.

"No we are not!" Silas screamed.

"Then date," Camilla retorted, before Beruka shoved them in a closet together.


"Yeah. We have absolutely nothing to worry about at all," Corrin stated with a sigh of relief.


"Look, Felicia, I'm not trying to say that you're unattractive or anything. You're not, it's just that I... I don't actually know you all that well. I think I'd like to know more about someone than her name, her class, and her wardrobe before deciding to date her, okay?" 

"...'kay. What d'you want to know?"

"Hmmm... how about, oh, that's a hard one, I'm thinking..." Silas hesitated for another moment, before perking up and going, "Oh! What do you want to do in the future?"

"You're kidding, right," Felicia replied flatly.

"U-uh, you don't have to answer if you don't want to..."

Silas' tone was enough to erode Felicia's HP.

"I'll tell you, but you better not laugh."

"I won't."

Felicia sucked in a breath, and removed her sunglasses.

With eyes adjusted to the dark in the closet, Silas could just make out her figure. She had turned to face away from him, shoulders drawn tight and hunched up as she spoke.

"I... I want to take care of stuff," Felicia admitted, and Silas found it impressive how her voice and manner completely changed whenever she took off her sunglasses. "I want to help people, even if I'm clumsy... so I thought about being a maid for real before, but that would be kind of funny, right? A delinquent being a maid."

"I think you could manage it."

"H-huh?" 

"Being a delinquent and a maid. Beating people up to protect your house and then cleaning it up." Silas laughed a bit at the thought.

Felicia turned red, which Silas couldn't see.

"Thanks," Felicia said with a small smile. "So... what about you?"

"Me?"

"Yeah. Your dream for the future."

"I want to be a police officer," Silas told her. "There aren't enough good, morally upright officers in Nohr. And I want to do what good I can."

"You're a good guy, Silas."

"You think so?" 

"Yeah," and then Felicia let out a chuckle. "It's kind of funny. The guy good at taking care of people wants to be a police officer, while the girl good in a fight wants to be a maid. You sure you don't want to switch with me?"

"I'm good," Silas replied.

He liked the casual chat with Felicia, and, when they were pulled out of the closet, thought it ended far too soon.

 


Mozu was standing by the snack table. She was waiting for Hayato to return with food, with a sense of gratitude looming over her head for his very existence. Thank goodness Hayato was her friend, otherwise she would be awkwardly trying to avoid people and pretend she had friends at the party.

And then someone called out to her. Probably.

"You there, Countess of the White Rose!"

"Who, me?" Mozu asked, blinking up at Odin.

"Why, could there be anyone else worthy of that title?"

"Um, there's that girl wearing a white dress, and that girl over there, and-"

"The Lady attempts to humble herself, but the eyes of Odin Dark perceive the truth forevermore!" Odin declared with a dramatic pose. "You are the Countess!"

"Aw shucks, yer embarrassin' me a lil there..."

"Praise is but another name for a kind truth, little lady!"

"LITTLE?!" Mozu's smile immediately dropped off, making Odin flinch and almost drop his juice.

"A-anyways! I have come bearing some unfortunte news, milady! Your visage for today, while a humble tribute to the Fell Heroine for those of the light, is a bitter insult to those of the darkness!"

"Mozu, I'm back with the sn- why is there a crazy guy doing random poses," Hayato said flatly as he headed over and handed Mozu a cookie.

Despite the fact that he was fully aware that Odin was the crown prince of his country, and also technically his dad's boss's kid.

Ah, the perks of pretending to be a commoner. Your subordinates could insult you all they wanted.

"Oh, Hayato, this nice fella's just explaining how this Robin costume is a lil offensive to them Nohrians," Mozu explained. "These cookies are good."

"My work here is done!" And then Odin disappeared, and by disappeared, we mean that he hid behind Benny.

Crouching behind the table, Sakura glared at the scene angrily.

'No, no, NO! Hayato, you gotta defend your territory! You don't just shrug off some random person getting along so well with your totally-but-also-not-really girlfriend! You have to make a move before she gets whisked away! That's the rule of romance manga, every new character is either a rival to throw drama into the main couple or a love interest for a preestablished character! AND! THERE! ARE! NO! OTHER! PRE! ESTABLISHED! CHARACTERS!' She thought while flailing about as if she was in pain.

Arthur was worried for her health.

Making up her mind, Sakura stormed over to Camilla, a fire in her eyes. Camilla seemed stunned by her sudden transformation, but only if you replaced the 'stunned' with 'big sisterly pride'.

"Why, hello there, Sakura, what can I do for y-"

"Hayato and Mozu need to be in a closet together!"

"Pardon?"

"It's just, it's just... Camilla, you haven't even seen them interact once, but I can guarantee you, once is enough!" Sakura cried out, dropping to her knees and making more people think she was totally insane. "Just once, and you will be able to see that they were meant to be!"

"Okay," Camilla replied in an odd tone.

"They are childhood friends, Camilla. Childhood friends," Sakura repeated, stiff gestures emphasizing her words. "And when they talk, oh man, when they talk, they just banter! For hours! The only thing that stops them from talking all day is other people and time! That kind of chemistry is so rare in people! Do you know how wonderful it is that they get along so well?! Their interactions refresh me after a hard day's work! I could thrive on nothing but their relationship!"

"Alright," and Camilla was thinking back and wondering if Sakura was always this kind of character.

"Please, Camilla! Please! I'm begging you!" And, to prove her point, Sakura went on her hands and knees, forehead pressed into the floor. "Give them this, give them this moment! Please!"

"Alright, alright, you can get off the floor now."

Sakura did just that, keeping her eyes on the floor as she tried not to break into tears from sheer emotion.

Camilla leaned over, and tilted her chin up with a finger. Sakura gasped at the sight of the older girl's wide grin.

"Do not fear, little one. I've already made a plan."

Sakura gasped again, her face filled with delight.

She babbled on about her gratitude, and Camilla let out a hearty chuckle in response.

"You're so cute!" Camilla cooed, fluffing up Sakura's hair. "I wish I could simply keep you here all night so I could chat with you about romance and fawn over your costume!"

Sakura blushed.

"U-uh, I mean, if it's fine with you, we can do that-"

"We can't," Camilla replied instantly.

"We can't?" Sakura asked tearfully.

"I've already had a request involving you."

And then Camilla shut off the lights and called out, in order:

"Mozu and Sakura! And Elise! And Hayato!"

And then they were all in a closet together.

"Spirits and spells," Hayato cursed. "I can't believe this shit."

Sakura gasped in horror.

"Hayato, watch yer language..." Mozu admonished, but also not entirely focused on it because she had been shoved into a closet with her three crushes.

It was around this time that the three crushes all thought one thing.

'I need to give Mozu a helping hand!'

"Hayato, be my ally!" Elise hissed into the ear of the person next to her, except that person was Sakura.

(Hey, it was dark!)

"Wh-wh-wha?!" Sakua gasped in horror once again.

'Oh no, oh no! Elise is one of those obligatory rivals! She's after Hayato!'

"What are you two doing?" Hayato asked, thinking, 'Oi! Elise! Don't flirt with Sakura, Mozu's right here!'

"I was thinking that I needed to talk to you about something, Hayato!" Elise chirped happily, mentally going, 'crap crap crap crap I messed up, Sakura please be an idiot and don't realize my plan oh gosh if I knew I would let it slip so easily I wouldn't have made the plan as simple to understand as encouraging a crush to crush my enemies and then sabotaging it so they're in total agony while also establishing backup love interests for when I actually want them away from my sister!'

"Talk? 'bout what?" 'She wants to ask about Mozu, right? Yes! Good job, Mozu!'

He went to pat Mozu on the shoulder, except Sakura hit him with wildly flailing arms.

"No, no, no no no nononono! How about you stay right here so me and Mozu aren't alone together?! It's lonely!"

"What's wrong with being alone with Mozu?" Hayato snapped, pointedly wondering, 'SAKURA STOP IT YOU'RE GETTING IN THE WAY OF ME ENCOURAGING MY BEST FRIEND!'

"Yeah, what's wrong with it?!" Elise agreed, giddy that Sakura was nervous to be alone with Mozu. That could be shyness and thus progress!

"N-no, I mean, I—!" Sakura couldn't speak, because her head was filled with both elation that Hayato was so defensive of Mozu and also the nagging anxiety that Elise might have liked Mozu too. So, well, she panicked and blurted out;

"Mozu is in love with you!"

"Huh?" was Elise's reaction, because this was coming from the girl she thought Mozu liked.

"Don't blurt stuff like that out!" was Hayato's reaction, because he thought she just revealed Mozu's crush on Elise.

"HwawawawawawawawawaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH—!!!" was Mozu's reaction, because she could not handle the fact that she had been so close to all of her crushes that all of their knees were touching.

"Look at what you've done to Mozu!" Hayato screamed, except it was half at Sakura for being mean and half at Elise for being dense. "Take responsibility!"

"No, no matter how you look at it, this is entirely your fault, you stubborn idiot! Pining away for so long—! Never making your feelings clear, this is why we're in this situation!" Sakura replied, except she was facing Elise at the time. Hey, it was dark.

'I-Is Sakura just trying to get the most direct approach to get Elise and Mozu together?!' Hayato realized suddenly. 'She's not trying to boost Mozu's confidence, she's just trying to get her to the end result!'

"Hold it, you two!" Elise intervened, because everything was a mess and she needed to un-mess it up to get Mozu with Sakura. "Don't you think it's mean to argue like this over Mozu without listening to what she says?!"

"I... you're right...!" Sakura managed. 'I can't believe the love rival is right about us not respecting Mozu...!'

"Yeah," Hayato said gruffly, "Sorry, Mozu." 

"I-I... I want ev-everyone to get along!" Mozu blurted out, after five seconds of stuttering. "Please, you're all m-my friends, so..."

"Yeah... I'm sorry."

"Sorry."

"S-sorry."

"I want to get along from now on! Sakura, let's talk in that corner over there!"

"Wait wait wait wait Hayato no! It's all get along!" Elise screamed in reply. "Don't drag Sakura over there! I need her!"

"You have a crush on Sakura?!" Hayato demanded.

"It's not that! I need her for the sake of a future with a happy family!"

'Intention of marriage?!'

'H-has Elise given me her blessing to pursue Camilla?!'

'Nosferatsu, I blurted out my plans again! Why am I so transparent with my intentions?!'

'Uwawawawawahhhhh.... please don't start fighting again...!!!!!'

It would be a long, long, long, long seven minutes.


"So, would you like to have some tea with—"

"No," Azura said immediately. "Never."

Laslow died instantaneously. He spouted off a polite goodbye and went back to Niles and Charlotte and Benny. The former two were laughing their butts off. Benny just looked like he felt bad for Laslow. Laslow wasn't sure which reaction hurt more.

"Third rejection in one night! Isn't that trying to be an overachiever?" Niles snickered.

"Come on, I want to see if you can possibly crash and burn more than hitting on the girlfriends!" Charlotte howled.

"A-aw come on! Aren't you being a bit too rude?!"

"Nope."

"No."

"Wow. Thanks, guys."

"It's gentle ribbing of love," Niles informed him. "I wouldn't want to tease you so much if I didn't want to see how beautiful your blushing face is."

"Shut up and save it for—" Laslow cut himself off, because he spotted someone on the other side of the table. "Oh, hi Silas!"

"Hi there!" Silas replied, grabbing some bat-shaped cookies for himself.

Niles spontaneously combusted and blurted out, "Silas! You look great in that costume, you'd look better out of it!"

Silas replied with a laugh and, "Thanks! But there's no way I'm stripping in October, I don't want to catch a cold. Sorry, you can't tease me like that today!"

And then Felicia dragged him away from the pervert. Silas just sighed. He was getting used to it.

When Silas and Felicia were out of sight, Benny patted Silas on the head. It took five seconds for Charlotte and Laslow to start laughing their butts off.

"And you say I'm bad at flirting!"

"Because you are!" Charlotte replied, wiping away tears.

"Why are you two like this?!" Niles demanded. 

"Don't you mean, 'why is Charlotte the only one who knows how to flirt here?'" Charlotte teased, before turning to Benny and going, "no offense."

"None taken."

"Prove it!" Niles demanded.

"Yeah!" Laslow agreed.

"Alright then, take notes from the flirting master!"

She scanned the area for her prey, taking note of landmarks and areas, making a mental map of the area. She had a very large note to avoid the corner where, despite getting out of the closet a while ago, Xander and Ryoma were still arguing over whether coffee chocolates were the stuff made of a dark dragon's blood or little bits of heaven. 

("How could you feel satisfied with a forgery?!"

"Have your follicles blinded you?! It's just coffee set into a sweet exterior!"

"I'm not about to be judged by a man who drinks three cups of coffee in the hallways!")

Then, there were the snack tables, where no one wanted to be ambushed, the people on th—

Charlotte forgot her map, because she found the perfect idiot to seduce. She grabbed a cup of juice and set out towards him with a charming smile, and her friends followed her at a distance.

Taking care to stay out of his line of sight, she crossed her right leg over her left just as she was about to walk past him, letting out a cute yelp as she stumbled forward, dropping her drink on him!

The guy she had picked had surprisingly good reflexes though. He managed to turn and catch her by the biceps in a split second.

"I-I'm so sorry!" Charlotte exclaimed adorably. "I'll find some tissues so I can clean up the me-"

"It's alright," the green-haired guy informed her, bone dry. He showed her his hand, a slightly damp towel around it and her cup of juice in his grip, a bit emptier than it was before. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to catch it sooner, a little bit spilled. If you'd like, I can fetch you another one."

An odd sound left Charlotte's lips at that.

And then Charlotte snapped to attention.

"No, no, it's fine! Thank you so very much!" Charlotte took the cup quickly, having the sudden sensation that she was messing with powers far, far above her own. "It's impressive how you caught it! I've never seen anyone move so fast before!"

"O-oh. Thank you," he said.

'Crap, crap, crap, gotta end the conversation quickly!' Charlotte thought. 'I refuse to seduce a god-like being! I absolutely refuse!'

"I came to this party with my friends, but I got separated from them when I got thrown into a closet... I really should be getting back to them!" 'Please please please please just accept this, this guy could probably teleport and make clones of himself if he wanted to—'

(Behind a corner, Setsuna was kinda confused.

"Subaki... what are you doing?"

"Perfecting my psychic abilities!"

"Oh... alright...is that why you're making clones of yourself and teleporting?"

"Yes.")

"Do you need help? I could help you look for them."

'Fu—' "Are you sure? I would hate to be a bother."

"It's no trouble at all."

And then Charlotte, being bound by the conventions of politeness, had to continue interacting with a god-like figure.

("Did you get a headache...?"

"No, I'm going to project my thoughts, with magnificence!"

"Okay then...")

And then, like she had suddenly been struck by lightning, she had another thought. 

There was a line between flirting and seducing. So, she could flirt and flirt and flirt, but she could come off as obnoxious, forceful, and all kinds of stuff! He would hate dealing with her! Sure, Niles and Laslow would laugh at her, but then again, please consider that this guy could summon things out of nowhere if he wanted. 

Plus, she still needed emails for her cashier job's email campaign, since she was getting a bonus for every email she got subscribed...

"Thank you a lot! My name's Charlotte, it's nice to meet you! It's so rare to meet a guy as nice as you!" She exclaimed, laying it on thicker than a vat of marmalade plus a bucket of honey on top of fifteen layers of flattery.

"Charlotte... from the emails...?" He echoed, and Charlotte almost screamed.

'Psychic! He's psychic, ohhhhhh gods! I'm so sorry for thinking I'd play around with a god!'

"Huh? What do you mean?" Charlotte asked with a level nine hundred fifty-six poker face.

"Ah, you might not remember me, but, uh, last year, there was a party for Sakura's birthday, and you went around collecting emails if you beat someone in a ping-pong match... My name is Kaze."

'Oh. Oh.'

"Then it's practically fate that we've met again, right?"

'Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit did I sign up a god for a subscription for constant ads?!'

"That might be true," Kaze agreed, before looking pensive. He opened his mouth to speak, then hurriedly coughed and said, "so, what did your friends look like again?"

"Ah, there's Benny, the super tall guy with a box on his head, he's practically my brother, and the two idiots, Laslow and Niles, and I think Odin was clinging to Benny's back a while ago..."

"So, the ones that have been watching us for a few minutes?"

"Ah, yea- wait, what!?"

Charlotte's shock was because Kaze had been aware of it the entire time. Kaze, however, interpreted this as 'why are my friends following us?!'.

Charlotte, being convinced that this god-like being had been toying with her and fully intended on delivering divine punishment for her sins, did the cutest, most innocent face she could. She thought her life depended on it.

"I am so sorry for getting you into this situation, Mr. Kaze, I swear never to ever bother you like this again and—"

Kaze placed a hand on her shoulder, causing her to look up at his face and see a gentle smile.

"It's alright. I don't mind."

"H-huh? You're just forgiving me for this?"

"Yes."

'I CAN SEE THE DIVINE LIGHT BEHIND HIM.'

("Subaki... you're bright..."

"Thank you."

"Oh... I meant that you're sparkling again... but alright...")

"T-thank you..." Charlotte managed with the breathless awe of someone who had found salvation.

'She must be shy. I'll do my best to reassure her.'

"It's not your fault, Charlotte," Kaze, being a socially-awkward idiot when it came to certain social delicacies, approached the situation in one of the few ways he knew how; being as vague and cryptic as possible. "There's a saying that friends are like wolves; wild and untameable, but fiercely loyal at heart."

'F-friends?! That came out of nowhere- wait, no, he's making an offer, isn't he?! He read my heart and soul and knows of my wild and untameable side, but he's willing to forgive me if I'm loyal to him?!'

"Kaze, I-I'd be honoured to be your friend!" Charlotte blurted out hurriedly.

"Huh?"

'Wait, shit, was I too hasty?! Was I supposed to bring an offering first?! Is he going to strike me down for my arrogance in interpreting his words?!'

"I, I'm sorry, I was being presumptuous, wasn't I?! Of course I wasn't- I can't, argh, Miria agar gotodor!” Charlotte screamed, which used to mean ‘May you be struck down by divine retribution’ but meant something more like ‘Get hit by a truck, bastard!’ nowadays. It could also be applied to yourself, which Charlotte could have meant.

"Hold on. No one is getting hit by any trucks," Kaze said calmly, which meant that he was freaking out inside and didn't really show it.

'He's psychic! He's psychic and he knows every language on this planet!'

(Actually, he just understood Nohrian from a combination of ninja training and growing up in the middle of the city.)

"I'll excuse myself, Mr. Kaze!"

"Charlotte, wait!"

And then he did the shoujo thing where he grabbed her by her wrist.

"I would also be honoured to have a closer relationship with you!" Kaze told her. "Please, let us start over and begin anew as friends."

'Phew. This should calm her down. And then we can become comrades.'

'Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck, what are my options here?! I can't say no, that's disrespecting a god who could strike me down, but saying yes— what would saying yes to being a god's friend entail?! Oh fuck, what did I get myself into?!'

"You mean it...?" Charlotte asked with a shaky smile.

"Yes, I do," Kaze answered earnestly.

'I'm so screwed.'

"Then... friends?"

"Friends," Kaze agreed, and they shook hands to show it.

Charlotte almost died right then and there, except Kaze let her return to her friends right then.

"You actually managed it," Laslow whispered in awe.

"Uh-huh..."

"I'm impressed," Niles added.

"You seem tired," Benny noted.

Charlotte laughed.

She laughed so hard she almost started crying. And then she laughed some more.

Benny decided to get her some juice, because Charlotte was kind of scaring him.

There were several problems with this.

For one, there were three people stationed directly in front of the table with the juice, and, for someone like Benny, possibly interrupting their conversation and passing by them was like asking him to punch a puppy in the face.

It didn't help that, when he listened to their conversation, he heard,

"I can't say I can't sympathize with him," Flora said. "The choice was between saving his people or defecting to join his friend's cause. It's a difficult situation."

"Yes, but could he not have convinced his people to hide?" Arthur asked. "Hiding away in the shadows of the land, to prepare for a counterattack against a villainous tyrant so foul?!"

"I mean, it's not clear how long exactly how long his people were suffering..." Silas added. "It's terrifying to fight against an opponent that seems so powerful. Some people would rather accept the status quo than risk it all."

"It's a shame he only shows up for two issues to serve as an obstacle to Cruxia, he's a wonderfully interesting character," Flora lamented with a sigh.

"I think he showed up earlier, actually. Like, first issue early?" Silas suggested.

"I don't have that one," Flora informed him.

"Neither do I," Arthur echoed.

"Ah, I can lend it to you! I don't mind—"

Yeah.

They were having such an interesting and friendly discussion that Benny absolutely did not have the heart to interrupt them! He didn't even have the heart to even consider considering it!

So he walked in the opposite direction and tried to imagine he had a reason for doing so.

Benny exchanged a respectful, if silent, nod with Effie as he tried to imagine ways of getting juice without interrupting them or teleporting. Because no one could teleport. It was just impossible.

("Subaki... why are you teleporting to the table and giving me juice...?"

"Because I'm too perfect to walk."

"...alright then...")

Right around the time Benny was seriously considering crawling around the trio, he realized that he was in the corner of the room that everyone was avoiding because Xander and Ryoma were arguing. Apparently, someone had provided them with plastic weapons and encouraged them to fight it ou— oh. Felicia was watching while eating cookies. That explained everything. 

To the side, Hinoka was fighting Rinkah, because Rinkah was cheering on Ryoma and so excited that she was about to set the house on fire and Hinoka, surprisingly, didn't want her house on fire. Rinkah, whose flames were her life, obviously did not appreciate a fire blanket being thrown over her, set it on fire, and fought Hinoka like a beast.

Because Benny had a foreign substance known as a self-preservation instinct in his body, he turned away and started walking.

And then, thank goodness, he saw a friend.

"Hey there, Benny! What's up with your face?" Keaton asked like a human being that had never heard of the word 'restraint'.

"Hi," Benny replied with a smile. "Went to get juice." He frowned slightly. "People are there, though."

"People?" Keaton turned to look. "Ah, I see 'em. Wait here."

"...Keaton. Keaton what are you trying to do."

"If I pull this off, get me three mossy rocks!" Keaton called out, right before running off, dodging Effie like an expert.

"KEATON!" Benny roared in the ultimate show of platonic concern, scaring some of the people around him.

("Orochi, calm down. It's okay. I'm here."

"Oh noooo.... I'm so scared...! The only way I could get better is if my big, strong girlfriend hugged me!"

"..."

"Hahahahahaha! You're bright red! Soooo cute!")

"Jakob!" Keaton called out, running straight at him.

"No, I will not provide you with dirty cleaning cloths!" Jakob retorted from afar.

"No! Heads up!"

And then, before Jakob could respond, Keaton used Jakob as a vaulting horse, toppling the guy over, making him crash into Flora with a very loud yell. He wound up summoning Peri because she loved the sound of pain.

Peri waved around a bonesaw of questionable sharpness while cheering with delight. Niles jumped away from her and knocked over one of the snack tables, Felicia appeared to protect Silas, and Arthur had to block the attack with a paper plate, which broke in half from the swing. Even worse, this caused Peri to laugh and decide to play with Arthur. In the murder kind of way.

"Peri, what drives you to do this?! This is a celebration, a gathering of friends for fun!"

"This is fun! Let's play some more!"

"But what if someone is to be hurt because of our actions?! I would happily entertain you if not for that concern of mine!"

"So, if I get rid of everyone else, you'll play with me?"

"PERI NO!" Several people screamed.

"You'll be sad without your friends!" Flora pleaded. 

"But it's better to kill 'em than let anyone else take you away, riiiight?"

And then Beruka smacked her with a frying pan.

"Enough. If you want to play, we do it outside. You're bothering everyone."

Unfortunately, Beruka was a little too strong.

As Peri fell unconscious, Keaton returned to Benny with a cup of juice.

"Here ya go, Benny! I did great, right?"

And Benny looked around the room, looked at Niles still on the floor with a table and several snacks around him, at Beruka polishing a frying pan, at Effie carrying Jakob and Peri away, and then at the cup of juice being offered to him, and said,

"...right."


"You know, Beruka, Selena, you don't have to keep helping me," Camilla told them, eyes scouring her surroundings for potential couples. "Why don't you enjoy the party some more?"

"I have no need," Beruka stated, hefting her frying pan over her shoulder.

"Well, it gives me something to do," Selena huffed. "But only because you asked me to, got it?"

"If you say so," Camilla said with a smile. "Hmmm, which ones...."

"By the way... it's been forty minutes. Do we still not let out Leo and Corrin?"

"No. I want to hear wedding bells before we let them out," Camilla declared, and Selena sighed. "Ah, yes, those two would be wonderful!"

"What two?" Beruka asked, as Selena huffed about not caring.

"Hinata and Oboro, the two with the ponytails." Camilla pointed them out to her two friends, and Selena. Well.

Just as an idea, a few days after the merge, Selena visited her parents' house. She said hi to her father, hello to her mother, and cooed at their pet bird and asked if little Aurora missed her.

But, gods, when Hinata saw her, he practically tackled her to the ground in a hug. It took fifteen minutes just to pry him off her, and when she managed that, he immediately launched into a barrage of questions about her life. Of course, because Hinata was an excitable puppy, he just couldn't resist...

"—do you have a crush or something, Sevvy?! I mean, I met this cute guy at school a few days ago, his name is Carl and he wears a skirt and looks super good in it and he's funny, do you think that's a cru—"

"WHAT," was Selena's immediate reaction.

"I met a cute guy at school!" Hinata repeated earnestly.

Selena was livid.

"DAD! I NEED THE SWORDS!" She called out, standing up in a hurry.

"You know where we keep them!" Lon'qu shot back from their living room.

"Huh? Why do you need the swords?" Hinata asked. "Oh, oh, are you gonna duel me?! I got better while you're gone so I might beat you this time!"

"No, Hinata, I have a mission to complete," Selena said in the most dramatic way possible as she raided the hallway closet, grabbing a sword from behind the box of their winter clothes. She attached the sheath to her belt and slid the sword in just to look cool. "One I'll see through to the end."

'So cool...' Hinata thought, as he cheered, "good luck on your mission!"

"Like I would need luck!" Selena retorted.

So, yes, Selena was also the kind of person who would immediately grab a sword and try to kill someone if her sibling had a crush. She just sucked at finding people named Carl. It sucked.

It totally sucked, not being able to threaten your little brother's crush with a sword. But Selena could intimidate Oboro with a sword. 

And so, Selena told Camilla that she would handle it and went over with gusto. Camilla looked over at Beruka, who shrugged and suggested she call for other people.

"Excuse me!" Selena screamed, rushing at Hinata and Oboro. "You two, stop, now!"

"Hi there!" Hinata greeted cheerfully, earning a gruff, "hi," in return.

'Oh! She's probably... looking for some time with her brother...' Oboro thought. 'I should just go! I'll make things awkward if I just wait for them to get me out of the picture!'

"Bye!" Oboro screamed, trying to flee.

'She's running away from my threats?!' Selena gasped in horror and indignation, because terrifying your little sibling's crush was half of verifying that they were good enough for your little sibling.

Selena caught her by the ponytail, making a strangled scream of pain escape Oboro's lips.

"Don't you dare run away!" Selena ordered harshly.

'What?! Why would you want me here?! Is it just because it's suspicious if I run away?!'

"That looks painful," Hinata noted, making Selena's hand let go of Oboro's hair.

"Yeah. Sorry or whatever."

"You're not sorry at all!" Oboro retorted.

"How dare you! I'm totally apologetic! I'm repenting from the bottom of my heart! You want me to bow to you or something?!"

"Yeah, actually! I deserve an apology!"

"So you're demanding that I degrade myself for it?! What's wrong with you?!"

"Oho," Oboro emphasized her words and sneered. "So you bring it up, but you're too much of a coward to do it in the end? Guess we know you've got more bark than bite."

"Excuse me?!" Selena screamed.

Hinata watched as Selena bowed to the ground, even pressing her forehead to the floor when Oboro said she was being lazy with it. His reaction to one of his best friends wrapping his sister around her finger within minutes of (to his knowledge) their first meeting was, 

'They were meant to be best friends.'

"Hey! Camilla, I wanna talk to you—" Hinata went off to consult with the shipping grandmaster, only for Oboro to yank him back by the collar.

"What!? No! Don't leave me alone with her!" Oboro screamed. "Stay here!"

Selena, still on the floor, grabbed Oboro's ankle tight enough to restrict blood.

Oboro got a very confusing message from that. Being an only child, she did not understand the all-consuming overprotectiveness all older siblings had towards the ones that came after them. Therefore, she did not understand that Selena was instinctively reacting to the idea that Oboro was too attached to Hinata.

So, she wound up thinking that Selena was being a pervert and looking up her costume's skirt.

Oboro stepped on Selena's head as a result.

It was not an act of violence, simply an attempt to protect her chastity by making Selena face the floor. Selena, however, called non-verbal bullshit on that. The redhead reacted by log-rolling out from under Oboro's foot, spinning around, and kicking up at Oboro's... ow.

Hinata, who witnessed this, figured that they were just roughhousing. So, he turned to go see Camilla while they were distracted.

However, Oboro caught him in a chokehold, holding his back against her chest. Before she could whisper to Hinata that she intended to let him spend time with his sister...

"LET'S GET THIS OVER WITH!"

Selena got a critical hit.

And thus, Oboro flew back, smacking headfirst into Effie. She passed out on impact.

Effie looked back over her shoulder, as if investigating an insect bite. 

She made eye contact with Selena, who whistled badly. Effie's eyes narrowed. She would not tolerate violence towards her wards.

Hinata watched blankly as Effie rushed over in an instant, punching his sister in the face so hard, she flew into a wall.

"They're not gonna be hurt or anything, right?" He asked worriedly.

Effie pulled out a card from her pocket and showed it to him.

"Oh.... oh! You're trained in first aid! Please take good care of them, Effie!" Hinata cheered as he returned the card.

Effie nodded and saluted him as she added two new bodies to her collection.


"I feel like it's been a lot longer than seven minutes..." Corrin noted.

"Maybe it's fatigue," Leo replied, literally laying on top of Corrin, since his arms got tired from holding him up somewhere around the 'I think it's been like, maybe eight minutes' mark.

"I think we've been forgotten."

"Look at it this way, since we've been taking up the closet all this time, no one could use it. We've been preventing love by doing absolutely nothing."

"Yeah! Yes! You're right there!" Corrin cheered excitedly. "This is great! This feels so good, I love the feeling of—"

Leo interrupted her before she could say 'sabotaging love.'

"Keep quiet!" Leo hissed. "What do you think will happen if we get caught in this kind of situation?!"

"Leo, it's my party, I am totally allowed to do whatever I want! Even if it's something like this!" Corrin protested.

"Think with your head instead of pretty much everything else, would you? What would this mean for your reputation at school? You'll be called something like the 'love freak' and avoided like the plague."

"Leo, you—!"

"WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN HERE?!" Takumi demanded, kicking down the door.

He had been walking to the washroom when he heard everything after "Yeah!", since the two were not very quiet after that. And he did not have the context.

Please keep in mind that Leo was on top of Corrin. Like, 'chest-to-chest', 'legs tangled together', 'head resting in the crook of her neck' kind of on top of. 

And there was a conveniently-placed pile of boxes of winter gear that conveniently blocked everything from the waist down from Takumi's view.

Yeah.

Yeah.

And then Corrin decided to blatantly lie and answer his question with, "dancing."

"Dancing," the two boys repeated in blank confusion.

"Yeah."

"On the floor," Takumi stated.

"Yeah."

"What kind of dance is that?!"

"The horizontal tango," Corrin answered, making Leo's face fall. "It's a very popular dance style."

Corrin, who had been sheltered and protected for almost her entire life, did not comprehend the implications of her words.

Takumi, however, did.

Coincidentally, with the right Friendship Seal and Partner Seal candidates, it's entirely possible for Takumi to have access to Astra and Lethality at the same time. Plus, he can naturally learn Rend Heaven and Quixotic by reclassing to Basara, and he always has access to Bowfaire, plus his already superpowered Skill growth...

In other words, a Takumi at max levels could have about forty Skill, and thus an almost eighty percent chance to fuck you over, fifty-ish percent chance of screwing you over with five consecutive hits, and a one-fourth chance of outright killing you in one hit, and Takumi also just naturally had a high crit rate.

Leo was up against that.

"Oh, that's it! Just die already! I hate to do this! You'll never hit this target! Allow me! I'll shoot you down! Here's a present! We're celebrating my way! I'll kill you myself! Die, die, die! Welcome to paradise!"

So, anyways, Leo was sent into a world of pain, the closet exploded, and the three of them were added to Effie's collection of unconscious people v2.

While she was preparing pillows and blankets for all of them, a weirdo approached her.

"You're rather devoted to a thankless job, even though no one asked you to do it. Could you be trying to play the hero to earn everyone's love and adoration? What a pointless endeavor!"

Effie's response was to stare at him the same way most people would react to a random person walking up to them and judging their decisions.

"Ah, your expression tells me that I'm wrong, then?"

Effie nodded.

"Then, why do you do such a thing?"

Effie mulled over it. She vaguely gestured at the patients, her heart, and the ceiling.

"So, you're worried that, without you, these people would ascend to the heavens before their time."

Effie nodded, happy that he understood.

"How cruel! To prevent them from reaching paradise... I never thought that I could ever meet a person so cruel," he said with a smile.

Effie slapped her hand to her face.

"Wrong again? You know, it would be easier to correct me if you spoke out loud."

Effie pulled out some cough drops and showed it to him.

"Ah, so you lost your voice due to illness. I'm not too sure why you're treating vulnerable people, then, seeing as you're entirely at risk of infecting them, but, more importantly!" He let out a sharp laugh, and a glint entered his closed eyes... somehow. "Shall we discuss the intricacies of love? I've heard that it's very efficient in provoking reactions in people."

Effie's face in response to that was what could only be called the hesitant lovechild of trepidation, confusion, and trace amounts of excitement.

"I see! You're reacting already!" Another laugh. "How interesting! Could it be that you've already someone dear to your earthly desires?"

Effie hurriedly shook her head.

"I wonder, I wonder, are you saying no in truth, or saying no because of embarrassment?"

Effie held up one finger to show that it was the first one.

"How unfortunate..." His face was still a bright smile. "With my eyes closed, I can't see anything. And I haven't heard an answer, so I'm free to assume that you're simply ashamed. I never knew a human being could be so shameful. Love truly is wonderful."

Effie slapped both her hands to her face.

"Careful, you might ruin your beautiful face if you strike it with that much force."

Effie looked up from her hands, slowly turning red as she tried to figure out how to... thank(?) the guy?

"Oho! It seems you've mistaken my words for the expression of base attraction thanks to our previous conversation! Rest assured, I have no such feelings for you, no more than one would have towards a table lamp."

Effie didn't know why she even bothered.

"But, in all honesty, you interest me. Would you do me the honour of teaching me about love?"

Effie looked up once again, stared at his face in absolute gobsmacked silence, and let out a soundless expression of sheer emotional response.


"Kaden. I don't understand," Azura said with a blank expression.

"Okay, okay, one more time?" Kaden requested, looking back and forth between the two.

"He threw the punch bowl at me!" Hana screamed indignantly.

"I tripped!" Arthur protested. "I swear, I meant no harm, and I'll gladly recompensate you if you wanted—"

"Like I'm gonna believe you when, right after that, you—"

"It was an accident!" Arthur insisted.

"Why are you involved in this?" Azura asked, not giving a single fuck to the pair's squabbling and giving them all to Kaden.

"Arthur let me have the last bat cookie. I owe him."

Azura sighed deeply.

"You know you'll owe me for helping you with this right after, right?"

"Yeah, but you'll be nice and ask for something small and cute."

"[CENSORED]—?"

"Try again."

"How disappointing," Azura said, though her slight smile exposed her joke. "Then, how about we go to an ice cream store together? It'll be my treat."

"Huh? How will that be me repaying you?"

"Trust me, Kaden."

"Alright..."

And then Azura stepped between the pair, pushed Hana away from Arthur before she could kill the guy for something he probably didn't even do, and declared,

"Shut up. You're annoying. Say sorry to each other or I'll kick both your asses."

"What?!" Hana gasped in horror.

"I humbly apologize for my actions against you!" Arthur exclaimed. "I will repay you in any way I can!"

"Yeah, that's right! I could've gotten this replica armour stained thanks to you!"

Azura waved her fist menacingly at Hana.

"Oh please, like I'm gonna be intimidated by a beanpole," Hana claimed, oblivious to the ass-kicking she was inviting.

Arthur, not oblivious to the ass-kicking she was inviting, shoved her to the floor and took her place, fractions of a fraction of a second before Azura struck skin and knocked him back. He went to his knees, one hand on the floor to support him, and one hand pressed against his face.

"Are you making a fool of me?" Azura asked, her voice quiet.

"H-huh? Are you..." Hana shuddered involuntarily. "Are you mad...?"

"Ask Kaden," Azura huffed.

"Is she mad at me?!" Hana screamed at Kaden.

Kaden hummed, looking Azura over as she wound up another punch. 

"I think she's more schmfuzzled," Kaden concluded.

"...huh?"

"Did he fucking stutter?" Azura demanded. "I'm fucking schmfuzzled!"

And then she tried to punch Hana. 'Tried' being the key word, since Arthur stood up and took the hit again. He turned to face Hana, using all of his heroic resolve to keep standing.

"Run! I'll hold her off!"

"I can't just abandon someone who took a hit for me, not once, but twice!" Hana declared. "If you want to hit someone, then you can hit me!"

"No..." Arthur whispered in horror, trying his best to fight on, and failing miserably.

"Don't worry," Hana told him, stepping in front of him defensively. "I'll fight now."

"How cute," Azura noted with a twisted smile. "You'll die together."

'Azura!!! You're amazing, making them get along by playing the bad guy!!! I'm so lucky to be your friend!!!' Kaden thought as he ate snacks.

Azura decided to stop playing around. Hana braced herself for a punch.

Instead, Azura whipped around in a circle, kicking Hana in the face. The kick hit her diagonally, making contact with her jaw at a downwards angle that had Hana falling towards the floor. 

Being the daughter of a swordsman, Hana rolled to avoid a damaging collision with the floor. She landed in a crouching position, one hand propping her up, before she jumped and grabbed the nearest improvised weapons; a pair of baguettes.

"I'll destroy you," Hana promised. 

And then she leaped off the table and stabbed down at Azura, who jumped back. And tripped over Corrin's unconscious body on the floor, protected by pillows and blankets. 

Effie, sensing harm done to people placed on her care, spent a thousandth of a millisecond taking aim and locking onto the perpetrator. Like a goddamn bullet train, Effie rushed forward and struck, except Azura ducked, Hana backflipped, and only Arthur was left to be hit.

Effie silently apologized to him, but when she tried to collect Arthur's body, Hana threw bread at her. Azama laughed at it all, so Effie politely requested that she be able to use him as a weapon. She interpreted his silence as a yes.

The sound of violence woke Peri up to fight, which woke Jakob up because he knew he had to stop her, which got the attention of Beruka who started fighting to stop Peri, whose cries of pain made Silas concerned, which convinced Niles to throw his hat into the ring, which got Felicia to participate since she wouldn't let Niles upstage her, which dragged Flora into it since she wouldn't let her sister fight alone, which made Silas concerned and start stepping in to stop people, which made Kaze have to pull him away from attacks, which made Charlotte fight for her god, which made Benny defend his friend, which made Keaton snap at everyone around Benny and Charlotte, which made Camilla decide to get involved personally, which convinced Xander, Ryoma, and Hinoka (oh yeah she existed, kinda totally forgot about her, sorry Hinoka) to intervene as well, which got Rinkah to step in and set herself on fire and fight absolutely everyone, which eventually culminated in everything exploding into one big ball of explodey deathy violence.

Except for the closet where the little ones were still dealing with the triple crush thing. No one hurt them. They were like, twelve.

So, when Corrin woke up, her head was on Camilla's lap. Her and Leo, Peri, Silas, and Xander. Selena and Beruka were resting their heads on Camilla's shoulders. There wasn't room for Takumi anywhere else, so Camilla let him rest his head on her chest while he was sleeping. 

"Camilla, what's happenin—?"

"Shhhh," Camilla brushed her fingers through Corrin's hair. "Everyone else is awake. I simply asked them to clean up a little. They're working very hard, so you can relax a little longer."

"Is.... is love work....?" Corrin asked, trying to ask if her plan to sabotage love worked but unable to get out all the syllables.

"Yes," Camilla reassured her. "It worked."

Satisfied, Corrin fell back asleep.

Camilla giggled, looking up from her little group of nappers.

"Are you alright?" Arthur asked, presenting a first aid kit to Hana. "I might be clumsy, but I can bandage your wounds."

"No need! I dodged everything that came my way! You, on the other hand, definitely need some help, so sit still and let me bandage you up!"

Charlotte was texting her friend to tell them about the absolutely insane god she just met. 

Oboro's eyes were watching Benny as she half-heartedly swept the floor. Selena yelled at her to do it properly, and immediately sparked off a competition to clean the most floorspace. Hinata cheered them both on.

Felicia bragged to Niles about her tender, touching moment in the closet with Silas. He took it in all the wrong ways.

Kagero and Orochi were being Kagero and Orochi.

Azura and Kaden were doing basically the same thing.

Hayato argued with Elise, because they had agreed to work in pairs, since it would be efficient. Hayato wanted to work with Sakura, while Elise insisted on working with him, an insistence which made Sakura start screaming. Mozu had already started cleaning up her portion of the floor, oblivious to their squabbling because she was wearing headphones.

And Jakob, who did most of the work by himself, returned to Camilla with a pensive look on his face.

"How is she doing?"

"She seems to be having a pleasant dream," Camilla answered sweetly.

"Tell me if she wakes up," Jakob requested. "Please."

"Of course," Camilla promised, before a question popped out from her lips before she could stop it. "Why do you care so much for her?"

"Well, I think that's a rather improper question, isn't it?" Jakob asked returned pointedly.

"I know. But, when I see your devotion, I can't help but wonder why. It's not like she ever thanks you for it."

"It's a butler's duty to serve their master, no thanks required," Jakob said.

"But there's still something more to it," Camilla observed. "You wouldn't tolerate all that she does if there wasn't."

Jakob's face fell flat.

"...I simply can't fail her again."

And, with only Camilla's eyes watching him, he smoothed Peri's hair over before going back to work.

She felt a grin on her face as she heard Peri hum happily in her sleep.

Yes, Corrin's plan to induce love had gone perfectly.

"Is everyone doing well?" A green-haired boy appeared out of nowhere, almost startling Camilla. Almost.

"Yes, they should be up and ready soon. Are you leaving before then, Kaze?" Camilla asked pleasantly. 

"You know of me?" Kaze seemed perturbed by the thought.

"Corrin told me of you. She said that your brother would most likely appear around midnight, screaming about honour, the family name, and how shameful you've been acting as he destroyed everything he even thought could be alcoholic or drugged," Camilla informed him.

Kaze immediately started laughing.

"She makes him sound like such a character," he said, still chuckling. "But, no, I'll be going back by myself."

"Awww, I won't be able to witness the legendary Saizo rage?" Camilla cooed in disappointment.

"Unfortunately, no. My brother..." Kaze's voice betrayed him in a split second, souring the words, "he won't be coming."

"Oh?"

"He's been injured. Currently, he's at home, recovering," Kaze managed to say it calmly, letting none of his worries slip through.

"I wish him a speedy recovery." Camilla watched Kaze's face with a gentle frown. "If I weren't so... not burdened, perse, but perhaps weighed down? If I weren't so weighed down, I would have given you a hug."

"Well, I appreciate the thought," Kaze told her with a genuine smile, before worried eyes went to the face buried in her chest. "But, I'm not too sure if Takumi can breathe..."

Camilla laughed in response. 

In a few hours, Kaze would return to the usual scene. His mother would welcome him back and casually ask about his day, as if the screaming from the room adjacent to the entrance was silent.

"Saizo! Get up!" Shura would order. "You can't be skimping on training if you want to avenge your father!"

"Of course I'm not giving up. Just who do you think I am?" Saizo would reply.

"Good! Now, try again!"

And then he would hear his brother crashing to the floor, the sound of his crutches clattering against wood, and pained breathing.

"Kaze? Is something the matter?" His mother would ask.

If he expressed concern about the pain his brother was going through, then, without changing her tone at all, she would ask if he mourned his father's death.

The answer to that was, "yes."

She would ask if he thought the murderer should be brought to justice.

The answer to that was, "yes."

"And so, how can you disagree to their earnest attempts to bring the culprit to justice?" She would ask with her gentle smile. "I understand that it hurts, to see your brother face such pain. But it will make him strong enough to see his goal through. Don't you want to support him?"

The answer to that was, "yes."

If he expressed concern in any way, his mother would manage to turn it into something so little, he shouldn,t have bothered being worried.

So, he skipped through that, said he wasn't worried, and went off to bed.


The group of teachers stood outside the bar, exchanging their last pleasantries before heading to their transportation.

"Thank you," Sumeragi told Nyx, who had Yukimura's arm slung over her shoulders. 

"You sure you don't need help bringing him?" Mikoto asked, looking on in concern. "I can still come with you." 

Before Nyx could respond, Yukimura blurted out, "Nooooo! No! Nooo, I'm going with Nyxie!" while wrapping his arms around her torso.

"Stop that," Nyx ordered. "You already embarrassed yourself by getting drunk at a office drinking party. Don't embarrass yourself further."

"So cold," Yukimura whined. "Your shoulder is cold."

"Stop."

Gunter cleared his throat, looking at a streetlight like he was embarrassed to have survived to see that.

"I think we better let the two leave. Alone."

"Oh my~ I remember being so young, once, and lost in the thrall of love," Reina agreed, looking at her gloved hand for where she knew her wedding ring was. "It was as lovely as the sensation of blood on my—"

"What are you implying?" Nyx asked with venomous eyes.

Mikoto and Sumeragi laughed. 

"I see. So that's the case."

"Wh-"

"We won't press the issue, then!" 

"W-wait—!"

"Good night, everyone!"

And then everyone, save for Gunter, Nyx, and Yukimura scattered.

"I'll leave him in your care, Maria," Gunter told her.

"We aren't in love!" Nyx managed to blurt out, startling the drunk man leaning on her.

Gunter looked at her in a way that made her feel very, very young.

"I am well aware. However, it seemed that your companion needed some help."

"So you make people gossip about us?!"

"It seemed preferable to letting Yukimura keep pretending to be drunk."

Nyx made an odd face, before she felt the weight on her shoulders lift.

"Impressive. And here I thought I was rather convincing," Yukimura stated as he rolled his arm to work out the kinks. 

"I'll leave you to it," Gunter told the pair.

Nyx nodded, before glaring at the bespectacled man.

"Explain. Now."

"I'd rather humiliate myself than spend more time than I absolutely have to with that woman," Yukimura admitted honestly, walking off to the parking lot.

"Which one?" Nyx asked, moving to follow him without thinking. 

"That's interesting. I wouldn't think that you'd be interested in my relationship with others. Could you possibly be jealous?" He asked teasingly.

"Absolutely not. Learn to differentiate fiction and reality."

Yukimura laughed, approaching a sleek red car and pulling out his keys. 

And then he offered them to Nyx.

"Well, I can't drive home since I've been drinking so much, and I distinctly remember you grumbling that you would take the bus here since your ride broke down... I'll let you drive."

"If I drop you off at your house, I'd have no choice but to bring your car with me to get home," Nyx pointed out. "Police officers on the Hoshidan side would assume I was stealing your car, which would get me imprisoned."

"That's one possible outcome, yes."

"And I refuse to spend the night at your home. There is no possible way you can expect me to do that."

"Understandable."

Nyx sighed and took the keys.

"Give me some money. We'll get separate rooms at the cheapest inn we can find. I can't pay you back now, but I will. I swear it."

Yukimura smiled, thanked her, and got in the passenger seat. Nyx sighed once again, entered the car, and went off.

"So?" Nyx asked pointedly. "What sort of horrible, dreadful woman could ever cause you to sink so low?"

Yukimura was silent for a second, going through his glove compartment to reach a pack of gum. He popped one in his mouth and offered another to Nyx, which she took. It tasted sweet.

"It's rather funny, in a horrifying way," Yukimura told her, watching the buildings in the window as Nyx drove away from the quiet restaurant district. "I used to think that she... well, I practically idolized her. I thought she was perfectly pure, perfectly incapable of doing any wrong. But now, when I think of Mikoto," he breathed out in a puff, fingers twitching on his knee, "I wonder how I could have ever thought that."

Nyx waited for him to speak. Instead, he told her to turn by a convenience store with darkened windows, taking them away from the clean displays and charming chalkboard menus in the sidewalk.

Nyx wasn't sure if she recognized the dirtied streets and graffitied walls that she was approaching, or if they just reminded her of home. Either way, the familiar surroundings emboldened her enough to speak up.

"Do you hate her?" Nyx asked. 

"I hate people of that type."

"And what type is that?"

"Liars," Yukimura hissed through his teeth. "The kind of person who can push their child until they break, sob about their worries in public, and go right back to breaking them in private."

Nyx shot him a glance before fixing her attention back on the road. Yukimura's frown creased his eyebrows slightly. He was in a comfortable position, but there was a tension under his skin. She could feel it in the air.

"It sounds like that isn't just an example," Nyx observed, her tone impressively neutral.

Yukimura let out a huff, adjusting his position to turn on the radio. Some weathergirl's chatter about the next rainfall quickly became background noise.

"Sometimes, I forget that you haven't been here from the start. Otherwise, you'd know what I mean."

"I can learn what you mean now, can't I?"

"True," Yukimura admitted. "I've seen it before. Parents who hurt their children, terrify them, control them, and turn around and say it's all for their own good. In fact, it's almost normal for our school."

"Excuse me?" Nyx's tone was scandalized.

She was used to parents students wouldn't talk about. She was used to being told that no one would answer if she called home during school hours. She was used to excusing students who were holding handfuls of messily-gathered flowers, noting that they were trying to present a blank face to her. It was normal for parents to just not be a part of her students' lives.

But the idea of parents like that were just unthinkable to her.

"In a way, it was probably to be expected. In Hoshido, we have nobles, generals, and members of Chon'sin's court, all in a land where the law of the main country can't follow you. Why wouldn't the ambitious try to beat others down? Why wouldn't they pressure their children into carrying their legacy perfectly?"

"And... and this is normal."

"Yes."

"And you say that... that the mother of one of my students is just like that."

"Believe me or not, it's what I've observed."

Yukimura shot her a glance through the corner of his eye. 

"Do you trust me?"

She didn't know how to answer that.

She just brought them to a hotel in the middle of town, the most expensive in Nohr, the cheapest in Hoshido, and got Yukimura to pay for it all.

When they got to school that morning, Miss Nyx found that Silas was looking at her weird.

(Of course he was. He saw her leaving the love hotel within walking distance of his house with a guy.)

As Mr. Yukimura taught his woodshop class, he thought that Kaze, Mozu, and Hayato were sending him looks. But it might have been because he smelled like a bar.

(No, it was because they saw him leaving the love hotel within walking distance of their houses with a woman.)


Bonus

[What.]

[dude?!??!?!?!?? ive said it like twelve times in one message???]

[Forgive me for finding it difficult to believe that you met a god at a high school Halloween party.]

[and forgive me for getting pissed at your snark, edgelord!]

[Please, if you were actually irritated, you'd be swearing wildly at me.]

[you know me so well. it pisses me off.]

[Glad to be of service.]

[i didnt even know you COULD be glad! its a miracle! (ノ´ヮ´)ノ*:・゚✧]

[You can't see it, but I'm sighing at you and your antics.]

[just type *sigh*. it's cuter.]

[You want me to act cute.]

[yeah. it'd be hilarious.]

[*Exasperation.*]

[O MGYOURE LIKE A GRNDMQJNM]

[I don't know what you even want from me anymore.]


"She's a fairly shy girl. I think she needs some help coming out of her shell."

"So, let me get this straight. A beautiful blonde girl suddenly tripped into you, stuttered, and acted sweet and shy around you," Saizo summarized succinctly.

"Yes. I'm hoping we can become friends," Kaze said with the utmost seriousness.

"Aren't you just being seduced?!" 

"Why would you think that?"

Saizo screamed so hard that Mozu threw a rock at his window and told him to shut up.


"So... Uh. Carl. Why do you have..." Oboro couldn't even ask the question, just gesturing at the clone's sizable chest.

The clone looked down and realized that Corrin had forgotten to not show her bounciness in the witch costume. So, the clone handled it the way Corrin would.

"Well, they could be real. Or they could just be pads I got from the cosplay store," 'Carl' answered cryptically, before winking at Oboro, "Of course, the only way to be sure would be to check, right?"

"E-er?!" 

"Please, be gentle, you know how sensitive I am..."

"NEVER MIND!" Oboro screamed, blushing like crazy.

Chapter Text

Corrin was completely exhausted. She practically collapsed into her swivel chair, spinning around weakly from the motion. Leo couldn't help her with Hoshidan homework, even when she translated it, because, well, she was terrible at translating. To be fair, she also happened to be terrible with writing in general.

Hinoka and Ryoma were equally difficult to ask for help, since they both emitted a 'your results are produced through your own efforts, your strength is earned on your own' kinda aura. Of course, it could have also been 'help, I'm a human disaster and you shouldn't ask me for anything' aura. Sakura wouldn't know the material, Dad was busy and Mom...

Well, Corrin didn't like spending any significant amount of time alone with her mom.

She could never ask the Drama Club members for a study meeting. Kagero was two years older and already had to teach Orochi and Ryoma. Takumi and Oboro were ruthless with their corrections in the one time she tried to study with them and Hinata. And she couldn't ask Azura or Kaden, because asking one would obviously mean asking the other and gods they were all over each other and Azura would murder her for interrupting and also, Corrin could not bear to see them. They physically made her ill with their love. Or maybe it was all the history books she read while she was a kid and still in the basement affecting her physically.

So, Corrin studied with Kaze. He might have been a year older, but he was nice enough to help her out. His advice was gentle and well-thought out, and he knew just how to get her to understand a text. But, even with Kaze's help, both studying and love were evil and all Corrin wanted was to not live in a world with such confusing poetry and also, more importanly, not deal with any love nonsense for a year.

Of course, because she was Corrin, she failed to notice the fast footsteps rushing at her room.

"CORRIN HELP!" Hinoka screamed, kicking down her door. The door flew into the wall, bounced back, and hit Hinoka in the face. Corrin sighed.

"What do you need?"

"I'm gonna be fighting Ma'am in the next volleyball tournament!" 

"...ah."

Corrin completely forgot about that.

That. Y'know. Eternal rival thing.

"Why is that a problem?" Corrin asked, because surely, if she forgot, everyone else did too. Because friendship.

"Because!"

"Because.....?"

"Because, if she wins, she could be happy, or she could be disappointed in how weak I am! If she loses, she could be frustrated over her loss, or impressed by my skills! It's a heaven or hell gambling ring!"

"No, it seems like it's just hell," Corrin retorted, immediately regretting it. "Since. You're so anxious and.... yeah. Sorry."

"What are you even apologizing for?"

"For being sarcastic?"

"It's fine. You don't need to apologize."

"...sorry."

Hinoka stared at her flatly. Corrin resisted the urge to apologize again.


'You're so worried, but I'm not sure if she would care much...' Corrin thought as she noticed Hinoka hiding behind the corner, too anxious to walk into the Tea Ceremony room. The guards were giving Hinoka weird looks, knowing that she was a member yet thinking she was too suspicious to let inside.

"You two excited for the volleyball match?" Elise asked as she walked down the hallway.

"Yeah. Big sister is, too. She's been practicing so hard," Leo replied.

"I know! She would be so disappointed if she lost!"

"I remember how much she hated the Shisaragi volleyball team last time her team lost," Xander added. "She used their photos for a punching bag and swore to avenge her loss."

'Oh. That might be why.' Corrin saw that Hinoka started freaking out. She kinda felt bad for her. And then Beruka decided she was being creepy and that she needed to leave.

"Corrin?" Leo was the first to notice her peeking out from the door.

"What?! Why are you—!? I'm a member! She gave me a badge and everything!"

"I'm giving you ten seconds to either stop and leave or face a beating. Your choice."

"Uh. Yeah. Um," Corrin replied eloquently.

"Is something the matter?" Xander asked worriedly.

"Yeah, if it's something we can help with—!" Elise exclaimed, just as ten seconds passed and Hinoka was still there.

"If it's a fight, I won't lose!"

"So be it."

"I-I'll be fine," Corrin decided, watching Hinoka's shoe fly off and hit the wall. "Let's just go inside."

Camilla smiled as she welcomed them inside. Around their large round table, Silas and Kagero were already discussing various things like history and politics while drinking tea, Odin was bragging to Hinata as Laslow sighed and corrected his exaggerations, and Setsuna was chatting with Effie. Somehow. 

Camilla stopped all the conversation by tapping a spoon against her metal teapot, signalling a new member to sit down.

"Everyone, this is Orochi, Kagero's girlfriend," Camilla announced, gesturing to the purple-haired girl wih big boobs at the table that was not herself.

"Hello hello!" Orochi greeted them cheerfully. "Let's see... the grumpy one is Xander, and the grumpier one is Leo, so that's you," she pointed at Xander, "and you," she pointed at Leo, causing Corrin to snicker, "the cute young one is Elise, and the absolutely insane person who managed to introduce Kagero to Camilla in the first place with amateur fortune-telling is Carl."

"...who," was Camilla's only reaction.

"CARL?!" Selena burst into the room with a sword. "WHERE IS THAT [CENSORED]?! I'LL MURDER HIM!"

Leo and Elise both shot Corrin a look that blatantly said 'what did you do this time.' Corrin's answer was a look that screamed I didn't do anything!'

"Carl isn't here," Hinata informed his sister.

"...why are you gonna kill someone?" Odin asked.

"I think this is something we can just file away as one of women's many myst— OW! Seriously?! I was trying to help you!" Laslow exclaimed in response to Selena just shooting her hairtie at him.

"Help me by helping me murder him!"

"No!"

Camilla cleared her throat, and Odin clapped his hands together twice. It was hard to tell which one convinced the pair to quiet down and apologize. Camilla then told Orochi to continue with her introduction.

"I wanted to thank all those who helped me get together with my wonderful girlfriend," Orochi declared. "So, Setsuna, Laslow, Camilla, and Carl, when he shows up!"

"Carl isn't in this club!" Selena screamed.

Orochi made an odd look. "So my fortune-telling.... must have been further in the future than I thought. Oh well."

"I want a coconut," Setsuna said suddenly. Effie sighed.

"I will buy you a tree," Orochi promised.

"Yaaaaayyyy...."

"I want a date with a cute gi- OW SELENA WHY—" Laslow reacted to Selena shooting her other hairtie at him.

"Just say you're welcome and leave it!"

"No! I want one of those patterned fans Hoshidan families use!"

"Done," Orochi stated, pulling out a phone and sending a message to her family. "They'll drop it off for you."

"...who's they?" Silas asked.

"Orochi's family is one of Chon'sin's scientific juggernauts. She's quite possibly the richest person in this room," Kagero answered.

Those words would have held a lot more weight if Setsuna and Kagero and Hinata weren't the only one among them that wasn't around middle class levels of money. Not counting Odin and Selena and Laslow since they were cheating.

(Yes, including Silas. Middle class translates to rich in Nohrian.)

"So! Camilla, what can I do for yo—"

"Is there anyway you can help me spread the love and make more people fall in love," Camilla asked immediately.

"Of course I can," Orochi answered. "Give me some onions and a day in a lab, and I'll whip up a concoction that could make Naga cry."

"...oh boy," was Hinata's only reaction.

"Why?!" Corrin demanded, stepping forward to scream at Camilla. "Why would you do this?!"

"Corrin, no," Leo pulled her back. "Stop that."

"But Leo!"

"We had this discussion already!"

"Ufufufufufu..." Camilla laughed, her eyes shining.

And then Hinoka burst in, her shirt torn in half and panting. Beruka stumbled in after her, most of her uniform in tatters.

They both sat down and drank tea, completely oblivious to what everyone else in the room thought they were just doing.


"Beruka and Hinoka, Leo and Corrin, who else...?" Camilla wondered as she drew up the list.

"Hayato and Mozu," Sakura added.

"Thank you, Sakura! You have such an eye for budding relationships!" Camilla patted Sakura's hair as she added that to the list. Sakura blushed.

"I'll bring Oboro so she can be friends with Selena!" Hinata declared.

"So, three batches of love potion is enough?" Orochi asked with a grin.

"Yes."

"I thought this was a study session," Silas said despondently, sitting at the library table with his books and notebooks that weren't even necessary.

"We're studying the art of love," Camilla replied.

"Um. I can understand wanting people together and all, but isn't drugging them a bit much?" Silas asked.

"As it stands, I really only have enough knowledge to make a drug that amplifies existing attraction, not make feelings of attraction spontaneously appear," Orochi stated.

"Alright." Silas felt a bit more reassured now.

"What if you used them on people who... uh, hated each other?" Hinata asked warily.

"Attraction and hatred are two diferent things. If they hated each other, zero attraction at all, they won't even notice. If they're attracted to each other, they're probably gonna wind up making out angrily."

"I really feel like this still isn't exactly the answer you're looking for, Hinata," Silas said with a sigh.

"Don't worry, Hinahina," Orochi cleared her throat and put on a profound-sounding voice, "'The opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.' So they gotta care about each other to hate each other!"

Hinata gaped in awe at those words.

"Hinahina?" Camilla asked with an amused smile.

"It sounds cute, right?" Orochi shot back.

"Yep! What would you call me?"

"Hmmm... Milla?" Orochi offered. "Maybe Millie."

Silas snorted.

"Her childhood nickname was actually 'M—'

"Don't. You. Dare," Camilla growled, blushing fiercely.

Silas only started laughing.

"Quiet in the library," Ms. Miriel scolded them. They all apologized, even Sakura.

"So... Oro-Oro?" Hinata proposed. "Orochichi? Just Chichi? Orochimata?"

"The last one sounds like a robot name," Silas noted.

"I like it," Orochi declared. 

"Orochimata it is!" Camilla cheered, making Ms. Miriel glare at her.

"T-then, for me..."

"Sakusaku," Silas, Orochi, Hinata, and Camilla decided at once.

Sakura smiled and laughed.

And then they all looked at Silas and thought.

"Sisi? No, it sounds too much like sissy..."

"Lalas? No, it just sounds weird..."

"Lassy? Wait, no, that won't work..."

"Cowlick," Sakura declared.

"Cowlick?" Hinata asked, earning a, "Cowlick," as an answer from Orochi as she nodded.

"Cowlick," Camilla confirmed.

Silas chuckled awkwardly. He totally knew they were gonna go there.

"So! We all know our codenames slash nicknames!" Hinata exclaimed excitedly, standing up and throwing his fist into the air in triumph.

"Quiet! Else you'll be removed from the premises!"

"Sorry!"

(Afterwards, Elise slipped Orochi several cookies to put Hinoka and Camilla together. Orochi shrugged and agreed.)

 


"So the seating arrangements are..." Camilla looked at the seating map Sakura and Orochi made for her.

The idea was that she would suggest having one on one tea dates, just to spice things up. Orochi got her the tables and Kagero helped arrange them. Jakob helped too, after seeing that Corrin was doing it too.

("Corrin, can you help, please?"

"Is... is this your attempt to make people date?"

"No?"

"..."

"Please? It would help me out a lot..."

"I-I, fine! Just stop looking at me like that!"

"Thank you so much, darling!"

"Don't get the wrong idea! I'm only helping because you asked as the Tea Ceremony Club's leader! I don't want to see love happen!"

"Ufufu, of course, sweetie."

"Milady Corrin! Allow me to help!"

"Oh, hi Jakob."

"I will carry these for you!"

"WAIT, TWELVE AT ONCE?! JAKOB STOP—")

Of course it was an attempt to induce love. She was everyone's big sister and that meant supporting her little siblings' love lives. Even if they were older than her. Age didn't matter when it came to love. She loved all her little siblings dearly and that meant she would gladly fight if it got everyone to admit they loved each other.

"I'm seated with Hinoka...? This must be a mistake, she's already with Beruka..." Camilla hummed, looking between the diagram drawn and the seating cards Silas wrote for her. "I'll just switch with Beruka, then."

Camilla smiled, feeling that all was right with her arrangements. Then, she went to her trusty kettle and pulled out the vial of liquid and the perfume container Orochi gave her. Orochi instructed her to add it to the tea when it was fresh and hot, then spray the perfume around the room.

One sniff of the uncorked vial explained why. It smelled like refined landfill. 

"Urgh. But it has an invaluable purpose, so I can't just not add it..."

So, she held it over the open kettle, steam rising up and causing the vial to fog over and smell even worse. Camilla breathed throuh her nose and tried to tilt the vial over...

And then Hinoka walked in.

See, Leo and Elise had a plan, alright?

Selena was madly searching for the Drama Club, since Leo asked about Kagero's club during teatime and Kagero mentioned her friend Carl being a member. Beruka got a call from Elise saying that Camilla needed more cookies, and set out to buy them. Unfortunately, she ran into Arhur being chased by Peri who was chased by Hana during it...

And Hinoka? Elise pulled her aside to talk to her earnestly, heart-to-heart, girl-to-girl.

"I admit. I didn't expect Camilla to like you nearly as much as she does. But she does. And if you ever hurt her, I'll kill you," Elise promised, "but. She does like you. I might even call it love. So I'm going to talk to the wall, say that she's in the clubroom alone right now, and turn a blind eye if any redheads go in there while no one else is watching."

Hinoka took the hint and went.

And saw Camilla trying to pour a suspicious liquid everyone's tea. It was absolutely not what she expected.

"...um," Camilla said eloquently. "This isn't happening?"

"Okay," Hinoka agreed, and walked out.

Camilla was honestly surprised that it actually wo—

Hinoka walked back in, and it was still happening.

"Is there any chance you could try to walk out again and stay there for a few seconds?" Camilla tried.

"I... no?" Hinoka replied, just as confused as Camilla was. "I tried, but it's still... it's still happening. I don't know what you're doing."

"I'm just... adding magical fairy dust to this tea, so that everyone can sparkle with happiness after."

Hinoka paused.

"Really?"

"Yes?"

"No, fairy dust doesn't smell like trash," Hinoka decided after sniffing the air. "What's actually happening?"

Camilla grimaced and cleared her throat.

"Well, Orochi made a love potion for me, because want to help all my little siblings with their love lives," Camilla said honestly. "Or, well, it gives you that extra push you need to admit your feelings. Would you like it if I let you take some right now so you can confess to your crush in private?"

Hinoka was tempted. Very, very tempted. 

But then, she had a dramatic flashback.

"You want to be stronger, right? Come on, then, sister! If you can best me, then you can truly give those flowers to her or something! Anyways, prove the worth of those words, right here, right now!"

"Are... are you serious?"

"Of course I am! Show me the strength of your feelings, sister!"

"I... I..." 

"You clearly aren't taking this seriously. There is no passion or fire in your eyes. You have no actual drive to do this. How can you make a promise based on such empty feelings?"

"No," Hinoka declared. "I might have a crush, but I want to find the courage to confess on my own! I don't want to do it because of a love potion! I'll manage it with my own strength!"

Camilla stared at her in silence for a few seconds. If you had asked anyone else to describe the look in her eye, they would have called it 'the look of someone whose respect for another person and therefore opinion of them was steadily rising up.'

In other words, Hinoka just gained a point. Or, well. Ten. Ish.

"You're impressive, Hinoka," Camilla said with a smile. "I'm glad to have someone as strong as you as a friend."

"W-w-we're FRIENDS?!" Hinoka squeaked.

"Um. Yes?"

"Th-that's— Thank you!" Hinoka bowed. "I didn't think I was worthy of the title, but—"

"Nonsense! You're wonderful, Hinoka! I'm proud of everything you've managed to accomplish!" Camilla declared. That sound you just heard was the sound of 'concerned big sister' mode activating.

"I... really?"

"Really," Camilla promised, setting down her kettle and tossing the vial over her shoulder to hold Hinoka's hands as she said it. The vial shattered on the floor and made everything smell bad.

Hinoka kinda died.

"Thank... thanks, ma'am."

"Call me by my name," Camilla requested. "We're friends now, so you don't have to be so formal. We're the same age, aren't we?"

Hinoka nodded unconsciously, and then she realized a problem. 

She still thought Camilla was a pseudonym to cover for the serial sibling seducer.

"Um... what's your name?" Hinoka asked, trying to be polite.

Camilla ran away crying.

In the hallway, Takumi and Hinata and Oboro were going to the special tea ceremony club event Hinata was talking about. And then Camilla ran into Takumi in the hallway and just sobbed into his chest. She had to kneel down to do it. Hinoka, confused, ran after them and saw Takumi, who was even more confused. Oboro honestly would have been angry, if she weren't also confused, concerned, and confused. Meanwhile, Hinata was just worried.

"Hinoka— what did I do wrong?!" Camilla wailed. "I-I can't believe this, I thought we were getting along so well, and then—!"

"Are... are you okay?" Oboro asked, concerned about the Nohrian girl.

"I-I try to be good for you all, but-but," Camilla sobbed, "am I really so forgettable?!" 

The trio turned to look at Hinoka.

The looks on their faces clearly expressed a general sense of 'what did you do.'

"I just, I just asked what your name is!"

"How do you just forget the name of someone you talk to almost everyday?!" Oboro demanded. "She told everyone her name at Corrin's party!"

"Don't worry," Takumi reassured the older girl. "Hinoka is just an idiot."

"HEY!"

"Yeah, she gets hit in the head a lot during sports," Hinata added.

"I DO NOT!"

Camilla sniffled.

"I haven't failed Hinoka as a sister, then?" Camilla asked, needing to ask because her sense of self had been shaken enough by Hinoka not knowing her goddamn name.

"You haven't," Takumi said, just as Hinoka loudly yelled, "You are not my sister!"

Camilla died at those words.

The trio of second years stared at Hinoka in complete silence for a while.

"Read the goddamn mood!" Oboro screamed, punching Hinoka in the face.

"Be more sensitive, would ya?!" Hinata also screamed, following up Oboro's punch with an uppercut.

"But I will never see her as a sister!" Hinoka wailed. "Not if my life depended on it!"

Camilla's soul left her body. Takumi was very worried.

"ARE YOU AN IDIOT?!" And then Hinata and Oboro struck her with a palm thrust at the same time.

As his sister fell to the floor, Takumi sighed. He did not know the words that would comfort someone, but he could try.

"Are you an idiot? Why would you care so much about one moron when you've got so many friends?"

Or he could crash and burn into a flaming volcano, he could do that too.

"You can't seriously be egoistical enough to not handle one person knowing your name," Takumi went on, like he didn't do enough damage just by existing at that particular time and place.

"E-eh?" Even Oboro was baffled by that.

"Translation: Lotsa people love you already. You can handle one person who doesn't," Hinata provided helpfully.

"...is that right?" Camilla asked, staring up at Takumi.

"I-it's not wrong, but don't get the wrong idea..." Takumi managed to say while blushing. "I just can't stand crying people. It's annoying, so..."

Camilla laughed, then stood up and hugged Takumi. Since she was like a head taller than him, it ended with her lifting him up into the air. Like, his feet weren't touching the ground at all.

"Then, thank you for your kind words."

"Ge-get off of me!" Takumi protested, not really fighting it.

"Aww," Hinata said with a smile.

"Absolutely disgusting," Oboro said with a sneer. "Get a room."

"Oh, that's right, we were all going to the Tea Ceremony room," Hinata remembered.

And then Camilla freaked out and remembered and set Takumi down gently and ran back to her clubroom.

Fortunately, Orochi had already sprayed the perfume for her. The room no longer smelled like trash.

However, in the empty room, Orochi sniffed the air with dissatisfaction, before plugging her nose again.

"Dammit. Even with actual refined, heat-activated garbage scent, we still can't cover up the smell of the love potion."

And then Orochi shrugged, spraying more of it around. 

"Aw well. They'll be so in love, it won't even matter."

In little over fifteen minutes, everything would go to hell. Let's review.

There was love potion perfume in the air. All of the Tea Ceremony club and their friends were invited. Basically everyone. Almost fifty people were in one room with love potion in the air and almost all of them were insane.

"GO OUT WITH ME!" Rinkah screamed at the top of her lungs, already on fire.

"Uh. No," Flora replied immediately. "The only things I know about you are that you're from the Flame Tribe, you're good in a fight, your name is Rinkah, and you're on fire. And hot."

"Then! Fight me!"

"Uh. No," Flora repeated. 


Orochi was furiously taking notes from the doorway as Kagero hugged her. Silas watched in concern, peeking over Orochi's shoulder and regretting it instantly.

"Why does it have a question mark by 'flammable?!'" He demanded.

"I didn't think we would be setting the love potion perfume on fire."

"Isn't something pretty important to consider?!"

"I also have an ice gun in case things go wrong. Perks of being a rich girl."

"...how rich are you?"


"You have the most beautiful eyes. Mind if I take a closer look?" Laslow asked, leaning over the table seductively.

"That would require looking up, and I'm not in a position to do so," Xander answered, too busy working on Student Council work to be bothered by silly things like love potions.

"Lazzyyyyy, pay attention to me!" Peri whined, clinging to Laslow's arm.

"Peri, is now really the best ti—" Laslow realized his mistake when he looked over his shoulder and saw Peri crying.

"You don't wanna spend time with Peri? I'll stab you dead!" Peri wailed.

"Actually, I've always wanted to be buried in sand. I'll let you do it until I'm dead, but only if you grab each grain one at a time."

"Why?"

"You gotta make sure it's good sand, right?" Laslow told her. "And you gotta do it by hand, that way I know you love me lots."

"So, it's a special way to show I love you? Killing you with a way you want?"

"Yup."

"Okay!" Peri ran off to get sand.

Odin stared at Laslow like he was crazy.

"She listens to me if I'm around while she's in a mood. Telling her not to kill people just makes her more angry, so I tell her to do them in with methods that will take forever."

"...I think you might be an enabler," Odin noted, causing Xander's head to snap up towards Odin and another marriage proposal to drop from his lips.

Laslow almost started laughing as Odin shrieked and recoiled.


"Interesting..." Orochi noted. "According to the sensors I set up, it doesn't have much effect on some people!"

"How much money do you even have?!" Silas demanded.


"I don't understand what's happening," Setsuna said.

"Run away with me!" Subaki requested, kneeling down and holding her hand in his. 


"So... it makes shy people bolder, but some people can be too distracted to notice..."

"So are we not worrying about the eloping thing or what?"

"Oh please, like Setsuna would agree to something she would have to think that hard about."


Azama laughed at everyone. Effie stopped him from messing with everyone.

"Really now, why would you stop me? What's the harm in it?"

Effie glared at him.

"You know, being so serious is stressful for the soul. All earthly matters are transient and soon will only exist in our memories, so why not have some fun with it?"

Effie nodded, but then rolled her eyes and waved her arms at the people around them.

"Yes, I see them. What about them?"

Effie poked at her heart.

"Aaaaah, I see, I see. They have hearts."

Effie nodded.

"As do most living creatures. Tell me, do you consider the feelings of the meat you eat?"

Effie stared at him, then, with a shaky hand, pointed at him hesitantly.

"No, I don't eat people. It was a philosophical inquiry."

Effie looked at him flatly.

"Do you not know what philosophy is?"

Effie nodded.

"Ah, I understand! Please allow me to educate you. Ahahaha, that look on your face tells me you think this will be torturous, but I assure you, there is nothing more fun than questioning the laws of reality, our society, and the nature of a human being!"


"I don't think they were even affected..." Silas thought out loud.

"They weren't," Orochi confirmed with a glance at her sensors' info. "They're not attracted to each other at all."

"So, they're not gonna get together?"

"Well, they might not be attracted to each other now, but things can change in the future."


"Corrin, might I serve you some tea?" Jakob inquired politely.

"Oh, thanks!" Corrin smiled as Jakob refilled her cup.

"I'd like some too," Leo informed him.

"Too bad," Jakob retorted, before walking away.


"Is being a jerk to people you don't have a crush on a common symptom of this potion thing?" Silas asked warily.

"No, that's just his personality," Orochi replied.


Charlotte... didn't really care.

And then Kaze appeared, and she almost fell to her knees.

'Holy shit! Holy shit, his beauty! His beauty is blinding! Is he revealing his true powers as a god?!'

"Careful," Kaze warned her, offering her a hand up. "There's something foul in the air."

"Urmmmgh," was Charlotte's reaction, because she couldn't process words with Kaze being a Kaze. A mega-attractive Kaze.

'Dammit, it's stronger than I thought. She can't even speak.' Kaze let out a frustrated sigh, saying, "I'll make sure your body is cleared of this impurity."

Now, he meant it in a 'I'll protect you' kinda way.

But Charlotte now thought he could dispell air-based poison, even if it was already in her lungs.

Charlotte's attraction was not amplified that day.


"Is her speechlessness the result —?"

"No, my sensors say it's fear," Orochi answered right away.

"Uh. Uh."


Benny didn't really get it either.

He was just sitting on his chair, eating cookies, and then Charlotte joined him and sobbed.

He gave her some tea, ignoring the marriage proposal behind them, Odin suddenly realizing Kaze was hot, and Laslow flirting with everyone.

Charlotte appreciated it, and then Keaton walked over.

"Pay attention to me," Keaton demanded. 

And so, Charlotte and Benny both started petting him.


"I see... so my team went for attraction in all senses of the word... he's trying to attract attention... I wonder if—"

"Even if you say that, I don't think you need a magnet. Especially one that big. Please put that down."


Speaking of petting, Azura was seated on Kaden's lap.

"You're always making me feel good with your hands, so it's time to return the favour!" Kaden exclaimed.

"Oh gods that phrasing," Azura whispered in horror, blushing heavily as Kaden began brushing through her hair with his fingers. She was so embarrassed she hugged him just to bury her face in his shoulder and hide her blush. Or that was what she would tell people, at least.


"Is this added boldness from the potion?"

"Uh?" Orochi checked her phone. "According to my sensors, nothing in them changed."

"WHAT."

"I don't know!"


Arthur wound up attracting trouble, and by that we mean he tried to get between Niles and Felicia.

Or, well, Niles attacking Felicia.

"I'll make you suffer," Niles promised with a grin.

"I'm sorry, what," Felicia replied flatly. "Are you hitting on me? Is suffering code for something these days?"

"What?! No! Of course not! It's just in my character to torture the cute innocent types!" Niles raged and Arthur had to pull him back by his vest collar.

"Is this an indirect method of calling me cute?!"

"How self-centered are you?!" Niles thrashed about, making Arthur's grip on him waver.

"You're the one who said it!"

"That's not even what I— urgh! Why do you even—?! What's so good about an airhead idiot like you!?" 

"I'm good in a fight and know how to clean up blood!"

"Everyone in our neighbourhood is! You're not special!"

"Look, I don't have time for people to be pulling a Selena! If you're flirting with me in a weird, indirect, insulting way, fucking say so!"

"I AM NOT FLIRTING WITH YOU!"

"Woah there! Stop it, friend, you're out of control!"

Unfortunately, Niles was too determined to escape, and lunged forward, which ripped it apart. 

The vest, now deprived of its straps, fell down to his waist. And he didn't have a shirt to wear under it, so he... he was shirtless.

"Woah," Felicia mumbled.

"I'll enjoy this!"

And then he jumped at Felicia.

"Uh. Oh. Oh," Arthur realized that he might have made a mistake sometime around the time Felicia slapped Niles and Niles moaned. So he left. 

It was such a good thing that he left before Niles knocked off Felicia's sunglasses.

"KYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! T-T-THERE'S A HOT SHIRTLESS GUY PINNING ME TO THE FLOOR?! O-Oh gods, wait I'm so sorry did I just rip your pants it was an accident— DON'T RIP OFF MY PANTS AS REVENGE!"


"I think your girlfriend likes abs."

"We aren't dating! She just thinks that because of a ninja of love said so— why are you looking at me like that?"

"Why would a ninja even....?! Kagero, your club is weird!"

"I can assure you, we never deal with love cases!"


And Camilla. Good gods, Camilla.

"Beruka, are you sure you don't want to be spoiled too?" Camilla asked, petting Hinoka and Ryoma's heads. They were not going to survive the day. 

"Can you... me too?" Sakura asked.

"Sakura! Pay attention to me too!" Hana ordered angrily.

"No! She's my big sister!" Elise wailed, trying to yank Sakura away with all her might.

Camilla kissed Elise on the forehead and asked for her to be patient.

"...I don't want to be spoiled," Beruka answered. "I'll continue standing guard."

"Oh darling, when will you ever relax? I might just order you to do it, one day..."

"I'll deal with it when that day comes."


"Is she... attracting little siblings?"

"No. No, this is normal for Camilla," Silas informed her.

"Hm. Odd.," Orochi commented, switching to check on Beruka. "The blue one is affected, she just doesn't know what to do."

"Well. Yeah. That's usually what happens when you drug someone who doesn't know what love is with a love potion."


"Camilla! Get this idiot off me!" Selena screamed, dealing with Oboro on her back with her arms around her neck.

"I'm going to strangle you!" Oboro promised.

"In the sexual way?!" Camilla demanded, because she saw Hinata behind them, watching sadly.

"No! In the murder way!" Oboro exclaimed. "She called me a moron!"

"Uh, because you are!"

"Do you seriously just walk up to people and call them morons?!"

"I was trying to compliment you and say I thought you were a moron, obviously in past tense, but then you proved I was right all along! Thanks for that!"

"Urgh, you are so annoying! If you weren't such an important person (to Hinata), I would have killed you!" The part in parentheses was what Oboro meant, but didn't say. And since she didn't say it, everyone thought that Selena was important to Oboro.

So, Hinata cheered happily.


"...are they even attracted to each other?"

"I have absolutely no idea what's going on with the redhead. Every time her love-love pheromone receptors flare up, the part of her brain in charge of rejecting ideas goes nuts."

"Y-yeah. That... that sounds about right."

And then Silas was silent for a moment.

"Love-love pheromone receptors?"

"I'm not good with biology brain names!" Orochi exclaimed defensively.


"So. You okay there, Mozu?" Hayato asked, calmly drinking his tea.

"Yeah. I'm... I'm fine," Mozu replied. "I'm okay."

"Don't sound like it."

"It's just... this feels weird."

"What feels weird?" 

Mozu gestured to everything around them. At the moment, it included Rinkah challenging Flora to a fight for a date, again, Flora refusing, again, Charlotte worshipping Kaze along with the horde of women from out of nowhere, Kaden and Benny petting Azura and Keaton respectively, Niles and Felicia fighting, the Camilla mess, Azama using a blackboard to teach philosophy, Oboro being pushed at Selena right before Hinata ran for Corrin and Leo, who were having a calm tea party as Jakob did everything for Corrin and nothing for Leo.

And Takumi was just drinking tea calmly because he was sane enough, even when drugged with a love potion, to realize that fawning all over someone or asking them to marry him or dramatically asking them out would be... counter-productive to say the least.

"Ah. I guess that would feel weird, yeah."

"You guess?"

"Yeah. I don't care enough to actually be bothered. Want to try it?"

"...sure. Starting now, I don't care."

"That's the spirit."


"They don't seem affected at all..."

"If you're confident and already in love, you won't even notice, at least that's what I'm guessing from these results," Orochi concluded.

"Mozu is confident?"

"Nah. She's totally affected, but Hayato being calm is helping her stay calm."

"...wait, wouldn't that mean that he has a crush?" Silas asked.

"Um. Yes?" Orochi answered.


And Corrin and Leo.

Let's just put it this way. 

It takes serious skill to manage to not notice the chaos around them. Some people, like Takumi, pretended it wasn't happening and acted like everything was normal. Some people, cough cough Azura and Kaden, could genuinely be so interested in each other that they did not notice anything around them. If you asked Azura what she thought of the screaming around her, she would most likely say, 'screaming? What screaming? Stop talking to me, I'm spending time with Kaden.'

Now, Leo, at that moment, did not understand what was happening. He always knew that Corrin was attractive, alluring even. But she was usually too much of a... Corrin, for him to actually feel affected by it.

She once joked that she would reply to people who asked if she was Robin's reincarnation by pointing them at a statue of the woman, then at her chest, and asking if they saw a difference. She got costumes out of nowhere for the sole purpose of ruining her family's love lives. She was scared of trusting him with her secrets even if she relied on him for many other things. 

He had grown used to her antics, her idiosyncrasies, her habits. So, why would he suddenly start noticing the shine of her hair and colours in her eyes?

The mystery captivated Leo to the point that he had little attention left for anything else.

If you asked him, he would probably say, 'no, I haven't noticed. Don't waste my time.'

And Corrin?


"This... this is incredible..." Orochi whispered in awe, looking at the results with wide eyes.

Kagero and Silas gathered around to peek at her screen, but it was too full of technical jargon for them to translate it.

"Yeah? What is it?" Silas asked.


"Corrin, did you do something new with your face? You look oddly radiant."

"Wooooow. Thanks. You just had to add in the 'oddly'."

"I didn't say that it was bad."

"I know," Corrin replied with an easy grin. "Doesn't mean I won't give you a hard time for it, though."


"She's... she's completely unaffected!"


"I really need to phrase it better," Leo said while blushing, "else you'll keep teasing me."

"Oh no, I'd tease you for being honest too. But a good teasing."

"How's a man ever supposed to satisfy you?"

"Give it up, Leo. There's no one I wouldn't tease. Get used to it."

"You know, I'm not your cute little brother or something," Leo declared suddenly. "I'm not some cute kid you keep around."

"Ack, sorry, sorry, I'm not looking down on you or anything!" Corrin exclaimed frantically. "Sorry, I just like messing with you! You're cute! Wait, sorry."

"I don't want you to see me as cute! I want you to see me as an equal! I'm a boy your age, you know! If you see me like that, then how will you ever be interested in—" Leo's voice died as he realized what he was about to say.

"Interested...?" Corrin repeated.


"Her brain isn't even aware of the potion!"


"...yes. I'm interested in you, Corrin," Leo said.

"I mean, that's a weird thing to say to your friend, but okay," Corrin replied.

"Corrin, do you not realize what's happening here?" Leo asked.

"Realize what?"

"Corrin, I'm flirting with you. I know I frankly suck at it, but I've been trying to flirt with you!"

"Like... as a friend...?" Corrin asked.

"No, Corrin. Romantically."

Corrin paused.

"Y'know, I'm not even sure if you can flirt with someone as a friend," Hinata noted, popping up just to lean on the back of Leo's chair and snark at them. In the nice, obliviously innocent, Hinata way of couse.

"Ro...mantic...ally..."

"That's probably... not good," Leo said with a wince.

"Romance... Love... romance......?!"

"Leo, I think you broke her," Hinata stated.

"She was insane before!" Leo exclaimed defensively.

And then something in Corrin broke.

"ROMANCE IS DEAD AND I'LL BE THE ONE TO BURY IT!"


"Her body has 100% rejected the love potion!" Orochi declared. "Every scientific technique used to make this, it's all bouncing off of her and her sheer unwillingness to fall in love! Right now, there's nothing on her mind but completely destroying the romance around her!"

"Ohhhhhh boy," Silas said simply. "Oooooooh boy."


What happened next would go down in history as the legendary Cockblock Bonanza.

It started with Corrin shoving Hinata and Leo apart, because they were too close for two totally platonic buddy friends. She then went on to cockblock nearly the entire school.

Highlights include: chasing a teleporting Subaki with various thrown objects, throwing Xander out the window and kicking Odin when he caught the older boy again, using Rinkah to burn Azura and Kaden's shoujo flowers, threatening Ryoma with a razor, and combolocking the horde of nameless girls that showed up to flock to Kaze's beauty.

Keaton, Charlotte, and Benny were spared because it was normal for Keaton to like pats. Azama and Effie were spared because, while Effie was suffering, it wasn't because of love. Kaze didn't do anything to deserve it, so she didn't hurt him. Setsuna and Flora were rejecting the advances as any sane person with a self-perservation would do, so Corrin left them alone and encouraged them. Elise just wanted her sister, which Corrin considered acceptable. Mozu and Hayato were pretty platonic. And Corrin just couldn't hurt Sakura. No way in heck.

Corrin became known as a mighty destroyer of love. Kind and benevolent, yet ruthless in her goals. She beat people ferociously, all to stop them from embarrassing themselves while under the influence of one of Orochi's pranks! She was not only sensible enough to not be affected, she was compassionate to stop others from making a folly of themselves! 

From then on, Corrin became one of the most popular girls in school. It was practically a tradition to ask for her blessing before asking someone out by the end of the week, since she was so kind and wise that she could not only see their chances of success, but wish for them to thrive. She would never lead them astray in the ways of love!

Corrin sobbed. 

The woes of being popular.

Of course, this chapter isn't about Corrin, so it's not all that important. What's important is that Hinoka and Camilla went up againt each other in the volleyball tournament.

"Oh darling~" Camilla called out with a deadly smile. "I've decided! I'll carve my name into your memory with the glory of my victory!"

Hinoka gulped.

"That's the spirit!" Ms. Scarlet cheered. "Girls, win this for Nohr!"

The Krakenberg Girls' Volleyball team cheered.

Charlotte was being paid three hundred gold to join, Camilla was fired up, Effie was determined to forget everything Azama taught her, Peri was frustrated because she couldn't find sand and wanted to kill people, Selena honestly didn't care, honestly, and Beruka was also being paid.

Meanwhile Hinoka was just a teammate if the coach asked. She was with a bunch of people from other classes who didn't have names or faces.

Yeah, she didn't stand a chance.

In the bleachers, Leo and Elise exchanged a high five.

Setsuna offered Hinoka a coconut for her loss.


Afterwards...

Benny made sure he was clearly visible and not sneaking up on Oboro at all when he approached her. She watched him approach her slowly, hesitantly, and, knowing he was trying to be cautious of her, approached him in turn.

They met in the corner of the hallway, just by the brightly-lit vending machine. Oboro kept her eyes on the wall-mounted fire extinguisher at the end of the hallway as she waited for him to speak.

"You okay?" Benny asked.

Oboro felt her eyes jolt to Benny's face in confusion.

"Huh? Why?" Oboro asked in turn.

"Thought you were uncomfortable yesterday," Benny stated. "So many Nohrians."

"I... You noticed?"

"Yeah. Hinata was excited. He wanted to introduce you to new people."

'...and instead, I picked a fight with his sister.'

"Teatime isn't usually that hectic," Benny informed her. "If you came again... it would be nice."

Oboro was just completely speechless. She felt her throat contract, her mouth open, her eyes stare, but she couldn't say a word.

"...sorry." Benny averted his eyes sadly. "Don't mean to be a bother."

"Wait," Oboro said, prompting him to look her in the eye. "...will you be there?"

"If I scare you, I can step out."

"No, no! It's actually because... I would be anxious with so many Nohrians I don't know around, but," and Oboro paused, because she didn't quite understand what she was about to say herself, "you're nice to me, even if I don't return the favour. I... I would be more comfortable, if you were there."

Benny looked stunned for a second. And then he gave her a gentle smile, and nodded.

"I'll be there."

Oboro gave him a small, shy smile in return.

And then Rinkah went flying into the fire extinguisher, because Flora was annoyed with her antics and decided to beat her in a fight to shut her up. This only made Rinkah think of her as even better rival material.

Arthur, for his part, obviously had to stop them and sit them down.

"Alright, Flora, your turn."

"I just don't understand why I'm being attacked first thing in the morning by a crazed fire woman!" Flora complained.

"Rinkah, what do you think?" Arthur asked.

"I thought we were rivals! Equals in strength, always growing together and butting heads to show how much we've grown!"

"I see... it seems like there was a severe miscommunication between you two."

"We don't need communication in the Flame Tribe. Too much talk. How you fight can convey so much more."

"Well, I'm not from the Flame Tribe," Flora said flatly. "Did you consider that?"

"Flora, you seem rather irate."

"Because I don't want to deal with fights when I have class later on!"

"Would you be alright with fights later on in the day?"

"I... I mean, I guess? I'm free Thursday, so- wait what am I saying."

"Here," and this is when Arthur pulled out a calendar, "we can organize what days and times you two can fight, and figure out what relationship the two of you have. So, Thursday?"

Flora wound up agreeing to fight Rinkah afterschool on Thursdays and Fridays, but only if Rinkah would help her out whenever she was in a... "territory dispute." Despite Rinkah not knowing what Flora was talking about, Rinkah agreed and basically joined the ice sisters' gang.

By accident.

Going down the list, Keaton had confronted Kaden by the lockers, because what the actual hell.

"Beastclan people do not just groom random people! Grooming and being groomed is for friends, but doing it like that?! You seriously found your mate already?!"

"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about," Kaden replied.

"Oh come on, I can smell it on you! The blood of the Fox Tribe! You don't need me to explain this to you!"

"Actually I kinda do."

"What?!" Keaton gaped at him in horror. "You're saying you have no idea what I'm talking about?! Your ways and traditions?!"

Kaden's awkward laugh was all the answer he needed.

"Fine then! Because you're such an idiot that you don't even know how to fox right, I guess I have no choice but to take you under my wing! Get ready to be schooled!"

"Thank you, teacher!" Kaden exclaimed cheerfully.

Azura suddenly felt the need to murder someone, except she was still talking to someone. 

"I'm so glad you joined your family for a tea party!" Camilla cooed. "I'm sorry that we didn't wind up spending that much time with you, though..."

"It's fine," Azura answered instantly. 

"How about we go on a trip this Saturday, then—"

"I'm going out with Kaden," Azura interjected.

Camilla only let her expression of hurt show for only a moment, then smiled.

"Oh? Then have fun with your boyfriend, alright? I'll listen to all your lovery-dovey talk after~"

"We're not dating. We're best friends," Azura corrected her, and Camilla froze.

"...you're.... you're not...?"

Kagero sighed as she walked up to the scene, patting Camilla's arm softly.

"That's everyone's reaction," Kagero reassured her.

"I... see......?"

Heading to their lockers behind Camilla's confusion, Leo and Hinata were walking with their best albino friend.

"Apparently, everyone was drugged with a love potion! Can you believe that?"

"I dunno, I didn't change much, I think," Hinata answered, while Leo blushed and cringed.

"Can we please not talk about that. Ever."

"Aww, but you were cute when you were pouting," Hinata teased.

"What is with you people and calling me cute?!"

"It's because you're cute."

"Shut up, you."

"Sorry."

"Oh, hey, Selena!" Hinata waved at the redhead.

"...looking for Carl?" Leo asked, eyes going to the scabbard hanging from Selena's belt.

"Yeah. So don't go wasting my time too much."

Both Leo and Hinata looked at Corrin, who was in her Shisaragi uniform and glasses.

"Uh," was all Hinata managed to say before Leo nudged him in the stomach.

"Is that all? I'm leaving soon, so hurry up and spit it out!"

Hinata just gestured at Corrin in confusion.

"You're joking, right?! That's just Corrin in cosplay!" Selena exclaimed. "She's not a creepy crossdressing sibling seducer! She's just an innocent, plain, wholesome type! But I don't approve of you or anything! You might be one of the few people I would let date my little brother, but it's only because everyone else that's a candidate is totally awful and horrible! It's not a compliment or anything, idiot!"

"Haha..." was Corrin's only answer.

"Kaze, they're loud," Charlotte swore as she walked past, because people tended to use their divinities as swear words.

"Yes?" 

And then Kaze showed up behind her, making Charlotte scream.

"Oi," Niles greeted as he grabbed Kaze's shoulder. "Gotta have a talk with you."

"Alirght. This will only take a moment, Charlotte."

Charlotte nodded dumbly, almost feeling her knees give out.

Kaze was dragged outside, behind the school, where they did the shoujo bully surrounding you thing. Except there were only like five people and one of them was Azama, and they weren't bullies.

"We want you to be real careful with the way you treat Charlotte," Niles said, blatantly showing off the knife he kept in his uniform vest. 

"Yeah. A punk like you thinks he can treat a gal wrong? We teach him how ta do it right," Felicia added, hefting a pipe over her shoulder.

Effie cracked her knuckles.

And Azama was there because it amused him, so Silas stepped up.

"I don't think you're a bad guy. But I'm just as worried as they are about you and Charlotte, so... if you hurt her, I'll be the first to punch you, okay?"

Kaze nodded.

"I am glad that you care about your friend so much. I promise, I will do my best to help her with her crippling shyness," Kaze swore.

Everyone but Azama had the same thought at the same moment.

'...crippling shyness?!'

"Uh, wait, are we talking about the same— okay he just disappeared. Okay," Felicia sighed.

He disappeared and accidentally found Ryoma, making plans to deepen a relationship.

Truly, a wonderful way to start off a day.

Chapter Text

"Stahl."

"Present."

"Virion."

"I am here, now bask in my—"

"Stick to 'present' next time."

The students snickered.

"Alright. Settle down. Kellam?"

Kellam sighed.

"Present..." 

"Kellam?"

"I said I'm here."

People began to whisper around.

"Anyone seen him?" More indistinct whispering. "No? I guess he's absent, then..."

"What are you talking about?" One girl spoke up, "Kellam's right there."

She pointed directly at him, and Kellam's heart stopped.


'Dear Robin,

I miss you.'

Kellam sighed, pulling his fingers through his hair. His hand stayed there as he tried to think, palm against his forehead.

'Please come back,' popped up in his mind instantly, but he dismissed it. Robin didn't have much of a choice in the matter, did she? 

So instead, he let out another sigh, and wrote about the first thing he thought of. The first time they had a real conversation.

'I didn't expect you to notice me twice. You never told me how you did it. I still don't know why you took an interest in me,' he paused, twisting the pen anxiously, unsure of himself, 'but I'm forever grateful you did.

You changed my life.'


"Hey! Hey, you!"

"H-huh?! No, you're talking to that tree, aren't you... urgh..."

"Why would I mistake you for a tree?!"

"It's happened befo— you're replying to me?!"

"Uh, yeah? Because I called out to you? Why are you so surprised?"

Kellam laughed awkwardly.

"No one ever really notices me much... so I figured you weren't talking to me."

"Well, I'm talking to you, because I noticed you, and I want you to come with me."

"...where?"

The white-haired girl laughed.

"Does it matter? Come on, it'll be fun!" 


'Of course I didn't expect you to bring me to the strategy and tactics club. Everyone thought that club was, well, a joke.'

Kellam seriously wondered what he was saying. But he didn't stop.

'But it wasn't. It was just you trying to help Henry and Tharja make friends since people didn't trust them. When I heard it, I thought you were too nice for your own good. An angel, maybe.'

Kellam wracked his brain trying to find the right words. He wasn't sure he found them, but he wrote, and it was awful, but it was good enough for now.

'I think I looked up to you like that most of the time we spent together.'


"Guys! We have to help Tharja make friends with that pretty boy! They were meant to be!"


'Why wouldn't I?' 


"I'm helping Ricken write letters to his parents. It's nice to see that he's so close to his family."


'You were sweet to everyone.' 


"Henry, that's the wrong formula. Try... okay, first, can you start by NOT doodling wolves all over your paper?" 


'Patient and smart, too.' 


"Kellam! I almost didn't see you there! 


'And,' and his hand froze. 


"Oh, you're walking home this way? Mind if I come with you, Kellam?" 


"Ahahaha! Did I scare you? Looks like you didn't see ME coming!" 


"Good morning everybody! If you're wondering why your usual announcements have been cut off, it's because the Strategy and Tactics Club has taken over your usual programming! Why, you might ask? Because it's the birthday of someone special, and you oughta remember it! Happy birthday Kellam!" 


'And you were too good for me. I never knew why someone like you would want to be around me.'

Kellam felt his tongue grow heavy as those thoughts ran around his mind.

She never told him why she loved him. She never gave him the reason why she asked him to marry her, that night in the barracks. She promised to tell him after the next battle.

But the next battle came and went, and she didn't come back.

Tears blotted parts of the page.

'I wish I could have been there.

I can't imagine playing the hero. I can't imagine me somehow saving the day. 

But I wish you didn't have to die alone.

I dream about it. I dream I'm in a bombed out building I've never seen before, watching you die among a room of corpses. You always throw your coat over Chrom's body, before collapsing yourself.

Sometimes you die with a smile on your face, knowing you saved everyone. Sometimes you die crying, because you died before doing all the things you wanted to do. Sometimes, you just die quietly.'

He stopped his hand before he dared to write out the next part. He prevented himself from ever writing it, but his mind echoed the sentiment in his head.

'But, I could never imagine you thinking of me.'


"Shit," Robin swore, clutching at the wound in her abdomen. Warm blood stuck to her hand, and she knew she wouldn't make it.

It hurt.

It hurt, and Robin was suddenly grasping what it meant to give up her life.

She imagined it being terrifying. Before, she would panic over the thought of letting her friends die for the sake of victory. She would strain herself all night, thinking and planning, furiously trying to find a way to win without a single loss.

That was when a cup of hot chocolate would always appear on her table.

She never knew how he did it.

Robin let out a laugh, and it became a bloody cough halfway through.

She supposed it was poetic, really. The girl born to a demonic cult, dying to save the world of its evil. She appreciated the cruel irony in the story of her life. 

But that just brought her back to the matter at hand.

She was dying at the age of twenty-one, not having finished her high school education, married in a war camp in a foreign land by a priest's son.

For a heroic cause, sure, but it was so hard to think of the good she had done. All she found herself doing was letting her mind wander to the thought of how it was such a shame she was dying.

That was the heart of the matter, really.

Robin didn't regret the fact that she was dying. She regretted that she was leaving behind an unfulfilled promise and the life that was ahead of her.

It was getting colder, she realized. But she wasn't going to take her coat from Chrom's body. It wouldn't matter soon, and besides, she couldn't move much anyways.

She wondered vaguely about her promise. She wondered if Kellam had found the letter she left behind, if he even remembered the day she fell in love with him.

Their first year of school, their class had chosen a beach outing for a class trip. Everyone was so looking forward to it, but the twins, Victor and Vincent, were... well, they were pricks, honestly.

When Robin emerged from the changerooms, still in the same old ratty coat, she overheard them talk.

'What a shame, huh? Robin's covering up so much beautiful skin.'

'Who cares? There's so many girls with much better assets! Look at Tharja! The difference between them is like night and day!'

Robin let out a weak chuckle when she remembered how Kellam smacked them both with a bucket, knowing full well they wouldn't be able to find him.

She didn't quite remember how that led to him hiding out with her behind the washrooms, but she knew the events afterwards by heart.

Kellam tried to reassure her that the two were idiots and perverts. but she stopped him.

She stopped him, and let out a bitter remark that led to her revealing resentment she had kept hidden for years.

'No. It's a good thing I'm not beautiful, you know? I was born to become a demon. If I was attractive, I'd drag them down to hell.'

He listened as she told him the grisly details of her birth, as if his parents didn't whisper her origins to him and tell him to be kind the first time he mentioned her. As if it didn't follow her around everyday, souring her reputation to the point that Tharja and Henry, the two Plegian outcasts, approached her because she was just like them.

He listened, and when she was done, he hesitated, then put his hand on her shoulder, and told her,

'Even if you were born for a reason like that... I don't think you're a demon. You've done a lot of good. For everybody.'

Robin remembered how he smiled at her, and some indescribable emotion surged in her.

'And, if my opinion actually matters to you, I think you're beautiful.'

She burst into tears then. Kellam stayed with her and comforted her, buying her a cherry popsicle and a set of seashell hair elastics.

Her eyes went down to her wrist. The hairties managed to survive despite everything, charred and frayed, one shell broken in two, but still there. Her coat normally covered them, but now...

Robin started crying. She didn't have enough energy to sob. The tears were flowing down her face, and she just tried to breathe despite the mounting difficulty of the task. 


Ricken was the first after Kellam to join their makeshift club, and when he joined, things got a lot more lively.

"My name is perfectly normal!" Tharja snapped at Henry in the clubroom, after he had seen (read: stolen) one of Ricken's books. Apparently, it was a section about the etymology of noble families, or something. 


(She couldn't remember. It was starting to fade.) 


"Really?"

"Of course! Meanwhile, YOU'D probably name your kid something like 'Murderface' or 'Bloodsport'!"

"Nyahahaha, yeah, I would!"

"That poor kid..." Ricken sighed.

Robin laughed, and then put on a contemplative tone, "I see... then, Tharja, you'd probably name your kid 'Noire' or 'Nyx', right?"

"...What's wrong with that?!" Tharja retorted defensively.

"Nothing!"

Kellam put on a look of sudden concentration, and then sighed one of those 'not like anyone will care what I think anyways' sighs.

So, Robin asked him what he was thinking about.

"Oh!" He was so surprised that she even noticed he was thinking, and it was as adorable as it was sad. "Well, I was thinking about what I would name my kid, but it's actually pretty hard..."

"You could name the kid a foreign word," Ricken suggested. "Chon'sinese is full of pretty, meaningful words that are perfect for baby names."

Kellam smiled and nodded, and Robin felt herself growing a bit pink as she spoke, though she kept her tone neutral and casual.

"You know, I've always thought that I would name my kid Morgan. That way, I don't have to think of different versions for a boy or a girl."

"That's really smart, Robin," Kellam noted, and her blush deepened.


Robin let out a shaky gasp of air.

'F-forgive me...' 


"I love you. Please... I want to have this moment with you, while we still have the chance."


'Thank you. For everything.'


"After this war is over, we can build a family. We'll live in a huge house, because we're rich and famous, and we'll dote on our baby like crazy. We can bring your family. Everyone. Everything will be okay."


'Kellam... everyone..."


"I'll be back. I swear. I'll be back. Please wait for me."


"In a better life..." Her voice came out as a hoarse, throaty whisper. "I want... t-to meet... aga—"


'Please watch over us,' Kellam wrote. 'I love you.'

He signed his name, then folded up the paper, dropping it into the envelope. 

The process seemed oddly mechanical. Emotionless, methodological, thoughtless. It felt almost anti-climactic, but also relieving in a sense. Like he had made peace with it.

And then there was a knock on his door.

When he answered it, Tharja was standing before him, tense and withdrawn.

"The team that brought back their bodies brought back some stuff we left behind," Tharja stated before he could greet her. "You must have left this behind in the rush."

She shoved an envelope at him, before trying to rush off.

"Tharja, wait!"

She stilled.

"Thank you."

Without turning back, she simply told him, "It's nothing."

Then, "...we'll be beside you for the funeral."

"...okay." He wiped at his face with the back of his hand. "Thanks."


A decade after the war ended, a grey-haired boy with messy hair would steal a book from his mom's librarian friend, flipping through it to find details about the war his parents had fought. 

There would be one specific page that would catch Silas' eye, sparking his interest in history from then on.


 

In the time after the war was won, many artworks of the lost Exalt, the Crown Prince, and the Strategist were created to honour their deaths. For the latter two, they were usually portrayed in their armour with their weapons at the ready, while Exalt Emmeryn was shown with her staff and a smile. However, after restoration efforts began, and the bodies of Prince Chrom and General Robin were recovered, they were laid to rest in Ylissean soil.

 

General Robin was buried with a letter from her husband, Kellam, in her hands. This caused an influx of letters of thanks to the Hero's Graves, to the point that staff had to clean them up daily. After this, artist portrayal shifted. Nowadays, Robin Reflet is more commonly portrayed in a simple dress, sitting on a pile of letters, always holding one specific letter close to her heart.

 


Many wrote of Robin's legendary exploits, but accounts of her origins and character varied. Scholars, poets, and bards agreed on one thing alone—she loved her husband, Kellam, above all else.

Chapter Text

"Oh my, you got me a gift? You shouldn't have," Camilla said with a smile one Tuesday morning. "This is, what, the sixth one this week? You're such a generous soul! I'm honoured!"

"They're really just things I bought while passing by stores. Nothing too grand."

"You misunderstand." Camilla pressed a hand to her face and sighed. "I'm honoured, not because you grant me lavish gifts, but because you give them to me. Why, you could give me a pebble and I would treasure it for the rest of my days!"

"Is... Is that so?" Ryoma asked, turning a bit red from embarrassment. Somehow.

"Yes, I'm touched that you still want to make your big sister happy!" Camilla exclaimed. "Why, Elise adores doing small things for me, like helping me do my hair or going shopping with me. It makes me so happy when she invites me that I completely forget all prior engagements! Xander, well, Leo showed us how Xander's locker was closer to my classrooms and mine closer to his, so we swapped, and ever since, he's been handing me the sweets his admirers gave him! Leo, on the other hand..."

Ryoma couldn't hold on long enough to hear how Leo made her happy. He was dead by the time she mentioned Azura. 

Effie, being well-versed in this kind of thing, stopped Camilla and laid Ryoma down to rest.

Camilla sobbed. It must have been so hard for Corrin's siblings, to be born with such frail constitutions.


There was a moment of silence in Corrin's room. The albino sat crosslegged on her swivel chair, elbows propped up on her armrests and hands clasped together under her chin. It helped her feel a little bit intimidating, even though she was freaking out inside since Ryoma was in her room, on her bed, asking for more love advice which she hated with all her passion.

But, her brother asked her to help, and, because she couldn't say no to her brother, she spoke as if she were actually in control of the situation.

Note: she absolutely was not.

"So," Corrin started off, "You feel like your relationship with Camilla stopped progressing, and you want to fix that."

"Yes. Do you have any ideas, Corrin?"

"Ask her out," Corrin said bluntly.

"It's too soon. I'm sure she only sees me as a little brother, despite me being older than her."

"Tell her that."

"How would she not laugh it off?"

"Pin her to a wall and tell her that," Corrin instructed him, pulling out a shoujo manga to show him a diagram of how to do it.

"I'll try it out tomorrow."


Wednesday

"I'd like to inform you that I'm older than you!" Ryoma screamed, pinning Camilla to a wall.

"...so, you want to treat me as the little sibling?" Camilla asked innocently. 


"It did not work," Ryoma informed her Wednesday evening.

"I see," Corrin said. 

"She asked me if I wanted to be the older brother."

"Is that a good thing?"

"She still sees me as a brother."

"It's just what she does. I think if you keep at it like this, you can get close to her h—"

"Please, o wise sage sister! Tell me how to make her see that I'm not family!"

"Oh okay, that's what we're doing then. Okay. Why don't you ask her out?"

"It is not yet the ti–"

"No, I mean," and this is when Corrin just started making [CENSORED] up, "sister her back. Put her on the romantic fence. Make her think that there could be more to the relationship, but insist that it's purely platonic. Slam her into the zone into which she slams you."

Ryoma watched as Corrin made 'slam, slam!' gestures, unsure as he asked, "how would that work?"

"Ask her to the most romantic place ever, but as a brother. It'll get her attention," Corrin promised, lying through her teeth.

"...I am ashamed to admit that I do not know many romantic places. I could only bring her to the dojo."

"Nononono, don't worry! I'll cover you!" Corrin smiled excitedly. "Trust me, bro, I'll have your back."

"Thank you, Corrin. It means a lot to have your support."

Corrin grinned.


"Is this what you wanted to show me?" Camilla asked when they were outside the door. "A... storage room?"

"Yes?"

"Alright...?" 

Now, if it were anyone else inviting her to a storage room in an abandoned hallway, one that was probably small and cramped and really only had enough room for two if you were squishing together, she would have assumed they were trying to go for [CENSORED] [PROHIBITED] [NARRATION REMOVED FOR COMEDY PURPOSES]. But, since it was Ryoma, she would give him the benefit of the doubt, assume that he wasn't aiming for [ILLEGAL] [BLACKLISTED] [LOOK AWAY, CHILDREN], and simply conclude that he was just lost, a biiiiiiiiiiiiit dumb but in a cute way, and/or a troll.

And then Ryoma, also confused, opened the door.

He then realized that he should never doubt Corrin again. Her love advice came from the heart, she was a wise soul who must have assuredly planned this out in advance and wished for his success deeply. No matter what she told him, no matter how insane, he would follow along, because she must have had a gift for making romantic plans so insane they just had to work.

(As she helped Mr. Gunter organize his books, Corrin sneezed.

'Ryoma must have found it, then,' Corrin thought.

"Careful friend, all this dust might make you sneeze too much for this work," Arthur told her. "If you feel unwell, tell me, I'll take over."

"Thanks, though, Arthur," Corrin said with a smile. "You're a great help. Thanks again for helping me find that romantic room yesterday."

"Not a problem, Corrin! It was simple for someone with keen instincts like mine!"

Corrin giggled sweetly. She had absolutely no idea that Arthur's heroism overpowered his bad luck.)

"Woah..."

It was an artistically-decorated room. A cream curtain hung a bit in front of the wall to their left, a pleasant backdrop against the deeper browns of the walls. A table was covered with small art pieces, with a radio crooning a gentle melody of bells and strings. A bench for two was made of a chair with the back broken and resting upon a stack of boxes, standing proudly in the room's one dimly-shining light.

In front of the bench was the most fascinating thing either of them had ever seen. A fountain set aflame with a dazzling light.

"It's beautiful..." Camilla murmured, walking up to the fountain.

Ryoma settled into the space beside her, calmly (somehow) saying, "Corrin told me of this place. I thought I would share it with you."

"Thank you."

"It's no problem, really," Ryoma told her. "I simply wanted to see you happy."

"You do too much for my sake," Camilla replied. "I can't have you be the one spoiling me. I insist, let me do something for you in return."

Now, if this were a dating sim, this would be the point where two options would come on the screen and Ryoma would have to make his choice. Except this was the guy who not only accidentally broke a school computer with his head once, he just swore to blindly accept all of Corrin's advice.

So, instead of taking the obviously correct choice of "Alright, what did you have in mind?", which would lead to Camilla asking him to go on a hot springs trip with her, which would... logically lead to things...

Ryoma instead picked "No. Absolutely not."

"Huh?! W-why?!" Camilla gasped, absolutely heartbroken. She couldn't handle two rejections in a row. Her heart was too fragile to handle so many little siblings not wanting her.

"Because I am the older one in this relationship! Is it not the duty of an older sibling to dote upon those that come after?!"

Camilla blinked, and then smiled.

"I see! So that's what you mean! Then, I look forward to being spoiled, Big Brother!"

Ryoma was so happy he pulled it off that he accidentally set himself on fire. Rinkah would be so proud, except she would express that pride by lecturing him over how he needed to control himself and his flames.

Camilla did the logical thing when presented with a man on fire.

She threw him into the nearest body of water. 

The fountain splashed, causing flaming droplets to sear the floor. Camilla stamped them out as best she could before they could ignite.

Fortunately, the water extinguished Ryoma. She was grateful that such a handy fire-retardant substance was nearby.

 


"You want me to go here with Camilla...?" Sakura repeated.

"Yes," Ryoma confirmed. "Corrin told me of it. It's a romantic hotspot. Please use this information well."

"Oh... Ryoma, I appreciate the thought, but... it's not my named chapter yet, so I can't make a move..." 

"Huh?! What are you saying?!"

"I-It's your chance, Big Brother! I can't intrude! Do your best!"

"The hell was that?" Takumi asked, sprawled over the couch and not looking up from his book.

"I..." Corrin was speechless at the scene, openly gaping.

And Hinoka wasn't there because she was fighting Peri because Peri heard that she made Camilla cry. And people who made Camilla cry were evil.

 


Thursday was a normal day at school.

"Hinoka! I heard you were injured, oh gosh your head is covered in bandages, let your big sister dote on you I'll make it all better—"

"...who are you? I lost my memories from— WHY ARE YOU CRYING?!"

It was a completely normal day.

"Odin, what are you doing, put her down—"

"Attention, students of this noble institution! You must be made aware that this girl is the noble Princess of the Rose Table! Bow down before your princess! She who commands the earth beneath our feet, she who wills sustenance into existence! Bow!"

"Odin! Quit messing around!"

"S-seriously! It's embarrassin' ta be called a princess in fronta so many people!"

Yup. One hundred percent normal.

"YOU! You made Xander's little sister cry again! Say goodbye to your intestines!"

"She made my big sis cry!? How dare you! You're going down, scumbag!"

"You won't survive this!"

"I will erase you!"

"So annoying!"

"Begone, wretch!"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

So normal it was almost boring.

"You're a bad influence!"

"Nothing but cinders!"

"No mercy!"

"What... what is this?! With every blow, I can feel my memory returni—"

"I'M FEELING STABBY!"

"GURAAAAGH!"

In fact, the only thing that was unusual was that Camilla snuck away to the room with the flaming fountain in it.

It had been a habit since she was young to wish on anything and everything she could find. She threw what little coins she had into fountains, knowing full well that they would be stolen, stayed up late to watch for falling stars, even tried to pray when no one in Nohr knew if anyone could answer them anymore.

 Last time, Ryoma's injury distracted her, but she would be able to wish this time.

'If anyone is listening...' She thought, bringing a coin out of the depths of her pockets. Camilla pressed the coin to her lips before tossing it into the water.

"Please... let me stay with my family forever," Camilla whispered out loud.

Almost on cue, a knock resounded on the door.

Collecting herself quickly, Camilla opened it with a steady smile. In this state, not even her father could tell that she had been crying.

"Camilla, are you alright?" Ryoma asked. "I saw you rush off when Hinoka got punched again."

Her siblings, however, were another story entirely.

"You see, I abhor violence of all sorts," Camilla lied. "I simply could not stand the sight of—"

"Fighting tournament," Ryoma retorted instinctively.

 Camilla kept smiling, but said nothing.

"What are you doing here?" Ryoma attempted once again.

"I'm admiring the view."

"Might I join you?"

"Well, it's not as if I own the fountain," Camilla replied easily, letting Ryoma inside.

They both sat on the bench, a careful distance between them.

"It's certainly a peaceful sight, isn't it?" Ryoma asked.

"It is."

The radio sang a slow song of devotion and protection, before Camilla spoke up.

"Do you ever wish for things, Ryoma?"

"I... don't," Ryoma admitted. "I believe in earning things through my own effort."

"Ha. It sounds pretty and noble on paper, but sometimes, it's not enough," Camilla laughed bitterly, "but... I won't trouble you with the unpleasant talk."

"No. Even if it's unpleasant to hear, I'll listen to you."

"Huh?" 

Camilla's confusion was mostly because Nohr had developed a culture of silence. Everyone had problems. Everyone had lost someone, so telling someone of it would just cause them to remember their own misery. People usually only shared them with family, or people close enough that they ought to be family.

Now, it wasn't that Hoshidans was particularly trusting themselves, but that they simply did not realize the regional stance of 'for your sake, I'll keep quiet.'

"You... really?"

"Of course."

Camilla mulled over it for a moment, before deciding to just say it.

"Xander, Leo, Elise, their mothers never chose to leave them. Mine did. She chose to run away and forget about all of us, about me..." Camilla sighed. "I don't want to lose this makeshift family. That's why Hinoka not knowing my name upset me."

She wiped at her eyes in anticipation of tears, then said, "I'm sorry for troubli—"

Except Ryoma hugged her before she could finish it.

"It's not troubling me," Ryoma promised. 

"...thank you."

It was a nice moment.

And that, readers and audience-people, is how one scores a point.

 


"If you want my sister, you'll have to go through me!" The elder brother declared with a sword the next day. The hoard of admirers did not appreciate that.

"I'll kill you if you touch her!" The elder sister added.

"I can't believe you got into this mess..." The little brother sighed.

"Ahaha... this is kind of my fault, b-but I'll do my best all the same!" Sakura added.

"What are you all doing?!" Corrin screamed at them, utterly baffled as they formed a protective circle around her.

"Do you not see all the insane people around you?!" Takumi demanded, gesturing to the crowd of people calling out for the blessing of the goddess of love.

"I need advice!"

"Can I ask out my crush?!"

"Um, you assholes are crowding the hallway!?"

"I need to avenge my father!" 

"Uh, yeah, but what are you doing?!" Corrin demanded, as a random person charged at them, yelling something about needing help with an arranged marriage.

Hinoka's response was to break away from formation to kick the person away as she retorted with, "Protecting my sister!"

This led to the lovethirsty swarm, well, swarming them in their newfound strategic weakness. It was a very harsh battle, considering that like, half the entire school either needed help with marriage or finding the fountain of fire said to grant wishes.

The reason why Corrin's reputation had suddenly blown up was because, the previous day, after Ryoma and Camilla had their capital-M Moment, Sakura had pulled Hayato aside into one of the school's many conveniently empty rooms.

"Here is a map to the best date location ever. It is a 100% guaranteed love spot created by our goddess of love, Corrin Byakuya herself. You know what to do," Sakura told him, giving him the map Ryoma made for her. "You must make Mozu happy."

"I understand," Hayato told her. 

 


"Where are we going?" Elise asked, unwittingly setting up the first part of the disaster dominoes.

Mozu handed her the map, and then showed her Hayato's writing on the back. His note simply said, 'The goddess of love said it was perfect for you and Elise. Please, for the love of all the spirits in the sky, DO NOT MESS THIS UP.'

"Ooooh, how exciting! It's like a treasure hunt!" Elise exclaimed, unaware that the goddess of love referred to their resident human disaster.

And then they found it.

"I don't understand," Elise stated.

"How is this even possible," Mozu added, too dumbfounded to realize that she was in a dimly-lit room alone with Elise, as romantic music played from the radio.

"I know! It's water! And it's on fire!"

"This shouldn't be possible. Like, is it an oil fire? But there's no smoke?!" Mozu was confused.

"Even if it was an oil fire, you'd run out of oil eventually, right?!"

"Then the only answer is...!"

And Elise had enough experience being a weird hive mind with Leo to conclude with, "the goddess of love herself wills it!"

They shared a moment of silence, before laughing.

"You're funny, Mozu! I think that's the first real voice-to-voice conversation we had! It's so much more fun when you're comfortable around me!"

And then Mozu's voice died in her throat.

She laughed awkwardly, managing a quiet, "I-I-I'll do m-my best..."

It was a major step up from her previous disasters.

But before Elise could be disappointed, Odin kicked the door down. If you're wondering why he was even there, he had this conversation with Corrin.

"I hath heard whispers on the wind that you were the one to seek for the secrets of deepening bonds!" He exclaimed, because he heard she was the goddess of love.

"Southwestern storage room, second floor, three doors left of the stairs," Corrin replied, giving him the same lazy answer as Ryoma because she wanted him to crash and burn.

"Ohohohooooooo, have I interrupted the legendary princess' intimate time with her companion?" Odin asked immediately.

"I'm gonna frickin' kill ya," Mozu replied in the most exasperated way possible.

"No, no, mind not this wayward soul. He is just here for the Potion of the Heavenly Heart produced by this lil ol' fountain here..." And with a wink, he whispered, "(We are so talking about this later.)"

"(Get out already!)" Mozu whispered in turn.

"Heavenly... Heart....?" Elise repeated.

"Yes! I can see now what the goddess of love meant! Drinking it alone shall grant immortality, but sharing it with another shall bond your souls forevermore!" 

Fortunately, Odin had been prepared by video games to always have a glass bottle handy in case he had milk, fairies, or potions to contain.

Unfortunately, he burned his hand by getting so close to the flaming water.

While he was nursing his injured hand and Elise had her medical knowledge come in handy, Rinkah burst in.

Rinkah was there because of a conversation full of misunderstandings with Ryoma, which went like this:

"Ryoma. You were late to our training session. I started without you."

"Sorry, I was pursuing my heart's desire and deepening the power of my heart (love)."

"You...!? You found a method to strengthen the heart (willpower)?!"

"Yes. It caused my heart (love) to grow stronger, and set my body ablaze (literally)."

"You must tell me this method!"

Rinkah pulled a wooden mug out of her pocket, plunging it into the flaming water and emerging with a mug of the fiery liquid.

"Oh come on!" Odin complained.

"I don't... how?" Elise mumbled.

"Don't worry," Rinkah reassured them. "This mug has been waterproofed."

"THAT'S NOT THE PROBLEM HERE!" Mozu screamed.

Rinkah didn't reply, because she drank the water.

"This burning sensation in me... is it because of the power of the fountain...?!"

"No! It's cuz ya drank something that was on fire, ya flaming moron!"

"I can feel my powers strengthening...!" Rinkah continued to monologue. "I had my doubts, but this is the real deal...! With the fountain's help, I can achieve my TRUE POTENTIAL!"

And then Rinkah set herself on fire.

She was even more on fire than usual.

It was at this precise moment that Kaze and Charlotte walked in.

"Are we interrupting something?" Kaze asked.

"Rinkah's just on fire again," Elise answered casually.

"Please stop her," Mozu requested, because her head was starting to hurt.

Kaze nodded, and summoned a fire blanket out of nowhere to smother the flames. Charlotte freaked out.

They were there because they had a conversation with Corrin that basically went;

Kaze: I overheard you helping Odin deepen his relationship with others. Could you please help me and Charlotte get closer?

Charlotte: W-what?! No, I'm not worthy! You can't possibly want that with me!

Kaze: Nonsense. You have to give yourself more credit. You're a wonderful person, and I am honoured to have the chnce to spend time with you.

Corrin: (Are you scamming him for money?! Ohhh, in that case, I should do my best to help, but Kaze might actually like her and I can't let them fall in love, aaaaaah, what do I do...!?)

Kaze: Corrin? Are you alright—

Corrin: AAAAAAAAAH, STORAGE ROOM, SOUTHWEST, THREE DOORS LEFT OF THE STAIRS ON THE SECOND FLOOR!!!

Rinkah did not like being in a fire blanket. She struck back, knocking Kaze into the fountain.

"Kaze!" Charlotte screamed with all the horror of someone who knew about the potential wrath of a god in disguise.

"Do not fear," Kaze reassured her, emerging from the fountain. "I'm okay."

"You're on fire," Mozu noted. Her tone was dead, just like her sense of logic at this point.

"So cool..." Elise whispered.

"AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO GOT HURT BY IT?!"

"Don't worry. The water got me wet, so the fire isn't burning me."

"Impressive," Rinkah admitted. "Weak compared to mine, but impressive for someone with no training."

"Uh, Kaze? Yer friend just fainted."

Kaze scooped up Charlotte in his arms so he could shoujo-ly carry her to the infirmary. Elise decided to take Odin to the infirmary to make sure his burn was okay. Mozu brought Rinkah to the nearest fire extinguisher.

This led to Odin dramatically telling people of how his injuries were obtained trying to get a magic love potion from a fountain of fire made by the goddess of love herself, Rinkah being more on fire than usual and telling people it was because of a fiery fountain unlocking her true potential, Camilla being cryptic and telling her friends (almost the entire cast at this point) that she was making a wish on a fountain of flames, and, oh yeah.

Charlotte starting a fricking church.

Admittedly, it was less of a church and more a club. And all they really did was thank the deity residing in their high school for the blessings provided to them, pray that deity did not destroy them all with the multitude of powers every deity had, and keeping the teaching of that deity in your heart.

It should be noted that Charlotte never went to church before. And had no idea that deity was gender-neutral. 

Benny tried to tell her about the misunderstanding, except the end result was that Charlotte thought Kaze could become a goddess of love at will because of course he could shapeshift. He could do anything.

So, let's review.

There were rumours of a fountain of fire made by the goddess of love, a fiery fountain that could unlock your true potential, a fountain of flames that could grant wishes, all while a church was starting up. A church that almost everyone thought was devoted to the goddess of love.

Really, is it any wonder why Corrin was hunted down, not just for unlocking your true potential and making wishes, but by the many, many young Hoshidans who were going to be in arranged marriages soon and needed some way of ensuring political safety?

Even if it were just Hoshidans needing help with arranged marriages, the crowd would be large enough and frantic enough to require protection. But, because of all the other things, Corrin needed a lot more than that.

So, when the time came for classes, her younger siblings led the charge and tried to clear a path in front of her. Tried to, of course, since there were a lot of people. This was when Hinoka, being Hinoka, jumped up into the air, landed on some guys shoulder and jumped to another random schmuck when the first one fell over. She leapt from person to person, until she was far enough in the hallway and signalled it to Ryoma.

Ryoma then picked Corrin up and threw her at Hinoka, who leapt to catch her and keep travelling by means of person-jumping.

"You're... all working so hard for my sake..." Corrin mumbled under her breath.

"You're our sister, Corrin," Hinoka replied, jumping off of a girl's head as she screamed that she needed help with a guy named Shaoran or whatever. "Of course we would."

"I'm so—"

"Don't apologize!" Hinoka snapped. "I'm doing this because I love you! Same for everyone else! So don't you dare think that this is a problem!"

"...thank you."

Hinoka felt someone grab her ankles and almost fell, steadying herself by slamming one foot against the wall.

"You're not getting away!" Hana screamed. "I'm getting forced into an arranged marriage soon! I need that girl!"

"Guh!"

"H-Hinoka!"

"Don't worry, Corrin! I won't let you fall!"

"Are you trying to look cool?! That's not what I'm worried about!"

That was the precise moment that Hinoka got hit by a flying tackle.

"You're so cute," Camilla said sweetly, carrying the both of them effortlessly, keeping herself above the mob by keeping her feet glued to the small edge of a doorframe and hanging onto the exit sign above the doors. (Don't try this at home! Or school! Or anywhere else!) "Don't worry, your big sister's here for you."

Camilla adjusted her footing a bit, just as a cavalry charge came through the doors.

As in, Silas with an empty book cart, Effie kneeling on it with a big wooden signboard to shield the front.

"Corrin! Get on!"

Corrin could barely react to everything that was happening, so, when Hinoka dropped her on the cart, she was silent.

"Get ready!" Silas announced to the crowd. "I'm not holding back!"

And so, he barrelled through the crowd, not caring if people hit Effie's shield or got hurt.

Effie got a chime in her pocket. This was odd, because Effie didn't have a phone. But then Effie explained to Corrin that Elise lent her her phone so that the plan would work smoothly. Effie signalled the contents of the message to Silas, who then smiled at Corrin.

"Leo, Elise, and Xander managed to clear the route to the classroom! We'll be fine once we make it past this stretch!"

It was then that Corrin finally managed to react to everything that had happened to her that morning alone.

As she sat on a possibly stolen book cart, childhood friend charging through a crowd of fanatics believing her to be the goddess of love, a silent girl holding a shield in front of her, her family having fought for her and her friends doing their best for her sake, Corrin laughed, and laughed joyously.

Chapter Text

"T-this is Kaden," Sakura mumbled at the next Shipper's Deck meeting slash "study group." "He followed me here."

"Hi!" Kaden chirped cheerfully, getting a glare from the librarian. "Sakura told me you guys were doing something fun and wanted to tag along!"

Hinata, Silas, Camilla, and Orochi exchanged a single glance over the library table, before saying in unison:

"Lover boy."

"That's your nickname now," Sakura explained, taking a seat. Kaden settled into the spot next to her naturally. "Everyone has one."

"Role call, everyone~!" Camilla sang.

"Hinahina!"

"Shhhh!"

"Orochimata!"

"Be mindful of your volume."

"S-Sakusaku..."

"...Cowlick."

"And I'm Milly!" Camilla introduced herself happily. "So, Lover boy, you sure you're up for this? I'd be so disappointed if you ran out on us..."

"I sure don't know what's going on, but I'll try!"

"Good. Our mission is to get my little brother together with..." Camilla trailed off as a zombie wandered in and latched onto Kaden.

Oh. Oh no. Wait. That zombie had long blue hair. That was Azura.

"You okay, Zuzu?" Kaden patted the arms wrapped around his shoulders, barely even reacting to the sudden weight on him.

"No," Azura grumbled into Kaden's neck. "I had to interact with my sister. My little sister. Without you. It was awful."

Camilla suddenly looked very concerned. She discreetly gestured her concern to Silas, who nodded.

"Um, this is a club meeting?" Silas attempted. "So, if you could, like—"

"I'm part of the Drama Club," Azura interjected.

"This... this isn't a Drama Club meeting. We're not even part of the Drama Cl—"

"You are now," Azura declared.

"I don't... what? What?" Silas replied.

"Cool!" Hinata exclaimed.

"This is interesting!" Orochi added with a smile.

"Why do you infantile children never listen."

"I-I don't mind..." Sakura whispered.

Camilla was met with a very confused, worried gaze from Silas.

So, she said, "Sure. Why not."

Silas made very descriptive sounds of baffled outrage at that.

"W-we can do both!" Sakura exclaimed. "Drama and getting people together!" She clenched her fist as flames ignited in her eyes. "After all, the school play is always a romantic scene!"

Camilla gasped with delight. "I see! How wonderful!"

Somewhere, somehow, the librarian just gave up.

"You're right!" Kaden's eye lit up when they mentioned a play. "If it's a romantic story, I've got tons of scripts ready and waiting!"

"This is gonna be fun!" Hinata cheered.

Orochi giggled, and Azura felt herself fade into the background.

But still, she thought as she glanced over at Kaden's smile. If she could see that beautiful smile, then, even if she were dying, she would be happy.


They had a plan, if by "had a plan", you meant 'vague scribblings on paper somewhat resembling an outline of an idea'.

Step One: Get the pair onboard!

"Hey, hey, you're Corrin, right?" Kaden asked, trailing behind the girl with a smile.

She had been walking through the hallways with a stack of various books in her arms, clumsily dodging people and weaving around obstacles as best as she could.

"Yeah, and uh, you're uh.... Azura's friend...?" Corrin answered in turn.

"Yep, the name's Kaden. You busy?" 

"Nah, I'm just... being helpful?" Corrin smiled awkwardly, trying to not reveal that she knew the guy well already.

"Really?"

Before Corrin could answer, she saw Selena by and waved her over.

"You forgot your science textbook in the classroom, so Camilla asked me to pass this to you," Corrin explained as she took the third book from the top of the stack and handed it to her.

"I would have been able to get it just fine myself, thank you very much! But, since you went through the effort of getting this to me... thanks, I guess," Selena huffed. 

Corrin smiled, laughed, and exchanged a goodbye with the girl, before walking off.

"You want some help with that?" Kaden asked.

"Huh? I think I'm fine," she said, right before she bumped into Felicia. "Oh! Felicia, here's the handouts you missed!" 

She struggled to retrieve said handouts from the stack of books without toppling the whole thing over. Kaden helped by grabbing half of them, and Corrin was able to give them to Felicia without a hitch.

However...

"Thanks, Kaden," Corrin sighed, making a move to grab the books back.

"Nope. I've decided to help you out, no ifs, ands, or buts about it."

"I refuse?" Corrin tried.

Kaden looked at her blankly for a moment, before laughing.

"Nice try, but nope! It's just plain not nice to do that," and this caused Corrin to look troubled, "but, well, I needed to ask a favour, I heard you're the person to try it and you never say no to things, but I want to wait till you're done and therefore, me helping you do this is helping me. Basically, I'm helping you help me, and you can't say no to that, right?"

"Uh. I don't... think I can," Corrin admitted. Mostly because it was too confusing to say no to.

"Great! Let's get this done, then!"

And off they went. They handed Keaton pet shop catalogues that were probably stolen by Niles as a gift, delivered a book on weight training to Hinoka since she forgot it at home, gave Kaze a pile of letters from fangirls, and left an anonymous gift of a strategy game book to the teacher's lounge.

"So, what did you want to ask me?" Corrin inquired as they walked through the hallways together. They walked leisurely, since it's not like anime people were ever shown seriously doing classtime.

"I'm the president of the Drama Club," Kaden announced. "But..." and this is when he chuckled awkwardly, "we don't have that many members. We have three people, including me, and two members of the costume department. We barely even qualify as a club."

Corrin nodded in understanding.

"But, my friends are helping me out, and one of them told me how her brother would be perfect for the role," Kaden explained. "'cept she said that it was really hard to drag him away from his books, so if I wanted him to listen, I would ask you."

"I could, but... are there enough people for the play? Even if you drag one guy in, there's still not that many people in the club..."

"Oh! Camilla's offering to play a role, and Sakura's friend, Mozu, said yes when she asked, and Kaze was fine with helping for a bit and so was Setsuna—!" Kaden was so genuinely excited that Corrin found herself smiling.

She wanted to see him succeed, so she agreed.

It wasn't like it was something related to love, after all.


"I brought Xander," Corrin announced to the Drama Club plus friends.

"Hello," Xander greeted the baffled group.

Sakura immediately screamed about how, if the other half of a pairing wasn't the lead of a play, something would wind up happening to the lead and then the other half of the pairing would have to replace them in the play.

Camilla did not want her older brother hurt.

Corrin, however, spoke up.

"Um... I'm not in the play. (Since Carl's already part of the Drama Club.) I'm just here to help with casting."

"But you got the wr—" Sakura's protest was cut off by Kaden practically running up to Xander and shaking his hand eagerly.

"I'm so glad to work with you!"

"Likewise."

"So. What were you saying again, Sakura?" Azura asked, an undercurrent of 'don't you dare ruin this moment for him' tinting her words.

"...n-nothing."

"And now we gotta find the lead actress!" Kaden announced, continuing onto step one point two when they utterly failed step one point one.

"Oh. No, it's fine, I brought Hinoka too," Corrin informed them.

Corrin whistled to let her sister in, who kept her eyes down in shame.

Shame which was well-earned, considering that Camilla was somehow politely glaring at her as if she was trying to send a message of 'I would ruin you if there wasn't an audience.'

It wasn't even her fault this time, but she still lost points by virtue of her very existence, all because her existence inconvenienced a plan she wasn't aware of to get people together. She didn't even have the points to lose. On a scoreboard showing all of their chances, everyone else would have had a solid fifteen or twenty, while Hinoka had, like, around... negative twelve.

And the scoreboard showed everyone's chances with Camilla. (Minus her family.) Mozu had a higher chance of romancing Camilla than Hinoka. Hell, even Azama did. 

So, basically, their plan failed at step one. But they kept going.

Ahahahahahahahaha... they sure kept going.

Even when Hinoka turned out to have all the acting skill expected of a cardboard box, Xander even less than that, Corrin only showed up to check up on them sometimes and didn't even bring Leo, and it turned out that the only good actors in the room were the director and the crossdressing guy who showed up to give everyone tips.

It was going to be an absolute trainwreck, for multiple reasons.

Reason one:

"So... you feel as if you're not a good enough actor for the production?" Laslow asked, holding a cup of hot chocolate for himself. 

"I feel as if I am too stiff and serious," Xander stated, nose buried in a book as he furiously took notes, "so I've been researching various ways to be more relaxed and natural. They don't seem very effective, though."

'I wonder why,' Laslow thought bemusedly. 

Taking a sip from his drink so as to not laugh, he managed to sound rather calm and collected as he said, "Xander, you know, I know an expert on performance acting..."


"This was not what I signed up for," Odin protested immediately.

"You agreed to teach someone how to act," Laslow countered.

"Not Xander!"

"Really now, that's just rude. What did Xander ever do to you?"

"Ask me to marry him?!"

"Because he didn't have enough coffee. He's well-caffeinated now," Laslow reassured him.

Odin still looked unsure, so Laslow sighed and pulled out a card he knew damn well was dirtier than the stuff Selena's mom read.

"You know..." he whispered the words into Odin's ear, so focused on mentally apologizing to both Odin and his mom that he didn't notice how Odin shivered at the sensation, "a future Exalt needs to be able to interact with a variety of people. Which one is more likely in politics; Xanders or friends?"

It was this argument that caused Odin to slump his shoulders, sigh, and agree.

So Laslow smiled, thanked him, and shoved him into the room where Xander was waiting.

"I hath heard that you called for the aide of a hero known only by legends..." Odin introduced himself politely.

"I did. Thank you for agreeing to this, by the way. I look forward to learning from you," Xander replied, already going for a notebook and a pen.

"Hold! You fool! You think you can learn as such!?" Odin interjected. "Learning to act as such while bent over a page and straining your hand... unthinkable!"

"I see..." So Xander dropped the book back into his bag. "What should I do, then?"

"Stand and repeat after me! I shall teach you the accursed incantations of strength and prosperity!"

"Yes!"

"O cursed swordhand!"

"Oh cursed swordhand."

"More emotion! Make your soul scream with passion!" Odin commanded, very slightly getting carried away.

Neither of them noticed Laslow struggling to record their "practice session" because of how hard he was laughing.


"My word, what a shock. I cannot see a thing," Hinoka tried, but not that hard because, somewhere along the first twelve minutes of the first practice session, she realized she didn't really care. The only thing keeping her there was the persistent feeling that Azura would murder her for trying to leave and, more importantly, trouble Kaden by making him feel like he wasn't a good enough director for her.

"This power... is the power deep within me, the spell cast with a vial of titan's blood!"

Hinoka didn't even know why the other lead actor showed up to practice one day and spoke like a fantasy novel. She just accepted this with the kind of begrudging acceptance only a particularly unlucky anime protagonist could exhibit.

This was the second reason why the play would be a trainwreck: the entire fucking cast. No, the entire fucking team.

Hinoka the apathetic and Xander the tryhard were the two leads who could not and would not act like normal actor people. Kaden had decided to ask Corrin for more help with casting, and, with a bit of confusion, she distributed the scripts as she thought was best. 

Of course, that meant that Corrin had thought long and hard about these arrangements. And when she thought long and hard about it, she knew that she didn't really make the best choices, but the people who offered were so excited and eager to help that she couldn't really say no...

So, well, Peri was playing the demure housewife and Jakob her sister. Takumi bluntly said there was no way in hell he would play the role she asked, but Setsuna offered to do it. Corrin let her. Kaze was nice and volunteered. Sakura and Camilla already wanted to do their parts anyways, even if it might have been an excuse for Camilla to chat with Oboro about sewing. 

Oh, and Leo was there. It took a lot of effort for her to convince Leo to get involved. He refused to accept food as a bribe, even when she dangled tomatoes in front of him. Tomatoes. That meant that he was really reluctant about it. Corrin was about ready to give up, before Charlotte pulled her aside and told her to get her act together and try again.

Well, what she actually said was, "are you crazy?! Don't try and convince people with food when your best assets are right there! Go back in there and bat your eyelashes until he agrees!"

She mussed up Corrin's hair and ripped Corrin's shirt open.

It was very cold and felt weird. Corrin would have probably tried to cover up to conserve her body heat again, except Charlotte looked at her like she was daring the albino to even try it. Charlotte was kinda scary when she did that so Corrin just walked back in and went to Leo's desk again.

"What in the world happened to you," Leo asked bluntly, looking up from his book to fix her with a flat stare.

"Charlotte wanted to help me convince you to do this," Corrin stated simply.

"And you let her rip your shirt open."

"I mean, yeah? It's not that big of deal," Corrin said, oblivious to the people staring, "and if it somehow makes you more willing to help me, great! Even if it feels weird."

"Corrin, you do realize that your cleavage is—"

"What's a cleavage?"

"—never mind," and Leo sighed. He pressed a bookmark between the pages, closing the romance novel (for research purposes) with one hand so he could massage his temple with the other hand. "Why do you even want me to join this play so much?"

"Because," Corrin started off in an almost-whiny tone, pouting as she spoke, "I want to be able to see everyone's smiling faces as this play comes together! Whether it's audience or actor, everyone will be able to enjoy this!"

"Couldn't I just watch from the audience then?" Leo asked.

"Boo! You know that's not the same. I'll be in the play too, you know," and this is when Corrin's eyes darted to the side and her voice dropped down, "and I want you there. I wanna say that it's because most of your siblings are there and it'll be a good chance for you to get along with them, but really, it's because I want you there."

Leo stared at her in dumbfounded silence.

"I mean, it'd be fun to have you there, we could joke about the script and practice our scenes and laugh about the costumes, and I think you'd be great for the role, and it's even a small one because you're shy, well, not shy, but you're awkward, but it's not a bad thing, I love that about you. I really like having you around, Leo, so—" Corrin was rambling, fully aware that she was probably just weirding him out—

Leo pretended to clear his throat, interrupting her run-on sentence.

"I'll do it."

"Eh?"

"I said I'll do it," Leo stated, nonchalantly flipping through his book again. He was on the wrong page. "If you want me around to that extent, then I suppose I won't say no..."

"Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Corrin immediately hugged him, even if it felt weird because he was sitting down, she wasn't, and his book was kind of poking into her stomach weird. "You're the best! I love you, Leo! I'll cook you tomato food every day from now on!"

"Please don't. Your cooking could start a wildfire."

"I'm only ignoring that because I'm happy and grateful that you would agree to this and play the role of Setsuna's husband because I asked nicely."

"I'm sorry, what did you have me agree to."

"I asked you to play a part in the play, and the only part left to play is the part of Setsuna's husband," Corrin explained.

"...how wonderful," Leo said in the most sarcastic manner he could.

"Hey, watch it, buddy," Corrin's tone suddenly turned reproachful. "If you're seriously into Setsuna, I'll sabotage the heck outta y—"

"I am not."

Charlotte watched them, wiping a tear away from her eye as she saw that Corrin learned her teachings so quickly.

(She didn't tell anyone why Leo had decided to join the play. It wasn't important, and who would be interested in that story anyways?)

So, yes. One more time:

Peri was a normal non-murderous housewife, and Jakob was playing her sister. Hinoka and Xander were competing for the "Least Skilled Lead Actor" award. Setsuna and Leo were playing a married couple. Camilla, well, Camilla could actually pull anything off if she wanted to. And Kaze was there. And Sakura...

Reason three.

"I feel like this script is lacking some... pizzazz," Kaden sighed.

"Maybe we can rewrite the dialogue to flow better?" Corrin suggested, looking over the script. She adjusted Carl's fake glasses as she did so, pretending that they were actually real and helped her vision.

"It's not the flow that feels off! It's just, it feels dead," Kaden explained with dramatic gestures. 

"Maybe you should take a break, listen to some music, get some new ideas?"

"Hmmm, yeah, but whenever I listen to Azura's singing, I get sleepy, and I can't think if I'm napping."

"...I didn't even mention Azura," Corrin pointed out. "Why did you even think of her?"

"Oh, I don't really listen to music. The closest thing I listen to is just Azura's voice," Kaden informed her, and Corrin groaned.

"Silas!" Corrin called out, entirely to escape from the impending lovey-dovey conversation. "What kind of music do you listen to?! Please!"

"Uhhhhhhhhh.... rap?" Silas answered hesitantly. He wasn't lying, but also, he was kind of in the middle of taping together the cardboard they needed for the wings for Kaze's costume, so he wasn't sure why Corrin was suddenly asking that when she knew he was busy.

"Rap?" Kaden and Corrin repeated.

"My phone's in my vest pocket in the locker room! You know my password, just go to my music and you can listen to it!"

"Okay!" 

And so Corrin rushed into the boy's locker room. No one batted an eye, because Kaden had told everyone.

Anyways, she got the music to Kaden, and when he heard it, he smiled.

"I have a great idea."


"Oi! Y-you wanna date my boy, I see through your p-ploy, you wanna turn him into your toy! Don't try and act coy, I'm getting a-annoyed, you, I've the urge to destroy!" Sakura did her best.

"Beautiful," Kaden concluded. Sakura nodded, and decided to try and go through her lines again. Hinata and Silas helped by recommending songs she could use for reference. It turned out that they had the same taste in music.

"...you're sure about this," Azura replied doubtfully.

"Yeah! I'm super excited about this working out!" Kaden gave her a smile. "I mean, we finally got the help we need to pull off a play for real, instead of just wasting time going through scripts and chatting!"

Azura's heart stammered at that.

'They're only helping you for their own ends,' Azura thought. 

She was stuck in the helish limbo between two choices. She could either reveal the real reason why his new friends had decided to help him, make him cry, and ruin his hopes, or...

Or she could keep the truth hidden, let him dream, and watch the resulting trainwreck utterly dash his hopes in the end.

Azura didn't really know which choice to choose, so she just sighed and dropped the conversation.

And then she saw Camilla approaching with a script, so she hurriedly tried to make an excuse and leave. Even if she loved Kaden with all her heart, Azura couldn't make sense of any of his management methods or literary anythings.

Which was the fourth and fifth reason it would be a trainwreck, really. Not only did the director not realize that over half the cast had ulterior motives for suddenly working with him, but the assistant director avoided most people and left her work to Carl, who was only there, like, half the time. So, whenever Elise burst into the room with cupcakes for everyone because she sensed Sakura trying to approach Camilla, well, no one could stop her. No one was there to.

Oh, and Oboro was literally their only member of the costuming department, so they had to make-do with rented costumes, stuff they already had, and cardboard. Lots and lots of cardboard. 

And then Niles got involved. He was there to laugh at Leo, and then Kaden shoved a role at him. Literally. He shoved the costume into Niles' chest the moment he stepped in.

"You want me to join your paltry club?" Niles was so stunned by Kaden's audacity that he didn't even think to refuse.

"Yeah, there's pastries. It'll be fun!" Kaden smiled. "I mean, look at everyone having fun together!"

He waved his arm at the group, where Odin was coaching Xander again, Hinoka had just laid down facefirst on the floor, Elise had shown up to offer Camilla cupcakes for the express purpose of ruining Sakura's attempts to talk to her, Setsuna and Orochi were talking about... cups(?), Selena insisted she wasn't there to check on Hinata, Jakob insisted on Peri not using a knife for her role, and Silas helped Kaze slip on his cardboard wings.

"Don't you have real members? Why ask the guy who just walked in?"

"Nah, these are all volunteers, there's only five members of the club. Three if you count people who actually act."

"Why so small?" Niles asked, right before Azura glared a hole in him.

Kaden, for his part, just laughed and smiled a bit remorsefully. 

"I'm the only member of the Drama Club who's been here for more than a year, last year, an upperclassman was the one in charge." He was amazing, with the directing, acting, and makeup," Kaden spoke with the highest degree of admiration. "We owed all our success to him, so when he graduated... most, er, all of the other members left."

"So you're letting just about anyone join."

"Yep! So, what about it?" Kaden shot him a toothy grin. "Wanna join?"

He looked over Kaden's shoulder to see Leo shaking his head frantically and whispering silent threats if he said yes.

What happened next was the logical conlusion of such.

"Of course! Sign me up."

Hinoka would later experience that when Azama showed up, saying that he was lonely since Setsuna and Hinoka weren't with him. Liar.

Effie tried to control him, but he dragged her in too. 

Actually, he... he signed Effie up in his place. And he just stuck around to laugh at everyone. Effie just sighed and tried to leave, but Azura instantly reacted to the idea of someone leaving Kaden and making him sad.

So Niles and Azama were working together, Azura refused to let anyone leave the project even if she was aware everything would crash and burn, and they just decided to throw in a rapping Sakura.

But they did their best, and in a few time skips, they were ready to put together a test showing for the students. It was basically just a free show for the students during lunch.

The story they were presenting was the story of Psyche and Eros. No, there is no explanation for why people in an alternate modern fantasy world have the story of the Greek gods, shut up. 

Anyways, had everything gone according to plan, Corrin and Leo would be the ones playing out the love story, Corrin the seclusive deity of love, Leo, the mortal seeking her godly parent's approval, and others helping him win her over.

But, please remember, everyone failed at step one.

Hinoka stepped onto the bare stage, dressed in a cheap replica of a period outfit that made Oboro cry when she saw it. She barely paid attention to the people watching, or how Hayato made a bet with Mozu that it would be a disaster.

"Oh, woe is me!" Hinoka screamed robotically. "I am Psyche, the most beautiful woman in this world! Everyone worships me as the second coming of the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, but I am not! I wish only for someone to love me for who I am!"

"As the egostical and blasphemous woman proclaims, this is Psyche, the heroine of this tale. But, of couse, one must question why there is a heroine of a story at all. If all humans are equal in soul and spirit, then what makes one's story one worth telling over another? Frankly, this is an outrage, and should be addressed immediately."

"AZAMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Hinoka screamed at the heavens, shaking her fist angrily. Or, well, she was actually screaming at the speaker his voice was coming from. Since Kaden somehow thought it was a good idea to make Azama the narrator.

"Yes, yes, well, putting aside the fascinating philosophical inquiries, as they would be too much for your minds to comprehend, this woman decided to ask an oracle about her chances of finding this utterly meaningless she called love, but could really be only called—"

"AZAMA."

"What? Oh, fine. She walked to a city that doesn't really matter in the long run, just as all things do, and asked."

"WILL I EVER FIND LOVE," Hinoka demanded.

"I see! You have called on the right source for this spell," Orochi said with a grin, waving her cape around mystically "I will call upon the god of prophecy—"

"Don't you dare go through a long symbolic fortunetelling scene!" Hinoka snapped.

"Wow. Sheesh. Tough customer."

"Please don't waste anyone's time. You're just a plot kick-er-off-er, no need to make it so complicated."

"Rude. You get married to a monster though," Orochi replied. "Big scaly snake monster dude. Can't miss him if you tried."

"Oh no. How horrible. I can't believe this. My life is over. Take me now, monster," Hinoka said, cutting down the soliloquy to a few seconds as Orochi exited stage left.

"Yes, as Psyche was being blatantly racist, discriminatory against monsters, and crushing the dreams of aspiring fortune tellers—"

"HEY."

"— the West Wind arrived to take Psyche to her husband's home."

"Your husband awaits," Kaze stated, suddenly kneeling before Hinoka. 

"Yeah. Okay," was Hinoka's flat response, letting Kaze carry her and jump to the other end of the stage.

Hinata and Silas dragged in a cardboard castle backdrop, setting it down behind her.

"Psyche had safely reached her husband's estate. Even if they never had any formal proceedings... really now, there was just no respect for the conventions at the time."

Hinoka screamed silently, grabbing at her head like the only reason she wasn't tearing her hair out was out of consideration for Kagero and Camilla's efforts to get her to look suitably actress-y.

"My word, what a shock. I cannot see a thing."

"This power... is the power deep within me, the spell cast with a vial of titan's blood!"

"Essentially, her husband was invisible to mortal eyes," Azama narrated as Niles rolled in a dark curtain on an empty rack. 

"I am your husband henceforth!" Xander announced, posing behind the curtain. "May our souls be bound in love and happiness for eternity!"

"Oh. Okay," Hinoka replied from her spot on the exact opposite end of the bad acting scale.

"I will show you to your chambers, oh beautiful one!"

"And then she was pregnant," Azama narrated, making Takumi spit out his soda in the audience.

Normally, a production would try to gloss over the obvious baby-bouncing on the stage. Perhaps some curtains, darkened lights, and dodgy narration over the scene. In a more risque showing, they might have the mattress on stage, actors badly pretending to beat at the bushes and shake the bed. 

But, because it was a school production...

"The baby was because Hermes, messenger of the gods, witnessed their love and informed Zeus, king of the gods," Azama narrated in an attempt at a saccharine voice. "Zeus then told his sister, Demeter, who told her daughter, Persephone, who told her husband, Hades, who gave them a gift of a jewels. One jewel, meant to be turned into a pendant for Psyche as a gift, became infused with love, and became a baby!"

This was shown as Corrin, er, Carl whispering to Camilla who whispered to Setsuna who whispered to Leo, who gave Hinoka a blanket around a soccer ball. Hinoka couldn't tie it around her own stomach, so Setsuna did it for her, and accidentally tied it like a sling, and thus around her arm, which gave her chest the odd look of weirdly lopsided breasts. As Hinoka sighed and accepted that she would never be able to look cool in front of her crush, Azama continued his narration.

"And so, so mystified by the wonders of life she had hosted within her body she was, Psyche went to her sisters to ask how to best handle the secrets of creation."

"Well, as a perfectly normal housewife, no murder here," Peri started off, wearing bloodied armour with an equally bloody sword over her shoulder, "knowing your enemy is key."

"What she means to say is this," Jakob said with a sigh, "you can't raise the baby with an invisible husband. How will you explain that to your child? And what would the other gossipy hens say about a so-called 'invisible husband?'"

"Yeah. You're right, I guess," Hinoka replied.

"Fire will help," Peri advised eagerly. 

"That's... actually sensible."

"Yes! I knew fire was the solution!"

"But only to see her husband's face, right, sister?" Jakob asked her pointedly, and Peri deflated.

"...yes. That is what... that is exactly what I had in mind."

"And so, with her weak mind corrupted by doubt, the sisters fell off a cliff and died. May that serve as a lesson to remind us that life can end at any moment," Azama paused as the two were spirited off by Kaze swinging by on a rope. "Psyche lived on, knowing her sisters were to be reincarnated as snails for their inability to—"

"GET TO THE POINT!" Hinoka snapped.

"Ahahahaha, how terrifying! Psyche's mental state had devolved to the point that she screams at the sky and curses the heavens! Is it any wonder that she, paranoid as she was, brought a lantern to her husband's chambers, and saw his face, as much as he wished otherwise?"

Niles wheeled in Xander and his curtain, and Hinata threw a flashlight at Hinoka. With a face as expressive as stone, Hinoka switched it on, the sound of the switch the signal for Niles to dramatically rip off the curtain and Xander to pose.

It should be noted that Xander was in a swimsuit, mostly because no one wanted to be the person who got an adult-sized diaper for this play. He still had a not-bad figure, and that's all that needs to be said on the matter. This is not the story to have golden orbs or rippling muscles or locks of flakes of sunset described in excruciating detail. If you're looking for that, go find some random smut fic.

"Psyche's racism has come back to bite her, for her husband was a very handsome man. Though, that really only matters to those too fixated on the outwards appearance to see the truth of the world."

"I can't believe this. He's so beautiful."

"And then Psyche dropped the lantern on him, burning him with the hot oil.

Hinoka gave her flashlight a long, flat stare. Then she looked up at Xander, back down to the flashlight, and shrugged. The flashlight flew at Xander, bouncing off his face, clattering to the floor, and rolling into the audience seating with a chorus of laughter following it.

"We can't forget the oil," Niles practically purred. Someone (Silas) sighed loudly, as Hinata handed him a bottle of vegetable oil from offstage.

"You!" Xander posed dramatically, pointing at Hinoka with one hand. He completely ignored how Niles was rubbing oil all over him as he spoke. "Accursed wife, how could you try and see my true form!? The darkness whispers of unholy calamity resonating within me, born out of outrage and furor! Yet, behind the anger, there lies a thorn of betrayal, born when she whom I had loved so long gazed upon this wretched face."

"I'm sorry, what," Hinoka replied flatly, because she barely read the script.

"He's saying he was in love with you for a long time. And you broke his heart. For shame."

"SHUT UP."

"Ever since that faithful night...! My mother, blessed of beauty, Aphrodite, had sent me to prick you with an arrow of love. She wished for you to love a hideous monster to humiliate you in return for being so attractive, the masses mistook you for her! But, alas, when I saw your face, I was so stunned by your profile that I fell from the window and pricked myself on the arrow..."

"You know, you'd think the magical being in charge of making people fall in love would be immune to his own tools," Hinoka noted.

"Hey, I have feelings too," Xander countered.

"Oh, you do. Okay then."

"Why are you acting as if you don't believe me?!"

And then Niles laughed, threw the curtain at him, and wheeled him off on the costume rack.

"So hurt by Psyche's words Eros was that he fled. For shame, Psyche, for shame."

"U-um, can I make my entrance now?" Sakura asked, peeking out from the side of the curtains. The sight was so adorable that Benny had to remind Charlotte that her family couldn't afford to house another child.

"Yes, yes sweetheart, feel free to," Camilla said, giving Sakura a gentle push onto the stage.

Sakura cleared her throat, before screaming. Azama took that as his cue to switch on the music.

"E-ey! You wanna date my boy, no, don't try to act coy, I see through your ploy, wanna turn a love god into your love toy!" Sakura sucked in a breath, continuing on, "Nah! Aphrodite's got you beat, so you have these tasks to complete!"

And this is when Silas and Hinata went out on stage as her backup, proclaiming, "TASK ONE!" in unison.

"Uh-huh! Sort out these beans, piles nice and clean, done 'fore the sun can be seen!" Sakura did her best, as Niles entered the scene while juggling three cans of beans.

"No way it can be done," Hinoka said with the utmost despair. 

"Yeah right!" Hinata and Silas countered, as Camilla walked on stage, switching the music to a gentle melody.

"I'm in your corner," Camilla sang, the backup echoing her words, "and I won't let you fall! Just sit back, just relax, the goddess of crops will take care of it all!"

Niles passed the cans to Camilla, who managed to juggle them for a bit before setting them down in a line. As they left, the music went back to Sakura's theme.

"Whoa-OH!" Sakura pretended to gasp as Niles and Camilla exited stage left. "You completed that way super fast! I mean, congrats on this task, but this win ain't meant to last!"

"TASK TWO!"

"See that sheep?" 

"Sheep, what sheep?" Hinata asked.

"That one over there?" Silas pointed at Ryoma, who basically just crawled in.

"Yeah! The sheep's a creep, grab its fleece, try a catch and release, 'course, victory won't come cheap!"

Niles threw a water bottle at Ryoma, which prompted Silas and Hinata to sing, "the sheep's drinking water~."

And then Effie showed up, dressed in a mermaid costume.

Silas stood to her left and Hinata to her right, pulling out signboard as Effie put her arms over their shoulders.

"A water nymph wants to inform you," Silas' sign read as the three danced with their feet. In both Nohrian and Hoshidan, because the team might have been incompetent, but they were inclusively incompetent.

"This sheep could maul and bore you!" Hinata's concluded.

Silas and Hinata both flipped the paper, showing the other lyrics.

"Hunting it down is a waste of your time."

"So just take this something of mine!"

Effie took her arms off their shoulders as they clumsily spun around to gesture dramatically at her. With the same rocklike face as always. Effie presented Hinoka with a hairbrush.

And then the music stopped as Hinoka succinctly said, "ew."

"Congrats once again, but you won't win, I'm sending you down to the land of sin," Sakura did her best, tossing a fake goblet at Hinoka.

"TASK THREE!"

"Find the River Styx, toss it in, need some water to win!"

"But the River Styx is deadly to mortals!" Silas and Hinata sang. "And it's below some very tall cliffs!"

"Well, since my sister is being a b—" Corrin's entrance coincided with Azama accidentally and coincidentally hitting the mic and producing a loud noise. It was a coincidence. "As the king of gods I must aide in this sitch!"

She snapped her fingers and Kaze appeared with his wings.

"This eagle will take away that goblet! Don't worry girl, you've got the gods supporting you against this brutal gauntlet!"

"Yeah, thanks," Hinoka managed as Kaze handed her the cup of... uh. Since when was the cup filled with juice?

Kaze carried Corrin away.

"Okay, hit the hay, how the hell did you live to today, time to pay, I mean," Sakura pretended she was realizing she might have been rude and was acting nicer, "Time to pay Persephone a visit, okay?"

"TASK FOUR!"

"In this box I wanna lock up a drop 'a beauty and love, u-uh! Goddess of flowers empower my beauty, gift to me, worshipping me your duty! I'm the top girl in a top world and you've no place, no place here, so hurry up and disappear!"

Hinoka's expression didn't even change as her little sister went on about jealousy and such, not even reacting to Hinata handing her a box.

"Uh, yeah, I forgot my lines, but it's fine, I show up for like, five seconds," Setsuna said, forgetting to even drop the thing into the box before leaving the stage.

"Sorry, she's an idiot," Leo added, walking up to toss it in for her.

"...okay."

And then there was a moment of silence. The music stopped. Everyone looked at Hinoka expectantly.

"Oh yeahhhh, I was supposed to... box," Hinoka remembered. She pretended to open the box, but then Hinata and Silas got her on the floor.

Leo had to push Setsuna back on-stage because she forgot she had another moment.

"Well. Aphrodite is a jerk. So I got Hades to put death in the box. Sorry if it killed you a little."

"A little my right toes!" Hinoka screamed in response.

And then Xander appeared.

"Psyche, my love! I have realized the error of my ways after seeing you work so hard for my sake!"

"I didn't do anything," Hinoka said flatly.

"I cannot bear to witness the woman I love dying, so please drink this ambrosia and become one of the gods!"

"Uh, can I think my options ov—" And then Hinoka had soda poured into her mouth.

"Psyche became one of the gods, a true achievement for any mortal. The two were wed with proper respect for the regulations, and they had a child they named Joy. The end."

The students making up the audience were pretty much gobsmacked.

The actors almost felt nervous under their gazes.

And then they were met with whistles and applause, loud laughter and cheers.

Hayato begrudgingly handed Mozu some coins, Benny had to restrain Charlotte so she wasn't too loud, Keaton, Selena, and the ice sisters were trying to act cool but still clapped, Laslow was laughing his ass off, Elise was cheering, Odin was crying, Subaki and Hana were screaming support, Arthur loved it, Rinkah was being so supportive she set herself on fire by accident, and Oboro and Kagero were so proud of the others in the club.

Xander took Hinoka's hand and bowed, because it was proper conduct. Hinoka looked arround, and saw that the actors around her were doing the same.

If a smile appeared on her face, well, it was only because the scene was so ridiculous she didn't have any other reaction available.


Azura would be lying if she said she didn't seek out Kaden the moment it was polite to do so. Just her luck that she had to get dragged away by Setsuna. The idiot thought they had to celebrate, even if she forgot virtually everybody else.

(Azura was ignoring the words Setsuna whispered to her as she was dragged away.)

Azura walked past Elise handing everyone congratulatory snacks, pushing her way to backstage. 

The sounds of celebration were more muted there. Noise became fainter and fainter as Azura approached the change rooms, an odd trepidation in her as she crept along. It felt wrong, somehow. 

She told herself it was just her nerves. She would be okay when she found Kaden. Being with him made everything feel better.

("You know," Setsuna said, voice void of her usual sleepy drawl. Her eye seemed knowledgeable and piercing as she spoke, "you use him like a shield. Sooner or later, you'll have to learn to deal with people without him.")

"Need another tissue?" 

"Y-yeah," Kaden's voice sobbed, and Azura froze. 

The voices were coming from the boy's changeroom, though one of them obviously wasn't a boy.

She pressed her ear against the crack between the door and the doorframe so hard she thought she would push through, if it weren't a pull door. She could hear Kaden sniffling and occasionally blowing his nose, Camilla gently dispensing comforting words after comforting words.

"I-Izana, the former president, he approached me after t-the end and..."

"And?"

"He said he should have never left me and the club."

Azura's heart dropped.

"He laughed at everything and, and...! I wanted everyone to be happy and smiling, but if I knew he would visit, then I would have...!"

'They made you embarrass yourself in front of your beloved upperclassman...'

"I would have thrown something at his face!"

...what.

That was what Azura thought at the moment.

"That bastard! He said he would have stuck around just to watch our practices! Liar! He would just eat chips and throw a party! I almost missed him, and then it turns out he didn't change at all!"

Camilla laughed inside.

"Yes, yes, I know you have a complicated relationship with your upperclassman—"

"It's not complicated at all! I hate him!"

"—But, weren't you talking about everyone else's reaction before you went off on a tangent regarding Izana?"

"Well... I was just—! I was so emotional about everyone loving it that I was moved to tears!"

Azura let out a sigh of relief.

"I don't care if it's a comedy, tragedy, drama, or anything else. I just want to tell a story that everyone can enjoy together, actors and audience alike."

"That's an admirable goal, Kaden."

"Yeah, but when I actually got it, I started crying!"

"Who can blame you? I would start sobbing like crazy if my siblings thanked me sincerely for being their older sister."

"Yeah, I guess... but since you were nice enough to let me cry on you, and help me make this play a success, I'll do you a favour in return, 'kay, Camilla?"

"No need."

"Wha—?! But it's my code of honour!"

"Well, you weren't the only one who enjoyed the play. Just being able to see— alright, stop making that face, I'll get you to do something. Why don't you enjoy the party with everyone else? I'll join you soon, I just need to clean this up first."

"Alright! I'll celebrate so hard, you'll be blown away!"

"I'm sure you will."

Kaden's footsteps went off in the opposite direction, using the exit to the stage.

Azura was still glued to the door, trying to convince herself to leave. She didn't manage to convince herself to do it before the door opened outwards and pushed her away, though.

"...Camilla," Azura greeted stoically.

"Azura," Camilla returned jovially. "What could you be doing here?"

Azura felt a pang of irritation hit her. Why ask if it was absolutely obvious she had been eavesdropping?

But she quashed that down, reminding herself that Camilla had been helping Kaden. She wouldn't snap at someone he liked. She couldn't.

"I was worried," Azura answered after a pause. "I thought you made Kaden cry."

"And you were relieved when I hadn't?"

"Yes. I was." Azura's eyes darted to the side, almost glaring at a clock on the wall to her right. "I was ready to... well, I was angry when I thought your antics had ruined Kaden's dream. But... you actually helped him achieve it, and for that... thank you," she managed awkwardly.

"You must love him a lot," Camilla said, and Azura could almost hear her mischievous smile on her lips. Gods, would she really drag Azura into her incessant matchmaking too?

"Yeah," Azura answered bluntly. "I love him."

"Why?"

"Excuse me?" Azura asked, almost offended at Camilla's... everything, really. The tone, the disbelief, the very question...

"Why do you love him?" Camilla asked. "Your personalities are almost entirely opposite. You're expressionless where he's expressive to a fault, he's social while you stick mostly to yourself, you have no problem saying no to anything you dislike, to the point that it's difficult to convince you to do anything, while he's the type who often gets dragged into things because of how nice he is and how he can't say no—"

"None of your business," Azura retorted, glaring at her older sister.

Camilla gave her a long stare.

"I'm serious. It's not your business what my relationship with him is."

"I'm your big sister. I'm going to be worried, especially if he might be leading you on—"

"IT'S NOT LIKE THAT!" Azura snapped. "I'm just uselessly clinging to him and relying on him! I'm dragging him down, I know we're so different, but—!"

Camilla was stunned, but Azura went on before she could speak, suddenly becoming quieter and more withdrawn.

"I... I'm awkward. I hide away from people. I'm not expressive. I'm not even good with my new family. I know that. I don't know how to change. I know you and everyone else want me to join the family, act like a proper daughter and proper sister, but I don't know how!" Azura screamed. "I can't make myself open up, I can't force myself to change, even if I should!"

A gasp broke up her words as tears collected in her eyes.

"Kaden knows that. He accepts that I'm... I'm just me. Even if he would be better off without me, he wants me around, and he doesn't make me be anything else. That's why I love him," Azura confessed desperately.

Azura wiped at her eyes. Camilla reached out to comfort her, but retracted her hand at the last moment.

"I can't offer you the same unconditional acceptance," Camilla told her sadly, resting her hand on her chest instead.

Azura mumbled something that sounded like, 'I knew it.'

"I can't accept someone I know nothing about, after all," Camilla continued. "But, it would be cruel of me to demand that you open up and join the family in everything. So, I'll let you choose to open up, trust us, and join us at a pace you're comfortable with."

Azura froze, looking up at Camilla with wide eyes.

"I look forward to accepting you as you grow to trust me, Azura," Camilla told her with a kind smile, extending her hand to Azura.

It was her choice whether to take it or not.

Azura gulped, and, ever-so-hesitantly, shook her hand.


In the privacy of her room, Sakura sat on her bed, twitching as she had a conversation on her phone.

"You were right, Sakura," Camilla told her. "Befriending Kaden let me get closer to Azura. She's trying her best and playing board games with Leo, Elise, and father."

"Who's w-winning?" Sakura asked, giddy enough to have to repress the nerves in her stomach.

"Elise. She's absolutely ruthless when she wants to be."

Sakura laughed. "I can imagine it... I think. But, well, I'm so glad it worked out!"

"Yes, well, it's all thanks to you, Sakura. I owe you a lot. Tell me if there's anything I can do for you, okay?"

Sakura's heart jumped into her throat. Even she was surprised by what she said.

"Then, please go out with me!" Sakura almost screamed into her phone.

"Huh?"

"I mean, shopping!" Sakura clarified bashfully. "I-I, well, you know what Hinoka is like, and Corrin doesn't have much variety in clothes, and Ryoma and Takumi, well, they're boys, so I want someone to help me! And, um, I'm most comfortable with you, Camilla!"

Camilla was silent for a few heart-pounding seconds, and then she said, "Of course I will. Should I bring some friends? More opinions could help."

"N-no! No, er, no offense to your friends, I'm-I'm sure they're great, but...!" Sakura took in a deep breath. "I'd be... nervous. I'd really like it if it were just... you and me, if that's okay."

"Of course it's okay. When do you think is a good day?"

"Are you f-free Saturday?"

"I am."

"T-then...?"

"I'll pick you up at your house. I look forward to it, Sakura."

Sakura hung up in a daze. 

She took in a deep breath in, deep breath out, held her cell phone to her chest, and screamed.

The effect was immediate.

Takumi and Corrin immediately kicked down her door, bursting into her room. 

(Hinoka and Ryoma were busy training at the gym, so they couldn't burst into the room dramatically.)

"Sakura! Are you okay?!" Corrin asked.

"Tell me who fucking hurt you and I'll make them suffer!" Takumi promised.

"IT'S NOTHING LIKE THAT I JUST MANAGED TO ASK CAMILLA OUT," Sakura answered.

"What?" Takumi asked.

"What?!" Corrin repeated, eyes wide with panic.

"I'm surprised you managed it," Takumi said.

"I-I am too!" Sakura exclaimed. "I can't believe I just did that!"

"Good job, kiddo," Takumi told her proudly, ruffling her hair.

"Huh...?"

Corrin felt like her heart was going to break out of her ribs. 

"Don't look so surprised, asshole!" Takumi snapped at her, only to realize that there was something very, very wrong with his sister.

"Corrin...?" Sakura asked.

The albino was breathing abnormally heavily for a casual conversation. 

"I don't... understand..." Corrin whispered, eyes wide with fear. Something in her eyes suggested she was about to cry. "You're... supporting her? When you have the same...?"

"Uh, yeah? A high school crush isn't gonna turn me against my sister?"

Corrin's gaze practically pierced through him, before she looked at Sakura.

"Please don't."

"Don't what?" Sakura asked in return.

Corrin gulped, eyes darting away. Unpleasant memories were coming to the forefront of her mind.


'Papa, Papa! I wanna fall in love just like the storybook!'

'You do, huh?'

'Yeah! Do you think I could?'

'It's not a question of whether you can or cannot. It's a question whether you should.'

'Huh?'

'Let's review your history, and then see if you should ever fall in love, darkspawn.'


"Every time a homicide happens, they look at the spouse first," Corrin stated, causing Takumi and Sakura to stare at her in astonishment.


'General Carlyle, driven to betray his country because of his love for his queen.'


"Do you even know how many high school romances end in cheating, divorce, and murder?"


'Nergal, driven to experiment with dark arts to revive his dead wife.'

 


"So please, forget you ever fell for her."


'Arvis controlled the woman he loved and killed her husband to prevent her from running away from him.'


"For the sake of this family..."

 


'Emperor Hardin was corrupted by his unrequited love and a dark dragon like you. He became an enemy of the world because of his love.'


"Please just give up now," Corrin begged desperately.


'Don't you see? I'm keeping you away from the world so it doesn't corrupt you like this.'


"Corrin, are you okay?" Sakura asked.

Unconsciously, she reached out to comfort Corrin. 

Corrin ducked away from her touch.

Sakura's eyes were wide with confusion and hurt as Corrin said, "I'm sorry. I said too much," and left the room.

"Don't worry. I'll check on her," Takumi promised.

"I don't know, Takumi... it just feels like something's not right."

"It's Corrin, right? She might be stupid, but she's the best at handling emotion things between all of us."

"I-I guess you're ri—"

She was cut off by the sound of screaming outside.

The two siblings rushed to the window, looking out over the front yard.

A long chain of blankets was in a heap below the window just beside Sakura's.

(Corrin's room was right next to Sakura's.)

Mikoto had been cutting the lawn when Corrin had climbed her way down. The lawnmower had been tipped over, laying forgotten in the grass as the two struggled. Mikoto had managed to grab Corrin by the wrist. Corrin was panicking and trying to wrench her arm away from the woman.

"Let me go!" Corrin cried, panting heavily.

"Corrin, please, don't run away again!" Mikoto pleaded. "I'll listen to you, just—"

"I said, get away from me!" Corrin screamed, slapping Mikoto's hand off of her.

"Corrin! Corrin, don't go—"

Mikoto reached out for her again, but Corrin was already running away. Her mother's hand just fell to her side, and she made no further effort to reach her again.

Takumi went for the door.

"Takumi?!" Sakura called out in a panic.

"I'm going to go after her!" Takumi answered, stopping at the door for only the briefest of moments. "Stay here!"

Sakura whimpered as he slammed the door open and rushed out. 

There had to be something she could do...


Mikoto fumbled with her cellphone a bit before she managed to get the right number. The pause between her calling and him picking up was excruciating. 

"What," Yukimura said in lieu of greeting her.

Mikoto gulped, before being honest.

"Corrin ran away. I need you to bring her back home."

"Because you're too much of a coward to face her?"

"...yes. I am."

"I'm going to get her, then."

"Thank you," Mikoto almost sobbed in relief.

"I'm not doing this for you," Yukimura replied scathingly. "I'm doing this because Corrin needs a responsible adult in her life, one who actually knows what she's been through and tries to support her, instead of sitting around and waiting for her to accept them."

"Yosuke—"

"Don't call me that. We're not friends. You disgust me."

"If her ears stayed like that, she would have been treated as a reincarnation of Naga!" Mikoto shrieked desperately. "It was the only way! Fanatics like her father would have... they would have found her, and—"

"—and you've traumatized your daughter for what may be the rest of your lives!" Yukimura retorted. "She trusts her friends from school more than she trusts you!"

"I know."

"I don't even think she sees you as a mother!"

"I know."

"And gods, if it wouldn't separate her from her siblings, I would have let you rot in the same jail your husband died in."

"I know! Yukimura, I know that! I will let you scream at me, punish me as you wish, just please find my daughter! She only listens to you and that boy! If I could do it myself, I w—"

"You've been saying that for six fucking years!" Yukimura snapped. "Six years of living in my apartment, feeling horrible and sad for yourself as I raised your daughter for you! Don't try to earn my pity as if you didn't have every chance in the world to make it up to her!"

Mikoto was stunned into silence, just as she heard the call drop.

She found herself collapsed on the lawn, sobbing to no one but herself.

Chapter Text

"Looks like we'll be the only ones home today," Takumi told his little sister, the words slipping off his tongue with the kind of ease only familiarity could give. He absentmindedly checked his phone as he sat on the sofa, already knowing the contents of the messages.

Their father was working late again. Takumi might have wanted him to be home more, but he couldn't blame the man for being busy. He was the sole breadwinner of the house, after all, and Takumi couldn't bite the hand that kept him fed.

A sigh left his lips, and Sakura spoke up.

"Then... I'll make dinner. Everyone will be tired from all the hard work they did."

Another exhale, but this time, it took some of the pressure off Takumi's chest. He cracked a smile, ruffling Sakura's hair affectionately.

"Yeah, get the ingredients ready. I'll just wash up and help you."

Sakura nodded and went for the kitchen. The moment her back was turned, Takumi's smile dropped.

He held the phone up and read the messages over again.

(If he scrolled up, he'd find the same exchange, over and over again.)

[Sorry,] Ryoma had typed, [I'm spending some extra time at the dojo. I'll be coming home late.]

Hinoka's was even shorter.

[at the gym. don't wait for me to come home.]

His response was the same, every single time.

(Though he wanted to snap, wanted to scream and swear at them to come home, wanted to explode and collapse, just so he wouldn't keep suppressing it—)

[Okay. We made you dinner.]

Takumi had no idea how that story got to the point where he rushed out the house in the dead of night, vandalizing Krakenberg's sign as his family slept. Hell, he wasn't even entirely sure where he got the spray paint.

He just knew that, with every painted line, he was cursing.

Cursing his father, for never being home, cursing his older siblings for being gone so long, training for what, a rivalry against another school? How was that more important than being there for him and Sakura? Being there for him? He cursed the other school, for opposing his family and causing their absences, he cursed that stupid guy he beat in chess because his face came to mind, but most of all—

He cursed himself for being so weak. So stupid.

So incessantly selfish.

Takumi wouldn't call the sensation he felt upon seeing the completed words catharsis. Rather, it was more... hollowness. He didn't feel satisfied at all.

Doubt and unease ate at him as he tossed the can over his shoulder. He watched it roll away, the clattering sound the loudest thing in the empty streets. 

It was then that he realized that he was in the city, entirely alone at night, in Nohrian territory.

'Great. My body will be cold by morning,' Takumi found himself thinking. The falling spray paint probably alerted every cutpurse and serial killer in Nohr's alleyways to his location.

So, with a great, uneasy sigh, Takumi surveyed his surroundings carefully. He was in front of Krakenberg. Okay. Krakenberg was right next to a rather large intersection, and so was across the street from some food stores and convenience stores. There was just enough space between them to make shadowy alleyways that any ghost and creep could emerge from.

To his right however, there was a playground. The creepy, borderline haunted kind of playground, with a dilapidated metal structure, some rusty swings, and bouncing toy horses that looked more like the mares of hell. The wind caused the swings to shudder slightly, making the most terrifying squeaky noises known to man, and rolling the can of spray paint over to the metal structure. It was gone now. Forget that Takumi could see it just fine. He wasn't going over there and grabbing it, he could reimburse whomever he got it from. That pale hand, the one gleaming in the moonlight and reaching for it, that hand could have it.

'Wait what.'

Takumi almost screamed when he realized that, yes, that was an actual hand reaching for the can. Yes, there were a pair of arms, pulling the body they were connected to out from under the structure. Yes, his eyes were seeing a small girl crawling out of there, thank you eyes, now please never do that again.

It must have been the pants-wetting fear that kept him frozen in place as she spotted him. She started walking towards him unflinchingly, wearing nothing but a dark dress even with the wind and stepping on uneven pavement with bare feet without showing the slightest trace of discomfort.

'This is how I die,' Takumi thought, idly noting her silver hair. 'Murdered in Nohr by a playground ghost girl."

"You're a long way from home," she said when she stood in front of him. She was about a head shorter than him. Now, Takumi wasn't one to mock someone for being short, but that admittedly did make him feel a little less absolutely frightened. It was kind of hard to be that scared of death if you could stare death down and pat it on the head easily.

Her voice sounded... weird, though, like she wasn't entirely used to talking to people.

She held the can of spray paint out to him, and Takumi, being terrified, could not bear to take it.

Her eyes were red, Takumi noticed as she let her arm fall to her side. Blood red, the colour of death.

"It's dangerous at night. I'll show you the way."

Takumi gulped. 

She started walking away, turning and beckoning for him to follow her.

Funny. He didn't remember telling her where he lived.

She brought them to an alleyway. That was reassuring as hell, he thought, but he didn't see anything on her except the can of spray paint. And he was watching for any weapons. Takumi might have been scared out of his mind, but his body still knew basic fighting techniques.

He saw nothing, though. Nothing about the way she held herself suggested she had anything on her but a can of spray paint. 

No cash, no house keys, no phone... nothing.

If she had run away, then she wouldn't have survived long at all.

"Why were you at a playground at what the hell o'clock?" Takumi asked before he could shut himself up.

"...you want to know?" the suspicious girl asked in confusion.

"Yeah," Takumi admitted, before almost blurting out the rest in a panic, "I just thought, isn't there anyone waiting for you to come back home?"

"There are people worried for me," she admitted, "but I can't return to them. It's my punishment for my crimes."

"Crimes?"

"I've been cruel and selfish during my life. I've disappointed my father and everyone who loves me, and I won't go back until I repent."

"...that makes two of us," Takumi mumbled, a sigh leaving his lips.

"You committed a crime?" She asked.

"I... yeah, I did," Takumi admitted.

If you asked him the day after, he would have blamed the moonlight for making him so weird.

But really, it was just the fact that this ghost of a girl seemed to understand that made him so uncharacteristically willing to trust her. He craved an open ear, a shoulder to cry on, but the people around him, well, he feared telling them. Feared the judgement, the idea that they'd tell him what he always told himself, that he was ungrateful, cowardly, selfish... 

Fear that they wouldn't understand him.

So, he told her everything.

His doubts, his loneliness, his resentment, his anger, his sadness...

He gave up all his secrets in the shining moonlight.

The ghostly girl listened to him. She accepted it all in silence, and he remembered the bone-crushing fear of judgement, his need to protect himself, and—

—and she patted him on the head, and he froze.

Her hand was deathly cold. But it was real, it was solid, and Takumi felt stupid for thinking she would be a ghost. Felt stupid for not trusting her, felt stupid for trusting a stranger with this, felt stupid for crying as she patted his hair down.

"You still have a home to go back to," she told him, "I'll show you the way there."

She offered her hand to him. Takumi wavered for a second, before grabbing her wrist.

They must have made for an odd sight, he thought. A grown man, no, a boy trying his best to be a grown man, almost hiding behind a girl who was, in all appearances, small, open, and defenseless. 

But something in her emanated strength.

Maybe it was the manner in which she guided him through the streets and alleyways with a confidence that suggested she had been out on the streets many times before. Maybe it was a remnant of his earlier fear, fear of her etheriality that became a sort of hesitant trust. Maybe it was because the way she listened to him spoke of incredible kindness and patience.

Either way, he felt a pull towards her. Like she might have been the missing piece in his cracked and weary home.

'Maybe... maybe this was what I wanted, all this time,' Takumi thought as the familiar lights of the Hoshidan district came into view. She let him go there, trusting him to find his way back on his own. 'Someone who could listen to me and accept me and help me feel...'

Of course, the next time they met, she became his sister.

He almost screamed at the sight of her. But she had no idea why, because she was so tired she forgot to write down that late-night encounter in her journal. She didn't remember it at all.

Takumi was so embarrass— offended, that he yelled on the spot that he would never accept her as a sister. And accidentally kept it up for a whole week because he didn't know how to apologize.

This, quite naturally, led to Corrin getting upset.

"Dinners are... quiet," she told Silas as she sat next to him on his bed. Her eyes wandered from his rather messy desk to the tightly-packed bookshelf, finally settling on one particular history book, one with a blue cover amid the red of his favourite comic book series.

"Quiet, as in everyone's too busy eating to talk, or...?" Silas asked.

"Quiet. Like everyone's trying to eat as fast as possible so they can leave faster," Corrin answered, her gaze falling down to his carpet.

"So, how are you doing?" Silas asked, looking over his shoulder to face her.

Corrin was silent for a long while, before saying, "I'm wondering if I'm cursed."

"Huh?!" Silas slapped a hand over his mouth, trying not to be too loud as he asked, "why would you think that?"

"I don't think I'll be able to have a happy family," Corrin confessed. "Maybe not ever."

She sighed, turning her head towards him.

"It feels impossible," Corrin admitted hopelessly, despair in her eyes. 

Silas breathed in deeply, and gave her a flat stare.

"I apologize in advance for the rudeness," he said, and she realized that he was going to cheer her up whether she wanted it or not, "but you, well, you're being an idiot."

He held her hand gently, raising it so she could see how they gripped each other.

"You aren't cursed," he promised with a determined grin. "After all, you've got me, right?"

"...huh?"

"We're not related by blood, or marriage. But, you're my sister, and I'll support you in any way I can," Silas told her. "But that means absolutely nothing if you're just gonna sit on your butt and give up!"

Corrin's breath hitched in her throat, Silas' eyes almost burning her with the warmth behind them. 

"If you want a happy family, then get out there and fight for it! It's not like you to just give up without even trying!"

An exhale forced a shaky smile onto Corrin's lips as she nodded. She thanked him with a hug, thanked him over and over until she had to go home.

That night, well...

"Y-you want to... cook dinner with us?" Sakura asked with wide eyes.

"Yeah! I really do!"

"Hmph. You better pull your weight," Takumi said.

"Don't worry," Corrin promised. "I'm doing my best so that you'll accept me as a sister!"

Takumi made very shifty eyes at that, only saying, "...don't get your hopes up, then."


"Why would you try and cook if you have no idea how?!" Takumi scolded, waving an arm at the remnants of a fire.

"Sorry... I just... wanted to," Corrin's voice died, and Takumi noticed how she held her hand gingerly.

Takumi grimaced, and took her wrist. She stiffened when he did so, like she wasn't used to many people touching her.

Sakura looked at them, them at the still-smoking pan. 

"Don't worry. I-I'll clean this up and get started again."

And with that, Takumi guided Corrin to the washroom, almost forcing her hand under the cool water. 

He tried not to notice how tears collected in her eyes, but he couldn't not notice.

"You know, it's times like these that you should just speak your damn mind!" Takumi snapped, making Corrin jump.

"Wh-what?!"

"You know I'm being unfair to you! Instead of just taking it, you should have just told me off for being unreasonable!"

Corrin blinked, and Takumi ran his fingers through his bangs because he needed to do something with his hands or he's go insane.

"You didn't have to go so far!" Takumi huffed. "You didn't have to try so hard to get my acceptance when I'm just being an asshole!"

"Takumi... are you apologizing?"

Takumi stilled. And then his eyes veered off to the towel rack on the wall. His anger (at himself?) was draining quickly.

Corrin laughed.

"You don't need to beat yourself up for it," she told him, feeling a sense of familiarity hit her. Maybe he reminded her of Leo? "I'm not mad at you. I just wanted to rush in and impress everyone, but I didn't actually think it through."

Takumi... was he sulking?

Corrin wondered if she was feeling Camilla's sisterly urges as she turned off the faucet, reaching over her head with her dry hand to pat Takumi's head.

He stared at her with wide eyes, but, oddly, Corrin didn't feel as scared of him and the chance that he might not accept her than before.

She had an odd sense that she knew exactly why he was acting the way he was, and not just because he was a Leo.

"Fine. I'll... I'll give you a chance," Takumi told her. "One chance to be a good sister."

Her face lit up.

"Just one!" Takumi exclaimed, turning away out of embarrassment. "Don't mess it up, you hear?!"

"I wont'!" Corrin swore. "I'll do my best!"

Dinner that night was a little more lively than it was before. But, there were still empty places at the table...


[at the gym. don't wait for me to come home.]

[No.]

[I worked hard on this dinner with Sakura, and you're going to eat it! Not microwaved, not in tupperware, at the goddamn dinner table! Finish your workout an hour early for all I care, we're waiting until you get home!]

[Sorry, I'm spending some extra time at the dojo. I'll be home late.]

[Cut that time in half! You're eating dinner with us tonight! Dad even took some time off work for once, so you better show up!]

"Corrin, get your ass back down here! Dinner's ready!"

Corrin let out a chuckle, setting Takumi's phone back on his bed.

"I'm coming!"

"Good!"

She wasn't going to give up. She would make sure her family was happy together. 

Corrin would make sure of it. She would never let anything ruin that.


Bonus

"You seriously believed she was a ghost?" Silas asked, quirking an eyebrow at Takumi.

"I told you, time and time again, your new stepsister couldn't be a ghost," Oboro grumbled, rolling her eyes. "Did he ever listen? Noooo."

"Hey! What else am I supposed to think?! She just appeared, she glowed in the night, and she knew where I lived, and I have no idea why she knew that!"

"...she didn't," Oboro said with a sigh, like she had said this a hundred times before. She probably had. "She probably just recognized you from Leo's chess matches and realized you had to be from Hoshido for you to oppose him."

"Oh no, she absolutely can't pay attention to chess, she says she gets a headache from it," Silas told them.

"If it wasn't from that, then—?!" 

"I mean, she probably just realized a Nohrian wouldn't vandalize the sign with 'Nohrian Scum'," Silas pointed out.

The two stared at him like he had just accidentally brought an end to an age-old debate. Because he had. 

Chapter Text

'I think I might be a coward.'

Why else would she keep running away, she wondered, if not to escape from whatever problems arose?

But then a kinder voice whispered in her ear. It reminded her of her Papa. 

'It's not cowardice,' it told her with a shining smile, 'you just don't deserve to be out there.'

'That's not what they told me,' Corrin recalled sadly, biting at her lip. 'They said that I'm—'

'Forget what everyone else told you. They're liars. They're always trying to make you feel better, instead of telling you what you need. Your Papa was the only one who told you the truth.'

Corrin's breath caught in her lungs as the gentle voice morphed into something else.

'Are you really so ungrateful that you'll reject my teachings? How despicable.'

Corrin felt very small and worthless. Like a child realizing their own ignorance.

She ran across the street without bothering to check for cars, only for her foot to catch on the curb, causing her to crash painfully onto the sidewalk.

'I'm sorry...' she thought as she laid on the ground. Though she didn't know who she was apologizing to.

She wondered if there were people looking for her.

Or maybe they realized they were better off without her.

It was a painful feeling, but not an unfamiliar one.

She remembered feeling that way many, many times before.

The first time would have to be in the days following her Papa's arrest. Mikoto had to be brought into questioning, so Silas' family let her stay with them.

Corrin remembered the way they looked at her. All of them. 

When she asked what a mother was, and if they were anything like the books she read, his mother looked like she was furious. 

When she asked how long Silas had to be in the basement before going outside, his father's eyes widened and he couldn't answer.

When she asked about the objects around their home, like the stove, the television, the windows, his sister said she would strangle somebody.

When she asked if she was good enough to go outside too, Silas looked at her with an expression she had never seen before.

His eyes widened and started to tear up, his mouth tugged down at the corners, and she was struck by the unrelenting feeling that she had done something horribly, horribly wrong to earn that look.

Corrin hoped he realized that she was going to come back when she was good enough to stand beside him and everyone else. He always made that face when she ran, and she wondered if she didn't explain it to him right.

She hoped this would be the time he finally stopped looking for her.


Sully could tell from his footsteps that her son was pacing around his room, the certain kind of pacing that made her grab the keys to the police cruiser and stand in his doorway. 

Her son had opened the second drawer of his bedside table, a well-worn spiralbound notebook in his hand. He read off the names of locations into his phone, including the notes on specific hiding spots he had written down before.

It took a while for him to spot her, but when he did, they communicated through eye contact and gestures alone. Sully raised her car keys, he nodded, mumbled something into his phone, and started following her.

It was with a grim silence that they both got into the car, and Silas suddenly cursed. Even if Sully cursed like a sailor on a bad day, it was still a shock for Silas, oh so similar to his father that he was, to be swearing.

"You mean her brother is chasing her?!" Silas almost screamed into the cell phone, and Sully swore too. "Tell Sakura to get him to stop! If she sees someone chasing her, it doesn't matter who it is! She'll freak out!"

Sully stared at him in confusion, and he whispered that Corrin's stepsister had panicked and called Camilla, who went to him.

"Leo went running to Hoshido to find her, and Xander and Azura trying to get in contact with her older siblings—"

It was then that Sully realized something.

"Shit! Her house is in Hoshido, isn't it?!"

She didn't need an answer. She got herself onto the road as fast as she could. 

Nohr might have been dangerous at night, but the various thugs and gangs in the streets had learned that Corrin was under the protection of two police officers and war heroes. They wouldn't mess with her, not unless they ached for a one-way ticket to jail.

It was Hoshido where Corrin was at the most risk. There, people actually knew to call the police if something was strange. 

And, if Corrin was taken into police custody, then they would most likely check her over for wounds. It would be impossible for her to hide the damage done to her ears. It didn't take a genius to figure out that only pointed ears could get cut in such a fashion.

She'd be worshipped as a reincarnation of a dragon. Worshipped, idolized, isolated, a clear distinction made between her and ordinary people.

And Sully would go to hell a thousand times over before she'd let that girl go through that again. 


Takumi was clever, Corrin realized as she hid behind a car. She had watched him kneel down where she had fallen earlier, before setting off in her exact direction. It took her wiping her face and her arm coming away wet with blood to realize that why. He was following the blood droplets.

He was so determined to find her. 

The thought struck at Corrin's heart.

('How dare you run away you idiot you ingrate you worthless coward—')

But Corrin couldn't let him catch her. Her Papa would be so disappointed. Mom would...

Mom would pretend it never happened, smile and ask what she wanted for dinner.

('It's your fault it's your fault she doesn't know how to deal with you need to repent—')

Corrin didn't hate her mom. Actually, Corrin sympathized with her a lot.

Corrin didn't know how to interact with her mom either.

They never addressed the underlying tenseness in their relationship. Corrin was treated just like all of her siblings, and if she asked for something, Mikoto would do it. They would pretend it was normal, but they both knew Mikoto felt guilt for what she did.

Corrin didn't know why, though.

She understood. She really did. If Mikoto hadn't done it, Corrin might have cut off her ears herself.

They were the reason her Papa had thought her a dragon, along with her white hair convincing him she was Grima's vessel reincarnated. 

He wasn't the only one.

Actually, Corrin remembered a time when she was a kid, and Silas was teaching her how to take the bus. His older sister had accompanied them, supervising as they took a bus to a toy store on the Hoshidan side of town. 

Anxiety and excitement had caused Corrin to fidget with her hair, and the moment some of the passengers caught sight of her ears, they gave up their seats for the three of them. People started taking pictures. One man asked Corrin to bless his soon-to-be-born daughter. Some boys started talking about how noble Kjelle and Silas were, to be escorting a Divine Dragon back to her temple.

One man started bawling and confessing his sins to her. He told her about a grisly crime he committed because his husband had been cheating on him, going into detail about his intense jealousy and rage.

Corrin was so uncomfortable with the attention, so unused to the amount of people staring at her, so horrified by the story, that she started sobbing.

The passengers turned on the man, whose sins were so great that they caused a girl with Naga's great love for humanity to reject him. Lunged for him, held him away from Corrin, promised that they would pray for days on end if it would cause her to calm down. One man tried to give her a pouch of coins. 

It didn't work. She could still hear the man begging for absolution, screaming that she had to be all-forgiving, that she had to accept his sins. The boys holding him back told him to shut his mouth. The bus driver had to stop the bus and try to restore order.

It was in the middle of this chaos that Kjelle and Silas pulled her away. 

They walked home that day. Corrin remembered keeping her eyes on her feet, looking at the shoes provided to her, and remembered feeling that someone who did nothing but trouble others didn't deserve such a luxury.

She truly understood why Mikoto had pulled that knife on her that night. She realized now, after all these years, that Mikoto had been kind. Her mother had mixed sleeping drugs with her food, had stolen the knife from Mr. Yukimura's kitchen days in advance, cleaning it carefully every single night. She tried to ensure that Corrin wouldn't feel the pain, and cleaned her wounds carefully while apologizing. Mikoto explained and apologized to a girl she didn't realize was awake at the time, guilt and horror weighing heavily on her shoulders.

Corrin understood her mother. She really did.

That didn't erase the persistent memory of Mikoto standing over her with a knife. That didn't erase the pain she felt, the desire to run, the fear.

It just made Corrin hate herself for still being scared. For still running away. 

She still didn't know which one was making her feet move: her fear, or her need to atone for everything she did to hurt other people.

Corrin turned a corner, and found herself in a familiar neighbourhood.

An apartment building rose up in front of her. The smell of the flowershop across the street that sat in the shadow of a large coffee chain hit her nostrils. She heard a car pulling out of the Golden Sun Residence's underground parking lot. She could see the old fire escape she always used to escape when she needed to breathe in the outside air and remind herself that she was free. The pole on the corner she always held onto as she did so was still standing, still solid and grounding as she remembered it.

The feel of the sidewalk beneath her feet, the atmosphere, she knew it all. It was amazing how one year away could make 

It was the neighbourhood she treated as home for six years. She was right in front of Mr. Yukimura's apartment.

But she heard fast footsteps approaching, the steps dancing around the group of workers that always left the coffee shop around five pm on Fridays.

Corrin ran to the side of the building, avoiding shards of broken glass, most likely a broken beer bottle that fell from the trash collection. She put her hand over the cut on her face, then flung it across the shards. Keeping her breathing quiet, she snuck up the fire escape, not stoping until she was six stories up.

She held her hands over her wound and mouth, staying as quiet as possible. She heard Takumi's footsteps come to a halt below her.

Corrin was so tempted to peek over the edge and see if Takumi saw her, but she stayed rooted to the spot on the fire escape.

(He kneeled down over the shards in concern, but then he saw it.)

She counted to ten to remind herself to breathe.

(The blood was too little, too widely spread to be a trail.)

Corrin squeezed her eyes shut and tried to wait it out. She tried to remember the peace she felt when she looked outside Mr. Yukimura's window. But she just remembered how lonely it made her feel.

(He looked around, wondering where she could have gone, before looking straight up—)

Rough tremors shook the fire escape, and she knew she had to run.

So she did what she always did.

She waited until the reverberations were closer to her, then grabbed the pole and started making her way down. Years full of escape attempts had made her quite adept at it. She made her way down to the sixth floor before Takumi spotted her.

"Corrin!" Takumi screamed, grabbing onto the railing of the platform so hard his knuckles turned white. "What the hell are you doing?! Get down from there!"

Corrin stared at him with wide eyes, before doing just that.

She swung onto the platform below him and started running down the stairs. Takumi was so stunned by the move that it took him a few seconds to run after her.

It gave her a few precious seconds. She got even more by jumping off of the first floor platform and running for the flower shop, hiding behind departing customers so Takumi wouldn't notice her leaving.

It was a temporary solution. She knew that. She couldn't keep running forever. She had to go back and face everyone eventually. But she took a moment to look around the park close to the apartments, but just out of view of Mr. Yukimura's window. It was the pride and joy of the neighbourhood, with its beautiful green grass, perfect flowerbeds, and playground, but the children had vacated the playground in the evening. There were only a few people sitting around, not many paying attention. 

She hid in one of her favourite hiding spots, and felt calm overtake her. Darkness always calmed her.

People couldn't see her, couldn't tell her she was worthless, divine, corrupted, holy. She was back in a place where nothing ever happened to her, but she could control when she left, she decided to stay there. And she could go out and see everything that amazed her when she felt ready for it. She could face everyone after she was alone for a while.

A brief smile came to her face. Mr. Yukimura used to kneel just outside her hiding spot and talk to her, calming her down slowly. He was so patient, so caring that she wanted to tell him he was wasting his time with her. Wasting his time trying to tell her she was good enough, that she was... was a good person.

She knew she wasn't. She always messed up in the end. She would always have to keep locking herself away, always have to keep away from the world so she couldn't hurt anyone...

But Mr. Yukimura's arms were always warm. Always held her tightly.

Corrin liked that. 

She'd like it better if he did it when she actually deserved it, though.

'So that would mean I'm repenting... I think, but there's still a chance I'm just a coward hiding behind that excuse,' Corrin thought as she sat in the janitor's closet of the park bathrooms, 'hey, Papa, which one would Naga say I am? An atoner or a coward?'


"Goetium agar siam!" Nyx screamed in the passenger seat of Yukimura's car. "The hell are you doing?! You could actually kill someone if you don't slow down!"

"I told you! You didn't have to come along!" Yukimura shot back. "This is personal business!"

"Oh, and I'm not supposed to be concerned when you call off a coffee meeting you forced on me in the first place because of a phone call that asked you about one of my kids?! The same one you questioned me about?!" Nyx glared at him, though Yukimura kept his eyes on the road. "I swear to all the souls in hell, if we survive this and it turns out you actually have some sort of untoward intentions towards her, I'll murder you!"

"If I had any untoward intentions towards the girl I've raised for years, I'd let you," Yukimura retorted.

Nyx took a moment to process that.

"You said her father was dead," she stated in an accusatory tone.

"He should be. I hear Nohrian prisons aren't kind to child abusers."

"Abus- what?!"

"I'll make this short!" Yukimura declared as he made a tire-shrieking turn. Nyx grabbed at anything that would keep her safe. "Her father was a monster who locked her up in her own house, Corrin and her mom escaped and started living with me until her mom moved in with a new boyfriend! She ran away to escape a lot, and I'm the one who brought her back home!"

Nyx had many thoughts on her mind at the moment. One was the primal fear of a fiery death that would naturally arise from being in a car with a madman driver, another was a feeling of newfound clarity.

She thought to doubt the story, but it made sense to her. A horrible, horrible sense of realization, one that would make her go over what she knew about the girl, Yukimura, and the situation in detail later. 

Preferably sometime after the world stopped spinning.


"C-Camilla... Takumi says that no one saw her leave the park, and she's not under any of the equipment!" Sakura was sobbing, anxiety twisting in her stomach.

"Breathe," Camilla ordered, mentally reminding herself to do the same. Elise patted her arm, and then silently passed over her phone. A map of the Hoshidan side of the side was visible, and Camilla nodded. "What park was it?"

"Jinya, i-it's near the western side..."

"Right. Thank you, sweetheart," Camilla paused and turned towards Elise. Elise was already calling Leo. "It's going to be okay, Sakura. We're going to find her. It's going to be okay."

Sakura gulped, trying to force down more tears. 

Tears, and a distinct feeling that it was all her fault Corrin ran away.

A chime alerted her to a new message, and Sakura had to pull herself out of her own panic to check it. Camilla's reassurances were dead in her ears as she read what Takumi sent her.

[her teacher saw her running out of the park!]

Sakura took in a shuddering breath, blinking so she could see it clearly. The voice from her phone was slipping in and out of her awareness, but...

She still had a sudden feeling that everything would be okay.


"You lied to him," Yukimura noted blandly, walking into the familiar territory with experienced confidence.

"I just pointed out a direction she could have gone," Nyx retorted as they approached the bathroom building. "If he misinterpreted my wording, it's simply an unfortunate accident."

"Normally, I'd delight in trying to persuade you to divulge that information, but I need to make sure Corrin's okay," Yukimura stated.

"And it's something you can only do alone, isn't it?" Nyx asked, causing Yukimura to look at her with wide eyes. "It's not at all difficult to surmise that a person upset enough to run away from home mostly likely wouldn't appreciate being crowded. And it's not at all difficult to conclude that a protective, desperate brother would be very hesitant to let an adult he doesn't know well be alone with his crying sister."

Yukimura paused, before chuckling.

"You're an interesting one. I appreciate the help," he told her, patting her on the head.

Nyx let out an indignant squawk at that, but he was already inside. He rapped on the door of the janitor's closet, hearing a muffled groan in response.

"Corrin, you mind if I come in?"

She let out a vague sound of discontentment, so Yukimura sat on the floor, his back to the wall beside the door.

Yukimura let out a sigh, before slapping a smile on his face. It wouldn't do to wear a wolf mask when coaxing out a cat.

"You know, if you're not comfortable at home, I can bring you with me for the day. I'll tell your family that you're okay, and get you some ice cream. Just like we used to do. How do you feel about an avocado-spinach sundae?"

Corrin unconsciously let out a sound of disgust at that, and Yukimura laughed.

"No? Then, something else? A broccoli and carrot cone, with added cabbage garnish?"

Corrin giggled inside the closet, but a sniffle interrupted her laugh.

"So, do you want to tell me what happened, or should I wager a guess?" Yukimura offered, waiting patiently.

After a few seconds, Corrin said, "...I'm scared."

"What scares you, Corrin?"

"What Papa told me."

Yukimura felt a spike of anger rise up in him, but he forced it down.

"He... he said that... love makes people evil. It destroys people and makes them turn against others. That's why I was always alone, but... now I'm not alone, and I don't want everyone to be torn apart by that."

"I see," Yukimura said with a weary sigh, before putting the smile back on. "Well, do you trust me?"

"...mm. I do."

"Do you trust your friends and family?" Yukimura asked.

"Y-yes! I do!" Corrin blurted out much too quickly.

"Then, please trust in everyone you care about, and know that they wouldn't let love destroy them," Yukimura told her.

Corrin was silent for a moment.

"But Papa said..."

"Your father is one man," Yukimura said, trying much too hard to keep the calm, amiable tone in his voice. He sounded strained and forced as he added, "even he can make mistakes."

Corrin didn't say anything. An exiting woman glared at Yukimura for making hr go around him before Corrin spoke up.

"Can I... go with you? I want to tell everyone they don't need to worry, but I don't know how to face them..."

"Of course, Corrin," Yukimura told her. "Are you ready to come out?"

"...yeah."

Yukimura rose from the floor with a gentle smile, watching as Corrin opened the door slowly. He offered his arm to her slowly, careful not to scare her with any sudden movements. Corrin's eyes went to his face, before going down to the floor as she grabbed his sleeve. It was a position she liked, mostly because it let her trail a bit behind him, like she was hiding behind his body.

They left the building together. 

Right as Yukimura noticed one of Corrin's friends questioning Nyx. The blonde with the headband... oh, that's right. That was the boy whose birthday gift Corrin worried about so long ago. Leo, maybe? Oh, it was so long since he remembered that...

'You really do have so many people who care about you, Corrin,' Yukimura thought with a smile, right before Leo saw them. His eyes zeroed in on the drying cut on her face, and something in him snapped.

Even Nyx seemed stunned by the boy's sudden transformation.

'Ah,' Yukimura thought as Leo's eyes became furious. 'He definitely misunderstood something.'

He glanced over at Nyx as Leo stomped over to him. Nyx gave him a flat stare in return. That definitely meant something along the lines of 'no.'

"What. Have. You. Done," Leo hissed through gritted teeth. It felt like the only thing stopping Leo from just punching him in the face was the fact that Corrin was right there.

"I found her and convinced her to come out," Yukimura admitted, being entirely honest while omitting some key facts.

"L-Leo," Corrin called out, voice wavering with fear. She pulled away from Yukimura, twisting her hands nervously as she spoke. "I'm so sorry, it's my fault that I—"

"Don't apologize! Just tell me if this man did anything to you in there!"

"He just talked to me like he always does! Because he raised me!" Corrin screamed in response.

Leo turned to stare at Yukimura in a way that screamed 'I will drag you down to hell myself.'

Because there were days before high school when Corrin hid behind Silas, bandages on her arms and legs, disheveled hair, and a falsified smile on her face.

Silas would always tell the others that she just had an accident with the stairs or fence, but they knew better.

They knew that her mother had moved in with a new man when she was seven. They knew her dreams of a happy family, like hers wasn't happy already. They could tell something was very, very wrong.

They were just wrong about what it was. 

"You mean this... this is your old stepfather...?"

"No," Yukimura answered, just as Corrin said, "um, kind of?"

"Get the hell away from her before I make you," Leo snarled.

Corrin panicked.

"Leo! It's not— I was hiding in the janitor's closet! Because I ran away from everyone! Mr. Yukimura got me to come out and return to everyone! Please don't hurt him!"

Nyx stepped in, pulling Leo away with a hand on his shoulder.

"You're attracting a scene," she said simply, "and I can back up Corrin's story. Mr. Yukimura had been looking for her ever since he got the call that she had run off."

"So... you're okay?" Leo looked at Corrin as he released a breath. "You swear you're okay?"

"Yeah. I am. I'm okay," Corrin promised with a smile. She started to do a twirl. "See, I'm perfectly fi—"

She stepped on a pebble that lodged itself in the bottom of her foot. 

"Corrin! Why are you not wearing shoes?!" Leo demanded as she tried to hide her pain.

"Shoes? I don't deserve them, so—"

"What?!" 

"There's a first aid kit in my car," Yukimura interjected. "I'll call Corrin's family to let them know she's okay while you treat her foot. Agreed?"

Leo glared at him, but Nyx cleared her throat.

"It's better than treating her on a park bench. And I could stand guard outside, to make sure nothing happens."

It wasn't perfect, but when Corrin voiced her support, Leo had no choice but to agree.

 


Leo found the first aid kit in the glove compartment, along with a pair of black flats. He sat on the passenger seat, while Corrin sat on the driver's seat, both turned to face each other. Leo had already cleaned up the cut on her face and put a bandaid on it, so they moved on to her feet. Corrin held her legs over the gear shift so Leo could treat the rest of her wounds.

He noticed that her feet were rough, callused, and scarred. And Mr. Yukimura had been so prepared, even bringing shoes that fit Corrin in advance...

'She must have run away, time and time again...' Leo realized as he used sterilized tweezers to get the pebbles out of the sole of her right foot. 

A tense silence permeated the air.

"Why did you run away?" Leo asked, and Corrin flinched. Leo quickly withdrew the tweezers so she wouldn't get hurt, unaware of what she was thinking.

Corrin wavered under Leo's gaze, turning her eyes to the floor, practically blurting out the first words that came to mind. 

"I guess I just thought... 'Maybe everyone would be better off if I wasn't there.'"

Leo was silent in response, and Corrin just kept going.

"I just joined the family a year ago! I'm still— I'm still new, I'm still an outsider, but you," her breath caught in her throat, "you wouldn't know that, right? You're so close to your family! Your siblings love you! You've had a happy, happy family since forever!"

Tears started collecting in her eyes. She kept screaming.

"I'm different! I'm just the freak who can't fit in! Everyone tries to tell me that I'm okay, that you like me, that I'm a good friend, but—! But I'll just ruin it! I'll just run away like I always do! I keep messing up, so why—" She dug nails dug into her palms, "—why would you ever want a screw-up like me around?!"

Leo grit his teeth together, his head snapping up suddenly. Their eyes met, and Corrin flinched at the anger behind Leo's glare.

Her lips went to form an apology, but Leo cut her off before she could say it.

"Don't you dare say that ever again," Leo commanded, cracks showing up in his usual glacial tone. "Don't ever say that anyone would be better off without you."

"I'm so—"

"No! Don't say anything until I'm done, you idiot!" Leo snapped. 

Corrin gulped, before nodding. She wanted to look away, wanted her eyes to sink so she could try and suppress the anxious tears, but she couldn't. Not when Leo, cold, logical Leo, had lost himself to emotion like this.

"Everyone is worried sick about you! The only reason Camilla didn't run into Hoshido herself was because she was trying to calm down Sakura, who was hysterical! Takumi went running looking for you, and it's only luck that I'm the one who found you first when he's been following you longer! Silas practically put together a search party for you! And whatever that teacher's relation to you is, Yukimura cares enough for you to drive around town to find you!"

Corrin froze. She suddenly couldn't remember how to breathe.

"There are so many people who want you back with them, so many people who care about you— why don't you realize that?! Why would you think that- that we would ever want a world where we never met you—?!"

Leo looked hurt at the thought she would ever believe that.

"If you disappear and never come back... I will never forgive you!" Leo declared. "It doesn't matter where you are! I'll go looking for you, and I won't stop until you're back where you belong!"

Corrin didn't quite believe that it was happening.

She had heard similar things from Mr. Yukimura and Silas, but...

They were so gentle with they way they did it. They always chose their approach carefully, kept careful smiles on their faces, took her reaction into account every single time. It was so easy for her mind to whisper that they were just being nice, just trying to make her feel better, especially since Silas was so blunt with everyone else.

But, Leo? 

He screamed it in her face. 

He didn't give a damn what she said. 

He couldn't have been just faking it for her sake if he was acting like that.

It didn't quite feel real to her, but Corrin laughed anyways. She laughed so hard she almost started crying again, and Leo coldly told her to shut up and stop moving so he could actually treat her feet, which he wouldn't have to do if she weren't such an idiot she didn't wear shoes outside.

Corrin just smiled at him.

"Sorry. I'm just... thank you. I'm... I'm just glad that you're here, Leo."

Leo flushed red.

"...that should be a given."

He might have acted annoyed and indifferent, but really, he was just glad she was smiling again.


Outside the car, Yukimura approached Nyx with a grin. 

"Her siblings are grateful," he informed her happily. "Thank you for your help."

Nyx let out a huff.

"You're thanking me for suspecting you enough to tag along in this little misadventure."

"And for helping me with the protective ones," Yukimura joked.

"That was also because of my suspicion," Nyx said flatly.

Yukimura paused, staring at her, and Nyx gave him a glare that would cause a lesser person to faint.

"I wanted to verify your story," Nyx admitted honestly. "You've been so secretive and elusive at first that there was no way I couldn't suspect you. But seeing Corrin herself defend you... that told me you were telling the truth."

"So you're willing to admit you trust me?" Yukimura asked, stunned by her words.

"Don't make a big deal of it," Nyx snapped. "I'm just saying that I am willing to tell you what I know of Corrin, so long as this information isn't deeply personal. Therefore, you needn't try to get close to me for that information."

"Oh, did you think that was what I was after?" Yukimura asked with a laugh. "Sorry to disappoint, but you misunderstood entirely."

"...eh?"

"Truth is, I'm interested in getting to know you better, Miss Maria Nyx," Yukimura said with the teasing smile he only ever wore around her. "Of course, because I'm so secretive and elusive, I won't be telling you what kind of interest that is. Hope you don't mind."

Nyx almost strangled him.

Chapter Text

"So... she won't let go of Leo," Camilla sighed into her phone, toying with her hair as she sat on the couch. "Is this normal?"

Silas chuckled awlwardly. "Yeahhhh. She's going to be really clingy, but it should be fine if Leo can convince her to let go and latch onto one of her siblings so she can go home."

"Silas."

"...she already followed him to your house, didn't she."

"I had to pull her off him so he could take a shower," Camilla would have been delighted at the thought, if it weren't for, you know, everything that happened. "Elise and Azura are trying to give her clothes to change into, since hers are so dirty, but none of them fit her. We've already completely accepted that she's staying over."

"Camilla. You told her family about this, right?"

"She talked to them. I didn't listen, but I'm sure they're fine with i—"

"CORRIN!" Takumi screamed as he kicked down the Ryder front door. "WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN, 'YOU'RE SLEEPING WITH LEO TONIGHT?!'"

"Ah," Camilla reacted blandly, staring at Takumi from the doorway.


 

"So, the Byakuya family is staying over with us," Camilla informed her parents.

"...I don't remember you asking for permission for this," Arete said sternly. "Corrin, yes, the entire family, no."

"I don't remember them asking for permission either," Camilla replied. "But they're not taking 'no' for an answer as long as Corrin's here."

"So long as it is for the sake of their sister, I will allow them to stay," Garon stated. "But the moment they try anything funny, I'm grabbing the axe. Arete, what about you?"

"I think that's fair," Arete agreed, turning back to her stepdaughter. "Make sure they know that, alright? I'd rather not clean up blood stains tonight."

"Ha ha. Will do," Camilla said in an odd tone.

And so Camilla went to the guests in the living room to tell them of what her parents had decided, even if she was pretty sure none of them would try anything. After all, the only potential pair between the ten of them were Leo and Corrin. There were no sparks of attraction between anyone else.

Unfortunately, this was around the same time that Leo was dressed and had went downstairs to see what all the commotion was, and at the same time Azura and Elise had finally found something that fit Corrin and went into the living room to show her off to Camilla. Corrin was waiting on the stairs for them to present her to the older girl for appraisal.

They did not find Camilla there. They found Leo and Corrin's siblings. But Azura rolled with it anyways because Elise had worked hard on their sales pitch.

"So, this might seem odd, but there's a very good explanation for why Corrin is borrowing Camilla's shirt and no pants. The reason is that we thought Camilla would be happy with it."

"She was a little worried about showing too much skin, but then she saw that we were both wearing nighties and realized it was basically freedom shorts. So she's okay with it!" Elise added.

It should be noted that this is the exact wrong intro to use with a group of protective siblings in the room. Possibly the worst thing someone could ever say.

"Is something going on here?" Xander asked, coming down the stairs. Corrin had apparently decided to follow him down, nervous not from her attire, but from the possibility that she might have been left alone.

Now, please keep in mind that Corrin had a tumultuous upbringing, going from a very stern and religious father, then to a family with a sister who was comfortable walking into the living room in nothing but a towel if she forgot something, then to Yukimura's apartment, where he taught her to try to change in her own room.

Essentially, her father had taught her to not tempt people with her skin, but she also knew from Silas' family that not all exposure was temptation: it was okay if you trusted each other. And Yukimura had taught her that changing was best done in private, so as long as she wasn't tossing her shirt off in front of people she didn't know, she would be fine, right?

So, basically, Corrin was completely fine with showing skin until she thought it was indecent. Her standards were sorta skewed, though. She thought it was completely fine to be partially undressed in front of people she trusted.

As a result, she had zero objection to Camilla's shirt, not the way that it clung to her skin, not the way it just barely covered her underwear, nothing. She didn't object to the lack of any lower body garments either. Corrin just absolutely did not care that her legs were on full display.

And Corrin had very nice legs. When she was a kid, Silas' parents had suggested joining a sports team, since she didn't have much exercise from being in the basement all that time. Corrin was so eager to please them that she joined every single one. It was difficult at first, but determination and persistenc led to her excelling at them. Even when she moved away from Silas' family, she kept helping out every single club, and, subsequently, developed the kind of sculpted muscles and wide hips that tended to make people swoon.

But, around half the people in the room were related to her, so that would be weird. And the other half was the Ryder family, who had known Corrin for years and thought of her as a family member.

Except for Leo, who had turned around so fast that he accidentally hit Hinoka with his shoulder. He was so consciously not looking at her that it was totally obvious he had looked at her, and totally got embarrassed. His huge blush wasn't helping his case either.

It should totally be noted that Azura and Elise's entire sales pitch was an attempt to segue into, 'so, you like it when Leo and Corrin are making goo-goo eyes at each other, right? Enough to let her borrow this shirt? Because Leo would love seeing her in this.'

Takumi lunged at him, Hinoka was going to hit him, Sakura looked angry, and Ryoma was getting ready to stab him with nothing but hair, but they were all stopped by Camilla letting out a sharp whistle. 

"Alright, alright everyone~!" Camilla sang. "This is basically a huge sleepover, so let's have some fun with it! Since it seems everyone's a bit tense, let's play a game!"

"It's truth or dare," Elise concluded immediately.

"Yeah, it's a staple in fanfic," Sakura agreed instantly.

"And it's gonna involve awkward feelings of love."

"Possibly some kissing. Because of a dare, of course."

"What's the point of truth or dare if not to cause awkward sexual tension?"

"There is none, of course."

"Bring it on!" The two girls exclaimed in unison.

"It... it wasn't truth or dare," Camilla admitted, deflating a bit. She seemed discouraged. "But, uh, if you... really want to, we can play—"

"No," Hinoka declared.

"No," Ryoma decided.

"No," Azura echoed.

"Absolutely not," Takumi concluded.

"What's 'awkward sexual tension?'" Corrin asked.

Everyone stared at Corrin.

Corrin awkwardly clarified, "O-oh, I know what 'awkward' means, but what's—"

"HOW COULD WE CORRUPT SUCH AN INNOCENT CREATURE," Elise screamed in horror.

"TAKE MY SINFUL HANDS, MY SINFUL BEING, AND CAST ME INTO THE ABYSS SO I CAN NEVER CORRUPT SUCH A SOUL AGAIN," Sakura wailed to the heavens, kneeling down and offering her arms high.

"Are you two done yet?" Leo asked.

"I think I should just explain and let them join in when they're.... done," Camilla said with a sigh. "It's just a simple icebreaker. One person says a trait, a positive one mind you, and we say who we think of when we say it. The name that comes up the most is the person who will choose the next trait, and so on."

There was a mumble of agreement, aside from Sakura and Elise who were still repenting, and Camilla went on to start a practice round.

"I'll say, 'tall,' it—"

"Not Corrin," Takumi said instantly.

"I'm going to kill you," Corrin promised in the normal sibling way.

"He's not wrong," Xander agreed.

Corrin let out a sound of horror at this rampant act of betrayal.

"You don't even come up to Xander's chest," Azura noted as Camilla just gave up and went off to make tea for herself.

(Chart for reference purposes*)

(*Ryoma's height is unknown.)

"There, there," Ryoma said as he patted Corrin on the head. "I'm sure you can grow lots if you drink lots of milk."

"You're just looking down on me!" Corrin screamed.

"I mean, he certainly can't look up at you," Hinoka told her.

"I hate all of you!" Corrin declared, before turning to Elise and Sakura and Leo, "except for you three, you're wonderful and I love you."

"I mean, we're shorter than you," Elise pointed out.

"It would be hypocritical of us to make fun of you," Sakura agreed.

Leo didn't have that excuse, though, since he was the same height as Takumi. And Takumi was a head taller than Corrin. 

"I'm observing," was all Leo said on the matter, sitting down on the couch and generally looking like he didn't care.

"Well, the only name that came up was mine! So it's my turn! And I say 'pineapple-headed jerk!'"

Now, normally this would get instant cries of 'Takumi,' but most of them were too busy laughing to say it.

As it were, Leo was the only one who could say Takumi's name out loud, which got him a hug of gratitude from Corrin and another declaration of love.

"Are you doing this on purpose?" Takumi asked flatly.

"Doing what?" Leo asked innocently.

"Oh fuck you."

"I have standards," Leo retorted.

"You fucking piece of shit!" Takumi cupped his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice. "This just in! It's scientifically proven that this reedy little bookworm is a piece of shit!"

"I want to see those studies," Leo stated.

"Sure! Just head on over to the national institute of FUCK YOU!"

It was around this time that everyone, even Azura, started cracking up. Leo had to hold on to Corrin to make sure she wouldn't fall off from laughing too hard.

When Camilla returned with a cup of tea, she saw everyone laughing together as Leo and Takumi argued theatrically, more for the sake of their audience than anyone else. Her eye zeroed in on Corrin, who seemed to have totally forgotten her flight from home in favour of laughing at Leo comparing Takumi to a scarecrow.

'I wonder if you did this on purpose?' Camilla thought with a smile, carefully withdrawing from the scene.

Of course, she was not leaving for nothing. She was leaving because there was something every sleepover needed. Well, she was pretty sure sleepovers needed that, but not entirely sure. Selena and Beruka weren't typical sleepover guests in the slightest and Camilla didn't really get to invite other people over that often.

(Alright, so she might have been using this as a bit of a chance to fulfill a dream she had held onto since childhood, but, to be fair, Cailla was pretty sure Corrin and the others would appreciate it. )

She went to her and Azura's shared room, digging out a box she carefully kept beneath her bed. Selena might have neen prickly with her words and her manner, but she was a generous soul who frequently "bought too much at the store" and "decided that it would be better off with you."

Since it was Nohr, that translated into Selena being a rampaging kleptomaniac who gave most of her possessions away. It might have been an attempt to cover her tracks, but Camilla appreciated the gifts nonetheless.

Bottles of nail polish were neatly lined up in one corner, a tool completely necessary for the stereotypical sleepover Camilla hoped to achieve. Some old horror movie DVDs had been put in a case Camilla made herself. Because she absolutely would make everyone watch horror movies while hugging pillows to their chests. It was just what needed to be done.


"How long does this take to dry again?" Xander asked, staring at his fingernails carefully. His nails were a very carefully-done pink with light purple dots and a cute design of a ribbon at the top. Camilla was proud of her work, seeing as it took many, many attempts to master it on her own hand.

"About fifteen minutes," Camilla answered, grinning as she closed the bottle.

"Thank you for this," Xander said with a smile. "I never realized how therapeutic it was to simply... do nothing for a moment."

"Of course, darling," Camilla replied, just as a scream came from the living room.

"I think that was Takumi," Leo noted, flipping through a magazine Camilla had specifically bought for this very purpose. His nails were painted a simple sapphire with cream hearts on them.

"You know, I'm beginning to think you might be a tad biased against him," Camilla noted. "You've been saying that he's the one screaming every single time. It can't possibly be that scary."

"Because I can hear his voice screaming every single time," Leo retorted. "By the way, this magazine is completely out-of-date."

"What parts are you even reading, Leo?" Xander inquired. "I thought you were skipping most of the gossip columns."

"I am. I'm reading a so-called one-hundred percent accurate quiz on whether your crush likes you or not, except it's all based on debunked personality theories and the like."

"Oh, how interesting!" Camilla exclaimed. "And why is that the part that caught your eye, hmm?"

"Because I'm not reading any of the women's fashion articles," Leo answered bluntly.

Camilla almost screamed in frustration, but just then, Azura approached them.

"We're starting the next movie in the series," Azura said with the slightest hint of excitement in her voice. "Join us. Hinoka fainted so you can paint her fingernails and her toenails."

Camilla considered it.

"We can gossip."

And then Camilla dragged her brothers across the room to the couch. Because they were just sitting on a pile of blankets and pillows they put on the living room floor.

"I was not screaming," Takumi said immediately. 

"I don't believe you," Leo stated, continuing to flip through the magazine in disinterest.

"It was mostly Sakura and Hinoka," Elise told him, pointing at the shuddering Sakura, then looked at the other side of the couch. "And Ryoma."

"And Corrin?" Leo asked as Camilla swept Sakura up in her arms and bestowed the highest amount of love and affection on her.

"I don't get it," Corrin mumbled beside Elise on the couch. "Why were they in a weird haunted house? Why would you even go near that place? Why didn't they just get out?! Why are they such idiots?!"

"I can relate, even if it's with the last person I ever expected to agree with on this subject," Takumi replied with an odd expression.

"Thanks Takumi, I can always count on you."

"Corrin, he just insulted you," Xander pointed out.

"He does that," Corrin said casually.

"I'm starting the movie," Azura announced.

"By the way, I absolutely not letting any of you escape a gossip session," Camilla informed them as she painted Sakura's nails with cute flowers. 

"Of course not," Elise noted blandly.

"It's just a staple of the genre!" Sakura exclaimed passionately. "There is no point to a sleepover if you don't paint each other's nails and watch movies while clinging to pillows and gossip, get interrupted by being told it's time for bed, and then continue the discussion in hushed whispers under the cover of darkness!"

Sakura got a reaction of stunned silence, something which Camilla shattered like a plate with a hammer.

"Someone who understands!" Camilla exclaimed excitedly, tempted to hug Sakura. But that could have possibly ruined Sakura's nails, so Camilla kept her urges to herself.

"Nothing interesting can be learned by interrogating me," Leo stated instantly.

"I don't really know what I'm supposed to talk about." Corrin chuckled apologetically.

"If you ask me to talk," Azura told them as the movie started, not that they noticed, "all I'll talk about is how much I hate classes."

"I learned that Ryoma and Hinoka are super scared of horror movies," Elise said, gesturing at the unconscious Hinoka and the shuddering Ryoma next to her.

"Did you forget Sakura?" Xander asked.

"No, I just knew she's the type to get scared of horror movies."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Takumi asked pointedly.

Elise knew that these were dangerous waters, and so spoke carefully.

"She's that kind of cute girl, you know? A bit shy, a bit mousy, cute, smart, hates horror movies. It's the science of personality."

Leo let out a frsutrated groan and exclaimed, "Those theories have been outdated for years!"

"Leo, calm down," Corrin said, patting Leo's shoulder. This only encouraged him to go off on a tirade about the woeful inaccuracies of the theories of how a personality is formed, what caused attraction between people, and the like.

Camilla blinked, looked at Elise, then at Sakura, and then back to Elise.

Camilla was about to nod slowly with a bright grin on her face, but then Sakura and Elise both said, "no, we're not like that," in total unison.

"We're just friends," Elise stated, because she wasn't going to date Sakura the icky sister-stealer ever.

"Good friends," Sakura agreed, because she was going to date someone whose name started with a C-A-M-I-L-L-A.

"Best friends!" The two of them exclaimed at the same time.

"I've never seen you two hang out together," Takumi pointed out.

"Xander, what's psychology?" Corrin asked. "Leo's using fancy words again."

"Study of the human brain and how it works."

"Thanks Xander."

"Oh, we hang out all the time!" 

"Yeah, all the time!"

"With Mozu!"

"And Hayato!"

"And Hana!" Elise exclaimed, apparently using psychic powers to learn the name of Sakura's friends.

"And Arthur!" Sakura was using the same power to do the same to Elise.

"And Subaki!"

"And Effie!"

"This is terrifying," Takumi said simply.

"It's a testament to how close their bond is," Camilla stated.

"Why do you people talk so much this is a scene where the main character's wife dies," Azura huffed.

"Xander, Leo's talking about sociology. I don't know what sociology is but he's on a roll and I don't want to interrupt."

"Study of society, its effects on the individual, and the individual's effects on society."

"Thanks Xander!"

"We are such good friends! Camilla, you notice this, right?! We're not a couple in your eyes, right?!"

"Yes, yes, of course darlings... I'm not imagining your wedding at all, I swear."

"Seriously Camilla, what is it with you and love? I swear that you spend like, half your screen-time trying to get your siblings with people," Takumi said.

"How could I not support my siblings in their love?" Camilla countered. "Their happiness is my happiness."

"Seems more like you prioritize your siblings above your own happiness," Takumi noted.

As Sakura and Elise wondered what they could do to find more proof they weren't a potential couple, Xander continued explaining terms to Corrin so she could keep up with Leo's tangent, and Azura watched the movie with a laser focus, Camilla's eyes widened.

Then, she smiled.

"And it seems like you're just as bad with overprotectiveness."

"That is different," Takumi declared.

Camilla laughed, just as Elise sulked and grabbed a bottle of nail polish. She grabbed Takumi's hand, and he glared at her.

"What do you think you're doing," he demanded.

"Painting your nails."

"No," Takumi said immediately. "Go paint someone else's nails."

"Camilla already painted Leo and Xander's nails, Azura would kill me for distracting her, Hinoka is weird, I don't know if Ryoma has nails, Corrin will just smudge it, and Sakura's busy."

"Busy doing what?!"

"Camilla, c-can I try painting your nails?!"

"Of course, darling, try your best!" Camilla shot a smug smirk over at Takumi, who looked exasperated in return.

"You have one chance," he told Elise. "Exactly one. If you mess it up, I'm wiping it off."

"Yay! Takumi, I like you!"

"Ew."

Camilla laughed.

It was a cozy, comforting scene. The kind of scene that ended with everyone sleeping on each other, except for like three people who talked through hushed whispers. Except those three people were Ryoma, Hinoka, and Corrin. Corrin would be more considerate of the sleeping people if she remembered that they were sleeping. And Ryoma and Hinoka had never heard of whispering.

"It seems like you missed an interesting scene while you were asleep, Hinoka," Ryoma mused.

"Why are my nails painted," Hinoka said flatly, "and how do I get it off."

Camilla groaned in her sleep. Maybe it was the sound of Hinoka losing more points again.

"I'm really happy everyone's getting along, actually," Corrin said with a smile. "It's really nice to see that my friends and my family are getting along!"

"Your friends are a rather interesting bunch," Ryoma noted as Hinoka went over to Camilla's collection of presumed pilfered polishes, hoping to find the polish remover. "I didn't expect any of us to be able to get along with each other, but if you can do it, we can do our best."

"Thanks, Ryoma."

"Though, I'm curious. How did you meet these people in the first place?"

Corrin's face fell.

"Uh."

"Don't worry, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to," Ryoma reassured her. "I won't pry."

"Oh, oh no, it's not that..." Corrin chuckled awkwardly. "See... I don't really... remember how I met them..."

"...Verily?"

"Yeah. It kinda happens a lot. I kinda forget something and when someone brings it up I just sort of nod and pretend I know what they're talking about. Sometimes I make friends that way, so it's not all that bad!"

"I thought you kept a jounal."

"Oh, well, yeah, but I don't always write everything..." Corrin trailed off, right before her eyes went to Hinoka applying the polish remover to  fingernails. "Oh, Hinoka, by the way, Camilla painted your toes too."

"My toes t— wait, did you just say Camilla?"

"Yeah."

"She painted little hearts that she practiced a lot beforehand," Ryoma told her.

"I thought you were asleep too," Corrin said as Hinoka began wailing in despair.

"Oh no, I was just observing. Everyone else was already talking and I had the distinct feeling that Azura would murder me if I distracted her."

"Yeah, I can see how she would give off that impression..." Corrin mumbled, as Camilla woke up and irritably asked why the hell someone was screaming.

"I accidentally wiped off your work!"

"How do you accidentally apply nail polish remover?" Takumi asked, having been woken up in the havoc.

"Oh dear, you're waking up the little ones... please just calm down and I'll redo your nails..." Camilla sighed tiredly.

"I'm barely a year younger than you!" Takumi protested.

"It makes all the difference in the world, sweetie bumpkin bear," Camilla told him as she went through her bottles of nail polish.

"...sweetie bumpkin bear."

"Yes, that's you." Camilla decided to use a beautiful ocean blue that Selena had given her as a birthday gift.

"Can I have a nickname that isn't disgustingly adorable?"

"When you outgrow me," Camilla retorted, before turning to Hinoka. "Now, hold still. I'll start with your left hand."

Hinoka tried. She really did.

It's just that, the left hand was where you put a wedding ring. And, at a certain angle, the grip you used to hold onto the lid slash brush nail polish things happened to look a lot like the grip you would use on a ring.

"Ah," Camilla reacted blandly as Hinoka trembled so hard, an attempt at a single straight line ended up blorpy and uneven.

"I-I-I am so sorry, let me h-h-help with the process—"

And Hinoka, not knowing the importance of base coats, tried to hand Camilla the bottle of nail polish that the latter had received as a birthday gift, was her favourite colour, and wanted to save for special occasions.

"What just broke...?" Elise asked as she woke up.

"Mmmmnrgh..." Sakura groaned.

"Is the movie over...? Already?"

"Why would you even do that," Leo snapped irritably.

"Ah. Everyone woke up," Camilla said, her smile frozen on her face.

"I'll clean this up!" Hinoka promised, rushing off before Camilla could stop her.

And slipped on the nail polish.

"I'll clean this up," Camilla stated as she caught Hinoka. Hinoka tried to argue, but Camilla wasn't having it. "No protesting!"

"Sorry, I'll do what I can to make it up to you!"

"Then go get everyone to sleep in their rooms, and figure out which rooms you and your family will stay in, okay? Because I need to clean this up."

"Alright!" Hinoka leaped over the broken bottle shards to grab everyone. She carried off everyone.

Yeah.

That's like, eight people. Xander, Ryoma, Azura, Corrin, Leo, Takumi, Sakura, and Elise. Eight people. And she did it without waking Xander up (though he could sleep through getting hit by a brick), getting Azura to murder her (which was impressive), and while carrying Ryoma, an indeterminable being of hair. And around half those people were already awake and could be persuaded to walk themselves.

Camilla let out a soft giggle, before looking for the things she would need to clean things up.

Surely, she could rely on Hinoka to get everyone sorted out. Sure, the redhead was clumsy, forgetful, and just a wee bit stupid (in the most endearing of ways), but she could rise to the occasion when need be.

Right?


"You... want to sleep in... his room?" Hinoka asked in horror.

"No, surely it must be because of space concerns...! I'm sure you want to stay on the floor in a sleeping bag or something...!" Ryoma exclaimed.

"Oh no, I want to stay in his bed," Corrin corrected. "With Leo in it."

"Why?" Leo asked.

"Because we need to sleep together," Corrin stated, murdering everyone.

"WHY?!"

"Why not?" Xander replied, having woken up already.

Leo gestured at Takumi, who looked murder-y enough to kill Leo in a multitude of ways with his gaze alone. Leo then waved his hand at Hinoka and Ryoma, who were worrying with their strength, and Sakura, who was outright terrifying.

"I want to sleep with you to prove that friends can do it platonically. Silas said that you can't, and he's wrong and I need to prove it," Corrin said.

"Oh. You mean just... sleeping... in the same bed...?" Leo concluded. Lamely.

"Is there another meaning?" Corrin asked.

"NO," Sakura screamed, before hissing at Leo, "if you turn this into an R-18 work, I'll kill you."

"I will not," Leo swore.

"You know what," Azura decided, facing Corrin's siblings. "You all need to back off."

"Thank you," Leo said, far too soon.

"Obviously Leo is a hormonal beast that can never be trusted around anyone ever," Azura stated with the same flat face as always, "but you must consider that Corrin is her own person who can choose to rock the bed with anyone she wants."

"I have no idea what you guys are talking about," Corrin realized.

"Shhhh, it's not important," Elise told her. "Just cover your ears and protect your innocence."

"I see that we will never get anywhere like this," Xander declared. "I suggest a simple deal to ensure complete and utter fairness while deciding the rooms."

"And that is?" Ryoma asked.

"Beat Leo in chess, and you can decide the room arrangements."

"Fairness my ass!" Takumi screamed.

"I wasn't informed of this," Leo stated in a monotone voice.

"I'll do it! To protect Corrin!" Hinoka declared as Xander placed the chess set in front of her. She put her chess pieces in the wrong order, in the wrong place, and in the wrong side of the board. The underside, to be more specific.

It should be noted that this was around the time Azura and Elise had just dragged Corrin away, leading her to Camilla and Azura's room. Elise left to laugh at how Hinoka and Ryoma both lost to Leo in four turns each, leaving Azura and Corrin in the room alone together.

They sat on Azura's bed in silence, before Corrin started laughing. Azura had no idea how to react, save for looking around the room. 

Camilla's bed sat next to the opposite wall, a drawer between the two beds with useful things like a lamp, their alarm clock, and a box of tissues. The last one became especially useful when Corrin started crying.

"Here," Azura offered the tissues to Corrin, who accepted it with a nod. "What is it?

"This was... a fun night," Corrin admitted with a sad smile. "One of the best nights I've had in years. I was just thinking... 'ah, I would have never experienced this if I never got out of that basement,' and then that train of thought went all the way to, 'I wonder if my Papa would have locked me up in there until I died?'"

Azura didn't really know what to do or what to say, so she just continued to awkwardly look around until she found something to say.

"I can't really answer that," Azura admitted. "I just know that no one in your family will let that happen. Ever."

Corrin stayed silent, and Azura felt an odd pressure to keep going.

"Of course, that includes me. I might not have been the best cousin around, before, but I want to change that. So, um, if you want, I could... try to help?"

Corrin let out a lighthearted chuckle. Azura had no idea what to make of that. Did her mood just change at the drop of a hat?

"You're really awkward, you know? But I'm still glad that you're on my side. The fact that you even care means a lot to me," Corrin told her.

"Ugh. You sound like Kaden," Azura replied.

"Oh man, I don't wanna sound like your boyfriend. That's gross!" Corrin laughed.

"He's not my boyfriend!" Azura exclaimed, blushing to the tips of her ears. 

"Lover. Fiancé. Husband. Love of your life, key to your heart, princess of your dreams—"

"Stop. I regret all of this."

"Oh, you sure? I still have more."

"I'm going to throw you out. I will do it."

"But what about the baby?!" Corrin asked because it was pretty much the first chance she ever got to use that line.

"The baby will be cut in half for your crimes," Azura declared solemnly.

"How—" Corrin tried to sound dramatic, but cut herself off with a snicker, "—how could you?! You're too cruel, Azura, how could you ever do such a thing!"

"Because your baby is imaginary and you made it as a joke."

Corrin laughed.

It was the kind of infectious laugh that practically forced a giggle out of Azura as well. 

"You know, I'm really glad I came here," Corrin told her, voice so earnest, Azura couldn't imagine for a second that she was bluffing, "I got to see you smile and laugh, and my friends are getting along with my family great! There's pretty much nothing else I can wish for!"

"Pretty much nothing else?" Azura echoed.

"Yeah. The only other thing I could really wish for right now is that tonight might last forever," Corrin confessed.

"Ah," Azura reacted blandly, because a sudden thought came to mind.

'Is this why people like her so much?'

Corrin laughed once again. It was hard to not smile with the girl who smiled so brightly despite everything that had happened to her.

"Thank you, Azura," Corrin said, warmth radiating from her voice alone. "Really, thank you for everything."

"No problem," Azura replied, smiling slightly in return.

The air in the room became comfortable, just in time for Elise and Camilla to walk in.

"Leo won!" Elise announced. "He said that we can decide where we want to sleep ourselves! ...except Hinoka. Hinoka sleeps away from Camilla's stuff because she's a walking hazard zone."

"Be polite," Camilla instructed her twintailed little sister as she went over to her bed.

"She's a polite walking hazard zone."

"She's normally very graceful though," Corrin said, spinning her finger around like it was supposed to represent Hinoka or something, "like, Hinoka's not the go-to girl for all the sports clubs for nothing."

"Must have been distracted by something. Someone," Azura stated so bluntly, she could have been used in a homicide.

"Yes, it's such a shame her coordination was affected by that dreadful horror movie..." Camilla lamented. "It's a good thing it was only a bottle of nail polish that was broken."

"Yeah, but you got like, almost everyone!" Elise reassured her. "Almost. I mean, I don't think Ryoma has toes. Or nails. Or fingers."

"He might," Azura said with a slight grin. "Of course, you'll have to look under his hair for that, and, if you do that, you risk angering the spirits that lurk beneath..."

"No more frightful things for tonight! We will have none of that here in a room of people who are not unconscious!" Camilla decided.

"You're just scared," Azura accused.

"Childish taunts like that won't affect me, Azura."

Azura was dignified enough to not pout at that.

No, that was a lie, she was totally pouting.

But, that meant she was emoting, wasn't it?

And in that room that night, the four girls laughed and joked around to their hearts' content until they fell asleep.


"Thank you for having us over! I love you!" Corrin exclaimed as she hugged Camilla.

"Of course, sweetheart, we'll be happy to have you over again!"

"Thank you for having us over! I love you!" Corrin exclaimed as she hugged Elise.

"Hehe, come again soon!"

"Thank you for having us over! I love you!" Corrin exclaimed as she hugged Xander.

"Yes, it was quite pleasurable."

"Thank you for having us over! I love you!" Corrin exclaimed as she hugged Azura.

"Yeah, yeah, sure."

"Thank you for having us over! I love you!" Corrin exclaimed as she hugged Leo.

"Get in your dad's car already," Leo huffed.

"Wow," Corrin replied, pulling away with a teasing grin on her face. "You really couldn't resist, could you? The urge to be a petty dork, I mean."

"You know me," Leo said with a smile.

"You're lucky I love you."

"Feels more like a curse, actually."

"Get in the fucking car Corrin!" Takumi screamed from the window. "We're waiting!"

"I'm coming!" Corrin retorted, running off with a final wave to her friends.

Garon and Arete watched her dash into the car with a fond smile on both their faces.

"She really has changed since the first time they met," Garon noted.

"I don't think I've heard that story before," Arete told him. "One for another time, perhaps?"

"Of course."


The ride home might have been a little tense. 

There was a certain air of anticipation, and really, why wouldn't there be?

Sumeragi had made it clear that he wanted to know everything that had happened. From both Mikoto and Corrin, the two who had never shared their tales with someone who hadn't lived through it with them.

Mikoto was waiting for them at home. 

Corrin tried to not think of it as being dragged back, back to a place with a fearsome woman with a sharpened blade. She told herself it was reasonable. Sumeragi was reasonable. They had a right to know.

That didn't abate her throbbing heartbeat, or lessen the pressure in her chest. It just made her feel unreasonable for being scared.

She sat with her shoulders tense and her eyes screwed shut, until she felt something touch her hand.

Her eyes snapped open.

Sakura was holding her hand.

Corrin looked in her direction, and remembered to breathe. 

She was in her dad's car, sitting next to Sakura and Takumi, behind her dad and Ryoma, and in front of Hinoka's backseat.

A nudge from Takumi helped drag Corrin out of her own anxiety, along with him saying, in an almost uncharacteristically kind tone, "don't worry. We're here."

Corrin nodded with shuddering lips.

"I'm sorry for worrying you," Corrin said, "thank you."

Everything would be fine.

Corrin was sure of it.


Corrin sat on the couch, sitting on top of the armrest while her siblings and mother took up the actual seats. Her father nodded at her, seated on one of the chairs he had dragged over from the dining room to be able to sit in front of them all. 

He nodded at her, and Corrin started.

She found that her story became easier to tell the more she talked. She had struggled to start talking at first, but, as she went on, she began remembering little things that happened, little details, and almot rushed to say it as they came to mind.

It started with the basics. Ever since she could remember, she had been raised in that basement, raised off of history books and religious texts. Her Papa thought she was the reincarnation of a dragon named Grima. Her Papa told her she had to earn her right to leave, because she was a creature of darkness who might become corrupted by people. One day, she escaped, and Silas and his family took her in when Mikoto had to go through an investigation.

They taught her how to read Nohrian, how to take the bus, how to do math, what a calendar was, what a healthy meal looked like, how to exercise properly, what money was, what a family looked like, how to make friends. They ran after her when she started running away, because Silas's father wouldn't let her lock herself in the basement for accidentally hurting Silas while playing. She got into the habit of running away when something went wrong. 

Then Mikoto came to pick her up, and they lived with Yukimura. At first, Yukimura... Yukimura adored her mother, jumping at the chance to help her and her kid. 

But, over time, he became more jaded. Corrin thought he was getting tired of running after her, because he had almost gotten hurt getting her away from Naga worshippers who thought she had escaped from the temple.

Mikoto cut off her ears then.

(Her family all stared at Mikoto in a silent moment of shock, but Corrin couldn't let them be scared of her—)

But it was because she had those ears that she had been locked up. It was because she had those ears that she was worshipped as a goddess before, and never wanted to be one again. It was entirely justified, yet.

Yet Yukimura began hating Mikoto for it. Yet he hated her for doing what was right, and the fights started. 

That was when Mikoto met Sumeragi, and things began to change.

She had so many siblings, a father who didn't argue with mother, and a chance at a happy family. Her dream.

And she was so scared of losing it to those things her Papa had warned her of, that she ran away after spending weeks trying to sabotage them.

"So, you ran away because you were scared of Sakura succeeding in her pursuit of this girl," Suneragi summarized.

"Yes," Corrin said, nodding solemnly. "I am willing to accept any punishment that you deem fit."

"The question of punishment is one that has to be turned over to your siblings," Sumeragi declared, turning to the rest of his children. "Have you decided on a punishment?"

"Yeah," Hinoka answered.

Corrin shut her eyes and prepared to be dragged off to the basement.

Instead, she felt a pinch on her bicep.

"That's mine," Hinoka stated.

Takumi punched Corrin so lightly, it could barely be called a touch. Ryoma's slap was more of a pat to the cheek than a slap.

And Sakura?

"Corrin! I might have a crush on Camilla, but... I won't ever turn against my family to pursue her!" Sakura promised, practically jumping to wrap her arms around her big sister. Corrin's eyes widened in shock.

"Yes, it's my role as a big brother to care for all of you. I won't abandon that for anything," Ryoma added. Sakura twisted Corrin around and into his arms, allowing him to hug her as well.

"I argued with Sakura and Ryoma because I thought Camilla was cruel... but I know enough about her character to say that I'll be happy if my siblings are in hands as good as hers," Hinoka stated as she joined the hug.

"What, you seriously thought I'm enough of an idiot to do something like that?" Takumi asked flatly, not budging. "Seriously?"

"Takumi," Hinoka replied in the same tone. "Shut up and join the hug."

And then Ryoma brought all of them into the hug, and Corrin felt her lungs expand like she was just learning how to breathe.

'I see. So this is what it feels like to have a happy family.'

"Thank you," Corrin managed to say with a smile. "Thank you all."

"That's the first matter at hand," Sumeragi declared, smiling at the sight. "But, if you feel the need to run away and hide, please try hiding in your closet or under the table instead. We won't force you to talk to us, but we want you to be safe."

"Y-yeah... okay," Corrin nodded, still not feeling like she was experiencing something real at the moment.

It was a dream come true, yet she still thought she was dreaming.

"Thank you. That's the second matter, and the third," Sumeragi paused, looking over at Mikoto, "we will have to hear your story as well, my love."

Mikoto nodded and began to fill the holes in Corrin's story.

Corrin's father was named Anankos. He had been a religious man, yet kind and loving to Mikoto. They agreed on the name 'Kamui' for their child, but, when she was born—

Something in him changed.

(Mikoto began shaking.)

She was not allowed to see her daughter for the next few years. When she next met her daughter, little Kamui didn't react to her name at all. She didn't recognize Mikoto. 

The investigation took six months. Mikoto was investigated to ensure she would be a suitable caretaker for the girl. She was questioned about her husband to see if she had been complicit in his crimes.

It was mostly a formality.

Anankos had been thrown in jail without a trial. It was rather easy for a Nohrian to go to jail if they angered the wrong officer. Though, in Corrin's case, it was because a formal investigation would bring attention to her, and get her sent to the nearest temple for the rest of her life.

That had been Mikoto's greatest fear as Corrin grew up. Seeing her little girl, sent back into another gilded cage after just tasting freedom... she couldn't allow it. She couldn't.

She would not let Corrin be separated from her new friends, even if she trusted them more than her mother. She would not let Corrin go back into captivity.

Yukimura thought she was going insane. She might have been. She spent her hourly wages on sleeping drugs and rubbing alcohol, and he surely thought it was an addiction she had developed. He kept gum with him at all times. His intent was to offer some to her if he thought she had cravings. 

He was kind to her. Much too kind, given that she planned on hurting her daughter the way she was.

Yukimura's anger with her had been justified.

Before, she worked long hours to gather money, barely able to spend time with Corrin. 

But, Yukimura was right in saying that she had the chance to approach the girl.

She could have woken up earlier so she could send Corrin off in the mornings. She could have arranged her shifts so she was home when Corrin returned. She could have asked about her friends. She could have made breakfast. She could have mended their relationship if she simply tried to talk to her, instead of giving up.

His patient suggestions became frustrated quips, then outright anger after she had cut off Corrin's ears. 

Yukimura could barely stand to look at her now. He thought of her as a liar who could hurt her daughter with a mask of guilt and have the audacity to claim it was for her own good.

He was not wrong.

But Mikoto still wanted to be able to be a good mother to all her children.

Silence rang out in the room when she finished, an odd tension in the air.

Sumeragi cleared his throat and began to speak.

"Mending the tension between the two of you will need a frank discussion between the two of you. Unless you would like us here for support, we will leave you two alone until you call for us."

"That's alright with me," Corrin said.

Mikoto nodded with a blank expression.

Sumeragi stood, and, while lifting the chair with one hand, kissed Mikoto's forehead. Corrin's siblings gave her one last squeeze of reassurance, before leaving them alone.

The two of them sat on opposite sides of the couch, silence overtaking them once again.

Mikoto couldn't face her daughter. She could feel the dread building up in her chest, the feeling anticipating anger and impending harm slowly poisoning her body. 

"I guess we're supposed to talk," Corrin said simply.

"Yes... I suppose we must," Mikoto replied.

Inwardly, she was berating herself. For being so passive that her child had to start the conversation, for not knowing what to do, for being such a coward—

Ah, it was what Yukimura always told her. She made a mistake and had to repent, and remaining passive was only letting her chances of redemption atrophy in front of her eyes.

So she breathed in, and almost blurted out the words. 

"I'm sure you have many questions you want to ask me. I'll answer them all."

That was it.

She shut her eyes, and prepared herself.

Mikoto could answer why she married that man in the first place, she could tell her everything that led up to Corrin being locked in that basement. 

But, if Corrin asked about what Mikoto had done... would she be able to look her daughter in the eyes and say it was the right thing to do?

"Mom..." Corrin started off slowly.

Mikoto braced herself.

"What's your favourite colour?"

Mikoto's eyes widened, and she looked at Corrin in surprise.

"W-what? Why?"

Corrin simply smiled at her.

"I don't want to be scared of you," she answered simply. "I want to be a good daughter, and bond with you. That's all."

Mikoto felt something in her heart ache at those words.

"Then, I'll tell you everything," Mikoto promised with a joyous grin. 

Corrin's eyes lit up, and, emboldened, Mikoto spoke.

"My name is Mikoto Byakuya. My favourite colour is red, my favourite animals are gummi bears, and I've been blessed with the most wonderful family in the world."

Corrin laughed brightly.

"I don't even think gummi bears count!" Corrin joked. "But, yes, yes, ma'am, I am Corrin Byakuya, at your service. My favourite colour is blue, my favourite animals are rabbits, and I would say that I'm the one with the best family in the world."

"We have the same family, you little monkey," Mikoto retorted, reaching out to ruffle Corrin's hair before stopping herself. She didn't know if she could cross that line just yet. Maybe that would be—

Her train of thought was derailed by Corrin lowering her head to meet Mikoto's hand, laughing all the while.

For the first time since Corrin was born, Mikoto was able to pat her head and talk to her normally.

When the rest of the family went back to check on them, they found the two laughing together and pedantically arguing over whether it was better to be a mother or sister and daughter.

Chapter Text

"You know, I don't think we're ever getting back to that email thing subplot." Charlotte whistled, sitting on the floor with the others.

"Look at it this way," Jakob said simply. "You have a character outside of hints at a connection with Peri."

"I don't think my arranged marriage is ever actually gonna be important," Hana mumbled. 

"I say we rebel," Charlotte decided. "We need actual progress made in our stories."

"The idea is appealing, though rather rough," Jakob replied. "We would need an actual story to tell."

"I mean, what's not interesting about a hunt to see who the mysterious perpetrator was?"

"The fact that thinking is involved," Jakob retorted.

"Yeah, I would kinda hate it if I were supposed to try and figure out who it was myself too."

"Aaaaargh, seriously?! Isn't it just, 'look for the like, six bilingual people in this entire freaking school?!'"

"You make it sound so simple, but it's taken so many chapters and we still don't know the answer!" Hana exclaimed.

"Because of Kaze!"

"Really? Blaming your problems on others? That's surely the sign of a respectable young woman."

"Shut up, Jakob. I swear it's true. It's too convenient to be anything else. He was probably put in my way so I didn't figure it out too fast."

"That... actually sounds believable," Hana realized. "If you figured it out too fast, we would spend chapters on that to the point that you show up in more chapters than Xander does."

"That's not hard to accomplish," Jakob noted.

"It's because he's cooped up in his work cave all the time," Charlotte stated. "You need to drag him out of his cave to get him to romance antic."

"You've gone from making excuses for yourself to making excuses for other people..."

"Jakob, shut up," Charlotte said, right before turning to Hana. "So what's the problem with your arranged marriage or whatever?"

"POC."

"Excuse me?" Jakob asked.

"Possibility of Original Character."

"...ohhhhhhhhhhh," Charlotte