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Nohrian Forces

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The sounds of a beating heart pounded through his ears, drowning out his labored breathing as he was half-dragged through the long stone halls of Castle Krackenburgh. The guard on his right shifted him roughly, and he gasped as pain shot through his still throbbing arm. The guard huffed in annoyance, pulling the shorter man to face him. His face was that of a grizzled warrior, not uncommon in Nohr’s forces. Their entire economy was based off of war, he’d seen them take countless other countries under their sphere of influence in the short time he’d been alive; he wasn't dumb enough to assume he’d see a friendly face here.
“Don’t make to much noise, boy. You’re lucky you didn't fall on the field, like the others. As long as you’re silent, we’ll keep it that way.” He bit back a sarcastic remark that would have had him knocked flat on his back. He bit back hard.
The guards picked up the pace again, and the cold, narrow walls began to pan out, opening into a large hall. A dull red carpet spread across the center of the floor from where he stood, leading to large and elaborately carved oaken doors. The carpet’s gold trimming was frayed, and parts of the carpet had been worn away, footprints marring the rough fabric. He tried not to look around the room too much, to keep staring at the footprints instead of the painting that he knew adorned the walls, but this wasn't possible. His head was forced up, as the guard to his left grabbed his long, pale hair, pulling his head back. He was surrounded by the past Kings of Nohr.
Almost every one was a flat portrait, displaying bold-featured men, draped in regal furs, gems gleaming exaggeratedly out of their armour. He couldn't stand to see the men who had forced their own people to live in poverty. One portrait caught his eye however.
There sat a woman, proud and erect in a black background, immediately contrasting herself from the men surrounding her, sitting in their jeweled thrones. She was a regal figure, and seemed strangely foreign in the hall. She had a well-defined face, with sharp cheekbones and dark expressive eyes. Her golden hair was tied up in intricate loops, but somehow pinned in place by a lone white rose. She wore the traditional armour of a hero, a high ranking and extremely well-respected class of elite warrior that he had faced countless times on the battlefield. A silver circlet rested on her brow. She looked directly at him, it seemed, eyes guilty… too sad to fit with the picture of Nohrians he had painted for himself.
Before she could pity him a moment longer, he was swept up again, yanked carelessly to stand on his weak legs, and turned away from the only warm face he had yet to see, towards the heavy oak between himself and his fate. His heart-rate picked up as he was dragged into the lion's mouth.
As soon as they were far enough into the hall for him to see the throne, he was dropped, unceremoniously, and his knees ended up buckling under his own weight. The warm voices that had filled the room had stopped, a gasp being heard as he tried to force himself to his feet. The guards held him in a kneeling position, as a show of respect.
He locked eyes with the man nearest to himself. A young man, maybe as old as his oldest brother, with wavy golden hair and sharp brown eyes. Without breaking eye contact, the man moved forward,
“What is the meaning of this?” His voice was deep and smooth, commanding. It sent shivers down his spine.
“General, sir, we bring you a high ranking prisoner, straight from the battlefield.”
“High ranking?”
From behind to the man, a woman stepped up besides him, her long curling hair flowing over her shoulders and obscuring her face as she spoke. “Brother, dear, if I’m not mistaken, that is Prince Takumi of Hoshido. Should his brother, crown Prince Ryoma, fall in this war, he shall be next in line.”
The man’s brow had creased, and Takumi noted the circlet across his forehead. His eyes widened, this must be-
“Prince Takumi.” He spoke. “I am Crown Prince Xander, of Nohr.”
Takumi didn't answer, and instead took the other man in. He could see now he was younger than his own brother, by maybe a year or two, but just as commanding. His strongly featured face was stern, and unwavering. He wore a paladin's armor, the metal a pristine, unscathed black, accented with golds and purples. It seemed to Takumi that Nohrians were always suited in armor. From next to him, the woman, his sister stepped forward, frowning.
“Do you refuse to speak for yourself, princeling?”
She was a shapely young woman, wearing warm, form fitting clothing, customary underclothes for aerial units and he realized he’d seen her personally on the field of battle before, battle axe flashing, from the back of a monstrous wyvern. His mouth turned down into a scowl, and the women laughed, her amber eyes flashing. “It’s not wise to bite the hand that will quite literally be feeding you, until we negotiate your release.” Takumi trembled with rage. He sat here, stripped of his pride (and more importantly his weapons), staring at his enemies.
“Camilla, please, let him be...” a soft voice was heard, and Takumi turned to face its owner, his heart stopping. A young girl stood there, her pale, almost white hair dripping down her back, warm almond eyes looking to the other imploringly. Although she was dressed in custom, Nohrian armour, she went barefoot, showing her to be a prisoner or slave.
Through the dryness in his throat, Takumi managed to speak.
“Kamui-”
Both of the royal siblings in front of him tensed, but the girl turned to face him, looking confused.
"Kamui?" She smiled kindly at him, even as her eyebrows turned down in confusion, "I'm sorry, you must have me confused with someone else you know." She took a step towards him, ignoring the crown princes’ soft order to stop, her cape swishing around her, "My name is Corrin, Princess of Nohr."
Takumi felt physically sick, a bile-like taste sitting at the back of his throat. His weak muscles trembled, face twisting into a scowl as he turned to face the prince again.
"You..." with a swift movement, he had jerked his way out of the guards grip, pure adrenaline sending him crashing into the other male, causing the princess to scream.
"Nohrian Scum!"
Xander skid back a few feet with a grunt, stumbling in surprise, but his taller more muscular figure kept him standing upright. In a single, fluid motion the man flipped him around, pinning him to the ground with a rough knee to the back, causing a hoarse wheeze to leave Takumi's throat. He tried to yell at the man, but found he couldn't talk.
"X-Xander!" He heard her soft footsteps as she dashed forward. "Please, he's already injured! You might-"
"What?" A new voice snickered, heels clicking towards the group. "He might hurt him? May I remind you, foolish sister, that those were his exact intentions for Xander?"
Sister? Takumi snarled indignantly.
The owner of the voice stepped into Takumi's line of sight, eyeing him coldly. If looks could kill, Takumi had no doubt that the both of them would be dead. His features were much more feminine than his brothers, and less muscled. His sharp eyes were pools of silver, pupils slit watching him as a lion would its prey. He movements were fluid, contrasting with his pale features, which came off as almost death-like with the sharp contrast of his obsidian armour.
Kamui moved after this man, and Takumi watched her tensely. Her body language closed off until she made it to his side. She looked at him imploringly, eyebrows knit together. "I understand Leo, but he must be so scared, I just..." her hands trembled and Takumi felt his heart beat uncomfortably as the man, Leo, turned to face her. What had they been doing to her?
To his surprise Leo's gaze softened, if only marginally. "I understand your concern, dear sister, but he is our enemy. And apparently he's delusional as well..." this comment was punctuated with the man making eye contact with Takumi and a sharp upturn of the chin.
What a petty bastard.
"We shall deal with him later, before father returns." The crown prince said as he motioned the guards forward again. "Please do be gentle with him, he appears to be badly injured and his outburst has not helped his case at all."
And like that, Takumi was hoisted up and half dragged towards the door. He didn’t fight them, a strange feeling entering his chest. His limbs trembled, but he knew it wasn't solely from exertion. He glared to the royal family of Nohr, glared to Corrin.
He spoke nothing as he was dragged away.

Chapter Text

Drip. Drip. Drip.
Takumi groaned, leaning back into the cot he had been resting in. The ceiling of the holding cell he had been in was leaking, and putting his food tray under the leak hadn’t done much in terms of stopping the noise. He turned his sore body the face the wall, closing his eyes. He had been here for what had maybe been a week. His only companion had been a troubadour that had come to check on him periodically and tend to his wounds.
A soft click of shoes alerted him that she had come to see him again.
“Hello, Takumi!” He heard her say, cheerfully as she stopped outside of his cell. “Sorry we haven't been able to move you yet, this was our nicest holding cell…” She had never spoken to him unkindly, but he couldn't find it in him to speak back, except in short, clipped answers. She was still one of his captors, whether or not she was directly responsible for him being here.
He heard a soft sigh before she spoke up again, slight annoyance in her voice. “You know, if you don’t talk, we can't be friends!”
He turned to face her, unamused. She stood there, her soft features been pulled down into a pout. Unlike most of the Nohrians he had seen, she was wearing only a chest plate for armour, over an expensive-looking black dress, trimmed with light pink lace. This had immediately put him on edge when she had first come to tend to him; lace was a luxury and hard to afford, marking the young woman as a noble. She had surprised him with her warm personality, chatting to him merrily as she tended to his wounds. She had a childlike disposition, and even childlike features, being rosey-skinned and petite, much like his own little sister, making it hard for Takumi to be mad at her for what her people were doing. He had always been good with children, somehow, and despite himself, he began to think fondly of her.
Although he was beginning to warm up to her, he couldn't quite stomach the idea of becoming friends with her, for fear of the inevitable- one of them would most certainly die.
Oblivious to his dark thoughts, the girl smiled at him, moving to unlock his cell doors. He knew better than to try to run past her, as last time he tried it he’d been checked back into the cell from quite literally the other side of the room, flying back and hitting the wall, causing the now crying girl to fuss over him again, as her big burly knight friend stood in the cell door, figure taking up the whole frame.
“Don’t,” she had said, cat green eyes chilling him to the bone, “make my Lady cry again.”
He did not want to deal with that again.
The girl closed the cell door behind her with a soft click, making her way to the cot where Takumi now sat. She took her place besides him, sitting on her knees next to him and pulling the soft clothes he had been given down to inspect the bandages. She hummed, pleased.
“They’re healing nicely; no blood this time! Which means I can give you my gift!” She said in a singsong voice, pulling a parcel out from under her skirts.
Takumi blinked at the package she had shoved into his arms, then glanced back up to the girl, who watched him in anticipation.
He carefully removed the brightly colored paper, and stared in surprise. A new set of clothes had been carefully folded for him. He ran his fingers over the seams, which were jagged and uneven, definitely handsewn. He looked back to young women next to him a warm feeling in his chest.
“Did you make these?”
She nodded excitedly. “Yup! I realized that your old clothes were ruined and I couldn't get the blood stains out, not even with Flora’s help,” she babbled, “and I thought these clothes might not be comfortable since they were so big, so I tried to make you a replacement set out of some of my brother’s old clothes! I usually don't do stuff like this, sewing I mean, but I thought it’d make you a little more comfortable! Do you like them?” She asked, growing nervous.
Takumi stared at the clothes again, feeling warmth spread through his chest. A slight lump formed in his throat but he swallowed it down, giving her a small smile.
“Thank you, Elise.”
She brightened, her whole face lighting up. “Aww! It’s my pleasure! So…” She said, squishing herself closer, “about being friends?”
His smile fell, and he looked back to the clothes in his hands. “I’m not sure that’d be in either of our best interests.”
She pouted again. “Why not? I want this war to be over so we can take my sister anywhere she wants! I want my people to be happy, and yours too!”
Takumi frowned. “My people could never be happy if your King wins this war. He attacked a peaceful kingdom out of nothing but malice.”
Elise looked slightly put off. “That's not what father said.”
Takumi looked away. “I don’t know how close your father is to the king, but he doesn't know what he’s talking about. Your King killed my father,” bitterness had begun to sink into his voice, “under the guise of a peace treaty.”
Elise trembled next to him. “I-I’m sure he had his reasons…”
Takumi shot up, the clothes slipping off his lap and making a cloud of dust.
“What reason justifies murder? Or kidnapping? The Nohrian Royal Family has ruined my life!” He yelled, his chest tightening as he remembered their wrongs; his mother crying knowing what she had lost, his father's body being paraded around Nohr as a war trophy, Hinoka’s tears and anger, Ryoma, at the ripe age of 12, guilt-ridden as he shut out the world. Kamui popped into his head, the way she looked right through him. He trembled.
Elise stood to her feet, balling up her gloved hands, tears springing to her eyes, “I know it’s horrible! But you can’t lump us all together! I never wanted this! Xander never wanted this! Or Camilla or Leo or Corrin! We’re all doing our best!” She screeched as tears dripped down her face. Takumi froze, his chest freezing over. Elise was…?
“I-I can’t make up for what he’s done but I can’t...” she sobbed, “I can’t hate my Dad!” And with that she was off, slamming the iron door and locking it behind herself, leaving Takumi rooted to his spot.
The Knight from before glared to him as she made her way after the younger royal.
Takumi sat down hard, gaze falling to the floor. He picked up the clothes he had dropped with a trembling hand. A million thoughts ran through his head, consuming him.
He didn’t know how long he had sat there when a soft voice broke through his thoughts.
“Prince Takumi…”
He looked up, staring into the face of his sister.
“Can we talk?”
Drip. Drip. Drip.

Chapter Text

Takumi stared Kamui down through the bars, unsure of how to react to her presence. She was just as she was as he was dragged away; armoured and shoeless, even in the cold of the cell. She must have taken his silence for hostility, because she frowned, placing a hand to the bars and sinking down onto the floor, the dust billowing up round her with a puff. Takumi waited for the dust to settle before turning away, unsure of himself.

“Have you come to punish me for my treatment of-”

“No no no!” She laughed uneasily, putting up her hands defensively. “You might be getting some harsh words from Leo, but not me. She...uh, she told me what you said.”

Takumi looked back to her. Her warm features had sunk somewhat, her eyes sad. He stared at the other royal, weary. “I’m…I’m not taking back what I said.” He finished. His chest ached.   

“I’m not expecting you to…” Kamui said softly, locking eyes with him. “I want to know what you meant.”

Takumi gently set his new clothes down onto the cot before standing up and moving to the bars. He ignored her for a moment, taking the time to strain his eyes down the halls. Nobody was around to overhear him besides… he looked down to her.

“Your not gonna go and tell your siblings what I said?” He said, with a little more venom than he had meant. Kamui shook her head, lips twitching up into a smile.

“They don’t even know I'm here.”

Takumi stared her down for another minute. Her soft eyes didn’t blink. He genuinely did want to tell her, get her to renounce the Nohrians, come home with him...be a family again. Maybe her being home again would begin to heal the sadness sinking over his family since she was taken away from them…

He joined her on the floor, sitting on his knees, back erect. “What would you like to know?”

Tension left her shoulders and she smiled endearingly to him. “What are you willing to tell?”

He frowned, “What are you willing to learn?”

Her face fell again and she looked lost in thought for a moment before looking back to him, determined. “Anything you say to me truthfully.”

Takumi was slightly taken aback, unsure of how to continue. Silence enveloped the cell again. Drip. Drip. Drip.

“Could you tell me..” Kamui said, breaking the silence, “what you meant when you said the Nohrian Royal Family ruined your life?”

His eyebrows furrowed. He wasn't sure if he should tell her, or if she’d even believe him, despite her claims. Especially if she had grown up listening to Norhian propaganda at the right hand of the king.  “This war,” he decided, “was instigated by Nohr. I think that counts as ruining my life.”

Kamui frowned, “But why the royal family?”

Takumi cursed internally. She hadn't taken the bait. “Your Father killed mine under false pretenses and caused the conflict in the first place.” He spat, eyebrows furrowing. Takumi didn’t have much of a temper. He never had, until the war had started. Things had gotten worse and worse, but he had hoped his family would never be on the other side of his aggression. So much for that, he thought miserably.

Kamui’s eyes grow sad again, but an underlying confusion was there. “Prince Takumi… I’m so sorry… I’ve never heard of this event. Would you tell me about it?” She asked.

Takumi thought about how to tell her without releasing any information that was too directly linked to her involvement.

“King Garon had initiated quite a few border skirmishes with Hoshido, and had refused to meet with us.” Takumi began. “One day, however, he sent word to my father that he would be willing to meet with him if he did so on Cheve’s soil-”

“Cheve?” Kamui interrupted, looking confused. “Where is that?”

Takumi looked to her in surprise. “You… you don’t know where Cheve is? It’s one of the kingdoms under Nohr’s domain. It’s closer to this kingdom than Hoshido. Although at the time, word hadn’t reached the capital that Nohr had taken the kingdom as its own. We believed that  it was still neutral territory. We were wrong.”

Kamui listened, surprise etched onto her face. “Did Cheve do something threatening to make us want to taken them?”

Takumi couldn't help but scoff, “How should I know? We haven't had diplomatic relations with them since Father's death.”

Kamui fell silent again.

“You see, with his new political influence, King Garon had hid soldiers throughout Cheve’s capital, and when he came to greet my father…” Takumi stopped. Should he mention her role? Even if only in passing? He was spurred on by his sister's expression; dread.

“When the Mad King saw my father, he wasn't alone. King Garon and my father… had been close friends before this all. Close enough for my dad to feel safe bringing my older sister along.”

Kamui let out a breath, looking heartbroken. “Did Father…?”

Takumi looked her straight in the eyes. “He ordered his archers to shoot her down.”

Tears had sprung to her eyes. “How… how old was she…?”

“She was only seven. She would be about your age now.”

“She died then?”

Takumi was silent. He never broke eye contact with her.

“And your father?”

“Father took the brunt of the fire, in an attempt to protect her. Very few of our men came back alive. The Nohrians rejoiced. They paraded his body around their streets and refused to give him to us for a proper burial. I don’t want to speak about his anymore.” Takumi tore his eyes away from her at last, blinking the wetness out of his eyes and hoping she hadn't seen.

“Should I… should I go?” Kamui asked, her voice a little horse from holding back tears.

Takumi felt drained but he hadn't been this close to her since he had been a child. “If you want.”

“Could I ask about something else?”

“Of course.” He said flatly.

“Um, my brother Xander-” Gods, he hated her calling any of them her siblings. He let it slide. “He told me that Hoshido had a magical barrier around it that made any soldiers who entered with ill intentions lose their will to fight. Why is it beginning to deteriorate? He says Father has been sending more and more troops deeper in.”

Takumi looked at her again. He could see his mother in her every feature. “Mother…er, my mother, Queen Mikoto. She’s a peaceful woman. All she wanted was her people's safety. Since Father's death, she’s been using her own magic to keep a constant barrier around the kingdom’s border.”

Kamui gasped. “All by herself? That would take hundreds of mages!”

Takumi couldn't help but smile at the thought of Mikoto. She may not have been his biological mother, but she was as good as one. She had loved him unconditionally, no matter what, and in his younger days had even tried to emulate her. To this day, he still fashioned his hair after hers. He frowned again, his hand unconsciously finding his pale hair, now loose and frayed around him. They hadn't cut it, but they had taken his ornaments, so it fell around his face and it’s edges traced the floor.  

Noting the look of concern on Kamui’s face he continued. “She’s amazingly powerful. Some say she’s been blessed. She could destroy an entire army with a gift like that. But-” He gestured to the girl in front of him, grabbing onto a bar with one of his hands “She won’t. She’s a pacifist who took a vow of peace after she married my father.”

“Then is your mother-”

“She’s alive.” Takumi said, insistently. “She has however grown ill.”

“With what?”

“I’m…”Takumi looked down, the gravity of the situation coming back to him. His grip tightened on the bar. “No one’s sure.”

A soft touch on his hand shocked him out of any horrible thoughts he had begun to sink into.

Kamui looked to him softly, warmth in her eyes. She had placed her hands over his fingers. The weren't as calloused as his were, but were much warmer.

“I promise we’ll get you home to see her as soon as we can make contact with your brother.”

Takumi shook slightly. He was mad. At her, for being able to float above it all. For being able to distance herself from their family. At himself for not being in her life. At Nohr for making that impossible. He was also touched. His anger subsided and he was left with a feeling he couldn't describe. But he knew he ached. He had also begin to realize how sheltered she was.                    

  “Thank you.” Was all he managed, even with all the emotions shooting through his skin.

“I have one more question, though.” She said, pulling her hand away. Takumi immediately missed her warmth.

“Yes?”

“When you first met me,” She started, eyebrows furrowing. “You called me a name.”

Takumi’s throat went dry, “Yeah?”

“What was it?”

“Kamui.” He said, noting the way his voice trembled. “It’s… it’s my older sister's name.”

Kamui smiled at him, oblivious. “Thank you for telling me this. I’ll try to sneak down here to see you again soon. I promise.”

Takumi looked away, getting his voice back under control. “Don’t stress yourself out over it.”  

Takumi heard her whispered goodbye and the soft pad of her bare feet as she left. Drip. Drip. Drip.

Takumi sighed, removing his upper layer of clothing and throwing it under the leak. It worked for muffling and the sound went away almost completely.

He made his way over the cot, picking his new clothes up and slipping them on.

He smiled.  

Chapter Text

These conversations with Kamui continued over the next few weeks of his stay. Takumi had grown quite fond of her company, despite her evident naivety. He had even allowed himself to open up to Elise, going as far as to apologize for his outburst. He figured it was only fair, since the girl had continued to patch him up on the daily and bring him little gifts in the form of sweets she had made him. He made sure to keep his visits with his sister a secret though, knowing that Kamui often had to sneak away to talk with him.

Today was one of her sneak-away days.

“Takumi.” He picked his head up from pillow, Kamui’s soft voice breaking through the near silence of the cell. She smiled to him good naturedly and took her seat on the floor. “They still haven't fixed the leak yet?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” He chuckled moving to sit across from her. “You know, in my country, that's considered a form of torture.”  

“Really?”

“Yeah, but I hope you’re not intent on spending our visit discussing out of practice Hoshidan interrogation practices. That doesn't really seem to be your style.”

“It’s not.” She agreed readily.

“Anything exciting happen on your side of the bars today?” He asked nonchalantly, readjusting himself into a more comfortable position.

“Xander took me out to the roof again today for training, even though it’s pouring,” she said rolling her eyes, “I think I’ve become perfectly capable of defending myself at this point though.”

Takumi frowned, “Don’t forget, you still haven't actively been in a combat situation. It’s not nearly as organized as a one-on-one sparring session.” And hopefully you don’t have to be in a combat situation, Gods know what I would give to have lived a peaceful life with our family.

She frowned, “I know, I know…” A small smile tugged at her lips, “You know, you sound just like Leo.”

Takumi scoffed, “Eww, gross.”

Kamui giggled, eyes mischievous, “You know, if you two had a chance to talk, you might begin to like each other! You’re a lot alike, really.”

“I don’t think that's possible. Both getting along or being similar.”

“Aww, you just need to-”

“Shhhh!” Suddenly Takumi was on edge, as he heard a click of shoes he didn’t recognize. “Kam- Corrin, get out of here. Now.” He warned, heart rate picking up as he moved back across the room.

“What? Why-”

“Lady Corrin!”

The two royals bristled at the new voice, Takumi shaking slightly. They’d slipped up.

Kamui had whipped around to face the new voice, looking shaken but surprisingly not threatened.

A man suddenly moved into Takumi’s line of sight. He was lean, yet well built, with Nohr’s signature pale features. His white hair had been tied back with a dark purple bow. He recognized the uniform as well, having been a part of more than a few raids on a Norhian Nobles castles. Butlers were known to throw themselves into the fray when their masters were threatened. This man, however, must have been higher up, if the emerald brooch shining at his neck was any indication of status.

To Takumi’s dismay, he immediately placed himself between the young woman and his cell, blocking her from his view.

“M’lady!” His voice was tense but fearful. “Is this where you have been disappearing off to? I’ve been worried sick, and now I find you are here? ”

Kamui placed her hands over his, looking at him warmly, “Jakob, it’s okay! I’ve been trying to keep Prince Takumi company and learn as much as I can about this war, and Hoshidan culture!” Takumi could see her give his hand a little squeeze. “I’m sorry for sneaking off, I never meant to worry you…”

The man- Jakob- let out a puff of air, shoulders visually drooping, “You can’t not tell me when you do such things my lady,” he said softly, worry lacing through every syllable, “how else I am to know your safe? Especially after the kidnapping attempt, and-”

“Jakob.” She said with a warm, firm certainty, “I swear I’m safe in Prince Takumi’s company. From now on I promise to tell you when I come for a visit, alright?”

Jakob looked back to Takumi, meeting his eyes. They were a harsh, muted purple.  Takumi felt like a bucket of ice water had been poured over him as he he stared at this man and in that moment, the two came to an unspoken agreement; don’t hurt Kamui and there would be no issues.

Jakob turned back to his sister, “I swear to keep you safe always, my lady.”

“I know.”

The two looked at each other for another second, before Kamui shifted herself back around. “Prince Takumi!” She said, “please meet my personal butler, and best friend, Jakob.”

“Prince.” Jakob gave him a stiff bow, which Takumi hesitantly returned. In Nohr, a bow was a sign of submission, but in his own culture, it was a show of respect and a common greeting. Jakob stood back to full height again, shoulders squared and expression cold. He was surprisingly tall, Takumi thought offhandedly, though most Nohrians were.

“M’lady, if I may ask, how are you planning to keep the rest of your siblings from knowing of you meetings?”

“As long as father isn’t informed, things should be fine.”

“Then you’re out of luck, little lady.” The group jumped, and Takumi’s heart leapt to his throat, his entire body tensing.

Kamui herself had lost anything warm about her, wilting slightly as Jakob moved to stand in front of her. “Hans,” she spoke, voice edgy, “what is the meaning of this?”

“The meaning,” the new voice said, husky and deep, “is this princeling trying to brainwash a Nohrian royal.”

“Thats not whats happening here at all!” she promised trying to move forward, but was stopped by Jakob’s outstretched arm.

“Oh, princess,” a burly man moved in front of the cell. He was well muscled and tanned, wearing a berserker's armour, expensive furs wrapped around his waist. Takumi flinched internally as he recognized the auburn pelt of a kitsune, obviously new, as it had yet to take on the same musky appearance as the other pelts.

“Ever since your father placed me as your retainer I knew how...soft you were.” He said  to the others. “If you’ve really been sneaking down here, then he must have some sort of hold on you. He-” Hans punctuated this by pointing a stained gauntlet in his direction. “Is the enemy.”

“In fact…” Hans took a ring of keys from off of his belt, unlocking Takumi’s cell door and swinging the door open. Takumi took another step backwards, feet itching to take off, to squeeze between the man, take his sister and run.

“Hans, what are you-!”

“Hush, M’lady.” Hans said in fake sympathy, and advancing on Takumi. “For feeding you Hoshidan propaganda and trying to turn you against your own, he should be punished.” With that, he grabbed Takumi harshly by the arm, nearly pulling him out of the cell. “ Let go!” Takumi shrieked, pulling against him, heart thundering in his chest.

“Hans!” Kamui yelled, breaking though Jakobs arms and jumping into the cell, latching onto Takumi's other arm, sending sparks through his skin. “As your liege I order you to stop!”

“As your father has trusted me with your safety I think he’ll understand a break from your orders if it’s for your well being, my lady.” He spoke gruffly, shoving her off of Takumi.

“Hey!” She yelped, stumbling backwards slightly.

Jakob’s eyes had caught fire as he moved forward. “Now see here-”

In a single, fluid motion, Hans had shifted Takumi, taking a fistfull of his pale hair, and decked the young butler, who crumpled to the floor.

Jakob!” Kamui screamed, dropping to his side. “Jakob, get up!”

While she was distracted, Hans shut the cell, pulling him along.

Takumi couldn't help but yelp as a few strands of his hair were pulled from his scalp.

Kamui’s head shot up, anger lacing her voice. “Hans!”

“We’ll be back soon, M’Lady,” He promised.

Takumi’s head was racing. No they wouldn't. This man had just found a perfect, undeniable way to kill him, and not a single Nohrian would bat an eye. It was excusable. For the best. He was going to die. In one last desperate move, Takumi kicked his captor. Hans let go in shock, allowing Takumi to run to the cell, pulling at the door.

Locked.                            

Kamui jumped up to the bars, looking to him desperately.

“I’m so sorry.” She whimpered.

Done debating, Takumi placed his his hands over hers, like she had done to him on her first visit.

Kamui .”

Her eyes widened. “W-what about her?”

“Your- ACK!” Takumi’s words were cut short as Hans shoved him down harshly, using the opportunity to wrap an arm around his waist and hoist him back up.

Undeterred, Takumi met her eyes. Her warm, familiar eyes, brimming with tears.

“Thats- Thats why I called you Kamui! When I met you!” He screeched.

“It’s because you are Kamui! My sister! You're a princess of Hoshido!”

She had fallen silent on her end, shaking.

“I’m sorry!”     

Chapter Text

Takumi couldn’t believe he’d just done that. Even as his heart hammered in his chest. Even as he struggled to breathe in Hans’s tight grip.

Han’s threw open the door to the prison like area he had been kept in, somewhere near the training course in Castle Krakenburgh. Just like Kamui had told him, it was pouring. He took in a gasp of fresh air, chilling raw throat and forcing him to choke.

Hans continued through the until he actually stepped into the training area.

“Soldiers!” Hans roared. Takumi felt his grip loosen before he has thrown roughly to the ground in front of Hans, yelling out in pain as he hit the stone floor. His head went foggy for a moment and he felt violently ill. Takumi numbly thought about when he had broken his toe as a kid from kicking a tree. His head had felt like this then too. As the fog rolled out of his mind, his left side began to ache. He lay there, listening as Hans rallied up the men training at the time, listing his crimes and something else he couldn't quite grasp.

A single thought flitted through his head over the sound of his own heartbeat- What the actual hell was going on?

Takumi had been cooked up quite a few terrifying guesses for what his death would look like in the trek to the roof. Maybe a public lashing, where Hans would decide halfway through to switch to a sword, or maybe even a swift trial in front of Leo where the other boy would kill him during his opening defense out of impatience and spite.

A group execution from a bunch of war-hungry trainees hyped from a speech?  

He decides he would have prefered latter.

Takumi slowly pushed himself up, unintentionally catching Hans’ attention. The older man grabbed him roughly by the collar and yanked him upwards, lifting Takumi in the air with ease.

In a split second decision, he decided he wasn't going down without a fight.

Takumi kicked out, striking Hans square in the jaw and forcing his head to the side slightly. Hans laughed, turning back to face him with a grin.

Takumi grimaced- was this Nohrian even human?

Next thing he knew, the air was knocked out of him, pain shooting through his stomach. An uproarious round of applause went up around the two of them as the young prince gasped for breath, shakily watching as Hans put his arm up in a victory pose.

“Hans!” Takumi could barely turn his attention to the doorway they had come through. Kamui now stood there, heaving. His shock from seeing her was somewhat numbed by the pain in his entire torso, and the growing apprehension in his chest as Hans glared towards her.

“Princess, how are you out?”

“That's not important; as your liege, I demand you release Prince Takumi immediately! I believe this humiliation,” despite himself, Takumi felt embarrassment rise to his cheeks. “And pain is punishment enough! Mind you, Hans, we still need him for a diplomatic bargaining tool.”

Takumi had become lightheaded. Oh Gods… He couldn't breathe.

He gave a rough cough as his body tried in vain to clear his airways.

Kaumi started towards him before being stopped by two younger soldiers who had bought into Hans’s story about Takumi being a threat to her.

He watched blearily as Hans turned away from the frantic princess back to him, grinning. Takumi continued to cough, watching as Hans drew a blade from  one of the soldiers belts.

“This isn’t usually my style, princling.” Hans admitted.

“I prefer axes, but,” he shrugged. “Nohrians are very adaptable.”

Takumi stared him down.

Hans twirled the blade in his hands once before lunging forward.

“Takumi!”  

The world seemed to blur in slow motion. Kamui’s scream rang in his ears. A man from the sidelines ran towards him.  A sharp clang of metal on metal. The man was yelling now, and Takumi couldn't breathe. The entire world seemed to turn black around him and he was out before his head touched his hands.

Chapter Text

The air around Takumi became colder the closer he got to the end of the hallway. He irritably wrapped his clothes tighter about himself, shifting the bundle in his arms to swipe his hair out of his face.

As he stepped out into the cold night air, he caught sight of his brother’s silhouette in the middle of the courtyard. Despite the chill of the night, the sky was clear, letting the stars illuminate the tree’s around him. Takumi smilled, calling out to his brother lightly. Ryoma's figure shifted, turning to look at him, a silent invitation to join him.

He quickly passed the cloak he was holding to his brother, who took it graciously.

“What magnificent cherry blossoms. Right, Takumi?”

Takumi took in the newly blooming trees in front of himself. The flowers were soft and seemed to glow in pastel shades under the starlight.

He smiled, “They sure are, big brother Ryoma.”

Ryoma shifted back to looking at the gentle twisting branches ahead of them.

A cold gust of wind swept through the courtyards, making the young man move closer to Ryoma, thankful for the fact that he was acting like a wind blocker.

The wind shook the trees, causing a few of the flowers to snap off the branches.

Takumi turned to say something to Ryoma when his words died in his mouth. Ryoma looked lost in thought, now staring at the petals scattered across the ground.

“It didn’t happen this year,” he began slowly, eyes never leaving the petals, “but next year, I want to be able to show Kamui the blooming of the Hoshidan cherry blossoms.”

Takumi blinked in shock, searching his older brother’s face in the dim lights, “...Kamui?” He asked softly. Truth be told, he had little memory of the lost princess. But the things done in the wake of her disappearance… they had stayed with him for the years following her abduction. Part of him didn't even believe she could still be alive. But he held his tongue, waiting for Ryoma’s response.

Instead of acknowledging his own statement, Ryoma smiled to him, some sort of longing in his eyes. “It’s getting cold. We’re heading back.”

This tone left no room for argument.    

Deciding to take the moment for what it was, Takumi smiled warmly back, hoping he could ground his older brother back into reality. “Yeah, yeah.”

The two made their way back to the corridor leading back into the castle, their footsteps the only sounds. “Ryoma?” Takumi asked before he could help himself. “About Kamui…”

Ryoma looked slightly surprised, “What is it?”

Takumi rarely asked about the princess. And now… he isn't sure he was ready to.

“It’s...it’s nothing.” Ryoma’s smile turned sad. He placed a steady hand on Takumi's shoulder. It’s heaviness reassured him...   

Everything was heavy. Every breath Takumi managed was thick and painful, like he was breathing in water. A soft voice echoed from somewhere above him, but he couldn't quite focus on it. Something soft and cold touched his cheek and he shied away from it. Everything hurt and that wasn't an exception.

There was pressure on his chest now, warm and firm. Takumi tried to make make it stop, to move himself away, but found he couldn't move. Something cold and rough begun to press down on his wrists.

The sensation spread through his chest, a hot pain moving through his side. He gasped at a sharp feeling in his lungs. The voice was back now, soft and strained above him. As the pain continued to spread Takumi felt his mind numb again and all returned to silence…

Silence?

Takumi fought against the immense pressure keeping his eyes closed, blinking up to the ceiling.

Or what should have been the ceiling.

Above him was a blurry canopy of fabric, the deep blue cloth marred with bright blotches of white. A warm light came from somewhere off to his right, causing his head to throb. Takumi closed his eyes again, letting out a small groan as he attempted to regain his bearing.

A soft gasp came from where the light would have been and Takumi heard the rustling of cloth and what sounded like a book being closed.

“Prince Takumi?”

A voice Takumi never heard before filled his ears. No wait, that wasn't right. Where had he heard this voice?

“Are you in need of assistance?”

It was warm and young, male. Whoever they were took a few steps towards him.  

“...Prince Takumi?”  Takumi managed to open his eyes, squinting up at the figure now above him.

As he had thought, it was a young man in his early twenties. The man locked eyes with Takumi, smiling gently.

“I see you are awake… do you need me to fetch a healer for you?”

Takumi stared back into his grey eyes, trying to make out his face. Young, attractive, pale… as it was with Nohrians. His hair and eyes were both a steely shade of grey, making him appear as if he were made of some polished stone, especially in the strange contrasting light being cast from the long windows Takumi had begun to notice around the room.

“Prince Takumi, can you respond?” The young man's voice had taken a slightly panicked note to it, and Takumi shook himself. His lack of a response was probably the reason for his panic. He started to sit up.

“I’m- ah!”

“Woah, woah! Easy there…” A rough hand steadied him and helped him lean up against the bed’s headboard. His side throbbed. “You’re still healing.”

Takumi squinted at the man as his head cleared “From what?”

The man began to stand up, the panicked look intensifying. “Do you not remember what happened?”

“No, I remember, unfortunately.” Takumi frowned. The events of the last time he was awake had managed to stay with him in agonizingly crisp clarity. “I mean what the hell is wrong with my side?”

The man looked slightly relieved, sitting himself on the side of the bed. “According to Princess Elise, you cracked a rib. It almost punctured your lung, but luckily, we were able to set it before any permanent damage could be done. You’ve been out for maybe four hours.”

Tamkumi sighed; just his luck. The youngest prince just couldn't seem to catch a break.

“I see...and just who are you?”

The man seemed aware of himself, pale face flushing as he stood up, and Takumi managed to fully take in the man. He was leaner than the prince had expected, and he didn't appear to be dressed comfortably by any means: a high necked grey button down, puffy sleeves... It almost looked like underclothes for armour. Gambeson .

That's when it hit him.

“Wait, you’re-”

“Silas.” The man answered, giving an awkward bow, his face remaining a rosey shade as he looked to the floor. “A Knight of Nohr.”

So most definitely a noble then.

“You,” Takumi looked the man over. There was no mistaking it now. “You stopped that man, uh, Hans, from ending my life, didn't you?”

Silas nodded, never looking up.

“Why on Earth would you challenge your commanding officer to stop him from killing a traitor to the throne?” Takumi asked, suspicion creeping into his gut along with astonishment and no small amount of awe.  

Silas met his eyes, looking determined. “For Princess Corrin.”

The name hit something in Takumi and he felt as though he had been punched in the gut.

“You might not believe me,” Silas once again approached the bed, blocking out the light from the nearest window, “but I was once in your shoes.”

Takumi raised a brow, confused. How had a Nohrian Noble been in the same position as he had?

“When Princess Corrin and I were younger, I snuck her outside of the castle walls to help her see the world. She’s always wanted to explore the places around the castle.” Silas smiled, looking lost in thought. Takumi almost spoke out to get his attention, but he seemed to regain his senses, locking eyes with the prince.

“What I had done was forbidden. When I arrived back at the castle, I faced a fate as grim as your own.”

Takumi’s eyes widened. They would kill a child? That in itself wasn't surprising given Nohr’s brutal treatment of his people, but one of their own?  

“But Corrin-” The knights voice invaded his thoughts, cutting him short. He had turned facing the ceiling now, and Takumi got the feeling that eye contact isn't his strong suit. “She…” he laughed. “She wouldn't let them. She screamed and covered me with her own body. She saved my life that day. Her kindness…” In the dim light, Takumi could see the wetness in Silas’s eyes. “They reached a compromise. My family could no longer reside inside The Northern Fortress, where Corrin and I were being raised. But I longed to be near and protect my best friend. So I’ve trained for years to be allowed a place as a Knight of Nohr in the hopes that I could protect her the same way she did for me…”

Despite himself, Takumi felt touched. Silas seemed to be genuine enough, and Takumi could hear the conviction in his words.

“When I saw you out there, and I heard her screaming ...” Some kind of broken look had overcome the other man in the room. “That was the first time I’d seen her in thirteen years and she was trying to save someone she couldn't reach and I knew,” Silas locked eyes with him again, wetness replaced with the same determination from before, “that I had to help you.”

Takumi smilled to the man, bowing his head slightly in a show of respect.

“I thank you, truely.”

“Of course.” Silas nodded back, although Takumi wasn’t entirely sure he understood the gesture as thanks and not understanding. “ We have much to discuss in the morning, I’m afraid, so please, try your hardest to go back to sleep.”

Takumi almost opened his mouth to protest, but when Silas turned back to his chair, he understood the conversation was over.

At least for now.

He noticed for the first time in the strange light the actual javelin leaning up against the chair. Silas ignored the weapon in favor of a small flask placed on the table beside it.

He turned back to Takumi, grinning. “I take it you’re thirsty, right?”

Takumi nodded, taking the drink gratefully.

It was water, cool and crisp. He drank greedily, downing the flask.

Silas chuckled, taking the now empty flask back. “I would procure more water, but I'm afraid to leave you on your own for now. Flora should be checking back in in the next half hour or so, so if you can’t sleep by then, I’ll have her get you some more.”  

“I won’t try to run,” Takumi said seriously. He ached too much to even care about running.

Silas grimaced. “It’s not you getting out I’m worried about. Han’s little show earlier got some of the newer recruits, uh… fired up.”

Silas helped him lie back down, and Takumi couldn't help but feel embarrassed when the knight tucked the blanket up for him, his movements surprisingly gentle. To be honest, he was getting a motherly vibe from the Knight.

It wasn’t any wonder to him as to why he and Kamui were so close in the past. The orange light from where Silas was sitting was extinguished, and takumi heard the dull clunk of metal as silas moved into a better position.

“...Silas.” He couldn’t help but try to ask one last question.

“Yes?”

“Is...is she okay?” The room was silent for a moment before Silas responded.

“I know she will be. She’s the strongest person I know.”

Takumi could hear the smile in his voice, and in that moment, Takumi thought he might be right.

Chapter Text

Sometime over the night, Silas had been switched out with a maid. Takumi wasn’t sure when; he had managed to fall asleep quickly despite the injury. The maid, Flora, had taken to tutting about the room and dusting.

“I do apologize,” the thin woman repeated once again as she unclamped one of the heavy curtains Silas had left drawn, “My sister, Felicia, she was in charge of taking care of the rooms on this side of the hall. She’s dutiful, but not skilled. I will have to shake dust out of these myself.”

“No, you’re fine. My current position is a much better one then before.” Takumi reassured her from his place on the bed, biting into the warm bread another maid had brought up for him. Flora herself had eaten a slice before him, then allowed him to have the rest of the loaf. It had taken him a few minutes to realize that she had been testing it for poison. The thought left him unnerved, but the bread itself was hardy and filled him up.

Flora smiled at him apologetically. She in and of herself, was a mystery to Takumi. She was pretty for sure, but she carried herself much differently than other Nohrian woman. She was regal. Though he supposed being a head maid to royalty must often have them rubbing off on her. At least he assumed she was a head maid, as the brooch she wore looked much more expensive than the rest.

“Nonetheless,” she started, folding the curtains carefully and placing them onto a cart, “I believe that clean linens is a good way to begin to brighten a dark mood.”

She seemed to catch herself and her face flushed, “Not to say you are acting sour with me, it’s just I find when Lady Corrin is under the weather, a clean room brightens her a bit.”

Takumi grimaced, “About her… do you have word on her condition?”

Flora paused her work momentarily. “Lady Corrin is a stubborn girl, as you may well know. She is upset for many reasons, few of which are known to me. She is only allowing Jakob, my sister and I into her quarters and refuses to speak to others who try to gain entrance.”

“Truly?” Takumi felt his mouth go dry, and he doubted it was the bread.

“Yes, truly. Although Xander has been busy, and has no time to check on her. I doubt she would keep him out for long.”

Takumi felt incredulous. “He hasn’t been to check on her? Why on earth would he not be worried?”

“Xander has other things to worry about right now.” The door to Takumi’s quarters was harshly opened and both Flora and Takumi jumped. Flora had a dagger leveled in an instant at the man, but soon lowered it, bowing stiffly. “L-lord Leo! My apologies.”

“At ease, Flora.”  The armoured man had strolled into the room, followed closely by a very...interestingly dressed dark mage. Takumi was almost more shocked by him than the royal, blinking owlishly as the man bumbled into the room. Somehow the mage was contrasting every surface in the room, no, in all of Nohr , with his suntanned skin and messy corn-yellow hair. And his corn-yellow outfit for that matter, if you could even call it that. The bright garment covered his legs in patterns of black diamonds, and covered his shoulders as well, but his stomach was left completely exposed, save a thin layer of back mesh that did very little to cover the much too toned muscles rippling as he moved. This man could not be a mage.

Takumi must have been pulling a face, as the prince cleared his throat, and covered the other covertly with his own cape.

“Prince Takumi, I assure you that all matters concerning my sister are being attended to. Prince Xander has had his hands full with reaching your brother, as it seems Hoshido is not being too friendly with our messengers.”

Takumi noticed the emphasis put on those words. Prince Leo watched him closely for his response.

“I wasn’t expecting them to be open. We've been betrayed under the guise of peace before, after all.” Takumi couldn't help but mess with the prince a little, despite the obvious difference in physique at the moment.

“True, I suppose.” The prince allowed the thinly veiled insult to roll over him, stalking around the room as he talked. The mage followed closely behind. “Of course, there's another issue.”

“Which is?”

“Proof of life.” Leo’s eyes flashed at this. “The one man who has managed to make it through your doors without being skewered was permitted to speak to your oldest sister. Hinata, was it?” Leo's lip quirked up, almost unnoticeably.

“Hinoka.” Takumi replied easily, ignoring the pang in his gut as the Prince played with him right back.

“I see. Well, she listened to what he had to say, but refused to believe you were spared. To her, you are dead, and Xander is merely toying with her. And that sentiment is most likely shared with the others in your country.”

Takumi felt his shoulders deflate. His home...his people . They all thought he had been defeated or executed... the thought made him feel almost sick.

“And, I hate to inform you this, but-”

“Prince Leo, if I may…” Takumi looked up slightly as the other man spoke for the first time. His voice was young and slightly rough, but also warm, and Takumi couldn't help but think of Hinata. “I don’t think Prince Takumi is in the proper mental state to-”

“Stand down, Odin.” Leo shot back, coldly. The mage stiffened, falling back against the wall.

“Now, although some suggested we send physical evidence-” Leo pointed to Takumi’s hair and the prince tensed, sweeping it (not so discreetly) it over his shoulders as the implication was made, “-I know that will not be required. If you are to write a letter to them in your own hand, I’m sure it will suffice. My retainer, Odin, has procured the parchment you will use. Odin?”

The man smiled brightly, and began rummaging through the bag at his hip, before pulling out a warmly colored roll of crisp paper and handing it to his liege. Odin looked pointedly relieved at this, though why, Takumi could not tell.

“Think carefully of what you will write, as I will not be sending my retainer out as your letter boy for a second time.” Leo said, the ice in his voice very clearly showing that the statement was not negotiable.

“Leo! Don’t be like that! Prince Takumi’s been having a rough month!”

Everyone turned towards the door as Elise wandered in, pouting. “Besides! Odin likes going on adventures- Right Odin?”

Odin grinned and nodded his head before grinning sheepishly back down at his prince.

Leo looked unamused, sighing in exasperation before turning to the younger girl.

“There is more I need to discuss with the Prince, Elise, if your check up could just wait a few more minutes-”  

             “Nope! I need the room cleared- stat! And that's a doctor's order.” Her voice had taken on a playful tone, and she wagged her finger up at the older man.

“Elise-”

“Nu-uh-uh! My patient, my rules! You’re out!”

“Elise, must you- hey!”

Takumi watched on as Elise grabbed her brother by the shoulders and pushed him out the door. Odin followed, looking pointedly amused “That’ll be all, nurse Leo! Bye now!”

“Elise, don’t you dare-!”

Leo’s next statement was cut off as the girl shut the door with a loud thump.

There was silence for a moment before a burst of laughter escaped Odin, muffled only by the thick layer of oak between them. A few nearly whining protests left the prince before the two of them walked somewhere else.

Elise was silent for a moment more before turning to Takumi with the biggest, sappiest grin he’d ever seen.

“Takumi, your awake!” she cheered, nearly sprinting besides him. “I’m so glad you’re not still asleep, that would mean that I had something to worry about. Medically speaking, Hans roughed you up pretty bad.”

“So I’ve heard.” Takumi couldn't help but smile slightly at the girl. “Now, I’m gonna do a few tests and you gotta tell me what hurts and what doesn’t, okay?” She said, moving onto the bed next to him.

“O-okay.” Flora smiled to him almost playfully as she made her way from the room with the cart, and Elise’s burly knight friend took Silas’s chair near the door.

“Alright! If your really good, I’ll give you a treat! I snuck into the kitchen today and had the head chef teach me how to make this weird pastry I found in a book! It has blueberry jelly in it!”

“That sounds good, Elise.”

“I bet it does,” She winked playfully at him. “So be good for me while I check to make sure you’re okay!”

“Got it.”

Chapter Text

The sound of heavy boots echoed throughout the halls of the Castle Krankenberg, even and steady. Xander tried not to focus on his own heartbeat in his chest, but it distracted him to the point that he was only half listening to Lazlow. The young man was doing his best to keep up, and his light step had hastened considerably as he tried to match Xander’s stride.

“My Lord,” Lazlow nearly cooed, “Trust me on this, things will be alright. Of course, not right away. But it would not be a foolish hope, she’s always been an open-hearted person, you know that. You just need to tell her the truth and let her mull it over for herself-”

“That is enough, Lazlow.” Xander sighed, stopping in his tracks and turning to face the other.

The younger man had been to going too quick to stop and let out a puff as he ran into Xanders chest. The man flushed, backing up. “Ah! I apologize my Lord, I didn’t-”

“Lazlow, calm yourself.” He said, catching the younger man's eyes in the low light. “I appreciate your presence and your counsel, you know this. I simply cannot focus right now. I want you to wait here for me, Corrin’s room is just up the hall.”

Lazlow nodded and smiled encouragingly, but Xander could still see the worry in his eyes. Xander tried to smile back.

It was almost humorous how he knew neither of them bought the others confidence.

Xander continued his way down the hall, knowing Lazlow would give him the space he needed.
To tell the truth, his retainer had only been telling him things he already had thought of himself, but it was reassuring to hear it from someone else, especially someone he cared for.

Speaking of people he cared for…

Xander stood in front of Corrin’s chamber doors, silent as he strained his ears. It had gotten late, that was certain, and with the day she had, she might be asleep. He didn’t want to wake her…

Hushed voices filled his ears. He recognized one as Jakob’s, although it was softer than the usual clipped tone the noble had grown to associate with him.   

The other was Corrin. His chest ached. It was obvious she had been crying. Part of Xander wanted to sweep in and hide her head into his chest and let her cry there. The other, prideful part of him, knew that she was too much like him to let her guard down when she cried. She might deny him the chance to even see her.

He glanced back down the hall. Even from the distance, he could make out Lazlow's thin frame. His retainer motioned him forward, and his smile lit up his face.

This entire wing was filled with people with bruised identities, Xander thought tensely.

Xander knocked on the solid wooden door, the sound breaking through the conversation on the other side. Silence took its place for a split moment before a new voice spoke up. “Uh, w-who is it?”

Felicia.

“It is Xander. Tell Corrin I want to speak with her.”

“Uh, haha, um, no can do your Highness. Lady Corrin isnt feeling to well right now, and she also- uh what?”

Corrin said something muffled before Felicia laughed uncomfortably again. “Oh, well okay. Lady Corrin will see you now!”

The door was opened slowly, and Felicia poked her head out, smiling sheepishly to the royal. She looked a little disheveled, her long, pale pink hair tied up messily. What looked like water stained the square of her chest, and her skirts were rumpled. Xander nearly slunk into the room, feeling suddenly guilty. It had been obvious he had interrupted Corrin venting, and in this case, sobbing openly onto the maid. Felicia shut the door behind him, before quickly running back to the bed where Corrin now sat with her back to him. She had stripped out of her armour, wearing only the deep black underclothes. Her pale, white hair stood out like a flame in the darkness of the room.

She had shut herself up, just like Leo had told him.

“Corrin…” he started.

“Xander.”

He moved a few steps forward before stopping, looking to the side.

“We need to talk.”

“Yeah. We do.”

“I know you’re confused right now-”

“Confused? Confused!” The girl whipped around, glaring daggers at him. Xander felt his chest tighten uncomfortably. Despite the fire in her eyes, there were tears there as well.

“I’m more than confused Xander! I’m angry, I-I’m hurt!” The princess stood up sharply, moving towards him. “And I’m-!” The fire seemed to die suddenly, her eyebrows knitting together. “I’m scared…

Xander felt his face twist, could feel her distress like it was something physical, sitting inside his throat.

“I know… and I’m so, so sorry…”

“D-did you know? Who I was?”

“Yes… but please, Corrin, let me-”

“No!” She choked out, banging a fist against his unarmoured chest. It didn't hurt physically, but his heart could feel it. “Why d-didn't you tell me then? I thought… I thought you loved me-!” she punched his chest again.

Corrin .” Xander covered her fist with his hand, keeping it in place. “Please. I need you to know something.”

The girl trembled, looking up to him. It was pretty obvious she could feel his heartbeat, as her hand slowly opened, pressing itself up against his chest. “Okay… okay…” she nodded.

Slowly, she gripped his hand, leading him back to the bed. Jakob had been tucked in, he noticed, a bandage being wrapped around his head. He had nearly been concussed last he had seen him, so it made sense Corrin wouldn't want him out of her sight.  

“The first thing I want you to know is that neither Elise or Leo knew about your origin until today. So please, if you are to be angry at anyone, let it just be me…”

“What about Camilla?”

“She knew… she knew as well.”

Corrin looked away, upset. “I yelled at Leo this morning…”

“It’s alright… he’s feeling a little hurt right now as well. He’s just as angry as you are, believe me,” Xander let out a humorless chuckle.

Corrins lip twitched up.

“I also wanted you to know… why we didn't tell you…”

Corrins eyebrows knit together, unease retaking her figure.

“Do you know the story of King Sumeragi?”

“I do. Takumi told me… fath-uh… King Garon killed him, right? Takumi told me Garon killed his sister, but that's not true is it? It can't be true since I’m, haha… I’m his sister…”

“Prince Takumi speaks the truth. Father did indeed kill King Sumeragi… it sounds awful, and it… it was. But father took you with him. He told me he didn’t feel right killing a child. But when he brought you home to us… you were catatonic. You wouldn't speak, you wouldn’t make eye contact directly with us, you wouldn’t even eat if someone didn’t feed you. It took months for you to be comfortable enough with us to so much as smile.” Xander stopped for a moment, his head flashing images of Corrin when she was no more than 7, white hair flying about her face, weeds and wildflowers clamped in her tiny fists. Xander had plucked a rose from the garden for her that day, snipping the thorns and presenting it to her nervously. Her face had lit up then and she had laughed soundlessly. Xander felt a smile tug at his lips, but didn’t allow himself to stray further down memory lane then that, knowing that Corrin needed him now, as much as she had then.    

“And when you finally started talking again...you didn’t even remember your own name. Camilla and I, well, we snuck into the library everyday to look up what was wrong with you. What had happened. Apparently it was common in children who had been in traumatic situations. You buried any memories associated with your past. We, hah,” Xander felt weak suddenly, “We let you name yourself, you know. You insisted on calling yourself Corn of all things.” The girl next to him let out a little laugh.

“No.”

“Yes,” Xander chuckled, smiling to her. “Corn. Although Camilla found a real name close enough to it that you hardly noticed the difference. And it stuck, luckily.”

Somewhere in Xanders talking, Corrin had tucked herself up closer to Xander, and he felt more comforted. Like there was a chance she would understand.

“Having said this…” he sighed, closing his eyes in focus. “You have to understand when I tell you that we weren't trying to harm you by keeping this hidden…”

Corrin was silent besides him.

“Am...am I still…?” sher voice began to tremble.

“Are you still what?” Xander pressed gently, running a thumb up the back of her hand.

“Am I still your sister?” She choked.

Pride be damned. Xander tucked her head under his chest, resting his chin on her hair. “As long as you wish to stay with us, you are a Princess of Nohr, and our sibling. You’re… you’re our little Princess.”

With that, the walls were down. Corrin shook, sobbing into Xanders chest.

Xander ran his hand up and down her back, shutting his eyes and letting her release everything she had built up.

Perhaps Lazlow had been right; forgiveness was not such a foolish hope.

Chapter Text

Hinoka I

Hi it’s me!

Big sister I  

I guess it must be getting warmer in Hoshido.

Takumi stared down the paper in his lap, quill poised hesitantly. The set expression stared back up at him. It was the only thing he had not bothered to cross out. He frowned, scribbling over it with a snarl.

Silas looked up from his spot by the door, placing his book onto his lap.

“Still not sure how to start?” He asked kindly.

Takumi groaned. Over the past few days, the knight had become a constant presence in his life. To be honest though, he couldn't find it in himself to be upset. He was tired and lonely. Lonely enough to admit he was lonely at least. Being locked in a cell hadn’t been the most comforting position to be in.

Silas and Flora were surrogate retainers at this point, and Takumi was willing to project Hinata and Oboro onto them if it would make the awful aching in his chest go away.

“Prince Leo told me I only get one one letter to her. I just...want to make it special?”

Silas opened his mouth to respond when a knock came on the door. Silas shot up, his hand going to his belt.

“Who goes there?”

“Sir Lazlow, of the Indigo skies,” came a warm voice from the other side of the door.

Takumi shot Silas a look. “Who-”

Silas didn’t answer, instead fumbling for the doorknob. “S-Sir Lazlow, to what do we owe your visit?”

    Takumi watched warily as a young man entered the room. He was quite short for a Nohrian, maybe only an inch taller then Takumi himself… actually, he looked a little out of place. The first thing that stuck out was his attire. Instead of the thick metal plating that covered most Nohrians from head to toe, this Lazlow person wore cloth armour. Although the fabric was admittedly high quality, it wouldn’t be stopping any swords.

Just like Prince Leo’s retainer, Odin, he had warm skin, though it was a fair bit darker than the mage’s. His warm grey hair had a slight blue sheen to it. Takumi found himself watching the man’s movements. He’d never seen a man move like that. He held himself in a fluid, graceful way, much like Azura did. His heart twinged at the thought of his sister.

Sir Lazlow must have caught the look he was giving him, as something flashed across his features that Takumi did not recognize.

“Prince Takumi.” Lazlow said, giving him a courteous bow. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am-”

“Sir Lazlow, of the Indigo skies.” Takumi finished flatly, not in the mood for whatever this was.

To his surprise, the man’s face turned bright red, and he snapped back to attention.

“Ah, that is correct. I am Lazlow, retainer to Crown Prince Xander.”

Now it was Takumi’s turn to feel embarrassed. He now understood Silas’s rush to make a good impression. “I see.”

The man smiled brilliantly, his hazel eye’s flashing. “I am here on Behalf of Prince Xander. He has been meaning to come check on you, but as luck, and politics, would have it, he’s been swamped. He gave me some time off and I figured I would make myself useful, and report how you are doing to him.”

Takumi nodded slowly. “I’m doing well.”

Lazlow frowned, a look that didn’t seem to suit the man. “Alright... and your recovery?”

“Also doing well.”

If possible, Lazlow’s face fell even farther. “Oh, come now, no need to be so formal. If it makes it easier, imagine me a maid. Or perhaps a friend come to visit.”

“A friend, huh?” Takumi crossed his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, a friend. I don’t know how to prove that to you with words, so I will act. Is there anything you need?”
Although Lazlow had not asked unkindly, and Takumi could tell from the man's surprisingly soft eye’s that he was genuine, he was tired of pleasantries.

“You could let me go.”

Lazlow deflated. “I-”

“Please do not harass my brother’s retainer.”

Lazlow jumped, spinning towards where Prince Leo stood in the doorway.

Takumi felt even more embarrassed now then he was before, but he had been a little hurt, and more then willing to take it out on his captor’s lackey. The price swept into the room and in front of his brothers retainer, a motion Takumi found eerily similar to the prince’s actions only days before.

“P-Prince Leo,” Laslow stuttered from behind him. “I thought you were arranging for Odin’s-”

“And I thought my brother requested you rest. Our days have been arduous of late, and in the event of an attack, I do not want to be down a fighter. Have I made myself clear?”
“Crystal, my lord.” Lazlow squeaked.

“Good, now please leave. I  must speak to the Prince alone.”

“Y-yes, my lord.” Lazlow gave a last bow to Takumi before heading towards the door. Silas remained rooted to his spot however, looking starstruck to the prince. Takumi caught sight of Lazlow snatching the other away by the arm.

The door was shut with a thump.

Leo seemed to almost deflate. “I wasn’t sure when I would get to speak with you again, but we have...serious matters to discuss.”

Takumi sat up a little straighter. “Yes?”

“First is the matter of Corrin.”

Takumi let out a breath. “What about her?”

“She’s requested to see you, and with your permission I will grant it.”

“You will grant it?” Takumi asked, unsure of the other man's wording.

“Against my better judgement, I have agreed to keep watch over you. If only for her sake.” The second part was added under his breath, but Takumi still caught it. He decided not to comment on it.

“I see.” He said.

“The second matter is your letter.”

Takumi found himself gripping the paper tighter.

“As fate would have it, we now have a deadline to deliver proof of life.” Something in the man’s face tightened. “A very tight deadline. We need it done by tomorrow at the latest.”

“Tomorrow- wait, why?”

“That is none of your concern.”

“I’d say it is.”

“Do not act like a child, Prince Takumi. There is no one here to take your side. Elise is not scheduled to see you until later, and Corrin has yet to be granted admittance- and I can and will withhold that.”

Takumi scowled.

“Look.” He ground out. “I’m having a hard time figuring out how to make me seem like...myself? It’s difficult in writing. If you need it by tomorrow, I don’t know if I can make it work under that restraint.”
Leo’s shoulders slumped and he let out a sigh. “Alright then. Let me see it.” Takumi handed the paper to him, watching as the others eyebrows knit in focus as he translated it.

I guess it must be getting warmer in Hoshido … are you really opening with a comment on the weather?” The other looked up, malice replaced with confusion.

Takumi looked away, shrugging. “It’s a set expression. I grew up learning that you’re supposed to start off correspondence with them. Leo sat himself on the side of the bed, and Takumi scooted a little farther away. If the other noticed, he didn’t say anything. “Interesting. So is it like an introductory word?”

“An introductory word?” Takumi repeated.

“In Nohr, we begin our letters by addressing the intended audience. For a loved one, you might begin with something along the lines of my dearest so-and-so. Other openings could be along the lines of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’, ‘Hello Sirs’, ‘My new friends’, ‘Fellow humans’, or ‘Greetings’. ‘Good morning’, is a favorite among children trading correspondence, if I recall Elise’s ‘pen pals’ correctly.”

Takumi shrugged. “I’m not quite sure. I wasn’t exactly the most social person, and with Ryoma ahead of me in line, I never received much correspondence.”

Leo seemed almost sympathetic, and Takumi guessed he had the same issues. “Maybe it’s just how I write to my retainers when they are away, but a term of endearment is customary.”

Takumi nodded, slipping forward to look over the princes shoulder. “Do you send your retainers away often?” He found himself asking. He wasn’t quite sure why he had asked.

“Yes, far too often, if I am being honest.” Leo said, voice tense. “But Odin loves adventure, and Niles...well, lets just say Niles is an interesting case.” They sat in silence a moment longer before Leo spoke up.

“And your retainers?”

Takumi chuckled, rubbing the back of his head. “Hinata and Oboro are, uh, both interesting cases.”

Takumi thought he might have seen Leo’s lip twitch upwards a bit. “How so?”

It was kind of weird. The animosity in the room had bleed out like the ink the moment his awkward letter had been opened.

“Well, Hinata is a little over the top. Not in the dress department, like Odin-” a soft chuckle came from Leo.

“He dresses himself.”

“Hinata can’t dress himself.”

This time, a real laugh escaped Leo’s lips before he covered his mouth.

“Hey,” Takumi laughed back. “What, are you warming up to me?”

“Never.” Although it was said with conviction, Leo’s eyes had lost their edge.

Takumi had also lost his edge it seemed.

“You know, in a normal conversation, you’re not bad.” Takumi tried.

“That's just the Stockholm syndrome talking,” Leo smiled wickedly.

Takumi frowned. “You don’t actually think I like it here-”

“I do think you like the room. At least more than your old one.”

“True.” The silence returned for a moment before Takumi spoke again.

“It was that Lazlow that warmed me up.”

“Really,” Leo caught his eye. “As I recall, you were dissecting the man with a fork and knife when I first came in.”

“I was admittedly, being rude. Though in my position, I don't have many people I can speak rudely to without getting my ass handed back to me.”

Leo snorted, “Lazlow is too good natured, that you have right. My brother has strange taste.”

“As do we, it seems.”

“Ahh, yes.” Leo looked far away for a moment.

“I… I need you to focus on writing this.” Leo refused to look back to him, handing him the paper.

“Prince Leo-”

“Prince Takumi.”

Takumi remained silent, watching as the other stood up. Without another word he made his way to the door.

“Prince Leo,” The other paused by the door hesitantly. “why do you need this by tomorrow?”

The other royal didn’t move.

“Prince Takumi, do you miss your retainers?”

“Every day,” he admitted, almost scared for when the other man walked out that door.

“I miss mine too.”

And with that startling declaration, he was gone.

Chapter Text

Elise’s hands were soft as she dragged her fingers through Takumi’s tangled locks, humming a song he didn’t recognize. The guest room had fallen to relative silence without Silas or Flora around, and to Takumi's surprise, he missed their company. Though Elise was making up for their absence with her warm nature and lively voice. Elise’s retainer took up the door frame, not bothering to sit down. Takumi was eternally grateful for the fact; she refused to take her armour off and he’s not sure the chair could handle the weights Elise mentioned she kept in it.

“Do you have folk songs in Hoshido?” The noble said suddenly, tugging his hair back with a little more force than necessary to get through a knot.

Takumi winced at the motion, but smiled complacently. “We have quite a few, just like yours… is that what you were humming?”

“Yup,” Elise giggled, and Takumi felt her draw his hair up, the tension pulling lightly on his scalp. “ What are yours about?”

“Well, that's a bit of a broad answer.” He felt his lips twitch up in a smile as she huffed.

Well , what are your favorites about?” She asked, and Takumi heard a strange swiping noise before the pulling sensation relaxed.

“Hmm…” Takumi thought about it for a moment. He personally hadn't learned many of them as a child, but Hinata was constantly singing one or another out of tune. He ignored the ache in his chest, settling on one he knew the lyrics too.

“My retainer was rather fond of one his mother used to sing to him. It was a song about going into the fields to pick Benibana.”

Elise’s hands paused whatever she was doing to him. “Whats a Benny-banah?” He smiled at her slight slurring of the word.

“I think you call it by a different name… safflower?”

There was a little gasp of recognition, and her chin hit his shoulder. He jumped at the sudden contact, looking down to meet her eyes. Passionate purple stared up at him, shining in the warm candle light. “Safflower?”

Takumi blinked in surprise. “Uh, yeah. Is it not common around here?”

“Nuh-uh.” She looked slightly sad at the confession.

“You didn’t really strike me as a safflower kind of girl.” He smiled gently to her. “I was thinking of Daisies, or lilies but… do you like yellow flowers?”

“Well yeah,” she admitted with a snort. “But I’ve only ever gotten my hands on a few. Roses are one of the only flowers that grow well in the castle. Safflower makes the most beautiful dye! It’s what Odin's clothes are colored with…” She pouted, sitting back and working on Takumi's hair again. “I don’t know how Leo got any, I just wish…” She sighed and Takumi shuddered as her warm breath tickled the back of his neck. “I don’t know… I just wish I could be vibrant too.”

Takumi was shocked. “What do you mean?”

He felt her forehead thump onto his back as she groaned. “Nevermind…”

“Elise…” he scrambled for a response. “You have to tell me what's wrong or you're not… taking advantage of our friendship.” One of them would most certainly die.

The old thought felt like ice as it entered his mind, but Elise seemed delighted. “Prince Takumi!” She laughed out loud, throwing her arms over his shoulders and hugging him tightly to her, cheek pressed against his head. Takumi covered her arm with his hands. Nohrians where a lot handsy-er then Hoshidans and he had to admit… he was a bit touch starved, even before he was captured. And Elise? Had been nothing but kind to him. He wasn’t sure he would allow this close contact with anyone else in the castle, besides Kamui. One of them would most certainly die.

The warmth from her touch was replaced with a chill as she pulled back once more, hands returning to his hair. “Promise you won’t laugh?”

“I promise.” He said solemnly.

“Well…” her grip tightened slightly. “I’ve never really been too far outside of Nohr. I mean, even when I’ve gone out as a field medic-” another shiver went up his spine. She shouldn’t be anywhere near a fight. “I’ve never been farther then the border. Nohr isn’t the most… colorful place.” There was that twinge of sadness again. Takumi thought it sounded wrong coming from her.

“Leo told me it’s because we don’t have the resources to waste. So we mostly have wildflowers and crops. Anything that's not useful gets weeded out.” Her voice was tight as she spoke now, and Takumi held his tongue. He was getting the impression that no one had heard her vent in a while, especially if the look her retainer was giving her was any indication; some weird mix of hurt, admiration, and love. “So we don’t have much in the way of fun. And that makes it way into our clothes, I guess. We don’t have many colors, and I just wanted that… I wanted to feel bright for once…” Her grip on his hair tightened as she trailed off.

Takumi winced. He didn’t know how to make that better. There wasn’t an easy way to do it, but he found the urge to try. “Hey Elise… have I ever told you about Oboro?”

“No… what's that?”

Takumi chuckled. “ Who’s that. Oboro is one of my retainers back home. Her family were merchants, you know? They used to sell textiles, some of the most beautiful fabrics you’d ever seen.”

He felt her hands still and knew he’d peaked her interest.

“All sorts of colors and patterns, rolled up by the yard to sell to whoever wanted them-”

“What kind of patterns?” Elise asked in a small voice.

“Whatever kind you liked.” He replied smoothly. “Close your eyes for me?”

“Why?”

He chuckled. “Just trust me.”

He waited for a second or two before turning to the knight. “Are her eyes shut?”

The burly woman’s lips twitched up in amusement. “Yup.” She said, deep voice rumbling across the room.

“Alright. Imagine the deepest red wine you’ve ever seen… do you see it?”

“Yeah?”

“Now imagine Odin-” The girl let out a giggle, cutting Takumi off with a smile. “Imagine Odin’s color- Safflower yellow.”

“Alright?”

“Now imagine intricately woven flowers that color cutting across the red.”

Elise let out a little breath. “Wow…”

Takumi continued on like that for what felt like hours, spinning images of bright colors and lights, festivals and geisha. Elise held onto every word, little gasps and laughs breaking through every once in awhile. And Takumi? Well...   

Takumi felt lighter then he had since he had been captured. Maybe even since the war began. This was so...simple. He could remember when he was a kid, Sakura curled up into his chest on cold nights as he wove her the stories he remembered about the dad she had never truly met. Why couldn't that be his lot in life? Why couldn’t it be Sakura and Elise’s lot in life? Away from the front lines and away from the war torn countries they left behind. He shook himself mentally. Focus on the moment.

This… this was a breath of fresh air. His thoughts were cut off as Elise gave his hair a little tug. “Tadah!”

The girl slipped off the bed, reaching an arm out for Takumi to grab onto.

“What are you-”

“Trust me, I’m a doctor.”

Weirly, he obliged, slipping his sore legs off the bed. He winced slightly as his bare feel hit the cold stone floor, but stood up regardless. His body swayed under his weight, weak legs buckling under him. He expected to hit the floor but was suddenly hoisted back up to his feet. His face flushed as he looked up to the guard.

“Be careful.” She said softly, eye’s amused. Before he could respond, Elise looped her arm under his, and the two girls led him to a large standing mirror by the wardrobe.

Takumi looked paler then he remembered, and tired too. But after a month and a half of captivity, it was amazing he wasn’t gaunt...or dead. The soft, draping clothes that he had woke up in were a bit too loose on him, and he guessed that they had been modeled on someone closer to Prince Leo’s size. But that's not what he was here for. His pale hair had been tied up in a similar fashion to his old style, held up by a strip of red ribbon.

He blinked, hands making their way to one of a few tiny braids making their way through his hair.    

“What do you think?” Elise asked, grip tight on his arm.

“I...thank you Elise.” Takumi managed. He didn’t know why, but, this...made him feel more normal. His hand found Elise’s arm once again as his throat tightened uncomfortably.

“Do you like it?” She gazed up at him again, waiting with baited breath.

“I-” He choked, hands trembling.

She gasped, grip tightening on him. “Oh, Takumi, I’m so sorry! Did I do it wrong?”

A wet laugh bubbled up from inside him as he wiped tears away from his eyes. “No, no. I love it.”  

Takumi tore his eyes away from the mirror, looking directly too her. “ Thank you.

Elise’s smile was dazzling, and she kept it on him the entire time she lead him back to the bed.

The younger girl draped herself across the edge of the bed after he had been settled once again under the sheets.

“Hey, Takumi?” She asked, eyes unblinking.

“Yes?” He brought the parchment once again onto his lap.

“After this is all over… will you take me to a Hoshidan Festival?”

One of them would most certainly…. “Of course.”

Chapter Text

Hinoka I

Hi it’s me!

Big sister I  

Hinoka.

I’ve been fighting with myself over how to write this letter for some time. Far too long, apparently. I had to both prove myself to you and choose what to say to you for what will probably be the last time in a while. And I couldn’t decide on just one thing to say.

I want to know how everything has been since I left but I know that impossible for now. So instead I should tell you how I’ve been. Nohr isn’t what I imagined it would be. The people attending to me are very kind, though I am not in a safe environment. My month here has been eventful. I’ve had private audience with two members of the royal family, and I’ve been informed Crown Prince Xander will soon come to see me.

I am constantly struck with the feeling of homesickness. Speaking with those around me only increases that sense of displacement. I was recently reminded of the first time we took Sakura out to the cherry festival in the south of Hoshido. Oboro tailored Sakura’s kimono herself when she was just assigned as my retainer. I want to see them both again. And Hinata, of course. Please tell them that. Tell Sakura that I’m thinking of her always, and please don't tell her or Mother what I’m going to reveal to you. Not yet.

Kamui is alive. She’s here, in Castle Krakenburg. I’ve spoken to her, and she’s done a good job keeping me as safe as she can. She’s grown up with the Nohrian royal family, and that's all I think I can safely disclose about her position. I’m hoping we will all be united some time soon. But until then, hold onto the knowledge that we’re all safe. That’s what is keeping me going.

Please, put an end to this as swiftly as possible, for all of our sakes.

Takumi

 

Trembling fingers traced over the signature. Hinoka’s hands gripped the paper so tight she was afraid it might rip in two.

Hinoka could feel her heartbeat in her fingertips. She ripped her eyes away from the warm brown parchment paper, and to the man standing in front of her.

He was Nohrian, and dressed immodestly, stomach exposed. It almost seemed as though he was here to mock her, though according to his long, drawling address to her, and the ring hanging from his neck, he was one of the second prince’s retainers. And yes, he claimed he always dressed in this fashion.

The young man stood now surrounded by Basaras, naginata leveled at him from each level. Hinoka had his weapons removed, the heavy tome he had been carrying now behind her, safeguarded. Despite this he held himself high, chin up and eyes confident. He had made quite the scene upon his arrival, his over the top personality large enough to fill up the throne room.

Hinoka took in a breath, sweeping across the floor to where he stood. She pushed the parchment paper into his face, and his eyes went cross.

“Do you swear on your life?” She managed to ground out.

“Y-your highness?” He asked, glancing down at her from behind the sun dried sheet.

“Do you swear to its authenticity?” She watched his figure for any sign of tensing but he simply smiled at her.

“Of course, my lady! I received it from Lord Takumi myself!” He said, attempting to bow, and immediately planting his face into her hand. “Ow!”

She sighed, whipping away from him and rubbing her knuckles irritably. He was hardly a threat at this point while unarmed, and he seemed decidedly stupid. But letting her guard down could lead to tragedy. She would not put it past a Nohrian to play dumb in order to lower tension. She took a deep breath before turning back to the foolish retainer.

“Do you swear on his life?” Her voice had lowered dangerously, eyeing him coldly.

The Norhian’s posture changed at the question, shoulders squaring and eyes growing serious. “I do.”

Hinoka glanced down at the letter again, fingers tracing his signature.

“Alright.” Hinoka sighed. She gestured Azama towards her, the sound of clinking charms her only indication he had bothered to listen. “Bring him in.”

She heard the doors open behind her, but didn’t bother turning around. The Dark Mage in front of her eyes widened and he took a step forward before the Basaras tightened around him.

“At ease.” Hinoka said lowly, stepping back. Reluctantly, the spear fighters separated, allowing the mage to rush forward. Hinoka watched as he slid on his knees dramatically, cape swishing out behind him.  

“Niles! My friend, you look horrible!”

The man in question, dark and rugged, laughed, a glint in his eye. “What can I say, dear Odin? I like it rough.”

Hinoka rolled her eyes. He had showed up on their doorstep weeks ago now in worse shape than he was in now. They had interrogated him and used him as a bargaining chip, sure, but no further harm had befallen the vulgar thief.

The mage- Odin- helped Niles to his feet, his taller frame making the position a little awkward. “Guards, escort them out please. No harm is to be done to them. Hoshidans ” she bit out, “keep their word.”

She watched as they were lead out tensely, the two squabbling between themselves quietly before Odin stopped just outside the doors to the throne room.

The blonde laughed uncomfortably. “Um, could I get my tome back?”

Hinoka blinked.

“...No.” The door was promptly slammed shut.  

Hinoka made her way back to the throne, sinking into the hard seat with a sigh. Silence once again enveloped the throne room. She could feel her fingers tremble against the letter. She couldn’t believe this. Takumi, her baby brother, was still alive. She swallowed back the lump in her throat. There was too much to process and too little time. She would have to report this to Yukimura as soon as possible. Hinoka couldn’t help but feel she owed Sakura an apology… she hadn’t given up on Takumi. Not like she had given up….mercy hadn’t been something she had expected, especially not from Nohr. Not after everything that had happened. This wasn’t a full out war. Not yet. Hinoka felt suddenly hopeful. If Sakura had been right about Takumi maybe she had been right about-

“Your highness?” A young guard broke through her thoughts. The brunette nervously fiddled with her naginata. “Lady Oboro is seeking audience with you… should I let her in?”

Hinoka sighed, sitting up a little straighter.  “Yes, of course. Please, leave after you let her in. I must discuss the state of things with her in private.”

“O-of course, your highness.” Before the girl could even open the doors fully they were flug apart, Oboro’s bold figure marching into the room. “Lady Hinoka.” She said tersely, “I hear we have word-” Hinoka held out her hand for her to stop. She waited for the young woman to leave and the door to click before slumping in her seat.

“Come here, Oboro.” Oboro wasted no time crossing the room.

“Is Lord Takumi…?”

“He’s alive.” Hinoka said softly, feeling suddenly tired.

Oboro let out a shaky breath, “Oh, thank the Gods…” she said. Her demeanor changed suddenly, her face turning red as she began to tremble. “If I get my hands on the Norhians who took him from us, I’ll-”

“Oboro. Calm down.” Hinoka said firmly. She watched as the other woman deflated.

“Oh, yes, calm down!” Azama smiled warmly from where he was perched at Hinoka’s side, sitting side-saddle on the throne’s armrest. “Nothing we could do either way, I say.”

Oboro went red again. “I’d like to see you staying calm if it was Lady Hinoka in the hands of the enemy!” She spat venomously.

Azama chuckled. “I’d like to see them get that close to Lady Hinoka.”

“Why I oughta-”

“Stop it, both of you!” Hinoka could feel her anger returning. While Oboro looked guilty, Azama simply grinned wider. “Blaming each other will do nothing now. Right , Azama?”

The monk shrugged. Hinoka pinched her brow, already feeling a headache forming. “Oboro. Where is Hinata?”

The Basara looked bashful, “I may have sent him off on an errand so I could get the news first...just...just in case.”

Hinoka sighed softly, standing up and placing a comforting hand on the other woman's shoulder. “It’s alright, Oboro. I…” Hinoka hesitantly glaced down a the letter again before holding it out to her. “I want you to read this.”

Oboro’s eyes widened in shock before she took the letter, eye’s drinking in each line. A smile appeared on her face, and Hinoka didn’t miss the shine in her eyes. “He’s thinking of us…” Azama slid off the armrest, snagging the letter for himself.

He ignored the Basara’s protests as he scrutinized the paper, and Hinoka let him. He was much better at picking out details then she was.

“Well.” He said, smiling tensely. “I believe each of you is ignoring the elephant in the room.”

Hinoka frowned, an emotion she couldn’t name filling her chest. “I know I just knew if I acknowledged it…” Hinoka stopped herself, rubbing at her eye. Azam’s smile fell slightly and he opened his arms. Hinoka only hesitated for a moment before planting her face into his chest, shaking slightly.

“It’s alright, M’lady.” Azama said softly, “it’s still real, whether or not you cry.”

Hinoka could feel herself lose her composure, and she began to sob, clutching onto her retainer desperately while he stroked her hair.

Hinoka tried to regain her composure but found she couldn’t. She couldn’t really do anything other then grip the thick fabric in front of her and try to breath. This was just too much. Alive. The word repeated itself over and over in the back of her head until the unknown feeling washed away any other rational thought she had tried to keep holding on to.  

“Oboro, speak not of this.” She heard Azama say above the sound of her own crying. “We wouldn’t want to stir up more trouble then we have now, would we.”

“Of course not…”

“And Oboro?”

“Yes?”

“Shut the door on your way out.”