As the sun began to sink towards the west, Corrin knew her chores would soon be done. Finally.
The Astral Plane had been buzzing all day. The arena had been prepped for tomorrow’s training session. She had passed out the schedule for the next twenty-four hours and set an extra copy in the barracks for the rest of her team. She had sat on guard duty for the morning, helped with the mess tent crew at lunch, lugged supplies into the shops and helped set them up, had her tactics meeting, her own training session, and dinner.
And now, finally, she was done.
After making the climb up the ladder to her quarters, Corrin took fresh clothes from her storage box, along with her hairbrush and her scented soap, throwing them haphazardly into a small bag before climbing back down the ladder again. Making sure the coast was clear, Corrin made her way towards the bath house.
Not that she needed to be so secretive, but likely if someone had spotted her on her way, she’d be sidetracked and miss the girls’ hours at the baths. Making her way inside, Corrin placed her things on a nearby bench, disrobing completely. The hot steam already was soothing to her aching body, calming the goosebumps on her skin. Taking her soaps out of her bag, Corrin set them at the edge of the wading pool so they would be in reach when she needed them.
One foot plunged into the nearly-scalding water of the bath. Corrin allowed herself to adjust for a brief moment before setting the other down. Every shower, every bath, she preferred to be boiled like a crab—or at least that’s what the servants told her. The warmer the better.
Lowering herself completely into the water, Corrin sat against the wall, reclining into the grooves of the tile below. This was paradise. The water lifted the pressure off her aching joints, relaxing deep into her muscles. Finding one of the fountains at the side that helped keep the water flowing, Corrin took her soaps and began to wet her head under the running water.
Trying to pat the side of the edges for her soaps, Corrin nearly knocked over the very bottle she needed. With a few drops of the amber mixture, she worked it into her hair, lathering her silvery locks into suds. She let her fingernails rake through her scalp, massaging her head as she scrubbed off her current layer of Astral Plane.
Wincing as shampoo slipped into her eye, Corrin patted the edge of the bath even more earnestly for the wash cloth she had left somewhere close by. Finally, she felt the plushness against her fingers. Wiping her eyes clear from the irritant, Corrin blinked a few times to clear her vision.
When she glanced up, Corrin nearly leaped out of the bath. “Aaggh! Orochi!”
“Greetings, Lady Corrin!” Orochi said, wearing a brilliant smile that took over most of her face.
“What…What are you doing here?” Corrin asked hesitantly. Not that she minded Orochi, they were actually quite close, but her heart was still pounding in her chest from the startle.
“Reina and I decided to join you. Hope you don’t mind,” Orochi explained as she entered the bath, reclining against the side. “Kagero’s outside. She’s insisting on guarding us, even though I don’t think there’s anything to guard us from.”
“Reina?” Corrin asked.
“Yes, milady?” Corrin felt the prickle of air hit her skin from Reina’s breath. With a jump, she turned to the right and saw the kinshi knight sitting next to her. How she had managed to miss the ripple of the water or even the sound of Reina or Orochi approaching was beyond her. The water wasn’t that loud...
“Rule number one: don’t sneak up on me like that,” Corrin sighed, her heart finally finding normal rhythm in her chest. “I won’t last long if you keep that up.” She dunked her head once more under the water, completely rinsing the shampoo from her hair.
“Sorry, milady,” Orochi said, adjusting herself against the wall of the pool. “We thought you heard us.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Corrin shook her head. “I should have been paying attention more.”
After corking her bottle, Corrin strode over to sit closer to Orochi, making herself comfortable against the grooves of the tile. Orochi smiled proudly at her liege, announcing, “Not to fret! We’re here to protect you!”
Reina silently agreed, sliding under the water and remaining there for quite some time. Corrin paused. “Shouldn’t we…?”
Orochi shrugged. “When the bubbles stop is when I decide to investigate.”
With that, Reina breached the water, her long blue hair sopping wet, draping over her shoulder. “So, milady, how has the mantle of command been treating you?”
“It’s been a lot,” Corrin admitted. “But it could be worse. I’m thankful I have support though. Everyone has been incredibly helpful.”
“Well, we’re all in this together, aren’t we?” Orochi asked. “We should be helpful!”
Within a few minutes, Hinoka and Setsuna both joined them in the tub, making what Setsuna referred to as “lady soup”. Corrin found herself relaxing once more, letting the scalding water and the steam around her do their jobs.
“Soooo, Lady Corrin,” Orochi finally said, changing the subject from the training schedule. “Do you notice anyone…special around camp at all?”
Hinoka groaned from across the bath, shifting as Setsuna nearly fell asleep against her shoulder. “Orochi, seriously? Are you trying to sell Corrin one of your love readings?”
“Oh, only if she wants one!” Orochi shrugged. “I’m just curious, that’s all. And I would never dream of charging her highness.”
Corrin flushed immediately, beginning to toy with her hair in between deft fingers. She was usually one to divert attention to someone else during these types of discussions. Being the subject was always uncomfortable. “We’re in the middle of a war, Orochi. It’s not exactly something I’ve thought about—”
“Well, let’s get you thinking about it!” Orochi was still grinning. “C’mon, it’ll be fun. It’s been a while since we reviewed the eligible bachelors, hasn’t it Reina?”
“Indeed it has,” Reina mused with a sigh. “Ah, marriage. I’ve often wondered what it would be like.”
“Here we go,” Hinoka muttered, with a roll of her eyes Corrin could practically hear.
“This war isn’t gonna last forever you know,” Orochi pointed out, glancing around quickly before locking eyes onto her liege. “Have you thought about whether you’ll stay in Hoshido after everything is said and done?”
This caught everyone’s attention. Corrin nodded, “I wouldn’t see why not. I mean, I did decide to stay here after all. Kind of the reason we’re in this mess. But I haven’t really thought beyond it.”
“Corrin, that’s not your fault,” Hinoka said firmly. “Nohr would have been at our boarders sooner or later, whether you were with them or us.”
“Ah, yet again the conversation goes towards the battles,” Reina said with a stretch of her legs. “Shall we get on with your fortune, Orochi? I’d rather we discuss something else for a change.”
“Must we?” Corrin asked, her arms folding across her chest. Orochi nodded, “Of course we must! The guys do this kind of stuff all the time, why can’t we? Besides, you got your very own fortune teller as your beloved servant, ready and waiting."
“They do?” Hinoka asked with a raised brow, sounding obviously surprised (and suspicious). Orochi nodded, “Kagero told me after she spied on them once.”
“I was not spying!” Kagero shouted through the door, quickly coming to her own defense. “I was on guard duty!”
“Still spying nonetheless,” Orochi muttered under her breath. “Anyway, trust me! I know what I’m talking about. I mean, look at you, milady! You are the total package: you’re smart, gorgeous, you can fight, you have that dragon thing, and you’re definitely endowed.”
Corrin instinctively covered her breasts with her hands, deciding there was definitely not enough bubbles and too many people for one bath.
“Up and down, if I might add,” Reina added from her opposite side. Corrin flashed her a look and was about to reply when Reina just shrugged. “I’m sorry, milady, I did peak.”
“That’s hardly appropriate!” Kagero shouted again from behind the door.
“How come we’re not talking about your love lives?” Corrin asked pointedly, looking at Orochi. But the retainer just waved it off, “Because I’m the one telling the fortune. Duh! And you’re the princess! Unfortunately, milady,” Orochi’s voice turned somber. “You’re going to be bombarded with questions like these once all this fun is over and life goes back to normal.”
“So think of us as practice,” Reina concluded.
Orochi nodded. “But we won’t feed you that load of bull that the women of the court like to feed you about your biological clock ticking. All the women of the court are persistent, as Lady Hinoka can tell you.”
“They’re pains in the ass,” Hinoka confirmed, still trying to shove away Setsuna so she wouldn’t fall asleep against her or drown herself on accident.
“What about Silas?” Reina asked, diving in right away. Orochi smiled sweetly, “Aww, Silas. He’s too pure for this world. He’s not bad looking for a Nohrian, either. Are they all that way?”
“Let’s not get off topic,” Reina said, redirecting Orochi’s attention.
“You’re childhood friends for one,” Orochi noted, raising individual fingers for each point she made, touching them with her opposing index finger. “For two, he’s sweet as pie. And three, as we’ve already established, he is cute.”
Corrin shook her head. “Well, yeah—I mean, maybe? I don’t—Uhm.”
Orochi’s gaze was playfully pressing. Corrin found herself just shrugging, unsure of how to answer these questions. “I just…uhm. Yeah. I don’t know?”
“We’ll come back to Silas,” Orochi continued. “Make a mental note of that, Reina.”
“Wait a minute—” Corrin tried to speak up, but her voice had been lost somewhere in between her retainers.
“What about Jakob? He’s also Nohrian, and you’ve known him a long time,” Reina suggested.
Orochi shook her head. “He seems a little…attached to Lady Corrin, don’t you think? Not in a way I’d exactly call healthy.”
“You’re right. We certainly don’t need that,” Reina said. "Saizo maybe?”
“We’re going through a little fast, aren’t we?” Corrin asked, immediately regretting it. Didn’t she want this over with? Why would she be complaining?
Orochi groaned. She must not have heard her. “As pleasant as sitting on a cactus and twice as needy. Next!”
“He’s not so bad,” Kagero interjected, finally stepping foot inside of the baths instead of joining the conversation from behind the heavy door. She took up a spot sitting on the bench nearby. Orochi cringed in her direction, “Sorry, Kagero. I sort of…forgot about…that.”
“What about Kaze then?” Reina asked quickly, before Corrin could ask about that. “Kind and gentle. Not to mention competent, easy-going. Not harsh on the eyes either.”
“Also a little vanilla, Reina.” Orochi tilted her head. “Unless that’s more your speed, Princess?”
“There’s nothing wrong with vanilla,” Reina said non-defensively, looking at Corrin with a wink. “It’s calming. Like a warm bath after a hard day—”
“And look where that’s gotten me,” Corrin pointed out, finding her voice again. “How is this a fortune, Orochi? It feels more like picking me apart and you two making decisions for me.”
“I may have left my cards in the barracks,” Orochi admitted with a tilt of her head. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t play matchmaker.”
“And she’s quite good too,” Reina added.
“That remains to be seen,” Corrin said firmly, only slightly annoyed now. She couldn’t help but begin to feel amused, but she wasn’t about to let on about that. Otherwise this conversation would never end.
“And as far as making decisions for you, you haven’t been exactly clear on what or whom you desire, milady,” Orochi teased. “We’ll come back to Kaze. Hinata, maybe?”
Corrin shook her head. Quickly raising her arms out of the water to clarify. “N-Not that there’s anything wrong with him!”
“Struck down,” Orochi interrupted with a laugh. “It’s fine, milady, it’s just us here, anyway. It’s not like any of this will leave the bath house. On that, you have my word.”
“And mine,” Reina said.
Corrin fumbled once more, looking at Hinoka for help. She just shrugged helplessly. “I’m not going to say anything.”
“Subaki is currently involved with Hanna,” Reina said, pondering who was left currently in the line up. “And Oboro has been pining over Lord Takumi for quite some time now.”
“What about a monk?” Setsuna finally spoke, a yawn parting her lips. Hinoka raised a brow at her, “Are you suggesting Azama? I’ll shut that one down right now. He’s barely fit to be a retainer!”
“Not exactly my type either,” Corrin added, hoping to soften the blow.
“Well, there’s two we can definitely take off the list,” Orochi said thoughtfully. “Perhaps more if you’ve decided on the others.”
“Is this expected of me?” Corrin asked skeptically. “To…To…you know, actually get married and stuff?”
Hinoka shook her head, finally surrendering to Setsuna at her side, letting her lay her head on her shoulder. “Not if you don’t want to. But that also doesn’t mean that some of the women of the palace will stop nagging you about it. The only one out of us royal siblings that would really be expected to marry would be Ryoma—”
“Ah, our very own crown prince. Now there’s a specimen. How could we forget him?” Orochi said, shifting her weight. “It’s totally plausible. Lady Mikoto did tell me you’re not the child of King Sumeragi.”
Kagero straightened at the mention of her liege, but said nothing. Corrin shifted uneasily, ready to be struck down the minute she said anything. She softened, noting Kagero’s gaze was more curious than threatening.
“…No, no I’m not,” Corrin finally said, a bit slowly. “B-But that would definitely seem a little bizarre, wouldn’t it? I mean—”
“It wouldn’t be that weird, Corrin,” Hinoka said, smiling. Corrin frowned. “Wait, now you’re encouraging them?”
Hinoka just shrugged shamelessly. Corrin found herself once again being the subject of everyone’s gaze. “You guys are crazy.”
“She’s blushing~” Orochi announced in sing-song. “I think we have a winner!”
“Wha—! I never said—you just—” Corrin couldn’t get a grip on her words that ran incoherently out her mouth like a waterfall. Her hand dropped from subconsciously rubbing her neck, as she had been doing for the past ten minutes.
“We are in a hot bath, Orochi. Everyone’s pink in the cheeks,” Reina reminded her, interrupting Corrin’s babble. “And it seems my guard duty will be arriving shortly.” Reina stood from the bath, dripping onto the tile floor as she reached for her towel and robe. “If you ladies will excuse me, I need to be off.”
With that, Reina disappeared behind the curtain to the changing room. Kagero stood, “I’m on duty as well, please excuse me.”
Hinoka also rose from the wading pool, taking her towel and Setsuna’s, handing it to her. “Yeah, I’m starting to get pruny. I’ll meet you in your room for yoga in a few minutes, Corrin!”
With the bath emptied, it left just Corrin and Orochi as it had been in the beginning. The scalding water had left her wrinkly at Corrin's fingers, deciding it was probably time to leave the bath. Corrin did her best to recover from embarrassment, finishing the rest of her scrub quickly before stepping out of the pool to dry herself off. Lifting the plush towel to her body, Corrin pulled part of the corner towards her face, wiping it clean.
After she pulled the towel away from her face, Corrin knotted the towel, gathering her things. Orochi helped her with her bag, a sheepish expression rested on her face. “Lady Corrin, I hope I didn’t go overboard with all this. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
Corrin just smirked, chuckling as both of them went to the changing room, where Corrin set down her things once again. “It’s not a big deal, Orochi. You just caught me off guard, is all.” Changing back into her clothes, Corrin then stood before the mirror, taking her time to brush her silvery hair, squeezing the remaining moisture back into the towel in her hands.
Orochi sighed. “Still, milady, I do feel a little guilty.”
“Don’t. Really! It’s fine,” Corrin laughed. “Diversions are needed, are they not? And so long as it’s just between us, I don’t see the problem. I would have stopped you if I felt like you were going too far.”
“I suppose I know that already...Well, if you insist. I’ll try to be careful from now on.” Orochi changed her clothes as well, staying quiet.
Much to Orochi’s surprise, Corrin reached over to her and hugged her tightly, pulling away to take her hands in her own. “Orochi, I know you mean well. Since you decided to become my retainer as well as Kaze, I feel like I’ve gotten to see a whole new side of you. You and the rest of these wonderful people, who have made their lives serving me and my family, even if we aren’t related. It makes me feel more…more at home, I guess. And in between you and Reina, you both told me so much about my mother. I couldn’t be luckier to have people who care so much about me…”
Corrin sighed, pausing for a moment. “Can I tell you something, though?”
“Is it about Lord Ryoma?” Orochi whispered, grinning mischievously. Corrin’s hands grew warm in her's. “I knew it!”
“Just promise me you won’t say anything, okay? That’s the last thing I need right now. And Kagero—”
Orochi cut her off. “That ship sailed, Corrin. She’s just being protective.”
Corrin found herself releasing a sigh she didn’t even know she had been holding in. “Good. I thought so, but…I wasn’t quite sure. I know there was something there before.”
“Well, a half a year ago, she probably would have cut you open like a piñata. But things do change, as you know.” Both of them exited the changing rooms, preparing themselves for the outside air. “And besides, who needs a man when you can have me? Well, even if he is going to be king at some point…”
Corrin laughed. “You’re a queen, Orochi. Kagero’s lucky to have you. Now, walk me back to my room?”
Both walked outside, arm-in-arm, making their way across the astral plane towards Corrin’s tree house at the very northern end. The gravel crunched under their shoes. Dinner was still being served, a majority of Corrin’s forces were still in the mess hall enjoying themselves, leaving a quieter walk for them.
Ryoma’s earth-rocking tone caught their attention. “Good evening, Orochi, Corrin.”
Orochi’s eyes gleamed with a playful mirth as she looked from Ryoma over to Corrin. “Oh! Good evening, Lord Ryoma.”
Smooth, Orochi, Corrin thought, rolling her eyes, but unable to help the smile that tugged at her lips.
“Corrin, care to join me in after-dinner meditation?” Ryoma asked, looking towards Orochi. “Or did you have something else planned?”
“She’d love to, I’m sure!” Orochi exclaimed enthusiastically. Nothing about her was subtle. Not in the least bit. She gave Corrin a little shove in his direction, almost pushing her over to the point where Ryoma reached out to catch her. Righting herself, Corrin huffed. “What about Hino…ka?” Turning towards her quarters, Corrin saw Hinoka standing at the base of the ladder of her treehouse. Hinoka started to walk away, giving her a wink as Sakura jogged up along side her sister, both heading for the mess tent.
If they won’t be the end of me, Corrin thought, feeling her face and her palms grow warm. Ryoma frowned, “Something wrong?”
“Apparently not,” Corrin said, watching as Orochi took her leave, sauntering off towards the mess hall. “Let’s go then. We can go to my quarters if you’d like. It’s a little chilly out here with wet hair.”
Both walked side by side towards the tree house, already deep into discussion about their day. Orochi eyed them from the distance, hearing their conversation indistinctly. She noted the smiles on each of her liege’s faces, and the ease that had washed over them, melting away their initial nervous rigidity. She smiled in satisfaction. “Another successful reading. Orochi, what you won’t think of next.”