The rocks crumbled as they turned to dust beneath sodden covered boots that agonizingly made their way through the empty, fallen corridors of the abandoned castle.
A silent huff of agitation escaped the warrior as he found himself approaching a more than likely unstable staircase.
Frowning at the cracked and rusting steps in front of him, the young bluenette turned to look back to the open and beat up, molding stone castle wall through which he came.
Rain continued to fall hard from the sky, mudding the sandy ground covering the landscape beyond.
Letting out a defeated side, the prince carefully made his way up the stairs, which creaked pathetically beneath him.
The rickety, winding staircase led the young soldier to what appeared to be an open throne room.
Or, what was left of one anyway.
Appalled by the off-putting site, the bluenette slowly entered through what was left of the remaining doorway.
One of the decorative, ceramic pillars to the sides of the room were fallen, broken in large pieces as it lain on the ripped carpeted floor while the others remained standing and adorned in crumbling cracks.
Glancing down, the young royal carefully tiptoed around a shattered chandelier that must have broke from the cracked marble ceiling from above.
As gloved hands hesitantly glided along the rough, metallic surface of the rusted arm supporters, sapphire eyes examined the ripped up leather that covered what was left of the throne seat.
Suddenly, memories overcame him...
Letter held in his tight grip, the Prince of Altea looked angrily up at his sibling,
"You cannot be serious, Elice. We have just completed a two-year war and can allow ourselves a moment of rest. Why would I agree to something like this? Why would you agree to something like this? Sister—"
Placing a gentle hand on her younger brother's shoulder, the princess gave a soft sigh,
"You are still riled up from all those battles Marth...and, I believe accepting this invitation will help rattle out the intensity of war by giving you the opportunity to take joy in combats that are for fun. Remember, the time elapsed there is much different than here. You will only be gone for a month or so in our time, no need to worry."
Biting his lip, the soldier looked behind him at the empty throne chairs their parents once occupied.
"But...who will care for Altea while I am away...when I am the only one left to rule?"
Chuckling quietly, Elice made eye contact with the worried royal,
"Jagen has done a fine job of watching over our country while Father was away on many occasions. This will be no different."
Marth bit his lip, azure eyes shining in worry as they locked with his sister's,
"But...what about you?"
Tilting her head to the side, the older sibling gave the other a confused look.
"What about me?"
The prince's eyes suddenly watered over as he continued to stare at his sister.
"I...I just saved you! W-We are finally together again, Elice...I cannot just simply leave you! Not...not after...w-what...what if—!"
Elice hugged her brother tightly, holding the back of his teal head in comfort.
"Marth. I will be alright, I promise."
Sniffling into the other's shoulder, the younger bluenette hiccuped,
"T-That's what you said last time."
The older woman shut her eyes tightly at that horrid memory before pulling away and caressing her brother's mournful face gently.
"Do not confuse a desperate moment in war with our now renowned freedom, little brother. I will be fine. And, so will you."
Wiping at his eyes, Marth nodded solemnly.
He was still angry about the decision.
He wanted to be home.
To be with his sister.
He lost her at the beginning of the war.
Finally reunited with her after all the chaos of shadows had passed.
Just to leave her once more.
For what? A silly tournament Elice thinks will 'cheer him up?'
Blinking away any oncoming tears, the bluenette puffed out his chest before giving himself a moment to come back to the present time.
He glanced around the room before looking up.
It was quiet.
"Huh, I must have zoned out for longer than I had intended. The rain has stopped," the prince spoke to himself quietly.
Taking his leave from the throne room, the teal-haired swordsman continued through a few more corridors before climbing up another old, unsteady flight of stairs.
They led the young royal to the roof of the ailing fortress.
It was an outside space surrounded by a disfigured and molding stone barrier that must have acted as a fort of protection for guards keeping watch for possible threats.
Back when this place had a true existence.
Walking over to one of the walls, Marth rested his hands atop the marred surface as he looked out onto the horizon.
Nothing but sand seemed to go on for miles.
The warrior's brows furrowed in thought,
'What is my purpose for even being here? Where am I even supposed to go when there is nothing inhabiting this wasteland other than myself?'
As if someone above heard the prince's thoughts, a sudden, dark indigo cloud exploded to the North of the castle.
Eyes widening in surprise, the young bluenette rested a cautious hand on the hilt of his sword, unsure if he should prepare for whatever may come from this strange, purple sphere.
Which seemed to continuously grow at a steady pace.
Suddenly, his eye caught glimpse of something moving towards the castle.
Plush, green bodies dragged themselves lethargically over to the fortress, their eyes glowing red as the same purple substance from the suspicious orb trailed behind them.
Falchion gleamed brightly in the dim atmosphere as Marth unsheathed it from its scabbard.
The sound of a rock bouncing on the ground startled the bluenette, causing him to spin around in alarm.
Those green figures somehow found their way into the fortress and up to the top, where the young soldier was currently residing.
In one swift swing, Marth sliced his sword through four incoming monsters who easily turned to purple goop before vanishing.
Falchion dripped with the remnants of the violet sludge.
"Ugh...," the Altean native mumbled in disgust before hurrying his way back down into the castle, where he met head on with more of those obscure creatures.
The cloud of mystery rumbled in front of him, seeming to have come to a complete stop while in the process of trying to encompass the entire land around it.
The prince examined it with worry as he brushed off the remainder of purple goo from the army of green creatures he had just finished slaughtering.
Suddenly, a flash of light caught the corner of his eye, and Marth only had a few seconds to react and guard himself from his incoming attacker's spiked sword.
Falchion and Galaxia clashed together, disturbing the dusty air around them.
Marth was at a loss for words, incredibly confused on who was fighting him.
The body of his attacker was not even human, and to the prince's utter horror, it could fly.
The armor-cladded ball of agility did not give up, wings spread as it flew in for another hit to which the teal-haired swordsman blocked once more.
Landing swiftly on the ground, the spherical warrior tucked his wings away before glaring his golden eyes up at the young bluenette.
Heaving quite heavily, sapphire eyes locked onto them,
Before Marth could continue his questioning, both soldiers looked up as they became surrounded by more of those green henchmen.
Golden eyes suddenly filled with realization as they glanced once more up at the prince,
"Wait. You are not...?"
Marth shook his head,
Nodding in understanding, the spherical combatant held his sword out as his wings spread once more.
Both swordsmen came to a silent agreement on who the real threat was as they stood side by side before charging at the mysterious creatures together.
'This place is horrendous...arrows and canons everywhere, but where the heck are all the damn soldiers?'
Chuckling quietly to himself, the royal blue-haired swordsman examined his golden sword casually as he continued to stroll along the sandy landscape.
'Father would find this whole scenario ridiculous I bet.'
Smiling fondly at the thought of his late parent, the muscular warrior continued to kick up dust as his brown boots marched along the dirt path.
Until a loud explosion to his left caught his attention, disturbing his quiet walk of boredom.
"What the hell?"
Eyes squinting in concern, the mercenary could only make out a sea of green as it appeared to move towards a beat up castle and grow from the advancing purple sphere.
The tall soldier huffed in amused annoyance,
'Well. Finally something I can work with in this dump of a place.'
And with that last thought, the bluenette hurried his way over.
"He's the one controlling these things! We have to go after him Meta Knight!"
Grunting in frustration, said puffball angrily cut down the last of the incoming green enemies before looking up to his new ally,
"Agreed. Let's go."
The two fighters then took off as they trailed behind a dark, green cloaked figure floating above them as it held what appeared to be a timer.
Brows drawing in anger, Marth picked up his pace as he sprinted past his companion before leaping up in the air.
He attempted to slash away the Ancient Minister's connection to the the ticking bomb.
But, Falchion missed by a hair.
Meta Knight came up behind him, wings spread wide as his eyes glew red in fury before he tried taking a hit himself.
However, the enemy turned around just as he did so, shooting out a red missile that caught onto the Star Warrior's wing.
The round knight had no choice but to fall back and recover from the hit as Marth quickly came over to him,
"Are you alright?"
Patting down the remainder of the flame in his right wing, the navy puffball looked up to the young royal,
"Just a slight burn, Your Highness. Nothing you need to worry yourself over. Now, let's move. He is getting away—,"
Gold and sapphire eyes suddenly darted upward when a large, golden blade shined brightly as it spun above the Ancient Minister.
Before it was grasped tightly by its wielder as it slashed down in between the timer and the floating monster, causing the cloaked being to fly off into the distance of never ending dust and darkness.
Ragnell landed roughly onto the ground, picking up dust as its owner followed suit before his cobalt eyes glanced upward at the two swordsmen.
Marth's heart stuttered in his chest as a blush creeped up his cheeks.
Their rescuer's shirt was ripped up and tattered.
He was utterly filthy.
And, his actions were quite reckless and could have been dangerous if the Ancient Minister were to fly into them instead of the landscape beyond.
"Are you guys alright?"
Clearing his throat, Marth brushed away a strand of teal hair as he rid his sudden thoughts of this stranger before nodding along with Meta Knight,
The darker bluenette looked over at him, his own face flushing lightly as he took in the other human in their trio.
The shorter male had hardly any muscle, but the mercenary couldn't help but notice his perfectly curved waist and his thin, smooth arms.
And those beautiful, bright, sapphire eyes.
What was there not to—
The older swordsman suddenly flickered his eyes upward,
'Wait. Is that a...tiara?'
His kind face suddenly turned to one of annoyance.
"You're...royalty?" The stranger's voice held a not so subtle hint of disgust that didn't go unnoticed by the lighter bluenette.
Forgetting his own suggestive thoughts of the handsome warrior before him, Marth crossed his arms in indignation.
He's met many men on the battlefield who turned disdainful towards him just because he was 'royalty.'
Men who betrayed him during the war for his supposed 'status,' and used the young prince only for their own selfish purposes.
This was no walk in the park for the Altean native.
"I am. Is there a problem?" he spoke coldy.
The taller male shrugged his shoulders as he planted Ragnell into the dirt, crossing his own, muscular arms as he mirrored the royal's stance.
He's had to deal with the most obnoxious princes and princesses for multiple quests as a mercenary, where his newly made role as commander for his father's mercenaries was the worst when it came to them.
They would whine and complain, never satisfied by anything you do.
They were all the same.
Except, the one in front of him was quite exquisite.
But, the older male was choosing to ignore that, knowing such feelings were incredibly irrational now that he knew of the other's unfortunate status.
"Depends. As long as you don't expect me to wait on you hand and foot like all of you asshole's tend to do."
Ignoring his previously fond thoughts of the younger bluenette, the mercenary sneered at the look of shock on the other's face.
"I-I beg your pardon! For your information, we...ugh, I will not tolerate such fowl language...'royals' do not all stoop so low to demean others in such a way! I would know your own place before you think you could tread your hostility all over me...For Anri's sake, I just humbly thanked you not a few moments ago for helping us!"
Their new ally simply scoffed at the agitated royal.
"And, you are?"
The two quarreling swordsmen suddenly looked down, completely forgetting Meta Knight was with them.
Having the decency to appear sheepish, the taller bluenette scratched the back of his head,
"My apologies, my name is Ike...I come from Crimea, a place far from here where I am the head commander of my late Father's group of mercenaries."
Marth frowned at that,
"Let me understand this, commander. You come here, insult me, only to reveal yourself as a simple mercenary? Do you realize the amount of crudity I could bestow upon you with that knowledge? The audacity—!"
"Your Highness, I believe that is enough."
Blushing in embarrassment, the younger bluenette bit his tongue as him and Ike continued to glare at one another.
Golden eyes remained unamused as he turned his attention back to the taller male,
"I am Meta Knight, a resident of the Planet Popstar and a place I highly doubt the two of you have heard of."
The armored puffball then flickered his eyes over to the now pouting royal who was now refusing to introduce himself properly before he acknowledged the mercenary once more,
"This is Prince Marth."
Said boy huffed quietly before glancing down at the spherical Knight,
"I told you, it's just Marth. Please, no formalities are necessary."
Smirking coldly, Ike took a step closer to the shorter bluenette who was still refusing to look at him,
"Oh, what's the matter princess? Does such a simple acknowledgement ruffle your pretty little feathers?"
Steely sapphire eyes glared in his direction.
But, his look faltered when those mischievous cobalt orbs locked onto his own.
'For a jerk of a soldier...he is...quite irresistible.'
Ike noticed the small blush that suddenly formed on the prince's cheeks.
His grin grew wider.
However, it became slightly more genuine as the taller bluenette allowed himself to tower over the shorter.
'Princey likes what he sees, does he?'
As if hearing the older male's thoughts, Marth turned his head away before marching in the direction the Ancient Minister flew off to.
Rolling his eyes in amusement, Ike picked up Ragnell as Meta Knight flew over to catch up with the flustered prince.
"Ah, a typical prince. Running from confrontation and letting his soldiers clean up the dirty work."
The young royal suddenly stopped in his tracks, spinning around as he angrily looked at Ike.
The other's words did not hold true.
Marth knew that.
He tried his best when in battle over these past two years at war.
He never left a single man behind.
He fought with everything he had to keep everyone safe.
But, the teal-haired swordsman's insecurity as the next up and coming ruler in protecting his country clouded his rationale, letting his vulnerability show.
Ike didn't know his words stung something deep within the prince until said boy glared over at him.
Those sapphire eyes shined with disgust towards the muscular warrior.
A whole lot of it.
And, the mercenary couldn't figure out why that look suddenly stirred a strong feeling in his chest.