A tall man hammered a sign right next to a dorm's entrance. From his apron, he pulled out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat off his eyelids and brow.
"Ah, to start a new lease in life" He said while looking at the blue skies. With his right hand still holding the handkerchief, he scratched right underneath his chin. "I must count my blessings in times like these"
"It's never easy to start anew, old man" A younger man, though no less tall than his elder, spoke while carrying a couple of boxes outside of the house. "Neither are most people lucky enough to get the chance to do so" He added as he put the boxes right next to the pole outside the dormitory’s entrance.
"Old man" Sigurd left out a succinct chuckled. "I'm not even 30 yet, Greilsen. Don't go putting me one foot in the grave just yet"
The younger man, Ike Greilsen, sighed as he tapped the toe of his left boot against the ground. "Alright. How about 'Boss'? It’s what the wonder twins call you, ain’t it?"
"Well, I guess it does the job" He continued hammering.
“So, are you ready to receive the new tenants, Boss?” Ike spoke while massaging his left shoulder.
At that, the Boss stopped his current task and pulled out his cellphone from his left pocket. He quickly peeked the names displayed on the contact list he had received earlier this week. "Let's see..." He narrowed his eyes to catch every name properly. “So, from freshman year, we have Lucina Lowell. I have it in good authority that she’s a well-behaved girl with a cousin on his last year of middle-school in Velthomer and… oh, gods. Fantastic”
“What’s wrong, boss?”
“Sorry, saw the last name Krakenberg and thought tha--”
“Bad news on that front, Boss: Your gut ain’t lying to you”
At Greilsen’s words, his sigh was long and heavy enough that it was as though he appeared to accept that he would become undone if he allowed it to go further unchecked from there.
“Great. Another Krakenberg in Belhalla” The Boss cleared his throat. “No, I’ll remain positive on this. No time to park my tram on a negative lane as of now”
“Whaddya have against the Krakenbergs?” Though he verbalized it, Ike’s arched eyebrow could’ve just as well conveyed the same question he just asked.
“It’s mostly the two older siblings; while they’re not what I’d call bad people, they are not what I would call people's persons, tend to be super overbearing and hold everyone to their incredibly high standards. At least the eldest one does. Don’t really know much about Ms. Camilla other than her martial arts prowess. I’m guessing this Corrin… person? Probably got turfed my way as a means for them to keep tabs on the poor kid better”
“She” Ike briefly showed the Boss his cellphone, containing the photography of the Krakenberg siblings. “Corrin Krakenberg identifies a girl” He added, while pointing at the girl with greyish-white hair positioned smack-dab in the middle of the Krakenberg family portrait.
The Boss snickered for a second. “Well that means things are going to get interesting right from the get go”
“Well, do you care enough to take a wild guess as to whom is going to be the Little Princess’ new roommate?”
Boss showed Ike his cellphone, which displayed a note text including the tenants’ names and who their respective roommates will be.
“A1: Lucina Lowell and Eliwood Faeris. I know nothing of either of them. B1: Hector Kormorane and Ephraim McFadden. Well, Ephraim has calmed down a great deal, so why not. C1-- oh, you gotta be kidding me here, boss!” Ike cringed at seeing who the new tenants of the C1 room were going to be: Corrin Krakenberg and Alm Flowers.
“Hey, they picked the rooms. If they want to swap, it can be arranged”
“But wasn’t this Flowers kid expelled from his previous school f--”
“Listen: He was sent here because they expect him to get his act together. So let’s give him a chance before anything else happens” He said while straightening and dusting off his apron. “Plus, according to what I’ve read on his file, this Hector kid from B1 also ran into a tight spot back in his native country and was lucky to get through Sophomore year, from the looks of it. Aside from the McFadden twins, they’re all new here; and just like those two, they’re also probably trying to start from scratch, Ike” The Boss looked wistful for a moment.
“That’s not a crazy, out-there idea, now is it?”
“Alright alright. Let’s give the little squirts the benefit of the doubt...” Ike blocked his phone’s screen then clicked the button once more. The photo set as his blocked screen’s wallpaper seemed like quite the big deal. It was a photo of himself, his little sister, their dad and his right-hand woman. A small smile managed to sneak its way past his lips. “...Including the dumb troublemakers"
“Now that’s the spirit” At that instant, the Boss took a picture of the wooden sign he had just a few minutes prior finished putting on straight. “How about that?”
The sign read as thus: ‘Little Chalphy: Dormitory for Belhalla High School and University Students’
A smug little mug formed on Ike Greilsen’s face. “Not bad, Boss. Not bad at all”
“Hello, Mr. Baldos!” A voice both Ike and the Boss recognized right away made the rounds. “Oh, and Greilsen too! How’s it going?”
“Hi, Eirika” Ike greeted using his most casual tone. “It’s strange seeing you this early around these parts outside of the library”
“Well, Little Chalphy is getting a batch of its new tenants today. Wouldn’t want to miss it” Before continuing, she snickered for a little bit. “I see that Ephraim’s efforts have paid off”
In a smaller font, the sign welcomed students both in Hoshidan and Old Valentian.
“Yeah. A shame we’re not getting any Hoshidan students, though” Ike couldn't help but to get that last dig in.
Meanwhile, somewhere above the Munster District, in Altean Airlines’ Flight 709…
A curious redhead couldn’t stop looking outside the window. “Alm. Look!” Her optimism for the visage outside their current location contagious enough for the young man sitting right next to her to lift the sleeping mask off his eyes, along with a tired smile making an appearance. "You're not going to believe how great the view is from here!" She added, with an aplomb he had gotten used to a long time ago.
"Are we perhaps approaching Ulster, milady?" His smile never subsided, even when using a rather lax tone for his query. Said tone didn't go unnoticed by his fellow traveller, to which she responded by pouting.
"Honestly, Alm: I thought you'd be more excited about leaving Valentia behind"
Alm snorted at her retort. This was, however, not out of any purported derision.
"You clearly got my number wrong, Lady Anthiese" Alm attempted to tame his hair somewhat using his hands, but gave up when he only managed to tame his bangs down by the slightest margin. "And you know this well"
"Then, could you please stop calling me that?" Her previously joyous expressions gave way for a serious look when looking back at him. "We're alone. Please call me the way you do on those occasions" She added, her voice slightly breaking while she spoke.
For a spell, the silence between them seemed to be in the brink of suffocating them, so as to mitigate such an atmosphere, she started running her hand over his own, which currently sat at the armrest they both shared. His smile, however, never fully subsided, with its brash playfulness simply giving way to a gentler expression overall. Shortly after, Alm took her hand and planted a kiss in the back of it. Her previously serious gesture now quickly turned to one of embarrassment as she blushed.
"I'm truly sorry, Celica. Old habits and all" Alm quickly let go of her hand to push their shared armrest away, to which he then punctuated by placing his right hand in the back of Celica's head, and having their foreheads meet. "I'm eternally grateful to be side by side with you, no matter the place" He further added.
She gazed deeply into his eyes, finding the same earnestness she could seldom find in anyone else. It was a sight she could not get enough of. Feeling cheeky for a moment, however, Celica proceeded to surprise him by first cupping his cheeks and then planting a kiss on his lips.
Feeling his surprise getting peeled back to return the kiss in a matter of seconds, she pulled away before long, burying her face in his chest shortly afterward.
"Why did you make me do that!?" Her muffled voice was very cute, as were her fists pounding against his shoulders.
"I am that much of a villain" Alm replied, while wrapping his arms around her in a tight embrace. "Now let us sleep for a spell, Celica. We're probably bound to arrive to BIAX in a couple hours, and we still have to meet with both our new landlord and R.A"
From the grumbling Celica belted out following his suggestion, he was able to deduce she was less than enthused about the prospect of catching a few Z's in favor of further taking in the incredible sights from right outside the window.
Fortunately, he knows which steps need to be taken. "I promise to bring you here, to Munster, to Darna, to Nordion. Wherever else in Jugdral that you wish to go"
"Really?" Her voice still muffled.
"Absolutely" He replied with nary a moment of delay, before planting a kiss atop her head. He soon unzipped his hoodie before removing it in order to use it as a makeshift blanket for both of them.
For a moment, nothing else mattered to them. Belhalla was to be their new beginning, away from what had become their normal, away from those shitheads who dared try to tear them apart.
Away from him.