Comm: Old Tales and New Wishes
Shigure hurried into the sitting room of Valla Castle, his parents, aunts and uncles not far behind, leaving the loud celebration in the ballroom. Queen Hinoka closed the doors with a decisive slam, and the noise was completely shut out. “Is your voice going to be sore tonight, Mother?” Shigure asked in concern, looking up anxiously at who all of those guests knew as Queen Azura of Valla.
“Maybe, sweetie, though I’m used to singing.” She gave him a wan smile. She’d been growing paler since she and Father had announced that he was going to have a little sibling soon and her belly had started swelling. “I’m more worried about your father and all of your aunts and uncles.”
“My fingers have string indents!” Aunt Elise exclaimed, peering at her fingertips with wide amethyst eyes.
“S-So do mine… Too many duets.” Aunt Sakura pouted slightly, though the expression faded when Uncle Leo took hold of both her’s and Aunt Elise’s wrists gently to have a look at their fingertips. “Are y-you all right? You and T-Takumi were resorting to doing the same strategies over and over again toward the end there.”
“I wanted to see how long it would take them to figure out the King’s Gambit.” Uncle Leo rolled his eyes, letting go of the girls.
“I was using something I made up. It’s simple and elegant for shogi, like Leo keeps insisting all of his chess strategies are.” Uncle Takumi crossed his arms, shooting a glare toward Father. “We’re awfully lucky we have great retainers to save us from all of our adoring fans that want to challenge our strategic thinking.”
“Or want to watch Camilla and Hinoka do serious aerobatics when Camilla’s pregnant, and get disappointed when they get Beruka showing off instead,” King Ryoma grumbled. “And while I don’t deny I enjoy sparring with Xander-“
“It gets very old, very quickly,” the Nohrian ruler agreed, also leveling a stern glare toward Father, who was beginning to turn pale.
“You know, darling Corrin, we had such a fun time at this celebration for the end of the war, we may have to host our own,” Queen Camilla chuckled.
“We were planning that, weren’t we, dear?” Queen Hinoka gave King Xander a small smile, and the latter nodded in agreement.
“I’m feeling something like ghost pains from all of transformations I’m going to have to do at these…” Father muttered.
“Oh, we’d never!” Aunt Elise gasped.
“I’m surprised we didn’t get requests like that tonight, actually…” King Ryoma remarked dryly.
“For the glory of the peace and because I love you all, I’ll come to your post-war parties if they happen. But you know,” Father remarked, flopping into a chair with a relieved sigh. “I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated Odin’s love for theatrics quite as much as I do right now.”
“Hey, Oboro and Hinata saved us just as much as Leo’s retainer,” Uncle Takumi retorted, and Aunt Elise giggled and Uncle Leo just shook his head. “Even if Odin is just using Hinata as a sort of prop in his magic… story… show… thing. Though I will admit that Niles is making the greatest sacrifice here.”
“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him look so uncomfortable.” A smile tugged at Uncle Leo’s lips as he also sat down. “Figures that it would be modeling Hoshidan clothing that would get that expression out of him. Charlotte seemed fine with her job of modeling the women’s styles, though.”
“Charlotte will take any excuse to flaunt herself.” Father waved a hand. “She’s almost as bad as Laslow.”
“No one is anywhere close to as bad as Laslow.” King Xander shook his head ruefully. “Honestly, I still don’t understand how she and Saizo get along enough to be married. And, Niles getting together with Oboro? I thought that was a practical joke up until the wedding.”
“You and me both, Your Majesty.” Uncle Takumi just shook his head.
“S-Selena didn’t seem too p-pleased with her husband’s rescue of us, d-did she?” Aunt Sakura remarked, sitting down next to Uncle Leo on one of the couches. “Or S-Saizo’s acrobatics, for that matter.”
“Selena is a distraction too,” Aunt Elise giggled as she hopped up onto the couch across from Aunt Sakura and Uncle Leo’s, pulling Uncle Takumi down with her. He toppled onto the couch with an undignified squawk, braided silver hair flying upward for a moment. “She’s being herself, just like Odin is, and people love it when she complains at his magical theatrics.”
“Here you are, Shigure.” Shigure looked up at his mother to see her holding several papers and his favorite inkwell, bending down carefully with her hand on her belly and smiling at him gently as she handed them to him. “You probably want something to do while us adults are talking.”
“Thank you, mother.” He smiled up at her, taking the items eagerly.
“Shigure is such a respectful little darling,” Queen Camilla cooed, sitting down with King Ryoma on the couch adjacent to Aunt Sakura and Uncle Leo’s, placing a hand on her stomach that was only just barely beginning to bulge. “I hope our child is the same, though I know I’ll love them either way.”
“I can’t see you doing anything else,” King Xander told her with a soft chuckle as Shigure retreated to sit behind his father’s chair, far away from Queen Camilla, the aunt most likely to pinch his cheek. “Especially seeing how you treated Corrin back in the day, and how you treat his son.”
“And I can’t wait for the next little darling of theirs to come!” Queen Camilla clapped her hands in excitement while Shigure began sketching out a kinshi’s head. “Though it’s probably going to be a large child with how obviously pregnant Azura dear is.”
“C-Camilla!” Mother went about as red as Aunt Sakura did whenever someone approached her with something embarrassing. “That was uncalled for…”
“Eh, don’t yell at Camilla. Corrin said it first.”
“Takumi, are you aiming to ruin me?” Father squawked as Mother’s golden eyes narrowed at him. The archer only grinned. “I thought we’d put our differences aside, brothers in both arms and blood? You don’t need to mention passing comments I’ve made in meetings about far more serious topics!”
“Yes, well, he was my adoptive brother first, Corrin. He has every right to inform me of when my husband is being an idiot,” Mother replied coolly.
“You always make sure to call me an idiot in some subtle way every day anyways, no one has to inform you of anything,” Father grumbled.
“When did you even say that, Onii-chan?” Aunt Elise giggled, clearly amused by her older brother’s pouting even as Mother sat down next to him in the other chair.
“O-Oh, you pronounced it correctly,” Aunt Sakura remarked, perking up from where she and Uncle Leo were sitting.
“Well, yeah! I’ve been living in Hoshido long enough to take on some of the traditions!” Aunt Elise replied enthusiastically. “Takumi’s been teaching me some Hoshidan so I can hear what all of those nobles are saying in the hallways when they see me around and start muttering in their native language.”
“I keep telling her she doesn’t want to know.” Shigure began scribbling the general shape of Aunt Sakura’s headband, she was sitting the most still of all of his relatives. It was easy to use her as a model because of that. The second easiest was Uncle Leo, but he was tapping the air with his foot right now, even if he was in one of his rare relaxed positions.
“It’s always useful to know what the nobles are talking about in Nohr,” the man in question told Uncle Takumi. “We’ve discussed this.”
“It’s more of the same in Hoshido,” Queen Hinoka admitted, leaning on the back of the couch that King Xander, King Ryoma, and Queen Camilla were all sitting on. “At least, it was before Xander and I were married. I suppose I can’t speak for the old place when I haven’t actually lived there for about two years.”
“Oh, it’s still more of the same. Not as bad as it was, but still pretty bad,” King Ryoma told her. “I wasn’t expecting so many to reconcile as quickly as they have.”
“Even old Yukimura approves of our union now,” Queen Camilla chuckled. “He’s never said anything directly, but he used to give us some sidelong glances and glare at me when he thought no one was looking. Strange thing is, he hasn’t done that in months. I’m starting to wonder.”
“How is the old weapons master?” King Xander asked King Ryoma. “Is he still your royal advisor?”
“He’s doing well,” King Ryoma replied with a nod. “And yes. It’s good to have someone who will actually have the patience and ability to sympathize with those nobles without wanting to punch them in the face because they’ve insulted your wife. Or your sister-in-law, for that matter.”
“One time,” Uncle Takumi grumbled. “I do this one time and I’m probably never going to live it down.”
“It was very noble of you to defend me, Takumi, even if it did have negative repercussions,” Queen Camilla assured him with a glowing smile while Aunt Elise nodded eagerly, blond and lavender pigtails bouncing.
“Everything we do has negative repercussions in Nohr,” Queen Hinoka sighed, running a hand through her her short red hair. Shigure glanced down at the finished headband, and then carefully set the sketchbook aside. “In the beginning, anyways. The whole intermarriage business ticked a number of people off.”
“Not as many as I expected, honestly,” Uncle Leo remarked, still tapping the air with his foot. “There were a few after the war that surprised me by being fine with the intermarriages, saying that it worked well as political ties to make sure this sort of war didn’t happen again.”
“Did we steal most of the relatively understanding subjects?” Father huffed gently. “Our subjects were mostly commoners coming to New Valla to get a new start, though, not to mention the survivors of Old Valla trying to rebuild their lives into something normal.”
“And they did.” Mother dipped her head slightly. “It was a bit of a rough time during the first two years, but everyone is on relatively good terms now.”
“Several of those that were angry about the peace have since changed their minds. Understandable since the trade of farming expertise and gems between our countries has benefited both so thoroughly, contributing to rebuilding both kingdoms in a way that they honestly couldn’t do on their own. We can’t really slide back to nearly how bad things were in the bad old days,” Uncle Leo remarked offhandedly.
“Can we not bring that up?” Uncle Takumi leaned back against his and Aunt Elise’s couch with an over-dramatic groan. “We were all idiots.”
“I… I’d like to know,” Shigure spoke up, sitting up straight from his kneeling position on the floor. Everyone looked his way in surprise. “You never talk about the war or the bad old days, and Mother and Father hardly ever even mention it.”
“For good reason, really.” Uncle Takumi sat up again, frowning.
“We have some good memories of what happened,” Elise refuted, tapping his thigh with a small smile. “The tea parties were great, at least.”
“Do you really want to know, son?” Father asked as Uncle Takumi’s expression softened.
“Yes,” Shigure replied firmly, capping off his inkwell to show just how serious he was.
“It’s not a kind story, even if it did end well” King Xander warned. “And it’s a long one as well.”
“Let the kid hear it, Xander.” Queen Hinoka rapped her husband’s head from where she was standing behind him, causing everyone in the room to grin. “Everyone’s going to hear it sooner or later, and it’s better that he get the story from the kinshi’s mouth, so to speak.”
“He is our son,” Mother agreed. “It’s best that he hear it from us.”
“Alright, kiddo.” Father slid off of his chair onto the dark green carpet, getting down on Shigure’s level, so to speak. “Where to start… I suppose that the easiest place is when I finally met King Garon. You remember me telling you that I got kidnapped from Hoshido and lived most of my live in Nohr, don’t you?”
“Yes, Father.” Shigure nodded. “And it’s when you got kidnapped that tensions between Hoshido and Nohr really escalated, and then Hoshido kidnapped Mother. So she lived for most of her life in Hoshido even though Grandma Arete was married to King Garon.”
“Good memory.” Father winked at him, crossing his legs. “So anyways, I lived in the Northern Fortress, and I didn’t see Castle Krakenburg until my eighteenth birthday. Father and I had a discussion, and he gave me a sword before deciding to test my skills against two Hoshidan prisoners. Kaze and Rinkah.” Shigure blinked at the two familiar names. “I had at my side Gunter and Felicia. Though Kaze and Rinkah were definitely skilled, I won the little fight. The king then ordered me to kill the prisoners.”
“You didn’t, though. They’re still alive,” Shigure pointed out. He and Kaze had spoken multiple times before, and he was fond of the green-haired ninja that was devoted to his father. He was just like yet another uncle in this already giant family. He’d never met Rinkah, but he’d heard stories about her. Most of them funny.
“I refused the king’s orders. I didn’t know how things worked in my adoptive family.” Father shook his head. “It was Xander’s intervention and Leo’s quick thinking that saved me. While Xander defended me and my arguments in a way that wouldn’t anger our father as much as mine did, Leo “executed” Kaze and Rinkah.”
“King Garon believed that they were dead?” Shigure asked, blinking, and Father nodded.
“I had a reputation back in the day,” Uncle Leo remarked, tone mild. “One that still holds if the nobles are being particularly irritating. Father could trust me to rid him of his enemies, even if not all of them actually died. Brynhildr is flashy enough that people can appear dead without me running them through.”
“Leo dear handled most of the executions Father ordered, and he didn’t seem as fond of Corrin as the rest of us obviously were,” Queen Camilla added. “So him handling Kaze and Rinkah as he said he did was believable.”
“King Garon’s next test sent me to the Bottomless Canyon for the first time, with Gunter and Hans flanking me. We managed to drive the Hoshidans from the fort on the other side, bit then Hans turned on me and Gunter. Han’s attack sent Gunter hurtling into the Bottomless Canyon and I thought he had been killed. My anger caused me to use my Dragon Fang ability for the first time. Lilith saved me from falling off of the bridge, and when I got back from the pocket realm that she took me to, Rinkah hit me over the head and I was hauled off to Hoshido.”
“You missed the part where we came to help you!” Aunt Elise exclaimed as she began suddenly pouting spectacularly.
“Elise, if Corrin includes every detail of the war rundown, we’ll be here all week,” Uncle Leo told her, shaking his head. “Just let him summarize.”
Father chuckled. “Anyways, Mother… your grandmother, Shigure, welcomed me to Hoshido with open arms, along with all of your Hoshidan aunts and uncles. Well, except for one notable-”
“What did Leo just say about details, Corrin?”
“Fine.” Father grinned at Uncle Takumi. “They showed me around and took me to a festival. It was there…” His expression sobered. “It was there that we were attacked for the first time by the invisible Vallite warriors. The sword that King Garon gave me ripped itself from its sheath and zoomed to the hands of the enemy leader. He slammed the blade into the ground, and the resulting explosion killed many… including my mother. I was so enraged that I transformed into a dragon… and this was before your mother gave me the dragonstone.” Shigure gasped, and Father nodded grimly. “There was nothing to hold back the rage without it. She managed to calm me after the Vallites were defeated, and she gave me the stone after so I could harness the power and not rampage as I had in that square that day. That was also the day that the Yato claimed me.”
“You forgot to mention Mother’s barrier, Corrin,” King Ryoma pointed out.
“Yes. Shigure, the only reason Hoshido and Nohr weren’t invading each other’s countries was because Queen Mikoto put up a magical barrier around Hoshido,” Mother explained. “Any human invaders completely lost their will to fight, so Nohr had to make do with sending in Faceless. You remember what I’ve told you about those monsters, right?”
Shigure nodded. Yes, yes he did. They sounded like the very scum of the earth. “So when Grandmother died, her barrier went down.”
“Father sent us to the Hoshidan border, telling us to invade and try to end the war as quickly as we could.” King Xander nodded. “The Hoshidans, and Corrin, came to defend it. That day was when everything changed and our war was finally waged against the correct enemy.”
“I had a choice that day, Shigure,” Father spoke, the seriousness of his tone causing Shigure to sit up and take notice. “On the one hand, I could defend Hoshido, the obvious victims of this entire setup, and help the family I’d just met to rebuild their kingdom. But, that would mean going against my Nohrian siblings, those who had shown me such kindness and who I still thought of as family despite the fact that King Garon had kidnapped me. On the other hand, I could go back to Nohr, help the people who’d raised and loved me, and try to figure out what exactly had happened with the blade that King Garon had given me. But, that would mean turning my back on my real family, right after Mother had been taken from them. I wondered at the time if my indecision was a sign of weakness. I looked between both of them, though, and I knew… I knew, not logically, not situationally, that if I wanted everyone to survive, I could not stand against or with either. It was a feeling in my gut that I couldn’t just ignore. So I didn’t, and the battle began.”
“Corrin wanted to stop the fight, so I figured we could stop the fight by taking out the commanders of both armies,” Mother continued. “Felicia had caught up to us by that time, so it was us three against both the Nohrians and the Hoshidans. No one was killed, but everyone took what we were doing the wrong way.”
“Neither King Xander nor I could understand it.” King Ryoma shook his head, regret clear on his face. “Corrin had attacked our own, so we both thought that he had chosen the other side. We left that day in defeat, and without our brother and sister.”
“We had fled the warzone, knowing that they would be too occupied with their wounded to follow us,” Mother explained. “I told Corrin that there was no way that he could just not choose a side, and he told me quite firmly that it was far more impossible to choose a side. He would not stand with one or the other, but make his own path. Something… something that I had dreamed about doing, because I knew exactly what was going on. But, after being a hostage for so many years, I had given up and resigned myself to languishing in fate’s chains.” She smiled at Father. “I knew that he was set on the path he had chosen, and it gave me… hope again. So I took him to the Bottomless Canyon, and we jumped to Old Valla so I could explain who was behind all of this.”
“It freaked me and Felicia out something fierce.” Father’s grin had returned. “We battled more invisible warriors down there, and found Gunter. He had survived the fall and joined us on the way back, and we returned to the above kingdoms to discuss strategy. By then, we knew that Anankos, the Silent Dragon, was the true enemy, and we needed to figure out what to do about it. We needed allies in order to successfully do what we set out to, so we headed to Fort Jinya to see if we could convince Hoshido to help. It didn’t go terribly well.”
“Y-Yukimura wouldn’t l-listen to a word that Corrin and Azura s-said,” Sakura continued. “H-he thought that th-they were there to a-attack, so h-he attacked them f-first. Th-they won, and they d-didn’t k-kill a single soul in the fort.” She smiled gently. “Th-that was enough to convince me and K-Kaze th-that they h-had our best i-interests at heart, and th-they were my siblings, s-so I joined them.”
“Suddenly our party had doubled, since Sakura’s retainers, Tsubaki and Hana joined us as well. Since we couldn’t stay in Hoshido while we were viewed as enemies, we headed for the neutral territory of Izumo, going up the Eternal Stairway.” Father grimaced. “Which, while not literal, is still aptly named. We were attacked by Faceless there, or so we thought.”
“Iago,” Aunt Elise explained. “Father’s advisor, a nasty man and a sorcerer well versed in tricks and traps.”
“He tricked us into thinking that members of the Wind Tribe on the Stairway were Faceless, and once we realized what we’d done, we headed over to apologize. Rumors had spread about me by then, saying that I was looking to destroy both kingdoms, so the cheiftain, Fuga, was ready to kill me. Rinkah stepped up to defend me, though, so we had a contest of strength. At the end of it, Fuga was convinced that I wasn’t looking to destroy both kingdoms, and sent Hayato with me as further aid.”
Shigure nodded. He remembered hearing stories about Hayato as well. “After we received Chief Fuga’s approval and aid, we managed to make it to Izumo. Only to find that a master illusionist named Zola got there first.”
“Like, the day before,” Uncle Takumi grumbled.
“Gunter saw through Zola’s attempt to impersonate the archduke almost immediately,” Father continued. “Though, I do grudgingly admit that impression of Izana was really convincing. So we found ourselves fighting. Again. We defeated Zola after we managed to break through that blasted ice bomb he set off, but I wanted his surrender, not his life. He was quick to take your Aunt Sakura and hold a knife to his throat, and the tables were turned until Leo showed up, killing Zola and saving Sakura in one fell swoop.”
“I came as soon as I heard that Zola had taken nearly the entire country hostage just because they were giving Prince Takumi shelter for the night.” Uncle Leo gave a slightly annoyed huff, though his expression softened just slightly when he noticed that Shigure was watching him with wide eyes. “I couldn’t have him disgracing the face of the Nohrian army in such a fashion. I didn’t know that Corrin was there.”
Aunt Elise giggled. “Sakura probably started crushing on him right then and there when he saved her.”
Aunt Sakura blushed bright red- like a tomato, which Shigure recalled as being Uncle Leo’s other great love. “N-Not exactly, b-but… S-save me, Corrin!”
“We exchanged some words, not as harsh as they could be, but Leo still thought of me as a traitor to Nohr,” Father explained, chuckling softly at Aunt Sakura’s plea. “He was kind enough to, er… unlock the door to Izana’s castle so that we could free everyone.”
“H-He bashed in the door with Brynhildr.”
“I was frustrated,” Uncle Leo responded to Aunt Sakura’s remark defensively, and she just smiled and kissed his cheek in return, the last of the red fading from her face.
“It’s not like the archduke minded,” Mother murmured dryly.
“You once told me that he died doing a very good deed,” Shigure remembered, looking up at her.
“He did.” She smiled sadly. “That very day, in fact. Archduke Izana had the gift of prophecy, and he used it to both convince Takumi that he needed to side with us and Sakura in the war and give us a vital hint so we could unlock the Seal of Flames.”
“Go meet the dragon, the ancient god that took his life told the archduke to tell us. We had no idea what it meant, but we had Takumi, Oboro and Hinata now. So we continued onward, and I hoped that we would find a hint.”
“Then what happened?” Shigure asked eagerly.
“We found out that Mokushu had betrayed Hoshido and that Ryoma’s and Mother’s retainers needed help,” Father continued, smile coming back. “So we helped, battling against the small ninja kingdom, which had betrayed Hoshido and sided with King Garon. All four retainers joined us afterwards, and we realized that Ryoma might have the information we needed about the dragon we were looking for, and Kagero told us that he was in Cheve, so we headed that way, managing to secure a ferry there.”
“Only Father got wind of it.” Shigure turned to see an uncharacteristically serious look on Queen Camilla’s face. His aunt was twirling a strand of her long lavender hair, her likewise colored eyes becoming distant and uncharacteristically close to sad. “He ordered me and Flora to intercept dear Corrin and kill him, telling Flora that the entire Ice Tribe would suffer if she did not. And I could not disobey a direct order from Father, so I took Selena and Beruka and froze the sea around Corrin’s ships, forcing him and his troops to fight us. I’m forever grateful that he won that fight, in his usual fashion of not killing any of us, just beating on us until we couldn’t fight anymore.” Her usual smile came back, and she smiled at Shigure. “I was facing certain death if I went back home, so I gave my life to Corrin, and he spared it, telling me to come with him.”
“Selena was surprisingly on board with the whole thing, and Beruka will follow Camilla anywhere,” Father added. “Takumi and Sakura were a little leery of letting Nohrians join us, Sakura I’m certain because they’d been trying to kill us, which is understandable.” Uncle Takumi muttered something under his breath, and Aunt Elise punched his arm gently, but the latter was grinning. “We spent some time catching up while we waited for the ice to melt, talking about Nohr, Azura, and other matters, and then it was onward to Cheve.”
“Only we never made it to Cheve because nearly everyone was in Cyrkensia,” Uncle Takumi interjected.
“Yes…” King Xander and King Ryoma exchanged a grimace, and the former continued to speak: “Vallites had invaded Cyrkensia and had started destroying the town. I immediately blamed Hoshido, and I thought my suspicions confirmed when I went there and found Ryoma with his forces and the Chevois rebels.”
“Meanwhile Scarlet and I thought that Nohr was to blame, and when we found Xander with an army…” King Ryoma rubbed the back of his head.
“We walked in on a mess and two injured shapeshifters.” Father shook his head. “Kaden and Keaton joined us immediately when we healed them and they found out what we were doing. You remember the chiefs don’t you?” Shigure nodded vigorously. The kitsune and wolfskin were difficult to forget, and they visited New Valla often. Kaden was especially fond of Mother. “We then set out to kill the Vallite army while trying to avoid the Hoshidans and Nohrians… which is difficult when they keep getting in your way.”
“You did a great job of it, though,” King Ryoma offered. “Even if I was a tad annoyed about not being able to kill Xander at the time because Laslow and Selena shoved me and Scarlet into the river.”
“Wait, wasn’t Laslow with you, brother?” Uncle Leo frowned at King Xander.
“I had no idea what Laslow was doing.” The more solidly built man shrugged helplessly. “One minute he and Selena were at each other’s throats, the next they were shoving Hoshidans, and after that they were cutting at shimmering spaces in the air, then it was right back to being at each other’s throats. I think that Selena may have shoved a couple of Nohrians as well.”
“I was confused, too, but I didn’t dare tell Selena to stop,” Father admitted. “She’d kind of grappled Laslow into helping us, and Camilla mentioned that her keeping him off of our backs was a very good thing.”
“And you only managed to get me into that position because of Scarlet, just so we’re clear, Ryoma,” King Xander told the other ruler in his usual stern fashion. “I was handling just you fine on my own until she interfered.”
“I still almost had you until those two shoved us. Selena, though. Who in their right mind shoves both wyvern and rider into a river? Never mind succeeds at doing so…”
“I have the greatest retainers in the world,” Queen Camilla replied proudly. “You know that, sweetheart.”
“I’ll not argue on their strength and devotion.” King Ryoma nodded to his wife.
“Details,” Uncle Takumi complained.
“Right, right, sorry.” Father raised a hand. “Anyways, we cleared the area of Vallites and convinced your uncles to stop fighting. Xander didn’t want to talk to me because I was still a traitor in his eyes, and he believed the same about Camilla. But, Ryoma was a little more willing to listen because I had Takumi and Sakura with me, as well as both of his retainers. Scarlet talked him into it some, and he gave us the advice that we should go see the Rainbow Sage of Notre Sagesse because he might know of the dragon Archduke Izana spoke of. I had told Xander to meet me at the Bottomless Canyon on the day that the skies changed colors, and told Ryoma to do the same. He and Scarlet agreed, and we set off to find the Rainbow Sage.”
“Wasn’t he the one who created the Yato?” Shigure asked.
“Yes, very good, Shigure,” Mother replied with a smile. “As well as Nohr’s Seigfried and Brynhildr and Hoshido’s Raijinto and Fujin Yumi.” Shigure’s golden eyes widened at the mention of all of the family’s divine weapons. “We didn’t know that at the time, though.”
“All we knew is that he’s very picky about who he has an audience with,” Queen Camilla continued. “Both of your grandfathers spoke with him, as well as an unknown knight and Xander.”
“You spoke with the Rainbow Sage before Father did, Uncle?” Shigure asked.
“I did.” The king of Nohr nodded, lavender eyes going distant for a moment before he gave a Shigure small smile. “But that’s a story for another time, little prince.”
“Yeah!” Aunt Elise bounced up and down slightly on the couch, grinning. “It was after Xander came back from that battle that I set out to find Corrin and join him! It was pretty easy, Father knew that they were going to Dia, so Arthur, Effie and I just followed the troops he sent.”
“The person leading those troops was Silas,” Father added, and Shigure gasped. “Yes, King Garon sent the man I once considered my best friend after me. I could tell that his heart wasn’t in following his order to kill me, though, and I was glad, because I don’t think I could have lived with myself had I been forced to kill him. Elise also joined me in Dia, and she made friends with the local bodyguards. The army was growing stronger with every step we took, and luckily we caught a rest on the way to Notre Sagesse. Once there, an old man pointed us to the steep mountain where the Sage resided, and we hiked our way up it.”
“Steeper than the Eternal Stairway, even,” Uncle Takumi remarked with a soft sigh.
“The hike wasn’t all that fun, but we talked and got to know each other on the way up. That was really when Sakura and I started becoming friends.” Aunt Elise grinned. “Then we had to fight our way through the Sage’s sanctuary, and found a couple more friends!”
“Nyx and Shura, you don’t know either of them that well,” Father clarified. “And the Sage’s illusions were no pushovers, but we managed. I stepped into the Sage’s chambers and found myself with the old man from the bottom of the mountain once again.”
“No!” Shigure exclaimed. “He was the Sage?”
“Yes, yes he was. He unlocked the power of the Yato and told me that he was the dragon we were looking for.” Father’s smile grew a bit sad. “He died soon after, saying that he had been cursed to live only until he atoned for the sin of dragging humanity into the war of the twelve dragons. He told me that the Seal of Flames wouldn’t be unlocked unless I had all of the other four divine weapons with me, and as you know, I only had one with me at the time.”
“Uncle Takumi’s Fujin Yumi.” Shigure nodded. “What came next?”
“Well, Jakob finally managed to track me down once we got off of that mountain,” Father chuckled. “The day that the skies over Hoshido and Nohr changed was approaching quickly, and we had our answers plus several more troops, so we marched to the Bottomless Canyon once again.”
“They weren’t the only ones,” Queen Hinoka added. “Ryoma, Scarlet, my retainers and I also ran to the Bottomless Canyon and arrived just in time to find Corrin engaging a Nohrian army amidst a sea of flames.”
“Iago had evidently heard me speaking to Leo about Corrin’s request.” King Xander’s expression darkened. “He took both his and Hans’s armies to put an end to them once and for all while he sent Leo and I on another assignment from Father.”
“We had to abandon said assignment and rush quite a bit to get there when we did,” Uncle Leo remarked dryly. “Niles was rather angry with me for making him run that much…”
“And they showed up right after we defeated one of the armies, giving us some much needed extra strength!” Aunt Elise exclaimed. “Oh, and all of their retainers, too.”
“It’s quite impossible to forget those retainers,” Mother sighed, but she was smiling.
“We all fought together and won the day,” Queen Hinoka continued. “There were some… tensions between us. Not only had Nohr and Hoshido been at odds for years, but for the longest time, I blamed Nohr for stealing Corrin.”
“It’s why you became a sky knight,” Shigure guessed. Father had once told him that Aunt Hinoka showed her love for him in the way that she flew in the sky, since it was because of him she had picked up a naginata and took to the sky in the first place.
“Yes, exactly.” She nodded. “But while Corrin and his allies were gallivanting about-“
“That is not the correct word for what we were doing, Hinoka,” Father grumbled.
“The rest of us had seen more than enough signs to know that something else was going on, something sinister. We knew that all of us needed to unite under Corrin and Azura’s command if we wanted to know what was going on. So, Xander and Ryoma declared a truce, and then Corrin told us that we needed to jump into the canyon.”
“There was a bit of deliberation- Takumi was the one that brought up the small detail that this could very well mean death-”
“You really don’t need to bring up every time I’ve disagreed with you, Corrin,” the archer grumbled.
“But they all jumped, leaving me and Scarlet as the last people. Or… so I thought.” There was a sudden shift in the air, and everyone’s faces grew serious. “Scarlet pinned a white flower to her breastplate and told me in was a tradition among the Chevois knights to do so when facing some monumental event. She then told me that I was special… though, not as special as Ryoma. Then we jumped.”
Father closed his eyes, tipping his head back. “There was a shadow behind us,” he continued, voice quieter. “And then a voice like thunder spoke, and I’ve never been able to forget the words… I am the forgotten dragon. The betrayed king. The entombed god. In the name of the king of Valla, I sentence you to death.” Father opened his eyes. “I was attacked with a strange, purple flame, and it hurt far more than any wound I’d ever received. The shadow caught flame itself, and attacked again, but Scarlet pulled me behind her. The last thing I saw before we slipped into Valla was the flower she’d had burning in pieces.” He lowered his head. “When I awoke on the ground in Valla, we were surrounded by the enemy and Scarlet was dead, having taken the brunt of the flames for my sake.”
The room was silent for a moment. “The enemy had underestimated us, it seems,” Uncle Leo finally spoke. “We were able to defeat them with relative ease. After the news of Scarlet’s death was shared, we moved deeper into the kingdom while Azura shared what she knew.”
“At long last, I was able to speak…” Mother sighed. “I told them what I’ve told you, Shigure, about the Dawn and Dusk dragons as well as Anankos being Valla’s patron dragon before he went mad and took over the land. I also told them of my lineage as a princess of what had once been Valla’s royal family.”
“And now is once again,” Father added firmly, and he and Mother smiled at each other.
“I also told them the truth about King Garon, how he was only Anankos’s servant at this point… how it was only his power keeping the Nohrian ruler alive.” Mother’s smile faded. “How the dragon had the power to possess people and control the dead. Remember that last part, because it’s important for later on the story, Shigure. Our goal was clear, and soon a native of Valla came across us and promised us that he would take us to Anankos after we saved his life from yet more undead soldiers.”
“So that’s what the invisible Vallites were?” Shigure asked, and Mother nodded.
“The villager took us into Gyges Castle as promised.” Father sighed. “And right into a trap, but we managed. We got where we needed to be, but Anankos just kept throwing wave after wave of his phantoms against us. Likely, he was hoping to wear us down, or maybe get us to panic and turn on each other in the face of insurmountable odds. But, the ironic thing is it completely backfired. Having to go through all that, under constant threat and with no one to rely on besides each other, the Nohrians and Hoshidans of the army had to work together. It took a while but, by the time we’d gotten the castle, everyone trusted each other more than ever.”
“We needed to for what was coming,” Uncle Takumi muttered.
“There was a great forest within the castle gates.” Mother’s gaze dropped. “It was there that Anankos used the body of my mother to attack us.” Shigure’s eyes widened. “She fled once defeated… and we continued on only for us to attack us again with Scarlet’s form in tow.”
“I ended her suffering myself.” King Ryoma’s voice was hoarse, and Queen Camilla gently took his hand. “When she thanked me as she faded away, I knew that I had done the right thing.”
“I was the one who slew Arete,” King Xander continued. “She spoke to Azura before fading away as well.”
“Something I was very grateful for later on. It helped me be sure that we were doing the right thing by slaying these forms.” Father sighed. “Still with us, Shigure?” Shigure nodded solemnly. So this was what King Xander had meant when he said that this wasn’t a kind tale. He wanted to hear the end of it. “We got into the castle interior next and were faced with your grandmother Mikoto. She guided us through the castle up until the final set of doors, where I could tell… there was a certain strain in her voice that told me that she was lying when she told me to open the red door instead of the blue one like I had been. We had to fight her as well, and she told me as she was fading that I was Vallite royalty as well.”
“She and Grandma Arete were sisters, right?” Shigure nodded, he remembered Mother telling him that once as well. “Did she guide you all of the way to the throne room?”
“No, we had one more enemy to face before reaching that room… your grandfather Sumeragi, who had my old sword Ganglari.”
“Yes. Anankos sent him to kill Mother.” Father and Mother exchanged a glance, and then Father’s red eyes focused on Shigure once again. “He had been the dragon’s servant for a very long time.”
“I was the one who took him down,” King Ryoma added. “It was good to speak with him again… if only briefly.” A faint smile flickered on his face. “Corrin forgot to mention something else important.”
“Yes. Despite our successes, we had reason to believe that there was a traitor in our midst.” King Xander nodded. “The one who killed Scarlet had to have been one of our party, something that was made abundantly clear when we made it to the throne room.”
“All of us were attacked by a fire spell except for Corrin and Azura,” Aunt Elise continued. “Gunter started saying that this entire quest was one giant trap, but Corrin immediately called him out on it.”
“He and I had spoken about the flower on Scarlet’s breastplate before, him mentioning it without me telling him. Scarlet and I were the last to jump, so the only person who could have seen it was her killer. We knew then that Gunter was possessed, and we had to fight him as well…”
“But he’s still alive. You’ve told me that.”
“I freed him with the song I sing to you at night, Shigure,” Mother answered his unspoken question, brushing a strand of her pale blue hair that he had inherited behind her ear. “It, combined with a pendant, had great power over Anankos. I’ve since thrown away the pendant, since singing the song takes… a great toll on the user’s strength.”
“Gunter vanished after the war, as you know,” Father told him. “It was after he was freed that the dragon himself showed up. I attacked him with the Yato, and… nothing happened. The dragon mocked me in ringing tones for it, attacking us with such staggering power that our quest seemed a fool’s errand, but then each of my brothers’ weapons began to glow…”
“And the Yato became the Fire Emblem,” Shigure finished in a hushed tone. The blazing, serrated golden sword hung above his father’s throne, he had been seeing it for all of his life, even if Father only took it down for special occasions these days. He could only imagine what it had looked like before it had become so beautifully deadly.
“W-With the Fire Emblem and A-Azura’s song, w-we actually stood a fair chance,” Aunt Sakura spoke up.
“The dragon fought back with both Vallite’s and it’s own dragon breath, but in the end, we had it cornered,” Queen Hinoka continued before her gaze dropped. “It… wasn’t at full strength either, though.”
“It had, evidently, been feeding a great deal of its power to Father.” Uncle Leo’s tone was cold. “So it summoned him, bringing him down to Valla as well… but only to consume him.”
“Father was eaten.” Queen Camilla shook her head as Shigure’s eyes grew impossibly wider. “I’ve never been able to get the image out of my mind. And after that, it was like the world exploded. The entire castle was decimated in an instant, and a black hole formed in the sky, swallowing the floating islands that were in Old Valla. We thought that we were truly dead, then.”
“But you weren’t.”
“No, little prince.” King Xander smiled. “We weren’t. None of us were about to turn tail and run after we got that far, and Corrin’s optimism was sharp as ever.”
“We beat on that overgrown lizard until there was nothing left of it.” Uncle Takumi grinned, a proud fire in his already warm brown eyes. “Somehow surviving the entire endeavor despite its best efforts.”
“And the rest is history,” Father finished with a slight chuckle. “Lilith, who has a surprisingly good idea of where everything is in old Valla, led us to where all of the survivors were being kept. Something she still hasn’t told me how she knows…” He shook his head, and Shigure tried to imagine the little dragon who lived in the uppermost tower of the castle, leading his parents around Old Valla. “We then built New Valla, and drafted and ratified a peace treaty. So far, everything is going well, and I hope it continues to do so.”
He tapped Shigure’s nose, making him flinch back slightly, but he grinned up at his father. “That’s… amazing, Father. I can’t imagine what things must have been like before the war between Hoshido and Nohr if they’re so different now…” After a moment of running over the story in his mind… it would make an epic ballad… he looked to his aunts and uncles. “I want to know about all of my grandmas as well, and grandpas Sumeragi and Garon. Can you tell me more? As much as you know?”
King Ryoma whistled. “And here I thought that we didn’t want to be here all week. You’ve already sat through the entire war, child, something that your father and Uncle Takumi never would have done. Or your aunts, for that matter.”
“But I want to know more!” Shigure protested. “Everything! Tell me, please?”
“If he were Leo’s child, I’d understand.” King Xander nodded to King Ryoma gravely. “But as you said, this is Corrin’s boy. Perhaps the royal physician needs to be called in.”
“I-I don’t think so,” Aunt Sakura replied hesitantly. “Sh-Shigure takes more after Azura than Corrin.”
“Xander’s joking, dear,” Uncle Leo pointed out, and realization came into her warm pink eyes. “It’s hard to tell, I know, I swear his sense of humor’s gotten worse since the war.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Queen Hinoka grinned at her husband. “It was pretty bad back then, too.”
“Hinoka…” King Xander frowned slightly at her, and Aunt Elise dissolved into giggles.
“Guys, guys, you’re making Shigure’s cheeks puff out,” Uncle Takumi scolded, and Shigure realized with a start that he was right, and he quickly exhaled as everyone in the room laughed. “I’ll start, I guess, with your Grandma Mikoto. She came to Hoshido just before I was born, and Father welcomed her into the castle, adopting her child. When Mother died a couple of nights after Sakura was born, Father was pretty quick to marry her. I wasn’t okay with it at first, since, you know, this woman wasn’t my mom, but I remember one day in court…” He smiled, eyes going distant. “I guess her legs must have fallen asleep or something, because she stood up and then she fell right into the fountain, and I remember laughing so hard. I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but she smiled at me when Father hauled me out from behind his seat and asked me if she at least looked graceful while falling in the water.”
“I remember that day.” A huge smile broke out on King Ryoma’s face. “Father didn’t even have it in him to scold you for eavesdropping because he was so glad that you were finally getting along with her. He was always the disciplinarian, Shigure, but though he was stern, he was kind. He used to pat our heads whenever we did something noteworthy, and he had an easy laugh.”
“Ryoma takes after him a great deal,” Queen Hinoka added.
“The Hoshidan people often say that Sumeragi and Mikoto couldn’t have had a better successor.” Queen Camilla smiled at her husband. “And I couldn’t agree more.”
“Mother’s love for peace shines through in her son, niece, and nephew.” King Ryoma dipped his head to Mother. “Even if she never did mention that Azura was her niece until we defeated her in Old Valla, they had a very special relationship back when she was alive.”
“We both had stories that we could never tell.” Mother smiled. “My mother always spoke glowingly of her older sister, saying that no one had quite mastered the attitude we were supposed to show to our citizens as well as she had. There were several things that she never understood, like the man Aunt Mikoto married before Sumeragi, or why she had given up her birthright to the crown, but there was nothing but love between them.”
“Wait. Grandmother married a man before Grandfather Sumeragi?”
“Don’t ask me for a name, or anything about him, because I don’t know.” Mother and Father exchanged a glance, and it suddenly occurred to Shigure that, perhaps, his parents had had this conversation before. “He came into Mikoto’s life, stole her away for a while, gave her a child, and then helped both her and my mother escape Valla, staying behind himself.”
“As far as I’m concerned, Sumeragi is my father, and your grandfather,” Father told Shigure firmly. “I do actually have memories of him holding me and patting my head. A warm presence, along with my mother.”
“My mother taught me all that I’ve taught you about Old Valla,” Mother continued, sliding the conversation away from the first man that Grandmother had married. “Their stories, the song, the old days of when Anankos actually got along with mankind. She was a proud woman, which was necessary with our situation in Nohr.”
“I think you need to be a little bit older before we actually get into the Nohrian situation,” Uncle Leo remarked, a slight scowl flitting across his features before his face softened again. “Suffice to say, Xander, Camilla and I were never allowed to speak to or go near Queen Arete, but I always remember thinking that she was just as beautiful as my own mother when I was younger, and that it was easy to see why Father loved her. Speaking of Father, while Queen Arete was still alive, he was actually rather charming when we were younger.”
“Didn’t tell me once that he gave you piggyback rides sometimes?” Aunt Elise added eagerly.
“He was like that with me and Xander as well before Queen Arete died… I daresay gentler than he ever was with Leo, even.” Queen Camilla smiled wistfully, hand going to her belly once again. “He called me a lovely young lady at times when I was sad because I’d failed my mother, and told me that I’d be a great mother myself one day.”
“He was stern with me, but only because I was the heir to the throne,” King Xander continued. “He personally taught me how to fight with Seigfried, was as proud as any other father would be when the blade claimed me.” He and Leo exchanged a glance, and the latter grimaced, looking toward the floor. “It was… hard when he changed. But the past is in the past, and I think that’s enough dwelling on it for now.”
“We have our entire lives to tell you what we remember of our parents, child,” King Ryoma agreed. “If you want to know more as badly as you have today, then I’ll make an effort to tell you at least one story when I come to visit Valla or you come to visit Hoshido.”
“Or come to me, who is usually somewhat less busy,” Uncle Takumi pointed out.
“Yeah, we could totally have a tea party with lots of storytelling!” Aunt Elise agreed, clapping her hands in excitement.
“Thank you,” Shigure replied to the offers happily, picking up the inkwell and paper again. “I guess I do have enough to draw for now.”
“Are you going to draw the entire war, Shigure?” Father chuckled. “Well, you’d better start young, then.”
“We were there for the entirety of the main part, so you can ask us for details at any time too,” Mother agreed, obviously as amused as Father was, but there was pride glowing in her golden eyes that made Shigure’s five-year-old heart swell with happiness. He’d do what he said he’d do and make it so he deserved that pride.
“He has your optimism, Corrin dear,” Queen Camilla gushed as he began examining his inkwell, frowning at how it was only half-full. That wasn’t nearly enough for what he wanted to draw. “It just makes me want to-”
Her arms were suddenly crushing him, and he squeaked, fumbling with the inkwell, and it flew up into Queen Camilla’s face, suddenly turning it black with ink. The room went silent for a moment. “S-sorry…” Shigure stammered, a sudden feeling of apprehension filling him as she smiled evilly.
“Sorry, cutie, but even someone as adorable as you needs to be punished for spilling ink on your favorite auntie’s face.” She forced him onto the ground and began poking his belly. “Cootchie-cootchie-coo!”
“Nooooo!” Shigure squealed, kicking and giggling, knowing that no one would save from a tickle-torture session. “I s-said sorry!”
“Honestly, Camilla, it was your fault,” Uncle Leo pointed out, sounding exasperated.
“Oh, but I love watching him squirm!”
“Can’t you wait for your own son?” Father asked, but made no move to rescue Shigure. Probably scared of being tickled himself, and the Hoshidan queen just laughed, increasing the intensity of her tickling.
This did it. Next time Shigure found a dandelion and wished on it, he was wishing for cousins. Lots and lots of cousins so that this sort of attention would be taken off of him whenever his aunts and uncles came to visit. For now, though, he had no choice but to endure it.