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Echoes in the Dark

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Echoes in the Dark - A Voltron: Legendary Defender Fanfiction
Chapter 4: Introductions

In an instant I was being strangled by Allura as she buried her face into my armour, which caused my helmet to roll to the ground. She allowed herself to cry ungracefully as tears fell quietly from my cheeks. I wrapped my arms around her torso as she had a death hold around my neck. In an instant after that, I felt Coran bury his sobbing face into my neck as he wrapped his arms around the both of us as we all struggled to compose ourselves.

It was a huge burden off my shoulders that this was their response. I was so worried how'd they react to me still being alive in an angry matter, that I didn't once consider that they would genuinely be happy to see me. It was comforting to come to that conclusion.

I couldn't hold myself together as I allowed myself to lean a little more on my fellow Alteans as I felt Coran pat my back affectionally. I wish I wasn't wearing this bulky armour, so I could feel the extent of their warmth against my bare skin.

I could only wonder how they felt this entire time when they thought they were the only ones left. How lonely they must've felt in this vast universe, just learning that your people were all dead or gone. I could only imagine that they felt small; that they were only two people up against the vast army of an Empire.

Now they were one less lonely in the universe and had one more to join in the fight. I didn't even think that they could be brainwashed by the Galra in this moment. If there was any danger, I didn't care. I was just happy that my Princess appeared to be safe from harm after so long. If there was any real danger, I trusted that the Lions would've warned me of such.

The raising elevators alerted us that others were entering the room, but Allura and Coran didn't let go right away. I couldn't see who it was over their heads, but I assumed it was the rest of the Paladins, who I could now only assume weren't here to hurt me.

"We shouldn't trust her."

Paladin Keith's voice caused Allura and Coran to pull away. Coran pulled out a handkerchief to noisily blow his nose as Allura quietly dabbed her eyes as she recomposed herself.

"I can assure you, Keith. Kitsaki is certainly one we can trust."

I used the soft material of my gloves to dry my cheeks as I peered around Allura, watching the Red and Black Paladin approach us from their elevator. It was the same one I came out of what only felt like yesterday. Both looked hostile, but Paladin Shiro backed down as soon as he regarded the Princess' words. Paladin Keith, on the other had, didn't stand down as he approached with his arms crossed.

"She stole my Lion."

"Well, yes…" Allura sighed, giving me a slighted look before giving a small laugh. "She does that. But she flew the Lions before all of you were ever born. She once flew alongside the original Paladins."

"So, you were a Paladin," Paladin Pidge piped in, squeezing herself between the Black and Red Paladins.

"Actually, Paladins," Coran spoke up, stealing my words. "She was more of a… temporary pilot. For whenever one of the other Paladins couldn't make it, she would fill in."

"Yeah, but she could be working for Zarkon," the fiery one brought up.

"Um… I hope our Lions would be able to pick that up if she had any bad intents… I mean, Red did let her pilot her, Keith. So…"

"Maybe that's why Blue didn't offer instead!"

"… Or just because the Red Lion was the first to ask and I accepted…?" I finally butted in.

They all seemed to quell their voices at the sound of my own as I matched Paladin Keith's pose with folding my arms. He was clearly the least distrusting, which could be a problem if I were to whip them into shape. The next would be Paladin Shiro who stood at a close distance to Allura if I were to do anything to her. His main priority always seemed to be on his team, although he seemed weary enough to not make that apparent around me.

With a sigh, Allura finally turned back to me, putting her hands on my shoulders as her brilliant eyes twinkled with excitement. "It's fantastic to have you back. I don't think you quite understand how utterly ecstatic I am to see you again, Kitsaki."

I couldn't hide my feelings from them any longer. I was acutely aware that all of the Paladins were watching me, but Allura's eyes could make anyone's walls crumble as I gave her a sincere smile as I unfolded my arms. I took her hands into mine before I forced her into another hug. She seemed to be caught off guard, as did the rest of the Paladins who all jumped at the Princess' sudden movements. I didn't miss Paladin Shiro's arm give a subtle glow of purple.

I buried my head into her bushy white hair, drinking in the smell of Juniberries off her clothes. How she managed to keep the smell after so long was a mystery of its own, but I couldn't find the sweet scent anything but comforting. It was a nice throwback to our planet that no longer exist. Somehow Allura always managed to make me miss my home of Altea even if I lived on Daibazaal my entire life. It was something about her that made you miss her home, even if you weren't from there.

"I'm… glad you're okay…" I finally admitted to her quietly into her ear. "Is… did anyone else…?"

I don't know why I bothered asking. I knew the answer. If anyone else survived, I would've seen them here. I would've seen him here. The Red Paladin would be him, not this unstable replacement. He would be right here, hugging me and thanking me for staying safe. Telling me how much he missed me and how tired he was of fighting his long-time friend. How he missed the simpler days where it was sometimes just himself and Allura, walking the vast green fields of Altea just because they could.

The silence coming from Coran and the stillness of Allura told everything I needed to know. Neither could voice the passing of their beloved King. Even the mouthy Paladins kept themselves quiet as I gripped the Princess harder. I could hardly hold back the large sob that wracked my shoulders.

King Alfor was officially dead now. He was probably dead for quite some time, but he wasn't dead to me until this very moment. The thoughts of never hearing his gentle voice or seeing his caring smile ever again caused my heart to palpitate uncontrollably. Tears dribbled from my eyes once more, blurring my vision for the grief I felt. Allura trembled underneath me as I brought forth her sorrow. Without warning, a large sob passed my lips as I struggle to gain a hold of myself.

I never meant to let my guard down this much, but it was too much. I should've done something more to save him from King Zarkon. I should've done something more to save them both. I could've been more forceful with Alfor to convince him to stay by his side. Maybe I could've taken the devastating blow for him, so he could live another day with his daughter. Maybe he could still be standing here today if I was a little stronger to be there for him…

I shifted my head from Allura's hair as I found that I was being smothered, and my eyes caught those of the Red Paladin. For a moment we connected. He looked startled, but that was probably because of my dramatic shift in personality. I got lost in his violet eyes as he calculated me carefully. He seemed to evaluate my vulnerable position before finally putting away his bayard he was holding the entire time. He seemed to finally understand, if only a little, that I wasn't a threat to him or any of his friends. He didn't give much of an emotion, but the tightness of his jaw leads me to believe he wasn't quite sure himself what he was feeling.

Allura pulled away from me before I could shift my attention to any of the other Paladins. Her eyes were puffy from her crying, but she smiled just as her mother used to. She was a splitting image of the late Queen, but I wasn't able to dwell on it much longer as Allura backed away.

"… it's just us…" she finally answered my long-awaited question.

She was careful not to say that they were all dead. Somewhere somehow in her heart, she believed they were still alive. She was adamant, but I'd be quiznaked if I rain on her parade. If Allura is strong enough to keep herself believing that her people somehow survived the onslaught of the Empire, then who was I to say otherwise?

I gave a stiff nod, forcibly swallowing the lump in my throat. I wanted to leave to topic for now and get to a more pressing matter.

"How long? How long has it actually been?"

Allura pursed her lips as she stole a look towards Coran who tugged the clothes at his neck. The silence was unnerving, and I couldn't help but wonder help but wonder how long it's been since I was last awake. The Lions didn't chime in with their knowledge either, keeping me out of the dark for a while longer as the Princess and her advisor squirmed underneath my stare. I was somewhat surprised the Paladins kept their traps shut for them long enough to gather their thoughts, so they could tell me themselves.

"Well… you see Kitsaki…" Coran began, moving from his neck to twirling his orange mustache as a nervous tick. "It's been… ten… thousand… years."

I blinked, turning my head to the side as I tried to recall what I just heard. His voice dipped so low I thought I misheard him. "Did… Did you say ten thousand years? As in Zarkon has been terrorizing the universe for ten thousand years?"

The both nodded, lowering their heads. Everyone allowed me to take a moment for the information to sink in. Ten thousand years. Ten thousand long years without Voltron to stop Zarkon. While the universe did survive without Voltron long before, but it never had an intergalactic empire trying to enslave it. How Zarkon wasn't able to dominate the entire universe in that length of time was baffling… but it did bring a shred of hope that we still have time to stop him.

"Wait…" I brought up as I thought it through. "Ten thousand years? Is Lord Zarkon even alive? Or is it his decedents we're up against?"

If we were only dealing with his successors and not the Emperor himself, then it might be easier for us to win. At least for me, I couldn't have to strike down the man who raised me… I failed once before, and I couldn't afford to do it again. It was hard enough to first time to sit there and take his abuse, and it was even worse that I knew that every word he drawled out held a sickening truth. If it was a future relative that was now in charge, I held no memories with them, so I shouldn't feel any ounce of remorse, despite spilling the shared blood of Zarkon.

"… It's still Zarkon. I'm not exactly sure myself… but we know that himself and Haggar still rule over the Galran Empire."

Of course, he was. I wasn't allowed to have a break. Even after all that's happened, Zarkon still had to torture me. Somehow, he was always one step ahead of me with his plan, no matter the situation. He knew me better than anyone else… he always knew how to make me tick. How he managed to survive for so long was beyond my comprehension, but I somehow had a feeling it had to do with his "death."

"Well… That's just wonderful…"

The silence that ensued was stiff. The bitter resentment towards the old Galra was strong as the feeling overtook us. All eyes were looking away from each other as they fell to the floor or the walls. I gave an uneasy breath as Paladin Shiro took the initiative to kill the silence.

"So, would you care to explain to us exactly how you can communicate and pilot the Lions? You didn't explain that to us."

I felt Allura's sly smile as she silently rose her eyebrow at me, her mood a little better than before. "You didn't tell them anything, did you?"

"No. But clearly you didn't mention me at all either."

I held my laugh as she glared at me. It was nice to be able to mess around with her a little after such an intense moment, but I did sigh. I could feel the Black Lion nagging at me to answer her Paladin. I did, much to my reluctance as I didn't feel up for the explanation I had to offer.

I folded my arms once more, making sure that all the Paladins caught my eyes. Paladin Pidge looked to most eager while Paladin Keith had his eyebrows crossed. Paladin Lance offered a flirtatious wink as he nodded before me as Paladin Hunk smiled warmly at me. My eyes finally fell on Paladin Shiro who stood still, his eyes watching me carefully. I blinked away first, muttering under my breath.

"I'm able to manipulate quintessence."

"… and that's the stuff that essentially powers the universe, right? … right…?"

"That's correct, Hunk," Allura interjected.

"But can't Allura manipulate quintessence too? She can't pilot the Lions whenever she wants, can she?"

"Well… not quite, Pidge. I'm able to manipulate quintessence – it was common for Alteans to control it to a certain extent. Kitsaki, well… she's a little different."

"… You are allowed to say it, Princess. I'm different because I was created in a laboratory experiment on Daibazaal. Both of my biological parents were Altean, but the key ingredient for me was the addition of concentrated quintessence."

"Wait, you mean the Galra already had access to quintessence before we found out about it?" Paladin Keith inquired, raising a thick eyebrow.

I wasn't quite sure what he was meant; it was worrying to think he was implicating that the Galran Empire somehow found a way to draw quintessence from the world and utilise it in any way they saw fit. I'm unsure of the research that's taken place since the beginning of the war, but I couldn't imagine we've discovered how to properly control it… Even I had trouble in using it, but I guess I'm not that genetically different from the next Altean.

"… How much do they actually know about what happened before the war started? How it started?"

The guilty silence from my fellow Alteans told me everything I needed to know as I pursed my lips, trying to keep myself from speaking out. Why they didn't bother explaining the origins of the war they were leading the effort against was baffling. And even moreover, why the Paladins didn't stop to question their superiors on the matter was puzzling as well.

"We… never could find the proper time… We've been very busy with the war effort since we awoke." I looked around to the Paladins as Allura's words travelled around the room. None of their faces were readable, so I couldn't tell if they agreed with her words.

Explaining the war was not my place – that was for the Princess to tell that tale. I was still new to them, and thus they may not take my retelling to be that of the truth. Perhaps one day that burden will eventually fall unto me if Allura never finds the voice, but now was not the time. If they were curious enough, they wouldn't have left themselves in the dark for so long under the guidance of someone who's word finality was, and they never questioned it. If they were content with being steered in the dark against an Empire they may not know the truth behind, then it was my not my place to say otherwise.

"Well, to explain it briefly, both Altea and Daibazaal were studying quintessence – not just the Galrans. It was a joint effort that originated on Daibazaal during the creation of Voltron. Honerva of Altea," I explained, purposely leaving out the part she was Zarkon's wife, "wanted to view the life-sustaining properties of quintessence and see if she could create essentially a race of her own. To create a group of individuals who were more well-versed in the manipulation of quintessence than even Alteans. Long story short, she was eventually left with me after combining a fertilized Altean embryo and concentrated quintessence in a simulated womb."

"So, you can control quintessence at a much larger scale because its so abundant in you, correct? From my understanding of this, we all possess at least a little to keep us alive, but Kitsaki has a substantial amount more in her, closer to the levels of the Lions. She's probably not that different than Alteans, it's just they lack the power to performs feats like she does."

"Good observation, Shiro," Coran praised. "While she doesn't match the levels of Voltron, she does have more than any other source we've ever encountered. Next to her, Alteans seem to be the most entuned with it, considering our long history of magic, or rather quintessence-manipulation."

"But why can Alteans control it to begin with? Why can't I control it? Do I need to have all this extra magic?"

Everyone seemed to turn to me as I took a long look at Paladin Lance, replaying his words in my head. I knew not much of his species, so I couldn't give him a concise answer. For all I knew, he could, but he just hasn't learned that skill yet, or it was a skill that eventually got forgotten about as the times changed.

To figure it out, I focused my energies on trying to sense his quintessence emittance levels, seeing it that could provide any clues to the answer I sought after. Everything in the universe emitted a unique wave that you could theoretically detect. Species that shared similar traits also shared similar quintessence waves; family members shared even closer waves with brothers and sisters having the wave emittance nearly identical. And on top of all that, those who were most fluent in quintessence released a higher concentration.

Now, having said all that, it was rather… strange to actually go ahead and "see". I knew it was there, I knew it existed, but I could never physically see said waves. I suppose that's a good thing as my vision would be constantly bombarded with these quintessence waves. In turn, I could sense them emitting from things if I focused on it hard enough. It was a skill I developed under the watchful eye of Honerva. I still wasn't perfect at it, and I easily get overwhelmed by the sudden change of sensations.

With a single breath, I could sense them. I could see them, I could hear them, I could feel them, but at the same time, I couldn't. My eyes could only see the darkness of having my eyes closed, but I could see the waves in my mind. Next to me was Allura and Coran; their quintessence waves were bold and calm – much like King Alfor, but unique in of themselves. I turned my attention to the five Paladins who still awaited my response, grasping at the weak waves of quintessence. Whatever species they evolved from, the origin species of the current Paladins weren't well-versed in the usage of quintessence…

With the exception of the Red Paladin.

I've already come across his erratic wave emittance before – when I forced my bond with the Red Lion – but I thought it to be the norm of his species. This was comparatively not the case as he stood next to Paladin Shiro, who was radiating much more stable, weaker waves. Paladin Keith had significantly bolder waves – which would seem to match with his Galra heritage, but they seemed even bolder from what I could remember from Galran quintessence waves.

Perhaps overtime, without the influence of Alteans, that the Galra managed to utilize quintessence in more ways than I previously had thought, and thus their natural emittance grew stronger thusly.

Another thing I couldn't help but noticed was the odd… similarity, it had to the Black Paladin. As I said before, specimens of the same species shared similarities as such, but with the Red Paladin's colourful genetic history, it hard to tell if there was more relation between the two Paladins then I knew about.

Their waves were visibly vastly difference, but when sense them, I could also feel them. And, despite Paladin Keith's sporadic emittance waves, they felt… somewhat similar to those of Paladin Shiro's. I wasn't sure how to lay a finger on it, but there was something about it –

"Well? Can I lift rocks with my mind or shoot lasers from my eyes?"

My breath came harder than I wanted as I snapped myself out of my trance. The real world came rushing back to me with such force I lost my balance. Allura's hands found my shoulders as she issued a small sound of surprise as she helped steady me. I blinked rapidly as my vision came back, trying to blink away the lines of waves I thought I could still see.

"I… um…"

I wished I had more time to view Paladins Keith and Shiro more closely as they intrigued me, but Paladin Lance knocked me out of my daze before I was ready. It caused me to rapidly traverse back to the real world, which I could normally do on my own without any consequences if I wasn't startled.

"Forgive me… I was investigating whether or not you had this the ability to conduct this so-called… "magic…" which I'm happy to report: your species is unable to, Paladin Lance."

The Princess removed her arms from me as I steadied myself on my own, giving a small smile when she realized what I was doing. As for Paladin Lance, his face fell at the lost prospect of being able to do such inane feats with the help of quintessence.

"What did you do to find out? Did you ask our Lions or something?" the Green Paladin inquired.

"No. I concentrated my efforts to, put shortly, see your quintessence, and how much you radiate. It's a good indicator on your skill-levels with quintessence, although it's rather exhausting to do."

I left the entire part out about Paladins Shiro and Keith, the latter especially. I still wasn't sure what their deal was, and I wanted to learn more about them before I delve farther into such matters. It was a personal quest I would have to pursue at a later date when I was more familiar with my test subjects.

"Huh. You know, this is all pretty cool. I mean, even the ancient Greeks on our planet theorized that there was another element – something they called quintessence. They thought that's what all heavenly bodies were made of… planets, stars, the sun, you know? It's pretty awesome that there was some truth to it all."

"Well…" Allura started her thoughts slowly, her eyes meeting those of the Green Paladin who spoke. "It is possible that other Alteans could have visited your planet… if Kitsaki survived, then perhaps…"

That was an interesting theory. It was hard to believe that all Alteans perished with Altea. They were a race of ambassadors, and always had contacts solidifying alliances around the universe. Some of them were perhaps able to flee, or they were sheltered by the planet they were on. Maybe Alteans found the planet that the new Paladins were found and taught them some of their knowledge to these… "Greeks".

"That's something we can worry about at another time, Princess."

The hardness of Coran's voice caught me off-guard. He was a jovial man who was loyal to his Princess. Rarely did he sound so stern in comparison to his normal light gests. Despite not outwardly showing it, he was barely holding himself together in the wake of his lost kingdom. He lost just as much as Allura, even if he didn't show it emotionally as she did. The idea of Alteans surviving the onslaught – the idea of his family surviving the onslaught – must had been a wonderful, but terrifying thought. I wasn't sure if he knew the outcome of them, and perhaps maybe he didn't want to know himself. It seemed he wanted to make sure the universe was safe from those who would bring them harm before we start talking about the ones who might have escaped.

"Oh… Yes. Of course. My apologies."

"So, how about you tell me about our new Paladins? I only barely caught their names, and it is quite rude for me to continually make my own impressions of them without knowing anything of them."

"Tch… I thought our Lions told you everything they needed to know."

I rose an eyebrow at Paladin Keith who merely narrowed his eyes. Despite the fact he put his sword away, he remained on edge due to my presence. Understandably so, I suppose, as I did technically steal his Lion from under his nose, but he seemed much more defensive than any of the others who appeared much laxer around me. The only one who could even compare to his attitude was Paladin Shiro, who only remained so for the safety of his team, as well as the Princess.

"I suppose if that's how you want me to learn about all of you, Paladin Keith, I have nothing against it. I just thought it was only fair and proper for you to introduce yourselves to me, but if that's how you feel."

Allura butt in, "Keith. Kitsaki is a long-time friend who I trust dearly. She means no harm to you, myself, or anyone in this room. I would appreciate you give her the respect she deserves."

The scolding seemed to work a little, but the Red Paladin still remained sour. He his lips formed a thin line as he folded his arms tighter, ignoring the hard look his leader gave him.

"I… hope you can forgive him, Kitsaki. Keith's a little… well, he's not too good with new people…" the girl explained with a wry smile.

"No apology is necessary. I understand the situation, and I suppose me kicking him in the ribs sort of gave him the wrong impression… which, by the way Red Paladin, you should check to make sure none are broken."

I was certain a growl rumbled from the Paladin that only fueled my smile as the Blue Paladin had to cover his mouth to keep himself from bursting out. Even the Red Lion seemed to be amused by my teasing of her Paladin as there was a low purr of satisfaction that came from her.

"Alright everyone. If Allura and Coran trusts Kitsaki, then we should to. She could prove herself to be a valuable asset, especially with her connection with the Lions. I expect you all to treat her as you would the Princess or anyone else," Paladin Shiro commanded before turning to me with a small nod. "As you may already know, I'm the Black Paladin. My name is Takashi Shirogane, but everyone just calls me Shiro."

He's a very experienced warrior and leader, the Black Lion brought forth. He cares deeply for those who are around him and will do anything in his power to make sure they remain safe.

"As Blue may have already told you, I'm Lance McClain – her favourite Blue Paladin," the Blue Paladin smiled dashingly, quickly appearing by my side to hold my hand.

"Ah yes. I believe she also told me you were the universe's most unsuccessful flirt."

The look of betray that flashed across his face was priceless as the rest of his team struggled to contain their laughs. Even the Red Paladin couldn't keep the smile off his face as his Paladin team member sulked away from me, finding Paladin Hunk's arm to lean against.

I felt the Blue Lion's voice in my mind, He's a little flashy at times… and may get mixed up in his priorities, but he tries. He's a hard worker when the time's right… Well, maybe a little too hard at times…

Paladin Hunk gave a warm smile as he patted his friend on the back. "Well, uh, my name's Hunk… And well, I'm not really sure what else to say. I guess I'm good at cooking if you ever want anything else aside from the food goo that we eat…"

He used to get really sick inside me when I first started flying him… It was pretty uncomfortable, but we got over it. He's always looking out for his team mates and making sure all their needs are met, Yellow beamed like a proud parent.

My eyes met Paladin Pidge's eyes, but she turned away before I could properly gaze into them. Herself and Paladin Keith seemed less inclined to share anything about themselves unlike the rest of the team. Paladin Keith was just defensive as it was part of his character – Paladin Pidge almost seemed like she was hiding something.

She finally closed her eyes, giving a long sigh as she quickly spoke. "My name isn't really Pidge – it's actually Katie Holt. I'm looking for my brother and father who were taken away from me by the Galra Empire."

I'll have to give her a little more credit than that, the Green Lion spoke up fondly. She's very quick-witted and an excellent hacker. Very rarely does she find herself in a situation that she can't work her way out.

Then all eyes fell to the final Paladin. He could feel our collective gaze on him as he shifted on his feet. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was trying his hardest to think of a way out of his predicament. He shot a quick glance at Paladin Shiro who nodded his head curtly for encouragement, much to his obvious dismay.

I could've sworn I heard him growl as he scoffed defiantly. "I don't see why I need to tell you anything since Red snitched out on me."

He was still hurt by the fact that his Lion told me he was Galra. The idea was fascinating that he was so strung up on the idea of others knowing his true parentage. Clearly it didn't sit with him well, but it was something he was going to have to live with. He's lived however long prior finding this out, judging by the uncertainty he had, so I was unsure why he was so… worried, for lack of better wording, about it. He shouldn't be judged on his parents, but rather who he was as a person.

Before I could get a word in, his leader put a hand on his shoulder. The action caused the Red Paladin's head to rapidly search for the source, then to the face of the culprit. He found the Black Paladin's eyes, and the two had a quiet conversation with their eyes. I couldn't grasp what they were silently talking about, but whatever it was, it ended with Paladin Keith finally sighing in defeat.

"Fine. I'm Keith. I fly the Red Lion. I'm part Galra. I'm sure Red will tell you anything else you want to know about me."

He's… usually not this rude. I suppose it was out of my place to mention anything about his heritage. But he does make an excellent pilot and fighter, if not dangerous at times… so we all learn to just deal with it, I suppose.

I nodded to the Red Lion's words, although to the rest of them, it must have looked like I was agreeing with Paladin Keith when he told me to ask Red for any further questions.

When the silence ensnared around us like an icy grip, Allura clasp her hands together lightly to make light of the situation. "Well, I suppose that does it for our greeting."

I shrugged my shoulders, eyes meeting the burning ones of the fiery Paladin before giving my full attention to the Princess. She nodded towards me before addressing all of us.

"Well, if it wasn't clear before, Kitsaki shall be staying with us for the time being. As Shiro mentioned, she is a valuable asset and could help turn the tides of this war. Kitsaki," she turned to me directly, "You are always welcome to leave the ship. We aren't keeping you here."

"On the contrary, Princess, I am being kept here. I'm sure the Lions would have a fit if I were to leave again."

The Lions of Voltron were silent at my remark, but I didn't miss their annoyance as they staved to the edge of my mind. I couldn't help but bring forth a smile to my lips.

The girl beamed at me, "Well, I'm glad you have some incentive to stay, even if it isn't myself or Coran. You can stay in your old room. As far as I'm aware, it hasn't been touched since you were last in it."

On the surface, the statement seemed normal. It still only felt like yesterday that I was being boarded into a cryopod and being casted into space. The idea that it's been over ten thousand long years since anyone has stepped foot into my room was a hard concept to grasp – a even more hard concept considering I'll be the one disturbing that record.

"Alright, since there's no objections, I believe this meeting is over. You are free to leave, Paladins. And Kitsaki? I would suggest you head to your room for some rest. I know how disoriented you must feel."

I honestly didn't feel as bad as the Princess seemed to be implying, but perhaps that was because of the adrenaline that was coursing through my veins earlier. The soft look that the Princess gave me indicated that I should be feeling much worse than I was, or that it'll end up hitting me all at once. Despite being asleep for so long, the sleep was simulated and, quite frankly, was restless. Perhaps a night in a real bed while sleeping on my own terms would help set things right.

"Yes, Princess."

As we all turned to depart in different ways, a few of the Paladins eyes remaining on my figure, Coran spoke up after a tick's hesitation. "Actually, Shiro? Would you mind escorting Miss Kitsaki to her room?"

I gave a small laugh, "There's no need of that, Coran. I'm sure I can find myself the way back as long as things haven't changed."

"I don't doubt your memory, but I do worry that you may end up collapsing in the hall. Myself and Allura were thrown for a loop when we first woke up."

Coran's ability to care and worry so much never ceased to amaze me as I sent him a small smile. The Black Paladin obviously agreed to follow me to my room as I reached down to pick up my discarded helmet, reminding myself that I needed to get it fixed before I forgot about it. After the other Alteans wished me a good rest, myself and the rest of the Paladins exited the bridge before heading in our separate ways.

Most of them seemed to head towards the communal showers to rid themselves of their armor and sweat, with the exception of the Red Paladin who appeared to head towards the medical bay first, much to my amusement. The Black Paladin followed neither path; instead he followed me like a lost little creature. He had his helmet tucked dutifully beneath his metal arm as he kept my quick pace through the halls.

"If you want, I can take your helmet to Pidge to see if she could fix it," he offered as his voice floated over my shoulder.

A good leader tries to make solid connections with their team mates, no matter if any bad blood were held between them. Paladin Shiro was no exception as he widened the length of his stride to walk side-by-side with me, his head tilted towards me with his yellow eyes searching my face. I slighted my head, so I could capture the extend of his intents, although I found no ill-will. He seemed genuine in his offer, and it would be suspicious, if not down right rude to not take him up on his offer.

"I would appreciate that greatly, Paladin Shiro. I'm told that she's very good at tinkering with things."

After a pause, he responded, "I take it the Green Lion told you that."

He was trying to figure me out just as much as I was trying to figure him out. It was an interesting dance we were performing as I slowed my pace. I was curious where this conversation would lead, even if I was anxious to go to my room. These new Paladins intrigued me, and I was excited to learn more about them as when the time permitted.

"Yes, she did," I agree. "The Black Lion told me things about you as well." While it wasn't a lie, the Black Lion actually spoke very little of her Paladin. The reason was yet to be discovered, but I was curious what else the Black Paladin could offer that his Lion could not.

My confession left a hole in our conversation as our rapid footfalls echoed in the halls. The Black Paladin was no longer looking at me, but rather the sparkling floor beneath our feet. He seemed deep in thought, perhaps wondering what ever his Lion could have told me. I could feel his Lion creep in my mind from the corners, perhaps wondering what I was trying to do with her Pilot.

"I… Yes. Of course. What did she tell you about? So, you won't have to listen to me repeat those things."

Not a lot, I wanted to say. But that would indicate something was bitter between myself and the Lion, or between the Lion and her Paladin. I didn't want to bring forth those accusations yet so I had to go based on my observation, and the few hints that she did provide me with.

"Well, she told me you are a powerful warrior," I started, careful with my word choice.

Oddly enough, I could almost count the ticks it took for the colour to drain from the Paladin's face. He seemed shaken from just that sentence alone, but he held his tongue.

"And that you were a good-fit as leader of our band of misfits."

That seemed to ease his mood as he let out a dry laugh. "They aren't that bad. We all need our work, but some days are better than others."

I could tell he was specifically talking about his second-in-command who seemed to give me the hardest trouble. "Well, I don't blame them. Getting your butt kicked by someone who's been sleeping for a long time would set my mood sour too."

His smile increased slightly before releasing a sharp breath through his nose as some sort of laugh. "He's a good kid. Keith has a temper, but his heart is in the right place."

That's when I caught it – somehow, our valiant leader managed to direct the conversation away from himself and to a different topic. If it was Paladin Keith he wanted to talk about in particular, I wasn't sure, but he somehow managed to keep it away from himself.

It was almost similar to the Black Lion how she stayed silent about her Paladin; Paladin Shiro, instead of remaining silent, just changed the topic into something easier for him to talk about rather than just floundering in the silence that betrayed him.

Interesting.

"Perhaps, but it is you that has to remind him to keep his head there too."

And then came the silence again. The overbearing stillness that encompassed us and seemed to drown out our footsteps. I successfully redirected back to Paladin Shiro, but it didn't seem to do anything but halt our conversation entirely. I gave him a sideway glance, hoping he didn't notice me as I studied.

The matching silence from the Black Lion said there was more than meets the eye with our new Voltron head, but neither party wanted to admit it. Instead, they allowed me to stay in the taciturnity they possessed.

Then I noticed he was grabbing at his metal fingers with his flesh arm.

I suppose it could be described as a nervous tick, but the methodical motion seemed too precise to be something he was doing passively. Whatever he was thinking, it led me to believe that it had something to do with the metal implant that he was able to use as a weapon. And considering that none of the other Paladins of the same species seemed to possess anything of the sort, that it wasn't something of the norm for their culture.

In a blink of an eye, I found myself in front of my room. How the time escaped me so fast was unprecedented, I was more disappointed I wasn't able to dissect the Black Paladin further. I was sure he looked relieved that I was no longer in his presence anymore, but I don't think it was because he didn't like me.

The Paladin cleared his throat, extending his flesh hand out in a formal gesture. "It's a pleasure to have met you, Kitsaki. I look forward in working with you in the future to end Zarkon's reign."

I smoothly extended my hand as well, clasping the warm appendage in a strong grip as I nodded. "The pleasure is mine, Paladin Shiro. I hope you are truly the light that the universe needs right now, and the one that Allura has been guided to."

Our hands fell apart as the man nodded, gesturing towards my helmet for him to take. "I'm not sure how long Pidge will be with it, but I'm sure she'll be done it soon."

I handed him the spherical object after he placed his own helmet back on his head. The longer I stood outside my door, the more anxious I was to get inside. I was wondering if it was truly left undisturbed for the past ten thousand years, or if someone had disturbed it since then.

As the helmet left my grasp, the Paladin took a step back, offering a polite smile. "I hope you have a good rest, Kitsaki. Don't hesitate to come find myself or any of the other Paladins if there's something we can do for you. I'm sure it's a big change for you after being asleep for so long."

"Thank you, Paladin."

With that as our farewell, I turned around and placed my hand on the scanner. It beeped with a green light as it read my palm, signifying that I had gained access to the room. The door whooshed open, allowing me to step inside as my hand automatically went to the wall to flick on the light.

True to Allura's words, my room remained placid since the last time I walked in. There didn't seem to be any dust collected as I walked up to the desk I had along the opposite wall of my bed, my gloved fingers running across the surface and finding it spotless.

My room wasn't filled with many objects of interest. A desk and chair for studying purposes; a single dresser for my clothes to be stored; and a shelf above my bed to me to store things on was well as a door on the back wall that lead into a small washroom. Accompanying the study desk was a book shelf, however, that was stocked to the brim with texts of all sort. From what I could recall of my collection, it was mainly history documents of both Altea and Daibazaal I was gifted and collected myself over the years. A vast majority of them were myths of both planets, with a few in arts and culture.

I walked over to the bookstand, my fingers running over the spines of the bound books. Direct sources such as these were hard things to come by. In my age back on Altea, everything got moved to digital data as it was easier to store. People started to rid themselves of the need for physical books for the convenience of a simple tablet that could do everything and more. Even on Daibazaal did the people scrapped having hulking masses of bound books in favour of the lighter, more portable version in the palm of their hands – even if these types of books were more rarer to have survive the bloodier history of Daibazaal.

While I was never against the idea of having technology, as our technological feats are what created the Lions of Voltrons to begin with – not to mention myself – but there was something special about having old tomes that told you're their stories first hand. Being able to sift through the ancient pages that told stories of a time long past was extraordinary, but when I thought about it, I suppose stories dating back to my age could now fall into this category: including the introduction of Voltron itself.

My eyes caught the spine of a book laying across the top of the others, rather than its home in with the rest of them. An eyebrow raised as I usually meticulously replaced all the books back myself so none would ever go missing or get damaged, but a text that could very well be one of the first dictionaries of Ancient Altea – a book that composed of words from the language that once dominated the planet and their uses. I gently pulled it from its temporary home, searching its cover for any trigger of a memory that would allocate its reason for being there. When none arrived, I merely assumed that I was in a rush during my final hours before facing Zarkon, and thusly misplaced it on the shelf instead of finding it's proper home.

I made quick work of doing the task – all the books were arranged in a specific order that made it easier to locate. Date of publication – or estimated date, then alphabetized via the topic, author, then the actual name of the book. It was a system I was quite happy with, and soon the book was slotted back into the rows of similar topics and authors.

I didn't think much more of it as I strode to my bed, taking a large breath. I quietly sat on it, ignoring the way my armor dug into my skin as my eyes studied the opposing wall.

Maps and documents of different natures were posted into the wall above my desk, offering quick access to them. Similarly, to the books, they were older documents from a time where physical copies ruled the world. Sticking out like sour thumbs were large drawn maps of Altea and Daibazaal respectfully. They were original copies by who ever made them, and only few such of them existed. Insignias and scribbles dotted both maps, some that were never properly translated. I recognized a few of the markings, but my brain failed to supply the meaning for them. The land mass themselves were exaggerated in areas, and not precise in others, in comparison to the version we would have today.

But again, there was something mystifying and satisfying about having physical copies you'd have to put your nose into, instead of having a hologram that you can quickly navigate through with the swipe of your hand.

My eyes fell to my left as I closed them, drawing another long breath. My mind recognized the softness beneath my thighs, bringing attention to the comfort I haven't had in a while – as in ten thousand years. While it wasn't the nicest bed I've ever had to pleasure to sleep on – that definitely had to go to one of the planets I visited as a child while on a diplomatic mission with King Zarkon – it was something that brought me great comfort.

I fought the urge to lie down and curl under the old sheets, but I knew I wouldn't want to get up once I laid down. While the armor wasn't the worse thing in the world to sleep in, the hardness did hinder the ease of getting comfortable. It was designed with the idea of sleeping in the pilot's chair of the Lions, or in a cryopod on the field – not the bed on the castleship.

After admitting defeat in my mind that I really needed to get up, I stood up with the intent to strip down into something more appropriate for wearing to bed. While I wanted to do nothing more than to dive under the cover and count the ticks it took for sleep to properly claim me, I did toss the idea around in my head that stepping into the shower beforehand was the better thing to do first.

After all, the sweat that collected on me was over ten thousand years old, and the smell of the late-Altea must still linger to my skin.