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Echoes in the Dark

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Echoes in the Dark - A Voltron: Legendary Defender Fanfiction
Chapter 1: Rememberance

 

Time is truly relevant to one’s self. I could remember everything as if it was just yesterday… but surely it was much longer than just a few hours pass. I could still see his burning violet eyes behind my eyelids, forever ingrained into my skull as I slept. The vision haunted me – it wasn’t natural. His eyes, once golden and kind now nothing but a toxic wasteland of glowing hostility.

“Kitsaki. What you did was not only foolish,
but could have cost your life as well as the Black Lion.
Do you understand that?”

The tiredness in the king’s voice had taken me off guard. I never thought I would ever hear him so battered and broken, so tired with what he was facing. I shouldn’t have been so surprised; so much tragedy had happened to him the past few weeks: he was betrayed by his friend, he had to destroy the homeworld of his greatest allies, the friend he once knew now walked the realm of the living once more only to start a war that the king knew could not be won.

And I had just added to the king’s stress with my stupid stunt.

“I… I’m sorry… I… I thought I
could stop him…”

I was very foolish, as he had called me. I never realized how much they changed in the time I have been with them. They practically raised me, and yet I was blinded from the truth by my unrequited love for them. Why would I ever think that their minds were being poisoned by the very thing that gave me power, that gave me life? As I mulled over it increasingly longer, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have been different if I was able to stop them sooner.

“As long as you are safe, my child.
I don’t know what I would have done if I’d
known Zarkon had ever put a threatening
hand on you.”

Events played in my mind over and over like a never-ending movie in which I knew what was going to happen, what choices should have been made but there was nothing I could do but watch and suffer.

“Father! Are you busy today, Father? I wish to play
with you!”

“Do not call me “Father”, Kitsaki. I am your
king, not your father;
you are expected to treat me like one while
you are on Daibazaal… and anywhere for that matter.”

“… Yes, your royal highness.”

“Good: remember your place, child. Now then,
you had some experimentations with Honerva today
if I remember correctly. I expect you to head
there immediately and not skip out on them
to play some silly Altean games Allura’s

been teaching you.”

“… Yes, my King.”

I had always assumed that it was just the stress of the throne starting to bear down on him. I assumed he was beginning to be pushed to his limits between being the Black Paladin as well as King of his own planet. Perhaps it was because of the pressure being placed on him to get more experimenting done with quintessence so he could provide a cleaner, longer-lasting energy source to not only Daibazaal but to Altea and even the rest of the galaxy… perhaps even the universe.

“You’re late.”

“Forgive me, Mother… It slipped
my mind that you requested my presence today.”

“You should be more diligent, Kitsaki.
This is very important research we are conducting here,
as you already know.”

“Yes, Mother.”

“Kitsaki, please remind yourself from time
to time that you are in fact not my child.
You are not heir to the throne of Daibazaal.”

“… Yes, my Queen.”

I was told stories about her from before I was created. How her eyes were used to be so full of life, so kind. How her skin shown a warm caramel in the sunlight of Altea instead of the dull bronze in the artificial light of her laboratory. I was told she was sweet, while her intelligence was unmatched. She stole her husband’s heart without her really knowing. I can remember fantasizing about finding my own husband and stealing his heart in a similar way.

“My, my, Kitsaki! You have certainly grown!
You’re almost as big as Allura now!”

“That would be insinuating that
Allura is big.”

“Haha! Please refrain from telling
her that. She’s in that phase where she takes
everything to heart when it’s not true.”

“Of course, King Alfor. Princess Allura shouldn’t
think of herself anything but beautiful.”

“You are very sweet, my child, but you
are more than welcome just to
call me Alfor. You are like a second
daughter to me.”

“…Thank you, Alfor.”

He was a kind man with a kind family. He always looked out for those who he loved, and always remained faithful to his companions. He could see what was happening to one of his best friends, even trying to call him out on it. He argued with one of his greatest allies for the sake of his own people – something I could never find the strength to. He remained vigilant until the very end… always looking out for everyone before himself.

“Ah! There you are, Kitsaki!”

“Oh, Princess Allura? May I be of
service to you?”

“I wanted to teach you a song that Mother taught me!
She said that a lot of Altean children knew
it as a nursery rhyme but I’m not sure if Honerva taught you…
being busy with the lab and all.”

“I… You don’t have to,
Princess Allura.”

“Of course I do, Kitsaki!
You’re pretty much my sister, aren’t you?
I have to teach you these things!”

“… Sister, huh…?”

She was just like her father; she always wore her heart on her sleeve as she opened her arms to anyone who would allow it. She was naïve when it came to the world, but it never stopped her. She had a brilliant brain but followed her heart more often. She could dazzle anyone with her eyes and make hearts melt with her smile. She treated everyone as equals and strove to follow in the footsteps of her father.

“Kitsaki. What you did was not only foolish,
but could have cost your life as well as the Black Lion.
Do you understand that?”

“I… I’m sorry… I… I thought I
could stop him…”

I was being haunted by my mistakes almost every chance they had. Demons that waited on the edges of my conscious, just timing the moment when my thoughts slipped so they could torture me once more. I tried so hard to keep them away only for them to break down my barriers so I could suffer my self-inflicted abuse.

“Father?”

“Yes, my child? What is it?”

“What does ‘vrepit sa’ mean?”

“Now, where did you hear
that, Kitsaki?”

“... I read it in a book in the
library, but I couldn’t find out
what it meant. Is it
a bad word?”

“No, my darling. It’s an old Galran
phrase dating back to the first
Kings of Daibazaal. You wouldn’t
be able to translate it as there
are no more texts pertaining to the
ancient Galran language.”

“Oh… That’s cool I guess...”

“… What do you think it meant,
child? Just take a guess.
It doesn’t have to be right.”

“… Onwards.”

“’Onwards’? Why would you
think that, child?”

“Because the old Kings were always
looking ahead towards a brighter
future… Just like us now with the study
of quintessence. We are in a new era of
peace, according to Mother… We are always
marching ‘onwards’ through time.”

I never understood why he chose that was his motto. I never found out what it truly meant – perhaps he knew the reality of the phrase and decided to keep it away from someone who did not share his blood. Looking back at it now, I felt foolish for thinking such an innocent phrase could have such a deep meaning. The Kings of Old Daibazaal were ruthless rulers as their planet was still very much untamed. Perhaps there was an underlying meaning in the words… maybe there was something similar in the current Galra language I could never pick out that he knew about. There was no way that he would choose that as a motto because of my silly meaning for the words... and that’s if he could remember it.

“You’ve exhausted yourself
yet again, Kitsaki.”

“… I’m sorry, Mother.”

“… I just wish you would be more careful.
You are quite important, you know.
We can’t have you keeling over in the middle
of such a dangerous experiment.”

“I… know, Mother. I am the only
one of my kind.”

“Hm... You’re the only Kitsaki we have.”

“… Am I, though? I was created in this laboratory,
was I not? Surely you could just
repeat the process of making another child
just like me?”

“Perhaps. Perhaps I could go through
the exact same steps and have another
child of the stars born right in front
of my eyes… But there would still only
be one you, Kitsaki.”

“I… I’m not sure if I follow.”

“Kitsaki. I could make a thousand children
the same way as you but it may never
work again. The circumstances may never be the same
again. We might never be able to
recreate the exact same variables to create
yet another child.”

“Oh… I see. There are just too many variables to
really keep track of… and you aren’t sure what
caused my birth to be successful after so many
failed attempts.”

“… But even then, Kitsaki, if I were able to create
a thousand clones, there would ever only be one you.
You are unique, Kitsaki. Even if every child
from now on was born from quintessence with
your exact gifts, you would still be important
to me because you are you.
You are Kitsaki; my Kitsaki.”

She… was kind in her own way. Rumours whispered in ears told stories that she was changing but I never had the evidence to back it up myself. I found that most days we kept a professional relationship as not to hinder any results from the experiments to keep them as unbiased as possible. Even if it was a little strange, and certainly not like the relationship like other children had, I loved her just as I should. I knew she reciprocated the feelings, even if sometimes she showed it in odd ways.

“Alfor… May I ask you a
question?”

“Of course, my child, what
is it that plagues your mind?”

“Does Allura’s name have any
meaning to it?”

“Why do you ask?”

“… I’ve read that Altean Royalty have special ceremonies
specifically for names… The name is the
embodiment of one’s life. Surely you
thought of a special name for Allura.”

“… ‘Ollurae’ is an old Altean word
meaning ‘of the heart.’ It took us
a very long time to find the
perfect name. There were doubts
at first… but surely it was the best decision.”

“Huh… Very fitting for her.”

“My name comes from the old
Altean name, ‘Alephior’. It’s said
to mean ‘protector of others.’”

“That’s amazing… I… I don’t
think any other name could be so well suited.”

“Haha… I’m glad you think so, my child.”

“Thank you, Alfor. I shall allow you back to
your duties… Thank you for humouring me.”

“Are you not curious about your own
name, Kitsaki?”

“My name? But I’m not Altean
royalty… or royalty at all.”

“That is indeed true, but that doesn’t mean
no time went into your name.”

“… Could you tell me then?
What my name means, that is.”

“… ‘Kitsaki’ is an ancient Altean name
meaning ‘Starlight’ or ‘born of the stars.’
It’s not very common anymore, if
ever at all.”

“But… I was made from quintessence, not from a star...”

“Perhaps… But to some, your birth
was from that of a star.”

I think about it often – the meaning of a name. A name in Altean culture had a lot of sentiment behind every letter; it wasn’t just a word you place on a child to address them. Their name was an embodiment of their very essence… their soul. Mothers and fathers put time and effort into choosing what their child should be called for the rest of their life. Altean royalty even had special ceremonies for all of Altea to rejoice in the name of their next royal. Galrans wasn't as sentimental as Alteans in their naming. It was more common to find Galran with similar sounding names than Alteans who tried to keep their names unique. Despite this, I can’t help but dwell on every person whose name I come across. What does their name mean? What does it tell me about them? What does their name mean to them?

“Do you ever wish you lived
on Altea instead?”

“… What kind of question is that,
Allura?”

“… I apologize. That was rather
vague of me… Allow me to rephrase:
Do you ever wish you lived with your proper
parents instead of your current ones?
Your parents don’t seem to really…
care about you, Kitsaki.”

“You are grossly misinformed,
my Princess. For one, they are not
my parents… and secondly, they
are quite interested in
my wellbeing.”

“For experimentations on your
unique abilities!
… Kitsaki. There’s a difference
between being loved and being used.
I… believe your relationship with your
parents – er, Honerva and Zarkon,
fall under the latter.”

“Well I believe you are incredibly
wrong on your judgement, Princess.”

“I’m… sorry, Kitsaki. I just care
greatly for you… I fear that you
are being blinded by your duty to
respect them as your superiors…
… If… you ever change your mind,
there is more than enough room in the
castle back at home to accommodate you
if ever needed.”

I remember being hurt by her words, but looking back at it now I can’t help but wonder how she saw what was happening before I could. She always saw the best in people right up until the very last moment, but yet she saw the evil in their hearts corrupting them before even I could. I find myself sometimes wishing that I listened to her and took upon her offer. I find myself fantasizing what it would have been like living amongst people who shared my blood. Some days I find myself dreaming of scenarios of times where things worked out in the end and didn’t lead to the bloodshed it did in reality.

“Kitsaki. What you did was not only foolish,
but could have cost your life as well as the Black Lion.
Do you understand that?”

“I… I’m sorry… I… I thought I
could stop him…”

“As long as you are safe, my child.
I don’t know what I would have done if I’d
known Zarkon had ever put a threatening
hand on you.”

“I… never meant for you to
worry… I really thought I
could… I thought I could avoid
all of this mess.”

“I know, my child. I… know. But sometimes
you cannot, no matter how hard you try.”

 

Even now, I can still remember the weariness in his voice. His words spoke of past experiences that will never be spoken on his tongue as his eyes shown with melancholy. The King knew far too well what I was experiencing, something I wish I never had the luxury of knowing.

“Do… you ever just… know
you made a horrible mistake
and there’s nothing you
can do to fix it?”

“It doesn’t matter the lesson
you learned from it; only that
you were wrong and now
everyone pays the price
of your ignorance.”

Mistress.

“It’s unfair… How was I
to know what was happening?
I… I suppose I shouldn’t have
been so naïve – that’s Allura’s
job. But now… Now we are
at war with what used
to be our greatest ally, and
the supposed dead
is walking amongst the
living once more.”

Mistress.

“There must have been something
I could have done. There must be something
I can do. He must be in there,
somewhere.
His overexposure to quintessence
couldn’t have burned him out completely.
Zarkon must still be in there.”

Mistress Kitsaki.

“… You know how I feel, do you
not? He is your Paladin, after all.
You must feel the same guilt that plagues
my heart this very moment. You must
understand my agony when you realize
you messed up when you didn’t
stop his poisoned mind from doing
something so arrogantly foolish.”

“… Help me get him back.
Help me get Zarkon back and end
this needless war. Thousands are
dying because of our ignorance;
we must put a stop to this.”

How do you suppose we
save my Paladin, Mistress?
As you said, his mind is plagued
with the very thing that bonds
us together – that makes you
and I almost one in the same.
His mortal shell is no longer wasting
away from the power that courses through
his veins, yet in turn it's his mind that’s being
whittled away as we speak. He no longer wishes for
peace amongst the mortal realm; my Paladin
fuels off the spilled blood of those who
oppose him in his lust for more power.
His thirst for such conquest has set
him down a dark path that he may
never return from, much less listen to our
desperate pleas for him to change his heart.

“So… You’re saying we do nothing.
That we should just sit back and let
this happen. To give up, more or less like Alfor
has already done by sending away the rest of the Lions.
You wish for us to sit back like we have this
entire time and destroy any chance of us
getting Zarkon back because the possibility
of us actually being able to get him
back is too slim.”

“If you’re ready to give up on your
Paladin, then that’s okay. I will not
force you to fight against your Pilot if it’s
not your wish to do so. But I can no longer
stand idle while lives are needlessly being taken.
I will go alone; I will find Zarkon and I will
talk to him. Perhaps I can convince him to see
the error of his ways; to show him that
Alfor did what he thought was best
for the people in his short absence.
If he won’t listen to Alfor, then perhaps
there’s a small chance he’ll listen to me.
If not, then I will be killed… and that’s
a fate I’m willing to accept for allowing
this to go on as long as it did.”

My Mistress…

“If… Alfor asks where I have run off
to, tell him not to worry about me.
Tell him to worry about his own
wellbeing and the sake of his
people over the single life of mine.
I will do everything I can to talk Zarkon
out of this but there is no telling for sure he will
even allow me to speak before he takes my life.
Tell Alfor I am sorry for not seeing the errors
in my ways until it was far too late.”

Mistress Kitsaki. I cannot
allow you to do that.

“I’m sorry but I must.”

… Then I shall accompany you,
Mistress. I cannot allow the Red
Paladin to experience any more failures
for my incompetence. I shall escort you
to my Paladin in hopes to keep you safe…
and to get my Paladin back once more.

“… Thank you, Black Lion of Voltron.”

It is my honour, Mistress Kitsaki.
Let us get back the Black Paladin.

I could connect with her better than any other sentient being in the known universe. There was a particular bond I held with her and the other four that could only be explained by my unique prowess in life-giving. While I was never chosen to be her Pilot – her Paladin – I still remained close to the giant beast. There was an unspeakable agreement between us – as well as the other Lions – that stated I would never be a true Paladin amongst them but rather a temporary Pilot should anything would happen to their current Paladins. That day was the first and only time the Black Lion allowed me to pilot her; she knew the risks, as well as she knew that there was a small chance that we could truly rescue the fallen Paladin, but she took it anyway – she took me to be her Pilot for a brief moment because she trusted me… She trusted me to get him back but… I failed.

And everyone paid the price.

“Kitsaki. What you did was not only foolish,
but could have cost your life as well as the Black Lion.
Do you understand that?”

“I… I’m sorry… I… I thought I
could stop him…”

“As long as you are safe, my child.
I don’t know what I would have done if I’d
known Zarkon had ever put a threatening
hand on you.”

“I… never meant for you to
worry… I really thought I
could… I thought I could avoid
all of this mess.”

“I know, my child. I… know. But sometimes
you cannot, no matter how hard you try.”

No matter how hard I tried to suppress it, they kept coming back to haunt me: Zarkon’s toxic eyes, Alfor’s weary smile, the thought of Allura frozen in time within a  sleep pod to keep her safe, the Black Lion’s anguished roar. I didn’t want to relive my failures, but somehow, I still torture myself with them.

“Kitsaki. What you did was not only foolish,
but could have cost your life as well as the Black Lion.
Do you understand that?”

“I… I’m sorry… I… I thought I
could stop him…”

“As long as you are safe, my child.
I don’t know what I would have done if I’d
known Zarkon had ever put a threatening
hand on you.”

“I… never meant for you to
worry… I really thought I
could… I thought I could avoid
all of this mess.”

“I know, my child. I… know. But sometimes
you cannot, no matter how hard you try.”

“There shouldn’t have been any try!
I could have stopped him there but
I froze… I was weak despite all the training
Zarkon himself gave me about showing my enemy
no compassion… How ironic it was him
I found myself a statue in front of…”

I wanted to shut it all away and never think about it ever again. I wanted to give myself amnesia so I didn’t have to remember Alfor’s face as I spoke of my failures. I didn’t want to remember the Black Lion trying to soothe my anguish while she dealt with her own. I didn’t want to remember my weakness in front of the man who I had once had the privilege to call Father.

“You are pathetic, Kitsaki.
You would be nothing but trash to me,
had you not been born with the power of

longevity coursing through your veins.
You come to stop me but yet
despite my every lesson, you find
yourself unable to stop your old mentor
because you are too sentimental.
That’s what makes you Alteans so weak –
you do not thirst for blood as us Galra;
you value the beating blood of family more than
the spilt blood of foes. It’s a wonder
at all that Altea even has an army.
You could end my tyranny right here
if you truly wanted to but yet, I see
nothing more than a small child
who thought she was special – that
she could do something that no one else
could by stopping me. I see nothing more than
a pathetic, incompetent child who values the bonds
of tarnished family more than then the life
of her own people. You’ve come to me because
you told yourself you would end me, and yet
I am still breathing, able to talk to you.
An old Galra has to wonder where your true
loyalties lie, Kitsaki.”

I’ve had what felt like eons to mull over it. Where did my loyalties lie after all? I could have ended everything by spilling his blood when I had the chance. Instead, I allowed myself to be weak and listen to his words and break my heart. He was right: I was too sentimental. I shouldn’t be though… What was I sentimental about? As he told me countless times: he wasn’t my father. I didn’t know my true parents… I was raised as some sort of a lab rat for Honerva’s experiments. But even then… I still couldn’t help but it. I suppose that’s what made me more Altean than just an experiment… my ability to feel.

“Kitsaki. What you did was not only foolish,
but could have cost your life as well as the Black Lion.
Do you understand that?”

“I… I’m sorry… I… I thought I
could stop him…”

“As long as you are safe, my child.
I don’t know what I would have done if I’d
known Zarkon had ever put a threatening
hand on you.”

“I… never meant for you to
worry… I really thought I
could… I thought I could avoid
all of this mess.”

“I know, my child. I… know. But sometimes
you cannot, no matter how hard you try.”

“There shouldn’t have been any try!
I could have stopped him there but
I froze… I was weak despite all the training
Zarkon himself gave me about showing my enemy
no compassion… How ironic it was him
I found myself a statue in front of…”

“… You did what you could.
No one blames you.”

I couldn’t suppress it any longer. It hurt more if I tried as other painful memories would just take its place. The emotional agony that had once filled me so long ago came back to fill the void in my heart once more like it always belongs; it was always a piece of me this entire time. I allowed it to drown me as if it was going to help.

My hands trembled as I gripped the controls of the giant machine. I could feel her hum beneath my fingers, perhaps trying to offer grounding as my mind plagued itself with the moment that will forever haunt my memories. She was silent in the back of my mind; there was nothing she could say to make me feel better as she worked through her own grief and torment. Shakily, I let go of the controls, leaning back heavily into the large chair that once housed the Black Paladin. Its size was now just a poor reminder of the great Galra who once sat here as head of Voltron.

My heart constricted at the thought as tears threatened to fall.

In a blind fury, I ripped off my helmet, allowing my long, braided blue hair cascade down onto my armor. I squeezed the helmet in my arms, trying to forget everything that happened but failing miserably. I found my finger tracing the cyan light that divided the lower white half of the helmet with the grey top half. My armour was very like that of the other Paladins with the aforementioned grey colouring instead of the colours that were already worn.

My lip trembled at the thought of the other Paladins whose Lions were currently scattered across the universe.

“Kitsaki!”

I jolted in my seat as a voice mixed with relief and panic filled my calm. The Black Lion leaned her head down for me to see down below her; one of Alfor’s trusted advisors fidgeted next to the paws of the beast, frantically waiting for me to meet him down there.

I held my tongue as I moved to pull the lever that brought the seat back to the exit. I could feel the Black Lion was reluctant to let me approach them but she did nothing to stop them as she moved her head to the floor to allow me to leave. I sat in the chair motionless as it turned and rolled to the exit. When it came to a stop, I hesitated about moving. The Black Lion hadn’t opened her maw yet, allowing me time to collect myself. I could feel her urging me to go, although she wasn’t pushing me to. Eventually, I swallowed my shame and stood up, walking towards the opening jaw that shone light of the castle’s hanger into her.

The subordinate allowed me to approach them as they stepped away from the Black Lion. When I was far enough out of her range, a blue particle barrier was put up around her as a defense. I looked over my shoulder, feeling her presence fade from my mind as I tried to steel myself as well; she knew that I wouldn’t be piloting her anytime soon – that anyone would. She was preparing herself for the long sleep ahead.

“Lady Kitsaki! The King requests your presence immediately at the bridge.”

I said nothing, following him to the elevator that led to the bridge. We hopped onto the black speeder I didn’t bother loading into the Black Lion earlier. The way back to the bridge was quiet, if not awkward while squeezed together with someone on a one-man speeder. I could feel him tense next to me but he didn’t say anything about my apparent treason of defying the King’s orders on not engaging Zarkon. For that, I was relieved.

We crammed into the elevator, squeezed against the walls as it carried us up to the bridge. From the corner of my eye, I watched him play with a lock of golden hair behind his ear as he nervously met my eyes. I looked away from him, feeling my guilt rack up even more. I heard him open his mouth to draw a breath, perhaps to offer words of comfort but nothing broke the silence. I stole another look at his face, his caramel skin sparkling in the artificial light as his defeated golden eyes stared at the floor.

The look he held made me bite my lip as I cursed myself for being so weak. I could’ve stopped Zarkon… I could’ve ended this sooner rather than later so save everyone from the torment they were facing… but yet…

The sudden stop of the elevator caused me to jolt from my thoughts. The door whooshed open to the bridge where the King was, leaned over his dashboard. Two more subordinates remained faithfully by his side as they all looked up at me.

Myself and the third subordinate stepped out of the elevator, only for it to collapse back into the floor. The bridge of the castle was illuminated blue as lights cascaded down from the ceiling. Five seats remained empty – a gross reminder of the treaty that once was. I picked at the armor of my left gauntlet as the king stared me down intensely.

“Kitsaki,” he addressed with a low voice. “What you did was not only foolish, but could have cost your life as well as the Black Lion. Do you understand that?”

I found my voice caught in my throat. I was unwilling to speak but as he was a king, I found myself with very little options. “I… I’m sorry… I… I thought I could stop him…”

There was a pause as I looked down at the floor, unable to meet the Altean’s eyes. The Altean next to me moved to join his King as the other subordinates bit their lips. I expected the king to have a burst of anger – what I did was treason of the highest order: not only defying the King’s direct order but also unwilling to kill the Galra that threatened all of Altea.

“As long as you are safe, my child. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d known Zarkon had ever put a threatening hand on you.”

I felt tears burn my eyes as my voice bubbled in my throat. I fought for composure over his tender words, unable to truly forgive myself. “I… never meant for you to worry…” I tried to explain. “I really thought I could… I thought I could avoid all of this mess.”

“I know, my child. I… know. But sometimes you cannot, no matter how hard you try.”

I felt something inside me break as anger boiled beneath my skin. King Alfor was being far too kind for something that could potentially eradicate his entire planet. I was prepared for him to cast me out, or even kill me himself but he was the same king I grew up knowing – king and compassionate… always willing to give someone another chance.

“There shouldn’t have been any try!” I argued. “I could have stopped him there but I froze… I was weak despite all the training Zarkon himself gave me about showing my enemy no compassion… How ironic it was him I found myself a statue in front of…” I gripped my helmet, remembering it was in my arms and not on my head.

“… You did what you could. No one blames you.”

“And how could you not?! I could have slain Zarkon where he stood but instead, I allowed him to mock me for the very thing that was allowing him to live – my sentiment. He should be as dead as the day’s end but I failed and I allowed him to live.”

The King was solemn as he fell silent. He leaned over his dash more so as he closed his weary eyes. He gave a long sigh, opening his eyes once more to the blaring lights of an incoming attack. The King did nothing to address the warning though, instead, he stood up straight before circling around his dash. He approached me with wide steps, and without warning threw his arms around me to encase me in a hug.

I felt my breath escape me as my face pressed into his armor. The tears that threatened to escape before fell freely as I dropped my helmet with a clang, leaning heavily against the older Altean. He held me tight as his hands rubbed the back of my Paladin armor, offering silent support as I wept.

I felt his lips grace my forehead as he planted a fatherly kiss, pulling back with his old features etched with grief. “We must get you away as far as possible… We must not allow Zarkon to get you as you could be utilized to further his power…”

His words stung as I felt a small set of hands wrap around my arm as Alfor pulled away. I looked to my right to see the only other female left in the room gently pulling me away; lavender eyes with locks of pastel pink complimented her dark complexion.

“W-What? No. I’m staying with you.”

The king shook his head, turning away so I couldn’t see his face. “No, Kitsaki. This is an order: you are to escape Zarkon’s wrath before he kills you where you stand. He will not be as lenient the next time he sees you.”

I could hear the pain in his voice as he spoke. The disbelief that his oldest friend would truly be so vile to do such an act. I realized that it wasn’t just me who couldn’t strike the Galran King down when it needed to be done; Alfor himself couldn’t betray his friend’s trust as easily as he would like to admit, even if it meant for the peace amongst the races. Destroying Daibazaal was perhaps one of the hardest things King Alfor ever had to do, and yet he’s faced with the decision to send the science child of that very friend away in fear of her being hurt by him.

I wanted to protest. I wanted to argue, to fight tooth and nail to stay and fight until my final breath but I couldn’t. That would destroy Alfor even more, knowing he sent me into a losing battle against Zarkon. I was tired of causing the good king pain, but I couldn’t just let him sacrifice everything for me.

I was gently led away by the female subordinate as the blond subordinate and a third ginger subordinate remained dutifully by the king’s side. Alfor slowly made his way back to his post, flipping between the windows of his holographic screen. With a sigh, he typed some keys before agreeing to permanently erase the entire database.

“Sire?” the blond spoke up.

“If Zarkon ever finds the Castle of Lions, I’ll be quiznak if he gets any files out of her...”

Hearing the King use the light profanity was odd and even slightly unsettling. It was a sign of him throwing all niceties aside for the sake of getting his point across.

Once more, the king gave a long, dramatic sigh. He turned to look at me as I was being escorted out of the room, our eyes meeting as I craned my neck over my shoulder.

“Klyza, Rohs. I want you both to secure a ship for Lady Kitsaki before each taking one for yourselves.”

“Sire?” both the blond and pale-pink haired girl gasped. Klyza let go of my arm in shock, allowing me to face the king entirely.

Alfor looked down at his feet before turning his gaze to the ginger who met his eyes. “Myself and Coran shall remain here making final preparations to send the castle as far away as possible. You two are no longer needed here as it would be a risk to your own lives.”

“Sir, I cannot allow you to do that,” Rohs spoke up, defiantly stepping up to the king.

“I do not wish to hear it. As your King, I expect you to obey my commands, even if it is my last one granted to you. After you complete your duty, you are both dismissed from my retainers.”

“King Alfor – “

“Coran…”

As the king turned back to his displays, watching thousands of ancient Altean documents being erased forever from the castle’s database, Coran stepped forward to lead Rohs out by the arm. The blond Altean fought against the older male as Klyza grabbed onto my arm, unable to look at anyone as tears fell from her eyes freely.

I felt numb. I just allowed myself to be escorted out of the flight deck and through the castle to the docking bay where empty ships waited for our arrival. Coran led us to a ship specifically designed for me – one that would utilize my seemingly infinite source of quintessence to power it even if I was frozen in a pod. The oldest Altean watched idly as I was loaded onto it, Rohs strapping me into the cryopod as Klyza busied herself with setting the auto-pilot on course.

“… How long will I remain asleep for…?” I voiced up as I placed my helmet back on my head, tucking my braid into it.

None of the Alteans answered verbally, but rather by adverting their gazes to the ground. So, in other words, I won’t, unless there was an outside force to turn off my pod.

“The ship will run virtually forever…” Coran explained softly, violet eyes gazing at me with fondness. “If you leave now, there is no way that the Galran forces would ever be able to find you.”

“I… see.”

Rohs backed away as Klyza reappeared from the pilot’s seat. They both held the same expression: guilt, regret, sadness. I supposed I shared the same look as I nodded at them, encouraging them to go ahead with it.

“Akera…” I whispered to them as they closed the cryopod door.

I watched their faces fall at my words as Coran looked to the ground with heavy emotion. As the cryopod was booted up, coaxing me to sleep, I heard Coran’s voice slip through the glass as my eyes slid shut.

“Akera, Kitsaki.”

Until our souls cross paths again.

 

 

.:::.


Akera: Altean word for "Until our souls cross paths again"

 

Hello! Thanks so much for reading this story! I've done a few Voltron one-shots before but this is my first time posting my multi-chapter story for this fandom.

With this fanfiction, I hope to achieve much-needed world-building. That includes somewhat developing Altean and Galran culture, as well as a language that we don't really have. This will all be made up, i.e. NON-CANON, but I will try my best to keep it as lore-friendly as possible.

There will be a canon divergence after Season 2 Finale, as this takes place not too long after Season 2 Episode 8 (where Keith finds his true Galra heritage)

I'll be adding extensive backstories to all the current protagonists and expanding on their characters as I integrate my own character, Kitsaki, into their world. There will be future pairings (two of which are definitive, but others are to be decided), but won't be happening right away. Expect more than just one OC to come in as a story with the plot I have will have an extensive amount to build realness to the story.

I really hope you enjoy your journey in the world of Echoes in the Dark as much as I'm enjoying creating it!

Chapter Text

Echoes in the Dark - A Voltron: Legendary Defender Fanfiction

Chapter 2: Awaken

My ears were bombarded with loud soundwaves that deafened me. I couldn't comprehend what was happening – it was so loud; so sudden. I felt panic arise quickly as lights pierced my eyelids with an intensity worse than the sun of Daibazaal. It burned itself into my brain as I felt gravity grasp onto me violently, pulling me towards the ground without remorse. I couldn't stop myself from falling; my head spun with vertigo from the bombardment of sensations I haven't felt in so long. Something wrapped itself around me – hard and cold against my weakened, stiff body. I could feel my breath pick up as I struggled to understand what exactly was going on.

Mistress. Calm yourself. You are safe.

My struggles to grasp reality ceased as I squeezed my eyes tight. The soothing voice eased my racing thoughts as I struggled to regain my rapid breath. I forced myself to concentrate and focus on the voice – to figure out who was preoccupying the space with me. My mind was filled with familiar presences that I never thought I'd ever feel again as they tried to calm me, to reassure me I was going to be safe as the figures around me moved.

They were conversing with one another. I wasn't sure exactly how many were there to begin with, but I forced myself to focus on their voices. The fact that none of them were far away signified a small area that we were all forced into.

"Who is she…? Is she Altean too? How long has she been asleep for? Why did the ship power down when we took her out of the sleep pod? Is she okay?" one voice spoke up.

"… I thought all of the Alteans were already accounted for. You know, as in the two we have? Although I can't complain; two beautiful Alteans falling into my arms? I'm one lucky man."

"Well, it is possible for others to have escaped the empire. There's no way they managed to track down every single one – especially now that we found three that were unaccounted for. The possibility of the entire race being eradicated from the entire universe is probably even more unlikely that it not being eradicated."

"… Well, whoever she is… we should still be careful… I'm not sure if I trust what's going on here. It seems too suspicious – how can the ship be running one moment, but suddenly stop when we took her out?"

"He's right – we don't know why the ship was still powered, or why she was in the pod. She might be a prisoner… or she could work for them. We should exercise caution."

There were five distinct voices I could pick out. I remained relaxed in the arms who spoke up second – his voice loudest in my ears. I calmed my breath, thinking on whether I should trust them. The soothing voice in my head said I could, but even that couldn't be trusted – it could just be one of my fantasies telling me otherwise. I've been asleep for who knows how long… I could be insane from lack of contact.

"Black Paladin to Allura and Coran – can you read me?" the voice who spoke last said allowed.

My stomach clenched at the names. Allura, Coran? Could it be the same Alteans that I've known forever? Could it be possible that they both managed to escape the wrath of Zarkon? If that's the case, did King Alfor survive? Coran – he wouldn't have left his side until the final moment. If he's alive, then King Alfor must be alive… but the voices only mentioned of two other Alteans… not three.

Were these voices even working for Allura? Or was Allura working for them? My immediate thought was that they were the Galra Empire that finally located me after they found Allura. All of the Alteans accounted for, as in the two they already have? It sounded too suspicious to be anything but the Galra Empire. My blood froze at the thought of them finding Allura and Coran. Were they okay? Did they torture them until they bent to the will of Zarkon? Even that code name – Black Paladin – held deep meaning to the empire… they must be subjects of the Galra Empire finally finding me as well.

I paced my breath as I forced myself to remember the layout of the ship. It wasn't very big – just something Alfor had whipped up specifically for me. It didn't have a power source in its own – I was the power source. It was a prototype for making quintessence-powered ships, and although Daibazaal was hesitant about allowing Alteans to have such technology, it didn't stop them from making a ship that could theoretically be powered for kilia-phoebs.

As long as I wasn't turned around, my back should still be facing the same wall as the cryopod. That meant the cockpit was to my right while the exit should still be on my left. So far, I only counted five others in the room with me, and while I was outnumbered, I should be able to keep them off of me long enough to run away.

Run away where, I wasn't sure, but I'd be quiznaked if I don't go down without a fight.

With only a thought, I felt my grey bayard form in my hand as I used my regaining strength to pull myself out of the arms of who held me. The air shifted with surprise as I caught them off guard, the one who held me yelping as he was pushed into the opposing wall. I formed my bayard-fan as I distanced myself between the others that held me hostage within the ship.

I wasn't able to identify any of them individually as one of them sprung into action. I was just able to avoid the violent slashing coming from the red sword that looked sickeningly similar to the red bayard. I thought I heard one of the others yell at me – or perhaps the one that attacked me – but I was more focused on defending myself from another arced swing he took at me.

His sword slid off my fan, almost slicing me in the arm. Before I had the chance to attempt to slash at him, his sword came crashing down on me again, causing me to grit my teeth in anger. Seeing that my tactics were no match for him, I focused my energy to my bayard once more – feeling the handle fading from my hand and into a long shaft that effectively blocked his next attack.

He grunted with force as he drove pressure onto the shaft of the long weapon I held as defence. He looked confused with how my fan suddenly got much taller, but he ignored it as his eyes narrowed into mine.

He was very strong, I noted as he used his bodyweight to try and knock me over. His eyes were feral with adrenaline as they burrowed deep into mine – a dark violet that contrasted his starkly pale skin. I hadn't noticed until now that he didn't look Galra at all – rather, he looked Altean with his skin tones, although he didn't seem to have the over-abundance of quintessence that seemed to surround an Altean.

He bared his teeth with a grunt before backing off, gaining ground for himself to rush on me again. I shifted my feet, effectively blocking his next throes of attacks. I couldn't help but admire his strength, as well as his speed that didn't seem hindered at all. He was a hard hitter while being incredibly fast, although there was something I did notice about his savage fighting technique.

Every now and then, he would arc an attack downward, hoping to knock my bayard-spear from my hands to the ground. In doing so, he would leave himself open for just a second longer than he should as he built up momentum and strength, effectively leaving himself open to an attack. It was almost obvious when he was about to do so – he would back off from his excessive slashing that would keep him protected from my counter attack – before rushing on me with his arm stretched high above him.

Keeping that idea in mind, I kept blocking his strikes as they kept coming, grunting to myself as every stroke landed sent unwanted pain up my wrists. When he stepped back, I quickly repositioned myself so that when he came flying back towards me, I could kick back with a well-placed foot on his unprotected left-side.

Despite his swordsmanship, my opponent didn't see my plan until it was too late as he had no time to block my foot from hitting him square in the ribs, which caused him to howl in pain as he was sent back into his comrades. My breathing came in heavy pants as I awaited the next wave of attacks from them, gripping the shaft of the fan-spear much harder than needed be.

In the short pause that we were granted to catch our breathes, I realized that they now positioned themselves between myself and the exit. I supposed I could try the cockpit and see if the ship still ran, but that was a calculated risk I wasn't willing to try. Instead, I took the moment to evaluate each one, to see if I could find a weakness in their defense I could slip passed. Instead of finding a way out, however, I noticed something very disturbing about all five of the individuals that opposed me. They all wore similar armour – not armour that you would see of the Galran Empire – but the armour of fallen heroes of a time that has passed, although how long ago that time was, I wasn't too sure about.

The armour they wore was reminiscent of mine, although instead of grey on theirs, the colours ranged black, red, blue, green, and yellow. The one who fought against me – as he was helped up by the one in blue – was wearing red, befitting of the fiery style of fighting he showed.

My stomach fell twisted at my previous thoughts when the name "Black Paladin" popped up. It wasn't just a codename that held meaning within the Galran Empire – the man who stood in front of his team was wearing the armor of the original Black Paladin. He was distinctly missing the black bayard, and instead it was his arm that glowed a toxic purple that I assumed was his weapon.

I could only assume that the others behind him also held codenames – Red, Blue, Yellow and Green Paladin respectively. They all held their bayards in weapon form, the only ones not currently trained on me being the Red and Blue Paladins as they were more focused on standing each other up.

"You have no right to wear that armour…!" I hissed at them without realizing it slipped my tongue.

I watched their expression change from watchful to confused. The largest one in Yellow opened his mouth in a rebuttal but I beat him to it, "Who are you to wear that?"

I waited for the response as I used that time to stable my breathing. "The Black Paladin" watched me intently before he closed his eyes, breathing deeply, then opened his eyes once more as he spoke in a firm voice.

"We are the Paladins of Voltron. We're working with Princess Allura of Altea and her royal advisor, Coran."

I was sure they could tell my legs were shaking as my spear trembled in my grasp. I did my best not to act outwards in shock, but the idea was hard to comprehend. Whoever these individuals were, they were either telling the truth and somehow found the Castle of Lions before the Galran Empire did, or they're lying, and are trying to lull me into a false sense of security. I bit my lip, glaring at them from under my visor of my helmet. I wanted to believe them so badly; I wanted to believe that there was a chance that my Princess was still alive – and by extension of her, my King – but I knew better than to believe everything I heard. Despite the sincerity of his voice, how gentle his eyes seemed, I couldn't allow myself to be fooled by simple words.

I took a large breath before I stared defiantly at the quintet of "Paladins". The one is Yellow was visibly shaking from my unwavering gaze, whispering to the one in Green words too low I couldn't decipher. My lips pursed before I blinked, drawing another breath before speaking, "You needn't tell me lies. How am I to believe that you all are to be the next defenders of the universe when you're so fragile?"

Their fragility wasn't something I wasn't aware of, to be fair – I was only bluffing. It was a calculated bluff though, as the fact that the Red Paladin was still clutching his left side where I had kicked him, even though my kick wasn't as powerful as some I felt before. The Black Paladin had and obvious scar that crossed the bridge of his nose. Even the Yellow Paladin's fear was somewhat of a red flag – if they weren't fragile, they wouldn't need to fear a tiny Altean who doesn't have all her strength.

"Don't you think that's a little uncalled for considering you don't even know us?" the Blue Paladin questioned, narrowing his eyes with annoyance. "I mean, it's not like Blue would choose someone weak to pilot her…"

Despite the fact that "blue" could mean literally anything in the universe, my mind immediately went to the right leg of Voltron – the Blue Lion. I couldn't think of anything else he would be talking about, especially since he was wearing the appropriate armour. I didn't want my worse fears to be realized, but the possibility of Zarkon – or whoever was running the empire now – able to brainwash not only new Paladins, but the Lions themselves was still a very real thing.

Although, my thoughts were interrupted with a distinct purring that agreed with the Blue Paladin's words. I recognized the voice, much clearer now than before. It almost knocked me to my knees with happiness, but I remained standing. However, I planted the butt of my spear against the ground, so I could lean on it just in case.

Hearing her voice after such a long sleep was tantalizingly sweet, although I wasn't sure if it was just my imagination playing tricks on me once more. Her calming aura filled my head like the gentle swells of an ocean wave. I could sense her worry for me underneath the waves, but on top it was nothing but caring adoration, for myself and for the one who called himself her Pilot. I wanted to call out on him for his lies, but the longer the presence stayed in my head, the more I felt inclined to believe it…

I forced myself to push her from my thoughts, which ushered the sense of hurt from the presence. I did my best to ignore it, steeling myself from any further intrusion of my mind in case it was some sort of brainwashing mechanism trying to convert me, even if the likelihood of that being a possibility was incredibly low.

"She probably chose you because you were the only one left…" the red one mumbled loud enough for myself to hear.

"Hey! Shut it, mullet! She chose me because I'm a way better pilot than you!"

I couldn't help but feel a part of my soul fade away at the immaturity of both "Paladins", but my feeling was clearly shared with the Black Paladin as he rolled his eyes and brought a hand to his visor.

"Keith, Lance. Behave. Now is not the time," he chastised, clearly unimpressed by his teammates.

The Red Paladin finally broke himself away from the arms of the Blue Paladin who was steadying him at the shoulders. He was still holding his left side, although he was holding bayard-sword in his left hand now and not his right. "We answered who we are," he said in a low, stern voice. "Why don't you tell us who the quiznak are you?"

My eyes widened as my lips pursed at not only the fiery bluntness he carried, but also the word he said – "quiznak". It was a strictly Altean word that had no significance to the Galran Empire, and after the massacre of the Altean race, would perhaps even be banned from the Empire entirely for its reference to the culture. I kept going back to the idea that they could be telling the truth, but it was still early to decipher that yet. I just had to keep my head on straight, and keep them distracted long enough for me to devise a strategy to get out of here.

"I shouldn't have to answer that if you are truly the Paladins of Voltron… Surely they would've mentioned me by now."

My answer left the five of them clearly confused. They seemed baffled at the idea, although it was true that they should've heard of me before… I hope. If they were truly following Princess Allura, then she would've spoke of their predecessors before they took the mantle of each Paladin. While I was never an official Paladin and Pilot, I worked heavily with the original Paladins, as well as the Lions, to grant that my name would pop up once.

"Uh… We totally know who you are… But just in case we have the wrong person – because I would hate calling you by the wrong name – do you want to remind us? … Pretty please?"

I easily saw through the Yellow Paladin's ploy, but it came across innocent enough for me not to want to bash him over the head. In fact, he held his head low with his eyes looking up wide towards me. His fingers pushed together in a nervous fashion that gave the impression he was trying to con me into telling him like a cute animal begging… Which almost worked.

"Well, to be fair," the short green one spoke up, pursing her lips as she looked up at me. "Allura probably didn't mention you because maybe she thought you to be dead. I mean, she thought Coran and herself were the only Alteans to survive… but you're clearly Altean. Maybe she didn't want to be brought up painful memories."

To her credit, it was a fair point, and both the Blue and Yellow Paladins nodded their head in agreement. Perhaps it was true – perhaps it was all true. Maybe they were the next generation Paladins and they were working with Princess Allura and Coran. I didn't want to be swayed so easily but their actions proved otherwise; aside from the initial attack from the one in red – either Keith or Lance, which one was their name I wasn't sure – they haven't attacked me yet. My years of experience with the Galra proved that they were savage fighters, and would never allow their opponent to live this long, even if for information. Even then, if they were trying to get information from me, they would have much more destructive ways than allowing me to skirt around every question.

Static filled my ears without warning, catching me off-guard. I yelped, dropping my spear to the ground as I quickly ripped off my helmet, trying to stop the sound. The others watched me with surprised looks, although they seemed distracted by a voice in their ears. When I had the chance to recompose myself, I tried to decipher the garbled message my communicator was suddenly feeding me, although it was a bunch of static.

I puffed my cheeks, scratching the back of my neck just under where my braid was tucked up and around my head, realizing that it must be busted somehow – perhaps when the ship landed, my head bashed up against the side of the communication unit and somehow broke it. I stuck my hand inside the helmet, messing with the small dials next to my temple before turning to my settings on the gauntlet. When both failed, I resorted to percussive maintenance. I bashed the heel of my palm against the helmet a few times, feeling grateful that the Paladins were giving me time to sort this out before a staticky voice came through my headset.

It was very faint at first, until I put it back on my head where the speakers would be directly over my ears.

" – aladins. Are you absolutely sure that… Altean? Ask for their name… how they survived."

It was hard to hear through the feedback and white nose I was getting, but I recognized the voice. I haven't heard her voice in so long it almost physically hurt to hear it once more. I didn't even stop to think that it could have been some sort of pre-recorded message or a voice module as tears came to my eyes. My mouth flapped open awkwardly as I struggled to form a coherent sentence. The only thing I managed to say was –

"… Allura?"

"Paladins? Do you read me?"

"A-Allura? Can you hear me?" I spoke in a breathy whisper.

The Paladins remained silent as I attempted to reach Allura myself. I readjusted the volume setting on my microphone, tampering with any setting I could find as she continuously called out for the group in front of me, increasingly getting more worried with each page.

"… Allura we can read you… Although, the Altean is trying to reach you as well," the Black Paladin said hesitantly after a period of time.

"Wh-Why can't I reach her…?" I half-said to myself hysterically as I reluctantly tore off my helmet to tinker with the setting inside once more.

I didn't notice the Black Paladin had shifted towards me until I felt a large hand fall onto my shoulder. The action caused me to cry out in surprise as I fought the tears that were suddenly forming in my eyes. While it was only a few days ago since I felt like I last saw her, I knew it was a miracle she was able to survive Zarkon's onslaught, especially since I don't know what happened, or how long I've been asleep.

My breaths came in rapid pants as I stared up at the taller male with wide, golden eyes. He nodded with reassurance.

"It's alright… Your helmet is probably just busted," he told me softly, although stern enough to get the message across. "Tell me you name so I can let Allura know you're okay."

"Kitsaki." I didn't think twice about it. The initial panic of not being able to communicate with Allura was still present as my heart thudded wildly. With my defences down, I felt the same calming aura of the ocean before filling my head in an attempt to help, with an underlying purring to ease my thoughts.

"Allura, this is the Black Paladin," he spoke into his communicator, trying to reach the princess.

I put my helmet on to hear her response. It still upset me that I couldn't speak to her myself – how I wished to see her once more, to forget everything that had happened. I haven't seen her since before I left with the Black Lion after Zarkon myself… I could only wonder if she was still the same.

"Shiro – what's going on? Who are you with?" the princess demanded, although I could hear both fear and excitement in her voice.

"She said her name was… Keet-sah-kee, I believe," he replied, slowly sounding out my name so Allura could properly understand him.

There was no response at first and I immediately thought that the Paladins were lying; that there was no princess, and this was all just a ruse to get me worked up with my defences down.

"… Kitsaki…? Really…?! Shiro, are you positive?" I could tell she was being cautious now – understandably so. The last time she heard my name was probably when others were telling her about my treason to go against her father's direct orders and head to Zarkon myself. She probably thought I was a traitor to the Altean kind and never wished to speak to me ever more.

He nodded once before responding, "She's wearing armor similar to us – only grey. Do you want me to describe her?"

"N-No… That's fine, Shiro, thank you… Is… is she okay? She's not injured, is she?"

"You aren't –" the Black Paladin Shiro began but I shook my head no.

"No… I'm fine."

"She's okay, Allura."

"Good. Paladins, I want immediate escort of Kitsaki back to the castle with her consent. Do not allow any harm come to her."

They all nodded, offering various ways of affirmation before closing in on me. I felt waves of panic come over me once more – despite the fact that they were with Allura, I couldn't just trust them with a change of heart. I had to remain vigilantly careful on the chance that even Princess Allura was brainwashed into doing bidding that wasn't her own.

After the thought passed, the presence of five giant beasts filled my head simultaneously. It almost overwhelmed me at first as I was no longer used to it, but I quickly got over my sudden vertigo with a secret smile. They were calling out to me, their roars loud in my mind's ear.

Instead of allowing the Paladins to lead me out of the ship, I quickly pushed past the Blue and Red Paladins. They both shouted at me in surprise as I took off into a sprint, hurriedly exiting the ship and into the world outside. I heard the Paladins take chase after me, ordering me to stop but I didn't care to listen.

I set foot into the damp cave that my ship created when it crashed onto this planet an undetermined time ago. Water dripped from the ceiling as my feet slipped against the brown slippery stone. It was a steep climb from the entrance of the ship, my gloved hand scraping against the sharp rocks. The air I was breathing was different than what I was breathing for the last was cleaner, crisper. It was sweeter on my tongue as I took a large breath, hoisting myself up a small ledge, closer to the light that peered down from the exit ahead of me.

I heard pebbles roll down the cliff face as the sound of footsteps behind me accompanied it. The Paladins were hot on my tail as their voices just barely reached my ears. I was thankful that my helmet was busted so I didn't have to listen to their constant nagging about running off a head without their guidance. The silence in my head allowed me to clear my thoughts and prepare myself for the meeting I was surely to have with the Princess.

I didn't know how Allura would react to seeing me alive, especially after the last time we parted. I was going to my death, and our last exchange was a shouting match between what was right and wrong. While myself and Allura were against King Alfor sending away the Lions away so Zarkon could never find them, she did disagree with my decision to confront King Zarkon head on myself. It ended with tears as I stormed off, my heart heavy and weary with everything that was happening.

The silence also offered a clear mind for the presences in my mind to guide me to them with clarity. I could pick out each of them distinctly – all five of them with different personalities. The head of the team with her commanding but gentle presence. The right arm, fiery and passionate just as the element she represented. The left arm of the team was very inquisitive and curious while the right leg was the calmest and most motherly of them. The left leg had the largest heart as he waited excitedly for my return to them.

They were the Lions of Voltron, long-time friends of myself for almost as long as I can remember. They were the saviors of this universe, but also the strongest weapon when combined. They stood just out of my reach as the sun of the planet I crashed on shone into my eyes as I reached the exit of the cave.

The visor of my helmet switched to glare-protection mode as I squinted my eyes to protect them from harm. My eyes were still sensitive to the light as I gazed up at the colossal tree-like plants that reached high into the magenta skies above. I didn't recognize the trees or flora, but I stepped out from the cave and into the soft blue-green grass. My hand gently touched the rough ruby bark of the nearest tree as I reached out. The circumference of the trunk was larger than any of the trees of Daibazaal or Altea, or any planet I've seen before.

It was oddly tranquil. For a moment, I forgot about everything. It only felt like yesterday I was returning from Zarkon's fleet after my humiliating defeat. It felt like it was only yesterday since I last saw King Alfor and Coran in the bridge of the castleship, their eyes remorseful as they watched their planet be bombarded with enemy attacks. It was only a few days before that since I last spoke with Princess Allura, as the Lions went to the corners of the universe as Altea's citizens fled.

It was only a few months before all of that since the lost of my birth planet of Daibazaal, as well as the King and Queen who raised me.

I hesitantly waded through the tall grass, wishing I could feel it tickle my fingers as I gently ran my hand over the tips. I followed the psychic pull of the Lions, keeping mindful of the fact that I was still being followed by the Paladins. I was somewhat surprised they haven't caught up to me yet, but that was just another strike against them for my claims of their fragility.

The forest of ancient ruby trees slowly grew thinner as it finally gave way to a large clearing where stood the testaments of the Universe's last hope: the Lions of Voltron.

The Black Lion stood tallest and proudest as she held her head up high towards the sky. Next to her was the calm Blue Lion whose paint sparkled in the sun of the planet's twin stars. The Yellow Lion was on the other side, his head tilted down towards me as if to see if I was truly there. In front of the Yellow lion was the Green Lion, offering a small greeting in my head as my eyes grazed over her to her. Sitting in front of the Blue Lion was the Red Lion whose tail twitched with my acknowledgment.

My breath was stolen away as I felt the five Paladins approach from behind me, but I didn't respond to any of their attempts to reach me. I couldn't help but stand in awe at the power that emanated off the Lions – their quintessence perfectly molding with the life around them. I could feel their lifeforce reach out to me as sort of a symbolic hug as I fought to urge to choke up. I was already weak in front of these so-called Paladins once before at the sound of Allura's voice, I reminded myself. I couldn't afford to do it again. I wasn't even sure if Allura was even real.

But one thing was certain: The Lions were here, and they were all together. I didn't know what that meant for me, or the future of the universe, but I couldn't help but feel somewhat hopeful for the outcome.

Maybe this wasn't some sort of elaborate plan that the Galran King hatched to lull me into a false sense of security, so he can strike me down when I least expected it. If the Altean race was completely vanquished, then I could be one of his greatest enemies, and possibly even topple his empire if I ever found a way… The dangers were there, and a very real scenario, but in this moment, I wanted to believe that's what is was: just a scenario. That the reality that laid before me was actually one of hope; that Princess Allura and Royal Advisor Coran were still alive and well, taking the battle to the Galran Empire with the help of the Lions of Voltron.

I took off my helmet to allow the sun to kiss my face for the first time in what was possibly forever. I stepped into the clearing and out of the shade of the forest, closing my eyes as I basked in the warm sunlight of the planet.

Maybe everything was going to be all right after all.

Chapter Text

Echoes in the Dark - A Voltron: Legendary Defender Fanficiton
Chapter 3: Returning

"Man… For someone who was asleep for like, ten thousand years, you sure can run…!"

My stomach fluttered as I kept myself from jumping. I quickly turned around to watch the Paladins stumble out of the forest. The Blue, Yellow and Green Paladins had red faces as the knelt over themselves to catch their breath. The Black and Red Paladins were clearly more fit, but even the Red Paladin was breathing harder than he should have, although that might be because he still had a hand on his ribs.

"I mean, that's not bad. Good for you I guess… but I know when I was in those sleep pod things, I woke up really wonky…" the Blue one spoke up again, commenting nonsense I didn't really care about.

"Yeah. You stumbled all around the place!" the Yellow one agreed.

With a sigh, Black Paladin Shiro placed a hand on the Blue Paladin. His golden eyes smouldered with an intensity I couldn't find the will to match as he pursed his lips.

"You shouldn't have run off. It could be dangerous."

His words were not lost on me as I bit the inside of my lip. He was a valiant leader, always ensuring the safety of his team. This even seemed to extend to myself on the surface, but the rigidness of his tone proved there was a darker undertone. He still didn't trust me, and his words proved it.

Not that I blamed him. He'd be a bad leader if he suddenly believed everything I said because Allura told him to. For all they knew, I was already found by King Zarkon and brainwashed into doing his bidding.

"I appreciate your concern, Black Paladin Shiro," I commented, giving him a stiff look. "But I attest that I can take care of myself… You can even ask your Red Paladin there."

The annoyed look that came from the Red Paladin's face brought me an ounce of joy. He immediately let go of his ribs as if to prove I didn't hurt him, but still had his sword gripped in his left hand. It put me on high alert as I gripped my unformed bayard, just a thought away from forming it into its weapon mode.

I didn't show my fear as I stood with my feet planted into the rich brown dirt. The planet I landed on was quite beautiful, with magenta skies and blue-green grass. I couldn't hear any sort of creature that may roam this world, but it didn't mean there was any. Maybe this planet evolved without any living creatures on it, just crimson forests and seas of ocean-coloured grass. I didn't want there to be any intelligent forms of life, just plants.

In a way it reminded me of Altea, where there were vast emerald forests and beautiful sapphire oceans beyond imaginable. Daibazaal was depressing in comparison, with rocky crimson cliff faces and dark deadened shrubs. Maybe this was a mix of the two, with the colours of the Galran planet and the beauty of the Altean planet.

… I could only hope that the if there was any intelligent life form, that they would never evolve into an intergalactic war mongering race…

The silence between us was growing louder as no one dared moved. To my luck, if they did turn out to be some sort of brainwashed Paladins, the Lions were behind me if I needed a quick escape. For all I knew, they were just buying time for the Galran fleet to surround me and take me in for whatever dubious things they had planned. I didn't forget about Allura, and every time my mind brought her forward, it would cause my stomach to flutter nervously.

"So… Now what?" Blue Paladin spoke up, looking between his team members and myself.

He certainly talked a lot, even if it was just to fill the silence with his voice, I noted.

The purr from the back of my mind agreed with me as the Blue Lion came forward to offer her own observations. She filled my mind with images of the Blue Paladin, who she informed me was Lance and not Keith, and how he fit as the sharpshooter. She showed me his playful antics with bugging his fellow Red Paladin Keith, as well as his escapades as the Universe's most unsuccessful flirt. I could already tell he was a bit of a show off, sort of an odd but fitting fix to the Blue Lion's more modest approach.

The Blue Lion pulled away and, in her place, came the Yellow Lion. He seemed eager to share his experiences with the Yellow Paladin Hunk who I was told was a very good chef. While Yellow admitted he wasn't sure how good his cooking was in actuality, his fellow Paladins seemed to enjoy it. He had the largest heart of the team, as well as a motion sickness that seemed to only add to his gentle personality. He showed me how competent he was when it came to engineering feats, something that was somewhat rare in Galran society.

Almost cautiously, the Green Lion squeezed the Yellow Lion over to share her Green Paladin Pidge, who was in fact a girl despite her appearance of a boy. She had motives of her own for becoming a Paladin, something that didn't sit with me well, as well as having personal losses with the Galran Empire. She lost her brother and father to them in some sort of mission, but the details grew hazier as Green couldn't quite recall them from the lack of communication between her and her Pilot.

The Red Lion butted Green over before she was finished, flooding my mind with her Red Paladin. Keith was a stark contrast to the former Red Paladin, King Alfor, but better fit her fiery fighting style. I was almost surprised by the fact that he was part Galra – one of the first things that the Red Lion was sure to mention. He didn't appear to be Galra one bit, with the exception of his unstable fighting style, but what surprised me most was that he was fighting against the Galran. I wanted to focus on that more, but the Red Lion pushed my thoughts out of her way as she continued to share her experiences with the unstable Paladin.

I was eventually able to calm her ranting, turning around to face the Lions. I was certain I heard Paladin Lance or Paladin Hunk ask what I was doing as I silently stared up at the Black Lion, awaiting her turn to tell me about Paladin Shiro.

Oddly, she was silent to me. I know I heard her voice first when I woke up, telling me that I was safe, but that was it. She's been hushed ever since, not offering a piece of advice. I could feel her just out of the corner of my mind, watching my thoughts carefully as I awaited her.

I was worried that there was bad blood between us since our last happening. It was my fault that King Zarkon fell to the dark side and that I wasn't able to stop him. I can't recall her speaking anything to me when I returned crestfallen from Zarkon's fleet. She was too deep in her own sorrow to offer any condolences or sympathies for my failures.

But there was something more at play as her silence lingered on. I could feel her reluctance to speak of her new Paladin, not because of her spite of not wanting to speak of me, but for fear of her own Paladin. While she didn't express it, it wasn't hard to grasp her feelings.

The one thing that came with connecting so close to the Lions, was the fact that emotions were never hidden. I can always tell what the Lions were feeling, but in turn they know how I felt. It was hard to keep anything a secret from King Zarkon or King Alfor, or any of the Paladins of Old for that matter, with the Lions and their big mouths…

A small rumble came from Black Lion that felt like a purr of amusement. She clearly heard my thoughts, and to my relief didn't seem like she was holding a grudge against me like my first assumption. She did offer a small piece of mind, claiming that she respected the Black Paladin. She didn't go farther beyond those words, but I could just barely grasp images flash in my mind's eye before they disappeared. I couldn't tell much of them, they went by too fast for me to properly see.

"… So, the Lions do respect you…" I murmured softly, turning back to face them.

They held an array of different expressions, ranging from confusion, to "wasn't-it-obvious", to concern. Red Paladin Keith and Black Paladin Shiro were harder to read as their faces remained stoic and unforgiving with Paladin Keith seemingly grinding his jaw to keep himself quiet.

My eyes met Paladin Shiro's briefly, and I saw his ever-growing concern. I could tell he was trying to figure me out, wondering how I came to my silent conclusion. He searched my face in hopes of finding any clue on how I was able to come to such a definitive conclusion. I merely raised an eyebrow at him, confusing him further.

"What's wrong, Paladins? Why don't you just ask your Lions for the answer?"

I could just feel their annoyance rise with my every word, even to the point where the Red Paladin glared daggers at me. I was amused with myself, although it was more of a test. Pushing their boundaries was a good way into getting into their heads in a psychological way. If I was truly to work with them eventually, it was a good idea to get a head start on taking mental notes on them…

That is, if they aren't the Galra Army, after all.

"… We can do that? 'Cause they like, they're pretty quiet all the time…" Yellow Paladin Hunk asked in a soft voice.

"Of course," I huffed. "Go ahead. They'll tell you how I know."

Green Paladin Pidge pursed her lips before turning her head to the side with a small smile. "… Soooo how does she know, Green?"

I couldn't feel the Green Lion respond. The look on the Green Paladin's face proved that she couldn't either. I almost scoffed: clearly, they were still new at being Paladins if the Lions didn't answer such a small question. While they can be finicky at time, or even cryptic with their words, they did answer most of my questions when I asked.

The Red Lion huffed in response to my thoughts and caused a small smile to form on my face. The Red Paladin showed no signs of hearing his Lion.

"What wrong? Lion got your tongue? Can't you all hear what they're saying?" I chastised, although they didn't seem to appreciate it.

"Of course, I can hear what Blue says! We understand each other on a different level. Right, Blue?"

A small laugh finally made it past my lips as the Blue Lion remained silent to his claims. I could almost feel her embarrassment as the Blue Paladin awaited to hear her gentle voice but never came. He immediately looked annoyed, if not crestfallen when he heard nothing.

They are still very new, Mistress. Please do not tease them too much.

I shivered at the rumble of the Black Lion's powerful voice. The look on the Black Paladin's face was surprise as he stared up to his Lion, clearly indicating he heard something coming from his Lion. He quickly darted his eyes back down to me, erasing any emotion off his face as he searched me.

I made a mental note to add that he could hear his Lion, just not understand her.

"… You didn't understand what she said, did you? Black Paladin Shiro?"

The other Paladins looked to their leader for an answer, but he didn't verbally respond. He was unmoving as he continued to watch me carefully; even as his eyes darted to his right-hand-man Keith, it still felt like he had some sort of watch on me. He finally gave a small sigh, breaking down his barriers as he blinked once at me.

"How did you understand her?"

It was a fair question. I had them running through hoops long enough as I felt their patience wane. While I did enjoy having the Paladins in such a position to get a good grasp where they stood in their training, I was still on a time constraint if the Galran Empire were to come.

There was also the pressing matter of Allura, which I was eager to solve.

"I can hear her, much like you should be able to, Paladins."

The length of time for any other them to retort was abysmal. They remained silent as a gentle breeze blew over the clearing, tickling my cheeks with my stray wisps of hair. They all looked thoughtful as they had varying degrees of confusion available on their faces for me to read. The Black Paladin looked the worse off as he grounded his jaw, perhaps trying to grasp all of it.

I only wished I knew what he was thinking.

"What do you mean?" the Red Paladin finally broke the silence, glaring me with an intensity I felt pressured to match. "We are their Paladins. Only we should be able to hear them."

He's scared, the Red Lion informed me out of the blue. I wasn't prepared for her to speak so suddenly with the information that I didn't think seemed relevant. I gave Paladin Keith the once over, noting the way his eyebrows twitched as he tried to maintain the glare he was throwing at me, as well as the way his free hand continuously tightened into a fist. He is worried about his position on the team.

To be worried about such a thing was strange. His connection with the Red Lion seemed decent enough, although there was a lot more that needed to be done before he could honestly say he had a good bond with her. I had a feeling it had to do with his heritage that was only briefly mentioned by his Lion who deemed it was important enough to notify me right away instead of allowing him to come forward after. I took this into account before answering him firmly.

"I can communicate with the Lions in a way that you all should be able to. While yes, you are the official Paladins, my bond with the Lions run a little different, and a little deeper as of right now, than yours."

"But how?" Paladin Pidge spoke up. "Allura said that only one person can bond with a Lion at a time."

There was an eerie silence from the Black Lion that seemed to line up with the way Paladin Shiro fidgeted. The idea that such a reaction was brought upon by having multiple bonds from the Black Lion and Paladin was not good, and something that was to be my immediate attention after.

"A natural bond, yes. However, I bond with the Lions a little different than all of you… and that's something to be discussed at a later date."

I was growing weary at answering their questions when it could all be said later in the comfort of the castleship. While the planet we were momentarily on was fascinating, and quite beautiful in its own right, I was anxious to see my princess once more, and to be finally clear of the Galran threat if they were telling me the truth.

Paladin Shiro seemed to grasp my understanding as he stepped forward from the line of Paladins with a nod. "Right. You must be eager to see Princess Allura again. She seemed quite glad that you were safe."

I gave a small nod, hoping that I didn't see too eager. I reminded myself to stay on alert, even if Paladin Shiro's presence made it easier to relax. I focused on his rigidness, and affinity to distrust me rather than his good qualities.

"Indeed. I hope she is faring well."

"We've kept her safe," the Green Paladin popped in. "No real harm has come to the castle or anything."

"… Except for when we sorta let the castle's crystal get corrupted. That was not a fun time."

"Oh man! I thought the food was out to get me for all the times I ate it! I thought I was done for."

"Tch… At least you didn't have a Gladiator trying to kill you."

"I was nearly thrown out of an airlock, thank you!"

"Alright everyone. That's enough."

I couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at them. While their story certainly sounded revelling, it was worrying they allowed the "castle's crystal" – more than likely referring to the Balmera Crystal that powered the castle – to become "corrupted". While it was rare to happen, it was possible… I just hope it didn't do too much damage to anything.

"Anyway. We have instructions to escort you back to the castle. I'm sure the Princess is just as anxious to see a fellow Altean safe and sound."

I couldn't but agree as I finally faded my bayard from existence. It was perhaps my worse mistake, but I couldn't help but feel safe with the Lions at my back. They seemed to respect their new Paladins to a point, which is better than nothing, I suppose. If they had any suspicion about their Paladins, the would have informed me. I trust the Lions and their decisions, even if sometimes they did cause me grief.

Even as I thought it, the silence of the Black Lion was staggering. Usually she was the one who was always backing up my inner turmoil with her much-needed advice. It was starting to worry me, but I didn't have the time at the moment to properly ask her about it. It was going to be something I discuss with her when I'm settled in…

And away from the Black Paladin.

"Of course. I would like to take the Black Lion back to the castle."

Maybe I could have a private moment with the Lion sooner than I thought.

Paladin Shiro stepped forward, nodding his head as he raised his eyes to look at the Lion he piloted. "If that's what you want, I'll be more than happy to fly you."

I couldn't stop myself from taking a small step back away from the encroaching Paladin. I shook my head slightly, defiantly saying, "No. I can fly myself back to the castle."

I didn't add the fact that I didn't completely trust them yet. I didn't want to give them that impression too obvious in case that spooked them into calling their reinforcements.

The Paladin looked confused, if not startled by my claim. He immediately hardened his eyes as his body tensed. His team members behind him followed suit as they went into high alert. I didn't miss the Red Paladin raising his sword.

"You… can't fly the Black Lion. Only I can."

I tutted my tongue. "That's what you think. You'll learn very quickly that I can do a lot of things that others can't."

That put him on edge. The Red Paladin hurriedly approached his leader's side, eyes cold and unreadable. No one seemed to like it.

"How is it possible that you can?" Paladin Pidge inquired suspiciously.

"The same reason how I'm able to hear them."

"That's not an answer…" the Red Paladin growled.

"I would suggest you bare your Galran teeth at someone else, Red Paladin Keith."

The rapid shift from rage to fear and surprise was startling as he blinked his violet eyes. "H-How did you know…?"

It was interesting how quickly I was able to knock him off his feet with just a tiny bit of information.

He isn't used to the information yet himself, I was dutifully informed by his Lion.

Oh, so this was new information altogether… and that my theory for his fear about his position had some grounds to it. I added this detail to my ever-expanding list of things to keep track when it came to the Paladins.

I decided against answering the Paladins, figuring it was all right to let them squirm a little longer before getting proper answers.

I turned my back to them, being acutely aware for any sounds of movement that would indicate an attack. My hand was ready to deflect an attack to the time came for the need of my bayard. "I will fly myself."

The lack of agreement from Black was off-putting as I reached out with my mind. She remained just out of reach as she quietly observed, awaiting to see what her Paladin would do.

"I'm afraid I can't let you do that." I had a hidden smile as he stepped to my left, trying to catch my eyes. "As I said, I will pilot you there myself, but I can't let you pilot the Black Lion yourself."

There were more things left unsaid, but I got the message. The unsaid words hung heavy in the air as my mind bounced them around in my head as I gave them a voice: they didn't trust me as much as I didn't trust them. There was a mutual standoff as I remained stationary.

I will fly you there, Mistress Kitsaki, the Red Lion brought forth.

I was inclined to say no as I still wanted to have a private moment with the Black Lion, but the Red Lion was the fastest Lion, and could easily outrun any Galran fleets if needed by. With a small sigh, I felt the Red Lion roar in triumph as she lowered her head to the ground.

"Fine. I'll take the Red Lion then."

I stepped out of Paladin Shiro's reach as he made a grab for my shoulder.

"Wait, hold on! You can't take my Lion! I'm her Paladin!"

I ignored Paladin Keith as he took off into a sprint after me. I heard him gain on me as he raced after me, his light footfalls through the long grass. I was suddenly enwrapped in darkness as the Red Lion scooped me up into her jaw. I stumbled a little as I heard the Red Paladin bang loudly outside.

I followed the unlit hall that lead in the direction of the cockpit of the Lion. I was slow about it, trying to refamiliarize myself with her. My body and my mind were muddled with different feelings as it felt like it was only a few weeks since I last saw the Lion, but I knew it was much longer than that.

I reached the back of the Lion's head, turning around so I could climb the stairs that lead up to the cockpit. I heaved my body up the stairs, my eyes somewhat adjusting the dark interior as I reached the top. I carefully stepped forward to approach the Pilot's seats, my muscles recalling how to maneuver the cockpit.

I slowly planted myself in the large red seat, my heels to the bottom of the chair. It was an odd thing to think that King Alfor no longer sat in this chair, but rather a rowdy kid. It was hard to comprehend it.

My hands found the controls of the giant beast as she powered herself up. Her large eyes opened to allow the to allow me to see through her eyes as her consoles turned themselves on. She hummed softly beneath my fingertips as she sent her feelings of elations towards me.

No need to be gentle, Mistress. I can tell you my Paladin certainly isn't.

I gave a small laugh as I nodded softly, turning my attention to the Paladins scattered on the ground. The Red Lion specifically zoomed in on her Paladin, giving me a large view of his sneering face. He was very upset about me being in his Lion, but the way his eyes seemed to twinkle with fear showed his disbelief that I could even begin to power up Red.

I thumbed the right joystick fondly, rolling my neck in a way to stretch it. I felt the Lion purr beneath my fingertips as I closed my eyes, breathing deeply.

It was always a hard to describe what happened when I reached out to the Lions. I felt like I was molding my soul as quintessence flowed through me and straight into the Red Lion. I couldn't just fly the Lions right away; I needed to force a bond with them.

No one really knew how a bond with a Lion was created, since there was only five Paladins before now. I was asked to describe it before, but I always had trouble. Quintessence flowed through everything in the universe; every planet, every plant, every living thing. Each thing had a different quintessence wavelength that they emitted, and I could sense it. It was looking at a heartbeat, but each one unique – never the same.

When it came to the Lions and their Paladins, it was the only exception. They seemed to share the same wavelength with each other. They were the only ones I ever found that had this trait. I theorized that the Lions would match wavelengths with their Paladins when they choose them.

The Lions drew power from their Paladins. The better the bond with their Paladins, the more they can draw from them. Only when the Paladins have a good connection amongst themselves and with their respective Lion can they draw forth the energy needed to form Voltron.

And somehow in all this, the Lions matched their quintessence rhythms, so they could make this perfect bond. It makes sense in a way, since the Lions were created with the inter-dimensional comet that had properties like no other. How machines were able to manipulate quintessence in such a fine-tune way was beyond my understanding, but perhaps some things were better off as a mystery.

For me, it's a little different when it comes to the bonding. The Lions don't change their quintessence rhythms to match mine, but I'm able to manipulate mine. It's not as clean or precise as the Lions – I can never perfectly match the waves, so they fit inline with other waves – but it's close enough that our quintessence flow in sync.

I remember at first, they were hesitant to allow me to do so, but they warmed up to the idea after encouraging words from their Paladins. They trust me as much as their Pilots, something that I'm grateful for – we all shared a deep connection with quintessence that no one else in the universe seems to grasp.

With that in mind, I pushed myself to match the chaotic lengths of the Red Lion, noting how drastically different it was in comparison to the ones she used to have with King Alfor. I remember distinctly that his were long and steady, almost like the gentle swells on an ocean that I could always pick out. The wavelengths to match Keith were almost unstable; erratic like a racing heartbeat. They never stayed still long enough for me to proper grasp them as they bounced up and down like an angry ocean wave, or a hurricane of winds rushing in every which way.

To be fair, I can't recall ever seeing such unstable waves before, but with much effort, I felt Red roar as I opened my eyes in triumph and I pushed both levers forward. The Lion took off from the planet that I called home since I crashed here, but I was quickly followed by the rest of Voltron.

Without my consent, Paladin Shiro appeared on my monitor with Paladin Keith fuming in the background from his Black Lion. He was on the edge of his seat as he held his lips in a frown as his golden eyes stared me down.

"What on Earth do you think you're doing?" the leader asked relatively calmly.

I never heard of this "Earth" place before, but I suppose with the times that changes, sayings change as well. I gave him a bored look, taking my time to respond, "Isn't it obvious? Being escorted to the castle."

I was nervous to hear Allura's voice from the speaker. I would rather leave that until I knew for sure it was her. To my luck, she nor Coran came through as Paladin Keith leaned over Paladin Shiro's chair. "Well it looks to me that your stealing my Lion!"

"You needn't be so hostile, Red Paladin… She was the one who offered."

"Oh man… You'd never do that to me Yellow… would you?"

"Psh! Well, we know which Lion loves their Paladin more, eh Keith? Blue would never betray me."

"Well, statistically speaking, the Red Lion would be the next best Lion to take… so don't get too cocky, Lance."

My dashboard was filled with the rest of the Paladins as they joined in.

"Paladins, enough," the Black Paladin commanded. His team seemed reluctant to shut their mouths as they continued to talk to over him for a few ticks longer before they caught the glare of the Red and Black Paladins. Paladin Lance's lips twitched into a pout when he finally stopped talking. "Kitsaki. By the order of Voltron, I command you to –"

I pressed a button, effectively cutting him off as I shut down all my communications. I sat back with a sigh as I exited the atmosphere where I captured a glimpse of the magenta planet I left. I wish I had more time to explore, but there were more pressing matters at hand.

… Please don't take much what my Paladin says to heart, Mistress… He means well when he's –

Would I be betraying my Paladin if I allowed you to pilot me, Mistress Kitsaki? I wouldn't want him to feel like that –

I'm curious about what happened after we were separated, Mistress. Black went silent when you left. We weren't told anything that –

How do you feel about our new Paladins, Mistress? They need serious work, but they're good Pilots.

I couldn't help but laugh at the overwhelming voices that invaded my head. They were all excited to have me back as they butted in over each other, that I could tell. I couldn't respond to anyone as a fifth voice filled my head.

Enough. You all have jobs to take care of first, namely flying your Pilots back to the Castle of Lions. Furthermore, you're overwhelming Mistress Kitsaki. The Lions all remained silent as their leader spoke; it was a stark contrast to their Pilots who didn't quiet right away. We're all happy to have her back, and we're all eager to speak with her, but the time is not now. Mistress Kitsaki will devote some time when she's able to speak with us individually. But for the time being, allow her to collect her thoughts. A lot has happened since she was last awake; allow her to have a moment to herself to grasp her bearings.

The unspoken agreement between the Lions left me in silence as they faded from my conscious. I could still feel them on the edge of my mind, much like how the Black Lion was before she spoke up – quietly observing. She was right though: a lot has happened. I did need a moment to grasp a hold of myself before I met with the Princess.

Even still, the silence I was too intimately familiar with was almost too much. I was borderline afraid of the silence after being casted into it for so long. Even though I knew I wasn't alone anymore, and that they were on the verge of my mind, I couldn't hear them. Despite being overcome with the noise they created, it was a much better option in comparison to the silence I was subjected to. The silence was a dangerous tool I used on myself to further my guilt.

The Lions must have understood my feeling, after being alone for so long themselves. One by one, they re-entered my mind, until only the Black Lion remained. They abided by the Black Lion's rule of being quiet, so I could gather myself, but their forward presence was welcoming. The silence was still there, but it was quelled by the gentle purr of the Lions collectively sang.

I welcomed it as I tried to reach out to the Black Lion, wanting her to join in but as always, she staved away just out of my extended hand. I didn't say as anything as I sighed softly. I had to focus now, as the grandiose Castle of Lions filled my screen.

It was a welcoming sight to see since the Galra would've destroyed it if they found it. I saw no reason for them to keep it, even if they could somehow get it operational. It was a relic of a time that has already passed but remained as a warm sight for weary eyes.

Without thinking, I pushed the Red Lion to go faster as my eagerness began to grow. I could feel us distance ourselves from the rest of the Lions as the Black Paladin gave chase. Only she could surpass Red's speed, but it seemed that she was holding herself back as we grew closer to the castle.

I could only imagine what the Paladins were saying as I felt a distinct rumble coming from Red Lion beneath my fingers. I suppose the Red Paladin was causing a fuss still since I took his Lion, but I couldn't help but laugh a little.

In a way, I was hurt there were new Paladins. I knew this was unavoidable, but it felt like everyone gave up on the old Paladins too fast. I knew not what happened to Paladins Trigel, Blaytz or Gyrgan since Alfor had sent them away with their Lions. I recall they were instructed to take them as far away as they could from Zarkon… but whatever happened to them after? Did Allura even explain to our new Paladins their predecessors? Did they even know that our sworn enemy Lord Zarkon was the original Black Paladin?

Red physically soothed my racing mind as she rumbled under me, stirring me from my thoughts. We were drawing close to the Red Lion hanger now, and I still had to remain focus in case the Galra recycled the castle into something useful for themselves. Somehow, I was doubtful this was the case, but I had to stay vigilant just to be sure.

The doors to the Red Lion Chamber were wide open as they expected our arrival, but I didn't dare turn on my comm. I was growing nervous by the minute as I fidgeted in my seat, landing the Lion neatly in the middle of her room. I couldn't move for a moment as I sat still as Red lowered herself down. The growing anxiety grew onto the Lions in my head as they started to undergo the same feeling, only it did nothing but amplified my own.

With a small nudge from the Black Lion, I took a shaky breath.

I kicked back the lever that sent the seat flying back. It quickly went down the track it was stationed on, going down the throat of the Lion before coming to the mouth where the front of the speeder for the Lion came up from the floor. My chair locked itself into place as the back-half of the speeder snapped into up. My hands slowly moved up the to the bars of the speeder, gripping the handles tightly before roaring the vehicle to life.

The Red Lion quickly opened her maw as I propelled myself forward. The white lights of the castle glittered onto the white tiled floor as if nothing changed. Everything looked the same as if nothing had ever happened. I was just coming back from a mission where I had to step in for King Alfor who found himself unable to make himself available for.

But I wasn't. I was going to see his daughter instead after a long period of separation. I still wasn't sure how long it's been, but I have a feeling it was a very long time, just by how old the Lions seemed to be now. They didn't change much, but they've grown a little wearier, and their paint looks a little duller. I was certain Allura was going to fill me in on the details, but I was frightened to hear how long its been.

How long has it been since I was sent away from the castle? How long has it been since all the Lions were in the same place with Paladins to pilot them? How long has it been since King Alfor last spoke to his daughter, permitting he was still alive? How long has it been since King Zarkon started his conquest to rule the universe? How long has it been since I lost both of my parents to the same thing that gave us all life?

Too long, the Black Lion offered remorsefully.

I nearly stopped the speeder in its tracks as I felt my heart drop. How long could it have been though? Clearly the Galran Empire didn't take over the entire universe yet, so it couldn't have been that long… can it? He wasn't able to find any of the Lions before now, and he wasn't able to locate myself, Allura or Coran if what the Paladins are telling me is true.

I forced away the burning sensation in my eyes as I reached the elevator that lead up to the flight deck. I wasn't immediate in my departure of the vehicle, but I did it in less time than it took me to leave the Lion. As I approached the elevator, the speeder took the initiative to turn itself around, so it could be used the next time someone needed a quick ride to the Red Lion – that person presumably the Red Paladin.

With enough loitering, I pressed the button to open the doors for me to enter. It opened within a tick, although I was sort of hoping it would take longer. As excited I was to see Princess Allura again, I wished I had more time to fully comprehend everything that's happened.

I boarded the elevator, and it quickly began to shoot me up towards the top. It was never a short ride, but I couldn't help but remember the last time I was in one.

And that time being was to meet with King Alfor for the last time. They both held a sense of dread to it, but in this occasion, it was going to be much tougher. I didn't know how Allura was faring since my departure to King Zarkon's fleet, and I certainly didn't know her state now. Now I had to face King Alfor's only daughter as she filled me in on what happened to her people; to her father. I wished that by some miracle, that King Alfor made it to safety before Lord Zarkon struck him down… but since there was a new Red Paladin…

The elevator stopped suddenly, jolting me in my spot. I was hit with a wave of hysteria as I wasn't ready to see the Princess again. Perhaps I should've taken the Black Lion's words more conscientiously when she told the others to leave me to compose myself. I wasn't ready to face her. I wasn't ready to face the daughter of a dead man.

To my dismay, the doors slide open with the sound of steam releasing from a valve. I couldn't see anything despite being able to see into the flight deck. Nothing was in my way, but rather my brain wasn't comprehending what was happening properly. I wanted to stay in the elevator forever and hide my shame to returning to the Princess empty handed after how we parted.

She was right: I wasn't able to stop Zarkon myself.

However, that was foolish. As much as I hated to admit it, I had to own up to my mistakes. The Princess deserved to see my face once more before she decided what to do with me. Perhaps she was bitter that I wasn't there to save her father and will execute me and such.

Although, the Lions had to agree with me that Allura would never have the heart to do something like that.

So, I stepped out of the elevator. It wasted no time in disappearing back into the floor behind me. I removed my helmet as I quickly looked around, unable to take in the sight of anything but the girl and her advisor standing where King Alfor once stood himself.

Her azure-pink eyes immediately caught mine as tears gathered in them. Her lips drew into a beautiful smile as her violet earrings dangled from her ears as she tilted her head to the side. Her snow-white hair fell around her shoulders as they trembled with a building sob.

"Patah*, Kitsaki."

.:::.

Patah: Altean for "Our paths cross once more." Used as a "Hello"

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Echoes in the Dark - A Voltron: Legendary Defender Fanfiction
Chapter 5: Waking Dreams

For the past ten thousand years, my mind tortured me in my slumber. Rarely did I find a tick to myself where I was able to take a breather on what had happened. Not once did I find the time to take a deep breath and grasp that it all really happened.

"Kitsaki. What you did was not only foolish,
but could have cost your life as well as the Black Lion.
Do you understand that?"

It would force me to relive my mistakes, over and over until I was to wake up. I was strapped in my seat while the screen continuously played the same thing over and over as if I was missing something. I could almost recite every line was said and could time scenes down to the very last tick.

"I… I'm sorry… I… I thought I
could stop him…"

Not once did it allow me to have a break. It would play over and over in attempts to break my spirit and my soul. I wasn't permitted to have a moment to myself, to take the time needed to comprehend the memory after it was shown. It would just roll right back into it on an endless loop.

"As long as you are safe, my child.
I don't know what I would have done if I'd
known Zarkon had ever put a threatening
hand on you."

His voice still haunts me to this day. I was hoping that somehow for some reason that he survived. That for one reason or another, Zarkon allowed his long-time friend to flee with the rest of his people before he destroyed Altea.

"I… never meant for you to
worry… I really thought I
could… I thought I could avoid
all of this mess."

I wish it was a film without sound. At least then I didn't have to tear up at the sadness in his voice, or the way it would deep lower than normal to hide the fact he was upset. I wouldn't have to grind my own teeth at the way my voice was crack up or how it would waver in attempts to keep myself from sobbing.

"I know, my child. I… know. But sometimes
you cannot, no matter how hard you try."

It was a wonder how the King didn't call me out for my treason. I defied a direct order from him and engaged the enemy head-on. How he found himself comforting me in my time of despair despite his own worries was astonishing. Why he consoled me in such an hour will probably remain a secret that was sent to the grave.

"There shouldn't have been any try!
I could have stopped him there but
I froze… I was weak despite all the training
Zarkon himself gave me about showing my enemy
no compassion… How ironic it was him
I found myself a statue in front of…"

I allowed myself to be weak at that moment – I couldn't allow it again. It cost too much, something I guess I didn't see until now. I knew what I was doing when I confronted him, but yet I still found I couldn't bare to raise a defying hand to him. It was that mistake that cost everyone dearly.

"… You did what you could.
No one blames you."

Everything was against me as I analyzed the King's face. How his eyes crinkled with age, sparkled in the artificial light of the ship. The way his lips moved with words that meant nothing, but everything to me. His hand so rough from deca-phoebs wielding a sword but so soft as they caressed my cheek.

While I slept in the cryopod, not knowing what befell him kept the hope that he was alive. Now, knowing that the hand of his closest friend slaughtered him… it was an unbearable reality I now had to face.

King Alfor's face morphed in front of me as the Alteans behind him disappeared. The late-King suddenly looked much older, complete with sunken eyes and ashen skin. His soft features were hardened as his kind eyes regarded me coldly. He towered over me as he stood tall and rigid. His face was contorted in disgust as his eyes trailed down my body, calculating me distantly.

"I'm disappointed in you, Kitsaki," he finally said after a long period of time.

Suddenly I wasn't a young woman on the cusp of adulthood; I was a mere babe as his words sunk deep into my soul. I couldn't find my voice. It was sapped out of me and the only thing I could do was to stare down at his feet. I felt his eyes pierce through my skull.

"You could have ended this war. Before me, I see nothing more than a pathetic, incompetent child who values the bonds of her tarnished family more than the life of her own people."

Tears threatened to spill as I dumbly nodded my head he said word for word the same thing as Zarkon when I confronted him. I didn't know how he knew the words but it was true. All of it was.

"You killed me, Kitsaki. It may have been by Zarkon's hand, but you could have stayed it… but you didn't. You were too weak to stop him. You could have saved me, Kitsaki. You could have saved me. You could have saved your people. You could have saved Allura from having to face the war alone with incompetent Paladins. It's your fault this all happened. If you weren't so weak you cold have ended all of this when it was supposed to. But you didn't, did you child?"

His every word tore through another piece of my soul as he continued to berate me. I drank every syllable as if it was the only thing that could keep me alive. Despite the silence he left, my ears rang as his words replayed in my mind.

"I'm awaiting an answer, child."

The sternness of his booming voice caught me off-guard, but I held my composure as I slowly blinked. My mouth went dry as I struggled to find the words that would please him. Upsetting the King of Altea was a very hard task to do – he was such a kind and honest man. Seeing him in such a state using such a tone of voice… I suppose even good men have breaking points – and I just reached that of King Alfor's.

"I… didn't…"

"Didn't what, child?"

"I didn't save you… I –"

"Look at your King when you address him, child."

My head shot up at his words. Allura had his eyes – vibrant azure eyes with a splash of magenta. But these were no longer the eyes I was used to fondly gaze into. These were hard blue orbs with drips of crimson red. These eyes weren't those of a just king who tried his best to run his kingdom – this was a vengeful tyrant who was out for blood… my blood.

I've never seen eyes as cold as his.

My lip quivered as I struggled to comprehend my words under his stare.

"I didn't save you…" I finally admitted loudly as I gazed directly at him. "I didn't save you because I was stupid. I should have killed Zarkon when I had the chance, but I didn't because I thought he could be reasoned with. I thought I could convince him to have a change of heart, but he didn't… and I couldn't end him. I couldn't kill the man who raised me, even though he was destroying everything I loved because I was too weak. I let you die. I let Altea die, and I'm the reason why the universe has been in turmoil for the past ten thousand years… why your daughter is left alone."

"That's right, child," he agreed in a low voice without an ounce of remorse. "This is all your fault… and you best not forget it, either."

(^˵◕ω◕˵^)

I shot up with heavy breaths. My world was disoriented as I struggled to rid myself of King Alfor's heated gaze and right myself in the real world. My bitter words were still on the tip of my tongue as his harsh truths rang continuously in my ears. My heart palpitated rapidly as a hand clutched the thing fabric that separated my skin from the stale air. My eyes desperately darted around the room, trying to place my surroundings and look for any sign of the late king.

I caught the darkened shadows of my bookshelf, then of my desk. It slowly came back to me as the hand not gripping my nightgown smoothed down the familiar sheets of my bed.

I was back in my room in the Castle of Lions, I had to remind myself. King Alfor was already long dead, and thus wasn't just speaking with me. I was safe here: The Lions were in their chambers, Allura was possibly in her room resting or piloting the ship with Coran doing whatever he did at this hour.

Judging how exhausted I still felt – even if my sleep was restless – I assumed it was still late if no one came in to wake me up.

With a small sigh, I laid back down in attempts to get more sleep. I was still rattled with the truths that still pierced my soul, and my breaths still came in uneven pants. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see the darkness that King Alfor had surrounding him. Whenever I actively ignored the white noise of the ship, I could hear his every word reverberate into the quiet room. My hands gripped my light blankets tightly as I attempted not to tremble… even if I found I was failing badly.

After remaining lying down for what seemed like deca-phoebs, my mind raced wildly with all my faults and things I could've done differently… should've done differently.

My hands found my burning eyes, rubbing them harshly as I groaned. My thoughts weren't quieting themselves anytime soon, and my nerves were too far wired to head back to sleep right now. With a defeated sigh, I sat back up, a hand combing through my bush of light-blue hair.

My bare feet found the cold tiles of the floor. I fixed my white nightgown, making sure it properly covered myself before I untangled my legs from my blankets. The cool air tickled my bare skin, so I gently rubbed it with my hands in attempts to keep warm. After a tick, I stood up, before shuffling over to my dresser, and opening the bottom drawer.

It was odd to think that I knew where everything still was even after ten thousand years, even if it didn't feel like it. My hands expertly dove into the drawer, finding what I was searching for quickly. I pulled out a pair of Yellow Lion slippers, dripping them to the floor so I could put them on.

I acquired them from Gyrgan when the Paladins first got slippers modeled after their Lions. Gyrgan's slippers were too small for his enormous feet, so he gave them to me instead of throwing them out. He eventually got the right ones – after receiving a gigantic pair, then a pair that fit but happened to be the Blue Lion instead – but I was ecstatic to have slippers of my own.

I think that Yellow was happy I wore slippers with his head on them as opposed to any of the other Lions, but he never voiced it… but I wouldn't be surprised if the rest of the Lions were silently jealous because of it.

A quick exhale that simulated a laugh left my lips as I dug back into the drawer for a blanket to throw over my shoulders to retain body heat. Despite it being locked away for so long and was definitely going to be cold, it was too much work to tear my bed apart right now just for something I had stored away in my dresser.

I finally found the blanket I was searching for, unfolding it as I closed the drawer with my foot. The slipper hung precariously off my foot with the action since they dwarfed them in size, but it didn't bother me. I wrapped myself in the old fabric, shivering as the coldness touched my skin. I shuffled away from the drawer, happy that my feet weren't immediately being frozen by the icy floors. I suppose it could all be fixed if I just turned up the heat, but that defeated the purpose of sleeping with multiple blankets.

I decided it would be best if I left my room instead of just sitting on my bed alone with my thoughts. The best use of my time now would be to refamiliarize myself with the castle, and get a firmer grip on the reality I now faced myself in.

I had to come to terms that there's new Paladins of Voltron, and my old friends are long since dead. Even the Paladin of Old who still walked this plane existence wasn't the same man I once knew and had to be forgotten as such. The next time I see him, I have to be certain that I will not falter in my strike. He is no longer King Zarkon of Daibazaal, but rather a power-hungry tyrant who needs to be eradicated from this world.

The doors to my room slide open as I shuffled my feet into the hall. The lights were dimmed as a simulated nighttime but remained on as a way to guide lost Paladins to their dorms. My room was in the same hall as the other Paladins as well as many other empty rooms for others to be housed. It was eerily quiet as the white noise of the castle moaning and humming echoed.

I slowly walked down the hall, passing doors that kept their insides a secret. I knew not what door housed a Paladin, or any other passenger the castle may be harboring. I couldn't dictate any signs of life – such as talking, loud snoring, or movement from any of the rooms. No light seeped out from under the sealed spaces, although that might be because they are air-tight rooms.

If this was all before Zarkon became a mad emperor, I would see Trigel at times like these. She never needed as much sleep as the rest of us, and such always stayed up at weird hours in the night. She would always accept me with open arms whenever I came to her, distressing about a dream that terrorized me. She was a smart and patient woman, and always knew what to say at the right time.

Unfortunately, I didn't have that luxury anymore as I passed her room. The door remained locked tight and I didn't dare enter it in fear of one of the new Paladins taking it over. Even if that was the case, I wonder if they even thought of the previous room owners. Trigel had a lot of gadgets and personal belongings in there as that was the base of her operations. She moved to the library quite often to pursue research, but most of her epiphanies happened in that room. Did they throw her stuff out? Or did they move in alongside it? Did they just toss everything to the side and pretend it didn't belong to someone who risked her life to save this universe?

My breathing came in faster pants as I glared down at the floor. My thoughts were getting progressively more erratic the longer I wasted time on the subject, so it was something I had to drop. Whatever happened to her room would have to remain a mystery to be solved another day. There was too much at stake right now, and too many other things for me to worry about than a bunch of material objects of someone who's already dead.

I took a deep breath, calming myself as I pressed on. I wasn't sure where I was headed; I was just wandering the halls aimlessly as I blankly watched the lights as I passed them. Everything was so quiet in comparison to the old Castle of Lions that was always bustling with people and servants. I suppose that Coran or Allura haven't really had the time or money to hire people to make it livelier here – either that or they were all still enslaved by the Galran Empire.

Being lost in jovial memories of how abundant in population the castle used to have brought me to the kitchen in little time. I was almost startled when I finally blinked myself back into existence and before me was the dining area for the Paladins. There was a larger mess hall elsewhere for where guests and servants would eat their food together, but this kitchen was designed specifically for the Paladins to have a private meal together.

The lights blinked on as I entered the room, humming to life as the lights sparkled off the clean white tables. Nothing seemed out of place since the last time I was here – even the kitchen area that was used to prepare meals individually was wiped clean of any stain.

I was a little saddened at the thought. I could remember coming in here multiple times to see Gyrgan concocting a new recipe he received from the planets he visited. His appetite and love for food rivaled that of his love for the Gods and Goddess' he believed in. No matter what though, he always sent a prayer to those he believed in before every meal.

"Ah, little Kitsaki! Just the Altean I was looking for."

I poked my head around the doorframe of the kitchen, shyly peeking in. I caught a glimpse of the man who spoke out to me over the top of the table, but I was far too short to see anything more. I waited for him to gesture for me to come in, but it never came so I took his initial greeting as a sign.

My little legs slowly carried me into the room, rounding the high chairs that surrounded the large table. I could just barely see over the top of the table now, and I could climb into the chairs myself without needing anyone to help me – something I was quite proud of.

"Come here, my girl. I need help with something I'm making, and I thought you were the perfect candidate."

Helping Gyrgan was always a treat since I got to taste his creations in the making. A grin splayed across my face as I eagerly grabbed a chair from the table and pushing it towards the counter next to him. The Yellow Paladin made sure he held onto the back of the chair to prevent it from moving underneath me as I climbed into the chair, standing tall as I waited for his instructions.

"What are we making?" I asked excitedly, bouncing up and down.

The Yellow Paladin gave a gentle smile as he handed me a large blue bowl and a spoon. He wore an apron over his usual garbs of yellows, greens and blues. His large rusty-coloured hands were covered in a white substance I assumed was used in whatever he was making. "Mix this up for me, my girl."

I took the bowl from him, my tiny hand gripping the large spoon. Inside was a mixture of dark brown bits with a lighter brown batter. I followed his instructions with stirring it, although I found it very difficult to where it was so thick.

In the meantime, Gyrgan dipped under the counter to grab a pan from one of the cupboards. It banged against the countertop as he stood up with a grunt. He stepped to another cupboard where he rummaged around before finding a cooking sheet to place on the pan to keep whatever he was making from sticking to the actual pan.

The sheet was placed on the pan as Gyrgan sent me a smile and held up a smaller spoon. "Is it all mixed well, my girl?"

I nodded enthusiastically, although I wasn't sure how well I was able to. I was curious what his end goal with this mixture was, but it never ceased to amaze me when I got to try it.

"Perfect! We have to scoop out little bits and put it on the pan now. Then we need to put it in the oven for a few doboshes to let them cook."

"Okay!"

I was handed the small spoon in exchange for my large one. I scooped out a chunk of the batter before plopping it on the pan. The Yellow Paladin used the large spoon I returned to him to smooth it out and into the position he wanted it in. Before long we were left with twelve dollops of the batter hastily placed onto the pan.

"Put it in! I wanna see!"

The Paladin laughed as he complied with my words, the smile never leaving his lips as he pulled the oven door open to place the cooking pan inside. He set a timer for when the oven was to turn off and allow us to take it back out.

I looked into the bowl, seeing that we were only half-way through what we had. "Couldn't we have made them any bigger? We still have a lot of it left."

"That we could, my girl. But that ruins the fun when you cook all of it," he chuckled as he dipped a finger into the batter.

He scooped up a large portion onto his index finger, making sure he got some of the specks of dark brown in his venture. With a cheeky smile he stuck it into his mouth, causing a gasp of surprise to escape my lips.

He laughed at my reaction, the tassels of hair resting on his shoulders bouncing with the action. "Try some, little Kitsaki."

Although hesitant, I followed his example and stuck my finger into the batter as well. It was warm to the touch, and my finger sank into it with a little bit of effort. I rolled it forward, also making sure I grabbed the dollops of brown as I balanced it onto my finger. It felt sticky to the touch and it broke off from the rest of it with little force. I opened my mouth wide, so I could stick the tip of my finger into it, my tongue peeling off the treat.

It was sickenly sweet – the batter was soft and moist as it melted in my mouth. The little chip of brown turned out to be a chocolate treat as I bit down into it. The chocolate was a little bitter in comparison to the sticky batter, but it complimented it in such a way that it wasn't overly sweet.

My eyes widened as I swallowed the concoction of chocolate and batter, grinning eagerly at the Yellow Paladin. "That was amazing!"

"I thought you'd like it. It's a recipe I learned a while ago from the planet Haiprah. It's a sweet treat they feed the younglings there."

"I really like it! What's it called?"

The native of Rygnirath laughed loudly, holding his belly as his hair bounced wildly on his shoulders. "What's going to come out of the oven are chocolate chip cookies. We just had some chocolate chip cookie dough."

"Cookies?" I repeated, testing out the word on my tongue.

"Indeed, my little girl. The cookies themselves are best when warm, and they taste just as good as the dough itself."

I placed the bowl on the counter hastily before climbing down off the chair. I must have startled Gyrgan with my sudden passing of his as he pushed himself back into the counter. I ignored him, pressing my hands against the warm window of the oven, trying to see if I could make out these "cookies" in the making.

I felt the Paladin lean over me and sudden a light appeared, making my quest possible. He knelt down next to me as we shared a smile, before settling into silence as we watched the cookies bake.

I opened my eyes and the warm kitchen and smell of cookies baking in the air ceased to exist. Gyrgan vanished from my sight, leaving an aching hole in my heart where he once was. I wrapped myself tighter in the blanket on my shoulders, figuring it was best I moved on from the empty kitchen before I reminded myself of something else painful of the same magnitude.

I quietly shuffled through the halls once more, expertly keeping my slippers from falling off my feet. It was a skill I developed so I could wear the slippers without having to keep fixing them when they fell off. I was quite proud of it – just shuffle them close to the ground and there was nothing I had to worry about. Blaytz snorted at my claims of the skill, something that brought a fond smile to my face.

The former Blue Paladin's face remained in my thoughts as I entered into the lounge where I spent countless hours hanging in. It was the most common place you could find all five Paladins at any given time – with the exception of the kitchen and the training room. Many laughs and joyous memories were shared in this room.

Now it was void of any laughter or warmth as the lights lazily shown down. They highlighted the chairs that were understandably deserted at this time, but still heartbreakingly so. I could see where the Paladins used to sit – Zarkon would be on the end of the couch with Alfor sitting next to him, deep in conversation. Gyrgan would have be next to Alfor with Trigel on his left as he folded his hands neatly in front of him as Trigel spoke of her latest creation. Blaytz would be on the other end, arms across the back of the couch in a lazy manor with an equally-lazy smile plastered onto his lips.

"Hey! Well if it isn't little Kitsy!"

A smile made its home on my face, although I did feel my cheeks light up at the nickname.

The Blue Paladin smirked before jostling his body forward to give him momentum as he stood. "Well, I guess she isn't so little anymore. You've grown quite a lot since I first met you!"

I found myself unable to find the words I wanted to say as he approached for a hug, taking it without my consent. I wasn't complaining though, since I returned it in as much force as it was given.

"So how does it feel to be another year older, Kitsy? Ready to fight whatever the world throws at you?"

"I'm pretty sure I was ready to do that anyway… and it's not like I feel any older. It's just like any other day."

The Blue Paladin snorted, "Your old man's got you ruined."

"Hey now Blaytz. That's our leader you're taking about," Gyrgan chastised lightly from behind him.

I peered from behind Blaytz to spy Gyrgan and Trigel hanging on the couch. King Alfor and King Zarkon were no where to be seen, but I knew that already. They were talking about the recent affairs that have been troubling both planets regarding the quintessence-portal on Daibzaal that they needed to get settled.

"If only you paid as much attention that came out of your mouth as you did with the women around you," the Green Paladin sighed, although her tone was teasing.

The Paladin in front of me merely tutted his tongue, turning his attention back to me with a smirk. "Speaking of flirting – I do have a fundamental gift for you, Kitsy."

I raised an eyebrow, curious how he went to "flirting" to "gift". "Is it a book about the relationships of ancient cultures?"

"No, not quite. Well, actually it isn't a book. It's more of an oral tale, if you will."

"You mean advice, Blaytz," Gyrgan supplied.

The Nalquod native gave him a pointed look of disapproval. "I didn't ask you, big guy… but you're right. It's sort of more of a how-to though… as in a how-to in flirting."

Everyone fell silence as we waited for Blaytz to finish with the punchline. He just stared back at me expectantly before I realized he was being serious with this. My cheeks grew much warmer than I was used to as my eyes widened.

"You can't be serious, Blaytz! She's just a little girl!" Trigel voiced, moving to the edge of her seat.

The Blue Paladin spun on his heels to face his teammates. "Of course, I am. And she's not so little anymore. She's almost a grown woman, and grown women need to find someone to love, right? I'd rather teach her the basics now and have her practice on doing it properly for when she finds the person of her dreams."

The lack of an argument from the other Paladins was unsettling as my thoughts began to race. How could Blaytz teach me anything about flirting? Why did he feel like he had to teach me this? Didn't most of his escapades ended in failure? How much did I not already know about the art of flirting? Are there specific things I need to know – like rule of thumb sort of deal?

"Relax Kitsy. You're starting to look like I just signed your death sentence…" the Paladin laughed gently, placing a warm hand on my shoulder.

"I uh, I appreciate the offer Blaytz… But I don't think that it would be really necessary for that. I'm sure I'll make it…" I tried to let him down gentle. While I appreciated the offer, it felt weird coming from someone who knew me practically my whole life. He was like an older brother to me – I wasn't sure that this was something we should be discussing.

"Oh, come on… Just hear me out… You'll make me feel bad that I haven't gotten anything else for you…"

He flashed me a pout that melted my heart. He always had a way he flattened the fins close to his head as he stared at me with a small frown. His eyes worked in his favour as I struggled to stay strong, but a long sigh finally fell from my lips.

"Fine…"

And immediately he was back to normal. His blue fins straightened back out as his lazy smile returned. He swung an arm around my shoulder, tutting his tongue. "To think you'd actually beat me at that one of these days."

"Anyway… you were going to teach me how to flirt…?" I felt silly saying it. Such words didn't feel like they belonged on my tongue but, yet I was forced to say it to keep the Paladin happy.

"Oh, yeah."

He let me go, standing in front of me once more with a genuine smile on his face. He regarded me softly before he closed his eyes with a sigh. "Well, many people think that flirting is an art that takes years of practice to master. I mean, for someone to get as smooth as me? It should take a lifetime!"

Despite how radical his claims were, Blaytz was known to cause a lot of girls to blush. Even if he wasn't always successful, and possibly turned potential suiters away due to his odd approach to things, he did have a good track record of wooing those he liked.

"Well, it doesn't."

The bluntness of the statement caught me off-guard, and I found myself searching for the answer in his dark eyes. It even seemed to catch Gyrgan and Trigel off-guard as well as they leaned in to catch what secrets the notorious flirt held.

"I mean sure, it does take a while to get used to it and all… but it really isn't all too hard."

I found myself eagerly awaiting his answer as he casually explained himself. He made his smooth takings a breeze as the cheeks of those he was interested in glowed a bright red. If there was a fundamental secret to his success, I found myself very curious to hear the answer.

"And all it takes is confidence."

Of all the things to say, I wasn't expecting that answer. Swagger, skill, patience, dulcet words – anything other than "confidence".

"Oh, don't look so lost, Kitsy!" the Blue Paladin laughed, placing both hands onto my shoulders this time. "But trust me when I say it's true."

"But… I don't quite understand. How does being confidence make me flirt better?" I blurted out, not caring if Trigel or Gyrgan were in the room anymore.

"Confidence goes a long way, Kitsy. And I don't mean arrogance – honest-to-goodness confidence in yourself, and your words and actions. Confidence is attractive to pretty much anyone – it's a sign of a good leader and a genuine person. Being overly-confident and cocky tends to bite you in the behind, so be careful with it. But even if you stumble over your words, or you look like Gyrgan over there," I heard a "hey" from the Yellow Paladin in retort, "you can really give a good impression to someone. It's a very good characteristic to start out with, then all the honeyed words and suave gestures just come along after."

"So… I just need to be confidence to find someone?"

"That's right… Well, that and one other thing."

"An…nother thing?"

"That's to be true yourself. Confidence is one thing, but to be yourself is another. There's no reason to lie about who you are if you're planning to spend the rest of your years together – or even just a few moments together. It's important for you to stay as yourself so they can experience the real you because there's no one you can be more confident about than yourself."

I vaguely remembered the conversation that followed, but Blaytz advice always stayed with me. It weirdly made sense and I started to pay close attention to his actions after his advice. Sure enough, the Blue Paladin remained confident and more importantly, remained himself for every venture he had. I could chalk it up as him being just a smooth guy in general, but part of me wanted to believe it to be true.

The gentle rocking of the castle ship reminded me I was still in this plane of existence, and not the one where my memories lived. I stayed standing in one spot for so long that my legs felt like they were locking up on me, so I decided to traverse some more. I still didn't feel ready to fall back to sleep, so I decided to check out more of the castle.

So far, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. All the halls lead to the same room that seemed to have been locked in time for the last thousands of years. The only differences so far seemed to be the inhabitants that lived here – some familiar faces much wearier than the last, as well as young new faces that don't seem to comprehend exactly what they're getting themselves into.

I forced myself to push the latter thought out of my head as I convinced myself to think of something else.

One thing that might've changed would be the library – something I was eager to check out. If anything were to have been changed, it would have been the countless data housed in the castle's library. My shuffling steps quickened as I travelled down the artificially lit hall. I felt anxiety starting to fill as I imagined the library being void of any knowledge.

I didn't want to ever see the sacred library destroyed because of some stupid war. History is one of societies greatest treasures, with knowledge and having access to said knowledge being one of its greatest weapons. To destroy that would destroy the culture. If we don't have hard copies on how a society lived and thrived, then there's no concrete evidence it ever existed. All their secrets and mythos would die with them if that was the case, creating an gapping impression in time where something should be there, but is no longer.

"Well, that's the last of them, little tyke. Thanks for the help," Trigel grunted as she put the last stack of her books on the desk.

I placed my one hard-cover book on the desk as well, grabbing a chair to climb up into as I stared at the Green Paladin with wide eyes.

I helped her collect all the books she needed for her latest project, and we were finally done with setting them on one of the many desks in the library. She had three tall stacks of dusty tomes based around the topic she was researching, plus a few more scattered across the table from when she placed them on it in passing.

As the Green Paladin sat down, I turned my attention to the book I dragged over. My eyes grazed the cover dully as I tried to comprehend the scribbles inscribed into the leather. I didn't recognize them from any of the languages I knew, adding to my confusion. I didn't think that it was from Trigel's native planet, so I wasn't sure why she would bother with such a dusty book anyway.

I pouted, trying to figure it out on my own as the Green Paladin thumbed the pages in the tome she was looking through before pushing it far out in front of her. Another tome quickly replaced it – equally as dusty as the first.

Not wanting to disturb her, I quietly opened up the book I had, covering my face as the dust accumulated into the air. A subtle sound from Trigel's direction implied that she saw it happening, but her eyes were glued to her book when I gazed up.

Pursing my lips, I narrowed my eyes as I quietly traced the scripture with my fingers. They were unlike something I ever seen before, even if I was still so young. The penmanship of the symbols was pleasant to study and flowed neatly across the page. I flipped open to a random page, only to find the same penmanship was kept throughout the entire book.

"Oh wow… Did someone sit down and write this entire book by hand?"

"Yes, little tyke. All of these were done long before you were born… Long before I was born."

"Longer than Father was born?"

That brought a small bout of laughter, "Yes Kitsaki. Way long before your Father was born."

"That's really cool… Did one person do all of these?"

"Hmm… I don't believe so. They may be old, but some are older than others. This one, for example, pre-dates most of the ones in the pile to the left. I doubt someone would waste their entire life to writing a bunch of books like these."

I blinked in response, allowing her words to sink in. It was interesting that the books could be so old that they're older than the people I knew. I couldn't help but wonder how old they really were, and who wrote them. What was so important they spent years pouring their lives into these pages that I couldn't even read.

"Why are we looking at these books? I mean, there's a bunch of cool stuff on our computers that we can read… I don't even know what this one says."

Trigel placed the book she was scouring down, and it was only now that I noticed she had at least four books laid out open in front of her. Her face remained stagnant as she pondered my question, her brown eyes regarding me.

"I suppose that is true. There's thousands of modern books that we could read on topics that we're already familiar with, or even unfamiliar with. And its all laid right into the palm of our hands… but where's the fun in that?"

"Huh?"

The Green Paladin's lips curled up into a smile. "Little tyke. These tomes before you hold secrets you could never begin to imagine. Myths of lost treasures, stories of ancient heroes and their quests to free the world from the tyranny of villains. These books are gateways into civilizations that no longer exist – and these remain as the few remaining windows we can use to cement ourselves amongst them."

I could feel my excitement grow with her every word. I looked down from her and back to the tome before me, my fingers grazing over the aged paper with a sense of awe and wonder.

"But… how do we do that if we can't read it?"

"We decipher it, of course," she gestured to the book she was holding. "Not all civilizations have books such as these left around for us to utilize, but it's always fun to work backwards and find out what something means and why it does. Sometimes you have to translate a bunch of different languages to get to the one you were intending to reach."

"That sounds like a lot of work…" I mumbled, my awe fading away fast.

"I never said it wasn't, little tyke. But in the end, it's rewarding figuring out what was important enough for those who sat and wrote these out to do so. Things that were recorded as such had to have been very special to the person who spent all this time doing it. It's only right that we take the time to appreciate their hard work."

I still wasn't convinced as I thumbed the page of my book. My eyes darted down to the scribbles set into the page, finding that Trigel's words were echoing in my mind. She brought up a good point – what was so important that it had to be written down?

"Knowledge is a very important thing; you already know that, Kitsaki." My head nodded automatically in agreement. "But as a society, we can't move on from things we've already done if we don't first understand what it is that we have done. It's important to not only be well-versed in the present day, but the past as well so we understand where the last culture went wrong so we can build upon our mistakes."

"I… I'm having difficulty understanding…" I admitted softly.

"It's similar to how you would train – you learn from your mistakes. You understand where you went wrong first: why you were hit instead of avoiding the attack. You revaluate what you did, or you review the tape to catch the mistake. Perhaps it was because you bent your knees a little too much, or the way your feet were placed. You catch the mistake and you work on it for next time so that you don't get hit. Or even brushing up on some old moves to make sure you aren't getting rusty, for instance."

Having her explain it in such a way made a lot more sense to me now. While it was important to learn more moves in battle to help you keep going, it was always good to make sure you still had the basics down pat. And if there was something you weren't sure why it happened, or it happened when it shouldn't have, you just review your progress and pick up on where it went array.

"Huh… that makes a lot more sense now…"

The Green Paladin smiled at my words, gently gesturing to the book I was still thumbing. "Now, why don't we dig out a translation book and see what secrets you have in that one, hmm?"

The library was dark when I arrived, and it took a moment for it to come to life. To my relief, the lights revealed rows of bookshelves still filled with the books I spent countless hours thumbing through and studying.

I didn't know if all the tomes were still left in tact, and I doubt I'll ever truly find out unless we still kept a record of what was in the library, but it wasn't something that was of immediate concern. On the surface, everything seemed in order, so it was good enough for me.

A yawn slipped passed my lips, signifying that it was probably best that I get back to sleep. My body seemed to agree with me, as it started to lead me into the direction of the dorms. While they were on the other side of the castle, it actually wasn't that long of a walk if I didn't pay too much attention to it. It was easy for me to lose myself in thought since I used to do it all the time as a kid.

I passed the control room of the training deck before I stopped in my tracks. I backed up, peering into the room and noticed that all the lights were on. It was an odd thing, since the time of night and that I was far enough away not to have triggered them. Despite my growing fatigue, I stepped inside to take a closer look to make sure the castle wasn't starting to bug out.

To my surprise, I found that a Paladin and a Gladiator occupied the training deck. Said Paladin was lacking any sort of armour as he fought fiercely against the robotic foe. Intrigued, I leaned over the control panel, so I could take a closer look, but not before fiddling with some of the buttons so I could hear what was going on.

Paladin Keith violently slashed at his enemy who narrowly escaped the arching swing. It took a jab at him, which the Paladin managed to avoid by tucking and rolling to the side. He barely gave himself time to steady himself before he sent himself launching at the Gladiator.

His grunts and the sound of their sword-clashes filled the air of the control room. It was almost deafening after being casted into silence after so long, but it was something I oddly welcomed. I had to double check the time to make sure that it was still late at night rather than the early morning, but it was still hours before the early birds rose from their slumber.

Why Paladin Keith was still awake at such an hour was a mystery… why he was training in the dead of night was another.

I knew I probably should leave him here to finish what he was doing in private. Clearly, he was here to be alone, or else he would have asked someone else to spot him. He was obviously a capable warrior who could handle himself, but my inquisitive brain couldn't dare move me from my position.

Instead, I took the time to fully analyze his form and compare it to what I faced earlier on.

As I already figured out, the Paladin was a fiercer in comparison to that of an Altean soldier. The way he wouldn't allow his enemy anytime to strike back, and the power behind his swings matched more of those with Galra descent – which of course made sense considering he was part Galra himself. Although, the way he moved to avoid the strikes instead of just blocking them suggested otherwise in the fighting style, as well as the fact he didn't take any dirty blows and thus had a sense of honor.

It was a weird amalgamation of the fighting styles of both an Altean with the wit and honourability, paired with the strength and intensity of the Galra.

Such a claim seemed to be very audacious of me all things considered. I was making connections to thing that probably didn't exist. I was using biased stereotypes to describe his fighting style even if it made little sense. There was no reason why his fighting reminded me of an Altean when the Galra were just as honourable and witty as Alteans.

Even if, statistically speaking, there seemed to be some truths in my first assumption.

But even more so, the agility he had as he avoided the devastating strikes of the Gladiator was astonishing. Alteans were, statistically, more into defending the strike rather than avoiding it entirely, and the bulky masses and armor of Galrans made it much more difficult to avoid such attacks as well.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Paladin could move just as agile with his amour on as he did off. He seemed well versed in the art of dodging as he gathered time to catch his breath to deliver another round of attacks to his sparring partner.

I supposed said agility could be a trait of his other half that I have yet to study. All these new Paladins seemed to be of the same species, so I do have a small sample to work with to test my theory. While again, I could be making a stereotypically judgment call, I was excited to run some private tests on my own to prove myself right or wrong.

Just as I was getting comfortable, the Red Paladin finally felled the Gladiator with a final thrust of the sword through the chest. The robot sparked shortly before disappearing as the simulation ended. I expected the Paladin to go for another round but instead he dropped to his knees in a heap, his heavy breaths coming through the speakers in loud pants.

I blinked, my brain wondering what I should do now. I felt like I should probably go down and help him back to bed – or at least to the showers – but I held my spot. I couldn't find the will to move my legs to help the Paladin out as my eyes stared at him, awaiting his next move.

With a groan, the Red Paladin slowly climbed back to his feet as his bayard-sword disappeared. He groaned softly, rubbing sore muscles as he stood in place for a tick.

"I really need to find a better way to deal with these stupid nightmares…" his low voice came in over the speakers.

The confession caused butterflies to flutter in my stomach for unknown reasons. Maybe it was because we were both up for the same reason, although we had two entirely different ways in dealing with them. It was a weird idea that I wasn't the only one up at such a weird hour in the night for something my brain decided to concoct for me to sleep on.

Paladin Keith sighed once more, rolling his neck in a way to stretch it, but in doing so looked up into the control room. I didn't see it coming, so I was certain he saw me as our eyes connected for a moment. Fear of being caught for watching without permission, I quickly slinked out of the way of the window, clutching my blanket tight and hoping he didn't actually see me. I was half expecting his voice to come over the speaker and call me out on it, or he'll come barging into the room to see who was spying on him, but it never came.

I didn't feel safe to stay in there for too long, just in case he did come up to check, but as I went to leave the room entirely, I found he was no longer in the training room. This brought an ounce of fear as I quickly left, keeping my shuffling slippers as quiet as possible as I departed from the area as quickly as possible.

Despite nearly being caught for spying, it was a rather relieving that I wasn't the only one being plagued. To know that some one else also faced their inner demons at night was comforting to say the least, although it meant someone else was suffering because of it.

What was also interesting I noticed was the fact that Paladin Keith would rather deal with it alone. He didn't seem to rely on his team leader Paladin Shiro for help when it came to dealing with something like this, and instead exhaust himself back to sleep. Or perhaps he came here to relieve the pent-up energy and frustration that built up from having such intense dreams.

If there was one thing I knew for sure about the new Red Paladin, it was that he was definitely a lone wolf on a team that was suppose to act as one.