Takumi walked through the halls of the Order of Heroes, working on memorizing its layout. He had been here for several months now, but he still got confused in the many, many rooms and floors the castle had. No one who was willing to talk to him had any sort of map of the place, so he decided to create his own. He winced as he approached one of the longest staircases the castle had. Takumi never remembered hitting the ground, but he still had a limp from the fall he took before being summoned here. Sighing, he began trudging up the stairs, stepping carefully to avoid further pain. He spotted two heroes coming down the stairs, chatting happily until they noticed him, and gave him a wide berth, lowering their voices as they did so.
If they want to be so obvious of their dislike of you, you should just kill them.
Shut up, Takumi berated the voice in his head. Even so, he subconsciously reached for his bow before stopping himself. He didn't know what exactly happened to his Fujin Yumi, but it had apparently changed and was now called Skadi, if the Summoner's nickname 'Skadikumi' was any indication.
As if on cue, the summoner, Ori, came running down the stairs, almost colliding with Takumi on her way. "Oh, Kumi!" she said, a bit startled, "I'm glad I ran into you! Come on, I want to show you something!" She grabbed his hand and rushed back up the steps, not hearing his cry of annoyance.
She can be so annoyingly enthusiastic sometimes. The voice in his head mused. Why don't you-
If you're going to suggest I kill her, then stop talking now. Takumi thought back, She's the only person here who's actually nice to me.
Fine, have your friend. just remember that your soul belongs to me.
They reached the top of the stairs, which apparently led to a rooftop garden, and Ori eagerly pointed up towards an aether island that had floated down towards the castle. "I managed to get you guys an aether island to build a resort on! Now the heroes don't need to go to whole different realms if they want a vacation!"
"One question," Takumi said, "Why are you... showing this to me?"
"Well, you take to the battlefield so often, I thought you'd appreciate a close place to rest. The Order of Heroes doesn't always need everyone to be on combat duty."
"I... appreciate it. Thanks, Ori." Takumi lied. He wasn't sure how to feel about this; fighting was the only thing he felt he was good for here. He had to constantly resist the urge to murder everyone around him when he wasn't on the battle field. At least there he could easily distinguish allies from enemies and let his bow think for him.
Ori interrupted his thoughts, "Oh, I nearly forgot, it's almost time to eat. Want me to walk down with you? I think I at least know that route. Man, having a GPS right now would be so convenient..."
Takumi didn't know what she meant by 'GPS,' but he agreed, and they walked to the dining hall, with her occasionally supporting him on account of his bad leg. Ori made a brief stop to check the summoning stone before returning, mumbling something about "freaking summer banners".
When they reached the hall, Ori asked, "Do you want me to join you at your table?"
"No," Takumi responded, "Consorting with... people like us would not be good for your reputation."
"You know I don't care about my image," Ori responded, "But if that's what you want, I'll ask you again some other time." With that, she waved and walked to the head table, immediately striking up a conversation with Alphonse.
As Takumi sat down at his table in the far corner, a haughty voice purred, "Getting friendly with the summoner now, are we?"
"No, she's the one getting friendly with me," Takumi shot back.
The owner of the voice, Grima, chuckled, "You really like her, don't you? Why don't you want her to know? Are you scared?"
"Shut up, ass-dragon," Takumi retorted.
"Oh, nice comeback," the other member of the table said. Celica laughed at both of them before brutally stabbing one of her potatoes.
"Why don't you try eating like a normal person for once?" Takumi asked, changing the subject.
Celica shrugged, "Duma wants me to stab things, so I do. People, potatoes, the difference doesn't matter."
Grima laughed, "Belittling the human race now? You're staring to sound like me."
Celica's response was to continue mutilating her food.
Takumi watched to two of them hiss at each other. The other two people who tolerated him had come to Askr only a few days after him, and had the same eerie, blood-red eyes. Ori called them the 'fallen trio', given how they all used to be as normal as the other heroes she summoned, but had all fallen to some malevolent power.
This was his life now. Fighting for the Order of Heroes, arguing with the other fallen, and trying not to kill everyone on sight. If only his bitch sister hadn't abandoned him, maybe things would have been better. If only...
The morning arrived, and with it came the daily sounds of the Order of Heroes. Ori directed heroes to their various missions, "Ranulf, take a beast team into the Tempest Trials. Keaton, sorry to give you double duty, but could you help them out? Celica, take your team into the Training Tower, you guys need some more experience. Oh, a new Rival Domains map is up, Urvike, can you take a look at that with me? Oh, Silas, can you back up the beasts in case things go south- sorry, personal lingo."
The organized chaos of the halls impressed Takumi, the Summoner had to manage so much at once, but did her job excellently. He knew he wouldn't be going on a mission this morning; Keaton was part of his team, and he was off helping Ranulf. The only reason he could think of for this was the summoner talking about "team balancing" and "they need a red unit," whatever that was supposed to mean.
As the day passed, the teams came back from their missions one at a time. They checked in with Ori and went on their way, some to socialize, some to train, others to rest. When evening came, Takumi watched Ori check the notice board, then excitedly run into the summoning chamber. Curious, he decided to follow.
The summoning chamber was outdoors, despite its name. Takumi watched as Ori looked one the selection of orbs before her, carefully place a blue one in her legendary weapon, Breidablik, and fire it at the stone. The stone glowed briefly, before a blinding light made his shield his eyes. When he looked back, a blue-haired knight stood before Ori and bowed.
"As one of Leonster's knights of the lance, I swear on my weapon that I will become your strength," the man said.
"Thanks," Ori replied, smiling, "It's good to have you, Finn. Could you wait here a while? I need to finish the summoning."
The man, apparently called Finn, nodded and stood to the side. He spotted Takumi and waved cordially. Takumi hesitated for a moment, then waved back.
Ori glanced over the orb selection once more, deciding on a red orb this time and fired it. Takumi shielded his eyes preemptively this time, and Finn, noticing the movement, did the same. When they looked up again, a swordswoman with long green hair tied up in a ponytail had appeared.
"I'm Lyndis of the- hey!" the woman was interrupted by Ori hugging her enthusiastically. Fortunately she laughed, not seeming bothered by the summoner's exuberance.
"It's great to see you, Lyn!" Ori said, "Give me a minute before I show you around." Ori looked at the remaining three stones, all green, and looked to be wondering whether she should use them. Curiously, she shook her head, opting to leave them. It was then that she noticed her spectator.
"Oh, SkadiKumi!" she exclaimed, "I didn't realize you were here. This was your first time seeing a summoning, right? If you need to talk, we can do it while I'm showing these two the ropes."
"What ropes?" he asked, confused by her strange wording.
Ori put her hands over her face, muffling a sigh. "I've got to remember you guys don't have the same vocabulary as my world."
"I don't need anything," he provided, saving her the embarrassment. He always hated embarrassing himself in public, and he imagined she felt the same way.
"Oh, okay," she said, recovering from her slip-up, "I'll talk to you later then. Finn, Lyn, could you two follow me? I'll show you around."
The three of them left, leaving Takumi to himself.
How curious, the summoning is more interesting than I thought.
And the voice in his head. I'll admit it was impressive, he thought, I'm surprised at how well they react on being summoned.
Next time she holds a public summoning, you are going to attend. I must see more of this magic for myself.
Yes, master, Takumi thought sarcastically, before pain struck him. He cried out, collapsing and falling to the ground.
Do not joke with me, the voice threatened, In case you've forgotten, I am your master, and you will do as I command.
Takumi did not respond, instead opting to stay on the ground and calm his breathing. He had forgotten the voice's power, as it hadn't caused him pain since his fall off the bridge. Whatever the voice was, it only let Takumi act on his own out of some sick kindness or apathy. By all accounts, he should be dead, but the voice forced itself into his head and made him survive.
"What are you doing"
Takumi gasped and looked up in surprise. Duma, the god of strength, was standing above him. He held out his hand, "Able warriors such as yourself shouldn't be on the ground unless they are already decaying. Get up, and if you cannot fight, allow yourself time to prepare for the next battle."
Takumi took his hand, and Duma easily heaved him into a standing position. He thanked the god quietly, ashamed of his weakness. Remembering the Aether Resort Ori told him about, he decided to rest himself there.
His sleep was a restless one, plagued by images of his mother and siblings, all dead. After waking up in a cold sweat for the third time, he decided to take a walk. When he passed by the concert hall on his way out, he noticed that the lights were on. Curious as to who other than himself would be up at this ungodly hour, he decided to enter the building and see for himself.
When he walked into the hall, he was surprised to see Ori standing alone on the stage, singing. Entranced by the song, Takumi took a seat and listened to the music.
"The seasons, they turn, memory fades / But when my name has been lost to the gray / I will sustain you, year after year / I will protect you when dangers appear / And though I am gone, just ash in the wind / One life surrendered so yours can begin / Courage my children, this is your song / I am the Earth, I will make you strong!"
Ori became quiet, her eyes closed, nodding to the last few notes to the song. When the hall became quiet, she opened her eyes and noticed that she had an audience.
"Takumi!" she exclaimed, "I- what are you doing here?"
"Couldn't sleep," he replied, "Same for you?"
"Yeah, my sleep schedule's terrible, so I thought I'd listen to some music to relax. Of course, as you saw, I ended up singing."
"It was... nice," Takumi said, "Could I join you?"
Ori looked surprised for a moment, then smiled. "I guess it's a good thing I brought all these extra blankets, then. Could you roll them out while I pick something?"
Takumi nodded, arranging the blankets like makeshift beds, and laid down. A minute later, a calming tune began playing, and Ori settled in to the second bed. They both fell asleep soon after, and no nightmares came for the rest of the night.
Thanks to the Fire Emblem Wikipedia for providing the summoning quotes and the song lyrics.
When Takumi woke up, he had a brief moment of panic when didn't know where he was. Then he remembered the events of the previous night; he had fallen asleep in the concert hall after hearing Ori sing. He tried to turn over to look at the summoner, but something obstructed him from doing so. When he turned his head, he discovered the cause of his impediment: Ori had begun to cling to his arm as she slept. Takumi attempted to dislodge his captured limb, but his struggle only caused her to tighten her grip.
"Um..." Takumi muttered, "Wake up? Please?" He tapped her with his free hand.
Slowly, Ori's eyes opened. She appeared to still be half asleep until she noticed her embarrassing position, at which she quickly jumped up.
"Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry!" she scrambled upright, "Gosh, that's so embarrassing! Sorry again, I hope I didn't trap you for too long!"
"Don't worry," Takumi responded, "I just got up as well."
Ori sighed in relief, then grabbed her glowing, rectangular device, muttering, "What time is it?" Her eyes went wide, "Oh God, is it that late already? Come on, come on!"
She threw her summoner's robe on over her clothes and ran out of the concert hall, dragging Takumi along with her. He noticed they received some questioning looks on their way, but Ori didn't seem to care. When they arrived in the main hall, both of them gasping for breath, Alfonse was waiting to chide them. As the Summoner apologized profusely, Takumi slipped away, intending to use the courtyard for archery practice. To his surprise, he wasn't the only one to have that idea.
His teammate, Lucina (or as Ori called her, Blucina), had already set up training dummies and was currently trying to dislodge her lance from one.
"Let me help," Takumi offered, gripping the dummy from behind. Lucina gave him thanks, and with the two of them pulling each object, they quickly got the lance out.
"Thanks again," she said, "I'd better hope that doesn't happen on the battlefield."
"I'd cover you," Takumi responded, picking up a training bow and shooting a dummy in the neck. If it had been a real person, they would've died instantly. If he had been using Skadi, the dummy would've been shredded by the force of the shadow arrows it fired. He took some satisfaction from that fact.
Lucina grinned at him and continued, "These dummies are pretty useful, but I'd love to spar with someone. Unfortunately, my regular sparring partners are all off on missions."
They worked quietly for a while after that. A few other heroes came in and joined them, but no one else talked to him. Another archer set up targets the air, and allowed him to use them as well.
The sun was high in the sky when he decided to stop. Lucina came up to him and asked, "We have some time before our mission starts, and Ori's holding a summoning session. Do you want to come with me to see it?"
Remembering the demands of the voice, Takumi quickly nodded. A bit surprised at this, Lucina walked with him to the summoning chamber. They claimed two of the seats that had been set up. Ori was already there, deciding which stone she should fire first. The summoning itself was uneventful, save for a collective groan from the Tellius heroes at the appearance a fat, balding noble. The voice seemed pleased at the opportunity to witness the summoning, so that at least was good thing. After the summoning, the two of them met up with their other teammates, wolfman Keaton and wind mage Lewyn, and started towards the Tempest Trials before being stopped by Ori.
"Wait, before you go, there's a new skill I want you to test out," Ori said, "I think you're fine without Swordbreaker, Blucina, so could you try out Wings of Mercy for this battle?"
After receiving confirmation, there was a moment of concentration as the summoner gifted Lucina a new power. "With this skill," Ori explained, "You'll be able to warp to your allies side if they're in danger. You hopefully shouldn't need it, but given how reckless Keaton and SkadiKumi can be, it should be helpful."
"I'm very grateful," Lucina responded, before turning to her team, "I'll do my best to protect all of you."
"Anyway," Ori said, "I gotta do a bit more summoning. Good luck!"
And with that, they entered the tempest. The first two levels were a breeze, as Lewyn and Takumi sniped the enemies over the walls while Lucina and Keaton ravaged the front lines. Things became a bit tricky in the third battle when they were swarmed by cavalry, but Keaton quickly shredded their lines after taking a few hits. The fourth battle was significantly easier, save for an annoying armor knight that managed to sneak a blow on Takumi. The fifth floor is when their luck ran out.
It started out easily enough: lure the horseman, take out the archer, simple enough. Things became a lot trickier when the mages moved in. They approached from both sides, forcing the group to split up. Lucina and Takumi managed to dispatch one easily enough, but Keaton was caught off-guard.
"No!" Lewyn yelled, and he leaped in front of the fireball, getting burned on his left arm and upper torso. He merely grunted in pain, but he was clearly more hurt than he wanted to show.
"Are you okay?!" Keaton asked, concerned, "Those burns look really bad..."
"I'm better than you would be if that hit you," Lewyn quipped back, before turning to the enemy and calling, "Forseti's rage!"
Lucina warped over to the two of them with her new skill after the mage died and easily took down the boss. They exited the tempest and some of the other heroes helped them to the infirmary. The healers quickly patched up Keaton and Takumi's blade wounds, and healed the majority of Lewyn's burns with a bit of extra work, though they recommended he stay for a while so he wouldn't overexert himself. Lucina and Keaton decided to stay behind to chat with the healers and Lewyn, the latter practically curling up in his injured friend's lap. Takumi, a bit embarrassed by his teammates affection, tried to leave, but was impeded by Ori and an injured Faye.
"I don't understand what's wrong with Berkut!" Faye whined, nursing her wounded arm, "I was just talking about Alm-"
"Like you always do..." Ori muttered, annoyed.
"And normally when he hears me, he just glares at me," Faye continued, either not hearing or ignoring her, "But this time, he attacked me! What's up with that?"
"You missed this afternoon's summoning session, didn't you?" Ori asked, "Well, I ended up summoning a... different Berkut. Oh, SkadiKumi," she turned her attention to him, "You're probably going to have a few new faces at your table tonight."
There were indeed new faces among the fallen; two of them in fact. One was Berkut, flames dancing on his lance and madness burning in his eyes. Takumi assumed he got his power from Duma, as Celica had quickly taken a liking to him and they were talking quietly to each other. The other, standing beside Grima, Takumi recognized as Chrom, the prince of Ylisse, though his skin was white and a dark crown was perched upon his head. They also shared the same blood-red eyes as the others who had befallen similar fates. The conversation he was having was not so quiet, unfortunately. Ori was also there, trying to keep everyone calm, but her efforts weren't very successful.
"What did you do to him?!" Lucina yelled, pointing at the pale-skinned prince, who looked very confused.
"It wasn't me who did it!" Grima shouted back, "I don't know what happened, but if you'll shut your mouth for one damn minute, I bet he can explain."
"I do not know what you're talking about, miss," Chrom responded, his voice strained, "But I'd appreciate it if you stop antagonizing my master."
"Please don't call me that," Grima said, looking slightly embarrassed.
"Guys, please, we need to work together!" Ori interjected, "Or at the very least, can you try to be civil?"
"I can hardly be civil with a dragon who does things like this to my f- my prince!" Lucina objected.
"Will you all be quiet?!" Berkut yelled, standing suddenly, "I will murder you all!"
"Please don't kill people," Ori begged, at the same time Celica said, "Don't, it's not worth it."
Berkut grumbled and sat back down.
''It's king now," Chrom corrected her quietly.
"My 'F'?" Takumi interjected, "What do you mean?"
"Don't tell me you're taking his side too!" Lucina shot back, flustered.
"I seem to be the only neutral party here, apart from Ori," Takumi responded, "So no, I'm not taking Grima's side, nor am I taking yours."
"Thank you," Ori sighed, "Now can we please just drop it? You have plenty of time to argue later, when we're not in the middle of dinner."
"Fine," Lucina grumbled, stalking away to talk with the
normal other heroes.
"I'm so sorry," Ori apologized, "I'm trying to be welcoming to all types of people, but many of the heroes are... not very accepting of their former enemies."
"I suppose that is understandable," Chrom pondered, "Many people have been..." he took a deep breath, "...giving me strange looks."
"I'm not sure that's the only reason," Ori mumbled, "I am somewhat curious about you. Are you a Risen? You don't really act like one though."
"I believe he is some kind of Risen," Grima explained, "However, he is still technically alive. Apparently the me from his world got curious as to if they could turn someone who hadn't yet died, and this is the result. A being who is not truly living, but not yet completely dead."
"Having trouble speaking?" Takumi asked the Risen. Chrom nodded, looking mildly frustrated. "Don't worry too much," Takumi said, "I had trouble too, at first. It took me a few months before I could string sentences together. I'm sure you'll get it in time."
"Then are you-" Chrom coughed, straining against his weakened vocal cords, "... like me?"
Takumi paused. He didn't have an answer. Was he like him? Mostly dead and being kept alive by some powerful magic? Or did he survive the fall, hanging on to his life until the voice had waked him? "I..." he started, unsure how to finish.
Fortunately for him, Ori noticed his struggle. "You don't have to answer right away," she said, "I still need to show the new guys the rest of the hall. Maybe I should do it later though, when there aren't so many heroes around. Oh, Celica, could you talk to Duma about Berkut? I want to see if he can give him back some control like he did for you."
"I'll try," Celica responded, "I doubt it would work, though. I had some sanity left before he became my master, and I'm not sure it's the same case with Berkut. Even if he can't, I'll keep an eye on my less stable kin so he doesn't try to murder people we're supposed to be friendly with."
"I really appreciate it," Ori said, "Can I eat with you today? I don't want Alfonse yelling at me for summoning you guys, even though I know you're not as bad as he thinks."
They all agreed, and enjoyed a meal together. Takumi took notice of their two new companion's eating habits: Berkut was just as, if not more enthusiastic than Celica about maiming his food, and Chrom appeared to eat meat exclusively, only bothering to use utensils when Grima offered them to him. Ori didn't eat much, only a small bread roll and some fruit, but she enjoyed herself, conversing with her strange company like she would with any other hero. It was odd, to say the least, but refreshing to know someone thought they were worth more than just a tool on the battlefield.
After the meal was over, Ori was approached by one of the Ikes, who looked like he wanted to talk. Takumi picked at his remaining food, trying to listen in on their conversation.
"I've seen you summon a lot of..." Ike briefly struggled to find the words he wanted to express, "...odd heroes lately. I wanted to ask, have you seen my father at all? I know he went berserk for a while after he touched the medallion, and I don't want to see him like that."
Ori hesitated, before smiling gently and saying, "I haven't seen him. I'll be sure to warn you if I do, though, so you don't have to watch."
Ike thanked her, looking relieved. Takumi made sure he was out of hearing range before speaking. "Liar."
Ori spun around, startled at his voice, "H-how could you tell?"
"It was a very good lie," Takumi told her, "But that hesitation told me all I needed to know."
Ori sighed, "Okay, yes, I saw Berserk Greil. I've been trying to avoid summoning him, though."
"Why just him? Why didn't you avoid any of us?"
"This might sound strange, but it's because he has hope."
"This might sound strange, but I've seen all of these heroes before," Ori began, "I know that, if I summon Greil, I'm depriving him of that hope. Soon after he goes berserk, someone will come and cure him of his madness. He'll then leave Daen with his children and start a new, happy life. He will still die, but at least he has a chance at happiness."
Takumi thought about the Summoner's words. "Does that mean that the rest of us don't have that hope?"
Ori nodded sadly, "Yeah, all of you die after becoming like this. Celica somehow gets brought back to life, but I don't want Alm to have to kill his love. I want you all to be happy, no matter what state you're in. If I can prevent at least one of your ends, then I'll be happy."
“How are things going with your new servant?” Takumi asked, curious.
”Don’t call him that,” Grima chided him, “He’s not my servant.”
”Really,” Takumi deadpanned, “Chrom seems to think he is.”
Grima sighed, “I’m having to teach him to act differently with me than with his Grima. You know we’re rooming together, right?” Takumi nodded, and Grima continued, “Last night, he tried to get in my bed with me. I told him off for it, and he told me that’s what he’s supposed to do with his master.”
Takumi laughed, “I guess his relationship with you in his world is much more intimate.”
“I’m not sure it’s that way; he spoke like it was his duty, not his choice. If he wants to be affectionate, I want him to do so because he genuinely likes me, not because he was ordered too.”
“Aww, you’re so sweet,” Takumi ducked to avoid the fork Grima had thrown at him, “Hey, it was a compliment. No need to get hostile.”
“I am not sweet,” Grima seethed, “I am the Wings of Despair, the Fell Dragon!”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re so intimidating,” Ori said as she walked by, “Could you do me a favor, Grima? The younger manaketes are getting feisty, and you’re the only dragon responsible enough to keep them in line without hurting anyone. Don’t give me the ‘Wings of Despair’ speech,” she cut him off before he could object, “I know you like them.”
Grima reluctantly agreed, shoving an apple in his mouth as he stalked off.
“Geez, things are starting to get really hectic around here,” Ori sighed.
“Yeah, I can imagine,” Takumi said.
“Well, I don’t have much time to talk, sorry. Arvis, I am taking that away from you!” she yelled as she ran off.
Takumi sighed, the Order didn’t seem to be taking too well to Ori’s tendency to summon more villainous heroes. She was adamant that they were redeemable, but Takumi had his doubts. While it was true that he, Grima, and Celica had softened up a bit, at the end of the day, they could not deny who they were. They had tried to kill people, and probably will do so again.
His thoughts were all but confirmed when someone tackled him from behind as he was leaving.
"Takumi!" a cheerful voice said, her arms holding him tight, "You do remember what you promised me today, right?"
Oboro, Takumi thought, Oh no. I don't want her to see me like... like this. He tried to dissuade her, "I-I'm sorry, I-"
"Don't give me that 'I'm busy' schtick," she interrupted, "I checked the schedule this morning, and your team is completely free." Takumi could feel her glaring at him.
"N-no, please-" his words cut off, panic starting to encroach on his mind. I don't deserve someone as loyal and kind as you, he thought, I don't want to disappoint you, and yet...
Oboro seemed to be catching on that something wasn't right. "Hey, are you feeling okay? We can do it some other time if you're sick."
With a strangled yell, Takumi wrenched himself away from her grasp and pulled Skadi's bowstring tight, a shadowy arrow forming, ready to strike. "You've got the wrong guy," he gasped out. For a brief moment, he saw a horrible fear in her eyes. He relished it.
Then he remembered who those eyes belonged to.
Takumi screamed, aiming his bow down at the carpet, and shot his arrow where it could do no harm. Terrified and angry at himself, he turned and ran. He didn't hear Oboro's cry of 'wait!'; he couldn't hear anything but his own harsh thoughts. Why did you do that?! he yelled at himself, Why are you such a failure? You can't even handle talking to someone you used to know without breaking down! His thoughts spiraled out of control, his mind focusing solely on running. When he could barely stand, gasping for air, his bad leg searing in agony, he didn't even recognize where he had ended up. He sighed, berating himself once again, and slid down the wall, having no intent to get back up.
Hopeless fool. Despite her mistake, she still wanted to talk with you. Now you’re lost, thanks to your own incompetence.
It’s been a while, Takumi thought, I don’t suppose you know where we are?
Unfortunately, I know not. This castle is obscenely large. You should demand a map from those useless royals.
I’m starting to think I should. Not knowing what else to do, Takumi slowly rose and began walking back the way he came.
By the way, there’s something I’ve been wondering, Takumi thought, What’s your name?
The voice didn’t respond for a while. Just as Takumi gave up on a response, it said, Anankos. An ancient dragon, and the king of a destroyed nation.
Takumi thought about his confession. Strangely enough, it made sense. What else would have the power to inhabit another’s body? Not only that, but it explained his high-and-mighty attitude. The only thing that didn’t make sense was the dragon’s decision in choosing him as a host.
I can tell you why I chose you, Anankos said, evidently hearing his thoughts, However, I’m not sure you’ll like the reason.
Is it because I’m dead?
That is part of it.
That answered Takumi’s question of his own mortality. He was, in fact, dead. It didn’t come as a surprise, more so just mild disappointment. Even after all this time, he had hoped to find some sort of normal life; if not in Hoshido, then in Askr. Now, that was impossible.
Coming out of his thoughts, he discovered his feet had led him to the royal library. Having nothing better to do, he decided to enter and read for a while, hoping not to encounter anyone else.
His hope was short-lived; just as he walked into the room, he bumped into Ori and...
No, no NO.
No... this person can't be Corrin, Takumi thought, trying to wrap his head around the situation. The man standing before him looked almost identical to his sister, although he seemed half-transformed into his dragon form; his horns, tail, and slit-like pupils taking away from his otherwise human appearance.
"Takumi, are you okay? You're shaking..." Right. Ori. She was there too.
"I'm... fine," Takumi said, his grip tightening on his bow, "Why is he here?"
"I just summoned him, so I'm showing him around. SkadiKumi, meet DraCorrin, and DraCorrin, meet SkadiKumi."
"I believe we know each other," Corrin said, holding out his hand, "Or, at least, we know about each other. You seem different from the false-brother I know."
"And you're different from the bitch I know." Takumi roughly shook hands with him.
"Bitch? Was I a woman in your world? How interesting. Tell me: what did she choose? One of the kingdoms?"
"She chose Nohr," Takumi growled, "What about you? Who did you betray?"
Corrin laughed quietly, "That's an interesting way to word it. I suppose you could say that I didn't betray anyone, since I didn't choose a side. Then again, you could also say I betrayed all of you. Nohr and Hoshido ended up blaming each other for the way I ended up, and it only added fuel to the fires of war. They ended up destroying each other during the conflict. Frankly, I believe they deserved it. Anyway, I guess I'll see you later, brother."
Takumi was shocked at this Corrin's behavior. He seemed uncaring and distant, so much unlike the naïve sister he hated. Corrin casually walked out of the library past him, either not noticing Takumi's confusion or not caring.
"I'm sorry," Ori said, "I didn't know you were going to be here. I know your relationship with Corrin is... rocky, to say the least, and I wanted to introduce you two gently. That didn't really work out though..."
"What's wrong with him?" Takumi asked.
"From what I managed to get out of him, I know he was treated a lot worse that other versions of Corrin when he was in Nohr. He was forced to be alone for months at a time, and I think it didn't do too many favors for his sanity. When Mikoto was killed and he discovered his dragon powers, his mind snapped, and he went on a rampage, killing many civilians along with the attackers. Azura only managed to salvage his human form, but not his humanity, before she died. I think he also discovered more about his true parentage after abandoning the two kingdoms, but he hasn't told me much about that."
"You said Azura died. Did he kill her?"
"...I think so."
Ori gasped, startled by Takumi's indifference. "I know she was my step-sister," Takumi explained, "But that doesn't stop her from being Nohrian scum. When I saw her trying to talk down a dragon, I was honestly surprised that she wasn't killed in my world, even if it was Corrin under the scales. She and Corrin are both too trusting for their own good."
"I suppose you have a point," Ori seemed momentarily lost in thought, then said, "What are you doing here, anyway?"
"Got lost," Takumi answered, choosing not to mention his earlier breakdown.
"Understandable," Ori laughed, "Well, if you want to do a bit of reading, the library just expanded recently. Apparently, when a new realm is discovered, the library automatically fills in with knowledge of its history. I've read a few things about Fódlan already, and I'm really invested in it's lore. I wonder if I can summon any heroes from there yet..."
"Shouldn't you catch up with Corrin?" Takumi asked, trying to get her to focus.
"Oh, right! I'll see you later, then!"
Takumi watched Ori run off. He wondered how she could be so passionate about caring for heroes that may not even be salvageable. Grima, Celica, Berkut, Chrom, himself, and now Corrin... she was so kind to all of them, even though they were the least deserving of her affection. Why was she so friendly with them?
I'm almost impressed by her determination. By all accounts, you should be beyond help, yet here she is, trying her best for you.
But why? Why would she go to such lengths for us?
Hopeless optimism, perhaps? Whatever it is, I find it quite endearing.
Yes, I... suppose it is.
Shut up, Anankos.
"Caineghis, can you take a team to the training tower? Oh, Keaton, you don't have to pull double duty anymore. Speaking of, Reyson, can you take the bird squad into the forging bonds? Haar, can you take on the daily round- don't give me that look, I know your schedule's open. Yes, I keep track of everyone's schedules, I know I'm weird. Alfonse, I want to discuss some Fódlan history with you some time, when are you free?"
Takumi enjoyed watching Ori manage the morning's missions, handing out the day's orders to whichever teams passed by. He was pretty sure the decisions of which teams would go where were spontaneous, but she gave them with such confidence that he initially hadn't been sure.
"Oh, good morning SkadiKumi!" Ori said, noticing him, "You're free for the morning, but I have a mission for your squad later this afternoon. Oh, and..." she reached into the bag she was holding and produced a small, metal rectangle, "I want you to have this."
Takumi looked down at it in confusion, "What is it?"
"It's a device from my world, called a phone. It lets people contact each other over long distances, and I want to test if it works here."
She took out her own 'phone' and tapped it a few times. Suddenly, the phone in his hands lit up and started vibrating. "What the hell?" Takumi yelled, startled.
"Now tap the green icon and hold it up to your ear," Ori instructed. Reluctantly, he did so, thankful the buzzing stopped. Ori then ran a short distance away, and her voice came out of the device, "Can you hear me?"
"Holy shit," Takumi said, "That's really weird."
"Yes, it works!" Takumi saw her jump with excitement at her discovery, "I want to test the connection, I'm going to keep walking away and see how good it is. Keep talking to me."
"What should I talk about?"
"I dunno," Ori said, her voice never changing despite the increasing distance between them, "Have you done anything interesting lately?"
"Aside from getting lost? No, not really."
"Yeah, we really need a map of this place. I keep asking the Askrans for one, but they say they don't need it, probably because they grew up here. I should propose it to Anna as a way to get more money."
"That would likely solve the problem."
"Yeah, despite how good of a commander she is, that money obsession of hers keeps getting her into trouble. Oh, hi Sharena."
"I'm doing an experiment," there was a pause, "Okay, maybe later," more silence, "Sounds good! I'll see you then! Sorry Takumi, I ran into Sharena, and she wanted to know what I was doing."
"So I gathered," Takumi said, "So this communication only allows you to speak to one person at a time?"
"Yeah, unless you have some fancy equipment that I have nowhere near enough money for."
"So this doesn't use magic?"
"No, my world doesn't have magic, so we build all kinds of devices like this to help us out. I wonder if the reason why my world has so much more technology than yours is because of your magic."
"That could be a possibility. You'll have to tell me about more of the 'technology' your world has."
"Sure, that sounds like fun! Maybe I'll hold an informational meeting for anyone who's interested. Anyway, I think I've covered enough distance. I'm hanging up and coming back down." A small beep came out of the phone, and Ori went silent.
If she does talk more about her world, I would very much like to hear more.
I admit, I'm also pretty curious.
With the power to communicate over long distances stored in this little box, I wonder what other powerful things her world has. She seems strangely familiar with that divine weapon of hers, even though it's like nothing I've seen before.
I've heard her call it a 'portal gun' before. Maybe she has similar weapons there?
They were distracted from their musings by a hand clapping onto Takumi's shoulder. He stiffened, his hand automatically going to his weapon, and quickly turned to see his draconic brother.
"Easy," Corrin said, raising his hands in surrender, "I just want to talk."
"About what?" Takumi growled, unable to view him as anything more than a traitorous Nohrian scumbag.
"About you," Corrin explained, "I tried talking to the other Takumi, but he's just so normal. It almost hurts to have a conversation with him. No, I want to talk to the Takumi who fell into the bottomless canyon and never recovered."
"What makes me so much more interesting than him?"
"Well, I believe we have a lot more similarities, specifically in regards to who we met down there. After I killed Azura, I started feeling an odd pull towards the cliffs. I admittedly was curious to see if the canyon really was bottomless, so I jumped, and found myself in a strange realm. It was there I met my real father."
"Wait, so we aren't siblings?"
"Only by marriage. He recognized me as his spawn and decided to spare my life in exchange for his services. And I think," Corrin raised a clawed hand and tapped Takumi's forehead, "you have some of him in you, too."
How could he know of my presence? Anankos wondered.
"I'm being possessed by your father?"
"So I was right! Now my question for my dear father: are you the human, or the dragon?"
Anankos was silent for a moment, I believe he is asking if I am sane or not. I would say I am, but whether that is due to this realm's influence or not, I am uncertain.
"He thinks he's sane," Takumi supplied.
"Lucky you!" Corrin clapped, "I'm stuck with demonic screeching and the occasional demand for murder. Although the screeching has subsided since I got here."
"It is possible that being in this realm might allow him to think more clearly. From what Ori has told me, the other possessed heroes have certainly shown some improvement in the sanity department."
"Fascinating. You mean to say that if I were to throw you back to whichever realm you came from, you would snap?"
"Please don't test that theory," Ori said, walking up to the two of them.
"Don't worry, I'm not quite that crazy," Corrin assured her.
"It is an interesting question, though," Takumi admitted.
"I suppose, yeah," Ori said, "Well, I'm glad my experiment worked. You can keep the phone if you want. If you need to contact me, press this button twice, then tap this icon, and tap my name."
"Got it," Takumi mumbled, following along with her instructions, "Thank you."
"You're welcome!" Ori smiled, her face lighting up. Takumi felt his face grow warm, and tried to ignore the funny look Corrin gave him. "Let's head to the dining hall before I round up your squad for Aether Raids."
The two heroes followed behind Ori as she strolled off. "I guess you'll be joining our table," Takumi commented.
"Sounds fun," Corrin said, "I look forward to meeting the rest of us."
"Everyone, this is Corrin. Corrin, this is Grima, Chrom, Celica, and Berkut."
"Is that blood on your face, or tomato juice?" Corrin asked.
"Tomato," Berkut grunted, hastily wiping it off.
"It's a pleasure to have another dragon to talk with," Grima said, shaking hands with the newcomer.
Takumi watched his step-sibling become acquainted with the rest of the table as they ate. He noticed Corrin barely used silverware, instead choosing to tear at his food like a wild animal. Throughout the meal, Takumi quickly came to the conclusion that Corrin had no social grace whatsoever. He suspected it was due to the 'lack of humanity' that Ori told him of, and he watched as Corrin curiously poked Chrom's face, feeling the dead flesh under his claws.
"That's enough," Grima growled, slapping his hand away, "Stop fondling my servant."
"Oh, my apologies," Corrin said, "I'm sure you're the only one who's allowed to fondle him."
Takumi decided to take his leave as Grima glared at the younger dragon; he knew a fight was brewing.
"Oh, here you are," Ori said, walking up to him, "If you're finished eating, let's gather the team and head up to the Aether Raids."
He nodded and followed her to the Island they owned. Lucina, Keaton, and Lewyn showed up shortly after. Ori scanned the combat radar for a minute, humming a strangely ominous tune, then turned to the team.
"Alright, I've found an opponent," she said, "The island's architecture seems excellent for an ambush-oriented approach, which could easily benefit both sides. There's two armor knights, Lewyn, I trust you to take out at least one of them. We also have a mounted archer, and I think Takumi can take them out first with some clever positioning. The only problem I can see is the dancer on their team. What do you guys think?"
"I trust your judgement," Lucina said, "I'll do my best to provide support."
"The plan's foundation seems solid enough," Lewyn commented, "There looks to be quite a bit of damaged terrain we'll need to break to take properly advantage of the layout, but otherwise, I think we have a good chance."
"If Lewyn thinks it's good, then it's good with me!" Keaton said, throwing his arm around the mage.
Takumi simply nodded; any plan that let him kill things was fine by him.
Ori smiled at the four of them, then raised the island to meet their opponent. They leaped onto the enemy island as it approached, and briefly checked their surroundings. Lewyn motioned them to move forward, and Keaton's claws shredded a statue that was in their way. Takumi raised his bow, an arrow shattering part of the wall to reveal the mounted archer, who then rushed at him. He felt a surge of adrenaline as their arrow grazed his shoulder, and fired a bolt of shadow with enough force to knock them clean off their horse. He fired a second bolt at the fallen body, making sure they were dead.
Seeing their companion perish, the armor knights started moving forward. Unfortunately for the first one, he didn't notice Lewyn hiding around the wall. The wind mage's spellbook floated above his hand as his magic tore through the armor, leaving the foe face-down on the ground.
"Looking good!" Keaton said.
"Save your compliments until after we've defeated all of them," Lewyn admonished.
Keaton nodded, looking slightly embarrassed, and charged forward on all fours, transforming into his bestial form as he ran. The enemy dancer had no chance to react before he pounced on her, easily dodging her counter and ending her time on the battlefield with one powerful swipe.
"Three down, one left," Lucina told them. The only question was: where was their last foe? Armor knights weren't exactly known for being stealthy. That question was unfortunately answered when, hearing a slight clanking of armor, Takumi turned just in time to avoid a fatal blow, but not fast enough to prevent the axe slicing into his chest. He staggered back, his blood spilling onto the ground.
"No!" Lucina yelled, warping to his side. Her lance pierced through the armor, wounding the knight, but it stuck in his ribs, leaving her unable to fully dodge his next strike. The axe buried itself in her shoulder, and she cried out in pain.
The two of them heard a yell of, "Get down!" Lucina let go of her lance and dropped to her knees as a powerful bluster shot overhead, the wind flying through the holes in the knight's helmet and undoubtedly slicing through the head underneath. Keaton and Lewyn ran to their injured comrades as their last enemy fell to the ground, dead.
"Are you alright?" Lewyn asked, helping Lucina to her feet.
"Well," Lucina responded, wincing in pain and holding her shoulder, "I'm not dead, thanks to you."
"Let's get you two to the infirmary, fast!" Keaton told her.
Takumi nodded, holding his arm to his chest in an effort to halt the bleeding. "I can walk," he said, waving off Keaton's attempt to help him.
The four of them walked back to their own island, and Ori immediately started fussing and panicking over their wounds. She quickly brought the island back down to the castle, taking care not to go too fast, and ran ahead to the infirmary as soon as they touched down. Two healers came over to them and held out their staves, magic coursing through their bodies and slowly closing their wounds.
"I'd recommend not exerting yourself too much for at least the rest of the day," one of them said.
"Of course," Lucina responded.
"If you don't have any other plans," Ori said, "I'm planning on holding a summoning session this evening. I know you guys like watching those, and I can give you some good seats."
"Awesome!" Keaton said, pumping his fist in the air.
"I'll pass," Lucina said, "I promised Lyn I'd talk with her later."
"Understandable," Ori nodded, "Well, I'll see whoever's coming later." She waved and walked away.
Do you want to go? Anankos asked Takumi, I'd love to watch, but I don't think your body could handle me forcing you at this time.
I might as well, Takumi responded, It's not like I have anything else to do today.
Very well, let's wait for it to start.
Takumi limped to the summoning room, choosing a chair close to the door. He watched Ori examine the summoning stone, seeing things no one else could see. Other heroes filed in, and when the seats were halfway full, she gripped her weapon and lifted up a golden orb.
"Ladies and gentlemen," she announced, "We are lucky enough to have four more Brave Heroes to join us," Ori paused as the audience applauded, "This golden orb will summon one of them to us. Let's see who arrives!"
She loaded the orb into Breidablik and fired at the stone. A brilliant light erupted forth, and from that light came a red-haired young man wearing a long white robe.
"Are you...?" the man started, "No, of course not... I am Eliwood, Marquess of Pherae. I'm new to this, but I learn quickly."
"Welcome, Eliwood," Ori said, barely containing her excitement, "We are glad to have you in the Order of Heroes."
The rest of the summoning went on as usual, up until the end. The final blue orb hit the stone and from the light emerged a young woman with short red hair.
"I'm Princess Hinoka of Hoshido. I have a reputation as a warrior princess. So, happy to hit the battlefield for you!"
Takumi froze. No, he thought, panicking, I can't let her see me like this. There was a small clatter as he quickly rose from his seat and rushed out the door, praying that his sister didn't notice him.
Takumi ran, wanting to get as far away from his older sister as possible.
Why are you running away?
"You don't understand," Takumi muttered, too shaken to reply mentally, "I failed her. I was supposed to stop the Nohrians from invading Hoshido and I failed. If I had just held out a little longer, if I had managed to kill Corrin right there, maybe she would've finally recognized that I'm better than that traitor. Instead, I'm dead, and the last thing she'll hear of me is my failure."
Calm down, Anankos advised, Remember, this Hinoka is from another world. She doesn't know about your failure.
I suppose that's true, he thought, but she's still my sister. I don't want her to see me, you know, dead.
He glanced behind him, seeing Hinoka behind him, her face a mixture of curiosity and concern. Panicking, he automatically raised his bow, shadow flowing around his fingers.
"G-get away from me," he yelled, fear creeping into his voice, "I'll hurt you!"
"Whoah, calm down, little bro," Hinoka said, "What's happened to you? Why is the Fujin Yumi like that?"
"Shut up! You don't know anything!" Anger was starting to overtake the panic, and dark fog from Skadi began creeping down his arm.
"What are you talking about?" Frustration began showing itself in his sister, "Will you just put the bow down and talk to me?"
"So what if I do?" he seethed, "It's not like you have anything worthwhile to say. It's always 'Corrin this, Corrin that,' 'I've got to get stronger for Corrin!'. WHAT ABOUT ME?!" Rage began clouding his mind, "WHAT ABOUT SAKURA?! ARE WE NOT WORTH ANYTHING TO YOU? I was right all along about that traitorous bitch, and you were too busy with your idealism to acknowledge anything I had to say! I bet you don't even care that I died. You'd probably cut me open right now if it meant you could see your precious lost sibling again."
"Shut up! Shut up Shut up Shut up! She betrayed us! She chose Nohr! All of your single-minded training was for nothing!" he let out a humorless laugh, "Betrayal... Death... that's all there is in our world..."
"That's not what happened!"
"To you, maybe, but I saw her abandon us right there on the Hoshidan plains. She looked us right in the eye and called them her real family. They took Sakura! She could be dead for all I know! Not that you care about us. You probably took my failure and death as a chance to see Corrin again! Who cares about the little brother, huh? WHO REALLY CARES ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO ME?! NONE OF YOU!"
He was interrupted by a bolt of green light streaking past his head. The siblings looked to the source and saw the
real other Takumi and Azura.
"I'm glad to see you, sister," the
real other Takumi said, "A pity you had to find this thing before me." Distain dripped from his voice as he prepared a second arrow.
"Leave, monster," Azura threatened, "I'm sure you know the damage my song can do to a creature like you."
I'd suggest doing as she says, Anankos advised, Her threat is very real, and very dangerous.
Takumi growled, "Fine... This isn't over." and turned on his heel, feeling the need to be alone.
He walked for a while, searching for someplace to think. He eventually came across a balcony that he could see the sky from. He walked out on the terrace, but found it was already occupied. Unfortunately, the Risen King noticed him before he could leave.
"Takumi?" Chrom asked, "You okay?"
"Not really," he responded.
"Talk?" Chrom offered.
Takumi hesitated for a moment before relenting, "I just ran into my sister and yelled at her. She probably thinks I'm crazy now, and there's no doubt that the normal Takumi will tell her to avoid me."
Chrom gently put his hand on his shoulder, "I'm sorry for you. But at the same time... I'm jealous. At least you can remember that... you have a sister."
"You can't remember anything from before you died?"
"No," Chrom coughed, "I wish I knew why I get... so many strange looks from the other heroes."
"You could always ask them."
"Or," Takumi mused, "You could always ask Ori. She knows a lot about the history of the worlds connected to this realm, and she's probably more willing to talk to us than most of the heroes here."
"That's... a really good idea," Chrom smiled, "Thank you."
"No problem," Takumi said, "Us dead people need to stick together."
Chrom nodded and walked away from the balcony, leaving Takumi to his thoughts. He sighed, watching the sunset and thinking back on the day's events. His chest still hurt from the battle earlier today. Hinoka probably would never speak to him again, even if he wanted to apologize.
A strange buzzing interrupted his thoughts as the stars came out. Investigating the source of the noise, he remembered the phone Ori had given him earlier that week. Looking at it, he found a message written on its surface.
Hi Takumi, this is Ori. Chrom told me what happened. Do you want to talk about it? I'm in the west gardens by the campfire if you do.
Takumi considered the message and, not feeling tired enough to sleep, decided to seek her out. Ignoring the stares he got as he limped through the halls, he eventually found his way to the location Ori told him of. She was reading a book as he approached, but, seeing him, quickly put is away with a smile on her face. She held out her arm, beckoning him to sit beside her. Taking her offer, he sat down and told her everything. Ori listened intently, and when he was done, wrapped him in a caring embrace. Takumi finally allowed himself to cry.
Takumi perched himself on a high wall, firing arrow after arrow at the Rokkr they were tasked with defeating. Lewyn had surrounded the area with a twister, making it difficult for enemies to ambush them. Lucina and Keaton fought the monster head-on, taking turns swiping at it while the other kept distracted. Takumi watched as Lucina activated her Aether skill and struck, absorbing the creature's energy and healing her wounds.
"How do these things have so much health?" Keaton yelled over the winds, his voice in his transformed state echoing through their minds.
"They might be a conglomerate of many souls taking a single form," Lewyn yelled back, "Then it would make sense."
The Rokkr took advantage of the conversation by throwing its axe toward the mage.
"Look out!" Takumi yelled, shooting the axe in hopes of knocking it off course. It only barely missed, but it was enough to break Lewyn's concentration. The wind barrier wavered, and enemies began to swarm them. Takumi and Lewyn changed their focus to holding back the waves of smaller enemies.
A now-familiar buzz made Takumi check Ori's phone, seeing Reinforcements coming to help written on the screen. "Ally reinforcements!" he yelled, alerting the others that their team wouldn't be fighting alone for much longer. The others nodded, a look of relief flickering across their faces.
Looking into the distance in the direction of the castle, Takumi saw several figures coming towards them on horseback. They would likely have to last a few more minutes before help arrived. Scanning the battlefield, he saw that the Rokkr was the only enemy left on the field, but it was still going strong. He redirected his focus towards filling the creature with arrows. Having retrieved its axe, the Rokkr struck at the two heroes harassing it, managing to land a good hit on Keaton.
"One of those reinforcements better be a healer!" Keaton quipped, taking a step back to lick his wounds while Lucina distracted the Rokkr.
"I can heal myself," Lucina reminded him, "If you need to take a break, I can take the focus."
"Nah, I'm game for a fight!" Keaton yelled, his claws glowing as he rushed in and struck.
The sound of pounding hooves grew closer, drawing the attention of the creature. Eliwood and Veronica galloped towards them, with Rutger and Nino riding along with them. The swordsman leaped off the horse and rushed to join the fray, while the young mage got off gently. Veronica raised her staff, sending a wave of healing energy through her allies.
"Thanks for the help!" Lucina called to the newcomers.
"Not a problem," Eliwood responded with a smile. Nino grinned, sending a concentrated blast of frigid wind at the Rokkr, while Rutger simply grunted in acknowledgement before repeatedly slicing into the enemy. Now that there were eight of them, the Rokkr fell quickly, dissipating into dark mist as its weapon fell to the ground.
As the rest of the group began walking back to the castle, Takumi stayed behind, watching the smoke rise from the dropped axe. He remembered seeing a similar fog rise from himself whenever he lost control. He knelt down and fingered the blade embedded into the earth, watching the smoke curl around his fingers. Dark fog began to billow out of the weapon as the blade almost seemed to melt under his touch. Soon the only remnant of their battle was the scar cut into the ground where the axe had been and the shadows dissipating into the midday sky.
I almost feel sorry for it, Takumi thought
Why would you? Anankos responded, It perished doing what it was created to do. If we had not killed it, it would have slain many innocent people.
Even so, it didn't have any choice in the matter. What kind of person would bring a soul back to life as a tool for its own purposes? There was silence in his mind before Takumi realized what he said. I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean-
I understand what you say, the dragon said, a hint of regret on his voice, I do not pretend I am a good person. I have done many things I am not proud of. Regardless of my moral standing, you ought to get back to the castle. People will worry about you if you do not arrive.
I suppose you're right, but don't pretend that the whole castle will miss me. We both know there's only one person who cares.
Anankos let out a small laugh as Takumi stood, remembering the previous night. She does care for you a great deal, perhaps as much as you care for her.
If dead flesh could blush, Takumi did so, and spent the rest of the journey trying to protest the dragon's claim without much success. Unsurprisingly, the team did not wait for him to arrive back at the castle, instead leaving or talking among themselves. He saw Lewyn heading towards the library with Keaton trailing close behind, Eliwood and Lucina talking in a sunlit hallway, and Rutger discussing something with Ori, likely giving a mission report. When the swordsman walked away, Ori quickly noticed Takumi and waved him over.
"How was the battle?" she asked, fidgeting with her gloves as he approached.
"It was fine," he responded, "The enemy died and no one was seriously wounded. I'd call that a win."
"Excellent!" Ori held up her hand, smiling as Takumi slapped it in response. He didn't quite understand the purpose of the foreign gesture, but it felt satisfying to do, so he always complied after Ori had taught it to him.
"Anything happen while we were out?" he asked.
"Not really, but Breidablik doesn't seem to be working properly. I tried summoning earlier today, and it wouldn't fire." She took the weapon out of it's sheath and smacked it a few times, "I thought it might be jammed, but there's nothing blocking the barrel. Alphonse told me not to use it until we can figure out what's wrong."
"Sensible of him," Takumi muttered, "And you still haven't found anything?"
"Not a clue," Ori shrugged, "I'm the first person to be able to use it, and as far as the Order knows, nothing like this has ever happened before. We will be holding a meeting this evening to announce the temporary halt to the summonings. Anyway, I should meet the next team for their mission."
"I'll come with you," he said, following her to the main hall. There they met the other five fallen heroes, Chrom refusing to leave Grima's side until the mission begins.
"You ready to go?" Ori asked.
"Yep," Corrin responded, "Before we head out, I heard what happened to your weapon. No summoning for a while, huh?"
"Can I see it?" He held out his clawed hand.
Ori considered his request, "I guess you can," she unsheathed the weapon, showing it to the group.
"Interesting," Grima said, leaning in closer, "I haven't had a chance to see it up close before."
"Nothing looks wrong with it," Corrin mused, "You said it can't fire?"
"Yeah, nothing looks to be blocking the barrel either, so it can't be jammed." Ori confirmed.
"The 'barrel' is a part of your weapon, correct?" Berkut asks.
"Yeah, it's this part," she indicated the long section by the hole from where it fires.
"Another question," Corrin interrupted, "Is it supposed to be glowing?"
Ori gave him a questioning look, before examining Breidablik more closely. A small blue glow could be seen emanating from the barrel, and it was slowly getting brighter. "No, I don't think it's supposed to be like that..." She winced, "It's getting hotter!" she said, looking worried.
"Get down!" Chrom growled, tackling his master to the ground. As he did so, three spheres of energy blasted out of the weapon, knocking itself out of Ori's hand and sending her flying in the opposite direction. Each blast then transformed into a portal, and a strange suction began emanating from each of them. Celica could not keep her footing, and Berkut, lunging to help her, failed to stabilize them both and together they vanished into one of the gateways. Chrom attempted to cover Grima, but the wind grasping at them was too much and the second gateway claimed them. Roaring, Corrin shifted into his dragon form, attempting to resist the pull with his superior draconic strength, but Takumi was already plummeting sideways towards his brother, smacking into him and sending the both of them into the last portal.
Ori could only watch as her companions vanished into the unknown realms Breidablik had sent them to. The portals close, and silence falls in the main hall.
Ori scrambled to her feet, staring at the air where her friends had vanished. The fallen heroes she had been tasked with taking care of, all of them had dissapeared, just like that. She looked down at Breidablik, hesitating to pick it up. What if it activated again? Would she lose more of her friends? Her hands shook as she reached out for the gun.
"Ori!" Alphonse yelled, running up the hall toward her, "What happened?"
"I-it suddenly activated," she tried to explain, "It shot portals, a-and now... Takumi and the others..."
"Don't touch it," he advised her, "Not until we know what could happen."
"This is why I don't like guns," Ori muttered.
"I do have some good news," Alphonse tried to console her, "From what I've read, summoners have a magical connection to their heroes, and we could probably use that connection to track them down. Unfortunately, even if we do that, we'd need to fix whatever's wrong with Breidablik before we can re-summon them."
"Can we do that?"
"I imagine we could. If its malfunctioning due to a curse, we have many skilled mages that could break it or track it down."
Ori sighed in relief. "We can get them back. That's a relief. All we have to do is figure out why the gun isn't working, and hope they can last until we do."
"Duma's temple. Yes, it is."
Celica and Berkut stood before the door to the massive dungeon that they both fell to Duma's power in. The door was sealed shut, preventing any unprepared from entering.
"I remember this place," Berkut mused, "Now that we've found what realm we are in, it would be prudent to figure out where we are in time."
"You have a point," Celica responded, "Let's head to the courtyard, though we should take care not to be spotted by anyone."
The two of them carefully made their way towards the castle courtyard, checking around any corners before moving forward. Strangely, the castle seemed devoid of life, and they continued walking unimpeded. As they drew closer to their destination, sounds of battle could be heard, becoming louder the closer they got.
"I wonder what's going on," Celica said. Her companion said nothing, only tightening his grip on his lance.
Her question was answered as soon as they looked into the courtyard. The sight of Emperor Rudolf and Alm clashing blades as their armies fought around them was enough to shock the two of them into stunned silence. Celica recovered first, putting her arm out to stop Berkut from lunging at his cousin.
"Stop it," she chided, pushing him back as he struggled against her grip, "I want to kill him to, but this isn't the Alm we know. We shouldn't interfere with this realm's history."
"So what if we change things here?" Berkut growled, "It's not going to matter in our worlds."
"Yes, but changing history for our own benefit is wrong!" she pushed him back to the doorway, "For all we know, Alm could lose in this world, and nothing will change."
"What if we change history in just a small way?"
"I want to see Rinea again," Berkut explained, "I'm sure the Berkut of this world loves her just as much as I do. What if we stop him from becoming like me? Stop him from..." he paused, the words caught in his throat.
"I understand," Celica said, "I suppose it would be okay if we only change one small thing such as that. Are you sure you want to do this?"
"I've never been more sure," Berkut responded, pushing open the double doors, "For Rinea."
"For your future," Celica agreed, and the two of them stepped into the darkness.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine Chrom. More importantly, where are we?"
Grima stood, brushing dust and dirt off his cloak, and examined their surroundings. They appeared to be in a thick forest; night had come and it was difficult to see clearly. There didn't seem to be any point in standing around, so Grima picked a direction and started walking, his risen companion staying close behind. As they made their way through the woods, Grima felt that something was off.
"Something wrong?" Chrom asked, picking up on the distress of his master.
"Yeah, but I'm not sure what," Grima growled, "It's frustrating. There's something that doesn't feel right, but there's nothing to indicate what it is."
A strange moaning interrupted their conversation. Chrom drew his blade, scanning the trees for any sign of a threat. His eyes landed on a group of hunched-over humanoids, each wearing a mask that covered their face. The darkness did nothing to hide their glowing red eyes.
"Risen," Grima hissed, "We must be in Ylisse. Turn around, we are not your enemy."
The risen ignored his order. "Leave," Grima ordered, growing increasingly worried as they continued to ignore him. "Chrom, I think these fools have to die."
Chrom nodded, his blade flashing as he rushed forward. He slew the first few easily, the risen's sluggish movements making them easy prey. One carried a sword and had just enough instinct to parry Chrom's next blow, but it wasn't enough to stop its second death. A few risen had moved towards Grima, thinking him the easier target, and Grima laughed at their foolishness, raising his hand. He attempted summoning the fell dragon's power to obliterate them, but it wouldn't come. Panicking, he pushed harder, but his power felt sealed off. Shifting his arm in an attempt to defend himself, an axe bit into his flesh, drawing blood and causing him to cry out in pain. Seeing his master's dilemma, Chrom disengaged from his current target and rushed to slaughter the treat to Grima's safety.
Once all of the foreign risen had perished, Chrom examined Grima's wound. "Not good," he surmised with his limited knowledge, "Your power isn't working?"
"It seems that way," Grima said, wincing as Chrom tied a ripped portion of his cape around the injury, "I can't access it from this realm."
"We can't stay here," Chrom advised, "Need to find shelter." He helped his master stand up, and they hurried to find someplace to stay until the sun rose.
"This is... the plains of Hoshido."
Corrin looked around the grassy field as Takumi realized where they had landed. The sun was beginning to set, and there was just enough wind to make the grasses wave back and forth.
Corrin gasped. "Down," he hissed, pushing himself and Takumi into the ground.
"What is it?" Takumi asked.
"Look," Corrin raised a clawed finger, pointing to a bridge in the distance. Looking in the direction his brother indicated, Takumi had to resist the urge to pull out his bow. He saw another Corrin, standing before Ryoma and Xander, both of them clearly asking Corrin to join them.
"Stop struggling, we can't be noticed."
"I can't watch them abandon us again!"
"I don't think you'll have to, look closely."
Growling, Takumi watched the Corrin across the field struggle with their decision. They said something indistinct, and Ryoma recoiled. Takumi was about to fire at them before Xander also looked shocked. There was more talking, and both princes began to look angry. The two armies began to fight, while Corrin seemed distressed.
"What happened?" Takumi wondered.
"It seems the other me refused to join a side," Corrin interpreted, "I think they want to stop the fighting, and look, Azura is with them." He thought for a moment, before striking ups an idea, "Do you think we should assist them?"
Takumi considered the idea. If they weren't working actively against Hoshido, he supposed he could stomach working with his treacherous sibling; the draconian brother beside him proved that. Besides, it would be interesting to see what would have happened to him and his siblings if they hadn't been betrayed. Instead of answering verbally, he raised his bow and shot down one of the wyvern riders coming for the Corrin across the way, ducking back down before he could be seen.
"Nice shot," Corrin complimented, "I wish I could help, but I can't really fight from range."
"As long as I'm only killing Nohrians, I'll assist when I can," Takumi responded, firing another bolt before the rider could sink their axe into the Corrin across the field.
Soon enough, the armies began retreating, and Corrin and Azura ran in a different direction. The two fallen brothers followed behind them from a distance, curious about their destination. As they walked toward the Nohrian barrier, Corrin let out a laugh.
"What's so funny?" Takumi asked.
"I just remembered my theory from earlier this week," Corrin explained, "You know, I suspected you'd snap if you were away from Askr for too long? I guess we'll finally be able to test that theory."
Grima winced at the blood leaking down his arm. The cut hadn't been deep enough to sever the arm, but it still hurt like hell. His makeshift bandage had been soaked through and needed replacing. Realizing he had been disconnected from the majority of his draconic power had really shaken his confidence. Without the strength of the fell dragon, he was just a regular human. Disgusting.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of tearing fabric as Chrom ripped off another part of his cape to re-bandage the injury. He reached over to cover the wound again, but something made him pause. He stared down at the blood trickling down his master's arm, and Grima swore he saw something hungry in his undead eyes.
"Hey," Grima said, snapping Chrom out of his trance.
"Sorry," Chrom said, looking away from the injury, "Don't know what I was thinking. It just looked... appetizing."
"I thought you didn't have the bloodlust of the other Risen."
"Thought so too. Apparently not."
"Unless," Grima pondered, "If I am cut off from my power, maybe you are losing your abilities as well."
"That could be true," Chrom said, looking worried, "I just... stopped thinking. If it ever happens again and I try to attack you, please don't hesitate to finish me for good."
"Hopefully that won't be a problem for a while," Grima responded. The thought of losing his only ally in this world along with his powers made him shudder. He needed to find some way to defend himself, and hopefully find a proper healer for his arm. He wished Chrom could accompany him into town, but the sight of the crown prince as a risen would undoubtedly cause a panic and draw too much attention to them. It was fortunate that he never bothered to clean out the pockets of the coat his host wore; he discovered he had a reasonable amount of gold on him, as well as a few tonics.
"There looks to be a town nearby," Grima observed, "Stay here, I'll be back as soon as I can." He pulled up has hood and ventured out of the woods toward civilization, briefly looking back to check that Chrom had obeyed his order.
The town was fairly small, but it had plenty of stores to search through. Finding a weapons merchant rather quickly, he bought two tomes, one dark and one thunder, and haggled down the price of a sword. He also managed to find a map of the surrounding country and some provisions. His pockets significantly lighter, he set out to find someone who could fix his arm. Though he expected to get many curious stares, surprisingly, none came his way. He guessed that hooded strangers coming into town must not be an uncommon occurrence around here, or at least not something worth questioning.
He turned, seeing a young, blond girl with pigtails run up to him. "I didn't expect to see you at the market on our day off," she said, "What are you doing here?"
"I thought I ought to grab a few extra tomes," Grima ad-libbed, trying to keep the panic out of his voice and remember the girl's name, "I also had a scrape with a risen on my way here, so I was looking for a healer."
"Why didn't you start with that?" she asked, seeming somewhat alarmed, "Show me the wound and I can patch you up."
Mildly surprised at his good fortune, Grima held out his arm and unwrapped the makeshift bandage. The girl briefly winced at the sight of the wound, and held up a heal staff, the tip glowing as she held it to his arm. He felt the gentle energy knitting up the injury until only a scar was left.
"There you go!" she said cheerfully, "That should be good enough for now. Try not to do anything too dangerous, and it should heal up fully by tomorrow morning."
"Thank you," Grima responded, "I can always count on your help, Lissa."
"No problem!" she smiled, "I'll see you back at camp, then!" She turned and walked back the way she had come.
Grima dropped his pleasant facade, wondering how he was able to place the name so easily. Lissa, he now remembered, was Chrom's younger sister. She didn't like being treated like a child, even though her actions sometimes told otherwise, and was a surprisingly competent fighter as well as a healer. As Grima walked back to the woods, debating whether he should tell his Chrom about this, he noticed something even more concerning.
Robin, who had been dormant since he had arrived in Askr, was starting to struggle again. Grima could feel his suppressed spirit trying to break through his restraints and reestablish control over their shared body. "Stop it," Grima hissed, but the tactician either didn't hear him or didn't care.
Chrom was waiting for him just inside the forest boundary, his sword planted in the ground, searching for any possible threats. Seeing his master approaching, his stance relaxed somewhat, and he offered a faint smile. "Did you find anything useful?"
"Yep," Grima offered, showing the tomes, map, and his mostly undamaged arm, "But we have a change of plans. We'll have to stay away from towns and cities from now on. I've confirmed that this version of Ylisse is from before my takeover, and we can't risk anyone from this timeline seeing us. It would cause too much panic and confusion."
"I suppose," Chrom said, "I heard from Ori that I was an important figure here while I was alive. Seeing me as one of their enemies would be... confusing, to say the least."
"Agreed, and we should try to avoid meeting the other versions of us from this realm as well."
The two of them set out through the forest once more, choosing a direction they felt the company was least likely to go. Grima could still feel Robin attempting to assert dominance over their body, not with much success, but with surprising strength. He growled at himself, earning a confused look from his risen friend, and waived it off, half-lying about his arm still hurting. They discussed their situation at length, and by the time the sun set once more, the only question they had left was whether Ori would be able to find them or not. Hopefully she would come for them before they encountered any more problems, but Grima doubted that would be the case.
Takumi and Corrin approached the bridge above the bottomless canyon. The three people they had been following had vanished from their view, but Corrin supposedly knew where they had gone.
"I don't know where they're going to exit," he explained, "So it would be best for us to simply follow them in."
"Exit where?" Takumi asked, the unstable bridge making him nervous.
"I'll tell you when we get there," Corrin said unhelpfully, "Don't worry, it'll be safe as long as I'm with you. Though they probably won't attack you anyway, because you're..." he trailed off, gesturing at his companion's pale skin and unnatural red eyes, "Just follow me. This isn't as stupid as it looks." He then vaulted over the flimsy rope railing and descended into the canyon.
Hesitant to follow but having nowhere else to go, Takumi jumped down after the dragon. As he fell, he remembered the first time he plummeted into the darkness, then accidentally. What had happened to him, as well as how he got out, was a mystery. The chasm grew darker as they fell further from the moonlight, and soon they could not see at all. As Takumi started believing the 'bottomless' part of the canyon's name, he struck something hard and the world seemed to fade in around him. He found himself lying in a grassy field, staring at a foggy, sunlit sky. The time change was the least strange thing about the sky, as among the clouds were floating islands and strange tears in the fabric of space. He barely noticed Corrin walking over to him until he grasped his hand an pulled him to his feet.
"Welcome to Valla!" Corrin announced, "This place is just as weird as it looks. I saw Azura and Normin head off in that direction, and we should probably start following them."
"Normin?" Takumi asked, still confused from the trip down.
"Oh, Normin is the other me," Corrin provided, "Like Normal-Corrin. You can just keep calling me Corrin. Or brother, if you want.
"You aren't my brother," Takumi growled.
"That's true, I suppose," Corrin acquiesced.
As they walked, Corrin explained more about the land they were in. He spoke about how Anankos ruled the land, destroyed it, and was attempting to rebuild. The invisible soldiers, he theorized, were the reanimated corpses of former soldiers and even townsfolk. The strangest thing he described was the curse: that speaking the name of he kingdom outside of its borders would cause a person to dissolve into water. Corrin also described more mundane things such as castle upkeep, army rankings (he was the commander), and local foods that Takumi absolutely must try.
Eventually they followed Azura into a cave, carefully staying out of sight of both the princess and their enemies. An old knight joined Normin's tiny army, his armor distinctly Nohrian, and Takumi briefly considered murdering him until he realized it would probably reveal their presence. They walked behind them for several more minutes, dispatching a few reckless Vallite soldiers in the process, before they saw the light at the end on the cave. Corrin motioned for them to stay back in the cave entrance until Normin was just barely visible in the distance. The sun had begun to fade, and it was likely they would make camp and rest until morning.
"Do you need to sleep?" Corrin asked, curious about how one was to live if they were dead.
"I mostly do it out of habit," Takumi admitted, "I suppose we could test if I do."
"Excellent," Corrin yawned, stretching his arms above his head, "Then I'm going to rest tonight. Wake me if you start to feel tired." With that, he flopped onto his back and closed his eyes.
Takumi stared at his companion in confusion. How was he so calm when they were in so much trouble? They were possibly trapped in a strange version of their homeland, and their only hope of rescue wasn't even aware of the extent of her power. It would take a miracle for them to be rescued before anything went wrong.
Wait, Takumi realized, The phone! I could try to contact her! He took out the small rectangle and tried to remember Ori's instructions. Tapping the appropriate icons, he put the phone to his ear and waited. After what seemed like an eternity, he heard a beeping noise, and a stilted voice came out of the device, saying, "The number you are trying to reach is unavailable. Please try again later."
Takumi cursed, throwing the device down and laying back. Of course it wouldn't work. When had anything in his life worked out? He looked back at the phone, wondering if he would ever hear Ori's voice again. He thought back to the time he caught her singing in the concert hall. Her voice was so beautiful, on par with Azura's, only her songs didn't cause him pain. The lyrics were harder to remember, but he remembered that they gave him peace, reassuring him that not everything in this world was misery.
Looking back at the phone, one of the other icons caught his eye. It looked like a multicolored flower on a white base, and the word "photos" was written underneath. Curious, he tapped it, and it showed many tiny pictures of various things. He saw one that looked like Ori and tapped it, wanting a better view. The image enlarged, showing Ori without her usual summoner's robe, instead wearing a blue coat over a black and gray shirt. In the background was a tall, golden clock tower with a vaguely Nohrian design, lit up against the darkening sky. It was strangely beautiful, and Takumi wondered if there were more images like it. Scrolling through the images, he saw several featuring cats and a few others of impressive artwork, but not many others centered around Ori. The only other one he was able to find was a picture of her and two other boys sitting around a table, playing with what looked like dice, tiny statues, and several sheets of paper. If they ever made it back to Askr, he would ask who she was with and what they were doing. He turned the phone off, sighing, wishing he could talk to her.
Staring at the strange Valla sky, he wondered why the night was so quiet. He could understand the lack of man made sounds, but silence even from nocturnal animals and insects? Valla was emptier than he first thought. Was Anankos the only living being left here? The only noise he could hear was...
Takumi sat bolt upright. He could recognize the sound of footsteps anywhere. Shaking Corrin awake and warning him, they sunk low in the grasses, trying to discern who was approaching, and from where. To their surprise, it was Normin, coming from the other camp. Corrin quietly crawled away, trying to stay away from her path, but Takumi was frozen in place. All he could think of was the resemblance she bore to his traitorous sister. Rage started to cloud his mind, and he unconsciously drew his bow, rising slightly to get a better shot, a dark arrow forming on the bowstring.
He could hear a sharp gasp, and a voice saying, "Takumi?" None of it registered, however; all he could think of was putting an arrow through that naive, uncaring, betraying heart.
Something collided with him, forcing him to the ground and out of sight. Corrin had transformed into his dragon shape, easily holding him down no matter how hard he struggled. "Leave this place, child," his voice seemed to echo in their minds, "Staying under this realm's influence for too long will make you see all sorts of nightmarish things."
"Who are you?" she asked, wondering how there was another dragon just like her, "Can you help me? And why did I see my brother?"
"I cannot help you," he said, "As for your brother, that was just whispers of a long-dead past, or perhaps a narrowly avoided future. You should get back to sleep, you have a long journey in the morning."
"Okay," she said, "Can I at least ask your name?"
"You can call me Dracan. I will be watching over you from afar. Now go forth, young princess, and claim your true throne." He then brought out a warp stone and teleported the two of them out of sight.
Corrin shifted back into his partially-human form, letting Takumi stand now that there was nothing to shoot. "Time to go, partner," he quipped, "We still have to follow them out."
"Where..." Takumi gasped, trying to speak again, "Where did you get... warp stone?"
"It was a gift," Corrin explained, his face saddening, "From my father. He said it was a good-luck charm. I only figured out what it did when I arrived in Askr."
"Oh, Ori gave me that idea," he brightened, "She called me DraCorrin, but I couldn't really call myself Corrin in front of her, could I? So I substituted for the first syllable in Anankos. Clever, right?"
"Sure," Takumi said, only half-listening. He was concerned about how easily he lost control when he saw her. He hadn't felt that angry since...
"Oi," Corrin said, snapping his claws, "You paying attention? We need to get moving."
"Right, sure," he said, following his brother as they walked away.
"Ori, what the hell are you doing?"
Alfonse found the supposedly glorious summoner of legend on the floor of the library, surrounded by odd tools and papers, Breidablik laid out on the floor in front of her. She was prodding the mythical weapon with one of these tools, and held another in her mouth.
She looked up and started to speak, "Ah hoheh o ihfi-"
"Please take that out of your mouth, I can't understand you."
She complied and repeated herself, "A moment of inspiration. Or madness. I can't really tell. I just went back to my world to look a few things up," she held up one of the papers showing a diagram of a similar thing to the weapon, "I figured that Breid is basically a specialized gun-a weapon from my world-so I grabbed a couple of blueprints and, well, I thought I'd try to take it apart."
"Take apart a legendary weapon!?" he practically yelled, "You really must be mad."
"I'm not completely crazy, just practical. Also, we're in a library, so please keep your voice down."
Alfonse sighed and sat down next to her, "I suppose if I can't dissuade you, I should at least make sure you don't break anything permanently."
Ori grinned and continued to prod at the weapon. "I'm no expert, so I've mostly been guessing at what I should do. It says here that the top part of a gun should be able to sort of slide off, but this one isn't able to. Are there any screws holding it in place?"
"Not that I know of," Alfonse pondered, "But perhaps this part could..."
The two of them discussed many possible strategies of how they could go apart disassembling the weapon. The anatomy of the otherworldly weapons was fascinating, and Alfonse was surprised at how complicated it was. Ori started detailing the history of the weapon and its improvement through her world's history while they were working, and Alfonse had to redirect her focus before she started discussing something called the Revolutionary War. He wanted to learn more about the other world's history, but they both agreed that she could bring him a textbook after they solved their current problem.
After a while, Sharena came into the library, looking for her brother. She was quite surprised to see him sitting on the floor with the summoner, talking about weapons, and seemingly playing with Breidablik. She approached them as quietly as she could, and despite her lack of stealth skill, they were so engrossed in their discussion that they didn't notice her.
"Having fun?" she asked when she was sure she could startle them. Breidablik hit the ground with a thud, and Ori let out a small squeaking noise. Alfonse didn't react, having grown used to his sister's pranks. Sharena giggled, always amused by the summoner's variety of noises she made when surprised.
"Sharena, please don't ambush us when we're working," Alfonse chided, "How long have we been working?"
"The rest of the order is having dinner," Sharena informed them, "So you've been here for about three hours. Anna sent me and a few others to look for you."
"Oh, fanken," Ori muttered under her breath, "Thanks, Sharena! I'll get going." She scrambled up to her feet, almost tripped over one of the tools spread about, and ran out the door.
"Wait for me," Alfonse yelled after her, rising much more gracefully and starting down the hall.
Sharena kept pace with her older brother, several steps behind the summoner. "Getting along well with the summoner?" she asked.
Alfonse thought for a while before responding, "Yeah, I honestly didn't expect her to be so easy to talk to. She's definitely a bit mad, but she has so much interesting knowledge and genius ideas."
"Okay..." Sharena started to get a look that usually meant she was about to say something embarrassing, "So do you like like her?"
Alfonse stumbled. "Sharena!" he yelled, his face flushing, "I don't like her like that! She's just a friend!"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, now drop the subject."
She laughed, enjoying her brother's embarrassment, and continued running. As they reached the hall, Ori skidded to a stop and quietly slipped into her seat, grabbing a roll of bread and slathering it with butter. The two young royals entered and sat shortly after, assuring Anna that everything was fine. After eating in relative quiet for several minutes, Ori's face morphed into one Alfonse had begun to associate with her strangest ideas. She finished her meal as quickly as possible, then stood up from her chair.
"Heroes," She projected, "I would like to conduct an experiment after we finish our meal."
The room went quiet, and the heroes turned to look at her. They had grown used to Ori's impulsive announcements, and many were curious as to what scheme she had come up with this time.
"What are you doing now?" Alfonse whispered at her.
"Just trust me on this," she hissed back, before raising her voice once more, "The prince of Askr and I have been theorizing as to why my legendary weapon has been acting strangely, and I feel that I have a way to put those ideas into practice. This will likely be dangerous, so I will not begrudge you for abstaining. Anyone who is willing to help, please meet me in the main hall about half an hour after dinner is over. Thank you." She bowed slightly, then sat back down, a nervous smile on her face.
"What is this idea of yours?" Alfonse sighed, hoping it wasn't anything stupid.
"I was just thinking," Ori explained, "When Breid started acting up and shooting portals, it was in the main hall, with several other heroes around. I want to try to recreate the conditions and see if it happens again."
"That's... actually a good idea," he pondered, "How are we going to make sure no one gets pulled into the portals, though?"
"I thought that we'd have less of a chance of that if we were prepared, but we should probably take some other precautions. Do you have any ideas? Actually, is there any chance we could temporarily set up some sort of wall?"
"I'm glad you asked," Anna said, joining the conversation, "I have recently acquired an 'instant prison' tome, and I could summon it around you while you prepare the experiment. I believe that it should have bars on all sides that will let you see out, but nothing should be able to pass through."
"Oh, thanks so much!" Ori leaned over and hugged the commander, "That'll be super useful! Do you think you could get any more of those for use in battle?"
"Sadly, it wouldn't be very practical in a fight," Anna explained, "It takes a while to prepare, and I'm pretty sure a sufficiently strong blade could cut through the bars, plus magic could probably go right through."
"I suppose that's fair. I appreciate it anyway, though."
"Not a problem."
The Order members gathered in the main hall shortly after that, meeting many other heroes there. Lucina, Keaton, Lewyn, Eliwood, Ephraim, Rutger, Nino, Deirdre, both Ikes, Soren, L'Arachel, Silas, Lyn, Klein, Morgan, Yarne, Brady, and the entire laguz population had come to help.
"Oh, you guys..." Ori was at a loss for words at the amount of help and support she was getting. She told them her plan, and Anna handed the prison tome to Soren, who briefly perused it and began chanting. After a few minutes, four walls of metal bars surrounded Ori in a roughly ten-foot square around her. It would be a strange sight to see out of context, but many heroes present cheered at the success of the untested spell. She then unsheathed Breidablik from its holster and held it aloft.
Nothing seemed to happen for a few moments. The crowd waited expectantly for something to happen, and despite the lack of immediate action, none of them could draw their attention away from the weapon. Then it began to vibrate. Everyone began to brace themselves for the impending pull. The barrel glowed, and Ori's entire arm began to shake. Six portals launched out of the gun, fortunately landing within the bars of the magic prison, and wind began to pull the heroes forward. Ori managed grab onto one of the bars to avoid the initial suction, and Rutger and Silas ran forward to help her brace herself. Everyone braced themselves and managed to stave off the wind, and after several tense minutes, the portals began to waver and fade.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Ori fell to the ground, grunting softly as she landed, and the two men helped her to her feet. Soren began flipping through the spellbook once more, finding the incantation to dispel the prison, and released the summoner from her cage.
"You alright?" Rutger asked, leaning down to brush the dust off of her robes.
"I'm fine, just a little bruised," Ori said, wincing slightly, "Thank you everyone, I really appreciate your cooperation."
"Don't worry about it," Lucina said, hugging her gently, "I believe I can speak for everyone when I say that we'd help you out, no matter what you're doing."
"Yeah!" Nino exclaimed, "You helped me learn how to read, after all. I'll help you as much as I can in return."
"Not only that," Eliwood added, "but we want to rescue our friends. Obviously we'd help you out to get them back."
"We are allies, not only of justice, but also of friendship!" L'Arachel exclaimed.
"You are one of the best beorc I've ever had the pleasure to meet," Reyson complimented, "As you protect and care for us, we'll do our best to do the same."
"Ah," Morgan said, concerned, "You're crying. Are you okay?"
"I'm- I'm fine," Ori sniffed, "I've just never had this much support before. Every time I think I can't do anything right, you encourage me so much and get me back on my feet. You guys are just so, so amazing..." she took a deep breath and opened her arms, "Come here, everyone, group hug. I love all of you."
The heroes piled in, swiftly becoming a large crowd of pure laughter and friendship. They all offered words of comfort and encouragement, lifting everyone's spirits even more. Eventually, Ori had the idea to use her phone to take a group picture, explaining it to them as an instant portrait. She wormed out of the crowd, asking everyone to get in view, and took a picture of the group. Anna insisted that she take one as well so Ori could be shown together with the group.
After the group had dispersed, Ori began to wonder if she could conjure portals voluntarily. She had started to feel the connection that Alfonse had told her of, and she could just barely sense the heroes she had lost. Meditating on that feeling alone for several minutes, she stood up confidently pulled the trigger. To her surprise, a gateway came out of the barrel, without the wind that she had come to expect. Laughing in triumph, she dispersed the portal and ran to her office, writing a to-do list for tomorrow.
Summon controlled portals, decide who to rescue first
Assemble strike team(s)
Make sure to tell the Order before you leave
Talk to Oboro- I'm gonna need a dramatic wardrobe change.
The groans of the terrors were the only sound aside from their footsteps as Celica and Berkut traveled through the caverns of the temple. Neither of them ever bothered to clean the spatters of blood off their blades, leading Celica's sword to gain a rusted appearance. Berkut's wicked lance, Kriemhild, almost seemed to absorb the gore that painted it, the bloodshot eye in the center seemingly seeking out more creatures to slay.
"What do you plan to do when you reach the altar?" Celica asked, breaking the silence.
Berkut slowed, pondering the question. "I suppose I'll try to dissuade this world's version of me from accepting Duma's deal," he answered, "As for how I'll do it, I suppose I'll be making that up as I go."
"You haven't been planning this out?"
"Do you honestly believe I can think properly right now?" Berkut yelled, "Yes, I can have cohesive thoughts, but it's- it's been getting harder." He leaned against the tunnel walls, bringing a hand his aching head, "I just want to see Rinea again. I can't see her sacrificed again."
Celica gripped his arm, concern an unfamiliar expression on her face. "I can understand how you feel," she confessed, "I once had someone I didn't want to lose. My memory has become... fuzzy, but I do remember the emotions. The sadness. Although I doubt it would be a good idea to reveal myself, I will support you in whatever you choose."
They stood in silence, staring into the dim glow of their companion's red eyes. Eventually, Berkut let out a small laugh, "You really are too good for me," he muttered.
"Nothing. Let's keep moving."
Celica gave him one last worried glance before continuing their trek through the catacombs. They had to rely on each other's unreliable memories to progress, making the journey longer than they thought was necessary. Eventually they saw firelight flickering in the distance. Following the glow and the growing whispers, they easily made their way to the altar of their god.
What are you? A voice came from the flames, I can feel my essence in you, but I cannot take hold of it. How strange.
"My lord," Celica said, kneeling before the flames, "We are your humble servants, though we come from a different realm."
A different realm...?
"Yes, or a different world may be a more precise term."
"Someone's coming," Berkut warned them, taking Celica's hand and running to hide.
Ah... A vessel for my power...
The room was quiet, save for the sound of approaching footsteps, then they heard a familiar voice, "It's not possible... Alm is the emperor's true son?" the former prince of Rigel murmured to himself, "Which makes him the rightful successor to the imperial throne. All this time... All the effort! What has it all been for?! No... It isn't true. It can't be. I refuse to believe it. Nothing but lies... Lies! Lies, lies lies, LIES!"
The flames of the altar grew stronger, and the already fallen Berkut found himself whispering the same words as his still-sane counterpart, "Is that... an altar? How did I get here? What's happening?"
"Who are y-"
Heed me, you who thirst for power... Call to me. Accept me unto your soul.
"That voice... Duma? Is it really you?"
More footsteps, then the most beautiful woman in Berkut's life stepped into the room. Rinea's blue hair shone in the firelight, her eyes glimmering with worry and love. He suddenly felt an urge to run out from his hiding place behind the altar and hold her, kiss her, love her with all the life that was left in him. Only Celica's arm pressing against his own prevented him from indulging his desires.
"I've been looking all over for you," Rinea said, "This is the last place I would've expected to find you. You always hated the Faithful, after all."
"This is true..." Berkut admitted, "But then I had the throne snatched from under me by some magical heir. Plying the gods' mercies is what men do in hopeless situations, is it not?"
A few moments passed before Rinea tried to console her love, but Berkut raged at Alm, hating the idea of putting himself in his cousin's mercy. Then Rinea spoke those fateful words.
"The truth is, I never wanted to be empress."
The former prince gasped, in shock, in pain.
"To stand at your side is all I've ever desired," she tried to explain, "I don't care if you're the emperor or a swineherd as long as we- Berkut?"
"You too, Rinea?" he said, horror creeping into his voice. At this, Berkut couldn't help but laugh, the humorless noise echoing through the room. Both Rinea and the other him looked around in confusion. Realizing he had revealed himself, Berkut decided he may as well turn up the theatrics.
He rose and stepped into the flames of the altar, knowing through his connection to the god that they would not hurt him. "You ask for strength," he said, raising his lance, "But you cannot know the price you will have to pay."
"What are you?" the other him asked, trying the shield Rinea from the figure in the flames.
"Perhaps you should ask that question of yourself," he responded, moving forward just enough so that they could see his face. He heard them gasp and laughed again, relishing the fear in their faces.
"What are you doing?" Celica murmured behind him, but Berkut did not - or could not - hear her.
"It's good to see you again, Rinea," Berkut said, his voice softening, "If I had known Duma would take the only thing that mattered to me, I wouldn't have accepted his deal. And yet, here I am. Powerful. Alone."
He saw the horror on his double's face as he realized what he was saying. "You're completely mad!" he yelled, fear making his voice shake.
"I do not deny it," the fallen prince said, "But look where you are right now. Can you honestly claim that you are any more sane than I?"
Rinea clung to her love's arm, saying, "Don't listen to him! I believe in you."
More footsteps interrupted them, and a knight in green armor and white hair entered the room, saying, "My lord, what are- what is that?" Before either Berkut had a chance to explain, he rushed towards the one lit by the altar's flames, lance ready. Berkut quickly raised Kriemhild to deflect the blow, and they quickly found themselves fighting.
"What monster are you to take the prince's form?" the knight - Fernand, that was his name - yelled, putting Berkut on the defensive with his powerful strikes.
"Perhaps you should ask what kind of monster a desperate man can become," Berkut said, flames beginning to lick the blade as his anger grew. He quickly struck a gap in Fernand's defenses, forcing the knight to halt his assault and defend himself.
The dark lance clashed against the iron one, Kriemhild's eye glancing about, looking for its next kill. Fernand's anger and confusion slowly morphed into fear as the demonic version of his lord grew slowly more manic and bloodthirsty. Soon he was entirely on the defensive, blocking and dodging increasingly wild strikes. Every time he attempted to attack, Berkut either dodged or let the blade scrape uselessly against his armor and followed up with a much more powerful blow.
Realizing too late that he had other enemies to contend with, a second lance slammed into Berkut's chest. His uncorrupted double glared at him, readying his lance. "I must thank you for bringing me to my senses and showing me the consequences of what I was about to do," he said, striking again, "But even so, I cannot let you live."
The fallen prince was now focusing on defending himself, dodging and parrying attacks from both sides and attacking whenever he could. From behind the altar, Celica fidgeted, wondering if she should help. She couldn't just sit back and watch her companion fall, but seeing her would raise even more questions that they wouldn't be able to answer. As she tried to decide, she saw a glow out of the corner of her eye. Looking back, she could hardly believe what she saw.
Berkut was beginning to realize that he would lose this fight. His breath was beginning to get heavier, and it was getting harder to block the strikes from both sides. Just as he thought he would go down, he heard a voice ring out, "Stop!" and he and his opponents turned.
Ori had somehow arrived in this dimension, and had arrived just in time. She had traded her usual summoner's robe for a black one, streaked with bright, electric blue. A mask covered the upper half of her face, and her normally brown hair had been streaked with white. At her side was a red-robed swordsman and a noble-looking archer, both with their weapons ready. "I won't have you attacking my man any more."
"Who are you?" the other Berkut asked, "What do you mean by that?"
"I'm a summoner from another world," she explained, "I collect lost souls, like this one, and try to give them a better life. He found his way here by accident, and I suspect that he wanted to make sure you didn't end up like him."
"That is correct," Berkut panted, "I also wanted to see Rinea again, one last time."
A moment passed, before his double sighed and said, "Very well. I understand how you feel. Go, and try to be happier than I was."
"Thank you," Ori said, "Also, a few pieces of advice: try to accept your cousin, Berkut. I know you'll probably never be satisfied with him on the throne, but try not to hate him. Rinea, take good care of him. I'm sure you'll be an excellent noblewoman. Fernand, the deliverance isn't all bad. Expand your social circle, and learn that those of a lower class still have many good things to offer."
The three Rigelian nobles nodded, a little confused at her requests. Ori took her fallen hero's hand and walked back to the portal she had created behind the altar, the two men she had brought as reinforcements following behind. She grinned at Celica, then guided the four of them through the gateway back to Askr.
As soon as the portal closed behind them, Ori collapsed, unable to move from the extended strain of controlling her weapon. Rutger just managed to catch her before she hit the ground, and he and Klein had to support her just to keep her standing. Celica and Berkut were likewise exhausted, but they managed to stay on their feet. Duma was waiting for them, and he quickly took his faithful into his powerful arms as if he was afraid of loosing them again. No one mentioned this, however, as they all knew not to suggest the God of Strength was anything unlike his title.
"I am glad you are back," Duma said, his deep voice betraying no emotion.
"Believe us, we are too," Celica responded, gripping his large arms for stability. Berkut said nothing, simply leaning against the familiar bodies and breathing.
"Are you alright?" Rutger asked the summoner.
"I'm fine," Ori lied, taking the mask off her face. She had gone very pale, worn out from their cross-dimensional travel. "I've got to help the others-"
"No," Duma said, his stern voice reminding Ori of her father, "You are weak right now. Rest, and conserve your strength. If this mission was any indication, you will need it."
"I know you want to help your friends," Klein said, "But right now you need to rest. You've been working all week on this, and right now, you can barely stand."
Ori nodded, giving in to her exhaustion. She pulled out her phone, quickly snapped a picture of the three Valentians, and allowed herself to be guided to her room. When she arrived, she immediately flopped onto her bed and propped herself up with a few pillows.
"Could you grab me a book?" she asked, "I may be exhausted, but I'm not sleepy."
"Anything in particular you're looking for?" Klein asked from the doorway.
"Fódlan history please."
"I'll be right back."
Settling into the sheets, Ori scrolled through some old texts from one of her friends back home. Grinning as she read through some of the sillier moments, she wondered if they would like to visit here. It would be fun to have some connections between her own world and this one. Maybe she could get some authentic sword training here and show it to her theatre friends.
Klein entered shortly after, a small stack of books in his arms. She thanked him, assured him that she didn't need anything else, and flipped open the first book on the pile. Since Breidablik was mostly functioning, Ori wondered if she should try summoning again. Maybe she could gain the help of heroes from this new land. The history of Faerghus was especially intriguing, and she hoped she might be able to meet the famed prince in person one day.
She was nearing the fourth chapter when there was a knock at the door. Telling the visitor to come in, she wasn't surprised to see the Askran siblings. Alfonse looked part concerned, part relieved, while Sharena radiated positivity.
"I'm glad to see you back in one piece," Alfonse said, pulling the chair from her desk to her bed, "How'd it go?"
"Don't you know already?" Ori asked, mildly surprised, "I thought one of the heroes would tell you."
"We wanted to hear it from you," Sharena explained, "Besides, you told us to give Celica and Berkut space once they came back, and Rutger ran off to who knows where."
"Probably the training grounds," Ori guessed, before explaining what had happened. They both seemed concerned to hear that Berkut was fighting himself, but they all agreed that they could get answers at a later time.
"Why did you make a new outfit for this?" Sharena asked.
"Partially for drama," Ori admitted, "I used to work as part of a theatre company. Also because I prefer the color black. The main reason, though, was because I thought it would be dangerous if people from different realms could recognize me. That's why I wore a mask."
"I suppose that makes sense," Alfonse said, "If anyone else could travel between the realms, they might not like the possibility of you messing with their business. You still should be careful, though. Bringing heroes as backup in case anything goes wrong was a good idea."
"Do you think I should learn how to fight?" Ori asked, excited at the idea, "I already know a little bit about using a sword, though I'm not sure stage combat would be very practical in a real fight."
"It certainly wouldn't hurt," Alfonse said, considering the idea, "I could certainly help train you, and I'm sure there are heroes who would be willing to help."
"Excellent!" Ori said, throwing back the covers of her bed. She started leaning forward to get up, but Sharena shoved her back down.
"Oh no you don't," the princess chided, "You're staying here for the rest of the day! You can learn in the morning. Don't worry, I'll be there to cheer you on!"
"Thanks, you two," Ori said, reluctantly settling back in, "As soon as I'm ready-"
"As soon as I say you're ready," Alfonse corrected.
"-Then we'll start training, and rescue whoever needs rescuing first. Who do you think is in more trouble: Grima and Chrom, or Takumi and Corrin?"
"You'd know that better than us," Sharena pointed out.
"Yeah, I suppose that's true," Ori conceded, "So we'll save whichever pair I get a bad vibe from."
"Vibe?" Alfonse asked, confused.
"Gah, sorry," Ori apologized, "Personal vocabulary. Vibe is kind of like a feeling you get from a place or person."
"Oh, that makes sense."
"I'll have to give you guys a crash course on lingo - sorry, vocabulary - from my world so you don't have to keep asking."
"That sounds great!" Sharena said, "Since you shouldn't really be moving much, why don't you do that now?"
Ori considered the suggestion for a moment, before smiling and saying, "That's a pretty good idea. Why don't we start with any words or phrases you've heard that you have questions about?"
"Well..." Sharena thought for a moment, "I've been wondering what you mean when you call something an 'absolute mood'."
"Oh, that one is fairly simple to explain, actually..."
They talked for a while, discussing the unfamiliar slang terms she sometimes used. When she explained the backstory behind saying 'F in the chat', she had to begin explaining video games to them, which they found fascinating.
"So you can take these games anywhere?" Alfonse asked.
"It depends on the game, really," Ori clarified, "Most gaming devices are meant to be played at home, but there are some that are portable. As long as they have enough energy, then you can play then anytime."
"Cool!" Sharena said, "If you can take them anywhere, do you think you could bring one back for us?"
"Sure," Ori said, already excited at the idea, "I'll bring a few extra controllers and we can play together."
"The controllers are what you use to make the game work, right?" Alfonse guessed.
"Yep," Ori confirmed, "I can teach you how to play as well."
"Awesome! I'm looking forward to it!" Sharena smiled brightly.
Ori laughed, glad to have found more friends that she could be comfortable around. Her relationships in her world had gotten a bit strange, as she wasn't sure who she could discuss her double life with, but here she didn't have that problem. The people here knew she was a foreigner, so she didn't feel as though she had to hide anything from them. Hopefully she could find a way to make her two lives meet, but for now, she was content staying here.
Grima growled, blood dripping from his cheek onto Chrom's face. He was sitting on top of the risen, holding his limbs down as Chrom snarled and struggled to free himself. They had been in a similar position before, but never in this circumstance. This was the third time Chrom had attempted to attack him, and Grima was growing increasingly frustrated, and possibly worried as well.
"Get a hold of yourself, dammit," Grima yelled, trying to snap his friend out of his violent trance. Chrom didn't appear to understand, and Grima sighed, wishing for what was likely the hundredth time that he had his powers back.
Seeing no other reasonable option, Grima let go and jumped back quickly, reaching for one of the tomes he had purchased. As Chrom surged upwards, an inhumane scream forcing its way out of his lips, the crackle of electricity sounded and a quick blast of Arcthunder stunned the risen enough to make him fall back and lose consciousness. Grima hoped he was still alive, though he had no way to check, and sat down with a sigh of relief, the arcane book in his hands becoming dormant once more.
Removing his right glove, Grima examined his mark on the back of his hand. It appeared to have faded slightly, the purple mark dimming to a faint lilac color. It seemed like even his symbol was vanishing along with his strength. His left arm moved sluggishly; the wound he had gotten might have been more serious than he first thought.
His thoughts were interrupted by a groaning noise. Fingering the pages of his tome as he looked around, Grima noticed Chrom stirring. Praying that he had recovered, Grima slowly approached his comrade as his eyes opened.
"What...?" Chrom muttered, taking in his surroundings.
"You went feral again," Grima explained, dropping his tome.
Immediately, Chrom felt several emotions at once: regret, shame, anger. "I'm sorry," he said, "Didn't mean... hurt you."
"Oh, this?" Grima asked, feeling the scratch on his cheek, "Don't worry about it, you could have done much worse. I mean-" He stuttered, realizing that was probably not the right thing to say, "It's just a scratch, it'll heal on its own."
Chrom stared at him, his glowing red eyes unreadable. "What is it?" Grima asked, "If I offended you, I'm sorry."
"That," Chrom said, pointing at him, "You... acting strange. Caring. It's... familiar. Wrong."
Grima was about to respond, before realizing he was right. Dragons aren't supposed to care this much, especially about a corpse. What was making him act so out of character?
His left arm twitched involuntarily. Robin, he realized, Have I been loosing control over my host, too?
A voice appeared in his head, Nice of you to finally notice me.
"No!" Grima yelled, "I won't lose this body as well. Get out of my head!"
Technically, it's my head you're in, Robin snarked.
"My lord...?" Chrom asked, concerned about Grima's outburst.
"Shut up..." the dragon growled, " Everything is crumbling around me, the least you can do is let me have a physical form."
Allow me to propose a counter offer, Robin responded, I've managed to take our left arm and hand for myself. If you let me have that, I won't fight for the rest of our body.
"Fine," Grima acquiesced, "We have an agreement. Now take it and leave me alone!"
"Leave?" Chrom asked, wondering if he was being addressed.
"NO, not you," Grima said, "I'm sorry. I've been talking to my host. This body's former owner. He's a little less dead than I'd like, and we've worked out an arrangement."
"Good," Chrom said, "Wouldn't want both of us losing control."
"Agreed." Let's keep going, shall we?"
The two of them continued walking through the woods. Night fell soon after, and they began traversing more mountainous terrain. Chrom kept looking around nervously, as if he expected something to attack them. Unnerved by his companion's odd behavior, Grima kept fingering the spine of his Arcthunder tome, while Robin kept his hand on the hilt of their sword.
As the hills became less steep, the two of them became aware of a low groaning noise coming from all around them. Risen, Robin warned, drawing the blade. Chrom followed suit, seeming more at ease with a sword in his hands. The sounds of the dead were soon followed by the sounds of combat; steel ringing against iron and the crackling of fire magic sounding through the air.
"Let's get a bit closer," Grima said, "I want to see who's fighting."
"Are you sure?" Chrom asked, "Might be people we're-" he coughed, a tiny bit of blood coming up from his throat, "-trying to avoid."
"Don't strain yourself," Grima advised, gently wiping away the blood with one finger, "We both know speaking is hard for you, and I don't want you hurting yourself trying to push through. You're all I have right now."
They gazed into each other's eyes for a moment longer before looking away and walking towards the sound of battle. When they reached the top of the hill, Grima couldn't help but let out a gasp. The risen were battling that ragtag group of soldiers - the Shepards, he remembered they were called - that had been bent on destroying him back when he had just regained his full power so long ago. He watched as the redheaded thief plunged his sword into a risen's spine, the former Plegian mage cackling maniacally as he scorched waves of the dead, the pretentious archer dodging enemy fire and retaliating with deadly accuracy. And at the front of it all was the prince of Ylisse himself, riding on his wife's pegasus and leaping off to deal the finishing blow on the risen general, returning the horde to its endless slumber.
"We have to get out of here," Grima whispered, trying to keep his outward panic to a minimum. Chrom nodded, and the two of them began creeping forward, trying to avoid detection. The sounds of combat grew distant, and when they were too far away to hear them anymore, they stopped, Grima letting out a breath he didn't know he had been holding.
"We should be fine here," he said, quickly gauging their surroundings for any possible threat.
Chrom nodded, looking troubled. After a few moments of silence, he said, "Who were they?"
"The people fighting. Who?"
Grima was silent for a moment, considering his options, before carefully asking, "How much did Ori tell you?"
"I was important here," Chrom said, "Used to be friends with many people. Your host especially. Used to be your enemy."
"Okay," Grima considered, "That's all true, though it's not the full story. You used to be the prince around here, and the leader of a group called the Shepards. They were a ragtag army that initially just dealt with bandits and risen, but soon became a real force to be reckoned with. You killed the mad king of Plegia, toppled the Valmese empire, and when I came to power, you tried to stop me as well. In both of our worlds, you failed at that last one, and I killed anyone else who tried to resist me. I think that covers all the main points, but I might have missed something. Any of that sound familiar?" Chrom shook his head. "Oh well, memory is overrated anyway."
Wow, was that a joke? Robin asked.
No, shut up, Grima responded mentally.
Fine, fine. You did a pretty good job summarizing all that. Were you pulling from my knowledge for that?
Grima refused to respond and give the tactician any credit.
As they were having that mental conversation, Chrom's head jerked up and he started to draw his sword. As Grima looked up to see what was wrong, Chrom hissed quietly and pointed toward the horizon. A large group of humanoid figures was heading their way. Grima pulled up his hood and readied his tome, praying that Robin would cooperate with him.
"Can we run without getting spotted?" Grima whispered, and when Chrom shook his head, he sighed, "Guess we have no choice but to confront them. Lower your sword, we don't want to fight them."
Chrom nodded, sheathing his blade and standing tall beside his master, but still keeping one hand on the hilt just in case they needed to defend themselves. Grima silently wished that he had an extra cloak he could use to disguise the prince's recognizable features. He motioned for the risen to step back and further out of sight, although there were few places to hide. Chrom nodded, hesitant to leave his master's side but unable to refuse a direct order from him, and stepped back into the shadows of the encroaching night.
Grima silently prayed that he could see this through without any trouble and walked forward. "Hail, travelers!" He yelled as the small army got closer, "The land is quite rough around here, may I suggest taking a detour?"
"Hail!" a voice responded, probably Chrom's, "Thanks for the warning, but I'm sure we'll be able to make of through just fine."
Dammit, Grima thought, I need to get them away from my Chrom. "Are you sure?" he called, "You and your horses will have to move a lot slower if they are to walk safely."
"We'll be fine!" Chrom yelled back flippantly, walking ever closer.
"He feels very familiar..." their Robin said.
"Well, we are in Plegia," Lissa reasoned, "It would make sense to see someone wearing Grimleal robes."
"Show your face, stranger," the prince's bodyguard - Fredrick, his host reminded him - said, readying his lance.
Damn my luck, Grima thought. He was trying to come up with some reason to avoid showing his face when Robin lifted his arm and pulled his hood back. A collective gasp came from the entire army, along with much murmuring among themselves.
"What in the world?"
"Look at his eyes!"
"Are you triplets?"
"This can't be real..."
Amid the mutterings of the army, Chrom's daughter, Lucina strode forward, pure hatred in her eyes. She brought her sword, a reflection of her father's, up to Grima's throat. He raised his hand in surrender, and Robin thankfully followed suit.
"Why are you here, monster?" she hissed angrily, "I thought you couldn't follow me. Did you come to destroy this world before we even had a chance to fight back?"
"Lucina, what are you doing?" Chrom yelled, running up to her.
"Easy," Grima said, "Despite what you think, I'm not here to hurt anyone. I just want to-"
He was cut off by the sound of a strangled roar. Knowing what this meant, Grima quickly shoved the two royals to the ground just before a sword cut the air above their heads. His Chrom, the Risen King, had rushed forward at the sight of his lord being threatened and now stood, weapon ready to destroy anyone who got in his way. His dead eyes shined in the darkness, and dark smoke was beginning to seep from his snarling mouth.
Oh, fuck, Grima thought, This just got so much harder to explain.
There must once have been color in his world, but for as long as he could remember, the only colors Chrom could see were black, white, and red. The color of blood was a respite from the dull grays of the rest of the world. The reason he was so drawn to bloodshed was the same reason he could lose himself staring into Lord Grima's eyes: the beautiful crimson that was the only color he could see.
Those same eyes now looked on him with fear and anger, as he shouted at him and tried to protect the same girl that had threatened him. Chrom could make out the words, "Sheathe your sword!" but the meaning would not register in his mind. He had to kill her, he had to make her pay for drawing her sword against the fell dragon.
With little regard to the small army behind the girl, Chrom swung again, intending to cleave her head off, but his blade was interrupted by the man who looked uncannily like himself. Those eyes were full of fear and confusion, and the risen wanted to see more of that fear. He swung again, his strike too strong for the man to parry, and left upon him as he stumbled. Striking out with his claws, he left three slashes on the cheek of his double, and would have left another would had Grima not grabbed his arm and yelled for him to stop. Chrom struggled against his grip, and the girl took the opportunity to attempt to slay the former man. The clang of metal against metal sounded as Grima's free hand stopped her blade, saving his risen from a return to his grave.
"Stop it, all of you!" Grima yelled, "No one is dying today! Chrom, get a hold of yourself!"
The risen growled, but ceased his struggle, glaring at the girl.
"Can you please explain to us what this is?" the living prince asked.
"I'm not sure how much I can tell you," Grima responded, carefully considering his options, "You know where Lucina is from, right?" He silently gave a sigh of relief when the exalt nodded; that was one less thing he had to explain. "I am also from the future, but the future of a completely different world. In my timeline, all of you died in the final battle against Plegia, and Lucina never had the chance to try and return to the past to fix everything."
"If we all died," the living Chrom asked, "Then why do you look like Robin? And why is that... risen version of me following you around?"
"I'm... just using Robin's body," Grima told them, "Robin is not quite dead, but he was very close by the time I arrived. By taking control of his body, I saved his life, though I'm afraid I don't know of a way to separate our consciouses."
"You make it sound like you saved him," Lucina hissed, "I know what you really are, you monster. You can't lie to me."
"I know I can't," Grima countered, "But I'm not trying to reveal too much information about the future. Unlike you, the two of us aren't even supposed to be here, and we don't want to interfere with this world. I was trying to get you away from here so my unstable risen didn't attack you."
"You haven't explained him yet," Chrom pointed out, staring nervously at his double, "How do you have a tame risen, and one that looks like me?"
"He doesn't just look like you, he is you," Grima said, "He's a lot smarter than most other risen out there. I suspect he's so loyal to me because I resemble his closest friend from before he died. He doesn't have any memory, but there are a lot of things that feel familiar to him."
"You still haven't said what you are," Lucina growled, "Are you going to admit that anytime soon, or should I save you the trouble?"
"Stop it, Lucina," the other Robin said, speaking for the first time since he saw his twin, "I honestly don't want to know who he is. It probably has something to do with my lost memories, and given what I've guessed from speaking with Validar, it's nothing good. Maybe we'll be able to prevent whatever happened to this Robin from happening to me."
"You have a point," Lucina begrudgingly acknowledged, "Be on your way, monster. Go back to whatever world you came from."
"That's the problem," Grima sighed, "I don't know how to get back. I can promise you we'll stay out of your way while we're here, but unless you know a way to cross dimensions, we'll be stuck here for a while."
"Unfortunately, we can't help you," Robin said, "I don't know what happened in your world, but enjoy your time in ours while you can. Judging from what you've told us, it's probably a lot more peaceful than yours."
Grima laughed, "You have that right. I won't bother you again." He pulled Chrom behind him as he walked away, letting out a breath he didn't know he had been holding. Once they were far enough away, he said, "Well, that wen't better than I expected. Still badly, but at least neither of us died."
"Should have killed her," Chrom growled.
"You really shouldn't," Grima chided, "Besides, the two of us wouldn't stand a chance against all of them. If you had killed her, we'd probably be dead right now."
"Fine," Chrom sighed, "You okay?" He gently lifted Grima's chin, checking to make sure the girl hadn't injured him while she was threatening him.
"I'm fine," Grima said, letting out a small laugh at his overprotectiveness, "Thank you."
"What?" Chrom asked, confused.
"Thank you," Grima repeated, "For staying with me, for defending me, for hating that you accidentally hurt me. For everything, really."
"You're welcome," Chrom said, smiling, "And... thank you, too." He pulled his companion into a hug, and whispered, "Love you."
Somewhat stunned by the sudden declaration, all Grima could do at first was return the hug. He buried his face in Chrom's chest, not wanting the risen to see him blushing. After a moment, he quietly said, "I love you too," and lifted his head, pulling his partner's head down low enough to kiss.
Chrom's lips were cold, but they were the most beautiful thing Grima had ever tasted. The risen was surprised at his partner's forwardness, but he quickly recovered and leaned into their embrace. The two of them kissed deeply as the moon rose, not caring who might see them. Grima found he had a desire for more, and started clawing at Chrom's armor, the risen quickly realizing what he wanted and ripping off his chest plate. The warmth from the dragon's body was too much for Chrom to resist, and he pushed him to the ground. As he began tugging at Grima's robe, a sudden light appeared in the air, from which Ori stepped forward.
"Oh," she said, surprised at the scene in front of her, "I'm really sorry for interrupting."
"It's fine," Grima said, releasing his partner and whispering in his ear, "We can continue when we get home."
The dragon and the risen followed their summoner back through the portal to Askr, hand in hand, and shared one last smile before the light enveloped them both.
I... don't know how to write romantic scenes. Oh well, I did the best I could. I'm going to be taking a brief break from this story due to Thanksgiving, but I should be back to it by December.
"Now, if you want the secret in this area, you'll have to take that enemy's ability," Ori advised, pointing at the game screen to indicate what she meant.
"Okay," Sharena said, her brother watching as he tried to wrap his head around the video game Ori had brought for him to try, "Which button is that again?"
"Got it," Sharena said, pressing the indicated button, "For such a cutie, this Kirby is a real powerhouse."
Ori laughed, "Wait until you can play as Marx," she said, "That guy's a monster."
"I still don't understand," Alfonse said, "He's just a pink sphere. How is he so strong?"
"I don't question it," Ori said, "This franchise is pretty silly, though it can get kinda dark sometimes."
"How could this be dark?" Sharena asked as she tossed a heart at an electric enemy, making it her ally.
"Believe me, I have no idea why they thought to bring eldritch abominations into the series, but they're kind of a staple of the games now."
They discussed the game's odd lore as Sharena made her way through the castle, managing to figure out the secret with a little help. She decided to swap abilities again, and as she approached a large door, Ori stopped her.
"That leads to the first major boss of the game," she said, "King Dedede can be a little tricky. I think you're ready, though, unless you want to pause here?"
"No, I wanna fight this guy!" Sharena exclaimed, immediately making Kirby run through the door. "Or this bird-thing," she corrected upon seeing who she was fighting.
Ori took her eyes off the game, wanting to see their expressions when the king got ripped. Sharena did pretty well for the first phase of the fight, until the health bar got to halfway. The cutscene played, and both Askrans screamed, Sharena in delight, Alfonse in horror.
"What the hell?" Alfonse yelled, "How did his arms get so big?"
"This is great!" Sharena giggled, "I think I love this game even more now!" She made quick work of Dedede while taking surprisingly little damage.
"Quick, through a heart at him," Ori advised, "You can make him your friend again."
Sharena quickly followed her advice and laughed again at the silly noise he made upon recruitment, mimicking it herself. "Thanks for showing me this game," she said, "Can we do more tomorrow?"
"Of course," Ori responded, "We still have a lot of levels to go. Alfonse, if you want to do a few of them, feel free."
"I think I might," Alfonse responded, "I'm strangely intrigued to see where this story goes."
"Sounds good," Ori said, turning off her switch and heading out of the room, "I'm going to do a little summoning this evening, so I'll see you guys tomorrow."
The Askrans waved as she left the room. Rutger was waiting for her outside, as he had assigned himself as a sort of bodyguard for her. Fighting for her had given him a renewed sense of purpose, and he had temporarily abandoned his quest for revenge and pledged his blade to her. Ori didn't object to her self-appointed guardian, since he was surprisingly good company, and often helped her learn how to use a sword.
She dropped her Switch off in her room before heading to the summoning chamber, divine weapon in hand. She made a mental note to head back to her realm to drop the game system off at her house; it needed charging, and she didn't think trying a thunder spell on it was a good idea. As they were heading down the third floor hallway, the two of them were nearly bowled over by a giant rabbit.
"Oh, I-I'm so sorry!" the bunny apologized, glowing and shrinking in size until it turned into the humanoid form of Yarne.
"What are you doing out so late?" Ori asked. Yarne was afraid of pretty much everything, including the dark, so his presence in the middle of the night was certainly strange.
"I got lost," he explained, "So c-can I, um, come with you?"
"Of course," Ori said, taking his hand - paw? - and leading him to the stairway, "I was just about to do some summoning. Would you like to watch?"
"S-sure," the Taguel said gratefully, "You're r-really nice."
"Thanks," Ori said, "My mom and a few of my friends back home have anxiety too, so I'm used to helping them calm down."
"I thought anxiety was a feeling," Rutger wondered, "You're describing it as if it's a tangible thing."
"It's not really tangible," Ori explained, "It's a mental disorder a lot of people can have, and I suppose my world is just better at diagnosing it."
"Disorder?" Yarne whispered, sounding nervous again.
"It's a lot more dramatic than you make it sound," Ori consoled him, "Don't think of it as something wrong with you, think of it as a simple fact of life. Some people are more anxious than others, some have more trouble being happy, others can't concentrate on things for extended periods of time. I'd be really surprised if I ever met someone without any sort of mental problem."
"It does sound a bit better when you put it that way," Yarne admitted, squeezing her hand.
The three of them strolled down the staircase, eventually finding their way down to the first floor. Their newest recruit, a wyvern rider they had saved from the Emblian Empire's control by the name of Cormag, was standing in the entrance hall, adjusting to his new situation. His intimidating stare made Yarne quiver and hide himself behind the summoner, but Ori just grinned and invited him along too.
When the four of them arrived in the summoning chamber, Ori took three orbs from the selection, two gray and one green. She loaded the green orb in first, and Rutger warned their new recruit to shade his eyes. There was a flash of light as she fired the gem, and a pink-haired maiden stood before them introducing herself as Hilda. Ori nodded to her, and turned to Rutger as the new recruit joined the line, mouthing, "Fódlan hero!" with a slightly manic grin on her face. She then took the first gray orb, and after another blinding glow, a silver-haired archer by the name of Ashe joined the group. Ori was visibly elated at summoning another hero from the new realm, and she had to stop herself from embracing him.
As she was picking up the second gray orb, she froze, the gem clattering to the ground. "Something's wrong," she said, "I can't quite tell... Oh no..."
"What's wrong?" Rutger asked, stepping to her side.
"It's Takumi," she explained, pocketing the last orb, "Something's happening to him - something really bad. We have go," she began readying Breidablik, pausing to glance at the new heroes, "Sorry, you three, I know you aren't as used to combat, but I need you to come too."
"Ugh, why me?" Hilda whined, while Cormag simply nodded and hopped gracefully onto his wyvern's back. Ashe fidgeted with an arrow from his quiver, ready to help however he could. Yarne shivered nervously, but gripped his beaststone with a determined look on his face. Needing no words to show his dedication, Rutger drew his sword, ready for battle.
"Come on, let's go!" Ori yelled. She launched a glowing portal out of her weapon and she and her five heroes entered the gate.
Perched high up in a tree, it took all of Takumi's energy to not plunge an arrow through Corrin's back. He watched the traitorous princess dance through the enemy ninjas, cutting them down without a hint of regret. Despite the tribe being enemies to the throne, they were still Hoshidans, and it was difficult watching them be killed. The strangest sight was another version of himself fighting alongside his sister, seemingly having no regrets about abandoning his country to fight an unknown threat. He was pretty sure he was only there because of Sakura. Takumi wished he could speak to his little sister again, but he doubted he could hold a conversation with her without breaking down.
"Hey," a voice quietly called up to him, "What's going on?"
"Murder," Takumi responded, looking down at his half-dragon ally, "They've almost reached the leader. Saizo is helping them now."
"Remind me who Saizo is," Corrin asked.
"Ah, thanks. I think I killed him once."
Takumi briefly wondered if that meant he died more than once, before deciding not to question it. His fingers itched to reach for his bow, but he couldn't kill her.
Not yet, at least.
You've been quiet lately, Takumi thought.
It has been... difficult to fully articulate my thoughts, Anankos responded, growling slightly in frustration, As much as I think we should not interfere with this realm, I cannot shake the feeling that this Corrin and Azura are planning something against me.
You want me to kill them before they can do anything? Takumi asked, unable to keep the hunger for blood out of his thoughts.
The dragon laughed, Although that does sound like a tempting offer, I must decline. We should not reveal our presence here, if we can help it.
Mildly disappointed, Takumi nodded, dropping down from the branch. The ninja leader had been defeated, and this realm's Corrin was moving on. He motioned to his companion to indicate that they were leaving, and they began to follow them once more. The forest was dense, filled with places to hide, but they still took caution to stay out of sight.
"You know the geography here more than me," Corrin said, "Where do they seem to be going?"
"I'm not sure," Takumi whispered back.
"Hey," Corrin said, grabbing his arm, "Are you okay? You've been a lot more quiet than usual."
"Well, we are trying to be stealthy," Takumi quipped.
"That's not the point," Corrin responded, putting his clawed hands on Takumi's shoulders, "You're the only person here I trust, and if there's something going on with you, I'd like to know. I can't fight from range, and I don't want Normin getting suspicious of me. She probably already told Azura about the other dragon she met, but I know if I show myself again, Azura will recognize the influence of you-know-where. Also, I may not act like it, but I do care about you. We may not be siblings by blood, but thanks to father's meddling with you, we're practically brothers. You really mean a lot to me, and I don't want to lose you."
Takumi was somewhat shocked by Corrin's sudden outburst of emotion. Hesitantly, he lifted his arms and lightly embraced his draconic brother. Surprised, it took Corrin a moment to process the hug before enthusiastically returning it. "C'mon, bro," he said, "No need to get all emotional on me."
"Sorry," Takumi said, shaking slightly, "You have no idea how long I've wanted someone to say that to me."
"What, that you mean a lot to me?" Corrin laughed when Takumi nodded, "Of course you do! You're a great fighter and a really interesting person. Okay, when we get back to Askr, I'm getting Ori to throw a Takumi appreciation party."
"You don't have to do that," Takumi said, embarrassed, "I'm not that great at being social."
"It can just be the three of us, then," Corrin said, "Besides, I'm your big brother now. Embarrassing you is part of the job description."
Takumi couldn't help but laugh at that. "Thanks," he said, "We should probably keep moving."
"You're right," Corrin said, "I can't see them anymore, but we can probably just keep going straight, right?"
"I expect so," Takumi responded, beginning to walk in the direction indicated. The two of them moved through the trees, eventually catching a glimpse of white, indicating they had caught up to their quarry. Unfortunately, the forest was thinning, and making it more difficult to hide. At informing his companion of the dwindling cover, Corrin nodded and deftly scrambled up a tree to get a better grasp of where they were going.
"Bad news," Corrin said, sliding down the tree trunk after a minute, "Normin's gang is headed into a city. If we want to follow, we'll have to do it by air."
"Okay," Takumi said, "How long do you think you can stay up there? Can you do it without being spotted?"
"Maybe, but I've got worse news. It's a port city, and it seems they intend to cross the sea. We have three options, none of them good. Sneaking aboard their ship is a sure way to get discovered, hijacking another boat and following them that way can't exactly be done stealthily, and flying isn't a great option because we have no idea how far out they're going."
Takumi grimaced, "None of those options sound good. Are you sure there aren't any other possibilities?"
Wait, I have an idea.
"Hold up, Anankos wants to say something."
You may not know this, but I am a dragon of water, Anankos explained, It may be possible for Corrin to harness that ability and bend the waves to his will. You may be able to walk on the surface of the water, or perhaps form a bubble of air around yourselves and walk on the sea floor.
Interesting thought, Takumi responded, before relaying the information.
"That sounds plausible," Corrin said, "I really want to test that now. Let's fly over the city and find an unoccupied space for me to practice."
Almost purring in excitement, Corrin transformed into his fully dragon form, crouching down to allow his brother to climb onto his back. As soon as Takumi was ready, he launched into the air, beating his powerful wings to gain as much height as possible. The archer scanned the town below them for someplace to touch down, eventually spotting a secluded spot on the shoreline quite a distance away. His eyesight seemed to have gotten better, possibly as a side effect of dying and being revived solely for battle. After they landed, Corrin immediately changed back to his mostly-human shape before Takumi had a chance to climb off, making him fall to the ground without warning.
"Oops, sorry," Corrin apologized, "Need a hand getting up?"
"I'm fine," Takumi waved him off, standing with a low grunt, "You have to stop doing that."
"I've only done it three times now!" Corrin said, slightly indignant.
"I've ridden you four times!" Takumi countered.
"...That's fair," Corrin acquiesced.
Sighing, the young dragon looked to the water and raised his hands. He closed his eyes, beginning to mutter and rotate his wrists as if he was trying to turn something. Water began to form in the air, floating in little bubbles around him and circling as he seemed to direct them. Corrin stepped forward, off the grass and onto the rocks, striding toward the water's edge. His clawed feet paused just as the surf began lapping at his heels. Opening his eyes, filled with a look of determination, he advanced into the water. Or... onto the water. The waves pooled beneath his feet, somehow holding him above the sand and stone.
Corrin looked back, elated. "I did it!" he said, running back to dry land.
"You really did," Takumi said, "Hopefully we can catch up to the other Corrin quickly now."
"Right, yeah," Corrin said, beginning to shift into his dragon form, "Let's head out! Did you see which boat they boarded?"
"Yeah, I'll point it out when we get there," Takumi said, hopping onto his brother's back before they galloped across the water, "They had at least three ships, so maybe we could hijack one."
"Good thought," Corrin responded, his voice echoing through his draconic form, "I'm glad you can still have those."
"So am I."
They charged across the water, and Takumi soon caught sight of the boats they were following. As Corrin raced forward with inhuman speed, the sky began to darken. Wondering what it might mean, Takumi pointed it out just as Corrin reared back in panic. Barely holding on as his companion took to the skies, he saw the sea beneath them suddenly freeze over. Corrin touched down again hesitantly, shivering slightly as the frigid ice touched his claws.
"What in the world?" Takumi said, dismounting and testing the ice. It was strong enough to hold his weight, and as he looked down, he say how unbelievably deep it went.
"Look," Corrin said, "The boat's have stopped. They probably got trapped in the ice. Let's make the most of their setback."
Takumi nodded and leaped back on before Corrin ran once more. They were soon able to catch up to the boats and see that Corrin was correct: they were stuck. Strangely, two more ships had joined the fleet, and they could hear sounds of combat coming from the smaller boats. Takumi recognized the pulse of dragon veins, and as they ran closer, large swaths of ice melted beneath them leaving smaller, sturdier paths to walk on. Thinking that they were being attacked, Takumi asked if Corrin could fly up a bit to get a better view of the situation. As they quietly flapped upwards to see what was happening on the deck, Takumi's mind went blank.
"Oh dear," Corrin muttered, "It's Camilla. She's not going to let them go without a fight. Uh, Takumi? You okay?"
Shadows began to creep up Takumi's arm from his bow in his hand and coalescing into an arrow. He growled, raising Skadi with the intention to kill. The filthy Nohrians had completely clouded his mind with rage. NohrianscumnohrianscumNOHRIANSCUM!!!
Corrin's dragon form disappeared from below him and Takumi splashed into the sea, Skadi slipping out of his grip. He gasped in surprise, and water filled his mouth, making him choke. He couldn't lose his bow, so he slowly reached out to grab it as his vision started to go black. His fingers closed around the dark weapon as the world went dark.
"Takumi!" Corrin yelled, reaching down into the water. He was too far below the surface to reach while standing on the waves, so he allowed himself to fall below the surface. His brother did not appear to be moving. Corrin swam down to grab Takumi and pull him out of the water, struggling against his weight. Surfacing, he gasped for breath and quickly transformed back into his dragon shape and took to the skies. He touched down on an empty-looking boat, changing back, and tried to shake his brother awake.
"Oh, god, I'm so sorry!" He said, his voice shaking, "I didn't want you to kill anyone. Dropping you was the only thing I could think of to stop you. Why aren't you waking up? I thought you were already dead; you shouldn't be able to drown!" He sighed, looking toward the darkening sky, "What am I supposed to do now?"
For once, Corrin was looking forward to the next part of her mission. Her sister Camilla had joined them, and was currently chatting with Azura on the lower deck. They were sailing to Cheve to meet up with Ryoma, and other than Camilla's interruption, it was smooth sailing. It felt like nothing could possibly go wrong.
Of course, just as she thought that, something had to happen to shove her off of her cloud.
"Excuse me," Corrin turned to see Azura striding towards her.
"How can I help you, Azura?" she asked.
"There's something strange going on," Azura explained, "I felt the presence of my home."
"You mean Va-" Corrin quickly stopped herself, "Sorry. Why do you think you felt it?"
"I'm not sure, but we should probably check the rest of the ships. Something may have gotten aboard while we were fighting the Nohrian forces."
"I suppose it's possible. Should we stop the boats and search them now, or check them over when we get to land?"
"We should do it now; I don't trust anything that comes from there."
"Okay, then. Actually, I don't think we'd have to stop the ships, Camilla could fly us over."
"Excellent, let's call her."
The two of them stepped below deck to find Corrin's two other sisters talking with each other. Sakura spoke quietly, a little intimidated by the older woman, but Camilla was doing a surprisingly good job getting the Hoshidan princess out of her shell. Takumi watched them from a few paces away, no doubt making sure the Nohrian princess didn't do anything suspicious to his little sister. Azura caught their attention and briefly explained their situation.
"Of course I'll help, darling," Camilla said, "With something dangerous on the boat, I'll do anything to protect my little Corrin."
"I'll come with you," Takumi interrupted, "I still don't trust you alone with her, and if this thing is as dangerous as you say it is, you'll need all the help you can get."
"I-I'm coming too," Sakura spoke up, "You m-might need someone to heal you if y-you get hurt."
"Thanks you guys," Corrin said, "But we only have one wyvern. How are we going to carry five people? I suppose Subaki or Reina could help, but any more than five people searching could make them suspicious."
"Can't you turn into a dragon?" Takumi asked, "You should be able to fly over on your own, and one of us could ride you."
"Oh, right!" Corrin said, smacking her forehead, "I'll transform when we get above deck. Azura, you're with me. Camilla, you've got Takumi and Sakura."
Takumi looked less than pleased with that arrangement, but he didn't protest, only sighing as he climbed onto the wyvern behind Camilla. Sakura hopped up in front, holding onto the scaled beast's neck nervously. Camilla reassured them that it was safe, giving the younger girl a small hug before lifting off. Corrin gripped her dragonstone and transformed, crouching down to let Azura on her back. After checking that her rider was comfortable, she opened her wings and took to the skies. Azura directed her to the boat that felt the most suspicious to her, and the five royals landed safely on the deck.
"I don't ever want to do that again," Takumi muttered, shaking slightly.
"Really?" Sakura asked, "I thought it was kind of fun!"
"Let's search the boat," Azura said, sliding off of Corrin's back.
Nothing seemed wrong above deck, so they carefully walked down the stairs to see what was below. Each room they checked was strangely empty, even though there should have been several people on board. They all commented on the strangeness of how quiet it was, and the further they got, the more Sakura started to shake. When they reached the last doorway, Azura signaled for them to stop.
"It's coming from here," she said, "Get ready for anything." She reached forward, readied her naginata, and wrenched the door open.
Corrin jerked his head up at the sound of footsteps. He could hear murmuring on the other side of the door. Ah, shit, he thought, quickly shifting into his dragon form and positioning himself to block Takumi from sight. The door opened and he heard several gasps. In the doorway was Azura, Camilla, Sakura, another Takumi, and the female version of himself.
"What is that?" he could hear Camilla murmur.
"It looks just like you do in your dragon form," Takumi muttered to Normin.
Normin approached him, looking apprehensive. "Dracan?" she asked, "Is that you? What are you doing here?"
"You know this dragon?" Azura asked.
"Yeah, I met him when we were in... you know."
"You speak as if it isn't dangerous," Azura warned her, "Anything from there cannot be trusted, especially when it gives off such a strong aura of that place."
"But he didn't attack me," Normin countered, "He was downright polite. I don't see how you can think everything there is not to be trusted."
"I'm sorry to interrupt," Corrin said, his voice echoing slightly from his altered form, "You wanted to know why I'm here, correct?"
"Yes," Normin said, relieved to be free from her argument.
"In short, I'm here because I feel a strong connection to you," Corrin improvised, "I didn't want to alarm you, so I've been trying to stay out of sight. Even so, I want to protect you, if I can."
"Dear sister," Camilla interrupted, "I know I've only just arrived, but I can't help but feel lost here. Do you mind explaining it to me?"
"You're not alone," Takumi said, "I'm sorry to say that I also have no clue what you're talking about."
"Right, sorry," Normin said, "Azura took me to a special place where I met Dracan. It isn't a very good place, but he helped me when I started wandering around. I'm sorry I can't say much more, but I do think he's trustworthy."
"I must disagree," Azura cut in, "This dragon could easily be lying. Just because he helped you once doesn't mean he couldn't have ulterior motives."
"Sorry, Corrin, but I have to agree with Azura here," Takumi said, "I don't mean to sound cynical, but you are a bit too trusting."
"It's fine," Corrin said, "Actually, that reminds me of something I was wondering. Dracan, when I met you, I thought I saw Takumi. You said it was... something of a dead past, right? What did you mean by that?"
"It's... complicated." Corrin said, trying to come up with something plausible, "I'm not sure how well I'll be able to explain."
"Does it have something to do with the curse?" Normin asked, trying to help.
"Uh... yes. Part of it."
Azura swung her naginata to Corrin's neck. "I know you're lying," she hissed, "I'd advise being honest for your own good."
"Whoa, whoa," Corrin said, leaning back, "I am telling the truth. At least part of it. I just don't know if I'm able to tell the whole story without sounding crazy."
"Talk," Azura threatened, holding her weapon closer to his neck.
"...I think it would be better to show."
Corrin felt the familiar rush that came when changing shapes. His wings folded into his back and vanished, and the scales covering his body melted into smoother skin. The only remnants of his beastly form were his claws, tail, and horns. The end of his change was met with gasps of shock, whether it be because of his similarity to their Corrin or that the Takumi he was trying to protect from their view was being revealed.
"So this just got a lot harder to untangle," he said, trying to lighten the tension in the room, "Yeah, he wasn't a figment of your imagination. Also we're kind of twins, though I do have an easier explanation for that."
"I think we'd all really like that," Normin said, very surprised at the reveal.
"So, have you heard of the outrealms?" Corrin said, relieved when they all nodded, "We're both from another, very different outrealm, and we came here by complete accident. Initially, we just wanted to figure out how to get back to our home, but we both got curious about what it was like here. We've been watching you from afar, but my Takumi got hurt, so I wanted to touch down on one of your boats to recover."
"Um..." Sakura piped up, "M-maybe I could he-help."
"Are you sure?" Camilla said, "We don't know anything about these two."
"D-don't worry so m-much," she said, kneeling down next to the outsiders, "What h-happened t-to him?"
"He fell into the water," Corrin told her, "I couldn't get him out before he swallowed some and fell unconscious. He's coughed up most of the liquid, but he's still out cold."
"O-okay," Sakura said, examining her other brother, "He feels quite c-cold, and his b-breathing is pretty shallow. He's s-still alive, but he isn't d-doing too well. Is there anything y-you've done to help him?"
"Aside from pulling him out of the water, all I've done is try to keep him warm," Corrin told her, "Unfortunately, I'm not sure how warm dragon bodies are."
"Hm..." Sakura lifted her hand, feeling Corrin's forehead and tail, "Y-yeah, I don't think you have the s-same heat as most people."
"Damn, is there anything you can do to help him?"
"I-I don't know. I could t-try healing him, but I don't know i-if it would work."
"Please try. Just in case."
Raising her festal, Sakura concentrated on trying to heal whatever was wrong with this version of her brother. The staff began to glow, and she passed it over Takumi's unconscious body. Nothing seemed to happen at first, and a bead of sweat began forming on Sakura's forehead, the festal becoming brighter.
As the staff began glowing brighter, Takumi put his hand on his sister's shoulder. "Don't push yourself too far," he said, "This isn't really your brother, you don't have to put all of your energy into this."
"I know," Sakura said, her voice strained, "But even if he isn't my r-real brother, I still w-want to help him."
After a few tense moments, the foreign Takumi began coughing, water coming up from his lips. He was breathing much more heavily now, and his eyes slowly opened, the unfamiliar red taking the others by surprise. "D... Di... S-Sakura?"
"Brother!" she said, relieved that her spell had worked, "A-are you okay?"
"Sakura, I-I..." Takumi started, his eyes beginning to cloud over with tears. He tried to sit up, but collapsed, still weak from his brush with a second death.
"Hey, take it easy," Corrin said, "I was starting to really worry about you."
"M-my bow..." Takumi said, glancing around the room, "Where...?"
"Right here," Corrin assured him, passing the dark weapon into its owner's hands. Takumi hugged it to his chest like a child would their favorite toy.
"What's wrong with the Fujin Yumi?" the other Takumi asked, taking his own bow out to compare them.
"That is a much longer story," Corrin said, "One that I don't think I can fully tell without his help, and given his current condition, I don't think he's in any mood to explain."
"No, I can..." Takumi panted, "I can explain. It's... not a nice story, though."
"Is there anything we can do to help?" Normin asked, kneeling beside her foreign brother.
Takumi's red eyes narrowed, and his hand began shifting Skadi into a better position to fire. Corrin quickly placed his hand on top of his brother's, saying, "Ah, no. Please don't." Takumi growled in response, but relented, lowering his weapon.
"No, there isn't much you can do," Corrin answered his female self, "There isn't exactly an easy-fix solution to our issues. You chose not to support either kingdom, right? Well, both of us are from realms where choices played out differently, and it didn't really work out for either of us."
"I suppose that's where the malevolent aura around you comes in," Azura said, "You've both met him, I take it?"
"Oh, we've more than met him," Corrin said, "Don't worry, we have no intention of killing you. In fact, why don't we help you out until we can get back to our home?"
"I suppose," Azura acquiesced, "But I will be watching both of you very closely."
"I guess that's all we can ask for," Corrin quipped, "In the meantime, why don't you get back to directing your army while I help Takumi recover?"
"Okay," Normin said, "I hope you feel better, Takumi. I'll let you guys know when we reach land."
"Sounds good," Corrin waved them off. Azura gave them one last glare before slamming the door behind her. When they were all gone, he sighed, muttering, "I hope Ori gets here soon, otherwise we'll be in big trouble."
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Takumi asked, "Helping the others, I mean. I'm afraid I might lose control again."
"I wouldn't worry to much," Corrin responded, "It's just your programming that wants you to kill people isn't it?"
"That's the problem," Takumi sighed, "I can't tell whether it's Anankos's desires or mine. I genuinely want my sister and the Nohrians dead, but I'm not sure if my feelings are just amplified or artificial."
"I think it's mostly amplified," Corrin explained, "From what I can tell, Anankos magnifies his host's negative emotions to make them more susceptible to his control. People are easier for him to control when their dead, so he tries to influence them into dying in some way."
"Like falling from a high wall."
"Yeah, that's a good example," Corrin thought for a moment before realizing what he was implying, "Wait, is that how you died?"
"M-hm," Takumi nodded.
"Damn, dude. That must have been painful."
"I don't actually remember hitting the ground, just the battle beforehand. She killed my retainers, tried to imprison me, and I just... broke. I hated her so much for leaving us. She had no qualms about murdering my troops, my friends, and she still had the audacity to claim she was trying to help me. Those filthy Nohrians captured Sakura and told me that 'if I behave, they might even let me see her.' Disgusting. Just thinking about it makes me want to kill something."
"Wow, I'm having a hard time believing I would do something like that. She sounds really indecisive, killing some and sparing others. I'd just go all the way with one instead of trying to do both. That's the beauty of different dimensions, I guess, everything's a little different no matter where you go."
"I suppose, but no matter where I go, you're still a bitch."
"Ha!" Corrin laughed, "Good one! I am a massive bitch. I'm not completely sure that this world's Corrin is one, though."
"She is," Takumi said, "I'm sure of it."
"Perhaps," Corrin said, leaning forward, "Even so, I think the real question is who's listening on our conversation."
There was a small thud against the door. Corrin yanked it open, revealing Sakura on the other side. She had frozen in place, scared at the sudden confrontation.
"Hey there," Corrin said, "Is it a Hoshidan tradition to eavesdrop, or are you just morbidly curious?"
"I-I didn't m-mean to..." Sakura stuttered, "I-I-I didn't realize y-you would b-be talking ab-bout your world, a-and I didn't expect it t-t-to be s-so..."
"I get it," Takumi interrupted, "We're both really screwed up. You don't have to strain yourself."
"Thanks, b-brother," Sakura said, "I j-just wish I could he-help you somehow."
"Actually," Takumi pondered, "There is something you could do for me." He held out his arms, hesitantly asking, "Could... could I hug you?"
"O-okay," Sakura said, coming up to him and gently reaching his arms around him.
Takumi couldn't remember the last time he had seen his little sister, much less hug her. He couldn't even remember when he had a real conversation with his older siblings. As he gripped Sakura tighter, he could feel his eyes beginning to mist over. I will not cry, he told himself, I have to be strong for her. If I can't be there for her, no one will be.
There was a knock at the door and Sakura jumped away from his grip. "I really hate to interrupt," Normin said from the doorway, "But we've arrived."
Cyrkensia. Takumi remembered hearing that the Hoshidan forces were massacred by his sister's army in the opera house back in his world. The city he was looking at now was very different. It had been partially destroyed, and shimmers of Vallite soldiers ran through the two armies of both battling kingdoms. Corrin had recommended that they stay on the sidelines to avoid being spotted by the enemy forces, and although Normin had informed the rest of her army of their presence, they thought it best to stay out of their way as well.
"Time to kill some Nohrian bastards! Takumi said, shadows curling up his arm from his bow.
"You still in control?" Corrin asked.
"I'm good," Takumi growled, sniping the enemy forces one after another.
He was suddenly caught off guard from a vibration in his robe. The phone Ori had given him had lit up to indicate he was getting a call. Excited, he answered it, desperate to hear the voice on the other side of the communication.
"Takumi!" Ori's voice filled his ear, "Thank the gods it works! Where you at?"
"I'm in Cyrkensia, by the port," he responded, elated.
"Excellent, we'll start making our way to you," she said, "If you want to head our way, we're just passing the opera house."
"Hang on, 'we'?"
"Yeah, I brought backup in case we needed to fight, and it looks like that's the case!"
"We'll come as quickly as we can," Takumi said, ending the call and informing Corrin of the new development.
"Excellent!" Corrin said, "Let's go!"
Jumping from rooftop to mostly destroyed rooftop, the two of them made their way to where Ori said she would be, killing anyone who dared get in their way. Takumi ran with a renewed sense of purpose, intent on returning to the person he cared most about. They soon caught sight of her in new black robes and the five heroes accompanying her, surrounded by invisible soldiers and trying their best to fight them off.
"Die, die die!" Takumi yelled, jumping down from on high and raining death from above, being careful no to hit any of his allies.
"Doing good, brother!" Corrin called, leaping in and changing form, crushing a Vallite in his claws.
"You're here!" Ori yelled, running to meet them, "We'll catch up later, let's take care of these creeps first."
"These are our friends, right?" a silver-haired archer asked.
"Yeah, they're cool," Ori assured him, "I'll introduce you as soon as we finish up here."
To Takumi's surprise, Ori unsheathed a sword at her hip and ran to join the fray. She wasn't nearly as able as Rutger, but she fought surprisingly well. Out of the three heroes Takumi didn't recognize, the wyvern rider was clearly the most experienced in battle, brutally swinging his lance into hordes of foes. The pink-haired girl swung an odd-looking axe with surprising strength for her size, while the archer managed to take out foes from afar with incredible accuracy. Their beast companion he recognized but couldn't remember his name, and despite him being recognizable for his cowardice, he was decimating their foes with great efficiency.
With the two fallen heroes arrival, their enemies fell quickly. After a final arrow pierced the last foe's heart, they all could catch their breath, exhausted. Ori pulled them all into a hug, congratulating them on a job well done. After learning the names of the new heroes, Ori summoned a portal to bring all of them home safely.
"I'm so indescribably happy to see you two again," Ori said, "I wanted to save you so much sooner, but we didn't have any reliable time to come find you."
"I get it, you were busy," Corrin said, "But I am curious as to why Alfonse looks like he wants to strangle you."
Ori looked up, seeing Alfonse stalking towards them with an expression of combined fury and concern. "About that," Ori said, "I may not have told anyone I was leaving."
"Sounds like you have some explaining to do," Corrin quipped, "I'll leave you to it. Thanks for bringing us back."
As Corrin walked away and Alfonse began chiding Ori for her recklessness, Takumi slipped his hand into Ori's and squeezed it gently. Ori gripped his in return, glancing at him and smiling. Yeah, Takumi thought, This is where I belong.
The winter festival had ended, and the Order of Heroes was now preparing for the new year's celebration. Ori hummed, watching Reyson and Leanne fly up and hold a string of small flags to the ceiling. "Leanne, can you move your end a little further down?" she called to the laguz.
"Like this?" the heron girl asked, lowering herself.
"Yes, that's lovely," Ori said, "That should be the last one... yep, we're done. Thanks, guys."
"Not a problem," Reyson said.
Ori looked back to her checklist. "Take down the tree, done," she murmured, "Take down lights, done. Hang banners, done. Buy fireworks, Haar's taking a group to do that. Buy wine and sparkling juice, the Ikes are on that."
"Sparkling juice?" Naesala wondered, "Is wine not good enough for you?"
"I'm not quite old enough to drink in my world," Ori explained, "That, and I really like sparkling juice."
"You have to be a certain age to have alcohol?" Naesala said, "Ridiculous. I insist that you try some with us tomorrow night."
"I guess when you put it that way, how can I refuse?" She continued looking down her list as the raven laguz sauntered away.
"You seen really organized," Tibarn commented, "I suppose that comes with being one of the commanders here."
"I'm actually not at all organized usually," Ori clarified, "I'm trying to get better, though."
"Really?" the hawk king asked, surprised, before leaning down and whispering, "I'm not the greatest at organization either."
"Welcome to the club," Ori joked, "The disorganized leader club. We should make that a thing!"
"That'd be fun, but I think we'd be the only members."
"I might want to join," Takumi said, walking up to them with several bags in hand, "Although I'm only a prince, not a king."
"Hi, Takumi," Ori greeted, taking his bags and hugging him, Did Haar's group get their shopping done?"
"Yeah," Takumi said, "The fireworks are bought. He said he ran into the other groups while they were out, and the others should be back fairly soon."
"Great. Tibarn, do you think you could try to see when the others will be back?"
"Of course," the hawk said, spreading his wings and flying away.
"Thanks," Ori said, picking up some of the bags, "Takumi, could you help me put these away?"
They walked through the halls to the storage room. Fortunately, the order of heroes finally provided them with a map of the castle, so it was quite a bit easier to find their way. When they reached the door, Ori put down the bags and sighed heavily.
"What's wrong?" Takumi asked her.
"There's just so much to do for the holidays," Ori said, "First Christmas, then New Year's-"
"It's what my world calls the winter festival," Ori clarified, "It's pretty similar, only there's no fighting. No planned fighting, anyway. Anyway, I really enjoy the holidays, but we can really go overboard on the decorations and preparations."
"Too true," Takumi agreed, "I remember one year back in Hoshido when Ryoma did a traditional dance for the new year's festival, and it honestly looked a bit ridiculous."
"I can imagine," Ori said, trying her hardest not to laugh, "Did he dance with his lobster armor on?"
"Sadly no, but it was still pretty funny," Takumi reminisced, "He got mad at me when I brought it up at dinner, and we got into a massive food fight. Hinoka got in on the action as well, and she dominated the battle. By the time we were done, there was mochi all over the walls. We nearly ruined our robes, and we all got a good scolding afterwards. It was probably the most ridiculous end of the year we ever had, but it was always my favorite to look back on."
Now Ori was really laughing, loud and infectious. Takumi couldn't help giggling alongside her. Ori laid down on the ground, still snickering slightly, before freezing, looking surprised.
"What are you looking at?" Takumi wondered, turning his gaze upwards.
Ori sat up and pointed at a small sprig hung from the doorframe above them. "Someone forgot to take down the mistletoe."
"So?" Takumi asked, "It's just a plant."
"I know that, but mistletoe has a special meaning in my world," Ori said, a blush creeping up her face, "If two people are caught under it..."
"You don't have to say if you don't want to," Takumi reassured her, readying his bow, "Want me to shoot it down?"
"No, no, it's okay," Ori hesitated, her face becoming redder. She fidgeted for a moment, before grabbing him by the collar and giving him a quick kiss. "That's what mistletoe is about. Now, let's go check on the other shoppers."
As Ori walked away, pulling her hood down and hiding her face, Takumi could only watch her leave, stunned. Did... did she really just do that? he asked himself.
Yes, you just got kissed by the girl you have a crush on, Anankos said.
Takumi put his face in his hands, blushing furiously. "I can't believe it!" he whispered, "Do you think she really likes me too?"
Possibly, Anankos responded, I don't think she would be quite that nervous if she didn't.
"Oh gods, what am I going to do?"
That's up to you. Happy holidays.
"You're not helping."
"Good morning, Takumi!" Ori called, striding towards him through the crowd of heroes.
"Morning," Takumi said, "Do you need something?"
"Kind of," she responded, "I was going to show the Askrans my home world, and I was wondering if you wanted to come with."
"Your home?" Takumi repeated, admittedly curious.
Say yes, Anankos demanded, This is a unique opportunity for both of us, and it may not come again.
"Yeah, I'll come."
"Excellent!" Ori said, "I'll let them know. Do you know what size clothing you wear? No offense, but your current outfit is going to stick out like a sore thumb, and I might be able to borrow something that would fit you better."
"I don't know..." Takumi admitted, wondering what she'd have him wear.
"Alright then, I can estimate. You look... five seven, maybe five eight; it's a little difficult to tell with your hair. Probably a medium, maybe a little bigger taking your muscles into account. Do you have any preferences in terms of look?"
"Okay, I'll see what I can do."
Ori grinned at him and walked off, leaving Takumi very confused. He had no idea what any of those numbers meant, and it was unlikely he'd get an answer until she got back.
A chance to see her world, hm? Interesting. I wonder what we'll find there.
I wonder what kind of place it is, Takumi thought, She told me that it doesn't have magic, so it must be really different in a lot more ways.
Do you think they use horses there?
How else would they get around?
They pondered about what else Ori's world could be different to their own, wandering through the halls to the training yard. When he got there, he was unsurprised to find other heroes already there, sparring or taking down training dummies. Takumi made sure to avoid Morgan and Nino, who looked to be having a competition to see who could destroy more targets with one spell. Lucina and Eliwood were chatting as they watched the children fire spells, looking to be having a great time.
Takumi turned, seeing Ori's new second-in-command Rutger walking towards him. "What do you want?" the archer asked.
"It's about Ori," Rutger said, "You may have her trust, but you're still dangerous. I've seem how you fight. As a man formerly driven by revenge, I can recognize that feeling in you as well. Don't do anything stupid."
"You don't have to worry," Takumi responded, "I'd never hurt her. She's too important to m- all of us."
Rutger gave him a blank stare before nodding. "I'm glad. Just make sure your arrows are always pointed toward the enemy, and we won't have any problems."
Takumi grunted in acknowledgement, watching the swordsman as he walked away. What's his problem? he thought.
Remember, he pledged himself to Ori, Anankos reminded him, Since we are so close to her, he probably wants to make sure we aren't a threat to her safety.
Safely my ass, Takumi scoffed, He's training her to fight with real swords. If she's going to get hurt, it'll be then.
I suppose you have a point, Anankos conceded, However, teaching her how to defend herself will be more beneficial for her in the long run. He is a skilled warrior, and likely has enough control to not hurt her during a practice fight.
I guess... I'm going to go shoot things now.
Ori met Takumi in his room the next day, giving him a package of unfamiliar clothing. She left so he could change in private, and he examined what she had given him. The blue pants of unfamiliar material fit well, although the jacket was a little loose. He was curious about the design on the shirt he was given: three triangles above a pair of wings. It looked like a crest of some kind, but not one that he was familiar with. The clothing was surprisingly comfortable, despite how different it was to his regular clothing.
"I'm glad you like it!" Ori said, "I wasn't sure the jeans would fit well, but they look good on you."
"Thanks," Takumi said, trying not to blush, "Can I ask about this crest?"
"Oh, the triforce," Ori explained, "It's the symbol of a fictional royal family from a really popular series in my world. I'll have to show you it sometime."
The two of them met up with the leaders of the Order, all of them looking very different without their white and gold armor. Sharena wore a dark blue dress patterned with flowers that she was currently showing off to Hilda, Anna had a striking red and yellow shirt that reminded Takumi of a phoenix, and Alfonse was fidgeting with a long strip of fabric tied around his neck atop a black button-up shirt.
"You guys look so good!" Ori said, "I'm glad everything fits fine."
"I'm sorry if this is a weird question," Alfonse asked, "But how did you get these men's clothes?"
"That's not a weird question," Ori responded, "I actually find some men's wear more comfortable than women's. I also told some of my friends about you guys, and they lent me some of theirs."
"Oh, really?" Alfonse said, "That's interesting."
Alfonse looked like he was about to say more, but was interrupted by a loud crashing noise. They looked up to see Tibarn and Naesala in their bird forms, flying through the halls, screeching and clawing at each other.
"Why are they fighting?" Ori asked.
"From what I've managed to figure out, they're just being dumb," Anna explained, "Reyson got mad at Naesala for hitting on Leanne, so he punched him in the face and broke his hand. Tibarn assumed it was Naesala's fault and they started arguing. Eventually it got so heated that they started fighting."
"Oh, so they're just idiots in love," Ori quipped.
"Anyway, should we get going?" Sharena asked, striding up to the group.
"Sounds good!" Ori said, "I've asked Rutger and the Ikes to take charge while we're gone."
"Good idea," Alfonse said, "Hopefully everything will be fine while we're gone."
"Don't say it like that, you'll jinx us," Ori joked, "Follow me."
Takumi followed Ori and the others out of the main hall, feeling a little out of place. After a while, they arrived at a door, which Takumi assumed might be Ori's room. Ori opened it, revealing a somewhat messy room with several large bookcases. What caught Takumi's eye immediately was a strange ripple in reality on one of the walls. The portals Ori's weapon fired were usually blue and had an actual shape to them, but this one looked like two realities merging together.
"Once more into the breach!" Ori said, "Shall we?"
"Let's go!" Sharena cheered.
Alfonse and Takumi nodded, while Anna grinned, saying, "Why not?"
Ori held out her hand to Takumi, and, without hesitation, took it. She grinned and pulled him through, to whatever was on the other side.
I think now would be a good time to say that I have very little idea of how to end this story. After the trip to the modern world, I'm basically going to be adding to this whenever I get a new idea. Hence, I will be welcoming requests and prompts! If you have anything you'd like to see from this story, please leave a comment and I'll see if I can fit it in. Huge thank you to everyone reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy it!