The Fiery Queen of Nohr: Part 24 – Cut your Heart in Two

Author's notes: hello everyone! I hope the wait wasn't too long. Not much to say here, things are looking up in some parts of life which is good, but I don't think I'll be able to churn out more than a chapter every two or three month. That said, on to the reader's review.

Dustier7 – Seeing reviews like yours is making me soooooo happy! Corrin's inner struggle (or lack of thereof) shown in the main game disappointed me so much. Reina is a character I found so interesting in Fates and I was so sad to see she basically has no support. Her almost two-faced personality is a delight to write. I hope this chapter will deliver on your expectations!

TheHolyBlade – Corrin would need something radical to even entertain siding with Hoshido, as unlike in the game Nohr isn't just stupidly evil by default. Damn Vallites indeed! I'm glad to keep seeing your reviews and hope this chapter will keep you entertained!

Imperial warlord – Thank you! It didn't take too long for you I hope, I can't really afford to devote more time to writing. Hope this chapter will sate your for now!

Spartastic 4 – It's been an awfully long time indeed since the plague hit us at its full strength. As for happy or tragedy… I happen to like bittersweet. Even if I feel like a bastard writing it. Thank you for your encouragement, and have a good reading with this chapter.

pt1oef – Doting mothers are a terrifying thing. Thank you as always for beta-reading this story.

With all that said, enjoy the story! Please let a review if you liked it or have a criticism to share, they are always welcomed. Have a nice reading.

Corrin put down the mock sword she had been using for training. The workout didn't ease her conflicting thoughts in the least, and so when her shoulder started to ache, she decided to simply stop. The princess was worried about the lack of improvement in that area. The wound had been close for some time now but despite the work done by the Hoshidians healers it was still sending painful waves when she moved it around too quickly or too strongly, without mentioning serious sword training. Corrin knew the spear had reached the bone and those wounds are the ones magic was bad at healing. The possibility that she might never recover her left arm full strength was scaring her a bit, even if her other hand was the dominant one… However, that wasn't what was weighting on her now the most. This morning, Queen Mikoto announced she wanted Corrin to dine with everyone…

Part of herself was happy to finally eat with someone else. Corrin was sick of eating alone in silence, her thoughts turning in circles and her room empty as if she was back in the Northern Fortress. No, even worse than in the Northern Fortress, back then she had been with Jakob, Flora and Felicia. Even though Felicia tumbled down with the plates, even though Jakob scoffed at every drop of tea she didn't compliment, even though Flora seemed to take a weird pleasure in freezing the food… and the time she was with her siblings. Camilla frowning at every piece of meat that didn't correspond to her precise standard, Xander pushing Elise to eat her vegetables, Leo reading with one hand and gulping stew with the other… all those memories made it even worse to think about eating with the Hoshidian royal family. As if she was replacing them.

Cleaning herself off the sweat, Corrin considered going back to the castle, perhaps looking for Queen Mikoto and ask her what to do at the dinner, but the prospect of sitting in the garden for a time stirred her course. No matter how many times Corrin went there the wonder was still the same. The flowers, the river, the grass, the trees, in the sun and under the shade, the entire place was simply beautiful, and that beauty swept away her thoughts and worries. Leaving the wooden katana in the weapon rack (fortunately Kaze simply accepted to show her the place and to let her put it back by herself, she has feared for an instant that he was going to tell her it was his job and not hers) the princess took the path to the garden with renewed energy. She was recovering endurance at the very least. How out of shape she had been at first, Xander would have never let her hear the end of it! … The pointed ears of Corrin perked. Was she imagining things? She was hearing… something… something carried in the air. A tune?

As she came closer to the garden, the rhythm became more and more distinct. A melody, a voice Corrin couldn't recognize coming from inside the place. A pure and clear voice carrying words she couldn't distinguish, and yet the princess was inexplicably lured in by the beauty of the song beyond the trees and walls. Ignoring the green carpet under her feet, the scent of the flowers in bloom and the whispers of the running current, Corrin walked until she reached the pond near the end of the garden, to the moment the song's origin was right before her own eyes. She first caught sight the long blue hairs flowing around the singer, nay, the dancer. Clad in a white dress decorated with blue ribbons floating along her movements, her naked feets never resting on the ground for long, the mysterious singer flowed gracefully to the song she performed, in a stunning display which left Corrin sitting down near the water, entranced.

"In the white light, a hand reaches through

A double-edged blade cuts your heart in two

Waking dreams fade away,

Embrace the brand-new day."

Water has arisen from the pond, droplets gleaming under the sun as it followed the singer's movements, a veil of azure stars dancing an enchanting round. Eyes closed and smile on her lip, the girl's hands swept the flow as she quickened her pace.

"Sing with me a song of birthrights and love

The light scatters to the sky above

Dawn breaks through the gloom, white as a bone

Lost in thoughts all alone."

A small hum escaped Corrin's lips, following the melody without realizing it, her thoughts under the spell of the alluring display, a gold pendant shining brightly at the neck of the dancer. Her body relaxed; her mind eased as she unconsciously surrendered to the soothing embrace of the song.

"You are the ocean's gray waves, destined to seek

Life beyond the shore just out of reach

Yet the waters ever change, flowing like time

The path is yours to climb…"

The dance slowed down, the pendants lost its shine, and the water fell on the pond as the singer opened her eyes, briefly gazing around before falling on Corrin. Surprise glinted through as cautious golden iris locked into fascinated crimson ones and they looked at each other silently. A bird chirped in the trees above and Corrin suddenly realized the situation, as if an enchantment has been lifted.

"Er, hello. I'm sorry to bother you, I got lost in your singing. Something about it captivated me, I could only stop and listen." Corrin explained embarrassingly.

"You must be Corrin." Said the singer bluntly, her formerly appeased face becoming almost severe.

"Yes. And you are?" Asked Corrin, puzzled.

"I'm Azura. A former princess of Nohr."

"Former? I don't understand. Surely, I would have heard of you from Xander or Mother, I mean, Queen Lora. Why don't I know you?"

"I'm afraid I've been here a long time. After you were taken by the Nohrians, the Hoshidian forces tried desperately to get you back, but they failed and kidnapped me instead. I suppose we've both been hostages for most of our lives." Said Azura in a casual tone.

"Gods…" Whispered Corrin, realizing how long exactly the princess was talking about. "I'm so sorry. Because of me, you were taken away…"

"It's alright. I may be a hostage here, but Queen Mikoto has always been kind to me. She treated me as if I was her daughter, and the royal family accepted me as one of their own. I cannot complain about the treatment I received here."

"I see…" said Corrin hesitantly, ears twitching. "I guess I understand. King Garon, my siblings, I mean the Nohrian royals, they treated me as a member of the family too. I can't say my life in Nohr has been unhappy as well. Perhaps it's something we have in common."

Azura stared at her before sitting down in turn, picking blades of grass starting to weave them together. The sun's rays reflected on the golden ring on her right hand while she skillfully formed a circlet with the green material.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Azura watched Corrin intently before looking at her finished work: a crown of fragrant pink flowers which she put on her head, apparently satisfied.

"It suits you." Complimented Corrin, seeing the flowers contrast charmingly with the blue hair.

"Thank you." Said Azura, taking another blade of grass. "Please tell me how's everyone in Nohr."

Happily complying, Corrin started to paint the picture of the siblings she has been living with for as long as she could remember. Xander 's perpetual seriousness hiding his caring heart, drilling into her his harsh training to make sure she would be able to prove herself. Camilla's tender but almost suffocating displays of affection, her incredible needlework which gave her a beautiful blue scarf. Leo's haughty manners yet ever helpful when she needed him to help her understand a lesson…

Upon learning Azura was taken away before knowing the last daughter of King Garon, she also described Elise as much as possible. How she had let her blond hair to grow and colored them purple to emulate Camilla, how she was always full of spirit, seeking amusement and happiness for herself and everyone. Corrin talked about the mischief they committed together in the Northern Fortress to the despair of Gunter, Elise's love for flowers and her promise to see together one of the fields of flowers in the southern of Nohr.

"I think I've never seen Garon having such a wide smile before Elise gave him the flower crown we did together with Camilla. We tried to have him wear it instead of his real crown for the rest of the day, until dinner came, and we saw he put it on Lora's head!"

"How sweet." Said Azura, whose expression has changed into a small smile midway through the conversation. "King Garon always was different when he was around his children."

"He is! It's hard to believe he can be so scary when he is carrying you on his shoulders, playing the mighty steed. Did he do that with you too?"

"He did. The Nohr you describe isn't too different from the one I remember."

"Would you return to Nohr, if you could?" Asked Corrin suddenly. "Live a new life among your first family?"

"I don't know." Said Azura, "I would love to see Xander, Camilla and Leo again. To meet Elise, whom you talked about so much. To find what has become of King Garon. But not all my memories of Nohr are happy, and I have come to appreciate living in Hoshido: It is a peaceful country, and its inhabitants are kind, if wary of the outside world… So, I don't know." She repeated, adding a flower to the grass she weaved.

"Hmm… I see."

"Do you wish could return to Nohr? Everything you told me says you miss it." Asked the blue-haired princess with that same bluntness as before, forcing Corrin to consider the thoughts that plagued her.

"… I do. I miss the Northern Fortress; I even miss Castle Krakenburg. Even if they were not my birth family, I miss the siblings I grew up with." Corrin said honestly.

"I see." The blue-haired princess nodded, "Lean forward and close your eyes, please."

A bit surprised, Corrin did just that, adjusting her hairs to avoid having them fall on her face. An almost imperceptible weight was added to her heard and Corrin opened her eyes. She looked at Azura's satisfied expression then at her reflection in the water: The second flower crown the princess has been making rested upon her, the red flowers pairing with the tint of her own eyes while contrasting with her white hairs.

"It is lovely. Thank you Azura."

"You're welcome, Corrin. Since you were kind enough to tell me about your life in Nohr, why don't I tell you more about my life in Hoshido?"

"I'd be happy to hear that." Approved Corrin, moving her legs to sit more comfortably before listening…

Kaze waited at the door of Queen Mikoto's apartments, kneeling respectfully eyes to the ground. It was perhaps the second time he has left Lady Corrin's side since he found her at the Bottomless Canyon, but what he has observed was important enough in his eyes to report as quickly as possible. He was glad Lady Corrin and Lady Azura found kindred spirits in each other, just as Queen Mikoto predicted, but the circumstances leading to that encounter were… singular. Leaving the two princesses together, he took the path to the castle as quickly as he could.

"Queen Mikoto is ready. Come in. I hope it's good news, I can't believe time is spinning so quickly and now there is almost nothing left..." Said Orochi as she opened the door, the diviner exuding worry as she went into the corridor mumbling.

Kaze sorted that little rant as something to investigate further before crossing the door, kneeling once again in the antechamber in front of the small, raised platform upon which the Queen was sitting.

"Queen Mikoto. I have something to report regarding Corrin."

"Tell me." Asked the Queen with her usual gentleness, yet he could hear the trouble underneath her composure. Did something happen with Orochi's divination? Putting the chat with the diviner at a higher priority, the ninja laid down what he had witnessed.

"When Lady Corrin walked to the garden with me a moment ago, I noticed a sudden shift in behavior upon hearing the singing of Lady Azura from within the place. While her voice's beauty is known to all, I have never seen anyone react with such intensity. Lady Corrin simply stopped to pay attention to anything around her to follow the song, apparently not noticing my attempts at hailing her. Up to and after she discovered Lady Azura dancing and singing near the pond, her trance did not stop as she listened with a bewitched look on her face. Lady Corrin stayed that way until the song stopped, upon which she seemed to regain her senses. I have no explanation for this behavior."

Kaze fell silent, waiting for an answer, instructions or being dismissed. Even though his eyes did not leave the ground his sharp senses could still pick up other signs. From the wavering breathing of the Queen, he could tell she was troubled by the new, though he had no inkling as to what it meant exactly for Lady Corrin. A natural susceptibility to magic, or something linked specifically to Lady Azura? He could not tell.

"I see. Rest assured, Kaze, it is nothing wrong." Said Queen Mikoto with a strange tone… as if she was hesitating between happiness and fright. "My daughter takes after her birth father. Nothing more. Please, continue your duty."

Accepting the words of the Queen, Kaze nodded and left, but his mind kept analyzing what had just been said. To many who lived within the castle, including much of the children of Sumeragi, Lady Corrin's father was the late King Sumeragi. Few were privy to the fact that Queen Mikoto arrived in Hoshido with her daughter already present. But to Kaze's knowledge, nothing was known of the Princess' birth father. His name was never pronounced, his existence barely acknowledged even by the Queen herself. Yet according to her, it was the source of Lady Corrin's strange behavior under the song… Kaze would keep this to himself for now. His brother Saizo was still unreasonably suspicious of the princess and this information would only further that mindset. If the Queen said there was nothing to worry about, then he had indeed nothing to worry about…

O, painful works on the street above! O, damnable travels under the crackling heaven, watching out for the slightest misstep! For what purpose has fate sent Odin Dark in search of mere… paperwork? The blond retainer threw his arms toward the sky in a dramatic fashion, a mighty curse on his lips before the reigned in the darkness within. For the sky turning crimson and the water within to disappear would not only be a terrible fate for the world!... also, Odin would rather not imagine how angry Lord Leo would react. Or worse, how the Queen would react. A shiver traveled his spine as he recalled the last "interrogation" he had to attend to, all alone. By some ungodly luck she seemed to find him endearing and treated him in a more subdued manner than Laslow and Selena, but he would prefer not to push his luck any more than necessary. Their slightly altered story seemed to hold for now, but the intensified scrutiny was incredibly stressful if he had to be honest with himself…

The blond mage hummed and straightened his back. Why was he thinking so gloomily? Yes, he was all about gloom and darkness and ancient power, but not petty real worries! And most importantly, he had a mission. Going to Windmire's edge and meet the captain in charge of organizing the troops for Lord Leo, obtain the reports and come back to give them. A measly task far beneath the scope of his abilities, for he longed for the challenges he has been given at the beginning of his service! Engrossed in his thought, Odin didn't notice the bird until it started to chirp right above him. He looked at the small creature flying in circle above. Birds were rare in Windmire, and such graceful sight were all the more appreciated when they came in, yet Odin couldn't but notice this bird was insistently chirping… wait, where did he see this bird before. Those lovely blue feathers with red streak…! Odin looked around the streets, and seeing no one, bolted in a nearby alley where there would be less chance for him to be seen. The bird followed him and landed on his outstretched hand, confirming his suspicion.

"Lilith, where have you been? Where is Lady Corrin?" Whispered the mage.

The bird chirped furiously, flapping its wings at the mage who looked at it puzzled.

"My immense magical prowess doesn't include understanding birds, you know. May I suggest taking a form more apt in delivering the news?" Lilith, though he had a hard time making out her expression as an animal, seemed to shake her head. "You can't? Blood and darkness, this isn't the time!"

Odin hesitated for an instant before deciding to postpone the mission Lord Leo gave him. This was too important and if he was asked his reason, he would invent something on the spot. He had to find Selena and Laslow as well as way for the maid to communicate, which was already an idea manifesting in the depth of his unfathomable mind.

"Stay safe inside the bowel of my pouch, for I will bring you to light once safety is upon us." He told Lilith before joining words with action and running back to the castle.

Slipping past the hasty servants, messengers and soldiers running all around to prepare for departure, interrogating some of them to get a better idea of the location of his compatriots while making sure no one would bump into the precious pouch containing the very fragile bird he carried, the dark mage finally grabbed Laslow in the middle of an unsuccessful flirt and Selena carrying weapons to the smithy without as much as an explanation before locking everyone together in one of the old storage rooms of the castle.

"You better have a good reason to take us in the middle of a war preparation like…" The acid diatribe Selena was about to spiel was cut short when he carefully extracted Lilith from his pouch, the bird flapping and landing on a crate with an indignant chirp. "Wait, that's not… "

"Our otherworldly assistant Lilith? Yes. Though I have no idea what manner of hardship she went through given her apparent inability to find her humanoid form once more." Said Odin, rummaging around the crates in search of something.

"She what? You've got to be kidding me!"

Selena tried to grab Lilith, but the bird jumped away flying in the room as Selena tried to catch it.

"Calm down Selena. I know it's been hard but…" Tried to say Laslow, catching her arm until the red-haired girl brusquely pushed him away.

"Calm down? It has been more than a month since Corrin has been missing and the traces stopped right at the Bottomless Canyon! Lady Camilla is starting to talk in her sleep and I'm NOT going to repeat what she's been saying! Even Beruka noticed something was wrong and she has the emotional range of a rock! We need to know what's going on, you hear me you flying…"

"I said calm down, Severa!" Hissed Laslow, the shock of hearing him say her real name widening Selena's eyes and shutting her up. "I'm on edge as well, but harassing Lilith won't do anything good for us! I don't think she enjoys being stuck like that anymore than we do!"

"… Damnit. What can we do then? It's not like I can understand bird! Can you, Laslow?"

"I have a solution for this." Said Odin, coming back from the crates with his arms full of apparently hazardously selected items.

"You have? What is it, summoning the weird darkness of your incomprehensible fantasy to translate?"

Without answering, the blond mage disposed the different items on a large crate he put down between them: a map of the continent, an arrowhead from a broken compass, some chess pieces, a bronze dice, some used silex, a silver and a gold coin. Lilith came down from the ceiling and landed on the crate, observing intently.

"The gold coin will mean yes, the silver coin no and the dice that you either don't know or aren't sure. The chess pieces will represent peoples, the arrowhead you, and the silex are the troops. Chirp if you follow."

The azure and red bird chirped briefly, prompting a large smile from Odin.

"And here it is. We will be able to forego the translation of avian language entirely."

"Okay, that was smart of you." Admitted Selena with a mildly impressed tone, which enlarged her friend's smile even more.

"Nicely thought of you, Odin." Complimented Laslow. "Beautiful Lilith, let us start with the most important question. Is lady Corrin alive?"

The bird promptly tapped on the gold coin with her beak, prompting a collective sigh of relief from the three retainers.

"Where is she then? Use the queen chess piece to show us."

In answer to Odin's question Lilith took flight, grabbing the chess piece and landing it right on top of the Hoshidian's capital.

"Gods damnit, Lady Camilla will really lose her mind… How are we supposed to retrieve her if she is in the middle of enemy territory? Did the Hoshidians captured her?"

To their surprise the silver coin was the one to be tapped this time, but when she then struck the part of the map showing the Bottomless Canyon the trio became livid.

"Did… he attack? Did the Hoshidians rescued her?" Laslow's question was answered when Lilith tapped on the golden coin twice, and a nervous silence fell on the storage room.

"Shit, I thought we would have more time. And if Lady Corrin decides she is our enemy I can't see how we will be able to explain everything to her."

"Have some faith Selena, she is too nice to just attack us on sight. Corrin would at least listen to us before doing anything."

"Well sorry not to share your shameless optimism Laslow, because I wouldn't freaking count on that! She is in and will be told she is from Hoshido, remember? The one Nohr killed the king and tried to invade for centuries?"

"Let's concentrate on the present." Said Odin, his uncharacteristic seriousness bringing everyone to attention as he moved the chess pieces and silex. "According to the instructions we received, Lord Xander's army will go to the Bottomless Canyon first as a distraction, then Lord Xander will leave covertly and join the coast of Mokushu by boat. There he will join Lord Leo and his forces, who will have already arrived and established the front. Lady Camilla and her troops will stay behind as deterrent in Cheve."

"… I'm impressed you managed to remember everything and repeat it without flourishes. Still, this mean we will be separated for a long time, even though you will rejoin me after a while, Selena will have to stay behind unless something happens." Pointed out Laslow.

"Yeah, that suck, but we can always regroup afterward if one of you manage to grab Lady Corrin, I don't know by what miracle. The problem is more how will we make everyone gather at Notre Sagesse…"

Selena had a point, thought Odin while studying the map. It was their most important goal: for Lady Corrin to reach the Rainbow Sage and obtain the power to defeat the monstrous remnant of her father. Not unlike uncle Chrom undertook the ceremony at Mount Prism to awaken Falchion. Speaking of Falchion, the weapon Corrin was supposed to wield for that battle, Yato, was supposedly hidden somewhere in Hoshido. His train of thought was distracted by Lilith taking the arrowhead in her beak and moving on the map to Hoshido, deposing the object on the Hoshidian capital.

"You are going here? Are you sure?" Asked Laslow, to whom Lilith responded with a chirp and a tap on the golden coin. "Do you think you can lead Corrin to come back to Nohr? Or at least find the Yato?"

This time the bird moved a bit and landed on the dice, which made them sigh. Of course, it wouldn't be that easy.

"Hey, why not try to play the good guys?" Suddenly said Selena.

"Uh?" Said Odin, completely blindsided.

"If everything goes as planned, Lord Xander and Lord Leo will kick the asses of those evil ninjas. Those guys conquered another region to expand already, didn't they?"

"I suppose they did…" Admitted Laslow. "But how is this supposed to help?"

"With how ambitious those guys must be I'm sure they'd attack Hoshido later. So, if we beat them, we saved Hoshido, didn't we? That should make them listen to us at least!"

"That might be bit of a stretch…"

"Oh shut up! Aren't you supposed to be the optimist here? Let's just suggest that to our lieges, and they will find a way. I mean, it's not like you have anything better to propose!"

"Uncertainty aside, this spark of ingenuity will not stand alone without my mighty, dark, magic!" Interjected Odin, feeling any more time spent poking in his red-head friend's plan would only lead to fruitless disputes. "We still need a way to inform one another if perchance we find ourselves in presence of our displaced princess. And I just devised the perfect spell for the task! I would only require, hum, some part of you, Lilith." The bird and his friends seemed to recoil with horror at his words and he added precipitately. "Only three feathers! One for each of us. I will enchant them so the first of us to find Lady Corrin can inform the others. Just a bit of sympathetic magic!"

"You know your father had some creepy habits with birds, right? You can't blame us to worry when you are starting to do just like him, with your whole dark mage and black magic jig." Said Selena dryly, making Odin slump dramatically.

"The cruel fate of the progeny, to suffer ignominy at the hands of their pairs for the sins of their father!"

"Creepiness aside, this is a great idea. What would it do exactly?" Questioned Laslow, amused but keeping his mind on the matter at hand.

"The feathers will be the ethereal conduit for…" Odin dropped the flourishes again when he saw Selena's annoyed stare. "The feathers will be linked to each other and to you, Lilith. When you enter in contact with Corrin, hold the feather and focus on it to send a vision to everyone."

"That sound great! Sorry Lilith, but your feathers are needed." Cheerfully said Selena.

Despite some reluctance, the blue bird let them each pluck out a single feather from her plumage and Odin took great care in applying the enchantment he devised. It was closer to a curse than he would have liked to admit, even if he played the part of a dark mage in this place… he was certain his father would have been proud at least.

"And it's done. Let's go back to our duties before our Lords starts getting impatient."

"No need to tell me twice." Said Selena, pocketing the feather and taking back the weapons she was carrying before. "Be careful, okay?" She added more softly before leaving the storage room.

"It's always special when Selena is showing her considerate side, don't you think?" Winked Laslow as he helped Odin to put back everything used for the "conversation" they had with Lilith.

"Just like old times again, eh?" Said Odin, sharing the same knowing smirk before it fell as Laslow was about to leave. "Take care, friend. I feel things are getting down a dark path, one even brave heroes like ourselves would fear to embark upon."

"I feel the same." Acknowledged Laslow. "Take care, friend."

Odin waited a moment, then left the castle with Lilith in his pouch again. Halfway through the street, close to where she initially attracted his attention, he let her free and watched her fly in the dark sky. Even though he shared his worries with Laslow, something else Odin couldn't put words on was creeping at the back of his mind. The possibility that the dragon would use the conflict happening soon to spread ruin and devastation behind their back, before they could have the chance to confront him…

Corrin was feeling terribly awkward. For the first time since her arrival, she was sitting with the entirety of the Hoshidian royal family at once, in a single large room with few decorations belonging to Queen Mikoto's quarters. They were all sitting on a mat placed upon the ground, something Corrin has been surprised to learn was a usual way to eat food in Hoshido, even indoor, whereas in Nohr she only ever ate sitting on the ground during the expedition with her soldiers. The Queen was presiding their little assembly, and the rest was divided in two parallel lines arranged by age: Ryoma and Takumi were on Mikoto's right side, while on the left were Hinoka, Corrin, Azura and the youngest of the family, a girl she has yet to see before this gathering: Sakura. She seemed barely older than Elise and much shyer as she sat, eyes looking at the ground sometime sending furtive gazes at Corrin.

Servants came in bringing a small square table made of black colored wood in front of each person, with upon them resting five bowls containing different dishes: what seemed to be a fish soup, rice, red beans, a meatball with small cut vegetables, and a sort of fried paste in a somber liquid. Accompanying those were no cutlery, but a pair of chopsticks, just as all the previous time Corrin has been given food, though it was the first time she was seeing so many plates at once: usually she has been eating from a single, larger bowl containing the entire dish. There was no drink visible except the soups. Looking around, she saw the small tables placed in front of everyone until the servants left the room, closing the door silently. With an elegant gesture Queen Mikoto took her chopsticks and started plucking from her dishes, prompting Ryoma to do the same. Everyone else followed suit and Corrin did the same, taking the chopsticks and trying to grab the vegetables. The green slipped from the wooden sticks, and she tried again ignoring the small scowl from Takumi, putting her fingers in a better position by observing how Hinoka was doing.

"Corrin, Sakura, this is our first time seeing each other, isn't it? She was only born a year or so before your disappearance. I hope you will get along just as much as with your other siblings." Said Mikoto with an affectionate smile.

"Hello Sakura. It's nice to meet you." Greeted Corrin.

"H-h-hi." Stuttered the young girl. Her hairs were lighter than Hinoka's red, closer to a pink orange. Her white kimono with red knots and undercoat made her look even more understated as she barely made eye contact.

"Sakura is a bit shy, but the gods have blessed her with a heart of gold and a gift for healing others. She will become a revered priestess in the future." Said Ryoma, making Sakura blush under the praise.

"Um, yes, I, I'm training, to be a healer."

"That's great." Said Corrin, her heart twitching as she noticed once again how similar her siblings in Nohr were to those in Hoshido. "Do you have other activities you enjoy?"

"I, I… I'm leaning the koto." Whispered Sakura so low Corrin unconsciously bent a bit forward to hear.

"It's a music instrument." Clarified Hinoka. "I'm not too good at those sorts of thing myself, I prefer to groom my partner and fly. What do you like to do, Corrin?

"I play the piano, actually. It's a musical instrument from Nestra, I'm not sure if you've seen one already. You play it by pushing white and black keys which hit the strings inside." Explained Corrin, making gestures mimicking the movements. "I used to hate my lessons, but now I appreciate to play it."

"It's good to see you do not know only about fighting." Said Ryoma. "Weapons alone will not help you much when you will need to learn your duties as princess of Hoshido, soon enough."

"Ryoma, you know protecting the people is part of the whole royal family's duties."

Corrin noticed the way Hinoka tensed when the red-hed said those words and Sakura seemed to look at the floor even more intently, her hands folding and squeezing in obvious nervousness.

"It is. But fighting on the battlefield is above all the responsibility of the princes. Princesses of Hoshido are the spiritual guardians of the country, of its households and traditions. It is a sacred duty, one requiring strength of the heart rather than of arms." Explained Ryoma calmly "I hope you understand I do not mean to belittle you, Corrin. The energy you give to your training is admirable and I've seen myself how incredibly talented you are with the sword. But there are more important obligations you will have to devote yourself to."

Looking at the elder prince of Hoshido, Corrin couldn't find anything but conviction in his words and attitude, and the annoyed posture of Hinoka led Corrin to realize he must have repeated it more than once already. It wasn't that she didn't understand what he said, but the idea that she would be restrained in this way… At least in Nohr she would have been free to choose how she would handle her duties and responsibilities if she had the strength to do so. It was as if another cage would replace the ones she has already left. But before she could speak up, another voice intervened with a sharp tone.

"Hmph. I don't see someone having earned the privilege of being called a princess of Hoshido here."

A shocked silence follows the declaration of Takumi, who has raised his voice for the first time of the dinner.

"Takumi. Am I supposed to be included by your words?" Said Azura in her now familiar blunt manner.

"At least you remember where you come from." Shot back the younger prince, eliciting incredulous gasps around the room this time.

"Takumi, this is unbecoming…" Tried to intervene Mikoto before Hinoka interrupted her, rising with a furious yell.

"What are you thinking Takumi?! Corrin is finally with us all and you're treating her like an enemy! It isn't her fault she lost her memories! You should help instead of acting like a jerk!"

"Why doesn't she sit on the Throne of Truth then?" Rebuked Takumi. "We'll see if she has really had memories to forget or no-!"

"Enough! Takumi, the Throne is the sacred seat of the king gifted by the gods, not a tool for trial!" Roared Ryoma with such strength Corrin covered her sensitive ears. "How dare you insult both our mother and sister like this! You should be better than this! What sort of folly has taken you?"

The elder prince's anger seemed to shake Takumi, who immured himself in silence with a frown. Corrin's ears were hurting, but the words that has been pronounced were still echoing in her mind, and she couldn't help but ask.

"Is it true? Could this throne do something about my memories?" Her voice rang weakly in her own ears as she looked at the pained expression of Queen Mikoto.

"My poor child… The Throne's power might be a way to make you remember, but it is not why it exists. Like your older brother said, it is the symbol of Hoshido's rightful and just rule which only the king can sit upon. And there is no need for you to submit yourself to such trial. You are my precious daughter, without any doubt. No matter what you have forgotten, we are here to make new memories with you."

Those words so full of longing, those eyes so filled with love and hope looking directly at her… Corrin closed her eyelids, opened them again, tried to say something, anything to pass the lump in her chest, the burning in her throat, to shoulder the weight on her back. Finally, she managed to articulate two words.

"I'm sorry."

Corrin stood up and ran. She ran along the corridors, through the stairs and the door, running on the wooden floor of the castle, uncaring of whatever was in her way, her vision blurred and her eyes burning. She didn't notice when she crossed the castle doors, barely felt the grass underneath her feet before tripping on herself and falling on the soft ground. Her thoughts ran astray, incoherent, hurtful. The princess stayed down, incapable of mustering the strength to rise, the cool air of the night sending shivers through her body. The buzzing of insects, the chirping of birds, the shining moonlight, none of it registered in her mind. She doesn't want to think. She doesn't want to feel.

"Embrace the dark you call a home,

Gaze upon an empty, white throne

A legacy of lies,

A familiar disguise."

A voice… a melody. A warm wave upon the shore, rising ever so slowly. Washing away the pain, taking away the fear, carrying away the sadness. Ever so gently, in soft tides. Corrin's pointy ears perked up first. Her hands moved upon the grass; her legs found support on the ground; her arms found their strength at last.

"Sing with me a song of conquest and fate

The black pillar cracks beneath its weight

Night breaks through the day, hard as a stone

Lost in thoughts all alone."

Slowly she rolled on her back, sat on her knees, and moved her head toward the sound. The princess listened, eyes closed, reaching for the sound with an outstretched hand. A delicate palm touched her own, and an arm passed around her shoulders. Corrin closed her fingers around it and surrendered to the warm embrace.

"You are the ocean's gray waves, destined to seek

Life beyond the shore just out of reach

Yet the waters ever change, flowing like time

The path is yours to climb."

The last note echoed in the cold night, fading like a wonderful dream. The princess opened her eyes, looked at the cascade of blue her hand was entangled into, then in the golden iris reflecting moonlight.

"Are you feeling better now?"

"Azura…" Corrin whispered. "I'm sorr-"

The songstress put a finger on the princess' lips, then used her sleeves to wipe away the dampened cheeks. Silence lingered, a serenity even the night's life respected, the wind itself absent, until Azura chose to speak again.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Corrin squeezed the hand she was holding, relishing in its softness before slowly nodding.

"Everyone… Everyone is looking at me and seeing someone else. Someone I can't tell myself I am. Mikoto, Ryoma, Hinoka, even Sakura… They love someone who isn't there to return their affection."

Her mind clearer thanks to the song, she could at put into words her feelings, coming out like a torrent through her aching throat.

"What can I tell them? That I was happy in Nohr? That I see the faces of my Nohrian siblings every time I close my eyes? They're so similar I'm scared I might slip and call them for someone else! I can't even look at Queen Mikoto in the eye and call her Mother, even though I'm almost certain she is telling me the truth! And what does that make of King Garon? He took me in his arms, encouraged me when I took initiatives, consoled me when I cried! And Mother… Queen Lora… She… Why…"

So many things trying to get out at once an incoherent stream was replacing her speech and Corrin paused, breathing deeply before continuing.

"I just don't know what to do. I don't know what to believe. And it hurts so much, I don't know if I can keep bearing it…"

The hand of Azura, the one that wasn't holding her own, reached for her cheek once again, cupping it and locking Corrin's red gaze into her own yellow iris, the princess once again finding herself taking solace in their attentive serenity.

"Feeling lost is not a fault you should blame yourself for. Whatever you wish to believe or do, it is your choice alone, Corrin… Just remember that you are not here alone." Said Azura, her voice the most filled of emotion the princess heard yet.

"Azura…" Whispered Corrin. "Thank you. For seeing me as I am."

Exhaustion was dawning on her as she was no longer in the grip of her emotions, and Corrin barely restrained a yawn as she let the surprisingly strong hands of Azura laid her down, head resting on the songstress' lap as her song carried her to a peaceful slumber.

"The path you walk on belongs to destiny, just let it flow

All of your joy and your pain will fall like the tide, let it flow.

Life is not just filled with happiness, or sorrow

Even the thorn in your heart, in time it may become a rose…"