The battle was coming to a close. Axes beat against shields, and archers trained their arrows upon the Nohrian cavalry. They were winning! It was the first push into Nohr, and they were winning!
Corrin clutched the dragonstone to her chest, the symbol of her lineage. With the Hoshidan army, and her long-lost siblings, at her side, she felt unstoppable. Of course, this was just their first attack into Nohr proper, an assault on an unprepared fort, but it was a start. If they could win here, they could win anywhere!
Their newfound allies, the resistance of the besieged principality of Cheve, and their skill at guerilla tactics were a boon, especially, Scarlet, somehow the commander of Cheve resistance despite her young age. The plucky young woman, short blonde hair, freckled face, and armor as red as her namesake, was a terror on the battlefield, easily the match of any grizzled veteran—the hard-fought life of a resistance fighter makes grizzled veterans of us all, Corrin had mused—as she watched, with amazement, the plucky young Scarlet cut a path of steel and fire through the enemy lines from atop her powerful wyvern, the blade of her weapon coated in some amazing, otherworldly substance that shifted with the light, dazzling like a rainbow as she single-handedly drove a path through the enemy ranks. Awed by this vision of the battlefield, Corrin found herself not envious, but inspired, redoubling her efforts in an attempt to keep pace with this powerful, young warrior.
A hue and cry went through the troops as the Nohrian lines broke, and the opposing army fled their fort. It was theirs! They'd routed the enemy and won the day!
Taking a glance to oversee the battlefield, Corrin smiled with satisfaction. It was a complete route, their forces had suffered no serious losses. Hisoka, brought her pegasus to ground, grinning with brazen confidence, Orochi released a burst of zodiac magics into the air in celebration, and even Kaze, Corrin's normally taciturn retainer, seemed to bristle with triumph—albeit a of subdued sort.
Charged with the energy of her victory, Corrin approached Scarlet, wanting to thank the young commander for a job well done "You were amazing out there."
Looking up from the quiet affection she shared with her mount, Scarlet blinked. "What, that? It's nothing impressive, in Cheve everyone learns how to fight like that.."
"Don't sell yourself short!" Corrin replied. "You proved your mettle with the best the Hoshidan royal family has to offer—even surpassed them, in my estimation."
Her cheeks took on a bit of color and she chuckled, almost sheepish. "Well… i-if you say so." She glanced to her mount, absentmindedly stroking her hand over its scaled snout, and the wyvern responded with an affectionate butt of its head against Scarlet's palm, as if it were a hound or a horse, some simple beast. "Cheve is home to so many companies of knights, even the stray cats seem pick up some swordsmanship."
Corrin shook her hand, astonished by this woman's humility. She opened her mouth to rebuke Scarlet for her modesty, when suddenly Scarlet's wyvern lifted its head in attention. Its wings stiffened and it emitted a warning screech, one echoed from nearby, in human tongue, by Corrin's brother, Takumi. "Look out! Enemy sniper!"
Takumi trained his own bow on this hidden foe and fired, but it was too late. A whistling broke the wind. On instinct, Corrin lunged forward, shoving Scarlet to the ground. A mere moment later, Corrin's body exploded in pain, and her world went black.
Corrin awoke with a groan in her chambers, back in her fort in the astral realm provided by her retainer, the draconic Lilith. A headache had her seized around the temples, but it was nothing compared to the dull, lancing pain of the arrow wound.
It was night time. A blazing fire crackled in the hearth, suffusing the room with a comfortable warmth. She'd hardly been able to keep conscious as they tended to her, and must've passed out in bed quickly after the healers brought her back to her chambers. Tucking her shift down off her left shoulder, Corrin gazed ruefully at her bandages—fortunately, it missed her heart, striking her near the shoulder instead, and the healers were on hand quickly to deal with it, but that did nothing to assuage the guilt she felt at not noticing the sniper. Foolish woman, some commander you are. That you bore the wound for your mistake is only just; someone could've been killed.
Taking the bottle left on her bedside table, Corrin poured a measure of the sweet rice wine into a small clay cup. She held the cup beneath her nose and took a moment to inhale the soothing aroma; it was nice, much different from the harsh liquors of her Nohrian home. She took a sip, and the gentle burn of the wine down her throat provided enough space to distract herself from her failure. No sense dwelling on what's already been done—or at least, that's what she told herself.
They healers had begged her to at least rest for a few days, but there was no convincing a woman like Corrin to slow down, especially not now. For the first time in this war, they had the initiative, and they would need to maintain it. Outside, the campfires dotted tender glows all throughout Corrin's fort. The post-battle celebration was in full swing. Though the wound kept her confined to her private quarters, she was a solitary one regardless, and never tended to take an active role in the proceedings anyway. Having only returned to her birth family, the Hoshidan royalty, in the past few weeks, she found it difficult to integrate with them, despite how most of her siblings and followers had welcomed her return with open arms. No, it was simply too difficult to spend that kind of personal time with these people, the family that fate denied her.
That didn't meant she wouldn't watch, however. Sipping at her wine, careful not to move too quickly, lest she irritate her wound, she observed what she could of the festivities through her bedside window. She admired the forwardness with which many of her troop displayed affectionate for one another. Hinoka, her eldest sister, and Silas, a cavalier from her old life of captivity in Nohr, shared a heartfelt laugh; Rinkah, a boisterous warrior of the fire tribe, knocked heads with Hinata, a young samurai retainer of her brother, Takumi. She found some pleasure in cataloging all the impromptu pairings that had sprung up amongst her band of travelers. War brings great stress, and they were no trained army, it's only natural that those in her band would fall into these easy romances.
All except for her…
She took a deeper sip of her wine and gave a quiet sigh. It was all right, they were in the middle of a war. Who had the time for such dalliances?
Well, all but her, it seemed, as she drank in the sights and sounds of blooming love from seemingly all corners of the world outside her quarters.
Leaning back against the headboard, Corrin released a quiet groan and pressed fingers to the bandages against her shoulder. She poured herself another measure of the wine and drank it in silence. Too tired to truly sleep, she let her head drift for a while, and drowsiness overcame her bit by bit. Her head had grown heavy with the wine, and weariness, and, loathe to admit it though she was, lonesomeness too…
Some time later, the creak her chamber door opening startled Corrin back to her senses. Immediately she went for the dagger at her bedside. Corrin leap from the bed, standing in a poised, practiced motion, bringing the dagger to bear, preparing for the intruder's attack.
Scarlet froze at the doorway, hands lifted in a peaceful gesture. "Woah!" She said. "I knocked! Didn't you hear me knock?"
Corrin felt her eyebrows untense at the sight of not an intruder, but her new ally. She heaved a sigh of relief and let her hands fall to the bed. "I'm sorry, I'd—"
"It's me who should be sorry," Scarlet said. "I was passing and—"
Before Scarlet could finish, Corrin's shoulders went slack, and she buckled forward, groaning from the effort of even lifting her arms. Her strength depleted from even the simplest motion, Corrin's fingers unfurled, and the dagger clattered to the floor beside her bed. Her knees buckled, and she gripped towards the headboard of her bed for support.
Scarlet's eyes went wide, and she hastened into the room to grab Corrin before she collapsed. "Careful, you're wounded!"
"Wounded?" Corrin gritted her teeth, trying to distract herself both from the feeling of Scarlet's arms wrapped around her stomach and the sensation of sweat dappling across her brow from even the simple effort of standing. "I-it's nothing."
"It's not nothing!" Scarlet retorted, her warm breath, rich with the scent of rice wine, spilled out over Corrin's ear as she hefted Corrin upright as if she were nothing more than a sack of potatoes. "That's a proper one you got there; a wound like that takes everything out of you."
And it's true, it was a shallow wound, but even shallow ones have a way of enervating you. Corrin released her breath in a soft huff, the weakness compelling her to lean back into Scarlet's grip. The young warrior bore her weight ably, guiding Corrin to sit in the bed, and rest her back against the headboard.
"There, that's better," Scarlet said. "How are you feeling?"
Corrin wrinkled her nose, awash in embarrassment over this display of weakness—to say nothing of that fact that Scarlet had the benefit of a comfortable shirt and a pair of trousers, while she was dressed only in her shift and underthings. "I've certainly had worse wounds, these past weeks."
Scarlet rested a hand over Corrin's. Her eyes bore a unique lavender color—was this a uniquely Chevian shade?—and her gaze was cool and curious. "But I asked about this one," she said, softly.
"I'll recover." Quite despite herself, Corrin looked away. "By tomorrow, I'll be ready."
"You sure will." Scarlet grinned. Patting down her clothing, she searched herself for something, and retrieved, from a pocket, a small leather pouch. "That's why I came, in fact!"
Corrin found herself resting her head back against the headboard, looking up at the ceiling, and faintly panting from the effort of even sitting up. "I've already been treated by the healers—"
"It's not for the wound, it's for you. Mint, sage, that sort of thing; it's to relieve the tension, so you body can focus on the healing." Scarlet smiled. "It's an old-fashioned remedy. Trust me. It'll have you good as new, tomorrow."
Corrin had a mind to mention her exceptional lineage, the remarkable healing properties of her blood, which would have her "good as new" tomorrow, ancient remedy or not. But before she could speak, Scarlet was already moving to action. "Okay then. First off, let's sit you up, I need to get at your back. You can sit up, right?"
"I'm fine," Corrin said.
Though, in truth, she suddenly found herself weary. The muscles of her abdomen tensed as she struggled to lift herself from her position against the headboard. Depleted, the strain of moving overtook her, and she collapsed back against the headboard with a pant.
"Don't push yourself." Casually, seemingly without care to her station, Scarlet placed her hands upon Corrin's shoulders and turned Corrin—her commander—to sit with her back facing Scarlet. And Corrin, seemingly without care to her station, obeyed. She slouched forward, relishing in the way Scarlet's strong hands manipulated her.
"There, that's good," Scarlet said, guiding her ably. "Perfect." Corrin let herself indulge in the sensation, lost in a moment of reverie, until Scarlet said… "Now, take off your shift."
Corrin suddenly came to her senses, sitting bolt upright, the sudden motion drawing a hiss of pain. She willed it away as best she could, gritting her teeth, glancing over her shoulder at Scarlet. "Is that really necessary?"
Scarlet had already dipped her fingers into the medicine pouch. She met Corrin's gaze without concern, her fingers slick with a sticky white unguent. She grinned. "Well, it's you that's got the wound, not your clothing. Won't do any good, rubbing this stuff all over your shift."
Corrin gave a soft hmph, turning her head away to stare at the wall and conceal the flush of her cheeks. Surprised by her obedience, she leaned forward in a soft hunch of her back and tucked her hands beneath her shift on either side, lifting it to expose her back to Scarlet, up to her shoulder blades. At the front, the shift caught beneath the full swell of her breasts. She let the fabric bundle there, deeming it important to preserve her modesty.
"We're all women here, aren't we?"
In reply, Corrin mumbled, "That's the problem, isn't it?"
"What's that?" Scarlet asked, looking up from smearing the smooth, sticky sap between her fingers. The smell of mint and pungent herbs filled the room.
The scent was potent, but not unpleasant. Mildly flushed, Corrin turned her head. "Nothing, just clearing my throat."
"As you like," Scarlet said. She clapped her hands together with a sticky slap. "Now then, are we ready? I'll warn you, it may sting."
"I can take it."
Scarlet's voice was boyish, and confident, behind her. "I'll bet you can."
Corrin, awash in her blush, simply nodded.
Permission granted, albeit tacitly, Scarlet wasted no further time. Her palms pressed down against Corrin's bare skin and ground firmly against the flesh in the beginnings of a slow massage.
At the first touch of Scarlet's hands against her, Corrin had to hold back a yelp; the medicine did sting! And Corrin was grateful for that. It gave her something to focus on, a distraction, to avoid thinking, too directly, on the deeply pleasant sensation of Scarlet's fingers kneading into her muscles, working the potent medicine into her skin and washing away the tension of the battle Corrin hardly realized she was holding onto. With a soft sigh, she let her head loll forward. Hair fell into her face, and sleepiness, amplified by the sweetness of the rice wine, tickled back into the forefront of her mind. She left herself drift, awash in sensation of Scarlet's firm, but tender, ministrations.
Scarlet whiled the time in silence for a while, dutiful in her work, before saying, "I've heard… rumors…"
Corrin blinked, lifting her head, returning immediately . "What of? Has there been news on the Nohrian forces? Are they moving against us already?"
"O-oh," said Scarlet. "Nothing; nothing like that… it was… something about you…"
Corrin meant to follow her on that point, but Scarlet's thumbs digging deep furrows beneath her shoulder blades, quieted her quite naturally. The medicinal odor of the herbs filled her lungs like crisp mountain air, and helped her breath easier. She forgot her question, relaxing, free of troublesome thoughts of war and tactics for the first in as long as she could remember.
Over time, Scarlet more bold, massaging deeply into Corrin's middle and lower back and working away each kink, one by one. As her fingers worked out a particularly hard knot in Corrin's side, Corrin exhaled in a soft rush, louder than she meant to, and as she wrinkled her nose.
Thankfully, a burst of gleeful, noisy giggling erupted outside, providing an easy distraction. Pausing for a moment, both looked towards the window, and Scarlet quietly chuckled, saying, "You've a permissive camp here…"
"What do you mean by that?" Corrin asked.
"Only that…" Scarlet paused, glancing towards the window. Outside, the celebration was still in full swing, all sorts of cheers and laughter echoing throughout the night. "I've never known a group of warriors who share such brazen, obvious affection for one another. I've never seen a commander who allowed it."
Corrin straightened her posture at the mention of her position. She nodded, firm as she could, given the circumstances. "We're no proper army. I've not conscripted them, they follow me because they believe in my cause. It's not my right to decide who they share their dalliances with."
"Is that so?" Scarlet mused. Her fingers swept upwards, beneath the Corrin's shift, to curl over her shoulders and dig deeply into the flesh. Corrin groaned with relaxation, and Scarlet smiled. "That must be why they're so loyal. Why, I'd imagine any one of them would take an arrow for you."
Corrin shook out her head, trying to will away the sleepiness and relaxation clouding her judgment, trying to remain in control, to remain strong. "I-I suppose."
"And yet…" Scarlet's fingers swiped over Corrin's shoulders, touching tenderly at the curve of her neck. "It's you who took an arrow for me."
A wrinkle ran through Corrin's brow. "I'd never permit my followers to do anything I wouldn't do myself."
"Except fall in love…"
Corrin sat up ramrod straight. She shuffled her shoulders, urging Scarlet's fingers away. "That's quite enough," she said, tugging down her shift to cover herself and scooting clumsily across the bed, away from Scarlet. She raised her chin and met Scarlet's curious, smouldering gaze with a stiff nod. "I feel much better now. Thank you for your assistance, it was appreciated."
Cooly, Scarlet wiped clean her fingers against the bottom of her shirt. She smiled, canting her head. "And here, I meant to be the one thanking you."
At the sight of Scarlet's casual smile, Corrin only felt her blush deepen. She firmed up her lips. "I already told you it wasn't—"
Before she could finish, Scarlet leaned forward, getting up on one knee in a crouch, one hand on the bed beside Corrin's hips, the other slipping, fluid as water, beneath Corrin's chin. Taken aback, Corrin hardly had time to inhale, before Scarlet's head dipped in, and, before Corrin could speak a single syllable of protest, Scarlet's soft lips met hers.
Corrin emitted a tender moan. Her lips perked, eager to return the kiss, but Scarlet retreated almost as quickly as she attacked. Her lips hovered in the air, just an inch or two from Corrin's, which groped in futile effort to continue the kiss. Scarlet's bright, lavender eyes shone in the firelight. Close enough that Corrin was nearly overwhelmed by the sweet aroma of the rice wine tinting her breath, Scarlet said, simply, "Thank you."
Outside, the sounds of mirth and merriment diffused through the camp. Drinking deeply of how Corrin's bright, lavender eyes shone in the candlelight, Corrin smiled. Let them have their fun, they'd earned it—and who knows what sadness tomorrow's battlefield might bring?