Chapter 35 - Of Plots and New Perspectives

Marc had realized what had happened as soon as he saw Owain return alone after only minutes before rushing after a furious Severa. When Severa had returned later, sporting a scraped chin and appearing somehow both even angrier than before yet simultaneously self-satisfied, it had more than confirmed his realization. And seeing Morgan enter camp an hour later, her lip swollen and eyes red from tears, well it had made the whole thing really, really, really obvious.

He should have known it would come to this. Well, that things would inevitably escalate somehow. He was pretty sure there was no way he could have expected Morgan's time-traveling daughter to show up out of the blue. Turns out he has a niece, which is neat. Now if only it could have happened in better circumstances.

Morgan… he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do to help his sister right now. He knew she was hurting, that much was plain. But she'd refused all his attempts to talk to her about it, so he was just as in the dark as to what was bothering her as everyone else. On one hand he could relate, knowing what it was like to just bottle everything inside like she was trying to do. But then, it didn't excuse the way she was acting. It didn't excuse how she'd treated Inigo, at least when it came to physically lashing out. And it certainly didn't excuse how he'd seen her treat her daughter.

Yet even so, that was no damned reason for Severa to respond in kind.

It was the anger at his sister's treatment at Severa's hand that had spurred his first, immediate plan. If you could call it a plan. Okay, fine, it was barely a plan. He immediately charged towards Severa's tent, prepared to give her a piece of his mind. Sustained by this anger, he'd made it almost halfway there before the rational part of his mind realized this was a terrible idea. Not only because he was pretty sure Severa would win that fight… well, unless they actually fought, in which case maybe he'd… point is, starting another shouting match would certainly just make things even worse, really.

So, sobered by the voice of reason and caution, he'd spun around on the spot and began 'Operation: Plan B.'

Look, I didn't have time to come up with a better name for it, he told himself defensively.

Which was why he was hiding in a tree with Ophelia sitting on his shoulders and Kana sitting on top of her shoulders and mostly just trying really, really hard not to lose his balance. Oh, and wondering how he'd managed to get himself into this mess. Things had seemed so promising at first. But then Ophelia had chimed in with her suggestion, then Kana had and then…

…and then he'd found himself up in a tree trying not to get them all killed.

Somehow I feel I brought this upon myself, Marc sighed inwardly.

"So do you see my father yet?" Ophelia asked, calling up to Kana.

"Uh huh. Though he's really far away," Kana answered.

Marc looked up, having the fight the urge not to facepalm and risk sending them all crashing down from the tree's canopy. "Kana, you know you're supposed to look into the small end, right?"

"Oh. I knew that," Kana said, hastily flipping the spyglass she was holding around and peering through the correct end. "Ooooh, ooooh, he's coming this way now!"

"Wonderful! Now, dearest scion of the purest star, prepare the ethereal binding, from which shall be thrust from the heavens and capture the-"

"Wait, ether-huh? Do I throw the net or not?" Kana asked.

Ophelia sighed, irritated at the interruption and ruining the flow. "Yes. Throw the net when Father gets close."

"Wait, what?!" Marc exclaimed, nearly losing his balance as he threw up his hands in exasperation. He seized hold of the branch an instant later, managing to right himself. "I thought the plan was to signal him without anyone noticing!"

"Too risky. My fortune gleaned from the stars foretold that only with a swift strike can we succeed in our divinely ordained quest! Like a silver wind we must–"

"The net's ready!" Kana exclaimed, holding up a large fishing net over her head.

"Wait, what? Where did you– How did– What?" Marc asked, utterly bewildered. How did she get that up here without me noticing until now? For that matter, where did she get it? We're nowhere near the ocean. "No, no, no, no. I didn't agree to this. I agreed to sneak around camp gathering help without letting Morgan or Inigo see us. We are not kidnapping your father, Ophelia."

"But I already brought the net," Kana said, sounding disappointed. "Besides, I thought it was a good idea."

"It is a magnificent idea!" Ophelia insisted, looking down at the struggling Marc while maintaining her balance and keeping Kana steady. "This came from the heavens themselves, as the stars communed their message upon my Jetblood Dracocrystal! So to go against the guidance of the night sky would only bring chaos upon this world. As one who bears the hero's brand, you must surely understand!"

"I-I…" Marc trained off, stammering as he found himself at a complete loss. Gods, she was even harder to reason with than Owain was. Maybe he could–

An idea came to him then, a way to get them all out of this mess.

"No, far from it! It-it is through my, uh, fated mark that I have glimpsed the strings of… fate… themselves! Yes, as if by a dream I see them now. Some dark power had slipped in through the void, whispering through the cosmos to poison the stars' fortunes and, uh, mislead you on their true... wisdom. Yes! They misled you and the heaven's true wisdom or whatever!" Marc told her, desperately trying to carry the same utter conviction in the face of all reason that he'd seen both Owain and Ophelia carry whenever they got to rambling on. "That's why we must proceed with care, for we cannot trust to know what fortune truly awaits as long as this malevolent voice–"

"So, um, what are you guys doing up there?"

Marc yelped in surprise, tripping to one side as he recoiled back. He flailed his arms, trying and failing to grab something, anything, as he, Ophelia, and Kana toppled out of the tree, crashing to the ground in a tangled heap.

"Ow," Marc groaned. He spat up a mouthful of dirt mixed with spit, blinking through the cloud of dust kicked up by their fall. He tried to move, only to find himself stuck beneath the weight of both Kana and Ophelia, the two having landed on top of him. The two girls groaned as they slowly began to come to their senses as well. Rubbing his face, Marc managed to open his eyes without pain, looking up and-

His blood froze in his veins. Oh come on, this isn't even fair!

"Oh, hi, Uncle Marc. What's up?" Soleil asked, sticking out her hand for him to shake, not even seeming to notice his predicament. "I figured you got the whole 'I'm your sister's daughter from another dimension' memo thing by now."

Marc let out a loud, drawn out groan as he let himself sink back to the ground, banging his forehead head several times against the dirt for good measure.

"So, are you three okay, or should we go get one of the healers?" Inigo asked, voicing something that sounded between concern and confusion.

"No! I mean, no, we're fine, really," Marc said, scrambling to his feet as he, Ophelia, and Kana hastily untangled themselves. He quickly took Soleil's hand, shaking it frantically as he laughed nervously.

"Yeah, no cuts or bruises or anything. See!" Kana held out her hands and arms, producing them as evidence for her claims.

"Yes, for we maidens of the pure heart have been protected from being sullied by our protector, saving us from the danger that nearly struck our behinds," Ophelia cut in.

"Wait, what?" Marc asked, face going red as the implication of her words sunk in, only then realizing what the predicament they'd been in must have appeared looking in.

"Right… What exactly were you three doing in that tree?" Inigo asked, looking between them and up to the branch they'd fallen from.

Marc let go of Soleil's hand, spinning to face Inigo. "Well you, see– We were just– We were–"

"Fishing!" Kana exclaimed, produced the tangled net as proof.

Marc covered his face with his hand.

"In a tree…" Inigo noted, exchanging a dubious glance towards Soleil.

"Yes," Marc replied, letting his hand drop down to his side as he spoke in as flat and neutral a tone as he could. He tried his best to keep his expression equally as devoid of emotion.

"To find the mythical creature of which Anna had spoken of!" Ophelia declared with the utmost confidence. "Anna wove a tale of creatures of the night with their sharp fangs that would plunge into the necks of pure maidens and drain their blood until naught is left but shriveled husks! As these vile spirits haunt the unwary in isolated places, we took it upon ourselves to protect the camp as long as we remain here in the wilderness!"

"And you were attempting to find this creature… and catch it… with a net," Inigo said.

"Yes. Yes, we were," Marc confirmed blankly, deciding that to roll with Ophelia's suggestion was the least terrible option presented. At least, so long as he had no better idea. "We were trying to catch… a monster… that sucks blood… with a net."

"I don't know what I expected, but somehow I shouldn't be surprised," Inigo said, sighing as he shook his head. "Try not to get too roped into Ophelia's schemes, Marc. Then again, given how often I got dragged into Owain, Cynthia, and… your sister's…" He shook his head.

"Well, I'd say it checks out, I guess. Neat," Soleil chimed in. "Good luck with your monster fishing. Father and I have a bunch of catching up to do, otherwise I'd totally stick around to chat," she said, gripping Inigo's arm and dragging him along.

"Oh," Marc blinked. That worked? They actually bought that?! "Oh, haha, I guess I'll leave you to it then. Haha. Oh, did the meeting with Xander go well?"

"Not exactly, but… better to let your parents fill you in," Inigo told him, speaking up as he was dragged further and further away by his daughter.

It was at this point that Soleil looked back, something seeming to occur to her. "Oh, before I forget, have you and Nah say hi to Shari for me, I dunno, sometime in the next five to six years. Oh, and Drake, and Edjer a couple years after that. Thanks!" Soleil said, waving as she and her father departed.

Marc stood there, mouth working as no sound came forth. Wait, what is that– Do I have kids?!

He slumped against the tree's trunk, breathing a deep sigh of relief. "Okay, I think we're in the clear. Now we just need to- Gah!" Marc let out a yelp as Ophelia and Kana suddenly seized him, dragging him into a nearby bush.

"I have seen my father. He is coming this way again. Kana, with haste of fates' wings itself, ready the ethereal binding."

"No!" Marc said, grabbing at the net as he struggled to break free form both girls grip.

For several moments, they struggled, all thoughts of stealth having vanished. It was only too late that Marc heard the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps and a sudden rush of rustling leaves as the bush was pushed aside.

"Ophelia Dusk, there you are!" Everyone froze, slowly turning to see Owain standing over them.

"Oh, hi, Father. Fancy meeting you here," Ophelia said, releasing her grip on the net and rolling to one side. Marc let go too, scrambling to his feet. Kana followed suit a moment later.

"It fell to me to inform you, regretfully, that your mother has commanded that I instruct you to return to your tent. And, also, to remind you that you shouldn't be traipsing about this late at night, even if the unyielding darkness of endless night sky beckons," Owain accounced, standing over him.

"But-" Ophelia started to argue,

"HYAH!" Kana exclaimed, tossing the net with all her might.

It flopped onto Owain's outstretched hand and shoulder. Everyone stopped dead in their tracks, Owain included, and watched as the net slowly slipped down his arm before falling in a heap at their feet.

"Er, anyways, your mother's orders, young lady. Please? To be entirely honest, I don't want to argue with her on this one," Owain continued, rebounding from the interruption with surprising grace. At the very least, it had thrown his thought process for enough of a loop to talk like a normal person.

"But Father, this matter is of the utmost seriousness. We were trying to-" Ophelia tried to argue again, only for her father to grab her arm and pull her in close, whispering something to her.

Marc managed to only make out a few of Owain's words, but they were enough to catch the meaning: that Severa was still in a foul mood following her encounter with Morgan earlier.

Ophelia's shoulder slumped, a glimpse of fear, almost certainly in regards to the threat of her mother's wrath, flashing in her eyes. "I'll go, I'll go," she assured her quickly, flashing an apologetic look towards Marc and Kana. "We'll talk tomorrow. Bye." With that, she quickly, if disappointedly, slinked off.

"Well, disaster averted, I'd say," Owain said, wiping her brow on the back of his hand. "I apologize for my crude interruptions, but it was necessary, I am afraid," he assured them. Bowing slightly, and smiling apologetically, before turning to leave.

"Owain, wait," Marc said, stopping him before he could go. "It's actually me who should say sorry for all this. We were actually trying to get your attention without anyone noticing and this got… out of hand. We didn't even realize…" Marc said, wincing as he eyed the damned net. "Truth is, we were wondering if you could help us."

"With Morgan, right?" Owain asked, nodding. "Ha! I suspected it was so as soon as I saw who my daughter had taken up with this evening on some secret mission of such evident critical nature." Then he sighed, dropping his grandiose tone. "I tried before to keep Severa from letting her temper master her, but… today those efforts failed."

"But that's why we wanted to, erm, recruit you to our little conspiracy," Marc said. Wow, sounds really sinister when you call it that. Maybe I'll not use that next time. "It's just, I don't know what's getting to Morgan so much, but I don't think this is just about her being angry at Inigo anymore. I think if we can get her to forgive him, get them to make up… things could go back to how they were before. You know, indirectly since I don't think either of them would take kindly to thinking we were forcing them to."

"Please. She's been really sad, and I don't want her to be. Morgan is so nice and fun to be around. Plus she needs our help too!" Kana added, looking up at Owain with big puppy dog eyes unlike which Marc had never seen.

Okay, that's both impressive and honestly a bit scary how good she is at that, Marc noted. He couldn't help but wonder at the back of his mind the possibilities of weaponizing this power somehow.

"Of course, Owain Dark will alway render his aid to those in need of it. With unyielding fervor I will take upon this mission, as to see that both of these two shall refurbish their severed bonds," Owain proclaimed, pointing a thumb to his chest proudly even as he posed, covering his face with a hand. Marc winced at the loudness of his speech, fearing how easily it would have been overheard. "At least, I owe it to you to try. This is your idea, after all."

Then Owain paused, a thought seeming to have occurred to him then. He leaned in cupping a hand up to the side of his mouth and, speaking softly, added "You know, just… tomorrow, perhaps? I don't want to upset Severa while she's in one of her moods by not hurting back. Also I'd imagine your father wouldn't want you running around camp this late at night, Kana."

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that. I better go before he worries!" Kana said. "Thank you for agreeing to help Morgan. It means so much."

Once she had departed, Marc slumped wearily. He sighed yet again. "Owain?"


"Remind me never to let your daughter come up with a plan ever again," Marc told him. "And to think I expected it not to turn out like this. This was just like when you guys dragged me into Justice Cabal business."

. . . . .

"I can't believe she attacked you like that!" Hinoka fumed, her brow furrowing angrily. "Even from one of Princess Camilla's retainers, I expected better!"

"It's fine. It doesn't really hurt much anyways," Morgan tried to tell her, wincing as Sakura leaned in, gently prodding her still swollen lip and cheek.

"J-Just give me a... erm… a moment. I can… can heal it easily if you don't… mind, do you?" Sakura stuttered.

Morgan started to argue, but caught herself before she could say anything. Instead she nodded, letting the Hoshido Princess proceed.

She really didn't want to hurt anyone else's feelings right now.

It was early in the morning, Morgan having been awoken by a summons from Hinoka to the edge of the camp where she and her retrainers had remained away from the other Nohrians. Hinoka had wanted to ask her advice on some matter. Of course, she'd yet to find out what that matter was, as after one look at Morgan's swollen and bruised face, Hinoka had insisted she tell her what had happened.

Which was how they'd gotten to her current situation.

"That's no excuse. Why shouldn't I go give her a piece of my mind?" Hinoka demanded, continuing her angry tirade.

"It would cause more trouble than it's worth. Besides, I'm not even sure if I didn't deserve it," Morgan admitted, looking away. She felt a tingling warmth spread through her face, the pain receding moments later. Out of the corner of her eyes she saw Sakura lower her rod, having completed her spell.

"Still…" Hinoka started to argue, unconvinced.

"It's not like she's some stranger. I knew her from before, remember," Morgan continued, shrugging. "Believe it or not, I would have expected far worse," she muttered, motioning to where her bruise had been prior to Sakura's healing. "This was showing restraint from her, even! I'd probably be missing a tooth!"

Really, Morgan? Defending her now? Morgan asked herself. Maybe Severa was right when she said this whole Nohr thing was just an excuse to be angry. You're already trying to backtrack and make exceptions the minute it's no longer convenient.

Shut up, me! You're not helping! Morgan countered to herself. That's not… that's different!

Hinoka sighed angrily, the sound more of a huff of pent up breath than anything else. "I still can't believe you were friends with them, or that you were even with one of them before."

"Hinoka, maybe that's a bit… too far. It's not our business to…" Sakura said softly, fidgeting with her fingers nervously as she kept her gaze fully on the ground.

"Even so, I still have a point, don't I?" Hinoka argued, eyes falling hard on Morgan now. "You clearly didn't know them that well if they were capable of doing the horrible things they were a part of. Why else would you have been friends with them?"

"No," Morgan snapped, sitting up straight suddenly. "I mean, I don't– I don't– I don't really know, okay?" She admitted. She ran her hands through her hair, tugging at it as she let a strangled, frustrated sound fall from her throat. "I did know them! At least before. That's why it doesn't make any sense, after what they went through in their own timeline."

Why am I defending them?

Morgan scowled, shaking her head. "That's why it bothers me, okay. A lot. Because I did know them, and even after all this, I still care when I shouldn't. Why do I care?"

Hinoka opened her mouth, looking as if she was about to say something bluntly, but was stopped by Sakura, who touched her sister's arm, asking her to wait.

"Maybe… um… you could tell us then. You didn't… you only told us a bit before. So… we, maybe, could understand better, if… we knew the, um, rest…" Sakura offered, meeting Morgan's gaze for only a split second before shyly slinking back.

"I…" Morgan frowned. "I guess. It's a long story though…"

"We have time," Hinoka told her. She crossed her arms, taking a seat across from Morgan. "Go on."

Morgan hesitated for a moment, unsure what she could tell them. She breathed deeply, trying to still the storm of confusion and focus on the feelings she had before everything could all fall apart. So, with a deep sigh, Morgan finally began. "The world they came from… it was a future of ruin caused by the Fell Dragon, Grima..." So her tale continued, describing the events that had transpired following Grima's rise. Even so, she didn't give them everything, avoiding certain details that would require only more explanation, such as her father being the vessel for Grima. Yeah, that probably would be best not to bring up. And people said she had no tact.

Hinoka and Sakura stared for a while as they listened to the tale. From their expressions Morgan could tell both were having a difficult time grasping such a story. As if it seemed to be the kind of story from which legends were made. But thankfully they did not dismiss the tale. Perhaps that was a testament to the faith the two already had in her.

"So… they came from a world where they fought to protect the people…" Hinoka finally spoke.

"Yes… but more than anything, they all wanted to help people and make them happy…" Morgan said, a small laughter escaping her lips. "Owain is my mother's cousin, and always wanted to be a hero that others can look up to. Severa has some… let's say issues with her mother for being so perfect, even if she really just admired and wanted to be like her deep down. And Inigo… he always… wanted to be a dancer like his mother… to make people smile…"

Morgan's voice cracked. She realized tears had begun to stream down her cheeks.

She remembered… they were people that loved and cared for others… they wanted to… make them happy… So why did she… blame them…?

For a long while, neither Hinoka nor Sakura said anything, both appearing lost in thought.

Then, without warning, Hinoka leapt to her feet. "That just makes them siding with Nohr all the more confusing!" she shouted. "They fought to protect the people! So why would they fight for a war where they would side with a ruthless tyrant like King Garon in this world? It just makes no sense! And even after the war ended, they're still there. Why? I just don't get it!" Her frustration was even more evident when she started to ruffle her hair aggressively with both hands.

"Hinoka, m-maybe we should-" Sakura tried to suggest, only for Hinoka to still continue.

"I get it, they weren't directly serving King Garon, but they fought for that monster's cause! How could they just choose to fight for a man that would slaughter so many innocent people? He even slaughtered his own people, too! Just why?"

Morgan recalled Severa's harsh words from bebore. 'He only left because he thought about what was right. He only stayed because he thought what he was doing was right.'

"Did he… have a reason…? Is there something he wanted to do, still? Something that was for a greater purpose...?" Morgan questioned, but it wasn't toward Hinoka or Sakura. Yet, it caught their attention no less.

"Do you mean… they had to do something important?" Sakura asked, curious.

"What? What could be so important that someone would be willing to serve a man that would kill so many people like that?" Hinoka asked, not entirely convinced.

Unsure what to say, Morgan tried to pull up any information from her own history, anything that could help her better understand what was happening, trying to make sense of things, before she began to recall one thing that was very much similar to the current situation. "I… it isn't like everything is as black and white as we see it... " Morgan began, breathing deeply once more. "My… my great-grandfather, from my mother's side, is someone that comes from a noble line of heroes and saviors. But… he wasn't exactly regarded in the best way."

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked.

How was she going to explain this one? There was no easy way of saying it, really. It was the most shameful thing for anyone in Morgan's family. Even Owain was ashamed to ever even acknowledge his relation to that person. Yet Morgan had to confess it to make sense of things now…

"Tell me, if we had a chance of saving the world from Grima before he would ever revive, knowing the danger he brings, would we take it?" Morgan asked, the question obviously confusing the Hoshidans, though Hinoka would speak.

"If it means stopping the destruction that you told us about that happened in your future, obviously we-"

"What if to do that, I said you needed to commit genocide?"

The moment Morgan interrupted Hinoka with that question, the Hoshidan Queen was silenced, completely taken aback by the condition.

Morgan let out a dry laugh, looking down at her hands. "That's the thought process my great-grandfather had. He wanted to protect the world from Grima, so he thought the best way to do that was to go launch a crusade on the nation that was ruled by the Grimleal. Kill everyone there, and the world would be saved. Not that everyone in that nation were actually bad people. Many were innocents that only paid lip service…" This was the hardest thing to ever explain. Telling them exactly how brutal that war had been, how it nearly destroyed both nations, and how if the Exalt had not died when he did, it might really have been the end of both nations. Morgan didn't want to look at Hinoka and Sakura, but her curiosity got the better of her, and she regretted it immediately, as both looked horrified, and the latter looking visibly ill at the tale.

An eternity seemed to have passed before someone finally spoke. "But… if he didn't… didn't Grima come back…?" Hinoka, so strong and confident, actually unable to speak fluently now.

"Perhaps. But you know… some actually claim that he was the reason that everything happened. Poetic irony that've been. He went to stop the revival of Grima, only to be the one that caused the chain of events to transpire," Morgan countered, and even she wasn't sure if she could deny the validity, as there were many reasons to consider that this may be the case.

Come to think of it, the war started only a couple years before Father would have been born. Did he know the Grimleal were getting close? Is that why he struck when he did? Morgan wondered to herself.

"I-I…" Sakura finally spoke, seeming to gather every ounce of inner strength to say something. "I don't think I could… um, g-go through that… Even if they were an… an enemy… There's, uh, there were p-probably a lot of people that aren't… weren't like that. Even in Nohr, n-not everyone is… is that bad…"

Hinoka sat down, sighing. "Me neither… I can't justify killing so many people like that. I'd… I'd want to find another way…" she confessed. Despite her personal hatred for Nohrians, even she would never condone genocide, regardless of reason.

"Maybe that's what scared me. I mean, this Exalt was my great-grandfather, a descendant of the Hero-King just like my mother and grandfather, yet look what he did given the justification of saving the world," Morgan trailing off. She hung her head sadly, and whispered, "Now I can't help but wonder if they did what they did because they thought they had to as a way to stop something even worse. I'm scared that I might have done the same thing if I were in their shoes."

What if you already did? What if another you did just that? You have a daughter whose existence makes that really likely, Morgan told herself. That's really what bothers you, isn't, huh? Not only have you done worse, you would have done the exact same thing they did if given a choice.

Shut up! Morgan countered, silencing her own thoughts daring to over critique. That's different, and I'm different, and shut up!

Then why are we upset? the voice reminded her.

I- I don't know, okay? It just… I can't! This is too much and I can't- Morgan covered her face with her hands, trying to shrink away from the world. She didn't understand. She didn't understand why she felt the way she did. Why she was still so upset. And afraid.

What was she so afraid of? She'd already dealt with all this about her past before! She'd dealt with it and moved on. She was over it and done.

A sudden gasp from Sakura broke Morgan out of her thoughts. "I just remembered something... Important, I… Um, it's about Izana. You remember what he said, right? His prophecy?

Hinoka's eyes widened, snapping her fingers at that. "That there's another enemy, right? One we still don't know about." She frowned, considering this. "You think that's why they did what they did? That they knew something before that?"

"Maybe… I… I don't know, but… it would explain a lot… And Izana said… said he couldn't tell us who that enemy was… maybe there was a reason too… Maybe they couldn't either..."

At this suggestion Morgan recalled something else, something Inigo had said that she'd brushed aside as another excuse.

"I'm sorry, I can't explain why right now. I truly, truly do. Ask your parents and they'll say the same thing. I can't. I can't," he'd told her.

Had he been telling the truth? Had the three of them been fighting against some greater foe the entire time without realizing it? Had this been their reason?

"Well maybe once we reach the Ethereal Summit, we'll get answers to that, too. Maybe even find out why this war event happened in the first place," Hinoka said, a relieving optimism seemed to reflect on her and her younger sister's faces as they said that.

"This is g-good, isn't it?" Sakura suddenly asked Morgan. "I-If this ends up being true, th-then that means… means that you won't need to be upset with your friends a-anymore, right? You'll be able to forgive them..."

"Forgive… them…?" Morgan repeated, her fists clenching and her teeth gritting, the anger once more rising. No, not anger. Fear. Sharp, cold, unbridled fear. As if she stood at the edge of a precipice and had been told to jump.

Conflicting emotions seemed to reemerge within Morgan. She wanted to forgive them, she did. She… to forgive Owain and Severa, that she could do. Easy even! But Inigo… that jerk, he…

Something caught there, a tangle of feelings that drowned out all coherent thought. That was something raw and aching, something she didn't understand. It scared her. It hurt.

It was something she didn't want to feel.

And she didn't even know why.

"I… I don't know," Morgan admitted, shaking her head.

She only knew one thing. Severa had been right. She was using their involvement with Nohr as a crutch. Using her anger at that to mask a deeper pain. Even from herself as it turns out.

I don't understand, why do I feel… Am I… wrong? Did I… is it… No. No, no, no. I did nothing wrong! It's because he left, that's what it is! He still broke my heart. Right? I did nothing wrong. See! I did nothing wrong!

Then why am I so afraid? Why can't I just accept that? I'm right! I know I am!

Am I?

"I'm sorry, I… I can't answer that…" Morgan said, shaking her head. "I… maybe I could… you know… talk about something else. Oh, right you needed me for something else, didn't you? That, let's talk about that!"

Hinoka and Sakura exchanged looks, visibly uncertain. But then, to Morgan's relief, nodded.

"Uh, sure. I was mostly just hoping to get your opinion on a few things about what we do going forward, after reaching the Ethereal Summit. Things are still tense back home, and if we are going to consider working together going forward, we will need a way…"

Morgan listened intently, throwing herself into the role of advisor. Anything to keep from thinking about what she felt right now.

Yeah, at this point anything would be better,

. . . . .

Robin yawned deeply, his eyelids drooping as he slumped in his chair in the mess hall.

Gods, I can't even remember the last time I got a full night's rest. What I'd pay for a few more hours of rest… If there are any gods listening, I have a nice juicy soul I'm willing to trade. Oh who am I kidding, they don't want Grima's sloppy seconds. He smiled bitterly at his own dark humor there, stifling a chuckle.

Glancing up at the sound of approaching footsteps, he smiled slightly as Lucina approached, two teacups in hand.

"Here", she said, offering one to him.

"Thanks," Robin nodded, taking a sip. "You know, this might be the best tea I'd ever had from an army's mess. Though I guess using a fancy extra-dimensional keep with a fully stocked kitchen is cheating."

"And you are going to complain about that?" Lucina asked, teasing him slightly as she took the vacant seat next to him.

"Not at all. Jealous, yes, but not complaining," Robin grinned behind his cup as he took another sip.

"May I ask, what is on our agenda for today?" Lucina asked. She blew on her own cup, taking a tentative sip before setting it aside to cool.

"Marching. Followed by more marching. Oh, and if we're lucky, more marching," Robin answered dryly. "Really not much for it now. We've managed to restock despite our little detour, and Xander wants to try to make up time. Not that I can blame him."

"I suspected as much. Still…" Lucina trailed off, frowning. "Have you put any thought in how we should approach our promise to Soleil?"

Robin lowered his teacup, slowly setting it down. "Yeah… well… not quite. I know we promised to talk to Morgan for her today, but... " He sighed, rubbing his chin. "The tricky part is figuring out how to get her to talk without immediately inflaming the situation. And that's the part that's got me at a loss."

Gods, why couldn't this be easier? Robin wondered. Like planning an entire military campaign. I could do that in my sleep… and often do considering the number of dreams I have about the subject… might be a sign I should stop working as late as I do.

"I am ashamed to say that I am likewise at a loss," Lucina admitted, hanging her head slightly. "Perhaps we should-"

"Mornin'," grumbled a familiar voice, the sound of a chair scraping behind them signaling the new arrival.

In unison Robin and Lucina turned, confirming the identity of whoever had taken a seat behind them.

"Good morning, Severa," Robin said.

"Yes. It is," Severa said, her voice tinged with an odd… something that Robin couldn't quite place. Her expression too was unreadable, showing something between a knowing smirk and suppressed annoyance.

"Are you well, Severa? You don't seem like your usual self?" Lucina inquired, having too noticed the strange vibes she was giving off.

"Do I? Yeah, sorry, guess I'm just a bit preoccupied," Severa told them, her expression becoming a bit more neutral. Though the same strange tinge remained in her voice.

This really did nothing to set Robin's concerns at ease. Far from it, instead he was reminded of the angry look Severa had given him the previous evening before storming off without an explanation. This feels like a trap. Why does this feel like a trap?

"Did I do something wrong? Yesterday I noticed you, well, looking quite angry. At me, in particular? If I somehow caused offense, I promise, it wasn't my intent."

"Oh, that? Don't worry 'bout it, it's nothing," Severa told him. "Foul mood, nothing more."

"Right…" Robin said, glancing uncertainly to Lucina. She too looked concerned, but a slight nod seemed to indicate they go along with whatever Severa was doing. Yeah, that would probably be their best option.

"At any rate, we were just trying to figure out what to do about Morgan. Things are getting a bit out of hand, and… well, we're still trying to figure out the rest."

For a split second, Robin thought he saw Severa's eyes widen slightly, but in the blink of an eye her expression had returned to normal. Or at least, mostly. The odd, almost knowing smile seemed to have returned.

"Perhaps you could give us some thoughts on the matter. I fear we are hopelessly lost on how to best approach the… particular circumstances," Lucina added, her expression brightening at the idea she seemed to have only just hit on. "If you could render any advice, it would be greatly appreciated."

"Well, I'm not sure I'd be the best one to give advice on this topic, but…" Severa trailed off, leaning back in her chair as she made a show of rolling her eyes. "You surely have some idea of what to do? I mean, have you tried talking to her about it?"

"Yesterday. Though that was before Soleil showed up," Robin answered, rubbing his temples as he recalled that conversation.

"How'd that go?" Severa asked, raising up her own cup of tea and taking a long drink from it.

"Well at first, fine, then poorly. I started pushing Morgan too much, I think, and she stormed off in anger. Not that I can truly blame her, the matter seems quite delicate and-" Before Robin could finish, Severa interjected suddenly, speaking a bit louder than before.

"You didn't stop her? You're her parents. You can do that," she stated bluntly.

"Yes, well, er-" Robin frowned, taken aback by this question. Where had that come from? "I just thought… Given the situation…"

"What Robin means to say is that angering Morgan towards us as well will aid us little in the longer term," Lucina finished for him. "Given the extent to which the matter remains sore for her, it's best we take things slow. Only force the subject as much as she is willing…"

"Exactly," Robin told her. "Plus we still aren't sure why Morgan is upset, at least to the extent she is. We have theories but… figuring that out really needs to be her first step."

"So ask her then. And if she refused, demand she tell you. That should be easy," Severa told them, again her words harsh and to the point.

"What? No, weren't you listening to what I just- Right now another confrontation is the last thing we need," Robin countered, feeling a flash of annoyance as it seemed his entire argument has just been overlooked. Least she could do is try to pay attention.

"Yes. Better to coax the answers out of her. Perhaps if we can get her talking of her own volition, she will open up if given the time," Lucina said.

"Besides, if Morgan wants us to give her some space, I'm not all that inclined to act against those wishes," Robin agreed, nodding. "If she doesn't want to talk, it may be better to wait until she does. Give her the time she needs to figure these things out before-"

"That's it, I've had enough!" Without warning, Severa leaped up from her chair, stomping across the distance between them and jabbing a finger into Robin's face. "You know, this is exactly why Morgan's acting the way she is! But you don't get it! So you want to know why? You really want to know? It's because somebody is too afraid of being their child's friend and not acting like an actual parent!"

"Whu?" That was just about all Robin could manage as he was left completely reeling from Severa's outburst. His ears rang from the volume of her screaming alone, not even to mention the fact he was pretty sure he'd literally felt his brain rattling.

Before he could say anything; anything at all, Severa spun away, now sticking her finger up towards Lucina's nose. "And don't think you're innocent either! Yeah, we get it, your future was so bad. I was there, too! But spoiling Morgan silly isn't the way to make her happier! It just encourages her to act like this!"

"Y-Your pardon?" Lucina asked, her voice wavering slightly as she seemed to still be trying to keep pace. "What does any of this-"

"For the past couple weeks I've watched as you two sat on your behinds while Morgan ran amuck while you two sat around wondering what you should do!" Severa snapped, taking a step back to wave at them both. "Well, I know what you should do! Actually go talk with Morgan and get to the bottom of what her issues are. Even if she refuses, you make her deal with it! You're her parents, so act like them!"

Is that why she looked so angry with me yesterday? Because we didn't go talk to Morgan after she stormed off? For a moment, a nagging doubt ate at the back of Robin's mind, wondering if he'd made the right choice then, not acting when he could have.

The entire mess hall had fallen abruptly silent, all eyes on them now as a result of Severa's outburst. For a moment it seemed no one really knew how to react. Then, quickly, a chorus of muttered excuses rose up as most there quickly grabbed their things and made for the nearest exit.

Yeah, that seemed about right. Evidently everyone here knew well enough to get far out of the way when Severa… well…

Was being Severa.

"Look, we're… It's a delicate situation, one we don't want to make worse," Robin told her, at last finding some voice. "I'll admit, you have some… points about our parenting methods that we could improve on. But this is different, we need to take this slow right now given the volatile state Morgan is in."

"And that worked out so well so far, hmmm?" Severa asked, a little bit of smug superiority. "Guess what, while you two did nothing after Morgan got away with treating your granddaughter like garbage, I took action! And while smacking Morgan a couple more times sounds like fun and all, it really isn't my job to deal with her!"

"You did what?" Lucina demanded, anger flooding over her expression.

"Yeah, and I was a hell of a lot more gentle than she was to Inigo. Besides, she was asking for it! Plus that kind of harsh bit of reality is what she needs right now," Severa countered, crossing her arms.

"Why? She's not your daughter! You have no place to act!" Lucina shot back, leaping to her feet. Robin gripped her arm, pulling her back down, even as he too fought against his own rising anger.

Severa certainly had no right to act on whatever misgiving she had towards Morgan.

"Do you really believe you know better? Morgan's our daughter. How could you possibly know, when you-" Robin demanded, only to catch what he'd been about to say in his anger and cut himself short at the last minute.

"Abandoned Ophelia in the Deeprealms? If you're going to say it, at least spit it out," Severa finished for him.

Robin paled, his mouth working wordlessly for a moment before he regained his footing. "I'm sorry, that was uncalled for. But that said, you still haven't answered my question, which still stands. How do you know what Morgan needs right now?"

"I know because she's me, you morons! The old me- How I used to- You know what I mean! A spoiled brat! There!" Severa admitted with a huff. "Yeah, I get it. Why take some advice from me who's barely raised her kid either. But trust me when I say you're making the same mistakes my parents made with me."

Robin stopped in his tracks, more than a bit caught off guard by the forthrightness of her admissions. "What do you mean?"

"Gods, where do I even start? Well, given how my mother's always miss perfect, she'd never get angry with me even when I deserved it. Instead she'd just shower me with affection, like someone here is doing." She punctuated the point by glaring at Lucina. "Meanwhile my father was a big pushover who just rolled over and gave in to my every demand without a fight! In my world and even after coming to the past, just like you've done since Morgan showed up!" She spun back to face Robin jabbing a finger towards him once again.

Robin said nothing, taking it what she said. She… she wasn't wrong. At the very least, it sounded very much in line with how he'd seen Cordelia and Stahl interact with Severa in the past.

"But even still, at least the two of them finally got a clue and got their act together!" Severa continued, raising her voice now. "Not only did they finally force me to deal with my rotten attitude, but they are sure as hell not going to let the younger me turn out to be the spoiled brat I was. So where's your excuse?"

Robin again said nothing, Severa's words cutting straight to the bone. They stung, because deep down he knew in his heart of hearts that they were true.

Lucina too remained quiet. She hung her head, appearing as shamed as Robin felt.

It took several more moments for Robin to fully process what Severa had said. And with each moment it sunk in more and more how right her criticisms had been. Gods, Severa is right. We've been rotten parents to Morgan. No, not rotten. Worse. Useless. Unable to act as parents when it really counted.

"I…" Robin trailed off. He slumped in his seat, pressing his fingers against his temples. "We've really been screwing this up, haven't we?" he admitted.

"Yeah. You have," Severa told him bluntly. She turned away, stomping back over to her seat and plopping herself back down with a huff. "Just don't make me have to tell you again."

"I must apologize, Severa," Lucina said, placing a hand on Robin's arm as she did so. "I spoke ill of you before. It seems that it is us who have not been the parents we should be."

"Ya-huh." Severa inclined her head in agreement.

"I guess we've really just been afraid that we'd mess this whole parenting thing up," Robin gave a bitter laugh, shaking his head. "Yet that's what we ended up doing regardless, huh?

"Yeah, well," Severa sighed wearily. "Listen, I just told you as it is before. I'm not good at this whole advice thing, but…" Severa trailed off, scowling. "I know how scary being a parent can be. Gods, I still wonder everyday how I'll eventually mess everything up!"

Severa grimaced, and with what seemed to be a great effort, forced herself to add, "But gods know not doing anything is even worse. Sooner or later you have to just do it and accept you might screw up. Besides, you two aren't that dumb. If you don't chicken out, you'll probably handle things way better than I ever could. Just, don't take that from me." She crossed her arms, looking away as her face turned red. Evidently giving genuine praise was still quite the struggle for her.

Robin nodded. "Thanks, I appreciate it." He squeezed Lucina's hand tighter. "You're right, we can do better. We will do better," he assured Lucina, as well as Severa, who he was sure was still listening.

It comes down to that, doesn't it? Taking that step even knowing we might fail. We've been so afraid of failing as parents, we've all but ensured that result through our inaction.

In the end, we just need to take that leap.

Author's Note - Sorry for the slight delay on this one, things have been very busy with the holidays and all. Hopefully this chapter was worth the wait, being more of a fallout of the past couple prior ones. I was on the fense on if I should even have this chapter, considering last chapter also was dealing with fallout of Soleil showing up, but I figured it would be nice to use it to also give some more characters screen time and let them shine for a bit (besides the final scene, which was more of an interaction I felt was a long time coming). That said, I hope it didn't drag on too much in places. It was a whole lot of talking after all.

Now onto guest review responses.

B.I. Beast - In regards to Morgan, yes, that is definitely the way I have been going on the matter, as seen in this most recent chapter. As for the whole break down of time and the barriers between worlds… let me just say I actually had this idea when I was first outlining this story before Heirs of Fate came out (I really don't like Heirs of Fate, I think it messed up and squandered most of its potential in exploring similar ideas to what I intend to explore in this story) but it is similar that said.

Xander acting as a better older brother too was something a long time coming. I am very glad to hear that got across well.

I have an theory regarding Azura, beyond "Fates writing was bad because they needed to save the plot for Revelations", but I can't say due to spoilers. Corrin did talk to them, but really a short discussion doesn't outweigh the guilt of what happened.

Also, oops on Azama using the wrong weapon type. In my defense, it's been two years since I last played Fates. I guess I was thinking about War Clerics and thought "Clubs are the same thing as Axes". Will fix that shortly.

Dracofighter - Marc should be able to help… unless Justice Cabal 2.0 doesn't ruin his plans. Maybe asking them for help was a bad idea here.

OfPineapple - I was rather confused by your first post, but I guess if you hadn't played Fates or if you simply never recruited Soleil then it would be completely understandable. In short, Soleil is canonically bisexual in Fates, with her introduced as (successfully) asking out a village girl in her recruitment chapter. So this is in sticking to the source material.

Guest - While I appreciate trying to clear things up, please in the future don't leave reviews responding to other reviews? That seems like something that could get out of hand very quickly considering how the site is not at all equipped for that. That's all as ask.

Anyhow, that's all for now. Let me know what you guys thought. As always, please leave all your comments and criticism you have, as it's the only way I am going to improve as a writer. Besides, it always makes my day to hear your thoughts. Until the next one, have a wonderful day everyone!

Robin's Writings: Types of Magic

When it comes to magic, there are three traditional schools, which will be the topic of discussion following our previous overview on magic as a whole.

The most common school of magic, Anima, is the one most are familiar with, constituting the elemental magic employed by the typical spellcasters you may come across in any of the worlds traversable through the Outrealms. While the three primary elements, Fire, Thunder, and Wind are by far the most prevalent, at least when it comes to those spells aimed for combat, Anima Magic is far more diverse. It is not uncommon to see spells harnessing frost, water, stone, or even constructs formed of concentrated magical energy itself. And that's not even scratching the surface of the wide and varied spells that utilize far more subtle and nuanced thought than simply flinging a big ball of fire at someone.

What connects these disparate applications is the core of Anima Magic's identity: that at its very most basic, it is the art of harnessing magical energies and converting them into other forms. Form a gust of wind? Well, that is simply converting the magic energies into kinetic energy to propel the air before you. Need to freeze a foe solid? You use the magic to forcibly pull the heat out of a concentrated area. Create a signal flare visible even in the day? You convert those energies into light. Anima Magic is magic in its purest form, the art of shaping reality through the manipulation of the latent magical energies that surround us.

Light Magic, not to be confused with Anima Magic that just so happens to manipulate light, is something else entirely. Is it the magic of the divine, fueled less by concentration and focus and more by the faith and belief of the wielder. Unlike the other forms of magic, it does not rely on harnessing magical energies, but instead channeling them from an outside source. Some claim that it is bestowed by the gods to the faithful, while others claim it is the power of creation itself that dwells beyond the walls of this universe or any others. If any know the truth, then perhaps it would be the Divine Dragons, who tap into this power as easily as you or I could take a breath of air. It is part of them, they are made of the stuff. But few of their kind still dwell in this world, and those that do have never passed on the knowledge pertaining to the true nature of Light Magic onto that of us mortals, if even they truly understand it themselves.

Unlike Anima Magic, Light Magic is capable of manipulating the life force within all living things. The healing spells utilized by clerics and priests fall into this category, the divine magic channeled from their staves fortifying and replenishing the depleted life force within a person. It is an excess of these energies that a rapid healing effect can be observed, with wounds knitting closed before your eyes. In addition, Light Magic is often employed to shape reality itself, landing some credence to the theory that it is derived from the power of creation, at a far greater degree than Anima Magic is capable. While indeed Anima Magic can be used to duplicate the effects such as teleportation or viewing distant locations, it does so in a crude fashion. More through brute force, throwing magical energies at the problem until reality bends to your liking. With divine magic however, reality can be made to gently flow as the user sees fit, connecting great distances with but a thought. Some long theorized that with enough divine power, even time itself can be traversed. Though that isn't much of a theory at this point. I perhaps know better than most that such a thing is very, very real.

Finally, we come to Dark Magic. Of the three schools of magic, it is by far the least understood, even compared to Light Magic. Those who subscribe to the idea that Light Magic is creation theorize that Dark Magic is the opposing force: being the power of decay, entropy, and destruction itself. This certainly fits the description of the applications of Dark Magic, but none have ever proved this theory. At least, if any have, they did not survive the experience.

It is difficult to summarize the uses of Dark Magic, in part due to how poorly understood but also due to the sheer variety of effects it has been seen employed. At its most pure, Dark Magic is a destructive force, outright attacking the lifeforce of a target or even stealing it and transferring it to the caster. More devious applications of Dark Magic include hexes and curses, which act on a specific trigger to harm a target in some way or alter them directly in some cases. Brainwashing, illusions, mind reading, and even glimpsing into the future all fall into the domain of Dark Magic. Finally, there is the art of necromancy, the most taboo of all the arts of Dark Magic. Perhaps it is fitting then that the only way that Dark Magic can create is in the mockery of the domain of Light Magic, imbuing the dead with only a semblance of life.

This of course is only glossing over the subject of each school of magic. However, before we delve any deeper into the finer points, let us first briefly discuss the use of magical foci within each of the major schools. In terms of Anima Magic, tomes are by far the most common foci, their pages describing the mental incantations the user recites to focus the caster's mind on the desired effect as well a pattern used to guide the weaving of the magic into its desired shape. However, this is not the only form magical foci can take. In my brief travel in the lands of Hoshido, I learned that the people there use scrolls inscribed with pictations of animals to serve as the shape taken by the elemental forces summoned by their casters. Instead of focusing through incantation, these spells necessitate the caster visualize the creature in its entirety, forming it as a complete creation in their mind and willing the magic into that shape. Perhaps there are entirely other methods employed by culture yet encountered throughout the Outrealms. For when it comes to magic, the only limitations are in your own creativity and imagination.

While Light Magic likewise can employ tomes, it more often uses a staff or a rod to focus the power. This works in line with the nature of Light Magic, with the user visualizing the flow of the external force in through themselves and out through the foci, often aided by prayers to further focus the otherworldly power they have tapped into. Dark Magic, on the other hand, most commonly uses tomes for its more straightforward spells, but also employs a variety of hexing tools for, well, placing hexes. In many ways, Dark Magic uses a more ritualistic method of casting than other types, purely due to how difficult it is to control compared with the others. More focus and more precision is needed, which complex rituals of repetition and multiple foci are utilized to keep this control. After all, even a single slip up can prove disastrous when you wield such destructive forces as Dark Magic.

Next, I suppose we can discuss the differences between the common elemental forms Anima magic can take, starting at the three most common of Fire, Lighting, and Wind before building off of those to explore rarer forms such as…

Excerpt ends here.