Chapter 37 - Astral Mysteries
"You may call me… Moro."
The words echoed through Corrin's mind, reverberating with immense weight and power. He winced, fighting the urge to clutch his head and double over from it's intensity. All around he saw the others react just as he did, grimaces twisting lips while others pressed against foreheads with eyes shut tight.
"Are you the one that Izana spoke of in the prophecy?" Leo asked, having adjusted himself and managed to rise back up, with the others following suit. Even Corrin started to feel the pressure start to recede after a moment.
"Correct…" Moro replied.
"Wait, I remember. I've heard your name before. Lilith spoke your name once. When she created the astral keep. She called upon your name," Corrin realized, taking a step towards the dragon.
"She was… a pupil of mine… after we took her into our care… Even though she be the Silent Dragon's offspring... "
"Wait, you mean she was…" Corrin asked, trying to process this information. Lilith had been Anankos' daughter? Then she'd known all of this as well, just like Azura. "I wish I'd known. I'd wished they'd told me."
Though perhaps she would be happier this way. Not having to face her own father.
"Wait, you mentioned the Silent Dragon, that must mean you know about him," Robin said stepping forward. "Then it has to be of importance, right? You know what's going on? About Anankos-"
"Robin, no!" Lucina shouted the moment the word escaped Robin's lips, lowering his guard, only for his face to twist into horror upon realizing what he spoke.
Yet… nothing happened.
Robin ran his hands across his torso, expecting to fade away, only to remain whole.
"Fear not… the curse shall not touch you so long as you are within this realm," Moro explained, as many stars that surrounded the entire spectrum shimmered brightly.
A breath of relief washed over Corrin, as well as everyone aware of the curse.
"Okay… guess my lucky star hasn't burned out yet it seems…" Robin mumbled, but suddenly hissed in pain when Lucina smacked him across his arm.
"Don't do that again!" Lucina said, clearly angry, but the fear and concern in her eyes were evident. "Be thankful I didn't strike your face as you deserved after such a stunt."
"Right… sorry," Robin apologized. He frowned, muttering something under his breath.
Corrin couldn't be sure, but he thought he heard him say something on "Well I guess that theory will be put to the test another day."
However, Corrin didn't have time to wonder at the meaning of these words, as Moro continued speaking. "Though the curse can transcend to other worlds... it cannot reach the depths of the Astral Sea… as the First Dragons, it is fortunate that we are many…"
At those words Corrin suddenly perceived movement in the far reaches of the sea of stars. Clusters of light that moves against the flowing tides. Not every light was star. They were other dragons. Others just like Moro, drifting through the cosmic ocean that stretched out into infinity.
There are so many… Hundreds of them… So these are the first dragons. The spirits of those who left their physical forms behind in ages past.
The stars that swirled within the void of the dragon's eyes shirted, the overwhelming power of his gaze lifting from Corrin as it moved to the Ylisseans. "As powerful as your Divine Dragon is… she alone could not so easily ward against the curse's effects on others in her domain… not without a struggle that could have shattered your world…"
"So that's what Tiki meant. She said something like that when I spoke to her at the Mila Tree, back when all this had begun. I already realized that she'd been referring to the curse, but this certainly explains a lot..." Robin said. "To think, Anankos could rival Naga's power…"
"Perhaps…" Moro replied. "Before his madness claimed him… when he remained whole… yet now all that exists is but a shadow of what once was. Yet even then… his might should not be taken lightly."
"Wait, can we slow down for a moment. What's going on, Corrin? What's this 'curse' you've mentioned. And who is Anankos? I recall that's the name of the dragon that Father worshiped, but…" Xander frowned, before looking back to Moro. "I beg no disrespect, but I feel this is something I must ask my brother."
"Very well… It is indeed not my place to say… but his…" Moro told him, his gaze coming to fall on Corrin.
Nodding, Xander turned back to Corrin, looking expectantly towards him.
"I... well…" Corrin started, his thoughts all a jumble. Of course, finally able to talk without keeping secrets and he didn't know what to say or how to say it. He'd gotten so used to everyone not knowing… he didn't know where to begin.
Corrin then felt a hand press against his shoulder. He turned, seeing Inigo, who gave him a pat on the shoulder as he stepped forward. "It's certainly a long story, but one I feel we can tell best, having known it for the longest," Inigo told Xander, sighing. "I'm afraid our place of origin weren't the only secrets we've been keeping, milord. Though, as I hope you will soon understand, most, if not all, were not by choice."
Corrin couldn't help but notice the way the dancer's gaze flicked over to Morgan as he spoke that final bit, if only for a moment after which he hastily looked away. Almost as if afraid of her seeing the gesture. Or fearing the reaction.
"Yeah, I'd like the really stress that last bit. Also, thanks for putting us on the spot without asking first. Real appreciated," Severa grumbled, stepping forward as well.
"I'm with Inigo on this one. Keeping secrets from the others like this was really starting to get hard," Owain said, his words causing everyone to stare strongly at him, even taking a small step back. Owain looked at them all with confusion. "Um… guys, really? Come on, can you all stop freaking out when I talk like this? It's important!"
"It certainly must be. I think this is one of the very, very, very few times I heard you speaking normally," Leo said, still reeling from what he was hearing.
Inigo chuckled at the reaction before clearing his throat, and looking at his two companions. "I certainly appreciate you two not leaving me out to dry. I truly mean that," Inigo said with a slight, nervous smile.
"Yeah, well– let's just get this over with before I change my mind," Severa grumbled with an audible huff.
And so the three gave their full account of the events starting from being summoned by the good half of Anankos to aid this world, to the battle they had fought in Valla, to becoming retainers in Nohr to keep an eye on Corrin himself. And finally they explained the true nature of Anankos and of the curse.
Though it all, Corrin couldn't help himself but notice how Morgan's expression changed throughout the story. At times he saw what looked like guilt, particularly when Inigo explained the reason they had accepted Anankos' plea for aid. She'd looked away then, hardening her expression as if trying not to let that guilt take a foothold. To wall herself off.
Corrin also noticed that Robin was watching Morgan too. Good, hopefully that was a sign he planned to talk to her after this. Best if he ceased putting it off any longer.
In the end, the three managed to complete their account smoothly and without issue, taking turns to speak without any confusion and filling in any gaps left by the others. However, perhaps that was to be expected, given this was the second time they'd told this exact story.
Then it was Robin and Lucina's turn to speak, chiming in to help explain the events that had transpired since their arrival; from Robin deducing the curse's existence and how to subvert it, to their journey to Valla through the Bottomless Canyon, to finally their plans moving forward that led to this moment.
So it was that it finally fell to Corrin to speak. He cleared his throat, hesitantly speaking of his own experiences. He gave his account of his first trip to Valla, how there Azura had shown him an image of Garon's corrupted form, and of how it had led to his ultimately disastrous plan to use the Throne of Truth to reveal Garon's corruption.
He dared not look at either Hinoka nor Sakura as he spoke. He didn't want to see their expressions. He could only imagine the pain his story at inflicted. To know what their brothers had died for. To know just the source of the tragedy he had let befall them.
"It seems Azura kept far more secrets that we realized," Camilla said, speaking first once Corrin had finished.
"She did… she bore the weight of the curse alone for so long. I think she was just trying to protect us," Corrin said, his throat tightening. He squeezed his eyes shut, reaching under his collar to where her pendant hung around his neck. "To protect me," he whispered.
"The Vallite Princess struggled for years against the fate that had fallen upon her… she knew the end that would come… and faced it for good or ill…" Moro told them, his deep rumbling voice washing over them once more.. "Your task is to take up that burden… as fate ordains…"
"It's hard to believe that I've never heard of Valla before now. I'd scarcely believe it if not for the circumstances," Leo said, frowning.
"While not common knowledge to the masses of mankind… its existence was known to the rulers of both Nohr and Hoshido… as well as many among their nobility… and to the chiefs of the tribes of Ice, Wind, and Fire…" Moro answered once more.
"You're saying that my father, and King Sumeragi, knew about Valla's existence? Then why is this the first I've heard of it?" Xander asked.
"After the silent dragon wove his curse over the land… those who knew swiftly became aware of the danger… and sealed away or destroyed any record of Valla's existence for the safety of others…" Moro told him. "It no surprise then you did not know… not when the puppet king purged what few remnants of knowledge of Valla from Nohr after he fell to Anankos' sway…"
"Regardless, at least now we knew who we're fighting. To think all this time, someone's been manipulating everything from the start…" Hinoka trailed off, scowling. "He needs to pay."
"That we can agree," Xander said. "That said, getting the rest of Nohr and Hoshido will still prove challenging, The nobles in Nohr still hold much sway, and from what I understand it is no different in Hoshido," Xander said. He turned to Hinoka for confirmation, who nodded.
"Shame no records are left. We could probably use those to convince people as long as we were really careful to tell them not to talk about it first," Elise chimed in.
"Don't be so sure. Those records may still exist somewhere in Hoshido from the sound of it," Hinoka said. Another though seemed to occur to her then as she turned to Robin, adding, "Come to think of it, is that why you've been pushing for us going to Hoshido during all our strategy meeting with Prince Xander?"
"More or less," Robin admitted. He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "That was the plan really the best we had before Izana's prophecy led us here. Which I suppose is why you summoned us here," he said, turning to address his last statement to Moro directly.
"It was… out of necessity…" Moro told him. "Mistake me not… mortal… it is not the place of dragonkind to meddle in the affair of your kind… the threat posed by the Silent Dragon cannot be ignored any longer… not just to this world… but all of reality…"
"Do you mean how he's launched attacks against other worlds, including both their's and her's?" Corrin asked, motiong to Robin and Lucina, then Soleil, in turn.
"In a manner…" Moro answered. "It is not the mere conquest… that is to our distress… but the manner in which the Silent Dragon has torn open… the very anchors that bind realities into form… the barriers that keep them apart… and uphold the very fabric of creation…"
Gasps and looked of alarm followed from nearly all gathered there.
"So that's what this is all about. That's why he attacked our world. Not just because we were a threat, but…" Robin trailed of, visibly at a loss.
"Anankos true strength is his ability to peer across reality… to view histories past… and futures yet to come…" Moro told them. "He has abused this gift… he foresaw his own inevitable madness… and his destruction… he fought to escape this fate… to bend reality and fate itself to his whims." Moro's eyes closed, his voice growing deeper, more severe. "That is the end he now seeks."
"What do you mean?" Xander asked.
"Anankos now seeks the complete destruction of reality… it is his only escape... All of him seek this… from every world… from every possible timeline diverging from this reality… they all pursue that same goal… as one… In his madness he believes this is his only means of escaping his fate… And create the singular perfect world he desires… one that is not ruled by the hand of fate…" Moro answered. "It has taken… all of our might... The might of the First Dragons… to hold this reality together…
Silence fell. As Corrin looked around he saw expressions of shock, fear, and hopelessness overtake everyone gathered there, the true weight of what was at stake crashing down on them all at once.
"How…" Corri whispered, looking up at Moro.
"If there are truly infinite worlds, then what hope do we have? To defeat just one Anankos was already a seemingly insurmountable task… but this…" Leo asked, his normally withdrawn expression overcome by shock. He shook his head in disbelief several times, as he struggled to comprehend the magnitude that was being asked of them
"Anankos' plan necessitates complete victory in every reality… he pitted Nohr and Hoshido against each other… ensuring that a future where he falls cannot come to pass… but should even one reality's Anankos is struck down… he cannot unmake all of creation." Moro's eyes opened once more, their withering gaze now carrying with it an air of menace. Of command. "You must enter Valla and destroy the Silent Dragon. Even if every other timeline of this reality is doomed to oblivion... So long as one remains... creation itself will endure… But should all realities fall… all will unravel..."
"But you certainly cannot possibly be suggesting that we abandon those other worlds, can you?" Inigo asked, seeming even more alarmed now. "There must be a way we can rescue them too."
"Yeah, father is right," Soleil agreed, stepping forward. "My father from my timeline died trying to help one of those worlds. I sure as heck am not gonna sit by a let that go to waste."
"If it is their fate to fall… then it is not our place to intervene…" Moro told them, his voice washing over them like a wave. "It is such intervention… that allows Anankos the opportunity to complete his ultimate goal… the barriers of reality weakened… by the meddling of the Divine Dragon Naga…" A sudden angry light seemed to burn within the void of Moro's eyes, this furious gaze falling upon Lucina. "If not for the circumstances… I would consider you and your world… equally a threat to the stability of reality… for that very reason..."
"Are you blaming us? No, rather, are you blaming Naga for this?" Lucina asked, shocked by Moro's words.
"Correct… it is forbidden for dragons to meddle into the affairs of destiny… no, even those that are true gods… cannot meddle into such matters… no matter our powers, they are not infinite… for we are all bound by the laws of providence…" Moro explained, his words beginning to sound much harsher. "To defy that is to bring upon ruination…"
"But with all due respect, if Naga hadn't intervened as she had, my world- no, countless worlds, would have been lost to Grima's darkness," Lucina said.
"It was the destiny that the Fell Dragon proved victorious... destiny that was denied by the interference of the Divine Dragon Naga," Moro answered, unflinching at this response. There was a flash of anger in Lucina's eyes, one that turned to outrage. Then Moro head dipped closer, coming now mere feet from Lucina's face. For her part, Lucina made no motion, the anger vanishing to be replaced by a hard, stern expression, refusing to give any glimmer of fear.
Xander suddenly stepped between Lucina and Moro, looking into the Astral Dragon's eyes. "So she was to simply accept a cruel world like that? And accept that other worlds are to suffer the same fate?" Xander questioned, the anger behind his voice evident to all present. "Even if destiny deemed it necessary, that does not make it right by any means. To simply accept it is the coward's choice!"
"No matter to justification, it is taboo to alter the flow of time. The oldest sin committed by dragonkind... one soon outlawed by our kind across the the realms… in ages long past. A taboo that was broken by the Divine Dragon on more than one account," Moro continued, slowly sinking his head back like some great serpent, slinking back. "Nature should be allowed to take its course, for good or ill. It is not our place to meddle in the shaping of the world of mortals. Merely it is to maintain balance. A balance that has been disturbed by your Divine Dragon as much as by the Silent Dragon."
"Excuse me? How was Grima not your kinds' problem? He was a dragon too, or did you conveniently leave that out to prove your point," Severa snapped, stepping forward. "We didn't come all this way to get lectured, you know."
"I cannot say I appreciate how you are so rudely judging the actions my precious retainer performed. All she desired was to protect her home and family, and you would call that wrong?" Camilla questioned, and Corrin shuddered, feeling the murderous rage that felt a lot more personal. She only ever acted like this when her family were threatened.
"The Fell Dragon was an abomination… one wrought by the hands of mortals," Moro growned, his eyes narrowing as his head flicked towards Severa. "Do you know of the disastered wrought by abuse of our power? Do you know of the world were a clash between dragons and wielder of divine weapons distorted... the very laws of reality... raveging it's foundations that nature itself was forever changed... in a calamity known as the Ending Winter. Or of the long forgotten humans of ages past in your own world…. whose meddling with the flow of time shattered their once proud city... and left a stain on time itself within the Ruins of Time."
"Though I don't know what you mean about the Ruins of Time, but every action we've done was to protect our world, to save our families. I cannot accept a world where it's okay to let so many lives die. I cannot ever accept that to be the correct path," Owain declared fiercely, his eyes filled with a determined anger.
"Yeah. If some big, evil dragon is going to hurt my world, I would do anything to try and stop it, even if this destiny-schmestiny says otherwise," Elise added in.
"Your feelings on the matter are… irrelevant… It doesn't change the nature of Naga's… transgressions..." Moro growled. The light in the dragon's eyes changed again, growing cold, like the furthest stars in the depths of the sky. "Even now, her bringing them here... only upset that balance ever further…" His gaze flickered over to Morgan and Marc, making it clear who he was referring to.
"And they have been earnestly trying to help us, even helping you, trying to bring back balance to the world," Corrin defended.
"If it were up to my aims... I would have sent you back to your own worlds... immediately upon your arrival here," Moro continued, his great maw opening slightly to bare his teeth. Corrin as well as all of the time travelers and Robin flinched at this, alarm filling their expressions. "It is only the direness of the situation… that stays my hand… And the undeniable truth that the damage wrought by the Divine Dragon's recklessness...cannot be easily undone. To correct this transgression now… would only further disrupt the fragile walls that separate words through the flow of time."
The mountaintop began to tremble as Moro brushed against the cliffs as he moved, circling the summer slowly before turning his eyes upon the time travelers once more.
"No... to avoid further calamity the walls that surround this reality must be closed… so that there are no… interlopers from other worlds…. And so too ensure none here stray where they should not…" Moro rumbled, his voice sending further trembled running through the ground they stood on.
What? But that would mean- Corrin glanced over to Robin, and Lucina, and Owain, Severa, and Inigo, all wearing expressions of alarm clear on their face. "Wait, wouldn't that leave them trapped here?" Corrin demanded, turning to the dragon. He gripped Yato, a small flicker of anger igniting into an inferno. "After everything they've done to help, to fight for this world, they deserve to be able to return to their home when this is all said and done, don't they?"
"Corrin." A hand gripped Corrin's arm, and he saw it was Robin, shaking his head as if warning him not to stick his neck out on his own behalf.
"No, I won't…" Corrin said. "You, all of you, deserve better than this." He then turned back to Moro, raising his voice. "Listen here, dragon! Seal this world off of if you wish, but only after we've stopped Anankos and my friends have returned to their homes." He pointed Yato towards Moro, his eyes narrowing to points. "If you don't… then you'll have to find a way to stop us from finding another way."
"Do you threaten me… hatchling?" Moro growled, his voice booming with enough power to shake the peaks very foundations. Several chunks of the cliff's edge crumbled away, plummeting into the abyssal seal bellow. "Be you of our kind or not… you cannot hope to stand again… me… or our kind…"
"I'm aware, which if why that wasn't a threat," Corrin said, smiling slightly. "I was merely stating a fact, great dragon. If there's anything I've learned from the Ylisseans, it's that nothing is truly set in stone. No fate so final that it can't be undone." Slowly he lowered Yato, returning the blade to it's sheath. "You even said it yourself, their world's fate was to be destroyed. But it wasn't. Because they aren't like me. They did something I never could. They changed that fate. And I'm certain you'd have no better luck stopping them from going home then Grima did destroying their world. And I believe they and all of my other friends so to can stop Anankos. Because I have faith in that too."
For a long moment, Moro said nothing. Then a strange sound almost like the grating of rock reverberated out from the dragon's throat. It took a moment for Corrin to realize he was laughing. "Good… very good... Here me well, hatchling… should you succeed… the ways between this world and one… of their choosing... shall briefly remain open…" The dragon turned to the ylissians, addressing them directly now. "You are fortunate that allowing you to return as you will… to a single world... will cause not too great of a harm at this stage… Be glad I will grant you this much… should you succeed."
"T-Thank you," Robin said, bowing his head quickly as if fearful of offending the dragon and causing him to retract this concession. "It's… very gracious…" As he looked back up, Corrin noticed the anger still visible in Robin's eyes, held back only by the pragmatism the situation necessitated. Angry as he was, it was plain as day to anyone that the last thing they needed now was more enemies, something the tactician knew better than most.
"Indeed. We will abide by this terms," Lucina said, bowing her head. Though she didn't try to hide her clear displeasure as what the dragon had said, she managed to keep her composure. "While I certainly do not agree with what you have told, I yet swear to do my utmost to see Anankos' defeat comes to pass, just has Corrin has done. On this at least, our aims align. That is enough for-"
"Woah, woah, woah. Hold up, hold up! Quick question, what about me?" Soleil demanded, interrupting Lucina mid sentence and pushing her way to the front of the crowd. "I mean, I'd love to spend more time with my father and getting to visit their world would be pretty fun and all, but I was sort of planning to go back home to my world when this was all over," Soleil interjected, speaking up. "Couldn't you make a tinsy, tiny, little exception for me? That would be just really great."
Without warning there was a sudden rush of motion as Moro snapped his head forward, his movement so twisting it sent a blast of wind rolling over them. In an instant the Astral Dragon stopped, the tip of his snout little more than a mere foot from Soleil's face. The blue haired swordsman recoiled back and would have toppled had her movements not been hampered by the fact that her entire body as stiffened in fear. "You are in no position to bargain, mortal… You are only here because you meddled with forces you could not understand… You are fortunate you were not torn apart by the storm that now rages between worlds… Whether it was mere luck or another's intervention that saved you mattered little… your actions by far were more careless than even Naga's repeated meddling. Do not push your luck further…"
Then slowly Moro withdrew, leaving Soleil standing there still. No, not completely still. Corrin saw that her mouth worked open and closed silently, as if struggling to form some sort of retort. She lifted a finger, then dropped it again. "Well, yeah, you better…" She trailed off lamely, seeming completely at a loss.
"Hey, you can't-" Morgan started to say, only to abruptly stop as all eyes fell on her. She blinked, her expression going blank before saying. "Er, I mean, uhhhhh…. I hate to agree with the big stupid jerk named Severa, and really, she is a huge jerk, gave me a black eye and everything. But I don't think we should care what he says. Besides, we can just have Naga sort out all the time travel after we get home. So not much of a plan there, Moro. So there," she stuck out a tongue distastefully at the dragon.
"Morgan, for the love of any god willing to listen, don't antagonize the dragon," Robin shot under his breath, looking between the dragon and his daughter.
"Mother?" Soleil asked, blinking in surprise by her mother's intervention. "Did you really just-"
"It's nothing. He's a big jerk anyways," Morgan said, quicking averting her gaze and turning away from her daughter. She trotted back over to Hinoka and Sakura, moving to put them between her and Inigo and Soleil.
"It's fine. Just drop it for now," Inigo said, putting a hand on Soleil's arm.
There were many audible sighs of relief, the situation having seemingly been defused for the present.
"So what now? Even if we know how what we must do, we still don't know where to begin?" Xander asked, looking up to Moro.
"You already know… what you must do…" Moro told him, leaning in close. "Unite the powers of… the divine weapons... Unlock the hidden form of the Yato-no-kami…" Then slowly, Moro began to slink away, drawing back further than he had before, unwinding his body from the mountaintop to loom fully before them. The clouds from below seemed to rise, slowly enveloping the astral dragon.
"My task is done… even this aid perhaps was too far… but… perhaps fitting as a gift… granted on behalf of a departed pupil…"
Corrin closed his eyes, feeling a pang as he remembered Lilith's death.
"Time is short… even now Anankos launches renewed offenses against the kingdoms of Nohr and Hoshido… retrieve the weapons… complete the Fire Emblem… before this world too falls into the void…"
"Wait, we still don't know how to get into Valla? You know, don't you! What are we-" Hinoka protested, shouting out to the dragon.
Before she should finish Moro opened his maw wide. There was a rush of air as the clouds rushed over them, propelled at blinding speeds. The whole world was blotted out, the ground lurching beneath their feet. A voice echoed in their minds. "Farewell." Corrin felt like he was falling, plummeting through empty space. It felt cold, so very cold, the whole world a blur of prismatic light that filled his vision.
Then suddenly ground was beneath his feet once more. He staggered, looking around. They were back on the mountain top from before. The wind and the blue skies had returned, no sign of the endless sea of stars above or bellow.
"We're back it seems," Leo noted, looking around as well. "It doesn't appear like any significant time has passed. Good, a part of me worried it was like the Deeprealms. Just, in the other direction. If it was identical it would have worked in our favor."
"Well that certainly would have been inconvenient. Particular after impressing upon that time was of the essence," Inigo noted. "Oh, before we forget. Remember, we can't speak openly now. Nor can we elaborate. However, we've found vague, indirect statements are safe. Try to stick to those."
Corrin saw everyone nod, grasping what he was referring to.
"U-um… I-Inigo…" Sakura's voice uttered out, causing the dancer to turn in surprise as the youngest princess of Hoshido approached him. She then looked at Owain and Severa, giving both a smile. "We n-never spoke before, but… I... um.. M-Morgan told us a lot a-about you three. So… um… I just wanted to say… I-I'm glad… y-you ended up being exactly as Morgan said you were. Y-you were trying to h-help save us a-all."
Inigo took a step back, clearly shocked to be hearing this from the princess, something reflected in the others. Corrin couldn't help but question if this was the same Sakura he had known before. "I, uh… thank you, Princess Sakura… but I cannot admit that I had made the best of decisions. Regardless of our reasons, we've played part in hurting your nation…"
As if to emphasize his apology, he took a knee and bowed before her. Even more surprisingly, Owain and Severa had also followed suit.
"Alas, though our hearts detested performing such cruel acts, we could not cloud our judgment from our most sacred mission," Owain stated, slowly returning to his former mannerisms, but his words were sincere, as anyone could tell. "Forgiveness is perhaps beyond our grasp, but find it within your bright hearts to recognize our unworthy remorse."
"I won't say that we were wrong. We did what we did because we believed we were preventing something worse, but… we know what it's like to have your lives destroyed… and I hate having played a part in what King Garon forced us to do, so… I'm sorry too…" Severa admitted.
"U-uh… um…" Sakura was once more consumed by her shyness, but swallowed the lump in her throat, and stammered, "Pl-please no. You d-don't need to… to bow."
Corrin glanced over to Morgan seeing that she had turned away, her arms crossed. Though in the small glimpse he had of her face, she seemed… pained. As if she wanted to say something, to speak up, but for whatever reason could not. And that she hated herself for it.
Hinoka approached and stood before the trio. "All of you stand up," she demanded, forcing them to comply. She took a good, long look on each of them before she looked over to the Nohrians. Then, finally, she released a sigh. "Look… I can't say I either agree or forgive you for what you've done. Even if you didn't want to, you did end up playing a part in the destruction of Hoshido… But I've given it some thought… everything that happened with your world, what's happening now… it's all sounding like we're only seeing the forest for the trees… Something bigger is on its way, and it's just now that we're all finally starting to see it."
She then walked to Xander, looking up to meet the king's eyes. Before long, Hinoka extended a hand toward Xander. "Now isn't the time for personal grudges. If our entire world is gone, then everything that was sacrificed will have been all for naught. So for the sake of this mission, I'm going to look past my own personal feelings. Even if a part of me doesn't want to," she declared.
A smile formed on Xander's lips as he took Hinoka's hand, promptly shaking it. "I thank you, Queen Hinoka."
Hinoka's eyes widened, but she nodded. "Not yet. But… one day. I guess I need to get used to that title huh?" She bowed her head, ever so slightly.
"I think it suits you wonderfully, dear," Camilla praised. "I must say that even I am moved by your words.
"Our retainers are not the only ones that regret what has happened," Leo admitted, looking at Owain, a smile forming on the Nohrian prince's lips, indicating a form of pride for his retainer and friend. "We all played a cruel role. Whether we were puppets being played by a greater will, we still chose to play a part in the end."
Through this whole ordeal, Corrin kept his gaze downward, not wanting to meet her's or Sakura's. He was glad his siblings were all ready to work together. And to put their feelings aside and work together. And maybe even forgive them one day. That… that he could be content with. Knowing that of all of them there, only he was truly past forgiveness.
He could live with this.
"So, what now then?" Hinoka asked.
"Now? Now we need to plan our next move," Robin said. He rubbed his chin. "The way I see it we still have two problems to solve, one easier than the other."
"Indeed," Leo agreed. "I believe our first aim is to retrieve the other Divine Weapons. At least while our… other delima is one without an concrete leads", he added, taking clear and purposeful care not to address Valla by name.
"It might not be so simple," Hinoka told them, frowning. "I told you before, right now things are… complicated in Hoshido. The noble lords have been making a push for power in the chaos left in the war. Right now, the Raijinto and Fujin are stored in the imperial vault… for the protection of the weapons if nothing else. But…"
"Basically it's really not safe for them to go back there. You know, would be like painting a huge target on their heads, especially if they show up with a bunch of Nohrians," Morgan explained for her. "Hoshido's royal tactician is more or less acting as steward at this point. You know, commanding what's left of the army?" Morgan shrugged. "I think it's doable. But it will be really tricky."
"Cruel as it is for me to say it, our enemy may be giving us the perfect opportunity," Robin said. "Moro did tell us that our foe is launching a new offensive. If we show up to help defend Hoshido, then maybe they'd be more willing to hear us out."
"However, that still does not solve our other problem, does it? How to reach a goal so very out of reach," Camilia noted.
"It's a shame we can't just use the Bottomless Canyon. Would make things a whole lot easier," Hinoka grumbled. "I don't get why Moro didn't just tell us! That damned dragon clearly knew. But he sent us away!"
"There is no sense worrying about that now. Better to try to find a solution," Xander replied, frowning. He turned, looking to Robin. "You knew about this longer than most of us. Do you know anything?"
The tactician sighed deeply. "I've been trying to come up with something, but still so little to go on regarding… our destination… I haven't had much luck. Maybe if those records still exist in Hoshido…" he trailed of, rubbing his chin.
"I'd wish we had some other option than this. Better than just hope someone just happened to write down what we need," Corrin said. "So much so far has been just luck."
"But without any clue or hint to begin our search, I fear we don't have another option," Leo said, a bit of bitterness creeping into his voice.
"Wait… I-I… um… I had a t-thought… about that…" Sakura interjected suddenly, speaking up.
Everyone turned to look at her.
"Well… Moro said we… we already knew… w-what if he wasn't just talking about… the Y-Yato-no-Kami?" she stammered, averting her gaze.
"But we don't know. That's the problem," Severa grumbled.
"Yes, b-but… remember w-what Izana told us… his prophecies. That if the way was blocked, to… to seek the Reliquary of Worlds…" Sakura said.
"Oh yeah, I remember, it… something about a 'world far below' and an 'heir leading the way," Elise chimed in. "I can't remember the rest, but I think that 'world below' bit could be referring to the thing that we can't- you know."
"'When the skies change and the way to the land far below is beyond your reach, seek the Reliquary of Worlds. By living two lives, both of light and dark, may an heir lead others to their forgotten home'. I memorized the whole thing," Leo recited. "I think you're right, at least into what the prophecy is referring to. But it's pointless when we don't know what this 'Reliquary of Worlds' is."
"Oh, I know what that is."
In unison everyone turned to look at Soleil, who'd started it so matterofactly it had taken even the most stoic of their group completely unaware.
"How?" Several asked in unison.
"Oh, that. Right. Grandfather and Grandmother in my world were researching it at some point. Planning to go there themselves. I don't know the details, but apparently it's this place in the Outrealms where you can look into other timelines. You know, like get visions of things you could have done but didn't?" Soleil said, shrugging. "I think grandfather was hoping some other world had figured out a another way to kill Grima and that he could find that out there. No clue if he ever tried or not. He and grandmother didn't really like to talk a lot about their Outrealm travels much."
"Why didn't you tell us this sooner?" Robin asked incredulously.
"This is the first time I've heard this brought up here," Soleil countered, shrugging her shoulders yet again. "I just got here like… three days ago? Four. I forget. Point is I didn't know you guys knew about it!"
Robin pinched the bridge of his nose. "Okay, that's fair… So, we need to find this place in the Outrealms then. You wouldn't happen to know that, would you?"
"Not in the slightest," Soleil answered, grinning brightly and giving him a thumbs up. "You're the Outrealms' expert, so I'm pretty sure that's your job."
"Right, why wouldn't it be…?" Robin grumbled under his breath.
"I can assist in this research. Now that we know of the nature of this place, our search will be greatly narrowed," Leo offered.
"And we at least can access the Outrealms easily enough. There's this portal, not far east of here called the Dragon Gate. We could use that," Corrin added.
"Just like the Outrealm Gate in our world," Lucina noted.
"Still, thought," Corrin added, frowning as he looked at the ground. "I fear we are getting ahead of ourselves a bit. Even if this can help us, we don't know in what manner."
It was then that Corrin realized everyone was staring at him intently.
"What? Was it something I said?"
"Corrin, I think today has made the meaning Izana's prophecy very clear," Xander told him.
"What do you mean?" He asked, confused.
"Dear, recall the story you told us. Of how you and Azura traveled in a different manner to the Bottomless Canyon," Camila said.
"One only you two could. I think it's clear to say you share a similar heritage. I suspect your mother, Queen Mikoto hailed from the same land of Azura's mother, Queen Arete did," Leo added. He closed his eyes, repeating another line of the prophets, "By living two lives, both of light and dark, may an heir lead others to their forgotten home'."
"Light and dark. Hoshido and Nohr," Hinoka said. "You sided with Nohr after all, which sounds like one of the lives. And if this place lets you live other lives…"
Corrin took a step back, a small gasp escaping his lips as he realized what they were getting at.
"I'm sorry Corrin. I know how hard this will be far you. How much pain it will surely bring," Xander apologized. "But it seems fate had one last cruel hand to play. To open the way to our enemy, it is you that must venture into this Reliquary of Worlds."
Corrin closed his eyes, feeling his chest tighten. He didn't want to hear what was going to be said next.
"You are going to peer into that other world, the one where you sided with Hoshido," Robin finished, his voice sad. "I'm so very sorry. But I fear it's the only way. Because you are that heir, Corrin..."
"... You are the only one who can do this."
Author's Note: Sorry for being slightly late on this one. I'd hoped to get this out over the weekend, but I finished it later then expected and thus didn't get it to my beta readers in time for them to have a reasonable timeframe to help edit, so… yeah. Luckily it wasn't too late, just a few days. Hopefully everyone doesn't mind.
Anyhow, I hope everyone enjoyed what was essentially a massive exposition dump. I tried my best to keep it interesting and have a wide variety of characters talk and interact, but in the end there was simply a lot of cover. Hopefully the circumventing of the curse wasn't too much of an asspull here. I tried my best to make it work, but really, I only had so much wiggle room with what Fates gave me.
You may have noticed that Anankos' motivations changed a bit from what they were as stated Heirs of Fate. The reason for this, in short, is that I felt his original motivations didn't really make sense given his actions both in the main game and the DLC, so I decided to try to come up with something that added up with those actions as well as the overall central themes of Fates and this story in particular. Also Heirs of Fate is complete garbage and the worst writing of all of Fates' bad writing, so I had no qualms with taking that DLC's story contributions and chucking it into the proverbial fireplace. Something I may or may not have taken great pleasure in doing. Seriously, f*** Heirs of Fates
Regardless, I guess it's time to respond to guest reviews, which there is only one of this time.
Dracofighter - Glad you enjoyed the world building. The past few chapter and the next few will be delving into that sort of thing. Since man, Fates did pretty much no world building. Like, to the point I think Fire Emblem Heroes has actually done more world building for Fates' world then Fates has itself. It's really sad… Thank Naga that Three Houses looks to do better. I mean, it's continent actually has a name and everything!
Anyhow, that's all for now. I look forward to hearing what you guys thought of this one. Until next time, have a wonderful day everyone.