Chapter 44 - Reflections
"Now allow me to forge a path forward, while your goal remains yet at hand!"
Corrin watched on as Lucina met his remaining three duplicates in a blinding storm of steel. Sapphire mixed with crimson red and inky shadow each time their blades met again and again in the span of mere instants, the sound of each clash mending together into a single continuous note. Falchion whirled in an arc, sweeping both Yatos wide. Lucina ducked, lunging low as Ganglrari passed over her. Passing within the mirror-Corrin's reach, she brought her arm up and around his, directing the momentum of his own attack to twist him around: putting him between herself and the other clones as well as deflecting an incoming blow with the clone's own weapon all in one fell swoop.
For a moment Lucina held her stance as if pausing just long enough to catch her breath. Then with sudden savagery, she lashed out with a foot, sweeping the legs of the mirror-Corrin at his knee, Falchion sweeping low to finish him off in a show of brutal efficiency.
And then, for just a moment, the two remaining copies hesitated. Almost, if only for an instant, showing what could have been mistaken for fear.
Then the first launched itself at the blue-haired swordswoman. Lucina parried, using just enough force to direct the powerful blow off course to miss her head by a mere inch. She shoulder-checked him, grabbing and directing his momentum to send him sailing past just in time to whirl and meet the second clone's blade. Their swords clashed, Lucina locking him into a bind, gaining just enough leverage to hold back the more physically powerful foe.
"Go!" Lucina shouted, sparing a quick glance over her shoulder. "I'll hold them off! Swiftly!"
Corrin hesitated for a split second, his every instinct telling him he couldn't allow her to face these monsters alone. But it was short-lived, for as much as he disliked it, she was right. He needed to reach the Reliquary of Worlds and use it. It was even possible that doing so would be seen as overcoming the trial and the fell doppelgangers would vanish. But even if it was not so, the only way he and the others could turn their thoughts to escape would be after they accomplished their goals.
He'd have to trust that Lucina could handle them on her own. At least she had a weapon made to kill dragons. Corrin allowed himself a small, wry smile at this thought. Stings like hell too.
So he ran. As fast as he could push his battered body. Everything hurt, but he didn't care. The pain would keep him awake and alert. He didn't even know which way to go, the whole place was a maze of nearly identical chambers and passageways. He just picked a direction and ran, hoping it would take him to the very heart of the temple. If he'd had a magic pool that let one see other worlds, that's where he'd put it.
The next few minutes were nothing but pain and the thudding of footsteps, room after room zooming past as Corrin pushed himself faster and faster. A dead end. Then another. Then a third. He had to keep searching, he couldn't stop. Not now.
Suddenly, shadows leaped out from the ground before him, coalescing into two figures. Two more copies of himself, one in dark purple armor, a horned crown upon his head. Another in white and blue robes, a dragonstone in hand. Corrin leaped back, narrowly avoiding an attack by the first copy. The second mirror Corrin transformed, talons bared as he punched, forcing Corrin to raise Yato to defend himself and-
There was a flash of white light, the dragon-Corrin roaring in pain as it reeled back, a ghastly wound on its side billowing inky smoke.
Corrin whirled around, recognizing his rescuer as Marc. The younger boy charged into view, his Falchion wreathed in radiant tongues of flame. In a fluid motion, he parried a slash, ducked under another, then cut down the wounded duplicate.
"You okay?" Marc asked, stepping to stand alongside Corrin.
Even as he spoke, the remaining copy of Corrin blurred and split, separating into several more distinct copies. Then those split too, only to distort as they morphed into copies of Marc as well.
"I need to reach the Reliquary. I don't think these will stop coming until I do." Corrin explained.
Marc nodded. "Got it. I'll keep them busy, and you keep going, yeah?"
"Are you sure?" Corrin glanced at the assorted duplicates, noting the fact that several now wore Marc's appearance. Fighting his own copies had been hell, so wouldn't Marc have similar trouble?
"It won't be a problem at all, trust me," Marc told him, seemingly guessing what he was thinking.
Then in unison the two charged, Marc heading to meet the doppelgangers while Corrin veered to one side. He leapt, lunging over an attack, then drove beneath another, coming out of the tumble with a roll that carried him to his feet.
The fact that only now had more copies appeared to bar his way told Corrin that he was going in the right direction. The rooms seemed to be getting larger, more ornate, tight passages giving way to wide tunnels with vaulted ceilings. He bounded up a set of steps, heading into a massive chamber, even more grand than the next.
Then he came to a sudden halt, frozen in place.
On the other side of the chamber was a massive archway, ringed with glowing white runes in some ancient language he didn't recognize. A faint, almost musical hum seemed to fill the room, waxing and waning like the gentle flow of waves over a shoreline. Somehow he knew he'd made it, that beyond that archway was the very thing he sought.
But that is not what gave him pause. No, it was the mass of dark shapes that filled the room beyond. There were dozens of them, dozens of ghostly figures wearing Corrin's face. Their many weapons shone with fell light, moving as one as they charged.
There were too many…
How could he hope to get past this many…
Then suddenly the room exploded. Molten stone rained down, a smoking crater in the center of the doppelgangers' line.
"Ha! Bullseye!" A voice shouted triumphantly.
A shimmering blue arrow arced past, blowing a hole in the chest of one of his copies as it detonated in sapphire light. "I think blowing things up had a bit too much collateral to be called a 'bullseye', Mom," Soleil chimed in running forward and loosing another arrow
Several of the copies of Corrin managed to regain their footing, brandishing tomes as they unleashed magical spells of their own. A wave of roaring flame rushed towards them, only to crash harmlessly on a shimmering ward that sprung up around them. Sakura and Elise stepped into view, both waving their healers staves as they continued to project the magical barrier.
A part of Corrin was, to be entirely honest, getting really sick of people having to come to his rescue. But, he had to concede it was better than dying. Maybe only just.
"So, looks like we arrived just in time to save you, huh?" Morgan said, grinning as she jogged up to Corrin. "I knew we'd get here before anyone else!"
"Uh, sorry, you're actually… third…" Corrin told her as gently as he could.
Morgan just stared at him, utterly still for several moments. "What?! Who?! How!? This is an outrage!"
"Your mother and brother both rescued me earlier," Corrin explained.
Again Morgan was speechless. Then she spun around, turning to face her daughter and the two princesses. "Darn it all, I knew we weren't going fast enough!"
"But you just said you knew we made it first," Soleil countered.
"I changed my mind!"
"Um… can we… uh, focus on this," Sakura stammered. As if on cue, another barrage of spells slammed into the ward, the magical shield flickering but holding. Both Elise and Sakura's expressions showed visible fatigue.
"Not sure how long we can keep going. Doing something would be good," Elise said, trying her best to smile despite the immense strain she was under.
Corrin nodded, fixing his eyes on the way before them. "Morgan, can you give me an opening? I am going to try to make a run for it."
Morgan pursed her lips and tilted her head, seeming to ponder the suggestion. "Sure, I could… But wouldn't it be easier if I just teleported you over there?"
"You can do that?" Corrin asked.
"Yeah, of course. Only over short distances, and it takes a lot out of me, but I learned ages ago. And I mean ages ago. Don't even remember when I learned, come to think of it. Evil dragon-possessed dad probably taught me, go figure. Weird that I get to say that like it's normal-"
"Morgan, can you focus? If you say you can do it, then do it," Corrin snapped, perhaps a bit more harshly than he intended. He was on edge, that much was obvious. But stil, right now they needed to hurry and stay on topic.
Again the ward flickered, barely holding against another barrage.
"Hurry," Corrin repeated..
"I know, I know. Sheesh, hold your damn pegasuses… pegasi? Whatever," Morgan said, waving him off. Then she suddenly skipped forward, slapping her hand onto his shoulder and gripping tight. "Sakura, Elise, on my mark, drop the ward-barrier-thingy. Soleil, keep them distracted for a couple seconds. Lots of arrows."
"You got it," Soleil chimed in, giving a lopsided salute and a grin. The two princesses gave affirmations of their own.
"Alright go!" Morgan shouted.
"Wait, I'm not rea-" Corrin started to protest.
His words were lost in the utter chaos of the next few instants, multiple things happening all at once. With a crackling woosh, the ward detonated outward, crashing into another volley of spells, scattering them even as it died. Flashes of sapphire light tore through Corrin's vision, arcing one after another towards their foes. Then suddenly he was in free fall, Morgan's spell yanking him out of reality. He felt his stomach, and most of his insides, being turned inside-out then back right-side in at the same time. Then he slammed face first into the floor, reality snapping back into place around him
"Alright, here! Get up! Go! Go!" Morgan shouted at him. Before Corrin had a chance to so much as get his bearings, let alone register what Morgan was saying, he felt hands grab hold of his collar, heaving him upright. He tried to get his footing, managing to scramble to get his balance just in time for the girl to, with surprising ease, half-shove, haf-throw him towards the archway. He tumbled across the distance, staggering to his feet, wincing at the fresh pain.
I don't… I'm so confused… was the only rational thought he managed to form as he once again broke into a run.
"Bolganone!" There was an earth-shattering ka-pow as a rushing wave of heat licked at Corrin's back, followed by almost maniacal laughter in Morgan's voice as she unleashed hellfire upon the army of his clones.
Well, at least she's enjoying herself I suppose…
Pushing onward he reached out with a hand, lunging the last several steps...
And then passed into the darkness beyond. There was a rush of air as unseen doors slammed shut behind him, blocking all sound and light from the room behind him.
Once again he was alone.
Panting, Corrin doubled over. He slumped to his knees, forcing himself to breath slowly. I… made it... I actually made… it… He fought the urge to laugh, feeling almost giddy. Or maybe just a bit lightheaded.
Rising to his feet, Corrin blinked, allowing his eyes to focus in the seemingly pitch black room. No, not pitch black. There was a strange, faint light that filled the whole of the room, just enough for his dragonic eyes to make out his surroundings.
The room was circular, the walls sloping inward to form a perfectly round dome. The polished obsidian floors reflected the rest of the room, giving the illusion that the chamber was a perfect sphere and that Corrin was now standing on a thin pane of glass bisecting it. Only the faint shimmer of the seamless black stone betrayed the room's true nature. There were no torches, yet a soft glow seemed to illuminate the space. Corrin blinked, allowing his eyes to focus. There, at the very heart of the chamber, was a pool of water, perfectly smooth and still as the endless expanse that surrounded the entire temple itself. The glow seemed to come from within the pool, shrinking somewhere within its depths.
Corrin's footsteps echoed, lingering longer than they should have. As he drew closer to the pool, something else joined the echoes. Soft, barely perceptible whispering voices seemed to emanate from the water, coming from below, beyond anything his senses could make out.
Corrin stopped at the edge of the liquid, staring into its depths. The water seemed to extend for miles down, so far he could not see the bottom. Kneeling, he set a hand against the surface, sending glowing ripples spreading out across the surface.
Is this it? Corrin wondered, watching the ethereal pulses of light dance along the water. It certainly didn't seem natural, but, what was he supposed to do? Was he supposed to see something within it? Or something else?
Leaning in to look closer, Corrin slipped slightly, managing to catch himself before his hand could press more than a few more inches into the water. Suddenly the liquid seemed to rise up, tendrils wrapping around his hand and wrist. He cried out as he was yanked forward, the water grabbing hold of him as he was dragged within.
Corrin plunged into the icy liquid, sinking into the depths. Everything around him was black, no light or sound penetrating the void as it swallowed him whole. He strained to hold his breath, struggling as he was pulled down. His lungs burned, fighting as hard as he could. At last, he couldn't hold it any longer, his mouth opening in a futile gasp to breathe
Yet the expected sensation of water rushing to fill his lungs never came. He was no longer sinking, no longer submerged in water. He was standing on solid ground, ripples of soft light spreading out from where his feet touched the perfectly smooth surface. The transition had been so sudden, so seamless, he hadn't even noticed at what point he'd exited the water. If there even had ever been water to begin with.
Where am I? Am I… Alive? Or did I die?
Cautiously he started forward. Just like with the pool, ripples of light cascaded across the floor with each step he took. Something drew him forward now, a feeling he could not place pulling him. Time seemed to lose all meaning, it felt like mere seconds, hours, days, years, and entire lifetimes passing all at once. Then he saw it, before him an endless mirror that stretched in all directions before him, as if bisecting the world itself. He stopped before it, staring into his own reflection. The image was clear and vivid, impossibly so. The dim light spreading beneath his boots should not have been bright enough to illuminate himself nor his reflection.
Again, some other force seemed to guide him. Without realizing it, he was lifting his hand, reaching out for the mirror. His fingers brushed against it, feeling it warm to the touch. The image on the mirror rippled, acting as the surface of a lake disturbed by his touch. Yet only the image distorted, the surface itself remaining perfectly smooth and unchanging.
Slowly the image stilled, Corrin's reflection reappearing before him. But no longer did it appear as he did now. The Corrin staring back at him wore silver and gold armor, adorned with sky blue tassels. In place of his tattered black cloak was one of pristine white and blue. At his hip was sheathed Yato, but not the Yato as Corrin knew it. There was something different about it, the shape of the hilt and guard of different designs. He drew his blade forth, the Corrin staring back at him mirroring the motion, revealing the full extent of its change. The blade was curved, sweeping back to accentuate the ring guard that took the place of the standard crossguard of his own Yato. The top two gem-slots in the blade shone with golden light, the bottom two empty. The light radiating from the blade too was gold, so warm and vibrant in contrast to the blood-red of his own.
Then the light began to flow from where his hand touched the mirror, rushing outward to suffuse the whole surface with a gentle pulsing radiance. It seemed to beckon him, drawing him forward. He wondered at the alien thought, so clearly not his own… yet somehow it seemed right as if it knew what he wanted. Yet there was fear in it. Fear of what would happen. Of what he'd see. Of how it may change him.
Of how he may never be able to go back to how he was before.
Yet he must.
He knew he must.
For his friends.
For his family.
This was the only way to gain the power he needed to save them all. To seize their only hope for victory.
Pressing forward, his hand met resistance, then, all at once, gave way. His fingers passed into the mirror, passing through his mirror self. Deeper he sank, until he and the other him entered the same space. Warmth filled him, starting at his chest to flow outward, overtaking him as the world around him dissolved. The feeling entered his head, filling his skull. Sights, sounds, and every other sensation assaulted him at once, nearly overwhelming them. And through the maelstrom of experiences came the memories. Memories of a life that was not his own. Of a life that may have been but had not. Memories of a choice he could have made, and the other path that followed.
… Corrin stood on a field, shoulder to shoulder with his newfound family, forced to do battle with the only family he'd known his entire life. His heart tore to pieces having to fight them now, but… no… he had to believe… had to believe he'd chosen right… that he could end this war without seeing them harm...
… Corrin shakes hands with Scarlet, promising to aid her rebellion to end King Garon's rule and free Cheve. He'd reunited with Ryoma as well. Now his family was together, they could move on to Nohr, and hopefully the end of the war…
… Surrounded by cherry blossoms, he and Azura clasped hands. He slipped a finger onto her hand, signifying their union. Together they'd reach the end of this war and reach the bright future they'd promised for one-another…
Faster the memories came, ripping by with increasing frequency. His despair at watching Flora set herself ablaze, killing herself even as he and Felicia begged her not to. He recalls battling and sparing Leo. Of Azura revealing to him the truth of the war in a crystal she produced, and Leo granting them the means to meet the Rainbow Sage. He recalls how there Yato and Fujin Yumi resonated and unlocked some of Yato's power. He recalls their escape from Fort Dragonfall, of how after he discovered the terrible cost Azura's song placed upon her, and of the promise she'd made not to use it, to not cut her life short…
...Corrin returned Elise's hug, promising her that he'd do what he could to end the fighting with her help. Perhaps they could make Camilia and Xander see reason. He had to believe that was possible…
...Camilla's axe fell from his hands, leaving her wide open to striking. But Corrin made no move to take advantage of the opening. He would not harm her, even if it cost him his life, he wouldn't see harm to his family. To either of his families…
More memories ripped through his mind. Lilith dying in his arms to protect him, taking a blow from Hans meant for him. Takumi succumbing to Iago's control, of nearly perishing to the dark mage if not for Leo coming to their rescue. Of the final, desperate fighting to reach Garon… and coming face to face with Xander, the prince vowing to stop him at all costs.
TheYato was ripped from Corrin's hand, disarmed by a swift motion of Xander's blade against Corrin's own hesitant swing. He watches helplessly as Xander goes in for the killing blow… and watches helplessly as Elise jumps into his path, dying in his stead. He could only stare, crying as Xander cradled their sister in his arms, his stoicism shattered as Elise begged with her last breaths to stop the fighting….
… Corrin staggered, Yato forced wide by an elegant flourish of Laslow's blade. He along with Peri had lept to Xander's defense, blocking Corrin from reaching him. He'd been caught completely off guard, the retainer's skill being a match even for that of Ryoma and Xander. Then an arrow made of light struck Laslow, piercing his arm and sending his sword tumbling from his grasp. Acting on reflex, Corrin kicked it away, hoping to force a surrender… only for a second arrow to pierce the swordsman through the heart. He heard a woman's voice scream out, her words distant so that he couldn't make them out. Corrin could only stare as yet another person he'd once known, if only in passing, fell dead before his eyes. Another casualty of this damned war...
… "No"... the words fell from Corrin's lips as he stared in shock, Yato, devoid of its previous hesitation, now shone red with his brother's blood as Xander slid from the blade's tip, staggering a step. For a moment he stood there facing him, then, with nothing more than a weak cough, slumped lifelessly before him. It didn't make any sense! The attack should have been easy to parry, or dodge, or something. Merely the opening bout, not unlike the sparring matches he'd had while learning swordsmanship. Xander should have been fine. But he didn't even try. He'd let it happen, made no move to even protect himself. No, not even that… he'd practically thrown himself on Yato's blade. He'd refused to back down, only to let himself be killed… and… Corrin had killed him…. He'd killed his own brother….
… Again the memories blurred past him. He remembered his sibling urging him on, telling him not to let Elise's death or anyone else's be for naught. That they could still end this war. He remembered Azura taking his hand, promising him it would be alright. He remembered the last push to the throne room, of King Garon's transformation, of Yato being shattered and with it all of their hopes. He remembered seeing Flora, Lilith, Xander, and Elise in a dreamlike trance on the border between life and death, awakening him for one last fight. He remembered Ryoma's resolve merging with his, reforging Yato in flames as it resonated with Raijinto. He remembered the final battle, of the desperate struggle against the seemingly unstoppable monster the Nohrian king had become. He recalled standing alone, even Yato's strength was not enough… only for Azura's voice to cut through, holding the dragon at bay. Her body flickering and glowing with light as her song left it vulnerable for the precious few moments it took for Corrin to drive Yato into its heart… and then...
"Corrin... can I see you smile for me one last time? One more smile...before I go…"
Corrin tried his best to smile, tears streaming down his face. But there was no joy in it, no hope behind it. But he had too… it was her final request… The final request of the woman he loved.
"That's right... Lovely…" Azura reached out for him, their hands coming within inches of each other. Her chest heaved with gasping breaths, more tears rolling down her face. He watched helplessly as the light washed over her, the whole of her form evaporating into shimmering flecks of light…
"I love you," her voice whispered, the last of the motes of light swirling up into the air. There was a flash of aqua light, scattering the glowing motes like droplets of rain in the wind.
Azura's pendant bounced as it hit the ground, landing on the cold, black stone floor inches from Corrin's outstretched hand. The amulet at its center shone with blue, then faded away with the remaining flecks of light, growing cold once more…
…then the scene before him began to dissolve away, this last memory, more vivid and real than the others, breaking into motes of light. The ground crumbled beneath him and he was tumbling head-over-head through the void. He slammed into a pool of water, plunging beneath its surface in a shock of icy cold.
Then Corrin gasped, the world snapping back into focus. He was hanging in an empty void, the world black if not for the faint glowing, shimmering light that seemed to suffuse him from all sides. He looked around, finding himself able to slowly turn as he floated there. But he saw nothing… nothing but an endless night…
Then a shape resolved itself from the darkness. It was him. The same him from the memories he'd just seen. But that Corrin was not alone. Beyond him was another, and another, and another. It was as if standing between two slightly angled mirrors to opposite sides, seeing an infinite array of himself stretched out into infinity. He spun around, seeing the same in the opposite direction, each mirroring his movements. But these were no mirror images. Each Corrin was different, those nearest to him only minutely so. Different clothes and armor, maybe a slight-variation in hair color or style. But the further the copies were from him, the more different they seemed, some baring different facial features, while others still appeared to be women that yet bared a striking resemblance to him. All of them clad in some variation of Nohrian or Hoshidan dress. Every one of them had made one of two choices. All reaching one of two ends…
Then the light began to dim, a freezing cold like the very depths of the sea washing over Corrin. One by one the countless alternate versions of himself began to vanish, blotted out by the growing darkness. Soon only he was left, the absolute cold seemingly held at bay by what felt like only a fragile pane of glass. Red eyes appeared before him, illuminating a white, featureless mask. It could see him. Somehow he knew it could see him, those horrible red eyes piercing into his very soul. The world around him shattered, breaking like glass as he began to fall. Shards of the fractured reality rained down around him before the blackness swallowed him whole.
. . . . .
When Corrin came to, he was laying in the center of a pool of water, it's perfectly still surface no more than an inch deep. He lifted his head and looked around. It was the same chamber he'd entered before, the pool the same one he'd fallen into. Yet now there wasn't even enough water to submerge him, let alone plummet what felt like miles into an endless abyss.
Was that part of the vision too? Or was I really transported somewhere else… it felt all so real… the memories I saw… I… Getting up onto his hands and knees, Corrin covered his face with a hand, his shoulders heaving as a sob wracked his throat. It took every bit of will he could muster not to break down into tears on the spot.
Living through it all, a life filled with just as much tragedy like the one he'd had for himself… it had been even more painful than he'd imagined. Seeing Xander and Elise die in that world had nearly broken him…
He'd always wondered if he'd made the right choice. A part of him now wondered if somehow this should make him feel better. Knowing that no matter what he'd have done, it wouldn't have changed anything. The people he'd cared about still got hurt. The only difference is which of them lived or died…
Yet somehow it only made it feel worse…
She'd died… died in that world just like she had in his. Even a different choice couldn't have saved her. He'd gained nothing save witnessing another life he could have had with her… only for it to be snatched away all the same…
… And for what…?
What's even the point…?
Shakily, Corrin got to his feet, staggering forward a few steps before falling to his knees. His legs felt like pudding beneath him, his entire body shaking. He felt weak, as if he'd just got done fighting for hours on end without respite. Yet it wasn't his body that felt completely and truly tired. No, his very spirit felt drained, worn out by all he had seen.
Yet despite it all he straightened again, stumbling back the way he came. He'd survived… one way or another, he'd come out of the experience intact… mostly. He could only pray it had been worth it…
"Big brother? Are you alright?"
Corrin looked up, seeing the others approaching him as he stepped back through the archway that led to the wide antechamber he'd left Elise, Sakura, Morgan, and Soleil in. He saw that everyone else had joined them in the intervening time: all battered, bloodied, bruised, and more than a bit worse for wear, but all alive none-the-less.
That at least was something to be glad for. At least they'd made it without anyone else dying because of him.
"Are you okay? You look sick. Did something-" Elise continued. Her words were lost as Corrin staggered the last few steps between them and threw his arms around her, pulling her into a hug. He held the embrace for several moments, daring not to let her go, if only to reassure himself she was there… alive and unharmed. It had felt so real… the pain of seeing her die had hurt as much as if it had really happened to him. Even if he knew it wasn't real, wasn't the Elise of his world who'd died…
...once more it took everything he had not to cry…
Elise hesitantly returned the hug, seeming more than a bit confused by the gesture. But she didn't question it. Then after several more long moments, Corrin stepped back, letting his arms slip from around her.
"Sorry, I… I'll explain later… I just… I just really needed that," he explained, managing a weak smile. He stepped away, starting for the others.
He managed only a few steps before the world suddenly spun before him. His vision tunneled and the next thing he knew he was on the floor. He heard voices, seemingly from far away. Every sensation felt muted and numb, as if little more than a dream. He felt his eyelids droop, his body growing heavy. He closed his eyes…
...the very next thing he remembered was a warm feeling wash over him. He managed to open his eyes again, blinking at his surroundings. He was greeted by Elise and Sakura leaning over him, both ministering healing magic.
"...I'm… fine… It's nothing serious… you don't need…" Corrin tried to argue, feeling sensation return. Perfect timing too: he got to feel the crawling, stinging itch of the torn muscles in his arm stitch themselves back together. Lucky him.
Honestly, it wasn't that bad. Just because he collapsed for one moment doesn't mean he needed to be healed immedia-
It was then that Corrin saw that they were no longer inside the temple complex. They were outside the obsidian structure, at the top of the steps overlooking the endless mirror pool that stretched out to the horizon.
I guess I closed my eyes for a lot longer than I thought...
"How do you… um… feel…? You were hurt really… really badly… I'm not sure if…" Sakura said after a few moments, lowering her shrine maiden's rod.
"Better now," Corrin grimaced, pushing himself into a sitting position. His whole body felt stiff, almost painfully so. Still, at least he could move now without feeling like he'd collapse at any moment.
He tried to stand, but at once his vision spun, and an instant later he found himself flat on his rear, struggling just to remain from toppling over.
"Yeah, probably should say seated. Regaining lost memories can be really disorientating. I even passed out when I did that," Morgan chimed in, grinning. "Though…" she stopped, tapping a finger against her chin. "I guess they aren't lost memories for you, huh? More like, new memories you never had or something. Not sure what to call them."
Corrin nodded slowly, too tired to really argue or correct her. Yeah, just sitting here for a few moments sounded like a good idea,
Thankfully the others seemed content to give him a change to collect himself. Now that his own wounds were tended to, Elise and Sakura moved to patch up the others. This proved a far easier task at any rate, since none of their injuries were anywhere close to the severity Corrin had suffered.
Several minutes later, the two princesses returned, the others gathering around him once more. Corrin tried to stand again. This time he managed to make it upright, though he needed to hobble over to one of the pillars flanking the temple's entranceway to prop himself up.
"So, what did you see in there? Was it my timeline? Though I guess it's not my timeline, but another timeline of this world that crossed over into my timeline… though if you want to get real technical, I was born there, but I don't really remember it so I don't think that counts, so it's really just very confusing, huh?" Soleil asked, if you could even really qualify that as a question. Moreso rambling that had been a question at some long forgotten point.
Corrin closed his eyes, reliving the memory he'd seen where Inigo had died. It hadn't been him who'd killed him… it has been his brother who'd delivered the killing blow. But still, it had been his choice in that world that had led to Soleil's father's death. It had still been his fault.
No… That Corrin's fault. It wasn't you, he tried to tell himself, to rationalize the fact that it had been another him who'd done those things. But it was a small comfort. Not when it had still been a version of him who'd done it. Not after living through it himself.
As far as he was concerned, it was still him that did those things. Another world or not.
No, it was too painful to tell her.
"I'd rather not… talk about it. The things I saw… of the other life I… It's still a lot to process," he admitted. Though, truthfully that was only part of it. He was also afraid. Afraid of telling Soleil what he'd seen…
He shuddered, recalled the cry of grief he'd heard in those memories, knowing full well who those screams had belonged to...
"But…" Soleil started to argue, only to be stopped by Inigo. The dancer put his hand on his daughter's shoulder, shaking his head in signal for her to drop it.
"Really, though. I think the important part right now is that it worked, right?" Morgan asked, chiming in now that her daughter had said her piece. "You know, the whole reason we came here and all that? That's what we really, really, really need to know. Think you can open the way to Va- Woops, almost said it, close one. Don't ever say that word. Never. Nope. Don't say Va- Opps! Bad Morgan! Bad!" Morgan clasped her hands over her mouth as she finished, having just narrowly avoided disaster a second time and eliciting a second chorus of sharp intakes of breath followed by many, many exasperated sighs.
"Nealy erasing herself aside, Morgan has a point," Robin agreed, turning to look Corrin over. "Do you feel like something's changed or different somehow?"
"I… I don't know," Corrin answered. He gazed down at his hands, slowly turning them over and flexing them. He certainly didn't feel any different. No sudden swell of power. No deep feeling of understanding or shift within the core of his being. Nothing.
Closing his eyes, Corrin reached in for the wellspring of magic within himself. Like every occasion he attempted to use magic, it came at an incredible effort, even tapping into the humming notes of the energy harmonizing with himself a struggle. He searched around, straining until… he felt… something. A new note within the reverberating rhythm, a small distortion of the usual song. He grasped for it, trying to focus on it with as much mental force as he could muster… only for it to slip from between his fingers, vanishing once more into the slow, deep hum just beyond his reach.
He winced, opening his eyes and blinking as he pondered what he'd just experienced. Had he really felt something different just now? Or was he so exhausted that his mind was merely playing tricks on him?
"Corrin?" Robin asked, his question snapping him back to the present..
"Maybe… I'm not sure… and even if it is, I'm not sure I can fathom how to tap into it," Corrin answered truthfully. "I just don't know…"
Robin's expression softened and he nodded. "You should have plenty of time to figure it out at least. It'll be days until we can regroup with the others."
"It's several days to travel from here to the capital, correct?" Inigo asked.
"Um… y-yes. It's, um, not as far as the… the Ethereal Summit was…. Probably four or five days…. Six if we are s-slowed down," Sakura answered.
"In that case we should attempt to get moving as soon as possible," Lucina urged, glancing down the steps towards the shimmering gate. "Let us return to Anna so she can help us navigate back to your world. From there, I dare say, we will have much to ponder in regards to our next course of action."
This got no complaints from the others, everyone looking eager just to put as much distance between this place and them as possible. Not that Corrin could blame them. He hadn't been the only one confronted with parts of himself he was afraid of.
One by one the other's gathered their gear and began to trek down the steep steps towards the portal. Soon only he and a few stragglers remained on the dias, lingering behind a few moments longer. Corrin glanced over his shoulders, peering into the endless darkness of the temple. He felt a whisper of cool air, almost beckoning him to re-enter. Then he tore his gaze away, moving to depart as well. He'd had his fill of this place to last a whole lifetime. Or several.
Then, before he could descend the steps as well, Robin held out a hand, stopping him. Once the others had gone some distance away, the tactician turned to him, looking him dead in the eyes, "How are you, really?" Robin asked.
"I…" Corrin started to lie, but caught himself in it quickly. Lying now wouldn't do any good, nor would ignoring how heavily those new, alien memories weighed on him. "I don't know… I knew what to expect going in. It was just like Soleil said about her world... even if I'd made a different choice, I still got the people I cared about hurt or even killed. I knew that going in, but… it's just…"
"Living through it is different," Robin finished for him.
"Yeah…" Corrin admitted. He realized his hands were shaking, and it took several moments of concentration just to will them to still. "It felt so real…"
"I can't imagine what that's like… I've only had to live with one memory that wasn't really mine… but to have so much thrust upon you now... If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know…"
"Thanks… but I think right now I need to focus on what's ahead of us. We came here for a reason… and I just hope that it was enough," Corrin answered.
I just hope all of this was worth it.
Author's Note: Sorry about even longer delays on this one. A combination of once again being busy and lack of motivation until the past few weeks really hampered me on this one. I will warn you, there will likely be a long delay for next chapter, this time however this being due to Robcina-Week coming up over on tumblr in a month and I plan to be focusing on one-shots for that.
That said, I hope you guys enjoyed this one. That said, onto guest reviews
Friendly Person Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it, despite the overdone ness of them talking to clones. Really I did that more as a reference to the Willspring of Truth from Awakening, and I did try to mix it up by having very different reactions for different people.
Dracofighter: Thanks. I had yet another chapter where one of my beta readers couldn't edit last time, though this one had both so hopefully there are fewer mistakes
Anyhow, that's all for now. I look forward to hearing what you guys think of this one. Until the next one, have a great day! Peace!