A/N: This is my first real crack at a romance story, so forgive me if it isn't up to par. This oneshot is based on the EirikaxInnes support conversations with a slightly different twist. I hope you enjoy them, and thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: I do not own Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones.
To Open One's Heart
The soft sounds of summer resonated throughout the dark forest. Eirika stood at the edge of camp, letting herself be cooled by the gentle breeze. She brushed away a few strands of stray turquoise hair from her face as her light emerald eyes swept over the scene before her.
In front of a small campfire, a few of her friends were chatting quietly while others slept. Ephraim, her twin brother, was busy polishing his prized lance, the sacred weapon Siegmund. Next to him, L'Arachel was talking animatedly to Rennac, who looked slightly annoyed and tired, but made no motion to leave. Myrrh, the young dragon girl, was sitting nearby, looking pensive as she gazed at the starry night sky. Tana, one of Eirika's closest friends, was caring for her Pegasus, brushing its pure white hair. She saw Eirika staring at her and smiled, waving. Seth was patrolling the border of the camp, ever vigilant and protective of the prince and princess of Renais.
Eirika sighed deeply, briefly wondering where Innes, the young prince of Frelia, was. She silently reprimanded herself, biting her lip. Although Innes was loyal to their cause, to defeat the Demon King and stop the invasion on Magvel, he was her brother's sworn rival and was intent on besting him at everything. She did not enjoy associating with him, although she had to admit she enjoyed his presence.
Since Eirika met up with him again at Teraz Plateau, Innes had sworn to stay by her side and protect her in battle to make up for her actions at Teraz. Her small army had saved him and several mercenaries traveling with him, and Innes deeply disliked being in anyone's debt, especially that of his rival's sister. At first, Eirika had been reluctant of being near Innes during every battle, but he had proven to be a strong ally and a kind friend, although at times his actions confused her.
Earlier that day, their small army had taken on Riev in the Darkling Woods so they could safely enter the Black Temple. During the fight, a huge creature had come towards the small group Eirika and Innes were with. Eirika, confident in her newfound skills, had charged at the monster, defeating it with a few swipes with her own weapon. Innes, who had been nearby, confronted her.
"What are you doing?" he asked, looking slightly annoyed.
Eirika sighed, holding onto the reins of her horse tightly. "What is it now, Innes?"
"…I told you I was going to protect you," Innes replied, stringing his bow in one fluid motion. "And yet, whenever an enemy shows himself, you rush in and attack! Everyone's going to think you're the one protecting me."
"Well, I can't help you with your image problems, Innes," Eirika said with a frown. "You're an archer, while I have to fight up close."
"That is unacceptable," Innes said proudly. "I said that I would protect you, and I was being quite sincere."
"And I appreciate that," Eirika replied, suppressing an exasperated sigh. "It's nice to know that, when I cross swords with an enemy, you're never far from me, with your bow close at hand."
Innes looked at her oddly for a moment, and Eirika slowly regretted her choice of wording.
"Eirika…" Innes said slowly, looking at the ground. "You are so kind… You're so different from that…brother of yours."
"No, not as much as you think," Eirika said, shaking her head. "Maybe you only see him as a warrior, as competition, but he is a fine and gentle man, capable of great compassion."
"…If you say so," Innes responded indifferently. "I suppose I cannot doubt it if it comes from your lips."
"Prince Innes, please, try to befriend my brother," Eirika said, her eyes almost pleading. "I know he would want this as well. I don't know why you dislike him. When I am alone with him, he is so kind."
"Forgive me, but I can bear no more of this talk," Innes said, suddenly angry. Eirika was taken aback as he continued. "When I see you look that way, I feel only jealousy for this Ephraim."
"What?" Eirika demanded, confused.
"He is…a hard man to forgive. Perhaps there is only one way to settle this."
With that, he left, still frustrated and annoyed. Eirika was confused; why was he jealous of her brother? Her thoughts were interrupted as another enemy approached, holding a deadly looking lance in its hands. She abandoned her thoughts of Innes and struck the enemy, dealing a fatal blow.
Yet now, many hours after that conversation, her thoughts had wandered back to the young prince of Frelia. She had not seen him in camp that much, not since they set up after the battle. It was dark now, and the others in camp were preparing for sleep. Even L'Arachel seemed tired, and she was usually brimming with charisma and energy.
Eirika turned on her heel, walking towards the woods. She wanted to think, to get things off her mind. She was stopped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Eirika," spoke the voice of her brother, Ephraim. "Where are you going?"
"Brother…I just want to think for a while…" she replied, not turning around. She did not want to admit her true intentions; to find Innes, wherever he was at the moment.
She heard Ephraim sigh. "We're fighting the Demon King tomorrow. I don't want you to get hurt." He said firmly, his decision final.
"Brother, I will be fine on my own," Eirika responded, "so please…"
He hesitated. "All right," Ephraim said after a few moments of silence. "Just be careful. The Darkling Woods can be dangerous, and I do not know if any of Riev's henchmen are still loose."
Eirika nodded. "I'll be fine, Brother."
She waited until his footsteps had faded into silence before she dared set foot into the dark woods. They lived up to their name, she thought as she nearly tripped over an oversized tree root.
The only sound was that of crickets chirping their songs as Eirika continued through the woods. She realized how humiliated she would feel if Innes wasn't even in the woods. But suddenly, she heard it; the telltale sound of an arrow being released from the bow's hold. The twang echoed through the empty, dark woods, calling out to her like a familiar voice.
Eirika stepped out into a small clearing and saw Innes, bathed in the moonlight, stringing his bow almost as quickly as he had shot the initial arrow. He shot the new arrow, which successfully hit its mark.
Eirika smiled, walking closer. She stepped on a twig, which cracked loudly. She cringed when Innes quickly swung around, loading his bow and pointing it at her forehead. He saw her and lowered his bow slowly.
"Eirika," he said, turning back to his target. "You shouldn't be out here."
"I know. My brother told me the same thing."
Innes stared straight ahead, his eyes emotionless, cold like stone. "You did not listen to him?"
"I'm old enough to take care of myself. Besides, I knew you would be out here," she lied as she seated herself on a tree stump. She had no idea if he really would be there, she had only been guessing.
Innes did not reply. Instead, he shot his arrow, hitting the tree trunk in front of him, which was loaded with arrows. Eirika uneasily fumbled with the hem of her skirt, listening to the serenade of the crickets. Their songs seemed amplified in the empty woods.
"Eirika." Innes spoke her name softly, as if he was holding a fragile flower, fearing any loud noise or sudden movement would cause it to break or die. "Is there…anyone who lays claim to your heart?"
Eirika sat in silence for a moment, surprised by the sudden question. "What? N-no… There's nobody like that," she said uneasily when she recovered her voice.
"I see. Then let me speak to you frankly," Innes said as he set down his bow, slowly making eye contact with Eirika. His dark eyes held an unfamiliar, yet strong emotion. "Eirika, it seems that I have fallen in love with you."
"Wh-What?" Eirika jumped to her feet, stunned by his blunt manner of speaking. "This is no place for jokes, Innes! Why would you say something like that?"
"This is no joke," Innes replied, his gaze locking with hers. "I am absolutely serious. These feelings surprise me as well. I don't know what to do. Fighting at your side all this time, the emotion just exploded within me." His gaze softened as he took a step closer. "I love you. I could not bear to see you in the arms of another."
"P-Prince Innes! I… I…" Eirika fumbled uselessly for words.
"No, Eirika. Do not answer now." His gaze turned to one of resolve. "I have not yet bested Ephraim. I have not earned the right to woo you."
"Wha…? Why are you bringing my brother into this?" Eirika demanded. She knew Ephraim and Innes were rivals, but Ephraim had nothing to do with this…situation.
"With a man like him around, I can see why you show no interest in suitors. If I prove myself his superior, you will surely accept my hand. If I fail, I release any claim to your affection. But I swear it on the depth of my love that I will destroy that man. Eirika, I will expect your answer then. That's all I have to say."
Eirika was silent for a moment, still stunned by his claim. "Prince Innes…"
Innes held up his hand. "I told you, I will expect your answer after I have bested Ephraim."
Eirika gazed up at him, her eyes solemn. She knew he wouldn't listen to a word she said until this war was over, until he had fought her brother in a duel. She nodded, and he continued to practice his archery skills.
Her heart filled with emotion and her mind clouded by sleep, Eirika slowly made her way back to the camp. She did not know whether she would be able to sort out her feelings in time, but as she gazed at the silent night sky, things already seemed a little clearer than before.