It had been perhaps a week and Ike found it hard to believe that Soren was as calm as he pretended to be. Some sort of pain was hurting Soren, for he was a far cry less diligent then he always had been. Though, Ike couldn't say that he blamed Soren. Soren had been burying this so deep for so long, and for reasons Ike couldn't understand, it had surfaced recently. There was no way that could be pleasant.
Ike frowned as he got up from eating. He had heard Boyd.
"In our last battle that little wimp nearly got himself killed. If it wasn't for my killing that soldier he would have died. But what does that whelp say? Nothing. He just walks off, scowling and then has the nerve to tell me to watch out. He's so arrogant. Right, Shinon?"
Ike stopped as he walked past the table Boyd was sitting at. The green haired warrior had shouted almost halfway across the room to get the sniper's opinion.
"Boyd, if I remember correctly, Soren only said that because he had to save you from an attack by a sword master that I had been fighting."
"Huh? Oh. Right, commander. I guess I forgot about that. Hey, do you know what Soren's problem is?"
"Yes." Ike said and left the mess hall. There was no point in telling Boyd. Ike knew that Soren had only said those things because he had the mage's trust. Telling it to the warrior would only break Soren's trust in him. And the idea that he wasn't trustworthy of his allies, his friends even, galled him to the core.
Ike decided that he should talk to the mage again. Enough time had passed, and he wasn't even close to figuring out what his parents had to do with any of Soren's insecurities, unless they had abandoned him and left him with that woman.
He stood outside the door to Soren's tent. It wasn't so frigid anymore for spring was beginning to start. In fact, they had just crossed into Crimea.
"Hey, Soren." He said as a warning and then he pushed aside the flap of burlap and strode into the staff officer's quarters. Ike would have waited for a response at any other time, but he needed to talk with Soren.
Soren looked up at Ike and then quickly looked to the side. To Ike the fact that his skin was almost white was painfully obvious and the pain in his eyes. Ike didn't take a seat; he just stood there, looking down at Soren, trying to word what he wanted to ask. Then he just went with the way that felt most natural to him. Forward and blunt.
"I've been thinking a lot about what you said the other day, and there's something I still don't understand. You survived. You're strong. Why would you feel insecure about who you are? Tell me. Tell me everything." While he was saying this, Ike grabbed a chair and pulled it closer to Soren. He sat down on it and looked at Soren.
Soren drew a shuddering breath and closed his eyes. His entire body shook and then his eyebrows furrowed as he glowered at Ike. "Curse you! Why can't you leave me be?! I don't have any friends, Ike! I don't have anyone else!" He started yelling. Not very loud, but yelling regardless.
Ike nearly jumped back when Soren had started, his eyes wide. He was not used to such anger from Soren. A scolding for being ignorant, sure. But this was completely different. When he regained composure, Ike saw that Soren was running a hand through his hair and biting his lip as he spoke.
"If I tell you and you turn on me... I... I... I don't think I can survive it." Soren said and closed his eyes, turning his head from Ike.
"That's why you have to tell me, Soren. You'll never tell anyone else. And if you don't tell anyone, you're just going to keep suffering." Ike sighed as Soren didn't respond, he reached out and turned the mage to face him. "Look at you! You're a mess! Come on. Talk to me."
"Ike," Soren barely muttered, his lip was trembling. "I..." A few tears fell down his cheeks. "I..." His shoulders began to shake. He couldn't tell Ike. There was no way Ike would want to be associated to him after he told him.
"Soren, it's me!" Ike said, sensing his hesitation. Ike removed his hand from Soren's shoulder and placed it on his chest, "Trust me. I don't give two figs who your parents are! I'll stand by you."
He couldn't mean that. After he heard, he couldn't mean that. But those words filled him with more hope then he had felt in a while. "Ike, I…" Soren said and began to wipe the tears from his face with the back of his robes, "No, I won't..."
But those words. "Trust me" and "I'll stand by you." He sniffled once and then decided that he'd have to put his trust in his friend, "Ike," but how could he? "I'm," But he had to. "Branded. I'm one of the Branded." Soren looked up at Ike, expecting to see his face go through phases of disgust and loathing, but only saw confusion.
Ike's mouth formed the word Soren had just called himself as if to test it before he spoke. "A Branded? What's that?"
Soren was flabbergasted. He honestly didn't know what that was. Soren was almost tempted to dismiss the matter, but he didn't. It wouldn't be fair to Ike. He should at least know. Soren sat back in his seat and looked at his knees, "It's a cross between a beorc and a laguz. Such a taboo violates every teaching of the goddess. And of society. We are untouchables. Abominations. Condemned to a life of hatred and shunning from both races." Soren looked up, now there was no reason for Ike's face to not be twisted in disgust. But again it wasn't.
"Wait, wait. Hold it a second. Let me make sure that I follow you." Ike stopped, he didn't quite understand why that was bothering Soren so much. But this was quite a shock to him regardless, "You're part laguz?"
"Yeah. This mark on my forehead is the proof." Soren pointed to the red discoloration on his forehead, "I learned about it while researching ancient books at the Mainal Cathedral. I always thought it was a birthmark. Others thought that it was the mark of a Spirit Charmer."
"What's a Spirit Charmer?" Ike said. He had heard Titania use that term before, but he had no idea what it meant.
"Magic comes from interaction with spirits. If you let one into your body, it will give you tremendous power," Soren paused and frowned, "for a price. That's why the old sage was so interested in me. He thought I had struck such a deal. But instead, I was just a filthy Branded."
Ike wanted immediately to disagree with Soren's word choice, but he restrained himself. "All right. I understand. So?"
Soren stopped for a full ten seconds. He almost couldn't believe his ears, "What do you mean, "so"?" Ike couldn't have possibly meant what he thought he meant. Ike couldn't possibly be making light of the fact that he was a Branded.
"So, you have laguz blood in your veins. So, you have a mark to prove it. So," Ike said staring Soren in the eye, trying to figure out why this was such a big deal, "what's the problem?"
Soren jumped up, immediately pacing around the room, "What's the problem...? Don't you find me repugnant!? I work beside you, eat beside you. I'm nothing! I don't belong anywhere! Doesn't that sicken you?" At his question Soren whirled around to face Ike. He was panting heavily and seemed to be rattled, as though Ike had just contradicted everything and anything he believed in.
And Ike knew that he had. Ike stood up and walked to Soren. He shook his head. "No. It doesn't change anything." He placed a hand on his shoulder, "You're still you, Soren! You're a capable officer of our army. And my friend. We can't keep going unless you are with us."
"Ike," Soren stopped and looked up at Ike, "I thought... I thought you..." Soren had thought that Ike had known. He had thought Ike should have known. And if he didn't, once he knew, he thought that he would hate him.
Ike furrowed his eyes brows, "What?"
"It was Gallia." Soren turned his head to the side and backed away, "The sage lived in Gallia. A few beorcs had settled there and…" Soren's voice trailed off.
"Gallia? Are you saying..." Ike trailed off. Was Soren trying to say that he was part of the beast clan?
Soren shook as he took a deep breath, "When the sage died, no one would help me. I couldn't speak. Couldn't find food. I was dying. You were the only one who helped. You and your father. That's why you're my friend. My... only friend."
Ike stood there, speechless. What could he say to that? He had more friends then Soren did. But he felt as though he had to say something.
"Ike?" Soren ventured after a while.
"Why don't you hate me?"
Ike was taken aback by the question. He shrugged. "You've been a member of the team for a long time and my friend for even longer. I don't quite remember meeting you, so you've been my friend for as long as I can recall. I can't say that doesn't matter just because of what you are and what you always have been."
"What if...I hadn't been your friend?"
"I doubt you would have told me if that was the case." Ike said, "But I don't have a problem with it at all. Honestly, Soren. I can't see why anyone else would."
"You won't tell anyone?" Soren asked suddenly. Afraid. Ike might not care. But, he didn't think that the others would be so forgiving.
"Of course not, Soren. So don't worry about it, okay?"
Soren nodded. He turned away suddenly, "Go. Please? I want to be by myself."
"Alright, Soren. Just promise me one thing?"
"Try not to get distracted on the battlefield anymore. All of us depend on you to help us win this."
"O-of course not, Ike."
Ike nodded and left. Now that that was over with, he had other things to think about. Like what to do with this entire army.