As she rouses from slumber, the pitch black darkness is illuminated by a far off flickering light source. She tries to shift her weight off her feet, both of which feel numb, but is met with instant resistance and a soft but sharp clink of metal.
Although the images are still fuzzy, they slowly gain focus. The floor is a little damp and very dirty. A thin layer of dust clings to her skin and it occurs to her that she is naked or nearly so. She lifts her head, trying to regain a sense of where she is.
"W… a… I?" She licks her lips, but her parched tongue offers no significant help in vocalizing her question. Instead, she tastes the layer of dust that had collected on her lips. She wonders how long she has been unconscious.
Nevertheless, her almost silent question receives a response, however distant. She hears first the soft thud of booted footsteps approaching. A clatter of metals comes next and she realizes that she is confined and chained in a cell of some sort. A dirty underground cell.
She struggles to communicate, but to no avail.
Finally, from no more than a foot in front of her, she hears her captor's voice.
"Olivie Segbrecht… Welcome to Shutra."
-The Lines That Blur-
Vivio's eyes snapped open. Light filtered in from the window, in stark contrast to the dream she awoke from. She felt a hand holding hers and turned to look at Einhart, who continued to sleep peacefully. They'd come a long way together and she was glad that Einhart agreed to the sleepover so readily.
Looking again at their intertwined fingers, Vivio's smile faded. Einhart had told her about the dreams… the memories of the Hegemon… which had become so real to her that they became like her own memories. Was her dream a memory? She'd never had a dream like that, at least not one that she could remember. She could still feel the cool ground of the cell…
Vivio sat up with a start when she heard the sound of approaching footsteps. She relaxed when she heard a knock, and then her mother's voice. "Vivio, Einhart, are you awake yet? Breakfast is ready."
Einhart yawned and rubbed her eyes. She answered, "We just woke up. Thank you, Vivio's mother."
Vivio giggled at the way Einhart addressed her mother. "We'll be down in a bit, Mama."
"Okay, take your time and wash up properly."
After Nanoha went back downstairs, Einhart stared blankly at Vivio. "What was so funny?"
Vivio grinned, thinking that Einhart was starting to catch some of her sleepy morning habits. "Nothing. Nothing at all. Let's get up. Mama's waiting for us."
Einhart nodded as she dressed and washed up with Vivio. As they returned to the room to neaten the bedding up quickly before going downstairs to eat, Vivio remembered the dream again. She opened her mouth to ask Einhart, but then it occurred to her that she wasn't sure of the reasons for her vision or if she really wanted to know them. Usually, her curiosity got the better of her, but with this dream, she wasn't so sure. It reminded her of the incident that brought her into Nanoha's life years ago.
Startled, Vivio snapped her attention towards Einhart, who was watching her curiously. "Yeah?"
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah… Yes, I'm fine. Did you sleep well?"
Einhart nodded. "I like sleeping on the floor. It relaxes me and reminds me of the times I spent training out in the wilderness."
Vivio smiled, but it faded again when Einhart returned the question.
"How did you sleep?"
"Umm… Slept like a baby!" Vivio set the bedding aside and tugged Einhart's arm towards the door. "Come on, Mama's food doesn't taste as good cold."
"I heard that, Vivio!"
Vivio yelped and then waited a moment before giggling. She decided she would think about the dream later and forced herself to produce one of her usual beaming smiles. "Sorry, Mama!"
Meanwhile, downstairs, Nanoha was having a light morning video chat with Fate, who was once again on a far-off engagement.
"I have a surprise for you when I get back tomorrow. I hope you like it."
Nanoha teased, "You know how I don't like surprises."
Fate played with her coat nervously, a light pink coloring her cheeks. "I know… that's why I'm telling you ahead of time that I have a surprise for you. So it's a surprise… but not."
Laughing, Nanoha nodded, paying no heed to Fate's nervousness. She had learned by now that Fate could get nervous over anything, regardless of whether it was warranted. It was a shy side that nowadays only she really saw. "I look forward to seeing what it is."
Nanoha turned as Vivio arrived on the scene with a more poised Einhart in tow. "Good morning, you two."
Fate smiled from the monitor and waved. "I'll be home tomorrow, Vivio. Did you make any plans?"
Vivio blinked, a dazed look coming over her face as she thought about it. Then with a grin, she announced, "If I did, I'm canceling. Are we going to pick Fate-mama up at the spaceport, Mama?"
Nanoha hummed and then nodded with a smile. "Yes, we can. The ship will come in a couple hours after school ends."
Vivio cheered and then looked at Einhart. "Einhart, do you want to come, too? It's always fun picking up Fate-mama."
Einhart raised an eyebrow, the rest of her expression remaining unimpressed. "Fun?"
"Mmhmm." Vivio leaned over and whispered in Einhart's ear, "Mama and Fate-mama always get in trouble for PDA there and a crowd starts up to watch them, sometimes even before they get near each other."
Einhart blushed, as did Nanoha and Fate, who easily overheard despite Vivio's precautions.
Nanoha and Fate exchanged looks. Fate resolved aloud, "We'll control ourselves this time, I'll make sure of it."
Nanoha gave an emphatic nod of agreement. "I'll make sure of it, too."
Vivio giggled, knowing as well as her parents that it would be harder than that to avoid the seeming inevitable.
After a hearty breakfast and some backyard training in control, Vivio volunteered to walk Einhart home. Not two steps out of the gate, Vivio remembered her dream again and once more dealt with the indecision of asking about it.
"What's on your mind, Vivio?"
Vivio jumped a little and then smiled sheepishly at Einhart. "Am I that obvious?"
"Yes, but I could tell you weren't yourself all morning. What's wrong?"
Vivio took a deep breath and then released it slowly, trying to calm her nerves as the sensations came flooding back. "Well… I had a … weird dream. I think… it might've been a memory."
Einhart stopped walking, comprehension dawning as quickly as worry. "What was it about?"
As another thought occurred to her, Vivio met Einhart's concerned gaze with one in need of assurance. "If our relationship… if the relationship between your ancestor and mine… if there was anything special about it, you would tell me, right?"
Einhart frowned. "What do you mean by 'special'? From what I've seen, it was a deep bond but… how do you mean 'special'?"
Vivio looked around nervously, tugging Einhart to keep walking down the sidewalk. Einhart followed without complaint. "Umm… I mean… Did Olivie ever… get captured? Like in Shutra?"
Einhart bit her lip and looked away. She'd hoped it hadn't been about that. Especially for Vivio's first, to her knowledge, memory of the past life. Eventually, Einhart answered, "Olivie was first brought to Shutra as a slave."
Einhart allowed the silence to permeate, however uncomfortable it was.
"But wasn't she a queen?"
"She wasn't born a queen. This was before that period of her life. Officially, she went to Shutra to study. What she studied though…"
"What did she study?"
Einhart smiled weakly, as if it were her own past that she was not proud of discussing. "She was studying the art of submission. So that when she returned, she could be a puppet to the men hiding in the background."
Vivio frowned, both confused and indignant. "But you told me… you told me that Olivie was strong and brave and the Hegemon respected her greatly. How can that-"
"It was a dark time for her, but I did not say she stayed in that situation. She may not have been born a queen, but she always had the dignity of one. What she ended up doing in Shutra… was actually quite commendable."
"How… how did they meet?"
Einhart didn't need to ask who 'they' were. Instead, she murmured, "It's a long story."
"Tell me the short version."
"You'll want to know the rest if I tell you the short version."
"You know it all, right? As if you lived through it?"
Einhart nodded with a slight grimace. "Yes."
"So…! Tell me, Einhart, please? I need to know."
Einhart looked at Vivio, uncertain. "May-"
"If you say 'when you're older' I'm going to smack you."
They both paused, looking at each other, before Vivio giggled.
"Okay, maybe not now. But I really want to know and you're probably the only one that can tell me with accuracy I trust."
Einhart smiled softly, squeezing Vivio's hand. "All right… the short version is… the Hegemon was assigned the task of training Olivie… in this art of submission. By dominating her. That is how they met."
"In a cold cell?"
Einhart frowned. "You could feel sensations?"
Vivio nodded. "Couldn't you?"
She shook her head in response. "Never. I only saw and heard. I hope for your sake that you don't have another such vivid memory then."
Einhart didn't say anything for a long moment. It wasn't until Einhart's home was in sight that she finally answered. "Because learning hurts."
A/N: This may or may not be a sequel of Shard Card. Nanoha and Fate got married at the end of Shard Card, but even if they didn't, they might as well act like it. I don't know if I'll take the time to finish this story but… I felt bad not submitting anything recently. So here you go! I dare you to imagine where I'm going with this. And I'm debating doing a time skip so that they aren't minors… oops, maybe I gave too much away with that! :X Shutting up now. Hit the damn review button or the second chapter gets it! :O
P.S. Thank you for all the postmortem reviews sent into my stories. I loves you.