Exams are over! Yay! Apologies in advance for any errors or confusion.
"Wake up!" A blast of cold wind jolted Lucina from her deep slumber.
"Ahh!" She fumbled for Falchion for a frantic moment until her vision cleared up to reveal Morgan's grinning face.
Her brother had understandably leapt back to avoid a near swipe to the face. Upon closer observation, he was holding a Wind tome. "I guess the saying about letting sleeping dragons lie is true." Morgan snickered in his impish manner. In the light of early morning, he sure was full of energy.
Lucina rubbed her sleepy eyes. "Why did you need to use magic to wake me up? I almost died of fright."
"Well, I tried calling your name, then poking you, then yelling and shaking the bed. None of those worked, and we need to meet Mother and Father in less than a quarter of an hour. I was down to my last two options: cold wind or a shock." He hefted a Thunder tome in his other hand.
She barely registered his "other option". They had to train with their parents! Lucina scrambled out of bed and gathered her clothes.
"I'll see you outside," Morgan edged his way out and shut the door behind him.
Changing was a blur – the most straightening up she did was a rushed comb of her hand through her hair. Before she knew it, Lucina was running down the barrack halls to get to the courtyard. Breakfast would have to wait. It was a pity, since she was sure that there was leftover bear meat from the night's festivities.
Sure enough, her parents had arrived early. Morgan was happily chatting with them, excited to learn something new. Father looked like he was a bit under the weather while Mother looked more chipper.
"I'm sorry, I didn't realize how long I'd slept," Lucina began in a huff.
"I can say the same," Father gave her a sympathetic smile. "I think I had too much mead last night." He put a hand to his head.
Mother pounded him on the back. "And that was a personal decision! We've got training to do." Leave it to her to get things done…
And so, Lucina listened carefully as her mother explained what they were going to do. Resistance to magic was all about imagination, which, apparently, was where magic itself stemmed from. Lucina didn't quite get it, but she figured it was because she wasn't all too familiar with mage craft. Morgan seemed to understand and nodded in agreement.
"In order to dissolve a magical attack, you must put up a barrier around yourself," Mother closed her eyes for a moment, "Morgan, try and blast me with a spell."
Like a child getting sweets on the first of spring, Morgan pulled out an Elfire tome. Just how many spell books was he carrying? "Sure thing!" With a quick mutter, the field of symbols surrounded him and a rush of fire engulfed their mother. However, the flames started to dissipate, as if sucked away by an invisible force.
"See? The trick is to keep your force field spinning. That way, brute force can't break through." Mother said it so simply! She was constantly saving her comrades by protecting them from elemental attacks. Lucina had always admired her mother for her strength. It came so naturally.
Father muttered, "Easier said than done."
"Naw, it's fun!" Morgan insisted while stretching his arms. "Gotta limber up so my imaginative juices start flowing. You should stretch, too!"
Morgan could be persuasive without realizing it. Or maybe he did know and wanted the four of them to look silly in the middle of the common area. He seemed to have a proclivity for causing benign mischief…
"Good morning, Robin, Captain," a stern monotone voice said. The little family of four stopped stretching, straightening up all at once. It was Lady Miriel – Laurent's mother. A genius, Lucina was told, who had dedicated her life to researching the natural world.
"Morning, Miriel." Mother greeted her friend brightly. "Glad you found the time to help us."
Help them? Lucina was puzzled. If they were going to spar, their family was already evenly spread in regards to physical and magical attacks. Still, she wouldn't question her mother's methods quite yet.
Mother clapped her hands enthusiastically. "Now we can get started. Miriel will be attacking you with some weak magic. We'll try this without moving around first." Lucina wondered why Mother couldn't do it herself. She was handy with a tome just as much as a sword.
"Can I go first?" Morgan raised his hand and waved around.
"Very well," Lady Miriel directed her attention to Morgan. Lucina and her father backed away cautiously.
"Are you ready?"
A burst of flame shot through the air. It was weaker than what Morgan had used against Mother, but it certainly had lethal potential. Morgan stood his ground confidently as the fire stopped short a few short paces away from him. In the blink of an eye, the tongues of red and orange ceased to exist. The only evidence there had been fire were some scorched blades of grass that had been hardy enough to poke through the cobblestone flooring.
"Well done, Morgan." Mother nodded her approval with a smile. Lucina was still confused. Why wasn't Mother using her own magic?
"I'll go next," Father volunteered himself before Lucina could ask to go next.
Lady Miriel's expression was stony. "Captain, is this wise?"
"Very! If I don't train, I won't get better. Right, Lucina? Morgan?"
"Right," they replied.
"If you insist." Without another word, the vortex of fire came rushing from the mage's palm. Father was standing as Morgan had – brave and tall. This time, though, the flames slowed down but crept closer and closer, just a hand's breadth away…
Father leapt back. "Yeowch! That's hot!" He touched his eyebrows. "Still there. Phew, I thought I was going to get a face full of fire."
That performance discouraged Lucina in a variety of ways. First, how did Father expect to survive in battle without Mother or someone else with high resistance to magic? Second, Lucina was sure she took her physical and magical prowess from her father. Almost everything she was came from him, after all. This was not always a good thing.
"Your turn, Lucina!" Morgan grabbed her hand and tugged her to face Laurent's mother, who was but fifteen paces away. It may have seemed like a decent distance, but magic travelled faster than most people could react. "Remember, imagination."
Out of all the training Lucina had done to strengthen herself, she had neglected to work on her magical defenses. In her world, spell books were a rare and valuable resource. She couldn't ask her friends to waste a few uses on her behalf.
"Are you ready?" Lady Miriel was looking at her with that scrupulous expression of hers. Like she was picking her very being apart.
"Yes." Lucina closed her eyes and took a breath to gather her thoughts. Right. A wall. No – a barrier. She was running out of time! What was an appropriate image to think of? The mage's chanting was nearing completion. Think faster, she told herself. Then, it came to her. When she and her dearest friends had been at the brink of death at the mercy of the fell dragon, when Lucina had summoned Naga with an incomplete Fire Emblem, the divine dragon had formed a protective barrier. It had been enough to destroy Risen on contact. The picture was so clear in her mind…
It was very, very hot. Lucina cracked her eyelids open to see blinding flashes of red and yellow and orange. When she gasped in shock, blazing air seared her insides. Her nose and cheeks felt like blisters were going to bubble forth. But the fire didn't come closer. It was an arm's reach away. She was safe!
In an instant, the assault stopped. Lucina exhaled the breath she'd been holding. Her heart raced in her chest, threatening to jump free and run to the high hills. It was an exhilarating experience. For so long, she'd felt powerless against any form of magic. Knowing that she could at least repel weak attacks made her feel secure.
"Looks like you've got more potential than you thought." Mother gave her a wink.
Father chuckled. "All thanks to you, Robin."
Mother shook her head. "I doubt it. Lucina's gotten strong on her own."
"I wouldn't say it was entirely my own efforts that I was able to come this far." Lucina said suddenly. "I mean to say that you – er, my parents – trained me in the beginning."
Father beamed. "And we'll train you now."
Hours passed as they practiced strengthening their resistance. It was harder than Lucina expected, but in a different way. She was used to the fatigue of constant sparring, but combating enchantments was tiring in a unique way. They stood still most of the time, simply testing raw willpower. Even that was exhausting as Lady Miriel's attacks steadily grew in intensity. When Mother had them move and dodge and deflect the spells, Lucina's head swam from the concentration necessary to manage the physical and mental sides of battle. Usually, her mind was occupied with attacking, defending, and evading without creating a magical shield. Falchion was able to cleave through spells, but it was not a shield. Lucina had received enough burns and cuts to know that much.
Morgan looked like he was having the time of his life. Lucina was a tiny bit envious of him, in that sisterly way that spurred her on to train her own skills, but she was glad to see him having fun. He deserved to enjoy himself after what he'd been through.
"I think we've done a good job for today." Mother finally said around high noon. She looked at all of them with satisfaction. It made Lucina stand a little taller.
"Thank the gods," gasped Father. "I'm not sure how many accidents I can afford." This was true – there were little burns littering Father's appendages from when his resistance gave out during the duration of the session. Of course, Lucina knew it wasn't because her father's will was weak. No, he was one of the most stubborn, willful people she knew – along with her mother.
Mother winced. "Sorry about that. I didn't want anyone to get hurt."
"No, it's my fault for slipping up." Father said.
Lady Miriel blinked. "Shall I take my leave? I do have specimens to observe."
"Go ahead. Thank you again, Miriel." Mother waved the stoic woman farewell, as did Father.
"Can we spar with swords now?" Morgan asked.
"Do you feel up to it?" Father's lips were already curving up. He always made time to get some fencing practice in.
Morgan grinned. "Yeah! Except, can we use our real swords?"
Father positively exuded fatherly pride. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Lucina, will you spar, too?" Morgan nudged her. He looked expectant.
Mother stepped forth. "Then your first opponent will be me." Her voice was cool and confident. "Let's see how you've grown." She drew her silvery blade. It caught the light of the sun – a testament to how dutifully it had been maintained.
So the four of them started dueling their respective partners. Lucina saluted her mother, as all honorable matches began with such formalities. No sooner than the action was reciprocated, Mother lunged. Lucina was taken aback, but reminded herself to remain focused. Her mother's style was incredibly hard to read. It wasn't a fixed technique. Or at least, one that Lucina could recognize. Though there were moves that she could see were adapted to be used in conjunction with the royal style.
Lucina quickly realized that she would need to be quicker in order to get a leg up in the bout. Every time they clashed blades, shock waves ran up and down along her arms. It was fun, though. Nothing brought so much pleasure to her than the physical exertion of sparring. As Lucina continued to anticipate her mother's movements, how calm her opponent looked unnerved her. Mother's earth colored optics were trained on what was going on before her, her expression relaxed as her body reacted to each of Lucina's offenses.
"Yaahh!" Lucina swung Falchion all but recklessly, trying to throw her mother's mindset.
"Whoa," the Grandmaster evaded the swipe by the breadth of a finger. She regained her footing in the blink of an eye and rushed at Lucina again.
Lucina stole a glance at her brother and father. They seemed to be less evenly matched. It made sense – Morgan was younger, plus he was probably rusty from forgetting most of his life.
"Aha!" Mother's blade flashed into sight.
"Wha," Lucina barely jumped over the leg that swept the ground she'd been standing on.
"You need to focus." The comment was grounding. Shame washed over Lucina's mind for a second. If she was so concerned about Morgan, how would she be able to protect herself? If she died, she wouldn't be around to protect anyone.
So Lucina focused.
She calmed down and set her jaw. Her grip on Falchion loosened a bit; too much tension caused fatigue. There was a little pulse of energy. Was Falchion trying to communicate? That was strange. Lucina had never felt such a sensation. She had been sure something was wrong with her weapon since crossing the parameters of time. Either way, she felt encouraged knowing that the ancient blade was responding to her touch.
"Switch!" Mother called. It was enough to startle Lucina out of her battle trance.
Father disengaged himself and swapped places with Mother. They exchanged glances, silently communicating a plan.
"Hello there." Father's face was shiny with sweat, but he was brimming with energy.
Lucina smiled at him before formally raising Falchion in a salute.
"You're holding up well," Father mused. He wasted no time attacking. Now, Lucina was comfortable. She knew her father's moves inside and out. Mother had made sure of it in the past. Father was fast and strong. There wasn't much of a difference in strength between her parents, but Father's offenses were unrelenting, unrestrained. Mother's attacks had been carefully calculated to save precious energy. Recklessness, it seemed, ran in the family. The running gag had been that Mother was the only sensible one of the four of them.
Their family sparring match had promptly drawn an audience. The other Shepherds – first and second generation – gathered into a ring. With the smaller space, Lucina found herself back to back with her brother as they faced their parents. She could feel both of their hearts hammering away in their bodies, from the strain and excitement of battle. The damp warmth of sweat on their backs was quite unpleasant.
"Morgan," Lucina breathed, "we should work together."
"Yeah," he gasped for air. His muscles were quivering from the intense match. They would need to finish soon, or their parents would certainly win.
"Chrom, shall we do the same?"
"Sure." Again, their parents seemed to understand each other in just a few words. It was uncanny.
Lucina became vaguely aware of Morgan's shoulders twitching against her back. A message. Morgan's left shoulder was jerking repeatedly: go left. Lucina hummed her comprehension. Then, her brother shifted his weight, tapping his foot once - one, twice - two…
The two of them leapt in a crosswise direction, springing at their parents wildly. Whoops from the crowd were but a muddled noise in Lucina's ears. Her body screamed with the effort it took to maneuver properly. When she opened her eyes – she hadn't noticed they were closed – Falchion's tip was leveled at Father's throat. Morgan was in the same sort of position facing Mother. They'd won!
Just as Lucina was about to celebrate their victory, the look on Father's face broke her concentration. He looked smug. Too smug.
"Look down." He whispered. Lucina flicked her optics downward to see that Father's Falchion was poised to strike at her from below. Another glance to her right revealed that Morgan was just as vulnerable.
"I think we can call this a draw." Mother offered offhandedly. There was an astonished silence from the other Shepherds. "Good teamwork, you two." She seemed very pleased.
Lucina took a careful step back and sheathed Falchion. Morgan and their parents did the same. Then, the Shepherds swarmed them. Challenges were bellowed and shoving ensued; it was chaos.
A strong hand gripped Lucina's shoulder. Kjelle. There was a fiery spark in her gaze that Lucina couldn't turn down even though she was winded. They'd been rivals of sorts, throughout their friendship.
"Come on, let's show everyone that we're the superior warriors here."
So they sparred. It was incredibly challenging since everyone else was fighting as well. Most people would have used fake weapons for such an uncoordinated melee. But the Shepherds weren't most people. Sharp edges swung about freely and made grating noises as they collided with other very real edges. Lucina had to weave and duck and jump to avoid being sliced into a million little bits all the while focusing on Kjelle barreling toward her like a bull.
It was very similar to the dance they had the previous night. Opponents got mixed around; not that anyone cared one way or another. All they wanted was to train. At one point, Lucina was up against Owain, Cynthia, and Morgan. The Justice Cabal, if she remembered correctly.
And then Inigo came into view. Lucina made eye contact with him. Inigo, for whatever reason, blushed. Pieces of the conversation Lucina had with her brother were drudged to the forefront of her mind. Embarrassment for even considering such an idea made her face heat up. She shouldn't think that way about him!
Inigo reached a hand out – the one not holding a sword. So he didn't intend on being her opponent? "Lucina, look out!"
But the warning came a moment too late. Something hard crashed into Lucina from behind, sending her tumbling to the ground. The air was knocked from her body and her vision swam with dark spots. Something heavy was on top of her. Something big and warm…and furry?
All the fighting stopped.
"Ohhhhh," a loud, warped voice moaned. It was Yarne. He was in his beast form. Lucina couldn't find the breath to tell him to get off of her.
There was a flash of light from behind, followed by the tread of light footsteps.
"Yarne! You shouldn't have run like that!" Nah snapped.
Inigo came over, reaching down to take Lucina's hands. He pulled, but her body didn't budge.
He let go of her hands. "Oi, roll over or turn back into your human form." Inigo said. "Lucina's stuck under your furry behind."
Yarne was shrouded in light. In a few seconds, the weight that had been crushing Lucina was gone. The taguel boy stood on his two feet, albeit unsteadily.
Lucina got to her feet just as shakily. Curious eyes were fixed on the scene. Aunt Lissa pushed her way through the crowd.
"Is everyone all right? Gods, someone always gets hurt during one of these frenzies."
"Nah was trying to kill me!" Yarne pointed accusingly at the half-manakete. "She's going to wipe out the last taguel!"
"Calm down, you big 'fraidy cat!" Nah shot back.
"How can I? A dragon was trying to blast me!"
The short girl wasn't having any of his excuses. "You can hurt people when you try to run from what you deserve. Look what you did to Lucina."
Lucina squirmed inwardly. It was embarrassing to have everyone looking at her like a specimen about to be dissected. She was fine! Except for stinging, wet pain in her knees. A peek at her legs confirmed that her high boots and stockings had been pushed down. The fall had been enough to tear her trousers as well. Blood trickled down from scrapes on her knees. They looked nasty, with little bits of dirt and stone lodged inside.
"Yikes! I'm sorry, Lucina." Yarne's floppy ears twitched. If they had been dog's ears, Lucina was sure they'd droop down.
"It's fine, Yarne. Only a flesh wound."
Aunt Lissa started steering Lucina to the sickbay. At least the medical portion of the barracks was more comfortable than a tent in a field.
Lucina's aunt sat her on a bed and buzzed about gathering materials to clean the wounds. When she had everything, she began picking the pebbles from Lucina's knees. It hurt a good deal, but Lucina knew she'd been through worse. Fresh blood oozed out wherever a stone had been removed.
"Gosh," muttered Aunt Lissa, "Even Sumia doesn't get scrapes this bad." Gray eyes drifted up from the work at hand. "What happened?"
Lucina's heart lurched in her chest. How could she say that she had gotten distracted over the idea that Inigo might harbor romantic feelings for her? It was too embarrassing! She scrambled to find words to fabricate a believable excuse.
"Oh, don't tell me," the War Cleric giggled, "a boy!" Sometimes, Lucina had a hard time seeing her aunt so immature and, for lack of a better word, impish. The woman was barely older than Lucina herself! Not at all like the Aunt Lissa Lucina grew up with – sweet, funny, and a good deal less nosy. And yet, she'd narrowed the situation down in a flash.
"N-not quite," Lucina tried to hide the mortification in her voice.
"Aw, you can tell me anything! Besides, if this becomes a regular thing, we can't send you to battle. If your head is in the clouds, you're gonna get all manners of weapons thrust into you." That was a good point.
Well, it was now or never… Lucina sighed with resignation. "I suppose you are right. There is someone,"
"In this camp?"
"Yes," Lucina replied slowly, "one of my dearest friends. I heard from a somewhat reliable source that this friend of mine may hold romantic feelings towards me."
"Are you aware of who this friend is?" Clearly, Lucina's bid to keep Inigo's identity a mystery was not going to get by her aunt's desire for information.
"And do you feel the same way?"
Now there was a good question. The truth was, Lucina had never thought about romance for herself. There had been too much going on. Even now, the unpredictability of Grima's resurrection made romantic pursuits seem too trivial.
"It's normal for people to fall in love during wartime," Aunt Lissa went on, "I mean, look at all of us. Without the nasty stuff that brought us together, we might not have found our partners." There was a dreamy quality to her face now, like she was thinking of a tender moment.
"Anyhow, you should give it a chance. Live a little!" Aunt Lissa's countenance grew serious. "Because we never know how long we've got left."
Lucina's conversation with her aunt left her perplexed. What had Aunt Lissa meant when she said "chance it"? Was that how the first generation of Shepherds found love? If so, it was a very unorthodox means of finding a partner. Well, if Lucina was going to "chance it", then her first step was to figure out if she had feelings for Inigo, if she assumed he did in fact harbor romantic interest in her.
She considered Inigo's movement in battle. Her parents had once said that she could learn a lot about a person by the way they fought. Inigo was graceful. He wove in and out of the chaos with ease, and his strikes were fluid, like they were part of a dance. He was not so brave as to be on the front lines, but he stood his ground and protected his comrades when push came to shove. Lucina admired that much about him. Then her thoughts drifted to Inigo's behavior out of battle. He philandered during his free time, which was unattractive to Lucina. But Inigo also understood that soldiers needed rest, however brief. He was humorous, and his smile was contagious…
Gah, what were these emotions? They felt warm and secure, but they were completely different from the love Lucina associated with her family and friends. How long had they been dormant within her? Why was everything changing now? Gods help her! She couldn't allow herself to get distracted; she couldn't, not with Father's life on the line…
"Oof!" Lucina grunted as she came into contact with something somewhat solid. It wasn't a wall – that was for sure. She needed to blink once, twice, to let her vision clear up.
"Hello there, buttercup." Inigo's grinning face was the image that graced Lucina's sight. Perfect, just the person Lucina wanted to see.
"Ah, Inigo! Hello again." Gods, she felt strange.
Inigo blushed. "Are you feeling all right? Did that fall damage your head? You're looking at me strangely and it's making me nervous."
"Actually, I've been meaning to speak with you. Will you walk with me?" Lucina gestured to the pastures beyond the walls of the Shepherds' fort. "I imagine we'll be back before supper."
"W-well, if you say it like that, I can't refuse." Oh yes, Inigo was a strange, strange boy. His reactions were somewhat unpredictable.
They walked in silence for a long while. Lucina didn't know where to begin – all she noticed was that the air was getting cooler much faster than the previous day. She hoped the right words would come to her before it became too chilly. Inigo, on the other hand, looked positively neurotic. Maybe Morgan had been wrong – if Inigo was so afraid of being alone with Lucina, then he couldn't possibly have romantic feelings for her. Lucina's resolve was wavering. What if this wasn't such a good idea? No. If she left herself wondering what Inigo thought of her, she would run the risk of getting sidetracked during something more important than a sparring match. Mother and Father would put their feelings in the open; that way, there was no wondering.
Lucina cleared her throat. "Inigo, are you romantically interested in me?"
Inigo appeared to choke on nothing. "What?" His eyes were wide with disbelief. Lucina felt her courage deflate.
"I see. So I was wrong. I'm sorry if I've,"
The dancer shook his head. "It's not that! What I was surprised about was the way you said it. You really don't beat around the bush, do you?"
"I speak the way that comes most naturally to me." Now Lucina was confused. Was Inigo trying to reject her in a pleasant way?
"But back to what you wanted to know." Inigo inhaled shakily. "Yeah, I do like you. More than friends or comrades should. To be honest, I've always wanted to be at your side." His face was turning as red as a beet. Had he truly felt this way for so long?
Lucina stopped in her tracks. "R-really?" It was cold, that was all…the chill in the air was making it hard to communicate properly.
"And I'd always wondered if you felt the same way." Inigo met her gaze shyly. Anticipation danced behind his dark eyes. Lucina's mouth was suddenly dry.
"I've never thought about anyone like that. I suppose it's because there was too much to think about before." Already, Inigo was retreating into himself, as if preparing for yet another rejection. As if by instinct, Lucina placed a hand on Inigo's arm.
"But I'm not opposed to courtship."
"So you feel the same way?"
"I've been having these feelings bubbling up – I can't describe them, but when I think of you," Lucina cut herself off. She sounded like a madwoman for sure!
Inigo brightened up considerably. "Oho! The lady does hold affection for me." Lucina nodded in response. She didn't want her clumsy tongue to cause any misunderstandings. Maybe it was better to let Inigo say what he needed to say first. After all, he'd been waiting for a long time.
"I've got a question." Inigo said slowly, "when did you realize your affections for me?" It was a fair inquiry, but it was a hard one to answer.
Lucina thought for a moment to gather her thoughts. Don't slip up, she told herself. "When I snapped at you the other day, I felt so awful for hurting your feelings. The idea that I'd caused you any sort of discomfort wouldn't leave me. You were trying to make me happy because you cared for me, correct?" Her cheeks felt hot as she recalled their outing. How could she have been so blind?
"Now you've got it!" Inigo laughed like he was the happiest person in the world. Yes, this was what Lucina liked so much about him. Even with Grima's revival as a very possible event, Inigo was there to laugh in the face of obliteration. Lucina felt like she was going to burst with happiness. It was a wonderful awareness, being able to realize these emotions.
"But," Lucina began, "you'll need to stop philandering. If you wish to pursue this sort of relationship, that is." At that, Inigo went pale.
"Are you sure? I can't ask ladies to tea?"
"That depends on the context and intention of the request."
"You drive a hard bargain." He grumbled. "But I've awaited this moment long enough!"
"For real and for true?" Lucina risked being too earnest, but she didn't care. Her heartbeat fluttered with excitement. A foreign yet pleasurable warmth bloomed in her body.
Inigo grinned. "Yeah, for real." He looked away for a moment. "Erm, shall we commemorate this moment with a…gods, I'm so flustered! A kiss?" A kiss? Goodness, Lucina had never kissed anyone on the lips. She felt nervous about it – Inigo must have earned at least one from all of his escapades! No, no, she should stay calm. If they were to be romantically involved, it was all a part of the arrangement. Lucina set her mind to thinking of it as training. She would get better the more she practiced…
"Yes, I think that is appropriate for this occasion." Lucina wasn't sure how to initiate the action. To her surprise, Inigo did not take charge.
The dancer looked ashamed. "To be totally forthright, I've never done this before." Lucina felt as if an immense weight had been lifted from her shoulders. So the two of them were new at this. Good – they would navigate the new waters of their relationship together.
"It's simple," Lucina murmured, recalling all of the times her parents had pecked each other on the lips when they thought she and Morgan weren't watching. She took Inigo's hands in hers, squeezing them for comfort. His hands were rough, just like hers.
"R-right, it is." Taking his cue to meet Lucina halfway, Inigo brought his face closer. Lucina was vaguely grateful that there wasn't much of a height difference. Inigo smelled like sweat and earth and metal, and Lucina was sure she smelled the same way – altogether unpleasant. She hadn't thought about bathing before meeting up with Inigo.
Their noses were almost touching, and Lucina let her eyelids drift together. All they needed to do was a push and their lips would touch. Maybe it was nerves, or maybe pure excitement, but Lucina propelled herself forward with more force than she would have liked. Inigo must have done the same thing because their faces bumped, but their lips did not meet.
"Ouch!" They both cried out. Lucina opened her eyes to see Inigo's embarrassed face. Her own cheeks were aflame with bashfulness. It was fascinating how romance made her feel vulnerable without fear.
Inigo cleared his throat. "S-should we try a-again?" He was struggling to keep his composure, but it was clear he wanted to retry their botched act of affection.
"Yes," Lucina squeezed Inigo's hands again, as a sign for them to move forward again. This time, she controlled her movement so that it was a gentle lean into her partner. Finally, their lips touched – barely, at first, only brushing each other. But once they were mutually assured they had made the desired contact, the kiss became firmer. Lucina considered the new, pleasurable sensation. It was tingly and exciting. Inigo's lips were somewhat soft and a tad dry; the cold air didn't help with that.
After a brief moment, they broke away. Lucina noted the dreamy, gratified look on Inigo's face. She, on the other hand, felt hot and giddy.
"I've wanted this for a long time," Inigo mumbled into her ear, "thank you."
"And thank you for staying by my side all this time."
They walked back to the garrison hand in hand. Inigo quietly mentioned a few of the times he'd tried to attract Lucina's attention when they were younger. Lucina did her best not to laugh at her past misunderstandings that happened as a result of Inigo's antics. She'd always had the impression that Inigo was jesting with her, or perhaps practicing his philandering techniques. Inigo admitted that he'd tried to pass his multiple advances off as jokes because he'd been so nervous.
"I think we missed supper," Inigo observed. The scent of food had gone stale in the air. There was no activity in sight. Missed supper? Lucina's good mood was dashed a bit at hearing the bad news.
"But I lost my appetite a while back," her childhood friend gave her a nudge. "We should get to sleep – especially you. I think you trained the hardest out of anyone. That's what happens when you're the captain's kid."
Lucina nodded, stomach protesting all the while. Although, she wasn't tired. In fact, Lucina felt that she could take on the world. Her feet felt lighter than air and she had the idea that she could lift the heaviest load. Was this what couples felt like? Or was she deceiving herself?
"Do you want me to walk you back to your room?" Inigo asked tentatively. Why was the question so scary? In any case, Lucina had other plans before it was indeed too late.
"No, it's too much trouble. Unless you wanted an escort to your quarters?"
The dancer looked like he wanted to say something more, but decided not to. "Ah, I'm fine. I assume this is good night?"
"Yes. I believe a parting kiss is customary?" Lucina rather liked the feeling of being with Inigo.
"I believe so." Inigo agreed, chuckling lightly. Again, they twined their fingers and successfully executed another meeting of lips. With repetition comes confidence, Lucina thought happily.
They parted ways, Inigo to his quarters, and Lucina to try and get one last match in for the night. She was so full of energy that it seemed like it would be a waste if she didn't let it loose somehow. Kjelle's room was next to Lucina's quarters, and Kjelle was constantly looking for a sparring partner. Besides, Lucina remembered, their earlier bout had been interrupted by the pandemonium of the all out brawl that had broken out.
Lucina followed the hallway that led to the housing wing of the fort. She stopped in front of Kjelle's door, rapping her knuckles on the wooden door three times.
Lucina frowned. Kjelle must be in her room, because no one was outside and there wasn't a fathomable reason to walk the moderate distance to the city at the current hour – it was a bit early to sleep, but too late to go shopping. She listened for any sound that would indicate a human presence. Sure enough, Lucina heard a faint groan from in the room.
Was Kjelle sick? The voice Lucina had just heard did not sound like her friend at all. The older sister part of Lucina compelled her to call through the door.
"Kjelle, are you feeling ill? I'm coming in," Lucina tested the beaten iron knob to find that the door was unlocked. "I heard you say something," the sight before her stopped the rest of the words from forming.
Kjelle was in the room, all right, but she wasn't alone. Severa was on top of the knight, sort of. They were more like a tangle of limbs with articles of clothing strewn about the floor, leaving the pair in their undergarments. As to what they were doing, well, swollen lips and flushed faces explained that much. The source of the un-Kjelle like moan must have been Severa.
"Get out!" Severa snapped viciously, scrambling to cover her smallclothes.
"Oh, gods! I'm so sorry!" Lucina squeezed her eyes shut and closed the door. She darted into her room and fell onto her bed. What had she walked in on? Clearly, she and Inigo weren't the only couple among the second generation of Shepherds. Lucina felt terrible for interrupting her friends during such an intimate time. Her face was hot with embarrassment, which replaced her previous indomitable attitude. Nope, she did not feel like sparring anymore.
Lucina gathered up a linen nightshirt and pants. A nice, hot bath would help her forget that she had seen two of her closest friends – whom she regarded as sisters – engaging in the activities lovers were wont to do. Of course, just because Lucina thought of them as her sisters did not, by any means mean that her friends felt the same way about each other.
As she stepped back into the hallway, Severa emerged from Kjelle's room, fully clothed. They made eye contact, at which point Severa turned pink and looked away, about ready to storm off.
"I'm sorry," Lucina said again.
Kjelle's head poked out from her room. "Don't be. I left the damned thing unlocked." The knight took a leaning position against the doorframe, crossing her muscled arms over her chest.
"Yeah, well, don't you know about knocking? Being the polite person you are?" Severa glared back at Lucina.
"I did knock. I heard a groan, and I got worried so," Lucina shut her mouth when she saw that Severa got even more flustered. "Forgive me, both of you."
The mercenary blinked before her face returned to its usual icy expression. "Just this once! Because I'm nice." Severa spun around – her long hair whipping along with her – and started walking back to her room.
Kjelle turned to Lucina. "Since that's cleared up, what did you need?" Lucina would eternally appreciate Kjelle's ability to brush off awkwardness.
She waved a dismissive hand. "Never mind. It can wait."
"Whatever. Let's spar again tomorrow after we finish doing chores."
"Of course. Good night." Kjelle shut the door and Lucina was left alone to go take her bath.
As she expected, the bathing room was empty. A faint humidity lingered in the air. Someone had bathed a little before Lucina arrived. Unfortunately, that meant Lucina was likely too late to take advantage of prime bathing conditions. After a certain hour, the last person to use the bath put out the fire below the heating stones. A Fire tome was left beside the rock pit. Hopefully, the rocks were still hot.
They were not.
With a defeated sigh, Lucina stripped down and headed toward the water spigot to fill the communal rinsing bucket used to dump water over hair and bodies. The water would be cold – it was nearing winter. She pumped water into the vessel. Some splashed out and hit her legs, confirming her prediction. Still, a bath was a bath. As a young child in the luxury of the palace, she might have wailed and complained, but she was a hardened soldier now.
Lucina lugged the bucket to the rock pit to give heating the stones one last try. She had gained some confidence with magic that day. Perhaps her magical abilities had grown over the years?
She picked up the Fire tome and opened it. The same row of letters spelled out the same spell over and over and over again. Most of the front pages were blank; even Lucina knew that once used, the spell-infused words would fade. Each line of words was one use. Thankfully, the incantation was written in Common – not Plegian or some other written language. Lucina had forgotten her foreign language skills, understandably, since she had essentially lived in a world inhabited by Risen.
Running a finger under the text as she went, Lucina mouthed the spell to practice pronouncing it. Magic could be written in any language, but when it was spoken, it would sound the same. Mages and sorcerers might be able to understand the archaic meanings of spells, but Lucina was only familiar with reciting the odd-sounding words. She'd given up on learning magic a long time ago, but the theory remained in her head. It was her weakness in battle – of course she would cling to the knowledge about it.
Finally, holding the book in one hand and extending the other to the pit of stones, Lucina clumsily said the spell.
She said it one more time, with a little more confidence. She felt a jolt of something – annoyance, maybe – but no sparks or tongue of flame appeared. Lucina felt ridiculous. She was standing alone in the bathing room, naked, trying to conjure magic fire.
"It was worth a try," she muttered to no one in particular as she set the tome down. A cold-water bath it was.
Lucina gasped as she dumped the water over herself. The shock subsided after a little while. She shuffled to the pump again, filling the bucket once again. A bar of soap was left on a soggy wooden table, which Lucina was grateful for. She scrubbed her sweaty, grimy body down, shivering all the while. She braced herself for another freezing rinse – gods, it was freezing!
After the torture was over, Lucina caught a glimpse of herself in the oblong mirror off to one side of the bathing room. For a moment, she questioned why Inigo would want to court her. Lucina was no longer so skinny and sick looking, but instead her frame was corded by wiry muscle. Her bones were not extremely thin, but not very thick, either. And her chest – well, it was somewhat meager. She learned to be grateful that she was not "well-endowed", as she heard that having larger breasts made it somewhat uncomfortable to run, but she had long believed that large breasts were a symbol of beauty. Her skin wasn't incredibly soft, either, thanks to the hard muscles underneath. And then there were the scars.
Lucina didn't have as many as her mother had had back when she was much younger, but she did bear the evidence of battle. Most of them were on her back, legs, and arms. Some were thin and flat, reduced to pale lines, others were thick and puckered. None of the wounds had ever bothered Lucina – she had gotten them protecting her friends – the people dearest to her. She had never considered that they might make her undesirable. Then she noticed her own contemplative gaze, dark blue eyes, the Brand in her left optic, proof of her long and noble heritage.
Lucina smiled – it was Mother's smile. Inigo wouldn't care – he must have his own collection of scars. Maybe he would have some interesting tales of heroism to go along with each one.
She finished drying off and got dressed. With one last glance at the blasted Fire tome by the heating rocks, Lucina left for her room. Another day, another development. More than one, really. Inigo was right; the day had been exhausting.
Lucina padded into her quarters, shutting the door as quietly as she could. She got into bed and waited for sleep to come. Her thoughts began to drift here and there, as thoughts are wont to do in the moments before unconsciousness. Winter would come, then it would be time to return to Plegia. Lucina mentally reprimanded herself for complaining about staying in Ylisstol for the winter season. She needed to train – with her father especially. The two of them needed to work on deflecting magical attacks, and fast. Then, just as she slipped into the welcome hands of sleep, the memory of Inigo's lips on her own gave her a new resolve. It was a bit selfish, but now Lucina had one more reason to get stronger so that she could have a future with her family, friends, and Inigo.
There we have it, another chapter. This one was a bit difficult, mostly because there were so many things I wanted to put in it. I don't want to make this interlude too long, because then it distracts from the canon storyline. At the same time, this is a good spot to develop characters and relationships.
For you Inigo-lovers out there, I'm sorry if you don't like the way I'm portraying him. I personally don't really care for his character, haha…but he won the poll. His supports with Lucina in the game are cute, don't get me wrong.