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Fire Emblem: Curse of the Goddess [IC/PG-16/Not Accepting]

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#421
Wind Rider

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"yeah, let's just go back." ​Sienna nodded in agreement and followed close behind Alois, that was possibly the most embarrassing moment in her life and probably Alois's too. It was unfortunate that she was unable to find a gift for everyone in the group, she was sad about it in fact, hopefully the next area they visit will have something she could get for everyone. Soon the two made it back to the inn only to find Catriona by herself. With Alois chatting with Catriona, Sienna took the time to take off her hood and let her ears actually get some light. She walked around the inn a bit before she stopped at a table that had a few decorated boxes on it, and to her surprise one of the boxes had her name on it. "Strange... Is this for me?" She picked up the apparent present and examined it curiously.



#422
Ninanai Nanashi

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"Hey, don't forget that it's your turn to talk to Penelope now. It'd be silly to keep her waiting, you know?"

 

That reminder given to Cat was the only thing Ciela said after her session with Penelope. From when Gunther led her out of the younger princess' room and then when Cat carried her to the two's room, she was deep in her thought. What Penelope had...enthusiasticly taught her earlier was quite a topic to mull about, and in a way, it felt overwhelming too, although in a different way from the reveal of the group's objectives yesterday. What was with all these revelations, anyway? It was almost a bit too much for Ciela to take, with how fast things were going. It felt odd, it was as if months had passed since yesterday.

 

To think that at this same hour the day before, she was still walking around the city, buying the same potions she talked about with Penelope earlier. To tell the truth, it was still hard fact to accept that she would never be able to walk again. Every moment, every time she attempted what normally would be a routine to her, she realized more and more just how much the crippled legs changed everything for her. In a way, despite her pride, she had resigned to the fact that she would eternally need other people to help her around. She couldn't cry on it anymore, that wouldn't change things. Her crippling was her own doing anyway. Thinking about that made her smile as her pride bloomed inside with the thought.

 

"...That's just nonsense, why would I be glad about this? The bath steam must be getting to me a bit..."

 

Shaking herself from the thought, she returned her mind to what Penelope told her earlier. Her words embarrassingly made a lot of sense, and Ciela was quite ashamed that she wasn't able to piece it by herself, not that this sentiment would be something she'd admit to Penelope. Granted though, for the most part Ciela wasn't like, someone that had way different assumption regarding how babies were made, but throughout her years of studies, she simply never found it important to inquire about the exact process, and never really cared for it especially after the affair regarding her father was known to her. She just knew it involved a man and a woman, and that was it regarding on how much she knew.

 

The entire process was honestly really scary sounding, and her imagination, although not really colorful normally, ended up needed some suppression as she slowly thought about scenarios where her father approached her birth mother...imagining that almost made Ciela puke. Yet...she couldn't really deny that she's actually feeling rather curious about it. Not about the prospect of having a child. Ciela had long since acknowledged that it would be best for everyone's sake that she didn't have any, and it's not like she would actually be able to support one, not like this. 

 

It was just...something about how Penelope described the process was quite...intriguing, in a way? How she also kept some things hidden from her also tickled Ciela's curiosity. And...well, although Ciela didn't admit it in front of the younger princess, Penelope did describe what Ciela usually labeled as relieving massage as related to the entire thing. Mas...something, Ciela couldn't really remember. If it's related, then would that actually...would it feel as good too? It was hard to explain, but the strange mix of her fear and curiosity on it actually made her feel tempted to inquire further regarding it. Perhaps...she could ask Cat next regarding this. The events of the last two days ended up with Ciela spilling a lot about herself to Cat already anyway, it's probably better than talking about it with other people, though perhaps she could also push Penelope for more clarification later as an alternative too. 

 

Yeah, that would work best. Normally, she would have just start figuring out a way to test it out on her own somehow, but the prospect of it was too scary this time to deter her from outright doing that from the start. WIth how Penelope talked about it, it'd be awkward anyway if Ciela asked anyone on the group to test her hypothesis. Though, with the full knowledge of it most definitely going to be rejected by them, perhaps teasing people like Gunther about it could be fun. Ciela could only imagine what kind of fun reaction he would have if she did that.

 

Penelope did mention about lovers though...and love's not really a feeling Ciela had with anyone now. No, nothing that intense or passionate, or even simmers of it outside of basic interest...the image of shirtless Edrick and Asura from a few days ago returned to her mind as she thought of that, which made her giggle a bit. It was just a fleeting feeling, she was sure of it. If Penelope talked about love as Ciela understood it, then...there really only was one that she had such feelings to at the moment, and perhaps, it wouldn't change in the near future.

 

The thought cheered her up and in an uplifted mood, she pushed herself from her lying position on the bed to rest herself near the edge of the window, to get the best view she could manage of the sector. It was a beautiful place, now that Ciela finally got the time to appreciate it. Had her experience there didn't get soured by yesterday's...everything, she would've wished to stay there longer. She then shifted her gaze to a certain building that was near the inn, and her thought changed, as her smile became warmer.

 

"It's been a bit too long, hasn't it? I wish we can hit the road soon..."

 


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“Desiccated men and women with addled eyes and dried throats laugh at me.
Their vulgar talk mixing in with the jazz, oh how I hate, hate, hate it.”


#423
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"Hey, don't forget that it's your turn to talk to Penelope now. It'd be silly to keep her waiting, you know?"

Catriona stared blankly at Ciela before nodding and leaving the room. On the way, she wondered what exactly it was that Penelope wanted to talk to her about. Perhaps scold her for not being social enough? Wilting at the thought, the princess felt a slight heaviness in her steps, reluctant to continue.

Still, she had never gotten anywhere by running away. That in mind, she firmed her stride, until she had arrived right in front of her sister's room that she shared with Sienna. She wasn't sure how to feel about that. On the one hand, Sienna wasn't a murderer like she had wondered. On the other hand, she was still a Protean, and had the potential to be quite dangerous. Letting her share a room with her little sister...but it was either that or the crippled Pontic that wasn't really a Pontic. Or herself. The woman cringed at the thought.

She knocked on the door, three sharp raps before lowering her arm and waiting.

A bit of shuffling noises were heard as Penelope moved into position. She could tell who it was at the door and she would greet her sister properly.
After moving around so she was standing, this was not a sitting type of encounter, Penelope called out. "You may enter."

"Thank you," Catriona replied, before walking in, eyes sweeping the room as per habit. Especially with the two of them together, she had to be doubly on guard in case of ambushes. She noted Penelope was standing, as if braced for a confrontation. This...was not starting off well.

Penelope stood there for a few moments, silent. She never was very good with her sister. The woman was obsessed with confronting things head on and Penelope...wasn't.
So she had to work fast to turn the conversation into her favor.

"Catriona Nabudis. I started this with the intention to see everyone's issues with the group. I was going to do that with you as well but, after talking with several of our group, I have discovered a common trend." She pointed dramatically at her sister. "The problem is you! Or...rather, the way you act. Hmm, perhaps a better way of saying it is the way you don't act. You want to lead them but have done nothing to give them reason to. This must be fixed...Think of it as Queen practice."

Somehow...Catriona wasn't surprised. Or rather, she knew what to expect after having talked with Ciela. It wasn't as if she was unaware of this problem, either. This had been something she had struggled with since she was a child. However, it was annoying to have her leadership abilities called into question, by Penelope, no less. "I am aware of this, and am taking steps to amend this problem" she replied coldly. "Do you have anything else to add?"

Penelope crossed her arms, clearly displeased at the response. "I am your Tactician, your advisor, if you have any plans for how to fix the problem I would advise you to tell me."

The white-haired woman let out a soft sigh. Honestly, a part of her was still reluctant at the idea of Penelope being a part of this. Better for her to have stayed at home. At least then, her chances of survival were higher, though it wouldn't matter if they weren't able to stop the goddess. That, and Penelope's natural stubbornness, had been the reason Catriona had allowed her to come with. Though, she would probably have found a way to follow them even if told not to.

"It started with the bathhouse idea," the lord explained, feeling slightly self-conscious as she spoke. "I was hoping that that would be a way for us all to relax and bond with each other, though I cannot speak as to its success, as I did not see anybody there besides Ciela, who requested it in the first place." She paused. "I hope to forge bonds with everybody in the future, perhaps through campfire tales or songs," through it all, she remained completely expressionless. "But we cannot forget the ultimate goal, and that is to stop the goddess' resurrection. If I am disliked for keeping that in mind, then so be it."

Penelope shook her head. "You should have read more. Then you'd know that the greatest of our heroes were great because of the strong bonds they formed." She was taking on a more lecturing tone at this point and it seemed to suit her quite well. "You can't just schedule it either. The best times to form bonds are when you're not actively looking to do so. You have to make yourself more approachable."

"And how would you propose that?" Catriona was honestly curious. She had tried, multiple times in the past. However, each of her attempts had gone cold, for one reason or another. Nobody ever wanted to bond with her, at least, not the same way they wanted to bond with others. It was frustrating, and part of her had given up on ever really forming a close friendship with another person. Anaïs had been the closest to that, but even then it had been a different feeling, that of a vassal and their lord.

"Well first get rid of that scowl on your face, it's unbecoming of royalty. Who'd want to talk to you with an expression like that?"

"I am not scowling," Catriona's scowl grew even more pronounced.

Penelope produced a small hand-mirror, almost as if by magic, and showed it to Catriona. "You." She said.
Then she put it down and revealed her own face, complete with a soft and inviting smile. "Me."

The white-haired princess blinked, and then attempted to form a smile...that looked more like a grimace.

"Spirits you're bad at this." Penelope moved closer to the girl, determination on her face, as she put her fingers to Catriona's face, attempting to rearrange it to something resembling a smile.
After a few attempts she backed away, turned to her bed, and rummaged through a sack of books. She returned a bit later with one labeled. "Expressions and You: How to Find Your Inner Face-Maker"
"You now have homework. Read this. And practice smiling."

Catriona massaged her cheeks with one hand, taking the book with the other. "This is supposed to help me?" she asked with a hint of skepticism as she scanned the title.

Penelope nods with extreme certainty. "Books are not to be underestimated." She pauses and tilts her head, as if trying to remember something. "Ah, right, is there any issues you have with the group you'd like to express?"

Catriona thought for a second. "I am worried," she articulated slowly. "That Edrick's inclusion will cause conflict. In fact, it already has." She shook her head, "I have decided to let him stay, and I will not go back on that decision. However, we need to resolve this. Misunderstandings have arisen. A couple, including me, are still wary of his presence, while others decry us as persecutors." She paused. "I do not believe that that is the best environment for anybody to be in."

That...had probably been the most she had spoken at once to Penelope in quite a while.

Penelope paused for a moment. It was as if her entire world had been shaken to its very core. Catriona actually shared an opinion? "Quick, smile." Penelope said, and, seeing Catriona's grimace, she sighed in relief. "Okay you weren't taken by an otherworldly force."
She thought on the girl's words. "I have spoken with the more...outspoken of these factions, and plan on talking to Link as well, so far we've agreed to...let things move along for now. But if I see, or you see, and be sure to come to me if this happens, more issues then we'll have to all gather together and discuss it."

The lord huffed at Penelope's words. "If I were 'taken over' by somebody, I am sure you would recognize the signs. As for Edrick, let us hope that things go smoothly." She could not help but be worried. "I do not wish for us to stand on opposite sides on an issue like this."

"Of course." Penelope said, simply and diplomatically, in response. It wouldn't be the first time, though, she couldn't help but think.

"That is all, then," Catriona finished. "Have you said what you needed to say?"

She had not. But there were many things Penelope needed to say and it would take far more time than they had and would lead to a confrontation like none other. "Yes, I have, for now." She said smoothly. "In that case I believe Link is the last I need to speak with. It might be good if you prepare everyone to move out soon."

"So be it," Catriona said. "I shall send him in." She would have to find him first, however. Hopefully, that would not take too long. Exiting the room, she closed the door behind her before descending the inn stairs, reaching the main room. There, she would begin her search for the green-clothed soldier.


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#424
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It didn't take Cat long to find him and pass on the news. Link stalled outside of the door to run through his pre-inspection ritual. He removed his hat and brushed his hair down with his hands, and smoothed out the bottom of his tunic against his leggings. He wasn’t nervous, but he was just a bit apprehensive. What sort of evaluation was this? He didn’t like walking into things completely blind, and now he had no choice in the matter. Nobody was going to bail him out of this one.
 
Taking a deep breath and steeling his nerves, Link stepped inside and closed the door behind him. Penelope was seated in a chair across the room, by the window. Link dropped to one knee and made a fist with his right hand, resting it over his heart, head bowed.
 
Penelope started to giggle. "I almost forgot that's a thing you soldiers did. Stand stand." Once he did Penelope spoke again. "All that I need from you is something simple. In your opinion is there any issues you have seen with the group?"
 
Link remained at attention even after he rose back up to his feet. His expression was carefully impassive. Was this some kind of test? She wanted him to criticize the members of his unit? He wasn’t in any position that warranted asking what he thought of their effectiveness.  “I’ve only been here a few days, your majesty,” he said after some consideration. “I’m in no position to be judging anyone else.”

"On the contrary the opinion of an outsider can offer a fresh perspective." She leaned forward expectantly after saying this. 
 
Link shifted uncomfortably, resisting the urge to take a step back. “... They aren’t soldiers,” he said hesitantly. “but you already knew that. You could've had a much better trained group with just a word.” He paused, and then in a sudden burst of confidence asked, “...why didn’t you?”
 
Penelope smiled. "Well." She wasn't entirely sure of the reason herself, though she had her suspicions. "The quest we're on. It's not something that should be connected to our military. An official military expidition has certain...regulations that our group doesn't have."
 
Link nodded, but it didn’t sit right with him. Not everything the military did was on the record; he was living, breathing proof of that. The Night Wolves answered only to the Garou Commander and King Reginald himself. They veritably existed for missions such as theirs, so why would the princesses avoid using them? Was this something they needed to keep a secret from even His Majesty? Every answer just left him with two more questions. 
 
“Is that all. . . ?” he asked after a moment of silence.
 
Penelope stood at that moment and approached him, shaking her head in a stern manner. "What happened to your face?"
 
Link was confused for a moment, until he remembered what he had done the night before. The pain had largely faded, and he had been so focused on what the princess could have wanted it had completely slipped his mind. “Too much to drink,” he answered. It wasn’t a lie… he just hadn’t been the one drinking.
 
"Really? You don't seem the type to drink in excess." Penelope was clearly not buying it.
 
“Wasn’t before the Garou, your Majesty,” Link told her. Again, it wasn’t really a lie - he had had a bad drinking problem for a time when he was with the Garou. “Hard to avoid alcohol when you’re in the military. There isn’t much else to do, outside of drink and sleep.”
 
"Well, now that you're out of it you can do much more productive things." Her eyes lit up. "Like reading! I should let you borrow some of my books!" She practically dove for her pack and started pulling volume after volume out and onto the bed.
 
Link didn’t respond openly about her idea, outside of a small grimace when her back was turned. His reading abilities… weren't very developed. Being reminded of his own slip-up the night before helped to remind Link of something he had been intending to do for awhile, though. He cleared his throat. “Permission to speak freely, your Majesty?”
 
"Well yeah, that's the point." She said, looking intently at one particular volume, what seemed to be a children's book, before setting it aside.
 
Link glanced at the book she set aside out of the corner of his eye. The cover reminded him of the books Rusl used to have him read when he was young, to practice before bed. It was a good memory. “You’ve asked about all of us. Have you talked to anyone about yourself?” he said. That came out wrong. “About your own feelings, I mean. This has been your first time seeing the world outside of Galtea, I’d bet. It’s been pretty, erhm…” he struggled to find the right word. “Different, right?” he finally managed.
 
"Different? Maybe, oh but I've read all about it so it's not that different. Most of what I've seen is just like what's described in my books." Penelope grabbed the book she had just set down. She hadn't missed the look Link gave. She held it towards him. "You want to look?"
 
Link took the book, but he only glanced over the cover (it really was a children’s book of fairy tales). Even if he knew it probably wasn’t his place to be the one to have this talk, he wasn’t going to watch what had happened to him happen to anyone else. “That’s… that’s not really what I meant, your Majesty.”
 
"Well what do you mean then, Link?" Penelope prompted, sitting down and getting into a relaxed position; elbows on her knees and head in her hands.
 
Link bit his bottom lip, fidgeting with the book in his hands. The young princess looked so innocent… what right did he have to interfere with that? It made him angry to think about. What he had fought for all those years, if not so people like her didn’t have to? Why had she gotten herself tangled up in this mess? She wasn’t a fighter. She was scary smart, she should have been a scholar. She should never have seen combat, or been forced to kill someone.
 
He lowered his hands to his side and took a deep breath. It was only going to get worse if it wasn’t addressed now, he was sure of it, but that didn’t make it any easier. “You hadn’t killed anyone before you left home, had you?” he asked bluntly. There was no other way to go about it.
 
So that's where this is going. "I had not." She replied, startlingly brief.
 
She wasn’t going to make this easy on him. Link had expected as much. “Books... they can’t describe that feeling. Trust me, your Majesty, I know better that better than anyone,” he started. “Knowing that you just killed someone, that they won’t ever see their family again because of you… it’s not easy. Even when it’s justified, it’s never easy.”
 
He swallowed heavily, trying to wet his mouth. “Some people take to it easier than others do, but no one forgets about it.” Link thought of Princess Catriona and Anais, and the other Garou that he had spoken to. He thought of the grizzled, battle-scarred old man he had asked for advice when it troubled him. “I just… I saw you back in Sector 2, your Majesty. I just wanted to tell you that it’s normal to react like that. Most people do.”

 

"And you?" Penelope said. "How did...no, how are you still reacting?"

 

Link was caught off guard by her turning the conversation back around on him. Did she see through him? The thought unnerved him somewhat. He was trained in stealth and deception, it had been his job since he was eighteen. Were his skills fading, or was Princess Penelope that perceptive? 

 
“I get by,” he said, “some days are worse than others, but I don’t regret enlisting.” There was steel in his voice, conviction that he normally lacked. He almost sounded like he could play the part of a legendary Night Wolf for a moment. “It made me who I am today,” he finished, the ‘for better or worse’ unspoken.
 
Penelope nodded slowly. "You're a good guy, Link." She decided out loud. She got to her feet decisively and stuck her hand out to him to shake. "We're going to be good friends, you and I."
 
Link froze like a deer in the headlights. Not only was he even sure if it was proper to shake the princess’ hand, but the fact that she had extended her right hand posed a significant problem entirely. His own right hand was still swollen up and sore beneath his glove, and his left handed was holding the book she had offered him before. 
 
He squared his jaw and made a decision. His best bet was to hope the thick leather gloves he wore stopped her from noticing his maimed hand, because he was sure he could mask the pain using it caused. He was well-versed in hiding it when he was hurt. He shook her hand, keeping his expression neutral despite the white hot pain that jolted up his arm from the motion. “Thank you, your Majesty,” he said, voice controlled and even.
 
"You're a strange guy, you know that? Don't need to thank me. Just make sure to come to me if there's any problems, and once you finish reading that book." She smiled sweetly at him. "Also make sure to get some salve for that hand. If there's nothing else on your mind you can go."
 
Link saluted smartly a final time, then pivoted on his heel and exited the room. As soon as the door clicked shut behind him, he deflated like a popped balloon, pulling his hat out from his pocket and putting it back on. After the exchange, Link was certain about one thing - Princess Penelope would have made a hell of a commanding officer. 

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