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The Dragon's Shadow

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It had been some time since that fateful day at the Bottomless Canyon. So much had happened since then. Corrin felt like she had suddenly fallen into some sort of fantastical dream. After all those quiet years roaming the silent halls of the Fortress, to be suddenly be cast into all of this action, all of these strangers, all of these decisions…it was overwhelming. Even more disorienting was finding out the truth about her past—that her family had not even been her family at all, but her captors.  She wasn’t even able to fully accept it as the truth until Queen Mikoto…her mother…had died protecting her from the shadowy assassins King Garon had sent. So many people died that day in the square…Corrin felt as if a part of her had died as well.

 After that, she couldn’t bring herself to forgive Garon for what he had done to Hoshido—to her family—and to her. She tried to explain the situation to Xander and the rest but…they wouldn’t listen to her. They wouldn’t believe that their own father was a mad tyrant with the blood of innocents on his hands. She couldn’t go back to Nohr after what she had discovered, but Xander wouldn’t have it. He attacked her, her own brother… then Ryoma jumped in to her defense, and that was it. The battle lines had been drawn. There was no going back.  

The sun had set below the horizon by the time Corrin left the mess hall. It had been a wonderful evening with a perfectly cooked meal prepared by Subaki and shared with her younger sister Sakura, whom she was just starting to get to know. Her heart ached sometimes when she talked with Sakura because of just how much she reminded her of her other little sister…the one she had abandoned in Nohr. Just thinking about Elise…and how sad and hurt she must feel…It was enough to make Corrin want to crumple into a ball. But she owed it to Sakura to make up for all the time together that they had missed out on growing up, and she loved bonding with the adorably shy young woman. So she tried to stow her pain in the back of her mind for a later date while she enjoyed the company of her sibling.

Corrin stopped in her tracks. She was nearly back to her tree house, and the astral plain around her was dark, empty, and quiet. And yet … something was bothering her. She turned slowly in a circle, peering cautiously around into the darkness.

She didn’t see anybody… so maybe she had imagined it.

She took another few steps and then stopped again. No, she couldn’t be imagining it. She could feel someone’s eyes boring into her, but, try as she might, she couldn’t spot anyone around her.

“Hello?” she called out tentatively, “Is someone there…?”

A figure stepped around one of the trees, and Corrin’s heart lurched in fright. But then, she recognized the tall, burly outline and the feeling of his gaze burning into her.

“Saizo?!” she let out a deep gust of air as her fright subsided, “You nearly made me jump out of my skin! What were you doing lurking in the shadows?”

“Hmph,” he grunted as he began to approach her, “Took you long enough to notice. If this were the battlefield, you’d be dead.”

“What?!” Corrin felt indignation rise in her chest at his assertion, “Why would I be looking over my shoulder in camp? And what were you doing spying on me?”

He had continued to stalk towards her until he stood uncomfortably close, looming over her. Corrin took an involuntary step backwards, feeling her backside bump into something; she was pressed between the solid trunk of a tree and the solid bulk of the intimidating ninja. Her breath hitched in her throat as her heart sped up. He stood so close to her that she could smell him: a dangerous mixture of gunpowder, leather, and musk. She forced herself to look up into his face, meeting the hostility of his gaze.

“Keeping a very close eye on you,” he answered, his chin tilted so she could get the full brunt of his glare.

“H-huh?” she stammered.

“”It wasn’t long ago that you lived as royalty of Nohr,” his voice was low and calm despite the venom in his eye, “How convenient that we should be drawn into your orbit now.”

Corrin’s tongue was dry. His accusation settled like a stone in the pit of her stomach. She remembered how not long ago, she had stared into that same eye, knowing with certainty that it would be the last thing she saw before she felt the bite of his kunai in her throat. Xander had saved her then, but she had betrayed her big brother and sided with Hoshido. He wasn’t going to come to her aid this time.

“The moment you try anything,” Saizo continued, “I’ll be the first to know.”

Rage boiled over her shock and her fear. He was trying to make her afraid of him, but she wasn’t going to let him have the satisfaction of seeing her cower before him. He thought of her as a child; he had said as much when they first encountered each other. But she had betrayed the family she loved and followed the path that she knew in her heart was the right one. She wasn’t going to let him belittle and bully her choice like this. Corrin pressed her shoulders back and rose up on the balls of her feet to shove her face back into his.

“Except you won’t,” she retorted with a scowl, “Because I’m not going to try anything.”

A horrible thought dawned on her. .

“My brother didn’t put you up to this, did he?” she questioned, eyes narrowing. Saizo was Lord Ryoma’s retainer. Did her big brother really not trust her, after all they’d already been through? The mere thought caused pain to lance through her chest.

“Hmph,” Saaizo grunted, shifting his eyes away, “This had nothing to do with Lord Ryoma. I’m doing this on my own initiative.”

Relief washed over Corrin. Her brother trusted her. It was just this grumpy ninja who didn’t.

“Though we may fight side-by-side at times,” he confirmed, shifting his gaze back to hers, “I’m not prepared to trust you yet.”

Corrin had lowered herself back down, but continued to stare up at him.

“I see,” she responded flatly.

Unsatisfied with her response, or lack thereof, Saizo continued.

“If you take just one step out of line, I will act accordingly,” he promised, fingering his kunai lightly.

Corrin caught the gesture, and she scowled deeply at his thinly veiled threat.

“Remember that before you get any cute ideas,” he added.

Cute…?! Corrin thought with a mixture of bewilderment and indignation.

“I never intended to,” she responded, trying to rein in her scattered emotions. Taking a deep breath, she willed herself to be calm. There had to be some way she could prove to him that her heart was true, so she asked, “Isn’t there any way that I could earn your trust?”

“Prove yourself to me,” he answered, “I’m keeping thorough surveillance notes on you, you know.”

Irritation itched in Saizo’s gut as the blue-haired child continued to stare into his eye with that impetuous scowl. She was either very brave or very stupid; he suspected that maybe it was a dangerous combination of both. In any case, her refusal to bow under his intimidation tactics annoyed him greatly.

“Yes, the ‘Surveillance Notes—Corrin’ on your notebook suggested as much,” she sassed with a sigh and a single raised eyebrow, pointing half-heartedly to the cleverly-entitled notebook sticking conspicuously out of his pocket.

Saizo stared down at her, a tide of anger rising ever higher inside of him. How dare she…?! Too furious and embarrassed to speak, he shoved the notebook back down into his pocket.

“Do you…keep books like this on a lot of our soldiers?” she prompted, clearly oblivious or indifferent his reaction.

“That’s classified,” he growled, his iris nothing but a chip of flint beneath his narrowed lid, “All you need to know is that I’m watching you. Always.”

Another horrible thought occurred to her.

“What about when—?”

“ESPECIALLY then,” Saizo confirmed immediately.

Her cheeks flushed red with a mixture of horror, embarrassment, and fury.

“Fine!” she snapped, baring her teeth at him, “Watch me all you want. But you’re wasting your time.” And with that, she turned and stalked away, fists balled and shoulders hunched in fury.

He couldn’t see her face, but tears threatened the edges of her eyes as he watched her go.

Gods this is going to be difficult, they both thought.