Karna knows that it’s not the ties they share with their lore-steeped country that draws him to Ganesha. He had always respected the god, but if he must be honest (and he must, he knows no other way to yank his own words out), what he feels when he gazes at her isn’t such a heavy sense of reverence so much as it is… nostalgia. Fondness. Concern. A powerful urge to interfere and guide and protect and learn from and remain close to and…
Frustration, that he can’t grasp the truth in his hands when normally he looks upon an individual and understands the verity of their very being within seconds. With Ganesha, however, it’s his own feelings that make no sense. Karna can still tell that she’s hiding something from him, but for once, he can’t tell exactly what it is-- no, he corrects himself, he knows that what she hides is the reason for her familiarity with him and the nature of a relationship that has casually candid words tumbling out of him without him realizing it.
He wants to know. A strange desire and one that doesn’t appear to fit in with his drive to help others or the gratitude he gets when a good fight appears before him, but Karna chooses not to reflect on the unusualness of it beyond quiet acknowledgement. He wants to know what Chaldea’s Ganesha, the girl harboring an Indian god, means to him.
But that is to be set aside for now, because what he would like to know currently is why Ganesha is hobbling down the hall, her outfit dingy and scuffed and the god herself bearing a square bandage on one cheek and a darkening bruise on the other; several other bandages (smaller) litter her skin and the look on her face all but wails that she would like to close herself in her room for the next twelve hours or so and be done with it. Such a thing is a feat that most combat-ready Servants would balk at, but Ganesha possesses a powerful ability to remain unmoving without her muscles protesting. Truly remarkable.
However, her current company is none other than Ozymandias, and the pharaoh is in good spirits and as loud as ever. Certain members of royalty, Karna has come to discover, are quite skilled in their ability to project their thoughts at great volume. Perhaps to ensure that they are heard by their people and to evince confidence.
He doesn’t need to go closer in order to hear those loudly reverberating words, but he moves in that direction anyway. Again, the urge to protect feels a bit like coals in his throat-- which is foolish, because Karna would be the first one to solemnly declare that Ganesha is a capable Servant (when she tries, when she believes his words). She doesn’t need his help.
But he wants to be over there.
“I had believed your bulk to be an indicator of your slovenly nature,” Ozymandias is saying jovially as Karna approaches, “but to use it to shield me-- hahahaha, most excellent! I see your time spent with the other pharaoh has bestowed upon you a proper appreciation of the sun!”
Ganesha receives a hearty slap to the back and lets out a cry akin to a startled piglet, making a grab for her forcefully dislodged glasses.
“A-ah, well,” she mumbles, “this Ganesha-san is a god of removing obstacles… by, y’know, becoming an obstacle sometimes, and you were like twenty minutes into that otoge-worthy monologue about your wife--”
“Nefertari!” Ozymandias booms rapturously. “Her perfect countenance, calling to mind the flawlessness of the lotus flower, the glimmering dark promises within her eyes, made dewy should she discover a mark upon me-- but though I should never give her cause to shed tears, precious jewels that they are, to feel her lips brushing over my skin like adventurous butterflies would heal any wound in a mere instant, nay-- mere breadths of an instant! Why--”
Ganesha’s eyes squint and finally focus on Karna (he can’t fault her, she’s yet to replace her glasses for righteous fear that Ozymandias may yet still knock them off once more); she brightens and the coals in his throat slide down to his chest, warming it almost uncomfortable.
“Karna-san, there you are! Look--” She turns eagerly to Ozymandias, gesturing rather dramatically to Karna. “I promised to meet with him, important Indian business, so I gotta--”
Karna blinks. “I don’t recall any such promise. If I have forgotten, I apologize. You had need of me, Lord Ganesha?”
For some reason he can’t place, Ganesha looks more like she’s glaring now. Ah, he’s offended her. Again, he must not have used enough words… he really must continue to work on that. She had taken great pains to ensure he knew of his greatest weakness, after all.
Ozymandias merely laughs (loudly) and departs with a wave of his hand, striding further down the hall and calling for Nitocris. In the silence that follows, made all the more obvious by the pharaoh’s absence, Karna takes the opportunity to look his shorter companion over.
As he’d first noted, she’s clearly been fighting, which might be more than half the reason why she looks so grumpy now. He harbors no hope that he has nothing to do with her scowl, but there’s hardly a point to asking about it now. Instead, Karna frowns and gently grazes his fingers over that bruise on her cheek; Ganesha flinches with a minute hiss, and he contritely draws his hand back.
“You had need of me?” He asks once more. “I am here now. But you should tend to your wounds first. You were never fond of pain, even if that isn’t your biggest fear.”
Ganesha fiddles with her glasses as Karna is once again assailed by perplexity from his own statement. It’s accurate to say that Ganesha isn’t ever thrilled to be dragged along into training simulations or other missions, but he says it - all of it - so matter-of-factly that he thinks once more that he must know this almost intrinsically. The human Ganesha has chosen as a vessel prefers flight over fight and dreads being alone. And he had somehow known that before she had ever opened her mouth and spoken to him after her summoning.
It’s troubling, but she’s speaking now, something about an “Alter Ego” and “who’re you calling a masochist” and Karna listens; he cannot help if he cannot listen, even if he doesn’t quite understand.
“Anyway, I don’t know what that Master expected, dragging me off to help that hottie… pretty sure he could’ve handled it by himself. I’m a lazy Servant, you know? Better suited to the kind of fights you have a controller for. Stuff like this was just a major pain for the great Ganesha-san!”
“But you found a sense of accomplishment in being forced to interact and assist your fellow Servant,” Karna counters mildly, and keeps his lips a thin line when Ganesha stomps a foot in weary aggravation. He shouldn’t smile; he knows she’s displeased whenever he points out the true nature of her complaints.
But it’s difficult to resist.
“You’re no longer as incompetent or lazy as you would have us all believe, ◼◼◼. Though I also believe you could stand to continue improving.”
Something emerges naturally, but his ears don’t register it and he doesn’t know what shapes his lips form… but Ganesha looks at him and her lip trembles and Karna feels his chest heat up once again-- this time in dismay because he must have said something upsetting. Or, if not, then perhaps--
“Is it your bruise?” He starts to reach out again and Ginesha rapidly shakes her head.
“No. No! Ugh, Karna-san, you’re doing that fussing thing again! I’m fine, this sort of thing just needs, like, a home remedy like what that pharaoh said, only not as… poetic or whatever. Actually, scratch that. It’ll be gone in no time and don’t you dare tell that snake doctor or the psycho nurse, got it?”
“I understand,” he replies, and he does. She’s right that she likely doesn’t need actual medical attention from two Servants very devoted to their craft, and if she says a home remedy will suffice…
Karna moves just enough to catch the hand holding her glasses, guaranteeing she won’t drop them when he leans forward and lightly brushes his lips over the bruise on her cheek. Sure enough, he feels her hand jerk in shock and her wordless exhalation is even more surprised.
“I am not Ozymandias’ wife,” he announces, moving back and releasing Ganesha’s hand as she gapes up at him. “Nor am I particularly well-versed in Egyptian healing techniques, but if you believe such a gesture will help ease the pain, I will offer my services.”
Ganesha continues to stare, then slips her glasses on, coughs loudly into her palm after several attempts to speak… and groans.
“You seriously... you don’t change at all, Karna-san. You still take everything far too seriously and you say things that of course everyone around you is going to misunderstand and then where will you be?! Your answer!!”
She… doesn’t appear to be angry, but she also doesn’t appear to be pleased, so Karna answers rather automatically.
“I will continue to learn from my mistakes, as you are kind enough to continue to educate me when I err. Would you prefer roll cake or…”
“... If you continue that sentence and include a bath or trail off suggestively, I’m revoking your Ganesha-san blessing rights.”
“... I’m sorry?”
Ganesha snorts, but she starts walking again, and she doesn’t glower or tell him to go away when he falls into step alongside her.
Karna doesn’t understand his connection to Chaldea’s Ganesha, but that it’s there at all is something he thinks ought to be cherished. So he does.