it comes so close that her heart skips a beat. not only from— he starts. yes? yes, please, say it. she’d died. it’d happened. she’d died. she has to wonder: had he seen it happen? there’s no way he couldn’t have, right? she was so sure. someone didn’t fly into the eye of death like that, hear their bones start to crunch like that, and wake up in their dorm bed in the monastery. tell me none of this makes sense.
oh. his… family?
it’s maybe the last thing she expects to hear, but… his face, averting her eyes, his posture, everything. it comes off him in waves — that discomfort. it’s as real and legitimate an obstacle as any other, right? family… some kind of disagreement? a dispute with in-laws? not getting along with your siblings or your parents? she’s read about all these kinds of things, and more. and if it makes him look like that, then…
❝ oh. well… family, you know? ❞ she musters a little laugh, isn’t sure if trying to sound like she can relate is affirming or comforting or what. ( it’s certainly not honest. ) and when he apologizes instead, she hurries to shake her head, eyes wide despite the slow brightening of the sky suddenly reminding her how tired they are. ❝ oh, no, no — it’s not a burden at all. in fact, i… i’d like to hear about it. if you’d like to talk about it. ❞
looking for— something. maybe it wasn’t the confirmation of the madness of this world, or what they’d been through. suddenly, that doesn’t matter nearly as much as this. hearing his thoughts and struggles, or him hearing hers. whichever; whatever. just something human, something real. that wasn’t washed over with a blank white canvas upon which to pen an ever-unsatisfactory beginning upon beginning upon beginning. as though nothing beneath would ever show through.
whatever sits under that expression that looks so much like what she feels.
carnelian falls briefly to the dirt trail. ❝ i mean, i know i’m— we don’t know much about each other, but, i think… ❞ then lifts back to him, soft-lit with the entreaty of a half-smile and the seclusion of the woodland path less traveled. ❝ it might help you feel better, if you got it off your chest. ❞
His gaze stayed on hers uncertainly, but instinct still almost prompted him to backtrack, to flee even, in the face of an invitation like this. To speak of Yngvi’s conflict with an outsider like Caeldori, who knew nothing about Jugdral’s politics and Holy Blood and all that entailed…
But perhaps that was exactly why he could speak of it. Without an already formed stance on the matter of blood, which none from Jugdral would truly be free from… perhaps she was right, perhaps it would help, even if only a little. He took a deep breath.
“There is… a special bloodline of our House Yngvi,” he started, intending to keep things as vague as could still be understood — she did not come to hear a lecture on foreign history, nor was he interested in giving one, “Each generation sees one descendant with the full powers the blood confers. My elder sister was the one with the Mark.” He brought a shaking hand to his chest, flaring with pain at the memories of Brigid, of earlier, before Yewfelle and
disgrace and everything else—
“I idolized her, when we were children. I knew she would head our family one day, and I wanted to learn from her, to be like her, to do everything in my power to support her. Really and truly, I would have…!”
“But then she was lost to us, when we were young. And I— I was named heir in her stead.” He gave a mirthless laugh. The unmarked, youngest son. How many rumors abounded of how he must be overjoyed, that this gods-given opportunity was placed so unexpectedly in his hands! The rumors that had only increased in number and intensity after his patricide, even among those who had no way of knowing the circumstances behind Ring’s death. “…Even though I never, ever wanted it, any of it…”
“As it turns out, she hadn’t perished like we had expected. She reappeared, in— in the army of our enemies. Fighting for what she felt was righteousness.” And maybe she had been right all along. He had been too exhausted, too ready for it to all end, to truly know or care by the time they faced each other on the battlefield. He was still too exhausted.
“She and I fought, and I— she— her arrow pierced me through the heart, I felt it…! And all I could think in that moment was that perhaps this was finally freedom, finally, but then—” An arm swept out, indicating Garreg Mach and its surroundings, this entire continent that seemed second chance and prolonged torture all at once. His voice dripped bitterness. “It seems this is the land of impermanent death, is it not? For me, for the people from my home that I never wanted to face once more, even for you—”
—He froze, realizing a second after the words had left his lips, how he had shattered the careful veneer of normalcy he had tried to maintain up until that very moment. Even now, he could do nothing more than look away, heart lodged tight in his throat preventing him from even voicing another apology or a dismissal of his own words. He remembered the stain on his ankle, that whisper in his dreams.
…So much for control.