Leo and Laslow, of course, got slammed by meetings with nobles the day after Princess Kamui's arrival. That was how it always worked after Leo's little ventures... the nobles took issue with him trying to heal the land, or leaving the castle in general, or something. Laslow's ability to express ideas clearly while ranting and callously murdering training dummies had never been all that impressive, and Leo just silently fumed about what went on in those meetings, so Odin wasn't entirely sure of went down in the council room. He didn't really care, it wasn't like he could do anything about what went on in there, so knowing would just give him more fuel to feed the fire of rage that didn't help anyone.
In the meantime, he, Niles, and Peri had somehow managed to silently agree to an awkward, odd game of hide-and-seek with Princess Kamui and her husband. The latter appeared to be participating as well, catching Odin every time that he looked around a corner or tracked him down. Going so far as to politely inquire which areas of the castle were available to explore fairly early into the day, and then explaining those areas to Princess Kamui so that both of them were easier to keep track of. Odin was seriously beginning to appreciate him following his wife here, which, according to what Peri had heard throughout the course of the day, was what had happened.
"So, like, they weren't really arguing," the cavalier had explained hurriedly when Odin met her down in the smithy. "I think that the ninja man knew I was listening, because he laid it all out real clearly."
"He probably did know," Odin admitted. "While I don't doubt your sneaking abilities and I myself would love the ability to become one with the shadows, Kaze and Niles are the current masters in the vicinity. What did you hear?"
"Word finally got out of the castle and down the Nohr countryside all the way to Hoshido that Lady Camilla's not here anymore," Peri replied, examining a snapped lance with interest. "As soon as Princess Kamui heard it, she just up and left her place in Shirasagi to come here. Not a word to her husband or siblings. Anyways, she was annoyed that ninja man had followed her despite her abrupt up and leaving, and that he was still taking care of her by talking to us and asking where we'd like them to be limited to in the castle. He told her that he couldn't just leave her be, and then she said that a matter was settled, then he kind of told her to keep mum about it. Then Niles waved me down so he could keep an eye on them instead."
He'd left her in the smiths after that to continue the stalking until nearly dinner. He was on his way to the dining hall, about a hallway away from Princess Kamui, when he nearly ran smack into Laslow. Both flinched back from each other, Laslow looking about ready to snap at him before he blinked and then let out a slow, hissing breath. "Good gods, old friend, I was beginning to fear that they'd never let you out of there," Odin remarked after a moment. "The clock chimed the seventeenth hour some time ago."
"You're telling me," Laslow groaned, rubbing his face before dragging his hand down it. "Anyways, since you're here I'll spare the maid His Majesty sent to find you the trouble. He wants both you and Niles in the library, I'm going down to the training arena again. Has there been any trouble with the princess and her husband?"
"No, Kaze had the presence of mind to ask me which areas of the castle would be acceptable for him and the lady to wander about in, so the off-chance that they find a servant that particularly dislikes Hoshidans was whittled down to almost none."
"Places where the servants know that you and Niles could keep a constant eye on the situation, I'll wager." The sentence wasn't a question, and Odin didn't bother to nod. He wasn't particularly fond of Princess Kamui, and it was likely they were being paranoid about the servants, but they could not afford an accident in this castle. Not so soon after the war. "I'm glad someone had a presence of mind to realize the situation we're in at the moment," Laslow continued, acid in his voice clear. "I'll ask Peri to continue keeping an eye out before disappearing, then."
"No. You need to go to see the king." Laslow seemed to visibly deflate, concern entering his indigo eyes. "Believe me, the hours of meetings and Princess Kamui's presence in the castle took a bit of a toll on him. He don't think he would have asked for you and Niles otherwise."
Oh. "I...I'll leave that to you, then," Odin replied, then hurried past him toward the staircase that would take him up to the library, immediately worried by Laslow's very well defined point that Leo didn't ask for something unless he seriously needed it.
Niles was already there when he slipped into the room, speaking quietly to Leo, who was slumped back in the chair by his desk, hair and clothing more disheveled than the young king usually allowed them to be. Both looked up when Odin approached the desk, Niles straightening abruptly and Leo sighing before moving from his relaxed position to lean over the desk. "Laslow mentioned you had need of both of us?" Odin asked.
"Yes. Well..." Leo glanced at the tray of food on his desk and then sighed again, sitting up straight. "I'm sorry. I know you two are also busy, but in the event that Kamui come in here, I'd... I'd just rather not be alone tonight, is all."
Odin looked toward Niles, and saw the concern and understanding he was feeling reflected back at him before Niles turned back to Leo. "Is there any work we could help you with, then?" he asked.
"No." Leo gave both of them a faint half-smile. "Your presence here is enough, and honestly, I have to look through all of these myself. If you could maybe quietly play chess, or cards, or something to keep from getting bored, that would probably be best."
"As you say, milord," Odin replied with a small nod while Niles moved over to a shelf and pulled down the chessboard. There was quiet while the chessboard was set up on the floor and for the first little while of the game, and though Odin did whisper some of his pre-planned maneuvers as he took his turns, the loudest sound in the room was the scratch of Leo's quill and the rustle of papers. Glances that Odin and Niles kept sneaking his way told the both of them that while he still looked stressed out and tired, he seemed more relaxed than he had been when they had first come in.
"I just remembered why Lord Leo hardly ever plays chess with us," Niles finally muttered after Odin's third turn, staring down at the board.
"Are you referring to the fact that he would absolutely destroy either of us in less than five moves, or our peculiarities?" Odin whispered.
"Probably both," Niles admitted. "I mean, any turn-based game is a bad idea with you involved-"
"Only because no one has the capacity to appreciate the glory of my maneuvers," Odin protested, and Niles scowled, faking tossing a chess piece at him. There was a distinct, amused "heh" from the king's desk, and Niles and Odin shared a small smile as Niles set the piece down. "Or simply refuse to appreciate them in order to discourage me," Odin amended, lowering his voice a bit more. "Joke's on them, though- Odin Dark is never discouraged."
"Unfortunately." Niles moved his knight forward before settling with arms crossed on the floor. "I do remember that Selena was able to talk you down a bit in the first year you lot were here, though." Sudden interest entered his blue eye as he looked up. "Were you two ever a couple?"
Odin barked a soft laugh. No, that would have been her far sweeter- or so he'd thought- sister. Though he supposed they'd never really been a couple. "No, no, no. Just good friends. She was always far more interested in Sir Brady of the Moistened Eyes, anyways."
"Sir Brady of the what?"
"Not now." Why had he brought up Brady? At this rate, he'd be as loose-lipped about Ylisse as Laslow was nowadays, and it front of Niles of all people. Leo was fine to make passing remarks in front of, but Niles tended to latch onto anything they said. "I must charge a Shinon Strike that will blow your meager defenses to pieces..."
"Uh-uh, no. You just mentioned your homeland," Niles protested. "No Shinon Strike is going to save you from explaining yourself."
"Well, then, I'll just need a different move. I do have a full arsenal!"
"And I have tickle torture."
Odin started at the smirking adventurer, taken off guard by the unprecedented threat. "You wouldn't. I thought that we weren't distracting Lord Leo?"
"I can tickle you without allowing you to scream," Niles replied, smirk growing to a grin as he got up on his elbows.
Odin shot up onto his knees, crossing his arms in an "X" over his chest. "I will hex you, craven," he hissed, pulling at his magic a bit. "You stay on your side of the board."
"Oho, that sounds like a challenge." Niles paused when Odin actually made a complex gesture with one of his hands. They stared each other down from across the board, waiting for the other to make another move.
Both nearly jumped out of their skin when the library door opened, and they dropped their aggressive postures to turn their full attention on Leo again. He was looking toward the door with a slight frown. "Did you need something, Kamui?"
Oh. Niles and Odin exchanged a grim look. Play time was over. "I just wanted to talk," Princess Kamui replied, and the door closed. Odin looked over his shoulder to see that only she was standing there. No Kaze. "You've been meetings all day today, and I figured that you wouldn't be quite as busy now." She crossed the room over to the desk. "It being dinner-time and all..."
Leo didn't even glance at the barely-touched tray on his desk at her comment. "I'm sorry that I didn't come down, I'm accustomed to taking meals in here." He looked down at his papers again as Princess Kamui pulled up a chair to sit across from him. "Easier to get things done if I'm multitasking."
"I don't know how well you're doing on that front." Princess Kamui gave the tray a pointed look before her gaze snapped to Odin and Niles as the latter sat up on his knees, obviously startled to see them there. Odin just stared back at her, hoping she'd turn her focus back to Leo. She didn't need to make this any more awkward by making them feel out of place.
"I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, you don't need to take that tone," Leo remarked, starting in on the papers once again.
Princess Kamui turned back toward him, frowning again. "I know, but... you shouldn't have to take care of yourself and Nohr by yourself. Why didn't you say anything about Camilla leaving when you came to Hoshido a couple of months ago?"
"Her departure is not Hoshido's concern."
"I'm your sister. I'm not Hoshido. I just..." She bit her lip for a moment. "I'm just concerned. I have an idea of how hard being in charge of a country is for someone by watching Ryoma, but he has our other three siblings to help him." Way to rub salt in the wound, Princess, Odin couldn't help thinking bitterly, but Leo didn't react. "Yukimura has been the royal advisor for years, and while I'm sure Laslow is doing well enough-"
"I'm managing," Leo interrupted, continuing to write. "Get to the point, Kamui. There is a point to this, isn't there?"
The princess bit her lip again. "I just don't want you to be alone in this castle. I know that there could be... problems... with me staying here publicly. But I could just stay in the palace. Away from the people."
Leo actually looked up at that, arching an eyebrow. "You'd be willing to do that? Run right back into captivity after tasting freedom?"
"If it will help you, yes."
Leo studied her for a moment, and then gave a slight shrug. "It won't, so there's no sense in having you do it." He lifted a hand when Princess Kamui opened her mouth. "I have my retainers and the other four as well, so I'm not alone here." The other four who no longer had a lord or lady to protect. "You managed well enough with just the servants around and the visits from us. It's the same concept, really."
Princess Kamui glanced toward where Odin and Niles were sitting again, but looked away quickly this time. "While I loved the servants, it's just not the same as having family there," she replied, voice quiet. "And I wasn't in charge of all of Nohr. Your retainers won't take care of you the same way Camilla would."
"We're right here, lady," Niles growled under his breath, and Odin couldn't help but share the sentiment, glaring at the princess.
"Is she on a prolonged mission, or something?" she continued.
"That's not your business, nor is it mine to talk about." There was a certain cold tone to Leo's voice now. "I have work to do, so-"
"I'm not leaving until we sort this out," she interrupted, and Odin noted the frustrated undertone.
"There is nothing to sort out. How I handle Nohr's affairs is not your concern."
"I'm your sister."
"So is Camilla, and you don't see her barging through the front gates," he scoffed, and Odin tensed at the lack of bitterness in his tone. "She trusts me and my men, Kamui, and you have less claim to worry that she does."
"Gods, Leo!" she snapped. "I thought we were past this- you said as much in Hoshido."
"It has nothing to do with our conversations there, I'm stating a fact. You live in Hoshido, you are a princess of Hoshido. Nohr's affairs on such a personal level are something you don't-"
"Nohr's affairs, Nohr's affairs. I don't care about Nohr's affairs, I'm worried about you." Princess Kamui's voice had risen a great deal now, and she was halfway out of her seat. Leo glared back at her obviously pained and frustrated face, no emotion other than annoyance in his body language. "You say we're siblings, but you won't trust me. You said you don't blame me for what happened, that it was all King Garon's fault on a level, but we both know that's not true, don't we?" Her voice had grown bitter, and she looked down at the desk, red eyes swimming in both emotion and if Odin wasn't mistaken, real tears. "I'm sorry, I'll always be sorry for the mistakes I made, and that's why I need to help. Even you need some sort of support, and turning a blind eye to it would be another mista-"
She recoiled back into the chair, hands over her chest, and Odin jumped violently when Leo suddenly surged out of his chair and slammed both hands down on the desk with such force that his inkwell fell onto its side and several papers went flying. There was a moment of silence as the siblings stared at each other, and then Leo took a sharp breath. "Niles."
"Yes, milord?" Niles stood immediately.
"The bottom left drawer of the dresser in my room. There are two items in there, I want you to bring them here."
Niles nodded and hurried out of the library. Odin got to his feet as well as Leo stripped off his gloves, revealing just how thin and pale his hands were under the sharp black clothing. "...Leo?" Princess Kamui asked hesitantly.
Leo paused, staring down at his hands, before taking a deep breath. "You want answers, I'll give you answers," he told her, tone still a bit sharp. "Just don't go anywhere and don't question my actions while I'm explaining. It's... not easy to talk about." He looked up at her. "Don't go anywhere, I'll be right back. Odin, stay with her."
"Yes, milord." Leo disappeared into the shelves, and Princess Kamui gave Odin a bewildered look. He looked back at her steadily, though he was just as confused as she was. Confused and a bit apprehensive if he was being honest.
It didn't take Leo long to return, though, and when he did, he was carrying a scuffed wooden box about the size of Brynhildr. He set it on the desk, opening it to reveal a pretty little black ribbon with a bloodred ruby inlaid in it and a wooden hairbrush. Leo took out the brush and proceeded to beat it against his palm, making little clouds of dust fly off of it. "Did Azura ever talk about her time in Nohr?" he asked, keeping his eyes off of his sister.
"N-no," Princess Kamui replied hesitantly, sitting up in the chair now that his voice was completely calm again, her red eyes fixed on the brush. "She hated it here, and though I told her about the fortress, she said that she couldn't imagine anything good coming out of Nohr. She admitted to needing to fix her mindset, but I don't know how successful she was in doing so."
"I'm not at all surprised." Leo sighed. "Your history here and hers were completely separate. You were raised away from the castle, after Elise was born. She was here, in the castle, the entire time." His lip curled slightly, and he shook his head. "You, Xander and Elise are all similar in a way... untouchable, I thought, by what happened. She was here, even if the events here were, I daresay, kinder to her than to the rest of us."
"You're rambling," Princess Kamui pointed out, voice quiet, almost timid.
"Right. Sorry." He moved over and gently tugged her headband out of her hair.
"It's... you never ramble."
"I also never talk about this," he replied sharply. "Do you want me to tell you why I don't want you here and why Camilla is gone or not?"
Princess Kamui stared at him, her expression so full of emotion that it was unreadable, and Odin was beginning to get the distinct impression that he wasn't supposed to be here. This was Nohr family business, a can of worms that apparently hadn't been opened for a very long time. One that didn't involve Lady Elise. But he stayed put, Leo had basically said that having him and Niles in the vicinity was calming, and... well, he was here forever. He'd pledged his life to Leo. He needed to know more about him. "Yes," she finally replied.
Leo nodded curtly, then began gently brushing through her hair. "Bear with me, I haven't done this in a very long time," he told her. "I suppose the easiest way to begin would be to explain our situation. Xander, Camilla, Elise and I were all born of different mothers." Princess Kamui gave a slight start, which surprised Odin. He'd known that, it was common knowledge to the rest of Nohr that King Garon had had many concubines and three of them had borne him one child. "Xander was the crown prince not only because he was the oldest among us, but because he was the son of the woman Father was actually married to. The rest of us came from concubines, and the problems began with Queen Katerina's death." He huffed a soft, bitter laugh as he began portioning off a section of Princess Kamui's hair. The lady, to her credit, stayed still, staring straight ahead. "Suddenly all of our mothers had a chance at the throne, and they immediately turned on each other, using their children to curry favor with Father before suddenly a new woman showed up out of the blue with a little girl in tow who had blue hair and golden eyes."
He had to be talking about Princess Azura. Princess Kamui had stiffened at the mention. "She wasn't King Garon's daughter?" she asked quietly.
"Not by birth. Mind you, I don't remember much about her. I wasn't born until her mother was the second queen after all." Princess Kamui made to look back for a moment, then flinched when Leo flicked the brush downward near her face. "Hold still. Yes, Father married her. The concubines were furious, telling their children to avoid Azura at all costs, to shun her in respect for Queen Katerina. So they pitted us against each other, telling us to get stronger, better, faster. It... was far easier for me than it was for Camilla." Leo's shoulders slumped slightly as he finished twisting the portion of white hair. "Hold that, please." She silently accepted the portion of hair from him, and he began separating another from the opposite side of her head. "Everyone praised me as a genius, and I was extremely competitive. I wanted to be just like Xander, better than Xander. I was one of the only ones bold enough to challenge him to little sparring sessions, one of the only ones who wanted to study with him. I won his and Father's favor quickly. Camilla's mother had to rely on shadow games to get her daughter noticed, but she was still very much one of the more well-known ladies of the court. Her mother and mine were always going head to head, so I didn't have much to do with Camilla when I was young. My mother used me to tease hers, and... we just endured it."
The library door opened, and Leo turned sharply before seeing that it was Niles and relaxing by a margin. Niles took in the situation, and immediately proceeded to lock the doors behind him before coming over with the items in his hands that Odin, the apprehension he'd been feeling since Leo had slammed his hands down on the table growing into straight dread, instantly recognized. A satin bow that had belonged to Lady Elise, and a dark gloved gauntlet that was the exact size of Lord Xander's hand. Leo waved for Niles to place both on the desk next to Princess Kamui's headband before continuing, "My mother did have some power over one of the other women, though, the only one that Father had two children with. One was murdered despite my mother's initial interference, and the other one was far too frail to considered a proper Nohrian princess. She was fine with that, though. She told me that we could be actual siblings because of that." He began twisting the portion of hair he'd separated from the rest. "It was the first time I realized what family was actually supposed to be. She's the one who gave me the headband, she's the one who found Brynhildr in the library when I took up magic instead of the sword when I realized that I could in no way compare to Xander. She felt the same way about her older sister. That ribbon on the desk is what I gave her in return. Hold this one as well for a moment, would you?"
Princess Kamui took hold of the second section of twisted hair, hand shaking slightly. "Anyways." Leo picked the ribbon up off of the desk. "Brynhildr didn't respond to either of us before the concubine wars exploded out of control, we just used it for research. Another boy was murdered by one of the girls, and then her mother sent her after me and Lanela while she went after Camilla and her mother. Elise's mother was out of the castle at this time." He took the two sections of hair from her and twisted them together. "Long, bloody, gruesome story short, there were only four children left in the castle, and two of them could now use divine weaponry. Camilla and I, as the only surviving, actual participants, swore we'd bury this mockery of an idea of family, that we would never harm each other, that we would never let each other, Elise, or Xander go. And when you came along..."
Leo closed his eyes for a moment, and then gently fastened the ribbon into Princess Kamui's hair. She looked different without her headband, the trails of hair fastened back giving her an almost regal appearance even with the silent tears streaking down her cheeks. "Those years you were with us were the happiest any of us had ever known," he finished quietly. "We were a family, a real one, and the past was buried, where it belonged. Your betrayal, it... it brought all of that back to the forefront of my brain. I couldn't handle it. I refused to call you sister, because I couldn't stand the thought of fighting another sibling. Camilla fell apart, all of the stability you gave us completely gone, putting her in the mindset that if anyone was to harm you, it would have to be her. Xander... I don't know what happened to Xander. Maybe it was because he saw us falling apart that he also..." He moved away from her, gently taking the bow, gauntlet, and headband, and placing them in the box. "Elise was the only one who stayed the same. And despite everything we did, no matter how much we said the past was buried, Xander killed her. You killed Xander." He gave a slight, bitter smile, closing the box. "Les ombres du passé sont trop longues pour s'échapper. Sister you are, sister you always will be. Because, in our family, this is simply how things are done."
Princess Kamui bent her head, bringing her hands up to her face. "I see," she quavered. "Then there's no way I can help you by being here."
"Kamui, if you really want to help me, just please don't let the past repeat itself again." Leo picked up the box. "Don't abandon your new family for my sake, your children need you more than I do." His smile grew sadder. "Camilla will return at some point. If not here, to the Northern Fortress. You did teach us something about loyalty and love, believe it or not. But for now..." he closed his eyes again. "Odin, please escort Princess Kamui and her husband out of the castle. There will be no need for you to return to me tonight."
"As you wish, milord." Odin watched as Leo moved slowly back into the shadows of the shelves. A glance toward Niles garnered the sight of him watching Leo leave with an intense, concerned expression, and he knew that he didn't have to worry about the adventurer leaving Leo in such a state, even if he were ordered to. He moved over to the door, unlocking it, the slight scraping sound of a chair being pulled back letting him know that the princess was coming. He held the door open for her, and they moved down the hall in silence, her wiping her tears from her face.
"...You hate me, don't you?"
The words are almost too quiet to hear. Odin continued in silence for a moment, looking for an acceptable answer, and then sighed. "No. I don't. I don't think Lord Leo does either, you can hardly be blamed for your naivete with your upbringing here, and it's well known that Hoshido despised us." He looked at her to see her staring straight ahead as they walked. "That doesn't mean I'm quite ready to forgive what happened here."
She closed her eyes for a moment. "My path was so clear not so long ago," she replied. "A feeling, a truth. If I killed Garon, peace would come... I didn't expect the price." She opened her eyes. "I never second-guessed myself, now I do nothing but that. Everything I do is suddenly wrong, it's like... like..."
"Fighting near-blind?" Odin supplied after a moment of hesitation. She looked at him in surprise, and he forged on. "Five years, I've fought here without any unseen forces hindering my senses. Two years I fought in my homeland without feeling a weight on my shoulders and seeing fog around my eyes." He frowned at her. "But whenever you took out that sword, it all came rushing back."
She blinked. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm saying that there are extremely prominent gods directly connected to the divine weapons," he replied. "Ones that wanted you to win. Others wanting to stop you. You said your path was always clear? In Lord Xander's grief, so was his. I'd swear on the dusk dragon that his fixation on stopping you from killing King Garon had more to do with Siegfried than with him." He shrugged, the memories of the Woods of the Forlorn coming back to him. He'd felt Grima's presence, ready to crush him once again, only it had been far different. He'd forgotten how to fight with such a handicap, it was why he'd had to retreat when Princess Hinoka flung him back into the trees with her lance. "I can't fault you for fulfilling bloody destiny. It's the easiest course, no matter the suffering it brings."
She stared at him. "Who are you?"
He shook his head. "A servant to King Leo. And keep in mind that this is just a theory, I have no idea of knowing what effect divine weaponry would have on it's wielder. I'm only telling you this to explain, because you've spent far too much time looking only one solution in the face. You need to learn how to make your own decisions instead of listening to those around you and the ever present whispers of fate, because gods know how devastating you making the wrong decision can be."
They stepped out into the courtyard. "I was wrong." Princess Kamui's voice was quiet again, and she gave Odin a small, tremulous smile. "My little brother is obviously in good hands."
"And so he will continue to be," he promised, and the door opened again to reveal Kaze. "Will you two need an escort?"
"No. I'm not making Leo's men travel through the winter." The princess shook her head, and Kaze arched an eyebrow. "We're leaving," she supplied, her smile looking more like a grimace now. "I... have a lot of apologies to make."
"We'll want to be on our way quickly, then." The ninja dipped his head to Odin. "Thank you for having us. My regards to the king."
"Of course. Safe travels." Odin signaled to the men at the top of the gate, and they began moving to open it. Kaze's expression softened considerably as he took his wife's hand, and they walked toward the gate. Odin watched them go, arms crossed, until the gates closed off his view.