It was difficult being a peace dove. Old wounds healed slowly, and many Hoshidans were still bitter and resentful over the Nohrian invasion, while the Norhians didn't understand why they couldn't just take the resources they needed by force, as they had been doing prior to Corrin finally bringing peace to the warring nations.
The current peace summit at Fort Dragonfall in particular had gone sour. Neither side was willing to give in on any subject, from trade to the release of prisoners of war. It was stressful time for both parties.
''Well, what did you expect?'' Prince Leo asked Corrin. ''All things considered, it went as well as it could have.''
Corrin couldn't help but frown. ''Um... Leo, Hana was chasing around Gunther with a katana.'' He pointed out. ''And that was just moments after Odin accidentally used the Flames of Athos on Orochi's wardrobe.''
''That's irrelevant as far as the peace meeting goes, Gunther's stitches aside.'' Leo said dismissively. ''Did you think our kingdoms would get along after years of tension and war? This is the only genuine peace summit our nations have had in centuries. There is too much bad blood for immediate change.'' The blonde prince soon gave a confident smirk. ''But time is on our side. With you by our side, it's not likely that Xander and King Ryoma will go to war. Eventually this memory of peace will erase the memories of war. All we have to do.. .is wait''.
''Thanks Leo. Your words ring true.'' Corrin smiled lightly.
''But I think you still need something to take your mind off things. I was planning to go on a ride through the countryside. Why not join me?'' Leo suggested to his brother.
''A riding session you say...'' Corrin pondered.
''That's right. Hopefully, it should take your mind off of the peace summit for a time. The country scenery never ceases to amaze.'' Leo nodded.
''Okay. I trust you on that, Leo.'' Corrin smiled. ''I do need a distraction, and it would do me good to finally spend some more time with you.'' The Vallite Campaign had not given the two brothers to spend time after reuniting.
''Then it's settled.'' Leo smiled. ''I know riding horses is not your area of expertise, let alone riding them properly! So, I had Flora pick out a practice outfit and retrieve our horses. That way, we can get started right away.''
Before Corrin could say anything, his twin maids popped up from behind Leo. ''Right this way, Lord Corrin.'' Flora bowed before taking Corrin by the hand.
''A-And I'll go with Lord Leo!' Felicia nervously shot up.
''Absolutely not. Jakob, you are to prepare me for the ride.'' Leo was quick to shoot the overly clumsy maid down.
Much like his fellow servants, Jakob suddenly appeared from behind Felicia and bowed to Leo. ''Right this way, Lord Leo.''
Half an hour later, the two princes emerged from the changing area in clothes more suited for their little recreational session. Leo wore a black riding jacket over a white dress shirt and a stock tie of the same color. His hands were covered in gloves of white silk, and he wore a pair of white jodhpurs. His black riding boots were large enough to reach his knees.
Corrin himself felt a bit uncomfortable. He wasn't to used to the fancy dressing style of Nohrian nobility, and his usually bare feet being covered by black riding boots was a bit of a sore point. Like Leo, he wore a white dress shirt but his coat was red instead of black, and adorned by a white ascot. His jodhpurs were beige in color and his gloves were black.
''I... don't feel like myself'' Corrin's eyes kept shooting down to his no longer bare feet.
''No matter. You'll get used to it soon. Besides, you might grow to like having something on your feet.'' Leo teased.
''Maybe...'' Corrin was polite enough to keep his doubts to himself. ''Lets be off, then. I'll follow your lead, Brother.''
Leo nodded with a smug look before climbing atop his horse. As the horses passed through mouth-shaped gate, a certain prince spied on the other princes from his window.
Takumi was jealous. True, he had buried the hatchet with Leo, but traces of their little rivalry still lingered. Why wasn't Corrin coming to him if he was troubled? Takumi had detected his brother's stress easily. He would have loved to help if Corrin just asked.
An energetic and friendly voice quickly interrupted Takumi's inner brooding. ''Whoa! You look really upset, Lord Takumi!'' Hinata smiled. ''Big pout and eyebrows crossed and all that!''
''Someone is jealous!'' Oboro sang.
''Stop it. Isn't there some kind of law that demands you threat your lord with respect?'' Takumi grumbled.
''Well, now that you mention it...'' Oboro smiled. ''No, no there isn't!''
''Yeah! No one's making us think you're amazing. Just you!'' Hinata nodded.
''So if you want to talk about it, we'll be there for you. No teasing.'' Oboro promised with a gentle smile.
''No thanks, I'm fine.'' Takumi answered, trying to drop the subject. But his retainers weren't having it.
''Everyone gets jealous once every while.'' Hinata told his lord. ''Haha! I mean, you give Oboro more attention than me! I know how much that sucks!''
''As senior retainer, it's actually pretty normal for me to get more praise!'' Oboro grinned smugly. ''But I feel the same way if Lord Takumi spends too much time with you alone! The three of us are a team!'' Oboro said before whispering to herself. ''But me and Lord Takumi are a little bit more...''
''You blushing Obo-OUCH!'' Hinata soon got the wooden end of a naginata stamped on his foot.
''Yeah, I suppose you two are right. Nothing to be ashamed of.'' Takumi slowly nodded, a smile gradually returning to his face. It soon fell as he continued to speak. ''Except not only am I Corrin's real bro-no, blood brother-can you two see the progress I'm making?'' It had taken a while for Takumi to accept Corrin's adopted family as a part of his own.
''Woo-hoo! Go Lord Takumi!'' The retainers cheered.
''That's more like it.'' Takumi smiled. ''Not only am I Corrin's blood brother, but we also have some reconnecting to do. Especially after all the things I said. So I'm the one he should be going to first!'' He declared.
''Ooh! Ooh! Oboro!'' Hinata piped up. ''Remember that time you and Lord Takumi were planning to spend that day without me-OUCH!'' The naginata was once again jammed into Hinata's foot.
''Yes. Yes I do.'' Oboro growled, glaring at Hinata with her infamous 'Demon Face.'
''And remember how you never showed up? I got to spend the whole day with Lord Takumi!'' Hinata laughed and pumped his fist. ''Hey, want to know how I did it, Lord Takumi?'' hinata could barely contain his laughter as he explained. ''It was so funny! I tied Oboro in the closet and put a gag in her mou-OUCH! Hey, stop that, Oboro!'' He whined at Oboro nailed him in the gut with her fist.
''You don't have to hit him Oboro. I already know how the two of you can be.'' Takumi couldn't help but smile at his retainers' antics. ''So what you're saying is that I should get Leo out of the picture for a while, then cheer Corrin up myself?''
''Nope! I was just saying something I remembered being funny!'' Hinata smiled. ''But that's a really good idea, Lord Takumi!''
''Except its not.'' Oboro sighed ''Why not just be honest with your feelings... Oh wait.'' As if Takumi would ever do that!
A short silence fell. ''Hinata. We're going with your plan!'' Takumi declared.
The first stop on the brotherly riding tour wasn't exactly winning any awards for its beauty. But it was an ugly truth for an ugly forest. If a traveler wanted to get in or out of Fort Dragonfall, they would need to travel through the Woods of the Forlorn.
''Not the greatest start of our travel...'' Corrin winced. He did not like this place at all.
Leo just shrugged his shoulders. ''It has a certain charm to it, as well as great potential for any mage willing to wander it's brush. Shall we?'' He gestured towards a pathway along the woods.
''We're going to be jumped by Faceless. I just know it'' Corrin sighed. ''Good thing I have you here with me, Brother.'' He smiled at Leo.
''And that you an turn into a dragon.'' Leo smiled back.
It wouldn't be Faceless that would attack however.
''Do you... Do you hear something?'' Corrin asked his brother. ''It sounds like someone is saying sooooo smart... ouch?''
''Wow, Lord Takumi, you're sooooooo smar-ouch!'' For the third time Hinata got his foot stamped by Oboro. ''MMMPH!'' And when that only made him yelp louder, Oboro just kept her hand over his mouth.
''Be quiet! They'll hear us!'' Oboro hissed, before smiling up at her liege. ''But Lord Takumi, you are really smart! Using a Dragon's Vein to summon a mist, then stealthily take Leo out of the picture!''
''Rlmmmh smrmmh!'' Hinata nodded eagerly in agreement.
''Why, thanks!'' Takumi grinned wryly. ''But let's see if this is will work before we try anything risky.'' With that, Takumi walked over to the Dragon Vein. ''Wish me luck''
A thick mist suddenly surrounded the royal brothers.
''Nothing to worry about. Just a normal side effect of the woods.'' Leo assured his brother, or at least he tried to. Corrin didn't respond. ''Corrin? Blast, he drifted off in another direction, didn't he?'' He wasn't too hard on Corrin though. It was normal for travelers to get lost in this thick mist.
''Prince Leo!'' A green glow suddenly pierced through the mist, taking the form of the green arrow produced by the Fuujin Yumi. ''Today, I'll finally best you! Feel free to put your hands behind your back in advance!''
Leo remained completely composed. ''I hope you don't expect me to feel threatened.''
''Because that would be to much to ask of Mister Perfect, would it?'' Talumi growled and quickly fired his first arrow.
''You've wasted your element of surprise.'' Leo sighed, and opened Brynhildr almost lazily. With the legendary tome, Leo summoned three trees rise to block the arrows. ''And the green glow of your arrows ensures you'll never be to hide from me!'' Charging forth, the Nohrian prince hit Takumi's shoulder with his sword.
''Aaaah... W-what the-!'' Takumi groaned. His shoulder became encased in ice.
Leo smirked. ''My Iceblade. It should make you cool down soon enough.'' He soon struck again at Takumi's leg, freezing it to the ground.
''Urgh! W-Why can't I beat you!'' Takumi yelled frustrated. ''THhat does it! Oboro!''
''Coming, Lord Takumi!'' The Spear Fighter suddenly charged out of the mist. ''Whoa! Those clothes are really nice!'' Oboro smiled earnestly and smacked Leo from his horse with her naginata. ''Almost makes me feel bad about getting them all muddy!'' With Leo downed, Oboro smashed the ice from Takumi's leg and shoulder.
Leo sloppily pulled himself from the mud. ''I have no idea what's going on, but it ends now!'' The prince traded his sword for Brynhildr again.
''Oboro, lets do this together!'' Takumi pulled another arrow on his Yumi. ''Ready?''
''R-Ready, Lord Takumi! Hiyaaaaah!'' As Leo raised a tree to block the arrow, Oboro cleaved it in half. The arrow went forward unopposed and blasted Leo off the ground.
''Got him!'' Oboro quickly dove onto the prince and covered his mouth with his hand. ''Now you just come with us. Nice and quiet!''
''Mmmmh!'' Leo glared up venomously, but in the end he was a mage, not a fighter. He couldn't get Oboro off him. That immature prince was coming towards him with rope in his hand.
''Hmmh... I wonder where Hinata's gone to...'' Oboro pondered as she held Leo in place for Takumi.
Hinata could see Leo riding through the mist. ''Looks like Lord Takumi had missed him!'' Hinata muttered to himself. ''Well, I don't blame him! Anyone could have missed someone in this thick mist!'' Grinning wildly, Hinata aimed to correct that!
Jumping from his hiding place, Hinata drew his katana in front the horsemen and roared. ''Hiyaaaah! Face me, Prince Leo! In the name of Prince Ta...'' Hinata's sudden appearance and yell caused the horse to stagger, throwing it's rider to the ground. ''T-That's gotta hurt! You alright there?''
''Argh... Ow...'' The voice confirmed a pained, numbed but ultimately safe rider.
''You haven't broken anything? Awesome!'' Hinata grinned. ''Now I just need to tie you up. You gonna stay still?''
Another pained groan followed.
''That's great! Oh! one thing. I'd better feel your feet'' Hinata knelt down and moved his hand across the rider's feet. This had to be Prince Leo. He might not be able to see him in this thick mist, but he could feel the leather boots....that Corrin didn't wear. Prince Corrin always went bare footed for some reason. ''Alright! You really are Prince Leo!'' The samurai cheered happily.
''...Leo...'' Groaned once more when the samurai pulled him over his shoulder.
''You can just consider yourself captured! Haha! Lord Takumi is going to be so proud!'' Hinata grinned before marching off to meet up with his liege and his partner.
Takumi was anything but happy when Hinata returned.
''My partner is a damned fool!'' Oboro facepalmed.
''C-Come on! That's not fair... Y-You're on my side right, Lord Takumi?'' Hinata winced at the frosty reception.
''Do I look like I'm on your side!?'' Takumi facepalmed alongside Oboro. ''You kidnapped Corrin!''
''Urgmmm! Lmmmh mmmh ommhh!'' It wasn't just one prince who had been brought to their spot all bound and gagged. Both Leo AND Corrin were there. The two princes had been placed back-to-back, their hands tied before them, their torso's bound and their legs tied together. Large white cloths had been pulled over their mouths and noses, and knotted behind their heads.
Leo was the more reserved of the prisoners. He struggled and squirmed, but only made calculated pulls on his bonds compared to the more frantic wriggling of Corrin.
''Tmmmh!'' Corrin gasped. Muffled sounds escaped his gag that sounded like a question about just what the heck was going on.
Hinata stepped right up to explain. ''Allow me! Lord Takumi got really jeaMMMMMH!''
''BAD Hinata! We're going for a walk! Come on, shoo!'' Oboro had tied a spare cloth over her partners mouth and pulled him away into the woods.
''Mmmh.'' Leo made a sound seemed to combine amusement and contempt. Someone really didn't have his retainers under control, in his honest opinion.
''W-Well, now that we have that out of the way...'' Takumi sighed, before placing his gaze on Corrin. ''Don't look so pitiful, Corrin. I'm not jealous or anything, I just wanted to prove that I could take you and your ''genius'' brother down... and I did!''
''Ummmh... ymmh, cmmh rmmh rmmh.'' Corrin tried to point out that Takumi was blushing as he spoke.
''B-Be quiet!'' Takumi snapped. ''By the way... I've spoken to Elise.''
''Urmmmh!'' Leo's calm face showed signs of worry now. When it came to this particular subject, his younger sister could be quite the handful.
''Mmmmmmmmh!'' Corrin too started showing more fear, peeping at the mention of his sisters name. He didn't have the heart to refuse Elise's tickle tortures but that didn't mean he liked them!
''She gave me some real good advice. Without me asking for it, I might add!'' Takumi was quick to point out.
''Mmm'' The prisoners nodded simultaneously. They actually completely believed Elise would do such a thing.
''You shouldn't even be captured Corrin, so you just watch as I take mister perfect down a bit'' Takumi smiled evilly and began to approach Leo. With Takumi coming closer, Leo nervously trashed around in his bonds. ''Oh, look who's becoming less composed!'' A smile came upon Takumi's fact when he saw his rival all tied up and helpless. ''Now what did Elise say again... Oh yeah, tickle torture, and lots of it!''
Leo just rolled his eyes. Even if Corrin was the one Elise usually went to for such things, he didn't always escape it.
Takumi stopped right in front of Leo, before turning his head to the woods. ''Hinata! Hey, Hinata! Can you come back here'' Takumi yelled into the woods. ''Bring him here, Oboro!''
''Cmminh, Lrmmh Tmmi!'' It wasn't long before Hinata had reacted to his lord's words and was standing besides them. He inadvertently brought Oboro along with him; the Spear Fighter found herself being dragged along for the ride. ''I'm here, Lord Takumi!'' The samurai stated after pulling his gag down.
''You can tickle people right?'' Takumi asked which caused confusion to appear on Leo's face. ''Oh, don't give me that! Why would I touch your feet!?''
''I can tickle people if that's what you want! Sure!'' Hinata nodded eagerly. ''Right, Prince Leo! If you feel a sudden urge to pee just quickly nod to me twice and I'll plan in a bathroom break!''
''Uuurrmmmh...'' Leo groaned. He wasn't just being tickled, but he was being tickled by a fool! A fool who probably never washed those hands of his either.
Muffled sounds some came from the bound prince as Hinata ran he fingers along the areas Takumi instructed. But so far, they just seemed strained grunts and sounds of annoyance. No laughter came from Leo.
''Oh! He's not very ticklish.'' Hinata observed. ''So... that's that, then?''
''Oh he's ticklish. Just go on for a little longer'' Takumi had a hunch Leo was actually quite ticklish. He was so himself, and Takumi would also hold back the laughter until he could no longer take it. By now, Takumi realized he was more like Leo then he liked. 'The Twins' some soldiers would call them. So, if they were so similar, perhaps Leo's reaction to being tickled would be the same. Leo's strong glare just gave Takumi a strong signal he was right. ''And for that look...can you tickle his feet?''
''As you command, Lord Takumi! Boots off!'' Hinata went to work again, stripping Leo of his left boot.
'Urmmmh! Drmmh immh!''' Leo resisted Hinata's attempt to get his foot on Hinata's lap. ''AAMMMH!''
''Work with it! Then we can all get out of here!'' An annoyed Oboro had slapped Leo's but with the blunt end of her spear.
''....Fmmh.'' Leo gave a short nod to the brutish Samurai holding him and relented. Hinata happily thanked him for it and tore off the boot. And now, the torture began.
''Mmmh... mmma... mmh... pfmmmh...'' Now softer sounds came from Leo's gag. Annoyed grunts had made way for uncontrollable giggles. ''Mmhaaha! Hhhhma... MMMMMH!''
''And there we have it!'' Takumi smirked in satisfaction ''You sound a bit girly, you know that, Prince Leo?''
''BMMH SLMMHM! Mmmmhaahammmmh!'' Leo was laughing too hard to make a full retort.
''Mission accomplished then!'' Hinata grinned widely. Actually, so far Hinata had been laughing far more then tickling.
''Not yet... Keep going.'' Takumi smiled a bit devilishly ''And go faster!'' Hinata wasn't one to disobey orders, or pass up a little bit of fun, so he went on without complaints.
''Mmmmh! S-Stmmmh tmmmmmmmmmh!'' Leo screamed, cheeks reddening in a mix of fatigue and embarasment. Fatigue from laughing so hard, and embarasment from the fact that he had actually whined at Takumi like a child.
''Mmmmm! Mmmmmphaaaahmhmhmha! MMMMMH! EEMMMHAAHAMMMH! MRMMMMMMMH!'' As Hinata's fingers moved over Leo's feet with greater speed, Leo couldn't hold back. So he screamed. Some tears were even rolling down his cheek.
''...Mmmh.'' Corrin respectfully turned his head when seeing that. He knew Leo wouldn't like it if Corrin saw him cry. Even if, or rather because, it was for a silly reason.
But when turning his head Corrin spotted something. Leo's discarded boot lay in a puddle of mud. The black leather was getting damaged, eaten away at by the brown and purple substance it lay in. The Woods of the Forlorn was a vile place. No sunlight reached these parts, the dragon corpse that made up the fortress in it's centrum caused the ground to rot and the mud was slightly acidic. All these factors combined to make for a rather vile substance.
While Takumi was to busy watching Leo squirm, scream, and cry, Corrin slightly crawled to a nearby puddle of mud. Corrin hesitated for a second, then took a deep breath. This would surely sting.
''Mmmmmmh!'' Corrin had been right in his assumptions, but luckily his peep wasn't heard by the others. He felt a sharp burn when he dipped his wrists inside the mud, but when he reflexively pulled them out again, his ropes were heavily frayed. A single pull from Corrin snapped them.
''Ah! Air at last!'' Corrin breathed as soon as he removed the gag from his mouth. He reached forward in order to get to his legs and remove the rope that bound them. Then, he pulled out his Dragonstone.
''Um... I think this has gone on for long enough'' Corrin stated.
''Uh-oh'' Takumi winced as he turned around. He really did not want to attack his brother. ''Maybe you should sit tight Corrin. I'd hate to recapture you'' It was easy to underestimate Corrin, as he would never hurt a fly on his own. Takumi didn't believe Corrin had what it take to win in a more or less ''friendly'' fight, and certainly not against both him and his retainers.
And then a huge silver dragon knocked all three of them down.
''Y-Yooouch! Uncle! I'm outta the game!'' Hinata cried out. ''Mercy! Mercy!''
''Seriously?! Ugh, today is just not my day!'' Oboro didn't need a clearer message to remove herself from this fools errand. She would go to the ends of the continent and back for Takumi, but this was just silly! And her clothes were ruined!
''Come on guys! You don't see me surrendering!'' Takumi yelled as he slowly backed away from.
''Well... that's not exactly a good thing.'' Corrin said before tackling his brother into a particularly big pool of mud.
''Aaaaargh! O-Ow! What the... T-This burns!'' Takumi groaned in pain. By the time he got out of the pool, his clothes had been eaten away beyond recovery which showed some burn marks on his skin.
''Note to self... don't fall into those.''' A now-human Corrin winced. ''T-That looks pretty bad but... well, you did ask for it''
Making his way towards his Nohrian brother, Corrin pulled Leo's gag down ''A-Are you all....''
''Let us never speak of this again. And the starting point of that agreement is now.'' Leo immediately cut Corrin off before the elder brother could say anything. ''But that was legitimately smart. Color me impressed.'' He gave his brother a thankful smile.
''I'm glad to hear that. And you're welcome.'' Corrin smiled right back at him. ''So... What should we do with those three?'' He looked back at the three Hoshidans laying on the ground in pain.
''Oh, I have just the thing!'' Leo smirked. ''...Nice briefs.'' He snarked at Takumi, who had abandoned his damaged and very wet clothing right there in order to avoid it dripping acid on him.
Takumi blushed, but he wouldn't leave his rival unanswered. ''At least I'm not crying...''
Leo's eyes narrowed harshly. ''Cute''.
''Uh-oh...'' Corrin knew that look. He had a feeling Takumi would be in a particularly tight spot for that comment. And Leo calling for Niles when they returned to the fortress just increased his dread.
''...And there we are!'' Leo smirked. ''It's good thing you guys are so easy to read. It gave Niles clues on how to make this as uncomfortable for you as possible in a mental way... and a physical one of course.''
Niles' advice had been quite sound. Takumi did not want to be seen as vulnerable, and yet here he was in the village square, tied in just his briefs for all to see and with several onions sliced before his eyes to ensure he cried quite a bit. If a village girl were to come by, they would see a teenage boy very exposed and crying like a baby. That seemed vulnerable enough.
''GRRRRMMMH! Urgmmmhmmmmh! Eeemh!'' Takumi screamed and winched in quite some pain. As per Leo's instructions, his legs had been stretched out a lot and tied to two different pikes in the ground. His arms were stretched out above him and the ropes were just very tight in particular. Physical and emotional torment in one package.
''Mmmmmh... Ommh... Mmmm.....'' Takumi's voice had gotten quite high as of now.
Oboro's crush on Takumi was plain as day for everyone to see. So while her crush sat there with his entire body exposed for the whole world to see, all Oboro saw was a big dose of Hinata. The two retainers had been tied together face-to-face in an inseparable hug. And with some rope wrapped around their heads as well, it was impossible for Oboro not to see Hinata's face, as well as peek at Takumi.
''Mmrmmh... Mmm... Hihihmhhh!'' Hinata just giggled a whole lot and blushed like a schoolboy. The retainers gags were the lips of the other retainer! Before pushing their faces together Niles had smeared a sticky substance on their lips which had now fused together.
''Uurmmmh! MMMMMMMMH!'' This only further increased Oboro's displeasure of course. Her face was now permanently in her ''demonic'' mode.
''Well, Corrin. Shall we continue on our ride?'' Leo smiled.
''I'd love to, but I really don't think it would be wise to leave them unattended like this...'' Corrin had kept his eyes glued to the ground the entire time to avoid watching the spectacle unfold. ''It just seems rather risky. They can't very well defend themselves like this.'' He pointed out.
''Oh, Niles is keeping watch from the bushes'' Leo waved his hand in dismissal.
''...I REALLY don't think it would be wise to leave them attended like this.'' Corrin gulped. Niles being near them sounded bad. Really, really bad. Especially with them so tightly bound like this!
''I am well aware of it.'' Leo gave a small smile ''But the reasons that drive you to that opinion are the exact reasons that made me give the order. I have no mind of retracting it.''
''Eeeeemmm!'' Takumi gave his girliest peek yet heard that day. He was doomed, through and through.
''Well them, let us be on our way'' Leo turned around and mounted his horse again.
''B-Bye! ...Uh... Maybe think these things through more deeply when you consider plans like this...'' Corrin awkwardly said to the three captives. ''...And, um... a-and then don't do it!'' He added on before jumping onto his own horse and riding after Leo.
And with that, the royal ride through the countryside had started anew.