"Nisha, I expected you of all people to behave more responsibly," Chrom said sternly, arms folded as he glared at the couple. The tactician bowed her head, flushing a brilliant shade of scarlet. Gangrel was biting back laughter.
Usually, public humiliation was supposed to be, well, humiliating, but for some odd reason, the Mad King found the whole situation strangely funny. Walking back into camp that morning had been interesting to say the least. Especially when his royal exaltedness Chrom took it upon himself to discipline the two of them outside the mess tent.
Oh gods, the look on Nisha face was priceless!
"I'm going to enact the usual punishment: banning the two of you being alone together," the blunette Exalt continued. "And Gangrel, that means you may not touch her at any time for any reason."
"Oh, like your little verdict could stop me," the Mad King scoffed. Nisha elbowed him in the ribs and despite how funny the situation was he had to wince from the impact. Chrom threw his hands up in the air and vanished into the mess tent. The excitement over, the crowd of Shepherds either followed suit or wandered off. Gangrel stepped closer to his lover and reached out to take her hand. At the barest contact, she jerked away and turned her back on him, her arms folded tightly, chin thrust up into the air.
"No," she commanded. "I am very upset with you."
Gangrel chuckled and traced the long nail of his index finger up the back of her neck, delighting in the shiver it evoked. He then tugged lightly on the end of her ponytail and left her to herself. Let her be upset; she'd give in within the next few days or so.
It would seem the prediction of "a few days" was a bit on the optimistic side. As the Shepherds finally boarded the ship for Origin Peak, Nisha successfully remained angry with him for 124 hours and counting. And it had been a very long five days.
Every day, Gangrel would approach his fiancee as he always did and try to make contact. And every day, she would give him a furious glare that said, very clearly, to back off. So he did. Until he wanted to try again.
There was a very cruel reverse psychology happening: the more times she refused his advances, the more he wanted to be around her and the more he bothered her, thus worsening her mood. But Gangrel was not an idiot and by the fifth day, he knew it was time for a new strategy.
And he knew just what he had to do.
The thief jerked out of his tactics book, looking up at his father in slight surprise.
"Father," he replied a little breathless from the suddenness of the interaction. "Did you need something?"
"Wanted to ask another favor," Gangrel informed the boy, grinning. "You do mock battles with Nisha, right?"
"...yes?" Morgan said slowly, sounding stuck between suspicion and curiosity.
"Well, I want to go a round. Test my methods against your strategy."
The trickster watched in slight amusement as his son's eyebrows shot upwards, then furrowed down.
"You...you want to play out a mock battle?" he repeated. "Can you even strategize?"
"I'm not that moronic," the Mad King informed his son dryly. "I navigated Plegia through a war or two, didn't I? But what say you?"
Morgan shrugged, smiling as he closed his book and got to his feet, swaying a little from the rocking of the boat.
"I'm going to beat you," the boy warned, "but I accept your challenge."
"My archers move in to your wyvern riders," Morgan said, sliding the piece across the board.
"And are ambushed by my cavalry," Gangrel added, moving in his own figurine.
"I thought you were sending them to capture the fort!" the younger man cried as his father took the archer piece away.
"Nah; they were needed to protect the wyverns. Those are the heavy hitters."
"But you lost half your forces if more!"
"Stop complaining about my tactics and make your move."
This back-and-forth had been going on since the game began. As a result, Morgan had begun to get frustrated and more than a little flustered. Gangrel on the other hand, was completely calm, even enjoying himself some. About halfway through the battle, Nisha had found them in her cabin and rather than leave, she had stayed to watch. It was in the last stages of the match that things really got heated.
"My dark mages destroy your wall of knights," Gangrel said, taking another figurine.
"My pegasus knights move in and take the mages," Morgan answered, picking up the wooden image for himself.
"And my mercenary force moves in for the kill."
The Mad King grinned as he knocked over the leader token.
"Check and mate, boy."
"Agh!" the thief burst. "First to Mother, then to you?!"
"In all fairness, I doubt you knew how ruthless I can be," Gangrel conceded, picking up the ruler piece and placing it with the other captured forces. "But you have skill, or else you would have folded under that wyvern barrage."
"That was a battle well fought," Nisha added, resting her hand on Morgan's shoulder. She then looked at her fiancee. "Was that, by any chance, a replay of the Border Wastes? It looked rather familiar."
"Nope," the trickster sighed, leaning back and resting his hands behind his head. "That was a rough representation of my first major battle against Ylisse when I was appointed to Generalship."
"Did you win?" Morgan inquired. Gangrel laughed.
"No. I was too busy trying to keep my men organised because they didn't want to listen to me."
"Why didn't they listen?"
Gangrel locked eyes with Nisha and staged a silent debate. Her black gaze narrowed and he rolled his eyes at her, sitting up straight.
"I wasn’t always a popular ruler," the trickster sighed. "Look at the board and tell me who has more soldiers alive."
Morgan obeyed, but before he could reply, Gangrel interceded.
"I was playing to win, not to preserve my forces. So I made whatever sacrifice was necessary to attain that goal. I won't lie: mortality rates were high wherever I was in charge. And it didn't help I was younger than most the soldiers under me."
"Younger?" Morgan repeated.
"Another long story," Gangrel said before the young thief could ask.
"We're not going anywhere," the redhead protested. The trickster ran a hand through his hair, sighing.
"You're not gonna give up on this, are you?" he asked halfheartedly, knowing what the answer was already. Morgan did not disappoint.
"Of course not Father!"
"Well, I know when I've been beat," the Mad King grumbled, rubbing the back of his neck as he studied the table. "But I'll warn you now kid: it's not a pretty tale. And I'm not the hero in it."
"I'd rather see you as you are instead of some idealistic image," Morgan replied softly. "Go ahead."
"I was just a kid when it all happened," Gangrel began. "Never had anyone to look after me. Guess that's why I grew into such a troublemaker. But like I said before, it's a hard life on the streets: you steal to eat or die. In any case..."
It was late at night and the deck was silent aside from the sound of waves hitting the stern. Gangrel leaned over the ship's edge, letting the cool sea spray hit his face.
Morgan now knew. He knew exactly what his father was and it had been hard to ignore the shock and occasional queasiness that had graced the boy's features as he had described the violence that had followed him for so long—and still followed him to this day. But Morgan had stayed silent, taking it all in. At the end of the story, the young thief had stood and thanked Gangrel for sharing his past and had even surprised the Mad King with a swift embrace before taking his leave.
The wind was a little chilly, but the cold was halted as a pair of warm arms wrapped around his chest from behind. The trickster didn't need to wonder who it was who would touch him this way and smiled.
"I'm glad you told him," Nisha mumbled, her breath tickling in his ear. "Even if it wasn't everything."
"The kid doesn't need to know everything; it's fine with me if some things never leave secrecy. In any case, he wouldn't be able to handle it all at once."
"Look at you," the tactician chuckled, stepping around him so she was beside him. "Thinking of what's best for him first. I'm proud of you."
"Same could be said for you, Gangrel teased. "Ignoring his Exaltedness' direct order? You've come so far from being the little rule-following tactician I first met."
"I—" Nisha seemed temporarily speechless before her cheeks became pink. "I forgot."
She moved to pull away, but the Plegian wrapped an arm around her shoulders, keeping her in place.
"We're not alone you know," he reminded her, glancing significantly up at the crow's nest where the lookout was stationed.
"But...it's embarrassing..." she protested, her face now very red. "And I'm not sure that counts."
"We can say Kellam was here," Gangrel said easily, pulling her closer. "No one would ever be able to find him to confirm it."
Nisha opened her mouth to say something, but the trickster halted her words by putting a finger to her lips.
"Tactician, I have been waiting for five days. My patience is running out. If you would rather there were more people watching—"
"Oh gods no," she breathed. Gangrel chuckled, pulling her into his embrace. He tangled his fingers into her ponytail, reaching for the leather cord that bound it in place. Her inky locks burst free of the confinements and the Mad King continued to stroke the silky lengths.
"You're so beautiful with you hair down," he breathed in her ear. "Trying to tempt me?"
"That's not something I can help," Nisha mumbled, clinging to him. Her embarrassment was so adorable. Stepping back, the Mad King stole a brief kiss.
"Hey!" a voice called from above them. "Not that I mind, but Chrom told you two to not! Do I have to curse you two apart?"
"Thank you Henry, for that reminder," Nisha called back, breaking from the kiss, "and no, that will not be necessary."
"The world is in conspiracy against us," the red-haired Plegian groaned.
"It would seem so," the tactician agreed, her tone suddenly becoming serious. "Do you see that?"
Gangrel twisted around and squinted into the darkness. It took a moment to make it out, but their ship was headed directly for a large, dark mass that was growing ever larger. It was an island, no doubt about it.
"Origin Peak," Nisha confirmed. "That's where we make our final stand."
"How long?" Gangrel asked.
The red-haired Plegian inhaled deeply. Two days. He had lost almost all of his (possibly) last week with Nisha. He had some things to make up for then. But first...
"Do you promise to survive?" he asked the tactician, staring deep into her dark eyes.
"I already promised Chrom that—"
"Promise to me."
Nisha shifted uneasily.
"Gangrel...I want to but—"
"Please," he murmured, stroking her cheek tenderly. "I can't live without you."
Nisha looked up into his eyes, her gaze searching. Her lips parted to say something...
"Nyaha! That is so cute! You two should kiss right about now! Oh wait..."
"Henry!" the black-haired woman shouted, going red again as she whipped around to face the mast. The trickster rolled his eyes.
"I suppose we ought to give him a show," he suggested, wrapping his arms around her waist and kissing her temple. "What say you?"
"I say you're mad," she replied, twisting around and putting her arms around his neck.
"Mad, am I?" Gangrel growled playfully in her ear. "You might be on to something there."
He kissed the soft skin of her neck, smiling at the gasp it elicited.
"Sensitive, aren't you?" he whispered, his grin widening as her face went as red as his hair. "Do you want me to do that again?"
"Gangrel!" she hissed, her cheeks still aflame. "We are in public!"
"And that makes a difference because...?"
Nisha actually stamped her foot in exasperation. The Mad King chuckled before coming back down to Earth.
"I won't do it if you don't want me to; I've just missed you," he murmured, running his thumb over her cheek. "Please, don't be angry with me."
"I'm not mad at you, you incessant, impossible, stubborn, charming, captivating man," the tactician replied, her mouth twitching into a smile. "There are just rules as to when these things are appropriate. Rules that I intend to follow."
"As you wish," Gangrel told her with a groan. So close.
As their lips joined together into another kiss, the Mad King took advantage of the moment to savor the feeling of her in his arms, of the silk touch of her midnight hair, of her sweet taste and warm scent.Two days.