Soren had never eaten so much in his entire life. After three bowls of soup, he had begun to feel sick, as though his body was so unused to food that it had started rejecting it. But Oscar continued cooking, and Ike kept refilling the bowl and pushing it towards him.
Soren pushed the bowl away again. “I’m full, thank you.”
“But you’ve hardly eaten anything!” Ike protested.
“I’m full,” Soren repeated. “But thank you.”
Ike half-scowled at him.”Fine. I’ll show you to your room.” They both rose from their seats, and Ike led Soren away from the kitchens to another part of the fort entirely.
The room was more spacious than Soren had expected, with a large bed and several bookcases, though he noted with some dismay that most of the shelves were empty. He sorted the few tomes from his pack onto the shelf closest to the bed, then exited out onto the balcony, with Ike following close behind. “Beautiful, isn’t it? You can see most of Crimea from this height.” Ike turned to Soren. “Whereabouts are you from? I never asked.”
“I spent most of my childhood on the border between Crimea and Gallia.”
“Oh. You can’t see quite that far from here.”
Soren grimaced. “Good. I could quite easily die happy without ever seeing another sub-human again.”
There was a long, awkward silence before Ike spoke up again. “Soren, if you grew up near Gallia, you must know that the laguz hate being called sub-humans, right?”
Soren shrugged with one shoulder. “Just because an apple doesn’t like being called a fruit doesn’t stop it being one. They’re just beasts.”
“I have laguz friends.”
That single comment stopped Soren in his tracks. “How can you even bear to associate with...with them?”
Ike glared at him. “For someone who hates assumptions being made about them, you sure assume a lot about others. The laguz -”
“I’m not assuming anything,” Soren interrupted. “Have you ever been to their beast-country?”
“I was born in Gallia.”
Soren stared at him, mouth hanging open. There was no way... no way that this could have been why Greil had been so courteous to him. “Are you...” The words had to stumble out of his mouth. “Are you one of the Branded?”
“What’s a Branded?” Ike looked at him in confusion.
Soren hung his head. He knew it was unlikely that he would ever meet another. All the same...he found it curious to know that he would have responded with understanding rather than disgust. He had always thought of himself as an abomination - why should it be any different towards someone else? “The Branded are the filthy halfbreeds of beorc and laguz. Their very existence makes them abominations according to Ashera’s laws.”
“That seems a little petty. I mean, if you really love someone, does it matter whether they’re beorc or laguz or anything in between? Emotions don’t play by logic like that.”
“It’s a violation of nature,” replied Soren, narrowing his eyes at the approaching twilight. “The laguz parent loses all powers of transformation, and the child is born with a Brand to show everyone that they’re an abomination.”
“A Brand...like a spirit charmer’s mark?”
Soren shook his head and turned back to Ike. “They’re completely different. The Branded are born with their marks. Spirit charmers gain theirs when they trade their soul.”
There was another long stretch of silence. “You don’t have to hate yourself like that, you know.”
Soren looked at Ike in confusion, his eyebrows furrowed. “What are you talking about?”
“You said you weren’t a spirit charmer.”