Chrom had no idea the number of the so-called post-war resettlement document that he had been looking at; honestly, he might not even be able to tell whether he had been just going in circles with this heap of paper.
How did Roxanne do this?
A pang of pain struck his heart again at the thought of her. Nevertheless, he could not stop but think of her from time to time; until he found her again, whenever it might be, this was the only way to remind him of her and her life. Even in her absence, Chrom often relied on her past counsels to make his current decisions. He chided himself for dozing off when she said that; even when he thought he did not, it was apparent to him now that at times, he had taken her presence for granted.
Someone knocked on the door.
Frederick showed up on the other side. "Your Grace, your audience had been requested."
"My, my, being an Exalt suits you."
Chrom looked over Frederick's shoulder, gesturing him to make way to this particular visitor. "Aversa," he acknowledged cooly. "It's fine Frederick, let her in."
Frederick nodded and gave them some privacy by closing the door behind him. Chrom knew, however, that his most trusted knight would stand guard at the door. He stood to greet the unexpected guest, eliciting a smile on her. Both of them settled down on their seats soon afterwards. "I came here to offer you my congratulation for your coronation as the Exalt in person."
"Thank you, Aversa."
"And of course, thank you for releasing Plegia to my care."
It was one of his most controversial decisions. He had a hard time convicing his council that not annexing Plegia was in Ylisse's best interest. Nevertheless, he had learned through his campaign that there was no way one could force one's belief on others. Try, and a disaster would follow. His father should have been a sufficient example. Moreover, he knew that Roxanne would support his decision. Choosing Aversa as the leader was then an obvious course of action; Aversa's intel was substantial in defeating Grima, and Aversa's defection was a clear proof that she would be an ally of Ylisse—at least, not as hostile as their forefathers had been. On the Plegia's ground, Aversa had long been involved in the high-level politics of the theocracy, enough that there was virtually no resistance to her rise as Plegia's new Queen.
"I hope you prove my decision right, Aversa," Chrom said with caution. "What's your next plan with Plegia with Grima gone?"
Aversa's eyebrow twitched, but even if she had taken offense in his question, she was sure being careful not to show it. After all, she owed her ascent to him. "I have done more research on my part," she began. "Plegia's ties to the fell dragon was indeed true, but there's more to it than we have been aware in recent decades. There is no denying that some ardent followers of the fell dragon chose to settle in Plegia, but those in the palace—at least the founding dynasty—established the theocracy to prevent the return of the fell dragon, while also maintaining the balance with Ylisse. While the current generations were led to believe that they worship chaos, the forefathers of Plegia sought only to comprehend chaos, and appreciate it as it is."
"What do you mean?"
"Have you not learned, Your Grace? There can be no order without chaos. No good without evil. You cannot have only the good things in life without suffering. Naga might represent the light, but she needs darkness to survive—Grima. That is why they cannot kill each other… only themselves."
"But Grima is gone."
"Yes, but darkness will always be there… no matter how small it is. That's why Naga is still here, too."
Chrom took a moment to digest her words. Her words made sense, but was Grima not the personification of evil? Or had he been looking at things too black-and-whitely?
"Not all darkness is evil, nor all evil is dark. I'm sure you can name some examples."
"Point being, Ylisse and Plegia were supposed to be two sides of the same coin. The counter balance of each other on a scale. I intend to lead Plegia to its original role."
"Then you have my full support," Chrom replied.
"That being said, the remnants of those fanatics are still around. I will track them down, starting from Validar's descendants from his mistresses."
He nodded. "I'm sure Tharja and Henry would be glad to return home."
Aversa smiled. "I'll ask them on my way back."
For a moment, none of them spoke. Chrom carefully studied Aversa's expression; he knew that she had something else to say. Before he asked, she decided to let it out. "You're still looking for her?"
He sighed heavily. "Every single day."
She nodded. "I'll keep an eye out for her, too. There's a fair chance she'll be in Plegia, considering her… blood."
"Thank you, Aversa."
"But, if you want to take my word on it… don't you think it's always easier to find something when we're not looking for it?"
With that, Aversa bade him goodbye. Chrom did not immediately go back to work; he decided that it was a good time to take a break. He went out from his study towards the palace garden. It was still afternoon, but he remembered how he promised Roxanne that one day they would watch the moon when it had regained its beauty. As they had predicted, the moon reverted to its original hue after Grima's demise, but again, Roxanne was not there to see it with him.
Chrom turned at the little voice. He found Lucina, now starting to walk around and gave her nannies good exercise around the palace. Her big eyes were fixated on him; he couldn't help but to smile at that. Chrom crouched down and scooped her up. "Lucina, dear. How are you today?"
She gave him a quick peck on the cheek and giggled. There was no single day that Chrom forgot how the future Lucina looked like; notwithstanding his pride on how she turned out, he was more than grateful to see his baby girl in her adorable period like this, growing up like she was supposed to—and hopefully towards a better future she had literally fought for. Naga told him that one day, the future Lucina would come back and her consciousness would merge; Naga could not give him exactly when, but he knew it would come someday. He just wished Roxanne was here to watch Lucina growing up with him, too.
Chrom took a good look at his daughter; she definitely had Roxanne's smile. He chuckled wryly as he pressed their foreheads together. He did not have the heart to say it out loud—that he missed her mother, and how her smile reminded him of her—but at least, he had something to remember her by.
Paperwork had never been Chrom's forte. When he locked himself in his study and buried himself under those paper for days, Lissa was worried, but was told that it was only because of the hectic transition now that he was the Exalt and a war hero. When days turned to weeks, weeks counted to months, and months rolled into years, she knew she had to do something. So, when she saw him outside one day—a rare occurrence—Lissa took it upon herself to drag him away from the palace. "Ride with me!" she insisted. Of course, she did not take no for an answer.
The two siblings rode outside of Ylisstol. Lissa rode as fast as she could, while sometimes looking over her shoulder to make sure that Chrom was still on her trail. They stopped when they reached a pasture, just outside of Ylisstol, to give both themselves and their horses a chance to catch her breath.
After letting their horses rest under a big tree, tying their reins to the tree, Chrom and Lissa took a leisurely walk on the plains.
"You need some fresh air!" she said. "Even the Exalt needs some rest!"
Her brother laughed. "Thank you, Lissa."
It was then she noticed that something was wrong with the grass. A certain spot was disturbed. "Chrom, look!" she said, tugging on his sleeve, pointing at that area.
Chrom followed her direction. "Let's check it out."
He could not help but to think, just for a moment, that it was so similar to how he met Roxanne for the first time. A part of him could not help but to wish—no, hope—for history to repeat itself, just this bit of him meeting Roxanne. The verso to his recto.
He held his breath…
Lucina woke up in a jolt. Somehow, she had made it back to her room in the palace, safely, with no sign of war anywhere.
Was it a nightmare?
She recalled the ruined palace, her journey through time, the younger version of her parents, the countless battles with the Shepherds…
No, that cannot be just a dream.
Lucina looked around, but…
She leaped out from her bed and dashed out from her room, still in her nightgown. She ignored her governess, who was shocked—and that was putting it mildly—to see the state she was in. "Princess!"
She had only one destination in mind: "Father!"
The Exalt was talking to another official on the hallway, both turned at her voice. The official, a man old enough to be her grandparent, was flustered to see her only in her nightgown and quickly excused himself. Chrom, however, was more concerned with her pale face and cold sweat.
"Lucina, is there something wrong?"
She approached her father and slowly reached for his waist. Falchion was still sheathed at his side; she had not received it. "I… I had a long nightmare of you dying and—no, I don't think it's a nightmare, but… but you're here, so that must be—"
Much to her surprise, Chrom wrapped her tightly in his arms. "Welcome back, dear," he whispered. "I have been waiting for you."
"So… that's not a dream?"
"No," he assured her. "You have come back again from your long, arduous travel."
She closed her eyes, reveling in the warmth of her father's embrace. "Father… I'm so glad that you're here."
"I owe you my life, Lucina… no, not just me. Without your courage to go back in time, the world will be over now."
It was then she remembered her mother, how she started to disappear in smoke—and Marc. She pushed her father away abruptly. "Where's Mother? And Marc? The last I saw them, they're—"
She saw the subtle change in Chrom's expression. "Patience, Lucina."
She could not bear to say the word, no matter how well she knew of death. No… what could happen to them was something else—it was something worse than death. If you were dead, at least there was proof of your existence; but her mother simply dissolved into nothingness and Marc… Marc's whole existence could be undone altogether.
Tears began to form in her eyes.
"Lucina," a gentle voice called. "What is the rush of running along the hallway this early only in your nightgown?"
Lucina held her breath and turned on her heel, and there she was, the Queen of Ylisse just as serene and motherly as she had remembered her to be. The Queen, not one of riches, wore a modest dress and put her hair into a bun with a plain hair band to fasten it. She wore a matching set of earrings and pendant, each only consisted of a single gemstone. One thing that was different, however, was how Lucina noticed that her mother's hands were not gloved, clearly displaying her wedding band on one hand and her engagement ring on the other. Unlike her past self, there was no Mark of Grima on the back of her palm.
There was a small boy in her mother's arms. His short hair was blue-black in color. When he turned to face her, his thumb rooted in his mouth and between his chubby cheeks, she could see the Mark of the Exalt on his eye. Their age gap was clearly different from what she remembered, but that only reinforced her belief that they had traveled through time and changed history.
It did not stop her tears. In fact, Lucina began to weep.
Roxanne, true to her famed intellect, had everything she needed to know to decipher what was going on. She walked towards her daughter and embraced her. "You've had it rough," she said soothingly. "Now, you have won peace for you… and the generations to come. I'm so proud of you."
"I… I was so afraid that you're gone!"
"Truth to be told, for a moment I thought I would be gone, too," Roxanne said. "But… your father found me, again."
Chrom watched the tearful reunion and could not help but to shed some tears of his own as well. It took him years to find Roxanne, but it was all worth it. She returned to where she truly belonged, by his side. Chrom put his arms around his family. Roxanne and Lucina leaned into his embrace.
"One day, Marc would return to us, too," Roxanne mused.
"And the three of us will welcome him back," Chrom replied. "Just like how I welcome you back, and we welcome our daughter now."
"I'll be older than he remembered me to be," Lucina pointed out. "I wonder how he will react to it."
"Knowing him, he will just take it in stride," Roxanne said.
"All the same, our family will be complete once he returns," Chrom declared. "And it will be for a very, very long time."
Lucina tightened her arms around Chrom, and he gave a squeeze back. Chrom then looked at Roxanne, who was smiling at him. "My mother is correct…" she said. "We are not pawns of some scripted fate. The way our lives turn out would be by our choice… not some preset destiny."
"I'm not surprised at her wisdom. She's your mother."
Roxanne chuckled. "Thank you, for finding me again."
"Is that not the way it should have been? You are my recto verso, after all."
Roxanne gazed at him for a moment, and her lips widened into another smile in agreement. She had always been beautiful, but her apparent happiness took it to another, whole new level.
"My recto verso."
Finally, this long tale had come to an end. Thank you for all of your support. For my readers who had been following this story since the beginning, thank you for your patience in waiting, I hope this was worth the wait. For those who decided to follow and/or favorite this story during the hiatus period, even when there was no word from me on whether this tale would be continued (sorry), thank you for your faith. For those who just stumbled across this story after its 'revival', thank you for reading through all 50 chapters of it.
I cannot name you guys all one by one, but your support of this story has been invaluable to me. For the reviewers, especially my early reviewers, your inputs have been more than helpful in improving my writing skills. I'd like to believe that I've been a better writer than I had been when I just started this story, and that is thanks to your comments and reviews.
"Recto Verso" is one of my favorite phrases. Only two words, but enough to capture the essence of the phrase. Admittedly, I had a slightly different interpretation on what "recto verso" is, which is the one Roxanne told Chrom about. Many things in the Awakening universe (and real life) is "recto verso". I tried my best to present this in the story: Ylisse and Plegia, Chrom and Roxanne, Lucina and Marc, and so on and so forth. Being a "recto verso" does not mean one cannot be on its own, but it's just... incomplete.
Of the epilogue title: you might have noticed that throughout the story, family is a strong, recurrent theme. Some chapter titles alluded to this theme: "Of A Son", "Of A Daughter", "Of Siblings", "Of A Mother"... I thought it would be a nice wrap to title the epilogue this way ^^
On Plegia: although in the game it was depicted as a through and through evil country as a direct contrast to Ylisse, I think it's rather unrealistic to simply see it as what it seemed to be. Moreover, Plegia held Sable (which was, following Tiki's words, given by the Exalt lineage themselves at the time of the Schism). It does not really make sense to give something as precious as Sable if Plegia was really a nemesis to Ylisse. Moreover, I don't think it's wise if we see things simply as black-and-white in life, a question that Chrom pondered in the epilogue. As such, the end of this story does not mean Chrom has reached the end of his own story. More questions to be answered, and he definitely has more room to grow to be a legendary ruler.
All in all, I hope "Recto Verso" is worth your time, and I hope to see you in my other stories!
Thanks for reading! ^^