We're back and still sticking to our sort of schedule of kind of monthly updates. Sort of. Hooray?
Originally wanted to have this chapter out at the beginning of the week, but then stuff happened and ideas kept on coming, so here we are a week late.
Also, apologies for yet another filler chapter. As much as I would've loved to have Say'ri in, we can't really have the gang travel to another continent in just one chapter, now can we?
Still, now we're officially off to Valm and where all the other kids are! Woo!
As always, thank you for everyone who followed, favorited and reviewed.
I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy writing them!
Robin was a man of passion. In fact, he was a man of many passions. From tactics, to (Sumia's) pies and Ylissean law, Robin's passions stretched far and wide, ranging from the mundane to the bizarre.
One of Robin's passions was reading. Ever since he walked into his old (new at the time) office and saw a shelf filled with books, Robin knew that he absolutely had to read each and every one of them not matter what they were about. Thus, like a starving man who suddenly found himself in front of all-you-can-eat buffet, Robin took to going through each and every book he could get his hands on.
Unfortunately, his new life didn't quite permit him to pursue this passion because, shortly after he discovered that he really liked to read things (anything, really), he and his newfound friends had to head off on a diplomatic mission to the cold and unknown north. And despite taking all the books he could carry with him, Robin sadly ploughed through them all in his spare time on the way to Ferox and then found himself sadly short of things to read.
Luckily, life must've taken pity on Robin for his drought of books was solved in the most unexpected way and by the most unexpected person.
Although Robin really didn't expect much in Ferox – judging by how they seemed more inclined to fight rather than read – it was in Ferox that he took the first steps to establishing what was going to be first a book club, then a full-fledged literary society.
And it was all thanks to Sumia.
Sumia was Robin's gateway into the world of all things literary. While alone, he was but a simple man content with reading anything within arm's reach. But with Sumia's help, he first shaped, then refined his tastes to know firmly what he liked and didn't like to read. Because of Sumia, Robin read books and became a discerning reader with standards and limits on what he found acceptable.
Sumia turned out to be a great reading buddy. She not only shared his enthusiasm for reading things, but she was surprisingly knowledgeable about the things she read and what she wanted to read. She was also open to discussion about her latest books and very keen to share notes and opinions. That was actually how they started out. After Sumia's Feoxi book haul, she recommended books and series for Robin to read. He would then come back and share his thoughts with her and they would swap notes on their opinions on things ranging from the plot to the writing style.
Before long, Robin and Sumia were meeting up on a regular basis to share notes. After some time (and a very unfortunate incident), they decided to make their meetings official and start a book club. It didn't really change anything, but it made Robin feel good. After all, he was the co-founder of something. Not everyone can claim to be the co-founder of something!
Things continued like that for a little while before they added Cordelia to their club. Robin didn't mind since Cordelia seemed an avid book reader and was happy to join in their round table discussions. He really wished he could say that about the others who temporarily joined them. Robin also wished Cordelia wasn't so interested in romance novels. All the romance novels. Even the really mediocre ones. Especially the mediocre ones. Gods, that was a very painful period in his life…
But life moved on and so did Robin. After reluctantly becoming intimately familiar with all the archetypes and plots of the trashiest of romance novels, the club thankfully moved on to books that were more to Robin's tastes (with a little help from Chrom). And their club meetings continued throughout the war, the peace, the marriages during the peace, and the runup to the next war. Not only did their club continue, but it also evolved into a much more sophisticated and respectable literary society. Now it made them sound all grown-up and fancy.
And so, the meetings continued with just the two founding members and their first non-founding member meeting, reading, and sharing their thoughts and opinions on the things they've read. Not that Robin minded—he enjoyed spending time with his two female best friends and talking about the books they've read, although he did think it strange that they were the only three people who did this sort of thing. On occasion, Robin did toy with the idea of trying to get others to join in. Surely everyone's matured enough to have a calm and rational discussion about the books they've read and not, say, only agree to come because of baked goods served as snacks at the meetings, right?
"Okay! As head of our literary society, I hereby officially open yet another of our sessions," Robin declared. "Now, if you haven't noticed—"
Gaius raised his hand. "Uh, Bubbles?"
"I'm not even done the opening speech…" Robin sighed. "What is it, Gaius?"
"I have a really quick question."
"Gaius, I swear to Naga, if you're going to ask about snacks…!"
"Come on, Bubbles, you know me better than that! After the last debacle, do you really think I'll risk you letting me back here to just blow it again so fast?"
"…I guess that's true. Even you're not that reckless."
"See? I may be a dashing rogue, but I can learn from my mistakes. See?" Gaius pulled out a book from his coat. "I even did the reading for today!"
"Okay, fine. My apologies. What did you want to know, Gaius?"
"As a member of your society that's been out of the loop, I got a few things I need to know. Well, one important thing I need to know right now."
"And that is?"
"Wasn't Lissa supposed to be here?"
"She's out baking us some of her honey cakes," Robin said before eyeing the thief suspiciously. "Why?"
"No reason. I just didn't want to be the only newbie here, that's all."
"Gaius, if you haven't noticed, you're surrounded by irregular members," Robin pointed out flatly.
"Yeah, like me!" Morgan chimed in.
"Like you!" Robin smiled and tousled his daughter's hair. "And a bunch of others."
"Yeah, well, I wanted us all to be here," replied the thief. "Although it's good to know we'll be getting some of those sweet cakes from Princess…"
"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that."
"Uh," Cordelia thought it prudent to intervene. "Robin? Shall we move on?"
"Right…" Robin cleared his throat. "A warm welcome to our regular members and an extra warm welcome to all of you new people. Well, 'new' in the sense that you aren't regulars and, in some cases, this is your first time here. We here at the R&S Literary Society welcome you to our session, although I have to say, today's session is a lot bigger than I anticipated…"
"I think that may be my fault," Cherche said guiltily. "I got quite excited about this little meeting and may have talked about it to a few others…"
"You shouldn't feel guilty about anything, Cherche," Cordelia said. "In fact, we're more than happy to have so many people here with us. Isn't that right, Robin?"
The grandmaster nodded. "Quite so. It's always good to share your hobbies with others, although I didn't know so many of you liked to read…"
"I do so love a good novel before bed, especially a love story. Those are my favorite kind…" Olivia sighed contentedly.
"Heh, you get so enthusiastic about those," Chrom remarked playfully as he wrapped an arm around his wife. "I guess that's why I can't refuse when you ask to read them together."
"C-Chrom, please!" Olivia blushed hard and buried her face in her hands. "Not in front of the others!"
"Listen to your wife, Chrom," Robin said disapprovingly. "This is not a place for all that mushy-gushy stuff."
"But what about—"
"Despite all the romance novels we read!" Robin shook his head. "I'll never understand why those are so popular around here…"
"Besides," Morgan turned to Olivia, "you're basically living in a romance novel."
"I mean, you're a shy dancer who met a literal prince and got carried away by the currents of love and married said prince and became a queen and is basically living happily ever after. Why read novels when your life is far more interesting?"
"She's got a point there, my love," Chrom said, smiling. "Your life does have all the trappings of all your favorite romance novels and love stories, complete with a prince and a fairytale wedding."
Olivia's blush intensified. "Can…can we please talk about something else?"
"Yes, let us stop teasing poor Olivia, shall we? She is our queen and thus deserves the respect that comes with her station," said Maribelle.
"U-um, I'd like to just be Olivia to you all, if that's possible…" Olivia mumbled.
"Anyway," Maribelle turned to Robin. "I must commend you, Robin. Broadening your horizons through literature is a very noble endeavor. And a literary society sounds very sophisticated indeed, although I must say that I'm a bit offended you didn't see fit to invite me to your gatherings."
"As must as we'd love to have you and your opinions with us, I thought you were too busy with…whatever you nobles do to hang out with us poor peasants. Also stuff with Ricken."
"What?" The young sage looked confused. "Me? What did I do?"
"Robin, I hope you don't think so little of me as to assume I'll not like to spend time with my friends just because they may not come from noble houses."
"I mean, you always make a really big deal out of that stuff when you teach me all the noble stuff…"
"That is just to inform you how to behave in high society."
"I'm best friends with Chrom! The exalt! And we eat with one spoon and one fork and one knife! How much higher do I have to get?"
"There are some things you do when in good company, and some that you do to keep appearances," Maribelle said. "Especially in court."
"Chrom, Olivia, do you do any of this stuff?"
"I remember when they gave me classes on nobility and behavior in court…" Chrom shivered. "I always hated those. Thought they were a huge waste of time."
"I've had a few ever since I came to the castle," said Olivia. "It was…confusing."
Chrom smiled sympathetically. "And very clearly causing you some stress. That's why I had them stop and only give you the very basics."
Olivia smiled back. "I think that basics are good enough."
"Thank you!" Robin looked pointedly at Maribelle, who facepalmed.
"Surely you two must appreciate the rules and decorum demanded at court…"
"And this is why I try to avoid sticking up with these hoity-toity types," Gaius said smugly. "They're way too uptight for their own good, what with all their pointless rules and all."
Maribelle scoffed. "I most certainly don't expect a thief to appreciate the intricacies of high society behavior."
"The lives of us nobles are indeed intricate and full of intrigue!" Virion declared dramatically. "One must always follow the unwritten code if he wants to retain the respect of his peers."
"Uh, guys?" Ricken intervened before Gaius could make a sarcastic reply. "Let's just...put that stuff to one side, yeah? We're not here to talk about nobility stuff."
"Ricken's right. This nobility stuff has to be left at the door, far, far away from here. Today we meet to discuss books! And on that note…" Robin took out this session's book and put in on the table. "I assume everyone's done the reading?"
"Hey, this wasn't what I was promised!"
"For the love of—!"
"What are you talking about, Nowi?" Cordelia asked quickly.
"I thought this was supposed to be a fun reading club and stuff, but I don't see any picture books!" huffed the manakete. "All the ones you got here look big and boring and full of writing!"
"Nowi," Robin sighed. "This is called the R&S 'Literary Society' and not the 'Children's Picture Book Society.' What did you possibly expe—"
"And another thing!" interrupted the manakete. "I want to get my name in there. Why do you get your initial in the club name?"
"It's a society!" Robin retorted angrily.
"Mother, please!" Nah pulled at her mother's cape to try and quiet her down. "You're embarrassing me!"
"But Nah, there's no pictures in the books!"
Nah gave an apologetic look to Robin and everyone around.
"Now honey, I'm sure there's more to do than sit around this here table and read some ol' books," Donnel reasoned. "Why don't ya give it a shot? After all, life's more than just a buncha pictures, ya know?"
"I guess that's true…" Nowi thought for a moment.
"Thank you, Father," Nah whispered appreciatively.
"Besides, I was promised pies and cakes!"
Robin narrowed his eyes. "You were what?"
Nah slammed her head down on the table.
"I mean, it's pretty well known that you guys serve sacks at your little meetings," Gaius said, popping a lollipop into his mouth. "Speaking of, when are we getting those, anyway?"
"I am this close to throwing you out," Robin warned.
"Wha—? But I didn't even do anything!" protested the thief. "I even did the reading just like you asked!"
"Hey, we get pies and cakes here?"
"Yes, yes, we do, Morgan," Robin said calmly and turned to his daughter. "Sumia always makes us a little something when we get together and Lissa was kind enough to volunteer and cook us her honey cakes. Oh, you'll love them! Sumia especially makes the best pies!"
"Neat. More pie is always a good thing in my book!"
"True, but that's also not why we gathered here together. We gathered here to read and discuss books, not eat delicious baked goods," Robin turned to Gaius. "Do you hear that, Gaius?"
"Oh, come on!"
"I am so sorry," Cordelia apologized to Cherche. "I promise you that our meetings aren't usually this chaotic. It's just, with all these people coming in all of a sudden…"
"Please, don't worry yourself, Cordelia. You have nothing to apologize for," Cherche assured. "If anything, all these people being here is my fault."
"And that's good! Well, the people, not your fault. Robin always did say it would be nice if we had some 'new blood' in here, although I don't think he intended to have so much all at once…"
"Chaos does tend to follow Robin around at group meetings, doesn't it?" Virion remarked with amusement.
"There's definitely a pattern…" Cordelia sighed heavily.
"I think it's quite charming," commented Cherche. "It brings a certain energy to meetings."
"If only this energy was confined to group meetings…" Frederick muttered gruffly.
"Frederick, didn't I keep on telling you that you needed to lighten up?" asked Chrom. "Use this time to do just that."
"Just stop thinking about all your duties and what you could be doing right now and take a moment to enjoy the chaos."
"I'm afraid that my knight's sense of duty won't allow me to enjoy…" Frederick gestured to the unruly discussion. "…all of this."
"I'm actually surprised you decided to come," remarked Olivia.
"Don't get me wrong, Frederick! We all see how hard you work and we all appreciate it!" Olivia said quickly. "It's just…you're so busy with your duties that I didn't think you had time for a silly book club and especially not one hosted by Robin."
"It was not how I initially envisaged spending my day," Frederick sighed. "But Lady Cherche insisted if I come along."
"And you agreed?" Cordelia asked, surprised.
"She has taken the time to teach me a lot about her fighting technique and train with me recently," Frederick clarified. "The least I could do was return the favor and accompany her to…this."
"And I am very grateful for your company, Sir Frederick," Cherche said. "You've been doing a lot lately and I thought you could use some free time."
"Free time? Milady, I assure you that—"
"Come on, Frederick. Even your new lady friend here can see how much you can use some unwinding," Chrom said, nudging Frederick.
"So it's not just us," added Olivia.
"And you might as well enjoy yourself while you're here," Cherche finished and smiled playfully.
Frederick looked between the two royals on one side and the smiling wyvern rider on his other before sighing heavily.
"I don't have a choice in the matter, do I?"
"You could get up and walk away now," Cherche suggested.
Frederick remained stoically seated.
"Now that wasn't so hard, now was it?"
"Milady, with all due respect, I fear you may spend too much too much time with Robin. It seems his influence is rubbing off on you…"
"There are worse people to have influencing one's self…" Virion declared airily.
Frederick gave him a dirty look. "Indeed…"
Cordelia watched the scene with an amused smile.
"Order! Order!" Robin banged his gavel on the table. "I will not have this meeting devolve into idle chatter about food!"
"But I'm hungry…"
"Stahl, you're always hungry. That's like, your default mood every day," Robin said flatly. "And if you're so damn hungry, go snack or something. Did you even do the reading?"
"Oy, why all the shouting?" asked Gregor. "Friends all here in to meet together and be talking about books like giddy schoolchildren and having jolly old time, no?"
"I completely agree," said Robin. "In fact—"
"And what better to helping with the bonding than snacks?" Gregor smiled. "Pies and cakes making everyone in better mood. When we getting them?"
"Why is food the only thing you people think about?" Robin asked in exasperation. "I should just—!"
"Sorry for the wait!"
Robin looked turned to see Lissa and Sumia coming in with trays of freshly made baked goods.
"Sumia and I were just exchanging some notes and—whoa! There sure are more people here than expected!" Lissa said.
"There really are. I wonder if we made enough snacks for everyone…" Sumia looked between their two trays and everyone around the table.
"Hey, no sweat! I'm sure there's enough honey cakes and pie for everyone!" Lissa declared as she put her tray on the table. "Who wants first—"
"Me! Memememmememememe!" Gaius practically dived out of his seat, fork and knife ready. "I've been waiting all week for this! I should get first dibs!"
Everyone looked at the thief, stunned.
"I mean…uh…" Gaius cleared his throat. "Ah, screw it. I get first dibs, right?"
"Hey! You shouldn't be getting anything! You're not even here for the reading!" Robin said angrily.
"For the last time, Bubbles. I did do the reading. All thousand pages of it!" Gaius shivered. "You gotta admit that's dedication just for some baked goods, right?"
"First of all, Sumia's pies aren't just 'baked goods'! And—"
"And my honey cakes?"
"They're something special too, right?" Lissa asked expectantly. "After all, they were the reason Gaius joined us in the first place."
"They were," confirmed the thief. "Sweet little things, those. Don't regret defecting as long as I get my honey cake salary."
"Yes!" Lissa pumped her fist in the air. "I may not be that good of a cook, but at least my little cakes still rock!"
Robin shrugged. "They're okay."
"It's true! They're perfectly serviceable. Not 'blow your taste buds away' like Sumia's pies, but still good."
"T-to be fair, I did get a lot of practice making them!" Sumia said quickly not to discourage Lissa. "Lots of practice! So much! So very, very much…"
"Riiiight. Now that we settled that, if you excuse me…" Gaius reached out to cut himself a piece of Sumia's pie.
"Not so fast!"
Robin slapped Gaius' hand away.
"Hey! What gives, Bubbles?"
"As I was saying, as not even an ordinary member of the society, you shouldn't even be getting a piece. And if anyone should be getting first dibs, it should be me! As co-founder and current head of the society."
"But I'm a new member!" argued Gaius. "Shouldn't I be entitled to a complimentary piece? Like a 'welcome to the club' thing?"
"You already had your complimentary piece when you joined the first time," Robin reminded him flatly. "And the second time, and even the third time. You're not sneaking your way to another piece!"
"But Bubbles, I—"
"What if I…"
As the two men bickered over who got the first slice, Morgan walked over.
"Oh wow, this stuff smells sooooo good!"
"You bet it does, kiddo! Many wars have been started over these baked goods," Lissa said sagely.
"Well, wars of words. And mostly involving your father and another party."
"Would you like a piece?" asked Sumia.
Morgan's head turned so fast she almost got whiplash.
Sumia giggled. "Of course. We can see how you're salivating just looking at them."
"N-no I'm not!" Morgan quickly wiped her mouth with her sleeve.
"Heh, like father like daughter," Lissa remarked.
"Anyway…" Sumia cut a piece from her pie. "Would you like the first piece while it's hot?"
"Uh…" Morgan hesitantly looked at where Robin and Gaius were arguing.
"I'm sure Robin won't mind."
"Yeah. They'll probably be at this for a while, anyway," Lissa said dismissively.
"In that case…" Morgan smiled and help up a plate. "I'd very much like a piece please!"
Sumia giggled. "Of course."
"Mind if we also get some of those certified pies that Robin always raves about?" Chrom asked, approaching with a plate.
"Of course!" replied Sumia. "There's enough here for everyone! …I think."
"Hey! What about my cakes?" Lissa demanded.
"I guess they're good too."
"Me next! Me next!" Nowi excitedly bounced with her plate.
"How long do you think they'll argue for?" Olivia asked, looking at Robin and Gaius.
"Who knows?" Cordelia sighed. "They really get into it sometimes…"
"Even more reason to get our pieces of baked goods," Virion said. "Them arguing takes two people out of the line and enough of all of us to get our fair share!"
"This pie is soooooo gooooood!" Morgan sighed in contentment. "This is what paradise must taste like!"
Cordelia laughed. "She really is her father's daughter, isn't she?"
"To be fair, she's simply expressing herself while consuming baked goods of very high quality," Maribelle remarked. "And these baked goods are of high quality indeed!"
"Thanks, Maribelle! See?" Lissa looked at Chrom triumphantly. "My cakes are just as good as Sumia's!"
"Now now, there's no need for that," Olivia intervened timidly. "Let's we all just agree that both of your products are equally good, okay?"
"I hear Robin raving about some pies yet I never seem to have the opportunity to try them," Cherche said. "May I?"
"By all means." Sumia cut a slice of pie and handed it to Cherche. "Everyone is welcome to a piece."
Cherche took a bite.
"My, this is quite good! I see what Robin was talking about all those times. My compliments to the chef!"
"Th-thank you," Sumia stammered, not used to all the attention.
"Would you mind sharing your recipe? I would love to make such good pies as you."
"Not at all! I find it better when friends exchange notes. It gives more ideas, you know?"
Cherche smiled. "Indeed. I look forward to cooking with you."
"As do I!" declared Virion. "My dear Cherche here was my best cook bar none! To see her culinary skills mix with those of the lovely Sumia…why, my stomach yearns to taste the results!"
"Honestly…" Maribelle shook her head. "With how often you talk about food, one might get the idea it's all you think about! Although I will admit that I find it quite interesting when you are on cooking duty, Cherche."
"Your dishes are very exotic and not something we're used to around here. The dishes you cook are as curious as they are delicious."
"You really managed to spice up our dinners," Ricken added enthusiastically. "Sometimes literally."
"Thank you both. I'm glad to hear that my cooking has been so well received."
As everyone poured themselves some tea and enjoyed Sumia's pie or Lissa's honey cakes, Lucina sat at her end of the table, watching the chaos. She originally joined the club to observe Robin and Cherche and intervene if necessary, but she certainly didn't expect it to…go like this.
Eyes wandering to her side, Lucina saw Nah looking dejected.
"Nah? What's wrong?"
"Gods, Lucina," sighed the young manakete. "Remember the stories we used to hear about our parents? How heroic and awesome and brave they were?"
"Yes. We grew up surrounded with their legacy."
"I've always wondered what my mother and father were like. I heard from the stories and people's accounts, but it's not really the same, you know. Gods, I had such a picture of them…"
"Oh, Father is basically what I expected, although maybe a bit younger. It's Mother that's the problem…"
"Just look at her!"
Lucina looked over and saw Nowi and Morgan talking and laughing about something. She then looked curiously at Nah, not understanding.
"Shes acts like a child!" Nah explained, exasperated. "You saw what happened during the meeting. I actually came because I wanted to see what they read here and get some discussion and insight into this time's literature. Mother, on the other hand, wanted to play around and read picture books! In fact, that's all she ever does! She's supposed to be a thousand years old, but she's so immature!"
"Nah, I'm sure there is a perfectly good reason your mother acts the way she does," Lucina said patiently. "Besides, you can't really hold it against her for not conforming to the ideal image that you had in your head, can you?"
"I guess not…" Nah admitted. "But still! Would it kill her to act her age once in a while? I feel like all she does is run around and play games. I don't know how father tolerates it…"
Before Lucina could say anything, Nowi sat next to her daughter and pushed a plate with a piece of pie toward her.
"Nah, this pie is sooooo good! You just gotta try some!"
"No thank you, Mother. I'm not hungry."
"You will be once you try a piece!" insisted Nowi. "And you better try it now, because these pies don't get made as often as you'd think."
"Yer mother's got a point there," Donnel said, joining them, his own plate of pie at hand. "We're busy a lot all the time and sadly, Sumia don't got the time to be cookin' up pies like she used to. But I reckon it makes is even more special when she does cook us up some of her signature pies."
"It's really, really good!" Nowi agreed, pushing the plate closer to Nah. "You won't regret it."
Nah was about to demur when the smell reached her nose.
"…I guess it won't hurt just to try a bite…"
The princess turned her head and saw Olivia approaching.
"Mother, what can I do for you?"
"Nothing much. I just came here to bring you a piece of pie. If you want one, that is."
Olivia placed a plate in front of Lucina.
"It smells just as I remember it…"
"Oh, I apologize, Mother. It's just…"
"Did Sumia make you pies in the future?" Olivia asked curiously, taking a seat next to her daughter.
"She did. I remember myself and the other children always looked forward to when Lady Sumia cooked. She always made sure to have some pie for us when we visited," Lucina laughed softly. "It was a special occasion for us."
Olivia smiled. "I see. So this must feel quite nostalgic for you, huh?"
"Did Sumia have children in the future?"
"Mother, you know I can't tell you that."
"Ah, of course. I'm sorry, dear, I'm just curious. Anyway, you'd better get to your pie before it gets cold!"
And so, everyone got themselves a share of the pies or honey cakes and made small talk with each other. Eventually, they turned to the two arguing men still in the room.
"Bubbles, you're killing me here!" Gaius cried.
"I'm putting my foot down, Gaius," Robin said firmly. "This is in order to prove that you're here for the books, not the snacks.
"What do I have to do to prove to you that I'm here for the books, truly and honestly?"
"A good question. One that I'll answer while enjoying a nice piece of—" Robin turned to get himself a slice of pie only to find the plate empty. "No…"
Gaius followed Robin's gaze and his eyes widened in horror.
Robin then looked up to everyone else, with their plates and their mouths at full of pie or cake.
After a moment of shocked silence, a cry of pure anguish erupted from the two pieless men.
Despite Robin's best efforts, the first societal meeting that involved more than the three current members was less about books and all about the snacks. And the worst part was that he didn't even get any!
And being powerless to stop this course of events and also being stuck without pie, Robin did the only thing he could do: sulk.
At the head of the column of Shepherds heading back to Port Ferox, Robin sat, slumped on his horse, and sulked. He sulked about how their usually quiet and orderly meeting descended into exactly the opposite of that, he sulked about how people seemed to care more about delicious baked goods than thoughtful discussion about the books they were currently reading, and he sulked most about how he didn't get any of the aforementioned delicious baked goods.
And being in one of his sulking moods, everyone knew that the only thing they needed to do was wait it out until Robin eventually got over it or something drew his attention away. So they kept their distance, knowing Robin wasn't really in a talking mood.
Well, almost everyone.
Being her father's daughter, Morgan was only too happy spending time with him, sulking or not. In fact, she was quite oblivious to his dour mood, so she endlessly chatted with him about nothing.
For his part, Robin couldn't really say no or shoo his loveable and enthusiastically talkative daughter away. So he let her talk at him. With her naturally sunny disposition, she even managed to lift his mood and make him feel not as bad. He still felt sulky, but now he didn't feel as sulky as before.
"…And that's what I'd do if I was queen of the world."
"But if everyone had a coat like yours, then wouldn't that make it less special?" Robin asked. "Because the main point of our coats is that they're special because they're unique. They're specially unique. The most specialest, stylish and awesome coats on the planet. With everyone having it, it'd be a whole lot less special and more…mundane."
"Oh. That's true…" Morgan thought for a moment. "But what if our coats were a lot cooler than the normal coats for everyone else?"
"Our coats are the coolest coats around now! How can they get any more awesome?"
"With more laces. And frills! And elaborate decorations!"
Robin looked down at his grandmaster's coat.
"I don't think you can get any more elaborate than the coat I'm wearing now…"
"We can always go better!" Morgan declared. "Speaking of, do you think I could upgrade my coat to look like yours?"
"Patience, Morgan. My awesome coat reflects my status as the most senior and accomplished tactician in the army. It took a lot of battles and experience for me to be able to wear a coat as awesome as this."
"Does that mean that I can have a grandmaster's coat myself in a few years?" Morgan asked hopefully.
"I'll be the judge of that. Besides, you've just only started on the path of the tactician. You'll need a lot of time and patience to reach the level of grandmaster."
"What do I have to do to get there faster?"
"Beating me at board games would be a start."
"Oh, is that is? Ha! Then I'll be a grandmaster in no time!"
"You seem confident for someone who has yet to win a match against me."
"Yeah, but I've been working and planning for when next our forces clash, Dad. I've got so many new strategies to try out, one of them is bound to be the one that catches you out!"
"So your master plan is to throw everything at me and see what sticks?"
"Pretty much. I can adjust them depending on how well they go."
"You're in for a lot of disappointment, kiddo."
"We'll see about that, Dad. You know what? I'll go refine some of my grand stratagems right now. I'll totally catch you unprepared next time!"
"But Morgan, I'm always prepared."
"You keep thinking that, Dad. It'll make my victory over you all the sweeter."
With that, Morgan turned her horse around to head off to her wagon.
Robin watched his daughter ride off with a grin.
She as energetic and enthusiastic as always. Robin wondered where she got that from. He then hoped it wasn't from whoever her mother was.
"Look who's in a better mood."
"Cordelia. Sumia," Robin greeted.
Sure enough, the two women rode next to him on their pegasi.
"And here we were worried that you'd sulk for the entire day," Cordelia quipped.
"Do you want me to go along with the original plan?" Robin offered. "I'd hate to disappoint you."
"Come on, you two…" Sumia said. "Seriously, how are you, Robin? We know how upset you must be. I mean, you had a lot planned for today's meeting."
"Yes, I did. I thought that we could all get together and have a nice exchange of thoughts and opinions about the books we are currently reading. And you know what? All my hopes and dreams meant squat in the end! In the end, it all devolved to cakes and pies and…and…argh!" Robin threw his hands up in the air. "I hate people."
"Robin, you don't mean that!"
"…Okay, you may be right. I don't hate people. In fact, I think Cherche would've been a great addition. She seems like the literary sort, you know? She was enthusiastic about the books. She asked to join us and everything! Too bad we never got the meeting off the ground…" Robin paused. "Come to think of it, Olivia would've probably fit in also. In fact, she reminds me of you guys in that she really likes all those romance novels and seemed enthusiastic enough. I'll even go as far to include Maribelle in that list. And Ricken too, I guess. They're probably into books, although Maribelle would be more welcome if she just stopped telling me to improve my damn manners…"
"Yeah, being the uppity noble, she's all 'You must remember our lessons, Robin.' 'Sit with your back straight, Robin.' 'Hold your cutlery like this, Robin.' 'Walk in this stupidly specific and impractical way, Robin.' Gods, Chrom and Olivia don't act anything like her so how can she expect me to?"
"Maribelle certainly has taken an interest in you," Cordelia remarked.
"Yes, I somehow became her pet project…" Robin said gloomily. "And I've wasted Naga knows how many hours of my life learning the useless ins and outs of nobility. And you know what? I don't feel any more noble and she says there's still a whole lot more to do!"
"Why don't you just try to get out of them?" Sumia asked.
"I've certainly tried, Sumia. But Maribelle is a woman who doesn't take no for an answer. And if you try to wiggle your way out of her lessons, she will literally take you by the ear and drag you back to whatever classroom she desires. I can't imagine how Ricken manages to keep his sanity, being with her all the time and whatnot."
"I suppose being in love does change the dynamic somewhat."
Robin grunted in response.
Sumia and Cordelia exchanges glanced and nodded at each other.
"We know you're upset," Cordelia started. "You were all excited about finally expanding our society membership beyond just us three and talking about books, but that...didn't work out that way."
"You can say that again…" Robin mumbled.
"And we know how much you love our meetings and discussions and airing your thoughts about the books you've read," continued Sumia. "So if you couldn't get a discussion going in the club, why don't you at least let us know what you think?"
"Why not? It'll be like usual anyway, just not in a tent. All other factors are more or less the same."
"So come on, Robin. Vent at us. Let us know what you think of the latest book," Cordelia said. "I'm sure you have some very strong opinions about it."
"Heh, you got that right," Robin laughed weakly. "But while I would love to air my grievances, I don't think I will."
"Really? You love to air your grievances to anyone who would listen," remarked Cordelia, before smiling mischievously and adding, "Sometimes the listening part isn't even required."
"Ha ha," Robin laughed dryly. "But I'm too miffed to properly air my thoughts. If we tried anything now, they'd come out as some incoherent, jumbled mess."
"So…like they usually do."
Cordelia smiled innocently at Robin's glare.
"Anyway," continued the grandmaster. "I don't think I can. The setting isn't right, I'm in no mood and we're riding on horses instead of sitting in front of a table and eating pie. And I didn't even get any!"
Robin then crossed his arms and pouted.
"Fine, it's your decision," said Sumia. "So I guess you won't mind if Cordelia and I discuss our thoughts right now, right?"
"Why would you want to do that?"
"Why not? You're not the only one who has things he wants to say about the latest book we've read."
"Fine. Do whatever."
"Feel free to jump whenever."
Sumia and Cordelia smiled knowingly at each other.
"So, Cordelia," Sumia started. "The last book in the series. What were your thoughts on Revelation?"
"I'd say it was probably the best one yet," Cordelia replied, deliberately looking at Robin's direction.
"…I know what you're doing and it won't work."
"I don't know what you're talking about. We're just two friends talking about a book we read and our thoughts on it. Nothing suspicious here and definitely no ulterior motives."
"No ulterior motives whatsoever," added Sumia. "So what was your favorite part of Revelation, Cordelia? Was it the fact that the two rival kingdoms finally working together to take down the common enemy? The really convenient plot excuses for things happening? The answers to any questions we may have had when we read the first two books?"
Both women grinned when Robin growled.
"A tough choice. But if I had to pick one, I would say it was all the emotionally intense moments that really made me feel something for the characters in the story. Like all those tragic deaths throughout."
Robin shut his eyes and grit his teeth.
"But what about the main character himself?" Sumia asked. "Don't you love his growth as a character and how he's so smart and nice and charismatic that everyone just seems to follow him wherever he goes?"
"Ah, yes," Cordelia nodded. "Truly a well-written and thought-out character with many layers of depth."
Robin's eye twitched. He held his reins so hard that his knuckles became white.
"But even after all that," Cordelia continued, seeing that Robin needed just a little push. "I think my favorite thing about Revelation would have to be the children."
"Ah, yes, the children! How could I forget? Weren't they just delightful and colorful? And the reason for their addition to the story was just so well done! An alternate dimension pocket realm where the time flows faster so the kids can grow up into adults in no time. What a smart and imaginative way to—"
"ENOUGH!" Robin cried. "I will NOT just sit here and listen to these lies. LIES!"
Both women smiled innocently.
"There are so many issues here that I don't know where to begin. There are more issues in Revelation then there were in both Birthright AND Conquest! …Well, maybe not Conquest. That mess of a story is something else entirely. So, for lack of a better structure, let me address and rebut your points."
"By all means."
Robin took a deep breath.
"First of all, the children? Are you kidding me?!"
"What was wrong with them? I thought they were a wonderful addition to the story," Cordelia said, with absolute false sincerity.
"What was wrong? What was wrong?! How about the fact that they were completely shoehorned into the plot? How about the fact that their addition did absolutely nothing for the plot and it wouldn't have been any different if they were never added? How about the fact that the explanation for their addition is so gods damned stupid that it just reinforces the feeling that they were an afterthought that was inserted into the story for no reason whatsoever?!"
"How is that any different from our situation?" Cordelia asked, prodding Robin further. "Children time travelling from the future is hardly the most believable thing yet here we are."
"Because time travel makes sense!" Robin snapped. "Grima trashed the future, Lucina and her friends used some sort of magic to come back in time to fix it. It's simple, effective, makes sense and doesn't beg too many questions. But alternate dimension babies? What the hell is that?! It's so unnecessary and lazy that it raises more issues than it solves! It's almost as if the writers were looking for an excuse to have the children exist alongside their parents while avoiding having to write backstories and childhoods for these people. Also, it just makes everyone in the book sound like the worst parent ever."
"Because normal parents take care of their children and spend time with them and nurture and care for them despite the circumstances. If circumstances render the parents unavailable, they find someone they trust to leave their kids with and do so somewhere safe! What they don't do is dump their kids off in some horrible plot excuse dimension and just leave them there while they do gods know what! And the whole time moving forward thing makes it even worse since they miss out on their children's entire childhoods! So these kids basically grew up without their parents! Even Chrom and Olivia, out here now going to war, left Lucina in the castle, surrounded by familiar nannies and faces so she won't be afraid. But more importantly, they left her in this time so they won't miss her entire childhood by the time the war's over! Oh, and on that subject, if these alternate dimensions are supposedly so accessible, why not just spend their entire lives there? Why would they ever leave, since apparently spending dozens of years there results in only a few minutes lost in the real world. You might as well just stay in those dimensions and do whatever you like! And in the end of the day, that plot excuse fails spectacularly since apparently any bandit can just waltz in anywhere and find those alternate dimensions, so leaving your kids in that supposed safe space is moot because it isn't safe at all! So they just left their infant kids alone in some space where they could've been killed any minute! And don't get me started about the kids themselves."
"What's wrong with the kids?" Sumia asked.
"Everything!" Robin shouted. "Aside from their existence, its seems that the vast majority of them have no personality. Instead, it's like the authors just took the personality of their fathers and just slapped them onto their children. In some instances, the kids are basically the reverse gender versions of their fathers! Just their fathers, for some reason. No characteristics at all from their mothers, because that totally makes sense!"
"Are you sure you're not just exaggerating?"
"Exaggerating?! Let's see, shall we? Hmm, how about the cheap flirt and the theater actor. Their main personality gimmicks are poorly hitting on women and talking nonsense, respectively. And their daughters? Hitting on women and talking nonsense, just like their dear old dads! No discernable unique characteristics from them or any traces of their mothers! And of course, we mustn't forget the big coward and his son, the slightly less big coward. Oh, and hyperenergetic fox guy and hyperenergetic fox girl. And if the children aren't their dads, they're just walking gimmicks. I mean, talking in poetry, really? What the hell kind of personality is that?! It's like the writers weren't even trying and just looked to children's books for inspiration and made caricatures of characters instead of actually putting in the effort to make unique characters!"
Sumia and Cordelia remained silent, content with letting Robin air his grievances.
"But enough about the problems the children cause, many and numerous as they are, let's move on to the plot. You know, when I read Birthright, I thought that was the worst story I've read in maybe forever. Of course, then Conquest came along and that book made all of Birthright's problems seem miniscule. Now Revelation comes along to try and explain everything, only for the explanations to be completely unsatisfactory or so convenient that it insults the reader. There are so many problems. Maybe even as much as in Conquest, although maybe not as obvious. The main character is still probably the biggest issue. All the questions I had previously still apply. Why does everyone bend over backwards to try to accommodate him? Why does everyone just implicitly trust this idiot and put him at the head of his army? Why does literally nothing get done without his help? All those questions are relevant, except now there's new ones, complete with extra stupidity. Or regular stupidity, based off of previous books. In Conquest, we had brilliant tactical thinking like killing the head of the nation that's allied to you and is letting you cross their territory to sneak into the enemy's because, what? They captured an enemy agent and that's not nice? Argh! That was so bad! And when I thought it couldn't get worse, we got killing that one guy – who's probably the only with any modicum of sense, by the way – whose plans captured the entire enemy royal family and could've ended the war right then and there! And they killed him for such a dumb reason! They all claim to stand for peace and love but then they just decide to prolong the war because reasons! So bad! I don't think I've ever been more insulted than when I read that passage!"
"And Revelation does better?" Sumia ventured.
"Oh yeah. Great!" Robin said sarcastically. "Not only is our main character so special and pure that he manages to convince everyone around him to just jump into a canyon, but then he's so 'naïve' and 'trusting' that he just blindly trusts some kid he met in enemy territory instead of letting his older brother kill him right after that kid led them into a trap! But that's only the half of it. Normally, if there was a competent story writer behind the pen, this would be a moment – late as it is – where the main character grows up, realizes that he was an idiot, and gets to live in the real world by not putting his damn trust into everyone he meets. But nooooo, we can't have that! Immediately after the traitor kid almost kills him again, his family members – gods, this was so bad – instead of telling him off for being a trusting moron, they say that's what makes him loveable. Not only that, but they then say that it's completely fine to be a naïve moron because he's 'their little brother' and they'll be happy to clean up any mess he makes because of his poor decisions. Do you remember that part, guys? They actively stifle character growth by telling him that his personality is completely acceptable! That's just so…argh!"
"That was one of the weaker points of the story…"
"One of many! It's like the damn thing ran on people being brainless idiots instead of any coherence! Everyone refused to believe that daddy was a goo monster in Conquest until he literally turned into a goo monster in front of them. And this was despite him being totally, obviously evil! The big brother even admitted he remembered when his dad was kind and caring and is now a different person! But in Revelation, it takes goo monster dad literally saying he'll kill everyone to get them to believe that hey, maybe something's a bit wrong with dad. And he says this out in the open, where everyone can hear him. They couldn't come up with a logical reason for everyone to turn on him so they had him say he was evil to everyone out loud, to their faces! Gods, and all that was on top of the many other missteps in the story! From the tedious description of the combat and tactics to the pointless deaths that came out of nowhere, I swear that—"
And so, Robin went off about everything that he found objectionable in the last book in the worst trilogy he had the misfortune of reading. Considering how many things he found objectionable, Robin's rant lasted the entire journey back to Port Ferox. For their part, Sumia and Cordelia listened with patience and amusement, occasionally chipping in or asking questions to spur Robin on.
"—hich renders their entire deaths more pointless than the ice maid in Birthright. Pointless death for a pointless character, I guess," Robin concluded.
Cordelia looked at her watch and whistled.
"Do you realize you've been going on for two hours?"
"And that's only a briefly going through my issues with the book."
Cordelia looked at him wryly.
"What? It had a lot of issues!" Robin said defensively.
Sumia giggled. "Well, at least you've got that off your chest. Feeling better?"
"Actually, yeah." Robin sighed contentedly. "Venting always make me feel better."
"And you also stood by and listened to my venting."
"You brought up some good points," Cordelia commented. "And we did get some discussion in, although you were the one dominating the conversation."
"Well. I appreciate you guys taking the time to humor me."
"It's what we do."
"One of many things," Robin chuckled. "Anyway, we should be getting to Port Ferox soon, right?"
"It should be right over this hill," said Sumia.
"Wonderful. It'll be so nice to sleep in a warm bed again."
"I'm looking forward to sleeping in warm rooms."
"Yeah, that too. Say, do you two think…that…"
Robin trailed off as they made their way to the top of the hill and overlooked the sleepy town of Port Ferox. At least, that's what Robin remembered it as when they left to chase the slavers.
As he stood now, Robin saw a huge, bustling city that really wasn't there before. The small harbor that Robin remembered was now twice as big and full of ships of all shapes and sizes, with ongoing construction to cope with all the increased ships. The city, meanwhile, was at least twice the size it was when Robin left it, with the streets now full of people, the buildings seemingly packed full of visitors and temporary accommodation such as tents and wagons everywhere. Moreover, it seemed that the activity wasn't letting up as Robin saw the roads leading to it were full of people, wagons, and horses, going in and out.
He briefly wondered what happened to cause this explosion of activity in the otherwise unremarkable city before he noticed something curious on some of the buildings. Squinting, Robin could make out the distinctive blue flag of Ylisse blowing in the wind.
"It sure looks different, doesn't it?" Sumia remarked.
"Yes, although I suppose bringing the entirety of Ylisse's and Ferox's armies in one city would change a few things," Cordelia said. "Would certainly make thigs more crowded, what with all the soldiers suddenly coming to town."
"I just hope everyone managed to find lodgings and the layout isn't all messed up," Robin muttered.
"What do you mean?"
"You know, like having our command center be somewhere out of the way and having our forces spread throughout the entire city instead of concentrated in a certain part, being close enough to the markets, etc."
Cordelia smiled. "There's only one way to find out. Let's see if we can find our inn in this crowded space."
Luckily for them, they did manage to make their way across the crowded streets to their inn. And it, along with the entire city, got a makeover. More specifically, it got bigger and fancier. Robin briefly wondered how long they were out patrolling Ferox for people to basically upgrade their small in into something so much bigger, but then he just decided that Feroxi were good with their hands. And he supposed it was fitting, since this inn was where the Shepherds were staying and thus became the de facto headquarters from where the war effort was directed.
Robin had to admit that the renovations were not too shabby. The rooms got bigger, were able to fit in fancier beds, bigger closets, storage chests and even worktables. They also built a huge room in which to hold their meetings in, complete with charts, chairs, and a long desk.
Although Robin was eager to finally feel the comfort of a bed at his back, there was still sunlight left in the day and he needed to relax a bit after spending hours on horseback. Making some inquires, Robin found out that the khans were off doing some errands somewhere and wouldn't be back for a while. Moreover, word didn't get out that the Shepherds had all returned.
Although he knew that they should all get to work as soon as possible, Robin saw a small opportunity to unwind before going straight to business.
"Everyone, listen up!" he shouted once they were all gathered in the meeting room. "As you all know, we've been out for gods know how long in the Feroxi wilderness. That seems to have been enough for a significant portion of our army to assemble here in Port Ferox. From the look of things, the Feroxi are also pretty much here and the Plegians seem to have made good their promise to deliver the ships. But as you also know, that means we have to get serious now and think about the very real Valmese threat."
The gathered Shepherds murmured to each other.
"But!" Robin continued. "I'll be the first to say that I understand that all work and no play really sucks. And we've been doing a lot of work and not a lot of play lately! To fix that, I propose we use what time we have now to indulge ourselves a little and go wander around the city. You know, shop, look at stuff, meet new people, things like that. I think we've all deserved a little city break after being so far from civilization for so long. I don't think our fearless leader would object to my suggestion to have a little fun, right?"
Chrom laughed. "Not at all! In fact, I was thinking of suggesting the same thing."
"Great minds think alike," Robin grinned. "Okay, it's settled! Consider this your free time to wander around the city and put your pocket money to good use finally. Spend your time however you want, just don't cause trouble!"
"Har, finally! Some time to let loose and relax!" Sully exclaimed. "I think I'll start my day off by heading to the nearest tavern!"
"And I think I'll join ya!" Vaike said enthusiastically. "Can't have the missus havin' all the fun, now can we? Especially not without the Vaike!"
"Oy, friends going to be having good time with the drinking? Be counting in Gregor!"
"Mention drinking and Gregor immediately gets involved," Sully laughed. "Come on then, you drunken dastard! Let's have a good time! Hey, Kjelle, you coming?"
"I'll…pass, Mother. I think visiting local blacksmiths and seeing what armors they have is more my thing."
"Suit yourself. Just be careful, yeah?"
"This reprieve is the ideal moment to replenish my supplies," Miriel said, more to herself than anyone else.
"I-I'll join you!"
"You know, to…help out?" The knight scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "I'll help you carry your books and all that."
"My gratitude," Miriel smiled. "Shall we be off?"
"Let's you and me go shopping."
"You know, go around the markets, looking at clothes or what have you, spending time together!" Oliva said brightly. "I-if you want to, of course."
"Mother…" Lucina trailed off before smiling. "Nothing would bring me greater joy."
"I'm so happy!"
"Shall we invite Father?"
"You two go ahead," Chrom said, grinning. "We've been training a lot lately. It's only fair your mother gets you all to herself now."
The Shepherds talked amongst themselves and went out of the meeting room to go head their separate ways.
"Morgan. What's up?"
"Where're you off to?"
"The market. See what kind of stuff they have and if anything there will interest me."
"Can I come with?"
"Really? You don't want to stay here and rest?"
"Nah, I think I'm better off following you around. Like, we both share the same interests, so whatever shops you'll stop by will also be relevant to me. I'm sure I can also find something cool along the way!" Morgan said brightly. "Besides, I kinda don't know where anything is around here."
"You make a good point, kiddo," Robin chuckled. "Okay, fine. Let's you and me go have some father-daughter time. Just promise me you won't spend all your allowance, okay?"
"Aw, but what's the point of saving my allowance if I'm not allowed to blow it all?"
Chrom sighed contentedly as he sat in the inn's lobby room. Much like everyone else, he was happy to take a moment and relax. He knew that they would have to really get down to work soon, going through reports, briefings, and strategy meetings to prepare to fight the Valmese, but at least for this moment, Chrom relaxed. And he relaxed by ordering a drink, sitting on the couch in the lobby, enjoying how comfortable the cushions felt instead of the hard saddle and enjoying more doing nothing. Sure, he could've gone around town, or saw the sights, trained, but sometimes, it was good to just sit back and do nothing. Doubly so if you were the commander of an army and king of a country. Part of the job was sacrificing your free time, so Chrom was eager to enjoy it when he could afford to. Luckily for him, there were few people in the inn (as the whole building was pretty much reserved for the Shepherds and khans) so no one bat an eyelid at the sight of the Ylissean exalt lounging around.
Said exalt would be lounging more if he didn't see his wife suddenly rushing into the inn.
"Chrom! I…" Olivia panted heavily. "Is...is everyone back yet?"
"I don't think so. Why? What's wrong?"
"Good. Chrom, listen. It's Lucina."
"What's wrong with Lucina?" Chrom asked, instantly alert at the mention of his daughter.
"Mother! Ah, and you've found Father!"
Chrom sighed in relief and smiled. He was about to greet his daughter when he saw her. And what he saw made him freeze in both shock and horror.
Standing before him was Lucina, his daughter from the future. She was as she has always been, save for one big difference.
Although she still had long blue hair and a serious, dignified air around her, gone was her blue Marth attire. Instead, she wore a yellow dress with green stripes and red polka dots, except the polka dots were different shapes and sizes, not just dots. And they were all over the dress.
Chrom was stunned speechless. Beside him, Olivia cringed.
"Look at this wonderful dress I found today when Mother and I were out shopping. Isn't it gorgeous?" Lucina asked excitedly.
"This is what I tried to warn you about, dear," Olivia whispered.
"Gods…we have to get her out of it and out of sight before the others come back!" Chrom whispered back urgently.
"Mother? Father? Why are you whispering?" Lucina asked, oblivious.
"I, ah…" Chrom cleared his throat and tried to approach this as delicately as possible. "Lucina, that's a very…interesting dress you have on."
"Isn't it? I picked it myself."
Lucina nodded proudly. "It immediately caught my eye when I saw it and I knew I absolutely had to have it."
"That's wonderful, dear," Olivia said, trying to sound encouraging. "But perhaps you could show it to us in the privacy of our quarters?"
"Oh? Why the need for privacy? In fact, I wanted to show it off to everyone else."
"Oh gods, no!" Chrom cried, before coughing awkwardly. "I mean…perhaps save that for another day? Or a special occasion? Yes, a special occasion! I'm sure that a dress that…unique can't be worn every day."
"I suppose, although the seller told me it was an everyday dress…"
"A dress like that can't be for every day. Or any day, for that matter…" Chrom muttered the last part.
"Your father is right, dear. Let's go upstairs so you can show him everything you bought today," Olivia urged. "Then he can give you his honest opinions without anyone interrupting."
"Very well, although…" Lucina looked around. "This room doesn't seem to be particularly busy…"
Chrom was about to thank the gods for small miracles when he heard the door opening. He then heard voices. Voices getting louder.
It was too late.
Olivia looked fearfully between Lucina and the approaching voices.
The only thing Chrom could do was pray it was someone like Frederick, who had enough tact to not say anything when he saw Lucina and what she was wearing.
"—cause, Morgan, you can't just go around blowing all your allowance buying everything that interests you. You have to look at the price tag and make your purchases based on what you can afford."
"But Dad, I could've afforded all of the stuff there! Besides, you would've lent me some extra cash, right?"
"Extra cash, yes. But only if you were in dire need of extra emergency funds."
"No buts! It's called being financially responsible!"
Father and daughter entered the room with two full bags and abruptly stopped arguing when they lay their eyes on Lucina's attire.
"Robin, Morgan," greeted the princess. "Welcome back. I trust your trip went as well as mine."
Chrom grimaced and felt Olivia's hand tighten around his shoulder as he watched Robin and Morgan stare dumfounded at his daughter.
He decided to act now while they were stunned into silence to prevent some very untactful remarks from Robin that would inevitably find their way out of his mouth once he got over his initial shock.
"Robin? Morgan?" Lucina looked at the two curiously.
"They're probably just surprised that you're out of your usual clothes, Lucina," Chrom waded in quickly. "Why don't we, uh, go up to your chambers so you can—"
"Dear gods, Lucina. I'm so sorry," Robin said, shaking his head sympathetically.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I mean, you know. You must've lost some terrible bet, huh?"
"What makes you say that?" Lucina asked, puzzled.
"You know, wearing all…whatever that is," Robin gestured to her dress.
"Huh?" Lucina looked down at herself. "My dress?"
"Yeah. I mean, there's no way someone would willingly wear something like that."
"R-Robin?" Olivia desperately tried to head off the incoming disaster. "Can we have a word with you—"
"What's wrong with my dress?" Lucina inquired, now catching on that something was amiss.
Olivia winced. Chrom grimaced, frantically trying to make up an excuse to get Lucina out of here.
Robin stared before laughing.
"Someone's been working on her sense of humor! We'll have you fitting in with us here in no time at this rate!"
"I…" Lucina was so lost. She then turned to address her parents. "Mother? Father? Is there something I'm missing?"
"Is there something wrong about my dress?"
Chrom and Olivia exchanged distressed glances, each begging the other to tackle the delicate situation. Meanwhile, Robin stopped laughing.
"...Lucina, are you serious? Are you telling me you put that thing on without anyone forcing you to?"
"Yes," the princess admitted, sensing that something was wrong, before adding quietly, "I-I thought it looked stylish…"
Robin stared at her with a mixture of confusion and disbelief.
Lucina looked down, embarrassment quickly setting in.
"…I think it's neat."
All eyes snapped to the voice, with Robin, Chrom and Olivia looking in shock while Lucina looked relieved.
"…What?" Morgan asked. "I think it has some strategic potential."
"Morgan, I…you…" Robin's mouth opened and closed as he tried to form a coherent sentence. "…How?"
"It's actually simple and pretty devious!" Morgan answered brightly. "Using clothing as a shock tactic!"
"…Again, I must repeat: how?"
"I'll use an example from right now. Dad, look how long it took us to get our minds adjusted to what we just saw."
"I'll say that mine isn't there yet…"
"Exactly. See? Lucina's crazy clothing combo was so crazy it actually stunned us for a few seconds. Minutes, even."
"Now imagine if we can replicate that on the battlefield, Dad. Think about all the possibilities! If our clothes are crazy enough, we can stun the enemy army out of action, thereby giving us precious seconds or minutes to rush them while they're all surprised by our outfits."
"Morgan, that's—" Robin was about to dismiss the idea outright before his mind kicked in and he actually thought about it. It was unorthodox, sure, but then again, so was Robin. His mind worked in such a way that it concocted and considered all sorts of schemes and plans regardless of how impossible or impractical they may have been. Besides, some useful ideas usually came out of his more outlandish plans. Usually. Sometimes.
"Uh, Dad? Hello?" Morgan snapped her fingers in front of Robin's face, bringing him back to the present. "You've gone all quiet on me. Considering my awesome idea, huh?"
"Yes, actually. Yes. I am," Robin responded. "And you know what? It's not as crazy as it sounds."
"I know, right? It makes sense when you think about it."
"It totally does. And it could be an interesting tactic to spring on our enemies…"
"Yeah!" Morgan nodded enthusiastically. "Like, we can shock our enemies the old-fashioned way with heavy weapons, armor and cavalry, and mentally by wearing all sorts of crazy costumes! I mean, when we hit the bad guys, their friends would be too confused looking at our clothes to even think of counterattacking us!"
"Now that's strategy! And also, using your head!" Robin ruffled Morgan's hair, earning a proud smile. He then turned to Lucina. "Pretty neat idea, Lucina. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting you to be one to think outside the box and help me craft new strategies, yet here we are! You have my thanks for giving me and Morgan some inspiration."
Lucina was too lost to say anything.
"Yes!" Chrom jumped in, seeing an opportunity for Lucina to save face. "That's exactly it, you two. Lucina was just experimenting with, uh, those 'shock tactics' you were talking about. Based off your reactions, looks like her experiment was a success."
"Heh, I'll say," Robin laughed. "My mind blanked out when I saw what she was wearing!"
"And that's the perfect time to strike!" Morgan added. "When the enemy is lost and confused. And I don't think you can lose or confuse anyone more than with a dress like that!"
"That's for sure!"
"Yes, well. Why don't you two go up and brainstorm some ways to put this newfound knowledge to good use on the battlefield?" Olivia suggested. "I'm sure you have a lot of ideas and things to work with now. Best to get that on paper and try to draw up plans around it, right?"
"You're absolutely right, Olivia. Come on, Morgan! Let's go before these ideas dissipate and we lose the thread!"
So father and daughter both rushed upstairs. Well, as much as one can rush with two full shopping bags. Meanwhile, Chrom and Olivia sighed in relief.
"…Mother? Father?" Lucina still looked lost as ever.
"Don't worry about it, dear. That's just Robin being Robin," assured Olivia. "And it seems Morgan takes after her father in that regard, too."
"Yes, but…" Lucina looked down at her dress. "They seemed to think that I somehow came up with a new strategy with my dress. Moreover, you encouraged this idea. Why is that?"
"And they seemed particularly astonished with my dress, and it seemed not because they thought highly of it like I do. Is…is there something wrong with it?"
Chrom and Olivia looked at each other, knowing they had to approach this delicately.
"Listen, Lucina—" Chrom started when he heard more voices approaching. Not wanting to repeat the incident with Robin, he decided to take the blunt way out. "Let's discuss this in our room, shall we?"
"Wha—? Father?" Lucina barely had any time to respond before Chrom started pushing her to the stairs.
"Your father is right, dear. We'll explain everything to you. Upstairs."
Thus, the two concerned parents gently yet forcefully ushered their utterly confused daughter up the stairs to where their rooms where, out of the eyes of anyone who knew them.
As it turned out, Robin was completely right about their vacation time. Namely, that one day was the only vacation time any of them would get in a long time because, after father and daughter spent time brainstorming various ludicrous strategies and went to bed, the next day was all business as Robin was flooded with reports.
"Sir! Here are reports of Ylisse's troop arrivals by the day!"
"Sir! Requisition orders and equipment stocks!"
"Sir! A list of Plegian ships arrived and scheduled for arrival!"
…Literally flooded with reports, as the multitude of paperwork coming in pretty much took up the entire room dedicated to be his office and kept on piling up until the mountain of reports towered over Robin himself.
And the entire situation caused the grandmaster a little irritation
"Excuse me, Robin, I—"
"I swear to Naga, I will fire you if you bring me more reports and just haphazardly dump them somewhere without me going over them!"
"…Is this a bad time?"
Robin looked up over his current pile of reports at the familiar voice.
"Oh, Cordelia. Thank gods it's you."
"Are you okay?"
"Just peachy," Robin deadpanned and then sighed irritably. "Look at this blasted mess! I have reports dumped on me every minute and just thrown in randomly before I can properly go over them and assign them a pile! And that's on top of all those that piled up while we were in the wilderness! Gods, I swear, we head out for a little while and the entire system collapses by the time we return!"
"Ah yes, the system."
"The system by which I organize all my reports and sort them out for ease of access and retrieval! It's how I work and get everything done quickly and efficiently! And this! This…!" Robin looked disdainfully at the room and piles of paper on top of it. "This mess is the complete opposite of everything I stand for! By the time I'm done organizing a pile, three more pop up!"
"Have you tried asking for some help?"
Robin snorted. "Yeah, right. Like I trust anyone to help me sort out paperwork to my exact and specific specifications."
"Yes, it's a good thing you don't have anyone who you've worked with years and years and who's incredibly familiar with your system of filing. And someone who's sat through your entire induction and taken very detailed notes so as not to disappoint her demanding superior."
"Yeah, someone like that would be a godsend. The perfect secretary…"
Cordelia waited a few seconds for the pin to drop.
"Wait a minute…" Robin turned around to look at her.
"There we go," Cordelia said wryly.
"You know, you could've said it was you from the beginning."
"I could've, but where would be the fun in that?"
"Hardy har har," Robin said dryly. "Are you going to help me sort out this mess or are you just here to make fun of me?"
"Me? Make fun of you? Perish the thought, my esteemed tactician!"
"Okay, okay," Cordelia laughed. "All kidding aside, I actually noticed all those reports coming into your office and figured that you'd probably need some help."
"Only now? Couldn't you have figured this out a few hours ago when I was only knee deep in paperwork and not drowning in it?"
"Maybe, but then I was busy intercepting the messengers and organizing their reports into one convenient pile. A pile I just so happen to have on me right here."
Robin took the pile or papers from Cordelia's hands and leafed through them.
"Oh gods, Cordelia. Being stuck in the woods with only occasional reports on enemy positions and movements has made me rusty. I feel like I haven't dealt with bulk paperwork in forever. And you know what? Seeing this pile of reports all organized like I like them is reminding me of why I hired you as my secretary in the first place. Did I tell you how I appreciate all that you do for me? Because I do, you amazing secretary, you!"
Cordelia chuckled. "It's always nice to be appreciated."
"I should appreciate you more. No, really. Your one report is bringing me peace of mind in the storm of this giant disorderly mess. And you said you were intercepting the messengers to bring me this?"
"I was. Luckily the reports were all touching similar topics so I could easily compile them for you."
"And I'm really thankful that you did. Hey, mind doing that for all incoming reports while I get this room sorted?"
"Of course. That's what you pay me for!"
"…I really hope you're not doing this just for the salary."
"Oh no. If I was in it just for the money, I would've demanded a big raise a long time ago," Cordelia quipped. "I do it mostly because I like my boss and have a very good working relationship with him."
"He sounds like a very agreeable fellow."
"He has his moments."
Robin was about to respond when a familiar voice got his attention.
"What the—? Morgan?"
"Yeah! I've finished organizing my section of reports. Where do you want me to go next?"
"'Next'?" Robin looked at the entrance, then to the labyrinth of report piles that was his office. "Morgan, how long have you been here?"
"Probably ever since this part of the room started getting filled up," came his daughter's voice from among the piles. "I asked you if you needed my help, but you were too busy trying to get by your parts, so I figured that was a 'yes' from you."
"Oh. You've been working all this time?"
"Pretty much. I—Whoa!"
Morgan emerged from amongst the stacks of reports, hopping on one foot, seemingly having lost her balance. Fortunately, she had found her footing in time to avoid falling. "
"Anyway," she continued as if nothing had happened, "I've done organizing my little corner of reports. I—oh, it's Cordelia. Hi!"
"Hello, Morgan," Cordelia chuckled. "I see you're enthusiastic as always."
"Yes, a bright spot in any rainy day, for sure," Robin said, smiling. "Anyway, you've organized that entire corner? All by yourself?"
"Yep!" Morgan declared proudly. "Just how you taught me."
"I guess that makes sense. I mean, I would have to pass on my bureaucratic knowhow to you, my dear daughter, wouldn't I?"
"You sure would. And you totally did. Wanna check my work? I'm sure you'll approve."
"Heh, in a bit, my eager young assistant. I have to say, I'm very impressed you managed to handle all that paperwork all by yourself."
"I've had lots of practice."
"…I really hope I didn't rope you into doing boring office work for me in the future."
"You didn't rope me, Dad. When I was young, I just sat by, watching you while you worked. You just kinda did running commentary. I think that was for my benefit."
"It was pretty fun. And I guess I knew it was part of the job. I mean, us tacticians have to handle losts of paperwork, right?"
"Sadly, yes…" Robin sighed.
"So you taught me the ropes and here I am. Morgan, aspiring tactician and excellent office assistant."
"I do like the sound of that…" Robin said and nodded approvingly. "In fact, I like it so much that I'm naming you my official First Secretary, effective immediately."
"Yessssss!" Morgan pumped her fist in the air. "I promise I won't let you down, Dad!"
"You can never let me down, kiddo. Now, for your official first task, help me sort out the remaining paperwork. Uh, let's start off with the corner opposite so we can try and get a clear path between the desk area and the door, okay?"
"Right! First Secretary Morgan is on the job!" Morgan saluted and ran off to the target area.
"I'll be right with you, dear!" Robin called after her.
"Like father, like daughter, huh?" remarked Cordelia.
"I can't help it if she takes an interest in my affairs."
"With you taking Morgan on, I assume you won't be needing my help anymore?"
"Oh no, I still need you, Cordelia. Now more than ever."
"Yep," Robin nodded gravely. "While Morgan and I have amazing paperwork skills, we are only two people. You, as our outside source that gets reports before they can reach my office, still play a huge role because we depend on you to get them ready before they reach us. Without you, it's all a big mess and then we have to spend time cleaning it up instead of going through what you've given us."
"Ah. Well, if you put it that way, I'll continue to offer you my secretarial services."
"Much obliged," Robin said gratefully. "You're the best secretary I've ever had, Cordelia. I would hate to lose you."
"Robin, I'm the only secretary you had," Cordelia pointed out playfully.
"And so that by default makes you the best I've had!"
"You sure have a way with words, you know that?"
"You're just saying that because I'm your boss."
"You're not the worst boss I've worked for."
"There's no one better than me, huh?"
"That remains to be seen."
"Wha—? You've worked for me for years now. How can anyone be a better boss than me?"
"We'll just have to see, won't we? You never know what future might hold."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Instead of answering, Cordelia grinned mischievously and went on her way.
"…I hate it when she messes with me…"
"Dad! You coming? The paperwork isn't gonna sort itself out!"
And so, that was how the next week of Robin's life went. For all that time, Robin spent most of it cooped up in his office, going and examining all the paperwork with his daughter and organizing it into neat and easily accessible piles based on usefulness and how recent the reports were. They were joined by Cordelia, who kept on bringing them new reports, but now pre-organized by her for easy re-organization into the piles upon piles of other reports. Robin appreciated that.
If he wasn't busy in his office, he was busy with meetings, councils and such. When Basilio and Flavia got word that the Shepherds had come back, they came over as soon as they could and everyone started to discuss the monumental task of coordinating and getting the armies of two countries onto a fleet of ships. It was a massive task that required accurate reporting and stock-taking so that everything and everyone could be accounted for and assigned a ship and so that no space would go to waste. The only saving grace was that the Plegians somehow had enough money to send an armada's worth of ships. Based on rough calculations, Robin guessed that they could fit everyone and everything on every ship and they would still have plenty of spare capacity left. Hell, based on the data, if they spread their everything over to make use of every ship, the ships would be all half-full!
And speaking of ships…
"Damn!" Robin whistled. "Look at how big that one is! Or that one! And that one!"
He, Chrom, Morgan and a few others were standing on the docks, examining the ships the Plegians have sent.
"Whoa! Look how big that one is!" Morgan marveled, pointing at a huge ship anchored nearby. "Or the one next to it!"
"Good eye, kiddo. According to this…" Robin consulted his notes. "…Those two over there should be the biggest, most expensive ships the Plegians have sent us."
"We should totally use them as our flagships."
"Putting aside you can't have more than one flagship, I agree completely. Now, the question is which one…"
"Can we name the one we choose?"
"Uh…" Robin consulted his notes again. "Yeah, we'll probably have to."
"Why's that?" Chrom looked at Robin curiously. "Surely we can just take these ships as they are, name and all. Would be disrespectful to its original owners to just change its name like—"
"One of those ships is the Gangrel and the other is the Grima's Maw."
"…Yeah, okay. Maybe our flagship deserves a better name."
"On the bright side, the other, smaller ships don't seem to have any similarly offensive names. Guess those are reserved for the really big ones."
"We get to pick the name of our flagship! Sweet! I got so many ideas!" Morgan said enthusiastically. "We should name our ship the Devastator! Or the Ylissean Fury! Or the Wrath of Naga! Or—"
"Morgan, why do all of your ship names sound so aggressive?" Robin asked.
"To get the point across," Morgan answered simply. "That way, the enemies know what they're getting into when they see our cool awesome ship approaching. For example, they'll tremble in their bad guy boots when they see the Naga's Wrath or the Ylissean Fury approaching. It really spells out clearly what they'll be facing. I mean, do you really want to face the wrath of a goddess or the fury of an entire nation? It will strike fear into their hearts! Right before we strike for real into their hearts!"
"Morgan, as much as I like the sound of that, I'd really prefer it if we didn't have ship names that made us sound like horrible pirates."
"Horrible as in 'they can't really do their jobs' horrible or 'run away if you want to live!' horrible?"
"Man, we would be so cool as pirates!"
"Morgan, Ylisse and the Shepherds are not pirates!"
"I know that, but can't we just sound like it?"
"No. We bring hope and inspire confidence, not fear and piracy!"
While father and daughter debated the practically (or lack thereof) of Morgan's ship naming stratagem and how they were/weren't pirates, Chrom watched in amusement while Olivia giggled.
Lucina watched the scene, then her parents.
"Mother? Father? Should we…intervene?"
"I don't see why," Chrom said with a wry smile. "They seem perfectly happy talking about this on their own."
"It's always funny watching Robin be Robin, more so now that he has someone like him to keep up with his line of thought and conversation," chuckled Olivia.
"But…should we not focus on the task at hand? We were supposed to come here and examine the ships and crew the Plegians sent us…" Lucina glanced at the pair or arguing tacticians. "On top of all the other tasks for the day."
"That we do, Lucina. And we'll get to them all," Chrom assured. "But that doesn't mean we can't take breathers every now and then."
"Your father is right, dear. While we do have a schedule to stick to, it's important to remember that rigidly sticking to things is never a good thing," said Olivia. "Taking breaks is very important, both for the mind and body. Doubly so if you've spent the past few days in meeting and cooped up in a room looking at papers."
Chrom nodded in agreement.
"I see. So this outing to see the ships was the break?"
"Oh no. I was serious when I said we needed to inspect the ships and the crew. This," Chrom said, pointing to Robin and Morgan, "is the break."
Lucina looked curiously between the tacticians and her father.
"It's always interesting to see where Robin's more irreverent conversations lead to and how they got there," Olivia clarified.
"Chrom, I need your input on something of the utmost importance."
"Here we go…" Chrom rolled his eyes but nevertheless smiled. "What is it, Robin? Need me to pick a name for the ships?"
"Actually, yes. Morgan and I have been discussing potential ship names and have come up with a few. We need your final word of opinion."
"My names are way cooler," Morgan declared. "Pick them!"
"Don't I get a say in this?"
"What?" The question seemed to have taken Robin by surprise. "You want to name a ship?"
"Because you don't seem to be the most creative type?" Morgan ventured.
Robin pointed to his daughter and nodded sagely.
"Wha—?" Chrom was genuinely offended. "I am so the creative type!"
"Chrom, need I remind you what would Lucina's name be if you had your way?" Robin asked pointedly.
"Father?" Lucina looked at Chrom curiously. "Did you have another name in mind for me?"
Chrom spun around, looking at his daughter in panicked embarrassment.
"…No? I-I mean, no! Definitely not. Lucina is a wonderful, beautiful name that your mother suggested and that I agreed with immediately without putting my own proposals first. Yep."
Lucina raised a brow while Olivia shook her head and chuckled.
"And that's the entire story," Chrom added, glaring at Robin, who was about to say something.
"I mean, that's not the only example I have of your lack of creativity," the grandmaster said instead.
"Oh yeah? Give me one example."
"I can do better than that," Robin grinned. "But do you really want to go there?"
Chrom opened his mouth to confirm.
"Think very hard before you say anything further."
Chrom paused, then closed his mouth.
"Thought so," Robin said smugly.
Olivia watched the scene between the two men in amusement. Looking over, she saw her daughter doing the same, yet with a strange expression.
"What's wrong, dear?"
"You seem puzzled."
"Oh. I suppose I'm still getting used to Father's and Robin's relationship in this time."
"What do you mean?"
"When I was young, I remember their interactions being much…different. Calmer, I suppose. More…respectful? I certainly don't remember them arguing so much…"
"Really?" Morgan looked up at Lucina and then to the two arguing men. "This is pretty much how I remember Dad and Chrom's interactions."
"Is that so?"
"Yep!" Morgan nodded. "I remember asking Dad about all the bickering and him telling me that's just how best friends show how much they mean to each other."
"…By constantly bickering?"
"By friendly and good-natured ribbing!" Morgan corrected.
"That seems like a strange way of showing one's fondness for his best friend…"
"I thought it strange too when I first joined," said Olivia. "But I quickly learned that it takes a special level in a friendship to so casually rib each other."
"Did you really adjust to it that quickly, Mother?"
"Quickly enough. Of course, I also lived in Regna Ferox with Khan Basilio. I suppose that helped me get used to Robin and Chrom's relationship."
"Ah, I see," Lucina smiled as she remembered the boisterous Feroxi warrior.
"See? There you go. Perfectly normal!" Morgan declared. "After all, the only other people that level of bickering is reserved for is old married couples. And if your level of best frienditude is equal to old married couples, you know you have something special."
Lucina grinned at that. It did have a sort of strange logic to it.
"And besides," added Olivia. "Vaike basically does the same thing with your father, only he prefers physical sparring to Robin's verbal ones."
"Huh. You're absolutely right, Mother. Does that mean it's normal for close friends to argue so much or is it just the type of relationship Father inspires?"
"It's a guy thing. At least, I think it is." Morgan shrugged. "Although if you want, we could try to test that theory and see if it works for us."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Remember? Morgan and Lucina! The newer, better version of Robin and Chrom! Better best friends, stick together through thick and thin and all that!"
"Although I gotta apologize for not spending much time with you, best buddy. I've been helping Dad out with all the sorting and the paperwork. There's a lot of it! Didn't leave me with time to do best friend stuff."
"That's quite okay, Morgan. I know that you and Robin have a lot of important tasks to take care of. I myself have been making the rounds and doing what I can to prepare us for the journey."
"Yeah, but it really shouldn't stop us from hanging out. Although Dad doesn't really do stuff with Chrom while he's working too, so…"
"You two seem to be getting along quite well," Olivia remarked.
"And why wouldn't we? We are the daughters of two of the best of friends on the world. Naturally their strong ties would recreate themselves in us, their proud children!" Morgan put her arm around Lucina's waist. "Right, best buddy?"
"You make it very hard to disagree with you, Morgan."
"Is that a yes?"
"That is a yes," Lucina said, chuckling.
"I'm glad for you two," Olivia smiled. "Maybe Morgan's right and strong relationships really do transcend generations."
"As best friends, we really should spend more time together. Maybe after we're finished with all this planning and stuff we can go around town or something. Do what best friends do in their spare time. Yes." Morgan nodded to herself.
"—re you now?" Robin crossed his arms. "Then prove it to me."
"Gladly. Give me a challenge so I can wipe that smug smirk right off your face," Chrom said confidently.
"Okay, fine. Give me a ship name. A good, noble, not dumb ship name for your flagship. Go."
Robin crossed his arms and looked expectantly.
Not wanting to give Robin the satisfaction of winning and having put his pride on the line, Chrom frantically searched his mind for an appropriate ship name that wouldn't get him mocked.
"Don't rush me! Creativity takes time."
"Not for a true artiste."
"Ah-ha!" Chrom latched to the first name that came to him. Fortunately, it was also a good one. Foolproof and would finally shut Robin up!
"Share with the rest of the class, if you will."
Chrom smirked. "Prepare yourself, Robin, for this will crush all doubts about my creativity."
"The anticipation is killing me," the grandmaster said dryly.
"The Emmeryn," Chrom announced dramatically.
"Huh. Not bad…" Robin nodded. "It's fitting, symbolic of everything Ylisse represents and gives us hope. Also fitting for our biggest and most important ship to be named after our beloved former exalt."
Chrom grinned. "I take it this makes you ready to eat your words?"
"Hardly. If anything, it reinforces them."
"What? How? You just said—"
"Yes, yes I did. And although the name is fitting, you decided to name our flagship after a person."
"Anyone can just search their minds for a significant person's name and just name a ship after them. A true creative mind comes up with their own, original name to stamp on the ship. I, for example, have come up with twenty. All of them heroic and inspiring and not named after anyone," Robin grinned. "Checkmate."
Before Chrom could retort, another voice entered the conversation.
"Oi! You there, with the fancy coat!"
Chrom and Robin both turned to see a burly man with an impressive beard approaching.
"What're you doing making all this rabble around my ship?"
"Your ship?" Robin looked between the ship and the approaching man. "Then I assume you're the captain of this fine vessel?"
"You got a good eye, kid. She's a fine vessel indeed!" the man said approvingly. "And yes, I am the captain of this here vessel. The name's—"
"Boris? Are Gregor's eyes deceiving him or is that really you?"
"Well spank my arse and call me Sally!" the man exclaimed and looked to where the voice came from. "Gregor!"
"Boris! Is really you!"
The two men laughed and embraced each other.
"Good grieving, Gregor hasn't seen Boris in what feels like eternity!" Gregor laughed after they disengaged. "Gregor almost forgetting what Boris look like!"
"Ha! Like you could ever forget a man as good looking as me!"
"You can't be blaming Gregor, is been a long time! Besides, Boris looking very different than from what Gregor remembering. Where is Boris' hair? Gregor remembers Boris having head full of big, poofy hair. Now is as shiny as new coin! And that," Gregor pointed to the man's beard. "Gregor not remembering that either. Is new. Has all of Boris's hair travelled down to settle below Boris' mouth?"
"I see your eyes are as good as ever, Gregor," Boris remarked sarcastically. "But aye, the years have not been kind to ol' Boris. Found that I kept on losing hair off my head as the years went by. Figured it wasn't worth it trying to prevent what comes naturally, so instead I thought of ways to make it work for me."
"And Boris decided beard was answer?"
"Aye, it was the look I was going for. Impressive, isn't it?" Boris asked, stroking his beard. "It's taken a long time to get this baby just the way I want it."
"Never in million years Gregor would imagine Boris losing all his hair and then growing beard. Gregor remembers hair was what Boris was always most proud of!"
"Aye, 'twas a sad time when I realized that I was losing it," Boris said sadly. "But I found something else to be proud of! And this facial hair is a lot more flexible!"
"Is sure making Boris look different…"
"Like you haven't changed, you big lug."
"What Boris talking about? Gregor just as spry and handsome as he was back then!" To illustrate his point, Gregor flexed his muscles and grinned. "See? Gregor still fit and spry as when he was young!"
"Oh yeah? Then what about this, huh?"
"This!" Boris patted Gregor's stomach. "I don't remember your stomach sticking out when you were a spry young lad. Put on a little extra weight over the years, eh Gregor?"
"Oy. Maybe Gregor has put on a little weight…" Gregor inhaled to trim his waistline. "But Gregor still full of youth an energy of young man!"
"Yeah, a very grizzled, wrinkly young man!" Boris laughed.
"Boris may laugh, but Gregor can assure Boris that Gregor still got looks and moves with ladies."
"Are you still chasing skirts?"
"Oy, why you talk like Gregor typical run-of-mill philan…phil…uh, skirt chaser? Gregor is perfect gentleman and romantic!"
"Come on, Gregor. You don't need to try and convince me. I've been your wingman on more than one occasion and seen you work, remember?" Boris winked and nudged Gregor in the ribs with a sly grin.
"Bah, that was when Gregor was simple and foolish young mercenary. Now, Gregor older and wiser. Gregor very in tune of what beautiful women want!"
"Still seems like the same Gregor to me…" chuckled Boris.
"Hey, hey!" Robin's irrigated voice interrupted the reunion. "Based on your little interaction there, I guess it's safe to assume you two know each other?"
"Sure do," Boris grinned. "Ol' Gregor and I go way back."
"Back when Boris and Gregor were in same mercenary group. Boris and Gregor were most effective members!" Gregor said proudly. "Good times…"
"And how did you go from mercenary work to sea captain?" Robin asked.
"Oy, sea captain? Who is sea captain?"
"Oh, right. That'll be me."
"Boris?" Gregor turned to look at his friend in disbelief. "Boris is now captain of ship?"
"Sure am. The finest hired sea hand you'll get!" Boris declared proudly.
"Oy, it really has been long time. Gregor can't remember any time when Boris had inkling for sea life."
"The mercenary life was fun and all, but after a while, I came to realize that life is short and best to be enjoyed to the maximum. And with being a hired sword, your life can get cut unexpectedly short."
Robin raised a brow. "So you decided that life at sea would be safer?"
"Aye. I figured offering my services to escort ships or what have you will be a lot safer than fighting on the ground."
"But isn't what you do exactly what you did before?" Morgan pipped up. "Only, you know, you do it at sea instead of one land."
Boris laughed heartily. "That's what I thought at first too, lass. But you'd be surprised at how much calmer the sea life is. Sure, we have to engage in the occasional pirate here and there, but it's a lot safer than on land, if not for the fact that combat encounters at sea are a lot rarer."
"Aye. Fewer people out there in the vast blue than on land. And most of them are on ships. You take out the ship before it gets close to you and you've saved yourself the trouble of getting close to fight!"
"And how has business at sea been treating Boris?" Gregor asked.
"Business is good. Lots of rich nobles and merchants who want to insure their precious cargo against pirates and whatnot. And with this upcoming war on the horizon, business is booming!"
"Getting back to the matter at hand…" Robin flipped through some of his papers. "I see you're the captain of these impressive ships the Plegians have sent us."
"Aye. You should consider yourselves lucky, you know."
"Not everyone can afford the services of yours truly."
"Oy, why Boris so boasting?"
"Because it's true," Boris said simply. "My crew and I have all made a good reputation out there all those years we worked at sea. We'll get your cargo where it needs to go, guaranteed! Short of weather, nothing will prevent us from getting whatever it is you're shipping to its destination! We have a complete and total success rate, even in waters infested by pirates. We usually come with our own ships, but this time our employers very generously decided to give us some for our personal use, and boy, are they beauties!"
"Indeed…" Chrom had a thoughtful look in his eyes. "I suppose Plegia hiring crews for us makes sense, given the fact that they said they had no manpower to send us after the war. Still, I wonder how they managed to have all this money left over after everything the country's been through. Enough to either build or hire what looks like an entire armada and lend it to us…"
"Who cares?" Robin said excitedly. "Look at how many we have and how big they are!"
"Aye," Boris nodded in agreement. "Those are some fine ships we've been handed. Remarkable craftsmanship, impeccable design, albeit a bit creepy."
"Oy, Gregor was not one for sea travel. If Gregor was for swimming, then life would give Gregor fins like fish instead of making Gregor want to hurl lunch in water."
"You get used to the feeling," Boris assured. "Spend enough time at sea and you'll feel right at home on a ship!"
"Right, well. I was going to go see the captain of these fine vessels and assess his trustworthiness and capability, but with you two knowing each other, I can save some time. So," Robin addressed Gregor. "Can you vouch for your friend here?"
"Gregor very much vouching. Boris was Gregor's closest friend and comrade back in days of Gregor's youth. Gregor and Boris had many adventures together, fought, bled and protected each other many time over. Although Gregor hasn't seen Boris in many years, Gregor knows Boris is loyal and reliable as always."
"Aw, I see you're as sentimental as ever, you big lug!"
Robin shrugged. "Good enough for me."
"Really?" Boris asked, surprised. "You don't want to go ask more questions or see my references?"
"Eh. That's taking the unnecessary long route to the end point."
"And the end point being…?"
"Getting to know how reliable you are, whether to trust you, if you're secretly Plegian assassins set out to kill us in our sleep, things like that."
Boris stared at Robin before laughing.
"You're a funny one, lad! This Valmese thing's got the Plegians as spooked as everyone else on this side of the planet. That's why they came to hire us and everyone from our company as well as our equally reputable sister companies and even rivals."
Morgan whistled. "That sounds like a lot of manpower."
"And they just let you do that?" Robin asked curiously. "Hire everyone from different and/or rival merc companies on one job?"
"It's a big job," Boris said simply. "A big job needing the best crews. And in the end of the day, we're all working on the same side for the same paycheck. It does no one any good if we let simple company rivalries get in the way of the job. Not only would that be very unprofessional, but it also cuts into profits. Getting our clients killed during the journey means the mission was a failure, which means no payday, which leads to a damage to our reputation and costs us potential clients. No one wants that."
"That's a very…transactional way of looking at things," Chrom remarked.
Boris nodded. "In my business it's all about reputation and the bottom line."
"And in end of day, what life if not one big transaction?" Gregor asked jovially. "In world of sellsword, is just one transaction after next!"
"Spoken like a veteran mercenary!" Boris laughed.
Chrom looked to his friend.
"We trust Gregor, right?"
"So that's that. He was with us through some tough spots during the Plegian campaign and didn't ditch us after the war, so his word about people he knows and finds trustworthy is as good as yours or mine," Robin stated before pausing. "Besides, I really don't want to go over each and every crew member and captain and all that paperwork to see if anything's amiss.
"…Weren't you going to do just that today?" Chrom pointed out. "In fact, isn't that exactly why we came here in the first place?"
"Yes, yes I was. But luckily, I now can save myself hours and maybe even days of painstakingly slow and tedious vetting. Although…" Robin turned to Boris. "You said you had references, right?"
"Aye. About us and our company."
"I actually want to have a quick look over them. See what people say about you and your company."
"Of course. I'll can give you the dossier now."
"Not now, later. We have other things to take care of now."
"Wonderfulness! Now that business of over and done with, Gregor wanting to take Boris out for drinks and to be doing the reminiscing! Is been too long and we have lots of catching up to be doing."
Boris chuckled. "You haven't changed one bit, Gregor."
"Is true. Gregor pillar of continuitingness!" Gregor grinned. "Is Boris accepting Gregor's invitation?"
"If our esteemed client has no objections…"
"Go ahead," Robin waved dismissively. "We're not setting off for a while yet. Just make sure you're not drunk out of your minds when if and when I call for you."
"In that case…" Boris turned to Gregor and grinned. "Come on, Gregor! Let's go and relive the good ol' days!"
"Gregor very much looking forward to it! Come, Gregor knows where to get best drinks in town."
"Lead the way, my old friend!"
As the two men walked off talking and laughing, Robin clapped his hands.
"Well, that's that. I love it when I can cut my workload!"
"Are you sure this is the best way to go?" Chrom inquired. "I mean, this is Plegia we're talking about here…"
"Chrom, I understand your concerns," Robin said seriously. "And as you know, I don't take our personal security lightly. That's why I'll go over this dossier Boris talked about and look into these mercenary companies to see if they're trustworthy. However, we also have to keep in mind that this is Gregor's friend and Gregor vouched for him. Gregor already proved himself to be a reliable partner and comrade, so his word has to count for something, right?"
"Of course it does! It's not like Gregor's proven himself to be unreliable or anything, it's just…"
"I know," Robin said, understanding. "I'll look over what the Plegians sent us and the companies."
"Thank you, Robin," Chrom smiled gratefully. "I hate to add to your workload, but…"
"It's for your peace of mind. Don't worry about it. My own peace of mind demands that I at least do some background checks."
"Is there anything I can help with?"
"I don't think so. After all, I got all the help I need, right, kiddo?"
"You bet!" Morgan spoke up. "I'll help Dad cut through the reports and paperwork to see if these guys are as good as they say they are. Oh, and so they're not secretly evil or something."
Chrom chuckled. "I'm glad I have you two diligent workers on my side."
"Yes, you would be very lost without us," Robin said matter-of-factly. "Anyway, let's head back before Olivia and Lucina get bored."
As the three headed back, they saw Lucina talking animatedly with her mother.
"Sorry to keep you waiting," Chrom apologized. "Something unexpected came up."
"Is it something serious?" Lucina immediately asked, worried.
"Don't worry, dear. It's nothing."
"Oh. That's good to hear."
"Anyway, are you two done with your little ships?" Olivia inquired.
"They're not little!" objected Robin. "Did you see the ships we were talking about? They magnificent and fierce and huge and…and…!"
"And awesome!" Morgan exclaimed.
Olivia giggled at Robin and Morgan's obvious enthusiasm.
"I never knew you two were so interested in ships."
"Oh yeah. Morgan and I were interested ever since we saw how big and awesome they were five minutes ago."
"Well, I'm sure my interest goes back further than that," Morgan remarked.
All right, you two," Chrom chuckled. "Now that we've settled our business here, what's next?"
And so, the rest of the day was spent doing errands. And the rest of the week. With all the work required to prepare and plan an invasion of another continent with the combined army of two countries, the Shepherds naturally found themselves very busy.
Robin's time was mostly spent planning out logistics, troops, ships, equipment, supplies, and how to get all of that stuff on the ships that were constantly coming into the harbor. When he was taking breaks, he and Morgan went to inspect the troops.
Having been left alone while their superiors went off to fight slavers in remote parts of Ferox, the Ylissean troops got a little lax in their training. Naturally, Frederick and Sully sought to rectify that. Kjelle too, ever since Robin offered her to train the recruits. Actually, Kjelle proved to be the one most eager to put the trainees through their paces, even more so than Frederick (something Robin though impossible). It was a good thing that Robin made her subordinate to Frederick and her parents, otherwise he was sure she'd push the trainees so hard they'd die. Frederick at least had the courtesy and experience to push you to within inches of death, but never over (which, come to think of it, was maybe even more evil because it was like some form of prolonged torture).
So that was how the next few weeks came and went until, finally, Robin managed to somehow sort out this logistical nightmare and get every soldier on every ship along with supplies and equipment and keep detailed accounts of where everyone and everything was. Robin wasn't even sure how he managed to do that himself. All he knew that it was over and it only cost him a few weeks of sleepless nights and a whole lot of coffee.
"So this is what it feels like to be on a ship…" Olivia looked around in wonder.
"Aye, lass. It's truly special, isn't it?" Boris laughed behind the wheel. "There isn't anything like it! The fresh air, the splash of the water against your face, the sound of the waves crashing against the ship, it's all part of the wonderful package!"
"Oy, is been a while since Gregor has set foot on ship. Gregor not remembering it being so teetery…"
"I can certainly relate," Chrom said, trying to keep his balance on the deck. "This is my first time on a vessel and it's quite a challenge to find my sea legs. I never really fancied myself a sea captain…or ever thought I'd need to take up the role."
"This is my first voyage as well," Lucina spoke beside her father, finding it equally difficult to keep her balance without holding onto something. "But I find it quite exciting. In my time, all ships were destroyed. Smashed to pieces, along with their ports. And the seas eventually dried up. So it's doubly exciting to be out here, even though the experience…takes a little getting used to."
Olivia smiled. "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself, dear."
"It's certainly an experience, Mother."
"Heh, you can't be enjoying yourself more than that one over there," Boris commented wryly.
"I beg your pardon?"
Instead of answering, Boris pointed.
Lucina saw someone wearing a familiar coat and a fancy feathered hat sliding down from the masts and landing right in front of them.
"Cower, you craven worms, for you are in the presence of the greatest pirate captain that ever sailed these seven seas! Me! The dread pirate, Captain Robin the Sparrow!"
Lucina tiled her head in confusion.
"Captain Robin!" he corrected. "If ye want to get technical on me, it should really be 'Dread Pirate Captain Robin.' But I suppose 'Captain Robin' will have to do."
Lucina blinked in confusion and then looked over to Boris.
"Pardon my ignorance, but were you not the captain of this vessel?"
"I'm just a man hired to escort you all safely across the sea and direct my crew to steer the ship."
"So when ye think about it, that thar man's just the escort. The chaperone to get us to our destination. As the person who gives all the orders, 'tis only natural that I should have the title of captain on this fine vessel," Robin explained. "So here ye are. Ar!"
"I…suppose that makes sense…?" Lucina said uncertainly.
"Hey, wait a minute!" Chrom interjected. "As head of the Shepherds and the haildom, shouldn't I be captain of this vessel?"
"Yar, that's a good one, Chrom!" Robin laughed. "Any good sea captain worth his salt can stand tall and proud on the high seas. As our fearless leader, you ordinarily would be made captain, but since you can barely keep yourself steady on this fine vessel, that title naturally falls me me. Yar!"
"I can keep myself steady on this ship perfectly fine," Chrom insisted.
"Chrom, ye legs are so wobbly that ye are holding on to the railing of the ship as if your life depended on it," Robin pointed out flatly.
"I am not. Look, I can stand without holding onto anything perfectly—" Chrom let go of the railing and then promptly wobbled as the ship went over some rough waves.
"Some sea legs. How would that reflect on us if our captain fell on the slightest waves? Ye need to be strong and stable no matter what the waters hold. Like this!" Robin put his hands on his hips and struck a confident pose, surprisingly not losing his footing as the ship traversed the waves. "See? Steady as a rock, I are!"
As Olivia helped Chrom up, Gregor spoke up.
"Oy, why Robin talking funny."
"What're ye talking about, Gregor? This is how I always talk. Ar!"
"Like that. Also, why Robin wearing funny hat with large feather of bird?"
"I'll have ye know that this hat here is the pinnacle of stylish pirate captains everywhere!" Robin retorted. "Made from the feathers of some fancy bird from somewhere far away and said to bring good luck to whoever wears it. Good luck and very good looks. At least that's what the brochure said anyway. As for ye olde pirate talk, I figured that what better way to celebrate our first voyage at sea than introduce Pirate Week?"
Chrom and Lucina looked at Robin curiously.
"It's great fun!"
This time, father and daughter looked with a mix of surprise and confusion at Olivia.
"O-oh. Um…" Olivia blushed.
"No need to be shy, lass!" Robin said encouragingly. "Thar's no shame in it. You see, I thought it'd be relevant to introduce a pirate theme at our society meetings in light of our trip. So for the past few weeks, Pirate Week was at full swing! We read all books and novels related to pirates and piracy. From that one with all the assassins suddenly at sea to that one with the bad guy with the squid face, it was all about the pirates. And what better way to put our new theme to use than to imitate being a pirate captain at sea? Yar!"
"Wait a minute, I thought you said you're never inviting us back to your society meetings after last time," Chrom commented. "What happened to that?"
"No, I said that I'd never invite some of you after the debacle that was last time," Robin clarified. "I realize that there are some people among you that genuinely enjoy reading books and discussing the stuff from said books. I figured it would be unfair to blanket ban all of you from our meetings, so I just banned the troublesome ones."
"You banned me," Chrom reminded him. "I'd hardly say I was anywhere near as 'troublesome' as some others there."
Robin shrugged. "Can't take any risks, Chrom. Better to be safe than sorry."
"How is banning me being 'safe'?"
"Funny things tend to happen when you're around," Robin explained as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "We ban you, we prevent funny things from happening in our serious society."
Chrom debated whether or not to point out the obvious flaws in that line or reasoning. Instead, he went with, "You ban me, but you include my wife?"
"Olivia is a very enthusiastic reader of books. I'm actually surprised we haven't invited her earlier. She's exactly the type of new member we've been looking for, aren't yo—er, I mean, ain't ye, lass?"
For the second time in as many minutes, Chorm and Lucina stared confusedly at Olivia.
"I-it's really fun!" explained the dancer. "Along with reading, Robin decided that acting out the mannerisms and ways of the characters in our stories would be fun and topical. A-and acting out our scenes was a bit like the scenarios in the dances I do…"
Chrom smiled. "You don't have to explain yourself to us, dear. I'm sure Lucina and I were just surprised that you went along with Robin's antics."
"Yar! I'll have you know that there be good reasons behind me antics!"
"Okay, Robin." Chrom rolled his eyes. "Now apart from my wife, is there anyone else you decided to rope into this pirate theme thing?"
"Yo ho ho! Here's the First Mate Vaike, reporting for duty!"
Chrom raised a brow. "Vaike?"
"That's First Mate Vaike to you, Chrom! This here is Teach's official title while at sea," Vaike declared proudly.
Chrom turned to Robin.
"You ban me from your meetings but let Vaike in? Vaike? Does he even read?"
"Bah, who needs readin'? All those dusty books can't compare to Teach's street smarts!"
Chrom looked pointedly at Robin.
"Hey, Vaike has nothing to do with my society. He just really likes getting his pirate on."
"That why he's wearing a that striped shirt and bandana?"
"You bet! Come on, Chrom. You gotta admit that this is sailor's garb makes the Vaike look like the perfect pirate!" Vaike flexed his muscles. "The shirt highlights the Vaike's awesome muscle power while the bandana adds to the badass factor."
"Vaike," Robin sighed. "While you got the costume and enthusiasm down, how many times do I have to tell you that you're not the first mate?"
"Whaddya mean, I'm not the first mate? Since ol' Teach ain't the captain, he's obviously the most qualified person to be the first mate."
"Vaike, that's not even remotely true and you know it."
"Aw, come on! Who can be more qualified to be first mate than the one and only Vaike?"
"Yar, Dad!" Morgan chose that moment to run on the deck.
"Ar, how many times do I have to remind ye do address me properly, First Mate Morgan?" Robin snapped.
Morgan straightened up and saluted, causing her hat to tilt forward and cover her eyes.
"Apologies, Captain Dad! It won't happen again!"
"Yar, it better not! Otherwise, I'll have ye walk the plank!"
"Eep! Not the plank, Captain!"
"Yes, the plank!"
"Aw, come on! You chose your own daughter to be first mate over ol' Teach?" Vaike complained. "How is that fair?"
"For one, she got the looks down."
"Look at her. Immaculate coat, clean clothes and, most importantly, one of those big, semi-oval pirate hats."
"But the Vaike has the whole bandana!"
"Very true, but everyone knows that the bandana is indicative of a rank less than captain and of the first mate. The first mate must look at least as good – but not better than! — the captain."
"Really? Says who?"
"Come on, Vaike. You've never seen in any pirate stories the captain who wears only a bandana and no hat. His first mate must also wear a hat and looks appropriately first mate-y. It's basic science, really."
"…Oh." Vaike visibly sagged. "Then what role can the Vaike fill on this ship? I really wanna get my pirate on! Come on, Robin, this may the my one and only chance!"
"Okay, okay. Let the records show that I am a good pirate captain. Let me see here. Vaike, you can be…the…swabie."
"Yeah! You're the best, Robin! Pirate Swabie Vaike is at sea!" Vaike pumped his fist in the air. "Say, Robin?"
"What is it, Vaike"?
"What's a swabie do?"
"You know. General maintenance of the ship, running around, making sure everything works, relaying orders, fixing things, scrubbing the poop deck."
"Heh, poop deck…" Morgan giggled.
"Aw yeah! The Vaike will be your overall Mr. Fixit! You won't regret it, Captain! Now Teach's off to go make sure everythin's shipshape! Ar!"
Vaike then vaulted past the railing and ran off to do whatever it is he thought swabies did, earning him curious looks from the crew members.
"Well. That settles that."
"Oh, right." Robin turned. "What do you have for me, First Mate Morgan?"
"I have here the status reports from the other ships as you requested, Captain!"
"Very good work, First Mate!" Robin said approvingly, tilting Morgan's hat so it didn't cover her eyes. "Also, why do you insist on wearing that thing? It's very clearly oversized."
"But it was the coolest one on the market!" Morgan insisted. "I mean, yeah, I could've ordered one that fits me, but they were all boring and triangular. This one covers my entire head and has a cool feather and has fluffy decorative thing on the edges! Oh, and a skull and crossbones insignia at the front. That's also pretty important. So what if it covers my eyes every once in a while? I'll be happy with the knowledge that I look like a pretty cool pirate!"
"That's also pretty important in terms of pirates…" Robin thought for a moment. "I guess as long as it doesn't interfere with your duties…or make you look better than me."
"Almost, but not quite. As the captain, you get the coolest hat of the bunch."
"That I do, Morgan. That I do…" Robin nodded sagely. "Oh, right. The reports. Anything to, uh, report?"
"I skimmed them for you. Nothing seems out of the ordinary."
"That's exactly what I like to hear! Good work, First Mate!"
Morgan saluted, causing her hat to slide down again.
Robin turned and smiled victoriously at Chrom
"Pirate Week is a hit!"
"Yes, Robin. Olivia aside, getting Vaike and your daughter in on this pirate thing definitely qualifies it as 'a hit,'" Chrom said sarcastically.
"Oh, ye of little faith…" Robin shook his head.
Just then, a flap of wings and the sound of hooves landing on the deck drew everyone's attention. Cordelia and Sumia dismounted their pegasi and approached the group.
"What news, Boatswain?" Robin asked.
"Dire news, Captain! Cordelia and I have been scouting for the enemy and, well, it's bad," reported Sumia.
"Aye, 'tis grim indeed," Cordelia nodded. "We've—"
Wait a minute," Robin interrupted. "We haven't been out to sea that long. What do you mean when you say you've went scouting for the enemy? Did you have to fly to the far edges of the horizon or something? Because last I checked, the Valmese ships were still a ways off."
"Those reports were estimates based off intel we got from Valm and taking into account factors such as wind direction, weather, and other factors that we didn't have complete info over," Morgan reported.
"So you're telling me that our estimated time of encountering the Valmese fleet may have lost a few days?" Robin questioned, unamused.
"Pretty much," Morgan replied nonchalantly.
"Great…" Robin turned. "Cordelia, Sumia, when you think we'll meet the enemy?"
"If I had to guess…" Sumia thought. "Maybe a few days, a week at maximum."
"That sounds about right," Cordelia nodded in agreement.
"A week?!" Robin looked at the two pegasus knights, stunned. "…How long have you two been flying for?"
"Our mounts cover vast distances when need be," Sumia said simply.
"We also had the wind at our backs," added Cordelia. "And our estimate takes into account wind speed and the current speed at which our fleet and the Valmese one travel at."
"These ships don't travel as fast as it would seem," Sumia remarked. "I guess that's because keeping an entire fleet coordinated and together takes a lot out of the overall travel time."
"…Oh." Robin took a deep breath. "How bad is it?"
"Bad," Cordelia said. "We've seen the enemy's strength and I estimate that they match us ship to ship."
Robin frowned. "That doesn't sound good."
"Not good at all. And from what we could gather, their troops vastly outnumber ours. Our vessels are half-full, at best. But every Valmese ship is packed from stem to stern with soldiers," Sumia reported.
Robin's frown deepened.
"Very well. Thank you both for your report."
The two pegasus knights stood straight and saluted.
Robin grinned. "I could really get used to you two being all serious and saluting me; it strokes my ego."
"Weren't you the one who encouraged casual interaction between Shepherds?" Cordelia remarked playfully. "If I recall, you said it encouraged greater unit cohesion."
"Why do you always do this to me?"
Sumia and Morgan giggled.
"At least you two are wearing your triangular hats…" Robin mumbled before turning to address his friend. "Chrom."
Watching in stunned silence first at how Robin managed to rope in Cordelia and Sumia into his pirate nonsense and then at how quickly the conversation turned to something a lot more serious, Chrom was slow to respond.
"Uh…yes! I mean, uh…" Chrom cleared his throat. "Robin."
"Get the khans. We're having an emergency meeting."
As everyone walked off to gather and convene a meeting, Lucina smiled apologetically to Boris.
"Please forgive Robin and the others. They're usually not this…" she was about to continue when she realized that yes, they were this eccentric.
"Heh, don't worry your pretty little head, lass. I've been in this field long enough to see all sorts of clients," Boris assured. "Your little gang doesn't even crack the top ten weirdest crews I've worked for."
"You must work for some really interesting characters if we aren't even in the top ten," Lucina commented.
Boris and Gregor shared a knowing look.
"When you in business as long as Boris and Gregor, you tending to accept all sorts of weirdness like it normal," explained the mercenary. "And Boris and Gregor in business very long time!"
"Long enough to see weird clients to last a lifetime, not long enough to go crazy from it," laughed Boris. "Now you better run off, lass. I think the others might want you at their little meeting of theirs."
"…So that's the situation as it stands," Robin finished his briefing. "I've taken the liberty of doing that match and sketching out how their numbers compared to ours."
Everyone in the cabin looked at the reports and charts sprawled out on the table.
"If their fleet matches ours yet is completely full of soldiers…" Flavia trailed off.
"Yep. Looks pretty bad."
"I assume you have a plan for how we're supposed to take them out?" Chrom looked at Robin hopefully.
"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?"
"Well, I've got good news and bad news."
"What's the good news?"
"I have a plan."
"That's good to hear…" Chrom sighed in relief.
"So what's the bad news?" asked Basilio.
"It was based off of incomplete intel and needed refining over time that it turns out we don't have."
"So what you're saying is that you have the vaguest outline of a plan and need to quickly cobble one together in a few days to help us not get completely slaughtered," Flavia said.
The room fell silent.
"Well, hey," Robin said defensively, "I couldn't really plan accurately for what I didn't know we were going to face! The most we got back on land was that there was a large Valmese fleet coming and that we needed to intercept it at sea before their troops made land and completely overran the continent!"
Chrom raised his hand. "Peace, Robin. No one is blaming you. We all know you like to work with all the variables at your disposal and craft your plan with as much information as possible."
"That I do."
"So, what?" Basilio spoke up. "Now we have more info. I assume you're going to use that head of yours to craft us a plan on short notice? Hopefully a good one?"
"I'm nothing if not full of good plans. They may sound crazy, but they're guaranteed to be good. I wouldn't dream of implementing a bad plan."
"And you work well under pressure!" Morgan piped up. "Come on, guys! You all know Dad is the best tactician around. He'll get us through this and come up with some great awesome plan. Just have faith!"
"I'll be a fool not to at least have faith in Robin after he saw us all through the last war," chuckled Flavia.
"That's for sure," agreed Basilio.
Chrom smiled. "We all have faith in your abilities, Robin."
"Thanks, guys. I'll come up with something. I always do."
The princess, who was quietly watching from the side, looked up.
"Anything you can tell us that may help?" Robin asked. "Did something like this occur in the future? Did the future me have some sort of magical plan to defeat all these Valmese at sea?"
"I'm afraid I can't help in this regard," Lucina said apologetically. "The events in this time have already taken a very different turn than the ones in my future. Then, the Valmese managed to get their fleet to Ferox and unleash their forces across the land. It was a long and bloody battle to keep them from completely overrunning the country…"
"Right…" Robin sighed. "Well, thanks anyway. Guess I don't have any cheat cards to play with now…"
"I'm sure your noggin there will come up with something," Basilio declared confidently. "Just make sure it does so soon!"
"Thanks. I'll get right on that," Robin said dryly.
"That's my boy!" Basilio laughed before turning to Morgan. "Who's the pipsqueak?"
"Heard you calling our resident tactician here your dad. Does that mean he finally find a lady in his life?"
"Basilio, with all due respect—"
"Oh yeah. To be honest, I would've never believed all this time travel nonsense if it came from anyone else," Flavia said.
"It's a story that beggars belief for sure, yet the proof is right in front of us…" Chrom looked over to Lucina who was standing to the side with her Falchion.
"Indeed. So!" Flavia looked over to Robin. "Last I checked, our resident tactician was living the bachelor life. Did something happen during peacetime to make you change your mind?"
"It must've, for we have the fruit of his loins right in front of us! The family resemblance is strong, right down to the clothing!"
Robin buried his face in his hands while the two khans laughed and Morgan watched with a curious expression.
"Go ahead," muttered the grandmaster. "I know you're dying to get in on this action."
"I don't really think there's anything for me to add," Chrom said smugly. "I think Basilio and Flavia are saying everything that needs to be said."
"Sometimes I really hate you."
"I love you too, Robin."
"So, since you're not living the bachelor life, who's the lucky lady?" Basilio asked.
"Has to be a real character to capture the heart of our prickly tactician!" added Flavia.
"There's no wife!" snapped Robin.
"Ha!" Basilio laughed heartily. "How can there not be a wife? What, did your kid just materialize out of the ether or something?"
Flavia grinned. "You're pulling my leg. Come on, spill the beans. Who's the missus?"
"For the last time, there is no missus and my daughter just appeared out of the ether one day and that's that!"
The khans stopped laughing and looked between Robin and Morgan.
"…You really don't have a wife? Or a mother?"
"No…" Morgan mumbled quietly and looked down. "I…I don't remember anything about her…"
Robin held his daughter close and gave a pointed look to the khans.
Getting the hint, they both cleared their throats.
"Er, right. Moving on…"
"I think I'll go over our ships, units, and supplies to see if something clicks," Robin said before looking down at Morgan. "You okay, kiddo?"
"Yep! Good as ever!"
"You certainly know how to bounce back," Robin smiled, tousled her hair, and looked over the papers on the table.
"So what was your previous general plan to attack the Valmese?" Chrom inquired.
"To take out their ships at sea," Robin responded, sifting through papers.
"And neutralize their army at sea before they could make land and utilize their cavalry, which I hear is very, very effective."
"Wow. When you said your plan was general, you weren't kidding."
"Scouts," Robin called out.
Standing quietly to the side, Sumia and Cordelia straightened up.
"The Valmese ships," Robin said, pointing at one report. "These are your observations from your positions, yes?"
"So it looks like the Valmese are leading with their biggest ships…"
"We estimate that their front ships are as big as our flagship," reported Cordelia. "And can contain just as many men when at full capacity."
Basilio grinned. "Do I see the wheels slowly turning in that head of yours?"
"Ever so slowly," Robin said absentmindedly. "If we can use our smaller ships with their superior maneuverability to our advantage…"
"Here." Morgan reached for a stack of papers. "This is the list of all our ships organized by size with capacity written next to the names."
"Thanks, kiddo." Robin looked the list over. "…Why do we have so many ships filled with...oil? Why do we have so much oil to begin with?"
"Beats me," Flavia shrugged. "Although the Plegians had no men to spare, they certainly delivered in other aspects, from supplies and weapons."
"What're we going to do with this much oil?!" Robin cried out. "Dear Naga, and we took it all with us! Those ships could've been stocked full of weapons or something!"
"Maybe they thought we need to do a lot of cooking out here," Morgan ventured.
"If Robin was the cook, then maybe," chuckled Chrom.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Come on, Robin. Remember what happened last time you tried cooking something?"
"Yeah, my soup ended up tasting like dishwater or something."
"No, after that."
"Ah, yes. The infamous dinner tent fire incident…" Sumia remembered with a smile.
"Gods. I thought everyone forgot about that one…"
Morgan looked between the adults.
"What happened then?"
"Let's just say that your father read the instructions just a little bit wrong and got a little bit distracted when actually cooking. Long story short, he ended up burning the entire dinner tent."
"In my defense, I thought it would go much quicker if I turned up the heat."
"Yes, and add so much oil that the flames reached the top of the tent when it caught fire," Cordelia recalled.
"I was cooking in bulk!"
"Yes, well that was when we banned your father from the kitchen," Sumia explained. "Although can effectively wield fire on the battlefield, he's a bit of a hazard off it."
"Wow. I'm surprised you didn't burn the entire camp down, Dad!"
"We managed to put it out before it got out of hand. It's amazing your father managed to start such a fire with only one bottle of cooking oil."
"Heh, then you better keep him away from the oil ships. He might burn the entire fleet down!" Morgan laughed.
"That's such a bad idea…"
Robin suddenly perked up and reached for the scout report.
"We obviously can't take the Valmese head-on since, you know, overwhelming numerical superiority and all. But we still need to find a way to take them all out at sea before they make landfall. And what better way to destroy an entire fleet than to burn it down?"
"Oh boy. I see the wheels suddenly spinning faster," Basilio remarked.
"But how are we going to get the oil to their ships?" asked Flavia. "We have no catapults or delivery system, let alone a way to ensure that it catches fire when it reaches them and not sooner."
"We have our ships," Robin pointed out.
"Are you suggesting we deliberately set out own ships ablaze?" Flavia looked at Robin incredulously.
"Have you lost your mind?! We'll get roasted alive before we even make it to the enemy fleet!" Basilio exclaimed.
"Not if we have the right strategy…" Robin grinned slyly.
Basilio opened his mouth to object before thinking otherwise.
"Well, I know better than to question Robin. Especially not when he has that look in his eyes. Gods save us from what he's cooked up this time—let's just hope it's not us!"
"Oh, I have something cooked up…" Robin turned. "Chrom, I have an idea."
"Those words are music to my ears, Robin." Chrom grinned. "What will you have us do?"
"We're burning down the enemy fleet, along with half of ours."
Chrom waited for Robin to explain this seemingly insane idea.
"Look, our ships are half-full of soldiers at best when the Valmese ships are full to the brim. If we pack all of our soldiers into half the ships, we can afford to lose the other half."
"For my plan to work we'll need to disrupt their chain of command. Our strongest team would need to board their lead ship and kill their general. Without him, the fleet would fall into disarray and be vulnerable for the second stage. As our best captain I'd have you head the squad, but you ARE the prince, so..."
"Yes, I AM the prince, so no one can order me NOT to go. I will lead the assault!" Chrom nodded resolutely.
"And here I thought you'd volunteer to stay behind," Robin quipped. "Lucina, I assume you want to come too?"
The princess nodded.
"Good. So here's what we'll need to do…"
The next few days were spent frantically preparing the soldiers and ships for Robin's plans. Pegasus messengers flew from ship to ship, relaying messages from the flagship to the entire fleet. Ships sailed close to each other so soldiers and sailors could pass from one ship to another. Meanwhile, Robin gathered the captains of each ship and platoon to brief them on the strategy against the Valmese.
It was a hectic few days in which Robin had to quickly refine his strategy, coordinate the ships and soldiers, get everyone into position and give orders to an entire fleet of ships. However, having years of experience overhaling and then running a country's bureaucracy under his belt, handling this fleet thing was nothing.
And so, on the day when the fleets were due to meet, Robin and Chrom both stood at the bow of the Liberator, both clad in their combat armor, and watched how the Valmese ships slowly dotted the horizon.
"Look how many of them there are…"
"I'm still upset that you chose to sacrifice the Liberator."
"Are you still going on about that?"
"It's a cool ship and a cool name!"
"Robin, you can't really expect me to sacrifice the Emmeryn, can you? After what happened last time?"
"Couldn't you have picked a better name?"
Frederick cleared his throat behind them.
"If I may…"
"Right, right. Getting back on topic."
The men turned their attention to the horizon.
"We'll make it, Chrom," Robin said, as if reading his friend's mind. "These plans have the Robin seal of quality on them. You know they're guaranteed to work!"
"Right. Now reassuring," Chrom chuckled. "Funny, isn't it?"
"So much has changed since we found you that day, lying in the open field... Hard to believe you determine the fate of our entire army now...our entire people. Destiny has a strange way."
"No, Chrom. Not destiny," Robin said, surprisingly resolutely.
"We're not pawns of some scripted fate. I believe we're more. Much more."
Chrom raised a brow.
"There's something between us all. Something that keeps us together..." Robin continued. "Like...invisible ties, connecting us. Giving us strength... WE forged these ties. WE strengthen them. If we preserve them, or break them, it will be by our choices, not some 'destiny'..."
"Robin…" Chrom stared at his friend before laughing. "I think this salty air might have gone to your head!"
"I get all philosophical for once in my entire life and this is the thanks I get…" Robin shook his head. "Well then, never again. Come. We have plans to execute and a fleet to burn down!"
"Indeed. Oh, and Robin?"
"If we are all bound by these invisible ties, I thank the gods it's with you."
"Naturally. I mean, my tie to you is probably the only thing standing between you and an untimely – and probably entirely avoidable – death."
"How can you possibly say that?"
"Need I remind you of our board game skirmishes?"
Chrom opened him mouth to object but was interrupted by Sumia and Cordelia approaching.
"Everything's ready to go," reported Cordelia.
"Good. I guess that means it's time to go."
"Hold on, hold on!"
Everyone turned to see Morgan running up.
"Okay, here I am. Ready to go!"
"Morgan?" Robin blinked. "What're you doing here?"
"I'm ready to head off and fight with you guys."
"Morgan, you're not going with us."
"What? Yes I am."
"Did you miss our last strategy meeting?"
"Uh…was that the one on Wednesday?"
Robin sighed and looked at his watch. He then turned back to his daughter.
"You're not coming with us, kiddo."
"Let me finish," Robin cut her off before she could complain further. "You're not going with us because I have a very important job for you. Back here. With our fleet."
"Are you sure you're not just telling me this because you want me to sit the fighting out?" Morgan asked suspiciously.
"Kiddo, how unprofessional do you think I am? Do you really think I'd not assign you if there wasn't a good reason?"
Morgan remained silent but now listened attentively.
"Morgan, I need you to stay here and launch our oil ships."
"But…aren't they going with you guys during the assault?"
"Yes and no. Yes, we're talking our biggest ones to cut off the Valmese ships from their command ship, but no because we need a backup plan."
"We'll try to take out the commander and set our ships on fire. However, it's not guaranteed we can do that ourselves. After all, we'll need to fight the Valmese, set our ships on fire and evacuate before we get burned to ashes."
"If we're getting swarmed and can't light our ships, I need you to do it for us."
"The backup plan is to have some oil ships hang back here with the rest of the fleet. If the enemy ships haven't exploded in a fiery inferno after two hours, then we send these remaining oil ships with a skeleton crew to light them up and send them at the enemy fleet."
"But what happens if you guys are still fighting when the oil ships arrive?"
"We'll get out of there long before they hit us."
"That doesn't sound very reassuring…"
"Trust me. I've got it all figured out!" Robin winked.
"So…what do you want me to do?"
"I need to you keep an eye on the clock and the fleet. Give the signal to deploy the remaining oil ships if the enemy fleet isn't burning in two hours."
"Are you sure that's enough time? Will you get out before everything burns? How will you know when time's up?"
"Trust me, kiddo. I know," Robin said reassuringly. "These are my plans."
Morgan looked unconvinced.
"Come on, Morgan. Have faith in your dad. I'm the greatest tactician around, remember?"
"What's the first rule of a good tactician?"
"A good tactician commits herself to her decisions and never looks back," Morgan recited automatically.
"There we are. And I'm the best tactician around! So just trust me, kiddo. We'll get out of there long before the remaining oil ships arrive. I just need to you watch and give the order, okay? Can you do that?"
Morgan took a deep breath.
"That's my girl," Robin smiled. "We'll be fine."
"I'm counting on you to come back alive and not as a burnt husk, Dad."
"Well, I can't have me disappointing my own daughter, now can I? That gives me even more reason to come back!"
Morgan smiled a little.
"Just remember, kiddo: two hours. No more, no less. Otherwise the other Valmese ships may break through and overwhelm us. We're good, but we're just a few people fighting entire ships full of soldiers."
"Right. Two hours. You can count on me!" Morgan saluted, causing her hat to fall over her eyes.
"Atta girl!" Robin adjusted his daughter's hat. "Now, off you go. There are pegasi waiting to escort you to our other flagship from which you can observe the action."
"Others?" Morgan turned around to see Lissa, Ricken, Maribelle, and Miriel with their bags.
"Yeah, looks like Robin here needs us to stick back too and play rescue duty," Lissa said with a sour face.
"Now, dear Lissa. You know as well as I do how important our role is," reminded Maribelle. "Although we may not be on the front lines, it's still our duty to ensure that everyone gets back in one piece."
"And we do that by using our staves, yadda yadda, I know. But still!" Lissa huffed.
"There there…" Maribelle patted Lissa on the shoulders sympathetically.
"You can certainly count on us!" Ricken said enthusiastically. "We'll get you out no problem! …As long as you're in range."
"Okay, okay, enough chitchat. Morgan, everyone else, it's time for you guys to relocate to the Emmeryn and keep an eye out for things from there. The pegasus knights will escort you. And mages, remember the signal for when you need to warp us out."
Before turning, Morgan hugged her father tightly.
"Come back safe, Dad."
"I promise," Robin said softly, returning Morgan's hug.
Morgan looked up, nodded, and went to climb on a pegasus.
As the pegasi flew off, Robin turned to the rest of the Shepherds.
"Right. The rest of you! You all know your roles, yes?"
The assembled Shepherds nodded.
"Good. Now, get ready!" Robin put on his pirate hat. "Yar, helmsmen! Give the signal! Full mast, right toward the enemy fleet!"
General Ignatius stood on his ship, observing the men working on the deck.
"General!" A soldier ran up and saluted. "The enemy vessels are on the move."
"It's about time."
Ignatius looked through his telescope.
"Looks like their flagship is meeting us. Signal the fleet to advance. And signal our two sister ships to advance on their flagship. With three of our ships against one of theirs, their bodies will float on the long sea before the day is done."
The soldier saluted and ran to relay the orders.
Ignatius put his telescope away and stood with his arms behind his back.
Once they destroyed this insignificant fleet, they would make landfall. And then, nothing would stop the Valmese advance.
"Looks like the enemies have risen to our challenge!" Robin cried, seeing the Valmese ships moving toward them. "And it looks like the general is on that big ship over there…or maybe on one of those beside the big ship."
"Will this present any problems?" Chrom asked.
"No. As long as the enemy general engages us and leaves his other men behind, the plan should succeed. The fact that he brought two other ships with him changes nothing, just makes things a bit more…complicated."
"Right. Let's hope the oil ships can hold off the other Valmese vessels long enough for us to strike down the general and get the hell out of here."
"They should do. Those ships are pretty damn big. As big as the Valmese ones, I'd wager. We make a ring around us and the enemy flagship and the Valmese vessels should get bogged down. And in the meantime, that should give us enough time to do our business."
"Okay, we're getting pretty close now." Robin turned to the man behind the wheel. "Helmsman Boris, I think it's about time you relocated to the safety of the fleet."
"You sure you don't need me to look after you?"
"This ship is marked for destruction. All we need to do is bring it to the Valmese general's. Shouldn't be that hard," Robin said. "What, I just grab the wheel and ram the enemy ships, right?"
"Not the most elegant way to engage the enemy, but yes. That's pretty much it."
"I need functionality, not elegance, helmsman. Now, away with you! We need you alive so that you can deliver us to the shores of Valm safely."
"Aye, Captain! Best of luck to you!"
Boris saluted and then mounted a nearby pegasus, as did all the remaining sailors.
Robin took the wheel.
"Ha. Look at me, Captain Robin the Sparrow, behind the wheel of a ship. If this doesn't make me a pirate captain, I don't know what will."
"Just keep your wits about you, 'Captain.' We're approaching the enemy vessels," Chrom said.
"Everyone! Get ready!" Robin cried out.
"What is it, Cordelia?"
Passing the wheel to Chrom, Robin took out his telescope.
Looking at the direction of the Valmese, he saw…
"I'm afraid so."
"Where in Naga's name did they get those?!" Robin frowned and turned to Cordelia. "Prepare yourself and your squadron. Although you were supposed to hang back until we needed you to extract us, it looks like your roles just became more active."
Cordelia nodded. Just as she was about to turn, Robin reached out and grabbed her shoulder.
"Please be careful. You guys are the only thing standing between us and a horrible death by fire. I would hate it you got hurt."
"And here I thought you saw me more than just your lifeline…"
Cordelia smiled cheekily. "That's what you pay me for."
"If this is what I get for paying you, maybe I should review your salary."
"Then I'll do this for free. Think of it as my service to the community."
"Get out of here!"
"Aye aye, Captain!"
Cordelia saluted and went to her squadron.
Robin shook his head.
"That one always gives me grief…"
"So she's basically what you are to me," Chrom remarked playfully.
"Only much less good-looking."
"I don't know about that…"
"…Point taken. Let's just say that she doesn't have my rugged handsomeness."
"Hard for her to have something that doesn't exist."
"Why do you do this to me?"
"To borrow the immortal words of an insane genius, it amuses me."
"I take offense at that! I'm not insane!"
"I also said you're a genius."
"But that's just stating the obvious."
"So is the rest of that statement."
"Just steer the damn ship."
"Aye aye, Captain!"
Standing off to the side, the future children watched Robin and Chrom.
"Robin sure seems different here in the past," Noire remarked.
"Indeed," agreed Kjelle. "I remember him being a stern yet fair taskmaster back in our time. Now, he seems…to say a jester would be to disrespect him, but…"
"It is as if this Robin and the one we remember are two entirely different people," Lucina commented.
"You seem very relaxed about this whole thing," Nah said.
"I suppose it's because I've spent much more time around this Robin than the rest of you. I'll admit that it takes some getting used to."
"As long as this Robin does his job and doesn't slack off, he should be fine," Kjelle said. "Although I should probably test him myself just to be sure. The Robin of our time was a formidable fighter."
"As is this one. Don't let the carefree demeanor fool you, Kjelle, he can hold his own just as well as our Robin."
"I want to see for myself."
"Shepherds!" Robin called out. "Ready yourselves! We'll soon be engaging the Valmese forces! Pegasus knights, keep the enemy fliers off of us, but remember the plan! Don't stray off too far!"
Cordelia, Sumia and their squadron spurred their pegasi into the air.
"Everyone else, brace yourselves! It looks like the enemy ships are going to box us in. Get into positions! Tharja, Henry."
"Since our other mages are going to be busy sitting back with the fleet, me and you are the only mages available. Reports say that the Valmese are also packing a few mages, so it'll be up to us to cover the rest of us from their spells. Can you guys take on the extra weight?"
"You bet! I got some really good disruptive hexes ready to go that I've been dying to try out! Oooh, I'm so excited!" Henry was absolutely giddy with excitement.
"I'll handle it," the sorceress said in her usual dour manner.
"Good enough for me. Now get into positions and cover us from those enemy spells!"
It turned out that fighting enemies on a ship was a lot harder than fighting enemies on land. For one, ships swayed in the water and you had to concentrate on keeping your balance as well as trying to not get stabbed. Further complicating matters was trying to fight your way to the enemy ship across boarding planks. One wrong step and you would fall into the waters below! And at that point, you might as well be dead.
After some close calls and a lot of spell usage to keep the enemies at bay, the Shepherds managed to stop the flow of enemy soldiers long enough for them to quickly run across and board the enemy ship. Naturally, Chrom and Robin spearheaded the assault.
Upon setting foot on the ship, Robin quickly scanned his surroundings and noticed two things. Firstly, there was some guy with really fancy armor standing at the far side. If Robin had to guess, he'd say that man was the enemy general. Good. They boarded the right ship. And Secondly, this was a really big ship. And a really big ship meant that there were a lot of Valmese on board. Heavily armored Valmese.
Robin held his spellbook tight. This was going to be tricky…
Morgan watched the action anxiously from her ship. Every few seconds, she kept glancing at the watch in her hands, an exact copy of the one Robin had, immaculately maintained but still bearing the signs of countless campaigns.
"They'll be fine, kiddo," Lissa assured beside her. "Your father's leading them and he's got some of the best soldiers as his backup."
"Yeah. They'll totally be fine. Fine…" Morgan mumbled to herself and looked at the idle ships floating beside her. She then glanced back to her watch
"Urgh, damn it, how many people does this damn ship have?!" Robin cried as he just managed to avoid being stabbed and shot a fireball at a Valmese soldier.
"Very many, it seems," Chrom said beside him, parrying a sword and then stabbing a soldier in the stomach.
Robin glanced up and saw the general calmly watching the action, unmoving from his post.
"How very confident of you," Robin muttered to himself. Flipping his wrist, Robin quickly checked the watch tied to his arm. "We're falling behind schedule…"
"What?" Chrom shouted.
"We have to make for the general!" Robin charged and then cast a modified Elthunder spell at the soldiers standing between the Shepherds and the general, shocking one soldier before "jumping" to the next. Although the chain lightning was significantly weaker than conventional spells and didn't have enough power to kill, it still packed enough of a punch to stun multiple enemies. Good way to save energy and crowd control.
"There, I've cleared a path! Let's take down the enemy general quickly!"
"Right behind you!"
Morgan glanced at her watch
She glanced up.
The ships were still standing, not engulfed in a fiery inferno.
"Come on, come on…"
Morgan prayed that they would all explode in the next…
She glanced at her watch again.
"I hate waiting around like this and doing nothing."
"I know. It sucks!" Lissa complained next to her.
"Have patience, the both of you," Maribelle said. "Worrying over events you have no control over will only result in wrinkles at a younger age."
"Is that really true?" Ricken asked.
Miriel jumped in.
"—at's why I try to live my life being all carefree. Worrying never did anyone any good anyway," Lissa said.
"An admirable attitude, although I must say that you cannot simply go through life without taking anything seriously."
"I never said that! All I said was…"
Morgan looked down at her watch, to where the ships were, and down to her watch again.
"A good tactician commits herself to her decisions and never looks back." Morgan took a deep breath. "And Dad's the best tactician around."
Having said this to herself, she turned.
"Signal the ships! Set them off!"
Morgan turned again.
"Okay, Dad. Get out of there…"
Chrom's final swing penetrated the general's thick plate armor.
Staggering back, the general coughed blood.
"Strike me down, and ten will take my place... You...have...lost!"
With a bloodied laugh, the general collapsed.
"We…we did it!" Chrom panted.
"Father, are you okay?!"
"I'm fine, Lucina. Just a bit winded. Gods, he took forever to kill. Our strikes kept bouncing off his armor!"
"At least it's all over now."
A loud crackling sound made father and daughter look up.
Robin was standing on the side of the ship, palm brimming with electricity, looking up.
"Come on, please be okay, please be okay…"
Robin then squinted and saw ships from their fleet moving toward them.
Despite himself, he grinned.
"Good job, Morgan. Right on the dot."
"Oy, Robin!" Gregor called. "We could be using the magic! Shepherds keeping Valmese at bay, but Gregor not sure for how much longing. Armor very tough. Could use more magics!"
Robin looked back. Indeed, while he, Chrom and a few others managed to make to the upper deck at the stern to take down the captain, the other Shepherds were busy fighting the Valmese soldiers and keeping them from away from the stairs.
"Tharja, Henry! Keep the soldiers at bay! Firewall!"
The two mages nodded.
Together, they cast a stream of spells to push the Valmese back and give the Shepherds some breathing room. Then, they cast a stream of fire to prevent the Valmese from getting to the stairs.
Just as they were finishing up, the sound of flapping wings drew Robin's attention. Turning, he was relieved to see the pegasus knights returning.
"Am I glad to see you all in one piece."
"We've had a few close calls, but we made it in the end," reported Cordelia.
"Great. Happy you all survived, no time for pleasantries. Everyone! Buddy up so we can get the hell out of here. Quickly!"
As the Shepherds were busy climbing up pegasi and flying off, the sound of collapsing wood made Robin look back.
"Looks like your little fire stunt is burning the ship," Chrom remarked.
"Whatever. This whole ship is going to be burning debris in a little while. Anyway, up you go. Go!" Seeing Chrom's pegasus fly off safely, he breathed a sigh of relief. "At least that much. Now, let's—"
Robin's head snapped to the direction of the shouting.
It seemed that there was an archer perched in the crow's nest. What was worse, the arrows and the pegasus knight's attempts to evade them resulted in some quick and jerky movements, causing Chrom to fall off and land in the middle of the ship.
The pegasus knight tried to fly back to pick up Chrom but the archer prevented her from getting any closer.
Robin yelled at her to disengage before taking aim and casting a lightning bolt at the enemy archer.
"Shall we get him?" Sumia asked.
"No, let me just—"
"What the—LUCINA, NO!"
But it was too late. Robin barely reached out before the princess was vaulting over the railings in her dash to her father.
"Son of a—!" Robin swore under his breath and then urgently turned towards the pegasus knights. "Cordelia! Emergency Extraction Maneuver B. Go!"
A brief look of uncertainty flashed across Cordelia's face. However, it was gone in an instant as she nodded resolutely.
"Sumia, fly up and wait for us!"
"But how will you—"
"Just be sure to catch us!" Robin shouted as he jumped over the railing and past the flames below in pursuit of Lucina.
Just as he landed, a few planks fell away behind him as the fire was spreading.
"I'll need to have a very stern talk with her after this is over…"
Fighting his way past some Valmese soldiers, Robin quickly made his way to Chrom's and Lucina's side.
"How are you?" he asked quickly.
"Alive, but my leg…" Chrom grimaced as he tried to stand up.
"You'll be okay, Father. We'll get you out alive," Lucina vowed.
"Lucina, help your father stand, support him on your shoulder if you must!" Robin ordered as he scanned the scene.
Some Valmese soldiers were busy trying to put the fire out, but those were at the back of the ship. Now, there was a ring of soldiers slowly closing in around them.
Robin squinted and saw a flash of red in the distance. Quickly calculating the trajectory and speed, he brought up his spellbook and made sure to clear the way of soldiers.
"Lucina, stand your father as much as you can! Chrom, lift your hand up and hold on!"
"Just do it!"
Doing as he was told, Chrom had only a few seconds to register an incoming pegasus before he felt someone grab his arm and whisk him away.
"Okay, that's that…"
Without looking, Robin instinctively stepped aside, barely dodging as spear that was aimed at him. He grit his teeth as he felt a sharp pain at his side.
Extending his hand, Robin shot a lightning bolt at the soldier, instantly killing him.
"You're gonna pay for killing the captain!"
"You have no room to run."
"Surrender and we might spare you."
Robin and Lucina slowly backed up as the horde of Valmese soldiers slowly closed in on them.
"Guys, I don't know if you noticed, but your ship is kind of on fire. Don't you want to maybe take care of that before we all burn and die horribly?" Robin offered.
"The deckhands will take care of it," one Valmese soldier said dismissively. "Worry about your own life."
"You're completely surrounded," said another. "Give up."
"What do we do?" Lucina whispered. "There are far too many of them for us to take."
"I'm thinking, I'm thinking!" Robin hissed.
Just then, their backs hit something. Looking back, Robin saw that it was the mast. Seeing all the ropes tied together and how they went to the top of the mast, Robin's mind immediately shot to one of the pirate novels he read and he wondered if that would work in real life.
Well, not that he really had any alternative.
"Last chance, you two."
"Robin?" Lucina glanced at him urgently.
"I got this," the grandmaster replied, winking.
Lucina didn't know what that meant but braced herself regardless.
"Gentlemen!" Robin suddenly shouted, a cocky smile on his face. "I must commend you for you fought valiantly. The records of today will show that this was the day that you almost caught Captain Rob—"
Robin quickly wrapped one arm around Lucina's waist.
"Hold on tight."
Lucina had barely enough time to comply before Robin grabbed a rope and cut it with a fireball, thereby brining the bag of sand that it was tied to down, and propelling both of them up.
"Ha! I can't believe that actually worked!" Robin shouted as they were whizzing through the air.
"I assume you have a plan?" Lucina shouted.
"Of course I have a plan. I always have a plan!"
That was only half true.
Naturally as a tactician of the highest caliber, Robin had plans upon plans to fall back on. Now, whether those were good or even reliable plans was another matter, doubly so for plans made under...less than ideal circumstances.
Now was one such time.
As they reached to top of the mast, Robin let go and aimed his palm downwards, casting an Arcwind spell to keep their momentum going.
That was the first part of his plan done. Now, the second part. It involved a bit of luck and a lot of faith.
Just as Robin felt them reaching their maximum possible altitude and beginning to drop, he heard the sound of flapping wings and looked up to see a pegasus flying toward them.
"Robin, grab my hand!" shouted Sumia.
And so, the day was saved. Sumia came through just like Robin planned she would, Chrom was safe and both he and Lucina weren't dead.
Robin loved a happy ending!
"Urgh, Robin! I-I think you're slipping!"
Robin looked up.
Indeed, he was. With Sumia's hand on Daisy's reigns and the other one occupied holding his, there wasn't really anything anyone could do to tighten anyone's grip. After all, Robin's other hand was busy holding on to Lucina.
To his horror, Robin saw how his hand was slowly slipping from Sumia's. The flapping of Daisy's wings and the resulting turbulence didn't help matters.
"I-I don't think I can hold you long enough to make it back!" Sumia cried.
Robin began to sweat. Looking down, he couldn't see anything more than the blue of the water. And looking ahead, they were still a ways off from their fleet.
Robin's hand slipped a bit more.
"L-Lucina? You can swim, right?" he asked nervously. "Because we may have to swim the remaining distance."
The princess remained silent.
"I suppose this is not a good time to tell you I can't swim?"
"I never learned! Only briefly here and there when we went for family holidays! By the time I grew up, Grima had awoken and the seas had dried up!"
"R-Robin! I can't hold on much longer…!"
The grandmaster felt his hand slipping from Sumia's and frantically tried to come up with a plan to avoid the upcoming disaster.
"Well then you better hope we don't touch the water!" was the only thing he could say at this point.
Just then, his hand slipped out of Sumia's grasp and he felt the tug of gravity pulling him down.
Lucina's grip on him tightened.
So once again Robin found himself relying on a strategy he came up with in a few seconds to avoid total disaster.
"Pray we get in range, Lucina!" he shouted as he stretched his hand and cast a stream of fire skyward before casting an Arcwind spell in front of him to alter their falling trajectory. So now, instead of falling straight down, they were falling down at an angle.
Any minute now…
Robin looked down to see the water coming closer at an alarming rate.
Definitely any minute now…
"Lucina, I'll just be on the safe side and say that now will be a great time to learn how to swim!"
The princess looked up at him, eyes as wide as saucers.
"Just to be on the safe side!"
Robin held Lucina tightly and closed his eyes, preparing to feel the cold water all around him.
He waited. And waited. And waited until…
He hit a hard floor.
"Since when is the water so hard?"
"Hey, you made it!"
Slowly opening one eye, Robin saw a familiar face looking down at him.
"Welcome back!" greeted the princess.
"Where am I?"
"Back on the ship, silly! It's a good thing that the sky is clear and I was able to see your fire signal, even if you were so far away. How'd you manage to get in range so quickly?"
Robin looked between Lissa and the glowing staff in her hand.
"Yep! Just like you planned."
"I did plan that, didn't I? Heh, sometimes I'm so good I surprise even myself."
"Dad!" Another face entered Robin's vision. "You're okay!"
"Of course I am, kiddo! Just like I told you, remember?"
"I didn't doubt you for a second."
"Not even one?"
"Maybe just a little one. Anyway, I did as you told me an sent off the ships—"
Suddenly remembering what was going on, Robin bolted to his feet and rushed to the side of their ship.
"The enemies aren't burning. Why are the enemies not burning?!"
"Relax, Dad. The crews had their orders. They were gonna light their fuses just before they bumped into the other ships and get the heck out there with their pegasus knights before everything blew up. It takes a bit of time, you know?"
"How much time?"
"If I had to guess, I'd say everything should blow up right about…"
A huge explosion has heard in the distance.
Everyone on the ship rushed to the edges to observe what was happening.
"Wow!" Lissa gasped. "It's like the sea itself is on fire!"
"My word, it actually worked…"
Morgan looked back at Maribelle and beamed. "Of course it worked! After all, it was Dad's plan!"
Flavia laughed. "Only you could hatch such a brilliant scheme, Robin. Who else would desert half our vessels and turn them into flaming cannonballs? And there was still enough room on the remaining ships for all our troops. It was so simple, and yet the Valmese never saw it coming. They never considered anyone might be willing to sacrifice half a fleet..."
"Only an absolute nutjob would come up with such a plan. And he's our nutjob!" Basilio laughed boisterously. "This calls for a celebration! What say you, Robin?"
Everyone turned to see the tactician pale and on wobbly legs.
"I…I need to sit down for a while…"
Robin took a step forward and then collapsed.
Reaching to his side, Robin noticed that there was a hole in his armor.
"Urgh. Got careless…"
"Dad! Hold on!"
"Move aside, move aside! Maribelle, Ricken!"
The last thing Robin noticed was the blurred faces of Lissa and Maribelle fussing over him.
Then the world went dark.
Two men were in a tent looking down at a table with various papers, maps and reports.
"So this is it?" asked the man with blue hair.
"That's the best I can do," replied the man in the coat.
"I can't believe it. After all these years, all this death, it will all be over…"
"It's been too long."
The man with blue hair sighed heavily. "Far too long."
"Don't get to excited," warned the man next to him. "Things could still go wrong. Even with this plan, the odds are still in Gangrel's favor."
"You've got us through a lot worse. I trust your judgement."
"You trust it more than I do."
"You're right to be skeptic—it's in your job description. Just like it's in mine to have faith in you."
"Having blind faith is a dangerous way to live."
"Better than having no faith at all."
The blue-haired man grunted and clutched his side.
"Are you sure you can do this?"
"I'll be fine. I can't miss this battle. Justice demands Gangrel pay for his crimes. For me, for Ylisse, for Emmeryn…"
The man in the coat put his arm on the other man's shoulder.
"I know this isn't how she wanted things to turn out."
"I don't think anyone wanted things to turn out like this, but with neighbors like Gangrel I fear it was only a matter of time."
"Hopefully we can put an end to this war once and for all."
"I know you'll see us through."
The blue-haired man grunted again.
"Go rest. Lissa said your injuries need constant tending to, otherwise they'll affect you for life."
"I can't believe those Plegian dastards did this to me."
"Hey, it could've been much worse. Remember that you're lucky to have come out of that whole incident alive."
"Hey! Don't be like that."
"You're right. I'm sorry. It's just sometimes, with these injuries constantly flaring up, I feel—"
"Don't apologize. Do us all a favor and rest. We need you at your best tomorrow."
The blue-haired man went for the exit.
"Oh, and one more thing."
"Congratulations on you and Olivia. I don't know how wise it was proposing before we finished the war or even our final battle, but…"
"I love her, Robin. I needed to let her know that in case…I just needed to let her know that there's a future for us."
"You don't need to explain it to me, Chrom. I think it's nice that even during this godsforsaken conflict, things can turn out for the better."
"I'm just glad that it's almost over."
"Almost. But enough chitchat. Go and rest. We all need to be up bright and early tomorrow."
With the first man's departure, there was only one figure left in the tent. He diligently went over the papers on the desk, making sure not to miss any detail.
"Robin? Are you busy?"
"No. Come in."
The tent flap opened.
"Cordelia? What can I do for you?"
Robin slowly opened his eyes, dragging himself back to consciousness.
The first thing he noticed was the sharp pain in his side. Looking down, Robin saw that he was bandaged up, with extra layers under his ribs where he assumed there was a nasty gash.
He was careless. He hated it when he got careless. That usually meant that he ended up in the medical tent.
Robin looked around.
It certainly seemed a lot fancier than a medical tent. Then he remembered.
Right. Ship and at sea. So this was probably their makeshift medical room.
Trying to get up, Robin grimaced as pain shot through his body.
"Okay, guess that's out of the question…"
"Dad? Dad! You're awake!"
Robin looked up and saw Morgan rushing to his side.
"Morgan? What're you doing here?"
"Isn't it obvious? I'm taking care of you! Well, watching you for any changes, but I'd say you waking up is certainly a change!"
"Yeah, although I wish I was still sleeping. My body aches…"
"You know, you had us really worried, Dad. I'm so glad you're okay."
"Of course I'm okay! It'll take more than a silly flesh wound to take me down."
"Dad, Lissa and the others said that you almost bled to death."
"Oh. Well. I didn't!"
Morgan sat down on the cot and gently hugged her father.
"I'm glad you're okay, Dad. I…I don't know what I would do if I lost you…"
"Hey, come on…" Robin wrapped his arms around Morgan and rubbed circles on her back. "You know that I'm not planning to go anywhere anytime soon."
"I know that, but you never know what may happen out there. I mean, we kinda are at war…"
"Well it'll take a lot more than a silly little war to kill me!"
"I know. I just…I think it's only now slowly dawning on me that this is a war and that there's a chance you may die."
"A chance, Morgan. A chance. One that I'm not going to take," Robin said firmly. "I'm not letting anyone take me away from you."
"But…you almost died recently…"
"Almost is the key word, Morgan. Yes, I'll get hurt during this war. It pretty much comes with the package. However, I can guarantee you that I'll always bounce back no matter how long it takes me."
"How can you guarantee that?"
"Because I love you, Morgan. And nothing in this world will tear me away from you. I'll be with you always."
Morgan looked up to see the very serious expression in Robin's eyes. She then smiled and buried her head in his chest.
"I love you too, Dad."
Father and daughter held each other tightly.
"Hey, what's bothering you, kiddo? You know you can talk to me."
"It's…it's about Mom."
"What about her?"
"Well, I…I mean, seeing all the other girls reunited with their parents and spending time with them and being all happy got me thinking, you know? Don't get the wrong idea, I'm really happy that I found you and that we're together and stuff!"
"But I feel that without Mom in the picture, something's missing, you know? I look at all the girls with their moms, having a good time and doing stuff together – even Noire and her mom, can you believe it? – and I…I guess I feel jealous. Jealous and…I dunno. It's like I'm seeing a blurry picture that I should know yet don't. I see you on one side and some shape that's probably mom and I feel like if I can juuuuuust reach it, it'll become clearer but it keeps on moving just out of reach every time."
"I think I know what you're talking about."
"Yeah. You have all the memories of me intact but none of your mother. Seeing all the future kids with their parents naturally makes you wonder about yours and is maybe even triggering some of your memories."
"Yeah. It's like I have an itch somewhere that I want to scratch but don't know where it is."
"Morgan, I would love nothing more than to tell you who your mother is. Believe me, I would if I knew myself. I would tell you the moment we met in the ruins and go introduce you to her. Proudly, I may add. But I don't. I don't know who your mother is or what I did in the future or even when I'll meet her."
"I know…" Morgan looked down. "I just…you will meet her though, right?"
"Of course I will! What kind of question is that?"
"But how will you know it's her? I mean, there are plenty of women out there. How will you know that Mom is Mom?"
"Morgan, I can't give you a straight answer because I don't know myself," Robin said sadly. "The only thing I can tell you that I'll know when I'll meet her."
"But how will you know?"
"Well, for one, because you're here!"
"Come on, think about it: it takes two people to make a child. I'm one such person. Your very existence means that in the future, I'm guaranteed to meet whoever your mother is and we're guaranteed to have you. If we didn't, then you wouldn't be here!"
"Oh. Yeah, I guess that makes sense. I mean, I'm the product of you guys. If something weird happened and prevented you two from meeting, I'd probably disappear or something."
"And since you're still here in one piece, that means I'm still definitely meeting your mother, whenever that is and whoever she might be. And that basically guarantees you existing!"
"Yeah. Okay, that makes sense."
"I know you're worried, kiddo," Robin said gently. "It sucks not knowing, especially important things like this and things that you feel that you should almost know. The only advice I can offer is to be patient. Me meeting your mom is a done deal, the only question is time."
"Yeah, okay. I'll try, although patience is really not one of my strong points."
"Guess that's something to work on in the meantime, huh?"
"Heh, I guess." Morgan smiled. "Thanks, Dad."
"Anytime, dear." Robin ruffled his daughter's hair. "Come see me when there's something bothering you. Anything at all. Or maybe nothing at all and you just want to talk."
Just then, the sound of a door opening got their attention.
"Oh, Robin. You're awake."
"Hey, Lucina," greeted the grandmaster. "Yep, still alive and well, aching wound aside."
"Lucina and I have been doing our best to help you recover," reported Morgan.
"Yep! Although we can't really do the healing stuff with magic, we did the best we could. We looked after you while the healers were busy with other patients, watched your condition, changed your bandages – which was pretty gross, by the way – and did all that stuff."
"Well, let me be the first to thank you both on behalf of my still alive self."
"You're very welcome! Lucina was especially zealous in taking care of you."
"It...it was nothing out of the ordinary…"
"Really? It seemed like you were really worried!"
The princess shifted uncomfortably at Morgan's report.
"Morgan, may…may I speak with your father?"
"Oh. Okay. I need to fetch a healer anyway. Let them know Dad's awake and stuff." Morgan hugged her father one more time and hopped off the bed. "Just shout if you need anything."
"Will do, kiddo."
Once Morgan was gone and the door shut, Robin looked up and smiled.
"So, Lucina. What's up?"
"Robin, l…I want to apologize."
"For being reckless and getting you hurt."
"If it weren't for my actions back at the Valmese ship, this would never have happened and you would not have gotten injured and almost bled to death."
"Lucina, what're you—" Robin was about to ask before he suddenly remembered the events that resulted in him being in here. "Oh. Right."
The princess nodded guiltily.
"I acknowledge and accept the consequences of my actions. I acted without thinking or having regard to what would happen to you. I accept any and all punishment you deem fit."
"Lucina, we're not in the habit of punishing each other here," Robin said. "Even if Frederick's training regimes from hell might seem like it."
"But nothing. We're all professionals here and know the importance of following orders and the consequences of not doing so. However, I understand that at the end of the day, we're still just human and prone to making occasional lapses of judgement. I just hope that those lapses are few and far in between. I know I shouldn't be telling you that a simple lapse in judgement can sink entire plans and lose battles."
"But Robin, I—"
"You made a mistake. Just make sure it doesn't happen again."
Lucina remained quiet, expecting more.
"I'm not asking you to blindly follow my plans," continued Robin. "I expect you to question them if they seem questionable. However, most of my plans tend to be on the questionable and unorthodox side of things. Of course, that's why we have the strategy meetings. It's then that you can make your opinions heard and I can adjust my strategies accordingly. After that, I expect you and everyone else to follow the plan. Because a tactician is only as good as the plans he makes and the people under his command. I can have the most brilliant plans in all the realm, but if the people under my command don't listen to me or follow my orders, what's the use of even having me? Especially in the middle of battle. If something unexpected happens, we don't have the luxury of time to debate our course of action. Things then are usually life-or-death situations that require split-second decisions. And I need to know that the soldiers under my command will trust me enough to do what I say and not do something impulsive."
Lucina looked down, feeling like a child being chastised by her parent.
"I know you love and care about Chrom and want to protect him at all costs," Robin said, his tone softening. "But you must remember that you're not the only one. He has Lissa, Frederick, myself and all the Shepherds with him. You can't take the burden or protecting Chrom all on yourself, especially if that interferes with my job. You have to trust us."
"I fear that's easier said than done…"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Lucina remained silent before seemingly coming to a decision.
"Did I ever tell you how Father died?"
"I…don't actually think you did."
"To be fair, I myself don't know any more than the rumors I heard."
"And these rumors were…?"
"That Father fell in a great battle, fought to sway his destiny. ...And that he was murdered— betrayed by someone dear to him."
A sudden headache assaulted Robin. He closed his eyes and grit his teeth of fight the pain.
"Robin?" Lucina looked at him, concerned.
Thankfully, the pain seemed to pass as suddenly as it came.
"Anyway, someone close to him? That sounds like it could be a whole number of people. That sounds like it could also include everyone here!"
"It does…" Lucina said grimly.
The smile disappeared from Robin's face.
"You've come back to save your father and prevent the future, yes?"
"That is correct, yes."
"And how do you plan to do this?"
"I plan to do it by finding who betrayed Father in the future."
"And stop them from murdering him in this time…by force, if necessary."
"And the only clue you have to the identity of this traitor is the rumors in the future."
"That he was murdered by someone close to him."
"And now everyone who is close to Chrom is a potential suspect…including the Shepherds."
"And as potential suspects, you have to be on your guard…even around us, your allies."
Lucina remained silent.
Robin frowned and looked at her seriously.
"Lucina, in light of our conversation, I'm going to ask you a very simple question that may determine how I see and use you in the future."
"Do you trust me?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Because I meant what I said before," Robin continued. "I'm only as good as the people under my command. I need to know that they trust me enough to follow my orders and not second-guess my motives or intentions. I need to be able to trust in them as they trust in me, to know that I can put my life in their hands and that they'll have my back, no matter what."
Lucina suddenly found herself in a situation that she went over a thousand times in her head. When confronted with a choice between her duty and the people in this time, Lucina vowed that her duty would come first and foremost every time. That's why she was here in the first place. Her mission was of the utmost importance. It was more important than her, than anyone, than anything!
"Because if that trust isn't there, the whole system breaks down. And let me tell you, Lucina, I don't need soldiers who I can't trust and who may second-guess my every command. And I especially don't need soldiers who will either break ranks in pursuit of their own agenda or backstab me in the middle of a crucial battle."
"Robin, I'd never—!"
"So I ask again: do you trust me?"
Robin stared intently, reminding Lucina of when she was young and he caught her misbehaving or doing something she wasn't supposed to do. If the differences between the Robin of her time and the Robin of this time were many, this was something to add to the list of things they had in common. And now, looking at those eyes and at that serious, probing expression, Lucina found herself questioning her single-minded dedication to her goal. After all, Robin was the one responsible for their plans and the brains behind their victories. And he did have a point—Lucina knew firsthand how important trust was for a leader. Was suspecting Robin, of all people, the person who bought them victory against Plegia and was key to some incredible victories against the Valmese in her time, sensible? If he really was the traitor, he had ample opportunities to kill Chrom. And Lucina saw herself how hard he, then and now, worked himself in order to protect Chrom and the Shepherds.
"Do. You. Trust. Me."
And now he was putting her on the spot. Lucina knew that this was a crucial moment. Her entire relationship with Robin and how he saw her depended on her answer. Despite how obliviousness in other areas, Robin was surprisingly perceptive when it came to reading people and concerned areas he specialized in. That meant that Lucina couldn't lie her way out of this, not that she wished or planned to. So what would she do? Would she stay true to her convictions and forever tarnish herself as an unreliable agent in Robin's eyes? Or would she let him into her narrow circle of trust, sharing her burden with him and allowing him to continue with his work unhindered and above suspicion.
Well, with all that she'd seen and everything that was at stake, Lucina really didn't need to think long about this.
"Of course I do, Robin," she answered truthfully. "I trust you with my life."
"And the life of your friends?"
Robin stared at her intently.
"…Three seconds, Lucina. You answered within three seconds."
"Is that bad?"
"It's within acceptable limits. Shows that you didn't need to think long before giving me an answer, which is a good sign. Means you didn't have time to think, weigh the pros and cons, deliberate and perhaps lie. Three seconds shows that you answered from your heart. Sometimes, you have to trust your heart over your head."
"I'm glad you approve."
"Although this little talk has shed some light on your outlook on life and on us, and I have to say that I find it quite disturbing. Understandable, given everything that's at stake, but not fully trusting us? Me?"
"But Robin, I just—"
"Yes, now. Now that I probed you and put you on the spot. What would've happened if I didn't? Would you have continued distrusting us and looking for ulterior motives in our actions? Questioning my plans? Thinking you knew best?"
Lucina remained silent.
Truthfully, had Robin not confronted her and forced these issues to the fore, she probably would've gone as she had done. Lingering suspicion was one reason she kept her distance from everyone that wasn't related to her.
"No matter," Robin said dismissively. "This hypothetical guessing does no one any good. We have our answer now and that's that."
"Thank you, Robin," Lucina said. "And I want you to know that I spoke truthfully. I do trust you and I hope you can trust me despite...well…"
"I know and I can. That's the most important thing we came away with today. Let's not dwell on that, shall we? What's important is I'm not dead, we can trust each other, and the way to Valm is wiiiide open."
Lucina smiled gratefully.
If anything, she was glad that this Robin was able to move between topics and change the mood so effortlessly. Although, there was one thing she'd been meaning to ask…
"How do you do it?"
"With the Valmese ship ploy, you've condemned hundreds, maybe thousands, of soldiers to their deaths.
"Yeah, pretty impressive, isn't it?" Robin said proudly. "And with minimum casualties on our side."
"Um, yes. But how do you reconcile your victory with the fact that it cost you so many lives?"
"What do you mean? Our numbers are perfectly fine."
"I mean enemy lives, Robin."
"Oh. Well that's a silly question."
"I just don't think about it."
"But how can you not?"
"Why would I?"
"Because in the future, we were taught that all life is precious and every loss must be mourned, even those of our enemies. You yourself said that it helps remind you of the fragility of life and how it must be cherished, that every person killed on the battlefield was a father, brother, nephew and that somewhere, a family has lost a loved one."
"That seems like a very strange thing for a tactician to think about."
Lucina stared at Robin, dumbfounded.
"I'm a tactician, Lucina," Robin explained. "I'm not a philosopher. It's not my job to dwell on the lives that I take. The only lives that I care about are the ones I'm responsible for and the ones under my command."
"But…how can you not feel for the enemy soldiers?"
"Because I have my hands full thinking about allied ones. I spend sleepless nights worrying about how many allies I'll lose and trying to craft strategies to minimize chances of that happening. If I also have to worry about the enemy soldiers, things can get…messy."
"How can you look at it as just part of the job?"
"Because that's exactly what it is. Does the gardener feel bad for the weeds that he pulls? Or the fisherman for the fish that he catches? Or the hunter for the prey that he kills? Some people make their lives growing things, others by making stuff. My job just so happens to involve taking many lives."
"That certainly seems like a very cold and detached way of looking at things…"
"That's life," Robin said simply. "I spend all my caring and empathy on my allies. The enemies are just a job that needs to be done. Besides, they knew what they signed up for. Be they bandits or soldiers, they must've known that there's a chance they would die. I just so happen to be that chance."
Lucina remained silent, not sure she liked what she was hearing.
"Life isn't all about sunshine and rainbows, Lucina. Sometimes, you have to make some hard choices. And sometimes, that's part of the job. And in order to make the best choices, one has to be objective and try to look at the facts as rationally and as detached as possible. You can't care about each and every individual and morn each and every death. My job is to keep us all alive and I'll do that no matter how many enemy soldiers I have to kill."
"I…see. I must say, your approach to war is certainly different now than it was in the future."
"I can't see how I got anything done then if I was always so hung up on everyone who died on the other side…"
"You certainly seemed to put a lot of emphasis on empathy."
"You make me seem like a bleeding-heart sort of person. Can't say that I'm flattered."
"I'd say that outlooked helped shape my own. And I'm very thankful for it."
"Oh. Well. On behalf of my future self, you're very welcome."
"Well look who finally decided to wake up."
The two occupants in the room looked toward the door to see a grinning Chrom.
"I thought we'd have to have our celebrations without you."
"Our victory celebrations and commending the insane genius that came up with the plan that required us to burn half out fleet and to take out the entire Valmese one."
"Well, naturally it wouldn't be a real party without yours truly," Robin quipped. "Sorry to keep you guys waiting. Bleeding almost to death really takes it out of you."
"Seems it keeps your wit intact at least…" Chrom chuckled. "You're lucky, Robin. You've had the best care around to ensure you won't die. On top of our resident healers, Morgan and Lucina were always hovering around you."
"So I've heard. Let the records show that I've let my appreciation be known. Anyway…"
Robin made to get up.
"Oh no you don't!"
Lissa and Maribelle rushed into the room accompanied by Morgan.
"You're getting up without my permission, mister!" said Lissa sternly.
"You need rest, Robin. You've still not fully recovered from your injuries," added Maribelle.
"But I feel fine!" Robin protested. "…Okay, not fine. But good enough to stand!"
"We'll be the judges of that."
So Robin spent the rest of the day being fussed over by the healers and having visits from the other Shepherds to his medical tent.
It turned out that he was out of it for a few days after the whole ship burning plan, which was a total success. The incredibly risky plan worked and the entire Valmese invasion fleet was annihilated with minimal losses. Some soldiers needed to be bandaged up here and there, but Robin had by far the most serious injuries.
Now that he was awake, it was smooth sailing to Valm. But before that…
"—to our sneaky and clever tactician!" Basilio cried, raising his glass. "To Robin!"
Everyone in the room toasted to Robin and proceeded to eat, chat and have a good time.
The man of the hour, meanwhile, was busy devouring everything that was on his plate and within its immediate vicinity. Being unconscious for a few days tended to make one really hungry. Who knew? Robin was just thankful that Miriel managed to tinker with a few things and somehow bring something that allowed them to cook hot food while at sea. That meant quality food and they didn't have to eat stale salted food like in those pirate novels Robin read.
After a while, everyone brought out the ale and things started to get a lot livelier.
Not having the energy to partake in drunken shenanigans, Robin instead chose to spend his time talking to Morgan in some quiet spot in the room. It was nice having some father-daughter time.
After noticing how tired she seemed, Robin escorted her to her room and bade her goodnight. He then decided to go to the upper deck and have a quiet moment to himself.
That was what he was doing now.
Robin sighed in contentment as he gazed out on at the water. He felt suddenly so calm. Come to think of it, this was his first trip at sea. It was his first trip abroad, in fact.
Snapping out of his thoughts, the grandmaster turned and smiled.
"Sumia. What're you doing out here?"
"It's getting a bit too crazy for me down there," said the pegasus knight. "Besides, I noticed you slipping out and was wondering if you were okay."
"Oh, I'm fine," Robin replied breezily. "Just came out here to be with my thoughts."
"O-oh. Then I guess you don't want me here to interrupt you, huh?"
"Not at all. You know I always enjoy your company." Robin extended his arm. "Join me?"
"If you don't mind…"
Sumia came and stood by Robin's side.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" he said, looking out.
"The sea," Robin clarified. "Even at night, with the moonlight reflecting off the water and the ripples of the ship making their way across. I find it…calming."
"It is, isn't it? There's always something calming about the water…"
"The ancient texts say that Naga created all life out of the water," Robin said absentmindedly. "Now I'm not a very religious man, but there has to be some truth in that. Why else would be feel so relaxed around it?"
"Certainly seems plausible."
Robin and Sumia both fell into a comfortable silence.
"So…" Sumia began hesitantly. "How are you, Robin? How is your wound doing?"
"Oh, this thing? It's fine. The healers said that it wasn't anything out of the ordinary, just your typical battle wound. It was the blood loss that almost did me in, but here I am. Perfect health and everything."
"I'm glad. You can't imagine how worried I was when I heard you collapsed soon after getting back."
"You didn't think I'd die, did you?"
"I…I don't know, but I was so scared! Can you blame me for worrying if I heard you lost consciousness after coming on board? And after I last saw you falling through the air?"
"Oh, right. That. I never got to thank you for that, you know?"
"In the air. You were right where I needed you, right on time and right on cue. You caught me and Lucina in the air and dragged us far enough so we were almost in range of the rescue staves. That was some really good work!"
"I didn't really do that much…"
"Right, you only saved mine and Lucina's life," Robin smiled. "So thanks for that, Sumia. Much appreciated."
"I just did what I could."
"And you did it at the right time! That's the best time!"
"Seriously. Thanks, Sumia. I feel like I can always rely on you."
"Robin, stop. You're making me blush."
"I'm serious! Chrom aside, you're probably my most reliable battle partner with whom I've fought countless times with. Not only that, but you're also my only friend who makes amazing pies—"
"Oh, Robin. You and your pies," Sumia giggled again.
"—and, most important of all, you're one of my friends who stuck by me and didn't fall to the marriage trap. And for that, I am most thankful."
"Although," Robin sighed heavily. "I guess Lucina did say that we all eventually hook up and have kids, didn't she?"
"Hell, I skipped one stage and am without a wife and with child!" Robin exclaimed. "Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'll have to get used to that reality eventually."
"The reason I'm telling you this is thus," Robin turned to Sumia with a serious expression. "Sumia, I need you to promise me something."
"Promise me that, well, ideally I'd like you to promise me not to get married. But since the world isn't a perfect place, I'll settle for promising to tell me when you're planning to get married or if you found the right man."
"I don't want to lose you, Sumia! But I accept the fact that I must, so I ask you to give me a warning so I can prepare my head and my heart."
"Robin, you make it sound like you're going to lose me forever or something," Sumia remarked, amused.
"Well, I am! I mean, look at Chrom. Before we were best friends, chums, brothers! Always doing guy things together and having fun and stuff."
"And now he's married – without warning and against my clear instructions, I may add! – and he now spends his weekends with his wife and his kids and doing 'family' things and being a 'good parent' or whatever," Robin said in disgust.
"But…you're still friends," Sumia felt compelled to point out. "You still hang out and do things together and stuff."
"Not like we used to…" grumbled Robin. "Now his wife and kid comes first. Don't you see? I've lost my best friend to marriage! I don't want to lose another!"
Sumia stared at Robin before bursting into laughter.
"This isn't funny, Sumia!"
"Oh Robin, you're so silly."
Sumia cut Robin off by wrapping her arms around him.
"If it means that much to you, I promise that I'll come to you when Mr. Right has swept me off my feet."
"Such a sad thought…" Robin sagged before straightening up. "I mean, thank you, Sumia."
"Although I don't think you have anything to worry about."
"I don't think I'll be getting married anytime soon. Maybe ever."
"On the one hand, I'm thankful for that. On the other hand, why do you say that?"
"Well, because it's me."
Robin gently pulled Sumia away from him and looked her in the face.
"What about you?"
"All things considered, I don't think I'll make a good wife."
"Don't say that."
"Look at me, Robin. I trip over thin air, I can't do any gardening, I break dishes nine times out of ten, and I'm a hazard to everyone around me," Sumia laughed softly. "I'd hate to drive away my husband because I keep on accidentally hurting him or something."
"I don't believe any of that for a second."
"It's okay, Robin. You don't have to say things to make me feel better. You've already helped me become a better soldier by having faith in my abilities."
"I have faith not just in your abilities, Sumia. I have faith in you."
"I'm serious, Sumia. It saddens me that you think this about yourself. I wish you could see you as I do."
"And how do you see me?"
"When I look at you, I see a competent and reliable soldier. Not only that, I also see a kind, gentle, beautiful woman who bends over backwards to help her friends and gives her all in everything she does. Sure, you may not always have the desired results and sure, you may mess up more than usual, but you absolutely try your best for the rest of us and we can't help but love you for it."
"You're a wonderful human being, Sumia," Robin smiled. "You're just the only one who can't see it. In fact, I envy the man who'll eventually capture your heart and have the privilege of calling you his wife. I hope he can appreciate what a fine wife you are—and I know you'll be an amazing wife because I know you."
Sumia looked down, blushing hard at Robin's words.
"Besides, you make some killer pies," the grandmaster added with a playful smile. "What man doesn't want a steady supply of those for the rest of his life?"
"You and your pies," Sumia smiled and playfully punched Robin in the shoulder. "Thank you for your kind words, Robin. You always find ways to make me feel better."
"Always a pleasure, Sumia. Just…you know. Don't be falling in love anytime soon. And warn me when you do so I can properly mourn."
"Oh, don't worry about that, Robin. I'll promise you that you'll be the first to know."
"Good. I'm just glad that you haven't fallen into the trap during peacetime like some of the others."
"Please. With all the work we had to do and the reconstruction and your clear distaste for it all, how could I do that to you? If I do end up falling in love, I'll at least have the courtesy to do so when we're all less busy and not fighting a war, now that you're open to the idea at least…"
"Heeeeeey, look at the two *hic* lovebirds!"
Robin and Sumia both looked back and saw Vaike slowly emerging from the bottom decks.
"Robin and *hic* Sumia sitting in a ship, K-I-Q-P-I-N-E!"
"Go back down, Vaike," Robin said tiredly. "You're drunk."
"The Vaike doesn't *hic* get drunk, he gets plastered! Wooo!" Vaike raised his mug to the air.
"For the love of—did you challenge Gregor to a drinking contest again?"
"S-sure *hic* did! I'll beat that *hic* merc yet if my name isn't Teach!"
"But enough about *hic* that," Vaike grinned luridly. "Don lemme interrupt the mating seesion!"
"Don't you have to be drunk somewhere else?" Robin asked, exasperated.
"R-right! Robin and I weren't making out!" Sumia said, red from embarrassment at the accusation.
"Suuuuuuure you weren't! The Vaike is an *hic* export in the love depar…part…love! I can see *hic* it in your eyes!"
"Vaike, you wife is calling for you," came a voice from below the deck.
"Buh?" Vaike looked down.
"Something about an arm wrestling contest."
"Ooh, goodie! The Vaike always *hic* is in the mood after drinkin' for one of them!"
Vaike stumbled downstairs, tripped and fell down near the bottom.
"The Vaike is aaaaaalways okay!" came his slurred voice.
Robin saw Cordelia emerging from the bottom deck.
"Hello, Robin. Sumia. I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"Not at all. In fact, thank you for saving us from Vaike's drunken ramblings," said Robin.
"I wouldn't wish that fate on anyone," chuckled Cordelia.
"R-right. Well, I think I'll retire," Sumia said suddenly. "Thank you for the talk, Robin. And, uh…bye now!"
Sumia rushed downstairs in a hurry, not waiting for a reply.
"Hm. Wonder what that was about?" Robin wondered out loud. "Whatever. Cordelia, what brings you out here?"
"Just had to get some fresh air. It's getting a bit rowdy down there."
"Alcohol does tend to increase general rowdiness."
"What about you? The man of the hour not down there celebrating his success?"
"I try not to celebrate too hard. Last time I did that, we all did something very stupid."
"You'll have to admit it does make a funny story."
"Oh, lighten up, you. Enjoy yourself!"
"Another time, perhaps. Now I just want a quiet moment to myself."
"Shall I leave you to it?"
"You can stay if you want to."
"Thank you for allowing me to stay, your lordship," Cordelia bowed in an overly exaggerated manner.
"Wow, that's it? You must really have something on your mind."
"Not really. Just enjoying the quiet of the sea. First time seeing it and all that."
Cordelia looked at Robin curiously.
"Amnesia, remember?" Robin tapped his temples. "Forgot everything. All experiences are new to me."
"Ah yes. I always forget that you had amnesia. You seem so well-adjusted to everything."
"I make do with what I can."
Robin crossed his arms and enjoyed the sound of the ship creaking on the water.
"…Today is the day…"
"Hm?" Robin looked to the side to see Cordelia gazing thoughtfully at the moon.
"On this day a few years back," she said quietly. "Do you remember what happened?"
"You'll excuse me if my memory is a bit hazy. Remembering things isn't my strongest point. Remind me?"
"Breakneck Pass. We were all escorting the royal family to safety when the Hierarch betrayed us to the Plegians."
"Yes, I remember that…" Robin said sourly.
"It was also the day I joined you all…and the day I lost all my sisters."
Robin's head snapped to Cordelia.
"My pegasus sisters," she clarified.
"When did this happen?"
"We were stationed at the border when the Plegians struck. They came with such swiftness and ferocity that we were quickly overwhelmed. My knight-sisters begged me to fly ahead and warn you all of the assault. I had to tear myself away and watch as they died to buy me more time to deliver the message…"
Cordelia had a faraway look in her eyes.
"I don't remember any of this happening…"
"I gave my initial report to Phila and the others but events quickly superseded us and my situation suddenly seemed so trivial in comparison to the events at hand. I had to bury my emotions and my sorrow deep inside myself to ensure the safety of the royal family."
"You just…buried it inside you?"
"I had to keep working," Cordelia explained simply, leaning forward. "With everything happening so quickly, I couldn't really wallow in self-pity, now could I?"
"Did you have time to mourn?"
"Are you sure?"
"Of course. In the years of peace, I made sure to retrieve whatever remains I could and ensure a proper burial for my sisters. I gave them the farewell they deserved and honor their memory every year so I can remember what they died for and so I can live up to their legacy. Although it was hard," Cordelia admitted. "Especially early on at nights. Gods, I relived that terrible day so often in my dreams. I could see their faces, hear their screams before they were cut down. I sometimes still do…"
Cordelia hugged herself.
Robin watched her quietly.
"But it's been more than two years now. I've had time to grieve and make my peace with it. I'm fine," Cordelia assured, looking up and smiling weakly. "Really, I am."
"You don't sound fine," Robin said, unconvinced. "I don't even think you've been able to properly grieve."
"Robin, I think I of all people would know if I'm okay or not," Cordelia remarked playfully.
"That's what I used to think, too. Come here."
Robin pulled Cordelia into a hug.
"Robin? What are you—?"
"It's okay, Cordelia. You can let go now."
"Robin, I've told you already that I'm fine."
"Just because you think you're fine doesn't necessarily make it so. Trust me on this."
"Robin, it's been over two years," Cordelia pointed out flatly.
"Yes, two years that you went through the motions, reflected, and remembered, but not necessarily mourned."
"Robin, this is pointless. I'm not sad anymore."
"How many times have you cried?"
"They say that crying is a natural way to express grief and sorrow. You said you had time to properly mourn. So how many times have you cried?"
"I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to on the day and the days after…" Cordelia said wearily. "But I had to maintain my composure and things that needed doing. After a while, crying seemed…unnecessary. Although I always found my eyes wet when I woke up after seeing them in my dreams. After a while of that, I think the tears just dried up…"
"There you go," Robin said with an air of finality. "Although you went through the motions, you still didn't have a chance to properly grieve and express yourself. You've been keeping it inside for too long and now feel that you're fine, but you're not."
"It's okay, Cordelia. You're not alone now. You don't have to keep a brave face anymore," Robin said soothingly. "I know what it's like and how much it hurts. I know you want to pretend like you're okay and move on, but in order to move on, you have to let it out. You're still hurting inside and if you don't let it out, the pain will never truly heal."
Cordelia sighed. "What do you want me to do, Robin?"
"Let go. Really think back to your friends and let your emotions out."
Cordelia decided to humor Robin and get this over with. If not, he'd probably never let her go.
"Okay, fine. We'll do it your way, Robin. Can you let me go first? I don't think I can let my emotions out with you holding me so tight."
"Thank you." Cordelia stepped back. "When I first joined the pegasus knights, I was the youngest one," she recalled. "Everyone else was a veteran. They all teased and taunted me when I first joined. My appearance, my javelin technique, everything."
"I had no friends and no one to talk to. Most of the time I usually spent with my pegasus in the stables, talking about this and that…"
Robin was now starting to regret his course of action. Cordelia was supposed to be recalling fond memories of her pegasus knight friends, not remembering their worst aspects.
"Although there were times when I had fun. And even though they teased me, I still looked up to them as the shining paragons of Ylisse's pegasus corps. There was one girl, Matilda, she was my idol. So pretty and talented, and her javelin technique was excellent! I made sure to take her advice to heart every time she gave it. She seemed to focus on me more than the other recruits…"
Okay, this was more like it. Recalling fond memories.
"—nd there was this one girl, Claire, she had this uncanny ability to lighten up any situation, no matter how serious. Why, one time we all…" Cordelia laughed softly as she remembered. "We had some good times back at the training grounds. They seem so far away now…"
"So it wasn't all bad, huh?"
"Oh no. It was rough at times, but it wasn't all horrible all the time. I have some very fond memories of my life as a recruit and some of the hijinks with the other girls."
"…You miss them, don't you?"
"So very much. Looking back, I feel that I didn't have enough time to get to know everyone and spend time with them. And despite everything, when push came to shove, they all…they…"
"They loved you enough to die for you."
Cordelia nodded silently.
"I was surprised, too! It turns out they'd pretty much decided I was the future. The insults and so forth were just the usual hazing of a new recruit. Can you believe that? After all they made me go through, that's how they felt in the end. Why couldn't they just tell me how much they cared for me from the beginning? Why is it that I only found out when…when…" Cordelia blinked hard, eyes watering. "I wish we'd had more time to...get to know each other. I only learned...how much they loved me...in those last, awful moments..."
Robin slowly approached and again wrapped his arms around Cordelia. This time, she didn't object.
"I…I didn't even have time to say goodbye…" she sniffed. "Th-they said there w-wasn't time. That the Plegians would…would…"
"It's okay, Cordelia," Robin said soothingly. "Let it all out."
And that's when the dam broke.
"W-why? Why d-did they have to die?! Why did they push me away?! It should've been me! I should've been there!"
Robin held Cordelia tightly as her body shook and she cried into his chest. He held her silently as she finally let out all her grief, her sorrow, and her guilt. He listened as Cordelia told him her regrets and her thoughts, long tucked away deep inside herself.
Robin listened and he comforted, lending his shoulder (well, chest) for her to cry on.
It was a while before Cordelia's cries eventually turned to sobs and then to little sniffles as she shed all her unshed tears.
"…There we are," Robin said after a while. "Feeling better?"
"Recalling all this has been the most painful thing I've done," Cordelia mumbled quietly. "And yet, I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. For the first time in a long time, my heart feels…light?"
"A good cry will do that to you, especially if it's long overdue and more so if you're burying something."
"Heh, look who suddenly became the emotional expert."
"I only learn from the best," Robin said cheekily. "You okay?"
"Yeah…" Cordelia stepped back, rubbed her eyes and smiled. "I think I am. Thank you, Robin."
"No problem. And if it makes you feel any better, I…uh…" Robin hesitated.
"Come now, you can't just start a sentence like that and not finish."
"Okay. Well, if the other knights could see you know, I think they'd be proud to see how you turned out and how you carry on their legacy."
"Come now, Robin. I've just spent gods know how long crying to you about this. Don't start me off again!"
"Right, right. I apologize."
"But seriously, thank you," Cordelia said gratefully. "I didn't know how much I needed that until now."
"Although it's funny. Usually our roles are reversed in these types of scenarios."
"You've been playing emotional support for me for a while now. It's only fair that I return the favor," Robin said nonchalantly.
"Right…" Cordelia cleared her throat. "I think I'll be getting back now. Hopefully I can sneak past the others before they notice what a wreck I must look like."
"Cordelia, believe me when I say you look stunning even when you're at your very worst."
"Is it idle flattery when it's also true?"
Cordelia laughed softly before thanking him one last time and heading off downstairs.
Alone once again, Robin looked up at the stars.
He just came up here to have some time with his thoughts. Who knew that he'd end up having some very heartfelt conversations with both Sumia and Cordelia?
Robin felt his heart swell thinking about the two pegasus knights. He'd certainly come a long way. Not only was he not freaking out when faced with crying women, he actually ended up helping them with their issues!
Funny how things turned out.
Sighing contentedly, Robin started out into the endless sea, thinking about his life, his friends, the war, and the future.
All things considered, Robin's life wasn't all that bad. Sure, he only had a few years' worth of memories at best, but Robin wouldn't trade those memories for anything in the world.