Say'ri – A Moratorium From Duty
Authors Note: And we're back! Anyone who's been following my updates will know how long this one's been coming, it's been almost one thing after another with the lockdown, with travels and with family recently. Luckily myself and the people I'm close to have managed to keep ourselves safe, and I can only hope the same is true for everyone reading this.
Most of you have probably already heard this, but for anyone who hasn't, I've been spending some of my time working on other Awakening story recently called Bred for Victory, so if you haven't seen it and like my stories, check it out. Anyhow, and at long last, we have the second half of the promised Say'ri chapter and the one I've personally been looking forward to for quite some time.
And again, as a reminder: Say'ri has a ninja retainer working with her called Kagerou. This isn't the Kagerou from Fates, it's just a woman that looks and acts exactly like her. Similar to Fates's Caeldori/Rhajat/Asugi thing, but in reverse.
Recap: Robin returned to life a little more than 6 months after sacrificing himself to slay the Fell Dragon. However, when he returned, he found himself soon overcome with incredible lusts, desires that Lucina (his secret fiancé) was unable to entirely sate.
Over the next four months things got steadily worse for the Grandmaster and soon Robin was driven almost to the point of madness, holding back his rampaging desires, all the while knowing full well that sooner or later his willpower would give out and he'd lose control of himself entirely. With that terrible knowledge in mind, he resolved to at least make the choice of his own sanity and finally slept with Tharja.
Overwhelmed with the ensuing relief her body granted him, Robin listened attentively while the Dark Mage informed him of the truth- that in being revived he'd established dominion of the power that used to belong to Grima, power buried deep inside his bloodline. She claimed that Robin had now unlocked the true potential of his heritage and in doing so, gained both the power and instincts of a Manakete, desires far stronger than what should be contained within a human vessel. Among those desires was the most basic, primal urges, to Conquer, to Dominate and to Breed, the same callings that until now Robin had been fighting, at terrible cost to his very sanity.
Eventually he accepted that the only path forward for him, to protect his family and friends from himself, was to sate those same desires. And so, Robin set out, using his wits as a tactician and his influence as the Shepherds Grandmaster to seduce enough powerful women to satisfy even a dragon's selfish greed. So far, he's succeeded in having sex with Lucina, Tharja, Lissa, Olivia, Miriel, Nowi and most recently Panne.
Where we left off last time, Say'ri arrived from Chon'sin to fulfil the promise she made with Robin for him to show her around Ylisse, and after some strained negotiations among the various Shepherd's leaders, it was decided that Lucina would join her and her ninja retainer on at least the first part of their journey.
Despite how capable and reliable she was, one could not help but worry about Say'ri. Driven so relentlessly by the forces of her duty, her obligations and all the weight of traditions upon her, she wound herself up so tight it always seemed that the same strength that kept her upright would also be what gave out under her. It was only, finally, when she reunited with Robin in Chon'sin, that she was finally able to change and that she was able to begin to examine the woman she was beneath all the layers of obligation.
"You intend to bring your… fiancée with us?"
Despite how regally Say'ri had been standing on the side of the street, the restrained excitement bubbling within her had been vibrant enough for even Robin to notice, and his heart couldn't help but ache for the young Empress as he watched it drain away by the second ever since she noticed the small royal entourage following the Tactician. Just the fact that she was here before them, and appeared to have been waiting for some time, despite having spent the night in the Palace just the same as him, was proof enough.
Say'ri's expression slowly cooled into a composed mask, however the ninja standing at her side made little attempt to hide her own emotions and a hard, grim frown was etched on her (still, stunningly beautiful) face as she too listened to the explanation for their travel plans.
"Not… bring her with us," Robin vacillated, wondering what to say about Lucina being called his fiancée. It was true, but no-one else knew that, "Just travelling alongside us, for a little while. It only makes sense, we're all going in the same direction, it's a lot safer to travel as a group."
Facing down the restrained hurt he could see in his friend's face, a rather large part of the Tactician was tempted to add "It was Sumia's idea!", but he retained enough of his tact to hold back.
Not that he really needed to, the look on the Queen's face from where she was standing just a few steps behind him made her thoughts on this matter painfully obvious. 'Why wouldn't he travel with Lucina?' her very posture seemed to say, 'You're the strange one here, coming all the way to another continent just to try travel alone with a man you know is taken.'
Say'ri's teeth grit, but for whatever else you could say about her, Sumia had taken to her royal duties well and just as she'd discerned, whether or not the Empress liked this situation, she had no choice but to accept it.
Watching the disappointment and pain flash for an instant across Say'ri's face before she could school her features to her usual composed mask, Robin's heart ached for his friend. He cared deeply for the swordswoman and he knew better than almost anyone just how difficult her life had been, and just how lonely the role her honour demanded she played was.
He didn't know exactly what she was thinking, nor entirely what her intentions were, considering everything that'd passed between them since he'd made his promise to her… but he could easily understand that this trip had been the work of months for an Empress that now controlled the major part of an entire continent. This was not something she'd done lightly, and to accept a compromise like this must be a very bitter pill to swallow.
"I shall be in your care, Lady Say'ri," Lucina added, bowing graciously as she took up her place at Robin's side, "For a few weeks at least."
"Of course, Princess Lucina. It does my heart glad to be travelling with you once again, 'tis far too long since I have enjoyed your company."
Just as she'd retained her natural, familiar style of dress (with, unfortunately, her miraculously restrained breasts) Say'ri kept her familiar manner of speaking. However, no matter how kind her words were, they lacked the gentle warmth he associated so deeply with the strict woman.
And again, Robin's heart hurt.
The most difficult part of this, he decided, was that there was no deep division or ill feeling between any of these women. Regardless of Lucina's occasional worries about how close he'd been to Say'ri in the past, the small flashes of jealousy he'd sometimes seen from the Empress in return, and Sumia's personal interests in seeing her daughter happy, all three of them cared deeply for one another and respected each other greatly. All three of them loved the others, they'd fought and bled beside one another at various points, and all would throw their lives into danger to protect any of the others.
In all other situations this would be a pleasant meeting, a happy discussion and eager, excited plans they were making together.
But in this, at least, the line had been drawn clear in the sand, and the tension was palpable.
And so, after a few minutes of strained goodbyes and reiterations of his plans to meet up again with Morgan, Lissa and a few others in Regna Ferox, the small party finally set off from Ylisstol.
Two Years Ago - Valm
The third thing Say'ri reclaimed was her destiny. The exile who'd lived on the run, bartering her name and waning influence for what favours she could manage, slowly gained control of her fate once more.
In the Shepherd's strategy tent, long past the any reasonable hour to be awake, Robin was standing in place, staring intently at the intricately detailed map spread out on the table before him. His hands laid flat on the wood, and his body remained almost rigidity stuff, but his eyes were alight, pouring over every late note, formation and geographical detail, as if to burn the very image of it permanently into his mind.
The night was still yet long, but they would be rising before the first light of dawn tomorrow, this would be his final chance to memorise any of this. From the moment he folded this map up and stepped from the tent, the plan would be live and they would live or die, entirely by the weight of the Tactician's skills, his memory, his reflexive reactions and his ability to command the battlefield at Chrom's side.
Just the thought of it had Robin's blood racing hot, and his body almost shivering in nervous anxiety. But he was used to this now. He was long past being considered a veteran commander, and such moments had become simply another part of his routine. He was well practiced in stilling his nerves, in hiding his anxiety, and delaying the excitement until the roar of battle swept them away. He wouldn't show a hint of weakness or doubt to his companions, and in turn, their belief in him would ensure he could keep them all safe.
Their camp was lightly setup, ready to move at a moment's notice, and even after weeks of hard marching the Shepherds were well conditioned and in good shape to fight. They were still well outside the range of any of the scouts the Valmese could send to them at night, and the territory they were marching through was unsuitable for any kind of night march, they would sleep warily, but they would sleep all the same, and then… in a few hours, they would begin their march towards Demon's Ingle. Towards where their final confrontation with Walhart's southern army would take place.
Fighting atop a Volcano, sacred territory or not, it was an incredibly dangerous plan… even after everything he'd done, it was easily his most reckless strategy…
Another shiver threatened to run along the Tactician's spine, and he supressed it just as forcefully. Steadying his thoughts instead, he finally stepped back from the map, nodding instinctively to himself he shifted all the remaining pieces into place, ready to be packed up along with the table and the rest of the tent.
…But, ultimately, it was still a strategy. And it would work. Reckless or not, it wasn't a gamble or a desperate hope, it was a fully considered plan. As much as he would have liked to follow a more conventional method, they didn't have the strength or position to make that choice. If their only option for survival was to walk along the blade of a sword, then Robin had no room to doubt, he simply needed every ounce of his faculties to find out the best path along that sword.
Their weapons were prepared, their mounts were fresh, and the tension around the camp was at a fever pitch. Chrom and Frederick had already been informed of their roles, the rest of the army would be briefed on the march, there had been no time for anything more comprehensive, it had taken most of the night to get everything prepared as Robin wanted it, but at last, now all the final details for their strategy were complete.
All, but one.
"Aye," speaking for the first time since she'd entered the tent almost a half hour ago now, the swordswoman hurriedly straightened her posture, snapping to attention. Despite the myriad of thoughts swirling through her head, and the impossible flux of emotions that churned in her stomach every time she had a moment to think, watching the Tactician at work had been a surprisingly engrossing experience and… just as she always seemed to find when she was around him, her thoughts had drifted without her even realising it, and the worries weighing down on her had seemed just a little lighter, "I am here, just as you requested."
He turned to face her, looking up for the first time since she'd seen him, and she found herself shifting momentarily under his gaze. Her cheeks dusted pink and in the back of her mind she found herself cursing herself for getting swept up, as she always did, in the conversations she had with Lady Tiki.
Ever since their talk not long ago in the Divine Dragon's tent, Say'ri had taken to wearing her sarashi just a little looser around the camp. And, ever since their talk, she'd become far more aware of the -strangely warm- feelings that bubbled within her anytime Robin's eyes passed over her.
Surely, he hadn't noticed anything! It wasn't as if she was walking around as, as, as, as… flagrantly… as Lady Tiki seemed to enjoy lately! Indeed, it seemed the Exalted Voice of Naga had practically forgotten how to do up the top two buttons of her shirt lately, or at least, they seemed to mysteriously come undone whenever the Tactician visited her.
Unable to bear the thought of Naga's own scion being so disgustingly gawked at, Say'ri had taken it upon herself to try capture a part of the unsavoury attention the Tactician might otherwise direct towards the Manakete… just… just a little. Which was why she was currently shifting slightly awkwardly in place with her face heating up as when she moved, she could feel an unfamiliar bounce of breasts that had, until now, been entirely restrained. Of course, unlike her mistress, Say'ri wasn't so bold as to show off the full curve of her bust but, given the sheer size of her typically hidden assets, just loosening her bindings as much as she had left her chest pushing out against the confines of her kimono in a way that put her almost on par with Maribelle.
It was a strange sensation, one she wasn't used to but also one that, when she found herself under the Tactician's gaze, was not unwelcome.
'Fie!' she repeated, 'What am I thinking!? Today, more than ever, I keep getting distracted! Thinking such useless thoughts! 'Tis as if my very discipline is start-'
"Tomorrow, in a few hours, we're going to kill your brother."
Her scattered thoughts instantly vanished, and her entire being felt like it'd been snapped taut. Her nervous blush vanished, her churning emotions disappeared, and her strained composure was replaced immediately with nothing but a noble's dignity. Distantly, clawing at the edges of her control, she could feel the still bubbling anger inside her, along with a lifetime's regret, and an excitement built from humiliating vengeance.
Tomorrow… she would have her vengeance. The man who betrayed her kingdom, who allowed the slaughter of her parents and who even now acted the part as Valm's tame, lapdog Emperor, would be no more. Tomorrow, she would kill the brother she'd once held as dear to her as anyone. Her hands clenched at her side, and her world turned sharp with focus.
Seeing he had her attention, Robin drew a line with his finger along where Yen'fay's forces would be funnelled, indicating exactly where the man himself would be drawn out, how the Shepherds would ensure that he would personally come to face him… and ultimately, where their archers would be hiding in place around either flank. Despite her composure, Say'ri swallowed hard as she watched Robin move the pieces along their path, watching as the greatest swordsman in Chon'sin would be drawn forward, exposed, and then greeted with three overlapping volleys of arrows.
It was a simple plan, as flawless as any she'd ever seen from the Tactician and ruthlessly efficient, almost coldly so. The position the Shepherds were in was terrible, for any other army it would be devastating. But Robin's strategy was as precise as she'd expected and as he explained it, she could only possibly imagine it working.
And, as she watched him flick over the piece that symbolised her brother, a cold chill ran down her spine.
It was what she wanted, more than anything, what she'd dreamed of countless times over the years. This would be the end of Walhart's control in Chon'sin, the start of a new era, it would be revenge for all the people that had fallen along with Yen'fay's betrayal and it would be the final cleansing of the most dishonourable stain her family name had ever known.
She should have been happy, she should have been excited, but instead she found herself scarcely able to even look at it. Yen'fay should have been a legend, for almost as long as she'd been alive he'd been her hero, and yet he was going to be slain like this? Just shot down in a barrage of arrows, fired by foes he couldn't see, hidden by the heat and the steam? It was a terrible and inauspicious way for a man such as he to die.
And… she would have no part in it. When the man she'd sworn a blood-oath of vengeance against died, she would be standing on their eastern flank, protecting their healers from any counterattacks.
"Fie… Robin, I…"
That was intentional. She knew that without a doubt. Robin could have placed her anywhere on the battlefield, and instead he had placed her as far away from her sibling as he could have managed. Despite the cold clinging to her body, she understood his intentions- he was trying to do her a kindness, to protect her heart from wavering, or her from having to watch as the man she'd once adored was riddled with arrows and fell.
"Your consideration, 'tis appreciated dearly. I do not take such gestures lightly. B-But… But…" her words faltered and wavered, but her heart knew it's truest course, and her duty drove her forwards, "You need not go this far. 'Tis more than is required."
Say'ri had been trained in battlefield tactics, just the same as any ruler. She knew herself that she wasn't even skilled enough to fully understand the gulf of difference between them. But even she could understand that Robin could ill afford to spare those archers. Fighting on Demon's Ingle was a daunting prospect and working your way up the mountain on foot was an even more terrifying one, there was absolutely no doubt that the surest force of their foe's armies would come to them by air. Most of the Chon'sin soldiers would refuse to fight on the mountain just out of honour, and those that remained would hesitate to fight their way up the fiery slopes, if Yen'fay truly did come after them then desertion would be rampant all through his men. All except their Pegasus Knights and Wyvern Riders, men and women who could fight with a degree of mobility and safety the others could ill expect.
Yen'fay would march up towards them, but he would do so with the expectation that his winged brigades harried their flank and destroyed their formations. That much was obvious even from Robin's own positioning, his countermeasures the angles he intended to spread the Shepherds along their lines.
She'd spent months now in Robin's company, she'd become closer to him than she'd ever expected, and she knew as well as anyone just how desperately he worked to keep every one of them alive. The plan she could see laid out before him had come from immeasurable effort, a level of strain and stress she could scarcely imagine. It meant the world to her that someone would go to such lengths to finally see Say'ri's dreams true, even if she knew that wasn't really the reason he was doing so. It meant more to her than she could ever put into words.
And she knew, she had to repay that, she couldn't accept this kindness from him. She had to show Robin she was strong enough to help support his ideals.
"You shall need these archers elsewhere, we both know that. 'Tis far too dangers to commit them all to Yen'fay."
"If Yen'fay falls, his men will flee. Everything our spies have told us, everything your spies have told us is that they fight under his banner purely out of respect for him as a Warrior, and for their honour towards the crown. The battle will end the moment we take his head."
"Fie. My brother is neither a fool, nor is he suicidal. He shall not risk his neck easily."
She paused, and this time, as her world cleared into focus and the door to her destiny opened before her, there was not an instant of hesitation nor a shiver of remorse affecting the Chon'sin Princess at all.
"If you wish for his head, then I shall gift it to you."
Robin turned to her, narrowing his eyes.
"I've told you this before Say'ri. I don't care one whit for honour, nor about dignity. I care only about victory, about succeeding in our goals and keeping the people I care about safe."
If future historians came to spit on his grave, if his name was mocked and derided all through history as a synonym for cowardice, he would accept that happily, so long as he kept his friends alive.
"The Shepherds don't do duels. We do high percentage engagements and retreats; we control the battlefield and we ensure that we come out victorious. Duels make for great stories, but they make for even better ways to lose our comrades, when we fight, it's two on one or more."
"Aye. I understand that, and I begrudge it not, 'tis part of the reason for your success. But… I know also that you have made an exception in the past."
Robin sucked in his breath and his face turned hard. That was one story you would almost never hear around their campfire- that after Gangrel had been cornered, Chrom had put his foot down and Robin had relented, giving permission for their Commander to face down the Mad King personally, and to kill the wretch with his own two hands.
"I ask only for the same consideration."
A heavy pause set between them. Under any other circumstance he would have rejected the request outright but this time it wasn't so simple. Her words had merit, and they both knew it.
Eventually, the Tactician's tension ebbed away, and his gaze slackened into a far softer expression. Shaking his head with a wary sigh, he closed the distance between them before reaching out and taking Say'ri's hands gently in his own.
Her own composure snapped at that, and Say'ri's face suddenly blazed a vibrant red, her eyes darting up and down from where she could feel her fingers locking instinctively around his and up to the gentle, warm look in his eyes.
"If you do this… If you're really going to be the one to do this, then you have to give me your word, Say'ri, you have to promise me- that you won't risk your life in that battle. You've told me before about how strong Yen'fay is with the blade, I don't want you doing this unless you're absolutely, absolutely, sure you can, that you're not just throwing yourself at him for the sake of your honour. If you start losing, or if you think you can't win, then you have to retreat. I'll give you a signal to use, and, and I'll put myself not far from you, if that happens we'll converge on him at that point to finish him off."
"I-, ah, Ro-Robin…"
"You have to live Say'ri. Live and restore Chon'sin," he pressed, squeezing her hands tighter as his voice turned almost pleading, "I won't accept you dying to avenge your country, and I know your people don't want that either. Your dreams will only come true through victory. I care about you too much to throw you into some hopeless battle for the sake of your honour, I- I couldn't stand it if we lost you. Not after coming this far."
Head spinning in shock, she spluttered weakly in reply, 'Cares about? H-He, he cares about, about me?' Of course he did. She knew that, they were good friends and Robin made it clear how highly he valued all the Shepherds. Rationally she knew all of that… but right now, with his body only a few centimetres from hers, and his hands holding her own, she couldn't possibly make sense of any of that.
No man had ever dared touch her like this!
She was utterly mortified, shocked and stunned beyond words! It was unbelievable! Even if she was in exile, she was still a Princess! In Chon'sin he would have been put to death for such an immodest act towards her!
But, even so, she didn't pull away. And, as she felt her heart pounding in her chest, and noticed that her lips had turned up into a dizzy smile, she realised that she didn't want him to let go.
Eventually the moment passed, and her head cleared enough to think again. Now however, instead of the cold focus from the duty that lay before her, all Say'ri could feel was the gentle warmth flooding through her entire body, as she stood in place next to the Tactician, squeezing her own hands around his in response.
"Aye," she whispered, "I promise. I shan't die tomorrow, my people need me, my country needs me and… a-and… there's still a lot I wish to do."
Her heart shuddered, and her courage held strong, "But, you ask that I risk my honour for this, so… so I request a promise from you in return."
"I have told you much of my homeland, and I have shown you some pieces of it in our travels. T'would be my wish one day, as I've mentioned, to show you more, to take the time to introduce you to the full beauty of Chon'sin… But, in all the time we've spent together, you've told me little of your own land in return. 'Tis Lady Tiki's ancient homeland, and the land of their Hero King, as well as a country that can inspire such devotion from a man like yourself, I would dearly like to see it for myself.
"After this war, in repayment for all that you have done for me, I intend to follow the Shepherds through with whatever is needed until we can prevent Grima's return, I shall surely see this through. But then, after that… Robin, I ask that you show me around Ylisse and Ylisstol, show me the country that means so much to you, s-so that I can understand more of your heart as you've come to know mine. Promise me that."
"Of course, that sounds great. I'd be more than happy to!"
Her heart burst with emotions, and she didn't even bother attempting to smother the smile on her face.
"G-Good! Then 'tis settled! Aye, in that case, I have a gift for you, to commemorate our oaths this day."
So saying (and with not just a little reluctance) Say'ri finally pulled away from Robin and lifted up a small, ornate box she'd left near the entrance of the tent after coming in. Kagerou, her ninja retainer and one of the new Chon'sin agents that had remained loyal to her rather than Yen'fay had recently returned back to her, and in doing so she had brought with her a box of some very fancy, top of the line, Imperial Chon'sin sake. The kind that was usually used to celebrate the most auspicious of occasions, a coronation, a royal birth, or -in this case- the death of the Valmese Tyrant. With all the tactics he'd created and all the unmeasurable effort Robin had put in to destroy Valm, he had given her more than she could possibly ever repay, so she had always intended to give this to him, but now it could serve them both as a memento of their promises.
A gift of sake had no special meaning in Chon'sin culture, but as Say'ri handed the bottle over to the surprised Tactician, she silently made another promise to herself, engraining it deep in her heart.
There was too much in flux right now, everything she felt and everything she understood had been thrown on its head too many times already in her travels with the Shepherds. She couldn't properly thank him for all he'd done for her just yet. But, she swore, when the fighting was over, when Walhart was dead and a new era dawned… she would find a quiet time with just Robin alone and drink that sake with him. And then, as Empress, she would find the words to tell him everything she felt and everything she couldn't manage to say just yet.
In time, Say'ri would come to lament how foolish she was that night.
She bid him goodnight with a bright smile, wrapping her arms around herself as she almost skipped through the camp, bubbling happily with possibility. But, holding a dream like that dear to your heart was completely pointless, it was something out of a story and not well suited for reality. Robin had no way of knowing what she intended or what she had promised herself, and while she was making excuses for her inaction, time marched by, all around her.
"Fie," Say'ri breathed, turning slowly in place as she took in the field spread out around her, "So this is the end of the Eastern March? The turning point in the Hero King's second campaign against darkness?"
A thousand years was an almost unimaginable amount of time for a human, and far too long for any remnants of that famous battle to still remain. The torn-up fields had grown over, the craters formed from clashing magic had been sloughed away by the rain and the endless weapons that had once littered the expanse had long since been picked over. All that now remained was a beautiful, lush meadow and a number of man-made monuments erected in memory of the historic victory.
Even so, to know she was standing in a battlefield that had defined the very course of the world, one that she had -until now- only ever known in her lessons and storybooks left a deep impression on the Empress, and she happily soaked in the majesty of it.
"That's right!" Lucina chimed in, absolutely in her element, "This was the moment that the Hero King had finally gathered enough strength to take the fight directly to his enemies! The battle here was fierce, fiercer than anything even in the first war, but by now all of the land knew King Marth for the just ruler he was, and legions flocked to his banner from all over! Some say that when they saw the force of his army, more than twenty percent of his enemies deserted over the coming days!"
That, at least, was definitely not true, Robin thought silently to himself. Having commanded the alliance forces through three wars now, he had a good feeling for what those numbers felt like in reality, and twenty percent desertion was akin to the kind of defection that Plegia had faced after word of Emmeryn's resolve and her final words spread through their ranks. The Plegian forces had collapsed in a matter of weeks, but from everything he knew about Marth's wars, the fighting here had gone on for several more months.
He kept that to himself though
Really, he didn't have much to add to the conversation at all.
In what really shouldn't have been a surprise to him in the least, Lucina had turned out to be a far better guide than he could ever have hoped to be. Despite the truncated nature of her youth, she'd still grown up learning about Ylisse's history, and her own personal idolisation of the Hero King meant she knew a great deal about the man's wars, victories, and various landmarks around Ylisse. On the other hand, given that he'd largely just focussed on his work with the Shepherds (and more recently, with the Shepherd females) since being found in that field by Chrom, he knew barely more about the various ruins, villages or temples they'd come across so far than the woman they were guiding.
Not that he really minded, it was always fun to see Lucina shaking off her usual stoic nature and openly enjoying herself for a short time, and it was interesting as a change of his usual routine to spend his days simply absorbing Ylissean history and culture. But, while the time had loosened the tension between Say'ri and Lucina, it hadn't changed at all how the Empress appeared to be treating him.
"Actually, it reminds me of that story you told me, about the Tai'shun valley," he added, as nonchalantly as possible, before the conversation moved on, "Where the second Emperor was harried all along his march through the Southern Reaches, until he was finally able to move north and re-gather the scattered armies to finally take the fight to the invaders."
Say'ri paused, her foot practically halting mid-step as she turned from the princess to regard him. Robin had kept his words light, but they were said with clear purpose- by relating this snippet of history back to the stories she'd told him in Valm, so long ago now, he'd wanted to show her that he still remembered, that he'd listened and that he'd understood. A flurry of emotions flashed across her face, and for a small instant he was sure he saw the corner of her lips tugging up into a small smile… but a moment later, her composure was tightly worn once again.
"Aye, 'tis true indeed. I had never considered such before but, while his deeds fall short of defeating the Dread Dragon that risked the world's fate, perhaps Emperor Shai'tan could be considered the Hero King of my nation."
'No, that would be you, surely.'
He opened his mouth to respond, but the words died in his throat as she simply nodded and turned away.
And so, once again, Robin was left standing still, a painful confusion burning in his heart as much as the frustrated ache was throbbing through the rest of his body. By all respects, the trip should have been considered a success thus far, but it certainly didn't feel like one. Of all the things he'd expected from his time re-united with the Chon'sin woman, feeling this distant coldness from her was never one of them. The close and warm camaraderie they'd shared during the wars felt closed off from him, like she was holding herself at arm's reach from him, and the feeling of her gently stroking his cheek while tears welled up in her eyes at seeing him once again felt like it'd happened in a different lifetime.
Even if she resented that Lucina had followed along for this leg of their journey, he was still struggling to understand the nature of her feelings towards him, or just why she was acting how she was.
A doubting part of him wondered if he'd always simply imagined the affection he'd sometimes believed the Empress to have for him, and that this was simply her way of showing that she was carrying no torch for him… but, anytime he thought that, and anytime he attempted to any amount of time with his fiancée, Say'ri was surely no more than a few steps away, ready to jump into the conversation, or ask about their next destination.
In one moment she seemed to want little to do with him, and in the next she appeared almost jealous and clingy over his attention.
For the first time in his life, Robin was wishing that he'd spent less time buried in strategy manuals and more time in some of Sumia's romance novels, so he could have a hope of puzzling out just what exactly was going on here.
It was immensely frustrating. Firstly for the sake of his feelings towards her- just like with Tharja, even if he couldn't truly return her love in the way he'd long suspected she wanted, he still did love her, he cared for her deeply and cherishes her. But also, simply from the knowledge that standing apart from him like this, when on a trip with him, couldn't be any more enjoyable for her than it was for him. Whether it was her pride or her resolve that was keeping her distant from him, he didn't know. But he knew that the closeness they'd shared during the wars wasn't a lie, and if she'd come all the way from Valm to see him once again, then Robin wanted to make sure she spent the time making happy memories, she already had enough regrets for one lifetime.
A small displacement of air, right on the very edge of his senses, followed by footsteps almost too light to hear sent a spike of impotent frustration down Robin's spine and served as a swift reminder of the other point of unexpected difficulty this trip was serving him.
Say'ri's ninja, Kagerou. Whatever resentment Say'ri might have towards Lucina joining them on their journey, he was sure he felt it five times over towards her retainer.
She was almost impossibly difficult to track, even with how sharp and defined his senses had become since he'd come back to life, he could only barely manage to track her. It was something he'd never truly appreciated during the few times he'd interacted with her in the past, he seriously doubted any normal human could follow her movements and he wouldn't have been surprised if she'd bene able to bypass even a Manakete or Taguel's hearing. That alone was enough to set his worries on edge, but what had been trying his patience in the week since they'd set off was just how infuriatingly vigilant the woman was!
Even with the little time he'd had to properly plan this trip, he'd still envisioned that he would be able to have small moments of time to sneak away with Lucina during their travels, just like how they'd managed as best they could during the final Plegian campaign.
At the worst, he'd assumed that it wouldn't be something worth worrying about. Even with how badly his lusts bore on him these days, they were almost fully under control now and he'd survived months with just Lucina's body to quench his needs. Going a few weeks with just his hand to occupy his nights hadn't seemed like such a fearful prospect.
The sight of the ninja's incredible body, her ridiculously massive bust, gorgeous face and tight, trim waist, caught in a fleeting glace out of the corner of his eye did nothing to help Robin forget to fiery ache that had been pulsing hotter and hotter within him as the days passed.
He had miscalculated.
Both in just how under control his needs were, and in how impossible it would be to get time alone with his fiancée.
While it was true that during the war he and Lucina had only spent time together as often as they could manage, and while it was also true that he'd managed to restrain himself forcefully against his urges for almost half a year… The situation had changed drastically since then, he'd taken on a whole suite of new lovers for the sake of protecting his family from his new urges.
It felt almost ridiculous, and unbelievably hedonistic to consider, but recently Robin become utterly accustomed to getting off multiple times a day, with multiple different women. Going from walking through the Ylissean Palace knowing he could simply drag Lissa into a spare room, pay Miriel a visit in her workshop, or rip Olivia's clothes off her was a different world from travelling day after day through the Ylissean countryside, surrounded on all sides by three different, incredibly beautiful women, and being forced to keep his hands away from each of them. Despite knowing just how disastrous it would be, a dangerous part of him was beginning to wish Nowi truly would give in her to impulsive nature and wing down from the skies to pull him away for a wonderful, rough fuck.
His body was throbbing with need, and his soul was inflamed with desire.
And it absolutely was not helped by the fact that Lucina's own lusts appeared to have risen in response to his own greater desires. Unable to sense the presence of Kagerou, time and again the Princess had made attempts to pull him away somewhere secret, to separate them from their Chon'sin companions, or even to visit his room at night… and each time, despite just how urgently his body had begged him to simply throw caution to the wind, Robin had been forced to turn her away. The few seconds he had managed to get with the bluenette, a few wonderful moments of stolen kisses and affectionate bodies pressing hot together, had all been swiftly aborted at the sound of the ninja drawing closer, seeking out where two of her companions had disappeared to.
He knew his body, and he knew his newfound desires. He wasn't in anywhere near as bad a state as he'd been that night he'd finally given in to his temptation and sought out Tharja- he wasn't yet in any danger of truly losing control, and he knew just being able to taste Lucina's body alone would be enough to satisfy him. But knowing that the woman he loved wanted him as badly as he wanted her and having to hold back all the same was downright maddening.
"Fie, Robin, were you not listening to me? Is there something the matter?"
"Ah, oh, no, sorry! I was just, well, lost in thought I suppose, just thinking about everything this site represents... Are we moving on?"
Sucking in and slowly letting out a deep breath, Robin drew himself back into the ongoing conversation and forced his frustrations back down once more.
Maddening or not, he needed to do it all the same.
He'd talked directly with Lucina before they left about making their relationship public, and she'd backed away once again. He couldn't force it on her, not for the sake of his lusts. Lucina had a world's worth of baggage he could never understand, and he'd promised to support her however he could, if she needed to hide their feelings for one another, then he would keep up her façade with every ounce of his being.
Which meant hiding every aspect of their shared affection from Say'ri. Lucina, of course, would be absolutely mortified for the Empress to learn that she'd been having pre-marital sex, and even more devastated if the news then got back to her parents. Being caught in-flagrante was simply not an option.
And since, unlike the wars, Kagerou had no greater mission than to look over her travelling companions, that meant there was nothing he could do but simply wait it out and stay away. Even if that meant half his night was starting to become spent futily seeking his own comfort in the (minor) privacy he had at night.
"Aye! Come, we need to away soon if we wish to make the next lodgings before dusk."
"Hmmm!" almost completely oblivious to the depth his frustrations, Lucina breathed out a sigh at that comment, "An Inn sounds great. I must have become soft since the wars, after camping the last few days, the thought of sleeping in a bed again sounds wonderful!"
Looking away from the Princess for just a moment, she shot him a suggestive wink, all but inviting him to try find a way to seek out her room at night, and Robin's body pulsed furiously in answer. He already knew, he knew just as he had the last time they'd slept in an inn, it wasn't possible. Unless he could somehow disable or distract a woman that was so vigilant even Frederick could take lessons from her, he would be spending his night holed up in his own quarters!
It was maddening!
But he had no choice but to accept it. He'd already made up his mind to accept it. This was the path he'd decided already, the other side of the sword from his decision to protect her from the knowledge of his lusts, and his alternative liaisons.
How he was going to handle things when his fiancée was gone, and he was left with just a woman who seemed to be trying to keep her distance from him, and her loyal ninja… uncharacteristically, Robin didn't know.
"How is it?" Robin asked casually from where he was sitting at her side, "Have you gotten used to eating Ylissean food again?"
For a moment, Say'ri's attention dropped to her half-eaten pastry, warmed by his magic and wrapped up in a light cloth for easier handling. The meat inside was about as flavoursome as one could expect, and she could certainly appreciate the skill that had gone into creating the layers of coating, but in truth, until this moment her mind had been so occupied with so many other thoughts she even actually tasted it.
"Aye, 'tis several sights better than the rations we ate on our march at least."
He laughed, brightening her world at the sound, "Hey now, don't let Olivia or Cherche hear you say that! Empress or not, they'll give you an earful for sure!"
She wanted to say more, to respond to his teasing with some good humour of her own, to at least, to point out that while Cherche might indeed have something to say, Olivia would likely do nothing but squeak an apology. She wanted to say all the things she would have used to say with him, in all the ways she used to say them. But the words were held back, dying in her chest, and she simply gave him a light smile instead, nodding in reply even as she saw him trying to hide the way his face fell at her silence.
Her stomach twisted in a knot, and she wondered if she was poisoning the beauty surrounding them with her demeanour.
They were alone, for now, sitting together at the top of a truly beautiful outcropping at the top of a modest hill Robin had invited her to visit when Lucina had left them to purchase more supplies for the next leg of their journey. Neither the short hike itself, nor the vista that was unfolded before them had any particularly notable history that she was aware of, but she knew it would remain forever as a cherished her memory of this trip all the same. The view was stunning, with the town they were staying at clearly visible some distance below them, the beauteous green Ylissean forest at their backs, and the entire countryside seemingly unfolded all around them. She could make out the shape of Ylisstol far in the distance, see several of the Hero King's battlegrounds away to the east, and even note Mount Prism stretching high above them to the North.
But it was the company that occupied her thoughts, and the warmth she'd felt at Robin's invitation that she knew would remain ever etched in her memory. She knew how she'd been treating him, and she knew it wasn't fair, that it was barely more than a wounded heart concealing itself from harm- but even so, he'd still reached a hand out to her, he'd still taken her away by himself.
The seasons stood on the edge of summer and despite the warmth of the Ylissean sunlight cloaking her, a shiver trembled up Say'ri's spine as her stomach twisted itself once more.
They were all alone now, with no-one to hear them or stumble upon them, surrounded with the most second most beautiful sight she'd seen since her arrival in the Eastern Continent… and still she, the one they called the Phoenix of Chon'sin, sat beside the Tactician with such cold stoicism she may as well have been a carved statue instead.
'I hate it.'
Her very thoughts mocked her. There was no doubt in her will. She wanted desperately to shuffle closer towards him, to close the meter between them and lean her shoulder against his. She wanted to speak warmly to him, to tell him of herself, of Chon'sin, and to hear about him and about Ylisse in return. As much as she'd ever wanted anything, she wanted to connect with Robin again in the way she'd missed so desperately. As Empress, as his comrade and as a woman, she wanted to silence the thousand-fold regrets that had haunted her nights ever since the day she'd seen him disappear and that had burnished her daydreams ever since the moment she'd heard he lived once again.
But anytime she made to speak the words were strangled in her throat, and anytime she made to act, her body wouldn't answer her.
'I am a fool, surely.'
Despite the conviction she held so strongly to, she couldn't help but lament. It had been 9 day since the start of their Ylissean tour and no matter how close she was to the man she'd missed so desperately, still she was holding herself back. No matter what she wanted or how much she desired it, her duty and her composure were still clear to her, and so Say'ri held painfully true to the decision she'd made so long ago.
Even so, the ache of guilt bore into the Empress, it was clear that Robin was making a considerable effort towards her. Aside from big an ask it already was for him to leave behind his role in Ylisstol -regardless of what he'd promised her more than a year ago- this was now the third time he'd invited her out specifically to spend time alone with her. And despite already having made up her mind, and holding true to her intentions, she couldn't resist accepting his offers, rather she could barely conceal her eagerness or the way her entire body thrummed with warmth each time he'd extended his hand towards her.
That guilt still wasn't enough to change her mind. She knew what had to be done, she'd made her decision long ago, with a clear mind and clear heart. Reaffirming that, following that through was the only sane choice, it was for the best, for all of them.
Her heart ached. But she would do nothing all the same.
Even more than Robin did, Say'ri knew for absolute certain that they were alone because Kagerou had been sent to protect Lucina while she visited the town's marketplace. There was no-one here but the two of them. And when they returned, and when Kagerou saw once again, that nothing had happened, she would worry.
Her ninja's reports on this matter had been extremely clear: whatever Robin and Lucina's feelings towards one another may be, there was absolutely no indication that their relationship had grown or changed at all from what it had been during the war. Rather it appeared almost as if the two of them had been left practically stuck in time. There was no doubting the warm affection or deep trust between them, but there was nothing beyond that. They talked and interacted like the closest of friends and dearest of allies, not as lovers, or as a husband and wife. There was no sly touches or stolen kisses, there were no whispered promises, or salacious late-night visits. There was, by every one of Kagerou's reports, nothing between them but the same clear friendship that Say'ri herself had valued so highly with the Tactician.
She was no fool, of course. It could have been an act. She knew Lucina enough to understand that the former Exalt was uncommonly shy about such matters, and it wouldn't have surprised her in the least to have learned that she had begged Robin to keep their relationship a secret. But… 9 days was a long time for any couple and, by her retainer's own stressed assurance- they acted as no more than friends even when they should have had no reason to believe anyone was watching them. A ninja's entire purpose was to be stealthy, and Kagerou was the best of the best, if she wished to remain undetected then even someone as sharp as Lucina wouldn't know about her.
Say'ri was breaking her own rules and testing her own resolve simply by having her ninja spy on the couple, she knew that. But she'd justified it to herself as simply seeking the final evidence needed to put to rest everything that was locked away within her heart once and for all…
…and instead, her heart had leapt into her throat when she'd been told that there truly appeared to be nothing between the Tactician and the Time-Traveller. And it had throbbed harder and harder each time since when she'd been updated that nothing had changed, and that not even the barest hint of a relationship had been noticed by her ninja's vigilant eye.
Having no small suspicion about just how much that news meant to her mistress, Kagerou had presented the news eagerly and happily, clearly expecting her to be overjoyed!
But still, she'd held back. Even as her heart ached, even as her body begged for her to reach out, to cross the distance between them and feel Robin's warmth once again, Say'ri would do nothing all the same.
Kagerou thought that Say'ri had come to Ylisse just to be hurt.
Sumia thought that Say'ri had come to try steal Robin away from her daughter.
Both of them were wrong.
The true hurt that Say'ri felt was in the past, she remembered that pain keenly and would likely never forget, whatever aches she felt now paled in comparison. Knowing that Robin really was alive once more, and being around him again, was joyous more than it was ever anything else. Equally, she had long since come to terms with his affection towards Lucina. Whether they were together or not, she had no intention of getting in their way.
Say'ri was here in Ylisse for the sake of her honour, she had come to Robin to make good on the promise they had made. Regardless of how simple her words had been, they had been true.
'Fie," chewing on her lip, the Empress stared blankly out at the majestic view laid out before her as she stifled a bitter sigh, 'Have I really resorted to lying to myself?'
That was what she'd told herself before she'd come. That justification was how she'd tempered her heart during her preparations, reminding herself time and again that there was nothing to be excited about, and certainly nothing worth dreaming about, that she was here only for the sake of her honour. Her time meditating on the sea-journey over had been almost entirely to steel her will, and to forcibly assure herself that she was travelling to Ylisse to see Robin, to remove any doubt that he truly did live once again and to get her promise over and done with. She had banished her daydreams and told herself that she was here simply to live up to Empress's honour until her hands had clenched tight enough to draw blood.
That was the plan.
It was a great plan.
And it had made sense all the way to Ylisse…
…Right until she'd finally turned herself to see him again, and been so taken the most beautiful sight she'd seen in all her time in the Eastern Continent- the man who meant so much to her standing once more in the flesh before her, smiling at her just as she'd dreamed of so many times since that terrible day. Empress or not, she was still his dear comrade, and still a woman at heart, she hadn't possibly been able to resist reaching out towards him. And the moment her fingers had brushed over his cheek and she'd felt his warmth against her, her world, her beliefs and her tightly held composure had all been thrown into absolute chaos.
Every emotion and feeling she'd held towards him, everything she'd thought and known and hoped and yearned and wanted more than anything had suddenly been rekindled within her, all at once and stronger than ever before.
And now, travelling once more at his side but without the war between them or anything else to distract them… every day and every time he spoke kindly towards her in spite of how coldly she treated him, every time he reminisced back towards those days together in Valm, every time he reminded her of just how thoughtful or considerate he'd always been towards her… every time he pulled her aside to spend time with just her alone… those feelings speared through her keener and hotter than ever, until her heart was aching enough to make her want to cry out, and her body felt like it was throbbing with the urge to be closer towards him, to speak kindly and softly to him like she used to… to tell him everything she'd once swore she would…
'Perhaps Kagerou really was right to worry for me…'
Her fingers twitched at her side, a half meter from his hand, but Say'ri did nothing all the same.
Two Years Ago - Valm
The fourth thing Say'ri reclaimed was her honour. It was everything she'd thought she wanted, and nothing like she thought it would be.
Yen'fay was dead.
His forces were scattered and the Shepherds path forwards clear once again. In all respects, it was a resounding victory for both the Ylissean Alliance and for Chon'sin itself. Despite the incredible danger of the battle and that the General himself had taken the field, the number of casualties had been among the smallest for any major engagement in the war thus far. Few Chon'sin soldiers had been eager or even willing to step foot on Demon's Ingle, and Yen'fay had (most likely intentionally, she now understood) cultivated very little loyalty for himself among his men, leading them simply by force of obligation alone.
The few loyalists that had thrown themselves to his cause had died along with him, and the rest of the army had disintegrated at the Shepherd's advance. With her own claim to the throne now beyond question, Say'ri expected a good number of those soldiers to join up with her cause- especially if their victories held as true as they had been so far when they turned their attentions towards the north.
Three of Walhart's generals were dead. The man who had betrayed Chon'sin was dead. The brother who'd left both her parents to die was dead.
Her honour was completely restored, her royal ascension was guaranteed and the dream of hope for her beleaguered country grew stronger by the day.
In all respects… by all possible metrics… by anyone's estimation… This should be the happiest day of her life.
Instead, she felt numb in a way she'd almost forgotten, that she hadn't felt since before she'd joined the Shepherds. A chill seemed to have settled over her soul and everything around her felt faded and muted.
Say'ri hadn't been naïve enough to believe she would feel nothing upon killing her brother, or that all she felt towards him was anger, she had expected that the task she bore would be a heavy one, that this would be the moment where the true weight of her duty to Chon'sin, as Empress, would bear down on her. But instead, she found she could barely even stand to think of herself in such terms. She felt almost sick even thinking of herself as a princess, let alone an Empress.
In this moment, in this cloud of pain and confusion, she could only possibly look at herself as a murderer.
Her brother, her beloved elder brother was dead, by her own hands.
"I sneered at him, I screamed my justice at him, and then I killed him."
Her body wretched and the cold, twisting pain in her stomach clenched tighter.
"All for a lie. All because I was weak! Because he needed to protect me!"
It was unthinkable! It was unbearable! Her brother had died seeing nothing but her anger and contempt, when everything he'd had and everything he'd cherished had been thrown away by his own will, all to protect her! Her mind revolted at the very idea and she shivered, shivering under her sins as she stumbled away from the camp in a daze. She didn't have a destination in mind, she was barely even able to focus on anything around her to even acknowledge where she was going. All she knew was that more people would be looking for her. The friends she'd made among the Shepherds would come to offer their condolences, their support or their comforting words. The few servants she'd had that had joined the army would come to offer their own help, to try look after her. The Voice herself would probably come as soon as she learned the full truth of what had happened.
It was all too much; it was more than she deserved and it was far more than she could handle at the moment.
So instead, with no greater motivation than simply walking away, Say'ri put slipped away from her friends and away from the celebrations she could already hear unfolding in the distance as the camp was unpacked for the night.
She had no idea how much time had passed like that, with her -the newest Empress of Chon'sin's imperial dynasty- wandering around in a stupor, all she knew was that by the time she returned to her senses the afternoon sky had grown dim and the sun was cresting below the horizon. And, far more importantly, she knew that the Shepherd's Tactician, was apparently keeping himself away from the camp just the same as her.
It was the sight of Robin, the man who'd ignited feelings within her she didn't know how to deal with and who had done more for her than she could repay with a lifetime of obligation, sitting before her, slouched on the ground against a tree, with his head hanging up towards the woodland canopy above, that finally shocked her back to reality. For the first time since their victory, Say'ri felt like she could feel her heart beating again and her head filled with thoughts beyond self-loathing. Instead, she found herself staring at him in both bewilderment and worry- this wasn't the brilliant, invincible Tactician she knew… The focussed, intense gaze she knew was nowhere to be seen, and neither was the kind, reassuring gentleness, instead Robin was staring distantly up at the sky as if not seeing it at all.
He seemed just as wretched and just as lost as she felt.
It was enough to leave her stuck in place, trying to make sense of what she was seeing from her vantage point on the edge of a small woodland path, half-hidden behind a copse of trees. It was an almost ridiculous sight, to the point where if not for his distinctive cloak, she would have thought she was looking at a completely different man entirely- the Robin she knew was proud, strong and brilliant, she had only ever seen their Tactician standing in victory, she had seen that very look on him just earlier that same day as the enemy forces had been routed… to reconcile the look of crushed defeat she could see on him now was enough to leave her heart wrenching anew.
What was going on?
Did… Did he blame himself? For what happened? For allowing her to be the one to fight Yen'fay? 'No…' That didn't make any sense! He couldn't bear any responsibility for that, it was something she'd asked of him, something she'd practically begged from him! She certainly didn't blame him, he wasn't at fault for how things had turned out! More than anything else, it hurt her simply to see him looking so miserable!
'I-I need to…'
She wasn't sure exactly what came at the end of that sentence. Everything from telling him he wasn't at fault, to collapsing into his arms, to confessing her love for him speared through her thoughts… but even as her mind jolted her feet remained leaden and she didn't move from her spot. The weight of her own despair, as well as a half year of hesitation clung heavily to her and was not so easily discarded.
'No, th-that's… Fie! What's wrong with me!? 'Tis ridiculous to be concerned with myself,' she shook her head and cleared her thoughts, 'I need to talk to him. He deserves more than that from me, after all that he has done for my sake.'
That thought finally galvanised her mind and for the first time since the battle, Say'ri's head was clear once again. Clenching her hands tight at her sides, she forced the despair and confusion from her face, calming her emotions and regaining her composure, for his sake. Drawing in a deep breath and redoubling her resolve, at long last, Say'ri stepped forwards.
For one single pace, before she was again shocked out of her thoughts, this time by another very familiar voice ringing out across the small clearing. Turning in surprise, she was left simply watching as Lucina made her own way around the tress and towards the Tactician.
"So, this is where you are, I was worried about you."
"Oh, ah, Lucina?"
"Everyone's been asking where you were… I was… Robin, you look awful."
Shaking his head, he gave a noncommittal grunt, "I'm okay, I'm fine. I'll head back soon. I'm just, I've been thinking." He answered vaguely, waving his hand as if to dismiss the question.
Lucina didn't say anything. She didn't admonish his weak response, nor did she press him for more details and try solving exactly what was wrong with the man. Instead, she simply took a seat beside him, leaning her weight lightly into his own, giving him nothing more than a gentle reminder of her presence, as she settled in silently at his side.
And, after a few minutes, perhaps in spite of himself, Robin began to speak. It was no mystery what was eating at him, the revelation that Excellus shared had made its way well around the camp by now.
"I… This is the second time this has happened, you know? The second time I've failed. I told you before about Emmeryn… It's just like then… I had everything planned out, I had the perfect strategy, I thought it was… I thought I had… It's just the same as back then. I didn't connect the dots, I thought I'd learned, I promised I'd never let something like that happen again… and I still let something like this slip by me… I didn't connect the dots! I didn't understand anything about what he was planning!"
Her hands tightened momentarily in her lap, but Lucina remained respectfully silent, holding her tongue at Robin's self-repudiation. Whether she agreed with him or not, she simply listened, giving the man who all the Shepherds looked up to a rare chance to vent.
"All the signs were there, it's so obvious now that I even try make sense of it, but I didn't even think! Say'ri told me that Yen'fay was an enemy and I never bothered to think beyond that, I thought it was horrible that her own brother had betrayed her, but I never thought about him as anything but an obstacle to our plans, I never focussed on anything but how to kill him! Gods! Lucina! I was so proud of myself, so sure of myself, I thought I had the measure of the man, that I knew exactly how he would think… but, I never thought of anything beyond the battlefield, I never thought about… about what would have driven a man like that… Gods… Naga… I promised myself I wouldn't let it happen again, that I would protect the people around me… and this is the second time one of my plans have left someone I care about without their sibling!"
His head rocked forwards and fell into his hands.
"Gods… I sent her out to kill him! To kill her own brother!"
"No," finally, Lucina spoke up, refuting his words with a quiet, soft but unyielding denial, "You told us all yourself, this was her own suggestion, it was the fight she wanted. Yen'fay came to us as an enemy, we were fighting for our lives, what could we even have done? I was… hearing about Aunt Emmeryn's death crushed me, and it's terrible learning the truth about Sir Yen'fay, but they both died the deaths they chose. Aunt Emmeryn sacrificed herself to save father, to save all of Ylisse, and Yen'fay fought us to save his sister. You're not to blame for either of their deaths.
"We were facing an impossible situation and you kept us safe, you protected all of our lives, just as you always have. You've done more than I ever could, more than any of us ever imagined… You're just a man, Robin. No-one expects you to be perfect."
The light returned to his eyes, but he gave an uncharacteristically bitter laugh at her words, "They do, Lucina. You know that, just as they always have for you. And I need to be… I should be… even if I can't be perfect, I need to be better than this."
'You're wrong! That's not it! 'Tis my fault and mine alone! You bear no blame at all!'
Say'ri's heart ached desperately in her chest and her stomach knotted enough that she could barely breathe as she watched the pained struggle playing out across the Tactician's face and listened to his desolate words. Not one single fraction of her blamed anyone but herself. But, left standing on the outside of the scene playing out, she couldn't bring herself to interrupt it. A cruel voice in the back of her head told her that it should be her comforting him like this, that it should be her letting him unburden himself from everything that'd been built up within him… but as she watched the tension slowly easing from Robin as he spoke quietly to the Ylissean Princess, her body remained stuck in place and she couldn't move.
"Hey…" he breathed, his voice barely carrying through the small clearing, "Lucina, do you mind if we just stay like this for a while? I don't think I can bear to be a Tactician right now."
"I'm fine, really. I just… I think I just need a bit of time to collect myself, and I don't want anyone else seeing me like this. I need them to believe in me, to have faith in me, I need to appear strong and confident- everyone stakes their lives in my plans, they have to be able to believe in me."
More than almost anyone else, Lucina could understand that, "Of course. As long as you need."
The moments passed silently from there and after a time, Say'ri's heart cooled enough that she was able to slip away, quietly respecting Robin's wishes to not be seen in such a state. It had been a surprise, she'd seen a side of him now that she knew he didn't want anyone else to see… but in her, at least, seeing him like that only strengthened the feelings already locked away in her heart. Ultimately, Chon'sin culture always found the truest beauty was in flawed, human, attempts at perfection and, in witnessing the wabi-sabi present in Robin's own ambitious attempt at greatness, the pain she'd felt ever since the battle eased just a fraction.
The Empress's visit to Ylisse continued in just the same uneasy, awkward manner as it had begun, through a number of important religious sites, historic landmarks and famous Ylissean vistas, Say'ri's resolve remained strong and Robin's dissatisfaction smouldered. Whenever he reached out to her she withdrew, but whenever he moved back she was right by his side- always seemingly one step away whenever he was with Lucina and just out of reach anytime he tried to close the distance between them. He would have assumed he was being played with, that he was dancing to a tune he didn't understand… if not for the bubbling frustration he could sometimes see between the cracks of her royal façade.
Say'ri had always been a powerfully reserved woman and a hard person to judge, and that had only become even more true in the time they'd been apart with the new duties she'd taken up in Chon'sin. But, when she was around him at least, her guard seemed just a little more relaxed, and every now and then, when the two of them were alone, he felt like he could almost see the strength of her willpower being tested.
Regardless of what she might say, this was proof to him that the Empress had not come here solely for the sake of their old promise. Buried there, somewhere deep inside, under innumerable layers of royal decorum and stubborn pride, there was something else she wanted, something she needed to say, or do, and that desire of hers had been enough to bring her all the way across the ocean that separated their continents- even despite what he could only imagine was an endless pile of responsibilities she now looked after. And that thought, that worry, was more than enough to keep the Tactician reaching out towards her, to keep making as much of an effort as was possible to spend time with her, to share happy memories with her, to try make her laugh or smile…
Because, all else aside, he cared deeply for Say'ri. She had been one of his closest companions in the wars, she was one of his dearest friends and the knowledge that her trip through Ylisse seemed to be as frustrating for her as it was for him (albeit, he admitted, for different reasons) was just as concerning to him as the cold distance she seemed to have formed between him.
Even as the days passed, and his forced celibacy made Robin ever increasingly aware of just how stunningly beautiful his three female companions were, that fact didn't change. More than anything else, he wanted to know what was wrong with his friend, and why she was acting so distantly towards him.
And at last, about a half week before their route was due to split with Lucina's, in a quiet, unremarkable village towards Ylisse's northeast, everything that had been building within him finally came to a head.
Caught out by some unseasonal rain, their group was currently spending their second day sequestered inside a small, but comfortable inn within the small village. Having arrived just the previous afternoon, and having spent almost two full days now simply waiting for the weather to ease, they had long since exhausted any of the meagre entertainment in the inn itself as well as any conversation with any of the few other travellers around. In the end, without anything else to do, Robin, Lucina and Say'ri had all wound up together in Lucina's room, left with little else to do but make conversation, clean their equipment and reminisce on past adventures. Kageoru was most likely somewhere in the vicinity, but, as usual, she was keeping to herself and until Say'ri called for her, would likely remain out of sight which mean, for now at least, it was just the three of them together.
Putting away the notes he'd made about today's (non)adventure and wishing once again that he'd brought more than two books with him, Robin pushed himself to his feet. Whether it was due to his worries towards the Empress, the unsatisfied frustrations pulsing heavily throughout him, or simply the mind-numbing boredom brought about by two days stuck inside, he was getting to his wits ends, and was finally willing to take more drastic steps to change their situation.
Heading back to his own room for a moment, when Robin returned, he was holding up a small but finely decorated wooden box, a small and secret offering he'd kept hidden, protected at the bottom of his pack.
"All right, well, it's not really the atmosphere I intended for this. But, it doesn't look like we've got anything better to do tonight, so, why don't the three of us share a drink together?" he suggested, pulling both women from their own conversation as he shut the door behind him and made his way back through the centre of the room, "This is something special I've been saving for the right occasion. With Say'ri visiting, I thought we'd share a drink together when we reached Mount Prism, but it might be nice to do now instead, especially while you're here with us, Lucina."
The Princess gave a small noise of surprise, given how carefully reserved she held herself, she had no real experience with alcohol. But here like this, in their now peaceful days, with people she trusted and nothing else to do, it was a surprisingly appealing suggestion.
The biggest reaction however came from the Empress herself. Having been lounging somewhat lazily against the room's single bed, she gave a sudden start the moment she saw the details embossed on the box Robin was holding up, her jaw dropping open and eyes going wide as she saw exactly what he was holding out before them. The details and edgings were a little scuffed by time, and travel, but the same ornate pattern was utterly unmissable, there was absolutely no doubt, "Th-That's… Imperial Chon'sin Sake!" she spluttered, staring almost in disbelief as the box was opened and the bottle inside matched exactly to the one in her memories.
"Yup," he nodded, as if completely oblivious to the bafflement setting the woman's world out of line, "Sorry to say, but I never really seemed to find the right occasion to drink it, even after all these years."
Then… Say'ri's mind spun… then it was the same one, the same bottle she'd given him? It was no surprise he'd never found a chance to drink it, something that important was suited to regal announcements, or celebrations of the finest calibre; ever since leaving Valm, with their victory over Grima tainted by the Tactician's death, the only thing she could possibly have thought that would have been a suitable occasion in all the time since was his eventual return. But, of course, that was just her mind flitting desperately from topic to topic, something as simple as that wasn't what set the usually stoic Empress reeling.
"I-I thought… But, but you… Fie, but did you not drink it already, all those years ago? During the night of Princess Lissa's wedding?"
"Oh? You saw that? I was definitely tempted to that night, I thought it would have been appropriate, especially for Chrom dealing with giving away his little sister like that, hah, but by the time I thought of it, everyone was already half drunk, or worse, so I thought it would'a been a waste." he laughed, once again as if completely oblivious to the turmoil roiling within her, or why such a simple question had thrown her thoughts into such disarray, "Maybe that was a little rude of me, come to think of it, but I wanted to save this one a little longer, so I gave them a bottle I'd picked up myself earlier- similar stuff, but a little cheaper."
Robin nodded with a hum, focussed entirely on pulling out a small group of saucers to drink from, he didn't seem to notice the light shining in her eyes, or the way she'd been staring transfixed at the bottle now sitting before her atop the table in the centre of the room.
"Honestly, I was a little worried. I don't know much about drinking, or alcohol, but I could tell you had a lot of reverence for this stuff, so I wanted to drink it with you. But, I'd never even tried sake before, and I thought I'd probably need to be prepared first, so when I saw a bottle of the same type for sale, I wound up paying through the nose to pick it up… urgh, I still remember that, I spent almost my entire coin purse on that stuff! I figured I'd try it alone, or with Chrom, to get used to the taste, but well, as you saw, we ended up drinking the whole thing at Lissa's wedding.
Say'ri could only nod in reply, swallowing heavily as she carefully picked up the bottle, cradling it between her hands and examining it slowly. It was just as she remembered, there was no denying it, even the message she'd written for him and tied around the neck was just as she recalled, "Fie…" feeling as if a years long misconception was crumbling away around her, her composure fell apart and she couldn't even begin to hide the smile that spread out across his face.
It was true, of course, she could see it clearly now… she hadn't taken any time to seriously look at what Robin had been drinking when she'd spotted him with Chrom, Vaike and Lon'qu during the wedding celebrations. She'd simply seen the four of them clearly surrounding a bottle of Imperial Sake and her stomach had dropped through her feet.
'Robin…' a warm, pulsing joy spread from her chest and throbbed throughout her entire body, stronger by the second as she drank in every last millimetre of the gift she'd given away so long ago, 'Fie, 'tis always that I underestimate him! Never once did I dream I had misunderstood, that 'twas but a different drink! Naga, but of course, a man such as he wouldn't make such simple use of so a treasured a gift, 'tis only my own foolishness that has hounded me all this time!'
All this time, all these years and anytime she'd thought back to that night and the gift she'd given the man she loved… each time she'd done nothing but curse herself for her stupidity, in having never once told him her intentions, nor her true feelings. So long had she been haunted by thoughts of the chance not taken, and now, here she was, given that same chance again.
Finally, after all this time, the promise she'd made in her heart had arrived… she was with Robin, in his beloved Ylisse. Her people were safe, the world was at peace, and they were sharing this drink together.
She felt like crying but found herself laughing instead. As stoic and reserved as she'd been all this time, in this moment, there was absolutely nothing Say'ri could possibly have done to keep the same regal composure she'd held so desperately onto all this time. One by one, each time her chest heaved and each time the room filled fresh with her laughter, she felt the barriers she kept up, and all the walls she'd placed between them, crumble into nothing.
And soon, the regnant Empress of Chon'sin was replaced once more by the Shepherd Say'ri. Underneath all the cold distance and icy pride was, of course, a woman whose heart had long since been captured by the Tactician, who loved him dearly and had yearned to see him again all this time.
"Hah, well, I'm glad to see you're eager! How about you Lucina, will you share a drink with us?"
This whole conversation had flown over the Ylissean Princess's head, there seemed to be a history there she wasn't familiar with, "Of course, al-although, go a little easy on me. I have little experience with alcohol." But the main point she had picked up was that this was apparently some very special stuff, and likely well worth trying.
"Good, great! Hah, it's exactly the setting I imagined, but this isn't bad! And it's about time, I've been looking forward to trying this stuff!"
Robin laughed easily, he had no reason not to, both his companions were in clear spirits and he had no way at all of knowing just how affected Say'ri was by this offer, how much this moment had been built up within her all this time.
Or, at least, that was the show he put on.
Of course, in reality, such a convenient story was obviously a lie. Just as Say'ri had seen, he had indeed drunk the wine she'd gifted him all those years ago, Imperial Sake wasn't just the kind of thing a travelling Tactician would stumble over in any random town. However, unbeknownst to her, it hadn't been a simple choice, nor one he'd made easily, Robin was more than smart enough to understand the weight of the gift he'd been given. He had opened it back then only as an important favour for Chrom, to answer his dearest friend's expressed request for help, it was not something he'd done lightly, but rather something a decision made out of unavoidable purpose.
The bottle they were holding now was one he'd commissioned Anna to find him some time ago, although it was certainly true that he'd paid an entire coin purse for it (three, in fact). The design had been identical, and so with no more than a few secret flourishes he'd made before they'd set out, it had become as near a perfect match to her gift as possible.
Strangely, as he saw the unabashed joy across the face of the woman who'd barely given so much as a hint of a smile all this time- Robin couldn't help but remember the warning Tiki had given him once; that by his nature, he was a man who would do the wrong things, for the right reasons.
The three of them settled in place, pulling up chairs together around the table in the centre of the room; Robin with some eagerness, Lucina with a touch of excited nervousness, and Say'ri with a wistful comment about how she would have preferred a lower table and some cushions instead. Taking over as host, the swordswoman cracked the bottle open with none of the refined grace they may have expected from an Empress, and soon the three of them were clinking together the deep ceramic saucers that had been supplied along with the alcohol.
"Ah! O-Oh, it's hrmm, it's, it's quite strong isn't it?"
"Hmm… 'tis just as I remember. How nostalgic…"
Just as Robin recalled from all those years ago, the rice wine was a very different flavour than what he was used to, and a very sharp contrast to the harsh Feroxian liquor he'd recently tried at the last inn they'd visited. It did, however, more than live up to its reputation. Now that he had a chance to try it while sober for the first time (as opposed to when being halfway as drunk as Chrom had been himself that night), he couldn't help but appreciate the unmistakable quality of what he was drinking, it was not difficult at all to imagine why this, of all things, had been the gift chosen for him by the woman who would later become Empress.
Judging by what he knew about her and what she'd shared of her homeland, he guessed that Say'ri must have imagined drinking like this among the cherry-blossoms of Chon'sin, or while huddled indoors by a fireplace, keeping from the snow settling in all around them. However, for his money, savouring a taste like this, while enjoying the sounds of the rain beating down on the roof above him and while surrounded by such beloved friends, Robin was more than happy. And, despite what she may have wished for or dreamed of, the Swordswoman looked clearly happier than he'd seen from her in a long, long time, not since before their final battle together.
The time passed slowly and warmly between them like that, and as the minutes passed and as they got deeper through the bottle, the last of any tensions between them dissolved and the atmosphere became jovial and inviting, a return to the comforting friendship the three of them had shared before the end of the wars. For Robin's part, just as it had ever since his return, the liquor seemed to have little effect on him, and he maintained nothing but a light buzz even as he drank through several servings, but even with that he didn't have a word of complaint, not when he was able to see both Lucina and Say'ri, two of the Shepherds most serious and stoic members, in such an intimate fashion, with their guards lowered and their hearts a little closer towards their sleeves.
As the minutes passed longer, more and more of the alcohol disappeared and the atmosphere grew ever more comfortable, Robin noticed that an unexpected but very amusing interplay of cultural differences was playing out before his eyes.
He knew well from Ylissean culture that it was considered polite to finish any meal that was put out in front of you.
And, as he had been taught about Chon'sin culture it was the hosts hospitality to refill any glass that was emptied completely.
How this was playing out was that Lucina, being the polite and respectful woman she was and faced with what she knew well was a valuable and special wine, was doing her best to drain her cup anytime it was filled.
And equally, Say'ri, being excessively well trained in honour and decorum was filling it back up each time.
The outcome was obvious; Robin was perfectly fine nursing his light buzz, Say'ri was keeping herself well under control… and Lucina, a novice drinker with absolutely no understanding of her limits, was completely sloshed within about a half-hour of the bottle being opened. She appeared to be enjoying herself at least, he noted to his relief, watching with great amusement as the ever-careful Princess put away almost a third of the bottle in the time he and Say'ri had together shared the other third.
In the end, the result was just as obvious; it was all far too much for the girl and before even an hour had passed, she was swaying in her seat, on the verge of passing out atop the table. Cradling the bluenette gently in his arms, Robin took her carefully over to the bed on the other side of the room to sleep it off.
When he'd finished drawing the covers up over his fiancée, Robin saw that Say'ri had -presumably out of consideration for the other woman- shifted away from her seat as well, and was now seating on the floor leaning against the wall along the far side of the room. Her easy smile was as warm an invitation as he'd ever seen from the swordswoman, and so he moved to join her, sitting at her side just a small distance away in exactly the same manner he'd maintained any of the few times they'd been left alone together.
Passing the bottle and his saucer back over to him, Say'ri breathed out a heavy sigh but this time there was not a single trace of regret or dissatisfaction in her tone. The wariness that had plagued her since before even setting foot in Ylisse was gone.
The time continued on like that for some time, as they passed the remainder of the bottle back and forth between them, not drinking so fast as to lose control, just enough to maintain the slight lightheaded buzz. And as the minutes turned into hours, and the twilight turned into night, under the gentle thrum of raindrops beating down on the roof above them, Robin and Say'ri finally began talking like they used to, openly, happily, and freely, in a manner she hadn't enjoyed with anyone since she'd taken up her mantle.
Say'ri wasn't the most observant person in the world, but even someone like her couldn't possibly miss that somehow, things had ended up exactly as she'd dreamed of all those years ago. Finally, the promise she'd made to herself was here. It was nothing at all like she'd thought it would be, but it was just as she'd dreamed all the same.
And slowly, inch by nervous inch, with each time she passed the bottle back to him or took it from his outstretched hands, she slid almost imperceptibly closer towards him. She couldn't hold herself away from him anymore, and she had no desire to even attempt to, not tonight.
Their shoulders touched, and she flushed so hot she was sure her face was blazing red. But she didn't pull away, and she didn't back down, "Ah…" smiling despite herself, she leant comfortably against the man she loved. And she understood now, that there was no hesitation or doubt left within her, she knew for sure how she felt and how she'd always felt. Now, all that was left holding back all the things she wanted to tell him, the truth she'd promised she would finally speak, was her own consideration for him.
'I love you. I always have.'
Her thoughts were silent, but as heartfelt as if she'd shouted them to the sky. The situation was different to how it had been back then, Robin had a family now, a wife, and a child. She wasn't restraining herself out of fear, or out of duty, but simply out of affection.
'Fie,' she mused, leaning herself into his shoulder, feeling his strength and his warmth against her, 'Just as before, 'tis always you that sets my heart at ease, isn't it?'
And so, with the lonely distance between the two companions finally closed, the night and the conversation drew on. Soon, she was telling him stories about her life as Empress with a brash honesty she'd never once imagined. Soon, she was laughing at his tales of the Shepherd's various exploits and issues they'd run into around Ylisstol in the time they'd been apart. And soon, as she felt Robin leaning against her just as much as she was against him, the warm heat that had been flushing through her since she'd made contact began turning into a dull, warm and wet ache between her legs.
But now, even that only left the swordswoman smiling brightly. Accepting just how much the Tactician turned her on was just another facet of finally being honest about everything she felt for him.
18 Months Ago - Valm
The final thing Say'ri reclaimed was her country. It was her greatest achievement and the only thing she'd ever wanted for what felt like an eternity. However, her travels with the Shepherds had been a time of metamorphosis for the woman who had come to be known as the Phoenix of Chon'sin, and by the time her homeland was liberated, even that aspect of herself had changed.
The guilt of her towards Yen'fay never truly eased, but in the months that followed the Shepherd's victory over at Demon's Ingle, Say'ri found her transition from exiled Princess to being the true claimant to the Imperial throne a far more successful one than she had ever imagined. Steadying her heart by throwing herself into her duties, she was buoyed time and again by good news and prosperous fortune as the Allied forces slowly made their way north, towards their final confrontation against Walhart.
Just as she'd always hoped, the tides of the continental struggle turned considerably after the famous general's defeat. Within days of her victory, Chon'sinese forces had flocked to her banner en masse, swelling their army far beyond what it had been only months ago. This, as much as the sight of their armies sweeping aside the minimal Valmese resistance that still remained in the central regions had been enough to tip the hands of all but the most cautious of the surrounding Kingdoms.
The so called "Resistance" forces had always been hampered by the usual weaknesses of men, self-interest, fear, greed and opportunism- but now, for the first time since she'd lost her homeland, those interests were all aligned in Say'ri's favour. Valm's previously iron grip had grown weak, the once invincible armies had been humbled time and again, only one remained of Walhart's famous generals and barely a fraction of his supplies, or his manpower remained to challenge them. Even the fact alone that the man heralded as a "Conqueror" was huddled in his fortress, doing nothing but awaiting their arrival, told the story of exactly in which direction the scales of power were now tipped. Valm, all its plunder and all its prestige, was ripe for the picking and everyone wanted to make sure they got their own share of the spoils.
It was pathetic really, a sad state of affairs that the exact same vices she'd spent so many nights cursing were now a boon to her. If she was still the same woman she had been, it would have drawn a bitter smile from her, and perhaps even resentment at the very state of affairs.
But she had no time for such considerations anymore. As welcome a distraction as her new duties may have been, they were almost endless just the same. Managing the administration and allotment of the now considerable forces following the Shepherds wake -many of which had sworn allegiance directly to her- as well as negotiating tentative treatments and treaties with the countries willing to throw their support in behind them had left Say'ri with barely enough room to breathe, let alone to mourn, or to pine. She was no naïve girl, it was exactly as she'd always expected it would be, but the change from being a wandering swordswoman, to being an international diplomat was a staggering one all the same.
Even if she had yet to claim her crown from atop the Conqueror's severed head, she was still swept up in all the thousands of myriad duties that had come with being a leader, and all the impossible expectations that came with being the true and last holder of Imperial Authority.
'Fie, I swear, I even saw Lord Chrom looking at me with pitiful eyes,' she sighed, momentarily scolding herself for the lapse in concentration that letting her fall back into her casual language in her thoughts as she warily pulled yet another leaf of paper from the seemingly endless stack of documents piled up before her, 'It feels like I never so much as draw my sword anymore.'
She didn't miss the conflict exactly, but she was feeling like a lot more of an accessory than an equal fighter among the Shepherds as of late. With the Valmese forces all fleeing desperately towards the north they'd had only a few scattered and small engagements since Demon's Ingle and she had not been part of any of them. She didn't really mind, she knew for sure that when the serious fighting came once again she would stand beside her comrades just as she ever had, but for now, she was far too busy to go off on the smaller, less important missions the Shepherds saw on their ventures.
Including one just today, where Chrom had taken Robin and several of their other companions away just a few hours ago now, to explore some ancient Temple of Naga that had been discovered. The auspicious title of "Ruins of Time" had drawn significant interest, especially among the time-traveller Shepherds, but by all the local accounts there was little there of note but some Risen presence and incredibly dubious rumours of a lost artefact. She couldn't deny her own interest, but without any real hope of finding anything or of facing serious resistance, she couldn't possibly justify her participation. But, of course, staying behind brought its own complications.
On one hand, she was annoyed that Lady Tiki had snuck off with them, and worried for the ancient Manakete's safety.
But on the other, she was with Robin and unlikely to be facing any meaningful danger besides… and, not having the green-haired woman around meant Say'ri was able to get a lot more work done.
She paused, guiltily, at that thought. It wasn't not true… but still, even as she smiled ruefully at the idea, she couldn't help but chastise herself all the same. Lady Tiki was the Divine Dragon, and the sublime voice of Naga herself… she definitely shouldn't be thought of in the same vein as an insistent, impulsive and very lazy housecat… even if there were, admittedly, some small similarities.
And then, just as Say'ri was starting envision the Ancient Manakete stretched out, belly up, in the sun and letting out a contented purr, a chorus of shouts and cries rang out across the camp, and she was suddenly pulled from her idle daydreams. There was no sound of worry, or hurry in the calls, just a dull, cheerful greeting she could hear rolling back and forth in the distance. Which could only mean,
"Ah! They're back!"
Jumping from her seat, she quickly pushed the heavy pile of work still to do away and tugged her clothes into a presentable enough arrangement to be stepping out into public. Given how distracted she'd been by her worries for her adventuring companions, it would have been beyond churlish for her to have simply continued to hole herself up in her tent now that they had finally come back.
There was a strange tremor of surprise and interest in the air as the uncrowned Empress strode towards the head of the camp and took in the welcome sight of the returning Shepherds- by Naga's grace, none of them appeared to be any worse the wear. Having first looked towards the sight of her friend, and her relief that Tiki was unharmed (although, with a strangely complicated look on her face) and then been delighted to see that Robin was not just healthy but in obviously high spirits, it took Say'ri several moments to even notice what seemed to have taken everyone by surprise. It wasn't until she finally shifted her eyes away from the beaming Tactician, that she caught sight of the spritely looking young girl walking happily at his side- someone Say'ri had never seen before.
'Oh?' that certainly explained everyone's reactions, 'They found another one of those future children?'
That was odd of course, but in the time she'd spent so far with the Shepherds it had become par for the course.
Strangely, a cold shudder went up Say'ri's spine, and she found her legs trembling for some reason as she looked at this new girl.
The blue hair was unmistakably distinctive, and there was no missing the sight of the Falchion strapped at her waist, 'Another one of Chrom's children? Fie, he certainly has had a successful future, has he not?' just looking at the beautiful young girl, and the confident way she carried herself, Say'ri was sure if she came closer she would see the mark of the Exalt clear upon her.
But for some reason, she didn't want to come any closer. And in-fact, she found it hard to even look at the girl.
Instead, by the time she noticed it, Say'ri realised she'd retreated several meters away, that rather than greeting her returning companions, she was fleeing from them, 'H-How ri-riduclous!' she chided herself, stumbling haphazardly through the camp and back towards her own tent, 'Wh-What's wrong with me? I, I ne-need to find out how their mission went, if… if they found any- Fie! Fie! B-But more than that, I-I need to, to make a proper greeting to that girl, t-t-to Chrom's child… S-S-So, so, I just need to… just need to calm down for a moment first.'
It was incredibly rude for her not to congratulate her friends on their return, and even more to spurn their newfound companion. As their ally, and as the Empress to be, it was imperative for her.
But as a woman, she couldn't manage it. The heart she'd thought kept tightly under control was tearing at her chest, her vision was swimming and her legs were threatening to give out under her at every step.
Of course, the very first thing Say'ri had noticed, before even seeing the girl's beautiful blue hair, had been the sight of the distinctive black and purple cloak that was wrapped around her shoulders.
Nor could she possibly have missed the way she was clinging to Robin's arm, staring up at him in wonderous delight, as she'd waved a thick-heavy looking book happily before his eyes.
Under any other circumstances, the sight of Lucina walking unsteadily a half-pace behind the two of them, with her face burned blisteringly red and hands held awkwardly at her sides would have made the Chon'sin woman smile. She cared deeply for Lucina and it was always nice to see the ever stoic young girl expressing such heartfelt emotions… but right now, she couldn't even acknowledge seeing it, she could barely stand to process the thoughts, and realisation clanging with deafening force throughout her head.
Stumbling back into her tent, she barely restrained the strength to yank the tent flaps closed behind her, before she sank to the ground.
It seemed Tiki had gone ahead of her, predicting exactly how she'd react, she'd beaten her back to her own tent.
She didn't have enough will left to talk, or to even pretend to keep up her usually composed façade. She could do nothing but shiver as she felt the ancient Manakete wrap her arms around her, pulling Say'ri's head to her shoulder and collecting her into a heartfelt embrace. She didn't have energy to resist, nor the presence of mind to worry about how improper this was, she was -in that moment- simply grateful.
A second passed, and then another after that. And with each instant, the fortress of walls kept inside the young swordswoman crumbled as everything she'd bottled up, everything she'd restrained, and all the years' worth of feelings she'd never faced rushed out all at once.
And for the first time since she was a child, for the first time since she was taught to conceal her emotions under royal dignity, Say'ri cried.
Falling into her friend's embrace, clinging tightly to the other woman and murmuring in response as Tiki's hands ran soothingly up and down her back, the tears ran freely down Say'ri's face as she sobbed out all her regrets, all the pain and all the hurt she'd tried so long to pretend didn't exist inside her. A part of her mourned the life that was now behind her and the freedoms that would be sacrificed under duty's crown. A part of her mourned the family she'd lost, crying finally for the parents slain by a madman and the brother she'd killed in her own ignorance. And a part of her mourned the future she'd sometimes let herself dream of- with the man she'd come to realise she wanted forever at her side.
Tiki's comfort meant the world to her. But it was not only the Chon'sin woman that was being comforted in their embrace. Say'ri didn't understand it at the time, nor would she realise it for some years still to come, but the feeling that was wrenching at her- that she would never meet a man like him again, was felt even more keenly in the Manakete than she could have possibly imagined. But Tiki was used to mourning, she'd mourned the loss of everyone and everything she'd ever cared for in the thousand years of her isolation since, so her own feelings were kept quiet, and her arms kept secure around her friend.
Between herself and Robin, over some comfortable period of time she couldn't possibly have tracked, the remainder of the alcohol slowly disappeared. As the bottle was put aside, and the conversation dwindled, a soft silence spread out between them, one punctuated only by the rhythmic thrum of raindrops hitting the roof, and the slightly less rhythmic sound of the royal Ylissean Princess turning in her sleep.
For a time, Say'ri wondered if Robin had fallen asleep against her shoulder. Despite not being much of a drinker, she was well in control of herself, the light-headedness she could feel bubbling through her was as much because of her sheer proximity to the man she loved as from the sake itself. With the shivers of joyous excitement she could feel tingling down her spine, and the way her thoughts had been racing happily ever since their conversation had begun, she doubted she would be able to calm down soon tonight, if at all.
But she had no delusions that the same feelings would be true for the Tactician. No matter how important, or how cherished this moment may have been for her, she knew there was no reason he would hold it in special reverence.
It was a bittersweet thought, but one she'd embraced some time ago now. Even now that they'd finally been reunited, even now that she had finally opened herself up to him and even now that she had finally let the close bond between them be re-established, she had still held back on the promise she'd made to herself, and still restrained the years' worth of feelings locked inside her. For her, this was the happiest night she'd had since the day he'd disappeared at the end of the war, but for Robin it was surely just another evening spent with a close companion.
Which was why she was surprised, when the soft whisper of his voice broke the silence between them. And then surprised even further when she turned towards him and saw not the gentle drowsiness of a man warmed by drink and friendship… but the same light of brilliance shining undiminished in his gaze, and a look of troubled contemplation worn heavily across his face.
Her eyes widened and her heart jumped in her chest. She had seen this look on him before, the consideration and calculation of a man standing atop a precipice, unsure of which way to jump, but this was only the second time she'd found herself caught the focus of those same machinations. She was alone with him now and, for the first time since she could remember, perhaps since that fateful night in their strategy tent so long ago, she alone was the sole object of the Grandmaster's attention.
A lump formed in her throat, and the ache between her legs burned hotter. Eventually she realised she'd been so caught up in staring at him, she had yet to give him a reply.
"There's something I…" he paused, chewing on his lip for a moment, before narrowing his eyes, as if pushing himself forward through an uneasy path, "There's something I need to ask you."
"Oh? Fie, by, by all means. I shall answer whatever you wish."
"I may regret asking, I… Heh, I'm a little scared you'll hate my impudence at even… even considering it…" his eyes drifted from her and she was surprised to see hints of a bashful red colouring his cheeks, "But… I've… I've wondered about this for a long time, for years now… and I think this might be my only chance, I know if I don't, I'll regret it for the rest of my life."
His words were clumsy, but he was talking to an Empress, a woman who had danced in politics since the very day she was born. She caught his meaning immediately when he said this may be his only chance. They were travelling together, this was neither the first time they had been alone, nor would it be the last, nor was there any reason for him to assume she would treat him coldly again tomorrow.
"Ho, Robin, 'tis unlike you! Fie, perhaps Chon'sin wine was stronger than you expected?"
"Hah, maybe so!"
She immediately granted the concession he sought from her. A concession she would have never granted anyone else: the right to speak freely and without consequence tonight.
They had both had a lot to drink, and drunk people say foolish things. That was the unspoken agreement behind each of their words.
It didn't matter that she could clearly see the reason still in his eyes. Nor that she had barely nursed more than a light buzz over several hours herself. The terms of their discussion were set down, "We had a lot to drink last night," they had agreed. Whatever he needed to ask her, if he truly did offend her, or anger her, then it would simply be brushed away under that excuse tomorrow and they would never speak of it again.
His gaze turned serious once more and she found herself captivated once again, everything else around them and all other considerations fading away as she drank in the full intensity of the Tactician's focus. Turning fully towards him, she swallowed heavily, her mind strangely clear and her heart still clenched tight.
Reaching out, Robin surprised her by stroking his fingertips gently across her cheek. Her mouth fell open, both in shock and delight, and a soft, mewling sight echoed out in response as she felt her body shiver.
"I just, I've always wanted to know… Did I… Did I ever have a chance?"
Her world stopped.
All sound, all thoughts and all reactions turned numb. Everything faded to white and she simply stared, dumbly, not even taking notice of the way her body instinctively pushed her face against his soft caress.
At length, she slowly came back to herself.
"A-A-A-A…" she swallowed, "A chance?"
She hadn't misunderstood.
Her world stopped again.
..- "Ahau!" but this time, she wrenched herself immediately back to reality. The fiery ache burning within her, as well as years' worth of repressed need refused to let her waste another second in this moment, "Ah, ah, R-Robin!?" unfortunately her desires outpaced her thoughts and her words came out as barley more than simply calling for him.
"When I was first working with you in Valm, it was just for the sake of my duty. I didn't have any particular desire to help Chon'sin specifically, it was just an objective for the sake of our war. I spent time with you for the sake of discussing strategy, or because I wanted to speak to Tiki. But… Well, I'm not really sure when it happened myself… but, after I got used to being around you, when I was making plans with you, or fighting alongside you, after I saw how hard you were always working, how much our efforts meant to you, and how deeply hurt you'd been by everything that had happened… I… I suppose I was captivated by you.
"Before I knew it, I couldn't stop thinking about you! I kept finding reasons to come see you, or to be around you. I didn't want to save Chon'sin for the sake of stopping Walhart, but because I wanted to see you smile again… I wanted to be the one to give you back your country, your family, to make you happy."
Her heart thundered in her chest and her head spun at his words. He'd always felt this way? He'd felt… the same as her… all this time? It was everything she'd ever dreamed he might say, as if someone was plucking the words right from her fantasies, and it was only the warmth of Robin's hand against her cheek that kept her grounded, that reminded her that this was somehow, unbelievably, real.
"Of course… I mean, I was just a common Tactician though, a guy Chrom found lying on the side of the road. I always told myself never to say anything to you, I tried to hide my feelings, so you wouldn't think less of me… I've never said how I truly felt all this time…" Say'ri's world shuddered along with her and she hung painfully on his every word. He was going to say it? What she'd longed to hear all this time, even before she'd been able to admit wanting it? He was going to say he loved her? "And now, I can't. I know that, but…"
Perhaps another woman would have been disappointed in that moment, but Chon'sin culture worked heavily with context and implications, very rarely were such things said outright. And now, Say'ri couldn't possibly have missed what Robin was saying. Her body was flushed warm, her cheeks were blazing red and her entire body felt like it was tingling with delight.
"Of course not," he answered, wincing with a bittersweet smile, "It wouldn't be fair, not anymore… I've got a daughter now, I've got Morgan."
The realisation hit her like a splash of cold water.
Once again, it turned out that all this time, all these years, Robin's feelings had been exactly the same as hers… including, on that most painful day she could still remember, when he'd returned from the Ruins of Time.
"Even if I wanted to… No matter how much I may want to… I can't marry another woman, that wouldn't be right. I ha-" his voice hitched, "I have to do the right thing by Lucina. You know as well as I do, she's had a terrible life, she's suffered more than anyone, more than I can possibly imagine. I care deeply for her, she means a… a very great deal to me. I don't know if she wants to marry me, or if she wants to be with me at all, I don't even know if she thinks of me like that… but that has to be her choice to make, I can't make it for her. She deserves the right to have her family, just like she did in Morgan's future, and to be happy.
"And, of course, I owe everything to Chrom, I owe him my life and more. I could never let his daughter become an unwed mother."
A barrage of excuses, unrelated reasonings and justifications. Say'ri had danced in politics more than long enough to know what it meant when someone gave such a scattered response.
But even so, she found herself barely able to reply. The thunderous joy that'd been echoing through her heart had been squeezed tight and just hearing Robin discussing his obligation to be with Lucina was painful. Despite whatever minor difficulties they'd had around this trip, she respected Lucina greatly, she could understand every word of what Robin was saying and in any other circumstance would agree wholeheartedly about the girl being more than deserving of happiness. But listening it to it now was like an iron spike through her soul.
Her thoughts must have shown on her face, because he waved them away a moment later, dismissing them with a shake of his head as his own expression turned stoic in place.
"Don't look at me like that, Say'ri. It's not like that… It's not a cruel duty, it's a happy one. Lucina is a wonderful woman, and I care deeply for her. If she does wish to be with me, then I'd be proud to spend my life making her happy. And I couldn't possibly ask for a better child to carry on my legacy than Morgan. I have nothing to complain about… a-at all."
Wincing, she almost bit her tongue as she forced herself to nod. She understood that feeling. She understood down to the depths of her soul. To be restrained by a duty of your own choosing, a benevolent and kind duty, one that made you happy… but that kept you away from happiness all the same. His words tumbled around painfully inside her. She understood those shackles as well as she understood anything. And so, she could only nod, offering the ghost of a smile.
"Y-Yes, of course. 'Tis true, you cannot possibly dishonour Lucina."
Her body shuddered again, but not from the delight of his touch, and her heart was clenched agonisingly in her chest. Her face was as clear and composed a mask as she could make it, but even in all her eloquence and all her reading, she didn't even have the words to describe how she felt right now. After so many years, after waiting and wanting and aching, and after finally accepting the feelings she'd had for the Tactician, he'd finally told her what she'd never truly been able to believe he would. His feelings were just the same as hers, they had been all this time. And then, she had been reminded of the reality of their situation, of the reasons why she'd forced her feelings down all the same.
And it was colder than she'd even imagined. Rather than 'Robin doesn't even love me,' the reality was, 'It doesn't matter, even if Robin does love me'. For years now, ever since that day Morgan had joined their camp, she'd been forced to accept that Robin would marry Lucina, but she had never once thought it would be like this. It was as if she was locked away, just one single step out of reach from the man she loved.
"You understand what I'm talking about don't you," he continued, "I mean, it's the same for you, isn't it?"
"Isn't it? After all, you're the Empress of Chon'sin now, the head of the royal line, you've got a duty to produce an heir."
Again, she winced, and this time her body shuddered with outright disgust.
It was true, of course, she couldn't possibly deny it. And already some of her bolder advisors had begun to suggest exactly the same thing to her. As Empress, her hand in marriage was fundamentally a political tool, and more than anything else, she had an imperative to raise a child that could carry on her lineage. That concept had been drilled into her head since she was little more than a child, if not for Valm's war, she would have almost certainly been married off already.
Perhaps in those day she would have accepted it, but in her time of Exile, after spending her days among the Shepherds, after seeing the Exalt's loving marriage and having her own heart claimed in turn, it was a truly bitter idea; not only did she have to accept that she could not be with Robin, but also that she had to let another man be with her. She had put it off all this time, banished it from her thoughts and from our courtly discussions, but it was her duty all the same… the vows she'd wished to share with Robin, she would instead take with someone else. Instead of the touch of his hands that she ached so desperately for, her body would be given up to another man's enjoyment. Instead of giving away her virginity to the man she loved, it would instead be claimed by another.
It was an exceedingly sour thought. Enough to ruin the even the aftertaste of the Imperial sake they'd shared.
She wasn't some child, too bashful and nervous to accept what she knew. There was no mistaking the meaning behind Robin's original question, or what he'd longed to say to her. At long last, she finally understood. And she understood that she could have been with him, and he with her… but that now, they were both restrained by their duties- by cherished, welcome chains they'd accepted willingly.
She didn't know what to say, or how to react, but as she looked up at him, and as she fell once more into the depths of his eyes, she began speaking without even intending to.
He had been open with her. Instinctively, she realised that it was time, at long last, to be open in return.
"I've told you this before… honour is integral to Chon'sin culture. 'Tis how I was taught, ever since I was a child, that no matter what happens in your life, you must live it with honour and that the royal family bears the honour of the entire country. Heh, Lady Tiki always called it foolish, she would say that humans have such short lives, all that we should worry ourselves with is being happy… But I could never agree with her, how could I possibly restore Chon'sin if I didn't have honour to bear it with? My parents were kind to me, I loved them dearly, and I loved my brother more than anything, I idolised him, he was everything I ever aspired to be, the finest swordsman and surely the man to be my country's ideal ruler. And then I lost them all, when I was left without my country, or my home, or anything… honour was all I had left. It was all that kept me going, it was all I ever thought I needed… but in the end, that desperate need to reclaim and restore our honour took my once dearest companion from me, the same brother I idolised and hated for so long.
"Even after the war, I felt this. I looked back and understood that I had a family with the Shepherds, and that now, no matter how happy I have been and how fulfilling it is to see Chon'sin restored to its true pride… I have been lonely. Kagerou is a welcome companion, but Tiki has returned to the Mila Tree ever since the war, and the endless tasks and responsibilities of my role have kept me from making anything but the scarcest contact with any of the companions who were so dear to me."
She laughed, "Did you know, that upon the news of your return, I threw a three-day gala in celebration at the news? I was overjoyed, it was a blessing from Naga I had never expected- fie, 'twas like something from the legends, the saviour of our world and the slayer of Grima returned from the heavens to join us once more. Even so, I still could make no time to visit Ylisse, to see the proof you lived for myself. Even so, even when I understood that I was lonely, I still took no closer companions or sought someone to walk at my side… I have turned down every suiter brave enough to face me ever since the war. Not out of pride, nor ambition, but simply because I cannot help but compare them to you, Robin. An Emperor needs to be smart, but always you are smarter. He needs to be cunning, but always you are more devious. Stronger, wiser, kinder, gentler… Every man I find reminds me only of how much I have missed you all this time."
His hand stroked again over her cheek, and a soft smile blossomed on her lips as her words gained more strength.
"I have never missed, nor have I undervalued the contributions you have made to me and to my people, Robin and they have meant everything to me. You worked harder than anyone in our victories, and in doing so, it was you that always returned to me everything I had lost. Even if I was never the reason you did anything, even if it was just for the sake of Ylisse, it was always still thanks to you… Fie, 'twould be impossible that the man who has given me everything I ever dreamed of would not take up a permanent place in my heart. Even after all this time, I know it more than ever; I can never replace you."
She faced him now, finally sure of herself, of her path and everything she wanted. Once again, her cheeks blazed crimson, and once again her body yearned hot or his touch. But this time there was no hesitation left in her, and this time it was her that reached out to him, clasping his hand with hers, as she placed the other atop his chest.
"F-Fie! Robin, o-of course… you always had a chance. You have always been the only man who's ever had a chance. I-I, ahh, Robin… I love you!"
Acting almost purely on impulse, Say'ri threw herself forwards, falling into his arms and pressing her lips against his!
"Ahmm!? Mm, mmmma…"
She kept her lips closed, simply pushing them against his without any real idea what she was doing or what she was meant to do- her knowledge consisting of little more than a few scattered tales she'd heard around the campfire and a handful of salacious stories she'd read in secret when she was younger. But Robin's arms slid securely around her waist, holding her against him in a way that left her body throbbing heavy with delight, and his mouth moved softly against her own, turning her head slightly to the side and gently taking the lead until she finally broke away with a heady gasp.
One kiss quickly begat another.
And soon, Say'ri's arms were as tight around Robin's neck as his were around her waist, and rather than sitting facing him, she had been pulled fully up onto his lap, feeling his strength and his surely all around her as she moaned hotter, harder and more eagerly with each time her lips crashed back against his.
"Nnnghh, Robin… Hhhaa!"
Robin had always known Say'ri was a brilliant woman, having spent her childhood trained by the best Imperial tutors, it was no surprise how capable she was. But even so, he couldn't help but be impressed at just how adept she'd become at kissing in just a few minutes. She was still undeniably clumsy, and she had neither the kind of obsessive passion he'd felt from Tharja or Olivia, nor the kind of enthusiastic recklessness he enjoyed with Lissa or Nowi… instead, she reminded him of Lucina, kissing him with what felt like a humble yearning, giving herself up entirely to him and learning more and more with each time she shuddered in his arms.
The clear and honest adoration he could feel from her was no less than what he'd felt from the Princess either- for all the times Robin had wondered if Lucina's suspicions were correct, if Say'ri truly did feel that way towards him, he now had his answer a thousand-fold. And of course, his own feelings were honest too, he loved her in return- just the same as how he loved Tharja, Lissa, Olivia, Nowi, Miriel and Panne.
More surprisingly however, was that Say'ri was the one escalating things between them. Robin had been the one to pull the Empress into his lap, but it was her that had begun tentatively shifting her soft weight back and forth atop him. And, when he shifted his kisses along the underside of her jaw, began trailing his mouth slowly down the length of her slender neck, Say'ri had reacted immediately by wrapping her arms even tighter around his shoulders and pushing herself hotter and harder against him. Instead of shying away from the feeling of his length pressing up heavily between her legs, the swordswoman had begun grinding herself into it- carefully and awkwardly at first, but with greater hunger and excitement by the moment, until now she was wrapped tight against Robin's chest, with her moans singing out quietly beside his ears and her slender body pushed eagerly into him, rocking back and forth in time with the trail of kisses he was leaving down her neck.
The forced celibacy of this trip so far had strained Robin's restraint far more than he'd ever expected, and feeling the stoic, pure Empress wrapped so wantonly around him like this was almost enough to destroy the remaining vestiges of control he still held. Every inch of his soul was screaming for him to take her, to hold her, to claim her.
"R-Robin, hhha," panting his name, Say'ri shifted herself atop him once more, this time pushing her chest out towards him, urging his eyes down towards where her kimono had already become just a little looser, and where he could see the tantalising hints of her bindings below, "M-More, please, t-touch me…"
It was an unbelievably tempting offer, one that tested the full limits of even Robin's now practiced resolve. And it was only with significant difficulty that he was able to pause, to pull back just an inch and swallow several deep breaths instead. He couldn't. Not quite yet. Even if this was what they both wanted, taking action now would be the same as them both just being swept up in their desires. This next step had to be hers to take.
"Say'ri," he answered instead, holding her in place, but making absolutely no effort to remove his hands from where they'd slid around her waist, nor in hiding the delight he took in feeling the Empress's soft, supple skin under his fingers as he enjoyed the delicate curve of her hips, "We… We can't…"
Heeding his words, she did stop. However, while the light of reason slowly returned to the Empress's half-glazed eyes, and her wanton smile turned softer, she made no attempt to pull away from him, or to back down even a single millimetre. Instead, she simply laughed quietly, twisting slightly atop him and making it clear she was just as thrilled to be in his arms as he was to have her there.
"Aye, you are correct, 'tis as you say, I do understand your situation, I understand it fully because 'tis just the same as mine," she whispered in heated breaths, leaning over and laying her head on his shoulder, "However, I am not the same woman I was during my time with the Shepherds. As Empress of Chon'sin, I have seen for myself, in all the time since we last parted ways, the truth of everything Lady Tiki was trying to warn me about… Fie, I never doubted her wisdom, but 'tis only when I look back now that I can see clearly what must be obvious to a woman like her. R-Robin, I… I have lived my entire life by honour… I believe that honour is important, 'tis integral to our culture, and I am proud to bear the honour of my people, it means the world to me. But… but honour has left me lonely and continuing to live only for the sake of my honour will leave me lonelier still."
Honour and duty had left her without her brother. It had left her alone in her own royal Palace. And it had led to her travelling all the way to Ylisse, just to keep a painful distance from the man she loved.
It was almost impossible to imagine the Say'ri he'd known saying any of this, and Robin could only smile as he marvelled at how much she must have grown in all the time they'd been apart.
"I do not mean to diminish the importance of duty, for either of us, we each have too much we could never give up," she continued, pulling back and sitting upright atop him, facing him now, with her hands linked around his shoulders and their heads only centimetres apart. Her lips were curled into a nervous, tentative smile and her eyes were uplifted towards him, "B-But… But, Robin… m-m-my lo-love… w-we are, fie, 't-tis to say… we are on vacation, are we not? For at least as long as we are together, I want to propose a moratorium on our duties."
His eyes went wide, and his body shivered hot in response. Again, he could have never previously imagined the woman he'd known saying such a thing.
For the duration of their trip, he would not be the Grandmaster of Ylisse, a man with the (apparent) obligation to marry Chrom's daughter. And she would not be the Empress of Chon'sin, tasked with upholding the righteousness and purity of her nation.
They would simply be a man and woman.
It was everything she'd never been bold enough to realise she wanted… and exactly the conclusion he'd wanted to lead her towards. His body lit up in delight and this time, Robin moved first!
"Mmm!? Ahh, hhnnmmm!"
Pulling her just a little firmer against him and taking the time to enjoy the feeling of rolling his fingertips along the bare skin of her hips, Robin slowly slid his hands up to untie the sash pulled tight around her waist, tugging it to the side as Say'ri's broke their kiss, gasping lightly into the air. Her kimono fell open easily after that, neither the light silken fabric nor the Empress of Chon'sin offered even the slightest resistance to his touch, and the dress was smoothly pulled open before his eyes.
Despite already having seen the truth of Say'ri's figure when she'd first arrived in Ylisse, Robin still couldn't help but gape as he took in the full scope of the mounds he could now see clearly wrapped up against her in a tight cloth binding. It was so distinct from the image he'd always had of her, he struggled to even wrap his mind around it, let alone just how such a feat had been accomplished. It must have been magic, or some ancient technique, because just the sight of Say'ri's enormous chest straining in place, tight against the wraps, was beyond the scope of his reality.
"A-Ah, it's… it's a little embarrassing if you stare like that," she whispered, shivering lightly atop him and blushing a vibrant scarlet as he took his time simply drinking in the sight of her.
Robin didn't reply. Even as intensely worked up as he was right now, it was impossible for a man like him not to simply marvel at the sight that had been unveiled before him. The incredible body hidden away behind the Empress modest robes, or locked tight under the Swordswoman's practical garb- the slender musculature that acted as a light definition to her pale white skin, the toned outline of her trim stomach, right down to the womanly curve of her wide round hips. Similar to his fiancée, it made for a powerful contrast between the soft femininity she couldn't help but exude and the tough practicality of her warrior's lifestyle, and it was intensely alluring on every possible front. Even limned only by the unflattering lamplight of the room, Say'ri's radiance was unquestioned, and the aching, burning lust Robin had been fighting against this entire trip only flared hotter as he took in every last millimetre of her.
Given the small gasp she let out, suddenly finding the length between her legs pushing up even hotter and harder than ever, there hadn't even been a need for Robin to say that much for her to understand how much he enjoyed the sight of her. For Say'ri, it was an admission, and a sensation, that left her heart jolting in her chest. She had already accepted her own arousal to the Tactician -the wet ache between her legs was undeniable at this point- but hearing and feeling, the same back from him, learning once again that their feelings were in tune, was welcome beyond all measures.
"No man has ever seen me like this before," she whispered on a dry breath, "I-I only ever wanted you… to see…"
"Are you sure you want this?" Robin asked in return, reaching out and laying his hands lightly atop the cloth bindings, smiling at the way she shivered and shook against the sensation of his fingertips just barely tracing across her bare flesh where it peeked out from under the cloth, "Aren't we moving too fast for one night?"
"P-Please, don't stop…"
If her words hadn't been enough, the way her hands linked even more securely around his neck and the way she urged her chest forwards into his hands was more than proof of how badly she wanted this. Of course, he knew already that the feeling of his fingertips just barely teasing and tantalising her previously untouched body would have surely made this almost impossible for her to back down from.
Likely for the sake of her own convenience, the bindings around her chest were tied at the front with a simple knot. Which meant it was only the work of a few moments before the cloth was pulled smoothly away and Say'ri's enormous bust was bouncing heavily out into the Tactician's waiting hands. Once again, Robin couldn't help but verbalise his amazement as he felt the full size of the petite seeming swordswoman's chest, easily big enough to overflow from his palms and far more than he could even stretch his fingers across. Marvelling at the sight, and the full figure of her body finally revealed to him, he could see clearly that Say'ri stood easily among the largest of any of the women he knew; considerably bigger than Olivia or Maribelle, she only truly lost out to the ridiculous figures of Tharja or Tiki.
Even outside his current state, it would have been almost too tantalising a sight to resist, and so the Tactician wasted absolutely no time in helping himself! Rolling his fingers across her massive expanse, kneading his palms gently into her bust, teasing his thumbtips across the hard nubs of her now exposed nipples, it was all nothing like and far more intense than anything Say'ri had ever experienced before; in just a few moments she was squirming wantonly atop him, with her head thrown back as she twisted from side to side, gasping and moaning louder with each touch.
"F-Fi-Fie!" she panted, taking several deep breaths to try get her words under control, "Robin! Th-That's… Naga! 'tis, v-very intense!"
"Ah, sorry, was that too much?"
Even as he made a show of contrition, still he gently stroked his hands around the underside of her bust, drawing several more excited shudders from the usually composed swordswoman.
With great effort, Say'ri managed to gather her thoughts, "N-Nay, not at all… it feels… fe-feels incredible. 'Tis just how I've always dreamed… Aye, you seem to have such confidence, are you so experienced in such matters?"
"Experienced?" pausing with just an instant's hesitation, he shook his head, "No, or at least, I don't think so… I played with Lissa a little in the past, back during the first war but never anything serious, obviously I could never do anything with Lucina unless we got married… and, hah, well ever since Valm, you've been the only woman I've thought of… Rather than confident, I've just been doing what I've always wished I could. "
"A-Aye? 'Tis no great matter, i-if a man has a little experience, I would not have complained…" shifting happily both from his praise and his gentle caresses, Say'ri's smile turned almost bashful, "B-But… but… I-I am glad, to be your first as well… like something out of a story…"
Robin was smart enough to know better than to tell such pointless lies, but the last thing he wanted was for her to start wondering about how far exactly he had gone with Lucina. For now, at least, it seemed prudent to play up the role of the hapless virgin so many of the Shepherds seemed to assume he was. If nothing else, it seemed to have pleased her to imagine that she was his first lover.
Dipping his head down, Robin quickly forestalled any further questions by wrapping his lips directly around her right nipple, leaning into her and suckling on it with a sudden force as he began kneading her left breast just a little harder than before. Say'ri's words turned garbled, running into each other in a sudden throaty moan, and she clung desperately around him as her body was suddenly awash with even more stimulation than before!
Hearing her cries now echoing out around the room in response to his sudden assault, Robin abruptly reached around with his free hand, pulling the back of her head down into his shoulder and letting her stifle her gasps directly into his cloak.
Taken completely off guard, shuddering under what felt like a torrent of pleasure, and now being held stiffly against the man she loved, it took Say'ri a moment to even realise what he was intending before she finally caught on, and bit down directly into the fabric, burying her head into him and screaming her desire silently into the thick cloak.
Her hands locked forcefully around the back of his head and she clung tight around him with every drop strength that still remained within her now trembling body. Feeling her relaxing entirely into his control, Robin intensified his movements further, gasping his own pleasure aloud as the Say'ri squeezed even closer around him and as the swordswoman's luscious hips began rolling clumsily, and frantically, against the where his cock was now stretching up between them.
She didn't appear to have any plan, and certainly didn't have any experience, but the sash she usually wore around her waist was now bunched up around her hips, which meant there was nothing but the thin cloth of her undergarments covering her. Which meant that, even as her body tumbled headlong through the unfamiliar ecstasy that was spreading from Robin's caresses and touches on her breasts, she could also vividly feel both the coarse fabric of his pants underneath her and every last millimetre of his rock-hard arousal towards her.
Her massive, pillowy breasts felt amazing under his hands, bouncing and conforming around his kneading with a deliciously gentle allure he knew he would never get tired of. Her lithe, toned body with strength forged on the battlefield made for an irresistible contrast against the delicate beauty of her round hips, the softness of the ass he could feel now almost bouncing atop his lap and the wanton need all but radiating from her pussy. In every aspect of herself, Say'ri seemed the epitome of the Chon'sin feminine ideal he'd once read, of "silk hiding steel", and Robin was being made very quickly and very intensely aware that even as it hid steel, it was still silk- even despite the time they'd shared on the battlefield and the trim musculature he could feel beneath her curves, between the massive breasts quivering in delight to his touch, the curved hourglass of the waist grinding against his cock and the slender arms locked desperately around his neck- Say'ri was intensely feminine, and unbelievably alluring.
Despite all that though, and despite his own ravenous appreciation for it, the most wonderful sensation for the Tactician right now, was the sound of the soft moans and wanton gasps being mewled right beside his ear. The shivering screams Say'ri would try stifle into his cloak each time his hands squeezed a little rougher around her breast, the trembling cries she couldn't quite hold back each time he brushed his teeth across her nipple and the scattered groans that slipped out as her own hips pushed hungrily against him, beyond even her own control. The sounds of the Empress of Chon'sin surrendering entirely to his touch, losing herself in her desires and all but begging his name in each of her strangled gasps.
Even despite how reckless it was, doing such a thing just meters away from his own fiancée, Robin couldn't have possibly held back. Right now, his entire mind was filled with the swordswoman, and with the feeling of her body atop him, succumbing, inch by inch, to a pleasure she'd never felt before.
She'd never done anything like this before, most likely he guessed given her sense of dignity, she'd never even so much as touched herself before. She had no knowledge of how to relax, to accept the pleasure and ease herself into her orgasm- instead she was fighting against it, trying to retain her sense of rationality, even as her body instinctively pulled herself into him, seeking him with ever greater need.
With every shiver and shake she gave atop him, with every time she tossed her head biting down a new moan even as she pushed her waist up along his cock, Robin was entranced.
"Say'ri," he whispered, breathing the words directly into her skin, "I love you."
Those words, and the feeling of him biting softly down on one nipple as he gently pulled the other, was far more than the Empress could possibly endure. In her last rational act, Say'ri desperately pushed herself forwards into him, shoving as much of his cloak as she could manage into her mouth, right before the rush of bliss suddenly and completely engulfed her!
Say'ri's body jolted violently in place, her arms locking so forcefully around Robin that his head was left (happily) buried between her huge breasts as moan after stifled moan echoed directly into his thick clothing.
In the end, it was a testament to just how long the pleasure throbbing inside her had been restrained that it took several minutes before the typically composed woman gingerly unhooked her arms from around his head, and slid herself a few inches backwards in his lap. A small rope of saliva stretched out momentarily from her lips to the now very damp spot on the Tactician's shoulder before she quickly shook it away, her face erupting into an even deeper blush as she realised just how thoroughly she'd lost control of herself.
And, it was a testament to just how much desire had been built up within the Empress for so many years now, that even despite that, and despite having just crashed headlong through an orgasm almost strong enough to knock her senseless, the heated desire in her eyes only burned brighter as Robin turned her face gently back towards him.
"Th-That wa-was… f-fie… I… f-fie…"
Her words were still scattered as her chest heaved with ragged breaths. But her hands slid under his cloak, sliding eagerly up and down the muscles of his chest and she began chewing on her lip even as her attempt to speak faded away.
"We should stop here," Robin answered, sliding his own hands back in place around her waist, drawing her gently back towards him and breathing the words out between soft, butterfly kisses laid up and down her now flushed neckline, "It'll be dangerous to go any further than this."
Say'ri shivered against his kisses, and then again as his fingers glided under her waistcloths and began tracing around the bare skin of her inner thighs.
"N-Nay! Nay, I cannot stand that, I… don't want to! Robin, please! M-My heart is… it's beating like a drum, an-and every inch of me is… 'tis as if my body is singing with your every touch. I've never felt an-anything like this. I want this, more than I can stand. I want you."
Sliding his fingertips back along her hips, he leant back, reaching up to catch her hands in his own, squeezing them gently as he held her gaze- her heady and openly exhilarated expression matched against the serious look on his face.
"We're moving so far, wouldn't it better to at least wait till tomorrow, when you've got a clear head?"
"Nay! I… Robin, I have waited years for this, t-to hold you like this, to be in your arms, and to have you look at me so… Always till now I have hesitated, doubted myself, or denied what I wanted. Nay. I shall not wait another moment."
Robin couldn't help but smile, matching the unabashed honesty in her eyes with his own. If he hadn't already loved her, to have this ever-stoic woman staring at him so tenderly and declaring her love for him so boldly, he was sure he would have fallen completely for her in that moment.
"I feel the same… Then," he slid himself forwards, aiming to lift her to her feet, "Shall we head to your room, or is Kagerou there?"
His room was fine, but it was also directly next-door. The last thing he wanted was for some creaking bedsprings, or a loose headboard to wake Lucina up.
Unexpectedly, Say'ri brushed his question off entirely, slithering out of his hands with a shake of her hips and sliding herself backwards off his lap and directly onto the floor where they were sitting. Leaning back on her hands, with the same exhilarated fire blazing in her eyes, she gave him an intently meaningful look.
Robin paused. His entire world shrinking to this moment and his hands almost trembling at his side- both from the uncharacteristic hesitation and from a desire almost as rampant as the one that had originally sent him to Tharja's room that fateful night. This was far, far outside anything he could have possibly expected or controlled for. Even if Say'ri's feelings had been as strong for him as he'd occasionally believed, he'd never expected an offer like this from the reserved, proud and deeply noble swordswoman! It was about as far from a romantic first time as he could have envisioned!
He swallowed heavily.
A quick glace over at Lucina told him she was in the same deep, drunken sleep as before, seemingly dead to the world. But Robin knew far, far better than to ever take such dangerous risks…
…On the other hand, a much longer glance in the other direction meant Robin also knew that the Empress of Chon'sin was currently leaning backwards and displaying herself openly before him, her breasts spilling out of her open kimono, the thin cloth of her foreign undergarments clearly visible as she spread her legs, and -he swallowed again- her hands beckoning him towards her.
'When exactly did I become so reckless?' he wondered as he shrugged off his cloak, laying it down under her as he collected the swordswoman eagerly into his arms. At the very least, even if she already had her kimono, he wanted to provide some cushioning for her from the hard wooden floor.
Running his hands gently along Say'ri's inner thighs as he eased her down, Robin paid only momentary attention to the strange undergarments she was wearing. Notably distinct from the Ylissean style panties he was used to removing, he could only guess that the thin-white cloth was some kind of Chon'sinese loincloth- but the only thing that really caught his attention was that it was tied at the side with a single, simple knot. Which meant that a second later, the garment was discarded and Say'ri's pristine, bare pussy was finally revealed for him.
Her voice hitched into a gasp as he gently traced his fingers along the outer lips, and then louder again when Robin leant down, tracing his tongue carefully across her entrance, earning a suddenly yelp when he flicked it up over her clitoral hood, "Mmm," he hummed to himself, the Empresses taste had been every bit as alluring as he'd expected. And when that flavour was accentuated by the beautiful, soft pink pussy now just millimetres from his face, it only made things even better.
"R-Robin, do-don't," she begged, her voice shaking as much as her body, "Don't t-tease me!"
Leaning back in to drag his tongue along her entrance just one final time, Robin sat back with a smile. Truly, he would have quite liked to have spent some time just like that, with Say'ri's legs wrapped around his head and the sounds of her going crazy ringing in his ears. But there was absolutely no missing the way her juices were slick all along her thighs, or the way her hands were tugging urgingly at his shoulders even as her head tossed around in delight. She was more than ready, and she was going almost frantic with the waiting.
Pushing himself back to his feet and throwing his shirt to the side, Robin took just a second to enjoy the feeling of Say'ri's eyes suddenly burning hot across his bare skin and war-forged muscles, and the sight of her body abruptly jolting still as she stood in captivation. Although it wasn't unknown for the male Shepherds to walk around shirtless, none of them had ever dared do so around the females (lest they find themselves on the receiving end of Maribelle's umbrella and Cherche's scorn). Given her station, she'd probably never seen a naked man before. And, given the way her tongue traced across her lips, she appeared to enjoy the show.
And her enjoyment was utterly beyond doubt the next moment, when Robin flicked open the buckles to his belt, and kicked his pants and smallclothes off. With all that he'd done these days and all the experience he'd gained in the bedroom (and especially after being the focus of Miriel's critical eye), he was well past any embarrassment at undressing like this, which meant he was fully able to enjoy the way the Empresses body stiffened suddenly up from where she'd been bracing herself atop his cloak, and how her jaw fell fully open as her eyes traced down along his shaft.
"F-Fi… Fie…" Say'ri stammered, staring wide eyed at the across at him, her cheeks flaming red and a single shiver running along her spine as finally saw the length she'd been pressing herself so eagerly into just moments before, "Su-Such a fearsome beast… is it truly to fit inside me? It seems to defy sense…"
Despite her words, the fire in her eyes was burning with excitement rather than anxiousness and she was now fully chewing on her bottom lip as she waited with hungry anticipation. The Empress, it seemed, was far beyond being even able to pretend to hide her desire at being wrapped around his thick cock.
Easing her down once more, Robin collected her into his embrace. Laying himself as gently atop her as he could manage -and breathing out a soft sight of delight at feeling her massive breasts cushioning softly him from below-, he cradled her head in his hands, tracing his lips up along her neck as he pressed his cockhead carefully against the wet, eager heat of her entrance. Say'ri breathed out another shuddering moan as she felt her lips opening up around him as her body moved instinctively to accept the man she loved, and there was no hesitation in how she wrapped herself around him, her arms locking around his shoulders and her legs stretching up around his waist.
"We can still stop here," he assured her, stroking a hand through her hair, "Before we do something you can't take back. It doesn't have to be tonight."
It felt pointless to ask, he already had her answer from the way she was all but pulling him into her. But, even so, he felt he had to ask, he needed to make sure this was her decision, a choice she made herself.
Despite the wanton desire still shining in her eyes, Say'ri nodded purposefully at his question, her smile softening slightly to a tender expression.
"You would have that we shall wait for our wedding day? Robin, 'tis kind of you to ask… Hehe, perhaps, you're more of a gentleman than I ever expected? In another life, mayhap I would wish the same… But I have already accepted that such a thing cannot be, and no more shall I wait without taking action. I love you, Robin. In my heart I shall always consider you my husband… S-So, so… please, make me a woman. Make me your woman."
The frustrated inferno of desire within the Tactician flared in response, and he almost wanted to roar in reply! At long last! After so many days of nothing but his fantasies and memories to fill his bed with! He doubted there was a man alive that would have been able to resist Say'ri's offer at that moment, and he didn't even consider doing so.
Instead, holding desperately back to the last few limits of his restraint, Robin captured her lips with his own, pushing her mouth open and drawing her into a deep, passionate embrace as he forced himself to only slowly, gently, ease himself forwards.
Say'ri accepted him completely, her legs opening up as wide as she could manage around his waist, as she surrendered herself entirely to his arms, meeting his tongue with her own in just the same heated kiss she'd first learned minutes ago. Her voice hitched suddenly, and she breathed out a heavy moan as she felt his cock slowly push its way inside her, and felt her inner walls starting to be spread wide around his thick girth.
But she kissed him back even harder an instant later. Holding forcefully tight around his neck, she opened her mouth happily against his own, breathing a heady moan directly into their kiss as she pulled him down into her, and as his cock pushed even deeper inside her.
Given her slender body and swordswoman's physique, Robin had expected Say'ri to be tight. And he'd expected his feelings to be heighted by the week of restraint he'd been forced into through this tour. Evidently, he'd miscalculated- even with those mental preparations, he was completely unready for the urgent rush of bliss spreading through him as he felt the Empress's walls opening up and coiling around him!
Even with just his cockhead easing inside her, he could already feel his sanity being heavily chipped away, and the desire to plunge himself inside her, to make her scream his name all but echoing from the deepest recesses of his soul! Warm without quite reaching the same alluring heat as a Manakete, and welcoming but with a restrictive friction inside her, it was enough to make Robin suck in several heavy breaths, even as he spread her even deeper and wider around him.
In the end, thankfully, Robin had more than enough experience to retain the presence of mind to seal her lips with his own as he eased his cock, as gently as he could manage, through the final barrier of the Empress's chastity.
"NN- MM!? MMMHHGG!?"
Say'ri jolted under him. Her hands scrambled and scratched against his back, her legs kicked frantically into the air and her moan hitched wildly in her throat as her virgin blood spilled out across her pristine white thighs, and as a momentary spark of pain speared through the bliss she'd been revelling in.
But she made no motion to pull away, to break their kiss, or to do anything but accept Robin even deeper inside her.
And her delight was soon pitching higher than ever as he continued pushing his hips down, spreading inch after inch of her inner walls open around him. As with the other Shepherds he'd been with, Say'ri was used to pain, she'd experienced more than enough of it on the battlefield to block it away completely. A momentary shock was forgotten almost as soon as it appeared… but she had absolutely no experience with this pleasure, and soon it was all she could focus on, all that existed in her world.
"Gh… G-Gods, R-Robin!" finally breaking their kiss with a gasp, she threw herself against his shoulder once more, breathing heavily and panting ragged moans directly into his skin, "'Tis, 't-tis as if I am b-being stretched ar-around you! Hnng, I, I am be-being moulded to your shape!"
From the exhilaration in her voice, and the feeling of her pussy clenching even more hungrily around him than ever, clearly, she was very pleased with that idea.
Her words fell away and her moans rose higher and sharper as Robin pushed further and deeper inside her, grinding across all her weakest spots and wrapping even her innermost walls tight around his shaft. Until finally, with his own gasps of bliss slipping from his mouth, Robin pushed himself forwards, abruptly sheathing the last few inches of his shaft inside and leaving the full length of his cock buried suddenly against the deepest, most sensitive walls at the back of her tunnel, straining them out until they were coiled tight around his cockhead.
Wracked with a sudden onslaught of pleasure after already being close to her limit, it was only the force of his hands suddenly snapping out and clamping forcefully over her mouth that kept Say'ri from screaming aloud as her eyes glazed over and her body jolted under him! Feeling the Empress's visceral orgasm beneath him, Robin's own vision blurred for a moment, and he couldn't help but groan aloud as her walls coiled and clamped desperately around him, as every inch of her body shook and the full heat of her tunnel pulsed tight around every millimetre of his cock!
It was an incredible, alluring and intoxicating bliss…
… And waiting the ensuing few minutes for Say'ri's own peak to subside and for the light of reason to return to her eyes, felt like an agonising eternity.
"A-Amazing…" she breathed at length, kissing weakly against his fingertips in lieu of his lips, "I… I feel s-so full… like I'm going crazy with happiness…"
She squeezed her eyes up, trembling lightly in place as she felt the weight of his cock pushing against her womb and another smaller orgasm washed over her.
For the Tactician's part, he simply savoured the moment with rapt attention- as the feeling of his length buried entirely within her left all the strength and all the tension flowing out from the swordswoman, until she was relaxing completely in his arms. Smiling indulgently up at him, as if instinctively accepting his dominion over her and her sheer need for him, the Empress of Chon'sin surrendered herself entirely to his control.
"I-I don't really know what to do… so, please, go ahead and use me as you desire."
This time, it was an offer Robin wasted no time in accepting!
Finally, just barely loosening the grip on his restraint, he captured her lips with another heated kiss, and drew his cock backwards almost through the length of her tunnel.
Say'ri moaned back in delighted response and Robin began moving- softly, smoothly pushing his shaft back through her tunnel until she was once feeling her deepest walls stretched wide around his girth. Then back and again, over the course of minutes, he cradled her head, kissed her with all the loving affection rushing inside him, and rocked his cock tenderly through the full length of the Empress's pussy, savouring the sensation of every last millimetre of her.
She broke their kiss to gasp, her head tossing backwards as his cockhead pushed against her deepest walls and the waves of pleasure rippled through her once more, "G-Gods!"
After a minute, he loosened his control a little more, speeding up just a little faster… Driving in with just a touch more force, his hips now pushed her down into the wooden floor as the room filled thick with the sound of their flesh slapping together. In the corners of his mind, Robin began fearfully wondering about his fiancée, sleeping just meters away from them, but he was far too aroused, and far too lost in the heady bliss of the swordswoman's body to even consider stopping now.
Again, she broke away from his kiss, trembling under him and weakly attempting to stifle her moans through gritted teeth as her hands clenched at his back and her legs kicked into the air against his every thrust. The feeling of being pushed down, of having his strength pushing her into the floor and his cock beginning to thrust forcefully through her pussy, left the composed woman gasping aloud with his every movement, and peaking again with each time his cock was sheathed inside her, "Hnnng! HHhhnn! Ro-Robin! Robin! Ro…gnnn!"
Several more minutes passed, and soon they were both swept up deeply in the dizzying pleasure. Both the tempo and the power of Robin's thrusts increased time and again, minute by minute, until he was positioned directly over her, thrusting the full length of his shaft directly down into her, crashing heavily all the way through her welcoming tunnel until it jolted heavily against the entrance to her womb. The Tactician's own groans slipped out each time their lips came apart and they gasped for breath, and the sound of his hips driving hers hard into the floor beneath them was now echoing heavily around the room.
Say'ri's voice cried out louder and deeper, her body jolting and gasps ringing out each time his she felt his cock crash through her pussy and each time she felt her body open up so obediently and so willingly towards him. From the way she had immediately followed his lead with their kisses, to the way her hips gave in completely against the strength of his thrusts- without even having realised she was doing so, in every aspect of their lovemaking, Say'ri had surrendered herself entirely to him, and the dizzying high of that pleasure was spearing through her more violently with every passing second. Having eagerly relaxed her body into Robin's arms, to use as he wished, she could do absolutely nothing but against the torrent of bliss that swept over her with each time she felt herself pressed harder, and rougher into the wood below her back- nothing but cum, again, and again!
'G-Gods! What the hells!?'
As several more minutes passed, as Robin continued shoving his cock back through the Empress's pussy, as his restraint wore away further and further, as his thrusts became rougher and harder, and as the swordswoman urged him on even more each time… a strained dilemma began pushing forcefully at the edges of his mind. One desperate enough to break through even the lust addled fog he was engulfed in. Specifically, that Say'ri's voice was now pitching out in loud, wild screams with his every thrust!
Encouraged by the feeling of her climaxing around him time and again, Robin had shifted from the gentle, lovemaking begun with to where he was now fucking her almost as hard as he claimed any of his other lovers. Normally he would have been worried something like that would have been too much for her first time, but, from the way her legs were alternating between locking around his waist and kicking up into the air, and the way she was transitioning between moaning in delight to begging for more each time he drove into her, he'd long since concluded that the Empress of Chon'sin enjoyed being dominated just as much as Lucina or Olivia.
Instead, he was increasingly worried that her delighted screams were going to wake up Lucina from where she was, thankfully, still passed out drunk just a few meters away from them. While had had no intention of keeping the truth from his fiancée forever (or even much longer), he still wanted to be able to tell her himself, not have her wake up to find him rutting Say'ri senseless across the other side of the room to her.
His initial solution, of simply clamping his hands over her mouth had proven ineffective with the way the swordswoman was continually tossing her head around each time her body squeezed tight around him. Again, and again, her voice slipped through his fingers and Robin could do little to simply hold her in place with the way she was trembling in delight against his thrusts.
His secondary idea, of trying to calm down and take things slower, was just as swiftly discarded. They were both far too lost in the pleasure to possibly stop now! If he'd had more control over himself then perhaps he could have considered it, but between his newfound urges and how accustomed he'd become with making love several times every single day, to have spent this entire journey in the company of such beautiful women but without even a single moment of release had left Robin almost unbelievably pent up. Even if Say'ri had been willing to let him calm things down (which, given how reckless she'd become herself, was doubtful), feeling her body now wrapped around him, feeling her pussy coiled tight around his cock, her hands clinging desperately to his back and her moans of delight gasping in his ears, he couldn't possibly hold back! The fires of lust were blazing painfully hot inside him, and with each time her eagerness spurred him on to take her rougher, and harder, he spiralled completely out of control.
He couldn't stop. And he couldn't hold her back. Which meant, the only thing he could do was to try silence her!
Unfortunately, his cloak was already stuck in place underneath her, serving as one of the few things cushioning the sounds of the Empress's hips slapping into the floor from echoing even louder around the room. Acting without real plan, or intention, Robin's hands darted frantically around them, grabbing for something, anything he could use!
Suddenly finding something, he had just a single moment to recognise what it was before his plan was already in motion.
"ROBIN! YES! 'TIS WONDE-MMMNmph!?"
Say'ri's scream was suddenly cut out as a particularly damp ball of cloth was shoved roughly into her mouth, serving as an impromptu gag.
Her eyes went wide.
Time seemed to slow down between them as their eyes met, as his cockhead crashed powerfully against the far reaches of her pussy, and as she processed exactly what had just happened.
And in that moment, Robin was immediately made aware of two things.
Firstly: That he had just shoved an Empress's lust-soaked underwear into her mouth, while fucking her roughly on the floor of a small-town inn.
And, more importantly: That Say'ri, the proud and restrained swordswoman he'd always respected, had just cum so intensely hard the moment he'd done so that his cock was being squeezed almost painfully tight within her. Trembling, writhing and clenching vice-like around him, her eyes rolled back, glazed over and she appeared to have come right to the verge of passing out from the flood of pleasure. Rather, it seemed to him, that the only thing that had kept her conscious was just how excited she'd become in that moment.
"Heh," with all her restraints and inhibitions thrown away, it seemed the swordswoman had awoken to a new kink she'd likely never imagined before, "You like that, huh?"
She screamed in muffled response into the degrading, humiliating gag but made no attempt to spit it out.
"I see… I thought you were just impatient, hhng, but it turns out, this is exactly what you wanted, isn't it? Who would have imagined that the Empress of Chon'sin wanted her first time to be getting fucked on the floor of some third-rate inn, like a common harlot!"
Say'ri's fingers scrambled desperately at his back, scratching and clawing at him, as her pussy pulsed hungrily around him again and she hurtled headlong through another orgasm. As spurred on by his words and her desire-filled embarrassment, as the feeling of his cockhead again stretching her deepest walls around him.
That was quite a discovery, but Robin was now no stranger to women that liked him to dominate them in the bedroom. In many respects, Lucina was exactly the same in how she exhilarated in sexual surrender as a way of not having to be in such rigid control of one aspect of her life. When he'd already dealt with Tharja all but swearing herself to him, and Olivia practically begging him to put a collar on her, something like this wasn't going to put him off. But nor was it something he was going to push any further, not when she was already at risk of being overwhelmed by everything already.
Running his hands through her hair, he simply filed that information away for later.
"I love you, Say'ri."
Her expression turned slightly softer, and her legs found their way once more around his back as she urged him inside her once again.
Her moans rang out just as wantonly as before, but now they were muffled by the thoroughly soaked fabric and the danger was mostly passed. Which meant, there were no longer any concerns pressing down on Robin's enjoyment, and no longer any reason to hold back!
Stifling a roar of his own, Robin threw himself vigorously into action! Pushing her fully down into his cloak, he gave in to his desires, rolling fully over her and thrusting his cock directly down into the ecstatic Empress, slamming his shaft straight through the length of her tunnel until it was driven against her womb and until her deepest walls were locked tight around him!
Over, and over, with almost heedless abandon and only the strength of his now significant experience instinctively keeping him from completely overwhelming her! Until his entire world was narrowed simply to the two of them, until he could feel her lose herself entirely to the pleasure, and until his own vision fogged with the urgency of the peak rushing headlong within him!
And, at last, it was only by forcefully shoving his own fist into his mouth that Robin kept from groaning with all his might as the totality of his release finally speared through him! Biting down violently on his own fingers as he hilted his cock roughly inside his swordswoman one final time, Robin arched back, his balls throbbing and his cock spasming wildly inside her, for just one endless, rapturous moment!
Until everything inside him finally exploded! And he was left arched up into the air, his vision spinning and world hazy with delight as rope after heavy rope of his cum suddenly erupted, splattering relentlessly against the deepest walls of Say'ri's previously virgin pussy! Her womb was flooded immediately, filled to its limits with just the first load of the Tactician's viscous seed. But ever since his return, Robin could cum enough to please a full group of women, and he had a frustrated weeks' worth of release pent up! Again and again, his cock spasmed inside her, and again and again, the swordswoman's pristine, untouched walls were painted heavily in his colours… until her entire tunnel was stained white with his seed, and thick rivers of cum were left streaming down her thighs and out into the kimono beneath her.
Already having submitted herself to him, and surrendered to the overwhelming pleasure, Say'ri could do nothing against the sudden torrent of bliss, the sensation of his release crashing against her walls, nor the feeling of her womb being so wonderfully stuffed with his seed. Jolting in place and arching automatically off the floor, she clung desperately tight around him, locking both her arms and legs around him in instinctive need as she cried out muffled screams of delight, over and over, with each time his cock pulsed inside her, and each time her walls were painted with his cum. As she crested orgasm after orgasm, her eyes rolled back and she succumbed finally to the haze of bliss, her thoughts scattered and consciousness fading away.
At length, Robin's own rationality returned to him, and he was left slumped down, bracing himself carefully atop the swordswoman and carefully pulling the impromptu gag out from her now slack jaw, as his body trembled lightly in response to the aftershocks still flowing through her.
"That…" he panted, squeezing his eyes shut a moment as another heavy ebb of delight rushed through him- the feeling of his soul smouldering in satisfaction, "That was incredible…"
Her words were barely a whisper, but the deep affection and the open, honest love he could see in her smile as she slowly unlinked herself from around him and stared happily back up towards him, was more than enough to leave Robin's heart racing once more.
The Next Morning
Slowly, blinking herself awake from what felt like a long, heavy dream, the first thing Say'ri became aware of was the blissful tingling sensation running up and down the length of her body. Sparking gently from her core, she could feel it from the tips of her toes, all the way to the ends of her fingertips along her notably uncovered breasts and right to the sensitive tips of her nipples.
The second thing was the dull, soft ache she could feel from her muscles, entwining with that pleasure in a strange contrast and leaving her feeling like she'd spent the entire previous day training her body, working out muscles she hadn't previously known she had, let alone used. It wasn't an altogether unpleasant feeling, and it mixed nicely with the strange, satisfied ache she could feel from between her legs in a way that made her want to sigh.
The most striking thing however, was the sight of Robin's face smiling softly down at her and of the secure warmth of his arms wrapped around her back! With just a moment's shock she realised that she was completely naked, and that she was lying against him, with her own arms linked lazily around his chest!
Her immediate reaction was to pull away, to cry out and to cover herself! …But somewhere instinctively she suppressed it, and a second later, she relaxed once more. Leaning her head back down to his chest as a warm smile blossomed across her face. That's right. There was no need for that anymore. No need for her composed façade, her act as Empress, for her fears, doubts, hesitations, or anything between the but open and honest feelings.
The morning drowsiness faded, and with it the memories of the previous night returned. A night she knew she would look back on for the rest of her life.
They had finally talked, the distance she'd kept between them had finally been crossed. Robin had revealed his heart to her, and she'd finally confessed everything she'd always felt for him in return.
They'd kissed. They'd touched. Her body had ached for him in a way she'd never imagined before, and he'd shown her a pleasure she'd never even dreamed of.
They'd made love for the first time right there in Lucina's room.
And then afterwards, he'd collected her into his arms and carried her back here, to her own bedroom.
Say'ri smiled and her body thrilled once more at that memory. Even now, lying against him she could smell the distant musk of their mixed exertions, her juices and his own release, even with the dawn's rays now bearing down upon them, the room was filled heavily with the scent of raw, intense, sex.
Of course, they'd hardly been able to keep their hands off one another! Robin had carried her to her bed, she'd pulled him in with her and… in the end, their bodies had come together six more times before she'd finally succumbed to exhaustion, 'Mmm…' Robin had done practically whatever he liked with her, and she'd pleaded him for more every time. In just the span of a few hours, the Empress of Chon'sin had learned a great many new things.
The images that rose in her mind were enticing, but she shook them away, she would savour another time.
"Good morning, my love."
She laughed lightly as she said it, the words ringing happily through her and her body flushing warm even as she spoke. They were words she'd thought she would never say, to the man she'd thought she would never say them to. Right now, rather than an Empress or a swordmaster, she felt simply like a woman, in a way she'd never imagined. Lying against him, sliding her hands around to the strong musculature of his chest and feeling the comforting security of his own around her, she felt naked, free, and almost overwhelmingly happy.
"Good morning to you too," one of his hands reached up to stroke through her hair, and she felt almost like purring in response, "I'm surprised to see you up so soon after last night… but, I'm glad. I didn't want to have to wake you, and I was worried you wouldn't be up before I had to leave."
"Leave? Oh… Lest Lucina discover you here?"
"Yeah, exactly," he gave a beleaguered sigh, "I'd prefer to stay, but it'd cause problems for both of us if I was seen leaving your room."
Instinctively, possessively, she wanted to reject that and to hold him right where he was… but she squashed that thought within a moment. She had already acknowledged and accepted their situations last night, and even if everything else between them had changed, that still hadn't. She couldn't simply demand that he throw away his obligations to Chrom, Ylisse, Morgan or even to Lucina, nor could she expect him to agree to elope to Valm with her without even having had the chance to consider it.
For her own part, she doubted there was anything to hide, Kagerou was almost certainly already well aware of exactly what had transpired last night. But her ninja was reliable enough to keep her discretion, so that was a discussion she would worry about later.
He hadn't actually moved at all yet, but somehow she knew she had to say this before he did, while she was still lying in his arms. She could never make such a scandalous suggestion otherwise.
"Hmm? What's wrong?"
"F-Fie, nothing is wrong, of course. 'Tis only… only a passing idea I considered aheh s-some weeks ago…" while on the boat to Ylisse, "A possibility I thought I may… suggest to you."
He leaned in, interested, "Oh?"
"Surely, you must have thought it a surprise that 'twas possible for to join you on this trip at all? To journey to a foreign nation, and then travel in the care of one of their men, protected only by a single guard… The deep friendship between our nations, and the debt Chon'sin owes Ylisse plays a role of course, but 'tis not an outing many royals could undertake easily. Fie, you must remember the tales? Even a man such as Lord Basilio needed to sneak away from his retainers to get away on the various adventures he boasts of.
"The royal family has always benefited strong authority in Chon'sin, yet even so, my father, nor my brother could have managed such a thing. An indulgent, selfish act like this is only possible for me, because I hold such unquestioned support from my people. Fie, I say this not to brag, but simply to explain… 'Tis hardly something I ever intend to take advantage of, but because of my role during the war- in defeating Walhart, and in liberating my nation… the… expectations upon me are perhaps a little lighter than would otherwise be so."
"I think I understand, but…"
Steeling herself, she cleared her throat, "I-I have the full confidence of all regions within Chon'sin, and no need to further galvanise any such relationship. Equally, with Chon'sin's new prominence among all Valmese countries and our known ties to Ylisse, we are sought for alliances rather than needing to seek… th-that is… the reason I say this… Fie, simply put… my hand in marriage is worth far more to those that would take it, than it is for anything I can earn with it return."
Eyes wide, Robin almost jumped in place, his hands tensing up around her as his thoughts raced along with hers to the same conclusion, "Then, you're saying that you have no need of any suitors? But, even so, th-"
"Aye. Even so, my duty as Empress still requires that I produce an heir."
So saying, she held his gaze with a deeply meaningful look. Delighting in the way his face seemed to twist up first with confusion and then with surprise.
"Hah, worry not! I am not suggesting you name yourself openly as my lover, even if I would be glad were you to do so… I… I mentioned that such expectations I face are perhaps a little more lenient than they would otherwise be… O-Of course, t'would be a shock for my people, but I believe it would be accepted if 'twere to come out that during my war for Chon'sin's liberation, and during the battle against Grima, that I took a lover among those forces, and that I had a child with that man."
Again, his face twisted up in confusion. It seemed even Robin's prodigious intellect couldn't guess exactly where her thinking had taken her.
"It has yet been less than a year since the war ended. And were I to become pregnant, t'would be only another nine months before the child was born. Fie, I see your expression, I understand… Of course, the expectation is that any royal child would be announced to the people, but 'tis not always so when concerning sensitive matters. 'Twould be a simple matter to conceal such a child among the children of the Palace, and to raise it in secret… or, perhaps even to send them away to Ylisse for a time under some pretence or another."
"But you mentioned having an heir… so you're not just suggestion we simply have a secret child tog- Ah! O-Oh! You mean, so you can conceal the true birth date!"
She was glad she'd fallen in love with such a brilliant man, "Aye, indeed. I can easily put the matter of suitors and an heir off for several years yet. A newborn cannot pass as an infant, but a child of three could pass for four."
"Then you would bring them out publicly, declare them to be your heir and claim they were conceived during the war, and born shortly afterwards… That's…"
"Aye again! A child of an unknown lover during the wartime, a man perhaps fallen in battle… 'Twould not lead back to you."
"Robin, t'was your own words last night that said I had a duty before me, as Empress, to take another man as my husband for the sake of my country. But 'tis not so… If you so wish… Y-You c-can, can prevent that fate, y-you can keep me only for yourself! I will need never take another lover but you, if you wou- AhIIE!?"
Her words cut off with a sudden shriek as she was flipped over and suddenly pressed down into the mattress!
"I can make you only mine, forever. If I make sure you're pregnant before you leave?"
"A-Aye, th- ahnnn, gh, R-Robin, wai-wait, I'm still, nhhhgh OOoOOOOOHH!"
As always, it seemed to Say'ri that their feelings were perfectly aligned.
And so, with the original promise she'd come to fulfil finally completed, as she wrapped her legs tight around her lover, Say'ri silently made another promise to herself.
A/N: Ahh, I like Say'ri a lot, a whole lot! I know she's not all that popular, but she's one of those characters that I found really compelling- that the more you think about her and consider her, the more you realise there is to her, to her backstory and everything that makes her up. Although, conversely, I'm always worried about writing her because I'm worried that sticking true to her speech patterns will annoy people, and going easy on them won't make it sound like her. Hopefully the writing didn't seem too stiff or anything at least.
And now, hopefully the previous chapter and all the flashbacks that were woven into it makes a lot more sense. I think these two chapters will probably read better together than either of them does individually. Although, given that they're about 70k total words, they also serve as another example in "How did he possibly think that was going to fit into one chapter?" Ohwell.
Either way, now it should be pretty clear exactly where I'm planning to go with Say'ri's story and what my plan is for the rest of their trip in Ylisse. Obviously things aren't as simple as she thinks, given that Robin's currently got a contraceptive spell working on him, and he's already resolved that he won't get anyone pregnant before being honest with Lucina (and that Morgan should be his first child, if Lucina will let him). But aside from that, we've got the very blatant sign that our pristine, stoic Empress has something of a naughty kink in being degraded… that'll definitely get explored a lot more in the next chapter, especially after Lucina bids the pair goodbye for the rest of their trip.
I shouldn't have to clarify this, but obviously Robin wasn't exactly being completely true with everything he told her. He loves Lucina, he adores Morgan, he honestly wants to marry Lucina and always has, when he mentioned that being an obligation, that was him saying what he wanted her to hear. Similar to Olivia's chapter, this one's meant to read something like a slightly sinister love story. He does care for her, he does honestly love her, he's going to make her happy- but he's still manipulating her.
Also: Obviously Say'ri's underwear is a fundoshi, but that scene was from Robin's perspective and he doesn't know what that is. Just for anyone wondering why I didn't actually name it.
Anyway, again, I hope you guys are all keeping safe in these turbulent times, and as always, if you liked this and wanna support me or help get these chapters out faster, you can find my (P)atreon at