Chapter 38 - Misunderstandings
The firewood clattered as it landed on top of the small pile, the sound spreading throughout their smaller camp. Robin dusted off his hands, surveying the efforts of his labor. There, that should be more enough to last us the evening. Granted, he probably could have stopped a while ago, but given how far north they were and with winter fast approaching it was bound to get quite cold this night. Better to be safe than sorry.
"I see that you have a rather adequate amount of firewood. It appears you are competent enough in both tactics and camping," Jakob remarked from behind. Robin flinched slightly, both in surprise as well as at the unnecessary verbal jab.
And here he thought Noire was the only one with multiple personalities, but Jakob was the natural born one.
"Thank you, Jakob. That was… almost a full complement," Robin replied, as he sat down. "Shouldn't you check on Felicia? Wouldn't want her to be the one cooking while we're heading toward our destination."
That certainly got Jakob's attention as he paled slightly. "I have best ensure that she had not done anything of the sort. Hopefully Flora has her in check," Jakob said as he immediately left, much to Robin's relief. He didn't dislike the man, but that didn't mean he could exactly get along with him perfectly.
Now, I wonder how the others are doing. Perhaps Lucina could use some help pitching our tent, Robin wondered. He didn't have anything better to do, come to think of it, now that he'd finished his assigned task for setting camp. Well, that was if he didn't count ducking off to the Astral Keep to resume gathering any information he could scavenge regarding the "Reliquary of Worlds" they now sought.
It had been a day since their meeting with the Astral Dragon Moro and the royals of both Nohr and Hoshido had learned the truth of their enemy. Following the trek back down from the Ethereal Summit and returning to their camp once more, Xander had quickly called a formal meeting to plan their next move. Despite the earlier agreement that the royals of both Nohr and Hoshido where to put their differences aside for the present, things had still remained a bit tense between the two parties, a fact that only seemed exasperated by the combination of exhaustion and the sheer gravity of the task before. Still, they'd managed to keep things civil enough and mostly work together save for a few minor disagreements.
In the end, they'd decided that with the tasks of defending both Hoshido from the renewed offensive by the Invisible Soldiers, as well as retrieving the remaining divine weapons, before them, they could not afford to focus entirely on getting Corrin to the Reliquary of Worlds. So it was that they'd come to the idea of splitting their number, a smaller group going with Corrin while the rest went with Hinoka to protect Hoshido. Of the royals of both Nohr and Hoshido, only Elise and Sakura, along with their retainers, would be among Corrin's group.
With their groups decided, they had resolved to set out early the next morning. Bright and early while the rest of the army was still breaking down camp, the smaller group had gathered their supplies and started on the several days long trek to the Dragon Gate.
At least now we have clear direction and have everyone on the same page. Things are finally- No, don't you dare say that, Robin. You know perfectly well what will happen. Something will go horribly, terribly wrong, he corrected himself, sighing. Be happy with the outcome and don't tempt fate, hmmm?
Winding his way through camp he found Lucina in the process of setting up their tent. She already had the support beams erected and was currently in the process of tying the canvas into place. Stepping forward, Robin wordlessly stepped in to give her a hand, grabbing one of the loose flaps and tying it off near the base of one of the supports. Lucina glanced his way, pausing to dip her head towards him in acknowledgement of his assistance before resuming working. After a few more moments the tent was finally done, Lucing hammering down the last stake to secure it in pace.
"You have my thanks, Robin," Lucina said, at least turning back to him. She wiped her hand across her brow, brushing away the beads of sweat that had gathered there, "I take it you finished your other duties already?"
"Yeah, just got done. Figured you had too and would probably like help pitching our tent," he said. Dusting off his hands, Robin stepped over to nearby crate, allowing his shoulders to slump as he took a seat.
Lucina eyed him for a moment, then shook her said slightly as if to brush aside some unimportant thought. Bending down she picked up their bedrolls, tossing them into the tent.
"Robin, are you concerned about being on our own for this leg of the journey?" Lucina asked.
"That dragon certainly isn't making this easy for us, I'll give him that," Robin said, referring to Anankos as 'that dragon' to avoid using his name and triggering the curse. "He already tried to stop us by invading Izumo when he did, as well as invade Hoshido as a distraction. And now he seems to have redoubled his efforts in regard to the latter. For a dragon that's gone mad, he sure has some smart tactical plays up his sleeve."
"We'll need to be vigilant. We're short on manpower if he sends his forces against us now since most of the army is busy defending Hoshido," Lucina said, with Robin nodding in agreement.
"To be honest, I still don't completely agree with the group we have… Owain and Ophelia have been at it non-stop with their theatrics. Without Severa, those two have nothing holding them back…" Robin groaned, rubbing his face. "I really wish she'd decided to come with our group, if only to keep them in line."
"Yes, but with both Marc and Soleil insisting on being part of this group, and Inigo wishing to remain with his daughter, that left Severa as the only one with sufficient foreknowledge of the dragon's existence to aid in Prince Xander and Lady Hinoka in their efforts," Lucina countered.
"I know. And if this were a normal situation I'd have left Morgan to fill that role, but… I can't exactly have left her behind in good conscious. Both due to the fact I think Soleil would like to be able to keep an eye on her-"
"-and to give us an opportunity to speak with her as we promised we would," Lucina finished for him. "Even if she herself was rather adamant she go with them and not us. It is fortunate that Lady Hinoka made her see reason."
Robin nodded. Indeed, it had only been at Hinoka's insistence that Morgan look after Sakura for her that Robin's daughter had overcome her reluctance to be in the same group as Inigo and Soleil. "Remind me to thank Hinoka later. Though I still don't know why she took our side on this one so quickly."
"You recall the way she and Lady Sakura talked yesterday, do you not? In many ways, it seemed to me almost as if their words in forgiving past ill-deeds were aimed in part at Morgan. Perhaps they too have been attempting her to reconcile with Inigo," Lucina offered.
"Maybe…" Robin said, trailing off. It was certainly a possibility. Though he had to wonder if it would be rude or not to ask her directly at some point.
"Speaking of Morgan…" Robin started, rubbing his face wearily. "... We've been putting it off for a while now, but... I think it's about time we stop dragging our heels and do what we told Severa we'd do. Act like real parents for once."
Lucina stared intently at him for a moment, her expression slowly growing more serious. "Yes, we have been putting it off for far too long. But I feel after yesterday's events, now is the time to truly see an end to this," Lucina agreed.
Robin too nodded, glancing over his shoulder towards the center of camp. "Plus with fewer people around it will be a lot harder for Morgan to avoid us." He hopped down off the crate, taking a deep breath to steel himself for what was to come. "Alright, the longer we wait, the harder this will be."
Lucina smiled reassuringly, brushing a hand across his arm. "I certainly am nervous too, Robin. But as parents it is our duty to do such things and we mustn't shy away from it."
"I know…. Just… Right… let's go." Robin said, taking another deep breath. Making their way towards the mess tent, Robin kept his eyes peeled for Morgan, knowing she would be back that way sooner or later.
Sure enough, they found her just outside the tent, two buckets of water in hand. Afterall, Morgan had been given the job of collecting fresh water from a nearby mountain stream, so looking here had been an obvious enough plan. Even as he watched Morgan emptied the buckets into a large barrel sitting to the side of the tent. She poked her tongue out of the corner of her mouth, her expression one of concentration as she tried not to spill any of the water. However, in true Morgan fashion her impatience seemed to be getting the better of her, as she poured the water far too quickly, causing bits of it's contents to slosh out of the barrel and into the ground as she finished.
It was then that Morgan noticed their approach. For a instant Robin saw Morgan hesitate, glancing nervously off to the side. Then she seemed to shake herself, her tense stance relaxing as she turned to face them.
"Oh, hi Father. Hi Mother, what brings you two around here," Morgan smiled at both of them. She seemed cheerful enough on the surface, but Robin recognized the facade for what it was. Her tone and expression were a bit too strained, too emphasized. She was trying to act like nothing was wrong.
"We just wanted to check in and see how you were doing," Robin said, playing along with her act. As he walked forward, he stealthily tapped Lucina on the back, directing her to take a position on the other side of Morgan, to block her escape if she tried to slip away.
"Oh, if you're worried about if I've collected enough freshwater, don't worry about it. I've gotten tons so far. Just need to make a few more trips. Speaking of which, if you'll excuse me…" Morgan scoped up both buckets, making a beeline towards the stream.
She only made it a single step before Robin moved forward, blocking the way with an arm. "Morgan…"
"What? I really need to-" Morgan started to argue.
"We know you've been avoiding us for some time now," Lucina interrupted. "We've been attempting to speak with you, but until now we haven't had the opportunity."
"Have I? I think I've just been really busy. Like crazy busy, you know. Didn't even realize I was-" Morgan replied, her almost guilty expression undermined by how she fervently eyed any potential exits from the situation.
"Morgan," Robin warned a second time.
"I…" Morgan glanced between both of them in quick succession. "If this is about me being angry at Owain and Severa over the whole Nohr thing, don't worry about it. You heard the full story yesterday and even Hinoka forgave them! So we're all good now."
"Morgan," Lucina said, speaking up this time. "You know what this is about."
"I… I don't have the faintest idea what you mean, Mother," Morgan shot back.
"Morgan, we're going to have a talk. Now," Lucina said, and her voice held a sternness behind it that seemed to strike Morgan into a paralysis, unable to even retort.
"Well, I… you…" Morgan's shoulders slumped in defeat. "I don't have a choice, do I?"
Robin shook his head. "No. Not this time." He motioned for her to follow. "Come on, better to take this somewhere private."
Leading Morgan to the edge of camp, Robin found a spot near the crest of a small hill, overlooking a woodland thicket below. He motioned for Morgan to sit, with her doing so reluctantly. He and Lucina took a seat opposite of her.
"Morgan, just to be clear, we're doing this for your benefit. It's time we've dealt with this like adults. No more making excuses," Robin started, trying to do what he imagined was a proper 'stern, commanding-father type voice'. From the flicker of a smirk that for a split second tugged at Lucina's lips, and just how off his own voice sounded to his own ears, he was doubtful it had the right effect.
Okay, let's abort that idea and talk like a normal person, shall we? Embarrassing yourself isn't going to improve the situation.
Morgan folded her arms while looking away, not trying to look her parents in the eye. "I don't get why we need to even talk. I already said-"
"You yourself just admitted the cause for our concern. You omitted Inigo's name when listing those you've forgiven," Lucina remarked, and Robin spotted Morgan flinch at it being called out on.
Robin felt himself needing to speak in now. After seeing Lucina put Severa's advice into action, Robin felt courage build up to take the same step. "Listen Morgan… I was angry at what Inigo had done, but having arrived here, it's clear that he never meant any harm. He was doing what he felt was right," Robin explained. He was honestly a bit surprised at his own admission here, as he had nearly launched a Thoron on the poor dancer back then.
"Oh, so you're on his side now!" Morgan suddenly shouted, the anger in her eyes evident. Robin wanted to backtrack, say that he agreed with her and let Morgan sort it out, only to sharply smack himself on the wrist, causing a jolt of pain to run up his arm.
No, not now. He could not back down now…
"This isn't about sides, Morgan. You heard what Moro said… this is bigger than that. Everyone was trying to deal with you-know-what," Robin tried to explain, maintaining his stance.
"But you are smart enough to already know this," Lucina added, making Robin want to smack himself once again. Of course, Morgan would. This was the girl that was trying to outwit him using various pranks. "You must have known from the very beginning that Inigo wouldn't leave like that without it being a special case."
"I…" Morgan was once again avoiding meeting their gaze. Why was she being so stubborn?
"Morgan, I understand what you're feeling. I understand that you're hurt by what Inigo did, even though you knew it had to be some special reason. And I know that you also feel some blame for how you acted since then, and those feelings are all confused inside," Robin told her.
"But the way Princess Sakura spoke back then, it seems you actually defended Inigo's actions as well despite how he was on Nohr's side," Lucina recalled the words the youngest Hoshidan Princess said. "But you're still not forgiving Inigo now despite that?"
What Lucina said seemed to strike a chord in Robin's mind. That was true… why would Morgan not forgive Inigo but would defend him?
"You're missing the point, Mother! It is different with him! Because this isn't about the whole Nohr thing!" Morgan snapped. She leapt to her feet, fuming. "Yeah, okay, I get it. Blaming all of them, Inigo included, was unreasonable. I was just making excuses. Guess what? Hinoka and Sakura already helped me realize that like, days ago! Reminding me isn't helpful!"
"But if not that, then…" Lucina said, scrambling upright, Robin following suit an instant later.
"The difference is Inigo didn't just leave. He left me, Mother! He could have told me. He could have asked me to go with him! But he didn't! He left! That's all the reason I need to be angry about it!" Morgan shouted, stamping her foot into the dirt repeatedly. "So what if that's my only reason? It's how I feel and I can keep feeling that way for all anyone cares!"
This had to be the most unreasonable thing Robin has ever heard out of Morgan's mouth ever. And this was the girl that tries to justify tomestacking as a game.
"Don't you think you are being unfair to him? And to Soleil as well?" Robin asked. "Inigo has tried to make amends, not just for his sake but now for Soleil's sake can see her parents happy together. I get that it hurt for him to have left like he did, but isn't this all a lot just for that?"
"Your rejection of her like you did hurt your daughter more deeply than even she will freely admit," Lucina said. "Do you not feel remorse for that? Even though the you of her world is still alive and well, she wanted nothing more than to see her dear mother happy once more."
Lucina smiled gently, adding. "You were given a chance that Morgan never had but would have given anything for. Soleil wants nothing more than for you to have that chance."
"And why should I care? She's not even my daughter! She's some other Morgan's daughter, not mine!" Morgan shot back, her anger visibly boiling over as she stamped a heel into the dirt. "Her being here doesn't prove anything! That Inigo didn't leave that Morgan! Good for her! But he left me! As far as I'm concerned, that's all there is to it."
"Morgan…" Robin said gently, "You know you don't mean that."
"Surely you know that's going too far. From a different timeline or not, Soleil is still your daughter, just as you are still ours. You must see that," Lucina told her, extending a hand and touching Morgan's arm.
"Well, maybe you shouldn't!" Morgan snapped, knocking Lucina's arm away. Shock played across Lucina's face, visibly taken aback by Morgan's response. Anger filled Morgan's voice, anger and frustration twisting her face. "Because at the end of the day, I'm not your daughter and you aren't my real parents! You don't need me and I don't need you! Just like everyone else!"
Robin's eyes widened, his mouth falling part way open as Morgan's words struck him with all the weight of a physical blow.
All he could do was stare in shock and disbelief, unable to fully comprehend what Morgan had just said to him.
Lucina grimaced, her expression pained as she too could only stare at their daughter, too stunned to even respond.
"I…" The anger held in Morgan's visage but moments before vanished, replaced by a look of horror. "I'm sorry, I-I didn't… I didn't mean…" Morgan's lip quivered, and she looked as though she was on the verge of tears, slowly taking a step back. "I can't... do this and- I just want to- Please, I don't-"
"Morgan, wait!" Robin shouted, reacting just a moment too slow to stop her, his hand catching nothing but empty air as he tried to grab her by the shoulder. He staggered a step, trying to again lunge for Morgan. But it was too late. Bounding over the crest of the hill, Morgan skidded down the dirt slope, rolled as she reached the bottom, and charged into the underbrush, vanishing.
Dammit! Not again, Robin swore inwardly, cursing his own inaction. He should have expected this. Dammit, this was the third time she'd run off like this! Yet he'd failed to prepare himself. He should have stopped her.
Some tactician I am. Way to drop the ball when it counts, Robin.
Robin turned back to Lucina, who had not moved from the spot, still standing there completely stunned by what Morgan had said. "Lucina… we should…" Yet the words choked itself the very next second, as his heart felt like it was being torn apart that very moment. That moment of seeing that single tear fall from his wife's face.
"Are you okay?" Robin asked, reaching out and taking her hand.
"I… I just need a moment… Robin…" Lucina said, blinking back a tear.
"Morgan didn't mean that you know… She regretted it the moment she said it," Robin assured her, rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb.
"I know… it still hurt nonetheless," Lucina told him sadly.
. . . . .
"Stupid, stupid, stupid!" Morgan screamed, seizing a rock from the dirt and flinging it as hard as she could. The stone sailed through the air, struck a tree with enough force to chip away a chunk of bark, and then vanished into the undergrowth with a crunch.
Her shoulders heaved, her breaths coming in shudders as she fought to blink back tears. Why? Why did she say the horrible things she did? Why did she speak that way to father and mother? She cursed herself. They probably hated her now, didn't they? And it was her fault. She had to be so stupid, and selfish!
She was so selfish!
She let her anger get the better of her. Hid behind it like she had before. Like she'd promised Hinoka and Sakura she'd stop doing. But she couldn't help it. It hurt so much. Hurt to feel and think these things. The anger was safer. More welcome.
Anger at what? She didn't even know anymore.
She knew how she treated Soleil was wrong. How dismissing her now was wrong. But still... "I…" Morgan grimaced, recalling how she'd spoken in the girl's defense. She'd still didn't know why she'd spoken when she did. She hadn't thought about it or had any plan in mind. It had just… happened.
Did she care? Did she really care about this girl… this… her…
Why? Why do I feel this way? Why do I care? I shouldn't care! I don't care! I did nothing wrong! Clutching at her face, Morgan sank to her knees, screaming out sobs until her voice went hoarse.
Liar! she told herself.
Stop lying to yourself.
You know who you really blame.
Morgan squeezed her eyes shut, trying the block it out. She staggered to her feet, shaking her head again and again.
"I…" she tried to answer. A precipice seemed to loom before her, a deep void bellow threatening to swallow her whole. Yet it was as if a voice urged her to just jump to the other side, to accept what was before her if only she could take that leap of faith. Yet she couldn't do it. She couldn't bring herself to utter those words. To admit to herself the truth.
She was too afraid. Too afraid to let herself even think it. So she cowered from it, festering in that guilt and fear.
I really am selfish…
A snap of a twig yanked Morgan back to the present. Whirling around, peering into the forest intently. "Is someone there? Hello?" Morgan called out, her momentary surprise turning to frustration as she grasped what was going on. "Father? Mother? I know you followed me. Can't you see I want to be left alone? I don't want to talk right now."
No response came, the forest standing perfectly still, not even a whisper of wind to break the silence. A chill ran through Morgan, the hairs on the back of her neck tingling as they stood on end. Something felt… off. Wrong.
She inched her hand towards her sword, gripping the hilt and slowly pulling the slender blade free as to not make a sound.
She managed to only remove the first few inches of the blade when something whistled through the air. Reflexes kicked in and she lunged to one side, ripping her sword the rest of the way from its sheath and slashing at the blur that filled her vision. She heard wood crack as an arrow shaft splintered, the head drawing a stinging line across one cheek. Had she not deflected it at the last minute, the result would have been far worse.
"Bolganone!" The treeline erupted into a geyser of molten earth and flame, obliterating the space in a shower of embers and burning wood fragments. Smoke billowed around, forming a thick haze that blanketed the area.
Morgan breathed heavily, keeping her sword held at the ready as she peered intently into the smoke.
As she watched the haze began to shift, shapes moving from within, almost like voids where the smoke would not touch. As she focused their forms began to flicker in an out of focus: shadowed silhouettes wreathed in flame.
One after another the Invisible Soldiers emerged from the smoke and flame, weapons burning with a ghostly light.
Fear gripped Morgan's heart. There were so many of them.
And she was all alone. Too far for any help to come.
Then the Invisible Soldiers charged.
Author's Note: So, this would usually be the place where I'd apologize for the chapter taking so damn long, but in this case I will not do so. Since for once I feel entirely justified in taking as long as I did due to the fact that Robcina-Week happened on tumblr last month. So yeah, due to writing seven one-shots (which in total equaled about twice the length of the typical chapter of this story) for that that, I actually did more writing than usual. So yeah, check those out if you haven't already: you can find them as part of Love Across Time.
As for the content of this chapter, hopefully you guys aren't getting sick of this Morgan subplot, as we will be focusing almost entirely on it for the next few chapters. That said if you are sick of it, take solace in the fact that we are focusing on it now so much due to the fact that said subplot is about to reach its climax! So yeah, that's going to get wrapped up soon, something I really have been looking forward to getting to.
Anyhow, that's all for now. No real guest reviews to respond to this time, so until the next one, I look forward to hearing what you guys thought of this one. If you have any comments, feedback, criticism, or so forth, please leave a review as I love hearing from you guys and it's the only way I can continue to grow and improve as a writer. Have a wonderful day everyone!