The trek back to Valm Harbour had been uneventful; Chrom and Robin had joked around the entire time, and it had seemingly passed much quicker as spirits were high from their success. Liung's army would assemble in the forest near their next destination, an important shrine to Naga called the Mila Tree that Say'ri insisted they liberate before starting the campaign proper.
"It would demoralize the Imperial forces," she had explained, "As well as increasing morale among our own, and acting as a further bargaining chip to ensure to cooperation of the other dynasts."
So Chrom had acquiesced, and Robin had begun thinking up some very preliminary tactics in his head.
Even better, with all the reinforcements Liung had provided, a staggering hundred and fifty thousand men-at-arms, Robin didn't feel nearly as bad about leaving a garrison force behind to hold the port town.
Where the hell was he hiding all of those men, anyway? Robin wondered, swatting the crow away from his ear.
Robin smiled contentedly to himself as the group of Shepherds climbed back onto the road outside Valm Harbour; another few hours and he could rest in the comfort of his own bed.
I wonder if Sei’ko beat us there already, Robin thought absently, looking at the length of the walls.
Say'ri had come clean about her spy network after the failed coup, the leader of which was Sei’ko. The talkative woman was the exact opposite of Say'ri; Sei’ko was bubbly and chatty, admittedly strange qualities for a master spy, and while she had travelled part of the way with the Shepherds they had talked at length about her duties as chief spy. Robin liked her, but that wasn't saying much; he liked everyone.
The crow cawed loudly in his ear, the bird reminding him of its presence.
"What?" Robin asked frustratedly. "If you're hungry go and eat something; I'm not feeding you any more, you already ate all of my jerky yesterday!"
The bird nipped lightly at Robin's ear, a sign of affection apparently, before taking to the sky and diving into the trees. It never went far, though, and always returned after a short period of time. He had considered calling it 'Tharja Junior' for a time, considering all the times he had tried to scare it off, but decided against it, mostly because the bird's aura was one of a male.
Robin looked up as Chrom chuckled from next to him.
"And here's me having used up all my pirate jokes on the voyage," the Prince said with a grin.
Robin rolled his eyes.
"You just wait until I have something to rub your nose in," the tactician warned. "Just wait… I shall be relentless."
Robin paused a moment, musing that Valm Harbour looked just as they had left it as they approached the high walls. The only difference now was the Ylissean and Feroxi soldiers manning them. The gates creaked open as the six Shepherds approached, and the crow took to the air again.
Robin took his eyes off the gates for all of two seconds to watch the bird; in that time he found himself firmly planted on his rear, Morgan wrapped around his chest.
"Daaaaaaaaaaad!" she squealed with delight, gripping him even tighter. "When'd you get a new shirt?"
Robin gasped, finally regaining the use of his lungs as he pushed his daughter off.
Grip like a vice, that girl… Robin thought, regaining his feet as Frederick strode out to meet them.
"Tactician Morgan, please show adequate decorum for one of your station," Frederick said exasperatedly.
Morgan blew the Knight-Commander a raspberry before turning back to her father.
"I kept everything running smoothly while you were gone," she said quickly as the group, all chuckling at the girl's overexcitedness, walked into the city, heading in the direction of the inn near the harbour. "I got all the paperwork done, I got the troop rosters finished and approved, I-"
"Okay, okay," Robin said, clamping a hand on his daughter's mouth. "You can give me your full reports during the mission debrief. But the town hasn't burned down, and Frederick hasn't torn out his hair in frustration; I'm proud of you, Morgan. You did a good job."
Morgan stopped dead, her eyes lighting up as tears began to gather in their corners.
"I'm so happy you're back!" she shouted, throwing herself around Robin again in another bone-crushing hug.
"Oh gods!" Robin groaned, surprised he had managed to get enough air into his lungs for that. "Morgan, please! I was only gone for two weeks! You're going to crack my ribs!"
The girl's grip slackened and she glanced up as the crow perched on his shoulder again.
The bird leaned forward, cawing loudly in her face, almost as if it were claiming Robin as its territory.
Morgan glared back, her grip around Robin's chest tightening reflexively.
Both the girl and the bird jumped as Chrom clapped Robin on the back, laughing heartily.
"You've got quite the fan-club going on," the Prince joked.
Robin grinned over his daughter's head.
"Oh I can't wait until Sumia catches your scent."
Robin chuckled into his hand as Sumia clung to Chrom's chest in much the same way Morgan had clung to his; much to his disappointment, though, she hadn't bowled the prince off his feet like Morgan had for him.
"Alright, dear," Chrom said, rubbing her back gently and smiling. "I was only gone two weeks."
The others had all drifted off at some point during the walk through the city; Olivia was one of the few staying on the Dragon's Claw, so no doubt Libra would be beelining for the vessel; while Lon'qu, having to always play it so cool, had slunk off with Say'ri, no doubt to take the circuitous route back to the inn and slip in the back door.
Say'ri had said she would be returning to the dwelling she was using in the city, a safe house utilized by her network of spies, leaving Robin, Chrom and Lucina standing in the lobby of the inn with a hysterical Sumia and Morgan still staring balefully at the crow perched on her father's shoulder.
The crow let out a soft caw as it suddenly flew out the open door, right past Morgan's head; the girl flinched and ducked, and Robin had no doubt she was debating casting some form of curse she'd learned from Tharja since he was gone.
Speak of the devil… Robin thought as Tharja walked in through the door, Henry at her heels and the crow perched on her hand.
"Welcome back," she said to Robin, completely ignoring everyone else in the room.
"Thanks," Robin said. "I see you've met my new friend."
Tharja chuckled a little as Henry walked past her, waving a cheerful hello to Chrom and the other three women in the room before he disappeared up the staircase to one side of the room.
"Of course I've met him," she said stroking the back of the bird's head. "I sent him to keep an eye on you. Didn't I, Huginn?"
That explains the familiar resonance, Robin thought, snapping his fingers as the final pieces of the puzzle fell into place. And why it was so possessive of me.
Robin stopped for a moment, his brain catching up with his thought process as he translated the word Tharja had said.
She named it 'thought'?
"So Henry's teaching you bad habits now?" Robin asked slyly, watching the Dark Mage become flustered and blush.
They walked to the small sitting room at the back of the lobby as Chrom, Lucina and Sumia made plans to eat lunch together. Morgan followed, still staring at the bird.
"Perhaps," she said, not meeting Robin's eyes.
Robin glanced over at Chrom and his family intending to say goodbye, but his eyes caught Lucina's and the farewell was lost on his tongue as she looked away, blushing a little.
Huginn cawed from Tharja's hand.
"Oh shush, you," she snapped at the bird.
The tactician burst into laughter as he and Tharja sat on the low sofas at one end of the room, a low table between them.
"I'll get us all something to drink," Morgan suggested with a small smile, her look dropping as she turned to cast a glare at the bird again before she turned around.
Morgan stopped as a fourth figure posed dashingly in the doorway to the room, a basket with a tea-set inside of it in one hand as the other swept the long hair away from his face.
"Please, dearest Morgan," Virion said, his teeth practically glinting as he smiled at the assembled group, "Allow me, noblest Virion, to prepare your fine party some tea."
Tharja rolled her eyes as Robin burst out laughing.
"It's just like old times now, eh?" Robin asked as his laughter subsided.
"Perhaps not exactly," Cherche said, walking into the room behind the archer.
Morgan grinned at the other woman as she sat down next to her father, bouncing up and down with excitement.
"Show him the ring! Show him the ring!"
Cherche blushed and held out her hand, displaying an engagement ring that no doubt cost more than the Dragon's Claw.
Robin was speechless as Cherche sat next to Tharja, Virion pulling up a chair and perching at the head of the table, grinning at Robin.
His eyes flicked between Virion and Cherche a few times, the tactician lost for words.
"Uh…" Robin mumbled, before breaking out into a happy smile as his brain caught up.
"Congratulations," he said finally.
"Yes, it is such a loss to all the precious flowers of the world," Virion said with dramatic flair as he began pouring the tea. "But I have chosen to limit myself to a single garden for the remainder of my days."
Tharja's crow cawed loudly, taking flight and disappearing out the window.
Robin chuckled at the three surprised faces around the table, his eyes meeting Tharja's and sharing a grin with her as he lifted his cup.
"You get used to the bird. I can't help but feel this is all a bit sudden, though," Robin said as way of conversation.
"Virion and I have actually known each other a very long time," Cherche said. "I was one of his vassals during his rule in Rosanne, you see."
"She tried to deny her love, but alack, once the archest of archers sets his sights on a woman there is little she can do but accept his warm and gentle embrace!" Virion recited, leaning back and stirring his tea.
"I pity you," Tharja said, returning to her usual cold tone as she spoke to Cherche. "If he ever does something just say the word and I'll have him hexed to the point he can't tell up from down."
Cherche giggled as Virion's face dropped and became pale.
"Thank you my dear," Cherche said pleasantly. "But I've already promised that particular duty to Minerva."
Tharja shrugged, sipping from her tea.
"We sure do have a lot of scary ladies in our lives," Robin muttered sympathetically to Virion as the three women at the low table began to discuss the feeding habits of a wyvern Minerva's size.
The archer nodded, brushing back a stray lock of silver-blue hair as Cherche laughed at something Morgan said.
"Of course Minerva could eat something the size of a full-grown man," she said with an easy smile.
"That gives me… ideas…" Tharja said with a particularly evil grin.
Robin and Virion shared a pale glance before both sighing in unison. The tactician reached over and clapped the archer on the shoulder.
"That over-grown lizard will be the death of me," the archer muttered worriedly.
Robin snorted with barely contained laughter a second before Virion joined him.
Robin sighed, his chin resting on his hand while his other one drummed idly on the small table in front of him. Morgan had returned with Frederick to the command post, to go over the new troop rosters with Chrom and make sure he was okay with them. The pile of paperwork Robin was supposed to be working on went ignored as his mind wandered.
At least I don't have to worry about getting my ass kicked rescuing him from bar-room brawls any more…
The surprising news about Virion and Cherche, while definitely not a bad thing, had him doing something he had never done before.
He was dwelling on his future.
Never really thought about it, Robin said in his head. I was always more hung up about not having a past. But I don't really need one to have a future, do I?
He sighed, running a hand through his increasingly frustratingly-lengthed hair.
What do I do after this war, anyway? Robin continued. I mean, Lucina said I was supposed to join the military officially, but I'd really rather not. I don't regret gallivanting around the continent with Tharja and Virion, not in the slightest, but…
Robin groaned, realizing he had been chewing the end of his pen again and setting it down before he ruined it.
Why am I thinking about this now? He wondered silently.
Well, that's an easy question to answer. I’m imagining a future with a certain blue-haired Princess.
Robin groaned, his head thumping the table as he fell forward.
Any thoughts I have are just a perverted fantasy, he told himself sternly. Not only because she has her heart set on returning to her own timeline at the end of this whole Grima-apocalypse crap, but for the love of gods she's my best friend's daughter! Chrom's been so kind to me; it would gut him if I did anything with his daughter… And he would then proceed to gut me. Literally. With the big sword he carries around everywhere. Like a fish.
So why the fantasies?
I'm only human, Robin thought truthfully, groaning as he rose and stretched his back. You'd have to be dead not to be attracted to her. But… nothing can happen. Ever.
But you love her.
… I do, Robin admitted to himself. I really do. But nothing can ever happen between us.
Well then I guess I’m screwed.
"Well, that was uplifting," Robin groaned sarcastically as he pulled on his coat. "Thanks, me. Good talk."
Where am I going?
"Don't know, don't care, but sitting in my room alone is making me begin to question my own sanity. I think Ineed a distraction."
Robin sighed, leaning against the railing above the harbour again, letting the wind run through his hair.
Thankfully his interior voice had grown silent of late.
I don't think I'm going to join the others for dinner, Robin thought with a sigh. Too much going on in my head right now… We're supposed to be marching tomorrow, and I'd really like to do so with a clear head.
Robin glanced at the Dragon's Claw, floating alone and monolithic off in its own little corner of the harbour, and once again his thoughts turned to Gregor.
Despite his promises, despite his efforts, he still blamed himself for the older man's death, and staring at the ship just reminded him about it. He'd agonized over it every day since, and had simply hid the fact from everyone.
If he had just made a better plan… thought ahead to the speed of the boats… thought more coherently about the strengths of the Valmese soldiers versus the Shepherds… Instead, he'd been caught up in the excitement of playing pirate; he'd taken his eye off of the big picture and he'd paid for it in blood with the life of a friend, and he would never be able to forgive himself.
Dammit, Gregor, Robin groaned in his head. I know I didn't listen to your advice often, but I could sure as hell use some now…
Robin ran a hand through his hair, trying in vain to dispel such thoughts. They were officially marching back into battle tomorrow. It wouldn't do anyone any good if the tactician got cold feet.
A strand of Robin's long brown hair escaped its position behind his ear in a particularly strong gust of wind, reminding Robin what he had travelled down to the docks for.
He had initially thought to finally go and ask Olivia to cut his hair, but the breeze was too good to pass up. The harbour had grown quiet again, and without the large Plegian ships taking up space the local fishing and charter boats had returned. Life went on, as it always did, war or not.
He watched some fishermen unloading their cargo from a day's hard work, sweating and hauling nets full of fresh fish up the harbour to where the evening market merchants' apprentices were waiting for their pick.
Robin had to supress a grin as a squabble broke out between two of the younger apprentices over a particularly large tuna.
Is that what Morgan is now? Robin wondered idly. Is she my apprentice? She sure acts like it; and she'd probably have an aneurysm from happiness-overload if I made it official…
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of wooden sandals on the stone walkway behind him.
Turning, Robin beheld Say'ri in her casual clothes for the first time. They were similar to the disguise she had been wearing during their first meeting; she had called the outfit a 'kimono', if memory served; although this one was of a markedly higher quality, and had a much more regal air to it. The dark purple fabric was decorated with bright flowers, and Robin had to force his eyes not to linger on the way it outlined her figure.
However, Robin being who he was, he couldn't resist teasing her.
"Nice bathrobe," he said lightly, turning back to leaning on the railing.
Say'ri laughed lightly as she joined him.
"Fie, tactician," she said. "I know for a fact we have spoken of the traditional garments of my homeland."
"Yeah," Robin said cheekily. "But it's fun to tease everyone in the Shepherds."
"So I am a Shepherd now?" Say'ri asked curiously. "I do not have to go through an initiation? A rite of passage?"
"Are you kidding?" Robin laughed. "Chrom found me passed out in a field and asked me to join after our second battle! Just about everyone in the Shepherds right now kinda got sucked in accidentally; just like you did."
Say'ri grinned for a moment.
"Then I accept this prestigious honour," she said solemnly, still grinning.
They stood in silence a while after that, Robin simply watching the monotony of daily life in the harbour town with his mind going blank.
Say'ri sighed contentedly as the ocean breeze washed over them, the scent of fish and salt almost overpowering. Robin found that he didn't mind, though; he was too busy watching the woman next to him relax for the first time since he had met her.
Okay, her I don't feel guilty over being attracted to, Robin thought as he watched the woman out of the corner of his eye as she brushed a lock of hair out of her face, smiling lightly as she looked out over the water.
"Tell me, Sir Robin," Say'ri asked, breaking his train of thought with a light hand on his elbow. "Have you taken supper yet?"
Robin started, realizing the sun was beginning to go down over the ocean, the sky having turned a deep shade of orange.
"I have not," Robin admitted.
In fact, all he had eaten was the cold breakfast they had had while hiking, and then the tea Virion had served around noon.
"Perhaps you would wish to dine with me?" Say'ri offered. "I am eating traditional foods of my homeland tonight, prepared by a master chef to celebrate our success in Chengshi."
Robin felt his stomach tighten at the mere mention of food, his mind made up instantly.
That would solve the whole problem of me wanting to eat away from the others and…
"Alright, but on one condition," he said, pushing himself up and doing a little turn, forcing himself not to think about princesses. "You promise to stop calling me sir; I renounced my military commission years ago, despite how Chrom seems to keep piling work at my feet."
Say'ri laughed, a warm pleasant sound Robin found himself enjoying a little more than he probably should have.
"Very well, Robin," she said with a mock bow. "I shall endeavour to treat you with the same disrespect you show to everyone else."
"See? That's all I ask," Robin replied with a grin as he played along, spreading his hands out in front of him.
Say'ri, still smiling, led the tactician back towards the shrine she had taken him to before their journey to Chengshi; at least he assumed that was the direction she was leading him. His sense of direction in cramped backstreets had never been particularly good; even in Ylisstol, where he had spent a good portion of his time between travels, he still occasionally got lost.
"We have arrived," Say'ri announced, stopping in front of a random door and knocking on it three times.
Robin looked around. The door looked exactly like every other one on the street; obviously Say'ri was much better with city navigation than Robin was…
The door slid to one side, revealing Sei’ko in a kimono similar to Say'ri's, her long dark hair tied up in a tight bun.
"Good evening, Lady Say'ri," she said, her eyes resting on Robin. "And good evening to you, Lord Tactician Robin."
"It's just Robin," the tactician said with a sigh as Say'ri led him into a small entryway, Sei’ko closing the door quietly behind them.
"You will need to remove your boots here," Say'ri announced, kicking off her own sandals and stepping up onto a raised wooden floor.
Robin shrugged and did as he was told, struggling a moment before managing to pry his boots off.
"I apologize if my feet stink," he mumbled, blushing a little as he handed his coat to a waiting Sei’ko.
The spy made a show of leaning forward and sniffing a little over his shoulder.
"Do not worry, Robin," she said with a light grin as she brushed by him and Say'ri, disappearing back into the hallway beyond the entrance. "You are fine."
Say'ri shook her head, motioning Robin to follow her.
She led him down a wooden-floored hallway and into a room with what looked like straw thatching for a floor. Say'ri didn't hesitate to step onto it, so Robin assumed it would hold his weight and followed, feeling his feet sink into the soft material before hitting wood beneath.
I honestly don't know what I was worried about…
The room itself was empty; plain panelled, paper-covered walls surrounding him as Say'ri closed the door behind him.
She crossed the room, and with a swish of her kimono she opened the sliding doors, revealing a small and exotic walled garden, the likes of which Robin had never seen before. Small bushes were surrounded by small, carefully levelled white stones. A small fountain sat in one corner of the yard, water running down the wall in a light cascade between thin looking trees.
"Place seems a little ostentatious for a safe-house," Robin pointed out as she sat down next to him, again perching with her legs folded beneath her.
Robin decided that he wasn't willing to endure the pain, and simply sat cross-legged as they watched the shadows in the garden slowly grow longer.
"Our war for liberation spilled over long ago," she explained sadly. "Many of the citizens of Chon'sin that disagreed with my br… with Yen'fay's decision to ally with Walhart left, making homes for themselves elsewhere. Most of those people have been kind enough to offer them to our cause."
Robin nodded, not knowing how to respond.
"But fie, we are not here to speak of the war tonight," Say'ri said, turning to the tactician and lightly touching his arm.
"I trust that your reunion with your apprentice was a happy one?" she asked in an obvious attempt to steer the conversation a new direction.
Oh crap, Robin thought, shock setting in. We never explained the whole time travel thing to her. Er… now may not be the best time, though… I'll do it… after dinner? Yeah, after dinner.
"Yeah," Robin said, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly. "Although my ribs still hurt. She gets… a little overexcited."
Say'ri chuckled. "Many apprentices grow strong bonds with their masters in Chon'sin, too; though ours is a more reserved culture, not as prone to displays of affection the likes of which I have seen from your Shepherds."
"We're very free with the love," Robin joked with a lopsided grin.
Say'ri smiled, but her response was cut off when a sliding door on the side of the room opened, admitting Sei’ko and another woman, both holding trays of strange looking food.
Okay, be cool Robin, he said to himself. I'm sure it's not all going to be raw. Oh gods I hope it's not all raw…
"You know what's awesome? This saké," Robin slurred, sloshing the small saké cup around. "So was dinner. Your whole homeland is awesome… everything about it. How else could someone as awesome as you come out of it?"
Dinner had been surprisingly good. There had been no uncooked fish, but noodles and fried chicken and all kinds of other goodies Robin had no idea what they were. He thought there had been shellfish in there at one point, but he was horrible with identifying exotic foods.
They had talked at length of Chon'sin, which Say'ri had seemed to enjoy; Robin was enthralled by the idea of a land so different to the ones he had seen, so he had enjoyed himself immensely. They had spent most of the evening smiling and laughing, and that was before the saké had started flowing.
"Awesome…" Robin muttered, swaying before catching himself in an attempt to not spill his cup.
This saké stuff really sneaks up on you, doesn't it? Robin thought, draining the rest of the small cup. It’s much more fun than firewine…
"Your kind words mean much to me, Robin," Say'ri admitted.
Her cheeks had been rosy ever since the rice-wine had started flowing, but with her inhibitions cut because of the alcohol Robin could swear he was watching the woman blush at his compliment.
"I'm serious," Robin slurred. "You're going to have to take me one day. I've gotta see the… the… the home of this much awesome!"
Say'ri burst into laughter, attempting to stifle it with her hand and failing miserably.
"What?" Robin asked, reaching for the short saké bottle, torn between enjoying the sound and feeling offended. "I was being serious!"
"I think perhaps you have had enough of that," Say'ri said as he poured them both another cup.
"No such thing," Robin muttered, raising his cup.
"To new friends from awesome places!" he toasted.
"To new friends," Say'ri echoed, before sighing wistfully.
"I wish you could see Chon'sin right now," she said, her voice taking on a far-away quality. "The cherry-blossom trees would be blooming at this time of year… they bloom but briefly once a year, and it has been many years since I have been home to see it."
"Sounds beautiful," Robin muttered, looking out into the garden and watching the water from the fountain trickle down the wall. "I bet that would be a great memory to add to the tiny little… little, ah… group. Of memories I have. Because I don't have many."
Damn this wine… Robin thought, casting a baleful glance at the bottle.
"Oh, fie Robin," Say'ri said quickly. "I did not mean to remind you of your own predicament!"
Robin chuckled as he leaned back, gently swirling the clear alcohol in his cup and watching it spin as he rested his weight on his other hand.
"Don't worry about it," he said, fascinated by the saké. "Home isn't one place for me; home is where the rump rests."
"Tis a good philosophy to have," Say'ri chuckled before growing sombre. "Of late I find that my mind lingers on thoughts of my homeland…"
"Was it my constant questions that brought this homesickness on?" Robin asked apologetically, head spinning with drunken guilt. "Because I was just curious… I didn't mean to upset you."
"No, no. It's quite all right. Better than all right, in fact... Because in looking to the past, I've found my way forward..." Say'ri said, growing quiet.
"Well, I aim to please," Robin chuckled, letting himself fall backwards onto the floor with a dull thump. "Let me know if there's any other way I can help. You may have to wait for me to sober up, though…"
Say'ri smiled at his offer.
"Thank you, Robin," she said. "It is a fine change, dealing with people as open about their emotions as you and your comrades. My people are very… proper. They are very cold, and do not often express their true feelings. It is refreshing to see the other cultures of this world do not share this failing."
"It can't be a failing if it produced someone awesome like you," Robin said truthfully, staring upwards as the room swam before him.
Okay, I regret that last cup, he thought ruefully. And I regret using the word awesome so many times tonight… Curse you, drunken-Robin-speak!
"Besides, people like me, we've got a lot of love to give," he added in a low mumble, closing his eyes contentedly.
"Tis one of the things I love about you," Say'ri muttered.
Robin registered the sound of movement to his side before something soft and warm was pressed to his lips. It took his drunken brain a second to realize they were another set of lips, and that Say'ri was kissing him.
Holy shit! He cried in his mind. I… what… where did this come from!?
Robin realized with a start that he had begun kissing her back as Say'ri's hands came to rest on his shoulders.
Well… why am I freaking out about this? He rationalized. This isn't a bad thing; I'm allowed to be with Say'ri aren't I? I really like her, and… gah! It's getting so hard to think straight right now!
Without breaking their kiss Say'ri laid herself against Robin, and the tactician could feel the heat of her body through the thin kimono she was wearing.
Robin let out a startled grunt as his shirt was torn open and pulled off.
I like Say'ri… so why do I feel guilty about this?
Say'ri let out a small gasp as Robin broke their kiss, moving his lips down Say'ri's neck to her collarbone. He found his hands travelling further down her back of their own accord.
One of Robin's hands began to travel up Say'ri's toned thigh, making the woman gasp again as he slipped it around to her rear.
I don't feel guilty about this…
The tactician moved slowly, rolling Say'ri onto her back and lying on top of her, the passionate kissing resuming with a fevered pitch as Robin's hands travelled back up the woman's body.
I do not… do not feel guilty…
Say'ri sucked in a breath as her kimono was pulled open, and Robin's hands travelled the length of her bare flesh again.
I do not feel guilty about this, Robin repeated to himself one last time as the two people lost themselves to each other.
When Robin woke it was to the familiar weight of a hangover in his head; and the very unfamiliar weight of Say'ri using his chest like a pillow.
Oh gods, Robin thought in confusion, letting his head fall back onto the pillow with a low groan. I didn't… did I? Oh gods, I did! Oh gods!
Last night was a hazy blur; he didn't even remember making it to a bed… Or a bedroll, or whatever the thing he was lying on was called in Chon'sin. He sure as hell remembered what they had done before that though, and the thoughts made him blush heavily.
"Good morning," Say'ri mumbled into his chest.
"Er… sorry," Robin said, starting a little. "Did I wake you?"
What the hell was that!? 'Did I wake you'!? You should be getting far the hell away from here!
"No," Say'ri sighed happily, nuzzling her cheek against his chest. "I fear I have been lying here for some time, unable to break myself away from you."
Robin nodded, dumbstruck.
Oh crap… ohcrapohcrapohcrap. This is… this is SO bad. I am NEVER drinking again! What am I supposed to… we're still naked, for gods' sake! Oh this is bad on so many levels.
"I am glad I could tell you how I felt before we marched today," Say'ri said, shifting a little. "As I said, my people are not exactly experts at expressing ourselves. I am… I hope I was not too forward."
Resting one hand on Robin's chest to steady herself Say'ri sat up she brushed the hair out of her face, not bothering to cover herself as she did.
Robin couldn't help it; cursing his weakness, he let his eyes wander.
Say'ri giggled, reaching up and gently forcing Robin's gaze back up with a hand on his cheek.
"Do not stare," she said, her tone low and sultry as she leaned in to kiss him.
"No," Robin murmured, pulling his head away and trying to ease himself away from the woman.
"Last night… shouldn't have happened," he added, scooting further away as she drew back like he had struck her.
Idiot! Stop pining for a woman we can't have and get a hold of yourself! Or better yet, get a hold of her!
The look of shock and hurt on Say'ri's face broke Robin's heart, but he knew that it would be less painful now than if he dragged her along.
"I… uh… we," Robin stammered, reaching for his pants. "That is, we were both rather drunk and… uh…"
"That doesn't change my feelings for you," Say'ri said in a small voice, holding the sheet tightly to her chest.
And I felt guilty before!?
"Say'ri, we're friends, right? Well, I need you to understand that I can't afford distractions of a romantic variety in the middle of a campaign," Robin reasoned, slipping on his pants and hopping up.
"Don't get me wrong, I don't dislikeyou or anything," the tactician added lamely as he searched among the discarded clothing for his shirt.
"It's just that-"
"You have said your piece and made your intentions clear," Say'ri said in a cold voice, turning away.
"Now get out."
Robin shuddered as Say'ri rose, the sheet from the bedding wrapped around her perfect figure, and walked calmly into the next room, sliding the door closed with a resounding snap.
The tactician stood perfectly still for a moment, his mind working in overtime. Inside the small room Say'ri had just entered was a sword on a rack; a sword that he had never paid much attention to in the past, Say'ri's sword.
It looked exactly like Morgan's.
Could this get any worse!? Robin shouted in his head.
Well the house is full of dangerous spies and assassins that could kill you without even breaking a sweat, so yes. Yes it could, his inner voice responded.
Dammit, stop thinking and move, Robin told himself, stepping out of the room into the hallway, angling for the entryway.
His sword and coat were already waiting for him in the small foyer. No doubt Sei’ko had heard the entire exchange and prepared accordingly.
Thoughts whirled around the tactician's head faster than they ever had before, adding to the overall feeling of nausea he was struggling with. Pulling on his boots, Robin had to ask himself what was wrong with him. He had just slept with a beautiful woman, and then panicked and run like she was secretly a Risen. He ran a hand down his face, doing his best not to vomit all over the foyer, because that would make things so much better, and stood, reaching for the door.
He hesitated as his hand reached the latch, and the tactician looked back.
Say'ri was no doubt furious at him, but he had to go back in; he had to tell her about the possibility that she was Morgan's…
He shook the thoughts from his head, bundling himself closer into his coat and stepping out onto the street, thinking thoughts of highly trained assassins. He'd made his decision, now he had to live with it. He'd just explain the Morgan situation in a few days… once Say'ri calmed down. She did have a right to know, even if he wound up impaled because of it.
As Robin stepped out onto the street he reflexively ducked as a black form flew at his head, cawing excitedly.
The raven had decided not to leave Robin's side as he made his way to the War Council after forcing himself to stand.
"Can't you tell I'm hung-over?" he muttered to the bird squatting happily on his shoulder.
Huginn responded by cawing loudly, making Robin cringe.
"I'll take that as a no…"
This is just great, Robin mumbled internally. How exactly do I tell Say'ri that she could potentially be the mother of my time-travelling daughter after that?
Fortunately Chrom's command tent was still near the initial beach-head they had won in the harbour, close to the warehouses that the majority of the army was still billeted in.
The normally short walk from the Dragon Claw's berth where Robin emerged from the tightly packed tenements took Robin twice as long in his current shuffling, hangover-induced stupor. By the time he had arrived the entire command staff of the army was present, all looking up when he entered. Robin hastily waved an irritated Huginn off his shoulder as he entered the tent, the angry bird making much more of a scene than he would have liked.
"Yeesh," Chrom said sympathetically. "Where did you sleep last night? The beach?"
"Don't ask," Robin groaned, shuffling past the others and taking his place at the head of the table next to Chrom.
Frederick glared at the tactician from across the table at his position on Chrom's right hand.
Say'ri glared at him, again wearing her full battle kit, from further down the table.
"Tactician Robin you are an essential member of this War Council and the command staff of the army. Your punctuality is not merely requested, but required. Furthermore-" Frederick started, before the tactician cut him off.
"Furthermore I quit two-and-a-half years ago and am currently volunteering," Robin snapped. "So lay off."
Chrom cleared his throat, attempting to diffuse the tension and get the meeting started.
This is going to be a long three hours, Robin groaned internally, noticing Lucina and Severa both now staring at him with some concern.
And ignoring the fact that Frederick was still glaring silently at him.
Robin walked quickly, heading for the Shepherds' supply wagon holding his armour.
The War Council had gone well after the little Frederick incident; everything was ready, and everyone was itching to get the war underway.
Say'ri had revealed the true reason they needed to capture the Mila Tree during the meeting; an incredibly old, incredibly powerful Manakete slept atop the tree in the shrine, known as the Voice of Naga. Robin was already beginning to come up with plans to utilize someone so apparently powerful as the meeting ended in a desperate attempt to get his tired mind to focus on important things, rather than his incredibly confusing personal life.
What's confusing about it though? He wondered. I can't be with Lucina. I can be with Say'ri. I like Say'ri. I do… Plus, what if she's actually Morgan's mother? There's no possible way that Lucina could be… I already burned that bridge pretty thoroughly, though.
He felt a little bad about saddling Morgan with all of the boring clerical work that he didn't want to be doing, but the girl had seemed ecstatic about getting to do more 'tactician stuff' as she called it, leaving Robin open to focus solely on the battlefield tactics; the thing he was best at.
So if everything's going so well this morning, why do I feel this awful sense of foreboding?
"Robin! There you are!" Lucina called out happily from behind him.
Oh, right. That.
"Good… good morning, Princess," Robin said hesitantly as Lucina drew alongside him. "Are you ready for today's march?"
Lucina smiled as she fell into step with Robin, already in her full battle kit.
"I am," she said. "And please, Robin; you of all people can call me by name."
"Of course, Lucina," he managed to say around the lingering hangover.
"Is everything alright?" she asked a little worriedly. "You seemed distracted during the war council, and you seem a little… off right now."
Well, I had sex with Say'ri last night and feel wretchedly guilty because I'm actually in love with you. How are you this morning? Robin said sarcastically in his head.
"I'm fine," the tactician lied. "Just… duelling with some unpleasant thoughts. Nothing worth worrying about. Plus I'm really hung-over, if someone offers you something called saké, for the love of Naga, tell them no."
They had reached the wagon, and Lucina leaned against it, looking at Robin curiously.
"If you say so," she giggled, before adding in a more serious tone, "If you want someone to talk to, you know where to find me."
I honestly think talking to you might make things more confusing for me right now…
"Yeah, hovering around your father like always," Robin said with a slight grin. "Thank you Lucina, but I'm fine."
"Okay," she said disappointedly as Robin crawled into the wagon in search of his armour. "I need to go and find Father; I'm marching at his side today. I will see you on the field, Robin. Good luck today."
"You too," Robin called from in the wagon.
He stuck his head out, looking around. When he noticed that Lucina was gone the tactician let out a tired sigh and dropped his head onto the lip of the wagon's side, instantly regretting it as pain blossomed behind his eyes.
He looked up when a familiar cawing caught his attention as Huginn landed near his head.
"I suppose you have something witty to add?" Robin asked the bird.
Huginn's answer was to cock his head, looking sideways at the tactician as he climbed out of the wagon.
Robin watched as the Shepherds charged forward up the roots of the massive Mila Tree, moving to engage the red-armoured Imperial Valm forces stationed at its base.
This, I can do, Robin thought confidently, his usual smirk returning to his face. This is my element. No irritating personal drama, no questions about people's parentage, nothing like that… Just me and the battlefield.
The giant Mila tree stretched out above them; they had been marching in the shade for nearly an hour, all from one tree. It was incomprehensibly tall; a tree the height of a mountain.
Robin watched carefully as the three aerial Shepherds struck low and fast at the Valmese forces, Cordelia, Cherche and Sumia raining down lances and spears as Nowi and Nah breathed dragon-fire on the ranks of soldiers before withdrawing, providing cover for the mounted division's assault.
Frederick, Sully, Stahl and the ten other Ylissean knights that had accompanied the Shepherds crashed into the disrupted Valmese line, cutting deep before whirling and withdrawing.
The Valmese forces numbered just over two-hundred men; pretty good odds considering the veteran status of the Shepherds. According to Say'ri's handy spy network the man in charge of the garrison at the moment was actually a General visiting from the capital; General Cervantes, one of the triad of Generals that led Walhart's forces.
He had vastly underestimated the Shepherds, though, and chosen to deploy all of his troops rather than form up and hold the small fort carved into the base of the great tree; Robin swore that the man would not live to regret his decision.
A tree so big that an entire fort can be carved into its base and still barely make a dent, the tactician marvelled again. It's stuff like this that I keep travelling to see.
"Team two needs to move up," Robin said to Chrom, giving the Prince the opening he needed to order the advance.
It was his army, after all; Robin couldn't give all the orders.
"Team two, assault formation!" Chrom called, moving to the front of the group of Shepherds. "On me! Charge!"
The Prince leapt forward, Lucina and the rest of team two, the heaviest armed and armoured of the Shepherds, hot on his heels.
"They'll engage the front while the Knights and fliers circle back around and head to the right flank," Robin explained to Morgan. "We'll strike the left flank; it seems to be mostly light assault units, nothing too heavily armoured."
Morgan nodded excitedly from next to him. She hadn't been able to attend their usual 'planning session', having been too busy making last minute checks her troop dispositions among the regular army under Roark's care before they departed.
His team, team three, consisted of Morgan, Say'ri, Lon'qu, Severa, Gaius, Virion, Tharja and Panne, Anna, and Severa. The others, with the exception of Lissa, Maribelle and Olivia were all in the other two teams.
Morgan had no idea, when she had drafted the roster for the day, about her Father and possibly-mother's little spat that morning. Say'ri wouldn't even meet his eyes, and had acknowledged his orders tersely and monosyllabically.
"Alright," Robin shouted, focusing on the task at hand. "Team three on me! Let's get this done and get everyone home safe!"
They charged forward, Robin leading with his sword in hand, eager to finally let some stress off.
"Tharja, Virion, Morgan!" Robin called. "Peel off and begin your assault!"
The two mages and the archer Robin referred to stopped dead as the other Shepherds streamed around them, and began to cast and shoot around the charging group.
Robin didn't even twitch any more as arrows flew past his head and the ground shook from the detonation of spells among the Valmese; there was a time he would wince and reflexively duck, but he had grown used to a life of constant battle.
The Valmese desperately tried to reform a line, the lighter armoured mages, archers and soldiers they were attacking beginning to panic.
Robin swept aside the sword of the first man before him, and lost himself to the melee.
Severa fell in beside him, the two of them leading as the vanguard; she was the only one wearing steel armour, and Robin's coat was pretty much impenetrable.
Robin had noticed Cordelia's future daughter had been keeping a close eye on him since the debacle on the voyage over where he had wound up stabbed trying to protect her. Normally Robin would appreciate it, but Severa's abrasive personality got on his nerves at the best of times, and he hadn't been at his best lately.
With little effort they broke through the front line of Valmese soldiers, emerging onto a system of walkways strung up between the roots of the great tree.
"This is…" Robin muttered, lost for words as he glanced at the massive roots beneath his feet.
They had been expanded by carefully laying wooden planks from other smaller trees, making a large flat surface that was easily the size of the parade ground in Ylisstol. Some of the roots had been hacked away and levelled off closer to the tree, and it was at the end of one of these that Robin spotted a moustache wearing armour.
"There!" Say'ri exclaimed, pointing to the moustache. "General Cervantes!"
Robin watched as Chrom and Lucina charged the man and his honour guard, beginning to lay into them with their twin swords.
"Let the Prince and Princess handle him," Robin said dismissively. "We'll secure the fort. Team three, form up! We're clearing the fort!"
"Marry! What fighting!" Say'ri said excitedly as the Shepherd regrouped at the base of the staircase leading to the shrine atop the tree. "I almost pity the enemies of Ylisse!"
"Yes, we fought well today," Chrom agreed. "But the General escaped."
"General Cervantes is the left hand of the Conqueror," Say'ri said, spitting the man's name out. "We will see him again."
Robin was barely listening, staring with dread at the staircase ascending around the massive trunk of the tree.
"Stairs…" Robin muttered darkly.
A loud caw in his ear reminded him that at some point Huginn had caught up with him again.
"Why don't I make you walk all those stairs?" Robin muttered to the bird.
"Alright, form up and hold this position!" Chrom called to the Shepherds. "Frederick, you're in charge! Keep any enemies off the tree, but remember we're expecting to be met by Liung's force soon."
Frederick saluted smartly, turning and beginning to shout orders.
"Stay here with him in case something happens," Robin muttered to Morgan. "He's a good fighter, but he's not tactically minded."
"Sure," Morgan said breezily. "Have fun with the stairs."
Robin groaned, turning back to the staircase.
What is it with people on this continent and staircases!? He thought melodramatically.
The climb was just as bad as Robin had feared; no one spoke after the first few minutes, focused solely on the stairs beneath their feet. Chrom led the way with Lucina at his side, Lissa and Lon'qu following while Robin and Say'ri brought up the rear.
By the time they reached the top Robin could barely stand, let alone talk; his legs felt like they were made of pudding, and he felt no shame when he collapsed on his face next to Lissa.
"Kill me," Robin groaned.
"Only if you kill me first," Lissa moaned, falling backwards and panting.
Huginn cawed from Robin's back, and the tactician swatted at the bird irritatedly.
"Off! Off I say! I am not a horse! Go bother Tharja!"
"The Voice truly lives all the way up here?" Lucina asked between gasps for breath.
Lon'qu just looked around and panted, standing close to Lissa.
Robin dragged himself back to his feet, leaning heavily on Chrom who was also panting and out of breath.
Now that he was vertical again Robin took the opportunity to look around the tree-top; it was as if someone had carved a section of earth or lifted an island out of the ocean, and placed it atop the tree. Smaller plants, mostly ferns and grasses, grew scattered around a central shrine, swaying lazily in the wind. If Robin hadn't been able to see the leaves and branches of the great tree in the distance he would have sworn he was still on the ground.
"Lady Tiki!" Say'ri called suddenly as they walked inward from the staircase. "Are you here!? Prithee answer!"
Robin and Chrom both jumped a little at the volume of the woman's voice.
They continued forward, coming upon a small shrine that looked somewhere between the one Say'ri had shown Robin in Valm Harbour and the ruins he had seen in Plegia during his travels.
And of course, sitting in the middle of an altar was another young-looking green-haired Manakete woman.
"Lady Tiki!" Say'ri called again.
The Manakete woman, Tiki, sat up and stretched, yawning as if awakening from a deep slumber. She was wearing tight red clothes that showed off her bare arms and legs, with a short pink cape thrown over one shoulder, all of which were rumpled from sleeping in them.
"Ah, my lady," Say'ri said with relief. "I am so glad to see you are alright."
Tiki blinked a few times, looking around at the people arrayed before her as she yawned again.
Lucina was the first to approach her, hesitantly as if she did not want to offend the woman.
"You are Lady Tiki? She who speaks for the Divine Dragon?" Lucina asked.
Tiki blinked a few more times, obviously still groggy with sleep.
Sheesh, she barely looks older than Morgan, Robin thought, looking at the manakete still sitting on the altar. Cute though…
"Marth?" she asked, shock making her eyes wide. "Oh Mar-Mar, is that really you!?"
Lucina took an involuntary step back as Tiki rose quickly to her feet.
"My name is Lucina, milady," she said quickly. "Though I did go by the name Marth for a time. Might we have met?"
Tiki sagged disappointedly, leaning back against the altar she had been resting on.
"Alas, no," Tiki said apologetically. "I'm sorry, but you reminded me of someone I used to know. But he is gone now; lost during my endless sleep."
Lucina looked at a loss for words, glancing at Robin and her father for guidance before the woman spoke again.
"You and your father are of the Exalted bloodline, are you not?" she asked, her face going hard and serious.
"We are, milady," Chrom said, stepping forward and brushing Robin off his shoulder.
The tactician stumbled, righting himself quickly.
"Do you yet possess the Fire Emblem?" Tiki asked, switching tracks suddenly. "It should have been passed down through your family…"
"I… yes, I have it," Chrom said, hesitantly reaching into the pouch at his hip he kept the Emblem in at all times.
Tiki sagged, suddenly smiling again with relief.
"Ah! What relief to know it has not been lost," she sighed. "But where are the gemstones? I see only Argent."
"Er… gemstones?" Chrom asked in confusion.
"Yes, there are five of them," Tiki explained. "Argent, Sable, Gules, Azure and Vert. Each holds a portion of Naga's power. When mounted on the Emblem they allow one to perform the Awakening."
"The rite by which the first Exalt channelled the Divine Dragon's power," Lucina said, understanding dawning on her features.
"Sounds fancy," Robin muttered, feeling left out of the conversation.
"The very same. And it is fancy," Tiki said, smiling at Robin. "With the Fire Emblem's power the first Exalt was able to defeat Grima, but such power was too much for men, and the gemstones were scattered."
Tiki reached behind the altar a moment, remerging holding a small blue orb.
"I kept Azure here with me," she said, holding the gemstone out to Chrom.
"My kingdom has safeguarded Vert for generations," Say'ri added helpfully. "But the gem was recently stolen by Walhart's men."
"Milady, do you know where the other two gemstones might be?" Lucina asked Tiki.
The dragon woman seemed to be falling asleep where she stood, but perked up when Lucina spoke.
"The remaining two gemstones, Sable and Gules, are no longer known to me," Tiki said sadly. "They may have been taken a long time ago, at the time of the Schism."
"Regna Ferox was founded during the Schism, right?" Robin asked, recalling something he had read in a book during his occupation of Chrom's library in Ylisstol. "As were all nations, come to think about it…"
"Wait, does that mean the Khans might have one of the gemstones?" Lissa asked hopefully.
"We'll ask when we see them at the base of the tree," Chrom said. "At least now we have two of the five."
"You must find the other three and…" she broke off, a large yawn escaping her mouth. "And perform the Awakening. Our world must be defended from Grima at all costs!"
"Do you know when or where he will return?" Chrom asked hopefully.
"I cannot know these things," Tiki said sadly. "But I can feel his life-force growing stronger. I feel his presence, looming closer and closer."
Robin watched Lucina shift uncomfortably and look down at Tiki's words.
"It is a heavy burden, but as he of Exalted blood it must fall to you, Prince Chrom," Tiki said clearly, the sleep seeming to finally fade from her eyes.
"Thank you for your assistance, milady," Chrom said as he put Azure into its socket in the Fire Emblem before putting it back in his pouch.
"Yes, thank you milady," Robin added, still feeling left out.
Tiki's eyes went wide, seeming to notice Robin for the first time.
"You…" she gasped. "You have it…"
Robin took an involuntary step back, keenly aware of how fast an excited manakete could transform from experience with Nowi.
"Er… I have what exactly?"
"You have power… like mine," Tiki said, drawing closer to him.
"I do?" Robin asked, looking down at himself curiously.
He looked and felt the same as he always had; except for the fact he had been talking to himself more recently...
"I… ah, forgive me," Tiki said, swaying a little as she realized everyone was staring at them. "I am still groggy from my slumber. My words outpace my thoughts."
"Are you alright, my lady?" Say'ri asked concernedly, moving to stand at the manakete's elbow.
"I am fine," Tiki answered. "Just very tired. I haven't the strength to join you in the fray; not yet. But I can call the people together, in prayer, for an end to this conflict."
Say'ri nodded, helping Tiki in the direction of the staircase to the ground below.
"Allow me to assist you to somewhere you may sleep with a little more comfort, my lady."
Robin hesitated, taking a deep breath as he tried to summon up the courage to face the stairs again. Looking up he noticed that Lissa had coerced Lon'qu into carrying her back down, much to her husband's consternation.
"Do you think if we yelled really loudly Sumia and Cordelia would hear us and come get us?" Robin asked hopefully as the party began to head back to the staircase.
"From this high up?" Chrom asked with a rueful chuckle. "Not likely."
Robin groaned as his feet met the first of the stairs.
"And I thought I hated boats… Alright! Who's carrying me!?"
Chrom chuckled and shook his head as he descended, Lissa offering the tactician a wink over Lon'qu's shoulder as he carefully descended, carrying his small wife.
Say'ri was already some ways ahead with Tiki, leaving…
"Alright, Princess," Robin groaned piteously to Lucina as he threw one arm over her shoulders. "I'll lean on you for fifteen minutes and then we'll alternate. Alternatively, please feel free to throw me over the edge and end my torment."
Lucina stiffened at Robin's contact at first, but nodded silently as they began to walk.
Okay. Now I just have to find the energy to carry her in fifteen minutes, the tactician thought, completely missing the subtle blush that had risen to the woman's cheeks, and the dirty look he was getting from Say'ri, who had turned back to track their progress.
Robin stood in the tent that had been set up for him at the base of the Mila Tree where they would be camping that evening, glaring at the cot that had been provided for him.
I don't have the energy to climb back in if I fall out tonight, he thought as he picked the cot up, folded it up and set it outside his tent.
Robin ran a hand through his hair before spreading out his camping bedroll, replaying all the near misses from the day's battle in his head. Libra had almost taken an axe to his face; Lon'qu had taken a glancing blow to his shoulder; Miriel had nearly lit herself on fire, becoming distracted by her oafish husband as she was casting; Lucina had…
Robin gulped, running a hand down his face.
He had watched Lucina position herself in front of a blow meant for her father; fortunately Noire had seen the charging cavalier, and had responded accordingly with her bow, but…
Robin realized he couldn't be everywhere at once, and that his promise to the Princess might still wind up being broken.
Avoiding a group situation at dinner was probably a good idea right now, Robin decided.
In fact he'd managed to avoid just about everyone all day; even during battle the only speaking he'd done besides giving orders was explaining his reasoning for them to Morgan.
Robin fell into the chair at the small camping table in one corner of his room, digging in his pouch for the provisions he'd acquired that morning.
I'd rather not eat with the others, he repeated, popping some of the jerky into his mouth.
Just as he started to chew there was a light tapping against the canvas of his tent.
"Enter," Robin called wearily, leaning back against his table.
Tharja strode in, the Dark Mage holding a bowl of what had to have been dinner. A form of stew, no doubt, that was making Robin's stomach growl with its tantalizing scent.
"You weren't at dinner," Tharja said pointedly.
"Must've dozed off," Robin lied, eying the bowl.
Tharja followed his gaze and snickered as she handed the stew over.
"It's rare that I actually show up when Frederick rosters me on for cooking duty," she said, taking a seat on the second camping chair. "And I seem to recall someone being rather enamoured with my cooking."
Robin chuckled. "You cooked for me once, it was the best thing I'd ever eaten, and never cooked for me again. How was that fair?"
"So what's bothering you?" Tharja asked after a few moments of silence in which Robin inhaled half to bowl's contents.
The tactician glanced up, spoon still hanging from his mouth.
"Don't give me that look," Tharja said. "I may not watch you sleep anymore, but I can still tell when something is troubling you."
"It's your feathered spy ratting me out, isn't it?" Robin asked, looking over her shoulder to see if Huginn was anywhere nearby.
"I knew I couldn't trust him…"
"Actually, he respects your privacy and wouldn't tell me anything beyond you needing someone to talk to."
"Are you telling me you can talk to the bird?" Robin asked, desperately trying to change the subject.
"He's my familiar, so yes," Tharja explained. "Well, not exactly talk, but we can communicate. Now stop trying to distract me or I'll put a truth curse on you."
Robin heaved a deep sigh, placing the half-finished stew off to one side of the table, his appetite vanishing.
"I'm not getting out of this, am I?"
Tharja crossed her arms, leaning back and waiting.
"Fine," Robin growled. "I'm having girl troubles. Happy?"
Tharja shook her head, her perfect black hair swishing with the motion.
"Why would that make me happy?"
"It's a figure of speech," Robin groaned, leaning forward and resting his head in his hands.
"I'm torn between what my heart wants and what my head tells me is the right thing to do."
"Well, one thing I learned from stalking you for two years is that listening entirely to your heart can lead to trouble," Tharja said. "That being said, it's not worth being miserable by following your head; they were two of the happiest years of my life."
"It disturbs me a little that you can talk about stalking me so easily," Robin muttered.
"Do you want my advice or not?" Tharja huffed irritatedly.
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry," Robin apologized, looking back up. "So what should I do?"
"What do you want to do?"
"I want to be with-" Robin started irritatedly, before catching himself and glaring at the woman.
"Damn, nearly had you," Tharja chuckled evilly.
"You're not a nice lady," Robin muttered darkly.
Tharja laughed. "You have no idea. But seriously, though; do you know why I followed you around for so long? Because I wanted to. I don't regret my choices, and neither should you. Make sure you finish your dinner."
Tharja rose and made to exit, opening the tent flap and stopping.
"Oh, and if anyone breaks your heart let me know," she added lightly. "I've been working on a new instant death curse I want to try."
Robin paled, but before he could reply a ball of feathers, claws and beak flapped noisily into the tent, right into Robin's face.
"Argh! No! Bad bird! I didn't mean it when I called you a spy! Stop already! Bad bird! Away with you!"