How a Man Wears Pink
You know, tea was a good thing. It soothed a sore throat (if at the right temperature), and warmed up a person just right.
For me, it was freaking heaven. The sweet scent of tea leaves and the occasional cube or two of sugar or a spoonful of honey was like a drug for me; anything to wash away the constant stress that filled my days.
I felt the beginnings of a wet cough forming at the bottom of my throat, and took a quick sip from my generously warm cup of tea. I was beyond grateful when Floria came by with a trey of freshly brewed tea a bit earlier.
I locked myself up in the library since Emm and I parted ways after breakfast. I wanted to stick with her today, but I couldn’t since she had to attend a few meetings and such. Of course, as a “servant” under the royal family, I wasn’t allowed to attend. Hah, sometimes I had forgotten that I was officially a random Plegian that became a “Spoil of War” on paper. Technically, I was supposed to be a servant of a nobleman, but accidentally befriending the Prince of Ylisse certainly placed me where I was now.
...Not that I was complaining. If anything, I was more than grateful to cover up Chrom’s accidental training accidents with pretty lame, but believable excuses. Like that one time where he bashed a hole in the wall and-
“Hey, Robin, I was just won-Whoa,” came a voice, “It’s pink!”
I nearly choked on my tea, hurriedly placing the cup down on the table. I looked over to see the familiar sight of an awfully big hat sitting on top of a boy’s head, “Uhm... yeah. Good afternoon, Ricken...”
“I thought you hated pink?” Ricken asked, taking a seat across from me. The thick wind tome in his arms still seemed a little odd on a boy as young as him, but I grew to accept that it was a normal occurrence with him.
I gave him a flat stare, “Real men wear pink.”
“Riiight,” Ricken drawled with a grin on his face, “You usually complain about-”
I cut him off with a wave of my hand, “We can talk about this later. Besides, we have some readings to finish up.”
“Ugh - I almost forgot! I still haven’t finished reading about the foundations of the thunder tome!” Ricken lamented, dropping his grin and his shoulders. I couldn’t help but shrug my shoulders with a small smile.
“Don’t worry, Ricken. I can help you if you need it. I’ve finished that section a little earlier,” I said as we both got up. Ricken nodded to me in thanks before disappearing into the many shelves.
Our castle’s library was huge. It could easily fit about five, maybe even six sizes of my own room (which is pretty big, mind you). The walls were lined with shelves filled with hundreds of books. The best part was that the books here were not just limited to just general subjects, magic, fantasies, and such- it varied from history of Ylisse to the foundations of Plegia (written in Plegian). In other words, it had a ridiculous amount of subjects to pick and choose from. After living here for eight years, I still have yet to finish a fraction of the library’s books. The fact that Emmeryn made it a point to have literature from surrounding kingdoms just made this library feel pretty diverse. I couldn’t help but think that I might’ve played a role in that.
I quietly pulled a book off the shelves and made my way back to my seat. Ricken still hadn’t come back yet, so I figured that he planned to read at a random spot. Pulling up my legs, I got myself comfortable for a long hour of reading.
Well, that was until I heard Ricken say something.
“What did you say?” I called out, pulling a bit of my sleeves. Was it getting colder in here or not?
Instead of getting an answer, Ricken reappeared from behind a shelf and came up to me, frowning with a book in his hands.
“Yeah- look at this,” he said, opening the book, “it wasn’t like this the last time I used it.”
I blinked when I immediately noticed how a huge chunk of the spine was visible halfway through the book. That... wasn’t natural at all.
“Hold on- isn’t it missing a whole section?” I asked, taking the book into my hands. Ricken placed his hands on his hips and looked around my shoulder to take a look.
“I think so? I mean, it was even crossed out in the table of contents.”
Sure enough, a horrible line of blotched black ink was smeared across the words of the missing section- it was impossible to read.
“Who could’ve done this?” I asked, rhetorically. I scanned at the table of contents and tried not to frown. It was a book of the recent events of the world- well, about thirty or so years. So many events were crossed out and smeared with ink. I couldn’t help but notice that it wasn’t just an entire section missing- but the page numbers had been inconsistent.
“Hey, when did you last use this?” I asked, looking at Ricken. He hummed a bit before he answered, “Just a few days ago.”
I felt a slight spark of worry in my chest. Who would do such a thing to a book of records? Maybe I should tell Emm- no, something as small as this wouldn’t need her attention. If anything, I should just leave it be, but-
“Hm, you know, I think I might’ve recalled seeing this volume in a book shop in town.” I took one look at Ricken and his face immediately blanched. “No- wait! You didn’t hear it from me-”
It was too late. The grin on my face wouldn’t stop as an idea came to me.
“Then we just have to go and buy one, right? Pretty simple,” I said, placing a hand on my hip. Ricken vehemently shook his head.
“No! Bad! Baaaaad, bad, bad idea!” he said, reaching for the book in my hands. I casually lifted it above my head and watched as he did his best to jump for it. “You know- you’re- not allowed- to leave- the castle for- for your own- safety!”
“Yeah, like that’s ever stopped me before!” I laughed, turning around with the book far out of Ricken’s reach, “Besides, it’s strange enough that someone had the gall to tear out an entire section of a book- a book of records, mind you.”
“Will you listen to me?” Ricken half-whined, “Lady Exalt has a good reason to protect you, and I am not about to let you get caught in some trouble again!”
“I’m grateful that you look out for me, but this is pretty worrying,” I said, gesturing to the book, “We can’t just sit around with a ruined book like this. Plus, it’s a mystery just waiting to be solved.”
“I’ll admit that I am curious why this happened- but, why not just let me go out and buy the book then come back? It’ll be simple as that,” Ricken proposed. He seemed a bit panicked, but I couldn’t just take his idea. I had been wanting to have a little adventure in town.
I shrugged, “Nope. I’m going to town, and you’re coming with me.”
I heard Ricken hurry after me as I headed out of the library, “Think we can trick Stahl into coming with us, too?”
“Yes, right now,” I said, heading down the hall. I was already slipping off my mother’s coat as we walked. If I wasn’t careful, I would definitely be sealed within the castle for the next month.
“He could be on duty-” Ricken began.
I looked over my shoulder and tossed a grin in Ricken’s direction, “Let’s bribe him with a loaf of sweet bread!”
To be honest, it wasn’t hard to find a freshly baked loaf of sweet bread. All I had to do was pop by the kitchen and Timothy gave it to me (“Oh, finally! About time you’ve decided to add more meat to your bones!” he said. Well, excuse me for being thin.) without a problem. Ricken disappeared with my coat for a bit and returned with a plain, generic brown cloak that he had lying around in his room at the far side of the castle. It wasn’t as comfy as mine, but it was good enough to blend in as a traveler.
Finding Stahl on the other hand...
“Damn it- at this rate, I’m very tempted to leave him behind,” I said as I peeked around the corner. Ricken shook his head at me.
“Like I said, he could be on duty. It is noon,” he said, “Most of the Shepherds would be patrolling at this hour.”
“Wait, leave who behind?” came a voice behind us. I spun on my heel, recognizing the voice immediately.
“Stahl! Just the person I was looking for!”
The said knight stood before me with his eye brows furrowed. There wasn’t a doubt that the green haired man had already suspected something with the look on his face. I was half surprised that I didn’t notice him sooner, since his armor was known for the light hint of green in the coating. If anyone were to ask me how I would describe him, Stahl was a man of loyalty and friendliness, and of course- an endless pit of a stomach.
“Ricken is it just me, or is Robin actually fading to pink?” he asked. I groaned as a ran a hand through my hair, remembering my predicament with my hair color... again.
“It’s pretty cool, don’t you think?” Ricken chirped behind me. I heaved a heavy sigh.
“Stahl, I already had this conversation with nearly everyone, so please do me the favor of just accepting what you see,” I said, giving him a flat look. He looked a little concerned with that deepening frown of his, but shook his head nonetheless.
“Easier said than done-”
I interrupted him before he got the chance, “Anyway! I need your help, Stahl!”
“Robin, this better not be one of your schemes of getting out of the castle-”
“No- no, not really,” I quickly interrupted.
“It is,” Ricken popped in, but I deliberately ignored him.
“Can you help us out? There’s this book that we’re reading for our studies, and it’s missing a whole section,” I said, placing a smile on my face, “Ricken said that he saw another copy of it in the castle town, so-”
“Absolutely not,” came Stahl’s immediate answer. His grip on his spear tightened as he continued, “The last time you did this, the entire day patrol got a scolding and doubled work! I’m not about to risk that again.”
As much as I felt really sorry about that, my main mission of getting out never seemed more appealing.
“But, Staaaahl! I really need this book, and it’s important that we finish the reading!”
“And there’s no reason for you to leave this castle. Ricken and I can get the book while you stay where you’re supposed to be.”
I huffed for a second before pulling out my secret weapon, “Well then. I guess I brought this bread for nothing.”
Stahl’s stomach immediately growled. I grinned, knowing that I had cornered him. I heard Ricken hit his head and sigh heavily.
“Stahl- you really should’ve seen this coming,” he said, peeking around my shoulder. I had to admit, Stahl’s perseverance did a great job for lasting about a minute before he gave in.
“Damn it, Robin! How did you know I hadn’t eaten in minutes?”
I grinned. Bribery at its finest.
The streets were filled with people out and about, and the chatter felt a little overwhelming. I stayed close to Stahl (who changed out of his armor and carried a sword strapped to his side) and Ricken stayed by my side. They had both insisted that I keep my hood up, mainly because the color of my hair was a little unusual (I mean the white- the white), but I had no complaints. I’d do anything to get out.
It had been a while since I left the castle, so it was a bit exhilarating the moment we hit the business district.
“I didn’t think the streets would be so- busy today,” I said. Ricken huffed a bit, “Come on, Robin. The castle town is always busy. I thought you knew that.”
I pressed my lips together as we moved out of the way for a wooden cart, “Not this busy.”
“It might be the rumors spreading about,” Stahl said, placing a guarding arm around my shoulders and pulling me away from the edge of the street.
“Well, the increased bandit activities aren’t just bandits, from what I heard. Some people say they’re undercover soldiers trying to cause a war again,” Ricken said, appearing right at my side. I frowned.
“And those soldiers must be from Plegia, right?” It sounded more of a statement than a question. Stahl pressed his lips together and hummed uneasily. I took that as a yes.
“Ah, there it is!” I interrupted, cutting Ricken off. I shot out of Stahl’s grip and hurried over to the visible book store. I knew it wasn’t a smart thing to do, but I wasn’t about to take Ricken’s pity, or Stahl’s concern. I’ve heard enough over the past few days.
The store bell rang as I entered the store. There wasn’t many people around, only a few kids and maybe a mage inside. The shopkeeper took one look at me and quickly averted his eyes. As much as I wanted to, I know Stahl would want to make this a fast trip. He was already at risk of getting in trouble for escorting me through town. No help would come from that man if I asked for the book.
I went through the shelves and searched, hoping to catch it quickly.
“What are you looking for again?” Stahl asked as he appeared behind me. I ran a hand over the spines and stopped at one.
“This one-” I said, pulling the thick book out of the shelf.
“The History of the World Volume Thirty-six...?”
“Yup,” I heard Ricken answer, “I wanted to do some cross-referencing, and I think that book contains exactly what I was looking for.”
I flipped through the pages and stopped at the general spot where the missing section, “Oh for Grima’s sake- it’s- the end of the Mad War.”
Stahl was quick to cut me off, “Here, give it to me. I’ll buy it and you can take a look at it as soon as we get back.”
I couldn’t stop him from taking the book from my hands, but I could understand why he did so. I nodded over to Ricken and we both left the book store while Stahl paid a visit to the shopkeeper. I put a thoughtful hand over my mouth as a stared at the ground. Something was strange about this. The book in the royal library was practically vandalized within the few days Ricken last used our volume. The content itself seemed to be directly related to or anything mentioning Plegia. It made no sense for someone to actually take the time to tear out an entire section.
“...Robin, what are you thinking?” Ricken asked me. I pulled myself out of my thoughts and gave him a small smile.
“Honestly, I don’t know anymore,” I said as Stahl finally left the book store, “It might just be nothing at all.”