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The same cloak. The same voice. But, it was a different gaze that glared back, a pair of eyes brimming with cruel malice, and a small, devious grin that held the same greeting. The same person, was it not?

“No…” the exalt spoke in awe. “That’s... just not possible.”

Robin lowered his gaze, staring back cautiously. “You look just like me...”

The Hierophant's identity left the court in disarray, parting a feeling of uneasiness in the atmosphere. Baffled expressions scourged the area. The honored prince of Ylisse would have it no longer, opening his mouth to dispel the ongoing silence. His remarks did not cease, only continuing in anger.

"Explain yourself, Validar!" Chrom roared.

His voice rang out with a clear, solid tone. Anger was expressed, yet a hint of melancholy revealed itself. That person... could not have been Robin, right?

Chrom wasted no time to take action. He reached for the Falchion, hastily grabbing the blade by its hilt. The sword rose slowly, pointing at its target in a swift manner. Validar, taking note of Chrom's actions, had returned a sinister grin. The exalt was prompted quickly, tightening his grip on the blade. By now he had no sign of placing the weapon down, preparing an assault on the dark sorcerer.

"Wait!" Robin suddenly cried out. He grabbed hold of the exalt's arm, quickly pulling the prince back. "No, Chrom… we can’t. We can't fall into their trap."

He was right. One misstep could give the Plegian court an excuse to strike. What was considered a friendly negotiation had been an obvious ruse, cornering the small subgroup of Shepherds. Chrom, Robin, and Frederick were armed to fight; surely they could not take on the large numbers of soldiers that were present in the room.

"Robin..." Chrom whispered hesitantly.

The prince lowered his eyes, quickly retreating from his unfriendly approach. He sheathed the Falchion, then rested his hands by his side. Glancing briefly at the tactician, the exalt found himself a bit calmer, but an urge to strike had built up. Anything would be done to protect his best friend. For those of Ylisse, his family, and his friends back at home, Chrom could not let any of this just pass.

Aversa let out a light chuckle, smirking back at the group. "Won't you quit it with the outbursts?"

The exalt tightened his gaze. "It's you!" Chrom yelled, raising his fist.

The dark flier held her head up in laughter, amused by Chrom's tone. Her response was irritating the exalt, calling forth further aggression. Chrom carried the notion that Aversa was to mock the exalt, luring him into provocation, and thus resulting in an attack out of sheer anger. Though the prince intended for a fight, his wisely instincts had held him back.

"Now, now..." Aversa said gently, snickering back in an instant. "Let's not get so loud in here, shall we?"

Validar grinned deviously, taking small steps towards his stationed army. He brought his hand up, signaling the guards in one by one. Soldiers piled up by the second, eventually surrounding the group of three, with each brandishing a different weapon in hand. With connected movement, the Plegian army began driving the Shepherds slowly towards the exit.

"You have an enemy in need of attention at this crucial moment, do you not? I'd recommend that you make haste, exalted one."

"No!" Chrom shouted, struggling rowdily as he tried to push through the crowd. "You can't just—!"

His voice faded out with the rhythm of cackling. A grunt slipped from the exalt's lips, sounding out an attempt to break through. Chrom's arms wrestled through bunches of soldiers, with hands reaching out desperately, and attempted to strike back. Yet all endeavors proved to be futile in the end, and finally his voice drowned out in cries of defeat.

"See you later!" Aversa spoke, waving a goodbye.

The doors slammed shut.

 


 

Robin let out a deep sigh, scratching the back of his head. The army was back at camp, preparing themselves to head out for Valm. Still, as excited as the tactician was to break away from the recent incident, his head had not finished clearing out. Robin walked around the tents, pondering to himself intently. He passed the first pegasus knight, Cordelia, watching her cook from afar. Stahl and Sully were nearby too with a cheerful conversation in session. Looking around, it seemed that everyone was preoccupied. Robin let out a small sigh. He knew Chrom was in the planning room, whom most likely was chatting with Frederick about the supplies. The Shepherds were all busy, though perhaps only lasting for a transient period of time.

But, things wouldn't take too long, at least he had hoped.

Regardless, it's a chance given. The tactician peeked out, turning his head to each side. It wouldn't take a long time, or at least he had hoped so. Robin released a soft breath, with eyes scanning the area, and began moving right away. Right, and the last minute check for Chrom because knowing that overly protective exalt, he would be constantly worried over the tactician's sudden disappearance. Looking again, Robin saw not a single figure out in the open. Confirming that no one was around, he snuck ahead hastily.

The tactician arrived at an open clearing not too long after, kicking leaves with his feet along the way. He was encircled by nature alone with many trees and a single stream in the vicinity. The forest was covered in complete silence, the sun shining brilliantly through its leaves, and just about ready to set itself. Taking note of this, Robin thought it a good idea to stay awhile to clear out his thoughts.

"Chrom's an idiot, but hasn't he always been?" Robin muttered to himself, giggling softly. "Idiot. He's an idiot that's too worried about me..."

He picked up a rock, splashing it across the river. Momentarily, Robin blinked a few, watching multiple ripples occur as he threw another one. The tactician gently cocked a brow at the motion and burrowed his head down as his hair fell to the side. He closed his eyes, listening to the soft tranquility of the forest. The birds chirped and the scattered trees swayed along to the rhythm of the wind. Peace like this had always felt nice.

But, it’s not so nice when there’s so many lingering thoughts. Robin had one thing on his mind, and something that lurked deeply. The one encounter with him —the Hierophant. Just… who was he? The figure called out to him in some strange way, but instinctively foreboding. Nothing good would come out of another meeting.

Robin...

The tactician was quick to react, turning his head over. "Huh?" he called out. "Who is that?"

Robin was alarmed by the voice, shifting his gaze towards his surroundings. It's undeniable that someone’s voice had spoken, but who exactly? No one was to be seen. Surely there had been nothing wrong with his head, recalling that no damage was taken in the last battle. And a spell ? He hadn't remembered any instance of one, so it couldn't be that either.

Robin... heed my call!

He sunk down, holding his head with tense fingers gripping on as pain struck him from every corner. The ringing of the voice had his mind writhing in agony. With words as sharp as needles, the sound dug right into the tactician. Every second the ongoing torment would only worsen, torturing the tactician's mind with an intense wave of pain.

"Stop..." Robin whimpered in agony. "It... hurts!"

His fingers rose, squinching up a mark on his forehead. Robin's movements staggered as his vision swayed, gradually finding it difficult to focus.

"Oho, it hurts? It hurts, doesn't it, my son?" the voice spoke once more. This time it was more clear.

"It's..." Robin groaned in discomfort, gently lifting his head. "It's you... and..."

A silhouette was approaching, coming right up to the tactician. The soon emerging dark sorcerer had walked forward with a derisive cackle, stepping up towards Robin's gaze. No, looking closer, there had been another. Behind him, that person. Him —the Hierophant—standing there with watchful, menacing eyes.

Robin immediately scowled, and perhaps the fastest expression he's ever made. A renewed grief struck him on the spot. The tactician had hoped for a single walk to clear his mood, and yet the plan here was already ruined. One unplanned meeting called for another, and now only coming to the worst.

"How… did you find me?" Robin mumbled. "Tell me n—!"

A shrill scream escaped his lips as a sudden ripple of pain came in. Each second that passed felt as if the pain had multiplied. The tactician crouched lower with his face almost in contact with the ground. He tightened his grip, grabbing onto his hair with increased force. Robin released an aggravated growl, eyeing up at his two perpetrators. They gazed back down with a steady look, and a stare so unsettling prompted the tactician to vibrate in fear.

"Oh?" Validar said snarkily. He lifted a finger to his chin, carefully scrutinizing Robin’s position. "Do not even question that now, son. You are to return to your rightful place. Stop hanging around with such wretched followers of Naga! The Grimleal welcomes you with open arms in honor of Lord Grima!"

Robin responded with a subtle gasp, widening his eyes in awe. Son? The Grimleal? He knew not what this dark sorcerer was spouting on about, but it definitely meant trouble.

"What do you mean... what are you even saying?" the tactician whispered tentatively.

Panic creeped up, and Robin, having been startled by such fear, a brief stiffness suddenly emerged and restrained his movements. Pangs of anxiety ran down the tacitician’s back, and soon he had begun to realize that worrying was the least of his concerns. Calming down would be the first thing to do, and he would not risk the situation to escalate into any more trouble. If it was a fight to come, Robin would patiently wait. Retaliation would pop out at the appropriate time, ready to strike when the enemies lowered their guard down.

Electricity crackled through the tactician's fingers. Robin darted his eyes over briefly, reaching into his coat with a shaking hand. This would be ready at just the right moment.

"So you really know of nothing?" the dark sorcerer spoke disappointedly. He tilted his head slightly, letting out a small sigh. "You can't even piece it together, prominent tactician of Ylisse?"

Robin grimaced, forming a single fist. He trembled with each second, glaring at Validar before him and narrowing his eyes into a tight gaze. Then, the realization began to dawn on him.

"No..." the tactician breathed gently. He lifted his head as his body shook intensely in fear. "No, it can't be!"

"Your very own father!" Validar exclaimed, sporting a wide grin. "You would dare yell back at him? Haha, I'm rather intrigued, son!"

Robin's heart paused, and right at that moment. Hearing those words for the first time—it hurt. His chest ached, and his mind flickered about with uneasiness. He made an awful groan, sounding out a sorrowful cry afterwards.

"No..." Robin uttered. "I refuse to believe you! You don't have any proof that I'm related to you at all!"

A sinister laugh followed. "But there is proof! I do not have it, but you do!" Validar said, pointing to the tactician's right hand.

Robin let out a gasp, glancing down silently. "It can't be..." he spoke with a weakened voice.

The tactician moved his left hand, quickly covering the other. A brief pause was given, and Robin then quivered greatly on the spot. He was afraid... so deeply terrified. The next moment slipped in and he found himself slightly lifting the glove.

Right there lay a wretched mark. For sure, Robin knew it had reeked of bad vibes.

"I know what you are thinking..." Validar began. "You are probably thinking that you have ties to the worshippers, but no! That is not the answer at all, as it is far greater than that. You have the blood of Grima himself and you are directly linked to the Fell Dragon just as I am. However, you are a special case. That mark is proof that you are truly linked with Grima and the only one in the world who can claim his power. You are to be the master's vessel and was bred for that sole purpose."

Validar threw his head back, releasing a fit of laughter. The dark sorcerer turned his gaze back to Robin, grunting in annoyance promptly.

"Gah, It was irritating to have your mother run away with you in your earliest days, but none of that matters now!" Validar hissed. "Come back to us, Robin! You were destined for this path!"

"I..." the tactician said while lifting his head. His headache slowly began dying down. Seizing the chance, he swiftly grabbed his tome. "Thor—"

The book clattered to the ground in an instant manner. Robin attempted to move but he had been completely held in place. His hands felt fragile when caught, struggling under immense pressure. It was a force like no other, and such a hardened grip earned a small, pained whine from the tactician.

Then, his eyes suddenly dropped, feeling a sense of horror like never before.

"Y-You're..." Robin murmured softly.

"Hush," the Hierophant said, clenching onto the tactician's wrist. His fingers grasped on tightly with the slightest touch. "You should already know that there's no point in resisting."

It was him. The tactician's reflection stared back with a petrifying gaze. Yet something about that doppelganger had been pulling away Robin's gaze. His entirety, more like, and it seemed as if the Hierophant was calling for Robin's presence since the beginning. Strangely enough, Robin hadn't known why, but a connection already felt established between the two.

Robin's stare had widened, shaking in fright agitatedly. His body froze in place, and his hand began shivering under the Hierophant's grip as the other was being pressed tighter.

How... how did he just?  Robin thought to himself, gritting his teeth slightly.

"Validar."

The voice was chilling yet all so familiar. The appearance was also the same. A conjunction of mystery, acting like a complete doppelganger, would only trouble the tactician even further. Robin was astonished by the man’s commanding tone, standing nervously while looking straight into the Hierophant's eyes.

"Yes, Lord Grima?" Validar responded.

The dark sorcerer turned to the clone tactician, bowing his head over. His stance was refined, patiently waiting for the Hierophant's next movements. When the Hierophant told the Plegian king to raise his head, he would do so quickly. Validar constricted his gaze at that moment, presenting himself faithfully.

"Head back to the palace."

"What?" Validar gasped. "Lord Grima, what is the meaning of this?"

The Hierophant gave a slight frown, locking a snake-like glare to the king. His eyes look down solemnly, inducing a feeling of dread. “There will be no objections to this. Return to your position as I tell you to, Validar.”

The dark sorcerer tightened his gaze, and would open his mouth in rebuttal, but decided to retreat. Validar frowned, gently lowering his head.

Robin breathed steadily, taking in an unexpected scene. His sight shifted to the Hierophant, carefully inspecting his figure. This man had the king of Plegia bow down, making him follow every order that was given. For a moment, the tactician took time to ponder on his look-alike's true identity.

Grima? That sounded a bit familiar, but Robin wasn't too sure yet. Perhaps he had skimmed through the name in a book or two.

"We have something more important to take care of," the Hierophant spoke abruptly while leaning in. "Isn't that right, Robin?"

The tactician gently flinched, alarmed by the Hierophant's approach in manner. The tone was not forceful nor hostile, but not completely friendly either. It seemed to be luring, nonetheless, and as if it were inviting the tactician over.

Validar hesitantly nodded as a flashing light appearing before him. He raised his arms as a puff of smoke appeared, and as the fog flowed in a circular rotation, it began to dissipate.

"I understand, Lord Grima," Validar spoke up as his figure began disappearing from view.

A cloud of smoke surrounded the area, and was quick to vanish. The dark sorcerer was no longer in sight, leaving the two tacticians together.

Just the two alone. Robin blinked, suddenly realizing a problem. The way the situation presented itself was eerie; it was oddly eerie. The Hierophant wanted to speak to him alone? A bit mysterious, but the tactician assumed nothing good would come out of this conversation.

Robin tugged away, attempting to free himself. This doesn't make any sense! What does he mean by vessel? And did he just say his name was…

The tactician finally recalled the title of the Fell Dragon. He remembered every connection to the name, every fabric of the label, and every piece of history associated with it.

"Grima?" he asked, opening his mouth in doubt. "As in the Fell Dragon Grima?"

But the Fell Dragon was sealed ages ago by the first exalt. He recalled Chrom bringing it up at one point, and even Lissa too. It was common knowledge at the very least. The tactician knew of this solid fact, of the Fell Dragon's very being, and yet why? He began questioning himself, but not until the Hierophant had cleared out Robin's ambiguity.

"Yes," Grima said.

Robin trembled from the mere utterance of the word. He wanted to believe it was a lie, but he knew that the truth had already been laid out. He felt an urge to turn away but curiosity kept him looking ahead.

"Why?"

That was all he could say. The corner of Robin's mouth twitched uneasily.

He was lying, of course, right?

"Why?" Grima repeated, lifting his fingers up to the tactician's chin. "Do you understand my goal here, Robin?"

He blinked in response with a sudden anxiety crawling up his spine. Robin's fingers shook restlessly, grabbing onto the fabric of his cloak. Doubt had his body held down.

"You're a pawn hanging around in the wrong side," Grima said bluntly. "We are one and the same, vessel. You carry my sacred blood. You are one of Fellblood. That means you are destined to serve under me."

Robin frowned. No matter what, that would never happen.

"I'm sure you already know my answer," Robin spat heatedly. He made more attempts to break free, but Grima had only hardened his grip. "Let go of me already!" the tactician shouted.

Grima pulled in Robin quickly, earning a small gasp from the tactician. His hand tugged at Robin's sleeve, drawing the vessel closer. Robin made quick haste to avoid further contact but soon found himself magnetized by an enthralling stare. Red eyes with the most spiteful malice had glared back.

Grima smiled. "You have no choice in this," he spoke, raising his hand forward, then quickly curling it into a fist. "Those bonds you have with Chrom will fall apart in no time. And guess what? You'll be the one to relinquish it."

"L-Let go!" Robin yelled, attempting to free himself. "I'm never going to do that! You won't make me!"

The way his voice broke off was satisfying for the Fell Dragon. The tactician was vulnerable as of this moment, looking up desperately, and prompted Grima to come closer. The red-eyed twin could see a glare brimming with defiance. To fracture that expression completely felt more rewarding than it had sounded.

"You're his tactician, are you not?" Grima questioned passionately. "But that role just isn't for you."

"That's not for you to decide!" Robin retorted.

Again, the same look of opposition was given. The Fell Dragon was heavily intrigued, tilting his head over. His eyes narrowed in on the vessel’s gaze, carefully scrutinizing every angle of his expression.

"Oh, really now?" Grima challenged, amused by the anticipated response. "Whether you like it or not, you will obey."

Dark purple flames erupted, flickering into view. Grima stepped closer, gently wrapping his arms around the stunned tactician. He moved his hands upward, coming in contact with the vessel's forehead. Fingers danced over, a soothing touch to quell the struggling captive, and restraining him effortlessly. Soon, the power had clouded the vessel's mind, taking over every inch of his thoughts.

"What are you..." Robin's voice faded out.

His senses had been dulled. Neither pain nor pleasure came up from his expression, but it certainly felt strange. The feeling evoked a new response, an unknown sensation, but the tactician knew it was a bad feeling. This deviating aura could completely shape the vessel anew, given that it had the power to do so, and he was especially afraid.

What's... going on?  Robin's thoughts had grown exhausted. The flames continued to flicker, spreading around his body. His eyes grew hazy, completely taken in by the strange power. I... I...

Robin blinked multiple times, attempting to fight off Grima's influence. However, all endeavors proved to be futile.

"It... feels strange..." the tactician croaked aloud, holding his head up. His eyes flickered with each second. “I…”

And a restraining lock had finally been released.

"It's settled in," Grima said, freeing his hold. He grinned triumphantly. "It is now impossible to resist me."

"W-What did you do to me?" Robin answered uneasily, quickly distancing himself from his clone.

"Your innate power that comes from me—Ignis."

Now this was a term the vessel was unfamiliar with. The word had never been discussed before nor brought up in the plethora of books the tactician had skimmed through. But, perhaps he had seen it at some point. It didn’t sound completely foreign.

"I-Ignis?" Robin stuttered. It took a second for the word to fully register.

Grima smiled, cracking a bright grin. "Yes, an explanation you will receive in due time. Though, it appears that I must take my leave." Grima let out a brief sigh. "A shame that we'll have to part ways so soon."

Robin furrowed a single brow. He had wanted no business with the Fell Dragon in the first place, and of course, was pleased to know of his departure. But, something definitely came off as odd. Why would Grima just up and leave so suddenly?

"None of this makes sense! Answer everything now, Grima!"

"I would, Robin," he replied, proceeding to click his tongue. "But the damned exalt is here. I can sense the worm coming close."

Robin gasped, blinking slowly with his feet rooted to the ground. Fear crept up his body, paralyzing his will to move. Grima could sense the exalt? How could he do that? No, but more importantly, Chrom was headed this way.

"What... are you saying?"

Oddly enough, the Fell Dragon was avoiding the exalt. A being deemed ruthless in all of history was eluding the prince of Ylisse. And yet, for what reason? Knowing this attitude displayed by Grima would only further poke at Robin's surprise, calling forth a string of curiosity.

The leaves in the trees rustled loudly, the wind rapidly blowing against it. The Fell Dragon lowered his eyes, stepping into the forest gradually.

"Robin, I will come back for you," Grima spoke softly. "And mark my words, you will submit to me."

Submit; the meaning could be taken in many different ways. The tactician's defeat could add on pride for Grima, but what was a mere human to the likes of the Fell Dragon? The other interpretation would be taken with apprehension. As Grima had clearly stated before, to have Robin side with him was the main objective.

"W-Wait! Don't just—" the tactician called out.

A hand rose, reaching out to seize Grima. To the tactician's astonishment, he had latched onto nothing. Robin blinked, looking around. He focused his sight to where the Fell Dragon had been standing previously but not a figure was to be seen.

"Roooobin! Hey, Robin!"

That voice. The tactician turned around, meeting with the exalt's gaze.

"Chrom..."

"So this is where you were?" he asked worriedly. "I've been looking for you every—"

Chrom's arms reached over, quickly catching the tactician before he fell. Robin let out small breaths, coping with a feeling of weariness. He struggled towards an upright position after pushing himself off of the exalt's grip, but even after standing up, his movements continued in lethargy.

"Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm fine," Robin answered slowly. "At least I think so..."

"You think so?" Chrom brought up quickly.

Robin smiled. Even the littlest of details would have his best friend worked up. Before a prince armed with brute force, he would be the most compassionate person that man has ever known.

"Don't just leave off like that, okay? At least tell me first..." the exalt muttered. "I know this recent incident has gotten your head wrapped up, but come to me if you need to talk."

Robin slowly nodded, dropping his gaze promptly. He had prepared himself for consultation, but with a mind dragged into disorientation, it would be better to dispose of some unsettling thoughts. But now, the situation was different. How could he speak to Chrom about what events had elapsed? Even for the tactician, all this info was a mess to take in.

The Hierophant... Robin lightly shook his head as he thought to himself. No, Grima, I mean. Grima is gone already, but how?

"Errr... Robin?" Chrom interrupted, briefly intruding the tactician's train of thought.

Robin looked up, scratching the back of his head. Not everything had to be said. Perhaps the vital parts could be shared, and later when it felt necessary, he would speak up about Grima. But… would any of it make sense to him?

"Chrom, I was just confronted by Validar," Robin commented, looking down sullenly. "He... told me that I was his son."

"What?!" the exalt drew breath quickly. "Does that mean the Hierophant is his son as well? Are you two twins? Well, that would certainly explain everything..."

The Hierophant was certainly not Validar's son, let alone being one of his children, but his identity was far greater than what one would expect. Robin understood that telling Chrom the truth would probably end up having the exalt storm right back into the palace.

Come to me if you need to talk, Robin remembered. He beamed gently. Perhaps a word of it will do.

"Chrom, the Hierophant is..."

Robin stopped, his head suddenly feeling sluggish. Upon opening his mouth, the tactician suddenly retreated.

I... am unable to speak of it?

"Is what, Robin?"

My mind won't let me speak about it because I don't want to. Why... why? Nothing hurts... but...

The tactician slightly frowned. "It's nothing," he simply replied.

It simply isn't nothing. He had this strong urge to let the words fly out, but with mind and thoughts chained down, nothing could be done. Giving in to this conglomerate of doubt seemed to be the only option.

Giving in? Robin trembled. Was he submitting already as Grima had mentioned?

"C'mon Robin, I know something's up," the exalt responded. "Are you sure you're fine? Hey, tell me what's really going on."

Even the tactician does not know what the exalt is asking for. Robin was torn, not really understanding the situation either.

But, the fact stood true: he had a fateful encounter today.

"Really. It really is nothing," Robin spoke. "Validar came up to me and I shooed him away."

"Is that so?" Chrom said while shrugging. "If you really say so..."

"Yes, and let me tell you now," the tactician said gently, "that you don't have to worry about me. Trust me on this."

The exalt furrowed a brow, then let out a deep sigh. He extended a hand forward, grabbing hold of the exhausted tactician.

"Okay," Chrom said while nodding. "Let's head back then. We’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow."

The evening sun drew in as the forest remained silent. The two friends turned back to the forest path, starting to make their way to camp.

"Oh, and Robin..."

"Yes?" he answered back.

"You are yourself before any man's son. Whatever happens, I don't care. You'll always be my friend until the very end."

Robin smiled tenderly. The exalt's words were empowering, filling the tactician with relief.

"Thank you, Chrom."

 


 

"Chrooom!" Sumia called out while waving back and forth, moving up to embrace her husband. She turned her head over gently. "Oh, and Robin!"

Robin smiled at the pegasus knight's gesture, only to end up in awkward laughter as she tripped over nothing for what was probably the hundredth time by now. Still, it was moments like these that the tactician could keep his thoughts in high spirits. Anything relating to the Shepherds was something at least to fall back to. Home, one would say...

"Milord, there you are! Urgent news!"

Everyone turned around, facing towards the direction of the voice. Frederick stared back with a panicked expression as he ran ahead, holding up his axe tensely. He began panting, ceasing the motion as he went up to the prince.

"What is it?" responded Chrom.

"The Risen have arrived! They are about to encircle the camp!"

Immediately, Robin scowled. After one unsettling mess came another.

The exalt groaned in horror, turning back to the tactician. "What do we do?"

Robin nodded, signaling the others to gather. "Alright everyone, position yourselves to plan A! Depending on how many and what Risen we're battling, I'll scatter some groups accordingly."

Still, some zombie-like foes wouldn't outdo the army even in a time like this. The tactician was fully prepared, and his role as a strategist was to achieve victory.

"W-Wait!" Olivia squeaked aloud.

"What is it?" Robin asked, looking over in confusion. "Is there a problem?"

The dancer lowered her head, eventually situating back up. Not looking at the tactician, however, but pointing towards a certain direction, she intently gazed off into the distance.

"U-Umm... y-yes! I-I don't know...! There's a person over there surrounded by... by crows..."

A small chuckle was heard as a figure stepped out from the flock of birds. He had white hair and appeared to be a dark mage from Plegia, as revealed by his attire. His hand carried a purple tome, brandishing the book with a bit of a mysterious aura emanating from within.

Chrom raised a brow. "Who are you?"

"Ahahaha! I'm one who will help your CAWS!" the man cried out. "I'm Henry! Let me aid you guys, alright?"

A Plegian mage coming out of nowhere now insisted on offering help. Robin, obviously questioning over the man's objective, looked back at the exalt with a dubious expression.

The tactician threw a skeptical look, letting out a sigh. "Chrom, are you really going to..."

"Alright Henry, you're on board! Help us out, would you?"

Gods, help him.

The tactician was not taken by surprise. He let out a laugh, expecting such a solid statement from the prince.

"I can't believe you..." Robin said while smiling. "It's normal for you to be like that, I guess."

Chrom laughed. "Remember Robin, you are no exception either. So, let's get this cleaned up quickly, shall we?"

"Yes, yes... you've got me there." the tactician spoke, chuckling softly. "And of course, we can definitely get this done fast."

The packed, loud groaning of anger had sprung up. The Risen made their approach, beginning their relentless assault. The army of the undead amounted to a great deal. However, as numerous as they may have been, the combined effort of the Shepherds would find no problem in breaking through.

"Thoron!" Robin shouted, shooting a large streak of thunder.

A few Risen were mowed down. Arrows, magic, and blunt weapons made quick work out of them. With the small numbers that came out of the forts, the tactician called for a few groups to turn and switch positions.

"Chrom, how are you faring?"

He looked back, nodding at Sumia. "You're doing a great job of backing me up there. Thanks!"

The pegasus knight smirked, putting on a pleased expression. Together, the duo persisted in overpowering groups of Risen.

"Ugh, these gross creatures are horrifying to look at!" Maribelle screeched loudly. "Lon'qu, help! Right behind me!"

A Risen began charging relentlessly. Lon'qu jumped in at the right moment, shielding a hit for the troubadour. Then, the swordsman proceeded to lift his blade, preparing a swift strike to end it all.

"Haaah! Die now!"

Maribelle smiled, letting out a deep breath. "T-Thank you..."

She raised her stave as a white light expands. Acknowledging Maribelle's efforts, the myrmidon returned a simple nod as his injuries began to heal.

Robin scanned the area briefly, eyeing around at his surroundings. Everything's going according to plan it seems.

"Arcfire!" he yelled. A large blast of fire spews out, searing across the battlefield.

Sumia's handling on the side there, I see. She's still positioned near Chrom, taking out a lone Risen. Robin paused with his eyes widening in panic. Wait... Chrom is...!

"Chrom, look out!" the tactician shouted.

"Grawwwwghhh!"

A single Risen was positioned for a fierce blow. Hunching over, it prepared a great assault. The Risen ran at great speed, preparing to drive its axe through the exalt's body.

"Father, no!"

The voice was loud and clear with worry. It was recognizable, and a tone that the tactician had undeniably heard of before.

Chrom turned around, letting out a gasp to see the last Risen being pierced by...

"M-Marth?" he said while falling back, a bit surprised.

She gave a slight nod, averting the exalt’s gaze. "No need to thank me."

The swordsman extended her reach over, pulling the exalt up. After collecting himself, Chrom eagerly took Marth's hand, standing up firmly.

"You have my thanks either way..." he said, gently wheezing aloud. "Wait, and did you by chance call me..."

"N-No! I mean... yes?"

"Father? Father, right?" Chrom asked. "Care to explain?"

Marth lowered her face. "Perhaps we might talk privately?"

"Perhaps we should..."

The two left right away after their conversation. Robin sighed as he watched them disappear into the forest. Everything was over now at least, but he did wonder where they had gone. As inquisitive as he was, the tactician thought it best to leave their privacy alone.

"Robin."

"Oh, Sumia. What's—"

Oh no. He stepped back slowly. That's a huge look of despair on her face.

"Robin, come with me! I have to see what's going on!" asserted the pegasus knight, attempting to pull the tactician away.

"Wait! Don't just drag me... h-hey!"

 


 

Marth cleared her throat, casually moving towards the stream. She turned around, came to a stop, and settled herself as she began to speak.

"I… I'm not even sure where to even begin."

"Start from the beginning, Marth," Chrom responded. "I'd like to know everything."

She nodded, proceeding to walk up closer. Her left eye became noticeable as it came into view. As the brand of the exalt was shown in plain sight, Chrom gasped in astonishment. This was certainly the same brand that he had.

"Wait... you have the brand? In fact, it's placed in the same area where—"

"Lucina has it," she finished his sentence. Marth straightened herself up and looked directly at Chrom.  "I come from the future. I am your daughter, Lucina."

Chrom had heard of bewildering statements, but never did he expect this. Doubt did not cloud his judgments, but nonetheless he would want reason. He continued to ponder over Lucina’s statements, gently scrutinizing the princess, and finally gazed down to see parallel Falchion in hand. Clarification would be needed to understand the situation.

"By the gods..." Chrom muttered. "You wield my sword, Falchion, and now you've shown me the brand which only those in the House of Ylisstol carry."

Lucina lowered her head as tears start to fall from her face. Her hand gripped tightly onto the Falchion, trembling slightly as she slowly gazed back up.

"Lucina, you..."

"How is that possible?!" another voice butted in.

The two turn around to see Sumia along with Robin coming up abruptly.

"Mother..." Lucina answered back.

Chrom retained a solemn stare. Immediately, he stepped in front of Lucina, holding his hands up. It was far too soon to establish her words as the truth, but the exalt held a clear belief—she was undoubtedly his very own daughter.

"Sumia, I believe her," Chrom spoke right away. His voice was unhindered without even the slightest bit of hesitance. "She has the brand and not only that, but I've always wondered why she had the Falchion. There is only one Falchion in the world, but seeing that she comes from the exalted bloodline, there must be an explanation."

Sumia ran up to her daughter, inquisitively scrutinizing her face. "I-It's true! She has the brand, Chrom! She really does have it!"

Even having a brand, Chrom was right. Marth was no enemy, but the mystery still remained. The tactician's curiosity was piqued, now wanting a direct response.

"Alright, well..." interrupted Robin. "I think we need an explanation for what's going on. Like... why you carry Chrom's sword?"

"Right," said Lucina, awkwardly staring down. "Well, you see... I hail from the future."

The future, did she just say? Things were off to an amusing start already, going off by a timeline, but questions would be saved for later. Not until she finishes does the tactician intend for an in-depth inquiry.

"I come from a very devastated one," the exalted princess continued. "The Fell Dragon Grima had taken over the world and completely left it in ashes. Father fell in battle which is why I carry his sword. Everyone is just about dead... and most of the Shepherds are gone."

So it seemed that the future came upon an unfortunate demise. The tactician was confounded by the mention of a certain name instead—Grima. How was the Fell Dragon able to bring about destruction in the future? More importantly, with the Hierophant claiming to be Robin, how did he share an appearance with him?

He shook his head. Putting together these thoughts now would end up disorderly. Nevertheless, it was a puzzle to be solved.

"I'm sorry, Lucina," Chrom spoke, lowering his gaze. "What a foolish father I was."

"Father, don't say that..." she whispered softly. "I... I heard that you were slain by a close friend. That's all I know. I know it's bad for me to doubt everyone, but I can't help it. Someone in the Shepherds is going to betray you."

The rest of the group was set on the edge, astounded by Lucina's words. The chances of there being a traitor in the Shepherds was null, zero, and simply impossible. Even if judgment was based upon intuition, the tactician approved of its validity. Everybody else in the Shepherds, especially Chrom, would agree on that matter as well. There couldn't be anyone who would turn themselves traitor.

"Everyone in the Shepherds is an ally at heart," Chrom muttered while looking up. "I don't think they have any reason to kill me at all. If they intended to, I'm sure there must be an explanation for it. I refuse to doubt anyone here. This timeline will not end up like the future, at least let me tell you that."

Lucina tightened her fist, staring intensely at the exalt. A frown was plastered on her face, outlining her major disapproval. Finally, her face was guttered with small, barely noticeable tears.

"Father, I... I tried to save everyone. I tried to find Mother's whereabouts too, but it seems that most of the soldiers in Ylisse's corps had perished. Both you and Mother fell in battle along with your allies."

Sumia started to tear up as well, shocked by her daughter’s words. "Oh, Lucina! I'm so sorry... we're all truly sorry for what you went through..." she whispered.

"Thank you, Mother," Lucina said while eyeing at her, then turning back to Chrom. "Naga created a portal to travel back in time. I was not alone in this journey, as my friends came along too. Unfortunately, I ended up getting separated from them. Either way, I am glad to have stumbled upon my parents again, and especially if they're alive."

Silence fell upon the group as everyone took in the sudden information. This whole timeline mess was a disorder of confusion and tragedy.

"Baby girl, come here! And you too, Chrom!" Sumia called as she opens her arms out.

Lucina gasped, running up ahead. She cried her heart out as she embraced both of her parents.

"I've been alone for so long... for so long!" she wailed loudly.

"Lucina..." Chrom responded softly, carefully holding his daughter close. "We won't abandon you. No matter what, we won’t."

"Father..." she cried out with tears falling down, "Mother... Father... I am so thankful for today! To have you here once more... it's like a dream come true!"

Robin paused, slipping in a gentle smile. How sweet... a family like that. It’s a shame that my real family is not the same, but having the Shepherds is more than I could ever ask for.

Bringing up that topic now and then seemed to be common. Chrom would usually comment on the strength of bonds. No, it was not even loosely associated. It made a concrete connection with family.

The bonds we share are forever… Robin softly laughed, staring back tenderly at the exalt.

"Shall we head back now?" Chrom brought up. "We have boats to board in the morning. For now, let's meet up with the others again and head off after tonight."

Relaxing the night away felt like a solid plan. Yet remaining composed, Robin had felt chiefly tired, and especially since his thoughts had been slowly chipping away at his confidence. To put it, he was completely exhausted after today.

"Chrom, I'm gonna stay here for just a bit," the tactician said while gradually batting his eyes away.

The exalt gestured with his head, noting of Robin's decision. He did not press on the matter, surmising that the tactician wanted to clear out his mind. It had been a long day after all.

"Oh, of course. I'll inform the others to begin preparing," he said, soon turning back to the forest path. "And, Robin…"

"What is it, Chrom?"

"It's not so bad to rely on others," he added.

Robin was content, perfectly content with the exalt's words, but he did not wish for the Shepherd's involvement with his affairs. Small talk with Chrom only reminded the tactician of what had to be done. A puzzle was laid out, asking to be pieced together.

Sumia followed Chrom afterward, walking alongside the exalt. Lucina began making way as well, but stopped briefly to look at Robin. She cleared her throat before finally approaching, walking forward in an anxious manner.

“Sorry about that.”

Robin furrowed a brow. “About… what?”

The young warrior gazed away sheepishly, soon turning back to face the tactician. Her eyes lit up gently as she lifted her head to gaze upon the tactician’s eyes.

“You didn’t have to see that,” Lucina spoke. A bright red gently tinted her expression. “It was a bit of a shameful display, I have to admit.”

“No, no,” Robin asserted, chuckling softly at Lucina’s response. “You don’t have to worry about anything. It’s completely fine! We all have had our rough times once in awhile.”

Lucina laughed, looking back intently at the tactician. "Anyways, uhh... you're his tactician, right?" she asked, breaking away from the current topic. "It's nice to meet you, Robin."

"Likewise," he replied. "You should catch up with your parents."

Lucina returned a smile and nodded. She shifted around, waving a friendly goodbye before going off. Robin beamed back, returning the same gesture.

Well, that's that. And now thoughts to myself… Robin's expression changed to a stern demeanor. He leaned back a bit with a pensive mood arising, settling down with arising thoughts.

Grima destroyed her world... and I am related to the Fell Dragon himself in some way. Grima came from Lucina's future and now he is here. But why… what could possibly explain this? I still don’t get it.

Robin shook his head, turning his gaze down upon his right hand. The back of his palm had the mark buried underneath his glove. A mark of fate, perhaps, that tied him completely to the Fell Dragon, but even he was not completely sure. It’s all foreboding, nonetheless.

Assuming that I'm tied into all of this... assuming so would mean... Robin flinched in surprise as he continued to speculate. No... could it be?! Grima is me from the—

Future.

A reverberation in his head had sounded off. A voice… but it was echoing? The tactician looked around nervously, gazing from side to side. No one was in sight. Robin was startled, holding a hand up to his forehead afterward. He was positive that something had called out to him.

His eyes widened. Grima. Grima, right? It just had to be him.

"It's you, Grima!" Robin shouted, shifting his gaze around anxiously. He tilted his head in multiple directions, eyeing around at his surroundings. "Where are you hiding?! I know you’re there!"

A small silence was given. The way that an absence of sound carried on was unsettling, sending the tactician off in a manner of caution. And still, the reticence of the forest remained, but not too long after does a movement of Robin's elicit an additional call.

Come find me to your right. Now that the damned exalt is gone, we can meet up again. Turn to your left and keep heading forward. Do not keep me waiting, vessel.

The tactician blinked. Robin, listen to yourself! You can't listen to him! 

He trembled from hesitation. His eyes wavered back and forth, quivering by the second. It’s Grima's voice; there’s no doubt about it. The Fell Dragon awaited a rendezvous, seeking out Robin's attention.

Damn it all... there are more questions to be answered! I need to get to the bottom of this for Chrom... and for Lucina!

Robin shook his head and started running. Not a second was given to ponder over his movements. He just ran, following the invitation, and kept going forward. Grima's calling, a trap or not, was still an irresistible temptation. The tactician picked up his pace, but once met with an obstacle, instantly came to a stop.

A cliffside... what do I do now?

The counts of nature surrounded him. The tactician glanced around briefly. No one in sight. Then, he looked up. No one in sight either.

There's no one here even...

Once… then twice. A small rustle sounded out from the bushes. Robin quickly turned around, listening to the sound of fleet-footed steps coming by. It was—

A cloaked figure appeared, grabbing the tactician by the throat.

—Not Grima. But, now the tactician was choking, and with great effort was endeavoring to break free. The attack was relentless, pushing through with an increasing force of might. Robin gagged briefly, attempting to loosen the hardened grip. His eyes widened with a jolt of fright pulsating through his veins as fingers tightened around. It all happened so fast in an instant... too quick for the tactician to even register pain.

Can't… breathe! Urghh…

Robin had just now recognized the proposal as a trap, but stray thinking like that had only delayed his consciousness. As he came alert, a momentary awareness dragging him back into life, he would feel sucked away by asphyxiation in the next moment. It was only about time that he felt he was meeting his end—death. The tactician did not want that. His fate could not just end like that.

A thunk was heard nearby. Robin turned his head gently. A dagger, right in the open, and next to him out of the corner of his eye. The desperate call for rebellion struck, and It was a strange feeling that surged forward…

I can't die here!

How his hand extended forward…

I have to live!

How his fingers grasped onto the small, sturdy object...

It’s a life or death moment. His actions came first without pertaining to thought. Robin stretched over the last bit, reaching for the weapon expeditiously. The dagger was held rigidly. Without objection, the tactician directly thrusted the blade into his assailant's eye. It’s a strong force that propelled through in an unwavering manner, and sure to strike.

"Gaaah!" the man cried out. He tumbled on to the floor, then slowly glancing up with trembling fingers budging over. "I... didn't suffocate you?" he breathed out.

Blood seeped from one side of the man's face, trailing down slowly. The man crawled backward in fear, or at least with great effort had tried to, but to no avail did his legs pick up. Finally, as one eye elevated towards the tactician's expression, a fiery aura descended, covering the entirety of Robin's body. It’s a beautiful purple that attracted assassin’s attention. Yet, it was also a foreboding call for misfortune, and the man dared to question its presence.

"W-What're those flames?"

The tactician does not know either as he retracted the blade. Another cry of pain sounded out, and a crimson red spilled from the man's leg. The same, dull cognizance endured. Robin does not understand why someone is screaming, why someone is suffering dreadfully, but the cries were absorbing and much like a drug. It’s music to his ears, something that he wouldn't mind listening to for time continuity, in fact, and it’s a piece in accord to a wonderful lullaby.

"Stop!" the man wailed. "I-I'm sorry! It was only an order... I swear!"

The way the pitch heightened was stimulating and soon it is not just one voice changing. A small chuckle was heard, echoing throughout the area. It was odd at first, but then erratic laughter erupted and the tactician had finally realized something.

"Please... stop..."

It was his own, dreadful laughter. Cackling like a maniac, the tactician paused briefly to hold his breath. Some heavy breathing ensued, and he finally halted. His silent breath had set a startling tone in the atmosphere. The tactician began to look down, staring back cruelly.

"You... told me to stop?" Robin responded slowly, curling his lips into an inscrutable expression. His eyes remained with a blank, expressionless stare. "Why?"

Exactly. What point was there in stopping if he found himself intrigued? His own actions called for a string of curiosity. Ceasing it now and then listening to the victim's plea would not solve the tactician's concerns. In fact, it would only hasten the intense desire of knowing this source of pleasure.

"It stopped…" Robin muttered, raising the dagger once more. The tactician was let down, and a feeling of grief struck through. His eyes started to shiver slowly. "No... why did it stop?"

It had felt so good. So right, even, like that of a rational mindset. It felt perfectly normal. And yet… why had he felt this way? Just what was this overwhelming feeling that was taking control?

"An eager one already, are you not?" a voice intruded. "Well, wouldn't you like to know why?"

Robin turned around. Grima. The Fell Dragon was standing right there with a crooked smile, grinning maliciously like ever. Expected of him, of course, but something about his expression seemed to be more ominous than ever.

"Your coat and your hands," Grima said delightedly, "are stained beautifully..."

The tactician looked down. It’s red; a deep red. Red like a rose, and it was certainly eloquent indeed.

"No…"

Red like blood, however...

What have I done? What have I… done?

The tactician’s stomach churned uneasily. In anxiety. In guilty conscience. Robin’s eyes widened, and the endless shaking from within each pupil was apparent.

Grima beamed with a wide smile. "What's wrong?"

"I-I couldn't have…!" Robin exclaimed in a horrifying tone. "No… did I really do this?"

It was his voice succumbing to disbelief. The way it was exposed to the Fell Dragon, all vulnerable and contained in doubt, had only made Grima more satisfied.

"Look at you, intoxicated by power!" Grima roared out in laughter. "But only someone like you can do that, vessel. Only you are able to accelerate your growth like that. Haha, how befitting of a true servant of mine! Shouldn’t you be proud of yourself?"

The tactician came to slightly agree, but the back of his mind screamed out in opposition. Not like this. It couldn’t be like this. He doesn’t want any of it at all.

"Lies, all lies here! I won't listen to you!" Robin yelled out.

Grima smirked, raising a finger up close. "You may say that, but your heart says otherwise. You mutilated a person right in front of my eyes, did you not?"

"No..." Robin spoke, receding gradually. He took a few steps back. “It… wasn’t me.”

His voice trailed off. The way it broke in tone was fulfilling for the Fell Dragon's craving. Grima smiled, scrutinizing the tactician's despairing expression. The start to everything had winded its gears. The plan was now, efficient as ever, and would hold true to its conclusion.

"Don't be afraid now. You know you wanted this, right? That's why you came here."

Words were such useful tools. One or two could even push the limits, but it was gratifying how manipulative they could be. Depending on the manner they were used in, it could propel some progress forward. But, Grima doesn’t want to stop there. As long as he was able to successfully wrap the tactician under his finger, nothing would fall apart.

"No..." Robin uttered, lowering his head. His eyes began to shake wildly. “I came here to question you… not this! This isn’t… this isn’t what I wanted!”

"Oh, is that so?" Grima spoke, beaming gently. Curiosity had his head turning slightly.

Robin grunted in annoyance. "Y-You..! Answer the questions... answer them at least..."

"Go ahead," Grima replied with a patient gaze. He extended a hand forward, much like a greeting. "If you'll come to me that way, then yes, I'd be glad to."

The tactician batted an eye at the last statement. The quiet air remained as Robin slowly regained his composure. With a stiff breath, his words came out hesitantly. A silence pervaded and the Fell Dragon had his full attention on the tactician.

"You're Grima from the future, right?" Robin asked, raising a brow. "You... you were the one that destroyed Lucina's timeline?"

"Yes, and what of it?"

Grima felt no concern in answering back. So to speak, he would let the vessel run amok, questions and whatnot, as Robin was already bound to the Fell Dragon by fate. It was an inevitable tie that had brought them together.

"Then why do you look like me? It can't be... am I to destroy the world in this timeline then?"

"That's what this is about?" Grima said while laughing. "Heh, yes, that is somewhat correct. I am you, but I am also a God. I am your God specifically."

Robin was quick to frown, expressing scorn at the very reply. "You aren't. I get to decide my own future, and I won't have anything to do with you! You won't get me to—"

Grima leaned in closer in an abrupt manner. His eyes formed a sharp slit, expressing complete terror. The sudden jolt in movements had startled Robin, almost causing the tactician to slip. Instead, Robin stood there anxiously, rooted completely in a winding trance.

"I'll have what I want, dear vessel. What I want now is for you to obey me!"

Robin froze in place. His eyes were mesmerized by the horrifying gaze, and with a trembling body, had heeded to Grima’s words at that moment.

"Y-You're frightening..." Robin started. His lips shivered gradually with words coming out in a slow rhythm. "I don't get your motives at all and... haa.. aaahh?! S-Stop! What... are you doing?"

The tactician stepped back in a quick manner as he found himself in contact with his twin. Grunting softly, Robin attempted to disengage himself from Grima, but the Fell Dragon resumed his motions rather quickly. Grima leaned forwards, grabbing hold of Robin’s body.

"What does it look like?" Grima murmured, moving his hands down. The Fell Dragon chuckled as he removed the vessel’s coat. Then, he dropped it to the floor, soon beginning with his own. "We need to do a swap, don’t we now?"

"W-What?" Robin stuttered momentarily. He grabbed on to the cleaner coat, gradually taking it into his arms. "Why... are you doing this? Is there any point at all?"

"When you meet up with that damned exalt he'll have you up in questioning for sure. Hah... especially after murdering someone, right? But don’t worry, you can avoid doubt for now. Until Ignis has developed itself, I'll be waiting till then."

Robin winced in anguish. "I felt a surge of flames consuming me... was it that? Those flames..."

"Are mine," Grima replied, beaming lightly with an eager smile. "And surely they'll appear again."

He took the bloodied coat and slipped himself in. The Fell Dragon turned around, taking a step towards the forest path.

“You’re… leaving?”

“Yes,” Grima replied. “Fear not, vessel. It won’t be long before we encounter one another again.”

Grima slowly retreated into the forest. The silence of the trees continues as the Fell Dragon gradually disappeared from view.

"No... wait!" the tactician called out.

No answer. Even after another shout, there was no reply.

Robin was still in shock. He stood there awkwardly, still taking in the recent events. His hands shook, but suddenly his head rose upon remembering something.

Oh, crap! That's right... Chrom is still waiting for me! We're heading out to Valm soon!

He hurriedly ran back to the same forest path that led to camp. Little did he know, Grima was watching his every move.

 

Chapter Text

The boat ride had been a bit bumpy so far, but no one saw to any complaints. Despite the seemingly ceaseless amount of time to pass, the Shepherds found themselves content. One certain warrior ran around on board, shifting through a few crowds. Upon bumping into a familiar pegasus knight, the aforementioned one was pulled out to the side.

"Lucina, I've been meaning to ask you something for a while now."

"Mother, what is it?" she brought up quizzically.

It had been awhile since the exalted princess had engaged in casual conversation with her parents. Awhile, as exaggerated as it was, that was how the situation felt to Lucina. Speaking of which, occasional confrontations did end up intermittently within her 'Marth' disguise. Though, chatter like that had not felt the same.

"Well, if you are my daughter from the future..." Sumia mumbled. "Then what of my baby? She too is Lucina."

"Mother..." the exalted princess said while giving a gentle laugh. "She's safe for sure. I know this time travel mess is a lot to take in, but I'm sure you'll get used to it soon."

Sumia nodded, beaming back tenderly. The pegasus knight would think otherwise, however, especially after seeing the brand. To refuse belief in Lucina's words would be the same as outright denying her future daughter's existence.

"And that I will, Lucina. I love you both very much and the same applies to your father," Sumia said joyously. She embraced her daughter, then slowly broke off from contact. "I'll be checking on the others, alright?"

Lucina nodded. "Goodbye, Mother."

The exalted princess let out a small sigh and looks around casually. The boat had been at it for some while now, steadily rocking back and forth. There were a few options available to pass time, the most efficient probably being sparring, but the terrain was not up for it. Not likely, but unfortunate casualties were still a possibility. Though, it did not take long for Lucina's fist to meet with the palm of her other hand. An idea suddenly ran through her head as her eyes began twinkling in excitement.

"That's it!" she exclaimed while bouncing up, raising a fist to the air. "Maybe Father's up to something!"

She rushed past a few of the other Shepherds, making way towards the main deck. Lucina's movements felt exceptionally nimble today, and upon taking a turn, rapidly landed herself into the tactician's conversation.

"This plan of yours is very dangerous, but I believe we can work around it," said Chrom. "The Shepherds can fight any foe, and that includes the sea!"

The exalt pumped a fist, pointing out directly to the seawater. Robin smiled, awkwardly as always whenever Chrom would perform some sort of pose, but felt inclined to join in.

"Just to be safe, there are boats coming along on the way back, right?" Robin asked.

Chrom nodded. "Of course."

Robin rose his hand to his chin, gently squinting one eye. "Well, I've already told you all the formation to go into once enemies arrive," he said. "I think having a sort of distraction will fend them off easier, making it less of a nuisance to eliminate their general. We’d best be prepared for what’s coming, regardless."

Loathe to say, a battle at sea would be painstakingly difficult. Fighting onboard was seen as no problem at all, but eliminating any threats outside the deck's range would scatter some vital fighters. In short, it was likely that most of the fliers and ranged units would be assigned to defeat foes out at sea. That would leave a mere handful of fighters on land.

"Well Robin, you're the tactician!" Chrom said while cracking a grin. He walked up, quickly patting his friend’s back. "Got a plan for this distraction you're talking about?"

A distraction, but not a complete one. It’s a crucial, momentary diversion one would say, and one essential to giving the upper hand for those on board.

"It's a battle centered on land since we are reliant on these ships. I'd say any fliers would be perfect in serving as distractions. If they pair up with any ranged allies, the scene could unfold as a barrage of spears, arrows, and magic picking off enemies one by one."

"W-Wait! Wait a second here!" Lucina yelled, interrupting the two. "You don't want my parents pairing up with each other? Is that really what you're saying?!"

She shook her head, solemnly staring back with an intense glare. Robin's plan did not side with her well. Back in her world, Lucina's parents had been fighting together constantly. To separate the two seemed like an unsound plan.

"Lucina, I—"

"I've seen the two work well with one another! They completely crush any foe as a pair, and yet why would you want to break up that combo? If you keep that formation intact, then they will be able to keep each other safe!"

Her voice was pushy and unpleasant in the way how assertive it is. But the way she spoke, it undoubtedly reminded the tactician of something familiar. Robin emerged with a pleased expression. Lucina had resembled her father in every way possible: neglecting her own well-being for the safety of others. Still, it is at times like these that a proper lecture should be given.

The tactician sighed. "There's no denying that as a pair the two of them can hold off on their own," he agrees. "It has worked for many battles, but this upcoming one is a special case. Our army is limited to how we fight since we're atop the sea, so we need a better approach in holding off enemies that will come from every angle. The premise of winning a war is not just victory, it is also ensuring everyone's safety."

Lucina looked up intently, balling her hands into a fist. It curled up, steady and slow. Her cheeks are tinted with a red blush, and as she grabbed onto the hem of her shirt in embarassment, a sigh was released.

"I..." the exalted princess mumbled, lowering her gaze. "I'm sorry. I... I really did get ahead of myself."

Relieved to say, it was a quick understanding. The tactician would assume otherwise, predicting that further explanation would be required.

"No worries. I just hope you're ready to fight," Robin said, then paused momentarily. "Oh wait... I forget that you were Marth previously. Of course, you can manage pretty well on your own."

"Wait, really? You think so?" Lucina commented excitedly. "So you'll allow me to fight alone? Surely I am capable of that much."

And it came off as no surprise that she had inherited the simple-mindedness of her father. Though, who would say that having skillful combat abilities would be a burden? The more power, the merrier. That's something at least for the tactician to work with and lead into battle, but...

"I'm not going to actually leave you off on your own if that's what you're thinking," Robin groaned in disbelief. "Obviously there must be allies at your side. You're a very strong-willed person, I can see that. No doubt you will stand your ground, but don't simply brush off the aid of others. You will always need it, no matter what. Fighting altogether, right Chrom?"

"Yeah, that's right," he said while nodding.

Lucina turned her head back up. "Hmm... I suppose jumping from group to group will help out. And if I find myself in a predicament, I trust that the others will cover for me?"

Robin cracked a very confident smile. That statement alone was a bit funny. This was the Shepherds she was talking about. A group created by a kindhearted, strong-willed prince, and armed with members of all different types of strengths. But above all, as the exalt had stated, everyone's security would be prioritized. It was a duty of utmost importance that the tactician would keep this trend standing.

"Well..." Robin pondered aloud, "You can join up on the right. Lissa is there to heal you while backing up those defending there."

"Right!" Lucina spoke in agreement. "Seems like a plan I can get behi—"

Her voice immediately came to a stop as the floorboards wobble. The deck shook slightly with each side of the ship being pummeled through. Promptly, everyone turned to their right. Three vessels come in upon sight, each scattered in different sections of the boat.

"Everyone, to your positions!" yelled Chrom. "And you three—Sumia, Cherche, and Cordelia! Come now, gather over here quickly!"

Robin goes on ahead to scout for Henry and Tharja. I'd rather have Ricken and Miriel stay down here .

"Hey, you two! Go over to Chrom right now. He's explaining the plan," he said, watching the two of them nod, then heading off.

The tactician ran over to the flier setup, then suddenly grabbed by a specific pegasus knight, was thrown immediately onto the rear seat. Robin ushered an anxious grumble. Wings started flapping, and as the tactician’s height elevated from land, his expression signaled a loss of all confidence.

"T-Too high!" Robin shouted. "I'm not ready for this!"

"Hey silly tactician, let's do our best!" Sumia cheerfully spoke.

Silly? Robin guttered a brow at that comment. How ironic it was.

Ms.I-trip-over-everything, Robin thought heatedly. You're the silly one here!

The sound of planks being lowered had rung out. Multiple Valmese soldiers swarmed in, charging towards the Shepherds. They began their merciless assault, brandishing weapons of all kinds.

"We're pretty high up still..." Robin mumbled, carefully positioning his hand. "Arcfire!"

Flames emerged, traveling across gradually. A blast of heat fired off, picking off a few foes in the skies.

"What're you complaining about? This was your plan after all," Sumia said, snorting afterward.

"Ah, whatever. It seems that everyone is doing okay down there," the tactician replied, proceeding to raise a brow at his own statement. "Errr... I also see that Lucina is aggressive. Quite aggressive."

Below on deck, the exalted princess charged ahead, knocking others with the hilt of her sword. A lance thrusted forward, and within the nick of time, Lucina swooped below to kick a soldier's balance off. Her posture remained stable as she stood up, eyeing viciously at approaching enemies.

Sumia tilted her head. "Wow, she's just as skilled as Chrom!"

"I'd say feisty," the tactician added.

"Ahem..." a voice coughed out raspily. "I hope you two notice what's coming up ahead."

The tactician turned to see Tharja on his right, who along with Cherche was fending off a pegasus knight. He took a small glance at the figure approaching from the front.

"Look a bit closer, as it's not just one," Tharja spoke, noting of the fliers up ahead.

"Hmm?" Robin muttered, squinting closely. "Oh geez, it's a whole squad!"

The group ranged from five to six. No, looking more closely now, the tactician would count up to a hexad. Surely enough, not an entire army, but it would be tough to repel.

"I have just the plan!" Sumia said, glancing at her lance. "Robin, do you think it's possible to place magic within weapons?"

"There's the Levin Sword if that's what you were wondering," he replied, quickly preparing a Thoron spell. "And also... y-you with a plan? Sumia, you're still the most clumsy person I've ever known."

The tactician's curiosity was piqued. A plan from her most certainly sounded unpleasant.

"Mmm... great. What about loading up some of that electricity into this spear? Do you think they'd receive an aftershock?" she said, pulling her arm back. "Up to you to join in on my plan though!"

And thus, Robin was given no time to think. Then again, a battlefield tended to progress quickly, so not much time was usually spent planning within an active fight. Knowing this, the tactician followed up ahead.

"Sumia..." Robin uttered in doubt. He smiled promptly. "Hah, of course I will!"

A small streak of thunder was shot, pushing towards the spear. Both had accelerated to their target, combining into one as the two travel across the sky.

"Gaaaaah!"

A Valmese foe had been shot down with a few more still remaining. It was breathtaking how easy it was to snipe an opponent so far away.

"Alright, let's keep going!" Robin shouted. "Thoron!"

After a brief while, he gently shut his tome. He stared back at Sumia, then threw a glance at those on board.

"I think we're pretty much finished here," he said.

"Hey, Robin!" called out Chrom. "We've eliminated the general! I'm going to give the signal to ram our boat into the rest of their ships!"

"Father, we're all ready when you are!" yelled Lucina.

The tactician nodded as he watched the Shepherds jump off to the spare vessels. After everyone had evacuated successfully, the burning torches were thrown. The ship finally crashed, erupting itself and parts of the sea in flames.

"Watch them burn!" Basilio cried out, applauding merrily.

Flavia laughed, lightly punching him in the shoulder, and also earning a chuckle from the man. The khans' smiles grew wider, expressing joy over the recent victory.

"Old man, this is the happiest I've seen of you! Hah, we'll get this done in no time!"

Chrom rose his hand, gathering everyone's attention. "To Valm we go!"

 


 

"I cannot allow you to come any closer, for that this blade will take you down if you do!"

A Valmese lancer rushed forward, carrying his weapon with unwavering might. The swordmaster, however, was quick to respond. With astounding reflexes, she threw a light kick and finally delivered a harsh blow with her sword.

"Y-You...! Do not think you are better than us!" another soldier cried out furiously. "Who are you to rebel against us?!"

"I am Say'ri, a proud member of the Chon'sin!" she shouted, running ahead.

She turned her head and grunted. Reinforcements had stacked up by the second with more enemies barging in. With an overwhelming amount, gods knew how long her luck would push through.

"But I won't give up..." she muttered, striking another beside her. "I must save my country and—"

Just then a bolt of thunder had passed her, causing her to stop. Her sword wavered, gradually turning against a sudden rush of wind.

"Huh? W-What was that just now?" Say'ri questioned.

She turned around to see a group of fighters. Are they the enemy too? No, but that isn't the Valmese outfit...

The one with a very defined, muscular appearance had reached out. He ran ahead with a sheathed sword, waving at the swordmaster. Say'ri was left with a gentle pause, then proceeded to step forward.

"Hey, we are here to help out! May I have your name while at it?" the blue-haired man spoke.

Definitely an ally, she thought.

"Say'ri, sir. I appreciate all the help."

"Haha, no worries. The name is Chrom. We've come all the way from Ylisse in hopes of stopping this sudden crusade."

The swordmaster nodded and gazed towards the man's left. "And you might be?"

"Robin," he replied. "You'll get to know the rest of the army soon, I'm sure of it. For now, let's secure the objective and defeat the threat in front of us."

"Agreed," she said while nodding.

The tactician proceeded to charge another Thoron with Chrom at his side, fending off any nearby threats that stepped close. Some other groups of the Shepherds were stationed separately, picking off cavaliers and ranged foes that surrounded them. Lucina went on ahead with Sumia and cleared a small path, enough so that the last of the bunched up group met with a surprise.

"Thoron!"

As the remaining soldiers were pushed back, the sound of hooves could be heard. A fierce looking man emerged into view, displaying a disdainful expression. He carried a tome and was mounted on horseback, carefully steering an Arcfire before approaching.

"Death to all those who oppose the emperor!" he shouted as a large fireball was headed for Chrom.

Robin quickly pushed the exalt out of harm's way, barely dodging the flames. Accordingly, the blast of fire erupted some parts of the ground, with large flames signifying its destructive capabilities.

"Thanks," Chrom spoke, helping Robin up. "We'll need to be careful of that."

Lucina grunted. "You will not stop me!" she yelled, dashing up ahead.

Falchion was held tightly, ready to strike true. Her blade was almost in contact, but a smaller blast of fire had sent her back. She yelped out in pain, hit by a devastating impact, and landed on the ground.

"I am Farber," the man stated. "I'd advise you all to surrender, or you shall be met with the emperor's might!"

Another Valmese general. The tactician stood his ground, reaching into the back of his coat. He was fearful of how intense of a battle would abate.

"And if we refuse?" Lucina retorted, gathering her strength.

Farber scoffed. "Then let death welcome you!"

Robin saw an opportunity in the open, taking it right away. He yielded the first strike, pulling out an Arcfire. As magic coursed through the tome, a blazing wave had been set off.

"Laughable, haha!" Farber howled, returning with even larger flames. "Perish before me, you damned fool."

A great fire erupted, setting ablaze deeply on the spot. A single blink. Within that span of time, the fire had been pushed back, and a hot red flickered about, punishing the tactician's attempt on the offensive.

"Ughhh!" Robin cried out, falling back into the exalt's arms.

"Robin!" Chrom called out in worry. He looked back up at the Valmese general, staring back in defiance. "You'll pay for that!"

He grabbed his sword, but the exalted princess raised a hand, halting his movements.

“No, Father...” said Lucina. “You need to tend to him.”

Chrom gave a hesitant stare but nodded in response. “Okay.”

Lucina limped a little but managed to move her body. Her legs staggered back and forth as pain began straining her muscles heavily.

"Hang in there, I've got you," Say'ri said, extending her hand.

Lucina nodded, thanking her afterward. "I'm alright, Lady Say'ri..."

"Stay strong!" the swordmaster spoke. With sword in hand, she darts towards Farber. "For my country!"

Her feet picked up, agile in manner, with a complete, lithe form. Her sword raised forthwith, preparing an unswerving blow.

"You are but a fool!" Farber roared. "Meet your end with—"

Black smoke fumed from a Flux blast, hiding the swordmaster's whereabouts. The Valmese general's expression grew wary as his eyes widened in confusion. He looked around as a mist of darkness surrounded him, pervading the area entirely.

"Haha! He must be so confused!" Henry spoke, giggling in delight. "Ah, but what about the lady?"

Tharja let out a sigh. "She will be fine."

The Plegian mage held her tome close, looking back at the general. Fingers clutched onto the book desperately as if in a doubtful manner. Farber would not be fazed by a simple fog. It would only delay his attacks.

The Valmese general narrowed his eyes, gazing around at his surroundings. He remained calm, watching closely to where the swordmaster might appear. A fireball was kept in the palm of his hand as he patiently awaited. The orb of intense heat flickered rapidly, hovering slowly as a bright light lit up.

"Mmmm..." Farber mumbled. "You, you're right there!"

Quickly, he threw the flames at a corner of the smoke. The impact of the blast had sent the rest of the fog to dissipate.

"No!" Say'ri shrieked aloud.

She slid against the floor and landed right next to Lucina, who had then hastily tended to her. The exalted princess rushed over in fright, shaking the swordmaster's body gently.

"Hey, stay with me!" Lucina called out.

Chrom groaned. The exalt briefly looked around at the other Shepherds. Damn... everyone else is still fighting off the soldiers. What can we do against this guy?

Henry and Tharja remained on guard, still holding their tomes out. Surely, a trick that failed once would not work again. They made no movements, only preparing for a counterattack.

"Does this prove that you are no match for me, no less the emperor?" brought up Farber. "You amateur forces of Ylisse have no power over the empire of Valm!"

A deep silence.

"As I thought... you are all but weaklings."

An answer finally came. A grating, derisive laugh immediately broke through.

"And just what's so funny?" muttered Farber, gazing down upon Robin.

It was a strange feeling. The tactician felt all odds against him, an immovable boulder that was pressuring him, and yet...

"Emperor, huh? And who would that be?" Robin continued to speak, beaming gently.

And yet he had felt like the most powerful man, crushed by an arduous weight. It was a weight so burdensome, so backbreaking and exhausting to put up with, that would fuel a certain desire. His mind ached that this request was to be set free. The tactician grinned, his smile growing wider by the minute. No other expression would suit this feeling.

"Why, the conqueror Walhart himself! He is destined to rule this world and liberate the people from grief!" Farber roared.

Chrom gave a disgusted look. "In what way is invading a nation going to appease the people here?"

“Silence!” Farber yelled out. “You lowly beings know of nothing! You do not understand our ruler’s wishes to unite everyone!” The Valmese general retained a stern face as he stared back. He kept a focused glance upon Chrom. "Exalt of Ylisse, are you not? You do not understand the emperor's wishes. You do not—"

The tactician laughed again, but this time in a soft manner.

"Oh, stop it now..." Robin said while standing up. "It's absolutely irritating to hear you spout this nonsense."

Farber furrowed a brow at not only the tone but also the words within the tactician's speech. As peculiar as it was to hear, such a rebuttal proved to be amusing.

"And you have no right to speak up to me like that, weakling," Farber stated. "Do you wish for me to kill you now? I was planning to do so for the rest of you!"

He reached for his waist pocket, pulling out a different book. The Valmese general smiled back mockingly, opening a new tome.

"T-That's...!" Tharja said with a gasp. "How… did you get that?"

"Ah, yes!" Farber cried out with a cackle. "The emperor entrusted me with Valflame, a tome that of total destruction! I only use it when necessary, and seeing how you worms continue to struggle rather than surrender, it just annoys me! I'll end you all right now!" He lifts the tome up as a huge fire whirls around himself. "You shall all die here and—"

Right then and there, a feeling struck through. An indescribable emotion, of endless fear, of inexpressible horror, would be constructed. The general stopped all his movements, paralyzed with sudden panic.

"Chrom, go now! There's an opening!" shouted Robin.

"R-Right!" he answered.

His feet rose off the ground, racing away towards the enemy. The exalt quickly made his way through, preparing to strike with Falchion. His arms rose up, sword ready to finish with a landing blow.

"I'll end this now!" yelled Chrom.

Only one swing was needed, and finally, Falchion had struck with all its might. A cry of pain screamed out, permeating the silent air. The general fell as soldiers turned to look, and an abrupt peace was given. But, another scream would set off, soon rallied by others.

"General Farber is down!" a soldier cried out. "Ruuuun!"

The rest of the Valmese forces shifted their gaze towards the fallen general. Soldiers glanced at one another, and consumed by fright, prepared to set off. Struck with panic, those still fighting had quickly retreated.

Falchion hovered slowly. In the next moment, it retracted.

"Keh... he..." sounded out Farber. "Why... do you not kill me?"

Chrom shook his head. "It's true that war cannot end without violence, but that doesn't mean there needs to be bloodshed."

He lowered his eyes, looking at Lissa, then back to the general. Emm...

"Were you planning to raid the homes of the people living here?" Chrom continued.

Farber glanced back at him with a mute pause. "Yes, since that is what the emperor desired..." he finally answered.

Chrom gave a reassuring smile, one resembling complete forgiveness. "Well, I don't mind if Lissa patches you up, but the people here should be willing to let you rest. I think that's necessary for you to think upon—the feelings of the oppressed. Conquering people and pressuring them does no good to save humanity in any way shape or form. I know this because of a foolish father of mine. It'd do good for you to experience the peaceful life that the people here are enjoying right now."

The general gasped with his eyes wide open. He lifted a finger, and a small laugh goes off, prompting the exalt to look back in uncertainty. But, it does not take long for words to be stated.

"I find your speech astounding. You make me look like a fool right now."

Chrom blinked. "How about your answer?"

It was unexpected, to say the least, having an enemy enact mercy. Considering how ruthless, how determined the general was in eliminating the entire port, such an act would be most questionable.

"That I find solace in an entirely new world? Well, I am still the enemy, and there is no guarantee I'll be doing as you say," Farber said while laughing. "Heh, and I don't need help from that healer of yours."

"If you say so..." Chrom said, smiling with a shrug. "Regardless, I still believe in you. I want you to take these words to heart."

A brief silence emerged. The general stared back nervously, then finally lowering his eyes, let out a sigh.

"Exalt Chrom, was it? Do you really think those villagers would take care of me?" Farber spoke quietly. "I ruined their homes... took over the entire area and unleashed chaos upon it."

He had appreciated the Shepherds' concern, and most certainly their forgiveness. Farber lowered his head as a doubtful smile painted over his expression. And to return to Walhart now, having failed a mission, would assuredly result in execution. No doubt about it.

"Yes, they would, as long as you mean them no harm," Sumia spoke as she walked over slowly. "There's an unoccupied home which you can borrow. I'd advise you to rest until your mind has cleared up."

"I can take him there," Robin chimed in. "He's pretty injured after taking a direct hit from Falchion. No doubt that would hurt pretty bad."

A gentle, caring tone. Sumia nodded, acknowledging the tactician's offer of aid.

"Won't you need some help carrying him? There's a stretcher by there. Those residents have it by their house." Sumia then raised her hand. "Hey, Lon'qu, why don’t you help out Robin over here?"

The myrmidon made a loud groan as he carried Farber, dropping him onto the fabric. "Which way?"

Everything seemed fine. The general would be resting and up in no time. Undoubtedly, everything was fine.

"Over there," Robin replied. "That house over there."

The door creaked open as the two reached the vacant home. Multiple beds were scattered everywhere. Though, really only one had to be used.

"This is one of those medical rooms, right Lon'qu?" asked Robin.

He sighed. "I'm not up for idle chatter," Lon'qu spoke, heading towards the door. "I'll be roaming around the area until everyone decides to leave. Do what you will."

Everything seemed fine at first. At least, the general believed so.

"Yeah, yeah. Suit yourself," Robin replied, watching the myrmidon leave.

It was eye-catching how the door remained open, but, it was also the very first thing the tactician noticed. So, he got up, wanting to enclose the room. A hand slipped above the doorknob and the door finally shut. Silence was given between the two left in the space, and yet, this quietude established itself to be very unsettling. Especially for the general, he would be disturbed by this ominous stillness.

"Oh," the tactician spoke a moment later, finally breaking the silence.

The way that the first word was delivered, it was eerie, compelling Farber to settle back a bit in surprise. Robin turned away, walking ahead towards the general. His eyes shimmered with a hint of curiosity. But, his face, and how it looked back, it displayed some sort of deadly, fictitious innocence. His smile. That undoubtedly would be the one leading it.

"What's wrong?" Robin uttered, pressing his words forward.

The tactician was gently grinning with his voice kept in a still, flat tone. One could say his expression represented pure malice. But to the general, it would be much worse.

"You..." muttered Farber. "Your allies may not have seen that malevolent presence of yours at the time, but do not think that I ignored it! Those flames were very apparent from my side!"

Flames—the very first keyword that caught the tactician's attention. Robin slipped in a small grin, intrigued by the general’s observation.

"Those flames you say? Aha, so you did notice them..." Robin said curiously. "What's wrong with them?"

Of course, he was aware of it. But no one really knew of its uses, including the tactician himself. But, Robin already found himself gravitating towards it, not really understanding why. To him, it just felt right. A feeling so overwhelmingly good, returning once again, and the tactician succumbed to all of it.

"They're abnormal!" Farber spoke, slowly shaking in fear. "I believe that magic holds no boundaries, but what you just displayed..."

"What I... displayed?" Robin repeated.

Right, just an arrangement of flames. Coated with dark, menacing colors. It was a power to be blessed with, as he saw, and found no reason to deny it. In fact, he would only grow attached, compelled by its overwhelming control, and asserting dominance in no time. Nothing was wrong with that. So, to him, it really did feel right.

"It harbors something terrifying... I-I can sense it..."

The flickering purple-blue flames became evident. They started to rise up from the tactician's body as Robin gradually approached Farber. The flames—Ignis. How the tactician longed for that breath of fire to return...

Robin laughed gently. "This, right?"

"Just who are you? Y-You're a monster... aren't you?! My mind surely wasn't fooling me when I saw the shadow of a large dragon!"

A taut grin remained, the tactician's expression soon to reveal its entirety of madness. One breath, and out, and a gentle chuckle left slowly. Finally, raucous laughter erupted, suddenly startling the general.

"Oh... what're you so afraid of?" Robin whispered softly, endeavoring to contain his laughter. "Didn't you call me a weakling a moment ago on the battlefield? Whatever happened to that?"

Farber grunted, returning a rebellious expression. He locked his gaze onto the tactician with a glare of defiance fighting back.

"Look at you," the tactician spoke gradually. He slowly began pulling out an Elfire tome, walking closer to the general. "You know, I really despise that expression you hold..."

Robin lowered his grin, quickly flipping through pages of the tome. A frown was all that was left. His hands trembled as his gaze became agitated by the second.

"What are you... doing?" Farber croaked out.

"Can't you see? It's a weak tome to burn you slowly," the tactician answered quickly.

The bluntness of the tactician's words was shocking. By extension, with how the tone was conveyed, it was hard to interpret. Was it out of anger or joy? No, seeing his expression again, it may as well have been a mixture of both.

"W-What did you just say?"

Robin giggled shortly after, tilting his head over. In response to Farber's question, he gave a disconcerting expression, alarming the general even further.

"You're weak," Robin said. "That's how it is. I'm the one with power, not you."

"You're a mad one! Something's wrong with you!" Farber yelled out in horror.

"Perhaps there is..." the tactician wheezed out as broken laughter started up. "But, regardless, you have angered me. You are lucky that I am not considering rendering the flesh from your bones."

His head rose as maniacal cackling erupted. A sense of hysteria took over as the tactician was completely held by a feeling of frenzy. On command, the flames rose even higher, set ablaze in accord with the tactician's laughter.

The general lay there in fear, but decided to act quickly. Farber struggled to reach for any random tome, eventually ending up on Arcfire. His hands moved in swift motion as the book opened up. A spell conjured, although small, but surely enough to get him out of this mess.

"Either way, you won't be able to mock me... if I just get rid of you…" Robin mumbled, wheezing softly.

"Damn you! Perish now, fool!" Farber cried out.

With quick haste, a silver sword slammed down. Countless pages were shredded out, falling onto the floor slowly. Robin carried the blade, embracing the weapon in its graceful form, and inched over in a gentle manner. His lips curled meekly, departing with a pure, unfazed smile.

"You... don't understand, do you?" Robin spoke monotonously, lowering his gaze. He pressed the sword against the general's throat with his other hand, holding up the Elfire tome. "Of course, people like you would never understand."

"P-Please don't…!"

The last effort to break free. A weak, susceptible plea. It’s defining the vulnerability of the general's last moments. Had the tactician displayed a more sympathetic discernment, his hand would be withdrawn. But, his eyes ended up closing in with a hint of malice never sensed before, and found himself succumbing completely. Deeply, and deeply in.

"It's okay..." Robin whispered, dropping the sword. His eyes ignited with a newfound emotion, one hand clutching tightly to his chest, and another hand to hold up the tome. "Submit to your fate, as I will to mine."

A bright light was quick to flicker about. Then, a deep fire sparked, leaving burnt, crispy ashes behind.

 


 

"So you are a part of this Resistance, correct?" repeated Chrom.

Say'ri nodded. "Yes, though it saddens me that my dear brother is a betrayer to his kind. He fights on the empire's side."

"Well, we are all here to help your cause. We have a common enemy so it would make sense to team up against them," Chrom responded. "The problem is that we're going to need a well-planned out strategy to defeat Walhart. Luckily we have Robin on that job, and with him along, it should be easier to accomplish."

"I heard my name."

"Oh, Robin!" Chrom said, turning around quickly. "I'd say we're just about ready to head out. Our two goals are defeating Walhart and persuading Say'ri's brother, Yen'fay, to cease fighting."

"Got it," the tactician replied. "It seems that those two are the biggest obstacles, but I feel that Walhart's generals are going to be pesky to deal with."

Chrom nodded. "Yeah, for sure," he agrees. "Oh, and how is the guy doing? Just wanted to know before we head out."

Robin blinked. "The guy... as in Farber, right?"

Farber. Valmese general. If he recalled, that person was left to recover? It’s kind of tough to remember everything.

"Yeah, him."

Oddly enough, something was ringing a bell. A sort of emotion perhaps, but the tactician wasn’t exactly sure what.

"I..."

Submit to your fate, as I will to mine.

"R-Robin!" Chrom yelled out in panic, seeing his friend slump down. The exalt moved his arms back and forth, shaking the tactician in a gentle manner. "Hey, what's wrong?! Robin? Robin!"

It was all starting to come back. As crystal clear as it would be, the reminiscent feeling would soon return. It’s an emotion so intoxicating... and one that would make the tactician tremble.

"Chrom... m-my head... it hurts!" Robin groaned out in pain. "I... can’t remember anything..."

One that would make him tremble beyond words.

 

Chapter Text

"Your friend is not doing too well."

Chrom looked at Robin with a tentative gaze, looming over the tactician's expression worriedly. It had been a few days since the headache started, but only now did it grow aggravated. How Robin grabbed his head, with fingers pressing in a tense way, earned a sympathetic scowl from the exalt. Just by looking at his state, a dreadful feeling would churn up. It was horrible.

"This is… all too strange," Chrom commented dejectedly. "This is the first time I've seen Robin like this."

The tactician wobbled a bit, lowering himself further. Continuous groaning escaped his lips as he held onto the exalt's arm. A look of plea was apparent, urging for recovery. And yet no one knew why. No one understood the tactician's condition, and one so unanticipated. The Shepherds could do little but hold themselves responsible.

Am I bound to a fate in which , Chrom pondered hopelessly, I'm unable to help others? My family… and now my friends?

The exalt took upon a remarkable share of the blame. For a moment, his breath hitched, and all he could see was the anguish painted on the tactician's face. Robin looked back up anxiously, squeezing an eye shut as he endeavored to keep his balance.

Say'ri nudged her head. "Well, a headache having you sway back and forth like that is uncanny," the swordmaster said, observing Robin carefully. "It’s a bizarre condition. I'd say, definitely not seen in all my years in Chon'sin."

Chrom frowned. "There must be something that we can do."

Robin tugged at the exalt's arm again, motioning him over. With a bout of silence, the tactician wheezed gently, struggling to hold on. And that heavy breathing had Chrom all worried, all distraught over the situation, and concerned nonstop over the tactician’s well-being.

"I've got you," Chrom stated, hoisting Robin's body along his shoulder. He took a deep breath, staring back at his friend carefuly. "Please... please bear with it until we figure something out."

"It hurts..." Robin muttered, his eyes shaking frantically. His gaze constrained heavily, compressed together in deep pain. "It feels like my mind is splitting into two…"

He stumbled forward on the path as his legs limped sluggishly. Robin's grip on the exalt had tightened, fingers latching on desperately. He did not know how long the migraine would persist, but the tactician assuredly accepted the fact that, undoubtedly, it was connected to something. A large, impacting factor that he had confronted at some point in time.

The road ended at an intersection. Chrom paused momentarily, looking up at the signs.

"None of them lead to the Mila Tree," noted Say'ri. "We need to pass through a hidden pathway in order to reach the Voice."

"And you know where to head, right?" Chrom asked, gazing back at her.

"I do, sir Chrom."

"That's good," he replied. "I... I just..."

His voice broke off in an unnatural manner, enough for it to heed attention. Before he continued, the swordmaster would raise her hand, gesturing the exalt to stop.

"I completely understand," Say'ri said with a deep sigh. A tender smile was given afterward. "The Voice and the journey to the Mila Tree can wait."

Chrom's eyes widened, listening attentively to the swordmaster's thoughts. A sigh of relief was taken.

"Say'ri, you have my thanks!"

"No, you have mine, sir Chrom," she said with a laugh. "Let's not forget how you and your army had saved me back at the port."

Say'ri chuckled once more. Of course, she would feel indebted to the Shepherds. In fact, so much she had not thought of a proper way to repay their kindness yet. They deserved much, so much more than she could offer. The army's efforts were truly appreciated, but the swordmaster carried no idea to accordingly compensate them.

She breathed slowly, gripping tightly onto her sword. A strength one could lend. Perhaps that could do for the time being.

The first sign pointed forward. Say'ri squinted, leaning towards the board. A multitude of text came into view, marking a few towns here and there. Inspecting closer, she would find something interesting about a particular one.

"There must be a specialized healer here of some sort. Hm, that's good to know," she said. "If that's the case, then we should hurry. We do not know how close Walhart's forces are, but in the meantime, I'm sure Lady Tiki can take care of herself."

It was early dusk. The group made their way to a rather lively town. Food stands were placed in several areas while small inns scaled the rest. A few statues were laid across the entrance road, majestically welcoming visitors. As the Shepherds set foot in, a wondrous atmosphere filled the area. Kind of like Ylisse, some would point out, although much smaller.

"How have Walhart's forces not invaded this place yet?" brought up Lucina. "It's not too far off from our destination."

Say'ri chuckled. "How very lucky," she added. "The enemies are headed off to the Mila Tree but it will take them a while to not only reach there, but also here."

"No, Lady Say'ri," Lucina opened her mouth in rebuttal. Her hand raised, gently scrunching up into a fist. "They won't step a single foot into this town if we wipe out Walhart himself. His entire crusade then ends right there."

The exalted princess held true to her belief. With a passionate glow to her eyes, her expression became unwavering, staring patiently back at the swordmaster. Say’ri recognized that glow, the entirety of its fierce determination, and gave a slight chuckle.

"My apologies, you are absolutely correct, Lady Lucina," Say'ri replied with a smile. She acknowledged the young princess's fiery resolve. "Together with the help of everyone, we can truly stop this madness."

"Yes, I think so too," the exalted princess spoke. "And please, no need for formalities. You've been referring to everyone like that, so let's just drop it okay? I insist that we treat each other as mutuals."

Say'ri responded with soft laughter. "In that case, I'd like you to call me by Say'ri."

It felt like a while of walking in circles, but the exalt persisted. Chrom scouted around, his eyes inspecting the area closely. He slowly walked down the road, looking back from time to time as he held Robin up on his shoulder.

"This isn't just a job for any healer. I think Robin's been hit by something drastic," he said, noting of the tactician's condition. "Robin?"

Steady breathing was given for an answer. It took awhile for the tactician to settle, clearing his breath to finally speak.

"I'm hanging in there…" he finally mumbled out in pain. "I... I don't know why this is happening..."

A desperate, hardy look was expressed from the exalt. He had wanted to know exactly why . First, removing the headache would be the objective. That left the mystery of an unknown source causing it.

"Don't worry friend, we'll get you checked up," Chrom spoke, reassuring the tactician. "I don't understand why the staves can't cure you. I find that a bit strange..."

Lissa sighed. "Chrom, that's not how it works. Staves fix up physical wounds, not something in the head," she said, then turning to Robin. "A very strange headache while at that."

A little more walking would settle it. Eventually what appeared to be a medical tent came into view, seen in a secluded area near an alleyway. A lone man sat in his chair, in deep thought while organizing his tools. In the back were tomes and other sorts of medications lined up against the shelves. And as the Shepherds approached, he would quickly turn, meeting Chrom's serious gaze.

"Excuse me sir, but by any chance are you an expert on headaches?" Chrom spoke in the bluntest manner.

The man raised a brow. A puzzled expression arose as he stood up, a hand gently pushing his chair back. "Headaches?"

And here the cleric would resort to clobbering her brother any minute now, hands shaking as she agitatedly held her stave. Chrom could be dense, straightforward even. Revealing those qualities in a constant fashion was more than unappreciated, and such way of conversation was obstructive.

"Ignore my silly brother," Lissa said with a groan, slapping the exalt on the back of his head.

"Ouch, that hurt!" Chrom hissed, glaring back at his sister. "Lissa... I'm right, aren't I?"

Right, a headache it was. But, was that really all to it?

"Well, I mean..." she contemplated aloud. "Aha... y-you're right! We have someone with a strange condition of recurring headaches out of the blue. I think it may have been a spell that was cast on him, don't you think?"

That could go under plausible methods to receive headaches. Thinking to a greater extent, getting migraines could happen in many ways. The small case itself was pretty common. However, with the tactician's length of a few days already, it seemed more than enough to be worried about.

"Someone that was hit by a spell?" the man questioned. "That should be relieved through a stave, should it not? You would get an apparent wound."

"I… I know that already, as I'm a healer myself, but this case is a bit different," Lissa stuttered for a moment, pondering aloud dispiritedly. Her brows quirked, mind within deep thoughts. "It's like he's been affected by a curse," she belatedly spoke.

A curse. How darkly terrifying it was to mention that. Perhaps it could be.

The man cleared his throat. "Well, refer to me as the Doctor. I have no name to call myself, so just treat me as someone who simply wants to help." He turned to his right, shifting his gaze towards Robin. "And I assume this is the man you're talking about? Ah, I can easily see this poor lad struggling..."

"Yes, that's him," answered Chrom. "We'll pay you any amount, we just want you to—"

"Now stop yourself right there. I'll be happy to help you for free."

"W-What?"

The Doctor calmly smiled. "Word gets around fast, at least for those of us still away from peril. You are the exalt of Ylisse that's been trying to thwart Walhart's army. I have a relative back at the port you were just at. For saving everyone's lives there, I'd be glad to help you out."

Chrom was baffled. He had received much gratitude in his lifetime fulfilling good deeds as the exalt, but with a situation so dire, it felt like a bigger achievement. Knowing that Robin’s safety would be assured, the exalt relaxed himself.

"Wow, just... so many things to happen in life?" Chrom said, his mind at ease.

"An act of kindness is always returned by another."

The two men shook hands. The Doctor turned to the exalt, gesturing him and the rest out.

"I'll take care of your friend, don't you worry. I can't work with an audience though, so I hope you understand."

Chrom nodded. "Of course! I can't thank you enough for helping us out!"

The Shepherds moved, footsteps quickly trailing out. Everyone stepped away from the tent and gathered into a circle. Chrom centered himself as he faced the rest of the group, finally clearing his throat to speak.

"We'll come back after he's done, but the Doctor will be preoccupied for a while. For now, the rest of you can enjoy yourselves," Chrom said. "It's not a huge town, but there is certainly much to see. I recall seeing a small festival in the cornerback at the beginning."

Others threw glances at one another. It seemed like a solid plan to most, seeing that they were in a new area and all, but a certain warrior had her doubts. Skepticism coated the exalted princess's expression, and as she stepped forward, her voice rose to speak up in opposition.

"Father, is now the time to be really enjoying ourselves? The enemy forces are on the move."

"Lucina, I'm well aware of the situation. Our priority is Robin first, no matter what. I could never have my best friend sitting in the back of the battlefield."

Say'ri put her hand on Lucina's shoulder. "Your father is right. Don't fret yourself. It's not the end of the world if they get slightly ahead of us. Besides, it takes a very long time to climb the Mila Tree. There is also a barrier and various traps for intruders. I can assure you that everything will turn out fine."

A distant, offputting gaze settled for a moment. But regardless, Lucina held trust in her parents, in her father's army, in everyone, and found no words to capture her worries. By meaning, these concerns vanished. The young princess held a strong conviction, and one so resolute.

"Father, Say'ri, I can't help but worry, but I will trust your words," Lucina spoke confidently. "I've never lost trust in you all the whole time." She slowly nudged her head. Her arms slumped down, shaking slowly. "I... I've never gotten to see a new town..." Her eyes became watery, and gentle cheeks were guttered with tears. "Mother, Father, will you take a look around with me? It's been so long since I had went shopping with you... with my parents..."

Sumia grabbed onto Lucina, her hands ruffling through her daughter's hair. "Of course dear, of course!" She turned to her husband excitedly, waving a hand back and forth. "Come on Chrom, let's browse the area! I'm sure Robin will be better by the time we get back."

He nodded, briefly turning back to the tent, then to his family. "I sure hope so too..."

 


 

 

"I used to be many things back then, all of which associate with white magic," The Doctor stated.

He pushed aside many staves and moved back his cart. Bookshelves were in sight, and to Robin’s surprise, there were many, many of them. The Doctor reached for a pitch-black book laying in the middle, pulling it open as he skimmed through the pages.

"What's that supposed to be?" questioned Robin, still enduring the heavy migraine. His eyes shook gently, attempting to keep sight upon the man.

"It's a book from Plegia with a list of various spells and curses," the Doctor replied. "I don't know much about dark magic, but I know enough to rid of it."

He started flipping in an odd manner, much slower than before. The tactician would brush such a minor thing off, but a gut feeling arose, and suddenly he began to shiver.

"I was in Plegia for a bit and managed to snag one of these off of the officials from there," the man continued to speak. "According to them, it's from the library reserved for the Grimleal only."

"Why were you so interested in it?" the tactician would blurt out, curiosity pulling him on strings.

"Well, I guess it doesn't hurt to be honest with you. You know about the stories that go around concerning Naga and Grima, right?"

Oh, he knew for sure. But what was the point of bringing this up?

Robin nodded. "Yeah... perhaps I know too much as well..."

"I've always wondered how the descendants of their line ended up channeling their power. I used to be in the late exalt's army, after all," the Doctor spoke.

"Are you referring to Chrom's father, the one that completely ruined Plegia back then?"

"Yes, that's right. I immediately left after that commotion, and Plegia was no better either. I only stayed there for a bit once they got back up and going again."

Robin raised his brow. "You wanted the book simply to find out about the origins of each of the divine dragons? That just seems like a silly reason, and you aren't being persuasive here either..."

The Doctor furrowed a brow. He sauntered towards the tactician, looking down solemnly. Robin pulled back suddenly, but kept his eyes upon the man.

"I know what I'm saying, and it doesn't make sense either. However, during my stay at Plegia, I had just found out about the Grimleal. They were the cult that worshipped the Fell Dragon. I was just a cleric that still held onto his stashed money and possessions. Might as well get my curiosity out of the bag before moving to Valm, right? Of course, that was before I found out about Walhart." The Doctor paused for a moment, stopping at a certain page. "And I can tell that you're from Plegia, correct?"

"Yes, that's right," Robin spoke, subtle suspicion sparking in his eyes.

Something doesn't add up here, the tactician thought.

He held onto his head, the pain oscillating repeatedly. It grew to be steady, even lessening as the conversation continued. And as Robin continued to endure, the Doctor would lift up the book, revealing a single page. Upon seeing this, the tactician's eyes immediately widened in fear.

"I'm sure you recognize this mark, correct me if I'm wrong? And I'm positive you know what this word is referring to, don't you?"

The text 'Ignis' had stared back at him. An impacting factor, Robin would finally recognize as, and one most likely causing the headache. And the source—the one and only, Fell Dragon Grima.

"Hmm..." The Doctor lowered his gaze, confirming his suspicions. He took a small step forward. "The moment your friend introduced you to me, I knew what I saw. I've gone through this book too many times... too many that I ended up losing count."

Grima. The book. It was all too much to process at once.

"I... thought that book had a list of spells and curses?" Robin spoke, his voice trembling slowly.

"Yes, I never lied about that," the Doctor started, "but it also contains a lot of information regarding the Grimleal. I saw your two Plegian friends in the back, but I could not sense the same amount of animus that came off from you. I've never seen Ignis in action before, but I can tell that your condition is the fatigue that results from using it."

"W-Where are you going with this?"

Weakened eyes revealed, darkening with a mighty anger. It’s a rage so sudden that would keep the tactician constricted in fear. The Doctor opened up a certain drawer on the side of the shelf. He turned back to the tactician, holding up a sharp dagger. And those eyes would just stare back calmly, merely looking down with malicious intent.

"Your friend would've preferred this too," he said. "Vessel of Grima, it's your destiny to die! Know the burden you carry if you live any longer!"

The sound of feet quickly moved from the brush. It ran up against the path all the way from the nearby woods, edging towards the tent.

"Where did this suddenly come from?!" Robin cried out.

"You know nothing... nothing at all!" the Doctor roared. "All of you damn Grimleal are the same! And especially you... you reek of malice!"

"No.. I’m going to fight if you don’t back off..." Robin muttered, his mouth quivering. "I'm going to—"

The headache unexpectedly chimed in with an intense amount of pain. The tactician yelped aloud, pulling back as his movements came to a stop. As he looked up, the blade came down, ready to strike true.

"And so ends your life!"

The blade lunged forward, aiming to cut through. Robin blinked once, closing his eyes immediately.

"Huh?" the tactician gasped aloud, quickly gazing back up.

In the next moment, the weapon had immediately collided with another.

A hooded figure wrapped in dark attire had parried the attack. The dagger bounced out of the Doctor's hand, landing on the cart.

"N-No...!" the Doctor wheezed out.

Suddenly, a quick grunt was heard. It was followed by desperate gasping as complete silence had taken over the room.

The blood on the floor puddled up but did not reach outside the tent. Red liquid stopped itself near the door.

"Y-You... killed him..." Robin slowly looked up. Upon seeing a figure, his eyes widened in surprise. "And that outfit... another Grimleal assassin?"

The thief turned around, taking off their muffler. "Yes, that is correct," a female voice sounded out.

Robin pulled back slowly, still wary of her presence. "Y-You're going to kill me... aren't you? Unless..." He blinked momentarily, raising his mouth open. "No... Grima? Grima is here?"

She shook her head. "Rest assured, I won't kill you." A gentle smile is flashed. "But yes, the Hierophant is here. I came to fetch you."

"He's in Valm?" Robin asked, fingers tensing up. "Since when?"

"By boat," she replied. "No people were in the vicinity. Luckily that festival was there to keep witnesses out and about."

“W-What?”

“You’re coming along. You must meet up with him.”

"I..."

The assassin sighed. "Do hurry."

Again, there was so much to process. He had no choice but to oblige.

Robin slowly got up, walking out with quiet, gliding steps. The assassin would approach in a gentle manner, lending a shoulder to the tactician, to which he would kindly refuse. He began moving quickly, his lethargic movements still pressuring himself.

"I'm surprised you aren't resisting us," the assassin spoke up in astonishment. "Are you sure you don't need help?"

"No, I don't need any..." Robin muttered. "I need this damned headache out of me..."

Hahaha... what am I doing? Coming to Grima for help is the last thing I'd ever do, but this is my last resort. I can't drag down the rest of the Shepherds!

"You are surprisingly trustful of a clear enemy." The woman gave a deep sigh. Her gaze lowered, looking down intensely. "I've killed many of Ylisse's troops. I'll have you know that, at least..."

A clear enemy? So, Grima had meant harm after all?

The tactician noted her words, continuing to verbally brush her off. The woman sighed after the tidbits of chatter, leading Robin up to a winding path. She glanced over from time, witnessing a mind in deep turmoil. It's one so torn up and dazed that would frighten the assassin slightly. Her hand finally reached out, a solemn nod to also bid the tactician farewell.

"I'll be back when you're done," she said.

Robin's legs came to a stop as he approached a green field. "That's him right there, isn't it?" he whispered, looking up slowly.

He had every reason to be cautious. The last encounter with the Fell Dragon was a turn of surprises.

The tactician's double stared back at him, eyes narrowing with a hypnotizing gaze. Grima stood on the meadow of grass, leaning against a single tree. Looking at him now, who knew how long he had awaited the vessel. With a gentle tapping to his feet, a predatory glare gazed down, pulling Robin's attention in. Pangs of anxiety struck, and soon he had felt a churning feeling in his stomach. The tactician frowned as a deep grin turned back towards him.

"Ah, Robin, you've gotten a lot of progress done..." Grima noted. "Hah, I am more than satisfied."

More than satisfied? Rather ominous.

"Don't you have my father to watch?" the tactician spat back. Mouthing those words—especially father—had him uncomfortable. "You've been following me as well, haven't you?"

Grima arose with a pondering look, inclining his head abruptly. He leaned in, taking a few steps, and startled the tactician as he extended an arm over. Robin grimaced, not accounting for the Fell Dragon's sudden manner. With an unwelcoming scowl to face back, Grima laughed in response, only becoming more curious.

"Perhaps I have been," Grima said with another laugh. "Validar is doing fine, but why worry about him? I'm more entertained with you here. Do you not think the same?"

"Of course not! You just randomly appeared and—" Robin suddenly collapsed to the ground, his mind aching with pain. "—This headache... stop it!"

"You've used Ignis again, but it's taken quite the toll on you. You want all this pain to go away, don't you?"

Words. Surely they could be used again. Just go in the right direction, with persuasion and manipulation, and anything could be done.

"I..."

It hurt. It had hurt so much.

Grima smiled triumphantly at the apparent void within Robin's expression. The tactician felt hopeless, forlorn to bother even thinking, and clung onto Grima's words like a bit of a cure. His eyes trembled as he looked back up.

"I do…" he muttered.

He gave in, but was it completely? It had been okay to solicit in his situation, right?

The Fell Dragon grinned. An answer Grima was longing to hear.

Robin's eyes drooped. There was no other option. This... had been the only one.

"You'd have to be stronger. Your body and mind are too weak as of now, but I can help you with that." The Fell Dragon stepped closer, crouching down to meet the vessel's line of sight. "Just ask for it, Robin. It's really that simple."

But... something still felt wrong.

"It's just that..." the tactician whispered, gently shaking his head. His words came out in a doubtful tone. "What am I to you?"

Grima chuckled in response, promptly lifting a finger to the tactician's chin. "You in both body and soul belong to the Fell Dragon," he answered.

"N-No..."

"I would never harm such a precious vessel, but I will do whatever I can to beat you into shape," Grima spoke, setting off with a frightful glare. "In fact, I want this vessel of mine to harm those around me. But, if you so fail to follow my command, to stray away from my guidance, then I can tell you for sure that things won't look too good. Well, at least for you..."

Robin recoiled slightly, breaking away from the Fell Dragon's touch. His eyes wavered, heeding Grima's admonition, but something had suddenly clicked. The tactician turned his head up, fiercely gazing over at his double.

“Fear not, Robin. From what I can tell, there won’t be a problem of you resisting me. Your fate is already set in stone.”

"No… it’s not! You're a complete monster finding joy from others' suffering!" Robin shouted back assertively. "And yet why... why do you only desire for me?! I don’t get it at all!"

"But of course, you certainly do get it. I thought I already explained that in the beginning. Though I'd like to point out that I'm no fan of humans, you are but an exception, vessel. You were fated to become like me..."

Grima carded a hand through the vessel's hair. Robin immediately darted backward, slapping the Fell Dragon's hand away. Grima, yet surprised, was fairly intrigued and ended up laughing loudly after the anticipated action.

"Normally I could merge with you, but..." Grima spoke, lowering his eyes in a look of approval. "I love the expression of despair on your face. When you bow to my will, in all its entirety, you will have no qualms in following my orders. You’ll hand over the Emblem, and together we can crush this world. Is it not a sound plan?"

Grima's hands quickly moved over, grabbing onto the tactician's right one. His fingers strolled along the glove, tenderly moving back and forth. Robin instantly flinched.

"Don’t hide this mark. You're going to become like me very soon. I'll have you tear out each of your friends one by one."

"I've had it with—" Robin immediately stuttered as a harsh shrill left his mouth. His hands went up, clutching tensely upon his head. "It... hurts! It hurts... it hurts... it...!"

"Yes, it hurts a lot, doesn't it?" Grima whispered soothingly. "That's why I'll help you. All you need to do is submit to me."

"Submit... to you?"

Again, that word. Something mentioned by Grima before. If Robin obliged, would there be any consequences? Would it hurt? Would his troubles truly be relieved of?

"It won't hurt at all."

It wouldn't hurt? It probably wouldn't hurt at all, thinking again. But...

Robin grunted in annoyance, swatting away his clone's hand. "No! Chrom... my friends... they wouldn't want that!"

But the Shepherds were everything to him, and everything the tactician had left. They wouldn't approve at all, no less, speaking to the Fell Dragon in the first place.

A small silence broke the atmosphere. But, the Fell Dragon was angry enough to quickly cut it.

Grima frowned in disapproval, immediately gritting his teeth. "Enough already!" he barked. "Your resistance is futile!"

He quickly latched onto the tactician's throat, fingers tightening around the fragile structure. Robin wheezed at the sudden attack, his back immediately falling to the ground. With desperate eyes looking back, Robin was completely overwhelmed by his twin’s force, unable to flail back.

"S-Stop...!" he croaked out. "I… can't breathe!"

"Be patient, vessel," Grima whispered. "And let your inner desires free!"

The flames of Ignis erupted, covering the helpless tactician's body. The purple flickering was meager in size but the fire burned brightly. Robin hastily gasped for breath as Grima released his hold. The vessel found himself still pinned to the ground, suffering under the Fell Dragon's straining grip.

“This… is not what I want…” the tactician breathed.

The flames flickered about. The purple luminescence remained, covering the tactician as a whole.

"What you want?" Grima said with a wide grin plastered on his face. “Oh, I know what you want...”

He reached into his coat, pulling out a purple tome. It had a single marking imprinted on the cover. It’s small, but a tome that was devastating and one that harbored dark magic in every destructible form.

That's the Mark of Grima! Robin's eyes widened in surprise, gazing back at the book.

"My very own tome—Grima's Truth. It's going to lead you to a great path filled with power. You’ll finally become free."

Robin grunted, clenching his teeth together. “No… this is not what I want.”

“You’ll also rid of that headache.”

Robin flinched upon hearing Grima’s statement. "What... are you playing at?"

“I’m not lying,” the Fell Dragon replied.

Grima inched closer, slightly leaning against the tactician. He opened the book to the first page and held it out. Several designs were laid across the page with text for each one. Some descriptions of spells were also present, including incantations for very few of them. But, the moment that Robin would glance at a single page, he’d go wide-eyed once more as agony covered his expression.

“You...!” he screamed out.

“I did not lie,” Grima spoke, briefly pausing to cover the vessel’s eyes with his hand. “I wouldn’t lie to you.”

Robin’s breathing became heavy, audible enough for Grima to take notice. His wheezing broke the small silence that ensued.

“It’s… lessening,” the tactician breathed out.

“What are you turning your head away for?” Grima spoke in awe, lowering his hand. “You can’t digest the tome’s contents unless you look.”

“But…” Robin muttered. “This is… not…”

“Do you need me to lend a hand?”

Grima does, and immediately on the spot. Fingers climbed up to rest on the tactician’s forehead, staying patiently as a dark fire emerged. The tactician’s senses faded with each gentle touch, and his head lowered upon contact.

“Not… what I want…”

The book came into view again. Each page, with texts no longer hidden, remained in sight. Robin’s eyes widened hastily, shaking back and forth in an agitated manner.

“Ah, no…” he finally whispered.

Robin moaned, turned, and tossed. All on the grassy floor. Sweat drenched his entire body, the tactician immersed in faint sounds and tears, and eyes entranced and unable to look away. Grima only looked in awe and savored the moment, flipping through more pages. Robin screamed, again and again. A thread of hope linked together the tactician's spirit, but upon being cut instantly, he felt his soul drain away. Whittled completely, completely, completely, and finally down.

Possibly, right then and there, he broke.

"I can't think! I can't tell what's going on! Please stop it... stop it! Make it stop!"

Robin's consciousness felt like it was sinking downward, unable to put up a resistance. To this strange, unsettling power.

"No… this is not..."

To this astounding, mighty power. It’s not bad, but good. In form, in its entirety, it was something truly to be blessed with.

"I knew you would love it," Grima cooed. "It's such a wonderful feeling, isn't it? To have power, so much might to look down on filthy worms. It's such a great feeling that you'd be giddy, all up and crazy over it."

Robin shook uncontrollably, many emotions battling in his head. Sorrow had struck him quite heavily, but joy crept up in the corner, pervading through the rest of his mind.

"Ha... stop... all of this!"

He pulled Grima closer.

"No more..."

He pulled Grima closer once more.

"Robin," the Fell Dragon responded.

Oh, how fond he was over the tactician's expression. Everything about it, from top to bottom. It was a magnificent display of vulnerability, outlining every visible emotion.

The tactician didn't answer, momentarily eluding Grima's presence. His hands trembled, with fingers then reaching out for the tome.

“It’s all yours.”

The tactician eyed up at the book, quizzical over his next movements. All at once, his gaze exerted profound madness. His eyes lit up to the guiding light, the very purple aura that beckoned to him, which crept forward to instill every bit of instability within him. The tactician was going mad, frantic, and out of control.

"I…”

“It’s all yours,” Grima repeated.

He’s breaking. He’s falling apart. Yet, it seemed as if this single book would piece himself together, holding up every fragment of his being, and soothe the tactician’s worries.

“Do you want it?”

“I… I don’t know.”

The question repeated itself. “Do you want it?”

It was a bait. Fresh and right out in the open. But, the tactician doesn't hesitate to take it. 

“Not want…” Robin wheezed out. His eyes narrowed down, the vessel’s cheeks guttered with emerging tears. “I need it.”

If the tome was within his grasp, his troubles would finally be relieved of. The pain, all gone.

Grima chuckled, amused by the tactician’s words, and handed the tome over. He observed Robin silently, watching him skim through the rest of the pages. It wouldn't take long for Robin to finish as he finally glanced back up with a blank stare. A dreadfully, blank stare.

"See, everything's working out for you."

The vessel flipped to the last page, closing the tome shut. His body shivered, but even he could not determine what the feeling was. Was it fear... or perhaps excitement? It still felt really good either way, and with ragged breathing, Robin's wheezing would ease up a bit into complete silence.

"Tell me how you feel, precious vessel." Grima murmured.

Robin looked back up. His eyes were dull, empty to the core. Perhaps it had been the agonizing pain, sucking the life out of him. Then again, he didn't really recall the feeling. A frenzied emotion, wanting to let itself out, would stick to the tactician. That feeling alone, again, it just felt so good. Why? Exactly why?

The book remained clasped within his arms, held reverently in such an eager manner. His fingers were gently shaking, cradling the tome upon his chest. It was as if the tactician was desperate, beyond desperate, that he couldn't afford to lose possession of it. Grima's Truth acted like an anchor for his deteriorating mentality, stabilizing Robin with even the slightest contact.

Grima's hand reached out, and instinctively, the vessel pulled back as his eyes widened in fear. Robin's gaze was shaking, looking back at the penetrating glare that Grima was settling with.

"There's nothing to be afraid of," the Fell Dragon answered, responding to the tactician's quick movements. "Now, you have all that you need."

Robin's grip on the book hadn't ceased. In fact, it felt like it would never.

"You have all that you need, don't you?" Grima cooed, leaning in against Robin's ear. His breath felt heavy with every word spoken. "And I'll be there to guide you... to free you, vessel."

Robin nearly grunted out of surprise, but instead his head pulled back in the heat of the moment. The vessel's eyes were still wavering, beckoning to Grima's arising curiosity.

He nearly felt like laughing, cackling even. Perhaps truly going mad, and fervent with desire.

"They..."

"They?" Grima repeated, turning his head.

"They won't be mad at me... they won't..." Robin muttered under his breath. "They won't... they just won't..."

"Speak louder," Grima said with a smile. "I'd love to hear a newly reborn bird chirp out his tune."

Robin moved his legs, slowly standing up from the floor. He quickly slipped the tome inside his coat, turning back to Grima with a desperate gaze.

"I..." the tactician mumbled gently. "I… I have to..."

Robin's chest felt heavy. His breath hitched, panting out continuously. Thoughts would run amok, comforting nonetheless, and sustained the vessel's pleased mood.

"You're interested in this power," Grima murmured delightedly. "You'll come back to me, won't you? You'll… submit to me."

Submit. It felt so nice hearing that word. The vessel's eyes widened. Robin gazed back up, and with a brief pause, a slow nod was given as an answer. The tactician carefully stared at Grima with an imploring gaze, begging for fulfillment.

No… not like this...

"That's good," Grima said approvingly. "Yes, very good. Do what you will. You'll return here either way."

No… I… I...

Another nod was inclined. Robin turned away, rushing back down to the path. Grima laughed as he watched the vessel disappear from view.

"Oh right," Grima spoke up."I suppose I'll call out the lass."

 


 

Lucina crouched over and inspected the clean cut that was done across the neck. She was sitting right next to the pool of blood, carefully not allowing her shoes to stain itself in red. This incident was certainly uncalled for. Had the Doctor been murdered? Thinking again, perhaps a Risen could have snuck in. But...

"It definitely wasn't Robin's doing. This was done by someone else... at least I'd assume so? This line is a fresh cut, and whoever did it is quite skilled. Gods, I've seen too many deaths in my time to be able to tell..."

Right, it definitely had to be the work of another. There was no way it could have been Robin. To further add on, he was put up with such a devastating headache earlier. Fighting against the Doctor would have been impossible.

A pitch-black book lay on the floor but was ripped to shreds. The cart was toppled over while staves and tomes had stacked upon another. Two guards sat patiently inside the tent along with Lucina, one of which then tapped on her shoulder.

"Miss, do you know who could've done this?" one of them said worriedly.

Lucina shook her head. "I think it may have been done by an assassin, and definitely one that doesn't come from here. A friend of mine is also missing and I'd suspect that they had taken him away."

"I'm sorry for what happened. I hope that your friend is alright..." The guard cleared his throat, a look of apology settling in. "I believe you should leave for now. There was no witness to this tragic event, unfortunately, so we can't have you here at this time. We assure you that we will have this mess taken care of, and you need not concern yourself with it any longer."

"Of course, sir." Lucina nodded and excused herself out.

She walked towards the edge of town and sat on a stump. The sky was a mix of red and orange, preparing to transition to the night. The sunset looked nice at least. She couldn't help but gaze upon it.

"Everyone shouldn't involve themselves with this. They're still enjoying the festival. I just need to find where Robin is, but where could he be?"

Lucina glanced over to her right and saw the many trees that piled themselves up in the distance. Something… no someone was coming? Viewing out a bit more, surely it had to be. She squinted closer, watching a figure slowly emerge from the forest path.

"R-Robin?" Lucina gasped, running over to meet up with him. "Robin, it really is you! Where have you been? What happened? Who took you away?"

His gaze stared back all too oddly. His eyes were tapered with fatigue, a conspicuous stress so noticeable, so apparent, yet fading, and the exalted princess pulled back upon sight. A small silence ensued, until finally her quivering lips began to move.

“...Robin?” she whispered meekly.

“Lucina...” the tactician mumbled.

“Robin!”

Before he could fall over, Lucina rushed over with opened arms to hold up the tactician’s posture. Gently, she slipped herself under Robin’s shoulder, keeping the tactician up on his feet.

“I’m… fine.” Robin slightly nudged his head, acknowledging the future child’s efforts. He looked back, hitching a small breath. “Thank you. You can let go now.”

Lucina nodded, finally releasing the tactician. Then, taking a step back, she stood her ground, closely scrutinizing Robin. Something was still off… and something about that expression of his was strange.

“Are you okay?” she asked nervously.

With a faint smile, he took a small laugh. Robin gradually tilted his head, and a little dull-eyed, stared back at Lucina with a bit of a curious air.

"Yes, I've never felt better," he said.

His smile did not budge. Every word that came out seemed normal so far. His manner, though, was slightly deviating, but not enough for the exalted princess to deem it completely odd.

However, it had irked her just a bit. Or, perhaps too much.

"That's right... did someone end up kidnapping you?" Lucina brought up. "I saw the Doctor in the tent. He was murdered... but... I know it's not you, Robin! You wouldn't do something like that..."

"Well, I'm glad you trust me. And it's a bit... complicated... so to say..." he responded. "A thief caught me. I pursued them but they ended up escaping from me."

“A-A thief? And what about him ? About the Doctor?” Lucina continued, speaking in a worried manner. “How could he have just… died?”

The tactician blinked. Then, slowly, did so once again. His lips curled gradually.

“The thief targeted us both.” Robin lowered his head, averting Lucina’s gaze. His hands rested behind his back, gripping onto the fabric of his cloak. “I’m sorry.”

“No. Don’t blame yourself, but…” Lucina slightly turned her head in confusion. She focused her gaze intently upon the tactician. "So... what exactly is complicated?"

A gentle gaze loomed over, peeking to identify every corner of the tactician’s face. Lucina’s eyes strayed off from side to side, cautiously observing Robin’s expression.

"I'm going to branch off from the group for a while,” Robin answered, narrowing his eyes a bit. He stared back at Lucina, with eye contact leaving from neither side. “I need time to fix myself up. it's just... very problematic."

This. This was something Lucina hadn't expected at all. What could possibly be so concerning that would pull away the tactician, the chief of Chrom's army, from duty?

"Robin, you aren't explaining anything at all…" the exalted princess spoke in doubt. "Does it have to do with your headache?"

He nodded. "Yes, it does. Just... just head off to the Mila Tree with the rest. I'll catch up with you. I'm sure Miriel who also has a decent mind for tactics will be able to fill in my position for the time being."

A soft grunt suddenly escaped from his lips, prompting Lucina to gasp back in astonishment. She narrowed her eyes immediately, looking closely at the tactician’s expression. The exalted princess reached out with a hand, but the tactician suddenly gestured the motion away.

“Really. I’m fine…”

“What’s going on?” Lucina asked, a bit more of a forceful tone coming in. “This sounds serious. It seems like a matter of grave concern...”

“No, just don’t…” Robin wheezed out. He looked back up after gathering his breath. “Really. It’s okay.”

"Robin,” Lucina spoke more firmly. “I need an explanation. Why are you not coming with us?"

The tactician lowered his eyes in annoyance. You irritating wench...

Lucina raised her voice. "Robin, answer me! What's been going on?"

"I need to take care of this by myself. Just tell Chrom that I'll be with him soon." Robin smiled afterward, noting of Lucina's next approach. "I'm sure there will be complaints but there's no stopping me, not even if you point that sword against me."

Lucina gripped Falchion tightly in her hand. She glared back defiantly with fingers pressed onto the hilt. The tactician gave a calm smile. Robin stood patiently, waiting for Lucina to finally speak up.

"If something is troubling you so much, then why do you take the burden all for yourself? Everyone's a family here... are we not?"

"Lucina, I..."

She sheathed her sword, letting out a deep sigh. "I run off and do things alone. I mean... I was like that when I was Marth. You remember, right?"

"You have a way of disguising yourself, and it's a remarkable stunt to pull off," Robin noted.

"Yeah, I..." Lucina stared back intensely. "I've always looked up to you. You're always leading the army after all... and..."

He raised a brow, patiently waiting for her next words. He could faintly discern Lucina's thoughts, hoping that no suspicion would be aroused. Looking at her again, it's a type of expression that was accepting and ended up earning a grin from the tactician.

"I despise the fact that I'm unable to accomplish as much as you."

An unexpected compliment. Robin furrowed another brow, intrigued by Lucina's statement.

"Right. If possible, please do get to the point."

Lucina laughed quietly. "Yes, well, you share the same feeling that I had then. You want to rid of the problem disturbing you, and you being you, I'm sure you'd have no trouble at all. I can tell that you're not trying to involve the Shepherds, that way they can make it to the shrine in time."

"Yes."

"Hah, spot on. Well, I don't mind helping you out. You've helped out my father for so long, and I really have to thank you for that, so yes... I'm indebted to you..."

"Thank you Lucina, but I'll refuse the offer. You need to stay with Chrom after all." Robin replied,  chuckling as he turned away. "I'm glad you understand though.”

"O-Okay...! Good luck then!"

The exalted princess watched him saunter away until he was finally out of view. Lucina kept a forced smile, soon lowering it by the second. She narrowed her gaze at the exit path, heading back towards the town.

I'm no fool. Something does not add up here...

 


 

The Fell Dragon let out a laugh. His fingers shifted in perfect rhythm, excitedly going back and forth as Grima’s eyes laid upon a familiar figure. Quickly, his arms opened out, inviting the emerging vessel over. Grima’s grin never left, only becoming wider as the tactician stepped closer.

"Robin..." Grima cooed. "What took you so long?"

Robin’s eyes never left Grima. His gaze remained unfazed, and such a serious expression had piqued Grima’s curiosity. Before Grima could speak up, the tactician took a short step forward.

“Sorry,” he replied slowly. “I am… sorry.”

Was Grima angry? Even with the good amount of interactions the two already had, it was hard for Robin to interpret the Fell Dragon's mood. The tactician wondered if he was an inconvenience already. Upon realizing this, Robin’s gaze became distressed, and immediately his expression warped into tense frown.

He needed a leader to guide him through these powers. These fascinating, calamitous powers. Yet, if Grima found himself displeased, there would be no one to escort the way.

“Ah…” Robin whispered tensely. His eyes began shaking, quickly, and about to lose face. The tactician’s voice was shuddering by the second, and gently, he tilted his head downwards to avert Grima’s eyes. “Is there something wrong? Is there something I should be doing?”

"What now?" Grima muttered. "Something wrong? What exactly are you trying to correct?"

Robin blinked, holding the tome closely to his chest. Slowly, his fingers wrapped around, one hand tightening around the spine of the book. "I… simply want to understand."

"The tome?"

The tactician gave a slight nod, still averting Grima's gaze.

A smile arose. Grima stepped closer, gently pulling the tactician over. His hands went over the tome, then covering the vessel’s hands.

“You want to understand? You want this knowledge? You want this power?”

A pause, and Robin looked up slowly. His gaze focused intently on Grima’s, staring back into the deep slits of each eye, and tempted by such a depraved look. It was everything—baleful, malignant, and perhaps even rancorous. His gaze never wandered off. The crowd of madness swarming within the Fell Dragon’s pair of eyes had intrigued the tactician. It was too much, and too much was just enough for Robin.

He wanted it.

“Oh...” Robin softly laughed aloud. He held the tome tightly, and this time with bustling enthusiasm.

“Do you know how to use the tome?” Grima asked.

“I’ve never used it,” Robin responded. “But… I know how to. I went through each page, and each of those very pages drilled itself into my mind… so I know.”

Grima nodded in approval. His grin was apparent, surely pleased with the tactician’s answer.

“I know the tome from inside out…” Robin continued, and an open smile revealed itself. “I know everything… I really do.”

The tactician was about to let himself out. Right there, and right on that spot. And if he had, it'd have been nonstop. 

But, a voice soon intruded.

"Sir, you called me?"

The two turned around to see the Grimleal assassin. The woman walked up the small hill of grass, bowing down after arriving shortly. She stared back patiently, awaiting a response from the Hierophant.

“Ah,” Grima remarked. “How nice of you to come. You will be the first to help as a stepping stone.”

“Yes, sir,” the assassin replied.

She nudged her head, approaching the dull-eyed tactician. Coming closer, she would lift a brow, carefully examining Robin's expression. Inscrutable countenance, she would then finally conclude. Regardless, such impenetrable eyes had stared back.

"Yes?" she asked.

No answer at first, but only slight observance. Slowly, the tactician stared back up, acknowledging the assassin’s presence.

"I remember..." the tactician whispered, smiling meekly.

"Remember...?"

“I remember you told me something,” Robin continued. "When you killed those soldiers from Ylisse, how many was it?"

"It was a lot. I've lost count in all my years."

"Do you... feel remorse?" Robin pressed on, lowering his eyes gently. "You regret everything, right?"

The assassin raised a brow gently, noting the tactician's sudden, assertive tone. Robin's questions—it was a little weird to mention that out of the blue, no less. Just a bit of a while ago he had seemed so vulnerable. So… weak.

Repeated thumping had gone through the vessel's chest. His heart throbbed, pulsating at a fast pace. With each second, he would lose himself further to lingering excitement. A brief gasp, and suddenly there was a start to breathing at an abnormal rhythm. Robin was quick to shove fingertips on the corner of pages. Any moment now, the tome was prepared and ready to release itself completely.

The assassin smiled faintly. "I've felt remorse too many times, but not regret. All the money goes towards my family, after all. Doing this line of work is dirty, but it does keep my family alive."

"I see..." Robin whispered.

The woman cocked another brow. "Is... something funny?"

"No, my apologies..." Robin finally broke into deep laughter. Shallow breathing worked its way through with the tactician's expression to turn feverish. "I just thought we were the same, but it appears not."

"Wait... you?!"

"I wouldn't feel pity... nor sorrow..." Robin mumbled. His body quivered madly, face reddening in delight. “I don’t know what to exactly feel anymore...”

“You—!”

The tome worked its magic, power coursing through. A purple spike lurched forward expeditiously.

"But..." Robin resumed, "I suppose it is my new... fulfillment."

Her voice emptied out in the peaceful night. Her throat ached, her eyes filled with tears, and finally her body began to waver.

“Ughhh… no…” she whispered, gazing back up at the two smiling figures. Her head tilted back as her consciousness was waning. “No…!”

The field bloomed like a crimson rose that night, dyed in rich blood.

Chapter Text

"I am baffled... truly baffled..." Miriel groaned aloud. "Stahl, divert the forces to your right once you take care of that side. And you, Henry, stop fooling around! Ughh... I must confess that my calculations did not go as planned."

"Hey, watch it...!" yelled Tharja, sending a deathlike glare towards the Plegian mage.

"Haha, sorry!" Henry chortled, gently scratching the back of his head.

The Shepherds continued to hold out against Cervantes' army. Both sides were struck with fatigue, strained from the endless standstill. If things were to continue like this, it’d be trouble. Definite trouble.

"I'm starting to think we need a different plan. We're going nowhere with this at all," Lucina spoke.

"My apologies." Miriel sighed, keeping her tome up on her forehead. Admittedly, she was more tired than she had expected. "We must keep this position for longer, otherwise the enemies would overwhelm us even further."

Lucina slowly nodded, parrying off another soldier's attack. She then briefly turned her head, witnessing Chrom fight against a group of myrmidons. The exalted princess lifted her blade, deliberating whether or not to lend a hand.

He wasn’t having a hard time, to duly note. The prince was no amateur with his sword, and the soldiers were far from at least decent in being able to keep up with him. But, something was still lacking overall.

Father, this isn't like you at all… Lucina thought, frowning immediately.

His stance was crude while his fighting lacked will. Lucina could only assume the tactician's sudden disappearance had lingered in his thoughts.

"Father, we all know how you feel!" she shouted. "However, you must understand that defeating our foes is the biggest priority right now!"

"And you say that we are to abandon him?" Chrom retorted, lowering his gaze. "I would never allow that to happen."

"Robin didn't want you to chase him down! Have some faith in him!"

Henry continued lighting flames in certain areas along the roots of the tree. He then turned to the exalted princess, his grin ever so wide.

"Heh, when did you become so fond... errrrr... trusting of Robin?"

Lucina’s brow corrugated, prompting into a visible frown. "What do you mean?"

"There’s a traitor who had slain your father? No?"

“You…” Lucina’s eyes lowered, reserved and locked onto Henry’s gaze. “Where... did you get that information?”

Henry chuckled. “Well, word gets around camp quickly. I have my ways…”

The exalted princess continued gazing back in doubt, but after lowering her sword, she let out a hefty sigh. Dipping her head, Lucina began clearing her throat.

"Anyways, don't get the wrong idea.” Lucina clicked her tongue. She prepared her sword, turning around quickly. “I had every right to question his motives there. I even held up my blade as a threat."

Lucina ran past a confused enemy into another one, knocking both down with the hilt and front of Falchion. Swiftly, she shifted around, preparing another blow.

“What…!”

Suddenly, her step faltered, and in front of her were enemies brandishing weapons, all attempting to push through. A group of three myrmidons emerged for a surprise attack but were abruptly blocked off by Chrom. The prince pushed forward and struck a harsh blow, leaving the soldiers dazed.

"Thank you, Father."

"Of course," Chrom replied. "And... did you really have to point your blade at him? At… Robin?"

Lucina emerged with yet another nod. "Yes, I had to. His actions were questionable."

Chrom let out a pained sound, deeply anguished from his daughter’s words. Silently, the exalt opened his mouth. Then, after closing his eyes, he emerged with a determined gaze and took a step forward.

"Then why did you let him off?” he asked. “If… you brought him back then we could've talked it out... whatever the situation is that he's faced with..."

She clenched her fists tightly. Father, you don't understand! There was no time to spare in meeting up with the Voice. I'm doing this for you... I'll find him for you!

"Well, we'd better find him soon. I trust that he'll explain every—"

The sound of detonation could be heard as a fire set asunder. Flames encircled multiple enemy groups as people began falling off from the tree’s roots. The Shepherds observed the sudden ordeal upon the enemies, and carefully they grasped onto their weapons in preparation of another assault.

But, one Plegian mage quickly found himself yelling in excitement. Henry flung his arms into the air, screaming with absolute joy. He continued giggling about, raising his tome high up.

"Now that's how you get out of this mess!" The Plegian mage laughed aloud, waving his arms back and forth. Excitedly, he began jumping up and down. "Yes! Yes! No more baddies!"

“Dear God, Henry…” Miriel gave a triumphant smile. "I knew holding position would keep us in luck. I'm glad I had you sit over there. You weren't fooling around the whole time, huh, setting up a fire that chained with one another?"

"Yeah, yeah!"

Henry then took a glance at Tharja. The hex sorceress eyed back cautiously, scrutinizing his joyous expression. Tharja clicked her tongue in annoyance. But, Henry returned a small smile after seeing Tharja’s emerging frown.

"Hey, hey! Don’t be like that now! It was amazing, right?"

Tharja chuckled, her tone low and deep. "Bah… haha…? I suppose so. I will admit, but you are a useful one."

Cervantes shook in fear as his hands trembled. No... my men are being picked off one by one!

"But no matter, I have Walhart on my side!” the Valmese general roared. “You cannot defeat me because I am under his grace! You all are whelps... helpless in the end!"

He lifted up his axe and braced himself for the exalt's onslaught. Lucina followed up after, but the two made no dent to his armor. The Valmese general kept a strong stance, grinning as he continued deflecting every incoming strike.

"Oh?"

Raging flames took upon the battlefield. A fireball soon made its way, merely missing him by the hair.

"Hoho, I would never expect to dodge that!" Cervantes chuckled, settling back in laughter. “But, enough with this now…”

He charged forward with a brute swing, sending Chrom immediately back. Falchion kept budging upon impact, nearly keeping Chrom away from the axe's sharp end. The tension between weapons was pressuring, and neither man’s strength would falter.

Of course, if nothing were to break the standstill, then...

"W-Wait!" Cervantes mumbled in panic.

Another Falchion assaulted from behind, putting pressure on the general's armor. Cervantes fumbled about worriedly, swinging his axe around without care. Quickly, he shifted around to see his assailant.

"Gah! You sneaky little rat!" he roared in fury.

"It's over!" Lucina yelled, smirking with the sweet sense of victory. "Father, now!"

Chrom readied himself for a sturdy blow and swung with all his might. Bringing back his arm, the exalt shouted loud and clear a warcry of triumph. Quickly, Falchion came down upon Cervantes with all its force.

"Defeated! M-My mustache..." Cervantes mumbled, falling into the ground.

Chrom let out a gentle sigh, sheathing his sword as he turned away from the fallen general. In a rush, Lucina came up to congratulate him, bumping a fist with each other.

“Good work,” Chrom said.

“You too, Father.”

The rest of the scattered Shepherds gathered around, meeting back up at the stairway. Just ahead was the Mila Tree, where the dragon priestess herself would await. Chrom nodded as he turned back to all his fellow allies.

But, before he could speak, Lucina stepped up abruptly, gesturing the rest away before proceeding. Her eyes were laying low, constricted by a sudden doubt and a bit of guilty conscience. Still, it had to be said. Something was to be done about her recent encounter from before.

"Father, there is something that I wish to do now that this battle is over," she said, then turning to Sumia. "The same message goes for you, Mother."

Sumia and Chrom looked back at each other, intently staring with a curious gaze as they turned back to Lucina. Their expressions were serious, solemn and filled with concern.

"Dear, tell us what it is. What's on your mind?" she replied.

The exalt nodded in agreement. "It has to do with Robin, right? At least I'd hope so..."

"That's right," Lucina responded with a stern expression. "I... I think I know of his location."

Chrom jumped up, his face in clear surprise. "Y-You do? Yet... how?"

"Father, I..." Lucina shook her head, gesturing her father back. "I will return, or perhaps you can follow my tracks once business with Lady Tiki is finished. You don't need to worry about me. I'll be heading off to Fort Steiger. I'm sure she'll be able to tell you where it is."

Fort Steiger? Chrom turned back to Sumia, whom then also shook her head. The pegasus knight shrugged, affirming that she didn’t have a hint of the place either.

"This place... that's where Robin is?” Chrom asked, raising a brow. “But Lucina, this is all so sudden... I need an explanation here."

"I have no explanation... just please let me do this. I'm going to find him."

Sumia gently cocked a brow, eyeing the exalted princess. Not even a flicker of hesitation. No, not even the slightest doubt would emerge. The pegasus knight, admittedly, was slightly surprised, but had returned with a tender smile.

"Mother, please..." Lucina pleaded, turning to face her.

“I trust you.”

“Mother, please I…” Lucina stepped back suddenly, turning her head upwards. Her mouth lay agape. “W-Wait? Repeat that?”

“I trust you, Lucina. Do what you have to do.”

"Sumia...!" Chrom gasped, his eyes wide with shock. "You're going to let her go... all alone?"

"Well..." She turned back to Lucina, putting a finger to her head as she pondered aloud. "I would go too, buuuut..."

The exalted princess winced a little, pulling back from her mother’s statement. "N-No... you must all stay here with Father. I can’t allow you to follow."

"An answer I expected, coming from someone who was Marth before..." The pegasus knight lowered her head in defeat. "I still have many questions for you, Lucina."

"I understand..." she muttered.

"Relax, baby girl! I believe you!"

Lucina chuckled, nodding her head briefly. Then, the princess turned to face her father, eyes looking back with a firm resoluteness.

Chrom gazed back, his hands by his side and gripping tightly. The exalt opened his mouth to speak, but no words had come out. Finally, he put his hand on his daughter's shoulder, lightly clutching on.

"I... understand," he finally said. "There's still a lot going on here, but you're doing this for me... I can tell that much at least. And if I were to go..."

"No."

"Me too, huh?" Chrom laughed. "You have no idea how much I want to go searching for him."

"Father, I know it's troubling you, but you must meet up with the Voice. I really do understand how you feel." Lucina beamed. "We’ll see each other soon, okay? And remember, the location is Fort Steiger."

"Of course," said Chrom, moving up the steps. "I expect some answers when we meet again, Lucina. And please… do be careful out there."

"Thank you, Father, I'll be sure to."

Lucina watched as the others made their way up to the Mila Tree. Her hand moved towards the Falchion, grabbing onto the hilt.

I asked one of the guards where that road had led... that pathway where Robin had disappeared off to. It leads to some sort of gigantic forest, and supposedly there’s a Valmese base in the vicinity. Lucina lowered her eyes, calmly walking away from the Mila Tree. The Falchion was in its hilt, sheathed completely, but the sword felt as if it were shaking. Was it fear? No, or perhaps Lucina’s fear?

Robin… you must be at Fort Steiger. I will find you...

 


 

 

The lights were smashed. In pieces, all to the ground, and scattered about. At least the next area would be brighter, much to the tactician’s pleasure.

A gentle finger collected red liquid, droplets of blood falling to the ground. The crimson color smeared easily, traveling along the rest of the tactician’s hand. Lifting his blade, the vessel stepped closer to the bright color. It was rich, luscious red, and completely gratifying to lay eyes upon.

"Ah… did I do this?"

The tactician's voice was shaken. His eyes twitched, unnerved by confusion. Robin’s grip lessened as he observed the inanimate soldiers on the ground. The vessel continued to prod his blade gently on the floor, creating a rhythm in the ground. But it was soft, it’s only silence, and a familiar Fell Dragon’s laughter echoed through the distance, taking upon all the volume in the room.

“You have to remember that it wasn’t the tome,” Grima spoke, tapping on the tactician’s shoulder. “It was you.”

“I know…” Robin whispered. He lifted the blade again, slamming down fiercely into the ground. “I… know.”

Grima gently laughed. “It was entertaining, to say the least. Each of those worms were scampering across, and with such feeble attempts to try and harm you… what a pity.”

The vessel gave the silent response. Grima curled his lips slightly, gazing back upon the tactician.

“Are you having any complaints?”

“I never said that,” Robin responded.

“Then, are you unhappy?”

“I never said that either.”

“You’ve been quiet,” Grima noted. “Can I take that silence as a yes? As a sign of satisfaction?”

Robin blinked, holding his tome firmly. “I suppose that’s for you to interpret.”

“I already have, and quite accurately too,” Grima replied, grinning about. “You are pleased with yourself. And me, well, I am pleased that you yourself are pleased...”

Robin gently turned to Grima. He retracted the sword, slowly stepping closer. A moment of tranquility lingered and the tactician lowered his head in an attempt to avert eye contact. With darkening eyes, he avoided Grima’s stare.

The feeling was there again like a double-edged blade. It was torturing, but that too was pleasuring.

A tiny bit of guilty conscience has Robin holding back, but a certain feeling persisted, overriding all doubt.

He was right. Grima was right. There was no need to feel sorry. Like this, it was completely fine.

“But in all seriousness, I must really point out...” Grima resumed, “that it was truly a sight to watch you slaughter each and every one of them.”

There was emphasis in his words and at the tone he spoke at. It’s slightly soft and slow in manner, but retained the same merriment.

Robin blinked, his eyes glazed and peering over with imminent desire. He stepped away, lowering his head again, and brought out his book into plain view. The vessel held onto his tome, embracing it firmly as he shifted his gaze over to his surroundings. The floor and the walls were especially satisfying—adorned with a spectacular red, and the sight of it greatly baffled the tactician.

“So...” Robin murmured, a bit taken aback. “I did do this…”

“Well, doesn’t it feel very stimulating?” Grima cooed with fingers strolling through Robin’s hair. “I think it’s the feeling that matters… eliminating your enemies one by one. Relish in their pain… and use that feeling to give rise to your power.”

“You are no better than me,” Robin remarked quietly.

“But you are long gone at this point. Irredeemable.”

Robin blinked gradually, staring back with a curious expression. One wary glare was all, and his eyes never turned away from the Fell Dragon. The tactician let out a small sigh, keeping the tome close to his chest.

“Laughable. Did you think I’d come to regret any of this?” A small grimace formed from the tactician’s face. A palpable emptiness tugged at his chest, his expression marked with minor discontent. “I’m kind of disappointed you’d think that.”

The Fell Dragon scrunched his eyes slightly. “I would never doubt you,” he replied with a smile.

The tactician pulled back a bit in surprise, though he attempted to hide the gesture. Robin’s face reddened in a way, in such a quick manner of enticement, that completely appeased the Fell Dragon. Grima stared down in awe, entertained by the vessel’s expression. The tactician quickly inclined his head.

“You just won’t admit it,” Grima stated, shrugging away in amusement. “Perhaps you’d enjoy if you relaxed a bit more.”

The damned Fell Dragon was smart. He was an intelligent one for sure.

Robin blinked for a moment. A calm smile let loose. He’d keep it going… as long as such cumbersome emotions didn’t get in the way. The vessel seemed perplexed at first, but keeping sight of Grima reminded him of what had to be done. What was in his hands—Grima’s Truth—was all he ever needed. Not a single fragment of bonds. Not a single shard of friendship would do.

“They’re better off shattered,” Grima spoke. “Like you… little bird.”

“Elaborate,” Robin replied, slightly raising a brow.

“What is there to elabor—”

“Don’t play around with me,” the tactician answered, eyes widening with a deep void.

The darkening masses swirled around once more, and Grima only continued to laugh. Quickly, the vessel reached out to grab a bit of Grima’s coat, specifically his sleeve. When Grima was prompted to tug away, Robin had only held on tighter.

“You’re just so eager, huh?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about...” Robin retorted.

Grima’s statements had slightly irked him, but he wouldn’t cause a fuss over it. Still, perhaps it was a little more than just annoying. The words were surely hinting at something, and Robin intended to know the full gist of it.

The Fell Dragon was greatly pleased, intrigued by the tactician’s sense of curiosity. Grima giggled softly in response, finding Robin’s answer to be amusing. His laughter elicited another perturbed grunt from the tactician. Grima gestured with his hand, speaking before Robin had begun to argue again.

“What do you mean?” Grima asked, pressing feigned ignorance upon his words. “What is it that you do not understand?”

“How you described me should be the same for you...”

“And? Why does that matter? What made you come to that conclusion anyway?”

Robin tightened his hold on the tome. “We are one and the same,” he spoke in an almost monotonous manner. “You made that claim in the first place.”

Grima passed a smug grin. “It’s not just a claim, vessel. It’s the truth.”

“Just say your piece already,” Robin spoke hesitantly, a bit more curtly this time. “Get to the point, please. Spit it out. It’s disgraceful for me to have you think I’m that weak.”

“Oh, getting desperate aren’t we?” prompted Grima, delighted by the vessel’s sudden attitude. “What a loyal one you are…”

The tactician nearly clicked his tongue at that statement.

“You do not have to further manipulate me, or at least attempt to,” Robin scolded, constricting one eye while looking back. “I… am already under your full guidance, after all. And, I...”

Perhaps he was getting a little too desperate for attention.

The Fell Dragon’s only response was a wide smirk, and one single hand that rushed forward. The vessel’s chin was lifted, and gently, Grima approached in a tender manner. Eye contact between both were steady and perpetuating. Gazes never left each other, until finally Robin grabbed hold of Grima’s grip, slowly removing it.

The tactician’s eyes visibly softened, quivering lips beckoning Grima’s curious expression. Robin straightened himself, grasping onto the tome securely.

“Why won’t you trust me already?” Robin muttered aloud, his body shaking somewhat. “You… put your faith into me. All of it. I can do so much… so much more for you.”

The Fell Dragon never removed his smile. In fact, it only grew bigger. But, even he had to admit that his teasing had gone too far, and so Grima let out a gentle laugh before returning to speak.

“Okay, okay…” Grima huffed out, abruptly sighing to cut the brief tension. “Then, I’ll get straight to the point. But, are you ready?”

“Just go…”

Grima’s hand darted forward, pushing the tactician’s forehead back. Robin lurched backward onto a pillar, his body pushed against the side. Quickly, Grima’s fingers shifted downward to grasp the tactician’s shoulder, and finally his head moved forward where his lips barely touched the edges of the vessel’s ear.

The sudden act threw the vessel into a few seconds of confusion. With such a hardened grip by the neck, a silent, nearly inaudible whimper uttered from the tactician’s lips as he turned his gaze upwards.

Grima’s eyes were snake-like, preying on any sign of vulnerability, and immediately stopped Robin’s thoughts on the spot.

“The Shepherds, the exalt, and the entirety of Ylisse,” Grima’s voice spoke without missing a beat. “You will lead them to their ruin.”

Robin’s eyes widened, but that wasn’t the end of it. His newly formed fist lay still, shaking in reluctance.

“Without hesitance, you will end the exalt’s life,” Grima reminded. “You will kill Prince Chrom of Ylisse.”

An abrupt silence struck through, the vessel soon gently shoving the Fell Dragon back to release himself. Then, soft and audible, his laughing ensued. A minute after and it stopped, with ravished eyes to reflect back into Grima’s. The feeling struck, so good as ever.

“Kill… Chrom? My… other half?” Robin whispered, repeating the words, his breath shaking slightly. “I… have to do that?”

“You won’t do it?” Grima asked, beaming lightly.

Steady breathing, then it halted. A sudden silence permeated the tense air that was brewing.

And finally, deep laughter.

“You’re joking, right? Is that the best you can do?”

Abruptly, laughing erupted again, the vessel’s legs staggering for a moment. He leaned on the pillar for support, holding his chest in to contain a bit more of his glee. Robin looked up, tears of joy falling from his eyes.

Grima’s smile remained unfazed. “See. I did say that I would never doubt you.”

Robin’s smile, on the other hand, was rather melancholic. But, the excitement remained, fueled by Grima’s words. The tactician’s eyes closed, his smirk more visible than before.

“You underestimate me,” he said with another tender laugh.

The Fell Dragon stepped back, cackling for a little while. The tactician’s expression soothed and his bout of anger was mitigated. A vibrant mood was all that’s left.

Grima nodded in acknowledgment. “The Fire Emblem… I’ll need that too. Though, perhaps that is the main focus.”

“Both, then.” Robin’s gaze was unwavering, refusing to falter even the slightest. “I’ll do both.”

Grima’s expression was content. “Good.”

“But…” Robin spoke slowly in manner. His watery eyes were still clear. “I still can’t believe you… you would really do that to me? You know me better than that.”

“Oh, so sorry…” Grima responded, almost sarcastically. “I really do apologize for the hassle. That only goes to show how much I care for you, doesn’t it?” he said more playfully.

“Really now?” Robin’s voice turned off, a bit disinterested. The tactician gradually lifted a brow. “You’ve seriously hurt my feelings.”

“Sorry!” Grima spoke with a smug grin, shrugging it off.

An uneasy pause let itself in, the tactician quick to avoid eye contact. He turned around, settling his arms down and began walking forward. Grima followed suit, trailing behind the sauntering vessel.

“Wait, Robin…!” Grima called out, beginning to walk faster.

“I’m not ignoring you,” Robin quickly brought up, a minor pout in his expression. He shifted his head around gently, stopping for a moment to speak. “If that’s what you’re wondering… I’m not.”

“Oh, how generous…” Grima muttered in joy as he slowed down, laughing aloud. “You still want to keep me company, don’t you?”

The tactician batted his eyes away. “You are going to see this through until the end.”

Grima smiled. “Of course.”

The corridors scaled the upcoming pathway, giving the traveling pair quite a lot to walk through. The entry soldiers had been cleared out for good, assuming after reinforcements had called everyone, which left the big foes in waiting.

The tactician shut his book after a quick skim. The plan was going well, and all to his liking.

“It pains me to see you hold it all in…” Grima commented rather sullenly. “Why do you do that?”

Robin laughed. “It’s for this moment.”

Quickly, an arrow flew at full speed, boasting velocity in flight. The small red drops emerged from the side of the tactician’s face. Robin’s hand swiftly moved up.

Barely grazed, but a scratch was still left on his skin.

“You really should be more careful, Robin…” Grima spoke, yawning quietly.

“General Pheros!” a soldier yelled, holding up a bow. “Over here! The intruders are over here!”

“Enough! Stand aside!”

The loud voice boomed across the halls. The building shook gently, the sound of hooves to mask the noise of rallying soldiers. Behind the masses was a figure, and the very silhouette coming into view had piqued the tactician’s curiosity.

The Valmese general sat atop her horse, in red and silver clad, and looked down intently. Her fiery tome was held tightly, opened out with pages flipped. Robin stared back up in curiosity, eyeing at the tome more closely. Bolganone.

“I am Pheros,” the woman spoke. “State your purpose at once.”

Watchful eyes lingered, examining the general’s posture. Afterward, the tactician lowered his gaze.

“Purpose?” Robin questioned softly, repeating the word over again.

“You must have reason to be here,” Pheros responded. She tightened her gaze, glaring back angrily. “And whatever it may be, you have made an enemy out of the Empire. For both of you… death awaits.”

“Oh…” Robin muttered. “I see.”

“Your purpose, scoundrel! I said state it at once!”

“I’m not necessarily interested in answering you.”

“Why you..!” Pheros frowned, displeasure greatly apparent. “Any last words?!”

The tactician slowly wiped his eyes, rubbing a hand back and forth. His other arm slumped, gently holding the tome with his hand. After a small yawn, he brought his gaze upwards and looked around. A smile resided beside the woman, and the tactician was swift to mention something about it.

“Ah, I guess… who is that?” he said, pointing forward at the figure.

The Valmese general answered back with silence at first. Pheros bit her lip quietly, and turning to her right, her expression became cross.

“Excellus!” she roared. “You dirty mutt! You come back to lecture me of all times?! I do not need your help!”

“Aha!” the Valmese tactician cackled aloud. “I come back for a moment and you still haven’t taken care of things? Mere bandits? Still the same as ever, Pheros…”

Another one of Walhart’s generals. Both Pheros and Excellus were dressed in different attire, brandishing a unique weapon from the soldiers, so it’d be safe to assume that they were. Robin’s scrutinizing gaze came to an end, and finally he let out probably the thousandth sigh by now. Slowly, he brought up his tome.

“You are willing to rebel?” Pheros noted, clenching onto Bolganone firmly. A tiny smirk formed on the corner of her mouth. “What child’s play is this? I am merely granting you both a better option.”

A mute pause, and finally Robin laughed for awhile. “Ah, you haven’t exactly told me my choices,” he said. “May I ask now?”

“There’s only one, fool!” Pheros shouted. “And that is death!”

Sparks lit up, a bright red surrounding the room. A blaze circled around and particles gathered quickly amongst the general, expanding gradually as momentum kept a fire moving. Pheros remained focused, Excellus waiting by the side, and the Fell Dragon smiled in awe as he studied the luminous light. Robin smiled, admiring the display of might. Bolganone’s power surely was no joke at all.

Excellus yelped aloud as the fire’s intensity swirled around. The Valmese general was prompted to teleport away, but curiosity continuously poked at him. Truth to be told, he too had wanted to see the full extent of Bolganone’s strength. Excellus quickly rushed to a wall, a bright grin marking his deep approval.

“Oh, how elegant...” the vessel murmured. “The fire burns bright and stellarly.”

Robin walked forward towards the flaming vortex, his movements slow in manner and lingering with each step. Finally, he halted in front of the general, giving one last look of interest.

“But, that’s quite enough now,” Robin said, closing his eyes gently.

The tactician’s hand opened out, with tome in the other. Immediately, a spark emerged, blinding the entire room with a radiant light.

“W-What?” Pheros gasped aloud.

The flashing stopped. Completely. The room was previously as it was before, the same columns scaling down the corridors with a tame atmosphere. Except, instead of complete silence, something was dripping.

“T-This is…”

Red liquid. Her hand ached, in pain, in the intense heat of the moment, and strained under the long structure. Looking closely, it was actually quite thin. The Valmese general gritted her teeth, expressing scorn towards the tactician. Blood trailed down her fingers, gradually leaking down from her palm.

“Y-You…!

A dark purple spike was skewered through, tome and all, entirely through the general’s hand. Pheros grunted loudly as the spear-like projection retracted. Her book fell from grace, stained with deep red while upon the ground. It made a small noise, dropping into a tiny emerging puddle of blood.

“This tome…” Robin muttered, reaching out for the book of flames.

“Do not… take it!” Pheros wheezed out.

“So this is Bolganone…” the tactician commented inquisitively while looking up, holding the tome into the air. “Ah, it has a bit more pages than I expected.”

Robin pulled his arm back, throwing the book straight above. Purple spikes emerged once more, stabbing into the tome. After drilling in completely, they moved around, tearing everything apart through each side. The pages were shredded midair, and the book fell fast, devastated and in pieces.

It was an act of dominance. But, this display of power wasn’t enough. It wasn’t nearly.

“N-No… this can’t be!” Pheros gasped out.

Another spike bolted out from below. A guttural scream let itself out, and a deep red splattered across the floor. Pheros gathered her breath slowly after her screech from falling off her horse, and began inching towards the remains of the book. Her eyes were watery, saddened with remorse, but still filled with hatred. The general’s leg was ensanguined, blood flowing out quickly as the last spike dissipated. The tactician looked down quietly, darkening eyes gazing upon the helpless general.

“You are scum…!” Pheros whispered furiously. “The Conqueror gave this to me! Y-You will not be forgiven! You will not be…. for...given!”

No more words from that point on. It was wheezing, continuous panting in an attempt to hang onto dear life, but the last straw was drawn.

Eyes peered down, cruel and imbued with malice. Robin opened his mouth, but no words came out. His gaze continued watching, intent on seeing every last moment of the general’s.

Oddly enough, Grima was right. He was containing all this excitement.

The general’s final breath died out, passing away into the still silence. Then, the tactician’s listless expression revealed, and casually he turned back to Grima.

“I have done my favors for them,” Robin said feebly. “Valm is but a defenseless empire now, having been rid of its generals.”

“You’re too soft, Robin,” Grima answered, laughing about.

“I… know.”

“But,” Grima resumed. “The Shepherds are but an enigma now. They’re nothing, and nothing for you to cling onto. You don’t need them in the slightest.”

No answer.

Robin lowered the tome, walking past the fallen general. A bright light circled the plain in sight Valmese tactician, but became unstabilized as the vessel approached. Quickly, the last bit of magic attempted a teleportation spell, but a dark shot of matter blasted through, knocking down the vulnerable man.

“P-Please…” Excellus whispered frantically. “I-I really have nothing to do with the Empire! I swear!”

“I don’t care.”

Excellus whimpered at the response. “Please, you can trust me! I’m just going undercover! Who I really am affiliated with is the Grimleal!”

“I don’t—”

Robin paused, staring back at Excellus curiously. The vessel furrowed a brow, examining the Valmese general’s attire. Of course, he wouldn’t have been able to tell directly the truth or not. The red outfit marked itself from bottom to top.

“Grimleal?” Robin repeated, raising another brow.

“Y-Yes!” Excellus said desperately. A large grin went across his face. “Haha, I’ll have you know I’m quite the high ranking official! I work alongside the great dark sorcerer, facilitating his next plans and battle tactics!”

Robin set down his tome, continuing to observe Excellus. “So… Validar?” he questioned.

“Yes, yes! You get it! You must be a Grimleal follower too, huh?”

The vessel’s eyes descended, gazing down with piqued interest. Robin did not respond, only smiling meekly. The gesture prompted Excellus to then laugh awkwardly. The Valmese general scratched the back of his head nervously, continuing the conversation once again.

“Say… you really have displayed your power to the fullest!” Excellus nodded his head in approval. “Yes… yes! Why, of course I’ll talk with the even higher-ups about a promotion for you! As the Hierophant, I’m sure they’ll listen to me!”

As the Hierophant...

The words echoed through the room. A heavy silence permeated the area, leaving a small cough from Grima to intrude the quietude. The Fell Dragon began laughing jarringly, cackling so loudly that his voice reverberated through the walls.

Hilarious for the Fell Dragon, but not quite for Robin.

The vessel had only tightened his gaze. In resentment. In disgust. In the deepest, deepest enmity. His fingers shook agitatedly, grasping onto the tome with all of his might.

As the Hierophant…?

“Oh, how gold!” Grima’s laughter never ceased. “Hah! Today really has been interesting!”

“H-Huh?” Excellus murmured, letting out a gulp.

One step forward. The tactician looked down in discontent, spitefulness painted across his expression. One step back. The Valmese general whined slightly, walking backward in a slow manner.

Robin’s mouth curled into a frown. “To have the audacity to just… mock him like that. You truly are something...”

“N-No wait—!”

The stunned general fell over as he began walking backward, tripping over right in front of the vessel. The tactician inched closer, stepping forward with lethargic movement, and finally stopped with a silent pause. Robin clicked his tongue, squeezing his eyes with an excruciating expression, one so vehemently exasperated. The tome opened, immediately clustering with power.

“Such impertinence leads you to your death,” Robin stated, balling one hand into a fist. Tension welled up in his body, and his anger was ever so apparent. “I should have ended you right on the spot...”

The Fell Dragon tapped his foot quietly, leaning back on a wall. Fatigue striked through again, and an inevitable yawn contracted at once. Afterward, he crossed his arms, peering over at the tactician with a bit of mirth.

His eyes were so right , darkened with desire, and aching to harm others. Grima’s brief scrutiny of the tactician drew to an end. Overall, the Fell Dragon was satisfied.

“Well, I learned something fascinating today...” Grima hummed to himself happily. “The vessel hates liars, huh?”

 


 

 

Two brunettes stumbled upon their way while crossing through the woods surrounding Fort Steiger. Exhausted from a long trip of circles, they sat along a boulder and rested. One of them had a lighter shade of brown, much like a chestnut color. The other was a dark, intense shade, more leaning towards a black color but contained a tint of brown.

"C-Cynthia... I don't think we are... ummm... going anywhere at all..." the darker haired girl whimpered aloud.

Cynthia spoke triumphantly, "Worry not, Noire! We are heroes—heroes like our parents! Heroes know where to go because they follow their gut feeling!"

Noire sighed, lowering her head in disbelief. It’s probably the hundredth time that Cynthia had done this. It was inspiring to hear the pegasus knight’s speeches about justice, but as repetitive as it got, she wished for some silence now and then. Doing with some other company would be appreciated too, but, the archer could not deny the feeling of relief, at least feeling lucky to have a comrade by her side.

Noire looked up, staring back at Cynthia with a sincere gaze. The pegasus knight returned a glance, curiously peering over with a smile. Her eyes twinkled, ready to speak once more.

“Cool, right?!” Cynthia spoke, giggling much like a child who had been praised. “We heroes know how to fend off danger! The evil shall be dispelled, and finally basked in righteous justice! It is our role as heroes to help out the needy!”

Noire laughed. "Ummm... I don't think it goes like that. S-Sometimes… I also have no idea what you’re talking about. Sorry, Cynthia..."

“Well, then you’re in need of proper lecture! There’s a lot more things that heroes can do!”

“W-What now...?” A sweatdrop fell from the archer’s forehead. Noire sighed, continuing to listen in on Cynthia.

The pegasus knight picked up her lance, raising it to the sky. "Heroes do amazing poses like these as well!" Cynthia shouted, swinging the spear around.

One giant whack. Her pegasus grunted in pain, its wings settling further into its back. The steed turned, glancing away quickly from its owner. Noire could only muster another sigh, shaking her head as she heard her friend wailing in no time.

"A-Ahhh! I'm so sorry!" Cynthia cried out. She reached out, quickly patting down her steed’s head.

"W-Well Cynthia… you tried your best at least?" Noire giggled for a moment. She tilted her head, admiring the knight’s pose. “A-Ah, b-but, you’re doing great!”

Cynthia nodded excitedly. "See?! Such a cool pose I’m doing!” she says delightedly, then turning back in glee towards her archer friend. “Noire, you should decide on one too! It’s pretty fun!"

The shy archer shook her head. "U-Ummm… but I think that's the last thing I'd like to do."

Before the conversation continued, a brief shaking had the two girls jumping up in surprise. A soft rustle could be heard from the bushes. The sound went back and forth, becoming increasingly louder by the second. Noire froze up in panic, gazing back at Cynthia. The two exchanged uneasy stares, nodding at one another, and finally reached out for their weapons.

"U-Uhhh..." Noire whispered nervously. "C-Cynthia... w-what... what do we do now?"

"R-Ready your weapon!" she yelled, still in shock. She reached for the archer's pocket, taking out a slip of paper. "Oh, and also take this!"

"Cynthia, n-no! You shouldn't—"

The talisman slipped through, arriving upon the archer’s hand. As the atmosphere fell, the rustling ceased, and at long last came a moving figure. The person began to emerge as Noire brought her bow up, rustling around audibly. As the shadow neared, Noire screamed loud and clear a message of threat.

"BLOOD AND THUNDER! TO THE ABYSS WITH YOU, FOOL!"

The talisman slipped out, falling back into her waist pocket as the arrow flew across immediately. It missed the figure slightly, running deep within a tree. Though, it was not the missed arrow that grabbed the children’s attention, but instead—

"W-Wait...!"

"Hey... it can't be…?!"

—Someone familiar? Blue hair, blue eyes, and a blue outfit. The female was startled, looking back as the luster of her golden crown reflected off from the bright sunlight. Her face lit up in the luminous afternoon, and her eyes reflected off a recognizable brand in that moment.

"What're you guys doing?!" cried out Lucina. "Gods, please be more careful...!"

Before the princess continued her lecture, the other two children shout her name in unison, running up for a hug.

“H-Hey! You guys…!” the exalted princess said in surprise.

Lucina let out a deep sigh, sheathing the Falchion and returning the heartwarming motion. Looking back with huge smiles, the group of three laughed as the afternoon sky continued on. Really, how long had it been since they’ve seen each other? Time felt forever, as if they hadn’t encountered one another for so long. It was great to be reunited again.

"It's been quite awhile." Lucina gave a chuckle, a tender expression marking her joy.

"Ahhh... I-I'm so sorry! We thought you were someone else… and I didn't mean to—" Noire fumbled with her words. "Ah, um, but…! I-It's nice to see you again as well!"

"Lucy, it’s been so long!" Cynthia said with a giggle. “You’ve no idea how long I’ve missed you!”

Lucina laughed gently, taking in her sister's warm embrace. "It's not your fault, Noire. I would've been on guard too." Then, she lowered her gaze, a bright blush tinting the exalted princess’s cheeks. "And... r-really ? Do you still have to call me that?"

Cynthia nodded vigorously. "Heehee, nevermind that now! We gotta go over what's been happening!"

Lucina smiled. "Yes, I have much to tell as well."

The three sat in a circle and continued to chat as the sky still hung up with the gentle blue of the afternoon. Lucina explained her adventure as 'Marth', then proceeded with meeting everyone in the Shepherds. Her jubilous attitude made the rest contented, and the atmosphere of delight spread around, the three happily chatting the day away.

“It’s true!” Lucina asserted excitedly.

"You mean it, Lucy? Mother and Father are alive? That's the best news I've heard!" Cynthia began to tear up. Her eyes shook slowly, softening at Lucina’s response.

Noire giggled in relief. "I... I can see my mother and father too!"

"Yes, it's all true," Lucina replied, chuckling once again. "Well, how about you both? What’s been going on so far?"

"Noire and I landed in the middle of nowhere but eventually we ended up by this fort. I wanted to barge right in but she would never let me go!"

"B-But…” Noire whimpered aloud. “Y-You wouldn’t know if it was dangerous or not. We have no idea about this place at all, s-so… Cynthia… you should really be more cautious!”

The pegasus knight gulped quietly. "Y-You’re kinda right though! Aha… haha…”

Suddenly, the exalted princess startled the others with a tiny giggle. It wasn’t often that you’d see Noire lecturing another. Of course, it was likely that Cynthia would receive one, as boisterous and rowdy she was.

Cynthia gave a small frown, pouting immediately. “L-Lucy…! I know you’re making fun of me.”

Lucina gently lifted a brow, gesturing her hand up and down to calm her sister. “Okay, okay. Anyways, what’s the matter? What was up with the fort?”

“We avoided some soldiers near there awhile back,” Cynthia replied, settling down with a bit of more serious expression. “They were… pretty hostile, and… definitely not people you’d mess with… haha.”

The pegasus knight began with her awkward laughter, prompting another sigh from her archer friend. Noire shook her head repeatedly, sounding out a nearly inaudible groan.

“C-Cynthia…! You… really need to be more careful…” Noire whispered worriedly.

“Sounds a bit wild,” Lucina remarked, releasing a deep breath. She chuckled afterward, attempting to lighten up the mood. “I mean... at least you found me in the end, right?”

The two nodded immediately. Cynthia laughed once more, and Noire only continued the gesture, hinting at her gratitude. The three future children were here, together, and that was what mattered.

“Oh, but I do have to ask…” Lucina suddenly brought up. “How did you all manage for food? You’ve been wandering for awhile, right?”

"Oh... w-well there was a river... and... and..." Noire began to cry, speaking in a somber tone. "W-We had to kill the poor forest creatures for food..."

"Built a fire with twigs and stuff. Yup, I remember the basic stuff from when I was in the pegasus knight squad,” Cynthia bluntly continued the conversation.

Lucina’s gaze stayed gentle. "Ah, so like back in our world too? Or perhaps what I was doing during the beginning? I had hoped you found a town to help you out, but I'm just glad we're all safe in the end..."

"A-Ah... you too, Lucina! But we don't know of the others' whereabouts..." Noire muttered.

"I thought they were with you at some point because they certainly weren't with me. This time-travel mix up has gotten everyone split up..." Lucina lifted her head towards the sky, her hand up in the air and reaching out. "But we'll find them no matter what, and no matter how long it takes! We've come so far for our parents after all!"

Cynthia wrapped her arms around Noire and Lucina, giggling about excitedly. "Yeah guys, yeaaah...! We'll be the best heroes ever... even better than our parents! Let's show them that we can rid of this Fell Dragon, alright guys?!"

That's right... Lucina nodded. This area is probably Fort Steiger. Then that means...

Footsteps in the brush, soft and quiet, but greatly discernible. The forest wind swayed to each movement, triggering masses of leaves to fall from above. Finally, the last moments ended in tranquility, and not even nature’s sound could be detected.

One more step, slow and forceful. Lucina’s eyes widened, and quickly she pulled her two friends over. Before their voices could ring out, questioning the exalted princess at that moment, the future child’s hands shifted upwards over their mouths, silencing the noise to come. Their movements were quick, but also low enough to not heed enough attention.

"Quiet, guys...!" Lucina shushed, sitting with the other two behind a boulder. "Keep it low..."

"W-What's happening...?" Cynthia whispered, fretting continuously. "Is there—"

The bushes stirred. The abrupt sound kept the three children on their guard. Promptly, it gradually died out.

“I don’t know who it is, but you’ll have to prepare your weapons,” Lucina commanded. “Noire, do you think you could provide a distraction?”

“W-With my arrows?” she nervously replied. “I-I’ll try…!”

Bow and string, all ready to go. The first arrow slipped in, pulled back and settling tightly. Momentum gathered in the archer’s arms, and her hands were rigidly positioned with absolute focus.

Lucina nodded, gesturing to Cynthia to prepare her lance. The twins brandished their weapons, steadying an offensive stance.

In the blink of an eye, astonishment. The archer wailed, falling back immediately.

"A-Ahhhh…!” Noire shrieked.

Her voice was shrill, yelping aloud at the top of her lungs. Luckily, no harm came across her. A sweatdrop fell slowly, and her eyes moved gently to scan the area. Nervously, she gazed back up, and her eyes tapered in seeing the figure in the distance.

The boulder suddenly collapsed, split into multiple pieces. Rocks fell from the base, crumbling apart as it hit the ground. The exalted princess let out a small, angered groan.

"T-This is..." Lucina muttered, lifting a finger to her cheek.

The cut was tiny, yet still noticeable. The blood came out slowly, able to come to a stop in mere seconds.

The three turned to look at their perpetrator, seeing a single spike that had returned. In plain sight, a recognizable figure for the exalted princess remained in view.

“Gods, help us…” Lucina breathed, almost whispering a prayer. “This can’t be…”

It was unfathomable. To think she’d find him so soon… and their confrontation now was anything but amiable. The encounter was sudden, reeking of hostility and prepared conflict.

“I had my doubts… I had my doubts…!” Lucina murmured angrily. “And here, in front of me… an outright traitor!”

Deep laughter made its way. Though, soon it had ceased, allowing for the figure to speak.

“I will admit that stings me a bit,” Robin commented, a dull expression marking his dropping interest.

“Why?!” Lucina roared. “I don’t want to hurt you! You… you are my father’s one and only tactician!”

The vessel’s eyes visibly alleviated, lowering his gaze to avoid Lucina’s glare. His tome was held up, the entirety of it in view. The tactician stood still, similar to that fateful night he had been gone, and never to return.

But, now he’s back. The malice in him could fully be detected this time. Lucina held her position, flaunting Falchion in defiance. Robin only let out a momentary sigh, looking up to acknowledge Lucina’s antagonism.

"A pity that we had to cross paths so soon," Robin continued, blinking with pause. His lack of interest was evident, and such vague eyes reflected back to display the most imminent ill will. “But, I’m afraid I can’t return. My fate… has long been set in stone. I cannot turn back.”

“Why, Robin?! Why would you—!”

“P-Please calm down…!” Noire immediately interjected, raising her hands up.

Cynthia solemnly nodded. “Sis… who is this guy? Do you know him?”

The exalted princess’s body felt heavy, under pressure, under the tension of the situation. Her hands trembled, the gesture to aggravate herself even more. Letting out a deep, gentle breath, she steadied her breathing, swiftly turning to face Noire and Cynthia.

“Robin,” she uttered the single word. “Ylissean tactician Robin, chief of Prince Chrom’s army. He is… an ally of my father’s, and a very close one.”

A sudden raging breeze transpired, and upon taking one step back, the tactician let out a pained grunt. His fingers began shaking agitatedly, grasping onto the tome securely. The fire was emerging, but he was seconds away from breaking down. The tactician let out a momentary groan, endeavoring to suppress the awakening flames.

Lucina’s eyes widened as she turned back. The tome, and the tactician’s hand. One shared mark revealed it all.

“Y-You…” she whispered slowly, mouth agape with incredulity.

Robin gave a small grin. “It’s the truth. Layed out for me… and now for you.”

“Robin, y-you…” Lucina’s eyes welled up, her hand coiled into a fist. “It’s a lie! Tell me it’s a lie!”

His wheezing was heavy, struggling to push words out of his mouth. Robin’s stepped back once, then took another. His chest ached entirely, his body at his complete limit. One exhale, and he managed to calm himself a little bit.

“You’ve come at a very… very bad time,” the tactician said, laughing softly. “If you want to run, then run. I won’t pursue you or your friends.”

“You’re a fool to think I’d run!” Lucina yelled back, briskly holding up her blade. Falchion pointed forward, ready to strike. “I’ll… I’ll do everything in my power to stop you!”

“No, we will!” Cynthia intruded, raising her lance. “Friend or foe, I won’t let you hurt my sister!”

“M-Me too…!” Noire chimed in, holding up her bow. “I… I want to help everyone too! S-So… you can’t hurt them! You can’t hurt Lucina or Cynthia!”

Three future children altogether, weapons pressed together in formation. The bow, the lance, and Falchion at the pinnacle, all pointed at the same direction. Their faces of determination were resolute, combined to fend off the tactician’s threats.

Fingers pressed against the Robin’s forehead, his hand steadily rubbing back and forth. He let out a soft sigh, a lifeless expression to soon appear.

“If this is all you can muster, than that truly is boring…” he muttered, giving rise to an emerging purple inferno. “I did offer you a choice, Lucina. To have you turn down that kindness… I’m rather disappointed.”

The pack of weapons immediately broke formation upon colliding with the first spike. There, a barrage let loose, and the three children ran in separate directions, fending off jabs from every angle. A dark entity, stronger than a Flux blast, streaked out to serve as a distraction.

“Haaah!” Cynthia shouted, darting in for a blow.

A spike rose to immediately parry the ambush, and the tactician rapidly moved ahead within the pegasus knight’s proximity. His hand reached out, grabbing hold of Cynthia’s arm, and a grip so tight had slightly surprised her.

And, one quick tumble occurred. Cynthia nearly screeched, her body promptly thrown to the ground. Everywhere, her legs, her arms, she had ached in pain. One swing that felt as if it had twisted her shoulders had injured the pegasus knight.

“C-Cynthia…!” Lucina shouted in worry.

“I-I’m fine… Sis!” Cynthia whispered, laughing softly as she continued to breathe. “I’m not bleeding, but he threw me really hard on the ground…”

“You’re not bleeding yet ,” Robin intervened abruptly. “Again, I will extend the same offer and make an exception for you. Turn back, forget all of this, and never run into me again. You will regret it.”

“We refuse!” Lucina yelled in rebuttal. Her hold on Falchion tightened. “You hurt Cynthia! You’ve turned your back on the Shepherds! Robin, know I can’t ever forgive you!”

“I’m only trying to be nice, Lucina,” the tactician replied, his expression shifting towards discontent. “I’m holding myself back as one last parting gift.”

His gaze was a cluster of malevolence, visible with malicious intent. The bitter illness reeked out from just those pair of eyes, and it’s enough to startle the exalted princess. Robin’s glare remained spiteful, masking a feeling of terror that harbored undeterred cruelty.

It didn’t seem like him at all, anymore. Was he truly long gone as he had claimed? Lucina’s movements faltered for a moment, and for a second she had pondered over the tactician’s appearance.

“Ah!” Cynthia wailed aloud, alarmed by the sudden projection.

“Robin, don’t!” Lucina screamed out, and she began running forward. “Don’t lay a single finger on—!”

Move , and I’ll eviscerate her on the spot.”

And Lucina did stop, instantly freezing herself in her current position. She dropped the Falchion too, immediately falling to her knees.

“I’ve stopped,” Lucina spoke. “Do not… do not move a single inch!”

“I won’t, and that is if you both oblige,” the tactician said, then turning his gaze towards the archer.

Noire whimpered quietly, dropping her bow as well. “D-Don’t hurt Cynthia, please…”

“I surely hope my finger doesn’t slip, but I wouldn’t exactly care if it did,” Robin muttered, keeping his hand still. “Regardless, this is a warning, not only for you but to Chrom as well.”

“Enough! Spit it out already, Robin!” Lucina abruptly spoke.

“My hand… my tome,” he answered. “You’ve been staring at it quite awhile now… this mark of mine.”

Lucina’s mouth curled, and she quickly scowled at the imprinted symbol. Undeniably, she had seen it before. The very marking, the outline and colors, altogether had been a figure she’d encountered ahead of time.

“It’s simple, and it’s the one thing you despise,” Robin stated, holding both his hand and tome up. “It is the Mark of Gri—“

Robin.

The voice reverberated through the silence of the forest, cutting into the empty afternoon. Its tone was forceful, although not entirely and with a hint of boredom.

Upon seeing a glimpse of him, the tactician went taciturn. Robin’s expression was stern, and he quietly glanced back towards the approaching figure.

“You would really do that to me, Robin? You truly are a devil incarnate… leaving me in the dust, huh?”

“Funny coming from you,” Robin retorted, still keeping a firm position with the spike.

“Are you having a rebellious phase?” Grima rejoined, chuckling abruptly. “I sure hope not.”

“No...” Robin’s expression was almost dumbfounded, but his face remained stagnant. “Why are you spouting nonsense again?”

“Hey, hey… I don’t exactly know my way around here, but…” Grima quickly rebutted. “I was like a lost bird at first! That is… until I could feel your presence. Heehee… then I followed it.”

Eyes swiftly settled upon the Fell Dragon, and Grima could recognize the emanating animosity directed towards him. At first, considering the pair of prying eyes, he finally turned to gaze upon the defiant princess. Lucina frowned, taking her sword into hand again.

“Did you forget?” Robin said, and on command the spike pressed closer. “You are in no position to fight back, Lucina.”

“N-Nnnnghh…” Cynthia grunted out in surprise, her neck daring to be cut slightly.

To Robin’s surprise, Grima’s hand went up, gesturing the vessel to stand down. The tactician clicked his tongue in dissatisfaction. Obediently, he did so, but with little hesitance.

“What in heavens are you thinking…?” Robin commented, a bit irked over Grima’s decision. Gently, he furrowed a brow. “Sometimes I can’t even tell what you want at this point…”

Grima chuckled, keeping a steady grin. His eyes narrowed in, attentive to the scene.

“Cynthia…! Are you okay?!” Lucina cried out.

The pegasus knight nodded, a tender smile to reassure the other two children. But, her body still suffered from the previous injury, and her groaning was audible enough to keep the exalted princess concerned.

“Ow, ow, ow…” Cynthia muttered, scratching the back of her head. “S-Sorry Lucy, it’s a bit hard for me to stand up right now…”

“Move away, and I will eviscerate you, as I have said before,” Robin interjected. “You are not going anywhere… for the time being.”

Grima’s abrupt laugh chimed in, and slightly annoyed, Robin turned to look in minor confusion. The vessel’s expression was rather perturbed, and Grima only let out another chuckle as he witnessed Robin’s discontent face.

“You are unbelievable…” Robin whispered loudly.

“Oh, but the plan is still in motion,” Grima spoke in content, a rising grin to signal his increasing joy. “This world will fall, into my hands, and into the depths of hell. All that’s left will be despair.”

Lucina’s eyes trembled, shaking slowly. Despair…? Despair… my future… was brought onto despair…

“Why do you share an appearance with him?” Lucina rose to speak, still keeping the Falchion pointed ahead. She glowered towards Grima with suspicion. “With… Robin?”

“Good thing for you to talk first instead of me!” Grima said joyfully, raising a hand to his chin. “You see, I am particularly interested in you… future child.”

“Enough of this. My patience is running low.”

“You are upfront indeed…” Grima said with laughter. “Of course, I’ll reveal it all.”

The Fell Dragon was quick to approach in manner, speedily reaching out for contact. Instantly, he grabbed the vessel’s arm, pulling the tactician back onto him. Robin fell backwards, still facing towards Lucina, and was propped up by Grima’s embracing arms.

Robin’s lips moved to speak, but stopped himself once he had realized Grima’s intent. The vessel froze himself, perfectly still and rooted as his hands came up. The book, his right hand, and finally Grima’s right one. All perfectly lined together.

“Who you see before me is a vessel for the most ruthless being deemed in all of history. We are one and the same. So, he was fated to become one with me…”

“He is… one with you right now?”

“No, and he won’t. I’ve acknowledged a better role for him.”

“So you… originally planned to become one with him?” Lucina questioned, hitching her breath momentarily.

“Yes,” Grima replied, smirking contentedly. “But… I have evaluated his magical aptitude. Fellblood runs through him, throughout all of his veins. And this mark which is bound to him… it signifies his allegiance to me.”

“By the Gods, who are you?” Lucina raised a brow, a sweatdrop slowly falling from her forehead. “You… are not mortal. At least, from the way you are speaking...”

“Of course I’m not, and I’m no mere worm like yourself.” Snake-like eyes were watchful, mingled with sin and depravity. “I am the Fell Dragon, Grima.”

The words spoke. His smile, just as guilty. It was over. The wait was long, long gone, and it was the day that this perpetrator would be served justice.

The rage from within was boiling, seething resentment rapidly bubbling up. And finally, her shout roared out, bellowing in deep agony. The pegasus knight’s eyes shook, the archer’s soon to follow suit. The tactician’s gaze had raised up, seeing to the exalted princess’s fiery, undying resolve.

She had braced herself for this moment, for this very day. She rued the day she let go, admitting to weakness during the past. Where her legs fell, unable to rise up. Where her arms were crushed, burdened by grueling weight.

Not anymore. She wouldn’t let this chance go. Now, she possessed an aura like never before, one fueled by solid determination. Her sword came up, and the Falchion shined brightly in the light.

“Grimaaaa…!” Lucina cried out, her eyes perceptible with outrage. “I will end your life!”

Quickly, the exalted princess rushed over, running against the grass, and treaded the lands with brute strength to pack. Her tears fell, her cheeks guttered with sorrow. Her arms moved swiftly, and finally her hands embraced the hilt of her blade with all of her newfound resolve.

With a huff, the Fell Dragon let out a dreary sigh. An apparent look of boredom came into view, Grima to embrace every form of the emotion.

“T-This is…!”

To Lucina’s dismay, her sword had clashed with another. But, upon looking closer, it was a different opponent.

Her eyes shivered, witnessing the long structure. The spike rose to deflect at the perfect angle, protecting the Fell Dragon from harm. Then, as the exalted princess backed off slightly, it retracted, dissipating into tiny particles.

It was mesmerizing how predatory Robin’s gaze seemed. Lucina was baffled.

“You will not lay a finger on him,” the tactician uttered.

His hand was up, and just a single one. Robin was standing by Grima, and his eyes narrow with apathy, had greatly surprised Lucina. Dissonance was congregated from within each pupil, his gaze wide with unspeakable malice.

Suddenly, the Fell Dragon broke into soft laughter, holding a hand up to his own chin. Upon opening his eyes wider, he looked back at Lucina, then began squinting with a smug grin. The exalted princess frowned, prompted to attempt another strike.

“It is pointless, little one of Naga’s blood.” Grima’s eyes remained motionless at first, but shifted around afterwards to inspect the warrior. “I commend you for your efforts at least. But, it’s all meaningless in the end. You cannot ever hope to defeat me.”

“You… and Robin,” Lucina responded aggressively. “Why? What is the connection here?!”

The tactician’s lips curled, retaining the same neutral expression. “He told you so, the very truth. I am a mere vessel for the Fell Dragon.”

“You are a tactician of Ylisse,” Lucina quickly refuted. “I... sense some deceit going on here. It’s all too odd. Robin… you never told me the reason for that headache. You never relayed to us information concerning your stress.”

An abrupt silence ensued. The vessel’s eyes gazed back patiently, sitting in the tranquil air. The forest continued to sway, beckoned by the bright afternoon.

And yet, it was this very atmosphere that was ominous, filled with terror down to every inch. The desire to bring everything to ruin was barely shackled.

“You wouldn’t understand,” the tactician answered, gradually tilting his head.

The exalted princess scowled, an angry expression to mark her dissatisfaction. Her blade rose again, and likewise, Robin’s tome followed up with similar movement.

“You are a mere puppet in his hands!” Lucina shouted back. Her other hand came into a fist, shaking in deep tension. “Robin, come to reason! You can’t ever break those ties! The bonds you’ve forged are forever! The Shepherds… they need you!”

Like father, like daughter. The same words echoed through the forest.

But, the tactician hated it. He hated every single word uttered.

“That’s enough,” he spat. Robin’s eyes wavered slightly, becoming agitated by the second. “They’re gone, and simply gone. You cannot… you cannot change my fate.”

Abruptly, he brought a hand to his chest, grabbing on tightly. The vessel lowered his head, his breath hitching slowly. His eyes continued shaking, and the tome began whirling with power.

“This choice… it was of my own accord.”

“Grima manipulated you, Robin! It’s not what you want! It’s not!”

This is not… what I want. No… this is not what I want...

He did remember. He remembered rejecting the power, every form of it, and outright attempting to push it out.

The tactician’s gaze turned downward. His arm lowered from his chest, and his position was fixed for a good moment. His stare laid still, until finally he brought his head back up again.

But, the feeling never betrayed him. Laughter commenced, soft as ever, and just as before. The giggling baffled Lucina, and soon she took upon her sword once more with all her might.

“Stop…!” she yelled aloud. “Robin! Please… this is not like you!”

The laughing died down, but the same grin remained. The tactician’s continued smile answered to Lucina’s plea.

“No…” Lucina whispered, nearly wincing in response.

“Now, enough with the games…” Robin spoke, dropping his smile instantly. “As planned, I shall give you all death.”

A shrill scream set off. Quickly, Lucina turned around in panic.

“N-Noire!” she yelled out.

A barrage of spikes surrounded the young archer, encircling the victim and ready to attack. But, before the exalted princess could rush over, she was knocked over by another spike below her. Her body tumbled to the floor, her sword flying out by her. Swiftly, Lucina shifted around to grab her weapon, but it was far too late.

“This is it for you.”

Her Falchion... her beloved blade left behind her fallen father. The tip went close against her neck, and the tactician hovered the sword over in steady positioning. The sword was held rigidly, and it was then lowered, aiming right for the center of Lucina’s chest.

Tears fell, slow and filled with misery. Grief came upon the exalted princess in that moment, and despondency arose in every form. The feeling latched on, of defeat, and of losing all hope. It truly, truly seemed like the end.

The grass swayed, the forest remained silent. The children struggled against their perpetrators. Time moved, but the situation ceased from changing.

“For him, I will do what I must.”

Lucina grunted in anguish. Had this been the end of her journey?

Was fixing the future a wish too much to ask for?

“Do not give up!” a voice rose up, much like clamoring, but was only sounded out from one person.

The tactician turned. The Fell Dragon shifted around. Everyone had their eyes looking back, but Lucina’s was the one that had expanded the most. In complete, utter surprise.

Not yet. It wasn’t the end.

Of course. Of course she couldn’t give up. She wouldn’t forget her purpose. She had a fate that needed to be changed, and all because of the man lying in front of her very eyes. He was the one to ignite the fight, sparking the light to her life-long goal.

No matter the cost, Lucina vowed to protect him. Never again would the same fate befall upon him. Fate was not a forever bound entity. The future was to be rewritten.

The exalt stepped forward. Then, behind him, his army emerged in his footsteps. The prince of Ylisse brought forward his sword, the Falchion, and pointed it ahead. His gaze was tucked in, and finally his breath moved as he rose to speak.

“Stand down, Robin.”