Chrom didn't understand a lot of things but that didn't mean he was an idiot. And it wasn't only him this time. Lissa(when she was visiting from Regna Ferox), Sumia, and Frederick felt the same way. They couldn't help but feel like they'd forgotten something important. There was an empty space in their hearts where... something obviously should be but wasn't. Lissa had speculated that perhaps it was the absence of Future Lucina, though Chrom shot it down swiftly, claiming to have felt it before she had departed. Being the insightful man he was, Frederick had given the possibility that Grima had done something to their memories in his dying breath. While that was very probable, flashes of wrong kept him from fully accepting it the way the rest of his family was.
The emptiness followed him everywhere. From council meetings to meals, even to the practice yard. He would turn to speak to someone who wasn't there, would move to give a friendly pat on a shoulder before he realized one wasn't present to do so. In his dreams, he'd see someone too blurry to recognize fighting alongside him or joking around with the other Shepherds. He would wake feeling upset and confused, longing for something or someone nonexistent. But what was really strange was that every time he looked at the fire, be it lighting a torch or Miriel and Ricken casting an Archfire he'd feel a strange sense of nostalgia.
Chrom still felt the oppressive loneliness as he stood in the palace library. He didn't know why he was there as he wasn't a big reader, but it was where his feet had taken him. At least it was quiet enough to work out his thoughts without being interrupted.
Two years. That was how long it had been since Grima's defeat. Since then, little Lucina had grown quite a bit and became a big sister to the new baby, Cynthia. Life went on as normal even if it felt incomplete. Odd happenings were few and far in between, most often being false alarms.
The creak of the old oak doors brought Chrom out of his contemplation enough to recognize Frederick entering with Lissa on his heels. He turned to face them fully. Of course, he couldn't get more than a few minutes of respite.
"Did something come up?"
Lissa fidgeted anxiously with her sleeves, throwing glances up at her chaperone, who kept a calm face.
"Milord, we've received numerous reports of a Grimleal priest terrorizing several towns on our border," Frederick announced, "We've been asked to investigate as soon as possible."
"A Grimleal priest?! Again?! This is, what, the second time we've had this happen? And that was only a couple weeks ago," Chrom mumbled, scratching the back of his head, "Well, better go see if this priest is actually there this time."
Striding out of the library, Lissa and Frederick easily fell into step beside him. The knight was quick to inform the Exalt of the details as they made their way through the palace.
"I assume you have a plan, milord?"
Chrom slowed his pace, his determined expression morphing into something closer to a cringe, "Er..."
Lissa sighed, facepalming, "Of course not."
"If I may be so bold, " Frederick started, "You cannot go into this without some kind of plan."
"Well, I mean, I have a general idea. If we actually encounter whoever this priest is, we try the diplomatic approach and if it doesn't work... then we'll do what we must."
"No offense, Chrom, but I think it's time we got ourselves a tactician," Lissa said.
"What do you mean 'Get a tactician'? We have one-"
"What? No, we don't. Unless you're referring to yourself. And if that's the case," the princess giggled.
"First of all, ouch, Lis. And second-No, forget it," Chrom waved off the topic, not wanting to confuse anyone(himself included) more, "Have they actually attacked people or has it just been threats?"
Frederick sniffed, annoyance shining in his brown eyes, "Reports have been unclear in that aspect, thus far."
"Then it looks like we're just going to have to be ready for anything and everything."
Gathering what few Shepherds remained in or close to Ylisstol, Chrom departed for the Ylissean border. The reports had mostly originated from towns close to Southtown. It was a bit of a trek but it was nothing the Shepherds hadn't dealt with before. They'd filled the time catching up with one another. Chrom felt better, more at ease, being with old friends he'd lived and fought beside. It was a little unfortunate that Sumia had decided to remain behind with their children but he knew someone had to look after them. Besides, she could miss a bit of recon.
Walking at a steady pace, they reached the outskirts of Southtown after a few days. The green fields along the main road provided a nice view. The sun was even shining which gave a gentle spring warmth. For some reason unknown to him, Chrom felt a strange sense of nostalgia that had him both wanting to cry and smile. He slowed his pace to drink in the sight before a wave of familiarity hit him. He had been there a few times in passing but as far as he could remember, nothing significant had happened to give him that strange sense of deja vu.
A break from the natural colors caught his eyes. The blacks and purples of the back of a Grimleal coat stood out boldly among the tall blades of grass, not even attempting to hide. Frederick motioned for their companions to halt, silently moving to join Chrom's side to assess the situation. It appeared that the individual had failed to notice their presence. Or if they did, they didn't make an outward reaction.
"I'm going to try talking to them first. Don't make any hostile appearances but stand by just in case."
"Milord, are you sure it is wise to go alone?"
"One on one won't be as intimidating. I promise to be careful."
Chrom strode away before Frederick could argue further. The closer he got to the hooded figure, the more he could see of what they were doing. From the looks of it, they were just looking at a small object in their hands, not that he could see what it was. He made sure that his footsteps were clearly audible so as not to startle them into attacking. Though, it appeared in vain when the figure abruptly jumped to their feet, brandishing a steel sword. In the end, it was Chrom's quick reflexes that prevented him from losing a limb or two when it was swung blindly in his direction.
"Wait, I only came to talk!"
His protest fell on deaf ears as his assailant tried again to slice him in half. Seeing no other choice, Chrom drew Falchion in time to block another harsh attack. Frederick and the other Shepherds joined his side, some going straight on the offensive. The individual held their ground for the most part, but nine against one, the one was bound to lose. As they were just beginning to break through the Grimleal's defenses, a flash of deep blue cut between the opposing sides, Parallel Falchion gleaming menacingly in the sunlight.
Standing between both Crom and the hooded figure was Lucina, her face stricken with grief. She held her arms out placatingly, silently pleading for peace. Chrom lowered his blade in surprise at seeing his daughter from the future.
She shot him a sheepish look before turning to the Grimleal who tensed under her gaze. The silence dragged on for a few seconds as Lucina approached, weapon pointed at the ground. The figure momentarily shied away from her before suddenly swinging their sword at the princess. Lucina caught the blade with her own.
"Hey...! It's okay, Robin. It's okay."
A tiny gasp and soft whimpers from Robin followed her words. The blade fell from Robin's hands when she stumbled back as though she were struck. A great sob escaped her and she turned away, hugging herself. The suppressed, choked noises slowly morphed into anguished wails. While it was impossible for Lucina to see her face, she knew tears were falling from Robin's honey-colored eyes. Sheathing her own sword, she placed comforting hands on the other woman's shoulders.
"It's okay. It's over now. You can stop."
Leaving Robin to get herself together, she returned to her father. He let out a less than dignified squawk of surprise when she grabbed his left wrist and dragged him closer to the tactician.
"Lucina, what are you-?"
"Look at her," when all she got was a confused glance, she added more forcibly, "Look at her, Father."
Chrom hesitated, especially when Robin ducked her head to avoid his gaze. He reached a hand out to lift the hood enough to see her face. Confused blue met anxious golden-brown and for a moment, Chrom felt as though the world was spinning too fast. Air caught in his lungs as memories flashed through his mind. All those gaps in his mind filled and, finally, the whole picture was there. Visible. That's what his life was missing...
The name rolled off his tongue as easily as breathing. Tears returned anew when the woman heard her name on his lips.
Lucina nodded, "Father, what do you remember from the end of the battle with Grima?"
It took a few seconds for Chrom to process her words and tear his own misty eyes away from Robin's. He closed his eyes to focus. He remembered the fight with the hierophant vaguely and Robin taking the final blow. Everything beyond that was blurry at best.
"Aside from Robin landing the final blow and being aware that she vanished, not much. It's still coming back."
A sudden sheepish feeling hit him when he remembered that the three of them weren't the only ones present and that the other Shepherds were probably so confused. Clearing his throat awkwardly, he waved his friends and family over to join them as he gave a pointed look to his daughter. Lucina caught on and moved to help Robin seat herself back on the ground.
"This could take a while..." she muttered to herself.
Once the current situation was explained and everyone was comfortable, Robin began to arrange her thoughts into coherent ones. A lot had happened in the time that she was gone, yet at the same time, not much. She folded her hands on her lap, avoiding the multiple gazes locked on her. A few of them were ticked off while the rest were just relieved.
"I guess the first thing I should address is... I'm not exactly human. Well, I am, I just wasn't... born like everyone else," Robin stumbled, tightening her grip nervously, "My real name-designation is No. BR."
Lissa straightened, eyes widening with realization, "So that explains why you kept saying 'designation' instead of 'name' back when we first met!"
"...Yes. I was created by the mages Zilla and Xanthus... But Validar shares genetic... he is the reason I exist in the first place and why you all forgot my existence. However, I will only ever consider Xanthus my true father. As you are aware, I was created with the intention of becoming a vessel for Grima. Zilla got me out of there before that could happen while Xanthus remained behind to cover our tracks," Robin paused briefly to arrange her thoughts again before continuing, "That wasn't long before Chrom, Lissa, and Frederick found me. From what I was told, Zilla... didn't survive."
"Can you tell us how the heck you're alive?" Sully asked.
Robin seemed to shrink even further into her coat, "Xanthus used his research notes to recreate the process..."
Xanthus found himself hesitating as he prepared to finally cast the spell to bring back No. BR. He wanted her back, more than anything. He wanted to see how the one he loved as a daughter had grown, what speech pattern she'd developed, what appearance she'd chosen. She had still been too fresh, too new to even speak when he had last seen her.
When the man had found out that Zilla had perished to make sure No. BR escaped, he'd immediately made copies of his research and set fire to the building he'd used to conduct it, destroying all evidence of its existence. The only reason he'd even kept the information was just in case No. BR ever managed to get herself killed(Which she did, as he found out through the sudden lack of knowledge of the famed tactician that matched her description). Then he could bring her back... Or create a new one to keep him company. Which he ended up doing.
His son, Reflet(a pun on the word 'reflection' since he mirrored No. BR to a fault), hovered uncertainly nearby, removing his gaze from the waiting doll-like body of his established sister to his father. The young man regarded the elder as if waiting for the answer to an unasked question. They both knew the risks of this. It was highly likely she would have amnesia for a bit and she would also be... similar to how she was when she first came to life. Distant, almost detached from reality. And it would take time for her to readjust. Because Xanthus and Reflet were the only ones available to perform the spell, there was no guarantee the body would even survive the process.
Nodding to the boy, Xanthus conjured the readied spell, glittering hues of blues and teals swirling around his fingertips. Reflet mimicked his motions, honey eyes shining with a silent determination. A blinding flash of light had them covering their eyes and break off from the spell. When the light faded, Reflet was the first to recover. He practically threw himself at the small bed with the body, checking it for damage. Thankfully, aside from a few sparks of electricity making her hand spaz it seemed to have survived whatever had interfered with the spell.
With a despairing sigh, Reflet pushed himself away from the bed and glanced back at his father who was beginning to write something in his notebook. He felt the sudden urge to kick something until it broke. In the few years he'd been alive, emotions were still a struggle to grasp and he often didn't know what to do with them. Tears pricked his eyes as he glared at the floorboards. He felt useless.
"I don't understand what could have possibly happened. I accounted for many scenarios provided we make a mistake or we don't have enough power but this... I could never have predicted that."
"Father, we don't even know what it was. Shouldn't we be running tests to make sure the internal organs haven't been damaged?"
Xanthus took a glance behind the boy, his previous discouraged expression morphing into one of glee, "Unless she's in pain, I don't think we have to."
Turning to see what he was looking at, Reflet nearly stumbled backward in surprise. Robin was sitting up, grey eyes slowly changing back to their usual honey brown and unhealthy pale skin darkening. The boy would have hugged the life back out of her but her blank stare stopped him. He'd expected her to be confused and maybe a little scared, not... emotionless. And how was she even alive?! He thought for sure the spell had flunked.
"Before I awoke in my new body... I had been wandering as a... lost spirit as Reflet put it. I hardly retained any of my memories in that state. But I suddenly felt a pull from the spell they had been trying to cast to bring me back. I ended up interfering with it a bit and I not only had to regain my memories after a time but I was as emotionless as I was when I was first created."
Chrom scratched the back of his head nervously from where he stood, "That, uh... still doesn't explain why you attacked us... me..."
Robin's breath hitched and she bit her lower lip hard enough to bleed, though she paid to mind to the red that slowly began to trickle from the small cut. The tension in her shoulders increased as she seemed to get lost even further in her mind. Lissa would have jumped forward with a handkerchief to stem the flow of blood but the way her friend's eyes clouded over kept her rooted to her place beside her brother.
"I... I was... a-a-afraid... you came... to kill me... I know the villages I've visited recently mistook me for a Grimleal... It was bound to reach the Shepherds at some point... I knew you didn't remember me... I'm... so sorry..."
The gentle arms that wrapped around her shoulders startled the white-haired woman, the handkerchief pressing firmly against her split lip even more so. Lissa's forgiving nature was one of the many reasons she had been Robin's best (female) friend. She was hesitant to return the hug merely out of pure shame for her recent actions against the people she once considered family... and still did if she was being honest with herself. They'd been reunited despite the chances, however grim the meeting.
Chrom knelt before Robin and placed a hand on her forearm, "Do you remember our promise?" She was slow to meet his gaze but the subtle nod she gave was all he needed to continue, "You're my best friend, Robin. Of course, I forgive you. I'm still a little upset you lied to me but I can understand why you did."
Robin fought against her tears, she'd done enough crying. It was now time for smiles and happiness. She found her friends and most importantly... they remembered her. And she was so very alive, no longer the mostly empty husk she'd previously been. She was free.
"Will you return to Ylisstol with us?" Lissa asked as she tightened her hold on Robin's left hand, "I know you have a family elsewhere but..."
"Only if you all don't mind... I know my family has only just begun to form but... if they really want to stay with me, then they'll be quick to follow. I think you'll all really like Reflet."
Chrom smiled warmly, "I can't wait to meet him."