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I'm currently working on a series of short Fire Emblem Awakening stories (to help cure my writer's block), and FFN is dreadfully terrible at giving useful feedback. I figure that people on SF will be more critical and give me things I can actually USE, so fire away I guess. [spoiler=Robin: Frustrations]She was at it again. “Tharja. What do you want now?” “Oh, you’re talking to me, Robin? What a delight! How can I help you?” Robin was barely able to resist the urge to snap back at her and her innocent façade. “You’ve been following me around all day,” he stated matter-of-factly. He would have to be blind to have not noticed. “Even when you run off to fight a foe, you come straight back to me.” “Is it so strange for me to want to be by your side every moment?” she replied, with that infuriating giggle that made him want to punch something. Yes. And even more so, considering the fact that both he and Tharja were married – to other people. Admittedly, “married” may not have been the best word to use to describe either of their situations. But Tharja had a fiancé, Stahl, who had proposed to her not long ago. And more importantly, she had accepted his proposal, and therefore should be showering her husband-to-be with her attention instead. Robin, who merely treated most people with indifference, still struggled to comprehend that his best friend Miriel, whom he only had the most platonic of feelings for, would eventually be his wife and that they would have two children together. Children … time traveling children from the future. It was yet another matter that added to his recent stress and frustration. Robin had thought that the war against Plegia would be the end of their troubles. But then came word of Valm’s intent to invade and conquer Ylisse, along with Ferox and Plegia. And as if that hadn’t been enough to worry about, a messenger from the future, Chrom’s daughter Lucina who was not the baby Chrom and his wife had left behind in the castle but a warrior from more than ten years hence. She had jumped into the past with her companions to avert a disastrous future – two of those companions claiming to be his and Miriel’s son and daughter, and another the daughter of Stahl and Tharja. With the help of the children whom they had encountered on the way, Chrom and his Shepherds had defeated the mighty conqueror Walhart and brought his reign to an end. And yet … their troubles were still not over. Lucina’s warning about the awakening of the fell dragon Grima loomed heavily over their heads. They were not in the clear yet. He hadn’t asked for this. Robin hadn’t asked for any of this. He was grateful to Chrom for finding him in that field and giving him a job, make no mistake of that. But even with his memories gone, his personality was still intact. Keeping his distance from the others suited him well because it had always felt right. It was a struggle to merely approach and converse with the troops he was meant to lead and direct, anxiety always kicking in whenever he had to speak. Being the tactician of the Exalt did not provide a stress-free environment. The Shepherds themselves were a loud and boisterous bunch, often extremely informal with one another and too many of them all too willing to get in his business when he didn’t want them around. And Tharja was just the worst offender of them all. Unlike Vaike, who simply had no “inside voice” and barely any humility, or Nowi, who looked and acted like a child for her thousand years of being alive (not that they were the only Shepherds who drove him out of his mind), Tharja simply could not take “no” for an answer. She had been outright stalking him ever since Chrom had recruited her to fight for their cause back in Plegia – always following him around, always watching him when all he wanted was to be left alone. Even after he had asked her directly to stop. Even after Stahl had proposed to her and she had accepted. Even after Laurent had claimed his parents to be Miriel and Robin. Even after they had found Noire, who was unmistakably Stahl’s daughter. No one else had his hair color. Even after Morgan had all but confirmed that Robin would never get together with Tharja and that he would marry Miriel someday. Anyone else would’ve been able to see that the future was not going in a direction that Tharja had hoped it would. But still, none of it deterred her. And Robin was getting quite sick of it. “Robin?” Tharja’s voice pulled him from the solitude of his thoughts and back to their present situation. “Can I ask you a favor?” “… What?” He eyed her warily. A wrenching feeling in his stomach told him that he would not like whatever favor she wanted from him. “I want you to slather my body with oil,” she said. For a moment, he was at a complete loss for words. It felt like an eternity until he found his voice again. “What? You can’t – I don’t even – why would you even ask that?” he sputtered. “Well, you wouldn’t want my skin to dry out in this heat now, would you?” She giggled. “And I can’t reach my back and, you know … other places.” Robin almost snapped back at her that he couldn’t care less about her skin, but he caught himself in time. “Why don’t you ask one of the women to do it for you? Or even Stahl? He’s your fiancé.” Robin made sure to emphasize the word, hard. “No. I want you to do it,” she retorted, sounding very much like a petulant child. “Otherwise, what’s the point?” Again, Robin found himself speechless for quite some time. “I’m leaving,” he finally said and stormed off in a huff. He heard Tharja call out to him but he ignored her and continued to put distance between them. She had some nerve to make such a request of him. Robin felt the slightest of sympathies for Stahl, whom he rarely interacted with but was clearly a better person than he for putting up with Tharja’s nonsense. “Laurent, isn’t that Father headed this way?” “Father, has something befallen you –” Robin brushed past them both without a word or a sparing glance – and he immediately felt bad about it but couldn’t bring himself to stop. Even if the nature of his feelings for Miriel were conflicted, how he felt about Laurent and Morgan was not. Despite the shock and the doubts that had been his initial reaction (there was at least one another man in the Shepherds who shared his hair color and whom Miriel had been very interested in until the children showed up), Robin found that he cared very much for them both, to the point where he wouldn’t hesitate to trade his life for one of theirs. But he couldn’t deal with them now, not about this. Morgan and Laurent weren’t blind to Tharja’s attraction to their father, and he in turn was not blind to the tension this caused between his children and Noire. The afternoon sun was starting to take its toll on him. Robin made his way over to the grassy part of the beach and sat under a tree. By this time, the beach had been cleared of all but the strongest bandits. More than a few of the Shepherds had become distracted from the battle and had begun partaking in more leisurely activities. Gaius and Cordelia were busy collecting seashells, while Chrom was attempting (and failing) to devise activities to impress his wife. Said wife was also collecting seashells with her children. (What was it with the Shepherds and collecting seashells?) “Hee hee … There you are, Robin!” The sound of the woman’s voice was enough to put him in an unpleasant mood again. “Is this about the oil again?” he demanded. “You really are clever!” she tittered. “How did you know?” Like you really haven’t a clue. “Well then, please begin rubbing it in when you’re ready.” You just won’t take a hint, won’t you? “And don’t be afraid to put plenty on – you’ll hear no complaints from me.” “That’s enough.” Robin didn’t recognize the dark, angry voice as his. Not at first. He didn’t have to. All that he had kept to himself, all the stresses that had been building up since he had first become the Shepherds’ tactician, everything had finally reached a breaking point and he couldn’t have stopped it even if he wanted to. Tharja seemed to be taken aback. “Robin? Is something the matter?” “Don’t play dumb with me, Tharja, because I know you’re smarter than that.” The words spilled out of his mouth, what little tact was usually present in his manner of speaking gone. “Have I not made it absolutely clear to you that I do not appreciate you stalking me everywhere? What made you think that ignoring me on this was a good idea at all? What, that maybe one day I’d fall in love with you for some reason?” Robin paused for breath. “I don’t like the idea of you watching every little thing that I do, having to worry about whether you’re spying on me when I just want to be left alone … you creep me out to no end. But no, that’s not even the worst part. And you know what is?” His shouting was starting to attract the attention of the other Shepherds – including both of his kids, Chrom, Stahl, and Noire. But he didn’t care. He wasn’t finished. Oh, no, he was just getting started. “You have. A daughter. With someone. Who is very clearly not me.” He gestured briefly in Stahl and Noire’s general direction. “Have you not once considered how Stahl feels about all this? He proposed to you, and you accepted. You accepted his proposal. Clearly it was asking too much of you to be faithful to the guy you agreed to marry, right? And it’s not just them. You also knew that I had Laurent and Morgan with someone who was obviously not you. Is it too much to expect you to back off? That maybe, just maybe, it’s time to move on because clearly we’re never going to be together? I think you should really try it, and now would be a fine time to start!” Chrom and Stahl appeared to be in shock. They both knew that their aloof tactician was rather blunt and not the type to sugarcoat his words, but neither had ever seen him lose his cool the way he just did. Noire was hiding behind her father, as if her mere presence would get Robin started on another angry rant. Laurent was struck speechless – this was a side of his father he had not expected to exist. But then he was reminded of a near-forgotten memory, from before his and his companions’ excursion to the past, when he had blown up at Severa and how difficult she was being, and realized just how much of his father's temperament he'd actually inherited. Morgan, on the other hand, carefully hid a smile of glee. As terrible as she knew it sounded, and although Noire was a friend of hers, perhaps Noire’s crazy mother would stop harassing her father now and leave their family in peace. Robin didn’t pause to look at their expressions, or at Tharja’s. He merely pulled out his Arcthunder tome, stomped past his audience, and began shooting at the brigands that remained on the beach to vent out the rest of his frustration. No one wanted to approach him, a wise decision. Chrom elected to ask someone else for help in making a seashell necklace for Olivia – perhaps Lissa would be a safer option? Stahl and Noire approached Tharja carefully, making sure that she was all right. Morgan pulled Laurent away, challenging him to a sandcastle-building contest, and Laurent did not protest for once. - Later in the evening, after the sun had set and all the bandits chased away from the beach, the Shepherds built a campfire and continued to enjoy the rest of their day on vacation. Miriel had passed out briefly from heatstroke during the battle, but had quickly recovered and was back to her usual self. Sumia, who had been with her when she had passed out, continued to hover over her, asking her if she was certain she was all right until Cordelia and Cynthia dragged her away and showed her all the seashells they had collected, which Sumia had missed out on. Chrom, with the help of Lissa and Frederick, had successfully managed to create at least one seashell necklace that didn’t get pulverized. Olivia blushed a deep red upon receiving the gift and shyly presented Chrom with a seashell belt that she, Lucina, and Inigo had made together. (Lucina, who shared her father’s talent for smashing things, had crushed more than a few of the seashells her mother and brother had collected in frustration.) Sitting apart from the others were Tharja, Stahl, and Noire. Tharja hadn’t spoken at all since Robin had snapped at her earlier that day, but seemed to be listening to Stahl and Noire as they talked to her and attempted to lift her spirits. Robin had also separated himself from the rest of the army, but made sure to keep his distance from Tharja and was on the opposite side of the camp as her. Despite Morgan and Laurent’s attempts to get him to join them and Miriel, he had to decline. His exasperation had yet to abate. “Hey-o, Robin!” Henry’s cheerful voice pierced the tranquility of his thoughts. And yet, Robin was too tired to be annoyed about losing his solitude. The fact that Henry was one of his closest friends probably helped. “Whatcha doing here all by yourself?” he asked, plopping down on the ground next to Robin. “Good evening, Robin,” Libra greeted, seating himself on the side that Henry had not taken. “You seemed to be troubled. Is something the matter?” “Nya ha! Didn’t you hear? He blew up at Tharja today!” Henry laughed. “Laurent was telling Gerome about it, and I happened to overhear! Of course, Gerome got all flustered and dragged Laurent away with him once he saw that I was listening in! Nya ha ha, that boy …” Henry had a fond look on his face at the mention of his son. “Er, yes, I am aware of that …” Libra grimaced, his attempt at tactfully bringing up the incident ruined. His own son, Brady, who had first heard the news from Owain, had been the one to tell him. Maribelle had given him a brief lecture about how it was unbecoming of a nobleman and the son of her dear friend Lissa to be gossiping like commoners, but later confessed to Libra that she wasn’t surprised that Robin had finally snapped. “So I did. What of it?” Robin asked flatly. “I’m not sorry for what I said, so if you were hoping I’d apologize or … go talk things over with Tharja, you’re wasting your time.” “That is not why we’re here,” Libra quickly assured him, while Henry merely giggled. “I will not judge you for your actions. But what in Naga’s name could make you react as such? Forgive me if it is not my place to say so, but is everything all right?” “Yeah, nya ha! You’ve been more high-strung than you usually are, like you’re about to explode! Ooh, do you think I’d explode too if I did the same?” Henry seemed a little too ecstatic at that thought. Robin wisely decided not to comment on Henry’s desire to spontaneously combust. “Are either of you all too surprised?” he said quietly. “Ever since Chrom found me in that field two years ago – and don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that he took me in when I knew and remembered nothing. But it’s been one conflict after another from that point on. And everyone expects me to be able to pull out miraculous strategies from out of nowhere and come out on top of everything.” “Your strategies have saved us many times,” Libra replied. “Many of us may not be here without them. But at the same time, you feel pressured to always know what to do.” “I didn’t ask for this, you know?” Robin looked up at the darkening sky, at the first stars shining bright, and went on. “I’m just tired of everyone and everything. I get that I’m an important part of this army and all, but I can’t take it anymore. Sometimes, I find myself wishing that I’d never met Chrom that day.” “I remember the first time we talked!” Henry exclaimed. “I think you were hiding in the barracks, having a panic attack after getting out of a meeting! Nya ha ha, good times! You were always kind of like that!” Libra was better at expressing his sympathies than Henry was. “Your tactical skills are peerless, but you lack the ability to truly understand those you are leading,” he said. “That’s … exactly it.” Robin sighed. Libra had always been good at reading him. “I don't like a lot of the other Shepherds, and it's not as if I'm good at dealing with people anyway. It's just who I am. But my position as this army’s tactician makes it unavoidable. I get so annoyed and irritated by the smallest of things, unintentional things. Tharja just … she was just pushing all of my buttons. Invading my personal space, continuing to bother me after I told her I wasn't interested and even after she agreed to marry Stahl. And then all the kids started showing up … and this future they expect us to avert. It’s just …” Robin threw his hands up in the air. “Hey, hey! You don’t have to do this all by yourself!” Henry chimed in. “We’re here too, you know! I wouldn’t miss a second of this war. I’m gonna have lots of fun slinging spells at enemies!” “If you ever feel the pressures as this army’s tactician starting to overwhelm you, you can always talk to me,” Libra said, smiling. “I’m your friend and I’m here for you.” “… Thanks guys.” And Robin really meant it. Even the weird things that Henry said, he was just being comforting in his own odd way. “Great! Now that that’s settled, let’s go join the others around the campfire!” Henry said. “It’s starting to get chilly here! Brr!” And with those words, Libra, Robin, and Henry went to join the rest of their companions. Chrom waved them over and scooted over to make space for Robin to sit between him and Miriel. Henry and Libra sat with their families. Even Tharja, Stahl, and Noire were enjoying the warmth of the fire with the others, although both Robin and Tharja avoided each other’s eyes. “Oh, Father! Look at all these seashells Cynthia and I collected!” Morgan said, shoving several sharp, broken, and pointy shells into his hands without warning – one of the shells slicing into his right palm and leaving a bleeding gash. Chrom and most of the army burst into laughter as a horrified Laurent scolded his sister for being careless and immediately began fussing over the (obviously minor) wound. Miriel merely rolled her eyes at her children’s antics, carefully hiding an amused smile, while Morgan apologized sheepishly and Henry attempted to talk Gerome into slashing open his palm with a sharp seashell. Robin felt slightly annoyed at being the center of such a spectacle, but at the same time … it was kind of nice in a way to not have to worry about life-threatening battles and claiming victory in near-unwinnable situations. He had a feeling that such peace would be far in between. Might as well enjoy such times when he could. [spoiler=Luka: Decisions]Luka had been blessed with good luck for as long as he remembered. As impressive as that statement may have sounded, Luka’s memory up until nearly three years ago was but an empty void. Nearly three years since he had first met Chrom in that field and yet no hint, no sign, not even the faintest of clues about his past or the person he had once been. But he had always considered himself lucky despite the loss of his memories – lucky that Chrom had been the one to find him and to take him in, lucky to have become part of the Shepherds, lucky to have directed his companions through two great wars without suffering a single casualty … lucky to have found great friends and the woman who would become his wife to give his suddenly purposeless life meaning. It hadn’t been a smooth journey, however, finding acceptance with the ragtag group of vigilantes who were Ylisse’s only line of defense. The bonds between him and his closest friends – including his wife – had once been vitriolic on one or both ends. Luka could still remember his initial impressions of them clearly – he had thought Virion to be a fancy loudmouthed braggart, Frederick a high-strung control freak, Maribelle a condescending brat, and Chrom an idiot with no idea how to run a country. (Nobles … go figure.) He would never have believed them to be his staunchest allies of the Shepherds, and yet they were. He lost his composure more often than was appropriate for the army’s tactician. While Luka had never slipped into full-blown panic during either of the Shepherds’ campaigns, it was often Chrom or Frederick or Virion – even the shy and ever-fretting Olivia in one instance – who had to bring him to his senses. Considering the number of times he had panicked on the battlefield, it was nothing short of a miracle that he had managed to give sensible orders that kept all of the Shepherds alive. No, it wasn’t a miracle – it was luck, so fickle and unpredictable, never knowing which way it would turn and who it would favor – Luka was staring down the blade of his future daughter-in-law. It appeared as if his luck had finally run out. “Lucina,” he began, marveling at how calm his voice sounded even with a sword pointed at his face, “what is the meaning of this?” “Stay where you are, Luka!” she shouted. Her face was twisted into a grimace, her grip on Falchion unsteady as if it were weighing her down. “I have no choice. I must kill you.” It took a few seconds for her words to register in his mind – even less for him to come up with a response. “Have you gone mad?” Luka demanded. “In my future, you …” Lucina paused, struggling to speak the words that would make the truth all too real. “You are my father’s murderer.” Of all the things she could have said, of all the things she had said, this was the least expected, most unbelievable of all. “You’re insane,” Luka finally said, his tone flat and refusing to betray the uneasiness he was feeling. “Why would I kill Chrom?” “I didn’t want to believe it myself!” Lucina steadied her grip on Falchion. “I knew he had been killed by his closest friend, but having witnessed your bond with him, I … I wanted nothing more than to doubt it. But today’s events make it clear.” Her expression hardened. “You are at Validar’s mercy. I suspect it’s he who forces you to take my father’s life, and very soon …” Validar … he should have known. Everything was Validar’s fault. Luka did not dare to dwell upon what had happened earlier that day. It was hard enough to admit that he had ... betrayed Chrom, but once word of his actions had got out to the rest of the Shepherds, they had become wary of him. No one had confronted him directly, but their looks said all. They challenged his loyalty to them and their cause, reflected their fear that he would backstab them all in a matter of time. It was infuriating, how his so-called companions could believe that he would turn against them and everything he knew for the ramblings of a Plegian madman. Not even Maribelle or his children could face him. No, that wasn’t true. His daughter Morgan still believed in him, but she was the only one. She had been quick to reassure him of her continued belief in his tactics and devotion to Chrom, and then she had left to confront everyone else about their mistrust. Luka wished that she hadn’t, her absence and his solitude made it easier for the doubts to return. His son, Brady, despite the closeness that they shared, was not nearly as convinced as his sister. It was easier for him to have doubts because he hadn’t lost much of his memory during the passage through time like Morgan had and could still recall the bleak future he came from. Or maybe Brady was more like Luka than he had expected, a pessimist who spoke with more confidence than he actually felt. Morgan’s optimism was of a nature more akin to her mother’s, minus the dignity and noble pride that defined Maribelle. But even Maribelle didn’t appear to trust him. The look that she and Brady had given him was both indescribable and crushing. Or perhaps it was Lucina’s influence on his son that caused more distrust than there may have been otherwise. Lucina, who had the most single-minded determination of everyone to change the future of destruction that she had come from, who had been the last of the exalts in her timeline and took her duty to the world seriously and personally. What if Brady had to choose between his fiancée and his father? Who would he side with? Luka did not disapprove of Brady’s relationship with Lucina, but he resented the thought of Chrom’s daughter driving a wedge between him and his son. His son and daughter were of his blood, of Validar’s blood – the enemy of the exalted line of Ylisse. He and his family could not have been in an unluckier situation. “Listen to me, Lucina,” Luka said once he was able to find his voice. “Don’t do anything you will regret –” “If Father is right, then we can change our fates,” Lucina spoke fervently, the slightest bit of desperation in her eyes. “If this dark future is to be averted, sacrifices must be made. I am sorry, Luka! I know this is murder … but if you hold any love for Chrom, then let this be done …” Luka’s mind was reeling, but his face remained impassive and showed no indication of his inner turmoil. Lucina was absolutely serious. She would kill him right then and there without a second thought if she believed it would save the future. Maybe she was right. Maybe his death would mean that the horrible future his children had suffered would never exist. But the Brady and Morgan of the present would never be born. Could Chrom and the others win against Validar without him? Luka had his doubts. He couldn’t die yet. “I’m sorry, but I cannot just let you kill me, Lucina,” Luka replied as he unsheathed his own sword and pointed it at her. She nodded, her expression as blank as his as she stared down the blade of her future father-in-law. “I understand. Then we shall let battle have the final judgment!” And with those words, Lucina let out a loud cry and slammed Falchion against Luka’s sword to catch him off guard and disarm him. Luka nearly released his grip on the hilt, but quickly regained his equilibrium and pushed back until Lucina was on the defensive. He put more force behind his blade to deflect Falchion’s strike and send Lucina reeling back. The brief respite did not last long. Lucina was back on her feet and she charged at him with her sword at the ready. He was barely able to avoid having his stomach sliced open, the long slash in his cloak proof of his narrow escape. Luka swore and swiftly tore off his cloak, tossing it aside. Although he felt a significant loss of security without it, he knew that the garment would only slow him down. It was not something he could afford. He brought up his sword just in time to block a blow to his throat. Lucina withdrew Falchion and lunged forward with a thrust aimed for his sword arm. Luka sidestepped the attack and slammed the blunt edge of his blade against Lucina’s hand so that she would drop Falchion. She grimaced, but refused to relinquish her hold on her weapon. Spinning once to move her sword out of Luka’s reach, Lucina raised Falchion and swung down at his neck. He wasn’t fast enough to turn around, but Luka was able to maneuver his sword behind him to catch Lucina’s blade. Forcing her sword away from his body, Luka stepped away and turned to face her. “Lucina, I don’t want to kill you, but you are leaving me little choice,” Luka said. “Lower your weapon. Surely we can discuss this matter like civilized people instead of acting like a pair of barbarians.” He tried not to think of how much he had sounded like Maribelle. “No, I must do this, for the sake of the future … for my father.” Lucina’s voice wavered slightly. “There is no other way!” “You’re wrong, Lucina. There is more than one way to change the future. I have not led you or Chrom astray once. So why won’t you trust in me now –” “Enough!” Lucina had closed the gap between almost immediately – she was fast, much like her mother. Luka was laying on his back in the tall grass, Falchion pressed against his throat, the blade of his own sword - swiftly raised thanks to his automatic responses – the only thing standing between the sacred weapon and his flesh. “I won’t … I won’t allow myself to falter. I can’t!” The cool metal of Falchion’s blade suddenly became hot, and Luka was alarmed to see flames quickly spreading across the sword. Chrom was about as magical as a common iron sword, but his wife, Sumia, was gifted with latent magic – a talent she had passed on to both her daughters. Luka, on the other hand, had a debilitating weakness to magical attacks. While he could wield tomes and channel his magic like a master, even if he preferred the sword, he was incapable of withstanding magic used against him. It always left Luka with wounds far greater than those inflicted on anyone else. Lucina had overheard him discussing the matter with Chrom once, and now she was using it against him. Why had he thought that sharing his vulnerabilities was a good idea? Fueled by panic and a desire to survive, Luka kneed Lucina in the stomach. Winded, she fell on top of him as she gasped for air. Luka shoved her off, grabbed Falchion from where it had fallen, and stood up. The searing heat emitting from Falchion’s hilt burned his palm and Luka instantly dropped it. He kicked it out of Lucina’s reach and pointed his sword at her face to dissuade her from attacking him again. “This battle is over.” The iron in his voice dared her to disagree. “I understand that you only want to save the future, Lucina, but your perspective is narrow. You think that there is only one way to prevent destruction. Well, I’ll stop that future – with or without your support.” “Luka! Lucina!” Chrom’s voice was loud, angry, and seemed a lot closer than the prince actually was. He just had to show up at the worst possible time, didn’t he? “Darling?” Only one person in the entirety of the Shepherds, possibly the entirety of the world, could make a term of endearment sound like the greatest insult. Maribelle was clearly not happy with him. Lowering his sword and turning to his furious friend and wife, Luka attempted to explain. “Chrom, Maribelle, before you both murder me on the spot you should know –” He stopped midsentence, his words and body suddenly failing him. A sharp pain in his back that was rapidly spreading to the rest of him, his legs growing numb until they refused to support his weight … Luka collapsed to his knees, coughing up blood, and fell to the ground. The sound of Chrom’s shouting and Maribelle calling his name was so distant, his blurring vision barely able to make out the shape of Maribelle’s boots as she ran towards him. In a brief moment of carelessness, Luka had left his defenses open to the person who wanted him dead. Lucina had taken the opportunity to stab him in the back. I should have thrown Falchion down the hill when I had the chance, he thought as he slipped into unconsciousness. ! If anyone had ever had doubts about the keen hearing of the taguel people, that evening had swiftly put those doubts to rest. Yarne, who had been hiding from Laurent and Brady, had overheard everything – from the beginning of Lucina and Luka’s conversation to the part where she had stabbed him – and when Brady had finally cornered him Yarne could not keep quiet for more than a few seconds. Word had spread fast. The Shepherds were in an uproar and divided into two mutinous camps. Most of the time travelers believed that Lucina was right to take whatever action she thought would avert the future they had come from. Gerome and Laurent were especially insistent, arguing that the dark future must be avoided at all costs. Even cheerful Inigo had solemnly agreed that Lucina had only done what she had to do and refused to listen to any disagreements. Many others were angry that Lucina had tried to take Luka’s life, however, accusing her of being irrational and not considering the consequences of her actions. There was no guarantee that Luka’s death would deliver them from disaster. Morgan had to be held back and away from any weapons in the vicinity lest she try to strike Lucina down like she had done to her father. Brady and Lucina had fought bitterly and were no longer on speaking terms. Maribelle clenched her parasol tightly; her shoulders tense as if she were ready to strike down anyone who dared to so much as look at her husband funny. But the majority of the Shepherds were caught in between their loved ones, not wanting to take sides in such a divisive situation. Frederick did not know whether to support his prince’s daughter, who had only acted out of love for her father, or with his close friend and his wife (who still harbored a strong attraction to Luka despite their marriage). Sumia was horrified at her daughter’s actions yet understanding why she would do such a thing, but not wanting to anger Maribelle any further, while Cynthia had been asking everyone who would listen if a true hero would have had to kill someone to save the lives of others – because weren’t heroes supposed to be able to save everyone? Yarne, the instigator of mayhem, also couldn’t side with either faction. (“Lucina was only doing what we had all agreed to do! S-so there! But could we have won against Plegia without Luka? Oh, we’re doomed either way! I’m going to be extinct!” Then he had promptly fled the room when he noticed both Brady and Laurent looking ready to murder him.) It was a terrible situation wrought with enough infighting to bring their assault on Plegia to an end, and yet Luka found it all very amusing. His luck had not failed him yet, had seen him through his ordeal. The wound Lucina had inflicted on him was nowhere near as dire as it had first appeared to be, and would most likely heal sooner than the burns left by Falchion. But he felt weak and tired – and too vindictive to even try to defuse the thick air of tension that surrounded the camp – and so he pretended that he were still unconscious. Hours later, after everyone else had retired for the night, Luka lay awake staring up at the ceiling of his tent. Maribelle was curled up against him, clinging to his left arm. Morgan had claimed his other side, holding her father’s right arm in a death grip. Brady was sprawled out on the ground beside her, mumbling loudly and unintelligibly every once in a while. But Luka couldn’t sleep, troubled thoughts keeping him up. At the end of it all, what were they supposed to do now? Much as he wanted to deny it, Validar was a foe that Luka could not afford to underestimate. The vile sorcerer who claimed to be his father had a strange control over him, and he was a danger to everyone he cared about as long as Validar continued to bar their path. But he would have to face him sooner or later, couldn’t keep running away forever. What was he supposed to do? Luka shook his head and closed his eyes, refusing to dwell upon it any longer for the time being. He had always considered himself to be lucky, and he had yet to be disproved. He had to believe that his luck would hold up for a little longer, that Chrom would be able to stop Validar before Luka had a chance to harm his friend. It’ll work out, he assured himself as tried to force his restless mind to sleep. Everything will be fine. It’ll work out.