The prince had a lot on his mind, none of which were productive thoughts.
He paced back and forth like a bird in a cage, much to the annoyance of his fellow generals. Earlier that week, he made a big deal about not needing a personal tent, citing affirmations like 'I trust my men' and 'it would be unnecessary weight' and most notably, 'I'm only the crown prince, what's so special about that?'.
Sure, he was the prince of the Holy Halidom - his blood and lineage favoured by the goddess, destined to pull the sword from the stone, to lead and cut down the grave forces of evil, alongside other hogwash and baloney spouted by the nuns who so intimately raised him. He appreciated the attention, was a little proud of it even, but didn't really jibe with the overly sentimental treatment that came along with it.
If he was meant to be such an esteemed hero, why would everyone go at such lengths to hand-hold him through his journey? It seemed counterintuitive.
A lieutenant grumbled in his sleeping bag. Another was trying to read. It was the eve of Heavensturn, the day where the star would complete another rotation, where all nations would collectively flip a proverbial page together.
But instead, the camp was hushed and sombre. The day's battle had been stressful and tiresome. Nothing more than basic greetings were exchanged as men and women retreated directly to their sleeping quarters, knowing that the sun would rise again tomorrow with yet another call to arms.
All except for the restless prince, for which the battle had not yet ended.
Fresh air. Cloudy night. An ominous mist enshrouded the moon and stars. The base camp was illuminated by torches and a communal bonfire. Sentries stood at the perimeter, saluting sheepishly towards the prince as he scrambled to the mess hall, barely even noticing them.
"Ah, Your Highness. Just the man I was looking for."
He recognised her voice, even more so than the goddess's.
Favoured by the goddess my ass.
"Robin, I didn't expect to-" the prince said in a fluster, "what are you doing here?"
"Just going over the plans for tomorrow's assault. I'm conscious that our current pathway doesn't properly take into account our cavalry. I was intending for tomorrow but since you're already here, can I get your opinion on it?"
Robin looked as if she had just ransacked a library. A gargantuan map of the surrounding hinterlands sat before her, littered with iron-carved icons signifying allied and enemy troops. Bowls of fruit were placed on each of the four corners to keep the parchment from curling inwards. With a quill in one hand and a notebook in the other, Robin gestured towards various spots of the terrain as if casting a spell.
Words and phrases flew like a flurry of arrows. None of them were finding their mark.
"Your Highness, are you listening?"
The prince was not listening. His attention laid somewhere within the crevice of her neck, the way it conjoined to the curve of her bare shoulder. Her silver hair, usually tied and bunned neatly for practicality, cascaded down like a waterfall of steel. Here, in the dim lighting of the camp mess hall, he could see the endearing sharpness of her chin, the articulate trim of her back, the shapely poise of her legs - how delightful it would be to entangle within them. He watched her lips move, prim and tight and alluring, the animated way her eyes flickered when she spoke of battle, action, and strategy.
"So what do you think?"
"Yes, I agree with your recommendation. Let's do it."
Robin's brow furrowed like a child who had their sweets stolen - soft to the touch and strikingly vulnerable, even though he knew that she could take care of herself. She was the brightest, most formidable unit in the army. If only she knew that.
"Are you... hiding something from me?" she treaded nervously.
"N-No, it's just the last battle. A little shaken up, that's all."
"That's a lie, Your Highness."
Despite the sharp accusation, Robin's voice was that of a cornered animal.
"You think I haven't noticed? You've been avoiding me these last few weeks. Fidgeting around and refusing to meet my eye and... Your Highness, you know I can't just overlook that. Did something change? Do you dislike my company now?"
"W-What? Goddess no, that can't be farther from the truth."
"Then tell me, Your Highness. I think I deserve an explanation. In my capacity as chief tactician, I must know your concerns to work productively and efficiently."
Composed and level-headed as always. She was the calm to counteract his recklessness, the brain to his brawn in more ways than one. To see her so disconcerted yet still maintain that air of professionalism - something of it danced upon the edge of his heart, ignited his oft-ignored pools of desire.
He could not ignore them much longer.
"We've... It's just that... we've been through a lot together, you and I. These skirmishes... and how we're always side by side. And I thought of you as an ally at first, then as a comrade... and you've become a friend. A friend who I can trust and even... place my life under. But I've just realised from last battle, it's more than that Robin... that you're more than just a friend to me."
Robin's expression darkened. "Your Highness, you can't possibly-"
"Wait! Please." he stumbled, unused to seeing his words spill apart like sand between his fingers. "You've made me come this far. Let me say my piece."
"Chrom, please don't say something you'll regret."
Chrom, he was intoxicated by the way his name left her lips.
"Y-You're right. If I don't say it now, if I keep bottling it up like this... I'll explode. It's better to risk a moment of embarrassment than an eternity of regret."
Robin inhaled. "Then say it."
With clenched fists, he reached into his locked box of truths.
"Robin, I'm in love with you. I have been since the day we first met."
"And look, I know this is sudden. I know this isn't professional and that I shouldn't but... I don't mean to force you into a decision. So please, whatever your answer - I'll abide by it, no matter how painful. Come what may, we will still be allies and will always be friends. That much, I can promise."
She averted her gaze. His heart sank. She opened her mouth. He waited for something - anything. The words wouldn't leave her mouth. He watched, painstakingly, gloss welling up in his eyes like a window pane on a cold, icy night.
"I'm sorry Chrom, but this is impossible." Her voice was stern and commandeering, like how she was on the battlefield. "The crown prince and his chief tactician? It wouldn't be right. Our first responsibility is to the soldiers we lead, not to each other. You understand that, don't you?"
"Yes, I understand." he said, edges chipping into dust.
"But someday this war will end. We'll come out the other side, victorious and unscathed, and the continent will know peace once again. And when that happens, then we'll be free to follow our hearts."
Chrom glanced up. "Our...?"
Fleeting. Like a streak of light. He tasted spilled ink and fresh parchment. Warm and comforting, like a novel by the hearth.
Just as Chrom realised what was happening, her lips slipped away like a thief in the night.
He could smell her breath, like sweat and lavender.
Forbidden, like dark magic.
"Forgive me my moment of selfishness, Your Highness."
In a tactical sweep, Robin pulled over her coat, its long robes sheathing her collection of curves and edges. She gathered her things and made way for the exit.
"We march at dawn," she called out, "don't be late."
And there he stood, the prince of the Holy Halidom, decisively stricken and utterly dumbfounded. His looming headache had subsided into clear skies and new determination, and even still, he didn't remember even a flicker of what she said - only how he felt as she said it.