Grima can admit that she holds a certain respect for the castle library. It is no small feat to amass thousands of years’ worth of one nation’s history, let alone to catalogue the histories of entirely different worlds. Of course, studying the records only proves that humanity is just as repulsive in all times and spaces… Nevertheless, there is still something to be said for the preservation of knowledge that would otherwise dissolve to dust as the last of those with firsthand experience fade from living memory. It is useful to be informed; thus Grima spends much of her free time scouring pages for hints of anything that she could possibly use to her advantage at some point.
There is another advantage to frequenting the library, namely that the raucous sort are banned from the premises. The cheerful chatter that permeates every other corner of the castle is enough to split her head. If she wanted to hear noise, she could simply make the fell dragon roar at the top of its lungs and drown out every other sound in Askr. The library may be full of bratty mages and arrogant scholars, but at least everyone agrees that it is a place to keep one’s excitement to oneself.
In such a quiet place, Grima can choose any spot to occupy and still focus perfectly well. Today, she has chosen a comfortable couch. It is not because of exhaustion that she is taking up its entire length… Her only intention was to ensure that no one else would be able to act on any insane impulse to sit next to her. Her eyes are closed now, yes, but not because she is going to do anything so asinine as nap in a library. She simply needs a moment to collect her thoughts. The book she is reading—a dense text detailing various theories of memory—was not written with dragons, reincarnation, or the power of this realm’s summoner in mind, but perhaps, if she works at it, she can still discover some tidbit of information relevant to the holes in her own mind.
Her meditation is soon interrupted, however, by the sound of a familiar voice.
“Yes, thank you, your suggestions were helpful,” Chrom says. Grima supposes it’s the crowned exalt; he’s been borrowing an awful lot of books lately. He’s also been trying to strike up conversations with her about them during lulls on the battlefield, like it’s her responsibility to tell him whether the authors he’s reading have anything worthwhile to say or not. “Now, er, about that one I asked after last week…”
“Oh, I remember seeing it. It should be on the shelves now,” the librarian says. “Right over there, just past the lounge area.”
Damn it. Grima isn’t asleep, but she’ll pretend to be if it means escaping another “friendly” conversation with Chrom. She doesn’t know what that man is playing at. If he thinks he can trick her into lowering her guard and revealing her weaknesses to him, he’s dead wrong. But… he already defeated the fell dragon in his world… so why would he waste his time trying to figure her out, anyway? No one would go through the effort of talking to their mortal enemy unless they were plotting something. In his world, he defeated her. In her world, she murdered him. They should have nothing to say to each other. Nothing worth the time it takes to open their mouths, at least.
Perhaps, if she had more of her memories… if she could recall more than Chrom’s revolting “forgiveness” in his final moments… perhaps then she would understand this bizarre man better.
But if that were the case, she wouldn’t even need to be here right now. The book lying half-open near her chest only serves to remind her of her continued weakness.
As Chrom’s footsteps get nearer, Grima curls slightly inward. She won’t open her eyes until he’s out of the library. She can’t risk him looking back and catching her gaze with eyes deep enough to drown in.
She hears him walk past her… and then stop, his breath catching. She resists the urge to tense. He can’t possibly tell she’s faking her slumber, can he? Her face is half-hidden against the arm of the couch, so even if he is somehow capable of reading too much from her expression, it still shouldn’t be physically possible for him to do so right now. She breathes out slowly and evenly. He can’t prove a thing.
Yet Chrom dares to take a step closer to her. After a moment, he grabs her book. It has to be a challenge—why else would he take his time slowly flipping through some of the pages?—but she won’t rise to it. Just because she doesn’t know what game he’s playing doesn’t mean she’s doomed to lose; she’ll wait and watch and learn his methods until the moment she can decisively tip the scales in her favor.
Chrom sighs, and Grima finally hears the book close. He sets it down exactly where it was before he picked it up. What was the point, then? She would snarl at him if she didn’t have to keep feigning calm.
Suddenly, something warm is thrown over her legs and torso. She almost loses her composure then, almost responds to being attacked, but in the next instant, Chrom’s hand smooths her hair and she… calms, ever so slightly. Only because she remembers that all the heroes in the Order are contractually bound not to harm each other. And moreover, she can’t let him know he’s capable of scaring her.
“You work too hard, as always…” Chrom whispers right before he… walks away.
All that and he’s just going to leave her alone! After spewing such nonsense, too… True, she is always taking the brunt of enemy attacks in battle, but that is because the fell dragon’s power is so immense that she can endure injuries no human could bear. It is proof of her strength; not of any weakness! How dare Chrom imply she is too fragile to handle her work?
She shifts a little beneath what she now realizes is Chrom’s coat. It’s ridiculously soft, making for an admittedly comfortable blanket… If she really were asleep, she would get somewhat cold in a room like this, unheated by fire for the safety of the more precious volumes. So, he’s mocking her for sleeping in public, then… Or perhaps he still hasn’t bought her act, and he thinks this taunt will succeed where his others failed.
Well, she won’t react to it. He’s made the mistake of giving her something of his. He won’t get it back so easily.
She continues to lie beneath the coat's warmth and listens. It doesn’t take him long to find the book he’s looking for. His footsteps stall again when they approach her, but she refuses to yield, and Chrom soon moves on.
“Beyond Vulneraries: Herbal Mixtures to Improve Your Mind and Your Life,” the librarian reads aloud. “Milord, are you learning the healing arts now?”
“No, I—” Chrom cuts himself off. “I’m just trying to see if there’s something more I can do for my teammates.”
He says it with such sweetness that it’s nauseating. Is it all a ruse to manipulate the other heroes? Or are his supposed allies the ones taking advantage of some weakness inside him? Either way, human behavior is sickening.
Grima waits for Chrom to exit the library and then she waits a little longer until she is sure he won’t come running back for some lost item or another. Then, at last, she sits up, huffing as she crumples Chrom’s coat up in her arms.
“That bastard…” she mutters.
On a couch across the room, a girl in a school uniform looks up from her book and shoots Grima a glare.
Ah, yes, Lysithea… One of those bratty mages, and obviously too much of a brat to keep her mouth shut.
“You know,” she drawls, “he only comes in here because he wants to help you. You could tell him to stop if you don’t like it. It’s rather embarrassing for the rest of us to watch.”
“And you,” Grima hisses, “could stay out of matters that have nothing to do with you, worm!”
An insolent schoolgirl wouldn’t know anything about psychological warfare. No one wants to “help” anyone unless they think they can get something out of it. But what does Chrom expect to gain from the fell dragon? Grima can’t confront him until she understands his motives and can destroy his hopes in a single sentence!
“I’m not trying to get involved, actually,” Lysithea says. “Some of us don’t have time to waste on frivolous quarrels.”
And yet for someone with no time for quarrels, she sure is eager to start one.
“Next time pay more attention to your research, then.” Grima narrows her eyes. “Don’t look at him. Don’t look at me. Mind your own business.”
She is irritated enough that her aura blazes brighter than usual even after she has left the library. The other heroes avoid her in the corridors, unwilling to risk her wrath. The bravest among them stare at the heap of blue in her arms, clueing them into the source of her ire.
She lets them stare. They’re never going to see this garment again, after all.
She throws the damn thing in the corner of her closet where she won’t have to look at it. It’s so ostentatious, meant to scream to the world that the Exalt is present. Is that why Chrom gave it to her, so he could trouble her with his presence even when she is alone? If so, it was an unnecessary move; he already occupies too much space in her thoughts. Even in dreams she can’t escape seeing him. Her one and only memory from her time in Ylisse is of his death. Not bringing ruin to the world, not killing any other humans…
She wakes the next morning with a headache, and the feeling only grows when she spots Chrom in the dining hall, seconds away from getting jam on what is clearly an exact replica of the coat he gave her.
At least he isn’t so stupid as to throw away his only one.
“You…” she mutters.
She makes to grab his shoulder, but he startles at the mere brush of her fingers, letting out a yelp as he throws his toast into his lap.
“Oh…” Chrom breathes as he catches sight of her. “It’s only you.”
“Careful, Chrom, or you’ll lose another coat,” she says. “Unfortunate that I can’t give you back your old one. Things can happen, you know, when you leave your laundry lying around.”
“I see.” Chrom sighs. “I expected you would say as much.”
Of course. He had to have been prepared not to get it back. He’s lucky he’s not getting it back doused in something foul-smelling.
“You just can’t keep hold of anything, can you?” She smirks, picking up the toast he so carelessly dropped. “You should take better care of your things.”
Anger flashes through Chrom’s eyes.
“I take care of what’s important,” he insists.
Obviously, she’s struck a nerve.
“Just last month you broke your fancy bow,” she presses.
“It’s just an object,” Chrom mutters. “Clothing and weapons can be fixed or replaced. I take greater care when something irreplaceable is at stake.”
“Oh, I see,” Grima says drily.
“You don’t believe me.” Chrom grimaces.
“Humans are masters of delusion, constantly inflating the imagined value of trifles,” Grima says. “I am simply wondering what you find so incredibly important that it entitles you to pester me day after day.”
She’s got him now. It doesn’t matter what excuse comes out of his mouth; she’ll deride it, deride him.
“Do you really not understand?”
Chrom rises from his seat. Normally, he is taller than her. She refuses to allow him to look down at her, however, and so she uses just a bit of her power to levitate off the ground, keeping him at eye level.
“Grima…” Chrom says. She forgot the entrancing power his eyes have. “I’m worried about you.”
“You—” Blood rushes to her head so fast that she almost goes dizzy. “You think I would fall for a statement so— So unbelievable?”
“Why would I lie about this?” Chrom asks. “I swear I only want to help you. You get torn up on the battlefield every day—Just because you can heal doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt! And then you come back here and spend every waking moment poring over books denser than bricks. You never rest! Of course I’m going to be worried…”
His gaze is so warm… So disgustingly tender… His body is so close to hers that she could rend his flesh apart in an instant. In an accident, even.
He is such a headache of a man.
“You are awfully fragile to be giving me a lecture on weakness,” Grima says. “Do not forget that without me, it would be you getting pummeled half to death in battle.”
“I am well aware,” Chrom says. “You protect us. But who protects you?”
Doesn’t he know? No one has protected her in her life. She was betrayed by humans because they had seen her as a threat the whole time, a weapon to destroy when the battle was over, not a treasure to hold onto.
But she is at fault, too, for ever expecting them to care beyond the scope of their selfish motives. Even the man who toiled to create her, his greatest accomplishment, wanted to destroy her in the end.
“I do not need assistance from worthless worms!” she snaps, tearing her gaze away. “I know you did not defeat me in your world without a brain, so use it! There is nothing you can do for the fell dragon!”
She bites into the toast she stole in lieu of the human heart she would rather devour. The blood still rushing in her veins leaves her uncomfortably hot and agitated, and her aura flares around her threateningly.
Curse her body, she needs air.
She does not run. Then she would be fleeing, and it would give the wrong impression. She won that argument. She simply has nothing else to say.
She pauses as she passes through the door frame. She looks back—only for an instant, on a whim—and sees Chrom frozen in place, staring after her. Suddenly he stumbles after her, like the sight of her resuscitated him.
She immediately steps outside. Foolish man. She wasn’t inviting him. Not that it matters if he follows her, either. He gives her a headache, but so many things do these days. She’s sick of the game he’s playing, sick of trying to figure him out, but… There are worse heroes she could have at her back. Those sorts, she figures out immediately.
“Grima, wait!” Chrom calls to her. “Please…”
She does not slow down, but it is not very difficult for Chrom to catch up to her. He stays by her side, matching her pace, but he says nothing.
It’s her move, then. If only she weren’t playing in the dark…
“What do you want from me?” she mutters.
She doesn’t expect him to explain himself in full, but perhaps she can bargain with him. Humans always want something, and few things are too difficult to acquire when the fell dragon wills it.
“I want you to relax sometimes, that’s all,” Chrom says. “If you had more time on your hands—”
“Save your pretty little speech for someone who’ll believe it,” Grima says. “What do you really want?”
“I…” Chrom sighs. “I really want…”
He places a hand on her arm, his fingers digging in too tightly to pass for anything friendly.
“I want to keep you close to me,” he says.
All traces of false sweetness have faded from his eyes. This is the look of a man whose soul burns with a passion that is difficult to douse even with death.
“Ah,” Grima says. “I get it now.”
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer… Advice only wise for those already fool enough to rely on their hearts, but Chrom is exactly that sort of man. As long as she is under his scrutiny, he can assure himself that she is not going after anyone else.
“But it goes both ways, you know,” she says. “If you are always with me, then I will always be with you. You’ll never have time for those sorry servants of yours that you like so much. Do you really think I merit so much trouble?”
After all, there is truly nothing she can do to injure the other heroes while in Askr. She does everything she can to frighten the populace, but if they were to call her out… There is little she could do.
She hates being at the mercy of humans yet again. Her only means of defense is to stay ahead of them at all times.
It gets tiring, after a while.
“Spending time with you isn’t any trouble,” Chrom says. “It’s keeping hold of you that’s difficult.”
Hence his continued grip on her arm, Grima supposes. Surprisingly, it’s not unbearable.
“Well, you’ve caught me now,” she says. How strange to think that his game of choice was tag all along. “What are you going to do?”
“Er, well…” Chrom smiles sheepishly but not particularly insincerely. “I was going to ask you this at some point anyway, but… Would you have tea with me this evening? Now, I’m not exactly an expert on the stuff, but Askr has a lot of herbal blends that are supposed to be healthy, and I thought it might be good to try them out, see if they help us out in battle…”
“A sensible thought,” Grima admits. “And if you’ve already acquired enough for us both, there’s no good in putting it to waste.”
If things were different… If it were anyone but the Exalt of Ylisse... She could almost imagine taking Chrom as a servant. Wouldn’t that be funny, to have a man to hold her by the arm and bring her tea whenever she asks? People might mistake her for a human.
“I’m glad you feel that way,” Chrom says. His gaze has once again turned soft in an unnecessarily docile disguise. “I’ve wanted to ask you for so long…”
She doesn’t understand him.
But perhaps, if she learns more about him, she will eventually discover what brought her to stab a man like this in the back.