Nico Robin was in a familiar predicament, fleeing in fear. She had almost grown used to it. ‘I need to run. They have my wanted poster.’ This was one of many familiar thoughts she had whilst running in terror.
After working the entire day, Nico Robin went to report the job’s completion and had caught a glimpse of the bounty hidden under a pile of books. At that point, she excused herself and fled. She didn’t know how long it would take before her employer caught wind of her escape. There was no chance they weren’t going to turn her in. They all bought into the lies. No one was any different.
‘It won’t be long until the Marines show up. They might have already been contacted…’ Robin thought as she ran from the village, up through the mountain towards the forest. The higher parts of the mountain were covered with trees and other such vegetation, providing many places to hide. Hopefully, once she got there, they wouldn’t be able to find her and she could afford to stay the night. Otherwise, she would need to go without sleep, possibly for days.
After that, she could travel to Organ Islands and make her way to Orange Town. It would probably only take a few weeks if she played it safe. Orange Town was currently being terrorized by the Buggy Pirates. They weren’t very strong of a force, but their captain Buggy had a strong enough Devil Fruit that the Marines simply looked the other way. Most of what Buggy was doing was already being done before Buggy arrived. The surrounding towns were filled with lawlessness; gambling, prostitution, and the most popular, underground fighting.
Unsurprisingly, fugitive pirates used these towns as respites and hideouts. Often times, pirates and criminals trickled outside of their town and into neighboring ones. Such was the case with Orange Town. At least, thanks to Buggy, the other riffraff left Orange Town alone, so the World Government let his dictatorship slide.
In a place so full of lowlifes and freaks, no one would pay attention to her there. She could get info about the rest of the world and maybe negotiate some kind of deal with the pirates. Either way, it was the safest place at the time.
She allowed herself a single glance back. Ruby Village had been her home for three months. She had thought she might finally have found a place to stay. It was the longest she had stayed in a single place since Ohara. It hurt to leave. Not as much nearly as Key City, she had hurt those people… this wasn’t even close, but it was a bitter pill to swallow regardless. But she had to… she couldn’t get attached… because then she would get caught… and if she was… her mother, Saul… all the inhabitants of Ohara would have died in vain… no, she had to live and discover the truth the World Government was hiding.
As she began ascending the mountain, she heard rapid footsteps approaching, the source of the noise hidden by the mountainside. Nico Robin dropped down a few feet and quickly hid behind a rock formation. She peered out in an attempt to see and saw… an archer, his bow strapped to his back. He had sophisticated clothing and elegant blue hair. He looked to be a few years older than her, she estimated around thirteen. Despite this, he wasn’t very tall, about her height.
The teen began muttering as he surveyed the landscape, presumably searching for her. “Oh, where did that fair maiden go? Tsk… I hope she is alright.”
‘Is he worrying about me? Why!? I don’t even know who that is,’ Robin wondered, concern such an unfamiliar feeling.
She shook her head, dismissing the thought. “He probably just wants my bounty… I know I’m wanted dead or alive, but I heard someone used some kind of transformation on a corpse to try to claim the reward. He must be trying to avoid the same controversy,” Robin reasoned, trying to get a better look at him. Unfortunately, when she did, she made herself visible to the archer.
“Oh! Nico Robin, there you are!” He called and she turned to run, not pausing to question his odd tactics in approaching her or considering whether or not he was a threat. They always were. “Wait! Don’t run. I’m not here to hurt you.”
Robin hesitated. She was not naive enough to believe she could just trust anyone… but something in his voice made her hesitate. She paused, looking back.
“I just want to talk… might I come with you?” he asked, and for all Robin’s skill in reading people, she saw nothing but sincerity. But that didn’t necessarily mean anything. Either he wasn’t a threat, or he was the biggest threat she had ever come up against. But which?
Robin thought for a moment. 'Why would anyone want to accompany me? What could be possibly gain by aligning himself with a fugitive?' Despite the logic weighing heavy against him, she was, curious. Her thirst for knowledge had not been properly satisfied since she fled her home, and thus the library back at Ohara. She had always hungered to learn, to know! And know she wanted to understand this man. She weighed it over and realizing she could dispose of him quickly and efficiently if she needed to, nodded. The worst case scenario would be him attacking her in her sleep, but she had learned ways to wake up at the drop of a feather. That ability had saved her life more than once.
"Why thank you, madame." The teen thanked, giving a slight bow. He quickly trotted up the face of the mountain and caught up with her with unexpected speed. Getting a closer look at him, she could see the faint outline of muscles hidden under his frilly clothes.
He matched her pace, staying a few feet to her left. The two took the only trail that the mountain offered that had any sense of safety. The mountain was fairly tame, offering a wide variety switchbacks, offering very little that needed to be scaled.
Robin looked at the teen intently, trying to figure out why someone who was clearly a nobleman would side with a criminal. 'Does he know I'm wanted... no, he must. Why else would he have followed me? Besides, he knew my name.'
"You must be wondering why I wanted to come with you," he spoke, interrupting her thoughts. The two of them paused their advancements. First Robin stopped, and then the archer did a few moments later. Despite this, he did not turn back to look at her.
"I am, curious," she admitted, slowly. "I wanted to know why. Why you appeared to be concerned for me. That's the reason I let you come." Robin didn’t know what skills the archer had, though she assumed he could wield the bow he carried, and she could tell he was quite fit. These things weren’t enough to keep him along though, her stealth was much more important than any little protection a civilian could provide, especially against the Marines.
"True... from your point of view, if I truly do mean you no harm, why would I be here? It does seem strange," he noted, turning around to face the girl.
She said nothing else, and he took it as a sign to continue. "I saw your wanted poster." he admitted.
'I knew it!' Robin thought and jumped back. Landing quickly she brought her arms up in a crossed position.
"Dos Fluer!" she called, using her power to sprout two arms on the man's back, grabbing his arms and restraining him. His knees buckled under the sudden force and he dropped to the ground. His bow and quiver tumbled off his back and onto the mountainside, where they rolled for a few feet before hitting a flat patch of grass. She sighed in relief and walked closer to her captive.
Despite knowing that interrogating him was pointless and that disposing of him was the fastest and easiest method, she was intrigued by this teenage bounty hunter. She had only met one other person around her age who would willingly speak to the infamous ‘Devil Child’. A farm boy named Rusio Esposito.
Rusio had treated her fairly, not fondly, but he lacked the harshness and inhumanity she was given elsewhere. He never did any favors for her, and he worked her hard, but he was never unreasonable. He was the main reason the memory of Key City still felt as strong as it did the day she left.
He had a solid head on his shoulders, as his father loved reminding anyone who would listen. Despite only being twelve, he more or less ran his family’s farm, managing their workload, haggling at the markets, hiring workers, planning each year’s crop and even doing harsh physical labor. He was very precise in his work, his greatest gift, though, was his to adapted and learn very quickly. He was a natural born prodigy to be sure. Robin felt a form of kinship with him, and he appreciated her intelligence. It was rare, but every now and then, Robin knew a solution to a problem that Rusio had difficulty with. No one else ever had even the faintest inkling, but the two of them could solve just about any problem they were faced with.
She had almost thought she would stay there forever. She told herself she wouldn’t get attached, but she still knew in her heart that the friends she made there wouldn’t be forgotten for a long time, if ever. She loved that place. In a way, Aldo, Cristina, Emilia, Flora, and Rusio had become her family.
"Tell me what you want, but know that I don't intend to die or be caught," Robin informed him, crossing her arms in preparation for another strike, in case he managed to break free.
He sighed and shook his head. "You misunderstand my intentions, dear lady. I simply wanted an answer to a question." He explained, locking eyes with the girl. The two held each other’s gaze for a moment, not speaking until Robin’s eyes drifted down.
"What is that?" Robin asked cautiously. She quickly scanned the perimeter but saw no one. He was alone, meaning he was either foolish enough to underestimate her and think he could take her alone (she was a child after all), or he still had a plan of some sort up his sleeves.
"Why would anyone want to hurt a beautiful young girl like you?" he asked innocently, his eyes giving off a faint sense of pity.
"What?" Nico Robin asked in surprise. Unconsciously she took a step back and her sprouted arms dispersed.
"I can tell, you'll grow up to be a beautiful woman, and I can't just stand by and watch such a rare beauty be squandered." He smiled, rising as calmly and brushing off the dirt from his clothes.
"I... I don't understand," Robin admitted, baffled by the archer’s praise. There was no way he was a bounty hunter, unless he was just that skilled in deception. “What does that have to do with anything? If you believe that I did what they said I did, then how I look shouldn’t matter.”
"Morality is perplexing, intelligence is contextual, courage is often misunderstood... but beauty, beauty is fleeting. Does one not admire art in a museum? Does one no seek to preserve it? For this reason, I cannot abandon a lady in distress, I cannot turn my back on any woman! To do so would go against everything that I am! I may not always know the right answer, but I choose to follow the star that shines brightest and follow it wholeheartedly. Should I be wrong, so be it, but I can say that I stood by what I believed." He chuckled a little and took a deep breath.
'He thinks of beauty in the same way I think of history, though it feels weird being complimented after so long,' Robin thought, blushing lightly.
Resting on a small boulder, he continued, “Men have to find something in their lives they can live for. For some its wine, for others it is their career, and many want to make themselves as strong as they can… none of these could ever spark my interest. Only beauty, nature’s highest form of art, can do so. I guess you could say that’s the reason I live. Even if I’m wrong, I won’t regret it. Not if I get to enjoy the ride. That’s why I want to help you. I can’t believe you would do what they said.”
Robin stared at the man intently. He felt so strongly about beauty and was willing to throw everything away for his belief. In a way, it was admirable. In another way, it sounded dangerous.
Rising from the rock he approached Robin, who did nothing to stop him, despite knowing the potential danger. Somewhere deep down, she trusted. Retrieving his bow and quiver, he strapped it to his back. "Now that you understand where I stand, would you kindly answer my question?" he asked, giving her those pitiful eyes that made her lower her guard.
Robin sighed, seeing no reason not to tell him. He was being honest, it was painfully clear, so she at least owed him the same. "There is a darkness inside of me, a mastery that the world fears. It threatens to swallow up all those around me without fail. Everywhere I go... death inevitably follows." The man said nothing and Robin continued. "No matter where I go, it's always the same... I'm a freak... and people fear me."
The teen shook his head slowly as if hearing a child’s reasoning for something he just couldn’t grasp at that age. "I don't think that." Robin turned her face towards his eyes, expecting a taunt of some kind or an insult to follow, ensuring he didn't mean what he said. All she saw was a straight face. "You could have killed me several times if you wanted to, you could have easily. Under your circumstances, running and hiding, desperate to survive, you could easily convince yourself of the innocence of your intentions. Of the justice of your actions. But you didn't." he reasoned simply, calmly.
The man grasped her shoulders comfortingly. "I watched you while I was in the village. I woke up in a field, with no knowledge of where I was or how I came to be here. I headed towards the village, but I saw you reading. You looked so peaceful. At that moment, I was captivated. I wanted to know more about you. Then I heard rumors of you, of this..." He scoffed. "Devil child... but I couldn't believe it. They insulted you and you said nothing... I could tell they were wrong about you."
Robin didn't know how to respond. Should she be upset he'd been following her? Creeped out for the same reason? Glad someone saw good in her? Hopeful for a potential ally? Relieved he didn't mean to harm her? Suspicious that he in fact did? Joy? Anger? Fear? All she could feel was her own body, pressed more tightly than it ever had been, her head swimming, her chest tight.
"If there truly is this darkness in you, Robin... which I don't believe, then I want to help you. I told you, I’m following the star that I deem to be brightest. I can see you shine, even though you've been running and hiding for how long!? Without any support or companionship or any sense of security? As a man, I cannot allow that to continue! I'll be your friend, I'll stay with you, I will protect you and stay by your side! Even if no one else does! When everyone else leaves, I will still be here." He promised, his voice growing more and more passionate as his promises got grander.
"Who are you?" Robin asked incredulously, unable to take in his speech. "A normal person wouldn't do that."
"You're right... but they should. Everyone should. I believe everyone should help everyone else... and how can I claim to believe it if I won't uphold it myself!?" he answered quizzically.
"Who are you?" Robin repeated shaking her head in disbelief.
He chuckled and clutched his chin, giving Robin a charming look. "Ha! Is the lady intrigued? Of course you are--it's only natural. I am myth and legend! I am he who strides large across history's greatest stage! The man who puts the 'arch' in 'archer'! I am Virion, duke of Rosanne." He beamed, puffing out his chest dramatically.
"Rosanne? I've never heard of that place." Robin admitted, her brain trying desperately to make some way for him to be believable. 'Is he pulling my leg? I've done plenty of research on world geography but it doesn't ring any bells. Is he really lying to me? That’s insane… I can tell…'
The self-proclaimed legend chuckled, straightening his hair with his gloved hand. "Ha, Rosanne is the dukedom that I rule in the country of Valm." He paused and then admitted grudgingly “Well… I will someday anyway.”
Suddenly her mind made the connection, a spark of memory lighting the flame of recognition lighting in her brain. There was one old book that held tale of Valm. Most of the scholars believed it was merely poppycock, and nearly threw it out, but Robin was fascinated by it, and they kept it simply to amuse her, admittedly childish, obsession with the fantastical kingdoms.
She remembered hearing two of them talking about her when they didn’t think she was listening.
“Can you blame her for being optimistic? She’s just a child after all.” The first voice had said. That voice belonged to one of the older scholars, Okabe. She didn’t know him very well but respected him simply because everyone else did. While he didn’t seem like a bad person, she and Okabe had opposing personalities and only spoke when Robin had questions. Being able to find conundrums that most of the archeologists hadn’t even considered, she would often get tossed from one scholar to another until she was eventually directed to the elder. He usually had at least a theory, if not a solid answer, for each of her questions.
“It is hard to believe, but she is only eight after all.” This voice belonged to Ayuri, a younger woman and one of the few female archeologists. Ayuri had unofficially taken over the role as Robin’s mother ever since she joined the library. She was Robin’s main source of constant nourishment, a service her aunt and uncle neglected as often as not. Ayuri spent the most time with Robin, trying to take her on a relaxing picnic to take her mind off of the stress, only for Robin to bring the conversation around to archeology once again. Ayuri had simply laughed and entertained her.
Robin paused for a moment, trying to recall the specifics of Valm. She bit her lip, hoping she was remembering correctly, and then began questioning Virion. "Valm... the country across from the Halidom of the Ylisse?"
"Why yes. Is that where I am? Ylisse? I seem to be lost... though I don't know how I got to Ylisse." Virion explained, casually enough for Robin to raise an eyebrow, not that Virion noticed. He started thinking hard, stroking his chin in contemplation. "Perhaps I was kidnapped... that might explain the memory loss... but how did I all the way inland?"
"You aren't in Ylisse." Robin stated quietly, worried about how he would take the news, but also wanting him to understand the full gravity of the situation he was in. He had to tell him, he deserved to know, but she didn’t want to be the one to tell him.
"What? Hmu... so I guess I'm still in Valm..." Virion scoffed lightly. "And you've never heard of Rosanne. It’s the crown jewel of this fine land."
"You aren't in Valm either." Robin added quietly, looking down to avoid eye contact.
"Seriously? Look I'm not that good with geography but there's no way I would be able to get to Plegia or Regina Ferox in the time I've been gone. It's only been a week! I checked the calendar and everything! So tell me where I am!" Virion demanded, then touched Robin’s shoulder comfortingly when he noticed Robin was avoiding his gaze.
Robin looked up slowly and explained "You're in a world..." Robin began but paused as Virion rolled his eyes sarcastically. She shot him a menacing glare and he raised his hands in mock apology. Biting her lip, she continued hesitantly. "A world where your world is a myth!"
"W...what?!" Virion asked staggering back, the shock of Robin’s statement clearly having a big impact on him. "What are you saying!?"
"Have you heard of Hoshido and Nohr?" Robin asked solemnly, assuming he had. If he was from Ylisse, then the other two should
“Y...yes..." Virion nodded slowly, trying to understand the meaning behind her words. “The two mythical kingdoms.”
Robin was a bit surprised that Ylisse viewed Nohr and Hoshido as legends, even though here Ylisse was a legend as well. “In this world, Ylisse, just like Nohr and Hoshido are mythical kingdoms, things that archeologists consider essentially a fairy tale.” Robin sighed, regretful for both Virion’s predicament and her own. “I wish I could have met you back on Ohara… it would have been nice to interview you and learn more about Ylisse… too bad it’s gone now.”
“What do you mean? Ohara is the island you’re from right? An entire island can’t just disappear… right?” Virion asked, trying to avoid the implications of being in a separate reality.
Robin exhaled despondently and looked down.
“You're kidding, there's no way..." He gasped in astonishment but was interrupted by the sounds of a large crowd, hurrying up the mountain. The two turned to see several of the villagers, eighteen or so, coming up on of the passages. They were several minutes behind them if they moved at the same speed they were keeping.
"She couldn't have gotten far! Find her and the seventy-nine million Beri bounty is ours!” One of the villagers yelled.
“Crap they’re here.” Virion groaned, grabbing Robin’s hand, he began dashing up the hill. “If we can get up to the hill we’ll lose them.”
After reaching the forest, they ran for several more minutes, following a random path. After not hearing any sounds, they decided to stop. Finding a cave to hide in, Robin and Virion found several logs and started a fire inside the cave, which stretched several miles, farther than either of them could see. Hiding in the back of it, the two began warning up.
Rubbing his shoulders, Virion snarled. “I can’t believe anyone would treat a woman like that. It’s despicable.”
“I’m used to it… People always assume the worst, because of the rumors and the bounty on my head.” Robin muttered emotionlessly.
“Regardless it’s inexcusable.” Virion growled. He turned to the girl. “So tell me; why are you being targeted by the government?”
Robin whimpered quietly and looked down.
Virion waved his hands to try to stop her. “I’m sorry… You don’t have to tell me anything that’ll make you uncomfortable. I didn’t mean to…”
“It began when my mother left me on Ohara to search for the Rio Poneglyph. I was two years old.”
“They destroyed an entire island! Those… those bastards!” Virion snapped. He rose and clenched his fists in anger. Robin tried to follow, but couldn’t. Realizing she was stuck, she gasped. Virion knelt down by her. “What’s wrong?”
“I… I can’t move my legs.” She grunted, trying and failing to force her feet to function. “I didn’t notice at first since I was so wrapped up in my reminiscence, but once I tried to stand I noticed. It must be some form of paralysis. The villagers must have poisoned the food I had before I left.”
“If they’ve thought this far ahead, then they probably still have some kind of plan. We’re probably not safe here.” Virion noted, gathering his bow and quiver. “How long do you think it’ll be before the Marines get here?”
“They’ll reach Ruby Island in a few more hours tops… and they’ll be in the forest in half an hour after that. You’re right, we can’t stay here.” She groaned, her voice strained. “If only I could get up.”
Virion kicked the logs over, smoldering the fire, then hunched down beside Robin. “Here, get on.”
“W…what!?” Robin screamed, both surprised by Virion’s eagerness to be useful and terrified at the idea of putting all of her trust in someone other than herself.
“We don’t have time to argue. If I’m gonna to carry you, it’ll slow us down. If we don’t want the Marines to find you, we need to hurry.” Virion insisted, patting his back as if to urge her along.
"How do I know I can trust you?" Robin asked, drawing her arms back into her Dos Fluer position. "This could also be a part of your plan. I can’t move, if you were gonna betray me, now would be the perfect time."
"I told you, I'm not the kind of person who can turn his back on a lady in need." He swallowed anxiously as Robin formed arms on the back of his neck. "I'm not lying! Look at me." He dropped down to his knees and stared at Robin. "I am not with them... I'm with you. I promised. I have no ties to this world’s government, in fact, I think I hate them after hearing what they did to Ohara, but I know you. I want to help you, not the people that destroyed your home."
Robin looked deep into his eyes, looking for the look of deceit she had seen countless times. Once she identified it, their entire facade fell apart. But... but she didn't see deceit. Nor did she see fear... another prevalent feature in most. If she wanted to she could kill him easily... and yet... he was not afraid. Every human values their life above all else... but... his eyes, they carried in them concern. Not for himself... but for her. Genuine worry... for a friend. He was worried about her... about the Marines that were coming for her... He wasn't lying. She knew those eyes... the eye Jaguar D. Saul gave her... as he wished her well on his own deathbed. It was something that couldn’t be understood by logic, it surpassed that. She couldn't doubt those eyes, not without spitting in the face of the man who died so she could live.
After what seemed like minutes, Robin nodded, whispering "I trust you" and wrapped her arms around his neck. Virion stood up and began running towards the entrance to the cave.
The pair managed to get out of the forest without encountering Marines, probably due to Robin forging several fake trails for the Marines to follow with her Devil Fruit, which, surprisingly, the poison didn’t effect. After several hours, towards the end of their trek, Robin, who had fallen asleep after Virion’s urgings, began to feel her legs again.
They took off towards a port town called Anchor Town, where Virion purchased a small caravel, with a lower deck that had a small food storage, and two bedrooms. He also purchased a sail, as the caravel didn’t originally come with one.
As they drifted towards Orange Town, Virion simply accepting Robin’s directions, Virion chuckled. “I guess bullion is incredibly valuable here… even more so than back home. We’ll be good for some time with my country’s gold. Good thing I had some on me.”
“Should you really be spending your country’s coffers on a fugitive?” Robin asked calmly, not expecting him to change his mind. Part of her was legitimately concerned, but another, larger part of her, wanted to be reassured that she was worth it, to hear once again, positive affirmation of her worth.
"Don't worry, what I have here barely equates to pocket change... though here it seems to be the entirety of your royal treasury." He laughed, and sat down, clearly thinking of his home. The two were currently sitting in the bridge, which had the ship’s wheel, several seats, and various maps, none of which were of any use to them.
"You miss Rosanne?" Robin inquired hesitantly. Part of her wanted to know more about her new friend, a part of her, her yearning for knowledge that had driven her to her career as an archeologist. Forget unexplored ruins, this was literally an insight into an entirely new culture, thought to be but a myth. How could she not be excited by the possibility? "What was it like?" She asked, standing up from her seat and moving closer to him, leaning against the wall.
Virion sighed deeply and looked down. "Father and mother were grooming me to be the perfect gentleman by shoving all of their fancy nobility down my throat. I guess after years of being surrounded by it, it's starting to wear off on me. While I’m not the most noble thing ever… I’m sure they won’t give up until I am.” He bit his lip and leaned on the boat’s gunwale. "I guess you could say I'm in a rebellious stage." He joked.
After not hearing anything for several seconds, he looked to his left and Virion saw several tears forming, though the girl was silent. “Hey… are you okay? Did I say something wrong?” He asked, rubbing the girl’s back soothingly.
She looked up, sobbing. “I’m sorry… you didn’t do anything wrong… I’m just thinking about my mother.” She whimpered, drying her eyes with her hand. “I’ve been running for so long… I haven’t been able to mourn her… I guess I’m just now feeling that it’s safe to cry.”
Virion, paused, not sure of how to proceed. He had been taught about all of the correct actions that should be taken when addressing noblewomen, but none of them covered how to comfort a sobbing lady. As his mother once said “Proper ladies are to never show sorrow. It is beneath them. Their job is to be their husband’s comfort. How can they do this if they themselves need to be comforted? A woman should never lay her emotions bare before any man under any circumstances.”
So needless to say, Virion was a bit hesitant, but eventually pulled her close to him. He worried for a moment that it was the wrong move, but she quickly grabbed his shirt and stuffed her face into his chest and began sobbing. There was no awkwardness, no shame, no judgments… no hesitation. The idea that a girl this young was this broken made Virion sick.
To say Virion had maternal instincts was absurd. He was a man after all. But all humans have a natural comforting mechanism, and Robin had triggered it. After all… he hadn’t seen his mother in over a week as well. He had been coping fine at first, his mother had never been a frequent part of his life. But now he knew she was gone, probably for good. His entire home, his country, his friends, his family… all gone.
Or to be more accurate, he was gone. They were probably worried sick about him.
He had known this of course, but the realization had yet to have its full impact. But now… seeing this girl sob for her lost family, he recalled all the time he had spent with his family. The picnics he had had as an infant before his family had been torn apart by work. His first violin recital that he had performed. Granted it was his last, seeing as he had no talent for the instrument, but his father had still smiled and tussled his hair all the same.
Robin stopped sobbing and pulled away from Virion, rubbing her tear soaked eyes. “Sorry, I just haven’t been able to mourn properly since my mom… you know.” She finished weakly.
“You’ve been on the run for three years… and you’re just now crying?” Virion asked, his grip tightening. “Well don’t worry about it, from now on, I’ll keep you safe.” He promised adamantly.
“Thank you.” Robin smiled, hugging Virion once more.