Cynthia hummed a gentle tune to herself, brushing down her pegasus, Winter. The poor girl had been through so much war. Cynthia could feel the bumps and ridges of old scars as she ran the brush over her coat.
"But it's all over now!" she said aloud. "There doesn't have to be any more fighting at all if you don't want. I'm sure Mother would let you stay here if I—"
She stopped. Mother wasn't the Commander of the Pegasus Knights, so she couldn't do Cynthia any favours. Someone had stepped in to replace Phila, but she didn't know their name.
Winter snickered softly.
"Ah, sorry, I got distracted!" Cynthia resumed brushing, laughing as she felt Winter's muscles relax. In a way, it was good that she didn't know the current Commander, right? After all, that was a person who hadn't been alive in her future. Now, they were going to make their own mark on history, get to train a new generation of pegasus knights…
Not that she could really use that information to get the Commander to let Winter retire to the Pegasus Knights' pastures. Maybe Prince Chrom would put in a good word for her? He'd proven to be just as noble and good as the stories from her future, a real prince… and didn't Mother tell her how she and Winter had saved Prince Chrom's life in Regna Ferox? Surely he would be willing to do something for such a noble steed!
"What do you think, Winter? Do you want to stay here in Ylisse and live peacefully?"
Winter whinnied and nuzzled Cynthia's ear.
Cynthia laughed again, but she felt the smile slip off her face as a sinking feeling overtook her. It was nice that Winter wanted to stay with her, even after everything she'd been through, but… "You're right, I'm not going to be in Ylisse for much longer, am I?"
The 'timeline', as Lucina and Laurent called it, had been somewhat mixed up by their existence, but their selves of this time were due to be born soon. Cynthia knew that of the children yet to be born, only Laurent and Severa were older than her… and Cordelia was already beginning to show.
Poor Severa. She'd already left, with Inigo and Owain. Who would come with Cynthia? Maybe she should leave with Laurent; he was less than a month older than her, so it would only be leaving a little earlier than she had to.
Winter gave a small whinny of alarm as Cynthia tried to wipe the tears out of her eyes. It was silly to cry. She'd already had so much time with her parents here, it wasn't fair to take anything else from the real Cynthia. She would have already affected this Cynthia's life, setting up expectation in their—in her parents. What if this Cynthia didn't want to get over her fear of heights, and decided to follow the path of the sword, instead? Oooh, or maybe she would take after their—her father, becoming a dashing gentlelady thief, stealing from the rich to feed the poor!
This Cynthia had her entire future before her, to do anything that she wanted. And she would be able to see her parents grow old, to know them as more than the stories of other people. That was a good thing, of course!
Winter made a noise of distress as Cynthia started crying. She knew it wasn't right or heroic to be jealous of this version of Cynthia, but she couldn't help it.
She'd always thought of her parents as epic heroes, only falling in the face of overwhelming odds. But this wasn't Commander Sumia, battle-scared veteran, who could take on a dozen soldiers by herself, outfly anyone in the sky, and still find the time to be a master blacksmith who forged all her own weapons. This was Mother, who still tripped over her own feet sometimes, and had barely finished her training as a pegasus knight before she'd joined Prince Chrom's Shephards. In Cynthia's imagination, it had always Commander Sumia who rescued Prince Chrom in Regna Ferox, something she did as easily as breathing, but knowing it had been nervous Mother in her first real fight only made the entire thing more heroic!
And Father! The way people had talked about him she'd always thought of him as being like the night itself. Swift and stealthy like a panther! Clever and resourceful like a raven! No treasure was safe from his grasp, though of course he only stole from people who deserved it, cruel people who didn't share with the needy. He'd sided with that evil Validar only to get information for the sake of Ylisse, but alas, had arrived too late to foil the plot against the Exalt.
Only he wasn't quite as… dramatic as she expected. Gaius could pick locks, but he couldn't break into any vault or castle. He mainly stole to eat, not to give to the poor. He didn't know by instinct that Validar was up to no good, he just needed the money. At first, Cynthia was ashamed to say, she'd been a little disappointed. Her father was just a common thief! But then she realised: that's what made him so brave! He didn't have a reputation as a folk hero to fall back on, he didn't have any spectacular skills… Father just knew that he didn't want the Exalt to die, so he had to tell someone what was happening. Even if they saw him for what he was – a common thief working with assassins – and reacted accordingly.
Getting to know her real parents, not just some stories, was more wonderful than she could ever put into words. But the time Cynthia had had with them was already more than she was "supposed" to have. It was time to let go.
Winter let out a breath, blowing a strand of hair out of her eyes. "Thanks for staying with me, Winter," Cynthia said, even though the Pegasus was blurry through her tears. "You're a real friend."
"Your mother said you'd be here."
Cynthia dropped the brush whilst Winter gave a whinny of distress. She hoped Father hadn't noticed the tear tracks on her face. "Ah! I can't believe I let you sneak up on me!"
Father didn't play along. His usual easy-going smile was absent. "Cynthia? Have you been crying?"
"N-No!" She rubbed at her eyes fiercely, although that didn't help her case. "I just got some dust in my eye, that's all."
"If you say so…" Father said, still looking at her in concern. Cynthia wished he wouldn't. It made her want to cry again. "Anyway, your mother and I have some important news. Will you come for a walk with us?"
Cynthia forced herself to grin, even though she could feel her heart sink and it felt a little stiff and wooden. Gaius still looked worried. "Of course!"
It might not be so soon, she tried to tell herself. Miriel hasn't said anything yet, and Laurent has to be born first!
But Miriel was also a more private person. It would be natural if she kept it to herself for a while. Mother… Mother would just be so excited, she'd want to share the news with everyone she loved.
Gaius led her to the palace gardens, where Sumia was already waiting. It was a little cliché, but she looked truly radiant. Cynthia began practising her congratulations in her head. She didn't want them to come out insincere and ruin the moment.
"Cynthia!" Sumia threw her arms around her, squeezing tightly. "I'm so excited!"
"You didn't even tell her yet," Gaius said.
"It's okay, I think I guessed!" Cynthia made herself give them her biggest smile, thinking of that wonderful future that this Cynthia would enjoy; how her and her friends' work had all paid off. "Congratulations to you both!"
Sumia finally released her from the hug, and ended up grasping Cynthia's hands very tightly instead. She was smiling so brightly, it hurt to look at her.
"We were thinking Emma," Gaius said, "but we wanted your opinion."
"I liked Nova, but Gaius said that was too weird for a name," Sumia added.
"I don't… understand," Cynthia said. Her mouth had gone dry. "I mean… this is Cynthia. Your Cynthia."
Gaius took one of her hands from Sumia's grasp and squeezed it gently. "We already have a daughter called Cynthia," he said.
Cynthia just stared at them. It didn't seem real.
"We understand if you want to leave," Mother said. "If you want to go on adventures with your friends, or spend some time exploring the world. But… we wanted you to know that there will always be a place here for you. Because this is your family too."
"No one is replacing you," Father added firmly. "You're our Cynthia, for better or worse."
It was the family she'd always dreamed of. She looked between them carefully, searching for some sign that they were joking or just saying it to be nice, but they were just… smiling at her. "You… you want me to stay?" she whispered. If she said it too loudly, she was worried it would break the spell, and suddenly everything would be too real again, of course she couldn't stay—
But Mother just touched her cheek gently. "Of course we do."
"It's not your usual family," Father said, "but I think Emma would love to have a big sister like you."
"She could still be called Nova," Mother muttered.
For some reason, it was Mother's slight frown and Gaius's exasperated expression that finally hit home.
They wanted her. They were going to be a family.
Cynthia totally lost it and started to bawl, wrapping her parents into a tight hug. She was probably crying very inelegantly, but she couldn't have cared less. "I l-like Emma," she manged to say. "I'll be the best big sister ever, I swear!"