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And Still I Stand

Chapter Text

Somehow, it was as if she felt lighter, yet her eyelids still felt incredibly heavy. Breathing slow-- so slow that she felt that she was suffocating. This must be what the Goddess chose. This must be how she would die.

She only knew she was alive when she heard a voice.

“There, there, child.” The voice was gentle and comforting, but it was not speaking to her. “Finally.”

She finally opened her eyes, but her body, tired, screamed at her to fall back into her slumber. The shapes in her vision were blurry, but there was a woman in front of her. “L… Lady Rhea?” Her words were a mere croak. She was unsure if they even left her mouth. 

“Oh my. So you did not…” 

“Is… is my baby—?"

“Yes. Congratulations.” Lady Rhea rocked the child in her arms.  “She is very beautiful.”

She thought that the tears would come, but her body was still so exhausted. She let out a weak cry, one of joy. They had both known the risks when she asked Rhea to do what she did, yet somehow, it had worked out. Both she and her baby— her daughter—  survived. 

“How lucky were are to have you both,” Rhea said. There was a loose corner of the baby’s blanket. She tucked it back in and drew the child closer to her chest. “Did you have any ideas for names? I do have a suggestion.”

She had wanted to talk over it more with Jeralt, but he had been away on a mission and would still be away for a while longer. While all three of them owed Rhea their lives in some way, it didn’t feel quite right to have someone else name their baby. She and Jeralt hadn’t quite agreed on a name, but there was one in particular that she liked.

“Byleth.”

“What an interesting name,” Rhea remarked. “We shall raise her well here at the monastery.”

She was too tired to ask what Rhea meant by “we” and right now, she longed for nothing more than to finally hold her daughter. She held her arms out, but Rhea was preoccupied, looking humming and smiling down at the child in her arms.

“Lady Rhea?”

Rhea looked up.

“May I hold her?”

She was quiet for just a moment too long before answering. “Of course. Be careful though. You still need your rest.” Rhea carefully transferred Byleth into her arm, making sure to support the head. 

Byleth seemed so tiny in her arms. She was surprisingly quiet for a baby, but had such wide, wondrous eyes.

“She’s beautiful.”


It was true that she had been weak and tired lately, but she wondered if she was the only one who found Lady Rhea’s behavior rather odd. It wasn’t strange for her to express her concern for the nuns  at the monastery, but it was another thing to help take care of the children. Such things felt beneath someone of her station. She was the archbishop after all and she most definitely had better things to do than to help with a baby.

It was only baby Byleth that she watched over too.

“I assure you. I do not mind,” Lady Rhea would insist. “You and Jeralt have done so much for us that I feel I owe it to you to help. Just take it easy and do not overexert yourself.”

She wasn’t sure if she should believe her. Sure, she had heard the story of how Jeralt saved Lady Rhea’s life many years ago (she still didn’t know how many years), but she was just an ordinary nun. 

“Maybe it’s because Byleth is a baby?” Leena, one of the other nuns suggested.

“But it’s not like this is the first time that there have been babies at the monastery. And Byleth isn’t even the only one here now.”

“I guess that is a little strange,” she admitted. “Still, I think that you should feel blessed that Lady Rhea herself wants to help you with her.”

She hummed, hesitant to agree. Worry still occupied her mind when she went to pick Byleth up from Lady Rhea’s room. It was quiet when she arrived. Lady Rhea didn’t typically allow people on her floor of the monastery, especially when she was with Byleth. That enough should have been strange, but no one really thought too much of it.

She immediately noticed that the door was open— just a little bit, but enough to hear Lady Rhea  singing from within. She didn’t recognize the the tune nor the language. Eventually, the singing quieted down and Lady Rhea spoke.

“I shall see you soon, mother.”

That was the moment she came to a realization. She was living on top of gunpowder. The only question she had left was, when would it ignite?


A week later there was a fire in the monastery. No one knew how it started, and they would never figure it out. Maybe they would think it was an unfortunate magic mishap.

In reality, it was all her. This was her chance to escape. She had taken a risk by running back into the fire, but it was her best excuse. “Byleth!” she had screamed. “Where is my baby?”   Theoretically, they would have been the last ones in the building that had caught ablaze— the building that she had set ablaze. No one had seen them make it out. She had secured another exit beforehand, hiding some supplies away as well. 

She cradled Byleth in her arms, frowning when she saw that Byleth sustained some burns. She healed her, but the scars would still remain. She couldn’t help but wince from her own burns. She hoped they would be able to find a doctor in the next town, but for now, these would be scars that they would bear together.  

She was about to turn away and run, but she hesitated. This was far from easy, and her heart ached. Did anyone here really deserve this? Did Lady Rhea deserve her betrayal?

Yet all she could think of was keeping Byleth safe. 

Before she realized it, she sobbed. Her legs were weak and she collapsed to the ground still holding Byleth tight to her chest. “I’m sorry, Jeralt! I’m so sorry!”

She watched through her tears as her life here burned away before her, the fire she had set lashing against the cold darkness of the night sky.

Chapter Text

Byleth was quiet— quieter than the rustling of the leaves in the wind. She hardly even dared to breathe, but she had learned well from the mercenaries who used to pass through the village from time to time. Breathe like you don’t even exist, pretend that you don’t even exist, and that’s when you strike.  

It helped that she knew these woods well, as it was one of the only places she had seen outside of Remire. She was still a bit surprised that her mother even let her do the hunting. “I trust you not to do anything reckless, Byleth,” she had said. “Please don’t worry me too much.” 

Of course, Byleth knew the translation of those words: “I know you’re curious about the outside world, but please do not leave me alone.”

Her prey, a rather graceful-looking deer, finally stopped. She was lucky that it decided to come across her hiding spot. Venison like this would feed several families besides just hers and it would finish off her haul of the day nicely. There was already an arrow prepared in her bow. She drew back the string, hands perfectly steady after years and years of practice, and fired.

By now, she was used to this: the noise the arrow made when it sunk into flesh, the weak look the animal would give her as she approached and pulled out her dagger.  

“Say a prayer  to the Goddess,” mother had taught her. “Be grateful for what has been given to us.” 

Byleth whispered her prayer under her breath (the breath so quiet that it didn’t exist), and then, she took a life.


She made it back to the village well before sunset, carrying her hunt with ease over her shoulder. “Hey, Byleth’s back!” one of the villagers called. 

“Get a good haul today?”

“Oh, Byleth! Please thank your mother for the vegetables!”

“Do you think your mother will help me with my garden again this year?”

Hands full, both literally and figuratively, Byleth nodded politely at everyone’s words as she made her way to the butcher. The door was closed, so she balanced on one foot and knocked with the other. The butcher opened the door, grinning wide. 

“Hey, kid! I’m guessing the hunt went well?,” he asked, eyeing the haul that she was carrying. 

She nodded. “Mm hm.” 

“It still shocks me how you can carry that all by yourself.”

“Everyone still says that to her,” his son said. “And she’s not a kid anymore.”

“It’s fine, Deidren,” Byleth insisted. “I’m used to it, really.” She handed her catch off to the butcher. While she never thought carrying a haul was too bad, it wasn’t as if she actively enjoyed holding heavy loads for long periods of time.   

Deidren was around her age, but he was already working hard in the butcher shop. This was what he stood to inherit, though Byleth didn’t know if she should call that lucky or not. Most commoners didn’t have much of anything to pass on, especially her and her mother.

“Seriously though, Byleth,” the butcher continued, “You’re one of the best hunters here. Definitely a natural! I don’t know what we’d do without you!”

“Stop pressuring her, dad. It’s not like she’s the only one that hunts here.” Deidren turned to her. “You do got natural talent though. If anyone can make it out of here, it’s you.”

“Don’t give her any ideas, son,” the butcher warned as he started his work.     

Deidren just dropped his voice to a whisper instead. “I believe in you, By. You could really become a knight or something. Well, you know if—”

“If money wasn’t a problem. I know.” Byleth knew that money was far from the only issue though. Commoners had to have connections, and well, there was also the personal issue that she was never allowed to mention in public. Deidren would never really know just how many barriers there were for her, no matter how much potential she had. Theoretically, she would argue that he might have a better chance (a nonexistent one, but still one that was still somehow larger than hers).

Once she was paid in her share of the meat (wrapped and tied securely with some twine) and some Gald in exchange for the rest, she headed on to her humble little home. 

Their house was situated in a quiet corner of Remire past a little patch of trees. It was small, (only a couple of rooms) but they were lucky to have it. 

“The villagers were so kind to me when I first came here with you,” mother had recounted to her. “I wasn’t expecting their hospitality, though both of us looked awful.”

Originally, the villagers had decided that they were going to tear down the little cottage, which had been unused for years. Thankfully, they had been willing to fix it up so that the two of them would have a place to live. “Leave the plants,” mother had said though. She found the overgrown greenery crawling up the exterior walls rather pleasant. Eventually, she cleaned it up so it didn’t look uninhabited from the outside and then decided that the house needed to be surrounded by flower beds as well. Through the flowers, there was a stone path leading up to the entrance. This had been a later edition once they realized that the flowers might overtake the dirt path, and no one wanted to step on her mother’s precious flowers.

Byleth opened the door and peered towards the kitchen as she entered. “Mother? I’m home.”

It appeared that her mother hadn’t started on dinner yet. She was sitting at the table, scribbling away on a piece of paper. She stopped, looked up, then covered it. “Welcome home, Byleth,” she greeted with a gentle smile. 

“Brought home some deer.” Byleth held up the package. “Do you need any help preparing for dinner?”

Her mother stood up and walked over to her, brushing a stray strand of hair out of Byleth’s face. “That would be nice, but you’re filthy. Go wash up.”

She had a point. It wouldn’t do to help prepare dinner when she was still covered in dirt and blood from hunting. Though Byleth also knew that she was trying to send her away so she could hide whatever she was working on in a place where Byleth couldn’t find it. Byleth glanced at it, ever so curious, but she gave in, nodded, and went off to bathe.

Byeleth never minded the dirt too much, but the blood did smell. It was a relief to clean off her body, and bathing was a nice way to clear her head. Hunting required too much focus. However, this time, she just couldn’t get Deidren’s words out of her head.

Could she ever really make it out of here? Remire was far from an awful place. Would she be ungrateful to everyone—especially her mother— if she left?

“I do not think that you should dwell on these matters now. You’ll get your chance.”

She returned only feeling half cleansed. 

“Byleth, can you help cut these carrots?”

She nodded and took the knife from her mother, who returned to the pot that already had meat and potatoes cooking away inside. “This is good. I’m proud of you.”

“You say that every time.”

“And I mean it every time,” she insisted. She paused in her cooking to kiss the top of Byleth’s head. Unfazed, yet comforted by her warmth, Byleth continued to chop the carrots carefully. “You definitely inherited your skill with weapons from Jeralt. He preferred fishing to hunting though.”

Finished, Byleth looked up from her carrots. “Really?” 

“Well, I’m sure I’ve told you this one already…”

“Tell it again, please?” Of course, she had already known many of the stories her mother told her of the monastery, but she never tired in hearing them again.

“Alright.” She smiled. “But we do still need more carrots.”

Byleth eyed the stack next to the cutting board. “I can keep up,” she said, then she continued her labor as her mother narrated her tale.


We had a day off once. I believe it was during the Great Tree Moon, close to your birthday in fact. I didn’t think much of it at first. I thought that I was going to spend the day tending to the greenhouse again, but your father really surprised me. He wanted to take me fishing!

I was hopelessly in love with him though, so of course I agreed. There’s a pond at the monastery, but he was dying to fish elsewhere. I could see it in his eyes. We didn’t go very far though. There’s a small lake a little ways out of the monastery hidden away in the woods. It was rather peaceful.

I planned on just watching him, but then he handed me a fishing pole! I had never fished before, so I may have accidentally caught the hook on your father once or twice. Eventually I got it and imagine my surprise when I pull up a Queen’s Loach! “Beginner's luck!” Jeralt said and he was right. I never had a catch quite like that again. I just left the fishing to him from then on. 


 

This was how she had been raised: stories of the father that was absent from her life. As she ate the stew they had prepared together, she couldn’t bring herself to ask the question that always came to mind when her mother told her one of her stories: 

‘Why did we leave?’

She was still thinking about it when she lay awake that night in bed. Her mother was already fast asleep, resting for a trip she was to take tomorrow. Byleth didn’t understand how she could sleep so contently. She had come to understand the look in her mother’s eyes whenever she told a story. 

She missed the monastery. She missed her old life. She missed Jeralt.

Not for the first time, Byleth fell asleep wondering how things could have been different. There had to be more than just this, right?

Chapter Text

Byleth awoke to the muffled sound of singing and a sweet smell wafting in from the kitchen. She opened her eyes, still heavy from sleep. It was still dark.

She yawned and sat up. “What’s going on?” she muttered to herself.

“Your mother seems to be quite busy in the kitchen!”

Byleth clambered out of bed, floorboards creaking underneath her feet. Her limbs still felt stiff as she made her way into the next room. “Mother?”

Her mother rushed over and steered her back into the bedroom. “Go back to sleep for now, By. Don’t you worry. Just get some rest.”

Byleth didn’t even remember falling back asleep, but when next she woke, the light of the sunrise was filtering in through the window.

There was a knock on the bedroom door and her mother peeked her head in. “Are you up now, By?”

She nodded slowly and blocked her eyes from the sunlight.

“Come here into the kitchen for a second.” 

“Um, alright?” Despite her confusion, Byleth let her mother steer her back into the kitchen by her shoulders.

The first thing she noticed was how there were still some baking pans sitting out. So, she hadn’t hallucinated what happened earlier. Why had mother been baking so early in the day? She never baked. Those pans weren’t even theirs.

And then, her mother sat her down at the table. In front of her sat a little plate of sweet buns, though slightly misshapen.

“Happy early birthday, my dear,” her mother said, squeezing her shoulders. 

“What? Why now?” Byleth asked. They had never celebrated early before, and she knew her mother  wouldn’t celebrate early without reason.

She sighed and finally sat down herself in the chair next to Byleth’s. “I’m sorry, By. I really should have told you last night, but I got so distracted with that story.”

“It’s fine, mother. Just tell me now please.”

“Dressel told me that the trip might take a bit longer this year. Something about harsher traditing checkpoints set up by the Knights.”

Byleth recognized the name as one of the merchants that traveled through town. Her mother along with some of the other villagers would travel with his group to seasonal markets at the Fodlan capitals for trading. Her mother sold extra crops as exports and flowers to perfume and accessory artisans.

Unfortunately, she also recognized him as an irritable flirt towards her mother as well. “He better not be lying about that,” Byleth huffed.

“Don’t worry too much about me, dear.” Her mother raised an arm and jokingly flexed. “I may not be as strong as you physically, but your father did teach me some ways to defend myself. And if it gets really bad, well, I have my magic.” Her eyes sparkled when she said that. Byleth always wondered if she missed casting since she only ever used it in emergencies now. “I’m sorry that the buns aren't from Oriana’s this year, but I wanted to try something different.”

“They look… fine.” Byleth couldn’t help her hesitance, but she also knew her mother wasn’t going to suddenly make sweet buns as good as the village’s baker. Still, it still warmed her heart that she would go that far for her. “Thank you so much, mother.”

“Well, go on!” She stared at Byleth eagerly.

 Byleth plucked the roundest one from the plate then pushed it towards her mother. “Here. Let’s try it together.”

“If that’s what you want, dear”

They tapped the sweet buns together like they were toasting a fancy drink that they could not afford, and then they dug in.

“Oh dear,” her mother remarked. “That’s rather dry. Let me go fetch some milk.”

Dry as they were, Byleth thought that this was perfect.


Her mother left a few hours later. Byleth helped her carry her things to the merchant caravan. 

“I’ll see you soon,” she said, hugging Byleth close. They stayed like that for a moment, her mother humming the same song she had when baking. “I will try my hardest to be back in time. And I promise you, I will find you an amazing present to make up for it. You deserve better than this for your eighteenth.”

“Flora! Come on! We need to go soon!” Someone called. She continued to hold Byleth.

“Mother, it’s okay,” Byleth said. She pulled away and smiled at her to calm her distress. She may have not have been showing it, but Byleth could still tell. “I understand. We can just celebrate extra when you get back.”

“Oh, my dear. What did I do to deserve you?” She left Byleth with one last kiss to her forehead and rejoined the rest of the group for final preparations to leave.

Byleth took a seat atop the hill with her knees curled up to her chest and watched, rolling her eyes when Merchant Dressel welcomed her mother into the group by placing a hand on her shoulder. 

A set of footsteps approached her from behind and she heard Deidren’s voice ask, “He at it again?”

Byleth groaned. “Ugh. Unfortunately.”

He took a seat beside her and pointed. “Don’t worry. Ma’s got her.” Down below, Deidren’s mother led Byleth’s mother away from Dressel. She was another one of the villagers who came along on merchant trips. She was the one who helped to make deals with other traders, negotiating with them to increase traffic to Remire. Her work had certainly helped their little village thrive. Supposedly, she had been the daughter of a merchant before marrying a small town butcher— hence, her skills.

“Do you think things could have been different if Ma stayed a merchant?” Deidren mused. “Maybe I could have been a student at the monastery instead of being a butcher.”

“Can we ever really know what ifs?” Byleth asked back. It was hypocritical, she knew. After all, it’s not like she never dwelled on her own ‘what ifs’. The conversation ended there. They sat in silence and watched the caravan leave until they disappeared into the distance.

“Hey, Byleth! Deidren!” One of the town guards waved at them as they approached the village together. Kayden and his twin sister Juniper were a couple of years older than Byleth. A few years ago, they had taken it upon themselves to start guarding the entrance of Remire. Though (as Deidren would proudly claim for her) Byleth was still the best with a weapon.

“Did you want to spar today, By?” he asked.

Juniper snorted from where she sat against the outer wall of the village. “You’re really gonna challenge her again?”

“Hey! I've been doing my homework!” Kayden pulled a book out from his bag and held it up. It was Beginner Combat Techniques. A wandering mercenary had left it for the village after she had finally left for good.

‘You kids could stand to learn a thing or two,’ she had written in the front of the book. They had all read it so much that the note had faded away. Even her name was barely legible: S—— N——

“Kay, did you take that from the library?” Deidren asked. He carefully took it from his friend’s hands. 

Kay rolled his eyes at the mention of the “library” since by “library” Deidren referred to the bookshelves in the inn and tavern, which was used as a makeshift schoolhouse during the day. There weren’t ever too many kids in the village at one time, so there was never any need for a dedicated schoolhouse, though it had been something the village considered building in the past few years. “Maybe I did.”

“Here, Deidren.” Byleth offered her hand out. “I’ll take it back later.”

“Tryin’ to one up me, eh?”

“Calm down, Kay,” Juniper said. She leaned on her sword (which was somewhat old and dull) to help her stand back up. “You know that she pretty much already knows everything in it.”

“Fine.” Kay groaned and leaned back against the wall. “I don’t get how you know all this when you read it like one time five years ago.”

“I think that’s an exaggeration.”

“Nah, By. I mean, you’re so good at hunting and all,” Deidren agreed.

“That’s not even in the book.”

“Ah, so you admit you’re a natural then!” Juniper grinned and then held up one of Byleth’s arms. “You don’t get arms like these by just reading books.”

“Geez, sis. Keep it in your pants.”

Byleth blushed as she gently pried Juniper’s hands off her arm. “I uh, I gotta run some errands today, but maybe sometime later this week.”

On the way back home, she popped into the tavern to quickly drop off the book. She waved to the tavern owner, Myra, strode over to the bookshelves in the corner of the room, and slotted the book right into place.

It was nice to have some peace and quiet after such an exciting morning— or so she thought.

“It took you long enough!”

A familiar figure floated in of her vision as soon as she opened the door. “Sothis, You could have come with.”

Sothis just crossed her arms. “Well, I thought that you two would like to spend that time together. You should be thanking me.”

“Alright, alright.”

Sothis had been in Byleth’s life for almost as long as she could remember. She could swear that she remembered seeing a hazy figure around when she was a baby, but the first time Byleth remembered meeting her was after a prayer.

It had been during one of her mother’s trips away. She was staying with Deidren’s family, and, lonely, she prayed to the goddess like her mother taught her. Any child would have screamed, but not Byleth. She had stared calmly.  When Deidren checked in on her later, she was talking to air.

“By, Are you alright?” he had asked.

Byleth had merely nodded, pointing upward. “I’m talking to my friend,” she had said.

This continued on for many years and people just accepted it as Byleth having an imaginary friend. Byleth would rather call Sothis a gift of friendship from the goddess herself. It was life-saving to have her around in more recent years now that she could stay alone in the house when her mother was away.

“You were quiet yesterday. I thought you went off somewhere,” Byleth said, though she very well knew Sothis didn’t have many places to go. She walked over to the empty pans from earlier and began to clean them up with a cloth.

“Be that as it may, I understand that you don’t like to talk to me when others are around. Wouldn’t do for everyone to think you’re going crazy!” Sothis exclaimed.

They had gotten much more careful over the years over when and where they talked. Sothis was her friend, but she couldn’t really spend much time with her when she was out around the village. It wasn’t the easiest thing to explain, especially now that she was grown.

“So… Now that your mother is gone, shall we read?”

Of course, Byleth knew what she was talking about without seeing how Sothis was eyeing the locked cabinet. 

“We shouldn’t.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time we read her letters.”

They called them letters because they started with “Dearest Jeralt” and ended with “Your Love, Flora,” but could they really call them letters when her mother never sent them?

She could still remember roughly how the first letter went.

Dearest Jeralt,

I think of you every day. I wonder if I should have stayed and lived out our days at the monastery together, or maybe I should have waited for you. Byleth deserves her father. I know she does. I wish we were together, but I cannot return now. I have committed a grave sin and I fear that only the goddess can forgive me now.

She is a quiet child. Sometimes, I think that I am lucky, yet other times, I do not know if something is wrong. She doesn’t cry at all. I often awake during the night, fearing that someone has stolen her away from me in the night. Well, I knew motherhood was never going to be easy, but I will do my best in your absence.

It may be unrealistic, but I hope that one day, we may be reunited. I look forward to a time where Byleth may finally come to know her father.

Your Love,

Flora

When she read that letter for the first time, she felt as if her stomach had dropped out. Her mother’s letters were so intimate and private, and Byleth had so clearly violated that privacy. She still never told her about it, and it ate away at her. Yet, over the years, she persisted. She needed to know about...

Byleth bit her lip and looked towards the cabinet, but then she returned to her cleaning. “Not now.”

“Well, we know where the key is when you decide otherwise”


Miss Oriana was the first one to point it out when Byleth swung by the bakery to return the borrowed pans.

“You’re turning eighteen soon, Byleth? You must be very excited.

Byleth just hummed a vague noise that sounded like “sure” and nodded, unsure of what to really say.


The next day, she decided to take up Kay’s proposition to spar. Deidren and Juniper tagged along. 

“I’m not going to lose this time!” Kay insisted, as he did almost every time. “Can’t lose to a kid.”

“Stop calling us kids, Kay,” Deidren complained. “By’s birthday is in a few days.”

“You must be excited, By!” Juniper said before biting into one of the apples they brought. 

“Let ‘em focus, Junie.” 

Kay’s lance-work had gotten better over the years, but he always put too much weight on the wrong foot and even though Byleth greatly preferred swords and bows, she could tell that his grip was slightly off. She knocked him on his feet, easily scoring a victory.

It didn’t matter much to her anyways. Who would she ever fight?


She hunted again, wondering if this was all there was for her life.


Her mother had encouraged her to pray in times when they were separated, and so she did. 

Byleth didn’t really understand prayer like her mother did. Her mother used to live in a monastery as a nun— of course she “got it”.

Young Byleth had a lot of questions.

“Does the goddess know we left? Is she mad at us?” she had asked one night when they were kneeling at the side of her bed. They had just finished their prayer.

Her mother never answered her. Byleth found her crying over one of her letters later. She had stopped asking questions after that. 

“Please goddess, keep my mother safe on her journey,” she whispered. It was still awkward to her. She still wasn’t sure if she should say it aloud or what she should do with her hands. “Let her prosper.” She finished her prayer and let her words dissolve into the quiet of the night.

While she stopped asking questions to her mother, she never stopped asking them to no one in particular. Would the goddess really listen to the prayers of someone like her?

Chapter Text

Byleth lay awake on the evening before her birthday. She knew that she should just go to sleep so that she may enjoy herself tomorrow, but she couldn’t help it. Her stomach swam with anxiety. Would mother be back in time? They would never know until the caravan returned, but she had her doubts.

“You should not worry over things that you cannot control,” Sothis said as she hovered at Byleth’s bedside. That was another thing that Byleth never quite understood about Sothis: how she could practically read her mind. “You should sleep.” 

“I can’t.” She gave up her meager attempts to fall asleep and sat up. “I think I’m going to go get some water.”

Quiet, Sothis followed her into the kitchen. Byleth poured water into the cup carefully, yet she found her gaze wandering over to cabinet. Maybe some reading would help her slumber?

“Byleth!” 

She looked back at the cup. It had overflowed, spilling water over her hand and onto the counter. After wiping up the mess, she set her water down and lit a candle. She knew where the key was, of course. Mother hid it in one of her old magic tomes where she had created a square-shaped hollow. She thought Byleth would never look there since she was never too interested in magic, but Sothis had seen her hide it. The first time, Byleth had had to stand on one of the chairs to reach where it was on the bookshelf. Now, she could reach it with ease. Every time, she was careful to place the key and book back exactly where she found it.

Once inside the cabinet, there was yet another box. It was a beautiful white and gold and there was a hollow where a gem may have been once (Byleth suspected that mother sold it to make some extra gald). It was once the kind of box that a noblewoman might use to keep jewelry. Her mother did own a couple of pieces of jewelry, a necklace and her ring (which she did keep in the box along with the letters). 

“So in the end, you did cave,” Sothis commented. She floated above Byleth’s shoulder so she could see the contents of the letter as well. 

“Hm.” Byleth hardly gave Sothis an answer. She unfolded her mother’s most recent letter.

Dearest Jeralt,

Our daughter has grown up so fast, Jeralt. I’m sure to you, her life would have been like a mere blink. You were always going on about forgetting your own age. I wonder if you remember how old Byleth is supposed to be. She is almost eighteen now, almost an adult. 

I wish you could see how she’s grown! She reminds me of you often. Byleth is a natural fighter, though there aren’t many opportunities for her to use a weapon besides hunting and she does prefer swords over lances. Would you have taught her the lance instead? I know very well that you would have taught her fishing over hunting at the very least.

In ways, I feel that she would be a perfect student at the monastery. We teach the children here all that we can, but I can tell that Byleth hungers for more. Maybe she was meant to be a knight, but I know I have robbed that life from her now. I do not have the resources to send her and I fear how the archbishop would receive an attempted return.

After all these years, I am still a traitor, Jeralt. 

Do you hate me for stealing Byleth’s life from you? Would you hate me even more if I ever returned?

Your Love,

Flora

Questions were a common theme in her mother’s letters. It seemed as if Byleth wasn’t the only one that pondered over “what-ifs”. Her letters were never happy. Byleth knew that there were some letters that had smudged ink or spots crumpled from tears. 

“She really never stopped thinking of your father.”

Byleth nodded in silent agreement, yet she still felt a sinking in her heart. She folded the letter up neatly and picked up the next one.

Before she knew it, she drifted off, slumped over her mother’s letters.


Though she had never known war, she dreamt of it often. She dreamt of swords clashing, people screaming, fire burning the landscape, of indescribable rage pumping through her body.

“Tell me, Nemesis. Do you remember the Red Canyon?”

Byleth dreamt of knife sinking into flesh over and over until

She jolted awake, falling out of the chair she had fallen asleep in as she frantically checked her hands for blood. They were clean.

Sothis hovered above her, looking down. “You dream of the strangest things.”

Byleth agreed, though she decided not to voice this. Instead, she stood back up and looked towards the table. Letters were still outside of the box, but at least the candle had gone out overnight.

“I know your mother has not returned yet, but happy birthday nonetheless!” Sothis clasped her hands together and smiled. “My gift to you is our continued friendship! You are quite welcome.”

From her chirpy tone, Byleth knew she was half-joking, but it still meant a lot.


She decided to go hunting early before anyone could stop her. She knew that it was her birthday and that she could afford some relaxation, but it was hard to sit still and just wait. 

When she returned to town, Juniper greeted her at the entrance of the village, shooting her a weird look. “You didn’t need to hunt today, you know,” she said, eyeing the carcass of the wild boar that Byleth had slung across her back.

“I wanted to,” Byleth responded. She adjusted her grip. “Have they returned yet?”

Juniper’s expression fell and then she pat Byleth on the shoulder. “Sorry, By. They haven’t come back yet.”

Byleth sighed at her answer.

“Hey! Don’t look so down though,” Juniper continued, attempting to raise her spirits. “I’m sure that everything is fine. Why don’t we drop this off with the butcher and then get you cleaned up?”

Byleth nodded and let Juniper tug her along.

Deidren’s eyes widened when they delivered the boar to the butcher’s. “Whoa” he said. “We were already preparing something, but I guess the feast will be even better tonight!”

“You said it, Deidren,” Juniper agreed. She held Byleth’s shoulders and steered her out. “C’mon. Wouldn’t do if the birthday girl was covered in dirt at her own party.”

Juniper was a nice companion in the bathhouse. She didn’t much mind Byleth’s quiet disposition and always filled the silence herself. Byleth appreciated having someone who could help her reach her back, especially when it was sore from how she slept slumped over the kitchen table last night.

Juniper had noticed it right away when Byleth flinched. “You’re really stiff, By!” 

“I had a hard time sleeping last night,” she answered only half truthfully. It’s not as if Juniper needed to know the exact details. 

“Why don’t you get some rest after we dry up?”

“But what about—”

“It’s fine, By! You have time.” 

And so, at Juniper’s insistence, Byleth found herself lying back in bed in broad daylight. Juniper had practically forced her under the covers. “I’ll come and get you when we’re all ready,” she said. 

Even Sothis agreed with Juniper. “A nap would do you some good.”

Byleth laid awake for a bit, wondering yet again if her mother would return today. If it got too late, the group would stop traveling, which would delay them even more— not that Byleth knew how far they were in the first place. They could still be in Enbarr.

Her overactive thoughts eventually calmed, allowing her some rest. She woke later to the dimming light of the sun setting and she sighed. The house was still quiet. This wouldn’t have been the first time that mother didn’t make it back on schedule. Besides, it was never a guarantee. It was still upsetting in a way that gave Byleth a stomach ache— in a way that made her want to stay in.

There were people waiting for her though, and no one in all of Remire would let her miss her eighteenth birthday. In a village so small that everyone knew almost everyone else by name, the eighteenth birthday was too important, especially when it was her own.

Laying there, Byleth couldn’t help but think that it was strange. Almost the whole town was out there preparing to celebrate. She vividly remembered aiding in preparations for other birthdays, Kayden and Juniper’s especially. She had helped pick flowers for decorations while her mother prepared a dish for the potluck. Her mother had been frantic as she tried to prepare the roasted vegetables in time (so much so that she had almost dropped the pan).

Byleth wondered if anyone was rushing like that right now. 

Faintly, she heard someone knock on the front door of her home. 

“Looks like it’s time, birthday girl,” Sothis said as she floated in from the other room. “Oh my. Your hair is quite a mess though.”

Byleth ignored her as she made her way towards the door, opening it to find Juniper waiting for. “Are you read...y?” Her eyes wandered up to the top of Byleth’s hair. “Did you just wake up?”

Byleth heard Sothis giggle behind her and she resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her floating friend. “I’ll go get a brush,” she grumbled.

“No, here.” Juniper reached up and untied her hair. “Turn around. I’ll put it up for you.” 

Byleth eyed her reluctantly for a moment, but then she decided to comply. She felt Juniper tug at her hair, taking much longer than usual to tie a regular ponytail. Sothis watched them intently and commented, “Now, that’s much better!”

“And done!” Juniper exclaimed. Byleth reached back and touched her hair. It seemed that Juniper had taken it upon herself to braid it. “You’re quite pretty with your hair down, Byleth, but this is nice too.”

“I— uh...” She was used to Juniper saying things like that, but she couldn’t help the way she reacted to those statements. Before she had a chance to say any more, Juniper grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the house, Sothis following behind.

They made their way to the center of town where the old windmill was. There was an open space in front of it, which was perfect for large gatherings, and people were free to come and go as they pleased (though usually the celebrant was expected to stay for most of the party).

The villagers lit the path with lanterns, which would also illuminate the space during the night. Byleth felt like she could already smell the food. It was then she realized that she had skipped lunch so that she could nap. She wiped the corner of her mouth to make sure that she wasn’t drooling.

Byleth could hear the chatter of the villagers as they approached the steps. If she were someone else, than she was sure that her heart would be pounding. It never did. 

“We’re here!” Juniper shouted. She pulled Byleth along even faster, but the run up the stairs was hardly a challenge to either of them.

They arrived at the top and Byleth would swear that they could have been blown back with the joyful shout of “Happy birthday, Byleth!”

 It had stunned her in the past when she was a participant in the celebration, but now it was like she was frozen in place, overwhelmed. “C’mon, By. Give us a smile!”

Byleth’s cheeks turned red and though the festivities had already begun, she responded with her best “Thank you!” before stepping forward to partake herself. Deidren and Kay were already waiting near the food. One of the reasons that it took all day to prepare was because they had to take tables out to dine, some of which were laden with plates upon plates of food. Deidren grinned and pointed towards the center table where the entire cooked wild boar sat. “Like I said. This feast is about to be great!”

Suddenly, Byleth was thankful for her empty stomach. She made sure to at least try and grab a bit of every dish. Each family worked so hard to provide this meal for everyone, so of course she had to. Her favorite was the herb-roasted potatoes, which paired well with the boar. 

People would pass by her table to congratulate her, but she wasn’t paying too much attention. The food was delicious and well, her thoughts were someplace else.

She couldn’t help staring towards the front of town, wondering if her mother would walk up those stairs at any moment.

“By, don’t worry too much.” It was always surprising when Kay was the one to say something uplifting. “Just try and have fun. We all worked hard for this you know.”

“Kay, don’t be a jerk,” Juniper warned, waving her fork in the air.

Deidren ignored the banter and gave Byleth his own encouragement. “Your Ma will celebrate harder than anyone else here when she gets back.” 

“Thanks, Deidren,” she said, finally pulling a small smile. “That means a lot.”

But out of the corner of her eye she saw some figures at the top of the stairs and immediately she looked back, hoping.

But it was not the returning villagers. 

The three strangers looked to be around the same age as her, but they were dressed rather strangely. No one in Remire owned clothes that vibrant and in fact, Byleth was absolutely certain that she had never seen them before in her life.

“Excuse me, folks!” the one in yellow yelled. The sounds of the party died down as they all started at these strangers. “I hate to interrupt a good party, but—”

“Claude, you could bear to have some more tact!” the blond boy protested.

As the two boys bickered, the girl in red stepped forward. Her words rang out with the weight of authority. “Excuse us! Everyone please get inside to safety! There are bandits on the way!”

Chapter Text

The first reaction was the laughter of disbelief. Byleth was easily able to pull out the loud guffaw of Deidren’s father over the silence.

“I don’t know who you are, kids, but our village hasn’t been attacked in years!”

Truly this was quite a strange occurrence. One may have attributed it to the goddess’s protection. Others villagers argued that it was Remire’s location, nestled safely past a dense forest. It could have been the Knight’s checkpoint nearby before the aforementioned forest. Byleth thought they were all pretty lucky. 

There were a few shouts of agreement and some villagers nodded, but things still felt tense. 

The girl continued to speak. “Please. None of us would joke around in this situation.” She side-eyed the guy in yellow (Claude, was it?), glaring. He held up his hands defensively.

“Where are you kids from?” Myra asked. She held up some extra plates. “Come here and grab something to eat!”

The blond stepped forward, but it wasn’t to grab a meal. He held himself high, mouth in a rigid line and eyes panning over the crowd. “Please excuse us. We are students of the Garreg Mach Officer’s Academy. I am Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd.”

Byleth’s eyes widened. “That’s the monastery,” she muttered to herself. She thought the pattern on their clothes looked familiar. Her mother’s old clothing from her time at the monastery held that same pattern. If these three were truly students from the Officer’s Academy, what would they gain from lying to all of them? Was there really any way that they benefit from this?

“Byleth,” Deidren whispered as he elbowed her to get her attention. “That’s the prince of Faerghus!”

Juniper couldn’t help but contribute her own words of disbelief. “Students? What are they doing out here?”

“And why are they messing with us?” Kayden added with a scowl on his face.

“Kay, stop that.”

Byleth interrupted them before they could start bickering again. “I think we should believe them.”

She hadn’t realized how loud her words had been until a second wave of quiet washed over everyone and all eyes turned to her. For a moment, she felt their gazes pinning her into place, but eventually, she regained the nerve to move forward towards the strangers. 

It was like time was frozen around her, everyone still as she walked. Even the strangers were tense in place when she stopped in front of them. “Please tell us more.”

“I’d love to, but I’m not sure if we have the time.”

“It’s not that long a story, Claude.” 

“Sure thing, Edie.”

The girl rolled her eyes at him before placing a hand over her own chest. “I’ll take this then,” she said. “We were in this area for a training exercise, but we were separated from the Knights when the bandits started pursuing us. We tried to run into the forest outside of your village to escape them, and it worked temporarily, but they pursued us. We noticed how your village was undefended.”

Dimitri continued for her. He bowed slightly and Byleth took a step back. “Our apologies. I am afraid that they will follow us here and attack.”

The silence persisted for a mere moment longer, but the end of that moment was like watching a fraying rope finally snap. People rushed towards the stairs, leaving the celebration and food behind. Some screamed as well. Others remained still, holding themselves while muttering panicked words. 

It was then when Byleth’s mind jumped into the future of that reality. Surely there weren’t that many bandits, yet could they really defend the village without any casualties while still protecting the village itself too? Best case scenario: the bandits never even came near the village. They were all safe and this panic was for nothing. Worst case?

Her mother would find her body.

“We won’t let that happen.” For a second, Byleth thought that the girl— Edie?— read her mind, but then she realized that she was responding to Dimitri. “The three of us will do our best to defend the village while we wait for the Knights to come, but we wanted to make sure to warn you.”

Byleth clenched her fist. “Make that four.” The three of them stared at her and she looked straight back, unwavering. “I can’t just sit by when my home is in danger.”

“Byleth!” Deidren called. He, Juniper, and Kayden ran up to her. “So, you’re going to fight then?”

Byleth nodded. “I will.”

“You should take these then,” Juniper said. She held up a box. 

Kay had one as well. “These were the village’s gifts to you, but well, I guess there’s no better time than now.”

They all knelt down (though the three students remained standing) and Byleth lifted the lids off of the boxes. When she saw what was inside, she was left speechless.

She lifted the first gift out of the box: it was a brand-new sword made of steel that was heavier than Byleth was used to. The letter B was carved right under the guard which flowed into a beautiful pattern across the grip.  The second gift, a bow with a quiver of arrows, matched the sword.

“Your Ma got these during the last trade trip, but mine helped her get a good price,” Deidren said. “If you’re going to fight, why not use the right tools for the job?”

“They’re really nice,” Kay commented. He picked the bow up and balanced it in his hand before handing it over to Byleth. “I’m a little jealous.”

“Ah, an archer?” Claude asked. He grinned. “A girl after my own heart. Alright. Let’s move.”

Byleth looked back at her friends. “Make sure everyone gets inside. Kay, Juniper, we’ll do our best to keep the bandits away, but do you think you can handle it if any stragglers make it through?”

She had never seen Juniper’s eyes widen like that, nor had she seen Kayden’s hands shake. 

“Please. I’m counting on you.” 

If they were still afraid, they stopped showing it. They nodded first at each other then at Byleth and left along with Deidren to help some of the villagers that had remained behind.

“Let’s go.” Byleth attached the sword scabbard to her belt and the quiver to her back. She kept the bow in her hand. “You have weapons?”

They nodded. “We didn’t want to startle anyone, but we put them somewhere safe,” Dimitri said.

The group stopped to retrieve the weapons (which were hidden in a bush near the front of the village), then they took off into the forest at Dimitri cleared his throat for attention. “I apologize again. We did not have time for proper introductions either, but I believe your friends called you Byleth?”

She nodded. “That’s right.”

“What an interesting name,” the girl said.

“And you’re Claude, Dimitri, and… Edie, was it?” Byleth asked. 

It was surprising to see someone who had earlier exhibited such grace and authority blush, but sure enough, she did. The blush vanished almost as soon as it appeared, so maybe Byleth was just seeing things. “It’s Edelgard, actually. Edelgard von Hresvelg of the Adrestian Empire.”

“Should I assume that all three of you are high nobility then?” 

The look the three of them gave each other was an answer enough for her. “Alright, your highnesses—”

“There’s no need for formalities here.” It had been Dimitri who said this, though Claude and Edelgard agreed with their own versions of this statement (“Don’t bother with that. We’re all friends here” and “Just Edelgard is fine” respectively).

“—did any of you have a plan?”

“Regretfully, we didn’t exactly have time to strategize,” Edelgard said. She looked down, gripping her axe. “If only Hubert were here.”

Claude winked. “Oh contraire, princess. I am always strategizing,” he said. “Though I admit, it’s more difficult since I don’t have a firm grasp of the area.”

“I’ll take care of the plan then.” The gears were already turning in Byleth’s mind.. 

“Are you sure?” Dimitri asked. “I do not wish to doubt your abilities, but you are a civilian and we cannot ask you to get involved.”

“I want to,” she insisted, holding her bow against her chest. “This is my village and I know the area best.” She stopped. It might have looked as if they arrived at any random spot in the forest, but Byleth knew exactly where they were.  She moved aside a curtain of vines on one of the trees to reveal a hollow. It was here where she hid traps and spare arrows. 

“Did you see how many bandits there were?”

“Nothing like an army, but enough that it would be tough with just the three— well, four of us now.”

“We’ll need these then.” She pulled out the traps and shoved them into the arms of the person closest to her, Dimitri. “Let’s use the forest to our advantage. I’ll show you guys how to set these.”

Dimitri adjusted his hold and nodded. “We’ll do our best. Just tell us what to do.”

Edelgard stared at the traps thoughtfully. “So, you’re trying to thin their numbers for a more even fight. Clever.”

Claude relaxed, hands raised behind his head. “Well, I hate to pass up the opportunity for a good scheme, but I’ll leave the reigns to you,” he said. “I’m guessing we’ll need some sort of distraction then?”

Byleth nodded.

“Leave that to me. I’m fast.”

“Alright. But leave the cape, all three of you. It makes you guys stand out too much.” None of them hesitated to unpin the colorful garments from their shoulders and stuffed them into the tree’s hollow. Now, the three of them blended in much better with the darkness of the night woods. 

“Here’s the plan.”

These bandits had entered her forest. They had become prey. And Byleth? She was ready to hunt.

Chapter Text

Byleth always thought that she was the type of person who would never get nervous. She remembered charging into the woods after that mercenary and unflinchingly demanding her to teach her how to shoot a bow properly. She remembered completing her first hunt, her hands never shaking.

“Impressive, kid,”  the mercenary had said, and then she drew her own arrow and shot a bird out of the sky. Byleth swore that she didn’t even look. “Keep practicing. Never falter.”

And so Byleth did practice. She practiced so she could one day be like that woman— but she never thought that the day would come where she would actually have to use what she learned.

Palms sweaty, she adjusted her grip on her bow lest she drop it to the forest ground below. She decided to perch up in some of the higher branches to get a good vantage point, secured in place with a length of rope that Byleth had stashed in the tree hollow. Below, she could see Edelgard and Dimitri who were waiting in their own respective hiding spots, their backs against trees.

In the distance, they could hear yelling voices. Claude, along with a group of angry bandits, was approaching at a rapid pace. 

“Watch out for where we scatter leaves,” Byleth had warned Claude before he left to distract the bandits. “I’ll give the signal to activate the traps once you run through, but I don’t want to take any chances of you getting caught in one.”

“Got it,” Claude had answered with a thumbs up. “You seem pretty good at this. You sure you haven’t done this before?”

“We won’t know until it actually works if I’m actually good at it.”

“Alright, but if you’re interested, I might have a job offer for you after all of this.”

“Just go.”

Byleth would admit that she admired Claude’s ability to stay positive in this situation. She didn’t exactly have that luxury. She was grateful that they had agreed to go along with this and she admired the instant air of focus that came over Dimitri and Edelgard as soon as they heard the noises of their enemies in the distance.

Finally, they heard the crunch of nearby footsteps, falling ever quicker as they approached. From up on her perch, Byleth identified Claude’s lone figure. He kept pace perfectly: close enough so that the bandits were able to follow him, but fast enough so that he could duck into a hiding place in a bush.

They were coming.

Byleth felt a lump form in her throat. Was she really ready for this? Could she kill? 

It was then her mother’s words came to mind. “It was hard for me after we left, By. There were, and still are, times like this when I just want to break down and start crying.”

Byleth hated seeing her mother like that— when she would come home and couldn’t find the energy to make dinner, when she was afraid of even getting up out of bed. Those were the times that she would drop everything to take care of her mother.

“But you know what you should do instead? Just breathe, By. In four seconds, hold seven seconds, and out eight seconds.” 

And so she breathed.

In: one, two, three, four.

Hold: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

Out: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.

The traps are nonlethal , she told herself. There aren’t that many bandits. Her words were a mantra. We can win.

“Find that brat! He couldn’t have gone far!” The gruff shout from down below snapped Byleth back to reality. It was showtime.

She glanced down at Dimitri and Edelgard, checking that they were looking back at her for the signal. Then, she focused her stare along the path where they set the traps. The timing had to be perfect. Too early and they might not catch any of the bandits. Too late and they wouldn’t be able to thin their numbers enough. 

So she waited. This was what hunting was all about. Breathe like you don’t even exist, pretend that you don’t even exist, wait for the perfect moment.

And then strike.

The bandits were in her sights now, taking the perfect position. Byleth brought her hand down and then Dimitri and Edelgard yanked on the ropes to activate their traps.

Byleth was actually surprised how easily the motion came to the two of them. Humans weren’t meant to lift that much weight with those kinds of traps, and yet, they were able to do it like Byleth did with a normal hunt.

A couple of nets scooped up a good amount of the bandits, suspending them in the air like the prey they were. They yelped and squirmed as they were crowded together inside the nets.

“Wh-what the hell is this?” the leader yelled. He held his axe up to try and cut the ropes, but then an arrow flew by, cutting the back of his hand. Byleth would admit that Claude was a good shot.

It was time to finally strike.

“Now!” Byleth called. “Watch my back!” She touched the rope and made sure that it was secure around her and then she jumped.

“That seems rather risky,” Edelgard had commented when Byleth had pitched this idea to her and Dimitri.

“Someone needs to keep a lookout.”

“Are you not afraid of falling?” Dimitri asked. 

“The rope should suspend me above the ground just enough so I can cut myself free safely,” Byleth explained. She hoisted herself up on the first branch and began to climb. “I have to make it to the ground quickly whenever the bandits arrive. I’m counting on you two if something goes wrong with this.” While she was used to climbing trees, she had never tried this , but she wasn’t about to tell them that.

“You really are willing to risk your life on us?” Edelgard asked again. Her hand rested atop the end of her axe as she stared at Byleth unflinchingly.

“I don’t have much of a choice, now do I?”

When the rope ran out of give, the air was knocked out of her and she dropped her bow. Perhaps this truly was a foolish idea, though it had gotten her close to the ground quickly like she had planned. She pulled her knife, which rested on her belt along with her sword, out and severed the rope. She rolled when she hit the ground to mitigate her fall.

Of course, this meant that she lost her bearings. Vulnerable, one of the bandits could have struck her down, but then, she saw a flash of red out of the corner of her eye. Edelgard was standing in front of her. 

“Get up!” she yelled.

Byleth nodded. Fists clenched, she pushed herself up off of the ground and drew her sword. They all stood side-by-side: her, Edelgard, Claude, and Dimitri.

“You damn brats!”

“Let us down, boss!” one of the trapped bandits called, but the leader ignored him. Instead, he held his axe up.

“Your orders,” Dimitri whispered as they all stood in a tense silence, waiting for the other side to make the first move.

Byleth took a deep breath and tried not to shake. This was it. She wasn’t ready to see anyone die today. “Don’t let them hurt anyone.”

The bandit leader swung his axe down and then the real battle began.

It was as if she was hyper-aware of everything around her. The differences between her allies and her enemies were clear. It was like she was fighting Kayden, but everything was slowed down from the adrenaline. She could tell a lot from how the students moved. 

Claude hung back in order to get a good shot, but he was still quick on his feet. To an amateur, it may have looked like he missed his target, but Byleth could see that his aim was careful. Instead of going for kill-shots, he aimed to disarm or incapacitate for his victory.

Dimitri had definitely held a lance before. Though he was a student, Byleth wasn’t surprised that he had some formal combat education if he really was a prince. His preference for lance-work allowed him to dodge the bandits’ sloppy attacks and take on multiple opponents at once.

Edelgard was definitely impressive in her own right as well and Byleth couldn’t help but stare just a bit longer. Axes were heavy weapons, yet she was able to swing it without compromising her graceful composure. She used her footwork to keep her balance and optimize the power behind her swing. Her enemies didn’t stand a chance.

Byleth wasn’t slacking in her own fight either. Her opponent was sloppy— not that she wasn’t expecting that. He relied much more on brute strength than technique. She could tell that he was the kind of person who preyed on the innocent. Anyone with enough skill would be able to fight back. She opted for her sword for this encounter even though she knew an arrow might be more efficient. She wouldn’t put Dimitri and Edelgard through defending two archers in such a tight situation. 

“Who the hell are you?”

Byleth blocked his swing. She didn’t answer— just sidestepped as soon as he withdrew and swung at him, trying to focus on her footwork so that she wouldn’t lose her balance from adjusting to the weight of the new sword.

“Don’t get in my way, brat! Especially, if you’re not even aiming to kill!”

Of course anyone who had been in a fight could tell that she was using the dull side of her sword. While she wanted to protect her village no matter what, killing didn’t seem necessary at the moment.

She wasn’t ready.

Fighting another human being was vastly different from subduing an animal. No one wanted to die. No one wanted to taste the dirt of defeat under another human being’s shoes.

In her momentary hesitation, the bandit was able to get a hit in on her. Her arm stung where he had hit her and the sleeve was torn, but she ignored the pain and tightened her grip on her sword. It didn’t hurt, she told herself, but if it weren’t her— if it were Juniper or Kayden or Deidren— how would they feel?

“Get out.”

“What?”

“I said get out!” Byleth’s words escalated into a roar and her instincts kicked into high gear. With a burst of strength, she swung and broke the bandit’s guard. As he staggered backwards, Byleth rolled behind him then slashed her sword upwards.

The bandit cried out and fell to the ground.

Byleth didn’t realize how heavy that she was breathing until the sounds of clashing blades and yelling had died down. She collapsed on the ground, exhausted. 

Someone walked in front of her. Byleth looked up. “I’ll admit, that was quite impressive for something you’ve never done before,” Edelgard said, offering out her hand. 

Byleth nodded and took it, pulling herself up off the forest floor. “Thanks.” She was still panting hard. “How’re Dimitri and Claude?”

“They’re tying up the bandits.” Edelgard pointed over her shoulder. “Extra security measure before the Knights get here.”

“Makes sense.” Wouldn’t do if the bandits were able to get away. “Is this all of them?”

“I believe so, but we can’t be too sure until we check”

Byleth nodded. “I guess so,” she agreed, but thinking about it just made her stomach swim. Was everyone okay? “I… I should…”

“Go check on your village,” Edelgard finished for her. “We’ll handle things here.”

Byleth turned and started to walk back towards her village, but then she hesitated, freezing in place. Was this really how this all ended? Sure, she was returning to her village like she was meant to, but would Edelgard, Claude, and Dimitri even be here when she returned, or was their business done with now that they had defeated the bandits?

“Damn noble brats!” 

Byleth’s eyes widened as she turned back. Maybe she should have known. This was her first real fight and she had never hurt another human being like that before. 

Was it really surprising that she actually failed, only dazing her enemy for a moment? The bandit was back on his feet already, axe in hand.

Edelgard gasped and pulled out a knife, but that wouldn’t be enough to stop a heavy axe.

Byleth could feel her legs moving before she could think about what she was actually doing. Her instincts had kicked into back into overdrive. She wasn’t one to ignore her instincts, but maybe this time she should have thought more about it.

Her back was open.

“Byleth!”

The bandit brought his axe down once again and Byleth’s world went dark.

Chapter Text

Byleth’s first injury had been a scrape to the knee when she was five years old. She had been running too quickly along the main path in the village and her sandals had caught against a rock. It stung. Any child would have cried.

But she did not.

She stood up and kept moving. When she arrived back home, the scrape was a raw red and her knee was covered in blood.

Her mother panicked over the scrape more than she had. Byleth arrived home like that, and her mother gasped, immediately rushing over from the kitchen. “What happened, dear? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, ma,” she answered quietly. “Did I do something wrong?”

Her mother whispered assurances as she washed up the knee and bandaged it. Even as a child, she knew that her mother could use healing magic, but Byleth wouldn’t ask that of her.  

The last time her mother had used her white magic before that was when Byleth was a child— her real first injury.

She didn’t remember it at all of course, but her mother explained it to her many years later when Byleth was old enough to understand. 

“There was a fire the night we left,” her mother said. She didn’t mention that it was her who set the fire. That was a confession left to one of her private letters. “Your back was burned. Even with my magic it still scarred.”

Byleth didn’t mind. It’s not as if anyone really saw her back anyways. Besides, her mother’s own scar was worse since she couldn’t heal herself. It ran from the top of her right shoulder down to her elbow. She preferred long sleeves because of this, but there were still occasions when the other villagers caught a glimpse of the scarring and asked about it. 

“The fire… my husband.. He— he burned.” 

Her words were vague, yet emotional enough to deter any further questions as the interrogator would be busy doling out apologies.

“Isn’t that a lie though?” Byleth asked her later on once they were alone.

“Well, not completely,” her mother answered. “Our life with him is gone, burned away.”

Burned away, yet his memory was burned into their skin at the same time, a permanent reminder. At least they were still here, still standing.

Until now.

She didn’t know how she got there, and she was still confused as to what this place was. It was dark around her as if nothing and no one else existed in this dark void. 

Then she heard a voice behind her.

“What exactly were you trying to accomplish with that stunt?” 

Byleth turned around. Sothis was staring down at her from atop a throne. Her leg was crossed over the other as she tapped her foot, scowling. Byleth had never seen her angry before.

“I was wondering where you were,” Byleth said. Sothis had been strangely quiet during this whole debacle, though Byleth was always able to feel her presence somewhere nearby.

“Well it wouldn’t do if I were to distract you during your first battle, hm?” Sothis finally stood and began her way down the steps towards her. “Not that that matters much anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

“You jumped in front of that girl a girl you barely knew, mind you just to save her life. How admirable.” Sothis didn’t quite stop at the bottom of the stairs. She made sure that she was still in a position above Byleth. “But it was incredibly foolish! Are you trying to get us killed?”

Part of Byleth wanted to ask what she meant by that, but she decided against it. Sure, they were friends, but Byleth didn’t think that it would be wise to aggravate her temper at the moment. 

“How did we get here?”

It was then when Sothis finally deigned to provide Byleth with some real answers. “I halted the flow of time,” she said. “Consider this my second gift to you today.” Byleth always thought that Sothis was a little strange— obviously, she wasn’t human— but she never thought it would be something to this extent. 

“Thank you, Sothis.” 

“Don’t thank me just yet!” Sothis continued. “If I were to resume time, what do you presume will happen?”

Byleth grimaced. She didn’t answer Sothis, but she knew that the answer wasn’t pretty. Sothis kept going anyways.

“The axe would tear into your flesh and your life will end. Quite a gruesome end for a mere village girl such as yourself.”

Byleth went quiet. So then this was the afterlife. It was nothing like she expected. Didn’t the goddess promise a happy and peaceful rest after death? This was so desolate, so cold, so lonely.

It wasn’t hard for her mind to wander towards what she had left behind. Her village had just been so happily celebrating her, but now she was gone. Deidren, Juniper, and Kay were expecting her to win and protect the village, but she had made a foolish mistake. Edelgard, Claude, and Dimitri were just trying to protect them all, but then this happened. Mother…

Her mother was expecting to come back and celebrate her eighteenth birthday— a birthday that had been cut short by an axe.

Byleth felt her knees give out under her and she found herself on the ground of this dark abyss.

“Will you let me finish before you jump to such depressing conclusions?” 

“What else am I supposed to think?” Byleth asked, trying to calm her anxious mind. She wished that she didn’t have to be so aware of this. Why couldn’t things just be over?

“Because it isn’t over.”

Her words weren’t enough to assure Byleth. “How can you say that?”

“Byleth, look at me,” Sothis commanded. 

Byleth slowly raised her head to meet her gaze. 

“I can turn back the clock.” Sothis placed a hand over her heart. Byleth was sure that she was glowing. “I can give you a second chance, and then you can save the girl and yourself.”

“You can… you can do that?” To Byleth, it didn’t seem possible, but then again, if she was able to stop time… 

“Would I jest at a time like this?” Her voice still held a bite, but to Byleth it was a push that she needed. 

The voice whispering her anxieties into her head finally quieted  “It doesn’t have to end this way.”

“Of course,” Sothis agreed, nodding. “Just say the word. Show me that you have the will to return to the world of the living.”   

Byleth stood back up, shoulders straightened and head held high. “I’ll do it right this time, I swear.” 

For the first time since arriving in this void, Sothis cracked a smile. “Now, that’s much better.” Sothis reached out and a bright symbol appeared in front of her. “Then go. You, my friend, who bears the flames within. Drift through the flow of time and find the answers you seek.”

Byleth didn’t have time to ask any questions. All she could do was close her eyes as Sothis’s light engulfed the darkness around them.


It was disorienting.

She felt like had had been forcibly shot, much like one of her arrows, back into her past body. Surprisingly, she was still standing upright. 

“Damn noble brats!”

It really was all exactly the same: the way the bandit yelled, how he leapt back up on his feet, axe in hand. Sothis really had reversed the clock.

Byleth drew her sword and ran forward, determined not to squander the second chance that had been given to her. This time, she knew what to do. 

“Byleth?” Edelgard gasped when she stood in front of her defensively. Byleth didn’t let this distract her. She kept her eyes focused on the target.

He swung his axe down with a mighty cry, but Byleth countered with a swing of her sword, knocking the bandit backwards onto the forest floor. 

It was enough to daze him, but before he could attempt to get up again, Dimitri and Claude rushed in. Dimitri hit the back of his head with the end of his lance, finally knocking the bandit unconscious. 

Byleth could still feel the adrenaline in her body as it started to die down. “Thanks… guys,” she panted out.

“Are you quite alright?” Dimitri asked. “Don’t strain yourself.”

“You’re fast,” Claude commented as he busied himself with tying the last bandit up. He shot her a grin. “Maybe you should have been the distraction.”

“Maybe so, but you did rather well.”

But then Edelgard’s voice interrupted the lighthearted words. “You’re bleeding.” 

Byleth’s eyes followed her gaze down to her arm, where the bandit struck her earlier. “Ah.” There was a tear in the sleeve of her shirt and it was stained a bright crimson. The wound had completely slipped her mind after what had just happened, even if the others weren’t aware of what she just experienced.

“Wait here.”

Before Byleth could ask what she meant, Edelgard made her way over to the hollow in the tree. She pulled out the three capes, tossing Claude and Dimitri their own. “Hold still,” she said, holding the cloth up against Byleth’s arm.

“I can’t ask you to do that.” Byleth tried to move away, but then Edelgard’s hand caught her wrist. She found herself silenced by her piercing gaze. Given the chance to really take in her appearance, she couldn’t help thinking how interesting a color her eyes were.

“You jumped in front of an axe for me. A silly little cape is nothing.” 

Byleth raised her arm slightly and let Edelgard wrap the cloth around her arm. It was a bit tight, but she knew it would help to stop the bleeding until it could be properly dressed.

Exhausted, Byleth leaned against a tree. She looked up at the bandits they trapped earlier. “So what do we do with these guys now?”

“I suppose one of us should run and get the knights,” Dimitri suggested, hand on his chin in thought.

“Sound logic, but it is late,” Edelgard said. She was right. They were lucky that enough moonlight filtered in through the trees so that they were able to see. “It would be rather risky.”

Byleth’s gaze wandered over to Claude, who, still grinning, seemed unfazed. “About that, I may have had a bit of foresight.”

A neigh echoed throughout the forest followed by the sound of horse hooves. Byleth snapped her head towards the source of the sound and saw the light of torches. The knights had arrived.

Byleth stood up straight as they approached, stopping in front of them. They were all atop horses, towering above her. The two knights at the sides were in armor, faces covered, but the man in the center was different. Even in the dim torchlight, his mere posture and presence demanded respect and attention. He stared at Byleth for a moment before looking towards the students, brow furrowed. 

He released the reigns from one of his hands, holding up an arrow. There was a note attached to it. “I swear, are you kids always this much trouble?”

Dimitri bowed forward respectfully. “Apologies, Captain Eisner.”

Byleth’s eyes widened. “Eis...ner?” No. It couldn’t be.

“Ah, yes. I’m sure you’ve heard of him? I guess he’s better known as another name—”

Byleth finished Dimitri’s sentence for him, the words slipping out without her realizing. “Jeralt the Blade Breaker.”

Chapter Text

Part of Byleth thought that maybe this was a dream. There was no way that all of these strange events were happening all at once, yet the pain in her arm was very present. This was reality.

Several times, she tried to open her mouth to say something, but the words got caught in her throat. What would she even tell him? It was like she had nothing to say, yet too much at the same time.

She did not speak as even more knights arrived, rounding up the subdued bandits into the back of a wagon. The students had busied themselves with helping with this task, and Byleth would have offered her own help if she didn’t feel glued into place. It felt wrong to just leave now, so she stood off to the side, praying to the goddess that no one would speak to her.

“Hey, kid.” 

Byleth held her breath when she heard his voice. She didn’t want to look, but she turned towards his voice anyways. It was only polite after all. 

She stared, taking in the sight of her own father and she realized that she looked nothing like him. He was blond and his eyes were a light hazel. Byleth’s hair was dark and her eyes a striking blue that the villagers often complimented. He had a broad jaw and scars across his face. Someone else may have found that frightening, but it reminded Byleth of mother’s stories about his battles instead.

Standing side-by-side, no one would suspect that they were related, so at least in this aspect, Byleth was safe. However, she had yet to know what Jeralt himself thought.

“Captain Eisner,” she said in greeting. “It’s uh— it’s nice to meet you, sir.” The words felt wrong on her tongue. She felt like she was introducing herself to a complete stranger, which, she supposed, wasn’t too far off the mark. 

“Don’t bother with the formalities, kid.” Jeralt sighed and shook his head. “Blaiddyd told me what you did. As a knight, I’m obligated to apologize.”

It was hard not to think how hypocritical it was: how he decided to be formal despite what he just told her. “Oh no. I… It’s my duty to protect my village. I wasn’t going to take any risks.”

“Is that so?” he said. “Well, great work. I’m surprised to see that a civilian can pull this off.”

Byleth couldn’t help the smile that came to her face, unbeating heart swelling with pride. The feeling didn’t last long.

“What’s your name, kid?”

The bubble popped, and she felt sick. It was as if the hypothetical glue had moved from the soles of her feet into her mouth. What was she supposed to tell him in this moment? There was no way that she would be able to get away with using a fake name— not when she told Dimitri, Edelgard, and Claude her real one. At the time, it seemed so inconsequential.

She swallowed, pondering the idea of coming clean to him. On the other hand, she had a feeling the words “I’m Byleth, your long lost daughter” wouldn’t fly with him.

She thought back to a conversation she had with her mother years back. “Ma, why haven’t you ever tried to contact my father?”

Of course it seemed like such a random thing to bring up when all her mother had been doing was brushing her hair. Byleth would never mention what prompted this question, which was reading the unsent letters for the first time.

“Oh… I don’t really know if I should say.”

“Don’t you miss him?” Byleth had thought that it was an innocent question, but she hadn’t expected the brush in her hair to tug abruptly. She flinched, but didn’t cry out.

“Sorry, dear,” her mother apologized, continuing her strokes. “Of course I do. It’s just well… it’s complicated.”

“But couldn’t he live with us?”

That’s when her mother stopped. She spun Byleth around in her stool and looked straight into her eyes. “Listen to me, Byleth.” Byleth sat straight up. “We cannot risk any of the knights knowing where we are. Do you understand?”

“Why not?”

Her mother’s response still haunted her. “They will take you away from me, my dear. They might even kill me.”

She wished she had more time to think about this impossible dilemma, but she didn’t think Sothis would turn back the clock so that she could give the students a fake name instead. Before she could say anything else, the choice was made for her.

“Byleth!” Dimitri called. He waved and started to make his way over.

Byleth swore that she could physically feel Jeralt’s stare on her. “Your name is Byleth?”

“Yes.” She straightened her shoulders in an attempt to keep her composure, but she feared this made her look more suspicious. “Is that a problem?”

He was quiet for a moment, but he continued to stare her down. “It’s nothing.”

“Shall we check on your village?” Dimitri asked when he arrived in front of them. “I’m sure that you must be quite worried about everyone.”

Byleth nodded quietly, still a bit dazed from the whole situation. There was so much to think about right now that it was overwhelming. 

“I’ll walk back with you,” he offered. “I have something to ask of you if that’s alright?”

“Trying to run off without us, your highness?” Claude walked over, hands relaxed behind his head. “You’re not thinking of doing something nefarious to our fair village maiden, are you?” he teased, a wink accentuating his words.

Dimitri glared at him. “What exactly are you insinuating?”

Edelgard approached as well, rolling her eyes at the exchange. “Byleth has proved herself far more capable than some mere village maiden.”

Byleth wasn’t sure how to feel about that compliment. She never considered herself anything close to a maiden.

“We can all accompany you back. I’m sure it will also give us peace of mind to see that everyone is safe.”

“Now hang on just a minute,” Jeralt interrupted. “I can’t let you three run off on your own again.”

“Captain—“

“My knights can handle the bandits, but I will accompany you all until we return to the monastery.”

Byleth wished that she could just disappear.

Claude shrugged. “If you insist.”

Jeralt gave a few additional orders to his men and then the group made their way to the village, Byleth in the lead. She tried to keep her distance from Jeralt, who stayed behind the rest of them on his horse. She just didn’t have the right words to say.

As they approached, they heard some yelling. “Scram bandits!” 

“Yeah! Get away from our village!”

Byleth called out as they made their way into the view of Remire’s entrance. “Junie, Kay! It's just us!”

She broke from the group, running up to her friends. They stepped back and lowered their weapons. “By! You’re okay!” Juniper dropped her sword and hugged her close. Surprised, Byleth held still, but relaxed when she felt Kay’s hand on her shoulder.

“The bandits?” he asked.

“We’re safe.”

“I’ll inform the villagers then.”

Byleth nodded and Kay ran off, calling out to inform the villagers of their safety.

Juniper pulled away. Her hands were shaking where she placed them on Byleth’s shoulders, but she smiled. “We could hear some yelling in the distance. It was so scary just waiting here. I’m so happy that things worked out.”

“Well, I didn’t plan on dying on my birthday.” It felt good to say something lighthearted about the situation.

“Sorry about crashing your party earlier,” Claude said when they caught up. “It’s a shame because that food smelled delicious.”

“Are you kidding?” Weirdly enough, Juniper just smiled wider. “If anything, this calls for an even bigger celebration!”

“You still want to party after all this?” Edelgard asked, eyes wide. “How strange.”

“Well, it wouldn’t be fair if we skimped on celebrating By’s birthday just because of some attack that almost happened.”

“It’s your birthday, kid?” 

Juniper looked up and her jaw dropped. Byleth didn’t even have to turn to know that she had noticed Jeralt. “Holy shit. A real life knight!”

“It is,” Byleth replied, ignoring Juniper’s shock. “What of it?”

But Juniper continued to speak anyways. “You guys should absolutely stay for the party!”

Byleth whipped her head back to Juniper. “What?”

“Think about it, By! How cool would it be to have a real life knight at your birthday?”

“Juniper! It’s not like he’s not some street performer!”

Jeralt cleared his throat. “It is rather late. We should head back to camp.”

“Logically, wouldn’t it make sense to stay overnight in the village and make our way back to camp tomorrow morning?” Edelgard suggested. 

“Why not take this opportunity to establish better relations with this village as well?” Dimitri added. “They do not seem to have anyone professionally guarding the town. They could be in more danger in the future.”

“I for one see no reason to leave now,” Claude agreed.

Jeralt shot them a stern look. For a moment, Byleth thought that this would be the end of all this. They would turn around and leave her life forever and she would never see her father again. But then he spoke. “Alright. As long as I get a drink.”

If yesterday you told Byleth that her parent would be there for her birthday, she would have assumed that her mother would make it back in time. She never would have thought that she would actually meet her father.

“I’ll go get the mayor and see if we can get something set up!” And with that, Juniper ran off.

Byleth tried not to show her exasperation. “I’ll show you to the stables.”

“Why don’t the rest of us help check on the villagers?”

Byleth thought it was Dimitri who suggested it, but the sudden dread of being left alone with her father distracted her. She couldn’t stop them from leaving out of fear of suspicion. The silence between them was awkward— at least to Byleth. It didn’t seem to faze Jeralt, who dismounted his horse to lead it through the village.

“So where did you learn to fight like that?”

“You didn’t even see me fight,” Byleth said. She surprised herself with how naturally the words came to her. “I didn’t even fight that much.”

“While that’s true, those kids think you’re special.”

“Really?” Personally, Byleth didn’t get it.

“Not many people would think of a strategy like that, let alone someone who’s never had to fight before.”

“Well, I’m a hunter… sir.” She was still unsure of what to call him. “I just used what I knew.”

“Your parents teach you?” he asked.

Byleth felt the words form in her mouth. In that moment, she wanted to spill everything about who she was, what he missed in these past eighteen years. They were alone. She could tell him: “It’s me your daughter.”

But she didn’t.

“My parents… are not with us.” She felt like her mother— only telling half-truths to keep up some facade.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

They remained quiet the rest of their trip to the stable.


The rest of the night felt surreal. Byleth thought that she had slipped back into a dream until Sothis, floating behind her said, “I assure you it is not, no matter how strange this seems.”

Byleth stared across the party at her father, who was drinking with the mayor. “He did say he wanted a drink.”

She had sat beside him earlier, trying to think of something else to say to him. Before starting on his drink, Jeralt had said, “So you’re eighteen then? Congrats, kid.”

The conversation hadn’t progressed much from there, so Byleth muttered her thanks and wandered off to a different table. It hurt her to do it, but maybe it was for the best. The longer she stayed around him, the more likely he was to figure out her true identity. If that happened…

Well, she didn’t want to think about the consequences.

The villagers had of course agreed to resume the party. As soon as they’d been informed of their safety, they rushed to relight lanterns and gather any salvageable food. Most of it was cold, but still edible. Claude also suggested the inclusion of a bonfire over which they roasted more meat and vegetables.

Upbeat music played over the cheerful chatter of the party. They did have a few musicians in town, who were happy to play at every celebration. They played with much more vigor than usual, she noted. Some chose to dance along to the tune, but Byleth, still fatigued from the night’s events, decided not to partake. She didn’t mind watching, smiling at Deidren who jumped around to the rhythm. 

Even though it was her own party, she found it hard to get near their special guests. It seemed like everyone wanted a chance to talk to the strangers who had rolled into town. They were only here for one night after all. The village might never get another chance like this again. Although, maybe that might change. She heard part of Jeralt’s conversation with the mayor earlier, and it looked like knights would being patrolling and protecting Remire in the near future.

The kids of the village were especially excited about the visitors. Many of them were over with Dimitri, who played with them by hoisting them into the air as if they weighed nothing. Claude was over by the bonfire, roasting some sausages and sweet potatoes. Byleth wasn’t quite sure where Edelgard was.

Then she felt a hand on her shoulder and she sat up in her chair. “Excuse me.” Byleth looked over her shoulder up at Edelgard. “May I sit with you?”

Byleth nodded and Edelgard took a seat next to her. Byleth continued to look around at the rest of the party, unsure of what to say as the two of them sat in silence.

Finally, Edelgard spoke. “How is your injury?”

“Hm?” Byleth glanced down at her arm. “It’s fine now, but it will probably take a few days to heal properly.” The doctor had properly cleaned and bandaged the cut (which was shallower than she initially thought) before the party resumed. The bloody part of Edelgard’s cape had been cut off, but the remainder of the red cloth was still tied over Byleth’s arm to hide the tear in her sleeve. “I’m sorry about the cape.”

“I can easily find a replacement.” Edelgard said as she waved it off with a gloved hand. “Keep it. It looks nice on you.”

Byleth hoped that Edelgard couldn’t see her blush under the lantern light. “Thank you.” She would admit that it was a very nice material, but wearing bright red wasn’t the most practical thing for hunting. She’d find some other use for it eventually. 

“You intrigue me.” Edelgard’s words were rather blunt. Byleth stared at her, waiting for an explanation. “What is a girl like you doing in a village like this?”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Byleth curled her fingers around her cup, clutching it tight. 

Edelgard grimaced. “I apologize. I did not mean to offend you,” she said. “I was referring to your skill. You have so much potential. You probably could have left. So why stay?”

“Why indeed.” Of course, Byleth knew the real answer: her mother. She knew that she was trying to protect her from the Church, from the life that she had burned to the ground, but that came at the cost of Byleth’s world. Remire was one of the only places that she knew. It was inevitable that she would hunger for more of the world.

“If you need a reason, let me make you an offer.”

But before Edelgard could continue, Deidren made his was over and interrupted them. He grabbed Byleth’s hand. “C’mon, By! You have to dance at least once!”

She never got to hear the end of Edelgard’s question.

After such a lively night (in more ways than one), it felt wrong to return to the emptiness of her home. So many thoughts were bouncing around in her head. Now more than ever, she wished for the presence of her mother.

Byleth couldn’t help but wonder how she would have reacted to all this. Would she have tried to defend the village as well, utilizing the magic that she had kept dormant for so long? Would she have tried to flee, fearful that the arrival of monastery students would expose them to the Church?

Byleth wanted to believe that she would run into Jeralt’s arms. It was nice to imagine that after eighteen long years, they could be a family.

It was hard to sleep that night, even with Sothis trying to aid her by humming a lullaby. She remembered closing her eyes a few times, but she didn’t recall actually sleeping. She didn’t want to fall asleep. Falling asleep meant that everything would be over. Waking up meant returning to her normal life. Dimitri, Claude, Edelgard, and Jeralt— her father— would be gone.

Dread bloomed in her stomach when the light of the sunrise started to make its way into her bedroom. She knew for a fact that they had planned on leaving as early as possible despite how late the party went. It didn’t feel right to just let them leave without saying anything. 

“Maybe I should just stay in bed,” Byleth mused. “It’s probably for the best.”

Sothis crossed her arms. “Now, that’s no way to think. I’d also like to add that it’s quite rude.”

“I’m never going to see them again,” Byleth countered. She sat up. “I should just accept it.”

“You squander my gift for some simple life in your village?”

Byleth stared at her, confused. “Your gift?”

It was then, she heard muffled banging. “At this hour?” she sighed.

“Maybe it is your new friends.”

Byleth ignored this, slipping on some shoes before making her way towards the front door of her home. She opened the door and was greeted by Juniper and Deidren, who were strangely frantic.

“C’mon, Byleth!” Deidren grabbed her arm and before she could protest, he dragged her out the door. 

“Wait, Deidren!” She had to run to keep up with him, but it was difficult when she was still in her sleep clothes. Her shoes were not meant for running either.

Exhausted from the run and from a difficult night lacking sleep, Byleth had run out of breath by the time they arrived at their destination: the inn. She placed her hands on her knees and panted for air. “What… what are we… doing here?”

“Ah! You made it in time!” Even though she had only met him yesterday, she recognized Dimitri’s voice. He offered his hand out to help her stand up straight, but Byleth managed on her own.

Edelgard sighed. “I see you didn’t give her enough time to change.”

It was hard not to feel conscious about it, especially after Edelgard mentioned it. She didn’t think anyone would see her in this state. 

“Having one of you stall seems a bit pointless if you were going to rush her that much,” Claude said, pointing at Kay, who grumbled something quietly in protest.

Byleth turned towards Deidren and Kay. “What are we doing here?”

“They wanted to talk to you,” Kay answered, which made enough sense to Byleth.

Deidren’s reply was a different case. “We wanted to see you off.”

Byleth’s eyes widened and she was rendered speechless. 

“Allow me to explain.” Edelgard stepped forward, placing a hand over her chest. “It’s about what I wanted to say to you yesterday. I believe that you have great potential. I guarantee you that the Adrestian Empire will gladly sponsor your education."

This time, it had to be a dream, right? 

“Excuse me, Edelgard,” Dimitri interrupted. “You’re getting ahead of yourself. As the prince of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, I would be able to work something out as well, provided that you join the Blue Lions.”

“Blue Lions?” The words went right over her head.

“How dare you two!” Claude chimed, grin ever present. “I was planning on first forming an unbreakable friendship with our dear Byleth before trying to sway her into my house.”

“House?” Maybe her mother had said something about all this in one of her stories about the monastery, but at the moment, she could not remember.

“Stop it you three. I’ll do it,” Jeralt groaned. Byleth had almost forgotten that he would be here too. “I’ll put it bluntly. They want you to come to the monastery with us.”

If she was more alert, she probably could have figured it out on her own, but now, she was still struggling to process it. “Me?”

Jeralt nodded.

“Shouldn’t you be against this?” Byleth asked. She wasn’t sure why she was protesting. “You’re the adult here.”

“I’m allowed to make any choice I want.” he said. It was surprisingly childish.

“Sometimes, you wouldn’t think he was the Captain of the Knights of Seiros,” her mother had told her once, fondly recounting her memories. “One time, he was trying to pick some flowers for me while out on a mission and one of his men told him that they were wasting time. Do you know what he did? He just said, ‘I’m the captain here,’ before staying even longer!”

“Look, kid. This is a nice place and all, but you’re an adult now,” Jeralt continued. He placed a hand on her shoulder. She couldn’t help thinking how comforting her father’s touch was. “Only you can decide if you’re meant for more.”

“By!” Juniper called as she approached. She was holding a bag as well as Byleth’s weapons.

“Were you in my house?”

“I was packing for you!” She shoved the things into Byleth’s arms. Byleth struggled to hold it all and her bow fell to the ground. “You should get changed!”

“Wait, guys.” She turned away from the visitors, addressing her friends directly. “I haven’t thought this out yet. What about…” She trailed off, knowing that completing her sentence would expose the half-truth that she had told Jeralt last night.

Thankfully, they understood her. “We’ll cover for you, By,” Deidren said. “We’ll write to you as much as we can.”

“This is what’s best for you,” Juniper added, grabbing her hand. “We want this for you.”

“It’s now or never,” Kay finished.

For that moment as the sun rose, Byleth felt a calm wash over her. Her mother was still gone. She was the only one who could make this choice.

When Byleth took her first real steps out of Remire, she did not look back.

Chapter Text

Though Juniper had packed Byleth’s bag hastily, it was enough for her. Byleth and her mother didn’t own too much anyways. The bag contained a couple of pairs of clothes and some food for the journey, likely provided by Deidren. Juniper had only forgotten Byleth’s hairbrush. Though Byleth knew she could manage and find a replacement, she did prefer her own, which was given to her by her mother. Maybe she could ask her friends to send it in a letter. They had already made it through the forest though, so it would be a waste to turn back to get it. 

Supposedly, if they kept good pace, they would be able to make it back to the monastery within the day. Of course, Byleth was surprised that the monastery was actually so close (her mother had obviously never said anything about this),  She didn’t let her shock show.

Of course she had her weapons: bow slung across her back and sword attached to her belt next to her dagger. She knew it wasn’t very practical to carry them the whole trip to the monastery, but this was really the only option at the moment. 

She wished that she was more prepared, but she didn’t even think about going with them to the monastery until they actually offered. More rest would have absolutely been beneficial. Traveling after a sleepless night was unwise to say the least. Her next step forward faltered and she swayed sideways before correcting her posture. The others, noticing this, stopped in their tracks.

“Are you alright?” Edelgard asked as she walked up to Byleth, helping her stand. “I apologize that we had to wake you so early, but we were very behind schedule as you know.”

“I’m fine,” Byleth lied.

“Are you kidding me?” Claude chimed. He stopped in front of her and poked her forehead forcefully, almost knocking her off balance again. “You look like death!”

“Claude!” Dimitri scolded, pulling him away from Byleth. “Apologies, Byleth. Do you need any help?”

“I should really do it myself.” Sure, she had already proved herself capable the night before, but she wasn’t about to embarrass herself today— not when they gave her this chance. She already felt bad that they were stopping like this because of her.

“Did you rest at all last night, kid?” Jeralt had turned around on his horse, looking down at the four of them. He narrowed his eyes, staring at Byleth. She opened her mouth to answer, but then Jeralt continued speaking. ”Kid, I’ve been around enough tired soldiers to know that you didn’t get any rest, so close your mouth before you lie to us.”

Byleth complied and nodded.

Jeralt dismounted and stood in front of her. “Have you ever ridden a horse before?”

She shook her head. While they did have stables in Remire, few people owned horses. It’s not that she never had an interest, but without any real opportunity to try, it didn’t cross her mind very often.

“I’ll help you up then. Get on.”

Byleth eyed the horse. “Are you sure?”

“Relax, kid. It’s not like she bites,” Jerlat said. He placed an arm on her shoulder, pushing her towards the horse and away from the Edelgard, Claude, and Dimitri. “Unless I tell her to.”

“My. Did you just make a joke, Captain?” Dimitri asked.

Claude too contributed to the conversation with his own lighthearted comment. “Oh? Sounds like someone’s got a soft spot.”

“Quiet, you two.”

Edelgard hid her mouth behind her hand. Byleth could have sworn she heard her laugh.

Byleth mounted Jeralt’s horse with surprising ease thanks to Jeralt’s guidance. “Jump up with your free leg and use your momentum. Don’t pull yourself up with your arms. Even if you are strong, you’ll just dislodge the equipment and startle her.”

She made sure to settle carefully as not startle the horse, who remained calm during the whole process. Jeralt had clearly trained his horse well.

Sitting atop a horse was strange to her. She pressed her feet securely in the stirrups, but still felt that she might fall off. Maybe she would have been used to this in another life. Would Jeralt have taught her to ride if he had been the one who raised her?

“Don’t look so worried, kid.” Byleth turned her attention back to Jeralt, who was holding the reigns. “I’ll lead. You won’t fall.”

The lords were definitely staring at her as they continued on their journey.

She found it hard to focus on anything at all when she was so tired, but she tried her best to stay upright on Marigold. It wasn’t hard to notice how Jeralt had named his horse after her mother’s favorite flowers. She wished she could say something, but once again, she was lost for words.

They stopped to eat a short lunch when the sun was high overhead. The village had provided some food for all of them. Byleth recognized some leftover rolls from last night and some strips of jerky that Deidren’s father made. She took her time with her meal, savoring her last taste of home.

“Are you nervous at all, Byleth?”  Dimitri asked as he sliced off some cheese for his bread roll.

Byleth paused in chewing her jerky, only afterwards realizing how silly she must have looked. “Nervous?” 

“This is your first time leaving your village. Is it not?”

She knew it would be hard to explain the truth, but her mind wandered to it anyways. It had been impossible to forget after all.


This wasn’t the first time that she had left the village.

She was twelve when she snuck into the back of a wagon of the trading party. She hid in a space between some crates so they wouldn’t find her as they checked inventory, but she didn’t realize that it was their food supply. One of the merchants found her mere hours later. He grabbed her by the collar and threw her onto the ground. “We’ve got a stowaway!” he yelled.

Byleth saw the way her mother’s eyes widened. “By?” They had stopped to eat a meal, but her mother stood up so quickly that some of her rations spilled onto the dirt. “How? What are you doing here?”

Looking back on it, she could only imagine how embarrassing it was for her mother because it was definitely embarrassing to her: everyone staring at her, whispering about this brat who snuck along with them.

She expected her mother to get mad, to yell, to throw more questions, but instead, she took Byleth into her arms. “My silly girl,” she whispered. “Don’t worry me like that.”

Byleth didn’t leave her mother’s side for the rest of the trip. She was made to wear a cloak and she wasn’t allowed to help at the market, but even with that little bit of freedom, everything seemed new: the sky bluer, the grass softer, voices louder. It was eye-opening.

Byleth had cherished that moment. The trip had been her first and last memory of life outside of Remire village— 

Or so she thought.


 “Yeah,” she answered. The lie came easily to her. “But I don’t really feel nervous.”

“Ah, a girl with nerves of steel!” Claude added. He winked. “Well, not that we didn’t know that already. I didn’t think something like this would shake you.”

“I guess so,” she said. She hadn’t really the luxury of feeling nervous or even thinking about feeling nervous. Everything had happened so fast.

“I’m sure that I’ve said this before, but you already know that I am impressed with you.” Edelgard smiled. It was remarkable that she was able to look graceful after eating such a simple meal with her hands, patting around her mouth with a cloth. 

“Don’t fall for it, kid.” Jeralts mannerisms were quite the opposite, Byleth noted to herself as he sprayed some bits of jerky when he spoke. “They’re still trying to butter you up.”

“My friends thought he was too brutish to be Captain of the Knights, but I thought it was rather charming. Never any need to keep up stuffy appearances,” her mother had once said.

“I think it is only polite to check on Byleth’s wellbeing, Captain.”

“Let her process. If she has something to say, she’ll say it. Right?”

Byleth nodded slowly, but she didn’t think that she wanted time to process things. That just meant that she would have more time to hesitate.

Another voice came to her mind: the mercenary’s. “In my line of work. Hesitation means death.”

Those words stuck with her for the rest of their journey, echoing louder when she saw the silhouette of the monastery against the red sky’s setting sun.

“Well, Byleth, welcome to Garreg Mach Monastery.”

Chapter Text

She wasn’t nervous. That’s what she was trying to tell herself, yet there was something that made her heart drop into her stomach when the gates of Garreg Mach Monastery rose above their heads, opening the world within to Byleth. The sound rang in her ears, rather reminding her of chains.

By now, she had gotten off Jeralt’s horse— not that she didn’t necessarily like it. It was just that she’d rather not receive all the attention of being high atop a horse, which she had just experienced when passing through the town near the monastery. Her posture wasn’t exactly “knightly” and she could see how people whispered as they passed by. It was an embarrassing experience to say the least.

Byleth stared ahead at the path before her, took a deep breath, and then stepped over the threshold into the monastery.

“Well, here we are,” Claude said. He slung an arm around Byleth casually, a gesture that reminded Byleth of Deidren. “So what do you think?”

Byleth looked around. It was bigger than she thought it would be, the building in front of her towering several stories high. She had never been around any place this big, and it was busy as well. Though it was rather late in the day, all sorts of people were milling about: students, knights, nuns, and merchants

“It’s… something.” She hated the words that left her mouth, feeling rather stupid for saying it.

“You’ll get used to it. I’m sure,” Dimitri reassured.

Byleth felt another hand on her arm, and Edelgard pulled her out of Claude’s grip. “If you have any trouble adjusting, I would be happy to help you,” she said. Her hand trailed further up and adjusted the cloth hanging off of Byleth’s arm.

“Lady Edelgard.” The introduction of a new voice caught Byleth off guard. A dark haired man approached them, staring at where Edelgard’s hands made contact with Byleth’s arms. If he had something to say about it though, he kept quiet. “You are unhurt, I assume?”

“I’m fine, Hubert,” Edelgard answered. “Thanks to Byleth. She saved my life.”

“Did she now?” The man, Hubert, stared at her once more. She felt a chill come over her. Hubert rather reminded Byleth of the snakes she would find around the forest, but she decided not to voice this opinion. “Lady Edelgard, we have much to discuss.”

“Of course.” Edelgard turned back to Byleth. “I’m sorry I have to leave you like this, but I hope that I shall see you soon.”

“Do you not trust us alone with Byleth, Edie?” Claude teased, but Edelgard just shook her head in exasperation as she took her leave, Hubert following behind.

“You two should get going as well,” Jeralt said to Dimitri and Claude. “I think it would be best if we met Lady Rhea without any of the house leaders around.”

“Well, you’re the boss, and I guess it wouldn’t be fair to the princess if the two of us went without her,” Claude said.

Dimitri nodded as well. “I should go find Dedue. He must be worried sick.”

And so, they took their leave as well, leaving Byleth alone with Jeralt— leaving her alone with her father. “Come on, kid,” he said. “I need to head to the stables first, but then I’ll take you to meet her.”

“Her?”

“Lady Rhea.”


Lady Rhea: the archbishop of the Church of Seiros. Of course Byleth knew who she was. Her mother did teach her to pray to the goddess, but she taught her less about the formal structure of the church. She instead told her about Lady Rhea in another manner.

“She was like a mother to us,” her mother said. It had been during one of those nights where Byleth couldn’t sleep (she always seemed to have those strange nightmares even from a young age). She was maybe only five years old, curled against her mother’s chest as they shared the bed. “Some people thought that she was unapproachable, but I always thought that she was very kind. Then again, I think knew her better because of Jeralt. They were very close.”

Byleth nodded to show that she was listening, but she kept quiet, eager to hear more. Her mother continued, stroking her hair gently.

“We would have tea together sometimes, especially during…” Her voice trailed off.

“Ma? Are you okay?” Byleth asked quietly. 

“I’m fine, By,” she reassured. She placed a kiss on Byleth’s forehead. “It’s just hard to think about that time. It was after your father left.”

Byleth knew that she never meant “left” scornfully, but she could still hear the hurt in her voice. “Do you think Lady Rhea would like me?’ she asked.She thought it was just an innocent question.

But her mother was quiet. “You’re a good daughter, By.” That where the conversation ended. If only Byleth had realized something back then something that she would find out  vaguely in her mother’s letters.

They had left the monastery for a reason after all.

Dearest Jeralt,

I wonder to myself if you still trust Rhea. Why wouldn’t you? You never knew what she said to our daughter. You weren’t there. I do not wish to blame you, Jeralt. I love you, but sometimes, my thoughts lead me to dark places.  Why couldn’t you just say no for once and stayed with me instead?

And yet, I do not know if you would ever refuse her. She saved your life after all. Now, I find myself blaming her for your absence even now that I have left. It has been so long since I have seen you. If only you were there beside me when our daughter came into this earth.

I swear to you every day, my love. I will keep her safe. I will not let Rhea take her away from me from us.

Your Love,

Flora


She had been trying to convince herself earlier that she wasn’t nervous, but she couldn’t deny it at all now. Her mother had always seemed off whenever she talked about Rhea and now, Byleth was about to meet Lady Rhea herself. Maybe she should have thought about it more before coming to the monastery. She thought that she might just be able to lay low. How many students actually got to meet the archbishop? 

She was only made more aware of the strangeness of the situation by how people stared at her as they walked through the reception hall. She didn’t blame them: They must have been wondering: who is this strange girl with Captain Jeralt Eisner? 

Byleth knew that she stuck out like a sore thumb. She wasn’t wearing the nice uniform that every other person her age here wore. Her own clothes were a brown and muddy green. It never bothered her before. They were good for blending in while hunting, but here, she couldn’t help feeling self-conscious about it.

Then, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at Jeralt.

“It’ll be fine, kid.”

Byleth nodded and then followed him up the stairs. It wasn’t much, but the words still comforted her somehow.

The double doors to the audience chamber were already open wide, which didn’t help her nerves at all either She could see a figure standing at the end, waiting for them. The hall felt so long, yet the walk was over right away.

Byleth stared at the archbishop and took in her appearance. She stood with her head and shoulders held high. There was a gentle smile on her face. Byleth felt her worries melt. It was hard to imagine that this was the woman her mother was so afraid of.

“Sorry that we returned late,” Jeralt apologized.  “The house lords are safe, Lady Rhea. Thanks to the kid here.” He patted her on the back rather forcefully. She almost lost her balance again.

“Yes. A few of your knights reported as such to me this morning.” Lady Rhea then turned her attention to Byleth, who stood rigidly in place. “Though I must say that I wasn’t expecting you to bring back their savior.”

“Savior is a bit much,” Byleth said before she could stop herself. “I mean…” She was at a loss for words.  Should she apologize? Was she supposed to bow or something?

Before she could awkwardly  bow in an attempt to apologize, Lady Rhea spoke. “It is fine, child. There’s no need to be so modest. Relax.”

“Um, okay. Thank you.”

“The lords want to sponsor her education here,” Jeralt explained. “Though she needs to decide what house to pick first— not that any of them thought to explain that to her.” He shook his head to himself.

“I would recommend that you two go talk to Seteth then,” Lady Rhea suggested. “It’s getting rather late. Let’s see if we can get her settled in first and we’ll let her make a choice later on in the week.”

“Alright. C’mon, kid. Let’s go.”

But before they could leave, Lady Rhea said, “Wait. You never introduced yourself to me, child.”

In that moment, Byleth forgot to breathe. Then, she let her instincts kick in and speak for her. “I’m Byleth. Byleth,,, Eileen.”

She wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the light, but the look in Lady Rhea’s eyes changed. Gone was that gentle kindness— replaced with something that pierced into Byleth’s very soul. She thought that it was over. The fake surname has slipped out on impulse, created by mashing her father’s surname and mother’s (Leanna) together, but maybe it still wasn’t enough. 

Yet if Rhea knew this, she did not reveal it. That look vanished mere seconds later when she closed her eyes, keeping her smile up.

“Well, Byleth, my child, if you need anything at all, don’t be afraid to come to me. I know I am the archbishop, but do not let that intimidate you.” She reopened her eyes. That look had not returned. “I hope that you are able to explore your… full potential here at Garreg Mach.”

Chapter Text

Byleth wasn’t sure what to make of Rhea. She seemed kind, but Byleth couldn’t help thinking about that expression— the way Rhea’s eyes had pierced into her soul. Her thoughts ran around in paranoid circles. Maybe she wasn’t as subtle and secret as she thought. Why else would Rhea make that offer? No doubt if she took her up on it, others would become suspicious as well.

Did Jeralt already know as well? Did he know that she was his daughter?

She knew it was too risky to say something of course and she didn’t have time anyways as they entered the office closest to the Audience Chamber.

The door was open. Jeralt knocked still, yet he entered anyways despite this. “Seteth,” Jeralt said. 

The man at the desk looked up from his work. “Ah. Captain Jeralt,” he said. “You have returned. Did you need something?”

“You hear the report about yesterday?” Jeralt stepped further into the office, but Byleth hung back in the hallway. She felt like an intruder.

“I did.”

“One of the villagers came back with us.” He turned back around and looked at her. “Come on in, kid.” Byleth flushed and stepped into the office reluctantly. “The lords were impressed with her and wanted to sponsor her.”

Now that she was in the office, she could see Seteth’s reactions and the way he clearly raised an eyebrow at her. “Is that wise?” he asked. “You brought her here without a proper background check?”

Byleth flinched. She opened her mouth to defend herself, but she couldn’t think of what to say. She couldn’t exactly blame Seteth’s doubt. It was foolish to think that it would be this easy. 

Thankfully, Jeralt spoke up for her. “She has no other family, Seteth. I’ll vouch for her if need be, and besides, I can keep an eye on her.”

Byleth kept a straight face as Jeralt unknowingly repeated her lie. While she never exactly told him that she was an orphan, it was easier not to correct him. If Seteth knew that she was basically just a runaway, then he would never accept her presence.

Seteth closed his eyes and fell quiet. “I am sorry to hear that.”

“It’s okay,” Byleth said. “I’ve had some time to… heal.”

Seteth nodded. “Well, I’ll see what I can do. Take a seat.”

Byleth complied. She sat in one of the chairs across from his, arms rigid on her lap. She couldn’t help but notice that Jeralt remained standing.

“I’ll leave you to it. I’ve got some work to do.” Jeralt said. 

At the realization that she was being left alone, Byleth tensed up, but then Jeralt patted her shoulder again as he left. “You’ll do fine, kid. I’ll see you around.” He walked out and entered the office across the hall, closing the door behind hm. 

“Name?” Seteth had pulled out some papers, dipping his quill into the inkpot on his desk. “You never did introduce yourself to me.”  

Byleth took a deep breath and sat up straight.  “I’m Byleth. Byleth Eileen.”


“It is a shame that you could not get a full tour of the monastery today,” Seteth said as they walked towards the dorm. They had finished with the paperwork for now, but Byleth still hadn’t chosen a house (which she still didn’t completely understand); however, it was getting late. “You’re quite lucky that we have a spare room.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Byleth agreed, mainly talking only to avoid awkward silences. 

They stopped in front of the room at the very end of the row. Seteth pulled out a key, but instead of unlocking the door, he held it out for Byleth. “Do not lose it.” 

Byleth nodded. She took the key and closed her palm around it.

“Someone will come around tomorrow to give you your uniform and show you around. I believe there are candles and flint strikers in the room, but I would not recommend staying up too late. I do not know what your daily structure is like, but I suggest that you get used to waking up early.”

“I can deal with that— uh, sir.” She kicked herself for speaking so casually. She would probably need to be formal to fit in. They had a library, right? Maybe there were books on manners there?

“Good,” Seteth said. He held out his hand. Byleth knew this at least. She reached out and shook it. “Welcome to the monastery.”

They said their good nights and Byleth was left alone in front of the door. She fumbled with the key for a moment and then unlocked the door, stepping inside.

She never had her own room before.

Their house in Remire was small and there was only one bedroom. The beds were pushed against the wall on either side of the window. Byleth’s was closest to the door, but her mother’s bed was slightly bigger. There was a simple vanity against the opposite side of the room where they kept things like Byleth’s hairbrush. There wasn’t much space, so it was hard to maneuver. They were used to it. 

This was completely different. It was all hers. 

At first, there wasn’t enough light in the room to see properly. Byleth immediately searched the desk— her desk— for a candle. There were a couple inside along with some flint and steel to light them. She knew how to use it, but right now, considering how tired she was, it seemed like such a hassle. 

“If I teach you, will you promise not to use this in front of anyone?” her mother had asked. Of course, she had no idea why Byleth wanted to learn any magic. It’s not like she would ever have an opportunity to use it, right?

Yet Byleth persisted, nodding eagerly..

Her mother walked over to the shelf and pulled out a tome. It was dusty, but clearly unused. 

“I had this with me when we left. I needed magic to protect us,” she explained, leafing through the pages. “You need to have a tome to cast magic most effectively, especially if you want to use it to attack.”  She placed her hand atop the book. The symbol on front glowed and her mother’s hand ignited in flame, illuminating the room. Byleth’s eyes shined in awe, reflecting the light. 

The fire died down. “Without it,” she continued, lifting her hand as the flame died down to the tip of her finger, “it becomes weak. You have to be good enough to even cast without a tome, so you must focus.”

And Byleth did. She had never been too great at this (she still relied on the flint and still usually), but she was able to make enough of a spark to catch on the wick.

“Very nice job.” 

Byleth almost dropped the candle in her hand when she heard Sothis’s voice for the first time in hours. She looked towards her dear friend, who sighed and shook her head.

“Are you really still startled by my presence?”

“No!” Byleh insisted. She dropped her voice lower after that, unsure of how sound carried between the rooms. “You’ve just been quiet all day. That’s all.”

“I thought having some time to process would do you some good!” Sothis crossed her arms and smirked. “No need to thank me.”

Byleth hummed to acknowledge Sothis’s words, but then she took a moment to look around the room. There were already books on her desk, which she assumed was the required course material. It was much too late to look at them now. 

She instead turned her attention towards the wardrobe. She walked over to it and opened its doors, but it was empty inside save for a pair of plain white loungewear. At least she could wear it to bed. She felt gross wearing her day-clothes for so long. Holding the set of clothes in her hands, she made her way over to the bed and took a seat. The mattress and comforter were soft to the touch— not springy like her bed at home.

“What an interesting story you told that man.” Sothis commented. She hovered near the bed in front of Byleth. “Are you not worried?”

“About what?”

“That he will verify your claims? Who knows? They might expel you for lying before you even start your education. And after such a shoddily put together excuse, I wouldn’t be surprised if you slip up!” she exclaimed. Her arms remained crossed, but her earlier smugness had changed into a glare.

Byleth groaned, flopping back onto the bed. She felt as if its softness would swallow her up, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in that moment. In hindsight, the whole ‘orphan without any parents’ excuse was a pretty poor idea when there was an entire village that could vouch otherwise. “How do you know that?” she asked. “You weren’t even there.” 

“Silly girl. I know many things.”

And so, Sothis remained as mysterious as ever. 

“What do you plan on doing about it?”

“Praying to the goddess?” She had really only thrown the idea out there on a whim, but so late and so exhausted, she couldn’t think of much else.

“Well, you better hope that it’s enough, but for now, I shall help you practice your ruse.”

When she didn’t receive a response, Sothis floated above the bed only to find that Byleth had already fallen asleep.

“But I guess that can wait. Rest well my friend.”