The ball was bustling, with students and faculty alike finally falling under the spell of the party. Dimitri, Edelgard, and Claude himself were being passed around and dancing nonstop. When the next in line for each nation was obligated to dance with anyone who asked, who would pass up on that opportunity?
So of course, Claude put on his signature smile and danced with everyone he could. He danced with Dorothea, the lovely commoner with a voice like an angel. She was smiling and laughing along with everyone else, but even he could tell that her eyes lingered on certain people more than others. There was Linhardt, who had taken his hand and did the minimum as Claude led him around the dance floor. He had retired early and was now sleeping (somehow) on Caspar’s shoulder. Even Lorenz had submitted to one dance, complaining the entire time about his posture and technique until a graceful dip make him shut his mouth for a second.
The other two heirs proved very elusive. Every time Claude tried to take their hand someone bolted in front of him and dragged them out into another dance. Edelgard was almost constantly hounded by other nobles while Dimitri’s kind demeanor enticed the commoners of the school. Even the ever elusive Flayn wasn’t immune to the dance, with students and a very reluctant faculty member (Seteth) asking for one song with her (to Seteth’s immediate displeasure).
So when the band took a break and the students clamored around to socialize, Claude took the opportunity to retreat out of the hall and outside. There were a few guards patrolling the outside but a simple nod eased them and allowed Claude to wander in peace. The air was cooling and his boots crunched on the beginnings of frost on the cobblestone path. He remembered how just last week a flurry of snow had blown into the school. The blue lions were more than happy to exchange light shirts for thick cloaks but many others (him included) dreaded the changing of seasons. Now he could feel it entirely too well as a gale of wind hit him as he crossed the great bridge connecting the cathedral to the great hall.
The constant flicker of lights illuminating the path made it difficult to see the sky. He could see the northern star, and perhaps the belt of the Hunter if he squinted. Other than that, most of the details were lost in the strong flicker of magical candlelight. This was the only place where he could even see a hint of the stars, however. Even the main cathedral was alight.
The only place that was steeped in darkness was the goddess tower.
And if he remembered correctly, it was open tonight.
He crossed over and passed through the great archways of the entrance. The only people patrolling was a couple of guards and a bishop. They merely nodded at him, possibly assuming he was going to pray.
But instead of turning right and entering the sanctum proper, he made a sharp left and ducked into the shadows as he approached the tower.
The door was still unlocked, and he had no issue gently prying it open and stepping out of the cold and into the interior. As the door closed behind him, he was pleasantly surprised to find that it was still lit by a couple of small candles on the wall. The only decoration was a simple mosaic of colors lining the walls. A mixture of golds and blues and greens winding together in a strange, almost arcane pattern.
He passed by it all and began the long climb up the stairs. The heels of his boots clicking against each step as he pulled on the rail to help him upwards.
Click. Click. Click.
Why were his feet in time with his heartbeat?
Click. Click. Click. Up. And Up.
Why did it feel so... intense? His heart was speeding up, as if something was going to happen as soon as he made it to the top.
Click click click.
Just a few more steps, he could see the light of the moon illuminating his path.
As his head peeked over the side of the wall, he saw a head of white hair and bright lavender eyes staring straight into him.
Ah. He hadn’t even noticed she had slipped away as well.
“Oh… it’s you.” Somehow, Edelgard seemed relieved at his appearance.
“Edelgard. Sick of the ball already, hmm?” Claude smiled and ascended the last few steps. He left a comfortable distance between them, leaning against the railing of the stairs while Edelgard stood underneath the opposite arch.
“Parties like this have always been a weakness of mine.” Edelgard admitted, putting on a soft, friendly smile. “I get tired easily so I came here to relax for a while.”
“Same here, unfortunately.” Claude chuckled. “Look at us, two noble heirs that can’t stand to be at a ball for more than a couple of hours. I wonder how Dimitri is faring without the two of us to ease some of the attention off of him.”
That got Edelgard to lighten up just a bit. The edges of her eyes lost that constant tension just for a second as she gently laughed.
“I’m sure he’s doing fine.” She replied. “After all, he’s lived in the castle his whole life. He’s probably used to things like these more than either of us.”
Claude nodded in agreement. What a strange thing for Edelgard to focus on.
“Huh, I assumed you would be used to it as well, Princess. Didn’t you grow up in Enbarr as well?” He started to walk forwards, heading slightly to the right as not to startle her. He didn’t miss how she flushed so slightly as his prodding.
“It’s… complicated.” Edelgard finally replied as he reached the arch. “There was a time in which I wasn’t under so much pressure as an heir to the throne. But Claude, you certainly must have a much more interesting past than me. How is it that someone can appear out of thin air with a crest and take claim to the Reigan line?”
“Now isn’t that a story to tell.” Claude stretched out his arms as he walked to the other side of the arch. “I’ll leave it as you did: it’s complicated.”
He nodded to her as he leaned over the wall of the goddess tower’s peak. From here he could see beyond the monastery, towards the northern plains and wilderness. It was quiet, and blissfully dark. Now instead of a bright star or two, he could make out entire constellations if he tried.
Edelgard leaned against the stone next to him. They stood there in silence for a bit, merely enjoying the quiet and the view.
Edelgard broke the silence with a whisper.
“We are not so different, are we?” She asked.
Claude hummed. “How so?” he whispered.
“Well, we have a mysterious past, for one.” Edelgard began. “You seem as intent on keeping it that was as I do. We hate balls, we’re both heirs, and we both seem to have some sort of unknown drive.” She stretched out her arms over the wall, fingers finding an old vine and rubbing against the texture.
“A drive?” Claude inquired.
“Yes. Like there’s something more to being here than just learning. I’ve seen the way you tackle your training, as if every moment counts here. You’re constantly applying some sort of goal to your work, and you throw yourself into missions like nobody else.”
Edelgard turned to meet his eyes again.
“I think you have something grander in mind than what’s here.”
Claude lowered his head and smiled. Seems like the Princess had gotten something right for once.
“I’ll admit, I have an ambition in mind. Something far bigger than I first envisioned.” He said.
“I feel the same way. What started out as a simple dream grew into something far bigger and more ambitious than I ever anticipated as a child.”
Claude turned back to the stars. The same stars that shone over his homeland, just with different names.
“Tell you what. You know the rumors of this tower, yes?”
“Of course.” Edelgard looked upwards, as if remembering something she had been told a long time ago. “If a man and woman have the same wish and pray together here, the goddess will grant it.”
“Do you believe it?” Claude asked.
“In truth, not entirely.” Edelgard replied. “I believe that’s only up to the people wishing it to decide if they want it ‘granted’. Just as my mother and father made a wish and saw it fulfilled in their own way.”
Claude nodded. “Honestly, I feel the same. It’s just a story passed down by some lovestruck students hoping to find someone waiting up here for them. But, how about we make a wish as well? Of course, we can only hope our wishes will be similar since I’m not a fan of sharing my deepest dreams with just anyone.”
Edelgard thought for a moment. “I suppose there’s no harm. Who knows, perhaps our dreams are not so different after all.”
Claude smiled as he stepped back into the depths of the tower. “Okay then, princess. Get that wish ready before the goddess tuckers out for the evening.”
Claude cleared his throat as he lifted up his arms. Edelgard could only watch in shock as he nearly shouted.
“Oh, divine Goddess! Hear our prayers!” He began, imitating the same tone of voice he had heard the preachers use. Except he was much lowder and passionate with his words. “We beseech you and your radiance! Please, grant us that which we seek!”
As his voice echoed in the small space, he could hear Edelgard trying to choke back a giggle.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a prayer quite like that.” She finally said as Claude lowered his arms. “Now the goddess simply has to grant us our wish.”
“What can I say? She probably has a hard time hearing us from her ‘heavenly throne up above us sinners’.”
Edelgards giggle was contagious, spreading and making even Claude laugh.
“Well, we’ve done all we can.” Claude said, relaxing his posture. “Now it’s up to us to make those wishes come true, isn’t it?”
Edelgard nodded, suddenly serious.
“I can assure you, I will see mine come true. The question now is, will you?”
“Haunting words, Princess.” He shook his head and nodded to the staircase. “Let’s not worry about ambitions or dreams any more. I’m sure Dimitri is more than ready for us to make our return and take back some attention.”
“Of course, I’ve gotten my need for stargazing out of my system now.” Edelgard replied. “Let’s head back, we’re nearly through with the night now.”
And so, Claude led the way as they headed back down the stairs. They walked together back to the ball, exchanging a few words about school and training as they went. When they finally arrived, he was promptly whisked away again by a noble with pretty pink hair and a charming smile.
He never did get a dance with Edelgard that night.