The first notes of the piano were magical. It was as though Byleth’s body was singing with her fingers as she taps. With unfamiliar rhythm and clunky grace. Nothing like the pianists she sees and nowhere near their skill and talent.
But it was magical. How the piano sings with each tap and how her fingers created music from just touch alone. It was magical how her mother’s finger danced over the keyboard. How beautiful music came from her fingertips as her mother plays and she imitates. Awkward and slow, but earnest and sincere.
And it was magical.
It was as though Byleth could sing. With her fingers and the piano. Create music and sound-
And there is no greater joy than that.
“Do you like it?” Beleth asked as he sits next to her. “The piano, I mean.”
Byleth nods as she smiles. Fingers tapping away as she tries to recall what her teacher taught her.
I do, I do, I do.
“That’s good,” Beleth said as he leans against her.
Beleth took violin lessons after that and when she asked him why, he said:
“I want to play a duet with you.”
They practice, just as they did for fighting and anything else in their lives. They practice long and hard. Working harder than others for they know that they started late in their lives. For they had a late start in music and they wanted to practice for all that lost time.
So they played. Late into the night as they would practice and practice. Only stopping when either of their parents tells them to. And even then they would sneak back, even later, to practice some more.
Byleth practices and practices. She learns how to read music and how to coordinate her fingers. She learns how music is supposed to sound and how to play correctly. She learns how to tune and how to pace herself. She learns how to match her brother and how to duet with him. She learns many things.
As her fingers dance over the piano she can hear music. As she hears the sound she is left breathless as she grins. As she continues to play and play as the music fills her ears. As the music created from her fingers fill the room.
Crescendoing into the zenith of the song as they play together. As their music harmonize and her fingers dance across the piano.
Byleth learns many things from playing the piano. But the most important lesson of all is that:
She learns that music is an entire language of its own.
She sits in front of a piano. Unfamiliar and not her own. In a comfortable, but formal black dress with her hair neatly combed and tied behind her. Her heart beating faster than it ever had as she sits in front of the audience. Their gazes boring down on her as she nods to her parents as they wave. Her hands shaking a slight bit as she exhales and inhales in a steady rhythm.
She feels the dread crawling up her spine and the slight tremors in her fingers wearing down on her. As she feels the heat on her cheeks and the utter coldness of her surroundings.
She feels all of this and her fingers tremble and the music notes seem to blur as her vision shakes. As her ears filled with the beat of her heart and nothing else.
Her fingers tremble and her arms turn weak.
“Don’t worry.” A warm hand envelops her own. “I’m here.”
Beleth smiles down at her. With his violin in hand and steady as a mountain.
His hands were shaking, too, she realizes.
She can hear nothing but him and the sound of her heart at that moment. But her vision clears and she could see the music notes once more. With Beleth standing in front of her now, hands shaking and smile twitching yet still reassuring her-
Her fingers stop trembling.
Byleth smiles. Let’s play.
So Byleth plays. As her fingers dance- glide- over the piano. As she feels the notes within her own heart and letting them fill her ears. As she plays like how she had practiced it. As she lets the music guide her fingers and nothing more. As no thoughts remain other than the steady crescendo of: Yes, yes, this note and then that-
As she plays and plays as Beleth stands in front of her. Playing his own song. His own music. She plays as their music comes together, as his song becomes hers and-
And Byleth learns something else.
As she plays and plays. As the music fills her ears just as they do her heart. As her heartbeats to that of a melody and she is left breathless, for her fingers are not her own anymore. For all she knows how to do now is to play. Is to let her fingers sing for her.
Is to let her fingers speak for her.
So she does.
And it is a magical thing.
They stand to the applause of the audience. Bowing as they exit. Her heart beating a staccato beat as her hands wrap around his.
“You’re smiling,” he noted as he, too, smiles.
She realizes that she is.
As she feels her heart resonates to a phantom melody and the sound of the music- her music rings inside her ears, she realizes something.
Byleth learns that she can sing through her fingers. That through this, she can sing just as anyone can. That through this, through this music- through her music, that she can speak. That she can produce sounds. That she can, that she can speak the words that she had so wished to speak when she was young.
Byleth realizes that she can speak, even if it were a different language than what she wanted.
She finds that she can sing, through this, through her music.
She finds that she can make sounds, make sounds that are greater than speech itself. Speak and sing to an audience without a voice- no, that this is her voice.
Byleth realizes that she can have a voice, even with her damaged vocal cords.
She smiles as Beleth laughs. His eyes are soft and gentle. So rare, was he like this, for all he had known, were her tears and despair.
No more, she thinks. No more.
Byleth has a voice now and there is no longer a cause for tears.
“You want to enroll in Garreg Mach School for Music?” their mother asked one day.
They both nod. For where else would they go?
“Well, I’ll tell Rhea,” their mother concluded as she looks at them. A fond smile on her lips. “Really, you two are just obsessed with music, aren’t you.”
They both nod.
“You’ve gone and infected them!” their father roared. “Now they don’t even train with me anymore.”
“Now, now, it is simply not my fault that my music is so much better than your fighting.”
“I still train with you,” Beleth argued as he frowns. A small thing, that, but awfully sincere for someone like him.
“Yeah, but not as much as before-”
Beleth sighs as he drags them both away. Presumably to practice some more, which- well, would’ve agitated their father even more if he’d known.
Garreg Mach, Byleth thinks. Her heart beating for reasons unknown.
Garreg Mach was a prestigious school. With the nobles currently attending and alumni donating a rather sizable sum to the school. Byleth felt slightly out of place in her turtleneck and jeans when surrounded by vests and slacks. But shrugged it off after leaving the pack of noble students and finding that no, there were no hidden dress code or anything of the such that involved vests or blazers.
Her brother waves to her in his coat and equally thin shirt and jeans.
She smiles at him, her heart well and alive inside her chest.
Their first year at Garreg Mach begins like so.
It is not strange for her to be the subject of whispers and rumors. And Byleth has long learned to deal with it by ignoring it entirely or just to stare at the gossipers until they disperse. Not that she had to back in her old school. Not when rumors of her and Beleth’s fight against any rumors spread against her were prevalent.
Now, though, when she is a new student with nothing but her reputation from her contests she was just another subject to be talked about in the grand halls of Garreg Mach.
Byleth had long learned not to let their words hurt her, finding that she no longer had any tear to shed and her heart had long turned cold to their words.
But it still annoyed her though, when they talked behind her back like so. Even if she couldn’t speak, Byleth could hear perfectly well.
Byleth was about to give them a note while they were talking about her. To see how they would like it then, and it is a very tempting idea and a very feasible one.
So she does. As she walks up to them and leaves a sticky note with the words: If you want to talk about me, do it in front of my now. She waits for them to speak, her arms crossed and her lips thinning with her patience. Huffing as they start to sputter out an apology.
“What’s wrong, ‘Leth?” her brother asked as he approaches. Done with his classes for the day. “Are they bothering you?”
They were gossiping about me, she signed. But they wouldn’t say it to my face.
“Ah, so they were cowards,” Beleth noted sharply. “I’ll be sure to talk to Miss Rhea about them.”
Byleth huffs as their faces pale. Turning to leave as she drags her brother away with her.
They were talking about her soulmate.
How pitiable she and her soulmate were.
Byleth finds that they were wrong. That even if she couldn’t hear her soulmate sings now, that even if her soulmate does not sing to her. Her life isn’t a silent echo chamber.
Her life is filled with music, now, even when her soulmate is silent.
Byleth finds that even if the loss of their songs had dug out a hole within her heart. She can live. By filling that space with something else instead. With her own music instead.
She can think of a future where she can live a happy life, a life filled with music and songs. She finds that she can live in that future.
Byleth is twenty and the piano has become her life.
Byleth is twenty and had won numerous competitions, solo or with her brother.
Byleth is twenty and her life is filled with music, even when her soulmate had stopped singing years ago.
Byleth is twenty when she hears:
“Hi, I’m your neighbor.”
Byleth is twenty when she meets a girl with neat brunette hair and amethyst eyes, entirely unnatural, but seems fitting with the girl as she exits her dorm.
Byleth is twenty when she signs:
Hello. I’m Byleth.
Byleth is twenty when she hears the girl say:
“I sincerely apologize, I do not understand you,”
And as Byleth was about to turn to write on her sticky notes the girl shouts, with a flushed face and panicked expression.
“I will remedy this problem quickly!”
Byleth is twenty when the girl slams the door in her face, leaving her blinking with a sticky note with her own name on it.
Her heart beating oddly and her lips twitching upwards for reasons unknown as a phantom melody fills her ears.
Byleth is twenty when she meets Edelgard von Hresvelg, eighteen. Upcoming violinist.