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Protect Your Smile

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The path leading to the Goddess Tower was empty much to Dimitri’s pleasure. He felt the need to be alone following the events of Remire. Particularly, he found himself thinking about that strange mercenary who had assisted in their battle and accompanied them back to the monastery. Byleth, she had called herself. She had remained fairly quiet on the trip back to the monastery, and despite their best efforts, Claude, Edelgard, and Dimitri were unable to find out much more than her name and the fact that Jeralt, another mercenary, was her father. The most Dimitri had heard her speak was right after the battle with the bandits when she spoke to Dimitri when no one else was close enough to hear. It was that interaction which left Dimitri perturbed.

“What were you trying to tell me?” She had asked.

“Pardon?”

“Before you came back with your classmates, you were going on about something crazy.” Dimitri had been taken aback at this. When would he have spoken to her before showing up with Edelgard and Claude? However, he had not been able to ask more questions because her father interrupted. He spent the trip back to the monastery trying to brush off her remarks as some confusion stemming from the unexpected battle, but he knew that was highly unlikely. Dimitri’s thoughts were interrupted by an anguished scream piercing the air. It came from the direction of the Goddess Tower. Unsheathing his sword, Dimitri took off in a run towards the tower. There was no sign of anyone else as he ran down the hall. The scream sounded feminine, and Dimitri gripped his sword tighter at the thought of one of his classmates facing danger. As the future king of Fhirdiad, it was his duty to protect others.

As he turned the corner, he raised his sword and prepared himself for whatever unknown enemy awaited him. What actually awaited him at the foot of the tower stairs, however, was not at all what he expected. A young woman was lying unmoving in a pool of blood. There was no mistaking that teal hair and the cropped top now wet with blood. It was Byleth; the same woman who had been occupying his thoughts just minutes ago. His hands started trembling as he tried to keep back the memories of that night in Duscur. Just like that night, he was alone with death. The voices of his father, Glenn, and the others started to fill his mind asking for their revenge. He shook those thoughts from his head and looked around for any sign of the perpetrator. A trail of blood went up the stairs. Yes, perhaps the assailant heard him coming and had no choice but to run upstairs into a dead end. Stepping around Byleth’s body, Dimitri sprinted up the stairs. If he could not avenge his friends and family, he would do his best to avenge this woman who fought alongside him just the night before.

The trail of blood continued all the way up the stairs. Whoever was responsible must be at the top. With a final burst of energy, Dimitri sped to the top of the tower. His heart was racing as he wondered who would be awaiting him. Shoving open the door, he held his sword ready to go on the offense only to find no one on the other side. He looked frantically around the space. The tower was small, it would be impossible to hide up here. On the floor, the blood trail led to the center of the room and then stopped. But how? If the assailant was not here, then where could they be? Dimitri fell to his knees and the clattering of his sword filled the empty room. Why had this happened? He braced his hands on the stone wall as he felt his body begin to shake.

Goddess, he thought, why did you let Byleth die? She should not have come. I wish we had never met her. A sudden ill feeling hit Dimitri and he shut his eyes.

“Your highness?” The deep voice started Dimitri and he nearly jumped out of his skin. Opening his eyes, Dimitri saw Dedue standing in the doorway with a concerned look on his face. “Are you alright?”

“I tried to find who did it, but” Dimitri faltered with his words.

“Did what?” Dedue’s brow was furrowed and he was scrutinizing Dimitri as if he expected to see some kind of injury.

“Someone killed Byleth, one of the mercenaries who accompanied myself, Claude, and Edelgard back here!” Dimitri was confused at Dedue’s demeanor. Surely he had seen her body on his way up here.

“Who?”

“I don’t know!” Dimitri got to his feet. “If I knew who killed her, I would be after them and not remaining here so helplessly.” Dimitri reached down to pick up his sword and his eyes went wide in shock as he stared at the floor.

“Your highness, what mercenaries?”

Dimitri barely registered Dedue’s question. He was too busy staring at the grey floor. The grey floor without an ounce of blood on it. How could that be? It was just here. Dimitri scanned the whole floor and saw no trace of it. Leaving his sword where it lay, he hurried past Dedue and fled down the stairs.

“Your highness!” Dimitri heard his retainer following behind him. Even on the stairs, the blood was gone. No one could have cleaned it up. It was impossible. Dimitri had found it odd that Dedue was so calm. How could someone come across a dead body and remain so calm? Unless… Dimitri’s unfinished thought was validated as he got to the bottom of the stairs and discovered absolutely nothing. Byleth’s corpse was gone as was all the blood. Dimitri looked up and down the hallways for any sign of what he had witnessed, but the place was deserted. Dedue’s footsteps slowed down as he stopped to stand right behind the prince.

“How could this be? Dedue, I swear it happened. I heard a scream and found the mercenary’s body covered in blood right here. Find her father. He is the other mercenary who came back with us today. He is probably with the archbishop right now.”

Dedue was silent and it caused Dimitri to panic. He spun around to face the taller boy.

“My friend, you must believe me. It happened.” Dimitri grabbed onto the front of Dedue’s shirt.

“Yes, your highness,” Dedue responded hesitantly. “However, what mercenaries are you speaking of? You haven’t left the monastery since we arrived last week. Dimitri released his hold on Dedue’s shirt and took a step back.

“I…what? You are mistaken, Dedue. Just yesterday we all went out on a joint training exercise and were ambushed by bandits.” Dedue did not respond again. He just stared at Dimitri with that concerned look of his. “Come, let’s find Claude or Edelgard. They will set this straight.”

“I think we would be better off going to the infirmary. I worry that you’re ill. Perhaps you have a fever?” Dedue reached a hand out to feel Dimitri’s forehead but the prince stepped aside. His head was spinning but not due to illness. He knew what he saw, and as much as he wanted to prove to Dedue that he was right, he knew it would be bad to involve more people in the matter. If Claude and Edelgard also forgot what had happened, then talk would spread of his delusions. As the future leader of the Kingdom, he could not afford such negative gossip to spread. He also could not afford to appear weak in any regard.

“No,” he said a bit more aggressively than he wanted. He cleared his throat and started speaking in a softer tone. “No, I’m quite alright. I think I just am in need of some sleep.”

“Yes, that would be good for you,” Dedue agreed while nodding. “Best for you to be well rested for classes starting tomorrow. Come, let’s head to the dormitories.”

They walked towards the dormitory together in complete silence. Dimitri could feel Dedue’s stare the entire time. He was clearly still worrying for the prince. Dimitri, on the other hand, could not stop thinking about everything that had transpired. Was he going crazy? Surely he could not have hallucinated two days’ worth of events. Maybe Dedue was correct and he was ill. He did have a wave of nausea hit just before Dedue entered the tower. If the options were between losing his sanity and having a fever, Dimitri would undoubtedly choose the latter. However, something was still not sitting right with him.

“Your highness,” Dedue interrupted his thoughts. Dimitri realized they had stopped walking. “This is your room,” Dedue said gesturing to the door in front of them.

“Right.” He said absentmindedly. There was a hint of a frown on Dedue’s face. Clearly he was unhappy with Dimitri’s choice of skipping the infirmary.

“I will notify our housemates that you are not to be disturbed. Please get some rest,” he entreated.

“Thank you, Dedue,” Dimitri responded with a smile. Dedue bowed before departing.

Dimitri sighed as he entered his bedroom. He knew that sleep would not come easily. It never did even on days when nothing extraordinary happened. Still, he stripped down and changed into his lounge clothes before crawling into bed. As he stared at the ceiling, he could think of nothing other than Byleth. Even his usual ghosts were absent from his thoughts. Somehow that allowed him to drift off into a dreamless sleep.

Morning came quickly, and Dimitri was awoken by knocking on his door.

“Dimitri? Have you gone to breakfast yet?” He was surprised to hear a feminine voice on the other side of the door. He had expected Dedue to check on him. He rolled out of bed and quickly through on clothes before opening the door. He found himself face to face with two familiar individuals. The one that did not surprise him was Ingrid who was in her school uniform and wearing her hair in its typical braid. He had recognized her voice immediately. He had not, however, realized that she was not alone out here. Sylvain was standing next to her with his hands behind his head.

“So Dedue was telling the truth, you were still in here. What’s kept you locked in here for so long?” Sylvain paused as a grin broke out on his face. “Were you with a girl? Wait! Is she still in there?” He tried to push past Dimitri to peek in the room but Ingrid grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Can you go five minutes without talking about picking up girls or being with girls?”

“Sometimes I talk about being dumped by girls.” Sylvain’s response further annoyed Ingrid resulting in her yanking on his ear before turning her attention back to Dimitri.

“Dedue mentioned that you were getting some needed rest. Are you well?” Dimitri was surprised to hear that Ingrid had spoken with Dedue. She had never been on great terms with him given her personal feelings about Duscur. Dimitri hoped this was a sign that she was moving past the grudge.

“I am feeling well today. Thank you, Ingrid.” Dimitri politely smiled at his childhood friend. He always did his best each day to appear composed in front of others, even those friends he knew since childhood.

“I am glad to hear that,” she responded.

“Alright! Let’s eat!” Sylvain interrupted as he spun on his heel and started walking in the direction of the dining hall.

Ingrid sighed as she and Dimitri followed behind him. They passed a few students from other houses on their way. It was so early in the school year that most students from the other houses were unfamiliar to Dimitri. They did run into Claude who was speaking with an enthusiastic girl with pink pigtails. If Dimitri was not mistaken, that was the girl from House Goneril of the Alliance, though her name slipped his mind. They exchanged hellos but the conversation did not progress because Sylvain was insistent that they hurry to the dining hall since Felix was already there. Evidently when Ingrid and Sylvain said they were going to check on Dimitri before eating, Felix had said he preferred to just go and eat himself. Dimitri was sure the words were actually harsher than how Ingrid portrayed them. Sure enough, when they arrived at the dining hall, Felix was sitting at a table with a plate of toast and sausage.

“Good morning, sweetheart,” Sylvain said to Felix. He received a snarl in response. Despite Felix’s small stature, he had a formidable aura around him.

“I’m trying to eat in peace. The last things I need are your nauseating flirtations and the Boar Prince’s presence. It’s bad enough that most of the food options today are sweet.”

Sylvain had stopped listening to Felix halfway through his statement and was now walking towards the food station.

“We’ll be right back,” Ingrid said to Felix before heading to grab food with Dimitri.

Felix had not been overreacting when he said most of the food was sweet. The tables were full of muffins and other pastries. Dimitri was reaching for a pastry when he accidentally hit hands with someone.

“Oh, sorry!” A child like voice squealed. Dimitri looked up and saw familiar orange hair and wide eyes.

“Annette, good morning. The apologies are all mine.” He gestured for her to go ahead and watched as she piled a few sweets onto an already full plate.

“Oh, thank you, Dimitri! These are my favorite!” She made a quick exit and he watched as she skipped over to sit with a few girls. Dimitri had not spent much time with Annette growing up despite his close relationship with her father, but he always remembered her being an enthusiastic and cheerful girl. It appears not much had changed while she was studying at sorcery school.

By time the three friends returned to the table, Felix was almost done eating. Sylvain took the seat next to him and Dimitri sat across the table with Ingrid. Felix was consciously avoiding eye contact with Dimitri. They all ate while Ingrid tried to keep the conversation civil. After a bit, Felix stood up.

“I am going to train. Alone.” With that, Felix departed.

“Should we go with him?” Sylvain asked causing Ingrid to kick him under the table. Before she could respond, however, a young girl with green hair approached the table.

“You are Dimitri Blaiddyd, are you not?” She asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“Lovely! You can call me Flayn! I was sent by Seteth with a message. He said the new professor for the Blue Lions has arrived and that your house should congregate in your classroom at half past ten.”

“New professor?” Dimitri muttered. He noticed that the girl was still standing there staring at him. “Thank you, Flayn. You can tell Seteth we will be there.” She curtsied with a smile and departed. A frown appeared on Dimitri’s face. Their professor had run off during the bandit attack. If they were getting a new professor, that meant he had not returned after the ambush, but how could that be if Dedue insisted they had not gone on that training trip?

“I still can’t believe that old professor just up and quit just as the school year started,” Sylvain said as he started to stand up. “Dimitri, are you coming?” Dimitri snapped out of his thoughts.

“Coming?” His friend sighed and ran his hair through his bright hair.

“I think I am earning myself the title of royal advisor. It’s already past 10. We need to get everyone to the classroom.” He turned around to search the dining hall for Annette and any other Blue Lions members who might be present.

“You’re unexpectedly being responsible, Sylvain,” Ingrid said as she and Dimitri rose from the table. She scrutinized Sylvain for a moment before speaking. You’re hoping the professor is a woman, aren’t you?” Sylvain feigned injury at this question.            

“Ingrid, my friend, I am just trying to get off on the right foot with our new teacher. If our teacher happens to be a cute girl who falls madly in love with me, then that’s just an added bonus – Ow!” With a slap to the back of his head, Ingrid walked across the dining hall to where Annette was sitting. Dimitri chuckled feeling a rare moment of lightheartedness.

“Sylvain, for someone to have been chosen as a professor here, they must be an extremely established individual. I hardly think it would be some young woman for you to marry.”

“Are you telling me that Manuela woman seems like an extremely established individual? She was blatantly hungover when she introduced herself to us.” Dimitri looked around them to make sure no one had overheard Sylvain’s remarks.

“Please do not say such unfavorable things about our faculty. We need to put our best foot forward and represent the Kingdom well. This also means that I entreat you to not attempt a relationship with any faculty members.”

“I will try my best for you, your highness.” Sylvain said as he patted Dimitri on the back. They noticed Ingrid making her way back towards them.

“I suppose that is all I can ask of you,” Dimitri responded as Ingrid arrived back at the table.

“Annette and Mercedes are heading over to the classroom now. They said Ashe is most likely in the library or his bedroom. Sylvain, can you please go find him and not stop to chat with girls on the way?”

“Wow, everyone is trying to sabotage my love life today,” Sylvain remarked.

“On second thought, the two of us will find Ashe and get Felix from the training grounds.” Ingrid did not give Sylvain a chance to respond. “Dimitri, I don’t know where Dedue is. Perhaps you could find him?”

“Of course. I will see you in the classroom shortly.”

Dimitri watched as Ingrid and Sylvain left for the training ground. He wondered if he should have mentioned yesterday’s incident to them after all. What if one of them remembered the bandits and Byleth? Then again, what if he had hallucinated it all? Pushing the thoughts aside, Dimitri set out from the dining hall. He had a strong notion of where Dedue could be. When he stepped outside, he was hit with the scent of fresh air. He had not realized how in need he was for a walk outside until that moment. As he walked through the grounds, he watched some children playing with a cat. It really was a peaceful place. Ahead of him, he saw the glass paneling of the greenhouse. He himself had not spent much time there, but he knew it was already a kind of sanctuary for Dedue. Sure enough, upon entering, Dimitri saw his friend. His broad back was turned towards Dimitri and he appeared to be closely inspecting a flower. Even with his back turned, Dimitri noticed how relaxed Dedue was in here compared to when he was around other people. They all were carrying the burden of the Tragedy of Duscur in their own unique and cruel ways.

Dimitri looked around the place. There were only a few flowers he recognized. Many of the ones unknown to him looked like they would last not even a minute in Faerghus’ climate. Dedue turned around at the sound of footsteps approaching and his gaze softened when he saw Dimitri standing there.

“Your highness,” he greeted him with a bow. “How are you feeling today?”

“Much better, thank you.” Dimitri did not believe the words he said but he knew it was the response to give. He peered around Dedue to see a small growth of red flowers. Dimitri was about to ask what kind of flowers they were when Dedue interrupted.

“What brings you here?”

“Seteth has called a Blue Lions house meeting. Our new professor has arrived.”

“I see,” he nodded. “Let us go.” Without any further discussion, the two exited the greenhouse and began the walk towards their classrooms. Dedue was silent as usual, and instead of trying to make idle chatter, Dimitri was lost in his thoughts. They remained in silence all the way to their destination.

As Dedue opened the door, he heard Felix’s voice.

“You’re not missing out, professor. It really is for the best to not meet Dimitri.”

“Looks like the professor is already here,” Dedue murmured to Dimitri. The prince looked towards the front of the class to where their new professor stood.

“Felix! Don’t say that! Professor, I’m so sorry,” Ingrid said.

Dedue had walked inside but Dimitri stayed at the doorway. He felt the blood drain from his face and his eyes widen.

“Your highness?” Dedue was looking back towards Dimitri. Everyone was probably looking at him but he could see nothing but the figure at the front of the classroom.

“Dimitri, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” He did not register who said that. All he knew is that standing in front of him had to be a ghost. A ghost with teal hair, black ensemble, and an unreadable expression. A ghost he knew to be named

“Byleth,” he breathed out.

Chapter Text

“Byleth,” he barely registered the fact that he repeated her name. He watched as her face turned into a frown.

“Yes?” She asked. His legs took him to the front of the class on their own volition and he found himself reaching out to touch her face.

“Dimitri!” Ingrid screamed. Before anyone could say anything else, Byleth slapped his hand away.

“What are you doing?” She asked.

“How are you alive?” He stared at her. Those were definitely the same blue eyes as the girl he met in Remire and the girl he saw killed.

“I’m sorry?”

“I saw you die! Yesterday! When we got back from Remire!” He was grasping her by the shoulders. She really was a tiny individual.

“How did you know I was in Remire?” She asked as her hand moved towards a knife holster on her hip. Before he could respond, someone yanked Dimitri back causing him to fall on his back. Suddenly, he felt a sword to his neck. He looked up and saw amber eyes sneering at him.

“You’ve finally lost it, you wild animal.”

“Felix! Stop!”

From the ground, Dimitri watched as Ingrid pushed Felix back as Dedue simultaneously threw a punch right at his face. Felix managed to dodge it, but Dedue was able to disarm the much smaller boy in that moment. Dimitri looked to the front of class where Byleth was staring at the scene in front of her with her mouth opened wide. Annette and Mercedes were clutching each other looking on in fear. Ashe looked like he was trying and failing to work up the courage to get involved. Ingrid was standing between Felix and Dedue. Sylvain was leaning back in his chair as if nothing had happened.

“So, professor, are you still not interested in grabbing dinner with me?” If Ingrid was not trying to keep Felix and Dedue apart, she would have punched Sylvain.

“Can everyone please take your seats?” Byleth asked. She was starting to get her composure back. Felix snatched his sword from Dedue and took a seat in the back corner away from everyone else. Ingrid sighed and sat next to Sylvain while Dedue helped Dimitri to his feet.

“You,” Byleth said as she looked directly at Dimitri. “How do you know who I am?”

Dimitri hesitated for a moment. There seemed to be no way to explain this incident away.

“Two days ago, all the students left for a training exercise in the forest near Remire.”

“We did no such thing!” Felix interjected but Byleth raised a hand to silence him.

“Continue,” she said to Dimitri. He was frankly amazed at how composed she was. How was she so collected when he had lashed out at her like that? Why did her blue eyes seemingly pierce his soul? He felt as if he were being judged by the goddess herself.

“During this training exercise, we were attacked by bandits. The two other house leaders and myself diverted the attention of the bandits long enough for our classmates to escape back to the monastery. However, we three were not enough to fight the group on our own. We ran to Remire for help and that was when we met you and Jeralt, your father. You helped us stave off the bandits. Alois, a knight of Seiros, recognized your father from his time here at the monastery and asked that you accompany us back here.” Dimitri paused and looked at her face for some sign that she believed him.

“He has to be making this up. You’re sick.” Felix spat.

“Dimitri,” Ingrid sounded concerned. “None of that happened. We had no training exercise.” Byleth did not look her way. She was still staring at Dimitri with a placid expression.

“I apologize, professor,” Dedue chimed in. “I believe his highness succumbed to a fever yesterday. He must still be affected. Dimitri, maybe you should-”

“You know my father’s name and my name. Both things you could have learnt from someone else before arriving in the classroom.”

“I’m telling the truth!” She did not waiver at his response.

“No one knows we were in Remire.” She said it simply but the weight fell heavily on Dimitri. This was proof, yes, proof he was telling the truth. He wracked his brain for other details from the journey back.

“I suppose no one else here knows you have never been to the monastery before.”

“Wouldn’t the archbishop know that?”

“Do you think I speak often with the archbishop?”

Byleth opened her mouth to respond, but she was interrupted by Sylvain who was now standing.

“Okay, let me get this straight. Dimitri met you before when all this stuff happened but all of that did not happen because no one other than Dimitri remembers it?”

Before anyone could reply, the door to the classroom opened. All the heads turned to see a tall woman with green hair adorned with irises.  Archbishop Rhea smiled as she looked around.

“I see you have met your students. Lovely. Professor, could I borrow you for a few minutes?”

Byleth just nodded and walked out of the classroom as if nothing unusual had just occurred. Dimitri collapsed into a nearby chair and cradled his head in his hands. His head was reeling as he tried to process what had just happened.

“Dimitri, can you please explain yourself.” Ingrid’s voice was soft. She saw how much pain he was in. Even in his apparent descent into madness, she cared for him.

“I just did. I swear, Ingrid, that’s the truth.” He felt tears building in his eyes. “The bandits, the trip to the monastery, it all happened.”

“What did you mean when you said you saw her die?”

“Ingrid, don’t encourage his behavior,” Felix chastised.

“Yesterday, I went to the Goddess Tower and she was,” he choked on his words as the image replayed in his mind. “She was lying on the ground dead. I followed a trail of blood up the tower hoping to find the assailant but no one was there. The next thing I knew, Dedue was walking into the tower and everything had changed. Her body was gone. There was no blood. Dedue did not remember the training exercise. I swear, Ingrid.”

Silence filled the air as everyone processed what he said. Even Felix did not have a comment to make.

“So our teacher is clearly a ghost,” Felix cajoled.

“Please don’t say that!” The color was draining from Ashe’s face.

“Perhaps this was the will of the Goddess.” A sweet voice broke the silence. Dimitri looked up and saw that it was Mercedes. He was surprised. Before attending the monastery, they had never met. She was the adopted daughter of a commoner and that was really all he knew about her other than the fact that she and Annette were friends from sorcery school.

“The will of the Goddess?” Sylvain asked incredulously.

“Maybe it was the will of the Goddess to save the professor,” Mercedes explained.

“Why wouldn’t the Goddess have just kept her from dying in the first place?” Felix piped in. Mercedes thought carefully for a minute.

“I heard a story about the tower from one of the knights. He said if two people went into the tower and each made a wish, their wishes would come true.” She leaned forward resting her head on her hand. “Did you make a wish, Dimitri?”

Suddenly everyone’s attention was on him again.

“I wished that Byleth had not returned to the monastery with us…that she had never met us in the first place.”

Mercedes gasped at the same time Felix groaned. Dimitri noticed Ingrid was biting her lip as she clearly tried to think through everything.

“If any of you believe some divine being changed history because Dimitri asked her to, you’re dumber than I ever could have imagined,” Felix sneered.

“There is one way to know if Dimitri is telling the truth. Two of us could go to the tower and make a wish. If it comes true, then we know Dimitri is not crazy, well at least not crazy in this specific instance.”

“Sylvain, that might be the smartest thing you have ever said,” Ingrid sounded genuinely surprised.

“Ouch, but thanks I guess. Alright, who wants to go with me?” He was already rising from his chair.

“I’ll join you!” Mercedes offered cheerfully. “To think I might get a wish granted by the Goddess!”

Before anyone could respond, the door to the classroom opened and Dimitri heard the soft tapping of Byleth’s boots as she walked to the front of the classroom. As she walked by each student, she eyed them. Clearly, she had not expected such a calm atmosphere. The only person still visibly aggravated was Felix, but that frankly surprised no one.

“Professor, are we going to be having class time today?” Sylvain asked.

“I think we all could use some rest. You are free for the rest of the day.”

Felix was out the door before anyone else had the chance to move. Dimitri hesitated as he looked towards the front of the classroom. Byleth’s face maintained its usual composed look. What was she thinking at that moment? Had she told the archbishop about what he said? He really could not afford a scandal to befall the Kingdom especially with Edelgard and Claude, the future leaders of the Empire and Alliance, attending the academy.

“Your Highness, let us depart,” Dedue was standing by the doorway watching Dimitri with concern.

“Yes, of course.” Dimitri began to walk towards the door but suddenly stopped and turned towards Byleth. “Professor, I must apologize. We acted most unbecoming on your first day with us, myself worst of all. While we may not deserve it, I do hope you will not think too poorly on us. I promise we will carry ourselves with honor and be star pupils for you.”

He quickly bowed and exited with Dedue. The sun was high in the sky and the air was warming up. Nearby, Ashe was kneeling on the ground by a group of cats. Dimitri knew little of the boy. He was the adopted child of a nobleman, but nothing else from his past was known to the prince. Upon seeing Dimitri and Dedue, Ashe stood up and approached. He was clearly nervous.

“Dimitri, may I speak with you?”

“Of course,” Dimitri replied with a nod. Standing next to Dedue, Ashe looked like a small child with his small physique.

“I wanted to say…that is, I…I believe you!” The last part was blurted out so quickly that Dimitri almost missed what had been said.

“You…you believe me?” The words did not sound real coming out of Dimitri’s mouth. Ashe nodded feverously. “But why?”

“You remind me of a knight from the books I’ve read. Those knights value honesty and would never lie about something like this. I trust you, Dimitri.” Ashe was twiddling his thumbs as he spoke. He was clearly embarrassed to be saying such things to the Kingdom’s prince whom he barely knew, but Dimitri did not care. Hearing someone say they believed him was more than he could have hoped for today.

“Thank you, Ashe. That means a lot.” Dimitri noticed that one of the cats had begun rubbing against Ashe’s leg. Ashe bent down and scooped the cat up.

“Well, I should go now. Bye, Dimitri, Dedue!”

“Goodbye,” Dimitri said as he watched Ashe run off. “Where is he going with that cat?” He asked Dedue.

“I haven’t the slightest idea, your Highness."

Ashe was an odd one to say the least. However, hearing that he believed Dimitri was a kindness Dimitri had not expected.

"If it is alright with you, I plan on spending the afternoon tending to some of the plants in the greenhouse.”

“Of course! You are more than welcome to do as you please, Dedue.” His retainer bowed in response.

“Please be easy on yourself today.”

Dedue departed towards the greenhouse leaving Dimitri standing on his own in the courtyard. A few students were lounging on the lawn. With everything that had happened in the Blue Lions classroom, it was odd to see such carefree and happy people. Dimitri took a seat on a bench in the courtyard deciding to take advantage of the downtime. His one night of good sleep was not enough to erase his exhaustion. He took a moment of repose and watched a butterfly fly around the courtyard. As he sat there, he began to feel someone watching him. He glanced around and at first did not notice anyone, but then he saw her. Peering from behind a nearby tree was a young girl with blue hair pulled back off her face. She was wearing an academy uniform but Dimitri did not recognize her. She noticed that he was looking at her and jumped in panic. She started to walk away towards the dormitories, but curiosity got the better of Dimitri and he ran over to her.

“Wait!” He called out. The girl stopped and turned to face him. Now that he was standing close to her, he noticed the dark circles under her eyes. She looked at him with a lack of something in her eyes. It was not the calm lack of expression the professor had, but he could not place what was missing.

“I’m sorry. May I help you?” She spoke so softly, he almost missed what she said.

“I, uh, I’m sorry if I startled you just now,” he said with a quick bow. “I just noticed you watching me and was wondering why. I don’t believe we have met before.”

“We have not, and it’s, um, probably for the best.”

“Why is that?” Dimitri asked. The girl avoided making eye contact with him.

“I bring nothing but misfortune to those around me.”

It was upon hearing that statement when Dimitri realized what was missing from her eyes: a will to live.

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Dimitri said softly. He sympathized to some extent with this girl. “Where are my manners? My name is Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd. I am the house leader of the Blue Lions.”

“Yes, um, I know,” she whispered. “I am Marianne von Edmund.”

“Well, Marianne, if you ever need any help, please do not hesitate to ask. I’ve had enough misfortune in my life, that a little more will not scare me off.”

He had expected some visible response to that comment but the girl remained as glum as before.

“I’m sorry,” she replied. “Um, have you seen a statuette? Um, of the goddess? It is made of red stone.”

There was a pause as Dimitri stared at her.

“A statuette?” Dimitri guessed she must be looking for something to pray to. “No, I have not. Perhaps one of the monks could assist you.”

“No, that’s alright. It’s not my luck to find it.” She sounded so resigned and Dimitri’s heart was breaking because of this girl he just met.

“I promise I will diligently keep an eye out for your red stone statuette. If I do find it, where shall I find you? Are you in Black Eagles or Golden Deer?”

“Golden Deer. I’m sorry, I need to go.” She ran off.

Dimitri stared at her as she ran. Golden Deer truly was an odd house. He decided to head back towards the dormitories himself to find some solace in his bedroom. It seemed the more time he spent out and about, the weirder things were going to get. He got to the dormitories with no interference, however as he reached for the door to his room, one of the nearby doors flew open.

“There you are!” Sylvain practically jumped on Dimitri. “So the professor didn’t kill you.”

“What?” Dimitri asked as he freed himself from Sylvain’s clutches.

“Sylvain, quit playing around.” Ingrid emerged from Sylvain’s bedroom. Dimitri noticed Annette and Mercedes standing behind her.

“What’s going on?” Dimitri asked the group.

“We’ve been waiting for you to show up so Mercedes and I could give you our mission report,” Sylvain explained.

“Please, come inside. There’s no need to cause a scene in the hallway.” Ingrid was glancing around to check that others were not eavesdropping.

Once everyone was inside Sylvain’s room, Ingrid closed the door. Annette and Mercedes pulled Sylvain's two chairs towards the center of the room and Sylvain lounged on the carpet. Only Ingrid and Dimitri remained standing.

“What mission report?” Dimitri immediately asked after the door was shut.

“Sylvain and I went the Goddess Tower!” Mercedes said with a huge grin on her face. “We made wishes!”

Dimitri’s stomach dropped.

“And?” He asked excitedly.

“Nothing happened. Well, I think nothing happened.” Sylvain looked and sounded confused. Dimitri’s head started to spin. How could that be? “I wished that a cute girl would ask me out, but nothing happened. Maybe it takes time to kick in.”

“And I asked that there would be lemon cake in the dining hall, but I checked and there was none.” Mercedes sounded extremely disappointed and Dimitri was unsure if it was because the plan did not work or just that she did not get lemon cake.

“So, that’s it then,” Dimitri said glumly. “I’m crazy.” He sat on the edge of Sylvain’s bed and cradled his head in his hands. There was silence in the room. He felt the bed press down as someone sat down next to him.

“Dimitri, I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Ingrid said as she placed a hand on his shoulder. “But, I believe you.” Dimitri looked at her.

“You do?”

“There’s something weird about this place. There’s something weird about the Church. While Sylvain and Mercedes were running off to the Tower, Annette and I ran into Seteth. I asked him if there was much writing about the Goddess granting wishes, and he got all tense and said writings like that probably did not survive this long.”

“You asked him! Ingrid, he’s the right-hand man of the archbishop!”

“Calm down, Dimitri. It’s not like I said ‘hey, my friend, Prince Dimitri, thinks the Goddess brought our teacher back to life.”

Dimitri took a deep breath.

“Yes, of course. Sorry, Ingrid, my emotions are high.” She just nodded in response and gave her braid a little tug.

“Ok, Ingrid, say Dimitri is telling the truth. Why didn’t our wishes come true?” It was a little difficult to take Sylvain seriously with the way he had laid himself out on the floor.

“I don’t know.” Her face looked pained at the fact.

“I have a theory.” Everyone jumped at the new voice and Annette screamed as she clutched Mercedes.

“A ghost!” The small girl yelled. Sylvain had jumped off the floor and was reaching for his sword.

Dimitri turned towards the bedroom entrance where the voice came from. Standing there as calm as ever was Byleth. She had changed clothes into a uniform not unlike the one worn by students.

“How did you get in here?” Sylvain asked and Byleth blinked.

“The door was unlocked.”

Dimitri looked towards the door. A heavy and old door like that should be nearly impossible to open without making a noise. Perhaps their professor used magic to open it?

“You can’t just barge into a guy’s room like this. What if I was busy seducing a girl in here?”

“Were you?” Byleth asked Sylvain. She said it with her usual neutral tone that it took Dimitri a moment to realize she was making a joke. Sylvain just sputtered as he tried to come up with a response.

“It is a bit rude to barge into a student’s room unannounced,” Ingrid said. Byleth was unaffected by the comment.

“Professor, what’s your theory?” Dimitri asked.

“The Goddess, if she actually exists, can’t grant wishes for the future.”

“Then how do you explain what happened to me?” Dimitri asked a bit harsher than intended. Byleth stared at him for a moment.

“I said she can’t grant wishes for the future. I didn’t say she can’t grant wishes to change the past.”

“Oh,” Annette gasped. “I see! Sylvain and Mercedes both wished for something to happen in the future and nothing happened. Dimitri wished for the past to change, and it did.”

Byleth nodded.

“So, if we went and wished for something in the past to change, it would.” Ingrid sounded impressed.

“Maybe,” Byleth said.

“This was your theory, why do you sound so uncertain?” Sylvain asked. Byleth hesitated. Dimitri stared at her. There was something in her earlier statement that bothered him.

“Professor, do you not believe in the Goddess?” Dimitri asked.

“I don’t know,” she responded. “I never heard of the Goddess until I got here.”“What!?” Everyone except Dimitri was clearly shocked.

“Shall I prove to you that she is real?” He asked her. He was feeling confident after hearing her theory for why Sylvain’s and Mercedes’ wishes did not work.

“How do you plan to do that?” For a second, Dimitri thought he saw a hint of a smile on her face. He stood up and walked towards her.

“Come to the Goddess Tower with me.”