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Unexpected Bloom

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[4th of the Great Tree Moon, 07:00. Imperial Year of 1185]

 

A new day has begun, it was another sunrise after the days of war. No more are the footsteps of battalions preparing for battle, shipping provisions and whatnot. Sounds of weapons being fired, soldiers unleashing battle cries, all replaced with the harmonious chirping of the birds, and the laughter of children playing around the streets of Enbarr. Seeing as how the day has only just began, the local marketplaces have yet to bustle, vendors only having just finished setting up their stalls. There weren’t any cheers or parading going on, not yet at least.

 

Similarly, the Imperial Palace itself was quite calm. There was barely any noise, any chatter around the hallways. Guards would silently stand near their posts, making sure to keep the area defended from intruders. Various nobles have either lock themselves up in their quarters or have left the capital days prior. Wherever they are, they were certainly busy with assisting the Empire in reshaping Fodlan.

 

As for what’s within the lower floors of the castle, the secret chamber, where a certain war saint has been chained, remains quiet. There was no yelling to be heard, no wailing, not even the sounds of the shackles clanking onto one another. And at the center of the room was, of course, Rhea herself. Her eyes were closed as she remained motionless. There was little movement that came from her, just as there was barely any sound uttered, beyond that of her breathing.

 

It was a peaceful sight, the calmest that Seiros herself has been these past few years. Half a decade spent on trying to rid of the Emperor, seeking retribution towards those who transgressed her kin. With all the conflict and sorrow she has been through, it is no wonder that she finds peace in the realm of slumber, rather than the world of reality. Of course, all good things must come to an end. Try as she might, she cannot force herself to sleep for a century or two, not anymore at least. She had no choice but to wake up, her eyes slowly opening once more.

 

Rhea seemed peaceful when asleep, yet despite that, her facial expression reflected that of a tired woman. Her eyes looked dull, empty, devoid of any emotion. Her entire body was at ease, not having the energy to convey her emotions through both facial and bodily expressions. And even if she wanted to go back to sleep, she couldn’t. Instead, she simply sat there quietly, seemingly waiting for something. Is Rhea still clinging to that one weak glimmer of hope that her heart still bears, or is she simply waiting to disappear from nothingness, to finally leave the world that had forsaken her?

 

Unfortunately for her, that would not happen anytime soon, nor would she be able to wallow in her emptiness in peace. As if her mind began to awaken once more, Rhea snapped out of her somewhat dull expressions as she would hear sounds of the gates opening. Slowly, the doorway began to move, revealing that Edelgard herself was behind those doors, once more. This time, she is accompanied only by a single pair of soldiers, as well as a tray on her hands.

 

What is this, Rhea wondered. She could not help but grimace towards Edel, as the emperor began walking towards her. The Adrestian Emperor, carrying a tray towards the goddess, it felt like some sort of mockery towards her, with the scion of the Empire treating like some animal. As if being chained into a room alone wasn’t enough, she thought. Rhea yearned for company, but at the immediate sight of Edelgard, she yearned for death instead.

 

Slowly, Edelgard stops in front of Rhea, dropping the tray on a nearby stool. Before El would do anything else, she commanded her guards to leave the room first, perhaps for a bit of privacy. She gestured her hand, dismissing the pair of soldiers she brought with her to the chamber and sending them back to their room. Of course, the soldiers were somewhat hesitant to leave Edel alone, fearing what Rhea would do to her. El heard the concerned tone in their voice, but before they can utter words beyond a simple ‘huh’, Edelgard assured them.

 

“I will be fine. I assure you she will not be able to harm me. Now return to your posts.”

 

The soldiers had hesitant looks on their faces, before nervously saluting their commander. As the soldiers left, Edelgard took a quick glance to wait for them to leave. Once the gates were shut, only El and Rhea were left in the room. And Rhea is far from excited to see her, or even think about what she is going to say or do. There is little else that Rhea could do besides narrow her eyes towards the food, then shoot her glance towards the other woman, her eyes filled with emotions of anger and hatred, once more. It’s as if every time she sees Edelgard, her eyes light up in fury, and every time she leaves, her eyes begin to dull, returning to the voids they once were.

 

“What is this mockery. . .Is it not enough that you’ve stripped me of all those I loved!? And now, you wish to disgrace me once more with THIS!?”

 

“Mockery? If I were you, I would be thankful that I am even getting nourishment of sorts within confinement. You may have powers beyond that of humans, but I doubt you would be able to survive completely without food.”

 

“I refuse to eat whatever filth you bring to me.”

 

“Sad to say, I wasn’t the one who made this. You’d best send your ‘compliments’ to the chef, instead.”

 

Edelgard said sarcastically, with an exhausted look painted on her face. It wasn’t that she had already done numerous tasks prior to entering the room that explains her tired expression. Rather, it was the fact that Seiros was, at least to her, acting quite childish. Somehow, looking after Rhea as a prisoner seemed more cumbersome than to fight her ‘other form’ in battle. But it was a task that Edel believed she had to do, as she wants to try and pry some answers to her questions or coerce her prisoner into cooperation.

 

Meanwhile, Rhea seemed quite disgusted. It was not the food that disgusted her, though. If anything, a prisoner being served with what is served to her now would be considered living a luxury. No, it was Edelgard’s actions that disgusts her. She could not help but be baffled at such a sight. The emperor that had her chained in the first place, is now personally delivering her food, as if she’s some sort of pet. This was nothing but a pitiful attempt of kindness towards Edelgard’s part, at least that’s what Rhea would like to believe. Part of her even believed the food to be poisoned which, while at first made her disgusted by the idea of a weak attempt, to somewhat hopeful that it IS poisoned, as she feels that she’d be damned if she has to spend another day living in what is essentially the castle’s basement.

 

“. . .Well? Are you not going to eat? Or must I feed you first, Oh dear Goddess—”

 

“QUIET! I don’t need you or your food, I’d much rather starve to my death.”

 

“We need you alive for our plans to come to fruition, therefore I cannot allow such an event to occur”

 

*growls*

 

Like a defiant canine chained to its leash, Rhea simply growled towards Edelgard, to which she simply responded with an exasperated look upon her face, and a sigh of dismay. She had better things to do than this, and yet she’s stuck being the archbishop’s babysitter, by the sudden. Part of her thought about Hubert’s words, and felt a bit of regret after not having initially considered his suggestion. Of course, she quickly snapped herself out of such ridiculous thoughts and focused on the task at hand.

 

Seeing as how Rhea refuses to even smell the food, Edelgard takes it upon herself to make the goddess eat. Without warning, Edelgard drags the wheeled stool a bit closer to her. As Rhea furrows her brow towards such a confounding sight, El was taking a bit of the food using a spoon. After taking a scoop, Edelgard kneeled just close enough before Rhea, one hand being positioned under the spoon as the other held the utensil nearing Rhea’s lips.

 

“Open wide~! The horse carriage is about to enter the gates~!”

 

It was an odd sight, the Adrestian Emperor trying to feed Saint Seiros a spoonful. Edelgard leered as she slowly brought the spoon closer to Rhea, what was supposedly an embarrassing sight turned into an opportunity for her to toy with Rhea for a bit. She did not initially plan to stoop to such a level, but she could not help herself and decided to roll with it, finding some sort of fun in an otherwise bothersome scenario.

 

Rhea, on the other hand, was having none of it. Her eyes suddenly widened as her pupils somewhat ‘shrunk’. Having lived thousands of years only to have the latter part of her life be filled with the slaughter of her kin, her wrists being cuffed by the shackles of the empire, and the woman who once pointed a blade against the goddess, now pointing silverware towards her face!? This was just completely unfathomable to her. Her blood was practically boiling at this point.

 

“Still not eating, I see. Perhaps I should cool your meal off by blowing on it a bit, no?”

 

Said Edelgard, mockingly. Though her expression reflected was that of a smug, her voice seems to be masking a slightly irritated tone. Indeed, Edelgard wanted to have a little ‘fun’ with all this, though really, all she wanted was to get this over with. The way she sees Rhea’s constant lambasting of her being, and her desperate wishes of not having to see Edelgard again, was akin to a tired housewife not wanting to have to deal with the tantrums of their child.

 

Rhea couldn’t stop her eyes from twitching. She had never been quite insulted in her entire life. Her hatred towards Edelgard grew by the second. Her thoughts were riddled with various ways on how to strangle or claw out the other female. If she was unchained, she would’ve already made quick work with Edel. Though not having access to her powers, it did not stop her from getting back at her. Without a moment’s warning, Rhea instantly smacked the spoon out of Edelgard’s hand, using the back of her hand. The spoon flung towards the east side of the room, and Edelgard was left both startled and baffled, her eyes following the spoon to the direction it was headed, before slowly firing a glare towards Rhea.

 

“Was that really necessary? Now, you’ve made a mess all over that spot.”

 

“Is this some sort of sick, twisted joke to you!?”

 

Rhea roared, angrily staring at Edelgard as the latter stood up and went to try and clean the mess with a white cloth nearby the tray. As Edel was approaching the spot where the mess was made, all Rhea could do was clench her fists, as she narrowed her eyes towards El, her infuriated gaze following her movements. Edelgard, on the other hand, wasn’t as angry as the green-haired woman was. Rather, she simply sighed in annoyance. If Hubert was in her place, he would’ve scarred the chained woman with dark magic, she thought to herself.

 

“While this may have been mildly amusing, I’ve better things to do than stay and babysit you, Rhea. Must you be so obstinate that I have to pamper you like a child in order to get you to eat, let alone cooperate.”

 

“You are the child here. All you humans are!!! Mere children who think they can do as they please and betray my mother, disrupting our peace just so you can fulfil your own dark ambitions!!!”

 

Edelgard did not immediately respond to Rhea, being preoccupied with cleaning up her mess. After taking care of the situation, El took both the spoon, off the floor, and the cloth she was using to wipe the spilled food and returned to where the tray was. Rhea’s words did not anger her, but they did tire her out. Not only that, said words would continue to give her a somewhat negative impression upon the former archbishop.

 

“You are a monster. All of you are monsters! Nothing but fowl beasts, wanting to take everything for yourselves. You are just as vile, if not more, than that bastard Nemesis. . .”

 

“Interesting that you view me similar to the King of Liberation, especially since you’ve warped the history of Fodlan, and tricked millennia of humans into thinking that he is wicked, ‘corrupted’ even.”

 

She was somewhat baffled by Rhea words. The King of Liberation, Nemesis, a monster? This must be another one of the goddess’ lies. She was thought that both Nemesis and Seiros fought simply due to a ‘simple dispute’ and that Nemesis was the protector of man. Edelgard can be quite firm in beliefs such as these, so convincing her otherwise would be quite an ordeal. And even if what was taught to her was a lie, she found it hard to believe that Seiros, that Rhea, was on the right here, after recounting what she has done during the war, and her words to El, these past few days.

 

“You must be quite deluded, Rhea. You claim that everyone who opposes you is a beast, despite you yourself having done quite a number to our people. Not just during the war, but prior.”

 

“All I’ve done, I have done for my people! To protect my brethren, to maintain our peace. Yet insolent scum, such as yourself, have simply trampled all that for your sake! It is YOU who should take a good look of themselves.”

 

“What I do, I do for the people of Fodlan. To correct the wrongs that you have committed, to fix the flawed system of this nation. What I intend to do with you shall be no different.”

 

“LIES! ALL LIES!!!”

 

From Rhea’s perspective, she couldn’t believe that Edelgard does not have something wicked planned. Though she does acknowledge the fact that what El has done, is doing, and will do are for the benefit of the people of the country, she believes that everything Edelgard does “for the people” is so that they may assume power all for themselves, and play the role of gods and deities.

 

Edelgard did not have time to listen to such drivel. Every time she hears Rhea spout what she considers to be utter nonsense, her head aches and her eyes grow weary. At this point, she was even beginning to doubt herself as to why she insisted on keeping the Immaculate One alive. She could not get a proper opportunity to ask a question from her. Two days in a row, the same thing has been happening again. She enters the room, Rhea curses at her, she tries to approach the goddess, Rhea tries to get back at her. She leaves the room hoping the same thing would not happen again, and the cycle unfortunately repeats herself.

 

But there was no backing out of this plan now. They’ve already gone through lengths of trying to hide the fate of the war saint from the world, and she would have to heavily alter her strategies if they were to rid of Seiros now. Instead, Edelgard surrendered once more and decided to turn her back from the chained Rhea once more, exiting the room. Before she could even make it halfway through the room, however, she decided to answer Rhea’s accusation of her lying.

 

“What I intend to do with you is for the good of Fodlan. I seek not to rule, nor to conquer other nations. I seek only peace, and I require your power to do so. I intend to use your power to destroy all those who hide within the shadows, causing havoc. And once I have done so, I shall set you free.”

 

Having said all that, she turned her attention towards the doors once more. Edelgard marches towards the golden gates, with every intention of getting other tasks done. The sounds of the doors creaking can be heard as she opened it, followed by a rather loud, albeit slow, “bang” after shutting it close once more.

 

Rhea simply sat there, her snarling expression slowly dissipated from her face, replaced with a facial expression that just comes off as somewhat ‘stern’. Though still bearing a good amount of both hatred and mistrust towards the emperor, Rhea was also beginning to be perplexed about El’s words. “Those who hide within the shadows, causing havoc”, why would the Empire require the blood of Seiros to remove a few thieves here and there. Were they simply troublemakers who have yet to bring attention to themselves, or perhaps. . .was Edelgard referring to something else, she thought to herself. She could not help but wonder about this for a bit but has decided to give little thought into it for now, as she was still more concerned with what the Empire was planning.

 

Meanwhile, around the hallways, Edelgard gently grasped her right palm, it seems that Rhea’s smack did leave an impact on her. She wasn’t injured, thankfully, but she did feel a light pain slightly lingering around her right hand. At the same time, she thought about Rhea’s words. It would be a lie to say that Edelgard wasn’t affected by what the war saint had told her a few moments ago, and even the day before. Though at most, she was mildly offended at the presumption that what she is doing is simply out of greed and recklessness.

 

At the same time, she began questioning what her ancestors have taught her about Fodlan’s history as well. Their stories were incomplete and simply passed down by generations, whereas Rhea herself has been present in those historical times. Yet if Rhea claimed to be a victim of those times, why was it that she warped the history of Fodlan? Edelgard was both confounded and somewhat infuriated, as those sweet little lies were what led to the Fodlan of today, as well as what led to her life being the way it is now. . .