[2nd of the Verdant Rain Moon, 16:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
Days have passed since Seteth and Flayn’s arrival to the palace. Though things were quite awkward at first, Edelgard insisted that the two of them stay for the time being. Seeing as how Rhea refuses to leave the palace and Seteth refuses to leave his sister alone, they decided to do so. Unlike Rhea’s first days, however, theirs was far more pleasant. Not only that but having them settle in was a smoother process than expected. Beds were transferred and assembled within the room as to allot spaces for Seteth and Flayn to sleep in. What once was a spacious chamber of emptiness has already been transformed into a proper bedroom, months prior. But with the inclusion of Seteth and Flayn, the room has transformed into its own family suite of sorts.
Though Edelgard and Rhea still partake in their usual afternoon activities, the latter would begin allotting some time for her to catch up with her kin, especially since Edelgard has been busier as of late. And on days where Edel’s schedule is more relaxed, Rhea would have her over for tea alongside Seteth and Flayn. These sessions initially began as odd, but soon enough Seteth and Flayn would warm up to Edelgard, at least to an extent where they’re a bit more comfortable being casual with her. These past few days have been the happiest in Rhea’s life, and seeing Rhea grow increasingly happy also made Edelgard feel the same. Not only that, but a new type of happiness would begin to swell in her heart, one that she can’t quite describe just yet.
This odd feeling would continue to develop within her, alongside her confusion towards them. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what it was, or perhaps she has full knowledge as to what said feeling is, and that she’s merely having trouble with accepting them. She finds it hard to speak to Rhea about this, out of embarrassment. And she obviously can’t talk about these to Hubert, Seteth or Flayn, seeing as how one isn’t really the type of guy you’d go to for advice about emotions, and the other two barely even count as her friends. The only other option remaining is Byleth, and with that being the case, she eventually asked to speak with her in private, specifically in her quarters. Today wasn’t as hectic as the days that came before, so what better time to ask Professor about it than now, she asked herself. . .
“Y-You wanted to see me?”
Byleth asked as she entered the room, to which Edelgard silently replied with a few quick nods. Rather than donning her imperial robes, Edelgard was instead seen wearing her nightgown. Absent was the confident and unwavering Edelgard, and instead what Byleth sees is a girl hugging her legs as she sits on her bed, embarrassed. Byleth raised an eyebrow at this sight, thinking about all the possible reasons as to why Edelgard was feeling somewhat shy or nervous. As she shuts the door close, she would walk towards the bed and sit next to Edelgard, giving her a light pat on her head, much to Edelgard’s chagrin.
“Everything alright there, El? If I recall, you wanted to speak to me about something, right?”
Momentarily trapped in a flustered state, Edelgard could not muster up the words (or courage) to talk to Byleth about what was on her mind. She wasn’t necessarily flailing around all nervous-like, but she was getting slightly more and more embarrassed from just thinking about it. This was the first time that she was so uncertain about how she feels, as well as the first time she really talked about her feelings for someone else. Not only that, part of her doubts that Byleth is even the right person to speak about this to. Nonetheless, however, Edelgard tries to compose herself, trying to form a string of words that can allow her to properly begin the conversation.
“It’s just that. . .these past few days I’ve been getting. . .’conflicting’ thoughts about Rhea.”
“. . .define ‘conflicting’.”
“I feel as if this has gone for a month now, but it was only recently that I came to realize these feelings. I’ve been getting along fine with the archbishop. In fact, I find myself enjoying her company. And yet. . .”
“. . .?”
“. . .part of me feels as if a simple friendship with Rhea isn’t enough. . .”
“Oh. . .Oh!”
Byleth looks at El with a face one would make after a realization. Though she isn’t an expect at the topic, Byleth immediately figures out what the Emperor’s dilemma is; she is developing feelings for the former archbishop. No, seeing how Edelgard mentioned that such feelings may have been there since a month or so, and only realizing them now, Byleth deems that Edelgard’s feelings for Rhea have already began to intensify. The fact that Edelgard immediately jerks her face away from her mentor, face red and all, made it far more difficult to assume that such was anything but. Though Byleth is somewhat glad to know this, she could see that something was troubling El.
“It feels odd. . .maybe even wrong. We both know about how the former archbishop and I were in the past. We’ve wounded each other, cursed each other, despised each other. . .fought each other for five years. And now, I’m supposed to believe that after mere months with her, I’ve smitten for her? It all sounds absurd, doesn’t it. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .And yet, I still want it. A persistent voice keeps echoing through my mind, telling me that this is ‘wrong’. A friendship with her already felt unlikely, what more something else?”
“. . .”
“. . .Even if she has grown comfortable with my presence, who’s to say that she would want this? I don’t know. . .I’m not sure if I’m even making sense. But I am confused, anxious, lost. And yet, despite it all, I still want it”
“. . .”
“ . . .I want her. . . ”
“. . .W-What was that?”
“. . .!!!”
Edelgard blushed madly, burying her face behind her knees. She now saw herself a fool for thinking that she could get away with whispering something like that without being heard by Byleth. But she couldn’t help herself, she could not deny her growing affections for Rhea (though, she never really denied them in the first place, nor did she intend to). Maybe part of her wanted Byleth to hear her. It wasn’t as if she was repulsed by these feelings, she was simply shy about it is all. But at the same time, she was anxious about it. She feels these things for Rhea but should she, Edelgard asks herself. Was any of this right? Falling for someone who hurt her in the past, as well as having hurt the same person, will that even work? It’s these types of thoughts circling through her head that made it hard for Edelgard to find an answer.
“. . .Have you spoken to her about this?”
“No. Actually, I haven’t spoken about this to her or anyone. You’re the only one who knows about this, professor. . .”
“I see. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .”
“I think you should tell her.”
“I’m no expert at the topic. But if you like someone, I think you should at least consider telling them.”
“You’re not entirely wrong. However I. . .I fear jeopardizing the friendship that Rhea and I have built together.”
“Hm. . .that does sound scary. But if you don’t talk to her about this, then you’ll never know how she really feels about this. You’ll always be stuck with your own perception of how she feels. . .”
“. . .”
To say that Edelgard was in awe of her friend was an understatement. She knew that Byleth would be able to give her a piece of advice about her dilemma, but she did not expect Byleth to be. . .’blunt’, for the lack of better term. Immediately, the professor throws a string of words to Edelgard’s direction, that basically translates to “if you don’t give it a shot, you’re gonna regret it for the rest of your life”. Had it been Hubert who told her those words, Edelgard wouldn’t be as taken aback as she is now. Though regardless of who delivered the message, the message itself was important, and Edelgard pondered on it for a bit. Maybe it would be better to take a gamble and tell Rhea about it, than to be stuck unknowing, she thought.
“. . .Well?”
“. . .I’m not too confident in myself but. . .maybe I should give it a shot. Thank you, professor.”
. . .
. . .
Edelgard has spent nearly a week thinking about the words of her mentor and friend. And though she plans to eventually raise the topic with Rhea, she has yet to do so, as of the moment at least. She felt it inappropriate to simply speak of it casually, and she would much rather have that conversation with Rhea by herself, not while her relatives are present to hear her declaration. The days have been busy for Edelgard, and she wanted to wait until she can finally confident enough to speak with the former archbishop, hence why she’s yet to completely follow through Byleth’s advice. That time will soon come, however, in the form one lone night where Rhea would be invited to the Emperor’s Quarters.
Edelgard would always visit Rhea in her quarters, but this is the first time where Rhea would be the one visiting Edelgard in her own room. As Seteth and Flayn also share Rhea’s quarters, El would rather speak to Rhea somewhere more private. And seeing as how not everyone in the palace knows of Rhea’s existence within the castle walls, places such as the garden would be out of the question. At the same time, El does feel that it’s also about time that she shows Rhea her personal chambers. Why she’s yet to do that in the past, however, was less due to not having reached a certain level of familiarity with the former war saint, and more of the fact that time did not allow her to. El’s bedroom doubles as her personal work room, and Rhea would risk exposing herself to the whole Imperial Palace, should she decide to just waltz through her doors at any time.
With the clock having struck midnight, and most of the palace’s inhabitants already asleep, Edelgard had little trouble with personally fetching and escorting Rhea to her room. As soon as they’ve reached the doors, Edelgard would show Rhea in her royal bed chamber. Having only seen the room for the first time, Rhea would take her time to glance around the room and study its components, with El locking the door behind her shut, followed by her heading towards the small balcony by her room’s window. Rhea, somewhat intrigued by the plush toy near Edel’s bed, would slowly walk up towards the balcony, positioning herself next to El. As Rhea would gaze upon the full moon in awe, Edelgard would give her one short glance before looking away, eyeing towards the horizon.
“The sky is quite beautiful, tonight.”
“Y-Yes, quite. . .”
The skies were indeed radiant that night, however Edelgard could not help but think of Rhea, glancing at her at every opportunity she can get. She was tall, pretty, majestic. Though her garb was that of a simple white nightgown, and her face was barren of any makeup, Rhea was still as radiant as ever. El’s never paid much attention to how the archbishop looks like until now, and finally realizing that she found Rhea to be pretty added to the uneasy feeling she’s already having. She has been trying to collect herself, to get herself to form sentences and properly deliver whatever prose she had planned to tell Rhea. She’s had far less experience with confessing her feelings to someone that she has with ruling over a nation, hence why she finds her current predicament far more daunting than facing against her daily routine of responsibilities.
No matter how much she wanted to express her feelings, Edelgard would end up eating her own words. Her own nervousness is holding her back. She has an idea as to what she wants to say to Rhea, but she’s struggling to figure out how she wants to say her piece. Though her face begins to redden further, and her mannerisms slowly reflecting her flustered state, Edelgard would take a deep breath, trying to recompose herself. She would mentally go over the words that she would like for the other woman to hear, as if she was trying to rehearse lines for an opera showing of sorts. With a bit of thinking through and recomposing herself, Edelgard would gradually develop the confidence to be able to get her message out to her friend. Before she could say anything, however. . .
“Looking back at our past, I sometimes wonder as to how we ended up like this. I know not as to whether all this has been pre-ordained, or if we simply reached this point by chance. Fate is an enigma even to myself, but I am glad that I was given the chance to get to know you better, to connect with you. To stay out here, gazing upon the stars.”
“A-As do I, Rhea. As do I.”
. . .
“Truth be told, I. . .I have been thinking, lately. About you, I mean.”
“Wha—Rhea, what do you—”
“When I spoke to Seteth about the Agartheans, he suggested that I leave the palace with him for the sake of my safety. I. . .I refused. I did not want to leave this palace. I feared the outside world, knowing that those who slither in the dark still lurk among the shadows. And I loathed. . .loathed the idea of being separated from you.”
“. . .”
“It’s strange. I once saw you as one of my greatest enemies. Yet now, you’ve become one of the dearest people in my life. I’ve never had anyone I can truly confide to until I met you. In you, I found someone who I have been able to share about myself, without the fear of judgement. Someone who gives me the feeling of comfort, safety, companionship. We have only truly known each other for mere months, and yet I. . .I wish to be at your side, Edelgard. I. . .love you. . .”
“R-Rhea, I. . .”
Edelgard was at a loss of words. It seems that all this time, her feelings for the archbishop weren’t one-sided. And though Rhea feels the same as Edelgard does, she had far less trouble expressing her thoughts to El. Knowing that their feelings were mutual was a huge relief to Edelgard. Despite all that, her face continues to redden as her heart begins to race. To say that she was over the moon was an understatement. It did not quite show just yet, but this has been the happiest that Edelgard has ever been. Her life has been filled with burdens and responsibilities that she didn’t quite dream of romance, but to have someone you can truly connect to stay by your side. It was a wonderful feeling. And as Edelgard was becoming more and more flustered, Rhea’s heart was racing as well. She was somewhat eagerly waiting for Edelgard’s response.
“I suppose it’s time I admit why I brought you here. I wanted to talk to you, to spend more time with you. And all that you have just told me. . .I was planning to tell you all that, myself.”
“A-Ah! So all this time. . .”
“Mhm. I love you, Rhea. I would gladly have you stay by my side. I do wish that I was able to get my thoughts out as eloquently as you have. . .heh.”
Both Edelgard and Rhea would simply laugh at the former’s quip. Everything seemed so unbelievable, so absurd. Both women having fought each other in the past and only getting to know one another in a few months, now having grown quite fond of one another. None of them thought about all that, however. Instead, their thoughts were filled only with overwhelming joy and happiness. They have been so lonely and alone their entire lives, and now they have each other. To them, it no longer mattered how they reached this point. All that mattered was the now, and the now is quite wonderful.
Through their laughter, both women would shed a few tears as they chuckled. These tears were not that of sadness, but of joy. Things were already looking bright for them, but this night has given them a light that they’ve never quite achieved, before. Eventually, the sound of laughter would fade. But the smiles on their face remain unhinged as they stared towards one another. Their eyes locked onto each other’s faces, taking the time to admire their beauty. Slowly, Rhea’s hand moved from the railing and onto Edelgard’s face, with El pulling herself a bit closer to the taller woman. Rhea would lovingly wipe the tear from El’s face, while El would wrap Rhea around both her arms.
“You’re beautiful, Rhea”
“So are you, Edelgard.”
“Please, call me El. . .”
“El. . .what a lovely name. . .”
Rhea’s palm would gently move away from El’s face, slowly creeping its way onto the back of her head. As Rhea strokes the Emperor’s silver locks, she would rest her forehead onto Edelgard’s, sharing a moment of skinship. Their lips would soon be locked onto each other’s, in what would be their first kiss together (as well as in their entire life). Their eyes remained shut, as their voices were silenced by their tongues twirling around each other’s. For Edelgard and Rhea, it was nothing but a moment of pure ecstasy. They’ve never experienced something like this before, nor had they any idea as to how it would feel, but that night was by far one of the best they’ve ever had. They were happy and infatuated with one another, and that’s the most important thing to them at that point.
From that point on, they would continue to share a kiss together, taking small pauses here and there for the sake of allowing themselves to breathe, until they’ve reached a point where they decided it’d be best to head inside the room and continue things from there. The events that have transpired during that night was knowledge made aware only to Rhea and Edelgard themselves. But one needn’t know more than they should to know that the shared slumber of both women would be the most well-rested they would ever feel in a long time. Gone are the sleepless nights of loneliness, anxiety and nightmares, and in comes the evenings of peace, tranquility, restfulness, and happiness.