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Cutting a Path through Fate

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Staring at a small green haired woman, who sat upon a large throne in the darkness, was not something that Byleth ever thought he would be doing. He allowed his hands to hang loose at his side, absently running a gloved finger to hip, tapping the dagger connected to the metal overlay of his clothes. Letting the slightest bit of tension leave his body, he tilted his head when the woman opened her eyes, piercing him with her bright green gaze.

"Come, young one. If you must rudely interrupt my moment of reprieve, then surely you must offer me a name." Her voice was tinkling, yet held the same gruff frustration that he had heard father use on the other mercenaries when they had to get moving to the next job. Byleth stepped towards the woman, watching her eyes scan the length of his body, taking special care of looking at his hair and eyes. Leaning forward slightly, the ribbons weaved into her hair sliding with her intricate purple dress as she seemed more interested in him now that the odd light illuminating the throne now engulfed him.

"Oho, so my children have survived? Or are you not one of them? Tell me, what are you?" The woman inquired, tilting her head slightly, something that Byleth copied as he took in her words.


"I am a mortal." Byleth answered, deciding not to ask questions of his own. Her eyes lost some of its light as she slumped slightly in her chair.

"You are only mortal? You are sure?" With his nod, she narrows her eyes at him, scrutinizing him in a way that he is unable to help with. Instead, he taps his dagger again, allowing the familiar weight and feeling to ground him. When the woman shakes her head, he strains his ears to hear her mutterings, "No, no. That cannot be. I simply feel the presence within him. Is it possible for it to be diluted? Well, maybe if..."

Byleth had no idea what she was muttering about and took this moment to take a closer look at her. The length of her hair was just shorter than her height and had an intricate adornment gracing the crown of her head. She was barefoot as she crossed her legs, showing off the matching anklets with blue gemstones and leaned to the right side of the throne, absently playing with her pink and white ribbons.

"Never mind me, tell me child. What is your name?"

"My name is Byleth."

"Huh, mortal names never lose their oddness to me. Surely, you must also have a day of birth as well." She said it more as a statement but he nodded, knowing what she desired, somehow.

"20th of Horsebow Moon." He watched as her eyes widened slightly at his words and she put her hand to her mouth, picking at her bottom lip.

"What a coincidence. I, too, was born on that day. This seems to be the oddest set of coincid- hm." He tilted his head slightly at the woman, watching as she looked off to the side, pursing her lips.

"It seems that we have run out of time for the moment. Do not worry, I will pull you back in when I am in need of you." She waved a hand dismissively, a wave of something washing over him before everything went dark.

"Hey, it's time to get up." His eyes opened and he glanced to the side of his cot, eyes locking with the deep brown of his father. Byleth quickly got up, smoothing down his clothes, idly tapping the dagger before giving his father his full attention. Jeralt looked him over, settling instantly on the fingers tapping his dagger, almost unseen by anyone who was unfamiliar with him. Byleth's father was, however, always aware of the small ticks that he had tried his hardest to suppress.

"Were you having that dream again?" Jeralt's voice was deep, gruff, and stern to anyone else but Byleth could hear the slightest bit of concern in there. No matter how efficient of a mercenary Byleth had become, Jeralt had always been concerned about him. Byleth assumed it was because he was his father, due to Jeralt not expressing that concern as much with the other mercenaries.

Still, it was odd.

"The one with the war, yes." Byleth answered, mind going back to the constant dreams about a war in an open plain. The odd, angry, green haired woman and the battle-born white haired man, clashing against one another in a feat of strength. Byleth had always had this dream before seeing the small woman on the throne and while Jeralt also knew about her, Byleth was more concerned with the war.

Whenever the dream appeared, his chest would clench in a way that he didn't know how to process, always knowing that there isn't a wound maring it. Just thinking about it caused his chest to clench uncomfortably, and he brought his hand up to his chest without realizing it. Jeralt's face scrunched up minutely and Byleth hurried to drop his arm back to his side.

"There hasn't been a war like that in centuries. Did you see the woman again as well." Byleth nodded, his head twinging slightly as he did so. "Hm, did anything happen this time, or was she still napping on the throne?"

"She asked me my name, day of birth, and said something of her children. Said that she could sense their presence in me." Byleth stated, watching the surprise and concern deepen on his face. Byleth tilted his head as he heard a tinkling in the back of his head, guessing it was the aftereffects of the dream. He moved to the side of his cot, picking up the sword leaning against the head and connecting it to the sword belt on his hip. He also picked up his gauntlets, connecting them to his gloves and sat down on the cot to lace up his boots.

"Is that so... Well, put that out of your mind for the moment. We leave at dawn for the kingdom and we can discuss this later. We need to be careful here until the others are ready to go." Byleth acquiesced with his father, wanting to get Jeralt's opinion on this but agreeing that this shouldn't be something that is shared with anyone besides their mercenary group. Byleth opened his mouth to speak more of their next mission but was stopped when a mercenary from their group, Ezra, ran into the room.

"Jeralt, By, you are needed outside!" Ezra seemed breathless and both Byleth and Jeralt tensed, nodding quickly and following him outside. They passed the other buildings and mercenaries milling about, seeming nonchalant but Byleth could see the small tension lining their bodies. He knew that they were trying to prevent the others in the town from panicking and nodded to a few of them, commending them on doing so. Eventually, they reached a small hill just beyond the walls of the town and met up with three teens.

The one the furthest to the right was a young lady with long, snow white hair, pale violet eyes, and alabaster skin. She held herself rigidly, Byleth noted, with her hand resting on her hip and the other clutching an axe. He gave her a once over, noting her stance as being ready at a moment's notice to strike out at anything that came near her. Her face was carefully blank, however, he could see her assessing both his father and himself. The red of her tights and her cloak contrasting with the dark grey of her overclothes and the pale lilac cravat.

The rigidity showed him that she was willing to take in tactics but more likely to slice through something than to sit and wait. Very dangerous and may become predictable, shaving off some of the danger but in no way should she be taken lightly.

The one on his left was almost the opposite of her was a tanned male with messy brown hair, a single braid swaying and bright green eyes assessing the surroundings. A bow was slung over his shoulder, almost nonchalantly and his body was loose. An easy, small smile adorned his face as they approached, but Byleth could see that it didn't reach his eyes. Adding in his bright yellow cloak over the same dark grey of his own version of what Byleth assumes is a uniform and many would quickly dismiss him as non-threatening.

A hollow smile, often meant to disarm those around him and loose stature told Byleth that this one would be more of a tactical mind. Unpredictable and clever. Willing to take in all information before striking out. Very dangerous but the small stops of observation will be his downfall.

The last one in the middle was a man slightly taller than Byleth, golden blonde hair hanging over his bright blue eyes and a concerned frown marring his face. A lance was in his grip, slotting into many of the small indents that Byleth could make out on the polearm. His stance was tense, not unlike the woman's, however the angle of the lance attributed more towards an offensive, clueing Byleth into his own preferred battling style. The slight twitches across his jaw as Byleth and Jeralt stopped a few meters away from them caused Byleth to tap his dagger again. The blue of his cloak and the more traditional take on his own dark grey uniform was all that Byleth needed, really.

A concern for others masking his own battle-born presence. Willing to take out anything in his way and little mind for tactics, instead preferring to take them out immediately. Very dangerous due to his willingness to get hurt to hurt others in protection of allies with the strength to prove it but eventually will get cut down with his own impatience.

They certainly were three odd nobles.

All this, observed in the ten seconds it took to fully stop in front of them.

"I do apologize for intruding but, we require your assistance." The blonde stated, bowing slightly in the Faerghus standard, right arm placed over the bottom of the ribs and left directly mirroring it on the back. From the Holy Kingdom and of noble birth, Byleth noted, taking in the deep timber and proper inflection of his voice.

"What do you need assistance with?" Jeralt questioned, leaning on his other leg, letting the hilt of his sword shine in the moonlight and giving the teens a nice view of it, before he shifted again, reverting to his previous stance.

"We were ambushed by a bunch of bandits, totally uncalled for if you ask me." The brunette shrugged, his voice more resigned, shrugging slightly and placing his hand on his waist. His stance was an odd mix of typical Alliance and the looseness of an Almyran warrior, Byleth dismissed it as something that the boy had tried to emulate. His own inflection was less noble but too close to be a typical commoner.

"Bandits? Here?" Jeralt turned to the brunette, eyes instantly taking in the stance and a question in his eyes, one that Byleth could easily see was in the boy's stance not the spoken question. 

"It's true. We were attacked at our camp and managed to make it here in our haste to escape." The woman stated, voice refined and taking on a more commanding tone than the other two. The red of her cloak and the slight condescending of her tone instantly hitting the marks of an Adrestian noble.

"All of our comrades were separated from us and we're outnumbered. There's no way we can take them on without assistance." The Brunette said, shaking his head with a rueful smile and Byleth sighed, seeing another of their mercenary group, Caen, run up to them.

"Sir! By! Bandits are approaching from the west. What do you want us to do?" He asked, and Byleth blinked, quickly unsheathing his sword, causing the three nobles to jump.

"Numbers?" Byleth questioned, turning to Caen

"At least twenty."

"Equipment?" Byleth cracked his neck, stepping past the teens and Caen.

"Mainly axes, few swords sprinkled in. I spotted at least two archers in the adjacent forest." Caen answered quickly, moving to stand besides Jeralt.

"Hm. That's fine then."

"By, take the kids with you. Let them provide backup while I arrange the group to secure the village." Byleth nodded at his father's orders as he stopped just at the decline of the hill, seeing the bandits rushing towards them.

"You're quite confident, aren't you?" He spared a glance to his right and saw the brunette standing besides him, the boy's bow was drawn, his quiver set  parallel to his back. Byleth nodded, both to his question and his own assessment of the boy being more speed oriented. The orientation of his quiver was to make sure nothing would catch or give away his positioning.

"It's not as much confidence as it is that I am secure in my abilities." he stated, shrugging slightly as the other two came up to them. The blonde still had his concerned frown but his eyes betrayed his excitement. The woman watched the bandits and Byleth clinically, assessing him silently. Byleth rolled his shoulders and let out a small breath before blanking his mind.

"Blonde, you are with me. Red, you are to flank to the left, keep your eyes on the bushes and the trees. Brunette, stay back and pick off the bandits on the right. Blonde, we are going to tear through the main force, but keep your eyes on my back, I will watch yours as well. Red, you are to take out the archers as soon as you can, get in their face and don't let them fire off at you. If any of you need reprieve, fall back immediately, I will heal you. Understood?" His tone was clipped, precise, left little room to argue. He glanced at all three, seeing the surprise and approval in each of their eyes as they nodded. He allowed himself to tap his dagger once more before nodding and running off into the group of bandits. Absently, he heard the blonde following behind him, his footsteps loud and easily alerting anyone in the area of his presence.

Upon reaching the bandits, Byleth heard a whizzing to his right and ducked, watching as the arrow pierced the bicep of a bandit a few meters away. He swiped his sword at one bandit, watching as it easily sliced through the skin of his calf, hearing the yelp of pain as the body began crumpling. Byleth brought the sword up diagonally, slicing across the bandit's chest and spinning away as the body hit the ground. Immediately, he jut his hip to the right, bringing his left leg behind his right and rotating, allowing his blade to flick out, cutting across the neck of one bandit, down the shoulder of another, and land piercing the side of a third.

Reaching for his dagger, Byleth yanked the blade out of the bandit and stabbed the sword into the ground as he heard the rapid footfall of a bandit on his left. He pushed himself up, throwing himself over the blade and away from the bandit as he unsheathed his dagger, throwing it and watching as it pierced the neck of another bandit. He watched as the blonde noble slashed at a bandit with his lance, the body of the bandit rolling away with the force behind the hit. Byleth quickly took stock of the bandits around him, idly counting another ten that needed to be taken down as he yanked his sword free from the dirt.

He ran towards a bandit that was approaching the blonde, stabbing the bandit in his side, ignoring the cry of pain and pushing the sword towards the ground again. The blade pierced the ground and Byleth let go of the sword to twist and backhand a bandit that tried to sneak up on him. He ducked again as another arrow pierced the bandit he was facing off against. The bandit went down and Byleth kicked at the bandit pierced on his sword, putting enough force into the kick to dislodge him from the sword rather bloodily. Not looking at the bandit's mutilated side, Byleth took the blade from the ground and sliced across another bandit's jugular as he let out a breath.

He took stock once more and saw that the group around them was now incapacitated or dead and allowed his shoulders to slump slightly. He glanced at the blonde and noted that he was not at all injured, which was good. Looking back at the brunette archer, he saw the boy give the area around them a difficult stare. Byleth couldn't exactly place the look, something of a cross between apprehension, approval, and sadness. Byleth left him to ponder as he yanked his dagger from a bandit's neck, his eyes flitting over to the girl just in time to see her finish off the last archer. She seemed to let out a small breath, and lose some of her rigidity that had greeted Jeralt and Byleth.

Just as he sheathed his dagger, he heard rapid footsteps away from him and towards the girl. It didn't take him long to spot the lumbering form of a bandit, who seemed to be the head of the little bandit group. His axe was held high as he ran, portraying his intent to everyone in the area. The girl jumped, her axe falling out of her hand and to the ground. She quickly grabbed a dagger from her hip, the same side that her hand had been resting and held it in front of her in a non-optimal way to block the blow. Byleth quickly glanced towards the archer and saw him scrambling to get his bow ready. A glance towards the blonde showed him ready to move but wouldn't get there in time.

Byleth barely let a moment pass before he moved, practically gliding across the field to get to her. He calculated in his head as he took the last step, what was the best course of action.

Allowing his sword to come up to block the axe. One second to late. Arm would catch on the blade of the axe. Incapacitated.

Stabbing him with the dagger. Closest area he can hit in time would be the abdomen. Bandit would fold in on himself. Axe trajectory will change. Axe will hit between his neck and shoulder. Incapacitated.

Put him off balance. Take out his legs. Momentum will send the bandit into him. Both will crash into the girl. Bandit will bring down the axe. Axe would hit him or the girl. Incapacitated.

Hit the bandit away. Punch the bandit in the sternum. Bandit will lose breath and fall back slightly, striking out. Byleth can hit him again before he strikes. Byleth will throw the bandit away. Bandit incapacitated, both of them secure.

With his plan in his head, he turned to do just that but stopped as his overcoat got caught on the dagger of the girl. Before he could act, he heard the bandit yell.

"You'll die!" Byleth felt a sharp pain in his back for a second before everything shattered.