The balls of flame soaring across the sky painted it in a blazing orange, leaving a trail of smoke behind them. Breathing was hard, eyesight even worse, but it seemed like nothing could stop the Ashen Demon.
That wretched woman. Hubert hated her with every fiber of his existence, it almost felt like his heart could explode from the overwhelming emotion. With every step she took at his side holding the blade of a fallen king, the goddess’ mocking laughter rang louder and louder in his ear; proud of the punishment she bestowed on them upon their heresy. What else could it have been? Surely, it was a no longer a coincidence. She wasn’t a random gift on the Church’s side, no, that night brought her to Remire Village, allowed her to meet the leaders of the three lands, it must have been a foul scheme by the goddess.
Byleth was their curse. The determined steps of the mint haired woman made him sure that at the end of today there was going to be nothing left of the Empire they had cheered so much. But this was not enough to make him give up. No, he was to fight, until the last spark of life drained out of him. For her, for her majesty, the treasured childhood friend, the one whose aim he pledged himself for.
Through a melancholic expression painted his face, once again he raised his hands for the last straw before the gates of the palace. The professor was coming closer and closer to him, stepping out of the fog and making her features visible. Without stopping, he gathered what was left of him, and sent the most desperate, hopeless shot at her. The woman dodged his best efforts so swiftly and easily, it made him look like a fool.
“We don’t have to do this.” She called out to him with a serene voice, like they were not in the middle of a battlefield. It only served to make him even angrier. “Surrender Hubert.”
“Surrender to some uncivilized beast like you?” He said, and something inside him called out his lie. But it didn’t matter, all he wanted was to hurt her in some way, whether it bechildish insults or physical damage. “Never. To hell with you!” The growl came out of his mouth and echoed through the streets of Enbarr, he tried to rearrange a spell, however, after casting so many that day, his hands and mind felt so numb and useless.
The woman started to run to him, the Sword of the Creator shone crimson in her hand. The last thing he saw before she cut the air above her was Byleth’s pained expression, eyes heavy with pity.
I don’t need your pity.
However the words cut in his throat before going out, his chest burned with the blow. His long legs didn’t seem to be able to carry his body anymore, as he fell on knees and hit the hot stones with his head.
Before leaving this world to linger in the darkness though, Hubert could form one sentence:
A plea only and only for her majesty, as he heavily refused to pray to any foul deity before his death like most of the people.
However before his consciousness truly shut down, a very sincere giggle was heard in his mind.
Very genuine, childish and innocent.
“My, you really went and got yourself killed, huh?”
It was the harsh blows of the wind that knocked some sense to him; messing his raven locks, bringing dust to pale green orbs and making him wince.
After covering his face with white gloved hands Hubert started to examine the odd situation he got himself into: It seemed that somehow he ended up on the peak of a mountain, with a wooden chair below. There was a mahogany table between him and the owner of the voice that had spoken just before.
Right, the owner.
He couldn’t have a good view of her face, however Hubert could swear that it was a child’s voice. But her silhouette was covered by robes and a hood, confirming his suspicions was out of the question in that moment.
“Oh, you’re struggling due to the wind. Poor thing.” With that, the girl clapped her small hands and the weather calmed, remnants of the peevish breeze disappeared with the clouds that had been surrounding them.
“Where are we?” Hubert asked, trying to make it out from the scenery below.
The mysterious girl clicked her tongue before speaking in a chiding manner: “You have been here for your entire life and you can’t recognize it?” Hubert’s brows arched at the words. “Why, Enbarr of course!”
He responded in a dry voice: “Enbarr didn’t have a mountain that rose in the middle of it, as I remember.”
“But this is my realm.” The girl said, acknowledging his statement. “And things happen, however I wish them to be here.”
Now that the wind was gone, he could face the mysterious person without any struggles. The robes that covered her features generously were just like the ones the priests had worn back in monastery. The loose hood was hanging down from her head, and even though it should have been possible to see from this angle, somehow, he was not able to see her face. Like there was a fog clouding it.
“Who are you?” he asked, trying to sound threatening but couldn’t manage.
“Me?” It seemed like she was trying to find the right words. “I am...your regret.” Confusion washed over his face, and the girl realized it as well. “You have just died.” Now her gloved finger was pointing to the view below.
After hearing those words, his memory came back to him.
Yes, there had been a war that broken out, their war, with Her Majesty, Edelgard. Years ago they had had hopes, ideals for a new dawn, only to be torn to crumbles by a woman, by a demon. Following where the girl next to him pointed with his gaze, he saw that wench in question. She was holding a sword which she never deserved, walking to him.
“Yes, the regret of not killing her back in our monastery days.”
“Don’t be stupid!” The little girl was scolding him. “I am the regret that was caused upon you thanks to your meaningless death.”
There was a lull between them. Hubert watched the professor’s slow, graceful movements, while evaluating the girl’s words.
“I don’t regret dying this way. I have died serving my lady.” Hubert didn’t want to sound like Ferdinand nor Lorenz, so he cut himself off quickly.
Though the girl mocked his response with a snort. “What an honor.”
Another lull passed, while Hubert kept watching the battlefield. Since he was gazing there from above, the mistakes which had been made could be easily picked out. He secretly wished that there was a way to go back in time and take this knowledge with him.
“You know what,” the ghost next to him said, starting the conversation once again, “Had I a body of my own. I would have clung to life, enjoyed it at it’s best, danced till I collapsed, eaten whatever I wanted... Loved whomever I desired.” The last word almost dropped with a strange yearning from her lips. He wondered, if she was an avatar of his regrets then whom it might be that he yearned for. Lady Edelgard?
“You had one of your own. But you didn’t deserve it, no.” Her words could have been taken as if she hated him, but instead the girl was simply stating facts. “Throwing your life away, even though you knew it meant the end of everything for you. How interesting. Humans...are interesting.”
“What now?” He spat. “Are you my punishment? Am I to sit here forever, listening to your melancholic thoughts till the end of the time?” If so, he would simply prefer disappearing into the void.
The girl laughed, humoring her was not an intention of his. “Oh, no.” She said simply, then turned in her chair to face him fully. Strange that the fog was still there, but he felt a powerful stare beyond it.
“Do you believe in second chances?” she asked, in a mischievous manner.
His features darkened. “I don’t.”
“But you should! I am, giving one to you. However remember, I am doing this not because I forgave you, but just to see her smile.”
He woke up in the dim of the night. There were sweat drops on his temples and brow, threatening to making their way to his eyes. After blinking a few times, he could select the old architecture covered by the cloak of the darkness.
What a strange dream that was. The little child, the odd aura that lingered around her, Enbarr in flames and his body, laying lifeless before the Imperial Palace. The professor had killed him, they lost the war-
The realization hit him like a nightmare, sending a shiver down his spine.
He should have been dead!
The first thing he tried to do was getting up from the bed he was laid on. But his head hit the pillow as fast as he the attempted, Hubert noticed he was tied to the furniture. There were many leather belts pinning him there like nails to a coffin, making sure he wouldn’t do something unwanted.
A panic spread from head to toe in waves. What happened? Why was he not dead? He saw that damn sword pierce his chest with a burning sensation! Was Her Majesty alive? Was he in the…
For a moment, he stopped all of his ministrations to analyze his environment between ragged breaths. There were countless white beds on his left and right, a vast dome ceiling adorned with heavy chandeliers stood above him with familiar patterns. There was no doubt left now.
He was back in Garreg Mach.
This new information that dawned on Hubert made him shake the bed like a mad man. He was a hostage, in enemy’s hands! Quickly he should free himself from those restraints, nevertheless the more he moved, the more he realized how impossible it was, loud breaths became louder groans; showing his desperation in every way possible.
The huge doors of the infirmary opened and candle lights filled the room, however Hubert was too busy handling the attack going through his body, so he didn’t realize someone was coming until they stood right next to him.
“Oh, poor boy.” A familiar voice said.
“Poor? He killed dozens of us, Manuela.” Professor Hanneman answered.
His eyes shot back to his new visitors. There was Seteth, Flayn, Manuela and Hanneman, all of them unharmed much to his dislike.
“When I am freed there will be even more, do not doubt.” he hissed only to be shut down by Hanneman.
“Bold words for a young man not even able to get up from his bed.”
Meanwhile, Seteth brought the candle by his face, then to his right arm. “The ritual is almost complete. Go get the Archbishop, Flayn.”
The Archbishop? The ritual? What in the hell was Rhea trying to do with him?! Now was she trying to mimic the methods of Those Who Slither in the Dark?
“I will never betray Her Majesty! You will not pry any information from me!” It was not words that came out of his mouth but a roar and he was drooling saliva as if rabies got him bad. “I will never bow down before your false god!”
“Well, I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you.” Seteth said, unable to help the annoyed voice.
Hubert did not hear the advisor’s words or sighs as his tantrum once again got the best of him. He resembled a crazy man thanks to his attempts of breaking free, and shot random spells at anything in his reach, scaring the three people away. His old comrades probably would not have been able to recognize him in this state as the man lost all his cool.
I should have been dead!
“I hope the Archbishop knows what she’s doing!” Hanneman yelled from his hiding place.
Seteth replied: “Oh, she knows.” His wind shield was reflecting Hubert’s poorly aimed, however, deadly shots. “We’ve been working on this for a while.” Another miasma hit the wall, and Manuela couldn’t help shrieking.
Finally, after what seemed like years for the three pitiful victims, Flayn’s voice echoed before the room. “Brother, I’ve brought her!”
“At last.” Seteth murmured, while Hubert calmed himself in order to spit at the Archbishop’s face from a closer angle.
However where he expected to see the tall woman, there was a short one. His shaking immediately stopped upon the realization: Was that… Eyes narrowing, a new, stronger anger wave surfaced when he started to pick up her features in the low light.
No, it can’t be… It couldn’t be.
“Are you the Archbishop?!” he growled to the classless woman. She was a mercenary, not fit for such a powerful title! “Is this a joke?” He almost foamed at the mouth, just like the Mad Prince did upon Edelgard’s revelation. Back in the day, he had simply pitied the guy, and mocked him openly. Now what Hubert felt was dangerously close to his fit.
“Where’s Edelgard?!” he demanded to know. “What have you done to her?!”
No answer came. And deep down he already knew the answer, nonetheless he secretly hoped she fled from their grasp. Maybe they were going to use him to find her whereabouts.
“Hubert, calm down.” the wanton told him with her monotone voice.
“I will tear you apart!” was the only sentence Hubert could have formed through his rage. He was so concerned about his lady that all he was able to see was red.
Once again, he readied another spell in his hand, this time angling it to hit her face, oh he was not going to be an easy task, an experiment-
“Stand still.” Byleth’s soft voice changed into an authoritarian one, and Hubert felt an immediate burning on his right arm, his body involuntarily obeying her order. When he glanced at the former professor from sideways, a mischievous grin appeared on the woman’s face much to his horror.
“I think it is working.” she almost sang.
“Try giving another order.” Seteth recommended. Meanwhile Manuela, Hanneman and Flayn were circling him with the other two, curious eyes looking at him like he was a caged animal.
“Hold your breath.” Hubert’s mouth shut quickly, drawing out the air from his nostrils.
Whatever fight he gave didn’t work, he couldn’t take the control of his body. Panicked at the realization of nothing was getting himself to breathe again.
Seteth clicked his tongue. “Is that really necessary?”
“What?” Byleth complained. “There are lots of belts, I can’t be arsed to loosen them all!”
“Byleth he is about to pass away!” Manuela said, pointing him.
“Oh, sorry.” The woman in question cleared her throat. “You may breathe.”
Nothing happened, his vision somehow managed to get even darker.
“Byleth, you’ve got to order him properly.” Seteth was annoyed once again.
It was also Hanneman’s turn to scold her: “For Goddess’ sake do whatever you must before he dies in our hands!”
“Okay, okay! Breathe.”
There, the authoritarian voice again, with the same burning on his arm. Hubert started coughing immediately, looking at his tormentors in a disbelief.
“What… What have you done to me?” he managed to say. “What kind of spell is that?!” Anger raised in his words once more.
“Nothing that you should be worried about.” Byleth said calmly, getting even closer to him. From this angle, her soft, mint hair fell upon his face, tickling and caressing his features slowly.
“Now my little eagle, sleep.”
With that, Hubert’s eyes shut faster than ever in his life.