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The Choices We Make

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She thought it had been a year since she came to Garreg Mach. She had taught people she believed to be her own age - Jeralt told her nothing about herself, so she could never be sure - and even battled bandits and monsters beside them.

She had made friends with the faculty - Hanneman, Manuela, Catherine, Alois, Shamir, Seteth…

She forged deep bonds with her students in the Black Eagle house...including the heir apparent to the Adrestian Empire, Edelgard von Hresvelg…

...and now she defied the most powerful entity in Fódlan, her father dead, the person closest to one she could call a mother figure revealed as an ancient, tyrannical dragon who had manipulated the followers of the Church for centuries.

Just two days before, she was a savant Professor at Garreg Mach Monastery. Today, she was a soldier and confidant to the Emperor of Adrestia, a heretic, and enemy to some of those she had called friend.

Worst, she had allied herself with the person ultimately behind her father’s murder.

Hubert was out speaking to the generals of the Empire’s main force, preparing for the assault on the monastery. Edelgard was alone in a tower. Byleth had her moment.

The Emperor of Adrestia must have heard her footsteps on the hard stone floor, as she turned around to face her. “My teacher, I--”

“Did you know?” Byleth’s voice was deadpan, emotionless like it had been when she began teaching.

“What do you mean?”

“Did you know what Monica was after we saved her and Flayn from the Death Knight?”

She could tell that Edelgard knew the question was coming. Her lilac eyes seemed to flinch, like one expecting a shock to the system. “...yes.”

It took all of the former professor’s willpower to not draw the Sword of the Creator and strike down the Emperor like she had been commanded to by Rhea days before. “Why?”

“I’m not sure what you--”

“Why Jeralt?!” Her calm demeanor broke. It had been only one moon since she had finally gotten vengeance for her father, and been able to move past his death. But now she was crying, disconsolate like she had been for an entire moon, a wreck of sorrow and grief. “Why did he have to die for your rebellion?”

For her part, tears had begun to form in Edelgard’s eyes at this. “I did not give the order. That came from Lord Arundel. I had no control over Solon and Kronya.”

“And yet you let it happen?!”

Edelgard flinched. Not once had she seen Professor Byleth like this. Some time ago it was as if seeing her smile in any way was a shock, now this… “I...I am sorry. For what little it means, I never agreed with Arundel’s methods.”

“But still they happened under your command, Flame Emperor!” Byleth’s voice came out in a snarl, almost draconic in its tone. It struck fear into her heart. Fear not unlike what she felt upon seeing the true form of the Immaculate One in the Holy Tomb.

The use of her facade stung her worse than a spear to the heart. It was true that her deception had been cruel, and history would likely remember her as a mad, heretical tyrant who waded in the blood of the holy and reveled in the darkest of magicks…

But none of that would ever hurt as much as this moment.

Helpless, the Emperor of Adrestia fell to her knees, weeping and clawing at the paved stone floor. “You’re right...I cast aside everything to do this...I just...I knew the truth from Father, I had been tortured to gain the Crest of Flames, I saw the suffering the Church’s law caused...I could do nothing else!”

In that moment, all of Byleth’s sudden, indignant rage passed over, and instinct took hold. The nurturing instinct of a teacher, mixed with Sothis’ inherent motherly nature. She immediately met Edelgard at the floor, pulling her close and holding her. “I’m sorry. You told me once behind that mask that you did not condone the actions of Solon and his type. And before the truth came, you were the one who helped me avenge Jeralt…”

Edegard was sobbing, now pawing at the black chest armor of her teacher. “But it was my choice to align with Arundel! My choice to allow his dark rituals! My…!”

Byleth’s embrace only tightened. “Enough. I will hear no more of this. I just...I simply needed to know if I made the right choice, staying here.”

The Emperor wiped away her tears and looked up at her teacher. “You were going to leave?”

“I’ll admit, I was considering simply trying to convince the Knights of Seiros of the truth, then lead them as an army of reform to oppose Rhea and forge a new, safer Church. But then I realised...how much of a stupid dastard that would make me.” Byleth’s lips curled upwards, the slight traces of tears still glistening in her eyes.

That damned slight smile across her face. Such a small thing, yet it filled Edelgard’s heart with light. “M-my teacher…”

“Besides, I told you that my loyalty was to my students, not to a nation or the Church of Seiros. Not to mention finding out the archbishop is an ancient, mad dragon. That tipped the scales in your favor.”

Despite herself, Edelgard laughed. “Was that a joke?”

“I may have spent too much time with Manuela and Dorothea over the last year.” Byleth stood, pulling her student up with one single hand. “Now, come. I’m sure those of us who weren’t in the Holy Tomb need to be told the truth. I know Leonie especially is in need of assurance this is the right path to tread.”

“Y-yes. I’m sure she is even more perturbed by the news that the one who killed her mentor was...technically under my command.”

“I had to ensure she did not draw her sword the moment she saw you.”

Edelgard nodded and walked out of the tower’s door, her hand still clasped in that of her teacher.

It hit her at this moment. After hearing that Byleth had merged with the spirit of the goddess Sothis only one moon ago, it was like history repeating itself, yet reversed. The heir to the goddess and the Emperor of Adrestia defying the will of a fallen prophet.

Theirs would be a new era.