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 Chapter 7 – The Duke and the Margrave

“D-Damn… you…” Edelgard had little strength of her own, and now relied only on Aymr – and her vassal Hubert – to keep herself up. “Hubert, we will retreat to Enbarr for the time being.”

“A wise decision, Your Majesty.” Hubert did not have a particularly strong build, but for his liege, he had strength enough to move her and her heavy armour.

“You will not,you wench!” Dimitri declared – proudly and viciously – while in hot pursuit of Edelgard. “You’ll fall dead before you so much as leave this field!”

Luckily for Edelgard, Hubert had whisked the emperor far enough away before Dimitri had noticed the retreat of the Adrestian army. Adding to their fortunes was a young girl – of whom nobody knew the name – frantically running towards an unaware Dimitri.

“Oh, Your Highness, thank you so much for helping me!”

Still in his fit of anger, Dimitri didn’t notice the girl, not even when she got within arms’ reach. But to his fortune, there was someone who did – and this person was wise enough to know the seemingly innocent girl’s true intentions, taking the sword strike in Dimitri’s place. “Your Highness, watch out!”

“What… Who?” Dimitri slowly turned around to find that Rodrigue – the overbearing Duke of Fraldarius – had taken the hit. “Rodrigue!”

Before Dimitri could fully comprehend the current event, Byleth impaled the young girl with the Sword of the Creator, and instantly she fell dead.

“Professor…” By this point, Dimitri’s rabid tone of voice had faded. “Thank you… I owe you my life.”

He then turned his attention to the dying Rodrigue. “Rodrigue… You damned fool. There was no need to go this far for a… boar like me.”

“Your Highness… Thank the goddess… that Faerghus’ last ray of hope… still lives…”

“I am no ray of hope… I’m just an empty shell where a man used to be,” Dimitri spoke with tears and a shaking voice. “I don’t understand why anyone would believe in a lost cause like me.”

Rodrigue used what little strength he had left to hold onto Dimitri while he spoke. “Well, I do. Even if… ah… all of Faerghus’ citizens hate the ‘boar’ you’ve become… I can still see the good in you – the same good I saw in King Lambert.”

Dimitri had no response to this, except for silent tears.

“My… my friend… Lambert… I will join you… as your son will bring peace to Fódlan.” So spoke Rodrigue as at long last the breath of life left him.

“Rodrigue…” Dimitri uttered before a long pause – followed by a strident cry of mourning – and it was this cry that had aroused the attention of a half-asleep Felix.

“What…” Felix felt around for his clothes and put them on. “Is that… the boar?”

Sylvain, whom the cry had awakened more, answered, “It must be… Probably brutally killed someone again.”

Still somewhat asleep, Felix made his way out the tent. Then, suddenly, the sight of his dead father - and supposedly ruthless prince mourning him – sprung Felix wide awake.

“Felix…” Sylvain spoke in empathy. “I’m so sorry.”

“…” Felix only grumbled and turned the other way in response.

“Wait! Felix, please.” Dimitri begged.

“Why should I listen to what you have to say, you boar?” Felix said without looking back.

“Because I need your help to bring Faerghus back to its former glory. I want you to become the next Duke Fraldarius."

At those words, Felix put up a defensive expression before saying, “And you expect that of me so soon after you not only let my father die, but also after your disgusting display of behaviour? Besides, my uncle can just take over.”

“But he’s too old. Furthermore, he is only your uncle by marriage. Now you’re the last surviving bearer of the Crest of Fraldarius. It has to be you. I don’t expect your forgiveness right away – or at all – but it’s for the good of Fódlan.”

It took a little longer this time for Felix to come up with a proper response. “Okay, fine. I’ll do it after the war is over. We should focus on liberating Fódlan first, right?”

“Agreed.” Dimitri paused to direct some of his soldier to carry Rodrigue’s body onto a carriage bound for Fraldarius territory. “We will make way for the monastery and decide our next course of action.”

As soon as the Kingdom army dispersed in preparation for the journey thence, Sylvain took the chance to talk to his boyfriend. “Do you actually intend to inherit the house, Felix?”

“What choice do I have?” Felix couldn’t look Sylvain in the eye as they began the march. “If my uncle dies during this war – and he might – then you can only imagine the chaos that would ensue in securing one of Faerghus’ most powerful houses.”

“But… But…” Sylvain stopped the two from proceeding, squeezing both of Felix’s hands. “What about us?”

Felix said nothing as with a sorrowful expression he turned away. Before Sylvain could get another word in, a young boy with garb suggesting his origins in Gautier territory came running to him, shouting, “My lord! My lord Sylvain!”

Sylvain quickly dried up his tears before facing the boy. “Y-Yes? Do you need help there, little guy?”

“No, it’s Margrave Gautier who needs help.” The boy handed Sylvain a letter. “Here. It’s an urgent missive from him.”

“Let me see…” Sylvain opened the small letter and read it. “No… It can’t be!”

“Sylvain?” Dimitri took note of Sylvain’s exasperated reaction to the letter. “What happened?”

“My father requests reinforcements to Fhirdiad. Gautier and Fraldarius troops are currently there defending it.”

“I… see.”

“But that’s not all. He requests that I immediately inherit House Gautier, for fear of perishing during the war.”

“Hah! What a lack of confidence that man has,” Felix cut in.

“You’re right… Your Highness, I will… um… do what Felix is doing and just wait until after the war to inherit the house.”

Luckily for Sylvain, Dimitri didn’t seem to notice his panicked expression. “Very well. I, too, think that Margrave Gautier should have more faith in his own abilities.”

So spoke Dimitri as the army now continued their way back to Garreg Mach in earnest.

“So you really are going to give up on us…” Felix scoffed, making sure that nobody could hear him.

“…No. I have no real intention of inheriting Gautier. This war is going to drag out for a long time. The emperor has taken hold of almost all of Fódlan. We have little in the way of troops. I think we can do it, but… It won’t be easy. What, you believe in Margrave Gautier but not his only son?”

“Tch. You and your cautious optimism.” Felix smiled. “So what, you’re just using the war as an excuse not to inherit your house?”

“Precisely. But if we don’t think of something soon… Then… Maybe we really will have to become the duke and the margrave. And then we’ll have to-”

“No.” Felix stood firm as he held onto Sylvain’s hand while still walking. “We won’t. We will think of a solution that will work not only for us, but for Fódlan.”

Just as the two men began to relax around each other, he noticed Ashe’s sudden, loud voice. “Oh goddess! Sylvain, how are you?”

“Yikes!” Sylvain let go of his boyfriend’s hand. “How do you mean?”

“I heard you got gravely wounded in the last battle. Just wanted to see how you’re doing.”

“Well, thank you.”

“Oh?” For Ashe, it was his first time seeing Felix since the noble’s split from the Kingdom five years ago. “Felix! You’re back! I mean… you really are back this time, yes?”

“Mm. So I see you’re still like that half-knight in that book.”

“And you’re still like the- Oh, whatever. I better tell Dimitri the good news.”

“Uh… there’s no need for that. He already knows I’m here.” Felix remained tight lipped about the real reason Dimitri so readily accepted him back into the Kingdom.

“Okay. See you back at the monastery.”

“Man, still as annoyingly cheerful as always,” Felix spoke when Ashe had left to hang out with Caspar and Raphael. “Sylvain, we really need to be careful about our relationship, especially when we have tattletales like that buffoon in our midst.”

“It’s going to be a pain, but… The war will be over – and then we can be together at last.” Sylvain had to resist the urge to hold Felix’s hand again. Little did he know, however, that a rather curious Ingrid had been watching all of their interactions from afar.

“Hmm… Those two are unusually friendly with one another.”

So were Ingrid’s words as within a mere few days, Garreg Mach Monastery was within view.