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The Emperor and the Goddess

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There were so many words that could be used to describe Edelgard von Hresvelg. Ruthless. Haughty. Detached. Each a small expression of the great chasm between the Flame Emperor and the rest of humanity. One could certainly admire Edelgard-but love? That strange mixture of weakness and vulnerability and trust? No, she had given up on that silly dream, long, long ago. 

As she marched inevitably toward her destiny, she understood the cost. In the end, there would be no celebrations of the Flame Emperor’s life, no gentle speeches or glowing eulogies. Edelgard’s legacy would not lie in what she had given to the world, but what she had taken away. History would memorialize her as a warmonger and a killer. A destroyer.

Fódlan was a kindling of millennia-old grudges and tensions, and she was the match that would set it alight. A fire that would cleanse the rot at the heart of the continent, before burning itself out. One could respect such a destructive force, even see the stark magnificence in it, but it could never be loved. Only feared. 

But inside the hollowed-out shell of the Flame Emperor, under all the speeches, and the ideologies, and the dogma, there was something else. That armor protected something small and fragile, a beautiful little secret: Edelgard von Hresvelg had the soul of a romantic. 

Perhaps it was because she felt so ugly, so unworthy, but Edelgard was a true aesthetic. For all her fatalism and cynicism, she believed in life like few people could. She cherished the way an operatic solo could hold a deeper truth, unable to be captured in mere words. Treasured the dazzling array of colors in a solitary autumn walk. She had seen the darkness at the heart of existence; it had taught her that each sunrise was a truly precious gift.

Carefully hidden under a stack of treatises on the princess’ desk, she kept a few stray sheets of parchment. So many nights, the Goddess would ignore the heretic’s desperate prayers, her pleas for warm hands to chase away the cold dark. When Edelgard felt the strangling loneliness remove the air from her lungs, she would draw. A tranquil river, or a carnation in bloom.  All the Flame Emperor, the great weapon, truly wanted was to create. Make something beautiful and pure. So different from her.

She thought back to that crisp, cool night in Remire Village so many months ago. She remembered the peaceful wind blowing through the ageless forest. The quaint farmhouses where peasants lived, far removed from the intricacies and quandaries of noble life.

In a better world, one where Edelgard’s head was not heavy with the crown, and her soul had remained unsullied…she would have liked to live in a place like Remire. Wander the gently sloping hills with sketchbook in hand. But as with all things in Edelgard’s life, her presence had corrupted it. Her cursed, poisoned touch had destroyed this beautiful village.

She could hear the screams, long before she saw Remire. Shrieks of terror. Cries of pain and anguish. And worst of all, shouts of crazed, brutal rage. The Black Eagles marched forward, trying desperately to ignore the atrocities that lay just out of their vision. 

Edelgard turned to look at her classmates. Most, like Dorothea, were struggling to remain resolute, as they drew closer and closer to the source of the massacre. Marianne was praying fervently, while Bernadetta’s entire body spasmed with each step, her mind and body at war with one another. They all looked so scared, and shaken. They all looked so dreadfully young.

The Eisners were just in front of the princess, but they had not spoken a word. There was no sign of outward distress on Jeralt’s jaded, world-weary face. However, a keen observer could not fail to notice how often he reached for the flask on his belt. Nor could they ignore the way his head twisted toward his daughter every few seconds.

And Byleth…Edelgard knew her teacher intimately. She studied her light like a painter observed a landscape. Today, Byleth was different. There was a subtle hunch in her posture. A hand tightly bound to the Sword of the Creator. As a twig had snapped nearby, Byleth’s face had turned swiftly, and Edelgard could see none of the warmth and kindness she treasured so dearly. It was clear that the Ashen Demon had returned.

As they rounded the gently sloping gravel path that led to the village, the princess braced herself for what lay ahead. Felt her breath quicken. But even the hardened, cruel Flame Emperor was not prepared for what she saw.

The village was devastated. Many of the buildings had already collapsed, and the flames were consuming what remained in a terrible, wild dance. Black smoke sat over Remire like a funeral shroud. Whatever wreckage was left would be burned to ash before the day was through.

As the Black Eagles watched in horror, a woman crawled atop a man’s body, and began to scratch and claw his face with appalling ferocity. The awful screeching originating from her throat was a sound no human being should ever make. She was attacking with such viciousness that her own hands had become gnarled and twisted from the force.

Edelgard felt an arrow fly past her ears. It buried itself in the woman’s neck, and she collapsed into the mud with a sickening gurgling sound. Her victim did not get up.

“Damn it.” Shamir’s normally emotionless voice was deeply shaken. She put down her bow and looked at Jeralt and Byleth. “This is…”

“Disgusting.” Even a hardened mercenary like Jeralt was stunned by the carnage. “What could have…”

Byleth examined the bodies sadly. She turned toward Jeralt, with a mournful look in her blue eyes. “It’s the shopkeeper. Marta. She was always so nice…” The Ashen Demon shook her head. “Sometimes she’d give me a treat when-”

Edelgard turned away,  Byleth’s pain condemning the Flame Emperor like nothing else could. What have I done? I… I made a promise…that no one else would suffer like I- The Flame Emperor covered her hand with her mouth, appalled with herself.

It had been a twisting, gradual descent. Once, Edelgard had unwaveringly resolved to make Fódlan free. Vows so easily made. But then had come the dirty, messy business of building a better world. And along with it, the terrible compromises. Day by day, the sacrifices had become greater, and ideals had slipped like mercury through the Flame Emperor’s grasp.

She felt a hard-skinned hand on her shoulder. Byleth was shattered, desperately clutching the area around her heart. “This was my home.” She needed Edelgard at this moment-needed support and comfort as her world burned around her. 

But Edelgard was could not escape her own self-pity. Selfishly, she broke away from Byleth, the guilt from her teacher’s touch burning like fire. “I’m so sorry, my teacher… I-” The princess surveyed the carnage, as a child screamed for help in the distance. “Damn it all to hell!” At her outburst, Edelgard’s face fell with shame. “Forgive my vulgarity. I…lost control.”

Calm yourself. You are an Emperor. The Black Eagles are relying on you.

Byleth nodded uncertainly, eyes still fixed on Edelgard. She called in the Black Eagles, as well as Jeralt and Shamir. “We need to spread out and save as many people as possible.” 

“If I may, Professor…” At Hubert’s polite intonation, the Black Eagles turned toward the lanky mage. “I do not believe that your hometown was chosen at random.” 

“What do you mean?!” Jeralt’s voice barked loudly over the clamor. 

“There are hundreds of small villages just like this one…all across Fódlan.” Hubert gestured with his hand. “Why choose a village so close to Garreg Mach? Why a place with such little strategic value-“

Jeralt grabbed Hubert’s collar, rage overwhelming him. “These people were my neighbors! Don’t tell me about strategic-“

“He’s right, Jeralt.” Shamir’s hand pulled Jeralt back. “Let him finish.” She nodded at Hubert, who gently brushed the front of his coat.

Hubert stared at Byleth intensely. “Whoever is behind these attacks wanted you…the woman who wields the Sword of the Creator, here to witness it.” For a moment, Hubert’s gaze met Edelgard’s. “If we allow our anger to overwhelm us, we risk walking into a trap.”

The Black Eagles looked at each other for moment, waiting for word from either Byleth or Edelgard. Finally, the Ashen Demon looked away from the bodies of the people she had once known, a new resolve in her azure eyes.

“Hubert is right. Find a partner. Mages and archers with melee units. We stay in groups of four.” She turned to Linhardt, Flayn, and Caspar. “Stay at the front of the village, and we’ll send survivors to you.” She turned to Caspar and gave the young brawler a grim smile. “If anyone suspicious tries to attack the healers…you know what to do.”

Many of the Black Eagles fell into their usual partnerships-Petra and Dorothea, Ferdinand and Marianne, Byleth and Shamir. Ingrid and Hubert had quickly joined together, their eternally practical attitudes a harmonious combination. Bernadetta also seemed oddly comfortable around Sylvain, even allowing him to playfully rustle her messy hair.

Edelgard felt a hand on her back, and turned around to see Lysithea. An unspoken understanding passed between the two experiments.

“I’ll rein in the violent ones. The top priority is the villagers’ safety...Got it?” Jeralt gave them all a nod, and without another word, charged his men deep into the black smog.

For a moment, the Black Eagles looked at one another, the strange little family unable to express how much they had come to mean to one another. Finally, it was Edelgard who found her voice. 

“Everyone comes home. Understand?”

There was no need for further speeches, and the Black Eagles ran forward into the darkness.



Edelgard’s ax cleaved into the crazed villager’s side, marking the Flame Emperor’s uniform with blood. His body collapsed to earth, limbs askew. As he lay on the ground, he weakly grabbed his killer’s arm, and held it anxiously.

“It…hurts.” Sanity had returned to his eyes. “Please…Mother…”

Edelgard looked at the villager. He probably would be around the same age as…her brother would have been now... She remembered watching Otto’s life slowly fade, as he begged desperately for his mother. El had not known what to do…what little girl could? All she could do was cry and pray as she held his hand. Tears that did not help. Prayers that were not answered.

The villager’s body tightened as he fought desperately for life. Edelgard reached out her hand and told a terrible, necessary lie. “It’s okay…” she said calmly. “Mom’s here…” Instantly, the boy’s body relaxed, and his frantic breathing began to slow. 

Then she said the words that eluded her all those years ago. The words she wished her brother could have heard. Edelgard gently rubbed the boy’s hand. “You’ve been very, very brave. You don’t have to fight anymore... It’s all right.” At those words, a tranquil expression fell over the young man’s face. His breaths became increasingly erratic, before finally, mercifully, stopping.

She felt a calloused hand gently touch her neck. “Edelgard…” Byleth’s normally flat voice broke. “Are you-“

“This isn’t about me, my teacher.” The Emperor stood and brushed her shoulder, unable to meet Lysithea or Byleth’s eyes. She paused to collect herself. “We must stop this disgraceful-“ 

Suddenly, an ear-splitting scream assaulted their ears. Shamir turned, and pointed toward one of the village’s burning husks. “There.”

The group had still not found any survivors. Byleth and Edelgard avoided looking at each other, each afraid to express the logical conclusion.

Edelgard looked at Byleth and Shamir. “Lysithea and l will handle it. Keep looking.” 

The two Eagles moved cautiously into the building. In such a confined area, horrible memories began to assault Edelgard’s mind-the suffocating and stale air, the terrible smell of dried blood…the screams of pain. All so familiar.

Edelgard looked in what had once been a family’s home. Around what remained of a collapsed fireplace, there were the remains of a rocking chair, and other remnants of a destroyed life. How many nights had this family sat and laughed…and now it had all been…

“Edelgard.” Lysithea touched her classmate’s shoulder lightly, and pointed toward the kitchen. The beams had collapsed, blocking off access, but a hand could be seen underneath mountains of rubble.

There was only one path forward, and as they followed it, the scream appeared again. They broke into a run, turned the corner, and saw it. 

There was a young girl, around ten or eleven, huddling in the corner. A hooded figure loomed above her, as purple tendrils of dark magic coiled around his arm. With a cry of immense rage, Lysithea threw a spell into the strange enemy’s back. He flew headfirst into the wall, and was still.

The young girl began to sob. “Where’s my brother? Where’s my dad?” She was covered in cuts and bruises, and the expression on her face was one of sheer terror. The princess knelt, and gave what she hoped was a calming smile. 

“My name’s Edelgard…” She reached out her hand slowly, to avoid traumatizing the child further. “And this is my very good friend Lysithea. Can you tell me yours?” 

The girl nodded. “It’s…my name is Agnes.” 

Edelgard blinked frantically. “That’s… a pretty name. My sister’s name is Agnes.” The princess felt Lysithea’s hand quickly grab her shoulder, giving her the strength to continue. “Can you be very brave, Agnes, and tell me what you’ve seen?”

The girl looked over at the mage on the floor. “There were…a lot of guys…with weird robes, and an old man with a funny cane. And then everyone started yelling and I-“ She began to wail pitifully. 

Edelgard put a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Lysithea’s going to take you back to meet some of my other friends, all right? They’ll help keep you safe.” Her classmate gave an expression of protest, but Edelgard’s face remained firm. “I have some questions for this man...“

Lysithea nodded, and slowly guided the petrified child out of the ruins. As soon as they were gone, the Flame Emperor’s expression darkened. She grabbed the mage, and slapped his face with chilling force.

“Get up.”

For a moment, he looked around in confusion, before his eyes refocused on his captor.

“Ah…Flame Emperor…How nice to see you. Though I am disappointed that I couldn’t also say hello to the Ordelia-“ 

Edelgard slammed the man into the wall violently, his head rebounding with a loud crack. “Where is he?”

The pale man feigned ignorance, but his mocking black eyes told the truth. “Whoever do you mean?“

Edelgard grabbed the man’s arm and violently twisted it, causing him to scream in pain. As he whimpered, holding his shattered arm at a disturbing angle, her face remained expressionless. “The girl told me there was a man with a cane. Where’s Solon?”

The mage panted through the pain and sneered. “Is this why you sent the Ordelia girl away? Scared to show her what you really are?”

For a moment, Edelgard looked down. The princess had a vision …a world where humanity was free. Where anyone could cut their own path, free from the tyranny of bloodlines, Crests, and divine fate. Yet to do so, the Flame Emperor had accepted a destiny that she hated. Put aside the peaceful, trivial dreams she held in her heart.

The sensitive little artist had become a ruthless conqueror, a destructive flame that would burn even the gods. She had darkened her soul, sacrificed so many lives, and prepared herself to sacrifice so many more. Walked a path of madness and death, so no little girl ever would again. 

The Flame Emperor’s voice was cold and unforgiving. “There is nothing I will not sacrifice for Fódlan’s new dawn. That is what you made me. That is who I am.” 

“You will fail, little girl. What we have learned here in Remire has unlocked the Forbidden Spell. The Fell Star will-”

Edelgard pulled her dagger from her belt and thrust it into the man’s chest. The man gasped and grabbed her student uniform in a frenzy, until his black eyes became glassy. He slumped to the floor, unblinking stare still locked on the princess. She quietly wiped off her dagger on his robes, and walked toward the door, leaving the house to the dead.



Edelgard had saved three more villagers, but remained unable to locate Byleth and Shamir. She ran toward the back of the village, consumed with worry for her teacher. She walked past the flaming ruins of a farmhouse in a daze. If any of the Eagles were hurt… 

With a tremendous crash, the building’s wall collapsed, and a frenzied villager leapt out with an inhuman screech. He dove onto Edelgard’s back, driving her to her knees. The princess was remarkably strong, but even she could not shrug off a grown man’s weight. The man’s arm was on fire, yet he made no effort to save himself, only tightening his grip on her neck harder. 

Suddenly, the tremendous pressure around her windpipe relaxed, and her lungs eagerly gulped down the gift of air. She slowly turned around, expecting to see Byleth, or Jeralt, or one of her friends. But it was something different. Something worse.

“…What are you trying to do here?” The figure stood atop his black steed, his sickle still dripping with the villager’s blood. 

Edelgard tried to stand, before collapsing back to her knees. “I could ask you the same question, Jeritza.” Her subordinate twitched at the use of his other alias. Edelgard steadied herself and rose. “You shouldn’t be here…they’re going to think we’re involved in-“

An arrow flew past Edelgard’s head, before bouncing off the specter’s armor. The Death Knight turned his head, and even his unfeeling mask seemed to radiate with joy. “Just as Solon promised…She is here.”

“GET AWAY FROM HER!” Byleth shot into Edelgard’s vision like a projectile, the Sword of the Creator meeting the Death Knight’s scythe. The two weapons crashed and collided with blinding speed, as Edelgard could only watch helplessly. She tried to move forward, but Shamir’s arm held her back.

As the two rivals blocked one another’s attacks, the Death Knight leaned his face toward the mercenary. “You have not embraced your strength…prove it and kill me with that blade …” He shoved Byleth backward and prepared to slash with his weapon. Unexpectedly, the ground began to rumble, and the phantom looked around in confusion.

A burst of purple spikes seemed to erupt from the earth itself. The jagged needles burst directly underneath the Death Knight’s steed, creating a massive explosion. Lysithea stood, arms extended, somehow imposing even at her diminutive stature. There was a look of total disgust on her face. 

“You were outmatched.”

A massive cloud of debris and dust enveloped the combatants. For a moment, earth and soot was all Edelgard could see. And then, two red eyes cut through the haze. The Death Knight staggered forward toward Lysithea.

“You are not the prey I seek.” He raised his sickle to strike, but Shamir dived forward and knocked Lysithea out of the way. The Sword of the Creator flashed through the air, pinning the Death Knight’s scythe in the earth. For a moment, he paused, before nodding his head in approval. “Rapturous.”

Like lightning, his arm reached out and collided with Byleth’s stomach, knocking her backwards. She recovered quickly, bobbing and weaving to avoid her opponent’s weapon. It was an equal contest, until a burst of dark magic exploded at Byleth’s feet.

Another dark mage had appeared behind the fighters, a fanatical gleam in his eye. “For our light! Death to the Fell Star!” he screamed with religious fervor, until an arrow from Shamir buried itself in his head.

Byleth stumbled momentarily, but that was all it took for the Death Knight’s scythe to find its target. Byleth staggered to her knees, a gash in her chest. The Death Knight raised his weapon.

“So ends our dance of death…the weak shall die...”

The princess started running before she even realized her legs were moving. For once in Edelgard’s life, her rational mind and secret, sensitive heart were not at war. For years, there had been nothing that Edelgard would not toss aside for her goals. Cast away for her ambitions. She had to live, if only to see her plans through.

But in that moment, Edelgard protected the one person for which she would sacrifice everything. Her arms wrapped around Byleth tightly, and she felt an immense pressure on her side. She looked down, and the Death Knight’s scythe was buried in her abdomen.

At first, everything hurt, with a pain beyond anything Edelgard had ever experienced. And then, thankfully…it didn’t anymore. Everything was numb. She could feel Byleth’s hand on her neck, supporting her. It felt…nice.

The Death Knight stood weaponless and stunned, until he was impaled on a set of purple spikes, his lifeless body hanging like a macabre doll. Lysithea ran forward and grabbed Edelgard’s hand tightly. 

“EDELGARD!” She screamed, voice full of overwhelming despair. “YOU CAN’T!” Shamir grabbed her and pulled the distraught girl’s head away from the sight.

Her teacher was glassy-eyed. “I’m sorry, Edelgard…I’ll fix this...Just-” She closed her eyes with a look of intense concentration on her face.

The Flame Emperor reached out and stroked Byleth’s face. “My teacher...I have…to tell you…something important.” It was hard to breathe. 

Byleth only nodded, clutching her chest tightly.

So much of the Flame Emperor’s life had been the struggle and the fight. Each day she battled was a small, precious victory. But now, here at the end…she could take off her mask. Wash off the blood that drowned her soul. She could just be El. 

“I’m a terrible…person…” Edelgard coughed, the taste of copper building in her throat. “But…around you…I could pretend to be someone different…someone better… just for a little while…”

Byleth reluctantly opened her eyes, and gently ran her hand through Edelgard’s long hair.

“My teacher…I’m so glad to see your eyes…one more time... ” She gave a desperate, ragged inhale, as the world began to darken. “You were…my wings...” She focused on those blue eyes, and was at peace. “And I…will…always…love you…”

Byleth put her hand to her mouth, in shock and horror.

She looked up at the sky and screamed. 


Edelgard felt like she was drowning…like a current was pulling her along. There was nothing she could do but go limp, and allow herself to be towed by this tremendous force.

And then, she was back. Watching the Death Knight and Byleth duel. The princess looked down at her side. There was no mark. It was if it…had never happened. Wait… The princess turned with a start-the mage, he’s going to

Just as before, the hooded figure materialized. “For our-“ Before he could complete his boast, Edelgard’s ax collided with his chest.  The mage flew backwards into a tree, his bones shattering with a sickening crunch.

Edelgard turned, and saw Byleth parry a scythe attack and drive the Sword of the Creator through the Death Knight’s shoulder. The demon did not flinch. “Impressive. We will finish this…another day...” And in a flash of purple light, he was gone.

The princess stood in a daze. She bent over, hands on her knees, fighting the urge to vomit. It was all so real…Had she- Before she realized what was happening, two muscular arms were squeezing her tightly, desperately. She felt a head nuzzling her neck.

“Edelgard… you’re okay.” Byelth’s voice was so brittle and fragile. So human. “You’re safe…I...”

The princess looked up at her teacher warily. Did she…remember, somehow? Did she remember what Edelgard had said when-

“Byleth.” Shamir’s voice cut through the din. “We still have to finish this.” Her voice was hesitant, clearly confused by Byleth's outburst of emotion.

“Yes...of course.” Byleth finally and slowly released her vice-like grip, her eyes remaining on the princess. 

“My teacher…” Edelgard’s calculated poise returned. “The person behind all this is Tomas, the librarian.”

“That’s impossible.” Shamir shook her head. “He’s been at the monastery for years-”

“That is because I am not Tomas!” A cold, fanatical voice echoed all around the group. At the top of the hill, the elderly librarian materialized. The sneer on the zealot’s face was one Edelgard was all too familiar with. “My name is Solon…the savior of humanity!”

Shamir and Lysithea fired arrows and spells up at the intruder, who deflected the projectiles with a simple wave of his hand. His cold eyes fell upon Lysithea. “Ah…the Ordelia girl…you are truly impressive. I must thank you.”

“I want nothing to do with you, you fiend,” spat the young mage.

“But without your family’s recommendation, I would never have been able to infiltrate Garreg Mach.” He paused for a moment. “However, that disguise has long outlived his usefulness.”

Purple coils surrounded the librarian, ripping and tearing off pieces of his skin. It was a truly grotesque sight, and it took every ounce of strength Edelgard possessed to keep her focus on Solon, and not on painful memories of her uncle. 

The pallid monster underneath Tomas’ disguise was immensely disturbing. His engorged skull, grey coloration, and the enlarged veins on his forehead were sickening. But the worst detail was his right eye, which had been replaced by a black abyss. A small, yellow iris was the only sign that it was not a piece of the void itself.

“What’s that? So shocked you can’t even speak?” Solon’s mocking voice echoed in Edelgard’s ears. “You were all so easily fooled by my disguise.” 

Byleth snarled, and unleashed the Sword of the Creator. The instant before it would collide with the madman, he blinked out of existence. The four women quickly stood back-to-back, preparing for an ambush.

He appeared in front of Shamir.

“I’ve lain hidden in Garreg Mach…”

He vanished, before an arrow could hit him. Then he was in front of Lysithea.

“just to obtain the blood of that little girl called Flayn…”

Lysithea’s spell flew through the space where his head had been a second before.

“What did you want it for?” screamed Byleth. “Why do you keep attacking Garreg Mach?”

Solon stopped his flurry of teleporting, his eyes falling upon Byleth. “What a strange question, Fell Star...” He began to wheeze with derisive laughter. “You more than anyone should understand…I am not the only person hiding their true self…am I?” 

As Edelgard quickly glanced in Byleth’s terrified eyes, it was clear that Solon’s taunts had deeply affected her. She’s keeping secrets from me, too…

“Leave her alone!” yelled Edelgard ferociously.

“Hmm, the little emperor….always so protective of her precious teacher.” Solon’s face contorted with rage. “Would she still feel the same about you if she knew-“ 

Edelgard whipped a handax at Solon in rage, which he deflected with complete indifference. 

“If you insist on turning your blade against me, then expect no mercy.” Solon face’s contorted into a frightening snarl. “Still…” His gaze fell back to Byleth. “The experiment is not yet concluded. I must test her power.”

He raised his hands, and a horde of enraged villagers teleported behind him. They charged toward the group, arms and legs flailing wildly. Shamir and Lysithea’s projectiles eliminated three of the rabid attackers before they could reach the group, and Edelgard’s ax felled another.

With a frenzied shout, Byleth’s sword unfurled, slashing and tearing through the remaining swarm. Young and old, man or woman, they were all felled brutally by the Goddess’ sword. The mercenary’s face was eerily calm, with no sign of the turmoil that had consumed her a moment before. 

“Impressive,” murmured Solon approvingly. “Such cursed might.” He raised his arm, and a barrage of dark magic shot toward the Ashen Demon. She dodged and spun, movement a graceful ballet. 

“Within you is the power to drown everything, Fell Star!” Solon’s voice became filled with agitation. “This world must be cleansed of such inhuman-“ 

A javelin ripped through the air, and buried itself in the dark mage’s shoulder, causing him to let out a horrible scream. Jeralt led a group of Church soldiers and Black Eagles. The Blade-Breaker pulled a sword from his scabbard. 

“You bastard! Why did you target this village! What the hell are you plotting?!”

Solon’s face twisted with laughter. “We could have chosen anywhere for test subjects. But here…” His dark orbs fell on Byleth. “It has given me what I need…Allow me to excuse myself…”

And in a flash, he was gone.



“I need the armor.” Edelgard looked at Hubert, trying to hide the rising anxiety in her voice. “Teleport me to Garreg Mach. I’ll use the suit to get back here.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “But will this not implicate the Flame Emperor in-”

“This isn’t a request, Hubert,” snarled the princess. “She thinks I’m checking the perimeter. Do it now.”

Hubert sighed, and in an instant, Edelgard was back in her retainer’s room in Garreg Mach. She ripped open the floorboard, and began putting on her other face. The one this cruel world forced her to wear. All the logic and self-control the princess valued so highly had disappeared. It was replaced by raw, painful emotions-shame, guilt, disgust. There was only one thought that reverberated over and over again. 

This wasn’t me. She has to understand. It wasn’t me.

Edelgard sighed and donned her mask, steeling herself for what she must do. In a flash of red, she disappeared.

Jeralt and Byleth turned in shock. The Flame Emperor stepped forward.

“There you are, Byleth…”