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Saṃsāra

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War.

Sylvain is on a battlefield, and he’s panicking. Cold sweat runs along his spine and his fringe is sticking to his forehead as he spins around, desperately scanning every blurry, bloody face around him.

And then, it’s too late, because the second he spots the man with the black hair, an arrow flies past Sylvain’s head and it pierces the mans throat. In slow-motion, he turns around, looking straight into Sylvain’s eyes before he falls. Sylvain feels like he’s the one dying, he’s screaming, howling in anguish and everything hurts as he collapses—Then he wakes up.

Hyperventilating, his eyes flick around the room and his hand instinctively reaches to the right and turns on the light on his nightstand. Sylvain does what he always does; forces himself to focus on the door, then the window, and then, finally, he looks down on his hands. They’re shaking, but they’re not bloody. He takes a deep breath, breathes out through his mouth, and quietly repeats It’s just a dream. It’s always just a dream, and it’s just a dream today inside his head. Fuck, if therapy is not the most underrated thing on earth. He has just about started breathing normally again when there’s a knock on the door, making him jump backwards inadvertently, and hits his head on the headboard.

“Ouch!”

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s just me!” Ingrid whispers, slowly shutting the door behind her. Sylvain rubs the back of his head, and plasters on a smile.

“I know you get sick of me from time to time but isn’t trying to give me a heart attack a bit much?” he jokes, but his voice is a little shaky. Ingrid sighs, and sits down on his bed beside him.

“You were screaming again.” she says, and Sylvain’s attempt at a joke now seems stupid. He meets her worried eyes, and offers a smaller, more honest smile instead.

“I’m sorry.” He says, guilt lacing his voice, both over the joke and the fact that he has woken her up. Ingrid sighs again and grabs one of his hands.

“Don’t apologize. But it has been a while. Are you okay? Has something happened?” She asks. Sylvain searches his mind, thinks of the past few days trying to remember whether anything had been different lately, but nothing comes to mind.

“I don’t think so. I’m alright. What time is it?”

Ingrid offers up her phone, and thankfully, the numbers clearly say 02.48. Sylvain exhales in relief.

“Thank god, at least there’s time to go back to sleep.” He says. Ingrid looks at him, worry still imminent on her face.

“Do you want me to stay with you?” Are you going to be able to sleep by yourself?

Sylvain considers it for a moment, he really does, but shakes his head.

“I mean, unless you really really want to?” He smiles and winks at her. Ingrid looks unimpressed, but she visibly relaxes.

“Alright, good night. I’ll see you in the morning.” She squeezes his hand tightly before she lets go of it and slips out of his room, making sure to close the door extra softly. Sylvain feels kind of bad; it’s not like he can help it, but it really has been a while since they’d been that intense. And it really, really has been quite some time since he woke up screaming, and he hadn’t even realized himself this time. Poor Ingrid.

Sylvain has had nightmares for most of his life. Of war, and blood and most importantly, a man with black hair and a sword. He doesn’t always die, but every time he does, it’s because Sylvain didn’t see him, or reach him, or warn him in time, he knows that much. He doesn’t know who the man is, only that it’s Sylvain’s fault he dies.

When Sylvain was twenty, he had met Dorothea at a party. When the topic of dreams had come up, and Sylvain had mentioned the reoccurring nightmares he had as a child (leaving out the part about how they never stopped) and Dorothea had looked at him with deep, brown eyes and asked him if he knew anything about past life regression, about reincarnation, about “Saṃsāra”; the Hindu belief in rebirth.

Sylvain had said that didn’t know, which hadn’t mattered at the end of the night because they had still slept together. The thought of it had never really left him, though. Because he could swear that before he met Ingrid, he had seen her in a dream, on a flying horse. They met when they were kids, in fencing class, and Sylvain remembers how natural it felt, interacting with her. Ingrid, however, refused to listen to “any of that nonsense” because “it was not “fate”, we were kids.” when Sylvain had introduced her to Dorothea, and she had defended her strict scientific views with several psychological theories without bringing up or referencing or revealing anything about Sylvain’s childhood, which was impressive.

It was kind of a miracle that those girls had ended up as good friends, despite a somewhat frosty first meeting. It was kind of a miracle that Sylvain and Dorothea had remained friends, because man did they get on each others nerves at times.

The dreams had been more detailed, had more variation when he was a kid, he knew that even though his memories of them were vague. He knew because it said so in his medical journals. He had only looked at those a handful of times, because they really weren’t fun to read, but then there were a couple of drawings. The one he had looked at the most over the years was the only group picture that seemed to exist. It pictured the man with the black hair, of course, and a blonde guy with an eyepatch, two girls who had magical powers, somebody with a strange green tint to their hair and a glowing sword, a small guy with a bow and arrow, a large man with very light hair, and most importantly, a blonde girl on a flying horse. He had tried to show it to Ingrid as proof once; but the reply had been “Wow, a stunning likeness. You’ve convinced me, we knew each other in a past life full of magic and dragons.”

The therapists, according to the journals, seemed to agree with Ingrid; the dreams of war were a child’s minds reaction to what had happened, the people in them, figments of his imagination. He was still grateful for Ingrid though. She had stuck with him through it all, a solid rock to lean on despite the worst of it happening when the both of them were just children. And she never pitied him, never treated him like he was some fragile nutcase, nor did she let him get away with things that he shouldn’t, like other people had started doing when they found out. Sylvain credited a lot of him still being a person to Ingrid, because she never stopped treating him like one. Ingrid was like his real sibling. His real family.

 

 

Sylvain got through the first half of the next day without major concerns, despite maybe being a little bit more jumpy than usual. Dorothea had asked him to come study with her and some friends; one of them being the tiny redhead named Annette whom Sylvain had met a couple of times the past few weeks since the new term started. She seriously radiated good vibes as though she were the sun, which was the kind of energy Sylvain desperately needed after his less-than-ideal night. A while after he had arrived at the supposed study session, though, it quickly became clear that Dorothea hadn’t really called them there for studying, but to vent about one of her new conquests. And he, of all people, really couldn’t blame her.

“She doesn’t understand that I’m hitting on her” She sighs, slumping on the table in a very uncharacteristic way after giving them some background. She’s talking about an exchange student from Bridgid. Sylvain pats her on the back sympathetically.

“That sucks” Annette replies, expression pure and compassionate. Sylvain hums in agreement.

“How is that even possible?” the pink-haired girl next to Annette asks. She had introduced herself as Hilda to Sylvain earlier.

“Language barrier” Dorothea groans. Annette reaches out and pets her on the head, pushes some of her hair behind her ear. Poor Dorothea. Few people are as good with words as her, but of course that isn’t helpful if someone doesn’t understand them.

“But still, from what I’ve seen you’re not exactly subtle when you do go after someone.” Hilda says, confused.

“I’ve never been this obvious in my life, I think.” Dorothea complains, as she sits back up.

“Are you sure? If you want some tips, I...” Sylvain starts, but Dorothea’s glare shuts him up.

“Well, sometimes things just seem stupidly obvious afterwards, but you’re clueless at the time. Like, when I dated Felix, he had really long hair and he has always been pretty androgynous, anyway. Most of my friends knew that I was gay before I did.” Annette says, but Sylvain doesn’t really hear anything past the word Felix. The name rings in Sylvain’s ears like a siren.

“Who’s Felix?” Sylvain asks, hoping he sounds completely normal, and tries to force his heartbeat to slow down. Dorothea shifts next to him, and maybe she has noticed how he has stiffened, but she doesn’t say anything. Annette looks at him, confused.

“You don’t know him? Weird, I could have sworn you two knew each other.” She replies. Sylvain shakes his head. “Huh... Well, he’s a friend of mine! He went to high school with me and Hilda. He’s here as a fencing recruit, but I think he has courses in the same building as you.”

“It really was quite obvious.” Hilda agrees to Annette’s previous statement. “I feel like Felix was pretty obvious too, I mean, he never really cared for girls before you, so it was really weird when you were dating all of a sudden.”

Sylvain’s mouth is dry, and he doesn’t understand why because whoever this Felix is, Sylvain doesn’t know him.

“You should meet though! I feel you’d get along.” Annette says, smiling at Sylvain. Hilda looks at her, face full of doubt.

“You really think so? Felix is a pretty prickly guy, he doesn’t really do getting along.” She says. Annette shrugs.

“I don’t know, I’ve just got a feeling.”

Sylvain almost says “when can I meet him?” but thankfully, he has enough self restraint to not blurt that out.

“Well, whoever this Felix is, he sounds like an interesting guy.” he says instead.

“You’ll know him when you see him, there aren’t a lot of guys walking around in ponytails and especially not with a permanent scowl on their faces.” Hilda replies. Dorothea, who has been quiet for a while, laughs.

“Hey, he’s actually really great when you get to know him!” Anette retorts. Sylvain is about to ask more questions, but Hilda speaks up again before he’s got a chance to do so.

“Don’t you two have to leave like, now? Didn’t you say your… Ancient Roman whatever was today?” she asks, looking at her phone. Sylvain doesn’t really register what she’s saying at first, but Dorothea is already flying out of her chair, gathering her things.

“I completely forgot it’s fucking Tuesday!”

It had seemed like a good idea at the time, registering for a course about theatre in Ancient Rome, but right now, he regrets that choice. Sylvain scrambles and tries to gather his stuff in his arms and swears when his keys accidentally fly out of his hands in the midst of the chaos but Dorothea is there, swiping them before rushing out the door. Annette laughs, and shouts after him as he runs after the brunette.

“Hey Sylvain, if you see Felix, tell him I say hi and to reply to my texts!”

 


 

“Why do you think Felix would be friends with him, I feel like he’s the exact type of person Felix would despise.” Hilda asks dubiously once Sylvain is out of sight.

“Hmm, I honestly don’t know. But I just... It felt really strange to hear that they hadn’t even met, you know? Do you ever get like, a gut feeling out of nowhere and it doesn't make sense at all? But it feels like it’s super right? It’s like that.” Annette replies. Hilda chews on the inside of her cheek and considers the statement. For some reason, Caspar comes to mind. The first time they’d met she had pulled him out of a fight, and she had gotten a distinct feeling of deja vu that was so strong that it almost made her lose her balance and faint. Which had successfully distracted Caspar from the fight, so it had been helpful in the end despite being unsettling.

“Maybe...” She replies, uncertain. “How many times have you even met this dude though?” Annette shrugs.

“A handful of times. He seems nice though! Easy-going.” She replies cheerfully. Hilda still looks unconvinced.

“Hey, if nothing else, Felix does have a thing for redheads. That’s the only reason he ever thought he was interested in me, I’m pretty sure.” Annette continues, and well, that’s a good point, Hilda agrees.

“True, and he does like you a lot and you’re the most easy-going person I know. So, you might be onto something here, who knows.”