"I welcome all of you, students of Garreg Mach, to the Monastery. I hope that you can grow into better versions of yourselves during this academic year. May the Goddess bless you all, and know, that your professors and the Knights of Seiros will look after all you, and so will the Goddess and so will I." Archbishop Rhea stood proudly in front of all of the students of The Academy of Officers, giving a speech to mark the beginning of the academic year.
Next to her, the professors, Manuela, Hanneman, and Byleth were looking at their students. Manuela would be in charge of the Golden Deer, Hanneman would stand with the Blue Lions and Byleth was in charge of the Black Eagles house. Despite his young age, Byleth had proved himself capable in the battlefield and Archbishop Rhea had decided to name him Professor of the Academy. She had seen the boy grow and she trusted greatly in his ability to transfer his knowledge to other people, and she trusted she would be able to help his students develop their full potential.
After all, Edelgard von Hrservelg, the Emperor's daughter and the heir of the Empire would be attending the Monastery on that year. Rhea was determined to maintain the relationship between the Church and the Empire and so she had chosen the professor that fits best to teach in the Black Eagles house.
When the speech ended, the brunette approached Rhea excitedly, hoping to get a chance to speak to her before she left with Seteth. Fortunately for her, she reached Rhea and was able to greet her and initiate a conversation.
"Good morning Archbishop Rhea." She said in a happy voice, looking at Rhea with hope in her eyes. "Thank you for welcoming us all. I heard that Professor Byleth is in charge of our house this year. May I get the chance to speak to him, please? I have heard about his deeds and I would love to get a chance to speak to him."
"Oh, Edelgard, of course, you can speak to him." Rhea laughed in delight, amused by the girl's excitement. "In fact, one of the tasks I was going to assign to him consisted of speaking to you. After all, you are the House Leader of the Black Eagles."
Edelgard's cheeks flushed since she felt a bit embarrassed over how overeager she was being. Archbishop Rhea and her had known each other for a long time, and almost like it had happened to her with Byleth, Archbishop Rhea had grown fond of Edelgard, from seeing grow since she was a little child. Edelgard's mother, Patricia, was good friends with her.
"I was wondering, however, what happened to Prince Dimitri? Do you happen to know anything about him, Edelgard?" Rhea asked since she knew that Edelgard and Dimitri were childhood friends. She wanted to know ti Edelgard knew what had happened to Dimitri, to make him miss the Opening Ceremony, and to make him unable to assist to the meeting between the students to declare who he House Leader was.
In the Golden Deer, Lorenz had taken the charge while Edelgard didn't want to at first, but the others (sans Ferdinand) proposed her and she accepted.
"I have no idea." Edelgard confessed sincerely, a bit of concern leaking through her tone although she clearly wasn't meaning to express how worried she was, as to not make Archbishop Rhea be worried as well. "I think nobody knows."
That statement did anything but appease Rhea's concern. She nodded and tried to keep a straight face, succeeding at doing so, but she was asking herself what had happened back in the Kingdom to make Dimitri unable to assist.
Many nobles in the Kingdom were known to despise Prince Dimitri. The youngest son in the Gautier family was one of them, and he expressed it openly. The House of Galatea had been in a good relationship with Prince Dimitri for a little while, but after Ingrid got engaged to the oldest Fraldarius son, she had never been seen in the company of Prince Dimitri again. In fact, among the Academy students, only Edelgard was known to have a good relationship with Prince Dimitri.
Rhea wondered if Prince Dimitri had been attacked on his way to the Academy. She wished to think that it was a mere delay and that he would be soon to arrive. She turned to Edelgard and accompanied her to where Professor Byleth was standing, chatting with Catherine.
"Professor, Edelgard wishes to speak to you. She admires greatly your work. If you were so kind as to spare some time to her, then the two of you could chat."
Professor Byleth shot a smile in the Archbishop's direction and apologized to Catherine to then leave with Edelgard, who was practically beaming with joy over the chance to talk to her hero. She flashed thumbs up at Hubert before leaving to talk with the professor.
The Black Eagles were happy they got the chance to have Professor Byleth in their class. They watched Edelgard go with smiles on their faces and then got out to chat in the playground.
"We get to have Professor Byleth! Aren't we the luckiest?" Caspar shouted happily. "We get to have a knight of Seiros teach us! A hero! Man, this is gonna be so good!"
Petra, who didn't understand very well what Caspar meant, had Dorothea explain to her who Professor Byleth was. Since she was from Brigid, she didn't know Professor Byleth was a household name and a hero among the youth. Dorothea also liked Petra better than the other nobles because she was different and she was kinder and nicer.
"I hope Professor Byleth doesn't expect too much from us." Bernadetta whispered with fear in her voice. She wanted to leave but she didn't know where her room was yet so she was forced to bond with her classmates.
"Surely he's capable of teaching us with a rhythm we can follow." Ferdinand pointed out, to then be pushed and almost taken down by Raphael, who had approached the Black Eagles quickly, all to quickly.
"Hey!" He greeted everyone. "Lorenz thinks that the houses should eat together today so he sent me to fetch you so you could join us and have a nice first meal!"
Some of the Black Eagles seemed excited at the prospect. Dorothea surely was, relieved that she wasn't the only peasant in the school. So were Ferdinand and Caspar. Specially Caspar, who as soon as he saw Raphael, wanted to know what his exercise routine was.
The group left to the dining hall with Raphael, who led them to the Golden Deer table, and that mixed them all together. Dorothea found herself squashed between Petra (who didn't really annoy her, to be honest) and a mysterious blue-haired girl with blue eyes that wore the Academy Uniform, but it was the first time she had seen her.
To her side was Hilda, who was just as quiet and didn't utter a word to anyone. The two loners seemed happy with each other's company and they didn't bother to talk to anyone. While Lysithea was trying to get the quietest ones to speak up with chats about sweets (namely Bernadetta and Marianne), she somehow ignored those two girls. Curious, Dorothea decided to speak to the mysterious girl.
"Hey, what's your name?" The girl didn't reply, her blue eyes just bore into Dorothea's green ones. "Are you... are you from any noble house? If you're not, don't worry, I'm not either. I'm friendly, you can talk to me."
"I'm not a noble." She quietly mumbled, with a raspy voice that made Dorothea wonder how much she used it. ".... I'm Blanche. Nice to meet you."
Dorothea couldn't help but feel pity for the poor girl. She was probably intimidated by all those nobles. Though she was from the Golden Deer. She shouldn't be that scared, many people in the Golden Deer weren't nobles. Though, with a house Leader like Lorenz surely she was scared.
"Petra!" The girl turned to Dorothea as soon as she heard her name and raised her eyebrows in interest. "I want you to meet my new friend Blanche. She is a bit shy, but surely we can help her to loosen up."
"Of course!" Petra said excitedly. "I know good ice wreckers! I'm from Brigid, so if you want, I can tell stories about Brigid."
The girl, Blanche, nodded but she seemed off. Dorothea listened attentively to Petra go on and on about Brigid, occasionally glancing at Blanche to make sure she was listening as well. Blanche would look at Petra sometimes but she tore her gaze away almost as soon as she laid it on Petra. Dorothea knew she was weird, but then again, everyone there had their own quirks.
Sometime later, Edelgard reached them and joined the meal. She took a spot next to Hubert and gestured wildly while speaking about her chat with Professor Byleth. She then turned to her fellow Black Eagles and made sure to include them all in a group conversation, to then turn to the Golden Deer. She talked a bit to Lorenz and she praised his idea to have them all eat together because she considered it was good for bonding between houses. Edelgard opened a debate and invited everyone to join in, which they did.
Everyone joined in, but Hilda and Blanche. Dorothea noticed Blanche's fixed gaze on Edelgard from the very first moment she stepped into the room. However, she decided not to mention it to Edelgard, because perhaps Blanche didn't even know who she was. Perhaps Blanche was only curious. Her gut told her that was not true, but Dorothea ignored it.
"Hilda," Marianne said softly from the other side of the table, she was next to Hilda. "You have barely touched your food. Do you want some of mine?"
"No. It's fine, Marianne." Hilda said simply, not even looking at Marianne in the eyes.
"Here you go." Marianne dropped something on Hilda's plate and Hilda threw a look at Marianne before eating what she had given her. Marianne smiled brightly and that made Hilda's serious face twist into a slight smile.
Leonie observed the exchange with curiosity in her eyes. She looked at Dorothea and immediately turned to speak to Raphael and Ignatz, deciding she'd ask Dorothea about it later.
As a house leader, Edelgard considered it very important to help everyone feel integrated. She had spoken to all her house members and to other golden deer members. Admittedly, she liked some more than others (Lysithea, for instance, was very nice to her) but she made an effort to speak to everyone. It ticked her off that no one from the Blue Lion house was there, so she asked Lorenz about it.
"Didn't you invite the Blue Lions?" She asked Lorenz as soon as she got the chance.
"We tried." Lorenz said, trying to ignore Leonie's scowls. "But we didn't see anyone from the blue lions."
"That's weird. Dimitri isn't here either." Edelgard mused under her breath. "Where are they..?"
"Maybe they already ate," Ignatz suggested, trying to disperse the tension in the ambiance. "So that's why they are not here."
"That's impossible." Leonie grumbled, glaring at Ignatz for saying such stupidity. "How could they eat before the opening ceremony?"
"I agree with Leonie, something doesn't quite fit here." Lindhardt joined the skeptics that were looking into the situation.
"Should I go and look for them?" Edelgard asked, looking at everyone for confirmation. "This is worrying me quite a bit."
"If that is so, then I will accompany you." Hilda stood up, which surprised everyone since practically nobody but Marianne had spoken to her in all day and it was the first time for some
Of them hearing her speak.
"I must insist to accompany her Highness as well." Hubert also stood up. "I'm not letting you go alone."
The three of them left the dining hall and went to the Cathedral since it was likely for the Blue lions to be around there if they hadn't received the call for eating. Edelgard was able to identify two blue lions, Annette and Mercedes, two girls that had been to the magical academy with Lorenz. She knew they were Blue lions because of the pins they wore in their uniforms.
"Are you two from the Blue lions House?" Edelgard asked them, approaching them quickly.
Annette looked scared but she relaxed when she verified it was only Edelgard. Mercedes didn't seem fazed, just a bit rigid.
"Yes, we are." Mercedes spoke up for Annette. "You must be Lady Edelgard. It is a pleasure to meet you."
Edelgard was frankly surprised that Mercedes was able to recognize her but she hid it well.
"I used to live in the Empire." Mercedes supplied. "I believe I saw you when you were just a baby. You have truly grown over the years. I am Mercedes, and this is Annette. Why were you looking for us, your Highness?"
"We were all sharing a meal. However, we couldn't get hold of the Blue lions. Do you know where the House Leader is?" Edelgard didn't even know where they were, or who they were. She knew nothing and that contributed to being unable to find them.
"They are busy." Annette swallowed, as her eyes trailed from Hubert to Edelgard. "I wouldn't interfere. As for Mercedes and I, we would gladly assist to the lunch."
"Busy? With what?" Edelgard pried, out of confusion really. What could motivate the Blue Lions into missing a meal?
"Important matters." Mercedes replied simply. "Shall we go?"
The four of them headed back to the dining hall, but Hubert noticed something was wrong. Hilda was missing. She had left for some reason, one they couldn't really understand. Before he voiced his suspicions to Edelgard, Annette cut him by asking questions about the Black Eagle members. Edelgard knew them the most so she started telling her everything she knew about them.
There was one thing that Hubert was sure about: Those two girls were very suspicious.