The evacuation plans were set early. There was no point in defending the monastery, if they could keep the students safe by sending them home. Rhea and the Knights had already arranged a way to give all the students that resided in the Leicester Alliance a home in either the Empire or the Kingdom. They were not explained why, but they highlighted the importance of the evacuation.
By the last week of the Lone Wolf Moon all the students were supposed to be safely travelling to their homes, or, to wherever they’d been assigned. Marianne and Hilda were invited to the Fraldarius territory, since Rodrigue was friends with Margrave Gautier and wanted to protect a victim that had suffered similar consequences to Sylvain’s, while Leonie insisted in following Captain Jeralt and his family to the Adrestian Empire and Lysithea was invited by Lindhardt’s family to stay with them… although it had all been on Lin because he wanted both her help and Professor Hanneman’s for his research on crests.
Everything was set and nothing was supposed to go wrong, the plan was supposedly perfect. Archbishop Rhea nervously looked at the carriages, because she knew that the students were supposed to leave at different times to not augment suspicion. No one had left yet and the first carriage would depart the following day, but that did not quell the Archbishop’s nerves.
Professor Byleth and Professor Beth were spending the last days they could with their students, noticing how the ambience was tense and sombre. It was as if everyone was saying their last goodbyes, to depart and never see each other again. Some people like Ingrid were not very concerned, because she knew she could meet up with most of the people she had befriended, but others, like Dorothea, feared that it was time to part ways forever.
That was why, while Ignatz, Raphael and some other people that studied at Garreg Mach were getting ready to leave, Dorothea decided to bare her heart for Petra before life inevitably pushed them away from each other.
‘’Petra, I have something I want to tell you and I’ve been meaning to do so for long.’’ Even before Captain Jeralt had noticed and laughed about it with his son, much to Dorothea’s embarrassment. ‘’I have feelings for you and I do not want our lives to go separate ways… I… I love you.’’
Petra looked at her for a second, then blushed and glanced away. ‘’I have feelings for you too… I… was thinking we could go to Brigid… together…’’
So Petra wasn’t as dense as everyone gave her credit for. Dorothea felt her heart soaring in the heavens, happy that the emotional turmoil she’d been experiencing for so long had finally reached a conclusion and Petra reciprocated her feelings.
Then Leonie had to break the moment, because of COURSE she had. She stumbled into the room announced and told everyone else to come in, making everything much more awkward than it had to be. Unfortunately Leonie and Annette shared a love for violence and weapons, so Annette was the first one to stroll into the room.
‘’Would you look at that! Another couple right under our noses!!’’ She announced loudly. ‘’I hope they don’t keep this from their best friends!!’’
As if ‘best friend’ were some sort of summoning ritual, Edelgard made her way into the room by practically pushing everyone else away.
‘’IT WORKED! I don’t usually do this, but thank the Goddess for this!’’ Edelgard shouted happily as she pulled the two girls into a hug and celebrated as if it had been her confession that turned out successfully.
‘’Congratulations, I guess.’’ Ferdinand said, knowing Dorothea hated him but had gotten over it a little bit, so it was better?
Dorothea pulled him into the hug and it made Edelgard shout: `Black Eagles hug!’ Which immediately made Lysithea, Leonie, Hubert and Caspar join in, with more reluctance on both Lindhardt’s and Bernadetta’s side.
‘’No matter what, we’ll stay together. Even if we live in different corners of the continent, our bonds will persist for the rest of our lives.’’ Edelgard announced happily and everyone had no choice but to agree.
The situation in the Blue Lions was not quite that lovely. Marianne had successfully integrated herself in the class but that had only dragged her into the problematic relationships the members had. She got along quite well with Ingrid, Mercedes and Dimitri, but she was a bit scared of the rest.
Her fear only intensified when Ashe asked her to meet him in the library. She accepted, because Ashe was really nice when he asked, but she had been tempted to say no.
Annette, Ingrid, Sylvain and Professor Beth were there too.
‘’You might be asking yourselves why I asked you all to meet here.’’
‘’Unofficial Blue Lions meeting?’’ Ingrid cheered, thinking of the moment she’d seen between the Black Eagles.
‘’What? No. It’s much more important than that. I need your help to break Mercedes and Dedue up.’’
Annette eagerly agreed to help, Ingrid was just very confused and Sylvain agreed because Ashe was a friend and what damage could it cause to make them break up? Professor Beth was a bit disappointed with seeing Ashe revert to his old self, the schemer with iron guts and icy heart.
‘’Ashe, I thought you were changing for the better.’’
‘’Why did you invite the teacher? As far as I know, this is an evil plan and teachers do not usually get to participate in them.’’ Beth glared at Sylvain and Sylvain shrugged, because he knew he was right.
‘’Because it’s not evil, or at least I don’t intend it to be.’’ Annette sighed in disappointment. ‘’I know that they’re not happy with each other, I just want to give them a push in the right direction.’’
‘’Whatever your intention is, I’m in! Mercedes never said a word about crushing on TheDude, so I doubt she’s happy! I will do anything to ensure her happiness, even if it’s getting her to break up with the guy she’d never even spoken to before.’’
Annette was clearly annoyed, no one was doubting it. Felix and her had spoken about their feelings in their own ways and they seemed to understand each other, but not even Felix could handle her temper.
‘’I think that your intention is fine but you’re going the wrong way about it.’’ Ingrid declared. ‘’Unless you are only doing this because you want Dedue to love you back… What? I talk to Dorothea, she is quite fond of me.’’
‘’I KNEW IT! You never said it but I ALWAYS knew! You were in love with the Man from Duscur since the day he baked you a cake! I had never seen you smile like that before.’’ Sylvain started mumbling about how he’d known all along but no one was really listening.
‘’Thank you for exposing me, Ingrid, very nice of you.’’ Ashe should at least be thankful Dedue wasn’t in earshot. ‘’But no, I just want to ensure Dedue is happy.’’
‘’That is very nice, but if Dedue wants to be with Mercedes, shouldn’t he decide what to do? If their relationship isn’t working out, I think they should be the ones to break it…’’ Marianne spoke shyly and for a second she was worried everyone would scream at her.
‘’You’re right, Marianne, absolutely right.’’ Beth agreed with her.
Marianne cheered internally and received a reassuring pat from Ingrid that made her smile. Ashe and Annette sighed in disappointment, exchanging knowing glances while everyone else -except maybe Sylvain but he kind of wanted to be on Beth’s good side so he’d better not help? – was oblivious to it.
Everyone was sleeping but Ashe and Annette had met up to make the master plan to get Mercedes and Dedue to break up before they left. Mercedes was going back home with her brother and Annette had already managed to convince her father to visit her but she suspected Mercedes would still try to see Dedue. That was why she thought it was important to prevent an engagement from being solid because she knew how Mercedes’ father was.
The Conspiracy Group was not resting because they suspected the early end of their year at Garreg Mach was prompted by some mysterious circumstances related to the King of Night.
``I think that Archbishop Rhea might be scared that the King of Night might try to attack the monastery. Dispersing us would contribute to decreasing the chances of a large-scale attack and protect us.’’ Lysithea let everyone know, making most of the group agree.
``Tomorrow the first carriage leaves.’’ Leonie sighed. ``I was supposed to be there, but since Captain Jeralt took me under his wing, I’m headed to Enbarr. I think it is a tad bit suspicious that everyone is leaving at different times.’’
``It is likely that, were Lysithea’s thesis correct, there is no intention for our families to know that we are coming home soon. While it is unclear whether the King of Night is involved or not, it might have to do with a situation putting us potentially in danger…’’
As the first carriage was getting ready to leave, students from all houses banded together to see their classmates leave. However, it was not a sad moment because it meant they were going to be separated, but rather because the wheels of the carriage suddenly broke down and it exploded and became a burning pile of fire and wood.
Manuela was horrified seeing her students burnt to a crisp, but it only got worse when enemy soldiers that had previously been invisible appeared suddenly at the doors of the monastery and flocked in. Archbishop Rhea had little time to prepare, but she quickly identified the enemy commander and set to destroy him to earn enough time for the students and the Knights to leave. She had already made a mistake during an invasion before and she was not willing to be captured again… she’d leave with Edelgard, her grandchildren and her mother even if meant leaving the Monastery in ruins.
``My dear professors.’’ She said calmly to both of her grandchildren, looking at them with a determined face. ``Our top priority is to rid ourselves from the King of Night. Byleth, I entrust you with the task of leading an assault group to take the enemy commander down… and you, Beth, your task will be to make it out of here safely. We know that you are the King of Night’s main target, so you must leave… I will send Shamir and Alois to guard your backs.’’
Sothis nodded, but Future Edelgard and Blanche were not willing to just leave at that.
``I am sorry, Lady Rhea, but I cannot allow this. I propose that Blanche and I shall guard the two of them. They are both in danger, so we must protect them.’’
Archbishop Rhea had planned other things for them, but she had no chance to convince Edelgard once she’d set her mind on something. She saw the four of them leave accompanied by the Knights of Seiros and hoped nothing would go wrong.
Meanwhile Byleth had to meet up with the students, take down the commander and lead everyone to safety.
Blanche and Future Edelgard were leading Beth out of the monastery, but they did not expect that they would be stopped by none other than Blanche’s father. Claude was there, standing much taller than the man Beth had previously faced, with a black armour that exuded a dark aura. His ghost horse was nowhere to be seen, but both Blanche and Edelgard knew what had happened to it. With no need for a cavalry attire anymore, the armour had gotten heavier until the point that it was mostly focused on defence and it was very strong to break past it, as both Edelgard and Blanche had learned. He also effortlessly knocked both Alois and Shamir down, with a powerful spell.
‘’Dear daughter, I have missed you dearly.’’ Claude said in the tone that Edelgard was so used to, he had grown to loathe Claude immensely, so much so that the only reason why she was not actively trying to end his life was Blanche.
‘’Father, you must let Mother go! You have no right to imprison her, she deserves to be free and to make her own choices!’’ Blanche shouted, stepping forward to keep Claude from reaching her.
‘’I have no intentions of hurting your dear mother, Blanche, that is not why I came here. My sole purpose following you to the past was to bring you back home. Your meddlesome aunt might have gotten in my way, but I sworn to myself to get my daughter back and that is what I will do.’’
‘’You are not my family anymore! You never treated me like you cared about me, you just taught me dark magic and used me to fight in your battles!’’ Claude lowered his head as if he was hurt by that but did not say anything to show his feelings, fearing his voice would crack.
``That is quite enough, Claude. Blanche has a family now and you’re not part of it. Remove yourself from the way or I will do it myself.’’ Edelgard pointed at him with her axe and Claude started laughing at her.
‘’Those baseless threats will not do you any favor. In fact, they might persuade me to end my unfinished job… You know, your other eye.’’
Claude’s armour did not make his smirk visible, but with a snap of his finger a dark portal swallowed him, Blanche and Edelgard. That left Beth utterly defenceless, as she tried to run out of the monastery already fearing what would happen to her.
As if Future Claude’s appearance had been a prelude to her destiny, the Claude in the present was in the yard right before her. His henchmen were keeping Byleth and the students busy enough for him to sneak off to kidnap Beth.
With Blanche and Edelgard gone, there was no way to guarantee the future wouldn’t just repeat itself. Beth lit her fists in magic and she readied her sword to fight Claude for her freedom, but it was pointless as soon as Claude struck her with his own bolt of magic. She fell to the ground, unable to withstand the pain.
However, when everything seemed lost, a lance hit Claude’s head hard enough to knock him out. Beth’s blurry vision tried to focus on her saviour, but she just saw flashes of a blue cape and yellow as she was lifted off from the ground and taken to safety.
In the monastery’s grounds, not everything was so calm and although the enemy commander was out of cold, the underlings were presenting a significant threat. The Leicester Alliance had declared war on both the Empire and the Kingdom since the archduke’s son had forcefully acquired power and was sending all the troops along the agarthans to assault the monastery.
Byleth tried to lead the students out of the monastery but there were more enemies everytime. He had even lost sight of some of his sister’s students, but he had seen Sylvain escaping on Felix’s back, clearly taking advantage of the cat’s size.
Edelgard was staying strong and fighting for her friends to make it out before her. She was willing to even put her life on the line to save everyone else.
Even if Byleth had lost sight of the Blue Lions, they were holding off just fine. However, Annette had grown tired of simply tearing through the enemy lines and weakened a demonic beast enough to jump on its back. Still feeling betrayed by Mercedes, she made the decision to ride the demonic beast and use it to get away as quickly as possible. However, during her mad dash she saw Ashe in trouble being surrounded by enemies and quickly swept her way up to him and offered him a ride.
``You look like you could use my help.’’ She was pulling the demonic beast’s hair to get it to listen to her and got it to kneel to let Ashe jump in with her.
They left together.
Mercedes and Dedue were shocked to see them go but kept fighting nonetheless. Mercedes had her brother’s support but even then numerical inferiority was a great disadvantage, so they were having trouble keep themselves upright.
They saw Marianne and Hilda flying over their heads, which distracted them enough to not notice Claude was making his way back to the battlefield. With one of his deadly spells, he quickly destroyed Jeritza’s armour and proceeded to shoot two spikes of magic to his head, making it seem as if he had horns. Mercedes screamed and tried to attack Claude, but Claude was ready for it and was charging a counter attack. Mercedes did not have enough resistance or defense to withstand the hit, so Dedue got in the way to save her in the last moment.
Edelgard, Professor Byleth and Hubert realized they were the last ones standing so they made it their task to keep Claude distracted long enough for them to flee. Claude was not forgiving or merciful while attacking them, and did not doubt in sending his strongest attacks.
Hubert was not willing to let Edelgard die in his watch so he stood in the way and absorbed all the damage so nothing could get to her. As a result, he received a lethal wound and require immediate curing, but Professor Byleth delivered a deadly blow to Claude before that, forcing him to retire.
It gave the three of them the window of opportunity to flee, which in turn made Rhea, Seteth and all the other people remaining in the monastery resume search for Beth and when they realized she was nowhere to be found, but recovered Alois and Shamir, left.
In the following days, Annette and Ashe were able to reach the palace and meet up with King Lambert and Gustave. They asked why Ashe was alone, with no Dimitri and no Dedue. His answer was that Dimitri and him got separated in the battlefield (not wanting Lambert to blame Beth for Dimitri’s disappearance) and that Dedue abandoned his side, which made Annette swoop in and save him. The King thanked Annette for helping her son, which she accepted gratefully, but he was dubious on whether Dedue had really did that, because he knew how loyal he was to the crown. He’d lost his family during the murder attempt and all he’d ever known was the court’s people, so Lambert doubted greatly that Ashe was telling the truth. There was something else, probably, that he was missing.
``Perhaps he went to look for Dimitri. You told me you’ve been on better terms.’’ But their relationship was regressing, because Dimitri was regressing too. ``I do not think he meant to abandon you, or at least, he did not do it intentionally.’’
``Really?’’ Annette snorted, rolling her eyes. ‘’He dumped everyone for his girlfriend.’’
``Dedue has a girlfriend?’’ King Lambert seemed quite shocked with the news, momentarily forgetting that his kingdom was at the brink of war, his only legitimate heir was missing and the royal retainer was MIA… well, a girlfriend would explain deserting from the Kingdom army.
``Yes, it’s my best friend, Mercedes!’’ Gustave gasped something about Mercedes and Annette nodded to her father fervently.
``But I thought that you…’’ King Lambert muttered, but kept himself from saying anything that could potentially harm his son further. ``Well, if he comes back, that’ll prove his loyalty.’’
``… I would not be sure that he would be able to come back on his own… not with the Alliance’s army flooding the monastery… We did send support, but Archbishop Rhea’s plans were mostly focused on evacuating the students… if Dedue survived the assault, it is likely he will choose a nearer destination…’’
Suddenly, the guards opened the main door of the palace and for a second, King Lambert feared there was some intruder or that Cornelia’s friends had infiltrated the palace. However, it was neither.
The prince of the Kingdom of Faerghus stood by the main entrance severely wounded, carrying Captain Jeralt’s daughter in his arms. Annette quickly approached them both to heal them and so did the court’s healers. She wished that Mercedes were there, but a part of her knew that Mercedes no longer trusted her and that she should stop worrying so much about her.
Having Beth in the palace equated having a flaring target on their heads, but then again, King Lambert had been a target of the Agarthans so it did not change much the situation. Dimitri clearly disregarded his own safety in order to bring Beth safely, so there was that.
During the following days, Rodrigue sent the king a letter saying that Ingrid, Sylvain and Felix had all made it home safely, along with their guests. Archbishop Rhea also made sure to send her own letter thanking him for the support, which was delivered with the outmost secrecy. With war waging in the borders of the Empire and the Kingdom, they both were extremely busy. Although most of the people in the palace except Annette were injured, they tried to contribute as much as they could. Once she recovered, Beth did not doubt to lend her knowledge and help the King, earning quickly his respect as a grandmaster. She did not have her brother’s training, but she was a quick learner and Sothis had raised her. Archbishop Rhea demanded Beth go to the Empire and meet with her family but no one was quite sure it was safe. Surely a quick means of transport like Felix or Minerva would help, but there were enemy troops everywhere, since Almyra had joined the frail and quickly invaded the borders through the Alliance.
Back in Enbarr, the capital, Archbishop Rhea was conducting an investigation to determine who had told Claude about the change of plans. He had no possible way of knowing, specially after Hilda had stopped working with him. She got her answer as soon as the great bridge of Myrddin was threatened and the enemy forces tried to control the stronghold. Professor Byleth and Edelgard alongside some other allies had been sent to help and the enemy commander had been none other than Lorenz, which did not fail to amuse Rhea. She ordered his execution, but unfortunately the allied army only was able to defend the territory and not undertake an offensive stance.
Once she received the news that Beth was at the palace, she started creating a search party to retrieve Beth. The Empire’s army was stronger than the Kingdom’s, so they had a much better chance of protecting Beth if they kept her safely secured in the capital. Sothis, still playing her role as a mother, insisted in being part of the party. All the most capable units, including the Knights and even Seteth, were fighting in the forefront but Beth was also important so Rhea saw her priorities divided. She decided to send Professor Byleth alongside the available knights, Flayn and Petra, as to not disturb the Empire’s army.
When the party arrived at the castle, they were allowed in without any disputes, thankfully. Ashe, due to being severely injured and therefore unable to take part in battle, saw the great gates opening from the balcony and thought it might have been Dedue but he was disappointed to see it wasn’t the case. Sothis, Byleth, Petra, Flayn and some other knights were making their way inside.
``We have come with the intention of retrieving my sister.’’ Byleth spoke, after going over with Sothis what he was supposed to say. Everyone thought he was the most imposing member of the group and Sothis had practically rehearsed with him what he had to say.
King Lambert ceded to the petition without major complaints, but Dimitri was clearly unhappy with the prospect of letting her go. He pleaded Byleth to let her stay and help the Kingdom, specially because the Empire had the entire Church of Seiros’ support. Byleth looked like he wanted to agree with him just to get him to shut up, but everyone else wanted to get Beth back.
She didn’t know what to do. She was attached to the Kingdom because she’d spent a lot of time with the people that were protecting it. She wanted to help and she wanted to aid the king, but at the same time, she didn’t want to let her family behind. She was reconnecting with her father and her brother, and she couldn’t leave Sothis after she’d done all the effort of raising her.
Annette was out in the battlefield, but if she were there, she’d have loudly demanded to let Beth stay. Dimitri was looking at her with sad eyes, as if she held all the hope in the world, while Ashe stood quietly much further away.
``I am sorry, but there is no way either of you get to keep what belongs to me.’’ A mocking voice suddenly rang through the palace’s walls and King Lambert paled, thinking that augmenting the security had been in vain. ``Do you have any idea of how long it took me to find her? There is no way the Charming Prince or the overbearing mom and the deadass brother get to have her. Neither of you deserve it, clear as day.’’
The King of Night stood with his face completely visible, revealing his identity as Claude von Riegan, who had been presumed dead. All part of a scheme created by the Agarthans’ upper spheres after the second divine pulse to safekeep Claude and keep him from learning about Beth. It was all pointless in the end, because the chain of command had been destroyed by Dimitri and Claude easily got rid of the last remnants of the prior commandants. He was in control of the Leicester Alliance, the Agarthans and Almyra. As much as the agarthans had tried to keep him from being interested in Beth, he’d developed his sick obsession anyway, stalking her even if she had no idea of who he was.
``You fiend! How did you even make your way inside here?’’ Prince Dimitri screamed at him, reacting much quickly than the others.
``Nothing gets past me, your princeliness. Now, how many of you do I have to take out before you give me what I want?’’
``I won’t let you keep up your deranged plan any longer. Even if I have to sacrifice whatever is left of my humanity, I will ensure that you never lay your putrid hands on Beth! You are nothing but a sick monster.’’
``Said the kettle to the pot.’’ Claude sighed, almost looking as if he was bored. ``Are you having fun with your voices, huh? Are they telling you everything there is to know?’’
Dimitri gritted his teeth angrily, wondering how Claude knew about the voices. It was likely he had learned where Beth was because he was a stalker, but the Agarthans had clearly given him information.
``Let’s end this mess of timelines now, shall we? Hand over the Goddess and the pretty lady or prepare to get burned to the crisp.’’
Everyone gasped because there was no way the Goddess was among them. Beth briefly glanced at Sothis, already guessing what Claude meant, but never quite saying it aloud.
``I do not know what happened after my daughter and Blanche used the Divine Pulse.’’ Rhea had told Sothis she’d used the divine pulse to revert time and Sothis was beginning to understand why and how it had happened. ``But what I know for certain is that I will not allow you to hurt my family or my creations any longer.’’
``Goddess releasing her fangs?’’ Claude asked mockingly.
``I sacrificed most of my power back in Zanado, but I will end you even if it the last thing I do with my life!’’
Sothis and Rhea knew the Agarthans would not give up in their war against the nabateans. That was why Sothis had poured most of her power in the Blessed Weapons, to ensure that Rhea would have a tool to fight them once they inevitably rose again. Sothis knew that she had not been meant to survive Zanado, which meant that she had overstayed her welcome in Fódlan, but she was grateful to the heavens that she had spent her last moments with her family, raising her great-granddaughter and in Rhea’s company. She could not wish for a better family, although she wished that Sitri could have spent time with them too… before she gave into the dark side.
``I am not your mother, Beth, but I am sure you already knew that.’’ Sothis turned to the woman that she had raised and cared for very deeply, time froze and it seemed only the nabateans were conscious of it. ``I tried to make you happy, I tried to give you a push in the right direction, to get you to find love and to make meaningful connections with people. I never took the right approach and I should have taken care of you too, dear Byleth. What I am about to do is very risky and it might not last forever, but I am hoping that it will last long enough for you to get a better grasp of your capabilities and harness enough power to face their weapon… I love the two of you dearly, as I do love Seiros and Sitri… so please… do this for me.’’
``Mother, no….’’ Beth started crying.
``Use my powers after I disappear… and take care of Fódlan for me. There is no one I trust more than you two for it… I’m afraid Seiros’ grief keeps her from doing the right thing, but you two are not the same… You will do good and I can be proud of that.’’
Then Sothis turned to Byleth.
``We might have not spent time together, but you are part of my family, too… I know that your connection with your sister seems shallow to you, but I know how deep it really is. You two are my last hopes and my greatest pride. Though not my own children, blood from my blood and you have more than enough heart to lead the continent…. Keep everyone safe… upon his return.’’
Then time unfroze and Sothis started glowing. It was as if she was dissolving and parts of her flew to Beth and Byleth, morphing with them. She became a portal that swallowed Claude and the light on Beth and Byleth became brighter, until their hairs that had been previously been bluish turned greener, shiny, even more than Sothis’.
They were the vessels of the Goddess and Sothis had trusted in them to give them her power. She had sacrificed herself to keep Claude away…
Beth started crying louder, making everyone move to comfort her, except her brother, who was frozen because of the speech that Sothis had given them. Flayn hugged him tightly, saying that she trusted him too.
After Claude’s apparent disappearance, the enemy troops were at a disarray. Their tactics became significantly sloppier. Beth gained enough strength to face them in the battlefield, which gave a significant advantage to the Kingdom’s army. Still suffering from the grief caused by Sothis’ death and the frustration that Sothis had hid such crucial information from them, Beth decided to postpone their return to Enbarr. Dimitri, Annette and Ashe joined them on their journey to help the Kingdom get rid of the enemies at the borders too.
Delivering the news to Rhea was the hardest part. Rhea was not only upset, she was enraged. She considered forcing either of them to use the divine pulse, but it was pointless, they would not let themselves be controlled again. In the past, after Claude’s victory over Dimitri and Edelgard, she had been able to convince Byleth but it was not working any longer. They were two, with different mindsets and different loyalties. Rhea grew disdainful on both of them, but did not show coldness or apathy, because deep down she loved them as her family. Her relationship with Byleth was different, after raising one of them and protecting the other on her mother’s wishes. She wished she could unleash her rage on them, but she knew it was not going to work… keeping her mother from dying was impossible… it was going to happen no matter what. She had to embrace the opportunity that she had been given, to stay longer with her and the twins that had substituted the aloof mercenary raised by her father and teacher of a significantly more cheerful Golden Deers’ house.
She allowed Beth to leave because her heart clearly laid with the Kingdom of Faerghus. The prince and her had developed a strong bond, while she had many friendships among the citizens and even the King. Beth no longer required safe-keeping, seeing as Claude had been trapped by Sothis.
The war did not last long, because Almyra retired with Claude, and Lorenz was quite incompetent as a strategist and he was not comparable to Hubert. With the last of the Agarthans only support him, and most abandoning him because Claude was no longer there to fear him, he was easy to get rid of. Lorenz died at the hands of the woman that had, in another life, been his professor and guided him through life… perhaps to a path less misguided than siding with the Agarthans.
Rhea informed Beth and Byleth of Shambhala’s existence, which lead them to go there with their previous students, now allies. There was still no sign of either Dedue or Mercedes, but most of them had made it back and were ready to raid Shambhala with them.
They were quite impressed by the technological developments in Shambhala, as opposed to the rest of the continent. Most of the leaders were gone, but the weaponry and the demonic beasts were still around, so it was necessary to fight them before they declared victory over Those Who Slither in the Dark.
Hilda and Sylvain suffered severe PTSD seeing the people that had subjected them to so much pain but it made them stronger to fight alongside their allies. They found support in each other and in their own networks of people… Professor Beth, Felix, Ingrid, Marianne… all of them were willing to lend a helping hand.
The entire continent rejoiced after the ending of an impromptu war that finished as abruptly as it started and thought that another period of peace would follow… but Archbishop Rhea, Byleth and Beth knew better. Even as if they returned to Enbarr and Fhirdiad, respectively, they were still thinking of Sothis’ words… and how she knew that Claude would not stay trapped forever.
Prince Dimitri and his brother met up with the king after what seemed an eternity and reported to him their success. Annette was named knight, much to her delight because she was following her father’s footsteps, and Ingrid received the title too after her contributions to the Kingdom.
However, before the ceremony ended, a person arrived at the palace. Dedue’s heavy steps finally stopped once he reached Ashe, who was sitting in the rows at the back. Ashe glanced at him briefly, trying to act coldly, but quickly realized his mistake. Dedue did not like his mask, not the pretences, he liked the real Ashe… which was what really made Ashe love him.
``You’re home.’’ He said softly, a tone that Dedue had probably never heard in a very long time.
``I am.’’ He agreed, not wanting to elaborate further. He half-expected Ashe to ask him right away where’d been.
``I missed you.’’ What was he said instead, which honestly surprised Dedue. ``You were away for long… I’ve changed. I’m not… evil anymore. I don’t expect you to love me because of that, but maybe we could try being friends again?’’
Dedue started laughing and for a second Ashe frowned because he thought Dedue was laughing at him, but quickly realized it was not the case.
``You were never evil. Misguided, yes. Vengeful and resentful, a little. However, I am happy that you seem to have found yourself again. I also missed you… and not because we were apart, but because it feels like I’ve spent an eternity without my best friend.’’
Ashe blushed even though he clearly did not intend to. He knew he’d changed a lot and the peak was when he helped Sylvain in his plot… Dedue and him had been becoming more distant until Ashe ruined everything in a poorly timed confession.
``I know you’re in love with Mercedes, and I want to say that I support you… Marianne said that you know what’s best for you and that you will break things up if you’re not Ok with what you have… I understand that you were protecting her… because you love her and stuff.’’
``…It was not that… not at all… I remain loyal to you, no matter what. I just could not find you… that is why I took so long in coming back… I thought you were captured.’’
Ashe’s heart melted at that and deep down, even though his heart was still aching at the thought that his feelings were not reciprocated, he knew everything would be alright.
Dedue wished he could tell the truth to Ashe but he did not know if that would get Mercedes in trouble and how it would affect their relationship. He didn’t want to lead Ashe on.
Although it was stupid and all his previous reasoning was falling like a castle of cards. Ashe was very sweet, which he had forgotten after all the years stuck with his traumatized self. It was easy for him to forget Ashe ever changed, because they frequently spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking for everyone else. Beth liked to eat a lot and the King was very fond of her so she frequently stayed in the palace, to help the court and to guide her previous students.
Mercedes soon appeared at the court, outraged with her father and still grieving her brother. She was there to look for Annette, since she wasn’t in the Dominic state. Annette had been working as a knight so she did not drop by home. She was busy swinging her axe around.
It broke Dedue’s heart to see Ashe intentionally pulling himself away to give him space and time with Mercedes, but Dedue knew he didn’t want that. He had been quite conflicted with himself because he did not quite understand his feelings for Ashe, but once Ashe had dropped his icy façade he found it very pleasant to be around him and it made his heart flutter.
``Dedue, we don’t need to pretend anymore.’’ Mercedes said, although she looked like a madwoman because her hair was a mess and her makeup was completely ruined. ``I left my mother and my father. I cannot lose the most important person in my life.’’
``Wait, pretend? What do you mean by that?’’ He asked Mercedes.
``My father was trying to get me married but Dedue kindly offered to keep up a pretence so he would leave me alone. It does not matter anymore, because I lost my brother and my mother.’’
Ashe looked at Dedue and sighed. He should have known, he really should have known that Dedue, in his ever gentlemanly nature, would help a distressed friend. Mercedes and him were friends that mutually bonded over their aggressive best friends, although Ashe was becoming calmer and sweeter. Annette was like a wildfire and she was as destructive as Gustave, if not more.
``You can keep him to yourself, Ashe. I doubt that there is anything that he likes more than talking about Duscur and you. Now, where can I find my best friend?’’
Before Mercedes could get an answer, Annette appeared from behind a pillar and jumped to her arms, squeezing her in a deathly hug. Mercedes hugged her back with as much strength, but it did not faze Annie much.
``Beth told me that physical expression of your feelings can be more useful than words at times. She also said that it’s nice to hug people when they’re upset.’’
Dedue did not remember having any conversation of the sort with Beth so he guessed it was a private conversation between Ashe and her. Probably after Dedue had stupidly rejected Ashe because he was sorting out his feelings….
``I am upset, not angry and not sad, but kind of upset.’’ Ashe was expressing his feelings which was totally a success, a merit that should probably go to Beth. ``This is as subtle as I can be when I’m asking you to hug me. I’m making an effort, please cooperate with me.’’
Dedue hugged Ashe but Ashe almost choked because of the size difference. Ashe had never grown much because he’d got short genes from his mother. It bothered him at times, but it made him more inoffensive, a useful skill when considering people used to be a bit scared of his past behavior.
Dimitri was a bit tired of having Annette following him around all day and by extension Mercedes although Mercedes was more quiet so it was more bearable.
``Why are you following me?’’ He eventually asked, because he’d admittedly gotten a lot better, the voices were speaking less than before, and he no longer felt violent impulses. The self-loathing was bad but it could be worse, Beth was helping him with it.
``I think you have something really important to do and you are forgetting about it so I’m going to follow you until you do it.’’
``Meeting with Edelgard and apologizing for my deplorable behavior?’’
``Eh… no. I meant confessing to Beth… what has happened with Edelgard, your Highness?’’ She asked as formally as she could.
``Just some misunderstanding provoked by my naivete… don’t worry yourself too much…’’ Then Dimitri realized what Annette had said and blushed like a tomato.
``Confessing to Beth…? Why is everyone under the impression I have feelings for her?’’ He seemed very nervous and fiddly all of a sudden.
``Because you do, duh.’’ Annette rolled her eyes. ``At least your brother’s smarter than you.’’
``Oh? Did Ashe tell you about it?’’ It was supposed to be a secret, but Annette was a knight so it was most likely alright.
``Yes, he did. I’m his new listener now. He speaks and I listen. We’re quite good friends! Sometimes, the roles are reserved. Also, I’m the King’s favorite knight, so how would he not tell me?’’
Dimitri and Ashe got along better and so did Dimitri and Dedue. They spared together at times and Dimitri eventually told Dedue about the voice he heard sometimes. Dimitri being more open about his issues made it easier to treat them. Dedue said he also felt a strong connection to Dimitri and they became good friends over a short period of time.
Ingrid was also at the palace quite often, to speak about books with Ashe and spar with the knights and Dimitri. She was going to get married soon and she had invited some people from the other houses, which was an exciting prospect.
In the Adrestian Empire, things were quite calm. Hubert was still recovering from his deadly injury but he usually exchanged confidential messages with Edelgard. They were stupid things, like Edelgard asking him what surname would fit her better after marriage, but it made them feel closer. When they were invited to Ingrid’s wedding, everyone was surprised but not displeased. They accepted and promised to assist.
Dorothea would have been heartbroken if it weren’t because she was with Petra being part of the royal court of Brigid. She was preparing operas with Manuela, who also moved to Brigid at Byleth’s suggestion, and travelled to the Empire at times. That allowed her to meet up with people she got along with, like Bernie, Ferdie and Edelgard.
The others were doing fine. Bernie was working on sewing and painting, Ferdinand was dealing with his duties as a noble, Lin and Hanneman were working on a way to save Hilda and Sylvain from early deaths with Caspar as their secretary and Lysithea had gone back home but frequently visited.
Most of them gathered together for Ingrid’s wedding with Glenn. Everyone was happy, except Edelgard maybe because she wanted to get married to. She had thought about confessing her feelings to Byleth but it was a bit soon so she dropped it. In the wedding, she met up with Dimitri to speak finally after so long.
``We should send each other more letters.’’ Dimitri started out. ‘’I would have, but I felt like I needed to say something important to you first.’’
``Really? What is it? Actually, I do too.’’
``Annette has been bugging me about it and I realized that you were right. I’m in love with Beth. It’s not just because she saved me… numerous times… and taught me very important things, but because I just love everything about her. I’m sorry I bothered you with that stupid confession, I was confused and I was trying to tell myself that Beth was not everything to me… she is, but I don’t depend on her.’’
``I was going to say something similar. I like Byleth. There is not much to explain. I admired him when I was kid and I listened about this child prodigy that fought with the knights while I could barely lift an axe, but it became something different when I started talking to him. He’s sweet and attentive… and really soft. I don’t think I could handle you… no offense, Dimitri.’’
``None taken. If this time we go right, we’ll be in-laws, right?’’ Edelgard laughed and nodded, liking the idea. ``Family sticks together.’’
``Yup, family. My brother, my husband’s sister’s husband. Sounds nice.’’
Everyone, except Bernie who was sitting at the back, was dancing and it truly became a problem that Felix was a giant cat because he was ruining the dancefloor. Sylvain tried to remove him, but Felix was bored and he had smartly decided to terrorize the boring wedding.
``They’re going to get married before us, just look at that.’’ Dorothea complained to Petra as she watched Sylvain pet Felix, making the cat purr. ``PUT A RING ON HIM ALREADY!’’
``Hah! I already have! Too late for you, Dorothea!’’ Sylvain gestured at the collar Felix was wearing that said: ‘If lost returned to Sylvain.’
``What? Why didn’t you tell me? Aw, you little—‘’
``It was you who proposed me, you said we’d stay together until we die, that sounds like a marriage proposal to me.’’ Sylvain started laughing and Felix just gave up.
``Alright, but it’s going to a private thing. With two people, maximum.’’
Their friends started complaining that no one was invited but Sylvain cheerfully said that he’d gladly not invite anyone if Felix agreed to elope. He had been working on a spell to make Felix a human and he was making great progress, specially after raiding the TWSITD’s headquarters.
Over the next year, Dimitri and Edelgard both confessed their love and got positive reactions. Beth told Dimitri it was quite obvious since the beginning but she’d been playing dumb, which befuddled everyone. Byleth said yes without giving any explanation. Ingrid and Glenn also had a son, which did not fail to make everyone else jealous.
Claude did not reappear, much to everyone’s relief. They kept training.
Edelgard and Byleth got married at the end of the year and everyone was invited. Captain Jeralt cried and his daughter comforted him, but it only made him mad and ask why she wasn’t marrying the prince yet.
Dorothea whined at seeing that Edelgard beat her to getting married first and got so angry she married Petra in Brigid and only invited Bernadetta, who just wouldn’t stop crying the entire wedding, and Ferdinand.
Hubert also disappeared mysteriously.
The fact that Beth and Dimitri were getting married was eclipsed by Edelgard and Byleth’s son, who was called Edelgard in honor to his grandfather. Jeralt accepted It gratefully and told Beth -now you can’t do it!-. It made Beth mad, but she forgave him after silent treatment for weeks.
Her wedding was also very nice, specially because Felix could turn back into a human and not ruin the dancefloor anymore, but he had gotten married secretly at some point and all the people that hadn’t seen him started talking about it. Sylvain’s hair was also red after removing the crest of flames from his system, and Hilda’s had turned pink. She still owned her Wyvern Ghost and took her everywhere with her.
King Lambert was overjoyed to see his first granddaughter be born not long after the wedding. Jeralt and him had an entertaining rivalry and it was fun to see that Jeralt had zero qualms about arguing with the king of Faerghus. Rhea cried when she was told the girl’s name was Sitri.
Claude did not reappear yet, although everyone kept training. Annette and Mercedes moved together to a house close to the palace, much to Gustave’s relief.
For the third year of peace, nothing very interesting happened. Dedue was still having trouble with his feelings so Annette got so mad that by the fourth year she locked both him and Ashe in a room until they spoke about their feelings for each other. Dedue thought Ashe had gotten over him but he could not be more mistaken and Annette was forced to listen through a conversation about opening a diner together but Mercedes was delighted. Annette got a seat in the first row for her wedding, beside Dorothea.
King Lambert and Beth were sponsors for Ashe’s project and she frequently dropped by to announced that she loved the diner, which gave it very good publicity. Dimitri was forcefully dragged at times into it. He was a little sleep-deprived because of his daughter and frequently sent letters to Edelgard to ask her to come by and help and be Aunt Edelgard.
By the fourth year, Felix adopted a panther and said to Sylvain that it was their child, seeing everyone else was having children. Sylvain was a bit concerned about having such large cat in his home but Felix could transform into a cat so they spoke sometimes. Sylvain had no idea of what they were saying but Neofelix (the panther’s name) seemed to think Sylvain was his mom. Sylvain asked why he couldn’t be the dad, but Felix said he was the dad.
In the fifth year, the royal family welcomed both a pair of twins on Dimitri’s behalf and a girl in Ashe’s side. King Lambert said he understood how Dimitri was ready to be the king and retired to leave his son step up. Beth did fantastic as the queen, but she did not let that stop her from training. Rhea also decided her to make her the Archbishop which also gave her a larger workload and when she confronted her brother about him taking the charge, Byleth said that after killing Claude he was planning to move with Edelgard to the furthest corner of the continent and never hear about politics again.
Beth was more faithful than him, anyway.
Nothing overly exciting happened until the seventh year, in which Byleth had a daughter. He was beginning to think Claude would not be back for a long time, so he was letting his guard down, but Rhea lived in the imperial palace and constantly reminded that was wrong. He sometimes went to the monastery but he was no longer working there, new professors were in charge of the houses and the Archbishop rarely stayed for long there.
Fódlan was changing, but the greatest change would arrive after Claude’s return.