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Chapter 1

Prologue

Imperial Year 1176
Return from Duscur

Jeralt rolled his eyes as the palace healer forced him to lay back down on the bed for the 5th time that morning. Goddess forbid, he just wanted to sit up so he could speak with the king at a more respectful level. After shooting the healer a glare and forcing her to back off, Jeralt propped himself up against the headboard.

Lambert chuckled at Jeralt's ministrations and sat himself down in a chair beside the bed. By doing this, Jeralt wouldn’t feel like Lambert was towering over him. He wanted him to feel at ease and not uncomfortable.

“Sir Jeralt, while your wounds may have made a quick recovery, I insist that you remain here in Fhirdiad for at least a few more days to ensure that they will not be reopened.” His own burns and injuries from the attack had yet to make a full recovery, so he could not possibly allow the savior of his family to travel the distance back to Garreg Mach in such discomfort.

Jeralt inwardly cringed at the title, “Just Jeralt is fine. And I appreciate your offer, your Majesty, but I wouldn’t want to be a burden by using up resources here when the Kingdom is still in disarray. I’ve made many trips with injuries before and I’ve been fine.”

“I could do without the titles as well. As our savior, I would be honored if you called me Lambert.” A bright smile graced the King’s face, which Jeralt couldn’t help reciprocating, even if he thought this whole ordeal was a bit ridiculous. The King was honored for Jeralt to call him by his name? Ridiculous.

“You are of no burden to us, Jeralt. You have saved mine and my family’s lives as well as countless others. Surely, this is but a mere small repayment for your deed. In fact, I have a proposal for you, if I may.” Jeralt grunted. “I would like you to lead the royal knights of Castle Blaiddyd. I am prepared to send a letter to the Archbishop to request that you come to serve the Kingdom. Before I do that, however, I would like to know your thoughts?”

Jeralt pondered for a moment. Was the fucking King of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus really asking him to leave the Knights of Seiros to serve under him directly? As much as the proposition was appealing to him, he couldn’t afford to entertain the idea. He had a daughter to get back to, and like hell Rhea would let him just up and leave with Byleth without a fight.

That was more effort than it was worth. He knew, because he’d tried.

Besides, he didn’t need all this special treatment. He was just at the wrong place at the right time and happened to save the royal family from tragedy. Nothing crazy.

“I’m honored, Lambert, I really am, but unfortunately, I have to decline. My daughter and I reside at Garreg Mach with her grandmother, and I will not leave her behind. The monastery is all she’s ever known. I know her grandmother would not be happy with the idea of her leaving, even if I wanted her to be able to see more of the world outside the monastery.”

Don’t get him wrong, he didn’t decline because he cared about what Rhea thought. Hell no, he just didn’t want to deal with her. He wasn’t about to tell Lambert about that though.

“Surely, her grandmother would understand. I can guarantee that your daughter will be safe here and that all the resources she requires to live comfortably here will be provided. Perhaps, she could also make some friends outside of the monastery. Dimitri would benefit to have another friend around in the palace.”

“Hm, not if her grandmother is the Archbishop.” Jeralt almost burst out laughing when Lambert’s eyebrows lifted to high heaven. “While I’d love for Byleth to make friends, Rhea’s stubborn and it’d be difficult to convince her otherwise.”

The king cleared his throat, “I see. I was not aware of your family ties. I really do wish to repay you for your bravery, however. Perhaps we can negotiate further before creating an agreement.” Lambert couldn’t help feeling disappointed to have his offer declined, but he understood having to appease the in-laws.

He tapped his finger on his knee to brainstorm other ideas. Then suddenly, he remembered something that Jeralt had said.

“Pardon me if I am intruding, but you mentioned that you would like your daughter to experience life outside the monastery?" Jeralt offered a nod. "Would the Archbishop not agree to allow her to visit Fhirdiad? We would love to host her, and you as well, as honored guests of the royal family.”

Jeralt let out a sigh. Lambert wasn’t going to let up, was he? As much as Jeralt would love to share his full reasoning, including his slight distaste for the Archbishop, that probably wasn’t the best idea. He respected Rhea, sure, but he couldn’t trust her as readily as he had in the past after what happened to Sitri. He was reassured to an extent though, that Rhea would never harm Byleth and cared for her as a grandmother would. Didn’t mean he liked it though.

“Rhea’s always been overprotective of Byleth. I highly doubt she’d permit a trip like that unless there was an official reason, or if the monastery was under attack.”

Now that got Lambert’s cogs turning. “An official reason you say?” Jeralt raised a singular brow.

Perhaps his age was getting to him, but prior to the attack in Duscur, Lambert had been thinking of encouraging Dimitri to become more acquainted with the young ladies of the court. If Jeralt’s daughter was close to Dimitri’s age, the arrangement would be perfect; both children would be able to make a new friend, Byleth would be able to leave the monastery, Lambert would be able to repay Jeralt for his bravery, and perhaps, the two young ones would be able to find love and companionship within each other. Not to mention the union would be beneficial to both politically. The Archbishop couldn’t possibly refuse an agreement made between her most trusted knight and the King of Faerghus, especially if it was made out of good faith and gratitude…

“I have a proposition,” Lambert inhaled slowly. His fingers fidgeted against his knees nervously as he prepared to ask the loaded question.

“What are your thoughts on an engagement between my son and your daughter?”

*

Imperial Year 1182
18th Wyvern Moon
Garreg Mach Monastery

Jeralt sat at his desk watching Seteth pace back and forth in his office while expressing concern after concern about the preparations for Byleth’s journey to Fhirdiad. Just listening to him talk made Jeralt want to have an aneurysm.

Seteth’s concerns weren’t unfounded though.

Byleth was due to leave for Fhirdiad in a few days time to meet with her “betrothed,” and even though Jeralt was escorting her, he couldn’t help but dread the trip.

Taking a swig from his flask and savoring the burning warm liquid that traveled down his throat, he tried to remember why he had accepted that ridiculous agreement in the first place? Oh, right, Lambert and his insistence. Not to mention what Jeralt wanted for his daughter. What was better for her, being stuck at Garreg Mach for the rest of her life, like Sitri had, and being forced to become the next archbishop? Or Byleth having the chance to experience more of the world outside, whilst also being away from Rhea? Granted, she was tied down by an engagement to a man she didn’t know, so in retrospect, both situations kind of sucked in their own way. Jeralt and Lambert had agreed though, that ultimately, Dimitri and Byleth would be the ones to make the decision for themselves after a courting period. The fathers would not force their children to wed if the feelings were not there.

If Jeralt were being honest though, Byleth could do much worse than a prince, especially since Prince Dimitri himself was very respectful and polite almost to the point of making Jeralt want to gag. Despite the prince’s amiable qualities, if he ever made Byleth cry, he could expect to have the Blade Breaker’s lance up his princely ass within a second’s time.

Jeralt took another swig.

And at least this way she wouldn’t be dragged off by some snot-nosed noble (she had received her fair share of proposals from said nobles once she turned of age), or stuck marrying whoever Rhea wanted her to marry. Unless that was truly what she wanted, but from their father-daughter talks, she made it clear that she opposed the idea of becoming a baby maker for crest-hungry nobles.

Rhea had also discussed with her briefly about potential suitors over their routine tea-times, and while Byleth didn’t mind entertaining her grandmother, she couldn’t guarantee that any of these suitors would catch her interest. She also knew that Rhea was just trying to convince her to annul the engagement with the prince.

Jeralt still remembered the day when the Archbishop of the Church of Seiros marched all the way to his office with a letter stamped with the Royal seal of Faerghus gripped tightly in her hand. He remembered having to watch her do multiple rounds of breathing exercises in between each her outbursts. Years later, she still wasn’t fond of the agreement, but she at least tolerated the idea now. She wanted her granddaughter to be happy, she really did, but also quietly hoped that the prince and Byleth ended up not being compatible.

That was when Jeralt also remembered the night he had first breached the topic of engagement to Byleth years back. It was pretty comical since she merely shrugged and gave him a brief, “Sure,” before recasting her fishing line into the lake from the dock they had been sitting on that night.

He also wasn’t sure if he should have felt relieved or concerned about her response.

In the end, the concern was too powerful and he found himself trying to pry more from her about how she truly felt. Eventually, she admitted that she was just looking forward to traveling to the Kingdom. She had said that with a smile on her usually neutral face. That alone made Jeralt’s heart swell up. If Byleth was excited about something, he sure as hell wasn’t going to take it away from her. He did emphasize to her that the trip wasn’t just for a vacation though and that she was committing to much more. Her response was to dismiss him with a wave of her hand, “I’m know, Dad. This trip is mainly to become more acquainted with my fiancé.”

At the time, hearing her say that out loud made him want to have a drink. Simply recalling the memory had Jeralt tipping his flask as far as he could to get every last drip of liquor out of it.

“Jeralt, would you be so obliged to actually listen to what I’m saying rather than drinking your brain cells away?” Seteth’s voice cut him out of his thoughts. The green-haired man had his arms crossed over his chest, his face staring in disbelief at Jeralt’s drinking problem.

Jeralt placed the flask down on his desk with a thud, loud enough to make Seteth flinch. “Hm? You say somethin’?”

*

“Is this not exciting?! We finally get to leave the monastery!” Flayn swung her legs off the edge of Byleth’s bed with such fervor that Byleth thought she would start rattling the whole bed post.

“I’m still impressed that Seteth is allowing you to come,” Byleth finished tying up her hair into a ponytail before turning to look at her aunt cousin. “I was sure he would give an affirmative 'no' as he always does.”

“Oh, Father can be quite a stick in the mud at times, but once I explained that you would be without a familiar companion to confide in if you were to be lonely, both him and Aunt Rhea reconsidered,” Flayn explained matter-of-factly with a single pointer up. She smiled proudly at her accomplishment. “What do you think the prince will be like? I remember he was here in the officer’s academy years back, but Father hadn’t let me mingle much at the time.”

Byleth tilted her head and brought her hand to her chin as she often did while thinking. She recalled seeing him about the monastery with his classmates while she was on the way to her own private classes. While her grandmother did allow her to mingle with the students on occasion, her schedule was oftentimes too full for her to mingle for long. She did recall becoming acquainted with a few students. What were their names again? Annie, was it? Mercie? Lin-something? Mary? Dear Sothis, was she horrible with names.

“I had helped him pick out flowers for someone in the greenhouse one time, but I believe that was the only time I talked to him. He never did say who he was picking the flowers for, but he looked at them very fondly.”

Now that she thought about it, who was he picking the flowers for? A small trace of anxiety formed at the bottom of her stomach. If he had been picking them for someone he admired, then was she preventing him from pursuing the one he truly liked?

As if reading her mind, Flayn frowned and crinkled her brows in concern. “Perhaps those flowers could have been for an injured classmate, and if they were not, surely the relation was short-lived. Do not worry, dear cousin! All will be well!”

She hopped off the bed and wrapped her arm around Byleth’s, “Now, why don’t we share a meal? I hear they are making two-fish saute today.”

*

Imperial Year 1180
Red Wolf Moon
Garreg Mach – Greenhouse

After her lesson with her grandmother on faith magic, Byleth headed to the greenhouse to pick a few small flowers to accent her tea arrangement for when she would meet with Manuela later. The older woman had another falling out with a knight and needed comfort. Much like her father, Manuela was too quick to resort to drinking to ease her pain.

Enter Byleth’s idea to have the older woman drown out her sorrows with the comfort of tea and cookies Mercedes had shared with her, rather than with liquor.

She decided on gardenias to possibly help Manuela clear her mind. Entering the greenhouse, she hadn’t expected to see the Blue Lions house leader there. He stood with crinkled brows and an overwhelmed expression on his face.

She knew him to be her betrothed as it was hard to hide that he was Prince of Faerghus; however, she was not sure if he knew who she was. He likely knew her name, but didn’t have a face to go with the name.

Should she introduce herself? Or was it too soon? If she was going to, how should she approach him? Byleth didn't have much experience speaking to boys, especially possible suitors. Perhaps, it would be better to wait for the right time before she introduced herself as his fiancée?

Panicking, she looking around to find the best way to run away and avoid the situation, but it was too late.

“Excuse me, miss?” Well, if she needed a confirmation that he didn’t know who she was, that was it.

Turning around, she was taken-aback at how close he was to her now. She awkwardly blinked at him, taking in his appearance. While he didn't tower over her, he was definitely taller by at least five inches. He was also rather handsome, but she expected no less from a prince. His appearance didn't really matter to her if his personality was shit.

Having stared at him for a second too long, she sent him a polite smile, “Can I help you?”

The prince returned her smile, before scratching the back of his head, “I apologize for bothering you, but I must ask if I could spare a minute of your time?”

Her first thought of him was that he was very polite. She nodded, “Do you need help picking flowers?”

“Oh, yes, please! That is precisely what I need help with,” he gestured further into the greenhouse and she followed. “I am looking for a flower to gift to someone. Something that represents admiration for someone’s efforts and hard work.”

Her next observation was that he was straightforward and didn't try flirting with her. Compared to the red-haired fellow from the Blue Lions, the prince was a model gentleman.

She took sneaky glimpses at him as she scanned the various flowers as part of her investigation, but soon realized she was being ridiculous. Collecting herself, she began to actually focus on the task at hand. Helping him pick flowers.

Perhaps a carnation? That may be too romantic in notion. Dandelions? Nah.

“How about a bouquet of heather?” She pointed to the small lavender blooms. “I quite enjoy these because they are a symbol of protection, good luck, and admiration.” She crouched forward and picked one for him to smell. She handed it to him and continued admiring the nearby blooms, brushing her fingers on the petals.

Dimitri accepted the flower with a bright smile, “That sounds wonderful.” He crouched next to Byleth and began scanning the flock of flowers for the perfect ones, “Thank you for your help, miss-,” Turning to the girl beside him, he paused when he found her gazing out fondly at all the flowers. She looked so comfortable and at home here. He couldn’t help, but find her energy contagious. It was very comforting.

Realizing that he was staring at her, he cleared his throat and looked down at the flowers he was picking. “My name is Dimitri by the way, if you hadn't already known me as the Blue Lions house leader.” That seemed to have brought her out of her daze as she turned to look at him. “May I have your name? So I can properly thank you? Of course, if you’re uncomfortable with that, I completely understand!”

Byleth blinked at him for a moment before offering a small chuckle, “I go by, well, By. And you’re welcome.” She stood up and brushed away any dirt from her skirt. “It was nice to meet you, Dimitri. Unfortunately, I must be somewhere, so I will take my leave first. I hope that whoever receives those flowers will love them.”

She gave him a small smile and a brief wave before making her exit.

“Thank you, By. Perhaps when we meet again, I can show you my full gratitude.” She turned back to see the prince give her respectful bow and a wide grin.

She returned the beaming smile before waving another time and finally walking away. She needed to hurry because she was sure that Manuela was sulking in her office right about now with a bottle of vodka on hand.

As Byleth left, Dimitri looked down at the flowers and gave them a sniff. He was sure Marianne would love them. Then, he thought back to By. He had seen her briefly here and there feeding the monastery animals and teaching the orphans, but she didn’t seem to be a student. Perhaps she was a nun? He did remember thinking that she was very pretty the few times he saw her... and if she was in fact a nun, then he needed to beat down on those thought right away.

Wait, what if she knew the Archbishop’s granddaughter? His supposed fiancee was here at the monastery, but he had yet to actually meet her. Maybe next time he saw By, he could ask her about his betrothed. And then, Dimitri remembered the flowers he held in his hands and who they were for.

Thinking about it all made his head hurt. Sylvain had been the one to originally encourage him to enjoy his current freedom to date around before he got officially engaged. Yet, at the same time, the Gautier heir was also the one to compare his supposed love life to one of those melodramatic operas that Dorothea had starred in.

The day his love life turned into a melodrama was also going to be the same day Gustave would get over himself and return home. Realizing how insensitive that sounded, he shook his head and left the greenhouse with his bundle of flowers.

 *

Imperial Year 1182
25th Wyvern Moon
Castle Blaiddyd

Dimitri felt like screaming. Not just screaming loud enough for all of Fodlan to hear, but loud enough that Sylvain went deaf in one ear… or maybe both.

Okay, not really, but if the red-head didn’t shut up, he might find himself impaled by Ingrid’s meat skewer if not Felix’s sword.

“Hey, hey, calm it with those,” Sylvain raised his hands up in the air, “I’m just excited for His Highness is all.” He used his finger to lower Ingrid’s skewer, but she instead jabbed it at him again, making him squirm.

“I mean, after the whole ‘one who must not be named’ situation, I think it’s perfect that His Highness has a back-up gal in the form of the Archbishop’s granddaughter! If I remember correctly, she’s even hotter than you know who.”

Dimitri sent Sylvain the dirtiest look he could muster, “Please refrain from speaking of both in such a manner. And were you not the one who told me to enjoy 'my freedom' while I could?" He shook his head, "Also, I will not be offended if you mention Marianne’s name. We had a mutual understanding and we agreed to remain as friends.”

“You might not be offended, Boar, but don’t think we don’t see you sulking in the corner. Pathetic.” Felix sheathed his sword and crossed his arms. Glaring at Ingrid when she elbowed him.

“Don’t listen to them, Your Highness. These things take time, so don’t feel bad,” Ingrid, the usual voice of reason for the three troubled gentlemen, put a reassuring hand on Dimitri’s shoulder. “Even though I don’t agree with Sylvain’s wording, he isn’t entirely wrong (Seee!). I do believe getting to know Lady Byleth can help you move on. I heard from Mercedes and Annette that she was very kind when they would have tea together during our academy years.”

Dimitri thought about it. Ingrid was probably right, as she usually was about these things. The fact that even she saw a positive out of this arrangement was significant for Dimitri, since he knew of her own situation with her father.

“I suppose you’re right. I just worry, because we will be hosting the Founding Day ball this coming moon and our friends from the officer’s academy will be invited, including those from the Golden Deer. They will be staying a few days as well.” Dimitri rubbed his face with his hand, brushing some of the loose strands from his half-ponytail out of his face. "I'm sure that Lady Byleth will have to be introduced to them and I fear there may be tension. Not to mention if Hilda attends... or Claude."

Ingrid bit her lip and looked at him with sympathy, while Felix scoffed from the window he was standing next to.

Sylvain was the only one to break the silence, “Now, now, everyone. Let’s not sulk before anything actually happens. That’s all a later problem. Why don’t we deal with the now problem? Like the fact that your dearly betrothed is arriving today?”

As if on cue, Dedue approached the four to announce that the entourage from Garreg Mach had arrived.

*

Lambert was so ecstatic to meet is future daughter-in-law that he was drumming his fingers along Patricia's arm. While the queen consort was also excited to meet the lady, she did not express as much noticeable energy. The King had been talking her's and Rodrigue’s ears off the entire morning describing the possible scenarios that could play out in the coming weeks.

As the honored guests' entourage came into view, the king and queen waited at the entrance to greet their new guests. Dimitri waited alongside his father and his step-mother while his friends waited to the side. He had been encouraged to dress formally today, so he had opted for black trousers, a white button up shirt and a navy blue vest with accents of gold. Clean and simple, the way he preferred it.

The line of horses and a carriage suddenly came to stop.

Climbing off a brown stallion was the captain of the Knights of Seiros, Jeralt Eisner, or also known as his future father-in-law. Compared to the last time they saw each other, Dimitri was roughly the same height as him, perhaps taller. He noted that Jeralt still held himself in that way that made people second guess getting in his way. Dimitri remembered Jeralt very briefly from when he had stayed at the castle all those years ago, and from when he had attended Garreg Mach.

Lambert opened his arms wide to give his friend a hug, “It’s nice to see you again, my friend. Your letters don’t hold a candle to actually being glared at in person.” He laughed while clapping Jeralt on the back, “It’s kind of nostalgic.”

The knight grunted, but offered his old friend a smirk and a pat on the back. “Good to see you’re still the same.” He bowed to the Queen and greeted her before turning his attention to the prince.

Turning his gaze from the king to the prince, Dimitri instantly felt himself straighten and begin to sweat. “Hey, Kid.”

Realizing he likely looked like a fool, he brought one arm to his front and one to his back and bowed, “It is a pleasure to see you again, Sir Jeralt.”

Jeralt chuckled and patted him on the shoulder, “Chill, Kid. We’re not at the monastery anymore. Just Jeralt is fine.” Dimitri nodded his head and released a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. “Now, we’re not here for me, right?” Jeralt sent Dimitri a smirk.

He turned toward and approached the carriage, knocking on the door, “Kid, you ready?” When he didn’t hear anything, he frowned and opened the door a crack to peek inside. Immediately, he slammed it closed. He exhaled deeply and rubbed his eyes.

“Monterey!” A knight from the back ran up to his captain and saluted. “Where are Lady Byleth and Flayn?” Jeralt asked in that tone that all the knights referred to as “death, calamity, and regret.”

“A-a-are they not in the carriage, Sir?” Dimitri felt for the knight. He was practically disintegrating from Jeralt's glare.

“If they were, I wouldn’t be asking you would I?”

“Have the ladies been captured? I can release a search this instant,” interrupted Lambert.

Jeralt simply lifted his hand and shook his head. “Don't bother. My kid has a habit of wandering off. By must have slipped out during a stop. I apologize for this. I'll make sure to fetch her myself.”

Now, that caught Dimitri’s attention. Did he just call her, By? The same name as the girl from the greenhouse from his academy years? This couldn’t be her, right? His fiancée’s name is Byle- wait. By… Leth.

Oh.

Lambert’s voice broke Dimitri out of his reverie, “Do not apologize, my friend. I understand that this is the first time she has been outside of Garreg Mach, so she must be eager to explore.” He gestured Jeralt to straighten himself out of a bow. “It would not be inconvenient for me at all to release a search party, if you’d so like.”

Before Jeralt could respond, Dimitri spoke up before he even knew what he was doing, “I would be happy to help look for her and her companion.” Suddenly, feeling on the spot, he cleared his throat and looked back at his friends for support and instantly regretted it when Sylvain started waggling his eyebrows.

“We would love to offer our assistance as well, Your Majesty,” offered Ingrid with a bow.

“Yeah, after all, they won't be hard to find looking like they do,” Sylvain whistled quietly, dodging Ingrid’s fist and Jeralt's glare. “What I mean to say is that we had seen both Lady Byleth and Flayn around during our time at Garreg Mach, so we know what to look for.”

“It’d also be less unnerving for the people if we didn’t have the royal knights parading the streets,” added Felix, scowling and turning his head away when Rodrigue nodded his head in approval.

And so, it was agreed the small party of four would go searching the streets for the Archbishop’s granddaughter and her companion.

Sylvain had joked that Dimitri was quite literally finding himself a fiancée.

Oh, yeah, for sure, he was finding himself a fiancée alright. A fiancée who had helped him pick out flowers for another girl... whom he also used to have a thing with.

Just great.