Byleth loves Dimitri, deeply.
There has always been a sparkle of emotion, something more, ever since the days in the Academy. From the first time Byleth laid his eyes upon him, he was magnetized by Dimitri’s presence.
Five years passed. The moment Byleth climbed those stairs, stained with blood, the moment Byleth understood Dimitri’s intense sorrow and madness—the emotions inside him erupted. Relief and sadness, both of them so great, Byleth had trouble breathing.
But his love for Dimitri is something he has come to realize only during the last few months. Through the harsh days where Dimitri avoided life itself, even spat death threats at everyone around him. Through the happier days, through the dangers on the battlefield and those soft, personal moments they had for themselves after each battle. A few friendly gestures, a shared glance, a word of advice.
After Edelgard is defeated, after the celebratory dance, they talk again, about the future…about the new Kingdom. But rarely about themselves, their feelings…those five hellish years Byleth spent asleep and Dimitri spent losing his mind.
Dimitri’s coronation is approaching, and Byleth still hasn’t told him.
Until the night Rhea attacks, Byleth never has a chance to speak to Dimitri about his feelings.
It happens suddenly, the night before the coronation.
It is late. Dimitri and Byleth linger in the throne room, lost in an important conversation about the future of the new Academy. A guard steps inside and informs the King that Lady Rhea has requested an audience with him.
Dimitri does not hesitate, and lets her in. Since Edelgard’s death three weeks ago, Rhea has been missing. Byleth is happy; he thought her dead.
Rhea is smiling as she approaches the throne, where Dimitri is sitting, Byleth standing by his side.
It all happens so fast.
When Rhea’s dagger embeds itself in Byleth’s heart, Dimitri lets out an inhuman roar.
The roof shatters into a million blue and silver pieces as the enormous dragon ascends toward the night sky.
“No. You cannot. I will not allow this.” Sothis says, but Byleth is relentless. Silent and lethal.
He wants another chance. He wants to turn back time.
But this time…not for a few seconds.
He is standing again opposite that throne, the interlaying lines on black granite. The pain is unbearable.
“Even if I could” Sothis says, “your body wouldn’t be able to withstand it. Turning back the wheels of time…”
“Six years.” Byleth says, his lungs filling with blood and Dimitri roaring in grief, somewhere far away from him, “Give me six years.”
He wants to go back. Before the war…before Dimitri’s scars, the deaths of his students, the atrocities across the battlefields.
“A mortal body cannot even handle six months!” she snaps. “To withstand even that would be miraculous! Even if you succeed, you will only earn an early death. I will not allow this!”
“Six months. A month. Anything.”
“What is done cannot be undone.” The Goddess says. “You were destined to die since the day you were born.”
Byleth takes a step back.
“When your mother gave birth to you…” Sothis speaks, “…your heart did not beat. She sacrificed herself. She gave you her Crest and her life. Yet in this world…nothing is permanent. Nothing can endure the flow of time.”
Sothis sighs. “I know that cryptic expression of yours. Don’t tell me…”
“I love him.” People who know Byleth well enough would detect the absolute, devastating misery in his voice. “I cannot leave him. Not before he knows.” It’s a lie. Byleth cannot leave Dimitri’s side at all. He fears the insanity will return tenfold, consume Dimitri whole, burn the entire Kingdom to ashes, his hopeful plans, his bright legacies for all the orphaned children. Everything he built with his blood and tears.
“He knows.” At Byleth’s surprised expression, Sothis harsh tone gentles. “Deep inside his soul, he knows. That you love him. That your life is his. And the same scorching flame burns inside his heart…even now, when he’s raging over your injured body. As if he has lost his soul…”
Byleth shudders. He cannot feel Dimitri’s tears dripping onto his skin. The way he holds Byleth close. He cannot feel anything, anymore. He has so much gentleness, inside. Dimitri. Byleth will fight Death himself if it means Dimitri will be spared the grief and madness of losing another beloved person in his life.
Sothis sighs, resting her cheek on her palm, as if bored. “There are other timelines…other life choices among the unique your path you thread. The dangers your king will face in this future could be cut down by your hand, with the white-haired girl’s help. Or the other one—the cheery one. Yet no matter whose side you choose, your choices bear ill consequences. The one you love becomes consumed by vengeance. Due to your absence, he always loses himself to madness. In another life.”
“I don’t want another life. Only this one.”
Sothis stands up from her throne. Once again she’s stepping down that staircase, seemingly satisfied with Byleth’s answer. “So be it. I will rewind time yet again…” She raises a delicate finger. “However. You won’t be able to use the Divine Pulse anymore. In fact, you won’t be able to wield my power at all, or use the power of your Crest…at least not for a long time.”
Byleth stares back in surprise.
“Yes. This will use up all of my strength, and our souls will separate. I will be gone…forever.” She tilts her head. “Oh, don’t make such a face. I will keep an eye on you, if you ever are in danger. And you will be. Without the Divine Pulse to protect you, a wrong choice on the battlefield could mean death. Are you certain you want to sacrifice so much—for him?”
Byleth doesn’t even hesitate. He nods.
Dimitri, hunched over, a wounded creature sitting in the shadows, a single ray of sunlight touching his face as he lifts his head and regards Byleth. Lost, alone, in misery.
Sothis smiles. “Stubborn, aren’t you? Fine, then. I will grand your request. But this time, don’t be such a reckless fool in battle!”
“Send me back.” Byleth demands, as he feels his world slipping away.
Byleth opens his eyes. Nausea and hope assault him. He is standing next to Dimitri once again—facing Edelgard and Hubert. He remembers; the secret meeting, three weeks ago, before the decisive battle.
Dimitri talks. Edelgard refuses to cooperate. Yet this time, after Dimitri gives her the dagger and Edelgard turns her back on them, ready to leave, Byleth opens his mouth and asks: “Rhea wants to kill me. Why?”
It’s minimal, but Edelgard’s step falters. Yet she does not answer.
“What was that about, Professor?” Dimitri asks, then insists against the silence, “Byleth?”
Byleth shivers, the sound of his name coming from Dimitri’s lips.
He shakes his head.
The battle ahead is long and brutal. In what is now his past, Byleth used the Divine Pulse again and again in that final battle against Edelgard, in order to ensure everyone survived. This time, he knows every move of the enemy as well as he knows Dimitri’s heart.
That’s the only reason everyone lives to see tomorrow.
Edelgard loses. Her black, monstrous limbs evaporate and disappear into thin air, her red-clothed body is revealed. But she is faster than Byleth. Her dagger wounds Dimitri’s shoulder—once again. Byleth swallows his unease because he knows—this time— that the wound is superficial, that in the few days they will have together until Rhea arrives, Dimitri will be safe, content, loved.
So before Dimitri’s Areadbharmeets Edelgard’s torso, Byleth says, “Wait.”
Dimitri hesitates and Byleth addresses a defeated Edelgard again, “Rhea wants to kill me.”
Edelgard curls more into herself and does not answer. Until a soft, empty smile stretches her lips. “She is a tyrant. She doesn’t value human life at all. She wants your Crest, Professor. She wants the vessel that is your body. She wants to destroy your soul, your entire life.”
Dimitri’s impossibly blue eyes widen in shock.
After Edelgard is arrested and imprisoned, her fate to be decided only by Dimitri, the victory celebrations begin. Dimitri tries to discover the source of Byleth’s questions, but for the first time since they have known each other, Byleth is the one keeping silent.
A day passes, as they travel back towards Faerghus and onward to the capital, Fhirdiad. Dimitri will be soon crowned King, a title he has justly earned; reigning, as well, over Byleth’s heart.
The night of the official celebration is vibrant yet chaotic. A drunk Sylvain tries to coax Ingrid to join him at the celebratory dances in the throne room. Felix is standing at a corner, also drunk, fencing with an imaginary opponent while countless noblemen observe with respect and admiration. Ashe and Annette are stuffing their mouths with sweets, Mercedes and Dedue are lost in conversation.
Dimitri is standing, tall and noble as the King he is—and perhaps a bit timid— amid a crowd of citizens that keep congratulating him and wishing him well. Beautiful men and women who keep throwing themselves at his feet, perhaps even bold enough to hint at their King the promise of a restless night, and pleasure…
Byleth shakes his head. He ignores the warm pulse that rushes down his chest, the moment Dimitri raises his gaze and clear blue eyes meet his, over the endless, colorful crowd of well-wishers.
Dimitri’s smile is soft, almost—loving. Byleth nods, then looks away.
He has about three weeks left until Rhea attacks. He might prevent her from sticking a dagger between his ribs, but he has no way of stopping her from transforming into a powerful, devastating dragon. And telling Dimitri the truth—that he used to manipulate the flow of time during each of the battles they fought, yet was still unable to prevent Rodrigue’s death…
Unlike last time, Byleth cannot rest. There is a certain dark turmoil, a certain ill foreboding, stirring behind his chest. He was used to manipulating time; Sothis was right, he was a reckless fool. The absence of power distresses him. He cannot correct any fatal mistakes at any given moment, not anymore. And fatalities must be approaching, in an ominous horizon. The threat that is Rhea—the other, unknown threats Sothis spoke about…
Byleth removes his dark form from the celebratory atmosphere that reigns across the huge throne room, its vast ceiling patterned in blue and silver. Dimitri’s colors. Everything reminds him of Dimitri, now.
As Byleth walks towards the huge balcony in the opposite direction of the throne room, he tries to collect himself. There are things Byleth should be glad for; Dimitri is calm and has found the strength to move on. The dark circles under his eyes, contrasting his pale hair, are long gone. That heart-wrenching madness, too. After that discussion under the rain, after Dimitri told Byleth how warmhis hands are…Dimitri’s bitterness and anger ebbed with time, slowly faded away.
When Byleth arrives at the balcony, he rests his arms on the stone railing and sighs. The night is dark as ink, countless stars are spread on the heavens above, and Byleth knows he won’t be able to conceal his secrets from Dimitri anymore: Sothis, turning back time, Rhea’s imminent attack. The fact that he has no heartbeat, and the Crest inside his heart is the only thing that keeps him alive…
“There you are. Ah, I should’ve known. Dancing…is a burden, isn’t it?”
Byleth turns. There he is; Dimitri, smiling. The sight makes Byleth’s chest ache.
“Sometimes it is.” Byleth says, and thinks that dancing with Dimitri would never be a burden. “Sometimes it’s not.” The music drifts from the ballroom and through the air until it reaches them, melodic and gentle.
Dimitri comes and stands next to him. They are uncharacteristically silent. As Byleth’s gaze drifts across the panoply of stars above, Dimitri says, “Share your burdens with me.”
“Dancing can be…too much.”
Dimitri chuckles. “I know. But that’s not what I expected to hear. You are struggling to hide it, but I know you too well, my friend.” He takes a step closer, tilts his head, and Byleth observes how his golden hair curtains his cheeks, half-covering his black eyepatch. “Something is troubling you.”
My imminent death. Leaving you behind, alone and hurting. Once again…“The uncertainty of the future.” Byleth swallows, and cannot look away from Dimitri’s eyes.
“The future will always be uncertain. Why did you stop me from killing Edelgard? Since when do you harbor the suspicion that Lady Rhea wants to—to kill you? Please, help me understand.”
Byleth refuses to hold Dimitri’s gaze as he says, “You once told me that I seem to have all the answers you seek.”
Raindrops falling on Dimitri’s face, his tangled hair plastered against his cheeks and forehead. How Dimitri stared back at him, confused and hurting, when Byleth told him, ‘You have suffered enough.’
Dimitri raises his gaze at the stars and sighs. “I remember.”
“This time, I have no answers left to give.” Byleth says. “I feel…lost.”
“This is unlike you.” Dimitri frowns. “When I was at my lowest, ready to depart for a suicidal, vengeful rampage, drenched to the bone under that rain, you—you offered me your hand.” His voice rises, “You told me that even a blood-stained monster can find the will to live on. You showed me how to move forward, how to live for myself! So why? Why do you insist on keeping silent, when it’s obvious that something is troubling you?” Dimitri’s eyes are blazing, his anger and concern are so obvious, threatening to spill over in every direction—even on Byleth.
“There is an orphanage near Fhirdiad.”
Dimitri blinks in surprise, his anger evaporates. Byleth can see the internal struggle, he can see how Dimitri accepts Byleth’s retreat, how he reluctantly continues down the new, uncertain path of this conversation, “You wish to teach swordsmanship to the orphans?”
Interesting, how their roles seem to be reversed this time. Byleth speaks, calmly, “Would you consider lending me a hand?”
Dimitri’s mouth softens. “The orphanage is located deep within the woods. It is going to be a long ride, until we reach it. If we leave before sunrise, we can be back at the Palace just before nightfall.”
Byleth nods, very content. He wouldn’t have suggested this, if a long horse ride wasn’t involved. Dimitri smiles, as if knowing. Byleth wishes he could cover those lips with his own, taste Dimitri’s happiness—Dimitri’s warm mouth…
Someone calls Dimitri’s name. Commoner or noble, it doesn’t matter. Dimitri is patient and understanding, and he needs to go. Yet before he turns away, the King of Lions says in the softest voice possible,
“Meet me tomorrow near the stables, just before the sun rises.”