Darkness. It surrounded her on all sides, stretching into infinity. And there she was, laying on her throne as she always was. This green-haired girl had been a regular part of Byleth’s dreams for as long as she could remember, but she was always in her own deep slumber. Did she have dreams of her own? Byleth started as a voice echoed around her. Seemingly the young girl’s, despite her still being fast asleep.
"Both sides of time are revealed to you… It is time. Time for you to-.."
"-ake up. Byleth! Time to get up."
A groan escaped her lips as the candlelight pierced her eyes and she screwed them back shut. The gruff voice that had pulled her from her sleep sounded out once more,
"Come on, ya lazy bum, I know I raised you better than this."
Byleth sighed, "I know, I know, I'm up, don't worry," Byleth opened her eyes to find her father standing over her. His tan skin hardened by years of mercenary work. His hair was shaved at the sides, short up top with a longer tail in the back which he kept in a simple braid. His broad body covered by an orange gambeson and a steel pauldron protecting one shoulder.
“We’ve got a new job in the Kingdom, we gotta be ready to leave by sunrise. You’re usually already up. Dreaming again?”
“The girl with green hair,” she said with a nod.
“Hmm. Wish I could help you there. But anyways, get ready, we’ve gotta rouse everyone else so we can get out of here on time. Let’s-”
The two mercenaries turned to find an armored man now standing in their doorway, "What is it?"
"Visitors sir, they say they're being pursued by bandits!"
"Bandits here? Not good. Lets go, kid."
Byleth quickly threw her coat on and followed her father out. Once outside, Byleth could already tell where the newcomers were, the bright colors on their fancy uniforms being a dead giveaway, especially in the darkness of the early morning. They must not have been able to hide from the bandits because of that.
Byleth scoffed. Nobles.
As they approached, the sentry they had approached broke off whatever conversation they had been having, "Captain Jeralt! These three here report a group of bandits that have been pursuing them through the forest. It may be too late to stop them before they reach this village."
Jeralt acknowledged the man with a solemn nod, "Thanks, Mikhael, we'll talk with our new friends here, you rouse the company. Quick and quiet, no need to alarm the villagers if we don't need to. How many were there?" He questioned the man in the center.
He held himself with a confident enough air, Byleth supposed. Though his hair-style left much to be desired. His blond hair was choppy, sections from the center of his head pulled forwards in place of actual bangs. Ice blue eyes stared out from under them, his skin decently tanned, most likely from training outdoors. His uniform was clean and sharp, he obviously took good care of it. It was decorated with silver lining, a blue cape over his left shoulder.
"I was able to count eight bandits before we lost sight of them in the forest."
"Good man. Wait, hold on a second… your uniforms, are you students at the Officer's Academy?"
"We are indeed."
"You three know how to fight?"
"Well, I can, I dunno about these royal softies over here though. I'm pretty good with a bow if I do say so myself," A new speaker piped up. The man was clad in a similar uniform to the blonde, though his was decorated with gold, and had a yellow shoulder cape instead of silver and blue. His skin was a rich sepia, a nice contrast with his emerald green eyes. Tousled black hair adorned his head, a rat-tail braid down his right temple.
"Claude maybe next time just say yes or no instead of wasting precious time with your prattle."
Byleth looked to the new speaker, simply studying them as she went along, this one was quite- "Oh no she's hot," Byleth breathed. Quietly, she thought, until her father gave her the most exasperated side-eye she'd seen in months. The girl's uniform stood out from the others in that instead of the black pants, she wore shorts, her legs covered by red tights instead. Her uniform jacket was shorter as well, ending just under her ribs instead of falling to the waist like those the boys wore. Decorated with gold like the boy in yellow, she possessed a red shoulder cape. Stark white gloves adorned her hands.
He heaved a sigh, "Alright, grab some weapons from our armorer, just tell her Jeralt sent you and she'll let you grab some iron. Get back here as quick as you can, you kids brought this mess here so you can help clean it up."
Byleth noticed the girl perk up at her dad's name, though she wasn't sure why. Perhaps he was more well known than he'd let on? Byleth shoved those thoughts to the side. No time to worry about that now. The girl seemed to be studying her rather intently. That was natural, Byleth supposed. She'd been told she posed a striking contrast to her father, The woman stood half a head shorter than her father, bearing teal-hair, striking cobalt blue eyes, and skin a light chestnut.
The three nodded and took off. It was only when the white haired girl gave her a confused look as she ran past that Byleth realized she hadn't stopped staring and quickly looked away.
Jeralt gave her a pat on the shoulder as he left for his own weapons, "Come on kid, fall head over heels later, we've got some bandits to kill."
"Hya!" The sound of metal tearing through flesh sounded in the still morning air once more as the last grunt fell to Byleth's blade. She was impressed these students could fight well enough, considering their noble standing. She seemed to work especially well with the White-haired girl, Edelgard, she had said her name was, though she might have misheard as it was thrown out there as they had begun their defense against the bandits. Didn't help that she was just bad at remembering names. Either way, they complimented each other well. Between Edelgard's powerful axe swings followed by Byleth's more precise stabs and swipes of the sword, any bandit that came against them never stood a chance. However, Byleth could tell the young woman wasn't a seasoned fighter. She telegraphed her attacks too much, wasted too much movement, but oh well, that could be worked on later. For now they needed to finish off the bandit leader, her father was already about to engage, his horse allowing him to speed by the other combatants. Byleth and the three nobles approached just as Jeralt engaged the man and the few remaining bandits protecting him, barely catching the bandit's surprised exclamation.
"What?! The Blade Breaker?! What's a legendary Mercenary doing in some backwater village like this?!"
"You know, you really shouldn't be the one complaining. I have to clean up the mess you started," the paladin sighed, rubbing his fingers down the bridge of his nose.
Byleth only caught the man's gaze for a second before Jeralt charged him and knocked him down flat, plowing right past him and engaging his few remaining men cowering behind him. One made the mistake of charging the approaching students, and Edelgard quickly sunk her axe into his collarbone. The man collapsed in a heap, taking the axe with him. While the two boys carried on to assist Jeralt, Byleth observed the battlefield, not wanting to be caught off guard while Edelgard retrieved her axe. However, she failed to account for one thing.
She spun as the bandit leader leaped back to his feet and charged, right at Edelgard. Byleth let her instincts take over, only hesitating for a moment before darting forwards faster than she thought possible. Still, it wasn't fast enough, that moment of hesitation had cost her dearly. She had just enough time to see the shock and pure fear in those amethyst eyes as she slid in front of the girl before the axe- ...stopped?
It took a moment, but eventually Byleth took notice of the pure black now surrounding her. The void, like… like in her dreams.
"Are you stupid?"
A young childlike voice pierced through the darkness, Byleth twirling around as she attempted to locate the source of the voice, "What-"
"No, shut up! I'm not done! What were you even hoping to accomplish with that little stunt?! It's like you're trying to get me killed, you fool!" Behind her, she now saw, sat what appeared to be a young girl with emerald hair down to her waist pulled into pigtails. Her elaborate dress gave off the impression of someone of great importance, though why a child would be held in such high regard, Byleth couldn't tell. The dark blue fabric flowed down her body, a dancer's clothing coming to Byleth's mind. The whole thing was lined with golden thread. A similarly golden headdress wrapped around the girls head, intricate patterns inlaid with gems making her look rather regal, despite her young appearance. Strangely enough, her ears were long and pointed, "Oh well, it can't be helped, after all if you don't know the value of your own life you're not going to protect it very well, are you?" The girl let out an absolutely delighted sounding giggle. Byleth didn't like the sound of it one bit, "I guess it's up to me to guide you from now on!"
"You can call me Sothis. Though I am also known as… The Beginning."
"Beginning to end your tirade?"
"Ah, so you do have a sense of humor after all! How splendid, after all this time watching you I was beginning to think you had no emotions at all."
Byleth crossed her arms, leaning back on a leg, "Okay, rude."
Sothis scoffed, muttering, "It seems your face still needs to catch up to your words," She perked back up, looking down on Byleth with a hint of disdain, "As I was saying, I have halted the flow of time. Now we simply must figure out how to get out of this mess you blundered into."
Byleth felt the solution dash through her mind like an arrow splitting the wind, she'd liked to imagine having power over time as a child, and had even begun fleshing out the details in her younger teen years. Not that Sothis needed to know that.
"If you're powerful enough to freeze time at a whim, would it be possible to… turn back the hands of time?"
Sothis clapped her hands together in joy, "I've got it! I must turn back the hands of time!"
Even Byleth couldn't help but roll her eyes.
"I will grant you this power, but I can only go back so far. And it's rather exhausting so," Sothis broke into a large yawn, showing off incisors much too long and pointy to be human, "Try not to overdo it by doing something stupid again."
Byleth simply shrugged, she could make no promises.
"Ugh, whatever, just don't die this time."
With a flick of her wrist, Byleth was thrown into memories of the events that had transpired just before she met Sothis, viewing it seemingly refracted through crystals, as it began reversing at high speed. With a roar like thunder in her ears, Byleth found herself back at the village, just as the Bandit leader leapt to his feet. This time without any hesitation, she charged. Skidding to a stop in front of Edelgard, sword at the ready. This time when the bandit raised his axe, Byleth simply stepped forward and slashed him from hip to shoulder. The force of the blow sent the man flying back. This time when he got up, it was just barely. He was wise enough to know he couldn’t win and the few remaining bandits joined him, retreating into the forest.
With that taken care of, Byleth turned to Edelgard, who was still standing with her knife at the ready, her eyes wide, “Are you alright?” The moment Byleth spoke seemed to snap her out of it and she immediately brushed herself off and yanked her axe out of the downed bandit with a final tug.
“Yes, thanks to you. But how were you able to react so quickly? Almost like you knew what was coming.”
Byleth coughed, “Um, just thanks to the training my dad’s put me through. I noticed the guy was still breathing and didn’t want to take any chances, that’s uh, why I stayed back with you.”
By the look on Edelgard’s face it was clear she didn’t quite believe the explanation, “Your back was turned and you started running before he was even fully up, but alright. I won’t press you if you’re unwilling. For now.”
Byleth quietly breathed a sigh of relief as the boys and her father rejoined them, Jeralt looking rather concerned, “You two alright?”
“Yes, dad, don’t worry, I had it under control.”
He smiled, “I can see that.”
The young man in yellow seemingly couldn’t stand in silence any longer, "That was a piece of cake. Would've been easier if these two hadn't followed me and ruined my strategic retreat in the first place though."
The young man in blue piped up, "Oh is that what you were doing Claude? And here I thought you were risking yourself as a distraction."
Edelgard let out a scoff, "You will prove a lacking ruler if you cannot discern the true intent behind someone's words, Dimitri, this coward would never risk his own life like that."
Claude touched his chest in mock offense, “Oh Princess, you wound me so.”
Dimitri ignored him and shot back at Edelgard, "You will prove a lacking ruler yourself if you look for a knife behind every word and cannot rely on those close to you.”
Byleth cocked her hip and shot her father a rather bemused look. Or, what counted as bemused for Byleth's miniscule facial expression.
Jeralt couldn't help but chuckle, "All right you three, settle down. We took care of them, that's what matters right now. Now how about we figure out what to do with you back in the vil-"
"HALT, BRIGANDS! THE KNIGHTS OF SEIROS ARE HERE TO SAVE THE DAY! Oh wait, they're all dead… Jeralt ?"
Jeralt groaned quietly, "Oh for the love of- why him?" He quickly schooled his expression, "Alois? What are you doing here?"
Byleth had barely stepped away from her father and his… apparent acquaintance before she was surrounded by the three nobles.
"That was quite impressive, I've never seen a mercenary with such precise blade work before."
Edelgard nodded, "Indeed, we worked quite well together, though it is obvious that you would have done just as well without me."
"Oh come on, your highnesses, we just met the girl and you're both already trying to butter her up," Claude shot her what Byleth assumed was meant to be a charming smile, "I for one was going to at least wait until we had gotten to know one another and formed an everlasting bond of friendship before trying to ask favors."
"As I was saying," Edelgard shot both boys a glare, "I would appreciate it greatly if you would consider granting your services to the Empire."
"Or the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus," Dimitri quickly interjected.
"Or you could ignore all that royal crap and join the Leicester Alliance, at least there you only have to deal with nobles. Like me," Claude added with a wink.
Byleth blinked, "I-I, uhh…" the sudden attention was a bit overwhelming, as was the hope in the eyes of the three as her eyes flicked back and forth between them. And if they lingered on Edelgard a split second longer than the other two, who can say? Her shoulders slumped slightly in relief as Jeralt and Alois joined their group. Alois was the most armored of the group, possessing full plate armor with a larger spiked pauldron on one shoulder. The man had side-swept dark brown hair, pale sea-green eyes, and beige skin. The armor paired with the two-handed Axe on his back gave him an appearance almost like one of the knights in the story books she'd glimpse in the shop windows as a child. Though the strange goatee he had drew her attention more than anything else, she had to admit.
"So, you're Captain Jeralt's kid, huh? How would you like to come back to the monastery with us? I simply must show you around!" And just like that, her hopes of escaping more social interaction were dashed. Byleth didn't consider herself particularly against social environments, but between the students pestering her with questions of allegiance, and someone as loud and proud as Alois, well… there was a limit. Luckily her father knew this and did the answering for her while she just nodded along.
"Well now, Alois, not even we would dare run from the Knights of Seiros. Get everyone ready to move, kid, looks like our plans have changed.
The trip had been uneventful so far. The sun was now up and warming the land once more. Byleth was very much enjoying the peace of the road with the three students beside her while her father chatted with Alois. Dimitri and Edelgard had been questioning her on weapon techniques, with Claude only interjecting to poke fun at the two or to make any other jokes he came up with. They were quite an interesting trio, though it was obvious to Byleth that there was something more to each of them, under the surface. Edelgard was so serious and intense, Dimitri approached everything with such sincerity that Byleth couldn't help but feel like he was trying to make up for something, or maybe hide it. Claude was quick witted and even quicker with a wink or a smile, but Byleth took careful note of how those smiles never seemed to reach his eyes. Despite this, she felt drawn to them. Maybe she just wanted to help them if she could, she wasn't sure.
The only thing she hoped for was that Edelgard wouldn't notice her staring. Her eyes were a fascinating shade of amethyst she had never seen before. And that was the only reason she kept finding herself lost in the woman's gaze. Yep. Definitely. Though to be fair, Edelgard was staring at her a lot as well. Maybe?... No, that was a ridiculous path of thought to go down, she was just being analyzed.
"Ah, here we are, Garreg Mach Monastery."
Oh, salvation from her own thoughts. Thanks, Edelgard.
Their party was just breaking through the treeline when Byleth finally got a clear view. The place was massive, with at least 2 walls at equal intervals around the cliffside for protection, as well as the fact that it was built on a cliff, the Monastery looked to be easily defended with only one road up to it. The Monastery itself was magnificent, even at this distance. Shining spires reached skyward around the sparkling cathedral like something out of a children's adventure book.
"Impressive," she said, with a nod to Edelgard.
The journey up the cliff road was surprisingly quick, and the mercs soon found themselves in front of the massive gates of Garreg Mach. The iron doors were pulled open with haste upon seeing Alois and his knights with the students. The inside was no less impressive than the view from the road. Even just the light filtering through the towers seemed to add to the grandeur and feelings of awe as the group walked through the massive archway. Byleth’s attention was brought back down to earth as her dad groaned.
“Rhea’s here. Of course.”
Byleth followed her father’s gaze to the upper levels of the monastery where she could just see a green-haired woman, who struck Byleth as absolutely regal, silhouetted against the bright morning sky. Though she couldn’t help but notice the way Edelgard immediately tensed up at her father’s comment. Most probably wouldn’t notice, but with how much time she spent in the background of the goings on simply observing people, she had gotten quite good at noticing the small details.
Alois paused at the steps into the monastery proper before sweeping his hand with a dramatic bow, “Welcome, one and all! To Garreg Mach Monastery!”