The room was dark and she felt the chains of her shackles around her wrists and ankles. She struggled to get free but to no avail. There was no one else in her room aside from the rats that she hated. The only light in the room was the door that led in and out of her room or cell was the more appropriate term.
She flinched when she heard the screams of one of her brothers. She had a hard time telling which one in her state. Still she felt her eyes prickle with tears as she wanted desperately to go to him but when she pulled the metal around her just bit into her flesh.
“El?” her eyes snapped up towards the doorway to see her father. He had a look of horror on his face. His regal brown hair was faded and patches of grey were appearing as well.
“Father! Help me! Help us! Are the others ok!” Edelgard felt hope fill her again for the first time in however long she’d been there. She prayed that her brothers and sisters were still alive.
Except it all her hope went away when she saw his head drop and someone pushed him aside…Thales…
“No! Father come back! Please!!!”
Her violet eyes snapped open and on instinct she reached behind her pillow for her dagger and struck. At the last moment her eyes connected with the surprised blue eyes of her dear teacher. Edelgard tried to stop her attack but she found that she couldn’t even move her arm at all.
“Edelgard…” she blinked and looked down to see that her teacher had stopped her attack before it reached him by grabbing her wrist in a firm but gentle grip. He released her gently when he saw she was in control and her weapon fell onto the bed harmlessly and Edelgard hugged her blankets around herself to hide the scars that he no doubt saw.
“My teacher…I…I’m sorry!” Edelgard felt so ashamed. If her teacher wasn’t so quick she could have hurt him! Oh gods if it was anyone else she might have hurt them. If it had been Bernadetta or Dorothea…
“It’s ok…” he wasn’t angry, of course he wasn’t. He was the perfect example of control; Edelgard didn’t want him to see her like this.
“Here…” Byleth reached up tentatively with one of his hands and he slowly wiped away her tears. She had not even realized she was crying. She felt shameful showing weakness in front of someone she admired and respected so much. The fact that he was showing worry for her just made her feel worse. It made her feel helpless.
“Thank you my teacher…” Edelgard sniffed slightly as she tried to get herself under control.
“Bad dream?” he asked gently. Edelgard wanted to tell him to go away so she could compose herself but she knew that would probably be ineffective and she didn’t want to be rude to him. He was the last person in the world that deserved that.
“…” Edelgard simply nodded and he tilted his head at her, his blue eyes seeming to just pierce her walls better than any other person she had known.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked tentatively. She almost said yes but a lump formed in her throat. He saw her hesitance and he stood up slowly. She thought he was going to leave but surprisingly he sat down on her bed and placed his hand on her shoulder.
“Would you like to talk about it somewhere else?” he offered. His features didn’t display it but it was obvious how much care he was giving her. She couldn’t do anything else but nod.
“Ok…” he nodded and stood up slowly.
“I’ll wait outside…” he said simply before he left her room quietly. Edelgard waiting for a few moments and then she slowly got up and dressed herself in her uniform except for her jacket.
When she opened the door, her professor was waiting patiently. His cold expression softened ever so softly and he nodded for her to follow him. She followed along silently. She knew the others were all asleep, even Hubert would have to sleep at a time like this. Edelgard was actually thankful that their rooms were kept separate.
Hubert would be displeased to see her doing this. Going out with someone in the middle of the night. His distrust for the professor was well known to her but she found herself not really caring in the slightest when it came to him for some reason. She heeded her oldest friend’s advice when it came to the professor’s sister and his father but she just couldn’t keep a meaningful distance between herself and her dear teacher.
Perhaps it was because she felt a kinship with him or rather it was more that she admired him. He was a quiet and reserved person who wanted results above all else much like herself. But more than that he was kind, most people probably wouldn’t be able to tell but Edelgard knew at his core he was a good person who wanted the best for everyone.
“Where are we going Professor?” Edelgard asked as they left the dormitory. She wasn’t worried at all about her wellbeing. None except perhaps his own father and Catherine could actually get past the professor. She couldn’t ask for a better protector, not that she would ever say that especially in front of Hubert.
“To the pond. It’s relaxing so to say…” he led her over to the fishing pond and Edelgard had to admit that it was rather serene. Without the usual bustle of people it was rather soothing.
“Come…” her teacher went up to the pier and took a seat so his legs were hanging off the edge but not in the water. Edelgard didn’t hesitate to sit down next to him.
They sat there in silence for a time and Edelgard turned to see her professor staring out into the water but he wasn’t phased out of reality like Linhardt would be. She turned her own gaze to the pond, staring at the reflection of the moon and she found herself feeling a lot calmer.
After a few moments she realized that her teacher was probably allowing her to break the silence and after a few moments of getting her thoughts together she did.
“Professor?” he turned his head towards her.
“You can call me Byleth when we’re alone,” he said and she flushed slightly.
“Nonsense. You’re my teacher at all times even when we’re not in the classroom,” he seemed amused if the way he tilted his head was any indication but he did not speak again. He simply nodded in acceptance.
“Why were you up and why were you on the second floor? Your room is on the bottom floor on the other side of the building,” she asked, she really was curious about that. The ghost of a smile played on his lips, something she barely caught.
“I was running an errand for Lera. She forgot to give something to Dimitri so she asked me to do it…” Edelgard flushed a little at that. The attraction between those two was well known. She wondered why they didn’t make it official yet but she never pried.
“I imagine Dimitri wasn’t happy to be awoken,” she commented and her teacher nodded.
“Yes, he was…at first. When I told him it was from my sister he lit up like a training dummy hit by a lightning spell,” Edelgard giggled a bit at the image that popped into her head.
“What was it?” she asked.
“I don’t know, I don’t particularly want to know either…” her teacher’s voice deadpanned and Edelgard reminded herself that while it might have been amusing to everyone else, her teacher and his father were probably the only ones who did not find it entirely amusing. At least she wasn’t falling for Sylvain, Edelgard did not think he would survive long if she had.
“Of course…” they settled into silence after that. Edelgard did not know what else to ask. She thought about asking if his hand was healing ok but the guilt that rang through her heart prevented her from saying that.
“Why do you hide things from your friends?” her teacher suddenly asked. It took her only a moment to figure out what he meant and her mood dipped again.
“I…I…just…” she didn’t know what to say without incriminating herself.
“You can tell me anything,” her professor reached over and placed his hand on top of hers gently. It was the hand that he used to stop the fireball from striking her in her moment of weakness. She could feel his hand shaking, it must have been painful and yet he didn’t even wince. She really did not understand how he could deal with it.
“Can you promise not to speak about this to anyone?” she asked softly. She felt his hand squeeze hers.
“Of course,” his voice took on a gentler tone. She squeezed his hand back delicately in thanks.
Edelgard sighed as she gazed out at the pond again trying to figure out how to explain it. She had never spoken to anyone about this, not even Hubert. He was a valiant friend and someone who had been behind her ever since he joined her but he wasn’t someone she wanted to share this with.
The only people she could see herself speaking to about this were her father and the friend she had when she was in the kingdom for that one year…but the former knew exactly what she had gone through and talking about it would have hurt him more than her. The latter was an entirely different person now just like her so it wouldn’t have a point. Who would have thought she would be speaking about this to someone she had only known for around four months? She found herself not minding at all.
“I was dreaming about a time when I was a child. I used to have ten siblings, eight older and two younger. I was dreaming of my older brother…paralyzed and helpless, my older sister crying out for help that never came, my youngest sibling my little brother babbling words with no meaning. I see them all dying slow agonizing deaths…” her eyes grew moist as she spoke.
Even after all these years she still missed her brothers and sisters. Despite coming from different mothers they never let that get in the way of their family bonds. Her oldest brother liked to bring her along when he was training, he taught her how to use a blade. Her older sisters liked to braid her hair back then even though she always hated it. Her little brother and sister used to cling to her all the time, following her around like puppies. She still remembered them all so clearly like she just saw them yesterday…
“I have ten siblings and yet I am the heir to the Adrestian Throne. Do you know why?” she wiped her eyes as she continued to stare at the reflection of the moon. Her teacher held her hand tightly to try and comfort her. She didn’t dare look at him though and continued.
“Every single one of them was crippled beyond repair, driven mad or simply died…”
“Edelgard…” her teacher squeezed her hand tighter. She sucked in a breath and continued.
“Eventually…they all died and I was simply the only one left to be the heir,”
Edelgard paused to collect herself before she turned to her professor who was gazing at her still. His expression was cold but his eyes held sadness in them, sadness for her but also anger.
“I swore that I would never forget them and that I would never allow something like that to happen to my family again,” she spoke with conviction.
She still remembered when they dragged her older brother’s body past her cell without even letting her say goodbye. After they slowly worked through the older ones they came for her and the younger ones. She remembered her little sister kicking and screaming, begging her to help her but she was powerless to do so. Her little brother was so brave, he walked to his doom with his head held high something she couldn’t do. She should have died with them…but she didn’t.
“I am the only one left to take up the throne of the Empire and I will…” the image of her uncle flashed through her mind and her anger spiked as a result. She would make him and the other nobles who betrayed her father pay for what they had done.
“Oh,” Edelgard giggled slightly despite the weight of her previous words.
“My apologies, I revealed more than I should have. I suppose I have been waiting to talk about that for some time,” and it happened to be her dear teacher. He stared at her for a few moments before he looked away. He looked deep in thought for a few moments before he nodded to himself.
“I said I was awake because I was delivering something to Dimitri right?” he asked and Edelgard nodded stiffly.
“While that was true the main reason I was actually up was because I had a dream about war and death,” Edelgard frowned in response; she didn’t think he would have dreams like that.
“I’ve always had dreams like that though I don’t know why. I…” he hesitated and the princess grew worried, he never did that before.
“Professor?” she squeezed his hand again and he nodded towards the sword at his side, the sword of the creator.
“I don’t like dreaming about death either,” he admitted and Edelgard squeezed his hand tighter, careful not to agitate his wounds.
“When the dreams started my father taught me ways to deal with it. He taught me to focus on other things like training, fishing or reading when my thoughts were troubled or I was having trouble sleeping,” he said as he turned to her.
“I don’t know if they will work for you but I would like to help you if you will allow me. I swear that whenever you need me I will be there to help you if you need it,” he promised and Edelgard blushed again at such an oath said so causally. She couldn’t leave such a thing unanswered.
“I would be honored…thank you…Byleth…” then her dear teacher smiled, actually smiled. She had seen him annoyed and even angry but never happy like this. He nodded to her in thanks before he turned his gaze back to the water.
They stayed like that for a time, just basking in the peace of the moment and Edelgard enjoyed just being around him as well. She realized at some point that she was still holding his hand and she blushed again but she didn’t pull away. She was content to stay like that.
Of course eventually the time came for them to stop. It was getting close to the time Hubert would wake up and she didn’t want him to find her out here with her teacher. The last thing she wanted was to give him more reason to antagonize her dear teacher.
“My teacher, I need to go back…” she spoke and he nodded and released her hand.
“Would you like me to walk you back?” he asked and she almost said yes on reflex but reeled herself in.
“I…no that won’t be necessary. You have already done so much for me,” she also did not want to risk Hubert seeing them.
“As you wish,” he nodded to her as she stood up.
“Are you not going to return to your room?” he shook his head at her question.
“No, classes start in a few hours and I don’t feel like returning to sleep at the moment.” She wanted to point out that he needed rest too but he probably would have waved her off if she tried.
“Sleep well Edelgard,” he gave her another small smile and she left with a blush on her cheeks.
She walked back to the dorms but before she went up the steps she turned to see her teacher still sitting at the pier, alone. She was tempted to go sit with him again but she shook her head and went up the steps to her room. His promise to her rang in her mind and she felt both guilt and happiness well up inside her.
“I promise that I’ll be there for you too my teacher…”