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A boar's liege

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20th of the Horsebow Moon, Imperial Year 1172.

(September)

Fall harvest begins; men hunt for game with horsebows


 

 

Byleth was never a child to request, less to express needs or wants. Visualizing emotions was never a priority, for her only loved one, Captain Jeralt, was able to spare her the trouble.

Today was her 12th birthday, despite she wished nothing of it, her father insisted of doing something for the special occasion.

For once, she allowed her father some respite and pretended need for something: some boar meat and a new pelt to protect her from the incoming cold.

Up in a cold forest located in the more bountiful areas in Faerghus, father and daughter prepared themselves to hunt. As usual, both of them separated to cover more ground to be able to end the act quickly.

There, her detached gaze landed on a shivering boy that sat over a tall rock, his head decorated with long golden locks that could make the sun fall in despair and jealousy; his pale skin almost matching the white hue of the murky snow bellow her feet.

The boy was crying, afraid. His body, clothed with different hues of blue.

He trembled as wolves below surrounded him, the wild animals awaiting to see if their prey would defend itself or just accept the gruesome death they would deliver.

Seems Byleth would feast on some wolf and wear its pelt instead.

Without announcing herself as she stepped closer to the hunched lad, she observed him for a moment longer, until she finally blinked when twin sapphires met her gaze.

“Run!” The boy shrieked, alerting the canines of Byleth’s presence. His now quivering gaze scanned Byleth’s stoic features and her messy blue hair, his heart palpitating rapidly. In that moment, the older child was forced to fend herself off from snarls and lunges, her hand quickly unsheathing a large dagger.

Between cries of pain and few mournful howls, the young pack of wolves fell to Byleth’s calculating and merciless stabs. The snow under her feet was now slowly turning pinkish, being tarnished by the animal’s blood and spew.

“You’re not a boar.” Byleth mumbled nonchalantly, the hold on the dagger in her hand easing off as she sheathed it back to the pouch in her leg, her nose wriggling as an odd scent invaded her nostrils as she finally stood near the large rock. “Though you do smell like one.” She confirmed.

The boy remained frozen, still trying to acknowledge what he had witnessed. “Th—Thank you…” The lad finally whispered, a sweet smile escaping him as he watched how the girl tilted her head to a side.

 

“Come down?” She asked.

“I—I’m unable…I’m stuck here.” The boy confessed, a small tint of pink invading his cheeks as he could finally analyze where he was. In his attempt to survive the large animals, somehow, he had climbed to the peak of the stone but was now unable to climb down.

“Hm.” Byleth nodded, for a moment looking away as she thought. “Jump.”

The boy blinked a few times. “Leap down?”

“Yes, I’ll catch you.” She reassured in an odd solemn tone, lazily extending her arms in an attempt to give the boy some courage.

“I—I “The boy couldn’t stop shuddering, his teeth chattering when the coldness began to crawl his frame again. “I—” His mitted hands covered his face.

“I see you.” She mouthed after a minute, growing inpatient.

Her wording was odd, her death stares were scary. Despite that, the boy ended up looking at her again after hearing those three words. “See me?” He questioned, receiving a short nod as an answer.

 Before Byleth knew, the boy threw himself down, trusting he would be held. After letting the boy get back in his feet, she began to scan the different corpses around, deciding on which one she would decide to take back to her father.

“I—I’m Dimitri, by the way.” His voice a little less shaky and afraid.

“Byleth.” Unveiling her name as well without turning to see him, grabbing a wolf by its tail before walking ahead. “Follow. Father close.” She commanded, Dimitri quickly standing beside her as his blues wandered around, still trying to grasp his reality.

“Unbelievable.” His mind now prioritizing on giving praise. “You held your ground against those large wolves with almost no fear…”

“Hm.” Byleth nodded again, stopping for a moment to look at the clearing in the sky, following the sun’s rays of light until she met with familiar smoke. “Mmm…” She mumbled as she felt the boy holding her free arm, his fingers pressing too tightly on the edges of her coat.

“I—I’ve lost my way…” Dimitri almost whispered, getting another nod from Byleth, which made him sheepishly smile since he was soon growing accustomed to her odd answers, still marveled at her strength. “I was trying to find herbs for sick mother…but then I couldn’t find my way back.”

That would explain why the boy’s clothes were soiled with different types of dirt, and the odd scent in them.

“Weeds don’t grow in winter.” She stated “Father will help, just follow.” She reminded him. Before long, the two youngsters made it to an occupied Jeralt, whom was preparing the campfire where they would roast the meat and hang the skin from their catch.

“Father, I have acquired something.” Her daughter announces as she throws forward her hunt.

“Took you long enough, kid. I was about to go searching for your slow ass—” Jeralt falls completely silent, his eyes first falling on the large alpha wolf and then at the boy that held her daughter’s arm. “Prince Blaiddyd!?”

Later than not, Jeralt tasked himself to deliver the crown prince back to the royal resting grounds near that area, an offer to become guests of the holy kingdom surfaced as reward for keeping the young prince unharmed.

Jeralt asked for a moment, wishing to discuss the invitation with her daughter.

Byleth never wished for anything, but the moment she observed the gleeful eyes of King Lambert as he still held his son in his arms, something sparked inside of her.

The boy in his arms was crying, his pale cheeks slowly being invaded by a soft pink hue. He looked happy, but very frail…almost ashamed.

“Father.” She made Jeralt’s focus fall on her. “I wish to go.” A firm request. “Please.” Her eyebrows furrowed.

Their silence was cold as the frigid air that surrounded them, but soon enough, Jeralt ended up smiling for once himself, delighted to finally see open emotion between them.

“Why?” His father questioned nevertheless.

Byleth didn’t know exactly, and she wouldn’t know for a long while. “I’m curious.” She stated, her answer not surprising her father in the least.

She didn’t lie, she was indeed curious of the boy who kept crying. Curious how the weeping child could have mustered the courage to search for some weeds in an endless land of snow.

 


 

 

4th of the Guardian Moon, Imperial year 1173.

(January)

Strong winds blow; the guardian Seiros first appeared during this moon


 

What came to be an invitation to reside some time in Faerghus, soon became Byleth’s home as Jeralt was appointed captain to one of Fhirdiad’s battalions, his renown as knight of the Church of Seiros giving him an opening for such title.

The king’s ever-growing bond with Jeralt due to work and sparking friendship ended up making their kids meet quite frequently. Despite the protests that Lambert received for allowing a commoner girl be so close to his son, he kept allowing Dimitri to wander around castle town with his friend’s daughter.

Oddly, despite Byleth was older and different in every sense from Dimitri, they both enjoyed playing and talking with each other. The prince would enjoy bringing different types of meals to his friend so he could watch her gobble them up with no decorum or shame.

Byleth enjoyed telling jokes she heard around the marketplace to her friend, both of them being confused together as they didn’t know what was so funny.

Both of them enjoyed whenever Byleth was ever allowed  to sleep in the castle grounds, losing themselves in pillow fights before falling asleep due to exhaustion, though those playful matches soon ceased when Dimitri once hit her while his crest activated, she fell unconscious by the harsh blow.

Dimitri was appalled and ashamed, while Byleth would recall the memory fondly.

Still, they were growing children, both of them having different paths ahead that were not meant to meet. With the frequent visits from other noble’s children, it was evident that Byleth wasn’t a noble herself.

Though all the children came to like her as well, mostly her lack of tact kept them intrigued.

From a distance, a young Sylvain would observe the scene in front of him: a hunch over Byleth showing different small rocks and insects to a curious Felix. “Your friend is so weird…” He mumbled, looking at Dimitri for a moment. “Why is she always playing with dirt? She is supposed to be our senior yet still makes mud cakes…”

Ingrid let out a sigh before a soft scowl towards her friend. “That’s not very nice.”

“I mean, aren’t girls supposed to be playing with dolls? For her frail hands to be doting on bugs is such a waste…” Sylvain leaned a little in his footing, his arms moving behind his head as he let out his usual peppy grin. “I almost wish to be the beetle she is holding…”

“Oh goodness! Let me bring an end to your suffering.” Ingrid cooed at him, making Sylvain meet her gaze with a raised eyebrow.

A fist landing on his stomach made his smile go away immediately, his knees meeting the ground as the red-head groaned.

“There, hope you enjoyed my doting fist, Sylvain.” Ingrid huffed but gave off a sly grin, dusting her hands proudly at how her friend was now shivering while Dimitri was now rubbing his back. “At least try to act more respectably in front of the prince and a knight in training!”

“Gods, Ingrid! This is why your father had to engage you with Glenn; you would never be able to get a boyfriend on your own!” Sylvain spat back, quickly bracing himself when Ingrid raised her fist at him again.

 

Their bickering ceased when they heard a wail from Felix, the boy with purple locks running to both of them only to end up hugging Sylvain, his pale cheeks turning bright red as snot began to escape his nose.

“Hey, Felix! What’s wrong!?” Sylvain questioned as all pain left him, standing up to hold his friend that soon extended him his hand, a small insect bite making one of his fingers swell up.

“It bit me, Sylvy! It bit me!” Felix sniffed, his head lowering as he dwelled on Sylvain’s hand that pet him gently.

“Whoa, that looks really bad…” Sylvain mumbled, his eyes wandering to Byleth who was still playing with the culprit. “Hey! At least you should show a little bit of worry—An apology maybe?”

Byleth slowly turned her head, the black beetle still lingering in her palm. “Told him not to squeeze it.” Tone bland, her eyes even duller. “Beetles are not venomous, he shall be fine.”

Well, at least she offered some reassurance. Sylvain sighed.

“Heard that, Felix? Your finger won’t fall off!” Dimitri guaranteed him, raising both his arms in excitement.

Sadly, the thought that his finger could have been lost made Felix start crying again. The prince slumped over to Byleth, letting Ingrid and Sylvain offer comfort instead.

Dimitri crouched besides her, his curious sapphires looking intently at the rhino beetle with little shiny eyes, black like its whole body. “It’s amazing how that tiny mouth could break skin so easily…aren’t you afraid?” He questioned, tilting his head to a side as he stared into Byleth’s eyes.

He always found himself enjoying staring at her face when she seemed to be appreciating something.

“Hm.” Byleth shook her head, letting the beetle walk over her fingers. “I don’t fear things that I like…” She mumbled, finally letting the beetle go back to the ground and observe it how it dug its way back into the humid soil.

Now that he thought about it, his question was stupid. Byleth saved his life from ferocious carnivores with no hint of fear, why would she be afraid of a bug?

“Oh, so there is something you are afraid of!” Dimitri worded a little too excited. “I—I mean, what makes you nervous then?” He grabbed a near by stick, drawing a circle on the floor to keep himself distracted as he waited for his friend to answer.

“Hm…I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Never had time to fear something…”

Dimitri broke the stick, looking at her again. “I—I see…” His eyebrows furrowed, his eyes losing their usual gleam as his mouth formed in a straight line.

Byleth tilted her head this time, using a finger to stretch the wrinkles forming in Dimitri’s nose. “I don’t like it when you do that face.”

Dimitri’s ears began buzz while his stomach oddly fluttered, unable to understand why his body reacted this way every time Byleth offered him a gentle touch. “S—Sorry.” He apologized, offering a smile instead when her hand moved away. “Is this better?” He offered an awkward smile, making Byleth immediately shake her head in disagreement.

The prince wonders how he can have friends, sighing in defeat as he finally sat down in the dirt, looking at some ants that were now using his broken stick as a bridge to reach some rocks. “So…you’re studying with your father to become a knight too? That’s pretty nice.” His eyes wandered over to Ingrid. “She doesn’t say it, but that’s really motivating her to start training to become a knight too...”

“I’m just following orders.” Byleth sat on the floor as well, looking how a few ants began to take some leaves away. Like the ants, she always found comfort in just following a goal, letting her father lead her into whatever end he finds suitable for her. “Nothing to admire.”

Dimitri felt a cloud over him, sometimes it was so hard to speak with her; no, speak with everyone. His attention fell again to the way Byleth stared off into the insects, his mouth twisting slightly as he spoke. “You seem to like bugs a lot, why is that?”

“Unlike us, bugs are wordless and lack any desire.” Surprisingly, Byleth answered him quickly. “Their life is simple; their size doesn’t limit them how they act.” Her finger reached to the ants' trail, observing how the small insects began to move around her limb or over it. “They exist for the sake of living…and I like that.”

“Mmm…” Dimitri tried to understand her words, curiously noticing that somehow his friend had described herself in a short notice. “Well, that’s boring. I like living my life to see my friends and family, to enjoy the sun as I ride on horses while feeling the breeze of fields blessed by flowers. Don’t you like anything, Byleth?”

She was drifted into her mind once again, before heaving a sigh. That was a good question…did she like anything? No, of course she did: she liked her father, she liked consuming food and listening to wild life, she liked riding horses and battling strong people; she liked…

 “I like them.” She finally pointed to the other three children behind them, for some reason Ingrid and Felix were pinching Sylvain now. “I like you too.” She nodded at him

Dimitri felt himself smiling, his mouth slightly open as he wished to speak but didn’t know the words. It was nice, hearing his hero and friend openly express something more than gloomy mumbles or distanced words. “I—I like you too…” He finally said it, though it came out a little too merry.

 


 

20th of Red Wolf Moon, Imperial year 1174

(November)

Winter begins; hunters guard against prowling wolf packs at dusk


 

 

Byleth was never a human who felt anger or fear while wielding a sword, her steps were always pre-calculated, her demeanor would frighten even those bigger and older than her.

Her stoic and aloof personality soon gave her many nicknames as she worked to achieve knighthood with her father’s nagging that soon turned into guidance, the irksome belittling names would commonly arise due to the way she dealt missions on the outskirts of Fhirdiad and her social status in the kingdom.

Some would call her the rising beauty of Fhirdiad for her blooming appearance, others the Ashen Demon of Fódlan for her cruel ways of dealing with bandits.

Nevertheless, Byleth wasn’t perfect or as cold as everyone thought, whenever her focus would fall on Dimitri, she seemed to allow a side of her be disclosed, to the surprise of everyone and even herself.

 “Dimitri, you can’t keep holding back.” Glenn tried to make him understand as Byleth kneeled beside the prince, who was sitting against a wall from one of the many courtyards the large castle possess; one of her hands resting on his shoulder while the other held a crooked and bloody nose. “Why did you allow Lady Edelgard land such a precise hit on your face?” The knight questioned before sighing.

 “This will only hurt a moment.” Byleth warned the prince.

Dimitri closed his eyes tightly as he felt her nimble hand rearranging his nose back in place with a quick motion, a groan escaping him before sighing in relief as he felt a healing aura being cast on his face.

The prince finally stood up, Byleth following the motion and towering over him. “I—I didn’t wish to harm her.” He confessed. “She is my friend.”

“Then why would you challenge her to a duel?” Glenn raised an eyebrow, baffled. “She gave you an order to attack when you froze up, you knew she would retaliate either if you moved or not.”

“I know that, yet I can’t stand the idea of harming her. I prefer to live with the record of having lost that duel than to see Edelgard crying.”

His voice was earnest, almost innocent. Byleth ended up sighing as she rubbed the back of her head as she observed the scene.

 “Listen, there will be times that words won’t be able to make a disagreement stop…there are people in this world that will only acknowledge power; you will be forced to fight in order to defend your name and those you care for.” Glenn advised.

“I—I know.” Dimitri nodded. “I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid falling in such situation though.”

“Then don’t ask people for duels when you don’t have the courage to stand against them.” The older heir of Fraldarius scolded him, his arms quickly crossing as Dimitri’s gaze now faced the floor.  “You should go rest under the shade, my father will be here shortly to give us one last training session before tomorrow’s expedition.”

The founding day of the Faerghus kingdom was usually a joyous occasion, where young teens traveled to the dangerous peaks near the capital to symbolize leaving their childhood behind in the mountains and come into the kingdom as adults.

Another silent nod from Dimitri, his eyes finally meeting with them. “Don’t worry, tomorrow I shall show off the results of my dedicated training.”

Byleth just kept looking at him indifferent, while Glenn was suspicious of his zeal.

“I shall be victorious to honor the founding day of the kingdom, and also…to be able to bring back a wolf pelt for Byleth.”

Byleth blinked a few times, slowly letting a small smile show at the idea of having a new pelt.

Dimitri’s cheeks began to tint red, mesmerized by his friend’s smile. His stomach felt funny, his chest felt tight while his legs wobbly. “I—I need to get going to the training grounds.Sylvain, Felix and Ingrid need this extra training much as myself. I’ll see you later!” Before Glenn could mouth a word, the lad ran off.

“Prince Dimitri—” Glenn sighed exasperated as he watched him go, turning to see Byleth though she was no longer smiling. “The training grounds are located the other way...”

Byleth offered a shrug as she allowed her eyes to stare at the dispersing clouds, an odd sensation lingering in her chest.

The way Dimitri ran away embarrassed was…cute.

 

 


 

28th of Red Wolf Moon, Imperial year 1174


 

 

The people rejoiced at the safe return of every single teen that went up the mountains. As horses entered the castle perimeters, Byleth rushed towards them to make sure Dimitri was among those who succeed; to her delight, the prince was lined in the first line, demonstrating that he had been the one to prove his worth the most.

He could see a displeased Felix right behind Dimitri, Sylvain and Ingrid riding a horse side by side to demonstrate they had acquired the same rank.

There was something precious the way Dimitri waved to the cheering crowds, how his smile extended brightly and made his features soften; his eyes full of hope and pride that made the blue hue almost appear majestic.

She smiled again, though this time nobody witnessed her happiness.

 

 


 

14th of Lone Moon, Imperial Year 1175

(March)

End of the year and winter; time to reflect on partings and acquaintances


 

Byleth was never a girl who gave importance to titles or crests, bloodlines or names. Her assessment of people always came how they treated themselves and others.

Still, as she kneels in the grand hall where only those blessed by the goddess and royals may dwell, for a moment she feels proud of her name having a title before it.

She was a commoner, many nobles around Faerghus protested the ceremony being conducted for her; knighthood was considered only befitting of lower nobility.

Despite she had worked endlessly to end the sabotage, murder, pillaging and rape in such nobles’ territories, she was still seen as inadequate since her armor, weapons and war horse were paid by King Lambert and Lord Rodrigue.  Even though her records in military training, field tactics and chivalric code exceed over seasoned knights, she was still described as begriming for the title since she was never a squire of a Fhirdiad knight.

Lambert wouldn’t hear the cries nor requests of the noble, instead he would follow the people’s wishes of seeing Byleth pledge to house Blaiddyd, to make an oath to his only and eldest son.

Byleth closed her eyes as he heard the proud voice of the king, the gentle touches of the blessed sword in his hand as he touched first her right shoulder and then the left. She slowly stood up once commanded, a hand falling on her chest as the other remained behind her back, the time to finally voice her oath arriving.

“I, Byleth Eisner, shall never abandon a dangerous path out of fear; my blood and bones will be fully devoted to the goddess above us, and to the life of Crown Prince Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd, until death should part us.” Her words steady, her tone full of resolution and pride; her lavender eyes exuding strength and determination, making a small smile escape the king.

 

For the longest, she had believed living a life with a straight path made for you was the way to live. To accept nature's blessings as well as punishments, to allow fate take place before your eyes without challenging.

Soon that changed, as she kept hearing people’s struggles and gratitude; how her friends strived to grow strong to be able to protect the weak and themselves as they decided to not shield themselves with titles unlike other nobles; how her dearest friend trained and worked day and night to be able to follow his father’s legacy and be able to provide a world where everyone can live in peace and be treated with respect.

Following her words, the prince who had been standing behind his father finally walked towards her, his gloved hands extending an elegant silver sword that should never leave her side unless she falls in battle.

At that moment, Byleth knew the emotion she was feeling was contentment.

 


 

1st of Great Tree Moon, Imperial year 1176

(April)

Beginning of the new year and spring; people pray to realize their potential

 


 

Byleth knew a knight had to fight one on one, to never coward at the sight of imminent death since running away was punished with the eternal flames of eternity.

But as she rushes through the blazing fields of Duscur, she knows that her body is engulfed by hell already.

The scent of burning flesh accompanied by the screeching laments of fallen soldiers made her senses sharp, her posture steady as her legs would guide her horse to move forward; her hands occupied with a sword and shield as she cut anyone on her path that tried to keep her away from the prince.

The king had been murdered, the queen was missing.

Sir Glenn was dead.

The already strained air in her lungs escaped as an enemy gambit struck her horse, falling a few meters away. Her body rolled over sharp ends of broken weapons, the weight of her muscles broke a few burnt bones while her clothes mitigated the damage from the flames under her.

She forced herself up, glaring at the image of her horse being stabbed to death while a few mercenaries turned to face her way. With no hesitation, she unsheathed her sword and faced them head on; barbaric, crude, unwilling. In less than a year she had already broken a few promises from her oath to House Blaiddyd.

She would break them all, except one.

Her legs moved rapidly as she avoided confused horses and the ever-growing flames of disaster after defeating a gambit on her own. Panicked, her eyes would shift around looking for messy golden locks.

She was scared, scared of the notion that she may find Dimitri but not alive.

Everything had happened so quickly, to think she was stranded from him was…pathetic.

Being so fearful was pathetic.

“I won’t allow it!” The coarse battle cry of the prince finally filled her chest with hope, her strength returning to her as from a distance she could finally recognize the silhouette of her friend, with no hesitation her sword once again raised to provide him aid, Dimitri’s breathing hitching when he saw those familiar blue strands of her in front of him.

“Byleth—You—You are alive?!” His tone elated and at the same time confused, his damaged hands holding a little tighter his worn-out lance. “H—How…” Suddenly, the wounds on his back and legs seemed to take a toll against his spirit and body, blood still seeping through his once pristine white blouse and brown leather vest.

“Stand back, Dimitri!” She commanded him as her sword met with a soldier’s jaw while her foot kicked another soldier away. “Stand in front of that tree, don’t leave your back exposed any further!”

Byleth had been too occupied dealing with her enemies that she failed to see the boy hiding behind the prince.  The clank of metal, bones breaking and painful screams engulfed the two boys as they stayed close to each other, Dimitri being forced a few times to raise his lance anew as bandits would lunge against him.

There were too many, and everyone was running out of air and energy. A knight must not run, a prince must not be a coward; yet they needed to survive.

“Nothing personal, kid.” A bandit mouthed sneezy as he prepared his axe to swing Dimitri’s head off, though his movements froze as an enraged Byleth tackled him.

“Nothing personal.” She responded cold as she unsheathed her dagger, the blade meeting multiple times the man’s chest; blood spluttering chaotically on her chest and face.

With a few more pants, it was finally quiet from human voices. Slowly, she turned to see Dimitri, who looked appalled, angry and scared; behind him, a boy with skin kissed by the sun still shivered, hair silver as the ashes that began to flow in the wind.

She forced her weary legs to walk to him, her eyes shifting between the watery eyes staring at her. “We need to go.” The flames at the distant making her lavender eyes mix with a yellow hue.

“He saved my life.” Dimitri’s tone steady, despite his hands were still shaking. “I won’t leave Dedue behind.”

Dedue, that was the name of the boy shaking behind the prince, a bloody axe strongly held by his hand.

“Stop wasting your breath on unnecessary information.” She scolded him as he grabbed both boys from the arms, lunging them forward so they would begin to run. “Pierce forward, don’t look back unless commanded!” She warned, her gaze becoming a glare as she witnessed Dimitri’s damaged back and Dedue’s burnt side.

The time between crossing the arid canyon as more soldiers appeared, was a haze in her mind; she could only remember coming close to the edge of the valley where the nightmare had taken place; she remembers her ears recognizing the sound of water from a river streaming below the cliff where they stood, footsteps of humans and horses gave signal of their imminent death if they didn’t escape now.

A watery grave is less painful than a sword’s stab.

Not that she was planning for them to die today.

Without warning, she held both boys close to her body before she jumped; their screams resonating within the canyon until they were silenced by water invading their lungs. With the shock of cold water alleviating their burns and forced to make their legs stress just a little longer, all of them managed to make their heads rise over the water as the rushing river made them move down; their bodies clashing with a few rocks as they were too weak to move away and still in shock by the strike of the pure liquid.

As if the goddess had offered them some respite, they washed off into a creak at the start of a forest, all of them coughing as they dragged their body into land and finally collapsed under the shade of dense trees with crooked trunks.

They were alive.

“Here.” Byleth spurt as her flask wasn’t lost in all the commotion, offering it to the boys that were trying to sit up. “Is an elixir, it will make your wounds be easier to heal.”

Dimitri ignored her completely, while Dedue stared at both of them curiously and afraid.

“Dimitri.” She beckoned at him as she was able to finally stand up, holding in a hiss at the burning sensation in her left arm and legs.

The prince looked lost, his body shivered.

Byleth features twisted and walked to him, with a brusque motion she uncorked her flask and lifted Dimitri’s head with her knee, without warning she shoved the tip of the flask into his mouth as her free hand held his nose tightly, forcing him to drink.

After seeing his developing adam-apple bop three times, she let go of him and brought the flask close to her body, observing how the prince coughed again. This time, her lavender daggers faced a verdant gaze. “Dedue, must I do the same to you?”

Dedue took the flask when offered, drinking some of its contents quietly. After a few more moments, they were once again silent while the now empty flask was filled with water.

If they were lucky, their missing bodies would confirm their deaths, as if the flames had devoured them.

She can only hope the messenger that fled the scene is able to reach Faerghus soon, or else the aid from the kingdom may come a little too late.

“We need to move further into the forest and find some shelter, or else they may be able to find us.” She coldly stated, before turning to the boys. “Can you walk?”

Dedue nodded almost immediately, standing up and turning to see Dimitri, who remained seated.

“Dimitri, we need to go.” Byleth held in a sigh. “Please, stand up.”

“They’re gone.” The prince finally spoke, his voice broken as the words left him solemnly. “They’re all gone…”

She wanted to sit there beside him, embrace him, mourn with him; but she knew well, this wasn’t the moment or place.

Thankfully, Dedue was somehow able to convince Dimitri to stand, both lads walking slowly behind Byleth who searched for anything that could provide them cover while keeping themselves hidden at least for a night. They found themselves resting inside a cave, all of them removing their damp clothes under Byleth’s instruction to avoid falling ill.

In their shirts and pants, they sat there, watching the sun finally set until the moon was their only light, Byleth’s armor pieces and sword glinting in ridicule beside their stretched-out clothes.  Unsurprisingly, Duscur’s nights were cruelly cold in contrast with the burning heat of the day.

The coldness was only heavenly in some sense. Byleth mustered the strength to rise up, reaching to the floor for her cape that in miracle wasn’t as damp as the rest of their clothing. Forcing herself to over step Dimitri’s boundaries once more, she sat between Dedue and him; making the boys stir a little in their spots.

“You will need to lie against me so we can share our body heat…as well to be able to use my healing magic with the last of my strength.” She confessed.

Despite Dimitri’s state, he was quick to seclude himself in Byleth’s arms once she offered them, his head resting against her chest as he finally closed his eyes, feeling the faint touch of her hand on his bruised back as her fingers were already providing some relief with her weak heal magic.

After observing the prince finally rest against his knight, Dedue also allowed himself to come closer to Byleth, the knight pulling him into the embrace  so her cape could provide them warmth.

Mellow and tender warmth, not cruel, spiteful and scorching heat.

Her hands carefully did her best to provide relief to their wounds, managing to make the wounds scar faster. Before long, her arms only wrapped around the two boys to finally remain steady.

A broken prince, a tainted knight and a besmirch village boy sat there, contemplating the fact that they were alive while others were not; desolated as they lingered in the voices of those who died and those who beckoned to retrieve their lives; falling victim of shivers and jolts from their bodies that struggled to keep operating consciously.

Dimitri broke first, his sniffing soon becoming soft sobs as he made his face hide in the warmth of Byleth’s chest, weeping a little louder once he felt her fingers losing themselves in his hair to provide him a weak taste of comfort.

He witnessed his father’s decapitation, forced to observe as Glenn’s body was scorch to death with so many others; for the first time he had to kill humans to be able to protect his life and someone else’s; in the end, he had followed Glenn’s words.

Dedue soon fell against his emotions as well, while his tears were silent, his body trembled more than the prince’s; he lost his home, forced to watch as soldiers stabbed his father on the chest while his mother and sister were burnt alive when their home was engulfed in flames.

Byleth closed her eyes tightly as breathing suddenly became so painful, her arms quivering as he felt the two boys finally allowing themselves to mourn. Her lip finally broke by how hard she had bitten down on it, the taste of iron soon invading her taste buds to combine itself with murky water and smog.

Her loss couldn’t compare to those in her arms, but feeling Dedue tremble made her weak.

Hearing Dimitri’s weeping as he nuzzles into her touch, broke her.

Three humans nested against each other, grieving.

For the first time, Byleth cried.