22nd Day of the Lone Moon, Imperial Year 1167
You weren’t mad at your father, not really.
But one could claim that you were irritated by the fact that he didn’t take you on the next mission, and they wouldn’t be entirely off the mark.
No, they’d be quite spot on actually.
The majority of your father’s mercenary group went along with him, leaving you with Bardolph, who got injured during the last mission and thus couldn’t come along, and Honora, who’s as much of a mystery to you as you are to her.
You don’t particularly look forward to interacting with either of them today, especially since the former is likely to have drank himself into a stupor yet again and it was barely noon.
Deciding to stay in your father’s tent for the time being, you opt to rummage around a bit. The two of you don’t have many belongings outside of your weapons and a change of clothes, so you don’t expect to find anything noteworthy. It’s to calm your nerves, more or less.
A rusty old sword, a stamp and the associated wax, a wooden flask - seems like he forgot to take it along - some bowstring, a leather-bound book.
Except that one doesn’t look like the books you’ve come to know? There’s an intricate design etched into the leather instead of a title, and a couple of ribbons are stuck between the pages. It seems more worn, and, strangely enough, has a lock adorning its cover.
Surprisingly, it’s unlocked. Its contents are free for you to peruse.
You hesitate, initially. This seems to be your father’s journal, and while you are still somewhat… vexed at being left behind, you’re not sure that you want to go as far as to invade his privacy. But you aren’t one to mock someone for their personal thoughts, and you wouldn’t simply share its contents with anyone you met. Really, there is no better person to share their innermost thoughts and secrets with than you. Besides, you can’t really imagine he had many interesting events to write about. Mercenaries don’t have particularly interesting lives, save for the occasional humorous incident that may happen.
Having made up your mind, you decide to take a peek into the book. You’re a little surprised at how neat his handwriting is, you wouldn’t have expected him to put so much care into a diary. At the very least you won’t have to worry about not being able to make sense of something.
He must’ve been in the middle of writing if he forgot to lock it, so you decide to take a look at the most recent entry.
Day 22 of the Lone Moon. Cloudy.
Our next client awaits in Sreng.
The political climate between Sreng and the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus has been tense lately.
I don’t want us to remain here any longer than we have to.
Byleth has been making great strides in their weaponry training. Maybe I’ll be able to take them along soon enough.
The implication that you aren’t quite good enough yet to be brought along stings somewhat, but you push the feeling aside. Soon enough is certainly better than “not ready whatsoever”. You’ll just have to be patient a while longer.
That said, you’ll make sure to train even harder in the time he’s gone - surprise him, in a way. He’ll see how serious you’re taking your training and might take you along earlier.
Abandoning your thoughts for the time being, you flip to a random page and keep reading.
Day 13 of the Great Tree Moon. Sunny.
A letter arrived this morning for Johann.
He seemed more zealous than usual, saying that he had to leave for Morfis immediately. Up and left without as much as a goodbye.
Only the goddess knows what he’s up to now. If and when he returns, I’ll have to drill some manners into that kid.
“Johann”? You don’t remember anyone by that name ever being in your father’s company. Seems like this diary is a lot older than you imagined. You wonder if he ever returned?
The earlier pages are - just as you expected - mostly anecdotes of his everyday life. There’s a lot of names you don’t recognize, and the entries span over several years.
As much as you’d like to know of your father’s life before you came into it, you know you’d end up being all too curious about what happened to some of his former colleagues that no longer seem to be in his company. And, as you have established, you don’t intend to let anyone know of your roguery, least of all your father.
You stick your head out of the tent for a moment, just to make sure you’re not going to be disturbed and caught red-handed. Bardolph has apparently already passed out and barely made it into his tent - you can see his legs sticking out of it. Unexpectedly, you find Honora not only within view but also mindlessly carving away at some branch. She’s usually very elusive and difficult to read, not to mention that her piercing gaze always leaves you feeling cold. It’s not that you don’t trust her, she just unnerves you somewhat. Despite this, she’s not particularly intimidating - hardly, considering how she always throws her arms around Denise whenever she comes back from a mission, or how often Denise makes fun of her for it. It’s kind of sickeningly sweet. You always end up feeling like you’re intruding on a private moment though, so you try to look away most of the time.
You determine that probably no one is going to disturb your curious exploits, and decidedly flip forward a few pages.
Day 25 of the Horsebow Moon. It’s raining.
The baby doesn’t laugh or cry. Not ever.
Lady Rhea says not to worry, but a baby that doesn’t cry...isn’t natural.
I had a doctor examine the child in secret.
He said the pulse is normal, but there’s no heartbeat. No heartbeat!
Upon reading the last words, you snap the book shut. Although you know of your various quirks and other oddities, you don’t think the lack of a heartbeat is a widespread one. Your resolve to read your father’s journal falters somewhat, and you slowly crawl back towards your bedroll.
Stumbling upon the circumstances of your birth wasn’t something you had planned. You would have been perfectly content with a simple collection of anecdotes and short remarks. It seems like fate had other plans, however.
You almost want to pretend none of this happened - that you never opened this book in the first place. Confronting this isn’t something you want to do. So far you’ve gone through life with a simple “I don’t know” whenever your strange behaviour was brought into question, and now, suddenly, the answer - the reason - for being the way your are is in your grasp and you want nothing more than to hide away and return to the way things have been.
And yet you know that this wouldn’t be right. As easy as it would be to simply pretend, disregard, and ignore what you saw, you wouldn’t feel at peace.
Frustrated with yourself, you get up and take the journal back into your hands.
Day 20 of the Horsebow Moon. All is cloudy.
I can’t believe she’s dead.
Lady Rhea said she died during childbirth.
But is that the truth?
And still, the child she traded her life for doesn’t make a sound. Didn’t even cry at birth.
This entry was written a day after you were born. It’s somewhat difficult to swallow, still, but you are more perplexed by this “Lady Rhea” your father keeps mentioning. Was she the midwife? A close associate?
She must’ve been of considerable status if he refers to her as “Lady” Rhea.
Regardless of their relationship, you wonder why he doesn’t talk about her anymore. Or what happened to her, for that matter.
You’re faced with a dilemma of sorts. You really want to meet this Rhea, considering she was present at your birth and seems to know...something about the state of your heart. Who in their right mind would tell someone not to worry about a missing heartbeat unless they knew more than they let on?
However, this would mean coming clear about your nosiness to your father.
He won’t be back for another two nights, so you’ll have enough time to ponder about your decision. You’d rather get this out of the way as soon as possible though, you don’t want to think about this any more than you have to.
It’s noon now, so you have to set this little project aside and gets starting on making lunch. After all, you have a long day of training ahead of you.
You return the journal back where you found it, determined to keep reading in the evening.
25th Day of the Lone Moon, Imperial Year 1167
The night before, you were still going over some of your father’s entries, so focused on the new influx of information that you completely lost track of time. It was daybreak when you finally finished and promptly passed out.
However many hours of rest you managed to get, you wake to the sound of horses trotting and the distant laughter of men and women alike.
Hurriedly you return the journal to its original spot - you’ve come to know quite a bit about your father, as well as your mother. Or rather, you came to realize just how much your father loved her.
You didn’t take him for the poetry type, though.
Still a little light headed, you slowly put on your boots and coat, leaving the tent to greet your father and the others. Gautier Territory is freezing, despite the fact that spring should arrive soon. You opt to keep your blanket wrapped around yourself. This may give the impression that you’ve only just awoken - they wouldn’t be wrong - but the breeze is cold and you don’t want to fall ill.
Taking a seat on the fallen log next to the campfire, you stifle a yawn and gaze at the onslaught of people in the distance. They’re a lot further away than you expected, and definitely way too loud for whatever time in the morning it is at the moment.
Honora walks over and hands you a bowl of pottage. You slightly grimace at the sight of it, and she glares back with a “Just eat it, kid.” as she leaves to continue eating her own.
You didn’t mean to appear as ungrateful. Of course you’ll still eat it, you just won’t enjoy doing so. It’s not that Honora is a bad cook - far from it - the two of you simply have vastly different opinions on what constitutes as good food. For example, Osbert’s “Parnell Porridge” is made from barley and omitted the honey, making it pleasantly piquant. Honora seems to think otherwise, and dislikes it vehemently. She has since decided to be in charge of cooking most of the time, and often makes pottage or frumenty. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with that if her pottage wasn’t so runny. You suppose her frumenty is satisfactory, but only because she serves it with fish.
You love fish.
And fishing, for that matter.
Maybe once you leave for someplace warmer, you can finally go fishing with your father again.
You begrudgingly finish your pottage and saunter over to your father. The snow crunches softly beneath your boots, and alerts him to your presence almost immediately.
“Hey, kid. Did you manage alright without me?”
You nod casually, gazing over to the other mercenaries who are talking amongst themselves. The mission must have gone well, since there doesn't seem to be anyone injured or missing. You suppose there’s no harm in asking, though. It’s only polite.
“How was the mission?” you ask, still looking at the others’ merriment.
“Just a simple reconnaissance mission this time,” he explained. “The pay was good, but I’m just glad we didn’t get caught up in whatever political machinations they’re up to now.”
You hum, breaking your gaze and staring at your boots instead. Despite having played out how this conversation would go in your mind, you still can’t seem to find the right words to say.
He seems to notice your internal conflict. Finished securing his horse, he crouches down and rests his hand on your shoulder.
“Something on your mind, Byleth?” he asks, his concern clearly evident.
Damn it, you really can’t hide this from him any longer. You take a deep breath, tugging your blanket closer to yourself. It’s time to come clean about this.
“I read”—you try to make eye contact but break it again just as quickly—”I read your journal.”
Realization dawns upon him, and then he’s overtaken by exhaustion, a certain weariness.
You mostly just feel ashamed.
Pulling your blanket over your head, you try to hide away. A futile effort - you know - but it gives you a sense of comfort. Whatever your father’s response, at least you’ll still have your woolen cover. Truly one of the trustiest of armors, yet the most underrated.
When you feel a hand on your head, you look up, seeing your father smile at you.
“Don’t worry, I’m not mad. I just wasn’t expecting it.”
You exhale slowly. This is going a lot smoother than you thought it would. Maybe those fifteen contingency plans were overkill after all.
“I thought I taught you better than to rummage in other people’s belongings, though.”
Ah, there it is. Stern fatherly disappointment at its finest. It’s definitely very effective at making you regret your misdeeds. You’re still glad you read his diary, though. It gave you an answer to a question you didn’t know you’d been asking.
Your father rubs his hand over his stubble and motions over to your tent.
“Let’s untangle this mess in private.”
He tries to fill in the gaps the diary left, mostly. Though he assures you he doesn’t know any more than what he’s already written down.
At the very least, you know a bit more about you father, as well as yourself. You were born on the 19th day of the Horsebow Moon, in the Imperial Year of 1159, making you a proud eight years old. ‘Absurdly young for you to know about all this’ he muttered, but you heard him, and you condemn his words.
Your father ruffles his hair and sighs, “Do you understand know why we can’t go back now? It’s way too dangerous.”
Albeit begrudgingly, you nod. You know he won’t budge on this one.
Pulling your knees to your chest, you tell him you understand. This doesn’t mean you have to be happy about his decision, but you’ve already made peace with this outcome. Out of the many ways you’ve imagined this conversation going, this one was the most likely, so it doesn't come as a particular shock to you.
Still, you’re slightly disappointed at not being able to get any answers or explanations for...your condition. As much as you’d like to know more about yourself, you’d be perfectly content with never getting any answers.
It wouldn’t change anything.
And yet, you can't shake the feeling of betrayal from this Rhea. Your lack of a heartbeat, or...your lack of a heart, isn’t something you asked for, or expected to be dealing with.
But...that’s all you’re lacking, really. Your pulse seems to be working just fine. Honestly, you shouldn’t be too overly concerned with the details, considering you’re still alive and well after all.
That's how you should be feeling, you say to yourself. You shouldn't feel this...angry over it. Building resentment not at your father, but at Rhea. Your mother could hardly have had a say in this since she died during childbirth, but Rhea...she had her own agenda, her own ideas. Ideas she didn't seem keen on sharing with your father.
How could someone betray another person’s trust like that?
You’re dragged out of your maelstrom of thoughts by your father sitting down next to you. Somehow, he always manages to distract when you need it most.
Suddenly, you feel an arm wrap around you and pull you close to his side.
“I’m sorry, Byleth. I know I shouldn’t have kept this from you. It felt right at the time but...I don’t know what I was thinking.”
He places a kiss on top of your head. “I just wanted to protect you from the truth.”
While you do fault him for his choice, you’re not mad at him. Hiding something so vital regarding your situation...well, you can’t say you would’ve done the same thing. You understand where he’s coming from, however, even if you disagree.
You lean into his side and mumble a quiet “I forgive you.”. Your situation may not be the most ideal, and the two of you might need to work on a cover story that the both of you agree upon should you run into any church officials, but...
Other than that, you think you can live like this.