Much had changed in the five years since Byleth was a professor and fell into a deep slumber; her students were older and stronger, a war ravaged on and drastically changed the land of Fodlan, but the most drastic and difficult change for her to accept was Dimitri. The once sweet, young man she knew was gone and now he was a dangerous and unpredictable being that left her on edge when he was around. Felix’s insult for him, seemed to be a fitting description; he was a boar, a wild animal. While all the changes required some getting used too, Dimitri’s was the most disheartening but the least surprising. She was aware of the darkness, since their first meeting, and she was ashamed of herself for failing him.
“Again, I believe it would be better for us to strike Fhirdiad,” she said for the fourth time that meeting and it was becoming difficult for her to mask her annoyance. With the arrival of Lord Rodrigue a strategy meeting had been called for, though she knew it would be pointless. The meeting was held in the cathedral and not the conference room, like she would have liked because Dimitri refused to be anywhere but there, and she was loathed to talk about anything to serious there as they couldn’t be sure of who was listening. She had hoped that Lord Rodrigue would be bothered about the cathedral being their war council room but just like with Gilbert, he too, was all to eager to accommodate the difficult prince.
“For the last time,” Dimitri roared at her, “Enbarr is our destination! There I can kill that bitch!”
He stood at his full height, towering over her, glowering down at her but she didn’t back down in the slightest. It was an intimidation tactic she was all to familiar with given her short stature, and it was a particularly favorite of his, and he had yet to take it a step further so there was nothing to be intimidated about it; a small but hopeful sign that the Dimitri she once knew was still in there. She matched his glare with her normal flat expression and he flared his nostrils at her. A few seconds passed and he scoffed at her before turning his back on her, the usual outcomes to their standoffs.
“Why are you here?” he asked, never turning to look at her. The question was a first and her eyes widen for a brief second.
“To help-” He didn’t allow her to finished before he turned back to her and hunched over her.
“To help?” He spat at her and she had to take a deep breath. His face was so close, his one good eye revealed all the furry he held that was usually hidden in his normal tactic. She flexed and unflexed her hands, all the while taking deep breaths; she couldn’t allow him to know that this stance frighten her, made her feel cornered and at his mercy. “If you are so eager to help than stay quiet and be my bitch!”
Shouts of the prince’s name rung out in the run-down cathedral but none came from her. Her eyes widen and her mouth was slightly agape but no words escaped her and because of that he smirked down at her. Such words would normally mean nothing to her as it wasn’t the first time, she was told such a thing but coming from him…Her lips tighten into a thin line but she never broke eye contact; she dared not look away from his smirk.
“Dimitri! That is no way-” Lord Rodigue began but she silenced him with a simple wave of her hand. Momentarily she broke eye contact to give a sideways glance to Lord Rodrigue and Gilbert and noticed their anger and displeasure and she clenched her fists tightly. Throughout that meeting they barely spoke up or gave an opinion outside of supporting Dimitri’s foolish plan. They were willing to send hundreds, if not thousands, of men to die for such an asinine plan for revenge and yet at some mere harmful words they got angry at that? She found it impossible to swallow the lump that formed in her throat. She returned her attention back to the prince and discovered that his smirk grew and she gritted her teeth.
Any more talk would have been wasted breath, she concluded and walked out without uttering another word. As much as she hated it, she gave the mad man his victory; there wouldn’t have been much she could have done anyway. Several people started to follow her out but she wasn’t going to have it and ordered them to leave her be. Despite her best effort she wasn’t able to completely hide her anger.
Too wound up Byleth, decided to head over to the training ground. Human interaction was something she didn’t want at the moment and it seemed like fate blessed her as the grounds were empty, a truly rare sight. Swiftly she took a training sword and attacked a wooden dummy. Her strikes were wild, chaotic, and full of power, not a single bit of her skill could be found anywhere in each of her swing. Her teeth were tightly clenched and no sound escaped her except for her loud exhales of air; that was until the sword snapped and the other half flew off to only the goddess knew where.
Momentarily she was frozen with the exception of her rising chest that came with each large breath. Her eyes were fixated on the remainder of the broken sword in her hand and the throb of her wrist. Finally, she moved with a loud screaming bursting out from deep within as she slammed the dummy with the broken hilt. With each strike a new scream erupted out of her and she continued to thrash about until the hilt slipped from her fingers.
Heavy breathing were the only sounds left in the training grounds. Her stare bore into the hilt that laid on the floor before her. He wrist cried out for attention but she continued to ignore it. Finally, a sigh escaped her and she bent down to pick it up and quietly a cursed slipped through her lips when a throb in her wrist prevented her from gripping it.
Someone cleared their throat and she whipped her head swiftly to see her intruder, Felix. He was standing just outside of the training square and her mind cleared as she realized she hadn’t even noticed that he was so close. She figured that she should be grateful that she wasn’t on a battlefield but the thought didn’t really leave a pleasant feeling. Briefly their eyes were locked before she turned her sights back onto the hilt and picked it up with her good hand. She mumbled that it broke but never returned her gaze back to him. Slowly she got to her feet and stared at the hilt.
In a few short strides he was by her side but she didn’t acknowledge him. Her eyes flicked to the training dummy before her as she tried to figure out what she wanted to do next. Training would be pointless especially with Felix there but that didn’t matter as she wasn’t really training anyway, unless it was for a fruitless death. She just wanted to be left alone but she knew no matter where she went someone was going to be there and bother her even if they didn’t do anything. She just wanted some peace and she scoffed at the idea of what she just did as “peace”.
“Professor,” he said and she bit back a sigh to look at him. His normal pointed stare was replaced with a much softer look in his eyes and she couldn’t bring herself to look at him anymore. Of course, he saw her outburst, she wanted to laugh and scream at the same time. He called for her again but she didn’t respond; her attention went back to the training dummy and broken sword.
“I didn’t want this,” she said before he could speak again. She wasn’t sure what her confession was for. There were so many things she didn’t want: to give up her life of freedom to be caged down to one place, to protect the lives of others when she barely could take care of herself, to be the leader of an army and yet not be the leader at the same time, to save someone from themselves when she was her own chaotic mess, to be seen in her most vulnerable moment when she needed to be a pillar of strength at all times? She just didn’t know nor did she care about the answer.
He was completely silent and she knew he was waiting for the answer she didn’t want to find. She wanted to be left alone but it was clear that, that wasn’t going to happen. She realized that she never really got what she wanted since she became a professor and it was strange as she had never desired anything before then. And now she was full of conflicting desires: she wanted all her students to be happy, there to be peace in Fodlan, for Dimitri to be free of his demons, and yet at the same time she wanted to free of all the responsibilities dumped on her and to run away from everyone and everything. These conflicting wants had left her in a perpetual bad mood that seemingly had no end.
“Professor, he started again and she gritted her teeth. If he wanted her to talk than so be it, she would talk despite wither he wanted to hear it or not.
“I don’t want this!” She shouted at him and with wide eyes he took a step back. “I don’t want to be a stand in for an Archbishop for a religion I know practically nothing about! I don’t want to be an expected leader to an army and yet have no power and have my opinions brushed aside in favor of those for a broken man’s. I don’t want to pointless sacrifice soldiers’ lives because the other commanders don’t want to take a stand against their lost king!” Her throat was raw and her voice was on the verge of giving out. She may have shouted on the battlefield but never like that, never so raw and so emotional.
“I don’t want…,” she paused to drop her voice to a soft whisper, “to be here anymore.” She turned away from him to face her training dummy. She only meant to yell at him to get him to see just a fraction of the stress that’s been piling on her shoulders. She never meant to share her hidden desire, a selfish desire that she was more than sure that he and so many others had. Maybe it was a mistake for her to come back? Maybe everyone would have been better off if she was gone. What was she doing anyway? Was she really helping?
“Maybe I should have died that day?” her question slipped through her lips without her realizing it.
“Byleth!” Before she knew what was happening, she was pulled roughly into his chest and his arms wrapped around her, sealing her there. “Don’t you dare say something so idiotic again!” Felix wasn’t one to hold back his anger, his tone, as well as his tongue, were always sharp but that was something she hadn’t seen from him. His voice had been much rawer than usual and his words plain, she would have liked to see his face then but he wouldn’t allow it. His fingers dug into her skin and he wouldn’t let her move. Pressed so tightly into him she could hear his loud, frantic heartbeats, along with his long breaths. “If you ever say something, so, so….so insane again I’ll kill you myself! You got that!” She felt his whole-body rumble when he spoke.
They stayed like that for several moments before she gave in. The broken hilt slipped from her fingers as her hands wrapped around him to grip the fabric on his back. It took a bit of effort but he finally relaxed his grip on her head enough to where she could bury her face into his chest. The smell of sweat and pine tickled her nose and she took deep breaths to breathed it in. His heartbeat was still fast but it didn’t sound as frantic as before. The anger that had been pulling in the pit of her stomach for months finally ceased as a wave of calm brought her the peace she so desperately wanted.
He was the first to break away and she was surprised at how quickly she missed his warmth. “Do you feel better?” he asked as he looked away.
“Yes,” she answered with a small smile, “much better.”
He scoffed out the word “good” as he folded his hands over his chest. He was still refusing to look at her but she could see the light shade of red that colored his cheeks. “About what that boar said, pay him no mind. And don’t even think of doing what he said. He’s a,” he paused to as if he was struggling with what to say next, “he’s a lost cause.”
“He’s not.” He scoffed but said nothing else. “I know Dimitri is still in there, he just needs help finding his way out of the darkness.” She noticed that he glanced at her from the corner of his eyes and his lips were pressed into a thin line. “As for what he said it’s fine-”
“It’s not fine!” he roared over her. “You don’t deserve to be spoken to in such a way!” Her eyes widen at his outburst but a small smile grew upon her face. “I don’t care who it is, I will cut down anyone who would dare to speak to you in such a way! Even that boar!”
“Thank you, Felix,” she placed a hand on his arm. A blush spread a crossed his face and he looked away again. The darkness that had been weighing her down, seemed to be slipping away as a small fire was being ignited in her. She gripped his arm in a hope to get him to look at her and he did. “Truly, I thank you.”
The color in his cheeks deepened but he didn’t look away. His lips were in his usual frown but she could see a corner twitch, threatening to break into a smile at any moment. “Don’t mention it,” he mumbled and the smile she had, had won him over and he allowed her to see a small one of his own.
For the first time in months she didn’t feel the conflicting desires of wanting everyone’s happiness and running away. She just wanted everyone to be happy and especially Felix. Deep within her heart she vowed to do that no matter how much stress the world may dump on her, she would stand tall and proud and see it through to the end.