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Fodlan Holy Grail War

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The screeching of metal shred the silent atmosphere. Flames plucked and singed exposed hair strands and epidermis. Impressive magic exchanged in conjunction with arrows whizzing through the air. Battle cries bellowed from warriors. Slick blades sunk into the soft, meaty flesh of their victims. Crimson substance and bile gutted the once-majestic monastery. The theatre of death filled up with keening and caterwauling sounds as the sodden earth became ichor.

"Byleth!"

She ran has hard as she could. Those navy hues targeted the fearsome blue opponent. An abrupt break, dirt sprayed from her toes digging into the ground. Sweat poured forth from its pores once she flew into the air. Gold rays emanated from the relic; the relic intensified its brightness above her head. Time had slowed for the fighters.

“Haaaah—!”

Byleth slammed her sword down with all of her weight. Their weapons came into contact. Sparks scattered between the two once the lance posed horizontally. Immense pressure violently shook their arms as the young man roared. 

"Byleth!" 

Molten-red blood spurted from her shoulder shortly afterward. An arrowhead seared through her thick overcoat and comfortably settled into her stiff flesh. She grimaced. This fractured their connection.

The Saber instantly hopped backward and tore the bloody foreigner out in a swift motion. The time spent on removing the arrow was less than a second. However, that was a grave mistake. 

“!”

She sharply gasped, profound 'CRACK' reverberated throughout her frontal body. Numerous shattered parts of her skeletal system threatened to pull her consciousness into the depths of an abyss; the explosions of pain wracked her toned body with a deep, torturous ache. 

Byleth sunk to her knees, both hands grasping ahold of the Sword of Creator for support. Blood seeped through the fabrics and out of her chest plate, its leakage ever more apparent from the corner of her cracked lips. She could barely breathe. None of her bones and sinews would cooperate, their defiance leading her down to a road full of misery and despair. 

“Byleth!”

Byleth’s weary hues slowly gazed upward to her opponent. The slithering sound of the sword being unsheathed frightened her, its electricity crackled and snapped in preparation for what is to come. Tears prickled from her lacrimal glands. Byleth closed her lips and dryly swallowed. Ironic how a powerful Servant like her would tremble from fear. Out of thousands of battles she had encountered, none held up to this very moment. Had she been **** or ****, she would have sung praises for the victor. 

She lowered her head under the somber orange sky. The person in question raised their blade, and Byleth whispered, 

“****, I’m sorry.”

Chapter Text

“I hope my kid gets in.”

“He’s a commoner. You know they only enlist the richest of the rich.”

“Are you sure about that? There are some students who aren’t from nobility.”

“Yeah, but they have to have a Crest.”

“That’s wrong.”

“No, you’re wrong. They need to have the Crest.”

“My daughter will find a worthy partner!”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Why not just marry her off to some rich noble?”

“My grandchildren’s future would be secured if they get in.”

“I can finally find a worthy opponent.”

“I’ll never get in…”

“Cheers!”

Commoners and nobilities mingled and exchanged powerful wishes and lamentations unto each other. Whether they spoke to those that wear their aromatic perfumes in large dosage or to those that wore nothing more than tattered rags, they chirped and frolicked like birds. It was as if a festival bloomed in all three nations simultaneously. Celebrations and haughty statements were tossed around like playthings. Anxiety and tears shed from the inevitable truths. Anticipations gnawed at their mangled souls.

Everyone knew what this month entails. Every five years, on the Guardian Moon (January), a letter from the archbishop would be sent to prospective students throughout the continent. Wings fluttered about over the population. Bells chimed in the background to signal the start of sunset. Stray feathers lazily descended upon the land from the orange sky. Children would squeal and leap, their hands outstretched to catch the pure object, the adults staring intently at the flock like predators. Many elders sunk to their knees, their clasped hands violently trembled, prayers muttered with incredible speed.

All for an invitation to Garreg Mach Monastery.

Its name easily rolls off from one’s tongue. Not more than 50 years had passed when the holy institution was instated as an academy for the continent, yet it managed to pridefully puff its chest. It is a prestigious academy so many yearned to attend. Only the best of the best was considered. After all, the monastery welcomed its gifted students with open arms for opportunities they would never get anywhere else. Future leaders and heroic warriors were products of the school’s program. Not a single student dropped out of each academic term. Everything must glisten in gold. Accepting mediocrity would sully their pristine image.

The Adrestian Empire, the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Leicester Alliance were invited to send over their best civilians. Letters were mailed out by white owls to potential candidates; details about the invitations and academic programs sunk its sweet tooth into their recipients.

“Looks like things are about to get serious,” the brown-haired grinned, his scroll crinkled in his grip. He glanced at the wide-eyed bird. Still smiling, he slid over to his right, his hand outstretched to the thin utensil. “It doesn’t hurt to spend five years in training.”

It was as if he had outlined his course of action down cold. Hesitation was never his middle name, anyway. Past the basked warmth of his private quarters, into the corridor, Hilda peered from the corner like a Peeping Tom. Hark, she was not the only person guilty! Various members arched their neck, their head, their ears craving for delicious news.

Claude von Riegan snagged a nearby feathered pen on his desk. The young lad dipped its tip into an inkpot and fluidly circled his response on the smoothed letter. His wrist haphazardly flicked within seconds for a signature.

Submission of his response granted him the role of House Leader for the Golden Deer House from the Leicester Alliance. Hilda, Raphael, Ignatz, Marianne, Lysithea, Leonie, and Lorenz were chosen by the Church of Seiros to follow him that fateful day.

“My Lord, will you be going?”

Another young male held the letter. He shifted the crinkled paper, his bright hues aimed at his closest friend. Dedue’s inquiry caused a soft hum to sing from the blonde. At that same moment, the owl tilted its head, a soft coo harmonic.

“I will,” he twirled the feathered pen, his lips firmed, and his voice solemn. “If this will let me redeem the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus to its former glory, then I will attend.”

Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd pressed his utensil unto the thick parchment. There was a circular motion of his wrist, and, shortly afterward, zig-zagged it for a signature.

Submission of his response granted him the role of House Leader for the Blue Lions House from the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus. Felix, Sylvain, Ingrid, Ashe, Dedue, Mercedes, and Annette were chosen by the Church of Seiros to follow him that fateful day.

“Everything is falling in place,” the white-haired grimaced, her fingertips unsteadily smoothing amongst the moist palms. “I must accept the invitation.”

“Are you certain, Lady Edelgard?”

Hubert stood in her shadows. No— he is her shadow. His second posture flickered in time with the lonesome candle. She completely unfolded the scroll to the owl’s supervision. The feathered ally blinked once. She nodded. Then, the young gentleman rested a hand on his chest, the darkness discoloring the smooth beauty of his porcelain pale skin. He bowed deeper than any loyal retainer would to their lord.

Edelgard von Hresvelg stroked the application with grace and delicacy. Weaves danced upon the page in a singular motion of her wrist.

Submission of her response granted her the role of House Leader for the Black Eagles House from the Adrestian Empire. Dorothea, Petra, Hubert, Ferdinand, Caspar, Linhardt, and Bernadette were chosen by the Church of Seiros to follow her that fateful day.

Everything has been set into stone. Owls hooted their final call to the upcoming students, their wings flapped in tempo. Edelgard, Dimitri, and Claude watched from high above, their pupils directed at the glistening land. The white bird was soon nothing more than a dot in the vast, orange sky. They shifted the weight on their feet, their grip tightening on the opened window's edge, their eyelids fluttered from the pleasant breeze flowing parts of their locks, all conducted simultaneously in a symphony. Now, the students must wait for the Great Tree Moon (April).

 

-----

 

Harpstring Moon (May). It has been one month since their arrival; one month at the famous Garreg Mach Monastery. Lengthy orientations and settlement were slowing to a standstill. Booming chatters and flurried excitement comfortably dipped into dignified and refined tranquility. Almost everyone had familiarized themselves with their surroundings and colleagues. Those that did not would quickly catch up.

Lady Rhea, standing in her bedroom, slowly exhaled. Birds chirped in volumes that penetrated the glassed barrier, their small bodies soaring to everlasting freedom. Tis’ the season for Spring to reach the finishing line. Their eventual retirement would pave way for the new, blistering season. She blinked. Both of her hands were raised, fingers intertwined, palms impressed, and head lowered; her silent prayers ushered into nothingness.

“Lady Rhea, how are you faring?”

Seteth stood at the doorway. Rigidity colored his posture, his bright hues gently lay to rest upon the holy maiden’s figure, to which it was drummed with the afternoon heat. She remained still and unmoving from her prayer. The same could not be said about her thin lips, its movement as casual as it could get.

“You need not worry about me, Seteth, but I am well.”

“I see.”

“How are the students?”

The songs from those birds increased in frequency. Melodies tinkered to their eardrums, their notes bouncing about within their heart, their natural passion embracing their souls. Seteth smiled in response.

“Noisy as ever.”

He could only use euphemism to describe it all.

The first month was beyond hectic. “Noisy” hardly captured the real image. Light tremors reverberated throughout the monastery. Overwhelming energy eradicated the lonesome premise once home to mere foot soldiers and bodyguards. Everyone had their eyes on each other. Crow’s feet were an epidemic as they exchanged formal greetings; some informal, such as Mercedes and Annette, where friendly hugs and kisses were given and received. An aromatic smoke wafted from the large cafeteria, sucking the population’s majority into its already-crowded site, the hopes of alleviating the chaos from outside.

“H-Hey! Linhardt, why aren’t you letting me grab thirds?!” Caspar’s reach trembled, his sight glued to the meaty target. “I’m really hungry!”

“Did you forget that there are other students in line after you?” Linhardt shook his head. “We need to leave some for them.”

“It’s a first-come, first-serve basis.”

“No, it’s not.”

“I’m going to starve!”

“You will not.”

“Yes, I will!”

“I suggest you change your eating habits then. It won’t hurt missing one drumstick from your diet.”

“LINHARDT!”

It is unfortunate traffic began to jam from the inside, its chaotic nature having shifted to a new location.

“Oi, are you both done yet?”

Felix felt his vein bulge from his head, his piercing eyes sparing no one. His metallic tray gloried its empty content before the bickering duo. Their shoulders slumped as their jaws clamped. Caspar would normally argue. It was his nature to counter a sharp response with another sharp response, albeit slightly weaker. Yet his blood stiffened at the sight. Linhardt shook his head again.

“Oh dear… It’s time we find a seat.”

An apology was delivered swiftly to his doorstep and they promptly removed themselves from the counter. The young male rubbed a couple of fingers against his temple, a huff escaping.

“Thank God they’re gone. They’re so annoying.”

“Felix, you shouldn’t say that!” Annette popped her head in with a bow. She gazed upon the sword-wielder with puffed cheeks. “Besides, they’re just getting food.”

“They were holding up the line, Ann.”

“You could’ve asked them politely.”

“Well, it’s too late for that now.”

“I think you should change your scary expression.”

“Oh, really?”

“I admit, it’s not as scary as Dimitri, but you should really smile more often.”

He scoffed. Felix plopped a chunk of sliced steak onto his newly placed plate riddled with greeneries and bread. His eyes slanted, turned towards Annette, and proceeded to drop a large quantity of meat onto her plate, despite her earlier objections.

“I would never be like the Boar Prince.”

“If you say so. I still think you should smile more in public.”

“…”

“Felix?”

“Annette,” the two have stepped away from the elongated counter, swooped down to press his lips upon her cheek. It left a tingly aftermath on Annette’s rosy cheeks, her feet tangled from an accidental crooked misstep. Felix freed one hand and intercepted her fall. Their faces were in short proximity, their breaths puffed amongst each other’s skin. Flames sharply ignited their skin with a roar as he whispered, “I want to shower you and only you with my smiles.”

“F-Felix…”

“Wow~ Take it to the bedroom, you two.”

Felix and Annette snapped their heads up. Seated from one of the table’s end, Leonie, Hilda, Marianne, and Ashe watched the two interact. Hilda smirked, her tongue holding no restraint. Besides her, the weary blue-haired student anxiously tugged on the pink-haired’s sleeve. Inaudible utters tumbled out of her parted lips, her pleas unheard by the female. As for Ashe and Leonie, they did their best to eat in silence, yet their ears perked for worthwhile events. Felix narrowed his eyes.

“You got a lot of nerve saying that to us, Hilda.”

“Felix—”

“Relax, Ann, I’m not going to hurt her.”

He approached the sitting Golden Deer. Though his hands were occupied, his mouth was not, and he happily made use of it. Verbiage intent on reprimanding filled the silent void Hilda purposely created. She plopped her chin on the palm of her hand, unblinking, and possibly bored out of her mind. Hilda did not bother to stifle her yawn either, letting it loose for the whole world to witness. Marianne felt parts of her soul fly out of her body, and dread shadowed over her eyes.

“Hilda, please apologize to him…” Marianne pleaded, her tugs becoming more apparent. “We… don’t want to cause trouble again…”

“Again…?” Annette raised a brow. “It’s only the first day we’ve been here.”

“Um… well… We accidentally broke a merchant’s axe…”

“How so?”

“Hil— I…. crashed into it—”

“Marianne! It was me, silly!” Hilda had done a complete 180 and swerved her attention to the shorter female. The energy that lay dormant bubbled to the surface, her arms pulling her friend into a tight embrace. Marianne felt her strength wither as her eyes widened. The sensation of her weight was still in her arms as Hilda glanced over at Annette. “It was me. I broke it. Not her.”

“…really?”

“Yes! I actually broke it with my bare hand!”

“Are you sure you aren’t covering up for her—”

“I. Did. It.”

“Hey! Why are you ignoring me!?”

“Pipe down, Felix,” Leonie waved her fork. “I’m trying to eat here!”

“Oi, Hilda started it!”

“And you continued!”

“Why are people so— You know what? Nevermind.”

“Hah? Could you elaborate on your unfinished statement?”

“I think this conversation is over, comrade.”

“Fine!”

Felix and Leonie fumed. Imaginary puffs of air emanated the dramatists. Soap opera would want to take note of their interactions for the next spectacular feature. Ashe began to laugh after settling the metallic mug onto the table.

“It sure is lively.”

“Lively? I think it’s outright noisy.”

The orange-haired promptly slugged his shoulder. Ashe ran out of language, incoherent sound effects elicited, and his hand furiously rubbing the affected area. His endurance is above average. He had an innate ability to run longer, burn faster, and bear far more than an ordinary boy similar in age and stature. If given the chance, his splendors would be renowned at the monastery. Yet he underestimated the power of a person called “Leonie.”

“Ow… You don’t hold your punches back, do you?”

“Why should I?”

“…”

Women are scary! Leonie especially! Such prowess that bundled and coiled in the young girl… How is that possible!? Sweat flew from his head dramatically as Leonie jabbed her fork into another piece of protein, its squelch muted from the rowdy setting. Felix fingers ran through his black hair, Annette appearing back by his side and pulling on his arm.

Ignatz and Raphael, who sat on the opposite end, pinned their gaze upon the small group. Flailing of arms, subjectless exclamations, and unnecessary lamentations painted the group as a form of entertainment.

“Ignatz, you think they’ll ever stop?”

“I don’t think so…”

“Why can’t they take it out on the training ground? I heard it’s good for sparring.”

The young boy shrugged his shoulders. As if on cue, the level of noise had risen. Vocals were lost amidst the background, his lips moving without sound.

“— - –—"

It went on for a couple of seconds, hinting of its lengthy content. Raphael was unable to grasp any of them; not a single peep was grasped and stuffed into his eardrums. He leaned forward, his muscular chest pressed upon the extended furniture, and tried to hear his artsy friend.

“——-—"

Raphael frowned. Under normal circumstances, one would speak up. This was not the case for the mighty brawn.

In contrast to their curiosity, Mercedes and Ferdinand could not bear to look. The mantle of responsible dependency rest over the duo’s shoulders.

“This is turning out to be a lively first day,” Mercedes giggled, her spoon scooping bits of the honeyed porridge. She tucked a stray strand behind her ear, her long eyelashes fluttering. “I hope it will stay this way for a long time.”

“It will happen if you strongly believe in it,” Ferdinand motioned.

His absurd confidence resonated in her heart, the healer shooting a glance. An amused hum stroked his taste buds once he took another bite from the salad bowl, oblivious to the probing gaze. She tilted her head. There had to be discrepancies with his proclamations and reality. Mercedes is a devout believer for religion and charity, but even she knows about the harsh conditions real-life posed.

“How could you be so sure?”

“Because I am Ferdinand von Aegir.”

“…oh! I… see.”

Did she expect something deeper from him?

“…”

He beamed. She reciprocated with a beam of her own. Maybe she was asking too much from him.

Nearby the four eaters, a black shadow zipped by. None of them had sensed the abnormality. Another shadow scurried after the first foreigner. That was when their sight and auditory senses kicked in.

“Was that Sylvain?” Raphael blinked. “What’s he doing?”

“I’m not too sure… It’s probably not something good, knowing him.”

“You think so too, Ferdinand?”

“I can attest to that, fufu~”

A shudder ran down Ignatz’s spine. “Y-You’re kind of scaring me, Mercedes…”

“PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!”

Students standing and nestled near one of the four doorways nearly went into cardiac arrest, their hands immediately resting over the wildly thumping organ. Glares and bewilderment shot at the fatigued girl. Bernadetta had burst from the cafeteria. Under normal circumstances, she would cower from their dagger-like stares. However, their eyes were the least of her problems…

“W-Where… Where can I go?!”

She had to run. She had to hide. She had to disappear.

Hot behind her trail was Sylvain. The young noble tossed his hand out to the doorway’s border. He grunted, his firm fingers curled inward, and swung his body out into the open with a sharp turn.

“Bernadetta!” he hollered. “Come back here, will you!?”

The fluttering of loose-leaf papers threatened to fly away like a bird from his grip, an entrapped victim desiring for release. Sylvain’s fast feet neared the writer, but he was careless. Smooth as the road may be, the pathways were littered with specks of debris, with some large enough to warrant a red flag.

“WHOA!”

He stumbled forward. Life danced before his eyes, Sylvain’s arms frantically mimicking wings, his frail balance with gravity fractured. Sweat poured from his pores and his breath hitched. Multiple half-steps pitter and pattered in front of one another while incoherent outcries sputtered. By the time he reconnected with the earth by kissing its pavement, the papers had all flown away to its yearnful freedom.

Bells chimed throughout the academic ground as tens of scribbled sheets scattered the clear blue sky. Day owls hooted, its wide eyes estimating the distance of its haphazard counterpart during its flight. Five of the wonderful creatures flapped and urged forward into the open plane.

High above the training ground, they traveled with sporadic battle shouts emitted from Ingrid and Petra. Two partners clunk and smacked their wooden sword.

“Haaaaah—!”

Petra swung the blunt end down. Ingrid immediately adjusted her posture, her knees bent, and her right foot slid backward. The knight raised her weapon vertically.

‘ CLUNK! ‘

Comma sweats crawled down to her chin as Ingrid felt her wrist creak. Petra’s feet returned back to earth, but not without applying an extra layer of pressure onto her opponent’s wooden sword, her arms shoved forward with a grunt. Ingrid nearly bit her lower lip, a tiny lump traveling down her throat. The Brigid princess is strong.

“Take this!”

The knight instantly reduced her strength. Petra’s figure lurched forward from the unexpected loss of equilibrium, her stability with gravity disrupted. Ingrid sidestepped to provide room for her fall. She elegantly twirled the training wood at hand and thrust it outward to “stab” Petra.

“Oh my gosh…” Dorothea watched from the distant, her hand covering her mouth. Petra had twisted her body enough during the collapse to avoid the assault. The songstress clutched her chest, small clumps of her brown hair clung to her moist forehead. “This is so stressful to watch.”

The two wonderful ladies sparred to test their might and the two had asked Dorothea to be the judge. But… who should she cheer for? Petra came from her house, but Ingrid was always there for her since the day they stepped foot. It didn’t help that they were both a beauty. Luscious hair, bountiful maturity, toned figures, delicate fleeting touches— Wait, why was she thinking about that?! She underwent her own mighty battle as the clunking of the wooden blades continuously overlapped.

Surprisingly, not one page had descended upon the monastery’s ground. The owls gave another hoot. High above the marketplace, they traveled and Lysithea, Lorenz, Hubert, and Dedue stood amongst the growing crowd.

“Ugh, I think that’s unfashionable,” Lorenz shook his head, his hand resting on his forehead. “I would expect better from you.”

“That’s rude to say that to them!” Lysithea elbowed the taller male. She furrowed her brows. “You know they’ve traveled far out here to sell their goods. Give them a break.”

“Unfortunately, if they were passionate, their products wouldn’t like this.”

“Lorenz!”

“It belongs in the U-category for ugliness.”

Unfortunately for the two, the merchant they were squabbling in front of began to see red. His shaky hands extended outward to the broom. The still shadow of fury washed over his eyes, his wooden stick slapped the stall’s pole. Both visitors felt beads of sweat fly out of their heads at the newfound sight. Death rarely crossed their minds, but today was one of them.

“It was nice visiting your shop, mister!”

Lorenz was about to follow the praising Lysithea when— oopsie! He was shoved towards the furious owner! A shriek slipped out after a narrow escape from certain doom, the stick walloped the ground mere centimeters from bodily contact.

“LYSITHEA!”

Hubert and Dedue glanced over to the rowdy Golden Deer.

“My, how unpleasant,” Hubert grumbled. He snapped shut one of the two spellbooks in his hands. “If Lady Edelgard would be disturbed by these silly activities, I would have to do something about it.”

“I object,” Dedue crossed his arms. “I understand where you are coming from, but that is not the correct way to serve your lord.”

“Excuse me, did I ask for your opinion.”

“No, but it is something I had to say.”

Hubert narrowed his eyes. “I think it would be wise for you to keep your opinion to yourself, Dedue.”

“…”

Dedue resisted the temptation to sigh. Out of all the students he had met, he knew they would have a rickety relationship. Perhaps they will never see eye-to-eye, and perhaps that will never happen. Nonetheless, their upmost loyalty to their lord was commendable. Hubert respected Dedue for serving Dimitri, and Dedue respected Hubert for serving Edelgard.

Past the students, more students arrived from all three nations like little ants through the gate. The gatekeeper’s cheerful “Welcome!” brightened their spirit for their new life. They were going to spend the next five years working, challenging, learning, loving, and forging bonds. It was an opportunity not many were granted.

They came in all different sizes and shapes. Some were from nobility. They were given special treatment by the Church, their accommodations sate the high-leveled expectations for their living conditions. Many possess some form of Crest, whether it be minor or major. Some were commoners. They were given resources by the Church, their accommodations sate their basic necessities for their living conditions. Very few possess any form of Crest.

House leaders were handpicked and determined by the archbishop, Lady Rhea, since day one. Edelgard von Hresvelg, Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd, and Claude von Riegan would act as this academic term’s house leaders.

Edelgard von Hresvelg would become house leader for the Black Eagles.

Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd would become house leader for the Blue Lions.

Claude von Riegan would become house leader for the Golden Deer.

“And so… we meet again, Dimitri,” Edelgard lowered her teacup. She sat opposite of the blonde, her lilac hues keeping tabs on his every action. “Though I cannot say I didn’t expect this.”

“I agree,” Dimitri chuckled. “Since you did not return to my kingdom, I predicted this might happen. You’ve changed though…”

“In what way?”

“Your hair—”

“That might be for another time.”

The abrupt cut off slashed hard. Dimitri blinked a couple of times in silence, his teacup returned to the clothed mat. Loveliest of all trees ruffled from overhead as a breeze smoothed their exposed skin. He lowered his eyes, a heavy weight nestled between his shoulder blades.

“Perhaps another time.”

Though silence should have followed, Claude intertwined his fingers, chin rested on them, elbows on the table, and tilted his head.

“What shouldn’t be saved for another time is how you both know each other. Spill me the tea.”

“I don’t know, Claude,” Dimitri bitterly smiled. “It’s a long story.”

“I agree. It might sour our teatime session too.”

“Aw, you’re both no fun,” the young man smirked. “Why not tell me? I promise to tell you something in exchange.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, I don’t know… Maybe about my past too.”

“Hoh… That’s quite a trade.”

“Trust me. Here, I’ll give you a little snippet, free of charge,” Claude straightened his posture and coughed into his fist. “Not too long ago, I bumped into two fabulous people. They were of nobility, yet they seem to know each other.”

“Claude…”

“One was a cute little princess, and one was a grumpy looking prince.”

“Claude.”

“And I hope we could become good friends.”

“CLAUDE.”

Edelgard and Dimitri overlapped, their cheeks flushed. Claude placed his hands behind his head and winked.

“It’s a good story, don’t you think?”

 

-----

 

Now, a month scampered forward, to where Seteth, Rhea, Flayn, and Catherine stood inside of the holy church ground. Seteth was bent down, his fingers brushing black ink on the pristine surface, faint squeaks occasionally cracking the still atmosphere. Flayn bent forward in a similar fashion, hands behind her back, and observing the process. Those paired bright hues, accompanied by a smile, flickered between her older brother and the ritual drawings.

“I’m excited to see who the new professors and staff are.”

Garreg Mach Monastery had a tradition every five years: the Garreg Summoning Ritual. Led by the Church of Seiros and its headmaster, Lady Rhea, this was one of the many options to tackle economical strategies. Funds from the Church were finite; there was only so much their nails could scrape in from donations. So they turned their heads towards a new shining beacon.

Three students from nobility, who would naturally become house leaders, were invited to complete the mandatory summoning ritual. Being chosen as house leaders were not an easy feat. The students had to derive from a long legacy of lineage fit to rise to the role. A large quantity of magical energy, called mana, was required to fulfill their position. This was so they can summon their professors.

Unlike other academic institutions, Rhea expressed this unique tradition for over 50 years. The act of calling forth their instructor would help bolster the students’ performances with a teacher fit for their personalities, attitudes, and beliefs. It was the perfect substitution for conducting costly background checks and hiring of adjuncts and tenures.

“To be honest, Flayn, I’m a little worried who they will be. I still cannot get over the fact one of the students summoned a thief!”

“He was stealing a lot of our supplies, wasn’t he?”

“Unfortunately.”

“If I hadn’t caught him, the church would have been in a pinch.”

Seteth paused. He glanced up from the fresh circle, his chuckle apparent. Catherine, on the sideline, cracked her knuckles.

“I would’ve pummeled him if it weren’t for Flayn.” No moral restraint… a rather prominent feature in very few warriors like her. “The fact that he would take Lady Rhea’s belongings deserved more than a simple execution.”

So long as it was in the name of Lady Rhea, she would chop up her limbs and offer it up to the holy maiden.

“I am certain that would not happen again.” Rhea stepped forward once Seteth rose from his crouch. “I have prayed to the Goddess for good fortune. I can sense that this year will be one that will forever be remembered.”

Catherine’s knuckles suddenly whitened, her grip tightening on the relic’s handle, and jawlines outlined from the smell of fresh meat purifying the distilled air. The double doors creaked. Sharp eyes penetrated the sturdy chests of the incoming house leaders. Claude and Dimitri each pushed one half of the majestic, tall barrier, Edelgard walking between the tall boys. It was picturesque.

Seteth and Flayn returned to Rhea’s side as the archbishop silently motioned her hand down to Catherine. A grunt as she eased her hold, but not without a displeased exhale. The top-ranking Knight served under the name of Seiros stepped back. Her eyes had not left the three students, however.

Archbishop bowed.

“Greetings, House Leaders. I hope you have familiarized yourself with the Officers Academy.”

“I think we’ve had plenty to check around,” Claude said. “One month is enough to make us experts for any visitors.”

His jokes were not received— Rather, Rhea rolled over and onward from his witty remark. She slowly looked at the marked ground.

“I have also requested that you participate in the Garreg Summoning Ritual. You all were required to bring three items that you wish to use for the tradition.”

Then, she returned her gaze to the trio.

“You will be their Master and they will be your Servant. But you will refer to them as your Professor.” Her eyes were crinkled. “Are you prepared?”

Dimitri, Claude, and Edelgard nodded. Their silence following afterward notion the archbishop to beckon them forth.

“Best wishes, my children. May the Goddess watch over you.”

One at a time, they stood in front of the archaic circle, their hands and pockets filled. Compatibility may play a heavy influence on their soulful incantations, but the students’ chosen objects held some degree of control over who their professor would be. They exchanged glances. The question now lies if Lady Luck would bestow her magic for them.

The first to stand is Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd. He pieced the three chosen objects with great care upon the circular design. A monocle, a parchment on tactics, and blood from a dying boar preyed the markings. His vial had tipped upside down after a complete stride. Dimitri stuffed the stained glass into his pocket, the metallic iron smeared his and his friends’ olfactory. The Prince of Faerghus raised his hand.

Stanza after stanza riddled the tense environment. Sky blue light illuminated beneath his feet, a gust of wind swirled around the noble, his navy cape flapping in the air. Searing heat crackled into the back of his hand, his brows scrunched, and his stifled cries noticeable. Dimitri’s chants maintain stability. There would be no interruption that would snaffle his delivery.

Bright light blinded everyone on the premise. Edelgard and Claude were forced to shield with their arms, their eyelids squeezed shut for good measures. Catherine, Seteth, and Flayn grimaced from it. Rhea calmly stood out with her holy demeanor. The entire church disappeared for a few seconds from their sight, the sky blue blanketed their vision.

Fine mist surrounded a tall man. The summoned Servant stroke his gray beard, his monocle glistening in-sync with the sunrays, and his thick coat covering all parts of his body, leaving very little room for skin exposure. He spotted the panting Dimitri, the mark of the command seal tattooed on his burning skin. Little attention was given to the others as the elder chuckled.

“So, it appears that I have been summoned by a young gentleman.” He bowed deeply. “I am Hanneman, Archer class.”

“An Archer, huh… You don’t look like one.”

“You think so?” Hanneman cupped his chin. “Then again, you speak of the truth. I am well-versed in the art of magic. As you can tell, I am nothing more than a scholar when I was alive.”

Dimitri nodded, his shaky hands coming to a standstill. It appears that the person he had summoned was not meant to be summoned into this class.

“Yikes… That’s one heck of an L you’re gonna have to take,” Claude shook his head. This bemused the new professor. Yet Dimitri responded in his place.

“I find possibilities where others see limitations, Claude. This is a gift from the Goddess.”

That earned Dimitri a whistle. The Golden Deer House Leader smiled—genuinely in fact—it stroked the blonde’s heart to a slight flutter!

“You might be right… this might be an impressive result in the end.”

Seteth proceeded to cleanse the circle in preparation for Claude as they continued their conversation. Edelgard, who had remained mute, stared down at the palms of her hands. They were violently trembling as if an earthquake descended. Was it from her nerves? She instinctively curled her fingers inward and jammed her nails. In the background, Dimitri pat Claude’s shoulder as he was next in line.

Claude von Riegan took out his belonging. A wooden flute, a package of herbal medicine, and an alcohol bottle. The first two objects held the least shock value compared to the third for both Dimitri and Edelgard. When they expressed wonderment, Claude responded with a playful tone, his hand cautiously spilling the alcoholic content.

“Random chance. I have a feeling this is going to go well.”

“I don’t think you should be horsing around with this…”

“Relax, Dimi, I got this.”

He mimicked his friend’s action after settling the empty container on the ground. Hand extended outward, his lips parted, and golden light circulated the ritual. The wind blew into their figures once again as his chants became louder. Compared to Dimitri, he was able to bear through the flaming sharpel from the forceful engraving of the command seal for the most part. 

This time, the newcomer was a woman. Dressed to impress, her beauty radiating in conjunction with her angelic voice, the Servant boasts her skillsets to the witnesses.

“I am Manuela. Songstress, physician, Caster class, and available, I look forward to working with you, Claude.”

Boastful? Perhaps, but Claude sees the positive trait from it. Though some may think otherwise.

“How haughty.”

An unusual remark from Hanneman. Dimitri, Claude, and Edelgard diverted their attention to the older male, his features tinged with displeasure. Manuela felt a strong pulsation from the corner of her head. The Caster opened her mouth, paused, then clamped it close. She dryly swallowed and waved her hand.

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that, Hanneman. Wouldn’t want to look back in front of my new Master.”

Claude felt a nervous chortle erupt from his throat. His and Dimitri’s Servants are going to have a field day with each other… Their eyes shifted to the quiet female. Not a peep from the princess. Her nerves must have gotten the best of her, her figure stiff as a stick. They wonder… what could make her so nervous?

Their pondering continued as Seteth wiped and swept the remaining materials from the ritual. Rhea motioned once more for the final summoner. Edelgard inhaled deeply. She held it. Then, she exhaled.

Finally, it was Edelgard von Hresvelg’s turn. In her grasp were three items. Just like Dimitri and Claude, they were special in their own way. They picked it with careful consideration. For Edelgard, she had found these materials from the Red Canyon. Ferdinand and Hubert had accompanied her for the abrupt trip. Compared to Claude and Dimitri, she felt a strong, magnetic pull to the location. It was almost as if it were calling for her.

A rustic piece from a shattered sword, a torn patch from a dark overcoat, and… that was it.

“Let silver and steel be the essence.
Let stone and the archduke of contracts be the foundation
Let my great Master Hresvelg be the ancestor”

Rhea widened her eyes when she spotted the white-haired unsheathing the dagger from behind.

“Let rise a wall against the wind that shall fall
Let the four cardinal gates close.
Let the three-forked road from the crown reaching unto the Kingdom rotate.”

Its slithering blade shone as Edelgard brought it high above her head. Catherine reached for her sword, her wrist prepared.

“I hereby declare
Your body shall serve under me.”

The tip moved in a curvature. A crimson line was left in its wake, the blood oozing out of her self-infliction.

“My fate shall be your sword.”

She tilted her hand despite the throbbing aches scratching underneath her cut.

“Submit to the beckoning of the Holy Grail
If you will submit to this will and this reason… Then answer!”

Gentle vermillion light encapsulated everyone present. Its rays brightened with each drip of her blood, her offering sating the slumbering Servant. At that same moment, a fiery ignition dragged burning hot iron on the back of her hand. Edelgard bit back a whimper. She grabbed ahold of her extended wrist with pinched features.

“An oath shall be sworn here!
I shall attain all virtues of all of Heaven.
I shall have dominion over all evils of all of Hell!”

A gust far more powerful than that from previous sessions threatened to fling the students away. Seteth and Catherine had embraced Flayn and Rhea respectively, their feet rooted to the vibrating floors. Dimitri and Claude struggled to keep afoot. Their narrowed eyes peered through the slits as Edelgard forced herself upright. The grip that kept her wrist in place squeezed until her blood circulation drastically slowed.

“From the Heaven, attended to by three great words of power
Come forth from the ring of restraints,
Protector of the Holy Balance!”

Just like Dimitri and Claude’s session, white light enveloped their five senses.

“…”

Smoke lingered in the air, but at the center of the summoning circle, no one had appeared. Everyone waited with bated breaths. Seconds transitioned into a minute. The silence was all that resulted. She glanced down at the back of her injured hand. The aching red mark resembling that of an unknown Crest seared into her skin. Yet this excruciating process yielded no Servant.

“…why?”

Edelgard sunk to her knees.

Had she failed? Was this all a fluke in the end? Edelgard groveled at the tainted ground, her magma-red blood engulfing the entirety of her wounded palm in its flames. The command seal was still present. What did she do wrong? Tears spurted from her lacrimal glands, those salty substances hurried to separate from her skin and onto the flat surface. Claude and Dimitri exchanged worrisome glances.

“Edelgard…”

“Princess…”

They approached the withered youngster. They stood nearby but found the inability to engage sympathetically. After all, their Servants lingered from behind. The boys were able to call forth their professor, and Edelgard was unable to. They would never be able to understand her anguish.

“This isn’t fair…” she hoarsely whispered. “Did I do… Is this karma?”

“Karma? Don’t be silly,” Dimitri shook his head. He kneeled to her level and eyed the female. He was not sure what she meant by karma, but it crushed his heart to see his childhood friend defeated. “Your Professor might come. You still have your command seal.”

“That means nothing if they don’t appear.”

“Is this thing rigged?” Claude’s attention diverted to the older adults. He motioned towards the weeping girl. “This isn’t supposed to mess up, right?”

Rhea shook her head. “This is the first that had happened before. All professors were able to be summoned the past nine times.”

“You didn’t have to include that last part, you know.”

“Hey, don’t speak to Lady Rhea like that, young man,” Catherine stepped forward and viciously pointed his finger. “Know your place.”

Claude huffed. He shrugged his shoulders and abandoned insanity. “I apologize. I’m a bit frustrated too for Edelgard—”

‘ BANG! ‘

It was immediately accompanied by a distant crackling of heavy logs tumbling on top of each other. Students and staff alike perked their ears. Claude and Dimitri immediately assisted in Edelgard’s recovery, their Servants swiftly turning to the source. Precautions were taken as their chosen Class weapons were pulled out. Catherine completely unsheathed her Thunderbrand, its electricity crackled and popped without restraint. Seteth shielded both Flayn and Rhea with his arms, his body ready to absorb any potential damages.

Once the dust had settled before them, they were greeted with a spectacular sight. The Goddess Seiros must have shone her lucky stars to the warrior. Stones and obliterated woods formed as a piece of disheveled furniture. Arms resting on the natural armrest, palm pressed on the Sword of Creator’s hilt, and cheek leaning on her elbowed hand, she slowly opened her eyes.

“…”

Could this be…? Edelgard’s jelly legs wobbled as she approached the arrogantly seated woman. The roles were reversed. Edelgard collapsed onto one knee, head raised to the female like a Servant as the Servant exerted regality like a Master. Navy hues dragged its gaze to the fallen. She examined the student with scrutiny.

“Your blood…” The newcomer had gotten up from her seat, kneeled, and instantly greeted the magus with a kiss on the gash. Normally, this would be viewed as romantic, but not a lick of emotion crossed. When she parted, sticky fluid clung to bits of her chin. “I’m bad at healing, but this is the least I could do.”

Perhaps this is part of an innate skill the Servant has. The shallow infliction had dissipated, leaving behind a bloody mess of leftover iron.

Then, she got up, sword still at hand. Edelgard watched in awe from below as the Servant quietly spoke,

“Byleth. Saber class. Tell me… are you my Master?"

Chapter Text

It was cold.

Byleth had sunken to her knees and into the wet dirt. Her chest rapidly rising and falling, out of breath, a cool mist exhaled like chilly flames into the moist atmosphere. When she glanced upward, she noticed the torrential rain pouring harder than ever, its splashes drenching her bruised skin. Thunders rumbled the dark clouds’ bellies with great warning. She wearily blinked.

It was cold.

Byleth’s knuckles whitened like sheets, its bloodied lacerations haphazardly painted on the shredded steel plate, and her lips cracked with a metallic aftertaste. She violently shuddered. Head lurched forward, she could barely contain the iron that poured from her swollen mouth, the thick consistency swirled in a mixture of water and black mud. The burning acid scratched at her throat as Byleth coughed.

It was cold.

Byleth did not bother to wipe the blood, the rain becoming a partial assistant to her. She weakly gritted her teeth and stared at the drenched battlefield. Her breathing slowed. Another cough, albeit hoarse, trickled out of her lips, grimacing from the horrific gash that tore apart her chest, its bones protruding with dangled flesh. The mercenary’s right hand slowly loosened its hold on the Sword of Creator’s handle. At that same instant, the lights in both her eyes and relic began to dull.

“Fa… ther…”

It was cold.

Byleth had collapsed. The Sword of Creator pierced the dreadful land by the side of its dead owner… along with the vast amount of dead bodies stretched for miles end. Not a single soul awakened from its eternal slumber as the rain continuously tried to cleanse the souls of the sinners.

-----

“?!”

Edelgard scrambled upright with fast breaths. She was sweating, clumps of white hair clinging to her forehead for dear life. The student’s vision blurred like a muddled canvas as she desperately fumbled a shaky hand up to her thumping chest; the darkness was not helping her cause. Edelgard dryly swallowed and curled her fingers into the blanket. Despite attempts to slow her breathing, she still feels her heart beating wildly like a horse.

‘ W-What was that…? ‘

The noble had encountered nightmares before. She was always plagued with them since she was a child. However, none of them was anything like this. It was a vivid dream of one she was not familiar with.

“Professor…”

Edelgard knew the teal-haired warrior all-too-well in the dream. That was her Servant—her professor— Byleth. Unfortunately, the dream hardly told much of what the noble desired. It began with the fatally wounded Byleth and it ended with the death of Byleth.

Though this was all seen and experienced as if she were the mercenary. A shudder ran down the girl’s spine and pressed upon her chest. Flames that roasted her innards, nausea that prickled from her busted stomach, the burning that scarred her throat, it was all so devastating. Edelgard could not help but examine her own body for signs of harm. (Thankfully, none of her bones were exposed out in the open during this somber night!) The young girl finally received her relief when Byleth’s vision sunk into the abyss, never to awaken again.

Edelgard chewed her lip.

“Professor…!”

She understood that, from Lady Rhea’s explanation, the Servants summoned to this world have died long ago. They were temporarily given another chance at life in servitude to the Church of Seiros as either a staff or as a teacher. However, there are side effects of the ritual. One of them includes Masters being chucked with fragmented memories from their Servants at random intervals; memories that the Masters must experience as if they were the Servants themselves.

In this case… is that truly how Byleth’s life had ended? If so…

She slowly released her grip on the blanket, her weary eyes downcast. Although it was nothing more than a fleeting dream, the lingering sorrow that filled her heart gripped tightly, its claws tearing at the sensitive organ. It was a different kind of sadness… Regret having overwhelmed the mercenary’s last moment. The noble swallowed.

“Why were you so sad?”

Edelgard affirmed her decision to speak with her Servant about the matter. There is much more she has yet to learn about the ex-mercenary. But now she must return to her slumber. A glance towards the second-floor window told her everything. The vermillion princess snuggled under the blanket. Unconsciously, the young 17-year-old would rub her scarred arms, a drowsy spell cast on her figure.

‘ Professor... I want to know more about you. ‘

-----

Eventually, the moon was replaced with its opposite. It was early. Perhaps it was a little too early as the slight fog for the morning lingered in the air, its presence notable on monastery’s ground despite the weak sunlight. Birds warmed up their vocals, their beaks in favor of a delicious meal than a song to color their surroundings with.

Some students were preparing for the new day. Bernadetta, Dorothea, Mercedes, Hubert, Dedue, Lorenz, and Dimitri were those ones. Some students headed out to the training arena. Ingrid, Felix, Annette, Dimitri, and Lysithea were those ones. Some students grabbed an early breakfast. Petra, Caspar, Claude, and Ferdinand were those ones. The majority were fast asleep in this ungodly time of the day. Those were the rest of the students laying idly on their mattress.

Edelgard, Master of Byleth, was naturally accompanied by the professor.

This was their first day together if Edelgard didn’t count yesterday’s summoning ritual. She, Dimitri, and Claude were excused back to their dormitory for the rest of yesterday, the newcomers provided with intensive details and guidelines of the Officers Academy by Rhea and Seteth. The three lords would not be able to see their Servants again until the next morning when they have awoken. Claude bumped into Manuela while getting breakfast, Dimitri bumped into Hanneman, to which the older male headed to the monastery’s library, and Edelgard bumped into Byleth the instant she took a step out of her quarter.

After another quick, though personal, tour and showcase of the lecture hall for the Black Eagles for Byleth, the white-haired immediately came to speak to the Saber about the dream.

“What was your regret?”

Her response?

“Nothing.”

“That’s… it?”

“Yes.”

An expression with fewer features than that of a brick acted as a huge contrast to the frustrated student.

Byleth had acknowledged her death, but she hadn’t said any more about her past. Edelgard’s tough charismatic attitude towards the older female had gotten her another piece of information about her past occupation as a mercenary, but that was it. Nothing more and nothing less. No matter how much she tried to pinch at her Servant, the Saber would not lower her guard. Instead, Byleth reached out to pat Edelgard on the head, their roles clearly reversed from Master to Servant and vice versa.

“It would be pointless to talk much about my past. I’ve already died, so there is nothing for me to gain in this life.”

“Don’t say that,” Edelgard gently knocked her hand away with a frown. “You may only be here for five years, but that’s still enough time to get something done.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, Edelgard, but even if I were to tell you, it wouldn’t be granted anyway.”

“Why is that?”

“It’s impossible.”

Before Edelgard could open her mouth, the bell chimed from the distant. Its tolls rang for a solid minute, a signal of a new day for the students, and the first official day for the studious members of Garreg Mach Monastery.

Any students that were snuggled under the blanket would be forced to crawl up from their slumber. The youngsters would have another 30 minutes to indulge in a light meal for the morning before the start of the lecture… That is if they do not skimp out on book learning. The bell also signaled a new shift for the security guards and soldiers. Many of them waddled back to their dormitory for a snooze as their colleagues took over their positions.

It was beginning to bustle in this holy premise. Byleth used the event to turn her back towards the 17-year-old, but not without raising a textbook into the air.

“We have more important matters to attend to, Edelgard.”

“Wait,” she extended her gloved hand out. “I’m not done—”

“Lady Edelgard!”

At that same moment, Petra, Hubert, and Ferdinand arrived into the classroom, with the Brigid princess greeting the noble in a familiar accent. Byleth sped her pace to the front of the classroom and left the four alone. Edelgard bit back a sigh. The opportunity to speak privately with her Servant is now gone for the morning. Maybe she might try again later, but… she mentally shook her head.

‘ Am I too pushy? ‘

It would only be fair her Servant speak little about her past, and it would only be fair if she flat out refuses to speak about it. She may be her Master, but her Servant is a professor… and she is her student. Both of her shoulders slump and an elongated sigh bypassed her lips.

“My Lady, is something the matter?”

Hubert’s concerned tone recaptured her attention. Edelgard stiffened her posture and swiftly moved her hair behind with a flick of her wrist.

“It is nothing, Hubert. Let us prepare for class.”

Despite the regal and professional response, her body language said otherwise, the fingertips drumming on her waist and distressed features scribbled onto her face. As she walked towards her designated seat in the front, Hubert, Ferdinand, and Petra exchanged looks.

“What could she be worried about?” the Brigid princess motioned. “I have not seen Edelgard like that before.”

Ferdinand shook his head. “Neither have I.”

A faint hum came from the princess’s loyal companion. Hubert cupped his chin, lowered his head at a particular angle, and aimed his gaze at their professor, his eyes narrowed.

“It seems this is something worth looking into…”

“Normally, I would say that’s a terrible idea, but I’m also curious...”

Hubert’s chuckles resonated from his throat. The young male shook his head and retracted his hand. As he walked towards the second row behind the princess, he brushed by Ferdinand’s shoulder. A couple of steps were taken before he paused in place. Back still faced to the noble, his tonality dipped into that of a soft whisper, “I find it strange we can find a compromise on something.”

“Did you say something?”

“…”

He ignored Ferdinand’s question and promptly greeted the young lord with a bow of his head. Of course, that caused the other noble to fume in the background. Had it not been for Petra holding him back with her powerful grip, he would have marched up to Hubert and shaken the male. Violently. The furious Ferdinand bellowing "I am Ferdinand von Aegir! How dare you ignore me!" to the silent Hubert said plenty about their relationship. Byleth, who stood in the front, felt a bead of sweat roll down the side of her face at the peculiar commotion. 

' Today will be an interesting day… ‘

When her gaze reverted to her Master, she began to take into account of Edelgard's subtle traits. The young girl brimming with charisma was always filled with a sense of isolation. Ironic as she is always accompanied by at least one of her classmates since the time of her summoning yesterday. Byleth faintly hummed to herself and cracked open her booklet, her eyes never leaving the royal female. 

Edelgard would occasionally tuck a stray strand of white hair behind her ear. Is her white hair a natural color? Byleth remembers seeing Lysithea with similar colored hair, so it could simply be a coincidence. Yet throughout her time as a mercenary, the young adult could not recall a time when she met someone lacking any variety of shades.

Her sight strayed to the student's hands. Edelgard's fingertips were subtle upon the parchments, all five smoothing the scripture for today's lecture topic. What's striking are the white gloves. The professor mindlessly began to flip through the pages and tilted her head. She heeded very little attention to the girl's hands. After the summoning ritual from yesterday, Byleth could not recall her reason for keeping the gloves on. What she could relish in was imprinting a kiss onto the self-inflicted gash, a tender act that merely serves to instill bits of her recovery magic onto the minor wound. Healing spells were not her forte, but she could at least imbue bits to her Master. A dangerously hot red flush tickled Edelgard's cheeks afterward. The Saber found it perplexing that she would react in this manner, but she did not ponder upon it for long. After all, Lady Rhea and Seteth shooed the three Masters away to speak to the Servants privately. 

Edelgard began to tug at her uniform's collar, the sweat beginning to form as she blew a short burst of air. Byleth was astonished to absorb the details of the house leader's attire. Was she always this stuffy? The uniform already looked as though it could overheat anyone during the hot, dreadful summer season. Harpstring Moon (May) held no punches and it was only going to get worse. However, her Master retained the uniform with additional layers on top of it. Barely any of her skin was exposed to the public. This almost paints her Servant as a scandalous dresser!

Byleth sucked in a sharp breath when Edelgard fanned herself. Since the young girl sat at the front row, this meant she was able to get a better view of Hresvelg. Thinking about it... Edelgard is a pretty student. Beautiful is the best terminology to describe the house leader, the perspiration highlighting the key vocabulary. Though the same could be said about Dimitri and Claude with how handsome they are. Were all house leaders physically attractive? 

"Professor, is there something on my face?" 

Edelgard's voice snapped her to reality. The mercenary soon felt it dawn upon her that she was caught ogling at her Master. How embarrassing! A Servant should not act this way towards their Master! Byleth quickly cleared her throat, shook her head, and glanced down to her lecture materials. It wasn't long until she peered up from her hardcover. It has only been a day, but after the relentless assault of interrogative questions from her Master... it would be a lie to say that Byleth isn't interested in the young girl. 

' Edelgard... I want to know more about you. '

After all, they were going to be in this Master-Servant relationship for five long years. 

-----

Meanwhile, in the training arena…

“Haaaah!”

“Eek!”

A loud smack resonated in the air. Though a clunky sound resonated from the impact, a gush of wind blew at the bystanders, a tremendous showcase of exerted force. The wooden sword twirled high in the air in response. It eventually clattered onto the stone pavement from behind Annette. Although the magus would normally scamper after the fallen weapon, the tip of her opponent’s blade was pointed at her throat, her breath hitched. Sweat poured forth from their pores, their vision tunneled to each other. They were frozen in place for a few seconds. Then, the young girl pouted.

“You beat me again, Felix.”

He pulled back the training sword, but not without a smile.

“Indeed, I did. However, you’ve improved so much.”

“How?”

“For starters…” Felix reached over to ruffle with her orange hair. “You were able to last for a minute against me.” Seeing that her expression did not change for the better, he added, “Might I remind you that even Sylvain and Ingrid had trouble keeping up with me?”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“If… If you say so.”

Although it was odd to see someone who mainly relies on offensive magic to spend time training with sword techniques, it was all under the discretion of her boyfriend. Anything could happen out on the battlefield. Felix could not bear to acknowledge Annette’s lack of self-defense if she runs out of energy for her spells. Compared to him, who was able to adapt to most situations, the young girl can easily become a sitting duck. Traumatic nightmares and pessimistic wonderment led the male to propose this idea early on in their relationship. He had no doubts about her abilities, but… Felix simply understood too well that he could not always be there for his lover. Dimitri and Ashe recommended Annette to learn how to use the bow or take up basic training with a dagger. Felix thought otherwise.

“I know you can do it,” his words echoed in her head. “The sword is most effective in battle. It would be difficult to learn, but knowing you, you will excel. Besides, I would love to be your teacher… and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”

Annette felt a tinge of a pink blush creep to her cheeks as she felt his coarse palm trail down to her chin. Felix immediately closed their distance in a single step with an amused chuckle. Then, he tilted her head upward and leaned down to plant a tender kiss on her lips. They stared lovingly into each other well after they parted.

“I think you have the capability of fighting against Sylvain at least. You might even beat him too.”

“Did you just downplay my skills?” Sylvain’s voice boomed from the background. The royal playboy retracted his wooden lance after attempting to strike at Ingrid, a glancing a shot over his shoulder. As Ingrid eased her defensive posture, Sylvain approached the two Blue Lions members with a pleasant but forced smile. “I’ll have you know that I’m tough too. Ingrid can vouch for me.”

“Yeah, right,” the blonde knight rolled her eyes. “You couldn’t even break through my defense.”

“You know… I could be trying to wear you down.”

“!”

Sylvain smirked. “Oof… Did I hit a sore spot?”

“I didn’t expect that tactic from you…” Ingrid mumbled, a hand resting on top of her chest, her widened eyes prominent. “Color me surprised…”

“Of course you didn’t expect it. Fighting an opponent isn’t all about brute strength.”

“As expected of Sylvain,” Dimitri entered the picture. By his side, Lysithea arrived in a similar fashion. He gently smiled and motioned to one of his three childhood friends. “He is no ordinary warrior. If you go against him, I suggest you prepare yourself well.”

Sylvain whistled. One hand behind his head, the red-haired male rocked his feet, a silly grin plastered on his face. “Praise from Dimitri? This must be my lucky day.”

“Ugh, Annie could take him head-on, boar,” Felix grumbled. “I bet she could take him on in her sleep.”

This caused Dimitri to raise a brow. “Is Annette capable of doing so?”

“Yes, yes she is! I’ve trained her and saw how much she’s grown.”

“How long did she train under you?”

“Four months.”

“Hm… that would make sense…” Ingrid cupped her chin and pondered. “I remember Felix beginning her training before we came to the monastery.”

She recalled the time that they trained almost every single day. Two hours in the morning, one hour in the afternoon, and three hours in the evening. It was an intensive routine created by none other than Felix. Though she did not closely follow up with the two’s progress, she had overheard of their satisfactions… along with some other romantic things that are not meant to be heard within a mile radius. The female knight stiffened her shoulders when Dimitri suddenly coughed into his fist with concern scrawled over his facial features.

“I do not wish to be rude, but I believe four months may not be enough.”

“It is if you know how to train someone.”

“I’m sorry, Felix, but I cannot allow Annette to fight with Sylvain—”

“I’ll give you a silver lance if I’m proven wrong.”

“…”

Lysithea narrowed her eyes as she quietly observed the talkative friends. She may be young, but she knows all-too-well where this conversation is going. Dimitri has a childish innocence when it came to his love for weapons. A trip down the marketplace with Claude one day provided a spectacular scene of the blonde prince becoming a gleeful puffball at a new lance model. She could never get the image out of her head… and it won’t ever be flushed out of her brain thanks to the tan male.

“Gosh, don’t you think it’s cute of Dimi to act that way?” Lysithea remembered Claude’s remark. They were walking back to their lecture hall with arms full of fresh parchments and feathered pen. She recalled the rare, genuine smile that bloomed on the noble’s face after uttering his rather random comment. When asked about the unexpected compliment, he shrugged his shoulders, the corner of his lips still curved. “I dunno. Just speaking what’s on my mind, you know?”

And he certainly spoke his mind for the entirety of the day. The white-haired stifled a sigh and crossed her arms as the blonde lord succumbed to the bet.

‘ I could never understand one’s love for weapons… ‘

Dimitri shifted the weight on his feet and bit his lip.

“I… I don’t have anything to give to you though.”

“An apology towards Annette is more than enough.”

Felix was serious about this. Maybe a little too serious. Dimitri began to take a step back from the tempting exchange when Sylvain knocked his elbow onto the prince’s arm. Sylvain winked at the male lord and shot an approving nod towards his friend.

“I’ll take up this challenge. We know how much Dimitri loves those high-quality weapons.”

“Sylvain, I—”

“Don’t you worry, Dimitri. I got you. Besides, what could you possibly lose?”

“…my dignity.”

“Eh, fair enough.”

“Sylvain!”

Eventually, the main arena was cleared. Everyone else outside of the two participants stood on the sideline. Lysithea and Dimitri were to act as judges for their match. (Though it appears Lysithea tried to slip away from the imposed role only to no avail.) The rules were simple: the first person to knock their opponent’s weapon to the ground wins. They were able to use whatever tactics they had in mind so long as it doesn’t land someone into the health bay. The last thing these students needed was to miss out on their first lecture with Professor Hanneman and Professor Manuela. That isn’t to mention Rhea and Seteth either!

Both warriors appropriately distanced themselves. Knees bent, Annette and Sylvain were a bit fatigued from their earlier training with Felix and Ingrid respectively. Their chest rose and fell with a touch of haste as the wooden weapon was tightly gripped in their hands. One held a sword and one held a lance. Annette’s knuckled whitened and Sylvain’s eyes narrowed. Eventually, the air that surrounds the pair became heavy, the three nobles feeling their nerves rattle from the intensity.

“Let’s end this quick, yeah?” Sylvain crouch, the training lance aligned at a near-perfect 180 degree. “I wouldn’t want to be late for class today.”

“I wouldn’t want to be late either, Sylvain,” Annette taunted with a whip of her sword. Once she righted the mock weapon, she added, “But not without winning.”

“Well said. Let’s see what you’ve learned!”

The disgruntled Golden Deer student raised her hand in the air.

‘ Why did I get roped into this? ‘

She stifled another loud exhale and, after chopping the air, she proclaimed,

“Begin!”

Sylvain and Annette widened their eyes in synchronization. Almost as if they were copying each other’s move set to an extent, they both rushed at each other. Sylvain jerked his arm and thrust the blunt tip at Annette’s arm. As expected, the female parried it with a swift flick of her wrist, the wooden blade knocking aside the strike.

He didn’t bounce back for distance. Instead, the male raised his lance the instant Annette shoved her sword in his direction. Another loud clunk emitted upon contact. They soon parted only to come at each other’s throat again. They moved, back and forth, the blunt objects occasionally slapped aside by the challengers. Felix, Ingrid, Dimitri, and Lysithea watched the elegant dance that flurried between the two students, the perspiration noticeable on all those present.

Stalemate. This was unexpected coming from the shorter girl. Sylvain was baffled by the determination and fierce conviction that Annette came at him. He may have the experience that would effortlessly overpower her, but there is a stark difference between one that worked hard and one that is gifted. Oh, if Felix hadn’t taken her as his girlfriend, Sylvain might actually get down to his knee and propose they be a couple!

Sylvain twirled the lance in his grip and swung from above. Annette instantly deflected with a fluid motion of her arms. She shoved him away and horizontally swung at him. In turn, Sylvain did not miss the moment to slam his lance against her sword. They were forced into another deadlock as their grip trembled.

“You trained her well, Felix,” Ingrid muttered as the fighters broke apart. “Sylvain can’t break through her defense.”

Felix huffed. “I only did what was beneficial for her.”

The duo fell into silence as they continued to observe the spar. Felix narrowed his eyes when he noticed his girlfriend’s slowed movement. Fatigue was beginning to burn into her muscles and eat up her strength. Sylvain, on the other hand, hardly showed any sign of exhaustion despite his earlier session with Ingrid. The difference in stamina was just too great. Dimitri and Lysithea exchanged glances with each other. Though there was no verbiage, a single look was all it took to tell who the eventual winner was. Could Felix be bluffing in the end about Annette?

“Ah!?”

Sylvain had snapped the elongated stick onto her wrist without a moment of hesitation. Annette felt the handle slip out of her grasp in conjunction with an explosion of hot pain. She furrowed her brows as the sword completely lost contact with her hand, the blade flying diagonally upward. The other male slowly pulled back his training lance at the predictable conclusion.

“Guess it’s my win, right?”

“Not quite.”

“?”

His eyes widened when Annette’s body lurched sideways, her legs kicking to the left. It didn’t take a genius to figure out her next action plan. Sylvain cursed himself for going easy on his classmate and began pursuit. How could he have forgotten about her persistence? Out of everyone he has known, the only one he knew that worked the hardest from the bottom up was Annette. She would This time, he was going to knock it out of her hand for good, even if it meant becoming aggressive. It wasn’t about the bet anymore. It was about his dignity as a knight.

Felix felt his heart flutter and leap at the sight of the unfolding scene. A clasping sound resonated in the air from her direction. Annette grimaced from catching the twirling wooden sword and nearly fell backward. She quickly adjusted her balance with gravity and twirled around.

Could it have been due to luck? Whatever it was, Felix, Ingrid, Dimitri, and Lysithea nearly felt their eyes boggle out as Annette struck the lance with immense power, the strength amplified by the flow of momentum.

“Take this!”

Sylvain stared in shock at the little girl. For a student who loved to window shop for evening attires and bury her head in textbooks, she possessed deadly amount of energy in her small body. The playboy felt a smile burst from his lips as he was forcefully disarmed. Unlike his earlier action, Annette made sure he won’t be able to regain his weapon, the tip of her sword aimed at his throat. Felix's eyes slowly widened when he realized her move set… It nearly mimicked his own.

After Lysithea announced the winner, Ingrid and Dimitri each retrieved their friends’ weapons, and Felix provided dried towels to them. Lysithea excused herself from the premise in hopes of returning back to her classroom. That left the Blue Lion members all alone in the training arena.

“Whew… you did me in, Annette,” Sylvain grinned. “I… Wow, I might have to be even more careful around you.”

“Please, don’t be. I think I just got lucky.”

“I doubt so. I really think you got the knack for this.”

“I agree with Sylvain.” Dimitri approached the youngster once more by the noble. “You’re not only proficient in magic, but you can also hold your ground against Sylvain.”

Annette giggled and pat the soft, navy fabric against her moist skin. “I’m not used to having this much compliment from you all… but thank you.”

“With that, all said and done, I want to also apologize to you, Annette. I did not mean to underestimate you.”

“Oh, you don’t have to apologize to me.” 

“No, I must,” he shook his head. “Even if you were to lose, I would have apologized anyway.”

Their banters came to closure as another bell began to ring once again, the marking of an eventual start with class. All five members felt their heart nearly leap out of their chest. The lecture is about to begin, and Dimitri still needs to meet up with his Archer Servant. One by one, they left the premise, the last being both Felix and Annette.

“I’ve never seen such improvisation during a match,” the sword-wielder murmured. “Where did you learn that?”

“Well…” The towel still draped over her neck, the young female reached to grab his hand. Naturally, their fingers intertwined together as Annette laughed, “I didn’t want a repeat of my spar with you, that’s all.”