Imperial Year 1180
It was only when the pull of her bowstring started to feel heavy that Cecelia realized she needed a break.
She took a moment to catch her breath, taking a seat on the ground as she swallowed several large gulps of water. A gentle breeze coaxed stray pieces of auburn hair to fall from the loose bun at the back of her head. The sun had just begun to rise, casting a soft glow across the stone floor beneath her.
It was about ten minutes before she was up and moving again, wiping the sweat from her hairline as she lined up another shot. It would have been a perfect hit, too, had the doors not creaked loudly and startled her. She fumbled, and was too distracted by her new visitor to notice the light clink as her arrow hit the stone floor.
“Careful, Vidali. You might hit something.”
“If I’m lucky, I’ll hit you.”
Growing up in the Alliance had put Claude von Riegan in Cecelia’s life at a very young age. They met just a year after he came to Fodlan from Almyra, when they were both nine years old. They’d been best friends since, and one could never be found terribly far from the other. As teenagers, they roamed Derdriu on sleepless nights, and now they studied together until the early hours of the morning. They’d spent so many years side by side, and she’d always known that a life without his presence would be a life severely lacking.
“Hey, whoa,” his hands went up in surrender, “you’re starting to sound like Felix. It doesn’t suit you.”
“And you’re starting to sound like Sylvain.”
“What do you want, Riegan?”
“I couldn’t find you. I figured you this is where you might be.” He handed her the stray arrow. “You’re going to be late for lecture if you stay much longer.”
She sighed. “Already? Goddess, I really have been here for a while.”
Claude laughed as she tucked the arrow into her quiver. “Race me to class?”
As they walked the monastery grounds, rumors flew in every direction. Garreg Mach’s annual ball was just a week away, and the Officer’s Academy was abuzz with gossip. It seemed that Dimitri and Byleth were the biggest causes of commotion. Who considered themselves worthy of dancing with the crown Prince of the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, or the most well-loved Professor at the Academy?
They headed for the Golden Deer classroom, where their Professor was seated at her desk at the front of the room. As he took a seat next to Cece, Claude glanced up at Byleth. “You got a date to the ball yet, Teach? I’ve heard all the students are dying for the chance to dance with you.”
Not looking up from her writing, the Professor simply replied, “It would be inappropriate for me to discuss such things with my students, Claude.”
“Oh, come on, Teach. Didn’t you tell us on your first day that you wanted us to treat you like a friend?” Claude was unrelenting, a knowing smile tugging at his lips. “There’s got to be someone who’s caught your eye.”
Cece snorted. “Maybe she’s going with Lorenz.”
With an over dramatic gasp, Claude’s eyes flew to the Professor. “Teach. We all know you’re better than that.”
“Isn’t everyone?” Cecelia couldn’t stop herself, and immediately slapped a hand over her mouth. “Uh--that was too far. Sorry, Professor…”
Putting her quill back in its inkwell, Byleth finally looked up. Completely ignoring Cece’s blunder, she said, “I told you that you could treat me as a friend, but I never gave you permission to pry into my personal life.”
“If I guess who you’re going with, will you tell me if I’m right?” Claude really did love to push his limits with Byleth. As far as anyone could tell, he was the only student who could get away with it. The Professor didn’t reply. “Is it Manuela? No--wait, you’re not that predictable. Is it Sylvain? Dimitri? Edelgard?”
Stoic as ever, Byleth simply tapped her stack of papers on her desk, then put them in one of the drawers. “You’ll find out in a week.”