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It's Your Move

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After a short lecture, the Black Eagles train as a class. The students assume it is because Byleth gets bored talking aimlessly about strategy. She has a strong philosophy of learning by doing. No one complains about this (except Lindhardt). Oddly enough, he did show up to class today, so now he is stuck training with Caspar. They argue over strategy while the others practice their form.

Edelgard crashes her axe into the training dummy. Byleth watches her closely.

“Again,” she says, not satisfied with the result.

Edelgard readies herself for another attack.

“Wrong.” Byleth stops her. “You’re leaving too many openings.”

“Where?” Edelgard wonders.

Byleth walks over and pokes her in the side. “Here and here. Twist your body a bit more to keep that covered. Or kill them faster. Either works. Just be wary of your weaknesses so your enemy cannot exploit them.”

“Of course, professor. I will work harder.”

Byleth walks away, leaving Edelgard to practice on her own. She hears giggling behind her. The girl turns around to see Dorothea laughing at her.

“What’s so funny?” Edelgard asks.

“You get so red whenever the professor goes near you.”

“I do not!”

“You’re blushing just thinking about it.” The girl teases. Edeglard knows she is right. She can feel the burn on her cheeks. How can the future empress get embarrassed so easily?

“Did you come here to talk about silly crushes or to train?” Edelgard quickly changes the subject.

“Maybe both.” Dorothea leans against the practice dummy. “Would you like to be my sparring partner?”

“I can never say no to a good sparring match. Just know I won’t go easy on you.”

Dorothea pulls out her training sword. “I was hoping you would say that.”

----

At lunch, the Black Eagles eat their fill. Their stomachs growl from hours of hard work. Caspar rushes to the front of the line. He carries three plates back to his table. Byleth joins him and Lindhardt at the table. Hubert hovers over Edelgard, waiting for her to choose a seat. They finally sit down in the middle of the commotion.

“Are you okay, Lady Edelgard?” Hubert wonders. “You seem distracted. Do you need me to take care of someone for you?”

“Hubert, stop offering to kill people for me. At least not yet.” The girl sighs. She idly pokes at her plate with a fork. “I’m just thinking about training earlier.”

“With Dorothea?”

She nods. “I can’t believe she beat me. I’ve been training far longer than she has. I can’t be fit for the throne if Dorothea can beat me in combat! She only picked up the sword a month ago.”

“Maybe she caught you off guard. I could see her stooping to lower methods to best you in combat.” Hubert stands up. “Speaking of, I will go dispose of her immediately.”

“Hubert! Sit down!”

“You two sure are loud.” Dorothea laughs, sitting down next to Edelgard. “Is this seat taken?”

“Yes. It is.” Hubert answers.

“It’s not.” Edelgard corrects him.

“You two are cute together.” Dorothea teases.

“Cute?” Hubert hisses at her. “You think we’re cute? We are terrifying individuals.”

“I think your gloom is endearing.”

“I don’t understand you.” The boy focuses his attention back on his meal, still glaring up at the girl every once in a while. Dorothea does not seem to mind.

The three eat quietly for a moment. Dorothea tastes a few bites of her meal before leaning into Edelgard. “Could I try that?”

“But we’re eating the same thing.”

“I want to see if they make yours taste better.” Dorothea steals a forkful from the other girl’s plate. She makes a show of the whole ordeal. “They did! Yours tastes so much better than mine.”

“I highly doubt that.”

“See for yourself.” Dorothea holds up a forkful of her meal. “Try it. See if I’m wrong.”

Edelgard stares at her confusedly.

“Don’t be shy.” She encourages her. “I didn’t poison it.”

The comment earns a glare from Hubert. He stares holes through her head, but she does not seem to care. Instead, she hovers the fork in front of Edelgard. Finally, Edelgard takes the bite, feeling a big embarrassed from being fed like a child. She feels a dull burn on her cheeks. Dorothea does not seem to notice.

Edelgard swallows. “I still think you’re wrong. That tasted fine.”

The other girl sighs. “You really think so? Here, have another since you like it so much.”

Edelgard stares at the fork. She feels like she is in a fever dream. Hubert will wake her up at any moment. Might as well play along until then. She leans in and takes a second bite.

“Admit I’m right,” Dorothea says stubbornly.

“You’re right. Mine tastes better.”

“See! I’m always right.” The girl smiles. “Let’s trade plates.”

----

Edelgard spends the night sparring with Hubert. She rushes at him with her training axe. Hubert deflects the blow, but falls back from her strength alone. He stumbles before finding his footing. Again, Edelgard throws herself at him. He dodges this time, hitting Edelgard on her back. She tumbles to the ground.

“You’re distracted.” Hubert notices.

“I’m not distracted. I was just about to sneeze.”

“Lady Edelgard… I do not wish to offend you, but-”

“Hubert, it was a sneeze.”

The boy sits down next to her. “Why do you want all this extra training? We have homework to be doing.”

“I need to be ready for our mission at the end of the month.”

“Lady Edelgard, no bandit could even come close to you.”

Edelgard sighs. “That’s not the point. The point is I need to make sure I’m strong enough.”

They sit in silence on the floor of the training room. Crickets chirp in the trees outside. No one can be seen across campus except for the occasional guard. Hubert lets out a lengthy yawn.

“You can go to bed, Hubert. I can train more on my own.”

“Are you sure? I can train longer.”

“I’m sure. Get some rest.”

Hubert stands up and steps toward the entrance. Once he reaches the door, he stops and turns back to Edelgard. “Promise me you will get some rest too.”

“I promise.” Edelgard smiles at him. It is nice to know someone cares about her.

----

Edelgard wakes up to a knocking on her door. Her eyes refuse to open. Just a moment longer. The knocking continues. She groans and forces her eyes open. The sunlight attacks her through the window. She quickly draws the shades before rushing to put clothes on. Her foot gets caught in her pant leg and she crashes to the floor.

“Lady Edelgard!” Hubert calls through the door. “Are you okay? We’re gonna be late for class.”

“I’m okay!” She answers back. “Don’t come in-”

“I’m coming in.” The door knob turns.

“Hubert!”

----

Edelgard stumbles into class late. Hubert follows closely behind. A few students turn back to watch the future empress tiredly hobble to an empty chair. A few quiet laughs erupt, but Edelgard is too tired to care. Byleth stares blankly at the two students, stopping the lecture completely. The room goes silent. Normally, Edelgard would panic, but exhaustion has taken over her life at the moment. Instead, she quietly looks for a seat and plops into it. Of course this seat also happens to be right next to a certain Dorothea. Byleth continues with her lecture as normal. Edelgard tries her best to pay attention, but her eyes refuse to stay open. She uses all her strength to stay awake.

Dorothea eyes the girl next to her. She leans in and whispers. “Long night?”

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“You know when you can’t sleep, it means someone is thinking about you.”

“Not true.”

Dorothea persists. “I bet the professor was thinking about you.”

“She was not.” Edelgard covers her mouth.

“Edelgard, could you please quiet down?” Byleth interrupts them. Edelgard immediately regrets being born. Her face burns red hot. She sinks into her chair. Dorothea giggles at her. Why is she doing this? Is she purposely sabotaging her?

The girl has no trouble staying awake for the rest of class. She remains on her best behavior despite Dorothea’s constant teasing. Byleth continues her lecture on proper weapon upkeep. Petra adds in her own questions and opinions on the matter. Dorothea takes diligent notes. Edelgard is slightly impressed by her efforts. Dorothea nudges her to get her attention, sliding her paper closer to her. Edelgard glances down to see a doodle of the professor kissing Edelgard on the cheek. She quickly covers her face to hide her response. Dorothea enjoys the moment a bit too much.

----

Edelgard lies on her bed staring at a book. For the life of her, she cannot focus on her studying. She flips over onto her back restlessly, then toward the wall to stare at the wood. She idly traces a pattern in the grain with her finger. Hubert leans against the wall, reading a book.

“You seem troubled,” Hubert says, flipping a page of his book, “Is it that pest Dorothea again?”

“Do I talk about her that much?” Edelgard flips back onto her back. She picks up the book for another half-hearted attempt.

“You talk about her quite often, my lady.”

Edelgard sighs. “Only because she bothers me.”

Hubert quietly closes his book and sets it on the desk next to him. “If she aims to take you down, even in such petty ways, I will make sure she does not see the light of day again.”

“Hubert, I can take care of myself. Let me handle Dorothea. We still don’t know her motives.”

“She wishes to replace you as empress.”

“Don’t be silly. I think she just hates me.” Edelgard concludes.

“Commoners don’t particularly like nobles. Especially if said noble is the future empress of the Adrestian Empire. It would make sense Dorothea would despise you.”

“Yet here she is in the Black Eagles with me. If she really does not like me, why not switch to a different house?”

Hubert taps his chin in thought. “Perhaps she likes the professor. I mean, she did become quite skilled in the sword in a matter of weeks. Maybe some private training was involved.”

Edelgard’s cheeks turn a light red at the comment. Deep down, she knows that is not what Hubert meant, but her mind wanders that way despite her common sense knowing otherwise. It plays out like one of her romance novels in her head.

“Lady Edelgard?”

The girl quickly sits up, her face still burning red. “I wasn’t doing anything!”

“You seemed lost in thought for a moment.”

“I said it was nothing.”

Hubert looks at her with concern. “I just worry about you, my lady. You’ve been off your game lately. Perhaps some tea is in order. Or maybe, dare I say it, some… fresh air.”

“Yes.” The girl nods. “Let’s have tea in the courtyard.”

The sun shines down on the courtyard, warming the fall air. Students sit in the grass watching the clouds as they chat. Soon, the campus will be too cold. However, few of the students are strangers to the cold. Poor Petra is already having trouble adjusting to the cool weather. She bundles up in a sweater and rushes to the nearest building.

Edelgard finds a cozy spot for the two to enjoy their tea. Hubert sets the table for them. He pauses a moment to contemplate the set-up. He moves a cup over an inch before being satisfied with his work. Now, all they need is the tea itself.

“I was hoping to brew my favorite tea for you, but it seems I left it back at the dorm. My apologies, lady Edelgard.” He shakes his head in frustration. “Please excuse me while I go get it.”

The boy rushes off toward the dorms, leaving Edelgard alone. She does not mind the alone time. In fact, Hubert rarely gives her a moments peace; he is a tad protective. She takes this time to admire her surroundings and let herself breathe. Flowers line the courtyard, the last bloom of the season. Ashe tends to them with Dedue. They seem to be enjoying themselves. Other students wander the courtyard. She notices Byleth enjoying tea with Claude.

A few minutes pass by, and Hubert still has not returned. Edelgard can only take in the scenery for so long. She wishes she brought along her notebook so she could study battle tactics.

“Did your date stand you up?” A familiar voice calls to her. Before she knows it, Dorothea sits down next to her. Her heart sinks.

“I’m not on a date.” Edelgard answers.

“Oh, Edie, don’t lie to me. I bet all the boys and girls are all over you.”

“Trust me, no one wants to date the future empress. I’m too scary. It’s for the better.”

Dorothea frowns. “No offense, Edie, but I don’t believe that for a second. You may look scary, but deep down, I know you’re a sweetie.”

“What makes you say that?”

“I’ve seen how you are with Bernadetta. You’re patient with her even when she’s anxious, which is all the time. I think she’s starting to come out more since you’ve reached out to her. I even see her having tea with Petra sometimes.” Her words feel genuine. Edelgard smiles.

“How about you, Dorothea? What do you think of me?”

The girl laughs, making Edelgard nervous. Perhaps that was the wrong question to ask.

“You’re adorable, Edie.” She glances behind her. “Looks like I have to go. I’ll see you at training.”

She stands up, not giving Edelgard time to protest. Before she disappears, she takes her hat off and plops it on Edelgard’s head. Soon after, Hubert joins the table. He immediately notices the hat.

“What were you talking to Dorothea about?” He asks.

“Nothing. She just needed help with a math problem is all.”

“And the hat?”

Edelgard pats the top of her head to make sure that really happened. “I’m not sure.”

----

The campus turns dark earlier than anticipated. Street lamps glow around the campus. Guards stand idly at their stations. Catherine and Shamir can be heard arguing nearby. Edelgard makes her way to Dorothea’s dorm hoping it is not too late. She hesitates before knocking on the door. Her heart sinks when there is no answer. She should not be this nervous over returning a simple hat. Despite everything, she persists.

Eventually, Dorothea answers, looking ready for bed. “What a wonderful surprise. You know, if you keep showing up here so late, people will start to think things.”

“Think what?”

“Oh, Edie, you’re too precious.” The girl giggles, lighting up the night. “What do you need?”

Edelgard holds out the girl’s hat. “I wanted to return this. You left it earlier when you joined me for tea.”

“Oh how sweet of you. You’re a real gentleman.” She takes the hat back. “I just thought it looked cute on you.”

The comment throws Edelgard off. She blinks at her blankly as she tries to process the comment. “You think I’m cute?”

“I do.” Dorothea puts the hat over her face this time. “Keep it. Consider it a symbol of our friendship.”

Edelgard hears the door close, leaving her no choice but to keep the hat.