Soulmates find each other through their songs. When they sing their voices are heard by their soulmate and they would hear their soulmate’s voice back.
These were beautiful exchanges. Even more so when they finally find each other and sing together in harmony.
In a world where soulmate finds each other through their voices, Byleth is mute.
She doesn’t let this stop her.
The Eisner family was blessed with twins. A girl and a boy. Their faces like dolls and their eyes like the brightest of stars.
The boy, Beleth, was born healthy and whole.
The girl, Byleth, was born healthy, aside from her damaged vocal cords.
Beleth spoke beautiful words. Simple words, but beautiful ones. From “Mom,” to “Dad,” to “Home,” to “Play,” he spoke them all. With all the childish sobriety of a child trying to grow up too fast.
Byleth could say none of those things. Could say neither “Mom” nor “Dad,” neither “Home” nor “Play.” She couldn’t say: “Mom, Dad, let’s go home.” Couldn’t say: “Bel, let’s play.”
“‘Leth,” Beleth had called, light and high pitched. “Let’s play.”
Yeah, let’s, Byleth wished to respond yet she could only nod.
Byleth was taught to write and sign instead. Taught how to use her hands for her tongue. Taught how to substitute her fingers for her damaged throat. Taught how written words and gestures could replace spoken words.
They were a language of their own, she thought. The words and the gestures.
Yet as she writes and practices she finds that they wouldn’t be enough. She finds that she still yearns for the spoken words. She still yearns to use her tongue and damaged throat. Still yearns to speak, to shout, to yell. Still yearns to make sounds, actual sounds that go beyond a mere exhale of air.
“‘Leth,” her brother called as he holds his hand towards her. “Come on, let’s go.”
She still yearns that she could call her brother’s name instead of this.
Yeah, let’s, she signed and takes his hand.
Byleth learns of soulmates through a book.
It was a children’s book, with big bold letters and colorful pictures. With the words “My Soulmate and I” written in a pretty font on the cover and a little girl smiling.
“Soulmate?” Beleth repeated as he peers down at the book. “What does that mean?”
Byleth shrugs as she opens the book to even more colorful pictures. Beleth settling down beside her as he studies the page with the determination of a curious child.
My soulmate is a nice person, she reads as the girl on the page rises from her grand bed. My soulmate has a nice voice.
And oh, that should’ve been the first sign.
My soulmate must have a nice voice, for she sings so nicely, the girl continued as she combs her hair, little icons, music notes, Byleth later learns, they were music notes, appears around her. My soulmate sings to me every morning so she must be nice.
Beleth frowns as he studies the words. “What does that mean?”
She sings a different song every morning, just for me, she girl said as she opens her round lips. And I sing back if I know the words, that is.
The girl in the book begins to sing, the same icons from earlier, music notes, they were music notes, appearing with even greater frequency as she dances around her room. Another girl was drawn next to her on the subsequent page. One with curly hair and tanned skin and a cheerful smile.
I haven’t met my soulmate yet. The girl still smiles. But I know that I’ll like them.
“How can you know that?” Beleth commented as he turns the page. Still frowning.
Because they’re my soulmate! the girl exclaimed as she continues to dance with the other. Because they’re my soulmate and they’ll like me as well!
They turn the page together.
Soulmates stay by each other sides forever, the girl explained. Half of a whole, so they’ll like me just as I’ll like them, for sure!
She’ll be by my side forever! And we’ll get to play with each other forever! the girl cheered. Because she’s my soulmate and she’ll get me!
The last page:
So I’ll find her for sure, the girl declared. Her songs will lead me right to her.
Oh, Byleth had thought then. I’ll never be able to find my soulmate.
She then shrugged together with Beleth as they set the book back onto the shelf.
She still doesn’t know what a soulmate is, but surely they weren’t that important.
Byleth, for all that she cannot speak, can hear perfectly well.
“She’s that girl, right? You know the one that’s mute.”
Her, it was her they were talking about. She was out of their sight, out in the balcony when she ought to be in the center of the ball.
“Right, right, I heard that…”
What did they hear?
“Really? Poor girl.”
Byleth couldn’t speak. That was true, but that was also fine, she could speak with written words and signs instead. So she as perfectly fine-
“It should really be her poor soulmate you should feel pity for.”
Soulmate, there was that word again, Byleth noted as she frowns.
“Right, of course, but…”
Why would they feel pity? Why? Byleth just couldn’t speak, not with spoken words. But she can still speak.
“Jeralt and Magdalena must be so sad.”
She feels her fist gripping harshly on her expensive dress. Wrinkling and damaging the fabric.
“I would be if I had a daughter like that.”
She was sure that she would rip the dress soon enough if they continue.
“What does that mean?” Beleth said as he approaches. “What is that supposed to mean.”
“Oh, Beleth!” a woman said as she stopped speaking in a hushed whisper. Not that it was doing much for her secrecy regardless. “What are you doing here?”
“Doesn’t matter,” her brother answered bluntly. “The real question is, what were you two speaking about.”
She can hear his fury.
“It was nothing,” the other woman replied. “Nothing that should concern a young boy like you.”
“It is,” Beleth snapped. “It is when the person you’re insulting is my sister.”
“We weren’t insulting her-”
“Why don’t you say it in front of her yourselves then,” Beleth interrupted. “She right there, you know.”
Byleth steps out of the balcony then, head lowered and her lips bitten. Her brother rushes to her side as he untangles her hand from her dress and lets his fingers intertwine with hers instead.
“You were right there, Byleth?” the woman spoke, sounding faint and slightly embarrassed. “Oh, why didn’t you tell us, you silly girl.”
Byleth shakes her head firmly. Gaze still set on the floor and burning with heat.
“She doesn’t have to say anything to you.” Beleth grips her hand harder, as though that would stop her tears from flowing. “Now, go on, say what you’ve said earlier.”
They didn’t say anything, yet Byleth’s eyes still burn.
“Not an insult, you say,” Beleth derided. “And yet you don’t dare say it in front of her.”
She could feel his anger and it was infectious in how it caused her to feel the familiar vein of fire rush through her.
“You’ll be sure I’ll tell my parents about this.” Beleth’s fingers relax a tiny bit, to make sure that he wasn’t hurting her. But she was sure that she wouldn’t feel the pain from her hand over the sting inside her chest. “They won’t be pleased.”
“We were just stating the truth,” the woman argued primly before dragging her friend off.
“Terrible,” Beleth said as they watch the women leave. “Terrible and mean, those two.”
Byleth lets her tears fall then.
Beleth instinctively turns around. His hand coming to her cheeks as he, too, frowns. Looking more concerned than angry now.
“Don’t let their words affect you, ‘Leth,” Beleth soothed. “They’re terrible anyway, so their words mean nothing.”
Still, Byleth thinks. Still.
She couldn’t speak to him. No paper nor pen within reach and her hands to busy trying to stop her tears to sign.
Yet, it was as though he could understand her and he sighs. Dragging them behind the balcony as he hugs her. Letting her cry into his arms away from the crowd in the ball, meant to celebrate their birth. Resting her head on his as she cries. No sound to be heard but her tears were real and the way that her heart sting makes her tears all the more burning. As she wished to scream and shout, but the only thing she could do was make irregular breathy sobs.
I can speak, she wants to yell. I can speak. Not through speech, but I can.
I want to speak through speech, she wants to say. I want to speak, too.
But I can speak. Through written words and gestures, I can. I can.
So why does it hurt so much?
“Dad,” Beleth called as he approaches the man with his sister in tow. “Someone made ‘Leth cry.”
Their father’s head immediately snaps to them as Alois lets out an affronted roar.
“Who? Which villain was it?” Alois questioned, his champagne cup tethering dangerously to the edge. “Who made Byleth cry?”
“Two women,” Beleth answered readily. “Lady Reimer and her friend.”
“Reimer and Berlain then,” their father noted taking on a rougher tone. “I’ll be sure to talk to Rhea about them.”
“I’ll exact justice for you, Byleth!” Alois declared as he slams his hand on the table.
“Don’t do that, Alois.” Jeralt sets a hand on Alois’ shoulder.
“I’ll come with you,” Jeralt continued as he pats Alois’ back calmly.
“What’s wrong, darling?” Magdalena asks as she notes her husband’s dark expression.
“Oh, just two coots who couldn’t meddle into their children’s lives now that they all found their soulmate and decided to meddle with our children instead,” Jeralt answered as he gives his wife and quick peck.
“What did they say?” Magdalena asked as she leans down. Her hands laying on both their shoulders.
"How they pity ‘Leth and her soulmate,” Beleth answered as his grip once again tightens around her hand. “How sad you and Dad must be to have her as a daughter.”
“Oh.” A shadow falls over their mother’s face as well. “I see.”
“Darling.” Their mother draws her arms around them both. “Don’t curse in front of our children.”
Alois comes to muffles Jeralt’s yells then. “Done, Miss Magdalena.”
“Why, thank you, Alois.” Their mother gives them each a kiss on their cheeks. “Now, we have some awful people to deal with.”
Before she could fully leave both Byleth and her brother tug on her dress. “What is it, darlings?”
As if reading her mind Beleth says, “What’s a soulmate?”
Magdalena exhales then, softly and somewhat sad. “Oh, darlings.”
“Honey, go and give those women hell for me, won’t you?”
Jeralt nods, “Sure thing, babe.”
Jeralt and Alois left as their mother leads them into a quiet room.
“A soulmate,” their mother began. “Is someone that will complete you.”
They both frown.
“Let’s just say, that there’s a cake, right?” Their mother gestures vaguely. “And if I were to cut it in half, one side would be you and the other would be your soulmate.”
“How do we find them then?”
“Through- through your voice,” Magdalena said softly. Sadly. “When you sing, your soulmate will hear your voice.”
Oh, Byleth thinks. So that is why they pity my soulmate.
She feels the tears welling up then, her heart aching as she realizes, like that cake, she will never be complete.
“A- are they that important?” Beleth asked frantically.
“Some say that they are the most important thing in the world,” Magdalena said as she smooths over Byleth’s hair. “But they don’t have to be.”
“See, ‘Leth?” Beleth turns to face Byleth then, tears in his eyes as he tries to smile for her. “You don’t need them.”
But I want them, Byleth thinks. I want them.
“Oh, ‘Leth, my darling,” Magdalena cried softly. “You don’t, you don’t need them to live a happy life.”
Soulmates stay by each other sides forever, she remembers the girl from the book had said.
“Come on, ‘Leth!” Beleth urged. “You have me!”
Half of a whole, so they’ll like me just as I’ll like them, for sure! the girl had said. Half of a whole. Byleth was half of a whole and she’ll never be complete.
Byleth hates it, hates the way that she can only speak through written words and gestures. She hates how her voice won’t sound and how she cannot yell. Hates how she was born with a broken throat and half of a whole. She hates how she can speak, but not in a way that matters.
Her tears fall once more as she cries. Not even a sob leaving her. Because Byleth cannot say anything. Because she cannot voice anything in her life. Because her voice is missing and in its place was a void, a curse. Something that cannot be lifted. Something that takes the place of her words and left her with nothing but a half of a soul and screams that refused to leave her throat.
She’ll be by my side forever! And we’ll get to play with each other forever!
Byleth realizes on her eighth birthday that she had not only doomed herself to a lonely fate but had also cursed her soulmate to a similar fate.
Because for all that Byleth loves words, she cannot speak them.
Not in the way that mattered.