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The Masks We Wear

Chapter Text

The princess sat proudly on her horse as she waited at the border, two guards on their own horses a short way behind her.

She was to meet her future husband here, a man from the very family of Fodlan warriors that had been fighting her people for generations. The marriage would cement peace between the two groups, and in the eyes of the king of Sreng… That peace was welcome.

They may be warriors, but only an idiot continues to fight an opponent who never fails to win the fight.

She watched the approaching red-head with a critical gaze as he rode towards the group, completely alone. She judged him to be about a year older than her, but that was all she could determine from such a distance.

He didn’t look like much of a warrior.

It was almost laughable that she would be marrying him. Even as she gazed at the lance that had cut down thousands of her people… She could hardly believe that this was the lord’s son.

But from the description she’d been given by the envoys, this was indeed her future husband.

When he was finally close enough to speak, he looked at her with about the same amount of reluctance as she felt. But unlike her, he didn’t hide it well.

In fact, he didn’t hide it at all.

“You are…” She paused, attempting to recall the name she’d been given. “Sylvain?”

He looked taken aback by her words, as if he’d expected her to be unable to speak his language. Or perhaps he was surprised by the accent. To the princess, it was unclear.

“I am.” He sighed, his gaze darting to the guards behind her.

“My apologies for the…” She paused again, frowning as she tried to remember the word. “Guards. My father… Ah… Insisted.”

“You must be (y/n).” The boy said at last, turning his gaze back to the princess. “You’re far prettier than the envoy suggested.”

She tilted her head, frowning with confusion.

The guards behind her began whispering to each other, neither of them able to understand the conversation. But before they could draw their swords, the princess held up her hand to silence them.

“Well, princess,” He sighed, turning his horse. “Shall we?”

The princess merely nodded, waving away her guards as she moved her horse forward.

She stepped over the border from one land to the next, setting a series of events in motion that would change Fodlan forever.

Chapter Text

You sighed as you stared out the window of the carriage.

You’d been in Fodlan for just over a week and you were already tired of it. The moment you’d arrived in the Gautier household you’d been informed that you would need to pretend to be someone you weren’t.

Because as far as the rest of Faerghus was concerned, these peace talks weren’t happening.

It perturbed you, to say the least.

Until the margrave could be sure that there were no spies in his home… You were stuck pretending to be a soft-spoken, delicate young woman from a minor noble family. You hated pretending to be weak, it simply wasn’t in your nature.

It took every bit of your training to force yourself to not refuse offers of help, to not do things that would suggest you weren’t quite as delicate as everyone thought… What was most infuriating was that Sylvain either avoided you like the plague or spoke to you with an increasing number of words you just couldn’t understand.

You’d spend hours every night attempting to make sense of the squiggly letters in one of the many books in your room to no avail. There had been books back in the palace but you’d never been taught to read them. You weren’t a scholar.

You were a warrior, plain and simple.

“What’s with that sigh?” Sylvain’s voice dragged your gaze away from the window for a moment. “You had fun today, right?”

You frowned, choosing to ignore his attempts at a conversation by turning your gaze back to the window. He talked too much anyway.

 

“Oh come on, don’t be like that,” He leaned forward as he spoke, so that you could see the shock of red hair in your peripheral vision. “This is probably our first chance to hold a normal conversation, and you want to ignore me?”

What was it the margrave had said?

Ah yes, carriage rides were the only places where you could speak freely. You didn’t even know what a carriage was until you’d been hoisted inside one like an infant. While you understood that your current situation was meant to keep you safe… You still hated it.

And what was that phrase the boy had just told you? ‘Hold a conversation’?

How could you hold a conversation? It wasn’t a physical object…

Unless it was another ‘figure of speech’, which you were still confused about. How could speech have a figure?

“I do not…” You paused, pursing your lips as you concentrated. “Hold a conversation very well.”

“You seem to have a good enough grasp of the language.” Sylvain commented. “I walked past your room last night and you looked completely engrossed in a book.”

“Engrossed?”

“Yeah, engrossed.” He sighed. “You looked like you were enjoying it.”

“I was not... ‘Engrossed’ in the book.” You snapped, turning your head so you could glare at him. “I cannot enjoy something that I cannot read.”

“You can’t read?” He blinked in surprise, sitting back in his chair. “Well, that’s going to make it tough when we go to the academy…”

“What is an… Academy?”

“An academy? It’s a… Uh… School?” He ran a hand through his hair as he caught sight of your confused frown. “It’s a place where you learn stuff. You know, like tactics and magic and... Stuff.”

“And combat?” You asked, your interest piquing at the notion of learning new fighting techniques.

“Yeah, we’ll learn some of that too.” Sylvain frowned. “You really don’t have schools in Sreng?”

“We do, but… They are not for all people.” You bit your lip as you constructed your next sentence in your mind. “Only the children who are too weak to fight.”

“And here I thought you left the weak ones to die.” He grumbled, looking out the window.

“We are not barbarians.” You said stiffly, crossing your arms.

“That’s a big word.”

“It is the first word I learned.” You murmured, turning your head so that you could look out the window once again. “All Sreng children learn that word. It is what you call us, is it not?”

“Once this treaty is finished, nobody will call you that.” Sylvain muttered, earning a sidelong glance from you.

“There will always be some who do.” You turned your gaze back to the window as you spoke, not wanting to see his reaction.

He was silent for a long time, the two of you watching the scenery go by as you returned to the Gautier estate. You weren’t entirely sure where you’d been taken, but there were official-looking people there who had watched you perform drills with various weapons.

While it had been fun, you didn’t see the purpose of the exercise. They’d spoken rather quickly with Sylvain, only sparing the occasional uneasy glance at you, and then you’d both gone back to the carriage as if nothing had occurred.

You almost wanted to ask about it, but you didn’t like showing weakness. And you’d already shown plenty of that just in the few minutes you’d spent in the carriage.

“(y/n). We’re almost back.”

You opened your eyes, blinking as you realised that the scenery had changed in just a few seconds.

You must have dozed off. Looking up at Sylvain confirmed that fact, he had his arm reached out as if to shake you awake, but it looked like he had decided against it.

Perhaps he was smarter than you first thought.

“Listen, I was thinking…” He paused, looking at you thoughtfully for a moment longer. “You’re going to need to know how to read and write if you’re going to be enrolling at the academy with me.”

There he was again with this ‘academy’. What was he on about?

“I can teach you,” Sylvain continued, glancing uneasily out the window of the carriage as the estate grew steadily closer. “You’ll have to meet me in the library after dinner, most of the general household staff will have retired for the night by then so we won’t be interrupted or watched.”

You nodded, feeling the carriage slow down and prepare to stop.

As the carriage door opened and a hand reached out to help you back to the ground, you spared another glance at Sylvain.

You were going to have to rethink your opinion of him. Maybe he wasn’t quite the man you’d thought he was.

Chapter Text

“No, that’s not quite it either.”

“It looks the same as that word.” You protested, squinting at the word you were stuck on.

“But it’s not that word.” Sylvain sighed, resting his head in his hands. “Look closely, there’s an ‘r’ next to the ‘h’. It makes the word sound completely different.”

You frowned at the word, looking between it and the previous one.

There was an ‘r’ there…

But how could one letter make it sound completely different from the word ‘though’?

“Then how do you say it?” You asked, turning to look at your exasperated future husband.

“Through, (y/n).” He grumbled, not lifting his head. “It’s pronounced through.”

“Through.” You repeated, testing word out. “What does it mean?”

“You know how you walk from one room to the next?” He asked. “To do that, you go through a doorway.”

“I see.” You pursed your lips, not really seeing at all.

But it made the time go quicker if you pretended to understand.

“This is never going to work.” Sylvain stood, running one hand through his hair as he used the other to push his chair in. “Father’s not going to be happy… We could have pulled off a mute student, but an illiterate one?”

“What is… ‘Mute’?” You asked quietly, not expecting a reply as you watched the redhead pace up and down the room, muttering to himself all the while.

“It’s someone who can’t speak.” He replied almost instantly.

“You… Do not wish for me to speak?”

“Your accent would give away who you are immediately.” He continued pacing, a thoughtful frown on his face. “Not to mention your very limited vocabulary.”

“If it will be hard for me to… ‘Blend in’,” You started, your eyes following Sylvain up and down the room. “Then should I stay here?”

“I already suggested that,” He shook his head, his shoulders slumping with defeat as he finally stopped pacing. “But my father insisted that you had to come with me. Apparently the monastery is somehow going to be safer for you than our own home.”

“I am sorry to cause… Trouble.” You looked guiltily down at the page. “I do not learn well from books. It is… Hard for me.”

“Well, I guess if you don’t spend your whole life reading, you can’t really be expected to pick it up in one evening.” Sylvain straightened, another sigh escaping his lips. “Why don’t we try again tomorrow? You must be tired after today.”

You looked forlornly at the book, wanting nothing more than to throw it and its ridiculous little words into the fireplace. But you had a duty to perform, and you were hardly going to get it done by destroying every little thing that perplexed you.

Nor would you get it done by just going to bed every time you got stuck.

“I want to get it right.” You said finally, folding your hands in your lap as you looked up at the redhead.

“I don’t want you to tire yourself out,” Sylvain looked at you questioningly. “I mean, would you train well into the night until you got a sword technique right, even if it left you exhausted the next day?”

“Yes.”

“That’s… Not good for your health.” He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with two fingers. “Listen, I want to help you, really I do, but I can’t keep my eyes open much longer. We can try again tomorrow, OK?”

“OK.” You relented, slowly standing up as your fatigue caught up with you.

 

Unfortunately for you, ‘tomorrow’ ended up being a little trickier than anticipated.

To the surprise of everyone, one Rodrigue Achille Fraldarius paid a visit to the estate, bringing his son with him. A fact that you did not find out until they were already on the property and passing by the very garden you were wandering in.

Until the margrave could be sure that he trusted all of his household staff not to let the secret out, your room had become a sanctuary of sorts. But the margrave had insisted that you spend a certain amount of time outside of the room so as not to rouse suspicions.

You often wasted that time in the gardens, simply walking around and admiring the flowers or sitting beside the pond and pretending to read a book. It got very tedious, very fast.

Which was why you weren’t paying attention and allowed yourself to be spotted by the surprise guests. A fact that you weren’t aware of until one of them was right next to you.

“Who are you?”

You jumped, turning around to find an unimpressed-looking boy with dark blue hair. He’d crossed his arms, and was looking you up and down with clear disdain.

You almost spoke, then decided against it. What was it Sylvain had said the night before? That you were to play the part of someone who couldn’t speak?

You took a step back, pressing your lips together as you stared at the boy. He stared back, though you almost wanted to call it glaring. It was clear that he didn’t trust you, but how could you explain your situation without giving yourself away?

“Come now, Felix,” A man strode to the boy’s side, looking at you with a curiosity that he didn’t bother trying to hide. “You’re scaring the poor girl.”

You nodded, examining the new arrival. He had the same dark hair as the boy, and if you looked close enough you could almost see a resemblance. They were family, then.

“It doesn’t change the fact that she’s a stranger on this property.” Felix scoffed, his glare growing more intense by the second. “Don’t tell me. You’re another of Sylvain’s ‘guests’, aren’t you?”

You shook your head, hoping that somebody would show up and fix this for you. Most of the household staff at least knew a basic story to give to the pair, and those who didn’t would at least lead them away from you.

“I apologise for my son,” The man sighed, placing a gentle hand on your shoulder. “It seems he wasn’t paying attention when I told him that the margrave was hosting a young lady who he was sending to the officer’s academy next month. I presume that young lady would be you?”

You nodded slowly, hoping that it was the correct reaction. Most of the sentence had gone over your head, leaving you unsure of the topic at hand.

But there was that word again. ‘Academy’...

Why was it that everyone you encountered seemed to speak about it as if it were something you should know about?

And why was it that nobody had told you what, exactly, was going on?

“Come now,” Rodrigue smiled kindly, removing his hand from your shoulder. “Gautier said you were shy, but I didn’t expect it would be to this extent. Tell me, what is your name?”

You panicked, unable to bring yourself to speak even if you’d wanted to. Felix was looking less impressed by the second, and Rodrigue seemed very concerned at your complete lack of a voice.

“Felix!” Sylvain appeared next to you, as if you’d somehow summoned him. “I didn’t know you’d be coming today. Ah, and I see you’ve met (y/n).”

“Sylvain.” Rodrigue greeted, inclining his head at the younger man. “I was just introducing myself to (y/n) here, but I think Felix scared her. She hasn’t said a word since we approached.”

“I’m afraid (y/n)’s not much of a talker,” Sylvain said, draping an arm around your shoulder. “Truth be told, I haven’t heard her say anything either, and she’s been here a week. Trust me, once she picks up a sword or an axe you’ll see why my father’s enrolling her in the academy.”

You looked at the hand on your shoulder disdainfully, then looked back up to find Felix watching you. His eyes narrowed and his mouth pressed into a thin line.

You schooled your expression into a more neutral one and raised an eyebrow at him, challenging him to say something. It was about time you stopped being afraid of everyone who showed up at the Gautiers’ doorstep; you’d never been afraid of anything back home, so why should that change now?

“Speaking of your father, I was hoping to have a word with him.” Rodrigue stepped away from Felix’s side. “Is he in his office?”

“Sure is.” Sylvain grinned, jerking his head in what you assumed was the general direction of the margrave’s office. “I’ll make sure Felix doesn’t get into any trouble while you to talk.”

“Somehow I doubt that.” Rodrigue said as he walked away, an amused smile making its way onto his face just before he turned away completely.

“OK, Felix, I’ll just escort (y/n) here back to her room and then I’ll be right with you.”

“Don’t bother.”

“Uh… Excuse me?”

“You said she can fight, didn’t you?” Felix scowled as he looked you up and down for the second time that day. “Then she can spar with me. Maybe it’ll be a challenge for once.”

“Are you saying that sparring with me isn’t a challenge?” Sylvain asked, unaware that he’d managed to tug you closer to him.

“Yes.” Felix crossed his arms as he spoke, and you determined that his scowl was probably a permanent feature of his face.

You tugged on Sylvain’s sleeve, stopping him before he could come up with anything to say in response. As soon as he looked down and saw your expression, he sighed.

“Alright.” He relented, rolling his eyes. “But if you get hurt I’m not going to cover for you with your father.”

You smiled brightly as Sylvain led the way to the training grounds.

This was going to be fun.

Chapter Text

You weren’t sure what, exactly, but you knew you’d done something wrong.

You’d beaten Felix easily enough, but as soon as he’d gotten up from the ground he and Sylvain had started having very fast, very angry words. Words you didn’t fully understand.

And then they’d left the area, and they were gone for a very long time.

In fact, by the time they returned, the training ground had been cleaned up and you were nowhere to be found.

“Probably went back to her room.” Sylvain sighed, covering his face with one hand.

“I’m surprised that barbarian could find her way to her room all on her own.” Felix sneered.

“Don’t call her that.”

“But that’s what she is.”

“Look Felix, I’ve spent a week with her already,” Sylvain whirled around, for once being the angry one in the friendship. “She’s not a barbarian! Sure, she’s a little strange but it’s crazy just how similar to us she is.”

“Why? Because she can swing a sword?” Felix scoffed, narrowing his eyes at his friend. “I hope you’re not letting your guard down just because you think she’s pretty.”

“That’s not-” Sylvain paused, closing his eyes and letting out another sigh. “Look, believe what you want about her. All I need to know is if you’re going to help me keep this a secret.”

“I suppose I’ll keep your secret. We don’t want the boar showing up and trampling all over something as delicate as this.” Felix crossed his arms, his gaze drifting to the very spot where he’d lost the spar. “But I want you to know that this plan is ridiculous. It will backfire.”

“Take it up with my father, not me.” Sylvain raised both hands in surrender. “I didn’t even know about it until he sent me to collect her. It’s weird, you know? Just last week I was single and inviting pretty girls to have tea with me, and now I’m about to marry a princess.”

“A Sreng princess…” Felix mused, looking up at his friend again. “What will you do if the boar also plans a surprise visit and meets her?”

“I’ll tell him the same thing I told Rodrigue.” Sylvain shrugged, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “She doesn’t like to speak but she’s a good fighter.”

“And if he asks the reasoning behind her silence?”

“Uh…”

“You don’t know?”

“Well, my father and I were going over the logistics of the lie when you two showed up.” Sylvain retorted. “I’m sure we’ll think of something.”

“You’re going to have to work a lot harder if you don’t want this falling apart the moment you get to the officer’s academy.” Felix sighed, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. “And we both know she can’t go in there wielding two swords like that. She’d be telling the whole monastery where she’s from the moment she stepped into the training area.”

“I know,” Sylvain sighed too, taking a hand out of his pocket to run it through his hair. “There are a lot of things we need to do to get her ready and I don’t have a lot of time to do them. But this peace is important, if we can pull it off… My Crest might not matter so much anymore. I may never have to wield the Lance of Ruin.”

“Your father won’t fix things with Miklan just because you’re not fighting with Sreng anymore.” Felix scoffed, finally uncrossing his arms. “And one little peace treaty won’t change the minds of all the Kingdom nobles.”

Sylvain was saved the need for a reply when Rodrigue stopped at the entrance on the far side of the training area.

“There you two are,” He said, striding into the room with the margrave not far behind him. “I see (y/n) isn’t with you. That’s a shame, I was hoping to see those fighting skills you’d told me about.”

“I’m afraid you just missed her, Duke Fraldarius.” Sylvain sketched a lazy bow as he spoke. “She very nearly beat Felix here, but he got in a lucky blow right at the end. She retired to her room shortly after.”

Felix shot a quick, surprised look at his friend. He hadn’t won anything. But when he saw his father shoot him an inquisitive look, he gave a passive nod.

He’d only agreed to keep the secret a few minutes ago and already Sylvain was pulling him into the web of lies surrounding the entire marriage.

Typical.

**

You looked up as Sylvain entered the room, quietly shutting the door behind him.

“Look, I’m taking a big risk talking to you like this,” He said, sitting down on the chair beside your desk. “But I figure it’s OK just this once, after all, everyone’s a little busy with the duke and his son.”

“I am… Sorry.” Your gaze dropped to your lap. “Felix-”

“Will get over it.” He interrupted. “But listen, the officer’s academy we keep mentioning is going to be full of people who are trained fighters, which I’m sure you’ll love, but that means you can’t go around using Sreng techniques. Most of the Kingdom students, and some of the Alliance ones too, will recognise your style right away and then I’ll have to come up with a clever lie as to why I brought a girl from Sreng to the academy.”

You nodded, mostly understanding. It seemed you were going to have to adopt new habits, becoming less and less like the person you truly were with each passing day.

“I can teach you the Fodlan technique if you’d like,” You looked up, your eyes filled with delight at the prospect of returning to combat practice. “Now that everyone knows you’re enrolled in the academy, it won’t be that strange for people to see us doing some combat training.”

“When… Can we start?” You asked carefully, trying not to seem too eager.

“You don’t have to hide your excitement, princess.” Sylvain laughed, leaning back in his chair with his hands behind his head. “You’ve been looking bored ever since you got here, so consider it my gift to you for putting up with Felix today.”

You tilted your head, frowning slightly at his words. Why would he give you a gift for doing something as simple as letting Felix glare at you? Did he secretly enjoy watching his friend get beaten in a fight?

“What?” The redhead asked, a smile breaking out on his face.

“You are… Strange.” You said finally, giving him the smallest of smiles. “Combat is… Not a gift. It is a… A skill.

“I suppose teaching you to fight is a big honour back in Sreng, huh?”

You nodded.

Only the best warriors could earn the privilege of teaching the royal children. And they earnt that privilege through a bloody competition that cost most of them their lives.

You still didn’t think the man sitting in front of you was a warrior, he had no visible scars and spent next to no time training… But it was refreshing to be taught by someone who couldn’t tell you a gruesome story about the origin of his many scars every time you failed to perfect a technique.

Yes, Fodlan was indeed a more relaxed environment compared to the court in Sreng.

But you weren’t about to let your guard down just yet.

Chapter Text

“Oh no, not like that.”

You paused, the pin you’d been about to put in your hair snapping shut as Sylvain hastily entered the room.

“Why not?” You asked, frowning at the redhead as he swatted your hand away from your hair.

“It’s… Not how most girls in Fodlan wear their hair,” He replied, standing between you and the mirror with a thoughtful frown. “Here, I found this and thought we could do something with it.”

He held up a thick black ribbon, grinning even as you frowned at him. Where had he gotten that ribbon?

Had it been from one of the ‘guests’ Felix spoke of? Would she be upset that you were about to be the owner of that ribbon? Did she even know?

“Relax, most of my friends have long hair so I’ve gotten some practice in over the years.” Sylvain carefully wound the ribbon around your head, tying it into a neat bow on the right side of your head, just above your ears. “There, how does that look?”

He stepped aside and you looked in the mirror, frown deepening as you slowly reached up a hand to touch the ribbon. Battle-wise, it was wholly impractical. But Sylvain looked so proud of himself…

“Pretty.” You said finally, making his grin widen.

It had been a struggle for him to teach you what ‘pretty’ actually meant. There wasn’t really a word for it back home, but your future husband had been determined to get you to understand the word.

The bow really was pretty.

But you didn’t see any benefit to having it there once the fighting began.

“I’m glad you like it,” Sylvain stepped back, crossing behind you to grab the last of your bags from your bed. “Now come on, if we want to get to Garreg Mach on time we’ll need to leave soon.”

You nodded, sparing a glance in the mirror one last time as you stood. You looked almost nothing like you had when you’d arrived at the Gautier estate a month ago. With the black-and-gold uniform you were wearing, along with the ribbon Sylvain had just helped you put on…

You looked less like a Sreng princess and more like a girl born into Fodlan.

Yet another mask for you to wear.

Though you trusted Sylvain quite a bit… Even he didn’t know the real you.

The next few minutes were a blur. You said goodbye to Sylvain’s father, allowed a guard to help you into the carriage and then suddenly you were leaving the estate.

The ride was long, and you spent most of it brushing up on your reading and writing. While you weren’t exactly an expert in it, you were certainly a lot better at it than you had been when you arrived.

You’d begun to find it much easier when Sylvain started finding ways to relate it to something you did understand: Combat.

Because of that, your writing skills had developed considerably faster than anyone expected. The quill was your sword and the ink… Well, let’s not get into that.

At the very least, nobody would be able to tell that you didn’t belong.

“So, when we get there we’re going to have to be very careful.” Sylvain said about an hour into the ride, making you look over the top of the book you were slowly making your way through. “My friends are used to me acting a certain way and if I suddenly stop doing that… They’re going to get suspicious.”

“Your… ‘guests’?” You asked, raising an eyebrow at him.

He winced at the word, choosing to look out the window instead of at you.

“Felix told you, huh?”

“He did not really… Tell me.” You replied, looking back down at the page. “He asked if I was one of your... ‘Guests’.”

“Of course he did.” Sylvain sighed. “Listen, my Crest makes it… Hard for me to trust people.”

You looked back up, sliding the book shut and putting it onto your lap so that he had your full attention. You were probably going to need all of your focus just to interpret what he was saying…

“There are a lot of people out there who think that marrying me, or getting their daughter to marry me, will earn them a comfortable life and more power within the Kingdom.” You nodded for him to continue, folding your hands over the book in your lap.

“I hate it. I hate people pretending to like me just because of something I had no choice in… So I flirted with every girl I met, breaking their hearts before they could break mine. I’m not proud of it, but I figured I wasn’t going to have a choice anyway, so why bother looking for love?”

You blinked slowly, allowing yourself time to process his words and formulate a response.

He… Flirted?

You wanted to ask what ‘flirted’ even meant. But you also wanted to ask what he meant when he spoke of ‘breaking hearts’.

If you were to break a heart… That person would die, surely. The heart was, after all, the very thing that kept people alive.

Perhaps Fodlan was a much more brutal and cut-throat place than you had first thought.

If your future husband was killing girls left and right… You shuddered to imagine the kind of people you were going to encounter at the academy. Or…

No. Perhaps it was a figure of speech?

“That sounds…” You pursed your lips, searching for the word you’d learnt only a few days before. “Alone?”

“Lonely?” Sylvain laughed, smiling softly at you. “It’s not so bad.”

“I see.” You did not, in fact, see. “Crests are… Strange. In Sreng, my father is not the king because of some… Great power. He is king because he is the best warrior.”

“You mean he didn’t inherit the throne when his father died?”

“He did.” You frowned, only just now realising that there were other ways to inherit a title in Fodlan. “The old king was the best warrior… Until he lost a fight... To the death. With my father. His son.”

“That’s…” Sylvain shifted uncomfortably, his gaze darting to the dagger sitting beside you. “Interesting.”

“The king has… Many children.” You said slowly, struggling to describe it. “But only the best can… Inherit the throne.”

“And what if none of the king’s kids are ‘the best’?”

“They are… Cast out.”

“Were you…?”

“No.” You replied quickly. Probably too quickly, judging by the look on his face. “I have a… A duty.”

“Still,” the redhead looked out the window. “That sounds rough.”

“It was… not so bad.” You replied, offering him a tiny smile when he looked your way again. He looked surprised to hear you use the same phrase he’d used earlier, then smiled himself. “But now you see why I cannot… Uh… Could not read or write.”

“You know, I don’t think I’d mind running away from all of this and living in Sreng.” You tilted your head at his comment, a deep frown on your face. “It sounds like Crests mean nothing over there. I could get used to that.”

“No.” You muttered darkly, earning another look of surprise from Sylvain. “Your Crest… Means death for me… For all in Sreng.”

He shifted uncomfortably again, the dagger beside you earning another look. You sighed, forcing your muscles to relax. You had scared him, it seemed.

“But you…” You leant forward, gently placing one of your hands on his own. “You are… Kind to me.”

Sylvain’s gaze lingered on your hand, and you slowly withdrew it. He almost looked disappointed, but you couldn’t quite tell. Somehow he’d managed to hide his emotions better than he had when you’d first met.

And once again you were forced to re-evaluate your opinion of him. Every time you thought you’d gotten a read on him… He surprised you.

He wore so many masks that you wondered how he managed to keep track of them all.

As you picked up your book once again you realised that you, too, had an awful lot of masks.

And you weren’t entirely sure how you kept track of them either.

Chapter Text

When you first learnt that you were going to Fodlan, you did not think you would be meeting the king of Faerghus for quite some time.

Or, at all, really.

But somehow he had been the first person you met upon entering the Academy.

Sylvain had helped you out of the carriage, taken your hand, and dragged you past Felix and a blonde girl whose brow furrowed at the sight of you. He’d only stopped when you were both standing directly in front of a tall blond boy.

He looked at least a year younger than you, but you could already tell that he was a strong individual. Far stronger than you could ever hope to be. You shuddered slightly at the realisation that it was, perhaps, because of his Crest.

You glanced at Sylvain. Was he that strong as well? Or were there more Crests that you’d never seen before?

“Sylvain, how did I know you’d arrive with a girl on your arm?” The boy sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Easy there, your highness. That’s not what this is,” Sylvain replied, letting go of your hand and clasping his own hands behind his head. “I’m sure you’re aware that my father sponsored a talented young lady so that she could come to the academy this year?”

Ah. So this was the crown prince of Faerghus.

“Yes, I suppose I did hear about that. I must admit, we were all quite surprised to hear about it...” The boy mused, curiosity lining his gaze as he looked at you properly. “Ah, where are my manners? It’s a pleasure to meet you, my name is Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd.”

You bowed, deciding it was in your best interests not to speak, even when there were only a few people around who could hear you.

There was a long, silent pause. Dimitri frowned, waiting for you to speak.

“Oh, right, sorry your highness,” Sylvain said, breaking the silence with an easy grin. “This is (y/n), she uh… She’s a bit shy, so she doesn’t really talk all that much. If at all.”

“I see.” The prince murmured, looking you over once again before a gentle smile appeared on his face. “Well, I look forward to getting to know you better over the coming year, (y/n).”

“Were you going to introduce us, Sylvain?” A feminine voice asked from behind you, making you turn around quickly, your hand immediately going to the dagger at your side.

“Easy, (y/n).” Sylvain soothed, putting his hand over yours. “I knew you were good in a fight but those reflexes are a little scary.”

You blinked, looking first at the redhead and then at the blonde girl before you. She was clearly assessing you, her lips pressed into a tight line as she tried to figure you out. Felix stood beside her with his usual scowl, but this time he at least looked slightly impressed by your actions too.

“When Felix told me your father had sponsored a girl so she could come to the academy this year, I could hardly believe it.” The blonde said finally, her frown melting into a smile. “In any case, it will be nice to get to know someone new while I’m here. You may call me Ingrid.”

You nodded, letting your hand drop back to your side as you forced yourself to relax.

“Ingrid is the heir to House Galatea.” Sylvain explained, his hands moving behind his head. “And you already met Felix, based on the look on his face I’d say he’d prefer to be sparring with you than talking though.”

“I would.” Felix replied, his arms crossing automatically. “I’ve been training since we last fought, I hope you haven’t been letting your skills waste away like Sylvain.”

“My skills are not wasting-”

“You have already fought (y/n)?” Dimitri asked, cutting off Sylvain’s protests.

Ingrid shot the prince a grateful smile, and you wondered if the two often had to break up fights between Felix and your fiancé before they could begin.

“He sure did.” To his credit, Sylvain recovered quickly. “Challenged her to a fight within five minutes of meeting her. I thought I moved fast, but that was something else.”

“You said she could fight.” Felix shrugged. “Since you’re prone to dishonesty I took it upon myself to prove that claim.”

“Prone to dishonesty?” Sylvain scoffed, crossing his arms in mock anger. “Come on, I don’t lie that much. Especially not to my friends!”

You turned to the redhead, looking up at him with a thoughtful look. You blinked once. Twice.

He broke.

“OK, so maybe I lie a little bit to you guys.” He relented, looking away from your powerful gaze.

Your frown deepened, and you watched him fidget for a few moments longer. Ingrid put a hand to her mouth, stifling a quiet laugh.

“Can you stop that?” He asked, risking another glance at you. “Alright, fine, maybe Felix is right. But I don’t lie about things like fighting talent, especially not when Felix is around to prove me wrong.”

You smiled.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone break Sylvain quite that quickly.” Dimitri mused, eyes sparkling with amusement. “I think you’ll fit in nicely here, (y/n).”

“If the five of you are about finished,” A man said as he strode up behind Dimitri, his arms clasped behind his back. “I will show you to your classroom.”

“Of course.” Dimitri nodded, gesturing for the green-haired man to lead the way. “That would be incredibly helpful. But before we leave, we seem to be missing someone-”

“Your highness.”

You jumped, unable to stop yourself from drawing your dagger at the newcomer, who had effectively snuck up on you.

The green-haired man rose an eyebrow, his expression oozing disapproval. “While we do not have a policy against students carrying blades with them at the academy, we do have one against drawing them outside of the training grounds without proper reason. Please refrain from doing so again, or I will be forced to confiscate it.”

You nodded, glancing up at the tall man who had appeared next to you as you sheathed the dagger.

“Are you unable to even offer an apology?”

You blinked, unsure of how to react to the pointed question. Whoever this man was, it was becoming clear to you that you’d already gotten onto his bad side, just by getting startled.

You glanced up at Sylvain helplessly, wondering how you were going to survive the next year here without giving yourself away. It was already quite different from any of the places you had trained in Sreng, by sheer virtue of your not being allowed to draw your weapon whenever you pleased.

This place was strange indeed.

He narrowed his eyes, a sigh escaping his lips as he regarded you in your semi-panicked state.

“I understand one of you is unable to speak,” He finally said. “Am I correct in presuming it is the young lady with the dagger?”

“You sure are.” Sylvain agreed, taking the opportunity to sling his arm around your shoulders.

You flashed the redhead a grateful smile, while Ingrid’s eyes narrowed with disapproval. She clearly disliked his behaviour, but refrained from saying anything for the time being.

You suddenly felt an unexpected pang of pity for Sylvain.

“Very well.” The green-haired man sighed once more, turning away from the group to lead the way. “I will have a word with the two of you later in regards to how we will address this. In the meantime, I will have to ask that she does not wander off alone, lest she is questioned by a knight who is unaware of her… Situation.”

You narrowed your eyes slightly at his words. Whoever he was, this man was far more perceptive than the rest of your group perceived him to be.

It seemed that while Sylvain believed he’d gotten away with the lie, he was wholly incorrect.

And that green hair…

It was unnerving to see a hair-colour that was so… Unnatural.

According to Sylvain, the archbishop herself also had green hair, which struck you as odd. Green… An almost impossible colour to find even for someone’s eyes in Sreng, yet somehow was the natural colouring of the hair and eyes of not one, but two people in Fodlan.

Both working in the same institution.

Something nagged at the back of your mind, something you had been told many years ago. The information screamed to be let out, but you could only recall the encounter instead of the words spoken.

You had been warned of something…

You shook your head slightly, blinking a few times to clear your head.

Now was not the time to be distracted, you couldn’t afford to fixate on it.

For now, you would simply have to let the flow of time, and your instincts, guide you to where you needed to be.

Chapter Text

A plate dropped onto the table across from you.

You spared a glance upward, finding the boy whose reputation preceded him.

“May I?” He asked, sitting down without waiting for your response.

You looked back down at your plate, wondering how you’d been unfortunate enough to be noticed by the leader of the Golden Deer house.

Ah, that’s right.

Because Sylvain abandoned you every chance he got to flirt with girls and ‘maintain the charade’. And the other Blue Lions were doing their own things around the place for their day off, meaning you were eating alone in the dining hall once more.

And it was hard not to spot someone sitting at a table alone, especially when the rest of the room was relatively busy.

You had been at the monastery for almost a month now, with a battle against some bandits looming. But you hadn’t exactly made friends. It was hard to do so when you weren’t able to speak.

You’d been tempted to kill that charade more than once, mostly just to spite the boy who’d unexpectedly left you to your own devices despite all of his warnings about the ‘dangers’ of the place.

So far the most dangerous thing you’d run into was a dog that had almost knocked you over in its excitement.

But somehow, despite being absent almost all the time, he’d managed to guilt you into staying silent. You weren’t really used to the feeling.

You’d never had to feel guilty about anything in Sreng. Be it murder or blatantly ignoring the affections of every single suitor… You’d never really felt guilt until arriving in Fodlan. It was incredibly inconvenient.

“I was about to mention that you’re not particularly talkative,” Claude began, flashing you a grin as you looked up at him once more. “But I suppose that’s weirdly accurate, huh?”

You raised an eyebrow, stabbing your fork into the food on your plate.

Claude von Reigan. A name that quickly made its way around the academy. Before even meeting him, you already knew that he was a schemer, far too curious for his own good, and that he’d magically shown up just over a year ago.

Not that you really cared about the Lorenz part of that information. You weren’t really sure you even knew who he was just yet. Sylvain said you’d know him when you saw him, but that didn’t help in any way, shape or form.

“Something about you has been odd ever since classes started,” Claude continued. “I saw you sparring with Felix earlier, and you actually beat him. It was kind of impressive.”

You tried to stop the smile that tugged at the corners of your mouth, but all you managed to do was make it smaller than it wanted to be.

“But I did notice that your fighting style was… Different, somehow.” He narrowed his eyes, his food forgotten as he examined you. “I can’t put my finger on it, but you definitely didn’t learn the Fodlan style of fighting while you were growing up, and it shows.”

You blinked, your smile dropping as you tried to figure out how he could have spotted it. Not even an experienced fighter like Jeralt had been able to catch the slight differences you displayed due to the training you’d received over your childhood.

Claude just stared at you for a long time, his gaze feigning simple curiosity even as you sensed the question beneath. It seemed that he’d decided to use your facial expressions to get the information he couldn’t get from your words. Clever…

But you were one step ahead.

You kept your stare blank, your expression neutral. He stared for what seemed like years before a grin broke out on his face and he winked at you.

“Maybe I’m just thinking too much into it.” He laughed, finally starting to eat. “But I must admit, I am quite curious about you. You only met Sylvain right before you came to the academy, but somehow he hasn’t gotten bored with you.”

You, too, started eating.

“I guess if I want to find out what’s going on behind that mask of yours, I’m going to have to do it the old fashioned way, huh?” You gave Claude a half-smile in response to his words.

“Trying to steal my classmates already, Claude?” Dimitri sat down next to you. “I know (y/n) performed excellently in the mock battle, but it’s just a bit rude, don’t you think?”

“Actually, I was just having a pleasant conversation with our silent friend here.” Claude replied, turning his attention to the prince. “Isn’t that right, (y/n)?”

You looked up at Claude, then to Dimitri, then back to Claude.

You shrugged noncommittally.

Claude coughed, patting his chest in an attempt to stop himself from choking on his food, while Dimitri laughed.

“Man, I really thought we were hitting it off!” Mock despair filled Claude’s face as he spoke, making you smile slightly.

“It looks to me like you’ll need to change your tactics,” Dimitri mused, pointing his fork at the other house leader. “But I will warn you, I don’t intend to let you recruit her easily.”

“I’ll trade you for Lorenz.” Claude suggested with a playful smirk.

“I think Lorenz is happy enough where he is.” Dimitri replied, jerking his head in the direction of a purple-haired noble, who was in the process of getting yelled at by Lysithea.

“Lorenz? Happy?” Claude snorted, going back to his own meal. “Not while I’m the future leader of the Alliance. The dude’s had it out for me from day one.”

You paused, frowning at Claude’s words. If Lorenz had wanted Claude gone, why hadn’t he just taken him out of the picture already? With every word you heard, Fodlan politics became more and more drawn out and… Frankly quite pointless.

“That would be because he thought he would be the next Sovereign Duke before you came along.” Dimitri said, bringing some clarity to Claude’s comments.

The prince shot you a quick, reassuring smile. It seemed that he knew you weren’t exactly up to date with all the politics in Fodlan and was trying to help where he could. Sylvain was probably to blame for that, but you could hardly fault him for finding his own ways to help you out without actually being present.

“Look, I didn’t crush his dreams on purpose.” Claude retorted. “I didn’t even know I had a Crest of Riegan until the thing activated! But he somehow still thinks I’m an imposter, it’s ridiculous. Not to mention exhausting.”

You continued your meal, letting the two talk over you about politics and dealing with stubborn classmates. The words washed over you, most of them losing all meaning, and before you knew it, you were finished.

You stood up without really thinking about it, picking up your plate so you could take it to be cleaned. But you paused when you noticed the two boys’ eyes on you.

“Finished already, (y/n)?” Dimitri asked, making you look away in embarrassment.

You’d always been a fast eater back home, especially with all the people you had to sit and dine with every day and night. Not only could they attempt to take the food off of your plate (one such attempt left the man with one less finger), but they could also find ways to poison the food.

Thus, it was better to eat quickly, once you’d determined that it wasn’t poisoned before even being set in front of you. But apparently eating quickly was… Not the norm for a noblewoman. It was, however, a habit you were unable to break.

So whenever anyone brought it up, you felt… Self-conscious.

Another feeling you’d never had need of in Sreng. And it was just as inconvenient and irrational as guilt.

“She did get here before us, your princeliness.” Claude said, drawing your gaze back to the pair. “Not to mention, she doesn’t have to pause to talk.”

“I suppose you’re right, Claude.” Dimitri mused, looking first at the other house leader, then back up at you. “But please, (y/n), sit with us a while longer. Once I’ve finished I’d be happy to spar with you for a while until the rest of the Blue Lions return for the day.”

You forced yourself to smile, shaking your head right before you faked a yawn. Dimitri nodded in understanding, and you turned away from the pair.

Once you were gone, Claude looked over at the prince of Faerghus with a curious frown.

“There’s something off about that girl.” He said finally, putting his fork down as he thought. “Sometimes I wonder if she can even understand us.”

“She does alright in class.” Dimitri replied, glancing around the room. “But you are correct, there is definitely something strange afoot. And I suspect that we’re not going to be getting answers from her, or Sylvain for that matter, any time soon.”

“Speaking of Sylvain,” Claude frowned thoughtfully. “(y/n)’s one pretty girl, yet he hasn’t even tried to flirt with her once.”

“Well, she is quite the fighter,” Dimitri mused, putting his own fork down as he glanced back to the door you had exited from. “And she wasn’t exactly subtle with that dagger of hers when she first arrived. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d threatened to use it on him.”

“Those two seem way too cozy for that to be the case.” Claude leant forward, looking around to make sure no one was listening in. “She talks to Sylvain you know. The other day I saw them deep in conversation, but I couldn’t get any closer without making my presence known.”

“Sylvain said she was shy, not incapable of speech.” Dimitri pointed out, clasping his hands in front of his face.

“If you were Sylvain, and you wanted to hide something about a girl from everyone at the academy… And if you knew her voice would give it away…”

“You’re saying she’s not shy? Just hiding something?”

“Bingo, your princeliness. I just wish I could figure out what. That girl can keep her expression as neutral as your professor when she wants to.”

“I imagine that’s what makes her such a good fighter.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Claude stood, picking up his plate with a respectful nod at Dimitri. “I’m going to keep thinking about it, maybe I’ll uncover something I missed.”

“Claude.” Dimitri said seriously, looking up at his fellow student. “There may very well be nothing amiss here, so please, try not to throw around baseless accusations. She’s still my classmate, and my friend, so I’d prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt.”

“Yeah, benefit of the doubt. Sure thing.” Claude replied, moving away as quickly as he could once he noticed Hubert and Edelgard watching them from their table across the room.

He was going to have to work a lot harder if he wanted to keep his investigation a secret from those two. Yes, Claude certainly had his work cut out for him, but if his suspicions were correct…

His dream might not be as difficult to achieve as he first thought.