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Protect Your Smile

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The path leading to the Goddess Tower was empty much to Dimitri’s pleasure. He felt the need to be alone following the events of Remire. Particularly, he found himself thinking about that strange mercenary who had assisted in their battle and accompanied them back to the monastery. Byleth, she had called herself. She had remained fairly quiet on the trip back to the monastery, and despite their best efforts, Claude, Edelgard, and Dimitri were unable to find out much more than her name and the fact that Jeralt, another mercenary, was her father. The most Dimitri had heard her speak was right after the battle with the bandits when she spoke to Dimitri when no one else was close enough to hear. It was that interaction which left Dimitri perturbed.

“What were you trying to tell me?” She had asked.

“Pardon?”

“Before you came back with your classmates, you were going on about something crazy.” Dimitri had been taken aback at this. When would he have spoken to her before showing up with Edelgard and Claude? However, he had not been able to ask more questions because her father interrupted. He spent the trip back to the monastery trying to brush off her remarks as some confusion stemming from the unexpected battle, but he knew that was highly unlikely. Dimitri’s thoughts were interrupted by an anguished scream piercing the air. It came from the direction of the Goddess Tower. Unsheathing his sword, Dimitri took off in a run towards the tower. There was no sign of anyone else as he ran down the hall. The scream sounded feminine, and Dimitri gripped his sword tighter at the thought of one of his classmates facing danger. As the future king of Fhirdiad, it was his duty to protect others.

As he turned the corner, he raised his sword and prepared himself for whatever unknown enemy awaited him. What actually awaited him at the foot of the tower stairs, however, was not at all what he expected. A young woman was lying unmoving in a pool of blood. There was no mistaking that teal hair and the cropped top now wet with blood. It was Byleth; the same woman who had been occupying his thoughts just minutes ago. His hands started trembling as he tried to keep back the memories of that night in Duscur. Just like that night, he was alone with death. The voices of his father, Glenn, and the others started to fill his mind asking for their revenge. He shook those thoughts from his head and looked around for any sign of the perpetrator. A trail of blood went up the stairs. Yes, perhaps the assailant heard him coming and had no choice but to run upstairs into a dead end. Stepping around Byleth’s body, Dimitri sprinted up the stairs. If he could not avenge his friends and family, he would do his best to avenge this woman who fought alongside him just the night before.

The trail of blood continued all the way up the stairs. Whoever was responsible must be at the top. With a final burst of energy, Dimitri sped to the top of the tower. His heart was racing as he wondered who would be awaiting him. Shoving open the door, he held his sword ready to go on the offense only to find no one on the other side. He looked frantically around the space. The tower was small, it would be impossible to hide up here. On the floor, the blood trail led to the center of the room and then stopped. But how? If the assailant was not here, then where could they be? Dimitri fell to his knees and the clattering of his sword filled the empty room. Why had this happened? He braced his hands on the stone wall as he felt his body begin to shake.

Goddess, he thought, why did you let Byleth die? She should not have come. I wish we had never met her. A sudden ill feeling hit Dimitri and he shut his eyes.

“Your highness?” The deep voice started Dimitri and he nearly jumped out of his skin. Opening his eyes, Dimitri saw Dedue standing in the doorway with a concerned look on his face. “Are you alright?”

“I tried to find who did it, but” Dimitri faltered with his words.

“Did what?” Dedue’s brow was furrowed and he was scrutinizing Dimitri as if he expected to see some kind of injury.

“Someone killed Byleth, one of the mercenaries who accompanied myself, Claude, and Edelgard back here!” Dimitri was confused at Dedue’s demeanor. Surely he had seen her body on his way up here.

“Who?”

“I don’t know!” Dimitri got to his feet. “If I knew who killed her, I would be after them and not remaining here so helplessly.” Dimitri reached down to pick up his sword and his eyes went wide in shock as he stared at the floor.

“Your highness, what mercenaries?”

Dimitri barely registered Dedue’s question. He was too busy staring at the grey floor. The grey floor without an ounce of blood on it. How could that be? It was just here. Dimitri scanned the whole floor and saw no trace of it. Leaving his sword where it lay, he hurried past Dedue and fled down the stairs.

“Your highness!” Dimitri heard his retainer following behind him. Even on the stairs, the blood was gone. No one could have cleaned it up. It was impossible. Dimitri had found it odd that Dedue was so calm. How could someone come across a dead body and remain so calm? Unless… Dimitri’s unfinished thought was validated as he got to the bottom of the stairs and discovered absolutely nothing. Byleth’s corpse was gone as was all the blood. Dimitri looked up and down the hallways for any sign of what he had witnessed, but the place was deserted. Dedue’s footsteps slowed down as he stopped to stand right behind the prince.

“How could this be? Dedue, I swear it happened. I heard a scream and found the mercenary’s body covered in blood right here. Find her father. He is the other mercenary who came back with us today. He is probably with the archbishop right now.”

Dedue was silent and it caused Dimitri to panic. He spun around to face the taller boy.

“My friend, you must believe me. It happened.” Dimitri grabbed onto the front of Dedue’s shirt.

“Yes, your highness,” Dedue responded hesitantly. “However, what mercenaries are you speaking of? You haven’t left the monastery since we arrived last week. Dimitri released his hold on Dedue’s shirt and took a step back.

“I…what? You are mistaken, Dedue. Just yesterday we all went out on a joint training exercise and were ambushed by bandits.” Dedue did not respond again. He just stared at Dimitri with that concerned look of his. “Come, let’s find Claude or Edelgard. They will set this straight.”

“I think we would be better off going to the infirmary. I worry that you’re ill. Perhaps you have a fever?” Dedue reached a hand out to feel Dimitri’s forehead but the prince stepped aside. His head was spinning but not due to illness. He knew what he saw, and as much as he wanted to prove to Dedue that he was right, he knew it would be bad to involve more people in the matter. If Claude and Edelgard also forgot what had happened, then talk would spread of his delusions. As the future leader of the Kingdom, he could not afford such negative gossip to spread. He also could not afford to appear weak in any regard.

“No,” he said a bit more aggressively than he wanted. He cleared his throat and started speaking in a softer tone. “No, I’m quite alright. I think I just am in need of some sleep.”

“Yes, that would be good for you,” Dedue agreed while nodding. “Best for you to be well rested for classes starting tomorrow. Come, let’s head to the dormitories.”

They walked towards the dormitory together in complete silence. Dimitri could feel Dedue’s stare the entire time. He was clearly still worrying for the prince. Dimitri, on the other hand, could not stop thinking about everything that had transpired. Was he going crazy? Surely he could not have hallucinated two days’ worth of events. Maybe Dedue was correct and he was ill. He did have a wave of nausea hit just before Dedue entered the tower. If the options were between losing his sanity and having a fever, Dimitri would undoubtedly choose the latter. However, something was still not sitting right with him.

“Your highness,” Dedue interrupted his thoughts. Dimitri realized they had stopped walking. “This is your room,” Dedue said gesturing to the door in front of them.

“Right.” He said absentmindedly. There was a hint of a frown on Dedue’s face. Clearly he was unhappy with Dimitri’s choice of skipping the infirmary.

“I will notify our housemates that you are not to be disturbed. Please get some rest,” he entreated.

“Thank you, Dedue,” Dimitri responded with a smile. Dedue bowed before departing.

Dimitri sighed as he entered his bedroom. He knew that sleep would not come easily. It never did even on days when nothing extraordinary happened. Still, he stripped down and changed into his lounge clothes before crawling into bed. As he stared at the ceiling, he could think of nothing other than Byleth. Even his usual ghosts were absent from his thoughts. Somehow that allowed him to drift off into a dreamless sleep.

Morning came quickly, and Dimitri was awoken by knocking on his door.

“Dimitri? Have you gone to breakfast yet?” He was surprised to hear a feminine voice on the other side of the door. He had expected Dedue to check on him. He rolled out of bed and quickly through on clothes before opening the door. He found himself face to face with two familiar individuals. The one that did not surprise him was Ingrid who was in her school uniform and wearing her hair in its typical braid. He had recognized her voice immediately. He had not, however, realized that she was not alone out here. Sylvain was standing next to her with his hands behind his head.

“So Dedue was telling the truth, you were still in here. What’s kept you locked in here for so long?” Sylvain paused as a grin broke out on his face. “Were you with a girl? Wait! Is she still in there?” He tried to push past Dimitri to peek in the room but Ingrid grabbed him by the shoulder.

“Can you go five minutes without talking about picking up girls or being with girls?”

“Sometimes I talk about being dumped by girls.” Sylvain’s response further annoyed Ingrid resulting in her yanking on his ear before turning her attention back to Dimitri.

“Dedue mentioned that you were getting some needed rest. Are you well?” Dimitri was surprised to hear that Ingrid had spoken with Dedue. She had never been on great terms with him given her personal feelings about Duscur. Dimitri hoped this was a sign that she was moving past the grudge.

“I am feeling well today. Thank you, Ingrid.” Dimitri politely smiled at his childhood friend. He always did his best each day to appear composed in front of others, even those friends he knew since childhood.

“I am glad to hear that,” she responded.

“Alright! Let’s eat!” Sylvain interrupted as he spun on his heel and started walking in the direction of the dining hall.

Ingrid sighed as she and Dimitri followed behind him. They passed a few students from other houses on their way. It was so early in the school year that most students from the other houses were unfamiliar to Dimitri. They did run into Claude who was speaking with an enthusiastic girl with pink pigtails. If Dimitri was not mistaken, that was the girl from House Goneril of the Alliance, though her name slipped his mind. They exchanged hellos but the conversation did not progress because Sylvain was insistent that they hurry to the dining hall since Felix was already there. Evidently when Ingrid and Sylvain said they were going to check on Dimitri before eating, Felix had said he preferred to just go and eat himself. Dimitri was sure the words were actually harsher than how Ingrid portrayed them. Sure enough, when they arrived at the dining hall, Felix was sitting at a table with a plate of toast and sausage.

“Good morning, sweetheart,” Sylvain said to Felix. He received a snarl in response. Despite Felix’s small stature, he had a formidable aura around him.

“I’m trying to eat in peace. The last things I need are your nauseating flirtations and the Boar Prince’s presence. It’s bad enough that most of the food options today are sweet.”

Sylvain had stopped listening to Felix halfway through his statement and was now walking towards the food station.

“We’ll be right back,” Ingrid said to Felix before heading to grab food with Dimitri.

Felix had not been overreacting when he said most of the food was sweet. The tables were full of muffins and other pastries. Dimitri was reaching for a pastry when he accidentally hit hands with someone.

“Oh, sorry!” A child like voice squealed. Dimitri looked up and saw familiar orange hair and wide eyes.

“Annette, good morning. The apologies are all mine.” He gestured for her to go ahead and watched as she piled a few sweets onto an already full plate.

“Oh, thank you, Dimitri! These are my favorite!” She made a quick exit and he watched as she skipped over to sit with a few girls. Dimitri had not spent much time with Annette growing up despite his close relationship with her father, but he always remembered her being an enthusiastic and cheerful girl. It appears not much had changed while she was studying at sorcery school.

By time the three friends returned to the table, Felix was almost done eating. Sylvain took the seat next to him and Dimitri sat across the table with Ingrid. Felix was consciously avoiding eye contact with Dimitri. They all ate while Ingrid tried to keep the conversation civil. After a bit, Felix stood up.

“I am going to train. Alone.” With that, Felix departed.

“Should we go with him?” Sylvain asked causing Ingrid to kick him under the table. Before she could respond, however, a young girl with green hair approached the table.

“You are Dimitri Blaiddyd, are you not?” She asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“Lovely! You can call me Flayn! I was sent by Seteth with a message. He said the new professor for the Blue Lions has arrived and that your house should congregate in your classroom at half past ten.”

“New professor?” Dimitri muttered. He noticed that the girl was still standing there staring at him. “Thank you, Flayn. You can tell Seteth we will be there.” She curtsied with a smile and departed. A frown appeared on Dimitri’s face. Their professor had run off during the bandit attack. If they were getting a new professor, that meant he had not returned after the ambush, but how could that be if Dedue insisted they had not gone on that training trip?

“I still can’t believe that old professor just up and quit just as the school year started,” Sylvain said as he started to stand up. “Dimitri, are you coming?” Dimitri snapped out of his thoughts.

“Coming?” His friend sighed and ran his hair through his bright hair.

“I think I am earning myself the title of royal advisor. It’s already past 10. We need to get everyone to the classroom.” He turned around to search the dining hall for Annette and any other Blue Lions members who might be present.

“You’re unexpectedly being responsible, Sylvain,” Ingrid said as she and Dimitri rose from the table. She scrutinized Sylvain for a moment before speaking. You’re hoping the professor is a woman, aren’t you?” Sylvain feigned injury at this question.            

“Ingrid, my friend, I am just trying to get off on the right foot with our new teacher. If our teacher happens to be a cute girl who falls madly in love with me, then that’s just an added bonus – Ow!” With a slap to the back of his head, Ingrid walked across the dining hall to where Annette was sitting. Dimitri chuckled feeling a rare moment of lightheartedness.

“Sylvain, for someone to have been chosen as a professor here, they must be an extremely established individual. I hardly think it would be some young woman for you to marry.”

“Are you telling me that Manuela woman seems like an extremely established individual? She was blatantly hungover when she introduced herself to us.” Dimitri looked around them to make sure no one had overheard Sylvain’s remarks.

“Please do not say such unfavorable things about our faculty. We need to put our best foot forward and represent the Kingdom well. This also means that I entreat you to not attempt a relationship with any faculty members.”

“I will try my best for you, your highness.” Sylvain said as he patted Dimitri on the back. They noticed Ingrid making her way back towards them.

“I suppose that is all I can ask of you,” Dimitri responded as Ingrid arrived back at the table.

“Annette and Mercedes are heading over to the classroom now. They said Ashe is most likely in the library or his bedroom. Sylvain, can you please go find him and not stop to chat with girls on the way?”

“Wow, everyone is trying to sabotage my love life today,” Sylvain remarked.

“On second thought, the two of us will find Ashe and get Felix from the training grounds.” Ingrid did not give Sylvain a chance to respond. “Dimitri, I don’t know where Dedue is. Perhaps you could find him?”

“Of course. I will see you in the classroom shortly.”

Dimitri watched as Ingrid and Sylvain left for the training ground. He wondered if he should have mentioned yesterday’s incident to them after all. What if one of them remembered the bandits and Byleth? Then again, what if he had hallucinated it all? Pushing the thoughts aside, Dimitri set out from the dining hall. He had a strong notion of where Dedue could be. When he stepped outside, he was hit with the scent of fresh air. He had not realized how in need he was for a walk outside until that moment. As he walked through the grounds, he watched some children playing with a cat. It really was a peaceful place. Ahead of him, he saw the glass paneling of the greenhouse. He himself had not spent much time there, but he knew it was already a kind of sanctuary for Dedue. Sure enough, upon entering, Dimitri saw his friend. His broad back was turned towards Dimitri and he appeared to be closely inspecting a flower. Even with his back turned, Dimitri noticed how relaxed Dedue was in here compared to when he was around other people. They all were carrying the burden of the Tragedy of Duscur in their own unique and cruel ways.

Dimitri looked around the place. There were only a few flowers he recognized. Many of the ones unknown to him looked like they would last not even a minute in Faerghus’ climate. Dedue turned around at the sound of footsteps approaching and his gaze softened when he saw Dimitri standing there.

“Your highness,” he greeted him with a bow. “How are you feeling today?”

“Much better, thank you.” Dimitri did not believe the words he said but he knew it was the response to give. He peered around Dedue to see a small growth of red flowers. Dimitri was about to ask what kind of flowers they were when Dedue interrupted.

“What brings you here?”

“Seteth has called a Blue Lions house meeting. Our new professor has arrived.”

“I see,” he nodded. “Let us go.” Without any further discussion, the two exited the greenhouse and began the walk towards their classrooms. Dedue was silent as usual, and instead of trying to make idle chatter, Dimitri was lost in his thoughts. They remained in silence all the way to their destination.

As Dedue opened the door, he heard Felix’s voice.

“You’re not missing out, professor. It really is for the best to not meet Dimitri.”

“Looks like the professor is already here,” Dedue murmured to Dimitri. The prince looked towards the front of the class to where their new professor stood.

“Felix! Don’t say that! Professor, I’m so sorry,” Ingrid said.

Dedue had walked inside but Dimitri stayed at the doorway. He felt the blood drain from his face and his eyes widen.

“Your highness?” Dedue was looking back towards Dimitri. Everyone was probably looking at him but he could see nothing but the figure at the front of the classroom.

“Dimitri, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” He did not register who said that. All he knew is that standing in front of him had to be a ghost. A ghost with teal hair, black ensemble, and an unreadable expression. A ghost he knew to be named

“Byleth,” he breathed out.