No Lysithea, no Felix, no problems. Hubert breathed a sigh of relief as he unhitched his black horse, Ruin, and led her towards the front gates.
“Where are you off to?” The gatekeeper was always so pleasant.
“Home actually,” said Hubert. “Some family stuff to, uh, take care of.” That was one way of putting it: he was going to go dispose of his father. He hadn’t made a decision about what exactly to do with the Marquis, but suffice to say he’d no longer have any power when Hubert was through with him.
“Oh, well good luck!” said the gatekeeper as he waved.
Hubert paused, “Hey, if you see a short guy with dark blue hair, or a little girl with white hair, don’t let them leave the monastery, Seteth’s orders.”
“Thanks for the memo, phew, I wouldn’t want to upset Seteth!” said the gatekeeper.
That took care of his troublesome apprentices. Hubert set out on the road to Enbarr. He was on schedule to get there within a week if he kept a steady pace. He’d done the trip by warping before, but that was exhausting and a logistical nightmare, and he couldn’t warp his horse. He wouldn’t dare abandon poor Ruin at Garreg Mach with a battle coming and hope that he could retrieve her later. Nope, she was coming with him, coming home and staying safe.
He was tentatively looking forward to a whole week alone. It was poor timing that he had to be doing this in winter when the days were short and the scenery was sparse, but Hubert really enjoyed traveling. He wished that he was with Edelgard, but he understood why she was staying behind and coming later. She was going to try to get the professor to come with her. If Byleth agreed, and Hubert was far from convinced she would, they would travel in style by carriage. Hubert was relieved that Ladislava would be escorting the princess; he trusted they would have a safe trip when they finally left.
Traveling alone through this part of Fodlan wasn’t very dangerous, but there was always a risk of bandits. Hubert took steps to make himself not look like an appealing target. He was no longer wearing his school uniform, but his plain travel clothes. Toasty wool britches, a dark waistcoat paired with a leather overcoat, a pleasantly warm red scarf and his new green knit cap courtesy of Bernadetta. His wore a very prominent dagger as a warning, and there were three more small throwing knives hidden on his person.
This was not a noble’s attire, but Hubert supposed he wasn’t much of a noble. People like Ferdinand and Lorenz, or Claude and Hilda, probably didn’t even realize how often they reminded him of his station with their comments. Not a commoner, but not like them. His family didn’t have territory or grand weath. They didn’t even have their own house but rather lived in the lower levels of the imperial palace in Enbarr. The von Vestras were servants of the emperor and no one ever let him forget it.
Edelgard was his friend, and if he was feeling bold, his soul mate. They were the Adrestian eagle, two heads and a shared heart. Yet people at this stupid school just called him her dog. His heart burned with bitterness as he considered how absolutely happy leaving Garreg Mach was making him in this moment. He would miss his fellow Black Eagles, and hoped to be reunited with them soon, but there was no love lost for the Golden Deer or Blue Lions.
Hubert deeply looked forward to interacting with some other people for the next week who didn’t know him and didn’t have preformed opinions about what he was. He could just relax, enjoy a beer, and the company of strangers. He had memorized his itinerary: he would alternate between sleeping at inns and sleeping on the road, for the next six days, and then on the seventh he’d arrive in Enbarr and go straight to the palace and get back to his duties and real life. This was Hubert’s first ‘vacation’ ever, and he dared to allow himself to be optimistic about it. He had a great book to read, a little extra spending money he’d scraped together to enjoy a fancy meal, his stuffed pegasus was repaired and safely stashed, and maybe, just maybe he’d get lucky on the road with someone who didn’t know or care that he was Hubert von Vestra.
Lysithea had to admit that when Hubert first walked into the inn, hair all tucked into his slouchy knit hat and cheeks a popping bright pink against pale skin from the cold, that she barely recognized him. He wasn’t dressed in his normal baggy school uniform anymore and his clothes, while incredibly plain and practical, were well tailored. He didn’t look like a student at all or a lost little noble, rather he looked a man who knew what he was doing and was where he belonged. She was jealous because she looked perfectly out of place. She knew enough not to wear her uniform but she had never traveled outside of school trips or the carriage ride with her parents to Garreg Mach when she first enrolled. She only had a few outfits outside of her school clothes and none of them were especially suited for traveling under the radar. She was currently in her little white and purple dress with white tights and a coat that wasn’t really all that suited for the weather. She had been going for mysterious woman traveling the countryside, but she looked like a little kid playing dress up in comparison to him and it drove her crazy.
She waited for him to go up to ask for his room before walking over and saddling up beside him.
“I have a reservation, under Rupert Underhill,” said Hubert awkwardly. The innkeeper nodded, found the name in the ledger, and went to retrieve the key to the room.
“Psst, Hubie,” she said as she tugged at his coat.
He looked down at her and did a double take, “What are you doing? Why are you here?”
“Road trip! Remember?” She smiled enthusiastically and pumped her fists in the air. “I told you I was coming with you.”
“Go back to school,” ordered Hubert.
“Nope,” said Lysithea. “You can’t make me.”
“Oh I’ll make you —” started Hubert threateningly.
The innkeeper had returned with the key and looked at Lysithea and then at Hubert with a scowl. He was retrieving a club from beneath the bar, “Did this man kidnap you?”
Hubert looked he was going to throw up. Lysithea, despite how much it annoyed her, looked much younger than fifteen, and he looked, well, older than twenty. He had a gotten a room with one small bed, this did not look very good for him.
Lysithea laughed, “Ha, no. He’s my manservant. Good old Rupert.”
Hubert glared at Lysithea and then looked back at the innkeeper, “I know I made the reservation for one, but is there a chance we could get switched to a room with two beds?”
“We’re full up,” growled the innkeeper. Of course they were.
“Floor it is,” muttered Hubert as he opened up his wallet. “I’m going to need a receipt.”
At dinner Lysithea watched Hubert pressing his fingers into his eyes, “What are you doing?”
“Trying to lower my blood pressure,” he groaned as he dropped his hands. He wasn’t wearing his gloves, it was really weird to see him dressed so casually and frankly almost like a rogue. He looked forlorn as his eyes traced around the room at all the people who looked suspiciously like soldiers pretending to be ordinary travelers.
She followed his gaze and narrowed her own, “Come on, a trip with a friend is much better than a trip alone!”
“Who said I was spending it alone?” Hubert hissed at her as their drinks came. He’d gotten himself ale, and for her…milk!
She frowned at the milk and frowned at him, “Seriously?”
“Do you want to get taller or not?” challenged Hubert. He smirked as he drank his beer, “That’s why I no longer touch the stuff.”
“I know it’s just because you’re lactose intolerant,” grumbled Lysithea.
“Well, that too,” sighed Hubert as their dinner — mystery meat stew — arrived. Hubert paid, “You know I didn’t budget for two people. Did you bring any money?”
Lysithea nodded and patted her purse, “I can help pay for stuff.”
“Make sure to get receipts, I’ll see if I can get you reimbursed as an official agent of the empire,” said Hubert as he tucked his own receipt for the meal into his neat little wallet.
Lysithea swung her legs as they ate, “If you weren’t going to be alone, who were you going to be with?”
“Oh,” said Hubert quietly with a shrug as he pushed a chunk of mystery meat around with his spoon, “I don’t know, it’s stupid.”
She kicked him, “Who else is coming on this trip?”
“No one I hope,” said Hubert as he kicked her back. “Where’s Felix?”
“Back at school,” she shoved her spoon in her mouth, no need to give away any information about their plans to crash this road trip. She found however that she could not help but feel bad at how bummed out Hubert looked, and started to put it together, “Oh no, were you going to try to hook up with someone on this trip?”
Hubert didn’t say anything as he ate. He looked very resigned. Lysithea looked around at the full inn, these people all looked like soldiers and mercenaries, “Who the hell were you going to approach? These are all men.” She watched him growing red, “I thought you liked Petra —”
“Dorothea needs to stop telling people that,” grumbled Hubert angrily. “I don’t have a crush on Petra, I just like her as an ally.”
“Right,” said Lysithea not believing that for a second. Who could miss the way he spoke about Petra? He had almost as much adoration for her as Edelgard. “But, do you really like guys—”
“Lysithea, please do me a favor and shut the fuck up right now,” said Hubert in a whispered warning as his eyes nervously looked around the room. He sighed and pushed his spoon around, “I don’t know what I want. I didn’t like being with Monica, at all, but I did like the idea of being close to someone, even if it wasn’t real. That part was nice.” He sounded so sad for a moment reflecting on his fake romance with Kronya the Agarthan that Lysithea almost felt bad for him, when his voice hardened again and she remembered this was Hubert, “Now it looks like I’m spending my week babysitting you instead, so thanks a lot.”
“Whatever Hubie,” she hissed. This stew made her weirdly long for the terrible food at Garreg Mach. “Maybe I’ll help you in your quest —”
“No, you’re a baby, no, no, you’re dating Felix,” rambled Hubert in a panic.
“Eww,” she said in horror that he possibly thought she meant she would hook up with him. “No you idiot, I’ll be your wing woman!”
Hubert groaned, “Just drop it, please.”
Lysithea would drop it, for now. She made no promises for later though. She had roughly three days before the others were going to meet them. They only knew a few bits of Hubert’s travel plans. She had warped here to wait him out, the known first stop, and they had the name of the 3rd tavern he was staying at on Friday. That was the rendezvous point. If all of them showed up right away he’d turn back, but maybe if he only thought it was Lysithea tagging along he’d keep going to Enbarr. So far, so good.
Lysithea had packed light, but Hubert still insisted on carrying her bag up the stairs to the rented room. “Chop, chop Rupert,” she teased as she followed behind him. “How did you pick that name?”
“It’s the name of the character in the book I’m reading,” started Hubert.
“Oh you’re reading the Curse of the Vampire too? I couldn’t believe that it was his father the whole time that —”
Hubert turned and gave her the most unpleasant look, “I just started it, I was saving it for this trip.”
“Oh, I see,” she said feeling badly that she had just spoiled the plot’s major twist. “Sorry.”
Hubert grumbled as he opened the preciously tiny room. He had said he was on a budget, and clearly it was quite tight. The bed didn’t look big enough for one person and there was no fireplace.
“Get changed, I’m going to go use the outhouse,” announced Hubert unceremoniously.
Outhouses, eh, gross. Lysithea had only just gotten used to camping during the school missions. Now she realized in horror that she was going to have to poop at some point on this trip, and Hubert might be nearby when she did. That had not crossed her mind when planning on crashing this journey. She tried her best not to worry about it.
She cozied into her thick flannel nightgown and waited for him to get back. He didn’t seem to be in a better mood, “How was it! Productive?”
“It’s a hole in the ground,” he said unamused by her line of questioning. “Are you going to go?”
“Oh, I don’t have to,” she said as she fluffed up the pillow on the bed.
Hubert’s nostrils flared, “Can you at least try? That way I can have some privacy to change in the room I thought I’d be sleeping in alone?”
“But it’s dark out,” said Lysithea looking out of the window at the night. She realized that she had a very real fear that someone might come by and try to snatch her while she was distracted.
Hubert shut his eyes. “Do you need me to escort you to the outhouse?”
“Uh, I mean, Rupert the manservant would,” said Lysithea trying not to sound scared of the dark.
Hubert rubbed his temples, “You know Dark Spikes, you killed the Death Knight for crying out loud, why are you afraid?”
“What if I get surprised while I’m going —” Lysithea wasn’t sure if embarrassment could be fatal or not but she suddenly felt close to dying of shame.
Hubert pointed at the door, “Come on, now.”
At the very least Lysithea was able to get her embarrassment of pooping within ear shot of Hubert out of the way very quickly. They came back and Hubert demanded that she not peek as he changed into his pajamas. She had made that mistake once and had no desire to accidentally glimpse Hubert’s pasty butt cheek ever again.
He sighed as he laid his pillow on the floor. There weren’t any extra blankets. He blew out the candle, “Go to sleep.”
There was an annoying sound keeping her awake. “Hubert, I can hear you teeth chattering,” started Lysithea reluctantly. How was she supposed to fall asleep as he noisily froze to death on the floor? She groaned as she prepared herself to do the nice thing, “Do you, do you want to share the bed?”
“No,” said Hubert from the floor. She looked over the edge of the mattress at him. His skin had goosebumps all over it despite the massive sweater he was wearing.
“I won’t tell anyone, ever,” promised Lysithea. Why would she ever want to admit to this?
“It’s fine,” grumbled Hubert.
“Just get in the bed, we’ll sleep back to back,” she said getting mad that he was being so stubborn.
He made some sound from deep in his throat as he got up with his pillow under one arm and stuffed pegasus under the other. Lysithea quickly rolled over as Hubert squeezed into the tight twin. His big feet overhung the edge.
He was freezing as she bumped into him trying to get comfortable. “Why are you so bony?” she complained as she tried to grab some extra blanket.
“Why are you so annoying?” he countered as he stole his fair share of blanket back.
She settled into her small spot and felt a grin crossing her face. She spoke in a super sweet voice, “I hate you.”
“Hate you too,” grumbled Hubert. “Have a bad night.”