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starlit brilliance

Chapter Text

prompt list

cs1:

beginning: rhea & rean

accusation: rhea & alisa

restless: rhea & elliot

order: rhea & machias

summer: rhea & george

mad: rhea & fencing club

simple: rhea & class vii

move: rhea & fie

silver: rhea & millium

tremble: rhea & laura

prepared: rhea & towa

sunset: rhea & crow

denial: rhea

 

cs2:

haze: rhea & toval

snowflake: rhea & elise

thanks: rhea & alfin

companion: rhea & celine

winter: rhea & alisa

thousand: rhea & sharon

wind: rhea & gaius

look: rhea & angelica

flame: rhea & sara

diamond: rhea & jusis

letters: rhea

outside: rhea & rean

formal: rhea & claire

knowledge: rhea & emma

promise: rhea & class vii

 

post-cs2 :

transformation: rhea & lechter

challenge: rhea (& olivert)

future: rhea & thors branch campus

 

Chapter Text

“Well, that was one hell of a beginning to the school year.”

After the blond girl had walked away from her brother, Rhea approached with a smirk on her face, “Already getting girls to fall for you?”

“That was bad and you know it.” Rean deadpanned, adjusting his weapon bag on his shoulder, “Were you just there, waiting for me to show up?”

“I took an early train out of Heimdallr. Got the itch to check out Trista before the entrance ceremony.” Rean raised an eyebrow at her, asking the obvious silent question, leading to Rhea’s next words.

“It’s nice. How everyone interacts with the students reminds me of home,” Rhea paused, tension bleeding out of her body, “…we really weren’t the only ones with red, at least.”

The pair started walking, heading towards the front entrance of the school, “Yeah, I saw a few get off the train with me, including that blonde-haired girl.”

“Hopefully…there’s enough for a class. And hey, at least we’re 99% likely to run into that girl again. Then you can actually get her name,” Rhea spun, walking backwards for one smug second, “Mr. Casanova.”

Rean spluttered as Rhea righted her direction, humming, “We just bumped into each other! Nothing actually happened!”

“A picturesque meeting under blooming lino flowers…” Rhea mused, her teasing shining through in tone. She sighed, “I can’t think of any better start to a relationship. I do hope that I end up in a meeting that perfect myself.”

Rean narrowed his eyes, not that his sister could see, but his low voice carried his distaste, “I hope you’re not going to choose someone just off your first meeting.”

A shiver went down her spine as Rhea gulped, looking back at Rean, “Of course not! A girl can dream, can’t she? Especially after watching such an amazing scene!”

The pair stopped, just coming out of the main square. Rean paused, looking back at Trista, “This is the start of a whole new chapter for us, Rhea.”

“Yeah, it’ll be good to be out of Ymir,” Rhea smiled softly at her brother, “Elise really started blossoming when she started attending St. Astraia so I hope we both can really work towards our goals at Thors.”

“Yeah,” Rean held up a fist that Rhea met with her own, “Let’s do our best here at Thors."

Chapter Text

Carefully, Rhea eyed the aggravated and embarrassed blonde while keeping an eye out for Emma catching up behind them. Considering something for a moment before nodding to herself, Rhea put a smirk on her face, filling the void of silence.

“Alisa…you like my brother, don’t you?”

Immediately, Alisa went as red as her uniform as she spluttered, “I-what-NO! RHEA!”

“I mean, I get it if you do. Even if your second meeting wasn’t all that great, he’s still as close to perfect gentleman as you can get.”

“R h e a!” Alisa called out to her friend, not paying attention to the approaching Emma.

“You’re like the perfect…tsundere, was the word? You’re being really mean to Rean but you actually do like him.”

“Rhea!” Alisa paused, “…wait, what’s a tsundere?”

“…it’s someone who acts hostile to someone they actually like while softening up over time. Which you kind of are right now with Rean…” Emma’s soft voice interjected.

Alisa’s betrayed eyes flittered between Rhea, whose amused smirk told all, and Emma, who was smiling shyly, but hiding giggles behind her hand, “I am not down for this accusation! I do not like Rean! I just want to apologize!”

“Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

“Rhea! I swear to the goddess-” Alisa devolved into unintelligible muttering.

“I…think you broke her, Rhea.” Emma stared at their friend.

“It’s fine,” Rhea waved off Emma, “Alisa, if you really want to apologize, then do what Emma said yesterday and make a chance. Seriously, Jusis and Machias exude enough tension for the class by themselves. If you and Rean make up, it’s for the best.”

Alisa knocked out of her muttering, paying attention to Rhea’s words, “I- yeah. I’ll try that. Anything that’ll really get your brother’s attention?”

“…man, you really just make the hole yourself, Alisa.”

The red on Alisa’s face went even darker, realizing how Rhea took the question, “Rhea!”

Chapter Text

Rhea plopped onto the lounge sofa, feeling particularly exhausted. Machias had been in a right mood ever since they had given the reports from the field study. All the high tension in the class meant that she was on edge almost every moment of the day.

Her ears perked up as music flowed out of the nearby music room. “I thought the Wind Orchestra wasn’t meeting today…”

Standing up, she quietly walked over to the open music room door, peering in to see Elliot, eyes closed, playing his violin. Quietly listening from the door, she leaned against the frame, her fingers unconsciously moving to match the notes she’d make on her flute.

Rhea had gotten caught up in her listening that she noticed a moment too late when Elliot had stopped.

“…Rhea?”

She jumped, looking at Elliot who was staring at her surprised, “Ah, Elliot! Sorry, I didn’t want to bother you, I just heard the music and-”

Elliot laughed, cutting her off, “It’s fine. I was just playing because I was restless. After all, with how the class is nowadays…”

Rhea laughed nervously as Elliot trailed off, “Sorry about that…”

“Oh, it’s not your fault! You just got caught in all of this.”

She winced, sighing, “I still should have stopped what was happening when I realized…”

Elliot watched Rhea tap her fingers softly while she was talking, remembering what she’d been doing earlier, “You…were mimicking a playing a flute earlier, weren’t you?”

“Huh…?”

“I mean- sorry about the subject change but I just realized what you were doing.”

“No no…we shouldn’t have to think about that issue all the time but you are right. I was imagining the flute accompaniment to the piece you were playing.”

“Oh, do you know it?”

“Yeah, I’m a bit rusty but I did that piece with my younger sister a while back, too bad I don’t have a flute or I’d really see how much I remember.”

“Actually!” Elliot carefully set down the violin in its case on the desk, “I think there’s an extra flute in the storage room. Instructor Mary maintains all the instruments so it should be good to use.”

“Oh, I don’t want to bother you while you’re playing,” Rhea waved her hand to stop Elliot from going to all the trouble.

“Nah, I can tell, you wouldn’t be mimicking the motions if you didn’t want to get your hands on a flute. We can try to play the piece together too!”

Realizing that trying to stop Elliot about music was like trying to stop an orbal car barehanded, she sighed, “Alright then, at least let me help you find the spare flute.”

The rest of the afternoon was spent with Rhea fumbling through her notes, far rustier then she had realized, and Elliot playing flawlessly, even as he helped Rhea every 5th bar.

Chapter Text

Rhea sipped at her coffee, staring at her sheepish friend across the table from her.

“I really am sorry about this past month, Rhea…I was an ass, no two ways about it.”

At Rhea’s raised eyebrow, he continued, “You weren’t even the one to lie to me. I took out my frustrations with Rean against you.”

She sighed, putting her cup down on the table, “Machias, I didn’t clarify anything when I probably should have. It’s not all your fault.”

“Did you even realize that Rean had lied to me?”

“…I realized just after the first free day.”

“And by that time, we were all busy preparing for the first practical exams. You don't have to be your brother's keeper. Besides, you were having some issues with the fencing club too, from how frustrated you were every time you got back to the dorms.”

"...don't tell Rean that I still have plans to mess with Hyarms." Rhea hid the growing grin on her face with another sip of her coffee, "He thinks he got me to toss them all last time he caught me plotting."

"If there's anyone who needs to be knocked down a peg more than Albarea, it's him. Now," Machias snorted, standing up, "what’s your order?”

“Machias, I was joking! You don’t need to buy me dinner!”

“Rhea, let me. I feel like an ass for snuffing you for a month when you literally did nothing more than be nice to me.”

“…alright, a slice of pizza should work then.” Rhea conceded at Machias’ earnest expression.

“There. Was that so hard?”

“I originally only meant it as a joke, Machias!”

“Let me try to be less of an ass!” He called out, stepping away to find Dolly.

Rhea sighed, her head hitting the table, knowing how stubborn Machias was, “Machias!”

He glanced back, having picked out Dolly quickly in the dinner rush, and held up a finger. Soon enough, he returned to the table, “Yes, Rhea?”

“You’re not an ass, you know that?” She stared down her friend, “You’re a bit hot-headed and emotional but you’re not an ass.”

“I-” Machias sat, shocked, “You’re as unbelievable as Rean, Rhea.”

“I can be pettier than my brother, you know. And I don't think I give him as many heart attacks as he does me,” She raised an eyebrow before grinning and winking at him, “But thinking about it...I might milk you for a few more coffees if you’re offering though.”

“You’ve got a deal, then,” Machias laughed.

Chapter Text

Rhea wandered into the engineering building, feeling the cool air hit her. “Georgeeeee.”

Looking up from the computer, George could only sigh as the first year half-collapsed at the table in the room, “Come to enjoy the air conditioner again?”

“How do people survive summer outside the Eisengard Range?!” She put her head down in her arms, depositing a bag of cookies in front of her, “‘lisa helped me make these in class. A gift for giving me a safe haven in this Gehenna-damned heat.”

George got up to retrieve the offering of cookies and while doing so, he patted the facedown Rhea on the head, “The fact that you grew up in the mountains really shows. The rest of the continent is usually like this in the summer, you know.”

“How do you all survive?!”

“You get used to it.”

“I’ll never get used to this!”

“Aren’t you a noble? Are you going to go home for the summer?”

Rhea pouted, looking up at George, “I’m not gonna go home if everyone in Class VII is gonna stay at Thors.”

“You’re going to extend your suffering, just because Class VII is here, huh?”

“…yeah.” She continued to pout at George, “I’ll help you in the workshop and everything…just let me hide out here?”

“I won’t stop Friedel if she comes looking for you.”

“I’ll go to fencing practice! Just anytime class isn’t in session or I don’t have practice…let me benefit from the air conditioner?”

“Do you not get cold in the summer uniform…?”

“I never get cold, but I hate the heat about three times more than any normal person.”

“Unbelievable…” George shook his head, “At least you’re not skipping classes to get out of the heat.”

“I’m not Crow or Angelica!”

Chapter Text

Rhea crossed her arms, glaring down Patrick who had finally shown up to practice, just as she was about to leave. The stunt he had pulled last month still infuriated her when she saw his face.

“How about Patrick and Rhea spar?”

Rhea stared in surprise at Friedel’s suggestion and Patrick felt terror go his spine at the grin that appeared on Rhea’s face. Loggins facepalmed, mentally taking stock of what should be in the first aid kit.

“I assume this is with my scythe, Friedel?”

“Yeah, you’re still not in the state to use a sword in combat.”

Stepping out to one side of the practice area, she activated her ARCUS and called forth her scythe.

“Is this not fencing club? Should she not use her sword?”

“It’s important to spar against all types of fighting styles. And thankfully we have quite an irregular one here.”

“Gee, thanks Loggins.” Rhea got into a combat ready stance, “Now, Patrick, shall we? I promise you won’t be able to push me around.”

“…very well.” Patrick brandished his sword, “We didn’t get the chance during the inter-class spar last month, so I will relish this opportunity."

Now,” Rhea took a deep breath in and out, attempting to stay her anger, “who’s fault is that, Patrick?”

Patrick and even Loggins on the sidelines gulped. The second year leaned in, whispering to Friedel, “…she’s mad.”

“I do wonder how she’ll fight when angered, better or worse?”

“Is that why you’re doing this?!”

“Absolutely, Loggins. It’ll be quite the struggle for Patrick as well.”

Chapter Text

It was the moments like these that reminded Rhea just how far she’d go for the class and everyone in it. It was just the simple moments that she wished would last forever.

Or really…the not-so-simple moments.

Chaos reigned over the dorm kitchen as the class had decided to bake one big huge cake and have a party to make up for all the birthdays that they had realized had been missed in the few months between the start of the year and now.

After what had happened in Heimdallr with the explosions and fire, Rhea had still been slightly on edge, even with Crow and Millium moving into the dorms. Mixing together cake batter and no open stove flames was really relaxing at least.

 

However…

Rhea ducked before she got hit with a flurry of flour, “Fie!”

“Flour fight!!!”

The brunette devolved into giggles at Millium’s declaration and the sight of Jusis’ face, hair and clothes getting covered in flour from a bowl being upended over his head.

That laugh was cut off as she felt a small dusting of flour dropped on her head. She quickly caught Alisa moving away, “Alisa!”

“Not sorry, Rhea!”

Rhea went for a bowl, scooping up some flour, and going after her best friend. However, Alisa’s dodge resulted in an unsuspecting Rean and Crow, just returning from shopping, getting covered in flour.

“…oh dear.”

She backed up, as Rean and Crow shared a look and nodded to each other.

“…Rhea.” Crow spoke lowly, reaching into the bag of flour and scooping some up, “You realize you will pay for this, right?”

“Laura, save me!” Rhea dashed behind her knightly friend, who was also getting into the fun times, and had scooped up her own handful of flour, throwing it at the approaching Crow and Rean.

“I shall protect you, Rhea!”

The proclamation was easily shut down by a sneak attack from the side by a grinning Elliot. The grin on his face was quickly wiped off by Fie’s flour retaliation and he retaliated against Fie, refocusing his efforts.

“Hold u-!” Machias attempted to intervene but he was cut off by Gaius dumping flour on his head, “G-gaius!”

“I believe the winds are in favor of a flour fight.”

“Fie!” Emma’s shout drew everyone’s attention as they realized that Fie had hugged Emma, getting flour all over the class president.

From there, everyone ended up getting covered up in even more flour, even Sara whenever she walked in, up until the cakes finished baking. While the cakes cooled, everyone got cleaned up before setting out to clean up the kitchen, dining room, and living room before they were allowed to get to decorating the cakes.

Chapter Text

“Reap and fall!” Rhea slashed in the air in front of them, causing an arc of energy to cleave through the archaisms blocking their path. At her thigh, she could feel the heat of her ARCUS burn as she activated crafts. 

“Rhea! Move!” 

At the shout, Rhea jumped backwards, avoiding a hail of bullets that ended up being cut short as Fie vaulted off the wall, cutting through the archaism that had been shooting. She felt the combat link she’d been sharing with Machias shift to Fie. 

She was thankful that after that power had been unleashed when the blanks had been fired, the rest of the class hadn’t hesitated in forming combat links with her. It was that knowledge that kept her from truly going berserk. All of the power and energy of this form was funneled into getting to the railway guns.

Instructor Neithardt was taking care of whatever heavy hitter wasn’t in her sight, Fie cleaning up whatever additional archaism took aim at the group. 

She knew that Fie was worried for her, the concern flooding into the link. The link she’d shared with the others had been similar. She’d really have to explain everything afterwards. 

But something also came through the link, and Rhea grinned, kneeling for a moment to let Fie vault using her. “Get out…” She threw her scythe through the group of archaisms, aiming to shut down their movements, “…of the way!” Rhea ignored the burn of her ARCUS as it overheated from another activated craft.

Fie came down from above with her Bullet Cyclone, filling the group of archaisms with holes, “And done.”

As the others started to move forward, Rhea felt a pang in her chest, and she winced, clutching the front of her summer uniform.

“…Rhea?” 

She looked up to see a worried Fie and realized that she had cut off the combat link, “Fie…I’ll be fine. We don’t have time to stop.”

“…You know, I think you give us more heart attacks than Rean.” Fie frowned, worried, before reestablishing the combat link, “…I’ll cover you. Let’s move.”

“Did you hear that from Machias?” Rhea chuckled through the reverb of her voice before nodding, “Thanks, Fie.”

Chapter Text

Rhea sighed, walking from side to side on the roof, trying to spot the bright blue hair, “When did I start taking some responsibility for Millium? I thought that was on Rean or Jusis…”

Rhea just prayed to Aidios that Millium was still on campus and hadn’t run off somewhere into town. Just as she thought that to herself, all the way out by the western highway, she saw a flash of silver and she cursed.

Taking off running, she slid down the staircase railing, taking comfort in the fact that only one who ended up seeing her was Bianca, who knew precisely what Rhea was doing. She smiled, calling out a ‘Good luck!’ as Rhea took off running.

By the time she had reached the highway, Rhea was bent over, clutching her knees and panting, but she still managed a “Millium!”

The aforementioned girl looked down from where she was high up and floated down, kicking her legs, “Oh heya, Rhea! Wow, that rhymes! Didya need me for something?”

Rhea took a deep breath in and out, standing up straight, holding up two fingers, “Two…things.”

“Wait, wait! Take a deep breath! Don’t die! Rean and Crow will flip!”

Rhea took another deep breath in and out before catching Millium in a hug, “W-whoa! Rhea!!”

“Got you!” She had control of her breathing again, “Like I said…two things. One, what have we said about calling out Airgetlam?!”

“Lameeee, we’re not even in town!” But Millium did make Lammy disappear, even if she was pouting, “And the other one?”

“The other one, is that you’re coming with me! You need to also clean up after your cooking experiments!”

“…oh oops,” She scratched the back of her head, sheepishly, “Did…did I forget? Oh no, is Nicholas mad at me?”

“Not yet but you should go wash those pots and pans before he does get mad.”

“Got it!! I’ll go right now!” Rhea nodded, letting go of Millium and watching her run off and zip towards the school building.

Chapter Text

Stepping into the practice room, Laura was surprised to see Rhea standing there, faced away from the door. Laura quickly took notice of the trembling hand, clenched behind at her side. The part of the sword Laura could see was wavering, letting her know that it was both Rhea’s hands that were trembling.

Softly, when Rhea’s trembling worsened, Laura called out, “…Rhea?”

Jumping at the call, Rhea dropped the sword with a clatter, “Ah! Sorry, sorry!”

“Don’t apologize, Rhea.” Laura crossed the room, “I disturbed you while you were concentrating so deeply.”

“No, no,” Rhea shook her head, trying to stop the trembling of her hands by clenching and unclenching them, “I was caught up in memories, you knocked me out of them. Thank you…”

“…may I?” Laura reached out to Rhea’s hands, and took them when she nodded, using her firm and calloused hands to steady Rhea’s, massaging them gently, “You’ve come incredibly far with the sword.”

With a self-deprecating laugh, Rhea continued to clench and unclench her hands around Laura’s, “Don’t joke, Laura. I still can’t even hold a sword without trembling.”

“Everyone, no matter the style, has their own markers for achievement. Am I wrong in that holding the sword as you did would count as such a marker?”

“…yeah. I’ve been working just being able to hold it for longer periods of time. The…trembling is still an issue from time to time though.”

“And you will manage to work through it. All of us are here with you, Class VII and the fencing club.”

By now, the trembling in Rhea’s hands had calmed down, and she took a deep breath, “Thank you, Laura.”

“Of course,” Glad with how Rhea’s state was now, Laura let go of Rhea’s hands, “Now, I came here for practice, perhaps it would help your nerves to spar with me? Using your scythe, of course.”

Rhea’s eyes lit up in glee as she nodded, “Sure!”

Chapter Text

“Towa, where did you want this?”

“What do- Oh! Let me help you with that!” Towa turned from where she was talking with another student council member to see Rhea carrying enough boxes that she couldn’t see above them.

“It’s fine, Towa! It’s not heavy at all for me. And I can see if I look to the side like this!” Rhea smiled, “I’m not allowed to help out in the gym so let me.”

“Geez…” Towa pouted, before checking the box labels and her sheet, “They go right over there. It’s part of the stands that the school is providing.”

Rhea set things down before coming back and peering over Towa’s shoulder at her sheets, “Wow…as expected of the Prez, you’re so prepared.”

“It’s important to make sure everything goes as planned so it’s as smooth as possible…” Towa flipped through the sheets.

“That’s true, then you'll be free to spend time with Rean later~”

“Rhea!”

The first year in question could only giggle at the blush that bloomed on Towa’s face. The giggles only turned into laughter (attracting the glares of the rest of the Student Council) when Towa hid her face behind her clipboard, flipping through it to hide her embarrassment. “Oh actually, are you free, Rhea?”

“Yeah,” Rhea nodded, “That was the last thing that the others asked of me. Rean’s still running around from the delivery mix-up though.”

“The riding club wanted some testers for the course who aren’t in the club, do you mind heading over and helping them out?”

Rhea perked up, “Sure! It’s been a while since I got to ride too. They’re running a time trial, right? Jusis mentioned it.”

Towa nodded, “Yeah. They want to make sure that strangers will be able to navigate the course with the horses, so they need some help over there.”

“Got it!” Rhea took off, waving, “See you later, Prez! Don’t overwork yourself!”

“Same to you! Don’t wear yourself out before your class’ practice time!”

“And I’ll make sure Rean can still walk the festival with you!” Rhea snickered behind her hand at Towa’s squeak.

Chapter Text

Rhea let Crow guide her up and away from the area around the bonfire. He had been particularly careful during their dance to keep her back to the fire. She leaned back against a tree, folding her legs under her as she sat down.

Crow sat down next to her, half turned to the bonfire. The orange glow surrounding them and the crackle of fire behind her caused Rhea to wring her hand in the fabric of her skirt. However, a pair of hands landed on top of hers, curling around them.

She smiled, taking comfort in the familiar calluses on Crow’s hands, as Rhea flipped her hands to hold his (or rather, allow her hands to be enveloped by his), “It’s not a romantic sunset…and I definitely could do without the fire crackling behind us but it works.”

“Oooh, getting picky about romantic settings now, are we?” Crow joked as his girlfriend leaned against his shoulder. He moved his hands to wrap an arm around Rhea’s waist.

“Traveling like Class VII has does that.” She teased, relaxing, “How’s everyone else doing?”

“You mean, how are your siblings doing, I bet?”

“…yeah, ok. Are Rean and Elise dancing with people?”

“Hmmm, lessee…Hey! Rean’s actually sitting with Towa and…headpatting her? …he doesn’t stop, does he?”

Rhea hid her face in the crook of Crow’s neck, giggling, “He doesn’t. And he doesn’t get what it does to people.”

“…poor Towa. And the princess dragged your sister to the dance floor. She and Prince Olivert are making a ruckus…annnd I think you can hear the lute.”

Rhea dissolved into full on laughter, her head landing in Crow’s lap, “My poor, dear sister. She went to St. Astraia to get away from my teasing, only to end up dealing with their highnesses on a daily basis.”

Crow ran his fingers through Rhea’s short hair, calming her even more, “Unbelievable, out of the frying pan into the fire. I definitely do feel sorry for Elise.”

“Come on, calling me a frying pan? Meanie.” Rhea sat back up, leaning into Crow’s side, “Now, didn’t you promise a big reward for pulling off that encore? That I somehow did?”

“You were amazing.” Crow kissed the top of her hair softly, “Told ya’ you could do it.”

“Tha-” Rhea paused, feeling a brush against the back of her neck and cold metal rest at its base, “…huh?”

She looked down to see that she was now wearing a golden wing necklace.

“Your reward, milady.”

She sat up straight, staring in awe at the necklace, “…when did you…?”

Crow winked, stealing a kiss from Rhea, “That’s a secret~ Wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I revealed all my secrets.”

The laugh and awe that was bubbling up in her quickly disappeared at the word secret. Her face turned pensive and Crow caught it quickly.

“…tired?”

“…a bit.” She leaned against Crow again, “Hey…Crow?”

“…yeah?”

“This can just stay between us but-” Rhea cut off her sentence as she noticed all the VIPs heading up the stairs, “…what’s happening?”

“Let’s go meet up with the others.”  Crow, now all business, stood up, helping Rhea up afterwards.

She held back her question, biting at her lip, “Got it.”

Chapter Text

This couldn’t be happening.

Rhea was alone.

In every sense of the word, she was very alone. How could she have been so stupid?!

She didn’t have a chance to catch her breath, her lungs were burning with every breath she took.

Like the rest of Class VII, she had run when His Highness had said to. But she got separated from everyone while avoiding the…Soldats? That’s what they were called.

This was her fault. She let herself be blinded by Crow’s façade.

If only this was another nightmare.

Getting a hold of her breathing, she leaned against a tree trunk. She didn’t think there was anyone else around right then but she was going towards the capital. She couldn’t be careless. Not with patrols going around and around.

She knew she’d be getting so many lectures if when she met up with the others again.

Why, why, why was she such an idiot?

She took a deep breath, her boots clacking against the ceramic that made up the underground pathways. For some reason, the guard around this area was light.

…admittedly, it was probably because the alliance was securing the city above. She had to get in and out.

She stopped, hearing enough footsteps to indicated that a group of people was approaching her, and very quickly.

Sidling up to the corner, she controlled her breathing and when she heard them reach the corner, she lashed out with her scythe. Holding it up to the leader’s neck, she caught sight of blonde hair as a stun baton was held up to her neck. The screams she heard were familiar…

“Toval?!”

“…Toval?”

“…you’re one of Sara’s students?”

“Rhea?!”

“Elise…Princess Alfin?”

Chapter Text

Toval watched carefully over the brunette who was taking first watch. He remembered meeting her for a little bit on the Courageous (mostly, it was her vested interest in information gathering that caught his eye). He was surprised to run into her in the underground waterways.

But he was thankful for her presence. He certainly didn’t know how to keep take of two young noble girls. Rhea had immediately stepped up to make sure that the two girls were alright with life on the road.

However, the moment the two girls weren’t relying on Rhea, she seemed to go into a haze. From what he remembered, she was close to that kid, the one who’s C…so it made sense.

But, Rhea was one of the Sara’s kids so…he had to at least try to take care of her. So he sat down next to her, happy to see that she was aware enough to knock out of her thoughts when he approached.

“How are you doing, Rhea?”

“…fine.” Her surly tone was pretty damn easy to read, meaning that she wasn’t as ‘fine’ as she said.

“I know you don’t know much about me…but you’re one of Sara’s kids. I can at least listen if you want to get something off your chest.”

She looked down at her folded hands, quiet but as Toval was about to stand up, she spoke quietly, so quietly that Toval almost missed it, “I don’t know. Too many things are happening.”

“I know your brother’s missing, but there’s more?”

“My head is just swirling with thoughts. I can barely get them in order. I don’t know where everyone else is, not just Rean. We have no idea what’s happening with the school…Crow betrayed us and I was so fucking blind…”

Toval just sat and listened as she spoke, mostly to herself. When she quieted down, Toval patted her on the head, eliciting a shocked response from her.

“I can’t say that I know any answers to what you’re thinking about but if you’re here, then believe in your classmates. They’re as strong as you are, so just believe in them.” He couldn’t make false promises but if the small light returning to her eyes said anything, his words helped.

“…thanks for listening, Toval.” Rhea leaned back, “You get some sleep, I’ve got first watch after all. I’ll wake you up later.”

He grinned to himself, waving as he walked away.

Chapter Text

Rhea sipped on the coffee, enjoying the bittersweet taste on her lips as she looked over Ymir, feeling energy return to her, just from being back home.

“…Rhea?”

At the familiar voice, Rhea turned, smiling at her sister, “Elise! Good morning!”

“May I join you? The snow’s falling so prettily today.” 

“Of course!” Rhea quickly moved to clear the light dusting of snow from the chair next to her.

Elise smiled softly, sitting down with her own cup, and Rhea caught the marshmallows marking it as hot chocolate, “You’ve looked better since we reached Ymir…”

“Being back home does that…how are you doing, Elise?”

“Her Highness is as much a handful as ever,” She sighed, “But everyone else is the same as ever so it’s comforting.”

“Right?” Rhea grinned, “Being back home, despite all the chaos, it helps.”

“…even if mother and father had a serious talk with you a few days ago?” 

“Oh…” Rhea sighed, “...you heard it?”

“I didn’t hear it persay but you’ve been avoiding them since that private dinner you had with them.” 

“…sorry, it’s that noticeable?” She bowed her head, “We talked about some serious things and things got heated. I’m still sorting things out in my head.”

Elise reached over and brushed at Rhea’s hair and the brunette saw snowflakes fall from her hair, “How long have you been out here, Rhea?”

“…a while? I got up at like 6am…”

“Geez, it’s 8 now! Rhea! I know you barely feel the cold but still!”

“Sorry, sorry, let’s go grab some pancakes then?”

Elise puffed her cheek in a pout, “Come on, you avoiding father and mother isn’t going to do anything. Let’s at least have breakfast together first.”

“…how can I say no to you?” Rhea smiled, sighing, “Alright, got it Elise.”

---

and a bonus: Rhea's cs2 design! art by @KeithMontalbo over on Twitter. (she's a tiny 155 rege/cm aka about 5'1)

Chapter Text

Crutch under her arm, Rhea hobbled into the church, picking out a familiar head of blonde hair.

“Princess Alfin?” She spoke quietly, going up to the young princess, announcing her presence.

Alfin stood up, surprised, “Oh, Rhea, are you sure you should be up and walking already?”

It had only been the other day that a monster had gotten the drop on her and Toval and Rhea’s leg had been injured as a result. The injury had managed to be in an annoying place where as long as she put her foot on the ground, it would be aggravated.

“As long as I’m on crutches, it’ll be fine. My right foot isn’t allowed to touch the ground,” Rhea waved off the concern, “Anyways, mother made lunch. I came to get you.”

“Oh! Auntie Lucia already made lunch?” Alfin smiled, “Let’s go back together, then!”

Rhea smiled, patting Alfin on the head, “Are you done with your prayers?”

“…yes.” Alfin took a deep breath, “Rhea?”

“Is something wrong, your highness?”

“…I realized the other day, I never did thank you or Toval for everything you did.”

Rhea blinked in surprise, opening her mouth but Alfin had been expecting it, “Please, Rhea. Let me speak.”

Rhea smiled softly and nodded, listening.

“I may be Erebonia’s princess but that still does not excuse rudeness.” Alfin continued, “The people of Ymir have done so much for me since we arrived. But you and Toval made sure that Elise and I got here safely.”

“So please, allow me to say this, Rhea, thank you for everything that you’ve done and for all your help,” She curtsied in thanks. 

“...you’re welcome, Princess Alfin.” Rhea patted Alfin on the head once more, smiling softly, “You’re my sister’s best friend, so it was natural. But I’ll take the thanks.”

“Annnd, because I’m your honorary little sister, right?” She batted her eyes up at Rhea, hands clasped together.

Rhea laughed, amused, “Yep. You are. Now we should get to the manor before lunch gets cold.”

“Sure! Auntie Lucia’s cooking is the best!” Alfin stepped to Rhea’s side, helping support her, “And because I’m your honorary little sister, I’m going to help you back to the manor and you can’t say no!”

“…got it.”

Chapter Text

Rhea scratched under Celine’s chin, drawing purrs from the familiar. The two Schwarzer sisters had been taking turns spoiling her while Rean was resting.

Setting down the bowl of warm, spiced milk, Rhea grinned, “Here you go, Celine.”

The contented purr ended as Rhea stopped scratching, “Y-you both didn’t need to go this far.”

“It’s fine, you’re part of the reason why my brother is upstairs sleeping now and not dead somewhere in the mountains.” She patted the top of Celine’s head, “So really, thank you, Celine.”

“R-really! You shouldn’t be thanking me, R-purrrrr.” Rhea cut off Celine’s protests with more under the chin scratches.

“Just accept the thanks, Celine. And thank you for staying with Rean for the past month.” She stopped scratching Celine.

“He was sleeping. I really didn’t do much.” Celine leaned down and started to drink the milk, however.

“Companionship is important, and even if he was asleep and recovering, I imagine you being there helped him.”

“I m-mean I owed him…” Celine ducked her head, and focused right on the milk in front of her, and she refused to say anything more, even with Rhea’s verbal poking and prodding.

 

Chapter Text

Alisa opened the window, allowing the cool winter air to blow inside Rhea’s room.

“You all are really conspiring against me here, huh?” Rhea leaned back against the propped up pillows, “Here I am…stuck in bed during a beautiful winter’s day, huh?”

“I swear, Rhea...” Alisa shook her head, walking back to Rhea’s side, sitting on the bed. She got right to work, leaning in and taking strands of Rhea’s hair in her hand, “You’re exactly the opposite of how you were in the summer.”

“I hate the heat and humidity, and so I hate summer.”

“I think we got that all summer when you were hiding in the engineering building 90% of the time.” Alisa deadpanned.

Rhea pouted, crossing her arms in indignation, “It was the only building on campus with an air conditioner!”

“You were far more willing to rest during the summer. Now, you’re basically bouncing off the walls with all your pent up energy.” Her fingers delicately weaved Rhea’s hair into a braid, “Are you growing out your hair?”

“Maybe? I just haven’t had much time to ask someone to cut it.” Rhea’s own hands messed with the blanket covering her legs, “And really, the cool, mountain air revitalizes me. I dare say that I heal faster in the cold too.”

Alisa picked up one of the small rubber bands on the bedside table, tying off the small braid, “I would much prefer that you don’t get this injured anymore rather than you healing quicker.”

“Sorry, sorry.” Rhea laughed, “I really didn’t think I’d strain my leg that much in Celdic. But those jaegers from Zephyr…”

“I get it, but it’s also important to get rest now that you know how much your leg was strained. We’ll need you at full health soon. Especially since Emma, Jusis and Laura should be in Legram.”

“Yeah, I just want to-”

Rhea.” Crimson eyes leveled a glare at Rhea, cutting her off, “Two more days of bed rest and Father Bernard should clear you. If you really feel bad about not helping, then make this a lesson for next time? Let yourself fully heal before running off.”

Rhea wilted, “…got it, Alisa.”

The blonde stood, picking up a tray with a teapot and cups, “Let me go and check in with Sharon. She was making stew for you and Baron Schwarzer.”

“Thank you, Alisa…” Rhea smiled as Alisa walked to the door.

“And!” Alisa turned, wagging her finger, “No getting out of bed, Rhea! Father Bernard’s orders.”

“Got it, got it!”

Chapter Text

“Lady Rhea?”

It was late and Rhea knew that she should have been sleeping. But she also wasn’t leaving tomorrow, unlike the person who had looked into her room, “…Sharon? I thought you would be resting at the Phoenix Wings with everyone.”

“I was checking up on Baron and Lady Schwarzer before I retired for the night.” Sharon stepped into the room, “But I noticed your lights were still on, is everything alright, Lady Rhea?”

“…just a bit anxious, Sharon.” Rhea looked out her window, having moved to sit on the bench by it, “It’s nothing much.”

“Are you worried about having to stay behind again?”

“Yeah, this is really teaching me about overdoing things…” Rhea laughed softly to herself.

Sharon chuckled, “Everyone truly does worry about you, Lady Rhea, so I do hope you’ve learned your lesson about overdoing it.”

“I can’t guarantee that my body won’t act on instinct if it’s something like Millium being in danger again…” Rhea commented.

Silence fell over the pair for a moment, before Rhea spoke up again, “…Sharon, can I ask something of you?”

“Of course, Lady Rhea. I exist to serve the Reinfords and Class VII.”

“You’re going with Rean and the others tomorrow…can you please keep an eye on them? I have…a bad feeling about the enemies you’re likely to face. Your backup is like having the backup of a thousand of any of the rest of us.”

“I simply do my best as a maid, Lady Rhea.” Sharon curtsied, “I will endeavor to do my best to watch over Master Rean, Master Machias, and Lady Millium, and your remaining classmates.”

“…thank you, Sharon. Despite the fact that you’re an Enforcer, I know that I can trust you to protect the others, even against other Enforcers.”

“Of course, Lady Rhea…now, will you be staying up longer?”

“Yeah, I will be, Sharon. Go on ahead back to the Phoenix Wings, you have a long day ahead of you tomorrow. I promise I can get back to the bed with no issue.” Rhea pointed at the crutches leaning against the wall by her.

“Very well, Lady Rhea. Please don’t stay up too late, rest is important to the recovery process.”

“Got it. Thank you, Sharon."

Chapter Text

“I’m disappointed I haven’t been to the Nord Highlands before today.” Rhea leaned back, her feet hanging off the dock, “It’s really no wonder you love this land so much.”

Gaius chuckled, sitting next to Rhea, watching his brother try to teach Millium how to ride a horse, “How do you all manage to say that?”

“Because great minds think alike.” Rhea paused as a breeze washed over them, “…wow. Even the wind…”

“Do you want to go around the settlement again?”

Rhea shook her head, “As much as I would love to, I don’t want to test this leg right now. The ride around the Highlands and that fight against the magic knight took a lot more out of me than I thought.”

“I can just give you a piggyback ride. We both know just watching isn’t fun.” Gaius teased, “You’re no heavier than Fie. I’m sure I wouldn’t even notice.”

“G-Gaius!” Rhea protested, her face going red.

“Rean’s height, you did not get.” He stood up and kneeled, presenting his back to Rhea, “Come on, I bet my mom’s almost finished with lunch too.”

“Gaiuuuus.”

“You’ll be able to feel the wind better from higher up too.”

“Ugh, fine.” Rhea got up, and then got onto Gaius’ back, tightening her arms around his neck when he stood up, “W-whoa.”

“You alright?”

“Yeah!” A breeze blew again, “…the wind is actually better from up here too.”

“Hah! Told you.”

Chapter Text

“So, do I need to prepare a speech or are you just looking like usual?” Rhea grinned, sliding into the seat next to Angelica who was staring at a leaving Alisa.

“I wonder~” Angelica’s husky voice teased Rhea as she turned to look at the brunette, grinning. Rhea braced herself, fully expecting the incoming hug and the nuzzling.

“Geez, please realize, I do have to give you a shovel talk if Sharon isn’t here to do it.”

“I mean…a pretty lady giving little old me a talking to? You or Sharon would be a dream.”

“Someone has to do it, but maybe getting George to do it will make it stick in your head.”

“Please nooooo, it’ll ruin it.”

Rhea giggled, taking comfort in Angelica’s hug as they joked around.

“…Crow’s an idiot.” At the muttered words, Rhea stared in shock at Angelica, “He’s missing out on nuzzling one of the prettiest girls around.”

“Angeli-”

“How many times have I said it?” Angelica hugged Rhea tighter to her, a finger going up to Rhea’s lips, shutting her up, “You’re totally fine to use Angie~”

“Angelicaaaa.”

“Angieeeee.” Angelica’s hug got tighter, “I’m not letting go until you say it.”

“…A-Angie.” Rhea stuttered it out, her face almost stuffed into Angelica’s chest at this point. Rhea let out a sigh of relief as she was released, with a kiss on her forehead from Angelica.

“We’ll work on making you use it.”

Rhea only sighed as Angelica nuzzled their cheeks together, “…got it.”

“Then we’ll make Crow so jealous of us that he’ll come running back…after we give him a few good whacks over the head.”

“Oh Angelica…”

“What did I say?!”

“Sorry! I meant Angie!” Rhea ducked away from the attempt to drag her into another hug, laughing.

Chapter Text

Rhea clenched and unclenched her hand, taking deep, calming breaths. The others would be fine, she had helped Towa with planning the operation and Linde with arranging everything with the Imperial Army and RMP.

“What’s up, second favorite wunderkind?”

Rhea startled, looking up to see Instructor Sara in front of her. She scrambled for a response, “Are you sure you should be playing favorites, Instructor?”

“Just don’t tell the others, kay?” Sara winked, setting down a coffee mug in front of Rhea and pouring herself a beer, “Looks like you need this coffee.”

“…it’s too late for caffeine.”

“Celdic hit you that badly, huh?” Sara leaned in, looking over her student, “You’d never turn down coffee.”

Despite how nonchalant the Instructor acted 90% of the time, she really could see through her students. Rhea wringed her hands together, “…it didn’t set off a panic attack like back in July but…the burnt buildings…Besides…”

“Nuh-uh-uh,” Sara wagged her finger, cutting off the second of her most self-destructive students, “Everyone has their issues. And it takes a lot of courage to pull yourself off the front lines of an operation because you know you can’t handle it. I’m happy to see that all those lectures are finally sinking in, you’re not burning yourself to help everyone else.”

“…Instructor…” She bit at her lip, taking a deep breath, “Thank you. And I’m sorry about your friend. I remember her being really nice to us when we were there for our field study; everyone in Celdic was.”

“It’s Louise, she’s too stubborn to not recover.” Sara took a swig of her beer, “In the meantime, all we can do is put away the bastards who did this.”

“Right!” Rhea nodded, “Did you need any more help with prepar-”

“Nope! We just need to be good to go tomorrow!” Sara winked, shooing Rhea off, “Go, go! We need an awake mission control to be successful!”

“…got it, Instructor.” Rhea stood up, “Make sure you sleep off that beer.”

“Don’t let the coffee keep you from sleeping!”

“I didn’t drink any!”

Sure enough, Sara looked down into the mug and sighed, “Unbelievable! After I made coffee for you and everything!”

“Hey, I do want to sleep, Instructor! And what did you just say?” Rhea whirled around, walking backwards and winking at her homeroom teacher, a grin on her face, "I'm just following the advice of my wonderful homeroom teacher."

Chapter Text

“People would call the Albareas emeralds but I’d call you a diamond in the rough instead, Jusis.”

The blonde looked up out of his musings as Rhea extended a warm mug of tea in front of him, “This doesn’t seem like normal Erebonian tea.”

“It’s a type of Eastern tea, green tea. Good for warming the body and soul.”

Jusis took a cautious sip, “…bitter.”

“But warming, a bit like you, I’d say.”

“My, my, laying it on a bit thick, aren’t you?”

“My mind’s been on jewelry and gems since Bareahard.”

“Jewelry…huh?” Jusis sipped at the tea, “Does that include the necklace you got repaired yesterday?”

Rhea blinked in surprise, “…does everyo- Hold up! Don’t turn this on me!”

“Heh.” He chuckled, “I would much rather pry at you finally getting that necklace fixed than see you attempt to subtly comfort me.”

“There just wasn’t an opportunity to do so until now!”

“And surely it had nothing to do with how you were conflicted about Crow?”

“And I will re-peat,” Rhea glared at Jusis, “We are not turning this around on me.” She plucked the mug out of his hands and set it down before attacking him with a mug.

“You,” Jusis grumbled out, “Are as bad as Millium.”

“I take that as a compliment~” Rhea rested her chin on Jusis’ shoulder, “You know, even if we all agree that what he did was unforgivable, the duke was still your dad. We’re all here for you. You can’t choose who you’re related to after all.”

Jusis narrowed his eyes, picking up on the wistful tone in Rhea’s voice, “You’ve been off every time we bring up family recently, you realize that?”

“Oh…uh…” Rhea looked up at Jusis, blinking, fumbling for an answer.

The blonde sighed, “We won’t pry if you are that reluctant but do remember that we…are all here for each other. I certainly hope you don’t think you’re some special snowflake who has to hide things still.”

“No…no.” Rhea shook her head, looking for the right words, “It’s just…this is something I need to talk with Rean about first and we just haven’t had the time to sit down.”

“Very well. Do let us know if you need help making that stubborn brother of yours sit down so you two can talk about whatever it is about your family you need to.”

“…thank you, Jusis.” Rhea blinked, realizing something, “Hold on a moment! When did you turn this on me?!”

“You only just realized? Honestly, Rhea, once someone knows you, turning things around is a lot simpler than you think.”

“And just for that, I’m not letting go for a while~”

“I still refuse to return this hug, I’ll have you know. And the tea's getting cold.”

“Fine with me. I can hug without returned affection. And we can reheat the tea.”

“By Aidios…”

Chapter Text

Rhea stretched, the scrape of her chair resounding through the room as she pulled away from the desk. She leaned back, balancing on the back two legs of the wooden chair, staring at the finished letter and the empty envelope in front of her.

Even if she couldn’t talk about it to Rean yet, that they both agreed it was for the best that Rean focus on his soon-to-come fight, that she thought she couldn’t tell anyone until she talked to Rean…it was good to get it out in some way.

The weight of that secret, especially now that Rean had shared with them some of Crow’s past, had been resting on her shoulders and…it helped Rhea figure out how to word it for the future, when she had to talk to Rean and everyone else about it.

After all, if she could word a letter explaining her parentage to Crow, of all people, she’d be able to explain it to anyone.

Though Rean had taken a tour of the dorm earlier with Towa…eventually, all of Class VII trickled back into the Third Dormitory to check on how things were. Rhea sighed, looking around her room, a room she had abandoned almost two months ago, on that day a single bullet changed their lives.

Absentmindedly, Rhea leaned forward and began to put the letter away and seal it, looking over the pictures resting on the shelves and the worn spines of the books. She had gone right to her desk so a thin layer of dust covered everything else. But it was still less dust than she expected.

“O-ow!” Her immediate reaction was to reel back, dropping the letter. She checked her thumb, shaking her head at the thin line of red she saw.

A papercut…really?

She sighed to herself, standing up and walking over to her bedside table to pluck a tissue and put some pressure on it, muttering to herself.

“Really, tomorrow’s the day…we’ll save Alfin’s family, Machias’ dad…Elise. And we’ll figure out how to drag Crow home too. I can’t be so distracted I’m getting papercuts.”

She shook her thoughts out of her head as Fie peeked her head into the room, “Rh-…Rhea?”

“Fie! Just a papercut, I swear.” She waved her hands, seeing Fie’s eyes narrow on her thumb, “Is everyone heading out?”

“We all agreed to meet back up on the Courageous once we’re done. Elliot, Laura and I are gonna take a bit of a walk around campus together…Do you…?”

“I’m not being a fourth wheel to you three.” Rhea waved Fie off, “Enjoy the night, tell everyone I’ll be back on the Courageous by eleven.”

Rhea could see Fie’s eyes scan the room and lock onto the envelope with paper half sticking out lying on the floor before she nodded, “Alright…and Rhea?”

“…yeah, Fie?”

“We’ll beat him up and drag him back home, alright?”

Rhea giggled, checking on her cut to see that the bleeding had stop, “Got it.”

“See you later, Rhea!” Fie nodded, heading out.

The brunette sighed, throwing the tissue away. She went over, picking up the envelope and making sure the letter was fully inside before she sealed it.

Rhea tucked the letter away, hiding it between the pages of her old journal, abandoned when Class VII had to run from Trista, no intention of ever sending it, just written to get some of the weight off her shoulders before the big day tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Rhea stood outside Rean’s door, pacing back and forth. He had gotten back into Trista the other day and the free day was tomorrow. The dinner Sharon had made was great but she couldn’t feel great, not with the rift between her and her brother. She’d been trying to make time to talk to Rean but they’d managed to keep missing each other.

Mid-pace, Rhea turned to the door, held her fist up to knock, only for the door to open. “Rean!” She stopped herself from hitting her brother in the face.

“…hey Rhea, you’ve been out here a while, huh?”

“Uh…yeah.” Rhea took a deep breath, “…can we talk?”

“Of course, Rhea.” Rean moved, letting Rhea into his room. After Rean closed the door, Rhea hugged her brother from behind, “Oof…Rhea?”

“I’m sorry, Rean. I should have told you sooner!”

She couldn’t see it, but Rean smiled sadly, “I was the one who was avoiding it for so long. And I don’t think either of us expected him to be alive. Knowing you, you probably thought it would be better if I confronted Crow not knowing…right?”

“I-I…thought it was better if you could face C-crow, nothing weighing you down. I thought we had time. T-time for us to all sit down and talk about it.”

“…” Rean paused, “Rhea, let me breathe for a moment?”

“A-alright…” Hesitantly, Rhea pulled back as Rean turned around then pulled her into another tight hug, patting her head.

“You don’t have to take all the blame for this. I was stubborn about finding out at first and you’re right, it was for the best that I didn’t find out when fighting Crow was so close, I don’t know if I could’ve fought him if I knew.”

Rean sighed to himself, rubbing Rhea’s head, “And I was such a kid, blowing up at you and Captain Claire and other people.”

“…I think we both have to apologize to the Captain then…” Rhea turned sheepish, “…I never did explain to her why I was avoiding her at first.”

“…oh. It was because you knew.”

“Y-yeah.” Rhea sighed, “I never did explain anything to her.”

“You probably should, especially since you’re going to be working with her a lot in the future I bet.” Rean’s soft smile turned into a frown, “Are you sur-”

“Rean.” Rhea looked up, moving Rean’s hand away, “We talked about this. We all talked about this. Everyone flipped out when I first brought it up.”

She took a deep breath, “I want to make sure that the stuff we started rolling continues rolling but…I also want to expand that. After that…I’m taking that offer from Captain Arundel.”

“…Rhea, I know we all say this all the time, but we’re here to help you.”

“I know, and I’ll be asking for that help a lot.” She looked up, staring her brother dead on, “But I want to be in a place where I can help you guys the most too. And what the Intelligence Division is offering…it’s too good to pass up.”

“Just…don’t let yourself become a puppet of his.”

“I have no intentions of it.”

“You might not even-”

“Rean.” Again, she cut off her brother, “I refuse to be a piece on the game board, anyone’s piece. Even if I'm helping Prince Olivert, got it?”

The pure resolve in her voice made Rean chuckle and nod, “Got it. We’ll be here for you every step of the way.”

“…thank you.”

After a few more moments, Rhea pulled away, “I should get out of your hair. I need to write and send out a few letters before I can relax tomorrow. You wanted to check in with everyone else too, right?”

Rean patted Rhea’s head again, “Yeah, don’t stay up too late, alright?”

“Same goes to you!” Halfway out the door, she looked behind her, “Have a good night, Rean. Love you, bro.”

“Love you, sis.”

Chapter Text

“Thank you very much, Captain.” Rhea curtsied, getting up after Claire had helped her with preparing some quick sandwiches. The pair had offered to stay behind to maintain the Reverie Corridor’s layout while everyone stocked up on supplies.

…Rean could be devious when he wanted to be, even if he had zero subtlety.

“There’s no need to be so formal with me, Rhea. Claire is just fine.” She chuckled, “And there’s really no need to curtsy.”

“I…” Rhea took a deep breath, working up the courage, “I wanted to apologize, Captain.”

“Oh…?”

“I’ve known about Rean and I’s heritage since about the middle of November and I…treated you unfairly because of it. I’m sorry, Captain Claire.” She stood up, bowing deeply.

Rhea couldn’t see it with her head bowed but Claire’s eyes widened as she processed Rhea’s words very quickly, “I had noticed you seemed uncomfortable back then but I had chalked it up to your worry for Ymir and your father.”

She paused, “…well, in a sense, it was about your father, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Rhea sighed, her hands messing with the hem of her skirt, “But no matter how I feel about…well, the Chancellor, it’s not fair to take it out on you, Captain.”

“No, no, it’s reasonable. I am one of his Ironbloods, after all,” Claire sighed, “You wouldn’t be the first one to do so. We Ironbloods are the extensions of His Excellency.”

She shook her head, “It’s unfair to you, Captain. You deserve so much more respect than what I’ve shown you, because of who you are as a person, not just because you’re the Icy Maiden.”

“Very well,” Claire nodded, “I accept your apology, and as part of it, you can stop being so formal with me. Regardless of your future position, right now, I’m supporting Class VII in the exploration of the Reverie Corridor, we stand as allies.”

Rhea beamed, nodding, “Thank you…Claire. And I look forward to working with you, now and in the future.”

“Same to you, Rhea.”

Chapter Text

Rhea sat down, leaning against Emma as the group that had fought the cryptid relaxed, getting their breather. She eyed Rean, making sure that he was actually resting too. With powerhouses like Claire, Toval, and Sharon helping them out, the others could map out the dungeon as the people who insisted upon fighting the cryptids (read: class VII) rested.

Though, Rhea’s attention was pulled from Rean by Emma muttering to Celine. She and the others had realized that Emma continued to be bothered by how much she didn’t know about the Divine Knights and the trials.

“…Emma, resting means letting your mind rest too, you know.”

“Rhea…”

“See, if even Rhea’s scolding you about resting, you should listen to her.”

“Celine!” Rhea called out, making the familiar stretch before running off to where Valimar was, “…I swear, that familiar of yours.”

“You’ve been better about it ever since that leg injury but you do worry us a lot, Rhea. You and Rean, especially about your Spirit Unification…”

“Rean and I are going to use everything at our disposal to help everyone, we do have control of it after all.”

“Though…there’s a difference between yours and Rean’s Spirit Unifications…” Emma closed her eyes, leaning more against Rhea, “Yes, it comes from your scars…but the energy you both emit is different. Rean’s is hard to put a name to…but yours is distinctly mana.”

“Is it possible that Celine or someone might know something, then?”

“…I’ve asked Celine about your ‘Reaper form’ and she doesn’t know anything. But…”

At her friend’s trailing off, Rhea turned to look at Emma, “…But?”

“Well…do you have your first location planned for after graduation?”

“No, I had been debating if I wanted to go west to Alster first or check in on Celdic.”

“Would you be willing to come with me for a while? Class VII counts as family and Celine agrees that it might be beneficial for you to meet my grandmother.”

“…really? It won’t get you in trouble, Emma?”

“Celine agrees with me; Class VII is family now and as Valimar’s subcontractors, we’re all involved. None of you are outsiders. And I bet grandmother can either shed some light on why you produce mana like that or at least, give you some training with magic to control the mana.”

“I thought you were going to head out after…”

“I need to learn more from Grandmother first, if I want to track down Vita.”

“…and it’d be nice not to head off alone immediately.” Rhea voiced the thought both of them had floating around in their heads.

“Even with Celine around, it was going to be pretty lonely…”

“I guess I’m meeting your grandmother then.”

"...just don't be too surprised when you meet her?"

"What do you mean...?"

"You'll see, Rhea."

Chapter Text

The evening of their final free day had finally come.

Not wanting to leave each other’s side on this last day, before all the exams hit and things would have to be packed, everyone had piled onto the couches on the first floor. Or rather the one couch, which was now the base for an eleven-person cuddle pile.

Millium was still sniffling and curled into Emma's side. Really…everyone had red eyes and some of the others were still sniffling too.

Eventually, the general silence was broken by Rean, “…there’s still so much that we don’t know.”

“Class VII is going to be over at Thors…but that doesn’t mean what we’re doing is going to be over.” Laura piped up, leaning against Elliot from her spot on the couch arm, an arm around him.

“Absolutely not.” Vehemence oozed from Machias’ voice, from where he was sitting on the floor, leaned up against Rhea’s legs, “We’ve got a long road ahead of us.”

“What Clotilde mentioned, what that man took from the Society…the Phantasmal Blaze Plan…we still know nothing about it.” Everyone could hear the hatred infused into Rhea’s voice and Alisa ran her fingers through Rhea’s short hair.

“That’s why we’re setting out like this, so we can all learn for the future.”

“We all have things we’re setting out to do. And we’re all determined to get stronger so that we won’t have to be saved like in the Infernal Castle.”

Gaius’ words caused the whole group to remember the frustration of the realization that they had been saved again and again in their climb up the castle.

“We will get stronger. Strong enough to face whatever Ouroboros and the Imperial Government are planning.” Everyone nodded in agreement to Jusis’ statement.

“…do we want to set a date?” Elliot questioned, running his fingers through Fie’s hair, who was resting her head on his lap.

“Maybe a year? After Rean graduates?” Fie purred out, relaxed from Elliot’s touch.

“So…while we all split ways in a few weeks, we’ll all meet up again in a year or the next opportunity available to us after Rean’s graduation.” Emma clapped her hands together in joy.

 “So it’s a promise then! In a year, when Rean catches up and graduates, Class VII will have our reunion!” Millium cheered, jumping out of her seat in the middle of the couch, causing Jusis and Rean, who were sitting at her feet to scramble away.

“MILLIUM!” The pair shouted almost in unison, causing everyone to break into laughter.

“Awww, you kids are gonna make my heart burst.” Everyone turned their attention to the staircase to see Sara walking down, “Is little ol’ me included in that reunion too?”

“I don’t think Class VII would be what it is without our instructor, so I’d say so.” Alisa grinned, the others nodding with her.

“If you’re not too old to handle a reunion of your students…Sara.” Fie grinned, sitting up.

“I swear, you kids…” The instructor simply shook her head, grinning at all of them.

Rean settled back into his seat, choosing to lean against Jusis now, “Then…at the reunion, we’ll decide what we have to do as Class VII. We’ll find our answer together.”

Everyone nodded to each other, glancing around, resolve burning in their eyes.

Chapter Text

Head and body half turned, Rhea tried to get a glimpse of the bow on the back of her head so she could adjust it properly. Under her breath, she cursed profusely, twisting and turning to try and get a good view of the bow in the mirror.

“I don’t see why you bother, Schwarzer. You look plenty fine with your hair down.”

Rhea stopped her fight with the mirror and ribbon to glare at her new boss, who was leaning against the door frame, smug grin on his face.

“The ribbon was a gift, of course I’m gonna wear it!”

“If you refuse to use a staff…this will, at least, absorb the excess mana and feed it back into your body. Keep it with you.”

“Fine, fine, turn around then.” Lechter stepped forward and after shooting him a skeptical look that he returned with a turn-around motion, Rhea turned to face the mirror, watching Lechter pick up a comb and style her hair through the mirror, “Half up, right?”

“Yeah…” Rhea muttered out reluctantly, “…thank you, Arundel.”

“It’ll reflect badly on me if my new subordinate is both late to and a mess on her first day.”

“I wouldn’t have been late!” She crossed her arms, "And what do you care about your reputation anyways?"

“You didn’t dispute the mess part,” Lechter chuckled, picking up the ribbon and beginning to tie it into her hair, “This ribbon is pretty damn ornate, sure it won’t get ruined the moment you step into a fight?”

“I promise it’ll stay together. I’ve been wearing it around my arm before this.” She grinned, “And what’s the meaning of a ribbon if not to be worn?”

“It’s your ribbon.” Lechter stepped back, “And done, how’d I do?”

Rhea turned, looking over the ribbon in her hair, “…not bad. How are you so good at this?”

“You did not see Millium’s ribbon phase.” He scoffed, waving off the praise, “You all done? You look like a new person.”  

Rhea looked herself over in the mirror, twirling, before picking up and putting on her new gloves. She nodded to herself, making sure the buttons keeping her sleeves were secured, “Yeah, looks good to me. Thanks for the help with the ribbon.”

“You look like a new person. In a good way, of course.”

“Yeah…” Rhea nodded to herself again, ‘Transforming to fit my new path…yeah, it fits.’

“Good, let’s go then. I want you familiar with everything before I send you off on your merry way.”

“Already putting me to work? Slave driver.”

“You knew what you were signing up for.”


Rhea's new appearance! Disregard the patches on the sleeve for now, those will come later:

art by @NaomiGmbs on Twitter!

Chapter Text

Rhea dropped onto her bed, exhausted, letting her feet dangle off the side. The package that had been passed to her an hour ago by the Capua Delivery Service dropped onto the bed, next to her. She stared again at the label on it.

‘From: The Musician Eternally Seeking Love~ O. Lenheim’

“Geez, how cheesy can you get, your highness?”

She made herself sit up, pulling the package into her lap. “Now…what was so important that you used Capua to seek me out...?”

Unraveling the wrapping, she raised an eyebrow at the sight of an ornate box with a letter on top. She sighed, opening the box while tearing into the letter.

The crimson cover that looked so much like the cover she had removed from her ARCUS months ago caused a sharp pang in her heart. Rhea took a deep breath, reading over the letter to get a bit more of an explanation.

A few moments of speed-reading past the flowery language later…

“…Round of Seven?” She picked up the ARCUS II, noting the extra Intelligence Division and blue horned lion covers in the box, and began navigating through the menus, messing around with the extra functions and noting the additional menu regarding ‘orders’ in her head.

“I said cheesy but a long-range communication app? Prince Olivert is too kind…”

“…I hope his connection to the church makes sure he and Toval don’t get in trouble. Toval should be helping keep him out of trouble with Mueller across the country…”

She sighed to herself, glancing over at the pictures on her desk. The desk was really the only part of this bare room she bothered to decorate, just a few picture frames to remind her of home and family.

A picture of the Schwarzers, taken back before their first day at Thors.

A group picture of all of Class VII and the seniors, from back during the summer of their first year.

A picture of her and Alisa testing the new mass-produced orbal bike, from when she pestered Lechter to get her an Orbal Bike if he was gonna send her all over the empire.

All of the original Class VII, all on stage for the concert encore.

…a candid shot of her and Crow Fidelio had taken during the festival where he had surprise picked her up from behind, only to be elbowed in the gut for his surprise...

“…I can’t wait to finish this assignment, then I’ll get to join Rean and Towa in Leeves.”

Rhea got to work, swapping out the covers on her new ARCUS II and setting her primary master quartz (the ‘sub quartz’ would have to wait for her combat links to be re-established).

Leaning back, she sighed, setting aside her old ARCUS and putting the new one in the right pouch. She’d have to mess with all the calibrations and quartz arrangements later but right now? She was too exhausted and homesick to deal with the fine tuning all of that would require.

Leaning back onto her bed, Rhea covered her eyes with an arm, “…I can’t wait to fulfill that promise.”

And also, her part in this challenge against him could truly begin.

Chapter Text

Rhea pulled to a stop, the orbal bike stopping right at the entrance to the field exercise camp. She heard the whistle by her ear, “Wowwww, Ouroboros really did a number on the camp.”

“Hold up! Who are you?” A blue haired girl with a spear, obviously on edge, glared at the pair.

“Whoa whoa whoa there, little lady Schleiden. We’re here to talk to your instructors.” Lechter got off the bike, holding his hands up in peace.

“Major Arundel, First Lieutenant Schwarzer, what are you doing here?”

Rhea giggled and noted that the rest of students (minus Carbide hanging out over there in a corner of the camp) all made surprised noises at her name, I see Rean’s already made an impression on them.

Getting off the bike, Rhea patted Altina’s head, “Good to see you again, Altina. And I told you, Rhea is just fine.”

“…First Lieutenant Schwarzer? Arundel?”

Standing straighter, Rhea nodded to the RMP major, “Oh, Major Irving, good to see you again.”

“I wasn’t expecting you this early, or with that.” He walked up gesturing at the orbal bike.

“A certain someone was impatient and dragged me out super early this morning.” Lechter made a show of yawning, “I was sleeping so peacefully too.”

“You were already up and scheming, stop messing around.” Rhea crossed her arms, sighing, “Miss Russell, can you please take care of my bike? I promise to talk with you more after dealing this.”

Deal with? I’m not that much trouble, am I?”

“Are you really asking that, Arundel?” Rhea winked, noticing that the rest of the branch campus instructors had stepped out of the Derfflinger, and started dragging Lechter by the collar, “Now come on, we have a meeting.”

Rhea?!” Both Rean and Towa’s surprise was obvious on their faces.

“Hey Rean, Towa!” She waved, “And pleasure to meet you, First Lieutenant Orlando, but let’s head inside, we’ve all got to talk.”

“W-what. Why are you-?”

Reaching her brother in the middle of his stuttering, she used her free hand to drag Rean with her inside the train, “Inside, all will be explained."

 

A little bit later...

After the orders had been handed off and Fie, Elliot and Laura had made their intentions clear, Randolph was the next one to speak, looking directly at Rhea, “So I think I’m the only one in the room who doesn’t know who the lovely lady over there is…I’m guessing she’s another one of your Class VII compatriots, Schwarzer?”

Rhea pulled away from the circle of her old classmates, grinning with a small wave of her hand, “Yep, but you might want to specify which Schwarzer you’re talking about. I’m First Lieutenant Rhea Schwarzer of the Imperial Intelligence Division…and your future colleague.”

What?!”

There was a collective shout from everyone but Michael, who facepalmed, and Lechter who held out his hands and shook his head, sighing.

Randolph furrowed his brow, “Future colleague?”

“Oh, the major mentioned that we were getting someone from the Intelligence Division. Is that...?” Rhea only smiled at Towa's incredibly hopeful and overjoyed tone and she was glad to answer.

“Yep!” Rhea winked, with a snap of her fingers, “Sorry about being so late, I got delayed majorly cause a certain someone decided to give me a mission from Gehenna.”

“Sorry, sorry! I didn’t expect it would be that bad!”

“Well, now you get to deal with all the paperwork yourself.” She sniped back to her superior, before turning back to everyone, “But yeah, after the end of this field exercise, I’ll be returning to Leeves with you all. I’m set to teach Orbal Sciences for the kiddos.”

“Unbelievable…” Laura held a hand to her face, Fie and Elliot also shaking their heads with a smile on their face, “…This is what you were planning.”

“It wouldn’t be Rhea if she didn’t have some plan in her pocket to mess with Rean.” At Fie’s comment, Rean let out the biggest sigh he could muster.

“Rhea…”

The said woman kept a grin on her face, giving a full salute, “I’ll be reporting to the Intelligence Division part-time as well, but my priority is the Branch Campus and the future of the students here.” She relaxed, “But for now, we’ve got an Ouroboros plot to deal with. We can go into more details later.”

“…are all members of the intelligence division like this? Between your two classmates and Arundel…”

“They’re the exception to the norm.” Michael pinched the bridge of his nose, “Either way, the Schwarzers have their orders, so we should focus on that for right now.”

Right!”