Chapter 1: A Captive Audience
The war has ended, and the land unified. But has The Immaculate One truly been slain, like the public was made to believe. . .
!!major spoilers for crimson flower below!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
[3rd of the Great Tree Moon, 17:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
Three days have passed since the end of the chaos. Slowly, but surely, the newly-unified Fodlan is beginning to see changes. The damage, which was the result of the war, was slowly being patched up. Crumbled structures slowly being repaired, burnt grasses being trimmed and tended to, and the common folk who sustained injuries from being dragged into skirmishes, are being treated by the local clinics and healers.
Restoration of the kingdom’s former landscape was not the only thing undergoing, post-war, as reformations to the political structure of the Empire has already began. Just as the Adrestian Emperor willed, the worn-out system of placing Crests and nobility above all else shall slowly be replaced by one that values talents instead, regardless of birthright or the possession of the gift of the goddess.
Speaking of, the Church of Seiros itself seems to also be going through a sort of reformation itself. Rather than have it abolished completely, the Empire has decided to keep the church up and running, under the supervision of both the emperor and the guidance of the Hero of Fodlan, the Ashen Demon as she is sometimes referred to. Of course, having the one who guided the Emperor herself be assigned to lead the Church makes sense, as the former archbishop has been slain in battle, alongside her closest advisers. That is, if the information made public to the people is to be believed. . .
A blur. Hearing was clouded, as the irises were hazy. There were inaudible voices in the background, fires slowly dissipating. Though not as faint as the dialogue, marches of soldiers and generals producing what can barely be considered an echo all over the atmosphere. Voices of both men and women can be heard. From what can be made of this unclear scenario, one of them seems to be barking orders. A relatively short figure, clad in red, sending out troops towards the direction of the one witnessing all this. The figure in crimson, as well as two other figures, took a glance to said direction as common knights slowly approached the one producing such a visage. What’s already a rather blurry picture was made even blurrier as the soldiers began carrying the beholder, their sights flickering between light and dark, fading more and more with each blink. Eventually, only darkness remained.
Time has passed. The eyes of this individual began to slowly regain their vision. Slowly, the image they see would become closer to clarity. However, what they were seeing was far from what they last saw. No more are the foggy fields or war and the march of the battalions. Instead, what they saw, what she saw, was that of a room that was akin to a palace hall. Pillars made of marble, walls decorated with golden linings, carpets as red as the blood of the fallen, and banners made of silk, plastered with the insignia of the Adrestian Empire. There was no doubt that she’s been brought to the palace.
“Where am I. . .? What is this place—?”
Rhea asked herself. Her voice was unsteady as her body was weak. It took a few moments for her to finally regain her consciousness, and a few more to fully process what was going on. She eventually figured out that she was within the Imperial Palace, but remained unsure of where exactly within said palace. Eventually, she would notice the change in attire. Though still clad in white cloth, the robes that she wears now was far from that of her battle attire. Her headpiece was nowhere to be found, her sandals no longer being worn her feet, and her wrists bare from the armor that were once adorned on them.
Instead, what she carried around her wrists were cuffs, shackles bound to a wall by chain, one placed on each of her arm. Though the length of the chain allows for less rigid motions, it did not allow her to roam freely around the room. Immediately, her line of thought was that of her mother, Sothis, and the desire to find a way to see her once more. Instinctively, Rhea began to stand, once more having a goal in mind. As her mind has calmed, and her heart too exhausted for her to be able to properly express herself, Rhea once again felt nothing but sorrow for her loss, and anger for the betrayal of both the vessel of the progenitor god, and the scion of the Adrestian Emperor, that once aided her in her conflicts.
“. . .!”
A ragged breath escaped her lips, as she tried to build up whatever strength was left within her, at the moment. Determined to leave this place, Rhea attempted to tap to her divine powers once more. Though the shackles would be enough to hold a mere human in place, the same cannot be said for one that is capable of assuming the form of a beast. Even in her somewhat weakened state, Rhea would be able to use her powers and break free. Such wouldn’t be that difficult of a task of her, as the moment she assumes the form of The Immaculate One, the chains are sure to snap. With every fiber of her being, she tried to unleash her wrath upon the world, once more.
Unfortunately for her, it seems that the perpetrators behind her confinement within the castle walls have already thought of that. Though Rhea had slightly more than enough strength to use her abilities, there was something actively restraining her from transforming. The fallen child of the goddess found herself not only unable to transform into the monster within her, but also found herself incapable or producing even a single spark of a flame, through the use of her magic.
“How—What is this!? How is it that this is possible—!?”
Before the fallen saint could say or do any more, the sound of doors opening had echoed throughout the room. Slowly, the large doorway would creak, allowing the light from the world beyond the walls to slowly enter. As the chamber doors have fully opened, various figures would slowly enter the room. First would be a small group of around four Imperial troops, all carrying lances as a means of protecting not only themselves, but those they’ve escorted.
Having moved to the sides to pave the way, the Adrestian Emperor herself, Edelgard von Hresvelg, would begin walking towards the chained idol. Behind her were two other familiar faces. One is Edelgard’s most trusted adviser who, more often than not, operates from the shadows to complete tasks he considers ‘insignificant’ to the Emperor. The other is, of course, the daughter or the former captain of the Knights of Seiros, as well as the woman who houses the Crest of Flames, and the power of the progenitor god. Said woman is also the wielder of the sword that the King of Liberation once wielded, which is at her grasp at this very moment.
“And on the third day, she rose again. Heh. It seems that this reptile has quite enjoyed her divine slumber, Your Highness. . .”
Spoken with a tone of mockery from the dark and brooding figure. The dark sorcerer, Hubert von Vestra, shot the eyes of the saint with a disparaged glance, before turning his attention to the Emperor. Though both Edelgard and Hubert have stood against the goddess, it seems that the heir of House Vestra was less thoughtful of the prisoner before them, viewing her as nothing more than a beast tied to a leash. Of course, Hubert was never a man of faith, only that of reason. He wasn’t exactly a man of compassion either, especially not towards the adversary of Her Majesty.
As the dark mage’s dry sense of humor eluded his lips, the monarch paid little to no regard to it. Instead, her gaze was towards that of Rhea’s own hues. The moment she was close enough to the Nabatean, El immediately darted her spheres towards the former’s own intense stare. For a moment, neither one of them spoke to one another. The scion of the Empire carried only a determined expression within her irises. On the contrary, the gaze of the goddess only carried hatred and anger, wanting to exact revenge towards whom she considered a traitor.
“Why. . .?”
The war saint hissed at the direction of the emperor. Her hues filled with contempt and disgust and her eyes somewhat twitching, as she continued to maintain the exchange of stares she had, with the figure of royalty standing before her. To be stripped of her authority, her powers, her armor, and even the only family she had left. It was humiliating, her fate constantly fueling her grudge against the world and humanity, as each day passed by. Worst of all, she was spared from the sweet release of death.
Meanwhile, the horn-adorned queen arched her eyebrow. She felt nothing towards the daughter of the goddess, neither hatred nor pity. All she felt was a sense of necessity, seemingly having spared the goddess for her own plans. And by the looks of it, only a select few individuals know of Rhea’s current condition, as most would assume that she is dead. With the Nabatean seemingly poised to be the tool of the empire, Edelgard remained silent, having a different purpose in mind for the green-haired woman, that far involved being someone the emperor could make banter too.
“Why did you spare me. . .? To humiliate me—? Torture me—!? WHY!!!”
The woman of draconic descent roared. Though not as loud as the curses she would constantly yell in anguish, throughout the war, Rhea raised her voice towards the Imperial bunch. While Edelgard, Hubert and Byleth remained unfazed, the soldiers accompanying them were startled, having raised their weapons and aimed them towards Rhea’s direction, albeit all in a nervous state. Remaining calm, Edel raised her right hand to signal the troops behind her, instructing them to return at ease.
“Why I have spared your life should not concern you. Just know that I intend to use you for a cause that I am certain would benefit the people. However, you may consider this an act of mercy if you so desire, ‘Lady’ Rhea.”
“Mercy. . .you dare call this mercy. . .? After having taken all those I hold dear in my heart away from me, leaving me chained within this palace, and slowly draining what little powers I have, you would still see yourself as merciful. . .!?”
As the two women had a heated exchange of words (or rather, the emperor being at the receiving end of the former archbishop’s heated words), the dark sorcerer next to the Adrestian Heir would interject himself in the exchange, citing his own rebuttal towards the prisoner before them.
“You’re quite mistaken, ‘archbishop’. Your powers are not being ‘drained’, they are simply being restrained. I was instructed to place a spell upon those shackles, as a. . .precaution. To prevent you from causing us any more trouble.”
. . .
“Though now that the idea has been mentioned, why is it that we allow this inhuman to continue drawing breath, instead of simply stripping her of her powers and use it as we see fit for our plans, Lady Edelgard?”
The sinister-looking male inquired, turning around to Her Highness immediately after responding to the misconceptions of their captive audience. Shortly after his question, Hubert remained silent for the remainder of the time and listened to what Edelgard had to say.
“Hubert, we have already discussed this. Rhea’s powers alone may suffice for our plans to come to fruition, but our Professor and I have our own unfinished business with the archbishop. I have several questions of my own that I want answered, and I shall not allow the death of our prisoner until I have those answers, at the very least.”
Soon after, Rhea spoke once more. Though her being remains bound by the shackles of the empire, her emotions are left unchecked, allowing her enough energy to express her disgust, contempt, hatred and overall disapproval for whatever it is the Emperor seeks to do, as well as what she has already done to her.
“No. I would rather die than serve you! You’ve taken my mother away from me—and now you intend to use my power to fulfill your own wicked schemes!?”
“You seem to be mistaken. I do not aim to fulfill any sort of ‘wicked’ scheme, whatsoever. I will use the power of the goddess, to right the wrongs of this land. I, unlike you, do not wish to enslave humanity.”
“How DARE you!? You are the ones who betrayed me! You are the ones who betrayed my mother! I am not the one who is wicked, you TRAITORS are!!!”
With anger slowly consuming her once more, the Nabatean quickly flung her arm towards the Emperor. In an attempt to unleash her rage, Rhea’s right palm formed into that of a grip, startling not only the soldiers, but Byleth and Hubert as well, by attempting to choke the life out of the white-haired woman.
Though the peons were on their guard, and both of Edelgard’s most trusted have taken a defensive stance to protect her, the royal heir herself remained unfazed, her expressions remaining stale as her body did not flinch, even for a second. Though her prisoner wanted to choke her, Edel stood confidently before Rhea, as the latter’s shackles prevented her from laying even a finger onto the queen’s flesh.
Indeed, Rhea’s chains were somewhat lengthy, allowing her to move around better due to being less restrained. However, they weren’t made too long to the point that Rhea could just about wander the entire room. Not only that, but Edelgard made sure not to stay too close to her, with the palm of the goddess being half an inch away from her own throat. After this failed act of retribution, Rhea slowly recoiled herself, lowering her arm as she stepped backwards.
“You claim that I am the wicked one, and yet, here you are desperately attempting to choke me. You must think me some kind of fool, Rhea.”
“Though it seems Lady Edelgard is, fortunately, unscathed, I suggest you sit still and behave properly. Lest you wish to suffer the same fate as your brethren. Heh.”
“Ah, it seems I have overstepped my boundaries. My apologies, Your Highness.”
Both Edelgard and Hubert were unimpressed at the war saint’s pitiful attempt of retribution. The shadowy individual would then warn Rhea about what were to happen, should she attempt another move like that. Despite his intentions being that of protecting his liege, it seems that the Adrestian heir didn’t appreciate his words too much. While El does not trust Rhea and her kin, she does not, however, abhor the Nabateans to such an extent. No, there is a different group that has earned her that level of hatred. All that shall be a tale to be told for another day, however. For now, it seems that the dark mage has something in mind that he wishes to speak, yet his tongue remains stilled about it.
“Your Highness, there is something I wish to discuss with you. There is a certain. . .concern that I wish to raise, yet I fear that this is not the appropriate place for such a topic. I am also uncertain that the former archbishop would be willing to listen to your words, given her current temperamental state.”
“Alright. I suppose I shall save that idea for another day. After all, I only came to this very chamber to see whether or not the child of the goddess still breathes, or if she’s still within this room.
After a quiet exchange of words between the master and her most-trusted vizier, Edelgard takes one last glance towards the chained Nabatean, before dismissing her troops. The emperor adorned in red soon makes an exit from the chamber, once the soldiers began marching towards the doors. As Edelgard slowly walked away from the scene, Hubert moves to her side and followers her. Meanwhile, the silent mercenary averts her eyes from her companions and sends a somewhat conflicted expression towards Rhea, turning to leave afterwards.
“. . .Why? Why did you do it. . .?”
Before Byleth could even take a step towards the direction of the exit, however, Rhea called out to her. Rhea’s voice was wavering in emotions, fluctuating between anger and grief. Her eyes, and her overall expression, reflected that of contempt. Yet her eyes, slowly becoming watery as tears begin to form, told a story of one who is disheartened. Though the betrayal of the Adrestian Empire was just as unexpected, the professor’s allegiance aligning with her enemy was one that left a more personal mark on her. For the woman who bore the heart of her mother to betray her, it was as if the one family she had sought to see once more is being taken away from her again.
“Why did you betray me. . .? Why did you side with that traitor, and leave me all by myself!? Why!?”
Rhea cried out in anguish. Her voices, carrying the very negative emotions she is currently feeling, pierced through the ears of the former mercenary. Byleth felt no regret towards siding with Edelgard, as she sought to protect the very student whom she formed an emotional bond with. And yet, she could not help but feel a semblance of guilt for actions. Indeed, it was Rhea that made her live a rather unusual life, being unable to properly feel and convey human emotions, as well as lacking a heartbeat. The Nabatean was the one who made her human and inhuman at the same time.
Despite all that, Byleth felt no hatred towards Rhea. Perhaps there was a bit of a grudge, but the instructor only fought the archbishop not to appease a personal vendetta, but as a necessity to stop her madness. The mercenary turned around to look Rhea in the eye. Her hues carried the same pain that Rhea’s has, and a pained expression was painted on her face. But she could not say a word. She showed that even after what she has done, she still feels guilt towards what she did to Rhea. However, Byleth was a woman of few words, and in this scenario, she found it especially difficult to utter any, be it of comfort or repentance.
After a moment’s gaze of guilt, Byleth turned her back from the chained goddess, making her leave from the chambers, about to head to where Hubert and Edelgard are currently situated at. The sound of the doors creaking would echo through the room once more, as the once-opened doorway slowly shut themselves closed. After a thud from the gates, there was silence. Not a sound was heard from the chamber, just as there was much less light gracing the room.
Slowly, Rhea fell onto her knees. Her heart continued to flare up with the desire for vengeance. Yet, said heart also continued to pain her with the sorrow she has received. No longer holding them back, Rhea released soft wails of sadness, as her tears began rolling down her cheeks nonstop. She was betrayed, she was left alone, she was humiliated, and now, she felt the loneliness building up inside of her once more. Her mother is no longer of this world, her entire race slaughtered in the ages of old, and the only family she had left are no longer by her side.
All she wanted was to find peace, to no longer be alone in this world. Yet it seems that wish continues to distance itself from reality. . .
Woooh! Took me a while to finally get this done. I loved the "Free Water AU" Rheagard fic by KIBITZER (go check that out here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/20702684/chapters/49177670), and I grew attached to the idea of a Rheagard ship, so I decided to begin my own fanfic series of that ship that takes place in the world of Fodlan. Most of the fics about Rheagard on here, so far, take place in non-CF routes, so I decided to deviate from that! Hope you look forward to the following chapters! :))
Chapter 2: Definition of Mercy
The Adrestian Emperor has a discussion with her most trusted advisers. Topics such as the fate of the Goddess, as well as a battle against a certain antagonistic group, has been brought up. . .
this isn't as long as the previous chapter, and it has a bit more emphasis on the dialogue. not all chapters will match in length, as some like this ones are mostly filler to form a better cohesion and flow onto the overall story.
[3rd of the Great Tree Moon, 22:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
Once more, the goddess Seiros remains in solitude, as the doors to the chamber she is chained in closes shut, and her visitors (well, more perpetrators to her imprisonment than actual visitors, really) have left the room. The emperor, her trusted adviser, and the guards that came in the room all left first, with the green-haired mercenary following soon after. With no means of escape, and little to do, Rhea decided to once more sit on the floor and shut her eyes. She wasn't necessarily asleep. Rather, she performed a sort of meditation to keep herself tranquil, even for just a moment.
Meanwhile, Byleth is seen wandering the corridors, seemingly aimless at where she is to go. As her departure from the chamber was delayed by her own pause, Byleth did not quite see where both Edelgard and Hubert were headed. Of course, she knows for a fact that those two were together, as she had a hunch that the two would have a sort of discussion about the events that has transpired, and the events that have yet to. Amidst her stroll, on a hallway seemingly devoid of human life, a pair of voices could be heard from a distance.
"Must we truly go through such lengths to ensure the survival of the goddess? Though I do not wish to question you, I believe there are more. . .'practical' ways of using her power for our benefit. I also fear that our plans may go awry should 'they' discover about all this."
"I already told you Hubert, we need her alive. She is a key element to our plot against those fiends and we must ensure that she cooperates, if we wish to succeed. Beyond that, both the Professor and I have questions for her, and I wish to hear what she has to say for herself."
"Well, I suppose it is impossible to pry the dead for answers. But if I may ask, Lady Edelgard, how are we to be certain that we will be able to conceal all truths from Arundel and his ilk? Surely that man is not to be underestimated"
Those voices were none other than those of Hubert's and Edelgard's. While their voice is audible enough to be heard around the hallway, there were none besides the professor who would be able to receive these voices through their ears. Not only that, but while there were voices, the dialogue itself wasn't quite comprehensible from where she's standing. Having her attention caught, Byleth took a gander around her surroundings to find the sources of the dialogue, only to immediately spot them standing at a balcony.
As her eyes darted towards the direction of her two former students talking, Hubert immediately took noticed of the mercenary, somewhat eyeing Edelgard to notify her as well. El then paused the exchange of words, in a moment, and turned around to see her mentor behind, having a somewhat surprised expression. Despite their discussion being that of private matters, Byleth is far from an individual that the two were planning to keep all these concealed from. If anything, the expression plastered onto Edelgard's face was less of a wary facial expression, and more of a confounded expression as to why Byleth was late to the party.
Upon being noticed, Byleth simply nodded. She would then walk towards both El and Hubert in a more urgent matter, understanding that she had inadvertently kept them waiting. Byleth took a short glance around her surroundings once more, both to admire the view that the balcony they're on had blessed them with, but to ensure that no one else would eavesdrop, as well.
"I'm surprised you took a while, Professor."
"I wasn't sure where you two went. Have I missed anything?"
While Byleth tends to remain silent for most of her life, she is far from incapable of speech. Of course, her words are often simple and kept to a minimum, not making an attempt to replicate the prose or the rather lengthy soliloquies that some of her students would often utter, such as that of Ferdinand. In any case, Byleth went on and tried to catch up with their little meeting, closely paying attention to what they have to say next.
"I am simply reminding Hubert as to why we have kept the former archbishop alive. We require not only her strength, but also answers to our questions. And I believe that there are truths you wish to find out from her, no?"
". . .Mhm."
"If I may interject, how is it that we conceal all information regarding the survival and current whereabouts of the goddess, from the likes of Arundel and those who slither in the dark?"
"We need not to worry about that, Hubert. I suspect that they are plotting something against the Empire as we speak. So long as we keep this information private, they will be completely oblivious of our actions. We've limited the amount of people aware of our plot to ourselves, and a select few troops, and we must continue doing so. No one must find out about this, not our former classmates, not the other nobles, and especially not the public"
"Hm, I suppose you're right. As for any potential spies or proxies hiding among our ranks, I sense that you shall place both the Professor and I in charge of dealing with those rats?"
"Indeed. Make sure that none of my uncle's troops have infiltrated the castle. Should you discover any of them within the Imperial walls, see to it that they shall be dealt with. I trust that you would also make sure to gather any form of information from them."
"Understood, Your Highness."
Slowly, but surely, Byleth is processing their words and taking note of them. Deal with spies, keep the information hidden, make sure that Arundel does not find out. All of these seem rather simple instructions, yet she could not help but worry at how effective all this would be. Those who slither in the dark are quite crafty and well-equipped, she thought to herself. If they have enough power to summon a 'javelin of light' and bring destruction on an entire city in one fell swoop, then they may even be capable of listening in to their conversation, as they speak. Such a notion may be absurd even for Byleth herself, who carries the heart of the progenitor god within her. Yet, she could not help but be wary of what the Agartheans are planning, especially since they have not seen them in quite a while. . .
"Good. As much as I'd love to stay and chat longer, I unfortunately must tend to some paperwork. I shall leave the rest to the both of you."
With not much else to say, and a rather busy schedule laid before the emperor, Edelgard nodded towards Hubert and Byleth, as a way of gesturing her leave. As promised, Edelgard slowly left the scene, heading back to her quarters as she left the shadowy figure and the mercenary to themselves. With just Byleth and Hubert alone on the balcony, the latter senses Byleth's concern for this ordeal.
"I see that you are worried as well. . ."
"I cannot help it. Those working for Arundel. . .those who slither. . .they are powerful foes. And crafty ones too."
"They are quite crafty, indeed. As for power, I suggest you avoid overestimating their capabilities. For your sake."
"But. . .what if they decide to summon the javelins—"
"They won't. That I can assure you."
Somehow, his words calmed Byleth's worries. Despite that, she cannot help but wonder what makes Hubert confident about that. She knows that he is far from the type of person to make baseless assumptions, or to say something for the sake of comforting someone.
"The very source of their power is at the center of their base. The 'javelins of light' are no exception to that. However, I theorize that they cannot unleash several javelins onto different coordinates at once, as it takes up a lot of their magic. Even if they are capable of such, they would choose not to, and for good reason."
"Firing even a single one of those weapons would allow us the opportunity to deduce the exact locations of their current whereabouts. An opportunity, which I have seized the moment they launched an attack onto Arianrhod."
"So you know where they are. . .!?"
"Not quite. Though I've yet to uncover the location of their base of operations, I am one step closer to achieving that goal."
Though not being the expressive type, Byleth was somewhat elated to hear those words from Hubert. Her eyes glimmered with a sense of hope. Finally the war can truly end, the land will be closer to attaining true peace. At the same time, Byleth is not only excited for the idea of a true era of peace for Fodlan, she was somewhat looking forward to put an end to those who slither, to put them to justice and to achieve retribution.
Without warning, Hubert slowly closed in towards the professor, gently placing one hand onto her shoulder whilst the other was busy stroking her hair. This somewhat caught Byleth by surprise. She knew not how to react to this, only tilting her head slightly upwards to meet her eyes with his. Her face was slightly glowing a pinkish hue.
"Soon, all this shall be put to an end. We shall ensure that the land shall finally see peace, and that Lady Edelgard's desires shall come true. And perhaps, when that time comes, we may finally make your dreams happen as well, my love."
"I'd like that. Whether it's serving El, or maybe going fishing, I'd like to do it with you, Hubert."
"Heh. I've never been one to indulge in such past times, but perhaps I shall give it a try. Just as I've mentioned in the Goddess Tower, I shall try my earnest to be a good husband."
Hubert wasn't really the romantic type, but it is clear that he is trying his best to be such. Gently, he placed some of Byleth's green locks behind her ear, giving her a light peck on the forehead. Byleth stayed silent, barely uttering a sound, but her heart was symbolically racing. Being treated this way by Hubert felt odd, despite the two of them already being married. But at the same time, it felt nice.
After that, it was her turn to give Hubert a kiss, this time it was her lips against his. It wasn't a long, passionate meeting of their lips pressed onto one another. Instead it was merely a momentary 'smooch' onto his mouth. Both of them had errands to do, and with the fight against the Agartheans still ongoing, they unfortunately had little time for romance. However, they of course found ways to give one another some affection, no matter how little time they had, or how bad they both were at it.
"Perhaps we should return indoors to rest. The sun is setting, after all."
Hubert uttered, his face somewhat radiating the same warmth that Byleth's was, which was odd but endearing at the same time. Both of them smiled at one another, their palms wrapping one another as they slowly head inside. The sun had all but vanished from the sky, and the moon shines upon the starry night once more. Tomorrow is a new day, and the both of them walked away from the balcony to head to their own quarters, about to take a rest and save their energy for their duties the following day.
In contrast to the more peaceful nights that the previously mentioned individuals are indulging in, their prisoner seems to fare a different type of night. It was quiet, but a quiet place does not necessarily mean that it is a peaceful one. Sometimes the silence is to be feared, as the lack of sound or utterance allows for elusive, and at times malicious, beings to lurk around the area; ghosts, pests, thieves, all sorts of creatures that lurk within shadows. Other times, there are none dwelling within the shade, and it is you who is blanketed by the darkness, accompanied by nothing besides your own thoughts and, if you're lucky, a hint of moonlight shining through the window. For Rhea's case, it was the latter.
There was no one around her. No one to wrap her in their arms, no one to wish them a good night's rest, no one to hear their woes and anxieties. It was quiet, far more than the fields of battle that she herself have been the center of, months prior. And though there were no conflict or bloodshed within her chamber, there was still the presence of pain. It hurts, it hurts so badly. To be left alone in the world of the living, to have everyone you hold dear be taken away from you, to be pulled down, both by the shackles around your arm and the strings of your heart. It was truly a fate worse than death.
"In time's flow. . ."
"See the glow. . ."
"Of flames ever burning bright. . ."
. . .
"On the swift. . ."
"Rivers drift. . ."
These were the lyrics to a lullaby, one which was sung to her as a child by Sothis. Softly, she sung these words into the night, her voice barely echoing the dark room. This song is one that is close to her heart, having heard this from her mother millennia ago, and occasionally singing the song herself, even having sung it once around the Monastery, and at Byleth, on one event. Though having sung the lullaby in a harmonious manner before, Rhea finds herself unable to properly sing, let alone finish, the piece. Instead of high notes gracefully flowing through the atmosphere, the song was instead sung with rather low notes, and a somewhat jagged voice.
It was difficult, difficult for her to sing the song without choking at her own tears. Slowly, her eyes would begin to water as droplets would roll down her cheek, landing towards the floor as if it were drops of rain. Having been separated from her dear mother for quite some time, she would often sing this lullaby to relieve herself of any emotional strains. However, rather than put her heart and mind at ease, Rhea began silently wailing after singing the song.
The wounds from her battles have slowly vanished from her being, but the scars on her heart not only remain, some of them would continue to grow. She lacks even the energy to be angry, to feel hatred, to think about giving her adversaries what she deems to be the punishment they deserve. She yearned for love, for peace, for company. She wanted to be able to feel those once more, and as each day passes, her sorrow would do nothing but continue to grow.
Eventually, she would tire herself out from crying and slowly succumb to slumber. Knowing the next day wouldn't get any better than the last, she had little else to do than that. . .
Chapter 3: Unwanted Company
Wanting to try and get their prisoner to cooperate, Edelgard takes it upon herself to deal with Rhea. Though Rhea may finally have someone to spend her time with inside her prison, she would prefer just about anyone else, really. . .
[4th of the Great Tree Moon, 07:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
A new day has begun, it was another sunrise after the days of war. No more are the footsteps of battalions preparing for battle, shipping provisions and whatnot. Sounds of weapons being fired, soldiers unleashing battle cries, all replaced with the harmonious chirping of the birds, and the laughter of children playing around the streets of Enbarr. Seeing as how the day has only just began, the local marketplaces have yet to bustle, vendors only having just finished setting up their stalls. There weren’t any cheers or parading going on, not yet at least.
Similarly, the Imperial Palace itself was quite calm. There was barely any noise, any chatter around the hallways. Guards would silently stand near their posts, making sure to keep the area defended from intruders. Various nobles have either lock themselves up in their quarters or have left the capital days prior. Wherever they are, they were certainly busy with assisting the Empire in reshaping Fodlan.
As for what’s within the lower floors of the castle, the secret chamber, where a certain war saint has been chained, remains quiet. There was no yelling to be heard, no wailing, not even the sounds of the shackles clanking onto one another. And at the center of the room was, of course, Rhea herself. Her eyes were closed as she remained motionless. There was little movement that came from her, just as there was barely any sound uttered, beyond that of her breathing.
It was a peaceful sight, the calmest that Seiros herself has been these past few years. Half a decade spent on trying to rid of the Emperor, seeking retribution towards those who transgressed her kin. With all the conflict and sorrow she has been through, it is no wonder that she finds peace in the realm of slumber, rather than the world of reality. Of course, all good things must come to an end. Try as she might, she cannot force herself to sleep for a century or two, not anymore at least. She had no choice but to wake up, her eyes slowly opening once more.
Rhea seemed peaceful when asleep, yet despite that, her facial expression reflected that of a tired woman. Her eyes looked dull, empty, devoid of any emotion. Her entire body was at ease, not having the energy to convey her emotions through both facial and bodily expressions. And even if she wanted to go back to sleep, she couldn’t. Instead, she simply sat there quietly, seemingly waiting for something. Is Rhea still clinging to that one weak glimmer of hope that her heart still bears, or is she simply waiting to disappear from nothingness, to finally leave the world that had forsaken her?
Unfortunately for her, that would not happen anytime soon, nor would she be able to wallow in her emptiness in peace. As if her mind began to awaken once more, Rhea snapped out of her somewhat dull expressions as she would hear sounds of the gates opening. Slowly, the doorway began to move, revealing that Edelgard herself was behind those doors, once more. This time, she is accompanied only by a single pair of soldiers, as well as a tray on her hands.
What is this, Rhea wondered. She could not help but grimace towards Edel, as the emperor began walking towards her. The Adrestian Emperor, carrying a tray towards the goddess, it felt like some sort of mockery towards her, with the scion of the Empire treating like some animal. As if being chained into a room alone wasn’t enough, she thought. Rhea yearned for company, but at the immediate sight of Edelgard, she yearned for death instead.
Slowly, Edelgard stops in front of Rhea, dropping the tray on a nearby stool. Before El would do anything else, she commanded her guards to leave the room first, perhaps for a bit of privacy. She gestured her hand, dismissing the pair of soldiers she brought with her to the chamber and sending them back to their room. Of course, the soldiers were somewhat hesitant to leave Edel alone, fearing what Rhea would do to her. El heard the concerned tone in their voice, but before they can utter words beyond a simple ‘huh’, Edelgard assured them.
“I will be fine. I assure you she will not be able to harm me. Now return to your posts.”
The soldiers had hesitant looks on their faces, before nervously saluting their commander. As the soldiers left, Edelgard took a quick glance to wait for them to leave. Once the gates were shut, only El and Rhea were left in the room. And Rhea is far from excited to see her, or even think about what she is going to say or do. There is little else that Rhea could do besides narrow her eyes towards the food, then shoot her glance towards the other woman, her eyes filled with emotions of anger and hatred, once more. It’s as if every time she sees Edelgard, her eyes light up in fury, and every time she leaves, her eyes begin to dull, returning to the voids they once were.
“What is this mockery. . .Is it not enough that you’ve stripped me of all those I loved!? And now, you wish to disgrace me once more with THIS!?”
“Mockery? If I were you, I would be thankful that I am even getting nourishment of sorts within confinement. You may have powers beyond that of humans, but I doubt you would be able to survive completely without food.”
“I refuse to eat whatever filth you bring to me.”
“Sad to say, I wasn’t the one who made this. You’d best send your ‘compliments’ to the chef, instead.”
Edelgard said sarcastically, with an exhausted look painted on her face. It wasn’t that she had already done numerous tasks prior to entering the room that explains her tired expression. Rather, it was the fact that Seiros was, at least to her, acting quite childish. Somehow, looking after Rhea as a prisoner seemed more cumbersome than to fight her ‘other form’ in battle. But it was a task that Edel believed she had to do, as she wants to try and pry some answers to her questions or coerce her prisoner into cooperation.
Meanwhile, Rhea seemed quite disgusted. It was not the food that disgusted her, though. If anything, a prisoner being served with what is served to her now would be considered living a luxury. No, it was Edelgard’s actions that disgusts her. She could not help but be baffled at such a sight. The emperor that had her chained in the first place, is now personally delivering her food, as if she’s some sort of pet. This was nothing but a pitiful attempt of kindness towards Edelgard’s part, at least that’s what Rhea would like to believe. Part of her even believed the food to be poisoned which, while at first made her disgusted by the idea of a weak attempt, to somewhat hopeful that it IS poisoned, as she feels that she’d be damned if she has to spend another day living in what is essentially the castle’s basement.
“. . .Well? Are you not going to eat? Or must I feed you first, Oh dear Goddess—”
“QUIET! I don’t need you or your food, I’d much rather starve to my death.”
“We need you alive for our plans to come to fruition, therefore I cannot allow such an event to occur”
Like a defiant canine chained to its leash, Rhea simply growled towards Edelgard, to which she simply responded with an exasperated look upon her face, and a sigh of dismay. She had better things to do than this, and yet she’s stuck being the archbishop’s babysitter, by the sudden. Part of her thought about Hubert’s words, and felt a bit of regret after not having initially considered his suggestion. Of course, she quickly snapped herself out of such ridiculous thoughts and focused on the task at hand.
Seeing as how Rhea refuses to even smell the food, Edelgard takes it upon herself to make the goddess eat. Without warning, Edelgard drags the wheeled stool a bit closer to her. As Rhea furrows her brow towards such a confounding sight, El was taking a bit of the food using a spoon. After taking a scoop, Edelgard kneeled just close enough before Rhea, one hand being positioned under the spoon as the other held the utensil nearing Rhea’s lips.
“Open wide~! The horse carriage is about to enter the gates~!”
It was an odd sight, the Adrestian Emperor trying to feed Saint Seiros a spoonful. Edelgard leered as she slowly brought the spoon closer to Rhea, what was supposedly an embarrassing sight turned into an opportunity for her to toy with Rhea for a bit. She did not initially plan to stoop to such a level, but she could not help herself and decided to roll with it, finding some sort of fun in an otherwise bothersome scenario.
Rhea, on the other hand, was having none of it. Her eyes suddenly widened as her pupils somewhat ‘shrunk’. Having lived thousands of years only to have the latter part of her life be filled with the slaughter of her kin, her wrists being cuffed by the shackles of the empire, and the woman who once pointed a blade against the goddess, now pointing silverware towards her face!? This was just completely unfathomable to her. Her blood was practically boiling at this point.
“Still not eating, I see. Perhaps I should cool your meal off by blowing on it a bit, no?”
Said Edelgard, mockingly. Though her expression reflected was that of a smug, her voice seems to be masking a slightly irritated tone. Indeed, Edelgard wanted to have a little ‘fun’ with all this, though really, all she wanted was to get this over with. The way she sees Rhea’s constant lambasting of her being, and her desperate wishes of not having to see Edelgard again, was akin to a tired housewife not wanting to have to deal with the tantrums of their child.
Rhea couldn’t stop her eyes from twitching. She had never been quite insulted in her entire life. Her hatred towards Edelgard grew by the second. Her thoughts were riddled with various ways on how to strangle or claw out the other female. If she was unchained, she would’ve already made quick work with Edel. Though not having access to her powers, it did not stop her from getting back at her. Without a moment’s warning, Rhea instantly smacked the spoon out of Edelgard’s hand, using the back of her hand. The spoon flung towards the east side of the room, and Edelgard was left both startled and baffled, her eyes following the spoon to the direction it was headed, before slowly firing a glare towards Rhea.
“Was that really necessary? Now, you’ve made a mess all over that spot.”
“Is this some sort of sick, twisted joke to you!?”
Rhea roared, angrily staring at Edelgard as the latter stood up and went to try and clean the mess with a white cloth nearby the tray. As Edel was approaching the spot where the mess was made, all Rhea could do was clench her fists, as she narrowed her eyes towards El, her infuriated gaze following her movements. Edelgard, on the other hand, wasn’t as angry as the green-haired woman was. Rather, she simply sighed in annoyance. If Hubert was in her place, he would’ve scarred the chained woman with dark magic, she thought to herself.
“While this may have been mildly amusing, I’ve better things to do than stay and babysit you, Rhea. Must you be so obstinate that I have to pamper you like a child in order to get you to eat, let alone cooperate.”
“You are the child here. All you humans are!!! Mere children who think they can do as they please and betray my mother, disrupting our peace just so you can fulfil your own dark ambitions!!!”
Edelgard did not immediately respond to Rhea, being preoccupied with cleaning up her mess. After taking care of the situation, El took both the spoon, off the floor, and the cloth she was using to wipe the spilled food and returned to where the tray was. Rhea’s words did not anger her, but they did tire her out. Not only that, said words would continue to give her a somewhat negative impression upon the former archbishop.
“You are a monster. All of you are monsters! Nothing but fowl beasts, wanting to take everything for yourselves. You are just as vile, if not more, than that bastard Nemesis. . .”
“Interesting that you view me similar to the King of Liberation, especially since you’ve warped the history of Fodlan, and tricked millennia of humans into thinking that he is wicked, ‘corrupted’ even.”
She was somewhat baffled by Rhea words. The King of Liberation, Nemesis, a monster? This must be another one of the goddess’ lies. She was thought that both Nemesis and Seiros fought simply due to a ‘simple dispute’ and that Nemesis was the protector of man. Edelgard can be quite firm in beliefs such as these, so convincing her otherwise would be quite an ordeal. And even if what was taught to her was a lie, she found it hard to believe that Seiros, that Rhea, was on the right here, after recounting what she has done during the war, and her words to El, these past few days.
“You must be quite deluded, Rhea. You claim that everyone who opposes you is a beast, despite you yourself having done quite a number to our people. Not just during the war, but prior.”
“All I’ve done, I have done for my people! To protect my brethren, to maintain our peace. Yet insolent scum, such as yourself, have simply trampled all that for your sake! It is YOU who should take a good look of themselves.”
“What I do, I do for the people of Fodlan. To correct the wrongs that you have committed, to fix the flawed system of this nation. What I intend to do with you shall be no different.”
“LIES! ALL LIES!!!”
From Rhea’s perspective, she couldn’t believe that Edelgard does not have something wicked planned. Though she does acknowledge the fact that what El has done, is doing, and will do are for the benefit of the people of the country, she believes that everything Edelgard does “for the people” is so that they may assume power all for themselves, and play the role of gods and deities.
Edelgard did not have time to listen to such drivel. Every time she hears Rhea spout what she considers to be utter nonsense, her head aches and her eyes grow weary. At this point, she was even beginning to doubt herself as to why she insisted on keeping the Immaculate One alive. She could not get a proper opportunity to ask a question from her. Two days in a row, the same thing has been happening again. She enters the room, Rhea curses at her, she tries to approach the goddess, Rhea tries to get back at her. She leaves the room hoping the same thing would not happen again, and the cycle unfortunately repeats herself.
But there was no backing out of this plan now. They’ve already gone through lengths of trying to hide the fate of the war saint from the world, and she would have to heavily alter her strategies if they were to rid of Seiros now. Instead, Edelgard surrendered once more and decided to turn her back from the chained Rhea once more, exiting the room. Before she could even make it halfway through the room, however, she decided to answer Rhea’s accusation of her lying.
“What I intend to do with you is for the good of Fodlan. I seek not to rule, nor to conquer other nations. I seek only peace, and I require your power to do so. I intend to use your power to destroy all those who hide within the shadows, causing havoc. And once I have done so, I shall set you free.”
Having said all that, she turned her attention towards the doors once more. Edelgard marches towards the golden gates, with every intention of getting other tasks done. The sounds of the doors creaking can be heard as she opened it, followed by a rather loud, albeit slow, “bang” after shutting it close once more.
Rhea simply sat there, her snarling expression slowly dissipated from her face, replaced with a facial expression that just comes off as somewhat ‘stern’. Though still bearing a good amount of both hatred and mistrust towards the emperor, Rhea was also beginning to be perplexed about El’s words. “Those who hide within the shadows, causing havoc”, why would the Empire require the blood of Seiros to remove a few thieves here and there. Were they simply troublemakers who have yet to bring attention to themselves, or perhaps. . .was Edelgard referring to something else, she thought to herself. She could not help but wonder about this for a bit but has decided to give little thought into it for now, as she was still more concerned with what the Empire was planning.
Meanwhile, around the hallways, Edelgard gently grasped her right palm, it seems that Rhea’s smack did leave an impact on her. She wasn’t injured, thankfully, but she did feel a light pain slightly lingering around her right hand. At the same time, she thought about Rhea’s words. It would be a lie to say that Edelgard wasn’t affected by what the war saint had told her a few moments ago, and even the day before. Though at most, she was mildly offended at the presumption that what she is doing is simply out of greed and recklessness.
At the same time, she began questioning what her ancestors have taught her about Fodlan’s history as well. Their stories were incomplete and simply passed down by generations, whereas Rhea herself has been present in those historical times. Yet if Rhea claimed to be a victim of those times, why was it that she warped the history of Fodlan? Edelgard was both confounded and somewhat infuriated, as those sweet little lies were what led to the Fodlan of today, as well as what led to her life being the way it is now. . .
i feel like some of the stuff i wrote here may be a bit ooc but i wanted to try and make this chapter a bit interesting so sorry about that! hopefully you guys enjoyed this and the entire fic overall, will try to get chapter four out by next week maybe! :D
Chapter 4: Beneath the Shadows
Hubert and Byleth continue to discuss about various topics. Specifically, about Rhea, those who slither in the dark, the idea of bringing their old colleagues into the fray, and what to do next.
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(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
[4th of the Great Tree Moon, 12:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
Staring into the horizon from the palace balcony, Byleth sat near a small table, seemingly waiting for someone to arrive. A tea set can be seen on the table, as she had a cup of tea on her hand. It was a southern fruit blend, a flavor which wasn’t exactly her favorite, but seems to be fond of it enough for her to indulge. Byleth simply sat there with a somewhat dull expression, her mind almost devoid of thoughts as she lets her state of mind slowly drift from reality. Though, perhaps that wasn’t entirely the case and that she only appears to be as such. Or perhaps, it was a slow day and she barely had anything to do.
Whatever the case, there was no one else with her. The atmosphere around her was silent, and she found that good. Though unentertaining, Byleth gets too used to the busy voices around her, be it around the Monastery five years prior or the bustling streets of post-war Enbarr. That silence would soon be interrupted, however, as a certain individual would approach the mercenary.
“Enjoying yourself, my dear?”
A familiar voice spoke to her. Suddenly, Byleth’s expression seems more alert, as if she’s been broken from some sort of trance (or having woke up from her daydreams). Byleth then placed her cup of tea onto the table, standing up to turn around and greet the individual before her. It was none other than her husband, as well as partner-in-crime, Hubert. Byleth does not seem too surprised by his presence. In fact, it was as if she was waiting for him, even.
“I was waiting for you.”
“Were you now? Funny, I do not recall receiving an invitation from you, ‘Professor’.”
“I didn’t want to wake you up.”
“How are you certain that I’ve slept at all, last night?”
Though often a serious individual, Hubert would crack one of his sarcastic jokes from time to time. His habit of making jests during conversations was slowly made more habitual, in part due to his beloved. At the same time, Byleth wasn’t as slow as she was, when it comes to picking up jokes. Both had a light chuckle, before they walked closer to the table. As a sign of courtesy, Byleth offered some tea to Hubert, to which the latter raised his hand up, a polite gesture of refusal. Byleth then picked up her cup, as well as a platter to place it on, taking a sip from it. Afterwards, her expression changed to a somewhat concerned one as she spoke to Hubert.
“How are things with the archbishop?”
“Not much has changed. Lady Edelgard has acquired no valuable information from Rhea, whatsoever. I wish to support Her Majesty in all her endeavors, but I question whether or not sparing the archbishop was even necessary, to begin with.”
“I just want to know why Rhea did what she did. The secrets, placing a Crest inside me, burning down a town.”
“I doubt she would be willing to answer your inquiries, my dear.”
“I wish I could reach out to her, though. The other day, I saw that look in her eyes. I can feel that she’s hurt. . .”
“Concerned for the well-being of the archbishop. . .? I would’ve thought that you would hold a personal vendetta against her, after all she’s done.”
Hubert arched his brows, somewhat intrigued at his spouse showing concern for Rhea. While he himself is an enemy of the archbishop, Hubert does not bear any sort of hatred or disgust for Rhea and, at most, only see her as another obstacle in Lady Edelgard’s path. Of course, he knows well enough that Rhea has done a number onto Byleth’s life, thus understanding why she would hold a grudge against Rhea. Seeing her be concerned for the latter perplexed him, as that was something he did not expect.
“I don’t like her because of what she did. But at the same time, I don’t hate her. Part of me feels like she had reasons, that maybe I’d understand if I could speak to her.”
Byleth lets out a sigh. Ever since having entered the Monastery, the archbishop had always been an enigma to her. Why did Rhea do what she did? What pushed her to end up in these situations? Was she truly a wicked being, or have her kindness and warmth always been sincere, slowly fading away from her system after being pushed to a breaking point?
Byleth would recall Rhea’s constant statements about her mother being “taken away from her”, as well as the fact that Rhea blamed both herself and Edelgard for doing so. She understood well enough that the goddess within her, Sothis, was Rhea’s mother. She figured that Rhea implanted the Crest inside of her, with every intention to bring the progenitor god back. What perplexed her was why she was chosen as the vessel, why it all had to be this way. Even until now, Byleth was unsure of her past, her father’s history with Garreg Mach, of the true history of Fodlan, and even as to what the Heroes’ Relics are even made of.
“Maybe there’s a chance that Rhea. . .feels lonely.”
Byleth gently uttered. She did not mean to blurt those words out, however, and was instead thinking to herself. She still had no clue as to what’s going on, but with Rhea so desperately wanting to see her mother once more, Byleth had an inkling that such may just be the case. Loneliness does not excuse one’s crimes, but it can push others to do such acts. It’s times like these where she wished that she could hear Sothis’ voice once more, needing a bit of guidance and curious about the progenitor god’s own input.
“I do not quite understand the archbishop, myself. But if you wish to speak to her, then I will not stop you. Part of me even believes that you’ve a better chance of getting anything out of her than Lady Edelgard does, seeing as how she did have an unusual fondness for you, my dear.”
Hubert spoke, placing one hand onto Byleth’s shoulder. Though he does not particularly care about the archbishop, or her history with Byleth, Hubert did what he could and offered some advice to his wife. He’s not one for emotional support, but after the fated encounter in the Goddess Tower, Hubert tries his best to at least lift up Byleth’s spirit, be it through a jest or through reason.
Byleth’s face reflected that of a weak smile. Though still confounded, a glimmer of hope began to shine in her orbs. It seems that Hubert managed to motivate her a little. Soon she will approach Rhea and try to ask her questions once more, she thought to herself. As for Hubert, with little else to say about the situation with Rhea, he attempts to shift the topic to one of their other concerns. . .
“I do hope that the goddess would soon find it in her to cooperate. I fear what would happen if those who slither in the dark get ahold of this information.”
“Would they be able to find out?”
“It is possible that they have sent spies to infiltrate the palace. Of course, it would be a difficult task to uncover such plot since they’ve most likely posed as our allies.”
“I haven’t seen anyone that looks suspicious. Have you?”
“No reports so far. Perhaps they’ve hidden themselves well enough. Of course, there is the possibility that the spies lurk not within the palace, but beyond it; amongst the ranks of our allied noble clans.”
Byleth was worried. The last thing she wanted was for Thales to discover their plans. She tried to recall everyone she’s seen the past few days. Nobles, soldiers, even merchants who operate near the palace. She was trying her earnest to determine whether any of these individuals that she has come across, the past few days, stood out. Of course, this did not seem to be the case, as Byleth hasn’t seen any curious figures blending in with the people she knows. Instinctively, she turned to look around her. Left and right, there were little to no signs of life besides the two of them. Hubert could not help but let out a soft chuckle upon seeing this.
“It seems that you’re quite anxious about their presence.”
“I’m am a bit worried. But I really haven’t seen anyone who seemed off.
“I’d be more concerned about their absence, if I were you. I doubt that those urchins would choose to stay quiet. They may think that they’ve rid the world from the children of the goddess, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are plotting to rid the world of us, next.”
“Maybe we can ask some of our friends to help us?”
“I would advise against such an idea. The last thing we need is to send various territories into a panic because of this. We must let them handle the other sectors of the empire. Lady Edelgard insists that they have no part in any of this. At most, we shall enlist the help of Jeritza, once I have finally determined the secret location of those who slither.”
After hearing all that, Byleth couldn’t do anything but reluctantly agree. As much as she would love to ask the rest of the Black Eagle Strike Force for some aid, she does understand that they’d be better off focusing on their own tasks. Speaking of tasks, it seems like it was about time they finally head to work, with Byleth trying to help El the best that she could, and Hubert trying to pinpoint the exact coordinates of their enemies, once more.
Without further delay, Hubert left a small peck on Byleth’s cheek. As stated before, he wasn’t the romantic type but he’s trying. A glimpse of his pinkish face can be seen just before he turns away from Byleth and heads back to his own duties. As he turned away from his spouse, Byleth could not help but smile as she saw him walk away. After a few moments, Byleth’s expression would change to a more worried look. Turning towards the sky, Byleth decided to spend just a little bit more time to think about what’s going on, as well as what was about to come.
this chapter was really short and im sorry about that. tbh i kinda got lazy with this and only really made this to bridge the last chapter with the next one. there will be a couple of filler chapters just to keep the flow of the story, but (hopefully) the next chapter is where things finally get a bit interesting! happy reading!!
Chapter 5: Shaded Truths
Once more, Edelgard’s presence graces her prisoner’s eyes, once more. This time, Byleth has decided to come along and finally inquire Rhea.
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(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
[15th of the Great Tree Moon, 16:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
Though the sun’s about to set, there were barely any signs of the emperor leaving her quarters, barely making an appearance the entire day. She was too busy to come out of her room, even having someone bring her snacks in for her. Edelgard was too focused on silently working on her plans, both to improve Fodlan’s political structure and to find a way to properly utilize Rhea against Thales and his ilk. That wasn’t to say that she didn’t take any breaks. At times where she feels stumped, Edelgard would begin sketching random things on a sheet of paper, ranging to mere objects like a rose, an eagle or a vase, to people like Byleth or Hubert.
This wasn’t the first time that El hasn’t left her room for nearly an entire day, however. There have been days where she is so caught up with her work that she either forgets to leave or outright refuses to. She would still get visits from various individuals, but she herself wouldn’t bother to head their way, lest there be an urgent manner. As for Rhea, she hasn’t bothered visiting her for quite some time. Having to endure the same routine of being barked at by the goddess and not gaining any new information was tiring, to say the least, for her. Not only that, but time did not allow for it as El was forced to focus on other diplomatic matters, forcing her to stay in her room or leave the palace for the impromptu visit.
Those are just few of the reasons, though. Another reason as to why she hasn’t been checking up on her prisoner was due to being uncertain. She was uncertain if this plan would even work, if she could even approach Rhea. Her thoughts have been riddled with various potential strategies that she could try to coerce the saint into joining her side, with her emotions being bombarded by questions such as the true reason that she spared Rhea to begin with. Perhaps she was being generous, or perhaps she truly saw an opportunity at Rhea but did not think it through. She just doesn’t know what to think anymore, letting out a sigh as she leans her right cheek onto her palm.
Another visitor has approached her doorstep, it seems. El wasn’t expecting anyone at this hour (or rather, she didn’t want to expect anyone coming in to disturb her), so for someone to knock on her doors is somewhat surprising. Edelgard was immediately snapped out of whatever she was thinking and stood up from her seat. She headed towards the door to personally greet the individual on the other side. As she twisted the knob on the door, her expression was immediately that of a mildly annoyed look, slowly fading into a more lighthearted face as she saw who it was.
“Ah, professor! What brings you here?”
She exclaimed. She did not really expect Byleth to come visit her quarters, but she was nonetheless relieved with the fact that it was her and not another noble who knocked on her room. At the same time, she was curious. Byleth rarely comes to her door. And when she does, she usually asks for El to take a break with her, which she usually does at earlier hours. At a time like this, where the sun is about to set, Byleth usually spends her time alone or with Hubert, so an invitation for tea at such an hour seems uncharacteristic of the professor, El thought.
“Are you busy, as of the moment? I’d like to ask you a favor”
“Not quite. I’ve errands to do, but I’m not in the rush. Depending on what it is, perhaps I can help you out with this favor.”
Beneath the palace lies a chained Rhea, staring blankly towards the horizon. Her expression is a mix of anger, sadness and just overall exhaustion. Weeks would pass where she would simply sit there, with no one to accompany her and little to do to ease her boredom or release her frustrations, even. It was a sad experience, and an incredibly dull one as well. Part of Rhea was hoping that the professor would show up to ease her. Though she bore hatred towards Byleth, Rhea still had a place for her in her heart, just as her parents once had. As much as she wanted Byleth to pay for her transgressions, Rhea could not help but miss her, as Byleth was to her what the professor’s mother, Sitri, was to Rhea. That connection is what made Byleth choosing to side with the empire heartbreaking.
Unbeknownst to her, she may just have her wish granted. As Rhea was pre-occupied with these thoughts, the gates to her isolated chamber would slowly make those creaking noises, once more. The moment Rhea heard this, she instantly shifted her attention towards the doorstep, her face somewhat lighting up at the fact that she may finally see Byleth again. Her emotions where in a frenzy. She was unsure of how she should feel. On one hand, Byleth betrayed her and inadvertently distanced Rhea from her mother. On the other hand, Byleth was really the only one that Rhea had left. All that hate she’s built up for her, during the war, is seemingly starting to vanish. Rhea would literally kill just to see Byleth once more.
To her benefit, it was indeed Byleth who was behind those doors. The mercenary began walking towards her. It has been quite some time since she has graced Rhea with her presence, with the archbishop somewhat relieved. A glimmer of hope shined through her eyes, as Rhea saw who was essentially the only ‘family’ she had left standing before her. However, said glimmer would begin to fade as Rhea would soon notice that the teal-haired mercenary did not come alone.
*sigh* “Why did I agree to this. . .”
And there it is, the dreaded catch. Everything that is considered “too good to be true” just had to have a catch, and this scenario’s no different. Rhea was fortunate enough to be able to meet her eyes with Byleth’s, once more. However, she didn’t think that she’d be unlucky to have to see her, once again. From a somewhat confused and hopeful expression, Rhea’s eyes slowly narrowed as her lips curled. Though both are her enemies, Rhea could at least tolerate the professor. Seeing Edelgard, on the other hand. . .
“A part of me hoped that I may be able to see your face once more, to be graced by the presence of the only one I can call ‘family’. I despised you, yet I longed for you. And now that you’ve come, you once again brought a reminder of the hatred I’ve had for you, for five years. . .Why?”
“Ugh. This is precisely why I did not want to return down here. I’d have to hear her divine sermons, once more.”
As Rhea’s right eye began to twitch at the sight of her nemesis, Edelgard drew an exasperated sigh, rubbing her fingers over her temples to ease herself. Though this was her plan, she far from enjoyed the few visits she’d had in this isolated chamber. Not only that, but El was about to take a short break from her work. Well, she is taking said break now, but she expected a nice cup of tea instead of being dragged into this mess.
“Have you come to mock me, once more? To taunt me? Sneer at my being? Everyday, it brings me pain to think of the mercenary who pointed her blade towards the gods, while having taken the side of a witch.”
“I see no witches here, Rhea. I know a few individuals who are far more capable of magic than I am, but to call them ‘witches’ would be doing them a disservice.”
“Had I not been chained and stripped of my power I would’ve used my claws to tear that tongue out of those tiresome lips of yours!!”
“Both of you enough. This wasn’t what we came down for.”
Just before the two could even continue their violent exchange of words, Byleth interjected. Her stern words were enough to put a cease between the pointless banter of El and Rhea. Neither one of them would be willing to listen to one another but are more than willing to heed the words of the professor. After all, they both have a sort of “soft spot” for her. As the room begins to quiet down, Byleth turns her attention to Rhea, seemingly having something to say to her.
“I’ve come here to ask you questions. Questions about my past, the past of the country, and what I really am to you. I know you are mad at me for siding with the Empire, but I had to do what must be done.”
“You have betrayed my trust, taken those I love away from me, broken my heart. Why should I answer your questions. . .?”
“. . .”
Byleth found herself speechless, just how would she answer such a question? She obviously wants Rhea to answer questions because she wants answers, but that would obviously not be a compelling reason to Rhea, after what Byleth did to her. She bore no hatred towards Rhea. Mistrust, maybe, but nothing else beyond that. She knew that she couldn’t side with Rhea and she was certain that she made the right choice not to, after having witnessed what has occurred in the past few months. Yet, she could not help but feel guilty, her eyes filled with a sort of sadness for having sent Rhea to such a cruel fate.
Unlike her tone with the Flame Emperor, Rhea did not yell at Byleth. Her voice was somewhat more calm, tranquil, almost as if she’s actively suppressing her emotions when speaking to her. And in her eyes, she sees a troubled look. In contrast to El, who felt nothing, Byleth was clearly remorseful for her actions. Having noticed this, Rhea sighed. She knew she could not be completely mad towards the professor, and she somewhat understood as to why Byleth chose to oppose her, rather than side with her.
“. . .Sigh, I suppose I shall entertain your questions, Professor. Whatever answers you wish to know about your past, your connection to me, and the history of Fodlan, shall all be answered.”
“Ah, thank yo—”
“However, once I have answered your questions, you must entertain a question of my own. There has been. . .something I’ve been meaning to confirm, myself.”
Byleth was perplexed. She had no idea as to what Rhea was talking about. There wasn’t really anything that Byleth could have the answer to, in terms of what the archbishop wanted to ask. Perhaps Rhea wanted to ask why she sided with the Adrestian Empire, instead of the Church of Seiros. But hadn’t she already answered that question, Byleth thought to herself. Unless, of course, Rhea has a different question in mind. . .
Byleth eyed Edelgard for a moment. Neither one of them uttered a voice, but they had their own little conversation going on. Edel would reciprocate the gaze with her own unsure look. Her expressions, coupled with her slight body movements, confirms that Edelgard herself has little to no idea as to what Rhea is referring to. Of course, those matters were put aside for a while, with Byleth returning her attention to Rhea. She would gesture towards the chained pope, finally asking her to begin answering the questions that Byleth had for her. Rhea gave a little nod, softly clearing up her mind just before beginning to tell her story.
“I believe I have told you this once, before, but your mother was a nun under my services. She was a kind, gentle soul, who always sought to see the outside world. However, she rarely left the Monastery, due to her frail nature. I am certain that you have been made aware of this, after the events which occurred in the Abyss, five years prior. What I failed to tell you was why she had such a condition.”
. . .
“Your mother, Sitri, was. . .a vessel. A vessel for the progenitor god. I so desperately wanted to see the goddess Sothis. . .to see my mother, once more. In my desire and grief, I had created twelve vessels, over the course of my lifetime. Sitri was the twelfth. One after another, each vessel I have made would continue to fail me, the first few not even being fortunate enough to live out a life.”
. . .
“With each failure, comes with a new knowledge. I would understand why these vessels would not be suited to bear the Crest. Eventually, I would be a step closer to succeeding. . .with Sitri being my last attempt. She was able to live, to function. But the moment I tried to implant the Crest within her, everything spiraled to failure, once more. Unlike the others, Sitri was able to live long enough, but her time was limited. She only had years to see the world. . .and unlike you, she failed to awaken the power of the progenitor god. . .”
. . .
“So all this time, my mother and I. . .we’re merely test subjects to you. . .”
“I. . .Your mother was made to be the key to the revival of Sothis, first and foremost. But she was more than just a mere ‘experiment’. She was like family to me. . .Though I may have created her with every intention of bringing back my mother, I saw her as an individual. Something about her kept my mind in peace. She was a kind, loving and caring person, just as my mother was. But she was not her. Instead, it felt as if I was her mother of sorts. . .”
“. . .”
“It pained me to see her pass, but when witnessed your birth, I saw hope. Hope that I may still have someone as loyal to me as Sitri once was, hope that I may not have to bear this loneliness for long. . .hope that I may see my mother, once more. I wanted to move on, but after seeing that the Crest was compatible with you, I. . .I let my greed get the best of me. . .And the moment you pointed your blade against me. . .”
. . .
“. . .it ruined me. . .”
Both Byleth and El stayed silent. Though their inquiries haven’t ended, the words they’ve just heard left them speechless. Conflicted, even. Byleth was confounded, she was unsure of how to respond or feel about all this. All this time, her mother was meant to be some sort of experiment that would fulfil Rhea’s own desires. Was she supposed to be mad about that fact, or was she supposed to feel sorry for Rhea? Byleth is typically a calm person, having only been enraged the day that Jeralt was stabbed. Seeing her father be stabbed, without remorse from the one who committed the act, made her angry. Knowing that her mother was a mere test subject for some war saint’s wicked schemes yet understanding that she was treated like a human being throughout her life. . .that wasn’t as straightforward as the former scenario. She was still trying to process all this better.
Edelgard, on the other hand, was unsure whether to direct her feelings towards appalment for the archbishop, or concern for the mercenary, after having all this be unloaded to her as well. The fact that Sitri was a created vessel does not change the emperor’s disgust towards Crests, as well as experimentation in general. Half of her wanted to hug Byleth, the other wanting to punch Rhea. Of course, she had to swallow her emotions first, to listen to what Rhea has to say to them next.
“I’m apologize for not having told you this sooner, prof—”
“It’s fine. Just. . .continue. Tell me about the Crests, about the Ten Elites. Why are they so special? Are they truly gifts from the goddess? Why did you grant them such power?”
“. . .The Crests. . .the Ten Elites. . .Everything you know about them are bit lies. The Elites, they are not heroes. They never were. Those beasts were given Crests not by the progenitor god, but by that bastard Nemesis. That man desecrated the Holy Tomb. He killed my mother, and most of my kin. He used their bones, and their blood, to carve the weapons you know today as the Heroes’ Relics. He granted those weapons to those foolish Elites, as well as the power of the Crests. . .”
“I. . .why wasn’t that in any of the books or the Church’s teachings?”
“. . .I hid this truth from the world. I’ve went through lengths to ensure that no one would know of this.”
“. . .”
“I did it all to maintain peace. I fabricated history to prevent another tragedy. Had I allowed the truth to come out, there would have been discord. If they knew what the Heroes’s Relics and the Crests truly are. . .they would’ve come after my remaining brethren. If they knew what has truly transpired during that war, their descendants would have come after us!! I did it too keep my kin safe, I did it to prevent another war between humans and what was left of our kind. I did it all to ensure that another betrayal would not occur. . .!!!”
Toward the end of the sentence, Rhea’s voice cracked a bit. Recalling those events would always be unpleasant for her, but to say it out loud. . .She couldn’t help it. She tried her best to silence herself, to stop herself from uttering a voice. But it didn’t matter how silent she was, for tears would begin to slowly build up within her eyes. She stared towards the horizon, silently weeping as she gritted her teeth.
Seeing the former archbishop in such a state left Byleth uneasy. Already, her emotions were conflicted after hearing all those truths about her mother. Watching Rhea quietly break down in front of her made her empathize for her. Though Rhea may have been responsible (albeit inadvertently) in dragging Byleth into the complexity that is her life, she knows that it all boils down to Rhea wanting to see her mother, once more. Though Byleth wouldn’t go through the same lengths as Rhea, or one of her cardinals, did, Byleth knows the feeling of wanting to see her loved one again. Even until now, she misses her father. Such a feeling, coupled with her kind nature, allowed her to understand Rhea a bit more.
On the flipside, however, Edelgard doesn’t seem to be having any of it. She was distraught at all this. Though what Rhea said aligns with the history that have been passed down from her ancestors, she had a hard time comprehending all this. She knew well that the history that has been taught by the Church of Seiros are all mere fabrications, she knows that the Crests were made not by the goddess, but by mankind. What she fails to understand is why Rhea would warp the history of the land and preach those fallacies through the Church. Why would she spread the fact that the Crests are “gifts” from the goddess, when they were made through genocide?
The Crests, they have been a burden in Edelgard’s life for so long. Being experimented on, living in a society that scoffs at one’s merits, but highly appraises the value of a draconic heart. This would inadvertently lead to nobles becoming more arrogant and greedier for power, thus leading to events such as the Insurrection of the Seven. All that has transpired within her life has been nothing but misery. And though it was mostly the likes of Thales who ruined her, she cannot help but direct her anger towards Rhea as well. All this Crest glorifying churned her stomach. It repulsed her to live in a world where she would witness not only this phenomenon, but also the effects it had on the society.
El clenched her fist as her eyes began to twitch. She tried closing her eyes and taking deep breaths to maintain her composure, but even that was a challenge for her. Had the Crests not been given such high value, the nobles would not be so conceited. Had that not happened, then there would be less of the incompetent lot that began the Insurrection, and more of those with actual skills and talent. Edel blamed Rhea for all of that. It may not have been her intention to allow for such a flawed system to form, but Edelgard place the blame on the archbishop, nonetheless.
“So, the Crests were made from the blood of your kind. They were made through slaughtering the children of the goddess. And yet. . .you told the world that they were divine gifts. You warped the truths of what has transpired, at the cost of our world today being run by a horrendous system!? You’ve built a world of nobles, filled with conceit and arrogance, and left this world to rot by their greedy hands!?”
“. . .I did not do any of that. I have simply done what I thought was best, for the sake of maintaining peace. It is the humans who have chosen to be greedy, once more. I disapprove of people valuing Crests more than the lives of others, and it is unfortunate that they have chosen to be—”
“Maybe the humans wouldn’t have gotten greedy, had they not been given a reason such as those stones being ‘gifts from the goddess’ in the first place, you WENCH!!!”
For the first time in her life, Edelgard lost her composure in front of others. Consumed by anger, Edelgard finally snapped at the archbishop. Not once has she held true contempt towards her, but after hearing all this, El found Rhea’s reasoning for lying about Fodlan’s history extremely ridiculous. Rhea claims to have done it for the sake of peace, but what she has done has led to corruption, petty skirmishes and victims to society. Rhea wasn’t completely at fault, however, and El’s anger may or may not be misplaced. But she hated the Crests, she hated the system, she hated the value that has been placed on these pebbles. And because of that, she could not help but begin to hate the woman who had part in this.
“El, please calm do—”
“I once assumed that you were a power-hungry monster, but I was wrong. In truth, you are nothing more than a little brat who sullied the world and caused various issues on our society, all for the sake of seeing your mother once more! I lost my family as well. I saw my siblings die, I witnessed my father be reduced to nothing, I had to cut down my stepbrother! Yet you do not see me perform senseless experiments and warp the truth for the sake of being able to see them again, don’t you!?”
“Insolent child, have you forgotten that it was you who started this war!? Had you sat still and allowed the world to progress as it is, then this mess would’ve been p—”
“Had you not told mankind that the Crests were blessings, then I would not be forced to take action and rectify the irksome state of the nation myself!”
“I’ve already stated that I did it all for the sake of—”
“Of what? Seeing your mother? Protecting those remaining in your blood? Why couldn’t you have stayed in hiding instead of forming a cult of sorts? The world would be a much better place if you just accepted the fact that the progenitor god is never coming back—”
“I WAS CLOSE TO BRINGING HER BACK UNTIL YOU SPURNED MY PLANS, YOU IMPUDENT WHELP!!!”
As both the emperor and the war saint argued, Byleth stood there, somewhat terrified. She did not want to see the two of them break out to a fight. All she desired was for her questions to be answered, and for El and Rhea to come to an agreement of sorts. Of course, that all seemed to be wishful thinking. Byleth tried to intervene their barrage of words, trying to settle down the commotion before it somehow escalates. However, all her efforts were for naught, as the two women seem to be completely ignoring her. With a worried expression in her face, Byleth decided to slowly exit the room, hoping that this will all be settled somehow. Seeing as neither El nor Rhea are willing to heed her words, Byleth saw little reason to remain. . .
probably the longest chapter i have written so far. sorry this took so long, i got a bit lazy in the course of writing this. i feel like this is where things finally start to lead up to more interesting events, and i hope you enjoy this chapter and look forward to the next one!! :D
Chapter 6: Fault Lines
A heated argument ensues, with both Rhea and Edelgard blaming one another for their actions. Slowly, however, the two would begin to realize just how similar they really are to each other.
[15th of the Great Tree Moon, 17:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
An hour earlier, Byleth had urged Edelgard to give Rhea a visit, once more. What was expected to be a simple, long-awaited, interrogation and negotiation with the war saint, turned into a violent barrage of words from the scion of the empire, to the child of the goddess. Both women continued to argue, refusing to listen to one another while allowing the situation to be even more heated than usual. Byleth, who was like a mutual connection to both Rhea and Edel, decided it’d be best for her to leave the room and let things proceed as is, rather than even bother to intercept their not-so-little argument. She stood on the other side of the doors, all flustered and unsure of how to feel. Taking a sigh to compose herself, Byleth almost immediately went towards the upper levels, all while having a concerned look at her face.
Meanwhile, the women still inside the chambers would continue to argue and bombard one another with insults and cusses. Rhea was once again fumed at the emperor for not only taking away all her loved ones but having the audacity to pin the blame onto her for the sufferings that the emperor herself had gone through. Likewise, Edelgard snapped at the goddess, pouring all her contempt and disgust for the archbishop for the glorification and romanticization of the Crests; objects that she believed were the center of greed born from bloodlust.
“I WAS CLOSE TO BRINGING HER BACK UNTIL YOU SPURNED MY PLANS, YOU IMPUDENT WHELP!!!”
“Your plan was destined to fail, cryptid! Maybe you should have realized that first and moved on instead of clinging to the past and damning the future!!!”
“I did not damn your future, you humans did that yourselves!!!”
“I always suspected that you were but a monster who gave little thought to humanity. You’re no better than those who slither in the dark!”
. . .
“Those who slither in the dark. . .So, that is the name of the group formed by the remnants of those putrid scum. And you. . .you dare liken me to those monsters when you’ve WORKED with THEM!!!”
“I did what I had to, in order to free Fodlan from the likes of yo—”
“You have the gall to call ME a monster, when YOU worked with those who slaughtered my kin, who caused the tragedy at the Red Valley. You’re just like them!”
“Still your tongue! You act as if I wanted to work with those animals. They were the ones who experimented on me and subjected my siblings into the same horrible tests.”
“Yes, that makes sense. Rather than wanting to maintain the peace of the nation, you instead opted to plunge the country into discord and worked alongside your siblings’ murderers!!!”
“. . .Shut up. . .”
“You’re just as lowly of a beast as those savages are. You are nothing but a disgrace to your bloodli—”
“I SAID SHUT UP!!!!!!”
Edelgard roared, her shout echoing through the entire room as she would set her foot down and violently stomp it down the ground. Though the stomp itself wasn’t as loud, it was as if her heel unleashed a shockwave throughout the walls, silencing whatever sound or utterance within the room. Her eyes twitched as her nostrils fumed. Having those words be said to her greatly insulted her. Usually, El would be unaffected by mere words let alone insults. However, what Rhea said greatly insulted her. Being told that she sent the kingdom to chaos while working with the scum that experimented on her and her siblings made her blood boil. It was so jarring to hear, so agitating. And the worst part of all this is that. . .Rhea’s not wrong. In fact, the war saint hit the nail on the head.
Before all this started, before there was a war, before Edelgard made plans for the reformation of the country, El knew what she was doing. She never failed to realize that she was about to throw the kingdom to war, to sacrifice lives, for the sake of her ambitions, to work alongside those who caused so much pain, suffering, and losses in her life. She knew all too well what she was about to do and what she has done. Though El may seem somewhat ruthless and determined, she is not without a conscience. Every day, these thoughts could continue to haunt her. But she would bear through them, she would carry on living each day of her life doing what she can for the betterment of the nation, not allowing these thoughts to distract her too much.
But having that be directly told to her, being explicitly told that what she did was basically form an alliance with the murderers of her family, regardless of whether said alliance was formed through her own volition and interest or out of reluctance, it felt different. Somehow, hearing those words wounded her, it broke a part of her. It was as if knowing that she screwed up on her task, but then someone outright her those words, that she screwed up, and it somewhat rubbed it in your face. That was what it felt like for her, and that was why she couldn’t take it.
Suddenly, the screams of the past would begin to echo inside Edel’s mind. The anguished cries and pleas for help from ten other children tormented and subjected to the same types of excruciating tests subjected onto her, as well as the roaring fury of the man she once saw as an extension to her family, all collectively clouding her thoughts, slowly crumbling her. Whatever pain those voices have lived through would be witnessed once more by the emperor, as if she was back in time reliving these tragedies. From the hollow basement decorated with chains and shackles, to the gloomy fields of Tailtean that were stained by mud and rain, Edelgard would watch her life of suffering unfold, with the shadow of Thales constantly lurking by her side. She was distraught, unnerved and shaken to her very core. These visions, which would normally haunt her dreams, were being thrown at her direction, piercing her heart harder than the ones in her slumber.
. . .
“To the fires of eternity with you, El”
. . .
“All so you may acquire the strength you need. All for a purpose. . .”
. . .
Her eyes would begin to water, her face that of helplessness and distraught. El would slowly drop to her knees, covering her face in shame as tears would begin to roll down her cheeks. To think that having the obvious, having something she already knew too well be told straight to her face, would crumble every fiber of her being. Maybe Rhea was right. Maybe she was a monster, Edelgard thought to herself. Or perhaps, she always knew the fact that she is a monster, trying to delude herself that all of what she has done is for the future of humanity, for the greater good of Fodlan. Though the kingdom has began to see better days, as of late, all the casualties and damage El caused has always stuck to her mind. It made her guilty, it gave her regrets. And through that, it maintained her humanity and compassion. But she always got through it, she tried not to let it drag to her. She stayed resilient to such pains, by constantly reminding herself of her plans. But today, she couldn’t take it anymore.
As the emperor’s silent weeps slowly escalated into more audible cries, Rhea watched El break down before her very eyes. Seeing the woman Rhea loathed for the longest of time endure the emotions she had felt, it was satisfying for her. Rhea’s initial reaction was that of a slightly wicked smile. Her eyes would widen as her irises would narrow, somewhat taking bliss and satisfaction at the sight of El receiving her karma. However, that twisted look on her face would slowly dissipate. Her smile would slowly fade, as her eyes started to look less enraged. It was odd, she wanted to see Edelgard, the woman that she blamed for the loss of her kin and happiness, suffer just as she did. And now that Rhea has witnessed said event, it made her feel somewhat empathetic.
Knowing what Edelgard has done to achieve her goals, and having heard of her motives, there was no doubt in Rhea’s mind that Edel was indeed a monster. However, witnessing the cries and the wallows of the white-haired woman somewhat made Rhea realized that. . .she, too, is a monster. She wanted to mock the emperor, laugh at her suffering, revel at the sight of her grief. She wanted that badly but instead, she felt somewhat guilty, sorry for El. And in those moments, she finally took the time to reflect upon her own misdeeds. In a sense, Rhea slowly regained her humanity, albeit in the most unexpected way possible.
Rhea slowly understood the impact that her lies had onto the society of Fodlan, what her experiments have done to have affected the life of Byleth. From the abuse of power as the archbishop of the Church, to the ruthlessness and cruelty she has done as the returning war saint Seiros, setting an entire town on fire just to grant her the favor of the war. She has brought discord onto Fodlan in her own ways, just as Edelgard did. And in the process of doing so, Rhea broke the trust of her followers, her retainers, and even those who she would call family. This wasn’t what Rhea wanted, all she asked for was peace, and the return of her mother. Instead, what she got was a life full of tears, anger and laments. And all this was partially her own doing.
“This feels odd. . .All these years, I have suffered. I lived for millennia, without my mother’s guidance or presence. I’ve had the only family I had left taken away from me. And some of those who followed my words now pointed their blades against me. And you were all I had to blame for those.”
. . .
“I wanted you to suffer just as I have, to have a taste of the pain that I have gone throughout my lifetime, to slowly break you just as you have broken me. And now that I’ve become witness to such a sight. . .my heart chooses to ache for you, instead.”
. . .
“You have brought ruin upon this land, and you claim that all that you have done was for the future of the land. But. . .somehow, I’ve realized. All those that I have done have caused harm, and I’ve done them all for the sake of the land, for the sake of peace. . .”
. . .
“I. . .I see now that. . .that perhaps, you and I aren’t so far apart from one another. . .”
. . .
Shocked from those hearing those words, Edelgard briefly looked Rhea into her eyes. Her emotions became more of a cluttered mess, as now she’s unsure how to respond to those words. Part of her feels somewhat unnerved by the comparison between her and Rhea, yet there was no form of explicit disgust present in her thoughts, or her face. Rather, there was only guilt, with a hint of denial. Already, she was having trouble dealing with the amount of guilt she carried for all her misdeeds, this comparison would simply add to those worries. Was El truly just like Rhea, was Rhea truly just like her? Her heart was lost, her mind confounded.
But then, El focused her attention towards Rhea’s eyes, once more. Rather than the anger and hatred she always had, Rhea’s expression was instead filled with sadness, empathy, a hint of guilt. Slowly, El would begin to realize that perhaps the war saint’s words ring true. All that El has done, she did it as an attempt to bring peace from Fodlan. All of what she did was for the sake of not only the future of the kingdom, but also to ensure that no one would have to suffer like her siblings did. And the methods she chose to carry out her ambitions, she made sacrifices. Sacrifices to both her own life, and to the life of a few others. And upon closer inspection, Rhea’s own actions reflected hers as well.
This isn’t to say that the grudge they’ve held for one another have completely vanished. The two women still cannot bring themselves to completely forgive one another. However, rather than be buried by hatred and contempt, the two slowly began to have a better understanding of one another. Rhea’s desire to harm the Emperor started to seemingly dissipate, albeit slowly. As Edelgard slowly looked away from the archbishop, trying to distract herself from her current thoughts and feelings. While El continued to shed tears, her bawls and cries were replaced with the gentle sounds of her breathing. She did not utter a word, nor did she move an inch. She simply sat there, seemingly distracted from everything but her thoughts.
As El sat there, tears would slowly roll down Rhea’s cheeks. Somehow, the sight before her echoed that of her own experiences in the days before. She felt sorry for the Emperor, but she was unsure of how to feel about Edelgard herself. Slowly, she would move herself a bit closer, trying to reach towards the weeping El. As she finally managed to go close enough towards her, Rhea would suddenly wrap her arms around Edelgard without warning. Her movements were awkward, and her expression was of uncertainty, but she gave El an embrace. Was it to comfort her, or was it to comfort herself, knowing that the is someone just like her this entire time? It was a rather odd embrace, but it was also comforting, in a way.
El was taken aback by this sudden action. She did not expect any sort of embrace from her prisoner, whatsoever. In fact, she might have expected Rhea to strangle her the moment she noticed Rhea getting closer to her. She was prepared to defend herself, to escape whatever attack Rhea may pull of, but she was not prepared for something like this. At first, Edelgard felt really confused. One moment they were exchanging death threats, the next they’re both crying. Though, as awkward as the hug may be, the way Rhea wrapped her arms around El seemed as if this was the first time that she embraced someone, the first time in years. She could feel Rhea’s grasp becoming somewhat firmer around her yet still being gentle, in a way. There wasn’t that El could do at that moment, and she couldn’t bring it upon herself to push Rhea away. Instead, El slowly reciprocated the embrace, moving herself closer as she wrapped her arms around Rhea.
This wasn’t something El is used to, having her enemy trap her in an embrace. In fact, it’s very rarely that Edelgard even gets hugged or embraced of any sort. Neither one of them could not help but feel awkward, barely even uttering a sound or speaking to one another. Though as perplexing as the situation may be, it was also something they both needed. Both women continued to embrace, as El slowly leaned her face on Rhea’s shoulder. Rhea was caught off guard by this, but she did not seem to mind as her lips would grow into a tiny smile. She would then close her eyes just as she lets out a soft sigh. It was at this point that both El and Rhea finally learned one thing about each other: that they both have been lonely their entire lives.
sorry this took so long, hope you guys enjoyed it though!! i had a bit of hiccups in trying to write this chapter along the way, so it may be a bit messy, but yeah! lemme know what you guys think!
Chapter 7: Second Thoughts
After the quarrel that occurred prior, both Edelgard and Rhea begin to look back at all that has transpired, as well as take the time to reflect on themselves
[17th of the Great Tree Moon, 08:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
It’s been a day since that incident within the secret chambers. Both Edelgard and Rhea have gone through the day prior not only having seen each other, but also completely silent for the most part. El is having a hard time taking it all in, her emotions in a state of battle and conflict. All that has transpired, all the words, the tears, the yelling. . .she was still reeling it in. She’s not even sure as to what the different parts of her feel. The way she broke down in front of Rhea, the way Rhea hugged her. Edelgard understood well that Rhea had gone through similar troubles as she herself once did. What’s difficult for her to figure out, however, was how she would treat Rhea from then on and vice versa.
They had similar pasts. They have similar motives. They’re both women in power who barely had anyone to confide to, and both El and Rhea have been damned by the Agartheans as well. Does that mean that they are friends now, because they can understand each other? That they’re supposed to be friends? El had been standing on the balcony for an hour, contemplating as to what all this means to her, as well as how it would shape the future of her plans. She’s not going to just completely forgive Rhea and unchain her all the sudden. However, she does begin to feel odd about the thought of her face and name. It was a feeling new to her, at least new in the sense that it was the first she felt of such for Rhea. She sympathizes with her, but this new feeling was akin to a combination of sympathy and. . .guilt.
“I see that you’re awake as well.”
From behind, a voice spoke to her. It was none other than Byleth herself. Not expecting anyone else to be awake at such an hour, Byleth was a bit surprised to see El up in the morning. As Edelgard would turn around and greet her professor with a tired smile, Byleth notices Edel’s facial expression as she was slowly approaching her. Byleth had a suspicion that this may have something to do with what occurred on the night prior to yesterday. Though Byleth can be intuitive and read individuals in certain scenarios, Byleth was certain of this mostly due to the fact Edelgard remained silent when she asked her a question regarding the incident, yesterday.
“By any chance are you still thinking about what happened the other day? You seemed to be quiet about it when I asked you. . .?”
“Well. . .you’re not wrong.”
“How did it go, anyways? Other than the yelling part, I don’t know what happened with you and Rhea back there.”
Edelgard was unsure of how to respond. That entire night was simply. . .well bizarre isn’t exactly the right word to describe all that either, but it certainly felt that way for her. The yelling and cursing weren’t exactly new, but the tears and the hug and Edel breaking down. How would she be able to verbalize all those to Byleth? She barely knows where to start. The entire situation has made her lost in her thoughts that she could not even focus on her tasks, thinking about it.
“It was. . .odd, to say the least. Honestly, I am not quite sure as to how I would describe the event. Nor am I certain of what emotions I should feel.”
“There wasn’t any bloodshed, right?”
“No, no. It did not go to that extent. . .”
El would let out a sigh as her she would massage her forehead with her fingers. Other than not knowing where to start, she would find herself at a loss for words from Byleth’s question. Thinking about it, maybe it would have been easier to explain all of this to her if that night did end with bloodshed. Of course, Edelgard was glad it did not go to that extent, as that would not only spurn her plans, but also add another series of scars to the ones the Agartheans already marked her with.
“It’s just that. . .I don’t know where to start. I still couldn’t believe all that had transpired.”
“The exchange of choice words, which you were there for, followed by. . .tears I suppose.”
. . .
“I. . .broke down in front of her. . .”
Byleth’s eyes would slightly widen upon hearing that, something that isn’t a common sight to many. Most of the time, Byleth’s facial expression seems somewhat “blank”, but she could not help being taken aback from what was said. If her previous statement was any indication, Byleth thought that a physical fight between El and Rhea would have been more likely to happen than Edelgard displaying any sort of emotional vulnerability towards the archbishop. What perplexes her even more is the fact that Edelgard almost rarely lets herself be out there, in terms of her emotions. And to know that she did just that, to someone whom she viewed as an enemy no less, is certainly bizarre.
“I’ve known things about myself, for a long time. I know of who I am, what I’ve done, and what those around me have gone through. But to hear all those be bluntly told to you somehow feels different. Already, I am burdened with guilt and anxieties, but this was the first time someone has had the gall to strike me with those.”
“I’m guessing you’re upset with her, then?”
“To be frank, part of me feels insulted. But I should’ve have seen it coming, considering the words I have used towards her. And honestly, I can’t even blame her. I’m not too sure as how I should feel.”
. . .
“Maybe she was right. Maybe we aren’t so far apart, after all. . .All that I have done, all that she has done, they were all for the benefit of Fodlan. We’ve both done things we aren’t proud of. Yet, all this time I saw myself as someone above her when in reality. . .I’m just as much of a monster as she is. It hurts to admit it but she’s right. She’s right about what type of person I am, about us being similar. It stings to acknowledge it but she’s right, dammit!!”
Turning away from the professor, Edelgard would clench her right palm as she would feel embarrassed. Her eyes were shut tight, in attempt to stop the flow of tears, and she would grit her teeth in frustration. Edelgard always knew that she wasn’t that great of a person, in terms of what she has done. But her pride and whatever confidence she had left would begin to crumble upon finally realizing that she wasn’t too far apart to the person she heavily opposed. El is more than capable of admitting whenever she was wrong, but this was just too much for her. She spent five years of her life opposing a woman she viewed as a source of evil, yet that very same woman was the one who suggested that the roads they have taken aren’t far apart. She wanted to deny it, to tell herself that what she did benefit Fodlan, and yet she couldn’t bring herself to do so. There were parallels to both Edelgard and Rhea, knowing that further added to the guilt that Edelgard has been bottling up for so long.
Byleth didn’t know what to do, at that moment. Piecing together Edel’s words gave her a bit of an idea as to what Rhea may have said towards her. Knowing that, she neither agreed nor disagreed with the archbishop’s supposed words towards Edelgard. Byleth saw that both El and Rhea have always been far apart from one another, walking towards different paths. And yet, those paths seemingly converged, and though the two were different in a good number of ways, they also mirrored each other in other aspects. The most that Byleth did to try and comfort El was to place her hand upon Edelgard’s shoulder.
“You’re not a monster, El. And, well. . .I don’t really think she is one too. I’m not sure exactly what Rhea said to you, but I hope you aren’t still upset with her. I hope she isn’t towards you too. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .This may seem silly, but sometimes I wished you two got along better. I wish that it didn’t have to always be like this. It’s kinda odd, even if my relationship with the former archbishop is complicated, I still feel bad for her. . .”
Edelgard ceased gritting her teeth with a sigh. Though her eyes were somewhat wet, she regained the strength to hold the rest of her tears back. El always knew that Byleth had a soft spot for Rhea, that regardless of what she’s been through, she would never lose sympathy towards the war saint. That never bothered her though. El understood why she would feel bad for Rhea, in fact she once fully expected Byleth to side with the Church of Seiros until the mercenary diverted her expectations. Thinking about it now, however, Byleth was almost like a child of sorts to Rhea. It was likely she cherished Byleth, just as she also cherished Jeralt and Sitri. And now, it’s as if Edelgard took one of the only people left in Rhea’s life from her.
While El blamed Rhea for a couple of things that have occurred in her life, both directly towards her and indirectly, through the effects of her actions towards Fodlan, she never truly hated her. At most, Edelgard saw her as another enemy that must be eliminated, or as another step to achieve her goals that she deemed to be “for the people”. And now, having realized that she took away Byleth from her (despite the fact she joined the Empire on her own volition), Edelgard began to ponder. If they swapped places, she would’ve felt the same as how Rhea does now. She would’ve broken down inside and either descent to madness or throw away whatever humanity and compassion she had for those around her.
“El. . .?”
“I—I’m fine. I was just thinking about something. And, for the record, I am not mad at Rhea. A bit offended, perhaps, but. . .maybe. . .no. Nevermind.”
“Hm? What were you about to say?”
“Nothing. It’s just that. . .the moment I broke down in front of her, she. . .hugged me. She was close enough, to the point that she could harm me at the time. And yet. . .she gave me comfort. I do not know why but. . .”
“Maybe she understood how you felt. You did say that Rhea mentioned you were just like her, somehow. I think you should try talking to her. And by that, I mean a peaceful conversation, not the usual banter that you two always have.”
“. . .Perhaps I’ll try that. Though I have opposed her for so long, maybe it is time for a different approach. I doubt anything would come out of it, but I’m. . .not exactly opposed towards the idea of making peace with the archbishop.”
Byleth smiled upon hearing those words from Edelgard. Perhaps her somewhat idealistic dream of the two powerful women getting along may actually be plausible. It’s not that she expects the two of them to be the best of friends. Rather, all she wants is the two to be able to talk comfortably to one another without profanity or threats. It may not be easy, but just knowing that there is an attempt from either one of them to be more civil with one another is enough to make Byleth happy.
As for El, she is continuously thinking about Byleth’s words. A more peaceful approach towards the archbishop. She doesn’t expect Rhea to suddenly become her best friend, though after learning a bit more about her, Edelgard seems to welcome the idea of slowly warming up to her. Though the both of them have been at odds for so long, El never enjoyed the idea of a conflict against Rhea. Whatever desires she has towards bringing Rhea down is all due to the desire of unifying the kingdom, not due to specifically wanting to see Rhea herself suffer. While Rhea would not be completely absolved of her crimes, perhaps this would grant Edelgard the chance to understand the archbishop better. And perhaps, the two of them can finally put their conflict with each other aside for the sake of defeating their common enemy.
As all of that has transpired on the palace’s balcony, Rhea herself has been doing some of her own pondering. Just as Edelgard was, the incident two nights prior has stuck to Rhea’s mind like glue. The entire event has left her feeling somewhat lost, confused. Unlike El, Rhea has actively held a grudge against her for the past five years. All those closest to her, all the ones she had left, they were all taken away from her, and she had no one to blame but Edelgard, as well as the Agartheans she worked with. Though reasonably upset at her for collaborating with her dreaded enemies, Rhea’s grudge for the Adrestian Emperor has slowly started dissipating since that night. Her feelings of rage, hatred and vengeance slowly turned into feelings that resembled guilt, sympathy, and perhaps even solidarity. The moment that Edel broke down in front of her was the moment that Rhea began realizing that the one she considered one of her worst enemies wasn’t all too different from her. Someone who had all those who she loved stripped away from her life, someone who has brought harm and ruin to the kingdom and its people for the sake of bringing peace to them, someone who had little choice but to bottle up all her emotions and shoulder all her burdens as she continues to walk her path. That was who Rhea was, and that was who she felt Edelgard was as well.
She was unsure of herself, unsure of what is to come, and unsure of what she should do next. All this time, she wanted to break free from her chains and unleash her wrath onto Edelgard, yet she chose to comfort and embrace her rather than fulfil her violent desires, at the very moment where she was the closest to El. She felt no regrets about the ordeal. In fact, part of her was even glad that she did not succumb to her hatred completely. Rhea is a person who would want to crush all those who have wronged her, but this was less of her true desires and more of a morbid coping mechanism of sorts. All Rhea truly wanted was to see her mother again and to live out her days in peace. Though she established the Church of Seiros, she did not truly desire to rule Fodlan. She only formed a religion out of white lies as a means of preserving her kin, seeing as how the humans would potentially wage war against them should they discover about their powers.
Though it wasn’t obvious, Rhea had slowly disillusioned herself from the possibility of bringing her mother back to life. Placing the Crest of Flames within Byleth was the closest that she would get to obtaining her goal, and with that proven to be all for naught, Rhea slowly lost hope that Sothis would even grace the world once more. Despite that, she still had a glimmer of hope left in her. Curiously, it wasn’t the prospect of Sothis being resurrected that kept her hopeful. Rather, it was the probability of her being able to live out the rest of her days in peace. Maybe it was time for her to leave behind all her feelings of resentment towards Edelgard, Rhea thought of herself. She despised the emperor for “betraying” her while also taking everyone she had left away from her. Beyond that, she had little to no thoughts towards Edelgard. And just as El, Rhea would much rather a peaceful relationship towards El, just as she once had with her ancestor Wilhelm I.
To her, it was all some fantasy, bound to never happen. After all that she’s done, as well as all that she said to El, Rhea knew that a peaceful relationship with her is unlikely to happen. Edelgard has a fair share of horrible words and actions, but knowing that most, if not all that she has done, somewhat mirrors that of Rhea’s own misdeeds, she could not help but feel a bit guilty. Though not even Rhea herself is sure about whether or not she was aware of that fact the entire time, and that she simply chose to remain in denial, or if she has been naïve this entire time and it took the sight of Edelgard bawling before her to finally slap her in the face with the mark of realization. Either way, she was more open to the idea of a reconciliation of sorts after her mind and heart were slowly cleared from harsh judgements and feelings of rage.
Both Rhea and Edelgard have been doing a bit of self-realization and reflection at nearly the exact same moment, yet neither of them knew about what the other was thinking about. And since they also weren’t in the same room when all that occurred, both women had little to no idea as to what to expect of each other. “What would she say?”, “How would she react?” “Is she even willing to talk?”, all these questions running in their minds, thinking about various scenarios as to how a conversation between them would play out. Of course, the only way to truly know the answer is to have said conversation play out. Edelgard and Rhea knew that and were reasonably anxious, Edelgard due to having to be the one to approach, and Rhea due to being confined into a chamber with little to no awareness of what goes on beyond.
Several hours have passed, and the sun is almost ready to set. The time is 18:00, the lights about to illuminate the halls in place of sunlight, and the environment slowly starting to calm once again. Having done all her work, Edelgard decides to personally visit Rhea in the secret chamber, this time without the accompaniment of Imperial Troops or Byleth. As Edel was about to reach for the gate, she would stop for a moment. Her hand would slightly recoil as lets out a sigh. For once, she would hesitate before entering the room which kept Rhea in. Rather than the sternness she usually had, in her attempts of trying to push the archbishop to cooperation, El instead resembled a child that had mustered up all her courage to try and tell her parent that she broke an expensive vase, or something akin to that.
On the other side of the door, Rhea sat there with her eyes shut. She wasn’t exactly asleep. Rather, it’s seems more like Rhea’s doing her own form of meditation. This wasn’t new, as Rhea would always do whatever she can to keep her mind at peace, the moment she woke up in the chamber. Usually, however, it was to stop her from becoming angrier or gloomier. Her thoughts were the only thing keeping her company, and most of them are of fury or trauma, so it made sense for her to try and maintain inner peace. Despite that, it seems that may not be the case here, as Rhea’s thoughts are instead clouded by nervousness and uncertainty. And just as she was in the middle of suppressing those emotions, Rhea’s eyes would open upon hearing the usual creaking of the doors.
Slowly, the gates would open, creating a noise that would echo throughout the hollow chamber, and it would creak once more as it slowly closes. The sound of footsteps would then be heard, getting louder as they slowly neared Rhea. As all this is happening, Rhea would slowly look towards the face of visitor, both speechless and astonished. And as the walking stopped, neither Rhea nor her visitor would look each other in the eye. Obviously, the visitor was Edelgard herself. Rhea expected that much, but she did not expect anything else, not even the usual.
“. . .I. . .I’m here to talk. About what happened that night.”
And thus, awkwardness began to slowly fill the atmosphere of the room. . .
heyyo!! first of all, if anyone out there still reads this, and is also actively following it still, i want to apologize for the one month delay of this chapter. this didn't take a month to write, but it did take a bit more than a month to get me motivated enough to do this chapter (or anything, really), that and animal crossing came out just days after the previous chapter so yeah. second, some of you may notice that the chapter count dropped from 30 to 20. tbh, i wanted to be able to wrap this project up as soon as possible as my interest in it is dwindling, so i decided to make lesser chapters. however, i already made an outline as to how the entire story would play out so while there are less chapters, that doesn't mean that there were plot points removed. instead, i simply decided to have certain plot points be part of a greater chapter and give it less focus, instead. stuff such as "x character talks to y" is now part of a chapter rather than an entire chapter in of itself, with great emphasis being put on the dialogue's contents. so there'll be less chapters, but they'll be longer than the previous ones. lastly, though the pandemic has given me more free time, it also plummeted my motivation while making my anxiety go over the roof, so that plus the fact that i'm lazy means that chapters would still be somewhat slow to come out. however, i want to finish this fic by this year and work on other projects, so i will TRY to get things done faster! anyways, i hope you enjoy this chapter and i hope that all of you are doing safe in this time of crisis. take care of yourselves and i'll see ya in the next chapter! -lexi
Chapter 8: Reflect and Resonate
What started out as an intense reciprocation of grudges and hated would slowly turn into something more peaceful. Perhaps Edelgard and Rhea may finally converse for the first time without the air of hostility surrounding them.
i said that the pacing of these chapters may not necessarily be faster but here i am releasing the next chapter, five days after the previous one. nice
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
[17th of the Great Tree Moon, 18:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
. . .
“. . .I. . .I’m here to talk. About what happened that night.”
Awkwardness began filling the air, as the two women glanced at one another. Though they see each other, their eyes refused to meet the other’s, narrowly avoiding staring at one another other as their visages were about to cross. Edelgard’s palms were starting to sweat from underneath those palms. Where does she even begin with this, and should she be the one to start it all or what, she thought to herself. Meanwhile, Rhea herself could not muster up a word or two to even respond to El. Though their previous exchanges or threats and vulgarity were much more emotionally straining for her, they were, admittedly, far less difficult to formulate. Now, after half a decade long of pent-up anger for one another, they are suddenly to try and make up, “forgive and forget” and all that? It was certainly far easier said than done.
Edelgard wasn’t really expecting an immediate response from the archbishop, so to say that they would be stuck all night staying silent would be a hyperbole of sorts. Yet at the same time, it may take just that amount of time for El to formulate her thoughts and be able to express her words properly. She figured that she would be the one to start, as she was also the one who started raising her blade against Rhea. It took her a bit of contemplating, but she figured that perhaps the best way to start the conversation was to pick up where they last left off.
“I—I’ve slowly come to understand that while your actions have caused problems for the Kingdom. . .mine have too. I have done all that I have for the sake of this nation, knowing what it would cost. I have been burdened by guilt, constantly haunted by the ghosts of the past for my actions, yet I steeled myself and continued on for the sake of bringing you down, knowing that it would end your tyranny, or at least, what I perceived your actions to be.”
. . .
“Yet, it only took me now to realize that perhaps you saw yourself the same way. That perhaps, to your view, I am the tyrant which must be stopped. Naturally, I saw that view as foolish, as my pride would not let me take that otherwise. And there was also the fact that I blamed you for the Crests. . .for why Fodlan was the way it was five years prior. I wouldn’t be honest if I said that I no longer blamed you for that, but I am starting to understand why you did it. . .”
. . .
“Greed? Bloodlust? Power? The events I have lived through had led me to believe that those were the prime motivators of your actions. Yet all along your actions have been the result of misguidance, emotional desires, fear. I slowly began to understand that, as well as the realization that perhaps my own actions were motivated by those factors as well. And in that sense, perhaps we. . .perhaps we aren’t too far apart, despite deluding myself into thinking otherwise, all this time. . .”
For a moment, Edelgard took a pause. She clasped her palms together whilst fumbling her thumbs. Her face was pointed downwards as she had a nervous expression on her face. It seems as if she had already finished her piece and is now waiting for Rhea to reciprocate the conversation. Or perhaps, she had one more thing in her mind, trying to muster up the courage to express that thought. At this point, she was nervous, guilty, perhaps even anxious. Nonetheless, she took a deep breath, in attempt to maintain her composure.
“I’m. . .sorry. For everything. . .Rhea”
Edelgard uttered under her breath. Her voice was so soft that there was barely an audible echo of noise throughout the room, yet it was loud enough for Rhea to hear. Rhea heard her words clearly, to which she simply responded to with a stunned expression and a loss for words. Unsure of what she should say next or how to even process all that, Rhea would subconsciously shed a tear. Regardless of what she has been through or how much of it has affected her, it seems that El’s words managed to touch Rhea’s heart, somehow.
Rhea wasn’t exactly the merciful type. All those traitors from the Western Church that have opposed her were at the receiving end of her ‘divine punishment’ rather than her mercy, and she once had every intention to have Edelgard get a feel for what her fury was like. But now Rhea couldn’t bring herself to even yell at her anymore. She saw herself in El, a bit too much of herself. The line separating actual similarities between the two and Rhea’s own projections onto El was blurred, though could we really blame her for said blur since the two were really not all that far apart.
Rhea tried to stop herself from tearing up even further by wiping them with her hand, hoping El wasn’t looking at her while doing the act. Despite how flustered she is, at that moment, Rhea did her best to try and muster up the words and courage to continue the conversation with her own words. She found that the most appropriate way to respond was with a sort of apology or explanation of her own. Obviously, no apology could make it up to those who are either already deceased or those affected that are simply not in the room. Though, she could at least try and owe it up to the one person affected who is standing before her, no?
“. . .All those that I’ve done, all the decisions I have made, I once thought they were without flaw as they kept the peace for both my kin and the people. But it seems now that my attempts of maintaining peace were for naught. Not only have I lived those times in desperation, hoping to bring back my mother once more, but I’ve also caused a new source of conflict and greed. . .”
. . .
“What you have done, Edelgard, has costed many lives. But. . .perhaps I had played a part in motivating you to choose the path you have walked upon. Had I not been so reckless. . .this would’ve simply been a fight against those who slither in the dark. . .”
. . .
“All this time, I have framed you as the devil. All these years, I thought you one of them when you were practically forced to work with those fiends. We’re not too far apart and yet, our paths opposed one another. . .how could I even blame you for such an act when I had a part in turning you to said path. . .!?”
. . .
“I—I’m sorry. . .I’m sorry. . .I’m sorry, Edel—”
. . .
Before she could even finish her words, she would start breaking down in front of Edelgard, just as she once did before her. The realization that Rhea’s way of doing things affected history such that it pushed El to oppose her began to crush her heart. It was as if she was, though inadvertently, responsible for turning someone else into another version of her: alone, reclusive, broken, ruthless. She could not help herself from tearing up and bawling, as the last thing she wanted was to have someone go through a similar life as she once did. As harsh as she can be at times, she would never want others to experience the hurt that she herself lived through.
Such a sight also wounded Edel’s heart. Rhea’s previous outbursts and emotional tantrums did not phase her once. But now that she had come to slowly learn more and more about who the archbishop really is, she could not help but be heartbroken. Rhea’s life had already been unpleasant, and to think that all she did was make her life a greater living hell than it already has been, Edelgard thought to herself. Just as the woman sobbing before her, El would never want someone to go through a similar history that she once did. That was her motivation for her actions, to make sure no one would have to live through what she did but seeing Rhea breakdown was an indication to her that she failed on that front.
As if by instinct, Edelgard’s immediate reaction was to quickly close the gap between her and Rhea. She quickly went next to Rhea and gave her a hug, the same type of hug that Edel herself once received from her. While Rhea was taken aback by this, momentarily halting her crying, El gently stroked Rhea’s back, trying to comfort her the same way that she was comforted the other night. El’s face felt somewhat awkward, her lips still and silent throughout that moment, but a tired smile can be seen slowly forming on her expression. It was as odd as that one night, but it was also calming, knowing that perhaps in these trying times, there would be at least one person who can sympathize with you.
Though Rhea continued to sob, her wails were slowly fading. The tears would lessen as she continued to cling onto El, placing her arm behind her. This time, it was her face that was planted onto El’s shoulder. Never in a million years did she expect sharing such a moment with someone who she initially reviled. And now that she has, it was perhaps the most heartwarming and soothing moments Rhea has had in a millennium. Any signs of coldness for one another dissipated as they were overpowered by the warmth of the hug, the warmth that both El and Rhea had missed out on for so many years. Rhea gave Edelgard a taste of said warmth days prior, and now it was her turn to receive such a feeling from Edelgard.
A couple of hours have passed, and the two of them can be seen sitting alongside one another. Though the room was far less noisy, that is only because of the absence of loud wailings, which have already been replaced by soft conversations between the two. Things began quite awkward between both El and Rhea, but as seconds begin to fly, the two of them would slowly start becoming more and more comfortable with one another.
“. . .I’m certain you’ve heard of the Four Saints, right?”
“I have. What of them. . .?”
“They were my relatives. Cichol, Indech, Macuil, they were my dear brothers. And dear Cethleann was Cichol’s daughter. Seeing as how you’ve figured out that I once donned the name of ‘Seiros’, I sense that you already knew of Cichol and Cethleann’s true identities.”
“Seteth and Flayn, I assume?”
“Correct. Just as I have, they have chosen new lives for themselves after the Tragedy of Zanado. Though I have been an important figure within the Church of Seiros, it wasn’t only until nearly three decades prior that Seteth and Flayn have joined our ranks.”
“Huh. I’ve always thought they stayed just as long as you.”
“I could see why you would think that, but Captain Jeralt has actually stayed under my services longer than they have.”
“Oh? I never knew that until now. . .”
“Mhm. Seteth and Flayn wanted more peaceful lives. They wished to live out their days as fishermen. It was I who invited them to join the Church. I did not want to cause them any trouble, but I wanted to see them once more so I. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .What about Indech and Macuil?”
“I missed them as well, but they went on their separate ways. The five of us all did after the war. Indech and Macuil wanted nothing to do with humans, so they gave up their humanoid forms in favor of their more ‘divine’ appearance. As for Ci—Seteth and Flayn, they did the opposite. They gave up their divine abilities in favor of a more human-like being. Beyond their lifespans, they’ve lost all the abilities of a Nabatean.”
. . .
“I do not blame them for such a decision. In fact, I somewhat envied them. I thought that there needed to be someone to maintain the peace and order alongside the Empire, so I took it upon myself to form the church. And as a precaution, I chose not to give up either of my forms.”
“. . .I’m not too certain if I am the right person to ask but. . .do you miss them now?”
“I do, dearly. Though Indech and Macuil had little to no involvement in the war, I know not of their whereabouts. As for Seteth and Flayn, I know you spared their lives, but I am not so sure as to where they might be right now. . .”
“. . .I’m sorry—”
“No. Don’t. You did what you had to. If anything, I am glad you spared their lives. As I’ve grown distant with Macuil and Indech, Seteth and Flayn are really all that I have. . .”
“Ah. . .Actually, it was the professor who convinced me to spare them. I was hesitant at first, seeing as how I thought of them like you but the professor. . .Byleth. . .she helped me realized that they weren’t that bad. If anything, she also helped me realize that perhaps you aren’t as bad, after all.”
“. . .That makes sense. I did not really expect you to try and have this conversation with me all by your own accord. And I doubt I would’ve done the same had it not been for her intervention. . .”
The two of them would let out a soft chuckle after that remark. Somehow, their self-awareness made them know that the two of them are rather thick-headed. The past has already finished, so all the two women can really do now is to laugh at all that they have done and felt before that they now thought of as childish, as well as live out the present and form a better future. This proved to be rather refreshing for the two, having a conversation that did not involve swearing and spewing threats at one another.
Suddenly, El would bring out an object from her pocket. It was a key, perhaps the key to the shackles that kept Rhea chained. Edelgard would stand up and slowly walk towards the keyhole, located at the very wall where the chains that bound Rhea to the room were coming from. The moment El inserts that key to the hole, all of Rhea’s chains would open, essentially freeing her. As El was about to do just that, Rhea was perplexed by such a notion.
“Edelgard, what are you—”
“. . .I am uncertain as to whether or not this is wise. However, something in my heart has changed. I cannot stand the thought of subjecting you to another living nightmare. I was once chained like you, and I refuse to see you suffer the same fate as me.”
The sound of metal and clanking can be heard. The shackles that has gripped Rhea’s limbs would slowly start to loosen. Sounds of metal clashing through the ground can be heard as the shackles fall onto the floor. At long last, Rhea has been freed. Though Rhea has long desired an escape from the life she’s living, she finally achieved that goal. And now that she has. . .she’s confounded.
“The fight against those who slither in the dark shall go on. However, I shall find another way to eliminate them. I no longer have use for you, Rhea. You are now free to—”
Without a warning, Rhea slowly latched onto Edelgard’s hand. El’s words was cut shortly by this sudden action, expecting that Rhea’s next move was to instead make a run for it or perhaps even attack her. But she didn’t, nor did she seem to be as thrilled as she had expected. She was prepared for all that was to come next after unchaining her. But she wasn’t quite prepared for what is about to happen.
“What are you—Ah, that’s right. You would not be able to leave the palace with all those guards in place. Do not worry, so long as you come with me, I can put the soldiers at ea—”
“No, that’s not it. . .I miss my brothers dearly. I miss dear sweet Flayn just as much. But without knowing where they are, I would have nowhere to go. I would have nobody. . .”
“But then you would be free to explore the world once more, is that not what you want?”
“. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .I did not anticipate this but, truth be told, during the days prior the first thing that I wanted to do after being free was to seek vengeance against you. But during that night I saw myself in you. I saw that part of you that had gone through a similar pain that I once did. I saw how you made decisions for the sake of those you have lost. I saw hurt in your eyes. Hurt that I knew the feeling of, far too well. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .Both at that night and this very night. . .this might come off as unusual but. . .you’ve made me feel less lonesome. You’re the first person that I have met who understands me. . .”
“R-Rhea I. . .”
Before Edelgard could say anything else, her eyes began to slowly water. Tears would roll down her cheeks as she would hear those words. It was rather bizarre that someone who was nothing but an obstacle to her plans of glory, someone who hated her with a passion, has turned into someone who would confide in her. There was no plot and deceit in Rhea’s eyes, and all her words are genuine. Edelgard knew that. And despite the history they both had, Edelgard felt the same. Though it was rare for anyone to confide with El, it was even rarer for El to be able to confide with someone as much as she now does with Rhea.
“. . .Let me stay. . .with you. . .”
Rhea whispered, as she too was about to burst into tears. Neither one of them expected that something like this would slowly blossom between the two of them but lo and behold. Though they have only really conversed with one another today, it was the first time that any of them truly felt like they could talk to someone about their burdens. Though El had good friends with her, none of them could truly understand what she had gone through. And even if Seteth and Flayn were with Rhea at this very moment, she found it difficult to truly open herself up to Flayn, and especially to Seteth.
As both women silently weep into the night, they would slowly form into another embrace in attempt to comfort one another. Slowly, they would form a sort of bond that they’ve never had with anyone and, frankly, one that they never truly expected to be able to form. Maybe this was finally the end to a long-seated feeling of bitterness and contempt both Rhea and Edelgard had for themselves, for each other, and for the world, and perhaps a start of something more beautiful. In the meantime, Edelgard decides to spend the rest of the night with Rhea, both to keep her company and to make sure that nothing happens to her.
maybe i can finally start writing this fic in different settings after this and the next chapter, lmao
Chapter 9: Source of Concern
Though the once hostile relationship between Edelgard and Rhea is slowly being replaced with one far more tranquil, this would also prove to be a source of concern for Hubert. . .
[20th of the Great Tree Moon, 20:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
Nights have been more peaceful, as of late. Though the screams of wrath and fury have always been nearly non-existent beyond the walls of the secret chamber, there are now less tears to be shed from Rhea, as well as far less arguments between her and Edelgard. Over the course of the past couple of days, Rhea’s chamber has slowly started to closely resemble an actual bedroom. A table was place where she may dine or enjoy teatime, a bed was placed for her to sleep better, and rather than having Edelgard standing before her as the conversed, they would simply sit beside one another.
Though there is still a hint of awkwardness between the two, it seems that they’ve finally taken the time to get to know each other more. Peace has always been better than conflict, and the peace between both Rhea and Edelgard is an idea much preferred than the image of the two always at odds with one another. Despite that however, one individual seems to be at unease upon knowing that El and Rhea are starting to become closer.
. . .
“With all due respect, Your Highness, I am not too certain if this is the right decision—”
“Hubert, I know you also have your fair share of reservations towards Rhea but I can’t push through with this.”
“. . .”
“All this time I thought of her as a mere tyrant, when in reality she simply all that she did for the sake of protecting her and protecting her loved ones. Her methods were far from the right, but I’m no better myself. I’ve cost lives, I’ve broken down walls, I disrupted the peace of the land. I started this war and I’ve made a mess of the kingdom. The least I can do is spare Rhea from this torture.”
“You’ve already done so much for your ambitions, Lady Edelgard. If I may ask, why stop now?”
“Because she’s. . .she’s the only one who truly understands how I feel. She’s been through a life similar to the one I lived, and part of the reason for that is due to my own actions. I don’t want to be at odds with her anymore, nor do I wish to involve her with this any further. I understand that you have your reservations toward this matter, but this is what I decide.”
“. . .”
“. . .”
“Truth be told, I am not the type to form friendships or seek those to confide to. And though I am wary of Rhea, I do not bear any ill will towards her. If you wish to form a friendship with her, then I shall respect that decision. However, I am concerned as to how we are to approach Thales and his ilk now.”
“We will employ the help of those we’re already acquainted with. Though for the moment, I must attend to other matters. We shall have a discussion regarding the revision of our plans soon.”
“As you wish, Your Highness.”
. . .
Under the moonlight, a dark and gloomy figure stands tall at the balcony. Somehow unable to process everything, the man is seen ruminating as he stood there without moving an inch or even uttering a sound. It seems as if he was a bit disturb by the sudden change of relationship between Edelgard and Rhea. Of course, even a sinister-looking fellow like him would much rather tranquility than strife, be it among two people or among two powers. But something about this “truce” is making him sleepless. Was he opposed at the notion of Edel and Rhea getting along? Not exactly, as peace is better than war, and he is happy so long as Lady Edelgard is happy. And yet, something’s bothering him. . .
“Hubert. . .?”
The moment he heard his name, Hubert turned around to see who it was. It was Byleth, who was perplexed to see him awake at such an hour. Well, awake at such an hour and outside his quarters, that is. Byleth noticed that Hubert has been looking somewhat worried, as of late. Being his wife, it’s no question that Byleth would take her time to check on Hubert. Not only that, but she may have an idea as to what Hubert was worried about these days. The question she had in her mind was why he was worried.
“I know that you’d much prefer tranquility over strife. I am certain that Lady Edelgard shares the same sentiment, and I myself feel no different. However, it would be dishonest of me to say that her newfound friendship with the former archbishop leaves me. . .worried.”
“Ah, I see. . .”
“Though I doubt such is the case, I fear that all this may simply be a ploy by Rhea to get closer to Her Highness, in an attempt to eliminate her. Everything just seems so sudden.”
“I can understand your concern, but I doubt that’s the case. I’ve spoken to El about this and she’s not cautious around Rhea. In fact, she even mentions that being around her is. . .comforting, even.”
“Hm. I don’t think that even Rhea herself would so devious as to grant a false sense of comfort so effective, that even someone as cautious as Lady Edelgard would easily be swayed by.”
. . .
“However, even if all this was genuine, a betrayal is not out of question.”
“But if it they really are becoming friends then why would Rhea betray—”
“The archbishop may turn against Lady Edelgard. Not out of her volition, but perhaps due to her instability.”
Having heard that from Hubert, Byleth would slowly come to realize that he isn’t entirely wrong about this. Even if Rhea were to truly find a connection of sorts with Edelgard, the war has left her somewhat unstable. That, coupled with her abilities, may eventually lead her into going berserk once more. Byleth was initially unsure as to what was getting Hubert so concerned, but now she herself is starting to worry about what could happen.
“I fear that releasing Rhea from her shackles could potentially allow her to go berserk. Those chains were meant to suppress her powers, And I sense that she’s slowly losing control over her own abilities, even before we’ve won the war.”
“What are we going to do then, my dear?”
“For now, all we must do is simply observe. The moment that the archbishops slowly loses control over herself, we must act immediately. If anything, we have problems bigger than that of Rhea’s own abilities. . .”
For a moment, Byleth didn’t know as to what Hubert was referring to. However, the moment that she would realize what Hubert was referring to, she paid attention to what Hubert was about to say next. Obviously, he was referring to those who slither in the dark. And perhaps Hubert has already deduced the whereabouts of those vile creatures, or that there may have been another obstacle to their current plans. Either way, Byleth was more attentive than ever.
“. . .I’ve spoken to Lady Edelgard about this matter. Her Majesty mentioned that she is planning to take Rhea out for a stroll one day, to appease her desire to explore the outside world once more. While I object to this, I am unable to convince Lady Edelgard to stop. And I’m uncertain as to how I feel about all this.”
“Ah. Well, I suppose it’s alright, as long as they go out at night, right?”
“Lady Edelgard has already considered doing so. I am not asking you to try and sway them away from this idea, but I must say I am. . .quite concerned. Her Majesty’s safety is of utmost importance. . .but I’m more worried about Thales’ subjects discovering that the archbishop is alive.”
“. . .What would they do if they found out.”
“Harm her, most definitely. Finish her themselves, even. Or they may even use her against us. Regardless of which route they choose, they would all prove to be unfavorable to us. We won’t be using the archbishop for our plans anymore, per the order of Her Majesty. But I would not want those filth to anger Lady Edelgard.”
Byleth though about what Hubert said. She wouldn’t want Thales finding a way to use Rhea or her powers against them, and she most likely wouldn’t want to see El’s newly formed friendship to end up in shambles, within mere days. She was worried. Yet at the same time, she was relieved about the fact that they no longer need to force Rhea to suffer another living hell. Even after all Rhea has done to her, she still cannot bring herself to hate, or even dislike, Rhea. But that leaves her questioning as to what their next course of action would be.
“To be honest, I’m glad that we won’t have to force Rhea to fight. But I wonder what our next move is going to be. . .”
“Lady Edelgard says that we will have a meeting at the war council, soon. However, it seems most likely that we will employ the help elsewhere. Perhaps, we may bring back the rest of the Black Eagles Strike Force for this task. I assume that the Death Knight will be joining us, as well.”
“That seems likely. What about the location of Thales and his forces, any word on that?”
“Unfortunately, due to the change of plans, I have decided to put that on hold. I will resume locating their stronghold only if we are certain that no spies are roaming within the premises of the castle. And with restrictions over Rhea being removed, the stakes may just have been risen.”
“I see. I suppose all we could do now is watch El and Rhea’s backs, as well as find any spies lurking around.”
“It seems so. As of late, we’ve yet to come across any. But in time, they’ll come out from the shadows. And we must be prepared for that moment.”
Byleth and Hubert continued to converse for a few more minutes before returning to their quarters. And though both remained feeling shaky and worried, they aren’t too nervous about what is to come. No matter what the world has to offer, the two of them vow to ensure the safety of both Edelgard and Rhea. Speaking of, perhaps it’s time to look and listen to their conversation the night prior. Though they’ve yet to truly become the best of friends, the friction between one another drifted away faster than most conflicts in relationships do. They haven’t had a conversation with someone who they can connect to before, so it wasn’t surprising that they would grow to find comfort in each other’s company.
The two of them were telling stories about one another, formally introducing each other. They would talk about various stuff such as their backgrounds, their experiences, how they cope and so on. And as both Edelgard and Rhea were conversing, they were having tea. Not only that, but the chamber that was once a prison to Rhea seems like a proper bedroom now. There was a table where Rhea and a few others (or in this case, Edelgard) can enjoy their snacks and teatime. There was a proper bed for Rhea to sleep on, which wasn’t as extravagant as the beds that the nobles in the upper levels have (it was a spare bed that they transferred to the secret chamber, under the orders of Edelgard herself). And for once, they are using the lights in the room, no longer would the room rely on the tiniest amount of moonlight to illuminate the room.
In a sense, these changes to the room may also represent the changes to how Rhea feels, and treated, during her stay in the castle. From a war criminal wearing shackles that held her back, to someone finally allowed to experience the comfort of a warm blanket once more, Rhea no longer felt as vengeful as she once was. This obviously doesn’t make up for what happened, but it at least mends the wound that long remained unhealed. And for Rhea, that itself was all that she could truly ask for. Though, she could not help but desire something else as well. . .
“. . .Are you sure you wish to remain within the castle longer? I don’t want force you to stay here for more days than you have, especially after all I’ve done to you. . .”
“I. . .It’s strange. I have been trapped here for days, and within all those days, all I could think of was freedom. But the moment you set me free, I’ve realized that I have nowhere else to go. I feel that even if we were still at odds with one another at that moment, I still would not be sure as to where I’ll go next.”
“Ah. . .but I also do not want to confine you into this castle alone. I doubt this would make up for everything I have done to you but. . .how about if we were to take a stroll together. Beyond the castle walls, I mean.”
“I. . .I would be lying if I told you that I’d rather not. Though I have nowhere else to go, I do miss the outside world. Even before I ended up here, I still longed to explore the world once more, but the war made that idea sound risky.”
“Then it is settled. One day, I shall be sure to take you to a nice stroll. It may even serve as a way for us to get to know each other better.”
“I would very much like that, Edelgard. Though if I recall, not everyone within the castle knows that I am even here, is that correct?”
“You needn’t worry about that. I shall take you to a stroll at night, when most of the palace’s inhabitants are already at rest. Not only will that allow us to leave the castle without alerting everyone, you would also be able to look at the stars. And to be honest, I think I have a destination in mind, one where I would like to visit once more.”
“I. . .thank you. . .”
Rhea and El did not speak after their conversation. The two of them took a sip from their cups of tea, somewhat avoiding eye contact. Even if the two of them get to enjoy teatime together, they still found being next to one another rather awkward. The most that they’ve spoken to one another was during the war, as enemies. Next to that, it was when Rhea was still considered a prisoner. Besides all that, they barely even spoke to one another until recently. Even during Edelgard’s Academy Years, the relationship between her and the archbishop was mostly professional. And now, they’re drinking tea and telling stories to one another.
It felt awkward but comforting at the same time. El rarely shared stories with her former classmates, and Rhea never had teatime with anyone. But it was a lovely experience for them both. And while they have been silent for a few minutes now, their cheeks have been glowing a pinkish hue. There’s almost no doubt that their relationship would continue to blossom in the days to come. And as time continues to pass, both Rhea and El become more and more welcoming to that idea.
yeah ngl, i've been feeling lazy these past few days, and i'm starting to lose more and more interest in writing this fic so i'm sorry if this chapter is kinda sloppy. part of me kinda wants to just drop this fic altogether, but i also really wanna write the ending and the other interesting parts, so i'm gonna do my best to not only improve in the succeeding parts, but also to finish this entire fic. i've left so many past projects (non-fic related) unfinished, and i want to be able to at least finish something so yeah. enjoy!!
Chapter 10: Snake Eyes
After some time has passed, the unexpected friendship continued to blossom. Just as El once promised to Rhea, she decides to take Rhea to a stroll late at night. Unfortunately for them, it seems that uninvited guests seek to ruin the occasion. . .
[17th of the Garland Moon, 19:30. Imperial Year of 1185]
Nearly two months has passed. Slowly, but surely, the friendship of Edelgard and Rhea would continue to blossom. El’s visit to Rhea’s room has become more and more frequent, and she would spend most of her nights chatting with her. Though Edelgard is still riddled with Imperial duties, she would try to make time for her friend. Seeing as how Rhea has little else to do in the confines of the palace, and El does not have as much hobbies as her peers, just being able to see each other and talk about the most mundane of topics is enough to entertain them both. Of course, due to how busy Edelgard has been, especially within the month prior, she’s finding it difficult to take Rhea out on a stroll. Fortunately, Rhea is patient enough to wait for that day to come. And despite being patient enough to be able to wait for another month, perhaps she won’t have to wait any longer. . .
Somewhat excited, El would go down the stairs to Rhea’s room. Though her body movements and demeanor were that of her usual self, she could not help but be a bit enthusiastic. Despite the war having ended months ago, this would be the first time that El ventures out to the outside world for a peaceful stroll, rather than for battle or for diplomatic missions of sorts. Not only that, but an activity such as this may help further deepen her bond with Rhea, the idea of which Edelgard continuously looks forward to.
Meanwhile, Rhea is gently brushing her hair inside her room. It’s been a while since she gets to leave her room (even when she was no longer prisoner, she opted to stay within the room to avoid attracting attention). Seeing as how this would be her first time exploring a peaceful land in years, Rhea begins to hum happily. All her previous journeys around the kingdom of Fodlan were mostly for the purpose of war. If not for such a purpose, Rhea would mostly explore the world the sake of her own plans and desires, and seldom for leisure. And in the rare times that she would take a relaxing stroll, she would always be by herself. For the first time, she would have a peaceful stroll, for the sake of enjoying what the world has to offer, with a friend. And that made her happy.
Just as Rhea would finish tidying herself up, she would hear the gates behind her slowly creak open. As expected, it was Edelgard who opened the doors. She would slowly peek from behind the door to check on Rhea before entering. Rhea would give Edelgard a small wave, before turning to the mirror and straightening her gown. Seeing as how Rhea is still a bit pre-occupied, El would opt to simply wait by the door instead.
“Are you ready?”
“I think this will do. I will be with you in a moment, Edelgard.”
After combing her hair, straightening any folds on her white dress and putting on her cloak, Rhea would then walk towards Edelgard. The two of them would walk out the door together, with Edelgard leading the way. Edelgard’s outfit is something somewhat more casual, and Rhea’s is simply her usual white dress, with a dark cloak. Prior to the night, El suggested that Rhea should try and hide her face once they step outside. This is so that any pursuers would not come after Rhea, or that words about the archbishop would not spread to either those who slither in the dark, or remnants of the Church who are unaware about Rhea’s change of character.
As for bypassing the guards, the Imperial Palace has an exit at the back that is meant to be taken as a retreat route, should the castle be under attack, with the allied force at a disadvantage. Though seeing as how the war is over, it isn’t heavily needed as it once was, and is mostly being used by the Emperor to sneak out of the castle, such as today. El and Rhea would slowly sneak by troops making their usual rounds. There isn’t much of a consequence, should she be caught by her own subjects, but it could cause quite the commotion, with Rhea being with her, or a nuisance. As for the exit they’re taking, there were no guards whatsoever. Much to Edelgard’s surprise, the two guards who would usually watch the gate are absent.
“Is there something wrong. . .?”
“Something’s odd. Usually, there would be two soldiers here on standby, guarding the door in case intruders were to sneak through this way. And I don’t recall giving them the order to leave their shift for the night. . .”
“Going somewhere, Your Majesty~?”
Hearing that voice from behind gave Edelgard a startle, followed by a feeling of dismay. Though she did not expect it, she knew very well who it was calling out to her. Rhea was also caught by surprise, seeing as how both she and Edelgard have agreed upon sneaking out the castle, specifically without the knowledge of the very person standing behind them. El would turn around to face the individual, only to be more dismayed by the fact that this person was with another this entire time.
“H—Hubert, how did you—”
“With all due respect, I’ve served you my entire life, so I suspected that you would try something like this, Lady Edelgard.”
“Ugh, you were the last person I wanted to find out. And I see that you’re in it as well, My Teacher.”
“Hubert dragged me into this, and I was feeling a bit bored.”
“Rather unfortunate of us to be caught by Hubert and the professor. Especially since we were so close to the exit.”
“I knew something seemed odd around here. . .”
While El had a resigned look on her face, Rhea felt rather awkward. Most of her interactions, as of late, are those with Edelgard, so it’s been quite some time since she’s spoken to the professor. Though they know each other well enough, Rhea is unsure as to how to approach her. As for Hubert, Rhea never really paid much attention to Hubert. Even back when they were enemies, Rhea’s focus has mostly been towards Byleth and Edelgard. Hubert was just kind of there to her. At most, she once briefly suspected Hubert to be Agarthean, but quickly dismissed it after seeing that Hubert was just. . .Hubert.
“In any case, Rhea and I would not take too long. At most, we will be gone for an hour. I ask of you as a friend that you let us have our stro—”
“Oh, we’re not here to stop you, Your Majesty.”
“I see. . .it seems I have no choice but to—wait, come again!?”
“If anything, we are here to ask you to grant us your permission.”
“Permission? For what?”
“The thing is, I told Hubert that it would be better to let you two go on with your stroll, rather than to stop you.”
“Then, why the need for a—”
“—Under the condition that Byleth and I were to follow you and protect you.”
“. . .Of course.”
“Don’t worry, you two. We’ll watch your backs, but we wouldn’t even be there. We’ll just cover you from the shadows.”
“Well, if that were the case then everything should be fine, right Edelgard?”
“I suppose so. . .Fine. You two can come along with us. So long as you do not interrupt our stroll, and no eavesdropping either!”
“If you insist. . .”
Hubert then softly lets out a sinister chuckle, with a somewhat malicious look upon his face. Despite that, he has no true ill intentions and would, from time to time, enjoy using his already intimidating appearance and demeanor as a means of jokingly scaring someone. In this case, it seems to have worked, since Rhea is mildly unnerved from this display. Edelgard and Byleth, on the other hand, would a somewhat resigned look on their face that, when verbalized, would translate into “Hubert please cut that out” or a similar statement.
Eventually, Edelgard and Rhea would have long since been away from the castle. Already on their stroll, they would talk about random topics such as their favorite type of flower and whatnot, with neither Byleth nor Hubert in sight. The two can be seen legitimately enjoying their company, as evident by the moments where they would pause and just laugh. They would tell stories, crack jokes, even greet whatever small animal passes by them. And though her face is cloaked, Rhea had a smile that she’s never had since being a child. Seeing this brought a smile to Edelgard’s face as well.
Rather than the flames of anger and hate that once swelled up within her body, Edelgard now feels a warm, soft feeling. Everything about this is just lovely, from the way the stars glisten in the night sky, to the gentle breeze coursing through them as they walk towards the direction of their supposed destination, it all feels so nice. Everything was peaceful, quiet, serene. Suddenly, Edelgard finds herself wanting all this to last, the stroll, the peace and, perhaps, Rhea’s presence in her life. El then immediately darts away from Rhea, somewhat becoming flustered from her thoughts. Perhaps, this is where she realizes that she may want more than just friendship from the former archbishop.
Eventually, the two of them would reach their destination. It was a pond, a clear blue pond where one can see a near-perfect reflection of themselves and the moon. It was a small pond, hidden from the outside world by a grove, sitting near the edge of the woods. There were trees with small birds and rodents nesting on top and inside them, water lilies floating around the southeastern portion of the pond, and who could forget the flowers! There were flowers surrounding the grove; roses, daffodils, carnations, all with different colors! It was such a lovely spot, and one of Edelgard’s favorite places to retire to.
“Ah, it’s been quite some time since I’ve been here. It’s reassuring that not much has changed since my last visit. Other than the slight increase of fauna, this place is pretty much intact.”
“This place. . .it’s beautiful. Breathtaking. Pray tell, dear Edelgard, what is this place?”
“In a sense, this place used to be my ‘secret hideout’ as a child. Whenever I wanted to leave the palace, I would often visit this pond.”
El’s expression slowly transformed into that of a wistful look. Her eyes, sparkling as they were on the verge of shedding a tear or two, gazing towards the reflection of the pond. Edelgard would slowly recall her previous visits to this place. This was the very spot where Edelgard would realize what her favorite flowers would be, the very place where she would learn how to feed animals and touch upon her gentler side, the place where she would see her mother and siblings last. . .or at least, before that dreaded incident .
“My mother. . .used to take me here. Sometimes, she would take a few of my siblings here as well.”
“A-Ah. . .I see. . .”
“I’m glad that this location remains unscathed from the war. Truth be told, I was prepared to see this place go, but I am glad that somehow, this place remains.”
“. . .”
“. . .This is the first time that I’ve ever been to this place. At least, after. . .”
Choking on her own sadness before she could even finish, tears would start to roll down Edelgard’s cheeks. As El’s emotions would be evident by how the tone of her voice sounds, Rhea would immediately take notice. Gone was the awe she had for the serenity of the site they’re on and in came pain and heartbreak, as she witnessed El on the verge of breaking down. She could not help it, every time that Edelgard would tear up, she would also begin to sadness. Standing before her was not the ruthless emperor that the war saint once faced on the plains of Tailtean. Instead, it was a poor little girl who lost nearly everything in her life; her family, her freedom, her happiness. She was another girl who, like Rhea, would be thrown into a cruel and unforgiving world, after having everything she cared for be taken away.
Just as she did nearly two months ago, Rhea immediately went towards Edelgard and embraced her. Rhea would stroke Edelgard’s hair, as she slowly wrapped her arms around the shorter woman. Rhea could not stand seeing El like this, doing all that she can to comfort her. Meanwhile, Edelgard would bury her face onto Rhea and let out whatever wails she was trying to hold back. Unlike Rhea, however, Edelgard would wrap her arms around Rhea somewhat tightly. It wasn’t uncomfortable for the taller figure by any means, but it was essentially a type of embrace one would do when they never want to let go.
“Shh. . .there, there. Let out whatever sorrows your heart is burdened to bear. I will be here for you, to listen, and to cling on.”
“I’m sorry. . .I—”
El would continue to let out her cries. Though not as loud as the last time she broke down, she still did whatever she can to make sure the sounds of her wailing would not echo, letting Rhea’s robes act as a sort of muffler. Rhea would continue to stroke El’s silver locks, giving her a gentle pat on the back to further soothe her. While Rhea is surprisingly calm at this moment, her right eye would shed a single tear, closing her eyes to try and calm herself. Rhea would then rest her forehead onto Edelgard’s. Though she seldom does it, touching heads was a way for her to calm herself down. Whenever she would cry as a child, her mother would do such an act onto her, so that she would stop crying. Besides being an effective way of calming herself, it was her favorite act of affection.
The sounds of a muffled cry would slowly fade, perhaps it’s safe to say that this act worked as a means of calming El down. Edelgard tears were finally put to a halt, slowly looking up towards Rhea. The touch of heads was broken, and instead their eyes locked. Neither of them was foreign to their eyes gazing upon each other, yet somehow it all feels different this time around. Every time their eyes would lock onto each other in the past, they would only see hate. There was always a burning flame of contempt within their hues. However, this time around those same flames are nowhere near to be seen. Instead, all they can see are their own reflections. Rather than being clouded by judgement, their eyes were as clear as the pond before them, and as radiant as the night sky.
Both Edelgard and Rhea wanted to look away, yet they find themselves unable to do so. ‘Her eyes, her face, has it always been this. . .lovely?’, they thought to themselves. While their gazes interlocked, their hearts would beat rapidly. Both women stood there silent, as if they were in a trance. Edelgard would try to admire Rhea’s facial features, while she herself is being admired by Rhea. With how distracted they both were, Rhea did not know how to react, and El was unable to form coherent thoughts. Before they could say or do anything else, however, the noise of an arrow would begin to ring onto their ears, followed by the rather loud sound of magic striking the arrow down. Both the noise and the impact would break the silence, startling them both. Not only that, but the impact was enough to allow Rhea’s hood to fall down.
“A-Are you alright!?”
“I-I’m fine. I was just startled is all, what was t—”
“You must return to the palace at once!”
Before Rhea could even finish talking, A large, purple beam of light would appear before their eyes, followed by the presence of a tall, shadowy figure. The unexpected appearance of this man would startle both Edelgard and Rhea. Both women seemed distressed, with Edelgard specifically bewildered at the sudden arrival of this man. The man was none other than Hubert, who seems to be emitting dark sorcery from his gloved palms. Hubert has taken a stance that he would normally do in a fight, signaling that uninvited guests have arrived. Seeing as how Hubert is here, however, Byleth should not be far behind. Especially since the three currently present would immediately hear a sound of what appears to be a man having been slain.
A dead body would then fall from a tree, followed by the Byleth jumping down. El was a bit taken aback by this sight, with Rhea being unable to respond beyond her eyes widening. Due to the body lying down on his front side, the face of the man cannot be discerned. All that’s visible is a dagger on his back, as well as his uniform. However, one glance at the uniform is enough for Edelgard to be able to identify who the dead man was. It was one of Thales’ men, one among those who slithered in the dark. Immediately, El would stay in front of Rhea to try and protect her, knowing that Rhea is incapable of fighting in her current state. Byleth and Hubert would then go around the two women, covering their sides and watching out for any enemies.
“What is going o—”
“Both of you need to leave at once. It seems that Arundel. . .no, Thales, has sent men to follow us. Those who slither in the dark are onto us.”
“N-no, it can’t be—!?”
“We’ll cover you from behind. Just take Rhea back to the castle immediately, El!”
Without delay, El immediately ran off with Rhea back towards the castle. Though the prospect of attackers going after them was enough to intimidate Rhea, knowing that they are from the clan that has long since targeted Rhea and the rest of the Nabateans has shaken her with fear. Even back when she was the archbishop, she feared these monsters. Edelgard, on the other hand, instead only feels rage. Her newfound friend being the subject of an assassination, and her favorite place tainted by the appearance of those scumbags, Edelgard silently vows to kill every last one of them in due time.
Seeing as how Thales seemingly only sent two, one who fell from the tree and the other swiftly dealt with by Hubert, both him and Byleth immediately try to follow Edelgard and Rhea’s tracks, ensuring that they get to the castle safely. Unbeknownst to any of them, however, three men were sent after them, after Edelgard specifically. The Agartheans have little to no knowledge about Rhea’s survival, but it seems that is about to change as well. The third goon remained hidden, from a distance where not even Byleth would be able to notice him. And though he was prepared to strike, he was unfortunately smart enough to retreat and inform his master of a revelation. . .
About an hour has passed. Hubert and Byleth have safely escorted both Rhea and Edelgard to the castle, with Edelgard staying in Rhea’s chambers for the night, once more. This time around, Edelgard tries her best to comfort Rhea, who is both riddled with fear and anger after what has happened today. This night was supposed to be a night of peace and tranquility, and yet that very moment has ended up into yet another thing that the Agartheans have spurned for Rhea. And while Edelgard is trying to calm Rhea down, she herself is having difficulty in keeping her emotions in check.
“. . .Use me.”
“I-I beg your par—”
“A few months ago, you told me that the very reason why I still live today is because you intended to use me as a pawn to exterminate those filth. Now, I will gladly do whatever it takes to ensure that they will never be a disturbance ever again, even if it means surrendering myself to your will.”
“What!? What are you—”
“I mean that you are no longer my pawn, and you will never be one so long as I stand. You are my friend now, and I will not allow you to stay in harm’s way. I will, however, promise that when the time comes, I, Edelgard von Hresvelg, shall destroy those who slither in the dark and squash the remnants of their kind. I will ensure that they will never take anything away from us ever again.”
“I. . .That is most reassuring to hear. Thank you, Edelgard.”
While Rhea cannot fully let go of the anger she feels, she is at least calmed by Edelgard’s words. The look of fear and hatred would slowly warp into an expression of someone who is reassured by the words of their other. Edelgard’s words are reassuring in the sense that the conviction in her words show that what she has just told Rhea was far from a false promise or a way to comfort her. Rather, Edelgard’s words are a declaration of war towards those who slither in the dark, and that she will not rest until her enemies have truly been erased from the world. Not only that, but her words also assured Rhea that she is, indeed, her friend now.
All the while this is happening, however, it seems that another conversation is taking place. In the depths of Shambhala, a robed man seems to be overseeing various operations such as strange machinery being built and tested and their weapons further being improved and upgraded. As he watches all that is happening within the confines of the supposedly abandoned ruins, he appears to be listening to the words of a mere peon. Though the goon has finished their prose, the man donning the cape stayed silent, while his expression remains unchanging. The only words that the man reciprocated towards his underling was a command that would dismiss him and allow him to return to his post. And once said underling has left his sight, he would mumble to himself. . .
“So. . .the archbishop still lives. . . heh.”
. . .
“I knew that she would turn her blade against us, one day. But my oh my does this seem unexpected.”
. . .
“And on a stroll, are they? Not only has she allowed the woman she swore to destroy to live, she’s allowed her to stay by her side as an equal? Laughable!”
. . .
“You have long since outgrown your usefulness, my ‘niece’. However. . .that precious friend of yours. . .perhaps she will be as useful as her brethren, if not more. . .heh.”
The mad man’s face slowly contorted into a wicked expression. As he lets out a soft chuckle, he seems to already be plotting for his next move. He had always planned to rid of Edelgard, once she has defeated the Church of Seiros. In fact, the men he sent were meant to finish immediately, somehow having discovered that Edelgard was to leave that day. . .or perhaps, Edelgard’s leave simply caught the attention of the scouts the man has sent to spy on the castle from afar. But knowing that Rhea still lives, the man. . .Thales. . .already has an idea on how to use this knowledge, and the presence of the archbishop, to his advantage.
this one turned out a bit longer than the rest. anyways, hope you guys enjoy this chapter!! hopefully i'll be able to write at least two more chapters this month
Chapter 11: Night of Unrest
Though Rhea and Edelgard’s bond continues to grow, one night may be all it takes for said bond to take a toll for the worse. . .or so it seems. . .
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
[??? of the Garland Moon, Unknown Time. Imperial Year of 1185]
Days have passed since the night of the stroll. The castle’s defenses have considerably tightened and after what has transpired on that very night, it seems that Edelgard has little plans to leave anytime soon. As Emperor, she is still mandated by her position to attend meetings and discussions with other kingdoms. However, seeing as she’s in charge, who is to stop her from sending some else (perhaps a certain von Aegir…) from attending in her stead. Of course, not many in the castle are well-aware as to what has happened days prior the present. Thankfully, Hubert and Byleth are there to aid Edelgard by keeping the other nobles from asking.
Hubert and Byleth have been discussing various topics with Edelgard. How to avoid the other nobles from finding out about all this, how to protect Rhea, where Thales and his army are currently hiding, all that and so much more. Beyond all that however, Hubert is rather concerned as to what the Agartheans are already doing. Part of him seems to believe that as they speak in this very room, Thales has already began advancing his preparations for a battle against the Adrestian Empire. It wouldn’t be a surprise that Thales has been made aware of Rhea’s presence within the castle grounds, which is what bothers Hubert, specifically. Not only that, but besides powerful sorcerers among their ranks, Thales’ army are also equipped with esoteric machinery (akin to the Golems the Church was once equipped with, albeit far more hi-tech), as well as the dreaded Javelins of Light.
Anytime now, the Agartheans could launch a strike, and if the Adrestian Empire is caught unawares, they would suffer a devastating blow. Because of that, Hubert has fully turned his attention to calculating the coordinates of the Agarthean stronghold. Byleth has focused her energy onto finding weeding out the palace for potential spies. Meanwhile, Edelgard has decided to take it upon herself to ensure Rhea’s safety. The Agartheans have crossed both herself and Rhea in their pasts, and she will make sure that they never cross them again. Should things take a turn for the worse, an escape plot is already being considered as a last resort.
Speaking of which, Rhea has been feeling uneasy, since the incident. Though her hatred for the Agartheans, those who she saw as traitors, coursed through her veins, her fear for them also grew. She wanted them gone, she wants to do whatever she can to help get rid of them, and yet she wants to get a way from them as far as possible. The Agartheans managed to nearly wipe out the Nabateans, literally having only spared four of them. She knows too well that she cannot stand a chance against them. Even at full strength, she would not be able to take them out. The only reason that she believes was why she was able to end the King of Liberation was due to the fact he was merely a pawn. And with her growing fears and anger, comes with her starting to feel paranoid, once more. . .
At the night of the same day, there would come a point where the entire castle falls silent. The guards are quietly attending to their posts, the sounds of chatter are absent, and barely any light has been lit within premises of the Imperial Palace. Save a few soldiers, almost everyone is resting. The noblemen, the servants, even the Emperor herself. Though while all of them are at rest, it seems that all but one person is sleeping soundly. Rather than the sounds of breathing or the occasional loud snores, Rhea appears to be groaning in her sleep. The sounds she made were barely audible, but her body language speaks volumes. She was in clear discomfort. Her body wasn’t in pain, and the mattress she was given was comfortable enough, so why is it that she is in such a state. Perhaps her discomfort was caused by none other than her dreams.
Slowly, Rhea’s eyes would start to open. She would try to slowly creep out of her bed, somewhat rubbing her forehead as she sits up. Eerily, it seems that Rhea has awoken, yet at the same time it looks as if she isn’t truly awake. Her eyes are both open and her body is starting to stand up and walk, but somehow her movements do not seem to be under her control. And this isn’t exactly a case of sleepwalking either, for even Rhea’s not truly “awake”, she appears to be fully aware of what is going around her and where she is going. And the archbishop has allowed herself to leave her chambers, for some reason.
Rhea would walk out her chamber without shutting the door behind, making her way up towards the stairs and seemingly heading towards the direction of the kitchen. One would think that such an act is unwise, due to the potential of passersby witnessing the supposedly dead archbishop walk around their hallways. Strangely, however, there are little guards present surveying the castle. No, there were no guards roaming around the castle, whatsoever. Of course, it could be that the guards are making rounds in other parts of the palace (after all, the Imperial Palace is quite spacious), but there seems to be no guards standing at their assigned posts within the castle. Rhea has been allowed to freely walk towards the kitchen without unwanted attention.
After a few walks, Rhea has finally made it to the kitchen. Though it took some time for her to get there, it seems that she has no intention of staying there for more than a minute. It’s a mystery as to how Rhea was even able to navigate the palace, and it wasn’t clear as to why she purposely went for the royal kitchen. Did Rhea sought to satiate her hunger at such an absurd hour, or perhaps she was merely thirsty. It was difficult to be able to tell what exactly she’s doing, due to the room barely even lit up. The only source of light present was the luminosity of the moon itself. A hint of moonlight would shine through the window, enough to be able to form a shadow by the wall. And on that wall was indeed the shadow of a woman from the side, who appears to be holding something. . .? Eventually, the shadow would disappear. There was no doubt that the shadow belonged to Rhea, but just what exactly was going on. . .?
On the opposite end of things, Edelgard is sleeping rather calmly. It’s not exactly the best rest that she will get, but it Is quite a peaceful sight considering the fact their days have been filled with nothing but the worry and dread that an Agarthean attack might happen at any given moment. There have been days where Edelgard’s night would be plagued by nightmares, and there would be other times where Edelgard would grow restless in the literal sense, being riddled with imperial duties and whatnot, instead. This night seems to be one of those rare nights where Edelgard gets to rest properly. Something that is seemingly uncharacteristic about her is how tight she is clinging to a pillow. Edelgard has always come across as aloof, though not many people know that she enjoys the presence of stuffed animals. This, alongside the way that she is sleeping, is less in line with the image of a powerful and fearsome emperor. Rather, it is more akin to a little girl getting a good night’s rest.
Just as all seemed to be at peace, the windows would suddenly burst open, being forced by the gust outside the castle. There was an audible clanging noise of the window coming in contact with the walls, and the drapes would start to flow as one with the wind. The wind was strong enough to cool the entire room, but it did nothing more than make some noise and provide the sleeping Emperor with a hint of discomfort. Without warning, however, the doors to her room would start to creak open. What is the cause of all these mysterious events? Were they the work of a vengeful spirit haunting the palace walls, or perhaps the weather wasn’t as pleasant as expected, tonight? Though strong winds are enough of a reason to explain why the windows have allowed their entry into the room, the sudden opening of the door is far more suspicious.
If not the work of a spirit, then perhaps the creeping gust of air was what allowed it to open. And yet, a shadow slowly seeps into the room, through the doorway. What’s odd about this shadow is that it shows the silhouette of a woman, the very same shadow that was last seen in the kitchen. Without a doubt, that shadow was Rhea’s. However, the real question was not who was entering Edelgard’s quarters, but why. Was she lost? Did she somehow enter El’s room by accident? Highly unlikely, as the former archbishops seems to be aware of her actions. Why was she inside that room, and what was it that she took from the kitchen. . .?
Slowly, she would climb up the bed, sitting before the resting Edelgard. The hint of moonlight that once shined at El’s face would slowly be eclipsed by the shade of the woman. Through that shadow, we see Rhea raising both her arms, one hand meeting with the other gripping onto something. Her expression was unmoving as her eyes were hollow, Rhea would violently swing her arms down, having aimed for Edelgard’s chest. Just moments before the object she held would land, Edelgard’s eyes would slowly open, being disturbed from her slumber. Her hazy vision would begin to clear up, allowing her to see better. But the moment that she realized what was going on, it was too late. All she can do was widen her eyes in horror upon seeing what was going on. . .
. . .It was a knife. The object that Rhea held this entire time was a knife. It was a knife she stole from the pantry, a knife which once was stainless and clean, now tainted by the Emperor’s blood. Rhea sat there watching, her hands busy pushing the blade deeper through El’s flesh. Both her palms and night gown would be marked by the crimson flows of the Emperor. She neither smiled or cried, instead her hollow gaze stared at the dying Edelgard, who was desperately trying to call for help. El could neither speak nor move. All she could do was muster up whatever strength she had left to breathe her last breaths.
“Naïve child. . .did you really think that I would want a friendship with a monster like you?”
These were the words that Rhea whispered to the ear of the dying girl. So, it was all a ruse. Rhea never truly saw El as a friend. She did not even see her as another human being. All she saw was a madwoman, who trampled the kingdom with her corrupt and twisted ways. Their friendship was one that never was, and now the person who was supposedly her “friend” is dying before her very eyes, in a manner reminiscent to the way she had slain her enemy in a war thousands of years ago. As she watched the life slowly disappear from Edelgard’s eyes, a blast of magic would suddenly knock her off the bed, greatly injuring her. It was all so sudden, Rhea paid little attention to her surroundings, so she was caught off-guard.
“I always knew that you were never to be trusted! And now that Her Majesty has been killed, we shall avenge her by sending you to the depths of hell.”
The bed that Rhea was knocked off from started to crumble, and the room around her would begin to catch on fire. Everything suddenly started to become hazy and smoky, a scene akin to her final battle against Edelgard. Rhea couldn’t see clearly through the smoke, the bed has been engulfed by the flames, and the room doesn’t seem to be there anymore. Even the man who spoke those words to her was nowhere to be seen. Instead, all she saw was a figure walking towards her direction towards the flames.
It was Byleth herself, this time with the Sword of the Creator at hand. Byleth’s expression seemed darker than usual, heading towards Rhea without hesitation. Not a word came from her lips, instead she swung her sword skyward and looked at the archbishop dead in the eye. This sight seemed to have knocked Rhea back to her senses, somewhat unaware of what was going on. Before she could say or do anything, however, Byleth plunged her sword towards Rhea. All that followed afterwards was the sight of an empty void. . .
A loud gasp echoed throughout the chamber. The woman began breathing frantically as she took a good look towards her surroundings. There was no fire, no knife, neither Byleth and Hubert were present, and everything seemed to be the way it was. There were no signs of the previously described events to have actually happened. It was all a dream, a horrible dream. And just as her breathing would start to calm, the woman realized that she’s in Rhea’s room; her own room. Rhea would start feeling a sense of relief, realizing that she hadn’t actually left the room. This feeling of relief would quickly be replaced by her feeling distraught, as Rhea’s eyes would water without warning. Rhea would start clinging onto her sheets as she started crying, unable to think of anything but fear and sadness.
From the door, Edelgard’s voice can be heard calling towards her friend, shocked at what was going on. El had just entered the room, having planned to check up on Rhea. What she did not expect was to see Rhea bawling her eyes out. Immediately she rushed towards her and gave her a hug in an attempt to calm her down. El gently stroke Rhea’s back, in an attempt to try and calm her down. And though Rhea deeply wanted to be comforted, she also did not want Edelgard near her, in fear of being a danger to her.
“N-No. . .stay away from me. . .I might end up hurting you. . .”
“W-What. . .?”
“. . .I had a horrible nightmare. Somehow I ended up going to your room and. . .”
In an attempt to try and explain what was going on inside her head, Rhea started to bawl even more. She was scared, scared of all that happening. She wanted El to leave her be so that she could not touch her. Yet despite that, Rhea clenched her grip onto Edel’s nightgown, not wanting her to leave. Meanwhile, all Edelgard can do right now is to comfort her with physical affection, as well as whispers to Rhea’s ear about how her nightmares will not happen. El wasn’t quite sure as to what exactly it was that Rhea dreamt of, as Rhea hadn’t finished. However, El still insisted that she will ensure the archbishop’s fears will not be happening and will remain as nightmares. Rhea feels slightly more at ease with El’s words, though she could not help but ponder and fear the possibility that she may be slowly becoming unstable. . .
"Everything is going to be alright, Rhea. I shall do all I can to make sure of that.”
“I. . .thank you. . .”
“I was supposed to only check up on you to see how you were faring, but it seems that it’d be better if I stayed here for the night.”
“. . .”
“Whatever bad dreams you have shall be bound to stay as nothing more than such. If ever something troubles you, I am here. I'll always be here. . ."
This chapter didn't quite turn out the way I had in mind but I think it's still okay I guess? Anyways, I'm sorry if this seems a bit short and I hope you guys enjoy it!
Chapter 12: Divine Bloodlines
Through teatime with Edelgard, Rhea begins to reminisce about Seteth and Flayn, once more. Unbeknownst to them, the former archbishop’s status has turned into the subject of various rumors, this past month. Said rumor would eventually catch the attention of certain individuals. . .
what is a man? a miserable pile of. . .gossips? ((no, richter belmont does not show up in this chapter, nor will he be showing up in this fic lol))
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
[7th of the Blue Sea Moon, 15:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
Another month has gone by. A lot of what is going on this month are relatively the same the previous month. Edelgard has various imperial duties to tend to, Hubert is hard at work at deducing the coordinates of the Agarthean stronghold, Byleth is taking charge of weeding out any potential spies within the premises of the palace, and Rhea is still somewhat anxious as to what is to come (albeit, less so). It seems that Thales has yet to strike, and though they cannot let their guard down, this fact is somewhat of a relief to everyone within the palace, as it gives them more time to prepare, or to worry about other problems.
And as with the days prior, Edelgard and Rhea’s bond continues to deepen. They would spend their days chatting and having tea times or doing whatever it is they felt like doing (painting, knitting, etc.). Of course, another trip beyond the castle walls won’t be happening anytime soon, due to what occurred in the month prior. But it was also due to that incident why Rhea would prefer staying indoors, as of late. She wasn’t exactly scared of the outside world, but she feared the possibility of another attack. And it is only when their enemy has been slain that Rhea would want to venture into the open world, once more.
Speaking of, both Edelgard and Rhea are about to commence their teatime. Edelgard would enter the room, bringing a cart with a basket full of treats and confectionaries, as well as various herbs and tea-related utensils and silverware, placed on top. The sweets seem to be fresh from the oven, as the fragrant and scrumptious aroma of the delicacies brought to the room would slowly spread throughout the entire room. Already, Rhea is salivating from the smell alone. It’s been quite a while since their last teatime, so it’s rare for Rhea to indulge herself in such snacks, and she sure missed all this.
“I see that someone is excited to try out these delicious snacks that I have brought.”
“They smell absolutely lovely. Did you bake those yourself, dear Edelgard?”
“I assure you I would not serve these to you if I was the one who baked them. Somehow, I find being Emperor far more manageable than being a chef. . .”
Unbeknownst to Rhea, Edelgard did try to bake by herself. However, her attempts at making sweets turned out quite poorly, and she nearly burnt the kitchen down, in the process. Instead, these snacks presented to them were made by Byleth, who was surprisingly adept at baking. Byleth was no means the best chef in the world, but she knew a thing or two after countless dining hall experiences with her students, in the past. And though all that is a bit embarrassing, at least Edelgard would have something to talk about, no?
Rhea lets out a soft chuckle at the implication towards Edel’s lack of culinary talents. Perhaps there are some things that El truly can’t do. Though considering that El is quite busy in her life, she’s not exactly someone who’s picked up a lot of hobbies. At most, Edelgard’s best skill is sketching. El once told Rhea about her secret hobby, and even showed her a few sketches here and there. Her illustrations were lifelike, and they better showcase Edelgard’s detail-oriented side. Of course, the illustrations also show the fact that Edelgard can get quite excitable, as she once showed Rhea an unfinished sketch of her, before remembering that she wasn’t supposed to show that.
Anyways, back to the present. Moments later, everything is already set, with the basket of sweets nearly empty. Edelgard and Rhea are chuckling together during their conversation, one of them having made a joke about how Byleth would often make a certain face whenever she spaced out, or something of the like. As usual, both Rhea and El would continue to talk about the most mundane of topics. And after every tea session, they would always learn something new about each other and, occasionally, themselves.
Eventually, one of the topics for their conversation would find its way back to the discussion of family and relatives. Sometimes, Edelgard would bring up her siblings and parents. In other times, like during this conversation, it’s Rhea who would reminisce about Seteth and Flayn, sometimes even her mother. Rhea has been made aware of their retreat, even back when she was going up against the Empire. However, she knew not as to how it all unfolded on that day, or why Edelgard even decided to spare them both. And seeing as how Seteth and Flayn do not seem to be aware of Rhea’s status, and neither of them spoke to each other about the retreat, prior to battle, they are both unable to keep in touch with one another. To Rhea, Seteth and Flayn could be anywhere. To Seteth and Flayn, Rhea is but a memory to them, and they alone are the last of the Nabateans (or at least the last of those who took the form of man).
“I’m. . .curious about something.”
“. . .Despite the fact we were bitter enemies, at the time, you allowed Seteth and Flayn to live. You did not give chase to them. I want to know as to why you did that. I am grateful for that, of course, but I also find myself intrigued by it.”
“As you’ve said, we were once enemies in war. And though all those who sided with you were considered enemies to the Empire, I was more than willing to spare those who surrendered. Some of our former colleagues from the Golden Deers and Blue Lions were spared. Most of those we spared joined our ranks, either due to having shared interests with us, such as Lysithea of House Ordelia, or for other reasons, such as Felix of House Fraldarius, or Jeralt’s former apprentice, Leonie. Others, such as Claude von Riegan, decided to recruit the aid of Almyra to our cause.”
“I see, so my brother and niece have decided to surrender? I was under the assumption that they simply fled the battle. Had I known that during the war, I would’ve been enraged. But now that I am here, I am glad that they did so.”
“. . .”
“. . .I am not too sure if this is the proper question, but seeing as how you allowed them to flee, I assume that you never intended to use them?”
“. . .Truth be told, my sole intention in the war was to slay you. The idea of using you against Thales was merely an afterthought. And perhaps. . .a way to justify sparing you.”
“When I saw you in the war, I thought that you have descended into madness. That whatever sanity you had left had already crumbled. I saw no reason to spare you, at the time. To be frank, Seteth and Flayn also told me that you’ve lost it, hence why they surrendered. They told me that the only reason they were still fighting that war was to help you, but they also feared what you’ve become, and found it difficult to continue helping you. . .”
“. . .So that’s why they surrendered. . .”
“I-I’m sorry, Rhea. I—”
“No, I should not have brought up this topic. Though the past cannot be altered, and the memories of those days still wound me, I’m finding it easier to be able to let go of all that. To let go of past grudges, of the emotions I felt during those days, and to let go of my Mother. We wronged each other, yes, but we all did it for what we thought was the best. And it was through realizing our own faults that led us to this day. I miss Seteth and Flayn but knowing that they still live is enough comfort to me.”
“I—I’m glad. I guess we can’t truly forget about all that, but I’d rather be at peace with you than be locked at an endless conflict. I do wish that we would’ve been able to connect with one another, under more peaceful circumstances.”
“As do I, though this isn’t too bad either. I am glad that we at least found any sort of opportunity to mend the conflict amongst ourselves. I’m also thankful that I get to hear stories about how you nearly set the pantry aflame.”
Both Rhea and El would let out a chuckle after Rhea’s banter. It still seems so strange for them both to end up like this. But they no longer carry any sort of grudge or contempt towards one another. The past still haunted them, but the future is looking brighter and brighter for them, every day. Still though, Edelgard could not help but silently remember the events of Seteth and Flayn’s surrender during the war. El would look back at their words to her, wondering as to whether she truly considered satisfying their plea to her, or if her impromptu decisions simply ended up turning into this? The passage of fate sure does work in mysterious and unexpected ways. . .
After a long and enduring struggle, the battle has finally been won by the Black Eagle Strike Force. The Church of Seiros has suffered a crushing defeat, with most of their men having either fallen in battle or joining with the Adrestian Empire. The commanders of this battle, Seteth and Flayn, have been captured under the orders of Emperor Edelgard herself, after their surrender. Despite these two important figures of the Church being here, the Archbishop herself was nowhere to be found. Though she is most likely watching from a distance, it seems that she is to face Edelgard in combat, another day.
Tied down and kneeling before Edelgard, Byleth, and two soldiers, Seteth and Flayn looked away from their eyes, with the former looking disappointed, and the latter anxious. Seteth was more than prepared to receive whatever punishment from the Emperor, however he was thinking of ways to ensure that his daughter gets to live another day, free from all the discord. Before Seteth could even utter a single noise, however, Edelgard bestowed to him a question.
“I wish to understand your reasons for continuing to follow the Archbishop’s orders. I know well that you and Rhea appear to be close, and yet it seems that there are things that not even you know about her.”
“. . .”
“You pledged your loyalty to Rhea, determined to follow and serve her at any cost. And yet. . .I sense that there is doubt within you. It’s as if that despite opposing the Empire, you are also reluctant to follow the Church of Seiros even further. Is that not the reason as to why you surrendered?”
“. . .It seems that you’re more perceptive than I have imagined, Edelgard. Either that, or I am starting to become more obvious. Yes, that is why we surrendered. Though we cannot allow your rampage to continue, we fear that the Archbishop may be straying from the path of justice.”
“. . .”
“We have lost the battle, and here we are tied up before you. Do what you must, I am ready to face death. However, I implore you to spare Flayn. She is but a girl who was unwillingly dragged into this mess. Please, let Flayn go—”
“I’m sorry it had to come to this, Flayn. . .”
. . .
“I’m not going to execute you, Seteth.”
“I shall cut down all who dares to stand in the way of my ambitions for a better land. But it seems that you and Flayn have no desire to further the Archbishop’s wicked plans. Therefore, I shall allow you to—”
‘Lady Rhea is NOT wicked!!”
“. . .Believe what you want, but you must know that I am merely doing all this for the sake of Fodlan. And if you think ill of my methods or approach, then so be it. But what makes Rhea any better? If she were truly just then you would be planning to serve her still, no?”
“As much as I hate to admit it, Edelgard is right. Though I do not agree with her methods, I cannot say that I still support the Archbishop in all this.”
“Brother. . .”
“. . .As I was saying, the both of you shall be set free. I shall allow you the chance to escape the chaos. If you wish to thank someone, thank the professor. She is the one who suggested that you seem to wish not to fight, any longer.”
“I see. . .I suppose I shall offer you my thanks, Edelgard. You too, Professor.”
. . .
“I don’t expect you to fulfil such a request, but I would like to ask of you this: should you meet Rhea on the battlefield, please try to talk her out of this. I have served the Archbishop far longer than your stay at the Academy, and I am more than certain that she wasn’t always like this. I can. . .understand, if you were to refuse, but the Archbishop. . .she has been through so much. I do not wish to see a terrible fate befall her. . .”
“. . .”
Moments after the conversation, Seteth and Flayn have been released. The two of them would leave and head elsewhere, riding on the wyvern that Seteth also mounted during the battle. Both Nabateans and the beast have been set free, and are now off to wander the land, seeking refuge and peace. As they departed, Edelgard would contemplate about Seteth’s request, seemingly taking this into consideration. However, Edelgard did not make fulfilling such a request her priority and dismissed it for the time being. Though at the time, it seems that Edelgard was at least open to the idea of sparing Rhea. She’s always been open to the thought, so long as Rhea steps down.
Somewhere distant, far from the capital of the nation, lies a village of sorts. This village was like any other village out there, full of farmers, fishermen, miners, blacksmiths, and so on. They have enough resources to hold off their own, as well as some to trade with other villages and the occasional merchants. This village was just an ordinary village, with almost nothing remarkable about it, whatsoever. What is something to note about the village, however, is not about the village itself. Rather, it’s these specific villagers that is intriguing, a father and his daughter who share the same eyes, ears, and hair as green as some of the vegetables the village plants. And one day. . .the father and daughter duo would pass by two individuals, who would speak of a rumor that catches their attention. . .
“. . .What? No way! I wish I could’ve been there to see it for myself!”
“I didn’t know what was going on, but I saw her running! I was just passing by when it happened! Wish I got the chance to talk to her but oh well, maybe one day.”
“What did she look like though? Was she really that pretty?”
“I didn’t get a good look at her face, but she was so. . .divine! Like she was so pretty, I almost thought she was a goddess!”
“Talk about cheesy. . .”
“But she’s really pretty too! She was so tall and gentle-looking! And I think I heard her voice! she sounded pretty, too! Oh, and her hair was very pretty, too! It looked so soft and shiny. . .and green!”
“. . .!”
Normally, he would pay no heed to rumors of these sorts. But a tall woman with green hair. . .as far as he is concerned, only the children of the Goddess would have hair of such color (and Fodlan has yet to figure out a way to alter one’s hair color without becoming as one with the Goddess Sothis or being subjected to Crest experimentation. . .), but the words of the villagers got him wide-eyed. Could it really be. . .no, it sounds absurd, he thought to himself. Perhaps, Fodlan truly has found a way to change the color of one’s hair, or perhaps it was something else. Either way, while the man was intrigued, he was subtle about it. His daughter, on the other hand, suddenly vanished from the man’s side, already having made her way towards the gossiping villagers.
“Could it be. . .no, that would be absurd! There’s no way that they were speaking of—Flayn? Flayn, where did you—!?”
Finally, the man noticed that his daughter was no longer by his side and is instead near the adults conversing to one another. In a panic, Seteth immediately tried to go after Flayn to stop her from not only rudely interrupting a conversation, but also from asking any questions. Thankfully, by the time he reached his daughter, she didn’t already spill too much, to the point that may have been damaging.
“Pardon the intrusion, but I could not help overhear the conversation of you fine gentlemen. I wish to ask—”
“Flayn! Do not go off wandering like that! And why are you bothering—I apologize for my daughter interrupting your conversation. She tends to be chatty at times, I suppose. Anyways, do not let us distract you, carry on with—”
“Hold on! I hope ya’ don’t mind, but I wanna ask if you folks know a tall woman who has the same hair color as you guys? You see, I saw this lady run pass by me the other night, and it’s kinda rare to see folks with that hair color so—”
“Oi! You can’t just ask folks that, it’s rude to assume that these folks know who your ‘love at first sight’ is just because their hair looks the same! Besides, didn’t ya say she ran off with a friend?”
“Oh yeah! There was also this other girl with her who’s kind of cute. She’s really small and. . .I didn’t really see her too well but I know that she was a girl, with silver hair! Wonder why two lovely ladies would be in such a hurry in the middle of the night.”
“Silver. . .hair!?”
“A-Ah! I mean uh. . .we wouldn’t want to pry into your personal matters so my daughter and I will be on our way. . .”
Green hair. . .and silver hair. . .now that is either one heck of a coincidence or it is no mere coincidence at all. Seteth casually drags both himself and Flayn away from the conversing duo. And though it seemed like whatever it was those two were talking about was none of their business, it seems that Seteth and Flayn may somehow be connected to all this, after all. After being distant enough from the conversing adults, Seteth and Flayn would then whisper to one another about what they have just heard. . .
“A woman with hair just like ours? That sounds just like Lady Rhea, Father! And silver hair. . .perhaps they were referring to Edelgard?”
“No, impossible. . .there is no way that the Archbishop still lives. . .Even if all that nonsense is true, what reason would Edelgard have to even spare Rhea. Perhaps, those men were simply starting up some nonsensical rumor. . .”
“But we should still try to verify their statements, no? What if Lady Rhea is truly still alive? What if she is taking refuge within the Imperial Palace? Even if there is no proof that she lives, there is also little to suggest that Lady Rhea has truly been slain. There was no trial of any sorts, and we simply assumed that Lady Rhea died in battle.”
“Perhaps your words do hold some weight to them. What perplexes me is that. . .if the Archbishop is truly still alive, then why is it that she is within the confines of the Imperial Palace? If she were prisoner to Edelgard, then that man would not have seen them running away out in the open, or so he says. . .”
. . .
“Usually, I would simply dismiss this as nothing but hearsay, however. . .I doubt I would be able to rid myself of such thoughts until we see for ourselves. The notion of losing Rhea still wounds me, and though I am uncertain. . .if she truly is out there, then we can have her stay with us. . .perhaps it’s about time we visited Enbarr, is it not Flayn?”
“Oh splendid! I have always wanted to see the sights of the capital, once more. I am hoping that Enbarr has returned to its more peaceful state!”
“We will speak more of this, later. For now, we must focus on gathering the ingredients we need for tonight’s supper.”
a bit more dialogue heavy, but i hope ya'll like it! ngl, i didn't know as to how to write this part of the story. one of my original ideas was to have one chapter dedicated to just seteth and flayn but not only was i too lazy, i didn't want the story to dwell too much on seteth and flayn's newfound lives. sooo yeah.
Chapter 13: Familial Bonds
Weeks later, unexpected visitors would come and grace the Imperial Palace with their presence. And though they weren’t invited, they certainly brought joy to Rhea the moment she laid eyes on them, once more.
[23rd of the Blue Sea Moon, 10:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
Already very early in the day, whatever work Edelgard is doing is immediately interrupted by Byleth. Just as she was about to get ready for her tasks, her former mentor would come and ask for her presence. It was about visitors by the gate. Usually visitors would be dealt with guards, allowing them entry should they be a guest of honor, or sending them away if they were simply there to find an opportunity to gaze upon the Emperor, or yell profanities towards her. However, Byleth insisted Edelgard to greet these visitors herself. Perhaps this visit is from a party wherein even the guards themselves would not know how they should respond.
Edelgard immediately resigned herself to the request and hurriedly went to the main gates to see what’s so special about these visitors that demand her immediate presence. Her facial expression, body language and the pace that she is moving at all spells out “This better be good.”, being slightly miffed about being dragged for something so seemingly menial. She would soon make it to the gates and dismiss the guards for the time being, opting to take control of the situation. However the moment that she saw who the visitors are, she began to understand why Byleth asked for her to personally greet them; these visitors were a pair that Edelgard would never, in a million years, expect to see again, let alone greet them by her doorstep.
Any expectations of brief banter between her and the visitors would surely be erased, as Edelgard allowed them entry and insisted that they follow her, without any word. Though the visitors knew not of where she was taking them, Edelgard seems to already have a destination in mind, one where she would expect a certain individual to be in. What else is there to say or do, what would she even say to them, she thought to herself. One glance at them was enough for Edelgard to understand the intentions of these individuals. They weren’t here for Edelgard, they were here because they’ve somehow caught wind of a certain individual residing within the palace walls. And though these people do have some history between each other, the only voices they let out were inquiries from El of why these visitors were here, followed by brief mumblings.
Of course, all of this is happening too fast. Edelgard and Byleth themselves were already startled, and El did not want the person waiting at her next destination to be caught unawares. Instead, she went on ahead to make sure that this person of interest is prepared. Meanwhile, Byleth stays with the guests, feeling somewhat awkward and anxious as memories with them would start to resurface. And a lot of those memories were of their encounters during the war, which clearly would not be recollections that one would refer to as “pleasant”.
As those three are silently waiting for preparations to be set, Edelgard would give Rhea’s door a knock before heading inside the room. Rhea seems to be pleasantly surprised at El’s sudden visit, knowing that it was outside of their schedule, but somewhat glad that she visited. Why Edelgard would suddenly drop by unannounced, she wasn’t all too curious about. However, it was when Edelgard began to converse with her that she’d start to raise eyebrows.
“Well this is unexpected! I take it that you need not to attend to any responsibilities today?”
“Erm, not quite. In fact, I’ve barely began with my work for today. I simply came here to inform you that you seem to have. . .visitors. Well, I would assume that they’re here for you, because I highly doubt that they’re here for me.”
“V-Visitors? But I thought that no one beyond the castle walls would know that I am here. . .”
“I thought that would be the case, but. ..”
“I think it’s best if you hear them out yourself. Should I call them in?”
Rhea was slightly nervous about all this. Who would even visit her, knowing that she is taking refuge within the Imperial Palace, she thought to herself? However, her worries are slightly eased by the fact that these so-called visitors have been granted access to the Palace. Rhea knows that Edelgard would not be careless enough to allow Agarthean spies to slip in. Without dwelling on the thought any further, Rhea nodded to El’s question, to which Edelgard replies with another nod, followed by her exiting the room and escorting the guests to the chamber. As Edelgard leaves, Rhea could not help but wonder who the guests are. . .
Moments later, the gates of her chamber slowly creak open. As the doors pave the way for the guests, Rhea would look towards the direction of the door. Her reactions were that of intrigue and confusion, followed by a gasp as tears would slowly swell up. Through those doors entered Edelgard and Byleth, with two individuals following them. Rhea would stand up from her chair, slowly walking towards the center of the room to meet these visitors. She could not believe her eyes. It all feels too good to be true, and yet. . .
“S-Seteth!? Flayn!? Are those truly you. . .!?
“R-Rhea!? Y-You’re alive. . .!”
“Lady Rhea!! I cannot believe that you truly are here!”
“Seteth! Flayn! I—!”
Rhea would cut her own words short as she immediately ran towards the two, giving them a tearful hug. She already knew that both Seteth and Flayn still live, even to this day. What she did not expect was that they’d somehow find her here and visit her. Any questions in her mind, pondering as to how her family knew where she is, would swiftly be clouded by the feelings of relief and joy. It’s been far too long since she’s seen them. And though they were not close, there are still her family.
Flayn was quite overjoyed to find out that the rumors were true. Meanwhile, Seteth is both surprised to think that their journey was worth something, though he was nonetheless as thrilled as his daughter was upon seeing Rhea. There was so much to process, and yet for the brief moments that they shared an embraced, all those did not matter. All it matters is that Rhea still lives, and she’s seemingly closer to how she was prior the war. And as the three of them smiled, so too did Edelgard and Byleth, who were watching them share a moment together.
“I cannot believe that the both of you are standing with me here! How have you two been? Where have you gone to after the war? How was it that you were able to locate me?”
“Oh! Father and I went on a journey to find a place to settle in, and then we found a village. As for how we were able to locate you, we heard a rumor from one of the townspeople!”
“It sounds ridiculous, but yes. We overheard a man speaking about a woman with green hair running off to somewhere. The man also mentioned a silver-haired woman running alongside her. Of course, those seem to have been enough for us to deduce that you could be alive and that you may be where we think you’d be in.”
“A-Ah, I see. . .so there were eyewitnesses during that day. . .”
“Hm? Did you say something, Lady Rhea?”
“. . .Oh, I was simply mumbling to myself is all, dear Flayn! I am simply glad that you have both returned to me. I have so much to tell you both!”
“I think it’s about time the Professor and I head back to work. In the meantime, I will let you catch up with one another.”
Edelgard and Byleth then makes their exit, with Rhea waving towards them. Though it was nice to see her family once more, Rhea could not help but feel a twinge of concern upon hearing that there were other witnesses on that day. Edelgard also shared the same sentiments, as a growing concern begins to loom over her. She worries that if a random passerby was there to witness even a few seconds of that event, then there is a chance that Thales may have already found out about Rhea’s survival, by now. As the doors close, both Rhea and Edelgard have concerned expressions plastered on their faces.
“Hm? Is something the matter, Rhea?”
“. . .You mentioned that you were able to deduce where I was through a mere rumor, did you not?”
“Indeed, I have. What of it?”
“. . .I see, so someone saw us escaping that day. . .”
“Escape? From what? What were you—”
“Edelgard decided to accompany me on a stroll, that night. All was peaceful until we were ambushed by attackers, sent by those who slither in the dark, the very clan that orchestrated the attack towards our brethren centuries ago.”
“What!? You don’t mean. . .no. . .it can’t be. . .is it possible that they knew of your existence here?”
“Not at the time, no. It seemed like they were after Edelgard, instead. However, there may be a chance that their leader is now fully aware of my survival. . .”
“Then it is not safe here! Come, we shall leave the Palace by dusk. We cannot afford to stay, Flayn and I will take you back to the village I mentioned earlier. The passage of fate has granted us this chance for you to be free, once more!”
“. . .”
Rhea avoided eye contact with her brother, contemplating on the words he had just spoke. A newfound life of peace, a fresh start with her family, that is all that Rhea has wanted since the war ended. Yet, now that such an opportunity has literally graced her by her doorstep, she seems hesitant to accept it. Would she truly be able to live her life anew beyond the castle walls? Would she not allow herself open for the taking of those who slither in the dark? And even if she somehow manages to escape those fiends. . .what will become of Edelgard? What will happen to her newfound friend, to the one person that she can truly confide to? Even with a history as bitter as the one between them, and scars that they have brought upon one another, she could not bear leaving Edelgard behind. The twisted fate they live in has brought both women closer to one another and she did not want to change that.
“I. . .I’m not certain if I can bring myself to leave this place.”
“What!? Rhea, have you lost your mind? If you stay here, then those fiends would have no trouble finding you! Not only that, but have you forgotten what Edelgard has done to you? How about we raise that topic as well, hm? What HAS she been doing to you? You were sworn enemies during the war, I doubt that your first few months here has treated you fairly. If anything, I suspect all this is a ruse as well—”
“It is not. There is no ruse.”
“Then what is going on? What has transpired during our absence?”
“. . .”
“. . .”
“I. . .I will not lie, the first few months that I have been here were far from pleasant. Edelgard and I were just as we were during the war. I assume you have a vague idea as to how that went. Yet somehow. . .a bond grew. During the war, I saw only a naïve child who defied the goddess to satiate her delusions. She saw only a monster who would go as far as to maintain her lies and give people false hope, in attempt to rule over humanity. We saw only what we chose to see, we saw what we wanted to see to try and fool ourselves into thinking that we are on the side of justice. And through the time I have spent with her in this castle, our illusions would slowly crumble. We would begin to see things beyond those that we have chosen. It is in this span of time that I’ve come to my senses. That I realized all that I have done.”
. . .
“She was the one who wounded me, Seteth. She was the one who made me crumble. I could never forget all that she has done to me, nor can I truly forgive her. And as I have done the same onto her, I am certain that her feelings are akin to that of mine. Yet. . .she is the only one who can truly mend my wounds. She is the one who I can truly allow myself to be vulnerable in front of, without judgement. She knows what I have gone through. She herself has gone through things akin to what I have lived through. She is the one person I can tell things that I have not told even you or Flayn. She even bears the same damned Crest that I bear, for Mother’s sake—!”
Her voice would begin to crack. Rhea would spontaneously burst into tears in the middle of her soliloquy, unable to hold back her emotions. Rhea has lost so much in her life that losing one more thing would be too much for her to bear. What was once a prison to Rhea is now a haven for her, evident by the fact that she cannot bring herself to leave. This display would leave the silent Flayn somewhat heartbroken, unable to watch her aunt cry her heart out. And while Flayn sympathizes with her aunt, Seteth is somewhat conflicted. To him, he fails to see how the same person who hurt Rhea could even be the same one who could heal her. Yet at the same time, he also understands that what they have gone through goes beyond than what he can truly understand. Rhea has always been a complex person, and though he wants her to join both him and Flayn in their newfound life, he’s learned to better temper his judgement and try to keep an open mind.
“It hurts to see Lady Rhea like this, Father. . .”
“Yes, I know, Cethleann. It pains me to see her like this as well. Part of me thinks that her prolonged confinement to this castle has made her delirious. And yet. . .”
“It’s odd. I never imagined that a friendship between Lady Rhea and Emperor Edelgard would be possible. And yet. . .it does not seem like the friendship Aunt speaks of is anything but genuine.”
“. . .”
As Rhea continues to silently weep, kneeling to the ground, Flayn slowly approaches her aunt and offers to comfort her with a hug. Seteth wasn’t the comforting type, however, and he was somewhat preoccupied with his thoughts. Perhaps, in a different reality, Seteth would think of his own sister mad and try to find a ‘cure’ for such a madness. However, ever since that war, he has become less. . .obstinate, for the lack of better word. He does not want to risk being easy targets for the Agartheans to track down, due to staying in the castle. Yet, he doubts that he would be able to take Rhea home with him without reducing her emotional state to one worse than that of the events of the war.
“. . .Perhaps we can. . .allow you to stay here.”
As his words reached Rhea’s ears, her tears would cease for a moment. Within those seconds, her worries about Edelgard, the Agartheans, all that nonsense, would be eclipsed by the feeling of relief. Perhaps she would not have to be separated from someone she cares about, once more. And perhaps, she would not need to worry about whatever ill fate befalls Edelgard, by the hands of Thales and the rest of his scum. She would tilt her head upwards to look at her brother, a look of relief and bewilderment masking her entire face at that moment.
“We will only stay in for the night, however! As for what shall happen tomorrow. . .I have yet to decide upon that. I don’t plan on letting you stay in this place far longer than you have, but seeing you like this. . .I do not fully trust the Emperor, though I am open to getting to know her better.”
Seteth gives his sister a weak smile, with Rhea replying with a nod and a few tears rolling down her cheeks. Though she was still teary-eyed, Rhea is far from disheartened. She wasn’t quite sure as to whether she’d have to leave on the next day, as planned, or not. But Rhea was content, for the time being. For the next few hours, the three would spend their time catching up and enjoying teatime. It was nice feeling for Rhea, Seteth and Flayn, being able to spend their time together as a family for the first time in quite a while. Despite having worked for Rhea around two decades ago or so, Seteth and Flayn has gotten considerably distant with her ever since they went into isolation after the war between the Nabateans and the King of Liberation. To be able to spend some time with her, as well as drinking tea, outside of a formal setting, it was quite uplifting.
Later that same day, some time after the sun has set and the stars lit up the skies, Seteth would be seen waiting at the “garden lounge” area of the palace, next to a fountain of sorts. His eyes would silently admire the night sky as he was left to his own thoughts, seemingly waiting for someone to come. Footsteps pattering on the gravel would soon be heard from behind. Seteth then looks away from the stars, turning around to greet who appears to be the person he was expected. His expression remained unchanged, though he did appreciate that this person would take the time to have a short chat with him. This person would then slowly approach Seteth, intrigued as to why he wanted to speak to them.
“I was told that you wished to speak to me.”
“Indeed, I have. I asked the professor, or rather Byleth, to have you come find me. I’m glad that my small request has been fulfilled, and I appreciate the fact that you took the time to come here, ‘Your Majesty’.”
“I must admit, I find it unusual to hear you refer to me as my title. I wouldn’t mind if you simply referred to me by name.”
“Very well. Truth be told, I find it odd to refer to you as such, mostly due to our previous circumstances.”
For a while, both Edelgard and Seteth remained quiet. The two barely glanced at one another, simply standing beside each other in silence. Though Edelgard was calm, she could not help but wonder what it was that Seteth wanted to talk about. If anything, she’s surprised that Seteth would even want to talk to her. Edelgard never truly got close with any of the staff members of the Monastery (besides Byleth and Rhea, of course). And outside of being one of the people she spoke the least to during her youth, they have both faced one another on the battlefield. The only topics she could think of that Seteth would want to speak to her about is those of Rhea. And before she could delve deeper into her own inquiries, Seteth began to speak:
“Truth be told, I do not trust you, nor am I comfortable with letting Rhea stay in this castle for any longer. I was planning to take Rhea with us by tomorrow, but she did not seem too keen on that idea. . .”
“. . .”
“It’s all confusing. I did not expect that our paths would cross in such a manner, let alone meeting Rhea once more. I was prepared to accept any that befell the former archbishop. I doubted that you would be capable or even willing to spare her. And if you did, I assumed that it would simply be to further your own goals. Perhaps that may have even been your initial thought.”
“. . .”
“I do not bear any hatred towards you, but I also am quite wary of you. Hence why I am confused as to what all this is about, this supposed friendship between you and Rhea. Part of me think it to be a ruse, and yet. . .I can sense the archbishop slowly healing. When I first saw her, she seemed to be happy. When I told her that I planned on taking her away from this place, she broke down.”
“O-Oh. . .”
“I have been told that you went through a similar past as hers, that you both are bearers of the same Crest, that she has confided with you, things that she has told not even me. So, answer me this: should I trust you? Should I allow her remain in this palace?”
“. . .”
“. . .”
“I understand well that you and Flayn are wary of me. And I cannot blame you for that, nor can I blame you for thinking of me low. And I doubt that any apology I can give shall suffice as atonement for all the sins I have committed to Fodlan, to both you and Flayn, and to Rhea most especially. But I, Edelgard von Hresvelg, vows to ensure the safety of my dear friend, against those who slither in the dark. I will do all I can to make sure that Rhea shall be safe from harm, and to get rid of those pests once and for all! I want to secure a future not just for the nation, or myself, but for you. . .and for Rhea.”
Having carefully listened to her declaration, Seteth sees that Edelgard’s words are truly genuine, that she has truly become Rhea’s friend and sees her as such. He also sees that Edelgard not only values Rhea as a friend, but also cherishes her the same way that his sister seemingly cherishes her. Without saying much, Seteth gave Edelgard a nod and a small smile, his concerns being somewhat alleviated. Seteth didn’t necessarily think of Edelgard as a friend of sorts, but he sees little reason to continue to doubt her. The past they shared is one filled with agony and bloodshed, and nothing can truly change that. But the future is one that seems to be filled with peace and harmony, and it is one that can give them the chance to go onwards. And one that is certainly a far better alternative than perpetuating the cycle of hatred and grudges.
ngl, kinda just finishing this fic just for the sake of finishing it. it's pretty much why the pacing seems a bit off (that and im bad at pacing) and ig why the fic is kind of a mess imo. either way, if you're (still) reading my fic, then i appreciate you and i hope you enjoy my work. i'll try to improve my writing for the last six chapters of this series + all future works to come (a bunch of one-offs plus maaaaaaybe another multi-chapter 3H fic with around 10 chapters or so). thank you for reading my garbage, for waiting patiently and for making it this far! i'll see ya guys in the next chapter :>
Chapter 14: Sanctuary
Though the two of them have already formed a friendship, Edelgard would slowly realize that perhaps her heart desires a bit more than “friendship” and tries to navigate through her complicated emotions.
[2nd of the Verdant Rain Moon, 16:00. Imperial Year of 1185]
Days have passed since Seteth and Flayn’s arrival to the palace. Though things were quite awkward at first, Edelgard insisted that the two of them stay for the time being. Seeing as how Rhea refuses to leave the palace and Seteth refuses to leave his sister alone, they decided to do so. Unlike Rhea’s first days, however, theirs was far more pleasant. Not only that but having them settle in was a smoother process than expected. Beds were transferred and assembled within the room as to allot spaces for Seteth and Flayn to sleep in. What once was a spacious chamber of emptiness has already been transformed into a proper bedroom, months prior. But with the inclusion of Seteth and Flayn, the room has transformed into its own family suite of sorts.
Though Edelgard and Rhea still partake in their usual afternoon activities, the latter would begin allotting some time for her to catch up with her kin, especially since Edelgard has been busier as of late. And on days where Edel’s schedule is more relaxed, Rhea would have her over for tea alongside Seteth and Flayn. These sessions initially began as odd, but soon enough Seteth and Flayn would warm up to Edelgard, at least to an extent where they’re a bit more comfortable being casual with her. These past few days have been the happiest in Rhea’s life, and seeing Rhea grow increasingly happy also made Edelgard feel the same. Not only that, but a new type of happiness would begin to swell in her heart, one that she can’t quite describe just yet.
This odd feeling would continue to develop within her, alongside her confusion towards them. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what it was, or perhaps she has full knowledge as to what said feeling is, and that she’s merely having trouble with accepting them. She finds it hard to speak to Rhea about this, out of embarrassment. And she obviously can’t talk about these to Hubert, Seteth or Flayn, seeing as how one isn’t really the type of guy you’d go to for advice about emotions, and the other two barely even count as her friends. The only other option remaining is Byleth, and with that being the case, she eventually asked to speak with her in private, specifically in her quarters. Today wasn’t as hectic as the days that came before, so what better time to ask Professor about it than now, she asked herself. . .
“Y-You wanted to see me?”
Byleth asked as she entered the room, to which Edelgard silently replied with a few quick nods. Rather than donning her imperial robes, Edelgard was instead seen wearing her nightgown. Absent was the confident and unwavering Edelgard, and instead what Byleth sees is a girl hugging her legs as she sits on her bed, embarrassed. Byleth raised an eyebrow at this sight, thinking about all the possible reasons as to why Edelgard was feeling somewhat shy or nervous. As she shuts the door close, she would walk towards the bed and sit next to Edelgard, giving her a light pat on her head, much to Edelgard’s chagrin.
“Everything alright there, El? If I recall, you wanted to speak to me about something, right?”
Momentarily trapped in a flustered state, Edelgard could not muster up the words (or courage) to talk to Byleth about what was on her mind. She wasn’t necessarily flailing around all nervous-like, but she was getting slightly more and more embarrassed from just thinking about it. This was the first time that she was so uncertain about how she feels, as well as the first time she really talked about her feelings for someone else. Not only that, part of her doubts that Byleth is even the right person to speak about this to. Nonetheless, however, Edelgard tries to compose herself, trying to form a string of words that can allow her to properly begin the conversation.
“It’s just that. . .these past few days I’ve been getting. . .’conflicting’ thoughts about Rhea.”
“. . .define ‘conflicting’.”
“I feel as if this has gone for a month now, but it was only recently that I came to realize these feelings. I’ve been getting along fine with the archbishop. In fact, I find myself enjoying her company. And yet. . .”
“. . .?”
“. . .part of me feels as if a simple friendship with Rhea isn’t enough. . .”
“Oh. . .Oh!”
Byleth looks at El with a face one would make after a realization. Though she isn’t an expect at the topic, Byleth immediately figures out what the Emperor’s dilemma is; she is developing feelings for the former archbishop. No, seeing how Edelgard mentioned that such feelings may have been there since a month or so, and only realizing them now, Byleth deems that Edelgard’s feelings for Rhea have already began to intensify. The fact that Edelgard immediately jerks her face away from her mentor, face red and all, made it far more difficult to assume that such was anything but. Though Byleth is somewhat glad to know this, she could see that something was troubling El.
“It feels odd. . .maybe even wrong. We both know about how the former archbishop and I were in the past. We’ve wounded each other, cursed each other, despised each other. . .fought each other for five years. And now, I’m supposed to believe that after mere months with her, I’ve smitten for her? It all sounds absurd, doesn’t it. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .And yet, I still want it. A persistent voice keeps echoing through my mind, telling me that this is ‘wrong’. A friendship with her already felt unlikely, what more something else?”
“. . .”
“. . .Even if she has grown comfortable with my presence, who’s to say that she would want this? I don’t know. . .I’m not sure if I’m even making sense. But I am confused, anxious, lost. And yet, despite it all, I still want it”
“. . .”
“ . . .I want her. . . ”
“. . .W-What was that?”
“. . .!!!”
Edelgard blushed madly, burying her face behind her knees. She now saw herself a fool for thinking that she could get away with whispering something like that without being heard by Byleth. But she couldn’t help herself, she could not deny her growing affections for Rhea (though, she never really denied them in the first place, nor did she intend to). Maybe part of her wanted Byleth to hear her. It wasn’t as if she was repulsed by these feelings, she was simply shy about it is all. But at the same time, she was anxious about it. She feels these things for Rhea but should she, Edelgard asks herself. Was any of this right? Falling for someone who hurt her in the past, as well as having hurt the same person, will that even work? It’s these types of thoughts circling through her head that made it hard for Edelgard to find an answer.
“. . .Have you spoken to her about this?”
“No. Actually, I haven’t spoken about this to her or anyone. You’re the only one who knows about this, professor. . .”
“I see. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .”
“I think you should tell her.”
“I’m no expert at the topic. But if you like someone, I think you should at least consider telling them.”
“You’re not entirely wrong. However I. . .I fear jeopardizing the friendship that Rhea and I have built together.”
“Hm. . .that does sound scary. But if you don’t talk to her about this, then you’ll never know how she really feels about this. You’ll always be stuck with your own perception of how she feels. . .”
“. . .”
To say that Edelgard was in awe of her friend was an understatement. She knew that Byleth would be able to give her a piece of advice about her dilemma, but she did not expect Byleth to be. . .’blunt’, for the lack of better term. Immediately, the professor throws a string of words to Edelgard’s direction, that basically translates to “if you don’t give it a shot, you’re gonna regret it for the rest of your life”. Had it been Hubert who told her those words, Edelgard wouldn’t be as taken aback as she is now. Though regardless of who delivered the message, the message itself was important, and Edelgard pondered on it for a bit. Maybe it would be better to take a gamble and tell Rhea about it, than to be stuck unknowing, she thought.
“. . .Well?”
“. . .I’m not too confident in myself but. . .maybe I should give it a shot. Thank you, professor.”
. . .
. . .
Edelgard has spent nearly a week thinking about the words of her mentor and friend. And though she plans to eventually raise the topic with Rhea, she has yet to do so, as of the moment at least. She felt it inappropriate to simply speak of it casually, and she would much rather have that conversation with Rhea by herself, not while her relatives are present to hear her declaration. The days have been busy for Edelgard, and she wanted to wait until she can finally confident enough to speak with the former archbishop, hence why she’s yet to completely follow through Byleth’s advice. That time will soon come, however, in the form one lone night where Rhea would be invited to the Emperor’s Quarters.
Edelgard would always visit Rhea in her quarters, but this is the first time where Rhea would be the one visiting Edelgard in her own room. As Seteth and Flayn also share Rhea’s quarters, El would rather speak to Rhea somewhere more private. And seeing as how not everyone in the palace knows of Rhea’s existence within the castle walls, places such as the garden would be out of the question. At the same time, El does feel that it’s also about time that she shows Rhea her personal chambers. Why she’s yet to do that in the past, however, was less due to not having reached a certain level of familiarity with the former war saint, and more of the fact that time did not allow her to. El’s bedroom doubles as her personal work room, and Rhea would risk exposing herself to the whole Imperial Palace, should she decide to just waltz through her doors at any time.
With the clock having struck midnight, and most of the palace’s inhabitants already asleep, Edelgard had little trouble with personally fetching and escorting Rhea to her room. As soon as they’ve reached the doors, Edelgard would show Rhea in her royal bed chamber. Having only seen the room for the first time, Rhea would take her time to glance around the room and study its components, with El locking the door behind her shut, followed by her heading towards the small balcony by her room’s window. Rhea, somewhat intrigued by the plush toy near Edel’s bed, would slowly walk up towards the balcony, positioning herself next to El. As Rhea would gaze upon the full moon in awe, Edelgard would give her one short glance before looking away, eyeing towards the horizon.
“The sky is quite beautiful, tonight.”
“Y-Yes, quite. . .”
The skies were indeed radiant that night, however Edelgard could not help but think of Rhea, glancing at her at every opportunity she can get. She was tall, pretty, majestic. Though her garb was that of a simple white nightgown, and her face was barren of any makeup, Rhea was still as radiant as ever. El’s never paid much attention to how the archbishop looks like until now, and finally realizing that she found Rhea to be pretty added to the uneasy feeling she’s already having. She has been trying to collect herself, to get herself to form sentences and properly deliver whatever prose she had planned to tell Rhea. She’s had far less experience with confessing her feelings to someone that she has with ruling over a nation, hence why she finds her current predicament far more daunting than facing against her daily routine of responsibilities.
No matter how much she wanted to express her feelings, Edelgard would end up eating her own words. Her own nervousness is holding her back. She has an idea as to what she wants to say to Rhea, but she’s struggling to figure out how she wants to say her piece. Though her face begins to redden further, and her mannerisms slowly reflecting her flustered state, Edelgard would take a deep breath, trying to recompose herself. She would mentally go over the words that she would like for the other woman to hear, as if she was trying to rehearse lines for an opera showing of sorts. With a bit of thinking through and recomposing herself, Edelgard would gradually develop the confidence to be able to get her message out to her friend. Before she could say anything, however. . .
“Looking back at our past, I sometimes wonder as to how we ended up like this. I know not as to whether all this has been pre-ordained, or if we simply reached this point by chance. Fate is an enigma even to myself, but I am glad that I was given the chance to get to know you better, to connect with you. To stay out here, gazing upon the stars.”
“A-As do I, Rhea. As do I.”
. . .
“Truth be told, I. . .I have been thinking, lately. About you, I mean.”
“Wha—Rhea, what do you—”
“When I spoke to Seteth about the Agartheans, he suggested that I leave the palace with him for the sake of my safety. I. . .I refused. I did not want to leave this palace. I feared the outside world, knowing that those who slither in the dark still lurk among the shadows. And I loathed. . .loathed the idea of being separated from you.”
“. . .”
“It’s strange. I once saw you as one of my greatest enemies. Yet now, you’ve become one of the dearest people in my life. I’ve never had anyone I can truly confide to until I met you. In you, I found someone who I have been able to share about myself, without the fear of judgement. Someone who gives me the feeling of comfort, safety, companionship. We have only truly known each other for mere months, and yet I. . .I wish to be at your side, Edelgard. I. . .love you. . .”
“R-Rhea, I. . .”
Edelgard was at a loss of words. It seems that all this time, her feelings for the archbishop weren’t one-sided. And though Rhea feels the same as Edelgard does, she had far less trouble expressing her thoughts to El. Knowing that their feelings were mutual was a huge relief to Edelgard. Despite all that, her face continues to redden as her heart begins to race. To say that she was over the moon was an understatement. It did not quite show just yet, but this has been the happiest that Edelgard has ever been. Her life has been filled with burdens and responsibilities that she didn’t quite dream of romance, but to have someone you can truly connect to stay by your side. It was a wonderful feeling. And as Edelgard was becoming more and more flustered, Rhea’s heart was racing as well. She was somewhat eagerly waiting for Edelgard’s response.
“I suppose it’s time I admit why I brought you here. I wanted to talk to you, to spend more time with you. And all that you have just told me. . .I was planning to tell you all that, myself.”
“A-Ah! So all this time. . .”
“Mhm. I love you, Rhea. I would gladly have you stay by my side. I do wish that I was able to get my thoughts out as eloquently as you have. . .heh.”
Both Edelgard and Rhea would simply laugh at the former’s quip. Everything seemed so unbelievable, so absurd. Both women having fought each other in the past and only getting to know one another in a few months, now having grown quite fond of one another. None of them thought about all that, however. Instead, their thoughts were filled only with overwhelming joy and happiness. They have been so lonely and alone their entire lives, and now they have each other. To them, it no longer mattered how they reached this point. All that mattered was the now, and the now is quite wonderful.
Through their laughter, both women would shed a few tears as they chuckled. These tears were not that of sadness, but of joy. Things were already looking bright for them, but this night has given them a light that they’ve never quite achieved, before. Eventually, the sound of laughter would fade. But the smiles on their face remain unhinged as they stared towards one another. Their eyes locked onto each other’s faces, taking the time to admire their beauty. Slowly, Rhea’s hand moved from the railing and onto Edelgard’s face, with El pulling herself a bit closer to the taller woman. Rhea would lovingly wipe the tear from El’s face, while El would wrap Rhea around both her arms.
“You’re beautiful, Rhea”
“So are you, Edelgard.”
“Please, call me El. . .”
“El. . .what a lovely name. . .”
Rhea’s palm would gently move away from El’s face, slowly creeping its way onto the back of her head. As Rhea strokes the Emperor’s silver locks, she would rest her forehead onto Edelgard’s, sharing a moment of skinship. Their lips would soon be locked onto each other’s, in what would be their first kiss together (as well as in their entire life). Their eyes remained shut, as their voices were silenced by their tongues twirling around each other’s. For Edelgard and Rhea, it was nothing but a moment of pure ecstasy. They’ve never experienced something like this before, nor had they any idea as to how it would feel, but that night was by far one of the best they’ve ever had. They were happy and infatuated with one another, and that’s the most important thing to them at that point.
From that point on, they would continue to share a kiss together, taking small pauses here and there for the sake of allowing themselves to breathe, until they’ve reached a point where they decided it’d be best to head inside the room and continue things from there. The events that have transpired during that night was knowledge made aware only to Rhea and Edelgard themselves. But one needn’t know more than they should to know that the shared slumber of both women would be the most well-rested they would ever feel in a long time. Gone are the sleepless nights of loneliness, anxiety and nightmares, and in comes the evenings of peace, tranquility, restfulness, and happiness.
still rough around the edges like the rest of my works, in general, but I did kinda like how the second half of this turned out. ngl, this and chapter 11 are probs the ones i did somewhat enjoy writing the most. that said, i feel like the confession scene here feels somewhat lukewarm and generic compared to other rheagard fics, where it's more visceral, passionate and has more raw energy, and instead of a confession, they kinda just aggresively make out lol. speaking of, i was initially planning to write a separate, nsfw bonus chapter detailing what happened to that evening where they kissed but i'm am not well-versed in nsfw stuff so i won't do it (at least until i decide to come back to this in the future but idk). sooo yeah. hope ya'll enjoy and let me know what ya think!
Chapter 15: (Not-so?) Unexpected Update
An update on this fic. Not a new chapter, in fact it's anything but.
So uhm, yeah. Title and description says it all I guess I dunno. Honestly, I wish I had done this sooner, as I've lost all motivation for this project months ago. I wanted to finish it badly only because I wanted to tell the ending, since that's the one part that I kinda liked the most upon conceptualizing this story. Well that and I also did not want to leave things unfinished. Though with the chapters getting sloppier one after another, I feel like it wouldn't be worth finishing anymore, seeing as how the buildup to everything is not as good as envisioned. And while I could rewrite this entire story from scratch, I'm not only too lazy to do so, but also want to be able to finally move on to writing other projects. So yeah. This fic will no longer be receiving any updates. And while this story will no longer receive any updates, I won't be deleting it either.
To those who stuck around, thank you. I appreciate you all reading my works. I'm sorry for those who expected more chapters from these but I can no longer push myself to write something I'm no longer having fun writing about. I would not be able to maintain the quality of it if I continued to do that. I guess I will leave the ending to this story up to the interpretation of the readers. Though as some of the tags may have already made obvious, the ending to this was planned to be a rather somber one since the beginning. Thank you all for taking the time to read this, as well as my work. And though I may no longer add to this Rheagard fic, I will still write fics here and there (mostly one-offs, multi-chapter works with fewer chapters). I hope you guys look forward to that and I hope you're all doing well this year!
(Also, on an unrelated sidenote, I decided to change my username. Let's just say that I want to start anew with things in life. Soo yeah.)