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This Time, Let Me Find You

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“My beloved… Yes… my beloved.”

 

Dimitri’s hands trembled as the words leave his mouth. He felt years of pressure leaving his shoulders, and yet another wave of stress was ready to consume him.

 

“There’s something I wish to give you before the coronation. Give me your hand.”

 

The ring. Silver band, with an emerald in the center, a gemstone his late mother loved. And it reminded him of her eyes.

 

Part of his brain screamed at him. Is it right? Do I deserve to ask her?

 

Do I deserve anything at all?

 

Her silence only magnified his anxiety. Dimitri closed his eye, one hand over his eyepatch, “Please… say something. If you do not wish to accept it, I will face the truth and—”

 

Byleth pulled him in for a kiss, lips cutting off anything he was about to say.

 

The kiss was short, nothing but a chaste peck on his lips. However, that was enough to take all of his breaths away. “Be- beloved?” Dimitri’s chest heaved, suddenly not sure what to do.

 

Byleth took out a small pouch. “I love you, Dimitri,” she revealed a silver ring. “Marry me.”

 

Dimitri didn’t realize his tears falling down until Byleth wiped them away with her gentle hands. He smiled and kissed her deeply, devouring the taste of wine lingering on her tongue. Tomorrow, he would be king. Dimitri could hear the nobles and guests, songs and their laughter coming from the ballroom. Somehow, he didn’t care anymore. As long as she was there with him, nothing would be more important.

 

When they finally parted, both of them flushed, knees weak and head light. Their eyes only saw each other, taking the other person’s face in as if mapping every trace of love from their features. Their breaths were hot, foreheads together and noses only half an inch away.

 

“Let us exchange them, shall we? Thank you, beloved. Your kind, warm hands… May they cling to my own forevermore…”

 

-----


It was now one year after the unification of Fódlan.

 

With Dedue’s help, Ashe started a family restaurant with his siblings near the castle. Dimitri and Byleth visited the place fairly often, and when Byleth was pregnant, she threw up nearly everything except Ashe and Dedue’s cooking: Daphnel Stew, Fruit and Herring Tart—things they had back at Garreg Mach.

 

Dimitri remembers Byleth’s severe morning sickness. She woke up vomiting violently before finally getting a break when the waves of nausea calmed down. He held his wife in one arm, another hand rubbing her back.

 

“Feeling better, beloved?”

 

“For now,” Byleth chuckled and left a peck on his cheek. “Curse your crest.”

 

Dimitri distantly remembered some older maids retelling stories of her late mother’s pregnancy. When Cecilia was pregnant, she suffered symptoms similar to what Byleth was having—kicks more frequent, horrible morning sickness, and constantly throwing up.

 

The baby probably had a Crest of Blaiddyd. People in the court had been talking.

 

Crest or not, Dimitri didn’t care. Thank Sothis, he thought, that somehow Blaiddyd fetuses had yet to gain (or wouldn’t use) the insane strength like their older counterparts did. Probably biology was keeping them from killing their mothers.

 

At the foot of their bed lay Lucas, a Blaiddyd Rex Byleth brought with her from the monastery. He curled around her feet, occasionally raising a gentle glance at the couple. Dimitri didn’t like the idea of another living being sharing his bed with Byleth, but at least… dogs had very warm stomachs, keeping his wife’s feet nice and warm in a cold Faerghus morning.

 

“What do you want for lunch today?” Dimitri pushed some of the hair away from Byleth’s eyes.

 

“Please, I just threw up my breakfast.”

 

“Beloved, you always get hungry quickly.”

 

“Just… anything that’s not fish. I do love fish but maybe not every meal.”

 

Messengers brought in documents from the monastery, waiting for Archbishop Eisner-Blaiddyd’s approval.

 

Byleth and Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd-Eisner. He liked the sound quite a lot. However, when they brought up joining their last names to the advisors after their engagement annnouncement, it started quite a ruckus in the court, giving Byleth the first taste of how ridiculous the nobles could be on tiny issues, as if she was about to rob the royal treasury and whisk the King away and run off to, who knows, Almyra.

 

In the end, both sides compromised. Byleth and Dimitri got to combine their last names, but they would now be the Eisner-Blaiddyds, instead of the alphabetical order. The advisors believed putting the royal last name last would somehow make it more important (Dimitri and Byleth rolled their eyes). Their children would be Eisner-Blaiddyds as well, but when the future monarch ascended the throne, the monarch themselves would change their name back to Blaiddyd.

 

After Byleth made it out of the bed to work (Lucas jumping off the bed and following her), Dimitri met with his ambassador from Duscur before putting off work and sneaking into Ashe’s restaurant.

 

Since the court loved gossip and commonfolk in particular loved gossip from the court, news that the Queen preferred Cerulean Tavern’s Duscur inspired cuisine to the royal kitchen spread across the continent. To say the restaurant was overcrowded was probably the biggest understatement of the century, so Dimitri and Dedue had to take the backdoor for grocery delivery to get into the restaurant kitchen without being bothered.

 

With the help from Ashe and Dedue and the recipes they developed with exactly accurate measurement, Dimitri had started practicing cooking. The royal cooks were horrified when the King suggested to do some cooking himself and definitely refused the King to “deign himself to visit such a humble and low place,” so Dimitri resorted to Ashe’s restaurant since nobody here would raise a brow.

 

“Very nice, Your Majesty,” said Dedue with a smile, examining the herbs Dimitri had delicately chopped into slices. It took a lot of practice for him to hold back his strength not to cut the board in half. He was beginning to get used to it.

 

It was not a complicated dish, not that Dimitri could cook anything fancier or Byleth could tolerate any in her condition. Dimitri seared the chicken, skin side down, until they were golden brown. Ashe was keeping an eye on the sauce just to make sure it wasn’t burned. Then Dimitri plated, and put the plates into a container insulated with layers of fur and fabric to keep warm.

 

Byleth was talking to Felix when he got back. “Hello, Felix,” he said, putting the food down on the table in front of his Queen, and the raven-haired man hummed in response.

 

“What is this?” Byleth picked up her cutlery. “Something’s different today.”

 

Dimitri didn’t respond. He smiled when Byleth took her first bite, “Good?” Lucas had all his attention on the food, ears up and mouth closed as if trying to be a good boy.

 

“It’s so good,” Byleth closed her eyes. “Lemme guess. Is it Rose’s cooking?” Ashe’s little sister.

 

Dimitri’s smile deepened. Byleth tilted her head. “No? Then… Jack.” Ashe’s younger brother.

 

“I made it,” Dimitri admitted, enjoying how Byleth’s eyes lit up in surprise. “But… with lots of help from Dedue and… Ashe’s recipe.”

 

Felix rolled his eyes, “Ugh I’ve had enough of you two. I hope you didn’t just poison her.”

 

Dimitri cleared his throat, “They were made for sharing, and I brought enough for all of us”

 

“Oh Felix, you must try this,” Byleth picked up another plate.

 

“Who knows what the boar put in there so no thank you.”

 

“Well, if his wife who also happens to be pregnant with his baby tested it, it should be poison-free.”

 

Felix finally relented. “Fine! If you will shut up,” and started eating. He didn’t say anything, but Dimitri was sure he enjoyed it, because the Duke wouldn’t do anything just to be polite.

 

When the three heard a familiar voice, they didn’t need to look up to see who it was. “Having a feast without me huh?”

 

Sylvain, escorted by Ingrid, entered the room with a grin. Dimitri didn’t miss the joy and surprise flashing across Felix’s face. Ingrid, however, looked a bit tired, probably due to some of the Margrave’s new shenanigans. She was knighted soon after Dimitri’s coronation and had been in the royal family’s service since.

 

“What took you so long?” Byleth asked.

 

“We all know he takes his time flirting with every maid and court lady here,” Felix huffed.

 

“Felix! That hurt. You know my heart only beats for you.”

 

The Duke’s face turned bright red before stomping off. “You are disgusting!”

 

-----


Nothing in Dimitri’s life had ever been so right, so happy before, except for one thing—Byleth giving birth. He wasn’t worried. He was horrified.

 

They got the nursery ready, midwives and maids in place three months before the due date. Dimitri inspected everything over and over. A baby blanket too stiff for the newborn’s soft tender skin would make him lose his temper. A midwife or maid gossiping too much? Say goodbye to your job.

 

The ghosts of the past stood behind the King, laughing and whispering poison.

 

Your spawn will only kill her.

Just like you, it will be nothing but a monster-

 

They are not real. Dimitri reminded himself painfully.

 

When Dimitri lost it for the third time after he started building the cradle himself but seemed to only break everything, the Blue Lions realized he was nervous, like fearing a battle plan going south during the war.

 

“Dimitri, It’s alright,” Byleth found him in the nursery. She took his hands in hers, waving a healing spell gently over his bruised hands.

 

“…No, it is not.” Dimitri shook his head in frustration. “What if we are not doing enough? What if something we never expected happens? What- I…” And he realized maybe he should’ve been the person to comfort his wife.

 

“I’m sorry, beloved, I just…I can’t even put a cradle together. The blankets are either too thin or too stiff. And the curtains… just—just look at it! Who puts a demonic beast on the curtains for a baby?! Trying to give them a nightmare?!”

 

“…I’m pretty sure that’s a frog.”

 

“No, it’s- Listen, every time we went into battle, you’d always had everything prepared. Nothing went wrong, not even once, but this time, I should be the one to care for you, and yet I just keep screwing up everything.”

 

“Alexandre,” Byleth’s hands tightened. “Alexandre, look at me.” Something shifted in Byleth’s eyes, and he got nervous. “It’s not a battle, and… none of my plans were perfect. I’m not even sure if any of them ever worked out the way we wanted.”

 

Dimitri blinked, obviously confused, but… it was true. There was always a change of plans in the middle of a battle when Byleth suddenly yelled at them to change formation. Sometimes ridiculous, too risky but always worked.

 

Byleth sighed. She wanted to say something but decided otherwise. Dimitri didn’t push.

 

“Just remember, Sothis has always been with me, and it will be fine.”

 

Dimitri took a deep breath. He finally calmed himself down, and kissed Byleth’s knuckles.

 

“Alright.”

 

 

 

-----


6th of Garland Moon, 1187. It didn’t go as planned, as always.

 

First, 38 days before the date, after lunch, Byleth felt like she was having bad cramps. She brushed it off as another “side effect” of the baby’s potential Crest of Blaiddyd before realizing she couldn’t stand up anymore and her water broke.

 

Doctors and midwives were called in. Advisors gathered in the meeting room. The Blue Lions, who were in the capital, waited outside of the royal chambers, when Dedue had sent messengers to the Duke and Margrave’s territories.

 

Dimitri was holding Byleth’s hand after contractions got worse and she hissed in pain. He almost lost it when Gilbert told him the traditions said the King must wait outside. The King almost had his hand on his sword. That's his wife. His Queen. Annette had to drag her father away before another bloodshed took place.

 

He and Byleth both knew if they’d left Dimitri outside, the ghosts would’ve swallowed him. She was probably the most powerful charm in the world, her presence warding off darkness.

 

Plus, Byleth wanted him there.

 

Mercedes, who was leading the doctors and midwives, insisted on Dimitri keeping track of Byleth’s contractions. It calmed the King down, giving him something else to do instead of worrying over everything.

 

“Would you remind us of the contractions, Your Majesty?” Mercedes’ gentle voice was always soothing. Though she asked, Dimitri was very sure she always kept an eye on Byleth’s condition. She definitely knew.

 

“The last two were… about 45 seconds. The window was six minutes.”

 

“Thank you, Your Majesty. Now let’s see, I think the professor is ready,” she checked under Byleth’s gown.

 

It was a painful process, not only for Byleth. Dimitri felt like every second was an agony, comforting her when she was sobbing and screaming. He cursed the goddess for making childbirth so painful. He blamed himself for putting Byleth through this.

 

He held Byleth in his arms when Mercedes instructed her to walk around. Byleth’s knees were giving out. Dimitri tightened his hold, kissing her forehead gently and whispering encouragement.

 

“Beloved, you’re doing so well,” he kissed away the tears on her face, “just a little bit more. I love you.” It pained him to see her face twist in agony.

 

And when the baby, a boy, was finally pushed out of her body and the King cut the cord with trembling hands, Dimitri finally let out a long breath in joyful tears before another thing went wrong.

 

There was a second baby.

 

Byleth went back into labor again. Roughly ten minutes later, she gave birth to a girl. The two babies cried at the top of their lungs. Mercedes went to announce the news, and outside of the chambers, the couple heard the Lions cheering in joy and relief. Dimitri was terribly happy, holding Byleth and the twins on her chest, and he suddenly realized the nursery was meant for only one child.

 

There was only one cradle. One set of blankets. Why did none of the doctors find out they were having twins?!

 

Dimitri panicked.

 

“It’s gonna be alright,” Byleth said gently, kissing his eyepatch. Somehow, this always calmed him down. “Would you hold them?”

 

“I- I’m afraid-”

 

“You won’t hurt them. You’re their father,” Byleth seemed to know all of his fear.

 

Mercedes helped put the boy in Dimitri’s arms. “See? You’re doing just fine with little Alex,” Byleth chuckled.

 

He almost cried when feeling the soft, warm body of his son. His son. Then Dimitri left countless kisses on his daughter’s face, before kissing Byleth on her lips. Mercedes had led the maids cleaning up the chambers and closed the door for them to have some time together.

 

“Family of four,” Dimitri said, as if dreaming.

 

“Family of four,” Byleth repeated, leaning into his body. “Sitri, Byleth, little Alexandre, and big Alexandre.”

 

Dimitri couldn’t control his tears anymore. He cried but chuckled, holding his wife and children. “To think, if you hadn’t found me in the Goddess Tower, I… Thank you, beloved. For bringing me back to light. For all of your love. For giving me- a family.”

 

“Will you do the same again?”

 

“…the same? Like… getting you pregnant?”

 

“Alexandre!” Byleth really wanted to kick him off the bed, if not for Dimitri was holding their son.

 

“Just joking!” Dimitri laughed, but his gaze went tranquil, giving her full attention.

 

“Will you love me again? If there is next life?”

 

There is silence. “Beloved, I will find you like you found me in the Goddess Tower. I will stay by your side and love you again. If you don’t remember me anymore, I will manifest my love again and again until you remember how many kisses we shared, how many nights we gazed up the sky counting stars, and how embarrassing we were when we started courting. I will let you know that you can never run away from me.”

 

And that sent Byleth in tears.

 

-----


It was now five years after the war. After the twins’ third birthday celebration, Sylvain and Felix announced their engagement. The Lions were quick to throw another party to celebrate, but the nobles didn’t take it well. If not for their sacrifice and contribution during the war and not for Dimitri’s support, the nobles would have demanded to throw them out of the court.

 

Sylvain laughed it off. Felix scoffed at their bigotry. A wedding was on the way.

 

Besides the King and the Queen, Princess Sitri Cecilia Eisner-Blaiddyd and Crown Prince Alexandre Lambert Eisner-Blaiddyd were thrilled to receive their invitation from “Uncle Sylvain and Uncle Felix,” because they felt like “big children” now. Dimitri got a note from Felix attached to his invitation, who blamed the King to have named their children with ridiculously long names that cost him too much time to write down, wasting his time not to do something meaningful such as training.

 

Dimitri knew it was his way to say “Please bring the children.”

 

16th of Verdant Rain Moon. Apparently, the new couple wanted to have their wedding soon than anything else. Instead of spending months planning the events, Felix and Sylvain decided to get married before summer ended, when the weather was still nice for outside activities. With only two moons, they didn’t bother to tailor new suits or commission anything fancy (except the rings), and only close friends were invited.

 

Before they set off for the Fraldarius estate, Dimitri had a nightmare. His sleep had been peaceful for many moons when things were only too good to be true, and maybe—maybe, this could balance his eerie happiness to make everything normal again, because nothing could be so good. Sometimes when things were perfect, he feared losing them again.

 

He dreamed that he was all alone again. No Byleth, no twins, all alone.

 

When he woke up trembling, Dimitri felt Byleth’s arm draping over his waist, squeezing his right hand as if feeling his distress in her sleep. Beams of sunlight leaks through the curtains, dancing on the floor when gentle breeze waved the sapphire fabrics.

 

Dimitri turned and faced Byleth’s sleeping form, heart falling back to its place. Nothing was wrong. She was still there, by his side. His gaze lingered on her long lashes, some hair falling in her eyes, so she tried to push them away subconsciously. Dimitri did it for her. He loved seeing her hair basking in sunlight, as if with a divine halo.

 

Feeling his gaze, Byleth opened her eyes, still sleepy.

 

“Good morning, Alexandre.”

 

“Good morning, beloved,” Dimitri kissed her eyes. “It’s still early. Try get more sleep.”

 

“Mmmmm. Maybe I should.” Byleth let out a sigh, “but I was having a very juicy dream.”

 

“What did you dream about?” Dimitri’s thumb drew circles on her lower back.

 

“Garreg Mach, Blue Lions classroom. You were all flushed and flustered and bent me over a desk-”

 

Goddess have mercy-” Dimitri buried his face in her hair.

 

“Though I think I’d like to try it physically, not through a dream.” She flipped Dimitri on his back, tracing a finger from his throat down to his shirtless chest and navel. He pulled her nightgown off, massaging her waist and then the small of her back. Then she started straddling him, a grin of pleasure on her face.

 

Dimitri pushed Byleth on the mattress, enjoying how she let out a squeal of surprise. Just as he pushed her panties down and slid in and groaned in delight, two soft little humans burst into their room. “Daddy!! Mommy!!”

 

Dimitri scrambled to cover their naked forms with the blanket and tried his best put his pants back on under that comforter before realizing they were on the floor. Byleth laughed while he groaned. Dimitri muffled her laugh with a kiss before pulling her in for another embrace.

 

“Ew!” Sitri stuck her tongue out.

 

But Alex only blinked, “Daddy, what were you doing with Mommy?”

 

“Daddy was kissing and hugging Mommy, because he loves her very much.” Dimitri was surprised how calm he was. Maybe it was because the kids were too young to understand anything.

 

Alex blinked again, “Then should I kiss and hug Sitri? I love her very much.”

 

“NO!” Dimitri heard Byleth saying with him at the same time. “Not with your sister!”

 

“Go find your nanny, Daddy will be there in one second,” Dimitri said, and the twins squealed and ran out of their room.

 

“Didn’t you lock the door?” Byleth laughed.

 

“I thought you did.”

 

The King caught the Queen’s lips in his once again. He loved seeing her squirm underneath, before hearing Alex yell, “C’mon Sitri! Let’s go and play!”

 

Byleth immediately pushed Dimitri off, “No, Alexandre! Not before you put your clothes on!” And put her nightgown back on and strode to catch their children.

 

Dimitri groaned in bed. Why did I have kids?

 

He never told Byleth how much he feared her calling Alex’s full name, because that only happened when she was very angry, and Dimitri felt like she was calling for him.

 

-----


Sylvain kissed a very impatient but flustered Felix after Seteth announced them husband and husband. The Lions cheered.

 

The banquet was more or less a small luncheon held in the garden. Dedue was spinning little Alex around. The young crown prince was nothing but happy, screaming his excitement. “More spinning!”

 

“More, Your Highness?” Dedue smiled and spun him again.

 

Byleth and Dimitri had tried to correct Dedue, because it was only weird to hear him saying Their Highnesses when the children called him Uncle Dedue. However, the loyal vassal had never called Dimitri anything but honorifics, so Dimitri was only happy that he loved playing with the twins.

 

Also, the royal couple was only grateful that Dedue had kept Alex busy for the time being. They were pretty sure if the prince got bored, he would start touching and breaking everything, thanks to the major Crest of Blaiddyd he bore, and Felix would kill Dimitri.

 

Eventually, Alex grew hungry and tired. Dedue fetched a plate of Saghert and Cream, but the prince, somehow, only wanted to share a plate with him.

 

Sylvain and Felix were alone next to the garden fountain. Dimitri saw Sylvain feeding him a skewer, and Felix actually opened his mouth willingly and ate it.

 

Byleth tried to feed Sitri, who only was only interested in the flowers and running around. This was when Dimitri stepped in. He gently brushed Byleth’s shoulder.

 

“Hello, Sitri. Would you show me the lovely flowers you’ve got from Uncle Felix’s garden?”

 

“Hello, Daddy.” Sitri held a small basket full of flowers. She held a bunch up, showing them to her father. “The gardener lady told me these are butterfly rana- ranancu…los.”

 

“Butterfly ranunculus? How lovely.” Dimitri smiled. “See, Daddy finds these flowers so beautiful, that he wants his lovely daughter to braid his hair with them.”

 

“Do you want to?” Sitri’s eyes lit up. She always loved playing and braiding Dimitri’s hair, who would happily wear the messy braids all day, much to the court ladies and advisors’ amusement.

 

“Yes, so if you eat your lunch, I will let you braid my hair with those butterfly ranunculi.”

 

And so Sitri did. She started braiding his hair while Byleth fed her spoon by spoon, and the result was…horrid, as a three-year-old’s chubby fingers could only make sure the flowers were in his hair. Byleth chuckled. Sylvain laughed so hard that he was choking. There was even a tiny smile in Felix’s eyes.

 

“Very handsome, Your Majesty.” The loyal vassal couldn’t hold his amusement in check.

 

Sitri, on the other hand, was satisfied with the result. “Rananculos is nice, but I like carnations better.” She picked up some flowers, saying absentmindedly.

 

Carnation. Edelgard’s favorite flower.

 

Dimitri still remembered planting those flowers with her in Castle Fhirdiad, when things were bright and simple. He still could not associate that proud girl with light brown hair with the emperor willing to transform into a monstrous hegemony, after setting the entire continent ablaze.

 

He’d spent years after the war trying to understand Edelgard. What led to her twisted violent and bloodthirsty ideals? What happened to her after she left the Kingdom?

 

However, for now, Dimitri decided not to dwell on the past. It was a happy day.

 

He kept the braids until nightfall when he was finally making sweet sweet love to Byleth.

 

After he rolled off her body, both of them panting, Dimitri turned and held Byleth in his arms. “I want this moment to last forever.”

 

“I thought you were gonna say you wanted another child.”

 

“Please, no more. I knew how much you suffered during pregnancy.” He put a hand on Byleth’s lower abdomen and stayed there.

 

Suddenly, Byleth tensed.

 

“Beloved?”

 

Byleth was silent. Dimitri waited patiently for her to speak.

 

“Nothing. Maybe I was too- I don’t know,” Byleth was suddenly distressed. “Something is coming and it doesn’t feel right, but I just don’t know what it is.”

 

Dimitri kissed her nape. “Sleep, beloved. It will be a long ride home, and there’s nothing we can’t face together.”

 

-----


The journey back to Fhirdiad was uneventful, but Byleth was stressed. When they made it across the border to the capital, she suddenly ordered to stop.

 

“Everyone! Get out of your carriage! Now!” She pushed Sitri into Dimitri’s arms while she held Alex. The twins were scared, face pale. The knights and servants were confused, but they knew better than to question their Queen’s order.

 

“Beloved? Is something wrong?”

 

“Dimitri, we need to get out of here- The Pulse- I’m out-”

 

“Byleth? You have to tell me what’s going on!”

 

Just go!

 

But before the couple and children made it anywhere, lights fused with magic rained down the sky. People were screaming. Explosions. Blood. Boulders falling from the mountains. Trees and the ground burning like what he saw years ago in Duscur, masking everything he knew. The ghosts were whispering, announcing his failure again.

 

Byleth. The children. Dimitri suddenly recalled, pushing down his episode and pushing them out of the carriage and following behind. Dedue and Ingrid shouted at the knights, trying to cover the royal family out of the mountains, but it was too late.

 

Another beam of light was about to land, and Dimitri knew there was nothing to go.

 

Byleth!!!” He threw himself forward, throwing his body over his wife and children, pushing them down to the ground.

 

And the last thing he remembered, was Dedue’s cries, and Byleth’s trembling “I love you.”

Chapter Text

Dimitri slips in and out of consciousness. He saw his birth mother, Cecilia smiling at him. The world is shifting, as if someone is gently rocking him in their arms. He hears Lambert’s gentle laughs, Gilbert’s—no, Gustav then—stern and courteous words. Then it’s darkness again.

 

Where is he? One moment he opens his eyes (eyes?), he sees the ceiling of his childhood bedchambers—Alex’s room now. A new lance from Ingrid, a book with illustrations from Sylvain, a crystal ball that predicts weather from Felix (as if Faerghus is ever not snowy), a new cloak from Glenn…

 

Wait.

 

Aren’t those the gifts for his seventh birthday?

 

After a wave of vertigo, the next moment, he hears Felix crying over the broken sword. Dimitri has happened to break it with one single swing. Sylvain hugs and coos a sobbing Felix, and Glenn pats on Dimitri’s shoulder, telling him a sword is only a sword.

 

It’s definitely a dream. He is injured, probably in coma.

 

Dimitri shuts his eyes (eyes??), opening again, trying to remember every detail of this childhood dream. They will vanish when he wakes up. That gentle and happy Felix will disappear. His mother will die. His father’s body will burn in Duscur.

 

And Glenn—a sword is not just a a sword. His knight, his sword and shield, will die in that foreign land, and the memories will haunt him forever.

 

When Dimitri opens his eyes again, he sees a throne at the top of hundreds of stairs. A girl with green hair wakes up from her sleep. She rubs her eyes and yawns, “Let’s see, Byleth. What did you mess up this ti…”

 

“What happened to Byleth?” Dimitri demands.

 

She finally sees the person in front clearly, surprised at first, but then she does something—Dimitri feels like someone is in his head, skimming through memory after memory, like flipping book pages. Finally, they stop.

 

“Ugh, I’ve only been asleep for this little while and everything just—ugh!” the girl is visually frustrated, speaking with a sarcastic tone. “Oh well, this will be so interesting.”

 

“Who are you? What are you even talking about?”

 

“It’s not the time to explain. There are promises you need to fulfill—oath sworn to your people, promise made to your beloved wife.” The girl waves her hand, a sigil appearing in front of her. Dimitri recognizes the shape. Isn’t that… “Now go, King Dimitri, son of Lambert the Brave, Savior of Fódlan. You have my blessing.”

 

But before he can say anything, the world swirls into vertigo, and there is only darkness again.

 

-------

 

Dimitri tastes blood in his mouth. Not a new feeling, but it still alerts him, hand reaching for Areadhbar, but it’s not there.

 

“…what?” He tries to open his eyes, but it seems his head has just been hit by a spell. His ears are ringing, his vision blurry.

 

“Byleth? How are…” Dimitri remembers how he threw himself over his wife and children, reaching out to what was laying underneath him. Only mud. “Byleth?” He panics.

 

Something is wrong. And why is his voice so…

 

Your Highness!” someone shouts, trying to shake him out of his stupor. Strange. It’s been many years since he became His Majesty, and yet… “Your Highness! You must run!”

 

“Glenn?” Dimitri blinks, finally able to see. Glenn Aeacus Fraldarius kneels in front of him. His clothes are drenched in blood, a mix of his and his enemies’. His face and body smeared with mud and grime. The bun he wears into battle is now tousled, hair dripping blood. A terrible burn spreads from his right shoulder to his forearm, hindering his movement and attack.

 

“Take my shield. You will keep running, no matter what happens,” Glenn shoves a Talisman shield into Dimitri’s arms.

 

“Wait—no! what about you?”

 

Glenn burned in fire. The smell of burned flesh and blood reminded Dimitri of a swine roasted on fire. He twisted and groaned and screamed, mumbling all the regrets he still had for this world, for Ingrid, for his father, for Felix. And revenge, revenge for me Dimitri, revenge revenge revenge

 

“I swore my fealty to His Majesty, and I shall protect him until my last breath,” says Glenn, chivalrous and loyal as ever.

 

King Lambert’s head was severed from his shoulders. The cut on his neck spilled blood on Dimitri’s face, so warm and bright red, gushing out like a fountain in spring. He watched in terror as the headless body that once his father’s soul dwelled in twitch in the mud. Twitch and twitch and twitch, as if protesting the absence of a head.

 

Dimitri remembered his first kill during the fall hunt. Lambert taught him how to prepare the meat, and the muscle twitched every time he poked it with the tip of his knife. Father said it was because the nerves had not died yet.

 

“Don’t go.” says Dimitri. If this is a dream, then let this dream turn out differently. Let this Glenn in his dream live on the 3rd of Lone Moon, 1176.

 

And maybe, maybe he will feel a little bit better, saving at least Glenn even in a world that is not real. How pathetic.

 

Dimitri feels the urge of nausea but presses it down, trying his best to recall what has happened so far. There was the start of the attack. Lambert was killed. He was separated from his father’s body and couldn’t find Glenn. His stepmother was nowhere to be seen (Did she really started this? Dimitri recalls what Cornelia said before he killed her.). He broke his lance while trying to defend himself. Someone was about to stab him, but Glenn appeared and blocked the attack, barely, hindered by the burn.

 

“Dimitri, now is not the time to be stubborn,” Glenn dodges an enemy’s jab and stabs his blade into the man’s chest.

 

Dimitri picks up the lance from the body, killing a person sneaking behind his back. Glenn has his hand full, facing seven enemies. It should’ve not been a problem for him without the burn, but they are obviously dominating the injured knight.

 

Another appeared out of nowhere. Dimitri kicks himself out of the mud and jumps in front of Glenn, finishing the new attacker with one swift movement. He doesn’t see the shock in Glenn’s eyes, finishing the rest in one breath and turning back to Glenn. “STAY.”

 

“I am a knight of Faerghus, and I—”

 

“Your King is dead!” Dimitri finally loses it. This Glenn in his dream is as stubborn as he remembers. He now can understand why Felix from the other time hated chivalry so much. He hates everyone throwing their lives away for him. He hates being the king, piles of body paving his path to the throne and victory. He hates the ghost wandering in his deepest thoughts, hovering over his shoulder and whispering the darkest of the darkest dreams. He can’t let Glenn die, even he will wake up eventually.

 

Dimitri swirls on his left heel, swiping a clean Tempest Lance at the new enemies. It should’ve been easy—the killing part. For years he had done nothing but killing and slaughtering and murdering, wandering across the land as the One-Eyed Demon. But now, in this small body of a teenager, his legs tremble and arms hurt when they shouldn’t.

 

But this feels too real. The vibration when his lance meets bones, the sound of metal clashing, of his eyes being able to see a wider range.

 

When they are cleared, he turns and stares at Glenn in the eye, blood on his face. “And as your prince, the heir of the late king, and your new lord, I order you to protect me now.” He knows saying the “don’t throw your life away” bullshit will only encourage Glenn to go over to his father’s dead body. “We will both make it out of Duscur, and we will return to Fhirdiad together!”

 

He sees Glenn shaken to his core.

 

The prince, the gentle lion prince, stands in front of him like a king returned from the tempest. When did it happen? Where did he learn all the techniques? And that is years of battle experience demonstrated just now. There is something about it, something about his voice and posture and the eyes and expression. He can do nothing but obey.

 

“At your command, Your Highness!” he shouts.

 

Dimitri turns to the remaining knights, “Everyone, on my order! Keep a safe range from the longbowmen. Anyone with pavises, shield those who do not. We will pull together our remaining forces and crash the enemy formation from the side. They have an advantage with their magic, but once the mages are separated from the main force and their protection, they are useless. We will make it home, together!”

 

The knights of Faerghus raise their weapons and shout in response. They quickly get into a new formation. Dimitri steals a horse from an enemy after stabbing straight in that person’s head, without even batting an eye, and launches his attacks from horseback. But it does feel liberating to have his right eye back.

 

If this was real, Glenn would be utterly confused. Dimitri thinks with a grin. He only started learning to fight on horseback before the Tragedy, let alone killing and commanding on a mount.

 

Dimitri curses his young body’s short legs, for he can’t even reach the stirrup irons, let alone reaching enemies too far away.

 

Dimitri blocks an arrow aiming at a knight’s head. That knight nods gratefully to him.

 

He tries to recall what will happen next, but he’s forced to focus on the current moment.

 

“Your Highness, this road leads to a village,” another knight says. “It may not be safe—”

 

“If not safe, then we will save the villagers,” Dimitri orders.

 

“That is not…”

 

“It is not possible for mere civilians to plan this assassination, not to mention taking a detour will lead us into the desert. We don’t have enough rations. We will go through the village and kill every last enemy who dare assault the civilians.”

 

“…yes, Your Highness.”

 

Dimitri notices the surprise in their eyes, and Glenn—he seems puzzled, but he is ready to fight.

 

“Archers, find your cover. All knights, spread out! Prepare for battle!” Glenn yells his orders.

 

The village, as Dimitri predicted, has been under attack. He feels dizzy, trying to push his anxiety down, before realizing the dampness on his waist. Blood, too much blood of his own.

 

“Dimitri, are you alright?” Glenn notices his silence.

 

“Nothing.” And he lunges into battle. This is only a dream. It won’t kill him.

 

There are not too many enemies, but enough to terrorize and murder farmers with pickaxe and hoes. As if not satisfied with the violence, they’ve set the village on fire. Just like Remire. Dimitri feels a new wave of vertigo and nausea.

 

Now is not the time. Dimitri reminds himself and hears a girl crying, and a mother praying to a Duscur god that he doesn’t know of. Dimitri pushes out the rubble blocking the entrance to the house. He jumps inside and sees—

 

“Dedue?!”

 

Gustav led a wounded Dimitri out of the battlefield.

 

“Your Highness, please get on the horse. It will be a long journey to the border. We cannot risk getting your wounds aggravated.”

 

But the knight’s plea received only silence and the young prince’s sob muffled in his throat. He cannot cry, not even in front of his most trusted knight. He cannot cry—

 

And he tripped on a body, falling face down into the blood-soaked ground. “Your Highness!” Gustav, horrified, ran to Dimitri’s side, but the young prince didn’t get up. He seemed to have noticed something.

 

The body belonged to a Duscur boy, hands clutching to the hands of a young girl’s dead body. He groaned involuntarily and opened his eyes.

 

Dedue Molinaro met his prince for the first time. The Faerghus boy reached out to the boy of Duscur, who took hold of his hand.

 

But Dedue doesn’t recognize him, and Dimitri is utterly confused, he remembers meeting Dedue on the way back to Faerghus, and how—

 

Dimitri sees a little girl, curling in her mother’s arms.

 

Oh.

 

“Come on, let’s get out of here,” Dimitri pulls a wood beam twice his height out of the way and picks up the girl, throwing the mother’s right arm over his shoulder.

 

Dedue doesn’t move. He looks at the prince in the eyes, as if trying to recall something.

 

“We… Do we…”

 

“It’s too dangerous to talk. We need to move,” Dimitri cuts him off.

 

When they finally make it out to a clearing, the knights have almost cleaned up the fight. “Wait for me here!” Dimitri tells Dedue, and jumps back into another house, where people are still trapped.

 

-------

 

They’ve roughly saved 21 people. Not too many, but better than nothing.

 

The villagers of Duscur follow the prince and his knights in silence, occasionally glancing at Dimitri with a puzzled expression, until Dimitri cannot fight his blood loss anymore and falls from his horse.

 

“Damn it! Your Highness!” Glenn rushes to his side, but Dedue is quicker. He has been walking by Dimitri’s side and carries most of his weight when he falls, and Dimitri is glad he didn’t break his neck.

 

“…thank you.” Is the only thing Dimitri can mutter.

 

Glenn quickly examines his body and finds the wound. “When did you get injured?!” Glenn cuts a strap from his cloak, then yelling at a holy knight nearby. “Liam! Get your ass over here!”

 

“How’s your burn?” Dimitri says.

 

“At least I knew to take care of it but you’d die if I didn’t notice!”

 

“It’s alright. I will wake up anyway.”

 

“The fuck are you talking about?” Glenn growls. Liam the holy knight waves a heal spell before Glenn wraps and tightens the strap around his waist roughly. That’s definitely on purpose. Dimitri hisses at the sudden pain. “Hey Liam, heal his head too. I’m pretty sure he got some brain injuries based on all the nonsense he’s been muttering.”

 

That pain is way too real for a dream. Dimitri wants to say something more, but his consciousness finally gives out and it’s darkness again.

 

He wants to wake up. He has to check on Byleth and the children.

 

-------

 

“My, my. That could’ve been some decent work out there, if you didn’t foolishly ignore your own injuries.”

 

Dimitri hears that girl once more, speaking lazily. He opens his eyes, and that question rings in his head once more: why does he have both eyes intact? He’s been so used to one being blind, and even in his dreams, he’s been having only one.

 

“Who are you?” Dimitri asks once more.

 

The girl with long green hair raises a brow, “Who am I? Here I thought you were always a smart one.” She stands up, leaving her throne and walking down the stairs. Her hair and dress and ribbons drift as if there’s wind but the air is still. The bells on her ankles ring, but with a serene tone, like the gentlest sound from a faraway world.

 

And she flies, drifting through the air and lands in front of Dimitri.

 

Together with the sigil he saw earlier, with the Crest of Flames in the middle… “Sothis,” says Dimitri, dreamingly, “You are Sothis.”

 

The girl grins, confirming his guess, but then Dimitri gets even more confused.

 

“Then why am I seeing you? That means I’m absolutely one hundred percent very dead, right? If I’m dead and seeing you, you are about to decide whether I go to hell or heaven. But—”

 

Hell, he doesn’t care, if that can atone his sins. For what he has done and how many he has murdered, he pretty much deserves it. But what about Byleth? What about Alex and Sitri? How are they? “What am I doing here? What’s going on?”

 

“If you are talking about the mortal realm, they are deciding who will be your guardian.”

 

“…what?! Do I need a guardian to go to hell?”

 

UGH! You are just as dense as Byleth!” Sothis frustratingly flails her arm, one hand clutching her long curly hair. “As the ruler of a holy kingdom with the protection of the goddess, here I assumed you’d be better than a mercenary.”

 

Did you ever protect us?

 

“I can hear your thoughts, princeling,” says Sothis. “Let’s explain first. You died, when those javelins of lights hit the border of Fhirdiad.”

 

“I died.”

 

“Right on the spot.”

 

“What about the others?”

 

“Your children are fine, but they were horrified after both of their parents… The knights managed to bring Byleth back to the castle, but she was severely injured and died three days after you.”

 

Silence.

 

Byleth. His Byleth.

 

Dimitri barely strangles a sob in his throat. He tightens his fists, rough enough to draw blood.

 

“I threw you into another timeline before you died, so that your soul remained intact,” says Sothis.

 

“And…” with shaky voice, he asks, “Why am I here? Why is she not here with me? Isn’t she the Chose One? Why did you save me? Not her?”

 

A moment of silence from Sothis.

 

“I think, because the light weapon was fused with magic unknown to this world for centuries, it was meant to detach me from Byleth, my vessel, at the moment of the attack, and somehow the two of us became one.”

 

“So you were with Byleth.”

 

“All the time.”

 

“Then why did you let it happen? The Tragedy, the war… and, and this. You are the goddess, and you keep failing us—”

 

Dimitri doesn’t manage to finish the sentence when he sees the sorrow in her eyes. Sadness of a thousand years looming over the two of them, suffocating.

 

“I only awoke in her body in your last lifetime when you first met at Remire, for some reason I don’t even know. And after giving my power to Byleth in the Sealed Forest, I went into slumber again and woke up just now. I couldn’t do anything, so I’m sorry that… I failed as your divine protector.”

 

“You can apologize, but know that I won’t forgive you.”

 

“I don’t ask for forgiveness. I ask you to help me.”

 

“A goddess seeking help from a mortal.”

 

“Do you want to see Byleth again or not? Whoever threw those javelins of light at you are still wandering out there in this time. Either you stop them or we all die together. This time I may not be able to save you.”

 

This is all insane. “Alex and Sitri… What happened to them? I have to see them.”

 

“Dimitri, you don’t belong to that world anymore. Seeing them will only hurt you.”

 

“Let me see them, one more time.” Dimitri shakes his head, hard, “Please.”

 

Sothis sighs. She waves her hand and—

 

-------

 

There is blood. Dimitri sees so much blood in Alex and Sitri’s chambers and the children are nowhere to be found. His heart almost stops—what happened? What the hell happened here?

 

Dimitri hears Sitri’s cries. “Sitri!” He beckons, trying to find his girl, but where are they? WHERE ARE THEY?

 

“SITRI! ALEX!” Dimitri shouts, “Where are you?!”

 

He goes through door and door and door, running around in the children’s quarters and back into the royal chambers. Maybe they are here…

 

Before he enters the room, Dimitri hears Ingrid shouting and children crying from another room, voice muffled by the walls and closed door. He tries to turn the handle, but his hand just goes through. He’s a ghost now, a ghost in his past life, a world that he no longer exists. So he closes his eyes and goes straight through the door.

 

Sitri and Alex are wrapped in blankets, sitting in Mercedes and Annette’s arms. Dimitri almost has a heart attack when seeing them covered in blood, but the twins don’t look hurt. That’s somebody else’s blood. Dimitri rushes to their side, trying to rub their hair but fails, so he murmurs soft words to his children. Somehow Alex stops crying and looks around. Dimitri wonders if he can hear him, but it’s probably just a coincidence.

 

Ashe is also here, looking lost and angry and sad and…

 

“How could we ever let assassins in these walls? Into Their Highnesses’ chambers?!” Ingrid yells. Dimitri hasn’t seen her this angry for many, many years. Maybe never. All the commanders of the knights of Faerghus have gathered in the room, and no one mutters a single word, even Gilbert.

 

Assassins?

 

“Have we identified the attackers? Are they the same people who attacked the royal carriage?” Mercedes asks softly, but voice croaking from hours of mourning. Dimitri now notices everyone’s puffy eyes, even Gilbert has been crying.

 

“We are still working on identification, Lady Martritz,” Gilbert answers shakily. “If not for Dedue, we could’ve lost both the princess and the crown prince today…”

 

Where is Dedue anyway? Dimitri looks around the room. He’s not here.

 

Hearing the mention of Dedue, Ashe, who has been shedding tears in silence, can’t hold it anymore. He excuses himself abruptly and runs out of the room, and everyone can hear him crying in the hallway.

 

No.

 

Dimitri’s head hurts. His heart breaks. He can’t hear any more of this.

 

When he goes back to his and Byleth’s chambers, Dimitri sees Byleth lying in bed, motionless. Her face is pale, with traces of blood that has been meticulously cleaned. Someone tried to heal her damaged neck and upper chest, but…

 

She doesn’t breathe anymore. Her chest is still.

 

Dimitri collapses, kneeling by her side. All the stress and sorrow from the first moment aggregate into one. His eyes rain tears on the late Queen’s face, and somehow they dampen her skin, falling through her collar and leaving soaked marks on her blouse.

 

“Beloved…” He wants to hold her hand, but his body is only a mass of air. Dimitri tries to stay as close as possible, hands and face and body together, but they feel so far away, between a lifetime and another.

 

Dimitri, it’s time to go back. He hears Sothis calling for him.

 

A moment please. Just a little bit longer.

 

People are waiting for you. Your people, in the timeline that you belong to now.

 

And without another word, Dimitri drops into darkness once more.

Chapter Text

Cold. So cold.

 

When Dimitri wakes up again, the freezing temperature takes up all of his senses, but he is a prince who has spent his entire life in the frigid Faerghus. Maybe that’s from his time travel, seeing his children covered in blood and Dedue’s death and Byleth’s motionless body.

 

Who did it?

 

His life has been constantly throwing cruel jokes at him. When he assumes he’s finally out of the mire, the abyss swallows him whole—his family, once more.

 

Dimitri realizes he’s lying on a cot dampened by whatever is dripping down from the ceiling. Somehow this is all so familiar, a distant memory from the future—

 

He’s in the dungeon of Castle Fhirdiad, and in the same jail cell Cornelia threw him in five years into the future.

 

What a life.

 

“Good morning, princeling, I’m surprised how all you think about is something else,” Dimitri hears Sothis saying, “when you yourself are already in dire situation.”

 

“My wife and children are not something else.” Dimitri slowly gets up from the cot, “How long have I been here?”

 

“Three days. They put you in here right after Gustave found you, Glenn, and whoever was left among the knights.”

 

What? “Who ordered it?”

 

“Well, I didn’t get to see. Just use your brain.”

 

So this is the goddess, Protector of Faerghus, doing absolutely nothing.

 

“I can hear you.”

 

Dimitri doesn’t apologize.

 

Who else can throw him into the jail? Cornelia. Of fucking course.

 

His bleeding has stopped—apparently, whoever got him here still care about his life and cared to send a healer. The bandage is clean with no visible blood.

 

“I guess they’re not going to execute me if they don’t want me to bleed to death,” Dimitri says. At least this is better than his last time here, and nobody is going to take his right eye away. But everything is in parallel. Last time he was accused of murdering his uncle, this time he’s here as the suspect of his father’s murder.

 

But in his last life, they did suspect him too, right? Why imprisoning him this time?

 

“They just don’t have enough reason to let you die right now, but someone else’s life is in danger.”

 

“Who?” Dimitri then sees another two in the same cell as he. Dedue has been staring and listening to him talking to the air. It’s okay. It’s Dedue. Dedue deals with all of his shit, more than he himself will ever know of.

 

But Glenn, still covered in blood, lies unconscious. His burns on the right arm are neglected, festering without healing. The basic emergency treatment during battle is not enough to prevent infection. His face and hair are all sweaty. Dimitri touches his forehead—he’s burning and dehydrated.

 

Those dastards.

 

“Sothis, can you do something?”

 

“Unfortunately, without being in Byleth’s body, there’s nothing I can do.”

 

“You are the fucking goddess.”

 

“Well thank you for the reminder,” Sothis says sarcastically. “If I channel my power through you, you’ll be totally roasted, and then die, like melted butter. Byleth is my only vessel. You’re not.”

 

“But he will die of dehydration!”

 

“They left a jar of water when I got here.” Dedue says quietly, cutting off his conversation with the air. “Gustave managed to get food and water for us, but he didn’t show up today. His father…” Dedue gestures at Glenn, “I heard him arguing with the guards, but he couldn’t get in.”

 

Dimitri can see some efforts were made to patch up Glenn’s wound, and he himself is still moving just fine after three days of slumber. He should’ve learned how to heal, and now Dimitri regrets all of his decisions in the past timeline. “You’ve been taking care of us, Dedue?”

 

He doesn’t need the answer, because it’s so obvious. Dedue continues staring at him, puzzled, then looks down. “How do you know my name?”

 

Dimitri can hear the goddess laughing at the back of his head. He wonders if Sothis has been this obnoxious with Byleth, and he feels bad.

 

Before Dimitri can mutter an answer, Dedue asks again, “You seem familiar. Have we met before?”

 

Yes. When I was haunted by the ghosts of my family and ran to the garden in the middle of the night, screaming and crying in snow, you found me and put a cloak on my shoulders. You were the most stubborn person in this world. When I lost all sleep, spending the entire night in the training ground breaking mannequins, you followed me everywhere until I went back to my room.

 

And you died in my stead, right in this cell, fought for my chance to live, and came back from the dead years later to protect me yet again, protect my children. Until your last breath, keeping your oath as a knight.

 

“I don’t think we’ve met,” says Dimitri, despite his heartbreak.

 

He is surprised how Dedue can look at him in the eyes. That’s something he had to correct for years until the vassal felt comfortable enough in his last lifetime. He likes how he addresses him without titles, but… the old Dedue didn’t either, until the court taught him to properly address royalty.

 

Dimitri goes to the bars, ignoring how hunger leaves his legs shaky. “GUARDS!” he shouts, “GUARDS!”

 

To think that these very guards—the accomplices to Cornelia’s crime in his past life, appear before him, Dimitri almost lets out a laugh. What a day, what a life to meet these traitors once more, whose loyalty can be bought and swayed by money and power.

 

To think that he once believed these were the people protecting him—after the war, Dimitri ordered to block the entrance to the dungeon, banning any form of imprisonment without trial. Byleth, on the other hand, replaced all of the palace guards with only trusted men from their war battalions, going over everyone’s profile again and again.

 

“So, did she sentence Sir Glenn to death? Leaving him in this state, ignored?” somehow, Dimitri is eerily calm. His tone, however, is with that of a predator, ready to feast.

 

“My apologies, Your Highness, but Lady Cornelia…” the guard leader hesitates.

 

“So you know I am still your prince, and yet we are kept in here, not knowing what crimes we committed.” Dimitri takes of his gloves, both hands on bars. He feels insulted. These bars aren’t even magically enhanced like five years into the future. How Cornelia underestimates him, thinking him as a young timid prince without claws. Maybe he should thank that woman for belittling a lion.

 

Dimitri bends the iron bars like pieces of dough, ignoring the gasps from both Dedue and the guards. He leaps out of the cell in a dash, disarming one guard and taking over his sword.

 

“Don’t kill anyone,” Sothis warns him.

 

“I know.” Dimitri kicks the guard leader on his knee. The leader loses his balance and falls. It’s way too easy. Dimitri takes a mental note that he should train the palace guards better, if he decides to keep them for now.

 

The young prince keeps him in place with a foot on his chest, sword against his throat. The rest of the guards all freeze on their spot, not knowing what to do.

 

“Your Highness—” the guard being pushed on the floor mutters, almost like begging.

 

Dimitri doesn’t know what he looks like right now. Maybe that primal beast in a smaller body. Probably scary. He doesn’t care if his princely mask’s slipped. He needs to get Glenn and Dedue out of here.

 

“Here I give you two choices. I can slay you one by one here, painting the walls with your brain, spilling blood from that scrawny body of yours and decorating the floor with your limbs. Or—” Dimitri presses the edge a bit more into his flesh, drawing drops of blood, “we walk out of these cells, bring Sir Glenn to a healer, and I will see Cornelia myself. Let’s see, what will you choose?”

 

Dedue watches him, eyes wide.

 

-------

Dimitri carries Glenn on his back, walking silently through the corridors. Someone wants to guide him to the infirmary. Ridiculous. Trying to tell him where to go when he is the master of this castle.

 

Glenn has almost burned his clothes on fire when they get to the healers. His fever is getting worse. The healers and physicians are first appalled, and then, deterred by the prince’s murderous gaze, start working on the dying patient without daring to say a word.

 

He finally collapses into a chair nearby. Dedue follows him into the corner of the room, standing nearby. Dimitri is tired, so tired. Even the days in the past life when he didn’t sleep at all feel better, not to mention he just woke up from a three-day slumber. Maybe it’s because he’s too young. Maybe he’s just adjusting to a new life. Maybe grief.

 

The prince has lost track of time because of imprisonment. It’s pitch black outside, snow and ice covered half of the windows.

 

He’s drifting into sleep when Rodrigue slams the door open, eyes widened with tears when seeing Dimitri. “Your Highness, thank the goddess, you’re alright. We heard about the fighting down there and there was so much blood and…”

 

Dimitri blinks. He is alive in this world, and yet Gronder is still so vivid in his memories. That man gave him his life.

 

“Please, Rodrigue,” the prince suddenly feels ashamed of himself. The Fraldarius is their shield, generations after generations, as if the shield isn’t human first of all. The Blaiddyds have been taking so much away from that family.

 

Rodrigue’s son is dying there, and yet this man sees the prince first out of everything. He thinks of how Rodrigue mourned for his first son in the past life. Maybe men take things for granted until they lose them, even if it’s their son.

 

But Dimitri is too exhausted to argue. He needs to save all of his energy for the potential enemies. Before he can say anything about Glenn, a small figure darts in and across the room, throwing himself over the wounded knight’s bed.

 

“Felix! Your brother is wounded!” Rodrigue drags the boy away from the bed. Then the Duke leaves him aside, speaking quietly with the healers, as if Felix doesn’t exist in the room.

 

As always, in the Duke’s eyes, Dimitri first, then Glenn, and Felix the last. Dimitri turns his head, having no courage to look at Felix.

 

“We don’t have the luxury for you to be childish, Felix.”

 

“Here we go again, old man. Calling me childish, irresponsible, all you want.”

 

That was a night at Garreg Mach. He spent his afternoon comforting Ashe, who had yet to recover from Lonato’s death. Gilbert refused to talk to Annette, who had been crying all day, so Dimitri and Byleth were taking turns keeping her company. Sylvain pretended he was alright after they were given the mission of Miklan. He could fool everyone, but never Ingrid and him. Dimitri spent his evening reading with the redhead, making sure he didn’t go on another sexual adventure to alleviate his pain. That would be unhealthy.

 

Dimitri was exhausted, but he couldn’t sleep. As always. When he arrived at the training ground, with the gate ajar, he heard the father and son.

 

“Then enlighten me. You asked your professor to keep me away from you, lying to me because you—”

 

“If this is about the ceremony to announce me as the official heir, then I don’t have anything to talk about. You’re only wasting my time. I am here to train.”

 

“Felix.”

 

Dimitri realized it’s something he shouldn’t be eavesdropping on. He tried his best to be quiet, turning away from the column he’d been hiding behind, and heard—

 

“You don’t want me as your heir. Just admit it. You want me to become your dead son, pretending he never died. As if you can still relive that dream of having a gallant prodigy as your first-born. As if I can be a true knight. As if I died in his stead and things could’ve been better that way.”

 

There was only silence in response. Felix sneered, “Regret. Just live in your eternal guilt and regret. You never cared about us, not even Glenn. The boar is your son. The dead king was—”

 

Felix couldn’t finish his sentence because Rodrigue just threw a vicious punch at his face. The young Fraldarius side stepped and tackled the Duke on the ground, dust and sand throwing into the air. Dimitri wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that. He wanted to stop Felix, but he can’t.

 

He was too guilty.

 

It sounded like Felix let his father go, when Dimitri heard a faint sob from Rodrigue.

 

“Weak and pathetic,” Felix picked up his sword from the ground, turning to look at his father one last time. “You plant a lemon tree, you get lemons, no matter how hard you try to turn the sour fruit into something else.”

 

He paused, and Dimitri felt his glare even behind the column.

 

“You raise a boar, and he will always be a monster.”

 

Dimitri took his run, not caring if Rodrigue could see him.

 

He hopes Sitri never feels mistreated, as the second born and, not to mention, Crestless.

 

Dimitri opens his eyes. Young Felix stands in another corner, trying to have a peek into the curtains that provides Glenn privacy, but he’s too scared. Too lost. Too young to process everything that has happened. The sudden tragedy and regicide. The imprisonment of his brother, and now all the blood and bandages and worried healers…

 

Rodrigue said they went to the dungeon. Felix must have seen the blood there. He trembles in his small form, too scared to even shed a drop of tear.

 

Dimitri sees himself in Felix, that broken boy after the King’s death.

 

He stands up, going over to Felix,. Felix nearly jumps when Dimitri throws his blue cape over the smaller boy’s shoulders. He can’t tell the raven boy’s expression, something beyond fear and disgust. More likely a realization.

 

“Felix, come here.” Dimitri gestures Felix to take his armchair, but the other boy doesn’t move. Dimitri sighs. He pushes the chair to Felix’s corner, and stays on a bench instead.

 

The night continues. At some moment Dimitri thinks he’s asleep, but his mind just refuses to shut down and absorbs everything around him. When he opens his eyes again, it’s almost dawn, and the Glenn is not well. Rodrigue and the healers are arguing.

 

“Your Grace, the infection is killing him.”

 

“But that is his dominant arm! There must be something we can do.”

 

“If we don’t amputate that arm, Sir Glenn will die.”

 

Dimitri throws the curtain open, entering despite the healers’ protest. Felix has been curling up on his brother’s side, refusing to let go of his left arm. He sees Dimitri but doesn’t say a word.

 

Dimitri leans over Glenn’s face. The wounded knight’s breath is almost undetectable, chest unmoving. He thinks of Byleth’s body, and now the person he has to save is dying. Dimitri hates himself. He brings them the same fate every time, no matter which timeline they reside.

 

“Father. I need Glenn,” Felix suddenly says, almost imploring. “I need my brother. Please.”

 

“Felix, he is a knight first of all, and the glory—”

 

“But he’s our Glenn, Rodrigue…” Dimitri has had enough.

 

He can’t speak anymore. The tears choke him up.

 

Rodrigue collapses into the armchair, as if everything is lost.

 

Ridiculous, Dimitri thinks. As long as one is alive, everything still has a chance.

 

Before the Duke comes to a decision, several guards come into the infirmary. “We are here to bring Prince Dimitri to the throne room.”

 

“On whose command?” asks Dimitri.

 

“Lord Rufus, Your Highness, and…” says one guard, “Lady Cornelia.”

 

-------

Dimitri is on the brink of a breakdown. He wants to chop something. Anything. Human, preferably. Just bring that feral prince back, put him into a teenager’s body, and there you have it—a Dimitri on his way to meet Cornelia.

 

Portraits of his ancestors are looking at him, like ghosts who have been haunting him forever. The young version of him only just starts having those hallucinations. He can handle those visions, those voices, but he can’t handle his anger.

 

The gate to the throne room opens. Rufus sits on the chair in the middle. The chair made of ebony, ivory, and gold, which once belonged to his father and Dimitri himself, ten years into the future.

 

On his side, that pink woman with pink hair and pink lips and pink outfit, pink feathers sticking out of every part of her neck, a cruel and twisted smile on her face.

 

Cornelia.

 

He can’t hold it back anymore. Dimitri lunges at her, but just before he can advance one more step, three guards push him down to the floor. His chest hurts as hell, blood spilling out of his mouth, and he’s choking—

 

“Like I told you, Rufus, this boy killed his father, and he is going to kill you.”

 

Dimitri passes out once again.

 

 

-------

What were you even thinking?!

 

Dimitri gets up from the floor, a hand clutching his chest. There’ still phantom pain in where the guard stabs. He’s back in that green room, a throne in front of him.

 

“She can’t get any evidence against you, so she tried to get something out of your anger! And the action you took fed her goal so well. Bravo, princeling,” Sothis claps as if in a cheer, but her expressions tell him otherwise.

 

“I let my emotions get the best of me,” Dimitri shakes his head. He should’ve taken the young body into consideration. Unstable hormones. Too young, too irrational, too hard to control emotions. Also, failing to assess the environment before taking action. “But that woman…”

 

“That woman wants to take control of the kingdom, so she wants you dead. You just gave her a reason, attacking your uncle.”

 

“It was meant for her!”

 

“Well, they were together so, they can say whatever they want.”

 

Dimitri shakes his head. “She never imprisoned me in my last lifetime. She’s just so… outright obvious this time.”

 

Sothis twirls a strand of hair around her finger, “It’s different this time. You brought back Glenn and a bunch of knights, while she expected to eliminate all of the kingdom elites. You brought back 21 of villagers from Duscur. You’ve messed up her plan, Dimitri. That alone is enough to make you her target.”

 

“But it doesn’t matter anymore.”

 

“Huh?!” Sothis jumps up from the chair. “After all of my effort, you are giving up now?!”

 

Dimitri almost thinks the goddess is dumb. “That guard stabbed me, and I died again. What else can I do? I apologize for this situation, by the way.”

 

Sothis sighs and sits down, “Well, your reaction is totally different from Byleth. I guess that’s fair, because she was always so… blank, even when I gave her the Divine Pulse”

 

The goddess snaps her fingers, and the next moment, she’s standing in front of the prince.

 

“I am the beginning and the creator of time. I stopped the time before you actually died, and when I use a Pulse and turn back the hand of time, the door to the throne room will open again, and you will do things right.”

 

Dimitri blinks. She really is the goddess.

 

“So, my irrational action hasn’t happened when I get back there?”

 

“You will have to control yourself, princeling. Now, clear your mind before you go back.”

 

Sothis is right. He has to calm down and thinks first, convincing the 13-year-old brain that it needs to stay in control. Dimitri takes a deep breath, “Cornelia couldn’t find any evidence. She couldn’t prove that I committed regicide, but with the elite knights I brought back, they will always be loyal to me. The villagers may not ruin anything for her, but they trust me and can potentially be my allies. Our existence interferes with her plans.”

 

“So she wants you dead, but not Rufus yet. Why?”

 

Dimitri thinks for a moment. “Because I am the only legitimate heir, the only Blaiddyd still baring our Crest. Uncle Rufus may be the regent, but he will never be king, so he doesn’t really matter. Legitimacy is key, and my death will throw the kingdom into chaos, much like five years into the future.”

 

“And that’s her bad move,” Sothis declares.

 

“Why?”

 

“With the church on your back, not to mention so many noble houses still loyal to the throne, confining and imprisoning you will make her everyone’s first target. So you must use her mistake to your benefit, and learn from it.”

 

Dimitri ponders. He has been showing too much, too abnormal, with the skills and fights. He has made himself too obvious. “I will hide the skills passed down from my last life.”

 

“And don’t forget, you are just a 13-year-old boy. Play dumb from time to time. Maybe you can learn some from your redhaired friend. He’s surely an expert,” Sothis yawns and waves her hand. The same sigil appears. “Go now.”

 

-------

Dimitri wants to throw up when the guards open the door. He pauses and blinks several times, getting control of his body, and walk into the throne room again.

 

“Uncle, Lady Cornelia,” Dimitri head bows to the two, doing everything to hide the fact that he’s gritting his teeth.

 

“Your Highness, I was notified of your behavior earlier and what happened during confinement. I am both shocked and horrified by your action, considering how you attacked your own man,” says Cornelia.

 

“With all due respect, Lady Cornelia, may I be notified first of what my charges are?”

 

“Nobody survived Duscur except you and the knights. That’s suspicious enough,” Rufus says.

 

“Uncle, if my memories served me right, to commit and imprison anyone from the royal household and from a high-ranking noble family, such as the Fraldarius, we would’ve been brought to the Court of Essex first, before any form of imprisonment takes place.”

 

Hold on, princeling, you are being too logical here.

 

Right, 13-year-old boy who just lost his father. Dimitri takes a deep breath. He’s sure he will hate himself but… this is for Glenn, for Felix, and for meeting Byleth in this life. Dimitri squeezes some drops of tears to the corner of his eyes. “Uncle… I was so scared… I woke up and didn’t know where I was or… what’s going on. I just wanted to get out… to see you, my only family. After losing my father, I…”

 

Good job. Sothis giggles.

 

Dimitri ignores her. If he were asked to do this in the past life, he’d rather die than using the dead for politics. But he has to do it now, for the living.

 

He can see how flustered Rufus has got, just because of his words.

 

Maybe praise him a little bit. Tell him how he can understand how gallant a Blaiddyd can be in danger, because he himself is a glorious Blaiddyd. Tell him you learned a lot from him. Sothis says.

 

No, I will not. I am a dignified person. Although Dimitri abhors the idea to his guts, he still wears a neutral expression. Talking to someone in his head while doing the same to another actual person as if nothing wrong is going on has been his forte for, way too long.

 

“Well, our information says you were rather calm in Duscur. You killed the Duscur assassins without batting an eye, as if you had predicted what would happen next,” Cornelia frowns. Somehow when she frowns, that face twists into a creepy shape.

 

“It was rather shocking to me how I reacted. However, I guess the survival instinct kicked in after seeing… how my family was slaughtered. My father…” Dimitri has to pause for a second, for real, “sacrificed himself to protect me. I had to live, for my family and… for my country.”

 

Dimitri continues, “Lady Cornelia, you knew our situation in Duscur so well. I wonder who you learned from?”

 

Cornelia opens her mouth and closes. There is sudden fury in her eyes. She hides it well, but Dimitri has noticed.

 

See? She doesn’t have any evidence against you, and she is making herself rather suspicious. Sothis says.

 

-------

The audience ends with a grumpy Cornelia and a Dimitri swearing to himself that he will one day kill this woman again.

 

He is allowed to resume daily life, but Glenn will be confined in the infirmary until further notice. When Dimitri goes back to see him, the unconscious knight only has one arm left.

 

Glenn wakes up two days later. He doesn’t say anything about the arm, just staring at the lack of it for a day. Felix refuses to leave his bedside until he collapses. Dimitri brings him back to his chambers.

 

They cuddle in bed that night. Dimitri misses this moment. He has been insulted and sneered and scoffed by that angry Felix for too many years. Sometimes he almost forgets how close they used to be when they were children.

 

Dimitri recalls the fear in Felix’s eyes when Dimitri approached with his cape. Was it because Glenn was dying?

 

Was it because he went to the dungeon with Rodrigue and saw the blood? Seeing what his friend, cuddling and hugging and playing with him all the time, can actually hurt that jail guard so bad?

 

Dimitri doesn’t want to dwell on the thought.

 

Sothis, are you there?

 

“Hm?”

 

Byleth mentioned something about the Pulse. She said she ran out of it when the light attack happened.

 

“And?”

 

“Did she watch me die, lots of times that day?”

 

No response. That’s the confirmation Dimitri dreads.

 

Did she see me… see us die many times before? During the war?

 

“During the war, and Lonato, and Miklan, and the mausoleum. Too many times.”

 

Dimitri freezes. Felix is finally asleep in his arm, lightly snoring. Did she see Felix die, too? Sylvain? Ingrid? All of the Blue Lions?

 

That’s probably why she never told me. Dimitri sighs. He saw his father and everyone die in front of him once, and that’s enough to haunt him forever.

 

He was useless, once again, failing to help his wife cope with pain after all she had done for him.

 

Glenn was brought to the Court of Essex the next morning, for he failed to protect his liege and suspicion that he was involved in the regicide. Rodrigue is nowhere to be seen, probably with Glenn. Nobody tells them what’s going on. Even the Duke didn’t mention, if not comfort, anything to his second son. Felix stands in front of the window for an entire day, refusing water and food. Dimitri stays with him.

 

They send Glenn back before sunset. The nobles have been jealous of the Fraldarius’ power for too many years. Removing their heir is just a perfect idea. Ingrid’s father tried his best to persuade the noble houses that Glenn was innocent, not to mention he brought the crown prince back, but he failed to consolidate their stand.

 

The majority decided that Glenn Aeacus Fraldarius should be removed from the knights of Faerghus, and Glenn would be sent into exile until his death. They claimed it was magnanimous enough, but Dimitri wonders how he is going to live without his dominant arm. He also needs time for recovery.

 

But Dimitri is powerless in his current position.

 

Rodrigue disappears into his guest chambers when they return. Glenn’s expression is blank as ever.

Chapter Text

“Alexandre,” Dimitri hears a soft voice. “Wake up, my love.”

 

His eye flutters open, finding a very amused Byleth standing in front of him. Alex sleeps peacefully in his arms, while Sitri has found his right shoulder very comfortable and decided to dangle up there, drooling trails of saliva on her father’s shirt, and strands of blond hair stick on her cheeks.

 

A storybook he apparently was reading has slipped from his left hand, dropped on the floor. It was a gift from Ashe.

 

He blinks, and blinks, and blinks. Where is he? Dimitri looks around and realizes he is in the nursery, only one eye with vision. Lucas, who was snoring by his feet, wakes up to Byleth’s voice. He looks quite excited, wagging his long fluffy tail and whipping Dimitri’s calf.

 

“Beloved—” Dimitri beckons shakily. Maybe that really was a bad dream, losing everyone and getting sent back. Maybe he has finally woken up, back to the reality where his loved ones wait for him to awake from sleep, waiting for him at home.

 

“Shh, don’t wake up the babies.” Byleth carefully picks up Sitri from his shoulder, speaking with her lips. The girl stirs in her sweet dreams, whining softly. Byleth coos at the girl, rocking her gently just in case she wakes up again. Lucas follows her, but he has all his eyes on Sitri, as if the Blaiddyd Rex is her guardian angel.

 

Though Dimitri claims proudly that he has the best children of all Fódlan, putting the twins to bed is a battle: You coax your enemies with decoy (Lucas the Blaiddyd Rex and stuffed lion toys made by Felix, Felix), fighting them into submission (loving back pats and gentle rocking), and finally using words to persuade them (reading stories).

 

Oh, and don’t forget to avoid distractions. Unlike a normal battle where you want your enemies to get distracted, in this battle, your enemies need their utter concentration on one thing—falling asleep.

 

Please, Uncle Claude, please don’t laugh so obnoxiously. It is already past bedtime for the children. I apologize for the inconvenience as such for an honorable guest like you, but please save all your shenanigans for Almyra.

 

Wait. Claude?

 

Dimitri remembers telling Claude so but… wasn’t that years ago? When the twins were one year old? He made a diplomatic visit as the new King of Almyra?

 

He is confused, but no matter. He is home now.

 

The royal couple wraps the twins with two blankets Claude brought from Almyra, weaved with the highest quality wool and dyed in yellow, black, green, and a dash of red, the typical Almyran colors.

 

Dimitri takes a look at the children one more time. His blond children melt his heart. It seems like a lifetime to finally be able to see Alex and Sitri again, thanks to that stupid nightmare, and he really wants to see their eyes—those pure, lovely blue eyes, looking up at him with a smile.

 

Later. When they are awake.

 

The older maids in the castle say Alex looks like a copy of Dimitri, but he admits he is a bit disappointed that none of them inherited Byleth’s eyes or hair. If they tried again, would they be blue hair or green hair? Dimitri will never know, because he doesn’t want Byleth to go through pregnancy and labor again.

 

But Sitri does seem to have Byleth’s chin and eye shape, though it’s too early to tell.

 

Before closing the door, Byleth turns to Lucas, who is standing in between the two toddler beds, closer to Sitri’s side. “You coming with us or no?”

 

Lucas lies down comfortably on his side, letting out a long sigh. “Okay, be good in there.” Byleth smiles.

 

Dimitri and Byleth both let out a long relieving breath in the hallway.

 

“Nice good nap?” Byleth grins.

 

Although they have a team of nannies and a castle full of maids, although raising children can sometimes be so tiring, Dimitri and Byleth still keep a routine of parenting, no matter how busy the King and Queen/Archbishop are.

 

At the beginning, it seemed only Byleth had the charm to coo them into sleep, and Dimitri only got the children more excited. It was a nightmare the first couple of times Byleth had to travel back to Garreg Mach, but Dimitri got better. Eventually he realized that, not only the children will fall asleep, he too. No nightmares, only the sweet scent of milk and baby lotion that lulls him to a dreamless sleep.

 

But many times, he fell asleep before the children did, too.

 

“It was nice,” Dimitri yawns with a back stretch. No matter how good that nap was, sleeping in an armchair with one kid dangling on his shoulder while holding another one has made his back protest. “So I can be refreshed enough to be a good host.”

 

“Claude can be a bit… too much.” Byleth laughs. They are finally speaking in their normal voice once they’ve reached the end of the hallway, far enough from the nursery. They walk down the stairs and find Claude standing in the corner, grinning at them.

 

“I was thinking about paying a visit to my niece and nephew before they went to bed, Your Kingliness. Are they asleep?”

 

“Fortunately, yes,” Dimitri says. “They are quite fond of your blanket.”

 

“I’m glad! At first Alex kept chewing the pom-pom, so I was worried he was gonna eat the whole thing. At least we’re sure he will grow some healthy teeth.”

 

Pom-pom. Dimitri finds it strangely hilarious to hear the former Alliance leader saying that word.

 

“Well, he is better than Lucas. Goddess knows how many leather gloves that puppy destroyed,” Byleth says, equally amused.

 

“Beloved—are you comparing our child to Lucas?”

 

“Yes, Dimitri, but Lucas doesn’t have the strength that runs in the royal family. Lucas doesn’t punch Uncle Cwaude and break his nose.”

 

They laugh. Claude loves holding the twins a lot, and the twins love Uncle “Cwaude,” as they call him. But they forgot that children at this age love poking and pulling so much. The first time Alex activated his Crest, Claude was the unfortunate witness of his Blaiddyd strength. He still managed to hold the boy even with a bloody broken nose.

 

Dimitri appreciated that the Almyran King only cursed in his native language.

 

They sit around a table in the garden. The weather in June feels nice.

 

Dimitri and Claude talk about trade routes after the three have spent quite some time debating politics and religion. Then they get a bit tired, comfortable silence falls on the old friends.

 

“Have you ever thought about making a will? My advisors have been giving me an earful.” Claude suddenly asks.

 

That issue, as how Dimitri and Byleth refer to. It is way too early for the royal couple to think about death (although the ghosts keep reminding Dimitri how he escaped his), so it is only a contingency plan, and an absolute pain.

 

“Yes.” Dimitri sips his tea.

 

Just to think about how to redistribute power and status and titles and estates and land and money and all the things he never even heard of, not to mention all the consequences to consider and ramifications to avoid, Dimitri would rather jump into the boiling lava in Ailell. But he and Byleth has to at least decide on one matter, the most important matter just in case.

 

“We only decided on one thing.”

 

“Is it about the surrogate parent?”

 

The sunset leaves its orange hue on the castle, shining on Dimitri’s eye. He closes it, nods, and opens his eye again.

 

“It will be—”

 

Dimitri jerks awake. A maid is shaking his shoulder. The raven-haired boy already woke up next to him.

 

“Your Highness, you need to get up. Sir Glenn is leaving today.”

 

-------

Sothis was right. Seeing his family even as a dream hurts him, as if mocking his failure as a king, a father, and a husband. All adds up to the depressing day of Glenn’s exile.

 

It is unheard of for a knight to be banned from his liege’s funeral.

 

Essex failed to convict Glenn of regicide, but the nobles decided to humiliate the Fraldarius to the end, as if an exile was simply not enough. Dimitri heard his crimes were “malicious ideation of regicide and […] manipulation of the royal family members,” along with “violation of the Chivalry Code of Faerghus.”

 

Being incriminated in “ideation.” It may as well become one of the most ridiculous textbook level cases for legal studies. Dimitri Just wonders how more absurd the nobles can be.

 

All of Glenn’s family and friends stand near the city gate. The snow stopped yesterday but blocked all the major roads. Glenn has a rein in hand, two sacks on the horse’s back, and a bag on his back. His sword is still tied to the former knight’s waist, but nobody wants to poke the question: How is Glenn going to fight without his dominant arm?

 

Rodrigue is double-checking his things, making sure he has enough medication for the road. He still has a fever, and the noble houses are already urging him to leave. Glenn seems to have had enough, so he didn’t even complain and started packing.

 

“I have checked, Father. The healers helped me,” says Glenn.

 

“They told me these to concoctions are hard to find. If you ever need money, Glenn, we—”

 

“We have gold stored in Enbarr and the Gloucester territories. Yes, Father. You have sent them letters. I present them my birth documents and they will hand me the coins I need.” Glenn cuts him off. Apparently Rodrigue has reminded him more than Glenn needs.

 

“Are you sure you won’t bring anyone with you? The Fraldarius knights…”

 

“I won’t drag anyone else into this. I will be fine, Father.”

 

“And if you ever need anything from us, we will meet at Garreg Mach,” says Rodrigue. Although Dimitri is still angry about the Church doing nothing, but at least they abstained in Essex.

 

“I’ll remember.”

 

Sylvain looks sad. Ingrid, standing in between Felix and Dimitri, made it to Fhirdiad last night. She tries her best not to cry. Glenn turns to his fiancée, half crouching down to meet her eyes.

 

They dwelled in melancholy until Glenn finally manages to mutter something, almost silent. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Take me with you.”

 

“I— I can’t. You belong to your family. Your father and siblings need you.”

 

“I need you! I belong to your side, Glenn… Take me with you, please. Just bring me along—”

 

“Ingrid, listen to me,” Glenn brings her left hand to his chest, grabbing it tightly, one finger lightly touching her engagement ring, “You belong to Fearghus, where I can’t even return ever again. It’s not fair for you.”

 

And when he lets go of her hand, Ingrid finds the ring she gifted him in her palm. “What… what is the meaning of this?”

 

“You can’t marry a person who is in exile, Ingrid.”

 

Long silence.

 

Dimitri looks away. Felix lowers his head and tries very hard to stop crying. Ingrid can’t hold her tears anymore.

 

“Glenn, please, don’t do this to me—”

 

“I met your father the other day. I had to end our engagement. It is just not fair to…”

 

“How can you do such a thing?!” Ingrid screams, “Do you think I care? There is no way my father—”

 

“And he agreed, for your sake,” Glenn says.

 

Ingrid’s sobs turn into bawling. “I won’t do it. It’s not over for me.” She barely stares at the ring before pushing it back to Glenn’s hands, holding on to the engagement ring on her finger, “If you don’t want it, throw it away.”

 

And before anyone can say or do anything, she turns and runs off, unable to look at him anymore.

 

Glenn clutches his left hand, clenching his jaws so hard that veins appear on his forehead. He doesn’t follow Ingrid. He can’t.

 

Dimitri closes his eyes. Glenn, don’t you understand? Ingrid stayed single for you all the time. She refused all the proposals, and she never took off that ring you gave her. She loved you, and you know you love her. It hasn’t changed even in another timeline.

 

The love of your life stood right there in front of you, and you chose to hurt her on the day you leave.

 

“But what else can he do?” Dimitri hears Sothis yawns a question. She sounds really sleepy.

 

Tell her he loves her. Tell her he will come back to her no matter what. Because he will.

 

“Please,” it takes a few seconds for Dimitri to realize Glenn is speaking to him, “take care of her for me.”

 

“I will, for now, but when I am King, I will bring you back. And you will take care of her yourself then.”

 

Glenn gives him a faint smile. Dimitri knows that smile too well—I appreciate it, but I don’t think it’s possible.

 

“Yeah. You take care too, Lil Mitri.”

 

Dimitri almost forgot, after so many years, that while he was Dima to all of his childhood friends, this endearment belonged to Glenn. Only Glenn.

 

And he is leaving now.

 

Dimitri goes over and hugs Glenn tightly, who returns with one arm. “Damn, I guess I can’t hug anyone properly anymore.”

 

“You’re making fun of that?!” Dimitri shakes his head in disbelief.

 

Glenn only grins and turns to Felix. “Hey, Fe.”

 

Felix only sobs, not even able to bring his head up to look at Glenn. “Felix, do you want to talk to your brother?” Rodrigue asks gently.

 

But the young Fraldarius boy can’t say a word when he is choked with tears. Glenn embraces him with one arm, resting his chin on the crown of his head. Slowly, Felix brings his arms around Glenn, head buried in his chest.

 

Dimitri spares a glance towards a bush and nods. Liam, hiding over there, gives him a thumbs up. He has asked the holy knight to follow Glenn.

 

When Glenn hugs Sylvain, the redhaired only has one question. “Where are you going?”

 

“Derdriu sounds like a nice place.”

 

Dimitri blinks and before he can stop himself, “There is a famous healer in Derdriu living near the Rose Garden. He only sees two patients a day. The hot spring on the other side of the street is known for its healing qualities. Last time I…”

 

Last time I was there, Byleth dragged me to the bath no matter how much I hated the heat, but it did help with my injuries after the battle saving Claude.

 

Glenn raises an eyebrow, “Sounds like you’ve been there.”

 

“Well, I…” Dimitri clears his throat, thanking his brain for remembering to shut up, “read from a book.”

 

“Huh.”

 

Sylvain shrugs. “Well, if you came across that dragon, let us know.”

 

Dragon,” Dimitri repeats.

 

“Oh yeah, you haven’t heard? Thought I told you.” Sylvain frowns. “People have been talking about a dragon flying around.”

 

“I’m pretty sure that’s just rumor. Dragons don’t exist.” Glenn says.

 

Yes, they do. Rhea turned into one during the Battle of Garreg Mach, right before she and Byleth both disappeared.

 

Maybe that’s just Rhea? Dimitri tries to confirm with Sothis but receives no response. He searches everywhere in his mind and finds the goddess sleeping on her throne.

 

Lazy goddess. Sleeping again.

 

Dimitri gets his attention back to the real world. Glenn goes over to give Rodrigue a hug. His father hugs him back as if it is the end of the world. “It’s alright. It’s not like you won’t be able to see me.”

 

He pats Dimitri on his back, rubs Felix’s hair for the last time, and swings the bag over his shoulder. “Go back to the castle. It’s cold outside,” Glenn gets on the horse with some difficulty, still trying to figure out how to live with only one arm. His body shakes a little bit, obviously weak. Dimitri clenches his fists. Glenn needs time to recover.

 

And whoever decided to set Glenn up will pay.

 

The former knight kicks the horse and sets off his journey. When it is too far away to see his trail, Felix leaves his father’s grip, suddenly starting to run, trying to chase his older brother.

 

“Glenn!! Don’t go! Please don’t go!”

 

He trips and falls, kneeling and begging for his brother’s return.

 

Sylvain tries to comfort him. Rodrigue brings him into his arms. Felix squirms and kicks and tries to fight his father off, but his brother is already nowhere to be seen.

 

Dimitri closes his eyes and lets out a long painful breath. When his eyes open again, the young prince sees Gustave standing nearby.

 

Rodrigue and Sylvain are too far away to hear the conversation. “I know you are planning to leave,” says Dimitri, not even turning to look at the conflicting knight.

 

Gustave is caught off guard, mouth agape, not sure what to say.

 

“I can’t tell you what to do or what not to. Even if I order it, your heart only belongs to wherever you want it to be. However, after seeing how Glenn’s exile affects his family and friends…” Dimitri pauses, “if you still want to leave, want to escape, want the so-called redemption, then you are a coward, and a monster.”

 

Dimitri spins on his heel, not giving Gustave a chance to speak, but when he is facing the city gate, the prince sees some familiar figures.

 

Felix, in his late 20s, getting off a horse. Felix, with a horse. Sylvain follows him.

 

They’ve only brought six Fraldarius knights with two Fhirdiad messengers dragged along, who look they’re about to die. It seems they’ve been trying to get to Castle Fhirdiad as fast as possible that a knight’s horse faints when they stop. It is raining heavily.

 

“Goddess, I can’t believe we really made it in three days,” Sylvain gives his horse to a stableman, but his newlywed husband has disappeared behind the gate.

 

Three days? Usually it takes six from Fraldarius to Fhirdiad.

 

“Sylvain—” Dimitri beckons, but then the Margrave and all the knights disappear. Dry wind replaces the rain. Standing near the gate are the castle guards and Dedue, who has been following him everywhere since their return.

 

Is he actually seeing the other timeline?

 

-------

Dimitri is all blank during his father’s funeral, in the very chapel that he has been in for two lifetimes. He and his father once stood in front of his birth mother’s casket, although he was too young to remember the details. He witnessed Lambert and Patricia’s wedding, when everybody was still hopeful and happy. Then Glenn’s knighting ceremony, whose funeral took place here two years later, right after Lambert’s.

 

And then Byleth and his wedding, after returning from his coronation at Garreg Mach.

 

See, my son. Nothing will change. Everything will, in the end, return to the beginning.

 

Dimitri hears his father’s voice once again. Ghosts of his dead family, even in the past, had begun to haunt him ever since the Tragedy when he was still a child. They are always here, following him everywhere, never able to escape even though it’s already another world.

 

Please, Father. I love you. I’ve avenged you. Don’t do this to me—

 

The crown prince closes his eyes and sees the dead body of Glenn, with two arms—just that his moving, looking at him with hollow, bleeding eyes. The Glenn who died in Duscur.

 

See what your family has done to me, Dimitri. You’ve ruined me, once again.

 

Please, please. I will bring the Glenn of this world back. Dimitri pleas silently.

 

Yeah? Then what about this Glenn? This Glenn who gave his life for you?

 

Dimitri wants to vomit. His head is about to explode, headache worse than ever. When he opens his eyes again, he sees Byleth, his Byleth, lying on the stairs in front of his father’s casket. Dressing in white, hem of the skirt to her ankle—the one they put on her after her death. Drops of blood dripping from the corner of the late Queen’s lips. She’s not moving, eyes slightly open but unresponsive to anything happening around her.

 

That is when Dimitri collapses to the floor. He is still conscious, but the world around him seems so far away. Rodrigue, who has been mourning his liege and best friend in silent tears, seems to be yelling something when he rushes to Dimitri’s side. Gustave manages to support the young prince’s body, shaking his shoulders and saying things he can’t hear anymore.

 

“Hey, hey! Princeling!” Sothis awakens in the chaos, yelling at Dimitri, “Whatever your head is doing, snap it out!”

 

Dimitri doesn’t respond. He can’t. He sees Alex and Sitri, right in front of him. He recognizes several people at the front row of the pews. The Lions, with a soaked Felix and Sylvain, who didn’t get the time to change into black attire, and Claude who has obviously rushed to Fhirdiad.

 

Rhea is speaking at the altar. The twins are kneeling in front of two caskets, in which he sees his own body and then Byleth’s, covered in white roses.

 

“Alex, Si… Sitr…”

 

And he passes out once more in the older knight’s arms, Sothis screaming at him in his head.

 

Ten days into this world, and how many times have I fainted?

 

-------

Dimitri is pretty sure he goes back to the old timeline once again, as a ghost, though he can’t figure out how, because this time Sothis didn’t grant him the access.

 

The twins sob silently in front of his parents. Dimitri wants to hold them, telling them it’s going to be alright, and he will always be there, but he can’t. No matter how hard he tries to touch his children, his body is only air, and his words inaudible in the old lifetime. He just stays there, watching Alex and Sitri crying for their lost family.

 

His mind is entirely blank, not noticing the funeral has ended until Rhea clears her throat. The nobles are about to leave when the former archbishop stops them.

 

“I have an announcement,” her voice is still ethereal, too demure and dignified as Dimitri remembers. “For the time being, I will carry out the duties as the leader of the Church of Seiros, until the next messenger of the goddess is presented. The Church has decided to give Archbishop Eisner-Blaiddyd a proper burial in the holy tomb—”

 

No, you can’t. You can’t separate us.

 

Dimitri wants to scream, all of his voices muffled by an invisible shield that keeps him from entering that world. Alex and Sitri’s eyes widen, beginning to understand what is going on around them.

 

Claude gives an expression as if saying “Of course this is happening.”

 

But before Rhea can finish speaking, Sylvain already stands up, “Are you saying you are going to separate the couple from each other? When they are supposed to be resting together?!”

 

“It is our respect to all the deceased archbishops, Margrave Gautier, and the tradition of…”

 

“Then show us the tombs of the other archbishops. Where are they?”

 

Rhea opens her mouth but clearly loses all the words. Not a single grave in the holy tomb belongs to an archbishop. Dimitri remembers.

 

Ingrid steps in, “With all due respect, Lady Rhea, we cannot separate Her Majesty from her children. She was the Archbishop, the Chosen One, yes, but she was a mother, a Blaiddyd. She belongs here, with her loved ones, resting in the place she once called home.”

 

“The monastery is her home,” somehow, the blond knight’s words only put the iconic smile back on Rhea’s face. “I assure you, brothers and sisters, Archbishop Eisner-Blaiddyd will not leave her family. I have reason to believe that our mother Sothis has brought us a new messenger…”

 

Rhea directs her gaze to Sitri, who flinches subconsciously. Seteth gasps, never expecting this coming, “Rhea! What are you doing?”

 

But the former Archbishop pays him no heed, “I have decided to escort Princess Sitri to the monastery, where she will receive her education and training…”

 

Seteth tries to stop her, “Rhea!”

 

Annette is on the blink of tears, “No, this is just unfair!”

 

“…until she is prepared to take up the title as Archbishop. Meanwhile—”

 

A thud, someone has pushed a bench to the ground. Ashe—Dimitri thinks—of all people, jumps up from his seat, voice raising, “Are you even serious?! Does it mean you are just going to take her away from her only family, after Dedue…”

 

“It is her destiny, her fate, Lord Ashe. A gift granted by the goddess hers—”

 

Bullshit.

 

“Then prove it! Would the actual goddess of Fódlan try to steal away a three-year-old just to get her groomed into her speaker—”

 

“Lord Ashe…”

 

“Or are you trying to benefit yourself, just like how you killed Christophe?!” Ashe’s face is all red, anger filling up every corner.

 

People gasp. Even the Lions have not seen this coming. Gilbert musters something inaudible, head low, saying a silent prayer. Mercedes’ face turns all white, “Ashe, you can’t…”

 

“Of course I can! I can say whatever I want to the former archbishop. She is no longer the speaker of the goddess after Her Majesty ascended. Maybe she never was. She may execute me just like she executed my adoptive father and brother—”

 

“This is absolute blasphemy, Lord Ashe, in this holy place—” a minor lord from House Ascania seems to totally abhor the new Lord of Gaspard.

 

But Gilbert shakes his head, “Speaking of blasphemy, my lord, when was the last time you came to the monastery, or even pray?”

 

“This is irrelevant to…”

 

“Lord Ashe was being himself in front of the goddess, my lord, hiding nothing but being true,” Gilbert says.

 

“Gilbert, are you standing against the goddess?” Rhea demands an answer.

 

“Lady Rhea, forgive me if I don’t understand. I am forever a child of our Creator, but I am also a knight of Faerghus. It is my duty to protect the crown prince and the princess, and to respect the will of my liege and his wife. They would not have approved this arrangement for Her Highness.”

 

Claude finally speaks, “Where is the will, though? King Dimitri mentioned he had made arrangements years ago, and why are we not seeing—”

 

“King Claude, are you trying to interfere with our Fódlan affairs here? Is that your intention when coming to the funeral?” the lord from House Salian scoffs.

 

“I assure you, if I ever wanted to meddle in your kingdom affairs, you wouldn’t know,” Claude sends him a sharp glare. How dare he taint his friendship with Dimitri and Byleth?

 

Another minor lord changes the direction. “But what will happen to Prince Alexandre? Who will take care of him, if Princess Sitri will leave for the monastery…”

 

His question even irritates Mercedes. The sweet, calm priestess pulls the twins into her arms, “Princess Sitri will not go anywhere, Lady Rhea.”

 

“I am deeply disappointed, Sister Mercedes, after trusting you for years—” Rhea shakes her head.

 

“Are you accusing Mercie of trying to care for a child?!” Annette yells at the former archbishop.

 

“Annette, be courteous.” Her father admonishes quietly but doesn’t attempt to stop her.

 

“This is for the best of Fódlan.”

 

The redhaired Margrave’s eyes widen, finding the argument ridiculous. “Whoa whoa whoa, wait for a second here.”

 

Seteth speaks up as if in great pain “Lady Rhea, you cannot separate the princess from her only family.”

 

“I do agree Lady Rhea’s decision conforms with everyone’s common interests, and it is the royal family members’ duty to sacrifice for their people,” another minor lord jumps in. “I suggest that we select a number of houses to be the guardians of Prince Alexandre. A Crestless royal such as the princess is better off leaving the castle and—”

 

This is ugly. Dimitri strangles the lord but his hand clutches into nothing.

 

Darkness suddenly looms over Sylvain’s face, the iconic grin turning dangerous. Felix, who has been silent the entire time, puts a reassuring hand on his back. Claude, as if knowing what’s going to happen, tries to drag him back, but Felix gets around his grip, marching towards the minor lord.

 

“Say that one more time?” says Felix.

 

Not knowing his situation, the minor lord clears his throat, “A Crestless royal family member such as the princess will make no contribution to the Kingdom, as it was proved by Lord Regent and King Lambert’s…”

 

Felix suddenly unsheathes his sword, pointing his blade at the minor lord’s throat, voice menacing. “Here I thought the dead emperor was a monster, and now I’ve found a demon. Even worse.”

 

As everyone’s attention is focused on the Duke, Dimitri realizes Claude and Gilbert are nowhere to be seen, but he doesn’t have time to dwell on that.

 

“Heavens! Did he bring a weapon into the chapel?!” the lord from House Ascania says, shakily pointing a finger at Felix. “Like I said, a man who pays no heed to his lineage will do us no good! Marrying a man and tainting this holy place and—”

 

“The union was blessed by the church and the goddess. Be careful what you are saying,” Seteth’s glare can murder.

 

Sylvain, after all that Crest speech, walks to where Felix’s standing. He puts a hand on his husband’s shoulder while another with a fireball. “Mind you, my lord, the Faerghus region may be known for chivalry, but we all are magic users. We don’t need weapons to fight. Thanks to your late Queen’s coaching.”

 

Annette has Cutting Gale ready in her hand, Mercedes with Nosferatu and Ashe with Wind. Ingrid has summoned the knights of Faerghus.

 

Many lords’ face pale. Rhea looks like she wants to say something, but Seteth grabs her shoulder and shakes his head. The former Archbishop hesitates but backs down.

 

“While you were fighting for politics in a funeral, scavenging that little power and status from two children who just lost their parents right in front of them. Over my dead body.” Felix directs his sword to Lord Ascania, “If you want them, fight me. Pick up a weapon and fight like a real Faerghan. Fight for your status, in front of the goddess. Fight for your stand for your liege, and quit that insinuating shit.”

 

“This is blasphemy! Blasphemy!”

 

“Oh yeah? Like I care,” Felix hisses. But just before a fight breaks out, Claude, panting, and Gilbert show up in the chapel again, with a scroll sealed with the Blaiddyd symbol.

 

“I have retrieved King Dimitri and Queen Byleth’s will, under the supervision of a knight of Faerghus.” Claude announces loudly.

 

“Is it even real? Why haven’t we heard of Their Majesties having finally signed a will?”

 

“The seal is intact with the date on. Anyone can check.” All eyes have turned to Claude. The Almyran king hands the scroll to Seteth, as the third person from the Church.

 

Seteth breaks the seal, smooths out the parchment, and scans through the content.

 

Dimitri knows what’s in there. The first line will settle everything down.

 

There is a momentary silence. The bishop clears his throat, obviously trying to calm himself before speaking.

 

Dimitri closes his eyes, memories flashing in his mind.

 

“Have you made your choice, beloved?”

“Yes, and I know we’ve picked the same person.”

 

They look at each other and said the name at the same time

 

“Their Majesties had named Felix Hugo Fraldarius, Duke of Fraldarius, Prime Minister of Fódlan, as the guardian of Prince Alexandre and Princess Sitri until the age of 18.”

 

Byleth laughs. Dimitri kisses her forehead gently, “He is my most trusted friend, and may I ask your reason for choosing him?”

 

“If something happened, he would be the first to pick up a sword for our children.”

Chapter Text

“Their Majesties had named Felix Hugo Fraldarius, Duke of Fraldarius, Prime Minister of Fódlan, as the guardian of Prince Alexandre and Princess Sitri, until the age of 18.”

 

The sword almost slips out of Felix’s grip. The Duke has a momentary silence, first looking at Seteth, then turning to the Lions and Claude, losing all words.

 

Seteth gapes at the long piece of parchment. Rhea pales. The Almyran King seems not surprised at all. The Lions release a sigh of relief save for Sylvain, whose eyes widen at the implication: He and Felix will basically become fathers, starting this moment.

 

“Let me see,” Felix swipes the will out of Seteth’s hands, almost tearing it in the process. His eyes fix on the first line and finally loses it.

 

“SERIOUSLY BOAR? AND YOU PROFESSOR?” Felix throws the parchment back at Seteth, facing the two caskets. “You’ve gotta be shitting me!”

 

Mercedes and Annette cover the twins’ ears, shooting Felix a glare. The nobles gasp.

 

“Felix!” Ingrid yells.

 

Gilbert furrows his brows, “Your Grace…”

 

Sorry. Dimitri sits on his own casket, whispering to Felix, who is glaring in his direction. I should’ve told you beforehand.

 

“I’m going to kill the boar.”

 

I’m already dead, Felix.

 

Seteth shakes his head, “Please, let’s not use such language in front of the deceased, in front of the goddess, especially when you are now King Regent.”

 

Felix snaps, “I am no king, no regent, just a guardian of two children.

 

“But legally… you are,” Ingrid quietly reminds him.

 

The raven-haired lowers his head, growling. After a moment, he seems to have regained some composure and looks around the chapel. “What are you all looking at? Lower them into the crypt. Move on. We still have a bunch of bastards to kill.”

 

They come to the alter. Alex and Sitri see their parents for the last time. They look so pale, trembling in sorrow, too quiet for children at their age. Dimitri’s eyes fix on Byleth’s face until the Lions close the lid of the casket. Then they carry the royal couple on their shoulders, making their way out. Dimitri follows them, walking beside his wife’s body.

 

A small hand rests on his shoulder and stops him. It’s Sothis.

 

“Come here now, my dear Prince,” Sothis opens her arms, pulling Dimitri in. He finally realizes he’s been crying when the tears dampen the goddess’ dress.

 

“You have to let it go.”

 

But how can I? “I can’t… I… Alex and Sitri… They are repeating my childhood. I can’t just stand by—”

 

“Dimitri, this is not your world anymore.”

 

“But they are still my children. Byleth’s children.” Dimitri can’t get rid of the last image of Byleth, and the twins’ little bodies shaking in despair.

 

Sothis sighs, gently patting on Dimitri’s back before letting him break apart from the embrace.

 

“Sothis?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Did you send me back here?”

 

“No, quite the contrary. I tried to stop you.”

 

“Then how did I…”

 

Sothis pauses. “I honestly don’t know. For you to break the restriction I set on time, this is the power that belongs to gods. It must have a reason,” She then lowers her gaze. “I feel so useless. I could’ve ended all the sorrow but just… I can do very little in my current state.”

 

They share a moment of silence.

 

“Can I stay a little bit longer?” asks Dimitri, quietly.

 

“You can, but it may significantly drain your energy, and maybe health.”

 

“I don’t care.”

 

“Alright, but I’ll send you back when it’s too much for you.”

 

Before Sothis disappears, Dimitri grabs her arm, “Thank you, Sothis.”

 

Sothis smiles.

 

-------

 

Felix is angry. He wants to drag that boar king out of his tomb and stab him over and over until he dies again. Muttering a silent curse, he lowers the King’s casket into the sarcophagus, right next to the Queen’s. Lambert and Cecilia’s graves, among all the Blaiddyd ancestors, are not far away.

 

The Duke—no—King Regent stares at the late King and Queen’s statues. He finds them ridiculous. How the hell does the professor look so soft? It’s almost insulting.

 

After the war, every Lion has been living a peaceful life. Their muscles have receded into soft flesh (Sylvain has gained some significant amount of weight), except Felix and the royal couple. The boar, well, thanks to his Crest, manages to stay in shape without excessive training, which comes in handy when his duties as King made it difficult. Byleth and Felix kept up their routine and sparred whenever he came to the Monastery or Fhirdiad. However, when there’s no need to fight for survival, their bodies did turn a bit softer, but not that ridiculous.

 

Lithe arms and skinny legs and a demure smile on the Queen? While the boar looks so bulky and glorious and kingly?

 

Alex and Sitri put down white roses. Mercedes holds their hands. Felix wonders if the commotion in the church sent back memories to everyone. Mercedes was separated from his brother. Sylvain and Ingrid’s life is defined by Crest. Ashe and Christophe. Annette and her reunited father. Seteth and his little sister. (Where is Flayn by the way?)

 

What about himself?

 

Felix remembered how he looked at Glenn’s casket, just like the twins looking at their parents’.

 

The Lions stay there for another moment, mourning for their beloved friends—King and mentor, before Felix let them leave.

 

“Sylvain, take the children to our quarters. They need to rest.”

 

“What about you?”

 

“I need a moment.”

 

Hesitantly, the Lions and knights leave the crypt. Ingrid shoots back a concerning glance, but Felix simply keeps his back at them.

 

Dimitri enters the crypt when everyone is walking out, and Felix is alone, facing the sarcophagi.

 

The raven-haired chokes up, a suppressed sob echoed in the hollow underground, not quite enough for Dimitri to miss. He walks to his childhood best friend, a hand on his shoulder, and watches the younger man wiping away drops of tears.

 

“Boar, no…” Felix takes a deep breath, voice cracking in the middle, “Dimitri.”

 

Dimitri’s heart almost stops. It’s been years since he last called him by name.

 

“Dimitri, I don’t mind if you send me on any deadly missions or ask me to kill some demonic beasts that we didn’t clear out, or even send me over to Almyra to deal with Claude but…” Felix pauses. “You can’t just give me two children, no matter how much I already love them. It’s two, fucking, human, beings.”

 

Felix lowers his head, trying to get his thoughts clear. “Goddess, is my family a Blaiddyd orphanage or something?”

 

I apologize, Felix. I didn’t want things to turn this way either.

 

“I wonder what you’re doing right now, or even where you are. Maybe there’s a next life. Maybe heaven, maybe hell, considered how many we’ve killed. I don’t give a damn but… if the professor is with you, take good care of her, okay? Don’t let my sparring partner die again before I can even meet up with you two.”

-------

Dimitri is already feeling his energy drained when they leave the crypt, somewhat similar to when he just woke up in this world. He has to hold up, at least until he checks on the children. He feels the Crest of Blaiddyd channeling energy into his veins, buying him time.

 

Felix is walking through the hallway of his and Sylvain’s room when a minor lord, followed by several castle handmaids, stops him. He has a bad feeling about where this is going.

 

“Your Majesty—”

 

Of course.

 

Dimitri snorts in the background. Hearing somebody address Felix like that is downright surreal.

 

Felix growls. The minor lord swallows and—“Your Highness…”

 

“Watch your mouth,” Felix warns.

 

“Um, I was just… talking to a few other lords that since Your Hi- Your Grace hold a higher office above all else in the Kingdom, it is only appropriate for you…”

 

“Cut all the flatteries. What are you trying to say?”

 

The minor lord looks like he is going to pass out, “Would Your Grace move to the royal quarters?”

 

Felix only stares at the lord.

 

After a moment. “Do you know the Kingdom is facing an enemy that is threatening our survival?”

 

“Yes, Your Grace.”

 

“Do you know your responsibilities to your people of your territory?”

 

“…of course, Your Grace.”

 

“And yet you stand in front of me, only caring about getting my favor to benefit your ass by speaking all the nonsense. Do you not have better things to do? Do you not have shame?”

 

“…Your Grace—”

 

“Get out of my sight,” says Felix, gesturing to a knight to escort the noble out. He doesn’t even look at the dejected lord when he turns to open the door to his quarters. The Regent frowns when he realizes the door isn’t locked. He looks around, nothing suspicious, and relaxes.

 

Dimitri hesitates, not knowing if he should go into his friends’ bedroom.

 

But his children are there.

 

Felix closes the door. Dimitri takes a deep breath, mentally apologizing to the couple, and goes straight through.

 

Alex is curling up with Sylvain, fast asleep, while the Margrave is on the verge of dozing off and trying to stay awake. He has an arm wrapped around the boy as his pillow, another gently smoothing Alex’s back. Dimitri denies himself that he’s jealous.

 

When Felix approaches the bed, weight sinking into the edge of the mattress, Sylvain’s eyes shoot open, hands reaching under the pillow to grab a weapon. But when he sees it’s Felix, he immediately relaxes, looking exhausted.

 

“You should get some rest,” Felix’s fingers run through his husband’s hair, voice gentle.

 

“I would say the same to you. You didn’t sleep for three days,” Sylvain reaches out one hand and pulls Felix down, letting the raven-haired leaning into his side.

 

Dimitri clears his throat, although no one can hear him, and turns around. He shouldn’t invade his friends’ privacy.

 

Then he hears some faint noises coming out of the other room of the suite.

 

And someone is missing.

 

Sylvain! Felix! Get up! Dimitri shouts at the two, trying to pull them out of bed. My daughter is missing!

 

But he is inaudible, no matter how hard Dimitri screams at the top of his lungs. The couple continues cuddling in bed, enjoying their moment of relaxation, until…

 

“What’s that noise?” Felix frowns.

 

“Lucas was somehow barking crazy. Didn’t want him to wake Alex up, so I had to lock him up in the study.”

 

Felix gets up, obviously bothered by the dog’s bark even muffled by the door and walls, and finds the same problem Dimitri just realized. “Where is Sitri?”

 

“She wanted to stay by the fire, so I let her.”

 

“And there’s no one by the fire.”

 

Sylvain shoots up from the bed, “WHAT?!”

 

“Did she go to the bathroom?”

 

Dimitri almost goes right through the bathroom door but realizes he probably shouldn’t. He thinks about asking Byleth… Oh, they just buried his wife.

 

Felix knocks on the bathroom door, “Sitri, are you in there?”

 

No response.

 

“Sitri? We need to know if you’re okay.”

 

Still no response.

 

“I’ll go grab Mercedes, or Annette, or Ingrid,” Sylvain fetches his jacket, but Felix already opens the door. “Felix! You shouldn’t…”

 

Felix closes the door immediately, “She’s not in there.”

 

What did you just do, Sylvain?! Dimitri yells, ready to punch a hole through Sylvain’s spirit. Somehow, the redhead shivers, as if sensing his menacing presence.

 

The couple runs out of the door, leaving two trusted knights guarding Alex. “Sylvain, I gave you one simple task, keeping an eye on the twins, and you just allowed one to go missing!”

 

I agree, Felix. And I would love to kill Sylvain.

 

Dimitri follows the two. His heart is giving out, but he has to keep pushing. They turn a corner, and the late King is already panting. “I’m really sorry Felix. This is totally my fault but… shouldn’t we focus on finding the girl?”

 

“You even had that obnoxious dog who followed Sitri everywhere! It was barking crazy and you noticed absolutely nothing?!”

 

How dare you lock Lucas up. And he’s still in there, you idiots!

 

The Regent and the Margrave ask every living person they see on their way, getting no answer. They eventually notify the Lions, and Ingrid grabs half of the knights of Faerghus, going around the castle and even into the nearby towns.

 

After finding nothing, Ashe is the first person to, finally, free Lucas from his makeshift jail, and the dog charges right to the underground. The Lions follow.

 

Then, in the crypt, they see Sitri, and Rhea is hugging her.

 

How come nobody thought about the crypt?

 

“Sitri!” Sylvain immediately pulls Sitri away from Rhea, inspecting any injuries on the girl. She seems unharmed; even her expressions are still as if really nothing has happened.

 

Rhea’s smile alarms Dimitri. “I wanted to visit the late Archbishop before returning to the Monastery, but I found Princess Sitri here. Please rest assured, my lords, I’ve taken care of her while she’s here.”

 

None of the Lions speaks a word, only glaring at her with suspicion. Rhea’s smile becomes sorrowful, “I shall take my leave.” But Rhea turns to Felix before leaving the crypt, “One more thing, Your Grace. Since no one bears the Crest of Flames, the church shall retrieve the Sword of the Creator.”

 

The Lions turn their attention to Felix, waiting for his decision. Felix absolutely hates being stared at but keeps himself controlled.

 

Maybe it’s for the best. Dimitri thinks. No one else can touch Byleth’s sword.

 

“Yes, you may,” Felix sighs.

 

“I thank you for the understanding.”

 

“Now, please leave.”

 

Rhea leaves. Dimitri thinks she looks triumphant somehow, especially when everyone is still mourning.

 

“Sitri,” Dimitri’s attention returns to Felix when the Regent grabs his daughter by the shoulders. “Sitri, did she harm you?”

 

Sitri pauses, then shakes her head.

 

“Did she do anything?”

 

Sitri lowers her head, avoiding all eye contact, and shakes again. Her body starts trembling.

 

Something is wrong. Dimitri wants to do something, but his body gives out. He starts throwing up blood, heart aching as if punctured by a thousand arrows. And that is when Sothis sends him back.

-------

Later that day, Felix and Sylvain turned their study into a nursery. If any intruders broke in like before, they would face the Regent and the Margrave first before making their way to the prince and princess.

 

It wasn’t a lot of work. The servants removed the two large desks in the room and moved in two toddler beds, the blankets from Claude, baby blue carpet covering half of the room, and several toys. Lucas took care of his stuff. When the servants were almost done, he dragged his dog bed into the new nursery, ran back, and got his bowl to the room.

 

Oh right, Felix thinks, there’s a second barrier to the twins—Lucas the Blaiddyd Rex. He is thankful that at least his adopted son and daughter have a big fluffy guardian though he isn’t really a dog person.

 

When they’re done, the twins are put to bed, and Lucas has settled next to Sitri. Felix and Sylvain finally have a moment alone.

 

The couple sinks into the mattress, both releasing a long sigh, and then there is only silence.

 

Felix still cannot believe any of this. He is now not only a husband, a regent, and an adoptive father to two children? Less than twenty days after his own wedding?

 

And he has lost three friends. They are gone, and he can’t do anything about it. Just like Glenn.

 

“I still can’t believe any of this is real.” Felix hears Sylvain say, in the dark.

 

“Me either,” Felix turns and wraps an arm around Sylvain. “I keep wondering who attacked Dimitri and Byleth, and why they haven’t done anything after their deaths.”

 

“I don’t know. I really don’t… just… Who can even land such an attack? They basically burned a forest down and two major towns into ashes,” Sylvain wipes his face, distraught. Just think about all the refugees swarming into the capital. If that thing ever hit the castle… “Ashe talked to me earlier… He’s going to Duscur, with Dedue. He says he’s taking him home and maybe… never come back again.”

 

Another long silence.

 

“Fe, I just—”

 

All of his words are silenced when Felix kisses him. The raven-haired man is so desperate as if his life depends on this, licking Sylvain’s mouth open, sucking on his bottom lip, and seeking the other’s tongue. “Take me home, Sylvain. Remind me what home feels like,” Felix’s eyes shine in the dark.

 

He eventually finds himself on top of Sylvain, arms around his head while Sylvain half leans against the headboard, both hands on Felix’s waist.

 

Their lips separate only for the two to pull their shirts off. The next wave of kissing has no gentleness, no skill, only the clash of lips and teeth and the heat and anger. Anger and grief.

 

Felix’s hands wander lower, one to Sylvain’s nipple, the other into his pants. Sylvain’s head falls back, barely muffling a whimper. “Keep it down, Syl,” Felix’s lips find his, then to his earlobe. “The twins are sleeping next door.”

 

Sylvain turns and pins Felix under his body. He licks on the younger man’s neck, then finding its way down. Somehow Felix can’t get rid of a feeling—a burden in his chest. It’s suffocating, but he needs the kisses, the touches and all the love from Sylvain, the man he has loved since childhood.

 

Eventually, Felix loses track of time and senses of being under Sylvain’s kisses. This is nice. The temporary haven of love and passion.

 

But Sylvain’s suddenly goes limp, crushing all the weight upon Felix’s. “Sylvain?” Felix registers his husband’s quiet sobs, his chest heaving on top.

 

Sylvain clutches Felix into his chest, hard enough to drive all the air out of the younger man’s lungs. He is trembling. “Sorry baby… I just can’t do this tonight… just… Can’t get rid of the images of…”

 

He stops, unable to speak. Felix pats on his back, the other hand running through his red hair.

 

“They’re gone, Fe. Dimitri, Byleth, and Dedue… They’re just…”

 

“They are not coming back.” Felix recalls how much he relied on Sylvain. When he tripped and grazed an elbow and a knee. When Dimitri broke his birthday sword. When his mother died to illness.

 

And when Glenn fell in Duscur.

 

He’d rather have Sylvain comfort him so that the older man wouldn’t be the one crying. He would always smile, arms gently enveloping Felix, telling him everything is gonna be alright.

 

And yet Sylvain is crying in his arms.

 

“Fe?” Eventually, Sylvain lets out a broken word.

 

“Yes, Syl?”

 

“Don’t leave me alone in this world.”

 

“Of course not. We made a promise.”

-------

When Dimitri regains consciousness again, it’s two days after Lambert’s funeral, his body weak, but someone has been taking care of him.

 

Dimitri opens his eyes. Dedue, who has been feeding him porridge, almost drops the bowl.

 

“Your Highness—”

 

“Please, no titles.” Dimitri wonders when he has picked up the honorifics.

 

“Everyone in the palace addresses you this way. I should only show my respect, especially after you saved us all.”

 

Dimitri doesn’t have the energy to argue. He wonders if he kept switching timelines, everybody would see him weak and bedridden, unfitting for the throne.

 

“Big prince!” Before Dimitri can figure out what is happening, a small soft body crashes against his own. A girl around the same age of Alex and Sitri is hugging him tight. She has dark skin and white hair, looking really excited.

 

It appears that Dedue’s little sister, Aria, has been staying here with her brother since Dimitri passed out. Rufus eagerly sent Cornelia and many physicians to Dimitri’s chambers as if he was waiting for the news that the Prince was dying from some rare disease.

 

But Cornelia couldn’t find anything. No illnesses, no injuries. The physicians then reached the conclusion: The Prince collapsed due to exhaustion, stress, and grief.

 

Dimitri is very surprised that Cornelia didn’t try to kill him.

 

“All the eyes are on her now, princeling. She can’t do anything,” Sothis says lazily.

 

Apparently, Dedue’s mother, Mila, has been trying to cook for Dimitri, much to the resentment of the royal servants and cooks. And apparently, the palace has suspected the Duscur woman’s intention, so, apparently, they’ve banned Mila from the servant’s chambers and dumped all the food.

 

The first thing Dimitri does after waking up is inviting Mila to the castle. He asked the servants to prepare a suite for the family of three. The quarters turn out to be Dedue’s old room (for Dedue) and the room right next to it (for the mother and daughter).

 

In his previous life, Dedue shared Dimitri’s chambers until Dimitri turned 15. Though Rufus was a bit upset, he never said anything. But now, the King Regent is absolutely exasperated when he hears about Dimitri’s arrangement (Moving a Duscur family, those traitors, into the castle?!), especially when he realizes the Prince never asked for his opinion (What?!). He summons Dimitri to his study and, after a scolding, demands to send them away.

 

Dimitri pauses for a second, not knowing what to do, until he remembers how, in the past life, Dedue mentioned he learned cooking and gardening from his mother.

 

“Uncle, I believe the family can be useful to you, especially since Ms. Molinaro has special skills in herbology and potions. The weather in Faerghus is too harsh for plants to grow. Our medicinal supplies rely heavily on Duscur and Almyran imports. I have evidence to believe that Ms. Molinaro may be able to grow herbs for your arthritis and—” Dimitri pauses, emphasizing his next words, “your general health and stamina.”

 

What is this about? Sothis lifts an eyebrow.

 

My uncle is a womanizer. Dimitri mentally replies, though shyly. He is standing in front of Rufus’ table, still with that innocent, princely smile.

 

Oh. Sothis chuckles, a hand over her mouth.

 

Later, when Mila and Dedue do successfully grow several types of rare herbs in the royal greenhouse, one night, Rufus immediately demands them to bring that “stamina concoction” to his chambers. Dimitri asks Mila to simply brew some tea or soup with medicinal flavor, and that should do the trick. The mother and son are only confused but does as told anyway.

 

Dimitri remembers during the war, when Mercedes ran out of the ingredients for his sleep potion, Byleth cooked him a soup, telling him it was a special concoction from an old book she read. He drank it with no doubts, fully trusting her, and slept like a log. The same occasion took place several more times until after the war, Byleth admitted it was only edible weeds. Dimitri made sure Dedue didn’t know anything about it.

 

Unsurprisingly, the next morning, Rufus shows up to the breakfast table, looking vigorous and satisfied. He then demands more of this “stamina concoction” and never mentions a word about throwing Dedue and his family out ever again. But Dimitri makes sure Mila gets paid.

 

Tactics and decoy. You’re behaving like that yellow prince. Sothis says.

 

Claude was the liar of the century. I am not. I only exaggerated.

 

It is relatively easy to solve the problem for Dedue’s family, but not quite so for the rest of the villagers. How do they sustain themselves in Faerghus?

 

Duscur relies heavily on pottery and winemaking. Dimitri does a lot of research during his time being bedridden. With the help of Dedue and the villagers, Dimitri comes to the conclusion that pottery is not an option. Fearghus does not produce the clay they require.

 

Winemaking is impossible too. Grapevines do not tolerate even a bit of frost, and the very few vineyards in Southern Faerghus only produce sour fruit, making the worst wine of all Fódlan (that’s why they are all for making vinegar). Not to mention a vineyard requires five to eight years of tending before bearing any fruit. Importing grapes from either the Alliance or the Empire does not make sense, either. It is expensive, and they will all spoil during transportation.

 

There isn’t enough land for grazing near the capital, so Dimitri settles on farming in the end. Faerghus is known for its terrible weather, but it doesn’t mean nothing grows at all. Wheat and barley do fine, the same as potatoes and cabbages. Farmers usually harvest a nice amount of chard, and even rice survives in certain areas.

 

But where does Dimitri find the farmland for them?

 

Rodrigue has been negotiating with landowners. Those who are looking to sell generally have no issue having Duscur villagers moving in, but all the surrounding communities almost start a rebellion. Out of fear for losing property value and of hatred against the “Duscur traitors”, the local villagers demand the Prince to keep the Duscur people away from their land.

 

Dimitri has spent weeks after weeks on negotiations. His time is running low because even the innkeeper has been complaining how little he’s made since the Duscur villagers checked in (No one else would stay here!). Dimitri has to compensate him with more gemstones.

 

Yes, he inherited way too many gemstones stored in his family’s private safe, apart from the royal treasury. Faerghus is never poor with all the mines in mountains surrounding their territories. They never run out of pelts with all the wild animal dwell in their forests. But you can’t eat gold. You can’t save lives with diamonds. You need food. During the time of peace, they trade with surrounding nations for necessities but in times of turmoil, gemstones and gold are nothing but trash unless they can be traded.

 

Several weeks pass. It is now two months after Glenn sets off on his journey, and yet Dimitri has not heard back from him or Liam. He has a bad feeling but there is nothing he can do. He has sent almost all of the remaining knights of Faerghus to different noble territories, gathering information to prevent another slaughter in Duscur.

 

But he does receive some good news. A landowner writes him a letter, offering his farmland at a very reasonable price. There are five large houses and seven small cottages, blueberry shrubs and orchards, enough space for horses, and even a vast lake for fishing.

 

Something too good to be true only makes Dimitri suspicious, so he decides to visit the place with Rodrigue and several older Duscur villagers. It turns out the farm and its surrounding areas have been suffering crop failures for five years. Somehow the lake doesn’t produce fish anymore. Other farms in the area have either been abandoned or are waiting for a dumb buyer. The local community, therefore, doesn’t reject Duscur villagers at all, because there is no local community.

 

The owner only feels honored and yet terrified by the Prince’s presence. He obviously didn’t believe Dimitri would visit himself. The Prince is disappointed. Rodrigue shakes his head in disapproval. Aria doesn’t care as long as she can hang out with Dimitri. Recently she’s been spending a lot of time around him, and she reminds him of Sitri.

 

Rodrigue advises Dimitri to return, and yet the village elders show interests.

 

They examine the houses, their timber and structures. They dig their hands into the ground, rubbing the moist mud with fingers until they are dry particles, and inhale its smell deeply. They then visit the orchard, the lake, and then the land for horses, and finally nod.

 

“Are you sure, Mr. Mateo?” Rodrigue frowns.

 

“Yes, Your Grace,” the elder who has emerged as the villagers’ leader responds, “This land is still blessed by the goddess of the harvest, but its owners have drained it. Soil should be cherished. Its divine power shall be protected. We shall make it prosper again.”

 

And so the deal is settled.

 

Contracts are signed. Coins are traded (the desperate owner almost cries). Hands are shaken (in the men and women of Duscur’s case, hugs). Though a bit far away from the castle, this is their new home.

 

Three days later, the villagers move in. Dedue, his mother and sister also come to join a ceremony. It is hard to bring Felix out with them. Somehow after Glenn’s exile, the boy has been spending most of his time training and sparring with guards and knights. Dimitri usually joins him, trying not to get too hard on his friend. He trains even after losing countless times, even when his arms hurt too much to lift the sword. Dimitri eventually has to force a stop, carrying Felix to the bath.

 

And later, Felix finally gives him the reason. “One day, I will protect Glenn. I will bring him home.”

 

Dimitri is pouring the dirty water out of the tub. He pauses, turns and smiles at his friend. “You will.”

 

In his past life, Felix was one of the most formidable warriors, not just in the army but the entire continent. Dimitri knows Felix will excel again.

 

In the end, they do manage to get Felix out of the training hall to the move-in party.

 

It is more of a traditional ritual, a new experience for Dimitri. The villagers have fermented a drink from wheat three days prior. Mateo pours some into a shallow bowl, only three fingers holding the weight and the fourth in the center of the bottom—there is a tiny hole. After they make a fire and everybody sings a prayer to Elena, the goddess of the harvest, Mateo walks to the bonfire, releasing the fourth finger and allowing the fermented drink to pour into the ground.

 

Sothis.

 

“Hm?”

 

Is Elena a goddess too?

 

Sothis opens her eyes, trying very hard to recall. “The name sounds familiar. My memory is very limited but… there are pieces that I do recall a nice lady named Elena.”

 

Are you sure she wasn’t a mortal named Elena?

 

“I’m not sure…”

 

Would you let me know if you recall anything? This is so fascinating.

 

“Of course.”

 

Then they share the drink. According to the villagers, it should be sweet with a hint of alcohol. Dimitri does smell alcohol in there but tastes nothing. Rodrigue only allows him and Felix to take a small sip before taking the bowl away, though that drink isn’t any stronger than overripe berries.

 

Dedue, on countless occasions in their past life, mentioned how good a cook his mother was. Dimitri finally gets to try. It is a simple dish made of barley, olives, and raisins, with drizzles of fine olive oil to enhance its flavor. It smells so nice. Dimitri really wishes his taste buds were still functional.

 

“I hope you like the texture, Your Highness,” says Dedue.

 

“It is very nice. Thank you, Dedue. Thank you, Ms. Molinaro.” The barley is easy to chew on and yet retains its chewiness. The olives only add to that texture, with its special smell enhancing the flavor. And the raisins—since they are the most common source of sweetness for the poor, royalty and nobles alike rarely touch them, calling it the “peasant food.”

 

But they are so nice.

 

Rodrigue is exchanging toasts with the villagers. Dedue has been helping his mother with cooking. Aria tries to help too, mixing up sand and mud in an empty bowl, making her own mud cakes.

 

Wait. Dimitri pauses. Did Dedue say he wished the “texture” was nice?

 

“Dedue… what do you mean by, texture?” He’s never mentioned his inability to taste in this world, right?

 

“Forgive me, Your Highness. I thought you couldn’t taste anything. Somehow that idea just came into my mind. I am probably wrong.”

 

How does he know?

 

“You’re… not wrong, actually.”

 

Rodrigue abruptly turns his gaze back to Dimitri, “Why did you mention none of this, Your Highness?”

 

“It’s true,” Felix says. “The other day the maid put too much sugar in our tea. He drank it like it was nothing.”

 

“I’d say your tolerance to sweetness is quite different from the rest of us, Felix.”

 

“Shut up Dimitri.” Felix has been picking up words Glenn uses, even more so after the Fraldarius heir left.

 

“Your Highness—” Rodrigue tries to say something.

 

“Do not fret, Rodrigue. It doesn’t matter. We have more important things to attend to.”

 

Something in Rodrigue’s gaze shifts, as if examining the young prince in front of him. Dimitri doesn’t notice it because one question has dawned on him: What is going on with Dedue?

-------

Rufus has been trying to keep Dimitri out of any Kingdom business, keeping him busy with tutors. Dimitri heeds Sothis’ warning, pretending he is still learning when he has actually outclassed many of the teachers. The only place he can learn new things is probably Garreg Mach, from Byleth, from the Lions, but that is years into the future.

 

Whenever Dimitri has time, he helps the villagers work on their farm. It takes him little effort to plow through the entire field while it should’ve been quite some work for the villagers.

 

When that is done, Dimitri and the people from Duscur dig their hands into the soil, making the lower lines of land even lower and the ridges higher. The Prince immediately realizes what they are doing: creating streams in the lower parts, something that he read about in books.

 

Then the villagers pour lake water into the chiseled part of the land. Since the lakes and rivers in this area have long been depleted of any fish, they ride to a nearby town two hours away from the farm and purchase hundreds of Airmid Goby and Caledonian Crayfish. The fish is thrown into the streams, and they start planting on the ridges right next to them.

 

The waters generate heat in the cold night, creating protection for the crops while the roots absorb water preserved in the streams, making irrigation easier. When water is scarce in Duscur, men and women use this technique to ensure the harvests.

 

Dimitri loves working on the field. There is something special about growing, nurturing, and creating things for people. In the end, things that matter are only food, water, and air. Dimitri is happy when his hands dig into the moist soil, sometimes bringing up small worms on his way. The field makes him alive. The voices from Lambert and Glenn, sometimes Patricia, quiet down, giving him temporary peace.

 

It is now three months after Glenn’s departure. Dimitri has been wondering why nothing has happened. The knights he sent out haven’t found anything suspicious. The church hasn’t been trying anything with House Gaspard.

 

And yet one morning, when Dimitri has just started working on the field, a knight appears on the farm.

 

“Your Highness, Lord Gaspard requests an audience with you.”

 

Dimitri puts down the water buckets, wiping his forehead, “I thought Lord Lonato was visiting next moon.”

 

“No, Your Highness, not Lord Lonato, but Lord Christophe Gaspard.”

Chapter Text

Dimitri doesn’t know much about Christophe besides a few encounters when he visited the capital with Lonato. In his past life, Ashe only mentioned his adoptive brother a few times, and Dimitri never got to know why he was executed, or why Catherine betrayed him, or what he did to get his death sentence in the first place.

 

Of course, he knew Christophe offended the church and somehow got involved with some assassination attempts on Rhea.

 

And now the more Dimitri thinks about it, the more suspicious he gets. What did Catherine, or Cassandra back then, do? Dimitri didn’t hate her even after all the “adorable maiden wielding a giant lance” incident (well, it did take a few years to fully forgive her). He was simply confused. What really happened? If she was involved with the Tragedy, then why did Rhea take her into the Church but execute Christophe?

 

Also, everything Rhea did during his funeral has successfully enraged Dimitri. How dare that woman try to separate his children?

 

What does she want from Sitri, a three-year-old toddler who just began speaking full sentences?

 

On his way back to the castle, the knight tells Dimitri that Christophe brought another guest. He desperately hopes it’s Ashe, but when he sees Catherine standing next to Christophe, he almost slips the words—

 

Shouldn’t you have already fled the Kingdom?

 

“Your Highness,” the two visitors bow to him.

 

Dimitri nods, “Lord Christophe, Lady Cath… Lady Cassandra.”

 

Cassandra grins, “Almost said the wrong name, huh? His Highness has another girl on his mind.”

 

“Sandra! You cannot speak as such in front of His Highness!” Christophe protests.

 

“Yeah, sure, honey, but I’ve done worse,” Cassandra says.

 

Dimitri never expected the two to be a rowdy pair, and the endearment she used… Probably just teasing. Dimitri rubs his forehead and sighs, “Please. If you’re about to bring up some certain incident, the young maiden can speak with his weapon.”

 

Cassandra laughs out loud, “No need. I heard you pulled out some techniques in Duscur. Surely I was wrong about you, and my father already gave me an earful.”

 

They take seats, following Dimitri. When he starts feeling the hunger caused by labor, Dedue brings in tea and dessert. Dimitri nods at his friend and picks up one cookie. The hint of lemon in the air tells him this is lemon sables, Byleth’s favorite during pregnancy.

 

Well, in the early stage, at least.

 

For three consecutive days, Queen Byleth Eisner-Blaiddyd acts like a three-year-old. She eats nothing but lemon cookies, sometimes with a glass of milk, if she doesn’t feel like throwing up. Dimitri tries to keep an eye on her, trying to convince himself that her odd diet will eventually go away.

 

Until yesterday.

 

The castle was holding a banquet for nobles from all regions, something to bring the former three countries together into a unified Fódlan. Also, since the palace announced the Queen’s pregnancy a few days ago, this event also became a celebration for the royal couple. Halfway through the day, Dimitri already hears some maids exchange panicky whispers.

 

“Her Majesty had all the desserts and still wants more… The kitchen can’t keep up.”

 

“They made at least two hundred lemon cookies!”

 

“They didn’t expect this would happen.”

 

Dimitri remembered how Byleth shared five meals with ten different people in one go at the Monastery. Her enormous appetite was something everybody knew. Before the war broke out when food was never a scarce resource, the dining hall always prepared extra for the professor.

 

To think how many cookies Byleth must have eaten even before lunch, Dimitri almost ripped his gloves (made very sturdy with special materials). He had to do something.

 

Annette was appalled seeing Byleth’s new diet. Mercedes tried to channel some white magic to at least calm some of her pregnancy symptoms so that the Queen can eat some normal food.

 

Felix came to Dimitri, “Get a hold of your woman. It’s looking bad like you don’t normally feed her or something. She’s the Archbishop, for fuck’s sake. Don’t turn this into a diplomatic disaster.”

 

“Well, that means he cares about Byleth,” Sylvain cuts in with a grin, earning a punch on the shoulder from his boyfriend. “Felix!”

 

For the first time, Dimitri didn’t correct Felix’s language.

 

The very tired King finally finished talking to everybody, sharing dances with ladies from all regions and listening to everyone’s requests and, most of the time, flatteries when all of his minds were on Byleth. Dimitri went back to the King’s quarters, right next to the Queen Consort’s rooms.

 

Everyone in the palace knows the King and Queen always share a bedroom, except on some very few occasions Dimitri got kicked out of the King’s quarters and had to spend the night in the Consort’s room because Byleth was upset with him.

 

And Dimitri feared that this would become one of the days he got kicked out.

 

However, when he entered the room, Byleth was already fast asleep. She hugged Dimitri’s pillow as if hugging the King in her dream, messy teal hair everywhere on the bed—she kept it long after the war so the maids wouldn’t pull her scalp too tight for an elegant “Queen hairstyle,” as Byleth called it. Dimitri gathered most of her hair and pushed it above her head before lying down. He didn’t want to accidentally crush and pull her hair and wake her up.

 

Dimitri carefully pulled the pillow out of her arms, and Byleth scooted closer almost immediately, grabbing Dimitri’s arm and refusing to let go.

 

He gently rubbed a strand of her hair between his fingers, the scent of her lavender shampoo calming his nerves. “Beloved, you’re worrying me…” he said quietly. He would have a conversation with her tomorrow.

 

And the next morning, in the current moment, Dimitri faces a very upset 3-year-old wife during breakfast, folding her arms in front of her chest, glaring knives at Dimitri only because there are no longer lemon cookies on the dining table at the King’s order.

 

“Didn’t you eat nothing but bread and cheese for months?”

 

She’s not wrong. Before Gronder, Dimitri refused any food or drinks. Only Byleth could coax and nag at him to at least eat some cottage loaves with chunks of old Tailtean cheese, Dimitri’s favorite in the academy.

 

But he did eat berries from time to time. When his murderous instinct got the best of him and the mad prince wandered into the forest, hunting way too many deer for the army, he would in the forest. When he was thirsty, he stopped to grab berries from nearby shrubs. It was a miracle he didn’t get killed by some poisonous berry.

 

“That—” Dimitri searches for every excuse in his head. Because he was a madman back then? Barking at everybody who dare approach him in the cathedral? Because the ghosts had been loud, telling him to either hang Edelgard’s head from the gates of Enbarr or jump out of the goddess tower and end it all for good? Because Byleth is not crazy but pregnant and should eat better?

 

No, that is not even a reason.

 

“Well, if you want bread and cheese, I can ask the kitchen to make you some warm whole wheat sweet buns to ensure your fiber intake. I can send a servant to a nearby farm for their famous Tailtean Cheese made of grass-fed—”

 

“Dimitri!”

 

“…or if you want some fresh air, we can visit the farm together. Their cows are lovely—”

 

“But I want my lemon cookies! You can’t let them take my cookies away!”

 

“Moo…?” Dimitri doesn’t even know what he is doing. Is he seriously cooing Byleth like a toddler, even imitating the sound of a cow?

 

From the corner of his eye, the very embarrassed King can see Dedue have his face in both hands. The servants pretend not to look at the two most important persons of the continent. Surely the rumors will make its way to Enbarr in a matter of hours, but Dimitri doesn’t care at the moment.

 

“Do you not love me anymore?” Byleth is on the brink of tears.

 

“Wha… No! Beloved, I—” What is going on with Byleth recently? Dimitri wants to scream. She’s adorable this way, yes, but it’s just too odd, and sometimes too much. The mood swings, the frequent tears, and the bickers over things like lemon cookies and the “you love Lucas more than me!”

 

Dedue kindly leaves the couple, ushering all servants out, and gently closes the door for them.

 

“Byleth, no one can possibly survive by eating nothing but lemon cookies—” Dimitri realizes this is only getting absurd. “Especially not when you are pregnant with my child. That’s two lives!”

 

“So you only care because I am carrying your child?”

 

“No! Byleth my love, how can I possibly… You didn’t even poop for the past three days!”

 

“You only care about my shit when I’m hungry and can’t eat anything without throwing up everything and my baby is starving and I can’t even take care of them even before they’re out of my belly! I’m a horrible mother, Dimitri—” Byleth’s rage peters out into silent tears at the end.

 

Dimitri tries to comfort Byleth, but she runs out of the dining room before he can, crying. He is utterly confused: What in the world is going on with his wife?

 

“You will stay in the other room today!” she slams the door behind her after yelling at him, scaring a couple of servants and maids and guards on her way out. Dimitri takes a few deep breaths before Dedue gingerly opens the door to check on his old friend.

 

Dimitri sighs, “I’ll get some food to our room—well, her room for the day. Would you send for Mercedes, please? I need some… consultation on Byleth’s health.”

 

“I believe she is already waiting in the drawing-room,” Dedue says with a smile.

 

Oh.

 

After yesterday’s “sable incident (cookie incident sounds way too ridiculous for Dimitri),” it’s not surprising that Mercedes would want to visit.

 

Dimitri narrates Byleth’s symptoms, including her abrupt mood swings and all the dietary issues. But Mercedes only smiles, “It’s all very normal during pregnancy. It’s a difficult time for the professor because her body, including the brain, is adjusting to carrying a baby. I’ll need Your Majesty to take good care of her, but I’ll also give her some herbs to soothe her mood, and her appetite, too. But we definitely have to make sure she keeps a healthy diet.”

 

Dimitri nods, feeling some stress relieved.

 

Dedue seems to be pondering. “Please, my friend. Feel free to speak your mind,” the King says.

 

“Your Majesty, maybe I can ask Ashe to try some new recipes for Her Majesty. It’s worth a try…”

 

He stares at the cookie, thinking about how even Alex and Sitri love them. Whenever they have a nightmare (somehow they share nightmares all the time) and run to the royal quarters for their parents, Dimitri would call for some lemon sables and warm milk for the children before they finally calm down and snuggle up to the older Eisner-Blaiddyds. The family of four would share a bed, accompanied by the fluffy golden dog, the hearth radiating warm light.

 

Byleth Byleth Byleth Byleth—where are you?

 

Dimitri squeezes his eyes shut, pained by all the loving memories, until Dedue quietly asks, “Is it not to your liking, Your Highness?”

 

Dimitri immediately shakes his head, “My apologies. I simply lost in thoughts. Everything is perfect. Thank you, my friend.”

 

Christophe and Cassandra seem not to have noticed Dimitri’s moment of reverie. They are more curious about Dedue. While the Prince expects them to say something about why the Duscurians are traitors and Dimitri should get rid of him, the pair says nothing but directs their attention back to the crown prince.

 

“So, my lady, my lord, is there anything I can help you with?” Dimitri puts down his teacup.

 

Cassandra clears his throat, “Yes. A couple of days ago, while Chris and I were traveling in the Charon territories, we encountered a group of bandits. They were tough. Their weapons were way too advanced for mere bandits, so we believe they might belong to a larger group. Before them, we found other smaller bandit groups, too. House Charon has been having difficulties clearing out thieves and bandits since the Tragedy, and it is getting even worse.”

 

“I see.” Dimitri nods, “What about the Gaspard territories? Charon, Gaspard, and Galatea share the southern border of Faerghus. Count Galatea already mentioned how things had been difficult in his territories as well.”

 

“Well, that is exactly what is happening in Gaspard. And that’s why our fathers sent us to you for help in the first place,” Christophe only sighs.

 

“But… I have very little power in such a matter. Not to mention most of the remaining knights of Faerghus are either recuperating from injuries or on missions. I only have a small team left. Have you tried talking to my uncle?”

 

Cassandra and Christophe look at each other, then turn their gaze back to Dimitri, and then direct their eyes away. Christophe suddenly finds a lot of interest in the rug patterns while Cassandra stares at some gardenia on a small table.

 

“Well…” Cassandra clears her throat, “we did write him letters, but we received no aid or response.” Blunt as ever.

 

Dimitri almost groans. Of course, when Cornelia is the one handling all of the politics for Rufus, she’d love to see the Kingdom shatter into chaos.

 

“I see. Though I don’t have enough men, I will summon the knights. We will set out tomorrow morning.”

 

“Your Highness—” Rodrigue can no longer stay silent, “You are still recovering, and we cannot possibly—”

 

“Please, Rodrigue. I can protect myself, and I can’t sit idle in the castle every day when my people are suffering.”

 

“You are still recovering yourself. I’ll go if it’s necessary, Your Highness. If Lambert knew…”

 

“Father would’ve done the same as I do, and the Fraldarius territories need you. Felix needs you.”

 

“Forgive me, Dimitri,” Rodrigue finally says, “but you are too young.”

 

For a long moment, nobody in the room talks. Dimitri stares at Rodrigue. Yes, in his past life, the 13-year-old Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd was still crying in his father’s chamber, clutching to the late King’s clothes, searching for Lambert’s presence. Rodrigue spent almost two years in Fhirdiad, basically abandoning Felix to his younger brother, who became the Duke’s deputy for the time being. There was no way for the other Prince to pick up a lance and fight right after Duscur.

 

But Dimitri is not the same anymore.

 

“How about this, Rodrigue,” Dimitri clears his throat. “I challenge you to a duel. If I win, I will go, and you will return to your estate with Felix.”

 

Rodrigue’s eyes widen, clearly not expecting a challenge.

 

“Your Highness, this is…” Christophe gapes. Dimitri knows what he is thinking: a 13-year-old kid challenging one of the most renowned warriors in Faerghus.

 

“Well, I really look forward to it,” Cassandra grins, “and just to let you know, when we were dealing with the bandits in Charon, Sir Glenn was also there. He had a good fight, but apparently Liam the knight and some of our men had to send him to the Monastery for treatment.”

 

Both Rodrigue and Dimitri gasp, and their attention return to each other.

 

And the Duke bows, “I am honored to accept your challenge, Your Highness.”

 

And that is settled. Dimitri returns to his room for preparations, and Sothis has been yelling at him the entire time.

 

“Don’t you even have any brain cells?! Didn’t I tell you not to go around and show off your skills?”

 

I have to do this. This is my duty.

 

“Then you better be careful not to get everyone suspicious! And you don’t even have that strength like you did before. Just… just look at your teeny tiny arms. What were you even thinking?”

 

Dimitri doesn’t answer, as one question somehow jumps into his head. Maybe because of his previous thoughts about the “sable incident.”

 

Sothis?

 

“Hm?”

 

Forgive me if I’m prying but… do you… ahem, defecate?

 

A long silence from the goddess.

 

“Do you want me to poop in your head? I can do that if it cures your stupidity.”

 

My sincerest apologies. Please forget what I just said.

-------

The goddess refuses to talk later when Dimitri is in the training ground. He can feel Sothis’ presence in the back of his mind, huffing and deliberately ignoring the Prince.

 

Rodrigue has picked a practice sword, Dimitri with a blunt wooden lance. They draw a circle on the ground and signal Rowan, a knight of Faerghus and the duel's adjudicator.

 

“Three rounds, Your Highness? Your Grace?”

 

Rodrigue turns and sends Dimitri a look of inquiry.

 

“One would be enough,” says Dimitri.

 

“Courage, commendable,” says Rodrigue. Dimitri knows his unsaid words—but foolish.

 

“If you get your ass kicked, I won’t use a pulse this time.” Sothis grumbles.

 

Rowan looks between Dimitri and Rodrigue, shocked. The knights of Faerghus have gathered in the training hall, some guards, and servants as well. Felix has also shown up, looking worried—the last time he witnessed a duel, Glenn won a tournament with a broken arm.

 

“Uh… victory condition one, the first to land a critical hit wins. Condition two, the one to knock the opponent out of the circle wins. Condition three, the one to disarm the other wins. And now the combat begins.”

 

Normally, Dimitri would lunge first and brutally end his enemy, but Rodrigue is an ally, and he has promised Sothis he’d play by their “no-show-off” rule. He can’t let people know the Crown Prince has magically obtained some monstrous murdering techniques overnight, not to mention Dimitri hates that bestial self.

 

He tries to remember Byleth’s lessons—patience, form, and accuracy. He tries to remember sparring with the knights of Seiros—how to fight like a classical storybook knight instead of ripping someone’s head straight off the shoulders.

 

Dimitri walks around the ring, patiently preparing for Rodrigue’s attack. However, as a seasoned fighter, Rodrigue wouldn’t give Dimitri an opportunity. He waits and waits, as if the two can wait until the end of the world.

 

Therefore the Prince feints with his right, planning to provoke Rodrigue and attack with the left instead, but Dimitri forgets how small he is right now. Before he can jump out of Rodrigue’s attack range, the Duke already scratches his left shoulder.

 

Dimitri hears Sothis groans, “You’re a 13-year-old. Don’t play 23.”

 

Apologies. I am simply not used to being so small.

 

Rodrigue, apparently, doesn’t plan to pull out all of his skills. His look shows nothing but tiredness, like a father who doesn’t know how to deal with his rebellion-stage hormonal teenage son.

 

“Let him underestimate you.”

 

Let him underestimate me.

 

Sothis and Dimitri say at the same time.

 

He mentally grins at the goddess, faking to slump to the ground when he takes a hit from Rodrigue. Dimitri hears Felix’s muffled cry.

 

“I hate to do this, Dimitri,” Rodrigue sighs and shakes his head, ready to land the last blow.

 

But before the Duke does anything, Dimitri kicks himself out of the ground with one hand as leverage, swiping the shaft of his lance at Rodrigue’s middle body. The latter loses balance, and seizing the chance, Dimitri lands another attack, which Rodrigue barely blocks with the sword. And just as he is busy fending his neck, Dimitri kicks his wrist, knocking Rodrigue’s weapon out of his hand.

 

A moment of silence. Clearly nobody expected this. Christophe’s jaws are still on the floor. Cassandra seems to be pleased.

 

“Prince… Prince Dimitri wins!” Rowan shakily announces.

 

Felix quickly runs across the training hall to Rodrigue, trying to help him up, but the Duke simply stands up on his own. The raven-haired boy seems a little bit disappointed and turns to Dimitri, hugging him tightly. Dedue comes over, checking Dimitri for any injuries.

 

“Are you hurt?” Felix quietly asks.

 

“I’m fine, Fe.” Dimitri then turns his glaze to Rodrigue, who only smiles.

 

They turn and see the Duke smile, but before the older Fraldarius man can say anything, a piercing screech almost tumbles everyone to the ground. A humongous beast dashes across the sky as if falling from the clouds. Its large wings flutter uselessly, wind gusting through the training ground. It cries and cries and cries, as if in great agony.

 

Dragon.

 

A green dragon.

 

What in Sothis’ name…?

 

Sothis screams in agreement, “Yeah, what in my name is going on!”

 

Dimitri and Rodrigue exchange a glance and quickly pick up real weapons from the racks. “All knights! Follow me!” Dimitri barks at his men, ready for battle.

-------

They follow the dragon’s screams to the forest before splitting into two groups. Christophe and Cassandra lead their own battalions; Dimitri and Rodrigue lead the knights, but none of them realize Felix and Dedue has followed them into the wild until it is already too far away from the castle.

 

Rodrigue has to allow them to stick around.

 

Somehow, somehow, Dimitri feels as if divine forces are leading him to a destiny. He can sense it, his heart answering the call of the unknown, and yet it feels so familiar. Like home, he thinks.

 

It doesn’t take long for Dimitri to locate the dragon. A group of poachers, made obvious by their special weapons and equipment, attack the divine creature. Sacks of loot scatter in the area, obviously pillaged from nearby villages. They try to submit it into surrender, and some already unsheathe their skinner knives, ready to cut some legendary dragon skin. Screaming in pain, the dragon is gravely injured, green scales covered in dark blood. It tries to fight off the chains those poachers set up, but it’s weak, and it’s trapped.

 

Their weapons… look all so strange. Their long curved knives are designed for decapitation beam in red light, but they are clearly not relics. Chains are currently trapping the dragon flash with something like lightning. Some of the swords they wield roar with fire.

 

All too strange for mere bandits.

 

The dragon attempts to spit some fire, but only flickers of embers appear. Dimitri thinks of the war when mages run out of their magic.

 

How dare you hurt her?!” Dimitri doesn’t know why he is so furious, nor does he have any time to ponder.

 

Also, her? Do dragons have gender in the first place?

 

Rodrigue screams at Dimitri to come back, but the crown prince is already in action, lunging at the first two swordsmen he sees. The knights quickly shake off their stupor, probably used to the Prince’s new personalities since Duscur, and join the battle.

 

The bandits turn their attention on the Faerghan men and women at once, leaving the dragon behind.

 

The first two swordsmen never expect an all murderous teenager is ready to lop off their heads. It’s quick and easy. Before they can even blink, the two are gargling and choking on their own blood, a massive slash on their throats.

 

The next one. Next. Next…

 

And that’s when Sothis stepped in. Time shatters around them. Dimitri stands in front of the throne.

 

“What are you doing?!” Dimitri grimaces.

 

“I can ask you the same. What is going on with you out there?” Sothis raves. “They are just poachers. You have to kill like an animal to deal with them?!”

 

She snaps her fingers. Their previous surroundings reappear. Not far away from them, Rodrigue is surrounded by three enemies, whom he should’ve easily dealt with if not having Felix and Dedue to protect. The knights of Faerghus, whose resistance is never an advantage, are being defeated by the magically enhanced weapons. And Felix—Felix is scared, looking at Dimitri with big widened eyes.

 

“My child can wait! The bandits are trying to kill you all now!”

 

The exact same thing happened in his past life, too. He was too busy killing the imperial soldiers, seeking revenge and Edelgard’s head on a spear, and totally ignored his allies and charged right into the enemies. Byleth had to follow him, covered him, and even risked her own life to save him from the clutches of death. He remembered how he almost got Sylvain and Felix both killed at Gronder, how Byleth took a hit meant for him, minutes before Rodrigue died in his stead.

 

And Felix, this Felix. He hasn’t even seen a battle before, and Dimitri has his monstrous instinct all out in front of him and, and, and…

 

Dimitri’s head hurts so bad. He hears Patricia laughing, her long, delicately manicured fingers on his chin. Lambert mutters pity for Rodrigue and Felix while Glenn and the knights congratulate the boar prince to finally join this new world.

 

They are too loud, too loud that he can’t even think—

 

“Dimitri!” Sothis yells at him. Her voice temporarily muffles the ghosts. “Focus on me. On the current surroundings.”

 

Dimitri pants for air. He wipes off the sweats on his forehead, trying to focus on his breathing—like Byleth taught him before.

 

Alexandre, breathe with me. What do you hear in this room?

 

Waters drip from invisible ceilings, falling into the puddles on the ancient floor. Scents of moss somehow send his mind to a distant forest. A cold breeze gushes through the throne room illuminated with green lights.

 

Dimitri’s breaths are ragged, strands of hair stuck on his face, cold—the ghosts mock him, laughing at him, but they are leaving.

 

Until everything is quiet, and then his family finally leaves him alone.

 

“I’m ready to go back,” says Dimitri, “I’ll protect my allies first this time.”

-------

Dimitri feels that vertigo and nausea again when Sothis turns the time back. He is exhausted, drained by the time switch, but he has to continue fighting.

 

The crown prince stays with the group now, gradually charging towards the enemies. He keeps himself in control though his mind screams for blood. He fights like a classically trained knight though his body demands utter violence to quell its rage.

 

But he wants to vomit so much. There is something wrong with Sothis channeling even a brief time power through his body, and that is almost killing him.

 

A bandit smashes his axe at Felix, who barely dodges and swings his blade, making his first kill. His hands tremble when the man slumps to the ground, drenched in his own blood.

 

“Felix, don’t think about it now,” Dimitri pushes him behind when a whip cracking through the air, flashing with blue light. He isn’t fast enough, legs wobble, and grunts in pain when the magic whip slashes through his abdomen. Blood seeping through his cloak. He feels he’s paralyzed, warm fluid quickly leaving his body.

 

He hates this small body, hates when he can’t get things in control when he could in the future past. He hates he has failed again, failing to protect his knights, his subjects, and his friends.

 

“Dima!” Felix cries.

 

“Dimitri!” Rodrigue cuts through three bandits, rushing to his side. But it was too late; the bandit raises his weapon.

 

The Prince uses all of his strength to push Felix and Dedue out of the way, bracing for the final strike.

 

And the dragon roars as if empowered by divine power, regaining energy and fighting off the confines of chains. It raises its gigantic claws, crushing several bandits. The remaining four bandits scream in fear, but before they can flee, the knights have captured them all.

 

The battle is over.

 

Dimitri half-kneels on the forest ground, doing a quick headcount. Everyone is alright except for some superficial wounds and burns. He sighs in relief. His body suddenly goes limp.

 

He’s so tired.

 

Dedue catches him, laying him down on his Duscur cloak. The ground isn’t cold—covered in a layer of thick leaves.

 

Rodrigue is almost losing his control. He kneels by the half-conscious, frantically casting a heal spell. Felix has lost all of his tears, shocked by everything that just happened.

 

Dimitri can hear Sothis shouting at him. The goddess is trying to use another Pulse, but his body is giving out. No more turning back of time. A shroud of dark mist is clouding his thoughts, his mind, his brain in general. The Prince really wants to comfort Felix, telling him it will be okay, but he can’t. He wonders if it’s due to the blood loss or the magic and potential poison.

 

He hears Christophe and Cassandra leading their knights coming over, shouting things he can’t understand. He senses the dragon approaching, giant wings shrouding the entire group. Its breaths ripple everyone’s hair and cloaks.

 

Something smells like lavender, covered in the smell of flesh and blood.

 

It’s all so familiar. Dimitri thinks of the war with Byleth by his side, covering his right that he couldn’t see well. Her scent, the way she watched out for him, shooting a glance at him from time to time to check on his wounds received in battle, casting a heal whenever it became necessary.

 

The familiarity nudges Dimitri to open his eyes, meeting the giant green eyes of the dragon. He suddenly feels safe.

 

As if in Byleth’s arms.

 

This must be death again, right?

 

Dimitri reaches out a hand, trying to touch the dragon on its cheek, but he suddenly goes limp. The last thing he hears is a song. Someone is singing to him, singing to the knights, too. The sound is so gentle, so ethereal, soothing his pain. Dimitri feels so warm, so warm—

Chapter Text

Dimitri groans when he opens his eyes. Everywhere hurts.

 

Sothis, why am I passing out all the time?

 

“Because you are damn stubborn and stupid, and you don’t have the Crest of Flames, so our symbiosis is draining you a bit,” Sothis says.

 

Dimitri is pretty sure the main problem here is his lack of the compatible Crest, though he does admit he took some stupid actions out there just now.

 

Lucas the Blaiddyd Rex gets all hyped up when Dimitri’s ghost shows up. The dog barks and runs in circles around the late King. When he jumps on Dimitri, trying to get a good head pat or preferably a hug, Lucas is utterly confused when he only gets to touch the air.

 

Dimitri blinks—so it is true that dogs and cats can see spirits and, in this case, ghosts.

 

They are in the piano room, where bookshelves are lined with music books. Byleth never had a chance to experience music as a child since she was always traveling with the mercenary group, so when Felix played his violin and Sylvain with his cello, Dimitri saw how much Byleth wanted to learn.

 

A couple of days after their wedding, Dimitri prepared a surprise for her. He hired a piano tutor and had their family piano tuned, which was apparently left to collect dust after his birth mother passed (goddess forbid that the Blaiddyds touch any musical instruments). One of the few memories Dimitri had of Cecilia was when she held him in one arm, the other hand playing a soft tune on the said piano.

 

Byleth loved it.

 

Since then, they went to concerts every week. Neither Dimitri nor Byleth were into opera. Too much unnecessary death, as Byleth put it, and way too melodramatic. Felix hummed in agreement (though he loved going to the opera with Sylvain), but Dimitri’s early year education in literature and drama had at least taught him one thing: Melodrama was a form, not a derogatory term.

 

However, the King decided to say nothing because he got what Byleth was saying.

 

Lucas whines for the lack of physical contact, ears all droopy and sad. “Where is Sitri?” Dimitri half kneels in front of him, gently cooing. “I bet she’d be happy to give you a hug.”

 

“Lucas? What are you doing? Was there a bad person that you were barking at?” Then Dimitri hears Sylvain, his cheerful voice echoing in the hallway. “Or even a ghost?”

 

Lucas jumps onto the ottoman in front of the window, barking at the outside. Dimitri follows Sylvain and sees Sitri sitting by the fountain, holding a broken wooden doll.

 

That one. Dimitri remembers. Before the twins were born, he asked Gustave to teach him wood carving once. Though it was a total disaster since the King couldn’t possibly control his strength, Dimitri did, eventually, manage to carve a small horse for his future baby.

 

And then they got twins. Alex and Sitri constantly fought over the toys, but Sitri always won (to think Alex is the one with the Crest of Blaiddyd). This small horse was something she always held on to.

 

Sylvain shrugs, patting Lucas’ head, “Yeah, you broke the doll by accident. I mean I get it. You were trying to grab her the horse, and it broke.”

 

Lucas whines and lowers his head as if feeling guilty.

 

“She will forgive you, eventually. You wanna go hang out with her?” Sylvain then opens the door to the staircase. Lucas bolts out in a dash, and the Margrave chuckles and follows.

 

Dimitri is almost on his way to the stairs when he realizes, well, he is a ghost in this world. So he takes the window, drifting down from the second floor.

 

Sitri isn’t crying. Dimitri finds it very surprising because she’s always a sensitive child, more so than Alex.

 

He sits down by her side, enjoying the sunshine on a winter afternoon with his beloved daughter. A few seconds later, Lucas shows up in the yard, barking and running around the fountain to cheer Sitri up.

 

Sitri doesn’t even look at him, so Lucas sits down in front of her, staring at her with both brows droopy like he is about to cry.

 

“Go away, Lucas,” Sitri mumbles, eye still on the doll. “Go play with Alex.”

 

Lucas turns his head to the boy. Dimitri sees Alex on the lawn, digging through the snow and into the ground. He wonders what he is doing.

 

The dog doesn’t move. He slumps to the floor on his side, sighing with content, ready to take a nap.

 

Dimitri sighs. He thinks of how the whole family used to wrestle with Lucas for fun, weekend nights in front of the warm fire. Lucas loved Dimitri’s big blue cloak lined with fur, the one he wore during the war. Sitri would steal it from his closet while Alex watched out for their parents, and then they would bring the King’s cloak to the dog until a servant found them.

 

This must be temporary. Sitri won’t hate Lucas for any reason.

 

“Daddy…” Sitri whispers, fingers lingering on the wooden horse.

 

Yes, darling?

 

Dimitri smiles, hearing his daughter call for him. He responds with his softest voice though she can’t see or hear him either.

 

And yet it feels wrong. They should move on. They have to get used to a life without him.

 

“I miss you.”

 

I miss you too, Sitri.

 

And they just stay there in silence. Dimitri wishes Byleth was here.

 

Some servants are putting away winter solstice and new year decorations. Ribbons of Blaiddyd blue. Crystal snowflakes decorated with blue gemstones, something so lavish elsewhere that the Faerghans treat as mere glass beads, hung from torches in a frigid courtyard frequented by storms—well, it’s not like Faerghus has anything other than potatoes and gems of the size of potatoes (Potato gem? Gem potato?).

 

Oh, and killing people at a young age—Dimitri thinks sarcastically, but that was before the war.

 

Something feels strange.

 

Sothis, is it already January in this timeline? Five months after I died?

 

He has spent no more than four months in the other world.

 

“Time in different worlds doesn’t usually synchronize,” the goddess replies with a yawn.

 

Then is it possible that in the new world when I am still a teenager, Alex and Sitri in this world are already old and walking with a cane?

 

“There is a possibility.”

 

But I want to watch them grow up.

 

No response.

 

Sothis, will Alex and Sitri be my children again in the new world?

 

“Every child is a chance out of a billion possibilities. The twins are that tiny chance squared. It’s near impossible to have them again.”

 

But I’m there. Felix is there. And Dedue, Sylvain, Ingrid… Edelgard, too.

 

“Time has its limit, my dear prince, and time never repeats itself. We only returned to the past of your old life, and the rest is beyond our control. Honestly, we really should name the two timelines. It can get very confusing sometimes.”

 

But if I have children with Byleth again… Dimitri squeezes his eyes shut. He can’t imagine raising children who are not Alex and Sitri, just like he can’t imagine a woman other than Byleth by his side.

 

The goddess knows what he’s thinking but doesn’t respond. She looks sad too, and as if trying to divert Dimitri from his depressing thoughts, she points at two figures at a distance, “Ooh, the grumpy one is here with the redhead!”

 

They have names, Sothis.

 

“I know, but this is easier for me,” Sothis pushes Dimitri up from his place. “Go on! They seem to be arguing. I love juicy gossips.”

 

Dimitri sighs and goes over to his friend, but before he can move, he sees his reflection on the fountain ice. This is the first time he really gets to look at his ghost form. He is still in his late twenties, pale but somewhat radiant, like the images from church scripture, but he’s no saint. There is no halo around his head, and the ugly scars remain. Somehow his right eye is intact, blinking at himself from the reflection.

 

“Alright my big handsome boy. Stop admiring yourself and just move!” Sothis pouts.

 

Dimitri walks (drifts) to his friends. Felix and Sylvain argue in a hushed tone, not wanting anyone to hear.

 

“I’m serious, Felix! Sitri really wanted Alex to hug her but Alex pushed her away! Again!”

 

Felix has his forehead in a hand, “You sure they didn’t have a fight?”

 

“He’s been avoiding touching Sitri since, I don’t know, months ago. Nothing beyond holding hands. I mean—I don’t know. That’s not normal for siblings, right?”

 

Felix sighs and looks in the direction of the twins. Dimitri knows what they are thinking. Sylvain thinks of Miklan and how, when he visited Fraldarius for the first time, shocked he was seeing Glenn cuddle Felix before bed, reading him knight stories. And Felix thinks of Glenn, how Rodrigue unintentionally neglected him so his brother became his everything.

 

“Certainly not…” Felix says quietly.

 

A pang of guilt hits Dimitri in his heart. Glenn died because of him.

 

What he doesn’t know is that Felix has been feeling guilty a lot as of late. It all started the day after the royal couple’s funeral when maids were dressing the Prince and Princess in the morning. Felix and Sylvain were waiting for the twins in their bedroom, and a maid came to them rather awkwardly.

 

“Your Grace… My lord…”

 

“What is it?” Felix raises his head from a report he’s reading.

 

“Princess Sitri doesn’t let us touch her hair. The only person who does… did her hair was Her Majesty. Lady Martritz and Lady Dominic are not here today.”

 

A long pause from Felix and Sylvain.

 

“Very well,” Felix shuts his eyes, “I will see what I can do. You all can leave for now.”

 

The maids leave, and the couple remains silent.

 

“Fuck,” says Sylvain.

 

They muster up all of their courage—why they need it, Felix doesn’t quite know—before entering the twins’ makeshift bedroom in their study. Alex stands near Sitri, rubbing his puffy eyes. He’s been crying since their parents’ death.

 

“Sitri,” Felix clears his throat, “let me put your hair up.” Her hair is way too long for the little girl to run around without tripping over.

 

“I want Mommy to do it.”

 

Felix inhales sharply, almost choked up. Sylvain puts a hand on his back.

 

The redhaired man crouches in front of the girl, “Uncle Felix helped your dad with his hair before you were born. Do you want to try that?”

 

That is not even true. Dimitri always did his hair before putting on the eyepatch, and no one, but Byleth had seen his scarred right eye, so how the heck could Felix ever do the hair for him? Felix stares at Sylvain in disbelief, who turns his head back and mouths him, “just-do-it-already.”

 

Sitri relents when Felix gathers her hair. It is hard because it’s just too damn long—Felix’s own hair has never reached his shoulder blades, and this three-year-old has it even longer than his. He fumbles with her blond strands, finally finishing a ponytail.

 

“Mom always braids it…” Sitri’s quiet, but Felix still hears her.

 

Felix doesn’t even know his voice can be this soft, “I’ll try to learn. You like this one?”

 

Sitri looks into the mirror, “It’s ugly.”

 

It’s always the small things that remind him of his inadequacy as a parent.

 

Will he be the same as Rodrigue, who apparently ignored, if not failed to notice, his son’s grief and pain after Glenn died? The thought scares Felix. He immediately shakes his head as if trying to get rid of the ominous idea.

 

Felix then dragged Annette back from the sorcery school to teach him to braid, and he’s been practicing with his own hair. Sylvain politely holds his laughs when his husband absolutely messes up his own hair when practicing.

 

And now he desperately wishes Dimitri and Byleth were here. “They must know what’s going on,” Felix sighs.

 

I don’t know either. Dimitri responds, even though no one can hear him.

 

Sothis falls asleep later, giving Dimitri space in his past world. The late King follows his children around all day. He knows he’ll be drained and forced back to the new timeline again, but Dimitri is glad he at least gets to stay with the twins even though as a ghost—his father’s ghost has never been kind to him.

 

He picks up pieces of the children’s life, some he knew and some he didn’t. He watches Sitri playing with the dollhouse Dimitri built for her. He feels a bit left out when he realizes Alex has started lance training with Sylvain.

 

Dimitri never wanted the twins to touch weapons this young. Now after the mysterious attack and their deaths, it is only reasonable to train the twins early. He wants to laugh that Sylvain is obviously out of practice when Felix defeats him in ten swift moves, and yet it hurts to know Dimitri wasn’t there to guide Alex to pick up a lance for the first time.

 

Apparently, Felix has tried to teach Sitri swordplay, but Sitri refused. She only watched Felix train.

 

Dimitri lies in Alex’s bed that evening (somehow Sitri has been sleeping with Lucas in bed lately, and they’ve apparently made up)—of course, with his legs dangling in the air, but since he’s basically floating, it doesn’t quite matter. Dimitri feels too tired, but he can push it a bit longer to spend more time with his twins. He listens to his children’s breathing. It’s comforting, just the way he remembers.

 

At some point during the night, his son jolts awake from a nightmare. “Daddy…” he sobs.

 

It’s alright. I’m right here. Dimitri has his hand on Alex’s cheek.

 

Somehow the boy stops crying immediately.

 

“Daddy?” he sits up from the bed, looking around. “Is that you?”

 

Did he hear me?

 

Dumbfounded, Dimitri tries again. Alex? Can you hear me?

 

“Dad?” Alex gets out of bed. He grabs the air as if trying to touch his father.

 

Alex, come back to bed! You’ll catch a cold.

 

“Where are you?” Alex slowly makes his way around in the room, eventually to the door. Dimitri isn’t sure if he can hear him anymore, but this is all too confusing. What in the world just happened?

 

Dimitri frustratingly follows him, cursing his inability to pull the boy back to bed.

 

When Alex opens the door, he walks in on Felix and Sylvain kissing passionately—too passionate to notice a toddler coming in.

 

“Do grown-ups kiss all the time?” he asks innocently.

 

“Whoa!” Sylvain gasps. Felix pushes him away.

 

“Hey what’s up Alex?” Sylvain winks. He doesn’t have his shirt on. Felix throws a robe over Sylvain’s shoulders immediately. Dimitri blushes and turns around, muttering an apology to his friends.

 

“I had a nightmare, and I think I heard Daddy talk to me,” Alex rubs his eyes.

 

“What did he say?” Felix asks, gesturing Alex to come closer.

 

“I’m not sure… something like my name.”

 

“Probably just dreaming, huh? Come ‘ere.” Sylvain opens his arms, ready to hug Alex.

 

But Alex just stares at him, taking a step back, “Mommy and Daddy said I shouldn’t hug and kiss my sister, so I probably shouldn’t hug you either.”

 

What? Dimitri gapes. When did we ever say that?

 

But that explains something to the three adults in the room.

 

“Why did they say that?” Felix asks.

 

“I dunno.”

 

Sylvain pauses and then asks hesitantly, “Alex, hm… What happened when they told you that?”

 

“Sitri and I went to their room. Mommy and Daddy were kissing…” Alex thinks, “and hugging.”

 

Oh. Now Dimitri remembers. He wants to die.

 

“And Daddy didn’t have his clothes on,” the boy adds, “just like Uncle Sylvain!”

 

And now Felix and Sylvain want to die, too.

 

Sylvain clears his throat, “Um, Fe, do you want to explain, or you’d rather let me do it?”

 

“Goddess above, I’m not giving a three-year-old the talk,” Felix turns his face away. He recalls when he had the talk with Rodrigue. He certainly can’t imagine sitting in Rodrigue’s position, explaining to another child.

 

Sylvain takes a deep breath. “Alex, see, there are bad people that you don’t want them to hug you. Strangers and even some people you know. Don’t let them touch you if you don’t like it, and you have to tell us. But when it comes to people who love you, we hug and kiss… like your family, your sister, your parents, your friends, and like us. However, that is different from what your Mom and Dad were doing, and what… um, Uncle Felix and I were doing. It’s a very special type of hug and kiss, something only grown-ups who are married and who really, really love each other do.”

 

Well not exactly. Dimitri stares at the redhead. Sylvain is probably the last person to claim such a statement after all the sexual adventures he went on.

 

“It’s alright if you hug Sitri,” Felix concludes for Sylvain, too eager to end this conversation.

 

“Fe, I really think I should explain more—”

 

“When he’s older,” Felix hisses.

 

Dimitri thinks he’s brain-dead. He doesn’t think Byleth would like their children to learn about sex right now, either.

 

But Sylvain did manage to explain enough to his son. He thanks him for that.

 

Sylvain hugs Alex before he goes back to bed. Dimitri follows and smiles when Alex climbs into Sitri’s bed, hugging her tightly. Lucas shifts slightly, sandwiched between their legs.

 

Sitri stirs in her sleep. “I love you Sitri,” Alex says and then falls asleep.

 

Dimitri feels his energy reaching a breaking point and returns to the other time.

 

He doesn’t know that the next day, Felix arranges them to move into another suite. The two bedrooms are separated by a living area. The twins’ room locates at the end of the suite—if something happens, assassins still need to pass the King Regent and the Margrave first. Most importantly, the twins won’t be able to hear the other bedroom anymore, and Felix makes sure all the doors have very sturdy locks.

-------

When Dimitri opens his eyes again, he is expecting to be told that another three days have passed, but it is mere hours after he passed out.

 

Rodrigue pulls him in for an embrace immediately after the Prince wakes up. Then it’s Felix.

 

“Hello, Felix,” there’s a new sentiment that grows in Dimitri’s chest, knowing in another world, another Felix has taken up the role as his children’s guardian, knowing that he loves the twins just like he loved Dimitri when they were younger.

 

“Don’t do that again, Dima.” the younger Fraldarius hisses, “You can’t… I can’t let you die for me.”

 

“What happened?”

 

Rowan the knight points at the dragon, “The dragon started singing when you fell. Somehow that healed everybody.”

 

Dimitri distantly recalls that someone was singing. So it was the dragon? Something of its special abilities? And that beautiful voice?

 

He stands up, but Felix grabs his arm. “I’m going with you.”

 

The two boys walk through the woods. The dragon is not far away, lying on the side and licking at its own wounds. Felix slows down when the giant creature is in sight, unsure if it’s reasonable to approach a commonly known dangerous animal.

 

“Dimitri, what are you doing?!” he yells at the Prince under his breath, who is walking leisurely towards the dragon.

 

Dimitri isn’t afraid. He holds both hands in the air, showing that he is unarmed. The dragon narrows its eyes, sniffing, and then relaxes a little, giving Dimitri enough of a signal to keep moving closer. He raises a hand, ignoring Felix’s cried warnings, to slowly, slowly make contact with its wing. For a second, the dragon tenses up, looking utterly surprised, but then it lowers its head to the ground as if ready for a nap, looking at the boy with half-lidded eyes.

 

“You nearly scared the heck out of me! You could’ve got killed!” Felix shouts.

 

Dimitri looks at the dragon in its eyes, “Is it okay that I let Felix come closer? He’s my friend.” He smooths out the dirt built up in the fissures between the scales, helping the dragon clean out caked blood that it can’t reach, given that its movement is quite confined by the wounds.

 

Dimitri wonders if the dragon’s songs can only heal other people, just like Flayn’s fortify spell. Maybe only Mercedes has the ability to heal both her allies and herself at the same time.

 

The dragon lets out a long, loud exhale. That reminds Dimitri of Lucas, often sighing contentedly after slumping to his bed or a rug, so the Prince takes that as a yes.

 

“Don’t compare my child to a dog,” Sothis finally wakes up, rolling her eyes.

 

She has mentioned it before. Your children? Dimitri blinks while waving at Felix, “It’s alright. It agrees.”

 

The dragon immediately flaps its wing at Dimitri, not too harsh to actually hurt him. Felix freezes on his spot.

 

“They’re quite crossed that you called them ‘it,’” Sothis giggles.

 

“My apologies,” Dimitri rubs his side where it hurts the most and corrects himself, “Felix, they’ve agreed that you come closer.”

 

“Are you seriously trying to communicate with a dragon?” Felix’s eyes widen, “Are you crazy, or do you have whatever little brain cells of a boar?!”

 

Dimitri’s almost missed that nickname though he’s not sure if Felix in this world will really call him as such, but before he can say anything, the dragon reaches out their tail to sweep Felix closer. Felix yelps in both shock and anger. Dimitri thinks the dragon is chortling.

 

Then Dimitri is brought under one of their wings. The two boys sit in silence, both trying to digest the dragon’s behavior.

 

They are warm, probably due to all the fire in… uh, their belly? Lung?

 

Where does a dragon store their fire? Dimitri asks.

 

“In their veins, my dumb princeling, so they won’t accidentally spit fire and roast someone when sneezing.”

 

They smell a bit bloody because of the open wounds, but besides that, everything smells like grass and lavender. The dragon keeps licking their wounds, humming in satisfaction when they gradually heal—tissues stitch together right in front of Dimitri’s eyes.

 

“Wow,” is what Felix can mutter.

 

Dimitri notices how soft the dragon’s voice and sounds can be. He remembers the intimidating roars of Rhea’s dragon form, how they trembled the earth and mountains. This dragon is different. Maybe every dragon is different in their own ways.

 

“What’s your name?” Dimitri asks. “Surely we can’t keep calling you the dragon.”

 

The dragon doesn’t respond. Do dragons speak in the first place?

 

Sothis, what’s your child’s name?

 

A very long silence from the goddess.

 

“Well, it is better that you do introductions with each other. It’s quite awkward for me to do it for you so you can skip it, right?”

 

In other words, you don’t know.

 

Sothis doesn’t respond.

 

Sothis?! What kind of mother are you if you don’t even know your own child’s name?!

 

“Blaiddyd!”

 

Dimitri knows he crossed a line. My apologies.

 

Sothis closes her eyes, inhales deeply, and then sighs, “I wish I remembered. All the pieces of time evaded me since I was put to the long sleep, and all I can remember clearly is the time I dwelled in Byleth’s body. Other things are only flickers of memories. They come and before I can grasp them, they go. All I can do is watch, watching tragedy happening to my children and yet having no power over almost anything.”

 

Dimitri is silent. They are the same in a way, only able to watch their children from a long distance, divided by time itself.

 

Somehow, he conjures the power to shatter and pause time, meeting Sothis in that throne room illuminated by green lights. Sothis still sits on her throne, shocked to see Dimitri have broken the confines of the flow of time.

 

“The two of you never fail to amaze me,” Sothis says, staring at Dimitri curiously. “I guess that’s just what happens to children. You give them life, and they grow into their own individuals beyond your control.”

 

Dimitri walks up the stairs for the first time. It’s so damn long, taking him forever to reach the top.

 

And he embraces the goddess tightly.

 

Sothis freezes but seconds later, she relaxes, clutching to the back of his cloak.

-------

Later that night, Rodrigue almost has a heart attack when he finds the two boys trapped by the dragon’s tail, but then he sees how relaxed Dimitri and Felix are.

 

“Thank you for taking care of them for me,” Rodrigue smiles, bowing to the dragon. “I haven’t thanked you formally for saving our lives.” To Dimitri’s surprise, the dragon lowers their head briefly as if bowing back.

 

They decide to set up a camp for the day after the crown prince orders so. None of the knights wants to leave the dragon, their savior, behind when they are still clearly wounded, and none of them wants anyone from the castle—especially Cornelia—to find out about their encounter in the forest.

 

Rodrigue and Dimitri are too tired to interrogate their prisoners, wielders of the strange weapons. They’ve tied the bandits to a tree, waiting to be questioned the next day.

 

Dedue cooks for them, and Dimitri is surprised to see that the knights have accepted this boy from Duscur. They talk about food and the herbs he found in the wild as spice substitutes. They talk about Dedue’s village, his family, and how Dedue’s father died of an accident. Even the dragon listens quietly when they talk.

 

Feeling a bit wistful, Dimitri keeps thinking about Byleth and their children.

 

Sothis, you said time doesn’t repeat itself, so there are other timelines besides this one and the old one.

 

“Correct.”

 

So there have been many Byleths out there.

 

“Yup.”

 

What is she like?

 

“Different in different ways, every time, and…” Sothis pauses. “Actually, you were a girl for once or twice.”

 

I was a girl.

 

“And the Fraldarius boy has been a girl at some point, too. The same happened to everyone.”

 

Dimitri tries to picture Dedue as a woman.

 

What about Byleth?

 

The goddess grins, “Well, I shouldn’t ruin the fun, right?”

 

Is my life a theatre production for you?

 

“Duh, why would I create human beings if I couldn’t have some fun?”

 

Creepy woman, Dimitri thinks to himself.

 

“I can hear you!”

 

Dimitri has tensed up because of the conversation. Does she mean Byleth can potentially be a man?

 

More importantly, will he still be able to love Byleth if she were a man?

Chapter Text

The next morning, Dimitri wakes up when he senses something stirring the air. He cracks his eyes open, a hand already on his iron lance, only to relax when he sees the dragon hovering over, looking at him with big emerald eyes. Their breaths gently push Dimitri’s hair and a few leaves away from his face.

 

He somehow sees Byleth’s eyes, how she gently looked at him with one hand running through his hair, how she greeted him morning with gentle kisses.

 

“You remind me of someone very dear to me,” Dimitri mumbles. He sounds strangely like Rhea.

 

Without a reply, the dragon carries him up with their mouth in the back of his cloak. “Ah!” Dimitri yelps in surprise. He panics when thinking about leaving Felix and Dedue, who have been sleeping right next to him, but they are well protected by the knights (and Dedue is not there right now). Dimitri has nothing to worry about.

 

The dragon silently walks to the river where Rodrigue and two knights are setting up a campfire to cook. Dimitri isn’t surprised when he finds Dedue there. Upon seeing the dragon carrying the Prince like a lioness carrying her cub, Rodrigue chuckles. Rowan and the other knight, Cedric, fail to hold back their laughs. Dedue’s lips tilt slightly—his smile never changes, Dimitri thinks.

 

He must look ridiculous right now.

 

The dragon slowly puts Dimitri on the ground and then flies towards the middle of the river, splashing water everywhere when they seem to be bathing.

 

“Enjoying the new company, Your Highness?” says Rodrigue, and Dimitri sees a glint of amusement behind his decorous expression.

 

“Please, not you too, Rodrigue,” Dimitri sighs in defeat.

 

The Duke politely stops talking about the incident.

 

“Ugh, does this river have fish at all?” Rowan groans as he lifts the net from the river. He only caught a tiny fish and three small crabs, not even enough for one person. Cedric had even worse luck, only a bunch of waterweeds.

 

Dedue, on the other hand, has dug out some edible roots, but they have a duke, fifteen knights, Cassandra and Christophe’s 50 men and women, three teenagers, and four bandits to feed—a decent ruler should be kind to his prisoners, Dimitri reminds himself.

 

Oh, and a dragon.

 

What in the world do dragons eat? If they enjoy eating human beings, certainly this one does not because they have already spared Dimitri and Felix, considering how much tastier the flesh of younglings is compared to the older ones’ dry meat and tough bones. Tender. Juicy.

 

Goddess. What am I even thinking?

 

Not that Dimitri actually ate people before—nor is he into the idea of cannibalism, but yearling lamb and veal are just more delicious, right?

 

Before Dimitri’s train of thoughts gets even creepier, the sound of water splashing draws him back to reality. The dragon emerges from the surface, scales dripping droplets of water, and in their mouth are several fluttering herrings, eager to escape for life.

 

Alright, he doesn’t need to deal with the dragon’s food. Thank Sothis.

 

Dimitri sighs in relief. He turns to Rowan, “I can try to hunt if that will help.”

 

“Sure, Your Highness. I shall accompany you,” Rowan responds and places the net on the ground.

 

But before they can do anything, Dimitri sees the dragon tilts their head, swallowing the fish whole. They seem to realize the human bunch’s predicament and dives back into the water again. When they reappear, about ten fish are thrown in front of Rodrigue. The Duke stares at the jumping, desperate fish in disbelief.

 

Then more fish rain down. And more.

 

“Huh, I’d really love to travel with the dragon, Your Grace. We can definitely enlist another knight.” Rowan says.

 

Cedric shakes his head, “Oh c’mon. You can’t possibly make a living being existed only in legends follow orders, can you?”

 

“I’m just saying! But the dragon is indeed too kind to us. Why does someone bother to feed a bunch of strangers?”

 

Because we saved them, and then they saved us.

 

Rodrigue nods thanks at the dragon. The dragon hums and lies down in the shallow parts of the river, allowing fresh water to rinse away the caked blood. They seem to like water a lot, just like—

 

“I want a hot bath, Dimitri. Will you join me?”

 

“Alexandre, I like the shade of your skin when you’re soaked in warm water. You look so tasty that I want to—”

 

No. He can’t indulge himself with that kind of thoughts right now. Byleth is not here. No matter how sweet the memories are, Dimitri feels nothing but pain.

 

Dimitri picks up a carp, gutting the fish the way Byleth taught him. He has never been good at it, making a bloody mess when he accidentally crushes all of the slippery intestines, but he can always wash the blood away. There is an entire river right there.

 

He wishes the river could wash away the blood on his hands, too.

 

The Prince buries himself in the cooking chores, hoping the labor will keep his mind clear, but when he scales the fish, he hears Byleth humming a tune the mercenaries loved to sing. When Dedue cooks the fish with the campfire, he almost sees Byleth and an older Dedue standing right there, cooking for their army. And when the food is ready, Byleth comes over with a bowl and worried expressions hidden beneath her blank face—Dimitri sees them because… Of course he can see his woman’s distress when he has loved her since the academy, more than half a decade into the war.

 

Byleth…

 

“Your Highness?”

 

Dimitri finally hears Rodrigue. Apparently, he has drifted into his own thoughts.

 

“Apologies, I allowed myself to be distracted,” Dimitri resumes his work but finds his left hand bloodied by the scaling knife, too much blood to be the fish’s. He must have accidentally cut himself just now.

 

Rodrigue extends a hand, green light illuminating in his palm, “Dimitri, let me—”

 

“No, it’s fine, Rodrigue. We have a long journey ahead, so we need all of our magic reserves. Don’t waste your power on this type of trivial wounds.”

 

“But Your Highness…”

 

Dimitri finds a vulnerary in his cloak, carefully pouring some onto his wounded hand to avoid waste. He is all used to tending his own wounds now. Dedue finds clean bandages from Cedric’s supplies. He then helps the Prince wrap up the injured hand. The work is too smooth to come from two boys in their early teens.

 

Rodrigue watches in silence, eyebrows furrowed. He has the urge to say something, but Felix appears with a yawn, accompanied by several knights and Christophe, who also has to drag a still sleepy Cassandra to get food.

 

Eventually everyone shows up for breakfast.

 

Somehow, Dimitri feels hungrier than usual. He can eat an entire boar, for sure, but rations are only that much for everyone. The Prince declines the food Dedue offers from his bowl, lying that he’s had more than he needs.

 

The goddess eventually wakes up from her beauty sleep, yawning while greeting Dimitri good morning.

-------

When Dimitri orders food to be sent to the prisoners, no one dares to object, but he can feel the knights’ discontent. These bandits almost murdered their Prince and yet they are being treated so nicely.

 

The four are tied up to a tree. Upon seeing the leader, Dimitri has to fight back a gasp.

 

“Kostas?” Dimitri frowns.

 

The bandit leader blinks, “Oh, hey there. Do I know you?”

 

“Silence!” Rowan warns, “You are in the presence of the cr—”

 

Dimitri sends Rowan a look, clearing his throat. The knight bows his head in obedience, understanding his Prince’s intent. It is not wise to reveal his identity.

 

“Well, I’m very flattered that even some rich noble kid like you know me. Reputation, that is. But kid, I have no trouble with you. You let me and my men go, and then the gold we have is all yours.”

 

“Where did you acquire the weapons?” Dimitri asks.

 

“Well, for bandits like us, our weapons are usually just loots. Right, boys?” Kostas turns to the other three bandits, who stare at him for a second and then nod in agreement, hesitantly.

 

What a terrible lie. “Oh? From which part of Fódlan did you loot the weapons?” Dimitri asks.

 

“Uh—” Dimitri can see wheels turning in Kostas’ little head, “Fraldarius.” Rodrigue quirks his brows. Felix rolls his eyes.

 

“If the Fraldarius territories one day produced Indra steel, please inform me,” Dimitri says, playing with one Indra steel dagger glowing with light.

 

“Oh! Not Fraldarius then. My poor memory! It’s from Gideon,” Kostas scrambles to tell another lie.

 

“All the way across Faerghus from Fraldarius?” Rodrigue shakes his head in disbelief.

 

“Unfortunately, Gideon only produces grapes, pumpkins, Gwenhwyvar cheese, talented tailors, and seamstresses. Blacksmithing is not their forte,” before Kostas can spit out another fabricated detail, Dimitri grabs a small folded stool and sits in front of the four prisoners.

 

“Kid, look, don’t your parents want you home on time? Waiting for you for dinner or something?”

 

“Don’t worry. My father entrusted me to my dear Uncle… Ridge before I went on this task. Is that right, Uncle?” Dimitri turns his gaze to Rodrigue, voice innocent.

 

Rodrigue blinks, suppressing the urge to laugh, “Yes… that is quite right, my dear nephew.”

 

Dimitri turns back to Kostas, “So, we have all the time in the world. I can wait until you tell us the truth.”

 

Silence from the bandits.

 

Dimitri doesn’t know that Rodrigue has been staring at him since the moment he wounded his hand by accident. “Father?” Felix senses the Duke’s tension.

 

“Nothing, Felix. Please help me keep an eye on Dimitri,” the father and son talk in a volume that only they can hear.

 

“Why?”

 

“One day, you will become his shield.”

 

“But Glenn…” Glenn will be back and inherit the dukedom. Felix can’t finish the sentence, either out of anger or distress. He turns to join Dimitri, trying very hard to ignore his father.

 

Kostas finally gives up, “Alright! We only follow orders. They gave us the weapons.”

 

“Whose orders?” Dimitri asks.

 

“I don’t know. They all look weird, with some kind of creepy look. Like they’re wearing costumes and masks.”

 

Is it possibly Edelgard? And her men?

 

Dimitri squeezes his eyes shut. In his previous life, he had started to question Edelgard’s involvement in the tragedy long since he took back Fhirdiad from Cornelia. But is it possibly her? To think a thirteen-year-old to plan such a…

 

Cedric approaches Rodrigue and Dimitri, speaking something silently only they can hear, “We saw some similar individuals in Duscur. Many of the knights were either wounded or killed by those people.”

 

Indeed they were. Glenn’s arm was wounded by one of them.

 

Rodrigue’s frown deepens. “What did you see?” he asks Kostas.

 

“Look, I really can’t say more. They will kill me—”

 

“My family will protect you if you cooperate,” Dimitri adds, stressing the condition, “If not, I’ll leave you here and let them find you and cut your throats open…”

 

Felix flinches. Dimitri decides that it may be too much detail of violence and stops adding more threats.

 

Kostas’ mouth opens and closes. He stares at Dimitri, “What do they feed you, kid?”

 

“Welcome to Faerghus,” says Dimitri.

 

Kostas stares at him for another moment. “Well, if you keep your promise… I guess it’s more like their faces have been transformed into something… different. They are very pale. Like none of them ever saw the sun or something.”

 

Dimitri asks, “What about their armors?”

 

“Armors? No. Never saw one. Oh,” Kostas recalls something, “one of them has a very creepy looking eye. Like they squeezed a ball into his socket.”

 

Solon.

 

Everybody turns their gaze at him. Dedue, in particular, has a strange expression on his face.

 

“Dimitri, you’re thinking out loud,” the goddess kindly reminds him. Dimitri finally realizes he has slipped the name out.

 

“No, please pay me no heed. It was nothing,” Dimitri pretends to act normal. Now, even Rodrigue has a strange look on his face.

 

Kostas clears his throat, “Anyway, that really is all I know. And oh, they paid us a lot. I wonder where they got so much money… Some of the coins were from—”

 

He doesn’t get to finish the sentence when the sound of metal cuts through the air. Dimitri doesn’t get to understand what just happened before seeing Kostas’ blood spilled across the ground. Some of the warm liquid staining Felix’s cheek.

 

And before anyone can react, one of the bandits has already cut his ropes loose, his dagger in Kostas’ throat. Then the other two’s heads are slashed open by a sword, dead before they can scream. And Dimitri hears—

 

“Father!” Felix screams as the bandit yanks him away by his collar, a glowing sword at his neck.

 

The Duke unsheathes his sword, the knights, men and women from Charon and Gaspard reaching for their weapons, ready to strike back. However, with the second son of the Duke taken as hostage, nobody dares to move.

 

Fog of dark mist appears. After a few seconds, the bandit has transformed in front of them—pale skin, strange look, he looks just like…

 

“Solon,” Sothis says.

 

“Who are you?! What do you want?” Dimitri demands.

 

The strange man chuckles, “Here we have the foolish Kostas, who talked too much and yet couldn’t even figure out your identities. Is that what you were thinking, Your Royal Highness?” His eyes turn to the rest of the men. “I know a Knight of Faerghus when I see one.”

 

“You… you are one of them,” Dimitri’s voice trembles. Many of the knights are ready to tear the man into pieces, avenging their fallen brothers in arms.

 

“Oh yes, my master ordered me to keep an eye on them, and it turned out to be another flawless move of his,” he says, sword playfully moving across Felix’s throat, threatening to cut through the flesh. The teenage boy grits his teeth, refusing to let out a whimper of panic though his eyes are shining with terror.

 

“What do you want?” Dimitri asks, voice trembling. He can’t lose Felix. Not here. Not in any lifetime.

 

“My master ordered us to take the Fraldarius heir and, if possible, the dragon, but Kostas failed. I guess I can return the Fraldarius boy if I brought him the Blaiddyd heir. Master would be very pleased.”

 

“Over my dead body!” Rodrigue yells.

 

Something goes dim in Felix’s eyes. He opens his mouth, but no sound comes out, and so he shuts his eyes, ready for his end.

 

The Prince takes a deep breath.

 

His lance falls to the ground with a thud, followed by the glowing dagger. He removes his gauntlets, two daggers from his waist, and lets go of Rodrigue, who tries to hold him back.

 

“Then take me. Let him go,” Dimitri says, voice gentle.

 

“Your Highness!” Rodrigue pleas. “Dimitri… please, come back!” He tries to grab the Prince once again, but the Crest of Blaiddyd prevails. None of the knights can move without a direct order from Rodrigue or Dimitri, not to mention both the second son of the Duke and the Prince are in the bandit’s proximity…

 

Dimitri is four feet away from the bandit. Felix’s eyes widen, tears forming in the corners, “Dima, no…”

 

“It’s alright, Felix. I’ll be alright.”

 

The bandit pushes the younger Fraldarius to the ground, yanking Dimitri closer. He tries to ignore the despaired Duke and the frantic knights, along with a screaming goddess yelling at him in the back of his head.

 

But it is the right thing to do. Dimitri thinks. To protect his family and friends instead of sending them to their graves, that is his atonement.

 

Are there any regrets? Yes. Dimitri feels only sorrow, sorrow that he will never get to see Byleth again. He prays to Sothis that Byleth will be happy and carefree in this world. He prays that Byleth finds someone who cherishes her, someone who doesn’t drag her into a war…

 

He can smell the warp spell in the air.

 

The dragon roars, wings and shadow cutting through the air. Their gust throws the strange man to the ground, and then beams of bright light flash everyone’s eyes shut, and when Dimitri opens his eyes, he sees a person, green-haired and dressed in the most familiar clothes, quickly disarm the man and immediately lock his throat.

 

The style of fighting. The footwork. The familiar scent of lavender and grass—

 

“Byleth,” Dimitri murmurs as if in a dream.

 

The knights quickly take the man down. Rodrigue runs, almost tripping, to check Dimitri, “Dimitri… Dimitri! Why did you do that?”

 

But the Prince doesn’t have time to even acknowledge him or the fact that Rodrigue prioritizes him over Felix once again. He probably should comfort Felix first, but…

 

Dimitri walks towards the person of his dream. Byleth Byleth Byleth, is that really you?

 

And he hears this. “Damnit!” a man’s voice. Sothis has gone eerily quiet since the dragon transforms. It is all so strange. How can Byleth’s voice…

 

“Tube of poison under his tongue. He’s dead.” The green-haired savior raises their head.

 

And Dimitri freezes on the spot.

 

Sothis, does Byleth have a twin brother in this world?

 

But the goddess is quiet.

 

His savior sighs and stands up from the crouching position. He turns to the crowd, who has been staring at him in disbelief. “Did the dragon just turn into a man?!” Dimitri hears Rowan yell.

 

The man turns back to look at Dimitri, “I should properly introduce myself. I am Byleth Eisner.”

 

For the first time, Dimitri voluntarily wants to pass out, but his body stubbornly refuses his request.

-------

“Mr. Eisner, I have to express my utmost gratitude on behalf of House Fraldarius. I could never imagine the consequences if it were not you…”

 

“Nobody would stand by and do nothing in that situation,” Byleth sounds just so tired.

 

Dimitri has been hiding at the river after the revelation, eavesdropping on Byleth. He is just unsure how to react in front of him, the male Byleth. Also, why is his heart beating so fast? He doesn’t remember his heart racing when they first met in their last life. Dimitri definitely went all flushed and flustered when Byleth finally turned her gaze at him after defeating Kostas in Remire but certainly not… not like this.

 

“Is everyone alright?” Byleth flings her sword free of blood, turning away from Edelgard only to find Dimitri standing nearby. Dimitri swallows. His cheeks turn red and posture stiff and and and…

 

“Oh my, not surprising at all. You are the schoolboy in love again,” Sothis says.

 

I’m not even sure about my feelings, Sothis. What if… What if it isn’t love? What if I can’t fulfill my promise to her… No, to him, but… he was a woman in the previous timeline so maybe I should say her. Or should I say “they”? But… what does he… she… they… identify with? Dimitri’s head hurts.

 

“He identifies himself as a man this time. He, him.”

 

How do you know?

 

“It’s my Byleth, dummy.”

 

Then why couldn’t you tell the dragon’s identity in the first place? Can you still talk to… him?

 

“Well I lost the ability to communicate with him since I got separated from his… well, her body, since we were talking about the old Byleth. And no, I couldn’t even tell which of my kids is which so… you can say I’m basically useless on these matters.”

 

I’m scared, Sothis.

 

“Don’t worry. Let the feelings flow. I say everything is possible since you were a virgin”—Dimitri chokes on his saliva— “when you married Byleth in the past life, and she was… what? Your second crush? You don’t have that much experience with girls, not to mention with boys. You haven’t even explored your sexuality, I mean.”

 

Wait wait wait… You saw us… in bed…?

 

Dimitri still remembers his wedding night. It went… a bit too over the board (and that is probably an understatement) that half of the castle knew neither of them slept that night. He still feels abashed thinking about how they had to face Felix and a winking Sylvain the next morning.

 

“That is your focus?! I’m not a creep, okay? But when you’re stuck inside someone’s head, you can do nothing but try very hard to ignore everything that is happening! Also, I created the human reproductive biology, so there is nothing to hide away from me.”

 

A long pause from Dimitri, who clearly needs the time to calm himself down not to think about the goddess watching them having a very debauched sex.

 

But it… it feels like cheating. Dimitri sighs.

 

It takes the goddess a moment to understand what Dimitri means. “The two Byleth’s share the same soul, Dimitri. Maybe they’re a bit different in some way, but they are the same person.”

 

What if she… he, doesn’t love men?

 

But before Sothis can answer, someone has approached him.

 

“I’ve been looking for you,” says Byleth.

 

“Ah!” Dimitri falls from the dried tree trunk. He embraces for impact but nothing happens. Dimitri looks up—Byleth has him in his arms.

 

Close, too close. So close that if Dimitri raises his head just a tiny bit, their lips will touch. Dimitri wonders if those lips are as soft as he remembers, as warm as in their last life. He can see his reflection in Byleth’s eyes, the green irises a shade so nostalgic. His expression… oh dear Sothis almighty, stern and emotionless and yet it sends back memories. Something so endearing comes from that face, that handsome face (to think this is only the teenage Byleth!). And the scent… Lavender and grass are what he is familiar with from his wife, but petrichor and forest are… something that only belongs to this Byleth, the Byleth who doesn’t even know him yet.

 

Maybe he has already left a poor impression. Getting startled. Falling from a tree trunk when being approached. Calling the dragon “it”. And so stupidly offering himself in exchange for Felix, not even considering the consequences (though Dimitri never regrets it) …

 

Dimitri closes his eyes, cheeks all flushed, and prays to Sothis to save his damaged first impression, if that is even possible.

 

“Are you alright? You seem in… distress,” Byleth asks, yet to let go of Dimitri. His voice is deep but gentle.

 

“I’m alright. I’m alright. Yes, I’m totally alright,” Dimitri frantically repeats himself, ignoring Sothis’ cackles.

 

Byleth hums, helping Dimitri regain his balance to sit back straight again, but he doesn’t let go of Dimitri’s neck. “Bel… Prof…” Dimitri almost bites his own tongue, “Byleth?” This one is correct.

 

Byleth moves his hand away immediately, but Dimitri already misses his touch. “Forgive me, I didn’t ask for your permission before touching you.”

 

“No, it’s totally alright! Definitely totally alright! A hundred percent.”

 

Princeling, stop repeating yourself. I can’t even watch.

 

Go away, Sothis.

 

Don’t you dare use that tone at me! But Sothis relents anyway, grunting and disappearing into the deep of his head.

 

Byleth tilts his head, staring at Dimitri’s burning face for a moment, “Are you having a fever?” He places his forehead on Dimitri’s. The younger boy freezes once again, feeling too overwhelmed breathing in Byleth’s breaths. It only lasts a few seconds.

 

“You do feel a little hot,” Byleth says, then moves the hand back to Dimitri’s neck. “Does it still hurt?”

 

Dimitri blinks, shivering under the touch, “How… how do you know?”

 

“I’m sorry that I sent the gust a little too much, making you strain your neck but… it was the best I could do,” before Dimitri can say anything, Byleth is already channeling power into Dimitri’s body.

 

It’s so warm. Dimitri remembers the magic from other heelers. Mercedes’ feels refreshing. Annette’s feels sweet, somehow. Sylvain’s makes him a little bit giddy, while Felix’s heal spells is somewhat too aggressive, as if his only objective is “get this stupid person out of their shitty state and send their ass back to the battle”, giving no heed if the receiver can take something that strong all at once.

 

Byleth’s is soothing, like a warm afternoon in Fhirdiad. But this Byleth… somehow that power is warmer, more powerful, with something new that he is yet to register. Do people’s power differ from timeline to timeline? Dimitri wonders. But Rodrigue’s is just the same… And Liam’s… He remembers how many times Glenn took him to Liam after chaffing his knee.

 

He has forgotten the passage of time when Byleth’s magic stops. Dimitri sighs, partly in relief and partly yearning for more.

 

“You haven’t had a good sleep since long ago, have you?” Byleth asks, face still blank and yet actions caring so much.

 

Dimitri blinks. How does Byleth know? “Yes… ever since…” he didn’t trust Byleth that much when they first met, never telling her about the tragedy until later that school year, and never about his nightmares until the war. And yet he is telling the new Byleth everything now. “Ever since the day… I lost my father and step-mother, in Duscur.”

 

Is it because of the dim twilight or the shades they’re under? Why does Byleth look so pale? So pale that he seems…

 

“May I?” Byleth gestures to his hands. Dumbfounded, Dimitri only nods. Then Byleth takes one hand into his palms, kissing his fingers so gently. Dimitri feels that warm power going directly to his temple, chasing away all the migraine and tension. It gets stronger when the lips move to his palm. Eventually, he dozes off right there on the trunk, leaning into Byleth’s shoulder.

 

Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd realizes one thing that day: He is still madly in love with the new Byleth.

Chapter Text

People in the court have all heard that Margrave Sylvain José Gautier and the former Margrave, Aldric Osmund Gautier, stopped talking years ago. However, the details of the father and son’s relationship rarely interest the gossipy people at Castle Fhirdiad because everyone knows exactly why Aldric left his territories days after the war ended after servants in the Gautier Mansion saw Sylvain and Felix entered the old Margrave’s study for a talk one night.

 

People from the court know exactly where Aldric is after numerous witnesses found him passionately debating “the importance of Crest values” in the city center of Enbarr on many occasions, so Dimitri actually urged him to come back with letters and messengers. However, the old Margrave only told the King that he’d rather have his degenerate, useless son to inherit his title than going back.

 

(Dimitri sighed. “Degenerate” and “useless” weren’t the words Aldric used. He knew better than direct quoting the exact words to Felix and Sylvain.)

 

Therefore, people know exactly why Aldric swore to people that he would no longer return to Faerghus, not even for his son’s wedding. (That’s exactly the reason Aldric left in the first place.) After disappearing and neglecting his duty for a year, King Dimitri signed a decree, naming Sylvain the new Margrave Gautier to deal with the rising conflicts on the border of Sreng.

 

Therefore, when a messenger from Enbarr shows up at Castle Fhirdiad, Felix is surprised to find out that the former Margrave will be visiting the crown prince in a few days.

 

This is not good. Felix knows something will happen, but he isn’t sure what. Sylvain rarely talks about his family to avoid the mention of unpleasant memories, so all Felix has heard about the former Margrave Aldric Gautier is how he encouraged Miklan’s hatred for Sylvain.

 

After meeting with the messenger, the King Regent considers sending the young Margrave a letter. Sylvain, accompanied by Ingrid, went back to handle some affairs mere days ago. It’s already February. Farmers need aids to plan for plowing the field and planting new crops. Gautier suffered from excessive rain last year. Then the royal couple died. People need their lord’s help.

 

As the Prince and Princess’ guardian and the Regent, Felix can’t leave the capital, so Sylvain will handle his work in Fraldarius, too.

 

There is too much to be done. Felix doesn’t have the luxury to call back his husband, though he has started missing him terribly.

 

No. If I let him know his father will be here in a few days, Sylvain will ride back immediately like a madman.

 

Felix shakes his thought away. He summons the head maid and butler to prepare for the retired Margrave’s arrival. And yet one thought keeps bothering him, why visiting now?

 

Dimitri opens his eyes only to find out Aldric’s carriage arriving at the castle. The confused ghost watches as the attendants open the door and follows as a servant leads the older Gautier to his room.

 

Aldric Osmund Gautier takes his time, as Felix finds out. He doesn’t request an audience with the King Regent at once. He doesn’t push when the servants tell him the Crown Prince is training. He simply stays in his room, drinking a cup of tea.

 

The King Regent is still in a meeting when an assistant informs the former Margrave’s behavior. The conference has dragged on an entire day, and Felix grows more suspicious when he hears about how calm Aldric seems to be. He has put two Knights of Faerghus on babysitting duty—one of them is, of course, Gilbert—since the Regent trusts no one but the Knights to protect the twins in his absence. However, just in case Gilbert decides to train the two three-years-old with his draconian methodology that Felix and Dimitri know too well, the worried surrogate father brings in another person.

 

Flayn does help Felix quite a lot especially in Sylvain’s absence, reading stories to Alex or taking Sitri out on her pegasus, but whenever Flayn is here, the Regent constantly finds himself hosting another important guest, and that guest comes from Almyra.

 

Apparently, everyone from their circle but the Church has been aware of Flayn’s relationship with Claude. The priestess visits Fhirdiad to look after the twins, and that is what Seteth needs to know. Flayn would arrive at the castle before Claude visits a couple of days later. The Almyran King would stay for another few days before going back to his kingly duties, snuggling up to Flayn everywhere in Castle Fhirdiad whenever no servants are around.

 

Felix has warned them many, many times, but Claude always responds with that annoying grin. He knows the King Regent wouldn’t dare tell Seteth because if he did, the all murderous bishop would show up with his lance on a wyvern’s back in mere hours, ready to claim the King’s head. That will not just be a mess. That’s a fucking international political crisis.

 

The last thing Felix wants is Nader showing up with an Almyran army, avenging their murdered King.

 

The meeting is finally over at midnight. Felix sighs in exhaustion and pulls off his hair tie, allowing his hair to fall to his shoulders. On the table sits a letter from Claude, informing his safe return to Almyra. Then there are piles of documents—Dimitri sees a lot about the armory, military rations, and recruit plans.

 

Earlier that day, Dimitri sat in the council meeting for a brief moment. Apparently, the nobles all believe preparing an army is unnecessary right now since there is no trace of enemy attack anywhere in Fódlan. Felix and Count Galatea were the only major lords who argued the late King and Queen’s murderers still posed a threat.

 

“Pardon me, Your Grace,” a general says, “but should we be considering… other explanations for King Dimitri and Queen Byleth’s… death?”

 

“What is your explanation?”

 

The lords look among themselves until finally, a bold one says, “You remember the legend of the Valley of Torment, Your Grace?”

 

The same javelins of light.

 

Felix clenches his fists under the table, “Are you implying that many of you believe the King and the Archbishop were killed because of divine punishment?”

 

Dimitri can’t listen anymore. He leaves the Regent to look for his children.

 

After the meeting, the very tired King Regent sits alone in the dark room for another moment, completely unaware that his dead friend has returned back to the council room and is actually sitting next to him as a ghost.

 

Dimitri only wonders what Felix is thinking about right now. He has not seen Felix this tired for a long time.

 

Felix picks up the twins from Gilbert, glad to find out that Flayn didn’t try to feed them anything she cooked. Alex sleeps on his left shoulder like a bag of potatoes while Sitri in his right arm. Dimitri follows him in the hallway as the raven-haired man carries the children back to their quarters. He feels both warm and a pang of jealousy: Dimitri can see how much devotion Felix has to his children, but he wants to be part of that life, too.

 

In the dark hallway, Dimitri hears Felix curse under his breath, “Damn boar, I should probably beat you back to life to carry your little boars. They’re getting…” Felix shifts Alex on his shoulder, “heavy.” The children are fast asleep to hear the crude words.

 

I wish I could, Felix.

 

Felix can’t hear him. He drags his tired body, where two other smaller bodies hang from, back to him and the new family quarters, as Dimitri hears Felix refers to as such (Dimitri feels another pang), only to find the former Margrave awaits, whom Lucas the Blaiddyd Rex has been keeping an eye on. The dog refuses to turn his gaze away from the said man, scrutinizing him with suspicious eyes.

 

“Good evening, Your Grace,” Aldric greets.

 

Felix hums in response. He doesn’t want to fake amiability after their last meeting was rather, well, hostile. Aldric almost wrecked the house after Sylvain told him he and Felix were dating and that they didn’t give a fuck about his opinion.

 

Felix simply goes straight to the nursery. The former Margrave follows, watching Felix tuck the children in bed by the door—he tries to set foot in the room but Lucas hisses at him as a warning. So maybe the pet dog isn’t that useless. Felix thinks.

 

Aldric’s eyes are full of strange emotions, but they disappear when Felix turns back to him. And yet the look has already crept Dimitri out.

 

He is after something.

 

Felix closes the door, finally talking in normal volume. “What are you doing here? It’s late,” he asks.

 

“I have not spoken to you since I arrived, have I, Your Grace?”

 

“Then you could’ve joined the council meeting today. Nobody would raise an eyebrow if you were there.”

 

“I have not met with the Crown Prince once, so I figured I could see him here.”

 

“Dimitri invited you many times to the twins’ birthday celebrations, and yet you never bothered to come. If you’re only here to feed me with lies, then good night, Margrave Gautier.”

 

Aldric stops him before Felix can turn away, suddenly switching to his first name, “Say, Felix, has Sylvain mentioned anything about his heir? Surely someone needs to take up the duties as the next Margrave.”

 

Felix narrows his eyes, his exhaustion is giving way to simmering anger, but the children are next door. He can’t risk wakening and frightening them with a fight. “You should talk to Sylvain. He is the lord of the Gautier territories.”

 

“Then you two have talked about it. What are your plans, Felix?”

 

“Are we even on a first name basis?”

 

Felix turns but hears the man asks, “Is he going to take a wife?”

 

The raven-haired man snaps, “We are married.” His thumb runs on the wedding band subconsciously as if seeking Sylvain’s presence.

 

“He needs a woman. One day when he’s tired of his whimsical idea of love, he will take a woman. You know the way he was before.”

 

The twins are sleeping next door. Felix inhales and exhales, deciding not to argue here. He turns and goes to his bedroom.

 

“And by that time, you won’t become his obstacle, will you Felix?”

 

Felix slams the door shut.

 

He can’t sleep that night. He can’t even summon the courage to cry. The King Regent has to stay strong.

 

Felix sits on his side of the bed, his gaze constantly falling on the other side—Sylvain’s side. He slips a hand underneath Sylvain’s pillow. It’s cold—no trace of that man’s body temperature. Not even the scent of bergamot in the sheets the servants just changed.

 

He feels so hollow.

 

Dimitri stays by his side. He wishes Felix knew that he isn’t alone.

 

Felix opens his eyes a few hours later after drifting into a weird realm of void for who-knows-how-long. He’s not sure if that counted as sleep when he was aware of every second that passed, but he is immediately sent into a stupor when Sylvain emerges from the door, panting on his way in.

 

“Sylvain?!” Felix is pulled into a tight embrace. Sylvain is sweaty, and there is a weird smell… like a spell. Felix wrinkles his nose, “You warped back?”

 

Sylvain is still out of breath. “Technically, I warped… five times… to get back. The spell—and the mages, couldn’t… get too far. Sothis… almighty! Warping… didn’t… feel good.” The young Margrave suddenly rushes to the bathroom, throwing up into the toilet. Felix gets out of bed, Dimitri follows, and they both pat Sylvain on the back.

 

No one from the Blue Lions learned the warp spell, so this must be Sylvain’s first time. Dimitri had an experience in the academy when Lysithea was learning the spell with Professor Hanneman. The Prince naively offered himself as her practice subject and later stayed in the infirmary for a week after the young warlock accidentally warped him to the rooftop from where Dimitri fell off.

 

Where is Lysithea anyway? Dimitri wonders. After the war, Claude has been in contact with every other Golden Deer student, but he never got a letter from Lysithea.

 

After retching for a couple of minutes, Sylvain finally feels better. Felix fetches him a cup of water and a clean towel.

 

“Thanks, Fe.”

 

Felix kneels next to him, humming a response. He runs a hand through Sylvain’s tangled hair, apparently tousled during warping, and that hair… It reminds Felix of the older Gautier. Then the Duke suddenly recalls his conversation with Aldric last night, and it is just…

 

“Did my father give you any trouble?”

 

Felix’s hand pauses.

 

“He did, right?” Sylvain’s eyes darken.

 

“Nothing I couldn’t handle.”

 

“Felix, I know my father. I know how much he can hurt people.”

 

“Why did you come back? The work is done?”

 

Sylvain stands up, pulling Felix in for another hug. “He sent me a message before he left Enbarr. I… I had to come back to you.”

 

“Sylvain! You know I can handle it! But people in our territories can’t!”

 

“Fe, I made arrangements. Ingrid totally understands, so she’s covering for me.”

 

“This… this may be his plan! Whatever he’s thinking, he might just want you back and… trap you in some way and…”

 

“I can’t leave you alone with him. We need to face him together, Felix. This is about us.”

 

“But…”

 

Sylvain seals the younger man’s words with his lips. The kiss starts intense but gradually melts into something gentle. Long and soft.

 

Dimitri smiles. He leaves to give his friends some privacy.

 

“Fe, my dear Fe,” Sylvain slowly breaks the kiss, his lips trailing the shape of Felix’s ear, “our territories have a hundred solutions, but I only have one you. Just… let me be selfish once, okay?”

 

Felix pauses, and the next second, he starts tearing Sylvain’s cloak away, then his armor, his shirt. “Take me to bed,” he pecks on his neck, earning a moan from the other man.

 

When Sylvain enters him, Felix shudders in the temporary pain but melts in his husband’s warm body. His face contorts at the intrusion, so Sylvain pauses, leaving gentle kisses all over Felix’s face, whispering his love.

 

Felix loves being enveloped by his body, his heat. He remembers their first kiss in the academy, how gentle and soft Sylvain was when he captured his lips. He remembers their first time during the war after Sylvain nearly died to protect him. “I’m ready, Syl.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

Felix responds by rolling his hips, surprising a choked whimper out of Sylvain. “Please, give me all of your love.”

 

Sylvain starts at a slow pace—slow but accurate and deep as if trying to imprint his love in the younger man’s soul. Felix cries out in pleasure. He feels he’s basking in the afternoon sun in Fraldarius when they were still young, and things were still simple. He dreads the hollow feeling that constantly haunted him recently, and yet the man pounding into him makes him so safe. So full.

 

Felix doesn’t think he will last long. “You’re mine,” he chokes out a cry, nails digging into the man’s back, arms tightening around his torso, “my Sylvain—mine only.”

 

Sylvain’s breaths have become quick and ragged, “Yours. All yours. And you’re mine.”

 

Felix’s vision turns white when he reaches his euphoria, shaking in Sylvain’s arms. Sylvain follows, biting into Felix’s shoulder to muffle his cries of ecstasy.

 

After a while, their pants calm down, breaths stable eventually. They are both hot and sweaty, bodies sticky from their chase of pleasure. Sylvain still lies on top of Felix’s body. He tries to roll off, but Felix refuses to let him go, clinging to him tightly.

 

Sylvain sighs. He runs a hand through Felix’s hair, admiring how soft and silky the dark strands are, and the other hand caresses the younger man’s cheek lovingly.

 

“Fe, I don’t know how he tried to poison our relationship but know that I will never let you go. In this life, and in all the lifetimes that will come.”

 

Felix buries his face in Sylvain’s chest, hiding the tears in the corner of his eyes.

-------

Dimitri wakes up by the campfire, disoriented. What is Aldric Gautier after? His head hurts. He needs to check on the children. His children…

 

No. He’s back in the new world. He remembers how he fell asleep by the river with Byleth by his side, and yet now he is wrapped in a cloak with the symbol of the Crest of Fraldarius—too small for Rodrigue, so it clearly belongs to…

 

Felix pulls Dimitri in for a tight embrace. He’s trembling—Dimitri realizes—trembling, and something is dampening his hair…

 

He’s crying.

 

Dimitri blinks, “Sothis, is this what you saw?”

 

The goddess hums.

 

“The Fraldarius boy found you and Byleth sleeping by the river, and he thought you two were dead.”

 

Oh.

 

Dimitri gets up, looking for Felix and Byleth. “How long was I out, Sothis?”

 

A deep voice replies, “About two hours, Your Highness.”

 

Dimitri tenses.

 

Dedue has been hearing him talking to Sothis the entire time. He is tending the fire, making sure the Prince doesn’t freeze in his sleep. “De… Dedue,” Dimitri stutters, “Have you seen, um, Felix and… Byleth?”

 

“Mr. Eisner woke up a while ago. I believe they went out sparring.”

 

“Thank you, Dedue. I’ll look for them.”

 

“Then allow me to accompany you, Your Highness.”

 

And one question crosses through Dimitri’s mind. Isn’t Dedue’s manner of speaking too… refined? It took Dedue quite some time to grasp it in his past life, and… Didn’t it take Dedue two years to look me in the eyes?

 

“Do you think he’s also from the last timeline?” Sothis hums with curiosity.

 

I should be the one asking you the question, Sothis.

 

“I don’t even know if there is the possibility, since no mortal but you have actually traveled between two times,” Sothis says.

 

“Forgive me if I’m probing, Your Highness, but were you… by any chance, talking to somebody?” Dedue asks.

 

“Oh shit,” in their short time of symbiosis, Dimitri has come to realize that the goddess of Fódlan never hesitates to curse.

 

What do I say, Sothis?

 

“Well, he’s Dedue, right? Surely he wouldn’t mind you having hallucinations or things.”

 

This isn’t funny, Sothis. He heard me talking to you. I said your name just now.

 

“Don’t worry. He wouldn’t think you’re really communicating with me. People think it is faithful to talk to the goddess, but it is… another thing if you hear me talking to you.”

 

Dimitri decides to ignore Sothis for now because he has paused for too long to mentally communicating with the goddess, and because she isn’t helpful at all. “You probably heard me praying to the goddess Sothis, Dedue.”

 

Dedue looks at him and after a moment, he nods slowly, obviously unconvinced. “It may not be my position to say so, but please do not hesitate to let me know if you need to talk to someone. You have us.”

 

Dimitri blinks.

 

It was the cathedral. Dimitri hunched over the broken altar, muttering silent pleas to his family.  Memories of that time are blurry to him now, but Dimitri always remembered how Byleth stayed in the other corner every night and how Dedue’s footsteps lingered in the room, his loyal vassal and friend checking on him every other hour.

 

“Your Highness, you’ll always have us,” Dedue beckoned shakily.

 

“Dedue…please.” Let me go. But Dimitri couldn’t finish that sentence. It was a particularly difficult night. He lost too much blood, too much for a normal man to stay alive, and yet he still lived. How ironic. Dedue cradled his half-limp body in his arms while Byleth waved spells over spells to keep him conscious. “Please, Your Highness, stay with me. You have us. You’ll always have us. Please, Dimitri… Please…”

 

It was the first time Dedue ever called his name.

 

“Thank you, Dedue,” Dimitri says. He needs to confirm something later.

-------

“Again,” Felix grits his teeth and grabs his sword from the ground. He wipes the sweat from his forehead, hair steaming in the cold air. Byleth, apparently, just disarmed him.

 

The older teenager flings his sword in the air though there is no blood that needs to be cleaned, a move that reminds Dimitri of the other Byleth, of their past together.

 

“It’s already too much for you today, Felix.”

 

“No, I have to get stronger as soon as possible. One more round.”

 

“Then you have to save up energy for your training tomorrow. Regularity over intensity,” says Byleth, still deadpan.

 

“He’s right, Felix,” Dimitri says, appearing from the bushes. Dedue follows. Dimitri notices how Dedue’s expression slightly changes when seeing Byleth, as if the Duscur boy is too confused to say anything.

 

Byleth and Felix turn their gaze at the two, the latter narrowing his eyes. And before anyone can react, Felix strides across the clearing and shoves Dimitri to the ground.

 

“Felix!” Dedue panics.

 

“Felix…”

 

“Shut up, boar,” Felix straddles his chest, both hands gripping his collar tightly, “What the hell did you think you were doing today?!”

 

“What… what did I do?”

 

“That weird bandit!”

 

“Oh,” Dimitri blinks, not sure why he is so angry, “I was trying to… protect you?”

 

Dimitri sees fury in the younger boy’s eyes. Felix grabs his collar upward, shaking and yelling at the top of his lungs, “I don’t need your death in exchange for mine, you stupid fucking boar! Don’t you understand?!”

 

Dimitri freezes. Everyone is silent. Felix’s chest heaves in anger, but it pauses a when he realizes tears are falling down his cheeks and turns away to wipe them clean.

 

Felix stands up to walk away. Dimitri immediately gets on his feet, moving to follow, “Felix—”

 

“I’m hungry. I’ll check what they’re cooking,” says Felix, without looking back at Dimitri at all.

 

The young Prince stops. He knows Felix needs a moment to himself.

 

And when Felix’s footsteps disappear in the woods, Dimitri hears a “thud.” He turns only to find Byleth kneeling on the ground, supporting his weight with the sword.

 

“Byleth… What’s wrong?” Dimitri rushes to his side. He realizes, again, how pale Byleth seems and how shaky and cold those hands are.

 

“I’m alright,” Byleth wipes a trail of blood clean from the corner of his mouth.

 

“No, you’re not,” Dimitri helps him move to an elm tree, refusing to loosen his grip on Byleth’s shoulder. The older teenager frowns, gaze falling on Dimitri’s hand.

 

“I’m—I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t…” Dimitri withdraws his hand like a burning reflex, “but, are you really alright?”

 

Byleth sighs, leaning back against the tree, “I’ve been like this since I was born… just easily tired in this form. It’s easier for me to stay as a dragon.”

 

Huh—Dimitri hears the goddess hums in the back of his head—something like that can happen to my children but… She tries her best to remember. But it can’t be… Byleth can’t… No, my head hurts.

 

“Can you…” transform back to the dragon?

 

Byleth knows what Dimitri is suggesting, “No. Transformation into the dragon form and back to man takes up too much energy. I don’t have it yet.”

 

“Why?”

 

Byleth shakes his head, sighing in exhaustion. Dimitri unties his cloak, wrapping around Byleth’s torso. “I’m used to the weather. You need it,” Dimitri says when Byleth tries to stop him. Then he picks Byleth up with ease. “Let’s get you back to the camp, shall we? You’re freezing here.”

 

Byleth nods, closing his eyes.

 

Dimitri keeps thinking about Byleth’s transformation. If he’d been stronger, Byleth wouldn’t have had to transform back to the human form, right? He didn’t need to fight for Dimitri and Felix, and he wouldn’t have been drained like…

 

“Dimitri?”

 

“Yes, Byleth?” Dimitri can’t help smiling. He remembers carrying Byleth back to their chambers after a long day’s duties as the Archbishop. A distant but loving memory.

 

“Don’t blame yourself for anything. I transformed not just to save you, but also the knights,” somehow it seems Byleth can read his heart. Dimitri tenses. “If I stayed as the dragon, I may accidentally step on someone, right?”

 

Dimitri’s heart flutters, looking into his eyes, and yet Byleth continues as if seeing none of his expressions. “Just… don’t think too much about it. Promise?” He used almost all of his strength to raise a hand, patting Dimitri on the head.

 

The Prince nods with a blush, “I promise.”

-------

After checking on Felix after dinner, Dimitri makes sure Byleth gets plenty of blankets from the convoy. The older teenager soon falls asleep out of exhaustion. Rodrigue comes by, worried about their savior and new friend, and helps heal any remaining wounds on his body.

 

For the first time, Dimitri has the opportunity to observe the new Byleth’s appearance. His chin is not yet refined, with a bit of baby fat on the side of his cheeks. He is shorter, just a little taller than Dimitri. From what Dimitri can see, Byleth seems to have less scars than in the last lifetime (the young Prince is glad), and his hands are so much smoother. Perhaps this is due to the dragon’s healing ability?

 

Byleth, in this world, can turn into a dragon. Dimitri still finds it unbelievable.

 

He notices Dedue’s gaze from the campfire not far away. The teenage boy from Duscur has been watching over him, almost like a mother…

 

He needs to confirm. Dimitri exhales before standing up.

 

Wait, princeling. What are you doing?!

 

“Dedue, with me please,” Dimitri totally ignores Sothis’ protest. The other boy freezes briefly and, after a moment, nods in response.

 

If I’m wrong, you’ll use a Pulse for me.

 

“Wait a second. You can’t possibly ask me to—” Sothis screams when Dimitri stops listening to her. “Blaiddyd! Ugh, you two are the end of me!”

 

Just when the Prince and the boy from Duscur stop in the clearing where no one can see them, Dimitri suddenly launches an attack at Dedue—not aiming to harm, but aiming to test, just like what Byleth used to do with them.

 

Dedue’s eyes widen, but his body reacts before his mind does. He easily takes the Prince’s assault, blocking his move with his forearm before initiating his attack, Fierce Iron Fist. Dimitri grins. He dodges it easily, and Dedue seems to realize what they’re doing and stops.

 

“Dedue, how long do you think you can keep it away from me that you are also from the future?”

 

The older boy gasps. “Your… Your Majesty.”

Chapter Text

“What happened that day?” Dimitri asks.

 

He and Dedue sit in the clearing, staring at the campfire in a distance. It’s late in the evening. The Prince can’t tell what his friend’s visage, but shadow with faint flickers of light casts on his face.

 

After Dimitri finally confronted Dedue, silence has fallen upon them. It’s inevitable—to think he died and then his friend died after preventing his children’s death and presumably after witnessing his wife’s death, and now they are back together as buddies in a new world?

 

This is surreal. They just need a moment.

 

“Forgive me, Your Majesty, but my memories have been… quite blurry after the royal entourage was attacked. Then the assassination… I thought I fell asleep, and when I opened my eyes, I saw the village and my sister.”

 

Dimitri is silent. It might be the best, not knowing the details of Byleth’s death.

 

They stare into the darkness for another moment.

 

“What about you, Your Majesty? None of us knew what happened in your carriage, and Her Majesty’s orders were quite strange that day,” Dedue asks.

 

Dimitri hasn’t tried thinking about that day since he came to the new time. It’s the same reason as to why he doesn’t want to recall the day of the Tragedy, but strange—as Duscur left him all the vivid and bloody images and screams, he can’t recall exactly what happened that day. He remembers there was light. He remembers Byleth’s screams. He threw his body over his wife and children, and that’s it.

 

“Strange,” part of Dimitri wants to remember, but the absence of memories may be bliss, “I can’t… seem to recall, either.”

 

Sothis yawns, “That sounds quite familiar, doesn’t it? I can’t seem to recall my life. Just like you two.”

 

“You can’t recall, either, Sothis?” Dimitri asks. “What do you remember?”

 

“It’s all quite fuzzy. I remember a bit of this and a bit of that, but none of them connect with each other.”

 

“And… why did you go to a long sleep?”

 

“I don’t know,” the goddess sounds sad. The conversation goes on.

 

Once again, Dimitri forgets that Dedue is sitting by his side, watching him talk to the air. The vassal’s expression first turns surprised since Dimitri has never talked to the goddess or offer prayers before. It might be a good sign—being religious is probably better than being… Well, maybe not, Dedue decides, because Dimitri is actually getting responses and having a conversation with Sothis, as if this is totally normal. This is not the angry ghosts yelling at him. This is not the repetitive laughs and mocks and deadly pleas. Dimitri doesn’t even get to realize it is a hallucination. The Duscur boy gets anxious, and then worried, and then he can’t take it anymore.

 

“Your Majesty, are you, by any chance, talking to the goddess?”

 

“Oh yes,” Dimitri says, “and to be fair, her presence has made my new situation much easier.”

 

“You’re welcome,” the goddess says.

 

Dimitri finally realizes why Dedue has that current facial expression, “Dedue… please, my friend. You can’t be thinking I am hallucinating!”

 

“Hm,” Dedue only hums, saying nothing.

 

“Dedue! Do you not believe me?”

 

“I would trust you with my life, Your Majesty,” Dedue says. And Dimitri can trust his to Dedue, as they’ve proved to each other during the war. “However, I may have my own reservations when it comes to belief.”

 

“That is just… Dedue, stubborn as ever.” says Dimitri, frustrated. “Alright, I’ll prove to you now. Sothis, can we take Dedue back to the old timeline?”

 

“You’ve gotta be kidding me, princeling. You know that is out of my ability.”

 

“But you can take me back there.”

 

“And I don’t even know why. Most of the time you went back on your own volition!”

 

“Taking me back to… the old timeline?” Dedue says hesitantly while watching Dimitri talking to the invisible entity that he claims to be the goddess.

 

“Yes, and I can still see Alex and Sitri from time to time,” Dimitri says before talking to the goddess again. “Alright, then you know all of our secrets, right? Tell me something only Dedue knows.”

 

“Your Majesty, I doubt there is anything about me that you don’t know,” Dedue sighs.

 

Silence from the goddess. “Sothis… Don’t tell me you can’t do that, either.”

 

“Of course I can’t! I was stuck in Byleth’s head and all I could see was from his or her point of view! And those memories before I fully awakened were blur—hold on,” Sothis finally miraculously recalls one bit of her past, spending a moment to think, and then tells Dimitri.

 

Dimitri repeats to Dedue, “At one point of Byleth’s past life, you told her—she was a woman back then—you planted so many forget-me-nots because those are your sister Aria’s favorite flower. Your mother’s favorite is peonies, but they were hard to procure at the monastery.” Dimitri pauses for the goddess to tell him more. “And there’s a story in Duscur that a blond prince with a white horse would arrive and pick up the girl of his love—a commoner girl, and they will live happily ever after. Aria assumes I’m that prince.”

 

Dedue’s eyes widen, “How do you…?”

 

“Sothis,” Dimitri points at the goddess sitting next to him, though apparently Dedue can’t see her.

 

Dedue loses all words.

 

Thank you, Sothis. You’re finally a bit useful.

 

“Rude!” Sothis rolls her eyes.

 

Dedue becomes eerily quiet that night even when the knights ask him about more Duscur legends. Though with his taciturn nature, the boy is usually happy to share stories of his culture. People think he’s just tired, but Dimitri knows why.

 

Later that night, Dimitri is still awake when everyone has fallen asleep. Rodrigue sets his cot closer to the four teenagers (well, three normal boy and a dragon-turned-teenager). Felix despises the idea, so he settles down next to Byleth, twelve feet away from his father.

 

Dimitri can’t help looking at Byleth, fast asleep. Dimitri stares as the green-haired teenager’s chest rises and falls, and that indication of life calms the Prince down. He can’t tear his eyes away from Byleth, as if the latter will disappear once he does so, their life once again torn apart by the hand of time.

 

Does he remember? Dimitri wonders. If Dedue does, is there a possibility that he does, too?

 

Probably not. There are too many signs. First, this Byleth doesn’t emote much while Byleth Eisner-Blaiddyd had come to laugh more and even throw tantrums throughout their time together (just think about that cookie incident). Second, there is something in Byleth’s behavior that Dimitri know he’s keeping a distance—a normal anxiety when someone is thrown into a gang of strangers. Yes he is doing a lot for them, but that’s only because Byleth is a nice person. Dimitri knows too well how little Byleth understands about social norms.

 

Dimitri sighs. He hates this. He hates that he can’t help staring at Byleth all the time while he knows, in no time, everybody will notice. He hates how many emotions are going through his chest while the love of his life is right there, and yet Dimitri can’t say any of it. And Dimitri hates that as much as he wants to ask and confess his time-traveling to Byleth, he cannot, and he cannot just go to Byleth and ask if he was also from the future just like Dimitri and Dedue.

 

The Prince hears Dedue shifting next to him. He turns and see the Duscur teenager also awake.

 

“Can’t sleep?” Dimitri asks.

 

Dedue shakes his head, “Thinking about what you said today.” They keep their voices under their breaths.

 

Dimitri hums. He turns to look at the night sky, suddenly wondering if Alex and Sitri see the same moon and stars as he does every night.

 

“How are the children?” Dedue asks.

 

“They are still coping, but Felix and Sylvain have been trying hard,” Dimitri says.

 

Dedue and Claude were the only two who knew the royal couple’s “contingency arrangements,” as they call it because they hate to use the word “wills.” Dimitri and Byleth first asked Dedue to be the guardian, but the Duscur man declines after thanking the couple.

 

“I’m afraid I am not the best candidate for such an important role, Your Majesty, though we all hope that this contingency plan will never come to use,” says the loyal vassal.

 

“Why not, Dedue?” Byleth tilts her head.

 

“The guardian of the Crown Prince will inevitably become King Regent. I am not familiar with politics, and even if we have all the Lions coming to my aid on political matters, please think about the implications of a man of Duscur becoming Fódlan’s Regent.”

 

“Please, my friend, it doesn’t matter to me. I trust you with my life, and I can trust my children to you” Dimitri says. They’d even consider Claude if none of the Lions were able to take up the responsibilities.

 

“I appreciate your consideration, Your Majesty, but the will is in place to avoid political turmoil. For the sake of the people of Fódlan and His Highness, please refrain from doing so.”

 

And ultimately, Dimitri and Byleth decided to make Felix the guardian. Dedue was the first to be informed.

 

“And… how is Ashe?” Dedue’s voice drives Dimitri back to the present.

 

Dimitri opens his mouth, but no sound comes out. How does he explain it to Dedue?

 

“He…” the Prince hesitates but decides to tell him, “I didn’t get to see him much, but according to Sylvain—Sylvain from that world, Ashe left the restaurant to his siblings. He cremated your body and took you back to Duscur after my funeral.” My funeral, it sounds so bizarre. “And he wasn’t planning to come back to Fódlan.”

 

Dedue spends a moment silent. “He… spent time studying our funerary traditions.”

 

Even Dimitri didn’t get to know of the Duscur funerary traditions until he saw Ashe researching in the library, hours after the royal funeral. The Duscurians cremate the deceased so their spirits will return to the sky where the gods dwell. Their bodies turn into ashes and are contained in golden urns. Those who die traveling outside of Duscur should return to their homeland, buried with their families.

 

Dimitri nods. He puts a hand on Dedue’s shoulder, patting gently.

 

“Good night, Dimitri,” Dedue says, his voice trembling with rare vulnerabilities.

 

Dimitri smiles. He loves it when Dedue drops honorifics, “Good night my friend.”

-------

“We’re going to Garreg Mach,” Dimitri announces in the morning.

 

The knights stop what they are doing, staring at the Prince with open mouths.

 

“Your Highness, the journey to the monastery takes four days from here if the weather allows. Six days if there is a rainstorm,” Rodrigue frowns.

 

“I am aware, but if we need someone with enough expertise in magic and weapons infused with magical power, we can either go to Cornelia or the Archbishop.” To be honest, Dimitri doesn’t want to see Rhea now. Not after witnessing how she tried separating Sitri from Alex and bringing her to the Church. Not after Garreg Mach did nothing to defend Glenn at Essex even they clearly knew he was wronged.

 

But he has no choice on this matter. “Also, didn’t Cassandra mention Glenn was taken to the monastery for treatment?”

 

Something flashes in Felix’s eyes. Rodrigue shakes his head, “We cannot take all of the Knights of Faerghus out of the capital. To think what Lord Rufus and Lady Cornelia will do…”

 

“I intend to send some of them back to the castle. I have summoned the rest of the knights from their missions, and they will join them in Fhirdiad to protect our people,” Dimitri says.

 

Without waiting for Rodrigue’s response, Felix turns to Dimitri, “We’ll go.”

 

“Felix, you cannot expect the crown prince to travel out of our territories without a full entourage of knights.”

 

“Are you for real, old man? Lady Cassandra and Lord Christophe have brought no less than 50 men and women.”

 

“Felix—”

 

“If you don’t want to go, fine. I’ll go with Dimitri. I’ll go see Glenn and let him know at least one of his families care about him.”

 

Dimitri never expects the conversation to turn into the father and son’s argument. The air has thickened up into heightened tension, leaving Dimitri no idea what to do.

 

And one person finally breaks the dangerous silence.

 

“Where is… the monastery?” Byleth asks.

 

The attention is now turned to Byleth. “Well nice joke, Mr. Eisner,” Rowan laughs, probably thankful that the younger man manages to divert the attention.

 

Dimitri and Dedue blink. Right, if Byleth doesn’t remember, he shouldn’t know anything about the Church or the monastery.

 

Byleth only tilts his head, with the iconic “confused Byleth” expression. Then Rowan starts to realize he wasn’t joking, “Wait, for real?”

 

“I’ve lived half my life as a dragon, Sir Rowan. I avoid meeting people in general just in case I transform in the middle of the day. Not everyone loves to see a dragon appearing out of nowhere like you all,” Byleth says, and when he sees Rowan clearly wants to say something else, he already knows what the knight is trying to say, “And yes, I do travel in my dragon form, but the routes have been planned to keep me away from people’s gaze.”

 

“What about your family, Byleth?” Dimitri asks.

 

“My father? He’s fine as long as I let him know where I’m going. I can use a messenger owl later today.”

 

Dimitri nods and turns back to Rodrigue, “We’re going.”

-------

The frustrated Rodrigue ends up throwing all of the four teenagers into a wagon before setting off for the monastery, just to make sure they don’t run off for some shenanigans during the journey. For one moment, Dimitri wonders if Felix from the past world will be the same as his father in ten years’ time, dealing with two teenagers who try to run off all the time.

 

Clearly, the Duke didn’t expect Felix to learn brawling in the wagon.

 

“Felix, if you keep smashing the walls and making the noises, your father would send us back to the castle,” Dedue sighs when Felix charges with a new move he just learned from Byleth.

 

The 14-year-old Dedue is already wall, nearing six feet—even taller than the adult Felix—with the strength of grown man, and yet the 12-year-old Felix wants to spar with him.

 

It’s been two days since they left Fhirdiad. They only pause for meals and for the night. When there is little time to train in the evening because Byleth is usually too tired for more training sessions, Felix decides to train on the go. It usually ends up with Byleth falling asleep while the younger Fraldarius continues training, and Dimitri would stay by his side when he drifts off.

 

Just like right now, Byleth sleeps like a log right next to Dimitri, even when the ride is bumpy and noises from the brawling are loud enough to wake anyone up.

 

Also, Dimitri has noticed that Byleth has a significantly smaller appetite compared to his past life, while the Prince gets hungry all the time. He would finish Byleth’s leftover portions but that’s still not enough. Food is limited on the road, so Dimitri keeps this all to himself to avoid Rodrigue and Dedue worrying over him all the time. He still gets to see Alex and Sitri in his dreams, but those seem to be only his “dream” than the actual reality.

 

At the same time, Sothis has been quiet recently. She’s always asleep, and Dimitri is always tired.

 

Just seconds after Dimitri dozes off, the wagon stops. Dimitri cracks his eyes open, thinking they are under attack, and relaxes when he sees who it is.

 

Rodrigue opens the door only to find two teenagers practicing brawling and two asleep.

 

“What? We are training,” Felix huffs when facing Rodrigue’s questioning glare.

 

“The knights outside almost thought you were going to wreck the wagon, Felix,” Rodrigue says.

 

“Then we can get a sturdier wagon in the next town. The Prince can afford it.”

 

The tired Duke looks like he regrets taking four teenagers on a journey, mentally blaming his old self for such a decision. “Do you want to spend some time outside, Felix?”

 

The Prince, half-asleep and half-awake, sees the way Felix’s eyes bright up. “Of course,” he says before stepping out, “I’ll get a horse and ride on my own.” He adds just as Rodrigue wants to offer a ride together.

 

The older Fraldarius sighs, “What about you, Dedue?”

 

“I can use some fresh air, thank you.”

 

And when they leave and the door closes again, the Prince suddenly realizes Dedue is trying to give him space alone with Byleth. Dimitri finally jolts awake, staring into the empty space where it suddenly feels so tight around him.

 

How is he going to not embarrass himself in front of Byleth?

 

Dimitri swallows and prays to Sothis that the older teenager stays asleep just a bit longer, so he doesn’t get to see how awkward the Prince is going to make himself look. “Goddess, what is wrong with me…” Dimitri groans, face in both hands.

 

He stays in that position, groaning things only he can understand, and he doesn’t know the other pair of eyes has been looking at him.

 

A small, cold hand makes contact to Dimitri’s head. The Prince raises his head to see Byleth, patting him in the way only Byleth knows how.

 

“Are you okay, Dimitri?”

 

“Yes—yes I’m fine. Thank you,” Dimitri stumbles. “How long… how long have you been awake?”

 

“A while,” Byleth runs his fingers through the blond locks. “Are you sure? You always seem so distressed.”

 

“May… maybe.” And that’s because of you, Byleth.

 

Byleth blinks, “Puppy love?”

 

Dimitri laughs. He remembers Byleth asking the same thing the night at the academy when Edelgard showed up with Manuela. “Prof… Byleth, it’s… yes, sort of. Puppy love.”

 

Byleth hums. They lie back down on the floor, sharing a moment of comfortable silence.

 

Dimitri thinks about the academy when he and Byleth would have a cup of chamomile together, and the momentary silence was always so calming especially when the voices were loud. Byleth always brought him gifts. Dimitri always thought chamomile was Byleth’s favorite but at some point, he realizes Byleth only has the student’s favorite tea during tea time.

 

“I’d love to have your preferred tea with you, professor. You shouldn’t indulge me that much all the time,” Dimitri tells her. “What is the tea that you like?”

 

Byleth thinks, and then shakes her head, “I don’t really have a preference. Everything except the lavender blend works fine with me.”

 

“I see… The options at the Garreg Mach market are relatively limited. I shall consult with Ferdinand for some imported tea. You may want to try more tea from Almyra and from the East. People say they are quite good, too.”

 

“Chamomile,” Byleth suddenly says, breaking Dimitri from his reverie, “Chamomile and… butterfly ranunculus. That’s what you smell like.”

 

Dimitri blinks. “I… I am not aware that butterfly ranunculus has a particular scent.”

 

“I’m a dragon, Dimitri. I smell better than regular humans do,” Byleth says. “My father said my mother loved flowers. Every time he went home with some flowers from different regions, my mother would give him the most beautiful smile. Sometimes he had to made dry flowers because of how long the journeys were, and butterfly ranunculus was something he would gift her. They are beautiful, but too fragile to care for.”

 

Dimitri hums. He wishes he knew Cecilia’s favorite flower, but Lambert never talked about her much. Maybe he should’ve learned Patricia’s preference.

 

“Is it your favorite flower, Dimitri?”

 

“No, it’s…” Dimitri pauses. How do I say my daughter loves this? “Someone very important to me has a particular preference for butterfly ranunculus. She always gifted me those.”

 

Byleth stares at him for a moment, nodding as if learning something important. “I see. I wish I would meet her one day.”

Chapter Text

“My younger brother wanted to come with me so bad,” at some point during the journey, Christophe mentions Ashe for the first time. Dedue’s attention takes a sharp turn away from his current conversation with Dimitri and Felix, totally forgetting the other two teenagers.

 

“Brother? I thought you were Lord Lonato’s only boy?” Rowan’s loud voice shoots from a corner of the entourage. He senses juicy content from that sentence alone, winking at the Gaspard heir. “Good for him!”

 

“Adoptive brother, Rowan. Chris’s dad adopted three kids three years ago. You’ve got that big nose for gossips and you never heard about that?”

 

Christophe frowns, “Why do I think you sound really weird?”

 

“Oh, I thought your father was courting another woman since we never heard of him getting remarried.”

 

Christophe chokes, nearly falling off his horse, “Oh my goddess, Rowan! He would never—Sothis almighty, now you totally tainted my memories.” He shudders at the image of his father bedding a woman, feeling nauseous.

 

“There is nothing scandalous about that. Your father is a virile man with healthy needs—”

 

“Rowan, my oldest younger brother is already thirteen this year—”

 

“And he definitely needs healthy sex li—”

 

Rodrigue coughs loudly, “Rowan, please refrain from this type of talking.”

 

“Your Grace, the Knights talk about handsome men and women all the time! You were never bothered before!”

 

The very tired Duke eyes the four teenagers in the group, then sending Rowan a warning glance.

 

The Knight finally recalls there are kids around. “Oh. Oh! Apologies, Your Grace. My bad, Your Highness. You didn’t hear anything.”

 

“What is healthy sex?” Felix asks.

 

Dimitri doesn’t realize his face has already flushed up after hearing the exchange. He isn’t unfamiliar with the Knights’ preferred topics after fighting alongside in his past life, but hearing Rowan mention Rodrigue, of all people, is very used to the Knights talking about sex sends Dimitri’s brain into a spiral. Does he participate in the discussion? Talking about beautiful men and women he is potentially going to develop a relationship with and finally giving Glenn and Felix a stepmother? Does he talk about… sex with all the other Knights?

 

And when Lambert was working with the Knights of Faerghus, did he do the same? Did he ever—

 

Goodness. Dimitri groans silently. Thinking about Lambert and Patricia’s sex life traumatizes him.

 

And now it traumatizes him even more when he recalls how Alex and Sitri walk in on him making love to Byleth, thinking about how the view is probably going to traumatize the twins in the future if they still remember.

 

“They were probably too young to remember. Don’t worry,” the goddess speaks, lazily.

 

But Alex talked about seeing me being naked the other day.

 

The goddess’ next words die when Rodrigue diverts his inquiring gaze at Dimitri, who finally realizes he’s appeared too fluttered at the mention of sex. The 13-year-old Dimitri should still be pure at heart. He shouldn’t understand what sex means.

 

So the Prince feigns an innocent, curious look, tilting his head just so slightly as if asking the same question in silence.

 

Some Knights struggle to muffle their laughs. Some look amused. Christophe has his mouth covered by both hands, holding back a chortle, while Cassandra laughs out loud. Dimitri knows what Rodrigue feels right now since he’s been through the same scenario—the Duke wants to die.

 

“When you’re older, Felix.”

 

Luckily, the younger Fraldarius let the topic slide and asks no further questions.

 

Dedue doesn’t seem to be listening. Dimitri knows he’s thinking about Ashe and how they might potentially meet again one day.

 

And they will save Christophe from his tragedy.

 

Byleth stirs awake in front of Dimitri, waking to the end of this awkward exchange. He looks confused. The older teen has been riding with Dimitri as of late after feeling too constrained inside the wagon.

 

“Byleth, how are you feeling?” Dimitri slightly adjusts his position, trying to make Byleth more comfortable.

 

Byleth is still too tired to respond. He hums and drifts back to sleep again, unaware of how worried his conditions make the Prince. Dedue notices, frowning his concerns.

 

Sothis, do you know what’s going on?

 

It takes the goddess a while to answer, “Give me some time, Dimitri. I’ll need to observe him more.”

 

And with how much time Sothis also spends sleeping, Dimitri sighs, wondering if he will ever get an explanation.

-------

Dimitri can see the spires of Garreg Mach shining with gold from a distance. As if fate is playing with the Prince once again, the group has taken the exact same route Alois and the three house leaders took in his last life, bringing the professor-to-be to the monastery for the first time.

 

Right now, at Remire Village, the Knights are restocking supplies since the Garreg Mach market is always more expensive. The four teens sit outside of a small restaurant, Dimitri coaxing Byleth to take one more bite of his fish sandwich.

 

“We might miss dinner at the monastery. There is still quite some road to ride, so it may be a better idea to eat a bit more.”

 

Byleth hums again, tired to talk. He takes another bite, chewing slowly.

 

Fortunately, the boy with green hair isn’t hard to budge on this matter, miraculously finishes half of his food in the end. Dimitri wraps the leftover up to save it for the road, just in case Byleth needs it.

 

“Dimitri, if you’re ever hungry, just open that sack of yours. I’ve packed enough food for you.”

 

The Prince freezes, suddenly recalling what Byleth used to do during the war, and yet he was a total jerk, barking insults at the love of his life for months. It was a miracle that Byleth still loved him. Now with the role reversed, fate must be punishing him by giving him the same burden Byleth took on years into the future.

 

But Dimitri thinks his mission has been too easy to be an actual punishment. Byleth doesn’t bite or barks. He only sleeps.

 

“I’m sorry that I keep troubling you,” Byleth mutters.

 

“No, please, don’t apologize. I love doing this for you—” he suddenly realizes how weird he must have sounded since Felix turns with a weird look on his face. “No, I mean… Ugh, my apologies. I didn’t mean to…”

 

“Hey kid,” a coarse voice silences the Prince..

 

Fate seems to be repeating itself yet again, bringing Dimitri another familiar face.

 

Jeralt and two mercenaries stand in front of the group of four, looking a bit ragged from the road.

 

“Cap—” he shouldn’t be aware of his identity yet. Dimitri almost bites his tongue when he quickly corrects his mistake, gaining a weird look from everyone. “Good afternoon, sir. May I help you with anything?”

 

“Ah cut that shit, Prince. I’m here for my son before you all take him to that monastery.”

 

“Your son?!” Felix is in the middle of chewing a strip of beef jerky, turning his eyes to Byleth, shocked.

 

Byleth, on the verge of nodding off, blinks several times to keep himself awake, “I thought you read my letter.”

 

“I’ve got it seared into my guts. Nearly gave me a heart attack. Now, let’s go.”

 

“Is there a reason you wouldn’t let me go to the monastery?”

 

“I thought I’d made it really clear before. I don’t care if you fly off to Almyra or Dagda or somewhere that isn’t even on the map, but never central Fódlan. And don’t ask me questions.”

 

“You’re not answering my question,” Byleth says, visibly exhausted. “Those people wielded strange weapons and tried to kill me. I need to figure out who they are and what they want at least.” He has to take a deep breath in the end, as if breathing itself has given him trouble.

 

“Are you alright, son?” Jeralt frowns.

 

Byleth only hums. His father knows the boy wouldn’t say anything even if something is wrong, and instinct tells him to check his temperature.

 

Jeralt’s hand freezes on the teen’s forehead.

 

“I’m fine, Father.”

 

“No, you’re freezing.”

 

Dimitri feels insulted, immediately putting a hand on Byleth’s forehead. He has been staying with Byleth all the time, and he has made sure to bundle him up with extra layers of cloaks, and now Jeralt is telling Dimitri that he has neglected Byleth’s needs? “His temperature seems to be normal, sir.”

 

Jeralt rolls his eyes, “You’ve seen him as a dragon. His body temperature should be significantly higher than any human.”

 

“Oh,” Dimitri nods but then, when realizing what that means, raises his voice, “Byleth, why didn’t you tell me anything?” And he finds his hand still in contact with Byleth’s skin. The Prince flushes from head to toe, withdrawing as if he has been burnt. “I’m… my apologies. I shouldn’t…”

 

And yet Byleth doesn’t respond. He has drifted off to sleep, head leaning on the Prince’s shoulder.

 

“Alright kids, I’ll take over from here,” Jeralt picks Byleth up. “I don’t remember if I’ve said this… probably not, but thank you for saving him. Anyway, why do I bother? He saved you all, too.”

 

“Where—where are you taking him?” Dimitri panics. He finally sees Byleth again. He can’t just let Jeralt take him away.

 

Jeralt quirks a brow at the overeager Prince.

 

Oh. He shouldn’t worry so much about a person who he just met a few days ago, and he can’t possibly tell Jeralt that Byleth was his wife and his love of life. “My apologies. It shouldn’t be my place to inquire but…” but Dimitri doesn’t get to finish the sentence. His mind stops, heart drops, drops, and drops into the chasm Byleth fell into. He sees blood dripping from Byleth’s clothes, tainting the ground crimson. Dedue and Felix notice, too, eyes widening, any sound of fear silenced down in their throat.

 

“What is it?” Jeralt frowns, placing Byleth on his horse. Then he sees it. The former Captain finds both of his hands covered in blood. His gaze snaps to the unconscious boy—the fabrics where Jeralt held on to have blood seeping through.

-------

“What in the world is this ruckus—goodness gracious what happened to the poor boy?” when the crowd burst into the infirmary at around four in the afternoon, Manuela has already poured herself some wine, ready to drink the night away, and yet the sudden appearance of a frantic prince and a worried duke and a very pale father, along with two other teens still in shock and a bunch of confused knights, really ruins her plan. Dimitri doesn’t have the energy or mind to wonder if another man has just rejected her once again.

 

Upon seeing Byleth, the former songstress immediately puts everything away, rushing to settle him in a bed.

 

Dimitri’s fists clench. How could he never notice a thing? Was Byleth in pain all the time? Why did he say nothing?

 

The Prince tries to get an answer from Sothis, but the goddess is sleeping on her throne again.

 

“My son was attacked by a—a bunch of weird assholes wielding weird weapons. At first, his new friends didn’t notice anything but just now after lunch, we thought he fell asleep and then… we found him bleeding everywhere,” Jeralt explains, his voice near inaudible in the end, trembling. “Please… save him.”

 

Dimitri has never seen the Captain so helpless before.

 

It is all my fault. I should have noticed. It’s all my fault. My fault and Byleth will die in front of me once again and I can’t save him

 

“And does nobody else have the same symptoms? Bleeding?” Manuela starts channeling white magic into his body, hoping to stop the rapid blood loss. The crowd collectively shakes their heads.

 

“I only found his body temperature lower than usual,” says Jeralt, on the verge of choking.

 

Manuela frowns. She pauses the magic flow for a second, checking his temperature, “His body temperature is normal.”

 

The former Captain has made it clear to everyone in the group—Byleth as a dragon must remain a secret. “No, you don’t understand…” frustrated, Jeralt turns to Dimitri and Rodrigue.

 

Dimitri blurts out at once, “He was always sleeping, easily tired. When we just met him, he was healing fine, and he even managed to put down many of our attackers with ease. At that time, he had about fourteen hours of sleep every day, including the naps in the afternoon, but recently he rarely stays awake. His appetite has been worse. At first, he could finish half of his portion for two meals a day. Now he barely eats anything. And—”

 

He notices everyone in the room is looking at him, and Dimitri suddenly realizes how ridiculously elaborate his account is—almost like a worried husband. Yet he can’t quite register the look on Jeralt’s face.

 

“Thank you, Prince Dimitri. This is indeed very strange…” Manuela doesn’t seem to pick up the strange atmosphere in the room. “Now, can someone be a dear and grab Lady Rhea for me, please? She should be in the audience hall right now, by the staircase in case you don’t know.”

 

No,” Jeralt suddenly raises his voice, “Not her.”

 

Rodrigue looks shocked, “Jeralt, this is…” Dimitri blinks. Does Rodrigue know who Jeralt is? But then he recalls Jeralt was already the Captain of the Knights of Seiros years ago when the Duke and the late King were studying at the Officers Academy.

 

Manuela cuts off the Duke to address the former captain, exasperated, “Well, excuse me sir, you want me to save your son, and here I’m bringing in another expert—”

 

“You don’t understand—”

 

“He’s dying! What do I not understand?”

 

The door opens. Rhea and Seteth enter the infirmary, and their sudden appearance silences everyone. Jeralt freezes at the sight of the archbishop, and then he turns his face away.

 

“Good afternoon, my guests from Faerghus,” Dimitri cringes at her iconic, decorous smile. After what happened at his funeral, the Prince can’t look at the archbishop with the same reverence he held before anymore. Then she turns to Jeralt, “And Captain Jeralt, it’s been years since you left the Knights of Seiros.”

 

Felix and the Knights gape at the two, but no one questions a thing when the archbishop is still speaking.

 

“Yeah, yeah. It’s been years, Rhea.”

 

Seteth clears his throat, “Lady Rhea.”

 

Jeralt sighs but relents, “Please, Lady Rhea, take a look at my son.”

-------

The things that happen next are blurry for Dimitri. Lady Rhea has been somewhat confused after checking Byleth’s conditions as if she has been expecting something different, something more. It only alarms the Prince, and the thought of Rhea might do something to Byleth haunts him since she finished the exam.

 

He can’t leave Byleth. Not after they finally met again, not after he so pathetically failed to notice something went amiss, and definitely not when Byleth’s life is still in danger.

 

“It seems his—energy, has been greatly interrupted by a strange force. He has a very peculiar power that will heal himself automatically, and so it did, but the new force eventually breaks the newly healed tissues, and so his wounds return,” Rhea says, and then her voice has something strange in it, “How was he injured, may I ask?”

 

“Like I said, it was the bandits who wielded strange weapons,” Jeralt speaks, stressing the words.

 

“And his general health?”

 

“He hasn’t been very healthy, but some children are just like so, aren’t they?” Jeralt says. The question alarms him.

 

The archbishop hums, thinking, and after a moment, “What was he like, when he was injured?”

 

“I’m not sure what you mean, Rhea,” Jeralt narrows his eyes.

 

From the corner of his eyes, a bloody Glenn stands, grinning just so widely at the unconscious boy. His cruel murmurs echo in the room. “Glenn—” Dimitri mutters quietly. He was taken into the monastery after the attack, right? And this Glenn is still bleeding, half of his body burnt with his bones exposed and…

 

When a hand touches Dimitri’s shoulder, his survival reflex brings him to pin that person to the wall. He hears a yelp, “Di—Dima!”

 

Dimitri’s vision clears, the fog of voices fades, and under his hand, he could’ve snapped Felix’s sternum if not Dedue held him back.

 

He loosens his grip immediately, hands sweaty, eyes full of terror, staggering back away from the younger boy. Felix slumps to the floor, coughing.

 

“Felix, I—” Dimitri stutters, unable to even mutter a coherent sentence, “I’m so… it’s all my… so sorry.”

 

Dedue pats the younger boy’s back, and Felix finally breathes normally. Everyone else in the room hears the commotion, which brings Rodrigue to them.

 

“Your Highness, are you alright?”

 

Dimitri snaps, “You should check your son, not me.”

 

“But—”

 

I nearly killed him, Rodrigue!

 

The room falls into silence. Manuela nearly drops a jar, shooting Dimitri a glare, and even Rhea pauses and turns her gaze to the Prince. There is something in Rhea’s eyes that Dimitri can’t register as if he is an object, a thing she has been searching for, but he doesn’t have the energy to think about it.

 

It happened again. I lost control even in the new world. Dimitri tries to turn the time back as Sothis did, and yet the flow of time continues. The goddess is still asleep, unaware of anything that just happened.

 

“Dimitri—” Rodrigue is in utter shock.

 

“I’ll… get some fresh air,” Dimitri mumbles before reaching for the door. Dedue tries to follow. “No, Dedue. Stay here, please.” Stay here for Byleth, for me.

 

Dimitri rushes out of the building. He can’t even pull himself together when he needs to stay with Byleth. He has hurt Felix, and Felix will hate him like in the last world, and he will hurt people again and…

 

“Dimitri,” a familiar voice calms back to him, a voice belongs to someone who occupies his life, body, and soul. The Prince turns around to find Byleth, the female mercenary turned professor, looking at him with mint eyes, voice gentle. “Dimitri, breathe with me. Focus on your breaths.”

 

He blinks, and Byleth disappears.

 

Right, breathing. Dimitri takes a long breath, in and out. He remembers Byleth told him to guide his thoughts back to the breathing and nothing else. Don’t panic when your mind drifts again. Just bring it back to yourself and try again.

 

Dimitri doesn’t know how long he has stood in the courtyard, but at some point, long after sunset, he blinks and sees Alex and Sitri sitting at the dining table in Fhirdiad.

-------

Dimitri the ghost realizes it is only hours after he departed from this world. Sylvain just returned that morning. He finds himself in the dining room, and lunch is on the table.

 

Flayn and the King Regent’s new family of four (Dimitri has a sour taste in his mouth) are right there, sitting on the opposite sides of the table—Flayn and Felix sitting next to Sitri, and Sylvain next to Alex. He is a bit confused by the sitting order because as the Regent, Felix should be sitting…

 

Dimitri finds the head of the table empty, with a single white rose sitting in front of his usual seat. The same arrangement is made for Byleth’s usual spot.

 

The atmosphere is weird. Something must have happened before he comes back. Felix treats Sitri’s fish fillet with great hatred, cutting through the soft meat as if chopping off an enemy’s head. (The last time Dimitri sees that expression from the raven-haired was five and half years ago in Enbarr.) Sylvain silently cuts Alex’s food with a steak knife, not even throwing a single joke at the table and simply putting sliced meat into the toddler’s plates.

 

Flayn, already sensing the tension in the air, still tries to be cheerful around the children, but Alex and Sitri are quiet, too quiet for Dimitri. He remembers how he and Byleth had to spend half an hour putting the twins into their high chairs, and usually, that process ended up with either twin (or both, when life hated him) breaking down into dreadful tears (“I want to plaaaaay!!! I don’t want fooood!!!”). For a second Dimitri thinks maybe they’ve grown up, grown out of the phase of dining table tantrums, but then he sees how disturbed, how scared the two children look.

 

“Felix! Sylvain!” Dimitri drifts to the two adults in the room, voice dark. “Did you terrorize my children?!”

 

For the living humans, of course, the late King is inaudible, invisible. And yet suddenly Alex shoots his head up.

 

“What the f—what did your father mean, Sylvain?” Felix spits the word out, almost blurting out the curse word in front of the children. “Why did he say he wanted to meet us all and then he’s late?”

 

Alex keeps looking at Dimitri, which comes to everyone’s attention. “Daddy,” he points at Dimitri. The ghost freezes on his spot.

 

Felix turns around to see where Alex is pointing at, and he simply frowns when seeing nothing.

 

“What’s wrong, Alex?” Sylvain pulls a very tired smile, trying to look happy around the children.

 

“Daddy, right there.”

 

Sylvain looks up then back at Alex, “Is he? Huh, how nice.” Obviously, he sees nothing.

 

Felix is rather tired, “Alex, eat your food.”

 

“Felix, that’s not nice—” Flayn protests.

 

“I really see him! He’s here!”

 

“Probably just his imaginary friend,” Felix sighs.

 

“Maybe it’s the goddess’ power!” Flayn says excitedly. “I’ve heard such a miracle.”

 

Felix resists the urge to roll his eyes, “Yeah? Making a child’s imaginary friend his dead parent? Pathetic.”

 

No! I can see him! I can see Daddy right there!

 

Felix drop the utensils on the plate. The “clack” sound throws Sitri out of her own thoughts. The girl has been looking longingly at the spot where Alex has been pointing at. Dimitri wonders if she can see him, too. They are twins after all...

 

“Alex, please... stop this,” Felix sounds so weak.

 

The boy looks deflated, dropping his head to the chest, but says nothing more.

 

“I heard some commotion in here just now, so I hope everything is alright” another man enters, the person who no one wants to see right now. “Or, Your Grace, you failed to provide suitable company for my son again?”

 

The former Margrave Gautier steps into the dining room, in his finest clothes—too grand for a guest.

 

FATHER,” Sylvain’s voice tightens, rage simmering.

 

“Did I? I find another person here rather unsuitable. His tardiness and intrusion have made him a rather terrible guest,” Felix says, voice strained.

 

“That depends on how you define the word, ‘guest.’ Some people regard themselves as the host, but they’re never aware that their presence is only temporary, and their arrogance will cost them a great price in the end.”

 

Is that a threat?” Sylvain stands up, palms slamming on the table. Sitri gets startled, nearly jumping out of her seat.

 

Dimitri rushes to his daughter immediately. Don’t worry, Sitri. It’s only the grown-ups fighting. They really are annoying, are they not?

 

But he’s not sure if Sitri can hear him. She’s rather quiet today. The ghost glares knives at Aldric Gautier for scaring his daughter. They should have had this fight elsewhere when the children aren’t around.

 

“I see that you are back from Gautier,” Aldric says, voice calm. “The travel shouldn’t have been even necessary in the first place if you’d found yourself an obedient, suitable woman as wife.”

 

Felix has to cut in when Sylvain is clearly going to punch the man, “Sylvain, sit down. Eat your lunch.”

 

Sylvain’s face clenches, but he relents, sitting down silently. Dimitri wonders if anger has granted Sylvain the Crest of Blaiddyd, since the younger Gautier nearly breaks his fork in half when he returns to his meal, his steak knife screeching against the plate.

 

Sylvain doesn’t have the appetite anymore—probably never in the first place, because the couple was aware Aldric was right here in the castle, planning something they’d never want to know.

 

The servants in the dining room steal a peek or two at the lords in the room. Anyone can tell the tension between these family members. Felix wants to kick them all out, but they will serve as witnesses if anything goes wrong. He doesn’t want Aldric to leave the castle and start telling everyone that they beat him up or something.

 

“Ah, Lady Flayn,” Aldric tilts his head when greeting the priestess, pretending he hasn’t been aware of her presence, “Please forgive me for not paying you a visit earlier.”

 

“Why are you here?” Sylvain bites every word before Flayn can say anything.

 

“Then, let’s talk about business,” Aldric settles down on Dimitri’s seat at the head of the table. He looks far too comfortable to be a guest as if this is his castle.

 

Sitri jumps out of her seat before anyone can say anything, nearly falling from the high chair. Dimitri hurries to pick her up but his hands grip in the air. “That is Father’s seat!” Sitri isn’t crying, isn’t angry, either; she is firm, never so determined. For a second Dimitri sees Byleth in her, standing in the middle of the battlefield, shouting orders to the Lions, generals, and soldiers.

 

Aldric pauses for a moment, a hint of shock shines in the deep of his eyes. Then he regains composure and smirks—this dastard smirks at my daughter. He turns to Felix, “Any suitable guardian should properly discipline their children, especially telling the girls when to talk and when to shut up.”

 

“In case you forgot, Lord Gautier, before Prince Alexandre takes the throne, this castle belongs to both the crown prince and the princess. You should probably respect the hosts’ rules,” Felix retorts. “If the Princess wants to mourn her parents in her own way, then she has the right.”

 

“Let’s talk about inheritance since we’ve mentioned it. Sylvain, are you going to sire an heir?”

 

Flayn grows uncomfortable, “Please allow me to remind you, Lord Gautier. Sylvain and Felix’s wedding was witnessed in front of the goddess. What you suggested is utterly...”

 

“I will not betray Felix.” Sylvain snaps. He really is in a mood of cutting people off today. “King Dimitri’s children are under our care now, and when Sitri comes of age, we will officially name her the heir to both Fraldarius and Gautier—of course, if she wants to.”

 

“A crestless—girl,” the former Margrave hums.

 

“Mind your next words if you’re going to shit about Crest and inheritance and all the bullshit.”

 

“I have expected this outcome, Sylvain, and I have no objection to this arrangement,” Aldric’s next words surprise the couple.

 

“But?” Felix huffs.

 

“But on one condition,” Aldric says, taking a vial of strange liquid out of his inner pocket. “I procured this concoction from a sage, who has the skill to ensure crestless children a promising future. The girl will start medical treatment today. The sage will continue providing the potion until she is deemed—complete.”

 

Even Felix snaps, “Why does inheritance have anything to do with medical treatment and potions?”

 

“Please rest assured, I hold my utmost respect and loyalty to the late King and, therefore, to His Highness. I will not do anything inappropriate to the girl.”

 

“The girl has a name,” Felix slams his glass to the table. A few servants shiver in the corner.

 

Aldric completely ignores him, “Someone will have to wield the Lance of Ruin one day. Someone will have to protect the border between the Kingdom and the barbarians from Sreng. I’ve heard about more drastic approaches from the sage to solve the problem, and yet I refrained from them, though tempting, and resorted to the second. Slower, but with lower risks, since the girl is the late King’s daughter after all. Therefore, it is the most significant for the girl to bear children as soon as possible—children with Crest. With this potion, she will bleed in five years, and by then, I would recommend you to take care of the matter to ensure her children bear the Crest of Gautier,”—even the sweet, kind priestess’ face is painted with utter disgust and disbelief—“but if you have concerns bedding the girl, I will personally handle such a matter...”

 

Felix, on the other side of the table, can’t stop Sylvain from lunging at his father. “Sylvain!”

 

You fucking monster!” Sylvain punches Aldric in the face, and Felix hears something crack. “She is only a CHILD!

 

When the Regent rushes to father and son, yanking back Aldric’s collar to separate the two, he sees blood—too much blood for a broken nose or tooth. Sylvain’s face and upper chest is all red. Felix almost thinks Sylvain is hurt, but then Felix sees both of his own hands are soaked in blood, and crimson is oozing through Aldric’s chest.

 

A steak knife sits in Aldric’s chest, halfway through his sternum.

 

The older man struggles to mutter a few words, but none is audible, muffled by the blood he wheezes. He tries to grab the knife, tries to tighten his grip on Sylvain’s throat, tries to throw more insults at his son, and yet all ends with futile. His hands go limp, his head slumping to the floor, and he is still.

 

Servants scream. Alex faints. Sitri falls into complete silence, watching the horror with widened eyes. Sylvain finally comes to his sense, realizing what he has done. He takes a few steps back until he sinks to the floor, face absent of all trace of blood.

 

Flayn rushes to their side, trembling to channel faith magic into Aldric’s motionless body. Felix takes a deep breath, snapping at the servants, “What are you gawking at? Summon the healers! Take the Prince and Princess back to the nursery!”

 

The healers arrive, trying their best to save the former Margrave. Twenty minutes later, Flayn turns to Felix, quietly shaking her head.

 

“Fuck,” Sylvain chokes, his eyes red.

 

Felix drags him to the empty hallway where no one will overhear them.

 

Sylvain can’t help shaking. “I… fuck, what did I do? It’s… it’s all my fault…”

 

“Sylvain, hey, look at me,” Felix has a hand on his husband’s cheek, wet with tears. He forces those amber eyes to meet his gaze. “This is not your fault.”

 

“Not my fault? I wasn’t assaulted. He didn’t threaten our life. There is no way for me to get out of this,” his face is sweaty, his voice trembling. “I should’ve expected this… The nobles have been trying to find any excuse to prove we are incapable and unsuitable as the twins’ guardians. And now I... did this. They just got all they wanted, Felix. What do you think will happen to Alex and Sitri? I can’t… Sothis. We can’t fail Dimitri and the professor—"

 

“This is not your fault,” Felix repeats. “Any parents would kill anyone who tries to abuse their children. I won’t let them take you to Essex. We will fight this together.”

 

“How? Felix, how?”

 

“We will take them to Almyra. I will talk to Claude. He will take us in—”

 

“Then who will handle Fódlan? We fought the war and Dimitri worked so hard to try to bring the continent together. We can’t just abandon everything he cherished. And by sheltering us, Claude is risking a war between Fódlan and Almyra—"

 

“I don’t fucking care about what the dead boar thinks. I don’t give a damn if I have to wage a fucking war to protect the kids, but I will not let the assholes take you away, and they will not take the little boars. Never.”

 

“IYou think they’ll let us simply flee? We’ll have to cross the entire Alliance territory or Ailell. We’ll need to get past Fódlan’s Throat, where we have the highest level of security. How are we even going to run?” Sylvain’s voice peters out. “You… you didn’t do anything. You have nothing to do with this—”

 

“Sylvain, don’t—”

 

“I’ll turn myself in. Then you are still the King Regent. You are still their guardian.”

 

“No, please Sylvain. Please don’t do this to me—” Dimitri has never seen Felix so helpless, so desperate before. “You promised you wouldn’t leave me alone. You can’t… You can’t…”

 

No, no. Sylvain can’t go to Essex.

 

“Your Highness—"

 

They will rip him apart. They’ve been waiting for this,

 

“Your Highness.”

 

He did this for Sitri… He…

 

“Prince Dimitri.”

 

Dimitri gasps for air. When he turns his head back, the Prince is back at the monastery. Rhea stands right there, smiling as usual. “Are you unwell?”

 

“No, I…” Dimitri pants then shakes his head, hard. “How is he? Is he…”

 

“Yes, your friend is well,” the archbishop says, voice gentle.

 

“I’ll… I’ll go to the infirmary now.”

 

“Dimitri, for now, I don’t want anyone to disrupt his sleep. Professor Manuela and Captain Jeralt will take good care of him.”

 

“I…” Dimitri wants to argue, but he recalls how violent he was towards Felix. He himself is unwell now. He doesn’t want to hurt Byleth by accident, either. “Very well. Where is Sir Glenn resting? I shall visit him.”

 

“Oh, Sir Glenn left the monastery just yesterday, after his conditions stabilized. He asked me to send a letter to Faerghus. I shall have it delivered to your room later.”

 

Right. No Glenn, either. Dimitri nods.

 

Rhea speaks again. “Did you know Captain Jeralt before this incident? You didn’t seem to be shocked.”

 

“No. We only first met in Remire,” something in that voice alarms the Prince. “Stranger things have happened recently, have they not? I don’t think Captain Jeralt’s identity should have surprised me that much after I witnessed his son’s incredible skills.”

 

Rhea nods and pauses for a second, “If that’s the case, I’m wondering if you’d like to join me for tea. Would you do me the honor, Prince Dimitri?”