There’s a pattern in Hapi’s life. She always loses things—her freedom, people close to her, the ability to sigh—and doesn’t notice right away the enormity of what she’s lost. It’s just another curse of hers.
They’ve been riding back to the monastery for hours when they stop in a village for a hot meal and shelter from the rain. Their mission had been successful, but tiring. Hapi loves riding, yet she’s glad to dismount as they enter the village through a stone archway.
That village is where Hapi spots them: earrings, with that distinctive anchor-like shape. She sees, in her mind’s eye, a flash of gold dangling from her mother’s ears, a glimpse of pearly sheen when her mother took the earring out and turned it around in her fingertips.
Hapi stops in her path so abruptly that her exhausted steed nearly walks into her. The earrings are displayed at a merchant’s stall, and Hapi quickly steps to that side of the alley, handing her lead off to the Professor with a hurried, “Sorry, Chatterbox, gotta stop for a sec. Go on, I’ll catch up.” The Professor nods and continues walking with the rest of Hapi’s classmates through the narrow street.
Hapi approaches the merchant’s display in a daze, her heart in her throat, because she hasn’t seen earrings like those in... how many years? She can’t think. All she can do is reach out, pull one of the earrings from the cork where it is displayed, and turn it around to see the tiny rounded sigil and moonstone-like gem she knew would be embedded in the back.
“It’s a symbol for your power, and our village,” her mother had told her. “Hidden, but beautiful. Small, but powerful. The Star, the Dark Dragon sign. One day when you’re older, you’ll have a pair of these Timotheos earrings yourself.”
Hapi hadn’t remembered until this very moment that she’d run away before she even got a chance to have her ears pierced.
But now, with the earring in her hand, emotion hits her in a flood, soaking her more surely than the rain. She’s not sure how this merchant got ahold of these, but there’s no doubt. They’re of Timotheos handiwork and Timotheos stone. And now that she thinks about it, this village is probably within a few hours’ journey from the village of Timotheos itself.
Hapi steadies herself and quickly turns the earring back around, not wanting the merchant to notice that she’d known exactly what to look for. “How much?”
When they arrive back at the monastery, Hapi wonders who she can trust to pierce her ears and not ask too many questions… or to ask questions, but at least keep the answers secret. Somehow, Yuri isn’t the person she wants to share this with. She chooses someone else.
Hapi calls to him as he’s walking from the training grounds past the entrance to Abyss. “Claudster!”
He’s not in the same class as her, but they’re on friendly terms, and she remembers a time when he first came to the Officer’s Academy when he didn’t have that silver hoop in his earlobe. He once told her about his dreams for Fódlan. She sometimes gives him inside info from Abyss. There’s an implicit understanding that they’ll keep each other’s secrets.
“Hey, Hapi! What’s up?” Claude grins and mimes shooting an arrow as he walks past.
“Wait, I wanted to ask—who pierced your ear?”
That stops him.
“I... pierced it myself, actually. Why?”
Hapi finds herself uncharacteristically stuttery as she tries to explain what she wants. “I know most Fódlan girls probably get their ears pierced by their family physician as kids—but I live in Abyss, so—”
“No worries.” The look in Claude’s eyes is... unnervingly understanding, like he’s already piercing right through her. “I’ll help.”
He pierces her ears that night with jewelry pliers borrowed from Hilda, a needle from Marianne, a cork stolen from Lorenz, and the flame of a candle.
“You asked me because I’m Almyran, didn’t you?” It’s an offhand question as they sit side by side on his bed, Claude holding the needle with the pliers over the candle and then waiting for it to cool. “Didn’t think any of the Faerghan girls in your class would do something as barbaric as put a hole in you on purpose, huh?” He braces her earlobe against the cork.
“No—well, kinda.” Hapi winces with the first stab into her skin, hissing out a soft noise of pain. “But I didn’t ask you because I think you’re a brute or anything. I just thought—” She fumbles to pull the earrings out of her pocket and insert one into the fresh stinging hole in her ear while Claude moves to do the other. “—thought that you’d get it. That it’s not just about being pretty for me.”
Claude eyes the earrings with concern. “You sure? Those look a bit heavy to be your first pair of earrings.”
Hapi grimaces and pokes the second one in, sliding on the backing to hold it in place. “I’m sure. I don’t want to wear any others.”
That sharp, knowing look returns to Claude’s face. “Are those... from your home?” he asks.
Hapi knows Claude is aware of where her class went on their last mission. She knows he could probably narrow down the location of her village by asking the Professor where they stopped on their route. She nods.
She knows she’s making that same sympathetic face when Claude says nothing and raises a hand to touch his own ear, too.
It’s five years later, after a very different mission that Hapi, heavily injured, having just fled with her battalion from the battlefield, passes that same village again. She almost doesn’t notice it, too busy thinking how glad she is that she didn’t have to kill anyone she knew today before the Professor ordered her to withdraw.
That’s when she spots the stone archway, and the hand strapped tight to her broken ribs automatically moves to touch her ear for comfort. It’s a habit she’s picked in these five years since she started wearing earrings—
But the earring isn’t there.
She gasps. “My—”
But it hurts too much, and there’s nothing they can do about it anyway.
She’s too exhausted to cry and too responsible to sigh or beg someone to go back to the battlefield to look for it like she wants to, so all she can do is bite her tongue and concentrate on enduring her steed’s slow walk as they take the back route to their field camp.
Just a bit further, and then one of their healers will fix her up properly. Assuming they all survived. Hapi clutches her ribs again and tries not to think about how many losses she can handle today. (Is her hand bloodier than before? Is her ear bleeding? She can’t believe she let this, too, get ripped away without noticing.)
When she gets back, Yuri and Balthus help her dismount, and Constance and Mercedes rush to take care of her. Somewhere in the confusion, Hapi manages to grit out, “Do you—have a pin, or a needle—” She learns her wound must be quite grave, because someone hands her something thin and sharp without question. She stabs it into her empty piercing to make sure the hole won’t close when they heal her.
Later, when they finally arrive back at Garreg Mach, Hapi lingers in the dining hall after dinner.
“Dedue,” she says, catching him as he finishes working in the kitchen, “I wanted to ask you where you got that earring you used to wear. It was... unusual.”
She’s hoping he’ll say he knows a trader who sells rare jewelry from all over the world, but he simply says, “I made it.”
“My father was a blacksmith,” he responds. “But I lost the earring some time ago. In Fhirdiad.” Then he notices the pin in her one ear. “Ah. You lost one of yours. Well, it would not be impossible to make another.”
“It kinda would.” Smiling ruefully, Hapi turns her head and twists her other earring to show him. “It needs a special river stone.” She doesn’t think she needs to specify from where.
When she turns back, Dedue isn’t looking at her with the pity she expects. He’s smiling softly back, saying, “We can find one.”
They wind their way down through Abyss all the way to the ravine under the bridge to the Cathedral. There, they comb the floodplain for a sight of that stone or anything similar, any pearly white stone...
“I’m sorry you lost your other one,” Dedue keeps saying.
“It’s fine,” Hapi says, though it isn’t. “Thanks for helping me look.”
But they search until the sun has well and truly set, and then there’s no more hope of finding one today. At some point, Hapi sits down on the ground under the bridge, wraps her arms around her knees, and stares at the pinpricks of light appearing in the sky. At least that’s the same. At least the stars don’t disappear without an explanation.
Dedue wordlessly sits down next to her.
“Do you ever wonder what the other side of the moon looks like?” she wonders aloud.
Dedue tilts his head up and gives it a long look. “Is there another side to it?”
Hapi laughs. “Ah, you Fódlans and your ignorance of the heavens. I always forget I have to explain the roundness of everything in the sky to you.”
“Am I a Fódlan?” Dedue says, still staring at the moon. “I have always considered myself a man of Duscur. But I suppose Duscur is a part of Fódlan, too.”
“Huh. Maybe you’re right. Guess that’d mean I’m from Fódlan, too.”
Hapi, inexplicably, wants to cry.
“I just never feel like it,” she says in a rush, not sure why she’s saying it at all. “Sometimes I feel like I’m not from anywhere. Like I’ve just been going from one cage to another for years. How is anywhere supposed to be home if it’s always incomplete?” Her throat tightens thinking of all the people who aren’t there—family, friends—people who could be dead, for all she knows.
Tears start to blur her vision, but she sees when Dedue reaches a hand down to the silt. “I found one,” he says quietly.
“What?” she asks numbly. “A home?”
“Well, yes. And no.”
Dedue extends his hand, and she sees he’s holding a small pearly stone in his hand. It seems a bit more blueish grey than silvery, but maybe it’s just too dark right now to see it properly. It still glitters the right way when he holds it out to her.
“I know it is not ideal,” Dedue says, “but we could make something of this.”
Hapi takes it between her fingers and holds it up to the moon. “Yeah. We could.” It’s not the same color, but it is beautiful. She thinks she feels the earth settle a little underneath her.
She imagines turning the moon around and finding this.
“But it’s okay if you can’t make it right away,” she adds when they both stand to return to the monastery. She gives Dedue an affectionate little nudge as she hands him the stone back. “I think I could live with the one earring look.”
Maybe this curse is double sided, too. Maybe, in addition to losing things, Hapi finds things and doesn’t realize until later the importance of what she’s found.