The sound of horns reverberated, signifying the end of yet another encounter in the battlefield. The fight ended up in their favor, yet all it left was a bitter taste in her mouth.

Wounds. Blood. Cries of anguish. Death.

Hilda wished those words weren't associated with their little class reunion. Funny, it all had to happen in Gronder Field too. It was like a tragic rendition of the little mock battle that happened five years ago. . .

Fire sizzled around her, heat trickling against her skin. The filthy feeling of blood, sweat and dirt surrounding her body was enough to remind her that she needed to snap out of her musings and regroup with Claude and the others. She was dispatched in the northwestern area of the field, a strategic decision made by Byleth which meant she had to be separated from the rest of the group. She thought to argue at first; it was a huge responsibility, she knew . . . and responsibilities, she absolutely hated.

Yet she also knew it was delegated to her because she was the person fit for the job.

So she accepted without complaint. Perhaps a little whine came out, yes, but she accepted.

The first wave of the battle went as Byleth predicted. The Kingdom army aggressively focused their attacks on the Imperial side, and the latter retaliated just as hard. Much like their mock battle, the Alliance seemed like outsiders joining the fray, and it had been a factor that Claude took advantage of as students; while the two houses were busy destroying each other at the start, they'd join in and swipe the trophy towards the end. She thought it was a rather underhanded strategy but the professor agreed anyway; the other two houses should never have underestimated them in the first place. Hilda herself wasn't one to complain since it brought them bragging rights and full bellies as they celebrated with a feast back at Garreg Mach right after the exhausting fight.

She wished things could be as simple as that again.

The strength of the Imperial army was no joke, judging by their numbers. If perhaps the Kingdom and the Alliance were to join forces—they did have a common enemy after all—it would ultimately turn the tides of the battle. However, Dimitri didn't seem to be in a reasonable state of mind, so the Alliance needed to depend on themselves.

The professor decided that if they could avoid the Kingdom forces, the better, so they could focus on breaking the Imperial's numbers. The Alliance wasn't the priority of the Kingdom anyway, and most likely would only charge back if they would encounter one another in the field.

The plan had been going smoothly until apparently, the Kingdom soldiers saw the heirs of Gautier and Fraldarius fighting for the Alliance, and branded them, along with the others originally from the Kingdom, as traitors.

From then on, pandemonium broke out and she found herself fighting off Kingdom and Imperial soldiers alike. In the resulting battle, she encountered familiar faces—Ignatz and Marianne—but the waves of attacks pushed them elsewhere and did not give her a chance to even see how well they were. In fact, she had not seen any of her friends when everything was over; she only wished nothing dire had happened to any of them, and that none of them were amongst the many piles of bodies on the battlefield.

The fire on the central platform had started to extinguish, yet it didn't make her journey any less unpleasant. The smoke stung her eyes, and the heat was starting to be unbearable. She motioned for her troops to hurry up. She just wanted everything to be over.

Their motion only came to a stop when she noticed movement amidst the bodies a distance away. She felt the blood draining from her face.

The striking, regal blue cape around his shoulders already revealed his identity.


She wasn't aware of the specifics as she only relied on brief reports from messengers, but apparently Claude and Byleth tried to reason with him. That had been part of their plan, the main reason why they designated themselves nearest to the Kingdom army, yet Dimitri still refused to listen. It resulted to a brief battle, with Dimitri ultimately retreating when mages from the Imperial army interfered.

Judging from his current state the wounds he sustained were likely terrible, likely in need of immediate assistance.

Her remaining battalion tensed, standing on their guard and waiting for her orders. She simply gestured for them to stop, opting to observe the situation before deciding anything rash.

It did not take a genius to know that those five years had not been kind to Dimitri. She noticed it, of course, that it made her thankful that she had someone like Claude as their house leader instead. She prided herself to be an observant person, a feat she mostly utilized to study various characters, so of course she noticed that beneath the charming smiles of the handsome Prince Dimitri, there existed darkness in his soul. Initially she was dumbfounded with overhearing Felix's apparent disgust over him, but she began to put things together when she noticed his troubled expressions in their joint classes. Some shallow girls dismissed it as his "brooding" face, yet Hilda felt there was more to it, especially since it began to happen only when the talk of the town was the Flame Emperor. . . who just happened to be Edelgard.

That darkness perhaps grew wildly, bringing out a crazed beast—a stark contrast to his reputation as the kind-hearted royal when they were students. She had not witnessed it herself, as she was on the other side of the battlefield, yet the rumors reached her ears. He was the monster capable of crushing skulls, who brought merciless deaths to those who dared cross his path.

It made her wonder: if there had been someone who guided him, who would have been with him in those five years, could his descent to darkness be avoided?

Because definitely, she could no longer see whatever reputation he inadvertently built as a 'beast.' In front of her she could only see . . . a shell of a defeated man, who perhaps just wanted to attain his goals, no matter how misguided he actually was.

In no time Dimitri fell on his knees, and then collapsing completely to the ground. Her eyes began to water, thinking she had just witnessed his final moments.

Yet seconds later he himself proved her wrong, as she saw him barely lifting his body up, continuing his pursuit. He crawled on the ground pathetically, clawing onto the soil in a desperate attempt to pull his own weight.

It gave her mixed feelings. One of them was admiration, that despite the obviously dire circumstances his willpower stayed strong. Another was horror. She just wanted him to stop already.

What was even making him push himself beyond his limits?

Her gaze shifted further, and she learned that the answers were right in front of her. Beyond the fog, there was an unmistakable figure in red, withdrawing alongside various crimson banners.


Just when she had that realization, Imperial soldiers, no more than ten, emerged from east and west, walking towards Dimitri.

Even with the relic Areadbhar on his hand, which he was barely dragging onto the ground, he obviously was no longer a threat. She knew, against them, he no longer stood a chance.

There was nothing Dimitri could do.

The realization drew a pang in her heart, so much that she could no longer stop the tears from escaping her eyes.

The soldiers approached him slowly, surrounding him. Their stances held no semblance of showing any mercy, even as Dimitri fell unceremoniously again. Their mocking laughs rang painfully through her ears.

She wasn't given the luxury to get to know him, yet she felt Dimitri didn't deserve that kind of death.

She used to wonder about those people willing to risk their lives to save someone else. She still thought it was stupid; it was much, much better to enjoy your life and go on with living, right?

But then again, could she really enjoy her life fully, knowing that she failed to save a person when she was capable of doing so?

But what else could she really do? No one from the Alliance nor the Kingdom was in sight. Even if a small part of her was itching to help out, the odds were heavily against them. They were outnumbered. She only had four remaining men, formidable soldiers handpicked by her brother, to be fair, yet they were also injured. It was risky to charge in, even if the enemies seemed like measly foot soldiers. Time was a huge factor too, as she doubted she could make it in time.

Feeling helpless, she clutched her hands into fists. Why must it have been her who'd have to witness it? She wasn't much of a believer herself, but it was one of the moments where she wanted to face the goddess and ask, why couldn't it have been Claude or the professor instead who was in her position? Why couldn't it have been them, who would have been more likely to do something about the situation? Perhaps, she could never really be a hero, not like her brother. . .

She had been digging her fingernails into her palms too much to the point of pain. She quickly released it, looking miserably on the marks she herself formed.

It unintentionally sent her another realization.

Her hands. She could use her hands.

Without thinking twice, she whispered the incantations she learned from her Reason class, and an enormous bolt of lightning struck a portion of the Imperial soldiers. Magic wasn't really her forte so she doubted it was enough to fully incapacitate the ones she targeted, yet it was successful in completely distracting the enemies, who, by the looks of it, totally did not see her coming.

There was no turning back.

She charged. Her soldiers, quick on their feet, followed suit.

Before she knew it, she slashed the nearest foot soldier, sputtering blood on her dress. Disgusting, she would have muttered in other circumstances, but she had no time to think as she swung her axe to the next approaching opponent.

Before she knew it, she was panting heavily, anticipating more movements, yet soon realized there were none left. She threw her weapon aside, completely worn out from use.

Even with the unexpected turn of events, she somehow kept a clear head, instructing her most agile soldier to immediately report what happened to Claude.

She approached Dimitri, kneeling down. He still had a pulse, yet was no longer holding Areadbhar. He seemed to have lost consciousness.

"Lady Hilda." One of her soldiers approached her, asking if she was alright.

She didn't answer, instead looking at her blood-stained hands.

She. . . actually managed to do it. At the back of her head, she knew her actions were foolish, something her brother would surely berate her for. Claude too, perhaps. Maybe even the younger version of herself if she could miraculously materialize in front of her. There was no reason for her to risk her life for Dimitri. It would've made more sense if she was originally from the Blue Lions house. She and Dimitri were barely acquaintances, and yet . . .

Her soldier called her again. She finally responded, uttering she was fine. She took note of the bloodstains on Dimitri's cape growing by margin. In the midst of her attack, one of the soldiers must've managed to stab him. Without thinking twice she started lifting Dimitri's shoulders. He did appear as heavy as he looked, armor and all.

What followed were sounds of mixed surprise and protests from her soldiers when she began hauling Dimitri's body upwards.

"I said I'm fine, so this should be fine too." Truthfully it required effort, but she managed to. Subtly she had been eyeing the injuries that her soldiers had. They weren't there before they charged in. She concealed her guilt with a perfectly rehearsed smile and wink. "This is a secret between us, but I'm not always such a delicate flower, y'know. Just this once, though!"

Her soldiers, most likely trained by her brother to be fussy, still tried to pry the larger man from her yet she didn't budge. It was probably ironic how most of her life she'd have people do menial things for her when they'd offer, yet she didn't give in for such a heavier task, literally and figuratively. Despite what some may think she was capable of giving out effort when she needed to.

Soon enough Claude and Byleth were within her sight, scurrying off towards them. Before they reached a conversational distance with her, she felt Dimitri barely lifting his head.

"Why. . ?"

It caught her by surprise. She wasn't sure if it was because she hadn't expected him to have the strength to speak at all, or because she likewise did not know what to answer him that moment.

Yet she didn't need to, because whatever she could have said would fall to deaf ears as he lost consciousness once more.

They returned to Garreg Mach soon after, where they encountered men from House Fraldarius. Since her wounds were being tended to by the clerics, she wasn't present in the deliberations with the Duke Fraldarius, Rodrigue. She felt like she didn't need to, anyway. She wanted to leave all the political talking (a.k.a. boring chatter) to the leaders (a.k.a. Claude and Byleth a.k.a. totally not her). The only real thing that mattered to her was knowing that despite being injured, all her friends made it in one piece and survived the encounter.

Mercedes worked her faith magic on her fatigued arm. Usually her arms didn't need extra work in healing because she was used to swinging around heavy weapons; then again, carrying Dimitri was probably equivalent to swinging her axe hundredfold.

"Thank you, Hilda," Mercedes said, as her abilities soothed the aching in her arms. Hilda only gave her a questioning look. Wasn't she the one supposed to do the thanking since she was the one being healed?

The cleric smiled, catching on.

"For saving Dimitri."

Oh. She almost forgot that he used to be her house leader, and her allegiances were originally from the Kingdom.

"It was nothing, really!" She looked away, trying hard to conceal her discomfort at the topic. "Well, apart from making me all sweaty in the process, blegh. I'm totally in need of hours in the sauna."

Mercedes chuckled softly. "I always knew we were kindred spirits. Remember what we talked about weeks ago?"

Of course she did. Hilda could still remember her exact words:

"If you see someone in trouble, you can't leave, can you?"

"Hilda?" Mercedes called out, cutting short her little daydream.

"I still don't believe we're at the same level in that, Mercedes. You're probably likely to be nominated as a heroic saint with the number of people you've helped!"

"You're brushing it off like it was merely an errand of watering plants at the greenhouse. I heard of the reports. You were at a disadvantage with numbers. Despite that, you charged in, anyway. If you wouldn't define that as heroic, I don't know what would!"

Hilda wasn't a stranger to acting vulnerable. It's how she managed to get away with letting people help her out despite her own capable hands. She hated how Mercedes could truly bring out her vulnerable side with just words. Marianne, who had been quietly doing her work and listened on with their exchange, placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. The action did not help at all with her desperate attempts of holding back her tears.

"Oh, you guys!" Hilda sniffed, wiping away her tears. "I honestly don't know how I even managed it at all. It was reckless, I know, I even risked the lives of my own soldiers but . . . I simply couldn't just leave him alone. I . . . I don't think my conscience would be able to take it if I just stood there and did nothing."

Marianne rubbed her shoulders. "I think it was admirable, what you did, Hilda. You did the right thing. I don't think I could've done anything if I were in your position. . ."

Mercedes held her hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "And you know what's miraculous too? You barely have any serious wounds. Perhaps, you really had the goddess on your side."

Hilda heaved a sigh, embracing the other two ladies.

"I don't know, guys. Maybe the goddess possessed me or something," she remarked, trying to lighten up the mood further.

That time, she was assured that she did the right thing and thought of it no longer.

By the time she was fully healed, she encountered a pensive Claude, watching the retreating forms of House Fraldarius exiting from the monastery gates. They apparently took Dimitri with them. She did not point it out, yet she knew he was pissed with how events turned out.

"That's fine, Claude. Let's look at the brighter side. We're all okay, and everything is back in their place."

Claude only turned to her, seemingly inclined to agree initially but shut his mouth instead. She knew that look on his face.

"Don't tell me you were planning to use Dimitri for one of your schemes?"

He gave her a look of mock surprise.

"Wow, you really think I'd stoop to the level of using an unconscious man and possibly use it for the benefit of our army?" When Hilda didn't react, he chuckled. "But well, you caught me. I was thinking if Dimitri stayed with us we could gather support from the Kingdom. We could really use some numbers, you know."

"What did Rodrigue say?"

"He was actually in favor of working together to go against the empire, so he understood where we're coming from. However, his priority is Dimitri's recovery. He did promise to send some troops though."

Claude sighed heavily.

"Well, thinking about it, this may be for the best. Dimitri doesn't seem to be in good shape anyway, physical and mental-wise. Probably best not to involve him further."

As much as she hated to admit it. . . Dimitri was a mess, like a hopeless case. It probably was for the best.

Claude's eyes turned to her. She didn't like the cheeky grin that appeared on his face.

"By the way, you surprised me, Hilda. Why'd you do it?"

She also knew what he was insinuating, yet feigned ignorance.

"Whatever do you mean?"

"You know exactly what I mean. For someone who despises effort, what moved you to save him? Don't tell me the two of you had a secret relationship all along?"

"Oh, shut it, Claude!" She crossed her arms, trying the dismiss the topic altogether. "And what do you mean I despise effort? I always give it my all!"

He laughed heartily. "I'm just teasing you, Hilda. But really, you surprised me. Wouldn't have anticipated you doing that."

She knew he had no ill-intentions with what he said, but memories flashed back instantly, and feelings of doubt loomed back to her instead. Claude noticed, and his playful looks faded.

"I . . . did the right thing, didn't I?" She looked at her hands, slightly trembling.

"Well, Dimitri may be a little crazy right now, but I highly doubt you'll be on his to-kill list once he wakes up, if that's what you're afraid of."

She bit her lip. She wasn't sure if that was the reason but. . .

He gave her a reassuring smile. "It'll be fine, Hilda. I'm not sure about the roots of your worries, but I'm sure Rodrigue will take things from here."

She nodded. She supposed there were far more important things to worry about.

Weeks passed and she no longer really heard what happened to Dimitri since his departure from Garreg Mach. She made no real effort to investigate further, but the information flew right onto her feet one day.

"Have you heard of the rumors about Dimitri? Apparently, he's still unconscious. Hasn't woken up since Rodrigue took him."

She frowned. When she said she wanted him to talk about something else other than the war, she was hoping he'd tell her some of his harmless childhood stories, not some baseless gossip that made her feel worse.

"Well, based from your reaction, I suppose I better not tell you the other rumors about him."

She rolled her eyes at his teasing. "What could be worse than that?"

Claude's eyes softened. "That he's actually already dead. Died on their journey back to the Fhirdiad, and that Rodrigue was hiding the truth out of fear that whatever hope the Kingdom had left would crumble."

She found herself not commenting, feeling the surge of different emotions which she couldn't name right away. She felt Claude's watchful eyes as he waited for her response.

In the end she breathed out, managing to muster a smile. "I suppose if that's true, then I don't regret what I did. At least he died peacefully in his homeland."

The thought was definitely better than imagining him punctured by several spears as she stood by and did nothing.

She offered a rare prayer for him at the altar. Wished him peace. Buried her doubts and worries as she prepared for the decisive battles on the days to come.

She no longer really heard of him even when peace was finally restored in Fódlan.

Hilda stretched her arms, waking up from the sounds of birds chirping and the sun rays seeping through her glass windows. She considered starting her day and getting things done yet ended up plopping herself back to bed, enjoying the coziness of her pillows and comforters.

It had been months since Nemesis' defeat. After the grand feast celebrating their victory, it was obvious that they all had to go their separate ways. It was a bittersweet feeling; perhaps it's what would've been like if they had a normal school experience and actually graduated from the Officers Academy. She'd say she would definitely miss the moments when they were all in one room together, laughing heartily as they ate, because chances of that occurring wouldn't be as often as what she'd like. Perhaps if there's one thing she missed in the war period, it was definitely the time spent being together and interacting with the people whom she considered already as her friends. In a sense it made them cherish every moment because it was uncertain whether they could survive it in the end.

She turned from her bed, lazily watching the calm swaying of trees from her window. She wondered if any of her friends were in a similar situation as her. Certainly not Lorenz, Ingrid or Ferdinand, who most likely had risen up already, prepared to assume responsibilities as the upcoming heads of their respective houses. Nor would Raphael, who was probably getting ready to keep his inn clean and tidy. Perhaps Claude would; he was never really fond of rising up early. Then again he was probably forced to wake up since he was being groomed to become the next King of Almyra.

She was very much relieved that she managed to convince Holst to let her live away from the Goneril estate. Of course she did stay the first few weeks, but somehow, even for someone like her who did not shy away with having people around to do work for her, she wanted to be free. Maybe her time away from home during the war awakened her inner desire to have a little bit of independence in her life.

Of course, Holst, being the overprotective brother that he was, only agreed if it was done in his terms. He allowed her to stay at a decent-sized cabin near the borders of Goneril, about an hour away by horse from the capital, with kind neighbors that manage a field. Holst personally knew them, retired soldiers who opted for a simple life as farmers, so he was confident that Hilda at least had someone to rely on if she needed immediate assistance.

Most of her days were spent on making accessories and entrusting the sales to a merchant closely tied to her family. She also regularly exchange letters with Marianne, whom she learned was being trained by her adoptive father to be the successor of their house, and occasionally Claude, whom she had yet to meet again despite all the promises of inviting her to Alymra to introduce her to his parents. On some occasions she also traveled to Garreg Mach, aiding in its restoration. Mercedes, who had became one of the head clerics of the monastery, was her usual chatting buddy along with Seteth, who insisted that they keep in touch to continue their collaboration in making storybooks for children. Lysithea had been there too on some occasions, assisting Hanneman in his research, as well as Sylvain, who still hadn't changed his smooth-talking ways. She did feel an air of maturity from him, which was most likely due to his inheritance of the title Margrave Gautier. There was also Annette too, who had become a teacher at a sorcery school in Fhirdiad. She hadn't seen Byleth since the feast, yet with the responsibilities the professor had as the new leader of the United Fódlan, it was of course understandable that their teacher traveled around the land often.

Hilda's days were spent in solitude in that quiet town at Goneril, which she honestly did not mind. She gathered sufficient funds from selling her accessories that she rarely even needed to touch the monthly allowances given by her brother. If she wanted her dose of socialization, she simply needed to go to the nearby marketplace or travel whenever she wanted. She was content with what she had.

Despite that, of course, she found herself dreaming big in some days. Dreams of building her own artisan academy, teaching aspiring students about the art of creating something beautiful, sharing what she was passionate about . . .

. . . But they simply remained as dreams and nothing more.

'Why should they simply remain as dreams and not turn to reality, Hilda? If money is amongst your concern, I can talk to my father and pledge financial support. I am certain he would be supportive. He has seen how beautiful your creations are.'

Hilda chuckled, reading the latest letter that Marianne sent. She had probably read through the same paragraph more than ten times already, but she still couldn't muster a coherent response. While it did warm her heart knowing how supportive her friend was, she realized there were some thoughts that she'd rather not face yet.

Finances, of course, were a huge part of the deal, yet feelings of readiness weren't something as tangible and easy to obtain. And she absolutely did not want to think that just because most of her classmates were close to being big shots already, nobles and commoners alike, with all their big responsibilities in their own fields, she was left behind as little mediocre Hilda and. . .

She slapped her own face several times before grabbing a piece of parchment, settling down with a reply that having a school was just too much of an effort for her.

She read through the rest of Marianne's message, searching for other details to dwell onto. For someone as soft-spoken as Marianne, Hilda was thankful she was starting to express her thoughts more. Marianne even shared how she chanced upon Linhardt who just so happened to be doing research at their territory, and how Lorenz frequently visited her. For Hilda, it wasn't a surprise that Marianne had a share of suitors, even when she herself probably didn't realize it ( bless her soul ), because honestly, her friend was such a catch and bloomed beautifully as time passed.

Trying to contain herself from replying with something too inappropriate (like 'I'm pretty sure Lorenz wants to milk something else and not those cows from all those dairy innovation talks' ), Hilda ended up prattling much on her friend's love life, ending her note how she wished that the love of her life would fall in her doorstep or something too. Because pursuing a relationship, much like having an academy, could be so, so much effortful as well.

She sealed the letter, traveled to the marketplace to hand over it to the messenger, and went on with the rest of her day, not at all noticing that she was being watched.

While she was certain they were living in the more peaceful days, Hilda herself wasn't really free from the aftershocks of war.

She woke up cold and sweaty, her nightgown sticking uncomfortably against her skin. It's been months since she last held her weapon, yet she still had night terrors of going to war and being haunted by those who had been the receiving end of her blade. You never really get used to it, her brother often told her, and it was one of those nights that she longed to be home and be in her brother's embrace.

When her breathing turned normal, she rose from her bed and maneuvered herself to the kitchen, where she poured herself a glass of water. She drank it all in one go.

She shut her eyes, trying to calm her nerves, and settled the glass onto the counter. It produced a brittle clank and a distinct thud . . ?

Was she hearing things?

The same thud resounded.

Her battle senses turned on like a switch. Her senses weren't wrong.

Someone was there.

She fumbled in the dark, hand searching for her kitchen knife, but the perpetrator quickly lunged at her, which she effectively evaded. She grabbed hold of something long—a wooden ladle?—and swung it hard towards the figure's face. It was a futile attempt because the man—she's certain it's a man—didn't even flinch, quickly overpowering her and grabbing her hands, successfully pushing her to the wall with force that knocked the air out of her lungs.

The moment she recovered, the bastard had her against the wall, hands above her head as if she were a pinned ragdoll. Whoever it was had a grip so strong, impossible to break free from. With the way he held her, she couldn't even gather enough leverage as her feet barely touched the floor.

"Wh-what do you want?" she whimpered, attempting to sound even more helpless than what she was actually feeling. She was clinging onto the possibility of retaliating the moment he let his guard down. "I-I'll do anything, just please don't hurt me."

Her words didn't seem to have any effect on him. If anything, she felt the grip around her hands tighten even more.


The raspy voice . . . was eerily familiar, that goosebumps appeared all over her skin. The figure shifted, so his face was no longer hidden in the shadows. With the faint illumination of the night skies, she caught a glimpse of a single blue eye looking directly at her. His pale hair, unkempt, glowed under the moonlight.

It was no random thief.

"Dimitri?" she voiced out despite all the questions in her head. He was still alive?

He said nothing, making no affirmation whatsoever about her assumption. Briefly, she wondered if this was all another vivid nightmare and she was being haunted by him.

"Back then. In Gronder Field. Why did you save me?"

In just a second, all the doubts and fears she thought she had completely buried came flooding back. She suddenly knew the reasons for her uncertainties when she made the decision of saving him. Even when Mercedes and Marianne assured her she did the right thing, even if Claude told her it would all be fine, she felt scared.

What if the person she saved did not want to be saved, after all?

"Claude," he whispered, anger seeping out through his lips. She felt his hands quivering against hers. "Tell me. Was it Claude?"

It took her longer than what she liked to understand what he was insinuating. "N-no! It wasn't. Claude, he didn't order me to—"

"Then, why?!"

Her lips trembled, searching for answers herself. She remembered thinking how stupid she had been for risking her life to save him. She remembered how she thought she could no longer enjoy life fully if she didn't even try saving someone who was right in front of her. Hilda feared disappointing anyone, but with her decision, it wasn't about disappointing people who knew Dimitri.

She knew, she would be disappointed in herself if she just stood by and did nothing.

So . . . in the end, had she been really selfish, all along? Especially since Dimitri didn't even want to be saved. . .

The grip on her hands loosened, making her slip down against the wall. She knew it was her best chance to escape from the mad man in front of her. Yet her knees felt weak; her voice gone. She tried to consider other options, fighting off her own irrationalities, until she felt something dripping on her head.

He was crying?

Dimitri fell on his knees, cowering in front of her like a scared child. Just like that, the wrath emanating from him was gone.

"What do I do now? That woman is gone, dead, yet I can still hear their voices. I no longer understand what they want. What purpose do I have now?!"

She fumbled for words, yet couldn't find any. Instead, she reached out her hand, wanting to touch his shoulder to offer comfort, to perhaps pay him back for her selfish decision, yet it stopped just before it could, remembering how he held her in a vice grip and how she wanted nothing more than for him to just let go.

"Perhaps . . . maybe, you should just have let me die back then."

She found herself disagreeing, shaking her head.

"If I had just died—"

She heard enough, trusting in her gut feeling and finally placing her hand on his shoulder. The contact made him stiffen at first, but eventually he relaxed.

"Sorry, but I have to disagree. . ."

His gaze was glued on the floor between them, refusing to meet her eyes. He looked lost.

"I saved you . . . Because I couldn't stand the thought of doing nothing when I actually could." She squeezed his shoulder and tried to muster a smile. "So then, the next time you want to die make sure I'm not there! B-Because I sure as heck won't let you! My conscience could not take doing nothing, you hear that?"

"Then . . . What do I do now?"

Dimitri's voice was tame, just like how it was back in the early days of the academy. Perhaps, there was actually really hope left in him?

Her hand shifted to the side of his neck so he was forced to look at her.

The answer should be obvious, right?

"Live, Dimitri. Live."

If perhaps it meant she could give another person a chance to live and enjoy life just like her, then she didn't care if it made her selfish.