Title: Honour, revenge, and the in-between
A/N: For the Beneath the Blade zine! I just love Ingrid and her relationships with Felix, Sylvain, and Dimitri.
Summary: Ingrid knew Sylvain, Felix, and Dimitri like the back of her hand. Or so she thought. With Fódlan at war, the truths she held were starting to unravel. Sylvain was serious. Felix overwhelmed. Dimitri so consumed by his rage he died. And herself? Ingrid had always considered herself as steady and stable as rock and now she felt as lost as a leaf on a river, the current threatening to drag her under.
Ingrid knew the Gautier house like the back of her hand. Since she was a child, she had roamed its gardens and halls as though it were her own home. She knew Sylvain's favourite hiding places, the number of training dummies Felix had destroyed, exactly where they had to plaster over to hide Dimitri's clumsy strength. Through the seasons and years, she had come and gone from this house without much thought beyond how hopeless her boys were.
The place standing before her couldn't possibly be the house in her memories. Flags erect, generals flowing in and out of the doors, and training grounds crowded with soldiers, the Gautier home was dressed in the colours of war. Ingrid swallowed as she stood in front of the house, unable to go in, unable to leave. Had it only been yesterday that they'd all be in the academy, chastising Sylvain for his latest conquest?
"Ingrid!" A cheery voice greeted her. Speak of the devil; it was like thinking about him had summoned him. "You're looking as beautiful as ever."
"Run out of people to flirt?" she retorted automatically, turning around as she spoke. Ingrid froze at the sight before her, at the boy (man) dressed in armour, the metal gleaming in the afternoon sun. Despite his grin, he wasn't Sylvain. He couldn't be. There was something harder, tougher about the person in front of her, a sharper edge than Sylvain had ever had.
"Only stating the obvious." He smiled easily, and that much hadn't changed. No matter the situation, he had always found the lighter side of things. Though, something about his expression felt off. When she didn't say anything, he winked, "What, did I make you speechless?"
Ingrid didn't know where to start. How to start. Lamely, she mumbled, "Your hair…"
"Oh this?" He tugged on a particularly long strand tickling his chin. "Thought I'd grow it out a bit."
She wondered how much of that was the truth, and how much of it was because he hadn't had time to cut it. You look like a knight, she almost said, but she bit back the words, fearful that saying them aloud would make it all the more real. It was bad enough that they were at war, that Dimitri was dead. Now Sylvain looked serious for once in his life and those carefree days from the monastery were really gone, weren't they?
"Ingrid?" Sylvain asked, worried now. He reached out to squeeze her shoulder, his grip firm, and she'd never thought of him as reliable before this point.
"It's nothing." Forcing a smile, Ingrid pulled out an envelope from her bag. "I just came to deliver this."
"What's that?" He plucked the letter, turning it over in his hand. "For the—"
"For your father, so don't open it," she admonished before he could rip it open. When he gave her a pitiful look, she looked away, ashamed. "We…we won't be joining you."
"Oh." Sylvain looked at the letter, then back at her. Still wearing a good-natured smile, he shrugged. "It's a good decision. Everything's going way too fast as it is, better to just sit back and wait."
Ingrid's jaw dropped, and she hissed, "What?"
He backed away, his hands held up in surrender. "I'm wrong?"
"Any honourable knight would, would…" she choked back a sob, forcing the words out. "Avenge their liege. It's the honourable thing to do."
"Honour, huh?" Sylvain smile disappeared. Grimly, he replied, "I don't know how much of this is really about honour. If honour is really worth all this death."
"That…we can't just do nothing," she replied lamely. "Not after what they did."
"Maybe, but reacting like this'll just get a lot of people dead." Sylvain rubbed his neck, looking away. Softly, he added, "Like Duscur."
Ingrid couldn't say anything about that, couldn't deny or agree with his words. She wondered if she'd ever be able to think of Duscur objectively, be able to hear the name and not think of Glen, think of Dimitri's parents, think of those lost.
If she'd ever be able to think of it without remembering Dedue and wonder what could have been.
"I'm not saying we're wrong, it's just…" Sylvain looked over his shoulder, at the knights training in the distance. "Dimitri's…Dimitri's dead. Getting revenge won't bring him back."
"But we swore—"
"That doesn't matter to a dead man." Sylvain looked back at her, his eyes clear. "Why risk your life over this?"
"And what about you?" she snapped back, her hand curling into a fist. "Why are you fighting?"
Sylvain laughed sheepishly. "Got me there. I don't really have a reason. It just…" He trailed off, looking up at the clear blue sky. "It just doesn't feel right, what happened."
Oh. That's what it was. His smile didn't reach his eyes. Ingrid looked away, quietly agreeing, "Nothing feels right." She didn't think anything would feel right ever again.
The trip to House Fraldarius was quicker, quieter affair. Rodrigues didn't condemn her as she handed over the letter, as she rubbed her arm and offered her apologies. Instead, he had merely nodded, his eyes kind and tone kinder. It was more than she deserved. The Galatea bannermen were refusing the call, selfishly stepping back and avoiding conflict. A rebuke would have been expected. A harsh judgement even better.
Guilt was the only reason she could give for seeking out Felix immediately after. As usual, he was in the training ground, sword in hand and sweat dripping down his skin. There was no finesse in his sword work, none of the grace she'd come to associate with his attacks. Each strike was more brutal than the next and his rage was a palpable thing.
"You're not joining us," Felix grunted as he delivered one last strike, stabbing straight through the dummy. Straw flew in the air as he savagely yanked his sword back out.
"Did Sylvain tell you?" she asked instead, watching as he turned to her. His hair was longer too, his frame taller, and she didn't know if these changes were overnight or if they'd happen quietly, where she couldn't see. If like with Dimitri's obsession, she had averted her eyes from those around her.
Felix snorted. "He didn't have to."
It stung more than she'd expected. "Was it really that obvious what my father would choose?"
"It doesn't matter. You aren't needed." For once, his words lack their usual bite, their malice half-hearted.
In another time, she would have argued back. Now, she felt as tired as he sounded. Ingrid peeked at his hands, at the bleeding calluses. "You won't be much use either, like that. You should rest."
Felix flexed his hand and shrugged. "I don't have time to wait for it to heal."
"That'll get you killed." Ingrid frowned. "Why are you even fighting? To die?"
Felix's lips curled into a snarl. "Of course not!"
"Then why?" she pressed, stepping forward and grabbing his hands. "Why are you hurting yourself like this?"
He yanked his hand away. "Isn't it obvious? The boar—I—I…" And just as quickly, his anger died down, his eyes flickering to the practice dummy. "I…"
They used to train there together, the four of them. And then, after the massacre, just the three. Felix could barely tolerate her and left immediately whenever Dimitri arrived. Was he thinking of that? Or further back, to when it had been just him and Glen? At what point did a memory stop hurting, at what point did a regret stop keeping them awake at night?
She didn't know the answer to that, anymore than she knew the answer to how they'd reached this point. Maybe it was when Felix had forgotten how to be happy, when Dimitri had learned to hide his rage or Sylvain faked his smile or even when she had left behind her dreams for her lance. Their fracture had started long ago.
"I don't know," Felix muttered finally, loosening his grip on his sword. "The boar…this wasn't how he should have gone."
"No, it wasn't." Ingrid rubbed her wrist. Life wasn't fair. She had learned that lesson long ago but at some point, she'd forgotten it. At some point, she'd thought they were impervious to it.
Life wasn't fair. It was a lesson she hoped she'd stop learning.
Dimitri didn't have a grave. It was the fact that bothered her the least—Glen's name was carved into a marble tomb, the letters cold in a way he had never been. Ingrid had never found him there, but instead in the training grounds, in the spaces they used to spar. She had not loved him. She wondered if she might have.
Death had a way of taking away all possibilities.
When they were young, they used to play in a brook on her lands. Sylvain would tan on the banks, Felix would train on the side, and knee-deep in the cool waters, a cocky smirk on his face, Dimitri would try to catch the fish with his bare hands. He hadn't looked like a prince then, just a boy who couldn't control his own strength.
The brook was still there, even if the people weren't. Ingrid's armour clanked as she sat down on a log by the riverbank, staring down into the clear waters. Her lance sat on her lap, balanced precariously. It was quiet here, away from people. The brook babbled, the birds chirped, and Ingrid pulled out a book from her satchel. Her fingers traced the title, Sword of Kyphon, before she opened it. A lifetime ago, she and Ashe used to pour over the books, the candles flickering as they talked deep into the night about loyalty and honour.
How simple it had seemed then. How easy. She should have realized it then; the knights never had it easy, honour was earned only through spilled blood. If the king had died, what would these knights have done? Avenged him? The line between justice and revenge was a thin one. And after that, after the king's ghost had been put to sleep, then what?
Nothing. No one ever planned for the 'after'.
The brook babbled. The birds chirped. And the children were long gone. Ingrid closed her book and tucked it away in her satchel.
"I'm sorry, Dimitri," she murmured, standing up. "I can't hold your ghosts."
Ingrid had always thought of Dimitri as strong but she'd never realized just how strong till now. His ghosts, his rage, his vengeance—all of it had been hidden behind a polite smile, all of it simmering below the surface. She only had two ghosts, two regrets, and she couldn't handle that much. Yet, despite his strength, Edelgard still walked, his revenge incomplete.
No, worse than incomplete. It was dragging everyone else into it, ruining lives faster than rot through a field. A war was brewing, whether she liked it or not.
And whatever her parents wished, Ingrid was going to enter it. Gripping her lance tightly, she closed her eyes and pressed her forehead against the staff. "I cannot get your justice. But I will protect everyone else. At one point, I think that would have been enough for you."
It was too late to save Dimitri, too late to apologize to Dedue, too late to love Glen. But Ingrid had enough with lingering regrets and she wasn't going to add to their weight.
When the war was over, her friends would be alive by the end of it.
And maybe, just maybe, somewhere on the other side, Dimitri would be at peace with that.