Chapter 111: Doubts and Corrections

She had tried to ignore the feelings that built up within her.

At first, it had been an easy task.

Certain that she would eventually have been met with an explanation, it was a natural thing for her to assume. Or she believed it would have been. There was nothing for her to demand, that would have been far and above what she was required to have. That was that.

At first, it had been an easy assumption to make that things had been decided by those in positions of power.

It was a decision that she could accept without any ounce of misgiving towards it, neither did anyone else in her class.

The Blue Lions doubtless had some semblance of advantage over them with their additional experience and better leadership. Von Riegan was never any good in a straight fight, that was why all of their mock battles relied on tactics and the like. She had seen as such from the mock battle done some time ago near when Professor Eisner first joined.

The Blue Lions had been a rather dominant force on the field and that was with barely a few weeks.

Missions they had undergone since had been…stressful, if the passing of word was to be believed.

But despite all of that, Lysithea had remained somewhat confident that there would be something she would achieve. Goetia had been teaching her personally - true, there were other pupils in his lectures, but she was his first student in the academy, which meant that she was beyond the others - and with her improved skills, she knew that sooner or later, there would come a time when she would be able to demonstrate her knowledge.

And then Ser Catherine had joined their class by order of Seteth to help assist them.

It had been…difficult, to say the least.

If only because there was very little that Lysithea could really benefit from when it came to learning from the woman in terms of the battle that was to come. Dodging was something she wasn't very good at, she had poor stamina in the first place and no amount of training would solve that.

Especially not in the few weeks they had before battle commenced.

Sure, she might dodge one or two blows but that was the extent of her abilities.

And that would have been her giving herself the most generous of assessments, others would have been better off, but she wasn't them and she had no interest in being them. There had never been much secret in how little she wanted to learn how to fight with her hands or with a sword.

But they had Ser Catherine now.

Von Riegan had been talking about…something, she assumed it to be another scheme of his for when the fighting took place.

She didn't pay much attention to it, she knew that she should have done, but there were other things that gripped her focus more than whatever little plan that her house leader was cooking up that would doubtless lead them into another fiasco. She was certain that he would claim it would lead to an easy victory, but she had seen his 'easy victories' and few of them felt all that easy to her.

No, this related to something else entirely.

Goetia was working with the Black Eagles.

A class that he barely had interaction with outside of a few choice individuals, but that was the extent of it but…

…But there had been some rumours regarding those who had spied Goetia and Dorothea in the town at the base of the Monastery at times, the two of them seen walking around together. Then there had been word he accompanied the Black Eagles to Enbarr with the Archbishop herself while she and the Golden Deer were away on a mission.

Lysithea did not wish to be one who fretted over mere speculation.

Nor did she want to be the sort to form opinions based on the hearsay of others but with the reputation of Dorothea…it left her with a very ugly thought for a brief moment.

The idea that Goetia had been…seduced into working with the Black Eagles.

Of course she had been quick to dismiss such thoughts as mere nonsense, they were ugly thoughts that insulted herself and Goetia. He would never be one to fall for such simple tactics and it was beneath her to assume that he could fall for them. She was sure that Dorothea would not do something of the sort either, despite the rumours flying around about her frivolous nature.

Doubtless carried on the lips of those who had been spurned by her, the words of those with jealous burning in their hearts were not to be taken with the utmost sincerity, that much she was certain of.

But what she did know were the words of Catherine.

It had been something she hadn't meant to overhear, but had done so anyway.

Von Riegan asked how she ended up with the Golden Deer.

…Goetia had chosen to work with the Black Eagles.

To say she had been shocked by the news was not wrong.

Yet even when she heard of it, there had been no outward reaction that she could think of, she had accepted the news and then moved on. Expecting that there would perhaps come some sort of explanation as to why he had chosen the Black Eagles. It was common news about the Monastery at this point, Goetia being sighted with different members of the house and training with others.

You could hardly travel anywhere without hearing of some of those who had chanced upon Goetia training with the blue haired member of the Black Eagles, Caspar, and apparently spending his time just actively pummeling the boy with one hand. From some of the stories, one would have expected Goetia to be the greatest fist fighter this side of the continent.

But that was not the point, his skill with punching people didn't interest her.

It was the fact that despite everything, Goetia had not once brought up the fact he was working with the Black Eagles to anyone.

Not during the lessons, not during off hours, nothing.

It was as though he didn't deign to breathe life into the stories, but there was no denying them.

Goetia worked with the Black Eagles.

She was going to be fighting against him during the battle of the Eagle and Lion.

…And he didn't even tell her anything.

Lysithea, on a large part, understood that she was merely a student and it was not her place to demand that Goetia give his reasons for every action he took. He was a lecturer at the Academy now, he held a position of power and even before then, he was someone who commanded respect and did not act without a sense of purpose.

If he was working with the Black Eagles, then there was a reason for it.

Of course there was a reason for it.

…She just didn't know what it was.

She did not own Goetia, she did not decide what classes he could work with or not but that did not change how she felt. It should have done, but no matter how many times she repeated those reasons inside her mind, there was no dismissing these odd feelings inside of her.

The sense of worry that seeped into her.

Had she done something wrong without realising it?

A childish thought, one she desperately sought to be rid of but found herself unable to separate from.

If it was for the teachers to choose who they did and did not work with, then why was it that the Golden Deer had been passed over for another class? She could not think of anything that she had personally done to offend Goetia or even disappoint him. If she had, then he would have certainly said something.

But he didn't so she was left puzzled.

She lowered her eyes down the plate in front of her, not even the sweet allure of cake brought the same comfort that it used to.

Ultimately, she knew this was juvenile behaviour.

It was a notion she should have scoffed at and if she had a mirror, there was no doubt that the sight to greet her would have been a rather pathetic looking one. Moping over the fact that her favourite professor had decided to work with another class over her own…and he was her favourite teacher, but there was no one who could say it was impossible to see.

Goetia was allowed to do what he wanted.

That was fine.

That was acceptable.

But…would it have been so wrong for her to get a little explanation from him? Even if she was just a student, surely she was entitled to a small reason as to why her teacher had decided it was time for the two of them to meet on the battlefield? Even if it was purely for the sake of training.

Was that such a grand ask of her?

Perhaps it was just that working with the rest of her class was something that Goetia could not stomach?

That thought was…far more comfortable, but leaving her feeling a touch bitter.

Her jaw clenched as her brows furrowed.

Von Riegan was the first name that surged to mind, his antics had done much to aggravate Goetia in the past and there was no denying that her Teacher would have looked to the boy with no small amount of irritation. The fact he never called him by his first name was proof enough of that.

Indeed…working with someone like that could prove to be a bother…

Then there was Lorenz…pretentious oaf. He seemed to look down his nose at Goetia for being a foreigner, nothing offensive spoken but there was a quiet dismissal about him when it came to anything outside of magic…it wasn't even an uncommon opinion either, but it annoyed her coming from him.

Raphael was as much a noise maker as he was a brute.

Marianne was…she was just quiet.

Hilda spent too much time staring at her own reflection to really look at anything else, not to mention the fact she was actively lazy. There was no doubt in her mind that if Goetia did join their class, then the girl would try and offload all the responsibility onto Goetia.

Leonie was…well, she was determined, Lysithea didn't have many complaints about her beyond the fact it was clear that she was just learning from Goetia to try and outdo Professor Eisner which was a rather…short sighted goal, all things considered.

Goetia was teaching them some of the intricate magic she had seen and all Leonie could think about was how to one-up someone else? Juvenile.

Ignatz?

…He was an uncoordinated mess, between the scatterbrained actions of walking around with untied shoes or his messy hair he'd forgotten to brush, he looked as though he'd been dragged out from sleeping in an alley rather than anything else.

Lysithea gave a slow blink as she came to terms with what her class consisted of.

Months of being with them and working with them, it was something that had dawned on her.

…She was surrounded by idiots and halfwits.

Her brows crinkled and her lip pursed.

No wonder Goetia didn't want to work with her class, it would have been a mess from start to finish.

A shadow darkened the edge of her table before she even realised it, the faint sound of a throat clearing tore her from her musings. A flicker of movement right at the lip of her table sent a short bout of panic through her heart, though nothing outwardly fearful revealed itself to her.

Eyes shot up towards the new shape, already forming a polite sentence to tell whomever had approached her that she was more comfortable eating alone.

Though when her eyes laid themselves upon the smile of Prince Dimitri, she found herself unable to form words. Instead she stared at him for a few short moments, then rolled her lips inwards and lowered her gaze, giving a polite bow of the head.

She paused when she heard a light huff from the teenager in front of her.

"I think we are long past the times of such formalities."

Something in his voice brought a faint smile to her lips, but it just as quickly turned away as she glanced up once more.

"It is still expected to show the right courtesy to a Prince. More so when others are quick to forget it."

Lysithea did not need to spill any names for them both to know who she spoke of, it was apparent by the faint wince of discomfort that shot through the face of the Prince that he knew whom she meant. Her eyes lowered to the food that was held in the small tray.

The kitchens had been slowly repaired but she knew they could form better meals than the bread roll, cheese and slice of meat that the blonde had on his plate. It was more akin to the sort of meals she would have expected from Raphael.

Fortunately the Prince understood the concept of restraint and he did not hold the same portions that would be given to perhaps half a dozen.

"May I?"

Lysithea kept herself silent for a moment, she still desired some peace to contemplate her position but with her questions throwing her into circles, she supposed that a distraction would not be unwelcome.

And the Prince was not the worst company she had, at least he had never done anything to truly offend her and treated her with the respect she would have expected from a fellow student. Even if they were not equal in status.

"You may."

"Thank you." A touch of relief passed through his eyes as he lowered himself onto the bench opposite, setting his meal on the table and cutting aside a small slice of the cheese from the block, moving onto the bread roll next, his eyes turned to her for a moment, then they lowered.

His sight lingered on the cake for a touch longer than it had done on her, a pause in his movements, seeing her food for the first time.

She felt heat creep up her cheeks, her lips turned to a frown and her eyes narrowed, arms came up and folded over her chest. Leaning forwards and sending a rather aggressive look to the boy. He had said nothing, nor did his expression betray judgement, but she knew what he was thinking about.

"What?"

Her words pulled his eyes to her, his movements resumed as though they had not ceased. A disarming smile fell on the lips of the boy as she shook his head from side to side. "I apologise for staring so long. Merely noticing that of the many times I have seen you eat, there has always been something sweet on your plate. I cannot recall ever seeing you with meat or cheese."

She lowered her eyes, a low grumble in the back of her throat. "I eat this when I want to feel better."

"...Should I be concerned with the frequency at which I see you eat then?"

Lysithea cursed herself at the light slip, lips smacked and she gave a single shake of the head. "It's just my own class causing my headache, nothing more than that. Spending time with them is often a lesson in patience but even I have my limits. Between Raphael trying to force me to eat an entire cow or Ignatz stumbling over his own shoes…"

She would have spoken further, but she stopped at the light chuckle which sounded out from across her. Dimitri with a twinkle in his eyes as he placed the cheese on a slice of the bread and brought it to his mouth, pausing long enough to get his next words out.

"It sounds as though the Golden Deer is ever the same. I trust that Claude is also making a concerted effort to remain as one of your chief headaches."

The mention of her house leader brought the groan out from behind her teeth, frowning heavily as she grabbed her fork and then worked over the cake in front of her. Cutting off another part and skewering it on the end of her cutlery. It was aggressive, but she was in the mood to have something to offset her feelings.

Through it all, Dimitri watched her with that same smile on his face as though he expected her to act this way. It was annoying, but not as much as she would have expected it to be. He swallowed his mouthful and nodded his head towards her, the smile widening a little.

"I shall take that as a yes." She glared through her chews. "I do not mean to become one of them, but this is hardly news for you, surely. I trust that you were hoping they would have shaped up for the Battle of Eagle and Lion?"

A pause in her jaw, she glanced away.

They had been shaping up, but it was only when it came to fighting.

Outside of their lessons with Catherine, they were all still the same childish or outlandish bunch that she had come to know over the last few turns of the months.

The words that came next were quiet. "They're at least trying. Catherine doesn't really tolerate slack from anyone."

"Ha! That sounds about right." Dimitri barked a laugh, it was a rather pleasing sound for her. "She has always been one to push for talent, even when we first met, although…that was a story that I have not quite forgotten, if only for the horror that it brings me each time I think on it. I do not doubt that she remembers it still."

Lysithea was betrayed by her own intrigue, her eyes turned on the Prince and narrowed ever so slightly as she thought on the words. "What happened?"

Dimitri rolled his lips inwards, fighting back a visible cringe. For a moment, she thought he would not answer, but when his shoulder dropped, she prepared herself for the story. "It was when I was quite a bit younger than I am now, when she was still part of the Kingdom rather than a Knight of Seiros…"

His eyes closed and she saw the twitch of his lip upwards, laughing at the memory already.

"I was training in the yard and when I was younger I was…well, I was not quite as talented as I am now. Especially with how poor my control of my strength was…I must have gone through a dozen training lances a week. The master-at-arms might have hated me for that."

Lysithea raised a brow at him, the strength of the Royal Family was quite well known but she had not thought it was quite that bad.

"But yes, even back then she had made quite a name for herself as a Knight. Thunderstrike Cassandra, they called her."

Dimitri flattened his features a moment later.

"I was in the yard training, as I had done every other day, and then from across the way I hear a voice call out, full of mirth and a touch of pride. Though it certainly robbed me of mine the moment I heard it."

Placing his hands together, the blonde lowered his voice. "Look at that young maiden wielding a giant lance! How adorable!"

Lysithea froze, her eyes shot wide as she stared into the blank face of Dimitri. It was only when the blonde brought his hand up and ran his fingers through his hair that she felt a light ripple deep in her chest bubble upwards, rising into her throat and threatening to spill out of her mouth.

"Her first words to me." He continued on, ignorant to what was happening inside her. "Yes, she made quite the memorable impression and I could not have cut my hair fast enough after that. Had I not had it done, I would have taken a dagger and sliced it off myself."

"Snrk!"

Raising her hands, she left cutlery and cake forgotten as she placed her palms over her mouth and closing her eyes. A vain effort as she could hear the wheeze escape out from between her fingers. Leaning forwards and pressing her elbows against the table to keep her up, the laughter came out further.

It was nothing more than the image of the young prince with hair so long and a face so pretty that he would have been mistaken for a girl.

There was no denying that it was mortifying, but the manner in which he delivered the story was nevertheless amusing to hear.

When her eyes opened up, she saw Dimitri with his own arms folded and looking across with a raised brow, the wounded expression on his face was clearly put on, a vain effort to hide his own smiles as well as his lip twitched up and down. "You can laugh, but I had never felt such a horrible shame. I stared at my face in the mirror of my chambers and took ink to my skin."

Oh no! He didn't-!

Laughter blurted out of her as she leaned forwards completely, only her hands against her face kept her from falling into the cake. Wheezing as she could tell where this would end up, sparing the prince a look before laughing once more. Speaking between wheezes, she asked her question.

"D-Did you try and-Hahaha-did you try and give yourself a beard?"

She saw the red in the cheeks of the boy and knew her answer immediately, bringing her hand up and pointing across the table towards him. It was such a profoundly childish thing to hear of him doing, especially when she tried to put this person to that sort of display, it amused her deeply.

"I was younger and wanted to appear more like a man to stop that happening." Came the swift defence, but there was the unmistakable undercurrent of embarrassment in the tone of the boy, especially with how swiftly his words were coming out. "I realise she meant no arm, but they called me the Princess knight for weeks after that-"

"Princess Knight?" She very nearly chortled out the name, Dimitri rewarded her speech with a flat gaze and a shake of the head.

"I had thought you would be more aghast at such a thing happening and here I find you laughing at me…"

She let her laughter die down, it was not that he sounded all that offended or bothered, but she could not deny his words either. The mirth remained as she assument her posture once more. "If you had told me this happened the other day, I doubt I would have been so accepting of it. Childish actions should stay with children…but really, Catherine should have been more alert."

With a huff, she turned her head. "You would have thought a knight would have been better at telling the difference between a man and a woman, even at a young age."

Dimitri exhaled and brought his shoulders up and down. "I cannot say either way how good her eyesight should be, but at least I have you to defend my honour."

"It's common sense." Lysithea shot back with a shake of the head, then frowned. "At least she has yet to call anyone in my house by their wrong gender. She seems more content with treating them all the same…despite the fact that some of us are better suited for such things than others."

A raised brow from Dimitri, then a smile of his own formed on his lips. "Oh? Am I to hear that you are wielding a training lance and swinging it left and right."

Lysithea shuddered and made a pained face. "Thank the Goddess I have not. Though not for lack of trying, I can assure you. She had me dodging left and right to avoid getting struck down with ease."

"Sensible."

Her glower was aimed at him for his words. "You say that because you are not the one being struck by her."

An amused look was aimed her way. "I have sparred with her in the past, but you are quite right. I doubt she put all her strength into fighting a boy half her size at the time."

"Not because you're the Prince?"

"No, she would knock me into the dirt if I tried to spar with her now, I am not ashamed to admit. Though I would like to believe myself capable of landing a few solid blows upon her. Perhaps three or four before I was thoroughly bested."

She raised a brow at him. "Would you even need to land more than four blows with how strong you are?"

"Against any other fighter, no." He answered. "Against her? Most certainly, for I have no doubt that even if I landed the blow, she would find some method of countering my strength to avoid facing all of it at once."

Lysithea pulled a sigh and brought her hands up to brace her chin and shook her head from side to side. "Honestly, I don't see the point of including me with all the others. I am a mage and half the size of my peers. Even if I were interested in the barbarism of sword-"

"Barbarism?" Dimitri raised a brow and inclined his head. "Is that how you view it…Well, I cannot say you are wrong. On either account, but it would certainly do you well to learn how to avoid the blows. As you say, you are smaller than your peers and even if you cannot match them in strength, you can match them in reflexes."

Bringing up his hand, he gestured to her. "You have a sharp mind, like that of a blade. I have no doubt that if you take a whetstone to it, you shall be able to have quicker instincts than many others who serve in the knights…but that is my own opinion on the matter. I am certain that you shall find a way to succeed."

Her lips rolled in and out, her eyes darted to the side as she bit the inside of her cheek.

It was every ounce of will to force the heat from rising in her face.

"But tell me, is there something else that ails you?"

The next words of the prince made that remarkably easy for her.

Her eyes turned on him and she stiffened her features. "Why do you ask?"

Dimitri showed unease, his shoulders tight and his lips drawn thin. "Forgive me for prying, but it appeared to me as though you were distracted. You did not notice me until I was upon you…It might be too forwards for me to say, but that was not like you."

A twitch ran through her body, her eyes narrowed further. "Maybe I don't spend all my passing hours taking the proverbial whetstone to sharpen my mind. I can loosen my guard every now and again."

Raising his hands as a show of surrender, he softened his features. "I meant no offence. If I have upset you, then I shall speak no more of the matter-"

Great.

Now she felt guilty.

"I can take care of my problems myself. I'm not a child that needs their hand held."

His brows furrowed. "I did not imply that you were, or I hope I did not. I asked because I was concerned about you and perhaps this is rather presumptuous of me to say, but I do consider you to be a friend."

Lysithea fell silent.

Her head dipped low and her eyes focused on the cake.

Her hand placed itself on the dish and gave a gentle shove, pushing it away from herself before returning her hand to her.

A friend.

"...Well…Your company isn't so bad either." Her words came out as a low whisper, but the pleased smile on the face of the boy was rather bright to her. She fidgeted a little and glanced to the side, pulling her lips down to try and fight the smile that would have otherwise grown on her. "It's just…this upcoming mock battle."

Dimitri grimaced. "I suspected as much."

"Congratulations." The words tasted bitter on her lips, a wince as she saw the flash of regret in the eyes of the prince. It wasn't really his fault for that, she was just mad at herself. "That wasn't…sorry, that was beneath me."

"I see you feel quite strongly about this."

A sigh escaped her, she slumped forwards and nodded her head. "It matters for how it will look for me and my class. Even if I don't care much for the violence involved but…it still reflects on my education."

Dimitri nodded his head, then pinched his brows. "Is this also born of the fact you might have to fight Goetia?"

She tried very hard not to stiffen.

He hit the nail on the head.

But it was impossible to hide what was the problem there, but she did not want to give the impression that she was acting like a petulant child to him. Her eyes rose up, turning on him and regarding him silently for a few moments.

Slowly, his head nodded up and down. "I can see how that would be a daunting prospect. Goetia has proven himself formidable and easily a match for the Professor and various other dangers in the land…"

"...He deserves to work with a class that reflects his abilities." She replied back, words cold and toneless. Her body went ramrod straight. "It is just a shame that he did not believe that my class reflected that ability. Clearly we were lacking."

"I do not believe that to be the case-"

"What other reason could there be?" Biting back, her hands clenched into fists. Keeping her voice low but full of fire. "The Golden Deer…everything about them is like a mummer's farce! You can hardly go a single lesson without some antics from the likes of Von Riegan or some incompetence from others or a loud distraction from the likes of Raphael. Lest we forget Hilda who would rather pass on the work to someone else and do just that with a flutter of her eyes!"

A scoff rippled in the back of her throat, a mixture of a laugh and something else.

"What individual with any sense of respect would wish to work with us? Certainly not someone my Teachers standing. He should expect excellence from those he's going to work with and we could not even provide an amateur comedy routine…what a joke…no wonder he passed our class aside."

Her eyes were focused at her hands by the time she was finished.

Already she could feel the burning shame of outburst creeping through her body, despite her best efforts she had acted as a child. An immature child who was just whining that things weren't going her way. Her hands dropped down onto her lap and curled upwards, fingers dug into her thighs.

Teeth clenched against one another with such force that she was sure she might end up breaking them.

"I fear you speak too cruelly towards your own classmates, Lysithea."

A dry snort escaped her, she moved her hand to wipe her face.

"You would not say as much if you had to work alongside them." She answered, voice light.

"No, but even if I had grief with my own classmates, I believe they are worthy of more respect than to be insulted behind their backs…though you doubtless voice these frustrations to their faces as well."

Her eyes rose, a sharp look in them.

She was given pause at the look Dimitri was sending her way.

"Even the best among us are not infallible. All are prone to mistakes or flaws that we cannot change. Working as a team does not rely on a single party to make the first step."

Blue eyes narrowed, the boy angled his body forwards and rested his arms flat on the wooden table, it creaked under his weight.

"Can you truly say that you have put all your effort into mending the bridge between yourself and your peers? It is a mock battle, after all, and not even I would expect all my fellows to do as I bid when I bid it…such a thing would make me a tyrant."

"...Is that what you think of me as?" She asked, low and quiet.

He responded with a shake of the head, a soft note held in his features. "No, your expectations are measured against your own talent, but not everyone can be as remarkable as you. There are those who even I cannot measure against but at each time I tripped or stumbled…they were there to grasp my hand and shoulder my weight. I would not be here now if I did not have them to guide me."

"...What are you asking of me?"

Dimitri took in a breath, then leaned back. "You speak of your classmates so lowly? Then perhaps you should offer counsel. True and pure council to those who would hear it. The complaints you hold against them should be levied with reason and sense. Insults will not change the minds of others…no matter how creative that might be."

He was right, she could not deny.

There were many grievances she held with her classmates but despite everything else she could say about them. They were at least capable of doing something right.

"As for the matter of Goetia, I recall he worked with your class on one occasion. A mission to root out Demonic Beasts…I heard that was a resounding success."

"He had to step up-"

"Because you were faced with a foe that you could not challenge." His voice was quiet, but it carried a weight that stopped her own words on the tip of her tongue. Blue eyes looked back at her without a hint of judgement, merely some form of empathy. "Claude spoke to me of it through many boasts of Goetia but the fact remains. You and your class banded together against a threat when you were less experienced than you are now and you triumphed."

A finger raised, he gestured towards her. "Would you say that your class has worsened since that mission?"

Lysithea opened her mouth to reply, then paused and closed it once more.

There was little that she could say when faced with such a question.

She would not say that their individual skills had worsened, rather they had only improved. Not quite at the rate of her own, but the improvements were there.

It was merely that she had grown more aware of the personal failures in their ranks.

But in terms of ability…

"...I wouldn't."

"Felix despises me." Dimitri suddenly announced. "He has driven a wedge between us and I fear he has ended a long friendship…That has earned him no favours with Dedue and Ingrid is…"

His lips rolled, exhaustion in his eyes for but a moment before they strengthened.

"She is earnest. I have accepted there must be a reason for the words of Felix, but despite all of that…there is no one I would rather have by my own side when it comes to battle. Though I doubt he shall ever admit it while of sober mind, I am sure Felix feels the same way. At least when it comes to fighting, there is no one I would rather stand with."

Lysithea gave a slow blink, then frowned. "You say this despite the fact he uses every other free breath to hurl insults towards you and make jokes at your own expense?"

"I have learned that it is impossible to please everyone. Even those you work with in the future shall take grievances with your declarations. I could not count the number who voiced their objections to the appointment of Dedue to my service…but I work with them all, even now."

There was something in the eyes of Dimitri.

If only for a second.

"Though I recall all their faces and names, and remember the many insults they have levied against him over the years. Some have been convinced by his good work…others remain intolerant. I have been inspired by Dedue to temper myself for such things. Rather, I envy his stoic nature."

"I know about working with those I don't like." She answered with a grunt, folding her arms over her chest. "But all the same-"

"All the same…We must work with the tools we have been granted."

"The tools I have been granted are-" Cursed.

She almost let her word slip there, but fought them back.

Her temper reigned itself into her chest once more, closing her eyes to hide away the fire she felt burning up behind them and letting out a cooling breath. Seconds passed her by like months before she dared to open her gaze to the world once more.

"...I suppose it would be beneath me if I were to throw a tantrum and abandon all hope because I was given a poor hand. I have long since learned how to make the most of a dire situation, after all."

Dimitri did not look as though he fully understood her, but he nodded his head all the same and smiled encouragingly towards her. "There is a perseverance about you that I find rather admirable. To push against all obstacles…I am certain that Goetia has seen it as well. Perhaps that is why he now stands against you."

She blinked once.

Then twice.

"What?"

"Did that not occur to you?" He raised a brow then grunted. "I suppose it would not, in truth, it did not occur to me until just this last moment. But when I trained under the watchful gaze of Rodrigue, he took me to the training yard and handed me a sword and told me that my next match would be against him."

She could see what he was aiming for.

She opened her mouth to deny the words but was stopped when Dimitri held up the flat of his hand.

"Do I suggest that Goetia wishes to fight you for that reason alone? No. Though I do not believe Goetia to be one who would do something without reason. You are his first true student. You would know him better than I, however, but I would put forth that what he wishes is to see the true extent of your abilities when pitted against him."

That sounded…

Her lips drew thin, her eyes dipped.

It was something she had not considered, but it was with good reason that she had not thought of such a thing…

…and yet…

Her eyes danced back to the face of the prince and lingered upon it for a few moments, then she gradually found her head bobbing up and down. "You have given me much to think upon, Prince Dimitri."

"I hope so." Dimitri replied with a light chuckle. "But do not think so poorly of Claude, you will need to work with him. Though perhaps consider yourself more akin to a tempering hand to his antics. If such a thing is possible…but I am sure you could be capable of such. Regardless…I shall say this once and without embellishment."

He straightened and looked her dead in the eye.

"I would not wish to face you in a battle. Having seen your skill and prowess…I am certain that you are quite the dangerous individual, no offence intended."

She guffawed and turned her head, bringing a hand up to wave aside. "You shouldn't throw so much flattery in one conversation. Someone would accuse you of trying to pander to my ego."

"Is that how it appears? I have spoken only the truth as I see it." He replied, shaking his head from side to side. "Though I still have every intention of leading my house to victory, I shall look to the Golden Deer as a threat equal to us. Claude is fickle, prone to moments of carelessness…but he is unpredictable and I believe you compliment that well."

"Are you mad?" She blurted out, then narrowed her eyes and glanced left and right. "Did you stop by an alehouse before you came here?"

"At least wait for my reasons before you accuse me of being a drunk." His words came as a chortle, bringing a fist to cover his lips and closing his eyes. When they opened, there was still mirth shining within them. "You are unconventional, just as he is, you proved as much when you accepted the tutelage of a stranger from a strange land with no true accreditation to his name."

"That was because he proved himself to know what he was talking about-"

"And I do not deny that." Dimitri said. "But how many others would have accepted his words? You have already broken many expectations, far beyond your fellows. Indeed…I believe that the strength of the Golden Deer is in such diversity. You are quite a colourful and chaotic bunch, that much is true…but as Goetia has proven, there is a potency in the unorthodox."

Her lips rolled thin.

"Why tell me all this?" She asked, shooting him a suspicious gaze. "Why…why help me?"

"We are friends, I would not be able to call myself as such if I left you to wallow." He replied without hesitation. "And…I do believe that I would prefer the victory of the Blue Lions to happen when every class is at their best. I could hardly allow one of the strongest of the Golden Deer to enter the field of battle with her mind clouded full of doubts."

"Hmph. Arrogant. What if you just helped yourself lose?"

Dimitri shrugged his shoulders. "Then we were simply not the best, but I fully intend for us to win. Remember that, Lysithea. Not simply because we have the Professor by our side but…there is someone that I do wish to face."

There sounded to be more there.

…But she did not pry, it was not her place do so.

And it sounded quite close to his heart.

…And her mind needed one more thing before she could act without hesitation.


"My reasoning for aiding the Black Eagles?"

Goetia turned on her the moment she posed the question, Lysithea stood firm and took a short breath as the crimson eyes of the man fell upon her, a piercing gaze in them as he strode towards her with slow and careful steps.

"It has been nearly two weeks since I began working with them, have you been sitting upon this question during that entire time?"

She nodded her head, "I did not want you to think I was insulting your choice-"

"I would never accuse you of insulting me." He frowned, then quickly wiped the look from his face. "No, you are a student of mine and perhaps you should have been informed. It would have been better had I told you from the beginning…some things, it seems, are not so easily understood."

"...Sorry for disapp-"

"If you had disappointed me." He cut her short, a flash in his gaze and a hard expression.

Lysithea froze at it, snapping her jaw shut with a loud click.

"Then I would have told you about it." He finished, his gaze shifted into something different. "I did choose the Black Eagles over the Golden Deer because of your presence. I have every belief that you are one of the most competent individuals in this Monastery and I wish to test that competence for myself."

She blinked once.

Then twice.

Then thrice.

For a moment, it felt as though her legs would give out from under her.

But she kept her head up high and met his gaze with her own. "You…you do?"

"Have you ever known me to give out cheap words?"

Her head shook.

"Then that is your answer. I have been remiss in your training, you have long since risen beyond your peers and there has come a point where I must test how capable you are in a less…controlled environment."

He turned away from her, then paced across the length of the lecture hall once more, his hand raising. "I am aware of your adversity for senseless violence, much like Linhardt. You are perhaps brighter than he, but no less skilled, if provided the chance…but you have time as an advantage. My student long before he was."

Goetia turned back to face her. "...I have high expectations for you. Ones that cannot be met if I do not at least judge your skills once in a less civilised manner. That is why I selected the Black Eagles."

He paused for a moment, then rolled his jaw.

"...And my affiliation with that class was lesser than the other two, despite spending time with some of its members."

She wet her lips, then stepped forwards. "Then…then this is so you can-"

"The purpose of the mock battle is so that the Academy can judge the progress that has been made in regards to your education. This is merely a more personalised application of that concept. An exam for you and you alone. Do not disappoint me, Lysithea von Ordelia."

"I won't."

"...We shall see." He replied with an ominous tone, turning his body from her and pausing just before his back was to her completely. "...But if your past results have heralded anything, it shall be that you are quite right and I shall not be disappointed in your progress."

Lysithea mutely nodded her head and turned back around.

Then felt a grin split across her lips.

It seemed as though Dimitri was right.

It also meant she would need to step up to whip the Golden Deer into shape as well!