Chapter 2: Unforeseen encounter

The skirmish itself had barely begun when Goetia arrived at the outskirts. He stood just outside the view of the two opposing groups.

The bandits themselves seemed to be relying solely on numbers and intimidation rather than any feasible strategy or tactics. Goetia would not consider himself to be a master at sword combat, Solomon wasn't so neither was he.

Watching two humans beat at eachother with sharpened pieces of metal to see who could kill the other one first was hardly something he considered to be worthy of further study beyond basic principle.

His red eyes scanned the opposing force, the mercenaries and their recent additions. The Nobles, or apparently their heirs if the apparent age of them was anything to go by.

Two boys and one girl, although Goetia would admit that as far as humans went, they were at least distinctive in their appearance. He honed in on the one which had initially inspired him to venture out to this location in the first place.

The short white haired girl with a red shoulder cape. She had two crests, however that was as much as he could tell from this distance. He couldn't tell if she was the result of experimentation or a natural occurrence without further study. He frowned, why was he so curious about this?

It didn't affect him in any way, so why did he find himself drawn to it? From a purely scientific viewpoint it made sense to him, she was an anomaly that warranted further study, however to what end was something he didn't really know. Suppose he could learn to transplant more than one crest onto an individual, what would he do with this knowledge? Very little if anything.

In that case, was it simply knowing it for the sake of knowing? He grimaced. Preposterous, knowledge had to have some use otherwise it was pointless, if he were to learn about something, it would have to serve some purpose otherwise the entire venture would be meaningless.

His gaze left the girl and travelled to one of the two boys. The taller blonde haired one with a blue shoulder cape. He had only a single crest, however if the fact that he just blew an approximately ninety kilogram man back at least six feet wielding only a wooden spear was any indication, it appeared to provide him with a boost to his physical parameters.

For a scholar, such a thing would be largely useless therefore he could admit the use of applying such a boon to a warrior. However it could just as easily be applied to a builder.

The final boy was different from the other two, a darker skin complexion and a yellow cape singled him out from the others. A foreigner? Curious, he hadn't seen any of them. He himself had been asked if he hailed from a land called 'Duscur' he presumed it was because of his darker skin. He suspected that boy didn't hail from Duscur either, perhaps further East? Passing word of a land called Almyra sprung to mind.

A mixed blooded child perhaps?

If so that made him more curious to study. The treatment of foreigners themselves was regarded with no small amount of suspicion and for a boy to be of Noble birth and carry foreign blood in him? The boy likely experienced harships.

Yet here he was, fighting with his peers without any worry of being left vulnerable...Why?

Where did this trust come from?

Their different coloured capes signified that they were of different factions to each other, so where did this sense of camaraderie come from?

A desire to survive the bandits? That answer seemed the most logical, yet at the same time far too simple. The moment the children entered the mercenary camp they could have simply left it to the sell swords to fight the bandits, yet they joined in combatting them.

How troubling.

He found himself slightly disappointed that the only Crest he had seen utilised thus far was the one belonging to the blonde haired boy. Perhaps the others were more passive in their effects or the situations meant that they couldn't be utilized.

His gaze slowly turned to the blue haired girl, Byleth, the one who held the Divine Core. She was proving to be a formidable opponent to the bandits. As far as combat skill went, she was leagues above whatever her opponents could muster.

Although Goetia wasn't surprised by this, the wielder of a magic core of any variety was certainly a considerable foe for any unenhanced human. Even those with certain with divine blood in them would often face a challenge when fighting a holder of a Magic Core in his own world. However...the core was still inactive-

Oh? His eyes widened in surprise.

It wasn't inactive, it simply wasn't operating at its full potential. There was something there that hadn't been when he last spoke with her.

What had occurred? Was it the combat? Unlikely. She was a sell sword, she had likely fought a number of battles prior to this one.

The presence of other crests?

Unlikely. He dismissed that thought again. The older man in the orange armour, he was also possessing a crest and was likely in the same mercenary group as the Byleth girl. He noticed something else however.

There was a similarity between Byleth and the white haired girl. A distinctive feeling between them, they shared a common crest. Although it seemed more potent in Byleth than the girl. The result of her divine core?

How intriguing...perhaps the presence of a similar crest spurred the reaction?

Either way, it had at least peaked his curiosity.

He watched the remainder of the battle with an eye of minor disinterest. It was a skirmish. Despite the inherent nature of the combatants it was nothing he hadn't seen before. The presence of a Divine core and Nobles played very little role in their fight against the thugs.

He raised a lone eyebrow as one of the thugs managed to knock the mixed blooded child to the ground and the bow from his hand. It skirted away from him, the blonde haired boy turned to sprint at him but it was obvious the boy wouldn't be fast enough to save him.

Time seemed to slow as Goetia watched the event unfurl. The boy would die, that much was inevitable.

He had gone into this situation, likely fully aware of the possible consequences, yet never even hesitated. Goetia frowned, this was the bizarre human nature that he failed to understand.

The boy probably wanted to live. Yet risked his own life. That...didn't make sense, if a person wanted to live, then they should avoid combat situations.

Why? What did he have to gain from this?

What was worth a possible death?

Goetia watched the sword descend. The panic on both the tanned boy and the blonde haired one was clear.

He wouldn't interfere.

He wouldn't.

Yet, if the boy died...then he would lose a possible source of study for Crests…

That and he wanted an answer as to why the boy risked his life...he needed to know why he decided to fight bandits armed with nothing but a training bow.

Goetia raised his left hand and pointed a single finger at the bandit. The tip of his finger glowed.

"Claude!" He heard someone scream out his name, probably Dimitri. Although the adrenaline running through his system was sort of making things travel in slow motion right now.

He watched the sword descend towards him in slow motion. He saw his life flash before his eyes…

Oh, it was over already?

That was pretty short.

He was kind of disappointed that he couldn't do much more.

Claude Von Reigan.

Heir to the Leicester alliance.

Killed by an unnamed bandit in a field, in the middle of nowhere after their professor abandoned them.

Lorenz would probably have called him a reckless fool for trying to fight the bandits.

Would Lorenz miss him? He'd like to think so but probably not.

The sword was mere inches from piercing him.

Oh...He was going to die…

"Argh!" A cry of pain...that wasn't his?

He don't know who was more shocked as the battlefield seemed to freeze.

One moment the bandit had been poised to run him through, the next a bright orange beam had burnt its way through the man's chest and launched him away. Dimitri came to a halt a few feet from him.

They both stared at the smoky remains of the bandit in wide eyed surprise, before they looked at eachother.

"Ha…" Claude released a small breath of relief "Guess someone up there likes me."

Dimitri stared at him then frowned "Perhaps, although I would suggest you grab your bow. If I were you, I doubt your mysterious saviour wants you to die carelessly after all the trouble he went through to save you."

"Pfft." Claude waved him off as he jumped to his feet and grabbed his bow "I'm sure they'll still be looking out for me." he slotted another arrow and drew back the bowstring.

Goetia lowered his hand. Some of the bandits had seen the beam of light and their gaze travelled back to him.

"Mage!" Someone screamed out, Goetia withheld a sigh of exasperation. He didn't really want to trouble himself with combat.

He wasn't adverse it fighting, however he didn't really consider it a valuable use of his time if it could be avoided. Although that wasn't to say he was incapable of defending himself. He very much doubted he had much to fear from petty thugs.

He stepped into the clearing, several bandits were already rushing him with their weapons drawn.

"Watch out!" The white haired girl rushed in, likely viewing him as somewhat helpless. Which he quickly disproved when he flicked his left hand. The man at the front burst into flames. That quickly stopped the other two bandits in their tracks as they watched the man scream and flail about.

Their eyes travelled back to the tanned man with golden hair as he stared at the burning man. What truly terrified them was that there was no emotion in his eyes. It was as if killing their comrade was a chore at best.

They shook themselves out of their stupor when their fellow bandit collapsed to the ground. Probably having passed out from the pain, which they considered a mercy considering he was still burning.

"I will offer you a reprieve." The tanned man said to them, the bandits and the girl stared at him "Withdraw or die." he stated it like a fact.

There was no other possibility of their engagement.

They would either run, or they would die.

The two bandits turned to eachother and nodded once. They instantly dropped their swords and sprinted off into the woods.

"There are still combatants." Goetia spoke to the white haired girl as he moved past her "I suspect you are needed."

"Quite so..." The girl replied, her analytical gaze stayed on him for a few moments before she rushed back into the fight.

Goetia continued to walk forwards. He was now involved in this skirmish. He may as well see it finished.

Jeralt was having a bad evening. First these noble kids coming running into his camp and now he was having to deal with bandits. It wasn't a particular challenge to him. He wasn't called the 'blade-breaker' for nothing, but at the end of the day the entire affair was something he would rather have avoided.

He'd done his best to avoid Nobles of the Academy...not that he had a prejudice against them, but where the kids were, the knights of Serios were not far behind. Those were what he really wanted to avo-

"What the heck?" He stared in confusion as a tanned man with one arm walked past him and towards the bandits. He'd heard the men talking about some weird resident living in Remire but he hadn't expected to see him himself.

He certainly didn't expect him to be wandering into the middle of a battlefield.

"Are you crazy!?" He shouted to the guy, even if he was a mage his only advantage in this situation was range, which he was completely negating by simply strolling through a battlefield. He was gonna get himself killed.

Which he very nearly did. Jeralt watched as a bandit closed in on the man from his left, he was about to shout out a warning to the guy before he widened his eyes in surprise.

The Tanned man raised his lone arm, pointed in the direction of the bandit, and instantly fire off a blast of magic which completely vaporised the top half of his would be killer.

"Nevermind then…" He muttered to himself "Damn crazy mages."

Goetia considered this entire affair to be rather mundane. He himself didn't know why he was doing this. Pride perhaps?

He have involved himself, therefore he would at least complete the task of routing the bandits.

He would admit that he was only half paying attention at the time, his attention was still split between the combat at the Byleth girl. Her Divine Core was now partially active, or in the process of doing so. Although it still didn't appear to be in a state where it was directly affecting her.

His attention was once again drawn away from her as a man with a spear tried to skewer him through the gut. Goetia sidestepped the spear and lashed out with his hand, gripping the man by the face and instantly set off a combustion from his palm.

The rather loud scream the man let off was cut off abruptly when his head turned to ash and his body collapsed to the floor. Goetia stared in minor annoyance at his hand. This was far too brutal for his liking. Not the actually killing, but rather the results, his robe was already coated in ash and dirt from the brief skirmish.

That and his hand was now covered in the burnt remains of his attacker.

He looked back to the Byleth girl, she was rushing to defend the white haired girl from an axe wielding bandit, she pushed the girl to the side but wasn't fast enough to turn herself to face the bandit fully. The axe fell and buried itself in her-

Time lurched and Goetia stumbled back in surprise.

His eyes wide as the universe seemingly went backwards, a shattering sound of glass accompanied the reversal of time. Goetia would admit that this was not one of the possibilities that he though the Divine core would have granted her.

The bandit resumed his place before he rushed the girl. Byleth was instantly infront of her, disarming the bandit and sending him stumbling back.

Goetia cared little for that though.

He was now staring in complete shock at the girl. Her Divine Core was now active, and apparently granted her minor dominion over the flow of time. At least several seconds as the display had revealed.

However that brought more questions than answers.

Why was she in possession of such a thing?

How much control over time was she afforded?

Why wasn't he affected?

He was so caught up in his thinking that he never noticed that Byleth had now caught sight of him. Her own eyes widened slightly as she man she had spoken to yesterday in the middle of a battle of all things.

"Hey?" Goetia vaguely heard a voice call out to him, he looked to his right and saw the mixed blooded boy walking up to him, accompanied by the blonde haired boy "You're that guy who lasered the bandit who was about to deprive the world of my handsome face, right?"

Goetia stared at him. Despite the boys rather flippant attitude regarding his near death experience, Goetia could tell that the boy was sizing him up. He hid his curiosity well, not well enough but better than the former Demon would have expected.

"I did prevent your death." Goetia replied. The boy gave him a smile and nodded his head.

"Thought so, you look a bit too out of place here to be just a passer-by."

"Claude!" The blonde haired boy scolded him, then turned back to Goetia with a more apologetic expression "What he means to say is, thank your for helping him. I should also thank you for being able to aid him when I was not."

Goetia didn't really know how to reply to that. They thanked him. He frowned internally, he didn't understand why. The principle of his actions remained the same, he aided the human boy in order to prevent his suffering and yet in this situation they thanked him.

What had changed? What was the difference between this situation of preventing suffering and the past scenario? Was it his appearance?

Was that where he went wrong with the Human Incineration Order? Would a more human appearance have made them more willing to admit that his work was correct?

"Your thanks are acknowledged." He eventually replied, the pair simply raised they eyebrows at his odd choice of words but decided not to dwell on it further.

"So…" The boy, Claude, spoke after a few moments "Where you from?"

"Claude!" The other one now sounded more irritated "This man saved your life, must you interrogate him?"

"Hey, hey!" Claude held up his hands, a carefree expression on his face "I'm just curious is all...don't tell me you aren't at least a bit intrigued by him?"

The blonde haired boy frowned "Whether or not I am is irrelevant, if he wishes to share personal information is up to him. I will not seek to try and quiz him because of his physical appearance." he turned back to Goetia, then seemingly blinked in surprise "I apologies, I seem to have gotten ahead of myself and forgone introductions. I am Prince Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd, heir to the Kingdom of Faerghus."

"I'm Claude Von Reigan." Was the boys rather bland introduction, he held up a single hand in a wave "Guess you could also say I'm heir to the Leicester alliance, but we're not exactly what you would call a kingdom per-say."

"Is that so." Was Goetia's reply. This was a rather unforeseen turn of events. He had known the children to be Nobles, but for two of the three of them to be the heirs to the major powers of this continent?

This, as well as the Divine Core, was certainly a rather astronomically slim coincidence. He slowly turned his gaze to the white haired girl, still speaking with Byleth "I shall assume she is heir to the Adrestian Empire?"

"Yep." Claude nodded "I would ask how you figured, but with mine and Dimitri's background, it was probably a pretty simply guess right?"

"As you say." Goetia replied "A simple deduction."

"So, how might we address you, friend?" Dimitri asked, a welcoming smile on his face. Which Goetia noted wasn't exactly reaching his eyes. He wandered what the point of smiling was when it was an act of falsity.

"Goetia." He replied "Simply a traveller."

"Traveller, huh?" Claude seemed to smile wider "See any good places?"

"As of yet? Nothing of true grandeur."

"Hard guy to please then." Claude laughed "Forgive me for prying, but you don't look like a native of Fodlan."

"Claude!" Dimitri hissed again, evidently he was perceiving the line of questioning to be accusatory towards Goetia.

"I take no offence in his questions, Prince Dimitri." Goetia replied "No. I am not a native, I have only recently arrived here."

"Figures." Claude nodded, then looked over to where Byleth and the white haired girl were "Looks like our backup is here." he noted. Goetia and Dimitri turned to see several individuals wearing knight armour standing with Byleth and the girl, alongside the man in orange armour.

Goetia took notice that the presumable captain of the knights was speaking to the man in orange armour, much to the latter's obvious irritation. However he noticed Byleth break off from their conversation as she eyed him, seemingly dismissing herself from the conversation she made her way over to him.

"Goetia." Byleth announced her presence as she walked up to the man.

"Byleth." He replied in kind.

"You are a mage."

"I never claimed not to be one."

"You are a powerful mage."

"The young child informed you?" He asked, she nodded her head "I see. That does not surprise you though."

Byleth once again found herself slightly stumped by the man. He knew she wasn't really surprised. She had suspected it, all the girl Edelgard, had done was simply confirm her suspicions.

"No." She replied "I suspected."

"Does that bother you?"

She shook her head, then asked the question which had been bugging her "Why are you here?"

"I became aware of a commotion on the outskirts of the town." He replied "I am familiar enough with the sounds of battle to recognise them and thought to lend my aid."

"Your assistance is acknowledged." She didn't know why Goetia raised a single eyebrow at her in intrigue before smirking.

"Indeed." Goetia replied. His eyes narrowed her at, there was something accusatory in his gaze now "Towards the end of the conflict did yo-"

"Hello, good sir!" His question was cut off when the knight, Alois, marched up to the pair with a wide grin on his face "I am told by the students that you decided to give a hand to our students, you have my gratitude and the gratitude of the officers academy."

Goetia stared at the man, his sudden interruption was a minor annoyance at best. Something else stuck out to him though. Both he and Byleth stared at the stump where is other arm was supposed to be and then looked back to the knight.

Alois suddenly found himself the subject of two confused looks.

For a few seconds he didn't understand.

'…give a hand…'

Then he did…

His eyes widened in surprise and he threw up his hands in a placating manner "I-I assure you, sir! I was in no way making a joke about your injury!"

Goetia then found himself the recipient of a stream of apologies from the man. He simply stared at him in confusion. He wasn't really offended by the man.

"You may cease apologising." He eventually cut the knight off "I was not offended by your...choice of words."

"R-right…" The knight swallowed and nodded his head "Sorry again though." he straightened himself "I am Alois, a Knight of the Church of Seiros. The students tell me you saved one of their lives."

"I did." He nodded his head "I am Goetia."

"Ah, a foreigner!" Alois seemed to brighten his smile "Its always nice when someone comes from far away to witness the beauty of Fodlan!" he looked around the battlefield and his smile seemed to dim "Although...perhaps this isn't the best place for it…"

"The sight does not offend me if that concerns you." Goetia cut him off "Although I will admit to be...disappointed in the loss of life in such a way."

Alois nodded "I understand...its always a great loss when someone pursues the path of villainy."

Goetia let the man make his own conclusions. He wasn't really bothered by the 'acts of villainy' as he was about the fact that they died over something he would consider trivial. What was the point of being a bandit? There seemed to be very little to gain and a lot to lose, was it desperation?

Perhaps. Although in a rather medieval society like this, he doubted that they wouldn't be able to find work. Where they just covetous?

That would be an even greater disappointment to him. Such a petty reason to kill and risk being killed over.

"Anyway." Alois cleared his throat "The Captain and his daughter her-" he gestured to Byleth "-Have already agreed to return with me to the monastery. You are new to Fodlan, are you not?"

"I am." Goetia had a sneaking suspicion what the man was going to suggest next.

"Wonderful!" Alois grinned "I was hoping you would join us, the Monastery itself is at the centre of the continent, and I suppose it wouldn't be a stretch to say it is a must see for visitors and pilgrims alike!"

"This Monastery." Goetia inquired "It is the centre of your Religious institute?"

"Of course." Alois nodded "Its home to the Archbishop herself!"

Goetia hummed in thought, visiting a site of cultural importance would at least grant him a more in-depth view as to how the humans of this world lived their lives. It may also help him to understand why commoners were still believers in their Goddess, despite her apparent value of Crests.

That, and the Byleth girl was now an impossibility he would keep an eye on. The ability to manipulate time required a rather exuberant amount of magical energy to operate. For this girl to seemingly do it, albeit on a small scale, so suddenly was a shock to him,

"I will travel with you." Goetia replied after a few seconds of silence.

"Wonderful!" Alois beamed "I'm sure you'll come to appreciate it just as much as we do!"

He very much doubted that.

"It seems we meet again." Goetia turned to the voice as he approached the caravan as they prepared to leave. Goetia came face to face with the white haired girl from earlier "I understand you will be joining us for our return to Garreg Mach."

"I shall." Goetia replied, he tilted his head slightly "Is that an issue?"

"Even if it were, it is not up to me." The girl replied, before giving him a small smile "Although I myself have no issue with it. We have not yet been introduced, have we?"

"Not as of yet." Goetia admitted "Your peers have already informed me of their names and your combined stations, however they neglected to inform me of yours. I suspect they wanted you to introduce yourself."

"Hmph." The girl grunted in acknowledgement "I am Edelgard Von Hresvelg." she bowed slightly "Heir to the Adrestian Empire."

"A class made up of future rulers." Goetia nodded "Either a very wise or very foolish act."

"Oh?" She raised an inquisitive eyebrow "What makes you say that?"

"Humans are emotional creatures." Goetia replied "Class rivalries, while ordinarily mundane, in such a situation may very well be detrimental to future relations with other factions."

"True." Edelgard nodded "However you must admit there are benefits, perhaps friendships between the different faction heirs may lead to more peaceful relationships in the future between the different powers."

"Hmph." Goetia hummed "I would accuse you of being optimistic, however I have noted that is a common trend in humans to wish for their desired outcome rather than the most likely."

"Some might argue that would make you cynical."

"I would argue it makes me more grounded in reality." He looked at her with curious eyes "Unless you seek to inform me that you believe in the goodwill of all you encounter."

"No, that would make me naïve." Edelgard shook her head "Optimism has its place, but it shouldn't completely control decision making."

Goetia stared at her for a few moments then nodded his head "A balanced outlook." he admitted "I am Goetia."

"You are a foreigner."

"Yes." He raised a single eyebrow "Am I to assume that such a thing is uncommon?"

"That would depend upon where you travel." Edelgard admitted "Citizens of Brigid entering the mainland are more common now then they would have been five years ago...However you do not strike me as a citizen from there, or Duscur for that matter."

"I come from across the sea to the West." Goetia replied, a lie but it was certainly a believable one "I am simply a traveller."

"I see. What do you think of Fodlan thus far?" She asked, Goetia suspected it to be a loaded question. She wasn't quite as talented at concealing her intrigue as she suspected she was.

"Very similar to where I am from." Goetia frowned "I would consider it to be similar to a house."

"" Edelgard asked in confusion, her head tilting to the side and an eyebrow raising itself up her forehead.

"From an aesthetic standpoint, it harbours differences. However, that is ultimately the only change. It is still a house. The principle of its function remains."

"You are saying that despite looking different, it is as if you haven't travelled anywhere new." Edelgard nodded "I assume your society has a similar system to ours then?"

"I was referring to people as a whole." Goetia replied, much to her surprise "Despite being in a completely different place, they still behave exactly as I expect." he frowned slightly.

"You seem disappointed about that." Edelgard pointed out.

"I am…" He sighed "I assume there was more to your visit upon me than a simple introduction?"

"Yes." Edelgard admitted "I was curious, if you were planning to stay in Fodlan, if you were willing to consider the Empire as a possible ally in the future."

"You seek to recruit me into your faction?" Goetia raised an eyebrow "While it is certainly a wise move to seek out allies, were you not the one who cautioned against naivety? Surely you would require more information about my being before you attempted such an action."

"Indeed." She nodded "Which is why I asked you to consider, if you will be joining us at the Monastery then there will be time for me to get to know both you and the Blade Breakers daughter as well."

"Unfortunately I am merely a humble traveller." Goetia shut her down "I do not consider it my business to interfere in the politics of the world. I merely observe."

"I also observed you incinerate a man tonight."

"Extenuating circumstances." He countered "I am not above lending my aid. However that was merely an isolated incident, I did not do it to curry favours with Nobles."

"In that case, why? You do not strike me as a man to do something out of the kindness of their heart."

"A rather blunt assessment." Goetia nodded his head "But not inaccurate. You stayed and fought the bandits, why?"

"It was our fault they were near the village in the first place, it was our duty to lend our aid to ensure they were stopped before they could cause more harm."

"Hmph." Goetia hummed and turned away from her, although she noticed his face betrayed confusion at her answer "I see. In that case I shall take my leave of you, young Edelgard. I suspect your companions will be curious as to your whereabouts."

"I hope we have the opportunity to speak more in the future." Edelgard spoke before she left in the direction of the front of the caravan where her peers were.

"We shall see." Goetia muttered to himself. Duty? They risked their lives out of duty? Was that all it took for them to forgo their own safety and fling themselves into a potentially lethal fight? A sense of duty?

He had abandoned his duty to watch over humanity because the task was hideous. It was cruelty forced upon him by Solomon, yet he hadn't hesitated to abandon it in favour of a more preferable task. Why didn't these Nobles feel the same way?

Did they enjoy flinging themselves into conflict? No, they didn't strike him as bloodthirsty. Goetia wasn't quite sure what to make of that, was duty really so essential to a human? Was it his lack of humanity which had made him abandon it? Was that the difference between he and Solomon?


He needed to think this over…

AN: Goetia is aware of the time reversal.

Which, when you think about it, probably makes sense considering he was in the temple of time and possessing Solomon's corpse for nearly three thousand years.

I'd say that gives him a unique insight into how the flow of time works when compared to regular people.

But yeah, slightly longer chapter than last time but whatever.

Also the tone of this, while it will be following the Azure moon story (Because Dimitri is my favourite) is going to be mainly focused of Goetia and his interactions around the Monastery during the story.

Which will also include the Ashen Wolves.