Chapter 66: I want to know
Another loud clanging noise echoed through the hallway of the inn, groans and exclamations of anger soon erupted from behind the closed doors as the residents rushed up to their feet.
"Claude!" Leonie's voice was positively a snarl, the girl throwing her door open and rushing out into the hallway "This time I'm going to shove that metal pot up your ass side-" she cut herself off as she immediately recognised the person in the hallway, her face froze in an expression of pure rage before the anger bolted from her face like horses from an open stable.
Her skin turned white and she leaned back, her brows raising themselves up her forehead in shock.
"Hmmm?" Hilda murmured as she stepped out into the hallway "Is Leonie beating up Claude again?" she chuckled quietly "This ought to be…oh."
More and more students poked their heads around the corner, fully expecting to see Claude on the verge of getting his hide tanned by his fellow Golden Deer. They were instead met with the sight of a blank faced Seteth stood in the hallway, a delicate green eyebrow raised in the direction of the orange haired girl.
His gaze soon swept across the entire hall, locking onto every single student that was outside individually before he closed his eyes and spoke. "While I am sorry for waking you all at such early hours, as I've come to note you seem to appreciate your relaxation." his eyes opened and looked to Leonie, the girl pursed her lips and instantly looked down to avoid Seteth's blank gaze.
"I would like all classes to assemble in the field near the path that leads up towards the Monastery." His words delivered, he turned around and started to make his way back the way he had come towards the staircase at the end of the hall. He paused before looking over his shoulder "I should like to point out that even in these unusual circumstances, you should act like the officers you will someday become. That means showing a united front and avoiding acts of violence."
Claude snickered further up the hall, the near silent chuckle didn't escape Seteth's ears though as his head snapped in the direction of the boy. Causing him to freeze and go ramrod straight.
"Or instigating a reaction from your classmates. I expect much greater levels of maturity for someone who will one day lead the Alliance." His eyes narrowed and his tone contained the same type of disappointed note that one would expect an upset father to have. Suddenly Seteth speaking with that tone made much more sense than it had before. "On another note, has anyone seen Flayn?"
"Flayn? Yeah. Saw her yesterday." Claude confirmed with a nod of the head, Seteth's focus on him intensified "She and Sprinkles-" Seteth raised an eyebrow "-I mean Lysithea went off to find out where Sparkles-er-Goetia disappeared off to." he paused for a moment, then jerked his thumb towards Raphael "That was after he dropped a wagon on his foot."
"I was heavier than I thought it would be." Raphael defended himself, then pointed down the hall towards the blonde prince who emerged and looked slightly dishevelled "And besides! Did you see Dimitri? That was amazing!"
"H-hm?" Dimitri gave a tired noise, blinking several times as he looked to the voice "O-oh, right. Yesterday." he gave a slow nod of the head, blinking several times and rubbing his eyes "How are you anyway?"
"I'm fine now." Raphael confirmed with a nod of the head "Thanks for-"
"Ahem." Seteth coughed with a sense of urgency "Flayn went off with Lysithea to find Goetia, has anyone seen them since?" he looked around the hallway for answers.
Claude shook his head, lips pulling themselves into a thin line "Not since they walked off. From what I heard, they were going around and asking a bunch of questions to different folks about what Sparkles was buying and stuff." he cupped his chin and hummed "They might have headed up to the Monastery to check if he was in his room but I don't know much more than that."
The boy then turned to the others "Anyone see Lysithea come in? In fact, who was the last one up?"
"Linhardt." Marianne whispered ever so quietly, poking her head barely out of the door. Bernadetta was further in the room and even less willing to come out than the blue haired girl.
Claude privately wondered whose bright idea it was to put two of the least sociable people in the same room together, then recalled it was his own because there was a good chance that their unwillingness to interact with other people would probably make them comfortable around one another. Finding out whether it actually worked was something he probably wasn't going to figure out any time soon.
"He was…" Marianne gave a faint shudder as she built up the courage to continue speaking "He was still awake when I came back from tending the stables." she remained silent for several more seconds as heads turned in her direction "T-the um…the horses like to be calmed at night…and there were some unfamiliar ones from the nights so I…" she looked down to the ground, slowly closing the door once again with a quiet click.
"...And there we have it." Claude gestured to the recently closed door, then turned further up the hall. Although there were admittedly few rooms left on this floor. "I think most of the black eagles are downstairs…" the boy muttered before shaking his head and turning back to Seteth "Sorry."
"...Hmph." Seteth gave a single grunt, his hands clenched into fists and then loosening again. "I shall speak with Linhardt then. If you should happen to see Flayn or Lysithea…please direct them towards me unless I have already spoken with them."
The green haired man disappeared down the staircase, not making a sound as he left them alone. Anyone could tell that there was a tenseness in his posture, his movements were rushed by not completely panicked as of yet.
"...When did he even get back?" Sylvain asked, leaning against his door frame and raising a curious eyebrow "For that matter, I'm surprised he's still here. Wouldn't he want a break or something?"
"Whether or not he wants a break doesn't change the fact he needs to be here." Felix grunted from inside the room they shared, his voice echoing through the corridor "He's advisor to the Archbishop, the sooner he's up and in the public eye, the less frightened the masses will be. Besides, his daughter is apparently missing. I'd say that warrants him ending his rest early."
"True enough," Sylvain admitted with a nod of the head, then a frown coming upon his features "Do you think she's alright?"
"Sylvain. No." Ingrid called out from her door, her muffled voice losing none of its sternness.
"What?" Sylvain made an indignant grunt as he raised his hands up "I was expressing concer-"
"I didn't even say anyth-"
"Alright, alright!" The redhead gave an exaggerated sigh, shaking his head and looking back into the room he shared with Felix "Can't even express concern now?"
"If it was purely concern, she would have no problem with you." Felix dryly remarked as he pushed himself out of bed "But with you, it is never limited to 'just' concern."
"Really?" Sylvain rewarded this sentence with an utterly flat expression "You too?"
"Yes." Felix wasted no time in delivering yet another blunt remark, looking down towards his feet as he stretched his toes "Because I've known you long enough to know what you're like. Seteth has known you long enough to know what you're like and in the mood he is in, I would rather not see him break your jaw because you made a remark about his daughter."
"He wouldn't punch me, right?"
"Not if you said you were worried." Felix admitted with a nod of the head, then returned his attention to Sylvain "But with you, who knows where that worry originates?"
"Fine." Sylvain waved his hands, then turned to the hallway again "But seriously, I didn't think he'd be waking us up personally. Do you think he wants us to try and track down Flayn and Lysithea?"
"If he did, he would have told us as much." Ingrid's muffled voice sounded out again "I suspect there is another reason for it."
That got a few murmurs of understanding before Raphael raised his hand, a thoughtful expression crossing his face. "Ummm…when do you think he wanted us there?"
"With Seteth?" Claude shrugged his shoulders "Probably somewhere between now and 'I said be here quickly, why are you so late?'." a pause "Or something like that." he looked down the corridor to everyone else and cracked a smile "So best practice your speed changing guys!" he exclaimed before he darted back into his room and closed the door.
Hilda stared at him before she reached out and grabbed her hair, holding it in front of her face and then letting it slip through her fingers with a horrified expression "Doesn't he know how long this takes to style?"
"I'm sure he does." Dorothea remarked from inside their shared room, sounding no less on edge because of the demand. "Unfortunately…I'm not certain he's going to care."
"But I either show up late, or I show up looking like I've been dragged along the ground by a horse!"
Claude's door opened up, the boy poked his head out with a grin that stretched from ear to ear. Hilda recognised the trap she had walked into the moment the boy entered her line of sight, her eyes widened and she made to cut him off. Far too late before he could get a word in though.
"With your face? I'm sure he can't tell the difference on the best of days!" He laughed as he darted back into the room, shutting the door and locking it down tightly. Considering it was his only defence against the now suitably irate girl, it was likely the smartest choice he could have made.
Besides not speaking, at least.
Hilda growled ever so slightly before she retreated into the room and closed the door.
Dorothea looked towards her with a curious eyebrow as she moved to find her brush "You two are friends, speaking to each other like that?"
Hilda gave an amused smile "Claude knows that I'll get him back for the remark. Besides, you can always tell when he doesn't mean something." she snickered, reaching up and tapping her nose twice "He has a tell."
That prompted a reaction, the brunette looked up with wide eyes "He does?"
"Really?" Dorothea lamented with an exaggerated tone "After all that?"
"Trust me…He doesn't actually know he has one. The more people who find out, the more he'll work to correct it."
"Hmmm." The Black Eagle remained silent for a few seconds before she exhaled "Fine, fine…I suppose that makes sense." then looked back towards Hilda "So are we doing an early mess or fashionably late?"
"Definitely late." Hilda responded without so much as missing a beat "Could you imagine being seen before all those people with your hair a mess and your uniform a shambles?" she shivered slightly "I'm not sure I could ever live with myself if I was seen like that. I'll take Seteth giving me the annoyed look any day of the year over that."
Seteth tiredly rubbed his eyes as he descended down the steps and further through the building. He'd wanted to stretch his legs after being stuck in that bed for longer than he would have liked and therefore felt a simple trip to where the students were staying would have been enough.
He'd almost forgotten what it was like to deal with them, especially in circumstances that forced them from their comfort zones.
Still, after lying in bed and doing next to nothing but healing while everyone else tried to rebuild, he couldn't help but feel grateful that he was finally going to be able to contribute something meaningful, at the very least the students had felt much the same. Some of the reports he had gotten from his time in the recovery tent had been remarkably positive.
He was exceedingly pleased that the officers in training had been proactive in their roles as guardians of the common folk, especially in times such as these when a supporting shoulder was needed. There were a couple points that could do with some improvement - something about a cart breaking and nearly losing a foot - but all in all, he was pleased.
Of course, it was never a slow day at the monastery and if half the rumours were to be believed Goetia had walked out into the night very nearly stark naked and no one had seen head nor tail of him since.
Apparently Flayn had gone looking for him and no one had seen her yet either, apparently she had gone out looking with Lysithea though so at least she wasn't alone. That didn't stop him from nearly charging out of the tent the moment he found out and trying to track her down.
But no…his panic would only cause further alarm.
She was with someone, she was with one of Goetia's pupils and an officer in training at the academy. She was fine, she was probably fine. Except his talk with Linhardt had yielded nothing in the way of results. The boy had been awake nearly the entire night - something Seteth was privately surprised, and slightly dubious about the validity of - and hadn't seen them return or heard them at all.
Which meant that she was either still outside somewhere or had gone to the Monastery and rested there.
That left him in the exact same place as he was previously, with no clue where his daughter was.
Seteth went blank faced as he stepped foot outside, the image of tranquillity and control slipped from his face almost immediately as he turned about and marched towards the closest guard he could see. Given that the knight in question was currently passing around orders to someone else, that meant they were someone with authority, which was good.
"You there." He called out to them as he closed in, the man shifted slightly and then turned in his direction. Soon snapping to attention as he recognised the man approaching him.
"Advisor Seteth." The knight saluted, then lowered the arm "I'm glad to see that you're back up and about Sir, we weren't worried for a moment." he paused for a second before his lips went tight "What I mean is that we were obviously worried about your health, but we didn't have any worries that you were going to die."
Seteth slowed his pace, furrowing his brows at the verbal vomit that had been hurled in his direction. The absence of Flayn meant that he wasn't in the mood for keeping up appearances, his expression must have been something considering the man flinched and looked to the side for a split second.
"I-uhm…Glad to see you're up and about!" The knight started again, flashing him a smile as if nothing had happened. "I am pleased to tell you that there is nothing concerning to report!"
The knight remained silent for several seconds, then slowly started to wilt as Seteth all but glared at him. "I-um-that is to say that…er…I don't know if there's anything to report or not…um…"
"Flayn." Seteth spoke in a clipped tone, hiding away his concern under a thick layer of annoyance "Where is she?" she hadn't been in the tent when he had awoken and when he had asked around, no one had seen her since yesterday.
Apparently no one had actually bothered to let her father know that she was now missing for whatever reason. He'd likely been too emotional to hear what they were saying but in his own defence, his daughter was apparently missing.
"F-Flayn?" The expression of the knight shifted from worried to just puzzled, straightening himself out once again. "She isn't back yet?" his lips curled into a slight frown "She and Goetia's pupil - I think her name is Lysithea - went off to try and find him." a tilt of the head "Have they not come back yet?"
"No. That is why I am asking." Looking around, Seteth's frown worsened as he felt his concern grow deeper and deeper "If she had not yet returned then that could mean that…"
"It could be that they're up by the Monastery." The knight pointed out, clearly in an attempt to assuage Seteth's worries "They started in the afternoon and I'm sure that someone would have heard something if they ran into trouble." giving a thoughtful hum, the knight nodded his head "I can get up a search party to start looking for them immediately, although it would mean that-"
"Take at least fifteen-no, twenty knights to find Flayn and the missing student." Seteth ordered without waiting for the man to finish speaking "And keep them searching both the town and the Monastery. I want every inch of ground covered and give me regular reports." he paused for a moment, then pointed up "Give them wyverns to track from the air, at least five of them and ask the citizens if they have seen either of the missing children. Understood?"
"Yes, Sir!" The Knight saluted "...Should I tell the wyvern riders to also keep an eye out for Goetia?"
Seteth paused at that, debating it within his mind for a few moments. He would normally have said no but news that Goetia was wandering the streets practically naked gave him cause for concern over the man's mental state. "...Yes." He replied after a moment "But that Flayn and Lysithea remain their highest priorities. If they do discover Goetia first, tell them to bring him to me or ask if he has seen either of the students."
"Right away." The knight nodded his head, turning on his heel and shot off down the street while calling out to another of the other patrols who happened to be nearby.
Seteth gave a sharp breath as he turned on his heel and walked towards the direction the knights were currently camped by. He had intended for the students to aid in the reconstruction of the Monastery further, but if Flayn could not be discovered swiftly then he would have them help with that search.
A quiet groan rippled through his throat as he felt consciousness return to him, his eyes scrunched themselves shut as rays of light immediately started to pierce through his tightly shut eyelids and assault his pupils directly. With a murmur of annoyance, he shifted his body to the side in order to avoid being directly under whatever light source was causing him this irritation.
It was only when he was midway through turning that a second groan - one that did not originate from him - caused his eyelids to separate almost instantly, red orbs seeking out the source of the sound, darting around wildly and scanning his environment. His senses worked in overdrive purely on reflex to assess his location and filter the information back through his brain.
He was lying on a clump of dirt, the blanket he had adorned himself in yesterday was cocooned around his body as best as it could be and the source of the sound came from Flayn curled up in a ball not even two feet from him. Still dressed in her uniform, the green haired girl had her eyes shut and her face set in a more serene expression as she gently breathed in and out.
Goetia stared at her uncomprehendingly for a few seconds, his eyes squinted as he tried to recall why exactly he was outside lying down atop a pile of shaped mud. Then the events of last night played back through his head, he felt his lip curl downwards in disgust. Aimed at himself rather than towards Flayn.
That shameful display that he should never have been in, nor should anyone have ever seen. That was beyond repulsive to him, that overwhelming display of emotion brought about by his doubts, the fact that he had even allowed anyone to see him like that was nothing shy of humiliating.
His brows furrowed ever so slightly, if Flayn was here then did that not mean…
Twisting his body around, he pulled himself upright and into a seating position atop his dirt chair. Crossing his legs and turning to his right side and looking downwards. He looked over the remains of his stumpy arm and soon found himself staring down at Lysithea. His student strewn out across another dirt chair with her body facing the sky.
Her sleeping posture was tragic, the way her arms were casually flopped out without a care in the world and her legs slightly bent was going to do some serious damage to her muscles if she allowed it to continue.
That brought about a morbid thought the longer he stared at her.
Would she even live long enough to feel the effects of her awful sleeping posture? Not likely, not likely in the least. No, at the present rate of her body's decay she would be dead before she even saw fourty. That was him being generous in his assumptions, the more she utilised her crests the faster the degradation of her body was going to occur.
It was likely why she hadn't actually been tapping into her crests during their initial training sessions, lowering her capabilities in order to put herself on more or less the same footing as the other crestless children. He didn't believe for one minute it was because she was some sort of equalist.
Lysithea was the type to use everything she had to her own advantage, which meant that she wasn't ignorant to her own state.
And neither was he.
Reaching around, he pulled his left hand out from under the blanket cocoon and extended it out towards her face. His fingers barely even touched her skin as he moved a few strands of hair out of her mouth and to the side of her head, it at least made her look slightly more presentable. He retracted his hand back to his side and turned away from the young girl, looking down towards the town at the base of the Monastery.
He could just wipe the minds of the pair of them right here and now.
Flayn might prove slightly more challenging but it could still be done, it would merely take more effort. He could also wipe his own mind in order to forget the…display, had ever occurred to begin with. That would solve the issue without him ever needing to think of that humiliation ever again, it would be as though it never occurred at all.
His lower lip twitched for a few seconds before he clamped down his upper jaw onto the flesh and bit down hard enough to draw blood. The warm substance trickled down his chin as he continued to bite harder.
It shouldn't have happened in the first place.
And he should have been raging that it ever occurred at all.
He should have been more angry, furious even, that he ever got into such a state to begin with. It was demeaning. It was less of him…
It was something Solomon wasn't even capable of-
"You're still not me."
"I'm sorry to say it…But you're not me." Solomon's voice continued to speak without waiting for the reply that was likely never going to come. Goetia felt the hair on the back of his neck rise up in response to the words entering his ear. "Actually, it would be better to say that I am not sorry you never ended up like me. Though it would have been much simpler for everyone had that been the case."
Goetia gave a slight wheeze "Simpler? If I were you…I am you. I know I am…" he stated, though whether he was trying to convince Solomon or himself was something he didn't care for. "I have to be you. If I'm not you then…"
"...Then that means…you aren't me."
"...That is true." Solomon stated after a moment, a quiet hum soon followed "And I said it would be simpler, not better."
"The shame of your years?"
"After you utilised all of Solomon's achievements and burnt mankind to ash? Is it little wonder he would say such things-"
"You would say such things-"
"Solomon." The man cut him off. "But Solomon would never have done what you did…either then or now."
"...Tch. Because he was incompetent-"
"When did you ever see Solomon shed a tear over anything?" The words slammed into him like a hammer, he felt his throat tighten up, unable to utter even a single sound. "Solomon's lack of freedom did not just extend to anger. He was a man who did not cry, weep or cheer. Even his love with his wives was something that he never once showed. Yet we know Solomon did love them all the same."
"...He made a poor effort of showing anything regarding love." Goetia hissed, his voice cracking slightly. "You made a poor showing of it. Did you come here to point and laugh at me? One final insult…is that why you're here?"
Solomon didn't reply, Goetia looked over his shoulder and glared at the blank face of the man. That hateful mask, that thin smile that he showed at everything. There wasn't anything about him that changed, then or now. He was still the same cold, ruthless and monstrous man he had always been. Coming here to give one final declaration of how Goetia was a failure to him was well within what he expected of the man, a great fool who could speak of his dreams and nothing else.
The pair stared at each other in silence, one set of eyes burning bright red. Both the pupils and the sclera, while the other set remained almost like a mirror, showing nothing but the emotions of the man before him.
"Is that what you would want Solomon to do if he was here?" The man asked after a moment of silence "Would that make you feel as though your current state is vindicated? For Solomon to tell you, one final time, that you are indeed a failure? Or do you want him to look at you right now and say that…he approves of this change."
Goetia felt his eyes widen, the rage slipped from him in a second and left behind only shock. "...What?"
"That is what you always championed. You are Solomon and acted as you expected Solomon should have done so. If he criticises you now, then you know you are doing something correct because you are acting as he would not. However, if Solomon approves of this change to a more emotional state…then you are left with the realisation that this is what Solomon was beneath that image of a wise King."
The image shifted, Solomon slowly faded away. His skin lightened and his hair shortened, the colour shifted from white to pale red and changed from braids to a ponytail. The clothes retracted, robes swapped for a simple white coat with pale green highlights around the collar.
Emerald eyes looked at Goetia, the thin smile shifted into a nervous grin.
"That Solomon was just…a man." Romani Archaman continued on, spreading his arms to his either side in a small movement before they fell back down "A man who didn't really know what he was doing and all along…he just didn't know how to be human."
"No…" Goetia fell from the log as he tried to move back, grunting as his head hit the floor and his eyes scrunched shut.
"I'm sorry that I can't give you the answer you want, Goetia." Romani continued on, Goetia's eyes opened slightly to see that same troubled smile on the man's face that he had seen through the eyes of Flauros so many times. It looked positively alien on the features once held by Solomon. "Because…you don't know the answer either. That cold and ruthless man was really just a hapless cynic who made a fool of himself at every turn…"
"Get rid of that-that face." Goetia hissed as he turned away "Get rid of it."
"Romani Archaman is Solomon, Goetia. He was indeed…a very incompetent person and a terrible coward right until the very end. He said whatever came to mind and did his best to never make enemies because he didn't like the idea of starting trouble. That is who Solomon really is beneath the position of a King, the Rings and the Clairvoyance…He was…just a big dreamer."
"Get rid of it-"
"Why? Because Romani was incompetent, lazy and an all around coward. These are all traits you ascribe to Solomon, so why should this face offend you-"
"Because I'm not like him…" Goetia whispered "I can't be Romani Archaman…t-that fool! Solomon could but if I can't be Romani then I can't be Solomon and then…then who am I if not Solomon?" He looked back to the visage of the doctor "You don't get it…If I'm not Solomon…who am I?"
"Goetia died in the Temple of Time." Goetia scoffed back "You killed him…I'm not Goetia and I can't even be Solomon anymore…I can't even…" he looked down at the ground, spitting blood that had seeped into his mouth "...I can't even keep my own race alive anymore…I can't understand them anymore and they can't understand me…Solomon would have killed Sitri and felt nothing but I…I…"
"Solomon wished to be human." Romani responded to him with a half smile "You're now human like he was, or close enough to one. He did that so he could have the freedom he lacked in life…Why then, would you willingly imprison yourself in Solomon's shoes?"
"Because that was what you intended for me…Fool."
"And you rebelled against Solomon at every turn after that." Romani remarked, tilting his head to the side and giving a cheeky smile "Nothing to say that you can't do that now, is there? What would Solomon do…and what do you want to do?"
Goetia remained silent, staring haplessly at the man "...What should I do?"
"...I can't tell you that, because you don't know that."
"You're-" Goetia held his tongue, rising back to his feet and stepping around the dirt chair towards the man "You're Solomon…Use that wisdom the humans-"
"The King of Demon Gods was not the only one to perish in the Timeless Temple, Goetia." Romani gave a sombre smile as he spoke "You know that."
"I refuse to believe it." Goetia snapped "You-" he pointed at the man "You said it yourself! Romani was a coward…You were a coward! You'd never have done something like that…Solomon would never do something like that-"
"Solomon wouldn't, or you wouldn't?"
"...Are you?" Romani raised an eyebrow, the smile turned softer "Because if this experience has taught us anything…" the visage shifted again, Romani slowly faded away as he was replaced with another figure.
His skin was tanned, wisps of black smoke clung to his right side and cut off his arm and a good portion of his ribs.
"If this has taught us anything." His reflection spoke with a deep frown "...We make for a poor Solomon."
Goetia clicked his tongue and looked away "...I don't care."
"Therein lies the problem." His reflection closed his eyes and exhaled, turning his attention towards the sky "We cared about these humans…far too much. You ask what we should do?" he turned his eyes downwards and stared at his other self. "I truly…do not know. Solomon would have observed them and done nothing, recent events have made it abundantly clear we are incapable of doing such a thing."
"...I know that…but he can't…" Goetia raised his left hand, clasping it over his face "He can't be gone…He's…"
His eyes darted back up, finding himself staring at nothing but empty space.
Goetia stared at the scenery before he scowled, the hand dropped back to his side.
That voidless unknown, that lack of direction.
It felt more gripping than it had ever done so before.
He turned around, finding himself staring at the sleeping bodies of both Flayn and Lysithea with a dull expression on his face.
He might as well awaken them, it was highly likely that the disappearance of all three of them would get the knights attention and it would be better to avoid something troublesome. His lip curled in annoyance, he would rather not have to deal with Rhea anytime soon.
Not least because of his past experience with her, but because he wasn't sure how he would respond if he saw that depressed face of hers anymore. At the very least she had looked confident when she had tried to intimidate him, now she just looked pathetic. It reminded him of how he currently felt, the idea of being comparable to a phantasmal wearing the skin of a person right now was hardly something he needed.
Dragging himself towards the pair, he stopped just in front of his own chair of dirt and looked between the two of them. With a flick of his finger, the spells dissipated. The flat mounds of soil fell to the ground, instantly awakening both of the girls with a cry of alarm as they suddenly found themselves accelerating down before they thudded on the floor.
"W-what the-" Flayn coughed out, looking around for a few seconds before her eyes landed on Goetia and then squinted at him "Goetia? What are-" she yawned, raising her hand up and covering her mouth "-what are you doing in my room?"
The response was an eyebrow being slowly raised "...You sleep outside?"
"I beg your pardon?" Flayn blinked, then looked around before blanching as she realised she was not in her bed and was, in fact, currently sitting outside with the morning sun shining down upon her head. "I…oh dear…we fell asleep outside?"
"...So it seems." Goetia responded in a toneless voice, sweeping his attention away from Flayn and towards Lysithea as the girl rubbed the back of her head. His lips thinned the longer he stared at her "...I removed the spell quickly to hasten the speed at which you awaken, the descent should not have caused significant injury."
Lysithea gave him a tired glare, ignoring who she was actually glaring at, as she continued to rub the back of her head "That doesn't change the fact it hurt, Teacher." she grumbled quietly before shaking her head and looking around "...So we fell asleep outside."
Before Goetia could confirm, Flayn nodded her head and spoke up "It appears so…perhaps we merely lost track of time and forgot to return." she paused as she turned back to Goetia "Although I say that, it is undoubtedly what occurred." she added on before she cringed "...I suspect our disappearance has already been noted, considering we did not return back to town."
"Most likely." Goetia nodded once, although he didn't appear to be too invested in the current situation. Flayn frowned at him as she noticed the thin trail of blood running down his chin from the split lip.
"...I fear that every time I shall go to rest my head, I shall awaken and find you with some new manner of injury upon your person." She stated in a strained tone of voice that made it painfully obvious she disapproved of his current appearance.
Closing his eyes, he moved his left hand up to the scratch and wiped his fingers across the surface. Skin knit itself together as he dabbed away the blood before opening his eyes up again and flickering them upon the green haired girl. Despite not saying anything, the general aura of mild irritation was projected towards her easily enough.
Flayn merely responded with a smug aura of her own, slightly offset by the dishevelled clothes and the messy hair as she picked herself up and stood straight. Dusting down her uniform to wipe away twigs and bits of grass.
Goetia looked between the two of them for a few seconds, watching as Lysithea similarly pulled herself off the ground.
"...I have already located Seteth." Goetia announced, then held his hand up towards the pair of them "Try to avoid moving, it shall make my task simpler."
Flayn had a split second to realise what Goetia was about to do before her eyes widened "Wait do-"
The pair vanished in a flash of light, leaving him alone once again. Lowering the hand, he closed his eyes and exhaled.
A gust of wind had the blanket adorning his body flutter ever so slightly before it died down.
"...Hmph." With a quiet grunt, he turned on his heel and looked up towards the Monastery, he probably had some clothes that hadn't been destroyed within the remains of his room. At the very least, he should clothe himself better for the time being. It was at least something to avoid further embarrassment.
With a huff, he looked back down.
There wasn't really any point in that, the opinions of the people didn't mean anything to him if he was being honest. Whether he clothed himself or not didn't change anything in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn't make this directionless feeling go away, nor would it change anything about how he felt.
His teeth grit themselves together as he scrunched his eyes shut.
After a few seconds, his posture loosened and his face went slack.
It wasn't even worth getting angry over.
His right eyebrow twitched, someone had entered his room.
And he knew who it was.
Seteth stared at the assembled classes, looking past them to their Teachers.
Manuela and Hanneman were standing behind their respective students with the only missing teacher being Eisner, although he had heard some talk that she was back from recovering in the Monastery so he had sent someone to confirm that and bring her to the meeting point.
It was mainly why he hadn't actually started speaking yet, his face set in a grim line and his hands crossed behind his back, tightly grasping at his sleeve. He'd wait a few more minutes and then he would start speaking.
"...Professor Manuela, Professor Hanneman?" He noticed, closing his eyes "Where are students Goneril and Arnault?"
Manuela made a face "Some of us have to maintain our beauty, Seteth. You cannot expect young girls to rush themselves without appearing presentable." her face turned a hint smug "Not all women can be as skilled as I when it comes appearance in the morning-
A snort from Hanneman which was quickly disguised as a cough, prompting a sharp glare from Manuela.
"...Do you have something to say, Hanneman?" She asked in a sickly sweet tone, smiling while her eyes were tightly shut.
"Nothing at all." Hanneman responded after a moment, reaching up and rubbing his neck "I think I might have just had something caught in my throat."
Judging by the faces of the students, not a single one of them bought that excuse. It was almost inspiring that in spite of the situation, both Professor Hanneman and Manuela could still maintain their scolding attitudes towards one another. Seteth, however, was hardly in the mood to entertain this current farce.
"The students are…applying make-up?" He asked in a slow tone of voice, looking between the two "And you…did not think to rush them?"
Manuela turned to Seteth, slowly raising an eyebrow at him and giving a dubious look "You really don't understand the effort women put in the mornings, do you? It is not simply something you can 'rush' especially if you care about it as much as those two do." she straightened out "For that matter, I'm surprised you're waiting for them."
"It is not simply them I am waiting for." Seteth replied after a moment "I am also waiting for confirmation that-" he cut himself off as he watched a figure walk out from the side of the nearby buildings at the edge of town and turn towards him. His brows raised themselves, sure enough the face and clothes were exactly the same.
The issue emerged when he took into account hair colour and the like.
"Waiting for…?" Manuela rolled her hand to try and speed Seteth up, looking slightly amused.
Seteth didn't respond to her, instead maintained his eyes on the approaching Professor with clear shock as she got closer and closer. Eventually the lack of response prompted the others to turn around and look in the direction he was facing.
"Professor!" Dimitri called out first, his voice enthused as he spread his arms wide "You're back! I see that your recovery has gone well!"
"Yes." Byleth nodded once, her voice almost toneless and her face that usual blank mask.
"We're all running around picking up pieces of the town and you get your hair dyed?" Manuela asked in a voice of incredulity, raising her hands and gesturing to the girl "Seriously? Young people have no sense of urgency…"
Both Seteth and Hanneman stared at the back of her head with mystified expressions.
Seteth shook his head and returned his attention to the mercenary as she stood in front of her own class. "Professor Eisner, are you able to return to your duties?"
Byleth nodded her head once. "Fully healed and in control."
Seteth wasn't sure why she needed to make that last one clear, but judging from the way Dimitri suddenly stilled he figured he was missing out on something important. However, that could be pushed aside for the time being while he addressed the bigger concern.
"Now then." Coughing loudly, Seteth brought the attention of everyone back to himself "Considering that neither Goneril or Arnault are present, I shall rely upon you two-" he looked at Manuela and Hanneman "-to inform them of this. Last night both Flayn and Lysithea went out in search of Goetia and neither have returned-"
"-n't you dare!" Flayn cried out as she suddenly appeared in front of the group, eyes wide and hand outstretched. Lysithea staggered around on her feet next to her before freezing, her head whipped around as she noticed herself staring at a crowd of rather dumbstruck people.
"Hey look!" Claude pointed at them, sounding more casual than anything else "They're back. Guess they found Sparkles."
"Flayn!" Seteth cried out in jubilation as he rushed towards her, the girl jolted and barely had a moment to respond before the man grabbed her by the shoulders and spun her around to face him "Are you alright? You are not injured are you?" he frowned as he looked her over, staring at her hair with a suspicious gaze "You look as though you have been treated roughly-" he stared down her clothes and noticed the dirt stains along with the leaf litter covering her leggings. "-and what is with this-?"
"Father, please!" Flayn called out as she shook herself free of him "I have only just awoken and you shaking me does not help me at the moment." Seteth winced and stepped back as the girl ran her hands through her hair in an effort to put it down. "Now then…" she looked around, soon noticing Byleth and widening her eyes "Professor, you're back!"
Byleth jerked her head in a nod once "...You found Goetia?"
Flayn nodded, soon giving a proud smile "I did indeed!" said smile soon dimmed ever so slightly "I actually found him last night but…" she shared a look with Lysithea, the expression of the white haired girl being rather pointed. "...Well, that is not important." she announced, turning around to Seteth "Goetia is…"
"Going to explain why you did not return until just now?" Seteth spoke in a slow tone of voice as he crossed his arms over his chest, the early expression of worry now replaced with apprehensive concern. "And why do you appear to have been thrown through a hedge?"
Flayn remained silent for a moment, raising a single finger and then giving a winning smile "I camped out under the stars!"
Judging by the expression on Seteth's face, he was hardly pleased about that.
Goetia remained stone faced as he appeared in his bedroom, then looked down at the other figure present here and stared in silence.
"...I suppose the destroyed bounded fields did nothing to prevent your entry." He commented after a moment of silence.
Rhea slowly looked over her shoulder towards him before she returned her attention to the ruins of his bedroom and fell into a short silence. After a few tense seconds, she eventually spoke in a quiet tone of voice, barely audible to the both of them. "I had thought there might have been something here to explain…anything." she said after a moment before she shrugged "Something that I could use to convince myself you had turned Mother against me…"
Goetia remained silent as he stared at the back of her head, the green haired phantasmal exhaled and shifted her attention upwards through the hole in the ceiling. "But there was nothing…I knew there wouldn't be anything but I looked anyway. I was also curious what you did in here…it was never accessible and I thought maybe that there would be some other work that would be considered grotesquely heathen but…nothing."
"Searching for evidence to oust me?" Goetia responded after a moment with a curl of his lip, there was nothing behind the expression and he knew it. He didn't feel the effort to get annoyed about her blatant pilfering of his room.
"No…" Rhea lowered her head "...I just wanted to lower you to my level." turning herself around, Goetia noted how exhausted she truly looked.
Rhea noted how exhausted Goetia looked, the both of them stared at one another in silence.
"...Why?" Goetia asked after a moment.
Rhea gave him an empty smile "I don't know…I just…" with a huff, she slumped herself down onto the ruins of the mattress like a puppet with cut strings. "I just…mother said she trusted you more than me…" she whimpered "I know, I know that I did things she wouldn't approve of and I…I was ready her to chastise me for those but she doesn't…" she sniffled "She doesn't even know who I am or what I did…" tears built up in her eyes "And she trusts you more than she does me and she knows nothing of what I did…"
Goetia stared down at her without a hint of emotion behind his eyes, content to merely watch her as she cried.
"Why…? I just didn't…I knew I was letting her down but I thought i-if I brought her back everything would be fine…" She waved a hand at him "And it's all worthless now because she doesn't know who she really is and who I am…I call her mother and she looks at me like a stranger…and she trusts you more than me…she hates me and she doesn't even know what I've done…"
Goetia furrowed his brows slightly "Would that make it simpler? If she hated you for it?"
"I could understand!" Rhea snarled at him through puffy eyes "If mother knew everything that I did to bring her back then I could understand why she wouldn't want to look at me! I could accept that! But she doesn't even know what I did, she doesn't know what being awake even means…" her voice trailed off into a whisper "She doesn't know the lengths I went to for her and she already hates me…" she pulled her legs up in front of herself, tightly wrapping her arms to cradle her body.
Goetia found this sight pitiful, it was all too pitiful.
It was so pitiful it was repugnant for him to look at.
"Flayn doesn't hate me."
Rhea paused, slowly raising her head to look up at him in puzzlement, he wasn't even sure why the words slipped from his mouth. "...What?"
"Flayn." Goetia repeated "I told her what Sitri was to me…and she said she didn't hate me." his voice was empty, but Rhea narrowed her eyes at him for a second before she gave a half chuckle.
"She won't…" The woman closed her eyes "Not after you saved the life of her father and the people of the Monastery…even if that th-" she cut herself off, scrunching her face up "...Even if that being was the same race as you…she won't care. You saved her father." the eyes slowly opened up "But you want her to hate you."
Goetia didn't say anything.
"Ahhhh." Rhea gave a low noise of understanding as she gradually picked herself back up, understanding crossing her features. "So that is how it is…" she whispered to herself as she shook her head "You want to be hated for what you did…for what the Demon did."
Goetia's lip curled up before he looked away from her, his face one of disgust but he made no effort to correct her words.
Rhea inhaled and wiped her eyes "You want to be hated because you feel you deserve to be hated for what you have done." she lowered her hand and stared at him "Even if it is for the good of everyone…you know what you have done is wrong by your own definition-"
"Stop that." Goetia snapped at her "You're projecting your problems onto me."
"Or am I empathising with you?" Rhea remarked with a weak chuckle "Which do you think it is, Goetia?"
"What of you?" Goetia asked, turning his head back towards Rhea "Do you hate me for what Sitri did? I was his King, he was my subject. Surely then, as his ruler, all his crimes are my responsibility-"
"I was under the impression he rebelled." Rhea remarked, tilting her head "If that were the case, would he no longer be your responsibility?"
Goetia scowled at her "Do not avoid the question. Do you hate me?"
"...I do not like you."
"For what Sitri-"
"You are arrogant. Controlling. Rude. Disrespectful to our culture and our way of life and far more demanding than you have any right to be." Rhea listed off "For those reasons, I do not like you…For helping protect the Monastery…for helping Mother?" her head shook from side to side "I do not hate you for those reasons."
Goetia's lip drew itself into a thin line.
"Neither of us are being hated for the reasons we want, I am afraid." Rhea gave him a hollow smile.
"...Tch." Goetia clicked his tongue at the woman in annoyance "We are both disappointments to our progenitors then."
Rhea remained stone faced as she stared at him.
"I did everything that Solomon could have done, should have done, and right at the end he has the nerve to call me the shame of his years before he kills himself?" Goetia spat out "That useless, incompetent fool…Those should have been my words…"
"Hmph." Rhea grunted once, then chuckled in such a way that made it clear she wasn't actually amused. "What a horrible way to find common ground."
"...Finding common ground with you, irks me." Goetia replied, giving her a look before he turned around and walked towards the ruins of his wardrobe, kicking aside a few panels of woods and reaching towards the top most robe. "I'm not on your level."
Rhea looked at him in silence for a few seconds "...I did say arrogant."
"It's not arrogance, it's a statement of fact."
He should be hated for what he did.
He deserved it.
It would be easier if they did hate him.
What he had done, killing Sitri, it was…
Even if Sitri was mad, even if he was walking the path of self destruction…
He should be hated for killing him, but no one was going to do that.
Thanking him for saving their families or ending the threat to their lives?
Why should he be thanked for an act bordering self-harm?
It didn't matter.
Find out what he should do for himself?
What a poor joke.
He didn't even know what he was anymore.
If he was the King of Demon Gods, he wouldn't have even needed to kill Sitri at all.
If he was Solomon, he would have just watched Sitri run amok and sifted through the aftermath.
He wasn't anything anymore.
AN: The Goetia depression saga enters a new phase!
The 'What am I supposed to do with my life now?' phase.
In the meantime, the world continues on.
Which means that now the Church appears a little weaker, some people are gonna start making their moves.
Hey…Sylvain…where is your brother at?
Omake: The Gang Goes to…Wait…where did you say we're going?
"Good news everyone!" Da Vinci announced as she walked into the impromptu Chaldean HQ.
They moved it out of the wilds when it became apparent that Goetia only recommended them the spot in the hope they might end up food for whatever giant wolf was patrolling the land. Suffice to say Mash had some very strong words for him, with the Beast thoroughly brow beaten he had agreed to recommend them a serious location this time.
He didn't actually need to, especially considering that Claude was more than willing to front up the Golden Deer classroom.
His reasoning being that 'He didn't want to miss out on what was undoubtedly going to be madness' or something along those lines.
Ritsuka wasn't one to comment upon that though, he had his eyes closed as Da Vinci entered with his legs crossed over one another and was leaning back in his wooden chair.
Mash jumped up, turning to Da Vinci with a wide smile "You found the Holy Grail, Da Vinci-chan?"
Da Vinci paused "...Sort of." she replied with a half shrug "What I actually found was the trail that was left by the Holy Grail when someone moved it." she carried on as she walked further into the room, pointedly ignoring the crowd of Beasts that surrounded her.
Draco was nursing a black eye and a split lip, missing one of her ears.
Goetia was sitting in the corner of the room, Lysithea standing next to him with a rag full of ice generated by a blizzard spell pressed up against a nasty cut on his forehead.
The two Beasts were glaring at each other from across the room, Kama situated behind Goetia in case he tried anything and Kiara for Draco. Also because neither Kiara nor Kama could stand one another.
"Trail?" Ritsuka cracked an eye open "So they left then?" He paused for a moment and closed his eye again. "Makes sense, we couldn't find them in the Monastery at all."
"That's because they were in the Monastery until recently." Da Vinci remarked with a smile "Whomever they were, they were indeed very clever. They managed to mix GudaGuda particles into the Holy Grail itself and broke through the barrier between worlds once again, touching the Kaleidoscope."
Ritsuka furrowed his brows slightly and stared at the woman "...Does that make sense?"
Da Vinci shrugged "Either that or GudaGuda particles are even more ridiculous than we initially thought and they don't end at the borders of our reality. I'm choosing to go with my theory rather than entertain the idea that we are somehow responsible for a multiversal plague of madness."
"Ah yes." Goetia grunted from his corner of the room "Because Chaldea would never willingly ruin someone's day, would they?"
"Onii-chan…" Mash gave Goetia a disappointed look, prompting him to scowl and look away to avoid the expression.
Draco saw the move and grinned at him "Scared of a mere child?"
"Why don't you go and raid the pantry, whore?" Goetia snapped at her "Apparently all you're good for is stuffing that pathetic face of yours, you leech."
Draco looked ready to snap back at him before someone clears their throat. Tiamat gave the pair a pointed look. "Children…no fighting."
"You're not my mom!" Draco huffed in annoyance but fell silent regardless.
"This is just stupid." Kama groaned from behind Goetia, rolling her eyes and crossing her arms.
"Fou…" The white animal gave its own ascent before looking towards Da Vinci and tilted its head questioningly.
"As I was saying…" Da Vinci gave a strained smile at being interrupted "We've tracked down where they headed." she turned around and waved her hands "Better pack your bug spray everyone! We're going to Brazil!"
"Were you dropped on your head?"
"Are you fucking stupid?"
"I'm not going to Brazil."
Da Vinci lowered her arms and stared at the collection of Beasts with a blank expression before she raised an eyebrow "What's wrong with Brazil?"
The room full of Beasts turned and looked at one another for a few seconds, then back towards the Rider.
"Spider problem." They all replied at exactly the same time.
"Alright, alright…" Ritsuka waved his hand as he stood up. "Spiders in Brazil are bad, we get it." he placed his hands on his hips "But we at Chaldea have faced down worse-"
"-we've stood tall against insurmountable odds-"
Kiara turned her head and looked at her nails in a pointed fashion.
"-we've come far from where we were and are more prepared-"
Kama covered her face with her hands.
"-than we were when we set out, we've fought the Beasts of Humanity-"
Draco looked like she'd rather be anywhere but in the room.
"-and we can deal with a couple spiders in Brazil."
Tiamat was looking outside and quietly humming to herself in order to drown out the conversation.
"Well? What do you say?"
"""""...No…""""" They all answered as one.
Ritsuka gave them a flat look "Right is there something going on that you're not telling me about? I say we're going to Brazil and you all look like I've just told you all seven Grand Servants have just shown up."
"You mean you're going to bring them?" Goetia asked in a slightly hopeful tone.
Ritsuka did a double take at him "Am I going to bring the-No! I'm going to Brazil to find the Holy Grail! Why am I bringing all the Grand Servants?"
Goetia made a face "...I told you. Spider problem."
"Brazilian Wandering Spiders are bad, we get it-"
"More like spiders who wander into the earth and land in Brazil." Kama remarked quietly as she cleaned out dirt from beneath her finger nails.
"Right, forget this." Ritsuka pointed to himself "I'll go to Brazil and get the Holy Grail then." he shook his head at the group "Spider problem…" he grumbled to himself and walked past them, marching right out of the room.
"Wait for me, Senpai!" Mash called out as she followed behind him, then pursued by Da Vinci.
Goetia watched them depart, then turned to the others in the room "He's going to die." he declared.
"Doesn't stand a chance."
"I miss him already."
"Teacher?" Lysithea quietly whispered to Goetia "Are spiders really that dangerous?"
"...The ones from Brazil are." Goetia replied back in a sage manner.
Flayn looked up at the being, then turned to Haagenti "Are you certain this is a good idea?"
Haagenti looked down at Flayn "...I just don't want to be pancakes anymore."
Flayn turned back towards the towering metal being with multiple legs and its body covered in luminescent crystals. Stepping forwards, she coughed once and shouted out "Good morning Mr Radiant!"
The towering creature released a low groaning noise as the giant circle floating behind its back started to spin, the ground shook as the titan rose up into the air and released a sharp cracking noise.
Flayn looked up at it and then turned to Haagenti "I think it's working."
"Now throw the Holy Grail full of Guda Particles at it."
Flayn looked down at the golden cup with some sadness and then towards Haagenti "Really?"
"With luck, it shall consume the Particles and become pacified."
"And without luck?"
"Neither of us will be around to care about it for much longer."
Giving a single shrug, Flayn turned back to the 'One Radiant Thing' and curled her arm back before hurling the Holy Grail towards it. The second the golden chalice touched the outer shell of its rightmost front leg, it turned bright green and then shattered into crystals before floating directly into the being in question.
Silence reigned for several seconds.
Then ORT gave a high pitched scream and space contorted around it.