Chapter 78: The problems that follow
Edelgard did not scare easily, rather she had very little to be fearful of. Perhaps there was indeed one thing that she would fear but that was something she accepted long ago, it was a fear she suspected that many in the world would share but would not be as pressing to them as it was to her.
Yet in this situation, while she would not call it fear, there was a certain degree of apprehension about her as she awoke in her shared room and then briefly paused as she took stock of the shadow now present in the corner of her vision. Her eyes shrunk into pinpricks as she recognised the faint glow underneath the hood, the twin cross slitted pupils of the figure now present in her room once again.
She did not want to take her eyes from them, but she briefly darted them over to the individual on the other side of the room, still sound asleep in the bed. Only the subtle groan of Bernadetta's voice filled the air as the girl turned over. They - or rather, she - had moved Bernadetta from the room she had previously been in and into the same one as her under the guise of finding someone who might facilitate better social interactions with Marianne. Or something along those lines, yet it was telling that Edelgard was not even in the same class as the blue haired girl and she could still tell there was something at fault with her interactions.
The purple haired girl had shown a great degree of horror at the change and it had taken Edelgard jokingly mocking that she was coming close to insulting her by not sharing a room that forced her to stay out of fear. That had not been her intention and now it bred a rather grim atmosphere. She had asked Bernadetta if she really wanted to remain but the girl had given her little more than a strained smile and said it was fine. It had been a miracle for the young girl to finally get to sleep and if she awoke now, then Edelgard had little doubt she would scream and alert everyone else in the building…unless…
Her features sharpened, her head turned back to the cloaked man as he stood still like a statue, never once having taken his eyes off her even as the other teenager in the room fidgeted slightly. Neither one of them made a single noise, Edelgard merely stared at him for what amounted to a good few seconds, adjusting herself and pulling her body up and moving backwards, not at a pressing rate but more of a calm retreat. She was not going to show how surprised she was at the sudden appearance, though she was more than willing to show her frustration.
Her back touched the bedrest, she leaned away from it slightly and went straight. Crossing her hands over her lap and composing her features as best she could. There were quite a number of things she could say in this situation and very few of them would be polite or cordial, however if they were so desperate to meet with her that they would do so in the early hours of the day - she assumed as much with the faint trickling of light coming from between the pulled curtains - then it must be important.
Or rather, she would very much demand it be important.
She opened her mouth to speak-
"If you are concerned about the young girl waking during our conversation, then I shall put your mind at ease. I ensured that she would remain in a peaceful slumber that will only be broken once I depart." Lemegeton spoke in a way of such certainty that she was almost relieved, though that was more of the fact he had not seen fit to cause harm to one of her classmates. It was a token victory at best and did not answer why he was here in the first place.
"Then you have some gratitude for not harming one of my citizens." She responded as casually as she could, turning her eyes to the door for a brief moment and then back towards the cloaked man. She suspected he had done something further as well, likely to increase the lack of knowledge about his presence. He had done something much the same last time as well.
His eyes glowed for a brief moment, yet it was not so much literal as it was metaphorical. There was a flash of something in those crimson orbs of his that looked almost pleased for a moment, a deep chuckle reverberated across the room as Lemegeton took a single step forwards and into the dim lighting, enough to outline most of his body against the backdrop of the room but still not enough to reveal their features.
"You grasped the situation quickly. From recollection of our previous encounter." He nodded his head once "You are correct in your assumptions. I have ensured that we shall not be disturbed while we speak, though this is more of a case of me relaying information to you that might prove interesting."
"...And it is not something that could wait until a more appropriate time?" Edelgard felt the need to ask, unless it was truly pressing she did not like to be woken up in such a manner of having things discussed so openly in a position where they could be discovered. Especially since Lemegeton was not the only one capable of this advanced magic and she was still in the dark as to where Goetia would stand if push came to shove. Especially if Lemegeton was one of his people.
If they could be called people, that was.
"Perhaps, yet I would prefer to alert you to this now so that when the news does reach you, you are aware of the full facts and do not need to waste resources in hunting down information." Lemegeton explained offhandedly, then tilted their cloaked head ever so slightly "And is it not the case of allies to make their partners aware of all relevant information as soon as possible?"
Edelgard could not tell if they were being sarcastic or not, there was certainly an undercurrent of amusement in their words but it was hard to tell if they were mocking or genuine. She would not pursue that line of inquiry further, there was no need to dignify it with that sort of reaction. Thus she ignored his tone and responded earnestly. "That might well be true, but doing so at the discomfort of allies is hardly something to build upon this relationship."
She exhaled "Still, you have arrived now. I shall hear what it is you have to speak of."
"...The Relic of the Gautier Family - the Lance of Ruin - was stolen from their family home some few days prior." He revealed with all the fanfare of reading from a tome. Edelgard was silent for a moment, then found herself blinking and furrowing her brows as the news registered with her. "The thief was the firstborn son of the current lord. The disgraced Miklan has banded together a small gathering of thugs and outlaws to his side and proven himself quite adept at guerilla tactics."
"...I shall assume your interest relates to this somehow." She said after a few moments, though her mind was still reeling from the information even if she did not show it. The Kingdom was quickly turning into the place where a great many embarrassments were forming. The initial rebellion from Lord Lonato saw the battle taking place very close to the Church itself, then the Western Church fiasco and finally the Lance of Ruin was stolen from their own home by a crestless child. The latter was rather…cathartic for her to consider.
"You assume correctly. The Kingdom and the Church have tracked Miklan down to a small region in between the territories of Galatea and Fraldarius. He has taken refuge at the abandoned tower of Connad. The Church and Kingdom will be launching a joint operation to see the group wiped out under the guise of dealing with bandits." Lemegeton paused for a moment, looking straight into her eyes "Though you are smart enough to recognise the true purpose of this endeavour."
Indeed she did. Banditry was usually only something the Church paid attention to if it directly affected them else it was ignored almost entirely and left to the region in question to deal with. It was one of the few things she could not find issue with, in much the same way there was no reason for the Adrestian Empire to be concerned with bandits all the way in Edmund territory, there was no reason for the Church to be concerned.
Though with recent events, the Church would need to solidify its appearance in Fodlan as a beacon of strength that was undamaged in the wake of the repeated attacks upon it. Destroying a small den of bandits would grant others the impression that if the Church was still confident enough they could turn their might onto a small gathering of thugs, then they were still a force to be reckoned with.
"They seek the return of the Lance of Ruin. The theft of a Heroes Relic at the hands of a crestless would certainly cause tempers to flare at the Monastery." She could just imagine the sheer outrage and cries of heresy that were flung about as they were regaled with the news. It was almost amusing. Her brows furrowed slightly "Though this is rather interesting, I do not see what it has done to warrant your interest."
Lemegeton did not respond for a moment, then he made a small noise. "Indeed, in other situations I would have dismissed this as yet another meaningless occurrence. Except for the fact it had taken place in Kingdom territories and therefore, it stands to reason that the Church will dispatch the Blue Lions, and their professor, to deal with the issue directly. I am certain you could see why I might not have a mild interest in this development."
He was interested in the Professor then. Edelgard could understand the sentiment, there was an aura about the woman that was shrouded in mystery, her deep connection with the Church was obvious but at the same time she knew nothing of it. Then there were the recent developments in the battle against the bizarre demon Sitri. The Professor was strong, but she had not known them to be that powerful. Especially since she had witnessed first hand the strength of the Demon, and the Professor stood her ground with it. The aid of the Archbishop and Goetia notwithstanding.
But Goetia was apparently the former leader of Lemegeton and his people and Rhea…Rhea was Rhea, her power went without saying. The Professor stood shoulder to shoulder with individuals such as those and matched her step with them.
Going up against a mere group of bandits?
She frowned, staring at Lemegeton with incredulity. "You do not truly believe you will learn much of the Professor from such an encounter, do you? The Lance of Ruin will be little more than a trinket in the hands of someone without a Crest, this much is known and supported. Whatever skill he has as a commander - impressive as it might be to launch an attack such as that - he will not stand against the Professor for long."
Lemegeton did not even so much as deny the outcome, he instead nodded his head up and down while humming in affirmation. "And you would be correct. Miklan's success was a result of adequate command on his part, intimate knowledge of his target and pure luck on account of not meeting a decently sized force. Against someone like Byleth Eisner, a veteran in combat, and her abilities…it would be a pathetic encounter that will only end one way." he paused for a moment "Were it not for the fact I have taken an interest."
"...You intend to aid Miklan?"
"I have already aided Miklan." He corrected, Edelgard raised her brows at him "I encountered him late last evening and provided him with the means to wield the Lance of Ruin at its full power and battle the likes of the Demi-Servant Eisner."
She did not even need to hesitate in those words, the idea that he could just grant someone a crest was ludicrous. Even if the same had been done to her, it was not something to be done over the course of a single meeting and come out with a resounding success. That was simply not feasible.
"Humans are always so swift to use that word." The tall man lamented with a shake of his head "Regardless, you have been spoiled with the incompetence of the Agarthans. Rest assured, I am far from their levels of foolery. Though I will not deny that I still expect Miklan to be defeated by the Professor, she simply has a power advantage that not even the blood of the Goddess can overcome. However, it will even the playing field and provide me with adequate data to examine."
That was cause for interest, though she was still rather…to say she was shocked would have been an understatement. To say she was surprised would have been another, the swirling mess of emotions that moved through her mind was something that could not be explained in so little as a small sentence. There was the certain desire to decry the thing before her as insane, to say that it was merely bluffing and it had not been able to achieve what so many of her siblings had perished for in a single afternoon. Except there was something about its words…they carried the same level of confidence that Goetia's did. The sense that everything they spoke of was just a fact of life. He spoke of granting Miklan the power of the Goddess in the same way someone would call the sky blue.
Complaining about the incompetence of her allies yielded no new information. They might well have been many things but she would not refer to them as incompetent, they had proven their uses time and time again, not to mention their network of information that spanned the entire continent was something that she had continually put to use.
No, she would not find herself swept up so easily.
Calming her emotions, she tempered her mind and took a metaphorical step backwards. Staring at Lemegeton with a more critical gaze. "For you to make such bold declarations, I assume you would understand my desire for proof?"
Rather than appear put off that she doubted him, the twinkle in those red eyes looked pleased with her request - or rather, her demand - for evidence. She got the distinct impression they were smiling at her under the hood. "As would be your right. Though, it should go without saying that you cannot merely visit Miklan…However, I am prepared to grant you the use of a familiar in order to witness the battle for yourself and the results that would follow."
A familiar? Those odd things that appeared in the fantastical stories of witches and wizards? Normally in the form of some stray black cat?
She curled her lip slightly "Is it truly your intent to mock me?"
"Not at all. I am quite serious in this statement of mine-" He cut himself off a second later, turning his head from her and staring at the door to the room. Falling silence and allowing that same state to pass over the enclosed space. Despite not even moving, Edelgard felt as though a tension now washed over her body, a strange desire to hold her breath as if trying to hide from something. Her jaw snapped shut, her eyes widened and she too shot her eyes to the door.
She was not sure why, but it was an instinctual reaction.
Memories flashed through her mind, a stone cell, a lightless room and a terrible cold. The smell from those who perished and the scurrying of rats filtered through her ears, her mind heard only crackles of noise, her attention fixed solely on the door to the room, drawing herself closer to her bed and keeping her body as small as possible, an almost childish desire to pull the covers over herself and hide from view.
There was something on the other side of the door.
She didn't want it to come in-
The sensation passed, the tension evaporated from her body as swiftly as it had arrived.
A gasping breath left her throat, she fell forwards and stared down at the covers, barely even noticing the tremble in her hands or the ice cold sweat now dripping down her forehead, her breathing returned at irregular intervals, her vision swam.
Something touched her shoulders.
"Gah-!" A half scream passed through her mouth, pulling her body away from the touch as though it had burned her. Her eyes darted towards the point of impact and checked for any sort of wound before her attention flew towards the thing that touched her, she found Lemegeton now stood next to her bed with their arm slightly extended towards her, their fingers reaching out as though they had been trying to place their hand on her as gently as possible.
The red eyes stared down at her for but a moment before they closed, a long breath left the being as the arm was pulled back underneath the cloak.
"W-what did you-?"
"That was something I had not anticipated, though it was my failure regardless." He turned his head back to the door, his voice coming out with a touch of sympathy within it as he continued to speak. "He crossed the boundary of the building seconds ago and I needed to completely conceal my presence to avoid detection, though I was prepared for his entry regardless…fortunately, he has moved further down the halls."
He? Who was-
"I refer to my King." Lemegeton explained, it was an offhand comment and one made without even looking at her, as though he did so purely for her own benefit. "He has stopped outside one of the rooms and is…presumably entering dialogue with the occupant of it, though that is as far as I dare tread in my observation." he turned his head back towards her "I reacted rather suddenly, it would seem that my thoughts on the matter leaked from my being and triggered an unfortunate response from you. For that, you have my deepest apologies."
He was responsible for that?
She opened her mouth to snarl back at them, but then found that she had no anger to give. Instead she felt more exhausted, her emotions fizzled away and she was left with only apathy towards the tall man. Neither angry with his response nor pleased with his apology. She found herself unable to formulate a proper sentence for a few moments.
Closing her eyes, Edelgard let out a sigh and turned her head down, staring towards the covers on her lap once again. "...If you claim it to be an accident, then I shall not pursue the matter further." Honest mistakes were something that all were capable of, but that did not mean she would let such a thing slip by her. "Though I will warn you against being so careless next time. Especially in regards to visiting me."
She glared at Lemegeton from the corner of her eye "More so, considering you wish to remain hidden from Goetia."
Lemegeton did not reply for a moment, instead opting to stare back at her in complete silence. The only sound to be heard in the room were the quiet groans of Bernadetta as she tossed and turned in her forced sleep. She elected to ignore those - though they were oddly comforting in a small way - and focus on the expression of the man as best as she could see.
His left hand came out from underneath his robe, being brought up and held palm flat towards her before lowering the limb once again. "You are quite correct. Recently events have demonstrated that my King is not quite as…" There was a pause as he spoke, his words trailing off before they resumed. "...He has changed considerably since our last meeting with one another. Using my previous experience with him to determine his next course of action is folly."
Shaking their head, Lemegeton returned his attention to her "Returning to my original point, I will deploy a single familiar for you to utilise. Though I suspect that your retainer will be more curious about the application of such a method of spying and how many more I have at my disposal." they turned their back on her "Inform him to keep his paranoia to a minimum, else his sudden dislike for animals proximity to you will most certainly attract the attention of my King, at least until such a point as you are naturally made aware of familiars by his own words."
Edelgard frowned "You truly mean to suggest that the likes of a black cat that a witch holds as a companion are genuine stories?"
"It need not be a cat, most will utilise something as simple as a mouse or bird. Most likely both." Lemegeton paused, raising their hand up "For myself, I was going to dispatch the use of a bird to monitor the situation and create a link between the two of you so that you might have witnessed the battle first hand. "Though for your sake, I would presume to use something in the case of an avian species. Perhaps I might offer you a choice in regards to it."
Was this truly a conversation they thought she might have been interested in? Whatever the case, she was still far from being trusting of this 'caring tone' that Lemegeton was attempting to use with her. Von Arundel used a similar tone of respect and care while also carrying a dagger behind his smile. She would not be so swift to trust any who would associate with any who called themselves an ally of that man and his allies.
Releasing a breath, she managed to cut off whatever they were going to say next. "Whatever method you use is of little concern to me, so long as I am presented with undeniable proof of your claims, then I shall have little reason to be dubious of these bold assertions of yours." That being said "Though I am curious as to why you would seek to inform me of any of this to begin with."
Lemegeton did not speak for a moment, then they made a small noise. "Because I believe that we are very much alike, Edelgard. Though our goals might differ, our motivations do not. Nor do our inherent desires."
"I do not believe that for a single moment."
"Whatever you believe does not affect the truth of the matter. We are similar, that much I can tell and it is something I am specially suited for." There was that infernal tone in their voice, as though they had been amused by her denial of their similarities. And she could not see them for a single second, and if they were going to elaborate on them, she would have to work to remove these perceived traits they matched. She might work with them, but she did not consider herself similar to them.
"Now then, for the time being, I would suggest that you continue about your business as though you remain ignorant as to the situation. You may inform your retainer if you wish - as is your right - as he will certainly inform none other of this situation." Taking a single step backwards, Lemegeton's body looked as though it was blending back into the shadows of the room. "We shall speak again soon, before the time of the Blue Lions mission and after you have witnessed the power I speak of."
Their smile was audible. "I have absolute confidence it shall wipe clean your doubts."
If that is what they chose to believe, then there was nothing she could do to dissuade them. However, the fact remained, she did not know which she would be more concerned with. The fact he was telling the truth, or the belief that he was not. If he had found a way of granting the crestless the same power of the crests…then it would all but eradicate the current social hierarchy in Fodlan if this method was introduced and it came without the risk of failure.
The zealotry in regards to the crest system was obviously not the only flaw that existed in Fodlan, but it provided her with something she could use once all was said and done. Yet that was dependent on what Lemegeton wished for, she had no doubts that those who were affiliated with Arundel had no love for the people of Fodlan, yet she could not speak for Lemegeton.
If it was a ruse, it was well acted by them.
The presence in the room vanished rather swiftly, squinting she found she could no longer see the shadow in the corner of the room, signalling that Lemegeton had truly departed her bedroom. He had left quite the impression with her once again, there was much she was left to consider and much more she would have to discuss with Hubert once he awoke.
Provided he was not awake already.
Regardless, the issue would be finding the time necessary to actually discuss it with him at length.
As it stood, she doubted that this day could yield more surprises for her.
Then Dorothea burst into her room not five minutes later - waking up Bernadetta in the process - to loudly boast that Goetia had invited her on a date about the town.
At that point, Edelgard decided that this day was going to be one of many, many surprises.
Goetia wasn't sure where he had been planning on heading when he left the room, he was certain it hadn't been much of a conscious choice on his part either. It was merely a case of…
A mere desire, just to leave. Therefore he did, he simply walked out of the room and left them to discuss whatever it was they planned on speaking about. He did not find it within himself to care much further, beyond the fact he doubted there was much more he was interested in hearing. He now knew with absolute certainty what she was, though he had always known there was a difference between his own suspicion of something and seeing it first hand.
True enough, the difference was so minor that it might not have existed at all, but there was something solid about learning the fact first hand. Perhaps the most appropriate example was that a fact was not certain until it was established, the human analogy of Schrodinger and his trapped feline was most appropriate at this juncture.
Byleth might not have been a Demi-Servant, but there was truly nothing else she could have been, though he was not sure as to what manner of summoning had taken place to restore the Goddess to this plane of existence, perhaps it was due to her nature as a physical entity rather than a spiritual one. There was much that he did not truly understand yet, and doing so would require time and details.
He'd examined Byleth on several occasions, already being aware of her lack of a heartbeat, and he had not yet witnessed any sign of bodily deterioration. However, that was just as likely a result of her bloodline, apparently Jeralt was of the blood that kept one alive for centuries - a result of Rhea, no doubt - and that had transferred into Byleth. Though clearly while the body was in perfect condition, the heart had not been up to the task and she had perished either at the moment of her birth or before then.
And yet, there was a great irony in Byleth being the Demi-Servant and being in perfect condition where she might well live for centuries and Lysithea, the regular human girl, who was instead cursed with a shortened life.
No, that wasn't irony, that was just cruel.
This entire place, everything about it, was cruel…
He stopped walking, staring off into nothing in front of him. He could not stop the stray thoughts from entering his mind, or rather he welcomed them openly. Something he had not considered since his arrival, everything relating to this situation could be explained in this single moment.
There was no logical reason that he would have survived the collapse of the temple, there was no logical method by which he could have arrived in Fodlan. He had felt his body weaken, felt his existence diminish atom by atom. The pain of his battle with Fujimaru remained with him, even now, and caused him no small amount of pain.
He could feel his lips twitch upwards, the thought was almost humorous.
The coincidences, the similarities, the nature of everything…
It all made sense now.
Rhea suffering from similar problems as himself, watching over humanity and then finding the process too tiring and washing her hands clean of the entire ordeal?
The naming conventions of the…things she made.
The disgust of humanity that troubled him.
The Holy Grail.
His mind had conjured this in its final moments, something desperate enough to trick itself into making the passing more tolerable while creating something entirely new so that he would not suspect the alteration. He did not survive the collapse of the temple, there was no such place as Fodlan.
He was dying and everything he experienced, all the pain and breakdowns, they were merely his body breaking down into dust. His superior nature was merely allowing him the time to process this construction of his, years in this place would amount to nothing more than milliseconds in the world outside.
He was dying or dead.
And this was what humans called Hell.
Perhaps the final act of Solomon to spite him in the seconds before he used Ars Nova, there was no telling what that man had been capable of, what manner of cruelty he could strive for.
Goetia curled his lip, feeling nothing. No sense of satisfaction or understanding came to him. Not even at the thought this was little more than his dying mind creating this horror or an illusion cursed onto him by Solomon.
It would be almost too convenient if it was.
His left hand moved towards his face, comfortably falling onto the front of himself and allowing his breath to leave his throat slowly. He could feel very little interest in doing much of anything at this moment and the silence that surrounded him was almost deafening. There needed to be something familiar, just something to keep his mind occupied.
Perhaps not even that.
Something that would allow him to merely be present and let the troubles that did not relate to this situation linger around him.
…He was most certainly going to regret this decision, but there was nothing else for it.
With his new goal in mind, he turned his attention to his surroundings once more. Briefly raising an eyebrow as he realised just how far he had walked from his original location. Evidently his mind had become more distracted than he had realised, this was not something that would have occurred before but clearly present circumstances were warranting no small amount of surprises from him this day.
As for Rhea and Byleth…
What was there to consider.
Rhea had done the one thing that disgusted him above all else.
And yet, Byleth was now alive because of it.
The left hand dropped back to his side, the breaths leaving him slowed to a crawl, a calmness descending upon his body that was not at all matched by the rapid beating of his heart, nor the turmoil of his…inner self. Emotions that did not originate from those he mirrored were not things he enjoyed as there was no control over their arrival or departure.
And right now he was feeling…uncertain.
That was the one thing he despised feeling atop all else.
And certainty was what he demanded.
He stared right back, looking at her from across the length of the classroom and maintaining a clear silence as the room did not so much as make a single utterance.
He had been fortunate that their lessons had only just commenced, it meant he would have a great deal of time - or perhaps only in the perspective of a human - to merely reside in this location. There was very little to be gained by her intellectually, however there was something else he was seeking.
The woman's expression shifted through several emotions before it settled on curiosity, she lowered her hands and placed them on her hips, taking a single step forwards and attracting the attention of the classroom once more. It was rather amusing to see the manner in which the heads of every student glanced between the two of them without making a sound, much akin to a small quarry of mice noticing the appearance of cats within their field of vision.
Though that would imply that Manuela was approaching his equal in anything other than drinking and incompetence.
Fields that he was more than pleased to be her inferior in.
The silence stretched on for a few moments longer, eventually Manuela spoke up again "And have you been given leave of the library to attend to pursue this sort of distraction?"
Oh, yes. He worked there, did he not. By his own knowledge he had been placed on leave of health while he recovered, or at least that was what he had been made aware of when he last attempted to enter the premises. At least that had been what Tomas had informed him, during his leave his duties would be attended to by the recent addition to their staff whose name he had neglected to remember.
It was likely the other of his race that had come to the Monastery and wished for him to not be present. Quite frankly, he didn't care either way and getting out of the task of sorting those books for hours on end without break was a rather welcome state of affairs. Whatever interest he held in that role had faded rather quickly.
"Tomas has given me medical leave to recover my strength." He replied to her and with precious little else he could be doing at this time, he could use the distraction to think of methods he could use to approach the 'Ashen Wolves' as to how best he could change Abyss into a more advanced town that one would actually wish to live in. Dorothea had given him insight into this, but he supposed there were still others to consider.
He would need to find Mercedes at one point and speak with her, but for the time being he would rather assume precious little else.
There was also a mild interest in what Lysithea was actually studying, he supposed. Perhaps the talk of Byleth and Demi-Servants had spurred some old memories. Whatever the case, it was merely a need to have her in his line of sight for the time being, quite why, he did not know, but there was no reasoning with emotions.
That was partially why they vexed him.
He could not recall the last lesson of the Golden Deers he had been party to, though the only thing that had stuck out was the fact Manuela had shown up inebriated. Everything else that came next he had deemed to be utterly worthless and had - therefore - neglected to pay attention to. Quite frankly, he had been tempted to put her to sleep then and there and assume command of the lesson purely on principle of the matter alone. Or perhaps that was his current self placing its perspective and opinion into his past self?
It was dependent on what Manuela was currently doing.
At the very least, she was not drunk nor did she show signs of having indulged herself in alcohol recently. Though passing the barest minimum criteria for a Professor was hardly something he would have championed.
Manuela leaned back slightly, a rather dubious expression on her face as though she was debating whether or not she was actually going to let him remain. After a few moments, her lip curled upwards in a clear show of amusement. "Most would use their medical leave to try and avoid the academics rather than charge headlong into them."
"Your capacity to learn is not hampered purely through physical deficiency. Provided the mind still works, there is precious little reason as to why one should not use every available moment of time to hone their abilities."
Manuela tilted her head at him, raising a curious eyebrow "And if their chosen interest lies in the physical?"
"Do you mean to imply that a knight should find no value in strategies and tactics?" It was rather difficult to keep his annoyance out of his tone, though, at the same time, he was rather grateful to be presented with a form of human stupidity that he could at least account for and say was less insidious than others. It still vexed him to no end but to its own benefit it did not relate to perversions of the soul.
"Alright." She shrugged her shoulders, walking away from him with a clack of her heels "Provided you do not make yourself too great of a nuisance, I suppose I can allow you to sit in on my lesson once again, considering you already have experience with it once before." she paused for a moment, then slowly looked over her shoulder "I suppose it should go without saying, but if you are aware of the answers or the correct explanation, please do not provide them to the students."
"I am not one to hold their hands while they stumble through whatever inane topic you have selected for them today." He stopped speaking as he considered something, a frown coming upon his features as he realised that he did not know what they were learning today. It had not yet been written on the board and not a single student had a book out in front of them.
Manuela turned around, a smile coming upon her lips "That is fortunate because I am personally not sure how much aid you might be able to give in today's lesson. With the recent string of events that has occurred it has been decided that the best solution would be to look to the past for examples of violence." she paused, lowering her hands to her side "Though wars in Fodlan are few and far between, that does make learning of them all the more vital. Especially so with minor skirmishes, such things will likely work to benefit you in the future."
She looked around the room "I do not need to remind you of the battle of the Oghma mountains or the Blue Lions recent battle against bandits hiding out in Zanado." her right hand came up, circling across the room "There are many examples of smaller scale uprisings or bandit stronghold battles throughout history that we can turn to and if there is one constant, it is that there is always some need for strength in Fodlan."
Despite saying that, her lip curled slightly "Because apparently everyone seems to believe that waving around the biggest sword suddenly makes you the most powerful person in the room." The roll in her eyes was audible, even if she turned around and moved back towards her desk at the end of the room. "For our first lesson today, we will be examining the motives and the backgrounds of the combatants, though this lesson is - in part - inspired by the sudden appearance of one of the combatants here today, especially given that this was the conflict where he earned his title."
Goetia glanced around, looking for an empty seat and soon spotting one, moving towards it and placing himself down without really looking at who he had sat down next to in the first place. It was not until he heard a sharp and somewhat panicked gasp that he turned his head to the other human present, soon finding himself locking eyes with the blue haired girl from the Golden Deer Class.
The one who had a Crest and the ability to commune with animals.
It had been quite some time since he last saw her.
Another welcome distraction.
"Yes, for those of you who have already guessed it, we are talking about the Sreng war with the Holy Kingdom." Another pause "Which does mean that Duke Fraldarius is indeed here, now then, first and foremost we must consider the background between the land of Sreng and the Kingdom of Faerghus."
Goetia tuned out whatever she was saying, but only just enough so that the words sounded muffled. Content to look forwards as he continued to ponder his current situation. Coming to a grim realisation fairly quickly.
He was moving towards distractions yet again, once more he had been deeply troubled by recent revelations that he was flinging himself into whatever emerged first and foremost without any consideration as to what he was avoiding. In the previous time he had done so, it had not worked well enough to be considered something to repeat.
Which meant he was now faced with the problem of the current situation.
Byleth was a Demi-Servant - no true surprise - and that meant Rhea was…competent, to some small degree. Especially more so since she was actually Seiros and had been alive for well over a thousand years and had likely controlled much of Fodlan during that time period, either directly or indirectly.
More than that, Rhea held many similarities that he could not truly ignore, despite how much he wanted to. Her words simply replayed on his mind again and again regardless of how much he wanted to forget them. Several times he had considered the option of removing the memories from his mind to end these feelings and several times he found himself horrified that such thoughts had almost driven him to self-mutilation.
To willingly damage an aspect of his mind because he was marginally disturbed by something was only proof of how far he had fallen.
Truth of the matter was, he was left with no true answer as to how he was supposed to feel on the matter. He could approach it in the same way he approached the situation with Mash, but there was nothing he could truly do in this situation that would manage to alleviate anything that concerned him. All he could truly do was lament what had become of her and then nothing more.
That thought filled him with a sense of disgust he did not know he possessed. His stomach churned at the idea of accepting what Byleth was and he did not think she would either…unless she did? In the time since Sothis had awoken, he had not known Byleth to ever speak ill of the Goddess despite the fact there was a sentient being living inside her head and could control her as though she was a mere glove.
If she had expressed doubts towards Sothis, she had not confided them to him.
He supposed that meant she did not have doubts about Sothis, he would consider himself a foremost expert on the art of summoning and Servants so if Byleth had any queries about her own nature then it would only be natural to approach him for a response as to what would befall her. That she hadn't meant there were no concerns within her at the moment.
Which…left him rather lost.
Had Mash ever expressed her own disgust at her condition?
She always seemed grateful to even have the chance, though he never considered why that would be. Perhaps there was something to the answer that he was not capable of understanding yet, something that Byleth might shed light on…
She probably just wanted to live a little while longer with Fujimaru, didn't she? Just long enough that she could express her gratitude to the Master for holding her hand right at the very end.
It always returned to that simple explanation.
She wanted to live and she wanted to ensure that Ritsuka lived, such was the depth of her gratitude for so small a deed.
She never had reason to dislike her existence because she had not grasped the full nature of it, or perhaps she did not care so long as Ritsuka remained alive. There was no way of knowing that now, the answer had died with Kyreight. Or so he had thought, perhaps Byleth would offer the answer he finally needed, or one close enough that he could apply it with complete certainty.
Was Byleth grateful for Sothis for being alive?
And if he was disgusted by the existence of another Demi-Servant, then did that mean he would have thought it better if Byleth remained as little more than a silent corpse at the moment of her birth? Doing so would have meant she would never have gotten the chance to meet him and everything else that came from that…
He found himself frowning, the muffled voice and discussions occurring in the background went on without him paying any true attention to them. Though this was the environment he was aiming for, ironically the background sound, the multitude of voices speaking and debating with one another, the sharing of vital information and the analysis of facts…
It was all so very…familiar, there was a comfort in this. The same comfort he found he had when stood near Anna, it was something he knew of. This sense of peace that he had experienced before, perhaps not in the same way but it was certainly as close as he was going to get, therefore even if it never showcased something he was interested in, the fact it even existed at all was something he was content with.
Nostalgia, he believed, would be the proper term for this word. An appreciation for the familiar and the comfortable. It was something he could understand and approve of. At the moment one became accustomed to a certain form of being, they were hesitant to loosen their hold on it. With his immortality and greater awareness gone, his union broken and his people dead or scattered, this pitiful little collection of debating students was the closest he had to the mind of the Pillars.
Even if the words were lost on him, it was just a case of the voice speaking over one another. Though the debates within him had never been so chaotic or loud, nor were there discussions that branched away from the main point and strayed into the irrelevant. Despite not listening, he had counted three instances in which Raphael had veered away from the topic in order to speak of physical training.
Though this feeling of familiarity was infinitely more preferable to the feeling he had experienced when Rhea spoke of her exhaustion with humanity, the fact she had decided to just wash her hands clean of humanity and take a step backwards and work on returning the Goddess to the world to take over the planet was…troubling to him to say the least.
Whatever her exhaustion, whatever her problems with humanity, Rhea should have been the one to do something herself. If you recognize a fault and no one else did, then it would naturally fall to yourself to correct it, especially so when others were wrong. Though perhaps in the case of Rhea it would only be similar as a basis? Considering that she was wrong both ways but the initial points remained the same even if the end result differed.
…Why did the simple answers elude him? Such a query would never have troubled him before nor would it have warranted anything other than a scoff of dismissal and being relegated to useless information.
Yet now he was struck with an inability to scoff at Rhea's thought process, he could mock her actions easily enough or express his disgust in what became of them but he could not find it within himself to look at her way of thinking, that exhaustion with dealing with humanity for a thousand or so years, and laugh at her.
Because he understood those feelings of hers, yet he could not imagine passing along the role of bettering them to another. If it was Rhea's task to act as steward to humanity and she believed they were wrong then she should have corrected them herself rather than try and return the Goddess to the world. It only showed that Rhea was a fool who lacked the strength to realise her own ideals again and again.
…Why had the girl next to him still not said a thing? He had registered the voices of every other student in this classroom speaking over the course of the brief discussions that were taking place even if he did not truly register the specifics of their words and yet the blue haired girl next to him had not spoken once, rather she had turned her head towards the table and stared at it in silence.
"Does my presence disturb you that greatly?" He returned to the present rather suddenly, noticing the girl's shoulders tensed for a moment before her eyes flickered to him out of the far corner of her vision. He frowned at the reaction she gave him that was hardly something he would have expected.
While clearly not as overt as the reaction of the Adrestian girl, this was still far from befitting of someone who would, one day, be in command of someone's life. This was a pathetic display that wrangled what little pride still burned within him.
"No." She replied after a moment, "Please do not misunderstand, it is just that I am…not very capable of these discussions."
"I assume you have a greater preference for speaking with animals then." He paused for a moment as he considered his words, and the fact she flinched when he spoke them. "It is an observation, not an insult. Have you made progress in honing that communication ability of yours?"
"...I see, that is disappointing. Are you unaware as to how you would be capable of doing something such as-"
"Goetia?" The voice of Manuela brought his attention away from the blue haired girl and across the classroom to the woman in question, regarding him with an expression that looked almost admonishing. "Please do not try and distract my students from their learning, and avoid scaring them either."
"I was doing nothing that would be considered intimidating."
"From your own perspective, perhaps, though from the expression on poor Marianne, it would seem that it's only you who feels that way."
He spared the girl a glance, noticing that she had more in common with a panicked animal rather than a regular human. Ironic, considering the sort of company he usually found her with. Though it would seem that she was not going to pursue further conversation with him. Flattening his features only prompted the panic in her eyes to rise, though she was not as vocal as Bernadetta, she might as well have hollered how frightened she really was.
"Tch." Clicking his tongue, he turned away from the girl just as quickly and focused his attention away from her altogether. "Very well, I suppose it can wait until a later time and place."
For whatever reason, she made another noise of panic and he could feel her heart rate skyrocket as though she was terrified of his words. She had no reason to be worried for anything, rather she should have considered herself fortunate that he even decreed she was worthy of his attention in the first place.
…He was rushing towards distractions again.
The ease at which he was doing something such as that was now disturbing.
He blamed everything that had conspired against him, once again he was left with nothing more than annoyances. Those and his inability to focus his mind on a single item these days, it felt as though his goals were slipping away from him, he would turn his mind to one thing and then just as quickly replace it with another before even seeing the first to completion.
He had spoken to himself how he intended to take command of Abyss and revitalise it but what had he truly done since making that declaration? Nothing.
It was disgusting. He would complain about Rhea's inaction while doubting his own abilities to see his goals completed?
Shameful and vile.
He stood from his seat, whether or not others noticed him was something he did not care for. Yet he had been able to finally focus his mind on what was important, whether or not Rhea approved of his task was no longer something he cared for.
He was going to Abyss and he was going to turn that hovel into something worth living in.
AN: Indeed. Goetia has finally realised what many of you have as well…he lacked a passion for actually working towards a single goal.
So yeah, this is Goetia 'prioritising' as you would say, so expect the coming chapters to be mostly split between Abyss and the Classrooms above with the main two perspectives being Goetia and Byleth on their own little journeys or whatever.
Because, you know, I feel like I've been neglecting Byleth as of late.