Chapter 80: My reasons and my view.

By the time they arrived in Abyss, he could tell that his presence had already been forewarned. As was his intention with travelling to Abyss via conventional methods, despite how long it took him otherwise - he could not find it within himself to be aggrieved at that - the walk had served its purpose one way or the other.

Entering the upper level of Abyss, the location that was closer to the ghetto they had first been greeted with when he had made the journey the last time around, his eyes swept across the numerous faces that continued on about their rather pitiful little lives. He had overlooked them once before, not this time. The full extent of their living conditions were laid bare, details that had once gone unnoticed were now glaringly obvious.

That he had ignored all of this was unacceptable.

Closing his eyes, he took in a deep breath and very nearly found himself retching at the smell that assaulted his nose, his expression strained before it loosened. Cutting off his outside senses and filtering out anything that could be deemed harmful or otherwise 'offensive' to his person. The air swiftly became of better quality but it was still little more than a placebo effect. The people of Abyss put up with the same level of disgust that he had just experienced.

His eyes opened once more, now greeted with the sight of the individual who had come to find them at the moment of their arrival. Though he quickly creased his brows, this had not been who he was expecting at all. Rather, it seemed unusual that she would have gone out of her way to come here. Perhaps his arrival had heralded this?

Still, she remained one of the leading voices within Abyss which meant that her opinion was valued by those who lived here. There was also her upbringing that could be accounted for, even if the house fell to ruin, she was still raised as a noble and clearly strove to uphold the values she had been instilled with. She was at least genuine with her posturing, though the lack of real credibility to her name made it almost pitiful to behold.

If his plan came to fruition, it would not be, however.

Constance glanced between the two of them for a few moments, for whatever reason her eyes lingered on Harold for a touch longer than him and something flickered through them for a brief moment, a confident smile remained on her face though it became less genuine when aimed towards him. Then again, this was a much better response than he had been expecting from her. Or anyone in Abyss who understood the truth of what happened.

The blonde's smile faded slightly, a result of his own expression, and was now noticeably less welcoming. "While we were illuminated to the appearance of the good Knight Harold, news of your presence came as something of a shock to her." her hands secured themselves on her hips, she raised an eyebrow questioningly at him. "I doubted there was still much of Abyss that would interest the likes of you…and I notice you have a rather…cold expression upon your face when you laid eyes upon me. Not the reception I am acquainted with."

He commanded himself to correct his expression instantly. "If that is what you perceive, then it is of your own choice. Regardless, I was merely making note of the fact that your appearance was unexpected."

Constance blinked once, "Unexpected? How so?" the prideful smirk returned "Though, would it be too hopeful to believe that you have, at last, been granted revelation of my true abilities and are now shocked beyond words to find someone of my stature here?" spreading her arms rather theatrically, she gestured to herself "Alas, I fear as though you are to correct this notion of mine with all due haste."

He did not even blink at her. "...Yes." He exhaled "I had assumed Balthus would be the one to greet us at the moment of our arrival. However trusting you might be of Harold, my own affiliation with this place has been limited yet the effects have been rather profound. I assumed you would have him here for nothing more than security."

The woman pursed her lips "If that had been the plan, I was not made aware of it." she informed him, which earned her a brief surprise. If only because of how sensible that was, if he was making a show of coming to Abyss rather than appearing, it should have been clear there was something of import. "Your appearance with Harold also served to assuage some of the more concerned parties."

"Huh? Were people still worried about Goetia?" Harold, poor unaware fool, blundered into the conversation without any of the context necessary to understand why they might be ill at ease with him. Though, that was due to his own actions in keeping the man unaware. Truly, this minor situation was of his own doing, and it was a testament that he had not yet learned it from those in Abyss. Especially considering he had not yet gotten around to having them sign any Geas agreements.

The woman froze up for a split second, clearly at a loss for words for a few moments. He stepped in, figuratively, to provide context. "Despite my initial appearance and your repeated ventures, there is little reason for those of Abyss to trust me in any true capacity Harold. The previous instance in which those from the surface became involved, their founder perished."

He paused for a moment, then glanced to Constance "I doubt you have circulated news of the origins of Aelfric's passing." she shook her head negatively, a grimace upon her features and her head turning away from the pair for a split second. "You have been granted ample opportunity to show yourself as harmless to them. I am one of those who was involved in, what is undoubtedly, the most chaotic period of their lives since they fled here to begin with."

Harold opened his mouth to reply, then closed it again, leaning back with a troubled frown "Really?"

"I am rather saddened to say it is so, but it is." Constance let out a sigh "Even with the valiant efforts of those of the Monastery from above, the attacks from the surface before your arrival and the…loss of the Cardinal have strained many a heart in Abyss." placing a hand on her heart, she closed her eyes. "I am afraid that the future of Abyss is somewhat uncertain and many are looking for someone to blame. Your aid has been a shining light in the dark and the instance of even Hapi that you hold good intentions has carried over some of the more vocal dissenters…but trust in surface dwellers has always been limited and it has only worsened with recent events."

Harold looked struck "Gosh I…I didn't know it was this bad…" he whispered aloud, horror on his features "Are people really that afraid?"

"Not of you!" Constance, rather hastily, exclaimed to the knight with an aghast look on her face. "Do not doubt that your actions have been most welcome in recent days! There are many who now view the church in a much better light than before solely due to your contributions!"

Goetia felt that it went without saying the first interaction the Abyssians had with the students was accompanied with the belief they were a death squad sent by the Church. Their opinion of the Church was apparently so low that it could go nowhere but up. He glanced to the face of Harold once more, noticing that the horror had started to recede. He supposed that she had merely said those words to prevent him from feeling on edge.

Though, he would not be surprised if there was truth to them as well. While he doubted the opinions of many in Abyss would change swiftly, he could not deny that Harold's repeated focus on the town would have, most likely, garnered him some limited approval. Though that could just as easily be a result of his bringing food and supplies to them rather than anything else he did. 'Biting the hand that feeds them' was a concept that the poorest in society would rarely do.

It could have been cynicism, but their sudden shift in approach could just as easily be founded in a belief that disrespect would lead to them losing out on necessary supplies. He withheld a grimace at the mental image, he was clearly being influenced by his expectations of humanity once more. While he did not have the complete understanding of Abyss general feeling at the moment, making judgements founded on his lowest expectations would only serve to wound his own chances.

Yet, he could not bring himself to expect anything better from them.

Simplify the problem.

The opinion of the Church had most likely improved from its lowest point due to the efforts of Harold.

"You are combating against entrenched opinions, Harold." He added in his own comment "There are very few who can turn opinions and beliefs decades old on their head in little more than a few days. More powerful figures than yourself have tried and been met with failure." Constance was staring at him now in surprise, "Take pride in the achievements you have made thus far. Or focus instead on the results of your labour. You are completing that which you set out to do, are you not?"

Harold was silent for a moment, then slowly nodded his head up and down, the tension in his shoulders melted away. "Yeah…well…as long as I'm helping and it's making life easier, then that's alright." The frown remained, but it was less pronounced than it had been before. "But now that Goetia mentions it, Balthus being here might have been better, Lady Nuvelle."

The woman's expression blanked, her arms dropped to her sides. "...Excuse me?"

"Ah! That isn't to say that I'm not happy to see you or anything!" The knight brought his arms up, waving them about in front of himself in a newfound fit of panic, "I'm always glad to speak with you, it's just that Balthus is better at moving heavy things!"

A nearly imperceptible breath of relief escaped the woman, the confidence returned in force. "You require aid with manual labour? In that case, you are quite right! The talents of Constance von Nuvelle lie not in feats of strength, but in the brilliance of the mind! Naturally, the likes of Balthus are better suited for trials of labour!" Once her performance was completed, she did pause for a moment and then gave a ponderous frown. "Though…I do not see that which would require his-"

Goetia twitched his finger, the space next to him bent and warped for all of a second before evening out once more. Where there had been nothing before, there was now a single barrel and two crates worth of food. Constance's eyes snapped to the display for a split second before she offered Goetia a dull look, one that was rather unimpressed with the obvious display of his superior magic talent.

"Sometimes, I wonder why those without an appreciation for the arts are blessed with the greatest proficiency in magical talent." She remarked dryly, dropping the smug aura and assuming a more disapproving tone, placing her hands atop her hips. "If you took it upon yourself to put heart into your words and swagger into your movements, your image would become far greater."

His eyes twitched. "Swagger and bluster only serve you for as long as you can maintain dominance. They encourage overconfidence and can be…easily exploited when the performance is broken." memories of London and the Timeless Temple haunted him, the blunder he had made by flaunting his superiority rather than silently demonstrating it. "But that is a lesson that must be learned first hand, else I doubt you will take it to heart."

"Hmph." Constance hummed in response, crossing her arms over her chest and jutting her head upwards. "It sounds to me as though you have let your muse slip from between your fingers! Perhaps you might look to Constance von Nuvelle for an example on how best one can change the feel of a room with but a few words and gestures. As is the power expected of a true noble."

"Theatre performances and circus acts are what passes for nobility in this land?"

"...I see that humour is something you still possess."

"If you speak in a way deserving of mockery, do not be surprised when it finds you." Constance did not look all that pleased by his comment, but he cared very little. At least for how she personally felt, the fact she was displeased would probably invite trouble at a later point. He had to think on Dorothea's advice of - somehow - appealing to them in a personal manner.

However he was supposed to do that, at least.

The fact they would not be utterly convinced when he approached them with his plans was insulting, the fact their acceptance of his generous offer was entirely dependent upon their emotional state was problematic. Especially considering they could range from one extreme to the next. The woman in front of him exemplified this to the very extreme. All he needed to do was shine natural sunlight in her face and she would become diminutive and accepting of whatever proposal if he so much as implied she would be harmed if she refused.

Constance looked as though she wanted to say something, he very nearly thought she would reply with some comment. Though, she closed her eyes and breathed in and out in some manner of therapeutic exercise to - most likely - calm her nerves. Good, he would prefer to avoid dealing with her when she was still emotionally charged.

When her eyes opened again, they lacked the same fire that had been there a moment ago. "The comments upon the necessity of presentation aside-" she turned her head from him and towards Harold "-shall I assume these are the supplies that you spoke of acquiring during our last meeting?"

Harold's expression turned abashed a moment later, raising his right hand and moving it towards the back of his neck, turning his head away from the woman as he awkwardly scratched it. "Yeah…sorry if I made it sound like you were getting more. I know it doesn't look like a lot but-"

Constance cut him off with a swift rebuttal. "Do not be so quick to degrade your own efforts. The existence of the supplies alone is proof enough of your desire to render out aid to us. Whatever contributions you make are more than welcome in our current condition." waving her hand towards them, a confident smile came upon her visage. "I would dare say that such contributions have never been more valuable than of this very moment…especially with the lack of a powerful backer like Aelfric." her emotions dropped ever so slightly at the clearly unpleasant memory.

"It was why the presence of Balthus would have been preferred." Goetia took command of the conversation once more. "As it would be prudent to move these supplies to whatever passes for safe storage in this location. The barrel if full of brined beef, ordinarily I would recommend leaving it somewhere to air out and dry…though I doubt there is a single place in all Abyss that is hygienic."

The blonde opened her mouth to respond - looking somewhat indignant - before she closed her mouth and made an expression as though she had sucked on something sour. Opting not to speak at all, he presumed that meant she actually agreed with his words and it had been a reflex response on her pride as a citizen and the need to defend her home. He wasn't being insulting as much as he was just stating a fact.

"The rest are root vegetables. Carrots and potatoes. They will last somewhere longer that is at below room temperature and devoid of moisture. If there is any location like that in Abyss, then I would recommend it." He paused for a moment as he considered something, then looked to Constance. "You are skilled at magic, aren't you?" she opened her mouth to reply, most likely to boast, but he needed something more specific. "I refer to the act of freezing the water in the air."

Her expression shifted, then she raised an eyebrow. "If you are referring to freezing the meat, then you do not need to waste your time." her lip curled into a smug grin. "That was one of the first solutions that I, Constance von Nuvelle, came to. Using my mastery of magic to extend the life of our rations well beyond their lifespan!"

…This was common sense she was flaunting. "That had been what I referred to. For now, it shall work as a temporary solution."

She frowned, the smug aura fading "Temporary?"

"How do you suppose the people of Abyss will keep their foods preserved in your absence?" He raised an eyebrow at her "Was it not your ultimate goal to return to your holdings and restore your family name and title? With you gone, how then shall the people of Abyss keep their supplies alive?"

Constance blinked several times at him, her face turning a touch troubled "Well…I…"

"That is not an admonishment. These are problems that I plan to address as a whole." He explained, granting her some leeway. Using her powers for the benefit of Abyss was certainly a step in the right direction but they were not permanent solutions. It was not prudent for the entire food supply of the town to rest solely on the capability of a single magus' ability to make a room chilly. If something were to happen to Constance, then who would take her place?

It was not even aimed directly towards her, it made sense for the people of Abyss to be reliant on their own abilities. Knowledge could be passed down, magical aptitude could not. At least, not nearly as successfully as knowledge could. Simple skills to keep meat preserved, the art of keeping a room chilled or indoor heating. These were all functions and necessities that the people of Abyss needed to learn. Even basic hygiene and medical knowledge beyond stitching closed a few wounds.

The surface could call upon a vast network of different installations to their woes.

Abyss was a city of outcasts, they had no such connections. Instead forced to rely upon something as inconsistent as a black market for dubiously acquired goods. In other words, they desperately needed an overhaul on their entire way of life. Which was what he aimed to do.

He nodded to the boxes "We can discuss these concerns at length with the others. That is what prompted my return to this place and has dominated my thoughts for the past few days." Constance looked as though she had some manner of comment for him, but quickly reverted back to a more composed state of being. Nodding her head up and down.

"I am inclined to agree. We must first concern ourselves with the supplies that have been granted to us so generously!" She exclaimed, then gestured to the boxes and single barrel next to him. "I shall procure some aid at once to take these to a more secure environment with the rest of our food stores, for what little remains." she muttered that last part out underneath her breath.

He supposed that they would have been going through at a decent rate, combined with the continued attacks by Aelfric's own funded mercenary army and the past few days. He doubted Aelfric was able to obtain such a great supply, considering the state of the clothes and the bedding around here. Likely only just enough to cover a month or along those lines.

The thoughts were set aside in his mind, something to examine at great length later, the foodstores of Abyss were just as important for everything else. What he truly needed was a more comprehensive understanding of Abyss as a whole so that he could compartmentalise everything in order of importance and ability to address. Something such as the quality of their housing would obviously be lower on the list than something as rudimentary as food.

Constance attention returned to him as he spoke "On the topic of Balthus, I would inquire as to where the other three of your compatriots are currently located and how soon they could all be brought together." she flashed him a look of intrigue, then opened her mouth "It does not relate to what we last discussed. It is a new matter that occupies my thoughts."

She closed her mouth, still looking somewhat hesitant but she seemed to believe him when he spoke of his intention not being related to his origins or Sitri. Not that she had a logical reason to doubt his words, the fact she did not allow her emotions to dissuade her was at least evidence that she could display competency.

He gestured in the direction of Harold "He will also be accompanying me for the discussion."

Harold jerked in surprise, then looked to him in confusion "I will?"

"Naturally. It is your role to be liaison to Abyss, therefore you being present for any and all changes to the current structure - planned or otherwise - fall well within your expected responsibilities." He turned to the man, raising a lone eyebrow. "Did you not wonder why I informed you ahead of time?"

Harold opened and closed his mouth several times "W-well I…erm…I just thought you wanted to tell someone about it or something?" he offered with a strained tone of voice, then gave a single nervous chuckle and turned his head. "But…uhm…if that wasn't what you were going for then th-that other thing makes sense."

Goetia gave him a single slow blink. Then gradually returned his focus from Harold back onto Constance, she had her brows pinched together and was looking between the two of them with no small degree of apprehension in her movements, her shoulders were held tight and her eyes slightly narrowed.

"Forgive me if I run the risk of sounding alarmist…" She spoke slowly, not taking her eyes off them "But I believe I am hearing some things that require a much greater explanation. Namely that I am inferring you have some sort of motive in coming to Abyss that is beyond a simple visit."

"Astute." Was all he offered in reply, then he noticed that the expectant silence stretched on for what amounted to seven seconds. "I shall discuss it at length with the presence of the others. I dislike repeating myself when it is unnecessary."

"..." Taking in a deep breath, Constance reached towards her face and nursed her brows, the tension did not leave her body - for whatever reason - after he provided her with the explanation of what he was going to do. Or rather, he provided her with the confirmation that he was going to explain his reasoning to her. He assumed that the presence of Harold serving as some manner of witness would assuage her concerns that he had no motive related to the previous instance of his coming here.

Though it did relate to Sitri, it wasn't wholly motivated by his being here. Not completely anyway.

Eventually, she lowered the hand from the front of her face and looked at Harold, her brows pinched together and she examined the face of the knight, "Since you have demonstrated that you have the best intentions of Abyss in your heart above that of your peers, I shall put this question to you instead." straightening herself out, she fixed him with a piercing stare that seemingly locked Harold in place and had him stand at attention. "You have heard Goetia's plan, have you not, knight Harold?"

"Yes, Lady Nuvelle." He replied in a rather controlled tone of voice, his arms straight by his side and his posture locked up tight as though reporting to a superior officer. "I can assure you that what Goetia has spoken of has not caused me any amount of concern. I say this not just as his friend, but as a knight of the Monastery. It is my belief that Goetia does not wish any harm upon Abyss at this time. I believe his goals are the opposite."

At least Harold had some sense in his mind.

Constance perked up ever so slightly at his words, then looked between the two of them once more, her eyes lingering on him for a few seconds, then back to the knight. "You claim he intends to help Abyss?" She likely knew, but was requesting him to say the words aloud.

"I do."

"Can you swear this on your honour?"

"W-well…I don't believe my honour would be worth mu-"

"Harold." Her words came out with a good deal of force, there was something about her tone that Goetia noticed. Hiding his intrigue, it was as though the mask of theatre slipped away for a brief moment and she demonstrated something more, something better or perhaps less foolish. "You are a knight and your honour is just as important as any other. Abyss means a great deal, not just to me but to all those who live within it. Each and every single one of us - now including you - have put our heart and souls into its wellbeing." she took a single step forwards, then pointed at him. "So whether you believe your honour is worth a great deal or not, the point remains it is yours. Would you swear on your honour that Goetia does not mean to cause any harm to Abyss or its residents, even if unintentionally?"

Harold didn't even hesitate. "I would swear it."

…He meant it too.

Harold truly trusted him that much to not even hesitate in his answer. Goetia would have thought there to be at least one or two seconds of thought before he spoke and agreed but he did not even waste a single moment since Constance stopped speaking. He declared his complete trust in Goetia's decisions after hearing his plan.

…What was this he was feeling?

This…strange sensation in his heart.

Constance exhaled and broke his musing on the thought, she slowly nodded her head up and down before she answered. "Very well. How else can I respond to such obvious trust in Goetia with trust in your word?" there was a touch of amusement in her voice before it faded away, replaced by a mask of stoicism. "We may meet in the classroom. You both know the path there, I shall see to it that these supplies are handled and then gather the others." she pointed to him, the smug expression returning. "Then it shall be put on display whether you are truly worthy of the trust that this upstanding knight has bestowed upon you, or if you are merely using his good word to further your own aims!"

…He should have known she would return to theatrics. Typical of humans, stumbling over brilliance just to dust themselves down and carry on as though nothing had happened.

Regardless, the audience he had been searching for had been acquired and obviously they had other matters to attend to first and foremost. In truth, it worked out in his favour as well, he still had to consider how he was supposed to approach them under a more…emotional guise so that they were not put off by his logical arguments. Humans valued these approaches, at least according to what Dorothea had spoken about.

He was going to base this approach off the advice he had received from her. Depending on how it panned out, he would likely seek her out for advice in the future. If it did not?

…Humans all acted differently compared to one another, where one would speak sense another would speak folly. So the blame could hardly be placed upon her shoulders if her advice did not perform to his expectations. She provided him with her own opinion and he was extrapolating that for his own ends.


The chalk scribbled away on the board, being placed in the old classroom that had been shoddily assembled for when Byleth had been last present here worked in his favour quite considerably. He had a great deal of resources at his disposal that could be utilised.

"Uhm…Goetia?" Harold spoke from behind him, there was a touch of confusion in his words or perhaps a more accurate word would be bemusement. "What are you doing?"

"I am detailing my bullet point plans for Abyss in visual medium so that they are not misunderstood." He explained to Harold, though he supposed it should have gone without saying considering he believed what he was doing was rather obvious. Setting forth his plans in such a simple way as bullet points was certainly not what he would usually do - it was rather beneath his usual method of discussing his plans - but apparently his usual method would be met with failure.

Therefore, he had to make some compromises in his preferred methods. Unfortunate but the sting of discomfort was one he was rather accustomed with. Compared with the risk of failure, having to lower his method of explanation to this rather juvenile method was a small price to pay.

Though that was only if it worked out as he planned.

"Alright, I thought that was what it was." Harold replied again, though for some reason the bemusement in his voice remained. That caused him to turn away from the chalkboard while the sounds of writing continued, seeing Harold standing there with his lips parted slightly and leaning forwards. "Sorry if I don't understand what is going on, I just…didn't think you would do something like this."

"Ordinarily, you would be correct." He saw no sense in lying - if that was even possible for him to actually do, maybe it was maybe it wasn't - considering that Harold apparently had a good grasp of himself. "But I am ensuring that there is no confusion and this way, all the points of concern can be addressed in a clear and concise manner to prevent otherwise needless questioning."

He considered something "On that topic. Does this present itself in a simple manner to you?"

Harold slowly nodded his head up and down "I…It does, yes. It's quite easy to understand but it just seems really simple." reaching up, he scratched his cheek "I don't want to sound rude or anything because I think you've done a really good job on this. It's just that I think some of these problems are things that they already know about."

"Good. Then they are aware of their own situation." That would save yet more time. "Regardless, I would still offer my own solutions to these problems and discuss what they have similarly brought up before explaining to them why my own solutions are superior in-" he cut himself off midway through the sentence, masking his features instantly. "...Before explaining my own solutions in greater detail."

As expected, the knight tilted his head "Goetia…I don't think we can just skip over what you just said."

"I consider it an undeniable fact that my solutions will be superior to theirs, else they would not be in their current situation with or without the loss of Aelfric." There was little reason to pretend, he could at least be completely open with Harold. "While I shall certainly weigh up their options in my mind and their greater history with Abyss will certainly prove a benefit to me, that does not negate my grander understanding."

"I think if you're going to help them, you should at least treat their ideas equally."

…It was difficult to keep the incredulity from showing itself, but he managed to withhold his expression for the time being. "The ideas that hold the greatest merit will be further explored, but the full context of their situation must be accounted for, Harold. In terms you would understand, do you believe the likes of Catherine would take advice from swordsmanship on one who has wielded a blade for less than a week?"

Harold made a strained face "I don't think those are the same-"

"They are, it is merely a difference in experience. Though I shall grant them a great degree of authority in the manner by which my designs are realised. Much greater than I otherwise would have if I had not discussed the matter earlier."

There was still a good degree of hesitancy on Harold's face, and while he wasn't displeased there wasn't exactly comfort in his posture, "Well…as long as you're giving their ideas some thought." he accepted with a slow nod of the head. "I know you probably have some more experience on all this type of thing, but I still think that you could do with…uhmm…fresh opinions?"

"...I will take that into account."

Their conversation ended there, which worked out as fortunate timing considering that was the moment in which Yuri arrived with the entourage of Balthus, Hapi and Constance. The lead figure instantly zeroed in on him and then glanced over his shoulder towards the blackboard. He stopped walking for all of three seconds, his brows raised in surprise before he continued to walk as though he hadn't seen anything odd.

Others were much slower to hide their surprise but that was expected, they clearly hadn't anticipated his arrival or the topic he was coming to discuss.

Though the one who had the greatest reaction, well within his expectations, was Hapi. Her face scrunched up as though catching the scent of something sour, her emotions flared and incredulity passed through her features for a brief moment before replaced by something akin to irritation. He would have frowned at her reaction if he cared-

He held his brief scowl back.

Appeal to them on an emotional level, that way they would understand the depths of his work and he could put an end to this disgusting place.

Folding his arms over his chest, Yuri paced forwards, ignoring Goetia almost entirely save for the slight flicker his eyes made in his direction before they focused solely on the chalkboard. The moved forwards with a deliberate slowness to his steps, raising his left arm and supporting it at the elbow with his right, his fingers pinching at his chin and his brows furrowing.

He stopped in front of the board, Goetia watched his reaction with a scrutinous gaze. Scanning each and every fibre of his expression for any sign of what he was feeling. It would have been a simple trick to merely read his emotions but that felt…cheap? No, disingenuous. Or perhaps a wasted effort, did he truly need to use such basic spells in order to discern what the man was thinking?

No. He did not.

"Identifying problems in Abyss and their solutions." Reading aloud, Yuri's tone was rather devoid of emotion, much like his expression. But it did not last long before it gave way to minor interest in the form of a single eyebrow being raised. His hand came away from his chin and returned to the folded position it had been in. "...Alright, I can bite."

Turning to Goetia, he jerked his head to the board. "I can understand what is written here, but first thing is first, I want to know why it is written there."

…Was this a poor attempt at a jest?

"I would assume it's purpose was self explanatory."

Yuri opened his mouth and then closed it, shutting his eyes and moving his hand upwards and pinching the bridge of his nose in an obvious display of exasperation. Goetia felt insulted, he was the one who should be exasperated. They were asking him questions to which the answers should have been easily understood from the onset. The writing detailed on the board should have been obvious enough in the intentions of why he had written it there.

Identifying the most pressing issues in Abyss and then solving them.

So, truly, what was the purpose of such a foolish question in the beginning.

A sharp intake of breath drew his attention to Hapi, the tanned girl fixed him with a rather dark look that seemed almost like a barely restrained glare. The source of her anger wasn't quite known to him, but he could make several conclusions. She likely blamed him for the presence of Sitri possessing Aelfric.

…Understandable.

"What he means is why are you the one who is down here writing all this on a chalkboard?" She questioned with a slight edge in her tone, her eyes flickering to the board in question while she pointed an accusing finger at him, then dragged it to the object of discussion. "What is it that you actually want to do with all this?"

More foolish questions?

Was he truly having to start at so low a foundation when explaining his plans?

"The existence of Abyss is no longer as certain as it once was." He replied to her quickly "The very future of this town-" he would describe it in the loosest possible definition of the word, he would have used others such as 'ghetto' or 'disease ridden slum' but he was trying to spare their emotions so as to place him in a more suitable bargaining posture. Bargaining? The depths to which he could fall sunk lower and lower with each passing day. "-was dependent upon the whims of the Church. It was only Aelfric's position as a Cardinal and his personal investment that kept it alive."

His eyes swept across the assembled faces. "Unless any of you question my analysis, given that Aelfric was its founder and sole beneficiary, it stands to reason that without him to act as your support…it is only a matter of time until Abyss is destroyed through one method or another." raising his left hand, he gestured to the board "Which led to the construction of this information packet, designed to facilitate discussion and the creation of solutions to solve each of the problems that you shall, no doubt, face in the coming weeks, months and years."

Silence greeted his words for a few moments, then Balthus raised his hand.

"Abyss is in danger now that Aelfric is gone and I am offering ways you can avoid that." He remarked with a monotone voice, keeping his eyes on Hapi rather than the taller man. Sure enough, Balthus slowly lowered his hand as new understanding flashed across his face, nodding his head up and down.

Constance spoke up next, looking similarly intrigued but still hesitant. "And these solutions you concocted will aid us in keeping Abyss functional for an extended period of time?"

"Functioning is the lowest bar I intend to meet." He replied back to her with a shake of the head "The only way in which Abyss future can be secured is to ensure it's existence represents a boon to the Church, as opposed to a source of embarrassment. For the time being, that will remain a long term goal that will obviously not be changed over the course of a single afternoon or even weeks of labour."

Turning to the board, he approached it and looked towards the beginning of his points of concern. "Which is why I have ranked them in terms of the most pressing concerns as well as those that can be dealt with swiftly, or those that can be addressed at an earlier stage than others. Most of which I am certain you will already be aware of."

Yuri hummed, nodding his head up and down his eyes moving from Goetia and towards the board. "I doubt that you will find anyone who is going to argue about the topic of food." There was a wry tone to his voice, his lip twitched upwards ever so slightly before it faded. "And that is something I can wholeheartedly agree with that. Aelfric was the one who handled the supplies with his own connections, we've been forced to rely on others…" his eyes traced towards Harold, who waved, then back to Goetia "Or through less scrupulous individuals."

There was a pause before raising an eyebrow "Though, with what Abyss is and who actually lives here. I'm a little dubious as to whether you will find anyone who is actually willing to start openly trading with us in any meaningful way. Not at the rates we would actually need for how many people we have living here…" trailing off, he let out a sigh and closed his eyes "...But yeah, I can see the food bit."

Balthus stepped forwards. "Yeah, I got another question." his raised hand slowly lowered itself towards the board, pointing towards the top one. "What about this?"

"Leadership?" Goetia raised an eyebrow "Once more, every example of a successful town or social gathering requires this. Normally in the form of a mayor but a council can be just as effective within the right circumstances. Aelfric was the leader of Abyss, if not in name then through action." turning to face them all fully, he continued onwards. "If not in name, then in actions. His word was respected and honoured. Even if you were deferred to in his absence, he remained the ultimate authority, did he not?"

Their silence was telling.

"In which case, it is necessary for you to make an official declaration as to who will assume the leadership roles as well as delegating the fixed responsibilities. Such as one who concerns themselves with the logistics of Abyss, security, trade, culture, education, utilities-"

Yuri made a face at him, raising the flat of his hand to stop him. "You lost me several parts ago. Education and utilities?"

"As I discussed with Constance, Abyss is dependent on the assistance of magical talent to facilitate the support of basic necessities." The explanation was simple enough. "Such as the preservation of food in chilled environments. Constance might well be skilled enough to generate the climate by which meats can be frozen and their viability extended, but that is not a skill that is shared out. Nor is it solely limited to foods. Medical knowledge is lacking, the dependence on healing spells and alchemic vials have made you complacent in your learning."

Gesturing to himself, he continued on "This is something that must be addressed. Hence, education. Not to mention the families that you have somehow stared in this place. I refuse to believe that the hygienic conditions in Abyss have not led to more than one avoidable casualty brought about by illness. Or perhaps, a lack of healing potions."

More silence.

"Therefore it is necessary to further the goal. I am certain that some of your number here will at least be aware of field surgery, or at least the ability to stitch wounds?" He raised an eyebrow, specifically glancing in the direction of Balthus who blinked once, then pointed to himself.

After a moment, he slowly nodded his head "Y-yeah, I suppose I've had a couple scrapes I tended to myself." the admission game with a degree of hesitation. "I mean, you should have seen the other guys." The confident boast was ignored, his eyes falling back to Yuri.

"Odd as it might be to say, his knowledge in this basic medical care is one that would be better off shared to those who have the capacity for learning it and employing it, if it is not already in practice already." He was making these statements upon the assumption that Abyss was less developed than he would approve of. If it was, then that was acceptable, but if not? Then it was merely another problem to eliminate.

Yuri made a face of amusement, opening his mouth-

"Is this some sort of twisted joke?" Hapi's irritated comment came a moment later, Goetia turned his attention onto her as her head whirled between all those present. "Because if it is, I don't think that it's all that funny." her lips were pulled tight into a scowl, her eyes narrowing at the group of her friends before they finally fell upon him with a deeper irritation behind them.

He remained silent, content to let her air her grievances. It was always more fulfilling to expose one's troubles than to keep them isolated. There was a sense of freedom within it, he had found. Just so another could understand what your true thoughts were. Though he did not quite understand what her personal issue was.

Balthus cringed "Hapi-"

"No, Balte." She cut him off rather sharply, not taking her eyes off Goetia while she spoke, he met her glare with a dull look of his own. "Don't 'Hapi' me. After everything that's happened, after everything that we went through, we're just going to stand here as act as though none of it actually happened?" she pointed to herself, turning away from him and towards Yuri "You're going to really stand there and let him just write out a chalkboard full of ideas and just laugh and joke as though that is completely normal."

Yuri closed his eyes, then exhaled "...It's not, you're right. But there is a time and a place-"

"And that is right now." Hapi remarked quickly "I think that after everything, you would understand that just taking someone at their word is a little difficult." eyes flickered back towards him and narrowed once more. "For that matter, he hasn't actually answered why he's doing all of this in the first place, has he?"

Silence followed her remark.

"No, he hasn't." Hapi nodded to herself, lowering her hands to her side "We all trusted Aelfric and he ended up betraying us, none of us has a home above the monastery and the only place we had was here. In Abyss and it's about to be pulled apart and now he comes along, having barely known about us for a week, and then decides he's going to be granting us all of these solutions out of, what, the goodness of his heart?"

Goetia frowned "Does it truly matter what my motives are so long as the work is done-"

Hapi cut him off once more, fiercely nodding her head up and down "I would say that, right now, what your motives are, are the most important part of the entire conversation. I don't see a single reason why anyone here would trust you. For that matter, it's basically your fault in the first place we're in this mess!"

He looked down to the ground for a brief moment.

It was his fault, yes.

Sitri was his subject.

His responsibility.

They might be dead now, but the damage they did remained.

"...You're quite right." He replied before anyone else could give voice to their own thoughts, it was best he end this sense of confusion here and now as to what his motives were. There were a great many he could offer, but there was one which came to him above all others. "You have little reason to trust me. You had greater reason to believe the words of Aelfric, he was the one who offered you sanctuary where none would and, in the end, he proved no different than those who drove you into this place."

His eyes roamed over the faces for a moment before landing on Hapi. "Compared to Aelfric, who you knew for years, I have none of that pre-built trust. Even if I did, my word would be worth very little to you because of your own personal bias against me."

Exhaling, Goetia continued on "But I shall share my true thoughts of Abyss." He let his words hang in the air for a moment. "It is disgusting. It is repulsive, the mere thought that humans call this place their home is revolting to me on every single level. I turn a corner and I am born witness to another sight of filth, more suffering and more misery. Abyss is everything I hate about humanity."

He could see irritation on most of their faces, except Hapi, who looked more surprised and more than a little bemused. Perhaps because she had not expected open ended honesty from him, but there was no reason to lie about this. "And even then, it is not the worst slum I have witnessed over my long life. The suffering of Abyss would barely be considered something of note where I am from. Not even the worst day of this place would trump the least disgusting acts of humanity I have seen."

Abyss was really…quite mundane.

"I can apply quantity to these locations, but they are all the same to me. Dens that fester with human pain." He shrugged "I have…no, I have not grown used to the sights. In the past I would be greeted with something such as this and be revolted beyond words, as though it was the very first time I had seen them, I would repeat this at each and every display, I would lament the choices that ended with the creation of a place such as this and the actions which brought the inhabitants."

Looking into Hapi's eye, he confessed this simple truth. "But when I came to Abyss for the first time I…just noticed the disgust and moved on." his lips thinned "There was no deeper feeling as though I had felt in the past, just the disappointment it existed. It was not until recently that I realised what I had done…I had ignored it. Merely accepted that it was something that occurred and washed my hands clean of it."

Closing his eyes, he exhaled. "Those were the actions of Solomon. One who did not care." his eyes opened. "So if you wish to know why I am here. It is because Abyss disgusts me. It is repulsive to my eyes and therefore, I shall not rest until it has been corrected." taking a single step forwards, he punctuated his words with a flex of mana. "I will not abandon the people of Abyss until I am certain they are dependent without me. Until they reach a point where I am not disgusted with them…you wish to know why I am helping?"

Because he hadn't let himself go.

"It is because I pity what you are." He frowned "If you wish to exercise your personal choices to hold me accountable for my actions, then you are free to do so. But I shall not stop my quest to aid Abyss. It shall either come hand in hand with your assistance…or with you as obstacles. So long as the people of Abyss do not have to live in squalor…then I am content."

His eyes fell onto Hapi. "What happens next, falls to you?"

Hapi stared right back at him, frowning as her eyes searched him up and down for a few moments. Her arms gradually folded over her chest, the irritable look started to fade after further moments of silence. "So it really is all about your pride, huh?"

"...Yes. I have the power to aid you, so I will…I…" He paused for a moment, did he need another reason to aid her? No. He didn't. "If I have the means, the method and the will…then I should act. That is my reason. Because…I can."

Further silence, then Hapi made a small noise of understanding. "That's it then. You're just doing all of this because you don't personally like it."

"And?" He commented with a raised eyebrow "Were you truly expecting some other reasoning behind my actions? Did you think I had some grand ulterior motive behind my actions." curling his lip down, he narrowed his eyes at her. "Do not get so conceited into believing that Abyss is anything. It is neither the most repulsive slum I have borne witness to, nor does it have the greatest potential to improve. It is…" there was only one way to describe it. "It is merely the first squalor I have seen. It could as easily have been any other filthy hovel."

He took a single step forward. "Your presence here is coincidental to my goals and whether they fall within your desires or not - whether you personally approve of them or not - I shall see them concluded this time." taking in a short breath, he looked down at her "I'm informing you this as a courtesy to avoid unnecessary delays or avoidable resistance."

Hapi looked right back into his eyes for a few moments, then made a small noise of surprise. "I…didn't think you'd be that personally invested." was the rather bemused response she gave, her eyes still searching his expression for a few seconds before she pursed her lips, slowly nodding her head up and down and then stepping backwards. "You just said you'll do it anyway so…what does my opinion matter to someone like you?"

He frowned. She really saw the worst in every single one of his words. "If your opinion meant so little to me, do you truly think I would have gone through the tedious effort of constructing that board where ideas and solutions could be discussed?" he raised an eyebrow at her silence, then finished with a shake of his head and returned his attention to Yuri. "You have heard my intentions, whether you support or resist them is up to you."

Yuri blinked at him once, then rolled his jaw from side to side. "...Well, Hapi is right. Not like we have much of a choice considering you're going to do this anyway." he replied rather lamely, his eyes half-lidded, then closed them fully. A single sigh escaped him. "But alright, I suppose there are worse things a person can hear than 'I'm going to help you whether you want it or not!' and we do need help." he waved his hand at the board "Lets hear some of these ideas then…do we at least get a say in them-"

"Yes."

"Then that's better than I expected. Alright then. What do you propose?"


AN: Byleth and Sothis chapter next.

Bit of a timeskip as well.

Probably like two or so days.