Chapter 96: Opportunity for the future

It was incredible to him that the voyage back to the monastery had come without incident, all that truly came of the situation of his clothing was nothing more than Anna making a short comment about how he now looked less like a shady dealer of black market goods.

Which might have been fortunate if he ever got into the business of trading in such goods, he did not want to draw further attention by doing that and if there was one thing that Abyss would be useful for, it was smuggling. Though the risks of it ever being discovered outweighed the possible rewards they would bring.

Besides, it was hardly as though he was in need of the money now.

Not after Anna had managed to secure him a steady supply of materials for his wooden products as well as paint for them. He suggested the painted versions be sold as a separate product and slightly higher price and she agreed before he even finished the sentence. Truly, she did remind him of Sheba in many ways and perhaps that was how he excused some of her worst traits.

She was undeniably greedy…but she at least ensured that the quality her customers paid for was up to the standards of her set price. So there was no risk of him accusing her of being a scammer, nor was there any chance she would ever let the accusation fly without trying to punch him. It was not as though he had ever seen her be violent either, that was merely the impression he got from her.

As for whatever Seiros had been hoping to achieve, she moved with lighter shoulders but that was because of her avoidance. The moment they were back inside the monastery, he was certain that she was going to resort to the same feeling as before. It would be some time before she was comfortable around her own race or vice-versa, it seemed.

"With how dedicated the repair efforts have been, I'm certain there has been some very noticeable progress with the restitution of the Monastery and the academy." He barely paid attention to the conversation that was happening ahead of him, mainly between Hubert and Caspar. "The Monastery is such an important beacon for the people…letting it remain in such a state for so long a period of time would be…disheartening for them."

He wondered if the young man spoke in his somewhat ominous manner on purpose for the effect it would have, as though he was trying to make himself appear as off putting as possible. Well, not that it mattered to him how they chose to speak.

"Therefore, I am certain that when you return the training ground will be back in working order, though I suspect they will have prioritised the damaged sections which are related to the Monastery itself."

A fair argument and likely true as well.

"Yeah but…most of the damage was to the actual academy though." Caspar countered in his perpetual tone of incomprehension. "So wouldn't it make more sense to repair that first?"

Hubert let out a faint sigh, almost imperceptible. "Because the people cannot sing the graces of the Goddess inside a classroom." they dismissed with a small wave of the hand. "Whatever damage to the Church, it must take priority above all else…even us, which means that they will have pooled all their resources into resorting the monastery first and foremost…as I have said."

As he would have expected them to.

"What about making little knights?"

"Excuse me?" He tuned his hearing down from the conversation several heads away from them and brought his attention back towards Anna, raising an eyebrow at her suggestion. She looked at him rather dubiously, then opened her mouth with the clear intention of repeating the question. "I heard you the first time. I am merely asking why I would make knights?"

She placed her hands on his hips, leaning on one side and raising a brow. "...You have to know that there is a market for that. If you're selling these little monsters of yours then you have to know that children are going to be wanting knights to go along with them, that's how it works."

He understood how it worked but he didn't see the need for branching out just yet…though from how she was speaking and the fact he saw that they had none of the prototypes he had made during the initial journey remaining there, he assumed they had sold through them. Especially as she had been quick to ask him how much wood it took him to make a single one of his models.

Then she was speaking about branching out into making chess sets for an older market.

Apparently he was becoming rather proficient at this in a way he hadn't been expecting, his extensive knowledge was coming into play in ways he could not have foreseen but was otherwise comfortable with. Though he would need to apply his knowledge further if he was to take advantage of this, perhaps he would branch out into knights…but he was going to remain within his own branch of existence.

"...Nothing from Fodlan." He replied to her after a moment, his one stipulation was keeping it based with his own knowledge. If only because he had little interest in marketing the history of Fodlan, perhaps it was his own bias but he supposed they would respond better to what they assumed would be 'fiction' and he suspected he would face less criticism by trying to market off Demonic Beasts and bandits when they were an epidemic.

Nondescript knights and skeletons would be better served.

He was not entirely certain why but it felt as though there could have been a reason beyond even that, though he placed it squarely upon the notion that he was merely more familiar with the full details of the products he was making and children would likely fill in the blanks as to what individual was what.

"That again, huh? Alright." Anna shrugged, not looking as though she cared all that much either. There had never been much of an argument about whether or not he made something related to Fodlan, she seemed to be rather uncaring so long as there was someone who purchased it. There was a simplicity that he appreciated, if only because of the lack of irritation it brought. "So, how long before you have some designs for me?"

A grunt. "I shall determine the best designs and then return to you with several different versions in varying states of readiness."

Though at this rate, he was considering whether it would be easier if he constructed a team of golems to carry out the work for him. The chances are that it most certainly would be simpler, but in the grand scheme of things if they were discovered then it would prove to be more of a nuisance than it would ultimately be worth.

"The end of the week will be when they are brought before you." It granted him five days to create them, though it wasn't so much as even a thought through his mind beyond a single spell and then leaving the room. He was severely overestimating the time it would take but he had other matters to concern himself with now, namely the finch which had made some steady progress but was still young.

It would likely be another month before it was finally of use to him, which meant he would need to create some manner of home for it to reside in. He was not going to keep it floating underneath his robe when not in use, there was too much of a chance of discovery.

…Once again, the thought of revealing the existence of the bird was unappealing to him to anyone other than those who would remain silent in regards to it. That was ultimately why he selected Bernadetta in the first place, that and it provided an excuse for him to approach her though he was irritated that the progress in getting her more confident had been slow. Worse after Seiros dropped in on a dinner and scared the girl to the point of locking herself away in her room once more.

"Painted and unpainted?"

"Yes…so long as you are the one supplying the requested paints." She made a rather unpleasant face at his demand, though with his expenditure on clothes still having an impact on his finances, he was not in the position to be making careless purchases at this point in time. Besides, he knew that she would be able to afford it.

A groan came from her, she hung her head down and let out a quiet click of the tongue. "Alright, fine…but those better be something special if I'm going to be fronting the cost for them."

"I will prepare a small selection of the regular assortment and some of the other creatures I have yet to unveil." He was sure he would find something exotic for her to be interested in, though she never cared much for the information he had on them as much for the fact they looked eye-catching. At the end of the day, that was what ultimately mattered for her, the children liked the look of them and they were reasonably affordable.

It seemed as though that was the correct thing to say as she brought her head up with a sharp grin on her face, clearly pleased with his decision. He remained silent but otherwise hummed as he turned his head from her and focused more on the conversations occurring elsewhere in the line, though they were few and far between and hardly the most interesting to occur.

For that reason he started to peel away from the Anna and move further up the line, keeping his steps even as he moved past a couple others and towards the intended target of his newfound interest, if it could even be called that. Nothing more than a whim and only because it was something of mild note.

"You appear as disinterested in returning to the Monastery as you did in returning to the Empire."

The first words out of his mouth earned a short pause as the white haired girl turned her head briefly towards him, just over her shoulder and raised a small eyebrow at him before she brought her focus back around to the front. "I'm puzzled as to what manner of reaction you would expect me to have, perhaps excitement? Though I would say that you seemed to enjoy your time there more than I."

He grunted. "I would not call it enjoyment…I merely made use of the resources that were available to me at the time. Though I shall not deny that the experience will ultimately be a benefit to me."

"A simple yes would have sufficed, I believe." Edelgard answered him rather blandly, "And as for your initial question, I have my own reasons for keeping my excitement limited as I move between the Empire and the Monastery…You might say that neither hold much interest for me at the moment."

"And what does hold your interest?"

"The future."

Goetia twitched his lip upwards. "A vague answer with a thousand different interpretations. Whose future? Yours or the Empire's? Perhaps even the future in general?"

"Why would they not be both?" She asked, turning to him once more. "I am to be Empress of the Adrestian Empire, so my own future is linked intimately with that of the land." bringing a hand up, she pressed it against her chest. "And is that so wrong for me to think of what it is I aim to do when I become Empress?"

He shook his head. "No. Though I am certain you are not unique in this response, I suspect that even Von Riegan concerns himself with the future of the Alliance repeatedly, I would say that his thoughts linger on his ambitions to a great extent, even if he does not reveal it openly…I have seen his kind before and I recognise the signs. Those who play the fool are often those who have the most ambitious goals."

Edelgard raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Another tale of your homeland?"

A short look, he did not sense mocking in her tone of voice, rather there was intrigue. "...It was an island nation known as Japan. Ruled by different factions who were frequently at odds with one another. The warring states, during this period there was an individual who arose to power and sought to unify the entire country under a single vision. Their vision. Dubbed the fool of Owari, they led a bloody and successful campaign across the entire…becoming what was called the first unifier of Japan."

"And what was their vision?"

He shrugged. "Does it matter? They are dead now."

She blinked, clearly not expecting the answer before shaking her head from side to side and seemingly dismissing it. "You could say I'm curious, it is not often that one hears about such an ambitious goal and our interactions with foreign nations are limited to those who are…" a brief hesitation but he knew what she meant, or he could infer at least.

It seemed she still had some bias towards the likes of Almyra.

"...They were a militaristic nation initially focused only on the end of the warring states; small scale political and economic reform was included within the territories they had already assumed control over." He replied after a moment of silence. "Oda Nobunaga was committed towards modernisation of the trade within Japan, namely in regards to weapon advancements. It was an application of war as a means of bringing peace."

Edelgard raised an eyebrow but otherwise kept silent, teetering her head from side to side before giving him a silent gesture to continue.

"A futile goal in the end, Nobunaga had a habit of being betrayed again and again by those who would further their own agenda's until eventually being betrayed by one of their retainers and forced into a position where committing suicide was the only path forwards." He bluntly surmised, other details were less important and having seen Nobunaga himself the less that was said about them was the better, ultimately they were more of the same he had seen time and time before.

"Why futile?"

"Hmm?"

Edelgard was giving him an odd look. "You described their goal as futile despite speaking of an entire country at war?" her arms folded over her chest. "Would you suggest that it would have been better for them to do nothing?"

Ah, so that was her question was it?

"It is futile because in the grand scheme of things, it would have amounted to nothing more than a brief respite." He waved a hand in dismissal. "The nature of humanity is a constant and given time it would ultimately breed further cause for conflict, there would inevitably be those who disagreed with the rule of a dictator and even if they slaughtered all those who stood against them, it would only be a matter of time before a dissenting view emerged and then the cycle would begin all over again. You can bring humans together under a single goal for a short time but permanent unification is a farce. There are simply too many differences."

"And the thought of change in the future alone is enough to say that there is little point in trying?"

"I did not argue for or against it, merely that it was futile when looked upon through a greater understanding." The counter was met with furrowed brows, he closed his eyes and exhaled. "For those who exist in the moment, those who had lived during the warring states and were now finally put at rest during the unification, they lived their lives free of the burden forced upon them…it is acceptable if you consider the current generation as being more important than future generations. Though there is always a crisis awaiting humanity, it is merely a matter of time until it emerges."

Edelgard furrowed her brows ever so slightly, then hummed in a low tone. "I'm not sure if I should be worried or amazed at the ease at which you can offer such cynical words without even a blink and on a topic that should otherwise be considered noteworthy." she gestured with her hand. "You speak of a person who lived during a time of great upheaval, where their very land was at war with itself and they seek to unify it all to end that strife…and then all you can see is the problems that might occur in the future?"

"...It is merely in my nature to be concerned with the future, as was my task when I aided in the rule of my own land." It felt like an excuse but it was the truth, his world was nothing but the future to him, everything that ever happened was the future and that was all that mattered. "Are you suggesting that one should not concern themselves with the future?"

"That is hardly what I was inferring." A flat look crossed her features. "Merely that…Yes, I would argue that the future is indeed a topic worth thinking heavily upon, but that does not mean that the problems of the present can be ignored, you cannot think of the future while the now is in peril."

"And what peril does the now face?"

She paused, a brief look of surprise before her eyes narrowed. "...Why do you assume there is something wrong?"

"There is always something wrong." He bluntly replied. "If it is not before your very eyes then it is hidden, but that does not mean it does not exist. Though I believe we have distanced ourselves from the original topic." a branch changed its course and rose up to avoid touching his head and then dropped back down. "Your visit to the Imperial Capital and the lack of word it received."

A frown. "Do you believe I would make a grand stand out of such a simple visit?"

He hummed. "Perhaps not, though…no, it is not for me to comment upon nor for me to trouble myself with." he let the matter go, stepping backwards and out of range of the heiress, who turned and watched him depart with apprehension. "Your thoughts on the monastery are your own to hold, just as my own are mine."

As expected, she looked less than impressed with his answer, the disappointment was rather apparent but she clearly wasn't willing to push him here and now for an answer. Besides, if she thought on the subject she would understand why he had so little opinion of the Church of Seiros.

He was a foreigner who paid homage to a foreign divinity, for what reason would he even care for the Goddess?

He had met her.

"...Very well then." Returning her neutral countenance, she brought her focus away from him. "Though I have noted that aside from a newfound outfit, there was little you seemed to speak of in regards to the Imperial Capital. We have been on a return journey for nearly two days and you have not so much as offered a single thought or comment in regards to it…" a brief pause, her eyes narrowed upon him. "Did you enjoy the capital?"

"It was a city."

Silence.

Edelgard was now looking at him with annoyance, clearly she had been expecting more from him. Her jaw rolled from side to side as she gave a slow blink and exhaled through her nose. "Is that all you have to say in regards to it?"

"What more would you expect from me? A city is only as worthwhile as its population." He remarked with a raised brow. "Its aesthetic is worthless if those who reside within are both miserable and depressing. For what little comfort you might find, my description of Enbarr as nothing more than a city is more valuable than you can comprehend."

A frown crossed his features. "You speak of its glamour? I have seen with my own eyes the great wonders of the City of Atlantis before it was consumed by the White Titan and its Gods laid to waste."

A shrug. "Perhaps of its appearance from a distance? I stood witness to the great gates of Camelot and its ruin upon the fields of Camlann."

A wave of the hand. "Or perhaps of the extensive knowledge that is offered within the hallowed halls of the great libraries? I know of the collection of the Hall of Wisdom in Baghdad, how it brought knowledge from every corner of the known world at the time and stored it within it's great halls, and its destruction by the hands of the Mongols, how the rivers of the Tigris turned black as the countless books were flung from the shelves and into it."

He trailed off, then lowered his hand back down.

"I have seen cities at their heights and at their fall. Enbarr is nothing more than a city that I have seen time and time again. There have been greater than it's like and there have been lesser than it's like…it is a city, when it inevitably falls in what might well be centuries from now, it will be replaced by another city which will be just as grand or perhaps even greater."

Silence.

"...You would say the same of the Holy Kingdom and the Leicester Alliance, I expect?"

"A kingdom which prides itself on it's order of knights and it's doctrine of the Holy Church and a faction which is only a few generations away from dispensing with pretences and accepting that it is run by the merchants as opposed to the nobles of old as with the other Kingdoms?"

He offered her an unimpressed look, then took in a breath before turning his head. "Yes, I have seen much the same elsewhere…but there is something to be gained from all of them. Despite seeing such patterns again and again, those who exist within each of the cities are all more different than the last."

A questioning eyebrow was raised towards him but Edelgard otherwise kept silent, likely waiting to see where he would end up.

"Fodlan is as it has always been, much of the same and yet different enough to earn only a token of my interest. There is value in all I gaze upon, even if those of a lesser standing might not see it at the time." Bringing his arm back up, he gestured around towards the environment. "I would have always visited Enbarr when the time arose and it met my expectations for the capital of the Adrestian Empire."

"And yet you fail to sound impressed." Edelgard remarked flatly.

"Are you aggrieved because I am not singing the praises of your homelands capital?"

She did not respond, not at first. Instead she brought up her arms and folded them over, drumming her fingers over her upper arms for a few moments as she gave a low and thoughtful hum. "...What would you describe your own capital of? You called it…Jerusalem, yes?"

"I am surprised you remember." He admitted and he truly was, he would not have expected them to recall something he mentioned only in passing, but here they were. She was observant, it seemed. Perhaps just as much as her retainer. "But in regards to the city of Jerusalem…it had its points of interest which attracted many to come enmasse, the great temples to Yahweh and towards…other divinities."

Edelgard blinked, then leaned back. "You are akin to those of Duscur?"

"The pantheons? No." He dismissed the comparison quickly. "The worship of other Gods was not something that was practised, they were considered false idols but many of those who came to Jerusalem would often worship said Gods…though the predominant religion was Judaism, there were many others which came with the immigration into the country. Supported by Solomon's many, many wives who were of differing faiths themselves…including a worshipper of Ashtart, which allowed for more public support."

"...You did not approve?"

"...I knew it was merely the Goddess Ishtar working under a different identity, as with most Divines as her authority dwindled in Mesopotamia she merely moved and altered her existence to perform the similar functions and enjoy the same worship." He replied with a scowl on his face, his eyes narrowed ever so slightly. "I knew of Ishtar by reputation and had seen her work…though I myself would not encounter her for many years and it was a…brief and unpleasant encounter."

Namely involving being struck by her Noble Phantasm to the body, post-Ars Nova, he'd repaid her for it by snapping her spine in half. Or her host's spine at any rate, but it was a token victory.

Edelgard made a small noise, leaning back and looking him up and down. "Many would accuse you of heresy or insanity for making such outrageous comments, I am further inclined to think of the latter."

"And yet you do not." He pointed out, then paused and shot her a look. "Why is that?"

Edelgard remained silent, then replied in a slow voice. "Because I have seen what else exists in this world with my own eyes, that which cannot be explained…you forget I was party to the incident of the 'Demonic Beast' attack and the culprit."

Thinning his lips, he turned his gaze from her.

Ah, yes.

That.

"...At least that event has opened your mind." Was all that he could truly say in response to that fact. It was a thin silver lining, so incredibly thin. "Though for the sake of both our reputations, I shall avoid openly commenting on such topics while we are both within the company of others who could misconstrue their statements. I will be able to avoid the process of having to stand by my words and you will avoid needing to be seen to chastise me for them."

"You mean to infer you would not recant them to avoid problems?" Edelgard hummed, "That seems stubborn to a detrimental fault."

A scoff. "I would never say something I did not mean to say, taking back my words after the fact would be a humiliating experience. I can reconstruct my answers at a later date with more understanding of the topic, but I will not reverse my stance on the matter."

The look on Edelgard's face turned flat and almost bemused, though not quite to an open extent. Rather, it was as though she had come to some disappointing or almost exhausting understanding. The fact she made this face while looking towards him was somewhat irritating. "That sounds more as though you do not want to admit that you are wrong, even if you were proven wrong."

"...I will not dignify that with an answer."

"If you say so."

Whether it was considered good fortune or not, it was at that moment they passed out of the forest and moved onto the main road which led all the way to the town at the base of the monastery. It had been some time since he had returned and he felt nothing as he saw it again.

Narrowing his eyes, they swept over the incredible distance, his hand moved up and rubbed at the underside of his chin, a small hum rumbled from deep within him as he lowered the hand after a moment. "As expected, repairs have moved at a steady pace. Sections of the outer wall that were damaged in the attack have already been repaired and the gate itself has been removed from the wall. Likely as they await the arrival of a replacement."

He sensed Edelgard turn to him, her confusion was naked even if he didn't see it.

"Is that so?" The heiress didn't ask how he could see, merely accepting that he could. "I am unsurprised, I suspect they will focus on repairing the Monastery before they move onto the academy itself."

"Hubert said something similar."

"Did he? I wasn't aware you two spoke."

"We didn't."

The words hung in the air, Edelgard caught onto their meaning if her flicker of annoyance was any indication. Giving him a rather chastising look.

"It is rather impolite to eavesdrop on the conversations of others, Goetia." Except another opted to speak up before she had the chance to voice her own disapproval for his actions. Her eyes briefly widened as she turned towards the approaching speaker, he remained stone faced. "Though I understand the hypocrisy of such a statement."

He grunted, sensing her come up upon his other side and glancing towards her, the woman riding atop the horse though with her focus solely placed upon the distant monastery. He turned his own eyes away from her. "That is fortunate, it means you have some sense."

"Only that I am sparing you the effort of pointing out such a thing." She remarked with what could almost be called amusement, save for the dryness in her voice. "I know how little you enjoy needing to point out the obvious…even though you do so as often as the sun rises."

"In much the same way it is necessary to point out the cliff the blind are seconds away from strolling off." He shot back with an equally dry voice. "That I must do that as often as you claim is nothing to boast of. Unless this is now how success is measured."

"Not all of us have such great abilities as you, Goetia." Her defence came just as quickly. "I am afraid that those of us of a lower standing must pace ourselves accordingly, though perhaps there is something of value in our actions that you have such high expectations for all of us, in which case I shall offer my deepest thanks that you think so highly of us-"

He let out a low sigh, then turned and glanced towards her, she met his gaze out of the corner of her eye with a touch of a smile on her lips. "Are you embarrassed about having it revealed so openly, Goetia? There are none who would mock you for sparing a compliment to those near and dear to your heart-"

"Did you come here just to make these inane comments?"

Seiros loosened her posture, shaking her head from side to side. "No, and I shall put an end to them now before you become truly vexed. Though I suspect you are on the verge…I merely came up once I saw that we were closing in on the Monastery, Seteth will want to know the extent of my visit and…I believe there is much I need to speak with him in regards to."

"As you say." A curt comment from him, if she was paying attention she would understand that he did not care that much for whatever she had to speak with Seteth of. "We are only at the middle of the convoy, there is still some distance for you to ride to reach the vanguard."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "Mind your words, Goetia." she warned, though he saw barely a hint of anything regarding warning in her eyes. "Some might accuse you of trying to dismiss the Archbishop after she has come to speak with you, they could infer that as a great insult to her."

"Is that so?" A bored response from him, moving his hand across himself and running it down the front of his shirt to iron out a small crease in the fabric, then flicking his finger away to remove some lint from it. "They can interpret whatever they wish from it, whether they are right or wrong is of little consequence." he paused for a moment, then took in a breath before exhaling. "The professor has returned and all her students are alive and well."

A blink from the green haired woman, then her shoulders relaxed. "Is that so? That is most pleasing to hear…and what of the Golden Deer, or have they yet to return?"

That brought a brief pause from him, his senses extended outwards and he closed his eyes to focus. It was slightly harder to find them than it was to find Esiner, namely on account of her divinity, but it quickly revealed that the Golden Deer had not yet returned, nor were they within range of his current limits. His eyes opened up and he silently shook his head from side to side.

"Ah, that is unfortunate." Seiros offered a small comment. "Though they shall likely return soon, their assignment was nothing of true danger. If they do not return by the end of the day, then they shall return within the remainder of the week."

"...I did not ask."

"No, you did not." She admitted with a small shrug of the shoulders. "Though as I understand it, young Ordelia is a student of yours with the two of you showing a strong bond with one another…" a pause, she frowned for a moment. "I apologise if I assumed incorrectly, merely that you would wish to know whether or not she was in danger."

He inwardly scoffed. Outwardly, he spoke. "Even if she were in danger, she is my student. Hiatus or otherwise, I have every confidence in her capability to defend herself and her classmates if there was to be any danger…and if nothing else, I am certain that her classmates have their uses when it comes to combat. Von Riegan has some skill when it comes to planning and they were capable against the incursion of Demonic Beasts."

Another pause, then he added on. "...And Manuela is bound to be at least beyond a novice in combat, or she would not be a professor."

That was the best she was ever going to get from him.

At least until she ever proved otherwise, but he would not hold out even an iota of hope for that happening within the foreseeable or unforeseeable future.

"If you are so confident in her, then I shall merely let the matter rest and speak no more of it," Seiros remarked with a nod of the head, then paused for a moment before she continued "that being said, I was under the impression that it had been some time since your classes had been active-"

"I intended to change that."

"I see." Seiros nodded her head up and down, then he saw her glance towards him. "...I wonder, would you be willing to hold seminars on the subject?"

He blinked, slowly, then gradually shifted his focus onto Seiros herself with his brows furrowed. Not quite able to understand why she was making that offer in the first place, he understood the principle of what it was and had seen others holding similar events in the past, but he himself had never thought on the subject. "...A seminar?"

"I believe you were forced to make use of the Library in the past, something which was hardly befitting of a subject and cut into your free hours." She continued onwards, either unaware or uncaring to his rising confusion. "And I believe that your role as assistant in the library has since been overtaken by the young cleric from Von Arundel's territory, at least Tomas has offered glowing praise for her diligence while expressing confusion as to where you were…"

"I had…other matters."

"Indeed." Seiros replied evenly. "In which case, I would be willing to offer you a more official position as a lecturer within the academy for certain days while you are free to pursue your efforts within Abyss as well," a short pause, she tilted her head. "rumours of your interest have been afloat for some time."

"...You heard much, despite your 'illness' it seemed."

A short pause, then she offered him a raised eyebrow as if to question whether that was truly what he wanted to ask. Perhaps he had underestimated her based on her string of failures and mishandlings, though that did little to explain this sudden shift even with their now barely cordial relation with one another, this was akin to her granting him actual authority within the Monastery itself.

"...And what manner of stipulation would follow such a generous offer?"

Seiros made a good show of looking offended, but he could see through the cracks. Merely a false show of shock. "I am surprised you would ask such a thing, but there would naturally be conditions in order to appease some of the dissenting voices and avoid accusations of manipulation from you…though they can be explored at a later time, certainly not a topic for a roadside travel."

She meant without witnesses, probably with Seteth present as well.

That was fine, he trusted Seteth to take his job seriously.

"Though this would only be if you were interested." Seiros added on as nothing more than a half-hearted comment, as though she didn't know that the offer was much too appealing. Certainly a case of too good to be true, but this behaviour of hers was different, this was not quite the same as he was used to.

She would never have asked his opinion on anything before, yet she did so in Enbarr.

"Supposing I was interested in such a thing…" He began slowly, keeping his eyes on the Archbishop and avoiding a scowl when she saw her almost break into a smug grin at his mention of interest, instead it was contained to her eyes while her lips curved into an otherwise genial smile. "Am I to assume that even the lessons themselves would be limited towards a certain topic?"

A slow nod of the head. "I am afraid that much would be true, there is still focus upon Fodlan and it would be best for the students of the academy that their attentions remain within the borders of the land, as does their knowledge unless deemed otherwise…" she trailed off for a moment, then sent him a sombre look. "Which means that your teaching would be relegated towards magic and that alone, if only to avoid accusations of heresy if you were to teach them of…other faiths and cultures."

Keep their minds narrow.

Give them his tools but keep them as ignorant children?

He didn't mask his displeasure, something that Seiros noticed but did not shift her expression in the least, rather she hardened it. "That is not something I shall allow to change. This is Fodlan, Goetia. The students here are educated to be nobles of this continent, introducing the culture of others would be considered troublesome for their education, their minds could be clouded and as such they might make…misguided choices."

It was almost relieving for him that some semblance of Seiros remained deep within this newfound change, familiar ground to say the least and something he was accustomed to disliking. It was decidedly easier to accept than finding common ground with her at any rate.

"...I will think on your request and have an answer for you shortly."

"Of course, I shall not pressure you into an answer right away." She gave a small bow of the head as she pulled on the reins of her horse, spurring it onwards and further up the convey. "Until we speak again, Goetia."

Both he and Edelgard watched her depart in silence, he offered her no farewell words of parting.

Then he let out a snort.

"I am unsure where the amusement from that interaction originated." The words of Edelgard came next, prompting him to glance at her. Naturally she would not know what he found so amusing, indeed she was wearing what seemed to be a disapproving frown as she glanced between him and the direction that Seiros had moved off in.

"There was nothing that was amusing, that was why I showed amusement." He remarked, the confusion that followed was something that he could have let lie, but the realisation that she would likely ask him if he did not provide an answer spurred him into giving one, if only to save himself from the trouble of having to recall this interaction more than once. "Rhea provided me with a pitiful choice much the same as she had the first time around, this is nothing more than when she offered me the role of assistant librarian. When 'allied' with the Church, she can at least control the extent of my influence…or so she believes."

Edelgard made a complicated face. "While…I would not so readily agree with the idea of spreading the words and cultures of another land amongst the uneducated youths of Fodlan, it seems restrictive that she would bar you from speaking of them entirely…" she moved her hand up, rubbing at her chin with a faint frown. "Especially given its…current state."

"If that is what Rhea wishes to do then I can offer her some meagre appeasement." He dismissed with a shake of the head, though he did frown after a moment. "I have found myself forced into no end of uncomfortable positions since I arrived in Fodlan, learning to live in such situations I would have previously despised is…an education in it of itself."

"You…that does not make sense." Shaking her head, she looked at him now with furrowed brows. "Do you mean to imply that you would accept such a deal simply because you know you would dislike it? That seems rather-"

"Insane? Yes." Her words were true, even he could see it. "Pandering to her demands and debasing myself in such a way is indeed something that spits upon my pride and my very being. I am…not suited for an existence such as this, compromise is not an action I had ever considered nor is negotiation. Perhaps it is for that reason that I am following through on this sham. Simply because it is something I…no, I have experience in this matter. Conforming to the opinions and commands of one who I disagree with, but this time…it is my own choice to do so."

"...I am afraid I do not follow, though I suspect I would not understand even if I inquired and that it relates to your past." It was a verbal retreat, he surmised that she would broker no more upon this particular topic. "Though I am curious to ask, does this mean you will accept her deal and become a lecturer at the academy?"

"...That is not something I had considered and yet its benefits outweigh its drawbacks." It was insulting to admit it even.

What an intoxicating yet vexing realisation, to be forced into such a position once again.

Much like a child who would press their hands against a radiator time and time again just to see how much they could endure before retreating, it was a comparison he found oddly fitting for this situation. Though upon further consideration, it spoke volumes for what he was doing to himself.

"The payment would be greater, I hold more standing within the Monastery and would be subject to less scrutiny by the ignorant, furthermore it would allow for more official support for Abyss, though I am all but certain that would come with certain stipulations." The mere notion brought his lips down, his mind raced as he considered what those would be and found that none of them were appealing.

"You have suspicions?"

"...Many, the most likely is a more permanent presence of the Church within the town." That was the only one he could see as a certainty. "The actions of Aelfric and the ease at which he was able to carry them out will have whipped the zealots into a frenzy, that it has been allowed to exist is nothing short of the intervention of the high officials themselves, else they would have torn down the settlement and displaced those within it once again. That being said…Abyss is a thorn in the side of the Church that can no longer remain unmonitored."

Edelgard said nothing, the visible grimace she offered showed that she could understand his point of view and likely accepted it as something that was liable to occur. "Those in Abyss do not approve of the Church and will be less than pleased at the presence of such a force, especially given that many within are known to harbour opinions and practices that the Church would not approve of."

"...We are all making stipulations for survival, few ever lead a life free of troubles." He paused for a moment as he skimmed through his mind. "No, there are none who live a life free of woes. Even if you yourself are perfect in every way, there shall always be something that spoils your existence and brings annoyance to your mind."

"...I see."

He very much doubted she did.

"Then it seems I will pass along the message to the others of the Black Eagles who have an interest in magic, if you are to begin such lectures on the topic." She remarked with a slow and almost dispassionate tone of voice. "As for the matter in relation to Abyss…if there is cause for assistance to be meted out to those in need, then the Empire might be willing to offer some aid for those put into an unfortunate position."

His brows furrowed ever so slightly, it wasn't the nature of the offer that surprised him, merely that she made it at all. "And why, might I ask, would the Adrestian Empire be concerned about the hovel which currently houses heretics and outcasts?"

"Some are simply citizens who have fallen upon hard times through no fault of their own." Edelgard replied with a slight frown, though not aimed at him. "And to be forced into such a state as their own is…something that I can certainly not approve of. The collapse of House Nuvelle, for example, is only due to the mishandling of incompetents within the ranks of the Empire who have been granted the right to exist for far longer than they should have."

It took him only a second to register her words, in the next moment he let out a low chuckle as he considered them fully. He waved his hand a moment later at her curious expression, "No, it was merely something that I had not considered. All too often there are many who are blind to the faults of their own country purely based on patriotic ideals, I had thought you might have been amongst them."

Edelgard frowned. "While I am indeed loyal to the Empire, I will not deny that recent years have…tainted it. Much has happened that I would not approve of and the silent acceptance of corruption and incompetence is dismal to say the least, I have made little effort to hide my own desire to change the Empire for the better when I assume the throne-"

He rolled his eyes. "Such words are spoken all too often. There are never those who rise into power and make the claim that they shall run their nation into the dirt and bring only ruin to its citizens, they all ascended with the intention of bringing glory to their homeland." shifting his focus back, his eyes narrowed. "The difference comes between those who understand what needs to be done and those who merely do what they believe is best. A subtle difference, but one with far reaching impacts."

"I can assure you of this, Goetia." Edelgard replied with a tone of deathly seriousness. "I know what needs to be done for the good of the Adrestian Empire."

"...I see that Dorothea was correct about you after all."

"Excuse me?" Edelgard blinked, looking caught off guard by the comment.

"She claimed you were one who could make singular statements without any notion that you were incorrect, a confidence that comes with one who is utterly convinced of the righteousness of their words, that there is truly no alternative." It was rather intriguing, as though he was finding something else in those he had never spoken with before. The comparison with himself, the curiosity that came with it.

Was this how he sounded to others when he spoke?

Did they feel it as well?

"...I see." Relaxing, the white haired girl thinned her lips. "I am pleased that Dorothea speaks so highly of my speechcraft, though I would be more troubled if I made for a poor public speaker, it would certainly spoil my image when I became an Empress, no?" it was a faint ghost of a smile, but it was there for all of a second.

Despite himself, he felt a small twitch of his lips as he mirrored the action back to her. "Yes, that would prove something of hindrance." he turned his eyes back to the front, though not without leaving another comment. "In which case, I shall follow your career with great interest, Edelgard. These newfound changes you intend to make for the betterment of Adrestia…I wonder what their impact will be?"

"...I wonder if we shared that trait between us."

Dorothea's comment. Yes, she had compared the two of them at the time and with the benefit of hindsight, he could see what she meant. Though the same would be true of anyone with sheer confidence that what they spoke was the ultimate truth of reality.

There was, however, a marked difference between speaking the truth and speaking what one believed was the truth. Whether Edelgard was the former or the latter would take time to truly understand.

"...Perhaps." He admitted after a moment, offering a faint shrug. "But anyone who spoke with absolute confidence would sound much the same. It is the hallmark of an efficient leader to truly believe what they speak, if one does not believe their own words, then how would they expect the same of others?"

"That is true enough as well, I should admit."

Silence fell between the two of them for a few seconds, then the Empress spoke up once again.

"How likely do you believe it is that something occurred with the Blue Lions?"

He blinked, then glanced at her. "Why the sudden interest?"

Edelgard frowned. "Their mission was regarded with great secrecy and especially given the nature of those who arrived beforehand and the contingent of knights who left with them, to believe it was all for something as simple as dealing with bandits…" she trailed off, shaking her head from side to side and folding her arms. "I would argue that it was something the Kingdom itself could have dealt with, removing the need to call upon the Church."

True enough, he supposed.

"And why not discuss this with Hubert?"

"Why do you assume I have not?"

"A fair response. Then I will assume that he responded with the belief that there was more in regards to the nature of the mission than was led on?"

A silent nod of the head from the heiress.

He remained silent, then sniffed the air once before he spoke. "I do not comment upon the simple fact that gravity continues to pull objects down when they are released. Thus I do not comment upon the nature of the mission the Blue Lions were dispatched upon." he already knew that something would have happened, given the repeated instances of Eisner's time jumping. "It should go without saying that there was more to the mission than simply dispatching thugs…but until it directly concerns me, I will not comment upon it."

Edelgard paused for a moment, then folded her arms and nodded her head up and down. "Yes, I suppose it would be somewhat obvious, though I am uncertain they will ever release the full information…all I know of is that it included the disgraced son of Gautier and nothing else."

That was all Goetia knew as well, something which he had foreseen no trouble in regards to and yet had warranted several temporal jumps. A curious development to be sure…but one he was certain would not include him.


AN: Fun times all around.

In the meantime!


Omake: Absolute Slanderous Front

"It was a physical location that existed." He explained for what felt like the eleventh time in that single sitting, the truth of it was that it was only the third but the rate at which they were pressing him for answers, it might as well have been as he previously described. "The separation of the Gods and man had yet to fully take hold which meant one could travel into the Underworld if they so wished."

It did nothing to take away from the stares being levied towards him by his now captive audience.

"But you could do it?"

"Why would I walk into the underworld? I had little business in Kur." He dismissed with a frown, ignoring the looks he received from Ferdinand. "Even if I was so inclined, the moment I attempted to step foot in the realm of the dead, the Goddess who managed the souls of the deceased would doubtless try and kill me…which she did later attempt."

Now the stares were becoming torn between confused and slightly concerned, he was preaching what would be tantamount to heresy, he supposed, but that didn't detract from what he was stating in the least.

"Setting aside the heresy for a moment." Linhardt coughed into his fist, making a sweeping motion with his free hand. "...You're still saying that resurrection of the dead was possible, unless you were…" they paused for a moment, teetering their head from side to side as though debating whether they wanted to say something.

"Had you eaten anything strange?" Caspar blurted out in typical fashion.

A slow blind, he turned his eyes onto the young boy and offered the flattest stare he could muster, not quite understanding the link between him eating anything and the story he was currently telling. Yet Linhardt nodded to the boy as though they had spoken their question for him.

"...Strange?"

"Yeah." Caspar gave a rapid nod of the head, a thoughtful look on his face. "You know…I once heard that there was this plant that made people see things…and stuff…"

…Were they genuinely implying that he-?

"He foraged in the woods for a while." Shamir spoke up for the first time since she had sat down, sounding utterly disinterested and yet when he cast a look towards her, he saw what he assumed was a glimmer of amusement flicker through his eyes for barely a second. "Probably ate something like that one night."

…They were actually implying he was the subject of an hallucinogenic fever dream!?

"I did not drug myself and imagine the entire ordeal!" He snarled, feeling annoyance build up within him. "I was there for a time! I spoke with Kingu!"

He did not know why he was becoming incensed with this.

"Kingu?" Dorothea parroted the name back to him, making a curious face as though she was tasting it. "Sounds exotic, who were they?"

"They were a clay construct made by the Gods that took on the shape of a prostitute." It was the simplest explanation for them without getting too in depth. "Or rather, that was the origin of Enkidu. Kingu was the one who took command of the body after the death of Enkidu."

"...A clay prostitute." A toneless response from Dorothea as she stared back at him, blinking twice and then returning to her pasta.

A sigh from the end of Seiros, he shot a look as she was moving to take a bite of her own food. "Is that truly an appropriate discussion for the dinner table, Goetia? I'm unsure as to what manner of topics you discuss elsewhere, but we prefer a more…acceptable sort."

"Refined?" He cringed at them, leaning back into his chair and then pointing down to the table, ignoring his food at this point. "This is refined. I made this happen, I was the one who unlocked the seals and freed-this is an entirely pointless discussion which has brought us away from the topic at hand."

"Indeed." Linhardt offered a sage nod of the head. "Goetia was explaining to us how his mud whore friend was possessed by a ghost."

"They were not my friend, they were the friend of Gilgamesh, I shared only a single conversation with them."

"Ah, of course, my mistake."

At least they-that tone was patronising.

His eyes narrowed, flickering around the room as they all now regarded him warily, as though they were dealing with something odd. Even Bernadetta - rather than cowering in fear - was looking at him with a slightly sympathetic expression before she raised her voice. "W-when I was younger, I used to give some backstories to some of my stuffed animals as well."

How was that even remotely relevant?

"A-hahaha!" Ferdinand let out a hearty laugh. "A very amusing story, Goetia. Your homeland has some fine comedies."

What?

"But I never imagined you would encounter a travelling circus."

…He would correct him but that was one of the most accurate descriptions of Chaldea he had found to date.