You Will Live Ch. 7: To Ashes | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 3275 (7 to 26 minutes) | Rating: M | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Count Bergliez, Ferdinand, and Hubert

Trigger Warning: Thoughts of an Honorable Death/Martyrdom

Read the previous chapter.

Her Majesty’s cremation had been arranged that same day through the finest of Hubert’s remaining agents—all of whom he’d had to disclose to Shamir, naturally. In the state of Fódlan following the fall on Enbarr, it would be safest for them to be monitored by the allies of King Dimitri. If any rebellious factions existed within the new rule, clear communication between the Empire and the Kingdom would accelerate their demise should they act against one power or the other.

All things considered, Adrestia’s ongoing integration into the surrounding nations of Fódlan led by King Dimitri was sudden but painless. There was none of the rampant violence against the losing party and political plundering that typically marked such shifts in power. Of course, Hubert had been stripped of his title and was effectively penniless and homeless without the current support he was permitted from King Dimitri. His court was not comprised of fools, and that act was no mistake. Hubert was in no position to bite the hand that fed him.

And he was well fed in that hypothetical sense.

The most loyal of Dimitri’s men was assigned to Her Majesty’s travel alongside Hubert’s own agents, a gesture of impressive goodwill. Still, that did not discourage Hubert from going as well. Serving Her Majesty was his sworn purpose and he would oversee her care even now.

Affixing his travelling robe in his quarters for that trip, Hubert was interrupted by a short knock.

“Enter,” he allowed, knowing that regardless of who it was, he likely did not have enough sway in the new regime quite yet to turn them away.

“Good morning, Hubert!” Ferdinand greeted, his smile every bit as bright as it should be, but the faint wrinkle in his brow revealed that he was moderately worried. Years spent watching him and learning his tells rewarded Hubert with near-perfect clarity into Ferdinand’s mental state that was likely not one-sided.

Naturally, or why would Ferdinand be concerned? He chose the side that won the war, achieving his standing both in history and close to the newly established government. Recent events were in his favor. The solitary unpredictable aspect of his life was Hubert himself.

“You are preparing to head out, I take it. Where are you headed so early?”

Hubert was well past trying to confine himself to viewing Ferdinand as a captor or bitter former friend—bawling in front of him like an infant and grasping for his hand to completely expose his fragility saw to that. Now, Ferdinand was only an awkward reminder of Hubert’s own shameful weakness and instability.

He did not look at Ferdinand to respond, checking on clasps on his robe instead that did not particularly need to be checked. “I have been up for hours, Ferdinand. There is business I must attend to.”

“Ah, of course.” The careful pause there essentially guaranteed Ferdinand was acutely aware that Hubert was withholding something. Gracious as ever, he did not mention it but simply stood in the doorway of his room. “If there is anything I can assist you with, I would be more than happy to contribute my support.”

“And I am grateful, but this matter is one I must handle personally.” He turned from the mirror, his black and red cloak sweeping with the motion, and waited for Ferdinand to move aside as he approached. When that did not happen, Hubert frowned and crossed his arms to make his stance on this even clearer. “Urgently.”

“It is for Edelgard, then?”

Tight silence pierced the space between them. Whether from true irritation or grief and the irrational sentiments accompanying it, Hubert did not know and didn’t care to find out when he did have a timeline to keep.

“I apologize,” Ferdinand offered in contrition, shaking his head. From how carefully he was put together today, one never would have guessed he had been in combat with the same man he spoke to only yesterday. Subtle traces of cologne hovered about Ferdinand as though he were a walking garden, pleasant but not overpowering. His hair shone with what Hubert recognized as the hair oil commonly used in Brigid (a gift from Petra, then).

In place of his ornate combat gear was an expertly tailored crimson jacket accompanied by a white silken cravat secured with a black crow pin. Next to Ferdinand’s usual aesthetics, it seemed somewhat out of place, but it hardly came as a surprise that he had to make do during a time of widespread war.

“I did not mean to open any wounds, Hubert. I thought you may wish to talk about it, nothing more.” Awkwardness replaced the tension as Ferdinand stepped aside, continuing the conversation heedlessly. Hubert could have communicated as much by walking away before he was done, but—

It did not matter why he remained, only that he did. He could muster that much.

“To be honest, I came only to invite you to afternoon tea,” his voice lightened, smile widening. “The rain will keep us from the gardens, but there are covered awnings by the dance hall that will serve nicely for privacy and a splendid view.”

“While that is thoughtful of you,” he answered flatly, stepped out into the hall with the confidence Ferdinand would not take advantage of his absence to rifle through his quarters (especially when both the Alliance and Kingdom guards had already done so). Pausing to glance back, he gave Ferdinand advice he would hopefully be wise enough to take. Any affiliation between them was not only uncomfortable for Hubert but unwise for Ferdinand. “I have far too much to consider at present. You might invite Dorothea in my stead. I am certain she would be delighted.”

“Yes. I understand.” The crestfallen falter of his posture and smile indicated otherwise, bearing an unsettling pressure down on Hubert’s chest. That dejection was how Hubert thanked him for his consolation last night when no one else offered. Or even potentially could have—Hubert was a forbidding man on a pleasant day. “Well, if your schedule changes—”

“You will be the first to know.”

By then, the pressing need to be away from that conversation overpowered Hubert, who departed without so much as a goodbye. He descended the staircase and left through the palace foyer entrance, not once turning back. A step in the right direction to his reputed strength of will no matter the crushing darkness surrounding him. The sooner Ferdinand accepted it, the better off both of them would be.


Their destination was at the edge of the capital’s market district, isolated enough to make anyone who should not be there stand out easily, but populated enough as to not leave room for a close-quarters ambush. The woman overseeing the cremation of Her Majesty was a long-time friend of the Hresvelg line, sharing a similar lineage as House Vestra. His agents and the Kingdom’s reinforcements were placed in formation to ensure a swift response in the event of an attack en route.

The recent rain left a metallic trace in the air and made certain pathways slicker than usual, but any damage from combat had been primarily contained to the portion of the city between the invading armies and the palace. Headed in the opposite direction, they had no cause for concern. Enbarr was a resilient city with stout buildings that did not fall easily. As the citizens came back now that the evacuation orders preceding the siege had lifted, the capital’s routine was returning to normal. Whatever else might occur, the Adrestian people would not be severely hindered by their loss.

Strategically, the resulting environment was a challenging one for moving her body. With citizens and foreign powers settling in, it was all too easy for a malicious entity to sneak past unnoticed. Therefore, every aspect of Her Majesty’s transit, down to the carriage transporting her from the palace to the crematorium, had been carefully planned and reviewed to the fullest in the short time Hubert had to prepare it.

Hubert himself took up the rear guard so he could secure their safe passage by delaying pursuers if necessary. His recovery was far enough along that if he didn’t sustain any direct attacks, he would be more than capable of handling several opponents. Linhardt was not awake before he departed, so that was Hubert’s best assessment. The alternative had been to ask Dorothea and he could not risk the chance that she’d want to socialize or question him, refusing to take no for an answer as only the former opera singer could.

There were other healers, of course, but… Hubert would just as soon not speak to anyone who was not of the Black Eagle House if he could avoid it. There was no sense in potentially stirring up animosity at such an uncertain time.

The beginning of their voyage was unremarkable. A glance was sufficient to determine their agenda—what else but funerary plans would bring the Imperial Minister out accompanied by Kingdom guards?—but the residents of Enbarr had their own business to attend to. The city did need repairs, and the Alliance soldiers were lending aid to that end. Shops were re-opening and families returned to their homes. Life continued on.

It wasn’t until they reached the less populated region of the city, nearing the crematory, that Hubert fully realized they were being tailed. He suspected as much before then, since these were hardly professionals with any nation or the Agarthans. But their flanking formation once they reached the outskirts of the market was all the confirmation that they were certainly targeting them.

More accurately, they were looking to isolate one person from the rest: Hubert himself.

Very well. If that is what they want, they will have it.

With a gesture pre-established with his agents, Hubert ordered them to go ahead while he lingered further back. His team coordinated the new formation with Dimitri’s soldiers, as expected, and they obeyed to best represent their king. The quiet that fell as the carriage and entourage went ahead without him was as brief as it was taut.

Seeing their opportunity or realizing they’d been made, the people tailing them closed in on Hubert almost immediately after the carriage was out of view. A close-range cast of Miasma rushed through him, and the first attacker died swiftly in the blast. Seamlessly, he conjured an outwardly aimed Dark Spikes that either wounded or slaughtered a handful of the others drawing close. He was alone, but hardly an easy mark.

Still, other than his magic, Hubert was unarmed. In the magically charged lapse following his initial defense, he stole a spear from the corpse closest to him, turning in time to skewer one of the enemies who survived that attack. Over his shoulder, he blindly cast another charge of Miasma and based on the wailing behind him, he hit his mark.

“Traitor,” the man pierced by spear fought out, grunting. Hubert had missed his lungs, then. “You traitor!”

Hit by a nauseating sense of freefall, crushing despite its distance in his mind, Hubert kept his outward calm. This was a battlefield, city or not. But the very idea that he had betrayed Her Majesty was so widespread a rumor so soon after her passing—

In the short time following the fall of Enbarr, enough like-minded citizens from Adrestia believed Hubert to be a conspirator against Lady Edelgard that they could gather and piece together a plan that made this ambush possible.

“You fool.” Hubert could afford derision when he was dealing with the last enemy currently capable of standing. The remaining were still assessing their injuries or laying deathly still in the dirt or on the stone streets. Did it matter which? Revulsion at their assumption blended with dread at being stripped of his legendary devotion to Her Majesty by her very own people, their people, and Hubert sneered at the pierced man in front of him. “I remain alive on her ord—”

An arrow pierced his left shoulder, killing the rest of his sentence with the sudden pain. The spear remained steady in his hands, but he would have to choose between that and casting a spell at the overlooked archer.

Sloppy.

The assailants previously held back by the magic spikes had recovered, as much as they were going to, and they were advancing once more. The archer, wherever they were, would be nocking another arrow.

Hubert drove the spear through the man before him, pushing his inevitable corpse away to call upon Mire for its greater range. This area was too narrow for a spell broader than that dark magic raining down on them, but it would have to suffice. Hubert would not survive the assault if they all reached him at once. Before he could crush it, the thought occurred to him that a fate such as that might not be so terrible. He could die in Enbarr, defending Her Majesty just as he originally intended.

Regardless, it would not be by surrender.

The next arrow to fly landed in the leg of an enemy, dropping her to the stone street and scattering the others as they tried to identify the source. They only encountered another wave of guards blocking their retreat, whose armor was marked with the sigil of House Bergliez. Hubert barely had time to dismiss the next spell he’d been calling on before the head of that house approached from the opposite direction.

Of course Count Bergliez had known where he would be. He knew that Her Majesty perished in the battle, and he knew where the Imperial crematorium was. And there was no doubting he’d be certain that Hubert would attend. He might have worried that he was present for the same reason as the original attackers if his guards weren’t blocking them in. No, he was here strictly to defend Hubert in an unsurprising moment of foresight (that Hubert was ashamed not to have shared). Much like Caspar, Count Bergliez was not especially intellectual, but he possessed exceptional instincts along with an innate understanding of the people.

“Hubert, my boy,” he began, a chastising lecture waiting in that boisterous greeting. Despite his ranking, Caspar’s father was all too likely to treat Hubert as an honorary son rather than an Imperial minister. “The Empire loses a leader yesterday, and you try to follow her into the dark, is that it? Not sure what else you’re trying for, wounded and fighting alone out here.”

“Count Bergliez,” he answered, winded. “Good morning.”

That booming laugh he got in response really did remind Hubert of Caspar. No wonder the two were on relatively good terms despite the situation that led Caspar to enroll at Garreg Mach monastery. A shame his eldest son was such an indolent, avaricious fool. “Good morning, he says! For a mage, you really know how to work through pain.”

“Call it a gift,” he dismissed, not sharing in his good humor. Count Bergliez was a good man—there was a reason he had not been displaced during Her Majesty’s reign—but Hubert was short on patience. “Now, I must attend to Her Majesty’s—”

“Oh no,” Count Bergliez essentially forbid, pressing a hand to Hubert’s lower back to steer him while staying well clear of the arrow buried in his shoulder. “We’re going to heal you up, then send you back to the palace.”

“No, I—”

“If any of you are Adrestian,” a wounded woman interrupted hoarsely from the blood-stained street, “you’ll kill that bloody traitor!”

“Wait your damn turn,” Count Bergliez ordered as if she was just another of his many children being demanding. Waving someone over from beyond his line of guards, he went ahead with his own agenda. “Healer! Get over here.”

Placing another hand in front of Hubert’s shoulder, framing the site of the injury from the arrow, Count Bergliez looked Hubert in the eye. The worst was yet to come. The initial shock of the wound had passed to an aching throb, but that would change shortly. “Ready?”

“By all means.”

He grimaced as the shaft of the arrow shifted with the force Count Bergliez had to exert in breaking off the fletching. The easiest way for the arrow to be removed was the way it was intended to work in the first place—the point leading out. Splinters would be minimal and work themselves out over the course of a few days.

“One more to go,” Count Bergliez needlessly pointed out, polite in his own gruff manner. With a swift yank, he pulled the arrow out with a small grunt from Hubert, and the healer was on him in instant to cast faith magic and close the wound. He would be sore, but still operable for their journey to Shambhala.

“Well done,” Caspar’s father praised, a hearty smack to his back that caused Hubert to stagger in catching himself. “Now let’s see what this young lady has to say, hm?”

Of course, that is when the injured women on the ground chose to shrink away and fall silent. She tried and failed to pull herself up, a hopeless effort with an arrow in her leg and the rush of battle long behind them. “I won’t give you any names.”

“What the hell would I want names for?” Count Bergliez laughed, kneeling down to the woman. She was certainly Adrestian, light brown hair matted to her face with blood from her fall after that arrow pierced her thigh. If she got help soon, she’d recover within a week. “I just want you to finish your little speech. And don’t get smart about it, no one wants this to get messy. So, what’ll it be?”

Hubert barely glanced her way, feigning disinterest even as he direly needed her insight to piece together how far this perception of him betraying Her Majesty had spread. If it had taken root in the whole nation or spread swiftly enough, it may as well be an official exile. But to where? Adrestia was his home and where Her Majesty would be laid to rest. The sooner Hubert discovered the severity of this rumor, the sooner he could devise a strategy to counter it.

Keeping her attention on the count, she bit her lip and weighed her options. “He… he’s a turncoat and an impostor. House Vestra protects the emperor, but the moment she died, he’s working with the Beast King,” she spat through a snarl, finding her courage again despite the tremble in her hands. “He doesn’t deserve to live!”

In combat, Hubert had internally all but agreed with her. He glanced away from her, staring instead at her peers in shackles provided by the Bergliez Guard. They covered a range of people within the Empire, although some were in better condition than others. The degree of their tans or scarring helped Hubert place if they worked indoors or out, primarily with their hands or with their minds. Most of them stared straight ahead, an unyielding resolve in the face of failure that pointed to a powerful belief in their cause.

The thought sickened him once again, and Hubert scowled on instinct. There were a few who glared back at him, but that made no difference to him. Him, Hubert von Vestra, betraying Lady Edelgard? It was difficult to distinguish the indignant rage at the accusation from the genuine fear that the rumor was strong enough to be viewed as fact. He did not care that he lost his title and all his holdings, but to lose his reputation as her unwaveringly devoted minister? That was the one part of him that mattered most to Hubert. If she were alive to stand beside him, it would not have mattered nearly as much. All he needed was for her to believe.

But she was not here. Only he was. That was what she wanted for him. He was following her will. That consolation next to such a loss was as far-removed as seeing light from the bottom of a well.

“Right,” Count Bergliez dismissed her behind him, his disbelief obvious. “Acting fast only works if you think, you know that?” Standing up to the sound of his armor plates moving together, he strode forward to appear in Hubert’s vision and gesture to his available guards. “Round up the wounded and take them to the cells of the palace. We’ll sort this blasted mess out once we clean up the street.”

Putting a guiding hand on Hubert’s ‘good’ shoulder, Count Bergliez pulled him in. “And you stick with me until you’re inside palace walls. You always did get a little stupid without Lady Edelgard around.”

Hubert scoffed, but there was no effective method to telling Caspar’s father no. Besides, he would know all too well what Hubert became without Lady Edelgard. As one of few who got through to Hubert during Her Majesty’s absence in their youth, Count Bergliez was uniquely qualified.


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Web of Love | Claude Edition Ch. 1: So it Begins

Word count: 840 (2 to 7 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Hubert and Claude


“Hubert, my friend,” Claude greeted, striding into the makeshift poisons lab he and Hubert carved out of one of the abandoned ruins dotting the vast Garreg Mach monastery grounds. Getting supplies from the greenhouse and making poisons in his room just wasn’t cutting it anymore… Seteth almost caught him last time, and that’d be a big mess to pick up, even for Claude.

The self-sacrificing servant to Edelgard barely glanced up from his workstation, where he was mixing some elements or another together at a safe distance.

“Claude,” Hubert acknowledged, returning to the task before him. He ran a tight ship, that Vestra. Compared to Claude’s intuitive chaos system, Hubert kept everything in order even in the neglected remains of a modest chapel. All supplies were sorted, labelled in code, and stored for easy concealment from wild animals and nosy explorers alike. Never knew when Ignatz would pick this place as the site of his next painting for the divine goddess herself, after all.

The ride by horseback to the workshop wasn’t long, sadly, so that was all the more reason to be cautious. Claude would just have to set aside time for leisurely rides on his own later. Really, he should be grateful for how close it was since the summer rains of Fódlan were just getting started at the turn of the Verdant Rain moon.

And because it would have to rain fire before Hubert considered not concocting new poisons for his sinister inventory, Claude had to make it out there somehow.

“Dutiful as ever, I’ll give you that.” He took off his cloak and after a couple good shakes, he hung it from an outcropping in the wall to dry for his ride back. Who knows what it used to be in its glory, but it made a good coat hanger in the present!

“So, how do you manage to get here before me when I never see your tracks on the way or a horse of yours nearby?”

“I am certain you would love to know,” Hubert taunted and gave not a hint or a clue, as usual of Edelgard’s most devoted.

“Oh, come on!” Claude went over to his table opposite Hubert’s, set up a good distance away for safety. Even guys as familiar with poisons as them had to be careful. “Our regular retreats for whipping up poisons have gone on for weeks now—your brews being quite a bit more deadly than mine most days, I might add—and we’ve even taken breaks for those board games you’re so fond of. Don’t I get a little hint?”

Claude grinned across the gap, packed with uneven rocks, stragglers from cleared rubble, and warm torchlight. And on the other side of the divide, a certain pale-eyed shadow peered at him, of course.

“Not a chance. You will simply have to employ that strategic mind of yours if you want to find out so badly.”

“Testing the limits of my skills, huh? I’m on to you,” Claude teased, picking out the bottles of mushrooms and crushed plants he needed for the mildly debilitating mixtures he had in mind. Hubert barely touched the low-grade stuff like that, and if it bothered him that Claude was hogging it, he didn’t say anything. And if he wanted to, Hubert would volley his absolute worst criticisms at Claude. He did, in fact. Often. So, anyway, it was probably fine.

“I very much doubt that.”

“Said like someone who doesn’t know just how close I am!”

“Is that so?” Ah, that got a rise out of him. Hubert stood back from his work, crossing his arms and sneering in that way he did when an argument struck his fancy. Or an appealing target, that too. “Tell me, what have you uncovered about me?”

“For starters, I can tell from your chats with Ferdinand outside the Officer’s Academy classrooms that your sour view of him is starting to turn sweet. Or is it spicy?”

Got him again.

Hubert fumbled his practiced scornful smirk, barely covering it with a scoff.

“What a ridiculous suggestion,” Hubert tried to recover, but it was too late. Claude was just as perceptive as Vestra himself, and his guard wasn’t as perfect as he thought. Supposed that was true of both them now, since they’d been cataloguing each other’s tells anytime they were together.

“Right, of course,” Claude agreed mockingly. He measured out the right amount of ingredients as easily as always, getting to work as he kept taunting Hubert. “How silly of me! I’ll drop the notion straight away, sir.”

“Be quiet,” Hubert hissed, digging back into his work too. The smell was foul, even at that distance, and Claude had to wonder how Hubert managed not to even cough a little.

Yeah, he was going to need help if he was ever going to capture the attention of the unstoppable sunbeam that was Ferdinand von Aegir. Lucky for Hubert that he had such a caring and invested friend in Claude!


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You Will Live Ch. 6: Both Monsters | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 4200 (10 to 34 minutes) | Rating: M | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Dimitri and Hubert

Read the previous chapter.

To be sent to bed early with a cup of tea from Ferdinand, who fussed over him the entire way, was merely the second most embarrassing event to occur to Hubert that day. The guards badly pretending not to notice how generally disheveled Hubert was inarguably took first.

After extensive reassuring, Hubert finally persuaded Ferdinand that he was fine on his own and the two people posted outside of his quarters would be more than sufficient if he did require assistance. And it was half-true. Shamir stood guard with Cyril, and they regarded Hubert with starkly differing treatment. Cyril would surely let him meet his end in any manner, he was not particular, but Shamir was more level-headed about their task.

Regardless, there was nothing troubling him that they (or anyone) could assist him with.

Sleep came in fragments, as ill-fated as any cresting wave. When he heard birds overheard as an indication of morning, he left bed with a heavy sigh and readied for the day. The scattered hours he got would have to do. Dressing in his Imperial wear felt wrong somehow, the disquiet settling in as a tightness in his throat, but the lack of a suitable alternative gave him no other choice. Once he had finished, Hubert left his quarters to see the guards had rotated sometime during his rest. Byleth nodded to him, and Alois, of course, had to speak.

“Ah, Hubert! You look positively ghastly.” He looked so fraught with concern that Hubert was nearly offended. Knowing his fear of ghosts as he did, it was possible this fear had more to do with his appearance than any other factors. Alois should want him dead just as all the other Knights of Seiros undoubtedly did. Regardless, it mattered little what a simpleton of the Church saw in him. “Shouldn’t you get more rest?”

“Oh, yes, I hadn’t thought of that. Wherever did you come up with such a brilliant idea,” he deadpanned and went down the hall toward the stairs.

“Let him go,” Byleth stated as he began down the steps and made his way to the kitchen. No doubt the Imperial staff had already been given instruction by the invading forces and they would be preoccupied with breakfast preparations. Even so, he could brew his own coffee unassisted and remain out of their way.

Upon arriving, he discovered he was not the only imposition on them this morning.

King Dimitri leaned against the counter right beside the place Hubert needed to be, naturally, his hands resting against its edge on either side of him. He watched as the Adrestian staff, renowned for their efficiency, went about their business with fresh bread and perfectly carved meats prepared at various degrees of redness to accommodate their guests. Say what you will of them, they would never disgrace the Adrestian name with a poorly prepared breakfast. Even their sworn enemies would leave the table contented.

His arrival and proximity to Dimitri turned only a few heads, and Hubert became acutely aware of the fact that how he conducted himself there would carry to the rest of the nation by nightfall.

He had best set a good example, then.

“Good morning, Your Highness.” He did not bow, as Dimitri was not his king, but he did regard him as Hubert himself would have insisted anyone address Her Majesty—with formal titles and basic respect.

Dimitri tensed, whipping his head to look at the source of the greeting, and recovered with a self-conscious chuckle. “I did not hear you approach. I apologize.”

“Few ever do,” Hubert offered, smirking. “Would you care for some coffee?” He strode past Dimitri to collect the coffee beans, recently ground by the staff in anticipation of his needs. Routine as usual.

“I believe I will take some, since you offered.”

“Bold of you,” Hubert observed, taking out two cups and weighing out the necessary grounds. “Many would not be so readily trusting of me.”

Oddly, Dimitri smiled at that. The king was not nearly as easily read as he was in his academy years, and Hubert was rather certain he didn’t appreciate that change.

“If you were going to poison me, Hubert, I doubt I would be standing here now.”

Still, he chuckled in response. “Best not let Dedue hear you say that.”

“He will worry regardless of what I say. If I will not, he must, or so he says.” Though Dimitri waved it off, that was not a criticism, but an observation… They must have remained close despite Dimitri’s only somewhat exaggerated behavior in his exile. For a time, they were both believed to be dead as well. Lesser men would have given up all hope for a reunion or emotional recovery, he would grant them that.

As Dimitri spoke, Hubert rinsed the coffee filter at the nearby faucet after a few pumps of the handle. He could muddle through the papery aftertaste if that step went overlooked, but why would he willfully do so? Continuing the process of making coffee as Dimitri looked on, Hubert formed his reply.

“He is not wrong.” And that was all he could truthfully think to say on that subject. Pointing to a tin on the counter behind Dimitri, Hubert explained its purpose. “I prefer coffee black, but the sugar is there for you to use. It’s imported from Mach, so there may be a difference in taste than what you are used to in Faerghus. I can also call for cream if you require it.”

“Thank you, but—I admit, I am curious. I had expected you to be angry with me or at least distant.”

The implied question could wait until Hubert was not actively preparing coffee.

He was wise to have acquired a self-heating kettle for the kitchens as well for all the time it saved him in moments like this one. Now there was only to wait as the proper extraction took place from the grounds into the water. As it gradually trickled through the filter, Hubert had nothing more pressing to attend to than Dimitri’s concern.

There could be no doubt the staff were eavesdropping as they attended to their duties now, even without any unnecessary delays in their work. It was apparent in their furtive glances towards the two of them and looks of unspoken concern passing between them if they caught another’s eye. He could hardly blame them. They were with Adrestian, and the people of a nation that lost a war were not often received well by the victorious forces—or vice versa. How the next few weeks unfolded would determine the rest of their lives.

Therefore, Hubert would say the truth of the matter for their benefit. If the gossiping of even the most capable staff could be relied upon, then the Adrestian people’s betterment would be seen to as well. Like it or not, they would have to accept their position in the united Fódlan ruled by His Highness, or they would lose it in exchange for a more miserable lot.

“Why would I? If Her Majesty saw fit to end her reign at your hands rather than surrender as you offered. I will stand by that decision as I have with all her choices.”

Dimitri only blinked, a wisp of blond hair falling into his face as he tilted his head in examination of Hubert.

“You are an odd one.”

“Flattering,” Hubert answered levelly, giving the grounds within the remaining water a gentle stir to ensure the correct flavor of the brew.

“It is not bad, exactly, and I am grateful,” Dimitri amended somewhat hastily, “but I cannot say I understand it in the least.”

He did not look like the feral beast that Imperial soldiers trembled to hear of all while they sought the stories out. A demon wandered the countryside, as the tale went, gruesomely slaughtering any soldiers of Adrestia whether they were fierce warriors or field cooks. That this beast of legend was one and the same as the puzzled man standing beside Hubert was difficult to believe, but no less true for its unlikelihood.

“You do not need to understand.”

He poured one cup, then another, and lifted his own to his lips. Its heat bordered on uncomfortable, but Hubert welcomed the sensation. This moment was not another splinter of a nightmare lying in wait to turn on Hubert with merciless brutality, but a regular morning in which his coffee was somewhat too hot for drinking.

“That seems fair enough,” Dimitri relented.

He left it at that and took his own cup as if it was made of thin glass, not ceramic, moving it closer to the bin of sugar. He heaped in several spoonfuls but made no request for cream. Even so, he grimaced at the first sip. Unwilling to request Hubert’s assistance, was he? The most probable motive was security reasons. King Dimitri had evidently learned something after what the Empire and Cornelia did to him and the stability of Faerghus.

“Thank you for this. I could use the energy,” he said, taking another tentative sip with an equal amount of mild disgust. “Sleep does not come easily to me, and it has not for many years.”

“Rest was never one of my preferred pastimes,” Hubert only agreed, taking in the fragrant aroma of his cup for the time being.

Dimitri’s genuine laughter came as a surprise yet again. Hubert studied him over his mug, watching for some indication of an ulterior motive in his agreeability.

“I shall have to phrase it that way next time someone lectures me about getting more sleep. I may get different results for once.”

“You won’t. Not in any meaningful way,” Hubert advised from personal experience with Her Majesty and especially Linhardt, ending that subject by savoring another drink of his own coffee.

Smooth, even, but full-bodied, this blend was leagues above the readily accessible blends that acted as an average, crowd-pleasing coffee. Even Ferdinand, who compared coffee to mud more than a drinkable substance, had once admitted to its refined flavor.

“Hubert,” Dimitri prompted with a hesitant weight to his words. There was only one topic that could follow such an ominous tone. “Have you given any thought to her funeral?”

Hubert took a weary breath, turning away from Dimitri to stare at the scarred field beyond the windows across the room. Her body could not remain in her quarters indefinitely for Hubert to postpone arranging her funeral service. Yet his mind resolutely sabotaged any to-do list he might mentally compile by summoning up the sprawling implications of any one choice Hubert could make.

“I do not want to rush you,” Dimitri prodded him once more, “but with the upcoming plans and current upheaval, your time to plan is limited.”

“She will be cremated.” That much, he could say without any hesitation. With her enduring fear of rodents and other such creatures, Hubert could never allow her to suffer the slight of being lowered into the earth for an eternity or locked away in a stone casket within a mausoleum.

“I trust you know someone loyal to Adrestia to carry out the task,” Dimitri suggested, almost relieved at what he assumed was the pleasant discovery that Dimitri did not go unheard up until this point. “I will assign Kingdom soldiers to reinforce the guard surrounding her transport.”

“Well, that is a far cry from hanging her head from the gates.”

“Ah. Yes. I—I was beside myself.” Dimitri put it lightly, staring into his coffee with a far-off gaze. Lady Edelgard described him as outright psychotic when he uncovered her identity as the Flame Emperor, felling soldiers faster than she could count their bodies. In short, he had cause to be horrified at the memory. Hubert had more of his drink as the silence continued.

“Hanneman has theorized that my Crest may affect my temper, but there can be no excuse for my conduct back then.” Placing his cup down with far too much care, Dimitri gave his undivided attention to Hubert as a chivalrous knight of Faerghus might when swearing a vow of fealty. “I assure you, I will do no such thing to the remains of someone I have held so dear. What her opinion was of me after so beastly a display, I dare not even begin to guess.”

…This was where someone more adept in social spheres would offer comfort. Not Hubert’s area of expertise by any consideration, but who could offer that information to Dimitri except for Hubert? Her Majesty determined from their meeting before the fall of Enbarr that she and Dimitri would never agree with one another’s methods, but she also thanked him. Hubert could only conclude from that decision that she would want to give him a measure of consolation after her passing.

“She did admire you.”

He sensed Dimitri’s gaze on him, as real and oppressive as a sudden spike in humidity so common at the close of Fódlan summers. If he faced that head-on, Hubert would surely drop the subject and banish it from memory if at all possible. In interest of completing his thought, Hubert looked either at the fields outside or the depths of his coffee, but never the man he spoke to.

“She rarely mentioned you or the professor after the Holy Tomb, but on the few occasions when she did, I perceived a certain… Reluctance.“ He swirled his coffee idly, bringing it up for another sip. The temperature of it now was perfect and that made the situation Hubert found himself in nearly bearable.

“I never confirmed it with her, but I suspect she wished her path could have been beside your own.” And now it was Dimitri keeping Hubert in suspense with his silence. Assuming this answer was giving him the peace of mind he desired, Hubert resolved to say as much about Her Majesty’s regard for him as he was able. She was not present to express the value of her childhood friendship with the king of Faerghus, and it fell to Hubert to do so in her stead.

It was simply another duty for the Minister of the Imperial Household to uphold.

“When she accepted your offer to meet and discuss the war, I told her it was utter madness,” he admitted. They agreed to disagree that day on the condition that he attended with her, since neither one willing to yield to the other beyond that. “In hindsight, I assume she hoped to reach a resolution where you might walk side by side.”

“Years ago, I might have argued that it could have been possible with the right mindset,” Dimitri confessed, and picked up his coffee again. “But in light of the news you shared yesterday, I must believe it was not that simple.”

Hubert would have attributed that understanding to how Her Majesty explained herself to Dimitri during their discussion rather than the news of Shambala and the Tragedy of Duscur, but that was a pointless distinction to make. Whatever Dimitri chose to hold as true that caused him to stand against Those Who Slither in the Dark with Hubert in attendance, he benefitted from it. He would not risk potentially encouraging Dimitri to question his value and support.

“It was not. That aside, your point was not without merit. The path we carved was for the strong, and the strong alone.”

A bitter revelation if Hubert had ever tasted one, and one he never discussed with Lady Edelgard out of respect. She was also correct in that this path encouraged strength in the people to stand without the false goddess and twisted corruption that victimized them all. Every second wasted in suffering its existence only led to more lives claimed in its insatiable hunger for power. The society as it had been made victims of people like Jeritza, whose sanity would never return to him, and Lysithea, whose years of childhood innocence were cut short alongside her life.

But that did not make Dimitri incorrect. There were those who prospered under faith to an imagined deity—or fealty to a beloved liege. Lady Edelgard was exceptional for her strength, and it was perhaps unfair to expect everyone in Fódlan to match that willpower.

“Did she ever tell you that she taught me to dance?” Dimitri brought up the memory abruptly, a wistful smile following the change in subject. Even another drink of his coffee could not displace it.

Hubert recovered from the brief interruption in his thoughts with a curt shake of his head.

“Pardon?”

“In Fhirdiad, she… Well, she tried. We were close friends by then, but that did not change that I had two left feet with finer arts.” He spoke with a fond lightness, his tone as gently inviting as a well-stocked library lit by the last rays of daylight. Hubert felt distinctly that this was a vulnerable moment he was not meant to witness, but it was no mistake—who else was present? For an unknown reason, Dimitri elected to reminisce with the servant to the woman he killed because she left him no other choice.

“There was little to do for it; I have always had a gift for strength over grace. But she was—” He paused, searching the ceiling for the word with a poignant laugh. “Strict, let’s say. She truly would not let me yield until I had followed her instruction exactly as presented.”

Conveniently, he was willing to speak without a reply. As it was, Hubert was inclined to simply hear about the time she spent in Fhirdiad uninterrupted. Lady Edelgard herself rarely mentioned those memories, and he knew better than to broach the subject. Hubert took her avoidance to mean those years had been difficult for her. Instead, she was dancing and finding kinship when she was far from home—a time too blissful to recall considering its juxtaposition to the darkest days of her past. He could relate, if truth be told.

More importantly, it would seem Hubert owed Dimitri a debt for bringing happiness to Her Majesty while she was held at Arundel’s whim.

“Before our friendship, I found her to be difficult and stubborn. But in a short time, that impression gave way to her true self beneath.” Dimitri returned to the present, turning that mournful smile to Hubert as the faint impression of tears gave his eye a glassy look. “Those memories were the time of my life in many ways.”

Hubert blinked, completely at a loss in this situation. Handling this cathartic revelation with poise was well out of reach for his talents.

Although, thinking on it now, Dimitri had few other options for those who might listen. Most of his closest allies resented Lady Edelgard for her ruthlessness in pursuit of what must be done. Byleth was even less proficient with emotions than Hubert. And Dimitri had never been especially close to the Black Eagle students. Mercedes, having originally been from the Empire, was the only possible candidate who would not reject his grief outright.

And so, perceiving the sorrow in Hubert, he chose him. What an unfortunate decision.

“It’s kind of pathetic that I am still thinking of it after everything that has come to pass since then. I know,” Dimitri excused himself for what he must have assumed Hubert’s lack of response meant. And although Hubert would be considerably more at ease leaving the king to his own misconceptions, he could not leave Her Majesty’s old friend alone with his anguish.

This was not his element, however. Frowning, Hubert forced himself to piece together a sentence that was at least tangentially related to the topic.

“If you would like your dagger back as a keepsake, you may collect it from her nightstand. I cleaned it of your blood last night.”

“I may take you up on that. The blade I gave her does have a lot of meaning for me.” Anticipating an explanation from him, Hubert waited and was not disappointed. “In Faerghus, we’ve long considered blades to be tools of destiny. As a way to cut a path to a better future.”

That phrasing… Hubert’s scowl shifted almost imperceptibly to sincere interest. The thrill of two seemingly disjointed facts coming together at last was not unfamiliar, but something he experienced more often in a library, magic lab, or with his intelligence network. Not in the baring of two hearts over the death of another.

When Lady Edelgard first emerged as the sole survivor from the experimentation done on her in Enbarr, sickly and weakened from confinement, her aspirations were exactly what Dimitri had just described. By extension, they became Hubert’s as well. How many times had he sworn to cut a bloody path for Lady Edelgard without even knowing the origin laid with the king they fought so viciously against?

While it was true that no one knew Her Majesty better than Hubert, this new information shed light on how she came to be the commanding emperor and beloved companion he devoted his life to. Both of their coffees went neglected in favor of the aspects of Lady Edelgard only they could share with one another.

“I saw her being dragged all over Fódlan, unable to live the life she wanted, and I thought the dagger could help her cut a path to the future she dreamed of. I suppose she did.”

There, the conversation turned. This was the danger of nostalgia—the idyllic past one could not reclaim was all too often more desirable than the present. He finished off his coffee, knowing it would only be wasted otherwise, and sighed as he placed the cup in the sink to be cleaned.

“If it gives you any peace, most of the blood painting her path is on my hands. A leader ought to be looked up to as an inspiration,” he said, recalling that he told Her Majesty that shortly after they arrived at Garreg Mach as students. How intriguing, that leaders would benefit most from being reminded of that fact. “I saw to it that she would never again be mired in bloodshed and death by taking her place in that role.”

With a dark chuckle, Hubert relaxed into his habitually menacing demeanor. “There is a reason I am reputed to be Her Majesty’s monster in the night.”

“A man who believes himself a monster… Why is that familiar?”

The hypothetical question and wounded expression were equally unexpected. Hubert was under the impression that the demonic rumors about Dimitri did not bother him, given how he encouraged them with his actions. If one did not want to be seen as a monster, why take out soldiers in such a horrific manner for so many years?

“I’m not certain I follow. What do you mean?”

Dimitri set his cup down too, turning to completely face Hubert now with sharp solemnity. “So many people I love have died to save my life, and I only had less to show for it with each sacrifice. I needed their loss to mean something.”

How he growled that emphasized word said more to Hubert than any lecture could. It spoke to a gnawing feeling in the whole of one’s very being that drove them to commit atrocities in the name of retribution… Yes, that was a matter he knew all too much about. That the Savior King and the Shadow of Enbarr would have anything in common, much less that sinister desire, was the true mystery. Hubert crossed his arms, maintaining a watchful stare to conceal any other sentiment that may seek to rise to the surface. He was apparently not quite finished being emotional, of all things.

“In order to make their deaths worth my existence,” Dimitri continued, not letting up that steadfast gaze, “I let go of my ideals. I became more monstrous with every kill.”

This was certainly in keeping with the reports Hubert received, but he could not see the point Dimitri was trying to make. The journey from man to monster was one Hubert understood perfectly without explanation. When the king’s intensity dissolved into a self-conscious laugh as he rubbed the back of his neck, it only confused Hubert further.

“What I am saying is, even if you are a monster, it doesn’t change my opinion of you. With all that we have done, you and I are both monsters, both stained.” King Dimitri was eager, almost supportive, in offering that observation. Despite his efforts, Hubert eyed him uneasily for it. What was his angle with this?

Oblivious or undaunted, Dimitri persisted. “Perhaps we might find companionship in one another with that knowledge. Even those stained red with blood must find a place to belong.”

“I… Suppose.” He had no other means of answering that, but Dimitri quietly accepted that reply as all Hubert could give. It was acknowledgement enough that he stood beside Hubert with a contented grin and a liveliness from the king he’d yet to see or hear of since the war began, though that may just have been the half-cup of coffee.

Hubert settled for an uneasy smirk in turn.

I hope you are as satisfied as I am uncomfortable, Your Majesty. If the revenge to come does not give you the peace you deserve, may this connection between your oldest friends ease your pain.


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You Will Live Ch. 5: Not Alone | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 3800 (10 to 30 minutes) | Rating: M (Suicidal Thoughts)| Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Ferdinand and Hubert

Read the previous chapter.

In the hall beyond the war room, Ferdinand followed Hubert towards the staircase to the personal quarters. Passing soldiers with the gathered powers that conquered Enbarr regarded Hubert as if he were invisible or filth. It made no difference to him how he was perceived at present, though it would likely have to be addressed eventually.

For now, Hubert waited at the bottom of the stairs leading to Her Majesty’s room and beyond that, his own. The staircase hugged the wall, acting as a secure vantage point for archers in the event of a sudden siege. Pale sandstone steps framed the rich, deep red carpet like drying blood running down the center. The carpet was the same color as always and the steps were the same in number. And yet, Hubert could not drive the visual of this being her blood out of his mind, could not shake the feeling that this staircase was insurmountable.

“Hubert?” Ferdinand’s hand hovered just out of touch, and his aversion to contact drove Hubert to take the first step. He slid a gloved hand along the smooth railing as he ascended without replying.

This crushing sensation in his chest was nothing in comparison to the suffering Hubert would visit upon her first and final enemies. Her Majesty elected to die at Dimitri’s hands for her cause, and he would honor that however he could manage to. Any rage he might have felt for the King of Faerghus transferred instead to the inhuman filth that ripped Her Majesty from him not once, but twice, by giving her no option but to take the path that ended her life in more than the literal sense. As if her unnaturally shortened life was not agonizing enough on its own.

Hubert hesitated again at the top of the stairs. This was where he typically bid Lady Edelgard good evening, swore he would go straight to bed, then brewed coffee in his room and continued to work. She generally looked tired from the constant effort of the war, so her rest took priority. If that meant a series of late nights for Hubert in exchange, that was a price he gladly paid.

And now, she will never feel the weight of over-exhaustion again.

It was little comfort, staring at the guards before her door and knowing she lay lifeless within. Hubert could not rest without seeing her, and he would not rest if he did.

Fortunate, then, that he was familiar with sleepless nights.

“I will go alone,” Hubert stated, his gaze fixed on the dark double doors to her quarters. They had originally been more elaborate, but Her Majesty had them moved to upgrade the doors to the soldiers’ barracks and changed hers out for a sturdier, more practical design.

“Are you certain?” Ferdinand’s tone was sure but gentle, hardly the one of a captor or begrudging former ally that Hubert adamantly tried to perceive him as. Yes, Her Majesty’s death was simply a result of war and her express orders were for Hubert to build his own life in the aftermath. But he would not become the sort of delicate fool who would immediately throw himself at the compassion of the first old-time companion to walk beside him.

He conjured up imagery of the fight, magic and blood charging the air, to steel his heart against weakness. Hubert clenched his jaw, locking his focus on the sturdy doorway to Her Majesty’s quarters at once so close and separated by a thick smog of dread. How would the memory of her being alive that very morning reconcile with the sight of her corpse? Anticipating her presence only to be met with the cold certainty of death? She was gone to a place Hubert could not follow. Where their paths had forever been side by side, they diverged here, never to cross again. Sweat lined the palms of his gloves and Hubert held his voice steady on force of will.

“There will be two guards posted outside, so your orders will be met. I will be under supervision.”

“I did not mean strategically, Hubert. I think—”

“It does not matter what you think. You have your orders, and that should be enough,” he echoed the remark from Ferdinand at Enbarr’s gates. However much he had to injure the former Prime Minister’s pride or dignity to force him to leave, Hubert would stoop to that level.

“Since you can recall what I said before our fight with such precision, you might also remember what I said to you when I stood as your guard in the great hall.” Ferdinand spoke with conviction, firm but not harsh, the way one might address a promising soldier who had lost his sense of purpose. Infuriatingly perfect for the present situation.

“I will still forgive what you have said because I understand what your true intentions are with such cruel words.” He recognized the beginning of a Ferdinand speech when he heard one and could only hope the posted guards couldn’t overhear the outpouring of sentiment Hubert was about to be faced with. The less that was known about the nearly romantic nature of his connection to Ferdinand, the better.

“Loath as you may be to admit it, you are hurting, Hubert. You may be ill at ease in that role, but you cannot drive me away no matter what you attempt.” A hand rested lightly on Hubert’s back, threatening his emotional guard at the barest pressure. An exaggerated recoil would likewise betray his fragility and so, Hubert remained. “I will only take your pain as my own, so that sharing in it may lessen what you bear.”

The words washed over him, a rushing tide of so many things Hubert had been denied and denied himself in turn. The moment all the Black Eagles abandoned them, Hubert resolved to shut his heart on any attachment he had to them. Without their presence, it was a simple task with only a rare reminder of their companionship.

Now… How easy it would be to sink into the depths of this offered kindness and let Ferdinand shield him from the pain. It was a mercy Hubert did not deserve. If he could not keep his vow to secure Her Majesty’s victory at any cost, the penance of his suffering would have to suffice.

“As a compromise,” Ferdinand continued, ever willing to fill the silence presented by Hubert. “I will wait outside her door. If you find yourself in need, you can simply call and I will enter.”

Hubert scoffed but did not decline. If that would give Ferdinand peace of mind, he could indulge it. He stepped away from the hand against his back and just behind, Ferdinand followed his approach to the guards stationed at the entrance to Her Majesty’s room.

The guards deferred to Ferdinand, stepping aside with a nod to him alone. They let Hubert in as wordless and imperceptible as a shadow. The doors shut behind him on Ferdinand’s companionable chatter to the guards (who he no doubt knew by name).

The room was lightless, of course. In the shadows, Hubert could make out all the untouched elements of her quarters just as they always were. A cushioned bench sat at the end of her bed where she typically rested to read or sit before a specialized easel to draw in private. The easel was currently folded in a corner of the room below a mounted sigil from the Adrestian flag. Books on governmental history and flowery poetry lined a shelf beside her bed. A modest vase of fresh carnations sat on the opposite end table.

In the center of the bed waited Her Majesty. A sheet in the color of Adrestian gold rested over her form, an unnervingly still silhouette that filled the room. Her commanding presence persisted even in death. Hubert expected no less.

Calling on a fire spell with just a finger, Hubert lit a lantern on the corner table where she might call on Hubert to challenge her in a strategic board game.

The light revealed a dagger beside the vase, the wrapped handle confirming it was the one gifted to her upon her departure from Fhirdiad. Later, they came upon the knowledge that it was from Dimitri himself, but that did not discourage her from carrying it even as the war continued. He walked to the nightstand, his steps inaudible due to the carpet and Hubert’s own skill for stealth, and picked up the humble blade. The metal was stained with what Hubert assumed was Dimitri’s blood.

To the last, Your Majesty.

Hubert smiled weakly at the sight of it. King Dimitri had told the truth, then. If she resorted to this, that was as an effective refusal to surrender as any.

Still, they ought to be more careful with such a precious substance as the blood of someone bearing such a powerful Crest.

“Fortunately for me, there is always a use for my capacity to plan for the dangers no one else can see,” he remarked to Her Majesty and brought the dagger to the vanity in her room. As a gift, he’d had a magical washbasin installed on it so she could freshen up every morning in the privacy and comfort of her own quarters.

It also served to clean the dagger of Dimitri’s dried blood. He rested a hand against the sigil carved into the side, activating it with a whisper of magic in his hand. Water filled the bowl and Hubert submersed the knife, flaking away blood with studious efficiency. The water swirled into a thinned red shade as his work came to its end. Flicking droplets from the blade, Hubert emptied the water by deactivating the sigil and the removed blood disappeared with it.

He returned the dagger to its place beside the vase, and again, he was left alone with her shadowed form beneath the sheet.

Hubert pressed a hand to his chest and lowered into a formal bow. “Good evening, Your Majesty.”

Their daily routine drew him in and with no one to guard himself from, Hubert allowed himself that weakness. He straightened, striding to her armoire and opening one of the doors. Uniforms for combat hung beside lavish ballgowns and practical equestrian wear, all in the striking crimson Her Majesty looked best in. Not quite the exact color from the Adrestian flag, but it hearkened to it enough to encourage patriotism at the sight of her.

“What outfit would you like set out for tomorrow?” The Adrestian farmers’ guild reported recently that this fall would likely be wet and windy rather than the mild, comparably dry spell they’d hoped for. “Equestrian gear is a wise choice. Our unlikely allies will need firsthand experience on riding horseback across the terrain of Adrestia if we are to reach Shambala swiftly and without incident.”

Their travels would not be limited to the lands of Adrestia, but considering that it was their starting point, the guidance would be welcome. Tomorrow, Hubert would give the pertinent details to whoever seemed the most capable of relaying it to the strike team making for Shambala. He laid her riding clothes out in their usual place by her armoire for easy access come morning. Saving her even one extra step made her day more convenient from the outset. On occasion, that spare time permitted Her Majesty to indulge in simple pleasures as she often wanted to. Perhaps he discouraged her from that too often. His hands lingered on the hangers of her clothing, trembling despite himself.

“I’ll put on a pot of Hresvelg Blend.” That was all he needed. One last distraction. Hubert reached for the familiar corner table and picked up the enchanted self-heating kettle—another gift of convenience.

“After such a trying battle, a small indulgence should ready you for the day to come.” Hresvelg tea was a favored blend for them both, and Her Majesty seemed to better enjoy a warm cup with company. At the end of the day, seated at the quaint table in her room, Lady Edelgard could speak to him as not only an Emperor but a friend.

Now, of course, she could not sit at the table where the teapot began to heat the fresh water gathered from the basin. To accommodate as any good vassal would, he pulled a chair over to her bedside and took a seat where she waited now.

“I admit, it is jarring to see Dimitri in such condition but still insistent on his chivalrous ideals. You are better acquainted with him than I, of course.” He waited a pause where she might speak if she could, and he chuckled at what would have surely been a clever reply.

“The Black Eagles do appear to be in good health, at least. Perhaps they did listen to our advisements after all.” His wry smile did not break the illusion but contributed to it, even. Lady Edelgard would encourage him to have greater respect for their peers. They chose their path and their resulting strength was earned on their own merit.

“I suppose you are correct,” he relented to his imagined dialogue with Edelgard. “Bernadetta even approached me herself to fight. I find it difficult to not take pride in their successes, even when they are at my loss.”

The conversation would turn here. She would talk of the smell of autumn leaves, the latest ballroom adornments or heavy armor designs, a pastry she has been longing for that he could send agents across Adrestia to track down… And Hubert would listen dutifully. He was not one to speak socially unless prompted, and she could give him ample opportunity to talk as much or as little as he liked. About whatever he required.

He leaned forward to put his hands on his knees, examining the matter he needed to address.

“…And yet, now I find myself in need of your direction. You asked that I live my own life with the knowledge that you would sacrifice your own.” He swallowed thickly, tears yet to fall pricking at his eyes already. Hubert was disappointed in his own vulnerability.

“Beyond revenge against those who murdered your family and led to your eventual death, I do not have the slightest idea what that means. You are my purpose, my reason to exist. All I have done, I have done for you.” Words tumbled out of him now, instinctive and unfiltered. Hubert looked at his hands as if they had anything to offer either of them. In this moment, there were no strings to pull or daggers to position against her enemies in the shadows where he thrived. No dark spell or sinister scheme could alter this path. Hubert lifted his gaze to stare at the ghostly form of her face below the sheet. Outlines of her nose and the indents of her eyes remained all too clear in the lantern’s light.

Hubert rested a single hand on the bed beside her as he moved closer, imploring and desperate.

“You may wonder what my life could have been without you, but I never have. Not even once. Faced with that prospect, I am at a total loss. Your Majesty, I…” Too soon, he cried and blinked as the first few tears dropped and disappeared into the sheet. “Edelgard, I cannot do this without you. I have prepared for every eventuality but this, this horrific—”

His words fell off with the next wave of teardrops, and he was not far behind. Hubert folded onto the bed to bury his face in his forearms, seated at the edge of the chair as his fingers twisted in the sheets. Some part of his brain warned against disturbing her rest, a concern that was not even possible. Would that he could.

At some point, the teapot had begun to whistle on the table, but Hubert did not move. The door opened, the whistling stopped, and he did not move.

The door clicked shut and Hubert lifted his head, expecting to be alone with Her Majesty once again. Instead, cast in a halo of lantern light, Ferdinand stood by the table where the tea waited.

“I know I am fond of tea, Hubert,” Ferdinand began, stilted but affectionate as he tried to imitate their typical banter. “But I had not expected you to call for help with a kettle.”

“There is enough for two,” Hubert advised and sat back in the chair. He kept a single hand on the sheet now damp with his tears, staring blankly at the white against gold. “Cups are in the cabinet.”

“I did not come in here for tea.” Ferdinand brought the other chair over, feigning ignorance of the tears that he could undoubtedly see even in the lantern’s distant light. His arrival brought them to a stop as some means of preserving his image, if that could be managed.

The government of Adrestia reunited at last, Her Majesty and her two Ministers. They were carrying out her orders by ensuring the defeat of Those Who Slither in the Dark just as they were intended to. By sitting with him in his grief, Ferdinand was once more stepping in to serve her will where Hubert himself could not.

She wanted him to live but in his heart, Hubert wished he had died at the gates. That was the sinister truth, another secret burden he would take to his grave. Somehow, Ferdinand knew of the weight on him regardless and helped Hubert carry it without compromising his privacy.

“I will only take your pain as my own, so that sharing in it may lessen what you bear.”

Where Hubert could not meet Her Majesty’s demands, Ferdinand supplied the inexhaustible positivity to transform her wishes into reality. A world where she had failed but Hubert still took breath. Someday, he would acquire a new profession. Reform prior connections. And in the end, move on from her death. It was unthinkable.

“She means everything to me, Ferdinand,” Hubert ventured to explain the mire of despair consuming him. “I planned my every action to support Her Majesty. Once Shambala falls, I will have nothing.”

The rustle of his cloak prefaced Ferdinand’s hand on his shoulder again.

“You will have a choice, Hubert. Based on Edelgard’s cause for this war, that is what she wanted for you: to choose for yourself what your life will be now that we are here.” Few moments were as surreal and enlightening as discovering Ferdinand had a point Hubert did not uncover first. The former Prime Minister could speak of principles and ideals from Edelgard with irritating ease because, as painful as it had originally been to admit, Ferdinand did understand her vision. The methods to achieve them were just too much for him.

“Under her reign, people who would otherwise be overlooked were elevated to positions of power by their own skills, not their lineage or birthright.” The crisp buoyancy to his voice brightened the room. Even now, having chosen to stand against Her Majesty, Ferdinand was proud of her accomplishments. The sentiment shined in his every word.

“If she wished that for the citizens who had not always been at her side as you have, does it not make sense that you would deserve the same in her eyes?”

“Deserving it is not enough,” Hubert deflected. “If I cannot find out how to deliver the results she desired, it is pointless.”

“Hubert, please look at me,” he requested, and Hubert turned his head only enough to see the soothing smile from Ferdinand. “This is not a battle strategy to serve Edelgard. You are always planning three steps ahead, but that is not how matters of the heart are.”

Not content to merely say the word, Ferdinand brought his other hand up to rest on Hubert’s chest. The warmth of the palm over his beating heart changed the atmosphere of the room as if by an unknown magic. The effect could not be measured, categorized, or defined, but he could detect it in the instant that they made contact. The air was lighter, easier to breathe, and it somehow led him to feel more present in the room than he had been beforehand. If the change remained after Ferdinand had to take his leave, perhaps Hubert could yet find a path beyond Shambala.

That speculation was only the pathetic hope of a simpleton that found its roots in the reliability of another, something Hubert had absolutely no control over. And still, he longed to reach for it. The task was as straightforward as mounting a Pegasus and taking flight, a skill he could master if only he could overcome the fear that seized him at the very notion.

“You must begin with the present. Assess yourself with emotion, and you may decide where to go from there.” Ferdinand took his hand back and piece by piece, the difference it made eroded. “But you do not need that answer now. Now, you must allow yourself to grieve.”

“I am lost without her, Ferdinand.”

Hubert had not sounded so small in years. Not since he was a boy and the soldiers wrestled him back to Enbarr, and finally, acceptance of his defeat hit him. He was just a child then and made no effort to conceal his spiteful despondency. To think applying that effort made next to no difference in his voice was almost laughable.

“Then we will come to find you.” When his hand reached for Hubert this time, it found Hubert’s own. And it was Hubert who laced their fingers together and found peace in it. “Wherever you may be, Hubert, you will not be alone.”

The time they spent in that position was interminable. When his spirits were restored enough, Hubert stood and folded the sheet down to see her face. The serenity came as a surprise, especially next to the lingering disfiguration from her transformation that he’d heard whispered among the soldiers: a brown-grey smear down her left cheek. He smoothed her hair back, placing a kiss to her forehead as he did when she was feverish or frightened as a child.

“Edelgard, I would never have chosen this life without you in it. But now that it is here and you have given my orders to live it for myself, I will—” He fought back even more tears; Hubert had more than enough of that as it was. “I will try.”

When the sheet covered her face again and they were both seated, Hubert himself sought out Ferdinand’s hand in the dark.


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You Will Live Ch. 4: Negotiations | FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 4400 (11 to 36 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Ferdinand, Dorothea, Linhardt, Caspar, Hubert, Seteth, Shamir, Catherine, Alois, Dimitri, Dedue, Felix, Claude, and Hilda

Read the previous chapter.

At the professor’s summons, the various leaders of victorious forces gathered in the Imperial council room. There was minimal damage from the battle in this area of the castle, given its distance from the throne room. Conveniently so for Hubert—he was not sure he could handle seeing her body as of yet. And that was on the assumption that they left her where she fell, a comparably merciful act next to what typically happened to the corpses of fallen enemy leaders.

He didn’t linger on that thought long.

Dimitri and Dedue stood across from him, surrounded by the King’s friends on either side, and the former Black Eagles seemed to naturally gravitate to Hubert (save for Petra, who he knew from his network to be attending to business in Brigid). They stood alongside him as a barrier separating him from the more resentful people present, whether they did so intentionally or not.

The Church and Alliance allies filed into the conference hall until every chair was spoken for, although few had taken a seat. From the Church of Seiros supporters, only Rhea and Flayn were absent, with one resting and the other seeing to the archbishop’s recovery. The doors to the room were closed to keep passerby from overhearing, given the sensitivity of the subject at hand. On that, Hubert and the Church agreed: no one could discover the Agarthans or their abhorrent experiments.

It was courteous of them to remove his cuffs, a promising gesture, even if it was on the condition of a magic-disabling silence spell being cast on him. He would have done the same. Speaking to the professor, Hubert laid out the foundation of his proposal for an alliance.

“I am sure you must recall Monica and Tomas. Their allies yet live.”

And if they were in that room, Byleth’s focused glare would have turned their bones to ash. Unfortunately for them, that particular occurrence was inevitable, and the world would be better off for it. Five years did nothing to lessen the pain of her father’s death, it seemed. Perhaps retribution would alleviate both of their suffering… Doubtful, but Hubert would concede that there was a sliver of a chance.

Her continued anguish at the loss of one she held dear and found solace in like no other was not an omen in favor of that chance. The probable outcome was that the wound would never heal, only dull to an eternal ache forever in the back of their minds and forefront of their hearts (however blackened his own might be).

“They bear deep resentment against the children of the Goddess and the people of the world, and they are biding their time until they can exact revenge.”

The contents of the letter came back to him easily, which was helpful since the agent he entrusted it to would almost certainly be destroying it now. Everyone present focused on him without a shred of skepticism or even resentment, so they must all have a piece of the puzzle he completed that led to his credibility. All the better for his chances of success.

“If left to their own devices, it is certain they will eventually bring unimaginable calamity and suffering to the world.”

“How did you come to know about them?” Seteth was not the first person he expected to speak, but his stern attentiveness indicated that he was more concerned with the task before them than revenge. As he should be, in light of the fact that the Agarthans were exceptionally spiteful toward the Nabateans.

“Initially, it was because Her Majesty allied with them for their strength to stand against the Church. We shared an enemy, nothing more.” Hubert let a fraction of his contempt bleed into his tone at that as an assurance that his target had already shifted to suit current events. He was no threat to the people who won against Her Majesty, that was simply war. This new objective was righteous vengeance.

“That introduces another question. I have not forgotten that you placed Flayn in danger during her kidnapping, and I cannot forgive you for that,” Seteth warned, accompanying it with his most evaluating stare that he once used with errant students at the academy. It was a laughable thought if Seteth believed that would have any effect on him, but Hubert had more critical objectives to pursue. “Do you still wish to destroy the Church of Seiros?”

He could provide the detailed context surrounding her kidnapping, but it was simply too much work to explain with very little reward. True, Hubert and Her Majesty knew about the kidnapping, but the original plan devised by the Agarthans was markedly worse.

They were only convinced to keep her alive for her blood and hold her at the monastery due to Hubert’s strategy to test how extensively the Knights of Seiros knew the monastery grounds. Their search would reveal any gaps in their knowledge effectively, he reasoned, and they agreed to adjust their plans.

Or so it seemed. There was no way to know if they had devised the illness for Remire Village before or after Hubert hastily made his suggestion to spare Flayn from becoming a Hero’s Relic. Though she wasn’t human, neither Hubert nor Her Majesty were willing to stand idly by for her needless death and worse, desecration into a weapon turned on her own family.

“You have a right to your grudge, so I will not justify my choices to you. I find your false church to be a contemptable institution designed only to subjugate humanity,” Hubert answered honestly in part because he didn’t care if they were offended by his poor opinion of their ‘goddess’, but also as further evidence that Hubert would be truthful even with facts they did not wish to hear. Every bread crumb he left for them brought his plan closer to realization. It was not enough to send them after the Agarthans, he had to be present.

“But as it stands now, you must reform or risk losing what power you have left. Dismantling the Church of Seiros is not my purpose any longer.”

Although socializing was not Hubert’s specialty by any extent, he was especially capable of reading people and assessing their next actions. Unexpectedly, Seteth appeared to accept his testament more willingly than Catherine. Alois was as absent from the neck up as always, and Shamir’s loyalty had never been to the Church to begin with. The Alliance and Kingdom parties alike seemed to share in Shamir’s stance.

Intriguing. Even their direct allies are in doubt of the Church.

But Hubert’s work was not yet finished. Neutral acceptance would not secure his position on the battlefield against the Agarthans.

“I aim to avenge Her Majesty against those who first set her on the path that claimed her life by destroying Those Who Slither in the Dark.” To say nothing of the cure for Lysithea that had to dwell within their base of operations. Though Her Majesty could no longer benefit from it, she would still want that to go to Lysithea. Hubert turned his attention back to Byleth, who he believed would be instrumental in convincing anyone left in doubt after he said his piece.

“This is my final service to Her Majesty, and I will have no cause to return to any war once this last threat has been addressed.”

“You say that,” Shamir deadpanned, idly spinning an arrow as she tended to. They were not on especially good terms before the war, when he respected her skill but believed her to be a threat to Her Majesty. He had been right, of course, but Shamir was more interested in delivering threatening advice and talking down to him as a child. She called him fragile, unstable, and humored him more than anything. It appeared her perspective on him changed little over the years. “But revenge has a way of feeding into itself.”

“Right on target,” Claude pitched in without hesitation. “So, how do we know you won’t decide His Royal Highness is to blame next and go after him?”

That came as a surprise. Claude and Dimitri were companionable at the academy, but not particularly close. But since the Kingdom was the greatest political power at the table and therefore, the source of stability in Fódlan, Hubert had to admit it made sense to be protective over him.

“It’s simple,” he answered, his mind wandering absently to the final message he received from Her Majesty before blacking out. “That would go against her last wishes.”

“Which would be?”

Hubert lapsed into silence and scowled, loathe to disclose her private last words to this group. It felt like a defilement to her memory.

“My, what a scary expression! Touch a nerve?”

“Hardly.” How Hubert felt about it was irrelevant, ultimately. If this was what Claude asked of him to secure his support, so be it. “To keep the message simple for you, Her Majesty’s orders were to surrender in the event that she fell and I survived.”

A subtle yet palpable shift in the atmosphere suggested a change to their outlook on him. Mixed contempt and sympathy, if Hubert had to guess, but he could work with that.

“While I normally would not object to disobeying in favor of her best interests, her last command is one I must follow without question.” Wherever Her Majesty was, if there was such a thing as an afterlife and souls, he hoped she could hear this. Still in recovery, recently unshackled, Hubert delivered this speech to the victors as if Edelgard were among them to see he was still devoted to her. “There is no better interest to serve, no greater outcome to be achieved. All that remains is to destroy Those Who Slither in the Dark as she intended from the start. This is a matter of paying my respects.”

The former Blue Lions exchanged looks behind King Dimitri, who leveled an intent gaze at Hubert no less powerful for his eyepatch. Unlike others at the table, his transformation was so complete that Hubert could hardly rely on any past knowledge to theorize on his mindset. All he had was the generally tolerant reception he experienced so far that he previously attributed to His Highness.

“Oh, Hubie,” Dorothea pulled him from his thoughts, and Hubert glanced over his shoulder to see her delicate hand on his arm. “That’s sweet of you, but… Please tell me you didn’t make nice with those horrible people all this time.”

A change of subject. Deliberately done or not, he was grateful to be back on the proper topic.

“Far from it. I made no secret of my hatred for them, and they were rather fond of answering that with a portion of their abilities demonstrated in such a way as to cause me harm. An inefficient form of intimidation, as each of their displays yielded new information.”

Among the more dangerous and insightful had been when Lord Arundel sent Hubert and a battalion to fend off beasts that he claimed resulted from an experiment gone awry in the Sealed Forest. Had he any reinforcements to take along, he would have, but they were all spread thin across the front lines as it was. The mages in the employ of Lord Arundel perished in his scheme that day, which he had the nerve to feign disappointment at, and nearly all of Hubert’s battalion had gone the same way. But he had learned more about his mysterious benefactors all the same, and Hubert could make good on their sacrifice at last.

“They tried to kill you, and you remained their ally?” King Dimitri finally spoke, incredulous at the very notion he described. Given the rumors of a merciless murderer haunting the Imperial countryside close to the monastery and single-handedly slaughtering entire outposts, he supposed that made sense. He was unfamiliar with holding on to dangerous allies rather than ending their lives. There was not much room for grey in his view on the world, after all. Whatever space there was for it, Hubert seemed to reside there based on the sincerity in His Highness’ surprised expression. Few people had cause to hate him more than the new king of united Fódlan, but even so… Hm.

“We both knew our allegiance was one of convenience,” Hubert reminded him. “Once our shared opponent was defeated, we would have immediately set upon one another. They were only attempting to get a head start.”

“If I may,” Seteth interjected, “you have said you aim to defeat them, but where do we begin? I believe the likes of Monica and Tomas have plagued our people for generations, and we were never able to uncover a central base of any kind.”

Their people? Such transparency in front of all the ruling leaders of Fódlan and yet not one responded. Hubert’s intelligence network informed him that in Rhea’s absence, Seteth took charge of the Church and any Knights still true to goddess. They were not enough in number to confirm that he had evidently adopted a policy of greater honesty than his predecessor.

Hubert chuckled over his concern regardless. Of course they never managed to find anything before he came along. Even as victors, they had no plan beyond what sat directly before them.

“You can learn a great deal by sinking into the dark beside your enemy,” he explained. “Their various attempts to keep me in line with the threat of physical danger gave me ample opportunity to study their magic.”

Reaching into his cloak, Hubert retrieved a scroll and laid it out on the center of the table. Picking up the paper weights always awaiting the latest map, he placed one in each corner so most people could get a clear view. Their audiences were not typically this large before now.

“When you took Fort Merceus, I detected their sorcery.” As a reference, he indicated where the fort once stood on the map. Tracing from there, he continued, “I have deduced the location of their stronghold, Shambhala, using that as a trail.” His fingertip rested at the marked location on the map he lost several agents acquiring and transporting in secret.

The network of Those Who Slither in the Dark was vast and escaping their detection had been impossible. To their credit, his agents never went dark alone and were always found near the corpse of their killer. The allies of Lord Arundel still believed he was unaware of their base thanks to their vigilance.

“Incredible,” Seteth said, leaning to look at the spot as if he could see through time. Hubert had to wonder all that Seteth has lost to these people and for a moment, felt a distant pang of remorse. It passed soon enough. “We have searched for so long to no avail, and you managed to find the heart of their society within only five years.”

“It had to be done,” he emphasized. The fact that his investigations began well over five years ago was beside the point when the bulk of his progress occurred within that timeframe. “There is no question that they are the enemies of everyone in Fódlan. Whatever you think of me or Her Majesty, I must implore you all not to allow yourselves to forget that.”

“Hubert, you sly little devil!” Claude took the opportunity to weigh in before the others, hardly a surprise. The leader of the Alliance certainly did love to hear his own voice. “Are you suggesting we all team up with you to bring these guys down?”

“Exactly. I see you live up to your newfound title.” Oddly enough, the exchange did remind him of Claude’s fearless approach to him when they were students. They’d hardly been considered friends, but he made a fine adversary for the strategy games Hubert was so fond of and enjoyed taunting banter almost as much as Hubert himself. The memories were distant but not altogether bad.

“The Master Tactician? Such high praise,” Claude teased, but that was no acceptance of his offer. He could be noncommittal for an exceedingly long time, having refined that ability in keeping the Alliance together as long as he had.

“I am not convinced you don’t wish His Highness harm,” Dedue cut off any potential reply from Hubert or Claude at that point. The diligent silence from before was quickly eroding into a free-for-all.

“I doubt it,” Linhardt answered for Hubert, stifling a yawn. “This is all for Edelgard, and he wouldn’t risk something so important to him just to get even with anyone. Especially not for actions they only took because of the war he helped start. Right, Hubert?”

What had the world come to when Linhardt was giving him thinly veiled commands? Still, Hubert nodded.

“Not how I would have phrased it, but it’s accurate enough. This was our plan after the war ended regardless, and the war is indeed at its end.” Hubert gave them all that he had, and there was only to hear their decisions. “Am I to understand that we have an agreement?”

“You have our support,” Seteth agreed somewhat coolly. The Knights beside him raised no objections, at least not out loud. With the most challenging alliance secured, Hubert had ample reason to believe the rest would follow.

“Alright, Hubert,” Claude grinned and winked, as nonchalant as he remembered. More accurately, he was presumably pushing Hubert’s boundaries to see if he could find a spot of weakness. “I’m on board.”

Everyone had turned to Dimitri then, who only stared at the map at the center of the table. His slightly off-balance stance pointed towards the existence of a recent injury on his left side, and Hubert nearly smiled at the thought that Her Majesty fought through to the last.

“Hubert,” Dimitri said, finally making eye contact. “No matter your answer to my next question, I have every intention of seeing El’s wishes through. I want you to know that I offered her a chance at surrender, and she stood by her cause until the very end.”

A likely subconscious roll of his left shoulder confirmed that His Highness was probably injured there, the healing magic restoring it to the point where it was not serious but may still scar. More urgently, Hubert did not expect the conversation to take this turn. He presumed he was the only one who would genuinely mourn Her Majesty, not simply wish it had been different. As a result, Hubert was woefully unprepared for anyone to offer their condolences in a tasteful description of her death taking place on her terms.

He felt his taciturn frown sliding into a softer, worried look he vehemently did not want to be seen with here.

“I have ensured that her body has been properly guarded as well, so she won’t suffer anything further now that she is at peace.” This compassion was unduly cruel. Hubert clenched his jaw and did his best to present at least an air of calm indifference if he could not manage his typical harsh image. “When you are ready, we can discuss how to handle her funeral.”

No. Too soon.

Hubert felt stripped bare and beaten bloody with every word that left King Dimitri’s mouth. Her Majesty’s funeral plans. She was proud in her final moments, never accepting surrender just as Hubert knew she wouldn’t. Every beat of his heart wounded him further as he tried time and again to wrap his mind around the uncompromising truth: Edelgard was dead and he had survived. He said as much himself moments ago, but to hear it said to him reached a very different result.

The map in front of him was nothing more than the last act of a desperate servant trying to make amends to the Emperor he had failed. All her work, all her sacrifice, and this was all Hubert had to show for it. What first felt like a renewed sense of purpose in the face of devasting loss was revealed to him for what it truly was—pathetic grasping at a fleeting sensation of serving Her Majesty.

“But I must know: are these people responsible for the Tragedy of Duscur?”

Grateful again for a new distraction, and the implication that the crisis in his head was not apparent to those in the room, Hubert forced his grief down one last time. He instead latched onto that diversion to dedicate his efforts to a reply that would rally King Dimitri and his allies to his cause.

“Yes, Your Highness.”

A familiar darkness swam into view within the king’s eyes, but it was a controlled shift in his demeanor. Willful and decisive. This insidiousness was not the unbridled madness he witnessed in the Holy Tomb, but the determination of a man who sought to level the scales. Hubert could see why he and Lady Edelgard had gotten along in their youth.

“Then it’s decided,” Dimitri nodded. “We will seek out this threat together and put an end to them once and for all.”

“That’s it?” Hilda skimmed the group for anyone else still not convinced and no doubt, she saw others who agreed. “He just gives us a map and we’re all friends now?”

“I would not say—”

“Hold on, Hubert, I’ll take care of this.” Claude held up a hand like he was nothing more than a courier, and on the grounds that he was actually less than one, Hubert allowed it. “What’d you have us to do him? He didn’t commit any war crimes.”

Hilda tried to play off her indecision as lightly as she could, playfully tapping her chin like she was giving Claude’s answer some thought. He did give her a chance to form an answer before finishing up his own point. One that Hubert had to agree was well-explained and thought out.

“Look, I don’t like what he and Edelgard did any more than you do, but he’s not a criminal. We’re just as bad if we use our power as the winners to punish him for picking the losing side.”

“I agree,” His Highness stepped in to provide his support once more. He looked to his allies rather than Hubert himself, but that was to be expected. His fate was in their hands, not his own. Hubert recalled that he was once a friend of Lady Edelgard’s, of course he did, but the pervasive kindness from King Dimitri still unnerved him. “Hubert is not inherently worthy of distrust. He has shown tremendous fealty, even when the odds of success were slim. That is an increasingly uncommon trait. Is that not deserving of our respect?”

“You guys are way too quick to forgive,” Hilda admonished, but she shook her head and accepted it. “But it’s too much work to change your minds. Guess we’re all in this together now.”

“The Church will not pursue you either, even after the deed is done,” Seteth insisted, eager to solve a concern Hubert had not even bothered with. “I will see to that myself.”

Begrudging acceptance, he anticipated. Threats of execution after the fact, that was almost a given. This unwavering support and understanding were far from Hubert’s list of possible outcomes of this proposal. His head throbbed, knees buckling, and he braced himself against the table as Caspar and Ferdinand rushed to spot him.

“—bert, are you unwell?”

“A near-death experience is very tiring, Ferdinand,” Linhardt explained flatly, casting another healing spell over him to only minor effect. Small enough that it could even be considered a placebo effect on his part. “He shouldn’t even be awake now, but that’s Hubert for you. What did I tell you?” That remark was directed at him, but Hubert had enough to do without contending with a conversation on top of it. “You need to rest more.”

“Ugh,” he groaned back instead, his voice echoing painfully in his head. That would only encourage him to talk more if left as-is, so Hubert cast him a cursory glance and answered in actuality that time. “It would seem I have no other choice.”

“You can rest as we regroup. No shackles,” King Dimitri advised, his voice taking on his traditional comforting tone in its deeper qualities. The second remark was not entirely well-received by the group, but it was not a request from him either. “There is more work to do before we are ready to lay siege to Shambala besides.”

“Your room will be guarded,” Dedue warned, glaring at Hubert without any heat behind it. A logical assessment of him as a threat, was it? A wise guard for a trusting king. Hubert chuckled.

“I would consider you a fool if it wasn’t.”

“And you’d still have a higher opinion of us than we do for you,” Felix shot back, his scorn etched into his frown.

“Felix,” King Dimitri called him off, at least for the time being. Felix scoffed but yielded, stalking out of the room. That act left Hubert for Dimitri to focus on next. “If you would like to say your farewells to El in private, she is also under guard in her quarters. The guards posted there will let you in.”

He pointedly avoided referring to her as dead or a corpse while still addressing that he may wish to say goodbye. Dimitri was a bizarre man.

“Very gracious of you, Your Highness. I will take my leave.”

“And I am right behind you!” Ferdinand stepped up to get the door ahead of Hubert. His familiarity with the Enbarr castle layout led him to the exit closest to the private quarters of the Emperor and the Minister of the Imperial Household on instinct. “You are still under watch, and I believe it will be more comfortable to be guarded by someone you know.”

“You’re not the only one here that I know,” Hubert reminded him, stepping through the door regardless. He would much rather be alone on his visit to Her Majesty, but it was something of a miracle he managed to coordinate that treaty as deftly as he had. He knew better than to demand solitude on top of that. And so it was that Ferdinand accompanied Hubert on the long walk to where Her Majesty’s corpse had been temporarily laid to rest.


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You Will Live Ch. 3: Rhea | Ferdibert FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2600 (6 to 21 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Ferdinand, Hubert, Caspar, Catherine, Rhea, Seteth, Flayn, and Byleth

Read the previous chapter.

The secret underground halls of Enbarr’s capital were more a home to Hubert than his own quarters, but he was unused to having company when he travelled them. Caspar and Ferdinand flanked him in a spear formation as Catherine stood a wary distance behind them—not so close as to be attacked, but not so far as to be separated. She summoned Seteth, Flayn, and the professor before they descended, and so they walked behind her as well. It was convenient for his goals to have so many witness his compliance with their wishes, but still unusual for Hubert regardless.

The narrow confines of the passage and worn floor muffled their footsteps, and the hiss of the professor’s fire spells lighting wall-mounted torches added a smoky tinge to the earthy scent permeating the tunnels. The air was tight with anticipation and words unsaid, but even Ferdinand and Caspar remained silent as they pressed on.

For the most part.

“Okay, well…” Caspar began, rolling his shoulders and keeping his voice down by his standards. Words meant only for the former Black Eagles, then. “Catherine definitely crossed a line.”

So he didn’t want his role model to hear he didn’t approve of her conduct earlier. Upon finding that the energy to sneer escaped him, Hubert left his expression flat and disinterested.

“She cannot hear you, Caspar. It means as little to her as it does to me.”

The potential double meaning struck him as a sudden plunge into icy water: she as in Catherine or Lady Edelgard? The wounded quietude that followed, with Caspar sulking to one side while Ferdinand gave him a warning look on the other, was worse than being yelled at, hated, or feared. Anything was preferable to this coddling sympathy like a blanket smothering him.

Worse, Hubert was all too aware that his mental state was alternating between precarious and detached without warning. Years had passed since he was away from Her Majesty for an extended period of time, and now it would be for the rest of his days—however long that proved to be. This was unmapped territory Hubert hoped to never acquaint himself with.

He stopped short by a dark area of the passage, and the nearest torch flared to life to reveal the recessed door he sought: humble, pitted, but effective. The iron across the wooden slats bore sigils that, if focused on for too long, would appear to shift. Resting a hand on them would reveal that they were as motionless as the door itself, but the illusion would remain.

“The archbishop,” he exhaled, feeling somewhat winded from the walk so soon after his near-death recovery, “is residing here.”

“Rhea!” Seteth brushed past him first with more urgency than malice, pulling the door open seconds after Hubert lowered the protective spells on it.

Catherine was on his heels, her expression set into a scowl as her eyes betrayed her worries. Next came Flayn, whose pace and gaze lingered by Hubert, wide with fear and sympathy in equal measure. For a non-human entity, she was remarkably emotional. Once she concluded her business staring at the prisoner, Flayn followed into the chambers that held Rhea.

Odd, how he had come to this cell as a warden for years and in one night, the opposite was true. Such was the power in the wicked tides of war, he supposed.

Next came the professor. Her expressiveness was always rather limited, but her unpredictable nature with something looming underneath had all but vanished. Her eyebrows drew together ever so slightly in the dark as she looked at him or perhaps through him. A firm hand on his shoulder carried with it a healing spell, and she left to Rhea’s side as well.

Hubert glared at the ground, enduring a sickening pitch to his stomach as the faith magic stitched together any reopened injuries. The residual soreness remained untouched, naturally. But why did mercy always tear into him worse than overt resentment? The floor certainly didn’t have the answers or anything to get him closer to the next steps for his orders. To move towards laying Her Majesty’s soul to rest, Hubert required an audience with King Dimitri.

“Hubert?” Ferdinand implored for an explanation to his stillness or grimace, maybe. It hardly mattered.

“They have who they came for.” Hubert gave him a fleeting glance, turning back the way they came with a hand to brace him against the wall. “I need a word with His Highness.”

“Hold on,” Caspar interrupted, putting an arm out in front of Hubert and standing his ground in the face of the withering look he earned for his efforts. “Shouldn’t you rest or something?”

“I will get my rest when I meet my end.” Were he in better condition, he may have pushed past Caspar to begin travelling back to the main levels of the Imperial castle. Instead, he stood between Ferdinand and Caspar with no means of forging ahead despite his limitations.

“There is no need to rush, Hubert.” Ferdinand’s hand against his upper back was an insult, as if he could not support himself on his own. Hubert’s own hand steadying him against the wall was beside the point. “You can have a short break here before we return to the great hall to avoid jeopardizing your recovery.”

“Hubert? Is that Hubert?” Rhea’s voice was thin and raspy with disuse—she had long since given up trying to provoke Hubert and passed the majority of his visits without a word—but still, he recognized her as she spoke from within her chambers.

He wanted nothing to do with her. Hubert had important matters to attend to for Her Majesty, and listening to this morally devoid, inhuman beast preach about his part in their path was not beneficial to his ends whatsoever. Worse, Hubert could not predict how he might react in this state of mind and he had to act carefully if he was going to secure the alliance necessary to see Her Majesty’s plan through.

“Hubert.” The quickening pulse of his heart, cornered and defensive, quelled somewhat at the sound of Byleth’s voice. Prodding, but not forceful, her tone was a reassurance that he may enter and know it would not be the callous slaughter it was almost guaranteed to be if Rhea faced him with solely her followers present.

He sighed through his nose, eyes falling shut as he gathered himself. Turning again and brushing Ferdinand’s hand from his path to the open doorway, Hubert answered. “It is.”

He stepped inside and lingered just past the entrance. The room was not the lavish palace she was no doubt used to and indeed, preferred, but it was hardly a prison cell. The bed had fresh linens and a patterned duvet to ward out the chill of the undercroft and give a semblance of hominess to the quarters.

Her Majesty’s orders, of course. While she resented Rhea’s brutal rule over Fódlan, Lady Edelgard had also spent an immeasurable time in a bleak, unfurnished cell as her siblings fell to death or madness from Crest experimentation. She could not bring herself to allow anyone else to suffer in such conditions.

And so, more decorations made their way into Rhea’s chambers. If she disliked them or plainly destroyed them, Hubert acquired others to replace them—even a specific landscape painting at request. When she asked that they be changed with the season, he honored that. There was a rotating selection of books as well, a modest vanity, and fresh flowers delivered every week.

These gestures did not make her comfortable in her imprisonment by any consideration, but Her Majesty at least did offer better living arrangements than she would have received if the roles were reversed.

“I see you have been weakened by the battle.” Her mouth in a thin line, Rhea attempted to pin him with a cold stare. Where that failed, she reached for statements of fact delivered as accusations. “You withheld food during my imprisonment. I was brought only one meal a day.”

The reactions to that were mixed, some turning their attention to him for denial and finding none, and others accepting this knowledge immediately for the purpose of deepening their rage with him.

At last, Rhea found success with a practiced look of remorseful sympathy one might see on the canvas of a novice painter: aesthetically correct, but barren of any true emotion. “What lies did that wicked girl feed you?”

He shuddered from the sheer offense of it all, that condescending question piercing him like a well-aimed cast of Fimbulvetr. Hubert heard the waver in his voice as if it were someone else’s. While rage contributed to it, that was not all, and he was not alone in his awareness of that.

“I swore my life to Lady Edelgard, and the loss of Her Majesty pains me beyond description. Knowing that as you must, you would slander her name and belittle her sacrifice on the very day of her death,” he returned her list of truthful allegations and cared not a whit if anyone present believed him. Hubert clenched his fists and did what he could to suppress the enraged trembling that threatened his stability.

“After such a blatant display of cruelty, who here can truly be called wicked?” He had said more than he should, but with no sense to stop himself, Hubert continued. “That you can even accuse her of deceit from your position of power within a false religion is further evidence that you are as monstrous as they come.”

Catherine came forward and shouted at Hubert as he apparently so wanted to hear. “You starved her—”

Think for once in your cursed life. We had to weaken her for our safety.” Here, Hubert was at ease. Let them argue and debate with him; he could volley back their criticisms for ages. “We couldn’t very well have the Immaculate One manifest in the undercroft.”

That got their attention. To her credit, Catherine only showed a brief lapse in blind faith before her dogma reasserted itself in a watchful frown. Flayn and Seteth’s shared concern behind Rhea’s back was far more telling and suggested that Hubert was correct to believe their confidence in Rhea had been badly shaken.

“Do you think for a moment that she would spare a thought to the innocents within our walls? The serving staff? Their children?” The frigid edge came back to Hubert’s voice, his trademark disdain taking hold of his expression on its own. He hadn’t expected to be soothed by its familiarity rather than thrilled at a point well made. “To defend them from her indifferent hostility, yes, I decided to ration Rhea’s meals. Consider what may have happened to her had we turned her over to our mutual enemy as they demanded.”

His resentment cooled to a logical contempt while the present supporters of the Church responded with varying degrees of offense—with Catherine as the most and Byleth as the least. Each piece acted as a balm to the internal unrest he’d suffered through so far. Better still, that outburst served as part of the plan, since his last sentence would get the more analytical among them considering the context.

“What enemy is this?” Byleth, focused as ever, spoke before the more irate of her peers could make fools of themselves.

“The threat that slithers in the dark.” Strange, how explanations asked for more of his attention when he was unable to gesture. He thought little of his habit of crossing his arms or putting his hand to his chin before being kept in cuffs. “Rhea will know them well from her kind’s history. This opponent resents their people and all who live above ground—but I will not say another word without His Highness. Even as the victors, you don’t have the luxury of forcing me to repeat myself.”

“You really think you get to make demands?” Catherine must have missed Rhea profoundly to be so eager to come to her defense at every chance. Jealous of the professor, perhaps? An interesting consideration to file away for later review.

“Alright, Catherine, cut it out.” Caspar, of all people, stepped between Hubert and Catherine. At that distance, his marked increase in height over the past five years was rather notable. “Hubert’s one of us.”

“Well said, Caspar!” With how Ferdinand replied, one might believe Caspar had made an especially keen observation rather than a mostly inaccurate statement. Hubert had been their classmate years ago, but few of them took the side of Lady Edelgard in the war against the Church of Seiros. Those that did, later left to join their enemy.

And yet, they came to his defense of their own will when the odds were against him worse than ever. Hubert could not help but wonder what Her Majesty would think of this display. Would she be moved by their unwavering faith in Hubert? Or would she be disappointed that a part of him, however small and vulnerable, wanted to believe in their fealty once again?

He knew the answer. She gave it to him with her last breaths for occasions such as this. It did not make trusting them any easier. As a poor substitute, Hubert permitted them to speak on his behalf.

“I sympathize with Rhea’s suffering, of course, but Hubert is an ally of ours.” Ferdinand paused to consider his claim, wisely making a minor addendum with as much certainty and sincerity as any other proclamation the would-be Prime Minister might make. “Formerly, that much is true. But this room is hardly designed for torment and neglect. I have faith that he would not resort to rationing unless he felt it was absolutely necessary just as he described. We should grant him an audience to make his case.”

Hubert’s attention fell once more to the floor at the unsolicited rush of pride at being held in such esteem, made even more treasured by its moderation. Ferdinand had taken the side of the enemy against Her Majesty, but that sentence alone assured Hubert that it was done with a heavy heart. That fact was supported by Ferdinand’s forced calm at the gates of Enbarr as well.

If he could understand Hubert’s perspective in this even now, then perhaps…

“Seriously, you’re going to defend this lapdog over—”

“Catherine, please.” Rhea interceded, her elegant arm extended to crush the argument before it began. “It is alright. As the victors, we can allow him the mercy his lost soul could not provide.”

Hubert scoffed, rolling his eyes at the heavy-handed distortion of his prior cutting remark. Having to contend with the endless drivel from Rhea rather than deposing her would be among the more difficult aspects of complying with Her Majesty’s hopes for Hubert’s future.

“Hearing the same report at once will keep us on the same page,” Byleth steered the conversation to more practical matters. “I’ll call a meeting in the war room.”

“Thank you, Professor.” Ferdinand expressed open relief, bowing politely as his noble bearing demanded.

And with that, Hubert was one step closer to securing revenge for Her Majesty against the Agarthans as recompense for failing to guarantee her victory against the Church. He would claw his way through to this tenuous alliance if he must, and there was no demand they could make that he would not meet personally (although they need not know that much before they even began negotiations). Hubert would not fail her twice.


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You Will Live Ch. 2: Wonder | Ferdibert FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 2920 (6 to 24 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Main Characters: Ferdinand, Hubert, and former Black Eagle students

Read the previous chapter.

The Kingdom and Alliance troops were celebrating their victory over the Empire. The somber work of collecting bodies and identifying them was likely left to Shamir and her agents while lackeys for the Church of Seiros searched for Rhea. Meanwhile, Hubert stood shackled in the great hall of the capital’s castle under the guard of Caspar and Ferdinand, waiting for anyone in power to remember he existed.

Until then, he removed himself from his grief. He could sense it behind the dam built up in his mind, bleak and roiling and vast. But Hubert would suffer endless torture before he gave the combined enemy armies the satisfaction of seeing him broken down in the castle where Her Majesty made her last stand. It was injury enough that several of the Black Eagles who turned on Lady Edelgard had witnessed the break in his armor.

To preoccupy him instead, Hubert had Her Majesty’s agenda to consider. The final step in her vision for Fódlan: to defeat Those Who Slither in the Dark once and for all. He would require substantially powerful allies to achieve that goal, though there were not many in the wake of such an extensive war. In fact, the only forces of that caliber were also his captors.

He examined the metal cuffs around his wrists, a thick chain dangling between them. Too short to be used for effective strangulation, and a sure sign that their distrust of him would be his greatest obstacle in joining with them against the final threat they weren’t even aware of.

But the fact that Ferdinand and Caspar were assigned to watch over him rather than someone impartial or even openly hostile suggested there was someone in a position of political clout who looked on him with compassion.

Whoever it was, they outranked Ferdinand as a general in the enemy forces, a fact that reduced the possibilities greatly. Perhaps subconsciously, Hubert’s gaze drifted to the very man beside him. Ferdinand stood watchful and resolute, but there was a tension in his posture that betrayed his mental state: he was thinking tirelessly on a matter that vexed him.

You and I both. A shame neither of us have someone to turn to.

Once, they may have turned to each other.

Hubert looked back to the cuffs with an especially foul grimace. His line of reasoning led him to believe his sympathizer was one of few people with enough power: Seteth, Byleth, Claude, or Dimitri. Seteth was a ridiculous prospect, considering that the Death Knight kidnapped Flayn on behalf of Those Who Slither in the Dark. That act guaranteed he would never view Hubert with any honest compassion.

Well-informed rumors had it that Byleth did believe the Flame Emperor about their lack of involvement in Remire Village and by indirect extension, the death of Jeralt, but that still only left her in neutral territory at best. Claude likely held moral quandaries with their methods combined with a healthy skepticism of Hubert that contributed to the restraints. But that perspective would certainly not have any role in allowing his former classmates who just saved his life to stand as his guards.

Lastly, there was Dimitri. Chivalrous Dimitri, who had become rather shrewd over his five years in exile, but remained a long-time friend of Edelgard’s in his sentiments (if nothing further). He had been forgotten in name alone as she treasured the dagger that he gifted to her and all it represented.

Dimitri’s meeting with her to discuss their options aside from warfare felt as removed as Hubert’s report to Her Majesty earlier that morning, but it did serve as confirmation that His Highness was the source of the perceived kindness extended to Hubert. If there was anyone he would speak to about the Agarthans, it had to be King Dimitri in order to improve his odds of successful negotiation. But in truth, His Highness’ most probable intentions in allowing Ferdinand and Caspar to guard their previous classmate was simply to provide some measure of comfort in an especially trying time.

Yet all three of them stood in a weighty silence. Even Caspar’s brow wrinkled with worry as he restlessly shifted weight from one leg to the other, crossing and uncrossing his arms without reason. It was almost as if thinking generated even more energy that forced Caspar to channel it into any motion whatsoever.

Hubert knew they were not responsible for Her Majesty’s death. She accepted that her chosen path could claim her life and made her peace with that before even first appearing as the Flame Emperor. In war, there were no murderers. If anyone was to blame, it would be the fool who swore to protect her with his life and failed.

Even so, standing beside two people he once considered friends, Hubert was completely without anything to say. He did not hate them or long to return to their time bickering in hallways or at the training grounds. Hubert felt nothing, in fact. He reached into the dark well of insidious disdain in his heart and came up empty. He would have settled for what they had previously referred to as his persistent nagging, but still, there was nothing.

In their absence, her voice rang clear with another final order for him as if the communication spell remained in an echo:

All I need from you now is to know that although I will fall here today, you will live your own life.

How? Hubert could not even muster a word to two people who knew him—well enough, he supposed. Better than most andamong the few who could claim to be anything of a friend to Hubert. The iron against his wrists faintly warmed from contact with his skin and grounded him in a manner that nothing else in the din of the great hall could.

Their new allies seemed to view them as invisible for standing beside Hubert. Every soldier and servant in the great hall moved past the three men as efficiently and indifferently as ants around a pebble. Supplies and the wounded had to be ferried into the castle before nightfall, beginning its repurposing into their fortress.

“So.”

Of course Caspar would yield first; it was in his nature to being completely unable to read the atmosphere. Pale blue eyes peered at him from the edge of his vision, his overthinking expression still very much the same despite having grown otherwise. Count Bergliez was a fearsome warrior that must be intimidating to be compared to, but Caspar was well on his way to standing on equal footing.

“I’m glad you made it, you know.”

“That would make one of us.” Hubert’s typical clipped delivery, dripping with venom, was apparently instinctive even as it came across somewhat hollow. He was not alone in noticing it lacked credibility, since Caspar appeared more concerned than offended. The conflicted, sorrowful gaze that had lingered on Petra and Shamir in his academy days now directed itself at Hubert. It made his skin crawl, forcing him to worry his fingers against his own palms in the hopes of ridding himself of the first sensation. To even consider Caspar might feel compelled to look after Hubert filled him with disgust at being so pitied.

Ferdinand’s sympathetic sigh failed to be a suitable diversion. His stern, tender look with those damned amber eyes threatened to crack the dam Hubert constructed. He must hold the despair back until he was alone, where no one could gain more emotional blackmail against him. Never mind that they had enough to go on already and never used it, not once; Hubert had to keep his guard up. That was a critical aspect of his sworn duty. “Hubert, you—”

“If you truly felt as much, would I be restrained?”

Whatever sentence he intended to say, it would end poorly for Hubert. Few could get under his skin and make him say more than he meant to like Ferdinand von Aegir. Better that he interrupted him and preserve what remained of his dignity.

“Hey,” Caspar stepped in, the ideal diversion where Ferdinand fell short. “If anybody saw you just standing around, they’d probably just attack you even with us here. You’re in no shape for that.”

Hubert chuckled, low and dark, and discovered he hit that familiar tone precisely. What else was there to say to that?

“The restraints will not be forever, Hubert.” Ferdinand appeared to have taken the hint or perhaps reconsidered his first remark to return to at another time. The latter was the far more probable of the two scenarios. He did try to look at Hubert directly, searching for—who knew what? But Hubert levelled his cold stare at a point somewhere beyond him as the noble continued. “I promise that we will sort this out properly once our forces are settled and the wounded have been treated.”

…And that pierced him as well as any blade. However quietly, Hubert’s next breath wavered. Easily dismissed as residual pain from the injury and that was the excuse Hubert chose to believe for himself as well. To complete the next task he assigned to himself in the name of Her Majesty, Hubert would need to deceive his own mind for as long as he was able.

Do not give me your promises and look at me with devotion, Ferdinand. I cannot bear it.

“Yes, I remember the fickle nature of your promises.” Still, Hubert could not draw on the full strength of his cutting words—he merely sounded exhausted to his own ears—but even a dull edge to his voice could land some damage and keep Ferdinand at a manageable distance. “They are easily broken when it serves you to do so.”

When Hubert became close to someone, he memorized the finer details about them. And so, when he grew closer to Ferdinand, he took great care to remember every important fact. His favorite tea. The name of his first beloved Aegir hound. The time of day he preferred to go on a leisurely ride on horseback. Which flowers he preferred over others. And of course, what every single expression written all over his face indicated for his state of mind. Because while Ferdinand did ever try to present a strong front, he had his vulnerabilities like anyone else.

He flinched back, a curled strand of hair falling forward with the motion, but the flicker of hurt feelings dissipated almost instantly into flaring, prideful indignance that turned those amber eyes into a fiery bronze. “I swore to serve the ideals that Edelgard said she would uphold, and when that was no longer the case—”

Too soon, the realization that he was bickering with Hubert while their Emperor lay cold in another room dawned on Ferdinand and like that, the fire was out. His shoulders dropped and he sighed once again.

And Hubert laughed, wordlessly urging him to finish the counterargument he had prepared.

“Are you pretending that holding back is another noble display of mercy?” That was closer to the right inflection, but still not quite. Hubert sneered down at Ferdinand regardless. Let this be like old times when he could provoke them with just a few short words, let Ferdinand hurt him in return, and it would make this so much easier to endure—or so he imagined. “First, you preserve my life so that I might have the privilege of living with Her Majesty’s death, and now you hope to conceal your obvious disdain for everything she stood for? I suppose it serves me right for expecting better of you, Ferdinand.”

“I understand you well, Hubert.” He kept calm, more certain now than when he first appeared on the battlefield. Hubert’s sneer fell to a heatless scowl that held more from habit than any true disdain. “And because I do, I will forgive what you have just said since I know you are only trying to keep me from coming to your aid now that you need it most. You never were one to accept support with any manner of ease, as you prefer to be in the role of providing rather than being cared for.”

Hubert scoffed and pried his attention away from the absurdity going on beside him. Naturally, Ferdinand continued undaunted while Caspar pretended badly with a half-stifled smirk not to notice Hubert’s discomfort. He, of course, could not know the reason as well Ferdinand claimed to.

‘When I see you at the monastery, studying with the others… It makes me wonder what kind of life you might’ve had without me.’

It was Edelgard’s idle thought, not his own, and from their first year at Garreg Mach. Hubert might pretend he had no notion as to why that memory came to him now, unbidden and fraught with conflicted sentiments, but he knew better than that. Attempting to deceive himself had been a fool’s errand. He was without her now and there were two former Black Eagle students with him at present. This was the foundation of the life she saw for Hubert that made her wonder what could have been.

“Truly, you ought to know better by now.” Ferdinand’s playful wit bled into his false chastising. “An exceptionally harsh critic once confirmed that my relentless optimism is my greatest attribute. Where others may become discouraged and abandon their path, I never yield. Ferdinand von Aegir is, indeed, unmatched in that particular quality.”

Assured pride practically radiated off Ferdinand as surely and powerfully as summer sunlight, all with him grinning and drawing himself up. Always so sure of his success on the grounds that he would never quit… But there was no time to form a response to Ferdinand quoting Hubert to himself, not when Catherine stormed over to their group and stopped short in front of Hubert. “Enough is enough. Where is Lady Rhea.”

He squared his shoulders, piercing her with an aloof smile. “I wondered when you would overcome your pride and seek my help.” Strategically, Hubert should seize this opportunity to prove that he can be trusted not to slight them, at least, and lead her to Rhea without delay. But while grief could be withheld, spite was another matter entirely. “She is here. Perhaps you simply aren’t looking hard enough. Would you like a hint?”

“You—” She scowled, closing the distance with a fist in his collar, yanking him down and pulling a sharp breath from him in the same motion. He endured worse pain than that in his initial resilience training as Her Majesty’s vassal. That reaction should be the last she saw from him.

“Enough,” Ferdinand implored, a firm hand on Catherine’s arm as the true warning that this was not a request but an order. “We are above resorting to aggression to have our way, Catherine.”

“I don’t have to.” She released his collar and shook off Ferdinand’s hand, stepping back. How unusual for a Knight of Seiros to pass down the chance to beat the defenseless… Her immediate aversion to using more force could have been due to Caspar’s presence, given how he so admired her. “Taunt us however you like, you sick bastard. Lady Rhea is alive, and we will find her.”

Ah. Another blow directly to the dam. To her, Hubert betrayed nothing of the sort. “I suppose with enough hours wasted, you will eventually have no choice but to succeed.” He trailed off into an exasperated sigh. “Truth be told, Rhea may not have that kind of time. Very well, I will show you the way.”

That had her attention and that of a few nearby soldiers for the Church as well. Traffic in the great hall had slowed marginally, but they were far from alone.

“You stay here. Tell me where I can find her.”

Hubert chuckled again, this time feeling it in his ribs more than he ought to. Evidently, Catherine didn’t need to beat him—merely shoving him would be enough to aggravate his recently healed wounds. “This isn’t a matter of turning in the correct direction at a conveniently placed statue. You are asking for a spoken guide to winding, secret passageways meant to mislead any who enter.”

“Caspar and I will accompany you, Catherine,” Ferdinand offered, moving his hand to rest on Hubert’s upper arm as if to guide him. Hubert glanced to his hand, then to Ferdinand, but he was fully a general at the moment and spared not even a glance to the prisoner. “Hubert will pose no threat.”

Ah, that was Hubert’s order. An easy one to follow considering he had to if he was to convince the victors of his reliability as an ally so soon after his defeat.

“Of course. I have no reason left to fight.” The tension returned at that remark more than Catherine’s mild display of force, and Hubert let it stand. Those who despised Hubert most, like the wielder of Thunderbrand, had to hear the literal words from his mouth that he would not harm them. One step further, he would help them. “More pressingly, I have valuable intel to secure the future of Fódlan. But first, we must attend to Rhea.

Her scowl softened to hopeful skepticism, a narrowed glare that suggested she was turning over his phrase in her mind. Catherine was as intelligent as she was capable—she would eventually piece together that he was leveraging a treaty of sorts. ”…Fine.” She nodded down to the other end of the great hall where the main passage to the undercroft waited. “Let’s go.”


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Ferdinand fighting Hubert in Enbarr

You Will Live Ch. 1: Enbarr | Ferdibert FE3H Fanfiction

Word count: 1900 (4 to 16 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Main Characters: Ferdinand, Hubert, and former Black Eagle students


Smoldering flame mixed with the tang of magic and turn of summer into autumn in the air. The city had been evacuated, of course, so the only dead within the walls were beasts and willing soldiers ready to defend Her Majesty’s cause no matter their odds. This was, for them, a matter of patriotism or principle in devotion to their Emperor. The soldiers still standing fought with as much spirit as they could muster even as their allies fell.

Hubert’s own magic reserves were dangerously depleted, but he would not yield. His post was the final line of defense between the invading forces and the Enbarr castle. He swallowed and his throat was dry, but he still smiled coldly at the soldiers from the church, Kingdom, and Alliance forcing their way towards the gates. Beyond him was Her Majesty and all the hopes she sacrificed so much for. Hubert would sooner die than relent here, of all places.

Your Majesty.

The calling spell only worked in a certain range, such as the Empire’s capital, at least for Hubert. That was all he needed in this moment.

How goes the battle, Hubert?

She counted on him not for good news, but accurate reports. This would hardly change now.

Poorly, I’m afraid. We will fight to the last.

The distant fizzle of silence was a telltale sign that Hubert was struggling to maintain the spell. The archers breaching the defensive line were taking up his focus instead, an act he knew Her Majesty would approve. It was only sensible.

Withdraw into the castle if you must, Hubert.

Of course, Your Majesty.

He dropped the connection on a lie. To retreat here would be to allow this filth into her castle to take her life. In this number, Hubert had to confess they would almost certainly succeed regardless of where he went. That did not dissuade him from the fight in the least.

He drew on the dark magic he refined in service to Lady Edelgard, bracing for the mounted units charging toward him. Most likely, he’d already been flanked by stealthier classes and this last stand would be over soon enough. But he would be sure they earned their invasion. Clouds of dark purple energy swirled around his arms, wisping away at the edges as the first soldier came through the archway.

In a sweeping gesture, several glowing spears of energy appeared above the soldier and the glyph flashed at Hubert’s feet as the spears pierced the enemy and left them slumped over on their horse. That was the last charge he had for Dark Spikes, and his advantage against cavalrymen was exhausted.

Naturally, it was in that state and when the wear of battle screamed in all of Hubert’s being that none other than Ferdinand himself rode over the hill. His alliance changed at the bridge of Myrddin and what letters he dared send to the Empire following that were swiftly destroyed by Hubert himself. To think he’d respected him, sat with him in the tea gardens like they were friends. Hubert made a fool of himself by going out of his way to purchase tea as a gift for the former Prime Minister, just as Ferdinand had been for purchasing an overpriced imported coffee during a time of war as a gift for Hubert.

He was a sight in battle all the same. Blood clung to the ends of his free-flowing hair, grown long in his adult years. After all this grueling combat, his posture on horseback was as pristine as in his regular training. Ferdinand von Aegir would gloat for ages if he only knew that Hubert would concede in his final moments that he was, in fact, the noblest of nobles in the most respectable sense no matter where his allegiance fell.

What a shame he would not get that insight even in Hubert’s final words.

“Running into you in the capital like this—I have to say, it’s almost sentimental.” How easily the teasing banter came, as if this was just another walk to the gardens or conference hall. For once, Ferdinand did not smile.

“Hubert. She must leave.”

Just who was he trying to convince with such a dry response? Hubert scoffed, the spell brewing in his palm at the ready. No different than Ferdinand’s javelin. He came prepared for the deed, it seemed.

“You really think you can make her?”

All those years trying to best Edelgard with the goal of providing her guidance if she went down the wrong path, and then it was Ferdinand who veered off course. Normally, Ferdinand could be made to realize he was mistaken. But it was far too late for that now. Barely able to stand and still holding the last defense to the castle, Hubert had to believe as much.

“It does not matter what I think. Those are my orders.”

Hubert’s spell was his answer, and the javelin glancing past him was the reply. The blur of spells and Ferdinand’s attacks were impossible to track after that. Hubert’s eyes throbbed with overexertion and he could taste coppery blood. He wouldn’t hold on much longer now. Even the mages stationed to his left had staggered towards his location at some point and collapsed, arrows buried in their backs.

Beyond their corpses, a familiar archer drew back on her bow. She came out of her room for this? Such progress.

“It’s over, Hubert.” Bernadetta kept her arrow trained on him, pointed and intense, but her eyes were soft. Pitying, perhaps. “Please just… Don’t make us hurt you.”

He chuckled and she shivered just a bit. Well, it would appear that her instinctive fear of him didn’t change. “Then surrender.”

“C’mon,” Caspar came up on the other flank, tense but still too relaxed for a battlefield. Was there nothing between shouting like a madman or talking casually for Caspar? It was a miracle that he survived this long. “You’re too smart for this. Beating you up now, it’s… kinda unfair.”

Hubert laughed again, or tried, but it came out as more of a wheeze. If they were going to join forces against him, he’d prefer it was in actual combat. To collapse and die from simple blood loss wasn’t how he imagined his end.

“Come to your senses, Hubert.” Ferdinand spoke from horseback, the tip of his spear red with Hubert’s blood. In fairness, he had his own injuries from the last of Hubert’s spells in turn. The duel had been far from one-sided. “Our forces are inside the castle. Stand down.”

That sentence ran through Hubert like a hot blade. Behind him, soldiers must have slid through the moat to escape Hubert’s attention during their fight. How could he have been so lax? The glyph of the communication spell lit up in his eyes, likely invisible to the others at this distance.

Your Majesty, the enemy

I am aware, Hubert.

I will be there shortly.

But he couldn’t and Her Majesty knew that as well as he did. The forces would not have made it inside if Hubert was at his full strength. Just sustaining this spell was depleting what little reserves he had left. If his former classmates saw the concern on his face, they had the decency not to insult him by saying it.

You will do no such thing. Stand down, Hubert.

Edelgard, no—

Not again. This would not be the same as her time in the Kingdom while he suffered in the Empire: it would be far worse. If he lost Lady Edelgard a second time with no way back from it, Hubert had no concept of what he might come next. Her victory was everything to him, but if she was ordering him to surrender, then…

Please, Hubert, follow this last order from me. You have walked this path with me and made it all that much brighter for it. All I need from you now is to know that although I will fall here today, you will live your own life.

If Edelgard made her mind unavailable for contact through the force of her considerable will or if the worst had already come to pass when the spell broke off, Hubert had no way of knowing. Not yet. The stone bridge almost certainly bruised him as he dropped to his knees, coughing blood up onto the pale surface.

“Uh, Linhardt!” Caspar’s voice strained, his inflection rising as it did whenever he was excited or stressed. How long had it been, but still Hubert could read them so clearly. As if they never left.

Hubert clenched his hands into fists against the bridge, scraping them on the stone enough to hurt through his gloves.

“What now?” Linhardt’s presence was impossible to pinpoint, even as unmistakable as his sighing tone was. The injuries Hubert sustained were too great for his body to maintain even that simple function.

Ferdinand dropped from his horse with a clank of armored greaves. “Hubert!”

At least when he spoke then, it wasn’t with the empty distance from before. Ferdinand talking without some buoyant emotion was too foreign to tolerate for long. Hubert wouldn’t have much time left to wait either way, he supposed.

Then the cool dispersion of a Physic spell washed over him.

“No, leave me—” He reached up with a stained glove, trying to wave off their assistance. He wanted to fall with Edelgard. It was his purpose, the path he’d chosen. The healing spell did restore him to the point where the taste of blood was fading, but the strength to stand still escaped him. He could still end this with his devotion intact.

“We couldn’t do that to you.” Bernadetta’s timidity was back in full force as she stepped up beside him on the bridge.

Another wave of enemy soldiers rushed by, unstoppable as a flood and leaving him with a weight as heavy as being buried alive. Why did they show him mercy? Didn’t they realize this was the cruelest fate even Hubert could imagine? Another healing spell from Linhardt was joined by Bernadetta’s slender hand hovering on his shoulder. He didn’t have the venom to shirk her off in this state.

“Her Majesty, her victory—” The edge to his voice was less cutting and more desperate than he desired.

“I am sorry, Hubert.” Ferdinand had knelt in front of him at some point. His curling locks swam in Hubert’s vision, blending with the warm tones of his uniform. On the opposite shoulder from Bernadetta, he rested his hand and gave a reaffirming squeeze. How dare they do this to Hubert. How dare Ferdinand show him this compassion here, now. “I wish it hadn’t come to this.”

And yet, through the indignant spite, Hubert reached up to grab onto the front of the former Prime Minister’s shirt. Feebly, even according to his own account.

“Please—” He hoped they were satisfied to be the only ones to hear him beg for Her Majesty’s life. There was nothing they could do, no more than he himself could. Lady Edelgard and Hubert alike knew this end was always a possibility. But when it came, he expected he would meet his death before allowing anyone to even come close to Edelgard. He would sooner die; Hubert swore to himself. But with the actual moment here, Hubert instead held onto Ferdinand, felt the single trail of wetness on his own face, saw the pulsing darkness at the edges of his vision—

“What’s going on, Lin?”

“Oh, he’s passing out. But he’ll survi—”


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You are in Love: Fire Emblem 3H Fanfiction (Ferdibert)

Word count: 4800 (8 to 30 minutes) | Rating: K+ | Note: Spoilers, Ferdibert, and mentions of Edelgard x Dorothea | Characters: Hubert von Vestra, Edelgard von Hresvelg, Ferdinand von Aegir, and mentions of Dorothea


Part 1: Her Blessing

Never before had Hubert lingered at Edelgard’s door, uncertain and adjusting his gloves needlessly. He stared at her door before he forced himself to knock rather than wasting another moment.

Purposeful steps approached from beyond the door, and she opened it just a bit before her expression softened. Opening the door the rest of the way, Edelgard stood aside in her nightgown that was, of course, still effective for combat. “Ah, Hubert.”

“You must be more cautious, Your Majesty.” He stepped inside at her gesture of invitation all the same, turning over his shoulder to continue. “If all an assassin has to do is knock—”

“The war is over now, Hubert,” she chastised playfully, her smile at him coming readily. They were the only family each other had for years now and their bond had been forged in that timeless fondness, empathy, and understanding. So, of course, it was only natural that she noticed he was not quite himself. “…But something is troubling you. If there is anything I can do to help, you have only to name it, my friend.”

She closed the door behind her, following him further into the room. Hubert was satisfied to hear that she had locked the door as well. Peace time or not, precaution was the difference between life and death in many cases.

“You are too kind,” he praised her both genuinely and partly to postpone what he came here to do. Hubert had planned it out in his mind, readied himself for the simple question he had to pose before he moved ahead with the next steps of his plan. His ridiculous, absurd plan. In a way, it may even be a mercy if Edelgard refused him so Hubert could avoid the embarrassment of rejection. Or worse, and admittedly more likely, acceptance.

Sensing his discomfort again, she took a seat in a well-loved reading chair and gestured to the one opposite her that had a tea table between them. A familiar and fond place where he often passed the time with her over one of various strategy games. Edelgard was one of his few true rivals for strategic thinking, so he took delight in their games whether he won or learned a new tactic.

But that was not why he was here.

Hubert had already lingered too long after her invitation to sit, and he felt especially out of place as he lowered himself into the reading chair across from her and the table.

In silence. He set his palms on his knees, staring at the ornate weavings of the rug before him. Hubert leaned back against the chair but still felt the tension knotted between his shoulder blades. This was ridiculous and he knew it, and yet…

“You can trust me with anything.” Edelgard sat forward, her eyes searching his for the faith she knew he had in her.

“I’ve never had any doubt,” he answered, as sure as the sun would set. Perhaps inspired by such a comfortable state of being, Hubert found himself somewhat calmer. He took advantage of that and began to speak before he could question himself further. “There is something I need to ask you.”

Edelgard only nodded to encourage him without giving him an out in her reply. She knew him too well to provide such an opportunity.

“There is… someone I would like to…” He trailed off into a scowl, his grip tightening on his own knees. Something about the pressure was grounding and forced Hubert out of his own way. Edelgard was one he trusted with his life, including matters of the heart—however laughable that very phrase felt to him as her wicked shadow. If he could not even ask the question, he did not deserve the role or the object of his affections.

“Has someone upset you, Hubert?” Her voice was tender, but there was an edge to it as well, a darkness below the gentleness that instilled pride in Hubert. Just when he thought he could not possibly have any more respect for his Emperor, there was always more to found.

“No,” he chuckled. “I would handle that myself with pride, Your Majesty. In this matter… I must consult you before I act.”

Her eyebrows raised as her eyes widened and she took in a sharp breath. Surprised, was she? Well. At least she was not alone in that sentiment, he thought with a wry smile. “How unlike you, Hubert. What could it possibly take for you to hesitate? I’ve no suitors, I trust.”

“None. Your relationship with Dorothea is well-known at this point, and it would take a fool to challenge it.”

That was diversion enough. Edelgard smiled fondly, her hand going absently to a loose strand of her hair. “Too true. So it’s not a suitor of mine you must handle, but you feel you have to check with me. I can guess all night if I must, Hubert, but wouldn’t it be easier to simply ask?”

“So one would think,” he answered drily and sighed, shoulders relaxing at last—though in resignation. Practiced words, carefully rehearsed for every situation from putting her worries at ease to voicing his own, simply fled at the very sight of her door. At least he could spare himself the foolishness of rehearsing his confession to a certain prime minister. Not that he would. Even the thought of going without a plan entirely, even if that plan were to leave his mind the moment he needed it most, churned his stomach where little else could.

Edelgard blinked pensively for a moment, and then the realization dawned on her like the flare of candlelight in her eyes. A realization, in any case. “Oh! Hubert!”

“Hm?” His guard was difficult to get past, but she managed with that elated tone. Edelgard leaned forward even more, resting on the arm of the chair in a most casual manner he didn’t often see now that she was Emperor.

“You are in love!”

Hubert recoiled only slightly but was betrayed by a blush, making a choking sound rather than a comprehensible reply.

“I am so happy for you, my good friend!” Her smile could not get any wider, and he felt his face could not be any warmer.

“I would hold back on your celebration until you hear who it is, Your Majesty.”

“Oh, enough of titles,” she waved that off, settling back into her relaxed posture. “Please, I simply must know who has caught your exacting attention. They must be special indeed.”

Hubert sighed heavily through his nose, feeling the blush recede bit by excruciating bit. What could he tell her? She’d seen him bicker with Ferdinand endlessly over the years, their relationship tempering into a push-and-pull where both had grown. Indeed, continued to grow.

Their courtship was happening in subtle gestures now, no matter how he tried to resist it. There was something captivating about Ferdinand that Hubert ultimately found he could not deny in any regard. And since he could not help but continue rising to his witty, teasing banter and invitations to share coffee and tea together… Hubert straightened his posture and steeled himself. As her closest confidant, he had to get Her Majesty’s approval before their relationship developed too far.

“…Fer…” He sighed again, the embarrassment at the confession overcoming him. The lives he’d claimed, the horrors he unflinchingly committed—and this was where Hubert hesitated, of all things.

“For…?” Edelgard tilted her head, trying once more to catch his attention while he turned away.

“Ferdinand.”

“I… Is that right?” He turned back just in time to catch her smile, one of a cat who ate the canary. Hubert sighed again, rolling his eyes.

“Of course it is. Surely, you have noticed by now.”

“I don’t know what you could possibly mean,” she dismissed, resuming her regal posture for the sole purpose of his mockery, it seemed. “The flower he had in his lapel only after his meeting with you paired with an especially radiant smile, perhaps, or the frequent visits you both share in the tea garden, maybe. Oh, or could you mean—”

“You have made my point,” he teased back, though he did feel his heart quicken at her joking. Her observations meant that Ferdinand’s returned feelings were not in his own imagination, since Edelgard herself had perceived his joy at the flower. But if she knew that he had explained its meaning to Ferdinand as well and the glorious blush that blossomed over his freckled cheeks at the revelation… Hubert may very well sink into the floorboards. “And now, I would like your opinion.”

“My opinion?”

“We are both closely connected to the throne, Your Majesty. If anything were to go wrong between us,” he explained, letting the implication hang for her to continue on her own.

“We will handle that if the time comes.” She reached out across the table to him and in a rare moment of vulnerability, Hubert took her offered hand. Edelgard squeezed his hand gently, sharing a soft smile with him. “But you should follow your heart, Hubert. I am confident he is as in love with you as you are with him.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, but… Why?” He looked at her analytically, studying for a telltale sign of how she could be so certain. “You are not especially close with Ferdinand outside of our obligations to the Empire.”

“No, but Dorothea is. And she is a good friend of yours as well, so it is only natural that Ferdinand should seek advice from his dear friend about his potential lover.” Ah, a mirror of their current situation. How clever of Edelgard to call attention to that so Hubert could not even mock the decision properly. “Is it not?”

“I do wish you wouldn’t phrase it quite like that,” he dodged instead of answering, that damned blush returning.

Edelgard laughed, a bright spot all its own. “You have nothing to be shy about, Hubert. Please, be happy! There is no one who deserves it more.” She clasped her other hand over his and he discovered he could not resist the softening of his smirk. “You have my support in this, as in all you do for yourself. It is high time you did.”

The lamps surrounding them cast a warm glow on everything in the room as a stark contrast to the harsh moonlight washing the landscape beyond her window. In the shadows of flickering light, he spotted traces of a more domestic life in Edelgard’s room. A coat rack held cloaks for herself as well as Dorothea, and her war boots were not left out any longer. Instead, they’d been replaced by riding boots for travelling to nearby towns or anywhere the Emperor was needed by the people.

A vase of Dorothea’s favorite flowers on the desk of her room.

Edelgard found someone to share her life that was beyond what Hubert could provide… And seeing her now, spending her scant free time to offer him encouragement, he knew she would not begrudge him doing the same for himself. That alone cut through his skin-crawling discomfort at the notion of allowing himself to aspire for something that was solely for his benefit.

“Thank you, Edelgard.”

She patted his hand gently before returning hers to her lap, a fond smile reaching her eyes. “Anytime, Hubert.”


Part 2: His Confession

And now that he had her approval, Hubert had only to face an even greater difficulty. Planning out how to confess his feelings for Ferdinand to the prime minister himself was a snarl of logistics and emotion.

Hubert decided it should be at their typical social call in the gardens for tea and coffee initially, but then that was too public a place where anyone might come along at any moment. If Ferdinand did reject him, he would prefer it to be in private where he could safely pretend the incident never occurred.

But to take him off in a secluded location in broad daylight would introduce rumors. While that never bothered Hubert to any extent, such scandal could potentially affect Ferdinand—who was far more socially connected and attuned and therefore, more susceptible to the impacts of defamation.

And to isolate him in the dead of night would only be a social threat if they were caught without a purpose for being together alone so late into the evening. Therefore, he waited until their last meeting of the day to pull Ferdinand aside and make up some excuse or another about a late-night meeting in the underground areas of the Enbarr palace to seal off compromised secret passages and plan new ones in their stead. This was a task best handled when their concealment in darkness could be seen firsthand, after all.

“Ferdinand,” he simply said his name as greeting, and the prime minister responded with a torturously bright smile followed by a cascade of copper hair as he turned to Hubert. They were underground now with only torches to the light the way, and he somehow managed to be perfectly captivating.

“Hubert,” he answered as if receiving excellent news by his mere presence. “Today was remarkably productive, was it not? With the war behind us, progress has come swiftly.”

“That it has,” Hubert agreed, a distant smile on his face. Suddenly, he felt vulnerable and exposed from the very subject on his mind.

“You know how I adore planning ahead, Hubert,” he answered with his name once again, as if he could not get enough of saying it. Hubert’s imagination, however limited, was determined to be overactive at the most inconvenient time. “But secret passages are admittedly your area of expertise. Before I can coordinate the supplies required, please tell me—what did you have in mind?”

Always in need of an excuse to spend time alongside Ferdinand, Hubert outlined his plans to the prime minister so they could work out the details together at another point. Securing the materials and disguising them among the supplies ordered for other projects, finding workers who could guard the covert nature of their tasks, and so on. Tasks best divided between them with a cohesive understanding.

At the last pathway marked, far from any staff in the castle who might come across them on their evening duties, Hubert turned to Ferdinand. This was the opportunity he had been working toward all night and he could not afford to waste it. Tired as Ferdinand seemed, he did his best to maintain his attentiveness and energy throughout their journey. Truthfully, he was the better suited between them for a march through the corridors of the castle’s basements. Hubert was stronger than he seemed and more so than most would expect of a mage, but he did not even come close to rivaling Ferdinand’s stamina as a horseback rider.

“Are you tired, Hubert? You have been staring at me in silence for some time now,” Ferdinand teased, only a twinge of something undetectable in his tone with his smirk visible even in the low light.

“Not at all,” he confessed. The night was his ally in many regards, and he was more comfortable in the late hours of darkness than the early hours of daylight. “I actually… Have a personal matter to discuss. With you.”

“A… personal matter?” His breath hitched in a way that was either disgusted or hopeful. Those two sentiments should not be as close together as they apparently were, Hubert thought with an exasperated sigh. He brushed his bangs from his face pointlessly, a rare meaningless gesture. It seemed his mind was now at war with itself and determined to sabotage every step.

“That is what I said,” Hubert taunted, though there was no malice to his voice as there might have been in their schooldays. “Unless you are too tired, of course.” Hubert was not so blind to his own flaws that he didn’t realize what he was doing to himself. Here he was, trying to rationalize why Ferdinand was not up for this tonight so he could postpone the question that his blackened heart hinged upon.

“I don’t have your gift for persevering through long nights at work,” Ferdinand admitted and stifled a yawn, demonstrating his own personal growth in an ability to admit that he did not excel in every little thing he did. However unreliable that ability did prove at times, Hubert remarked to himself with an amused smirk. “But for you, Hubert, I can make an exception.”

His tone was bright, welcoming, and yet it seemed so utterly the same as the kindness he showed to every soul that crossed his path off the battlefield. Even on it, at times. He was there when they pardoned Claude and allowed his survival. Ensured it, in fact. Hubert himself would not have shown such mercy, but it turned out to be in their best interest in the end.

“How… Very kind of you,” Hubert answered, resenting the hesitation in his own voice. He had trained nearly his entire life for subterfuge and political strategy, foreseeing assassinations, seeing to it that the right bribes reached the right people (or the wrong ones), and all manner of dark, horrid deeds. Confessing love had never made it into his studies and it had him fumbling over his words with a mind as blank as a new moon. “I had wondered what your plans were for future romantic pursuits.”

“Romantic pursuits?” A squeak bled through his response; one Hubert struggled not to laugh at. “Hubert, I cannot see what this has to do with our work for the Empire.”

“Very well. I shall explain it to you.” Hubert smirked, piercing him with a challenging stare that turned out fonder than he intended. This was their routine, and he had the upper hand for the time being. “Were your heart to belong to a dubious individual, it would compromise the security of the Empire.”

“And you think that I, Ferdinand von Aegir, would have such ignobly low standards?” Hubert had long since learned that ‘noble’ to Ferdinand had its own definition of decency and propriety rather than titles. And his mock offense was just as hollow as Hubert’s mockery. This dance between them was familiar, even comforting. “I would have you know that any partner of mine would only be dubious in the finest of manners.”

Hubert could not help a laugh at that, catching a look of admiration in Ferdinand’s eyes. Or had he imagined that too?

“And what manners might those be?”

“W-well,” he began shakily, though he did not withdraw from Hubert even as he bowed his head and caused those perfectly burnt golden locks to fall forward over broad shoulders. “They would be devoted, utterly and entirely, to all they held dear. Their protection would know no bounds, and there would be no sacrifice they would not make for those they lo-love.”

The word was a difficult for Ferdinand to say as it was for Hubert to hear. At what point had he begun holding his breath as if this were a covert operation that could be uncovered at the slightest sound?

“And I would be their guardian in return. We could serve as protectors of… One another. Hypothetically, of course.” Ferdinand’s shoulders had risen just enough to be noticeable—in self-consciousness or discomfort?

“I… see.” Was it possible Ferdinand had foreseen his plan already? Dorothea and Edelgard spoke daily. Perhaps Dorothea had given him the information in advance? No, Edelgard would never breach his confidence that way. Hubert cleared his throat, awkwardly pushing forward. “Well, it seems you have a very specific person in mind.” And what if it was not Hubert? What if he read too much into it? He couldn’t go on like this.

“Oh, no, I,” Ferdinand trailed off in a frustrated sigh, his hand running through the comparably short bangs across his forehead. “I suppose I do. But I assure you, this person is someone you and Edelgard trust entirely!”

“Oh?” His mind continued ahead without him unbidden once more. Who could that be? The professor? It must be so. Here he was, heart in hand, and Ferdinand belonged to another. His mouth was dry suddenly, and Hubert felt his pulse in even his fingertips. “And have you made your intentions known?”

“Hubert, I… That is,” Ferdinand began, uncharacteristically stumbling for words. “…I have not.”

“Good,” Hubert answered, his motivation returning to him in one thrumming rush not unlike a second wave during an intense battle. “Then I request you consider my offer.”

“Offer? What—”

“To be frank, I—love you.” There, it was done. Hubert felt a chill worse than the embrace of any dark magic he’d channeled, and he was certain some vital function of his body was about to end or at least suffer a brief, crushing interruption. But it was done, and he could put this behind him at last. No matter the answer or who Hubert would be compared to for Ferdinand’s affections.

“Pardon? You love… me?”

“I am as surprised as you are. I have already spoken to Lady Edelgard, however, and she has encouraged me to pursue my feelings… for you.” As if he has not made that clear enough as it was. He shook his head at his own foolishness and yet continued.

“It would seem you have her outmatched in more ways than I originally anticipated. A flaw in my assessment of you I will not repeat,” he ventured a joke but came across too serious. Gifts and flattery were forever cursed to be his failings, weren’t they? “I swear to you, Ferdinand, should you return these feelings, my devotion to Lady Edelgard will in no way lessen or compare to my affection for you. You will know no want—”

“Hubert,” Ferdinand interrupted with a bubbling laugh like a burst of sun breaking through a dull, overcast morning. “You have not even let me answer!”

“Ah. Forgive me,” Hubert requested, antsy once again. And grateful for his foresight for choosing a secluded area where no one would witness that Hubert von Vestra got emotional and lost control. No one save Ferdinand.

“You are not alone in your feelings, Hubert. In the new world we have built, where crests do not rule our society… We are free to take partners without concern for bloodline. In short,” he almost whispered in hopeful reverence like this was a chapel, closing the distance between him and Hubert to tentatively take a gloved hand in his. “I am free to choose you. And the world is a more a beautiful place than ever for it!”

“I can hardly believe this,” Hubert breathed his answer, alight in this moment. It was so clear now. The description that Ferdinand gave and how he vouched for the person he fancied—that was how he viewed Hubert. Not only did Ferdinand look upon his actions with pride, but with love. For him. Unable to meet his gaze, Hubert stared down at their barely clasped hands. “But I am truly happy in ways I never thought possible.”

“And I am happy to be the reason.”

Hubert chuckled, finding his steely resolve back in its proper place at the opportunity to tease Ferdinand. “Eager to jump to that conclusion, are we?”

“Is there competition I should be aware of, my love?” Already reaching for pet names? He would not be Ferdinand if he didn’t. Hubert was embarrassed to admit to even himself the surge of joy that gave him now, in a private moment between them. At tomorrow’s meeting hall may be another story entirely. Hubert would simply have to make do. Ferdinand lived in the light of the world. Center stage was where he belonged, and now he had Hubert beside him.

“None at all,” he promised, taking Ferdinand’s hand up to his lips and placing a firm, tender kiss to the back. “Thank you, Ferdinand.”

“Do not go thanking me just yet! Our courtship has only begun,” Ferdinand said, thinking this to be a cause for celebration. Though he helped forged a new future, Ferdinand was a true romantic and would want to follow every last fanciful dream he’d envisioned over his many years of reading poetry and romantic novels. For Hubert, that led to mixed feelings of elated anticipation and beneath that, a thin but poisonous layer of dread.

“I can only imagine how excessive this process will be with you at the helm,” Hubert drawled, sighing as he lowered their hands. Ferdinand led them back to the main castle area, a smile evident in his voice alone.

“You will not have to imagine for long, Hubert,” he boasted. “You are a man who deserves to be properly loved and courted beyond measure, so excess is simply not possible. I shall see to it that everyone knows the depth of my love for you. It shall ring across the land like a thousand bells!”

“Ferdinand, that is a bit dramatic,” Hubert stuttered, led along like the shadow he was while his newly titled boyfriend continued undaunted. The hallways sloped upward and indicated their return to the main body of the capital palace. Against all odds, Hubert hoped Ferdinand could contain his excitement for decent waking hours if nothing else.

“None of that, Hubert. You do your finest work where none can witness your efforts, and I love you for it. But I will declare my feelings in a way that will leave you with not a single trace of doubt.”

“Who said I had any doubts?” He managed to capture guarded skepticism only once tonight, and this timing was perfect.

Ferdinand stopped at that. He set the lamp down in a convenient alcove recessed into the stone wall and reached for Hubert’s other hand. The intimacy and tenderness of even that had Hubert on a razor-thin edge of overwhelming emotion. He was, perhaps, not as prepared to be romanced as he anticipated.

“I have come to know you very well, Hubert. The meaning behind every incisive stare, every discontented hum. You may not feel doubt now, but there will come a time that you do.” Ferdinand kept his eyes locked on Hubert’s, steady and open and trusting. It was like witnessing his own vivisection even as Hubert cherished that such a look was directed at him from the man he had come to love. “And I will chase that feeling away before it has any chance to take root in your heart!”

His hand found its way to Hubert’s chest as emphasis. Or an expression of his sentiments. Hubert could not place the feelings of himself, much less Ferdinand.

“Ferdinand,” he sighed so warmly, he scarcely recognized his own voice. “Only you would say such a foolish, innocent thing with certainty and not be subject to my most cutting observations.”

Loathe as he was to admit it, Ferdinand did know him. And he was not immune to self-doubt as he led so many to believe. How he could have his heart and soul laid bare before Ferdinand and feel loved rather than at great risk… That was a mystery in itself. “I will give my all to you. I will be worthy of such unwavering support from none other than Ferdinand von Aegir.”

Through the emotional state of his confession, Hubert reached for Ferdinand’s hands to earn himself some distance to recharge for the next onslaught of affection—only to discover that Ferdinand was trembling. “You are… shaking.”

“Yes! Yes, I am.” He nodded, eager as ever, almost as if Hubert had simply observed the state of his cloak or the color of his eyes. “With joy, of course!” The uneven laugh did Ferdinand in completely, his words elated and breathy. “I am overcome with it, even. I… may faint.”

“Please don’t. I could carry you, but I would rather not.” A facetious lie in the face of the very real possibility that the prime minister and he supposed, his boyfriend, might actually fall unconscious in the paths to the lower levels of the Enbarr castle and force Hubert to explain what caused it.

“And you will not have to! From now on, we walk together, Hubert. I simply… need a moment to catch my breath. You had me holding it for much of your roundabout confession.” He rested his forehead against Hubert’s chest with a shaky breath, relaxing into him. Hubert took advantage of his height and their solitude to place an arm around Ferdinand in a loose hug. It was all either could withstand at the moment, he suspected.

“Take all the time you need. I will be here.”


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