Rideable Minecart High School, and other short stories

Bernadetta von Varley

Bluebird; Even If Happiness Is Close By...
Another short Fire Emblem: Three Houses story, but weirder this time. Doesn't really directly spoil anything but it makes more sense if you've finished the Golden Deer route. Still going to put it in spoiler tags though since I'm not sure if I'd characterize as a spoiler or not exactly and the game is still new and you should play it.

Spaceship Orion
The sky was thick and hazy with smog, dying it a sickly yellow and, with her having been forced out of the climate-controlled train terminal, filtering into the young girl's lungs as she breathed and choked on it. Just walking in this air, her hair had begun to feel gritty and dirty. She felt overwhelmed, her body by the air, polluted far beyond her skin's ability to cleanse it, and her mind by fear, anger, and sadness. Her mother held her hand as they walked, and she looked up.

Even in a clear sky, she thought, the graphene cables would appear to stretch into eternity.

She was afraid of the unknown she was about to leap towards, angry at being forced to leave her home behind, and sad that she might never see it again. Even a hundred thousand moons from now, were she to live so long, it might not be possible to return.

Mercifully, they stepped through the doors into the filtered air of the base station. She could breathe somewhat clearly now as they lined up, the foyer filled with people in queues snaking around it from the ticket gates. It was hours before finally they approached the gates themselves, her mother and father going through as she was waved towards another gate. The man at the booth asked for her hand, and she held her palm out in front of her, calling forth from her blood a sigil that she suspended in the air, criss-crossed lace with wings outspread in flight.

He checked his computer screen to cross-reference it with her file and, oddly cheerful for what to her felt like such a emotionally charged moment, informed her that her ticket had been confirmed and her account charged, before waving her through the gates with instructions for which concourse to proceed to and a 'have a nice trip'. She pouted as she was reunited with her parents and they started up the stairs towards the second floor from the top where their gate was situated.

As they stepped off the staircase and walked towards the waiting area, she could see outside through the glass windows the elevator car, a huge circlular structure several stories tall sitting in the middle of the ring-shaped terminal, clinging to its cable. She pressed her hands up against the glass, peering out, and felt another pang of sadness thinking about how it would soon carry her far away.

It felt like it was all too soon that the boarding call came over the loudspeakers and they lined up again, walking through the long bridges that connected the concourse to the car. They took their seats by the window, and to take her mind off things she tried to engross herself in the safety card left in the pocket beside hers, going over its dreadfully boring, carefully-worded instructions on how to fold the seat flat to sleep in and what to do in the event of an emergency, the latter doing nothing for her nerves. By the time she looked up from it, she noticed her mother had left. She glanced to the next seat, feeling a little relieved that her father was still in his seat, leafing through a magazine.

Her mother soon reappeared, carrying a plastic bag in her hand, and sat down again. She evidently noticed the displeasure on her daughter's face.

"What's wrong, sweetie?".

"You left."

She gave a half-hearted smile and tossled her daughter's long, green hair. "I only went to buy a few things. You know I wouldn't leave you alone". She reached into the bag and took out a dessert in a plastic container. "See, I went and bought you your favorite pudding."

"Hmph". Despite her attempt to seem unimpressed, she took the pudding and the spoon her mother offered her with it, a bit of happiness and innocence back on her face, and her mother smiled again, more warmly this time, as she popped it open and took the first bite. She felt the electric motors come to life and the car begin to move, slowly at first and then faster and faster.

They climbed higher and higher into the sky as minutes turn into hours into days. It was four days and three nights before finally the elevator reached its peak and they disembarked into another vast terminal. Walking over panes of glass in the floor and looking down through them, she felt speechless awe and a dizzying fear of falling, looking down towards home from thirty six thousand kilometers up, floating in the heavens.

Even from here, she could make out that all-encompassing yellow haze. She could now see how the thickest of it covered only patches of the planet, though its thin, faint glint was everywhere.

From there, they filed through a labyrinth of corridors that felt so tangled she couldn't quite tell where they had passed from the station into the vessel itself, only a faint feeling that there was now no more turning back as she realized the subtle changes in her surroundings. Finally, they had reached a long corridor, the cold dark of space visible from skylights high above, its wall lined with little cells, only large enough for a person to comfortably lay down but well enough appointed with beds for the long journey ahead. Many of the doors were already closed, and a only a few others were still filtering in and getting comfortable before shutting theirs.

Her mother tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to one of the cells, the warm golden light and the crisp linens on the bed looking inviting. Just looking at it, she yawned, and her mother laughed. "Here's your compatment."

She knelt down and wrapped her arms around her, kissing her cheek and running a hand through her hair. "Don't worry, it will feel just like it's tomorrow when we wake up, and mommy and daddy will be there too. We'll find a new home together, ok?". She squeezed her a little tighter. "Goodnight, Sothis."

Her father tossled her hair as well. "Sleep tight."

Her mother released her and stood up, and Sothis nodded. "Goodnight."

Shields slowly slid over the skylights, and the bright lighting in the corridor faded to a low, warm orange as Sothis crawled in to bed and closed the door, before slipping out of her clothes and stuffing them haphazardly onto a shelf in the wall. She pulled the covers up and rested her head on the pillow, glanced at the little control panel at the back of the cell and fiddled with it, getting the temperature just right and, satisfied, turning down the lights. The knob clicked, and they went totally dark. It wasn't long before she nodded off.

For an incalcuably long time they flew and she slept, dreams coming and going and then fading out of memory. It was serene at first, and remained so for her even through the fear and the darkness that came.

Sothis opened her eyes, squinting as soon as she did, no longer accustomed to the bright sunlight. In fact, she had scarcely seen such a brilliantly bright sky, pale blue and obsctruted only by fluffy white clouds hanging over it. The chirps and squeaks of some manner of small creature filled her ears, and her whole body ached.

With her hand she shielded her eyes, and began to look around, first examining the spot where she lay. Metal, twisted and charred, and torn linens lay with her, though somehow her clothes, still sitting on the remains of a shelf, had survived mostly intact, and she drowsily pulled them on. Surveying her surroundings more broadly, she saw more wreckage as well, and found she had fallen in a field of dead grass amid a large, barren canyon. The grass felt brittle, crunching as she ran a hand over it, and the air felt dry as a bone. She felt a desperate need for a drink of water, and it scarcely seemed possible for there to be life in this world.

Suddenly, she was afraid. Faint memories ran through her mind, though whether they were truth or simply a half-remembered dream she couldn't tell. All she knew was that she had a deep feeling of being alone, and a sense of loss for something she could no longer quite place. And that even still, she didn't want to die. And even more so, she didn't want to die still alone. She looked down at her hand. The grass felt different now, and the tiniest bit of green had returned to the very tips of its blades, as if her touch had given it back life.

She struggled to her feet, and wondered just kind of world it was that she now made her new home.

And the notes;
Wrote this on a whim after kinda going down a rabbit hole. I happened to see someone tweet about the cover art for the SNES game Phalanx. I thought I remembered seeing it before and went looking for more about the game and found an AVGN video about it and happened to see a comment on the video mentioned a song called Spaceship Orion by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and looked that up. Besides the song itself I found a music blog analyzing it and mentioning the lyrics being about leaving a planet that's become uninhabitable, which I honestly somehow hadn't realized. I've been thinking a lot about the prehistory of Fodlan and fic ideas I have involving it, and listening to the song I came up with this.

Bernadetta von Varley

Bluebird; Even If Happiness Is Close By...
This isn't content anyone asked for but it's content I thought of.

I started a third playthrough of Three Houses tonight and needed a name for Byleth. I've been using names from all the half-finished conlangs I have laying around and ended up doing the same again, reusing a name that I gave to an RP character elsewhere, and that got me thinking about what house all of my characters would choose if they played the game. I feel like it's not something anyone else would be interested in since it's so self indulgent and silly and I almost feel like at this point I'm too disconnected from my OCs to say for sure but I thought it was fun to think about so I'm going to post it anyway.

Granya would probably pick Golden Deer. Blue Lions would appeal to her sense of morality but she would identify more with Deer being a bunch of (seemingly) easygoing, good-natured, and quirky merchants and peasants (well, the majority of their students are still nobles, but still). It never became relevant in our campaign so I never really came to a decision on what her sexuality was or what she would look for in a partner so I don't know who she would consider S supporting.

Umeko wouldn't play Fire Emblem. After getting browbeaten by Subaru, Ran, and Ringo into trying it, she would pick Black Eagles as seemingly the default route. She would become progressively more terrified by the game's events and possibly give up after chapter 8 or chapter 9. If she made it to chapter 11, there's a good chance she would have missed the condition for the route split, and even if she had she would find both Edelgard and Rhea too scary to make a choice and would finally give Subaru her Switch back and stop playing.

Subaru would be torn between Black Eagles being the gay rights house and Golden Deer being the meme house. Would probably lean towards the Golden Deer because they're the more lighthearted crowd. Would not be disappointed by Claude embracing his inner shonen anime hero and overcoming evil with the power of friendship and memes at the end of Verdant Wind. Given how much she loves Umeko being shy and moe I think she'd probably like Bernadetta and be a little disappointed she couldn't marry her as F!Byleth. My personality isn't anything like Subaru's but apparently we have basically the exact same taste and it's making me wonder if I'm just basing this off my own personal bias.

Ran is gay and wants to watch the world burn. Automatic Black Eagles Edelgard picker. Sees Hubert as a kindred spirit, but given her crush on Subaru might rather marry someone more bubbly and less literally (figuratively) dracula, but all of the normal F/F options in Three Houses are extremely depressed and F!Byleth can't marry Annette who is maybe the bubbliest character (although post-timeskip she gets kind of depressed too since Blue Lions lol). So she probably S supports Edelgard, Hubert, or since she does just want to watch the world burn maybe Sothis. She lowkey likes both Edelgard and Rhea more as characters on the routes that go against them because she thinks it's cool how vicious they are.

Yasuko wouldn't play Fire Emblem and wouldn't let her friends make her play it. Also she was the least developed of the main cast as a character so I don't know who and what she would like. Watching Ran play through Black Eagles she might have a natural bias against Edelgard because her (Yasuko's) family is rich as fuck.

Ringo plays Fire Emblem partly because she's a huge RPG addict and partly for the fanservice (favorite/kindred spirit characters; Nina and Soleil from Fates). Is a big enough shitposter and enough of a problematically stereotypical sex-crazed bi girl probably bi for Claude enough to pick Golden Deer and probably S supports him. Possibly enough of a fujo to be a bit annoyed that M!Byleth can't marry Claude even though she wasn't going to play as M!Byleth anyway. Her Felix/Sylvain doujin will be available at Winter Comiket this year. Canonically she would be 18 now so it's definitely an R-18 doujin too.

(Seriously though in hindsight I'm not sure what exactly I was thinking writing Ringo. I feel like Ran was also kind of a stereotype, but I feel less uncomfortable about how I wrote her as a crazy lesbian because I eventually did figure her out as a character with how her creepy persona is just partly her having a quirky sense of humor and partly a defensive mechanism for her because she has trouble connecting to other people. Actually I'm not sure sure how much sense that makes when that's the thing that drives people away from her but whatever.)

Shiori is more into PC (and mobile, since her secret guilty pleasure is cute girl gacha games) gaming than console and prefers FPSes and the like to RPGs/strategy, but if Ringo talking about it got her interested enough she would definitely have been reading all the pre-release info and might (I think most people did?) assume Blue Lions are Order. She wouldn't like the boar prince though if she got to know him (in common with a certain other tsundere), and would like Edelgard for how no-nonsense she is and how she doesn't take bullshit, so would maybe lean Black Eagles. Edelgard might be too much of a rabble-rouser for her though, so she's a semi-reluctant Church route picker. Too closeted to admit it to her offline friends but she has a fetish for twintail girls and would be salty F!Byleth can't marry Hilda. Spent real money on orbs to pull Hilda in FEH; she's her lead unit and Summoner S support now.

Bernadetta von Varley

Bluebird; Even If Happiness Is Close By...
Based on me and Turb's headcanon/in-joke about Lute and Knoll from Sacred Stones being Lysithea's parents. Also I recommend you read the first two paragraphs in Jeralt's voice.

On the Setting Star's Eve

As the Red Wolf Moon becomes the Ethereal Moon and the Blue Sea Star vanishes again into the darkness of the heavens for the winter, the people of Fódlan, in times long past, feared that the disappearance of the Goddess' home from their sight signaled the weakening of Her protection. Fearful of the long nights to come and the evil lurking in them, they marked the moon's end with revelry and, hoping to trick malevolent spirits into passing them by, decorated their houses and their shops and dressed themselves in ghastly costumes on the Setting Star's Eve.

In all of Fódlan, it is said that the Setting Star's Eve festival in Derdriu, capital of the Leicester Alliance, was grander than any other, even those held in Enbarr and Fhirdiad...

Derdriu, Duchy of Riegan, Leicester
Red Wolf 30th, 1172

Dusk settling over Derdriu's old town and the tall masts of ships in the harbor swaying in the cold breeze billowing off the Sea of Sreng, Lute grasped her daughter's hand as they strolled along the market street packed with street vendors and throngs of costumed festival-goers. The shops and stalls were decorated top-to-bottom with jack-o'-lanterns and woven webs and plaster bones, and smoke rose into the evening sky from bonfires lit in the larger plazas.

Nominally, her and Knoll's reason for taking leave of Ordelia territory had been the meeting of the Alliance Roundtable to begin in a little over a week, but this had been the reason she had insisted on making a family trip out of her business in Derdriu. It had been many years since she last had the opportunity to visit the city on the Setting Star's Eve, and she had greatly missed the extravagance of the adorably spooky decorations and incredible variety of food and wares for sale in the markets, with vendors coming from as far away as Almyra and Sreng. Lysithea was old enough to truly appreciate it now, so to be able to share it with her was a bonus as well. She had even prepared matching costumes, witch's hats and artistically tattered robes, for the two of them to wear.

She felt Lysithea tug on her cloak. "Mom, mom."

Stopping and turning around, she saw her daughter pouting and pointing at a stall serving pheasant sandwiches. She suddenly realized that in her excitement and curiosity she had gone from stall to stall, surveying the wares in detail and asking each proprietor a barrage of technical questions about their dish or craft, all while neglecting to actually buy any of them. By now she was quite hungry, and she could only imagine Lysithea was as well.

"Oh. Of course. It's been some time since we ate, hasn't it?". The line for this vendor was mercifully short, and it took only a few minutes before it was their turn to order. She peered at the pounded slices of pheasant frying in the pan, but it appeared to be utterly typical Derdriu-style pheasant. Given that, she skipped the questioning and simply asked for two sandwiches.

"With extra berry sauce, mom", Lysithea added, tugging on her clothing again. Lute peered over the stall's counter; berry sauce wasn't typical in the traditional Derdriu-style preparation. Fortunately for them, this vendor appeared to nevertheless have a jar on hand.

"With extra berry sauce", Lute repeated. A few moments later, the proprietor handed her the sandwiches, half-wrapped in paper, and she paid, handing one to Lysithea in turn before they started walking again. Seeing her about to take a huge bite out of it, Lute stopped her.

"It's quite hot", she said, kneeling down and blowing on Lysithea's sandwich. Her daughter frowned, clearly embarrassed, as she stood up again. "It wouldn't be good if you burned yourself, you know?".

"I-I know that. Of course it's hot. And I could blow on it myself, mom. Hmph!". Pouting some more, she did just that, as if mainly to prove her point, and then took a small bite as they started walking again.

"Ok", Lute said, unfazed. The thought crossed her mind that, given how she acted now, Lysithea's behavior would likely be both unbearable and utterly fascinating by the time she was a teenager. She bit in to her own sandwich as they walked, glancing around at various stalls and making mental notes of more she wanted to come back to.

"After this I will buy some sweets", she stated after they spent a few minutes quietly strolling again. "Maybe poppyseed donuts. I saw a stall that had a very pleasant looking preparation of them."

She glanced at her daughter's face. Seeing her eyes light up at her mention of buying sweets, she smiled and started humming to herself.

Lysithea went to take a bite of her donut, pausing just before taking a bite when she noticed her mother staring at her. Like the sandwich earlier, it was piping hot, just out of the fryer. She blew on it, not wanting Lute, who by all accounts was the strangest adult – no, strangest person – she knew, to embarrass her yet again with her eccentricities, and took a nibble.

Her mouth curled into a little frown. It wasn't bad, but she had expected it to be sweeter, and the slightly gritty texture of the poppyseed filling didn't make her much more enthusiastic about it. Still, given it was, she had decided, her mission in life to sample every type of sweet known to Fódlan, she felt satisfied for having tried it. She wondered if it was one of those 'mature' flavors that only adults fully understood.

She finished the donut, her craving for sweets not quite satisfied despite her feeling, after a whole sandwich and a whole donut on top of that, completely full. She cursed herself for being too prideful to accept her mother's suggestion of getting a single donut to share.

They stopped in front of another stall and Lute set about studying each and every trinket on display. Lysithea looked at them herself, the single eye-like design on some of the pendants suddenly unnerving her.

"This is cute", Lute said, picking up one of the creepy pendants. "It reminds me of a Mogall. What sort of meaning is attached to this design?".

"Ah, in Almyra, we call it nazar. It is said it wards off evil", the stall-keeper replied, and her mother listened intently as he answered her follow-up question about the artisanship behind the pendants. After their conversation, she reached into her coin purse and handed over a few silver pieces before draping the pendant around her neck, and they began walking again.

"Mom... W-What's a Mogall...?". She knew for sure she would regret this, but she just couldn't fathom how something that her mother likened to that pendant could be considered cute, and her curiosity got the better of her.

"It's a kind of monster spawned from the demon king", Lute answered matter-of-factly, as if that sentence alone wasn't frightening. "It has a round body like a single giant eyeball--", it just kept getting worse. "--and countless tentacles trailing behind it that are used for absorbing food. They tend to attack their prey with arcane magic". Lysithea gulped. It took a moment, but Lute noticed her worry.

"It's fine. Their natural range doesn't include anywhere in Fódlan. You'll never meet one, unless you seek it out yourself" she said, ruffling Lysithea's hair. That put her at ease a little, and she nodded. "...Ok."

They paused in front of a building, its facade especially lavish in its decorations. A young woman, cheerful looking in a way that was incongruous with her face, painted an eerie gray with darker gray scales painted on her cheeks, and her pitch-black robes, stood by the front door, and a handwritten sign hung above it reading University of Derdriu drama club fundraiser HAUNTED HOUSE, the last two words heavily emphasized with larger capital lettering.

"Good evening!", she chirped, glancing at them and pulling her cloak closer around her as a gust of wind blew down the street. Lysithea grabbed at her hat, fearful the wind might blow it off her head. "One adult and one child would be eight silver pieces."

Lysithea tugged on her mother's hand and Lute stopped in the middle of taking the coins from her pouch to look over at her. "Is something wrong Lysithea? It probably won't be too scary."

"I-I'm not scared, mom...", she replied unconvincingly. Lute kept her eyes on her, a slightly concerned look on her face, but when she didn't admit her fear went back to fishing the silver pieces out and handing them to the attendant. "Thank you! Have fun!", the woman said, opening the door and greeting the next person in line as Lysithea steeled herself, Lute leading her through into the front hall.

Even with the last bit of evening light streaming in through the door, it was dark inside with only a few candles to illuminate the room, and that small amount of light reflected oddly off of shattered mirrors lining the walls. The floorboards creaked loudly as they walked, and Lysithea jumped as she heard the door slam behind them and the handful of other customers who had followed them in. She clung to Lute as they turned the corner.

Faintly, a screeching, out-of-tune violin began to play. Entering the parlor, they found a table perfectly set for an extravagant dinner, a large roast pheasant as its centerpiece surrounded by bowls of sides and neat place-settings.

The chairs, however, as they soon saw, were strewn around overturned on the floor. In the flickering candlelight, it became apparent the tablecloth was stained red. Perhaps from the mostly empty bottle of wine sitting on it, or...

The violin grew louder, though it still had no apparent source.

Lysithea shivered, glancing from side to side. She had to find the violin, but she didn't dare step away from her mother.

They reached the door at the other end of the parlor and, seemingly on its own, it swung open for them. The music was growing louder still as they passed through it and turned on to a long, dimly-lit corridor, doors on either side barred with wood. As they walked further, percussion was added to the mysterious violin.

They walked the length of the corridor, finding a door on their right hanging open, a steep, narrow staircase beyond it. By now, the source of the 'percussion' they heard had become apparent.

Someone, it seemed, was behind the doors they had passed by, beating on them with their fists.

The stairs groaned as Lute set foot on them ahead of her. Lysithea hesitated, but, taking a deep breath, forced herself to follow. The staircase felt a little unsteady as they ascended it, the boards that creaked and moaned with each step seeming like they could collapse at any moment. It felt like an eternity before they reached the top of the steps, opening up on to another corridor.

The music, and the tortured beating coming from behind the doors, had faded by now.

A single door was open, and they walked through it, finding themselves in a an odd room lined with clothing racks, heavy cloaks hanging on them. Lysithea heard a gust of wind blow through the room, rustling the cloaks.

At first she saw it out of the corner of eye. When she dared look clearly, she saw the cloaks moving as if they had a mind of their own, seeming to creep closer to them.

Lysithea had finally seen enough, shutting her eyes tight and clinging closer to her mother. The rest of the haunted house, up and down staircases, around corners and through corridors, passed as a blur of noises, and she whispered to herself all the way, reminding herself it wasn't real.

Eventually, they stopped, and she dared to open her eyes again, just to peek out and see if they were safe now.

Instead, she saw a figure, its grim face, bearded and scarred, illuminated in the candlelight.

As if he had walked straight out of a church fresco depicting the Battle of Tailtean, the Fell King Nemesis himself rose from a coffin in front of her. Her eyes went wide and she finally broke down completely, letting out a scream.

"Stand back, all of you!", she heard someone shout. Her head snapped to look at the direction it came from, and she saw a women standing there. She didn't recognize her as one of the others who had been following behind them. A sword glinted in the faint light as she drew it. "Go! Don't worry for me or look back!".

They walked swiftly, towards brighter lights ahead, Lute pulling her along behind her. Against her better judgement, Lysithea glanced back over her shoulder as they went, seeing the woman cross swords with Nemesis before they turned a corner into a better lit room and at long last emerged from the building through a back door.

The sky was almost completely dark by now. Lysithea fell to her knees, trying desperately to catch her breath.

"Hmm. It was really quite well done, even though it was easy to see how they did most of the tricks", Lute said. "The scene with the actors portraying Nemesis and Seiros was quite creative and well executed. I suppose you would expect that from a drama club."

"Ah, what did you think of it, Lysithea?", she asked. Not hearing any response besides panting, she looked behind her, seeing her daughter, a terrified look on her face, kneeling on the cobblestone pavement. Realization dawned on her and she suddenly felt guilty. Crouching down as well, she laid her hand on Lysithea's shoulder.

"So it really was too scary for you, wasn't it?". Lysithea nodded, on the verge of tears. "...Meanie! Meanie! You're so mean to me, mom! I-I... I wanted to say I was scared, but...". Seeing her like this, she felt awful. Knoll was always better with children than she was...

Lute wrapped her arms around Lysithea. "It's ok. I was there with you the whole time. Nothing's going to hurt you...". She ruffled her hair again. "And I'm sorry. I mean it. Ok?". Lysithea nodded, still sniffling. "You should say so if you're scared. Don't be afraid to". Another nod. She started humming a little, and Lysithea finally started to calm down some.

She stood up after a little while, stretching her arms. "How about some more sweets. That would make it up to you, right?".

"Mmhm...", Lysithea nodded a third time. "But... I'm full."

"Oh. Well in that case--", she paused for a moment, thinking. "--How about a stuffed animal?". She saw her daughter's eyes light up and grabbed her hand again as they started walking.

"You know, I think I saw one of the Almyran vendors selling them. He said that in Almyra they're called 'Nader bears'... I'm not sure how they expect to sell them in Fódlan calling them that. It's rather odd, really. Oh, I suppose that might not mean very much to you though...".

Knoll sighed. It had been a long day, meeting with students and faculty at the university and, although he certainly enjoyed his work, he was thoroughly exhausted. The sun's light was completely gone from the sky now, the city lit only by flickering lamps and the plethora of holiday jack-o'-lanterns.

Of course, it was just his typical luck that he had gotten lost after leaving and hadn't been able to find the place where he and Lute had decided to meet up. Even as little as he visited Derdriu, he should really have a better grasp of its geography by now. At this rate it would be better to return to the palace – Duke Riegan had been quite generous in allowing them the guest wing of his city residence – otherwise he might wander all night looking for her and Lysithea.

"Dad, dad!", he heard someone yell. Looking around, he was relieved to see Lysithea dashing towards him across the plaza, Lute trailing behind looking characteristically nonchalant. He knelt down as she closed the distance between them and gave her a hug. "How have you been Lysithea?", he asked, and she frowned. "...Mom made me go through a haunted house with her. But I decided to forgive her, because she bought me a teddy bear."

He laughed a little, noticing Lute holding the bear under her arm. "...Well, it wouldn't be good if you couldn't forgive your mother."

"It didn't seem particularly scary to me. But the results weren't as I expected", Lute chimed in.

Knoll shook his head as he stood up. "Lute... Your idea of what's frightening and what isn't is...".

"I apologized and bought her a bear. She forgave me. We're good now". Lute leaned in and gave him a quick kiss.

"Well, I suppose if it worked out then it's fine."

"I'm glad we agree."

Knoll let out a sigh and smiled. "You never change, Lute."

"Maybe", she replied. "Say. There's somewhere else we should go before we return for the night."

The three of them walked north and, passing through the gates of the old town, began to climb the street that lead uptown, the crisp air of the late autumn night around them as they turned on to a side street that soon became a staircase cut in to the rocky hills north of the port. In spite of Lysithea's protests they continued until at last they reached the overlook, gazing out over the illuminated city floating on the water below them.

"It was worth the climb, wasn't it?", Lute asked, glancing at Lysithea looking out in awe. She responded with an emphatic nod before turning to take in the view again.

"...I'm hungry again though."

"I'll buy you more sweets then. But first we'll need to walk back down". Lysithea's beaming expression changed to a pout.

"...I suppose one of us can carry you if you're that tired out."

Bernadetta von Varley

Bluebird; Even If Happiness Is Close By...
Edelgard sees snow for the first time. I had this idea out of the blue while listening to wintery music and I just had to write it. Spoilers for the Blue Lions route up to the end of part one.

Snow Day
Dimitri stirred, rubbing his eyes as he sat up and glanced around the room. A faint flame was still visible over the embers from last night in the fireplace, but Edelgard was nowhere to be seen, the sheets and blankets next to his empty and rumpled.

It wasn't so often that he had the chance to see her, and when Volkhard had offered him and his father the guest rooms at his villa outside Fhirdiad in lieu of them making the trip back to the castle late at night, Dimitri had insisted he wanted to keep playing with Edelgard. When Lambert had finally put his foot down and told him it was time to sleep, he now insisted, despite his embarrassment and Edelgard's initially annoyed response, that he would rather sleep on the floor in her room than in a guest room.

His father and Volkhard had finally relented, but only on the condition that the two of them instead sleep in this parlor, after which Edelgard, who had refrained from weighing in to back up either his insistence that she wanted to sleep together too or her uncle's that she did not, begrudgingly agreed to it. Before they both nodded off they had spent the time quietly talking, Edelgard mainly complaining about how cold Faerghus was time of year.

He stood up and stretched his arms, not bothering to fold up his sheets either. It was quite early this Sunday morning, although late enough that the sun was already out, and it seemed like he and Edelgard were the only people awake in the house. It didn't take much wandering before he saw where she had gone. Still in her pajamas, she was standing by a window, looking awe-struck as she pressed her face up against it.

"...El?". She turned to look at him. "Oh, it's you. Good morning, Dimitri."

"Is something wrong outside El? What's going on?".

She looked a little embarrassed. "No, it's nothing."

Dimitri glanced outside. Overnight, the world outside had been covered in a blanket of snow. It seemed quite deep, as hard as it was to judge just by peering at it from inside, and still falling lightly. Could she...?

"Uh... Umm... Could it be you've never seen snow before El?".

"I said it's nothing, Dimitri! Hmph!". She turned away from him in a huff. "But...", her expression softened and she stole a glance out the window again. "In Enbarr it's quite warm. Even in the winter it only rains, most of the time. I saw it once or twice but--", she searched for how to describe it. "--just a tiny bit. Like a bit of sugar on a cake. So... I've heard of it, but this is the first time I've seen it like this."

"I see... Hey--". Dimitri paused and she looked at him again. "--Do you want to go out and play?".

"Oh, I couldn't. Uncle worries. He gets upset sometimes when I go outside without asking him first."

"Come on, El... No one else is up, and maybe we can come back in before they do get up! Don't you want to?".

"I do want to, yes, but...". Dimitri's eyes face lit up as she answered.

"Ok, go put on something warm!". Dimitri hurried back to the parlor to find his clothes from yesterday.

"Sshh, Dimitri! If we're sneaking out then--", she tried to warn him, but he didn't listen as he ran off. She sighed, sneaking up the stairs to her bedroom. After changing into warm clothes and rummaging for the new coat Volkhard had bought for her in Arianrhod when they first arrived in Faerghus, she descended the stairs again quietly and, satisfied that no one had heard her, walked to the foyer.

As soon as he saw her, Dimitri went to open the door, but she shushed him again. Tiptoeing closer, she slipped her boots on and slowly opened the door herself, careful to make as little noise as possible. She shivered as the cold air hit and wordlessly ushered Dimitri through before exiting herself, closing the door behind them.

The awe-struck look from before returned to Edelgard's face as they stepped out from under the portico and their boots sank into the deep snow, her eyes and mouth going wide. She looked up at the sky before holding her hands out, then looked down again and watched the snowflakes fall on her mittens, before pulling one off and kneeling on the ground, grabbing a handful of snow and flinching at how cold it felt on her skin. She quickly let it fall through her fingers and slipped the mitten back on.

She dashed through the snow into the middle of the lawn and turned around, looking back at the villa. Its roof was covered as well, as were the trees around the house. She tried to twirl around, but the depth made it difficult and she tripped, screaming as she fell and landing softly in the snow.

"El, El, are you alright?", Dimitri asked, looking down at her with a concerned look on his face.

"...Yeah, I'm fine". She watched as Dimitri's face brightened up again and, smiling, he let himself fall backwards into the snow himself. Getting up, she saw him sweep his arms and legs back and forth, making the form of an angel in the snow, and couldn't help but laugh.

Dimitri stopped, sitting up in the impression he'd made, and started giggling as well. "You try too!", he said through his laughter.

"Alright, alright". She took a deep breath and, copying him, fell backwards and swept her arms, before standing up again to survey her work.

"Hey, hey, do you want to see something else El?", he asked. She looked away from her snow angel to see Dimitri forming a ball out of snow in his hands. "Sure!", she replied. He grinned, raising his hand while still holding the snowball. "Ok! Catch!".

He threw it and Edelgard's eyes went wide as it flew towards her face at high speed. Reflexively she raised her hands in front of her face just before it slammed in to her and fell apart. She lowered her hands, glaring at Dimitri. "Hey! Don't throw it so hard! Dummy!".

"But I tried to throw it slow!", he protested. "I just can't help it. My stupid Crest...".

"Alright, I'll get you back then! It's on!", she shouted at him, grinning with a glint in her eyes as she grabbed a handful of snow herself and rolled it into a ball, tossing it as hard as he could. It hit him square in the chest and made him stumble back a step. "El! Come on, it's not fair if you try to throw it like that!".

She pointed her finger at him across the snow-covered lawn. "I hereby declare war on you, Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd! In war you just play to win no matter what!".

Dimitri burst out laughing. "Ok, then I'll play to win too!". The two of them began tossing a flurry of snowballs at each other, most of them missing as they ran around, attempting to snipe each other from behind trees and giggling all the way.

"Edelgard! Edelgard!". Standing in front of the portico, she froze, arm in mid-swing just as she was about to let yet another snowball fly, upon hearing her uncle's voice inside the house. She gulped, slowly turning her head, and saw him standing in the front door.

"...Uncle, I--", she started. "--...Oh, it's all Dimitri's fault! It was his idea!".

"You wanted to too El!", Dimitri yelled, throwing the snowball in his own hands and frowning as Edelgard deftly dodged it.

"You said we'd be back inside before anyone woke up!", she fired back, tossing her snowball at him.

"...Yeah, but you were having too much fun to go inside too, weren't you?!".

Volkhard sighed. "El, you'll miss breakfast", he began, exasperated. "You must be starving by now with how energetic you seem to have been this morning. Come now, I'm not going to scold you just for playing on the lawn. I've put on a pot of the bergamot you like too."

"Hmph, fine", she said, finally giving in and walking towards the house. Dimitri followed behind, and she looked over her shoulder, smiling at him from the portico. "Thanks, Dimitri. For showing me how to play in snow, I mean."

"Oh, it's not really anything special like that, but you're welcome". She rolled her eyes. "Just take the compliment, ok? I mean...--", she twiddled her fingers. "--I just like playing with you, so...".

Dimitri smiled warmly. "Mhm! I like playing with you too... You know...--", he paused, and Edelgard waited for him to finish. "Even if you have to go back home someday... Let's promise to still be friends. Ok, El?".

Edelgard nodded.

"I promise, Dimitri."

Bernadetta von Varley

Bluebird; Even If Happiness Is Close By...
Part 1/15 of my attempt to write short stories with Bernadetta and all of the characters she supports with, counting down to her birthday. This was supposed to be fluffier but ended up being a little sad, I guess because I've been in no mood to write fluff. Hopefully the next one will be more upbeat, although I'm not sure if I'm going to able to keep this up for two weeks so I can't promise I'll actually get to everything.

Starting out with Edelgard and following (mostly) the order they're listed in the support gallery. I'm still really ambivalent about Edelgard and especially given that I'm not sure she's in character here, but I always find that writing a character helps me appreciate them a bit more. Minor spoilers for the Crimson Flower route of Fire Emblem: Three Houses up to Chapter 16, but doesn't spoil any major plot points.

Rereading this to spell check it and do some minor editing I realized I somehow forgot that Byleth's hair turns green and made an offhand mention of it being teal. Glad I caught that.

With one hand, Bernadetta balanced the heavy basket on her knee as she opened the door with her other, starting up the stairs that led to the second floor dormitories.

She was almost done with her monastery duties for the day; at the war council meeting, Hubert had tasked her with the rather mundane job of collecting the day's paper garbage to be burned. Usually this wasn't the sort of job handled by an Imperial general, but circumstances had left everyone on edge after it became evident that information about troop movements had been leaked, meaning the security of the monastery had been compromised. The speculation had gotten ugly, with the loyalties of one officer in particular – what was her name, again? Mercedes or something like that? – who had apparently been raised in Faerghus – and was quite devout, to boot – being called in to question by some before Edelgard had put her foot down, insisting that neither nationality nor faith were reason enough alone to suspect them of espionage.

Given all that, it was surprisingly nerve-wracking, even if she was flattered that someone like Hubert entrusted her with it. That was a strange thing to think now that she thought it, being flattered that she'd been told to run around gathering people's trash.

As she passed the first door, she glanced inside. Who had that room belonged to? It was a little eerie to look inside it. Though much of whatever remained in the dorm rooms once occupied by students who they now found on the opposite side of the war had been taken and put to other uses, the blue carpet, a bit worse for wear, was still there, marking the room's former resident as being a Blue Lion.

Two more doors hung ajar, furniture gone but golden carpet remaining, and she passed them by before arriving at a room she knew was still in use. Again balancing her basket, she rapped on the door. "...Do you have any paper, Lady Edelgard? ...Oh, I mean, that you're throwing away. Paper garbage."

"Yes, just a moment", she answered. Bernadetta heard the shuffle of papers inside, and then Edelgard seemed to pause. Evidently making up her mind about whether to throw something out, she shuffled the papers around again before opening the door, placing her small stack in the basket. At this rate, one basket might not be enough for everything.

"Thank you. It's been a busy day so i suppose there's quite a few documents to burn."

Bernadetta shook her head. "It's fine. I'm just doing my part, you know?". One more time she balanced the basket on her knee, reaching for the door. "Oh, no, I can get it Bernade--".

As Edelgard spoke, Bernadetta felt herself go off balance just a tiny bit. She caught it, but as she did her hand slipped, and the basket, full of sensitive documents, tumbled to the floor.

She winced, shouting in frustration, and got down on her knees, frantically grasping at pieces of paper. "...Aaagh! Oh no, oh no, oooh--".

"...Calm down, Bernadetta. It's not the end of the world". Edelgard cut her off, sighing as she knelt down herself and started to help her gather up everything that had spilled out of the basket.

Bernadetta took a deep breath. "...Yeah. You're right. Ok, I can still do this."

Placing the handful of documents she had already picked up back in the basket, she went back to gathering more. At the sight of one of the papers, however, she paused. It clearly wasn't a report from the front or an administrative document, but instead appeared to be, of all things, a painting of their former professor, now the Empire's tactician, not to mention one of Edelgard's closest confidants. She picked it up, examining it and wondering why anyone would throw it away. Evident as it was that it was the work of a relative novice, she wouldn't describe it as bad by any means.

"Huh... A little flat, but overall it's pretty good. A little perspective instead of being straight on and some work on the shading and it could really shine". She glanced over at Edelgard. "I wonder who drew th--".

She froze, her eyes going wide, as she saw the look on Edelgard's face, embarrassed – which was an emotion she had never seen from Edelgard before – and a bit annoyed, and put it together.

"--...I'm sorry! I get it, I'll forget I ever saw and I'll burn it for you and then I'll burn my memory I guess and then--".

Edelgard sighed again. "...No, it's alright Bernadetta. Believe me, it's less embarrassing than having the subject of the painting see it. It's just...". She paused. "Say, you paint, do you not? As bad as this attempt was I would still like to try again, even if I don't have the free time to practice much, and I think your advice would be helpful."

"Me...? Oh, I'm not that good, really. There are people way better at painting than me, Lady Edelgard, even here at the monastery I'm sure. You should try asking someone else first...".

She shook her head. "I'm asking you first. In fact, from what I've heard you're quite the talented painter. I really would like to hear your thoughts. Please, when you're done with your work, come over". Edelgard put the last few papers she had gathered up in the basket and took the painting back from Bernadetta. "And I suppose I won't throw this out after all, if you really believe it shows potential."

Bernadetta picked up the basket. "Umm... Well, if you insist I guess I have to, don't I?".

"Please, don't think of it like that either."

"Oh, umm, ok, I'll try?". Edelgard opened her mouth to say something, but just sighed, letting her go.

Finishing her rounds of the dormitory and walking back down the stairs, Bernadetta stepped out into the cool spring evening air. A few more stops remained, and mercifully the remaining paper just barely fit in a single basket as she set off to burn it. Returning to her room, she thought about Edelgard's request, and decided that it wouldn't hurt to at least see if there was anything she could give pointers on. Passing by her door, she again climbed the steps to the second floor dorms and rapped on Edelgard's door.

"Ah, Bernadetta", she said as she opened it. "I wasn't sure you would come."

Bernadetta stepped inside. "Yeah... I mean, I'll help you if I can, but...".

Edelgard opened a drawer in her desk, retrieving a little-used palette, a set of brushes, and a few pieces of paper, laying one down as she took a seat and setting the others aside. She took a small bottle of paint from a shelf and began to mix colors, before making a hesitant first brushstroke on the page. Bernadetta stood uncomfortably next to her, watching as she worked.

"...I know I asked you to help, Bernadetta, but please, if you wouldn't mind, could you not watch so closely? I'll get... Self-conscious."

"O-Oh... I'm sorry. I'll, uh... Watch distantly then". She took a few steps away.

"Thank you. Sorry, I didn't mean to sound so harsh", she said, pausing before she continued speaking. "You know, you don't have to be so uncritical on my account. When you praised my painting earlier, I mean. I would like to hear what you really thought of it."

"I did tell you what I really thought of it. Though if I'd realized what I was saying before it just tumbled out of my mouth like that I wouldn't have said anything... I'm sorry, you're just... Still a little scary to me. And I mean, you're the Emperor, after all...".

"I think of you as a friend, Bernadetta, not just as a subject or a soldier. And I want you to think of me as a friend too, not just the Emperor". She paused again, sketching. "And really, it wasn't awful?".

"...Really. ...I guess it's easy to see the flaws in something you painted yourself. I always think my paintings are awful too, even when people tell me they like them."

"Hmm... It's easy to see others as being stronger than yourself sometimes, isn't? You can't know what sort of doubts they have inside... Say, how long have you been painting for?".

"Oh, as long as I can remember. I had a lot of time to just paint and write while I was holed up in my room. I suppose it helped me get better at it. I did it a lot. What about you?".

Edelgard dipped a brush in the pool of blue paint she had mixed. "I've never really had the time or opportunity for such things. Even now there are only a few spare moments in which I can indulge in hobbies. Maybe someday when the war is over I'll take it up more seriously."

"I see", Bernadetta replied, nodding. She glanced closer at the painting, the form of the Professor's face starting to take shape, and meekly gave a few pointers before stepping away again as Edelgard had requested.

"You really care about Professor Eisner, huh? Somehow I could really feel that when I looked at the other painting."

Edelgard looked up from the painting abruptly. "About Byle--... Me?! I, well, I mea--". She glanced down again. "...Ah, I smudged it now."

Bernadetta giggled, trying to stifle it in fear of what Edelgard's reaction might be, but feeling relieved as she seemed to take it in stride. "It's not the end of the world, La-- ...Edelgard."

Bernadetta von Varley

Bluebird; Even If Happiness Is Close By...
Part 2/15 is Hubert. Lords and retainers are listed first in the support gallery, and as a Black Eagle Bernadetta obviously has supports with the house leader and her retainer, so two of the like three playable characters I'm probably the most ambivalent about (shoutouts to Gilbert!) are first. This one is set pre-timeskip and has no real spoilers in it.

Bernadetta is actually surprisingly hard for me to write, I'm finding. I feel like she's coming across about right here but that there's... Not much depth to my portrayal of her, I guess? Part of that is probably just because I'm kind of forcing myself to write, which probably isn't something ends well, and that I just haven't been feeling well most days lately, although another part might be that yesterday I read a pretty good Bernadetta fic that I think captured her character better than I can.

"...The wyvern stables are right over this way", Cyril said, looking over his shoulder at Bernadetta and Hubert and gesturing for them to follow. Bernadetta took a deep breath. "A-Alright, yeah...". The thought of riding on a wyvern was frightening enough, but what was even worse was being stuck with Hubert as her partner for flight lessons. But, the Professor and Edelgard had recommended both of them take the lessons, and so there wasn't much she could do about it.

They reached the stables, and she saw a handler leading one of the creatures by the reins. As they got closer, it sank in just how big it was; even just one of its legs was at least as big as she was, and its head, armored in bands of green scales and with yellow eyes set deeply in it, was about as long as her torso. As massive and powerful as it looked though, its mannerisms were surprisingly docile, and she almost could have called it cute in its own way.

"Quite a fearsome beast, isn't it?", Hubert said.

"They look a lot meaner than they really are", Cyril answered. He turned to look at Bernadetta again. "You're an archer, aren't ya? I've seen you training."

"Oh, me...? Yes... W-Why do you ask?".

"Compared to a pegasus, wyverns may be bigger and slower, but they're more steady too. It's hard ta shoot a bow from a pegasus, but on a wyvern it's not bad."

"You seem quite knowledgable, Cyril. Can you ride them?", Hubert asked. Cyril shook his head. "Only a little. I'm not good yet. But where I come from – in Almyra – the strongest warriors ride them and shoot from wyvern-back. And I do know about how to take care of them."

Bernadetta could hardly comprehend how a kid like him – he was shorter than she was, although she didn't know how old he was – could fearlessly carry on a conversation with Hubert. Even a lot of people who weren't like her, who weren't so useless that they crumbled into a big ball of anxiety and fear at anyone even remotely intimidating, seemed terrified of Hubert. Even Professor Eisner looked unnerved sometimes when dealing with them.

Well, at least if they kept up a conversation, she could fade into the background and take a breather here.

"That must be quite difficult for you", Hubert responded. "Many in Fódlan don't take kindly to outsiders or nonbelievers, as I'm sure you've no doubt experienced first-hand."

Cyril shrugged. "Nah, it's not so bad. Anyway, you two wanna get started? The instructor's here."

"Certainly", Hubert answered. It must have been her mind playing tricks on her, but Bernadetta could have sworn there was the tiniest bit of apprehension in his usually unflappable demeanor.

"Y-Yeah... May as well get it over with...".

With the flight instructor and Cyril giving them pointers, the former questioning them on if they'd rode a horse before – both her and Hubert had – to have at least some relevant experience, they clambered into their saddles, Bernadetta requiring a boost from the instructor to climb up and profusely apologizing to them for it as she took the reins.

She had seen the wyvern's seemingly docile attitude and thought of a snake or crocodile laying in wait for prey, but as she watched it up close, patting its head and guiding it around the courtyard on the ground, she began to understand why Cyril had described them as gentle and steady, and found herself surprisingly comfortable. Soon enough, after a few laps on the ground, she felt ready enough to, at the instructor's urging, spur the wyvern to spread its wings and take flight.

"Ok Bernie", she muttered under her breath. "You can do this. You can really do this...". She took a deep breath. "Right? Right. Ok."

She glanced off to the side, seeing Hubert still cautiously leading his mount to pace in front of the stables despite Cyril, as she faintly overheard, urging him in a slightly frustrated tone to go ahead and fly, to which he insisted that he simply wanted to master the fundamentals before moving on.

She tugged up on the reins, and with a powerful beat of its wings and an equal powerful kick her wyvern leapt from the ground, a deep burble leaving its mouth. Despite now hovering several meters in the air above the courtyard, it felt almost as steady as it did simply walking around, and she began to wonder what she had been so afraid of in the first place, even as she rose higher still, now perhaps fifteen meters up.

She had expected to panic and start feeling dizzy at such heights, but the twinge of anxiety she felt was... Manageable. Shockingly so, really. It would take more practice, but she could even imagine shooting her bow from its back just as Cyril had said.

"You're taking to this... Rather well, Bernadetta."

The anxiety suddenly felt quite a bit less manageable. She looked to her right, seeing Hubert now alongside her. Again she felt like it must be her imagination, but he looked a little pale. More so than usual.

"Y-You startled me...! Umm... It's less scary than I thought it would be... I-Is that a problem?".

"And here I thought you were afraid of everything."

She gulped. "...Umm, oh, uhh, I can, um, take it worse, i-if you'd like me to! I'm going to do that! Right now!".

"There is the Bernadetta von Varley I thought I knew". He smirked. "Hmph. Do what you like, I suppose. Just... Remember that your performance will, if it is sub-par, reflect poorly on the entire Black Eagle house as well."

"O-Ok, ok, I get it...! Just please don't hurt me i-if I mess up...!". She took another deep breath and returned to focusing on the basic flight maneuvers the instructor had told her to demonstrate. There was definitely no question though that something was up with Hubert. She performed sloppily enough, and accordingly braced herself for the verbal abuse she just knew the instructor had waiting for her when she finished up and landed, but all the while Hubert was lagging behind even her.

Clambering off the wyvern's back as it set its feet back down on the ground, she managed to fall flat on her face, groaning as she stumbled to her feet.

"Hmm... Your movements are too abrupt", the instructor said, walking up to her. "I think you must be gripping the reins too tightly and using more force than you should. Try to relax more, as well; he can sense when you're nervous and may assume you're in danger. Besides that, it was good work for your first time."

"...I-I'm sorry! I-I'll never mess it up again I-I swear...! Oooh, I'll just quit! That way I'll...!--". She stopped herself. What had they said to her...?

"That's... That's it...? W-Wait, what are you trying to pull?! D-Don't lie to me! B-Bernie can see right through you!". The instructor sighed, moving on to Hubert. The more critical way they pointed out Hubert's mistakes oddly made her feel better, although it still left her wondering if they had only been so gentle in their critique of her in an attempt to be nice.

She also noticed how Hubert's balance seemed off as he walked, and even as he stood still, and found herself, strangely enough, almost worrying about him. He was usually so composed and just so scary. Something absolutely had to be wrong.

With the lesson over, they began to walk back towards the dorms. She trailed behind, not speaking, until finally she worked up the courage to ask him.

"H-Hey... So... Umm... Oh...".

Maybe she hadn't quite worked up the courage.

Hubert stopped dead in his tracks, turning to face her, and she froze. "Yes, Bernadetta? Were you about to say something?". She stayed frozen, holding her breath, as if any little movement she made would prompt Hubert to attack her. He crossed his arms, again prompting her to go on. His voice seemed muffled to her, like she was underwater, and it felt like time had stopped.

Eventually, she couldn't hold her breath anymore, and gasped for air. Surprisingly, Hubert didn't try to kill her for it. Instead, he just rolled his eyes, giving up and turning around. Snapping out of it, she suddenly remembered what it was she was going to ask.

"Umm... HeyareyoufeelingokayHubert..?!". He turned around again. "Could you repeat that? Preferably slower this time."

Deep breaths, deep breaths. She averted her eyes, looking down at her feet. "Well... You're usually so... Calm... And collected. But--", she stopped, a thought occurring to her, and she blurted it out without thinking. "--...Could it be you're afraid of heights?".

Glancing briefly at Hubert's face, she could tell she was spot on and badly wished that she hadn't been. She opened her mouth, about to scream an apology and a promise to never say anything, to anyone, ever again, but was cut off before she could.

"...That may be the case. Everyone has their limits. I would say that you are not unique, but... Well, clearly you are. You are not, however, alone."

"Not... Alone? Wait, are you saying we're... Friends, are you? Are we friends? I never knew tha--".

"--I am not sure how you interpreted me, but I simply meant that you are not alone in having fears and troubles. Besides, even if I were one to cultivate friendships, I fail to see how we could be considered friends when you cannot even see me without losing any semblance of composure out of sheer terror."

"...Oh, yeah. You're right. Well, maybe I'll be a little less scared of you now that I know that even you have things you're afraid of?".

"I am utterly perplexed at how your mind works."


Bernadetta von Varley

Bluebird; Even If Happiness Is Close By...
Part 3/15 is Ferdinand... And also technically a bit late. I thought this was the best one so far while I was writing it, but rereading and editing it I'm less sure. I usually don't like what I write though so I'm not sure that says anything about it. I wrote this on paper, which I almost never do and which was fun even though my handwriting is pretty bad until I had to transcribe it all. So i'm not sure I'll do that again.

Originally I was going to name all of these one-shots after song lyrics, but I didn't. I had an idea for what to name this one yesterday when I started it though, but then I forgot.

Bernadetta sighed, leaning back against the brick wall, and blew on her hands, condensation forming as she exhaled. This relatively cozy cranny sat between the terrace where the sauna stood and Professor Eisner's quarters and, while not as safe and comfortable to her as her own room, was a better place than most in the monastery to stop and think. And today, unfortunately, she had something she had to take care of – outside of her room – as much as she wished she could ignore it. And on such a chilly winter evening no less.

"Shouldn't he have come by here by now? Oooh, where could he be...?". Steeling herself as best she could, she skittered out of the safe-ish little nook and began looking for Ferdinand, avoiding eye contact with the people she passed as she she searched the monastery. Eventually she found him, admiring the view of the sunset from the bridge to the cathedral as he gazed out over the ravine.

"Hey... Uh, Ferdinand?". He turned to face her and she reflexively looked at her feet in response.

"Ah, Bernadetta! This is a bit of a surprise... Oh, no offense of course. Did you have something you needed help with?

She inhaled sharply. "It's... Edelgard and the Professor both told me I absolutely have to attend the ball this month...! I even asked Seteth if every student has to participate and he just said it's a great chance to relax, but how can I relex?! I don't even think he understood I was being made to do it...".

"...I see". Ferdinand ran a hand through his hair. "If you were to ask me, I would say that such an event is a wonderful opportunity, and that of course every student should attend. But I see why it would trouble you. It isn't fair to assume everyone can handle social events in the same way!".

He paused, seeingly thinking through this conundrum.

"Alright, I'll talk to Edelgard myself! I'm sure if she only heard about your situation she would understand!".

"...Hey, wait!". Ferdinand had already starting walking away. "The truth is... I actually kind of want to go. Things like that... I've heard about them and read about them, but in real life... I've never even been close to a ball. The people who go to balls are so glamorous and confident... People nothing like me. I don't know the first thing about how to dance, even."

"And you... You were so eager as soon as you heard about the ball and the White Heron Cup", she continued. "And you tried to help me by getting me out of my room more, so...". She took a gulp of air. "C-Could you please teach me how to dance, Ferdinand?!".

Bernadetta tried to ignore her raging nerves waiting for his answer. What if he said no? Oh, was it even worth trying to teach someone as awkward as her to dance? Well, Ferdinand wouldn't think like that... Or he'd teach her out of pity at least.

"You're sure you want me to? I would not want to bother you as I did before". She nodded.

"Then it would be my pleasure Bernadetta."

There were butterflies in her stomache as he told her when and where to meet him, apologizing for being unable to start immediately as he left for his lance instruction with Shamir. Returning to her room, she occupied the time mainly with nervous pacing until she decided it was finally time she went to the ballroom, slipping out her door and finding her way to it. Opening one of the great double doors just enough for her to slip through, as if she was sneaking in somewhere she shouldn't be, she entered. The room was brightly lit by flickering candles and Ferdinand was already there, examining something in his hands.

"Bernadetta, there you are!", he said as she approached, noticing her looking at the ornate object he was holding. "Ah, it's just a music box. Actually, it was a gift to me from Count Hevring. After all, to dance one must really music, but it would be quite selfish to request musicians just for our practice, would it not?".

"It's beautiful", she said. He set it on a table and opened it, a slow waltz playing, and offered her his hand.

"Would you dance with me, Miss Varley?". She just stood there, freezing up, and didn't reply at first. "Bernadetta?".

"O-Oh, umm", she snapped out of it. "W-What am I supposed to say? Is it rude not to accept every dance?".

"Not at all! A simple 'no, thank you' would be fine. Though some would find it rude if you declined a dance and then danced with another before the next round begins. Ah, and then--".

"--Oooh...! How many complicated rules are there?!", she shouted.

Ferdinand laughed. "This will be your first dance, will it not? Though you may be a noble, given that fact I'm sure no one will be offended if your etiquette isn't perfect. And if any are, I would personally inform them of your reasons."

"N-No, that would just... Be too embarrassing". She laughed, partly out of nervousness but partly at just how painfully, yet charmingly, earnest he was. She tried her best to steady her breathing and cleared her throat.

"...I would gladly dance with you, Ferdinand". She was surprised how calmly she was able to say it.

"First things first", he said, nodding. "Some basic steps. Step back with your left foot, back and to the side with your right. And then bring them together with your left. One, two, three". He demonstrated as he called out the steps. "And then reverse it. Step forward with your right foot, forward and to the side with your left, then bring your right foot back together. One, two, three. Now you try."

Her attempts were clumsy at first, Ferdinand telling her to be sure each iteration of each step travelled the same distance as the last, or that her feet were too close together in some parts or too far apart in others, or that in some places her heel should touch the ground and not her toe. But slowly she began to get the hang of it.

"And together now", Ferdinand said, laying his right hand on her back and taking her right hand in his left. She tensed up at his touch, almost stumbling over his feet before catching herself and matching his steps. They slowly danced with each other, and Bernadetta soon found she was was quietly humming the tune to herself as they did.

"Let's try another step", he said. "This one is simple enough. Just do the first half of the box step I showed you, then do it again but mirrored."

"Ok... Sounds easy", Bernadetta said. Ferdinand led her through it a few times before returning to the earlier step.

"Now, if we do this, turning a little each time, we can do a full circle". One, two, three. She nodded.

"Yeah. Lead the way". One, two, three. Three more times and they had gone all the way around.

She suddenly felt a bit self-conscious, her face feeling hot as she wondered if she really had the confidence to dance like this in a full ballroom, packed with all her fellow students. Still, just for now at least, this actually felt... Nice. Out of the blue she wondered if she had noticed before just how handsome Ferdinand was, and looked down at her feet to try and hide the blush she was sure was on her face.

"Hey, umm, Ferdinand? Thank you for doing this for me... To think that someone would go so far out of their way for little old Bernie, I...".

"Don't even mention it, Bernadetta! If I wouldn't go out of my way for a friend what kind of noble... Nay, what kind of person would I be? And besides that, it really was not much out of my way at all."

"Fr... Frie-- Aaah!", she yelped as he lifted her arm over his head and twirled her around.

He paused. "I'm sorry... You aren't hurt, are you?".

Bernadetta giggled and shook her head. "No... I just... Wasn't expecting that."
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Bernadetta von Varley

Bluebird; Even If Happiness Is Close By...
After I watched Weathering with You this idea popped in to my head while I was on my way home, so I hammered it out that night and cleaned it up some yesterday. Major spoilers and I don't know if anyone here besides Uniju and Nabber have watched the movie yet and Nabber wasn't interested in reading it so I don't know if anyone will but I figure I should post it anyway for completeness. I don't think it's very good though.

Box of Rain
It was dark when she stirred from a restless, uneasy sleep, sitting up in bed and rubbing her eyes. She yawned, contemplating in that brief, calm new moment whether or not to get up now or go back to sleep, what she might do today, what to eat for breakfast. The moment was soon washed away, as it always was, by all the things forgotten upon waking but soon remembered in the light of day. The weight of it all was heavy on her mind.

Her eyes adjusting to the light, she looked around. Hodaka and her brother were still sleeping soundly beside her. They were still safe and sound in the hotel room as the rain, wind, and snow battered the world outside and police combed the city for the three runaways who had slipped away in the storm. She caught a glimpse of the digital clock on a nightstand, reading 2:56 AM.

The naive thought that everything would be alright if they only stayed here ran through her mind, and she quickly dismissed it. The police and social services were still looking for them. And the rain still...--

Hina made up her mind in that moment. If she stayed any longer it would only get harder for her to pull herself away. If Hodaka or Nagi woke up they would try to stop her. She didn't think Hodaka would accept that this was something she had to do. It would also be harder to evade unwanted attention.

She crawled to the foot of the bed, careful not to disturb the people on either side of her. The macabre thought that it might've helped her slip away unnoticed had she thought to sleep nearer the edge of the bed rather than in the middle crossed her mind as she slipped off the bathrobe and tossed it aside where she had been laying. It was irrelevant at this point, but morbid curiosity got the better of her and she glanced down, looking over the left side of her body, now almost entirely engulfed by the water, shimmering and translucent, a few ripples spreading where tears had fallen on her chest. It was hard to tell, but she would guess it had spread since last night.

Her eyes caught on the ring as she got dressed. It was hard not to think of the implications of such a gift. Or more what they would be if they were older, perhaps? Or maybe she was thinking too deeply in to it?

Still, the thought was another thing trying to pull her backward with the mirage of another choice.

"Do you want the rain to stop?", she had asked him. The rain was her fault. It was her problem. And it would consume her no matter what anyway, so...

Pulling on her coat, she quietly opened the door, stepped in to the hallway, and made her way to the elevator, slipping out of the hotel and, as far as she could tell, avoiding much notice from the few staff at the desk at this hour. The rain was still falling. It was an hour and a half or so walk to 1-chome-35-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya.

It was eerie how quiet it was as she walked, the streets empty even for this hour. There was little to keep her company at first but the soft roar of falling raindrops, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

When something did appear, it was little more welcome than the loneliness had been. The fish had returned. At first it was just a few tiny ones leaping and spiraling through the air behind her, that she hadn't even noticed until having a strong, sudden feeling of unease that prompted her to reluctantly glance over her shoulder. Soon they became larger and more numerous, a funeral procession of sorts that drew the disbelieving glances of the scarce few people who dared remain outside rather than taking shelter from the downpour.

It was far too soon that she reached the abandoned building where she had first seen the pool of light from her mother's hospital room that day. The rains had not been kind to it, the facade visibly more worn than it was only a few days ago. The damage was apparent inside as well as she climbed the stairs and found rubble strewn about and gaps in the walls. Eventually it blocked her path and forced her to clamber out on to the emergency stairs. A chill ran down her as she felt the landing she had stepped on groan and buckle under her feet, but it didn't break as she made her way up the last few stairs to the rooftop.

Hina stared across at the little shrine and it's weary gate, pausing for a moment. When she started walking again, her mind hung on each agonizing step. Light had begun to creep in to the sky by now, though still obscured by dark clouds.

She happened to think about Hodaka again, thoughts she wished wouldn't cross her mind and trouble her more. All of a sudden, she remembered the time he had confronted the hostess club recruiters she had reluctantly went along with, and again the ring came to mind. Tears were once again streaming down her face.

Maybe he would come running again and everything really would be okay. That's how it goes in stories, right? Even if he did though, even if he was really in love with her like in those stories, it would probably take a miracle for him to save her from this. Not some fluke like finding a toy gun that turned out to be real in the trash.

The thoughts still threatened to hold her back and chip away at her unsteady resolve, and she tried to banish them from her mind.

It was too late, right? Someone had to stop the rain, right?

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, clasped her hands together in prayer, and took the last step through the torii, feeling an updraft carry her away.

If something as strange as sunshine girls could really exist, though, who could say miracles didn't happen?

She decided it would be a pleasant surprise if that were true.

And the notes;
We mostly only see Hodaka's perspective in the movie so I wanted to look at what she might have been thinking, although i'm not sure how well I captured her personality. I'd just watched the movie a few hours before when I wrote it but I still don't feel like I really had the grasp of her character I needed. It doesn't help that a lot of times when I'm writing I'm rewatching scenes trying to keep the characterization consistent, which isn't as easy with a just released film. About my best insight I felt was that from her reaction both to the hostess club recruiters and Hodaka confronting them she struck me as her being someone fiercely independent as well as self-sacrificing, and that's what I tried to have come across in this fic. I don't think I'm really up to the task but telling the whole story from Hina's point of view could be an interesting fanfic idea.

Editing this it occurred to me that I could and probably should extend it to cover the scene where Hodaka comes to the clouds to find Hina as well rather than going with an ending that's oddly open-ended for how the movie progresses, but I feel weirdly lost not being able to reference the original work so that would probably result in me holding on to this indefinitely, and I did want to get it out sooner rather than later/