Chapter 31: Turmoil by Twilight

Chaos engulfed Remire Village as the mysterious outside force fought its way past the gates and over the walls. Armored swordsmen and lancers counted for only a small portion of the enemy’s army, serving mainly as a means to prevent anyone from escaping and separate them from the villagers and knights fighting outside. While the local militia was able to hold its own against the unarmored swordsmen and thieves sneaking around in the alleys where the light could not reach them, there was only so much they could do against the bulkier enemies before being forced to retreat themselves and focus on protecting the other villagers.

Byleth ordered the Black Eagles to spread out and assist the villagers and the Knights of Seiros with the defense operation. Monica, Constance, Flayn, Caspar, and Petra formed a team and traveled to the north, fighting their way through enemy soldiers until they saw one of their armored knights blocking the exit.

“Lay down your weapons,” said the knight.

“Yeah? Why should we?” asked Caspar. “You’re the one trespassing here, buddy! You put your weapons down!”

The knight picked up his broadsword and gripped it with both hands. “I don’t recall allowing you to ask questions, scum! Lay down your weapons or offer your lives as recompense.”

Monica and Petra did the opposite, picking up their swords and daring him to attack. The knight obliged, swiping at them with wide cross-strokes to prevent any of them from getting too close. Unable to find an opening, Monica fell back and raised her shield to try to deflect the blows. Caspar’s axe and Petra’s sword only managed to dent the knight’s armor and stagger him for a moment before he regained his posture. “Damn! No matter how hard we hit him, he keeps getting back up!” said Caspar.

“Maybe we need to try a different approach,” said Monica. “Flayn! Connie! See if you can draw that knight in and hit him with some magic. He can’t stand in front of this gate forever.”

“Are you certain that is a wise idea, Monica?” asked Flayn. “There are sure to be more enemies waiting outside to attack us.”

Monica looked around and saw a hooded thief try to attack her and Flayn from behind. She caught the sword with her shield as it came dangerously close to cutting her face open. “I know, but the sooner we deal with these ones here,” she said as she pushed the enemy’s sword away and stabbed him in the stomach, “the fewer opportunities they’ll have to continue to tear up this village.”

The armored knight, riled up by Constance shooting a fireball in his direction, lumbered forward and took a heavy swing at her, slicing her right arm. Monica rushed over to Constance to heal the wound up while Flayn followed behind, hoping not to stay too far out in the open. With the knight’s attention on them, Flayn shot a burst of wind magic at him, which only managed to knock his sword down. He readied another attack, giving Flayn a chance to counter with a stronger wind spell and topple him. The knight, weighed down by his heavy armor, struggled to stand upright despite not appearing hurt. As soon as he reached for his broadsword, Constance threw a few more fireballs at him to ensure he stayed down. His refusal to remove his helmet to grant him relief from the searing heat sealed his fate.

The gambit succeeded in giving Caspar and Petra enough room to slip past the now-deceased enemy knight to assess the battle conditions outside the walls. Most of the fighting appeared to be taking place on the west, east, and south sides of Remire, with the northern road being unusually clear, save for a pair of humanoid creatures stomping and swiping at the tent Caspar had set up. “Hey! I was gonna sleep in that!” he yelled.

The creatures, which resembled a young boy and an older woman judging by the way their shredded clothes barely hung onto their bodies, growled and moaned back at him as their heads bobbed from side to side. Their upper limbs, in place of a human’s hands, were thick, scaly, clawed stumps that only barely looked like they could support their body weight. The party could only gasp in shock at what they were seeing.

“What in the world are these things?” asked one of the nearby knights.

“I think they might be some of the demonic beasts the Professor was talking about,” said Monica. “But these ones are so much smaller than the last one we fought. Could it be—”

The younger one looked at the group and pulled back when he saw the weapons drawn against them.

“I am confused… Why is this one not attacking us?” asked Petra. Her grip on her sword remained tight, as the older one was less inclined to stand down.

The woman, tattered clothes and all, partially stood up from her primal stance and charged at Flayn, one of the few members of the group who wasn’t carrying a weapon. Monica stood in front of Flayn and almost got knocked down trying to hold the woman back, discovering that she was surprisingly strong for someone who was unarmed. Fortunately for Monica and her friends, the woman was also unarmored, and she emitted an unsettling howl when Monica slashed underneath her left arm, and again when Caspar buried his axe into her back for the kill.

Just a few feet away from their position, they saw the same child who had fled from them earlier, collapsed onto the ground with a large stab wound through his chest. The knight who had dealt the fatal blow pulled his right hand away from his face, unsettled by the blood smeared onto it.

“What happened?” asked Flayn. “Are your injuries serious?”

“I’ve seen lots of rowdy kids before,” said the injured knight, “but never ones with fangs and claws. I thought this one was going to rip my face off! I had no choice but to put him down.”

No one was willing to touch the boy’s face to verify the claim out of fear that he would come back to life and try to bite one of them, but there was no mistaking the sharpened, mutated claws where his hands should have been. The idea that the boy was something other than human was reinforced when the knight rolled the boy’s body chest-first onto the grass, exposing a darkened stone-like object stuck to his back.

“That stone looks almost like the one we found on that wolf from before,” said Monica.

“And he does not appear to be the only one,” said Constance, who discovered two such stones on the back of the woman who was accompanying him. The stones appeared to be fused to her skin, with gradual darkening around the area where flesh and crystal met.

“I’ve heard rumors of people suddenly disappearing for weeks or months at a time and coming back…different,” said the knight, who did his best not to wince while Flayn treated the scratch marks on his face. “You don’t think that could have happened to these two, do you?”

“If so, then where could they have originally come from?” asked Constance. “And how many more do you suppose the enemy has with them right now?”

“At least two too many,” Monica muttered. She suddenly felt uneasy about having to kill the two after seeing what she assumed to be artificial Crest Stones embedded in their bodies. If that was really the source of their aggression and mutation, it was difficult for her to know whether or not they were in their right minds when they attacked, unlike the soldiers they encountered on their way to the outer gates. After checking on Flayn and Constance to see if they were feeling okay, Monica drew her weapon again in preparation for more enemies.

Back within the walls of Remire, the other Black Eagles remained with Byleth as they fought off enemy soldiers and Crest Stone-afflicted civilians attempting to break into the villagers’ houses. They helped clear the blockade to the south to allow Jeralt and his knights to enter with a group of militia fighters in need of medical treatment. As Byleth cleaned up some of the blood to allow Linhardt to treat their wounds with his healing magic, he occasionally looked around the immediate area as enemy and friendly soldiers alike fell around them.

“Professor, have you noticed how our enemies don’t seem to have any medics among them?” he asked. “It almost appears as if they’re not afraid to die.”

“It had crossed my mind once or twice,” said Byleth.

“Better them than us,” said Jeralt. “If they want to throw their lives away so easily, that’s their problem.”

Jeralt whirled around and slashed an enemy soldier sneaking up on him, and then stabbed another with the pointy end of his poleaxe, lifting and dropping his corpse on top of the first. Three more soldiers saw Jeralt pointing his weapon at them and started to run away, looking around at their slain allies and realizing how likely they were to be his next victims.

Everyone’s attention quickly shifted to the north as a loud explosion sounded and the sky above them turned a bright yellow-orange.

“What the hell was that?” asked the militia leader.

“I-I don’t know, but it looks like it came from the inn!” said Bernadetta. “Is someone trying to burn the place down? There are still people inside!”

“No,” said Byleth, looking up at the sky again. “It’s a signal. They’ve probably got reinforcements waiting outside. Stay focused, everyone…our fight’s not over yet.”

“I’m gonna go over there and find out who launched that fireball,” said one of the villagers, “and stop them before they do burn that place down.”

“Not without my help, you won’t,” said the leader, who walked toward the inn with his billhook at his side, keeping an eye out for any reinforcements or stray enemies along the way.

As Monica’s party hurried back into the village to find the source of the explosion in the sky, Edelgard and Ferdinand pulled to the side of the northern road to allow their horses to rest.

“It appears that the fighting has already started without us,” said Ferdinand. “Do you think the others can keep things under control in there?”

“The Professor and Captain Jeralt are doing the best with what they have there,” said Edelgard, “but if – no, when – the enemy brings reinforcements, they may be too tired or hurt to fight them effectively without reinforcements of their own.”

“And I suppose this is where we come in.”

“Correct.” Edelgard turned around and looked behind her at Myron, Phil, and Theo, who were all sitting on their own horses. Hapi followed a few paces behind them, only coming into direct view when Myron dismounted and lit a torch. “Myron, do you see anything unusual up ahead?” she asked.

Myron walked in front of Edelgard and held his torch aloft, looking toward the western and eastern walls. “Nothing but a few stray shadows,” he said. “If I used my staff, I might be able to get a better look to see what exactly those shadows are.”

“Normally, I would advise against it to protect our position, but we don’t have the element of surprise on our side this time.”

“How far ahead can you see with that magic light of yours?” asked Ferdinand.

“As long as I can see it, I can control it,” said Myron as he conjured a ball of light from his staff and sent it toward the northern wall of Remire, confounding the guard standing watch as the light danced from corner to corner. Myron eventually halted the flickering orb by the northwestern corner and pointed at two shadowy figures approaching the wall – one bulky, blocky being trying to use its mass to break the wall down, and another smaller, wiry figure using the bulky one as a platform to leap over the wall altogether.

The light continued to shine on the creature as it continued to headbutt the wall, growling and wailing as rubble fell around it with each successful hit. Hapi, with one of the guards from the Faerghus crossroads prison sticking close to her, walked up to Myron and said, “Wait a minute…that looks like one of the monsters that attacked the town I was in!”

Theo and Phil reached for their swords and prepared to engage the enemy, but Myron and Edelgard waved them off. “Hold still, you two!” said Myron. “That monster may not be the only one attacking the village. If we charge in without a plan, there is a good chance we could get overwhelmed.”

“Edelgard…do you remember the story Astrid told us?” asked Ferdinand. “About the monsters that attacked Hapi in Larkspur?”

Edelgard nodded and looked over at Hapi, who frowned back at them. “Hey…I heard my name just now,” said Hapi. “I hope you aren’t planning on making me do anything weird.”

“Ferdinand and I were wondering what happened that day to draw them to you,” Edelgard explained. “If we can use that to get at least one of them away from the village, we should be able to take some of the pressure off our allies.”

“You can’t be serious!” said the prison guard. “If she uses that…power of hers, those beasts will plow through the village just to get to us, just like they did in Larkspur! Dozens more innocent people will die!”

“Are you sure you really want to know, Eddy?” asked Hapi. “I mean, I’ll do it if we’ve got no other choice, but I’m not ready to go back to jail if this plan backfires.”

“Whatever happens, we’re ready to face it…but we’ll need your help to do so. Can we rely on you for this task, Hapi?”

Hapi nodded. “All right…here goes… You might want to cover your ears for a few seconds.”

Hapi took a deep breath and waited for the others to put away their weapons before she exhaled. The air around them became warmer and thicker as she sighed, and Edelgard and Ferdinand thought they could see ripples of dark magic pulsing toward the village. They could still hear echoes from the sigh after they uncovered their ears.

“That was unsettling,” said Ferdinand. “I can still feel my body tingling.”

Edelgard tried to hide the tingling sensation in her body by tightly gripping her axe in anticipation. Several seconds after the last shockwave faded, two of the monsters forced their way out of the village and ran straight for their group, ignoring the guard trying to stab one of them with his spear as it fled. The creatures, like the ones that attacked during the first wave, ran on all fours using their larger-than average legs and scaly clawed stumps for arms to propel themselves forward. Both had the faces of middle-aged men who appeared not to have eaten a healthy meal for weeks.

“This is what happens when I sigh,” said Hapi. “It attracts creatures like this to me. I hate having to keep these sighs bottled up.”

“It must be difficult to be unable to express such a simple emotion,” said Ferdinand. “How do you deal with stressful situations?”

“I have my ways.”

Everyone drew their weapons and adopted fighting stances, ready to face both creatures head-on. One rammed Theo while the other grabbed Edelgard’s shield and tossed it over his head, almost taking her left hand with it. Her armor protected her from getting too seriously hurt from the follow-up attack, but she struggled to push her attacker away to create an opening for her and Ferdinand to retaliate. Myron and Hapi, the two spellcasters of the group, had to hang back and search for openings while the others formed a protective wall in front of them. The guard charged with watching over Hapi pulled back to watch them fight, for he wasn’t trained to deal with anything outside of unruly prisoners and he was unsure how effective his spiked gauntlets would have been in subduing the foes before him.

The beastmen tried to push past the front lines to get at Hapi, whose dark magical bolts had enraged them just as much as the sigh that drew them away from Remire to begin with. When Ferdinand got raked across his shoulder and left cheek trying to hold one of them back, he retaliated by stabbing his attacker in the face. Edelgard took advantage of the monster’s loss of balance by chopping at his neck and chest until he collapsed. Even though Ferdinand had waited until the monster was defeated to retrieve Edelgard’s shield, she appreciated being fully armed once again.

Once the first monster had been taken down, the second one fell soon afterward, with Hapi holding him in place with a sonic wave that sounded like a less intense version of her sigh. The spell lasted long enough for Phil to plunge his sword through where he thought the monster’s heart would be, causing him to cough up purplish-red bile as he fell to the ground.

“So, this is what that fiend Myson’s ‘experiments’ were all about,” said Myron as he examined one of the corpses. “To think that he would defile the Sealed Forest to use as a station for such grotesque creatures…”

“No…these ones weren’t always like this,” said Edelgard. “See these stones on their bodies? We observed a similar, yet much bigger one on the wolf that attacked the monastery last month. Whatever is in these stones that caused it to go berserk must also have infected these two.”

“It seems that this Myson character may have been involved in that attack, as well,” said Ferdinand. “But for what purpose, though?”

“That’s not important right now. What matters is that we find him and stop him before he can do any more damage.”

“See? This is what I’ve been trying to say all along,” said Hapi. “All I went to that town for was to make a little money and get something to eat. I didn’t draw those monsters there on purpose! I was gonna leave as soon as I was done…not that I’d be able to stay for long, anyway…”

“We’ll discuss that after we’re finished here,” said the guard. “I’ve still got my eye on you.”

Ferdinand mounted his horse and rode toward the village with his lance in his right hand and the reins in his left. The other horses, too afraid to approach the battlefield, dispersed as the rest of the group followed him and Edelgard.

The battle in Remire Village raged on, with the Black Eagles and the village militia fighting a mix of enemy soldiers and Crest Stone-infused civilians. Within minutes of the second wave’s arrival, the village had erupted into a torrent of blood, sweat, flames, and multicolored sparks. The group had lost track of how many they had killed so far. They began to wonder less about what their enemy was doing there and more about when they would stop coming.

Stopping the enemy proved more difficult than anticipated. As their numbers dwindled, they focused less on attacking the defense force head-on and shifted toward attacking the civilians directly. By splitting off in multiple directions, this had the added effect of spreading the defense forces thinner as they scrambled to protect the villagers from potentially being ripped out of their homes as the soldiers and their experiments trashed their property.

Monica found herself separated from Byleth once again. She, Constance, and Flayn had followed a pair of swordsmen to a house not far from the northwestern watchtower and stopped them from attacking a family as they ate dinner, much to the shock and horror of all those inside.

The trio enjoyed a brief moment in the clear until they saw some throwing knives flying at them. One bounced off the outer wall of the house they had just liberated, and the other two sailed past Monica’s head, with one scraping Flayn’s left shoulder.

“Flayn! Are you alright?” asked Monica, looking back at Flayn for a moment to check on her, but keeping her shield and sword pointed toward their attacker. Constance turned behind her and prepared a spell to make sure no one else tried to ambush them while they were engaged with their current foe.

“Y-yes… I believe I will be fine,” Flayn replied.

The knife-thrower ran toward them at full speed, keeping one hand tucked away in search of a new weapon, ignoring the fact that the hood meant to conceal her identity had flown off during her pursuit of her target. Monica recognized the attacker almost immediately – the pale skin, the messy orange hair, the black facepaint, and the unsettling, full-toothed grin she bore as her short sword cut through the air and clashed with Monica’s blade.

“Kronya…I had a feeling you had something to do with this,” said Monica, the cheerfulness and optimism in her voice all but gone upon coming face-to-face with her hated enemy.

“Gee…did you figure that out all by yourself, Moronica?” Kronya responded. “Maybe you should stick to keeping your nose in books instead of pretending to play ‘hero’.”

Kronya ducked under a potential decapitating strike and weaved to her left, catching Monica off-guard with a hard kick to her ribs. “You know, I almost missed a whole day thanks to that headache you gave me in that forest,” she said. “And since you don’t seem to be using your head, I’ll just take it from you…like this!”

Kronya aimed most of her sword strikes at Monica’s face and throat, mixing things up with a few punches to try to break her down. Monica blocked as many attacks as she could, but with Kronya so close to her, landing an effective counter was difficult, and she knew it was only a matter of time until she tired out and exposed a weakness that Kronya would exploit to kill her on the spot.

While Kronya was nimble enough to dodge most of Monica’s sword swings, Monica thought of a different idea to try to put some distance between them. She decked Kronya in the face with the hilt of her sword even harder than she did during their brief encounter in the Sealed Forest, and then threw her body weight behind her shield and slammed Kronya into the nearest wall. Now that she had some room to maneuver, Monica waited for Kronya to come at her again, and she was ready for it. A perfectly level slash caught her rival in the midsection, at just the right height to prevent her from dodging, ducking, or otherwise avoiding the attack.

“What do you and Myson want with the people of this village, anyway?” asked Monica. “And what were you going to do with me, and all the other young men and women who died in those caves? Were you going to turn us into more of those beasts?”

Kronya turned to her side and spat something dark at the grass by Monica’s feet. “Don’t act like you’re so damn special, Moronica. When they brought you to me, you were tossed in with a bunch of other weaklings. The only reason I know who you are is because you were the only one who dared to fight back. At least the other vermin knew better than to waste their energy struggling.”

Monica tried not to get any more worked up by Kronya’s insult than she already was. This was no time for her to get sloppy. Being punched, kicked, and slashed at was irritating enough without having to worry about Kronya’s flippant dismissal of her or her other victims…or the sudden drop in temperature in the immediate area.

Monica sensed what was coming next – a rapid-fire flurry of ice crystals of varying size and sharpness coming from Constance’s hands. Those that didn’t bounce off Monica’s shield or fly into the streets were aimed mostly at Kronya, whose attempt to weather the icy blast without any protective gear ended with her on the ground and her cloak in tatters.

“Oh…so you and the mongrel want to die, too, huh? Don’t worry…you’ll get your turn soon enough,” said Kronya.

Flayn, who had been standing behind Constance to allow a moment for her knife wound to heal, saw Kronya approaching from the side, pushing through her injuries to reach for a dagger and try to stab Monica wherever her flesh was softest.

“Monica, be careful!” she shouted.

Monica recognized the heightened threat her opponent posed with two weapons in her hands and tried to retreat to defend Flayn and Constance before Kronya attacked either of them. She grunted in pain as Kronya’s dagger cut her just above her right hip, and she continued to shout as she was jerked backward, floating just a few inches above the dirt and landing right in front of the other two girls. “I have no idea what just happened, but whichever one of you did that…thank you,” she said.

Bewildered and bleeding, Monica slowly stood up and cast Nosferatu to drain some energy from Kronya to heal her new stab wound.

“You’re really getting on my nerves,” said Kronya. “Why couldn’t you have been a good little rat and died like the rest of them?”

Kronya picked herself and her weapons up from the ground and rushed toward Monica and her friends to carry through with her threat, but she was distracted by the sound of footsteps approaching their location.

“Heh…you’re running a bit late, aren’t you?” said Kronya, appearing surprised at first, and then smirking when she saw Edelgard standing behind her with her shield and axe raised.

“I had business to attend to elsewhere,” Edelgard replied. “Your business, on the other hand, ends here and now. All that’s left for you to decide is which one of us will take your life.”

Kronya, noticing Edelgard and Monica’s weapons trained on her, along with Constance preparing another spell just a few feet away, hesitated for a second. “Hmm…such a tough choice you’re forcing me to make. Let me think it over…way over…there!”

Despite the searing pain she felt from the wounds inflicted by Monica’s sword and Constance’s magic, Kronya slipped past Edelgard’s attempt to box her into the alley, leaving toward the southern gate. Monica didn’t get very far chasing after Kronya to get her to stay put. The Nosferatu spell had closed up her internal and external knife wounds, but it felt uncomfortable for her to move any faster than a brisk walk. “Am I ever glad to see you, Edelgard,” she said. “I can’t believe it… I finally come face-to-face with her and then she just runs away like that… We have to go after her before she kills anyone else!”

“Not now, Monica,” said Edelgard, who relaxed her battle stance now that Kronya was out of the way.

“What?! But why?”

“I understand that you and Kronya have a score to settle with each other, but you’ll be better off saving your strength than chasing after her by yourself and risking your life to some hidden trap of hers. For now, let’s find the Professor and help her clean up the rest of these enemies.”

Constance ran over to Edelgard as they marched toward the east side where the rest of the Black Eagles were fighting. “What exactly was this ‘business’ of yours, Edelgard?” she asked with some trepidation.

“Gathering reinforcements,” said Edelgard. “They aren’t from this area, but a few of them have a personal stake in this conflict. You’ll get to meet them soon.”

When they caught up with the others, they had reduced the enemy’s forces to just Myson and four of his henchmen. The four did their best to protect their leader with their magic, managing to hold off all but Byleth, Hubert, Dorothea, and Bernadetta, who could counter with their own weapons and magic from a relatively safe distance.

“Hmph…so Kronya has fled…” Myson said to himself as he looked around him. “I guess I will have to deal with these fools on my own. At least she stuck around longer than that skull-faced cretin…”

A moment later, Myron and Hapi arrived to strike down two of the enemy mages to give the allied forces a clear advantage, prompting Myson to turn around and aim a swarm of black bees at them.

“You again? Why do you continue to interfere in our affairs?”

“Because we demand answers, Myson,” said Myron. “We want to know why you’re turning innocent men, women, and children into monsters.”

“And why you set me up to take the fall for it,” said Hapi.

Myson sneered, lowering his hat and looking away from them. “Set you up? Preposterous! I’ve never seen you before, nor could I care any less about who you are. Your presence in the town on the same day as the attack was due to your own misfortune.”

“So, you’re admitting to being the one behind the Larkspur incident,” said Byleth. “Then that means you must also have been involved in the attack on Garreg Mach…”

“Why would I deny it? Only a coward would evade responsibility for their actions.”

Byleth released the Sword of the Creator’s whip form and prepared to strike Myson with it. “How and where did you get all of the Crest Stones for your ‘experiments’?” She felt that she already knew the answer, and she was simply waiting for him to confirm it.

“Let’s just say that they were granted to us by a very generous – albeit also very reluctant – donor.”

Monica wanted to pounce on him right then and there. She thought kidnapping Flayn was bad enough, but to weaponize her suffering for use on other innocents went beyond any acts of cruelty she had known. Flayn, for her part, put on a defiant front, but Monica didn’t think she’d be surprised if Flayn was still shivering inside. Monica started to shiver herself, worrying about the Death Knight or the Flame Emperor showing up at the last minute to mess things up even further.

“Even though I have lost here,” said Myson, “I still consider these experiments of mine a success. It seems that even…’people’ of your ilk are capable of descending into a bloodthirsty, bestial state under the proper stimuli. I must take my leave now…to allow you to clean up the mess you have made for yourselves.”

The two mages attempted to construct a protective barrier while Myson teleported out, only to be struck down when the Sword of the Creator sliced through them. The teleportation circle caused them all to disappear before everyone’s eyes, corpses included.

“Was that the last of them?” asked Dorothea.

“I don’t think so,” said Jeralt, pointing in the direction of the inn, where the militia leader and one of his soldiers dragged a young man in a dark overcoat and hauled him before Byleth, Jeralt, and Myron.

“Looks like we found our little aerial arsonist,” said the leader. “Care to tell us what you were up to with that little light show of yours, and who put you up to it? Huh?”

The young man fell to one knee and looked first at his captors, and then at the dead bodies, ally an enemy alike, laying on the ground around him. “W-what are you going to do to me? Are you going to kill me like you did the rest of my brothers and sisters?” he asked.

“Don’t dodge the question! Thanks to that attack from you and your band of creeps, we’ve got even more families who have to deal with burying their loved ones!”

“It doesn’t matter if I tell you or not… I’m dead either way. They didn’t even give me a weapon to use to fight you. Search me if you believe otherwise.”

With their weapons still drawn in case their captive attempted to attack one of them, the others stood back as Byleth searched him from head to toe. “Put your hands where I can see them, please,” she ordered. “And don’t even think about using magic.”

The captive did as he was instructed, lifting his hands above his head while Byleth patted him down to make sure he wasn’t carrying any hidden weapons. The dirt and soot on his palms were the only dark spots on his otherwise pale complexion. After a few moments of searching, Byleth gestured for the young man to lower his hands, having not found anything on him that she considered threatening. “It’s your call,” she said to the militia leader. “What do you want to do with him?”

The leader sheathed his sword. “Seeing as how it doesn’t look like his master’s coming back for him,” he said, “he’s pretty much stuck. Personally, I’m already sick of looking at the little punk. Plus, we don’t have anywhere to reliably hold him…at least not until we clean up the wreckage…” He then focused his attention back on the rogue. “Consider this your only warning: don’t you or any of your friends ever come around this village again. If we see you here, or we find out that you’re stirring up trouble elsewhere, then you won’t have to worry about your leaders not knowing where you are. Got it?”

The young man nodded. “I’m…surprised, to say the least, by your mercy. If that’s what you want, then I’ll be on my way. May we never meet again.”

Realizing how outmatched he was, the young man in the overcoat allowed himself to be led out of Remire by the militia leader and at least three other surviving soldiers and Knights of Seiros. Once past the gate, the knights tied him up and led off into the darkness, presumably toward the same prison compound where Hapi had been held.

Some of the villagers emerged from their houses once they were certain the violence had died down. Many of them cried in horror when they saw the destruction wrought by their homes becoming a battlefield. Others prayed to the goddess to grant peace to the souls of their families and friends who died during the conflict.

The knights who had accompanied Jeralt returned to him after taking a moment to assess the damage. “The surrounding area is clear, sir,” one of them said. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more of them.”

“Good,” said Jeralt. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I could use some shut-eye.”

“Me too,” said Caspar, “but now I’ve got nowhere to sleep. My—I mean, your tent got ruined in the attack! Sorry about that, by the way.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I think a vacancy just opened up at Ol’ Swampy.”

Byleth checked her pockets for her coin purse and wondered if there was still time to pay for another room. “It’s too bad there still aren’t enough rooms at the inn to hold all of us,” she said. “Either way, I think we’ve all earned a good night’s rest after this.”

Everyone looked around at the damage caused by the attack. Between burying the dead, treating the surviving wounded civilians and soldiers, and cleaning up all the blood spilled on both sides, it appeared that it would take a long time before things returned to normal in Remire.

Monica looked to her right and saw Myron and his party speaking to Byleth and Edelgard. “Oh! Good evening! We weren’t expecting you guys to show up here tonight,” she said. She tried to get the attention of the redhead standing off to the side, but the prison guard stepped between them.

“Careful there! This one’s still under watch,” he said, and Monica quietly backed away.

After taking her turn to speak with Byleth, Hapi turned around to meet Monica and some of the other Black Eagles. “So, you’re all Blue’s students, huh?” she asked. “She looks young for a teacher… I thought Jerry over there was the one teaching all of you.”

“Not exactly,” said Linhardt. “While he did substitute teach for our class for one day, Captain Jeralt is actually our professor’s father. You can call me Linhardt. Standing off to my left are Flayn, Monica, Constance, and Hubert. Would I be correct to assume that you’re Hapi?”

“Yup. That’s me.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Hapi,” said Monica. “It’s been so chaotic here tonight that we couldn’t see everything going on. Thanks for lending us an extra hand.”

Hapi curled her hands into fists, imagining she was once again being bound by her anti-magic cuffs. “I almost didn’t make it here at all. I’m still technically a prisoner, so I was surprised that they let me out to help you guys.”

“I can scarcely imagine what you must be going through at this time,” said Hubert, “to be attacked and then arrested through no fault of your own.”

“Like I said to Blue, it’s not the first time I’ve been held against my will like that. That Myson guy said it was all just a case of bad luck, but I don’t think my luck’s that bad.”

“The battle may be over for now,” said Flayn, “but I would like to provide whatever assistance I can to help the people of this village recover.”

“Do you think we will see you again after this, Hapi?” asked Constance.

“I can’t say,” said Hapi. “If they let me out soon, you might, but I’m not counting on it. I think they’re still mad at me.”

Hubert and the prison guard, who had backed away for a moment to give Hapi a moment to speak to everyone, stared coldly at each other for a few seconds until Myron, Theo, and Phil came over to talk to them.

“Looks like it’s time for us to leave this village and head back home,” said Phil. “We’re glad to see that you guys weren’t seriously hurt in the attack. How did you all know that those creepy black cloak guys would come here, anyway?”

“According to our professor, Remire Village is close enough to the two areas where we last fought them and their ‘experiments’,” said Hubert.

“That makes sense,” said Theo. “I’m sure they’ll have second thoughts about attacking this place again after tonight. I hope so, anyway…”

Myron watched Hapi stretch and tried to do the same to loosen himself up, but stopped short after feeling an ache in his right arm. “How are you feeling right now, Hapi?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “Lots of mixed feelings, I guess. I mean, I’m glad I got the chance to get out and move around, but I still hate that I was even locked up in the first place.”

“Well, if it’s any consolation, Phil, Theo, and I have always believed in your innocence. And although there were misunderstandings between us at first, Byleth – the one you call ‘Blue’ – and her students were quick to take up your case, suspecting something else was afoot.”

“I’m surprised that you’d go out of your way to help someone you haven’t even met before,” said Hapi, turning back toward the students. “If there were more people like you and less like some of these knights, then a lot of us would be able to sleep better at night.”

“Once you’ve completed your sentence, would you consider returning to Timotheos, even just to visit for a few moments? There are many in the village who miss you.”

“I’d like to, but not right now. Not until I find out a way to undo this ‘curse’ so I can go wherever I want without scaring people.”

“Very well, then,” said Myron. “If you ever need any help with your quest, then don’t hesitate to ask me or anyone else.”

Hapi nodded. “Sure thing.”

The rest of the Black Eagles followed Myron and his two bodyguards to the north gate. “Thank you once again for your help, Myron,” said Byleth. “Do you need anyone to escort you back home?”

“No, thank you,” said Myron, drawing a line in the dirt as he dragged his staff along the ground. “We will be fine returning on our own. After all, it wouldn’t do for you to get lost on the way back to the academy now, would it?”

Byleth recalled the rumor she heard from Seteth about hard it was for outsiders to find their way into Timotheos, and decided it was too risky an endeavor for the moment. “Point taken.”

The three left Remire to find their borrowed horses and ride back to their village before anyone caught on to where they were going. Hapi and the guard had departed ahead of them, heading east to the relative safety of her prison cell.

A moment later, Edelgard approached Byleth with a worried expression on her face. “To think that our enemy would go to such lengths to terrorize a single village is almost unfathomable,” she said. “It makes me wish I had stayed with the rest of you from the start…or at least arrived on the scene sooner.”

“It’s fine, Edelgard,” said Byleth. “I feel like I should commend you for asking Hapi and Myron’s group to help us. We probably would have been overwhelmed if the enemy had sent more of those monsters in.”

“Thank you, my teacher.”

Ferdinand glanced at Flayn, who had her eyes closed and her hands clasped together in prayer. “Professor…where do you suppose they found the bodies for use with those stones?” he asked.

“It’s hard to say,” said Byleth. “They could have been taken from many different places. Maybe even this very village.”

Monica worried that Kronya had kidnapped and killed one or more villagers from Remire to turn against them, if the bloody dagger she dropped in the Sealed Forest was any indication. It would have explained why she showed up late to bail Myson out after their first win against him. “Who’s going to stop them if they try an attack like this on some other town?” she asked.

“While I’d like to dedicate more time to tracking down…whoever those people are wherever they go, we don’t have that luxury right now. Don’t forget that you all still have four more months of classes to complete before your graduation. I suggest you all get some sleep. We’ll leave for the academy tomorrow morning.”

With all the blood staining the grass and cobblestone walkways, as well as her encounter with Kronya fresh on her mind, Monica expected another uneasy night of sleep. Seeing the villagers crying over losing their loved ones made her wish she could do more to help beyond defending Remire for a night and leaving it behind the next day.

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