Word count: 1218 (2 to 10 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Claude, Ferdinand, and Hubert
Read the previous chapter.
On most occasions, Hubert could travel the length of the monastery campus without anyone disrupting him. He was not a friendly individual. Few found him approachable. Therefore, his travels were often more efficient than his peers.
Though not always.
“Hey, Hubert!” Hubert stopped, turning to the voice and unsurprised to see Claude waving him over to the stables. “Come over here.”
Unshockingly, he was with Ferdinand. Hubert clearly expected too much of the Golden Deer House leader when he anticipated he would eventually realize the futility of his latest scheme. It crossed his mind to simply continue on as he had been, but with both Ferdinand and Claude present, his odds of a successful escape were rather slim. Simply turning and approaching, he let that action speak on his behalf.
“So, Ferdinand and I were talking, and we had this fantastic idea,” Claude stated with a grin that guaranteed it was a horrible idea Hubert would despise. “Why don’t you learn horseback riding from Ferdinand?”
“Why?” He leveled a piercing glare at Claude to little effect from either him or Ferdinand. Few people could regard him without fear or even apprehension, and it was notable that they all ranked among those he encountered most often. Any correlation would need to be investigated at another time.
“Hear me out, okay?” Claude met his stare with one of his falsely disarming smiles, discovering as much success as Hubert had prior. Having realized the uselessness of the effort, Claude continued regardless with a rolling gesture of his hand. “You’ve been eyeing that Dark Knight certification, and he’s the best with horses in your house… Makes sense, yeah?”
He didn’t bother to conceal his scoff. “Not in the slightest. We are both too often unwilling to compromise in our assigned tasks when we are assigned with one another.” Any acknowledgement of this shortcoming typically came after they ran out of time for their task and saw it was done less capably than they could have achieved had they not spent quite as much time on bickering. That was less common recently, but that was not a fact Claude required. “Why would training together be any different?”
“Well,” Ferdinand began, an uncertain edge to his smile that troubled Hubert more than it should have, “Because we have learned to be less stubborn during our weekly tasks, or at least only behave stubbornly for good reason.” And there it was, the intelligence that Claude had sought and Hubert preferred to conceal. He was bound to discover it eventually, but that smug look of imitated surprise was insufferable.
Ferdinand found more of his characteristic confidence and kept his attention on Hubert, as though Claude was not there at all. Hubert rarely held anyone’s attention, much less Ferdinand’s. That was notable on its own, although it would have to wait when he wasn’t under observation by the Golden Deer house leader. “Surely, you have noticed that we do not argue nearly as intensely as we used to since your cooking lessons, and our performance has improved greatly.”
“I had,” he agreed, however exasperatedly. He did not want Claude to hear about that agreement either for reasons Ferdinand also could not be allowed to understand.
“Aw, look at you two!” Claude interrupted, pointing that self-satisfied grin to Hubert while he leaned back and folded his hands behind his head. “Like peas in a pod.”
“You are looking too much into it, Claude,” he spoke before Ferdinand could, bearing his sinister smile at an angle that frightened even certain allies. Hubert’s height over Claude was a marked advantage to that end. “That is your greatest weakness, and it is dangerous to let it go unchecked.”
“To be honest, I was hoping you might consider the offer.” Naturally, Ferdinand approached the matter like a territory negotiation between noble houses rather than a training agreement. The confidence that gave him restored his smile and proud posture to their usual radiance, a phrasing presented by Hubert’s traitorous mind. “I have not properly shown my gratitude for those gauntlets you chose for me! And then you were kind enough to teach me that recipe too. I would be honored to assist you as a gesture of my thanks.”
“And while it is also very honorable of you to think of my safety, Hubert,” Claude interjected himself where he was not wanted, earning a scowl from Hubert, “What’s this about free one-on-one cooking lessons?”
Heaving a sigh, Hubert overtly ignored Claude. They were comparable to friends, and he knew well that Claude would distort anything he said to fit his vision for Ferdinand and Hubert regardless of his intended meaning. “Fine. Very well. Since you feel so indebted, I will accept your offer.”
“Perfect!” It served Hubert right to be met with an enthusiastic, beaming grin after assuming that Ferdinand could not be more animated. The topic was equestrian, so it only followed that Ferdinand would embrace it wholeheartedly. “I will begin drawing up the plans for your instruction promptly. Tell me, when was the last time you went horseback riding?”
“When we arrived at Garreg Mach.”
“Since our arrival?” His surprise was obvious in a wide-eyed stare. With his daily horse rides in addition to any taken when he was sufficiently frustrated, that response was to be expected by anyone who knew Ferdinand well. Or, perhaps, had monitored him to isolate proof of seditious intent and came up empty time and again. “I would miss the horses if I went so long without. Still, I will factor that into your lessons.”
“Good luck, you too! Remember to watch where you’re going!”
Claude claimed not to enjoy facing poor odds of success in their mock scenarios in class, but his continual provocation of Hubert suggested otherwise.
“I have a schedule to keep,” Hubert insisted, which Claude only answered by raising his eyebrows and smirking.
“Oh, yes, of course! Until next time, Claude,” Ferdinand dismissed himself as the very model of politeness.
“You got it.”
Ferdinand strode brightly into the stables, heedless to the tension between Claude and Hubert—or respectfully overlooking it, more accurately. He was perceptive in the social sphere and knew about Hubert’s skepticism of Claude’s behavior from their discussion in the monastery kitchens as well. Either way, Hubert was grateful for the opportunity.
“Stop this immediately.”
Tilting his head so his braid swung away from him, Claude kept up his thin innocent act. “Hm? Whatever could you possibly mean?”
“Hubert!” Ferdinand called from inside the stables, somewhere just out of view. Easily done when Hubert held Claude in a withering stare despite its ineffectiveness on someone who came to seek out his company freely. “Come, let us find a horse you get along with!”
Claude nodded to the stables, hands in his pockets and a glint in his eyes. “Aren’t you on a schedule?”
“I can always make time for such a good friend.” He clearly hadn’t meant that literally, but Claude’s faux flattered expression showed he was set on pretending otherwise. “I have not yet thought of a suitable way to repay you, but I assure you I will.” Following Ferdinand at last, Hubert began devising the initial steps of his plan. If Claude enjoyed his little game of matchmaker so much, Hubert was obligated to return the favor.