Word count: 1426 (4 to 15 minutes) | Rating: M | Note: Fire Emblem: Three Houses Spoilers | Characters: Count Bergliez, Ferdinand, Claude, Dedue, Dimitri, Byleth, Dorothea, Hanneman, Linhardt, Caspar, and Hubert
Read the previous chapter.
The great hall of the castle was far too public for a lecture for Hubert’s preferences, but he’d lost the right to correct errors of that nature when the Empire lost. Count Bergliez remained adamantly unhelpful with an impish smirk and more silence than he’d ever known the man to display. Various allies had already gathered, most from the former Black Eagle house, and they’d already summoned His Highness and Byleth to join them shortly.
Hanneman, of course, led the scolding due to his misguided and unwanted endeavor to be paternal with Hubert. If that habit wasn’t so irritating, Hubert it would almost have been impressed that he’d held onto it for so many years. “Why would you not retreat to the palace? We might have defended you here, my boy.”
Hubert didn’t hesitate in his barbed, methodical response. Since they insisted on dressing him down publicly, he would return that favor. “And bring assassins straight to the gates? Never.”
Next in line was evidently Dorothea, who was markedly more likely to give as good as she got. Stepping into his space and jabbing a finger on his chest, she took her turn with the expected determination. “They were obviously not willing to attack directly, Hubie,” she observed, pouting in such a way that was designed for devastating effect—despite her awareness that these effects were meaningless against Hubert. Just as his intimidating frown glanced off her to no avail. “They waited for you to leave, so coming back would have kept you safe.”
“Hardly.” He was used to having to explain himself and strategy alike, so this conversation had taken a very slightly easier turn. “Once they realized where I was headed, my pursuers would have only become desperate to finish the job before I entered the palace walls.” Caspar looked worriedly at Linhardt for confirmation, who simply shrugged permissibly. At least he had the logical disposition to realize Hubert was speaking to reason. Crossing his arms and adamantly not looking at Ferdinand, he concluded, “Worse, if they believed they were identified, it could push them to act rashly when they had nothing to lose. What if they had aimed for more than only my life?”
Never one to be ignored, Ferdinand burst through to Dorothea’s side with a fire in his eyes. “Only?!”
The shift was subtle but instantaneous, and Dorothea quirked an eyebrow as she glanced between them. Hubert tensed the moment Ferdinand approached, attempting to draw his guard up only to find it faltering. Something had changed since Ferdinand sat beside him and Her Majesty, perhaps irredeemably, and now Dorothea had sensed it. She was a good woman with a caring heart despite her burdens, but she was also insufferably nosy and horrid gossip.
This was precisely why lectures did not take place in the great hall.
“He’s correct,” Dedue interceded, possibly unaware of the surrounding circumstances. King Dimitri, Byleth, Seteth, and Claude arrived with him, although Hubert supposed it was more accurate to state they arrived with His Highness.
“That he is,” Claude nodded, confident and smiling as if the idea were his. He probably would have done the same. “Not that there were many left to come after you.”
Praise or criticism, it scarcely mattered to Hubert. Whatever they wanted to discuss, he would have preferred to be looking after Her Majesty rather than drawn into it. Count Bergliez was popular enough with the people to dispel any misconceptions of his fealty to Lady Edelgard. Furthermore, the victors of the war had more to contend with than assassins hunting down the vassal to the fallen enemy leader. In a way, allowing it to go unchecked would do them a favor.
“Perhaps we should consider the contributions Hubert can make to our cause,” Seteth remarked as they made their approach. He wore a mask of neutrality, but the cold undertone of his voice revealed his true agenda. Seteth wanted Hubert removed from the strike team laying siege to Shambhala. “Now that he is a target for treason, he will draw unwanted attention.”
Before Hubert could utter a syllable about where Seteth would find himself if he tried to stop him, Lord Bergliez let out a single, boisterous laugh reserved for jokes that are more offensive than they are entertaining.
“Look at you, talking like a proper big fish. We all know the Church doesn’t have enough power to tell a peasant where to put his chamber pot,” he barked in a characteristically brusque manner, grinning up at Seteth like he’d just won his house in a bet. “If you think you’ve got the might to force the issue, I invite you to go for it. I could personally defeat what remains of your knights before it was time for lunch. Show some of that sagely wisdom you project and bear that in mind next time you get the brilliant idea to open your mouth.”
Seteth took the advice and kept quiet, allowing everyone to hear Caspar loudly whispering to Linhardt. “Ooh, my father got him good!”
No doubt intent on playing peacekeeper, Byleth broke the silence. “We should decide by vote.”
“An excellent suggestion,” Ferdinand agreed, more serious than usual regardless of his steady smile. There was a grounded quality to his voice that was an unmistakable sign that he was sharing an idea he’d given extensive consideration to. Gesturing to King Dimitri, he made his case. “As well, it would benefit us to restore the Empire’s trust in Hubert. Peace is built on stability, and Adrestia is at turning point in history. With this much change, providing more certainty by addressing these concerns is better than allowing rumors to spread.”
“You’ve both done exceptional work here,” Dimitri spared the time to commend them. “Let us move forward with both.”
The council session was comprised of representatives to best capture the current political terrain of Fódlan: two for the Alliance, two for the Empire, one for the Church, one for the Kingdom (at Dimitri’s insistence) and one for Brigid with Petra’s recent arrival.
Hubert was not permitted attendance, of course. He was under review as a potential security risk and his presence with the committee was evidently a hazard. By which, Hubert knew they meant he would frighten dishonest votes out of the representatives merely by being in the room. It was something of a compliment despite its profound inconvenience.
With no duty to occupy his time aside from his final commitment to Her Majesty, which he had no direct oversight of, Hubert preoccupied himself with assessing the likelihood of his success in a random study of the Enbarr palace. His office was no longer his, naturally. Hubert was not to be told who was taking vote, but the conference hall was closed, and the process of elimination made quick work of determining some of the representatives for himself.
Petra was obviously voting. Her return from her home country with reinforcements came earlier than expected and led to the inclusion of Brigid in the vote to begin with. Ungratefulness to Her Majesty aside, Petra had a sort of friendship with Hubert before the war began. But then again, there was the fact that Petra had declined Lady Edelgard’s personal invitation to their side of the fight. With a sip of coffee cold from neglect, Hubert resigned himself to the reality that her vote could go either way.
Next were Lorenz and Claude, whose votes would negate each other if the past was any indication. Lorenz was almost guaranteed to vote against him, and Claude’s tactical side would encourage him to vote in favor of Hubert.
He was unable to determine the Empire or Kingdom representatives, since everyone he initially assumed was either tasked with various duties and therefore not guaranteed to be in the conference hall or so far removed from the leading officials that Hubert hadn’t considered them. With Seteth’s clear disdain taken into account, that left him with narrow odds of success. While Hubert was well-acquainted with those, his influence over the odds was usually more direct.
Even if they voted that he should remain behind, Hubert decided he would personally ensure the downfall of the Agarthans regardless. That was the very last service he would ever see to for Her Majesty, and Hubert could not possibly recover from permitting anyone to carry it out without him. The path to that end would certainly be easier if they accepted his role in this, but since when had the temptation of an easy path held any sway over Hubert?