The following is a series on Fire Emblem: Three Houses that analyzes the story elements, characters and theming. For reference, here are the links to each one:
Intro/Basic review, White Clouds (Common Part 1), Cindered Shadows (Ashen Wolves DLC Route - Part 1.5), Crimson Flower (Black Eagles/Eagle House Part 2, Adrestia route), Silver Snow (Black Eagles/Eagle House Part 2, Church route), Azure Moon (Blue Lions/Lion House Part 2), Verdant Wind (Golden Deer/Deer House Part 2) Non-house leader characters (Eagle, Deer, Lion, Church) Music analysis (very surface level)
Part 2: Crimson Flower - Reclaiming faith; finding love
At six chapters, it's significantly shorter than the 9-10 of the others. (Even Cindered Shadows was longer at seven chapters.) It only shares two fights with its counterpart, Silver Snow. It's the only route that requires you to go out of your way to open, and even then, you have to actively choose to enter it.
And it's the story that gives you the 'good ending' to the game.
I know for many that's a contentious point; hear me out on this one.
There's a reason the pathway to get to CF is harder to reach. There's a reason the storyline is entirely different from literally every other pathway in the game. There's a reason Edelgard gets a prominent feature role in every storyline, even Verdant Wind where you have very little contact with her. There's a reason the Japanese script only gives Edelgard a unique way of greeting Byleth (she uses 'sensei' in the 'master connotation, vs. the 'teacher' connotation everyone else uses).
There's a reason the credits theme is different for CF compared to every other storyline. There's a reason the menu theme is named for Byleth and Edelgard's shared Crest. There's a reason the main theme of the whole game is titled "Girl of Hresvelg." ("Edge of Dawn" is a nice title but it does mask some of the game's intentions.)
The core story of this game is the relationship between Byleth and Edelgard (and, to a lesser extent, Sothis); more specifically, it focuses on how the relationship's failure dooms Edelgard, but its success saves both Edelgard AND Byleth.
To explain this point, we must return to Chapter 11 of White Clouds, where talking to Edelgard leads to one of the most important set pieces in the whole game.
Coronation: The most important scene in the game
There is A LOT to unpack from the sequence of events here. First off, the reason why it was so important to do the ceremony so quickly. Despite the fact that Edelgard is the princess, this sequence is, for all intents and purposes, a coup.
Backstory from Hubert, Edelgard, and Hanneman reveal that the Insurrection of the Seven stripped Emperor Ionius IX of his authority as emperor. Why this was done is only mentioned in the Japanese script of Hanneman's support chain with Hubert: Ionius had wanted to abolish the consort (extra-marital lovers to birth more heirs) system in Adrestia, which would have weakened the hold the Crest-based nobility would hold in the long term, since it would be harder than ever to create heirs.
With his plan opposed by the other major families of the Empire, his attempt to overrule them led to the insurrection. For years, the Empire has been ruled in the shadows by the Prime Minister, Duke Aegir (Ferdinand's dad).
Hubert mentions in Chapter 12 that he replaced his father as Marquis Vestra (likely by killing him, given how much he resented his father for betraying Emperor Ionius), so Aegir's majority in the Six Noble Houses was broken. All that was left was to complete the imperial succession ritual before Aegir could break it up.
And thus the shadow government of Adrestia was removed in favor of its public leader again. Edelgard then deposes Duke Aegir and places him (and Count Varley, Bernadetta's father) under house arrest. I think we need to take a moment to express how important this moment is for Edelgard's character and how the game tries to give Byleth a real reason to trust Edelgard's judgment.
Edelgard: Rising above
Edelgard's supports reveal a very harsh truth: Edelgard is the victim of horrific physical and mental abuse, and Duke Aegir is directly responsible.
And contrary to the horrific misunderstanding of the situation Lysithea and Ferdinand reached in the game's most horrifying paralogue, Duke Aegir is not a patsy in this. The experiments on Edelgard and her siblings were done expressly to "create a peerless emperor" according to Edelgard's C+ support. Aegir intended to make Edelgard's ascension to emperor contingent on him retaining power and being able to use Edelgard's strength like a military battering ram.
It's also clear that he had made a deal with TWSD long ago. Based on the Ferdinand/Lysithea non-CF paralogue, at the time of his Insurrection, Aegir was in charge of Hrym territory and the TWSD mages were conducting secret experiments on Lysithea's family in the neighboring territory. With Aegir taking control around this point, he would have been the leader who first learned TWSD had infiltrated the Empire. This means Duke Aegir saw what was happening to Lysithea's family and thought, "This would be a great thing to do to the Emperor's children!"
And yet she doesn't. She had the authority and the power to execute him on the spot, and yet let him live. Why?
I suspect two reasons were at play. The first was to prove, both to Byleth and herself, that all her pain had not completely taken away her humanity. If a death was preventable in her plan, she could, and would, avoid it, no matter how much she may want to do it.
The second reason is out of loyalty to her friends. If you watch Edelgard's supports, even Ferdinand's, she never once brings up the actions of their parents. Hubert brings his family's actions up to Edelgard, but she never expresses disgust at the Six Noble Family leaders to any of their offspring, even after the war starts. I can only see this as an attempt to protect the feelings of her house-mates, Ferdinand especially, given how highly he values his status.
She keeps Duke Aegir alive, at least in part, because she didn't want to take a parent away from Ferdinand.
This is why I consider this scene to be so necessary before the events of the Holy Tomb. They reveal that Edelgard, at least at this point in the story, has still got her head and heart in a good place. She's a revolutionary, to be sure, but she's idealistic enough that proper guidance and perspective could lead to a positive outcome.
As I say in the Silver Snow dissection, the final decision in the Holy Tomb is an act of faith one way or another. This scene is Edelgard's best argument to put faith in her.
The Masks Come Off
I didn't notice a feature of the Holy Tomb battle originally, until I saw someone else's playthrough, but Edelgard will not kill anyone in the battle, not even Flayn. When going back through the Japanese script, her orders to the soldiers are different too. In English, she orders the soldiers to kill anyone in her way, but in Japanese she says, "You may kill them."
Obviously, since the soldiers are led by Metodey, the assassin, they're all more than willing to fight to the death, thus Metodey is the main threat in this level. Edelgard, however, tries to fight non-lethally, and the more death-minded Hubert is kept off the battlefield entirely.
I think it's worth noting that this is the only of the four routes where Byleth openly smiles following her decision. She smiles at Edelgard as she fumbles through a thank you and the smile seems to even increase when Hubert pops back in to express his gratitude.
While Byleth may be happy with the decision, it breaks Rhea's composure entirely. The fragile psyche of hers that has been hinging on the literal revival of the dead shatters upon Sothis's refusal to return and Byleth's rejection of her authority.
The White One in other routes only appears in a protective role. Rhea dawns the form to protect the monastery or stop the Javelins of Light. This time, however, she summons the form entirely for vengeance. The beast that was seen as divine intervention in other routes resembles nothing but unencumbered wrath to those who bear witness in the Holy Tomb, and unsurprisingly, every Eagle except Flayn is horrified and follows Byleth out the door.
Such an action confirms fears and concerns that have been bubbling up since the early chapters and reflects Rhea's motives in the early chapters to stifle dissent through fear. Rhea likes when people speak candidly to her, unless it's in direct conflict with her authority. And that mask falls off in this scene.
Edelgard finally drops her guard
After the entire Eagle house (Flayn excluded) joins the war effort, Edelgard expresses to Hubert that she cannot believe they are following her into war; moreover, that even knowing she's giving the order to revolt against the Church, Byleth is choosing to turn her back on the Church to help her.
In her mind, even though she finds the Church's system to be unfair and full of lies, she still on some level believes in their teachings - most notably that the Goddess protects all that is good and beautiful. The fact that her prayers to save her and her siblings went unanswered is proof to her that she is ugly, evil and undeserving of love. And the more Edelgard falls for Byleth, the more convinced she becomes that they will never be together - because someone so good could never truly feel for someone so repulsive.
And this is not just conjecture. The lyrics to the game's title song (again, titled "Girl of Hresvelg") emphasize this point. Among the lines I would cite are: "My blackened heart/Scorched by flames, a force I can't run from"; I long to stay/Where the light dwells/To guard against the cold/That I know so well"; and "My dearest wish/Is that you’ll know/These tender thoughts/That only seem to grow."
She even offers Byleth another chance to walk away and asks if she's really okay with fighting in a war against the Knights of Seiros. And she starts to get emotional once you confirm that you are, in fact, going to stay with her.
(I'm just going to refer to Byleth as female for the rest of this blog because I see female Byleth as the canonical version. This is because female Byleth is the only one who can S-rank with all the house leaders and finish their stories.)
How joining Edelgard changes the time skip
Byleth doesn't fall as the result of an accident in this version; instead, she is sent careening down into the river when Rhea transforms into The White One and attacks her. For all intents and purposes, Byleth is killed in service of Edelgard.
First off, the battle in Chapter 12 is the first and final time TWSD mages are seen as allies in a main battle. It's also the last time Jeritza dons his Death Knight mask during the story. Jeritza no longer wearing the mask may be simply due to the fact that everyone knows who he is, but the end of TWSD as an active participant in battle is a major change from non-CF routes.
TWSD had conducted all their experiments on Lysithea and Edelgard because they sought to create a human weapon capable of taking control of all Fodlan, who they could then control or destroy. And in other routes, Edelgard incorporated them into the main army for the sake of numbers, with the hope that they could turn their weapons on TWSD once they won.
Not that there's many of those options available, either. The other main effect of Edelgard's relationship with Byleth is that she is more protective of those around her and thus less willing to take risky, more dishonorable moves against the Kingdom and Alliance.
Non-CF routes all have the same fate for the Kingdom - Edelgard commissions Cornelia (an agent of TWSD) to organize a coup and remove Dimitri from power. Cornelia tries and fails to execute Dimitri, and his one-eyed self goes on a mission of inexhaustible vengeance.
Neither of these results come to pass in Crimson Flower. While Cornelia still maintains the position of power in Arianrhod she held prior to the war, she is instructed not to incite a coup, and so Kingdom soldiers like Rodrigue communicate with her and work with her as a protector of the fortress city. Meanwhile, Dimitri ascends the throne through natural order and grants Rhea and the Knights of Seiros sanctuary.
This puts the onus of the Kingdom-Empire conflict wholly on the Kingdom, at least in the eyes of the public. Non-CF Edelgard had Rhea captured and yet still tried to weaken the Kingdom by stopping Dimitri from ascending the throne. CF Edelgard does not engage the Kingdom until after Dimitri grants Rhea sanctuary. From an outsider perspective, the Kingdom has stepped in the middle of the Empire's conflict with the Church.
Speaking of outsiders, with the western Kingdom largely following Dimitri's lead as king, there is no need for the Alliance to make any concessions regarding the Great Bridge. Claude is able to keep House Gloucester completely out of the conflict and the Alliance is basically untouched at the time of Byleth's return.
Battle has been kept to border squabbles for five years, with Garreg Mach being the only notable conquered territory. There have been relatively few casualties with TWSD neutralized as an aggressor, and all four sovereign armies in Fodlan are operating at full- to nearly full-strength.
A Found-family Becomes Whole Again
The reunion sequence of CF holds entirely different emotions for the characters involved than the non-CF routes, and it starts with the reunion with the house leaders.
Dimitri's reunion in Azure Moon is meant to show how far he'd fallen in the five years without Dimitri. There is no warmth, no joy in the fact that Byleth lived. He's entirely focused on his pain and the ghosts that haunt him.
Claude and Silver Snow Edelgard maintain their external facades and never lose sight of their larger goals. Claude does show more warmth toward you and brings a meal, but the fact he had a meal prepped and immediately knew where to find bandits to fight tells me he was already making calculations for the next part of his grand scheme and wasn't in-the-moment.
After Edelgard explains the current situation, she organizes the entire set of Eagles for a reunion, and all of them express their joy that Byleth has returned and are eager to show how much they've grown in five years. Caspar even takes time to rib Edelgard about how emotional she was about losing Byleth, and while she blushes and sweats, she chooses to simply allow the comment to exist, indicating they're all familiar enough with each other to make jokes.
This is why there is no big reunion fight with thieves. Byleth bonded the Eagle house members together through their school days and her disappearance. And thus, the BESF is a unified family who have supported each other through five years.
I'll talk more about it in the character blog, but so many of the characters in Eagle house had a heavy degree of suffering in their backstory. The BESF seems to be a real support system, and for Edelgard, it's a necessary influence on her that provides perspective and keeps her focused on her ideals, not the desperation to win.
Okay, so BESF is a dorky-as-all-hell name and will be cited later in this blog when I talk about how Edelgard is a gigantic, hyper-romantic dork. But I do want to offer a bit of real-world history on this one.
The part where I stop to give you a history lesson you've likely never thought about until now
There are obvious real-world parallels that inspired this game. The Northern-Southern unification following wars with Austria seem to line up with Adrestia in the south unifying with Faerghus in the north. The BESF flag resembles both the Order of the Black Eagle and the old Holy Roman Empire's coat of arms. The first Emperor of Germany was Wilhelm I, which is the name of the first emperor of Adrestia in-game. A notable Order member in Germany was a knight named Ferdinand.
I say this because I see many try to tie the events of this game to Nazi Germany, but the timeline doesn't match up at all. The events this game is based on start in the early 1800s, run through about 1870, and every trace of real-world connection is gone by the end of the first World War and the creation of the German Republic.
History nerd-time over; back to Fodlan stuff
So with the band back together, the BESF makes its move to break the stalemate by taking the Great Bridge. Count Gloucester is sympathetic to the Empire, so the Alliance forces guarding the bridge are soldiers serving House Daphnel and its leader, Judith.
We get a glimpse into the plan Claude has concocted, as the instructions given are for Judith and the Alliance forces to retreat if it's clear they can't win. We also get the first clashes between the Strike Force and students that weren't recruited. In this case, it's Ignatz as one of Judith's guards and Leonie as a calvary member.
This is, however, a route where the motivations of the people you recruit are really meaningful. All the other factions are fighting the Empire in their native route, so what is the motivation they give to fight with them?
One of the most fascinating questions for me in this game is, "Who makes your Crimson Flower team?" I'll be answering that at the end of the blog, but interactions like Leonie's rage that Byleth would turn against the Knights who Jeralt led are a look into each character that you can only get through CF.
Edelgard vs. Claude - the battle to decide Fodlan's grand reformer
This chapter has a weird mistranslation that is the exact opposite of what is happening. The English script says that Claude is making it hard for people to leave Deirdru, hinting that he's planning to use the people like human shields to stop the Empire from moving in.
The Japanese script says the exact opposite. Claude intends for the city to be completely abandoned for the battle except for his forces. This fits more into the idea that Claude wants the winner of this fight to have the full strength of both countries at their disposal.
Claude posts up very little resistance to the Empire's march to Deirdru. And he's pinned near the sea so the Almayran navy can ambush them once they enter the city. Even in the Deirdru fight, Claude tells his people to surrender if they get overwhelmed and that the Alliance will join the Empire should the plan fail.
Claude is trying to turn the tables and become the conqueror himself, and he's setting his people up for secure positions in the Empire should his gambit fail. He says as much after the fight.
Or at least he does if you choose to spare him. Speaking of...
The route of mercy
One of the game mechanics I don't really see get talked about is the critique/console mechanic. When teaching your students, your instruction will lead to a good, great, perfect or bad level of improvement. Perfection automatically gives you one bonus lesson; good and great are just a difference of exp points; but a bad result triggers the console/critique option. This allows you to either offer a criticism of how they performed the task, or offer consolation so they aren't discouraged. Guessing incorrectly has no negative (besides I guess making you feel bad), but guessing correctly gives the student a second chance.
Edelgard surprised me at first glance as being someone who prefers consolation. None of the other house leaders lean for consolation, and she does her best to appear driven and focused at all times.
But then I went back through Edelgard's backstory and compared it to her interests. She enjoys receiving stuffed bear toys and board games; she loves the arts and music; she loves animals, cats especially. In her supports, she's seen around animals and plants in her free moments. Edelgard is a stereotypical girly-girl at heart with a bend toward romanticism.
So in that vein, it would make sense for a person this damaged to have low confidence. And it also makes sense that she would want to seek merciful options at every turn.
This brings me to the point of this section: Crimson Flower is the route where the army you control shows by far the most mercy.
In the other routes, you may only spare students who were in your class and left (Ashe in VW, Lorenz in AM, both in SS). It's less a life-save and more of a re-recruitment.
Crimson Flower has the only unconditional post-timeskip recruitment with Lysithea, which makes complete sense given her backstory and how it connects to Edelgard.
It goes beyond Lysithea, however. Byleth and Edelgard have the option to spare Claude at the end of their fight (as you probably gathered when I analyzed his statements made to Edelgard on the way out.
Though, as an aside, I get the sense that Claude is much happier losing Fodlan to Edelgard compared to Dimitri. I mention how he's less jocular with Dimitri in AM, but a real notable interaction difference is if Byleth asks Claude to lend them his strength. He shuts it down immediately in AM, but in CF, it actually gets a laugh out of him. Claude seems to genuinely want Edelgard to succeed, and I believe it's because they both recognize the need for reform in Fodlan. He's glad someone is making the move, even if he can't be the one to do it.
Also kind of notable is that it is theoretically possible to beat the Deer battles without fighting a single Deer besides Claude. The first objective is only to defeat the boss (i.e. kill Judith in Ch. 13, and beat Claude in Ch. 14). I was able to defeat Judith in only two turns, so since reinforcements never came, I never had to engage anyone else of note.
And with the right combination, you can avoid Hilda and win the battle with her still alive. Given that Edelgard's paralogue involves helping Goneril territory in the aftermath while Holst is ill, I'd argue it's the option the game is trying to lead to you take.
People from the Kingdom do not get the same treatment, as their culture mandates they fight to the death, but even then, the last battle never requires you to fight anyone but the final boss - meaning the potential two Lion students (Annette and Ashe), Catherine and Gilbert can survive the final battle without even facing a member of the BESF. My first playthrough ended with Catherine trying and failing to reach my units, so she definitely lived.
That's a total of seven. In comparison, Azure Moon and Verdant Wind have nine each (Edelgard, Hubert, Jeritza, Bernadetta, Petra, Ferdinand, Lysithea, Ignatz and Raphael, Dimitri, Felix, Mercedes). Silver Snow only confirms four deaths (Edelgard, Hubert, Jeritza and Dimitri), but the Blood of Eagle and Lion battle happens off-screen, so I maintain that (at minimum) all the Lions and Deer who die in that battle in other routes fall here as well. This means the route actually has nine deaths - 10 if you believe Claude fell in battle and 11 if Leonie runs in as reinforcement.
Some will probably argue that this route has an advantage when it comes to minimizing killings because it's only six chapters, but that's also kind of the point.
A more complete peace at half the cost!
This storyline sits at six chapters in comparison to the 10 in the other stories (Silver Snow is 9 with a 10th battle off-screen). This is due to there being no battle with the monastery raiders, no fight in Aileil, no in-person fight in Shambhala and the final battle in Fhirdihad being one battle vs. Enbarr's two.
What those changes do, however, is shorten the war down to a mere five months once Byleth returns (four if you consider the first battle and exploration day to be too short as a month). And yet all of the major issues with Fodlan are dealt with by the end of the Crimson Flower storyline.
Crests being held up as a status symbol? Wiped out by Edelgard almost instantly. Nobility system? The reforms begin, run throughout Edelgard's reign and is replaced by a nationalized education system. Hereditary rule? Edelgard begins appointing non-bloodline officials as early as Ladislava and Randolph and cedes power of her own volition to a person outside her family line.
Last of all, TWSD are dealt with in the shadows instead of a proper single battle. On my first playthrough, I was bummed that I didn't get to take out the group that killed Jeralt and cost Byleth access to Sothis in a real level.
But looking at it in hindsight, the declaration of war against them was cast when Cornelia was killed, and it would make sense for Edelgard to want the battle done without the main military so that lives were protected. The javelins hitting Arianrhod mean that Hubert will be able to trace them to Shambhala. And Rhea's death means no revival of Nemesis.
All in all, Fodlan reaps all the benefits in exchange for a shorter war that was decidedly less full of subterfuge and TWSD aggression. But speaking of the Cornelia fight in Arianrhod...
Lady of Deceit: Declaring War on the Death Cult... and Translation Fails
Edelgard's abuse may have started with the selfish motivations of the Six Noble Houses, but let's not mince words here - TWSD are always the ultimate evil in this scenario.
It's understandable that Hubert would be the one leading. Edelgard clearly displays discomfort at their presence. In the Japanese audio, Thales is the only person to whom she uses language that gives a subordinate tone, rather than an authoritative one.
Despite that discomfort, though, she does decide to pull a fast one on them and blindside their one major foothold in the Kingdom - Cornelia's fortress city of Arianrhod.
Cornelia figures Edelgard's aim pretty quickly, but the way she speaks, it's clear that I made a mistake playing CF as my first playthrough. I already figured I needed to do other playthroughs considering I had no knowledge of Judith or Rodrigue, and I didn't understand why Fleche became a regular dialogue set piece. But Cornelia's words in particular reek of self-congratulatory madness if you don't understand the context.
She realizes that the only reason they'd attack Arianrhod when a TWSD agent was in charge would be if they were targeting the TWSD agent. Arundel/Thales clearly realizes this as well, which is why he questions the decision and then obliterates Arianrhod with the Javelins of LIght.
So how did the game straight-up botch the translation to make Cornelia's death quote say the opposite? How do you go from a Japanese line that translates, "I see… So this is… the storyline you’ve written for me…", to saying that this betrayal was "all in accordance with this carefully crafted script of ours"?
Well while the translation decision is questionable, it does set me up to talk about Edelgard's most questionable action in the game. They decide to control the information about Arianrhod being destroyed, blaming the Church instead of TWSD.
So what sense is there in even lying about this? From a military perspective, I see what Edelgard is getting at. If you reveal a new enemy right before you launch your hopefully final assault on your current enemies, that could screw with the nerves of the troops.
This is especially true if you have no intention of using the actual military to fight the new threat. Remember, Hubert, Jeritza and Byleth seem to be the main core in the shadow fight that is coming against TWSD. Hubert says in his paralogue that the war with TWSD will be "knives cutting in the darkness."
In that sense, it's sensible to lay all setbacks and problems at the feet of the current enemy until the battles next month are over. Even so, I can't condone keeping it quiet from the rest of the BESF. It's not a major issue if she reveals the truth to them immediately following the battles, but every moment after Fhirdihad that it's not made clear to them is a problem.
Of all Edelgard's actions, it's the one I hold the least amount of comfort with, as it reads so similar to the false history Fodlan currently has. Like I said, it's not an issue if she properly assigns the blame right after the next month's battles, especially if TWSD get wiped out and all traces of their brutality are wiped out in the shadow war, but it's a playing-with-fire moment for sure.
Tailtean Plains: The Battlefield of Change
Each route gets some kind of exclusive battle, but while Azure Moon and Silver Snow use exclusive enemies on a familiar map, Verdant Wind and Crimson Flower get maps that only they get to use.
With no Blood of the Eagle and Lion in CF, this is the three-way battle replacement, though in this case it's more like a handicap match. The rain gives the battlefield the same dark echoes from the original cutscene, and there is a real frustration to getting close to beating the Kingdom, only for the Knights of Seiros to run in as you get close.
Adding to the irony, 1000 years before, Seiros had the Adrestian soldiers on her side against the forces of the Ten Elites. Now, she joins with the descendants of the Elites and their Kingdom to fight the Adrestian Empire.
Heck, she even gets the benefit of demonic beasts, as Dedue brings crest stones to help the soldiers become unholy monsters, including himself.
I didn't mention it earlier, but one of the most painful lines in this route is Ingrid's death quote, where she says she "has become like him," meaning Glenn. Her glorification of his duty as a knight has given her the Bruce Wayne in Dark Knight Rises mindset where she wants a glorious death defending her kingdom.
And Dimitri, for his part, never seems to learn the lesson of letting go, even in his final moments. Yes, he's operating on faulty information, but there never seems to be a point where he even considers he might be wrong in his assumptions. This was a problem in the other routes as well, but even here when he has the throne and got everything he expected to receive, he still cannot get out of his own way.
As for Edelgard, this battle affects her deeply. While she has repressed the memories of her time in the Kingdom to the point that she doesn't understand her connection to Dimitri, she did recognize the tragedy that was his life and nearly cries over it. She claims "the Edelgard who shed tears died many years ago," but it's clear that as she's gone through this story and made more connections that her hope is returning, and she's getting more in-touch with her emotions.
Just in time for the final battle.
To the End of a Dream/The Result of Our Love
(NOTE: These are the respective last chapter titles for the English and Japanese versions, respectively.)
I chose to mention the two titles of this chapter because they say a lot about what this chapter is.
Edelgard then gives Byleth her best explanation as to how Sothis ended up with Byleth. It's extremely incomplete, considering you need Rhea's SS and VW conversations to get the full picture, but it was a decent set of hypotheses given the information at-hand.
Much like her A-support and other start-of-month conversations, however, Edelgard continues to express how much she needs/values Byleth. The final months of this story really hammer home how much it meant to Edelgard that Byleth stayed with her. She had acted close to Byleth throughout White Clouds and attempted to show genuine care, despite the fact that she expected Byleth to leave her and (eventually) destroy her.
This means she knew the lines from the Church that were present in the monastery library: "The Goddess is all things, Her eyes see all, Her ears hear all, Her hands receive all.... The Goddess cares for and protects all that is beautiful in this world…”
Her attempt to reform the world is out of a sense of selflessness. She wants to protect others who were victimized by the system created by the Church of Seiros... but she has every expectation she will die for what she's doing and be damned for it.
Consider how she interacts with everyone in her supports. She's always concerned about Hubert and Dorothea's mental states, tries to take care of Lysithea, initially views Caspar as a victim of circumstance, tries to find Linhardt something to be passionate about, and advises Petra and Bernadetta. Even Ferdinand, with whom she has a contentious relationship, is talked with cordially and given honest consideration, despite her history with his father - a history she never brings up to him, by the way. Outside of supports, she takes a no-name like Ladislava and a distant relative of a noble like Randolph and put both in prominent positions because they deserve it.
She expected to lose all of this in the Holy Tomb back in Chapter 11, but they are all still with her. The person who most exemplifies Sothis - talked directly to her, bears her power, Crest and hair - is on her side.
In Azure Moon, Edelgard hits her lowest point and becomes the Hegemon Husk. In Crimson Flower, Byleth's nickname is "The Wings of the Hegemon," a reflection of how Byleth pulled Edelgard out of the darkness so she could rise above her pain.
The English title "To the End of a Dream" is a thematic tie to Byleth's journey. Where Silver Snow's was titled "Following a Dream," implying that Byleth was still following orders in hopes she'd find meaning one day, the CF chapter title implies that Byleth found her purpose, and this chapter will bring her to its ultimate fruition.
The Japanese title "The Result of Our Love," gives away the point of this route. The world that will be created through the final battle is the result of Byleth and Edelgard's love for each other. Byleth has found purpose, and Edelgard has found value in her own life. And together, they will bring the world to a better tomorrow.
Faith finally gets repaid
The battlefield itself is intimidating and large, but as I mentioned before, The White One is the only target that has to die, so if you really want to keep the others alive, it'll take some effort, but it is possible.
Once Edelgard and Byleth destroy The White One, Byleth collapses and appears to die. Edelgard loses what little composure she held and begins to cry openly over Byleth's body.
And yet, in this moment, there is a miracle. Sothis's Crest stone of flames breaks, and the residual energy goes into Byleth's real heart to start it for the first time in her life. As Edelgard's emotions flip to tears of joy, the green hair/eyes of Byleth return to their natural blue, and she is 100 percent human for the first time in her life.
Edelgard's plan to give humanity its freedom back is reflected here in Byleth, as Byleth gains her humanity in this victory as well. And yet, I find myself thinking of a Garth Brooks song of all things in this scene: "Unanswered Prayers."
"Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers" is the line in particular. It's a song about how a man prayed for a relationship with a woman to work out, only for it to fail, giving way to the true love of his life.
We consider how these sacrifices had to play in when dealing with human characters because we can see the full scale of the result, but we rarely think about how this type of thought process would play out with a divine being who has to consider an entire world at-large across not only the current time frame, but all time - past, present and future.
In that sense, Sothis's divine will is reflected in Byleth. She tells Byleth to cut a path that is her own, and then she leaves her full power to Byleth so that she may enact her will, whatever that may be. In effect, it is an endorsement of Byleth as a person that Sothis believes her will will be done, if Byleth simply follows her heart.
With that in mind, it's telling that Sothis only removes her divine power in Crimson Flower. One could take it as Sothis rejecting the goal Byleth sought out, but she remains a romantic option in this route despite everything, so it's not the interpretation I see. Instead, I see it as a sign that Sothis believes her work is done, and it's time to simply let Byleth be human.
It can be interpreted from such a read-through that Crimson Flower is the original plan. Byleth, who has to carry out this plan, is freed from the insane cycle that Rhea had created for reviving Sothis and gets with the only house leader who values her ability to choose and have autonomy above all else. Edelgard, who lost her entire family and ability to trust, gets a found family in the BESF, learns to trust and be open in her emotions again, receives a way to change the world in a manner that befits Edelgard's ideals, and finds a person to value her for who she is, not her position.
Viewed in this way, Sothis took Edelgard and Byleth, two present victims of Fodlan's past, and gave them Fodlan's future.
Final Thoughts - "Dearest Friends"
When I played Three Houses the first time, I played Crimson Flower first, and I remember being a bit underwhelmed that TWSD didn't get a proper defeat in-game since they were the ones whose plans led to Jeralt's death. Through the other routes, I realized all the other ways in which they ruined the land of Fodlan.
Thematically, the members directly responsible for Jeralt's death fall in Chapter 10, and there's no direct emotional hatred for Cornelia or Thales, at least from Byleth's perspective. They're evil, but they are Dimitri's demons, Hapi's demons, Edelgard's demons. TWSD's commanders serve as setup for the fight with Edelgard and nothing more.
Hapi's journey with Cornelia pays off whenever she gets to fight at Arianrhod. And Edelgard sets her fight in motion when she takes out Cornelia in a blindside attack. We know how the fight with Thales will end eventually, but Edelgard in this story is not so consumed by hatred of them that it overwhelms the main story.
|Credit the /edelgard Reddit thread - Posted by u/blackjack8866|
Playing the four routes made me realize that the personal connections and the humanity in war is what matters in this game. And no route exemplifies finding a person's humanity, finding light in the darkness, and finding companionship to get you through the toughest times quite like Crimson Flower.
As a final note, I will give my ideal Crimson Flower team (a 13-person combo for normal play and a 15-person combo for new game plus).
For the record, the two combinations given in "Emperor and the Goddess" are great ideas. (Also, seriously give this fic a read. It's such a good story and gave me a lot of angles that I hadn't considered with these storyines.) The two combinations given for recruits are: Ingrid, Sylvain, Lysithea, Marianne and Shamir (main timeline), and Felix, Leonie, Annette, Mercedes and Alois (parallel timeline).
Mine is a combination of the two:
Crimson Flower team
Byleth x Edelgard
Lysithea x Linhardt
Hubert x Ferdinand
Caspar x Annette
Jeritza x Mercedes (family reunion)
Petra x Dorothea
Bernadetta x Alois (Bernie gets an uncle!)
Leonie or Shamir as the wandering loner
If not NG+, Alois and Leonie/Shamir are dropped. Bernadetta goes with Hubert, Ferdinand goes with Mercedes, Jeritza takes the loner position.
I recruit Lysithea because she MUST be in Eagle house for CF in my view. I pick Mercedes for the Jeritza/Ferdinand supports and Annette to get her away from trying to please her dad. Alois is a freebie after Jeralt's death and has good supports. Leonie is my preference due to her desire to protect Byleth, but her death is avoidable; Shamir's is not and her support with Hubert is fun.