This post will contain spoilers for
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
One single line completely shook my choice of love interest in Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. After all, it wasn’t like that was the only small thing that made a big decision for me. Like how the deciding factor on which plot thread to follow boiled down to which guy I thought had the nicer hair. Sorry, Claude (Yes, a controversial decision, I know. I tell you, I never even noticed Dimitri’s bangs were ready for a McDonald’s ad until long into my playthrough).
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a turn-based strategy game, with combat that resembles a board game more often than it does a traditional RPG. Arguably, Three Houses is one of the most story-driven entries in the series recently: your character is roped into teaching at an officer’s academy for young nobles and gifted commoner students. Once you arrive at the school, you’re immediately thrust into choosing one of three branching paths in the form of the three school House leaders (think Hogwarts) vying for your approval. And the right for you to be their exclusive instructor.
This decision not only affects the overarching story but also what characters you’ll likely bond most with—and who you can romance. You can only romance someone within your house, and while you can eventually recruit virtually any character, the three House leaders will remain in their respective houses no matter what.
Meaning when I had to choose between the knight in shining armor Dimitri or the suave and charming Claude, I knew that I had to choose my prospective husband NOW. And since it was such a close race (and because I knew both of them about as well as any stranger off the street), it came down to whose hair I liked better.
But oh my gosh, I didn’t regret my choice. Because despite it initially being absolutely superficial, as I got to know Dimitri and his Blue Lion House, I knew Dimitri was the absolute Best Boy.
|Dimitri / Nintendo 2019
Call me old-fashioned; call me crazy, but I’m a sucker for the handsome prince. The goody-goody. The Captain Americas. The Just Incredibly Nice Good Boys. Dimitri checked all those wholesome boxes. He was charming, gentle, compassionate, selfless: a leader who inspired his comrades to give it their all. My gosh, part of his storyline involved him patiently teaching a bunch of orphans!
But better yet, he wasn’t just a sugary sweet rainbow of pillow-candies. Dimitri had the added bonus of a mysterious, tragic past. A sweet and handsome prince with a backstory fraught with sorrow? I didn’t think it could get any better.
Well, admittedly, it took a while for things to get good. While Dimitri had a healthy sense of humor and a deep concern for the Lions (and myself, his professor), his affections for me never seemed to go beyond his care for anyone else in the Blue Lions House. We spent time together, but as comrades on the battlefield, not date-worthy material at candlelight dinners.
So it was with teenage-levels of trepidation and excitement that I awaited the White Heron Ball: the hotly-anticipated school dance. It was an important event, a chance to spend an evening with the man of my choice. But would Dimitri reciprocate my affections, or would I be cruelly rejected?
I watched Dimitri dance with Edelgard (Edelgard!), but no dance for me with the handsome prince. Claude offered to take me on the dance floor though, and suddenly I began to question whether I’d made the wrong choice all those moons ago.
I may not have gotten a dance, but my hopes weren’t crushed just yet. I still had one last chance at a tender moment with my potential true love. You see, there was a legend surrounding the White Heron Ball: that if a man and woman made their way to the top of the tower and made a wish, it would come true. You couldn’t get much more romantic than that, right?
I found Dimitri alone outside the ballroom; he felt stifled by the stuffy atmosphere and was looking to clear his head. And where did we decide to go?
My heart hammered as Dimitri and I discussed our sincerest desires, what we would wish for if we could. I gave my generic answer (the dialogue options aren’t always fantastic in this game), and Dimitri found it charming. He chuckled.
“Perhaps it would make more sense for me to wish that we’ll be together forever,” he said in his buttery-smooth voice.
BE AT PEACE, MY FLUTTERING HEART.
And then he broke into laugh. “I’ve been working on my jokes. Pretty good, eh, Professor?”
You nasty, heartless, cruel man! Delight turned to disappointment in an instant.
(I can hear you laughing at the anticlimactic end to this short article—until you realize you’re still scrolling down. You know this was not the line that made me fall out of love with this romantically-clueless dork of a prince…)
No, I knew Dimitri hadn’t meant to break my heart. Especially after hearing his response when I called him out on his cruel reply. Immediately he apologized, realizing he had genuinely hurt my feelings. He then turned the conversation onto better things, urging us both to make our wishes. Even if neither of us really believed in the legend, we may as well wish while we were here.
Needless to say, despite Dimitri’s attempts to console me, hope was quickly dying in my heart for this little romance. How foolish I’d been! After all, it wasn’t as if Dimitri’s heart was his own. He was the heir apparent, about to become king when he came of age at the end of this year. He didn’t get to choose who to marry, even if he had been interested in me.
Well… as I soon found out, ruling wasn’t exactly the main thing on Dimitri’s mind. Slowly but surely, I began to learn the true nature of Dimitri’s tale.
It began innocently enough—a few stray derogatory comments thrown Dimitri’s way by another Blue Lion, a young noble named Felix who had once been good friends with Dimitri. That is, until he saw “Dimitri’s true nature,” as he called it. “Less of a man and more of a monster. You’re nothing but a wild boar,” Felix spat.
Well this was uncouth and out of absolute nowhere, and it made me peg Felix for an ornery cynic. But Dimitri, intriguingly, didn’t dispute it. Maybe he just didn’t want to pick a fight with Felix; it seemed clear Felix harbored some deep bitterness against Dimitri.
I had no idea the insidiousness that dwelt deep within.
Bit by bit, I began to learn more about Dimitri and his occasionally-referenced tragic backstory. His parents and almost all their loyal retainers had been brutally murdered, an attack that had shaken his kingdom—and himself—to the very core. Dimitri had grown up largely alone: an only child bereft of friends and justice.
No one had ever determined who was behind the assassinations. It’d been pinned on a nation the kingdom had subdued in the recent past. But Dimitri had seen the attackers; none of them were of that particular nation. Someone had framed them. And Dimitri was determined to find out who.
In fact, Dimitri confided in me that this was his sole reason for attending the academy: to uncover his parents’ murderer and exact his revenge.
This seemed like a completely different Dimitri than the one I knew. But the conviction with which he spoke—the tormented way his voice growled like a monster as he spoke of destroying the one who had killed his family… It was clear this was no act. He had been suffering under a false smile for years, burdened by an unbearable loneliness and an even heavier guilt and shame. Dimitri suffered heavily from survivor’s guilt, feeling he was at fault… and that every day his parents’ killers walked the earth, he was letting them down even further.
He had to put them to rest. He had to kill the ones who had taken everything from him. But as he ranted and raved, claiming it was for justice, it was clear this was far less about justice and far more of him being drunk on the idea of revenge.
I finally understood what Felix had meant by the “wild boar.”
Or so I thought.
|Edelgard / Nintendo 2019
Dimitri eventually did confront the killer—or at least, who he thought was the killer: Edelgard—his classmate, his childhood friend… and his step-sister. But not even fond memories could hold Dimitri back. Without hesitation, Dimitri attacked Edelgard. She managed to escape, but Dimitri swore he wouldn’t rest until she was dead.
He was a different person entirely, absolutely mad with bloodlust. The wild boar had come out at last.
His confrontation with Edelgard was the spark that began five years of flame and war. All the while, Dimitri cut down swaths of Edelgard’s troops down in wanton violence, hungry for her head. Try as he might, however, there was little he could do without an army at his back: Edelgard’s empire had marched across Dimitri’s kingdom, forced him off the throne, and threatened to take over the rest of the continent.
In addition to that, he lost me, his professor, after his initial dramatic confrontation with Edelgard. During the battle, I fell into a bottomless chasm, where I slept an enchanted sleep for five long years.
I woke to a world much-changed by the war, but nothing brought its tragedy and repercussions to light quite like finding Dimitri again.
The years had changed him, utterly broken him. I found him crouching in the shadows of the ruined academy, alone, beaten down, missing an eye, hair long and unkempt, dressed in furs instead of the well-groomed uniform I knew so well. He snarled and growled like a wounded beast, still thirsty for blood.
But there was also a glimmer as he looked up at me: a hint of the gentle Dimitri, the hurting prince I’d fallen in love with all those years ago, before he’d allowed revenge to take over his soul. It was in his eyes, in his voice as he asked, bewildered and almost afraid, what I was doing here. He thought I was another ghost from his past, and he grumbled, asking whether I was here to haunt him too.
But no. I was really here. I was here, and I was here to stay!
My heart melted. I wanted to reach out and cradle his head in my hands. “I’m so sorry for leaving you alone so long,” I wanted to whisper to him, to tell him everything would be all right now.
Because at last, I was here again. And I would set this right. I would bring his heart back from the brink. I had to. I knew that even though his loneliness and guilt had boiled into hatred and violence, deep down that gentleness and kindness I’d loved him for was still there—even if it, like me, had been asleep for these five long years.
I’d wake it up again. But I knew it’d take time. Like a pet that’d gone feral, Dimitri had wandered close to the brink of losing himself completely. He’d certainly forgotten how to be with people; his first response upon realizing I had really come back was to turn us onto a bandit outpost and drive the thugs out.
Not exactly my idea of a great way to start his redemption, but he insisted these bandits needed to be dealt with or else they’d hurt the nearby townsfolk. Surely those people had been through enough given the war. I couldn’t exactly say no to that.
During the raid, we reunited with some unexpected familiar faces, allies who arrived just in time to help us fight the bandits who badly outnumbered us: our Blue Lions, now five years older and wiser. I was thrilled to see everyone safe; Dimitri just growled and insisted we had to hunt down Edelgard, as if his friends were only stepping-stones for his revenge. Even after we’d settled into the ruins of the academy, Dimitri talked to no one, associated with no one—just stood there brooding in the ruins of the school cathedral, arms crossed. He’d barely say a word to me. He hardly paid attention to his former mentors, who also found us among the ruins.
I wanted to hold out hope. I wanted to keep believing maybe, just maybe, there was a way I could bring him back from the brink.
But every time his tongue would wag, it was to cut someone down. It was to reiterate his hatred. It was to gloat in the killing of another of Edelgard’s soldiers. It was to rant and rave that we had to be rid of her for good.
I began to wonder… Perhaps the Dimitri I knew and fell in love with had been a lie all along. Or maybe he really had died at the hands of Edelgard’s puppet regime in the Kingdom, as Empire propaganda loudly proclaimed.
It certainly seemed like it. My Dimitri was gone, replaced by this cold and cruel imitation who was trying even my patience. He couldn’t say one nice word to the Lions, who still showed him nothing but concern and support—even Felix pulled me aside, asking me to keep an eye on Dimitri. “If anyone can knock some sense into him, I know you can, Professor.”
But could I? I… almost didn’t want to dare hope.
But I did. I kept hoping, just a little bit longer.
I’d visit Dimitri every second I could. Even though I knew he’d stay silent or growl something unpleasant to me about how he wanted to be alone or how he needed to kill Edelgard. But no, I wouldn’t leave him alone. I still kept talking to him. If I could just break through… If I could just show him that no matter what happened, I’d still be there for him, there to talk when he finally opened up… If only… If only… If only…
And then the day came.
I wish I could say I marched up to Dimitri to cheerfully wish him good morning. But no. By this point, I was tired. Hurt. Scarred. I walked up to Dimitri… almost afraid. Fearful what cold thing he’d say to me today. Afraid how much it would sting to hear another reminder that the prince I loved was gone.
But… I’d talk to him anyway! I’d keep talking to him until he couldn’t stand me anymore. I’d never give up! I’d—
He was muttering to himself about killing Edelgard again. But this time, he turned to me and said, “I’ll kill anyone who gets in my way… even you.”
It stopped me in my tracks.
It broke my heart.
I knew he’d become a violent man. A man consumed with rage. A man who saw himself and everyone else as less than human.
He had threatened and ranted and raved. But never at me. Not like that.
I was shocked. And thoroughly broken.
No apology. No “Good joke, eh, Professor?”
Those wouldn’t have been able to mend this hurt anyway. Not this time. That was too far. Too much.
Yes, it was just a game. A fantasy. But that comment had genuinely hurt my heart.
Dimitri went on to suffer even more, lose even more. Finally pushed to his breaking point, he turned to me as we stood in the rain, asking what he was supposed to do. He felt hopeless, helpless, and lost.
I still cradled his face in my hands. I still told him I’d be there for him, to help guide his way back.
That moment began to change him. Bit by bit, he started returning to some semblance of the way he was before. He apologized to the Lions. He began to lead them again. He chose battles not to kill Edelgard’s men but to fight for the Kingdom.
But he’ll never be the same.
I think, that day he turned on me… I fell out of love with Dimitri.
I don’t know what to do. My heart belonged to Dimitri. I liked many of the other Lions, but none quite compared to the handsome prince with a heart of gold… at least not until he broke mine.
I’ve considered marrying one of the other men. Dedue is stalwart and tender-hearted, sturdy as stone. Felix is brutally honest but refreshingly clever and insightful. Even the flirtatious Sylvain has shown he’s more than meets the eye if a girl he can trust comes along.
But turning to any of them for comfort feels wrong. They all deserve better than to be the rebound guy for a broken heart. And if I wasn’t really interested in them before, why should I believe that anything has changed now?
Dimitri was the only one for me… until he wasn’t.
And now… I don’t really know where to go from here.
And it was all thanks to one little line. One line the writers likely thought was just a throwaway comment. But to me, it changed how I saw Dimitri forever.
And unfortunately, it wasn’t for the better.
All photos taken from Nintendo’s official page for Fire Emblem: Three Houses unless otherwise specified. All images are property of their respective owners and are used under US “Fair Use” laws.
Fire Emblem and all related terms are the property of Nintendo and KOEI TECMO GAMES CO., LTD. And I am not affiliated with them.