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Sothis, How's That?

Chapter Text

"All I can remember is my name," Sothis says, her voice solemn as she enters the professor's dorm. Her words contradict earlier assertions about the thousands of years she has on him, but Byleth does not comment.

"It's all I know," she says again, in case he wasn't listening. "Only my name,"

Without warning, she dives for the bed. Byleth is too stunned to move.

"And that this is my bunk."

Chapter Text

"Don't touch anything."

"Why?"

"You know why."

She comes to be known as Matilda, the Ghost of Garreg Mach, complete with a backstory and everything. Byleth sighs when he hears even Edelgard indulging in the gossip. The whispers stop as he enters the classroom.

Sothis sits herself atop his desk, which sets off a twitch in his eye. The girl is unnoticed, but her weight upsets some of Byleth's supplies and causes the desk to creak. All but Linhardt take notice.

The whispers start up again and Sothis is banished to the corner.

Chapter Text

Numerous trials are conducted to test the extent of Sothis' interactivity. Byleth has her stand in the middle of the hall during the first bell. Aside from mentions of a chill in the air, the students walk through her. Later, in his dorm, he attempts to do the same. Sothis has a minor fit when she hits the ground.

Byleth has her hold an apple—which she is able to do—next. She is also able to take a bite out of it, comment on its taste, and be assaulted by it when he throws it at her. The feeling of her fists battering his chest reaffirm their earlier results.

The strays are the most interesting. They react to Sothis petting them and can find her with ease. Byleth notes that while they behave as though they know something is there, it's unlikely that they can truly see her.

The next tests require a third party. Byleth elects Edelgard and discloses next to nothing. With Sothis between them, he has Edelgard toss an apple to him. Byleth raises a brow when the fruit phases through Sothis. The result is later reproduced when Claude shoots an arrow that passes through her during target practice.

The tests conclude and Sothis sleeps with the candle on that night.

Chapter Text

"You're late."

Byleth starts and nearly drops his papers. Sothis is eyeing him with her hands on her hips. He wonders how long she's been waiting—and posing.

"Sorry," the professor says as he sidesteps scattered books and knick-knacks. "My session with Miss von Hresvelgr ended up running longer than I anticipated."

"Edelgard."

He stops.

"Excuse me?"

"You call her Edelgard when no one else is around," she says firmly.

"Yes, well..."

Byleth reaches for the back of his neck.

"Formalities can often change depending on the context of the—"

'Wait a minute.'

Sothis flinches at the finger that thwacks her forehead.

"Stop spying."

Chapter Text

Byleth swears and loosens the grip on his blade, his nerves racked from battle.

"You poor thing. A minor skirmish and you're already vying for a place to hide."

A disembodied voice one moment, a girl coolly lying on the rocks the next.

"You should have seen yourself, you jumped quite a bit for such a steely-eyed mortal."

"You started blathering out of nowhere," he says. "Anyone would have reacted the same."

Sothis smiles. "Hah! You must become accustomed to my voice, considering how often you shall be hearing it. If you fall down with shock each time I speak, that just won't do."

"Then don't speak to me when I'm within an inch of my life."

"I am training you so you can remain level-headed whenever we communicate, even in the midst of battle—and I do not blather! You mortals can be so disresp—"

"I don't have the time to talk to thin air and I'm already running out of excuses for when I'm caught doing it. Goodbye."

"What!? Where are you going?! I am not done speaking! You're aware I came here for more than just scolding, right?!"

"Could have fooled me," he mutters and thinks nothing of her floating angrily in pursuit.

Chapter Text

"You mortals can be quite perplexing. I don't understand. Is this really what passes for 'fun' in your eyes?"

The pier is one of the academy's lesser-known amenities. Ironically, the staff make use of it more than the students they offer it to.

"It brings me peace of mind," Byleth answers, hand steady on the line. "At least, it does when I don't have a gnat buzzing around."

"And just what do you mean by that?!"

"That there's a certain serenity in being left to your own devices for a spell," he continues. "There's nothing else on my mind right now but fish—fish and the feeling of one squirming in my hands as it desperately gasps for life."

"Hmph... As I said—perplexing mortal," Sothis rests her cheek against her palm. "Is this all you had planned for us today?"

"I had to cancel and move around a lot of appointments to make this time for you, if you must know."

"And just look where that gambit has gotten us," Sothis sighs. "How long does it take for one of these creatures to be reeled in anyhow?"

"When my desire to catch it and its desire to be caught resonate with each other," Byleth says without pause. "In other words—when it feels like it."

"How very humdrum."

"I could fasten you to the end of the line and have you snatch them yourself if you'd prefer."

"But not that humdrum."

"As I thought."

Chapter Text

Bernadetta cowers under her bed. The door is shut, locked, and propped by a chair—and her heart is beating a thousand times per second.

Deep down, she knows it's fruitless. There's no point to the traps or the dummy under her covers. She knows Caspar is right—Matilda knows no boundaries and haunts as she pleases.

A trap springs and Bernie squeaks, her head butting with the bed's underside. She emerges with a quivering lip and a hand upon her head, tiptoeing toward the trap—a simple wire that releases a blanket from above when tripped.

She reaches out, her hand trembling as it nears the blanket. She's caught something, she's certain, but doesn't know what.

The dorm hall is beset with fear when she lifts the cover—and is met with nothing.


I'm convinced the Ghost of Garreg Mach is after me!

It's bad enough trying to stow away from real people, but at least they can't phase through walls!

How do I hide from a ghost? I just want to be able to sleep again! What should I do?

- Anonymous

"What in the..." Byleth blinks. "This is only the first letter. Are they all going to be like this? Who do they think responds to these?"

"I hear crosses and necklaces fashioned from the foulest of garlic are divine at warding off evil spirits," says Sothis, peeking over the professor's shoulder.

"That's enough out of you."

Chapter Text

When Matilda is brought up during their part-appointment, part-lunch in the garden, Byleth nearly chokes on his tea.

"Gods," he says after clearing his throat. "Bernadetta and Caspar I understand, but you..."

"Forgive me, teacher," says Edelgard, her voice warm and tender. "You must find it foolish that even a house leader would indulge in such hearsay, and yet I can think of little else to explain the 'sightings' as of late."

The two are beset by the phantom in question, bored and leaning on their table.

"Hmph. For a tutoring session," Sothis huffs. "I've yet to see any tutoring."

Byleth pays her no heed and Edelgard takes a sip from her cup.

"Surely you've noticed it too, teacher. The strange noises, levitating objects, the air of something breathing over your neck at all times. What else can it be if not Matilda?"

"What a fool," Sothis leans over Byleth's shoulder, a little goblin to his right. "Those Adrestrians have much to dread if this is their empress-to-be. You should admit the Ghost of Garreg Mach is real—and takes pleasure in taunting house leaders the most."

Byleth ignores her with a sip of his tea, a master of the craft.

"No, I'm afraid I haven't." he lies. "I don't believe in ghosts. Now, about your homework..."

He keeps a straight face even as Sothis presses her cheeks against his.

Chapter Text

How do I hide from a ghost? I just want to be able to sleep again! What should I do?

- Anonymous

Response: You should use this opportunity to engage more with your peers.

"W-w-w-w-wha!? Huh?! Aah!? Whaaaa!?"

It takes a moment for Bernadetta to collect herself, her hands shaking, weight shifting from foot to foot as she holds a particular paper in her hands.

"P-p-p-p-p-professor!" she cries. "Y-y-y-y-y-you're the one who r-r-responds to the advice box?!"

"Yes," says a blithe Byleth.

"B-b-b-b-but I don't understand. Why are you delivering the response in person instead of anonymously? A-and speaking of that, h-how did you know I was the one who wrote this?! Oh this is so embarrassing!"

"Who else could it have been from?" Sothis jeers from aside, tugging on Byleth's sleeve. "Your students are quite airheaded. They're nothing like you."

"My response wouldn't have made sense if I didn't deliver it to you in person," says Byleth. "And I grade your papers every day, Miss von Varley. I know what your handwriting looks like."

"Aaaaahhhh!"

Chapter Text

Sothis considers eating, but the chances of being seen deter her. Dancing is out of the question for the same reason. Not only would her partner worry about stepping on her feet—they would also wonder where her feet are.

Byleth advises her to stay put and on her best behavior, promising to sneak a meal if she abides. Much of her time is spent spectating from afar, bored and barely engaged, silently wishing that time would tick faster.

Though Byleth is only present to chaperone, he allows himself to be swept into a number with Edelgard, distracting him from checking on the girl in his head.

Time slows to a crawl for both the dancers and Sothis for different reasons. When the pair finish, their cheeks slightly flushed, they share some words and Byleth returns to his earlier endeavor.

Claude chooses that moment to have his own go with the professor, and the night gets even longer for Sothis.

Chapter Text

The day before the big test leaves the students anxious, save one. When his eyes fail him for the fourth time since the bell, Byleth makes a subtle motion with his eyes.

Sothis indulges him with a cheeky grin and gently blows into the back of the boy's neck.

"Aagh!"

Linhardt snaps to attention instantly, his peers giggling at his expense.

"Thank you for rejoining us, Mister von Hevring," says Byleth. "This review is for you, not for me, so it would behoove you to stay with us."

Chapter Text

"Skreeeee!"

The bird is as fearsome as it is colossal, its eyes bleak and empty as it rends the sky with a piercing screech. Byleth steels himself, his options few and far between.

"Poor, poor professor," Sothis manifests besides him. "Have you lost your sheep again?"

"This isn't the time," says the mercenary.

"Hmph, you always say that," she huffs. "You know, if you value your life, you won't move another muscle."

"What?"

She says nothing further, and although doubtful, he humors her. Seconds pass in silence as the bird shuts its beak and rears its head. It squints, cranes its neck, and hisses before spreading its wings.

As the beast's figure wanes into the distant sky, Sothis smiles cheekily—expectantly.

"How did you know it would do that?" asks Byleth.

"Monsters are never quite as smart as their animal counterparts," she says. "They slither in the dark so much that when they finally emerge they can barely see at all. You can teach that to the flock tomorrow morning."

"That's not how it works. I've already done my lesson plan."

"Then you can cancel and move it to next week. I dare say you owe me at least that much for saving your life."

Chapter Text

Byleth gets sloppy one day and leaves his planner out. When Sothis chances upon it, discarded amongst his usual mess, she leaps at the chance to rifle through its pages.

What Byleth seesand hearswhen he enters his dorm some time later is enough to knock the wind out of him.

"Eisner!"

She says it like one would eurekaloudly and in her case, undeservedly.

"I knew it, I knew you had a surnameYou mortals are so very fond of them, of course you would be no different. How rude of you to keep secrets from someone nestled in your head!"

"Yet rummaging through my things is fine?" asks Byleth as he takes the planner from her. Sothis reaches for it, but he holds it above his head, far out of her reach. "I didn't hide it from you. It just never came up."

"Ah, so I may call you Professor Eisner or Mister Eisner then!"

"No."

Chapter Text

"Watch me, professor! My eating prowess trumps Edelgard's tenfold!"

"That's quite the catch, Edelgard, but I can do better! Professor, watch as I seize the catch of the day!"

"Marvel at my flowers, professor! I assure you they put Edelgard's to shame!"

"Professor, Edelgard has two left feet. As such, I'd like to nominate myself for the dance competition! Only my frenetic footwork can represent the Black Eagles!"


In hindsight, Byleth supposes that it isn't completely baseless for Ferdinand to accost him out of the blue and seize his hands.

"Professor," says Ferdinand. "I hear you've been dedicating much of your time to privately tutoring Edelgard."

"I cannot confirm nor deny—"

"I knew it! It's true!" he proclaims with a closed fist, seething through the slits of his teeth. "You understand that I can ill afford to let her get ahead of me, right? If she's vying for your attention, then so must I! It's only fair you tutor me as well! Privately! Multiple times a week! As much as you do with her and then some!"

Byleth glances to his left, where a little goblin Ferdinand cannot see fusses about.

"No! Absolutely not!" says Sothis. "Your little escapades with the empress leave us with so little time at the end of the week! This lofty oaf shall do nothing but consume even more of it! Refuse him at once!"

"On what days are you available?" asks Byleth.

Chapter Text

"So," the girl hums, her cheek lazily resting against her fist. "What are you, exactly?"

Byleth thinks about it, and for a moment considers telling her that even he doesn't know. 'A demon? A ghost? A mortal?'  he wonders, his musings addled by clouded memories.

"A demon," he says, not even really knowing why. He finds himself more concerned with where he is and how he got there than his own identity.

"Liar!" the girl exclaims, breaking all decorum to pout profusely. "Imbecile! Lying imbecilic mortal! Do you take me for a fool? I do not remember many things, but I know for sure that you are no demon!"

'Then why did you let me answer...?'  he thinks.

"Now," the girl sighs, decorum returning. "Tell me... How exactly did you get in here?"

'You don't know either?!'

Chapter Text

Holidays are rare, but not unwelcome. Byleth spends his latest one engaged in a novel—a typical fantasy, but a charming one nonetheless.

"Mmrmmm..."

He thinks nothing of the little gremlin overtly trying to look over his shoulder and spends the next few pages immersed in the story, stopping only when the dissatisfied grumbling behind him reaches its apex.

"Sothis?" he turns.

"What?" she hurriedly looks away. "As if I care about your silly mortal literature."

Confused and doubtful, he returns to the book. When he feels her presence looming over him again, he quietly sets the book aside just enough for them to read it together.

Curiously, the grumbling noise comes to a stop, and the only interruptions from then on are when Byleth tries to turn a page too early.

"Hold on, I'm not done with this part yet..." she mumbles.

Chapter Text

"It's called a trust exercise," Byleth tells the eagles. "Starting with Miss von Hresvelgr, I want you all to fall into the arms of the person behind you. If you have faith in your peers, then they will catch you."

The students nod, but their understanding ends there. Edelgard crosses her arms and gracefully falls toward Hubert, who is almost too focused in his effort to catch her. He, in turn, then throws himself at Bernadetta like an upset statue. Bernie squeals, and her ensuing panic sends him and her barreling toward the ground, leaving Petra cold and confused. Dorothea continues the chain by tugging the foreigner toward her as she leans back, and the two are barely held up by Ferdinand who then leaps at Caspar to free himself of the burden. Caspar buckles immediately, whining as he crashes into a sleeping Linhardt, whose slumber isn't stirred even as he smacks the earth.

"Ah.." Edelgard blinks, her face flushed at the state of her house—and Byleth's front row seat to it.

"How pitiful," says Sothis, who leans on Byleth like a plank. "These children do not possess even a fraction of the trust that you and I share."

A yelp and a thud accost Byleth's ears as he steps forward to address the class.

Chapter Text

"Hmph, what is this?" Sothis asks, eyes narrowed.

"A bouquet," says Byleth. "Is your memory so poor you've forgotten what flowers look like?"

"Of course not, you little child! I am a goddess! I am simply... bemused. Are these for me?"

"Today is your birthday, isn't it?" a rare grin graces Byleth's face. "It was one of the few things you still remembered when we first met, so I thought to commemorate it—just as I would for any of my students."

"I see," Sothis quizzically eyes the gift, before seizing it with a smile (they're fortunate no one is around to witness the floating bouquet). "Well then, I suppose I have no choice but to accept your measly little pittance! It would be quite pathetic indeed if I were to refuse them after you went to such extravagant lengths! How fortunate you are to be bound to such a kind and understanding goddess!"

Her high spirits belie her little performance and Byleth is content enough with just that, but then she returns a single flower to him.

"Sothis?"

"Now you are the one with memory loss," she chides. "Your confusion is palpable! It is your day of birth as well, mortal—so let us celebrate for the both of us!"

Chapter Text

"I suppose you thought you were rid of me for good, didn't you?" Sothis says. "'Finally, I've freed myself of that useless goddess! I shall no longer have to deal with her vexing asides!' That is what you said when you were spirited away to this place, isn't it?"

"It was a nice thought," says Byleth, buried in a book. A temporary detour sees him (and now her) displaced from home. "If I were only so fortunate."

"And just what does that mean?!" she fumes. "I was merely jesting, you little demon! You were supposed to assure me you thought nothing of the sort, and that you truly missed me for days on end, unable to live without my constant wisdom and guidance!"

"If you were only so fortunate," Byleth shuts the book as a third arrives to join them.

"Ah, professor. I see you're adjusting well to the change in scenery," Edelgard smiles. "And it looks as though you've made a new acquaintance already. From what world does she hail from, if I may be so bold?"

It takes a moment for Byleth to process the inquiry, and another to realize how she can ask it. When he looks at them next, he finds them staring curiously at each other.

Chapter Text

A gaggle of greens and a colorless constitute the day's aether quarry. Kiran, unimpressed, addresses his units in turn.

"Alright, nugatory skill fodder who I'm only bringing out to farm feathers that I don't need, convince me that I didn't just make the biggest mistake of my life. You have five seconds from the moment I stop talking to explain how you're going to keep us in tier twenty-seven. Go."

"Oh," Robin blinks, hand on his neck. "I, uh, suppose I'll bait out the archer to create an opening."

"You repeatedly baffle the gods by continuing to live," says Kiran. "Next."

"Right!" Corrin stands at attention, legs together and arms at his side. "I'll attack the armors after the archer is dealt with! And my spur ability will act as support for my allies!"

"And you emphatically reaffirm my belief that there are no gods," Kiran moves on. "Nex—"

The Summoner pauses.

"What is that?"

He gestures at his latest acquisition, a freebie from a newly-contracted world, and the thing latching onto his sleeve.

"I am a goddess!" Sothis snaps. "How dare you even think of referring to me otherwis—"

"It talks?" the Summoner looks to Byleth.

"Regrettably."

"Noted. Not duly noted, but noted," Kiran nods. "I deployed you, not the imp,"

"She's a goblin, not an imp—"

"I am neither, you mortals! Correct the record this instant!"

"I didn't know they came in parasitic quantities."

"Nor did I, and she occupies my head without compensation."

"My very presence is your compensation!"

"Tragic," says Kiran. "Almost as tragic as the fact that the most amicable person here, the least terrible ant of all the ants in the farm, also happens to be the most mentally and socially disadvantaged," Kiran looks around. "What? Too soon? I didn't make up that lore, it's literally the truth. It's not my fault you can't crack a smile."

"What?" Byleth frowns.

"Unimportant," Kiran waves. "Much like you and your little Impadimp. I don't have the time, patience, or desire to prattle. If you insist on being a package deal, then I won't block you."

"I don't insist," says Byleth. "Insisting is the last thing I would—"

"Don't fail me, smooth brains!" the Summoner signals to the other side. "Or better yet, fail so that I have four less faces to micromanage!"

"Insolent tactician!" Sothis hisses. "It is as though our origins mean nothing to him! Hmph, I much preferred when you were the one calling the shots!"

"I like him," Byleth hums.

Chapter Text

"Matilda?" beckons Edelgard, she's heard that name before. "That's the same name as—"

"The Ghost of Garreg Mach, yes," Byleth motions to the bossy child bestowing her wisdom upon her newly-acquired manakete clique. "That is her true form—Matilda as she appeared in her prime."

"This world is truly breathtaking," says the heir. "Such a miracle would be impossible in Fódlan."

"Such a miracle would be impossible anywhere else," Byleth clarifies. "And here I thought she didn't exist at all."

"Feeling a little foolish, are we?"

"Devastated. I'll never be able to live this defeat down."

"You'll live. It'll undoubtedly do more harm than good to quash the rumor mill. This should stay between us, lest the others be in hysterics for weeks. Still though..."

"Hmm?"

"If this world can manifest a mere resentful student bereft of a date to the ball," she speaks with what knowledge the mill has provided her. "Just think of who else it can conjure. It is an interesting prospect, don't you agree?"

Her phrasing concerns him, but Sothis returns before he can answer.

"I've ascended godhood," she declares, with naught but a pair of Tinted Glasses to show for it.

Chapter Text

Byleth raises his left hand, she raises her right.

He places that hand upon his head, she places her hand on her head.

He rubs his stomach with his opposite hand, as does she.

He pats his head with the hand resting upon him, and she mimics in kind.

While rubbing and patting, he lifts his left leg and begins hopping with his right. They stumble at the same time and in the same way.

Suddenly, they both freeze, eyes wide. A contest of faces ensues as they unconsciously maneuver in such a synchronized manner that they end up on the side opposite of the one they encountered each other in.

Free to continue, they break away as though nothing had happened.

'A ghost...?'

'A demon...?'

Their folly musings are answered by an imp insisting they are neither.

Chapter Text

"So this is where you've been!" Sothis says, her nose wrenched in disgust. "Ugh! It reeks of matted fur and miasma! You are like a scratching post for these creatures!"

"Hm?" Byleth opens one eye, barely discernible amongst the intrusive fur.

"Did you forget? You promised we would visit the library!"

Byleth purrs—fitting but unresponsive.

"Did you hear me? On your feet! What gave you impression that today was a Sunday? Because it is not! You have much work to do!"

"This is the only work that matters to me," the professor mumbles. "Soft..."

Chapter Text

"Sixteen minutes," Sothis chides. "You are sixteen minutes late. I dare say this retribution seems almost divine—a karmic vengeance for your little fluffy dalliance."

"Quiet."

"It is what you rightfully deserve for your ignorance and yet, it should be the least of your concerns. Your sheep are waiting for you!"

"I'm aware."

Byleth arrives to the classroom seventeen minutes late, his hair tousled and clothes covered in fur, finding only Petra and a sleeping Linhardt.

Sothis cheekily slips into her seat. "Poor little shepherd."

"Professor," says Petra. "You are arriving at last. Did something happen?"

"Miss Macneary, where is everyone?"

"Ah..." the foreigner hesitates, lips frowning as she attempts to speak. "Dorothea said... er... if teacher does not come in fifteen minutes, class is... divinely allowed to leave—as decreed by Seiros herself. But I am having trouble understanding, so I stayed. I have not heard of that commandment before today?"

Byleth snatches Linhardt by the ponytail as he attempts, in unconscious response, to sleepwalk out.

"I'll be right back," he says while turning Linhardt around. "Watch him for me, will you?"

Linhardt smacks his desk face first as the professor leaves with exactly six chalkboard erasers.

Chapter Text

Ding, ding ding ding, dong...

Byleth's chalk chips as he stops writing.

'Expected...'

Edelgard remains in her seat along with a stretching Linhardt, but the rest of the class is already at their feet with Caspar leading the charge. Without a word, Byleth gestures at an empty seat while grabbing an eraser.

"Waugh!"

Caspar stumbles as if tripped by the air itself, and in the same breath, he is struck in the back of the head for the second time that day.

"The bell does not dismiss you," the students freeze.

"I do."

Chapter Text

"How are things, Caspar?"

"Heh, I'm feeling great, professor! Never better, actually!"

"Hm. That's good."

Byleth leaves with an expression Caspar can't read.


"How is everything, Ferdinand?"

"Swimmingly! I'm glad you asked, professor! Say, speaking of swimming, allow me to show you my new swan dive technique! Edelgard cannot swim, so it puts her to shame by defaul—!"

"Hm. I see."

Ferdinand does not notice Byleth taking his leave.


"How are you feeling, Hubert?"

"As long as Lady Edelgard is content, then so am I. Otherwise, I feel nothing but intense devotion to serve and further her interests. Intense."

"Hm. Interesting."

Byleth departs before he can be scrutinized.


"Aaah! P-P-Professor! W-What are you doing in my room!?"

"Yobai."

"H-Huh?!"

"I just wanted to know how you were doing, Bernadetta."

"I-I-I was fine until a few moments ago! Please don't kill me!"

"Hm. Finally."

Byleth presents the girl not with death, but a stuffed bear.

"Take this," he says to the stunned girl. "And forget I was here."

A trying task given the broken door.


"Does it truly count as a 'gift' when you had to frighten them half to death for them to accept it?" Sothis asks some time later.

"It's for motivation," says Byleth. "They're always in need of it."

"Yet you had to demotivate her first before she could receive it... Does that not seem contradictory?"

"You wouldn't understand. Things can get quite stressful in these halls."

"HmphI dare say you're not making it any easier."

Chapter Text

"Is this yours, Petra?"

Petra blinks at the object, a single white glove.

"No? Sorry, professor. I am having the most sincerest apologies and sorrow. I am not into the fashioning of gloves."

"Right. Have a good day."

Byleth makes a beeline for the cathedral.


"Does this belong to you, Dorothea?"

"Ah!" the songstress squeaks. "Y-You found it!? M-M-My—! Wait a minute, that's not my, er... thing that went missing! Don't scare me like that, professor!"

"Would it not be easier to simply look for people who only have a single glove on?" Sothis yawns. "All this floating around... So tiresome..."

"Why go out with just one glove?" Byleth asks. "It's more sensible to leave it behind if you don't have the other."

"You strike me as one who would wear the lone glove regardless."


"Zzz..."

"How strange. I did not know it was possible for mortals to sleep while standing upright."

"Hm," Byleth frowns. "I don't think Linhardt's going to answer."

"But of course, why did you expect anything else? It's your fault, really. You give your sheep far too much credit."

"Then that just leaves..."


"Oh my. Is that my glove, professor? However did you come across it? I was certain I had lost it for good!"

Edelgard reaches out, only for Byleth to raise it above her head and out of her reach.

"Professor? What are you—?"

"Thank you for assisting with the investigation," he says. "I'll let you have it back once you feel as though you can no longer live without it. You know where my office is."

Byleth dumps the glove in his sack and replaces it with a book.

"The History of Fódlan..." he muses. "Dull. It can only be Hubert's."

He heaves the sack over his shoulder and heedlessly disappears into the bushes.

Chapter Text

"Have tea with me."

The professor's adamant invitation strikes Shamir more as a demand than an invite, yet it does not deter her from humoring him. If anything, she finds his forwardness somewhat compelling.

Only after the tea has been poured do the teachers realize that they both have a lot in common.

"Hm..."

"Hm..."

Which is to say neither of them are particularly lively. The dreadful silence that ensues is only a product of their evenly-matched aloofness.

Sothis munches on a sweet tart under the table, her hiding spot for the day. "Your past tea parties were quite reliant on the opposite party, weren't they? How very one-sided. Oh, whatever shall you do now? The two of you are not just tiresome, but equally tiresome indeed!"

Neither of them utter a word for fear of the other suddenly speaking, not that they have much to say to begin with.

"You could discuss how the both of you actively partake in the rearing of child soldiers," Sothis suggests. Byleth kicks her.

All seems lost until Shamir breaks through.

"Sorry," she sighs. "I'm... not much for conversation. I'll gladly leave if you're bored."

"No," Byleth sips his tea. "This is fine."

And flops onto the table so that he can study her with an unparalleled intensity.

"This is also fine," he remarks amidst the shattering of plates, and somehow secures a follow-up engagement in the process.

Chapter Text

"Fwaahh!" Sothis yawns, one eye shut and a hand over her mouth. "Must we stay cooped up in this drab, dreary, unadorned dorm all evening? I am so very tired—and so very bored as well!"

"Then take a nap," Byleth says, his eyes on Edelgard's handwriting. "I'll take you somewhere tomorrow."

"I cannot," she kicks her legs aimlessly as she floats beside him.

"You said you were tired."

"I am tired, yes," she rubs her eyes. "But I am not sleepy. There is a difference."

"I never noticed."

"Because you are so very foolish."

"Spare this fool some wisdom then and help me grade these essays."

Sothis descends into her chair and lies her head on his desk.

"I rescind my grievances, sleep has taken me. Farewell."

What begins as mere jest and theatrics ends with him draping a blanket over her.

Chapter Text

"'It costs an arm and a leg'."

"An arm and a leg as well? What is so costly and desiring that you would be wanting to chop off both?"

"Too literal, Miss Macneary. 'Can't judge a book by its cover.'"

"Ah! This one I am knowing, professor! You must be reading all pages of a book from starting to the finish before you can be talking of it!"

"No. It means you shouldn't base your judgment of others on appearance alone."

"This is fruitless," Sothis sighs from above Petra, taking a bite out of the apple in her palm. "Unlike me. Phooey, give the child a sword and something to slice with and be done with it."

Byleth ignores her. "'Let the cat out of the bag'."

"The cat is in the bag? What bag? And why would someone be putting cats in bags? We must be setting it free!"

"I have one for you," Sothis waves. "'Not playing with a full deck'. I dare say it suits the both of you greatly!"

Byleth grabs an apple from the basket and looks up.

"'Kill two birds with one stone'."

"Oh! I am surely knowing of that one!"

Chapter Text

Miklan is beyond recognition, consumed wholly, fully, utterly by the caustic tar gushing out of the Lance of Ruin. The mindless, festering monstrosity left in his wake scars the tower with a blood-curdling screech before setting its bleak red eyes on the Black Eagles.

"Goodness," Sothis' voice echoes. "What are you waiting for, a written invitation? I've already told you what you must do, now you must slay that creature! Go on, before you traumatize your little sheep any further!"

"I don't understand," says Byleth. "How do you know so much about that thing?"

"What do you mean?" Sothis clicks her tongue.

"Don't you have amnesia?"

"Merely looking at that thing was enough to make me remember what it was!"

"But how have you seen it before?"

"I recall only what it is and the extraneous details needed to kill it, not how I know of those details or where I have seen it before. It's quite simple."

"That makes no sense."

"Your students are about to be EATEN!"

Chapter Text

"When I look at you," Hubert narrows his eyes. "I feel I can almost see a second self lurking beneath the surface. It is as if you are in constant dialogue with something inside your heart—something with desires very different from your own. Does that description feel familiar to you at all?"

Byleth clutches his chin and thinks it over, his eyes gradually darting to his left.

"What a cretin," Sothis scoffs. "I never did like this one. If his eyes were anymore sinister, he'd might have a chance at sensing me. I'm little more than a sinking feeling to him in this state—good riddance!"

"Now that you mention it..." Byleth begins.

Chapter Text

"Hm," a phantom of a smile graces Byleth's face. "I see why you were so upset during the night of the ball now. You didn't want to be left out of the festivities."

"Phooey," Sothis looks away, her cheeks puffed. "I have no interest in your silly little mortal soirees."

"Yet you seem quite interested in dancing with a mortal."

"Demon, more like! As if I have a choice in partner," she pouts. "Your sheep will most certainly scatter if Matilda were to demand they humor her curiosity. They would not even be able to see me!"

"I'm hardly the best dancer though. What if your judgment is clouded?"

"It will be fine. You are not... too terrible, I suppose."

"Then how about this," Byleth raises Sothis' hand over her head. "It's the only move I'm familiar with other than moving back and forth. All you have to do is spin."

With a gleam of intrigue in her eyes, she does so, giggling quite shamelessly as the room whirls around her.

"Once more," she says. "With feeling, as they say!"

"Only if you keep yourself grounded."

Chapter Text

"Like moths to a flame..."

The rumors are true—a horned reaper lurks within the depths of the monastery, permeating the air with a wretched miasma that emanates from the core of his very essence. Mounted atop a hellish stallion in black armor lined with spikes and wielding a scythe as large as his steed, the knight acutely fits the description bestowed upon him by courtyard hearsay—that of Death itself roaming sacred ground for angels to pluck out of the goddess' grasp.

Naturally, Byleth hesitates, for even a demon cannot make Death tremble.

"Oh goodness," Sothis echoes without pause. "That must be the villain leading the other tomb raiders! Why, his distinctive appearance compared to the rest all but gives it away! Quickly, child! If you vanquish him now, it may convince the lot of them into a most cowardly retreat!"

"That's," Byleth draws a sharp breath. "No. Good joke."

"What do you mean good joke?! You must get to the holy tomb at once! Time is not on your side, for you have squandered your charges so terribly that I can no longer turn it back!"

"I really wanted those chests."

"Such insolence..." the knight says, malice dripping with each word. "All this talking... when you could be sparring... to the death... Do you truly wish to die so dearly?"

In lieu of awaiting an answer, the reaper continues.

"Then come...! Raise your blade and meet your end... I will wait here for your approach... patiently... aimlessly..."

True to his word, he does not move, the hooves of his steed clacking in place.

"My, my!" says Sothis. "He is simply standing there... quite menacingly! Perhaps his range is based on ignorance!"

"One can hope."

Byleth, to the best of his ability, tiptoes around the reaper's field, Death staring him in the face all the while.

Even as the professor's back ebbs into the darkness of the mausoleum, he continues to stare deeply into the patch of pitch black where he once stood, surrounded by screams and shrieks of bloodshed.

"I shall await your return... patiently... aimlessly..."

Chapter Text

Sothis finds him slumped over, his cheek plastered to the ink of his own corrections. His candle has died, his breathing is quiet, and Caspar's essay is abandoned.

"Again? What am I to do with you?" she asks herself, a gentle finger prodding his cold cheek. "Foolish child, though I suppose even I must admit, you make quite an adorable foolish child in this state. I would pity you, but I do so enjoy a good nap myself. Speaking of naps..."

She sets her gaze on Byleth's bed, and when the professor awakes the next morning with a half-blackened face, he finds her there, but not before he removes himself from the blanket cocoon he has no recollection of wrapping himself in.

Chapter Text

Linhardt enjoys a good read, not as much as he enjoys napping, but it's sufficient enough for a conscious waste of time. When he looks away from his textbook long enough to notice the professor's presence, he thinks nothing of it—initially.

"I think I would like this one! Oh, and this one! This one as well!" says a voice he cannot hear, followed by one he can.

"You think you would like them, or you know you would like them?"

Linhardt cocks a brow.

"Oh, do not be so daft! You are well aware as to what I meant! Ah! Grab that one as well, if you so please!"

"It's going to look suspicious if I borrow more than what I can realistically read in a week."

"Phooey, who among your flock will notice? You simply worry too much!"

Linhardt notices not nearly enough to grasp the full context but enough to assume the professor either enjoys humoring the air or himself. He returns to his textbook, slightly concerned.

Chapter Text

"Hey, professor! What's up with this?!"

Caspar boldly marches to the front of the class at the sound of the bell.

"I got an F on the assignment?! I made sure to study this time!"

"One moment," Byleth spares a covert glare at the girl in the corner, before taking the essay and not-so-covertly applying his face to it.

"Er... Huh?"

When he peels the paper from his cheek and hands it back, Caspar finds himself with a different mark.

"There we go," says Byleth. "B. Enjoy your weekend."

Chapter Text

Embers dance upon the raging fire like moths in a swarm. As Byleth stares blankly into the lively flames, he sees naught but death smiling back, a grin immortalized by the agony of the damned and sins of the accursed.

"Well," Sothis clasps her hands behind her back. "I suppose this is but one more thing you cannot do."

Even the herring seems disappointed in him, from what Byleth can make of its expression beneath all the charring, at least.

"I need supervision," Byleth concludes, quietly, calmly.

Chapter Text

She manifests on an upset crate this time, as ostensibly haughty and indignant as always. With a yawn and a stretch of her arms, she drapes herself over the container and marvels at the mound of spilled dirt beneath her.

"Hm?"

Her eyes widen and she stops kicking at the air.

"Augh!" she reels back in revulsion. "Dirty little demon! What do you think you're doing, idling in the mud like a child?! You are a mess!"

Byleth's expression is blank, his face caked in filth, his outfit in desperate need of the most thorough washing.

He resumes rifling through the dirt.

"Filthy, filthy, boy," Sothis chides. "And I so very hate filth! You are lower than a child, a horse without reins more like! Every time I appear to you, you are off doing the most strangest things!"

As those words leave her lips, Byleth dives a hand into the dirt and retrieves an earthworm, his fingers tightly clenched around its head as he forcibly yanks it from the earth.

"You are Xerxes," the name comes to him in an instant, and he utters it with such potent finality that not an inch of room is left to question such absolution. He opens his pocket, full of dirt, another worm, and a snail, and deposits the creature within.

He grabs another and Sothis' face sours.

"And you are Copernicus."

Chapter Text

"Professor," Dorothea sighs, applying an operatic overdose of dramatic flair as she leans against her knight in shining armor for the evening. "You seem rather pent up as of late. Is something the matter? You can tell me anything—perhaps over dinner, maybe?"

As far as she's concerned, the two are alone at the pier's edge, teacher and student relishing in each other's company with not a soul to disturb them. Better yet, she thinks, a diva and a tall, dark, and handsome enigmatic mystery man indulging in a secret rendezvous by the water's edge—a dalliance that will never be understood or approved of by the masses, two people from two very different worlds brought together by the thread of fate.

Whatever the interpretation, one thing is clear—she latches onto him like a hawk from the moment she spots him impaling Xerxes on a hook.

"Hmph," echoes an upset Sothis. When Dorothea slyly loops her arms around one of the professor's, she defensively mirrors the motion with his opposite arm. "Exactly what part of 'day off' do these nettlesome sheep not understand?"

Byleth ignores them both, his eyes trained on the gentle waves of the water and Xerxes' wiggly corpse swaying lifelessly within. It's a noble sacrifice, one of the highest caliber, and one not in vain. The price paid by Xerxes ends in a pike flailing in Byleth's clutches, its eyes as empty as the man restraining it. Needless to say, its stench repels the women from him.

"Xerxes the Second," says Byleth before turning to his student, his face unflinching as the desperate pike slaps him with its tail. "I'd love to."

Chapter Text

Dorothea does not expect to be cleansing the very fish she intends to dine on.

Just as she does not expect to be the one gutting it, her arms wrist-deep in its raw, stinking innards rummaging for small, inedible bones.

Nor does she expect to be the one cooking it, holding her aloof professor's gloved hand every step of the way, as if the kitchen will spontaneously combust if she were to leave him unattended for even a moment.

Worst of all, worst of all, she especially does not expect this to be a group affair.

"Oh, thank you ever so much, professor!" Flayn smiles with an angelic lilt and a delightful little clasp of her hands, her eyes practically sparkling as Byleth serves the table. "It is quite embarrassing to admit, truly, but I have been ailed by the most errant craving for pike as of late! You really did not have to venture to such effort to welcome me into your class—oh but if you must then I simply cannot refuse! This is exactly what I was hoping for!"

"Funny," Dorothea sighs. "It's not what was hoping for. I'm pretty sure there's a word for this."

"Irony," Sothis answers from the seat beside Byleth, knowing she cannot be heard. "It is a feeling I know all too well with this one."

Xerxes the Second's sacrifice contributes to the circle of life in the same manner as its predecessor.

Chapter Text

"I really must thank you again," Flayn says once the classroom is empty. "My, ah, brother may be a touch overemotional, but his fears are not entirely misplaced. The Death Knight is quite a frightening character indeed, and it was my foolishness that allowed me to find myself in his clutches to begin with—so I wish to express my gratitude to the fullest extent!"

Sothis grumbles, fingers drumming against the wood of her desk. "Delay, delay, delay. Almost as though the past hour and a half was not tortuous enough. Hmph."

"It was nothing," says Byleth. "I'm just surprised he fell for the same trick twice."


"There you are... Feckless little moth.. Come to spaaar with me again, I see..."

Byleth cautiously tiptoes around the imagined danger zone that is Death's wicked grasp, the knight's piercing red eyes never leaving him all the while.

" I have been waiting... patiently... aimlessly... for an indeterminate amount of time... for your return... "

The professor's return is brief, for as soon as he reaches Flayn and the other girl, he bolts out of the lair with the two under his arms and his students scrambling after him. Death's reaction is delayed by their swiftness, and his attempt to give chase is hampered by a glimmer of light and an imposing figure.

"Halt. You're having a bit too much fun."

"I have not had any... You dare constrict me...? My scythe... it craves blood... flesh... moths... patiently... aimlessly...!"


"Still! Even if it was no trouble, thank you professor!" Flayn bows, the bows of her uniform bouncing. "For the rescue, and for allowing me into your house as well. It is only my first proper day of class, and yet I cannot recall when I last felt so welcomed!"

"She should be showering her praises unto me," Sothis huffs. "After all, it was my divine powers you foolishly abused to escape those catacombs completely unscathed."

'That's enough, Matilda,' Byleth's mind echoes.

"Not until you dismiss her. The only thing more tiresome than your lectures are the sheep who partake in them, and the last thing I desire is another one joining the herd."

'You just want to go to the library.'

A yawn escapes her.

"I may have set my eyes on a volume or two, yes."

"Professor?" Flayn asks, her head tilted and lips parted. "Is something the matter?"

"Not at all," Byleth stands and gathers his things. "But my rear can only stand sitting in the same place for so long. Shall we continue this in, say, the library?"

Chapter Text

Sothis' powers are largely an enigma at first. Though the girl can easily recite every which way to fell a Demonic Beast without a bead of sweat broken, somehow the extent of her intricacies still manage to elude her. Byleth, meanwhile, weaves her abilities down to a science through mere trial and error—both on the battlefield and off. The sheer fascination coursing through Hanneman's veins if he only knew would be enough to fund a year's worth of mandatory blood drives, and that's precisely why he doesn't.

As Seteth draws near one quiet Sunday morning, no doubt with a request, Byleth eases into the recesses of his head and nudges his gnat's cheek.

"Mmrm," she stirs, hugging the arm of her throne with all the sweetness of a child. She almost resembles one in this state, not a trace of goblin to be seen.

"Pulse," says Byleth, as usage has become so common that he needn't say anything more extravagant to trigger it at this stage.

"Bothersome," she rubs her eyes, a foot futilely missing his ribs. "That ironclad ursine at the market, I want it to be the first thing I see when I awaken."

"Greedy."

"As are you. No wonder we make such an exquisite pair," the very fabric of reality itself shatters into the ether as the words leave her lips, leaving behind a purplish imitation stowed away in a nameless realm where all things are frozen and time matters not. Amidst the ambiance of the void, Byleth paces around Seteth's figure as though it were child's play.

'So long as I don't turn it back,' he muses.

Once he is far and away from Rhea's aide, he makes a call. "Release."

Time resumes with nary a charge consumed and Seteth stops, his lips parting. "Hm? I could have sworn Professor Eisner was..."

Byleth takes the long route to the market.

Chapter Text

"A moment of relaxation," Edelgard sighs, savoring the taste of her favorite tea. "It has been a while. I find spending these quiet moments with you rather comforting."

"Pulse," says her professor without thinking, his expression unflinching as the world around him is instantly engulfed in purple. Simmering in the space between realms (or perhaps dimensions, how should he know), Byleth glances down at the notes on his leg.

"Cheeky," Sothis' voice resonates. "So that is how you are aware of her favorite blend. My, the things mortals will do for mere platitudes! How adorably bizarre. So, when will you treat me to such pleasantries?"

"Never," he reads through her likes and dislikes. "You'll just burn your tongue and complain."

"I know how to drink tea you duplicitous little oaf!"

"Release."

Sothis is cut off by the scattered glass shards of reality rewinding into place, reconstructing the scene of the tea party.

"I agree," Byleth takes a sip as time resumes. "Moments like these—it's a nice change of pace from the classroom. Now, on the subject of cats..."

Chapter Text

"Oh, alright," Sothis yields without cause, slipping an ethereal hand into Byleth's. "If you are so frightened by the silly prospect of ghouls roaming these dusty old halls that you cannot properly survey the grounds, then I suppose I've no choice. You may hold my hand."

Byleth furrows a brow. 'Was she not asleep?'

"I didn't say anything."

"You did not need to," she says. "Why, you had fear written all over you—as they say. FufufuI had no idea the darkness scared you so!"

"It doesn't," he has half a mind to let go and prove her wrong, but he decides he doesn't care that much. In the end, Byleth uncovers no suspicious activity, and no ghouls save for the one at his side.

Chapter Text

"You are going to break it."

"I'm not going to break it."

"You are going to break it."

"I am not going to break it."

"I can hear it crackling!"

"It's a thousand years old."

"Then stop handling it like a chil—"

Snap.

Byleth's lips thin to a line as he holds up two halves of the Sword of the Creator, the severed ends of the ancient chain running through each skeletal segment limping pitifully in his hands.

"... Nothing a little Umbral Steel can't fix."

Chapter Text

Byleth sets his fresh laundry aside as he enters the dorm. The girl appropriating his bed is nothing new, but her squirming is an uncommon sight.

"What's wrong with you now?"

"It is my back, you blind little oaf!" she cries, writhing in pain. "'It has been ailing me all day and I have not the slightest clue as to why! Cure me at once, you demon!"

"Huh," Byleth blinks, more bemused that it was even possible for her to have backaches than anything. An eerie sense of guilt nearly overcomes him, but he's quick to dismiss it.

"Can it wait until after I fold my socks?"

Chapter Text

"Please ensure none of this gets back to the archbishop," says Byleth as he takes the repaired sword back.

"Oh, but of course!" the grimly-dressed merchant beams, hopping on alternating feet. "As far as she's concerned, I'm not even supposed to be here! I'd sooner fall asleep for five years than reveal myself to that vile witch, never mind your little divine toothpick! Heehee!"

"Er, right."

"Tell your friends!" he says with a silly jig. "Get your card punched on your next four visits and you'll earn a complimentary coupon!"

"Foolish peddler," Sothis hums as Byleth carries her away. "It is more spine-like than toothpick-ish if you were to ask me. Also!" Byleth flinches as she digs her finger into his cheeks. "What were you thinking letting that sniveling merchant hold the Sword of the Creator in the first place?! If he were not so bizarrely kindhearted, he could have very easily ran off with it! How absolutely damned you would be! So very damned, so damned you would have no recourse but to kiss our life goodbye-leth!"

"Incidentally," Byleth changes the subject. "How is your back doing?"

"Hmm?" her fit subsides. "My back? Ah, I suppose it is not quite as dreadful as it was yesterday."

"So I can rest my arms."

"On second thought, I believe I'm beginning to feel woozy. Quite woozy. There is no possible way I can float about at this rate!"

"You're not very good at lying."

Chapter Text

"Keheheh! I am not Tomas, you sniveling little topsoil-dwelling degenerates!" the traitorous librarian cackles, his eyes bulging out of their sockets as the consistency of the very flesh holding his husk of a body together begins to deteriorate, rapidly melting off of him like free-flowing magma. Not unlike a snake shedding its skin, he shrugs off the soupy, elderly human shell in a climactic burst of magic to unveil his true form underneath—an elderly not-so-human mole-person. "My name is Solon! The savior of all!"

"How inconceivable!" Sothis echoes from within Byleth. "So the hobbling librarian was nothing but a foul traitor from the very start?! This explains... ah, quite little, actually. He certainly is not capable of swinging a scythe with a gait that pitiful."

"What's the matter?" Solon taunts. "So shocked you can't even speak? You were all so fooled by my disguise!"

"No. I knew you were no good," says Byleth, to which he is met with a resounding huh from both parties.

"W-what is this drivel?!" Solon scowls. "I went undetected for ages! Rubbish! You're just upset you fell for it and now you want to take credit after the fact to look smart! How despicably insidious. It almost sounds like something I would do!"

"That does sound rather childish," Sothis hums. "And as we all know, all things childish are simultaneously Byleth-ish."

"No," the professor shakes his head. "I really did know."

"Then what gave it away?!"

"Back at the monastery," Byleth explains. "Any time we talked, you never liked anything I had to say. A poor disguise, really."

"That isn't a tell, you insolent fungi, but rather me not wishing to humor your asinine proclivities! But enough talk, now is the time of your undoing! Come closer, professor, so that I may personally inflict unto you the pain of a thousand suns—and thousands of overdue literature!"

Byleth's eyes narrow.

"I told you he would be upset."

"He seems a touch below upset if you were to ask me," he hears her chide.

Chapter Text

Jeralt nearly drops a plate when he sees his son toddle into the kitchen, all covered in red with an empty expression.

"Byleth!" the Blade Breaker's by his side in record time. "What the hell happened?!"

The boy says nothing, motionless and particularly unfeeling as his father squeezes his cheeks and inspects his ruddy palms.

"Did you fall?" he asks. "No, can't be that. There's too much of it to be something so simple. Did somebody hit you?"

Byleth shakes his head after some delay, his eyes blank.

"You sure?"

No response. Jeralt furrows his brows.

"Words, Byleth. Just say what you mean."

The boy pauses, gripping the hem of his reddened shirt with both hands. "... I'm sure."

"Then how did you—" Jeralt freezes, his face growing stern. "Did you do this? I'm not seeing any wounds. Damn it, Byleth, we've been over this. This is why they keep talking about you. You can't just fight people for no reas—!"

"It's paint."

"Huh?"

The child turns to reveal his back, covered in green splotches. "S'just paint. I'm sorry, papa."

"Gods... Don't do that to me, kid," Jeralt exhales. "What's that you got there?"

"I drew it," says Byleth rather readily, presenting it with both hands. "Look please."

Jeralt decides to bonk the boy for the scare of a lifetime later and accepts the picture in the meantime. "Who's this supposed to be?"

"My friend," he points at the depiction, a mess of green with a dash of red. It sort-of looks like a person if viewed from an angle.

"Friend?" Jeralt cocks a brow. Their lifestyle doesn't exactly allow for such things.

"From my dream," the boy adds. "She's always sleepy."

"Hm, you don't say. Nice work I guess," Byleth can't help but fidget as his papa ruffles his overgrown hair. "But you're still a mess. Let's get you cleaned."

Chapter Text

"Hahaha!" Jeralt laughs, a rare sight. "I can't believe you forgot. Granted, most of your childhood's a blur to me too, honestly. One minute you were a fat baby bouncing on my knee, the next you were squirming from getting your once-a-year haircut. It all sort of blends together, but seeing that picture brought all kinds of memories back. Thought it would do the same for you."

Byleth eyes the recovered masterpiece, supposedly one of dozens, with scrutiny. It's crude, faded, a visceral mess of colors, but its subject is clear.

"I... don't remember this," he says with a sidelong glance.

"Surprising, given how often you drew her," Jeralt shrugs. "But I guess most adults wouldn't remember their imaginary friends, huh? You used to talk my ear off about her."

"Fufufu," a pair of arms snake around Byleth's neck, arms belonging to a rather humored goddess. "I had no idea you were so taken with me. Why, even as a lonely little boy, long before my awakening, you were already so dearly enchanted with The Beginning! What an adorable little dear you must have been! I am so deeply flattered."

'I don't know what you're talking about,' his mind says.

"And yet the evidence is right before your eyes!" Sothis presses her cheek to his. "Lay your fears to rest, lonely little demon. I am here, for now and forever more!"

'That's what I'm afraid of.'

Chapter Text

"Hiya professor!"

Byleth's heart somersaults out of his throat, or at least that's what he envisions it doing. Cold and motionless in its unfeeling cradle, all he can do is part his lips slightly, a small gasp escaping him.

'A chill.'

"Monica," he sets his papers aside. "What brings you here?"

The library's quieter than usual. Solon's traitorous tantrum scares away most of the academy's bookworms, leaving only Sothis who lounges atop a table, content with her little nest of tomes. As long as no one notices the occasional page turn, she's free to unravel the mystery of who killed Colonel Knowles and framed world-renowned detective Sheerluck Dwellings for the crime. It's quite the page turner, or so her engrossment suggests, and quiet engrossment is far preferable to her usual whining and ennui.

"Oh, nothing so grand! Heehee!" she giggles, all bubbly and bouncy in a manner that strikes him odd. "I was just in the mood for some quick studying! You know, being a year behind and all is such a total bummer! But I won't let it get me down, not one bit!"

"Is that so?" says Byleth. "That's quite the initiative."

"I also heard what happened to the librarian! Who would have ever thought a creep like that was hiding under our noses all this time! He seemed so nice when I met him last year... I wish I could have been there to help the rest of the class get rid of him!"

"It's fine," Byleth shakes his head. "Considering your circumstances, I have no problem keeping you off the battlefield so that you can catch up academically. I'm sure you'll be up to par with your peers soon enough."

"Wow! Really? You think so? That's so sweet of you, professor!" she leans closer. "So what's that, huh? Oh! I see names!"

His mind tells him to lie, but his gut spills the truth before he can muster a falsehood. "The class rosters for the Blue Lions and Golden Deer."

"The other houses?" a spark glimmers in Monica's eye. "That's unexpected! Why would you be skimming their ranks? Gosh, it boggles the mind!"

"Make her go away," Sothis grumbles. "So bothersome, and loud. So very loud."

"It's," Byleth hesitates before clearing his throat and returning to his papers. "Nothing you need to concern yourself with."

Monica frowns but doesn't push it any further. "Well, okey dokey! Guess I'll hit the books then, teehee! Don't stay up too late, professor!"

"You as well."

Monica takes a random textbook to maintain the charade, but her face sours the moment she exits, a whole host of vile curses and swears spilling from her rosy lips.

She vows to return later.

Chapter Text

It takes days, and several days at that, for Byleth to work down the list. He marks several student's names, some with circles, some with crosses, others left in limbo as he stalls on a conclusive judgment. The whole ordeal binds him to the library, if only so that his mental charge does not bicker or blather.

"Have you finished yet?"

Books can only distract a goddess for so long. Her latest tale cast aside, Sothis peeks over Byleth's shoulder, glancing curiously at his results thus far.

"My, my," she coos. "I was under the impression you were grading papers again, and taking such a foolishly long time to do so."

"Maybe if you paid attention when I talk to you..."

"Phooey," she yawns. "But you are so dreadfully irksome and tiring when you are singing anything but my praises. It is in times like these I regret being asleep for so long. Why, just think, if I woke a few years sooner, I could revel in your worship and drawings day after day! Perhaps if you took to the easel once again..."

"No," Byleth pinches her ear. "If you're going to pry, you can at least offer some insight. Observe, I've managed to narrow the list down somewhat, but a second opinion couldn't hurt—even if it's yours."

Sothis grabs her ear, a childish, whiny little hiss escaping her. "Ruthless little demon...! A wily one too. You know very well that I cannot resist shearing the sheep..."

"I do. Take it away, Matilda."

"Hmph. With scant pleasure, child."

Chapter Text

"Chess..?" the goddess muses, a pawn in her palm. "Noble mortals truly play this?"

"So I've heard," says the professor. "I borrowed the set from Ferdinand. I thought you would appreciate another distraction to go along with your reading, and I figured this would keep you quiet enough."

"You are becoming quite cheeky as of late," Sothis wags her finger. "I preferred it when you were little more than a quiet dullard, leaping out of your skin each time I spoke."

She's hushed by his hand as he pats her on the head.

"No you don't," Byleth takes the seat opposing her side. "Come, we can learn how to play together."

His words give her pause.

"You do not know the rules?"

The former mercenary scratches his cheek, his expression unflinching. "I can't say I had many opportunities to play. If it's not fishing, I'm afraid I'm clueless."

"Sounds to me as though you wish to surrender to The Beginning already," she takes her seat with zeal and swipes a piece from her side. "You called this a queen earlier, did you not? I shall be playing as this one! I am so very queenly, after all. I suggest you be the pawn, then the game will be truly accurate."

"You're meant to take control of all the pieces on your side, not just one," says Byleth as he flips through the rulebook. "At least, I think that's how it goes..."

Chapter Text

"Join my class."

"Aaaah!"

He snatches the ends of her snowy tresses like a carnivorous plant with one hand and extends a complimentary patch and pamphlet with the other. Coupled with the late hour and his emerging out of an unlit alleyway, it's enough to make her blood curdle, knees quake, spine tingle, and generally petrify every living fiber in her bite-sized being.

He's fortunate to have experience in the field of miniature maidens. It takes only a pat on the head to stifle her fears, unbridled screams, and hopeless hyperventilation.

"P-professor?" the small sorceress babbles, realization quickly settling in. "I-I was not frightened by the way, just so you know! Not one bit! Let us etch that into stone right this moment! You did not see anything!"

"Fufufu, I rather like this one already," Sothis echoes in the back of his mind. "She will be so very fun to toy with. Please, please, please, if you insist on herding more lonesome sheep into your pen of misfits, let this one be the first!"

"Lysithea von Ordelia," Byleth releases her locks. "Excellent grades, high potential, monstrous on the battlefield, likes sweets, fears the supernatural to the nth degree, heavily overcompensates to make up for her stature—"

"I do not!"

"Consider yourself scouted," the professor continues. "Welcome aboard."

"E-Eh? B-but professor, hold on! You did not even spare me a moment to accept or object! And for that matter, um, w-why are you springing this on me in the dead of night?"

"Hm?" Byleth cranes his head. "I was told you were a night owl and that this would be an opportune time to speak with you."

An ethereal giggle tickles his ears.

"If that is not the case," Byleth frowns. "Then why are you awake at this hour to begin with?"

There's a dab of leftover icing on Lysithea's cheek, which she's quick to clean as soon as she takes notice.

"Frankly, I do not think that is any of your business, professor," the mage huffs. "But, I suppose if we are being honest... I have been harboring a slight desire for a change in scenery lately. I suppose switching over to your tutelage would not necessarily be the worst thing in the world..."

"Goodness," says Sothis. "She is worse at this than I am! Why, look at that sniveling little microscopic smile! You would think she had her eye on you this entire time!"

'Think?' Byleth cocks a brow before extending a formal hand to the mage.

"I assure you that it won't be. The Black Eagles would be more than happy to have you."

In spite of her put-on reluctance, Lysithea ultimately takes the professor's hand under the light of the full moon, and things are humble for a spell until she feels a tap behind her shoulder.

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

Another unearthly giggle.

Chapter Text

"Me? J-join your class?" the maiden whispers in disbelief. "Professor, I... I'm sorry... I-I don't know what to say..."

"Don't be, I was actually talking to the horse," Dorte neighs proudly. "But now that I'm thinking about it, it wouldn't be right of me to separate the two of you. I'm certain you'll string him along by the reins if I enroll you upfront. I believe the merchants call it a 'package deal', so to speak."

"How delightfully baffling," Sothis hums. "I think I shall have trouble playing with this one. She seems pale enough as is without my help. Perhaps you should consider a sheep that is not already haunted by the inklings of her own machinations."

"Marianne von Edmund," the girl shudders at the sound of her own name. "The Black Eagles could use someone like you. Won't you take flight with us?"

"But why?" Marianne clasps her hands, her eyes forlorn and touched with sadness. "There are far better candidates than me..."

"I cannot help but agree," the gnat in his ear adds. "So drab and dreary. Is the purple one not all the recluse we need? Must you insist on poaching the introverted?"

"None of them can mend a wound like you," Byleth hands her a patch and pamphlet. "At least, I don't think they can—and even if they can, they probably can't tend to a horse as well as you do. You may not realize it, Marianne, but you're quite the package."

"S-still, this is all so sudden..."

"Goodness," Sothis' eyes light up. "Do I detect a hint of rejection? Reject, reject, reject!"

"But... but if it's you, professor," the maiden fidgets, feeling rather sheepish all of a sudden. "I-I suppose... I can make an exception."

Dorte neighs in delight and the day is spent making his mane shine, Sothis booing all the while.

Chapter Text

"Byleth."

He looks up from his desk, eyes wandering to the girl in his bed.

"Is something the matter?"

"No," she answers, eyes on the ceiling. "I was musing, as I so often do, and it occurred to me that you possess a name. I think of it so rarely that it often escapes me that you have it at all."

Byleth wants to protest, but he cannot. "I don't really use yours, either."

"True," she looks to him. "I was testing it upon my tongue, but it feels so very off for some reason."

"Sothis," he tries from his end. "Hmm... I agree."

"Perhaps our fates are so intertwined that we are above such needless labels," she grins. "Or perhaps I simply prefer being direct, you are such a very foolish child after all. How can I bear calling you anything else?"

"Goblin," Byleth returns to his work.

Chapter Text

He plops it on the floor with a straight face—a small mattress without any frame, a pillow, and a blanket. The sound is enough to rouse her from her reading.

"This is your bunk now," he says.

She eyes it like riverbed scum and returns to her book, unimpressed.

Byleth narrows his eyes.

"I see."

Sothis is summarily unprepared for the cool glove that grabs her ankle, tingles surging throughout her petite frame as she makes a desperate dive for his bedpost.

"Aaaah! Release me! Unhand me! Let me go! I refuse! I shall not! You cannot make me! Demon! Oafish, foolish, childish demon! Nooo!"

He, in every sense, lacks the heart to tell her that he hasn't begun pulling. One tug is all it takes to liberate his nest.

Chapter Text

"That's strange," Byleth pulls away from his reflection. "Things in the distance aren't so blurred as long as I have these on."

"And just what is so strange about that?" Sothis manifests on his desk with a wry little grin. "Besides the notion that they are not as utterly useless as I thought."

Byleth frowns, pushing up the bridge with two fingers. "Father never had concerns for my vision when I was younger."

"That is not strange either," she pats his head. "This is the same man who would lose sight of you in the wintry, wolf-ridden hinterlands after all. Poor demon. Now, mortal fashion, that is quite bizarre indeed. I was under the impression mortals wore them to look even more ridiculous than they already do, but I suppose I can accept that they can improve one's eyesight. You are so very blind and bumbling, after all. It makes quite a lot of sense that you would need some."

"You act as though you've never put a pair on yourself."

"Phooey, I look divine in anything. Even spectacles."

"Yes," Byleth puts the glasses on her. "'Spectacle' is a good word for it."

Chapter Text

"I'm ready," Byleth crosses his arms. "Ready for sports."

"As am I!" Sothis plants her hands on her hips. "Though I've not the slightest idea what mortal sporting is like!"

The uniforms are ridiculous, but no more absurd than the nitwits willing to put them on. Sothis' is custom made, fit for her stature and complete with the Crest of Flames embroidered on the back. The house leader insists they promote a sense of unity, and her professor is so unfashionable he finds no reason to contest her. 'The house colors are red, so it only makes sense to wear it too' he tells himself.

"You do not know a thing about mortal sporting either," Sothis whips her head in his direction. "Do you?"

"About as much as I knew academics before the first day," the professor answers. "I can make it work. There's a lot of running involved, I'm sure. How much of it isn't running? The parts that involve bouncing a ball, surely. Like instructing, it all goes back to mercenary work."

"I have no need for running."

"I know," Byleth drops his arms. "I have other things planned for you."

Chapter Text

"And why are you also garbed in sportswear?" Hubert glowers. "Don't tell me you intend on joining us."

"Immersion," says a stretching Byleth. "I'm your professor, aren't I? We're all from the same house. It wouldn't be fair if you didn't get to see my bare legs too. But enough of that—we're going to be engaging in team sports if you hadn't guessed it by now. No tests, no studying, no writing, no picking up a pointed stick and trying to stab someone—just throw the spherical globule point-accruing device into the gravity-defying peach basket goal."

"Uhh.. huh." Caspar's head blows a fuse. "How is it floating? Some kinda magic?"

Byleth looks up at the basket, hand at the back of his neck.

"Why yes, child! Why don't you tell him how it is defying normality?" cries the goalpost. "Honestly! How much longer do you intend to keep me pinned up here? My arms are already growing so very tired—and the game has not yet begun! Was it truly so hard, so difficult, so very burdensome that you could not spare a moment of your time to install a proper goal? Why, I may as well drop this silly basket on your head! Yes, I think I shall! Come hither, so that I may show you what a true basket case looks like!"

The professor blinks.

"... Yes. Something like that."

Chapter Text

"Huff... Huff... P... Professor! I... I thought you said only the losing team would have to do three laps!"

"I did," says her instructor. "That was a lie."

"W-whaa?!"

"It wouldn't be a fair regimen if I forced one team to do three laps and the other none. Only one side would reap the benefits."

Bernadetta's already sluggish pace slows to an absolute crawl. She barely manages another step before staggering, hands on her knees. "Can't... keep... going...! Oh sweet peaceful earth, whisk me away from this nightmare to the hereafter... or at least to my room..."

"Pathetic," Sothis manifests upon an upended peach basket. "How are the rest of them faring?"

"See for yourself," he motions.

Edelgard, Dorothea and Hubert maintain a respectable pace in the middle of the pack, never too far ahead or behind. In a burst of noble theatrics, Ferdinand starts off strong, but his early lead is wasted by near-instant fatigue. He, Lysithea, Marianne, and a rather determined Flayn make up the rear of the class. Opposite Ferdinand is Petra, who quickly surges from the back of the class to the front. Only Caspar is ahead of her, fueled by breakfast and adrenaline, but his second lap sees him abandoning the lead to see to the class's less-than-fortunate stragglers.

"Damn it..." Linhardt exhales. "Damn it, damn it, damn it... huff... How am I... behind... Berna... Bernadetta...! It's... unheard of...!"

"Don't worry Linhardt, I've got ya! You too, Bernadetta!"

"Caspar, what are you doing?!"

"Aaaaaaaaaah! Not again! Let me go!"

Byleth and Sothis are swept by the winds of a cyan, purplish, greenish blur blitzing past them. Sothis flinches while Byleth continues feasting on his fish-on-a-stick. Appropriately, Sothis gives him a double take upon opening her eyes.

"Where did you—?"

"I skipped lunch."

The subject is dropped thereafter.

Chapter Text

"This... isn't as comfortable as I thought it would be," Byleth frowns, shifting his head in vain. "It's quite bony, actually."

"How rude," Sothis pinches his cheek, bestowing a little divine retribution for all the times he's done the same to her. "You should be grateful that I am allowing you this moment of respite."

"Perhaps if you weren't built like a stick.." she squeezes and tugs at his impassive face.

"Phooey. To think you were beginning to look rather cute, all calm and tranquil under my gaze—and then without fail, you simply had to open your little demon mouth."

"Well," Byleth motions. "If it's such a burden—"

"No," she holds him in place, a dainty hand on his chest. "I will tell you when I am content. You may keep quiet until then."

"I have a class to teach in an hour," Byleth arches his neck. "And I'm feeling cramped."

"You shall live."

Chapter Text

"I have something to ask of you," says Seteth, his sudden appearance nearly giving Edelgard a fright.

"Seteth," the house leader speaks, somewhat relieved that it's only Rhea's aide but not entirely. "Is there something I can help you with?"

"Possibly," Seteth clears his throat. "Have you seen Professor Eisner by any chance? He too is among those whom I've something to ask of, yet I cannot seem to find him anywhere. I was wondering if you might know of his whereabouts, given your terribly close proximity to him."

"I," Edelgard hesitates, her face turned away. "I would not exactly say we are close. Well, perhaps, but terribly close..."

Nearby, in a proximity close enough to be considered terrible, Byleth peeks out of the barrel he's stowed himself away in just enough to catch a glimpse of the scene. "You know, it is all well and good if you wish to hide," Sothis peeks inside the makeshift retreat, standing on the tip of her toes. "But how can I be expected to seek you out if you neglect to tell me of your desire to play?"

The professor shushes her, a finger over his lips.

"Fool. As though they are able to see me," she chides. "You should be thanking me, child. Were it not for my foresight, you would be stuck in there until morning, eternally waiting to be found. Well, I regret to inform you that it is so very against the rules to hide without informing the seeker! So this game does not count, as they say! Your victory is a hollow one, if that!"

Byleth retreats into the barrel, Rhea's aide none the wiser.

Chapter Text

"This is absurd," Seteth furrows his brows. "Profoundly absurd. I must have turned the monastery upside-down twice over already. Where could Professor Eisner possibly have gone? I thought for sure he would be at the pier given some of his odder eccentricities..."

"Perhaps the professor is also on the move," Flayn sits as the pier's edge, kicking her legs while smiling at her reflection in the water. "Fulfilling errands, duties, and favors as you pursue him in an endless loop!"

"Peculiar," Seteth crosses his arms. "Though I suppose the theory holds some merit. I would certainly know before anyone else if he's left monastery grounds, and it makes sense that I would be unable to find him if he is always one perpetual step ahead of myself. Thank you for the insight, Flayn. Though I must ask—what exactly are you doing here by yourself?"

"Oh, nothing in particular!" she says with a clasp of her hands. "Certainly nothing so dire it requires your supervision."

"Excuse me?"

"Ah!" Flayn gasps, a hand over her mouth. "Could it be? By the goddess! Is that the professor? Oh, yes! Yes, I do believe it is! Onward, brother! At full gallop!"

"Truly? Where?!" guided by the entirely on a whim direction Flayn points in, Seteth briskly walks off to accost the professor while still maintaining a thin sliver of professionalism.

Flayn waits for him to exit completely before leaning toward the water. "It is safe now. You may surface, professor!"

"Hah!" Byleth nearly discharges a lung as he exhales, his body coolly rising to the surface without so much as a splash. Though invisible to Flayn, Byleth is ferrying Sothis, who rides him like one would a log down a river.

"Thank you, Flayn," says the professor once he catches his breath.

"These mortal games are not getting any less strange," Sothis notes. "Though at least now we know I have no need to breathe underwater."

"You're very welcome, professor," Flayn nods. "Now, I am quite certain that is a favor worth three carps and three herrings!"

"Forgive me," says Byleth as his body idly bobs in the water. "I could have sworn it was one carp and two herrings."

"What a glutton!" Sothis huffs. "Frankly, I do not see how anyone can deal with such rancid odor, delicacy or not!"

Flayn frowns. "Oh? That is quite troubling. I was led to believe that it was four carps and five herrings. Well, it is rather unfortunate, but if acquiring the five carps and six herrings is too burdensome for you, I suppose I shall have no other choice but to consult my brother on the matter. And I wanted so dearly to dine on those nine carps and ten herrings..."

Byleth sighs. "One moment," before submerging himself into the depths.

Chapter Text

"Ah! There you are, Professor Eisner!"

Marianne shies behind Seteth's figure, foiled by her inability to commit the sin of a little white lie. "Pardon my sudden intrusion, professor, but I've been searching for you all day. You see, I have something to ask of you."

"Shock beyond shocks, I'm sure," echoes a voice within the professor.

Dorte splutters his lips, dejected. Their scheme of concealing the professor by hiding him behind Dorte, limbs positioned in such a manner that not an inch of his body would be visible to the perspective of someone entering the stables, is already in ruins mere minutes from its execution. Byleth drops the equine pose with a sigh and Sothis stifles a giggle at the sight.

Without questioning what he's just seen, Seteth hands Byleth a note. "The annual White Heron Cup is to be held at the end of the month. If you wish to participate, then I ask that you please elect a student from your class to represent the house by the end of next week. That is all. Seteth out."

Contrary to his claims, Seteth stops and pivots as he nears the exit. "Ahem," he clears his throat. "I have adopted a new slogan on Flayn's recommendation so that I may appear more humane and approachable to the student body. What do you think?"

The professor, Marianne, the invisible goblin, and even Dorte meet his request with an almost emphatic shake of their heads.

"Duly noted."

Chapter Text

"You have a lot of tangles," Byleth squabbles with the brush and one of many offending knots. Sothis is nothing short of a tree without her crown, braids, and twintails. "A lot of them."

The girl hugs her knees to her chest, squirming with each forceful yank of her hair. "But of course. You poor thing, did you believe I wanted your grubby little mortal hands running through my locks just for my amusement?"

Byleth can only chuckle. "Sometimes I wonder."

"Well, you are sorely mistaken, little demon," she huffs. "And cease your incessant pulling. I am no common weed!"

"I've never fancied myself a stylist, you know."

"Clearly!" she whines, a sting in her eyes as a particularly nasty knot is vanquished. "One need only look at you to gather that. When was the last time you ever trimmed your overgrown mop, if at all?"

"You're the last elf in the world who should be talking about overgrown hair," he makes sure the next tug is an awful one. "There's a reason I'm doing this, after all."

"Yes," she turns and pouts. "Because no other oaf can."

Chapter Text

"Ah," Sothis claps, her ephemeral features positively glowing with joy. It's rare to see her so appeased. "It is done. Gone are the days of you looking very much like a dingy drifter ready to lop heads off at a moment's notice. In fact, I dare say you are actually quite... presentable now! Presentable and so very distinguished."

Byleth glances at his reflection and sees a young man with his forehead fully exposed, his bangs gathered and bunched up into a knot with braided sidelocks and uneven twintails.

"So that's what a male goblin looks like," he hums. "Hmm. Undo it."

"But I've yet to apply the cosmetics!"

Chapter Text

She does not undo it.

"We've been asked to participate in the upcoming White Heron Cup," Byleth plants his hands on his desk. "Do I have any volunteers?"

Silence. Byleth skims the room.

"Uh," he clears his throat. "It would be remiss of me to force any one of you into participating against your will. I figured opening the floor would be the easiest route. Er, if multiple people step forward, I suppose we could leave it to a vote. Are there any questions?"

Caspar, perhaps a little awkwardly, raises his hand.

"Yes, Caspar?"

"Professor," the boy hesitates before uneasily pointing at his own face. "You uh, got a little something..."

His prompt courage spurs the rest of the eagles out of their silence.

"I was just about to bring that up too," says Dorothea. "Gods, everyone was so quiet! I thought for sure I was missing something!"

"Hardly. It would be quite difficult to miss a face such as that," Lysithea adds with a bit of snark.

"Wait," Petra looks around. "So we are all noticing his face? It is not just me? I was wondering why no one was saying anything."

"I-I wanted to say something!" Bernadetta squeaks. "B-but I also didn't want to be rude! O-or the only one to speak up..."

"That's..." Marianne sighs. "More relatable than I would like it to be..."

"My silence—" Ferdinand boasts with contradiction. "—was not out of ignorance, but out of respect for our professor! What kind of honest, kindhearted noble looks down on the commonfolk when they are at their weakest? Then again, I suppose it is hardly honest to stow away my thoughts of how well that utterly caked foundation suits you..."

"Some things are better left unsaid," Hubert nods toward the noble, then turns to the professor. "You look like a fool."

"Hubert, please. I'm certain he has a plausible explanation," Edelgard pauses. "... Don't you, my teacher?"

"I'm afraid I do not understand," Flayn tilts her head, a finger upon her lips. "What is it that we are all so rudely remarking upon?"

"Really?" yawns Linhardt. "You don't know? Not even the hair strikes you the least bit odd?"

"What is so wrong with a change in appearance?"

"Nothing," Hubert answers for Linhardt. "In fact, I would argue he's never looked better."

"Hubert!"

Byleth skims the room one more time. None of them can hear the imp in the corner dying of laughter quite like he can. "... Are there any more questions?"

He is met with a flock of hands. Given that he's answered none of them, it's understandable.

"That aren't concerning my face?"

The class finds themselves back at step one.

Chapter Text

"Magic," Byleth's eyes dart from palm to palm. "Or bonemeal? Magic... or bonemeal?"

"Oh, won't you simply pick one already?" Sothis groans, legs lazily kicking to and fro as she cradles her chin. "It is so very hot and stuffy in here! Phooey, my bangs are beginning to stick to my forehead, and your once-handsome face looks as though it is sloughing off at the seams!"

"Good," says the professor, unfazed by the molten foundation running down his cheeks. "There's a reason we're spending the evening here. I don't suppose you know if magic fertilization is any more or less potent than organic fertilization?"

"Not in the least," she huffs. "And even if I did at some halcyon point, I most certainly would not remember now. Silly mortal pastimes are of no concern to me. Why, all manner of cultivation should be left to that goddess you all speak so highly of if you were to ask me. Oh, but you never do, do you?"

"Hmm, we have quite an abundance of Airmid water. I had almost forgotten that..."

"Child! Are you listening!?"

The professor nods. "If the archbishop is to be believed, you're the closest thing to that goddess. Perhaps that's why I'm seeking your insight."

"Hmph," the girl sits up and crosses her arms, lips pursed. "What is it that you wish to grow then?"

"Gourds," he says. "I hear they're a favorite around this time of year. This will be the first time I plant something other than flowers."

"I see," she taps her chin delicately, her thoughts aflame. "If that is the case, then you will need much more than mere mortal magic and fancy water. Yes, for your harvest to be truly bountiful, you will need a divine blessing!"

"A divine blessing?" Byleth blinks. "Is it free?"

"No," she answers in a single breath. "But when you truly think about it, is there nothing freer than spending your days adhering to my every whim?"

Chapter Text

A costly pinch of divine blessings here and there results in an overnight harvest for Byleth, something no amount of bonemeal or specialized water could ever hope to accomplish. Even Dedue of the Blue Lions finds himself racked with envy and intrigue at the sight of the Black Eagles professor's thirteen cart long gourd express. Though the greenhouse enthusiast politely prompts Byleth for his secret, he's only told that Matilda is to blame.

It's not exactly a lie.

"The results of the White Heron Cup anonymous participation survey are in," Professor Eisner announces. "In short, it was no contest. As much as I would like to share the results, I feel as though that some things are better left unsaid."

Byleth turns to Hubert and addresses him in a tone that is slightly muffled by the perfectly round, hollowed-out gourd embellishing his head.

"The class has overwhelmingly elected you as our representative."

"Wonderful," Hubert drones over the unenthusiastic applause. "I suppose I earned that one. Fine, but do not expect a winning performance. It will reflect poorly on the Black Eagles should we lose, and you will no doubt be at fault for putting such an unsuitable candidate at the helm, professor."

"Stow your concern," the professor narrows his eyes, barely visible through the triangular cavities carved into the gourd. "Bad faith or otherwise. We'll be practicing every evening until the day of the cup."

Caspar raises his hand and the brief diversion it provides prevents the two from getting into it further.

"Yes, Caspar?"

"Professor," the boy hesitates before uneasily feeling the space around his head with both hands. "You uh, got a little something..."

"You noticed it too?' Dorothea joins in. "Gods, I thought I was seeing things!"

"How strange," says Petra. "It is reminding me most of a mythical beast famous in Brigid."

"Ohh," Bernadetta cries. "I-I hope something hasn't gotten into the professor! W-what if he comes into class as a dancer himself tomorrow?!"

"Perhaps someone has put him up to it..." Marianne quietly posits.

"I feel as though we've all danced to this tune before," Lysithea notes offhandedly.

"Hm?" Flayn tilts her head. "Will Hubert not be the one doing all of the dancing for us? I am quite confused!"

"It's a figure of speech," Linhardt rubs his eyes. "I'm just relieved no one voted for me."

"Relieved?!" Ferdinand clutches his chest, cradling his broken heart. "What sweet relief is there in being overlooked for what is sure to be the competition to end all competitions!? Hubert! You would do well not to embarrass the Black Eagles! My rhythmic feet, the fancy footwork with which they draw crowds with, and myself are counting on you!"

"That is quite enough, Ferdinand," Edelgard sighs. "I'll make certain that Hubert performs equitably. As for you, my teacher, I'm certain you have a plausible explanation for us. If, of course, you feel obligated to provide one, ah, which you aren't..."

To that, Byleth addresses his star pupil the only way he knows how.

"You don't know want to know what's under this gourd," he hauntingly mutters, a giggle in his ear. "As for today's lecture, it will be a simple one—the sunk cost fallacy and how nothing in this world is free."

Chapter Text

"Isn't it a little greedy to ask for a tea party on top of making me wear this?" asks the pumpkin-headed professor.

"Tsk!" Sothis tuts. "Any little excuse to get you out of hosting me, hm? Divine blessings are costly, child, and I have no use for what little gold you flaunt about. Honestly, this does not even account for half of what you owe, but since I am so grateful and loving, I shall look the other way for a spell."

"Is that so?" Byleth begrudgingly pours her a cup, beckoned by the spark in her eyes.

"Very," she kicks her legs with glee, delighted by the chance to finally take a sip. "I am quite tired of stowing away under the table as you prattle on and on with your little sheep. Is indulging me in this little fancy, just this once, so very grueling?"

The professor grabs a small tart and slides it through the mouth of his pumpkin, whole.

"Admit it. You are merely acting," she points at him. "You enjoy this! Yes, yes you do!"

If Byleth has any strong feelings to show on the matter, she can't see it. She does, however, see him dip his head back and pour tea into the pumpkin.

"The minute someone sees me having tea by myself, I'm done for," he lifts his head forward. "You're aware of this, correct?"

"Fufufu," she snickers. "You are not exactly helping your case."

Chapter Text

"Fufufu, standing out in the rain without cover? You are simply asking to become bedridden, you kn—"

Sothis' manifesting words fall on deaf ears and any jeers she has ready are quietly set aside.

Eleanor Eisner

The name is barely legible, etched into stone as ancient as the monastery itself, with some letters having already worn away. Only by tracing along their faint grooves is Byleth able to piece the name together, but doing so doesn't move him in the slightest. That he has to do it at all only seems to eat away at him that much more.

Sothis uncrosses her arms and kneels beside him. She hasn't seen him like this before—so empty, so quiet, so consumed. The feeling only worsens as he removes the gourd from his head and lets the rain wash away the final layers of her mischief, exposing a twinge in his eye only she can see. It's faint, but it marks the divide between a quiet man and a broken one.

Byleth sets the gourd by the grave, overturned, and fills it with his most recent yield—a collection of flowers.

"Was she..." Sothis begins, her voice barely above a whisper. "Someone special...?"

"Yes," answers Byleth, weakly. "I only just learned she was here."

"Oh.." she gathers this isn't his first visit as her eyes droop toward the miry grass. "If this is intrusive, I—"

"No," he shakes his head. "Please."

It isn't much, given her state, and a part of her hurts knowing that she will never be able to do much more, but she hugs his arm and leans upon him. Gradually, the twinge in his eyes withers, replaced with an uncertain warmth she cannot quite place. As far as she knows, beings of her nature do not give off heat.

"Byleth..." fitting as it is, the name still sounds foreign. "We can stay for as long as you wish."

It's nearly deafened by the rain, but his answer comes to her with a pat on the head.

"Thank you, Sothis."

Chapter Text

"One day, I hope you'll give this ring to someone you love as well as I love her."

"To someone I love.." Byleth repeats softly, his eyes drifting toward the noble Aegir hound beneath his palm. "I don't suppose you would accept this?"

The dog barks at the ring but Byleth knows it's only doing so in the hopes of further treats and praise. "Aegir hound indeed," he sighs. "Father would be mortified if I left his most cherished possession in the paws of a—well, any set of paws, really."

"Well, well, well," the dog starts at Sothis' intrusion, able to sense her presence but unable to see her. "Conversing with the strays now, are we? Honestly, you have to be quite the fool to think any one of them can provide wisdom like I can."

"I must manage pretty well for a fool then," he looks to her. "Did you need something? I'm already being barked at, if you haven't noticed."

"Such malice for someone so lost in thought," she loops her arms around his neck. "Is this the accursed ring I've heard so very much about?"

"Yes. Care to help me with it?"

"Hmm, possibly. 'Someone you love', was it?" she taps her chin. "How strange! Why, you possess all the emotional makings of a slab of stone. I imagine it is quite difficult for you to love much of anything."

"Fishing, gardening, cats, dogs, father, my students..." he recounts. "These are things I 'love', I suppose... but none of them make for a fitting recipient. Not on the level that father suggested, at any rate. Perhaps he meant something else entirely..."

"Perhaps..." she nods. "Oh, but where am I on this list of yours? You wound me!"

"What use would that be? You can't wear it. Your fingers are too small, assuming it doesn't phase through them first."

"Does the thought not count, as they say? Better for it to be in my hands than one of your sheep who is sure to lose sight of it, don't you think?"

"Woof!"

"See? The canine agrees!"

"Please," says the professor. "He's only excited because I mentioned fish."