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Byleth: Peculiar Professor

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“Combat awareness.” Byleth says firmly. “It’s paramount over any other skill. It doesn’t matter how tough you are, or how fast you are, or how many enemies you can take on at once. There is a situation where you can get killed, and it will happen if you’re not actively avoiding it. Good reflexes are particular important for this.”

Without even looking down, he grabs something from under his desk and chucks it at Edelgard. The girl’s arm comes up with lighting speed to block the projectile, causing it to slap onto her arm and fall harmlessly to the floor. It’s a wet sponge, and it already soaked through Edelgard’s sleeve in the one second it had contact with her.

That is an example of good reflexes.” Byleth says calmly, as if chucking something at a student without warning is perfectly normal behavior. “Bad reflexes, however...”

He chucks another sponge. This one slaps a sleeping Linhardt in the face with quite a bit of force, and both soaks his face and shirt and sends him toppling backwards out of his seat.

“...look like that.” The man says while casually wiping his hands on the curtains. Ferdinand is visibly aghast at seeing his teacher show such disregard to their very expensive accommodations. “You’re dead by the way Linhardt.”

“Duly noted.” The boy grumbles as he picks himself up off the floor. His carefully kept hair is wet and in slight disarray. He picks at his wet shirt, grimacing. “Did it have to be wet?”

“Dry sponges suffer too much wind resistance. Can’t throw them very far, or very fast. I’m open to alternatives.” Byleth replies; apparently missing the rhetorical nature of the question. “So, in short. Be like Edelgard. Edelgard is alive. Linhardt is not.”

Someone less familiar with Byleth might assume that’s a snide comment about Linhardt wasting his life away not contributing anything to the world, but of course it’s not. Byleth doesn’t have that deep a sense of sarcasm… or any sense of sarcasm for that matter.

“Professor…” Hubert says with a slight sneer. “I’ll thank you not to throw things at the heir to the throne of the Adrestian Empire.”

“Then hold off your thanks, because I just did that.” Byleth says.

“Yes, that’s- ugh…” The boy sighs deeply. “Don’t do that.”

“Okay.” Byleth picks up a sponge and chucks it Hubert. The boy barely manages to bat it aside and stop the sponge from soaking his notebook. “Everyone, be like Hubert. Not Linhardt. Pretend Edelgard isn’t here.”

While Hubert glares at their teacher, Edelgard glances at the hourglass sitting on Byleth’s desk. It’s not even halfway done.

Still forty more minutes of this. Gods preserve us…

###

“Professor…” Ferdinand sighs.

“Yes?”

“What are you doing?”

“Catching fish.”

“Generally, one uses a pole to catch fish.”

“Generally.” Byleth agrees.

“Professor.”

“Yes?”

“It it most uncouth for you to use a sharpened stick to catch fish.”

“I see.” He responds neutrally, and goes back to looking for fish.

“I don’t think you do see.”

“How not?”

“Professor, you are a member of the church of Seiros. You represent the order in a sense, and therefore it paints a poor image of them for you to be attempting to stab fish in a lake with a sharp branch. At the very least you could use a spear.”

“Too heavy.” Byleth mutters. He’s still not looking at Ferdinand, and is totally focused on the water. “This is just right. Can hold it for a long time, but not too frail. Won’t snap too easy.”

“Do you really care so little for the image of the church?” Ferdinand snaps. His irritation is getting the best of him now. He can’t stand someone with so little care for their position. Even Caspar, with his unphilosophical and impulsive approach to life, upholds the core ideals of being a noble. Byleth seems to pay no mind to what’s expected of him.

“Should I?”

“Yes! You’re a part of them now!”

“Oh.” He blinks. “Do they not like fish?”

“Fish- Forget about the fish! It’s the fact that you’re using a stick ! You look like a barbarian.”

“I’m a mercenary.”

“You’re a teacher , hired by the church . Perhaps you should start acting like it.”

“I do.”

Excuse me?” Ferdinand says, not believing what he just heard. “And how do you figure that?”

“A fisher is someone who fishes, just as a teacher is someone who teaches.” Byleth says simply. “How I act otherwise has nothing to do with it.”

“I- but-” Ferdinand takes a moment to collect himself. He didn’t expect this talk to be such an exercise in patience. “Yes, you are technically correct. However, that does not mean that public image is irrelevant. Again, you represent the church of Seiros, and a poor public image for them reduces their credi-”

The boy is interrupted by a sudden splash, followed by Byleth withdrawing his stick from the water with a large trout on the end. “Dinner.”

Ferdinand sighs. “Are you seriously going to have the chefs cook that?”

“No, I’m going to cook it.”

“I doubt they’ll let you use the kitchen.”

“I use my fireplace.”

Ferdinand blinks once, twice. He can’t be hearing this right. “Professor…”

“Yes?”

“You use the fireplace in your room to cook?”

“Of course.”

“Why don’t you just eat at the mess hall?”

“I can?”

Wait, wait, wait…” Ferdinand shakes his head vigorously for a second. This whole situation is absurd. “Professor, did you think the mess hall was only for students?”

“Of course. It’s called the student’s mess hall.”

“Where do you usually get your food?”

Byleth points at the fish still twitching on the end of his stick, and then to the greenhouse. “I have to buy those.”

Ferdinand can’t believe this. How did this man ever become a teacher? “Professor, you get free meals. It’s included with your being a teacher.”

“Oh.”

“You can order them from the chefs, and have it delivered anywhere. It’s one of the privileges of being a teacher rather than a student.”

“Oh.”

There’s a several second pause as the two of them stare at each other. Then, Byleth tilts the end of the stick towards Ferdinand.

“Want a fish?”

###

“Professor Eisner, while I understand the necessity of teaching combat to your students, and do not disagree that you should spar with them for practical demonstrations, I would remind you that your students don’t share your incredible… worrying… erm… indifference.” Seteth coughs.

“I don’t see the problem.” Byleth says as he casually holds Edelgard in a headlock with one arm while the other is pulling her weapon hand across her body to stop her from actually moving it. It’s a very awkward looking position. Bernadetta, who hasn’t sparred with Byleth yet (and everyone is expected to have a turn), looks like she’s going to pass out from sheer anticipation of her impending humiliation at any moment.

“That’s exactly the problem.” Seteth sighs. “You don’t see the issues at all.”

“They’re visible?”

“Yes, very.”

“Such as?”

“Strangling your students.”

“She has at least a minute left, and can tap out any time.” Byleth replies simply. While Edelgard is still struggling, the man barely looks like he’s paying attention to her anymore. “Next.”

“There is also the issue of you carrying your students around over your shoulder.”

“I think it was perfectly warranted.”

“You broke into her room.”

“I came in through the back entrance.”

“There is no back entrance to the student’s dorm rooms. We’ve been over this several times.”

“If you can step through it, it’s an entrance.”

“While such thinking may be appropriate for military matters, it is not acceptable social behavior.”

“Give me a second.” Byleth says suddenly. He glances at Edelgard, who is growing weak in his grip, then back at the rest of his class. “See? A good grab allowed me to restrain Edelgard despite her superior strength. Keeping my arm straight makes it hard to bend, and therefore hard for Edelgard to use brute force to escape, as it provides conditional strength. Edelgard, your swings have too much follow-through. It leaves you open.”

Byleth releases his student, and she gasps for the fresh air she’s been missing. She coughs once or twice, and sits down on a bench as soon as she reaches it.

“You were saying?”

Seteth sighs deeply. “Don’t break into people’s rooms, don’t do anything to harm the students, and for the goddess’s sake please keep your… weirdness confined to your own quarters, or at the very least just your classroom.”

“Okay.” Byleth says simply, which does not reassure Seteth at all. The professor turns to his class once more. “Bernadetta, you’re next.”

The lavender-haired girl lets out a pitiful whimper. Seteth silently thinks to himself that it seems more likely the poor girl will faint midway than the spar will actually run its course.

###

“Professor…” Dorothea murmurs as she brushes the horse’s mane alongside her teacher. “Really, you shouldn’t have.”

“Shouldn't have what?”

“If you wanted to be alone with me, you didn’t need the excuse of a group task.” She jokes. “Usually I do this with Bernie.”

“She’s not feeling well.”

“Sure she isn’t.” The girl giggles. “Professor, she always ‘isn’t feeling well’ when she has to leave her room.”

“She threw up.”

“Oh.” Dorothea blinks.

“I didn’t want you to have to do this alone.”

“Oh. Well… thank you.” Dorothea says. “You could have just assigned someone else you know, but you chose to come yourself…”

“Yes.”

“Very smooth professor.”

“Indeed. The horse is smooth.”

“I was talking about you sir.”

Byleth pauses, and raises a hand to pat his own hair. “Oily, not smooth.”

Dorothea shakes her head and laughs softly. “Oh professor…”

“Hmm?”

“Nothing. You’re very innocent.” The girl says with a smile.

“I’ve killed over a hundred people. I don’t think I’m innocent.”

“The fact that you think I’m talking about kills is exactly why you’re innocent.” Dorothea giggles.

Byleth pauses for a second as he tries to figure out what his student is talking about. “Were you… complimenting my movements? The ease in which I brush the horse? Was that smooth?”

The girl can barely contain her laughter. “Professor, don’t think too hard about it.”

###

“You’re both holding back.”

“Wha- oh, hey Teach. Didn’t see you there.” Caspar grunts. He struggles to overcome Petra’s strength as the two grapple in the middle of the training grounds. Their hands are locked together, and it’s clear the purple-haired girl has the upper hand by how she’s slowly bending the boy’s wrists backwards. “Don’t know what you mean, I’m fighting pretty hard right now!”

“As I am too!” Petra agrees.

“Is this a spar?” Byleth asks. “Or a wrestling match?”

“Spar! No weapons.” Caspar growls out. He attempts to pull one of his hands free from Petra’s grip, but all it does is tug her forwards a bit so that they’re basically nose-to-nose.

“Bite her.”

“What?!”

“Bite her. You’re close enough.”

“Teach, we’re not trying to injure-”

“Then kick her. Now. Between the legs.”

“No!”

The distraction of Byleth’s suggestions allows Petra to overpower the boy, and soon his hands are pinned behind his back and one of the girl’s arms is tight around his throat. “I win.” She remarks simply.

“Yep.” Caspar gasps. Petra releases him, and the boy rubs his sore wrists. “Damn, you have a strong grip!”

“I thank you.” Petra says proudly.

“Teach, I can’t just bite or kick her.” Caspar says. “That’s, uh, improper so to speak. It’s not right! She’s a classmate.”

“This is preparation for a real fight, correct?” Byleth frowns.

“Yeah?”

“Then you must not be so reserved. Survival is paramount. If you have not practiced such things, you will not be prepared to act on the opportunity in a real fight.”

“Still, I can’t bite her nose off!” Caspar protests. “And kicking her between the legs? That’s just… that’s just playing dirty Teach..”

There’s a long pause as Byleth stares at him. The, he turns to Petra. “Petra, spar with me.”

“Yes!” The girl says enthusiastically. “I accept! I have been much eager to test myself against you professor!”

Byleth grabs the usual protective pads for brawling. He puts on the helmet, the gloves that pad one’s knuckles, a mouth guard, and a groin guard (which Caspar had forgotten they even had here). The teacher glances at Caspar. “Watch. This is the problem with propriety.”

The fight starts simple enough, but the differences between Byleth’s style and Petra’s is instantly obvious. The professor has no qualms about going for the legs, and routinely tries to tangle and trip up Petra’s long legs with tripping attacks. To her credit, the girl is quick to react and dodge all his attempts, and even lands a few solid counter-hits with max-range punches.

Then Byleth pulls out his trump card. He side-steps one of Petra’s punches, and his hand snaps out to grab… her chest.

Petra squawks and freezes for a moment, and Byleth promptly smashes her in the side of the head with a brutal haymaker which sends her sprawling to the floor. Caspar gapes in shock as his teacher calmly turns to face him. “See? If you allow embarrassment to influence you in a fight, it can easily be your end.”

“You- you-” Caspar blinks. “You can’t just… but…”

“Petra, train yourself to punch rather than freeze.” Byleth suggests, turning back to the girl who’s picking herself up off the ground. “Or train to remain unaffected. That works better. There’s no place for embarrassment in a battle.”

“I see. Thank you professor.” Petra nods seriously. Apparently the fact that she just got groped is easily forgiven, which totally boggles Caspar’s mind.

Then again, there’s a chance to Petra didn’t take it too seriously purely because it’s Byleth. Most of his students have realized by now that the man means well, even if he shows it in truly absurd fashion.

“Also, consider incorporating such underhanded tactics in brawling yourself. Aim for the groin and the eyes when you can, although perhaps not the eyes during spars. We don’t have eye protection.” Byleth suggests. “Also consider adding more kicks. You have long legs, make use of them.”

“I understand.” Petra nods again. “I will improve through endeavor! Your tutelage is appreciated.”

Caspar sighs under his breath. Now he’s going to have to worry about Petra kicking him in the groin while brawling. Fantastic. Teach made a few good points though. In a real fight, he can’t afford to be bothered about what’s “proper”. He has a feeling his usual spars with Petra are going to be a lot more brutal from now on though…

###

“Professor, honestly…” Edelgard groans. “I’m fine. It happened once or twice.”

Byleth gives her a neutral look, and then turns to Hubert. “Did she eat?”

“No.”

The teacher’s gaze returns to Edelgard with a slight frown, and Edlgard scowls up at Hubert. Byleth nudges the bowl of food forward with his finger and the princess sighs in defeat.

Sometimes Edelgard spends late nights dealing with matters pertaining to the Empire. Paperwork usually. That sometimes means she sleeps in and misses breakfast just so that she’s rested for class.

Byleth, however, overhead her talking about that to Hubert, and now takes it upon himself to to bring her breakfast every morning directly to her room.

It’s better than it used to be. The first day after he heard, he grabbed her out of her bed (still in her nightclothes) and carried her to the mess hall rather than allow her to miss breakfast. This (him casually picking her lock every morning, shaking her awake at precisely seven thirty, and shoving a plate of fruit, bread, and sausage into her hands) is much more preferable.

Hubert has taken to joining them in the morning, mostly (according to him) to make sure Byleth doesn’t do anything sketchy. Edelgard has told him numerous times it’s not necessary, but Hubert’s concern is not so easily abated.

Edelgard isn’t sure if she’s fortunate to have, or cursed by, the attention and strange care of these two men. 

###

“Today, we’re talking about deception.” Byleth says. He gestures to a very confused, if amused, Mercedes who’s standing next to him. “For example, Marshmallow here may look like an innocent fluffball, but she’s actually capable of magically erasing someone’s life!”

“Erm… I didn’t do that.” Mercedes coughs.

Byleth pauses, the wind is totally ripped from his sail. “Marshmallow, didn’t you say yesterday that you purified someone?”

“Well yes, that’s a religious ritual.” She explains. “I’m not clergy exactly, but the old man was too weak to make it to the church, so I performed confession for them as best I could…”

“Doesn’t that mean you killed them?”

“Of course not, why would you assume that?”

“All the priests I’ve run into who ‘purify’ people involve a ritual that includes dissection, curses, and indiscriminate murder.”

“Professor.” Edelgard coughs. “May I remind you that your experience is not at all reflective of the rest of the world? From what you’ve told us, you’ve never interacted with normal clergy before a month ago. I’m fairly sure your knowledge of religious matters is limited to insane cults.”

There’s a long pause. Byleth glances between Mercedes and Edelgard. Eventually, he says: “so Marshmallow isn’t secretly murdering people?”

“No, she is not.”

“She’s just sugar?”

“If by that you mean ‘sweet’, yes.”

“Oh.”

Another awkward pause. Mercedes smiles patiently as Byleth thinks. The professor then turns back to his class.

“And sometimes, someone can seem suspicious, but they’re actually just fluff. That’s also deception, but it’s just you deceiving yourself. Always double-check your facts and sources.”

“Professor, why do you call Mercedes Marshmallow, and why is she fluff?” Linhardt sigh.

“Because she looks like a marshmallow.” Byleth says simply. “She’s sweet and fluffy.” To prove his point, he reaches over and fluffs the girl’s hair, which she patiently allows. “See? Fluff.”

At some point.” Edelgard thinks as she massages her forehead in exasperation, “he’s going to find someone less patient, and he’s going to get punched or accused of sexual assault.

“Also, she’s really light.” Byleth adds, now completely off-track. Without warning, he scoops Mercedes up in his arms and holds her up over his head. “See?”

“Oh gods…” Bernadetta whines, empathizing with Mercedes embarrassment as the blonde-haired girl blushes and starts stammering. “He’s going to parade her too…”

Either that, or everyone is going to end up traumatized.

Chapter Text

“Does she like cake?”

“Erm…”

“Potatoes?”

“Professor.”

“Salt?”

“When I said I would answer your questions about the goddess, I meant spiritual questions.” Rhea coughs. “I am not privy to the… dietary preferences of our goddess.”

Byleth pauses his questioning, stares for a second, then says. “You said you know this goddess well, right?”

“Indeed.”

“She’s your mother, right?”

“Well, she’s everyone’s mother…”

“Right, so she’s family.” Byleth says simply. “And I’d be a bad son if I didn’t know my mother’s favourite food, right?”

The archbishop takes a long, deep breath, and exhales to steady herself. “She is far too above this world to be bothered with such simple things as food preferences.”

Byleth blinks. “Have you asked her?”

“Pardon?”

“Have you asked her what food she likes?”

“It’s not that simple.” Rhea tries to explain. “She does not answer such base questions.”

“You don’t know.” Byleth insists. “You’ve never asked. What if she likes pancakes, but is too shy to ask for them, and is just waiting for someone to ask?”

The archbishop’s mouth twitches. If this were anyone else she would think she was intentionally being mocked, but she knows Byleth doesn’t mean anything by it.

Probably.

“Well, perhaps you should ask her then.” Rhea says as calmly as possible.

Byleth is again quiet for a moment, then says quietly. “You don’t actually know her at all, do you?”

Unless she’s hearing things, Rhea could swear she hears disappointment in his voice, as if she’s the one doing something wrong. It takes all her patience not to (politely) ask him to leave. “That is not true. I am well acquainted with even the most obscure of our goddess’s legends and commandments.”

“Sure.” Byleth says, unphased. “But that’s her public persona, like me talking about my father’s job. What about her favourite color?”

The archbishop has had quite enough. She stands up, says: “pardon me, I have another arrangement” and leaves as quickly as she can.

###

“Fight me.”

“Pardon?”

“Fight me.” Byleth repeats. “You are the fencing instructor. I want to see if my skills are any good. Assess me.”

Jeritza eyes the other man warily. Byleth’s eccentricities are well known to him, as well as his philosophy on combat. “No biting, no groin strikes, no eye gouging. This is a spar.”

“Fine.” Byleth blinks.

Already being in the training pit, the two grab training swords and put on the necessary protective training armor. Jeritza settles into a low stance, while Byleth stands normally with his sword limp by his side.

“Ready when you are.” Byleth says.

Jeritza narrows his eyes. “Begin.”

The way Byleth fights is both normal, but very unusual in its normalness. He uses only the most basic of sword techniques: simple slashes, thrusts, and blocks; but he makes such effective use of those simple moves that he doesn’t need anything more complicated. Jertizta’s swift, complex attacks are often stopped by a few simple shifts of Byleth’s blade.

It’s undeniable, however, that Jeritza has the upper hand. He may be foiled constantly, but he also possesses the constant offensive momentum that never allows Byleth to counterattack. Byleth’s simple movements also mean that any attacks he does manage are effortlessly blocked because of how obvious and predictable they are.

It takes a few minutes of failed attempts, but Jeriza eventually manages to snake a thrust past Byleth’s defence and tap him in the hip. The two men step back from each other, allowing their swords to drop.

“Curious.” Jeritza frowns. “You’re very… basic, but for someone so basic, you’re remarkably skilled in defence. Your unwillingness to string together consecutive attacks, or use any sort of complicated movement, makes for a brute-force style that your lackluster physical strength is ill-suited for.

“Ah.” Byleth blinks.

“Your defence, however, is quite effective. You need not change that.”

“Understood.” Byleth nods. “I am satisfied.”

Jeritza raises an eyebrow. “You are settling for only this?”

“No. I wasn’t able to fight as I normally would.” Byleth says. “Normally, I would have just stabbed you with my dagger while blocking with my sword.” He pats the dagger on his belt. “Or punched you, or tripped you, or kicked you, or headbutted you, or used magic, or-”

“I get it.” Jertiza says sharply. “You would not have beaten me even if you did so.”

“Sure.”

“I mean it!”

“Okay.”

The masked swordsman feels like he’s being mocked. Byleth seems totally uncaring about Jeritza’s insistence that he’s better than the man. He brushes it off as if he has no respect for Jeritza’s skill.

Of course, that’s just Byleth’s usual blank look at work, but Jeritza doesn’t interact with the man enough to realize that. He’s avoided the new teacher just as much as he avoids everyone else.

“Feh.” Jeriza turns away sharply. He tosses his training sword aside, strips out of his padding, and strides out of the area.

###

“Professor.” Seteth sighs.

“Yes?”

“When I said you should lighten up your lessons a bit, I didn’t mean you should hang lanterns all around your classroom.”

“Oh.”

“I meant you should consider not only talking about the numerous ways they can die.”

“But that’s my job.”

“Your job is to teach them tactics, strategy, and how to fight. Not to spend twenty minutes describing the innumerable ways they could die a grisly death on the battlefield.” Seteth says dryly. “Your job is not to traumatize them, it’s to help them prepare for the battlefield. While a discussion of death is inevitable and necessary, there is no need to unduly terrify them.”

“Oh.”

“And, I should repeat, I told you to stop breaking into your students’ rooms. Yet I’ve been hearing rumors of you intruding upon Edelgard in the early hours of the morning, including picking the lock to her door .”

“She wasn’t eating breakfast.” Byleth says simply. “I’m fixing that.”

“By breaking into her room?”

“Yes.”

There’s no explanation. Just “yes”. As much as Seteth doesn’t approve, he also doesn’t doubt Byleth is telling the truth.

“Does Edelgard complain?”

“Yes.”

“Vehemently?”

“No.”

Edelgard doesn’t approve, but she allows her professor to keep up his behavior. If Hubert hasn’t brought it to the attention of anyone else, then it must be relatively fine, as there is almost certainly no way Hubert isn’t aware of this.

Seteth sighs. “Fine. Please just ask her for a spare key though. There’s no need to break into her room every morning.”

“Okay.”

“One last thing…”

“Hmm?”

“I have heard tell that Flayn has been… interacting with some of the young men around here.” Seteth says slowly. “And have also heard tell that some of them may have attempted advances on her. If you see this, I implore you to put a stop to it, and inform the boys of their peril. I shall not have any young man set a finger on my sister.”

Byleth blinks. “Okay.”

“Good.”

###

“Flayn.”

“Professor.” Flayn nods, smiling.

“Come here.” Byleth beckons.

Flayn pauses. Byleth is currently standing in one of the smaller alleyways, shadowed by an overhang above him, and waving her over with small beckons of one hand. His other hand is hidden behind his back.

It looks very creepy to be honest, and if it were anyone but Byleth Flayn would have promptly turned around and run in the other direction. Knowing how peculiar Byleth is, however, she’s confident he had no ill intent, and so walks over to him. “What is it?”

“I got this.” The man shows her what he was hiding behind his back. It’s a massive teautates herring on the end of a sharp stick. “This is the one you wanted, right?”

“Yes! It is!” Flayn says eagerly. “My gratitude Professor! This will be a perfect meal for the feast!”

The green-haired girl removes the herring from the end of the stick, having no aversion to handling the thing with her bare hands. “Did you catch this with only your stick?”

“Yes.”

“That is quite impressive! You never cease to amaze Professor. I wish I were so skilled.”

“It is not hard. I can teach you.”

“Truly?”

“Yes."

“My evermost thanks Professor!” She exclaims. “Incidentally, I have a question.”

“Yes?”

“Why did you beckon me from the alley? Is there some reason for such secrecy?”

“Not secrecy. I am following your brother’s rules.”

Flayn blinks. “Rules?”

“Yes. He said that young men were not allowed to approach you, and being a young man, I could not come up and give you the fish. Instead, I had to make you approach me.” Byleth explains.

The girl’s brow furrows. Her voice is noticeably tense. “Oh really? What else did my brother say?”

“He said to inform any boy that attempted to do so of their peril.” Byleth’s eyes glance up to see a boy, Ashe, happen to walk close to them. “Your shoe is untied!”

The grey-haired boy startles, spots Byleth staring at him, glances at his shoe (seeing that it really is untied) and waves to show his thanks before fixing the problem.

“Like that.” Byleth says with totally honesty. “He approached you, and I told him of what he was in peril of.”

Flayn isn’t sure if she should laugh or groan. “Right. Of course.” She coughs. Her brother chose the worst possible person to ask for help. She doesn’t know if she should tell him what Seteth actually meant, or just let Byleth go one believing he’s literally not allowed to step towards her and has to warn people of their “peril” rather than tell them to stay away from her.

In the end though, she decides it would be rude to let Byleth go on believing the wrong thing.

“Professor, when my brother said not to allow young men to approach me, he did not mean that they were not allowed to walk towards me.”

“He didn’t?”

“No, he was saying that he does not want them to make romantic overtures at myself. Flirting.”

“Ah.” Byleth frowns. “Why?”

Flayn raises an eyebrow. He questions why Seteth doesn’t want her flirted with, but he didn’t question not being allowed to walk in her direction? “He thinks I’m too young.”

“How old are you?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Yes it does.” Byleth says flatley. “This is about maturity, age , yes?”

“Well…” He’s not wrong. “I’m old enough.”

“And how old is that?”

“Older than you.”

Byleth pauses, thinks about it, then nods. “Okay.”

“So, do you agree with my brother?”

“I don’t know.”

“Pardon?”

“Flirting is not my expertise.” Byleth says bluntly. “So I don’t know how old you should be.”

“So… just don’t pass judgement then!” Flayn suggests. “If you don’t know, should you really be listening to Seteth?”

Byleth considers this for a moment. “Maybe.”

“Pardon?”

“He is your older brother, he is looking out for your best interests.”

“But he’s overbearing!”

“Perhaps…”

“Look, I want to be allowed to flirt if I want to, alright!?”

“Okay.” Byleth blinks. “Be careful.”

“Of course.”

“So… if men are allowed to lay fingers on you, then I don’t have to avoid touching you?”

“No, you don’t.”

“Okay.” As if just to test that it’s true, he reaches forward and pokes her in the cheek. “Hmm…”

“What?”

“You’re soft.” He says. He moves his hand to her hair. “And fluffy.”

Flayn snorts. “Professor.”

“Yes?”

“What you’re doing right now is exactly what my brother is worried about.” She chuckles. “Creepily fluffing my hair while looming over me.”

Byleth pauses. “I’m… creepy?”

“Not once one knows who you are.” Flayne reassures quickly. “From a distance though… you probably do.”

“Oh.” His says. “So if we just stay close to other people, I won’t look creepy?”

“When I said ‘from a distance’, I meant when people don’t know who you are.”

“Oh.” Byleth stops what he’s doing.

“Don’t stop!” Flayn huffs. “Seteth never does this…”

“He doesn’t?”

“He’s… stiff. Formal. And he always has been.” Flayn huffs. “He never even let me have a piggyback ride!”

Without further prompting, Byleth scoops up the girl and puts her on his shoulders. “Where are we going?”

“To the mess hall! We need to get this fish cooked!”

“Okay.”

###

“Erm… when I said I needed some blood, I just meant a drop.” Hanneman coughs.

“Oh.”

“Really Professor, you must be more sensible about such things.” Manuela huffs as she heals the slash on the man’s arm. “You cannot be so careless!”

“I wasn’t. I’ve suffered worse.” Byleth says neutrally.

“Be that as it may, it is a bad habit to think in such a way.” Manuela berates. “Simply because you can do something, does not mean you should . You are a mercenary, you should know well the price of recklessness.”

Byleth thinks on it, then nods in agreement. “Okay.”

“However, this quantity of blood, excessive as it may be, will be sufficient for my research.” Hanneman hums. “With this I will hopefully be able to get a better grasp on your crest.”

“Okay.”

“There is another matter.” Manuela says as she finishes the healing. “Professor, some of your students are worried about you.”

“I am mentally sound.” Byleth says, as if he expects this.

“Well, there was that…” Manuela coughs. “However, some of your students are noting signs of exhaustion in you professor. I do know you are busy, however you must take time to rest.”

Byleth pauses. “No”

“Pardon?”

“Rest comes when the job allows it. The job comes first. You can’t sleep on guard duty because you’re tired, you sleep after the job is done. This is the same case. You sleep when you’ve done what’s needed for the day.”

“Such a mindset, while perhaps appropriate for mercenary work, is not infinitely sustainable in a school setting.” Hanneman berates. “While during important times, such as marking exams, such a mindset may be necessary, during the normal school week you must pace yourself to avoid burnout.”

Byleth blinks. “That would mean I would have to stop doing things.”

“Well yes.”

“I can’t.”

“Yes, you can. You’re not on a mission. Not all tasks are essential.” Hanneman huffs. “For example, you need not check in on every single student every single day.”

“I don’t?”

“No. While certainly it is our duty to look out for the health and progress of our students, asking such a thing each and every day is wholly unnecessary.”

“Oh.”

“You, I assume, have been personally checking in with everyone every single day, have you not?”

“Yes.”

“Perhaps consider cutting it down to once a week. Unless, of course, there is cause for concern with a particular student.”

“Okay…”

###

“Need a sponge?”

Cyril pauses what he’s doing (cleaning off one of the many statues around the monastery) and stares at the professor. “Do you… just carry those around with you?”

“Not usually.”

“So why are you carrying them around now?”

“I was cleaning them, and getting new water.” He says simply.

“Right.” The boy says slowly. He asks himself if he really wants to know why this guy has a bunch of sponges, and decides he’ll be better off not asking. “Sure, I’ll take a sponge.”

He accepts the offered sponge, and starts using it to scrub. It’s much more effective than the cloth he was using beforehand, cutting his work down by half.

“I’ve got a few more statues to do…” Cyril says slowly after he finishes his current task. “Could I borrow this…?”

“You’re already borrowing it.”

“Can I keep borrowing it?”

“That’s just keeping it.”

“No- ugh…” Cyril sees why so many people call this professor weird. “Just until I’m done with the statues. For the day.”

Byleth stares at the boy for a second, and then nods. “Return it by dusk. I need it for my lesson tomorrow.”

Cyril is thankful he didn’t ask, because that response doesn’t make this man seem any less strange.

###

“Hah- you’re the real deal, huh?” Catherine laughs as she locks training swords with the man.

“Yes, I am not a hallucination.” Byleth responds calmly.

“And just as literal as the others claimed I-” She’s cut off by the man’s leg suddenly snapping up in a kick that almost breaks her nose. She just barely bobs her head out of the way. “-and just as pragmatic as they claimed as well.”

The professor doesn’t respond. He disengages their swords to put some distance between the two of them. He stares blankly at her, giving no emotional response to anything going on.

“Not much for banter, huh?”

“Needless distraction.” He responds curtly. “In combat, speak only to convey orders, information, or other things of key importance.”

“You really are well-trained.” Catherine praises. She lunges back in, battering the man with a series of rapid strikes. He looks like some sort of golem with his total lack of reaction as he precisely blocks each attack.

His response comes in the form of a kick to her shins (which she manages to backstep) followed by an obvious swing of his own (which she blocks) and a sudden body-slam to take advantage of both their swords being slightly off to the side of their bodies.

“But-” Catherine grunts as she regains her footing. Her free hand snaps out to grab his collar, uses her superior strength to pull him forwards and off-balance, and disarms him now that he can’t move his arms easily. “You still have things to learn.”

She was expecting the fight to end there. He’s in no position to fight back. Yet fight back he does. He pulls back his head and slams it forwards, headbutting her. Catherine reels for a moment from the pain, and Byleth capitalizes by kneeing her in the groin and following up with a haymaker straight to the face.

“Speak for yourself.” He says calmly. 

Before Catherine recovers, he knocks her sword from her hands. She brings up her hands and settles into a stance. She can feel blood starting to trickle from her nose, and the beginning of a black eye forming. Byleth is not faster than her nor stronger, but he does have one advantage: technique.

Despite what his primary weapon would suggest, Byleth’s skills lie more in brawling than they do swords. Now the two are in his area of expertise.

Catherine quickly realizes this for herself. Byleth understands the use of momentum in a fight. A punch is stronger when your entire body is moving with it. He never once lets her off the backfoot, and that more than makes up for his relative lack of speed or strength.

He always seems to know where to aim. Usually it’s the face, sometimes it’s the groin, and if it’s not either of those things it’s because she’s done something incredibly stupid that gives him a huge advantage.

In short, because she lost her sword, the fight ends with her pressed up against a wall, her nose bleeding profusely after several haymakers to the face, and her vision going blurry from either blood loss, pain, or probably both.

It’s not even that which ends the fight. It’s Shamir coming in and seeing her Catherine badly beaten, and then calling on the guards and trying to attack Byleth.

###

“So, uh…” Alois says. “You’re certainly not the lot I expected.”

Byleth stares blankly at the man, and Catherine crosses her arms with a frown on her face. A moment later she hisses when Maunela starts the healing.

“Honestly you two…” Manuela sighs. “You take training too seriously.”

“I didn’t know he’d keep fighting.” Catherine huffs defensively.

“She said she wanted to spar. We sparred.” Byleth remarks. “Until one of us could not fight any longer.”

“You beat her within an inch of her life.” Manuela corrects in a scolding tone.

“Exactly. Until she couldn’t fight any longer.” Byleth repeats, as if that’s perfectly normal. “She set the terms.”

“Really?” Maunela says with narrowed eyes.

“I did…” Catherine admits reluctantly. “I didn’t expect him to take it so literally.”

“Yes, well… that’s basically all he does.” Alois coughs. “Did we not tell you about that?”

“I thought you were exaggerating.”

“Oh, that we wish we were…” Manuela mutters.

“I would use exaggeration, but it would go right over Byleth’s head.” Alois jokes. It’s barely a joke, but Byleth glancing up for a moment like he expects something to be there makes the knight snort with barely-contained laughter.

“I see…” Catherine says slowly. Her face is looking a bit less beaten thanks to Manuela’s healing.

“Good. I was worried I may have damaged your eyes.” Byleth says.

“No, I mean that I understand .”

“Oh.”

Alois gives Catherine a look, saying: “ see what I mean? ” Catherine sighs and nods.

Shamir, who has watched this whole thing, just purses her lips and doesn’t comment.

###

“How was your week?”

“Good.”

“Your students?”

“Good.”

“Any problems?”

“I sparred with Catherine. Apparently we were supposed to stop when I lost my sword.”

Ah… that’s where Catherine’s bruises came from. ” Jeralt thinks to himself. “Are you enjoying your time here so far? I know it’s been hard settling in.”

“I’m… busy.” Byleth says with a slow blink. “But it is rewarding to teach.”

“Good.” Jeralt smiles. “Are you getting along with your students?”

“I think so.” Byleth says. “But I think they consider me strange.”

“They’ll get used to you.” Jeralt reassures. “After long enough.”

“I hope so.” The professor mumbles.

Jeralt feels for his son, he really does. The boy has never made a close friend due to his oddities. As much as Jeralt doesn’t feel comfortable being a knight of Seiros again, he was hoping the teaching position for Byleth would be a chance to meet people his age… although, he’ll admit, the power dynamic is a bit off due to Byleth being their professor .

It’s far better than the almost total social isolation (beyond Jeralt’s mercenaries) that Byleth suffered before due to people avoiding him, but Jeralt does wish Byleth could be on more even footing with the people around him. A friendship is what the boy needs.

Still, this is workable. Any positive relationships are better than none.

Jeralt learns forward, and puts a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I’m happy for you Kid. You’re taking good care of them. I’m sure they’ll return the favor.”

“It is not their job to take care of me. I will have failed as a teacher should that be the case.”

Jeralt snorts. “You’re barely older than them, and as much as you like to think otherwise, you’re not much more mature. You need just as much taking care of as they do.”

Byleth’s silent stare may unnerve other people, but Jeralt recognizes it for what it is: a pout.

“Don’t give me that look. You know I’m right.”

Chapter Text

"Professor…" Felix says slowly.

"Yes?"

"What exactly are you doing?"

"Returning a lost item."

"Usually when people do that, they knock."

"I did. No answer. So I'm going in through the back entrance."

"That's a window."

"Exactly."

"You're not supposed to break into someone's room through the window."

"I'm not breaking anything." Byleth says honestly. "I'm just opening it from the outside."

"With a knife?"

"Yes. My fingers can't get under it, and I need to undo the knot."

"That's not the problem, you shouldn't be using the window."

Byleth pauses to think. "...I should use the top entrance?"

"The top- no! Just wait for them to come back like a normal human being." Felix groans.

"I'm not human. I'm a demon."

Felix isn't sure if he's serious or not. The fact that his professor's expression never changes makes it hard to tell.

"Ah, good, it's open." Byleth pops open the window, and steps inside with practiced ease.

"You cut the knot."

"I'll replace it." He pulls some twine out of his coat.

"You just carry around spare twine for this exact situation?" Felix asks in disbelief.

"Well, not just this… but yes." Byleth murmurs. "I also have a few spare knives, in case the first breaks."

"Anything else you have I should know?" Felix asks sarcastically.

"Canteen, gauntlets, twine, knives (normal and throwing), metal spikes, small hammer, sword, two concoctions, various antidotes, bandages, flint and steel, notebook, and a quill and ink case." He lists off as he places a small blue gemstone on a desk. "Also, jerky. Want some?"

"Pass." Felix is sorry he even asked.

Byleth casually replaces the torn string that ties down the window, steps out, and pulls it down. He pulls out something else: a small, fancy-looking feather.

"Is that another lost item?"

"Yes."

"...exactly how many more do you have?"

"A dozen."

That's a lot of window strings he's going to be replacing… and Felix makes a mental note to leave his own window unlocked from now on.

###

"Ack, goddess, poison!" Sylvain coughs as he grabs for his water. "Augh!"

"It's not that bad…" Annette mutters sullenly as the man guzzles down the drink. The two of them are startled by Byleth suddenly rising from his seat with a loud grinding noise and him leaping over the table next to Sylvain.

"What kind? Do you know?" Byleth asks, pulling a number of small vials out of his pockets. "I have a rotberry antidote mix, and some crushed blackleaf-"

"Spice!" Sylvain coughs, slamming down his glass on the table. "How much did you put in that Annette?!"

"Spice? Haven't heard of it..." Byleth mutters rapidly. He stops suddenly, and his head snaps to look at Annette. "You did this?"

"W-Well I didn't mean to add that much-" She's cut off by the man suddenly grabbing her by the collar, and hoisting her up into the air with one arm. "Wha-Wha-Whaaaaaa!"

"Tell me what you used, now." Byleth's voice, usually flat, has a clear hint of steel and obvious threat.

"Bu-But-"

"NOW." Everyone in the mess hall now has their eyes fixed on Byelth, watching with a mixture of confusion and horror.

Annette is visibly shaking. Her trembling hands clutch at Byleth's own, trying to pry it off her collar. "I-I j-just used s-some jalapeno d-dust! J-Just a little!" She whimpers. "F-For seasoning!"

Byleth tilts his head, and blinks slowly. "That's not poison."

"Ah, poison, oh, that was an exaggeration professor!" Sylvain says rapidly. He has a winning smile on now, but the way his eyes dart around makes it clear he's not calm at all. He puts a hand on the arm holding Annette in the air, slowly getting his teacher to lower her. "Not actual poison! A joke! Everything's fine! Put her down… please?"

Byleth does so, slowly. "You're not harmed?" He asks Sylvain.

"Well, my taste buds may be a bit singed, but it's really nothing!" The redhead insists. Byleth releases Annette, and Sylvain gently grabs her under the arm to stop her from collapsing. "It's just a misunderstanding professor. I appreciate your concern, but Annette has done nothing except be a poor judge of how much spice goes on a dish."

"Oh." Byleth says. "You really should be more clear."

"No, you just don't understand hyperbole, or metaphor, or literary devices of any sort." Sylvain sighs. "You must be a riot with the ladies."

"I do not riot. If I want something, I take it… or buy it, or ask for it, or all three. Not necessarily in that order." He pauses. "Why would I supposedly riot only with women? Are they known to be good at it?" He stares at Annette. "Do you riot?"

Annette mutely shakes her head.

"And you made my point." Sylvain sighs. "Professor, perhaps you should just go back to your food."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, very."

"Okay…" He says slowly. "If you get poisoned again-"

"I wasn't poisoned." Sylvain interrupts firmly.

"If you actually get poisoned-"

"I know who to call, yes, fine, shoo." The man says, uncharacteristically brusk. "Go."

Byleth stares for another minute, eyeing the two of them (Sylvain pointedly positions himself in front of Annette, just to give her a bit of a shield from the professor), before slowly moving back to his seat.

"I-I'm so sorry." Annette says quietly.

"No, it's fine. The professor is just… dramatic." Sylvain sighs, and pats her on the shoulder reassuringly. "Do you want to go somewhere else to recover? Maybe some tea in my room?"

The girl is shaken, but not that shaken. "Nice try." She smiles.

"Tsk…" Sylvain feigns disappointment, but he's inwardly relieved that Annette recovered so quickly.

###

Ingrid isn't sure if she's impressed or disapproving. There's few people who can go toe-to-toe with Dimitri. Usually it takes a two on one to get an even fight with him, but Professor Eisner is managing quite well… however, he's not really fighting fair.

Scratch that, he's pulling out every dirty trick short of eye gouging.

"Gah!" Dimitri sputters as Byleth whips out his canteen around, the top popped off, and splashes water in the boy's eyes. He still manages to raise his spear to block his professor's overhead strike, but he's also forced to back up as he tries to shake the water out of his vision. "Professor!"

"Bandits won't fight fair." The man says flatly. "And you never know when someone will decide to ignore what's supposedly "fair". Better to use everything you have, and expect your foe to do the same."

"There's no honor in that!" Dimitri protests. "We're no better than bandits if we-"

He's cut off by Byleth punching him in the face. It's a move that should never have happened, it's completely reckless and easily punishable, but the boy is so surprised that he doesn't think to counter it until the window of opportunity has passed.

"See?" The teacher says as Dimitri blinks in shock. "I only got away with that because you're thinking in terms of a fair fight. Don't. Be ready to counter anything, and use anything to your advantage."

'I must protest Professor!" Ingrid interrupts. She's sitting on the sidelines along with the rest of the class, but she can't remain silent. "If we fight by that creed, then we are no better than bandits!"

"Bandits are not immoral because of how they fight, they are immoral because of why they fight." Byleth responds curtly. "There is no good or evil in combat, only what works and what doesn't."

Ingrid purses her lips. She doesn't agree with that at all. What sort of teacher encourages their students to splash water in their enemy's eyes? Or to sucker-punch someone when they're not expecting it? "Yes, it's effective, but it's also quite nasty and unbefitting someone as respected as a knight."

"Better unrespected than dead." Byleth responds. He deflects a thrust from Dimitri with his sword and promptly kicks the boy in the shin to punish his recklessness. The follow-up sword swipe smacks Dimitri in the head as he hastily, foolishly, lowers his guard to protect his lower body. "Dead."

Dimitri tenses, and for a second Ingrid thinks he's going to shout at the professor, but he releases the tension a moment later and lets his spear tip drop to the ground. "You're quite the fighter professor."

"I would hope so." The professor states. "As I'm trained and tested mercenary, I'd consider it a failure on my part if I couldn't beat my own students."

Dimitri, and everyone else for that matter, decides not to comment on the fact that he basically just insulted the entire class. Instead they nods mutely and let him continue with the lesson.

###

"..."

"..."

"..."

"I like you."

"Erm… thank you, Professor."

###

"Are you a demon?"

"Um… not that I know of." Ashe says hesitantly. "Why…?"

"I have a title." The man says. "The Ashen Demon. I wondered if you were the same as me, because your name is Ashe, so I asked if you were a demon, because then you would be an Ashe demon."

Ashe considers that a very strange way of thinking, but he doesn't say it aloud. "Well, I'm sorry to disappoint Professor. I'm very human."

"That's fine. Demons are dangerous. I would know."

"You would?"

"I am a demon."

Ashe eyes the man warily. There's no change in expression or inflection, so he doesn't know if Byleth is joking or not. He decides to just not address it and change the subject. "So, what are you doing here professor?"

"Scouting." The man says, and hops up on the short wall that overlooks the cliffside. Ashe resists the urge to reach out and pull him back down. That looks dangerous. "For a lesson."

"What lesson?"

"Scouting, observation, navigating difficult terrain." He responds curtly.

"Aren't we learning how to be knights, not scouts?"

"I am teaching you how to be competent soldiers in any capacity." Byleth corrects. "I teach every aspect of warfare, not just combat. Perhaps, as most of your classmates for nobility of some sort, they will never be sent on scouting missions as they are considered too vital, but it is important to understand the concepts behind it anyways in case you are to ever order a scouting mission yourself. Knowing how scouts can abuse terrain to their advantage is just as important as being able to do it yourself. Information is power just as much as fighting strength is."

Ashe can understand that. It's like a good robbery. You can have all the stealth in the world, but if the homeowner is actually home when you make your attempt, you're in for trouble. Knowing when they're gone is just as, if not more important, than any actually sneaking skills one has. "That makes sense. You can be as good a fighter as you want, but if you don't know you're fighting in a marsh until you actually start fighting, you're in trouble. Even if you aren't doing the scouting, there's value to knowing how it works and its benefits."

"Exactly." He nods. "Do you have experience with this?"

"Well…" Ashe says slowly, reluctantly. "I used to be a thief."

"Ah." Byleth nods. "Scouting is very important for a good theft. Also target selection, blending in, knowing how not to draw attention. Good skills to have."

Ashe wishes he never had to develop those skills at all. "Yes, well… I didn't obtain them through schooling though."

"I assumed not." Byleth says. "Hmm… I have a question."

"Yes?"

"If I wanted to steal from the monastery, how would I do it?"

Ashe raises an eyebrow. "Depends on what you want to steal."

"Something from the archbishop's room."

"Hmm…" Ashe purses his lips and thinks. "I'd have to observe the guard shifts for a few days, and then find a spot to where I can observe Rhea's patterns. Alternatively, I can wait for a ceremony where I know Reah will appear, and attempt to sneak in then, though it's a bit more risky because the guards might have changed shifts for a special occasion."

Byleth nods approvingly. "Very smart. However, you missed one thing."

"What?"

"Your fellow students. You're only paying attention to the guards, but the general crowd or servants can be a danger as well. In a market it's unlikely the crowd will care about one person, but here most students have a measure of combat training, and are more likely to raise the alarm or fight you directly if they see shady behaviour."

"Ah." Ashe nods. "I see… but Professor."

"Yes?"

"Why did you want to know?"

"Simply a mental exercise." Byleth says. "It's good training to make a plan of attack or infiltration for any location, as well as plan how to escape any room they're in or take out any given person, or all people, around them."

Ashe blinks. He understands the idea behind it, but… "That's a scary way to think professor. Have you considered how to eliminate your students as well?"

'Of course." Byleth nods. "I could have slid a knife in your back when you were reading, or any time while we were talking, or I could have grabbed you and thrown you off the cliff, or thrown a knife at you as I'm leaving, or used one of the loose rocks here as a projectile so I could follow up with a knife, or even rushed you for a fistfight considering you don't seem to be armed and aren't particularly strong. I could have waited for you to go back to reading before knifing you, or abused your trust of my by shouting at you to watch out for something behind you and stab you when you're turning around."

A chill runs down Ashe's back. That's half a dozen ways to kill him rattled off like a shopping list.

"Another option would be for me to walk away and wait around a bend, and stab you then. I could get a bow from the armory if you continued to read, and shot you from any one of the windows or roofs around here. I could even find something heavy, go up on the roof behind you, and just drop it on your head. Maybe an anvil. I could just set a trap in your room at the doorway, a crossbow with a string around the trigger that fires when you open your door. Or-"

"I get it! I get it!" Ashe says hastily. He doesn't want to hear about the myriad of ways he could die within the next hour. "That really is scary professor."

"Such is the reality of war. One must see every opportunity, both for them and against them." Byleth replies duly. "I encourage you to look for ways to eliminate anyone you see. It's good practice."

"Professor…"

"Yes?"

"That is not something you should be suggesting to one of your students, or anyone for that matter."

"But it is important for a warrior to know many methods to eliminate-"

"I know! But I don't want to consider ways to kill my friends." Ashe says firmly.

Byleth blinks. "You don't?"

"No!"

"How odd."

"Professor, I hate to tell you this, but you're the odd one."

###

"Why so shy Professor?" Mercedes murmurs as she passes a slice of cake. "It's unlike you."

"I am not shy." Byleth responds bluntly as he accepts the plate. He takes a bite, and then blinks rapidly. "Chocolate?"

"Indeed. Do you like it?"

Byleth nods mutely. His expression is no different, but he's eating notably faster than usual.

"I've noticed that you've been noticeably more distant lately, is something the matter?" Mercedes says in a soft voice.

"I am restraining myself."

"I can see. Why?" Byleth, as strange as it may sound, is usually quite affectionate towards her. He's oddly fascinated with her hair, and usually begins any interaction between the two of them by patting it, or occasionally lying his head on it. Mercedes knows there's no malice behind either action, hence why she is more than happy to allow them despite the general strangeness.

"You told him not to."

"Him?"

"Yes."

"You'll have to be more specific Professor. I speak to many men on a regular basis."

"The one with the hat and the black curls. You spoke with him outside the cathedral two days ago just after midday, off to the side of the main entrance." Byleth recounts.

"Ah." Mercedes smiles grows a bit strained. "Sir Gallberry. What exactly did you hear?"

"I could not hear initially over the noise of the crowd. I saw him place a hand on each of your shoulders, and then you informed him that a man of his station was not allowed to do such a thing."

"I did say that." Mercedes nods. That was an uncomfortable interaction. She really wishes she could do away with suitors entirely sometimes… "What does that have to do with your current behaviour?"

"He was a man of some status, yes?"

"Yes. A wealthy merchant, like my step-father." The lady's mouth purses a bit. "I think my father may have suggested he detour here, hoping I would take a liking to him. He'll be rather disappointed…"

"You said a man of his station could not touch you. It stands to reason then that a man less than his station also could not do such a thing. Such as me." Byleth says. "A simple, logical deduction. I must have been too intimidating to tell off, hence why you never told me to." He pats his hip. "I do carry a sword. Swords can be scary."

Mercedes slowly shakes her head, with a smile re-emerging on her face. "Professor… it is a rare occasion that I would describe you as anywhere close to scary. You are peculiar at worst."

Byleth's eyes squint as he thinks. "So you were tricking me for some unknown benefit… perhaps to gain a favor later? So I would be lenient on you…?"

"Or…" Mercedes says slowly. "Perhaps I don't mind?"

"That can't be right. I am of lower status than Dullberry, your no touching rule should apply to me as well."

"Professor, I told him that because I did not like him." The lady laughs softly. "Why are you so quick to assume I am manipulating to you? Perhaps I simply do not mind."

"Or your plan failed, so you were planning to poison me today with cake."

"Professor… you are quite paranoid."

"Vigilant. Not paranoid."

"I respectfully disagree."

"So the cake isn't poisoned?"

"No. Why would you eat it if you though it was?" She asks curiously.

"Because it's good cake." Byleth says honestly. "And I had several antidotes beforehand as a precautionary measure."

"Please tell me that is a joke Professor."

"No."

"Oh dear…" She sighs, and picks up her tea. "How much will it cost to replace those?"

"Several hundred gold."

Mercedes almost chokes on her tea, and she has to put the cup down before she drops it. "P-Professor, you used a several hundred gold's worth of antidotes simply so you could have cake?"

"Yes." He seems perfectly unabashed about the decision. He's also finished his current slice. "Can I have more?"

"Yes, go ahead." She sighs. On one hand, Mercedes is mildly worried about his man's level of paranoia, but on the other she's flattered that he's willing to waste several hundred dollars just to have some of her cake. It's a compliment to her cooking… although probably the strangest compliment she could possibly imagine.

"So Marshmallow… I can touch your hair?"

The girl resists the urge to roll her eyes. "Yes Professor."

He wipes a hand clean, and reaches out and does so. His expression still doesn't change, but his contentment is still obvious. "Soft…"

Mercedes smiles. It's strange how normal this interaction has become, so much that she noticed it's absence over the last few days. "Thank you Professor. I take special care of it."

"Good. Hair is a dangerous weapon." He says sagely. "You could hide a dagger in here, or a message, or something else of importance… like poison."

Mercedes just shakes her head. "You really are paranoid Professor."

###

"Professor."

"Yes?"

"There are easier ways to get a book."

"There are?"

"You can ask for it."

"I can?"

Annette chuckles in amusement. "Yes, you can."

"But it belongs to the church."

"You're part of the church."

"I am?"

"Yes… now please get off the wall. People are worried you're going to fall." She says. "Also, you probably shouldn't be staring at people through a window."

"But I'm not allowed in the private library."

"Yes, you are. You're part of the church."

"Oh, right." He drops down from where he was perched, grabbing onto the window still, and landing on the pathway next to her.

"Why were you up there anyways?"

"There's a book I want to read. I thought I couldn't get it because I couldn't go in the library, so I waited for someone to take it out so I could read it through the window."

"That's… wow." That has to be the most unlikely-to-work plan she's ever heard, and she's heard Sylvain make some really bad plans concerning women before.

"Because I thought I couldn't go in the library, and therefore take out the book, but there's no rule about being outside the library, or reading the book if someone else took it out…"

Annette shakes her head. "Has anyone actually taken out that specific book?"

"Not yet."

The girl shakes her head. "You're very persistent professor."

"Thank you."

"Would you even be able to read the book from the window?"

"Probably not." He says calmly, as is that isn't another massive flaw in his plan.

"Then why did you bother?"

"I have spare time."

So he spends his spare time peering through a window-still rather than doing a hobby or something? She'll add that to the list of weird things he does (and there is a list, Sylvain makes it).

"I could never spend time doing something like that…" Annette murmurs. "I'd never be able to just sit and wait for that long, I'm not used to doing something so unproductive for that long."

"It wasn't unproductive."

"Why not?"

"Endurance practice for hanging onto ledges."

"And how often do you actually use that skill?" She asks with an amused smile.

"Often, when I had to take back or top entrances on missions." Byleth says honestly. "Sometimes, I had to use just one hand, because I had to open the back entrance with the other."

"Oh." Annette meant that as a joke, she didn't expect he actually had a use for that sort of practice. Another thing for the list she supposes. "Also, professor…"

"Yes?"

"Why do you respect the privacy of the church, but not your own students?"

"Pardon?"

"You break into our rooms, routinely."

"You all keep losing things. I return them." He says simply, completely missing the point. "That is what you're supposed to do when people lose things, right?"

"Well you're supposed to return it to them… not their rooms."

"Why? It's easier to put it in its place rather than track someone down."

"But that's illegal!"

"So is walking across a street in a city while not at a crosswalk, but people do it all the time."

"Professor, breaking into someone's room and jaywalking are two very different things."

"Yes, but they have a similar level of importance."

"That is the exact opposite of what I just said."

"No." Byleth disagrees. "You said they were different, which they are. I said they were of similar importance, which they also are."

"I…" It takes a minute for Annette to understand what on earth he's talking about. "I don't mean they're literally different actions-"

"But they are."

"I know that! I meant to say that they're of different levels of importance."

"Why didn't you just say that?"

"I did!"

"No, you said they were different. That's different."

Annette decides she's had enough of trying to argue linguistics with a madman. "I'm… going to my room to study."

"Okay."

 

Chapter Text

"Hmm… insufficient." Dimitri mutters as he sets down the bag of stones he's using to weight train. It would seem this particular set has outlived its usefulness, it's too light. He's sitting down on a large wooden bench, where more students do weight training.

"What is?"

"Ah, Professor. Hello." The prince says. "My weight bags. I fear I've gotten too strong for them to help me improve anymore. I am in need of something heavier."

"I see." Byleth nods seriously. He glances around at the other people training (of which there are many. The training grounds are oddly packed at the moment). His eyes alight on someone behind Dimitri. "Give me a moment."

Dimitri is afraid to look at what's going on. He hears someone say "oh, hello Professor" followed by a shriek, and then the sound of footsteps as he Bylleth returns. The Prince blinks slowly in confusion at the girl his teacher is now calmly holding under his arm like one would a small crate.

"Annette?" Dimitri says slowly. "Professor, what does she have to do with this?"

"She's your weight."

"Pardon?"

"Your weight." He says simply. "Humans are heavy. Use her."

"Uh…"

Byleth apparently takes his hesitation as him not knowing how this works. "Watch." He hefts the girl over his head, ignoring her shriek of surprise, and proceeds to do a few squats. A frown crosses his face after the fourth repetition. "Hmm… too light…" His eyes search the room again. "Need someone heavier… or another."

"Professor, that's really not-"

"There." He strides off to Dimitri's left, and promptly procures another small girl to drag into his weirdness. His other victim ends up being Bernadetta, who seems like she very much regrets leaving her room today judging by the look of horror on her face. Byleth hefts both girls over his head, one in each arm, and does some squats again. "Much better. Just heavier than rocks."

He promptly offers both girls to Dimitri, holding them by the backs of their shirts like a pair of kittens, and when the prince doesn't immediately take them Byleth instead places them in his lap.

"Here you go."

"Erm… thank you?"

Byleth nods, apparently satisfied with the help he's given out, and moves to "help" someone else. Dimitri and Annette watch the man go, both utterly baffled, while Bernadetta mutters frantically to herself while staring at the sky with hands clasped in prayer.

"The day of judgement has arrived, and I've been found guilty!" The lavender-haired girl whispers. "A demon came, shamed me before all, and delivered me to further punishment by the hands of an angry prince!"

"Calm down, I'm not angry." Dimitri sighs.

"Y-You're lying!" Bernadetta squawks. "Y-You're going to humiliate me in front of everyone even more, aren't you?"

"I-"

"Spare me!" Bernadetta cries before he can get another word out. "Don't hurt me! I surrender! Faerghus wins! Wh-Whatever you want to hear I'll say it!"

"I do not intend to extort a statement out of you Bernadetta." Dimitri sighs. "You are free to go. I do not intend to use you as a weight, despite the Professor's suggestion."

"Oh Goddess I'm spared!" Benadetta breathes. She doesn't hesitate to scramble away from him as soon as permission is given.

"Am I really that scary?" Dimitri asks the other small girl Byleth dropped on him. Annette shakes her head. "Ah, good… and I don't suppose you're volunteering to be a weight?"

"I'd rather not." The girl says with a laugh. "I'll help you find some more though."

"Thank you."

###

"Ah, Professor, hello! I didn't realize you were coming to town. Are you doing some personal shopping?" Ashe asks cheerfully.

"I am watching you." Byleth says flatly.

"Oh, really? Why's that?"

"Petra has informed me that you know how to haggle. I have been told that I am good at it, but I don't understand why. I hope that by watching you I can understand how to haggle and why I am apparently so good at it."

"I see." Ashe is very confused. "Perhaps I can help. I'm supposed to get a replacement iron sword for Felix, so perhaps you'd like to try haggling for it so I can see what you're doing right?"

"Understood." He nods seriously. He accepts the gold pouch, turns on his heel, and makes a straight line for the first weapons vendor he sees. He waits patiently in line, and when he get to the front of the line he says, without preamble, "Iron sword."

"Uh, hello to you too?" The lady says slowly. "An iron sword huh? That's five-hundred and twenty gold."

"Less."

"Excuse you-"

"Less." Byleth repeats, leaning forward slightly. "That's not a problem, is it?"

Ashe can see the shopkeeper wilt in place as Byleth looms over her. All her resolve vanishes under the implied threat of harm (even though Byleth doesn't intend it at all), and she mutely hands over the sword. "T-Two hundred."

Byleth drops that amount of gold on the counter, and walks away without another word. He hands the gold and sword over to Ashe. "So?"

"Uh… maybe you should leave shopping to others…"

###

"Stay still you two." Mercedes murmurs. "You both train too hard! Look at all these bruises, and the tears in your clothes… I'll have to sew those up."

"I'm capable of getting my clothes fixed myself Mercedes. You aren't my mother." Felix says dryly.

"You can sew?" Byleth responds curiously.

"Indeed I can." The girl nods, pointedly ignoring Felix's response. "I'll have your clothes fixed up quick! I may be clumsy otherwise, but when it comes to sewing I'm quite skilled."

"Understood. You need my coat?"

"Yes, I will-"

"Here." Without further prompt, and with no particular shame, he strips out of his cloak and shirt, and hands it to the girl. It leaves his pale skin exposed to the elements… and also shows that he's quite muscled underneath the obscuring coat.

"Oh my, well… alright." Mercedes clearly wasn't expecting to obtain these clothes now, but she won't argue. Byleth's oddities are hardly a surprise to her. "I'll have these fixed by tomorrow, I promise."

"Thanks." Byleth nods. He turns to Felix. "Now you."

"Wha-!? Hey, don't- let go!" Felix growls as Byleth grabs the boy's shirt and starts wrestling it off him. "Stop! Just- ack!"

Thanks to his superior strength, Byleth successfully manages to wrest the shirt and vest off of Felix, and hands them to Mercedes. His expression is flat as always, but Felix would later swear he saw a hint of smugness on the man's face.

"Do you expect me to just walk around shirtless?" Felix snaps. He's trying to feign confidence by crossing his arms sternly in front of his body, but really that's just to make himself feel less exposed. He also isn't looking at Mercedes, not wanting a woman to see him in such a state, but not having a choice.

"Yes." Byleth says flatly. "I will too. You have a change of clothes though, I fail to see the issue."

"That change of clothes is at my room!"

Byleth tilts his head. "So? What is the issue?"

"I have to walk in the open to get to my room."

"And…?" The teacher prompts, still not seeing the problem.

"You wish to make a fool of me?" Felix snaps.

"No." Byleth says, and stands up. "I must go."

"Professor!" Mercedes says quickly. "Do you have a change of clothes yourself?"

"No."

"Then… how do you keep clean?"

"I wash them, at night. I borrow some of my father's wear in the meantime. I have no need of it currently, as a missing shirt is hardly cause for concern."

"I see…" Mercedes says with an amused smile. "Alright. I will see you later professor."

Byleth nods, and walks out of the training yard. Mercedes waits a few seconds, then hands Felix back his own shirt and vest.

"Give them to me after you get changed."

"Fine..."

###

"Professor!" Edelgard says firmly, and stands up at her desk.

"Yes?" The man blinks. He's just about to start teaching.

"Please put on a shirt."

"I don't have one." Byleth responds flatly. "Now, as I was about to say-"

"It's very distracting professor, not to mention highly inappropriate." Edelgard insists.

"It is?" The man blinks. "Is there a rule against it? How is it distracting?"

"I'm…!" Edelgard pauses, then whispers to Hubert. "Is there a rule against that?"

"Not that I'm aware, unfortunately." Hubert sighs. "You could probably report him to Seteth… for all the good it would do."

"That's not going to help…" Edelgard thinks. "W-Well, there is no rule against it, but…"

"I think what our house leader is trying to say, is that you're making everyone a bit flustered Professor." Dorothea offers.

"I am not saying that!" The Princess protests.

"Really? So that dusting of red on your cheeks is anger then?" The performer teases. "And what about the blush on poor Bernie's face?"

Bernadetta whines at attention being drawn to her, and hides her face behind a book. Edelgard's expression promises horrible things if Dorothea continues to poke fun at her.

"You are angry?" Byleth asks Edelgard, totally missing Dorothea's sarcasm.

"No. I'm fine, my teacher." Edelgard says, and stiffly sits down. "Carry on."

"So then you are flustered?" Byleth asks, remembering Dorothea's other statement, and disregarding Edelgard's attempt to end the conversation. "Why so?"

Edelgard refuses to answer, but Dorothea is more than happy to do so. "Because you're very distracting Professor."

"I am?" He looks down at himself, as if expecting to find something new and peculiar. "I fail to see how. Am I… flashy?"

"No Professor, it's something else entirely." Dorothea giggles. "You're… how to put this… easy on the eyes."

"Easy?" Byleth frowns. "I do not understand. I am a highly trained mercenary, I should not be easy on anything. If that is an implication that I am soft, I can assure you I am not. My training ensures that is not so." To prove his point, he pokes himself in the chest, and then the bicep. "See? I am not soft."

"Indeed, I do see." Dorothea grins. "As does everyone else." While her teacher seems oblivious to it, almost everyone in the class is either staring at his body, or fervently trying not to. It's quite amusing watching Edelgard pointedly stare at the wall, trying not to glance to her left at the professor, or see Bernadetta occasionally peek out from the book she's hiding behind only to get embarrassed all over again and hide her face away once more.

Aren't teenage hormones fun?

"But then what do you mean by 'easy on the eyes'?" Byleth asks, confused.

"Professor…"

"Yes?"

"Don't think too hard about it."

"That's what you said last time too."

"Indeed, and I ask that you humor me again."

"Alright…"

"And put on something for the Goddess's sake!" Edelgard barks.

"Fine." Byleth turns around, tears a curtain off the window (prompting a strangled gasp of indignation from Ferdinand) and drapes it over his shoulders. It mostly covers him up, but also looks ridiculous. "Now, as I was saying…"

###

"Professor, I must insist you get out of the lake."

"I'm fishing."

"I can see that." Seteth says flatly. "However, I have already conveyed my disapproval of you fishing with a stick, no matter how much Flayn may find it entertaining, and I also must raise issue with your current lack of clothing."

"Marshmallow is fixing them." Byleth says calmly.

"Be that as it may, I cannot approve of your current dress." Seteth sighs. "It is unbecoming of a representative of the church of Seiros to be seen in such a state."

"It is?" Byleth blinks. "Why?"

"As representatives of the church, we must be embodiments of modesty."

"I am modest. I don't brag."

"I mean modesty as in physical modesty. We must not flaunt ourselves."

"I'm not doing that. I'm fishing."

"Yes, well, others may not see it that way."

"That's their problem." Byleth says. His eyes haven't moved from gazing at the ocean. He quietly tracks a carp that swirls around his legs, and patiently waits for it to approach the tip of the stick (which rests just under the surface of the water). It does so after a second, and he thrusts forward with all his might, and spears the fish through the head. "Hmm… small."

He tosses the fish into a small basket by the side of the lake, dips the tip of the stick back into the water, and sprinkles some more bait around himself.

"Quite to the contrary, it involves the students, so it is your problem as well." Seteth retorts. "Your students are all youths on the cusp of adulthood. They already likely struggle with their baser instincts without you adding to that issue. You provide another unnecessary distraction in your current state."

"Baser instincts…?" Byleth blinks. "They want to kill me?"

"Er, no." Seteth coughs.

"They see me as competition for their spot as alpha?"

"Also no."

A rare frown crosses Byleth's face. He's very confused. "Am I… food?"

"You know what Professor… maybe it is best you simply don't think about it." Seteth says hastily. He does not want to have to explain this. "Simply find clothes when you have a moment.

"Okay…"

Seteth is also very glad Flayn was occupied today. The last thing he needs is for her to see the Professor in such a state. He's already against her interacting with the young men of the officer's academy, he doesn't need her getting dangerous thoughts in her head thanks to Byleth as well… even if Byleth seems totally oblivious to the fact that those sorts of thoughts exist.

###

Ingrid firmly refuses to look at her Professor sitting on the bench near her. She thrusts, slashes, blocks, and repeats the process.

It's not the fact that he lacks a shirt that bothers her, or even his pointed staring. No, what's getting on her nerves is the plate of fresh, juicy, succulent meat in his lap and the way he's slowly eating it, letting the juice seep down his chin.

He knows she loves food. He's toying with her. His flat expression only seems to mock her even more.

The girl turns her back to him, and resolutely keeps training. She ignores the chewing she can hear, and the smell of delicious, well-cooked meat…

Her mouth is watering just thinking about it. She needs to focus though! More training!

"You've been training and sparring all afternoon…" Byleth notes through a mouthful of food. "You need rest, and food." He holds out the plate (not that Ingrid can see it). "Juicy, warm, tasty, succulent-"

"I get it!" Ingrid snaps in frustration. Her mouth is salivating just thinking about it. She spins around, stalks over to the weapon rack, and tosses her spear into place. She shoots a glare at her Professor. She's not actually angry, she's just embarrassed and annoyed that she's so easy to coerce. Food really is her weakness.

Byleth follows her out, still chewing on his food. The smell chases Ingrid all the way to the mess hall, where she can get some of her own. A few people in the cafeteria shoot her knowing looks, like they expected this exact situation. Ingrid huffs, ignoring her slightly red face from embarrassment, and hides away in the corner to consumer her tasty, tasty food.

She glares at her professor when he takes a seat next to her, still chewing on his food. She swallows her current mouthful, and accusingly points a fork at him. "You baited me into doing this."

"Yes, I did." He says calmly. "You are too willful otherwise, so I prayed on your weaknesses. That's basic tactics."

"Are you saying I'm easily manipulated?" She asks indignantly.

Byleth is unbothered. "Yes."

Ingrid wishes fervently she could tell him he's wrong… but then again, her recent actions very much proved him right. She petulantly takes a bite out of her food, and tries not to look at him for the rest of her meal.