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Byleth: Intimidating Instructor

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The lavender-haired girl pants and leans against the wall. She casts a furtive look behind her, searching for her pursuer.

Just a little further Bernie! You’ll be safe in your room.” She tells herself, half in a panic. “They won’t kill you there! It would be too suspicious!

Bernadetta doesn’t actually know who’s following her. She saw a figure out of the corner of her eye when she was returning from painting the sunset. Her art supplies are currently stowed in her pockets, and the canvas is under her arm.

Why me though!? I’m not important!” The girl thinks as she resumes her trip, now walking sneakily because she’s still exhausted, back to her room. “M-Maybe they’re a vampire, and they want to drink my blood! Or a serial killer who stabs anyone for the fun of it!

She hears the snap of a twig and her pace picks up. Adrenaline is making up for the energy she would otherwise lack.

O-Or maybe I made an enemy! Maybe someone hates my art, o-or maybe I damaged something when I went to the greenhouse, o-o-or maybe C-Casper is angry about that time I punched him in the face. Oh gods, it’s probably that. It’s Caspar!”

That punch was part of a sparring match, and the face is a perfectly valid target because they were both wearing helmets. That bit of rationality doesn’t occur to the girl at this moment though. In fact, rationality just isn’t her strong suit in general.

M-Maybe it’s Hubert! I knew he was mad about me dropping my quill too close to him! O-Or maybe it’s Petra! I-I probably did something horribly offensive to her culture! Oh gods, oh gods…” Bernadetta panics. "Oh gods, what if it’s all of them!? What if they’re all coming to beat me up!? O-Or maybe it’s an assassin or kidnapper hired by house Hevring to send a message that my family’s interference in their sphere isn’t going to be tolerated any longer!

The girl’s imagination spirals more and more out of control, her pace gets faster and faster, and her eyes dart around frantically. Every flickering light is an arrow tip or sword reflecting the moon, every corner hides an assassin, every noise she makes is too loud, every step she takes isn’t fast enough, she’s expecting a dagger or arrow in the back any second now.

Bernadetta actually misses her doorway due to how fast she’s running. She skids to a halt, frantically pulls her key from her pocket, and practically dives into her dorm room. She slams the door shut, locks it, and collapses against the wall.

Only now, safely in her room (never mind that a wooden door is the only thing separating her from any potential assailants, or an easily-breakable window) does Bernadetta start to calm down enough to think with a measure of rationality. She goes through the motions of putting away her art supplies, wraps her painting in a small protective blanket, all while thinking about the narrow escape she just made... or how much of a fool she was.

But what if it wasn’t a killer or someone trying to hurt me?” She asks herself. “What if it was Caspar, but he wasn’t mad, and now that he’s seen me running around like a maniac for no reason, he’ll think I’m suspicious, and then he’ll actually try and kill me!

 

All this goes through her mind as she changes into her nightclothes and go to sleep. When she turns to actually look at her bed, however, she sees something that makes her heart stop.

There, sitting on her bed, is a note, along with a paintbrush. Her paintbrush. One she must have left behind in her rush to leave.

That means whoever found the paintbrush managed to get back to her room, and get into her room despite not having a key, and had time to write a note, before she ever opened her door.

“You forgot this! Nice painting by the way, I like how you brought out the reds around the edge of the sun. - B”

Bernadetta doesn’t remember anyone else coming around where she was painting. They even got close enough to pick out specific details, and she never noticed. They could have been peering over her shoulder for who-knows-how-long and she would have had no idea.

That’s quite enough for Bernadetta. Her legs buckle, and she faints into her bed.

###

“Training?”

“Gods!” Caspar whirls around, his heart suddenly pounding. “Teach? When did you get in here? Were you here all along?”

“No, I walked in just a minute ago.” The lady smiles innocently.

“I didn’t hear you come in at all!” Caspar laughs. “You’re quiet!”

“Thank you. It’s very useful in stealth missions.” Byleth says sweetly. “Especially assassinations.”

A chill passes down Caspar’s spine. “O-Oh, uh, that’s cool.”

“Indeed.”

“So… what are you here for?”

“I was just planning to run some simple drills, that’s all.” Byleth hums. “You don’t mind sharing the space, do you?”

“Of course not!”

Byleth set aside her usual weapon, an unfamiliar single-edged sword that looks to be of foreign make with a circular guard and tight red wrapping on the hilt, and picks up a training sword instead and drags a new dummy to one side of the training pit.

Caspar turns his back to his professor as he goes back to his own training. He has metal training gauntlets on, but he’s been unsuccessful in dealing any lasting damage to the training dummy. He can only attribute it to his lack of strength and lack of training.

“Thunk!”

Caspar pauses, and turns around. He blinks in surprise at seeing the training dummy his professor had taken out just a minute before now minus a head. The neck, a solid two-by-four, is completely shattered, and apparently in one strike.

Byleth, ever smiling, just says “oops!” and goes to get a new dummy like shattering a dummy with a wooden training blade is something normal.

Thoroughly unnerved (and a bit annoyed at his own lack of strength compared to his teacher’s effortless power), Caspar decides to call it quits for the day.

###

“Hello class.”

Everyone freezes for a moment. Conversations stop, and heads whip side-to-side looking for the source of the voice. Petra cranes her neck to try and look behind the curtains, Ferdinand checks the nearest pillar, and Bernadetta even looks behind her at the closed classroom door.

All the students thought their professor was running late, but apparently that’s not the case. She’s already in the room, but no one can see her.

“Today, we’ll be learning about observation and stealth.”

There’s a quiet creak, followed by a loud “WHAM!” and a yelp as Byleth lands heavily on Edelgard’s desk, causing the princess to shout in shock and fall from her seat. Even Hubert, normally the stoic, recoils in his seat from surprise.

There’s a long pause as everyone stares at their teacher. She casually brushes off her cape descends from Edelgard’s desk. The princess still hasn’t gotten off the floor and is gaping with bug-eyed shock at her professor. It’s only when Hubert starts to help her up that she comes to her senses and returns (shakily) to her seat.

Someone finally finds the courage to speak. Ferdinand. “Were… were you in the rafters ? How did you even get up there!?”

“I climbed the pillars of course.” Byleth says as if it’s obvious, all while smiling. “Although, I suppose I also could have climbed the curtains and jumped to grab the rafters from there, or even leapt from my podium. The doorframe is also an option, though it’s a bit narrow. The fireplace is good, provided it’s not too hot or you have heat-resistant boots and gloves.”

“Erm…”

“You’d be surprised what you can do with good balance, a solid jump, and strong grip.” She remarks cheerily. “Anyways, first lesson of stealth and observation: people seldom look up!”

Edelgard, who has just barely recovered from her near heart-attack, puts her head down on her desk. “Please don’t let every lesson in the unit start like this. I won’t survive that long.

###

She may be smiling, but Linhardt has the distinct feeling his professor isn’t as happy as she looks. That’s a fair assumption considering he doesn’t think anyone in the Black Eagles has seen Byleth not smiling, so a smile may as well be a blank stare for all it tells anyone about how she feels.

He wouldn’t call her scary, but the total inability to read guess what she’s thinking is very unnerving. Intimidating is a better word, maybe even creepy in some cases.

“What is it professor?” Linhardt yawns to try and hide his nervousness. “This is cutting into my nap time.”

“School matters are cutting into nap time?” Byleth murmurs. Linhardt isn’t sure if it’s his imagination or not, but her smile seems to grow a fraction. “I see…”

The green-haired boy shifts uncomfortably in his seat as his teacher grins down at him from behind her desk. Her hands are steepled, adding to the somewhat sinister aura she’s giving off. Linhardt swallows thickly, and averts his gaze for a moment as he’s unable to take the pressure.

When he looks back, he finds Byleth’s face only a centimeter from his own as she’s learned all the way across her desk. Linhardt freezes instantly and his eyes go wide. He didn’t even hear her move. Her smile is as wide as ever, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

“I don’t mind if you sleep during class if you think you know the material, but I expect your assignments to be impeccable if you choose to do that.” She says quietly. “Understood?”

Linhardt swallows thickly. “Y-Yes Professor Eisner.”

###

“S-Sorry, I have to go… uh… rotate to the next position.” The guard stammers, and quickly scurries away.

“Geeze Professor, you really showed him what-for.” Dorothea, who had apparently been watching the whole thing, steps out from around a corner after the guard is far enough away. “What did he do to deserve that? Something horrible?”

The lady, always smiling, turns to face her student. “What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure what you were saying, but you were totally up in his face! You had him backed against a wall, were leaning over him, were cutting off an escape with one of your arms, not to mention that super-wide and unhinged smile you had on. You really wanted to scare him, didn’t you?”

“Oh, uh, no.”

Dorothea blinks. “No?”

“No. I didn’t.”

Now she’s almost afraid to ask. “...then what were you going for?”

“I was… flirting.”

Oh. Oh . Oh… Wow. Dorothea has never seen someone fail so badly at flirting in her entire life. Even an awkward boy who’s never flirted before has more hope than Byleth. If Dorothea hadn’t known better, she honestly would have assumed her professor was trying to extort the man, and she already though the lady was chewing him out for something.

Taking a deep breath, Dorothea steps forwards and put her hands on Byleth’s shoulders. “Professor. Smile for me.”

“I am smiling.” Well, that’s true, she’s always smiling.

“Look less stiff about it.” Dorothea clarifies. “Not a polite smile, a genuine smile.”

Byleth’s smile becomes even wider, showing the barest hint of teeth. The problem… well there are several. The smile is just wide enough to look unnatural, her brows are slightly furrowed so it looks like she’s leering, and she’s now leaning slightly forwards so as to ever-so-slightly be invading Dorothea’s personal space.

It doesn’t look genuine. It looks like Byleth is planning her murder while smiling in her face.

Okay… I have my work cut out for me…” Dorothea thinks, sporting a forced smile of her own so as to not hurt her teacher’s feelings. “Uh, you can stop now.”

Byleth does so, and her face returns to the usual placeholder smile. Her student subtly breathes a sigh of relief.

Goddess above that’s terrifying. That poor guard… How did this women learn to flirt!?

###

“There’s two of them.” Hubert groans.

“Whatever do you mean?” Edelgard frowns, and looks up from her papers.

“Professor Eisner. There’s two of her now. It would seem Petra is learning her techniques.” Hubert says as he massages his forehead and takes a seat. He points to the window. “You can see for yourself if you care to.”

Edelgard really doesn’t want to know… but at the same time, as the representative of the Black Eagles, it’s her duty to stay on top of everyone’s skills and any new developments in any of their lives. She reluctantly pulls herself out of her seat, walks to the window, and peers out.

“Hubert.”

“Yes Milady?”

“Please tell me I’m not seeing-”

“You are.” Hubert interrupts in a defeated tone. “You are.”

Edelgard doesn’t want to know why Byleth and Petra are sneaking across rooftops, jumping into trees, and practicing silent landings (which inevitably involves scaring the life out of anyone unfortunate enough to be in the area as they become test targets for the pair’s stealth… or more particularly Petra's because Byleth is already a master).

I’m going to be looking over my shoulders constantly now, aren’t I?” Edelgard thinks, and massages the bridge of her nose. She shakes her head and returns to her papers, only for another thought to occur to her a minute later. “Bernadetta is going to be more paranoid than ever...

Wait. Professor Eisner is amazing at silent landings. That means she intentionally scared us during that lesson. ” She realizes. Her eyes narrow. “ Maybe that permanent smile of hers is a sadistic one...

###

“Professor… I have a question.” Ferdinand says. It’s currently lunch break, and the teacher saw fit to join her students in the mess hall.

“Hmm?” Byleth raises an eyebrow, smiling… encouragingly? Or maybe that’s her normal, neutral smile. It’s hard to tell with her.

“Did you, perhaps, undergo noble etiquette training?” The boy asks curiously. “Some of your behaviours seem to suggest that you have. You can speak very elegantly when you choose to do so, you walk with a straight back and your head held high, and you always have a polite smile. All very noble-like behaviours.”

Of course, her tendency to casually climb buildings for no particular reason, never knock or announce her presence, and a number of other things rule out the possibility of full noble training, but she does seem to possess some level of high-class education.

“Ah, that.” The lady hums. “Yes, I learned that when training to be an assassin.”

Ferdinand blinks in surprise. “Pardon?”

“One of my father’s mercenaries is a former assassin. He allowed her to teach me her skills.” Byleth says simply. “A lot of it involved disguise and being able to behave in an unsuspicious manner. Of course, I’m not making a particular effort to disguise myself, but seeing as I'm of somewhat high station now I’m borrowing parts of that training so as to not cause a fuss.”

“Ah…” Ferdinand says slowly. “Is that right…?”

“Yes.”

Byleth’s idea of “not causing a fuss” is clearly wildly different from his, Ferdinand decides. Because casually leaping down from rafters and scaring all you students, not to mention having everyone in the monastery at least mildly afraid of you due to your permanent unnerving smile and tendency to show up out of nowhere and without warning, is not Ferdinand’s idea of “not causing a fuss”.

“If you were to put on your full disguise, so to speak, what would it be like?” Ferdinand inquires.

“Hmm…” Byleth thinks. She takes a moment to compose herself, and Ferdinand realizes she’s going to show him. Her smile softens to something less stiff, she clasps her hands, pushes her legs together, and makes sure to keep her back completely straight. Her clothing doesn’t reflect it, but her posture is the perfect picture of an attentive young noble girl. “Greetings Lord von Aegir. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Byleth Eisner, daughter of Sir Jeralt Eisner. I do hope we can get along.”

It’s almost eerie how perfectly she captures the personality of a generic minor lady. Ferdinand didn’t think someone as… unique as Byleth could manage it. “That’s quite impressive.”

“Thank you sir!” Byleth giggles. She leans forward slightly, tilting her head innocently while subtly thrusting her chest forward. “You give me far too much credit, I’m had plenty of help to develop these skills. I had to learn to talk fancy, how to hold myself, how to seduce, and so on. Of course, small talk is also a part of it. Perhaps you’d like to discuss the state of the empire and the ongoing argument between houses Varley, Hevring, and Bergliez? Or perhaps, Sir Aegir, you want to regale me with tales of your deeds and how you’re better than Miss Von Hresvelg?”

Ferdinand now knows he’s being mocked. “You say that as if I do it often.”

“Oh, my pardon, I didn’t mean to offend.” Byleth gasps. She grabs one of his hands in hers. “Please sir, I apologize.”

Ferdinand is slightly creeped out now. “Erm…”

“Incidentally.” Byleth says, dropping her sweet fake voice. “You’re very dead.”

“What?”

Suddenly the professor pulls sharply on his hand, forcing him to lurch forwards into the table. One of her hands snaps out and grabs him firmly by the neck, just under his chin. Her fake smile is gone, replaced with her usual unreadable one. “If I had used a knife, you’d have a slit throat right now. Or I could just strangle you now that I have the upper hand.”

She releases him, and Ferdinand sits down hard in his seat. His blood is now pounding, and his breathing heavy.

“Consider that a preview of our next unit on deception.” Byleth says neutrally. “Perhaps you would like to help me with the initial demonstration? I usually use Edelgard.”

The “without her consent” is implicit. Considering how Edelgard usually ends up traumatized, Ferdinand isn’t very enthusiastic about the idea.

Chapter Text

“You’re an assassin, aren’t you?”

“Well, I have assassin training .” Byleth says. “Incidentally, you should have come directly from behind if you wanted to surprise me.”

“Who said I was trying to?” The raven-haired woman asks, crossing her arms.

“You were slow in climbing, meaning you were likely trying not to make noise. You also were careful to not grab the wooden beams, despite them being good handholds, because they would creak and make noise.” Byleth explains. “My hearing is very good though. I heard you anyways.”

Shamir purses her lips. “Who are you?”

“Byleth.”

“Why are you here?”

“I’m a professor.”

“I know that. Why are you up here though?”

“I’m watching my students. Just to see what they’re doing.” Byleth says neutrally.

Shamir frowns. “I’ll be blunt. You look super suspicious up here.”

“Only if people see me.” Byleth says. “You did, but look, has anyone else?”

The raven-haired lady knows Byleth is right. No one else has raised their gaze high enough to actually see them up here. People seldom look up.

“By the way… you’re dead.”

“Pardon.”

“You’re dead. Very dead.” Byleth says, and finally turns to face Shamir. The fixed smile on Byleth’s face instantly sets the lady on edge. “Unless, of course, you noticed it.”

Shamir doesn’t know what this woman is talking about. She glances behind her, expecting to see some sort of trap… but there’s nothing there. She turns back to look at Byleth, only to find the woman’s face only an inch from her own and a sword at her throat.

“Okay, now you’re dead.” Byleth says calmly. She doesn’t seem at all uncomfortable with their extreme proximity, wheas Shamir is quite uncomfortable. “I lied the first time.”

“Y-You-” Sharmir is stunned, and quite nervous. She was tricked so easily.

“For someone who I’ve heard so much about, I thought you would have seen through that. Never turn your back to your enemy if you can avoid it.” Byleth advises. She withdraws her blade and takes a few steps back. “Unless, of course, you have a good reason. Like keeping up the appearance that you don’t know they’re there or something of the like.”

“Aren’t you quite the instructor.” Shamir mutters. She doesn’t want to admit it, but Byleth spooked her. Shamir has always prided herself on having sharp eyes and ears, which makes the fact she didn’t hear Byleth moving all the more worrisome.

“Indeed I am. That’s quite literally my job.”

###

When Cyril fell off the statue he was cleaning he was expecting pain, not for someone he didn’t even know was there to catch him.

“Careful.”

“Uh…” Cyril blinks slowly. His eyes focus on the person holding him, and he instinctively tenses.

He’s seen Professor Eisner around before of course. She’s the extremely quick, totally silent, ashen-skinned ghost of the monastery who always has a fixed, creepy smile on her face. She’s one of the few people Cyril actively avoids (though it’s hard to tell where she is at any given time because of the whole “fast and silent” thing).

Maybe she’s not as tall as he thought she was, and he can see she really doesn’t dress like the weird spy he thought she was; she’s got patterned stockings for goddess’s sake, and has an exposed stomach and a cleavage window, which seems weird for someone who’s a fighter. Aren’t those easy targets? That doesn’t mean Cyril is any less wary around this woman though. If she can afford to have such obvious weak points and still be respected as a fighter, she must be no joke.

At least, Cyril assumes so. Maybe she’s just a nut. She certainly acts the part with all her leaping from buildings and whatnot.

“Thanks.” Cyril says cautiously. “I didn’t see you there…”

“I’ve been here for a bit. I thought this might happen.” Byelth says. She doesn’t realize it, but she’s standing uncomfortably close to the boy. Personal space is not a concept she understands all that well. Her fixed smile is enough to unnerve most people, let alone this or any of her other oddities. “Be careful, you can’t always rely on me being nearby…”

“Noted.” Cyril says. He takes a slow step backwards, and his back meets the statue. He feels cornered, under threat. He wants her gone.

“Do you need help?” Byleth asks softly. She’s being totally genuine but, again, her constant smile really doesn’t sell that at all. It feels more like a threat considering her expression.

“I’m good.” The boy says through a suddenly dry throat. “Totally fine. Thanks.”

“Are you sure?” Byleth leans down so that they’re eye-to-eye, which really doesn’t help because it just brings her face uncomfortably close to his.

“Yep.” Cyril squeaks. “Please leave…” He thinks. “And don’t stab me.

The lady pulls back. “Alright. If you-” She stops in the middle of her sentence, and suddenly swings a fist in his direction. Cyril flinches instinctively and raises his arms. He hears a crash, an impact against stone, and suddenly he’s drenched in soapy water. He’s not dead though, so he peeks out from around his arms.

Byelth’s fist has smashed into the front of the statue, chipping some of the stone from the sheer force behind it. The broken remains of his cleaning bucket (which had been up on the top of the statue a moment ago) lie around them, completely destroyed in one punch. It must have just fallen, maybe Cyril hit it on his own way down and it slowly slid off. It would have hit his head if Byleth hadn’t caught it… or demolished it in this case.

“Oh, oops. I suppose you needed that. My bad.” Byleth says, her smile never wavering.

This is all far too much for Cyril. He sits down hard on the ground, his heart pounding. He really wishes he just hit the floor instead of being caught. He would have been healed up by Manuela, nice and simple. There would have been no crazy-strong, creepy woman looming over him and smashing his bucket. 

“Are you injured?”

“N-No.”

“You don’t sound well.” Without asking, Byleth scoops the boy off the ground. She doesn’t feel as strong as she apparently is. Cyril doesn’t feel much muscle. It’s just another weird thing about her to add to the list. “I don’t know if you’re sick, or you’re just lying, but I’m taking you to Manuela.”

Cyril decides to stay silent from then on. He’s not helping his own case by talking apparently. Anything to get this scary lady to just leave him alone…

###

“Professor Eisner.” Hanneman begins. The two of them have sat down in the mess hall to eat, claiming one of the tables in the corner away from the main student body. “I have some concerns about your teaching methods…”

“Really?” Byleth hums, and sips her tea. “What issues do you see?

“Well, first there’s the constant terrorizing of your students…”

“I did that once, and it was very effective for that matter.” Byleth huffs.

“Pardon? Only once?”

“Yes, when I leapt from the rafters.”

That was the main thing Hanneman was referring to, but not the only thing. “Yes, well, that is the major instance, but there are multiple accounts of you startling your students by suddenly appearing behind them, or that time you left a note in Miss Von Varley’s room, or casually informing your students exactly how you could kill them in any given situation.”

“It’s important for them to know.” Byleth argues. “They’re learning to operate in battlefield conditions, and many of my students, all but one, are nobles . Assassination is a constant threat. It’s essential for them to be constantly on guard, to be able to see where potential attacks can come from and how to fight back.”

Hanneman purses his lips. “That’s a rather… depressing way of thinking.”

“Pragmatism is much more important for someone in a possibly dangerous position. Nobles, especially important nobles, are in dangerous positions their entire lives.” Byleth responds simply. “It’s important for you to note that I have a sword at my hip, that your back is to the window which makes you an easy target for a sniper, that any number of the people in this room could be hired by me to help, and that I’m an expert unarmed combatant and could conceivably kill you fairly easily without a weapon at all.”

She says all this with a smile. That fixed, fake, unnerving smile that masks anything she might actually be feeling. Hanneman is reminded in that moment that he’s taking to a professional mercenary and a trained killer. Almost everything she is and does is designed to keep her alive, and she’s teaching her students just that.

Or, at least, that’s what Hanneman is assuming. He doesn’t know much about Byleth at all beyond that she’s Jeralt’s daughter, a mercenary, and has some sort of assassin training. They have a trained assassin, a mercenary at that, training their noble students…

Hanneman now worries that she could possibly be bought, but pushes that thought aside. “Even so, your duty is to instruct them, not traumatize them.”

“I’m not trying to traumatize them. They’re just bad at noticing things.”

“Professor Eisner, you may as well be a ghost for all the noise you make moving around.” Hanneman says bluntly.

“Ah, good. I haven’t lost my touch.”

Hanneman shakes his head. “You are missing the point.”

“No, everyone else is. Or else they wouldn’t be surprised so often.”

###

It was a passing comment from Manuela as the two were walking away from a staff meeting. “Your fashion sense is quite curious professor. Not bad , just curious. I’m interested to know if there’s a story behind it, because it’s certainly unique…" 

“My outfit is practical.” Byleth says, much to Manuela’s surprise.

“How so? If you’ll excuse me saying so, it really doesn’t look all that combat practical.”

“I never said it was practical for combat .” Byleth hums. “It’s designed to help with assassinations. I have enough armor to protect the easiest parts of my body to hit, like the center of torso, and I have greaves and bracers for some extra simple protection. However, the showing of skin is very important for seduction, and can often give guards pause upon first seeing me which gives me an extra second or two to act which is far more helpful than any armor.”

“I-I see…” Manuela didn’t think there was extensive thought put into the practical side of her outfit. Clearly she was wrong. “And the cape?”

“It’s not what it seems.” Byleth murmurs. She offers the end of it to Manuella. The older lady grabs it, and is surprised to find it has a decent weight and rather is rather thick. “The cloth holds a layer of chain-mail. If need be, I can hold it with one hand while fighting to act as a shield. It is not the most effective thing in the world, but still useful. It also gives my back a layer of protection as I fight.”

“That seems unnecessarily complicated to me…” Manuela coughs.

“Well, it’s also designed so as to be more-or-less appropriate to wear as everyday garb.” Byleth adds. “I don’t want to be running around in full-plate armor all the time.”

“I see.” Manuela decides not to comment any further. The mind of a mercenary is apparently beyond her.

###

“You are being unreasonable brother.” Flayn huffs. “She is perfectly pleasant. I see no reason to avoid her.”

“That is just the issue Flayn, she appears perfectly pleasant.” Seteth warns. “Yet, there has been plenty of tales of her leaping from buildings, or startling her students on a constant basis. Supposedly she is a trained assassin. An assassin ! Such a profession is inherently unscrupulous.”

“Shamir is-”

“A thief, yes, I am well aware. However, she has proven her loyalty time and again. Professor Eisner has not.” Seteth says firmly. “While she may be the daughter of Jeralt, we cannot discount the fact that her motivations at any given time are incredibly hard to read. That fixed smile of her is suspicious at best, as are her general tendencies like jumping from rooftops and whatnot.”

“She’s unique, yes.” Flayn says, “but she’s nice! She got me that fish I wanted, and she returns a ton of lost items to people!”

“By invading their rooms.”

“Well yeah, but she doesn’t take or break anything! She’s just colorful.”

“Colorful, and dangerous.”

Flayn didn’t notice the hand reaching out towards Seteth from behind until it taps him on the shoulder.

“My goddess!” Seteth startles. He quickly turns in place to face the person. “O-Oh, erm, Professor Eisner. I must ask you to not do that in the future.” 

“Not try and talk to you?”

“Not startle me.”

Byleth tilts her head, still smiling. “I wasn’t trying to.”

Seteth purses his lips. “Yes, well… fine. What brings you here?”

“Here.” She hands a snapped writing quill to Seteth. “This is yours.”

“What makes you thin- oh, it is.” Seteth coughs. He accepts the broken quill. “Thank you.”

“And this is yours.” She hands an old wooden hair clasp to Flayn.

“Ah! I was missing this! Thank you Professor.” Flayn says, and bows to the woman.

Byleth bows back. Seteth doesn’t know if the lady is being polite, or if she’s mocking Flayn’s formal mannerisms. The fixed smile makes it impossible to tell. This is the core of why Seteth doesn’t trust the woman. She’s unreadable, but the constant smile makes it seem like she’s actively hiding something rather than just having a flat look.

“Seteth.” Byleth says to the man. “A correction: assassin training , not a trained assassin.”

“Ah.” She was listening. He hadn’t even noticed she was here. Byleth leaves, moving silently across the stone floor. Seteth shakes his head. “See Flayn? She is very suspicious. She was eavesdropping without our knowledge.”

Flayn rolls her eyes. “Yes, yes. I suppose that is true. However, I still think you are seeing malice where ignorance is a viable explanation.”

“Preposterous.” Seteth huffs. “A woman of her age, ignorant of basic civility?”

“Yes.”

The man shakes his head. “That would be colorful, and worrying for completely different reasons…”

###

“Aha! Thank you Byleth!” Alois laughs. “We’ve been looking for this one!”

The man waves some guards forwards, and they slap shackles onto the glowering man Byleth is restraining, and haul him off towards the dungeon.

“Where did you find him? We’ve been searching high and low for weeks.” The man asks curiously. He’s not even fully dressed, this being about midnight.

“He was hiding in plain sight, dressed like a student.” Byleth informs him. “I saw him out late and followed him, thinking he was actually a student and I should protect him on his way back to his dorm… and then he left the monastery entirely.”

“Ah.” The man nods. “So you followed and captured him?”

“Yes.” She nods, grinning. “I also found these in his room at the Soaring Crane tavern.” She hands over a couple dozen letters.

“Quite the find. Well done!” Alios praises. “It would seem your sneaking skills come in handy for more than scaring the pants of people, eh?”

“Pardon?” Byleth blinks.

“Come now! You can’t be totally unaware of how your jumping and sneaking around scares most people.” Alios chuckles.

“Well…”

“You don’t notice at all, do you?”

“No.” She says it with a smile, but her tone conveys some disappointment.

“Ahh… well, it’s not too bad.” Alios chuckles. “After all, people say I tell bad jokes, but I don’t see a problem with them! They’re a regular steal as far as I’m concerned!”

He waits, as if expecting a reaction from Byleth. When the girl says nothing, blinking blankly. Alios sighs.

“It’s because the man you caught was a suspected thief. A steal , see?” He shakes his head when Byleth still doesn’t react. “Ah whatever. It doesn’t matter.” He reaches out to her shoulder, pauses, and instead ruffles her hair. “You’re a good kid Byleth, and a good teacher from what the students say! Even if you do scare the pants off them. Keep up the good work.”

Byleth, now with her hair messed up and falling in her face, just nods uncomprehendingly as the man turns about and follows the guards who took away the prisoner earlier. Alios reminds him, in some ways, of the men in her father’s mercenary company: loud and fun. Although he seems a bit more childish than anyone she’s worked with so far…

###

“Oops.”

“Another one?” Catherine chuckles as she watches Byleth drag another broken training dummy off to the side.

“Yes." 

“You do know the goal isn’t to destroy the thing, it’s just to help you practice where to hit things.”

“But the neck is where I hit things.” Byleth says. “And there’s no armor there…”

“The neck is a pretty small target.” Catherine warns. “A thrust is likely to miss, and trying to swing a sword there is usually just going to have it bounce off a pauldron most of the time.”

“But it also kills them.”

“Well yes, I suppose it does, but you can also just aim for the head instead.”

“Skulls are tough. Necks are flimsy.” Byleth responds calmly. “There’s less to cut through.”

“I suppose…” Catherine says slowly. “I won’t stop you. You’ve done fine thus far. I’m just giving you food for thought.”

Byleth pulls another dummy into the training area, and resumes practicing. This time she doesn’t use a training sword, instead choosing to grab gloves and practice her brawling skills.

You would think with padded gloves on that Byleth wouldn’t be able to destroy a dummy, and you would be right. However, she succeeds in something equally difficult: knocking the dummy over. The stand a dummy is on, two planks in a cross, is quite sturdy, so it’s a surprise that with a single devastating punch Byleth manages to knock the thing over. 

“Oops.”

Catherine shakes her head and returns to her own training. “ That lady is hopeless, in a brutally powerful sort of way.

###

“Professor.”

“Yes?”

“Please don’t leer at the priests during ceremonies.” Rhea sighs. “And do not accost them afterwards.”

Byleth tilts her head. She’s smiling, but the head motion is enough to suggest confusion. “I did nothing of the sort.”

The two women are sitting in Rhea's private quarters. Rhea called Byleth in only a few hours after a large ceremony, and the girl didn’t have any idea why until now.

“Then please, inform me as to what happened.” Rhea sighs.

“I was watching him.” Byleth says simply. “He was cute, so I tried to talk with him afterwards…”

Reah blinks. “Pardon me. You are saying you were attempting to… flirt.”

“Yes.”

The archbishop brings a hand up and massages the bridge of her nose. “Professor.”

“Yes?”

Don’t do that.” She says bluntly.

“Oh…” Byleth is still smiling, but her disappointment is clear.

“I…” The archbishop stops, then sighs deeply. “Professor, I have nothing against you pursuing someone, but please don’t terrorize my priests.”

“Terrorize?”

“Just…” There’s no good way to explain this to her, is there? Rhea settles for something else: “Leave the clergy alone, alright?”

“Okay…”

###

“That’s really creepy you know.” Sothis murmurs as Byleth leaves the bar.

“Them?”

“Them too, but also you.” The green-haired girl says. “It’s just eerie how easily you can slip into that persona.”

“I have practiced several personas extensively.” Byleth says calmly. “So that I may use them to fish for information or infiltrate. That was just one of many. A young, sly, seductive trader, who is not afraid of some fun.”

“Sounds like a book character.”

“Yes. The more generic you are, the less people will remember you.” Byleth nods. “It was a persona my mentor used as well. She based it off the Annas, so as to stand out even less. While I did not here, it was common practice for her to use red hair dye when assuming the persona.”

“So what did you actually learn? It just looked like to me like a bunch of thugs badly flirting with you.”

“Remember when I asked the blonde one about the tattoo on his neck?”

“Yes.”

“An eagle. That’s the national symbol of Adrestia.” Byleth says. “The burly black-haired man got agitated upon seeing it. Either he’s not Adrestian, or discontent with the government there. Also, the man with the eagle tattoo mentioned that many of his friends also have it. A gang tattoo most likely. Perhaps with nationalist ideals of some sort.”

“Oh.” Sothis’s eyes widen. “What a strange thing to find close to Garreg Mach…”

“Indeed.” Byleth murmurs. “And the black-haired man? While drunk, he enunciated more than the others, and rarely used contractions. A noble, or at least someone of standing. Strange to find such a person in a bar that does not cater to them.”

“Why was he there then?”

“I am unsure.” Byleth admits. “He was resistant to my attempts to pry, despite desiring my attention. He has to keep something quiet, confidential.” She’s quiet for a moment, then murmurs. “That is assuming, of course, he and the tattooed man are not on the same side. Perhaps he was agitated because the tattooed man was revealing something telling.”

Sothis shakes her head. “I’ll admit, that’s rather impressive. You figured all that off one tattoo and an ugly look?”

“As well as other clues. I am simplifying my observations for your understanding.”

“And all you had to do to get them was get molested.”

“Yes.”

“You’re very calm about this.”

“I could have killed them all in seconds if I needed to.” Byleth says.

Despite being used to this by now, Sothis is still a bit unnerved how the lady can casually talk about killing half a dozen people with a smile on her face. Yes, she always has a smile on her face, but it’s still creepy.

“Sorry, I have to handle this.”

“Wha-?” Sothis begins to ask, but she’s interrupted by Byleth suddenly turning around while whipping out her sword and running through someone who was sneaking up on her. The man is the black-haired, possibly noble man that she was flirting with in the tavern. A knife slips from the man’s hand as he slides of Byleth’s sword and lands dead on the ground.

Sothis watches in blank shock as Byleth calmly rifles through the man’s pockets, taking a wallet, quill and ink case, sealing wax and stamp, and a number of small personal effects like a handkerchief, wedding ring, spare gloves, and a small tin of shoe-shine.

“No identification. Shame.” Byleth murmurs. She calmly picks up the man, finds an alleyway, and dumps him there. She messes up his hair and smears a bit of dirt on his clothes, as well as adding some extra small cuts on his arms and torso to make it seem like there was a struggle rather than an instant kill. She also makes sure to put his knife on the ground near his hand. “There, now it looks like a mugging.”

“Y-You just stole all his stuff.”

“He was going to stab me. Of course I took his stuff.” Byleth hums. “Hopefully I can use his things to identify him. If not… well, more money for me.”

“Shouldn’t you hand this stuff over to the guards?”

“They won’t be able to put it to as good use as I will.” Byleth says dismissively. “And they would be less subtle about it. Better for me to keep it.”

Sothis shakes her head. “Seteth was right, you are unscrupulous.”

“I am concerned with what is practical, not what is proper.” Byleth says bluntly. “My father’s contacts will be far more help in quietly identifying this man and his connections than the guards.”

“Wait, your father has special contacts for that sort of thing?”

“More like our mercenary group happens to have a lot of varying contacts on account of it having such a varied crowd.” Byleth murmurs. “One was an assassin from Leicester, another a former Faergian merchant, we have several ex-military from Adrestia, a number of reformed criminals, and we keep in touch with numerous former (and active) spies and information dealers.”

“That’s a lot of different talent.”

“Indeed. It is the exact reason why our group is so effective. We always have someone in the group who knows how to handle a problem, or can tell us about what to expect in an area. It’s also the reason we frequently took on such dangerous missions. We are one of the few independent groups with the actual skill and knowledge to tackle such things.”

“But you’re a mercenary group. You get hired, and then kill things. Why do you need to keep in touch with information dealers and spies?”

“Sometimes we were hired to track down dangerous individuals, and we frequently took part in bounty hunts. Information is just as important there as actual fighting skill, else we would never locate them to begin with.” Byleth recounts. “We did not gain a reputation as the most skilled and successful mercenary company merely by being expert fighters.”

Merely expert fighters she says.” Sothis huffs under her breath as they walk back to the monastery. “The pride of theses mortals.”

Chapter Text

Dimitri thinks there's something very off about Professor Byleth. She seems relatively normal. She's friendly, intelligent, and always has a smile on her face. Always, as in it never ever drops. She never has a neutral expression on her face. Not when teaching, not when marking papers, not even when scolding someone. Her face seems locked like that. It's only now, after two weeks, that the sheer weirdness of this behaviour has started to be noticed by him and his classmates.

"I never see her around campus." Annette notes quietly. "She's always here before everyone else. I even came really early once, just to see if I could beat her, and she was here waiting at the desk, looking like she was expecting me."

"I do not see her leave." Dedue offers. "Not once. I do not wait necessarily… but on the chance we stay around the outside of the classroom after class for some reason, I pay attention. She doesn't leave through the front. I have gone back inside to get lost items, and she'll usually be gone."

"Wait, she'll be gone, but never left through the front door?" Annette clarifies.

"Yes." Dedue nods. "It is… unnerving."

"Have you ever noticed how quiet she is?" Ingrid adds. "Remember that quiz we were writing two days ago? I raised my hand for a question while still looking down at my page… I didn't realize she'd walked over until she cleared her throat. She was directly beside me."

"She's also has a peculiar way of dressing, and I don't say that to be mean." Sylvain adds. "Her attire is quite... unique. She shows quite a bit of skin as well."

"Of course you'd focus on that." Ingrid snorts.

"Excuse me! She's an attractive woman." Sylvain huffs and crosses his arms. "And her outfit draws attention to her features as well! Her attire doesn't exactly downplay her chest or legs. Quite the opposite."

"That is a fair point. It's another peculiarity of hers." Dimitri nods. "Even professor Manuela is a bit more… erm… classy about her choice of dress. Not that I think the professor is doing anything too inappropriate, but her choice of dress is rather outlandish."

"She is the daughter of Jeralt Eisener, and she is instructing us on combat readiness and such." Felix adds suddenly. "And so it makes sense that there are signs of her being a trained soldier in her movements, but… there are other things as well. Have you noticed how she has her podium in the corner of the room? She seldom puts her back to the windows or the door, and so I think she moved it there to facilitate that."

"Now that you mention it…" Ashe says slowly. "I see elements of a thief in her too. She's always scoping out the class. I've seen her eyes focus on Annette's earrings, people's pockets that have an obvious bulge like someone looking for a wallet, and she also notes everyone's weapons each time we come in." He glances at Dedue. "She always looks at your first, and always checks that you have your axe."

"I see." The dark-skinned man shifts in place, clearly a bit unnerved by this information.

"I think she's rather nice." Mercedes offers. "She's very helpful."

"I won't argue with that." Dimitri agrees slowly. "She's just… unusual."

"I hear she's also a trained assassin." Someone says.

"Really?" Ashe blinks. "Wow, that would explain a lot actually."

"Indeed. It would explain why she's so good at scoping out a room…" Dimitri nods.

"And her ability to leave unnoticed." Felix adds.

"Wait…" Mercedes frowns. "Who said that…?"

Sylvain frowns. "Annette?"

"Nope."

"Ingrid?"

"No."

"You're all terrible at noticing things." The voice says. "Look up."

Everyone does so, and many of them blanche upon seeing the person they were just talking about casually sitting in the rafters above their heads. Her legs are crossed casually, and she's smiling down at them with her usual unchanging expression.

"Really now, I thought I taught you all better." She says in a scolding voice. She uncrosses her legs, stretches, and drops off the ledge down to the ground. The landing, surprisingly, is almost totally silent. There's a small "clunk" as she lands, but it's only noticed because everyone is specifically listening for it. "Always look up."

"P-Professor!" Annette squeaks. "H-How long have you been here?"

"A few hours." She says calmly. "I was grading."

"In the rafters?"

"Yes. It's safer."

"Have you even left the classroom all day…?" Ingrid asks cautiously.

"Yes."

Ingrid waits a moment, expecting Byleth to elaborate, but she doesn't. Byleth just keeps smiling that same, fixed smile. It's really unnerving to everyone now that they're paying attention. The smile never breaks, never changes even a little bit, like a mask.

"An assassin you say?" Dedue asks. His brow is furrowed, obviously a bit suspicious.

"Yes." She blinks. "Incidentally, it would have been very easy to kill all of you. I have more than eight knives. You really should look up."

"Is that a threat?" Felix questions.

"No. A warning. Most assassins you meet are probably going to try and kill you." She says bluntly. "You're all nobles, or important to some extent, and so you are possible targets."

"It will not be so easy." Dedue says firmly. "If you had attacked, I would have protected Prince Dimitri."

"Right." She blinks, still smiling. "Above you, by the way."

Dedue looks up, and sees nothing. There's a round of gasps and yelps which causes him to look back down to see Byelth standing on the table they were gathered at, calmly holding a knife to Dimitri's throat. If it weren't for everyone else's reactions, Dedue wouldn't have known she'd moved before looking back. She was totally silent, and fast enough to make that move in less than a second.

"So, like I said, I could have killed all of you." She says calmly, and pulls back the knife. "Never take your eyes off a potential threat if you can avoid it."

Dedue swallows thickly. "Yes Ma'am."

"Good." She pockets the blade, crouches, and suddenly leaps several feet up into the air to grab a rafter and pulls herself back up. "Tomorrow's class we'll begin discussing combat readiness. Everyone bring their weapons and armor." She grabs a book and a quill, which were hidden behind a vertical beam leading up the ceiling. "Dismissed."

###

"Ah, Professor! I don't see you out of the classroom all that much." Sylvain greets as he takes a seat next to the woman. She's sitting in the corner of the mess hall, and has turned the table she's at so her back can face the corner rather than a window. "Have you come to enjoy the fish special today? I have. I hear it's quite the treat."

"It's fish." She smiles at him. "They simply added more seasoning than usual."

"Well, at the very least it will taste better in attractive company?" Sylvain winks.

Byleth is quiet for a moment while staring at Sylvain. Then her smile actually relaxes into something that seems much more natural. "Well, aren't you quite the charmer Sir Gautier?" She says in a tone that could almost be called a purr. "I would love it if you joined me for this meal."

Sylvain gives her a winning smile. His natural charm does it again… or maybe that's just the allure of his crest at work. He knows most women put up with his advances because they hope to gain a higher status through his crest and title rather than any actual attraction to him.

Well, he's more than willing to play their game. After all, it's not like he doesn't play back.

"We don't often see you out of the classroom." Sylvain says conversationally as he cuts up his food. "Do you hide in the rafters all the time? Or do you actually leave?"

"A mix of both. When I'm doing teaching-related things I'm usually in the rafters, and when I leave I take the back exit."

"Back exit?"

"Windows. They're good exits and entrances people don't usually think about, which makes them very useful to people like me."

"Ah." Sylvain didn't expect that. Then again, this comes from the person who casually sits in the rafters for half a day on a regular basis. "Where do you go when you leave?"

"Here, the training area, to visit my father, or just to roam around. I do roam, you all just rarely notice me." She hums.

"Well, that's a travesty I hope to correct." Sylvain winks. "You're far too lovely to go unnoticed and unappreciated!"

"I'm unnoticed when I want to be." Byleth says. She leans her shoulder against him (giving him a nice look at her cleavage he might add) and not-so-subtly rests a hand on his leg. "Although I suppose I could show myself a bit more, just for you~"

"Please do." Sylvain says with a grin. He's surprised at how easy this is. He would have expected a teacher, much less a self-proclaimed assassin, to be much more difficult to successfully flirt with. "You're too much of a beauty to go unseen."

"Sir Gautier, are you flattering me?"

"Depends, is it working?" He asks in return.

"Maybe."

"Then yes, I am."

They finish their food while trading small talk. Actually, Sylvain does most of the talking, edged on by Byleth's encouragement. They both politely ignore the curious looks that they're garnering, and when they're both finished eating, they walk out of the mess hall.

Byleth actually keeps herself pressed into his side as they walk, and has an arm looped through his. Sylvian isn't about to complain about having a shapely woman at his side, especially when it means he gets his arm pushed into her chest. That's very nice in his opinion.

"Sir Gautier." Byleth murmurs, and strokes his shoulder. "I have a place I like to visit with quite a nice view; would you like to see it with me? No one really goes there, so we'll have it mostly to ourselves..."

"That sounds fantastic." Sylvain agrees. He allows her to pull him along to one of the more unused corners of the monastery, with a view overlooking the mountain path that travels to and from the town below. It really is a nice view, and Sylvain suspects it will be doubly so in several hours when the sun sets and colors the sky in reds and oranges. "My, you know how to choose scenery professor. I may have to make use of this place myself…"

He can see this being a perfect spot to take a girl on a date. This is quite a nice tool she's dropped into his lap.

"Sir Gautier… Sylvain…" Byleth purrs his name, elongating the 'v' sound. She turns to face him directly, and presses herself bodily against him. Sylvain particularly appreciates how her large breasts squish up against his chest. Her left hand strokes his hip while the other tangles with his own hand. "I've heard rumors about you Sir…"

"Which one? There's quite a few." He chuckles.

"About how you're a horrible womanizer." She says while pouting her lips at him. It's quite the inviting sight, especially combined with her half-closed eyes. She's also putting a lot of her weight against him, which is making it a bit hard to stand upright.

"Well, I won't exactly deny that…" Sylvain says, taking a step back to regain his balance. Byleth takes a step forward to match it, keeping herself pressed right against him. He can feel hand playing with his, her fingers fiddling with his own.

"And how you have quite the weakness for a lady with a large chest." Another step back from him, another forward from her.

"What self-respecting man doesn't?" He jokes.

"And how you're very, very…" His shins meet the stone wall, but Byleth doesn't let up. The boy is forced to lean backwards, and she finally distangles her hand from his. Both of her hand them come to his shoulders, and lie there for a moment. Her pout suddenly vanishes, replaced by her normal mask-like smile. "Foolish."

She pushes lightly, and Sylvain topples backwards. His back doesn't meet the stone wall like he expected. It's a knee-high wall. He was distracted by the Professor, and never considered what was behind him. His arms flail out, trying to grab something, anything as he loses his balance; he feet leave the ground, and for a moment he's certain he's going to fall into open air.

One of Byleth's hands shoot out and grab him by the collar, stopping what would have been a several hundred meter fall down a rocky cliffside. His feet aren't on the ground, and the only other thing keeping him up is the back of his knees desperately trying to grip the wall he was just pushed over.

"That was pathetically easy." The lady says calmly as she watches her pupil flail. He grabs her arm, eyes wide with panic, pleading at her not to drop him. "All it took was a pair of breasts, and you did everything I wanted. I gave you time to react as well. I could have just as easily stabbed you as soon as we were alone. Instead I slowly pushed you over a wall, and you still didn't expect anything."

"Wh-Wha-!?"

"Did you even check if I had weapons on me?" She asks impassively, apparently content to let him dangle over a cliffside for the moment. His life in literally in her hand. If she lets him go, he's dead, and there's nothing he can do about it. "Or watch for poison? I know you didn't pay attention to your pockets, I took everything off you and you didn't notice."

Just to prove her point she removes his coin purse, his quill case, his fancy dagger, his belt, and even his family ring that was on his finger, from her pockets and drops them on the floor beside her.

"Everything." She repeats calmly. "And you never noticed, because you were too busy looking at these." She pointedly slips an arm under her breasts and lifts them a bit, as if he didn't already know what she was talking about. "Far be it for me to shame a healthy sexual interest, but you mustn't allow it to kill you."

"I-I didn't know this was a test!" Sylvain protests.

"Assassins aren't going to announce they're here to kill you. They'll just kill you. You have to look out for these things on your own." Byleth warns. "Not every lady is going to want your crest. Some will want your crest gone, and I've just shown how easy that is. I didn't use my best plan either. I could have had you dead in a minute of sitting down next to me without anyone suspecting it was my fault."

"I get it, I get it!" He squeaks. "C-Can you please pull me up now?"

###

"Gah…" Felix grunts as his teacher's sword smashes down on his. For a so-called assassin, she fights like a brute. She's overwhelming him with sheer strength rather than finesse or skill. Not to say she's particularly unskilled of course, she's clearly a good swordswoman, but she's not relying on her skill at the moment. Her battle plan is clearly just to beat him into submission.

And worse, it's working. She doesn't have quite as much brute strength as Boar (which, if anything, is a testament to how absurdly strong Dimitri is rather than any lack of strength on Byleth's part) but her edge on Boar in terms of skill and experience makes her infinitely more troublesome to beat anyhow.

Another overhead strike slams down on his blade, and he barely holds. He shoves it off to the side and tries to counterattack, but suddenly finds a boot in stomach and is kicked to the ground. He raises his sword desperately to blocked the next attack he knows is coming, but it doesn't matter. There's a sharp "CRACK!" as his wooden practice sword breaks under the sheer force of his professor's attack, and her blade smacks him harshly on the head.

"Oh, sorry." She says, and offers him a hand up. He reluctantly accepts. His head hurts, and it will probably bruise unless he gets it healed, but it's nothing of significance. He'll ask Mercedes to help after this done. "I forget how frail these weapons are sometimes."

Frail? Training swords are made to be durable and hold up to quite a bit of punishment. It's not that the weapons are frail, it's that she's stupidly strong. "If you say so Professor. You don't fight as I expected you to. You claim to be an assassin, but you fight in a quite straight-forward manner relying on sheer strength more than anything."

"I'm more than capable of doing something else, I just figured this would be the best way to beat you." She says calmly. She's smiling in his face, but then again, she's always smiling in everyone's face. Her 'mask' (as the students now call it) really is impeccable. "You have trouble beating Dimitri, who uses much the same plan, so I decided to abuse that weakness."

That stings his pride a bit, but she's right. "Now that is what I'd expect of a career mercenary. If only more knights had that mindset and were less focused on chivalry and such."

"With any luck, I'll have taught all of you to think the same way by the time I'm done with you." Byleth says. "Do you want to go again? I can fetch another sword…" She glances at her own blade, which has several noticeable dents and cracks. "...or two."

Felix doesn't want anymore bruises, to his body or his pride. "I think I'm good for now Professor."

###

Ashe actually likes sky patrol duty. It's not that he's particularly good at it, he's not very fond of pegasi or wyverns, he just likes the view from up high. He can look down upon the monastery and see the goings on of everyone below.

He's tried picking out his classmates before. Some are easier than others. With his dark skin and white hair, Dedue is the easiest. The other Lions have more generic hair colours, which is a bit more difficult to spot. People like Caspar or Hilda stick out like a sore thumb, as does Bernadetta on the odd occasion she leaves her room, purely on account of having rare hair colors.

He's managed to pick out every other Lion at least once though, so for the last few times he's been trying to find Professor Eisner. She's very hard to spot, though that might be because she doesn't leave the classroom much at this time of day, but he still tries anyways.

Today, he actually gets some success… but he doesn't spot her where he expects. She's not walking along any pathway, she's near the top of one of the cathedral's spires casually talking with another unknown woman while they exchange punches.

Yes, they are sparring atop a spire, on quite unstable footing. Ashe circles once around the building just to watch in fascination.

Apparently he's noticed though, because both women stop what they're doing to stare up at him. Professor Eisner waves, and Ashe returns it sheepishly before pointedly flying in the opposite direction.

He has quite a story to tell the others over dinner though.

###

"You're part of the church, right?"

"My word!" Mercedes gasps. She turns around to see the professor standing right behind her; so close in fact that Mercedes feels the need to take a step back to put space between them. Byleth basically had her nose in Mercedes's hair from how close she was. "Professor! I did not hear you."

"Good." Byleth says. "You're part of the church, yes?"

"No, I am merely a devout follower." Mercedes murmurs with a shake of her head.

"Ah." The teacher's reaction is hard to read considering her expression doesn't change. Just the same fake, fake smile. "Well, maybe you can still help me."

"What do you need to know Professor?"

"What is church protocol for dealing with disobedience?" Byleth asks. "As in, the rebellion of another branch of the church?"

"Is this about the Western Church incident?" Mercedes murmurs.

"Yes." Byleth says calmly. "I have realized I am insufficiently knowledgeable about the church, but asking Rhea or Seteth would get me biased answers. You are likely to be more forthright, as you hold no significant station in the church… or any station apparently."

"Well, I don't think I'm the best person to ask, but I'm happy to try and teach you." Mercedes says. "Talking religion can take a while though. Maybe this is better done over tea."

"I can do that." Byleth nods. "Can we do it now?"

"Professor… it's almost past curfew." Mercedes murmurs. "This is hardly the time."

"Oh." She glances out the window. "Right, you students don't stay up late."

"Yes… and professor?"

"Hmm?"

"You could have knocked. I presume you came in the window, but there was no need for that." She admonishes softly.

"A good assassin never comes in the front door, unless they're in disguise." Byleth responds as she opens up the window and step out. "We'll talk tomorrow. Goodnight Marshmallow."

Mercedes watches the lady leave, and closes her window and curtains after the professor is out of sight. She turns back to her desk, which she was just cleaning up after writing a small essay, and finishes that up.

One thought sticks in her mind as she goes to bed though: "Marshmallow?"

###

"Stay still." Byleth tuts. Dimitri awkwardly keeps his eyes open, and tries not to flinch away as the brush slides on his skin just millimeters from his eye. He didn't quite expect this talk to go this way. All he said was that he was tired, but that he didn't want to show a bad example to the rest of the class. He never considered makeup.

In hindsight, it makes total sense the Professor knows how to use makeup though. She's talked about disguise before in class, and recounted some of her own disguises. Of course she knows how to use makeup.

"There we go… now just don't rub it too much. You can wash it off later with water." She says as she pulls away the brush. The makeup she had put on his face before, which stuck out like a sore thumb, now blends perfectly with his skin tone… so long as you don't look too close. It's a quick and dirty job, but quite effective considering that. "I expect you to go to sleep early tonight as well, understood?"

"Yes Professor." He replies sheepishly. "My apologies. I was looking over reports from the kingdom. My regent, Rufus, deals with it all at the moment, but as soon as my education is finished I will have to take on those duties, and so I must have all the necessary information beforehand."

"I am not disagreeing." Byleth says. "Merely reminding you that your own exhaustion is just as potentially dangerous as being underinformed. You must strike a balance."

"I know…"

"Apparently not." The teacher replies flatly. "Or you wouldn't have walked in here looking half dead."

Well, Dimitri can't exactly argue with that.

"Now, I've hidden the bags under your eyes, but if you want to fool everyone you're still going to have to act not tired." Byleth reminds him.

"Of course." The prince sighs. "Thank you professor."

###

"Ack!" Annette squeaks as she tries to hold all the groceries up. She has a lot of bags, maybe she shouldn't have done this by herself…

"Need help?" A pair of hands reach around from behind her, and snag several of the bags from her hands.

"Professor! I didn't realize you were here." Annette says gratefully. "Thank you."

"I followed you here." Byleth admits without an ounce of shame. "I heard you were going on your own, so I've been escorting you."

"Oh… I didn't see you."

"I know. I was making sure not to be seen." She says flatly. "It's dangerous for a lone woman, especially a girl as young as yourself, to be walking about on her own."

Annette pouts. "Come on professor, it's just the town. It's basically a part of the monastery."

For just the barest moment, Annette thinks she can see the lady's mask fall, and the barest hint of a worried frown cross Byleth's face. It's only a moment though, and the fake smile is back up quick. "It's not safe, unless you're prepared to fight, you should be going with someone else."

"Come on." Annette huffs. "Just because I'm a girl I can't go to town on my own?"

"You can. Just be prepared to stab someone if you need to." Byleth responds curtly. "There's a reason parents worry about their daughters being out at night. This society may technically gender equal, but do not be so naive as to assume that everyone thinks that way. Some people still think in the old ways… and the old ways are considered distasteful for a reason."

Annette was mostly joking. She wasn't expecting her professor to take this so seriously. "I know Professor, but I don't want to have to be escorted every time I leave the monastery."

Byleth's face is unreadable. "That's fine… just be prepared."

"I am." Annette reassures. "I have magic after all! I can blast anyone who tries to mess with me!"

The lady nods in approval. "Are you prepared to do so though? Are you prepared to attack someone if you need to?"

"I… yes." Annette nods. "I can."

"Hmm… alright." Byleth says, sounding a bit reluctant. "Be careful."

"Of course."

"If anyone messes with you, tell me. I'll stab them."

"Please don't…"

###

"Another one?" Ingrid sighs as she opens the letter. "Oh dear…"

"More marriage prospects?"

"Yes. Not that I'm eager to choose one." Ingrid sighs. "Though I suppose I will have to eventu- wait, Professor? When did you get here!?"

"Just a moment ago. I was going towards the greenhouse." Byleth says casually. "I overheard you talking to yourself though, so I thought I'd stop by."

The two are just out the back of the dormitories. Ingrid had just returned from getting her mail, and had opened this letter from her father on the way back.

"No one good?"

"More like I'm not looking to get married quite yet." Ingrid sighs. "Though, I know it would be of great benefit to my father if I were to do so. There are many other noble houses that would pay handsomely to get my crest into their family, and we could quite use money."

"You are poor?"

"Poor relative to other nobles, though not poor by the standards of commoners." Ingrid clarifies. "I would not dare call us properly poor. It would be an insult to those truly in need."

"I see…" The teacher says slowly. "Marriage…"

"I suppose you've never had to deal with such things." Ingrid sighs. "Being a mercenary rather than a noble."

Byleth nods. "Are you… supposed to accept marriage without dating the person in question?"

"Dating for nobility is a luxury." Ingrid sighs. "Yes, I would likely not date."

"How unfortunate." The teacher muses. "Though I suppose it is not as if I have ever dated either…"

"You haven't?" Ingrid asks, sounding genuinely surprised. She figured someone as attractive as their professor would have had numerous advances made on her during her lifetime.

"No. I've tried approaching people myself, but that doesn't work. Everyone seems off-put." Byleth says. She's smiling as she always is, but there's a hint of sadness in her voice. "And when they approach me, they also back off really quickly most of the time, unless I'm using a persona."

"Maybe if you stopped jumping from rooftops and rafters it would help," The girl thinks to herself, though she doesn't say it aloud. She doesn't want to be mean. "Well, your personas are less… unique than your actual self. Perhaps others are simply… erm… not open-minded."

"Maybe…" She murmurs. "But this should not be about my issues. Have you never had a date either?"

"That's really not the problem here…"

"Ah, right, you don't want to marry. Because these men are beneath you, yes?"

"Well, not quite that." Ingrid coughs. "The issue is more that I simply do not wish to be married at the moment. I am focused on becoming a knight currently."

"Of course, of course." Byleth nods. "So… with that in mind… want to spar?"

"Will you break my weapon?" Ingrid asks dryly.

"Probably."

"Well, at least she's honest." The girl sighs. "I'd be honored, Professor."

Chapter Text

Petra waits patiently, dagger in hand, behind the door. The windows are all closed so no one can see inside, and Byleth is due back at any moment. She's going to succeed this time, she has to!

She hears the sound of footsteps outside the door, and raises her dagger in anticipation. The door creaks open, someone steps inside, and Petra-

-is grabbed from behind, her dagger arm twisted to drop the weapon, and then forced to the ground. The person who walked through the door, a tall, scruffy man with blonde hair that Petra recognizes as Jeralt, leans against the doorframe with his arms crossed. "Huh, well I guess that's a failure."

"Indeed." Byleth's voice suddenly says from behind Petra. The girl realizes the person restraining her must be her professor. She never heard the woman enter the room. Fitting. Petra regretfully admits that she still has must to learn. "However, it is a step up from her previous attempt. No one noticed her entrance, and she made sure it was not possible to see her from outside the room knowing her camouflage skills were insufficient." The teacher then addresses Petra directly. "What did you do wrong?"

"I failed to account for unconventional entrances once more, and did not keep up my monitoring of my surroundings. I estimated too highly in my preparations." She admits. "My apologies Professor."

"Do not be. Assassination is not something that can be learned in a mere couple of months." Byleth says, and lets her pupils stand. "That is why you learn in a safe, consequence-free environment."

"Of course Professor." Petra says, and bows to the lady. "I hope to be obtaining more learning from you in time to come."

After a bit more discussion of where she needs to improve, Petra exits and leaves Byleth and Jeralt alone in the room. The man takes a seat at the desk while his daugher checks all the windows before taking how own seat on the bed.

"You know, when you invite me to talk, I'm starting to expect it's just because you need me to act as bait for something." The man says dryly. He's smiling though. He's more amused than annoyed.

"You are the only one I can trust with such tasks. You don't disclose my reasons for asking for help."

Jeralt chuckles. "You make it sound so serious."

"It is."

"Ah, right, you're always serious." The man says with a shake of his head. "And here I was hoping these kids would get you to calm down a bit."

"As a professor, I cannot appear weak in front of my students." Byleth replies curtly.

"Of course, of course… and I assume that means you haven't dropped your smile in front of them either?"

"Of course not. It is imperative that I maintain my mask. An assassin never shows their true self."

"I'm fairly sure that's not what Acrim taught you." Jeralt sighs. "I'm fairly sure it was 'keep up your mask while on a mission' not, 'keep up your mask at all times, ever'."

"Being a professor is a mission."

"No, it's a job."

"Job, mission. Different words, same meaning." Byleth says firmly. "Language doesn't always work the way you expect it to."

Jeralt sighs again. He's raised her too well apparently. He remembers telling her exactly that when she was four because she always thought different words had to have different meanings. He's amazed she remembers what he said word-for-word. "I suppose I did say that, didn't I? Let me say this instead though. You're allowed to relax around your students… except maybe Petra, seeing as you're teaching her to be an assassin."

"She is unpolished, but most promising." Byleth says. Jeralt can even hear a faint hint of pride in her voice, which may as well be heavenly praise if it's strong enough to leak through her mask of a smile.

"That good, hmm?"

"Yes." She nods in affirmation. "Had I not seen potential, I likely would have not offered to train her in the first place."

"Don't want to risk Acrim seeing your apprentice as a disgrace to the practice?"

"No." She says quickly. Too quickly.

"I'm totally right." Jeralt smirks. "Of course she's worried that her mentor won't approve." He decides one more question is in order. "Does Acrim know about Petra yet?"

Byleth is silent for several seconds. Then she quietly says "No…"

Jeralt leans back in the chair and laughs as his daughter glares at him. Her smile mask drops to a death glare that would be terrifying if he didn't know it was just his daughter completely exaggerating her emotions.

Well, it's better than the stone-faced neutrality she always had as a child. She doesn't know how to emote genuinely unless she really overdoes it.

Ah well, it's better than the totally flat expressions she had up until she was seven…

###

She found it! Ah, this is perfect, just the color she needed. A nice, deep blue. At least, that's what she thinks it is. Using candlelight to find appropriate thread colors is probably not the most effective… but it's better than going out during the day and risking having to talk with someone.

"Good… now we just need some purple cloth." Bernadetta murmurs to herself, and stuffs her new acquisition in a basket she's carrying under. "Hmm… maybe I should just get some white cloth and dye it. That might be easier… ooh but purple dye is expensive, and I'd have to talk to a vendor."

She shivers just thinking about it, and resolves to instead search the other cupboards of the art room. They're all close by anyways, they're in this room. It might take a bit to open every crate and box to find some, but it will be well worthwhile.

"There's some to your left."

"AAAAAAHHHH!" Bernadetta shrieks. She's dead! Done for! Someone's caught her sneaking out at night, and now they're going to run her though thinking she's a thief, a spy, an assassin!

O-Or maybe they're a thief, a spy, or an assassin, and she's seen something she's not supposed to, and she's being silenced before she can say anything!

"I surrender! I surrender! Don't kill me!" She cries, throwing her hands up in front of her face to block an incoming attack. She totally forgets the candle she's holding, and it very nearly burns her hair. The other person grabs her arm, holding it still, and quickly pries the candle out of her hand. "I swear, I'm not a spy! I'm just getting art supplies!"

"Good, because you'd make a terrible spy with how obvious you are." And unfamiliar female voice says flatly. "I would know."

"B-Because you're a spy?"

"In the sense that I occasionally do spying, yes." The lady raises the candle to light up her face, showing a phenotype Bernadetta isn't familiar with. Her skin is slightly tanned, but her eyes seem… stretched? And her face is very smooth. Her hair is also pure black and perfectly straight, though tied into a ponytail about halfway down her back. Her eyes are a calculating grey. Bernadetta can't even begin to guess her age. "My job description is technically 'assassin' though."

"Aha… hahahahaha…" Bernadetta laughs unstably. Her knees wobble, her arms get weak, and her vision blurs. "Of course… just my luck…"

The girl promptly faints, and collapses.

###

At first, Byleth thought it was a test. It has been a long time since Acrim made a nighttime visit. They sparred only a few days ago anyhow, so unless there's an emergency (which is unlikely) there's no reason for her to be here.

So, of course, Byleth assumed it was a test to make sure she hasn't gotten rusty. She opened the door with one hand while bringing up her sword in a defensive position with the other.

Seeing the lady carrying a limp Bernadetta over one shoulder and a basket in the other, however, makes her dismiss the thought of a test. "Before you ask, yes, she does that fairly frequently."

"Ah, good. I was hoping it wasn't just me."

"She is easily startled. Apparently I am particularly startling."

"Good. That means you're keeping up your training." Acrim nods approvingly. She glances at the girl she's holding again. "So… which room is hers?"

"I'll show you." Byleth says, and sheathes her sword. "She never bothered to replace her window latch, so it's very easy to get in."

"You don't have a master key for her room? I thought that's something you would have."

"Oh I do." Byleth says. "But it's unnecessary. After all, the point of a back entrance is so you don't need a key."

This is not the first time Byleth has said something to this effect, and Acrim has long since given up trying to convince her otherwise. Besides, she's probably partly responsible for Byleth thinking in such a manner in the first place. "Lead on."

###

"There's two of them. Oh goddess…"

"Actually, I hear the Professor has been teaching Petra as well." Caspar offers.

"Three? Three!?" Bernadetta whines. "Save me!"

"Come now, surely it cannot be that bad." Ferdinand scoffs. "The Professor is perfectly pleasant, and I am sure her mentor is as well, and Petra is nothing to fear."

"She said I'm food!"

"I believe have already clarified that I do not wish to eat you."

"Eeek!" Bernadetta dives under the table. "D-Death has arrived on brown and purple wings!"

"I do not have wing- oh! I see, that is a metaphor. You are speaking of my hair and my skin, yes?" Petra muses. "I understand now."

"How long have you been standing there Petra?" Dorothea asks.

"Only a moment. I have just done the finishing of my lesson with the Professor." The girl says, and takes a seat.

"And where is our dear Professor now?" Dorothea prods.

"Y-Yeah…" Bernadetta says. She peers over the edge of the table as she slowly creeps out from her hiding place, and glances all around the room, with special car placed to check the rafters. "She's not going to appear from the rafters, or come through a window, or down the chimney?"

"I don't like to come down the chimney if I can avoid it. It's usually dirty in there."

"AUUUGH!" Bernadetta dives under the table again.

"Hello professor." Dorothea says calmly. "How did you get in this time?"

"Roof."

"Pardon?" Dorothea blinks.

"The roof." Byleth repeats, wearing her usual smile.

"How did you come in through the floor if not the chimney?"

"I made a hatch." She says calmly. She ignores her student's shocked expressions at her flagrant disregard for school property. "Bernadetta would have seen be if she looked a bit earlier. You're getting very close Bernadetta, you're doing well. Awareness is paramount after all."

The lavender-haired girl's only response is a pitiful whine.

###

Dedue grunts as his opponent's sword slams down against his shield. Both the sword and the shield are wooden, but his foe's sheer strength makes the man worry they're going to break either the sword or the shield.

Dedue spares a glance behind himself to see how much distance he has until he's backed against a pillar. He looks back just in time to see the sword jabbing at his face, and he brings up his shield just in time to deflect it.

"Careful." The Professor murmurs, retracting her blade. "Look away at the wrong time, and it could be the death of you. You got lucky this time."

"Of course." Dedue responds with a grunt. Byleth tries to move around to his unguarded side, and the man responds by hacking at her with his axe. The Professor quickly moves back to her former position to avoid it.

"Good space control." She nods approvingly. The lady executes another heavy overhand strike, but lets it slide off his shield so she has momentum to backstep with the follow-through. This is followed up with a leg-sweep to abuse his raised guard, but Dedue manages to back away out of the range of her legs. "But you're still losing ground. I have offensive momentum."

Dedue can't deny that. He hasn't been able to land a hit on her, or find a way to threaten her enough that he can force her to move back.

Then, Byleth does something unexpected. She smacks Dedue's axe with her sword, and grabs the edge of his shield with her free hand. With her brute strength she forces his shield open and slips inside his reach. This creates the awkward situation of the two of them being nose to nose, and being far too close to each other to actually use their weapons.

"What do you do now?" The Professor asks calmly.

"I…"

"Too slow." Her head snaps towards his, and Dedue flinches at the feeling of something hard on his nose. It takes a moment for him to realize those are his teacher's teeth. He freezes, realizing his defeat. Byleth keeps their position for a few seconds, then removes her mouth from his nose. "You need to act instantly, use any advantage you can think of. Biting, gouging, head butting, or a good kick in the groin. Incidentally, I would have kicked you in the groin were you an actual enemy. That is not something you can do in sparring though."

"Understood." Dedue nods. He's actually very uncomfortable at the moment. His Professor hasn't moved out of his space; they're chest-to-chest, and with how he's been made aware of just how vulnerable he is in such a position, he feels incredibly vulnerable at the moment. Byleth's unchanging smile doesn't make him feel any more comfortable.

"Always keep in mind your strength. If you're stronger than them, you can abuse that sheer strength to overpower them. Otherwise you're going to have to rely on technique and skill, although always using technique is advised as well." Byleth comments.

"Noted." Dedue responds. "Now please move away…"

###

"I don't want to know, I don't want to know, I don't want to know." Edelgard tells herself. Yet, she can't help but watch with wary curiosity as the Professor walks down the street with Flayn thrown over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. "I don't want to know… but I really should ask."

With a resigned sigh, Edelgard moves to intercept her teacher.

"Professor, hello." The princess says quickly when the woman notices her. "If I may ask… what has Flayn done to deserve such a fate?"

"Nothing!" Flayn protests with a pout. Now that Edelgard is close enough, she can see the green-haired girl is soaking wet. "I was just fishing!"

"You fell in the pond, and your clothes are heavy. You could have drowned."

"I can swim! And I only fell in because you appeared behind me out of nowhere! You startled me!" Flayn protests. "Don't try to blame this on me!"

"It is not my fault you lack awareness."

"I don't need awareness! Not here at least. Must I be paranoid in my own home?"

"This is a monastery and a school, rife with strangers. You can never assume you are safe. You must suspect everyone you are not intimately familiar with, and always be on your guard." Byleth scolds. "I pushed you in the pond, and you never saw it coming."

"Pardon?" Edelgard interrupts. "You pushed her in?"

"Of course. It is a professor's duty to test their students and make sure they are retraining lessons."

"But not by pushing them in a pond." Edelgard sighs. "Honestly Professor, that's going a bit far."

"Really? This is tame compared to my training…" She hums. "Ah, of course, I forgot you are all novices. My apologies."

Flayn's eyes narrow. "Is that an insult Professor? I'll have you know I am quite intelligent!"

"I see. Then please explain to me the rules of being a good warrior. Just a few will do."

"Well…"

"Or, tell me how to be a good scout."

"Erm…"

"Or tell me how to assassinate someone, or seduce someone, or how to effectively spy on a target and gain information."

"I… don't know any of those things."

"Then you are a novice." Byleth says flatly. "Perhaps you should consider joining my class."

"If it involves getting pushed in more ponds, I'll have to decline." Flayn responds in a huff. "Must you deal with this every day Lady Edelgard?"

"Yes, multiple times a day, and I surely have a shorter lifespan for it." The Princess replies dryly. "Flee while you still can."

"That's unlikely to help you. I'm very fast."

"That's not what… never mind." Edelgard sighs. "Just get Flayn dried off before she catches a cold."