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A Study in Mutualism

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“How about you, Byleth? Ever been with anyone?”

The question makes her pause as she takes a swig of her pint. When she agreed to go out to the local tavern with Catherine, Shamir, Manuela, and some other female coworkers, she didn’t think she had to talk much. Just nod her head every once in a while, and then maybe form a full sentence if they asked her what she thought of the fresco in the cathedral, or something.

But once they’ve all had a few drinks in them, she quickly realized they were fast to change topics into a more intimate nature. One she doesn’t have anything to share about because that’s not something she’s ever done.

“No,” she replies honestly. Hoping that they drop the subject.

(They don’t.)

“Really? With a body like yours?” another woman says. “That has to be a lie.”

“It’s not. As a mercenary, those things didn’t matter to me. Never been with anyone. Either on a date, or sexually. That’s not something I prioritized.”

“But everyone has needs. And I’m sure even a virgin like yourself would want to—”

“Don’t pressure her,” Manuela says, a slight slur to her tone. “If she doesn’t want a man—or a woman—then she should be free to make that choice.”

She clamps a hand on Byleth’s shoulder, lazily wiggling her finger at her. “Don’t you ever let any man try to trick you into sleeping with him, alright? Otherwise he deserves to have his balls cut off.”

“I’d kill him before he ever got the chance to touch me,” she answers honestly. (Hey, it’s what Jeralt told her she should do if it ever happened.)

Catherine laughs. “Well, whoever you do end up being with—if that’s even something you want—just use your best judgment, alright Byleth?”

It’s not something she cares about, no. But as she falls silent while all the ladies talk of their own experiences, it starts making her curious. Romance, and sex, aren’t things she’s ever really wanted before. Maybe it’s because her emotions were stunted for the longest time and are only just now beginning to reveal themselves to her.

Is that something I want? Or do I just want to experience it, for knowledge’s sake?

⟣ ⋯ ⟡ ⋯ ⟢

As the weeks bleed into the next moon, she can’t get that night out of her mind. Though she wonders if it’s strange for her to ask just anyone to help her out with this. They might laugh at her inexperience, or try to take advantage of the situation—not that she’d let them. But, she always needs to be prepared for the worst.

And so, in the third month of her new teaching position at the Officers Academy, she makes a decision. One that she’s sure will have dire consequences if anyone finds out. But her curiosity has to be satiated. Just reading those erotic novels Manuela lends her isn’t enough. In fact, it only makes her want to experience it even more.

There’s solely one person she feels comfortable asking. Only one she trusts, she’d even say. Because she knows he won’t be uncomfortable with it once he finds out what it is she wants. Considering how he’s always flirting with her, and catching him constantly eyeing her assets if she’s nearby, it’s not hard to put two and two together.

Luckily she finds him in town as she’s making a shopping trip for supplies. He’s arguing with a young woman who then slaps him across the face before she stomps off, tears trickling down her cheeks. Then she disappears into the crowd, pushing past all the hustle and bustle.

Yep. She’s really going to do this, isn’t she? Ask for assistance about her problem… with him.

Her standards must be low.

“What maiden does that make for this month?” Byleth asks as she walks up to him. “The twelfth?”

Sylvain rubs at his cheek where it’s still red and then turns to her. “Oh, you saw that?”

“Unfortunately. You’re a bit of jerk, you know that? Broke that poor girl’s heart.”

“C’mon, Professor!” he whines. “It’s hard on me too! It’s not like I enjoy breaking up with women. I’m actually feeling pretty lousy right about now. If only there was someone to comfort me, and lift my spirits a bit.”

He hangs his head a little, looking at her with puppy eyes. “Professor, it’s okay if you want to console me.” Wow, moves right from one woman to the next. “I actually have some exquisite tea back in my quarters.” He smirks, stepping closer. “We could go back to have some and maybe chat about love.”

“Does your idea of our chat end with me topless?” she asks sarcastically. “Or completely naked on your bed, I’ll bet?”

Sylvain laughs, and grins wider. “Well if you’re offering, I definitely wouldn’t complain.”

Byleth rolls her eyes. “I do want to chat with you, actually, but not over tea, or in your room. It’s more of a serious matter.”

He frowns and says, “If it’s about my training log from last week, I promise I’ll make up those hours before the month is over.”

“No, that’s not it.”

She waves at him to follow her. They walk away from the crowd of the main plaza and take the side streets. They get to a quieter square away from the central markets, and sit down at a bench nestled under the shade of a tree.

Making sure no one is around, she sighs lightly as Sylvain sits beside her. “What I am about to say has to stay between us, indefinitely. Is that clear?”

He leans against the bench as he faces her, one arm hung over the backrest. Giving her a lazy smile, he teases, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were coming onto me. I wouldn’t blame you.”

“That’s not it, but it’s something similar.”

His smile falls, clearly not expecting to be at least partially on track. “Uh… so, what is it you’re…” He stands and glances up at the tree. Actually walks around it to inspect it. But it’s too spindly to obscure anyone or anything of note there. “Am I being pranked or something? Anyone hiding out here?” He returns to the bench, looking at it from every angle before crawling under it. “Setting me up for—”

“Do you want to have sex with me, Sylvain?”

He jerks back and knocks his head on the underside of the bench. Why is he surprised? She knows he’s been thinking about it. Not like it’s a secret he’s attracted to her for shallow reasons.

When she had first met him, a while back when she chose to lead Dimitri’s class of the Blue Lions House, Sylvain had instantly hit on her. Called her an ethereal beauty, and immediately asked if she’d like to privately talk about marriage with him over tea.

That same day at lunch, he was surrounded by several giggling and swooning girls at the dining hall table as he charmed them with his words and carefully timed winks.

Men like him are the kind her father warned her about once upon a time. And in the past, some have even tried to get close to her for one reason, and one reason only. But she had been stoic and unapproachable, mostly unintentionally, but sometimes with the goal of making them leave her alone. (She can’t just kill people she doesn’t like. That’s not ethical.)

Yet in a strange way, that’s why she trusts Sylvain, and only Sylvain, to help her with this problem. A philanderer who’s been lusting after her since day one. Someone like him wouldn’t let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity easily slip from his fingers, as skeevy as that sounds.

It’s pretty logical, actually. They’d both be doing it for their own gains if he’s agreeable to her terms.

“Professor, is that a rhetorical question?” he asks as he rubs his head, returning to his seat.

“No. I’m being very serious. Because if you do, then I will consent.”

Sylvain looks at her with wide eyes. Casts a glance over his shoulder before he leans forward. “Are you pulling my leg?” he asks quietly. “Because if so, you can just break if off if you want.”

“I know what I’m saying,” she replies just as quietly. “I’ve never had sex before, and I want to experience what it’s like. You’re the only one I’m comfortable asking, but I also know it’s highly inappropriate. Especially since you’re my student.”

“But we’re the same age, aren’t we? I don’t see a problem at all.”

“…It just can’t be known to anyone but us, that’s it. We could both get in severe trouble otherwise. Obviously.”

She explains that, despite her asking this without any feelings attached, she’s still not comfortable asking a complete stranger. Sylvain she knows, at least. And even if he breaks women’s hearts, he doesn’t strike her as a complete scumbag when it comes to sex. Like forcing himself on a woman—which he assures is something he doesn’t do; the thought itself turns him off, looking visibly disgusted as he says it.

“No strings attached,” she informs. “It’s beneficial to us both. I get to experience it, and you get to sleep with me.”

“How many times?” he asks after a pause, sounding a little serious.

Byleth shrugs. “Until we’re satisfied. I doubt one would be enough. I’ve heard there’s lots of ways to be sexually intimate, so… multiple times will be necessary. But if we’re going to do this, then it can’t be back-to-back. We’ll have to time it right so as not to get caught.”

He groans low in his throat. “Do you know what you’re doing to me right now, Professor? Fulfilling one of my many fantasies? I almost want to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.”

“I figured,” she says lightly. “But that means you better not disappoint, Gautier.”

Sylvain grins. “I won’t. This is obviously important to you, so it’ll be important to me. We’ll start off slow since you’ve never done this before. Just tell me when our first ‘session’ will be.”

“This Friday evening, here in town at the Foothills Inn. To avoid suspicion, we can’t keep going there after that. But at least for our first coupling, it’ll do. Lay out the details and everything.”

“Alright. Friday evening it is.” He gets up, and with that sly smirk of his, says, “You’ve just made my whole year, Professor. I promise you haven’t made a mistake.”

“You better keep that promise, Sylvain. And if we’re to do this, call me ‘Byleth’ when we’re alone.”

He laughs under his breath. “Okay, Byleth. You’ve got a deal.”