Chapter 1: Alive and Getting Well Soon

The girl with the crimson hair was fast asleep, not knowing where she was, or what was happening around her. The ground she was sleeping on was incredibly uncomfortable…not that she could toss and turn if she wanted to.

Was she going to die?

Was she already dead?

That couldn’t have been right. She could still breathe, if very shallow breaths. She could barely make out other voices in her vicinity. They were holding conversations about her physical and mental state, and whether or not to proceed with the Battle of the Eagle and Lion in light of recent events.

A moment later, a gentler, softer voice whispered into her ear.

“Please, be still.”

There was nothing else she could do. If she had the strength to get up again, chances were good that her captors would find her and kill her for real. She simply laid back and hoped that the person talking to her wasn’t with the enemy.

“They cannot hurt you anymore. You are safe now.”

Her body was starting to get warm again. She could raise and lower a finger on her right hand. Maybe two, with a little bit of effort. It wasn’t enough to really do anything, but it was enough to assure her and her rescuer that she wasn’t dead.

After a few minutes, she was able to lift her whole hand, then her arm. She still lacked the strength to open her eyes, and she feared that flailing about to find out who was treating her might interrupt the healing process.

Suddenly, she stopped breathing. Something had clamped onto her mouth and was pushing down on her really hard. Too weak to scream, she continued to lie in place as she felt someone else’s breath rushing into her.

This process of shared breathing, chest compressions, and body warming went on for a few more cycles until the girl’s eyes blinked open. She could see another girl’s face on top of hers, still breathing life into her, or kissing her, or whatever it was she was doing.

However, her rescuer didn’t look like anyone she vaguely remembered from her days at the Officers Academy in Garreg Mach. This girl had bright mint-green hair and eyes, and an innocence that suggested she might be too young to be a student.

“Oh, wonderful! You have awakened! I was so worried about you, Monica!”

The girl named Monica slowly rose from the bed she was sleeping on, her back feeling stiff. After hacking and coughing out all the stale air from her lungs, she clutched onto her rescuer and took a moment to examine her surroundings. “Oh, my Goddess…what in the world happened?” she yelped. “Who are you? And how do you know my name?”

“My name is Flayn,” said the green-haired healer. “I heard about you from my older brother. It appears that we were both targeted by the Death Knight. Your recovery took a bit longer than mine, so I came to check on you and accelerate the process. Manuela, the woman in charge of this infirmary, also had a run-in with the Death Knight and is unavailable right now.”

“How could this have happened?” Monica groaned. “This is not how I envisioned my last days at the academy to be… At least we’re both out of enemy territory now, right? Thank you for saving me, Flayn. You’re a real saint, you know that?”

“Well, um…I do not think I would go that far…”

Flayn laughed nervously. She was surprised to hear anyone call her that. To everyone else in Garreg Mach, she was merely Seteth’s younger sister, giving her a direct connection to the heads of the Church of Seiros. Because of her brother’s overprotective streak, she was never kept in the loop on any of their plans, and the entire campus went on a frantic search mission to retrieve her from the clutches of the Death Knight and the Flame Emperor’s soldiers. The students and the Knights of Seiros banded together to drive off the alleged kidnappers, whose motives remained a mystery. The only clue to the identities of the perpetrators was a white mask worn by Jeritza, a weapons trainer at the Officers Academy who disappeared around the same time as Flayn. Monica was also found during the successful rescue mission, but church officials knew less about her since she disappeared from the academy a year before Flayn’s kidnapping.

Monica heard her stomach growling. She felt like she hadn’t eaten or drank anything in ages. She started to get up from her bed, but Flayn held out a hand, preventing her from moving further. “Please, do not get up,” Flayn insisted. “I will go out and ask my brother to bring us some food and drink.”

“But what about you, Flayn?” asked Monica. “You really shouldn’t be moving around a whole lot, either.”

“I will be fine. I shall return in a moment. Do you promise to wait for me?”

Before Flayn stepped out the door, she lightly rubbed Monica’s hands to lend her some more warmth. It was the most pleasant sensation Monica had felt in the short time after waking up from her blackout. She tried to return the gesture in kind, drawing a shape of unknown origin on Flayn’s palm with her thumb.

“I promise,” said Monica.

Monica sat back down on the bed, waiting anxiously for her food. One of Manuela’s assistants entered to check on her, giving her a spoonful of a vulnerary to finish what Flayn had started. As she choked down the bitter healing potion, she came to understand why people studied healing magic at the academy. Monica remembered wanting to study it herself, but her father, the baron of the Imperial noble house of Ochs, thought her talents would be better utilized learning the sword and lance. It was a shame that “avoiding ambushes” was not part of the academy’s curriculum. All the swordsmanship and spearmanship in Fódlan felt useless when faced with an enemy who outnumbered her nine-to-two and dragged her off to Goddess-knows-where for Goddess-knows-what without giving her a chance to fight back.

Flayn returned with a tray containing a bowl of fruit slices and a glass of orange juice. Standing behind her was a man with hair and a beard that were a darker shade of green than Flayn’s. This must be Flayn’s brother, Monica thought. He looks a bit too old to be…no, no, no. I’m probably just imagining things.

“Brother, this is the other young woman who was discovered in the cavern along with me,” said Flayn to the man.

Monica happily took the food tray and began eating from it. Her captors had likely only given her enough sustenance to survive, so having a chance to eat anything with some sort of flavor was more than welcome.

“It seems she is beginning to recover nicely,” the man replied. “Well done, Flayn.”

He turned his attention to Monica, giving her the look of a concerned father about to break down in tears. “You must be Monica von Ochs. I am Seteth, chief advisor to archbishop Rhea. We were not expecting to find you in the same cavern as Flayn, but we are glad that you have returned to us all the same. How are you feeling?”

“A little better,” said Monica, “thanks to your sister.”

“Good. We hope to re-integrate you with the student body once you are fully recovered, and allow you to work toward completing your education,” said Seteth.

“I appreciate your help, Seteth–I mean, sir–I mean…ugh.”

Monica couldn’t believe how badly she botched her greeting. She had always been taught to treat those in authority with respect, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

“Er…confusion over proper forms of address aside,” said Seteth, “I believe it would be best to not let any of the other students see you for a while.”

“Why?” asked Monica.

“It turns out that your father, Baron Ochs, had given up searching for you a few moons after your initial disappearance. As far as your house is concerned, Monica…you are legally dead.”

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