After dropping off her letter to Constance, Monica latched onto Flayn’s assertion that someone could heal themselves without the use of potions. She wanted to go to the library to research the idea, but by the time she returned to the dorm area, she saw Hubert standing outside her room carrying a handful of papers. “Out for a stroll, are we?” he asked.
“Actually, I was about to head off to the library,” said Monica.
“Very good. Since you have made the wise decision to improve your study habits, I suggest you take these with you.”
Hubert handed Monica the papers, which consisted of several pages of multiple-choice questions relating to such varied subjects as mathematics, applied physics, and battlefield tactics. “You want me to do your homework?”
“No,” said Hubert, shaking his head. “The Professor wants you to do yours.”
“But I just helped defeat a pack of bandits!” Monica protested. “Shouldn’t that count for extra credit?”
“I know you’ve only been back at the academy for a few weeks, Monica, but you should know that everyone in the Black Eagles must offer their contributions to ensure that our house does not fall behind the others. Even something as mundane and seemingly pointless as standardized testing can prove useful if properly applied to real-world situations. Lady Edelgard and the Professor have high hopes for you. You would do well not to disappoint them.”
Monica took the papers and spent the next few hours in the library alternating between catching up on her homework and looking for information on self-healing magic. She thought she was getting close to finding an answer, but most of the spellbooks in the “white magic” section were too advanced for her to understand. With Flayn not around to give her an immediate answer, Monica wrote a note for the confession booth hoping that someone else would know how it worked.
Maybe if I sleep on it and stop thinking about this for a while, I might be focused enough to figure it out later.
Monica couldn’t completely drop the subject of healing when she woke up on Saturday morning. There weren’t as many patients in the infirmary to heal since the last time she helped Manuela, but she felt like she was getting better with her magic. Her hands were less shaky than they were before, making it easier for her to close any wounds without making any mistakes. Healing magic was all she was allowed to use, as only Manuela was licensed to administer medicine or use any of the other medical tools in the office.
Byleth invited Monica to eat lunch with her that afternoon. It was customary for the professor to share meals with one or more of the students at least once every few weeks when she wasn’t out on a mission. Many students noticed that she never ate the same meal twice. She didn’t have a favorite food, nor was there anything she seemed to dislike. “She’s a true gourmand if there ever was one,” one chef said of her.
The dining hall had a special on fish dishes to help get rid of their unusually high stock. This intrigued Petra, who was used to eating meat and fish dishes back home in Brigid. Monica watched as she carried a plate with four sticks of fish dumplings on wooden skewers. “What do you have there, Petra?” she asked.
“The chef says it is called a ‘spicy fish dango’,” said Petra. “I do not have familiarity with this dish, but I would like to taste it.”
“May I try one, too?”
“Yes. I ordered enough for everyone to eat.”
Petra and Monica walked over to the table near the southern door, where Byleth and Hubert were sitting. Once they sat down, everyone took a small bite out of the fish skewers they were given. Monica paused as she watched the others eat their lunch freely. The spices that the chef used to season the dango were burning her mouth up, so she wound up chasing each bite with a sip of water. By the time her glass was empty, she had only eaten half of her meal.
“I’m surprised,” said Hubert. “With all of the water you drank, I would have expected you to stop eating at some point and order a different meal. Then again, I suppose it is better to prepare in case of discomfort instead of putting on a false display of bravado and avoid drinking anything at all.”
“I’m not bothered by the fish,” said Monica. “That tastes fine… I still feel like I need a little more water after that, though.”
“Some people take longer to develop tolerance to spicy foods than others,” said Byleth. “Once you’ve had a couple of these, you start to forget how hot they can be after a while.”
“Professor…would it be okay to be asking the chef for this recipe?” asked Petra as she wiped some crumbs from her face with a napkin. “I found it very tastefu–I mean, very tasty.”
“I doubt he’d give it to you, but you can try.”
Byleth waited for everyone to finish the food and drink before setting them aside for the cleanup crew.
“If I recall, Professor,” said Hubert, “I understand you have another task for us.”
Byleth nodded. “Yes…one more battle before the Battle of the Eagle and Lion. Monica, you’ll be joining us for this mission, so listen carefully. This will play a big part in your certification exam.”
Monica smiled expectantly. Eating lunch with the professor and being selected to go out on a mission with the other Black Eagles made her feel like she was part of the team, rather than a mercenary who happened to be working for the Empire.
“On our last patrol of the area, we spotted a pack of wild beasts roaming the forest near the town,” said Byleth. “Most of them prefer to stick to the forest to hunt for food, but some have appeared dangerously close to the town lately, and the Knights of Seiros are concerned that they may attack at any moment.”
“I guess this means it’s up to someone – probably us – to stop the beasts from getting in, right?” asked Monica.
“Correct. I would prefer to deal with the problem at its source, but we simply don’t know where they are coming from yet.”
“Monsters like this are very ferocious,” said Petra, “but they are not good at moving with stealth. They are always leaving behind footprints or feathers.”
“It should be trivial to find their lair once we clear out this pack,” said Hubert. “The Knights should be able to take things from there once we are finished.”
“Make sure you all have everything in order by tomorrow afternoon,” said Byleth. “We’ll head out to town and meet these monsters head-on.”
Hubert and Monica nodded, thanked Petra for the meal, and went their separate ways for the day.
Later that afternoon, Monica received an anonymous note in response to her confession booth question. The handwriting on the note was simple, but the response read like the middle lines of a poem or an ancient prophecy.
“For one to be sustained, another must be drained.”
The note looked cryptic to Monica at first glance, but after she spent a few moments thinking about it, it made a little bit of sense to her. Whenever she cast a healing spell on someone, it exhausted her afterward. Monica thought the inverse principle also had to be true to some extent. If there were spells that used the caster’s energy to heal someone, then there had to be a similar spell that healed the caster at the cost of some of the energy of another living being.
As soon as Monica figured that she had the answer, more questions kept popping up. How much energy would such a spell take from its victim? Would the caster gain any benefit from the spell if they were already healthy? What side effects, if any, would the caster or the victim suffer? Was there any way to stop a caster from using it on multiple victims?
After visiting Byleth’s office to turn in her homework, Monica looked around for Flayn. When she didn’t find Flayn at their designated meeting spot in front of the fishing pond, Monica asked the gatekeeper standing outside the common area for directions, and he pointed her toward the stables. Ferdinand and Ingrid were also there, brushing and feeding their steeds.
“Monica! There you are!” said Ferdinand. “Have you prepared yourself for tomorrow’s monster hunt?”
“I had a lot of paperwork to catch up on,” said Monica, “so I’ve been in and out of the library and haven’t had a chance to go to the training hall.”
“At least you are keeping your mind as sharp as your sword. That is good.”
“Speaking of swords… What can you tell me about the sword that the Professor is always carrying around? It doesn’t look like any weapon I’ve ever seen before.”
Ferdinand gasped. “I had almost forgotten that you have not yet seen the Sword of the Creator in action. It is a weapon as mysterious as it is powerful. No one really knows where it came from, but it appears that only our Professor can use it to its full potential. She and Lady Rhea are hesitant to let anyone else handle it.”
If something as simple as a sword can be that dangerous, Monica thought, then can anyone really be trusted with it?
“I also came here to see what Flayn is up to. Have you seen her?”
“I believe she and Ingrid are taking care of the pegasi,” said Ferdinand, pointing a few doors down toward a white-maned pegasus.
“Thanks, Ferdinand! Um…would you care to join me in the arena tomorrow morning to spar?”
“I will do my best to meet you there. If I am not at the arena in a timely manner, I apologize ahead of time.”
Monica went over to see Ingrid and Flayn, hoping Ferdinand would show up at the arena before their mission. It was difficult for her to practice effectively against a target unable to attack or effectively defend itself.
“Hi, Monica,” said Ingrid. “I didn’t expect to see you here. I was just introducing Flayn to my new pegasus.”
“Does this mean you got your certification? Congratulations!” Monica cheered. “How’d it go?”
“It was exhausting. I’m glad I didn’t have to fly through hoops to pass my test, though.”
Monica reached out a hand to pet Ingrid’s new steed, but wasn’t sure where to do so without triggering a hostile reaction.
“Don’t worry. Daphne’s harmless. Go ahead and pet her.”
Ingrid demonstrated by rubbing the space between Daphne’s eyes, which seemed to have a calming effect on the young pegasus. Flayn and Monica followed suit to get Daphne to recognize them.
“So does this mean that if one of us is in danger, you’ll be able to swoop in and save the day, like a knight in shining armor?”
“I think we’re a long way off from that,” said Ingrid with a smile and a chuckle.
Monica turned her attention to Flayn, who was about to walk back toward the cathedral. “Flayn!” she called out.
Flayn spun around, kicking a few pebbles in Monica’s direction. “Yes, Monica?”
“Do you remember that self-healing spell I asked about yesterday? I put a note in the confession box asking about it, and someone wrote this back to me.”
Flayn took the note from Monica and read it aloud, standing just out of earshot of Ferdinand and Ingrid. “‘For one to be sustained, another must be drained’? I must admit that it does not leave much to go on… but I do know the answer to this riddle, and I shall tell you if you can figure out what it means.”
Monica pretended to think about it for a second, even though she thought she already knew the answer. “It sounds like a spell that can drain energy from other living beings.”
“That is correct!” said Flayn. “The spell in question is called ‘Nosferatu’.”
“‘Nos-fer-a-tu’. Unfortunately, I cannot demonstrate its effects to you at the moment, for the use of harmful magic is forbidden on monastery grounds. I also do not want to accidentally injure you while casting the spell.”
“I guess this means I’ll have to go back to the library and figure out how this works, and then hope that I won’t have to use it often.”
Monica followed Flayn to the cathedral and once again found herself hitting the books. When she asked one of the bookkeepers about the “Nosferatu” tome, she was surprised to find it in the “white magic” section, believing that a spell capable of siphoning life belonged with the black magic or even dark magic tomes. Even the bookkeeper, who fancied himself an expert on magic studies, found it difficult to explain.
Unlike with the “Heal” spell, which required the caster to channel energy through a welcoming, open palm, “Nosferatu” required the caster to adopt a more aggressive posture, forming their hand like a beast’s fangs and pulling backward to simulate a biting motion. Monica thought it would be disgusting, but not entirely surprising, if the spell actually tore off chunks of flesh from its victims.
Monica expected to field-test her new spell soon. As long as she was on guard, she vowed, the safety of the town’s citizens was assured. With monsters on the loose and her Priest certification on the line, it was the perfect opportunity to show Byleth, Edelgard, and the other Black Eagles what she could do.