The next morning, Monica woke up in a puddle of sweat. The combination of the blanket and the clothes she had been wearing prior to her discovery caused her to overheat.
While she was wide awake and ready to get her day started, Flayn was still fast asleep. Monica thought she looked so cute and comfortable wrapped up in her sleeping bag. There was no way she could approach Flayn and wake her up while she smelled of sweat and dungeon musk. A soothing bath and a change of clothes were in order.
Monica called for one of Manuela’s aides to change the sheets on her bed and give her directions to the girls’ bathroom. Once she found it, she scrubbed herself down to rinse as much dirt from her body and hair as possible. Flayn’s healing abilities were good, but there was only so much she could do with them. Monica could still see a bunch of stab wounds, cuts, and bruises on her arms and legs from her struggle with her captors. Those weren’t as easily hidden by drinking a vulnerary or a more potent healing concoction.
Monica put on the change of clothes she had been given and put her old clothes in a basket to be washed later. The all-white slacks and top didn’t make her stand out from the monks and soldiers patrolling the building, but at least they gave her something to wear until she received her proper academy uniform. She looked at herself in the mirror and wished she had asked someone to braid her hair into the double buns she used to have…that way someone might have recognized her.
Flayn was just starting to wake up when Monica returned to the infirmary. Her sleeping bag was laid out on the floor, and she almost tripped over it trying to meet Monica at the front door.
“Good morning,” she said after a long yawn. “Why did you not wake me up?”
“I’m sorry,” said Monica. “I needed to take a bath and I didn’t want to bother you while you were still asleep. I was going to come back to get you. Honest!”
Flayn rolled up her sleeping bag and tucked it under her arm. “Before we head out to explore the monastery, you should probably speak with my brother. I am sure he has some questions he wishes to ask of you.”
“Yeah, I know. Are you going to stick around? I am going to need your help after this, you know.”
“I will wait for you downstairs once you are finished. Meet me in the cathedral by the four Saint Statues.”
Monica remembered the names of the Four Saints well – Cethleann, Cichol, Indech, and Macuil. They had statues built in their honor in a chamber behind the altar, but the statues had fallen into serious disrepair over the years. She wanted to see what they looked like after they were fully restored.
After parting ways with Flayn, Monica walked to the audience chamber, no longer worried about bumping into Rhea or Seteth, for they were precisely the people she wanted to speak to.
“Good morning to you, Monica,” said Seteth. “I hope last night treated you well.”
“Well enough, I guess,” said Monica.
“I’d like for you to step into my office for a few moments.”
Monica nodded. “Yes, sir.”
She followed Seteth into the side room of the central audience chamber where he presented Monica with a copy of her original personnel record, containing everything from her home address to the grades she had earned in previous semesters. “Is there anything you wish to have changed or updated on this card?” he asked.
“No…everything looks fine,” she said. “Um…do you know if my father has tried to contact the church recently? I know it’s been a while since I was last here, but he can’t have written me off completely!”
“Unfortunately, we still have not heard anything from House Ochs or any of the surrounding houses. We will try to get in touch with your father today to let him know that you are safe. If you wish to write a letter to him yourself, I suggest that you do so now, and I will send it to him along with ours.”
Seteth handed Monica a blank sheet of paper and a quill pen and ink, but she didn’t start writing anything down for she had a feeling he still had more to say.
“As far as your education is concerned…you were in the last month of your school curriculum before your graduation. Given the circumstances, Lady Rhea and I do not believe it would be fair to force you to return home and start all over due to an incident that was not entirely your fault. However, this upcoming month is the annual Battle of the Eagle and Lion. Because you have been absent for the first months of the school year, you are forbidden from participating in it.”
Monica groaned, lamenting the unfairness of her situation. It’s not like I suddenly forgot how to properly wield a sword when I got captured, she thought.
“In accordance with Officers Academy tradition,” Seteth continued, “as a resident of the Adrestian Empire, you will be allowed to return to the Black Eagle house in one week’s time.”
“Great! Who’s going to be my house leader this year?” Monica wondered.
“You will be housed with Edelgard von Hresvelg. She is the next in line to inherit the Imperial throne.”
“Whoa! I’m going to be in the same house as the Princess?”
Monica was overjoyed. Having someone of such high prestige in her house was sure to make getting her missing credits a lot easier. She fantasized about Edelgard being a girl of unparalleled strength, intellect, and beauty – and certainly a world apart from the last person to lead the Black Eagles: an arrogant idiot of a girl whose pushy behavior and lack of desire to learn proper field tactics caused their house to suffer its most humiliating defeat in Monica’s only Battle of the Eagle and Lion.
“What about my instructor?” asked Monica.
“Your house is currently being taught by a young woman who was hand-picked by Lady Rhea herself,” said Seteth. “Little is known about her background except that she is the daughter of Captain Jeralt, a former knight of ours. She has proven to be quite popular among the students here. Perhaps you could learn a thing or two from her.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
At that moment, Monica thought about what she was going to write to her father as Seteth continued his lecture. She was embarrassed that her handwriting had become sloppy, with pools of ink forming after every other sentence.
Father…I’m safe now.
The Church of Seiros came to my rescue and is watching after me. I still think about all the time I missed while I was in captivity, always wishing I had been strong enough to stop the ones who attacked me. I’m going to finish what I started when you sent me here, and I’ll leave Garreg Mach as an honorable warrior and scholar worthy of carrying the Ochs family name. I promise I’ll be strong for you, for Fódlan…and for myself.
Your precious jewel,
Monica folded up the letter and handed it to Seteth. She had no idea how long it would take to reach home, but she hoped that this small gesture would be enough to put the baron’s heart at ease.
“Thank you. Now, I am sure that you are anxious to look around the premises,” said Seteth, “so Lady Rhea and I have arranged for you to meet with a tour guide downstairs shortly after this session.”
“Oh, but I already have one,” said Monica.
“I anticipated that…so I selected someone who knows the area well and would be a perfect mentor for you.”
There goes that idea, Monica thought. I guess I shouldn’t blame him for not wanting his sister and I to travel around the school by ourselves after what happened to us, but…can’t he just relax a bit?
“Who is this tour guide going to be?” she asked.
“You will meet them soon enough,” he replied, closing his eyes and looking away. “I assume that Flayn is also waiting downstairs for you. Please do not let any further harm befall her.”
“You have my word.”
Monica headed downstairs to the chapel area and spotted Flayn standing off to the side, facing the Saint Statue chamber and deep in prayer. Standing next to her was a blond-haired girl about Monica’s height, wearing a standard Officers Academy uniform. She was also looking at the statues, but not praying to them.
Monica approached the two girls cautiously and tried to get their attention.
“Hi, Flayn! I’m done!”
Monica succeeded only in breaking Flayn’s concentration and causing the girl next to her to jump and stand at attention.
“Whoa! You scared me,” said the blonde. “You should be careful when sneaking up on people.”
Flayn turned around, clasping her hands together. “Oh! Monica! Were you able to get everything you needed from my brother?”
“Yeah,” said Monica. “The only thing I need now is a new uniform.”
The uniformed student stood back and scanned Monica. If she knew she was going to be inspected by other students after waking up, she would have asked for fancier clothes. “Ah, so you must be the other missing girl the knights were talking about the other day,” said the girl.
“Yeah…that’s right. Are you going to be my tour guide?”
“And Flayn’s, too. I’m Ingrid Brandl Galatea.”
Monica shook Ingrid’s outstretched hand with a smile. “Monica von Ochs. Pleased to meet you.”
“Likewise. You’re from the Empire, right? That means you’ll be joining the Black Eagles soon. I’m from the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, so I’m in the Blue Lions house, but I hope we can still get along.”
Monica was disappointed that she would not be shown around by her soon-to-be house leader, but she quickly understood why Rhea and Seteth had chosen Ingrid. She had the attitude and dignity of a knight twice her age.
“I am ready to go when you are,” said Flayn.
“Me too,” said Monica. “I can’t wait to get out of these clothes.”