Monica and Flayn followed Ingrid as she led them around the chapel, walking around students engaged in prayer and singing hymns to the goddess.
“I know it’s been a while since you were last at the academy, Monica,” said Ingrid, “so feel free to stop me if any of this is already familiar to you.”
“No, no…it’s fine, Ingrid,” said Monica. “I was actually looking to take a walk, anyway.”
Ingrid pointed to a priest standing next to a mailbox in one corner. “This is the confession booth. Students usually leave notes here when they have something heavy weighing on their minds, and one of the teachers will come along and write a response. Everything is totally anonymous, so you don’t have to leave your name if you don’t want to.”
“I don’t remember seeing this when I was here before. Do you know if anyone’s ever used the booth to ask for answers to difficult test questions?”
“It’s possible. Usually, the priests throw out anything they might see as a joke or prank, though.”
Monica had a stinging feeling that she had a lot of questions to ask, so she tried to remember the confession booth’s location for later.
Ingrid led them out the front door and toward the great bridge that connected the cathedral with the main part of the campus. There were deep canyons on both sides, and anyone who leaned too far over the stone parapets was certain to fall to their death. Monica tried to stay as close to the center of the bridge as possible to avoid such a fate.
“The view from here is amazing!” she said, standing in awe as a wyvern with majestic brown wings soared over the cliff. “I’ll bet the view from above is even more impressive. Don’t you think so too, Flayn?”
“Indeed,” said Flayn.
Monica turned to Ingrid as they reached the other end of the bridge. “What do you think, Ingrid?”
“Personally,” said Ingrid, “I don’t really like wyverns that much. They’re really creepy-looking and hard to keep under control, even when you remember to feed them. I’ve always wanted to learn to fly, though. That’s why I’m studying hard to become a pegasus knight.”
“A pegasus knight, huh? That sounds so cool!”
“I would also like to ride on a pegasus one day,” said Flayn. “They are such graceful and noble creatures.”
Ingrid’s eyes lit up with excitement knowing Flayn shared her enthusiasm about pegasi. “Aren’t they?”
They went through the large double doors of the building across the bridge, leading them to a large hallway with tables arranged in rows. “This is the meeting hall,” said Ingrid. “Sometimes they hold big events in this hallway, but it’s usually used as a place for the students and knights to relax between classes. There’s a cemetery off to your left, and a training arena to the right.”
“Let’s check out the training arena,” said Monica. “I can’t wait to get my hands on a weapon again.”
“Slow down there, Monica. You’ll get your chance.”
Ingrid led them toward the training arena. “If you go up these stairs,” she said, “you’ll find the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms. They just recently installed a sauna here, too. And off to your left, you’ll see the first-floor student dorm rooms. There are more on the second floor.”
Monica looked around in the courtyard and noticed that there were far more uniformed students than rooms to sleep in. Many of them must have lived close to the monastery in places like Varley, or Airmid, or the Oghma Mountains. It would have been very inconvenient – not to mention expensive – to have commuters from all over Fódlan without building another dormitory or offsite sleeping area. She hoped that there was enough space for her to have her own room.
“What about that building down there?” she asked, pointing down the hill. “That’s the greenhouse, right?”
“Yes,” said Flayn. “I like to visit there from time to time to observe the flowers. I hear that the gardener also accepts donations of seeds, and she will plant them for you until they are fully grown.”
Monica hoped that someone would give her a nice flower to put in her new room. Perhaps a carnation or a tulip would be a good piece to put on display…something that would go well with the color of her hair.
“Over here to your left,” said Flayn as their group walked past the greenhouse, “there is an area where you can go fishing. Many species of fish native to Fódlan come through this stream, including some very rare ones!”
“Fishing, huh? There aren’t a lot of lakes in the mountains where I grew up,” said Monica, “so I’ve never had the chance to fish before.”
“The dining hall is also in this area,” said Ingrid, pointing to the building up the stairs to the left. “I love the food here, especially the smaller meals you can just pick up and eat on the go.”
The rest of Monica’s tour of Garreg Mach took her past the market, the stables, the knight’s hall, and the graveyard before returning her to the second floor of the cathedral. The layout of the campus was so confusing that she felt like she would need a map just to get out of her room. “We’re back to where we started,” she said, “but I feel like we’re missing a few things.”
“As far as I know, the only other two points of interest are the library off to the left,” said Ingrid, “and Captain Jeralt’s quarters to the right. You should stop in and say hello when you have the chance.”
“Jeralt…he’s the father of my new professor, isn’t he? Do you think I’ll get to meet her soon, too?”
“The professor has been very busy lately, what with all the bandits running about, and that business with the Western Church a few months ago. I don’t know if she’s returned yet.”
Monica saw Rhea approaching from the distance, talking to Seteth and one of the Knights of Seiros along the way. Ingrid saw this as her cue to return to her class. “I think that’s it for our tour,” she said. “Good luck to you, Monica.”
“Thanks for showing us around, Ingrid,” said Monica.
“It was my pleasure. I’ll see you around!”
Ingrid shook hands with Monica and Flayn before heading downstairs, leaving them to chat with the archbishop.
“Good morning, Monica…Flayn,” said Rhea.
“Good morning, Lady Rhea,” the two girls said.
“I hope that your return tour of the campus was enlightening, Monica.”
“Oh, yes! Ingrid was such a gracious guide,” said Monica. Flayn nodded in agreement.
“I have spoken with Seteth, and we both agree that it would be improper to keep you in the infirmary for the duration of your stay at Garreg Mach. Therefore, we have arranged a new room assignment for you on the first floor. It was being used by your new professor when she moved in because we were running low on space for the teachers, but she has agreed to relocate to Captain Jeralt’s room.”
“What about Flayn? Where’s she going to stay?”
“She will remain here, under the supervision of the Knights of Seiros. I had proposed adding her to one of the houses, but Seteth shot down that idea, as she is not a student here.”
“Brother…” Flayn grumbled.
“Please remain here for now. We will get you fitted for a new uniform, and then you will be able to rejoin your fellow students. May the goddess watch over you.”
Later that afternoon, Monica asked Flayn to accompany her for her school uniform fitting. She looked at Flayn’s long, twisted braids and wondered how well she could braid her hair.
“I think your hair looks nice as it is,” said Flayn as she brushed Monica’s long, crimson locks with a comb and her fingers to remove any lingering knots. “Why do you want to change it?”
“I was originally going to do it so people might recognize me, but now I think I want it done for practicality more than anything else. No offense, Flayn – your hair is lovely, too. I’m just used to having a hairstyle that isn’t so…easy to pull.”
Flayn looked down at her braids, sighed, and pointed Monica toward a full-length mirror. “Let me see what I can do for you.”
Monica sat down in a chair and let Flayn attempt to reconstruct her double hair buns. They didn’t have the complexity of the braids she had before, but she was happy that she was slowly starting to look like her old self again. About fifteen minutes later, a monk presented Monica with her new academy uniform, which she excitedly put on out of view of Flayn.
“Now this is more like it!” she said as she took one last look in the mirror, fluffed her hair to make sure her braids were in place, and then spun around to show off to Flayn. “How do I look?”
“Very classy,” said Flayn, “and scholarly as well! You should fit right in now.”
Monica giggled. “I sure hope so. I’m starting to wish they’d given you one of these, too. Maybe with a little bit of luck and someone whispering into your brother’s ear, we might even have been placed in the same class! Wouldn’t that be cool?”
“I suppose it would. There is quite a bit I wish to learn.”
The two girls continued to chat on their way to Monica’s dorm room, passing several soldiers carrying large crates toward the cathedral. When they got to the dorm, they saw a young woman with teal hair standing at the edge of the stairs leading to the bathhouse.
“There you are,” said the mysterious woman.
Monica froze in place when their eyes met. Who was this woman? Why did her eyes look so cold? And what was with the sword on her belt? It didn’t look like it was made of metal. No…it was more like…bones?
The woman with the bony sword and the icy stare began to approach Monica slowly. Monica peeked over at Flayn and wondered why she wasn’t scared to near-death by a woman who was clearly dangerous.
Monica’s first instinct was to signal for one of the guards for help, but she soon forgot about that when the woman extended a hand and tried to smile. “You’re Monica, right?”
“Yes! Yes, I am!”
Relieved that the woman wasn’t trying to kill her, Monica looked down and shook her hand to try to make things less awkward.
Get a hold of yourself, Monica! You can’t keep doing this if you want people to respect you. You’re going to be a baroness one day. Be strong! Be bold! At least pretend to be one of those things!
“I’m going to be your new teacher starting next week,” said the woman. “My name’s Byleth, but you can call me either ‘Miss Eisner’, or ‘Professor’. I’m not the only teacher here, but everyone seems to like using the second nickname…and I really do mean everyone. “
“Oh…I guess that makes things easier then, huh, ‘Professor’?” said Monica.
“Yeah, I guess so. I’ll let you get settled into your new room for a couple of days, and then we’ll meet again to discuss your lesson plans for this coming month. Does that sound good?”
“Good. I’m still moving my things up to my fa–I mean, to Captain Jeralt’s room, so you’ll have to excuse the mess. If you need me and I’m not in that room, just ask around. I get called on to do a lot of things, so I could be anywhere.”
“That sounds exhausting,” said Monica, “but I’ll keep an eye out for you. See you later, Professor!”
Monica watched as her new professor walked toward the meeting hall. She still felt intimidated standing so close to Byleth, but she couldn’t deny that there was a certain allure to the way she carried herself.
She tried to settle down in her new dorm room, which had been stripped of all decorations except for a calendar by the door. When she received her uniform, she was also given a key, so she tested it to make sure her door would lock properly.
Flayn sat down in the desk chair and faced Monica, who had already laid herself out on the bed, laughing and waving her arms and legs about. “It feels so good to finally be back among the living,” said Monica.
“I am happy for you,” said Flayn, “and I am glad I was able to help in some way.”
Monica sprang up and clasped her hands together on her lap. “Now I’m curious, Flayn…if you’re not a student here, what will you be doing all day when I’m in class?”
“There is a lot of paperwork to be done…almost too much for one person, so I will be assisting my brother with that.”
“Does that mean you’ll be a lot less…um, ‘accessible’ after today?”
“Of course not, Monica. If you wish, we could meet up on Saturdays when neither of us are busy.”
“That’s a great idea!”
Monica looked inside her closet and clothes drawers only to find that they, too, had been cleared of all their contents. “It’s too bad I don’t have anything to offer you in here,” she said, “so we can’t hang out in my room.”
“How about by the greenhouse, or the fishing pond?” asked Flayn.
“The fishing pond sounds nice.”
“Then I shall see you there next Saturday afternoon after lunch. If I am not there when you arrive, please wait for me.”
“Sure thing, Flayn. I know I don’t stand out much in this uniform, but I don’t think I’ll be that hard to miss. Just remember the color ‘red’.”
The two girls hugged, with Monica reaching behind Flayn’s braids to rub her back. It was a warm and soothing feeling…something Monica had missed for a long time. She hoped that her new Black Eagles classmates would receive her as warmly.