Chapter 6: Getting Up to Speed

The start of Monica’s first week of classes came sooner than she thought. Everyone around her had settled into their individual lesson plans with ease, having already completed their specialized class certifications. Edelgard had become a Lord, a class exclusive to the house leaders, allowing her to use axes and swords, as well as the authority to command high-level battalions. Dorothea and Hubert were the team’s magic specialists as Mage and Dark Mage, respectively. Dorothea was well-versed in lightning magic, but her background as an actress and singer had also given her the grace and poise to handle a sword. Her friend Petra also excelled in swords, and had taken training as a Mercenary. The rest of the Black Eagles’ lineup was surprisingly diverse – Ferdinand was a gallant horse-riding Cavalier, Caspar was a ferocious axe-wielding Brigand, Bernadetta was a snipe-from-the-shadows Archer, and Linhardt a healing Priest. It almost wanted to make Monica ask Byleth to give her a different training course so that their skill sets didn’t overlap. Maybe she would switch back to lances and take flying lessons as a secondary so she could be a Pegasus Knight like Ingrid. The extra mobility would be a boon to the team for rescue and scouting missions, she thought.

In addition to studying, there were chores to be done. The stables had to be cleaned, the grass had to be weeded, and the skies patrolled to spot distant enemies. For her first assignment, Monica was asked to help Linhardt and Dorothea clean up the weeds around the classroom area.

“This would be a lot easier if we had something to cut this grass with,” said Dorothea.

“No kidding,” said Monica. “I can already feel my hands starting to get blisters.”

“Look on the bright side,” said Linhardt. “Once this grass is all cleaned up, it’ll be easier for us to lie down and look up at the clouds.”

“That might sound like a fun time to you, Lin,” Dorothea added, plucking a fistful of crabgrass at her feet, “but some of us prefer hobbies that don’t require getting our clothes dirty.”

“You’re really missing out, Dorothea. The clouds are looking quite lovely today.”

Monica looked up from her weed-pulling duties for a minute to see if she could spot anything unusual. One cloud that drifted over the bell tower reminded her of a wolf’s head. Linhardt pointed out another one that resembled an apple if one looked at it from the right angle. Dorothea prodded the two of them to get back to work so they could finish early and move on to other things.

Monica signaled for Byleth to run a quick inspection on their work. The professor examined the field from above and below, even getting down on her belly to observe any unevenness at ground level. “You missed a few spots,” she said.

Monica was about to run over to Byleth’s side to look for the missing grass patches, only to realize she wasn’t pointing at anything. The professor just smirked at her. “Just kidding…you did a good job, everyone.”

On Tuesday, the class was asked to go to the training arena to work on improving their weapon skills. Students were only allowed to go in pairs for each house, so Monica waited for Edelgard and Caspar to finish their axe duel before taking her turn. “Okay, so who do I get to duel against first?” she asked.

Dorothea stood up and drew her training sword, which was starting to show signs of splintering. “Looks like it’s going to be you and me, Monica,” she said with a wink. “I hope you’re ready!”

Monica took a deep breath and loosened herself up to try to shake off several months’ worth of ring rust. Dorothea gripped the hilt of her sword as tight as she could and waited for Monica to make the first move.

A quick overhead strike would have been an ideal opening move against an inexperienced opponent like the three students Monica fought earlier, but Dorothea wasn’t likely to fall for that due to her previous experience fighting bandits. Monica held her sword out like a fencing saber and thrusted it at Dorothea’s midsection. The songstress was able to block the first strike, but not the second or third. Monica almost felt sorry for having to hurt a classmate, especially one as pretty as Dorothea.

A fourth thrust to the face failed to find its mark, giving Dorothea an opportunity to parry and counter with a slash that caught Monica on the arm when she misjudged where to hold her sword to block it. She wouldn’t make that mistake again. When Dorothea attempted to go low, Monica knocked her sword down and used the opening to strike her hat.

“Not bad,” said Dorothea, “but you let your guard down!”

In one smooth motion, Dorothea lifted her sword and brought it back down again, striking Monica once across the chest and once in the head. Monica didn’t know if anybody was keeping score, but she felt like she was losing.

She tried to match Dorothea blow for blow, trading strikes and parries until she found an opening. When Dorothea went for a backhand strike, Monica blocked the blade properly this time and countered with a swipe at Dorothea’s shoulder, putting as much power behind the strike as she could to end the battle quickly.

“Ouch! You got me pretty good with that one. I think I’m done for the day,” said Dorothea.

“Me too,” said Monica. “You weren’t too bad yourself, Dorothea. Do you want me to ask Professor Manuela to heal that up?”

“No, that’s okay…I think I’ll be fine after I put some ice on it.”

Dorothea rubbed the area around her shoulder gingerly. It appeared that Monica’s finishing strike was a clean hit. The injury didn’t look too serious, but without any knowledge of proper healing techniques, Monica only risked making things worse by attempting a healing spell before she was ready. She was confident enough in her sword skills that she thought she might be ready to participate in a proper mission soon.

On Wednesday, Monica went back to the arena to train with Petra. Dorothea, having partially healed from her shoulder injury, watched from the sidelines to observe the two combatants.

“I will not be holding back,” vowed Petra.

“Neither will I,” said Monica.

Monica watched Petra’s movements carefully as their swords clashed. Her fighting style relied on powerful, measured strikes, which Monica had to counter in kind. She spent most of the fight on the defensive, and every hard parry she took drained a bit of her stamina. She considered herself an even match for Dorothea as their fighting styles relied on quick slashes, parries, and dodges. It was harder for Monica to counter Petra’s moves when it felt like any given strike could snap her training sword in half. Still, she gave it her all and tried to use Petra’s force against her, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a knockdown.

“You are still in need of more training,” Petra said as she offered her hand to help Monica up from the ground, “but I believe you will be making good progress soon. Do you agree, Dorothea?”

“Yes, definitely,” said Dorothea. “You handled yourself pretty well for someone who hasn’t fought in a long time.”

“Thanks, guys,” said Monica. “I think I’m going to take a break from sword-fighting for the rest of the week. I’m beat!”

On Thursday, Monica visited the library to borrow a tome of white magic. After skimming through the first few pages, she discovered the basic “Heal” spell, which required her to draw a small sigil in the air and hold her palms up to the injured patient’s wounds. According to the book, healing magic was done through the use of magical staves in centuries past, but changing knowledge of magic had allowed for healers to channel through their bodies, with only a handful of staves still being used in modern Fódlan. Monica looked around in the library for test subjects to use her new spell on, but everyone appeared to be in perfect health, including Linhardt who, while his usual sleepy self, was reading through a book on the lineage of Crest-bearers.

“If you’re looking for someone to use your healing magic on,” he said, “you’re in the wrong place. You’ll probably have more luck looking in the infirmary.”

“But isn’t that Manuela’s duty?” asked Monica.

“It is, but there’s never a day that goes by without someone getting sick or injured. With our little demonstration, we might be able to help lighten Manuela’s workload a bit. I can help show you what to do. Just let me finish reading this book and we’ll go over there together.”

Monica took the book with her and followed Linhardt to the infirmary. As they walked toward the door, their noses caught the scent of strong alcohol.

“Looks like she’s back,” said Linhardt.

When they opened the door, they saw a woman in a white cape and revealing green dress administering medicine to a student sitting on the bed where Monica had been sleeping. A second student was sitting next to the first, trying to keep a blood-stained cloth pressed down on his left arm.

“Oh…Linhardt? I was expecting you to come a few minutes earlier,” said the woman.

“Sorry, Manuela,” said Linhardt. “I got caught up in a good book.”

Manuela raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Right. Anyway, I see you’ve brought a friend with you. What’s your name, dear?”

Monica didn’t feel as intimidated by Manuela as she did when she first met Rhea and Seteth. She didn’t know if it was because she had been back at school for a while and had grown accustomed to talking to authority figures, or because Manuela looked a lot more relaxed than those two at first glance. “I’m Monica von Ochs. I’m glad to see that you’re okay, Mi–I mean, Professor Manuela.”

Manuela wanted to thank Monica for correcting herself and not reminding her of her age, but the stab wound in her back was too painful to ignore. “Not totally okay, it would seem,” she said. “That Death Knight really did a number on me. I can’t wait to get my hands on him again and give him a good beating!”

“He got you too, huh?”

“Yeah. It’s because of him that I won’t be able to take part in the Battle of the Eagle and Lion. Professor Hanneman’s sitting out too. He doesn’t think it would be fair to play if I wasn’t playing. I think he just wants to personally get one up on me, the old fool!” Manuela stopped to take a deep breath before going off on a rant about the rival professor from the Golden Deer house. “Let’s get down to business, shall we? I have a patient here who got attacked by a wild beast in the forest. Do you think you can fix the cut on his arm?”

The boy slowly removed the cloth on his arm, revealing a large claw mark that had left a serious bruise and had come dangerously close to exposing some muscle tissue.

“Sadly, you’ll see a lot worse than this once you get back onto a real battlefield,” Linhardt said to Monica. The blood on the boy’s wound and bandage had dried, but he still felt disturbed looking directly at it. “All you need to do is draw the spell symbol in the air and hold your hand up to the affected area. Try not to touch it directly. There’s no telling what might happen to either of you if you let your hand get too close.”

Monica took a deep breath and concentrated on drawing the sigil she saw in the book. She felt a warm, soothing energy flowing through her hands, just as she did when Flayn used the same spell on her.

Goddess, please lend me your aid to mend this wound and make this flesh whole again.

There was nothing in the book that said she needed to say the incantation out loud, but she wanted to at least whisper her prayer to make it feel authentic.

As Monica held her hands close to the boy’s scrape wound, it glowed with a soft light as his damaged flesh slowly stitched itself back together. Within seconds, the wound had disappeared, leaving only a minimal scar as a reminder of the boy’s encounter. “How does it feel?” she asked.

The boy brushed his hand over the scar where his wound once was, expecting it to still hurt. “It feels…I can barely feel anything,” he said. “It’s almost like I never got attacked. Thank you so much for your help!”

“It was nothing. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it once I’ve practiced some more.”

“Nonsense,” said Manuela as she led the newly-healed boy out of the room so he could return to class. “That was pretty good for your first try, Monica. Your next challenge will be to improve your casting speed. On the battlefield, a quick and steady stream of heals can mean the difference between life and death.”

“Doesn’t that get tiring after a while, though?”

“It does,” said Linhardt, “but once you’ve taken a bit of time to rest, you’ll be ready to cast again, good as new.”

Magic that recharges while you sleep…what a neat idea!, Monica thought.

“Tell you what,” said Manuela. “If you’ve got any free time, would you be willing to help me out with the students here? I don’t have any money to pay you, but I think it’ll be a good learning experience. What do you say?”

In order to study under Manuela, Monica would have to temporarily give up her side job in the kitchen. She liked cooking and she liked earning money, but she really wanted to finish that Priest certification exam as soon as possible.

“If it’s all right with Miss Eisner, I guess I could…”

Manuela smiled. “Good. Just drop in whenever you have a free moment. You too, Linhardt.”

Linhardt and Monica both nodded toward Manuela before leaving. He felt like he needed another nap, but Monica wanted to try a few more healings even if it would have served her better to wait for another day.

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