Chapter 15

The Fourth House

It had been a week since the events of the Rite of Rebirth. While the monastery was no longer on high alert, there was still the feeling of a lingering threat. The followers of the Western Church that had been rounded up and promptly executed. No one questioned the order, but there were some who kept their thoughts to themselves.

Then there was the matter of what they attempted to steal. From the reactions of Rhea and several of the higher ranking members of the knights, what was discovered was not what the intruders were looking for.

The sword that was found, called the Sword of the Creator, was allowed to stay with Byleth. Rhea's decisions was met by a heavy amount of resistance from Seteth. Even more than what happened in the mausoleum. From what Byleth had explained about her meeting with them afterward, Seteth seemed very invested in keeping the sword away from her.

When it came to the stone, that matter was never brought up. Rhea seemed to ignore its finding and focused solely on the sword. To N, he felt like something was missing. He knew he and Byleth were not being told something, but what it was, he had no idea.

The day of the rite was also the end of the month. N had begun to plan out new lessons for the month and wanted to focus on something other than battles. It would be a good change of pace for the students, and for him as well.

He sat the desk in the room he and Byleth shared. He wrote away on what his lesson plan would be. He figured he should teach about abilities since he had shelved that lesson in favor on teaching about stats instead. Byleth sat on her bed examining the bone-made sword she had acquired. Zorua was nestled among N's sheets, with Byleth's Eevee doing something similar on her bed. Charmander remained awake and kept his eyes on the sword.

N set down pen and stretched his arms. He turned to Byleth who had yet to move her gaze from the sword. N frowned and stood up. He walked over to Byleth and waved a hand in front of her face. Byleth was broken from her trance and turned to N.

"Sorry. I've been spacing out," Byleth said, setting the sword against her bed.

N chuckled and crossed his arms. "I'll say. Your blank expression is even more unreadable than usual."

Byleth rolled her eyes at the comment. N sighed and sat next to her. She had been so quiet in the past week that getting her to say anything took a significant amount of prodding.

"Want to talk about what happened? You mentioned hearing a voice form the coffin, right?"

Byleth nodded. "I can't remember what it was saying, though."

N rose an eyebrow. "You can't? That's odd."

Byleth nodded. "It's why I stare at the sword. I'm trying to remember."

She turned to the sword. Byleth reached out to grab it, but N placing a hand on her shoulder stopped her. She turned to him and saw the kind smile on his face.

"We'll take this slow. What can you remember?"

"The voice was definitely male. It was deep and gravely. I couldn't tell if it came from the man or the creature," Byleth answered.

"Man? Creature? You never mentioned that before."

"It must've slipped my mind with everything that was happening." Byleth turned back to the sword. "When I grabbed it, I saw a vision: a man wielding the sword and a black creature behind him."

"Black creature?" N mused aloud as he put a hand on his chin.

Byleth nodded. "I couldn't make out much. Part of its body seemed to glow blue though."

"So you can remember the vision, but not what they said?"

Byleth nodded in response.

"That's odd," N said.

The two continued to talk. As they did, the two creatures that were asleep ear's twitched. Both Zorua and Eevee's head's shot awake and turned to the door. Zorua stood up quickly and the fur on his back began to stand. The black fox hopped off the bed and moved to the door and began to growl. Eevee meanwhile, got her partner's attention by rubbing her head on Byleth's elbow.

N noticed how his partner was asking and turned to it curiously. "What's wrong, bud?"

Zorua did not respond. He kept his attention fixed on the door. N rose and eyebrow and walked towards the fox. He knelt down next to it and noticed how tense he was.

"Eevee, what's wrong?" Byleth asked.

Eevee cooed and got closer to Byleth. Charmander seemed to sense something was wrong as well and got closer to Byleth. N turned to her and saw how the creatures were acting.

"Them too?"

N stood up and grabbed his boots. He then strapped his sword to his hip and called for Zorua. The fox responded this time and hopped onto his partner's shoulder. Byleth understood right away what was going on and grabbed her new blade. She did not have a sheath for it, but it seemed to fit on her belt's holster.

"What do you think it going on?" Byleth asked.

"Not sure. It's got Zorua tense, so it must be bad." N turned to Zorua. "Did you smell something?"

Zorua yipped in response and N's blood went cold. Byleth noticed how tense N had gotten. Whatever Zorua had said, it made N freeze up.

N took a step back. He did not want to open the door. Did not want to face them. If he did, he would be sent back. He did not want that. He had to get away. He took another step back, but was stopped when a hand was put on his shoulder. N slowly turned his head and saw Byelth next to him. Despite her blank expression, it was enough to reassure him. Enough for him to take a step forward.

"We'll find out what it is together."

N nodded and opened the door the room. When he did, he was surprised to see the three house leaders a few steps away from it. From what N could tell, Claude seemed to be leading the group with a confused Edelgard and Dimitri behind him. Their partners looked similarly agitated like N and Byleth's. What had put Zorua on edge must have been caught by the house leader's partner's as well.

"Evening, Teach. Seems you two are up late," Claude said.

"Lesson planning. What's wrong? Zorua and Eevee heard something. From what Zorua told me, it's nothing good," N said.

Claude turned to the two house leaders with a confident smile. "See I told you guys it was someone suspicious."

"But are you sure they came down this way?" Dimitri asked.

Claude nodded. "Pretty positive. Plus, if Teach here noticed then they must've not gotten far."

"I'm willing to continue to follow, but this still feels a bit strange. The monastery is still on high alert after what happened during the Rite of Rebirth," Edelgard said.

"How 'bout it, Teach? Willing to follow this hunch of mine?" Claude asked.

N turned to Byleth, who nodded in response. He turned back to the house leaders, all of them with expecting looks on their faces. "Sure. Lead the way, Claude."

Claude smiled. "Great! Let's find us a thief."

The group followed Claude as he lead them through different areas of the monastery. It was still early, but the monastery was oddly quiet. They encountered a few patrolling knights, but that was it.

"This way," Claude said, adding a gesture with his hand.

The four looked at each other before Dimitri shrugged and continued to follow. The group made it to a grassy courtyard. It was barren except in one corner, it was packed with supplies and crates. However, the crates were stacked haphazardly and there seemed to be light emanating from behind it.

"Is this where you saw the suspicious individual escape? Through there?" Dimitri asked.

N moved past the group and moved aside the crates blocking where the light came from. Behind it was a large hole in stone wall. It appeared to lead downwards from what N could gather.

"I will say, that does look like a passage way, doesn't it?"

"Unless I dreamt it up while I was sleepwalking, there's no mistaking what I saw." Claude said.

"But did you see the person exiting the hole or entering it just now?" N asked.

"Exiting. I just assumed they'd go back the way they came," Claude answered.

Edelgard sighed. "I never thought I'd say this, but I believe Claude's story."

"I do too," N added.

"It reminds me of something I'd heard. Beneath Garreg Mach there are countless passages sneaking beneath it. This is undoubtedly one of them," Edelgard said.

Dimitri put a hand on his chin. "Perhaps so. In any case, we don't know where this passage leads."

"Oh no. You're right! There's no telling what we could find. Terrible danger. Wicked creatures. Unspeakable smells,' Claude said sarcastically.

N rolled his eyes. "I do agree about wicked creatures. Places like this tend to be full of Ghost type creatures."

"Which I why their Highnesses must remain here were it is safe and smells nice. While N and Teach help me track down the bandit-shaped person. If we don't return, do me a favor and call for the knights, will ya?"

Edelgard let out an annoyed sighed and shook her head. "Enough of that. As if we would let you make that call on your own." She turned her gaze towards Dimitri. "With so little information, it's far too dangerous. We'll join you as well. Right, Dimitri?"

Dimitri nodded enthusiastically. "Of course! If it was indeed a thief, we must not allow them to get away with their crime."

N out a hand on his chin. "What was the thief after though?"

"Perhaps something related to the Rite of Rebirth. It was just last week. Therefore, we must be vigilant," Dimitri answered.

Claude shook his head and shrugged. "Well, tag along if you insist. Just don't come crying to me if we all meet terrible fates, deal?"

"Why must your jokes be at the worst times, Claude?" N asked.

"Come on, it helps lighten the mood," Claude said with chuckle.

"Claude's joke timing aside, let's be on our way. Unless there's someone else we should call for?" Edelgard asked.

"Couldn't hurt to bring a few more people," Byleth said.

She had mostly silent since they began their conversation. Her sudden addition to conversation caused for the house leaders to jump in fright a bit. N was used to her silence, but even he was caught off guard by her speaking up.

"Is there anyone still up?" N asked.

"What's all this? Both new professors and the three house leaders creeping around at night? Pretty shady if you ask me."

The five turned to see Hilda, Linhardt, and Ashe walking up behind them. Ashe and Hilda looked be the most awake, while Linhardt was about to fall asleep standing up. Though compared to the most days, he looked a lot more alert compared to then. Hilda held her Stufful in her arms, Ashe's Treecko was perched on his shoulder, and Lindhardt's Munna hovered next to him.

"It's certainly a rare and unexpected sighting… especially given the hour," Ashed added.

N looked up towards the sky. The moon had yet to reach the highest point in the sky, but it was getting there. Maybe it was later than he had initially thought.

"Look like a whole lot of something is about to happen," Linhardt said as he turned away from the group. "I'm going back to bed."

"Stop right there, Linhardt. Your bad luck is our good fortune. You're going with us,' Edelgard said.

"We could certainly use the help. What you three doing up anyway?" N asked.

"I was doing some extra training with Treecko." Ashe's Treecko growled in agreement. "I was returning to my room when I ran into Hilda. We ran into Lindhardt skulking about and then we saw your five waking into the courtyard," Ashe explained.

"I wasn't skulking," Linhardt argued.

"Oh? And why was your head on a swivel as you were walking?" Hilda asked.

"Regardless," N said putting a stop any to any argument that may have broken out, "you three are here now and we could use the help. Who knows what's down there."

"I did overheard Ghost type creatures might be lurking about. I'm not the biggest fan of those," Ashe said.

"Regardless, we appreciate you assisting us." Dimitri turned to Byleth and N. "Ready to go?"

Byleth and N nodded in response.

Claude shrugged and let out a breath. "Guess we're going this. Let's just hope we don't meet our doom down there."

—-

Four youths sat in a cluttered and dilapidated classroom. There was a tattered banner with an insignia of a creature on it. It was purple and grey and the creature appeared to have a singular horn. With them were their creature partners. The taller man complained at how bored he was, while a young man with purple at his side just rolled his eyes and told him to make a wager. A red haired girl pointed out how the larger man could never stay away from a wager for long. A blonde girl laughed at the situation in front of her, taking pleasure in the bickering.

The young man was Yuri. The leader of the motley group. His partner was an Absol; which looked similar to the creature on the tattered banner. The taller, and older, man was Balthus. At his side was a Grapploct. The red haired girl was Hapi. Her partner Misdreavus hovered above her head. The blonde was Constance. Her Lampent hovered above the entire group providing the room with extra light.

"Hey, Boss!" a rogue called out as he rushed into the classroom.

Yuri rose an eyebrow. "Back already? Have you detected any movement on the surface?"

"Well, uh, I looked for the cardinals' meeting, like you said… Thing is, I was spotted by some weirdos. They chased me and everything," the rogue explained.

Yuri face palmed. "Such a helpful description. They weren't knights, were they?"

The rogue shrugged and shook his head. "I dunno. There were only a few of 'em, but I bet they were armed to the teeth."

"Armed, huh?" Balthus said as slammed his fist into his open palm.

Yuri ignored his comment and continued. "With meager numbers like that, I doubt they intent to fight us for Abyss."

"They probably mistook you for a criminal. They'll lock ya up if they catch ya," Balthus said.

"Like you're one talk," Hapi jabbed.

"Whatever, Hapi," Balthus said. "Though, we finally have some action! Grapploct and I are raring to go!"

The blue octopus at his side growled in agreement. The two then bolted out of the room towards the incoming intruders.

"Balthus wait!" Constance cried out, but Balthus was long gone. "'Tis ignorance itself to rush into a battle with an unknown enemy."

Hapi scoffed at Constance's words. "Please, you want to fight too. I've seen you and Lampent train."

Yuri chuckled. "Surface laws don't apply down here. That gives us freedom in the ways we fight. Though, I'm sure Absol will want to take on the stronger opponent."

Absol howled in agreement. Yuri chuckled again and put a hand on the creature's white furred head.

"Maybe you can let loose a little," Yuri muttered.

Absol nodded in agreement.

Yuri turned back to the two girls. "It's unlikely they're knights, but our new friends definitely work for the church."

Yuri, Hapi, and the rogue exited the classroom leaving Constance behind.

"You had best not leave me behind! Come Lampent!"

The ghostly lantern floated down next to her partner and hummed in response.

"How strong will they be I wonder?" Constance mused aloud.

The group of students and two Garreg Mach professors descended into an open area. The path had led them to a passage way with different branching paths. There was evidence of human presence as crates, barrels, and worn weapons were thrown about. Above them Zubat were perched and at their feet Rattata scurried about. Hilda was not happy at having Rattata near her.

"It seems this place is more than simple passageway. There's clear evidence of human habitation," Edelgard pointed out.

"Why would there be people underneath the monastery?" N asked.

"Oh! My brother used to tell me stories like that back in his academy days," Hilda said.

"So Holst attended the Academy as well, then?" Claude asked.

Hilda nodded in response. "There were tons of rumors about what goes on below Garreg Mach. Something about tons of passages and houses beneath the town, all inhabited by super-shady people."

"How can they live down here?" N asked. He avoided asking about the shady-people. He did not want to think that they could be near by.

"Not sure. It had a pretty intimidating name too." Hilda put a finger on her chin. "What was it called again? I think it was called Abyss?"

"That's two points for the pink-haired gal!" A voice boomed.

The group turned to the where the voice came from and saw a large man emerging from one of the many passage ways in front of them. At his side was a Grapploct, which looked ready to fight.

"Welcome to Abyss, strangers!" the man said crossing his arms and a wide smile on his face.

"Identify yourself!" Dimitri said as he leveled his lance and Shinx jumped in front of him. His eyes then widened when he saw what the man was wearing. "That uniform…"

"Welcome, curious students of the Officers Academy! What brings you upstanding surface dwellers to our humble abode?"

Claude took a step forward, but kept one hand on his bow and the other on an arrow in his quiver. His Deerling remind close behind. "We're tracking someone who was creeping about the monastery."

"Our business here is none of your concern. Do you intend to not let us pass?" Edelgard asked with her eyes narrowing.

A new voice laughed, which echoed in the empty room. "Such indulgence simply cannot be permitted."

A blonde girl emerged from the same passageway the man came out of. Hovering next to her was a Lampent, which seemed to swing in the nonexistent wind.

"Your words may fool the fool, but I will not be so easily deceived. I, Constance von Nuvelle, shall diving your true intentions."

At least she introduced herself, N thought with a shrug. Though, their partners sure are strong. I can just feel it.

Constance, meanwhile, continued to speak. "You are here by order of the church! Which plans to eliminate the inhabitants of Abyss."

"Why would you think that? This is the first time most of us had heard about the place," Byleth asked.

N noticed how Edelgard pondered something to herself, but his focus was torn from her to the large man. Just taking a breath was loud.

"I don't care what the reason for this brawl is. A fight's on the menu, and I'm ready to feast!"

"Ah, so he's one of those kinds of people," N said.

The large man turned to the green haired professor and Byelth with wide grin. "You two look strong. Fight me and Grapploct! I know you'll give us a real challenge."

"By the looks of the two, I'd wager they're experienced in battle. I'm not certain this is a wise endeavor," Dimitri said.

Claude nodded and removed the hand on the arrow in his quiver. "I was thinking the very same thing. Time to make a strategic retreat, then?"

"Leaving already?" A new voiced asked.

From another passageway, two people walked out. A young man with purple hair and red-haired girl. At the young man's side was an Absol and with the girl a Misdreavus.

"But you'll make me so sad. Now why would you want to do that? Everyone here has been starved for amusement. They've been waiting for a good fight," the young man said.

N scoffed and stepped forwards. "People who go looking for a fight are hardly good people."

The young man smiled and turned to the green haired professor. "Well now. Who said anything about us being good people."

N tried to piece everything that had happened together. Everything had happened so fast that he barely had time to process. While he said the people in front of him were not good, the way their partners spoke said otherwise. He could feel the strong bond between their creatures and them.

However, they were in unknown territory. The people in front of them wanted to fight. For fun and to protect their home. N could empathize with the second part. Though he did not appreciate them going out of their way to fight them.

He knew to steer clear of the large man and his Grapploct. His Zorua was at a disadvantage, but he could feel the strength teeming from the two. It was a similar feeling he got with Electivire and Catherine.

The other three were strong in their own right, but the purple haired young man and his Absol had a similar vibe to Grapploct. What was different was that their strength felt mysterious. It was not raw strength, but something he could not fully explain.

"N! Behind you!"

N looked up to see that everyone had scattered. He turned back to see a horde of Dugtrio and Diglett rushing toward him. N yelped and jumped out of the way.

"What the hell?" N called out.

"It was the red-haired girl. She sighed and bunch of Diglett and Dugtrio emerged from the ground." Byleth said.

"Better watch out!"

The two professors looked up and saw the large man sprinting towards them. Behind him followed Grapploct. He reared one of his fist back and N drew his sword. The large man's gauntlet collided with N's sword, and the force pushed him back.

"That's some power," N said.

"You think? You're facing the King of Grappling himself: Balthus!"

"Well, Balthus," Byleth said drawing her new sword, "You won't just be fighting him."

"Woah, ho, ho! That's quite the gnarly sword you got there. Kinda wish I'd brought my special gauntlets." Balthus shrugged. "Oh well. Grapploct and I are more than enough. Grapploct, Brick Break!"

The blue octopus' tentacle glowed white as it charged towards Zorua. N steeled himself and called out his own move.

"Zorua, Dig!"

Zorua quickly dug into the ground avoiding the attack. Grapploct quickly changed his target to Eevee and Charmander.

"Three on one, huh? Seems like a fair fight. Right, Grapploct?"

Grapploct growled in agreement.

"Power-Up Punch, let's go!"

Grapploct's tentacle glowed red and charged towards Eevee.

"Eevee, Dig!"

The fluffy creature quickly burrowed into the ground, but Grapploct continued its attack, aiming for Charmander.

"Oh, no! Charmander!"

The orange lizard looked up to see the blue octopus towering over him. Before he could move the tentacle collided with Chramander, hurtling him into a wall.

Byelth rushed over to Charmander's side. He would be unable to continue fighting. She had not had the amount of the time needed to properly train him, so he could not take too may attacks. Byleth clutched Charmander close and turned to the blue octopus and Balthus.

"Looks like that's one down."

N grit his teeth. "Zorua, ascend!"

From underneath Grapploct, Zorua emerged and swiped at Grapploct. Grapploct took the attack and shrugged it off.

"Not bad. Your little fox there packs a punch. Nothing Grapploct can't handle," Balthus said.

"Your turn Eevee!"

Eevee emerged from behind Grapploct and attack. This time the blue octopus budged and stumbled a bit from the attack.

"Nice! Grapploct felt that one! This battle is just about to heat up!"

N jogged to Byelth's side and handed her a berry for Charmander.

"This isn't going to be easy. We're at a disadvantage," N said.

"I know. We'll just have to avoid its attacks," Byleth said.

"We got speed on our side, so let's use it," N replied.

Byleth nodded in response.

"Done scheming? I'm not fan of hatching plans. I like to battle by not holding back!"

N noticed how similar he was to Catherine. She had a similar philosophy to Balthus when it came to battling. He could sympathize with that, but they still had to win.

"Let's hit him with our new move Eevee!"

Eevee nodded and turned to the blue octopus.

"Use Retaliate!"

Eevee's body glowed white and in a flash it was behind Grapploct. The octopus and his partner were waiting for the attack, but nothing was happening. Balthus scratched his head confused.

"Did it not effect or-"

His words were cut off when a loud groan escaped Grapploct. Balthus' eyes went wide when he saw Grapploct doubling over at a large impact.

"What the hell was that?"

"How 'bout a lesson for ya, Balthus? Retaliate deals more damage if another creature used for battle falls. You defeated Charmander and now Eevee wants payback for her friend."

Balthus laughed loudly. "Well now, this battle just might be more interesting than I thought. Bring it, surface dwellers!"

—-

"You three are going to be my opponents?" Yuri asked.

When the horde of Diglett and Dugtrio attacked the group of students and teachers were forced to separate into groups. Facing Yuri and his Absol were Linhardt, Ashe, Dimitri. Dimitri kept a tight grip on his lance, while Ashe was ready to fire with his bow. Linhardt looked be wide awake, but his focus was elsewhere.

"You guys don't seem all that strong individually. As team that might be a different story," Yuri said. He turned to Absol. "Should we go all out?"

Absol grunted in response.

Yuri shrugged. "Fair enough. Let's see what they got. Absol, Night Slash!"

Absol's horn glowed purple and he lunged at the group. The attacked made contact with Dimitri's Shinx, who was sent flying into a wall.

"Shinx, no!"

"Here I thought you surface dwellers would be strong. Taken out by a single attack. Where's the fun in that?" Yuri asked shaking his head.

"Then how about this! Treecko, Bullet Seed!" Ashe called out.

The green reptile jumped from Ashe's shoulder and opened his mouth. From it, green glowing seeds were fired, all of them pelting Absol. The white furred creature shook off the attack with ease.

"That attack had some bite to it, but not nearly enough to stop Absol," Yuri said.

"Guess it's my turn. Munna, Dazzling Gleam," Linhardt said.

Munna glowed in a rainbow colored light. It collected itself into a sphere and launched at Absol. Yuri called out for Absol to dodge, but the creature was unable to. The attack did a lot more damage compared to Ashe's attack.

"Someone knows their types. Guess the rumors about a battle professor are true," Yuri said. "Guess I should take down that Munna first."

"Shinx, Thunder Wave!"

"What?!"

Yuri turned to the previously downed lion cub and saw it launching his attack. Yellow waves of electricity enveloped Absol. His white fur began to stand as sparks of electricity sprung from around bis body.

"Well, well. You're stronger than you look," Yuri said.

"This was Professor N's first lesson when facing a stronger opponent: inflict status conditions or lower its stats. In this case paralysis does both," Dimitri said.

Yuri laughed in delight. "Now this is a real battle! Haven't had one of these in a long time! Let's kick it up a notch, Absol! Swords Dance!"

A set of glowing swords surrounded Absol. The swords clashed and Absol howled. When the swords disappeared a red aura enveloped Absol before disappearing.

"If I can't take you down in speed, then I'll overwhelm you with power!"

The three students grit their teeth. One aspect of the battle had gotten easier, but they were still outclassed when it came to dealing damage.

"We'll just have to adopt a similar strategy. Ashe, Linhardt, I'm counting on you two and your partners," Dimitri said.

Ashe nodded enthusiastically in response. "I have your back, Your Highness."

Linhardt lazily shrugged. "The faster we finish this, the faster I can go back to sleep."

Claude, Edelgard, and Hilda's opponent ended up being Constance and Hapi. The two Ghost type creatures at their side acted similar to the other two; unfazed at being outnumbered.

Constance let out a hearty laugh. "Would you look at the three Normal types. It seems we might be at a bit of a disadvantage."

Hapi shrugged. "I think they're in a similar boat."

"Your half right. Rufflet, Aerial Ace on Lampent!"

The blue feathered bird glowed white and charged towards the ghostly lantern. The attacked connected with the floating lantern knocking it back.

"It seems this battle will be interesting after all," Constance said.

Claude groaned. "It's like everything she says is at full volume."

"How rude!" Constance said, adding a stomping foot.

"Let's get things rolling Misdreavus. Confuse Ray," Hapi commanded.

The orbs around Misdreavus neck glowed purple and from its body four copies emerged.

"Watch out!" Claude called out.

Hapi smirked. "Target Deerling."

The four copies flew towards Deerling and the small deer was engulfed by the copies. The copies vanished and Deerling began to wobble around.

Claude grit his teeth in frustration. He was not a risk on the battlefield.

"Hilda, Edelgard, I need you guys to pick up my slack. I'll see what I can do about Deerling."

The two girls nodded in response.

Hilda turned to her partner and readied her own attack.

"Stufful, Brutal Swing!"

Stufful stood on her hind legs and the front ones began to glow in a purple-red color. Stufful began to spin. Her spinning caused her to collide with everything in the vicinity, including her teammates. Edelgard and Claude cried out for Stufful to stop, but the move continued and collided with the two Ghosts.

"I don't know why you're complaining? That move dealt more damage," Hilda.

"Yeah, but it hit everyone," Claude argued.

Hilda crossed her arms and pouted. "This is what I get for picking up your slack?"

Claude rolled his eyes. "Not the point. This is a team battle."

Edelgard nodded in agreement. "You need to watch out for your teammates and your opponents."

"I don't think you have time to be bickering. Lampent, Flame Burst!"

The flame within Lampent burned brighter as multiple purple flames surrounded her. With hands hands, Lambent grabbed the floating flames and began to throw them. Lampent had no target and threw with wanton abandon. Even the flames missed, the resulting explosion dealt damage too. Deerling in particular took a large amount of damage.

"Looks like the little deer is part Grass type," Hapi said.

Constance smiled. "Is that right? Let's burn them to a crisp Lampent."

"Like I'd let you! Deerling, Feint Attack on Misdreavus!"

Deerling appeared to have shook off the confusion and charged towards the green and purple ghost. Surprising Hapi, the attacked made contact. Misdreavus was knocked back and collided with the wall behind her.

"Huh? But how?" Hapi asked.

Claude chuckled and swiped his thumb over his nose. "Feint Attack can't miss, but I wasn't sure if confusion would affect Deerling. Lucked out this time."

Hapi grit her teeth. "Then how about this! Psybeam on Stufful!"

From the ghost's eyes a multicolored beam shot towards Stufful. Hilda called out for Stufful to dodge, but the attack was faster than Stufful could move. The beam made contact and engulfed Stufful. Stufful cried out before collapsing to the ground.

"Oh no, Stufful!" Hilda rushed to her partner's side. She quickly picked up Stufful and returned to Claude and Edelgard's side.

"How's Stufful?" Claude asked.

"Don't think she can continue fighting," Hilda said.

Claude nodded. "Looks like it's just you and me, Princess."

"Then let's give it all we've got," Edeldard said. "Rufflet, Hone Claws!"

On the other side of the room, the battle between N, Byleth and Balthus was not fairing well for the two professors. Grapploct held an overwhelming advantage Zorua and Eevee. Just by landing an attack, both creatures could barely continue to fight. While N and Byleth were finding ways to stop the battle, Balthus tried everything he could to keep the battle going.

"Come on, this isn't all you got right?!" Balthus asked. "If it is, then I'll just have to fight you two as well."

Byleth and N looked between each other. They knew they could not win again Balthus in a fight. It would be similar to the fight of their partners and Grapploct.

"We won't be able to keep up at this rate," N said.

Byleth nodded. "Zorua and Eevee are running on fumes at this point. Have you faced anyone this strong before?"

N sighed. "Unfortunately. That knight Catherine and her Electivire felt similar to this battle."

"You guys scheming again? Grapploct, Liquidation!"

Grapploct's tentacles were coated with water. The octopus leveled his arms and lunged at Zorua and Eevee.

"Crap! Zorua dodge!"

"You too, Eevee!"

Both creatures tried to move out of the way, but they were too tired to move fast enough. Balthus let out a bellowing laugh and Grapploct's attack collided with the two creatures. The impact of the attack caused for dust to kick up form the ground. N and Byleth covered their mouths as the dust enveloped them.

When the dust settled, Grapploct had returned to Balthus' side and Zorua and Eevee tried to stand, but remained on the ground. Their partners rushed to their sides and quickly picked them up. N turned to Balthus, who had a smug smile on his face.

"Man that was fun. You guys ain't as strong as I thought, but you really gave me and Grapploct a good time," Balthus said.

N grit his teeth in frustration. "Your Grapploct is strong, but what made this battle so fun? We on the defensive the whole time."

Balthus shrugged. "All battle are fun for me. If I crush my opponent or I get crushed by them, it's still fun. As long as I can hold nothing back and this battle was no different."

Balthus cracked his neck and turned away from the two professors. "Time to see who else here is strong."

"No need Balthus."

The three turned to see Yuri walking towards them. Absol still had his fur standing and sparks occasionally emerged. Behind him was Ashe, Linhardt, and Dimitri. Their partners looked defeated, but compared to the professors, they were in much better shape.

"Did you lose, Yuri?" Balthus asked crossing his arms.

Yuri turned to the three walking behind him. He notes how each of them was carrying their partner. He turned to Absol who was about to collapse from exhaustion.

"It was a tie."

Balthus rose an eyebrow, but said nothing in response.

The three students moved to be at their professors' side. N handed out berries to everyone, including Balthus and Yuri, and said he would give everyone's partner a better look later. He was more concerned about Charmander, as his tail flame was weak.

After a brief period of waiting, Claude, Edelgard, and Hida joined them as well. Compared to the rest, their partners appeared to be in the best shape. Behind them Hapi and Constance walked towards Yuri and Balthus. Their partners seemed to be barely floating in the air.

"Did you two lose?" Yuri asked, a hint of surprise was in his voice.

"Unfortunately," Hapi replied, adding a shrug.

"Well, Princess and Blondie made small talk during the battle. Something about her recognizing Blondie's name," Claude said.

Constance scoffed. "I am not 'Blonde!' I am Constance von Nuvelle."

"She's from an old noble house in the Empire. I didn't know they any living members. No offense," Edelgard said.

"Non taken, Edelgard," Constance replied.

"Okay, but that doesn't answer who you all are. I would've liked to know who I was fighting," Dimitri said.

Hapi rolled her eyes. "Does it hurt to take yourself that seriously? Though you did beat some of us. It's only fair you know. Tell him, Yuri-bird."

Yuri sighed. "I guess that makes sense. We're part of the monastery's fourth house: the Ashen Absols."

Everyone's eyes widened when he said that. No one believed what he was saying was true.

"We're the secret fourth house down here in Abyss. The surface turned their backs on us, so we turned our backs to them!" Balthus added.

"A fourth house? Impossible," Edelgard said.

"It does explain the uniform," N mused a loud.

"You guys are surface dweller students right?" Yuri asked.

"Well, most of us. The other two with us are our professors: N and Byleth," Dimitri explained.

"Oh so you're the one this guys mentioned," Yuri said turning to N. "The battle professor, right?"

N nodded in response. But before he could speak, Balthus cut him off.

"Wait you teach battles with creatures and lost to me? Guess that means old Balthus really is that strong," Balthus said adding a boisterous laugh.

"Wait a minute…Balthus? Balthus… Balthus?!" Hilda exclaimed.

Everyone turned to the pink- haired girl as she walked up to the taller man. Everyone looked confused, especially Balthus.

"From house Albrecht?! Baltie, is that you?" Hilda laughed. "You look, uh…old."

Balthus let out a nervous chuckle and out a hand behind his head. "Do we know each other, pal?" His eyes then slowly began to widen. "That hair. Those eyes. That voice! Hilda?! I don't believe it! Holst's little sis?"

"Wait a minute. You know this large man?" N asked.

"Of course! He's my brother's best friend. I've known him for, basically, forever," Hilda said.

"I don't believe it. Little Hilda herself. Why didn't you speak up sooner?" Balthus asked.

N nudged Byleth, who looked very confused despite her usual blank expression.

"This sure is weird, huh?"

Byleth nodded in response.

"Despite their temperament, they don't seem like bad people. At least the way their partner's speak gives me that impression," N said.

N and Byelth did not notice that the conversation between Hilda and Balthus had changed topics, as the large man was looking towards the two professors.

"Sorry, did you say something?" N asked.

"Well, yeah. I sure got to know you two by the way you fight with your partners. Maybe next time we can fight one-on-one and get to know each other better," Balthus replied.

"I don't think that's how that works," Byleth said.

"For a normal person, that is true," Yuri said. "We're not all as far gone as Balthus here."

"Despite all that, I don't think this with the church. They seemed to focused on keeping their partners healthy. Sorry about the orange lizard though," Balthus said.

"Speaking of which, is there a place I can tend to the creatures. Everyone faced a tough battle and your partners need medical attention," N said.

"Fair enough, but we should move elsewhere," Balthus said.

Yuri gestured for them follow. The group of Garreg Mach looked between each other before agreeing to follow. They went down the passage that Yuri had first emerged from.

"If it wasn't you guys that were sent after Abyss, then those creeps might still attack at any moment," Balthus replied.

"Creeps?" Byelth and Dimitri asked in unison.

Balthus nodded. "Someone's targeting Abyss. Mercenaries acting like Rattats are causing trouble sniffing around. They won't let up."

Yuri shook his head. "It's a real problem, and we have no clue who's pulling the strings."

With those words, N's mind flashed back to what Zorua had said to him. What he had smelled. He tried to shake off the feeling of unease that was growing. He tried to rationalize it by thinking that if no one present from above ground knew Abyss existed, then they should not either. But N knew that was unlikely. He would know and if he knew then there was a possibility it could be them.

"You okay there, friend?"

N looked up and saw that everyone had turned to him. He mustered a nervous laugh and put a hand behind his head.

"Sorry. I spaced out."

"Sounded like something else to me. Those deep breaths were very noticeable," Yuri said.

"It's nothing. Just getting a bit claustrophobic. What did I miss when I spaced out?" N replied.

As Yuri reexplained what Constance had told the others, Byelth stared at N. She noticed his expression of fear. It was similar to one he would have whenever he woke up from a nightmare. His eyes would go wide and sweat would pour. She worried about him getting worse.

"Now that everyone is acquainted with our situation, it's time for the surface dwellers to return," Yuri said.

"Nonsense! Why would we turn them away when we could enlist their aid?" Constance asked.

"You need our help?" N asked

"Like we said, this place is being target by mercenaries. A lot of people down here can't defend themselves and we're only so many people who can," Balthus explained. "The elderly, the infirm…orphans, lost souls…merchants who were chewed up and spit out by the nobility. They're all here to avoid conflict."

"It rests upon is to protect those who cannot protect themselves. And to safeguard our home. To the noble end, I must insist that you lend us your strength," Constance added.

"I feel for your cause, truly. However, I cannot help but wonder why you put so must trust in is. We are from the surface, after all," Dimitri said.

"Trust is a choice. We're choosing to trust you. For now. It's clear you're not here on orders from the church. You're also not a bunch of noble twerps, either. You can hold your own." He turned to Dimitri, Ashe, and Linhardt. "Few can give Absol and me a hard time in battle. We may have been holding back a bit, but you still pushed me to almost go all out."

The three smiled at the praise. Ashe enthusiastically replied and turned to thank N.

"Not bad. Guess my lessons did pay off," N said.

Byleth rolled her eyes. "Don't get cocky."

Everyone present laughed. The members of the Ashen Absols joined in as well, but were unsure as to what was so funny.

"Still." Yuri's singular word made the laughing stop. "I'm reluctant to get you involved with our problems."

Hapi shrugged. "It's too late now. We alreay told them everything. Let's give them a chance to decide for themselves."

"Most true. Wander about Abyss for a time and I am certain you will come to the only correct conclusion," Constance added.

"Is Abyss just this passageway we've been walking down?" Claude asked.

Yuri smirked. "Just you wait."

The passageway ended and led to a large open area. The group from the surface stopped to take everything in. Abyss was a lot larger than any were expecting. The ceiling was so high in the air that it felt like it did not end. What was also surprising was how many people there were. They were told that good amount of people lived beneath the monastery, but there ended up being a lot more than anticipated. They descended steps and found a small marketplace nestled between walls. It truly was an underground city.

However, the people gave them sour looks as they walked by. Just like the Ashen Absols before them, they were distrustful of surface dwellers.

N asked for a place to heal the creatures and we led to an empty dormitory. He told everyone to leave their partners with him and so they could be healed up. The students from the surface were quick to do so, while the Ashen Absols were hesitant. N assured them that nothing would happen and that he would take a quick look.

The group reluctantly left their partners, with Hapi deciding to remain to keep an eye on N. He assured her it would not be necessary, but she was insistent.

"How about I start with Misdreavus? Will you trust me then?" N asked.

Hapi looked at Misdreavus, who had an equally hesitant look. Hapi shrugged and motioned for her partner to go to N.

N smiled and turned to Misdreavus.

"Mind telling me how your battle faired?" N asked.

"Dark type moves. My and Constance's partners are pretty weak defensively."

N nodded as he looked over Misdreavus. "Most Ghost types tend to be weak in defense. I can only name a few that have above average defense."

"You know a lot about the creatures, huh?"

N nodded again. "Yup. I am the professor for them after all."

Hapi's eyes widened. "Wait, you're a professor?"

N laughed. He expected that reaction. "Yup. I look young for the part right?"

"I'll say. How old are you anyway?" Hapi asked.

"Eighteen. I turn nineteen this month actually," N said.

"You're younger than me?!" Hapi asked.

N chuckled. "Guess so."

N put more focus on Misdreavus. The ghost's wounds were not severe, but she was clearly exhausted. He grabbed a berry from his bag to feed it to Misdreavus. Zorua tried to swipe it, but was quick to avoid it.

"Wait your turn Zorua," N said.

Zorua pouted and turned away.

N smiled and fed the berry to Misdreavus. The ghost took it happily and ate it in on bite. Satisfied, N gestured for her to return to her partner's side.

"That should do it," N said.

"Wow. Guess you weren't lying," Hapi said.

"Why would I lie about this?" N asked raising an eyebrow.

Hapi shrugged. "Dunno. You're from the surface after all."

N sighed and relented. "Fair enough."

He turned to another creature and saw Absol lying down in the corner of the room. It still had sparks coming off of it, but they had lessened greatly since the last time N noticed. He gestured for Absol to come to him, but the white furred creature did not want to move. Understanding the situation, N stood up and walked over to Absol.

He tried to pt a hand on Absol, but he was shocked by the residual electricity.

"Dimitri must've used Thunder Wave. Not a bad strategy against such a strong opponent," N commented.

He rummaged through his bag and pulled out a different berry than the blue ones he fed most creatures. It was a small, red berry with the vine still attached to it. He grabbed another form his bag and removed the vines. He put the berry up to Absol's nose and the creature begin to sniff. Absol slowly opened his mouth and reached out for the berry. Absol quickly grabbed them form N's hand and ate them. Absol shook his head as the flavor of the berry final registered.

N chuckled at the reaction. "It's a bit spicy. Guess you're not fan."

Absol let out a low howl as his body became limber again. The white furred creature stood up, spun around, and quickly sprinted out of the room.

"Guess he wanted to see his partner," N said aloud.

"Well, yeah. Absol and Yuri-bird are rarely apart," Hapi replied.

"I can tell. Their bond is strong. Maybe even stronger than mine and Zorua's."

Zorua's ears perked up at the mention of his name. N smiled and grabbed a blue berry from his bag. He tossed it to the black fox and began to nibble on it happily.

"You and your partner are close as well," Hapi said.

N nodded. "Of course. He is my best friend after all."

N moved to Grapploct, who looked to be the most health creature present. N was still bitter that he and Byleth were defeated by the octopus. Despite that, he knew Grapploct and Balthus had the advantage, so winning was going to be difficult.

"Have Balthus and Grapploct always been so strong?" N asked turning to Hapi.

"The only person I've seen beat him is Yuri-bird and Absol. Him an Absol and crazy strong; especially when they go all out," Hapi answered.

"What does him going all out look like?"

"Absol gets a major power boost. Looks different too. I've only seen it once and can't remember all the details," Hapi said.

"That's unfortunate." N turned back Grapploct and handed him the blue berry. "You really gave me a hard time. This should be enough to get you back to full strength."

Grapploct let out an appreciative growl and shoved the berry into his mouth. With another growl, the octopus made his way out of the room.

"Onto Lampent," N mused aloud.

The floating lantern floated down towards N. He noticed her flame was low. Similar to the other creatures, she was plagued with exhaustion.

"Who beat Lampent?" N asked.

"Claudester's Deerling, surprisingly."

N sputtered a laugh. "Claudester?"

"I give most people a nickname. That's his," Hapi answered.

"What's mine then?"

Hapi tilted her head to the side. "Not sure yet. Your name is a single letter after all."

N shrugged. "Fair enough. Just make sure it's better than Claude's."

Hapi giggled. "No promises."

N rolled his eyes and went to focus on his work. Hapi watched quietly, but would ask an occasional question. Whenever a creature was healthy, it quickly left the room to find their partner. N was happy to see the creatures in better health. The members of the Ashen Absols were strong, and the fact that every lesson so far was out to the test made pride swell within N. He wished he could've at least achieved a draw against Balthus, but he and Grapploct were a strong team.

When every creature was healed, N let out a relieved sigh and sat on the floor. He let out another breath and let his back hit the floor. He was tired. It had to be late in the night at the point. Being beneath the ground meant it was difficult to tell the time. He wanted to at least get some hours of sleep, but if he was going to help the Abyssians, then he needed to be ready for the next fight.

N slowly opened his eyes and saw the Hapi was standing over him. He let out a yelp and moved back slightly. Hapi giggled and took a few steps back.

"Scared ya?"

"A little, yes."

"Trying to catch a few zees?" Hapi asked playfully.

"You could say that," N said as he began to sit up.

"You're not a bad guy, N," Hapi said.

N rose an eyebrow. "Still can't think of one?"

"Unfortunately," Hapi replied.

"Oh, you're still here Professor."

Hapi and N turned to the door to see Ashe standing in the doorway. His now healthy Treecko was perched on his shoulder.

"What's up, Ashe?"

"Professor Byelth is rounding everyone up. I think she's gathering everyone to make a decision on helping the Ashen Absols," Ashe replied.

N nodded. "Got it. I'll be right there."

Ashe nodded in response and jogged towards the main square of the town.

N turned to Hapi. "Shall we get going?"

AN: With that the Cindered Shadows arc begins. I got some cool stuff planned for this arc so I hope you look forward to it. As I was writing this, I forgot how long this side story was. Usually my chapter cover the entire month, so this arc might grind the pacing of this story to a halt. I will try to speed things up, but with the stuff I have planed it will probably fluctuate.

With that out of the way, how did you enjoy this chapter? When it came to changing the Ashen Wolves name, it was always going to be Absol. When it came to deciding the Pokemon the members would have Yuri would always have Absol and Bathus would have Grapploct. For Hapi and Constance, I wanted them to have Ghost types. So I narrowed down my favorite ones and chose from there. In the end, I think Lampent and Misdreavus work for them. If you guys have other ideas feel free to tell me. Maybe they'll get a second partner.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter and stay tuned for the next one! Like I said, I got fun stuff planned for this arc. I already laid the ground work for how it connects to the main story, but there'll be a few more connections going forward. If you're enjoying this story feel free to follow, favorite, and/or review.