On Sunday morning, Byleth visited the cathedral to observe the weekly worship service. She felt ashamed of not understanding most of the tenets covered by the sermons despite being on the job for almost eight months and her father being a former captain of the Knights of Seiros. She hadn't felt compelled to pray to any deity until being hired to teach at the Officers Academy.
When she closed her eyes, she saw Sothis standing in front of a throne made of stone, staring at nothing in particular. Byleth still wondered why she was the only one who could see or hear Sothis, or why Sothis had only started speaking to her on the night before her arrival at the academy.
Sothis vanished after Byleth opened her eyes at the end of the service, leaving her to watch as the other worshippers pass her by as they returned to their homes. When she returned to her office, she went to inspect the Sword of the Creator, which had seen more wear and tear than she was comfortable with. Although she didn't dare touch it herself, Byleth could see chips and cracks on the teeth of the blade at a glance. Wielding a sword was one thing, but restoring one was something she typically left to more experienced hands. The generous monthly stipend she received from Rhea was enough to keep herself and her students outfitted for their missions. With all the free time she had earned after dealing with the Remire incident, Byleth thought a quick trip to the smithy was in order.
When she reached the market, she saw Alois inspecting some weapons he gave to the blacksmith for inspection and repair. "Ah, that's more like it!" he said, chuckling to himself as he took a closer look at the blade of his large battle axe. "At least now, you'll cut more than a hole in my coin pouch!"
The other weapons were laid at his feet in a loosely organized pile. As he bent down to wrap them up in a bundle, Byleth approached and helped him pick up a few axes and spears and hold them together as he bound them with a thick piece of rope. "Thanks, Professor. It's always nice to have an extra pair of hands to make things go more smoothly."
"Wouldn't that make it more difficult for you to wear armor?" asked Byleth.
"Well, yes, I suppose it would…not that I would mind taking any advantage to give me an upper hand in battle," Alois went on, wondering if Byleth knew his last statement wasn't meant to be taken literally. "Erm…anyway, what brings you down to the market this morning?"
"Just some routine sword maintenance."
"Ah, of course! I can only imagine how costly it must be to maintain a one-of-a-kind weapon like yours."
Byleth handed the Sword of the Creator over to the blacksmith, along with a few chunks of dark-tinted metal ore she had in her pouch from one of her earlier battles. "If it comes down to it, I could always go back to using a steel or silver sword to save money."
The blacksmith looked at the goods Byleth had given her, and then at Byleth's and Alois' belts, the latter of which had a short sword in its sheath that didn't look like it had seen much use. "What would you say to me getting you a sheath for this thing?" said the smith as she worked the bellows on the furnace until the sparks on the coals within erupted into a roaring flame. "I know a guy who could put one together for you in a flash. It'll cost you a little extra for a sword of this shape, though."
Byleth reached into her pockets and handed the blacksmith some more gold coins. "Will fifty be enough?"
The blacksmith winked at Byleth and gave her a thumbs-up. "Works for me! Just a heads-up: it'll take a few hours to get the measurements just right, but once we're done, your sword will be as good as new, and you won't have to worry about scaring people off by carrying it out in the open all the time."
For a moment, Byleth thought she heard Sothis sigh as the Sword of the Creator was eased into the furnace in preparation for its repair. Byleth wanted to assure her that the loss of the sword was only temporary and that they'd have it back before dinnertime. Alois passed his bundle of repaired weapons off to a knight standing between the smithy and general goods stall, and the knight almost fell backward when he tried to take them all into his hands.
"Now that I think about it," said Byleth, "there was something else I wanted to ask you about."
Alois waited for Byleth to catch up to him before they walked toward the main hall, greeting the two guards standing outside the front gate before resting in front of a pillar. "All right," said Alois, "what have you got for me?"
"I spoke to Claude a few days ago about his class trip to the Eastern Church. He said that you met with a monk there with some connection to Captain Jeralt. Who was it?"
Alois thought about it for a few moments before tapping his gauntlets together. "Oh! You must be talking about Cardinal Aelfric. He worked here at the Central Church sometime before you were born. I was still a squire working under your father when I first met him. Regrettably, I didn't have much of a chance to get to know Aelfric back then because of our differing stations, but he seemed like a pleasant enough guy at the time, and it doesn't look like much about him has changed since then. I was shocked when he recognized me!"
Byleth wondered why she hadn't heard of or seen Aelfric, or any of the church's cardinals, until now. She didn't know much about the church's hierarchal structure other than Rhea being in charge and Seteth, Flayn, and knights like Jeralt, Catherine, and Alois working underneath her. "Did the cardinal ask about me, by any chance?" she asked.
"Most of our brief conversation was about Jeralt," said Alois, "but he eventually told me that he regretted not being able to see you after you were born. I told him that you had grown up to become our newest professor here, and for a moment I thought he was going to double over in shock!"
"Well, if he's interested in visiting me or Captain Jeralt, we're not hard to find."
Alois sighed. "If only I could have persuaded him to do so. He told me he had 'lots of unfinished business' to take care of, so I don't think he'll be leaving the Eastern Church any time soon."
One of the guards approached Byleth and saluted her, subtly covering his eyes with his helmet as he lowered his hand. "Professor! There's someone at the gate looking for you," he said. "Actually, she asked for someone named 'Blue', but—"
"I think I know who you're talking about," said Byleth. "I'll be right over."
Alois watched the guard lift his helmet again on his way back to his post. "Outside visitors are asking for you by nickname now? You're really coming up in the world, Professor!" he said with a laugh.
"I'm expecting to see a few more this week. I wanted to talk to Hapi one last time after she helped us out in Remire, so I invited her here."
"In that case, I won't keep you much longer. See you later, Professor!"
Byleth walked out to the front gate to see Hapi standing by herself and clutching a crude iron spear. The guards acknowledged Byleth's presence, but not Hapi's, as she had her back turned to them until Byleth called out her name.
"Oh! It's you, Blue... It's nice to see at least one friendly face around here," said Hapi. She sounded slightly more upbeat than the last few times they had met, but she didn't smile.
"How have you been?" asked Byleth. "Have you talked to anyone in your village since you got out?"
"I let my parents know that I was out of jail."
"Did they write back to you?"
Hapi shook her head. "I didn't know the name of the town I was in at the time. Now that I think about it, maybe I should have told them to send a package here. You'd have to hold onto it, of course."
Byleth felt a warming sensation well up in her chest. It didn't do much to warm the rest of her body, which felt the chill of the wind blowing in from the southwest. "Let's go inside for a bit," she said. "I'm sure you must be tired."
"A bit hungry, too," Hapi replied, "but that's just because I had a light breakfast today."
"Come with me. I know of a good place where you can get something to eat. Is there anything in particular you want?"
Hapi relaxed the grip on her spear and set it against the wall to the right of the gate. "I'm not too picky."
Byleth nodded and guided her to the dining hall through the main hall. While she ate her chicken and fish sandwich, Hapi looked around in awe at the size of the building she was in. "I can't believe you teach in a place this big," she said.
"Is this your first time at the Officers Academy, Hapi?" asked Byleth.
"Have you ever considered going to school here, or, say, the magic school in Fhirdiad? I bet you'd fit right in there."
"Nope. Besides, wouldn't I have to save up for, like, five years to get into either of those places? I don't have access to that kind of money."
Byleth, with no personal frame of reference when it came to the cost of attending school, finished her sandwich in silence.
After they finished their lunches, Byleth led Hapi to the classroom building, pointing to the room with the large Black Eagles banners hanging outside the door. "This is where I teach," said Byleth, pointing inside where Ferdinand, Edelgard, Hubert, Monica, and a few other students were comparing notes about lessons from previous classes, "and these are some of my students. I think you may have met a few of them already."
"Some of them look familiar," said Hapi. "I think I see Eddy, Fred, Bert, and, uh…" She paused to take another look at everyone, as it was the first time she had seen them not wearing their battle uniforms. "Who's the other redhead?"
"That's Monica. She joined us midway through the year."
Ferdinand looked at Monica, who dropped her pen on the desk and clutched her right hand in pain. "Perhaps this should be enough for now," he said as he noticed that the nib of Monica's pen was about to snap, and two of the other students had buried their heads into their hands.
"It was 'enough' for us fifteen minutes ago," said Edelgard.
"I understand, Edelgard, but did you not once tell us the importance of working as a cohesive unit? Monica had requested to see the notes for everything up to the Horsebow Moon. She wanted to make sure she did not get caught by surprise for the final exams."
"And now my brain and my writing hand seriously regret that decision," Monica groaned.
Hubert was the first to close his notebook when Byleth entered the room. "Do you need something from us, Professor?" he asked.
"Not right now, Hubert. I'm just showing Hapi around here before she goes on the road again," said Byleth.
Monica rested her cramped hand on the desk and tried to forget how much it hurt from writing a summary of six months' worth of backdated study notes. "I'm glad she's safe after all that happened," she said.
"Thanks," said Hapi. "By the way, Nicki, you should get that hand checked out or something."
At first, Monica wondered who this 'Nicki' character was, but then she remembered she was the only other girl in the room besides Edelgard who had seen Hapi recently. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea…I haven't seen Professor Manuela in a while, anyway, she thought.
Ferdinand, satisfied that his study group monitoring work was done, left the classroom to visit the knights' quarters while Monica walked across the bridge to the infirmary to look for Manuela. Only Edelgard and Hubert stayed behind after the room had cleared out. "May I have a few moments of your time, Lady Edelgard?" he asked.
"Of course…but we should probably find another place to talk."
On her way to her office, Byleth saw Jeralt walking toward the cemetery and decided to take a detour. A handful of stone-carved headstones were laid out on a cliff just below the main monastery grounds, with only a stairway separating them, and no fence or natural boundary preventing anyone from falling into the canyon. Jeralt knelt at the grave closest to the cliff's edge, placing a small bouquet of carnations in front of it. "I still can't believe it's been over 20 years since you left us," he whispered, leaning in for a closer look at the writing on the headstone:
1139 – 1159
Resting in the warm embrace of cherished memories
"Even though I try to hide it, it never stops hurting," he continued. "I didn't think I'd see this place again after that, but…here we are. If only you could see your daughter now… Byleth's all grown up, and she looks more and more like you every day. Crazy, isn't it?"
Byleth and Hapi slowly approached Jeralt, taking care not to step on any of the graves or get too close to the edge of the cliff. He looked up when he saw Byleth standing right next to him. "Oh…hey, kiddo. I was just leaving a present for your mom before going back out on patrol."
Byleth looked down at her mother's headstone, trying to visualize her leaning against a tree and reading a book. Having never actually seen Sitri before she died, or any portraits of her after her death, the best Byleth could do was imagine there was a slightly older version of herself looking at her and Jeralt. Reality set in the moment she looked away and she saw the grass around her swaying in the breeze. Sitri wasn't there, and never would be. Compared to Jeralt's flowers, Byleth felt that her offering of a coin worth 50 gold was insufficient to express how much she wished her mother was there with them. She found herself unable to say anything as she believed that only Jeralt, Sothis, and maybe Hapi would hear it.
"It's all right, kid. You don't have to force yourself," said Jeralt, patting Byleth on the shoulder. He turned to leave the graveyard to resume his patrol of the cathedral when he saw Hapi sitting on the steps blocking his way. "Oh…hey. Didn't see you sitting there. How are you holding up?"
"Good enough," said Hapi. "So, you're really Blue's dad, huh? No offense, but you don't look anything like her."
Jeralt laughed. "Yeah…it's the darndest thing. She takes more after her mother than me. Not that you'd really be able to tell, 'cuz…well…"
A quick head nod toward Sitri's grave was all the information Hapi needed. She stood up and climbed the stairs to give Jeralt room to walk out. From her new vantage point, she could see all the various offerings placed before the headstones, including Jeralt's and Byleth's gifts to Sitri. "Yeah…I think I get it," she said.
"Oh! And, uh…stay out of trouble, okay? Wouldn't want you to end up in a place like this at your age…especially after you helped get us out of that jam earlier."
Hapi tried not to look down as she walked with Byleth across the bridge to the cathedral. Being freed from her anti-magic shackles allowed her to relax a little bit. The knights' and monks' stares, while not overtly accusatory, still carried an aura of suspicion that made Hapi feel uncomfortable. Rhea couldn't pass the order down to all of them to let them know she was Byleth's guest, for they had other duties to worry about and no idea what to expect from her.
"Where are we going?" asked Hapi as she followed Byleth up the stairs.
"To my office," said Byleth, "and then the library. There aren't very many places in this monastery where we can get real privacy, but I'd at least like to learn a little more about your condition so that we have something to work with."
Hapi cocked her head to the side. "You sure? You're not gonna stick any needles in me or anything, are you?"
"No. I wouldn't do it even if I knew how."
Upon entering the office, Sothis appeared before Byleth, floating next to her desk. Byleth looked to her right and noticed that Sothis wasn't looking directly at her, but at her guest.
How strange…with a name like Hapi, I expected her to be a little more…joyous regarding her newfound freedom. You could stand to smile every once in a while, yourself, you know.
Hapi had to lean to her right to view it, but Byleth turned toward Sothis and smiled a little.
All Hapi could see was the young woman who helped her get released from prison…standing still and apparently admiring her coat rack. "You okay there, Blue?"
"Yes, I'm fine," said Byleth. She sat down in her chair to face Hapi, whose forlorn expression hadn't changed much since her arrival on monastery grounds. It reminded Byleth of how people used to see her in her days before she was hired as a teacher. Trying to lift Hapi's spirits appeared to be more challenging than mentoring the students under her care, but Byleth planned on doing the best she could with her limited knowledge of Hapi's predicament. "Do you like animals, Hapi?"
"Huh? What's that got to do with anything?" asked Hapi.
"I figured I'd start this interview with a simple question to break the tension a little bit."
"Well…yeah, I guess I do." Hapi looked around, not feeling any less tense than when she started. "When I was seven, I used to have a pet calico cat. He followed me home from the market one day and I couldn't figure out why. My parents wanted to adopt a dog, but they let me keep that one because they said it would cost less to maintain."
"What about other animals? Dogs? Birds? Horses?"
"I don't like birds very much. Some of them dig in with their talons and try to pull my hair out. I wouldn't mind having a horse of my own, though."
Byleth hadn't seen the horse that Hapi rode on when she came to Remire, so she assumed that Hapi and Myron got theirs from the wild since they had to race to the village on short notice. "Did you ever notice anything different about the way animals treated you compared to others?"
"Except for the birds, cats and dogs don't mess with me as much. That pet calico I told you about? There were four, maybe five other cats crowding around me at the same time, and they followed me home, too. I just waved my hand to shoo the others away, and they just scattered."
Felines can be such finicky creatures. It surprises me that this one was able to corral just one cat, let alone four at once!
"What about Myron? What did he say when he saw you with all those cats?"
"Actually," said Hapi, "my dad was the first one who noticed. I later told Myron about it because he's a friend of the family and he visits us a lot. They both said it reminded them of a time when my grandpa stopped a pack of wolves from attacking our village. He didn't have a weapon or anything. He just walked up to them and waved his hands around a bit, and they just backed off."
"That sounds like the story Myron told me when I first met him."
Hapi leaned back in the chair she was sitting in and folded her hands behind her head. It was the most relaxed Byleth had ever seen her. "Yup. That's the power of Saint Timotheos for you. My grandpa had it, and then I had it for a while. I don't know why my mom and dad couldn't do anything like that. I guess it skipped a generation."
Byleth didn't want to ruin the brief moment of joy Hapi was experiencing, but she felt she had to learn more. "When you say you had your powers 'for a while', does that mean you can't summon animals to you anymore?" she asked.
"I can still summon things, but…" Hapi lowered her arms and puffed up her chest, deflating herself by breathing out through her nose, making sure to keep her mouth tightly shut while doing so. "Nowadays, whenever I sigh, it draws monsters to me, like the ones we killed in the village. I hate it. At least when it was just cats and dogs and birds, they weren't trying to maul me."
The monsters they had taken down had once been innocent humans twisted by the power of Crest Stones. Byleth wished she didn't have to kill any of them.
"I don't know much about magic," Byleth admitted, "but let's see if we can find some information that might help you with this 'curse' of yours."
"At this point, I'll try almost anything."
When they left Byleth's office and entered the library, they saw Linhardt and Lysithea sitting on opposite sides of the central table while a team of librarians organized the bookshelves around them to ensure everything was in its proper place. Tomas sat in a chair in one of the corners, giving him a good view of most of the room without having to turn around too much.
"Good day to you, Professor," he said as Byleth passed in front of him. "Do you need help looking for something?"
"I'm fine for now, Tomas," she replied.
Byleth searched the shelves for books pertaining to black magic, animal control, and illnesses. By the time she and Hapi had taken everything they thought they needed, the resulting stack was twice as tall as the one next to Lysithea, which appeared to contain a week's worth of homework. "I think this should be a good starting point," she said to Hapi.
Instead of reading each encyclopedic volume thoroughly, they felt it was more efficient to narrow their search down to topics that looked like they pertained to their investigation. Summoning rituals, summoned beasts, magical triggers, unexpected side effects, and magically-induced curses – those topics looked helpful when viewed separately, but they were unable to combine their discoveries in such a way that it would help them deal with Hapi's unique condition.
While trying to suppress the crinkling of a peppermint candy wrapper, Lysithea took a break from her homework to view the stack of books that Byleth and Hapi were reading. "What are you doing with all of those books, Professor?" she asked.
"I'm looking for information on curses," Byleth said quietly, unsure of how the priests would react to open talk about forbidden magic.
"I don't know if you'll find much of interest on that sort of thing here." Lysithea leaned in and lowered her voice to a whisper, adding, "Trust me…I've already tried."
Byleth closed the book she was reading and placed it at the top of the stack. "That's too bad."
"Maybe you could try asking Professor Hanneman," said Linhardt. "When it comes to magic knowledge, you won't find a teacher better than him – no offense, of course. If what's ailing Hapi has anything to do with Crests, he'll be even more inclined to listen to you."
"Hmm…Myron and my dad say that's the reason I have a way with animals," said Hapi. "I still don't believe it, but I guess an explanation like that's better than nothing."
Byleth returned some of the books to the shelves with the help of one of the librarians. "Do you want to see if Professor Hanneman can offer us any help?" she asked.
Hapi looked at Byleth and shrugged. "Might as well."
They walked over to Hanneman's office, where they saw him picking something up from the center of the room. "Uh…don't mind the mess," he said. "I was merely testing out something on my machine, is all." Hanneman sat the unknown object on his desk out of reach of the others before stepping around Byleth to get a good look at Hapi. "And who is that you have with you there, Byleth? A potential new student, perhaps?"
Byleth shook her head and recounted to Hanneman everything she had experienced while his class visited the Eastern Church – fighting Myson and his henchmen in the Sealed Forest (but not mentioning him by name), meeting Hapi, learning about the curse that caused her to summon monsters every time she sighed, and defending Remire from a demonic beast attack. When she opened up about Hapi's Crest, Hanneman's face lit up with excitement and intrigue.
"Another descendant of one of the lost Apostles? This is an extraordinary discovery indeed!" he said. "Just a moment…I'd like to gather a small blood sample, if you don't mind."
"Whoa! Careful there, Hanners," said Hapi as she watched Hanneman reach for a small syringe and cleansing cloths. "Blue, I thought you said there'd be no needles!"
"Sorry, Hapi. Professor Hanneman tends to get…animated when Crests are involved," said Byleth. "I promise you he doesn't mean any harm."
Hapi grunted and sat in the chair to the side of the Crest-displaying device on the floor so Hanneman could draw a drop of blood from her finger. After bandaging Hapi up, he placed the blood sample on the floor and waited a few minutes for his machine to display Hapi's Crest of Timotheos – a wishbone-shaped line with five spikes protruding from it, and a small circle floating above it. The Crest's lines were thicker and bolder than Linhardt's sample, suggesting that Hapi possessed a Major Crest, which Hanneman knew to be more potent than Minor Crests. About a minute after the Crest appeared, the lines darkened from light blue to dark purple as it pulsated like a beating heart.
"What the hell's going on?" asked Hapi.
"This is…I-I've never seen anything like this before," Hanneman stammered as he continued to observe the pulsating Crest. "It seems that whatever is in your blood that provides your Crest with power has made it highly unstable."
"I can see that! How do we make it stop?"
"I'm afraid it may take me a while to figure that out. Ideally, I'd like to collect a second blood sample with the same Crest to compare it to this one, and from there, I might be able to determine what caused this mutation and work toward developing a method to help you fix it."
"I think you'll be out of luck on that front. My grandpa's the only other guy I know with this Crest, and he died six years ago."
Believing that he had seen enough, Hanneman turned off his Crest detector and put away the blood sample. "How unfortunate. I wish I could offer more than simple condolences, but I hope that your grandfather lived a long and fulfilling life and found peace in his final moments."
After taking a moment to record his observations in his notes, Hanneman came up with an idea. "Now, while it is true that some Crests can bypass generations," he said, "there are still things we can learn from the genetics of the families of Crest-bearers, whether they themselves possess one or not. All I would require is either your mother or father – if either of them is still living – to submit to a brief examination."
"Good luck with that," said Hapi. "They don't like to get out much."
"That will certainly make things more difficult, but not impossible. What do you plan on doing after today's visit, Hapi? I will most likely need to consult you again for follow-up exams."
Hapi looked away from Hanneman, curling her left hand into a fist to distract herself from the pain of having her blood drawn. "I can't stick around here for very long. Honestly, you'll probably be better off not getting too close to me. People who do tend to get hurt…or die. If you do find out anything new, just let Blue here know."
Quick to pass the responsibility onto you, is she? Or is she just saying that to keep this professor from discovering her village?
"Are you comfortable with this request, Professor?" asked Hanneman.
Byleth looked at Hapi, who looked back at her with a hopeful half-smile. "Neither of us can freely leave the monastery while school is in session," she explained, "but I'll do my best to keep in touch with you as long as you don't go too far into dangerous territory."
"Don't worry," said Hapi. "I promised your dad I'd try to stay out of trouble. I literally can't afford to go back to jail."
"Now that we have that settled, I suppose I should consider other options to help solve this mystery," said Hanneman. "Should you need any further questions answered, my door is always open."
Byleth escorted Hapi to the front gate to retrieve her spear. From there, they quietly walked to the town's edge, taking care to avoid drawing the knights' attention. Hapi's arm still felt sore from the needle, so she had difficulty holding her weapon comfortably without risking injury to herself or Byleth. "Well, I guess this is where we split up," she said. "I didn't mean to put you on the spot like that, especially after you got me out of that stupid prison."
"It's no big deal," said Byleth. "I'm sorry I couldn't get you the help you needed right away."
Hapi fumbled with her spear some more until she could hold it in both hands with the blade pointing away from her face. "At least you and Hanners tried…even if he is a bit pushy about the whole 'blood samples' thing."
Byleth stepped off to the side of the road when she saw a cart approaching from the south. "Where do you plan on going from here, Hapi?" she asked.
"East, maybe. If I can get a part-time job there, I won't have to worry about sleeping in the cold."
"Are you sure you'll be okay traveling by yourself?"
"I was doing fine on my own until Larkspur happened. At least I can use my magic again in case I get attacked, and if that doesn't work, I've got this spear here." She turned to Byleth and took a few steps backward on the dirt road, using her left arm to wave to her while trying to ignore the pain she was still feeling. "Thanks again for your help, Blue," she said. "I'll try to send a letter out once I find a place to rest. See ya later."
Byleth quietly waved back, watching Hapi follow the road east toward the Airmid River. After everything Hapi had gone through, Byleth believed she deserved a few moments of peace and hoped that she would find it wherever she was going.