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Twentieth Bell, 3rd of the Great Tree Moon
What started as an innocuous chorus of two Deer enthusiastically spreading the word for a party evolved beyond what Jorah had likely imagined. Oskar had ensured his task had been fulfilled even if the rest of the Deer hadn't uttered a word--and in their defense, no one could have predicted the outcome. While the word had spread out to the student body quickly as the idea of festivities to celebrate their orientation seemed like the ideal way to finish the day, it had also spread to the rest of the Monastery. The kitchens that typically closed after the eighteenth bell remained in full steam, rushing to get the spread out before the twentieth bell would arrive. The knights, similarly, found themselves scrambling to adjust to a schedule as it was obvious supervision around the reception hall would be needed...even if not a single knight could properly recall when it was decided.

By the time the very last bell rang out, the reception hall had been transformed. Servants had hastily moved aside a majority of the benches to make way for a dance floor. The spread there rivaled that of the Archbishop's coronation, boasting plates from all over Fódlan and capped with sweets for those who may have already had their fill in the dining hall. Servants came and went, offering spirits and drinks to any students that asked. Music filled the hall as a band was swept together to provide ample entertainment while students either danced or conversed happily.

"The Archbishop is so kind to put this together!"

"The Archbishop? I thought I swore Jorah von Reigan organized this."

"I thought I saw him running around telling everyone to be here. I guess he's looking to make sure everyone's welcomed. And to think, people were worried about the Golden Deer's leadership this year!"

The Archbishop in question was deaf to the conversation nearby as his eyes were trained on the assortment of sweets before him. In another setting, he may have blended in better as he no longer wore his crown, but the lack of height still made him stand out from the rest of the students. Unlike before, he was accompanied by no one, and he took full advantage of it, grabbing a sweet bun and biting into it with full gusto.

Not too far away, Euphemia was completely flabbergasted at the sight before her. The conversation earlier had lead her to believe he was going to stuff twenty students into his room with ale to go around or to put something hasty strung together, not this. This party looked like the Church had organized it! She had absolutely no idea how he managed to pull it off and it was a major concern of hers. She had heard he would be trouble, but she had no idea he had this much influence. It was concerning and she was already feeling a headache forming as she tried to comprehend the sight before her.

Tomai stood next to her, decidedly more interested in the plate of food in his hand than anything else. "I'm glad they brought this, I haven't had a chance to eat," He admitted.

"Did you...happen to know how all this occurred?" She asked him. "Michail didn't help Jorah, did he?"

"The Captain is trying to get Michail to dance with her, I don't think she'd be so...spirited if this was something he came up with," He gestured towards the pair, taking a bite as Kalliope successfully pulled Michail off the bench and promptly dragged him to the dance floor. "Also, I heard Ioannis organized it."

Dare she correct him? Euphemia was at a complete loss. She looked over at Kaira hovering nearby, taking a glass of something off a servant's plate and tasting it. She hesitated as she caught Euphemia looking at her. "We may as well enjoy ourselves, no?" She asked sheepishly.

"Yeah, I need a drink, too," Euphemia muttered, deciding to chase down the servant.

The variety of introductions had each professor mentally taking notes; even Tomai was already noting who would become a potential problem down the line. Lysander remained perfectly pleasant, giving each student his complete attention. The majority of students were self assured and knew their future roles in Fódlan, and any rough around the edges could be smoothed over well enough. He exercised a cautious optimism, knowing that at minimum the Archbishop would be pleased. He did, however, watch the Imperial princess with open curiosity.

Adelaide’s introduction was followed by Johann, who only stood once the princess was seated. He flashed what he hoped was a friendly grin at the room at large. “Greetings, one and all. I am Johann von Aegir of Adrestia. I squired under Lord Klaus von Arundel and thus my interest in chivalry and knighthood was sparked. I don’t care much for cowardice nor dishonesty, either,” He gave Clarissa a small nod of acknowledgment before retaking his seat.

Derec figured since he was the last Lion he may as well stand. However, he noticed that Isolde had also stood, the pair looking at one another in surprise. The redhead retook his seat, gesturing for her to go first. This seemed to embolden her, but a good few seconds passed, the blonde girl’s eyes darting all over the place. “...Isolde von Ordelia,” She managed to sputter out, a bout of nervousness gripping her. “I like knitting and sewing and…I don’t like this…” Her words got quieter as she slowly sank back down to her seat, eyes trained on a spot on the desk in front of her.

The awkwardness following Isolde’s introduction hung over the classroom. Taking pity, Derec stood up again, clearing his throat loud enough to get everyone’s attention. "I'm Derec Ballard," He introduced himself with a smile. "I like making weapons and accessories, and as for dislikes, I prefer cooler temperatures and don't do as well in the heat. I look forward to working with you all."

Derec’s introduction was punctuated with a clap from Michail as he stepped forward. “Wonderful! Now we all know each other a little better!” He grinned at the class, placing his hands on his hips. "I, for one, am looking forward to our year together! With all that out of the way, you’ll all be dismissed. Feel free to get comfortable with your dorms–the assignments are on the bulletin board outside–and dinner will be–”

Tomai did a double take, giving Michail an incredulous look as he continued to speak. “What–no,” Tomai interrupted the knight. “There’s still a student who hasn’t introduced himself.”

“Huh?” Michail paused, looking around the room, counting each student. “Oh, only eleven. I must’ve missed someone…?” He seemed a little confused, his hand coming up as he silently recounted the students.

Tomai bit back a comment and motioned to the student in question sitting towards the back. Michail followed his motion, looking back at him with a confused expression. There was a moment where Tomai looked like he was going to keel over from disbelief, but he composed himself, instead gesturing for the student in question to get up.

Rudolf shakily stood from his seat near the back of the room, even paler than normal after that withering ordeal. As if it weren’t obvious enough that he didn’t belong here, the Goddess seemed eager to remind him every chance She got. The room was full of men and women of confidence and decisiveness. Even the outliers - an irrelevant Fraldarius some ways down the line of succession and the daughter of a traitor barely clinging to what remained of her aristocracy - had excuses; they could settle for a meek, invisible existence. Count Bergliez could not. The princess seemed to agree, given the scathing attack she put forth in her introduction, targeted or otherwise.

Rudolf almost thought he was in the clear when their knightly ‘professor’ - he used this term lightly - began to wrap up the introductions before Rudolf could even muster the courage to rise from his chair, but even that small solace was denied to him when Professor Malathice forced him to stand up.

"Uh," he started lamely before clearing his throat, giving the room a moment to settle their eyes on him properly before he started talking. "I’m Rudolf. Uh, Rudolf von Bergliez. Of the Empire, as you can probably guess from the… yeah. Bergliez. I like-" Saints, what did he like? He blanked on every preference he’d ever had, short of the intense dislike of whatever this was that he shared with the Ordelia girl. His mouth floundered open once or twice, as if words would come easier if he just started to speak, but they never did.

"Uh. Sorry," he finished quietly, then shrunk back down in his chair, hopefully to be ignored by the congregation again for the rest of the year.

“No need for apologies, we’ve got the rest of the year to get to know each other better!” Michail grinned, ignoring Tomai’s exasperation.

Lysander nodded in agreement. “As Michail mentioned, dorm assignments are on the bulletin board. Our offices are located on the second floor and are always open whenever needed. I believe Professor Kalonic wished to speak with the House Leaders for a moment, but everyone else is dismissed,” He stated. “Enjoy your evenings!”

With the dismissal of the students, the courtyard got a little busier as conversations blended into one another. The only exception was a very loud Oskar Goneril announcing Jorah’s party. Tomai decided to take the nearest empty seat and flipped open his book, diving into the text and showing little interest in anything else.

Euphemia perched herself on the desk, crossing her legs and waiting patiently for the trio to make their way to her. “I won’t keep you long, but House Leaders have a few more responsibilities in addition to their schoolwork. The first is a weekly report with your house professor on your classmates’ skills. Every Monday, you will let me know which skills your classmates want to work on, and in turn we–that is to say, all of your professors–will ensure each student is educated properly. Most nobles usually have some idea on reports and the like from watching the adults in your life, but aren’t aware of the actual paperwork behind it. This will be excellent practice and help me judge how you would watch over your own troops, so to speak; if there are any faults or mistakes, I will correct them, so feel free to do your best and don’t be afraid of any slip-ups.”

“The second is a mandatory monthly conference with the other house leaders. Facilitating relationships between the future leaders of the Empire, Kingdom, and the Alliance is a cornerstone in diplomacy, so this will also be good practice for the future. This will also be the time where your problem solving skills will come in handy, as any inter-house grievances or issues are to be solved there,” She tapped Priscilla against the palm of her free hand. “The last will be deciding which students will be assigned to which tasks. The Officers Academy is indebted to Garreg Mach for their donations, and so we return the favor with community service. The students help by tending to the horses in the stables, picking weeds from the fields, and assisting guards with watching the skies on pegasi and wyverns. Keep in mind that students cannot opt out once they're chosen and will lose their free time on Saturdays to complete these tasks.”

The blonde looked at each leader. “That is the sum of your responsibilities. Are there any questions?” She asked. “If not, then that’s all from me. I’ll be looking forward to working with you this year!”

Michail followed the crowd outside but paused when he spotted the young Archbishop crossing the courtyard with the current Captain of the Knights of Seiros, a tall, olive-skinned woman named Kalliope. The height difference between the pair was staggering despite Ioannis’ headpiece adding a good amount to his height. He diverted his path towards the pair, catching the tail end of their conversation.

“If you truly feel that the Western Church no longer requires your services anymore, then I welcome you home,” Ioannis told her. “I imagine your knights will be pleased.”

“Some more than others. I need to ensure no slackers were born while I was gone. Lady Arianthe mentioned she would come soon as well,” Kalliope said, eyes focused on any who wandered too close.

Ioannis stopped in place, surprised. “Lady Arianthe will come here? What a pleasant surprise, she didn’t mention that in her last letter,” He said. He followed Kalliope’s gaze to Michail, who stopped and bowed before the pair. “Ah, Michail, I meant to ask how your first day as professor went.”

“Good evening Little Archbishop, Captain,” Michail greeted the pair.

“I think it would be best if you weren’t so casual with the Archbishop, Michail,” Kalliope raised an eyebrow at him.

Meanwhile, the Dining Hall was bustling with servants coming in and out of the kitchen. On any other day, a horde of students and church goers would likely stampede into the room and form lines, but as today was more relaxed, it was mostly stragglers and the hungry that decided to answer to the bell's summons. Word about a party in the courtyard had spread, and it spread fast–while there were some who preferred to get settled, some were curious to see the many nobles of the Rose Unit. The idea of putting a majority–if not all–the nobles into a single unit had spread faster than the party rumors, with whispers on the Archbishop's decision floating around.

"If you could have just a little--nay, just a sliver of professionalism so you could pretend you belong in the position of professor, I would appreciate it!"

Michail endured both the berating from Euphemia and the viscerating glare from Tomai, all but unphased with a small smile on his face. He lit up considerably, however, as the bell rung, signaling his freedom. "Saved by the bell! Time to round up the units, let's get this going," He hastily darted away, narrowly missing getting struck by Priscilla again as he cupped his hands around his mouth. "Azalea Unit, meet in the Black Eagles' classroom! Rose Unit, meet in the Blue Lions classroom! Poppy Unit, meet in the Golden Deer classroom!" His voice carried over any conversation, causing a guard across the courtyard to jump from the volume.

"What am I going to do with him?" Euphemia sighed, shaking her head. She paused long enough to catch Oskar chatting with a pair of girls, the two making eye contact before she gestured to the classroom. "Go on, you heard Professor Kalonic."

"I thought you were Professor Kalonic," He replied, a little confused. He didn't argue as her smile widened, jogging away to the assigned classroom.

Tomai decided to leave Michail to his shouting and chose to converse with Lysander and Kaira. He noticed Lysander was staring intently into the Blue Lions' classroom, and it wasn't hard to figure out what he was looking at. Derec Ballard was conversing with his fellow Lions, none the wiser to the professors watching him.

"So the rumors are true. How bold of Duke Charon," Tomai noted. "I take it to mean that Lord Ioannis took his plea to heart. But what coincidence would it be to have both heiress apparent to the Empire and the legitimized bastard of the Kingdom? Not to mention the heirs of the Alliance's roundtable."

Lysander frowned at Tomai, shaking his head. "We mustn't speak of this. The archbishop made that clear," Lysander reminded him. "The very least we can do is grant a year of peace and hope that the relationships built can withstand the incoming turbulence."

"And you don't believe the students won't also notice? The unit is made entirely of those in specific positions wielding certain abilities," Tomai asked.

"Regardless, we must do what we can for them," Lysander insisted. "No more, Tomai. Leave your concerns for later, please."

"They'll catch on, and when they do and start asking, I won't hold back any answers," He replied, taking a second to look at Kaira. "Don't let him fool you into taking on any more work than necessary."

"Anyone overhearing this conversation would think you thought me a villain," Lysander rolled his eyes.

"Enough," Kaira stated. "Lavender and Sirius will be here soon and we have three classes to explain things to. Let's get going, I'm sure the students are eager to be properly dismissed so they may go about their day."

Lysander took her words seriously and looked at Tomai, but the man was already crossing into the classroom. He let out a sigh and followed suit. Soon enough the classroom began to take their seats and Lysander stood in front of the desk, watching each student with mild curiosity. The other three professors stood close by, watching everyone settle down. As the last student took their seat, Kaira closed the door, joining the other three house professors at the front of the classroom with her hands together.

Lysander took a gaze at all of them before he cleared his throat. "Thank you all for coming. My name is Lysander Roland and I am honored and humbled to meet you all," He said with a soft voice, giving the class a short bow. "As some of you are already aware, this year the Officers Academy is choosing to--well, to be honest, this year I am choosing to do things differently. While tradition has long since guided our way, I feel that a little change can do no harm."

Euphemia frowned at Lysander, but he continued, "In truth, Fódlan is experiencing an instability that hasn't been seen in centuries. The Black Plague sweeping the Empire while they navigate relations with Dagda is enough to upset the balance, but both Kingdom and Alliance have had their fair share in trial and tribulation as well. Because of this, it is prevalent to do what we can for the people of Fódlan. For your people, for your brethren, to offer a hand to thy ailing neighbor as the scriptures dictate...the time will come sooner than later where faith and morality will be tested."

There was a heavy, odd silence that followed Lysander's words. Tomai let out a muted sigh, shaking his head at the dark haired man. As he caught his eye, he cleared his throat, a little concerned. "That was more ominous than intended! I sincerely apologize," He chuckled nervously, shaking his head. "What I meant is--what I mean to say is that now, more than ever, reaching across borders and taking your neighbor's hand is important. That is the reason we have split the classes into 'units' as opposed to separating them by house. By combining the three, it is my hope that relations between students will see through nationalism."

Another pause followed, but it was more comfortable and mostly because Lysander forgot what he was going to say next. He snapped his fingers as he remembered. "I thought I had more to say, but honestly, I think that about covers it," He said, missing Euphemia's facepalm. "Well, this group in particular does have a small advantage over the others. Lord Ioannis himself chose the members of this unit! That's neat, isn't it?"

"Yes, Professor, but I believe you had more to say..." Kaira piped up, trying to steer Lysander back in the proper direction.

"Did I--? I did. How bothersome, my memory is just not what it used to be," He sighed, trying to think. "This unit will be looked after a little closer than the others. Aside from a few heirs and royalty among you, some classes and missions will be handled differently. Students participate in requests given by surrounding villages as a way to both give back to the community and to give the students experience. In addition to those, there will be the odd mission here and there that will take you to the other churches to offer your assistance. Think of it as a trial for future generations!"

Lysander seemed satisfied, taking a seat back behind the desk. The other professors avoided exchanging looks, but were a little more confident. Euphemia nodded, deciding to say a few more words. "All of us here--that is, Professor Michail, Professor Malathice, and myself included--implore you to reach out to us if you ever need a guiding hand as well," She told the class with a smile, though she noticed Kaira's deflated look. "And Professor Kaira, too, of course!"

Michail chuckled, deciding to join Euphemia. He motioned for Tomai to join him, but the man preferred to stay where he was. For now, Michail decided to focus on the students. "On that note, how about everyone here go ahead and introduce themselves?" He suggested. "I'll start it off. I'm Michail Kalonic, Knight of Seiros turned professor, and I'm from the Kingdom. I like horse riding and fighting, and I dislike people telling me what to do. Explains why I decided to teach, right?" He joked.

Euphemia was less than thrilled at Michail, but Lysander loved it. "That's a great idea!" He agreed, much to the chagrin of the blonde. "Oh, but I already introduced myself. Why don't the rest of you go ahead, that way each student knows us all?"

Tomai seemed to disagree, but relented. "Tomai Malathice. I like crest research. I dislike Michail," He replied plainly. Michail's smile never left his face, but he did look over at Tomai.

Euphemia managed to contain her grin as she decided to follow suit. "I am Euphemia Kalonic--the Goddess blessed me with only one brother but could only do so much with Michail--and I like books and nature. I dislike bugs, though," She stated confidently, giving the class a playful wink.

The three then looked to the green haired girl, who seemed to forget she was a professor for a moment. Considering the gap in age, it was probably understandable; the three professors looked to be from their mid- to late twenties, whereas Kaira looked more like she fit in with the students. "Oh! I am Kaira Simeon, and I like...praying? Oh goodness, I feel like I could give a better answer than that..." Kaira furrowed her brow, trying to think. "I like a lot of things, and I don't like some things, but that is...not very specific, is it?"

"While our lovely Kaira decides, who wants to introduce themselves first?" Michail asked as he smoothly transitioned attention to the classroom, looking at the students. "Don't be shy! Just stand up and introduce yourself! We're all going to be fighting together, so it's handy to match a name to a face when need be!"

Adelaide's rebuke was sharp but Johann took it in stride. Better a woman to keep her wits about her than to fluff herself up and say nothing of true substance. He supposed there was the odd chance his father could have arranged such a situation for him to warm up his bride-to-be, but the much more likely explanation was that whoever was in charge thought it just made sense. And if it really was the work of his father, then he'd be disappointed.

He would wait for Rudolf to act before he as he had arrived first, but he had to admit the lack of grace was...confusing. Surely, the boy was taking the whole thing in jest. He wasn't sure if the Bergliez was awkward or nervous--personally, he would bet on both--and he kept his expression neutral. Less asset and more burden, this one would be. If he struggled kissing the air above a woman's hand then he was likely of little use in other areas.

"Maybe so, but I believe that skepticism is just fate's way of keeping us on our toes. Perhaps it enjoys a good debate as much as we do, orchestrating circumstances to keep us questioning and pondering its mysterious ways," He made an attempt to steer the attention away from the lad, demonstrating the proper way--no nose nor lips would grace Adelaide's hand as was proper and he didn't linger--and gave Widolaic a respectful bow.

"Opportunity seems to be the theme of the year; a unit system instead of the traditional House structure to unify the various students is begging for inter-country relations, isn't it?" He agreed with her statement wholeheartedly. "Many of the future Roundtable heirs, as well as Olivier of House Gaspard and Auberon of House Galatea, are in attendance. You'd have to be blind to not see the networking possibilities. Although with both the Gloucester heir and the remnant of House Ordelia attending, I'd think harmony among the Deer would be rare."

Every minute that passed felt like someone was subtly and slowly pushing down on Isolde’s chest. It was all so overwhelming; the statues felt like they were staring into her soul, the odd glance her way feeding into her anxiety in a way that made her wish she hadn’t bothered coming. The benefits had initially outweighed any negatives and her mother had a point; she had to show her face in public at one point or another.

She prayed silently to the Goddess for strength, hoping in some way that making it through the first day would mean she could survive the rest of the year. Her naive hope was that it had been so long since she had been seen that she wouldn’t be recognized, that the feeling of being watched was just her own paranoia. Everything passed her in a blur, and it wasn’t until a paper was in her hands that she woke up, so to speak.

Unfortunately, said paper sent her into such a spiral that she was sure she was going to throw up.

The mingling of students from different Houses had actually piqued her interest, if only because it meant a fresh start. She was shocked to see many noble–and even a royal!–name on the sheet, but her inner dread came out in full force when her eyes landed on one name: Nathanael Gloucester. Why? Why had they been put together? Surely the news of the late Duke Gloucester’s murder was widely known!

She noticed she was trembling and laid the paper down flat, taking a look around. To her absolute horror, she spotted the young man in question looking directly at her. Shame swept her quickly and she tore her gaze away, heart beating in her throat. She wasn’t ready for this. She wasn’t prepared to face him.

Isolde stood without realizing it and made a beeline for the door, stopping only when another arm hooked through hers. She was spun around in place and pulled along, and it took her much too long to realize it was Oskar Goneril doing so. There was no escape, much to her dismay, the older boy dragging her along even when she dug her feet in. Why was he so strong?!

He stopped before the trio and released Isolde, not noticing when she immediately hid behind him. “Alright, if we’re going to be showing these people a sincere Alliance party, then you just tell me where and when so I can tell people,” He boasted with a dazzling grin.

A startled, almost sickly look crossed Jorah’s face like a shadow as she approached, but he lit back up immediately when he saw Oskar, matching his enthusiasm. “Hm, that would help, wouldn't it?” He replied, holding his chin in thought. After a second, he snapped his fingers, eyes sparkling with excitement. “The Reception Hall! After the last bell. Tell people to bring their dancing shoes!”

Oskar clapped his hands together before pointing at each person with both hands. “Reception Hall after the last bell. Bring your dancing shoes. Be there. I’m doing my part!” He announced, nearly bowling Isolde over as he darted out of the classroom, repeating himself to every person he saw on the way out.

That left Isolde with nothing to hide behind, her expression, ironically, akin to a deer getting caught in the open. She tried not to panic as she found herself nearly face-to-face with a confrontation she wasn’t ready for, head dipped down as her brain tried to organize some words.

She failed, trembling in place for a few seconds before turning around and making an attempt to flee.

The Cathedral at Garreg Mach was famous through all of Fódlan and with good reason. A testament to centuries of history, faith, and architectural prowess, it was not just a place of worship, but a beacon of spirituality. The close distance from it to the Officer's Academy was surely a sign to the students gathered that the Goddess would watch their actions this year. Fortunately, he had absolutely nothing to fear, for every action, spoken word, and decision Johann von Aegir made was always calculated and with the dash of eloquence expected from a man of his pedigree. Any doubt he may have had was but a fleeting shadow in the radiance of his ambition.

He let himself follow the crowd of students from sermon to classroom, finding the setting one he liked very much. The blend of knights, the clergy, and students was something that piqued his interest; resisting the urge to flag down a genuine Knight of Seiros and grill him on the happenings of Garreg Mach were strong, but that was a life now left behind. That the Goddess had deemed his desire to come to the monastery one way or another was enough to make him chuckle, though he never would have guessed it would be to get a proper education.

With his elder brother set to inherit his father's position, it made Johann the obvious candidate for his father to offer to the Emperor for his heir's hand in marriage. Johann was neither reluctant nor was he exhilarated; it was simply a matter of fact and an inevitability. He was surprised by the news and had no shortage of theories on what his father had to do for it to happen--the head of the von Aegir family was notorious for not only getting what he wanted but his willingness to do what he needed to get it--but there was something unsteady about the entire affair that bothered him. Granted, the plague had ravaged the Adrestian Empire and seeing the princess wed would surely revitalize the people, but he couldn't shake the feeling.

For now, Johann focused on the famed Professor Malathice and held back a chuckle. He had heard that said professor's only public appearance in the noble circle had resulted in a flurry of ruffled feathers as the man's apathy had rubbed many the wrong way. It was a strange comfort to see he was as the rumors said he was, even if it would lead to some trouble down the line. He hoped there wouldn't be a need to seek the professor out for help, but he hoped at minimum any serious issues would be listened to, at least.

One exit and dismissal later and Johann found himself played spectator to a spirited conversation between the radiant Fiona von Varley and the prickly Veronica von Gerth. Both sang praise to the monastery, something he hadn't expected; Veronica in particular was notorious for always finding something to complain about so her being positive was a refreshing change. But a speck of white in his peripheral caught his attention and he watched as the heiress to the empire broke a hug from another he recognized but couldn't match a name to her face. It was innocuous enough but he didn't like it. He couldn't explain why, either, but whatever the case was, he had pardoned himself from the pair of ladies and found himself walking up to the duo--no, trio, where in the world did their third come from?

He didn't head over just yet, however. First, he checked the board, looking for both his name and the princess'. Fortunately, they were both in the same unit, and so he had the perfect excuse to walk on over and join the conversation. "Pardon the interruption, ladies and gent," He flashed a grin and a slight bow, eyes flickering between the Bergliez and the woman before landing on Princess Adelaide. "Johann von Aegir, at your service. Forgive my boldness, but I noticed we have the luck of being in the same unit this year. How fortuitous!"

Stories always paled in comparison to the real thing, this much Derec knew. Even still, Garreg Mach had a serenity that no tale could ever do justice; from the grand cathedral to the bustling marketplace, it was almost everything he had hoped for. Here the borders between lands were nonexistent and both commoner and noble walked side by side. In a sense, it was the perfect escape for anyone looking to hide from the world. Not that he was hiding from anyone in particular, but at the very least he could probably sleep better at night not worrying about any possible assassins sneaking into his room past the guards.

The Archbishop's speech was nice, but Derec found it hard to concentrate when the words were coming out of a child half his height. At least he looked like he was having a nice time. Speaking of which, their professor was certainly a character. He had heard of a Knight of Seiros joining the ranks of the Officers Academy, but he figured it would have been as a combat advisor. The fact that he was going to be the one in charge of the Blue Lion House was...not worrying, but not really comforting, either. His last name sounded familiar to Derec, too, but he couldn't place it. It must not have been any major noble house of Faerghus. Maybe it was a lesser known branch?

The professor left the room so quickly that Derec almost wanted to follow suit, but it was probably a good idea to find out which students he would be spending the year with. He stood from his seat and approached the chalkboard, towering over most of the other students. Finding his name wasn't too hard, but he did raise his eyebrow at only seeing 'Ballard'. Well, the Royal family had yet to formally recognize him, so maybe he had been expecting too much. Then again, Lord Leon had said he was free to use the Blaiddyd name, and he had the crest to quiet anyone who thought he was unworthy.

The house leader decided to introduce himself, and Derec watched with great interest. Galatea, now that was a name he did recognize. At least he sounded like a leader! He finished with such a flourish that Derec couldn't help but clap, though he realized his mistake shortly afterwards as he was the only one. "Oh--okay," Derec stopped clapping, turning back to the board. In theory, the best thing to do was to avoid the nobility--no doubt he wasn't exactly popular with those who would stick to the original heir--so he figured he should stick to his classmates.

And of course that meant he was placed in a unit with not only Faerghus nobility but Alliance nobility and even the Imperial Princess from the looks of the Black Eagles. "Great," Derec mumbled, scratching the back of his head. Galatea and Fraldarius? Really? Why not add in Gautier and Dominic while they were at it? How was he supposed to lay low?

He figured he may as well try to bring about a good first impression. But where would he start? House Leader Galatea? It certainly seemed like the obvious answer, but Derec would rather know his enemy first and foremost and the Galatea seemed problematic. He approached the blond somewhat reluctantly, running a hand through his red hair to smooth it out.

"Well said," Derec decided a little compliment to hopefully butter the guy up would help. "And well met, I'm Derec Ballard. Looks like we'll be in the same class unit for the year."
Not a single ray of sunshine fell on Fódlan that day. The funeral was brief as this was the life of a mercenary, after all. But his life had ended much too soon, taken from him before he could truly live. And all for nothing; the girl he had died saving would never again see the light of day. It was a tragedy of unspoken proportions, the effects calamitous. It would take much good will to prevent Fódlan from cracking further.

Letting out a sigh, the woman looked up at the sky. So much had gone wrong in so little time. It was clear now that no one could be trusted. For Sothis to return among the living, stricter measures needed to be put in place. Yes, that was the way. Next time, she would make sure that the child would be protected. No harm would come to it--she must take things into her own hands. She would not make the same mistake twice.

Before taking her leave, she would gaze upon the gravestone that bore one name: Byleth Eisner.

The opening ceremony of the Officers Academy took place in the cathedral of the church. An assortment of knights and members of the Church had decorated the place with a multitude of red, blue, and yellow ribbons, celebrating the arrival of the students. Although the seats weren’t filled, it was clear the number of students didn’t matter; each one was welcomed whether they were noble or commoner.

Among the clergy was a young boy who stood out among the rest. The garb seemed to swallow the child whole, but he stood proud nonetheless, as if channeling the spirits of the previous archbishops before him. His stature did little to impede him as he strode over to the center of the floor, a small smile on his face as he looked over the many faces before him.

“Welcome, one and all,” The volume in his voice betrayed his size, easily carried over the entirety of the hall with ease. “The goddess blesses us with another group of hopefuls! It warms my heart to see so many new faces here at Garreg Mach. I am Archbishop Ioannis, and I am humbled that I have the opportunity to accompany you all through your year at the Officers Academy.”

Taking a small pause, Ioannis continued, “This is but a final step for many of you before taking your place in the world, and all of us are eager and willing to ensure that this year is a smooth one. We here at Garreg Mach implore you to lean on your neighbor, to support those who may need it. While the world will always present challenge after challenge, we hope to supply you with the knowledge and wisdom to take hold of your future; no man is a nation, and we must all work together for the sake of Fódlan and the people.”

He looked over to his left side, gesturing to a taller man with silver hair. “My right hand, Sirius, will be supporting the school faculty in addition to his usual duties of overlooking the Knights of Seiros,” He introduced the man. “He, as well as Lady Arianthe, have been vital during the transition from one archbishop to the next.”

The man motioned to the boy’s right. Remembering something, Ioannis sheepishly looked to that side, clearing his throat. “This year’s faculty is a little more varied than in previous years. With Lady Geraldine’s return to Adrestia, we decided to better assist the students with more professors to lead classes. Professor Lysander Roland oversees much of the school’s curriculum and is the liaison between the school and church--that said, he has a generous open-door policy and is one of the kindest souls you’ll likely meet. Assisting him will be a nurse who serves both school and church by the name of Kaira Simeon--their offices are located on the second floor.” The dark haired man’s jaw dropped, his gaze following as his face flushed with color, quietly shaking his head as he avoided looking anyone in the eye. A green haired girl nudged him, clearly trying not to laugh as she gave the students a small wave.

Ioannis looked like he had more to say, but after a moment decided against it, once again giving the students a warm smile. “Your professors await you in your homerooms. May the goddess watch over you all.”

Outside of the classrooms stood Lysander and Kaira, the pair in a spirited conversation. The two stopped long enough to to watch Michail run out of the Blue Lions classroom, a giant grin on his face. Said grin turned into a howl as he was promptly thwacked by a furious Euphemia, though it was Tomai stopping him in his tracks that really caused the knight distress. Lysander and Kaira looked at one another briefly before deciding to run interference, briefly catching the tail end of an accusation of sabotage.

"Have you any idea how humiliated I was?!" Euphemia kept her voice low as she cracked the rod on the back of Michail's head.

"Stop--how do you manage to hit my unarmored spots--it's just a harmless prank!" He defended himself as he tried to duck another blow and hid behind Kaira.

"This book is centuries old and you decided to scribble all over it," Tomai said flatly, showing the group an identical sketch to the one in the Golden Deer's classroom etched onto the back of Tomai's book.

"Oh, Michail, we talked about how you should be acting in a position of authority..." Lysander sighed, shaking his head.

Across the courtyard, Ioannis watched the professors and students as they began to leave the classrooms, a sparkle in his eye. In truth, he knew it was best that he should head back to the church, but the boy was eager to interact with the students--even if they were all older than he was. A pair of knights--easily recognizable as the captain and the Archbishop's right hand man introduced earlier--stood a short distance away.

Garreg Mach Monastery
First Floor
  • Marketplace - A market in front of the monastery, through which merchants come to exchange goods.
  • Entrance Hall - The entrance of the monastery, which connects to the dining hall and other notable locations in Garreg Mach.
  • Dining Hall - The dining hall is directly adjacent to the entrance hall, through which residents of the monastery regularly eat meals at any time.
  • Greenhouse - A greenhouse through which plants for cooking and gifts are raised.
  • Fishing Pond - A pond through which residents can fish utilizing bait. Fish from many locations in Fódlan are gathered here: sometimes, extremely rare fish can be caught, or at times large amounts of fish can be caught at once.
  • Dormitory - A two-floor facility that functions as a residence for students of the Officers Academy. While the staff of the academy tries to reduce discrimination between nobles and commoners, such prejudice still exists, and as such, the nobles almost always take up the second floor while commoners are relegated to the first floor rooms.
  • Sauna - A building located between the dormitory and the training ground that functions as a relaxation facility, where residents can refresh in a steam room.
  • Training Grounds - A place where knights and students alike come to hone their combat skills. Every month, a tournament is held where the winners can achieve both money and a prize as a result.
  • Stables - Horses wyverns are raised here. Sometimes, students of the Officers Academy are assigned to group tasks involving taking care of the horses, pegasi, and wyverns here.
  • Knights Hall - The Knights of Seiros gather and socialize in this hall. There are targets for practice as well as books and a lounge here.
  • Graveyard - Behind the Knights' Hall is a graveyard where notable people who are now deceased are laid to rest.
  • Cathedral - At the most rear point of the monastery, connected to the remainder of Garreg Mach via a bridge, is a cathedral where devout believers worship the goddess Sothis and the saints. Statues of the Four Saints are located here. Choir practice is held here. An advice box is also located here where students can ask for advice.
  • Central Building - The most central building of Garreg Mach, it is a three-floor facility that harbors multiple locations:
  • Reception Hall - On the first floor of the main building is the reception hall, where social events such as the Ball during the Ethereal Moon are held.

Second Floor
The second floor is home to several different facilities:

  • Audience Chamber - This is where the archbishop often stands during their work. The professors of Garreg Mach regularly report here at the start of each month to obtain their missions.
  • Advisory Room - The archbishop's advisor works here to speak with the archibishop.
  • Kalonic's Office - This room is shared between the two siblings and is often where students meet with either of them for one-to-one time.
  • Captain's Quarters - A room where the current captain of the Knights of Seiros--Kalliope--resides.
  • Crest Scholar's Office - An office where Professor Tomai conducts his research on Crests.
  • Infirmary - A facility run by Professor Kaira where the injured and the sick are taken care of.
  • Library - Numerous books and historical texts are here for reading. It is also used as a study space for members of the Officers Academy. It is run by Lysander, who doubles as its librarian.
  • Cardinal's Room - The main room for the cardinals of the Church of Seiros. The professors usually gather here once a week to discuss and compare lesson plans.

Third Floor
The third floor is only accessible to the members of the Church but can be reached with permission:

  • Archbishop's Room - The archbishop takes residence in this room.
  • Star Terrace - A balcony atop which a view of the monastery can be attained.
Tomai Malathice

Dark Bishop
Crest of Lamine - Detection

The Black Eagles' Professor. A graduate of Adrestia's top magic college, Tomai made a small name for himself refining Crest-discovery devices for the masses. His knowledge is only second to his wit, and while he would much rather be alone studying, he assures his students that he keeps an open door policy. Oddly enough, he does not seem to worship Seiros, having little interest in the Goddess and her teachings.

Michail Kalonic
Holy Knight
Crest of Charon - Regeneration

The Blue Lions' Professor. A Knight of Seiros who is tasked with protecting the students, the only thing he likes more than a good fight is a beautiful person at his side. He's extremely easy going and loves to socialize, always up for a quick chat or spar even with a pile of paperwork waiting on his desk. Despite his flaws, he has a good sense of justice for all and became a professor to make a difference in the world.

Euphemia Kalonic
Bow Knight
Crest of Dominic - Enhanced Speed

The Golden Deer's Professor. Formerly a renowned socialite in Faerghus society, she is a charming woman with an apparent sweet-and-spicy deposition. It has some merit; she is as sweet as she is hot headed, quick to jump to someone's aide but just as fast to start up an argument. Either way she usually insists on keeping up the nicer side of her, perky and peppy most of the time. She cherishes her students and friends and seeks to keep everyone on good terms.

Kaira Simeon

Crest of Seiros - Crest Negation

The Academy's nurse. She was formerly a cleric, having an extraordinary talent in healing from a young age. She has been with the church her whole life and yearns to explore Fódlan, but says she is needed at Garreg Mach. Not much is known about her otherwise as she has a tendency to keep people at arms' length.


Crest of Cethleann - Foresight

The new Archbishop and Ascelpius' former apprentice, Ioannis has been with the church his whole life. He was abandoned as an infant on the church's steps and taken in, and at the age of five had heard a revelation from the Goddess. Despite his young age of only twelve summers, he is dedicated to the people and will do everything he can to help those in need.

Lysander Roland
War Master

The Academy's counselor. A kind, caring soul, he leans into his position with enthusiasm and considers it a personal point of pride to ensure the students have a peaceful year. He is flustered easily and a little on the quiet side at times, but always makes sure he's available when needed. When he's ahead of his work, he sometimes helps the professors with their classes.

Lavender von Bartels

The Academy's battle instructor. A Knight of Seiros tasked with educating students of every class in combat, Lavender is a skilled tactician with many victories in the recent war between the Empire and Dagda. She developed a love for teaching after being called to lead a class and has stayed at the academy ever since. She isn't pleased about a prevailing rumor going around that says she's hopelessly in love with Mikhail, less so when she found out he was the one that spread it.

Arianthe Styliano
Cleric | Saint

Former second-in-command to Archbishop Ascelpius, Arianthe had planned on retiring before his death, but chose to stay and help the transition. At his request she has stayed by his side and offers her guidance to all; without her organization it would have taken much longer to get things to normal. A quiet, gentle woman, Arianthe is something of a recluse and seems to have a hard time trusting people. Still, her wisdom is indispensable and she is always open to those who seek her out.
Sirius Philemon
Mortal Savant

Stepping in as the Church's second-in-command, Sirius is a former Knight of Seiros who stepped into an administrative role. He is stern but means well and goes out of his way to ensure order is kept at all times. He works closely with all the professors in an effort to have everything running smoothly and goes out of his way to learn each student's name. His decision to leave the battlefield came as a shock to many, but rumor has it that Ascelpius himself had asked him.

Kalliope Klynn
Wyvern Lord

Head of the Knights of Seiros, Kalliope is one of the fiercest warriors of the land. She was transferred from the Southern Church to Central recently, though has no qualms about it. That said, she certainly doesn't have the personality to match her title of 'Lightning Strike of Fódlan'; loud, rude, and full of herself, if people aren't intimidated by her skill, they're certain to steer away anytime she has a drink in her hand. Of course, she is a different beast on the battlefield, so one can't help but have curiosity.

Theo Philemon

A recent graduate of the Officers Academy and new inductee into the Knights of Seiros, Theo specializes in working in the shadows. Despite his age he is widely respected and has pulled his weight. Even before he became a knight, he knew how to form a network to keep himself informed of all the whispers and ongoings of Garreg Mach. He was also known for having sneaky hands, but was reigned in by his older brother, Sirius. He's somewhat dry-witted but usually well meaning--so long as you have nothing to hide, of course.

Chionne Galini
Pegasus Knight

A mild-mannered Knight of Seiros who would rather speak to animals than people, Chionne is an odd one. She is known to outright walk away from conversations she isn't a fan of participating in and seemingly has no regards for the feelings of others. Her talent at taming animals is outmatched by even trainers with decades more experience than she. She can control anything on four legs with one exception: cats seem to hate her.

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