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Chosen Paths

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Nervousness was not something that Byleth was used to feeling, even before a big battle where the odds and the response were unpredictable.  She was definitely feeling it this morning though, and it was... uncomfortable.

Byleth had woken as the sun started to rise.  She was up and dressed quickly, then ran down to the dining hall for a speedy plate of food which she barely tasted in her haste to get it eaten.  Next, she headed over to the classrooms, which she unlocked with the large key that had been left for her by Seteth. After careful consideration of her available options, Byleth left a notice on the blackboard serving the Golden Deer and the Blue Lion's class in her best and most precise handwriting asking those students to liaise in the Black Eagles room first thing (and bring a chair).

There were still a few hours to go until the students would be making their way to the classroom.  Byleth thought about just sitting and waiting for the time to pass, but the itch of anxiety that was still rubbing her forced her to her feet.  Focus was impossible, so she decided to try and walk her nerves out.   She found her way quite naturally to the entrance hall, where the gatekeeper - her brother - was standing guard.

'Morning, Professor.'  She could hear his smile.  It seemed to be a talent he excelled in.  'Nothing to report.  A quiet night once the number of people afflicted by illness started to calm down.  Hasn't been a new case for several hours, so it's looking like there is no need to worry about a potential epidemic.'

Byleth leaned casually on the wall next to him.

'I noticed you at the fight yesterday.'  She said quietly. 

'I was hardly going to miss the opportunity to see you in action!'  He chuckled.  'Managed to swap my shift.  That's how I ended up on night duty last night.'

'Lucky you didn’t come down with the sickness too.'  She observed.

'Well... happens that I noted a little something  was being added to the keg of beer that the knights were drinking.'   Came the murmured reply.

'You saw that?'  Byleth exclaimed, then lowered her voice too.  'You didn’t report it?'  She queried.

'I saw the look on the face of the one who did it.  It kinda mirrored my own feeling at what had just happened.'

'I see.'  Byleth nodded.  'You didn’t think there might actually be any kind of danger to those that drank?'

'I've got a good nose for trouble.'  The gatekeeper stood straighter.  'What I saw on the face of the perpetrator was annoyance and a dash of mischief but no genuine ill intent.  The lad in question also attended the infirmary in the first week he was here with a rough stomach not dissimilar to what the Knights have experienced.  Reckon his creation was tested on himself first.  You think I was wrong to stay quiet?'

'It's not my place to say.'  Byleth looked troubled. 

Myles chuckled at that.

'It happens that the miscreant has a pretty complex setup in his room for his little experimental hobby.'  Byleth whispered.  'He's been looking for somewhere safer to conduct his research.  Do you know of anywhere that might fit?'

'So you don't have an issue with it then?'

'Not in theory.  Have to see how it plays out in practice.'

'Reckon there are a few hidden places that could work.'  Myles said thoughtfully.  'Let me think about it.'

'I will want a key to wherever you decide.'  Byleth pushed herself from the wall and eyed her brother.

'You want me to approach him with a solution to his problem?'  He asked.

'Yeah.  He could use some allies.  If you don't have a problem with that.'  Byleth replied.

'Whatever you want sis.' 

Byleth's eyes widened.  'It's odd to be called that.'  She murmured.

'I could always call you 'little sis.'  He teased.  'I believe I was born first, after all.'

'It's your funeral.'  She observed stoically.

'Heh, noted.  I've seen you fight.  I definitely intend to stay in your good books.'  He laughed.  'Anyway, don't you have teaching to do today?  What are you wasting your time standing here chatting to me for?' 

'Anxiety.'  She told him honestly.

'Huh.'  He sounded surprised.

'I'm not actually made of stone, you know.'  She frowned.  'And I get all of the students all at once today.'

'Can't see any of them wanting to give you any trouble, any more than I would want to.' 

'Yeah, I ain't worried about discipline, fairly sure I can manage that one.'  She huffed.  'More worried that I don’t know much about anything other than the pointy end of a weapon.  I don't wanna let anyone down.'

'Just listen to them, Professor.'  Myles said gently.  'The best way to support anyone is to let them speak and really listen.  Don't matter if you don't have an answer immediately.  You can always find it.'

She mentally shook herself.  'Right.'  She agreed.  'Thanks.'

'We could meet up after lessons are done for the day if you like.'  He added.

'I thought we were supposed to be, you know... keeping our association a bit of a secret?'

'Do you generally do what you're told?'  He asked, inquisitively.

'Always.'  She nodded

'Really?'

'Sometimes, with a bit of creative license.'  She amended.

'Isn't like Captain Jeralt is around and you and me certainly don't look alike.  I've never actually seen Lady Rhea grace the dining hall... so...'  He left the idea dangling.

'Alright.'  Byleth was actually quite relieved.

'I'll see you later then.'  She could hear his grin again behind his helmet.  'Knock 'em dead sis.  Not literally though...'  He began to chuckle to himself.

'Funny.'  She grouched as she walked away.

Ironically, despite being up almost before the sun, Byleth was a little late for her first class.  It wasn’t by intent, but after she had spoken with her brother she had headed back in the direction of her room to pick up the buckets that she needed to take along to class and had bumped into a very harassed Manuela who had obviously gotten no sleep at all overnight.  Byleth had seen the woman safely to her room and then got into a discourse with an equally sleepy Hanneman.  Both of the Professors tried to give her helpful words and encouragement for her first day of teaching but managed only in holding her up.

By the time she finally ran to her room and picked up what she needed and sprinted around to the classrooms, she was aware that she was tardy.  The door to the Black Eagles room was wide open, and the noise coming from it was deafening even from a distance.  Slowing herself to a more dignified stride, Byleth swallowed hard and entered the class, walking down the central aisle with her head high and her blankest look on her face.  When she reached the table at the front, she lifted the wooden buckets that she was carrying onto it and then turned to face the students.

Silence had fallen as soon as she had entered. 

Byleth's first emotion was relief.  It appeared that everyone was here.  The room was uncomfortably full - each of the eight student's desks, meant just for one person having three bodies crammed around them.

Byleth cooly took stock as twenty-four pairs of eyes stared back at her.

'Say something...'  Sothis suggested helpfully in her head.

'I have just returned from meeting with Professor Manuela.'  Byleth's mouth was dry, but she managed to keep the croak from her voice as she stared straight ahead.  'While it appears that there have been no new cases of illness for several hours,  the decision has been made that it would be wise to limit movement around the Monastery for the time being.  That being the case you are all required to restrict your activities to your accommodation, the dining hall and obviously the classrooms.'

'No library?'  Lysithia was unable to contain herself.  'There are books I need!'  she complained.

'No training grounds either.'  Felix noted crossly.

'We will be alerted as soon as it is deemed appropriate that other areas are available.'  Byleth frowned.

'Inspiring speech.'  Sothis observed.

Ignoring the unwanted commentary in her head, Byleth leaned herself against the front of her desk.

'I understand that this isn’t the best way to start the year off, but I'm confident it will only be a day or two before normal activities can commence.  Until then, we'll have to muddle along as best we can.'  Byleth inwardly cringed at her words.  'That is to say, I will start off with the lessons that I planned specifically to present in my sessions with each class.  Since you are all here I guess it will save a bit of time.'

Edelgard, seated at one of the two front desks with Hubert and Ferdinand raised her hand.  When Byleth nodded towards her, she stood.

'Do you mean weapon training?'  She asked.

'No.'  Byleth looked away and removed the cover from one of the buckets that she had placed on the desk.  'While martial skills will be a part of my training, that is an individualised study.  My main aim is far more generalized.'

There was a pause as she looked up and scrutinized the class.  'I believe all of you were at the demonstration yesterday.'  She noted.  There was a slight murmur.  'Then I would be interested to hear what you observed about the fight.'  Byleth requested.

Caspar shot to his feet.  'You are a total badass Professor!'  He yelled.  Hubert looked round at him disapprovingly as a small ripple of laughter, and one or two muted cheers went around the room.  'Well, she is!'  Caspar grinned.

'I believe that is an opinion rather than an observation.'  Byleth said, her expression unchanging.  'Ignatz - perhaps you have an observation to share?'  Her eyes swung to the bespectacled boy.

'Oh!'  Ignatz rose to his feet, his face flushed bright red at the attention.  He thought about it for a second or two.  'I think... well, I noticed that you didn’t move around very much.  It surprised me.'

'Good.'  Byleth nodded and waved for him to sit down.  'Hilda.. could you give a suggestion as to why I stayed as motionless as possible?' 

Hilda was sat right at the back of the room alongside Marianne and Leonie.  She stood up with a smirk plastered to her face.  'Because you are lazy?'  she drawled.

'Wrong.'  Byleth's arm moved so fast it was almost a blur.

'OUCH!'  Hilda cried her hand, moving to her forehead.  'What in the hell was that?'

Byleth's attention had moved on.  'Annette, perhaps you could offer a reason I didn’t move much?'  She requested.

'Conserving energy?'  The girl said nervously.

'Exactly.'  Byleth's arm moved again, and Linhardt bolted upright from where he had started to reline back in his seat, his eyes closed.  He looked startled.  'I'm awake.'  He groaned.

'Then perhaps you would like to share any observations you made yesterday?'  Byleth raised an eyebrow at him.

Linhardt sighed heavily and stood.  'I think what you are referring to is the fact that your awareness of your enemies and your ability to not only predict their attacks but to counter them comes from your own training in observation and perception.  I expect that you intend to try and test our own ability to anticipate and prevent attacks by the use of the rubber balls that you are throwing at us.'  He sighed again and sat down.

'Oh!  Well, yes.'  Byleth wasn’t the only person staring at Linhardt, who had reclined back in his chair again and closed his eyes.

'Wait.. you intend to physically attack us?'  Hubert sounded outraged.

Byleth picked another rubber ball from her pail and threw it up on the air catching it quickly as it fell. 

'Think yourself lucky Hubert.  When Jeralt taught me, he used stones, to begin with then moved onto dagger's once I started getting the hang of it.'

'Seriously, I fail to see how violence is a training method.'

'Builds your reflexes and observation.'  Linhardt informed, although his eyes were still closed.

'If I only manage to teach you all one thing this year...'  Byleth's voice was oddly passionate.  'It will be to be aware of incoming danger an how to counter it.'  The ball in her hand skidded out at speed and smacked into Sylvain's brow.

'Wow, I really didn’t see that coming!'  He grinned, rubbing his head.

'When I'm done with you, you will.'  Byleth promised.