The first night at the Monastery is too quiet.
Nessarose Byleth Eisner lays in her bed, staring up at the wooden ceiling. It is late, close to midnight if Nessa guessed. The bell tolled at eleven that evening, but had yet to chime for midnight. That damn bell is the only sound she can hear other than the occasional patrol passing outside her door.
The morning brings her first class with the Black Eagles, and Nessa still doesn't know what to do. Her Papa suggested seeing their strengths and going from there, so she likely will take them to the training grounds. Still, no matter how much she plans, she will be useless without sleep.
Knowing she will not get any sleep in this strange room, Nessa throws her blankets off her and hops out of bed. She walks over to her bag, which holds the last of her things, and dumps the bag on the floor.
"Seriously?" The green haired child chastises her.
"It is faster this way," Nessa grumbles.
The darkness slows her search, but she eventually finds a pair of canvas shoes that slip over her feet. With her shoes on, she prepared to venture outside when the child yells at her.
"You can't go outside like that!"
"Why?" Nessa asks, looking down at her clothes. She's wearing one of her father's old shirts. It's large enough that it comes down to her mid thigh, so it covers all the essential parts in her mind.
"It's indecent! Cover up!"
Nessa shrugs, but grabs her favorite thick and fluffy blanket off her bed, and throws it over her shoulders. It's long enough to drag across the ground, so she folds it just enough to keep it from getting dirty.
"Better?" Nessa asks her companion.
"Not much, but I suppose it shall do."
Nessa will take that. Clearly Sothis has standards unknown to Nessa.
Quietly she slips out of her room and makes her way through the Monastery. Her experience as a mercenary helps her in avoiding the attention of the night watch. She gets lost several times, and probably should ask for help, something in the back of her mind tells Nessa she probably shouldn't say anything to anyone.
Just after the bell strikes midnight, Nessa reaches her father's office. It's empty, but Nessa can see the faint candlelight coming from under the door to his quarters. Without hesitation, Nessa opens the door and slips inside as quietly as possible. Once inside, she sees her father doffing his armor.
"Couldn't sleep?" He asks when he hears the door close.
Nessa takes comfort in knowing that her Papa knows her well enough that he doesn't have to turn to know she's come to his room this late.
"Too quiet," Nessa answers, already walking to the bed.
As Captain of the Knight's of Seiros, he had spacious quarters, and a bed larger than Nessa has ever seen.
Once she gets to the bed, she slips off her canvas shoes and throws her blanket on top of the many covers on the bed. Free of her blanket cover, Nessa pulls down the bed covers just enough to slip under them.
"It is quiet here too," Nessa tells him, looking up at the man.
"Yeah, it's probably a lot quieter than camp or an Inn. Especially at this time of night," Jeralt replies as he finishes with his armor.
It doesn't take him long to get out of the rest of his clothes and into his night clothes. When he is changed, he crawls into bed. Once settled, he sticks his arm closest to Nessa out so she can slide next to him. It's a familiar action, and Nessa quickly attaches herself to Jeralt's side, letting her head rest on his shoulder.
"I wouldn't get too comfortable," Jeralt tells her, "they want you to sleep in your room so you can keep an eye on the students, so you can't be sneaking in her all the time."
"They should make someone else do it," Nessa replies, her eyes already closed.
"Well you can tell the Archbishop that yourself," Jeralt chuckles.
"I will," Nessa mumbled through a yawn. "I do not know why they gave us different rooms, anyway. You are my Papa. We always share."
Jeralt brings his massive arm to curl around his daughter. Even he can admit that it's strange to be separated from his child. In the past, they would share rooms out of necessity, it just became a habit.
"If we had a steadier life," Jeralt starts off, "you'd probably have your own bedroom in whatever house we lived in."
Nessa shimmies even closer, curling into her father's massive frame.
"No thanks," she mumbles.
That makes Jeralt chuckle a little. His kid might not be very emotive, but after all this time, he's learned that she shows her love in over ways. Or, whatever she feels. He still isn't sure she feels love, at least like he does, but he knows Nessa feels things in her own special way.
"Love you too, kiddo." Jeralt whispers before kissing the top of her head.
Jeralt knew there would come a time where he would never hold his child like this ever again, and he knows he should be lucky he's had more time than most parents, but it doesn't stop his heart from hurting just a little bit. He would miss this. A lot. But Nessa is an adult, and she needs to sleep by herself now, as much as it pains Jeralt to admit it.
"Night," Jeralt mumbles to her. Nessa grunts out acknowledgement, but she's halfway asleep to say anything.
Tonight will be the last night they share. Tomorrow Jeralt will sit her down and explain why she needs to stay in her room. But tonight he enjoys the last moments of holding his baby girl in his arms.
Jeralt wakes up in the middle of the night after the Mock Battle (where the Black Eagles trounced the other houses. He's only a little proud but he doesn't show it), to see Nessa, once again, curled up in bed with him. Their initial talk about sleeping in her own room fell on deaf ears. Nessa is a stubborn little thing and Jeralt is convinced that she gets it from Sitri (though she probably gets it from him, too).
Sighing, Jeralt slides out of bed and throws some actual clothes on before wrapping his sleeping daughter in her oversized blanket. Nessa doesn't wake when he picks her up, but she sleeps through anything, so this isn't new. He pushes the door open and begins the walk back to Nessa's room.
The walk from his quarters to the Monastery is a pleasant one. The evening air is cool, but not cold, thankfully. Even in a pair of trousers and a simple shirt, Jeralt doesn't feel the least bit chilly, it's just nice. He doesn't know how his kid can stand bundling up in her oversized blanket, but she always curls up under the damn thing, even when it's as hot as balls outside.
"You really need to start sleeping in your own room, By," Jeralt mumbles to himself.
"No," Nessa sleepily mumbles back.
She must have woken up when he picked her up, or she wasn't completely asleep. No matter, Jeralt knows she's only a few minutes from falling asleep again. He opts to just walk past her room, down to the greenhouses, and then walk back. That should be enough time for her to fall back asleep.
"We talked about this, Byleth," Jeralt says, bringing out the full name.
She was supposed to be named Byleth, Sitri loved the name and desperately wanted to name their child Byleth. Jeralt came up with Nessarose as a possible second name if they had a daughter (and Reus if they had a son), and so she should have been Byleth Nessarose Eisner, not Nessarose Byleth Eisner. However, after leaving the Monastery, Jeralt switched the names to help hide his child from the Church's eye (and sometimes it just hurt to call her Byleth without Sitri there to hear it). It worked, until Alois found them…
"Still dumb," Nessa protests.
Jeralt can't argue with that. After all, he is flipping her world upside-down.
"I know," he agrees, "but here adult kids don't sleep in the same room, let alone the same bed, as their parents unless they have to."
"Yeah, I know," Jeralt answers, "everyone else has depressing lives because they miss out on great cuddles."
"Yup," Nessa replies, popping the p. "Dumb."
"But you're going to have to start sleeping in your own room all the same," he says, in that time that leaves very little for arguing.
"No like," Nessa says through a yawn. She curls into his chest and mumbles something into his shirt that he doesn't catch.
"Neither do I," Jeralt agrees.
He stops at the greenhouse for a bit, pacing back and forth in front of the entrance until he hears Nessa's breathing level out.
"G'night, kiddo," Jeralt mumbles into her messy navy blue locks. He presses a kiss to the top of her head before turning to go back to her room.
Before walking away, his eye catches a flash of white. Turning his head, Jeralt sees it. A girl sitting on the steps leading to the second floor. Her eyes are closed and she appears to be sleeping. Carefully he makes his way closer, and when he does he realizes she is the Imperial Princess.
"Like Teacher like Student, I guess," Jeralt mumbles.
Knowing he can't just let the princess sleep outside, Jeralt sighs and adjusts his grip on his kid. It's times like these when he's thankful that she sleeps like the dead. Jeralt could throw the kid around like a ragdoll and she'd still stay asleep. So he moves Nessa so that he's holding her up on one hip, much like how he saw mother's carry their little ones.
"Hey," Jeralt whispers, crouching down so that he's eye level with the sleeping princess. Carefully he reaches out, using his massive hand to gently shake her awake.
The princess startles instantly, and nearly let's out a terrified yelp. The next thing Jeralt knows, there's a knife coming at him. All his years fighting give him an advantage, even with one arm holding up his useless sleeping child, and he catches her wrist before she can stab anything.
"Sorry for startling you," Jeralt tells her quietly, still keeping a firm hold on her wrist, "but you can't be sleeping out here. It's not safe. I know this one would beat herself up if something happened to you."
The princess, Edelgard if he remembers right, blinks a few times and then looks over to her very asleep professor who is wrapped in a massive fluffy blanket. Jeralt releases her wrist once he's sure she won't attack him, and she brings her hand down to her lap.
"My apologies, I simply needed some air," she speaks quietly, "I did not intend to fall asleep out here."
The two of them stand, and as Edelgard goes to take a step, she stumbles only to be caught by Jeralt.
"I gotcha," He says quietly, effortlessly scooping her up much like he's done with Nessa. "Tell me which one's yours and we can keep this just between us."
Edelgard is too stunned and confused for words, so she simply nods.
In the back of his mind, Jeralt realizes he's probably overstepped, but he starts the trek up the stairs all the same. Edelgard is quiet during their short trip. One of her hands clings to Jeralt's shirt, and the other loosely twines with Nessa's fingers. Jeralt definitely notices but keeps his comments to himself, but it's good to know his daughter isn't the only one with a little crush.
"It's this one," Edelgard whispers, gesturing towards the door with her chin.
It has a halfway decent painting of a black bird, outlined in red, and her name written underneath. Jeralt grins when he recognizes the handiwork of his daughter. It's not the greatest, but it's obvious to him that Nessa put a lot of effort into it. She may not be an artist, but she's far better than Jeralt and at least the bird looks like a bird. Sitri could paint and draw, so clearly the kid inherited some of that skill.
"She make that for you?" He asks, carefully setting Edelgard down.
"She made one for everyone," Edelgard answers, "so she can remember which rooms are ours."
"Sounds about right," Jeralt answers. "I'll leave you to it, then. Gotta get this one tucked in. Try not to fall asleep outside anymore."
"Of course," Edelgard replies with flushed cheeks. They're hardly noticeable in the dark, much to her relief.
He offers the kid a smile, to show he was joking, and she seems to understand and gives him a tiny grin in return. With her safely back at her dorm room, Jeralt adjusts Nessa again, carrying her like he usually does with the girl curled against his chest. Once he has a good grip on her, he makes his way off the second floor and walks back to Nessa's room to put her to bed.
They continue this little song and dance with Nessa slipping into his room after he's asleep, and Jeralt carrying her back to her room for far longer than he should. It isn't until Jeralt comes back late on a mission, wanting nothing more than to fall face first into his bed, does he realize he needs to sort this out.
"Dammit Byleth," Jeralt grumbles when he sees his kid curled up in the exact middle of his bed, laying half on top of his pillow.
Too tired to carry her back to her bed, Jeralt gets out of his armor and into his night clothes before sliding her to one side of the bed, and stealing his pillow back. They will talk in the morning because she has the day off and he can sit her down and really explain everything before she runs off to do whatever she does on her off days.
Jeralt doesn't remember falling asleep, but when he wakes, it's to his kid poking him repeatedly.
"Papa," she says, "wake up. Breakfast is almost over."
Jeralt opens his eyes to see Nessa dressed for the day, not at all concerned that she's been hiding in his room every night since they arrived.
"Seriously, By? Wait, did you stash clothes in here?"
"Yes," she answers.
Jeralt isn't surprised.
"Alright. I'm getting up."
He hastily throws some clothes on while Nessa seems to be almost bouncing around the room. She was always light on her feet, but this is new.
"What's got you so chipper?" Jeralt asks his kid as he throws his armor on. Nessa helps secure a few hard to reach clasps before grabbing the last of his attire.
"You are back," Nessa tells him, coming back with more armor.
He smiles at her, "I missed you too, kiddo. You'll have to tell me everything I missed when I was away."
With practiced efficiency, they spend very little time preparing for the day. Nessa assists Jeralt much like a squire helps their knight, but Nessa is far more skilled at predicting Jeralt's needs than any of his past squires, to include Alois.
"Ok. Time to eat," Nessa tells him.
She's definitely his kid, always driven by food.
"Yeah, alright. But after breakfast, we're coming back here. We need to talk," Jeralt tells her, remembering last night.
"We can talk at breakfast," Nessa tells him, already walking out the door, "I promised Edelgard that we could discuss mounts this morning after we eat."
"We can, and we will. But we're also going to come back here and have a conversation."
She shrugs, as if to attempt to blow him off. It's subtle, but Jeralt's learned to read his kid after all these years.
"Byleth," Jeralt says in a tone that says he means business. "You're not going to miss your date with Edelgard. I promise."
"It is not a date," she replies, her shoulders tensing a little.
It's a date. Jeralt doesn't care what she says, it's definitely a date. Or at least, it's about as close to a date as those two could get at this stage. It hasn't even been two moons since they met and it's honestly painful watching them awkwardly dance around each other. While one part of him wants to tell his kid that the Princess very obviously has a crush on her, the other part knows it's important for Nessa's development to figure this shit out on her own.
"Alright, By," Jeralt says with a hint of playful sarcasm in his voice.
"Am I Byleth or Nessa here?"
It's a good question. All her life, the Blade Breakers alternated between calling her Byleth or Nessa or some other nickname. Most of the time it was mission dependent, and it also helped keep her identity secret. In the Kingdom, she was always Nessa, since the Kingdom was so devout. But in certain areas in the Alliance, and all of the Empire, she could be Byleth. Jeralt always jumped between names. Most days it was Byleth, and other days (when it hurt too much to use it) he called her Nessa.
"It's probably safer to be Nessa, here," Jeralt admits, "would you rather be Byleth?"
She shrugs, "either works."
"Well if you ever develop a preference, lemme know," Jeralt tells her, "I don't want to call you a name you don't like."
"I like whatever you call me, Papa," she tells him.
"Okay, brat," he replies, ruffling her hair.
He laughs, "too bad, kid. I'm Papa, and as my right as Papa, I get to call you a brat and anything along those lines."
"Veto!" Nessa protests.
"Kids don't get veto power," Jeralt informs her, "this is a benevolent dictatorship here. What I say, goes."
"That does not sound like a very sound leadership style," Nessa states simply.
"Welcome to parenting. When you have your own brats, you can have your own benevolent dictatorship."
Nessa shrugs. "What if I do not want kids?"
Jeralt looks down at her, "you don't have to have kids if you don't want to. You know that, right?"
"... Well now I do."
Clearly there are a lot of conversations Jeralt needs to have with his kid. Goddess, he was a bad father, wasn't he?
Breakfast is a mostly silent affair, with Jeralt and Nessa hoarding their food (and slyly trying to sneak food from each other's plate). The occasional student comes up to have a quick conversation with the two of them (though mostly Nessa) and Alois even sits with them and talks with them... well, at them, but they don't mind.
Once finished, Jeralt drags Nessa back to his office. She tries to slip away after she finishes eating, but Jeralt catches her by the back of her collar, making her jerk back and fall flat on her ass in the dining hall, before she can make it two steps. It's hilarious. To ensure she doesn't try and run off, he throws his kid over his shoulder and carries her the whole way to his office.
While Nessa doesn't let her emotions show, Jeralt does feel her hide her face when they pass some of her students. A second glance tells Jeralt that he just walked by the Princess and her retainer. The Princess offers him a tiny amused smile and a hint of a nod (she most definitely saw Nessa fall flat on her ass, Jeralt can tell these things, he's a dad), Jeralt does the same and he even jostles his kid for good measure. It has the Princess stifling a laugh, and he can feel Nessa hiding her face and letting out a forceful irritated exhale. It's about as close as she gets to being angry, irritated, or embarrassed, and that's when Jeralt decides to ease up on embarrassing her any more.
When they get to his office, he closes the door behind him and literally drops Nessa into a chair. After, he leans against his desk and looks down at her.
"Alright," he starts off, "first off, I just want to say that I don't like this either and I don't want it to be like this."
Nessa raises an eyebrow.
Jeralt sighs, he should have known she was going to play stupid.
"Look, kiddo. No more sneaking into my room. Okay? It's a wonder no one has spotted you, yet."
"But why ?" Nessa asks, her brows furrowed in confusion.
Jeralt shrugs, "I dunno. It's not proper or something. People are gonna get the wrong idea and I don't want you to have to deal with it."
"But…" she trails off, not quite sure how to voice what she is thinking and feeling.
"Hey," Jeralt tells her, crouching down to look her in the eye, "I don't like it either. I love our cuddles, kiddo. I love you. You're always gonna be my little girl, but the people here don't get it and they're stupid."
Nessa looks away from Jeralt, but he can still see the wheels in her mind turning.
"Why would they get the wrong idea? What other idea is there to get?" Nessa finally asks, "Is it wrong that we sleep together?"
"Well don't put it like that, or it will be," Jeralt says quickly. "It might be better to say that we used to share a room. Saying that you sleep with someone or have slept with someone implies things that should never be implied between families."
Nessa looks back at him, cocking her head to the side slightly.
"It means you had sex with that person," Jeralt states.
Nessa visibly recoils. While her face stays mostly the same (except her always expressive eyebrows), just the sudden recoil is enough to tell Jeralt that she is appalled at that thought.
"Why would you say that? Why would you not just say that you had sex with that person?" She asks, her voice slightly higher pitched than normal.
"Slang is weird," Jeralt replies.
She accepts that answer.
"But then, why is it wrong that we share a room?"
Jeralt runs his fingers through his hair and grumbles. He hates this whole situation. He hates turning his daughter's entire life upside-down. He hates how they have to change their entire routine. And he hates Rhea… mostly because he doesn't trust her. Jeralt does NOT like how that woman looks at his child, or how she silently judges his little girl, either.
"You know how nobles are weird?" Jeralt asks her.
Nessa nods. She's bad first hand experience on how "Nobles are Weird" even before arriving to Garreg Mach.
"Well, I'm pretty sure most nobles don't know how to love their kids or something. So most of your brats probably never got to cuddle with their parents as kids. And they would never do it as adults."
"That is very sad," Nessa comments. She tilts her head to the side, as if a thought just hit her, and Jeralt watches as she mentally files it away for later.
"Yeah, it's depressing as fuck," Jeralt answers once he has her attention again. "But I'd wager most of your brats don't crawl into their parent's beds to sleep. They all probably have their own beds and their own rooms to sleep in. So they sleep there."
"But I never had a room."
"You do now," Jeralt points out.
"So you need to use it," Jeralt tells her. "Look, if I could have supported us any other way, I would have. I'd've made sure you had your own room and your own bed. But, because we were always on the road, it was just easier to have you bunk with me."
"But I like bunking with you," Nessa protests.
"And I like bunking with you, too," Jeralt assures her, "but you need to use your own room. Now that you have it, you need to use it. It wouldn't be proper of you to bunk with me. If you don't, people might get some unsavory ideas."
"Like that I am sleeping with you?" Nessa asks him.
"Why would they think that?"
Jeralt shrugs, "I dunno. Because they're weird. Some people think that only little kids sleep in their parent's beds. Not adult kids."
"But adult kids like cuddles, right?"
"I'm sure they do," Jeralt tells her, "but most adult kids probably want to cuddle with their boyfriends or girlfriends. Not with their parents."
Nessa leaned back against the chair, looking thoughtful.
"But what if I do not want a boyfriend or a girlfriend?"
That's the biggest load of horse shit Jeralt has ever heard in his entire life. He has eyes and he knows how his useless lesbian child not so secretly (to him, at least) pines over her Class Leader.
"I do not want Edelgard to be my girlfriend," she tells him, realizing that he clearly does not believe her one bit.
"So you want her to be your wife?"
Nessa throws the seat cushion at Jeralt in retaliation for his statement. It makes him laugh as he falls out of his crouch and now sits on the floor.
She says nothing in response, but she does look the slightest bit offended. It's a look Jeralt remembers seeing on Sitri's face, and he can feel his heart just ache when looking at Nessa. She looks so remarkably like Sitri, even more since she's grown up. If she was here, Jeralt can almost hear the woman declaring that if their little Byleth wanted to cuddle, then she could cuddle. Anyone who had an issue with it could take it up with Sitri… but she isn't here. It's just Jeralt. And Jeralt can't protect his little girl the way Sitri could have.
"I do not know what I want," Nessa finally says.
"Got a lot going on up there?" Jeralt asks from the floor. He knows Nessa's emotions are hard for her, so saying "a lot" is just their code for when emotions are hard and things are getting too much for her.
"Yeah," the girl answers.
"I'm guessing this is only making it worse."
She nods. It makes Jeralt feel like the worst parent in the world.
"This place is a lot," Nessa says. "I want to leave. It confuses me… not Edelgard… just everything else." She paused and then mumbles, "Edelgard understands…"
Jeralt smiles at Nessa, "well I'm glad to see you're making friends with her."
"Me too… I think…"
They sit in silence for a minute. It isn't an awkward silence, but a rather comfortable one. Jeralt is used to their conversations coming to a halt and then sitting in silence for hours on end while Nessa wraps her head around what he told her. They've gone days without speaking because that's how long it took Nessa to understand. It took them both a while to arrive at this level of comfort, but now it is normal.
"What if I do not care what other people think about us bunking together?" Nessa asks after probably half an hour.
"It doesn't mean I'm letting you bunk here," Jeralt replies, still sitting on the floor but now leaning against his desk.
"Do you care what they think?"
"No!" He says quickly. "I don't give a shit what anyone thinks, kid. The only person whose opinion I care about is you."
"So why do I–"
" But ," Jeralt says, cutting her off, "I care about your future. You may not want to date or get married now, but you might in the future. And if there are bullshit rumors circulating about you, then there is no way anyone would let their child talk to you, let alone date you. Fuck, the Archbishop could adopt you into her family and still no one would come near you with those rumors."
Nessa looks away, her brows furrowing in irritation and almost disappointment.
"I think it's dumb, too. But you need to learn to sleep on your own sometime… Besides, what if you get sent on a mission that's a few days away? Then I won't be there to share a tent and you'll have to sleep alone."
Nessa doesn't say anything immediately. At first Jeralt thinks it's because she's trying to process and find a way to argue with him. But as he stares at her, Jeralt realizes she's not telling him something.
That alone is shocking, considering she tells him almost anything.
"Edelgard and I share a tent," Nessa finally says, the words rushing out of her mouth as fast as she can get them out.
This was new information.
"Well. Then I guess you don't need to worry," Jeralt tells her.
There's an urge to tease her about it, but her face is bright pink and Jeralt already has tortured his kid enough for one day. He files the information away for another time, but he absolutely will be playfully teasing his kid about her crush (even if she doesn't think it's a crush, but he knows well enough that it is absolutely a crush). But, it does give him an idea.
"But I'm pretty sure Edelgard might get jealous of you keep crashing with me," Jeralt tells her. "And, while the Empire has some interesting family units, I'm also pretty sure the Emperor would want his daughter associating with a girl who couldn't sleep in her own bedroom. It'd probably be seen as a weakness and all, since only young children seek out their parent's beds. And he definitely wouldn't let you marry her, if that was the case."
Nessa's eyes narrow only slightly, and her eyes lock with Jeralt's.
"I know what you are doing," Nessa declares.
"Is it working?" He asks her. Checkmate.
She actually scowls at him, which is a first.
"Fine!" She shouts, with more emotion than Jeralt has ever seen or heard from her in his entire life. "I do not like this." Nessa tells him in an uncharacteristically venomous tone.
"Just think of it as growing up, kiddo," Jeralt tells her, now getting off the floor.
"Well I dislike it with great intensity," Nessa informs him, standing up as well.
Jeralt leans back against his desk and folds his arms, "yeah," he says, "me too."
A week later, Jeralt watches as the Black Eagles trudge back up to the Monastery. Nessa is leading them, and they all look exhausted. Even his kid seems like a good strong wind will blow her over.
"Long mission?" Jeralt asks, walking out to meet his daughter and her class. It's grown in size, and he recognizes a few kids from the Kingdom, and Leonie are now in her class.
"Very," Nessa agrees.
When they get into the main hall, Nessa gives the kids orders to go get cleaned up and rested. She even gives them an extra hour to sleep in for classes tomorrow.
"But we will be making that up," Nessa declares to the class. "Most of you are close to testing for the Intermediate Classes before the moon is over, so we cannot afford to slow down. Those who are not as close will be ready once the exam is upon us."
Her words leave no room for argument and Jeralt likes to think she learned that from him.
The students groan at Nessa's words. It's clear sheet drilling them, hard. Even Jeralt is impressed by the speed her students have improved. Typically students didn't test for Intermediate Exams until several months into classes, yet Nessa had several that could easily pass the exams now . It's impressive, given that most kids now are still getting used to their Beginner Classes.
Almost every student bolts from the hall, all racing back to the dorms to get clean. Edelgard remains briefly to speak with Nessa for a minute about matters, and her retainer (the Vestra boy) hangs back. When the princess leaves, Jeralt takes the opportunity to strike.
"So how was sharing a tent?" He asks with a smug grin. "Did you sleep well?"
The reaction is instantaneous. Nessa's face turns bright pink, to include her ears, and she trips over her own two feet and crashes into the ground. The situation has him howling with laughter so much that tears spring to his eyes.
"That was very rude!" Nessa declares in the most indignant tone she can muster. It's barely there, but anyone who knows her, knows she's offended.
"Benevolent dictatorship, kiddo. Benevolent dictatorship."