Fire Emblem: Three Houses protagonist Professor Byleth is very good at spying. Three Houses isn’t a stealth game; Byleth doesn’t use her impressive sneaking skills in combat. Instead, she uses them to listen in on dozens of private conversations that unfold between her students. It’s never actually specified in-game whether Byleth can hear all of these conversations, but the game makes a lot more sense if you assume that she can. It’s also a lot creepier.
The talks in question are called Support conversations, and they’re common to the Fire Emblem series at this point. In Three Houses, if you place certain characters next to one another in battles, or have them do activities together at school, they’ll grow closer, which will make them stronger together in subsequent battles. The game illustrates their increasing emotional closeness through cutscenes that progressively unlock between each pair of characters. You get a notification in the game’s menu whenever you unlock a new Support conversation between a pair of characters.
You play as Three Houses as Byleth, and the rest of the game is viewed through her perspective. She uses the information from the Support conversations to make her decisions about battle placement, teaching instructions, and more, so she must know what happened in the conversations somehow. I like to imagine she’s sneaking around, spying on her students in their most intimate moments.
Spying would also fit her personality. Byleth is very involved in her students’ lives, way past the point of an ordinary professor. She is their teacher, their battle captain, their friend, and in some cases, their potential paramour (once they get old enough for that, but still… creepy). It’s her job to decide which students should stand next to one another in battle, which students should work together on chores, and which students should learn which subjects in school. Byleth wanders the school grounds finding lost items and returning them to their rightful owners, from love letters to silver brooches; she can only do this because she’s gotten to know everyone so well that she can figure out what belongs to whom. She’s so absurdly involved in their lives that it seems believable that she would resort to following students around and listening in on everything they say.
Last night, I watched a Support conversation between Byleth and Sylvain that confirmed my silly theory. The scene begins with slick-talking womanizer Sylvain having a fight with one of his many flings, who leaves the scene in tears. Sylvain turns around to face a clump of bushes behind him and says, “So, Professor, do you enjoy spying on people?” In the next frame, Byleth pops up and starts advising Sylvain about his love life. She doesn’t even acknowledge how weird it was that she watched that whole conversation!
Just like Byleth, I love getting to listen in on all of the students’ conversations. They range from entertaining, to awkward, to poignant. But I do it all with just the tiniest twinge of guilt, because I’m pretty sure Professor Byleth is hiding behind a nearby curtain, taking notes on which of her students play nice together. Professor Byleth should probably get a life of her own. But if she did, she wouldn’t be a very good video game protagonist.