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Chapter 18 – Good Reasons

“So now that we’re a safe distance from the monastery…” Ingrid began as their troupe continued treading Galatea territory. By now, she suspected that neither the Knights nor the Kingdom cared to look for them; they’d been marching for eight days now, after all. “Do you care to explain what you did to distract Dimitri and Dedue, Sylvain?”

“Uh…” Sylvain had been nodding off during the march, so this question was especially surprising. “Why is that important right now?”

“Well, we’re just curious.” Annette giggled. “I mean, nothing gets past Dedue. It had to have been something really clever.”

Sylvain gave a quick glance to Raphael and Caspar before saying, “Okay, if you insist.”

“So… Remind me again why you needed about half of the marketplace’s supply of toilet paper?” Ashe dumped several dozen rolls of toilet paper in front of Dimitri’s room.

“And a dozen wine bottles?” Lorenz asked.

Sylvain, being the clever man that he was, knew that “no good reason” wasn’t… well, a good reason. “Haven’t you guys heard of stocking up on supplies, especially since we’re about to march to the Stubborn Old General? Thanks for all of this toilet paper and wine, by the way. I plan to stock up on food later. I’ll be sure to pay you guys back in battle.”

“Sure, sure,” Lorenz spoke as he and Ashe began to leave. “Just don’t go stealing my women.”

“Hahaha…” Sylvain kept a cool face while his allies were there, but as soon as they left, he turned to his own quarters and said, “Guys, you ready?”

“You bet we are!” A young man – no older than 14 – jumped excitedly. He was so excited that he took four rolls of toilet paper while his buddy followed suit.

“Dude, are you sure this is okay?” Said buddy began to worry. “Do you know how much trouble we’re going to be in if that… that big scary guy finds out we’re about to trash the prince’s room?”

“Oh, quit whining.” Friend #1 snickered while he while he unfurled one of the rolls of toilet paper. “My dad always said that anything’s okay, as long as you don’t get caught.”

Sylvain peered in the room and said, “Well, if you guys are okay here, then I need to go. Someone’s got to make sure that big scary guy isn’t around to foil our plan. Thanks for helping, by the way. Here’s a little reward for your trouble.”

Friend #1 caught the satchel of money and snacks that Sylvain tossed at him. “Aww, right! Thanks, margrave man… dude… guy!”

As Sylvain began to leave, Caspar and Raphael took that chance to come in the room with bottles of wine, having to step over some toilet paper overflowing to the outside.

“Okay, Caspar, here’s a piece of advice if you want to grow big like me,” Raphael spoke as he opened his bottle of wine. “You gotta learn how to hold your alcohol.”

“I… didn’t know,” Caspar sounded skeptical as he took some sips of wine.

“Hey, you having a drinking party in the prince’s room?” A few unsavoury former Empire students came in. “And with our former Caspar von Bergliez, no less! Come on boys, let’s drink!”

Meanwhile, outside, the two teenagers had just finished using up the last of the toilet paper, which now stretched the entire length of the second floor dormitories.

“Man… I had no idea we could find such an asinine reason to use this much toilet paper,” the younger, more innocent friend had shame in his voice.

“You mean such a good reason?” The upperclassman stuffed a handful of gold coins in his buddy’s pocket. “We get to have fun and get paid to do it! It’s a win-win!”

Just then, a sudden, loud stomping could be heard from the first floor.

“Oh, shit, it’s Dedue!” Caspar exclaimed, starting to feel tipsy from the half bottle of wine that he drank. “Come on, guys, let’s book it!”

“And that’s the grand story of how I distracted Dedue long enough to give us time to get out of there. Pretty clever, don’t you think? And I have to say, Caspar, you handled your alcohol quite well that day.” Sylvain sounded very impressed with himself.

His friends, however, did not sound impressed, especially not Ashe. “That’s got to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! You should be ashamed, Sylvain! You defiled the room of His Highness and wasted so much toilet paper! Do you have any idea how long it took the Knights to invent and produce it? And you, Caspar! You know, knights would never agree to such… such horrible things!”

“Aww, come on, Ashe!” Caspar complained. “The students get bored, you know? Plus, Sylvain and I payed them to clean up as well! Could you have thought of a better plan?”

Ashe said nothing, knowing full well that he could not have thought of a better way to distract the ever-watchful Dedue.

After hearing Ashe’s words, Sylvain felt a slight bit of shame – so he decided to change the subject, pointing at a small village up ahead. “Guys, we’re running a bit low on supplies, aren’t we? Why don’t we stock up in that village over there?”

“You better not hoard all the toilet paper from this village, too,” Ashe muttered.

“Ah, this village brings back memories!” Ingrid smiled as she walked ahead. “I remember my brothers bringing me here when I was a kid. It’s where I’ve first discovered my love of horses.”

“Now, there’s the Ingrid we know and love!” Sylvain felt happy to see a smile on his friend’s face for a change.

As they got even closer to the village entrance, Ashe could smell something spicy in the air. “I’ve never smelled anything quite like that… Maybe I could cook us something new tonight with those spices!”

Ingrid knocked at the gates that she hadn’t seen in many a year. “Excuse me?”

A friendly voice of an old woman answered. “Yes? What is- My… My lady… Lady Ingrid, is that you?”

“Hello there, Eyvel. It’s been a while.”

“By the goddess, Ingrid!” The old woman, Eyvel, opened the gate to hug Ingrid. “How are you, sweetheart?”

“Good, thank you.” Ingrid regretted she couldn’t converse more. “Listen, my companions and I are on a secret mission from the monastery, so I’d rather not have my identity discovered while I’m here. We’ve been marching for over a week, and we need food and supplies. I hope you understand.”

“Of course, my lady.” A soldier, who led a small watch army, nodded in acknowledgement. “Enjoy your stay in the village.”

“You sure you don’t want to stay the night?” Eyvel asked.

“No, we need to make it fast. I’m sorry.”

“Very well. Now, don’t let this old bag of bones keep you! Hehe!”

Unlike the guarded entrance to the village, the inside was so peaceful, so carefree, Sylvain noticed. “Ingrid, are you sure it’s okay to leave such a kind, old lady to keep watch when there’s a large-scale war going on?”

“I’ll have you know that she’s been helping to protect this village for many years,” Ingrid replies as she perused a meat market nearby with Sylvain. “She’s been a seasoned soldier since before you were even born.”

“Age over beauty, haha.” Sylvain then turned his attention to the butcher. “I’ll have ten pounds of your super spicy jerky, please. Oh, and five pounds of Teutates Loach.”

“I’ll take five pounds of everything!” Caspar and Raphael both declared at once.

The butcher’s face lit up as the three men handed him the money for the meat. “Th-Thank you so much for your patronage, sirs!”

“Cupcakes and bread loaves on sale!” shouted a young woman’s voice from the bakery nearby. “Freshly baked!”

Sylvain walked over to this bakery, staffed entirely by women – who, he noticed, took a liking to him quickly. “I’ll take twelve of your chocolate cupcakes, as sweet as you.”

The young woman, who owned the bakery, blushed as she gave him the cupcakes, sneaking a couple of extras in the tin box.

“Oh, and do you have some spicy or bitter breads?”

“I’m glad you asked that.” The young woman fetched a few fresh loaves of bread from the oven. “I’ve been working on a few new breads. This one here’s herbs and cheese, and this one features some spices from Dagda.”

“Thank you.” Sylvain winked as he handed the woman a satchel of coins. “Keep the change.”

Sylvain spent the next hour loading up the wagon – which he had a mind to leave outside the village gates - with various fruits, vegetables, and medicines. For once, he was glad that he could flirt with women that day, if only to bring smiles to the faces of that peaceful village. His extroverted nature lead him to just about every merchant in the area… or so he thought.

“Ah, Ingrid!” Sylvain noticed his friend in a jewelry shop… Ingrid? In a jewelry shop? He laughed a little.

“Sylvain, save me…” Ingrid rolled her eyes at Mercedes, Dorothea, and Annette, who wanted to enjoy themselves there, trying on just about every trinket they saw. “These three buffo- I mean, ladies have been here the entire past hour. And they keep on making me try on everything.”

“Hey, Ingrid, Ingrid!” Annette smiled as she showed Ingrid a pearl and gold necklace. “Why don’t you try on-”

“Annette, I’ve tried that one on already.”

“Annie!” Mercedes called from the stall next door, as she had a purse full of jewelry she had bought from the jewelry store. “They’ve got makeup over here! I’ve never seen blush like this!”

“Ingrid, did you hear that? Let’s go!” Dorothea pulled Ingrid – a very tired, annoyed Ingrid – over to this stall.

“Hehe, sorry Ingrid.” Sylvain laughed halfheartedly. Well, I don’t see what would interest me about a jewelry store, with nothing but sparkly-

Before Sylvain turned for the wagon, the owner of the jewelry store said to him, “Sir, would you like anything in particular?”

“No thank you. I was just here with my-” Sylvain had an idea right before he had the notion to actually leave. “Ma’am, do you have any men’s jewelry?”

“Why, yes!” The store owner gestured to a few chains, rings, and bracelets. “Believe it or not, some of these pieces are more valuable than the women’s jewelry.”

So it’s go big or go home, then. Sylvain pondered this selection for about ten minutes before declaring, “Then I’ll take these two-”

“Sylvain!” Ingrid came running back to the jewelry store suddenly. “Sylvain!”

Sylvain quickly placed an overly sized satchel of gold coins in the jewelry store owner’s hands before taking a couple of pieces of jewelry. “Ingrid! I thought you were tired of the jewelry store! Oh, and uh… the rest of you are here, too. What’s up?”

Ashe pulled Sylvain over and whispered, “We just got a huge lead as to where Felix might be.”

At this news, Sylvain hastily got back in the wagon, ready to leave the village immediately. “Where?”

Ingrid replied, “Conand Tower.”

Just as the wagon had made it to the other side of the village gates, Sylvain had nearly frozen in place, had he not ordered his horse – and Ingrid’s pegasus – to start driving them forward.

“What’s wrong, Sylvain?” a concerned Dorothea asked.

“…Do you guys remember the significance of that place? It’s… It’s my brother Miklan’s thief hideout.”