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Chapter 19 – The Light in Conand Tower

“It’s pretty boring in there…” Annette came out after surveying the first room of Conand Tower. “Are you sure we can’t take in the wagon?”

“Just to be safe, I want to leave it out here,” replied Sylvain. “If anything were to happen to our horses…”

“In that case, I volunteer to stay watch.”

“What’s wrong? Ignatz, you sound awful.”

“I… uh… made the mistake of eating fish that we carried all the way from the monastery. I’ve been having the runs ever since we left that Galatea village.”

Sylvain sighed. “Then you should have eaten fresh steak from the market like the rest of us. That fish was a week and a half old. Raphael and Lorenz, look after him, please.”

“Aye aye, captain!” Raphael happily agreed.

“I brought some medicinal tea from Gloucester,” Lorenz added. “It’s a peppermint tea that my family has used for-”

Ignatz suddenly cowered, running behind a nearby bush.

“I… uh… guess I’ll get started on that tea, then.” Lorenz then turned to Sylvain. “Good luck, Sylvain. Take this.”

“You’re giving me Thyrsus, your house’s Hero’s Relic?”

“If your friend is indeed in there, then you’ll need all the help you can get, right? We and our battalions will be fine out here. Now, get going!”

“Thank you.” Sylvain attached the staff to a pocket in his back before entering the tower with the rest of the company.

“It’s quiet… Too quiet.”

“Annette, this isn’t the time for clichéd novel phrases,” spoke Sylvain.

“Well, I remember it from Loog and the Maiden of Wind-” Ashe started.

“For the love of the goddess, guys, can’t you act a bit more seriously?” Sylvain loudly whispered as he entered another room, and sound slowly started to fill his ears.

“Come on, we’re just a little bit… uh… nervous,” Caspar tried – and failed – to sound confident.

“You’re right… I’m sorry, guys.” Just then, the sounds Sylvain heard earlier became louder, but he still couldn’t determine where they were coming from – so they discovered him first. As he blocked the hoard of enemies’ attack on him without even looking at them, he spoke, “Nice try, you goons.”

“Wh-Who are these guys?” Ashe wondered out loud, stabbing a nearby enemy with an arrow from Yewfelle. “Are they… Miklan’s thieves?”

“No, look harder…” Lysithea pointed at the shadows of an enemy she had just defeated. “I don’t think they’re agents of the Empire, either. There’s another power at work here, I know it!”

The leader apparent responded to this correct guess with, “Indeed, smart child. We would never associate ourselves with that useless Miklan. You want to learn who we really are? Then follow us, if you can!”

Without thinking, Sylvain charged after this enemy through the next few rooms, prompting Mercedes to yell, “Sylvain, wait! It’s a trap!”

“Hahaha…” The leader apparent cackled when he stopped in a dungeon full of chains. “So it seems you’re the only stupid one in this entire motley band, Sylvain Jose Gautier!”

“How… do you know my name?” Sylvain tried to look for this enemy, who lurked in the shadows. “I guess it doesn’t matter. Tell us who you are and why you’ve brought us here!”

The shadows began to clear to show chained-up prisoners, whom Sylvain recognized as Miklan’s thieves; he reckoned there were about one hundred of them, if not more.

“You see, we have this wonderful ability to take control of the ambitious and weak of heart, including these two dolts over here.”

The last of the shadows dissipated, revealing two especially large chains, with two men chained to them – and Sylvain recognized the raven-haired one instantly.

“Felix…” Sylvain hardly believed it at first, but after his joy at finally seeing his beloved again overtook him, he ran recklessly to where Felix had been chained. “Oh, goddess, Felix, I never thought I’d- Huh?”

He didn’t recognize him from afar, but Sylvain took a good look at the man chained to the right of Felix, and his face fell at the sight of him. “It can’t be… Miklan? But… But I thought you were-”

While Felix remained completely unconscious, Miklan heard his brother easily enough, awakening with a cackle. “Hehehe… How are you, little brother?” He looked up.

Before Sylvain could ask any questions, he heard Ashe yell, “Sylvain! Look out behind you!”

“Aaaargh!” The fallen enemy screamed as arrows from Parthia hit it, and as it perished, so too did the shadows of which it was made.

“Thank you, Ashe.” Sylvain took a deep breath before brandishing the Lance of Ruin, cutting down an adjacent enemy with the lance. As he did, he noticed a few of his comrades were missing – namely Lysithea and Mercedes. But he knew he had no time to look for them – he believed in their abilities, after all. His belief in his own abilities dwindled, however, as with each slain enemy, the Lance of Ruin grew duller and so soaked in blood and guts that he could hardly see the blade.

“Hah!” Miklan scoffed. “Some good the Lance of Ruin is serving you! You should have left it with me!”

“Shut up!” Sylvain continued to fight despite how his brother irritated him. “It won’t do you any good, either! I’m trying to save your ass here.”

Sylvain took another short respite before thinking, He does have a point, though. I suppose I could use magic, but…

Annette noticed Sylvain trembling in fear. “Sylvain? What’s wrong?”

What if I… What if I fail again?

“Try using light magic!” Annette cast Nosferatu at five enemies at once, and sure enough, they seemed to fade with less effort than Sylvain thought. “If you can at least try to use Seraphim, it would help us a ton!”

“But… I can’t. You saw what happened at Fhirdiad. My incompetence could have-”

“Dammit, Sylvain, if you have the time to mope around, then fight!” Caspar killed more enemies around Sylvain – with the Axe of Ukonvasara, no less.

Lorenz… Everyone… Sylvain felt his hope restored and began to draw the sigil in the air. If my friends are willing to fight for what’s right, then I owe it to them to do the same.

Despite his resolve – and despite that he could properly form the magic circle this time – Sylvain couldn’t yet unleash a proper Seraphim spell.

“Eeeeek!” Annette had been swarmed by two enemies, and her hands had been bound.

“They’re… They’re coming in droves…” Lysithea, along with Mercedes, had beeen cornered in this “main” dungeon by even more enemies, now including a Titanus and demonic beasts.

We’re in trouble…Sylvain retrieved the Thyrsus from his back, and taking one passing glance at Felix, he noticed something in the other man’s pockets. Could it be…?

Sylvain took out the broken item – to his joy, it was the toy lance. Giving his beloved a smile, he turned around again, saying, “You beasts. You will leave my friends the fuck alone – now! Haaaaaah!”

Sylvain’s desire to fight for his loved ones fueled the Seraphim spell that rained down on the Titanus – and the several more spells that followed.

“Amazing!” Lysithea smirked as she readied a Seraphim spell of her own. “I hope you know I won’t be outdone, Mr. Gautier.”

“Hmph.” Annette, who felt more relieved that the enemy numbers dwindled exponentially, still frowned. “I wish I could learn such an amazing demon-slaying spell.”

“Dude, you know Abraxas, the highest level of white attack magic.” Caspar rolled his eyes.

“Try telling that to Triumphant Boy over there,” Lysithea pointed at Sylvain, who, now that the enemies had been defeated, grinned in victory. She walked up to him in congratulations, saying, “Amazing. I had never seen a man successfully wield Seraphim. In fact, you’re only the third man in the history of Fódlan who has been able to successfully wield it.”

“Really? Haha.” Sylvain sounded rather proud of himself.

“Yeah. Most practitioners are holy women. Any man who is able to learn this spell has an especially high prowess for white magic.”

“Which is why he could cast it better than you,” Caspar teased.

“Oh, shush. M-My specialty is dark magic, after all.”

It was at this point that Miklan got tired of all this talk about magic, and decided to remind everyone else of his presence. “So… I’m here, too. Do you think you can get me and my men out of these chains?”

“Oh.” Sylvain’s good mood had dropped instantly as he gave the order to do as Miklan requested. “So, spill it.”

“‘Spill it?’ What’s there to spill?” Miklan asked as he and Felix had been freed; Felix remained unconscious. “Oh, and there are other dungeons with more of my men. Don’t forget about them.”

“Okay, where to begin? How did you survive being consumed by the Lance of Ruin? Why are you here in your old hideout? How did you end up captured in your own hideout?”

“Why did you save us?”

“Listen, you douchecanoe, I’m the one asking questions – unless you’d rather I shoot first and ask questions later.” Sylvain threatened another Seraphim spell.

“Okay, okay, calm your tits…” Miklan paused before beginning his story. “So after you killed me that fateful day – and after you had left – some weird lady with a long pink pony tail showed up out of nowhere. She tried to peddle some mystical item to me – me, a dying man! She called it the Fissure Dragon Sign. Next thing I knew, the shadows stopped consuming my body, and… Well, here, I am. As for who locked us up… I don’t know. But our captors didn’t seem human.”

“So it’s true,” Annette spoke up.

“Annette? Don’t tell me you believe what this shitgibbon is saying.”

“I do. I’ve read about special signs that allow Crestless people to acquire Crests. There’s only one of each kind in the world.”

“Now that you mention it, I remember Professor Byleth carrying some… strange objects in her quarters,” Mercedes cut in.

“I… I’m not sure I like it,” Lysithea commented. “It reminds me of… experiments I would rather forget about.”

“So, let me get this straight, Miklan. You’re telling me that this ‘Fissure Dragon Sign’ gave you the Crest of Gautier so that the Lance of Ruin wouldn’t fully consume you. Do I have that right?”

“You’re not as dumb as you look, little brother! Since you freed me, I think I ought to return the favour, yeah?”

“Over my dead body.”

“Please…” One of Miklan’s thieves – a thief who was part of the group who attacked the Kingdom army at Derdriu – begged. “We’re outcasts from all corners of Fódlan. We’ve got nowhere else to go.”

Another thief added, “We’ve got no food or supplies, either.”

“Sylvain, you know full well you’re going to need all the strength you can get if you want to defeat the Emperor. Many of my men are highly skilled spies – comes with the job.”

“Hmph.” Sylvian finally gave in. “Fine. But understand that I still don’t fully trust you. If I get even the slightest hint that you are going to betray us, I will without hesitation make sure the Lance of Ruin kills you this time.”

“Y-You got it…” Intimidated by his little brother, Miklan tried to take the heat off himself. “Say, I think your buddy here is finally coming to.”

“Ugh…” Felix slowly sat up, clutching his head. “What in the fuck just… Where am I?”

“Felix!” Sylvain didn’t hesitate to hug his boyfriend. He felt no shame in his tears of joy, either. “Oh, goddess, Felix, I… I’m so glad…”

“You dumbass, everyone is watching!” Felix weakly tried to push Sylvain away.

“Oh, don’t worry, we already know,” Annete spoke with a smile.

“And how, pray tell?”

Ingrid simply whistled in response.

“Ingrid…” Felix sounded mildly annoyed.

“What? Did you really think that you, one of Faerghus’ highest-ranking nobles, could hide your relationship forever?”

“Plus…” Caspar started. “A few of us heard you when-”

Sylvain didn’t like where this conversation was headed, and so interrupted it with, “Sooooo… Anybody know why we’re still in this smelly dungeon? Let’s head out to the wagon.”

“Yeah, I agree…” Mercedes liked the sound of this “plan” as everyone made way for said wagon. “I hope Ignatz is okay.”

“Felix, you should have seen it!” Annette sounded excited. “There was this amazing village with some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.”

“Yeah, and probably the best steak you will ever eat.” Ignatz came out of the wagon. “Not that I would know, since I made the stupid mistake of eating fortnight-old fish instead.”

“Ignatz, are you sure you should be up right now? How are you feeling?” Sylvain asked as he returned Thyrsus back to Lorenz, and Caspar did the same with the Axe of Ukonvasara.

“Good, thanks. Lorenz’s tea really did the trick.”

“Speaking of the village, we should probably go back there and buy more wagons for our new comrades,” Ingrid suggested.

Sylvain didn’t let this friendly talk make him forget about the bounty he bought from the Galatea village. “Oh, that reminds me. Felix, I have something for you.”

“Hm?” Felix didn’t expect that much – so the sudden barrage of spicy foods and dried meats raining upon him certainly gave him a surprise. “Whoa there, easy, man. What’s all of this for?”

“Well, I thought that you would want something tasty for once, instead of… moldy bread or whatever you’ve been eating these past few weeks.”

“…”

“Don’t tell me… That’s all you’ve had since you’ve been kidnapped?!” Sylvain started shaking Felix by the shoulders. “My boyfriend deserves to eat all of his favourite foods when he wants!”

“Is that all?” Felix sounded annoyed, but Sylvain could notice a slight smile.

“Nope, I have one more thing. It’s a little old-fashioned, but I hope it’s to your liking.”

Felix scoffed, “What, some more food? Sylvain, I think I already- Oh…”

To Felix’s surprise, the item of which Sylvain spoke was not another bag of beef jerky, but a ring of rose gold and diamonds.

“Felix Hugo Fraldarius…” Sylvain knelt on one knee. “Will you marry me?”

Felix remained speechless for about thirty seconds before saying, “…Idiot, how can we do that, given our noble positions?”

“Screw the noble positions! We can do it anyway. If someone doesn’t like it – hell, even if I have to renounce my nobility – then let them not like it!”

“You really are… a reckless buffoon, aren’t you?” Felix smiled as he held out his left hand. “Yes, Sylvain Jose Gautier. I am yours.”

“Whooo!” Caspar started cheering as Sylvain put the ring on Felix’s finger.

“I better start thinking of a good recipe for that wedding cake…” Mercedes thought out loud.

“Just don’t let Flayn take part in that!” Raphael groaned.

“Oh, and here’s a wedding gift.” Sylvain reached in the wagon again to give Felix the Failnaught. “A little something to put your new certification to use.”

“Claude…” Felix smiled. “It is a shame that he couldn’t join forces with us.”

The comrades didn’t laugh for long before an irritated Miklan said, “What the hell?”

“Eh?” Sylvain turned around.

“Why… Why would you just throw away your noble title like that, when you didn’t have to even work to earn it?!”

“Abandoning one’s noble title isn’t unheard of,” spoke Hanneman, who had since abandoned the Empire. “I have a Crest and was born to the Empire nobility, but I abandoned my house to pursue my passion for Crest research. And if I can do it, so can these gentlemen.”

“Plus, we’re not going to just leave the house completely vacant for ruthless Kingdom citizens to fight to become margrave.” Sylvain’s tone was calm, but serious. “Brother, I want you to inherit House Gautier in my place.”

“Wh-What? But… Father would never allow it. And His Highness-”

“His Highness wants a world in which the Crestless do not get treated as less than just for not having a Crests. I myself believe that anyone, Crest or no Crest, should be able to help lead our country, if they’ve won the respect of the people.” Sylvain held out a hand for Miklan to shake. “So what do you say?”

A familiar – but unexpected – voice came out from behind the wagon just then. “I say that we capture these traitors! Dedue!”

“Your Highness.” Dedue – and other loyal Faerghus soldiers - came onto the scene and immediately started placing all of Miklan’s thieves in cuffs.

“Dimitri!” Sylvain began to panic. “What are you doing here?”

“A little bird told me that certain disobedient soldiers of mine snuck out of Garreg Mach Monastery to go on a covert mission.” Dimitri retrieved a broken wine bottle and scrap of toilet paper out of his pockets.

Dammit… He found out! Sylvain glared at Dedue.

“Oh, and another thing… When I said ‘capture the traitors,’ that includes you and everyone who left with you.”

“Aiee! Let go!” Annette struggled from the soldier trying to bind her.

“No! Dimitri, I beg of you, leave them out of this. You see, I coerced them into doing it. They had no choice!”

“Hmph.” Dimitri gestured for his soldiers to let everyone – except for Sylvain, Miklan, and Miklan’s thieves – go. “But you’re still under arrest for openly defying my orders and abandoning the battlefield. As for your punishment, I will decide that during our march to Fort Merceus.”

“You mean you haven’t even gone there yet?”

“How could I not? Anyway, a prisoner shouldn’t be asking needless questions like that. Soldiers, forward march to Fort Merceus, and to victory against the Empire!”