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Chapter 23 – Camaraderie

“Your Highness, before you go…” A soldier Dimitri had not seen before approached. “I have an urgent message from Margrave Gautier. He’s helped to resolve the conflict in Faerghus.”

“Excellent. Now that the internal squabbles between nobles are done with, we need only focus on taking Enbarr.”

“Hehehe… That’s my old man.”

“Lord Sylvain! Sir, it’s good to see you’re well, like the margrave himself.”

“Hehehe… Likewise.”

“And I must apologize… I should have delivered the bad news first.”

“Bad news?” Dimitri asked.

“Margrave Gautier says he’s captured a man claiming to be involved in the Tragedy of Duscur, and he only wants to meet you at the monastery.”

“I see… Then we need to get going.”

“Your Highness.”

“Sylvain? You look like you’ve got something to say.”

Sylvain paused a while before telling Dimitri, “I know this may be a bit much to ask, but want to speak with Miklan. Can you bring him here, please?”

 “If you insist.” Dimitri showed a brief amazement but didn’t hesitate to give the order.

“What, you found that… that filth’s corpse?” The Gautier soldier asked.

“Nope, I’m as alive as ever, sadly for you!” Miklan laughed when of Dimitri’s men dragged him outside before Sylvain.

“No… No, it can’t be! What will the margrave say?”

“We’ll wait for that when the time comes,” answered Sylvain. “Now that he’s out here, though… Dimitri, please release him.”

“Are… Are you sure?”

Ignoring the reactions of everyone around him, Sylvain continued while looking at the Gautier soldier, “Of course I am. This man nearly singlehandedly took down the Death Knight. Surely we should give him some reward for that?”

“Very well. Since you’re the respected son of Margrave Gautier, this will be how I return the favour.” Dimitri nodded as a sign to undo Miklan’s chains.

“Hmph.” The Gautier soldier still wasn’t convinced that Miklan had turned over a new leaf. “Don’t think that you’re completely free from punishment. Just wait until the margrave himself is through with you.”

“Hehehe…” Miklan waved as the soldier walked off, and everyone else prepared to return to the monastery. “Same to you, buddy.”

“Miklan, wait! Humph. What an ingrate.” Sylvain attempted to stop Miklan in his tracks. But for some reason, he wanted to avoid him, and so the younger brother let it go for now – but not without seeing a crack of a smile on Miklan’s face.

Sylvain didn’t find locating Miklan – or any of his comrades – any easier when he got to the monastery a week later, either. He could feel the gravity of the upcoming battles as he – along with Mercedes and Byleth – paid a visit to the graveyard. And yet through it all, there were those like Annette, Ingrid, and Dorothea who wanted to dwell on happy thoughts as they strolled about the marketplace.

Of course, he knew just where to find his fiancé. But that didn’t stop Sylvain from lamenting, wishing he could find Felix somewhere other than the training grounds. Knowing him, Sylvain reluctantly picked up an ordinary lance as he headed there.

“Dammit, Felix…” Sylvain whined when he reached the training grounds doors. “You’ve got plenty of time to train… Ever hear of a little thing called- Oh? There’s someone else training in here at this hour? But whom? It’s probably Caspar or Raphael… In that case, I better stay out of the way and just wait until they’re done.”

Curious to find out who was daring enough to challenge Felix to a duel, Sylvain hid behind a crate and peered to the right of it.

“You’re… not too bad with the lance,” Felix commented of his sparring partner’s prowess. “Keep it up, and you’ll not only meet your father’s expectations – you’ll surpass them.”

It’s not like Felix to give others compliments… Sylvain thought. And the only ones I know who are that good with the lance are Dimitri, Ingrid, and-

“And you’re going to be a fine soldier of Fraldarius, yourself.”

No way… Miklan?! Sylvain was so shocked at the sound of Miklan’s voice that he came out of hiding. “Miklan? What are you doing here?”

“What else do you expect me to do at the training grounds, ballroom dance?”

“But why with Felix specifically?”

“…Okay, if you must know, it’s because I’ve got a long way if I want to be as good at using the Lance of Ruin as you are. And who better to train with than your fiancé, Felix?”

“So does this mean that you accept House Gautier again?”

“Who can say?” Miklan put his lance on a rack with many others used for training. “Depends on what our old man has to say about it.”

“Oh, and one more thing before we call it a night… Uh, I just… wanted… Ugh, I just wanted to say thank you for helping me is all! Even though I nearly dropped you in a well when we were kids.”

“Miklan, right now that’s completely asinine-”

“Not just that…” Miklan continued while the three of them walked out of the training grounds. “Thank you for showing me a little mercy, even though I don’t deserve it. Maybe as a token of thanks, I can treat you guys to drinks at the dining hall?”

“Hm… I’d rather not,” Felix answered. “But I’ll be more than happy to take Sylvain’s drunken ass back to his quarters. And maybe yours too, Miklan.”

“Sylvain, consider this… my way of sparring with you.

“Is that a challenge? If that’s the case, then I’m down for it!”

“Ooh, a drinking contest?” Caspar had overheard. “I’ll win that!”

“The biggest one here – me – will!” Raphael declared.

“Sounds interesting… I think I’ll try, too.” Ingrid had just come back from the marketplace with Dorothea, Mercedes, and Annette.

“Goodness, we’ve attracted quite a crowd…” Sylvain shook his head as he barged the door open to the dining halls and shouted, “Head chef, I hope you’ve got enough booze for twenty.”

“Oh, Lord Sylvain!” One of the all-female bartenders that night – a pretty woman from Gautier – noticed her lord and his posse and started washed a wine glass. “What will it be tonight?”

Sylvain counted himself – and Miklan – lucky that this woman and the mostly common clientele that night didn’t recognize his older brother. “The petit sirah, please.”

“Ditto!” Miklan placed an enormous satchel of gold on the counter. “And did I mention I’m paying for all of this?”

“Then I’ll pay for the tip!” Caspar added a slightly smaller satchel. Eager to prove himself again, he took all the bottles of wine while Sylvain, Raphael, and Miklan carried the glasses.

“I… think I’ll have some, too,” spoke Mercedes as she started pouring herself some wine.

“Mercie, hold on! You can’t hold your alcohol… can you?”

“Hehe! You’d be surprised, Annie.”

“Then… I gotta join, too!” Annette turned around. “You’ll help carry us back to our quarters, right?”

“You can count on me!” Ashe replied.

As the contest started in earnest – and several participants had passed out already - Dedue mumbled, “Tch. What beasts. I just hope they don’t do this right before the march to Enbarr.”

“Dedue, they’re just trying to have a sense of camaraderie,” Dimitri answered. “Yes, training is important, but I want my soldiers to relax and trust one another. Otherwise, how can I expect the army morale to hold up? Even if this kind of get-together isn’t your thing, I would really love to see you interact with the others more.”

“Your Highness…”

“I don’t mean just barking commands at them, either! And… This is a request, not an order.”

“Annette…” Ashe grew concerned about Annette and her fourth glass of wine. “You don’t have to push yourself for something so… silly, you know.”

“Oh?” Annette seemed completely unaffected. “If I were you, I’d be a bit more nervous about the Gautier brothers, Caspar, and Raphael… I mean, look at them.”

“Maaaan!” Caspar slurred after the party had moved on to an even stronger wine. “It’s a good think that meanie Seteth ain’t here.. Hiccup! Barkeep, get us some more!”

“I don’t suppose you distracted him and Flayn with one of your juvenile tricks again?” Raphael asked Sylvain.

“Hahaha, what?” Miklan had hardly said anything since the contest began; already, he started feeling tipsy. “Heeeeey… Did ya all know that my baby brother Sylvain and Felix are-”

Though he was as drunk as drunk could be, Sylvain would not let Miklan spill the beans in Dimitri’s presence, and flicked him on the head. “Dumbarse, don’t go gossipin’ about others, ya hear?”

“Ow!” Miklan had black out thanks to that playful attack, while Sylvain showed absolutely no shame in what he did.

“Nyah nyah! You lost! How does it feel… to be the one who hosted this shebang and still lose!” Raphael intended to get up and mock Miklan further. Yet upon pushing his chain in, he discovered too late that he couldn’t stay awake anymore.

“Speaking of juvenile tricks…” Sylvain attempted to lift up his sixth glass of wine.

Right then and there, Felix decided that his fiancé had had enough. “Sylvain. You’re done.”

“Yooooo, Feeelix! You want some?”

“Oh, I want some. I want some sense knocked into you!” Felix grabbed Sylvain and Miklan, hoisted their arms around his shoulders. Then, turning for the door and dragging him, he said, “This clown is done.”

“Aww, come on, I wanna win! Let me go back!” Sylvain begged as they now entered the second floor.

“Can you stop talking for two seconds before I pass out from your disgusting breath?” Felix growled, dropping Miklan in Edelgard’s old room, then leaving for Sylvain’s room.

“Hehehe… To think, if I had hit on Edelgard all those years ago, Miklan would be sleeping in the stables with all the horsies!”

It was at that moment that Felix had decided he had enough of this drunken behaviour, and nearly tossed Sylvain on his bed like a basketball. “Sylvain.”

“Yeah, what?”

Felix sat down on the bed and spoke to Sylvain in a calmer – but still serious – matter. “You’re going to have to change this behaviour when we get married. You’re going to tear your liver open if you drink like that every day.”

“Eh? Who says I drink like this every day? I’ll have you know that I normally only drink a glass of wine every other day.”

Felix knew this to be true, turning to an even kinder tone. “I’m just… worried, you know? I want the man I love to live a long time.”

“Aww, how cute…” Sylvain hugged Felix from behind when he was distracted and grabbed at his crotch.

“No.” Felix got up immediately. “I’m not so horny as to take advantage of a drunk. You shouldn’t do it, either.”

Sylvain accepted this refusal with a smile. “Oh, I won’t. Because I love you too much and I won’t let you die early, especially for something horrible like getting drunk.”

Felix blushed slightly before turning to go to his own room. “W-Will you be okay by yourself tonight?”

“Yeah, I’ll call you if I need anything. We’re neighbors, after all.”

“And I’ll probably be the first to hear your obnoxious voice… Have a good night, Sylvain.”