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Chapter 26 – Surprises, Surprises

“So… Remind me how I ended up being the bridesmaid of honour?” Ingrid pouted the entire time Annette, Mercedes, and Dorothea tended to her appearance.

“You and me both.” Cyril happened to walk by. “How I ended up as the ring bearer, I will never know. I’ve hardly even spoken to the lucky couple today.”

“That’s because Rhea and our new archbishop trust you,” Annette replied with a smile.

“And you, my lovely Ingrid, are you really surprised?” Dorothea continued to braid Ingrid’s short hair. “Not only were you the first one to find out about their relationship, but you’re also the best friend of them both.”

“Whatever. I just think you three are using this wedding as an excuse to douse all the women with makeup.”

“The flower girl thinks she did a good job!” Flayn, with floral barrettes and even rosier cheeks, gave Ingrid a thumbs up as she walked by. “Say, are we going to get started soon? I heard there will be a lot of fish dishes at the reception. Which of course is half the fun.”

“There’s just one problem… We’ve got a couple of late guests.” Mercedes thought as she heard two men shouting outside. “Ah, here they come now!”

The late guests in question sped right past the women and straight to Sylvain’s quarters. “Hey! Where’s the man of the hour, huh?”

“You mean one of the men of the hour,” Sylvain corrected. He was embarrassed not just at his father’s late arrival, but also at his behaviour. It didn’t suit someone of his age. “No, let me guess why you’re late… It’s because of the pretty women around the monastery, isn’t it?”

“No… It’s um… because it’s been a while since I attended the Academy, and I had to ask for directions.”

“In other words, it’s because of the pretty women around the monastery.” Even though the margrave still acted like a womanizer all these years, Sylvain couldn’t ever really be mad at him. Sylvain bowed at the waist to Felix’s uncle. “Duke Fraldarius, it’s an honour to meet you. I am Sylvain Jose Gautier, the son of Margrave Gautier.”

“Yes, I’ve heard about you from my older brother before he died. Thank you for taking care of my younger nephew all this time.”

“Speaking of which, where is the blushing bride… er, groom?” Margrave Gautier asked.

“You’ll see him soon enough…” Sylvain got up as the bell of the Goddess Tower rang. Before he stepped onto the stairs, he looked up the tower and the golden sunrise backdrop. “And he will look wonderful.”

An hour later, Dorothea had just finished styling Felix’s hair into a low bun, letting a few strands hang at the sides. Annette and Mercedes stood back to look at the traditional Fraldarius clothes they worked hard to put on him. “Aww, you look so handsome! Sylvain is soooo lucky!” they squealed in unison.

“Okay, I’m handsome.” Felix started walking hastily to the Goddess Tower. “I’m handsome and very late for my own wedding. Ah!”

“Felix, watch out!” Ingrid tried to warn as Felix tripped on his cape. “Oh!”

A 10-year-old boy saved Felix from an embarrassing face plant. “Hey mister, are you okay?”

“Yes, thank you.” Felix knelt at the boy’s level. He could tell from his clothes and appearance that he was a common boy from Fraldarius. “You saved me, young man.”

The boy just now noticed Felix’s regal attire. “Hey, are you by chance Felix Hugo Fraldarius?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh, man, this is the best day ever!” The boy happily jumped up and down. “Mom and Dad used to tell me all kinds of stories about you and what an awesome soldier you were!”

“They did?”

“You bet!” The boy did a few air punches. “They told me one time that you killed a boar with your bare hands.”

“Oh, that was probably just some gossip from your friends.” Felix chuckled, and was surprised when the boy didn’t laugh back.

“I… didn’t really have many friends growing up. When my mom and dad died, all my classmates thought it was because they had enough of me.” The boy began to cry. “I never really had any kind of cool parental figures after my parents’ deaths, either. I… had to live on my own. You were really the only role model I’ve had.”

“Well, I’m about to change that for you!” Felix declared proudly. “There’s going to be a really cool wedding at the Goddess Tower, and I’d love for you to come. There will be lots of yummy food and fun games. And there certainly won’t be any of those mean bullies that you’ve met.”

“Really?” The boy not only stopped crying, he lit up.

“Of course!” Mercedes took the boy by the hand while giving Felix a sidelong stare. “Now come, you don’t want to be late like a certain someone.

The sun had arisen completely now while the birds fled from their previous hiding places. A spacious crowd gathered under the balcony of the Goddess Tower as Flayn tossed flowers from there. Mercedes couldn’t contain her excitement at the wedding about to commence. “Aww, I should have put some concealer on him at least…”

“Maybe you’ll find a chance to if you visit Fraldarius,” replied Ingrid, lifting Felix’s long cape off the ground while he walked.

As he stepped out from the shade, Felix shielded his face from the sun and the oncoming doves with his arm. Even as he walked to the balcony, he could hardly look at his soon-to-be husband in the eye.

Sylvain brushed aside Felix’s bangs and spoke softly, “Hey. Don’t be shy now of all times; let me see your beautiful face.”

Byleth, the newly appointed archbishop of the Church, grinned at this adorable display as she gestured for silence from the excited crowd below. “O holy Sothis! We stand before you today to ask for your blessings upon Sylvain Jose Gautier and Felix Hugo Fraldarius as they become joined in marriage. May you shower them with many years together, filled with love, light, and fortune. May their homelands become more prosperous with each passing day as the people will grow to respect them.”

Byleth’s conclusion of her speech prompted Sylvain to begin stating his vows. “I have lived a life full of unsavoury tendencies. I thought that I could never find true love because of my Crest. I thought that it was my only redeemable quality. But the day I met you, I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, I really do have worth. I’ve grown to love myself – and you – in all these years we’ve known one another. I’ll protect you with everything I have; this I swear.”

How am I supposed to top that? Felix had rehearsed his vows several times but at that moment, his mind drew a blank. “I… don’t have a way with words like you. People never forgot to remind me of it, and for the longest time, I didn’t care what they thought of me. What need for pretty words have I, a swordsman so dedicated to his training? It took all the practice in the world just to prepare me for this moment… But for me, it was worth it, to let all of Fódlan know how much I love you. It was worth it to be able to tell you that I will cherish and protect you for as long as I live.”

After a short pause, Byleth continued, “Do you, Sylvain Jose Gautier, take Felix Hugo Fraldarius as your husband?”

“I do!” Sylvain answered with a wink as he put his family ring on Felix’s finger.

“And do you, Felix Hugo Fraldarius, take Sylvain Jose Gautier as your husband?”

“I do.” Felix did the same, and there was no shyness in his voice now.

“Then by the power invested in I, Byleth Eisner, archbishop of the Church of Seiros… I now pronounce the two of you spouses for life.” Byleth gave Sylvain a wink and whispered, “Go on, hotshot, give him a big kiss.”

Don’t need to tell me that, Professor, Sylvain thought as he clasped the back of Felix’s head and kissed him for a long time.

“Aww!” The ten-year-old boy from earlier cheered, along with other monastery residents from the ground. “So this big wedding was for Felix, huh?”

Felix finally broke the kiss gently and now faced the crowd. “Oh, and I thought I’d like to take this opportunity to make an important announcement, particularly to my fellow citizens of Fraldarius. I accept the title of the Duke of Fraldarius… and so does my husband.”

“Whoa…” A few citizens were surprised, but most appeared to accept it.

“But wait…” A young man from Gautier spoke up. “Then who’s going to inherit House Gautier?”

Sylvain expected and feared for this topic to come up, but he didn’t want to lie to his people. “I pass that title to my brother Miklan.” Sylvain turned to his best man. “That is, if he is willing.”

“What?” The mention of Miklan’s name sparked whispers throughout. “He’s alive?”

“Yes.” Miklan turned around. “Though at times I don’t think I deserved to be… I am glad to be now, if only to atone for what I have done. If at any time the people think I don’t deserve this title, I will willingly step before a jury, and you may do what you will. But all I ask is this chance to gain your trust.”

“Miklan…” Margrave Gautier hadn’t seen his son in such a long while, not even after the Battle of Enbarr. To make sure that his elder son was not an apparition, he ran as fast as he could up the Goddess Tower’s stairs to get a good look at him.

Miklan didn’t expect this to occur, and didn’t really want it, either. He shifted uncomfortably before saying, “H-Hello, Father. It’s been a while.”

“You’re… alive.” The margrave’s voice sounded void of emotion. “How?”

“It’s a long story.” Miklan secretly brandished his Crest. “So, um… about the title-”

“I can’t say I’m 100% comfortable with it yet, but if Sylvain approves, then I will approve too.”

“I’m… um… glad, I guess.” Miklan could look at his father now, and noticed the margrave shedding a few tears.

“Oh, haha… Don’t mind me. I’m just… hoping… that we can at least try to get along as a family. I’m glad to have the chance.”

“Aaaand here come the waterworks!” Sylvain took the both of them in for a group hug, spurring many members of the crowd to also cry. Just as he was getting caught in the family bonding, he noticed a young black-haired boy standing just inside the shadow behind the balcony. “Oh? Who might you be, young man?”

“Ah, he’s a citizen of Fraldarius,” Felix cut in. “He actually saved me from damaging my ‘pretty face’ earlier.”

“So what brings you here?” Sylvain knelt down.

“I just… wanted to say to Felix that… Congratulations.” The ten-year-old boy grinned. “You’re right about having fun. I’ve already met a lot of really nice kids just now. I’m thankful.”

Felix pondered a while before asking the boy, “Young man, what is your name?”

“I’m Remy, sir.”

“How would you like to live with Sylvain and I?” Felix gave a quick glance to his husband for approval, which Sylvain readily gave. “We will give you the life that was stolen from you too soon.”

“I can have a family again?” Remy started crying tears of joy. “I… I… I would love to!”

“Oh, quit your crying!” Sylvain chuckled as he carried the boy, letting the crowd see him. “Everyone, I present to you Remy, the third in line to Fraldarius’ throne!”

“Aww, right!” Remy did a little victory pose, getting a huge confidence boost from the approving crowd. “Look out, world, I’m going to be a great soldier just like Papa!”

After the crowd had died down, and the wedding festivities had already started, Sylvain and Felix descended the stairs. Sylvain wasn’t surprised that Dorothea had caught the bouquet Felix had thrown, and now she bragged that one day she would be with her “beloved Ingrid.”

“Sylvain?” Felix took note of how silent Sylvain had become after they got back to the ground level. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” Sylvain watched as Remy played with his new friends from the monastery. He was especially friendly to an 8-year-old Gautier girl and her 1-year-old sister who just started learning how to walk. The two older kids flew a sewn-up doll around, much to the 1-year-old’s amusement. “I’m just… I don’t know, I didn’t take you for the type to want kids someday.”

“Surprises, surprises.” Felix smiled as he gripped his husband’s hand. “That kid has been through a lot… I figured that I’d give him a fresh start. A new life.”

“Maybe this is wishful thinking, but… I hope we will live our lives in sheer happiness, for years without end.”