Not a single day passed where the looming threat of the mere existence of Crests didn’t weigh down upon Sylvain’s already worn spirit. It was truly disgusting the way Crests viciously tore families apart, dividing them into the victors who were fortunate enough to inherit one and the poor souls who were doomed to live their lives in the shadows of those who did bear a Crest.
The Gautier family had experienced firsthand the exploitive nature of the Crest. The eldest Gautier son, Miklan, had been shunned the moment it was realized that Sylvain bore a Crest. To neglect one Crestless child in favor of a Crest bearing child seemed counterproductive to Sylvian. What reason was there to treat two children unequally solely for the sake of a Crest? Such boorish treatment didn’t just stop with his immediate family, tough. Not even close.
This line of thinking extended far beyond the lines of their territory, infecting the minds of most noble residencies of Fodlan. It was imperative that the Crests be passed down. They must pass on even at the cost of others’ lives. At the cost of the lives of the Crestless who had been passed over in favor of their Crest bearing siblings.
At the cost of Miklan’s life.
It could be reasonably argued that Miklan had brought his death upon himself, settling for a life of thievery and misconduct as a result of being the Crestless firstborn son. He had to have known full well what wielding a Hero’s Relic would do to someone who did not bear the appropriate Crest, but he took that chance with confidence.
Sylvain claimed to hate Miklan for a number of reasons - most of which involved some sort of physical or emotional abuse from his brother back during their younger years. Yet, for some reason, the lump in the back of Sylvan’s throat hadn’t resided once since their return to Garreg Mach shortly after Miklan’s death. A majority of his time since their return had been spent either training or holed up in his room, unable to stand the pitying looks others sent his way. Those looks mostly came from the students of other houses who didn’t know that being pitied was the worst form of comfort or reassurance for Sylvain. Although he supposed it made sense considering just about everybody at the academy had lost a family member for similar or other reasons.
As the moon rose high in the night sky, Sylvain took the opportunity to slip out of his room. He treaded quietly down the hall and down to the first floor, sighing in relief when he hadn’t encountered anyone along the way. The moonlight bathed the monastery in a surreal silvery glow as he walked down to the fishing pond. There was something relaxing about watching the fish swim aimlessly around the pond. It kept his mind occupied.
Most people were asleep at that hour, and if they weren’t, they were also likely looking for peace and quiet; he wouldn’t bother them, and they wouldn’t bother him.
He eased himself into a comfortable position at the end of the short pier, legs folded beneath him. Under the moonlight, the gentle blue water glistened as it moved with the cool night’s breeze. The still silence should have felt impending or unwelcome, but it instead served to relax him further. Tension seeped out of every pore, and that lump in his throat returned with a vengeance. Sylvain clenched his jaw, willing the tears to stay at bay. There was no way to turn back time, and he wasn’t sure what he’d even change if he could.
Light footsteps sounded from behind him, and Sylvain’s eyes instantly widened as he recognized the familiar gait.
“What are you doing up so late, Felix?” Sylvain asked, forcing a hint of amusement into his tone.
The footsteps stopped right behind him.Then a hand was on his shoulder, squeezing gently.
The tears he tried so hard to keep at bay spilled over at once. There was no sense in controlling them; he couldn’t even if he tried. Sylvain lowered his head, chin bumping against his chest as the tears landed one by one onto his lap.
In a moment of weakness, Sylvain unclenched one shaky fist and reached up to place his hand over Felix’s, curling his fingers so they rested against Felix’s palm.
After all those years of growing up together, Felix had long since learned that Sylvain detested when others saw him cry - as trivial as it may seem. Especially after a family death. But Felix always respected that, allowing Sylvain the privacy he needed to work through his emotions.
Soon the tears came faster, and Sylvain was gasping for breath. His low sobs dissipated into the night, never leaving the confines of the pier. One thing for which he was thankful.
“Breathe,” Felix commanded quietly from behind him.
Deep breath in; deep breath out.
Sylvain was unsure of how much time had passed, but that hand on his shoulder maintained its position, occasionally squeezing in comfort.
“Life is really something else,” Sylvain said with a humorless chuckle once the worst of the sobs had subsided. “I was never even that close with him after childhood, and yet here we are.”
Felix pulled back his hand and opted for taking a seat beside Sylvain, both knees pulled up to his chest as he stared out at the pond. “There was nothing you could have done.”
Sylvain splayed both legs in front of him, one hand on the pier floorboards beside him, leaning most of his weight against it. “I know. I just wish this never had to be an end result to begin with. These greedy nobles take this shit too far.”
Beside him, Felix nodded in agreement.
The silence that stretched out between them was comfortable and familiar, curling Sylvain’s lips into a small, sad smile. Moments later, Felix’s hand found his own. Sylvain laced their fingers together and smiled softly when he felt Felix squeeze.
“I’m glad I have you,” Sylvain whispered, gaze focused on a random fish flitting about in the pond.
“I’ll be here as long as you need,” Felix replied, sounding slightly taken aback by Sylvain’s sudden confession.
Call it another moment of weakness, but Sylvain leaned over and rested his head on Felix’s shoulder, sighing gently when he felt Felix pull his hand back to wrap around his shoulders. A few stray tears traced a path down his cheeks. Sometimes it felt as though the only consistent presence in his life was Felix. With all the awful things happening in the world around them, it was truly what he needed most.