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How to Win Friends and Secure Your Cape

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Camus had worked diligently during his early life in hopes of someday becoming a knight. Besides the lessons of sword and shield, he had practiced chivalry, etiquette, courtesy, and these remained with him even while Gorudo was giving orders which defied such. Camus had followed the orders of his superior with a courteous bow, only admitting his dissatisfaction when he and Miklotov were alone. Though honor was something both were well versed in, the more social aspects of a knight's behavior were somewhat beyond his friend, who had gladly deferred to Camus in situations that required a subtle, diplomatic hand. It was rare that one should see Camus without a pleasant smile upon his lips.

Even for Miklotov, with whom he was sharing quarters while the barracks of Dunan Castle were undergoing renovation, it was unheard of to see the man curse under his breath and duck behind a tree in the middle of overseeing the soldiers' drills. Having a feeling he knew what was bothering his friend, Miklotov sighed faintly and ordered their men to continue while he followed.

Sure enough, Camus was tugging at the cord that looped around his shoulders with a look of irritation. "When will you decide you've had enough of this?" Miklotov inquired.

"I most certainly have had quite enough already, thank you," Camus replied. His tone would have been polite coming from most; Miklotov knew him well enough to hear it as terse. "I fail to see how having 'had enough' fixes the problem of my cape slipping."

"You could go without."

Camus shook his head, painstakingly unknotting the tight, slippery cord. "A knight must look the part, Miklotov."

"I believe I look the part without a purple cape."

"You do, Miklotov - you look a different part. You look like you, and that is fine. For you."

Miklotov frowned. "Camus... I feel its absence as well," he admitted. "We worked and worked to achieve our former ranks, and to attain those emblems. Every time I look in the mirror, it surprises me to see it gone."

"Imagine, then, remembering its absence every time you move in a certain way," Camus very nearly grumbled, fiddling with the knot, "or every time the wind gusts at a certain angle relative to your back."

"That was my point," Miklotov said bluntly. "You're tormenting yourself needlessly in more than one way. You won't be using the emblem of the knighthood to pin your cape down again for a good, long time, if ever. Either remove it, or find some other way to secure it."

"I can't simply replace that emblem," Camus said sadly, peering down at the unsteady cape over his shoulder as he shifted this way and that way, seeing if it would stay where it was. "You just don't understand..."

"I understand that function is more important than fashion, or even nostalgia."

"Yet fashion has its-" Camus was cut off as the cape slid forward again, hanging around his neck like an oversized baby's bib. "...Its place as well," he finished with a sigh.

"We are fighting a war," Miklotov reminded him.

"Right you are, mon ami!"

Camus and Miklotov both looked up at the sound of another voice joining their conversation. It came, they found, from one of two brightly-dressed figures striding towards them from the library.

"We are indeed fighting a war," Simone continued. "And that is why it is so desperately important that we hold fast to such civilized things as art and fashion, lest we become no more than brute beasts."

"My apologies for our eavesdropping on your private conversation," Vincent added, with a bow that displayed his own rose-emblazoned cape, "but my dear Sir Camus - we could not help but notice your sad plight. After all, your devotion to style - your brilliant sense of contrast and texture! - has caught our eye many a time since we arrived at this castle. Amidst the masses of rigid, boring uniforms, your individuality is like a breath of fresh, sweet-smelling air."

"Why, thank you." Camus smiled quite pleasantly indeed, though Miklotov saw the squint of his eyes that betrayed how flustered he was by the sudden attention. "I must say, your apparel is most exquisite also."

"What a marvelous spirit this boy possesses!" crowed Simone, clasping Vincent's hand. "So polite, so charming, so fashionable...! I stand behind your decision, my friend."

"Decision...?" asked Camus with raised eyebrow.

"Yes - I had been admiring your ensemble for some time," replied Vincent, "and yet you seemed to be having some trouble with it. I thought, if I may be so bold, to offer a small gift that may be of some use." With a flourish, he stretched forth his hand to display a small brooch, in the shape of a red rose.

"Oh..." Camus peered at it in surprise. "It is very gracious of you to offer, but I could not accept."

"Ah, but I insist! As I said, fashion is more important in such difficult times than any other."

"To think that it should be suggested that you go without...!" Simone lamented, laying a hand across his brow and shooting a baleful look at Miklotov, who merely gave him a solid stare in return. "Alas, alas..."

"Think of it as well as a token of friendship," suggested Vincent. "For we should like to make your acquaintance more fully, Sir Camus, and perhaps take you under our wing. You have such promise! We would love to befriend you."

After a brief hesitation, which likely was only noticed by Miklotov, Camus nodded, accepting the brooch. "You are most generous. My sincere thanks to both of you," he said warmly. "Perhaps we may talk at a later time? I do have my duties to attend to, you understand."

"Of course, of course! We take tea every afternoon in the garden," Simone told him. "We would be delighted if you were to join us, should you have the opportunity."

"I shall," said Camus with a nod. "I look forward to it."

"As do we - and perhaps you could inform us as to how we might acquire some of those adorable boots... Au revoir, mon ami!" cried Simone, tossing a rose into the air. "Until we meet again!"

Miklotov simply stared after the two strange men. Then he stared at Camus, who was pinning the brooch at the corner of his cape. "...Camus..."

"They were quite nice, don't you think?" Camus wiggled his shoulders, and looked quite satisfied as the cape remained where it should.

"I can't believe you accepted that brooch."

"It would have been rude not to," Camus reasoned. "They insisted."

"And you agreed to meet them for tea? In the garden?"

"What is wrong with taking tea in the garden?" asked Camus with a shrug - and another satisfied glance at his newly secured cape. "It wouldn't seem right to enjoy tea at, say, Leona's. And though Hai Yo has a wonderful dinner menu, his drinks are somewhat lacking."

"Yes, but..." Miklotov tried to find a tactful way to put it. "...You do realize that... men such as those two most likely have a... a different definition of the word 'befriend' than you and I."

"Perhaps," said Camus, unconcerned. "Even so, the color is perfect, wouldn't you say? Nearly the color of the uniform, but just so different that it shows plainly. Vincent has a marvelous sense of style, and I believe I could learn a few things from the two of them. But in the meantime - where is your sense of discipline today, Miklotov? Our men are waiting for our guidance, and it's not like you at all to leave them unattended."

With that, Camus adjusted his swordbelt and strode back towards the clearing in front of the castle where they had been conducting exercises, the red enamel of the rose glinting in the sunlight. Miklotov just shook his head. Though they'd been friends for many years, sometimes he still didn't understand what went on in Camus's mind one bit.