All's Fair
Disclaimer: Suikoden 3, and all associated characters and situations, belong to Konami.

Author's note: This is just a short piece set in the middle of Chris' second chapter. Reviews would be lovely.


His horse's flank lathered with sweat, Roland gently eased it out of a gallop to trot beside Leo's steed. He had been rather taken aback the first time he had come across Leo going for an early morning ride; he had thought that Leo was more likely to be found at the breakfast table, powering his way through another large meal. Leo had claimed then that he needed the exercise to keep up with the younger knights. Over time, however, Roland had come to believe that the purpose of those early morning rides was more for Leo to relax and enjoy the simpler pleasures of life – an attitude rare amongst Zexen's knights, but one which he admired. He had been pleasantly surprised when Leo had invited him along the first time around, and since then, he had never refused the honor of such an invitation.

The rides as of late had been different, however. They had been more strenuous, as if Leo was searching to clear his mind. There had been a lot less laughter and a lot more silence. Not that Roland minded silence. Indeed, he often felt that the humans around him chattered too much, if anything. Yet even never-ending conversation was better than the serious and sad silence that descended upon the Brass Castle and its inhabitants. At times like these, when the threat of war was almost a promise, that smiles and good cheer were needed the most – if only to remind everyone what they were fighting for.

He suddenly smiled to himself. If he ever cracked a joke, his friends would undoubtedly believe the world was about to end. He started to chuckle when a loud voice echoed through the air.

"What do you mean she's not here?"

Leo shook his head. "That sounds like young Borus," he noted.

"That it does. And I guess 'she' would be—"

"Lady Chris," Leo finished for him. He dismounted from his horse, handing the reins over to the waiting squire. "We had best see what exactly Borus is shouting about."

Roland snorted as he handed his horse over as well. "He acts as if she's unable to take care of herself."

"She's very capable, everyone knows that," Leo responded. "Unfortunately, she has a tendency to push herself too far . . . like she did earlier."

"True, true," said Roland. "Shall we hurry? Before Percival makes the situation worse?"

"Good idea." Leo jogged forward briskly, and Roland lengthened his stride to keep up with him. In a matter of minutes, they were had found Borus, shouting in front of the stall that housed Chris' horse.

"Her horse is not here, and she's not in her room! So she must be out. Tell me, where did she go?" Borus wildly waved his hands about, while Chris' squire, Louis, and two stable hands backed away from him. His face was rapidly turning red – whether from anger or lack of breath, Roland could not tell, but he couldn't blame the others from being alarmed.

"I already told you, I don't know. I just came out to check on her mount, and it was gone," Louis explained.

"What sort of squire are you, anyway? To not know where your master is at all times?"

"Peace, Borus." Leo calmly placed himself between Borus and the others. "What seems to be the problem here?"

"The problem is that Chris is gone, her horse is gone, and no one – not a single soul – can tell me where she went!"

Roland raised an eyebrow at those words. "I wasn't aware that Lady Chris was supposed to report to you before leaving her room," he remarked.

He hadn't thought it was possible, but Borus turned even redder. "No, of course not. But I'm her guard. How can I keep her safe if I don't know where she is?"

"Ha! You forget you've not managed to win a duel with her for the last three years!" Louis remarked.

"And you forget she fainted on her way to the capital earlier!" Borus returned. "As well as your duties as a squire. How could you be so lax?"

"That's enough," Leo said firmly. "Louis performs his duties better than certain other young squires that I can remember." He gazed sternly at the younger knight. "I know there were days that Captain Galahad was a mere step away from washing his hands of you and Percival."

"Trust me, that was all Percival's fault, not mine," Borus said quickly.

"It's funny how you blame him whenever something goes wrong," Roland noted absently. Borus simply glared in response.

"This isn't helping us," Leo interrupted. "Did anyone see Chris take her horse out?" he asked Louis and the stable hands.

One of the stable hands shook his head. "No, my lord. We haven't seen Lady Chris at all. And it was Lord Percival who got her steed."

"Percival?" Borus' jaw dropped open. "But he was supposed to be going to a Harvest Fair or something like that. Lady Chris couldn't possibly be interested in—"

"Harvest Fair?" Roland's brow furrowed. "Do you mean Iksay's annual Harvest Festival?"

"What's the difference?" Borus waved his hand languidly. "It'd be much the same thing, I'd imagine."

"Iksay? That's Percival's hom—" Leo snapped his mouth shut before finishing that sentence but Roland had already figured out that train of thought.

"I see," he said. "How romantic. Perfect for a first date."

"Date?" By now, Borus was not only red, but breaking out into a sweat and shaking too. "A date? Why that slimy, no good, little bastard!" He slammed his fist against the wall. "Prepare my horse!" he directed the stable hands. "I have to save Lady Chris from the clutches of that scheming knave!"

"But Sir Borus," Louis said hesitantly "You make it sound like you don't trust Sir Percival."

"With my life, yes. With Lady Chris, never!"

Leo chuckled. "Couldn't have said it better myself," he agreed.

"Even now, he can be waylaying her, charming her so she won't suspect a thing and then suddenly . . . ." Borus shook his head, to clear his mind of such images. "There's not a moment to spare."

"Borus, I hardly think that Percival would do anything to harm Lady Chris," Roland said impatiently.

"And I wouldn't have thought that he would have covertly sneaked off with her," Borus responded.

"Here, he—" Leo gasped for breath as Roland's foot came down solidly on his.

"Do not," said Roland, "feed young Borus' fanaticism."

"I'm not feeding anything!" claimed Leo.

"I'm not a fanatic!" Borus asserted at the same time.

Roland hung his head. He could feel the inevitable headache coming on from all the shouting that had taken place within the last few minutes. "Let's think about this rationally," he reasoned. "Percival probably was trying to get Lady Chris to relax—"

"Of that I have no doubt!" Borus interjected.

"—and to get her mind off of her worries," Roland continued, ignoring the interruption. "Have you ever known him to be less than honorable, Borus?"

"No. No, I haven't," Borus admitted. Sighing, he continued, "And he's a better knight than me. A better knight than I'll ever be."

"No, lad, you're both good knights." Leo clapped Borus solidly across the back, sending the younger man staggering from the impact. "He may be better with the ladies, but you're not the first young knight who doesn't know how to flirt. You'll find your own way sooner than you think."

"That isn't what I meant," Borus replied simply.

Roland stared long and hard at the young knight, wondering what he could possibly mean. "If you mean that Percival's more gentlemanly than you," he prodded, "I hardly think a gentleman would invite only one of his friends to go with him to the Harvest Festival."

"It's not, is it?" Borus' head shot up. "He should have invited all of us. And because he didn't – that proves his intention were impure."

"Sweet goddess," Leo mumbled in despair. "I thought you wanted to calm him down," he whispered to Roland.

"Calm him down, yes. Depress him and make him worry about things, no," the elf replied. "We'll find out about whatever it is that's bothering him soon enough, in his own time. Maybe sooner than that. And for now . . . for now, I suppose 'tis better to let him rant and rave about love, rather than war."

"While there still is time," Leo agreed.

"Yes."

"But we should definitely join him," Leo added. "We wouldn't want things to get out of hand. And besides, there's always hope for two old knights like ourselves."

"Speak for yourself," Roland replied, but there was no heat behind his words. "We elves live much longer lives than mere humans."

"Mere humans, eh? So a mere human female can't hold much interest for you?" Roland's silence was all the answer Leo needed. "Didn't think of it that way, did you old boy?" Leo guffawed heartily, almost completely bent over with laughter.

"Won't ever speak without thinking again, I assure you," Roland replied. Human jokes were still foreign to him . . . but maybe not as much as they had been. He could understand their need for laughter and if their jokes brought it, then that was good. "And if you'd stop laughing, you'd see that Salome has just got back. What do you say to inviting him as well on our little excursion?" he asked.

"Why not?" was Leo's answer. "And here's hoping he doesn't have some other task for us to do." With that, the two of them strolled over to greet their returning friend, while Borus' frantic preparations resounded in the background.