A/N: Written for an awesome prompt given to me by one of my best friends, who requested Yuri + Flynn BFF fic, with accused-of-some-truly-terrible-crime-but-actually-totally-innocent(for once)!Yuri and determined-to-protect/save-and-clear-his-BFF's-name!Flynn.
...Honestly, I felt sorta bad killing off Ioder, 'cause I really like the kid + he is certainly FAR more capable of being a good ruler than Estelle (but then so are most rocks, I would imagine). And I have nothing against Gauche and Droite, and I know ToV's closing credits show them in a boat looking all happy, but well. Generally speaking, I'd sort-of rather assume a canon character went bad than just make up random OCs, so long as it's a (somewhat, at least) believable leap.
The first thing he notices, the only thought echoing through his head alongside the ringing clatter of metal boots on stone as he strides down the first of several long grey-and-white-marble hallways, is there is just so much blood.
It's been nearly twenty years since Flynn Scifo could have been appropriately termed 'sheltered' or 'naïve'…but even so, the Commandant never expected to see the inside of Zaphias Castle looking like this.
Spatters of scarlet stain the walls and streak the carpets; sprawled forms of slain guards lie in crimson pools or sprawl against the stone pillars lining the corridors; runnels of red drip down once-white stairways. And worst of all, the audience chamber, the throne room. Its huge, heavy doors gape wide like mortal wounds, two sets of identically-sized bloody handprints on those intricately-carved, gold-kissed surfaces showing how they'd been shoved inwards, shoved open. The Knights guarding this room are all dead as well, the floor and walls marred with evidence of combat, chiefly the use of several artes. Flynn studies these, but only briefly, before breathing just the slightest bit easier.
His chest tightens again as he turns towards the raised dais, the stairs, and the bloody figure slumped back against the throne. Trying to ignore the quiet squelching sound his heavy boots make with each step taken on the blood-soaked carpet leading up to the throne, Flynn studies the scene with a cold eye, tamping down on his anger and grief and shame and forcing himself to look, to observe, to take in everything and turn all his senses outward, and, for a time, to forget how to feel. Right now, all he can allow himself to see is another murder to be solved, another wrong to make as right as possible, another terrible deed done by a criminal who must be brought to justice. He can't let himself see his Emperor, his friend, His Royal Highness Ioder Algios Heurassein; he can't let himself react to the sight of that too-familiar, too-pale face or those glassy, sightlessly staring eyes. Instead, he steps in close, kneeling before that once-august body, and studies the victim.
The goal of the intruders is patently obvious: assassination. The motivation for such is much less clear, though of course there is always something, some faction ill-appeased, some fringe group feeling wronged. Still, by and large Ioder had been a well-loved Emperor, and deservedly so. He was fair-minded, granted audiences to many, and was doing his best to improve things for his people. He was working with the Guilds, he had passed many good new laws, and had repealed more than a few critically flawed older ones. The Empire was cautiously flourishing under his rule, as if its citizens couldn't quite believe that, after years of an uncomfortable interim rule by the Council and the Knights, they could at last trust that they were in strong, competent hands once again.
Flynn can't help how his gaze slips to the side at that last thought, how his eyes stare fixedly on the limp hand lying, palm up, on the cold scarlet-stained crimson-carpeted stone before the throne. Our grasp on life is truly so very weak, he thinks, then gives a slight shake of his head and refocuses before his vision can blur. Back to facts, and to facts only.
Someone else will inspect the body more thoroughly later, but what injuries he can see are fairly numerous as well as vicious. Blades, two of them judging by the difference in the size and appearance of the various gashes, were the murder weapons. Ioder had also taken at least one arte, a Thunder Blade from the singed look of his clothes, which again elicits a sickly sort of relief, if only because Flynn knows of a certain and very specific someone who can't use that sort of intricate, high-level arte.
Ultimate cause of death: a single stab with a blade—a sword, judging by the width of the wound—through his chest. The injury would have been mortal, but it looks ill-aimed enough that Ioder hadn't died instantly. There are only a few cuts on the Emperor's hands and arms, which indicates he hadn't used them in an attempt to protect himself from his attackers…something of an oddity in the Commandant's opinion. An oddity that could logically mean only a few things: that the assassins had taken him completely by surprise with their attack, that the Emperor had been incapacitated in some way, or that there was something about the attackers that had put Ioder completely off his guard. There are other possible explanations-that he had been trying to escape or that he had simply allowed them to kill him-but they don't hold true with other elements of the crime scene, or with what Flynn knows of Master Ioder.
With the notable exception of important ceremonies and certain political functions, the Emperor had never been one to wear a sword. Still, considering how skilled Lady Estellise is, Flynn had always assumed that Ioder had received similar training, and that he could use both steel and spell in self-defense if it came to it. (…And yet Ragou had kidnapped him with such ease once upon a time, something Flynn always considered curious, though the element of surprise melded with trust betrayed had likely factored into that situation.)
The body is on the floor right in front of the throne, sagging backwards against the royal seat, though judging by the sheer amount of blood covering the throne itself as well as the visible slash in the claret-coloured material decorating the high back of the chair, Ioder had died on the throne, in all probability pinned to its back by that blade. Which meant someone had moved him, mostly likely after he'd died…and someone had taken the murder weapon. Who and why are just two more unknown, unexplainable facets of this horrendous crime. It could have been the assassins themselves for all Flynn knows right now.
As for those assassins, there are at least two, and judging by those handprints on the doors, they are either fairly young children or women. After studying the footprints in the blood, Flynn determines that they are women, and there were definitely two of them here…though there's another set of boot-prints as well. These are decidedly larger, which sends a disquieting chill down the Commandant's spine. Placing his own boot beside one, he finds that they're the same size, and when he takes a few steps, their strides match as well; meaning, whoever this third party is, they're roughly the same height as he is himself.
A glint of clean gold beside the throne catches Flynn's eye, and on moving towards it, he finds himself frowning down at a very pretty gold-plated compact. It's one of the few things in this room that isn't bloody, and it seems so curiously out of place that he reflexively picks it up and palms it before he can really think about it. Old habits die hard, he thinks ruefully, and almost puts it back…but something, some sort of deep-rooted instinct tells him that it's important. He knows all too well that if he were to show or mention it to anyone, they would doubtless either brush it aside as inconsequential or attempt to confiscate it as evidence. Commandant or not, in a case of this magnitude, even he wouldn't be allowed such a liberty as to remove any sort of possible evidence.
The squad of Knights that had come to fetch him and subsequently acted as an escort of sorts have all hung back, shell-shocked at the ghastly sight of the audience chamber and unwilling to approach their Commandant at a time like this; even the soldiers who were guarding the crime scene are giving him wide berth. Whether they're allowing him to examine things undisturbed, or if instead it's because they're ashamed that it was their company, the Schwann Brigade, that allowed this to happen and they're having trouble facing the Commandant, Flynn can't tell which. He tries to catch LeBlanc's eye, but the Captain refuses to look at him, purposefully avoiding Flynn's gaze.
…Or perhaps they know something else. Flynn's mouth goes grimly thin as he turns away from the scene of the crime. Something I don't.
His initial examination finished, he makes his way back towards the few surviving Knights who were stationed in the palace, the ones who found the Emperor. "Do you have any suspects?" he asks as he reaches them, and he's already fighting that morbid gawker's urge to turn his eyes back towards the throne and the terrible, unbelievable carnage surrounding it.
LeBlanc still has his eyes, and now even his face, averted, and Adecor and Boccos are nowhere to be seen. Flynn doesn't recognise the soldier who answers, a man whose only defining characteristic seems to be how utterly plain he is. "Yes, sir! We arrived just in time to see the assassin remove the blade from the Emperor's body."
A single assassin? No, there were clearly two, Flynn thinks even as he issues his next question, a single hard-edged word that is more a demand for information than request: "Who?"
"The suspect is male, close to six feet tall, with fair skin and long dark hair; his build is slender but strong and he's extremely quick on his feet. He is known to have a record with the Knights, and several members of the guard identified him as Yuri Lowell."
For a strangled half-second, Flynn can't breathe, can't move, can't think anything other than no no no no no impossible no not Yuri NO. Then he forces himself to inhale, then exhale, quietly and calmly, because he can't betray what he's thinking or feeling to his men, and what's more he can't believe that Yuri would do something like this.
There are so many reasons that he wouldn't, not least of all because of what it would mean for Lady Estellise. Ioder's assassination at such a young age, before an heir or even a marriage had come to be, would force the Princess into the role of Empress. And for all Yuri's talk of her making her own decisions, Flynn knows with certainty that this matter is out of her hands; the Council will be relentless in their pursuit of her, willing to use any means necessary to place her on the throne. She will be Empress now, whether she wants it or not. Much as she loves her freedom, the princess loves people more, and her conscience would not allow her to turn her back on the citizens of the Empire in a time like this. Flynn is aware of that, and he's certain Yuri is as well, and he's equally certain that his best friend would never purposefully take that choice, or Lady Estellise's obvious current happiness, away from her. And while it was true that Yuri had overtly threatened Ioder at one point, the new Emperor had been doing worlds of good to improve the lot of the people in the Lower Quarter in particular, and for the Common Folk in general. He had set out to balance the scales, to re-write and right the Empire's rules, to ensure that its rule would be a blessing rather than a burden. He hadn't done anything worth being assassinated over—not in Yuri's eyes, anyway.
"…It was strange, though," LeBlanc says quietly, almost under his breath. Flynn is jolted back into the present, his eyes locking onto the older man's for the first time, and the Captain flinches ever so slightly under the intensity of that gaze.
"What do you mean? Strange how?"
Captain LeBlanc swallows hard, but he doesn't attempt to break eye contact this time. "He didn't act like an assassin, or a killer," the Knight finally says firmly, without the faintest waver in his tone. "The way he caught the Emperor as he fell, and how he set him down so gently—"
"Enough!" snaps another Captain, the one in charge of patrolling the Royal Quarter, a red-faced man with bushy eyebrows and a square jaw; Flynn recognises him as the middle son of one of the more prominent Council members. "Did you or did you not see the suspect, this Yuri Lowell, pull Dein Nomos out of the Emperor's chest?"
LeBlanc sputters for a moment. "Now hold on just a—!"
Flynn catches LeBlanc's eye and gives the slightest shake of his head, flicking his eyes to the other Captain and back, his expression saying everything he can't say aloud. You've done enough. Don't get yourself in trouble. Thank you. Judging by the rush of pleased colour in the man's cheeks and his minute nod, the older Knight gets the message.
"There you have it, Commandant!" the Captain says, completely oblivious to the split-second exchange that has just taken place. "Our killer is clearly this Yuri fellow. What are our orders? Kill on sight?"
"No." Flynn's voice is utterly calm, and also chillingly cold. "You're to take him alive. And unharmed, as far as possible."
"From what I've seen here, I don't believe that Yuri Lowell is the assassin; there's too much evidence to the contrary. But since he was clearly involved in some manner, Yuri Lowell will be brought back to Zaphias for questioning and to stand trial, in accordance with the laws of the Empire." The Captain starts to protest again, then gives a quiet gasp and takes an involuntary step backwards on seeing the look on his commanding officer's face. "And if anyone," Flynn says, raising his voice enough to be heard clearly by everyone in the room, "Anyone seeks to take the law into his or her own hands in this matter and kills the suspect, they will be made to stand trial in his place." He lets his eyes move around the room, briefly meeting those of every Knight before coming to rest on the red-faced Captain's. "A life for a life. That sounds fair, doesn't it."
"And even if it doesn't, we have our orders," LeBlanc says, seemingly to no-one in particular. The usual stout matter-of-fact tone is back in his voice, and Flynn feels a surge of gratitude towards the older man. "When do we move out, sir?"
"Tomorrow at noon," Flynn says, his hand clenching into a fist around the compact still clutched in his mailed palm. "All Captains and squad leaders will receive their deployment orders and company-specific assignments in my office tomorrow, after morning inspection. Until then…" His eyes stray back towards the throne, and what's left of the Emperor he'd sworn to protect with his life and serve with all his heart and follow with all his soul, and he brings his fist up and across his chest, bowing his head in deference; when he raises it again, his eyes are not entirely dry, though he does not yet allow those tears to fall. "…Do what you can to lay him to rest, and try to find some rest for yourselves as well."
He's already turned away, striding swiftly down the corridor with his back to the blood-soaked audience chamber, but he hears the clatter and clank of armour and knows all the Knights present are saluting him, some also murmuring a subdued, "Yes, sir." He's still too humble to see it, but they look after him with an anxious sort of hope, because even in a situation like this, they have faith in their Commandant. In their minds, one fact remains absolutely true: if anyone can put this situation to rights and see that the culprit is captured and suitably punished, it is Flynn Scifo.
Flynn himself, however, feels no such certainty. The way his pace gradually picks up, gaining speed and momentum until it's more run than walk, makes that abundantly clear. Thoughts spin through his head even faster and his feet quicken, as if moving more rapidly might enable him to chase all his doubts and fears down and put them to rest.
What were you doing here, Yuri? What really happened? Who did this, and why? Why did you run? And why did you take the sword—why would you do something so reckless?
Flynn knows, he knows that Yuri didn't—couldn't—wouldn't do this. Every fibre of his being, every pulse in his veins, every breath that whispers in and out of his lungs rebels against the very thought of his best friend having anything to do with it. And yet he took the sword…why? But despite that damning detail, Flynn still doesn't doubt for a minute that this is wrong, that somehow, someway, all of those witnesses must be mistaken about what they'd seen. After all, Yuri has an iron-clad alibi…because Yuri had been with him, with Commandant Flynn Scifo himself, at the fountain in the Lower Quarter when all of this must have been happening, and Hanks and Ted and a dozen other people could testify to as much. True, he'd headed off on "an errand" about ten or fifteen minutes before Flynn had gotten word of Ioder's assassination, but that wasn't nearly time enough to fight his way through all those Knights, kill Ioder, and escape with Dein Nomos. Even Yuri couldn't have done all of that by himself in such a short amount of time.
…But there would have been time enough for him to reach the castle, realise something was terribly wrong, and rush inside without a second thought. And when he arrived too late…
He would have chased down the assassins, of course…unless the dying Emperor had called out to him for some reason. Had Ioder tasked Yuri with delivering Dein Nomos to Lady Estellise? What, if anything, had he said with his last breaths?
Finding Yuri is the only way Flynn can find answers for all of his questions. He doesn't doubt his oldest and dearest friend in the least, but seeing these sorts of accusations levied against him still troubles the blonde Knight. Yuri's past is far from spotless, his record far from clean, and many of those he keeps company with these days have similar histories; if it turns out to be someone Yuri cares for, Flynn knows that his best friend might very well let himself take the heat to protect whoever is actually responsible for this.
…And that's where Flynn's worry really comes in, because this is something that Yuri can't afford to take the blame for.
"Please, Miss Judith. Anything you know would be appreciated."
The Krityan woman gives him a sideways glance that seems casual enough, though the tension in her shoulders, the way she's standing with her arms crossed over her bare midriff, and especially the sharpness of those eyes all tell a different story.
"What do you want me to say, Commandant? I was just his ride here. I'm sure you know a lot more about Yuri than I do." Or have you forgotten just how selfless your best friend really is?
Flynn unconsciously shifts his weight at her words, spoken lightly as ever, but with a pointed undertone. His eyes narrow, his voice and his chin both dropping.
"I know he didn't do this, Miss Judith. I'm only trying to help him. In a case like this, his innocence has to be proven beyond a doubt. Even Lady Estellise can't simply pardon a crime this grave." He takes a step forward, opens his hands to her. "Did you see him afterward?"
Judith is silent for long, heavy handful of moments; then she closes her eyes and bows her head just slightly. "Only in passing, really. He said that his plans had changed, that he had a different ride lined up, and told me not to wait around for him." Her smile is just a little cynical as she says even more softly, "He's breaking Brave Vesperia's one real rule, you know. Not telling the other members what's going on, not letting us help him. And the only reason he would do something like that—"
"He's protecting you." Flynn, of all people, can recognise this for what it is: Yuri going it alone to shoulder a burden that no one else wants to carry for the sake of the people he cares about. Normally thinking about that would bring at least a faint smile to his face, but in this case it only causes the worried lines creasing his forehead to deepen. "He knows how serious this is, and he doesn't want you or the others taking any of the blame if he does end up getting stuck with it."
They exchange a knowing glance, and the Commandant is aware that his apprehensive expression must mirror her own, at least a little. And speaking of mirrors…
"Miss Judith, have you ever seen this before?"
The Krityan woman blinks, eyes going wide as she catches sight of the compact in Flynn's cupped palm, and with that sort of reaction there's no way she can lie to him about it now. "Yes, we found it atop Mount Temza. Raven said it had once belonged to someone from his past who was important to him." Her eyes go thoughtfully half-lidded, her voice lowering a bit to match. "But he gave it to those girls after we fought them—"
Flynn's heart leaps in excitement, and he only narrowly keeps from making an eager grab at Judith's arms. "I'll have to ask you to tell me their names, as well as whatever else you might know about them," he says, his voice calm but his words coming fast enough to give away his true feelings.
Judith gives him a faint smile, though her usual teasing tone rings a little hollow this time. "Of course, Mister Commandant. I'll tell you everything I know. And since part of why you're doing this is to help Yuri, I'll give you a ride to wherever you need to go."
"Thank you," Flynn says, giving a gracious bow of his head, "I appreciate that, Miss Judith. I don't doubt that it would be a faster and more enjoyable means of travel, but I need to stay with my unit, which will be departing tomorrow morning." He ducks his head a little more and turns aside, presenting her with his profile. "…Although actually…so long as you can have me back here by tomorrow morning, I will take you up on that offer. There's somewhere I need to go right now, and quickly, before any of the Knights move out." The blonde Knight has to pause, to swallow to give himself time to loosen his abruptly-clenched jaw. "To Halure."
It will haunt him forever, he thinks, the sight of Lady Estellise sitting in the conservatory of the house she and the Mordio girl share, a still-bloody Dein Nomos in her lap, staining her white gloves and blue dress a rusty sort of red-brown. Gone was her typically cheerful expression, a stricken, shaken look on her waxily wan face, and Flynn can't forget the way she stared down at the weapon laid across her thighs, both horrified and transfixed by the sight of her cousin's blood and the knowledge that this, this blade that now felt so very cool beneath her gloved hands, this very sword was the one that had ripped the warmth and life from her only living family member.
Closing his eyes, Flynn presses the heels of his hands against them, though the comforting pressure of smooth, cool steel against his wearily-burning eyelids does nothing to blot out his memories of that evening, now nearly a week gone. In his mind, he sees a certain pink-haired girl and her tear-streaked cheeks, her haunted green eyes, the desperate desolation in those delicate hands that had grasped at his arms, his chest, his shoulders, anything within reach. And for once he had thrown propriety and the disparity in their social status and his own awkwardness and uncertainty to the winds, not only allowing but returning the contact, gathering her in his arms and all but crushing her to him, his cheek pressed close against the side of her head. He'd felt her flinch, doubtless due to his armour making his sudden and forceful embrace somewhat less than comfortable for her, but he didn't let her go or loosen his hold, not for a long while; and the Princess hadn't struggled, perhaps because she'd sensed the silent message in that action: On my honour, I will never allow the same thing to happen to you. I will defend you, even if it means forfeiting my life to ensure your survival. I will protect you always. I swear it.
Lady Estellise hadn't made any attempts to break away or break free, and after the space of perhaps a dozen heartbeats, he'd felt her start to tremble. Then her composure had slipped in its entirety and she'd cried herself out against his chest, though even that had been done with a certain sort of grace—with tears aplenty, and gentle sobs, but no wailing, no ragged gasps for breath. Flynn had simply held her through it all, a silent, solid, stoic comforter who showed no sign of releasing that hold, not until her shoulders stopped shaking and she rested her forehead against his breastbone, sagging against him in relief. Without a thought he'd scooped her up and carried her up the stairs to her room, laying her out on the bed before bowing and leaving her in the care of the rather huffy-looking Miss Mordio.
I'll find whoever did this, he'd promised, taking Lady Estellise's hand and bowing over it before he left. He hadn't mentioned anything about Yuri's possible involvement-the Princess, soon-to-be-Empress, had been troubled enough even without that problematic detail to add to her distress. They will stand trial and will be punished according to the laws of the Empire. Ioder will have justice, I give you my word on that, Your Highness.
It takes considerable effort, but Flynn manages to wrench his thoughts away from the pink-haired Princess and his guilt over the lie of omission he'd told her (or not-told her, rather). Instead he focuses on the information Judith had given him about the girls connected to that compact: Gauche and Droite, the current heads of Leviathan's Claw.
Flynn doesn't know if Leviathan's Claw and Ruins Gate are still connected like they were when Yeager headed them both, and he rather hopes not since tangling with any one of the five Master Guilds can still be unpleasant at times. Regardless of that, he'd known that Dahngrest was the place to start, and after he'd explained the situation to the leaders of the Union, Harry of Altosk had pulled him aside and pointed him in the direction of a semi-abandoned mansion in the middle of the wild-growing woods far outside the Den of Guilds. It wasn't exactly a bad tip, but even though he'd had his unit go over every centimeter of the place with a fine-toothed comb, the Manor of the Wicked had largely proven to be a dead end. The place was empty of occupants, and the amount of dust suggested that it had been that way more often than not of late; only a few rooms showed evidence of recent and regular use, and while the papers they'd found there had settled certain matters (such as whether or not Ruins Gate is still doing business with the Red Eyes, which turned out to be a resounding yes), they didn't find anything in regards to their actual mission. No hints, no indications as to where the girls might be now. Nothing even resembling a lead had presented itself, leaving Flynn with no choice but to meet up with Witcher and Sodia's units in Capua Torim, and hope they'd had better luck.
Witcher's unit hadn't, it turned out, and Sodia's was still in the midst of investigating the many nooks and crannies of Capua Torim, so Flynn had spent most of the evening at the Fortune's Market HQ. Kaufman has proven to be a gracious host on several occasions when the Empire and the Union had need of a formal or even informal meeting, and that afternoon had only served to demonstrate that hospitality further. They'd dined alone, discussing a wealth of things over the evening meal—business for the most part, but with enough personal exchanges to make it all feel easy and relaxed. The food itself had been good and plentiful, though not so fine as to make Flynn feel that partaking of it was in any way disloyal to his men; the Commandant's already-high estimation of the leader of Fortune's Market had gone up another few notches at both her perceptiveness as well as her subsequent courtesy. Over the course of the meal, Kaufman had learned of the Empire's ongoing manhunt, both for Yuri and for the girls, and the redheaded Guild Leader had immediately pledged her aid to the cause. As numerous and wide-spread as the members of her Guild were, someone was bound to catch sight of at least one of those girls sooner or later; she'd send out a message, and then all he'd need to do was check in with the shopkeeper representative of Fortune's Market in each city he passed through, and they would tell him if they had any news of either of the girls. Flynn had thanked Kaufman profusely and offered to pay handsomely for any and all accurate information they gave him; and while she hadn't declined, the Guild Leader hadn't outright accepted either, her smile coy as she'd sent him off with an affable we'll be in touch.
Three bells after nightfall finds him sitting at the table in his room in the Pollux T, trying to convince himself that right now the most productive thing he can do is get some sleep. He's almost talked himself into it, is leaning his weight onto his arms in preparation for getting up and heading towards one of those inviting-looking four-poster beds, when a breathless Witcher bursts through the door and nearly faceplants at Flynn's feet.
"Sir!" he gasps, only just managing to keep his feet. "They located him—he's inside the second warehouse down from the Lighthouse—and it seems many have interpreted their orders somewhat liberally. The sounds of combat are unmistakable—"
Flynn is on his feet and out the door before his former aide can finish that last sentence, moving at a dead run, the prospect of sleep forgotten entirely.
When Flynn bursts into the warehouse the Knights have blocked off, he dreads what he might find there: another bloodbath, another scene to make him think if only I'd been here sooner, another friend-this time his best friend-dead by way of senseless slaughter. That last isn't so likely, considering how skilled and slippery Yuri can be when it comes to fighting, but the possibility remains, however remote, and wrenches at both his head and his heart.
What he actually finds is decidedly better, but it still makes something in his chest give a lurching twist. Half a dozen Knights have surrounded Yuri and are quite literally attempting to back him into a corner; the dark-haired swordsman, however, looks perfectly at ease, his sword and fists and feet a blur as he holds the lot of them off with a feral grin. And leading the group of Knights is Sodia—who, Flynn notes in passing as he pauses a half-second to take in the scene, is sporting an odd-looking set of scratch marks on her cheek just below her eye.
In that moment's pause, they pull back, regroup, then move to attack again—
And immediately Flynn is in the thick of it, jumping into the fray without a first, much less a second thought. His sword swings in a silvery arc, clashing with Yuri's, though he kicks out even as their blades meet, his boot catching his startled-looking best friend in the midriff with enough force to send him crashing backwards into a stack of crates six feet behind him. In the next instant Flynn whirls about to defend Yuri, knocking one sword away with his blade and deflecting two, three others with his shield even as he yells for them all to stand down and go outside, to surround the place and keep watch.
Once the initial shock has worn off, the Knights scramble to do as he says, moving backwards while hastily lowering or sheathing weapons. They'd all heard either in person or by word-of-mouth what Flynn had said, what the consequences of killing the supposed regicide would be, and they know better than to test him. Few enough of them would have much desire to cross swords with the Commandant in sport; none of them would dare turn their steel against him now, when his expression and bearing are so markedly grim and determined. Thus they are the very picture of obedience, and all exit with as much haste as will still permit them to keep the majority of their pride intact.
All save one, that is.
"This is a mistake!" The ginger-haired lieutenant hasn't lowered her blade, nor have her narrowed eyes left Yuri even once. She takes another step forward, which might be somewhat menacing if she were better armed and if she wasn't so obviously shaking. "Our orders are clear, Commandant! The Council's vote was unanimous on this issue, and I have orders stating that Yuri Lowell is to be killed on sight—"
Flynn turns his back on her, his gaze finding, catching on Yuri's even as he speaks to his second, his tone careful and controlled and yet very, very cold. "Your allegiance is to the Imperial Knights, not the Council, which means your orders come from me. And I'm telling you to stand down, Lieutenant."
The blade in her hands wavers and dips, and she moves as if to take another step closer. "But sir, he—!"
"Stand. Down. Lieutenant."
Sodia jerks to a stop, her mouth shutting with an audible clack—she's obviously not used to hearing that dangerous edging-on-angry tone from Flynn, especially not directed at her. But though her eyes go wide initially, it's equally obvious from the way they narrow even more than before as they flick over toward Yuri that she blames the dark-haired swordsman for it. For everything. She can't forgive him for making her feel so guilty when all she'd done was try to protect her Captain by killing a dangerous, known criminal. She can't forgive him for not hating her for that, and for not telling Flynn about the incident. But most of all, she can't forgive him for the ease with which he filled the role she knows she never could: being exactly who Flynn needed by his side every single time something life-threatening or important or both happened.
"That will be all, Sodia." Flynn's voice is back to normal, mostly, businesslike with just a trace of steel to it. He speaks again even as she draws breath to protest leaving him in here alone with an all but convicted murderer, best friend or not. "I said that will be all." A hint of that heated edge is back in his voice, and he hasn't looked over at her once since his eyes met Yuri's. And when she doesn't move—"…Do I really have to repeat myself again, Lieutenant?"
Yuri watches her press her lips together in a thin, angry line before giving a clipped, "No, sir." He wishes he could take some sort of pleasure in watching her go, but there's only emptiness; because loyal as she is, he knows she's more devoted to her own ideal image of The Great Commandant Flynn Scifo than she is to the real thing.
Once, Yuri had thought that was enough. Now he's not so sure.
From where he's seated on the floor, still slumped against a stack of crates, the dark-haired swordsman watches Flynn's eyes move over him, lingering longest on his hands and the faded but still faintly visible bloodstains on the bottom edges of his boots, the way those now-darkened patches splash over the toes and splatter his heels and even speckle his pants.
But his hands, at least, are clean. This time.
"That's my name," Yuri drawls, looking up at Flynn as he leans back with a pointed sort of confidence, removing his hands from the hilt of his sword to tuck them casually behind his head instead.
"Tell me you didn't do it." The blonde Knight already knows that Yuri isn't at fault, that he can't be at fault, that he wouldn't do this…but Flynn still wants to hear Yuri say it for himself. Because if he knows Yuri, Yuri's probably managed to blame himself for this somehow, and Flynn can't allow that to stand. (After all, if anyone's to blame here, it's Flynn: it was the Knights' sworn duty to protect the Emperor, and they'd utterly failed to fulfill that duty.)
Yuri gives a clearly—and wryly—amused snort. "What good'll that do? You're just about the only one who'll believe me anyway." His eyes drift halfway closed, though the cynical curl to his mouth remains. "The Empire will need a scapegoat, after all. Especially for something this big. It would look pretty bad if the Knights let the Emperor get murdered and never caught whoever did it. Someone with a shady past like mine would be perfect to take the blame…and so long as someone gets executed for it, what does it matter if they caught the right guy or not?"
"It matters a great deal to a lot of people and you know it!" Flynn snaps out, then bites his tongue and continues on much more sedately. "Leave that to me. I've already got a few leads." The Commandant is quiet for a long moment, his gaze heavy on Yuri's face, but already he can feel himself softening towards his best friend, just like always. Ever since they were kids, they'd gotten angry and fought and driven each other crazy in various ways, but they always understood where the other was coming from; in the end, the mutual trust and brotherly affection and sense of oneness that they shared was enough to smooth over any and all of the differences between them. "I wasn't asking you to say it for my own sake. I trust you, Yuri. I always have, and I always will—that won't ever change." You don't have to say anything, the look in his eyes and the tilt of his head and the set of his mouth all say without saying. I believe you. I believe in you. Always, always.
Yuri's eyes have come fully open again, his expression every bit as closed and guarded as Flynn's is sincere and straightforward, and for the space of half a dozen heartbeats, neither moves a muscle as they regard each other in silence.
"…All right," Yuri says at last, slowly and a little softly. "I didn't do it. I didn't kill Ioder."
There wasn't even an infinitesimally tiny knot of reservation twisting his stomach in the first place, so no feeling of ease or relief spreads through Flynn's body at that admission: he'd meant what he said, and he hadn't doubted Yuri's innocence for an instant. But now the blonde Knight finally manages a smile, shallow with weariness, but it's his first since hearing the news of the Emperor's death and it feels stiff and yet satisfying, almost comforting. Of course, only Yuri could make him smile at a time like this.
"Tell me what happened," Flynn says, moving to sit on an overturned crate in front of Yuri, less than an arm's length away from his friend. "Tell me everything."
Yuri quirks an eyebrow at him, his own sudden smile wry. "First, how about you tell me what your great and glorious Empire is planning to do with me. You may know that I'm not to blame for what happened to Ioder, but there's a crowd of Knights outside who seem a lot less friendly."
Flynn suddenly reaches out to grasp Yuri's shoulder, his whole being gone grave and utterly serious. "One way or another I'll clear you name, Yuri. I promise you that." Seeing the smirk and a teasing oh really now, and how exactly do you plan on doing that, Commandant? forming on Yuri's lips, Flynn continues, "I'll find and capture the ones responsible, and then I'll find a way to make them confess to their crimes. I'll hunt them down to the ends of the earth and the very gates of hell if I have to, and I won't rest until they're in the dungeons of Zaphias Castle and you're free again."
For once Yuri doesn't seem to know what to say, doesn't make any sort of snarky comeback, and Flynn gives him a smile and squeezes his shoulder before letting his hand fall away.
"But for now, you'll be held in the prison in the Guild's Union Headquarters. The Council and certain outspoken members of the Knights thought you should be held in the dungeons of Zaphias Castle…and if I hadn't seen what was happening in this warehouse just now, I might have felt the same. But you're a member of a Guild under the authority of the Union and are thus no longer an Imperial citizen. It's up to them to decide what to do with you, and whether you should be turned over to the Empire or not. But…if Gauche and Droite aren't captured soon, they'll probably have to."
Yuri nods his understanding. "Yeah. The Union is strong, but they're not stupid. They won't risk open war with the Empire over one person." He flashes a bright, very toothy grin and reaches over to give his best friend a good-natured punch on the arm. "Good thing I have The Great Flynn Scifo on my side in this, huh?"
To Yuri's surprise, Flynn doesn't fluster at the disliked, intentionally-embarrassing nickname; instead he mirrors Yuri's expression, and giving the dark-haired swordsman a rakehell grin of his own. "You have more than just me on your side. I hired a certain guild to escort you to Dahngrest and stand guard outside your cell, and while they're a small guild that's still relatively new, they're quite well-known and it's said that they do excellent work. Perhaps you might have heard of them—Brave Vesperia?"
Yuri blinks, then snorts out a chuckle. "Guess I had that one coming, huh."
Flynn's expression has returned to one of his usual warmer and more sedate smiles, though there's still a hint of smugness about it. "Yes, you did, for not trusting your friends more. Though I truly do understand why you'd try to keep them out of something so potentially dangerous."
Now that he's secure in the knowledge that he won't simply be seized and marched off to Zaphias to be executed straightaway (as if Flynn ever would've let that happen anyway, even without Brave Vesperia getting involved), Yuri's in a good enough mood that he doesn't skirt around the issue any more and simply comes clean about how he just so happened to be in the worst possible place at the worse possible time.
He'd actually been in Zaphias on Union business, delivering a sealed letter from Harry of Altosk to Emperor Ioder himself, but he'd stopped by the Lower Quarter before heading up to the castle. It wasn't as if the contents of the missive Harry had given him were particularly pressing or important, so why not? Thus, when he'd run into an off-duty Flynn coming out of the Comet Inn, he'd impulsively seized that extremely rare opportunity to spend some time with his best friend, time that wasn't stolen and wouldn't need to be rushed.
Then Flynn had received notice of a minor disturbance in the Public Quarter, leaving Yuri at the Lower Quarter's fountain with a promise to return soon; Yuri had waved him off with a smile, claiming remembrance of an errand of his own, and had headed up to Zaphias Castle to deliver the letter. What he'd found inside the castle, however, was precisely what Flynn would find a quarter of an hour or so later: slain guards and blood everywhere, fresh by the smell of it. Without a second thought Yuri had rushed to the audience chamber, only to find himself minutes, perhaps seconds too late. The guards were all dead here, too, and the throne room reeked of burnt ozone, singed cloth, and burnt flesh; Ioder was a bloody, crumpled figure still seated on the raised dais, Dein Nomos buried in his chest in a way that left no doubt that the wound was mortal, the blade affixing him to the high-backed throne.
But the Emperor hadn't been alone. Two pairs of narrowed eyes were turned on Yuri as he entered the room, swiftly narrowing further into outright glares, though there was nothing of surprise on either Gauche or Droite's face. Again Yuri hadn't stopped to think, his sword out and swinging as he lunged right at the two girls, unleashing a fury of slashes so savage and formidable, the assassins had fled; they'd done what they came to do anyway, right down to doing their damnedest to shirk the blame and get Yuri framed for it.
Yuri had started after them, but stopped abruptly on hearing a weak, "Please, wait…" from the direction of the throne. Turning back, Yuri had found that Ioder was still alive, though only just barely, judging by the glazed look in his eyes and the amount of blood staining his clothes and pooling around the throne. The dark-haired swordsman had hesitated, his whole body pounding with the desire to hunt down those two murdering brats and make them pay for this…but Yuri couldn't simply leave Ioder to die alone. He was all that remained of Estelle's family, a wise and just ruler, and even more importantly, a good man. Whatever he asked in his last moments, Yuri would do all that was in his power to give it him.
Yuri had taken the steps up onto the dais two at a time, dropping to one knee before the throne—not as a measure of respect, but simply to put him on eye-level with the dying Emperor. Ioder had blinked slowly as Yuri placed himself in his line on sight, realisation dawning. "Yuri…Lowell…the Commandant's friend…who saved us all." His raised one hand, wet and glistening with his own blood, to grasp at the blade of Dein Nomos, giving it an ineffectual tug; between the awkward angle and the Emperor's flagging strength, the blade moved not a fraction. "Please—take this sword…to Estellise. I name her…as my rightful successor. Tell her—" His words cut off as he choked and coughed, struggling to breathe as blood filled his lungs, fighting to keep his eyes open, to pass along his final message.
The former Knight had hesitated again, then reached forward to rest a comforting hand on the blonde royal's shoulder, though he knew Ioder was probably so numb with blood loss and shock by now that he couldn't really feel it; it came as a bit of a surprise when Ioder's hand left the sword to grasp weakly at his forearm instead.
"Tell her," the Emperor gasped, blood trickling from both corners of his mouth now, "I'm sorry…to take away her choice…but I…still…believe…in her…" Ioder choked again, his breathing naught but an uneven, thready whisper, though his eyes were remarkably clear now, and focused steadily on Yuri's own.
"I'll tell her," Yuri said softly, and Ioder nodded faintly, the capacity for speech well beyond him now. "And I'll see to it that she gets the sword, too. Don't worry about that."
The Emperor nodded again, less noticeably this time, a flicker of pain crossing his face as his other hand fumbled feebly, reflexively at the sword again. Yuri watched him a moment, then made his decision. Stepping back, he took hold of Dein Nomos' hilt with both hands and, bracing one foot on an armrest, hauled back on the sword with a mighty, and yet somehow cautious pull. Though lodged in the back of the throne, the blade came free with unexpected ease, glittering even as an arc of blood splattered on the floor to the side of the throne. Ioder gave a quiet gargle of pain, then hissed out a relieved-sounding sigh as he slumped forward, too weak to stop himself from falling off the throne; but in a flash Yuri was there, catching and cradling him with an overwhelming sense of gentleness despite the bloodstained sword still held in his other hand. Carefully, carefully he lowered the blonde to the floor before the throne, leaning him back to rest against the imperial seat.
Ioder's eyelids fluttered, and he mouthed something, a blood-drowned phrase that might have been thank you. Then he took another shuddering breath, and went still.
Only then did Yuri sense the presence of the Knights standing behind him; judging by how still they'd gone as well as the stunned looks on their faces, they'd gotten there just in time to see him remove the sword from their Emperor's bloodied body.
There would be no talking to them, Yuri had known that from countless past experiences, and he couldn't afford to be captured or to have Dein Nomos taken away from him before it was given to its rightful owner.
So he ran. Taking advantage of the Knights' bewildered horror and disbelief, he'd made the same sort of exit Gauche and Droite had made scarce minutes before—through the doors behind the throne, then out the nearest window; he'd hit the ground running and hadn't stopped until Zaphias was swallowed up by the thick foliage and rampantly wild vegetation of the Quoi Woods. Even then he'd stopped just long enough to catch his breath and put his thoughts in order, to wonder why those girls would do that…but no, that much he'd known already. Gauche and Droite were getting revenge for Yeager, and they wanted it to be something big, something that would leave a mark, something that would be remembered, so that he would be remembered, if only indirectly. What better way to do that than to throw the world into chaos and get the Union attacked by the Empire? And of course, the surest way to do that was to have the Emperor, who was doing so much to promote the peace and reinforce the treaty between the Union and the Empire, slain by the members of a prominent Guild. The Union and all the Guilds would crack and crumble beneath the relentless determination and militaristic might of the Empire's inevitable retaliation, and Brave Vesperia would be no exception. It was the icing on the cake that they'd found out about Yuri's errand to Zaphias, and had the chance to follow him there and get him framed for their crimes; it was the cherry atop that icing that it had ended up working out so well.
Again Yuri had had to fight the urge to drop everything and begin the hunt for those girls straightaway…but the weight of the sword in his hand and the drying blood on his tunic and his boots were reminders of the fact that he'd been given an important task to complete, and that task was to be completed first and foremost. Estelle deserved to hear what Ioder had said, to know the truth, and to hear it from a friend before the bad news was delivered in a dry, impersonal document by some faceless steel-helmeted Knight. Even if he already knew what she would choose, Estelle deserved the chance to make her own decision: to accept the throne, the crown, and the sword, blood and all, or to run away again.
With those heavy thoughts in mind, Yuri had turned his face to the north and started running.
Flynn accepts Yuri's story as absolute truth—and it is, because they don't lie to each other, not about things like this—and sees to it that he reaches Dahngrest safely before rejoining the main body of the Knights and answering the summons from the Council received soon after they'd left Capua Torim. He takes a lot of flak from the Council and even some of the higher-ups in the Imperial Knights for letting Yuri stay in Dahngrest, but he silences a considerable portion of them with a document containing the kill-on-sight order they'd given Sodia's company, a direct contradiction of his own orders. The rest he dismisses with testimonies from half a dozen people from the Lower Quarter, himself included, as well as by presenting all of the evidence found in the audience chamber. His case is watertight (though not quite airtight), his determination and steady certainty on the point of Yuri's innocence is obvious, and in the end the Council has no choice but to grudgingly accept it, with one stipulation: should Flynn fail to capture the real assassins and obtain a confession from either or both, his case will be considered closed, and the Council will have no choice but to throw it out.
Flynn isn't surprised (much as the Commandant hates to admit it, Yuri hadn't been wrong about the Empire needing to have someone visible to take the blame for the death of the Emperor), but if anything, the conditional nature of Yuri's acquittal only stokes the fires of his resolve. It would be easier if he could have Yuri's help, or even the help of Yuri's friends, but Flynn doesn't care about easy, and he was deadly serious when he'd sworn not to rest until his best friend was free and clear once again.
He leaves LeBlanc and Witcher in charge during his temporary absence, and his first stop after leaving the castle is the shop in the Public Quarter run by Fortune's Market.
It takes most of another week, but Flynn does finally manage to corner the real killers…and by that time, he's given up on concealing his anger. It's had days to build, this outrage over what had been done to Ioder and to Lady Estellise and to Yuri, and there's a sort of breathless, fiery, all-consuming relief in its long-awaited release. Gauche and Droite might be young still, but they are certainly old enough to understand precisely what they'd done and what it would mean; and, delicate-looking young women or not, he takes them both down hard.
He fights them alone, two-on-one, and even so it's not even a contest. His blows come so hard, his expression is so set and cold, and he's so intensely focused that even Yuri himself probably wouldn't be much of a match for him right now.
He finds them deep in the Enduring Shrine of Zaude, the one place no-one had thought to look since it's been barricaded, blocked off from the rest of the world for years now. The grey-stone edifice has sunk visibly over the years, its weathered, salt-encrusted exterior nearly swallowed up by the sea, and the water levels inside are notably higher as well. Flynn has to swim in a few places, which the weight of his armour makes something of a challenge, but he refuses to turn back. He feels sure of himself, his own gut feeling on this matter, as well as Kaufman's network of information.
And sure enough, in the largest and stateliest of all the rooms, he finds them. The grey stone still glows blue-white in places, shining like the moon on a dark night, though in places the decorative fountains that had once ringed the area have spilled over the cracked barriers; it's mostly dry in front of the large double doors leading into the room, but the far end of the chamber is fairly swimming, the water there probably at least knee deep. Off to one side is a makeshift camp of sorts, as well as two rather startled-looking girls who draw their swords half a second later and hurl themselves at him.
But Flynn Scifo isn't Commandant of the Imperial Knights for nothing; he's already a step ahead of them, and he's not holding anything back. He waits until they're within range, throws up a Guardian Field, then slams them both with his mystic arte before they can even touch him, which would usually be out-of-character for the noble-minded Knight…but this is one case where he won't be holding back or giving anything even resembling first, much less second chances.
As they fall, twisting in midair to right themselves, he lets loose with a one-two pair of Demon Fangs, knocking them both backwards again, and this time neither manages to correct their fall in time; both land hard, gracelessly dumped on their backsides, and skid a foot or so along the stone floor. The sisters scramble to their feet, but before they can truly recover, Flynn is already there, bashing Droite aside with his shield before hitting Gauche with a Dragon Swarm, followed by several swift and arte-less slashes with his sword. The redhead stumbles backwards, but recovers as Droite casts First Aid on her, then both flip through the air to strike at Flynn from above. Flynn takes the attack on his shield and retaliates with a flurry of artes aimed almost entirely at Droite. He doesn't let up on the punishment, and he doesn't allow either of them to cast any healing artes, immediately turning his full fury on whichever girl attempts to do so. Before long, they're both panting and looking decidedly worse for the wear, while Flynn, grim and implacable, looks pristine as ever: he hasn't even broken a sweat. The Commandant continues to whelm on them mercilessly, but even so he's careful not to strike any truly lethal blows; while he's perfectly willing to beat them into submission, he won't allow himself to beat them to death.
Their movements are growing painful, their strength clearly flagging, but as he smashes Gauche to the ground with a Demonic Circle for the fourth time in a row in maybe ten seconds, Droite gives a feral-sounding growl of outrage and lunges at him from behind with a Charm Thrust. He spins away, slipping to the side and easily avoiding the attack, and neatly clips Droite on the back of the neck with the side of his shield. Her knees buckle instantly, her whole body going limp as she drops to the shrine's cold grey flagstones, already unconscious before she even hits the ground.
Gauche's eyes flash at that, her grip tightening on her sword's hilt as she struggles to her feet again; but she's more level-headed than her sister, more careful and guarded, and instead of rushing forward immediately, she holds back for a few seconds. She's not the stronger fighter of the two and she knows it, but Droite had been sloppy and frightened and angry, not at her best. Even so, the redhead also knows that she is thoroughly outmatched, that she can't possibly win against Flynn…but the Knight can see in her eyes that this knowledge still won't stop her from coming at him with every last shred of strength she still possesses.
Regardless of that, it's over in a matter of seconds. Gauche is clearly done-in even if she won't admit it, her own attacks weaker and fewer and farther between; if anything, Flynn only hits harder and harder with each blow. A Sword Rain: Alpha followed with another no-holds-bared use of his mystic arte, and she falls to her knees, her body shaking with exhaustion, utterly unable to force herself to her feet again.
"Why." It's the only word Flynn can muster. Despite the fact that he hasn't slept more than a few hours at a time for days, his movements are still sure and strong, but in reality, inside he simply feels tired and bone-weary, filled with grief and regret…and yet at the same time, that closely-held feeling of white-hot rage burning in his midriff just below the curve of his ribcage hasn't cooled even slightly. "Why."
Droite is still unconscious, splayed out face-down on the ground, but Gauche meets his eyes steadily, and there's nothing of sadness, nothing of regret in her gaze. Only anger, and perhaps the barest hint of something edging on grim satisfaction.
"We said we would never forgive them. And we meant it."
The Commandant takes little pride in the act as he watches his men dump the two unconscious sisters in separate cells in the dungeons of Zaphias Castle. They've both confessed to the assassination on several separate occasions, their admissions so defiant and remorseless and almost even proud that everyone who heard them, Knights and Council Members both, had no doubts that they're the true killers. Their fate is still officially undecided, since they are the co-leaders of an important Guild, but all things considered, there is little chance the Union will want to interfere.
Flynn feels a little numb, more than a little relieved that this is over…and perhaps just the slightest bit satisfied with himself. There's a lot that's happened over these last two weeks that he still blames himself for, and while justice has been done and the real criminals will be punished, that still doesn't fix everything or change the painful truths or erase the consequences of the crime committed. Ioder is still dead, and Lady Estellise will still be forced to take the throne, and those two girls will likely go to their deaths still bitterly swearing revenge.
…But the fact that Yuri will be absolved, that his best friend will be free to carry on like always, causing trouble and helping people in equal measure, that fact makes something in his chest swell and expand, leaving his whole body feeling awake, revitalized, and inexpressibly light. All that remains for him now is to carry the good news to Dahngrest, and to see to it that Yuri is released.
It's a long journey, a day and a half's worth of hard riding, but the miles pass by in an unnoticed blur. As his mount settles into a gallop, Flynn smiles and turns his face to the sun. He feels as if he could fly.
His footsteps echo loud and odd in the enclosed space, and the damp, musty scent of wet stone and moldy hay and rusting iron that seems to pervade prisons everywhere assails his nose. The rough-looking guard glances up at him as he reaches the man's desk and gives him a crooked, gap-toothed grin.
"Back t'visit yer old digs, eh?" he chortles before tossing Flynn a ring of keys. The Commandant catches them easily, his only reply a slight smile and an acknowledging nod of thanks, but he also catches the shrewdly considering look on the other man's face as he passes, as well as an unexpectedly speculative, low-spoken admission: "…Y'know, if all the Knights were faithful 'n' fair as you, I mighta never left the Empire." Flynn pauses to turn a questioning glance back over his shoulder, but the guard's eyes are closed, arms folded behind his head and feet propped up on his desk in an imitation of sleep, and Yuri is waiting just ahead, so the blonde Knight continues on his way without comment.
Yuri is the prison's sole occupant, though it's not unthinkable that the Union might have more dungeons elsewhere. The rest of Brave Vesperia had met Flynn at various points along the way; Judith had briefly spoken with him on the bridge at the city's entrance, her smile subtle but warm and grateful. Repede had walked with him along the streets, and Karol had been waiting just outside the Union Headquarters, fairly dancing in place with mingled happiness and impatience. And last of all, Raven had been leaning against the wall beside the door leading down into the prison, offering a grin and wink as he jerked a thumb towards the stairway, along with a quipped, "Looks like it's your turn t'be the hero and rescue your best friend, huh, Commandant?"
But they'd all seemed content to stay where they were and pass him along to the next person in line, leaving the two childhood friends alone with each other for this reunion.
Yuri is sprawled out on the cell's single straw mattress, and he doesn't so much as twitch an eyelid as the key grates in the lock. For a few seconds, Flynn has to focus on hauling the door open; when he looks up, Yuri's shifted on the bed, sitting up but still leaning back on his hands, watching with those dark, unfathomable eyes as Flynn lets the door swing wide.
"Hey, it's about time. You took so long, I was starting to wonder if I should pick out curtains for this place."
Flynn smirks, though the expression is more than a little wry. "I had hoped you'd still believe in me a little more than that."
"Heh. Never doubted you," Yuri says with his usual smile as he comes off the prison bed. He stretches expansively, then saunters out of the cell. His shoulder brushes Flynn's as he passes by his childhood friend, and he pauses, be it ever so briefly, on hearing the Commandant's reply:
"…Neither did I, Yuri."
Flynn falls into step with him as they head for the stairs and the open air and freedom, and the dark-haired swordsman doesn't have to look to the side see the warm smile on his best friend's face to know it's there. Just hearing it is more than enough, and way less embarrassing besides...especially since Yuri knows that he himself is doubtless sporting a matching, equally over-sentimental smile.
"I never doubted you either."
Flynn, Yuri. My words are quiet and only for your ears: I still believe in you, the only family I've ever known.