And we're back! I did warn you that there'd be quite a gap between these two chapters, but I've finally found time in my busy schedule to put the finishing touches to this. That, and I've been preoccupied with my OC One Piece fic, which I'd completely recommend to anyone who likes this fic and also likes One Piece. (Whoo, random blatant advertising!)
Still, these last few months have helped me improve my writing skills, so expect better and better chapters from now on (whenever I actually finish them).
I'm also gonna say that I enjoy writing for Wallace so very very much. I'd probably never use him in a playthrough of Blazing Sword, but he's such a joy to write for. I'm tempted to make him the main character now.
Finally, I'd just like to say a huge thank you to all the fans who've stuck with the story, even after the enormous breaks I've put it on. Thanks guys (or gals).
"Wait, wait, wait..." Vesper sighed, for about the third time. "Go over that one more time."
"For Pete's sake!" Wallace growled. "I'm. On. Your. Side!"
"Nope, it's still not sinking in." Vesper shook his head. "You're on our side?!"
"Since the beginning!" Wallace stressed.
"But you tried to kill us! On multiple occasions!" Vesper pointed out.
"I did?" Wallace looked confused. "When?"
"When we first met!" Vesper was growing more and more stressed. "On the path between Sacae and Lycia! Remember?!"
"Oh that!" Wallace chuckled. "Don't worry, I was going to stay out of that fight! Kent and Sain could've easily beaten any bandits I threw at them! I was quite surprised when you all ran away. Seemed kinda cowardly to me."
"Told you!" Sain stuck his tongue out at Vesper.
"Besides..." Wallace continued. "If I'd wanted to kill you and the girl, we'd have just jumped you while the two of you were alone, instead of waiting for Sain and Kent to turn up."
"Okay, good point..." Vesper admitted. "But what about that attack at the castle?"
"Where I deliberately sent in my noisiest bandits to wake you up and prepare you for the attack, instead of attacking with my entire band at once?"
"I'm... one of the noisiest?" Dorcas questioned.
"Then what about how you agreed to help myself and Marquess Araphen with the capture of Lyn?" Rath asked.
"Hah!" Wallace laughed. "You mean how I tricked Fancy-Pants Araphen into hiring my assistance, so I could sneak into the dungeon later and rescue you all?... Well, before you rescued yourselves..."
"Then what about that incident with the cart?" Lyn pointed out.
"Well, we were told that the girl was the one who'd been captured..." Wallace explained. "So naturally, I 'eaded off to rescue her! Then that lyin' snake shot me."
He motioned to Rath, who was doing his best to look inconspicuous.
"Why is 'e still alive, anyway?" Wallace questioned.
"Because he might be useful." Lyn explained. "He's agreed to help us, now that Araphen's given up the hunt."
Rath could barely hide the happy smile that almost crossed his face, upon hearing Lyn say this.
"Wait a minute!" Vesper interrupted. "If you were really secretly on our side, then you'd have given us some sort of sign, right?"
"Yup! I did!" Wallace nodded. "When we first met, I signalled Kent and Sain using the ancient art of eye-signalling that has been passed down through the Caelin Knights for generations! Here, I'll give you a demonstration." He glared angrily at the group. "See! That's the code for 'I'm secretly on your side!"
"Well, it kinda just looks like you're staring at us angrily..." Vesper pointed out.
"So I guess you're all convinced then!" Wallace grinned. "I bet you're all kicking yourselves that you didn't guess it sooner!
"I... I don't even know what to say about that story..." Vesper groaned.
"With allies like that helping us..." Lyn sighed.
"Wow, Mr Wallace!" Nils gasped. "You must be really smart to pull off something like that!"
He promptly earned a sharp thwack on the head from Matthew.
"That was possibly one of the worst attempts at being a double agent, that I've ever heard of..." Kent sighed. He gave a quick look to Sain, who nodded. "That's definitely General Wallace.
"It scares me how certain you are about that..." Vesper shuddered.
"Well, General Wallace... isn't... um..." Kent and Sain struggled for the right words. "Particularly gifted in the... um... strategic sense."
"Pah!" Wallace spat. "Only cowards rely on something like tactics! A real man should be able to beat off any threat with their own muscles and a large tree trunk!"
"You know, I was kind of expecting you to come in with a snarky remark there, Vesper." Lyn prodded the tactician.
"I would do, but that guy absolutely terrifies me." Vesper admitted. "He could probably kill me just by treading on me..."
"He could." Kent nodded.
"We've seen him do it." Sain agreed. "Twice. It's not a pretty sight."
"And I don't need any of those wordy 'strategy' books either!" Wallace continued, ignoring the two. "All you need to get by in life is this!" He pulled a small book out of his pocket. " The Manual of Knightly Prowess!" He stopped to glare at Sain and Kent. "I trust you two still have your copies?"
"Um... well..." Kent and Sain shuffled about nervously. "We... kinda left them in Caelin..."
"What?!" Wallace bellowed. "And you've survived this long?! Good thing I brought spares!"
He began pulling several copies out of his pockets and passing them around to everyone in the group.
"Where's he pulling all those out from?" Lyn wondered.
"And how did he even get them?" Vesper wondered. "It's not like it's easy to get books copied around here..."
"'For the best morning exercise, you should go on a short jog.'" Matthew read. "20 miles is the suggested distance if you want to take it easy, or if you're suffering from a nasty wound. For a full morning exercise routine, turn to page 50." He flicked over the pages and read the description. "...I think I'm gonna pass out..."
"Hey Erk!" Serra grinned. "You should try this. You've been looking a bit weak lately!"
"Only if you try it too." Erk growled, his eye twitching.
"Me!" Serra gasped. "But I'm a young, beautiful maiden! I can't strain myself doing such vigorous exercise."
"Oh don't worry!" Wallace laughed. "There's a special section for women on page 83!"
"I can't read this." Wil sighed, slamming the book shut.
"Does it really look that painful to do?" Lucius asked.
"No... I just can't read." Wil explained. "I should probably get around to learning some time."
Much to everyone's surprise, Florina looked very interested while reading the book, and was often nodding in agreement.
"Well, at least it isn't compulsory to do these." Vesper sighed, closing the book.
"What's that?!" Wallace walked over, dwarfing Vesper with his sheer size. "We should make this compulsory! Good idea, Buck!"
He reached down and patted Vesper on the head, almost squashing him.
"Um... my name's not Buck..." Vesper groaned under the weight of the giant hand.
"Did you say something Buck?!"
"But General Wallace, what are you doing here in the first place?" Sain asked. "I thought you retired?!"
"Well, that's a long story!" Wallace cracked his neck. "And it should probably wait until you meet up with that red-headed prince guy. This news probably involves him too."
"Eliwood?" Vesper suddenly perked up. "How did you know we met up with him?"
"By followin' you with my amazing trackin' skills." Wallace explained.
"Ahahaha!" Vesper gave a fake laugh. "But no, seriously, how did you know?"
"Actually, General Wallace has some renown as a tracker." Kent explained.
"...Y-You're kidding, right?"
"I know, Buck!" Wallace gave Vesper a hearty slap on the back, sending him flying across the room. "Trackin' someone seems like such a cowardly thing to do! But, as I always say, to fight a battle, first you need to find a battle!"
"I can't feel my legs..." Vesper groaned, in a heap on the floor.
"Need a hand, Buck?" Matthew grinned, helping Vesper to his feet.
"Just so you know, if you continue calling me Buck, I'm gonna send you right into a bear cave during our next battle." Vesper growled.
"Why don't you do that to Wallace?" Matthew questioned.
"Because he'd probably kill the bear."
"Good point..." Matthew shrugged.
He turned away and headed to a spot where he presumed Vesper couldn't hear him.
"Laugh while you still can, Vesper.." He chuckled, maliciously. "Because soon you'll prey victim to my most devilishly cunning prank ever..."
"I can still hear you from there, you know." Vesper pointed out.
"I-I know!" Matthew lied. "I... just wanted to give you a fighting chance!"
"Okay then." Vesper turned back to the group. "Considering how quickly Rath received the message to stop attacking us, I'd estimate Eliwood's probably back by at that village by now. Have we found everything of use here?"
"This guy has nothing suspicious on him." Dorcas pointed to the Black Fang agent that Wallace had killed. "Just a small knife."
"His cloak thing's really cool though." Wil lifted up the cloak that the spy had used to disguise himself as debris. "Can I have it?"
"Sure." Vesper shrugged. "It might come in handy."
"Pah!" Wallace spat. "I don't see why you'd want somethin' like that! A disguise cloak will only slow you down as you charge your way through swarms of enemies!"
"Um... I'm just an archer..." Wil tried to explain.
"An archer!" Wallace roared. "Why would you want to be one of those?! A bow will only slow you down as you charge your way through swarms of enemies!"
"Look, not all problems can be solved by charging your way through stuff." Vesper sighed in frustration.
"Hah!" Wallace laughed. "That's how I solve all my problems, and look how well I've turned out!"
Vesper opened his mouth as if to say something, but quickly thought better of it. Instead, he turned to Ninian.
"Are you sure there's nothing more you can remember about this place, which'll give us some clues as to what they were doing here?" He asked.
"I'm sorry." Ninian shook her head. "I was blindfolded when they brought me here so-"
"That's alright." Lyn smiled reassuringly. "What about the bodies, Vesper?"
"I'd like to dig more of them up..." Vesper admitted. "But, considering how thorough they've been, I doubt they've left anything behin-"
"Hey!" Wil suddenly gasped. "I found something!"
"What?!" Vesper dashed over to get a closer look. "What is it?!"
"I found this hidden in one of the cloak pockets!" Wil explained, passing him a small notebook. "Do you have any idea what it is?"
Vesper flicked through it for a couple of seconds. His eyes widened in shock. Then, before anyone could comment on it, he snapped the book shut and placed it in his cloak.
"It's blank." He explained.
"Aw... really?!" Wil groaned. "I thought I'd found something important..."
"Sorry to disappoint." Vesper shrugged. "Okay, everyone get ready to move out." He stopped suddenly and motioned to Lyn, Rath and Wallace. "Actually, could I have a quick private meeting with you three?"
"Sure." Lyn nodded, following him into a private area. "What is it?"
"Hang on a second." Vesper took a look around, to make sure no-one else was spying on them. This surprised Lym, since Vesper usually didn't care if the... 'nosier' members of the troupe were eavesdropping.
"Vesper, what is it?" Lyn repeated, this time with more urgency.
"All right." Vesper was satisfied that they weren't being spied on. "I've called you three here because you're the only ones I can trust."
Lyn and Wallace both looked at Rath, then back to Vesper.
"Really?!" The two questioned simultaneously.
"I must admit, I share their surprise." Rath nodded.
"This is no joking matter." Vesper scowled. "Now, I don't really want to tell you this, but it could save our lives."
"What?!" Lyn asked, wondering what could've possibly gotten Vesper so worked up. "What could be so important?!"
Vesper let out a deep sigh.
"I think there's a traitor in the group."