Challenge Accepted, Kondo.
In the recent SenMaga interview, Falcom’s president said he didn’t think we’d be able to guess who it was that recommended Thors to Ash so dammit, I’m going to try!
First, the criteria we can be reasonably certain of: It must be somebody we know or else there would be no point in drawing our attention to the question. Second, it can’t be someone ‘obvious’ per Kondo’s teasing us. Third, it must be someone who had the opportunity to talk to Ash within the past year or so, as Thors’ second branch didn’t exist until recently and Ash didn’t become a semi-prominent figure until the civil war. Lastly, it has to be someone who is either interested in Olivier’s goals (and thus would recommend a candidate for Reeves) or who is interested in Ash on a more personal level and wants to give him an opportunity.
Admittedly, that doesn’t eliminate too many possibilities since we can’t account for many characters’ movements in the relevant time period so we can’t rule out the possibility that, oh, Anelace did it or something crazy like that. But the fact that Kondo implies it’s a non-obvious means we can rule out a couple of natural suspects. Firstly, we can generally rule out bracers or anyone in the Imperial Army because we know both groups tried to recruit Ash and were turned down. We can also rule out Olivier himself and any of the original Thors faculty. Now let’s look at the possibilities, realistic or otherwise.
Oh, and it should go without saying but there will be spoilers for all three arcs here.
- The Capuas: While they have the means and opportunity to go just about everywhere in Zemuria and they might have a motive to do Olivier some favors, it’s unlikely that they would encounter Ash in the course of their work and even less likely that they would think to make the connection to Thors on their own, so even if they were involved it would almost have to be in combination with another party. Also no, just no.
The Ravens: While they might have an interest in Ash due to a somewhat similar background, they definitely meet the ‘you’d never guess them’ criteria and they could plausibly get to Erebonia in the relevant timeframe, well… they’re bracers, so they’d try to recruit Ash into the guild. They’ve also got no reason to recommend him to Reeves and no influence to help him get in. So they’re out.
Toval: He has the same issue as most bracers, namely that he would naturally try to recruit Ash into the guild. It’s what he tried with Rean after all. However, Toval was also a part of Olivier’s movement and so could plausibly have steered Ash towards Reeves as a Plan B. However, I think that Toval is ‘too obvious’, both because of his prominence as a character and his known attempts to recruit people, so we can dismiss him as a likely candidate.
Less Likely Possibilities:
Wald: Might as well start with the obscure possibility, because I’ll bet you wouldn’t think of him right away. He’s got a similar personality to Ash that could give him the motive to help and he would definitely be interested in anything that sticks it to Osborne. It’s even possible for him to make the connection between Ash and Reeves by way of Olivier’s contacts within the Gralsritter. However, we’re completely missing opportunity. He’s stuck in Arteria for an indeterminate period of time in 1205 while the Gralsritter poke and prod him to see whether there are any aftereffects of his Gnosis use and the chain of events you’d need to construct in order for him to learn about Ash, meet him and make the Reeves connection is just too attenuated to be all that plausible. Not when there are better candidates at least.
Wazy: I saw a really interesting theory that Wazy could be the one. Pretty much every reason in favor of Wald also applies to Wazy, but the latter’s got a few more points in his favor. He mentions at one point that he spent time in a slum in the past, which could be suggestive. However, he’s been in Crossbell for at least two years since he said that so it certainly can’t be relevant to the time period when Ash would have been a person of interest. The slum comment was also made before Wazy comes clean about who and what he is, so we can’t necessarily take his story at face value; we know that he was living in Arteria between the ages of ten and fifteen, give or take. Lying about his past isn’t out of character for him.
Setting that aside, Wazy’s does have good points in his favor. He certainly could have been sent on a mission into Erebonia after the civil war ended and like Wald he’s got good reason to want to stick it to the Chancellor. He’s also likely to have sympathy for Ash’s background that would give him the motivation to take an interest in helping him generally. He’s also more likely than Wald to either learn about Reeves on his own or to learn about it through Olivier, since the two have actually met and of course there’s also Kevin who could be an intermediary. However, you’d still need a pretty specific chain of events for the two to cross paths and for Wazy to point Ash at Thors instead of, say, trying to recruit him as a Squire. And like Wald, I still think there’s a better candidate out there.
- Elliot: Yes, you read that right. I think the Cinnamon Roll is at least a possible candidate. As a member of the original Class VII he has the motive necessary to recommend someone to Thors’ second branch and he has the means because he became a musician and has gone on tour. It’s at least possible that this included a gig in Raquel where he could have heard of and then met Ash. Being a minor celebrity who helped the great Ashen Chevalier end the civil war, people might even have introduced the two to one another, given Ash’s own role during the war. That said, while he’s definitely in the ‘so unlikely that he meets Kondo’s critera for being unguessable’ factor, I don’t see him as a very probable candidate. If for no other reason than the fact that everything we know of Raquel suggests that it’s not the place where Elliot is likely to get a gig. Maybe if he played jazz instead…
Machias: Another former Class VII member who I think could be the one. Just like Elliot, he has the background that would naturally lend itself to pointing someone in the direction of Olivier’s new project. And just like Elliot, he’s currently in a position where he might have encountered or heard of Ash in his work. Machias also has a strong natural inclination to help commoners advance and he and Ash share a love for books so there are a couple extra points in his favor. However, Machias is also said to have worked very hard to graduate from the Heimdallr Political Science Academy in a single year and he can’t have started those studies before March of 1205, so he likely didn’t have time to go wandering around Erebonia until after Ash must have enrolled. So, an interesting possibility and one we’d be unlikely to guess, but I think the timing is too tight for him to be a serious contender.
- Colonel Richard: R&A Research has an international reach, very good reason to be paying attention to things going on in Erebonia and has had over a year to put assets in place before the civil war began, so it’s possible that someone from the company either met Ash during the war or learned about him afterwards. We know that R&A had someone in Crossbell so why not in Erebonia as well? In fact, I’d be positively shocked if they didn’t have someone in the Empire. So, means and opportunity are met, but what about motive? Well, Olivier is calling in favors and Richard may not feel he owes anything personally but he does consider Olivier a friend and he’s got a vested interest in reducing the possibility of Erebonia invading Liberl again. With Osborne in charge, that’s a definite risk. With Olivier in a position of more influence, distinctly less so.
The biggest stumbling block here is that it’s extremely unlikely that Richard or Kanone personally made the recommendation, which make this less ‘guess the specific person’ like Kondo is teasing us with, but it would ultimately point back to Richard so I think it still meets all the criteria.
- Ein: You had to know this was coming, right? After dismissing two other Gralsritter with mention of another candidate, I finally come to the much more likely option. We strongly suspect that Ein has been operating in Erebonia, particularly in the western half of the Empire. We also have plenty of hints that she’s going to appear in CS3, many of them set up in Ao. If we’re going to get that Ein/Arianrhod fight then this is the obvious time to do it, so she’s got independent reasons to appear. And if she’s going to show up anyways, why not play multiple roles in the plot? First off, let’s deal with one of the objections that I had to Wazy because it’s shared
As with Wazy, you’d expect Ein to try to recruit someone into the Gralsritter itself or possibly shunt them towards the bracers. But this is Ein, she does things her own way. And if there’s anyone in the Gralsritter (short of Kevin and Ries) who would direct someone towards Olivier’s last-ditch attempt at stalling Osborne, it’s Ein. We know she’s worked in and around Heimdallr and we know she’s very on the ball, so she has to be aware of the various factions at work in Erebonia and to know that Olivier is opposing her two least favorite things: Ouroboros and Osborne. So, if she came across Ash and knew that he wasn’t interested in the bracers or the army, she’d be more likely to make the connection that sending Ash to Olivier would be the best place for him. Also, this is the same person who sets plans in motion years in advance just in case they’ll be needed in the future and she’s perfectly okay with using non-Gralsritter as pieces in her game of Zemurian Chess. Hello there Elie…
Another point in Ein’s favor is that she has a well-concealed soft side for people in need. She helped Toval out and was instrumental in his joining the guild. She also provided critical information to Estelle and Joshua when they were searching for Renne. Lastly, she provided extra help to Tilia and Kye following the Ring of Judgment incident which led to Tilia getting the treatment she needed. So helping someone like Ash out wouldn’t be out of character for Ein.
One objection to it being Ein is that she’s certainly a guessable character by virtue of being a well-known chessmaster and having a previous association with Erebonia. However, she’s not so obvious as some of the other characters so I think she’s still a good possibility.
- Scherazard: Yes, last but definitely not least is the person I think is the most likely candidate. There are quite a few points in Schera’s favor and the main argument against her is one that can dismissed without too much difficulty so I think she’s got a strong chance. First, the non-obvious criteria. This one’s easy, we haven’t seen or heard about her in CS3 so far (or much at all since The 3rd, outside one missable scene in Ao) so she’s not currently on our mental radars, nor is she anywhere near the first person you’d likely think about. Next, the opportunity: She’s a bracer which means she isn’t going to have too much trouble getting to Erebonia in the aftermath of the civil war and learning about Ash. We have an ambiguous statement about the guild sending ‘a strong individual’ to help out in Erebonia but Japanese being Japanese, this could also mean ‘strong individuals’, so it’s not out of the question that Schera was sent as well and Falcom is keeping this under wraps. And even if you set that aside, Schera’s at the rank where she can go on her own if she wants to.
She also has the same sort of shared background that other candidates possess, so she’s already the sort of person who would be interested in and sympathetic to Ash and she’s in a position where she plausibly could have encountered him.
So, what about the objection that I used to disqualify other bracers? Namely, that if Schera were to learn about Ash she would probably try to recruit him into the guild? Well, remember that Schera also has a personal connection with Olivier, so if she learns of Ash and knows he’s not interested in the bracers, she can still point him towards Thors, recognizing him as the sort of person who would fit in there.
And on that note, Schera’s connection to Olivier. As I’ve mentioned above, Olivier is calling in all his markers in an attempt to stymie Osborne. We know for a fact that this included the Russels so there’s no way that he didn’t include all his other companions in Liberl who might be able to help out, including Schera. We know that the two have unfinished business and this is the last game when Falcom is likely to be able to address this short of (maybe) the series finale. So Schera’s got a good reason to appear anyways. Now throw in the ‘plus factors’ of having the means to be in western Erebonia after the civil war, the background to want to help someone like Ash out if she can and her direct relationship with the man who founded the Reeves campus and you’re looking at someone who ticks all the boxes for our mystery individual.
Now, I admit that part of this may just be me wanting very badly for Schera to show up and looking for additional reasons but I do think she’s one of the strongest possibilities and has the fewest objections I can think up, so I’m betting my fifty mira on the Silver Streak.