Chapter 14 - Desperate Authority

"Are you serious?"

"Yes." Pascal nodded as he faced the stern gazes of Colonel von Mackensen and his two sub-commanders in the middle of the wooded Weichsel encampment.

The Colonel and Major Ariadne exchanged incredulous glances as soldiers rushed all around them, dissembling the camp in haste as the army prepared to resume march.

"We have sent all of the urban militia voulgiers, plus most of the Lotharin archer militias and any detached logistical units into Roazhon. That totals about seven thousand men. But it will not be enough."

The final tally had arrived this morning, and Lotharin losses in the Battle of Gwilen River had amounted to around sixteen out of twenty-eight thousand men. Despite inflicting greater losses on the opponent and retreating in good order, a defeat was still a defeat, sapping morale and spiking desertion rates. To help curb this, Pascal sent most of the unreliable militia troops, especially the devastated units, into the Avorican Capital of Roazhon. With the city on lockdown and about to be besieged, all citizens would be pressed into active service; there would be nowhere for deserters to run.

However, those mauled formations also required rest and reorganization, again, before they could fight effectively. This meant they desperately needed time -- time before the Caliphate forces could encircle the city, grind its wards and walls down with magic and artillery, then storm the breach to finish the job.

"We need someone experienced to aid the city's defenses..." Pascal explained. But this time, the Colonel did not wait patiently for him to finish.

"General Clermont is leading the defense, is he not?"

"Yes, but I do not believe Sylv... Her Highness has much confidence in Clermont," Pascal puzzled. "Perhaps his appointment to lead the Capital Garrison was mostly a political one."

"I think Her Highness dislikes the General for other reasons," interjected Major Hans, the intelligence officer who stood by Pascal's side. "Still, Clermont is an infantry veteran -- brave, stoic, unyielding, but not the most flexible tactician. He'll make the Cataliyans pay in blood, but he simply doesn't have the numbers to win a battle of attrition."

Pascal nodded as his gaze returned to Colonel von Mackensen:

"We all noticed at the Gwilen River that the Caliphate has limited air forces. They will not be able to protect the entire siege ring without spreading themselves thin. This will give you complete initiative in the air to harry their besieging units: pull their drakes out of position and then hammer their diminished artillery forces. Keep them off-balance and delay their assault for as long as you can."

As the besieged, the defenders would have the benefit of interior lines. The highly mobile Knights Phantom would be able to strike any part of the siege encirclement with ease, while Cataliyan air cavalry would have to fly the long way -- around the city -- to reinforce any position without being harried by hostile anti-air.

"That is all well and good from a tactical perspective," the Colonel replied, his hardened countenance less impressed than ever. "But Your Grace clearly does not realize the dire political situation..."

"We know we're on borrowed time," Hans stressed.

"That is like losing an arm and calling it a flesh wound," came the dry response. "The Lotharins..."

"Colonel, please," Sylviane's soft voice interrupted, having entered the confines of Pascal's anti-eavesdropping wards just seconds ago. "I realize that my legitimacy among the army's commanders is plummeting after the recent defeat. But I can still buy some time. However, if Roazhon's defenses are breached, then no amount of political maneuvering will salvage the collapse of this entire front."

Colonel von Mackensen pursed his lips. His stony gaze reluctant.

"Please, I implore you--"

Sylviane had only began to bow before the Colonel's pupils swelled. Overwhelmed by the sight of a royal scion humbling herself in his presence, he swiftly knelt down on one knee like a knight before his princess:

"Your Highness, please say no more," he swallowed. "I understand your determination and will accept the charge. I swear in Holy Father's name that Roazhon shall never fall so long as I live to draw breath."

The other officers never noticed, but Pascal didn't miss the faint smile that gleamed across Sylviane's lips.


----- * * * -----


"...How is the city supposed to hold with just a handful of ragtag units and half-shattered battalions?" challenged the Duke of Helveteu, amidst nodding by a dozen other enraged Lotharin nobles. "Even by the most optimistic casualty estimates, the Caliphate army would still field nearly fifty thousand men!"

It was only the second night after the Battle of Gwilen River, and the nobles already stood in the command cabin in open defiance. Pascal's decision and Sylviane's order this morning to break camp from the Hafren riverbanks and march west into the forests of Ceredigion had been met with cold disgruntlement from the start. But as the distance to Roazhon rose over the course of the day, so did discontent from the troops and the nobility who led them.

However, Duke Lionel was no agitator like the last challenger. Despite his lanky build, colorful furs, and his flamboyant doublet, he was a veteran of four campaigns and respected by common soldiers and nobles alike.

"Your Highness has sent General Clermont and even Colonel von Mackensen into a hopeless final stand, and for what? So we could flee west with tails between our legs? Well I refuse to disgrace myself with such cowardice!"

"Nor I!" shouted several nobles who followed him.

That is because you are imbeciles, Pascal felt his arm pulled back as Sylviane calmly explained:

"We are not fleeing. Had we been, we would have left yesterday morning instead of making camp just west of the Hafren River. We stayed within support range of Roazhon for an extra day to make sure the Caliphate has no choice but to seek us out for battle, as they could hardly besiege a city with roaming foes at their back."

"So you have said," Lionel brushed aside what he clearly saw as a feeble excuse. "But we're fleeing west into the forests now, aren't we? How can we come to the city's aid if it's assaulted tomorrow!?"

"We have no choice but to head west!" Pascal pointed at the map table, where a broad arrow marked the movement of the Caliphate army detachment that crossed the Hafren earlier today in pursuit. "The infidels are throwing most of their remaining cavalry after us -- fifteen thousand professional troops! Not to mention those reinforcements from the sea who could land behind us to cut the road if we stay here. With less than five thousand men at our disposal, we cannot face such numbers and win...!"

"With an attitude like that, of course you cannot!" Lionel slammed back, his gloved finger stabbing across the air. "Who was it that boasted he was sent by the Holy Father to bring us victory!? Now you propose we abandon Roazhon behind us without any chance of relief!? We have to at least try to harry the enemy! Otherwise when their reinforcements arrive, there is nothing stopping them from taking the city by force!"

"It is blasphemy, to claim guidance from the Holy Father yet act in contradiction to Trinitian teachings," Lady Anne added from the other side of the room, attending in place of Lady Estelle who was leading an ambush with several rear-guard companies.

The Mother Abbess' composure stayed poised, but her serene tone held no less accusation: "where were you when the Gwilen's northern banks ran red with martyrs' blood?"

Pascal's returning glare was venomous:

"I was making sure all of you had sufficient backup to hold those banks!"

"What backup!? You would never send us reserves until it became too late!" a noblewoman objected.

"--And you wouldn't risk your own countrymen even though we kept asking for air support!"

"Tell me, You Grace, what kind of man knows only to push others into harm's way?"

The Landgrave gritted his teeth as he felt his gut hammered, the low blow coming straight from Lady Anne herself.

If you Lotharins had any competent tacticians of your own, I would not have to be the one burdened with commanding you rabble!

Before he could blurt such impulsive thoughts out loud, Sylviane stopped him with a firm hand on his shoulder.

"Your Grace," she calmly addressed Duke Lionel, "we have no intention of abandoning Roazhon..."

Although his glare stayed angry beneath furrowed brows, the Duke was at least willing to listen. But not all of his followers had the same propriety as several began shouting over the Princess:

"Yet it is precisely what you are doing!"

"--Abandoning your subjects to run and hide; you're a disgrace to Rhin--!"

"Oh SHUT THE BLOODY HELL UP, all of you!"

The eruption of fury came from King Alistair, as his armored bulk began pushing through the crowded nobles surrounding Pascal and Sylviane.

"For Father's sake, have you learned nothing from your retreat across Avorica!? It is all good to fight for honor and principle, but what good does it do if you cannot actually save the people by winning!?"

"Your Majesty that is..."

Lionel looked insulted, but this time it was Alistair's turn to talk over others:

"You blame the Landgrave for not delivering an outright victory!? Then tell me, over the past few weeks, which one of you have managed to stand your ground until sundown when outnumbered three to one on the battlefield? Which one of you have organized an orderly retreat that saved the lives of thousands from pursuing cavalry? Which one of YOU have succeeded in achieving a favorable ratio of casualties despite the Caliphate's more professional soldiery!?"

The King of the Glens glared about the fuming nobles, as though daring them to refute him.

"None of you could have better organized the defense of the Gwilen River, and you know it well!" He bellowed. "Yet like parasitic malingerers, you would point fingers at those who managed what you could not, blame their inability to conjure a miracle for problems you helped to create! You say He is at fault! He screwed it up!, paying absolutely no regard to your own responsibilities and failings!"

Alistair gnashed his teeth as his words spat on those around him. He might be a King these days, but sometimes old habits died hard.

"We did everything we could! It is..."

"Oh have you?" the King spun around to accost the Duchess Jeanette de Girard-Condé. "Who was it that abandoned the riverfront on the second hour? Who threatened to break ranks unless she received fresh reserves when her companies finished the battle more intact than her neighbors!? Everything you could? At least learn to excrete your reeking stench from the other end!"

The Duchess was swollen with anger by the time Alistair finished spitting into her face.

"Her Highness and His Grace have a plan in mind, which is better than most of you could say," he continued without a break. "She is trying to explain it, yet you wouldn't even let her speak? That, miladies and lords, is cowardice of the highest order!" He slammed the table as he finished.

"Do not speak to me of responsibility, Your Majesty!" Lionel growled. "You! Who abandoned your duty, your country for two decades! To go on some foolish New World adventure as a mercenary for the Northmen!"

"And yet, I am King!" Alistair leered back with bared teeth. "And Gleann Mòr is stronger today than it was!"

"Your Majesty! Your Grace! Please!" the Princess beckoned. "Let us stay on the subject. King Alistair is correct that I have a plan in mind."

Pascal stood amazed as he glanced about the room. Moments ago, the entire cabin was set to pounce on him and Sylviane. Now, she seemed the reasonable mediator rather than the focus of their hostility. All of their discontent and anger had shifted to Alistair -- who might be known for his rough demeanor but was also supposed to be an astute King.

Did he provoke them all on purpose?

Meanwhile, Sylviane turned to Duke Lionel, her voice amazingly calm despite the crackling atmosphere:

"Tell me, Your Grace. If you were to storm a city, would you not lead the charge with your bravest men?"

"Of course!" he snapped.

"Then whom do you suppose the Cataliyans shall use, when their best troops are led away from the city, chasing us into the depth of the Ceredigion Forest?"

For a moment, the Duke only stared back, as though not comprehending.

Then, his eyes swelled.

"You're using us as bait?" he spoke, taken aback. "But then... with what trap? We have no other forces to use!"

"There is one," Pascal pointed at the map, to the forest-green realm labeled 'Kingdom of Ceredigion'.

"King Elisedd has dishonored his vows and done nothing to support us this entire time," Sylviane explained. "My plan, our plan, is to force his hand. Draw the Caliphate's armies into his kingdom, and he will have no choice but to fight."


----- * * * -----


"Your Majesty!" Pascal caught up to King Alistair after the meeting, alone except for his bodyguard as they strode through the woods back to their section of the camp.

"Your Grace?"

Pascal took a deep breath before taking a short and somewhat reluctant bow:

"Thank you for what you did back there, Your Majesty."

The two men exchanged a long gaze. There was no need to comment further about what had happened. For the first time since they met, an understanding had been forged between them.

"Your Grace should know that I've only bought you a week of time at most," Alistair added half a minute later. "If you can't achieve a victory to restore their confidence, then this will happen again, and worse."

"I know." Pascal pursed his lips.

Sylviane's inheritance, Weichsel's alliance, even the salvation of Rhin-Lotharingie itself -- so much would depend on their, his performance in these few, crucial days.

"...And next time, I won't be around to help you."

Pascal could only stare back at the King.

"You are intent on leaving then? Despite knowing how pivotal this week will be?"

"You have your responsibilities, I have mine," Alistair replied. "My skywhales have already departed for their trip back up north, and I can only stay until tomorrow at most. With my army trapped in the mountains by snow, reports say that my Highland noblemen are already feuding over supplies. I must return to hold the clans together so the forces of Gleann Mòr will be ready for the spring counteroffensive.

"Otherwise," the King stressed. "Even if you win the battle, we will lose the war."

Pascal could only let off a deep sigh. He might not like Alistair, but at least the King was a firm ally of Sylviane. In chaotic times like these, they were worth their weight in gold.

...Even the bulky weight of this royal bastard.

"Stop fretting," Alistair jested. "I'll be leaving all the troops I brought down, plus seven of my armigers to assist Her Highness and Lady Estelle..."

He did not use the word 'replenish', as Sylviane and Estelle's own armigers had been devastated by the recent battles.

"Besides," he looked at the large blue phoenix that stood atop his pauldron. "I exhausted Almace's flames during the last battle. He might have more capacity than the others, but his regeneration speed isn't any better. It'll be over a week before we're back up to strength, and you'll have settled things by then."

"By the Grace of the Holy Father, I have to," Pascal swallowed.

Standing within arm's reach, Alistair reached up and clapped the younger man's burdened shoulders.

"If you don't mind a word of advice, Your Grace -- don't bite off more than you can chew. You don't have to crush the Caliphate's army, just win," he stressed. "Hold onto this front, and I'll be back with more reinforcements in three weeks' time."

With a deep exhale, Pascal nodded back:

"Thank you, Your Majesty."

For several moments, it seemed as though King Alistair wanted to say something yet was unsure about it. But as the inner turmoil left from his faded-blue eyes, he decided to speak out:

"I am not your rival, Your Grace. The sooner you understand that, the better it would be for all of us."

Pascal's brows furrowed. He felt the sincerity of the Hound King in those words, or at least, as much as he could trust a mercenary-turned-politician. Still...

"Maybe you believe that. But she..."

He trailed off as Alistair sighed and shook his head.

"You have a lot to learn about women."

What is that supposed to mean? The Landgrave's temple twitched.

Perhaps feeling generous, the older man decided to give his junior a lesson before departing:

"Unlike us men, a responsible woman will only choose one partner at a time. It's simply a biological imperative given how they reproduce, and for that, the Holy Father has made them the better judges of character.

"But..." Alistair turned away. "If Your Grace cannot tell whom Her Highness has chosen, then you're not the man we all hope you are."


----- * * * -----


It wasn't until the next night, when Alistair and his three remaining armigers began the trip north, when his bodyguard and long-time companion Lennox spoke out:

"You sure about this?" he asked Alistair through private telepathy. "You know as well as I do that you could stay for 'least another week. The situation at camp is nowhere that bad."

"Yes, I am." The King stood firm in his decision. "As much as I want Sylviane to succeed, Lennox, I cannot be confident of it. I have given her enough help that, should she win, she would already be indebted to me. But if she fails, there will be a fallout -- consequences that we cannot afford to be caught up in."

After all, Alistair thought. Someone has to lead Rhin-Lotharingie when war returns to full swing in the spring.

...And as an Oriflamme, I have far more right to be Emperor than that pretender Gabriel.


----- * * * -----


A thunderous noise jerked Kaede out of her tranquil sleep. Her entire room seemed to sway, as though in the aftermath of an explosion. Accompanying it was a moment of terror, dismay and anxiety so strong that her life flashed before her eyes.

Breathing hard, Kaede almost jumped out of bed, eyes snapping open as they sought for the battle, for more arrows flying her way.

Except... something was off.

The images that passed through her mind didn't quite look like her memories, and she certainly wasn't on the battlefield now.

Looking down, she stared at the bedcovers that she had not seen in months -- a nostalgic sight that left her stunned.

It was her room, or more precisely, his room back in the family home: closed laptop on the window-side work table, adjacent cabinet with printer on top, two shelves of books by the corner, plus a dresser and the twin-sized bed she sat on.

Kaede could see his prized hardcover historical epics on the bookshelves, or his second place prefectural Kyudo trophy on top. Even the walls were a familiar baby blue, decorated by a replica mongol bow souvenir plus two framed digital artworks in watercolor-like pastels: a scenic view of the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in cherry blossom season, and an adaptation of Viktor Vasnetsov's Bogatyrs.

How could this be?

It took Kaede several moments before she realized the possible implication and looked down to confirm.

No... it was definitely still her: thin arms, small chest, clad in her white charmeuse undergarments, with Pascal's family crest embroidered in white gold upon her halter's bosom.

This only confused her further.

I'm back, but... still in my female body?

There was one difference though, as her entire right arm felt numb. Pulling her long arm-gloves down, she noticed that its length -- all the way down to her wrists -- was wrapped in a layer of bandages.

Was it an injury from the battle?

Flashbacks of pain entered her consciousness. She remembered being pierced in the torso, thrice. But all of those places seem to be healed. Her arm, on the other hand...

There are bigger things to worry about!

Swinging her stockinged legs out of bed, Kaede rushed over to the door. But the brass handle wouldn't even turn, let alone open the exit.

"Ma!? Pa!?" she banged on the wooden frame, before pressing her ears against it.

There wasn't the slightest sound coming from the rest of the house. There wasn't even any sound in the neighborhood. Everything was just... silent.

She tried to open the window next, with no more success. The glass offered her a view of the street outside. But despite the dusk sky that coincided with end of business hours, there wasn't a single pedestrian or car in sight.

Her laptop did open. But when she pressed the power button, nothing happened. No light, no sound, the machine simply appeared dead.

What is going on!?

"Ma!? Pa!? Anybody!?"

Kaede could feel the jerk of tears in her eyes. She was trapped inside a room which looked and felt exactly like home, yet wasn't.

It was as though someone was purposefully toying with her thoughts, her emotions, her homesick nostalgia.

"Kaede? You are awake?" came a voice she had grown too familiar with over the past two months.

"Pascal!? Where are you!? Where am I!? What did you do to me!?"

"Calm down Kaede," he winced. "You are in a familiar pocket. I will let you out in a minute."

...A familiar pocket...

She remembered the extradimensional belt pouch that Parzifal's Tofu slid out of.

"You stuffed me in a pokeball!?" her strung out emotions began to overheat at once.


The exiting process was, disorienting... to say the least.

In one moment, Kaede was standing in her fake bedroom. The next, reality seemed to collapse around her as everything blended together in a whirlpool of textures, only to spit her back out, from head to toes, on the bed in Pascal's cabin.

Regaining her orientation and sitting up, Kaede immediately sent her balled left fist towards Pascal, only to be caught in a vice-like grip.

"Don't play with me!" She shouted, tears in her eyes.

"I am not playing with you." His gaze puzzled back, clearly confused. "Look, I know you dislike the familiar pocket for some reason..."

"Some reason!? How would you like it if I shoved you in a sack to be carried around!?"

Pascal was about to continue explaining before he took a moment of pause and sighed:

"Look, I am sorry. I did not exactly have a choice. All servants and heavily injured personnel were sent to the city. This army is traveling light, and I could hardly make an exception by asking the healers to carry you. The shrunken cabin is far too small to keep you inside, so my only choice was to borrow a familiar pocket."

"Then why does the pocket look like my old room!?" Kaede demanded, feeling annoyed as his calm reasoning was snatching the wind out of her angry sails.

"It projects a Phantasm into your mind, showing you whatever location from your memories you most consider 'home'."

Kaede wanted to keep fuming at him, but she was rapidly running out of reasons to. Glaring at his concerned turquoise gaze, she realized that this Pascal was... unusually disheveled. His softly curled hair was a mess, as though it had been blown wild by a heat blast. The entire right side of his uniform was singed; even his palms and right cheek were an inflamed red.

She was still torn between trying to calm down and wondering what happened to him when Pascal's eyes began to glisten with emotion. Before she could ask, his arms suddenly wrapped around her in a crushing hug.


"You almost died out there," his deep voice berated.

Memories of the riverfront clash flashed before her eyes: when she cut the ice using his Sonic Beam spell and doomed thousands to a watery grave; when spells and arrows flew all around, striking down allies left, right, and center; when two arrowheads pierced her own shoulders, followed by a third as her consciousness faded.

"I'm sorry--"

"Why are you the one apologizing?"

Kaede felt a droplet land on her bared back. He truly had been afraid that he had lost her.

...And like always, he probably held it in for far too long.

"You should not have just stood there taking arrows like that!"

"I... don't really react well when I'm focusing," she replied sheepishly.

For a long, moment afterwards, only silence filled the air around them.

Her squeezed shoulders were starting to hurt, though it was an ache that she did not really mind.

"I am sorry, Kaede," his deep voice softened. "You trusted me, yet I... my slowness to react almost had you killed."

"I'm alive now, aren't I?" she closed her eyes, her uninjured hand gently rubbing his back.

In the heat of battle, Pascal had countless tasks to manage. Kaede might be slightly disappointed, but she wasn't the least bit angry that his attempt to reinforce her wards had come late.

"Had Sir Robert not brought you and your arm back early, you almost certainly would not be."

His hushed voice alone was an indication of how close death had came. Mentioning her arm as a separate entity just made everything worse.

"That... explains why my right arm is still numb," Kaede muttered, trying to shut off her imagination.

Pascal pulled back just enough to look at her in the eyes. He blinked and rubbed the water away from his sight.

"I only heard the story afterwards, but the healer who regenerated your arm said it had been sliced off and mangled by shrapnel. It was a good thing that you have Samaran blood, so despite being my familiar his Regenerate spell worked well on you."

Talk about a close call. If that shrapnel struck my head instead...

She forcibly cut off that gruesome train of thought.

"The healer also said to minimize use of your right arm in the next two weeks while the tissues and ligaments heal fully," Pascal gently raised her injured arm and examined the bandages. "These are actually part of the reason for that numbness, although they are also enchanted to facilitate healing."

"So... I'll be good as new in two weeks' time," Kaede put on a brave smile. "No harm done."

Even though she knew that yet another scenario had been added to her list of nightmares.

But for the moment, it was worth it just to see Pascal's bittersweet return smile.

Sitting down to her left, he pulled her thin body tight against his shoulder. For several minutes, the two of them simply sat like that, basked in peaceful silence.

It was long enough that Kaede began to squirm in discomfort.

"Kaede..." Pascal hardly noticed as he began to speak once more. "Why did you do that? Just throw your life on the line with one order?"

"Don't you?" she countered.

"Yes, but I am a trained officer. It is not normal for someone of civilian background to do the same, especially without any hesitation for your own safety; at least, after the initial reluctance."

Kaede tilted her head as she looked to the ceiling.

She did grumble about it, thinking him insane back then. But afterwards? She went ahead and did it anyway.

"I don't know," she reflected. "It's not that I don't fear dying. But when you told me, relied on me to trust you, it just... somehow made it easier."

"Meanwhile, you are afraid of even meeting Sylv's gaze these days," Pascal noted. "In fact, you are fairly docile in front of most authority figures, just not your master," he ended with a chuckle.

Kaede sent him a serious, 'that-is-not-funny' look:

"It's easy for you not to be afraid of authority figures. You're a high noble. There are actual political repercussions even for a monarch to touch you without legal cause. But me? If some royal chops off my head, the only person who would be offended is you... and the last way I want to die is to be publicly executed while the crowd brands me a 'whore'," she shivered.

Such an outcome would never have even occurred to her a mere half year ago.

"Sylv would never go that far," Pascal stated, truly believing in it.

That's what Sir Robert said...

Nevertheless, Kaede wasn't convinced of it. In her normal state, Sylviane might never risk losing Pascal's dedication and friendship by harming Kaede. But during one of her episodes? Kaede had no idea what the Princess might be capable of.

"Besides," the familiar thought back. "When we first met, I was pretty scared of what you might do to me."

"Was that before or after you assaulted me?"

"Both, actually," she replied. "You just... pushed me too far, and I lost control."

Truthfully, she had always been the obedient type. She had been an honors student and even class representative back at school; stereotypes did tend to speak a grain of truth.

"Then, what about now?" Pascal's nostalgic smile turned curious.

"Now I understand you too well."

"There goes my dignity as your master," he joked. Then, his voice turned serious: "that is unfortunate for Sylv, though."

"For your sake, you mean," Kaede added. "My mother once said that girls don't expect to be understood, just respected and loved. And your fiancée certainly doesn't tolerate impropriety."

Pascal pursed his lips, as though he didn't quite agree with it, but also didn't want to contradict a woman about women.

"Does that also apply for you?" he simply asked.

"I don't think so." Kaede's answer was thoughtful yet firm. "I wasn't raised a girl. Don't expect me to have their expectations."

"From my point of view, that is a good thing," Pascal grinned.

Standing back up from the bed, he offered a hand to Kaede.

"Come on. We should grab you some dinner while warm soup is still available. You have not eaten for two days."

Without thinking, Kaede reached out with her still numb right arm. But the moment Pascal pulled, the pain in her ligaments transformed into stream of 'Owowow'! Her sudden cries threw even Pascal off balance, and her pain-stiffened grip ended up pulling him on top of her as she collapsed back into bed.

Kaede soon felt Pascal's breath tickling her cheeks, his thumb brushing her side and his knee between her thighs. Her cheeks flushed scarlet as she realized the precarious position she winded up in.

Why meeeee!?

Yet before she could tell him to get up, the door barged open to the darkening forest outside.

"Pascal! Are you alright? Lord Scales said you had an acci..."

The Princess immediately froze as she registered her disheveled fiancé, lying on the bed atop a blushing and shocked Kaede. The familiar girl wore only a set of undergarments that looked exactly like bridal lingerie, while his inflamed, swollen cheek looked as though he had been slapped.

Sylviane's eyes narrowed at once as her voice fell to a threatening tone:

"What... are you doing?"

"Wait, Sylv!" Pascal bolted up at once. "It's not what you think!"

"I know Kaede had a close call last battle. So I sort of understand if you suddenly have an urge to sleep with her." She lectured. "But I would never have thought that you would descend to such vulgarity."

"Wait, what!?" Pascal looked back at Kaede, huddling on the bed with fear in her eyes as though she was the hapless victim.

The misunderstanding was rapidly spinning out of control.

"Wait, no! I did not force myself upon her!"

The Princess was now glaring daggers, the chains of her meteor hammer erupting from storage gloves. His words sounded just like the kind of excuse a rapist would say.

"I mean," Pascal fumbled for words. "We simply fell over! Nothing happened!"

Sylviane looked to Kaede for confirmation, and the familiar girl, finally realizing that she wouldn't be blamed for 'tempting' him, nodded fervently before her master could be turned into meat paste.


"Pascal, just what did you do to look like that anyway?" Sylviane asked several moments later, after the trio all had some time to calm down.

"This?" his fingers combed through his blast-swept hair. "I was testing an experimental spell that I learned from Colonel Rudel back in Nordkreuz. It was much more powerful than I had thought and overpowered the containment barriers; killed a patch of trees and gave me some burns, but nothing terrible."

Kaede thought back to the thunderous explosion that jolted her awake in the familiar pocket. That must have been him.

Given the sharp intake of dread and dismay she felt back then, Pascal was definitely playing down the accident.

Meanwhile, the Princess shook her head with disapproval:

"Don't take shortcuts with spell experimentation! Plenty of people have died from that! And shouldn't you wait until you're in a more familiar area? There's no telling if a region's magical properties might interfere with spells, and Ceredigion's forests are ancient."

"Should I wait? Yes. But we no longer have the leisure of time," Pascal's tone was dead serious. "I know it is dangerous, but this is a spell with great potential, and I want it available for the next battle, just in case."

Sylviane could only sigh in reply:

"Just be careful. You won't help anyone by getting yourself killed in an accident."

Taking his nod as acknowledgment, the Princess soon turned her attention to the familiar.

"Kaede, now that you're awake, I also want to thank you for what you did in the last battle. It was brave of you, especially after..." she glanced aside, abashed, "after how badly I treated you."

"Milady," Kaede's gaze stayed down, looking as uncomfortable with this topic as she did with the last. "I wasn't trying to get killed... if you know what I mean. It just sort of... happened."

"Bet you said the same thing to Pascal after Nordkapp," Sylviane couldn't help but smile a little. "Nevertheless, a deed is a deed. I don't have any medals to award you at the moment, but I wanted you to have this..."

She took out two patches of soft fabric from her pockets, which Kaede recognized as Lotharin insignias containing the two gold bars of a Senior Lieutenant.


"Pascal told me you're not comfortable with the idea of being a formal army officer," Sylviane added as she gently pressed the insignia patches into Kaede's hands. "I can put you down as a reservist if you would prefer. But right now, we really do need everyone with tactical and leadership experience."

"But I don't have anywhere near enough experience to lead a platoon!" Kaede resisted, completely unable to picture herself taking responsibility for the lives of at least forty men.

"You have far more than many of the others I'm promoting up the ranks," the reply came wry.

Alarmed, Kaede stared back at the Princess.

Pascal is gambling on Wunderwaffe, while Sylviane is scraping the manpower barrel...

Without even hearing a tactical report since before the last battle, she already knew just how desperate the situation had become.


Next Chapter ]

63 thoughts on “Chapter 14 - Desperate Authority

  1. Doomedsoul74

    Just saying thanks for all the effort you put into this and after skimming through a few very detailed comments I have come to the realization that I am truly an ignorant son of a bitch for informing me of this I thank all of you who have posted a comment that aside thank you for the great story and I look forward to the rest of it.

  2. Rolanor

    I can't help it, I can feel the D&D metagaming strategies all around me!

    So Shrinking spells exist, and it has been stated that the Shrinking spell ignores Conservation of Momentum and Conservation of Energy. Kaede is a skilled archer. Time to shrink some Skagen ballista runebolts and launch them into the enemy lines? Mobile artillery with a fire rate many times greater than siege engines, with no operation or crew needed.

    Taking a cue from Admiral Winter (RIP, he was such a cool character and I would have loved to see the interactions between him and Pascal or him and Kaede, the two of them could conquer the world), load up all (or some, since the only Runemage that we know of on the Trinitian side is Pascal) of the Knights Phantom with a variety of runes and use them as bombers. The gunpowder barrels are good, but modern artillery has shown us that multiple smaller munitions cover both a larger area and are harder to counteract. Since the explosion volume is a function of r^3, with the importance projected onto r^2, a ground-effect area, multiple smaller explosives can cover a greater area than a large explosion of equal energy.

    Most of the flammable gases described in the Firemist spell are denser than air and would sink to the ground. Presuming that the Firemist spell is an alchemy spell which directly, and permanently, creates new material from an existing medium, and is not Conjuration which temporarily "borrows" that material/energy from a seperate location or dimension. The Trinitians could decisively bombard enemy lines by diffusing Firemist over the enemy airspace. Alternatively, they could cast it before a battle, such as during a fighting retreat, and it would sink to the ground and saturate an area. The enemy would either be caught in it (unlikely given their commander's intelligence), or spend considerable time circumnavigating or diffusing the gases. Alternatively, Edith's forces laced the ground with blackpowder. Not bad, but saturating an entire area and all its soil in flammable gases and then igniting the entire field? That would be even better. I'm reminded of those underground coal fires that burn continuously for years. Though I don't think the Ifreet would mind.

    1. Aorii Post author

      Wait till you see the character sheets I use to keep track of their traits and abilities xD

      Keep in mind that magic is a limited resource and a cost =P In fact, in all my designs, trained MCOs (Magic-Capable Officers) are considered the most vital military resource. Men? This is a pre-industrial society that lacks even the production to meet the demands of mass mobilization. That means peasants are dirt cheap.

      Sub-munition weapons are nice and all, but there's a big accuracy problem (throwing a handful of small balls is hard!). In Hyperion there's also a ward issue, as in the absence of dispels one would need pure brute force to break through magical defenses (like the anti-projectile Repulsion ward). Anyone who studies physics will tell you that impact on a concentrated point works better against resistance materials.

      The Firemist spell is a transmutation spell actually. It doesn't conjure or create anything, it simply transforms one set of chemical compounds to another (must like the Prussic Acid javelins).

  3. Shiki

    Hey Aorii~!

    Read through the entire story over the last couple days and I'm amazed at how professional the work appears to be.

    How many more chapters are you planning to fit into Vol. 3? Judging by past volumes the end must be approaching and you said you still had a lot of fit in, I'm personally very excited to read them when you are finished.

    Also I went back to reread Vol. 2 and I'm curious what happened to Ariadne after she lost Edelweiss. You elaborated that a familiar would typically die if the connection were to be severed by force but doesn't seem like it really affected the Mage herself that much to lose her "first familiar". Seems rather unfair to Kaede that if Pascal were to die her life is forfeit but not nearly the same feedback to Pascal if she were to die in combat.

    Then again, their bond seemed to have evolved beyond a normal Magus-Familiar bond over the past 2 volumes so maybe it's just I feel a little bad about Kaede's lot in life on Hyperion right now.

    1. Aorii Post author

      I'm glad you've been enjoying it.

      Chapter 15 is waiting for one more beta feedback before being published.
      I anticipate chapter 16-18. And... maybe an epilogue? Depends on how much I can wrap up within the chapters.

      It's mentioned in v3ch6 that Ariadne got a new pegasus (her first one died in v2). It is fair that the feedback is rather one-sided? No. But the familiar system (which is heavily-inspired by the DnD system) was never meant to be fair ^^'

      That being said, Pascal has a much stronger bond than normal so if Kaede got killed, it would affect him rather differently.

      1. Shiki

        Thanks for the response.

        I didn't mean anything negative about your writing when I said the familiar system isn't fair. I actually feel bad for Kaede that she's constantly treated as a second class citizen or sometimes not even as a person at all, including Pascal at times such as when he seemed confused on why Kaede dislikes being carried around in a bag like an object.

        Actually kinda want to see Kaede killed just to see how it would affect Pascal now... I feel like he still doesn't appear to fully appreciate all that she's done for him yet. Anyways good work and eager to read the next installment :3

        1. Hyperionist

          We don't have to go as far as to kill her to see a devastated about having her in Coma or Kidnapped =3 ?

  4. Miras

    Thx for chapters so far!
    Pascal in order to marry legitimately must be Catholic, but I don't remember religious settings in story.Trinitians are united so far?!

    1. Aorii Post author

      The Trinitian Church is a Christian Church never torn asunder by its schisms, particularly the east-west split. Basically, consider if the Ecumenical Councils of the early Christians managed to succeed in establishing a unified doctrine with few dissenters to challenge it.

  5. Caine

    I have to say, I hoped Kaede had actually lost her arm in the recent battle considering what happened when we parted ways with her. This sort of violent, tangible, and most importantly permanent consequence of one's actions adds some spice to the character and weight to their decisions.

    1. Hakurei06

      Now I'm wondering how good mage prostheses are, and if they can conduct ether.
      Also, how advanced surgical sciences are in a place that typically has magic, but where healing those expensive mages is generally a pain in the ass.

      1. Caine

        Seeing as losing an arm was reason for captain Karen to retire, I guess the answer is "not very good". This is one of reasons why I would consider Kaede losing an arm a truly permanent consequence - no cheating in the form of "but she got a magical prosthesis, and it's even better than her real arm was".

        1. Aorii Post author

          Yeah they do not have good prostheses.
          I've actually considered giving Kaede a permanent injury, but it wouldn't fit the rules I've already established. Setting consistency is far more important in the long run than story drama. Hopefully, when something nasty do happen to Kaede (it's gonna be a long war), the readers won't chew off my head for it.

  6. Sinkingship

    I had a lot of trouble following the Kaede / Pascal conversation they have about... I don't know what to type here because I legit couldn't follow it. They chat a bit about the dimensional space and her being healed, ok, I'm with it so far. He asks about what motivated her to stand in the line of fire, she says something about being relied on, ok still pretty clear.

    Then they talk about her being afraid of authority figures, she says it's justified because of her social standing, he reassures her. She rebuts(?) that she was even scared of him initially, he says what about now, she says she 'understands him too well'. He jokes about his dignity as a master and says "that is unfortunate for Sylv, though." (?!? IDGI) Then they talk a bit about gender politics which also goes over my head and some rom-com shit which is fun but unimportant...

    Actually to make this post I'm re-reading this over and over so I can quote and stuff, Kaede says '...girls don't expect to be understood, just respected and loved. And your fiancée certainly doesn't tolerate impropriety."' That last bit is a joke I guess? Pascal is saying she doesn't understand Sylv (the way she does him) and that's 'unfortunate', Kaede is saying Sylv doesn't want to be understood in the first place? Is that supposed to be the take-away from that dialogue?

    Having sat down to type this out I think I sussed out the intended meaning but that bit of dialogue being confusing wasn't just me right? I still feel like I might have completely misinterpreted the point I dunno...

    e: forgot to say great chapter despite my confusion - thanks!

    1. Aorii Post author

      No Kaede is not joking when she says how Sylv 'doesn't tolerate impropriety'
      Pascal is saying it's sad Kaede misunderstands Sylv because they won't be able to truly get along or become friends without it, which is not good for him as he's caught in the middle -- hence why Kaede replies: "for your sake, you mean".

  7. Lafiel Gosroth

    Thank you for another chapter!
    Promoting Kaede is a great idea, resourseful people must be something more than just a "whore-familiar" of some noble. Finally some status.

  8. Wordmaster

    The chapter was amazing! I wonder If it'd be possible for Pascal to see how the familiar pocket is from Kaede's eyes, as what she saw is something like an Illusion that's tailored for whomever is looking at it. I wonder how he'd react If he saw how her world looks like.

    I also want to wish you the best aorii. It's been great to read your series so far and I know that with all the effort you put into making this a great book. All the psychological dillemas and facts, the historycal content,... You know, the dedication you pour into researching and making this work as interesting as it is. I hope you'll never lose your incredible creativity!

    1. Aorii Post author

      Thanks and I'm glad you're enjoying it o/
      Pascal should be able to see it since he can tap Kaede's sight and hearing. It'll depend more on when he has interest/time xD

  9. Blue

    Im really interested when they get a chance to talk with Kaede about her world though that looks to still be a bit far off. Even tough the development and research on hyperion seems to have been diverted to magic, i don't think the possibility of a scientific and industrial revolution is too far off. The era seems most similiar to a late medieval era in most aspects only with much more highly developed medicine and magic replacing some aspects like much more advanced communication and intelegence.
    Depending in Kaedes knowledge i think that some form of industrial revolution wouldn't be too far off. I could easily see her being able to advance them in many fields like mechanical engineering leading to a steam engine, advances in medicine with the germ theory, in physics and chemistry with atomic theory or firearms and artillery with the indroduction of metal cardriges and rifling. Even if she doesn't remember all the detail herself i dont think its unreasonable for her to be able to lead development to some prototypes within a few years and beginning industrial revolution within atleast some tens of years with the biggest obstacles being funding, their steel production capacity/quality and the lack of skilled workers and educated people seeing as they seem more focused on warfare and the level education of the general populance isn't too high (?-assuming by the era, never actually referanced). Tough if the princess does manage ascend the throne i think those should not be too hard to overcome.

    Im really interested in when they get to discuss kaedes knowledge and view of the world because its usually lightly touched upon or not written very well in other stories. Id really like to see a well written conversation between two intellectuals from a modern and a earlier era. I suspect that might really difficult considering you cant just forget practically everything you know of the universe. I imagine you will have to create some type of standard of knowledge,common sense and popular belief for the era and the country when characters react to keades knowledge. Many now commonly accepted theories were ridiculed at first so i imagine the even pascal and vivianne will be sceptical. Looking at old debunked theories and beliefs on wikipedia like the miasma theory might be somewhat helpful.

    One of the main reasons i like this novel (besides the high quality and accuracy) so much is the main characters. You dont usually see very many intellectual characters in this type of setting and even less often other characters than the main. That said id really like to see more of that side of vivianne at some point too.

    Id really like to hear a bit more of the world. The cities architecture and the lives of average people are hardly described at all tough that might be really hard to fit anywhere without making it too dry for most people.

    Sorry for the massive block of text and thanks for chapter! Sorry for the long ramble, i just find the concept of interaction between people from different eras so interesting.

    1. Aorii Post author

      To clarify, Hyperion is designed as an "Age of Imperialism" world that's pretending (mistaken for) late Medieval era by Kaede at first glance. A few key signs are:
      - Weichsel's Absolutist Monarchy and professional soldiery (including the establishment of a General Staff)
      - Skagen's Nautical circumnavigation and oversea colonies (the Chocolate Kaede drank in vol2 is from the Americas only)
      - the widespread values of Nationalism
      - The onset of a (magical) rail system from the Holy Imperium (mentioned in v3ch2), as well as banking and stock
      - An international (rather than regional) merchant class, such as the Grand Republic Merchant Alliance that ferries goods across continents

      So yes, Hyperion is basically at the stage right before Industrial Revolution. Since they never had a 'Dark Ages', they don't need a Renaissance to bring back cultural and scientific values. Many of the differences between worlds are things Kaede reflect and discuss piecemeal; like the gunpowder discussion, or the stock exchange idea she gave to Pascal, or her mentions of global trade during the coffee scenes. But, since she is written as a Humanist, the topic she'd actually be most interested in discussing isn't a technical technology but a civics one:

      Hyperion shows no sign of entering the Enlightenment Age, when the ideas of religious tolerance, basic human rights, separation of church and state, etc, become accepted as the 'norm' instead of the 'exception'.

      1. Alir

        I would not say that there was a dark age in our history. Yes there was a set back during the Black Death but there were many inventions that allowed the Renaissance to come about. Some examples would be steal production, windmills, horse shoes (kept horses from going lame), and many other things. So while it may not have been obvious the Middle Ages made the foundation for the renaissance and industrial revolution.

        1. Aorii Post author

          #1 the Dark Ages is a very eurocentric term so... if we're discussing World History, yes there was no 'Dark Ages' xD
          #2 Western Europe's medieval understanding of administration, economics, architecture, hydraulics, logistics, medicine, philosophy, etc etc is, for the most part, in no way comparable that the late Roman periods. It was only in the late Medieval era that the classical knowledge was recovered, jumpstarting the renaissance. Some historians even believe that the Renaissance was only made possible by the gradual collapse of Constantinople, which made Orthodox scholars who preserved Roman knowledge flee towards the Christian west.

          1. Hachi

            Don't forget that the Islamic Caliphates were responsible for preserving most of the knowledge from the Classical Greek period and sharing it between the Byzantines as both societies held a strong admiration for ancient Greece culture. It's explored in a bit more detail in "Byzantium and the Abbasids: Best of Enemies" by Jonathan Harris. We wouldn't have today's numeric system, thanks to Muslims adopting the Indian value of zero, nor such advances in medicine if not for Muslim scholars that studied ancient Greek texts, such as Herophilos' work, and built upon them. The Islamic world's Golden Age certainly played a large role in passing on and sharing lost Roman and Greek knowledge between themselves and the Byzantines, and eventually stimulating the Renaissance.
            We just happened to be covering this in school so I couldn't resist jumping in, sorry... ^^;

          2. Alir

            That was true as well but sadly much was lost like Greek fire and the other secrets. Also more development came about when Mongols reopened the Silk Road after taking much of te midle east. So I would give more credit to the fact that industrial creations became more widespread during that period. The Romans did have amazing things for the ancient world like the aquifers but it was not totally lost to the Europeans. Another major contributor to the sudden developments would be the fall of the guilds that cept individuals from creating new ideas. The ones that switched to capitalism first were the city states Itally where the Renaissance started.

    2. Timewreck25

      Interestingly enough there is even possible magical improvements she could introduce with modern chemistry knowledge. Namely the simple fact that removing the hydrogen from water can create explosive force in contained environments. This could be used with the already existing geomancy of their world, to improve mining ability and ease, with nowhere near as much danger in initial digging process. Just that alone would in turn improve their metalworking industry, by providing easier access to iron and other metals, and even in turn their entire economy afterwards to a certain extent. Simple chemistry can go a DMV long way, when applied the right way, to the right things. What i mean from my initial comment is create a small scale, high concentration, sonic spell to break the molecular bonds in water, and BOOM mining spell, or even if used in combat would be deadly. With wider range and scale of course. ;)

      Haha Aorii, i think i just got a great suggestion i thought of for Pascal. Or rather his spell arsenal..... Give him that aforementioned spell at some point in the war, it could even be used to transfer voices over extreme distances with the right application of sonic spells.. new magic-based radio anyone? Then there would be no need for dedicated telepathy spell specialists!

      Also, learning cellular biology, even the most rudimentary concepts of it, could vastly improve medical magic, for Parzifal. (That is the medical students name right?)
      Note: is been a bit since i actually read a chapter where he was actually present haha which if why i am unsure if i have the right name. :P

      1. Aorii Post author

        (sheesh you know there's an edit function right after you post a comment XD pooled them together for easier read)

        Uh... what's the use of hydrogen isolation in mining? I just know it as a way to create hydrogen gas which is useful for many things we do.

        Signal officers aren't "telepathy spell specialists"; why wouldn't every mage wants to learn extremely handy long range communication spells? (it's like high school knowledge for them). And radio certainly hasn't gotten rid of the need for many dedicated signal officers on every staff in our world's militaries.

        Oh they know the basics of cellular biology. After all it was discovered in 1665; cell theory came about in the 1800s; and with magic they have far greater precision than our world's early/crude microscopes. If they didn't, Pascal wouldn't be able to make comments about others' lack of brain cells xD

        1. Timewreck25

          Just because basic (by our standards) cellular biology was discovered in 1665, doesn't mean it was also discovered by that apparent timeframe in Hyperion scale, it are you saying it does? I only pointed out that piece of information because you never specified if it had been discovered on Hyperion yet as of the storyline's point in Hyperion history. Mind you, if Hyperion history is equivalent to earth history, minus science, yet plus magic, then how did they make the connection to begin with? Also, it is a possibility that the Hyperion version of cellular biology only is inclusive of internal medicine/organs, by the point they have almost no knowledge of viruses or other microbiology that exist separately from human biology, or so it seems.

          1. Aorii Post author

            I use Earth's technological timeline as a reference point for Hyperion. They don't all agree, and Hyperion medical sciences is ahead of many other fields, but anything in our 17th century is definitely fair-gained for them. I never specified, but... again, they use enough terminology surrounding cell biology that it's obvious they have it. By the same token, they should have basic germ theory. But probably not viruses (as viral pathogens are much harder to notice and their effects often blamed on something else).

            Remember that science is simply "systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe" (straight out of wiki). And guess what... analyzing magic in a world where magic exists makes magic science.

  10. nipi

    "You stuffed me in a pokeball!?"
    lol. I always though Pokemon was the anime equivalent of dog fights. And I see Kaede used Blush to counter Pascals Body slam.

    "Pascal is gambling on Wunderwaffe, while Sylviane is scraping the manpower barrel..."
    Probably too late to change course and "produce simpler designs" in vast quantities. Guerrilla tactics in the forest though. Time to dust off "The Art of War".

    1. Aorii Post author

      ...And people once pestered me to build a railgun for Kaede ^^'

      I keep hoping that at point I'll have to talk about the REAL problem with Rhin-Lotharingie, and Feudalism in general: taxation.
      Because when a state can't collect enough taxes, they can't do... anything (like maintaining a professional military, or build infrastructure for industrialization, or fund an effective education system which also determines the quality of personnel for everything else you do). Lotharins aren't lacking resources because they're over-engineering things; they lack it because they don't have much production to begin with.

      1. nipi

        By "simpler designs" I was thinking along the lines of take a bunch of peasants with magical talent and teach them all 1 spell they can use in battle. Perhaps have a couple of different groups that know different spells. Massive use of ether seekers for example would surely have a huge impact. (The current trend seems to be have a small number of highly trained and versatile experts.)

        The fundamental problem with magic seems to be the limited amount that you are able to stockpile and field. This would be a sort of an alleviation for that limitation.Not sure if thats possible though as the initial requirements to cast any magic might make this too costly to be efficient.

        Of course doing this would upset the kingdoms internal power balance and threaten the nobles.

        1. Aorii Post author

          The yeomen are the commoners with magic and they do learn it. So... this is something they already do, and there's plenty of them among the lower officer ranks (discussed/shown in vol2). It limitation is that there are only so many people who are magically attuned (and as mages live longer and better, they have less social pressure to reproduce -- kinda like today's 1st vs 3rd world countries).

          - Weichsel is (like Prussia) essentially an Absolute Monarchy. They're not quite there yet but almost.
          - Holy Imperium of the Inner Sea, like the Roman/Byzantium Empire is was designed on, is an Administrative Monarchy (aka bureaucratic state with strong civil government centralization)
          - A Caliphate is a Theocracy with Imperial rule. Technically a Caliphate that loses central authority can break down into Feudalism, but... this one hasn't. The fact it has a centralized, professional army shows.

          So far, only Skagen and Rhin-Lotharingie are truly feudal states, and Skagen is an Aristocratic Republic (decisions made by an assembly of Jarls; based on the Polish Sejm).

          1. Riselotte

            Polish Sejm including the Liberum Veto?

            Also, after the last few chapters, I started to once again wonder about the one question you surely are facing since Vol1, which is "Why did noone invent gunpowder yet?" Now, not going to ask this, because I do read comments and by Vol3, I do know your opinion on the matter, but what I wanted to know was, what would be this world's gunpowder equivalent? Because gunpowder did not replace other ranged weapons due to its increased performance, but originally because it enabled more people to achieve a passing grade performance within short time. Something which before the arquebus was already kind of the trend with the crossbow. And indeed, as we saw before, Hyperian armies do use the crossbow a lot. But I'm not exactly sold that the best Hyperion could achieve is torsion-powered weaponry and the counterweight trebuchet.

            This train of thought also came about as I was wondering how warfare would be affected by magic, when other limiting factors of the medieval times (such as logistics, communications and situational awareness, medicine, etc.) are already being overcome by magical solutions. How would warfare develop under these circumstances? Is gunpowder a prerequisite for modern warfare or would we see a sudden old-timey variant of network-centric warfare? Oh, and I'm not trying to refute your setting, these are just the kind of questions I was thinking about when reading these chapters and I frankly must admit... I still have no real answer.

            What I did arrive at though, was that to me, the most likely candidate for providing cheap mass weaponry, would be if runic magic was able to actually find ways to harness their powers better and create runes more efficiently. To the point where runes are less special weaponry like a powerful hand grenade and more like ammunition, a cartridge which gets mass manufactured, issued to the soldiers in the field and provides soldiers there with firepower that is adequate, yet simple. This naturally hinges on the advances that runic magic could make, in turn dependant on how it exactly works, thus in the end being up to you, how you handle it, because I don't think readers have yet enough insight to conclude whether there'd ever be a mass manufacturing of runestones.

            Are my rambles actually making sense to you?

          2. nipi

            If Im not mistaken they do have gunpowder and mortars.

            It was not just the ease of learning the weapons use. You have to remember that early firearms were quite inaccurate too. Your projectile was smaller than the barrel and thus bounced around in it before leaving the weapon. Then again accuracy was pretty irrelevant in large battles. Powerful bows required great physical strength to use. Crossbows were shorter ranged and required more time to load. Guns won out because they didnt require physical strength, loading times were comparable but more importantly they could penetrate armor at longer ranges.

            The argument against widespread use of gunpowder was that lightning and fire magic can too easily set them off. I however am not completely convinced by this. For magic to set off the gunpowder you have on you it first needs to hit you. And I think we can assume that any non-mage soldier would then be out of the fight anyway. The blast could damage your neighbors but then again so could area of effect magic attacks. So Id assume that non-mage combatants dont fight in tight formations anyway.

          3. Riselotte


            Well, yeah, there are some devices and the knowledge of it, but no widespread application.

            And I think that what you just described is not exactly running against what I said, because the lack of strength (and in general training) was what shifted the balance to the gun. In regards to range and lethality though, I do think that up to the widespread adoption of rifles, the gun held little advantage over the bow when one solely looks at performance when wielded by a proficient soldier. Longbowmen and heavy crossbowmen could achieve similar if not at times superior effective ranges (due to the inaccuracy of early smoothbore guns), armour penetration of these weapons was quite sufficient and longbowmen had a higher rate of fire, as muskets achieved usually at best 4 shots a minute from well-drilled soldiers (and after inventions like the paper cartridge).

            I think the argument on how gunpowder is easy to set off would be more applicable to supply depots than to the quantities carried by an individual person. Then again, they use a lot of incendiary agents on their artillery. And from the ubiquity of melee units in the story, tight formations can be assumed to still be used, though I'd guess usually with shield spells to avoid getting them obliterated.

          4. Aorii Post author

            Yes, it includes the Liberum Veto xD in v2 Pascal does make fun of Skagen as a rabble of pickering lords who never get anything done.

            And gunpowder... (sigh)
            #1 they did invent gunpowder.
            #2 why the arquebus is not adapted is discussed in v3ch6 scene 2

            One of the limitations of runestones (it's been spoken of, though not highlighted) is that they diffuse magic over time and therefore has 'upkeep'. For conventional runic users, this means a runestone will lose its power within a few days if not carried and supplied by its creator.

            Pre-modern line infantry fought in tight formations in general, because prior to breechloaders, only a tight formation could stop a cavalry charge from cutting the infantry to pieces.

            Hyperion infantry requires magic support (from its officers) to survive spell bombardment - which leds to the often used Resistance ward. However as it's not a perfect ward (it reduces damage to an endurable margin instead of nullifying it, like how most armor functions), leaving combustibles on the body is... a bad idea.

      2. zog11

        Isn't taxation a Symptom rather than a cause, as feudalism generally has no problem in getting taxes in theory, it just dependent on the support of the nobility.
        The problem is corruption and the fact that taxation is dependent on the support of the nobility to collect. (often they are in competition for royal favour (the economic or social advantages granted by the crown and they can withhold some taxes to gain advantages at key times or for bribes etc.) giving most of the taxes could also be a sign of political support to the crown too little and you could be considered disloyal)
        the crown under feudalism usually has considerable land, property or privileges and monopoly power on certain goods to support day to day spending. (taxation usually a supplement for immediate spending (war, mercenary's, ransoms etc.) (raising tax requires support and the nobility are usually in favour of the status quo) it takes the rise of a wealthy merchant class to give the monarch or nobles greater support before you get any really momentum too spend taxes on anything for the common people. even yeoman generally are land based freeman and don't immediately benefit from education or infrastructures. it usually take the monarch, high nobility or church using its own money to improve their own lands before you get a large enough merchant class to balance the demands of the nobility.(usually by building bigger towns cities and promoting greater urbanisation and military might. )
        the fact is the political economic system Rhin-Lotharingie is constructed as relatively (globally ) backward due to its history and religious/military isolation. (changing a feudal system requires a level of economic development and urbanisation before the middle classes can create a independent tax base for political support)

        arguably you could work it in to the story if, the city is saved from devastation (merchants or nobility are usually looking for advantages particularly in economic terms ) a reduction in trade limits offering a "gift" to a monarch is usually a good way of at least gaining a hearing.) its just a suggestion. money pays for mercenaries and political support and maybe reassures and rewards loyal service by having a certain amount on hand.
        Also i enjoyed the chapter I am looking forward to the next one

        1. Aorii Post author

          Taxes don't matter if it doesn't get back to the central government. Feudalism has an issue because the nobility (at least in the western medieval ages) is allowed to tax their realms but they, in turn, are not taxed by the crown. They 'pay' by providing the crown with troops but... that's both inefficient and irreliable.
          Both Chinese and Indian empires have achieved wealthy economies without relying on taxation of trade (because they had extremely high agricultural productivity and thus could focus on land taxation). So while a strong middle class helps, it is not a requirement for centralization. The only thing that centralization truly needs is a bureaucratic class with strong administrative knowledge (so an education system is required), and a good infrastructure (for communications).

          1. zog11

            Ok I am a bit of a European medieval history buff so I think your wrong!
            my main issue is what countries feudal medieval taxation systems are you using for a reference?
            nobility are usually not totally exempt from taxes in any of the European states or under any context in any system or time as far as I aware?? (English ,ottoman, Greco roman, Byzantine, holy roman empire and Spanish) feudalism is generally a European term anyway
            India and china were relatively advanced in this era technologically.I am not great Asian history buff pre imperialism.
            I hate Wikipedia but its not too bad in this area for a quick overview. (
            ( ( the economy sections for a overview across the period particularly later middle ages.) )
            I think your confusing taxation and levies (rising a specific sum) in feudal society as levies can be either be paid in men or goods?(funding is mostly acquired through rents, local land taxes and good duties) maybe your looking at other systems? Pre or post imperial (later systems conflated all government revenues in to taxes after centralisation of military power) I am just confused why you think noble are only had to pay in men not coin or goods? ( man power was usually what most monarchs were seeking anyway via the taxes)

            The main point I was making is that land tax isn't the only form of revenue for the government or monarch (crown land rents , duties on goods and trade etc were the bulk of revenue for most kingdoms) the nobility are also part of the government under feudalism holding the top positions such as sheriffs, holding castles, running towns and most importantly collecting taxes.(nobles also collect taxes from other nobles it’s a system based ultimately on the military and political power)(society is broadly made up of in order of power the KING - HIGH NOBLES - NOBLES - FREE MEN/COMMONERS - SERFS)

            The monarch has ultimate judicial, legal,military and economic power in feudal system , this makes the process about political support and patronage. (the king owns all the realm and land, the noble only holds it and defends it on his behalf in return for revenue.) (essentially it the kings but if you fight for the king you get land rents and power) (failure to fight or support the king would be a just cause for losing land and revenue.) (monarch is usually found making a example of a noble to make others more forth coming in men or in paying taxes through other means food, coin etc) (land and noble taxes are usually solely for military power or preparing military infrastructure under feudalism not for economic development which come from rents and taxes on goods) but one king many noble so there only so much taxes that can be extracted politically.

            I am not arguing its an effective taxation system (it is flawed) and I don't argue that a middle class is required for centralization/urbanisation rather that centralization creates a larger middle class.( towns and cities engaging in trade and greater ,non agricultural good production creates a need for trade taxation in addition to land)(but also generate more revenue for the lord/king holding the town its what economics call grouping of secondary production) the middle classes generally push for a meritocracy as a counter to the nobility patronage system therefore creating alternative political base.(therefore moving away from the feudal system)

            I would also argue that bureaucrats exist under feudalism (reeves, officials, servants of lord etc.) and that education (outside the nobility) is by apprenticeship system rather than schools/tutors, which limits the talent pool and is prone to limited body of knowledge. (guilds, patronage, family service) you can still operate a centralised system without universal or systematic education. It us just not efficient or desirable system but it still creates a functional number of officials. (I should also mention the power and role of the church in public administration and in creating a system for merit based education and moral power limits) (you already touched on this anyway in the novel)
            (the only issues that society often out grows the number of useful officials faster that it finds them leading some times to a quantity over quality approach) Also good infrastructure can be horses, ships and roads all of which are usually military spending at this time rather than economic. (therefore easy to justify in terms of extracting tax for the nobility who in turn collect in from the common people limiting there own revenue from rents/ local taxes)

            You could I suppose adopt a simplistic tax system for Rhin-Lotharingie but the monarchy would need to have a military and economic edge via substantial land ownership and rents for it to be effective. lack of centralisation is often political as inter nobility infighting over a the position or right could be useful for the monarch short term rather than long term.
            Often more complex taxation is often driven by necessity to keep up spending after lower crop yields or other economic issues rather than wanting more money for making a bigger military, a monarch has to relatively reasonable. just a suggestion you created a world with magic that could even out revenue flows and disasters. (creating/ moving water etc. therefore less need for extra spending as revenues stable)
            just some clarification and thoughts from my perspective.

          2. Aorii Post author

            My understanding mostly come from the Frankish system that evolved into the Ancien Regime system, under which the 1st and 2nd estates (aristocracy and church) are left untaxed. I know taxation of the church varies heavily between states - realms that respond less to Papal control are generally more willing to tax the Church (like England or HRE). But my understanding of the feudal system is that nobles may (1) collect taxes FOR their king and (2) may pay scutage tax to get out of providing troops for the king, but they do not owe the king taxes for their own income (depending on locale, I could be wrong). But that's not the real problem...

            Yes, the monarch has ultimate authority on paper, but unless a feudal monarch wants to piss off their subjects, it is generally not exercised directly but through the vassal lords -- which in turn gives the regions autonomy. This is in contrast with absolutist monarchs who have a centralized bureaucracy which directly carries out crown powers on the local lands (such as taxation and legal arbitration). This autonomy is what makes the system inefficient because it allows the nobles at each level to pocket part of the tax for themselves (aka corruption), and the crown will usually turn a blind eye towards it because without a nationalized army, they rely on the support of the nobles to keep their throne.

            Sure, on paper, it is not supposed to work that way. But it's what generally happens.

          3. zog11

            ok now I understand now your looking at a very early European feudal system. I am looking at feudalism from a perspective in the 10th 11th and 12th century it is in part because I tend focus less on pre Norman conquest aspects of feudalism. (Historical bias from being English sorry I get where we are having difference of opinion now) if you focused on French development in particular you have a very different system of feudalism. (compared to the rest of Europe.

            The Frankish system is in the 8th and 9th centuries, they are in my opinion a bit of exception. The Frankish system was based on blood connections and familiar ties with a cast iron honour code of loyalty in the face of conquered local opposition. You see it in there fortifications and manor houses this was a time when king s and nobles were more worried about the commons and rebellion than revenues.

            ((even under franks very few fiefs were exempt from supporting to the crown usually only border lands were exempt it a bit of dispute among historians source documents for this time are rather fragmentary in this area) if you interested look at links in part 2 and 3 I think. (it’s a interpretation of original documents I think kind of demonstrated the type of sources we are using in this era for interpreting taxation and general economic structure))
            The theory is that feudal society changes as they integrated and the nobility and monarchs start competing against each other and continued to expand slower pace.( personal wars between nobility as well as states) The traditional exemption of the nobility was eroded under the ancient regime in part because countries stated to require larger levies to remain secure and to gain new land from other kingdoms. The principle being that the monarch only used the levies from the nobility and their holding for military spending. it was a compromise but usually effective as kings who won battles could gain taxes from the nobles to pay for the wars in exchange for new lands some of which could be given to the nobility. (those that lost might find they lack funds and had to find the money personally))

            I still think your under estimating the very real military, political and judicial power that a king held as a powerful noble with large amount of personal revenue. (in fact the mangna carta in England was the counter reaction to too much erosion to the compromise In the 13th century which imposed limits on the crown following the rebellion)
            (particularly in using judicial power with out due process and limiting the amount of taxation from nobles property)

            King usually get there way in feudal systems eventually not least because they had the most vassal knights and because he has control of all appointments and the distribution of Fiefs was a purely a royal preoperative.
            Hereditary fief's are generally a late addition to feudalism in Europe and the land was the monarchs you needed his support if you want the land to pass to your son therefore they paid at least a portion of the taxes to the king and provide men if he required them otherwise royal disfavour would have you children cast out or removed to less prosperous lands. In turn the monarch turn a blind eye to minor corruption in raising levies and taxes and allows nobility wealth and prosperity within reason, as it also a good way of keeping the nobles in line. (they are largely loyal to crown because the monarch can grant significant favours, money and power to the nobility verses the other nobles.) I still maintain taxation is a political issue for the king . (but he has other ways of compelling the minor nobility in particular legal arbitration, levying fines for miss behaviour or felonies (etymology of the word felon is from the misuse of fiefs i.e. running it into the ground for profit) is a royal prerogative even for feudal kings.) the main point is feudal relationship is a transaction relationship where the king has the ultimate authority but get by using his minor powers to influence the nobility he gains control in practice.
            The reality is that we both right it really depends on the quality of the individual monarch.(I am arguing in the majority of kingdoms under feudalism that the king is practical in control as long as not too unreasonable.(because he can grant significant privilege, Your arguing the opposite?)
            (Corruption isn't solved by centralisation by the way although absolute monarchy in extreme form with a centralised army does reduce it significantly if the monarch is competent and the administration dependent on the monarch)
            the main point on corruption is that the king really doesn’t care as long he gets his portion of the revenues eventually wars are planed often years in advance monarch can usually work out how long it will take to get it from reluctant nobles.
            I hope that make some sense it a little late on a Friday evening for this but I wanted to clarify. also apologise for length again.

  11. Akreli

    Wow, that pokeball part was really good. I did laugh a lot there :D Isn't it quite dreadful for most of familiars being locked up in place that you can't even interact with. Also right after that goes "lucky pervert" event, Pascal how I envy you in that part, even though I know that Kaede is man (Aorii, that's your fault, you made her too appealing :D (Well, I'm not compalining)). I'm looking forward to see how Kaede manages her officer-to-be role. I really do love your universe Aorii and can't wait to learn more about it :)

  12. Jinguuji

    What?! Chapter end already?! Need the second paaaaart!!

    Thanks for the great chapter again!

  13. Glacierfairy

    I wonder how interchangeable are Lotharin military ranks with that of Weichsel. If Kaede got promoted as a Lotharin Senior Lieutenant, will she receive an ex post facto promotion from Weichsel as well?

  14. Hachi

    Amazing chapter, I enjoyed it immensely! Honestly, the beginning with the tactics had me squealing because of how good it was and how it instantly clicked what they are going to try. My MVP for the chapter is definitely King Alistair (despite the minor political ploy right afterwards; such is life) followed by Sylv just for the ending of the chapter. I laughed, it was great x'D

    I see that a previous commenter's idea of Kaede leading a unit might/is coming into play, so I'm highly anticipating that. (Especially a common soldier under Kaede's command POV.) The things I liked best about the chapter is how the politics and tactics played out in an understandable manner that allowed me to follow along without difficulty. I've always enjoyed that about this series.
    Poor Kaede, but war isn't pretty and that arm could prove to be a fatal hinderance in battle; she basically did get one extremely good power, healing, so I think she's pretty lucky like Pascal said (besides the whole, you know, almost dying bit :P)
    All in all, I think this was a strong chapter and set up for the future chapters. (Even better than the last in my opinion; keep the politics and tactics coming, my brain desires stimulation!)

    Thanks for the chapter!

    1. Aorii Post author

      Honestly, I'm still trying to decide how to take the "Kaede command role" thing, or if it'll even get much screen time this volume (unlikely; there's a lot more I need to squeeze in). She's hardly the 'headstrong alpha' type, nor is she 'crude' or even 'outspoken' which soldiers love in low-ranking officers... After all, there is a big difference between what's needed in a Commanding Officer and a Staff Officer.

      But then, if the calm, reserved, and sensitive Major Winters from the famous Band of Brothers is any indication, one doesn't have to be to command well.

      1. Hachi

        However it plays out is something I look forward to either way.
        There are plenty of instances of generals and great military officers in history that did not quite fit the stereotypical general niche. If anything, it could be argued that introverts or at least thoughtful and calm people make better leaders than those that are firebrands. Looking into a little, I learnt that General Patton was an introvert by nature. (Sorry I don't want to drop names of other military officials without a proper understanding of them; if I haven't studied them I feel I shouldn't use them as examples i.e. Arthur Wellesley)
        All I know is, Kaede's introspective and intelligent nature could play a key role in her unit's(?) survival. This speculation on my part, as the author only you know. So I'll just have to sit tight and wait for whatever you throw at us.

        By pure coincidence, I watched this video:
        I have an unnatural love for personality psychology (I'm an INTP and a Carl Jung fan) so I'm always shifting through videos like that one. Anyway, great leaders come in all different flavors, so I won't rely on simplifying the personality to fit one group or another to determine such things.

        1. Aorii Post author

          It's a great video on the fundamentals. I have to admit I graduated past the Myers–Briggs four-letter types because I find myself too often giving an answer of "it depends" when asked if I'm one letter or the other. I'm firmly an [I]ntrovert and mostly in [T]hinking. But the other Intuition/Sensing and Perception/Judging? Eh, it depends XD
          Whether it's because I've read too much psychology or otherwise, these days I'm more and more drawing the borders between my emotional half and my logical half and gosh, do they react differently and have very different needs.

      2. zog11

        you could base it around kaede skill with archery as competence to help win support (or respect due to actions in last battle) or be as simple as giving her enough authority to overrule the more troublesome new commanders, promotions are often political or for clarity of command, Pascal will be in communication anyway! or she could have a trusted commoner for support or a particular mission that requires her to have more authority. (supplies, scouting, messenger) it depend really on what else you have planed. leadership usually requires respect and competence anything else is secondary also she's senior enough for sub officers. so there is plenty of room for others to have a more direct relationship.


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