Chapter 11 - As God Wills It

After seeing Cecylia off near the command cabin, Kaede left the inner camp for one of the five major dining areas inside the army's tent city. Pascal couldn't squeeze her into the full meeting today, and she had already finished her archery practice this morning. With time on her hands, Kaede decided to check up on the maid Marina instead.

She felt the gazes of men follow her down the main road between battalion campgrounds. Most of them appeared simply curious: her pseudo-uniform was Weichsen enough, especially with the Honorary Lieutenant rank and Knight's Cross; but her hair was clearly not that of a common human. Some stares also took on a more perverse nature, sending a repugnant taste up her throat as though she could feel the dirty thoughts they projected upon her in their minds.

The worst came when she passed by the camp of a battered infantry battalion:

"Heyyyy sweetie!" a drunken soldier called out. "Yer a sight for sore eyes!"

"Wanna to do something fun? Before the next battle kills us all?"

"Come on, you'll enjoy it!" barked a third. "They don't call me Big Jonathan for nothing! I'll make that cute midriff feel even firmer!" He finished before the entire group began laughing.

Unlike the regimented Weichsel forces, Lotharin armies had no military police. Lesser nobles and their armigers took turns patrolling to maintain order with varying degrees of discipline. The female-only Knights Hospitallers were stricter in enforcing regulations, but there were too few of them to keep an eye everywhere.

Kaede could ignore the arrogant, patronizing gazes of aristocrats with ease. But these uncouth heckles shook her self-esteem in ways that made her feel dirty from the inside.

No wonder why most women walk about in flocks, she reflected, desperately wishing for a cloak to cover herself up.

Her scurrying feet soon took her to a major assembly area, where several Hospitallers kept watch and harbored zero tolerance for harassment. In fact, they were keeping order over some sort of recruitment event, as lines of soldiers shuffled forward to sign their names at registration tables.

It didn't make any sense for Kaede: Drafting? But for what? They're already soldiers.

"Hey!" shouted a young logistics lieutenant from one of the registration booths in Lotharin. "Mister! You forgot your pay!"

Standing up from his chair, the officer rushed after the middle-aged soldier who just left his table. He soon caught the trooper by the shoulder and added:

"You forgot your bonus for signing..."

"Don't need it," the man gruffed in a strong accent.

"Then at least leave your family's whereabouts. We'll send it to them, and they'll be taken care of should you..."

"Should I die in the Forlorn Hope?" he looked back with a tired, expectant smile. "I'm counting on it."

A hushing silence rippled outwards from those words, soon halting half of the recruitment booths.

Cold shivers traversed up Kaede's spine as the auto-translation worked its magic. The 'Forlorn Hope' was a Dutch concept that originally meant 'lost troop'. They were essentially volunteer suicide units tasked with extremely low survivability missions, such as the first wave in assaulting a fortress.

In other words, the hundred or so men lined up in this clearing were waiting for their turn to sign their life away.

"But don't you want your family..."

The young lieutenant's voice faded as he looked into the older man's gaze.

Kaede could almost see the hollowed, lifeless sight that reflected off the officer's startled eyes.

"My family are all in Heaven..." the aging soldier uttered. "My wife, my mother, my children... they all died when those demon-worshipers bombarded my town."

The brief silence that followed was stifling. Nobody could speak a word; nobody except those with similar sentiments as they joined in: "me too."

"All I want is to rejoin them," the soldier added as he rebalanced the voulge in his grasp. "If I kill a few damned infidels before I meet the Lord, then all the better."

"Then place your trust in the Holy Father," a serene voice followed.

"Lady Estelle..."

Kaede heard the reverberating echo in the crowd. She saw the heads of devout soldiers bowing in reverence. Every eye among hundreds soon fell upon the newcomer -- a lady flanked by Hospitallers, azure phoenix perched upon her shoulders.

Kaede had always thought that Ariadne looked 'angelic'; but compared to her, Edith-Estellise was nothing less than a goddess.

The Saint and Oriflamme stepped across the open ground as though gliding through tranquil air. Her wavy blond hair grazed just past narrow shoulders as it billowed in the gentle breeze. She appeared to be in her mid-twenties, wearing a benign, Mona Lisa smile that permeated the air with serenity. But the most prominent feature of all was her tender gaze, promising truth and eternity through irises of lapiz and violet.

At a height of one-seventy-one centimeters (5'7"), Lady Estelle's lithe figure stood proud but not imposing. She wore a half-veil draped behind the ears, bearing the white cross on black background of the Hospitallers. Meanwhile her ornate battledress contrasted the silken white over her ample chest to black-bordered cyan fabrics. It extended past her narrow waist belt and down a wide skirt to just above plated knees. The rest of her body remain unarmored, though bands of soft leather embraced her waist, chest, arms, and shoulders, ready to strap on protective steel.

The design held strong similarities to the Princess' own wardrobe, and Kaede puzzled as such rich garments should hardly be affordable for a nun who took knightly vows. It wasn't until later that Kaede discovered the battledress was another gift from Emperor Geoffroi.

Stopping before the middle-aged soldier, the Crusader Saint spoke in a voice that rang clear as the gospel:

"Weep for those whose presence we miss. Embrace our duty with fortitude and faith. But do not bring with you the essence of ruin. You family waits for you in eternal salvation. Should you not meet them as the son, the husband, and the father you once were -- a loving heart clear of hatred?"

"Milady," the middle-aged man bowed in respect, only to be lifted back up by the saint's own hand.

"Remember," Lady Estelle took his wrinkled hand and clasped it between her gentle fingers. "Our own merciful Savior prayed for his enemies as he completed the True Cross. He forgave those who betrayed and condemned him for teaching humankind the grace of magic. It is his example we aspire to -- our lives laid down to defend all that is Holy. But we shall do so without tainting our souls through wrath and hatred."

"Then..." a single tear dropped from the corner of his gaze. "Will I be able to see my family again in Heaven?"

"Yes, when your time comes," the Saint's smile beamed like the gates of Heaven itself. "But do not embrace death too hastily. Perhaps the Holy Father sees even greater joys in your future; and when your life is fulfilled, your soul shall rest with loved ones for eternity."

"Yes," the man squeezed his eyes shut. "Thank you, Milady."

Lady Estelle gave his hand one last squeeze, before standing straight and surveying the silent crowd. Surrounded by a congregation that had swelled to thousands, the Saint and Oriflamme addressed them all:

"Soldiers of Rhin-Lotharingie! I am proud to stand here, among men and women as courageous as you! There is nothing ahead for us to fear -- not when we perform the work of our Lord, virtues that Holy Father has taught!"

With a hand grasping the hilt by her waist, Lady Estelle drew the Sword of Charity. She raised it to the heavens, its sanctified blade gleaming under the late afternoon sun.

"--When the time comes, it shall be my honor to stand beside you, first in line at the river fords. We shall defend this land, this nation, and this people that we love above all! Take heart that even should any of us fall, we shall depart for eternity with a life fulfilled! But until then, fight! Not only for victory, but for a better future, a better world!"

"Father Bless, Lady Estelle!" the men shouted back as they clamored maces against shield, polearms upon ground.

"We'll fight with Your Ladyship until the end!"

Then, someone shouted a phrase in Arcadian from among the crowd.

For a moment, Kaede thought her translation magic malfunctioned. But as the words gained momentum, repeated in chant by countless voices, she came to realize that this must be one of the famed phrases that Pascal knew well.

"Deus Vult! Deus Vult!"

...or, as the history student from Earth whispered its meaning: "God wills it."

In that moment, as Kaede stood watching thousands raise their fists in a sweeping tide of fervor, she came upon a shaking realization:

"This woman could launch a crusade by herself."


...


Later that night, Pascal groaned when he saw the final sign-up count.

The Forlorn Hope was meant to serve as an example -- to inspire the rest of the army by holding the foremost defenses to the last man. Its numbers were never intended to reach more than one thousand. Yet with Edith-Estellise's interference, they ended up receiving nearly three thousand recruits.

The army had barely enough gold in reserve to pay this week's wages. Many nobles also cried poor and expected the crown to subsidize them. But since the pretender Gabriel now controlled the Rhin-Lotharingie treasury and withheld aid to the front-line Oriflammes who did not acknowledge him, the deficiency had to be made good from Pascal's own coffers.

The Forlorn Hope also received more compensation pay than the common soldier, which only further strained the limited funds he brought.

"Idiot Saint", the young lord grumbled. "Should have saved the speech for the battle itself."

 

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

 

"Did you see that?" Kaede spoke, still awed as she met up with Marina ten minutes later, near the edge of the dining tents and obscured by a cluster of pine trees.

"Every person within the kilopace did."

Wiping her freshly washed hands on a white apron, Marina almost chuckled as she eyed her lady's dazed expression. Thankfully, Kaede took only a few moments to recognize the innocuous signal; she then activated a rune on her right forearm to grant the two of them some audio privacy.

"Don't get all starry-eyed yet," the maid half-joked. "You should hear what I found out first. Remember how I've been serving the officers' tables?"

"Hence why the Lotharin army camp is such a security risk with all its servants," Kaede shook her head in disbelief. "Sorry."

"Oh no, you're right, seeing as I already got one Cataliyan agent caught..."

Kaede was aghast: "Don't do anything dangerous!"

"Don't worry about it," Marina smiled back. "All I did was move aside some things and leave their notes in the open. A cook found and reported it."

Nevertheless, the Samaran still wore a scowl on her lips as she continued:

"Just remember that if you get into any trouble, don't hesitate to raise my name so I can bail you out."

The Lady's Maid did have an informal Weichsel uniform of her own, courtesy of Pascal so Kaede could bring her along. However it was always better to directly involve someone of influence.

"Yes, Milady," Marina curtsied in reply, her earnest words admixed with a teasing tone.

"But as I was saying," her expression turned perfectly serious again. "Some of the officers have been making some pointed statements towards the Princess: that she's cold, or callous, or simply unfit for her duty. Her harsh words towards Lady Estelle seem to grow worse with every rumor, and none of the men are taking it kindly."

"I can imagine," Kaede stated simply, trying hard to avoid think about whether or not she agreed.

"But here's the intriguing part," Marina continued. "Whenever a group of battalion commanders or above spoke of this long enough, there was a good chance they would be pulled aside for a more... private conversation elsewhere."

The Samaran girl stared back, her gaze fishing for answers.

"I can't tell you what those private conversations are," the maid shrugged. "But I've seen it enough times to doubt it's just a coincidence."

"You think... they're plotting against the Princess?"

"With that many unit commanders? I think we're looking at a coup in the making."

This statement reduced the familiar girl to silent gawking. Kaede wasn't sure what to say.

"Not a very concealed coup though," Marina added. "Whomever organizing this is clearly out of their element. But that doesn't make this any less dangerous when the Saint has such monumental support from the soldiers. There's also a chance that some ambitious lord is trying to take advantage of her name -- bit foolish given the strength of her conviction. He'd have to be speaking through her dreams as the savior himself to convince her to follow a tune that she doesn't believe in."

"With all that in mind," the maid concluded. "I think it would be extremely dangerous for us to not consider her as a main actor in this scheme."

"Let me get this straight," Kaede uttered. "You believe that Saint Estelle is the one trying to backstab the Princess?"

"Makes you wonder how 'saintly' she really is, doesn't it?"

In some ways, Kaede could even agree with the schemers. A military coup d'état was betrayal of the highest order, but it could also save a nation from the whims of a mentally unstable ruler. In the eyes of history, the only difference between 'traitor' and 'revolutionary' was whether or not they ultimately succeeded.

But where would that leave her?

Kaede's life was bonded to Pascal's, whose own loyalties had been decided for him by his father. If a coup against the Princess did happen, there was no doubt he would be knifed down as a priority target. What did average military officers -- let alone religious fanatics -- care for diplomatic repercussions? Kill first and apologize later.

Does either of us have any choice, in the end?

Perhaps... Kaede thought, if the Princess no longer existed.

Only then would she be free to live a quiet life with Pascal, until an opportunity to return home came, if ever.

Coldness crept up from Kaede's fingers as she faced her own inclinations.

Was it selfishness? Was her prior 'forgiveness' just a cover for the ugly longing of retribution? Would she do nothing and only try to keep Pascal out of the danger, even if it meant ruin for Sylviane?

For better or for worse, Kaede had grown to know Sylviane on an individual level. The Princess was no longer just some distant political figure who happened to be engaged to Kaede's master.

But what would my life be like if I have to worry about the Princess' mood at every moment? Uneasy over my every step, fearful over every change of face?

Kaede wasn't sure she could live like that.

"Milady?" Marina's concern broke the silence.

Drawing a deep breathe, the Samaran girl braced against her shivers:

"I'll take care of this Marina. I don't know how yet, but... I'll take care of it."


...


Kaede's thoughts remained in conflict as she walked back towards the innermost camp. She had been so preoccupied that she entirely missed the first call in her name.

"--Kaede!"

It finally registered as she turned back around. The source was easy to identify -- a cloaked and hooded girl walking up in a brisk pace, one hand waving in good cheer.

She was also flanked by two Lotharin armigers, whose alertness marked them as not just entourage but bodyguards.

"Yes?"

The familiar girl was mystified. Who else among the Rhin-Lotharingie aristocracy knew her by name?

But as the newcomer's hood came off, Kaede could feel her jaw striking ground in astonishment. It escalated to outright paralysis as the other girl gave her a tight hug.

"You're just as small and cute as Syls says," the girl added before covering her mouth to giggle.

 

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

 

Cecylia entered the cabin and found Sylviane in a dreadful state.

The Princess sat in her bed, still dressed in her silken negligee. Her hair was a mess, and her empty gaze almost despondent. It rose sharply as Cecylia stepped in, only to fall back to the comforter without any reaction.

A silent exchange between the dhampir and the royal maid who sat in the corner spoke it all:

This is terrible.

"You're not even going to tell me to leave?" Cecylia tried to inject some humor as she sat down at the edge of the bed.

"...What's the point?" Sylviane's dry voice cracked. "You never listen."

Cecylia felt the Princess' cold hand as she took it into her fingers.

"I've heard the story already," she began slowly. "So you had a shouting match, and you did some awful things. Brew storm in a teacup, Sylv. Which couple doesn't get into a fight every once so often?"

Tightening her fingers, Sylviane just barely whispered:

"You don't understand..."

"Sure, I don't," Cecylia pursed her lips and nodded. "I had forgotten how special it must feel, to shoulder all the guilt and blame like some tragic heroine."

Her bitter memories of the past resurfaced once more.

"Remember when I told you about my dear older sister? All my life, she cared and treated for me. Yet on her last night home, I just had to betray her expectations and side against her.

"We never did have a chance to make up," Cecylia muttered sadly. "But you're not like me -- you still have a chance."

Nevertheless, as the seconds lingered on, the Princess remained silent.

"You realize you're only making Pascal's life harder by doing this, right?" Cecylia reminded. "He's out there, trying to make up for your absence by working himself to exhaustion. While you're here... what are you doing here?"

"...He shouldn't bother," the response came dark and simple.

"But that's the point -- he is bothering!" Cecylia insisted. "He's not trying to wash his hands of you, or sit there glooming over your marriage, or even doubting his shared goals with you. No, he is out there, trying to save your crown, your life for you!

"Please don't tell me you're just going to throw it all away?"

The Princess' shoulders quivered as she heard Cecylia's pleading.

"W-wouldn't it be better for him, for everyone... if I did?"

"Shouldn't that be his decision?" Cecylia pointed out. "Pascal knows exactly how to weigh his options, and his choice has always been to stay true to you."

...Even if he's terrible at overcoming his pride at times, she thought back to their conversation just minutes ago.

"But now he won't even see me!" Sylviane raised her wisteria gaze at last, pupils red and dry from over a day of crying. "And why wouldn't he hate me!? I'm the one who ruined everything!"

Cecylia's heart melted as she exchanged looks with her bosom friend -- a royal princess reduced to little more than a lost child. Embracing Sylviane with both arms, she pulled the depressed girl into a tight hug.

"Of course he does not hate you, you silly," she added softly. "Pascal might blame you for a thing or two. But after everything you've been through together -- there is no way he could hate you."


...


It took nearly an hour before Cecylia left the royal cabin.

Her words "the rest I leave up to you" still rang in Pascal's ears as he took a deep breath and carefully sat down facing Sylviane.

"Sylv... I am sorry," he began earnestly. "I..."

"Y-you can be straight with me, Pascal," Sylviane interjected before sniffing her stuffy nose. "I'll understand... if you're still angry with me... if you want to break..."

"What? No--!"

The apology he had spent the past hour rehearsing came apart in seconds.

"I am not angry with you," he blurted out immediately. "Well... maybe some, but--!"

A sigh followed before he looked intently at her, or at least, the plum-colored mop that covered her dejection.

With gentle fingers, he reached over to lift her chin back up, until his gaze could meet her wisteria eyes once more.

The redness, the baggy shadows, they were even worse than last time. Eying the dull sight that gazed back at him, Pascal couldn't help but feel his heart crumble.

"I want you to understand Sylv. I definitely do not want any changes to our relationship; at least, not unless it involves a trip to the altar."

He could see the moisture returning to her glistening eyes, threatening to overflow once more if only she had enough tears left remaining.

"W-why?" Sylviane just barely whispered, as though any louder and the illusion would shatter.

"Why would you? When I've shown you nothing but malice and ingratitude..."

"Now you are being unfair to yourself, Sylv," Pascal twisted his lips.

What else could he say to that? When Sylviane didn't even want his forgiveness because she believed herself unworthy of it?

"Just... talk to her, earnestly," Cecylia's earlier words urged him to continue.

Pascal swallowed.

"Did I feel wronged by what had happened? Yes, I did," he admitted, thinking back to emotions that had ceaselessly plagued him until just an hour ago, perhaps even mere minutes ago.

"I thought it was grossly unfair, unjust, that I should be treated like a criminal, when all I had done, all my intentions were only of helping you. But... you know what, Sylv? If you had unilaterally forced a decision on me by knocking me out, I would be angry too, especially if I had a royal image to maintain before an entire empire."

Pascal then paused to take a deep inhale, closing his eyes for a brief moment as he grappled to wrestle out the truth:

"I am not one of those hypocritical men who believe only the husband has a right to fury, Sylv... You had every reason to be angry at me when you first woke up. I do not regret doing what I had to do to stop you from going ballistic on the hill that day. But by the same token, I also have no right to complain if you threw a few barbed words at me afterwards.

"Of course, that is not to say that you are faultless either," he took her hands into his own while returning a wry smile. "What it does mean though -- is that we are both at fault. In fact, all three of us are at fault, since Kaede is in this also. But at the same time, all three of us are also victims of circumstance here."

"I'm sorry," Sylviane uttered, her remorse beyond sincere and reaching towards bleakness. "I'm sorry for what I did... to the both of you."

"Perhaps then you can stop blaming only yourself, because it is not helping much more than when you blamed only me," Pascal took a deep exhale, "only then... can we talk about this like rational people, like future husband and wife, and decide what we can do about this in the future.

"Because let us face it," Pascal's lopsided smile expanded to a grin as he stroke her hair lovingly. "I may not be one to talk, but you have a terrible temper -- at least in the wrong moment."

Of course, Sylviane didn't smile back. It wasn't that easy. But at least a semblance of her normal alertness had returned to that watery gaze as she gave a tiny nod, finally acknowledging that together, they still had a road forward.

One step at a time, Pascal thought to himself as he pulled his fiancée in, almost crushing her fragile shoulders between his arms.


...


Meanwhile, outside the cabin, Cecylia turned to the remaining figure who had been on guard: Sir Robert.

"Not that I'm doubting Pascal... but I feel like we need something more substantial than words alone. She's so down and out of it that it's difficult to convince her of anything positive."

"I sent message to Lady Vivienne last night," the handsome armiger nodded. "She had another meeting with Queen Katell's commanders in Roazhon this afternoon, but she should be here soon."

"Vivienne?" Cecylia raised her eyebrows.

She has heard of the name many times before. Vivienne was a singer and violist who caught the young Princess' eye through not only her music, but her adorable cuteness. Cecylia once joked that the girl was Sylv's 'snuggle toy'. But such impressions also represented the veil of deception around this unknown figure.

Vivienne was the youngest of the Oriflamme Paladins, but even the Weichsel Black Eagles were completely in the dark on what the girl was capable of.

"I can't explain how she does it," Sir Robert gave a clueless look. "But if there's anyone who can give Her Highness a euphoria spike to overcome the post-mania depression spiral, it's her."

Cecylia stared back in thought.

"You're talking about enchantment magic?"

"Well, yes," Sir Robert nodded back "We need some way of exciting her happiness nerves, and a controlled enchantment spell is much preferable to substances like Opium." Then, with a teasing smile: "Of course, this would be much easier if His Grace was already married to Her Highness."

There was no reply. The dhampir simply gawked back at the armiger in disbelief for implying that 'make-up sex' was an effective treatment for depression.

 

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

 

Kaede was still staring as Vivienne Máiréad Tromp de Winter barged into the royal cabin without even a knock, leading the familiar girl in tow with Sir Robert following behind to close the door.

The Samaran had met Vivienne on the way back, when the girl called out to her. But what had stunned her then continued its work even now, as Vivienne released Kaede's fingers at last, propping hand on waist to give Pascal a tilted stare.

"May I?"

The Landgrave seemed uncertain about the sudden interruption. But he nevertheless stood from his fiancée's bed, clearly putting his trust in the small girl.

"Hello Syls," the newcomer sat down next to the Princess and pulled her in.

Backing to the wall, Kaede watched as the Princess laid her cheeks upon the silky long fluff draped over Vivienne's shoulder.

The girl... could almost pass for Kaede's twin sister.

At one-fifty-seven centimeters (5'2"), the two of them were equal in height and size alike. They looked exactly the same from their modest bust to the curvature of their waist. Even their small, cute noses, soft cheeks, and porcelain-pale skin seemed identical.

This can't be a coincidence.

Kaede had no doubt about it: Vivienne was the model that Pascal envisioned when he summoned Kaede into her new body. It even explained some of the odder-than-usual looks she received when several of Sylviane's armigers first met her.

But whereas Kaede had creamy-white hair and rose-quartz eyes, Vivienne had a sapphire gaze beneath the long, silver-white hair that reached past her hips. Whereas Kaede wore a black-on-white pseudo-uniform reminiscent of Weichsel forces, Vivienne sat in a frilly, tiered-skirt dress in ivory, cyan, and pink; her shoulders bared beneath thin straps had it not been for her rabbit-fur cloak.

Perhaps most of all, whereas Kaede absorbed the world around her through wide open lenses, Vivienne's gaze remained only two-thirds open -- her lowered eyelids combined with a wily, knowing smile gave the impression that she was always planning something.

Well, she is a winterborn, Kaede thought, remembering her mistaken first impression that Vivienne's white hair meant she must be Samaran.

The Faekissed Winterborn are known for their sharp intelligence and cunning, but not so much for their empathy. That didn't mean they were socially awkward though, as even sociopaths were known to be diplomatic and charming.

Now I'm just being fae-racist...

After all, Vivienne did summon a phoenix for her familiar, even if the bird wasn't around at the moment.

"Vivi--" the Princess muttered back, her gaze still depressed towards the comforter.

"Shhhh," the shorter girl reached over. With one hand she stroked Sylviane's long hair, with the other she lightly brushed one finger across the lips of royalty.

"You can talk later, Syls. But for now, I want you to listen to me. Listen, to my voice, this voice, and only this..."

Vivienne closed her eyes as she spoke gently, her soft words brushed through the cabin air like poetic melody.

"--Forget our world, our anxiety through history.

"--Seek my call, and I shall set you free from worry..."

Her cadence rose with every verse; her chant seamlessly transforming into lyrical song. The gentle notes that danced across the air soon grew into a hypnotic lullaby, an innocent, maternal call to relieve a troubled child.

Yet amidst the beautiful performance, ether streamed from between those small lips to enshroud the air. Within just minutes, not only the Princess had drooped into a tranquil daze, but even Kaede herself began to feel entranced.

There was a mesmerizing quality to Vivienne's singing voice, one that enraptured the senses as though all else ceased to matter.

Kaede hardly even noticed when Sir Robert stepped up and shook Pascal:

"We need to leave. It won't be appropriate for us to stay."

The Landgrave was somewhat dazed himself. He merely nodded before being half-dragged out, leaving only four girls inside.

As the minutes passed, the Princess's entire body soon slouched to a complete relaxation. The dim light in her eyes seemed to freeze solid, and at last Vivienne spread a satisfied smile.

"It is all going to be fine, Syls," she continued to stroke Sylviane's hair. "Everything has passed. Everything is forgiven. Now... you must forgive yourself. You must look ahead, to tomorrow, to the future..."

"You still have a conflict to win, an empire to save, a life to live before you."

A slow, faint nod emerged from Sylviane, like a puppet on strings as she remained under the enchantment.

...Even Kaede couldn't help but feel the urge to nod along.

"Now..." Vivienne sported a playful smile as her face leaned into Sylviane's. Their noses stayed almost touching even after a quick kiss.

The Princess' eyes snapped back in a second. But rather than alert, they still seemed entranced in the moment.

"Gulu gulu," Vivienne whispered as her fingers caressed down to Sylviane' waist, eliciting a sharp gasp and a pinkish scarlet to flush through both royal cheeks in an instant.

It wasn't just a physical tease either. Kaede had sensed how Vivienne's magic harmonized with Sylviane's through the chant -- their auras melded like two water droplets meeting, instead of the mutual repulsion normally seen between different ether sources. Now, with those fingers as the channel, yet more of Vivienne's ether pushed into Sylviane as a spell catalyst.

"...Wait," a bare whisper emerged in resistance. "Wait... not--ahhh."

It was over in just an instant: a magical pulse erupted from deep within Sylviane as the spell bloomed.

The Princess shut her eyes as her entire body trembled. Her arms quivered as her thighs squeezed tight against the bedcovers. Meanwhile, Vivienne's hands moved back up to hold her close, curling around her shoulders and waist before gently stroking her rich plum hair.

Kaede watched, speechless, as they sat like that for nearly a minute while the aftershocks subsided.

"Purr for me?"

Vivienne was still grinning as Sylviane reopened her glazed eyes. Her mouth still hanged ajar as her ragged breathing slowly calmed.

"Hhhhyyyyyyyee...?"

"Mewl for me then."

"Mmewwwwwwwww..."

"Good girl," Vivienne added as she stroked Sylviane's hair and gave the flushed princess a forehead kiss.

What the heck... just happened...

Pascal had told Kaede that Vivienne was not just a close friend, but also a 'snuggle toy' of sorts to Sylviane. But from her vantage point, it felt more like the Princess herself was the tamed kitten, purring in her master's toying arms.

Kaede barely managed to steer her gawking towards Mari. The Lady's Maid herself looked oddly satisfied as she shrugged back towards the familiar.

Meanwhile, Vivienne had began to sing once more. A slow, soothing melody, with barely a trace of ether laced into its tune this time.

Did she just... the Samaran's lips silently worded.

She receive a simple, smiling nod in return.

To a princess no less... are you KIDDING me!?


...


Outside the cabin, Pascal had come to a similar conclusion. It didn't even take that much deduction, between what Sir Robert said and the incredulity now trickling across the familiar bond.

"Why did you ask me to leave?"

"Because no man other than a husband should ever see a maiden..." Robert's own cheeks flushed as his tone dropped to sheepish: "Doing what Vivienne is making her do."

Pascal simply stared back. Then:

"I am her future husband."

"Future," came the retort. "Not yet. You still have to follow the rules just like the rest of us."

That only made Pascal roll his eyes and look away.

A moment passed before Robert leaned in:

"You're not jealous?"

"She is with Vivi," Pascal emphasized. "If I get envious every time Sylv coddles a cute girl... or vice versa, I would have no end of it."

"Besides..." he added begrudgingly. "It is just a treatment."

"But..."

Robert then trailed off, clearly thinking better of it.

Another awkward moment passed between the two men before Pascal spoke again:

"How does Vivienne do that? Sylv may be depressed, but she is also fully rested. I would not have a snowball's chance in hell to break through her ether resistance."

This time, the armiger shrugged back.

"The Holy Father saw it fit to grant Vivienne the rare gift of Fae Concordance Magic, and through it she executes his will."

Robert tilted his head, his expression lit by a faint sarcasm-tinged smirk as he faced the Landgrave:

"Why should we complain if it makes our lives easier?"


...


Meanwhile in her unlit cabin, Cecylia von Falkenhausen smiled to herself as she pondered over the latest discovery, made available by just a few careless words spoken in public.

Laying still in the darkness with her eyes closed, her senses tapped into all nine of Ania's forms. The matryoshka cat familiar kept watch throughout the Lotharin camp: some of them stalked important leaders from the shadows, others stayed hidden in perfect eavesdropping locations. There was even one who guarded dark corridors that she found ideal for covert infiltration use.

...And it was the last one who detected movement: a faint blur entering her sight revealed that someone else had just overheard the same conversation, and was now departing with that information.

Cecylia's eyes sprang open as she bolted up from her bed. The darkness inside her cabin didn't bother her. Her dhampir blood had inherited the best dark-vision of all Hyperion races.

"Ania two, three, nine," she commanded three of the cats within vicinity of the royal cabin. "Track him."

Her hands checked both forearms as she raced out the door. It would be bad if she flexed her wrists later and no concealed blade ejected to gut her enemy.

Only I'm allowed to spy on Sylv, you little weasel.


...


The Anias soon followed the intruder to a dark corner between two cabins.

Viewing through the eyes of her smallest kitten, Cecylia noticed that her mark was fiddling with some contraption just behind the waist. The space surrounding it was pitch, utterly black, as though even the dim moonlight was being absorbed.

Furthermore, the field was expanding...

It was possible one of her cats spooked the target, who was preparing to escape even as she watched.

Calling for security was no longer an option. But Cecylia's own martial arts were abysmal; the element of surprise was all she could rely on.

Telekinetic Surge, her finger detached the lock to her spring-loaded wrist-blade as her magic imbued it.

Her one chance relied on the target not having anti-projectile Repulsion wards, which radiated a defensive aura and were hard to conceal.

Here goes nothing, she tongued her tiny fang, before springing out around the corner and flinging her arm forth.

A well-timed flick of her wrist sent the undersized dagger soaring towards its target at the speed of sound.

A faint, feminine gasp returned as the blade grazed her arm, cutting forearm straps along the way and dropping a device onto the ground.

The figure took one alarmed stare before her fingers jerked. Her body then vanished in a burst of shadowy smoke that drifted airborne before being carried off by a gentle breeze.

Wind Walk variant, Cecylia pursed her lips as she examined the direction of departure. There had to be a hole in the inner camp wards if the target could enter and depart this way undetected.

But in the meantime, she stepped up and picked up the gadget left behind.

It was a tiny, folding crossbow, designed for concealment in the sleeves. There was a three-bolt 'magazine' set into the groove, loaded with poison-tipped bolts the size of overgrown nails.

The weapon was certain. But the intent?

Cecylia stood confused as she gazed back up to the starry sky.

What's a Samaran Shadow Guard doing here?

 

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53 thoughts on “Chapter 11 - As God Wills It

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  1. Ebisu

    Oh some parts were changed. I understand the song getting changed because of copyrights, but why was the part about Kaede getting aroused because of their bonding changed to simple incredulity? Even the title is no longer "Divine Excitation". It didn't speak ill of Kaede who is still a a teenager and that was quite a natural body reaction given the previous saturation of ether in the room, possible aftereffect on the mind and the show she was being witness to.
    Any reason for the censorship? (I'm tempted to say: shame on you, how you dare!)

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      I edited the crap out of this chapter since I wasn't satisfied with it.
      People kept misunderstanding the Vivi-Sylv scene, so I clarified it by highlighting its shortness. Since everything happened so abrupt, I figured it made less sense for Kaede to get aroused by watching (and that was another thing that was causing more understandings than doing any useful characterization... so I figured it wasn't worth it).
      I didn't like the chapter name much... so I took one of the original chapter names ("Deus Vult") and started twisting it (shrug).

      Reply
      1. Ebisu

        Scenes are often interpreted in different ways by different people. Seeing both Kaede and Pascal getting aroused while watching the therapy session was a funny part of the chapter. From my point of view that little part was useful characterization. It clearly showed the man inside Kaede is still very alive, but maybe that's unimportant. It's part of the gender bender theme.

        If you are satisfied with the current version, I won't say anything more. The scene is indeed easier to understand now. ;)

        (For x reason, I opened the site to check exactly that part, but found out it had been cut out by a ninja edit, sorry if I overreacted... Surname changed spotted.)

        Reply
  2. PaulusAlone

    Mmm....I have been quite a fan of the story so far...but (that inevitable but) with some of the melodramatic psychobbable tacked on to Sylv (one of my favourite characters) in recent chapters, it rather feels like a random bag of mental problems just got dropped onto her backstory to make her more 'interesting' in a Game of Thrones type of way?
    I don't think Princess Sylviane needed the whole bi-polar thing added because the stress of her life and outright dangerous upbringing would make her personality twisted like that anyways. Thus the lack of self esteem, the bulimia and jealousy issues she already had! And that's what I liked about her character, she was flawed but was still struggling to stand up - All damaged, feisty and proud...a modernistic heroine if you will?
    However, we have now had her 'mental illness' dumped on her like a bag of spanners and used as a lame 'crutch' to allow her to abuse Kaede in a rather appalling (and horribly predictable way that I've been dreading since that 'almost rape scene' between them) AND then turn her into a gibbering, tear stained, mascara running cliché, fresh from a daytime soap opera?
    In reality I fear she wouldn't have lasted two minutes in the situations she has already found herself in...not with this kind of mental illness and the sudden massive breakdown episodes like these! Her judgement would be horrifically compromised.
    And then, if that's not enough, we get another obvious yuri trope dropped in with this Viviene character, who suddenly barges in and reveals some kind of shocking and orgasmic Svengali like control over my fave Oriflamme Princess! Thus making her look an even sadder sack than the previous chapter did...and possibly making her a mind controlled puppet to boot?
    Oh man~ you're killing me here! She has been turned into a broken character now.
    Is she gonna be "relying on the kindness of strangers" next? Like a fantasy world version of Blanche Dubois?
    Not to mention that slightly creepy fanservice scene of her apparently getting magically masturbated (?) by this Viviene in an obvious appeal to the Yuri Loli Loving (try saying that fast?) fanbase; which felt VERY awkward interjecting into the scene between Pascal and her.
    I don't know how to say it exactly, but it feels like Princess Sylviane has just gone from being someone difficult but real; a kind of admirable (if not outright loveable) character that you root for...into becoming a Britney Spears type of high maintenance Diva and Pro-Nutjob!
    Sigh~
    Give me back my Oriflamme Princess!
    On top of which the main protagonist Kaede (the male soul inside the female familiar form) is now becoming such a passive victim and general doormat that it's hard to believe he was ever acquainted with testosterone in the first place! He seems more and more a classic Disneyesque imprisoned heroine - Passively waiting for 'her' prince to come rescue her (possibly his/her childhood friend from Earth maybe?) as she deals with being the familiar of an aristocrat and the day to day 'woman trouble' of period pains and avoiding getting beaten and/or raped by Princess Sylv in her Darth Sylviane mode !
    Kaede at the moment seems more of a cipher than a real human being - What happened to that feisty interplay between her and Pascal from the earlier chapters?
    I guess I'm saying I thought it was better and had a much more a unique personal take in the earlier chapters?
    The politics, military battles and world building are still great...but the characters are starting to follow more of the generic mainstream tropes already flogged to near death in other web novels etc.
    It's still a cracking read though and I wish the author well with it - And of course if these last few chapters are just setting something up dramatically for the future then feel free to ignore these comments!
    I ain't no writer after all.
    PS. Just please just don't make Princess Sylviane a magically controlled tool of Hyperion's Illuminati led New World Order? My heart can't take anymore...lol

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Psychobabble? lol. It'd be fair for people to accuse me of putting too much psychology in, but nobody has ever accused me of spewing psycho-nonsense, since that I like making friends with psychology majors and love reading about the topic myself.

      So the thing is... psychological issues tend to compound, and childhood insecurity (especially a lack of / wrong kind of adult attention) is easily the number one contributor to all adult psychological problems. Most of Sylv's issues are self-escalating. Her bulimia is actually a sign... I forgot the figures, but for somewhere between 75% to 90% of bulimia suffers, the bulimia is actually a "secondary effect" of a stronger psychological disorder (most commonly chronic depression). A lot of the buildup since the middle of volume 2 has been steadily peeling back the layers of Sylv's issues to reach her core (much like what a psychiatrist must do), and the recent chapters have hit its lowest spot. To be fair -- if you weren't worried about Sylv's character/future at this point, I'd feel like I wasn't doing my job.

      The real question is "if/how do they recover from it." 'Read on' is kind of a lame thing for the author to say but, that's all I can say.

      As for Kaede... hopefully the next chapter might explain (and it's probably my fault that this hasn't been getting across; may need more edits on last few chapters). Sylviane is something to her that Pascal never was: scary.
      Feisty is fine and all, but at some point you cross the line into stupid, and that she is not.

      P.S. Vivienne did not 'masturbate' Sylv; she outright triggered an orgasm to flood the body with endorphins and other 'feel-good' neurotransmitters which, when you get down to it, is the aim of all anti-depression routines/drugs.

      Reply
      1. PaulusAlone

        Ah~ Well, "psychobabble" was a little harsh maybe? I simply have my own opinion that 'psychology' was mainly created to manufacture excuses for people who basically crack up trying to live and adapt to a MAD world system! Based on the view that our life or rather our life in our 'supposedly civilised' society is built on a murderous and treacherous pyramid control system that allows the few to control the many through fear, greed and debt slavery (while also suicidally destroying our own habitat) IS by definition, psychopathic!?
        I think every child has that growing realisation when young; that realisation that the adult world is stupid, cruel and unjust?
        And therefore anyone who CAN adapt successfully to that world model is, by definition, probably also somewhat psychopathic themselves! I know it's a fact that about 1 in every thousand people is psychopathic and yet they often hold high positions in military and political life...thus our 'modern' world.
        And so getting back to Princess Sylviane, I kinda think that her reactions and psychological damage are pretty much natural for a normal person brought face to face with the treacherous murder of her parents and siblings, her own childhood abduction, and the robbing of her childhood that this led to - Plus the guilt of killing and causing the deaths of both her friends and enemies in battle and elsewhere. I do understand your desire to give it a more modern 'scientific' terminology...but you could have simply said 'aristocratic feudal life' happened to her...?
        Nah~ Just kidding! I see your point now...at least I think I do? And if this is part of Sylv's journey to hit rock bottom and start her way back upward to a more grounded existence, then I'm all for it. Likewise with the rather dysfunctional dynamic between Kaede, Pascal and Sylviane - Looking forward to seeing where you take it next!
        I will trust in your advice to "Read on" as the author!
        I guess it was the shock of seeing that completely shattering breakdown happen to one of my favourite characters and the worry that she's gonna become a flaky (Hollywood Rehab) kind of character in the future?
        But kudos to your writing skill for getting me that personally invested in her character! You got me hook line and sinker... And don't worry, I'm not gonna go all Stephen King's 'Misery' on you...kekeke...No, really!
        And on the subject of shocks, I admit to having a "WUT JUZ HAPPENED?" brain freeze on the sudden arrival of Kaede lookalike Vivienne and her swift administration of a therapeutic magical 'orgasm' as you kindly explained it? I see your point logically now, endorphins and everything...good antidepressant properties...yeah...so I guess it was actually MY mind that was in the gutter here? lol
        Oh boy, I really needed my hot cocoa after that one!
        Anyways~ Thanks for the reply and clearing some things up for me, err...'Sensei' would be the correct term here, I think?
        Looking forward to your future hard work, but do stay healthy of course!
        Respect due Sensei ! ^^

        Reply
      2. Heireau

        I was kind of surprised to see the peak of the hypomania since it resembled a lot of what a BPD afflicted friends' outbursts sounded like
        and so is all the avoidance with fear in all associated parties
        It's sort of nice to see it actually being represented instead of seeing her just turn into a villain because a simplistic writer preferred black/white morality or had protaganist fix everything with magical willpower

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          oh magical willpower... I was catching up with Re:Zero last night when I couldn't stop rolling my eyes at how an extended pep-talk easily solved the MC's trauma from being killed again and again. Like, wow, if it were that simple, we wouldn't have soldiers suffering from PTSD anymore.

          What really offends me is the fact that these misconceptions -- that someone could just "get over" their depression or trauma (or, in cases like BPD, failed parenting) -- is what causes society to misunderstand the people who do suffer from psychological issues and actually need help from medical professionals alongside proper support from their friends and family.

          Reply
  3. Gus

    I know this has been said a lot, but i am a fair believer of delivering praise when it is deserved. This is an amazing story so far. I have never been a fan of gender bender-like novels manga because of the whole response the MC gives to the general situation, making him quickly fall into the two tropes of "im manly not girly" or the polar opppsite.
    That being said, it is quite obvious the amount of research put behind every name, decision and behavior. I especially enjoy the magic system, it also makes it special that you make it thar magic advanced with technology, while it could have been far easier to fall in the usual " a thousand years ago we fought orcs with fireballs and spears... and so it is today" that many popular franchises fall into, like Lord of the rings and Dark Souls to mention a few.
    I also love how you do not fall into the OP MC that so many authors do, because it invites to not developing the character
    The only thing i have an issue with, and i try to make this as constructive as possible, is that, I feel you have some characters you like and somehow don't end up killing them where it could have escalated to some serious feels. The best example i can think of is in Vol2 where Reynald kills the Stormlord and lives another day because he was rescued by the colonel (excuse my forgetfulness, there are so many characters) rescue him, making it feel somewhat a Deus ex Machina, again thats my opinion.
    I really hope to continue reading more of your work, no matter the release if it is the same quality

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      First, thank you for your detailed thoughts, they're always helpful, plus I am glad you're enjoying the series thus far ^^

      Second, let me reassure you that major characters will get killed... when it's time for it. I'm not in the habit of killing characters purely for spectacle (which seems to be the trend since Game of Thrones), so their survival vs death is something I carefully weigh. I specifically wrote a close-call for Reynald vs Vintersvend to show the importance of military mutual support (just like Kaede saving Ariadne).

      There'll be lost battles eventually... where casualty counts will truly skyrocket.

      Reply
    2. LovelyLunarLunacy

      I feel I have to jump in here to the defence of Dark Souls. I would defend Lord of the Rings too but that's iconic high-fantasy, not really defensible, furthermore I don't know much about it. Given that the very theme of Dark Souls is that existence is cyclical and repetitive, the advancement of technology and magic tends not to play a major theme. Dying over and over again, the ages of Fire and Dark eventually following one another despite how people attempt to change it, civilisations rising and falling. All elements of the story create a feeling of an unchanging reality that the player as their character tests their willpower and determination against, eventually attaining a small, temporary victory that ultimately changes little. Dark Souls also never really comes into contact with civilisation in progress, rather simply showing the remains of countless civilisations prior, building themselves over the old and in turn fading into ruin. Showing the notion of individual civilisations being transient in nature.

      Secondly, though there is plenty of magic in Dark Souls, the potential applications of such are rather limited, the nature of magic likely differing in the sense that Daybreak has a 'magic-can-do-anything' vibe because of how magic works in this setting. Mages in Dark Souls use 'Soul Arts' mostly in a combat capacity, it is likely that using this system for wide and varied things like making sweat disappear or telepathy is fine control not possible. Even if it were, we wouldn't see it, I mean, in a game featuring combat the more mundane and everyday applications of magic aren't likely to be the focus. The imbuing of weapons with power is reliant upon rare resources, and embers, so widespread enchantment is also not really a thing for Dark Souls.

      As for advancing magic itself, I believe both Dark Souls and Daybreak have the whole 'it was better in the old days' thing going on. In Dark Souls, certain systems of spells, like miracles and pyromancy, are stronger the closer to their original they are. Miracles in Dark Souls tending to be watered down for the average cleric because of them having been warped and changed in retelling after retelling. For magic in Dark Souls I'm unsure, but the only major advancement I can think of is crystalline magic created by Seath, and knowledge of that has been sitting in the Anor Londo / Drangleic / No Man's Land since its creation. Possibly Oolacile sorcery in illusion and distorting light could be construed as advancement, yet Oolacile was destroyed long before even the first Dark Souls. In Daybreak, people just lost the knowledge of travelling to different worlds to the passage of time. Earlier on, I think, Pascal mentions world-travelling to be a mythical magic, seemingly implying that there were a number of other powerful magics that humans let slip out of their hands after the dragons left. Another being the case of Sylv's armour, better than armour made by modern magic, yet created a long time ago by the Fae and their 'Wild Magic' which has also been largely lost . Vivi putting a bit of a question mark there as to exactly how much is remembered with the Fae-stuff she can do.

      As for Reynald being saved, it made sense to me even if the impression was a bit 'Deus Ex Machina'. The battle was ending, Weichsel had routed the enemy and they were scrambling to retreat. It makes sense that there would be people other than Reynald who would charge in to capture the enemy commander, even if Reynald charged in by himself a little time before their arrival. If Reynald pulled the same thing before the rest of the Phantoms came in to cripple the flying whales and routed the enemy yet still got rescued by the Weichsel colonel then it'd be a lot more unbelievable.

      I will admit though, the advancement of magical technology in place of scientific technology to a similar degree as our own world in 'relatively' recent history is a rather unique concept, or at least one I've not read about before.

      In short, I like Dark Souls -- I also like Daybreak.

      Reply
      1. AoriiAorii Post author

        To explain a few things... mostly about Daybreak (I know nothing about Dark Souls xD)

        "Mages in [setting] use [magic] mostly in a combat capacity" -- to be fair, mages in most fantasy world seems to only use spells in a combat/plot device capacity. I always find it amazing; it's like, you can create megawatts of power in your bare hands and you never consider harnessing it for industrial/commercial ends? Imagine how fast construction/blacksmithing can be done with even simple magic spells; or how you can streamline communications (the lifeblood of governance) or transportation; or...

        Lord of the Rings actually has good reason for its tech level; from what little I know, their world is kind of in a 'dark age' stage, where their own "Roman Empire" fell in the previous era. So now all of a sudden the good and honorable 'men of the west' (Christendom) is now under attack by the evil easterlings (Mongols) and southrons (Muslims)... yeah, it's racist as all hell.

        'Lost magic' doesn't exactly describe Daybreak, because most of the magic types that were lost never belonged to or were used by humans. They were lost because whatever race that used them (the faerie lords or the dragonlords) left, taking what they knew with them. Some of them left knowledge behind (the dragonlord hyperion teaching basic magical arts to humans); some merely left behind artifacts and ruins as their legacy.

        The world-walker were touched on in the vol3 prologue. It's not their art is forgotten so much as they stopped interacting with humanity on the same level... it's similar to a concept scifi uses often: that those enlightened (by technology or, here, by magic / knowledge of the universe) don't share it with those who aren't knowledgeable/wise enough to handle it on their own... since there are catastrophic consequences to giving people more power than they're prepared to handle.

        Reply
        1. LovelyLunarLunacy

          Ah, the first point you address I was musing about Dark Souls alone, which is an RPG with combat as its main focus. It's unlikely that a game with combat as its focus is going to show or highlight the more everyday applications of magic. This is compounded with the fact that in Dark Souls you never see civilisation in progress, living civilisations with living people, but rather the remains of civilisations that have been destroyed and forgotten overrun with monsters and cursed inhabitants.

          Dark Souls is basically a cycle, in which you play at the same point of the loop in the next revolution of the circle in each sequel, the fading of the flame/light. Ultimately the point I was trying to make is that while it doesn't show advancement of society, magical technology or other things-- that's part of its philosophy and intention.

          For lost magic and world-walkers, merging those two paragraphs into one. I'd argue that even giving humans basic magical arts was giving them power they can't really handle responsibly. Though the same can be said in stories like Prometheus giving fire to humanity and kick-starting civilisation and technology. Even if they never possessed such magics personally, like you say with an analogy on the Romans, they possessed knowledge of those magics and the possibility of learning them or adapting a human-magic equivalent. Even so, they didn't and now they've forgotten what they once knew about them, becoming myth -- I kind of equate that with 'losing' them.

          Expanding on the notion of Prometheus and Hyperion giving things to humanity, perhaps they aren't the same. Prometheus gave fire to humanity, Hyperion gave magic to SOME humans, fucking over everyone else in the process.

          Addendum: Lord of the Rings being racist, I never picked up on that, an interesting take on it.

          Reply
          1. AoriiAorii Post author

            From the v2 author notes:

            The continents in this fantasy world are all named after titans of Greek mythology because Daybreak is a "what if" scenario. In the Greek Titanomachy (aka "Battle of the Gods"), the Olympian Gods defeated the Titans and established their hegemony over the universe. Unfortunately most Olympian Gods are also terrible, terrible people -- lustful, envious, greedy, and bent on hording power to themselves. The Titan Prometheus, despite siding with the Olympians during the Titanomachy, eventually betrayed Zeus and stole fire for the benefit of mankind. The concept of Daybreak therefore revolves around: what if the dragonlords (modeled after the best of the Titans) won the war against the demons (Olympians) and gave humanity the power of gods: magic itself? How would that affect the geopolitical, sociological, cultural, and technological growth of Earth as we know it?

            Hyperion simply gave out the knowledge of spellcasting. It doesn't mean everyone had the means of using it (since there is a genetic element in Daybreak's spellcasting).

          2. LovelyLunarLunacy

            Missed the author notes, whoops. Ah well, at least it means I wasn't just imagining the similarities.

            I had the misunderstanding in my head that Hyperion and the dragons screwed with human genetics to give them the ability to use magic in a similar capacity to the same dragons churning out Drakes as cannon-fodder. In the author notes you posted again right there it states '...gave humanity the power of the gods: magic itself?' so even that kind of implied giving them the capacity to use magic rather than just teaching them how to use what they already had. In any case, however well you explain things I'm always likely to misinterpret here and there, my mind is just screwed like that *cue awkward laughter*.

  4. Kelossalas

    Thank you for another great chapter! I wonder how Kaede is going to act for the next chapter or so since this is the first time she's ever experienced those "feelings" or did she feel that way every once in awhile when she thought a man was handsome due to her hormones? Either way it was both interesting to read and quite funny. It will also be interesting to see how Kaede can interact with other Samarians since she herself is the only one she has seen at this point. It'll be fun if she meets this assassin on friendly terms and is called out for being quite peculiar by someone of the same race. Looking forward to the next chapter as always!

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      This is the first time Kaede felt that way.
      So far, while a handsome guy might attract her gaze, she has never felt anything remotely lustful. In v2ch11, Kaede surmised that Samarans had far less of a sex drive than normal humans, otherwise the Grand Republic would be overpopulated by now.

      Reply
      1. Himeko Inaba

        normal humans, normal males?

        I think some research has been done showing the male sex drive is roughly 9x stronger. Sure there is a lot of variation in both sexes, but imagine how different relationships would be if women wanted it this much more on average.

        Reply
        1. Hakurei06Hakurei06

          how did she put it again?

          Historical truths did agree that patriarchal societies also saw men as the 'expendable' gender. After all, assuming an abundance of food, one [man] and ten women could potentially reproduce as fast as ten and ten.(Daybreak 2.9, Irrational Facade)

          I just noticed a grammar/spelling error. :P

          Reply
          1. AoriiAorii Post author

            Every species that reproduces sexually has an initiator gender (the ones with a great desire for sex/reproduction) and a controller gender (the ones who are more picky over what 'traits'/expectations they want from their reproductive partner).
            Pretty obvious which is which for humans =P

          2. AoriiAorii Post author

            That's actually a separate (and mostly unrelated) axis =p

  5. Pestanejando

    Oh boy, oh boy. I had to pause and congratulate before finishing... It really gave me the chills when I read the lyrics of The Voice used as an enchantment... Nice touch.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      I had to remove that in the latest edit actually... since I discovered it's a copyright issue.

      Reply
  6. Emait

    Oh, already a new chapter? Woohoo.
    Though I wonder why they bring Kaede along in Syls's "treatment". Some girl bonding time perhap?

    Reply
  7. Himeko Inaba

    You're putting words in my mouth here. I'm not spitting on the older traditions. While I don't have a specific interest in ancient medicine, I'm not fully ignorant either. But that doesn't matter; I'm making a guess about Hyperion's capabilities based on the story I have so far. Besides that, I'm replying to Hakurei who is suggesting the treatment of a mood disorder with stimulants. WE barely have the biochemistry.

    Reply
    1. Hakurei06Hakurei06

      I suppose. Trying to treat mood disorders with herbal medicines is like trying to perform surgery in a barbershop, by candlelight, and with a cleaver. It might be enough for an amputation, but perhaps not as viable an approach for open heart surgery.

      Reply
    2. AoriiAorii Post author

      It's... not a herb. But the quantity of naturally-occurring medicine is quite shocking, even after just some cursory research.
      You'll see (no spoilers).

      Reply
  8. Jhime85

    I honestly now think Kaede is being more realistic character wise in contemplating getting riding Sylv. I don't think she will but it makes sense that she would want to both to save herself and pascal future grief and to keep the country from the fate of an unstable monarch.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Of course I agree xD
      My thoughts were: I can't imagine Kaede going out of her way to do Sylv ill. But if an opportunity like this just landed in her lap? She had to at least consider it after what she went through; otherwise she might as well claim the 'Mary Sue' tag xD

      Reply
  9. Zentirium

    Ooh this should be interesting soon enough, hmm kinda wishing for time travel now that I finished the chapter, just to be able to read more, maybe kaede inhabited someone else's body in this world that was then summoned to Pascal, maybe someone of great importance to Samaran interests ?

    Reply
  10. NotteBoy

    What words did Pascal say that were careless? The fact his future wife is 'talking' with her girlfriends and he is jealous because that doesn't seem like a spy secret to me. Of Course it could be Robert's line but then why would Cecylia make mention to the fact that Pascal is only human when the mistake is not his.

    Reply
    1. Glacierfairy

      I suppose it was because Pascal was the one who initiated the conversation in the first place that led to Robert revealing valuable intel (the Black Eagles had previously been unaware of the "Fae Concordance Magic", and Robert specifically feigned ignorance of it when he chatted with Cecylia earlier in the chapter) and forgot to set up a Sanctum Veil or something to ward off spying?

      Reply
    2. AoriiAorii Post author

      Yeah I had Cecylia blame Pascal as he was the one with a perfectionist attitude... but may it's better to leave him name off to stop the confusion.

      Reply
  11. Lafiel Gosroth

    KGB agents confirmed, prepare for GULAG my dear prussian friends *evil laugh*!!!
    Well i usually don't like gender bender stuff (except body swapping stories maybe?) but this one really picked my interest. Well i'm a russian myself, so it is sometimes funny to read about my fellow countryman being a girl in a fantasy world in prussian country, but still.... still it is very good, thank you for your hard work! ^^

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      I was very tempted to call them 'Oprichniks' xD
      Backed off because it wouldn't fit the theme.
      But KGB is close ^^

      Glad you're enjoying it ^^ Please feel free to give me actual Russian pointers lol (other than Kaede's surname suffix; this gets repeatedly pointed and I already know xD)

      Reply
      1. Lafiel Gosroth

        I have reread this chapter, and i take back my "KGB" guess. It more looks like GRU now, and makes a perfect sense i think. Collecting intelligence, infiltrating positions next to HQ or vip and in case of need providing sabotage operations, pinpointing assassination targets for their spetsnaz.

        I'm a little dazed with "Russian pointers", i'm just not sure what you meaned (sorry my english is just not so good i guessT_T). But, if i can be of any help to you - i am at your disposal.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          By pointers I simply mean any recommendations, suggestions, or issues you might give or have in regards to Kaede's thoughts and behavior, since it's the Russian half of her parentage that took a bigger influence on her.

          Reply
          1. Lafiel Gosroth

            Thanks for the explanation, i'll do my best if anything will come to my mind. Feel free to ask directly, if you would ever need any advice!

  12. Mr_Mo

    All I can think of after that is how much Kaede must be panicking/fearful inside. I mean I've looked into it myself but there are a few things that I think are commonly known:
    1. Various governments including the US have tried to use hypnosis to control people for military purpose.
    2. Repetition makes the effect stronger.
    3. It is more effective if the subject is in a week emotional state
    4. (Maybe not so known) Well hypnosis "CAN NOT" force you to do things against your will it can make you change your desires, goals, morals, and opinions
    Add to that she: Feels the effect herself despite not being the target, Can see magic having a boosting affect, and the actual target is strong magically, physically, mentally (first impressions count), and has added weight of being a general monarch being very quickly turned into an obedient little kitten. And still that doesn't count the fear of a monarch (a ruler of hundreds of thousands of lives) being CONTROLLED by someone the world considers a 'plaything'

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Oddly enough, I have no seriously considered this. Probably because I'm biased by Vivi's character design and Kaede is... trying(?) not to make snap judgments?
      Still, fair concern over shadow rulers. I thank you for bringing this to my attention ^^

      Reply
  13. Ebisu

    More than fae-racist, she would be clone-racist. I'm actually surprised nobody called Pascal on having summoned a familiar that so closely ressembles Sylv's friend Vivi (that I remember). There's no doubt like this that he was looking for a female familiar. xD

    Pascal (and Kaede) accepting the yuri and getting aroused so naturally was very funny. :D
    Why should he be jealous, she's just getting healed by cuteness and something else. It would have been hilarious if he had just said he was just seeing everything through Kaede's eyes too (and taping it with a spell to top it off). xD

    (Oh yes, the scene from Kaede's POV, was probably something like seeing herself cuddling and playing with kitty-Sylvi . Just asking to exchange places with Vivi. :D)

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      On one hand, I really didn't finish designing Vivi until recently so, didn't plan ahead ^^'
      On the other hand... when I counted up the list of Lotharin characters who would have been astonished...
      -- Sylv would have been well prepared for the shock after Pascal bragged about Kaede's cuteness
      -- Mari is really good at blending into the background
      -- Robert (and any other armigers) didn't speak to Kaede until they've already spent some time around her
      Etc.

      Now, the argument could be made that Pascal summoning Kaede is his own way of dealing with his envy =3
      But alas, I did have a heated discussion with Kadi: can a husband really get envious in a society that has no real concept of lesbianism (because it's not socially/morally acceptable)? It'd be like a husband getting jealous because his wife has a girl best-friend.

      Reply
      1. Ebisu

        Still, with the two side by side, commenting on it would be quite irresistible... :)

        With such level of skinship, the line between best-friend and lovers is a little blurred... So just call it yuri :P
        And the name of lesbianism comes from the times of the greek and the isle Lesbos. Quite ancient, so why wouldn't they know of something similar.

        On the subject of envy it's logical...:
        -Sylviane has her Vivi.
        -Thus Pascal has right to her own Vivi, who is Kaede (who is a man inside so it's all OK, because they are the same gender too (in the inside))
        -And so: There's Equality! (isn't that good?)

        And the answer to your question: Yes, he can.
        People get envious about everything: He has better notes (envy), he has friends (envy), he has a girlfriend and me not (envy), he has a harem (envy!), he has lots of fun with a terrible unfunny toy (super envy!, gimme that toy).
        Basically anything can be the subject of envy.
        And Pascal had been very isolated for two years (that's lots of pent up envy, enough to summon your own Vivi even subconsciously).

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          The Greeks were homoerotic to an extreme degree that many of their cultural-accepted beliefs are still taboo. I guess I should of said that in the current state of affairs in Hyperion, society doesn't acknowledge the concept of lesbianism so it doesn't sink in.

          Reply
          1. Himeko Inaba

            Well, Pascal's not able to get possessive with Sylv. He probably learned that long ago and adjusted his idea of their relationship to fit. Their power dynamic is completely screwed and they're going to keep having fights until they both know their place. IMO an 'equal' relationship with stakes this high is not going to happen.

            Larger society aside, he didn't seem to care about the play. I imagined he would be slightly bothered but not too much. He is an enormous square after all. It might be hypocritical since he now has Kaede, but he could have envy simply because someone else knows a different side of her. In that sense it doesn't even matter if it's sexual. So far we don't know.

            But Pascal must be concerned that someone has such power over his future queen and spouse. Vivi is dangerous to him in other ways right now. But he would surely be jealous if Kaede had such a close 'friend!'

            BTW the drawing of Pascal is alright, though I expected him to look a little more masculine. Broader shoulders and such. Odd proportions - what huge boots! - but nice vibe overall

  14. Hakurei06Hakurei06

    I just remembered something, Runner's high... and I wondered if this'd help Kaede as well, but then I remembered her body's a double edged sword.
    In a similar but less extreme vein to self-cutting, Capsicums have been said to trigger the release of endorphins, to an extent.
    I get that Opium's out due to side effects, and Cacao due to logistics, but have they ruled out the effectiveness of activating cannabinoid receptors on people with mood disorders? Not for Sylv's case specifically, where there's someone like Vivi at hand, but in general.

    Edit: looks like Runner's high already occurred to you. is it not a viable option for her?

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Cannabis is a bit too psychoactive though... honestly, I don't see what a hallucinogen is useful for other than as anesthetic.
      If you've ever experienced Runner's High before, you'll notice it's not actually that strong =P (same with cocoa, really; great energy replenisher though). As far as human chemical reactions go, there's no comparison lol.

      Reply
      1. Hakurei06Hakurei06

        Bit too early to separate strains with different THC:CBD ratios... Do mages have fun with artificial selection/genetic engineering/modification? Maybe we'll have a more ethical Hyperian Monsanto. XD

        Lol, I guess. Lasts longer, though... Well not by much, but aren't extended release, lower dosages usually more effective than a massive payload? Regular morning jogs would be a healthy way to work out stress... if they weren't in a warzone. Something to keep in mind, though.

        Reply
      2. Himeko Inaba

        I'm a pretty good runner but that 'high' is not worth all the work once you get your endurance up. Especially not with destroying your knees for it.

        Unless you're talking about some kind of magic-mind interface I don't think anyone on Hyperion has the level of medical science required for an approach like that to be worth it. They don't seem to have biochemistry at all. That's why some people thought the 'receptors' phrase was weird. There are are ways to talk about mood without it.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          You're thinking too flatly =P Just because western research before the scientific revolution was mostly rubbish doesn't mean it applies so for the rest of the world. For example: what do you think acupuncture (post-Daoist) is if not an accumulation of observable experience on the human central nervous system? Herbology has also been trying to extract, refine, and intensify the active properties of natural drugs for centuries before the advent of modern biochemistry, and Hyperion's magic gives it a level of finesse that historical tools couldn't hope to match.

          Reply