Chapter 8 - Extreme Turbulence

Author's Warning: the next few chapters will feel fairly uncomfortable as I run through a major development arc.


Awareness returned to Sylviane with a terrible headache. Her spinning brain felt bloated within the confines of an intolerably small container; her head seemed like it was about to fracture and split under the pressure.

"Unhhhh..." Her hands rushed up to the forehead. What in Holy Father's name did I do to deserve this torture?

"Mari..." the Princess cried out before opening her eyes. "Mari!"

"Yes, Your Highness?" came a gentle reply from the bodyguard and lady's maid, her blurry silhouette leaning in from the bedside chair.

Even before her vision cleared, Sylviane could recognize that they were in her expandable cabin -- the royal cabin, despite its austere interior.

She took the silver chalice that Mari offered with extended fingers. The water felt icy and refreshing to her dry lips; even the slight brain freeze proved a blessing as it dulled the throbbing pain in her head.

"Wh-what happened?"

"--Your Highness had just returned from the battlefield... and you were berating the unconscious Lady Edith-Estellise when... His Grace..."

Mari trailed off into hesitation, unsure of how to put it into words. But as Sylviane finished her drink and wiped the tears and mucus from her eyes, her memories began to rush back amid a deluge of racing thoughts.

She hadn't been aware that Edith was unconscious. But so what? If anything, the Holy Father should have kept the girl awake. Dear Miss Perfect sorely needed to hear opinions contrary to all the praise and admiration, which had clearly gone to her head.

The Saint of Crusaders indeed... she has spent so much time sheltering her own image of honor and chivalry, that she would risk leaving the remainder of the country defenseless just to preserve her pride!

It was the logic of ignorant buffoons, virtue championed by the bovine. To fight when there was every possibility of annihilation and not a shred for victory -- it was no courage but sheer lunacy! Had Edith even a quarter the intelligence to match her beauty, she would have detached irregulars to buy time while she withdrew the army north. The mighty fortification at the Avorican Capital of Roazhon laid less than forty kilopaces north of the battlefield, built on the other side of a natural defensive barrier provided by the Rivers Hafren and Gwilen.

But stupidity, however terrible, could still be forgiven. Sylviane might wish some cutting words upon the front commander, but as returning memories filled out the missing gaps, those thoughts faded beneath her emotions towards the intolerable act of Pascal's betrayal... no, treason.

My own fiancé! How could he humiliate me like that! In broad daylight!

To forcibly silence her with a Blackout spell was the magical equivalent of negotiating with a cudgel. It was demeaning and humiliating, an act as barbarous as a husband beating his wife. Worse yet, it violated not only her body but the sanctuary of her mind. Had she not remembered her moment of shock upon hearing his words, she would have never believed him capable of such brutish insolence.

I should see him whipped in public for such affront!

The Princess gritted her teeth under more than just pain. Her fists clenched as they struggled to contain emotions more terrible than agony. Were it not for the headache that plagued her as a direct consequence of the Blackout spell, the surging anger that boiled as she scanned through racing memories would have exploded.

"Where's Hauteclaire?" Sylviane groaned as she pressed one palm into her forehead.

She could use some of that soothing phoenix aura right now.

"He... he's off visiting Durandal."

Edith again...!?

Hauteclaire and Durandal were close friends, sure; but Sylviane had no doubt that her phoenix was actually off alleviating the idiot saint's injuries, all while leaving her to suffer.

At that moment, the door to her cabin opened. Sir Robert was the first to enter, but behind him stepped in someone who was both the first and last face she wanted to ever see again.

"Pascal..." she barely forced out between gritted teeth. "What... do you have to say for yourself?"

Sylviane's hateful eyes rose slowly towards his face. She hardly noticed as her grasping fingers turned white, burning with torrents of anger that sought to crush the metal vessel in her hands.

She would give him one chance, to kneel down and beg for her forgiveness.

But instead, the Landgrave stared back in bewilderment. "Sorry?" he replied in an innocent version of his aristocratic drawl, as though he was unaware of any misdeeds and therefore blameless.

The Princess never even considered the possibility that he simply didn't hear her clearly.

Before she realized it, the emptied chalice in her hands had been sent hurling towards his face.

Her fiancé reacted just a second late. His hand batted aside the flying silver at the last moment, sending the weighted base straight into the surprised expression of the familiar girl flanking him.

The stunned Samaran swayed before rushing her small hands to her face, where a delicate nose was already dripping translucent-pink blood.

She'll heal in a minute.

Caught up in her fury, Sylviane easily brushed aside any guilt she might have had. But as Pascal's turquoise gaze pivoted back to her from his familiar, the embers of ire were already kindling among his shock and outrage.

"Sylv wha--- what is wrong with you!?"

"What is wrong with me? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?" the Princess roared in a shrill explosion as Sir Robert rushed to close the door to the morning sun outside. "My own fiancé decided it was a good idea to shut me up by force, in front of an audience no less, by KNOCKING ME OUT, for a whole day!? And you think I AM THE ONE WHO IS WRONG!? ARE YOU INSANE OR JUST PLAIN RETARDED?"

Struck speechless by the diatribe, Pascal glanced toward the Lady Mari, who returned the barest of head-shakes.

Did you conspire with him as well?

The Princess' eyes narrowed as she reviewed Mari's expressions since waking up, images flying past at the same breakneck speed as a dozen other trains of thought. Her lady's maid might have seemed troubled, but to describe Mari as 'guilty' would be excessive.

"I do not need an account from her," the Princess clarified. "I have my own memories to judge you by!"

"Yes, I admit, I was in the wrong for knocking you out like that."

Pascal's ire spoke more as a retort than any sincere apology. It certainly didn't help that he followed up by pointing towards the door, his voice growing more self-righteous with every passing second:

"But do you remember how you berated Lady Edith-Estellise as she laid there, bruised, bloody, and unconscious? Do you also remember how you called her an 'idiot' and 'fool' even as she underwent emergency surgical healing, in front of her own assembled troops -- the men and women who loved her almost like a mother for how she puts their lives ahead of her own on the battlefield!?"

"You forget who you are and whom you are speaking to, Landgrave!" Sylviane almost spat back. Being her fiancé and childhood companion had made this man brazen and impertinent. He would dare to question her authority, yet another clear sign that the young upstart needed to be put back in his place.

"I did not realize that she was unconscious at the time, but she bloody well deserved every word!"

The Princess' chest rose and fell with indignation as her wisteria gaze hardened with scorn.

"'Saint Estelle', they call her -- 'the Miracle of Ronceval'. She is the embodiment of virtue -- 'courageous and exemplary, benevolent and selfless, an example to us all...'"

Sylviane bitterly repeated the words that her father, the late Emperor Geoffroi, once spoke when he presented Edith with the Saint's Lily. The rechristened fae crysteel kite shield was a heirloom of the Royal House of Gaetane, given to her Great-Great-Grandfather Louis the Bold by the Faerie Sword Oriflamme, Princess-Consort Gwendolyn of Avorica.

It was the shield to match Sylviane's Faerie Plate armor -- such was the esteem that Edith held in her father Geoffroi's gaze. Those proud, doting eyes had shone what everyone else whispered within the palace halls, even if the Emperor could never say it aloud:

'If only she were born into royalty.'

'If only Princess Sylviane was perfect like her.'

Even Hauteclaire, her own familiar, preferred Edith over herself.

"--and even you believe she is beyond reproach!" Sylviane lashed out as a tear of betrayal slid down from the anguish in her gaze. "That her soul is as pristine as her enchanting beauty! So of course it is not my place to accuse someone so perfect!"

"I knew you were going to say that--!"

"But that is what you were thinking! Am I wrong!?" Sylviane challenged her fiancé's retort.

"You are shoving words straight into my mouth!" the Landgrave countered, torn between frustration, anger, and being completely flabbergasted.

"Oh please. Don't think I haven't seen how you stared at her in the past, lusting after her with the same eyes as every other man..."

"Do not compare me with every other sex-addled brainless imbecile out there!"

Sylviane sneered for a brief moment as she glanced towards the Samaran familiar who was still pinching that pretty nose.

"And you think I am blind to how you have started sleeping with your familiar again? Less than a minute away from your lawful fiancée no less! So tell me, who is the 'sex-addled brainless imbecile' now?"

With his cheeks flushed, Pascal took a deep breath to calm down before explaining:

"Kaede... has been having difficulty sleeping. She has been suffering repeated nightmares from battle trauma. So I--"

"So you thought her a mistress who would better share your bed than sleep in her own?" Sylviane had to stop herself from barking a laugh in disbelief. "What a convenient excuse!"

"It's not an excuse," the familiar herself chimed in, her wispy voice barely audible behind her embarrassment. "I-I'm the one who asked him... I've been having nightmares ever since I returned to Nordkreuz... since I stopped sharing a cabin with him..."

"Of course now the familiar would disgrace herself to stand up for her master," the Princess cut off the rest.

She had no time for such pitiful attempts at excuses.

By this point, Pascal had leveled his palms into the air in exasperation:

"Sylv, you are not even trying to listen--!"

"I have no need to listen to your lousy excuses--!"

"--I may have slept in the same bed as Kaede, but we have done no more than that--!"

"--Only because she has the soul of a man and is not a complete harlot--!"

While everybody else in the room already knew the truth, Sir Robert's eyes almost popped out of their sockets as his eyes spun towards the Samaran girl.

"--Besides, do I look stupid enough to vie for the affections of Edith-Estellise!? Just look at what happened to the other--!"

Pascal had tried to talk over his fiancée by repeatedly escalating his volume. But the Princess would tolerate it no longer as she pounced out of her bed and all but screamed in return:

"--AND NONE OF IT EVEN BEGINS TO JUSTIFY THE CRIME THAT YOU HAVE COMMITTED!"

Thrown back onto the defensive, Pascal could only let loose a helpless, defeated sigh. He then exchanged a brief glance with his familiar before taking several more deep, calming breaths.

But what helped sooth him only made Sylviane's knuckles squeeze tighter as recognition struck:

Familiar-bond telepathy...

It only served to remind her of the permanent bond between these two -- a contract as sacred as the rite of matrimony itself.

"Yes, you are absolutely right," her fiancé admitted. "It was I who knocked you out in the most barbaric manner, and there is no excuse for that."

Unlike his previous apology, Pascal actually sounded remorseful this time, much like a sinner keen to beg for the Holy Father's forgiveness. It enticed Sylviance's sense of mercy, to calm her anger and offer him another chance.

...Then he ruined it with a single following word: the holier-than-thou 'but' after the 'sorry' that rendered it meaningless.

"--But I did it because I could not think of another fast way to stop you from ruining yourself!"

"So you can ruin me instead? To destroy my honor and dignity before the eyes of the army!?"

"Please Sylv! If you would just let me finish!" Pascal half-begged and half-scolded.

"--Just like you allowed me to finish before blacking out my consciousness!?"

"That is what I am trying to explain! That I did it for your sake!"

But before the next thought could rush out from the Princess' lips, it was Sir Robert who beseeched next on behalf of the Landgrave:

"Your Highness, please!"

The royal armiger even knelt down on one knee as a sign of obedience, that he was still on her side.

He was soon joined on the floor by Lady Mari, and even Kaede as well.

With her breaths loud and her indignation irrepressible, Sylviane bored her cutting glare into Pascal's bitter, pleading eyes. Facing those turquoise orbs swirling with emotions, the Princess decided that the man before her would receive one more chance... and only one.

"On your knees then!"

"Sylv... what--!?" Pascal uttered back in stunned surprise.

"If you wish to explain your crimes, then you may at least do so with due penitence. On your knees, Your Grace!"

His expression floored by what he was hearing, the Landgrave of Nordkreuz slowly bent one leg and lowered himself onto the floor.

Sitting back down on her bed like it was her throne, Sylviane could at last console herself that nature had, once again, been restored to its proper order. It sparked a sense of triumph, a minor satisfaction that all was as it should be once more.

But it was still a long way from exacting her revenge, her desire to see him humiliated in return.

"Your Highness," Pascal stressed as he began, his speech slow but soon accelerating. "Lady Edith-Estellise, to be sure, has the intellect of a common blacksmith. But with Cosette and Gaston in the south, and Gervais leading his brothers in the mountains, who else does Rhin-Lotharingie have? This is a woman who was abandoned at an abbey as a child, who was thrice engaged and thrice widowed, her third fiancé killed on the wedding day itself! Since then she has sworn a life of celibacy and dedicated her sword to the defense of the Trinitian Realm; for this, her limited mental faculties were pressed upon to command a theater of war where she must face several times her forces in battle!"

"In short..." He paused to catch his breath. "Lady Edith-Estellise has been forced onto a role that she could never fulfill because everyone insists on putting her on a pedestal! And just to hold the line, she is left no choice but to constantly martyr herself by carrying that doubled-edged Sword of Charity!"

"For Holy Father's sake, Sylv!" Pascal plead as he gradually rose from the ground, his tone normalizing as that high-handed conceit returned alongside his annoying drawl. "She is a woman who deserves our pity, not our scorn! Certainly not before the army that she is like a mother to! Or do you think any child would gladly hear insults leveled at a beloved parent cursed by tragedy, regardless of whether they ring with the echo of truth?"

Sylviane didn't even have to think. She would cut out the insolent person's tongue for daring to presume they had the right to criticize the late Emperor -- her dutiful father who died prioritizing the country rather than his own safety.

But that was also the difference: Edith didn't sacrifice herself out of a love for her country; she did it for her own ideals, for honor and virtue.

In other words, it was her vanity.

"Perhaps my words were brash," the Princess' irate tone left her own admittance hollow. "But that is no excuse for your outrageous behavior!"

"I am sorry but what else was I supposed to do? Stand by and watch as Rhin-Lotharingie's own soldiers come to detest their Princess?"

"I don't care what the situation is. You have no right to use such barbaric methods!"

"You are not being reasonable!" Pascal protested, his hands waving in desperation.

"I am your future wife and empress! I don't need to reason with you!"

Sylviane's finishing words left a tone of finality in the air.

The period had been carved in stone. There was no longer any purpose left to argue. Only an oppressive silence stayed to reign over the atmosphere as the two betrothed locked their detesting gazes.

"Have it your way then," Pascal almost spat out as he spun his heels towards the door. "Kaede--"

"Leave Kaede here," Sylviane interjected. "You are not allowed to be with her again until you learn to repent for your actions!"

"WHAT!?" Pascal spun back around within a second's time.

"She is MY familiar and MY responsibility! You cannot just-- confiscate her!" he gestured towards the Samaran girl with bewildered outrage.

"I can, I am, and you will accept it!" the Princess fired back. "What other fiancée would tolerate you keeping a mistress so openly? She is an insult on my honor!"

"She is not... You know that is not what she is!"

"Then perhaps I should give you twenty lashes before the army! As appropriate for the offenses of Lese Majesty, Insubordination, and Assault towards a superior officer under Weichsel Military Code!"

Before her, Sir Robert paled instantly. His expression was aghast that the Princess could even suggest such a thought. The military bullwhip could break skin in a single strike; twenty lashes was more than sufficient to reduce even the most sturdy back to bloody tatters.

...But this only convinced Sylviane that he had clearly missed the bigger picture -- that Pascal's actions amounted to far more than just insolence; it was treason.

By knocking her out in an open display of unilateral force, he violated not only her dignity as a human being, but also undermined her legitimacy as a sovereign in the eyes of her people. If her Weichsel fiancé could just trample over her objections like that in public, then who could say how much foreign influence her future husband would lord over Rhin-Lotharingie through her?

With the destiny of her country resting on this succession crisis, what Pascal did was tantamount to a stab in her back. She had to punish him to clear this mistaken impression, to show that she was still the one in control.

But before she could even consider making him understand the gravity of his actions, Pascal ripped the gulf between them yet further as he yelled back:

"I would rather be flogged in public, than to debase myself in failing to uphold my obligations to her!"

To her!? What about to ME!? Your lawful future WIFE the eyes of the Holy Father!

That can be arranged! Sylviane was about to shout back when Kaede finally cried out:

"Pascal, please! You're not helping here! And I can take care of myself!"

The faint quiver in her voice sounded anything but sure of her safety in the Princess' care. Nevertheless, her master fell silent and -- after another few deep breaths and probable telepathic exchanges -- gave in to the inevitable.

Meanwhile, the other silent party -- Lady Mari -- had stepped forth to quell the royal temper:

"Your Highness, please reconsider," she knelt down to hold the Princess' hand. "The army will not like you any better for a lack of compassion towards your own betrothed."

Beckoned by the pleading sentiments of her maid and longtime companion, Sylviane finally brought herself to take deep breaths. Images floated into her mind of the last time she had witnessed a man flogged for his crimes, and she felt the bile in her throat as she remembered the agonizing visage of a back torn bloody.

Truth be told, she had no desire to see Pascal tortured. Robert and Cecylia might consider her bit of a 'sadist', but she held only revulsion toward the twisted expressions of pain.

This is all his fault for goading me so.

"You will leave Kaede here," Sylviane announced sternly, trying to remain calm as she locked gazes once more with those turquoise eyes brimming with suppressed fury. "Then you will return to your cabin and consign yourself under house arrest until further notice."

For a moment Pascal said nothing. Then, the irate Landgrave's hand almost shook as he raised a finger in return:

"If you harm her..."

He left the remainder unsaid as he strode out and slammed the cabin door behind him.

 

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

 

"Your Grace! Wait!"

Sir Robert had to make his excuses before rushing out after Pascal. He found the Landgrave no more than fifty paces away, his returning stare defeated and resentful.

After sprinting over to catch up, Robert began to cast Sanctum Veil around themselves. Security was high here in the center of the Lotharin encampment. But the last thing they want would be for a patrolling officer to overhear their conversation and leak out a twisted rumor. With the spell in place, those outside its radius would hear nothing but inconspicuous conversations -- like food, clothing, and the weather.

"Your Grace, please," Robert began the moment his ward took hold. "You have to forgive Her Highness. She's been under another episode since her speech to Lady Lynette's troops yesterday, maybe even before that. She doesn't--"

"Yes, I know," Pascal interrupted irritably. "You have told me before what this 'hypomania' condition does to her. But knowing what causes it hardly makes me feel any better! Here I am, exhausting every bit of my energy in trying to keep her country intact, to piece together her retreating armies, to make sure she could still be the sovereign! And what do I receive in return?" He thrust a finger back towards the cabin. "THAT!"

"House arrest!?" he scorned as his chest huffed in anger. "I have not even eaten since lunch yesterday and barely slept last night. I would be happy to go back to my cabin for the first time since our arrival here!"

"Still, Your Grace... you have to admit: many of her accusations against you were true..."

Robert's voice soon trailed off as Pascal sent him a smoldering glare of you-know-what-I-had-meant.

The Landgrave did commit an act of barbarism, and he was being unfaithful to his fiancée in sleeping with another woman -- however chaste the experience might be. But while a normal, reasonable individual might have considered the broader circumstances and exercised restraint, the Princess... was currently running with a crippling bias towards her own beliefs and impulses.

Had Pascal began with a thorough apology, perhaps Sylviane would have stayed calmer. Except such behavior was alien to the Landgrave's pride. A better prepared Pascal might have considered it, but not when he was hungry, stressed, fatigued, and simply carrying far too much baggage in his mind.

I really should have advised him before we arrived... Robert sighed as he berated himself. Like always, I only think of these things after it's too late.

They had been out inspecting the battalions before joining them in the Mass of the Holy Word. After offering their prayers alongside tens of thousands of troops, it had put them in a rather... spiritual mood.

...which obviously didn't help Pascal step down from the moral pedestal.

"Yes... I know I deserved some of that for my rash actions. You do not have to tell me," Pascal admitted at last before his indignation spiked once more. "But she could not even attempt to see my perspective? To understand why I did it? And Kaede... she is the innocent one in all this!"

With his impassioned embers burning out as quickly as they came, Pascal gritted his teeth as he struggled to suppress the injustice that he clearly felt wronged by.

"I'm afraid rationalizing from any perspective other than her own is beyond her at the moment," Robert quietly spoke what they both already knew.

But to understand it logically was one thing. To accept it emotionally... that was entirely something else.

"What do you plan to do now?"

"What will I do? What can I do!?" Pascal's derisive reply seemed to mock both Robert and himself. "She is still my fiancée! One of the few people I could still call 'family'! I could hardly just turn my back on her!"

Exhaling another heavy sigh, Robert glanced back towards the Princess' cabin, where Pascal's parting words did -- truth be told -- leave him concerned.

"I guess I should feel relieved..."

He had yet to finish before Pascal sneered in reply:

"What do you take me for? A commoner? That I would even consider annulling our contract just because of an obstacle like this?"

"That's not--"

"I will see you tomorrow -- hopefully -- Sir Robert," Pascal brushed him off as he stepped out of the Sanctum Veil area and went on his way. "Let us pray she snaps out of it by then!"

No, Sir Robert pursed his lips in thought. At best, she'll crash into a terrible depression. Although I guess even that's better than actively ruining her life like this.

"What a day it is to be celebrating the Midwinter Mass..." he sighed to himself.

 

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

 

"...With the 23rd Regional Brigade joining us, all accountable forces have now been withdraw to the Gwilen River crossings near Roazhon. The exception being the five battalions detached by the Duke of Pictiers and Landgrave of Nordkreuz, left behind to harass Caliphate activities."

Sylviane nodded along as Lady Anne finished her brief tactical summary at the projection table.

Anne was the Knight Preceptor and Mother Abbess who once raised Edith. Now, she served as the saint's chief-of-staff and commanded the Steel Lily battalion. She wore leather brigandine over her traditional nun's habit -- a tunic in black and white that concealed much of her lean one-sixty-eight (5'6") figure. Her wrinkled, stern countenance seemed in her mid-forties, with an appearance that would have been homely had it not been for her deep-emerald gaze. Her long, candy-apple-red hair lay obscured under a black veil, with a white cross decorating it behind her head as the symbol of the Order of the Knight-Healers of Saint Joan, or better known as the Knight Hospitallers.

"Do we have a count on our casualties yet?" asked the Princess.

"The tally is still coming in, Your Highness, although many units will need to have their command structure rebuilt before we could accurately assess their losses," the Mother Abbess grimaced. "Twenty-seven battalions have lost almost their entire combat strength, and many others were so badly mauled they need reorganization before they can even fight again. My initial estimates are around eighteen to twenty-four thousand irrecoverable losses."

Sylviane could feel her knuckles tighten as she leaned into the projection table. Her eyes fixated themselves on the Lotharin unit markers by the river as she pictured the endless columns of missing men those numbers failed to represent.

"Half the available army..." she muttered through clenched teeth. This day is just getting worse and worse.

"What about the enemy?"

"We destroyed much of their vanguard and first three attack waves, plus Lady Estelle annihilated almost their entire fifth wave," spoke Duke Lionel of Helveteu, one of the army's more experienced noblemen. "Combined with casualties inflicted upon their light horse and mounted archers, I'd estimate their casualties to be around... ten to fourteen thousand."

"...Except they took the battlefield, so two-third of that as they'll be able to recover their wounded," finished Sylviane.

The healing arts of Hyperion had been refined to the point where soldiers who survived the battle itself were very unlikely to die from wounds or infections, at least for the winning side. The noble and yeomen troops were harder to treat, due to their innate ether resistance which sought to reject even a healer's magic; but the common soldier could regrow an entire severed arm and still return for combat duty within two weeks.

According to the Articles of War, the defeated must be given medical attention as well. But 'outsiders' would always receive a lower priority for treatment than the victors' 'own'. Given the emergency nature of injuries, even a minute's delay could mean the difference between life -- albeit as a prisoner of war, a euphemism for 'slave labor' -- and being dumped into a mass grave.

"So what you are all saying... is that Edith -- with your support -- lost nearly half our army, in exchange for one-tenth of our enemy's?"

Sylviane lifted her eyebrows as she raised her head with a cold, unforgiving look. She glared across the nobles and officers assembled inside the large expandable cabin that served as their briefing room.

And the stupid woman herself is still too unconscious to account for her actions! she thought about Edith, the commander responsible for this entire debacle.

"We had hoped that the ambush would be more successful..." mumbled one officer.

"...And that the powder explosion would buy us more time..."

"Plus, they were the elite cavalry corp of their army," interjected a third, as though it had justified everything.

"Yes, notice they're well-led cavalry with the capacity for quick response and rapid maneuvering," Sylviane's fingers pointed on the map, to the main Caliphate encampment that remained near the battlefield. "Notice the rather flat terrain in that area, notice complete lack of natural barriers to impede their movement except for some sparse woods, and notice that they began the battle outnumbering you!"

"What is your next excuse? That you weren't expecting to be flanked!? Have you been all struck down by idiocy!?"

Several faces reddened with anger as the Princess lashed out. But before any of them could retort, it was Mother Abbess Anne who began in a soft, unperturbed tone:

"Our goal had never been to win outright. We only hoped to halt the infidels' advance, to inflict enough casualties upon them and forcing them to reorganize -- which is exactly what they're doing. Now, tens of thousands of refugees will have the time they need to reach the safety of Roazhon."

"Safety?" Sylviane turned to stare as though the nun had suddenly sprouted horns. "How safe do you think the city will be when I tell Queen Katell Penteur that her capital will soon be under siege, and instead of outnumbering us by less than two-to-one, the Caliphate now has four times as many heads as we do!?"

"What are you suggesting then, Your Highness?" the Mother Abbess replied as a veil of disdain enshrouded her voice. "That we betray our vows to protect the people and abandon the innocent in order to make our lives easier?"

"We will do what is necessary to protect all the peoples of Rhin-Lotharingie, not just those who stand before us!"

"--Then when you stand before the Holy Father for judgment, will you also tell him that yesterday, virtue could not be upheld because it stood against convenience?"

"--I will tell him that it is my burden of responsibility to bear evil for a greater good," Sylviane retorted. "That we could not afford to gamble this army away and leave the entire western flank of the Empire defenseless!"

"Our reinforcements from the interior will arrive by then..."

"Of course! There will be forty thousand reinforcements arriving in three days' time to make up for this army's destruction," the Princess interjected with feigned understanding. "Why is it that these troops are not labeled on the map? Or do you suppose that the Holy Father will send his angels to make up for the disparity?"

"Remember, Your Highness, that we all win or lose by the grace of the Holy Father," Lady Anne countered, her calm demeanor refusing to be agitated. "The Lord himself shall decide the final outcome of battles, judged by our virtue and sin."

"The outcomes of battles are decided by the Holy Father," Sylviane acquiesced first. "But also by the qualitative and quantitative disparity of our armies, by the tactics and planning of our leaders, by the morale and discipline of our troops!"

Stepping closer, the Princess stared down the Mother Abbess from less than an arm's reach away.

"--How many wars did the Holy Father win for us just because we declared so in his name?"

The answer was known by everyone in the room: there had been six major holy wars since Pope Peter VI launched the first at the behest of King Ferdinand I of Weichsel -- three declared by the Trinitians and three by the Tauheeds, including this one. Thus far, only the Third Holy War, declared by the Caliph Fatimah, had achieved a decisive victory.

"Then what do you advocate? That we simply surrender?" challenged Lady Anne. "Even if we had lost not a single soul this battle, even if we received all the expected reinforcements for the next three weeks ahead of time, the Caliphate's forces will still outnumber us and be of superior quality! Without the grace of the Holy Father, this is a battle that we cannot win!"

"I can," came a familiar voice from the corner of the room as the door that nobody noticed opening pressed shut.

"Blasphemy!" Hissed one of the Hospitallers behind Anne.

"I can and I shall, because the Holy Father has seen to place me here. Do you deny this?" the newcomer countered as other officers stepped out of his way.

"Pascal," Sylviane addressed in a suppressed calm. "I believe you are supposed to be under house arrest? Who told you to come?"

But before he could even answer, it was the Colonel von Mackensen -- the Knight Phantom commander who hadn't said one word all meeting -- who spoke out first:

"I did, Your Highness."

The Princess turned to shoot him a royal glare. But von Mackensen rebuffed it with a mere upward twist of his lips, as though he found it cute.

"I told him to quit being a spoiled little brat and come back to do his job," he stressed. "Because while Your Highness may be soft hearted and unwilling to flog him for insubordination, I am not."

 

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

 

Outside Sylviane's cabin, Kaede watched as light flurries of snow drifted down from the heavens.

Dusk was approaching, and most of the soldiers have retired to the larger cabins and open tents. Even with the gloom of loss and defeat surrounding the whole encampment, Kaede could still hear the rowdy banter of assembled troops. They celebrated this holy day with prayers spoken out loud, with festive music and bellowing chants as they drunk away their anxieties and sorrow.

Meanwhile, Kaede could only watch from afar as she knelt on a flat rock outside the cabin door, feeling the curious stares from the inner camp patrols.

After five hours, the snow had begun to accumulate on her hair and shoulders.

How much longer was left? Even she didn't know.

Not wanting to cause any more trouble for Pascal, Kaede decided to suffer in silence until the Princess released her. Maybe that would be when Sylviane returned from the meeting. Maybe it would have wait until morning tomorrow.

Her legs were already numb from the pain, to the point where she could barely even feel them. The rock had a few uneven ridges that really hurt at the beginning. The thin fabric of her stockings certainly did nothing to help.

But it was still a small price to pay, compared to alternatives like being pilloried for days, or beaten, or branded. After all, Hyperion was still in the pre-modern days of physical punishments -- which were actually considered 'light', compared to magical sanctions.

She just wished someone would bring a plate of that alluring chicken broth that the camp was feasting on. Thanks to Pascal, her stomach hadn't been refilled since lunch yesterday.

"Happy Christmas, Kaede," she muttered to herself as she leaned forward, pressing her hands into her stomach.

Her period cramps were acting up again.

Happy Consumer Capitalism Day, Kaede tried to not feel sorry for herself as she repeated her father's favorite joke at this time of the year in Japan.

But this only made it worse as a tear slid out from her eyes, running down the same trail as the countless others she shed when her legs felt like they were about to break.

I want to go home and see Ma and Pa again...

 

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

 

"No... stop...!"

Sylviane shifted in her comfortable bed.

"Please...!"

The Princess rolled over, pulling the comforter up to cover her ears this time.

"No...!"

Her cabin was supposed to be soundproof, yet why was she being awaken by this moaning and groaning?

"I didn't...!"

Grasping her silk casting gloves off the bedside table, Sylviane waved it at the light.

She then sat up in her bed, her thin fingers still rubbing blurry eyes in the dim illumination magic.

Her eyesight soon focused, and it took no time at all to pinpoint the source of her disturbance.

In the far corner of the room, a small girl was curled up on the floor. Her only padding were the black-and-white pseudo-uniform she wore, and the hay padding she slept on top of.

"Kaede..." Sylviane muttered in confusion, before everything flooded back to her.

The stone ring. The encounters. The battle.

The caustic words she spewed towards Edith, towards her own officers and men... and worst of all, towards Pascal.

He had supported her through her worst moments. He had stood as the last pillar in her life, as the only person she could still rely on.

...She almost had him arrested, humiliated in public, and whipped to within an inch of his life.

Mari had intervened in time to avoid that catastrophe, but neither of her armigers could persuade her not to take her anger out on the familiar.

Kaede had knelt outside in the snow, on an uneven rock, with her legs glued to the spot by a sticky spell, for ten hours. Then, as a means of further humiliating the girl who could no longer even walk, Sylviane had given her only a bundle of hay to sleep on.

...Not even enough for a human, but just enough for a dog.

"Stay away...!" Kaede jerked her leg, her body squirming to push herself even further into the corner.

Even the reasons Sylviane had ridiculed proved true, as the Samaran familiar was relapsing into those nightmares right before her very eyes.

Oh blessed Lord... what have I done...

The Princess' hands were shaking as she arced her head towards her palms.

She had repaid kindness with ingratitude, rewarded aid with anger, and held back exactly none of her worst urges.

Her envy, her apathy, her cruelty, her wrath... they were traits more hideous than any scar or deformity, yet she flaunted them openly before the eyes of the world as though they were glittering jewelry.

...It was no wonder why Hauteclaire hadn't returned the entire day.

Pressing her palms together, Sylviane bent over in her own bed as tears of regret and self-contempt pricked her glass eyes.

Oh Holy Father... please forgive me...

Perhaps the Holy Father would; the Lord was merciful, after all. But how could she ever face Pascal after today, how could she ever ask for his forgiveness? Or even apologize to Kaede?

"No...!"

Such words were no longer just the incoherent cries of a girl deluded by the subconscious. They were accusations against the Princess' cruelty towards an innocent, reminders of the compounding sins that would place her in eternal damnation.

I didn't mean it... I swear...

Her eyes were shaking. Her hands were trembling. Sylviane felt like she had woken up from some terrible dream, as though her conscience had returned after being possessed by a demon.

...except there were no such excuses to shield her from facing her own wickedness.

She could still remember the satisfaction when she stuck the familiar's legs onto that torturous rock and walked away, leaving the horrified girl alone to suffer.

"It's not...!" Kaede twitched again.

This is my fault... this is all mine...

Unable to bear the terrified stammering anymore, Sylviane pushed off the comforter and stood up in her underwear. Half afraid and half rushing, she made her way over to the trembling girl on the ground.

Sliding down next to the Samaran girl, Sylviane gently stretched out her hands to pull Kaede off the hay padding. Pulling the other girl close against her chest, she folded her head into the other and cried tears of remorse as she plead for atonement.

"I'm sorry. I really am sorry. I didn't mean it."

The Princess never realized when the familiar girl woke up, never saw how terrified those confused pink eyes were as Kaede found herself in the arms of the one who had tortured -- and two weeks ago, nearly raped her.

 

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65 thoughts on “Chapter 8 - Extreme Turbulence

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  1. Mizura

    "I am your future wife and empress! I don't need to reason with you!" - Oooh, and that's the sound of her losing the most important thing she has with Pascal: his respect. I've read somewhere that out of all factors studied, loss of respect is THE most reliable factor that would eventually lead to a divorce.

    After this chapter, it should be easy for people to jump on the 'hate Sylv' handwagon, but after thinking about it a bit, she is honestly not solely to blame. Before everything else, one should recall that -none- of the characters are in their best state of mind. Kaede is sleep-deprived and hounded by nightmares. Pascal recently lost his father, placing him into a position where he has no-one to really on, and lots of people relying on him, not to mention his territory suffered an attack and he'd Probably have wanted to keep an eye on the ongoing reforms if he had that luxury. And Sylv just lost her father and had her uncle usurp the throne. Subordinates and allies notwithstanding, in the eyes of her nation, Sylv has just about lost everything except her pride, that very pride that she needs to showcase to gather back her forces, except her consort 'from another nation' is 'knocking her out' and 'sleeping with another girl'. How can she Not worry about being perceived as nothing but the jilted puppet of another nation? And finally, they're all tired and hungry. And Sylv had a headache from the knock-out.

    In fact, Kaede is not free of blame. Rather, if she weren't so tired, considering that Sylv is the Crown Princess and the nobility of this world does not discriminate between genders, Kaede should remember that in most old civilizations, any signs of spousal infidelity towards the reigning monarch is easily punishable by death. Add to this the fact that Kaede and Pascal -know- that Sylv feels uncomfortable about their relation, and is mentally distraught over the recent events. So rather than rock the boat, Kaede and Pascal should have at the very least -consulted Sylv first- before sharing a room again. As the fiancee, Sylv at least had the right to be asked, and under calmer circumstances, with a doctor confirming Kaede's poor mental state as well as the fact that they tried everything else, Sylv may have been more open to listening. At the very least, if she were unhappy about it, she should have been given the opportunity to try to present alternative solutions, or provide some sort of conditions. Finally, by talking beforehand, Pascal would have the opportunity to frame this in an utilitarian way, i.e. Kaede is his military aide and the last thing he needs is her collapsing in the middle of a crucial military campaign.

    On the other hand, the speed at which Sylv realized what she'd done after she got 'a good night's sleep' shows that her outburst really Is due to 'hypomania' rather than an intentionally malicious character. One may argue that no matter what state one is in, it is no excuse for acting up, but that is not quite true when you consider how broadly accepted another physiological phenomenon is used to dismiss some female behaviors, namely "She's on her period" (I'm a girl too so...) Everybody knows better than to provoke a girl on her period, so given Sylv's Catastrophic current situation, it Really wasn't time to provoke her either. She is not free of blame, but the others have their share of blame too for being so untactful at a crucial moment. Rather, she is still absolutely within the possibility of being forgiven, provided she apologizes sincerely... which, given her similar-to-Pascal personality, and the fact that she's the Crown Princess, is probably a more daunting task than Pascal's own apologies towards his friends.

    Pascal, though, was a pleasant surprise this chapter, and it really goes to show how much he's developed. Now, he still has a way to go, as evidence by his usual douchebaggery and his failure to communicate the matter of Kaede beforehand. In the heat of the moment, he could have easily at least Considered turning his back to Sylv (something that he'd reconsider after calming down, however), or at least thought along the lines of 'I'll forgive her this time, but I won't next time." Yet he didn't even Consider breaking ties with Sylv. Instead, despite being angry, he reaffirmed his intention to stand by her side. As someone who was willing in the past of burning all his bridges with other people, this really shows how far he's come since. Precisely because he's changed too, there is hope for reconciliation between the two.

    ... though I'm half-expecting him to barge in next chapter because of his familiar's crippling fear of impeding rape. >_>;;

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Ah, someone else who shares my views~
      Very keen analysis on the distribution of responsibilities ^^

      Personally, I've always thought the 'Sylv hate' bandwagon to be just another form of social sexist stereotyping, where unkindness in a female character is considered the greatest sin and behaviors of infidelity is more acceptable among men. I mean if Pascal was the crown prince and lashes out because he discovered that his betrothed is sleeping with another man, I wonder if we'd quite get the same level of one-sided fingerpointing.
      As you note: plenty of princesses (and queens) have been executed for such infidelity -- or simply the perception thereof.

      Would love to comment more, but that'd be spoilers.

      Reply
      1. Mizura

        lol, sexism, haven't thought of it that way. The way you put it though, it almost sounds as though you anticipated it. xD

        Come to think of it, it must have been even harder for Kaede to perceive this because these are people she knows. It's so much harder to stuff your own acquaintances into historical and psychological patterns. Even so, when others keep mentioning how pitiable and innocent Kaede is, it kind of reminds me of a Chinese proverb: Those who are to be pitied must also have that which is detestable. Though it's a bit harsh and I don't always agree, it implies that the person must either have done something to end up in this situation, or perhaps there's a problem with his personality that allowed him to be so miserable.

        We take the POV of Kaede, who certainly Is quite unlucky, but forget that most of the other characters have it worse than she does. Kaede is lucky that the people around her are relatively supportive or at least tolerant, and doesn't have thousands specifically wanting to either kill her or manipulate her. An outsider would not understand why people are going so 'easy' on her. Kaede kind of lets herself remain in this role of being pitied and being protected, which in turn easily led to Sylv feeling provoked (I mean, let's try to imagine Pascal unconditionally siding with Sylv against Kaede instead: ouch, eh?) This is not to say that this is Kaede's 'fault', as she's trying her best in a situation where she couldn't possibly have prepared herself. It's just a reminder that not everything is so black and white: despite her being 'innocent', if you change perspectives, she also did attract all this somehow...

        Ooh, I just also realized that Sylv must have been holding it in all this time. She's lost her father and has to take back her country, but when she is most depressed, Pascal starts sharing his bed with Kaede again. Nobody thought of how she was affected by such a blatant act right so close to her, how it ruined her nights and self-confidence, and how in the morning, she had to do her best to ignore the mocking stares, real or imagined. She must have come up with her own reasons to justify the fact, or tried to think of it as a lesser evil, or even told herself that she mustn't rock the boat, because if she loses Pascal any more than this, then it's all over. So she bottled it all up or tried to distract herself with the more pressing matters at hand, only to find stress piled onto stress.

        I think this would explain the sheer horror she felt once her mind cleared up. She knew what she had done was wrong, because she had been trying so hard to guard herself against it. However, her weakened state had released all inhibitions, much like excessive alcohol would, perhaps. She's of course to blame for her actions, but she's too painfully aware of this fact.

        Reply
      2. Jhime85

        I agree. The blame can be spread equally here. My problem with Sylv is not that she is upset about the way things went down. My problem is that she knows she has a tendency to go off the rails like this and at no point did she try to apply mental breaks. Remember she left Kaede outside kneeling on sharp rocks for hours almost 10 if I remember correctly. This is nota blow up and regret an hour or two later this was an entire day of insanity. As I said in another comment I don't hate Sylv for what she just did, but for the fact that this is a norm for her and she will likely do something similar again. Maybe this chapter just hit a little to close to home and pushed a few of my own triggers, but I've lived with someone who was great until he wasn't before. Someone that was bipolar knew it and didn't take meds. So we sometimes had entire days when the household was held hostage to a terrorist sometimes the mood swings lasted a couple days. And every time it got harder to forgive because you knew the same pattern would happen again and again until you think you too will go insane.
        So I do sympathize with Sylv but I also hate that she has the power to destroy everything in one day of fury and there is no way to put a check on her. I don't know how the author will resolve this but just the fact that this makes me care enough to hit an emotional land mine proves how great a writer you are.
        So I guess I don't hate Sylv in the end so much as I find her exhausting.

        Reply
  2. Riselotte

    This novel keeps being interesting. They all seem to have it hard, though I feel worst for Kaede. Caught in a crappy world with different rules, in a war that is far from won, with the reputation of a harlot and traumatised. And then she gets hit in the face by a chalice, gets to spend christmas alone and without food and tormented by Sylv and nightmares. Yet, I'd not be surprised if she plays it down next chapter, to keep the peace.

    I do wonder if she feels any anger towards Sylv, especially after witnessing some sign of remorse. That she's scared is understandable. There's every reason to be scared when Kaede's future depends on the goodwill of someone who lashed out that far. But even so, I am actually unsure whether Kaede feels any anger towards Sylv. Personal bias of mine, but I couldn't feel angry towards her and that without knowing she has mental issues. As bad as it all is, this is a harsh time and some people are emotionally unstable. Being angry at them for it doesn't make them any better. They most likely don't realise. Stay strong Kaede, this world needs you.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      I don't think it's impossible for Kaede not to begrudge Sylv to some degree (and if she did, my 'Mary Sue' alarms would be ringing -- because that's just not normal behavior). She might understand it, but as stated this chapter -- logically understanding and emotionally accepting are different things.

      Reply
      1. Riselotte

        Yes, I guess to not feel in some way wronged (and rightfully so) would be strange, though I'd call it less a Mary Sue and more just utter resignation. Still, not much Kaede can really do without risks so obvious that it couldn't be considered aloud.

        Reply
  3. Blackzeros7

    Aorii Aorii Aorii what did I did to you to make me read this thing? Is not even good... is EXCELLENT! But the worst part is that now I have to wait for the next chapter. Tell me does it feel good make me suffer like this? Making me read this great piece of work and then not letting me have the next chapter? You are a sick sick person! I should have never started reading this because now I always wonder what is going to happen next! You made me like this so take responsability.... well all that is to say that I love your work and I know that you may be busy but I really hope that you put the next chapter soon but not soon enough that drop quality of course... anyway thanks for this story

    Reply
  4. Tolack

    I'll be honest here. At the end, I felt fear; for myself, and more so for Kaede. Holy shit, troubled sleep from PTSD, then a scary monarch almost sexually abused her and then said monarch reaches breaking point, snaps, and not only tortures an innocent person while enjoying said person's pain, but also almost tortured her own pillar of support who is also her best friend and fiancee.

    If that's not enough she also scares the life out of Kaede when she wakes up.

    Like shit man, could Kaede's life get any tougher? Oh wait, she's in the middle of a MAGICAL HOLY WAR where your side is currently having not only a civil war at the same time, but they also have to worry about being invaded by their fellow religious allied empire! Not only does she fight on the front lines, she also serves as a BLOOD BAG. Fuck! Kaede's life is only getting tougher and I can't see a break any time soon. Isn't Kaede going to break from this!?

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      It's certain a lot to take in, especially when you consider that it's been... around 2 months? since she arrived.

      Reply
  5. artificer-urza

    Trouble in paradise? Was it ever truly paradise?
    I've read a lot of stories, and rather often an author will pick a side and one character will be 'right'. Some authors are more subtle about it than others. There is no right side here... well, the side that doesn't allow Kaede to be punished in Pascal's place, perhaps.
    I'd like to see a catalogue of the magic, the spells and the tools that have been used in the story, with short descriptions, like the character reference list. I know it would probably not happen, but I can always hope.

    Reply
  6. TMP

    I really like the story, but...

    Kaede has to be pretty tough to not go all suicidal. Heck, I'd have met my breaking point already at that rapey moment.

    On the other hand that could because all the abuse just hits a little to close to home. But I actually enjoy the familiarity. :)

    Reply
  7. pr

    Just a small note of enciuragement. The story line, writing style, and imaginative world building in Daybreak are very, very good. I am particularly drawn to the character development, which I think is outstanding. Writing an immersive story is a lot of fun, but reading one with such interesting characters is a true pleasure.

    Thank you for sharing your story, and like all of your fans, I look forward to each chapter.

    Reply
  8. taga basa

    sylviane behavior looks normal to me, remember that she lost his father few days ago then went to the battlefield without having time to get over with.
    So she is basically in a bad mood having another bad day.
    It takes time for People overwhelm by emotional rages to realized their mistake and usually horrified by what have they done .
    This is common in real life and famous example is in regards with IVAN THE TERRIBLE who beat his only son to death during a heated argument,when he realize what he have done he quickly hug his dying son begging for forgiveness.
    keade may possible forgive her but unfortunately with her having traumatize, that will strain the relationship of pascal and sylviane.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      I think people often miss the fact that when you examine the causes for her anger/frustrations, they're actually very reasonable. Domestic violence from the husband -- who is suppose to be the 'protector' in most cultures -- is never acceptable. Cheating is never acceptable in a non-polygamy society (and often times even in). And losing a huge chunk of the army will certainly drive any proper leader up the wall in fury. Her expression of it might be excessive... but it doesn't change the fact that she's not really wrong either! In the end, accusations like "they're crazy/evil" are simply an excuse for the fact everyone messed up to some degree, culminating in an extreme situation.

      Runaway emotions is huge in human history. Another of the more infamous (in Chinese history) cases is Prince Ju's rebellion... where Han Wudi -- one of the most capable emperors in Chinese history -- mistakenly killed the heir he had spent over 30 years grooming as successor. You can just imagine the fallout and repercussions.

      Reply
      1. taga basa

        I agree that what pascal did to her is blasphemy in cultural perspective, but unfortunately she is unaware that he is only trying to protect her . Her insults toward Lady Edith-Estellise have unintended consequence like losing the troops morale. But the problem here, is that Sylviane is emotionally unstable, Pascal probably has no option. knocking a angry person is bad idea, but it was the quickest solution since calming them is difficult and painful.

        There's a reason why Being Personal Isn't Professional especially in the military, as being too emotional is prove to be dangerous since it clouded ones judgement and it takes time to realize the mistake.
        Sylviane rage cause her to punish keade, only to realize that she harmed a innocent girl that has nothing to do with her.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          There's a reason why Being Personal Isn't Professional especially in the military, as being too emotional is prove to be dangerous since it clouded ones judgement and it takes time to realize the mistake.

          Yet many of the best generals are also very... emotional. Think people like Patton or Guderian. Even the great Hannibal spent his entire life chasing after an oath of revenge.
          Defensive generals tend to be very logical and patient. Offensive generals, on the other hand, tend to be very passionate.
          Sure, emotions are a hindrance; but it also gives us strength. In the end, it's all about how we manage it.

          Reply
          1. taga basa

            Well your right that it's all about how we manage our emotion and many Offensive generals are indeed very emotional like Patton.
            It's just that, I prefer a general with calm mind and has control over his anger.
            And beside, sylviane is still young, she can learn her mistakes and needs more experience to lead her People.

  9. Shadow Wolf

    great chapter! was worth the wait. but now i gotta wait again for the next one when i'm super hyped for it... i guess i'll just re-read the entire series again lol. good job Aoii, keep up the great work!

    Reply
  10. sinkingship

    It sucks that Sylviane is a lunatic, I actually kind of liked her before this chapter.

    Still the story is enthralling as always, thanks for the chapter!

    Reply
  11. Earth2543

    Thank for the chap!
    now, my arm is gonna be all sore from all the hanging till the next couple of weeks(months?)

    Keep up the good work!

    Ps. Will Kaede have more light in industrial development of this world outside the aforementioned one?

    Reply
  12. Steele

    I still think Sylviane and Pascal will workout given their equal and opposite personality issues, but for gods sake whats gonna happen to Kaede when the wars over. 'Cause, if Sylviane doesn't resolve her view of Kaede, during wartime, before it becomes the foremost problem in her life, I don't see a happy ending. I still don't dislike Sylviane (cause i might be a bit of a sociopath myself), but I hope she doesn't permanently scar Kaede's perception of her.

    Reply
  13. Daniel

    Did she really intend to rape her? I thought it was more like a teasing. And that they were on better terms.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Not really teasing but not really rape either...
      Sylv is one of those people who gets a kick out of embarrassing/tormenting other girls. As Cecylia once noted, she find the sight of a cute girl crying adorable.

      Reply
  14. RKain

    Sylvaine's actions this time around don't seem nearly as bad to me as her near rape of Kaede. That time I was seriously infuriated; this time, she seems to almost invite pity (it helps that there's a nice big "mental disorder" sticker on her, as opposed to her just being self-centered).

    I'm really hoping that she'll get the chance to realize how traumatic that kind-of-rapey night was for Kaede. Perhaps on a future depressive swing? Perhaps even the morning immediately after this chapter (depending on badly Kaede handles this night)?

    My thanks to you, Aorii. Looking forward to the next chapter.

    Reply
    1. Ebisu

      It looked brutal to me this time. One thing is to hint at a rape (where nothing actually happened) and another to "tie" someone in the snow for 10 straight hours without eating or even drinking, to a hard rugged floor sitting in seiza position and in Christmas day seeing everybody else partying. I hope Kaede can get over it.

      Even if the Princess has a mental illness, I can't show any sympathy for her, even though it's supposed to not be her fault. And Kaede probably wasn't filed up about her disorder. All this just saddens me.

      Reply
  15. Technomo12

    ohh I cant wait for the repercussions' of what Sylvie did
    as expected for my 2 fave top tier characters in this series "Kaede being top 1 and Sylvie top 2" them being together excites my Sadist soul >_<
    but I still want to see them reconcile together with pascal I mean the 3 of them are the most Lonelly people in the world right now

    Reply
  16. tymofey

    >>"I am your future wife and empress! I don't need to reason with you!"
    Just turn 360° to the left and walk away.
    Seriously though, how does one even begin to deal with this bullshit? She cannot be reasoned with by her own admission, and you cannot bitchslap the crazy due to status.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      1. Turning 360 degrees puts you back at the exact same facing.
      2. Please refrain from use the word 'bitchslap'. It makes you sound like an uneducated, ill-bred chauvinist.
      3. Humans are crazy in general -- it's one of the first realizations in psychology: how blindsided our minds really are.

      Reply
      1. tymofey

        1) That's the point.
        2) My apologies, though I disagree.
        3) That is no excuse not to try our level best to overcome the built-in craziness anyway.

        Reply
        1. Doskias

          You can't overcome an actual mental disorder unless it's the one that can be reliably treated. If you try to forcibly suppress it, beware of when the dam breaks.
          What I don't understand, though, is how anyone in good conscience can lend a hand in putting a psychopath on a throne. No matter the merits, it can't go well in the long term, at least not until you switch to constitutional monarchy, where the parliament can put the breaks on the crazy.

          Reply
        2. AoriiAorii Post author

          @tymofey
          Very reasonable ^^
          I certainly agree with #3, though I'm not quite sure what's the point of the 360. Maybe I missed something.

          @Doskias
          You'll see =P

          Reply
  17. Jhime

    Please please tell me we don't have to wait another month for the next chapter! I know you said this was hard to write but surely the next will be easier? A week or two maybe? This is one of the best fantasy novels I have read in years. Kinda hate Sylvianne now. Not because of what she just did, but because she will inevitably do something similar in the future, especially if there is no way to treat bi polar in that world. It seems when she goes manic she is paranoid of others motivations and absolutely convinced she is right. A horrible combination for an absolute monarch to have. And because she is queen her victims can never get resolution. Just meaningless apologies. Then someone has to succor her through the depression that follows so she doesn't slit her own throat, most likely the people who tried to control the fallout from her manic episode and were punished as a result. Sooner or later no mater how much one 'understands' and sympathizes they will grow to hate her. She should definitely never have been queen. To bad her siblings died and there was no choice. She would have done better as just pascals wife where her orders in the manic state could be countermanded. As it is now... I understand Kaede's unease when she wondered what would become of them under the rule of an unstable monarch. PLEASE can we have the next chapter?

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      I haven't even started next chapter yet, and I have taxes to file. So the answer to that may very well be 'yes'.
      That being said, we'll get the pros-vs-cons discussion next chapter =P

      A lot of famous rulers actually have the problem of being absolutely convinced they're right. One of my favorite quotes is...

      "Not bad, considering I was sitting between Jesus Christ and Napoleon."

      -- David Lloyd George after the Treaty of Versailles, in regards to how he was caught between Woodrow Wilson (who believes he is carrying out God's will and can do no wrong) and Georges Clemenceau (French nationalistic imperialist)

      Reply
      1. Jhime85

        Lol that quote! I Vaguely remember that from some college class my friend took. He would tell me the interesting bits sometimes when I asked him questions while editing his papers for grammar mistakes. And I can't wait for the pros vs cons discussions. Also another interesting fact I found on Google? Bi polar is genetic, here is a 10-15% chance her children will inherit it. Poor pascal and Kaede. If he marries her this crap will never end. Thank you for replying and I understand that RL has to take priority. Ah well whenever you get around to publishing all of this I will buy and review.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          It's supposedly part genetic and part environmental -- if I remember correctly -- but having it in the family certainly increase the risks dramatically. In any case, research into mood disorders is still too recent and just tapping the surface.

          Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          I believe they call him a "Christian Imperialist" since he wasn't really trying to get US colonies... though the tag "ideological crusader" fits him much more.

          Reply
      1. Doskias

        Oh, she's a great character alright, as in well-designed/written. But she's definitely not someone a normal person would willingly interact with on a regular basis. If she ever gets slapped, expect 10 min videos projections made.

        Reply
        1. DarkUrg

          Quite a lot of other characters just perceive her as a woman with both great virtues and great shortcomings. And I'm sure that nice portion of readers view her like that too.

          Reply
          1. Doskias

            Too bad great virtues don't make up for even moderate shortcoming when it comes to human perception/public opinion. Many people's stellar reputations were ruined by relatively insignificant misdeeds, after all.
            The real problem, as other commenters have pointed out already, is that she's a person in position of (absolute) authority. Interacting with her is like sitting on a bomb which can go off at any moment: it won't help much when she weep and repents over your dead body which just somehow managed to loose its head during one of her episodes. In other words, she's plain dangerous, even more so to people who're around her most of the time. And those who she cares about should exercise even more caution.

            I'm also expecting Pascal to eventually reevaluate their relationship. After all, before the story began she was his only friend and the only person his age who he openly recognized as his equal. With the appearance of Kaede the monopoly came to an end, and then his circle of friends expanded even further. He now has other people he came to respect, and I bet he also realized that he previously had grossly underestimated some of his peers, which, along with having Kaede by his side, can help with his future social interactions.
            Every healthy relationship is ultimately based on mutual give and take, and the fact that Sylviane was able to offer Pascal something no one else could made up for her antics. Now not only she no longer controls the market, but her behavior became all the more insufferable. Just the fact that she totally treats Pascal as her exclusive possession should be enough to make someone as prideful as him snap eventually. If you hike up the price of the goods which had their real value fall, you're looking for going bankrupt.

        2. AoriiAorii Post author

          A main heroine character not built for waifu-appeal, surprise surprise! =D
          "10 min projections"?

          Reply
          1. Doskias

            Yandere characters are actually quite popular. When you're not the one risking getting stabbed, that is...

            They have projections instead of videos, right?
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYNeT2nzEgA

            Actually, the original comment was also a play on "Congratulations on your marvelous performance, everyone hates you."

          2. AoriiAorii Post author

            Yandere characters have Borderline Personality Disorder, which is actually extremely scary when you understand what that does to them (it's caused by the same environmental conditions that creates Sociopathy in males -- generally a lack of attention while they were babies). That being said, they are extremely attached to their partners, so in a way that is their 'waifu-able' trait.

          3. Doskias

            Trying to put actual science behind the Japanese media stereotypes is giving them more credit than they deserve. Yandere, tsundere, and other whatevereres are loosely defined behavior types, who generally act not based on the appropriate psychological response to the current environment/circumstances, but plot convenience. I think most of the readers appreciate you putting effort in carefully designing your characters' traits (and flaws), and making them act on those traits, for good or bad, at appropriate (but not necessarily convenient) times. Which is not how the scripts for run off the mill Japanese media products are written. If Sylviane was an anime character, she would be branded as a yandere without doubt: it's enough that she's attached to Pascal and goes loco every now and then. And if it were decided that she is to remain the MC's romantic interest, her issues would be eventually fixed trough some drama and tears to either become non-existent, or to serve as a comedic relief in non-consequential scenes.

  18. Ebisu

    I can only agree with the others. Great chapter. Since the beginning it went strong though I missed Kaede POV (wondering what they were exactly talking about inside their telepathy link, though that drove Sylviane madder too). I didn't expect Sylviane to go so far with Kaede. Now I'm excited for next chapter. :)

    Reply
  19. MehHeh

    Will be interesting to see the negative effects this will have on the relationships between Kaede and the princess and maybe more importantly Pascal. Pascal did warn her not do anything when he said "If you harm her...".

    Reply
  20. Nyx

    Wow. This is one emotionally driven chapter. Pretty much can imagine how the scene played out while reading this.

    Reply
  21. Bareus

    Woah.... too speechless to know what I should write... thanks for chapter(?)
    ==============================
    Before she realized it, the emptied chalice in her hands and had been sent hurling towards his face.
    Before she realized it, the emptied chalice in her hands and had been sent hurling towards his face.

    ..., although many units will need to have their command structure rebuilt before we could even begin to accurately assess their losses, ...
    ..., although many units will need to have their command structure rebuild before we could even begin to accurately assess their losses, ...
    -> ok, I don't even know if this is correct, buuuut: "rebuilt" is an adjective, but it should be "rebuild" (which is the verb) ... I think....

    nevermind :x

    Reply
    1. krytykkrytyk

      Rebuilt is correct in this case, if I'm not wrong it's Future Perfect construction?

      Reply
  22. Hakurei06Hakurei06

    As I've said in the mails: "Hypomanic" pretty much gives everything away, and "depressive episode" is basically a glowing neon sign shouting "I'm Bi-Polar Disorder!". Thus, not a spoiler.

    Discuss Sylvaine here:

    I enjoyed everyone's suffering this chapter. Hers is no exception.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Oh no, not planning to keep it secret. Those more knowledgeable will pick it up this chapter; those not will get the lecture next chapter on what bipolarity entails xD

      Reply
      1. feha

        I'm confused though, They state in this chapter that we have already been told about her condition and what causes it, but I really can't recollect when we were told (or even what we were told) :/
        Neither do I remember if her condition is common knowledge, known by top-brass, or a secret only her very closest people know.

        As for how they just let her run along while in crazy-mode (and yes, while I consider her feelings and actions during her 'episode' as realistic and honestly more fit for a ruler inviting foreign interests like her hubby than the insecure side of the coin, I will still call it crazy-mode because its short, clear on what I mean, and is bound to infuriate people.) I am a bit surprised. Not because they allow it, royals has been proven to get away with a lot of lunacies through the ages, but because she herself allows it. Considering their loyalty seems to be with the insecure side of her (at least it listens more to the advisors) and that her personality seems like the kind that would order them to disregard her at their own judgement while in that state, I would have expected her to be restrained until she calmed down.

        But as I said before, the crazy-mode seems more fit as a ruler in my opinion, if they just managed to make her slow down and listen to her counselors or even merely think things though before giving out orders or threats. Which I think seems quite doable considering even in her current situation (and her current situation was the kind that even her regular self should have blown her top imo) she didn't outright order pascal or kaede to death or at least some lashings.
        And speaking of lashings, I felt it was quite out of character of Pascal to take it so badly. Yeah yeah, he had his own situation going, but still, he always struck me as responsible enough for his actions. And with what he did to his fiance (considering their culture) and what he did to his superior as a foreign interest (considering his upbringing) I would have expected him to accept whatever punishments were coming and maybe even encourage something public.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          No... you (readers) haven't been told about Sylv's condition. Pascal has been. Kaede hasn't been either -- we'll get to that next chapter =P

          Oh I'm fine with 'crazy-mode', as generalizing as it is, at least it is equally generalizing towards everyone (in the end, being insane is part of being human ^^). The terms I have problem with is when they apply specifically to some people -- like when people in this comment thread uses a derogatory term that would only be used towards women... yeah that's not okay.

          I think part of the problem is that... generally (once again), the people who do the restraining towards rulers tend to earn... unfortunate side effects. Now sure, every so while you have brave individuals who do that; but in the end, pissing off a monarch is scary business.

          (Can't talk any more about this topic because it'd be spoilers =P)

          Also, you misunderstand. Pascal isn't taking it badly that he himself might get lashed (although he's not taking it well either). His anger is twofold and best explained by this line:

          "Yes... I know I deserved some of that for my rash actions. You do not have to tell me," Pascal admitted at last before his indignation spiked once more. "But she could not even attempt to see my perspective? To understand why I did it? And Kaede... she is the innocent one in all this!"

          Sylv beginning the whole thing by giving Kaede a bloody nose didn't exact put him in the most logical mindset either.

          I might still need to tweak some words here and there, but I don't believe Pascal's reaction is "off character", only that my depiction may be failing to get it across properly.

          Reply
  23. Matrim

    Poor Kaede..Damn the princess is looking horrible right now, I'm pretty sure she will suffer the consequences of her actions next chapter. Also I think we got 2 simultaneous cliffhangers involving the princess ,next chapter can't come fast enough.. Thanks for the chapter !

    Reply