Extra 1 - The Marksman and the Noble

(This scene takes place in the middle of Volume 3, hours before meeting Cecylia during Chapter 10)

Standing a hundred paces from the straw practice dummy, Kaede kept her footing with her left side facing the target. Her hand drew a fresh arrow, and her body straightened into the proper form -- pelvis and shoulders in parallel, back straight from neck to feet.

She held her spring-steel greatbow diagonally in hand, before gripping the bow string with her right glove. A grooved piece of horn sewn into the thumb's crouch in her three-fingered archery glove caught onto the metal wire. Meanwhile her left hand readjusted itself on the bow's grip.

Kyūdō archery wasn't just a sport. It was also a ritual, a contemplative prayer to the perfection of form.

Ashibumi, Dozukuri, Torikake, Tenouchi, and now -- as Kaede turned her eyes to face the target once more -- Monomi.

A cold, morning breeze swept through the grassy meadow where she stood, but Kaede hardly even felt the chill as her mind zoned out everything else in the world. She raised the greatbow above her head, paused, then pulled it back down, drawing away the steel wire while pushing her bow forward at the same time.

It shouldn't have been possible under normal circumstances. Kaede's Yumi-Daikyū wasn't made of laminated wood but far stronger spring-steel. Her meager strength should have left her hand shaking just trying to pull back the stress-laden bowstring. But Pascal had grown tired of refilling her spell-holding runes with Elemental Body of Earth every day after practice. He enchanted her gloves weeks ago with... not strength, but a significant reduction of reactionary forces for a steady draw.

It was magic that violated the laws of energy conservation, so much that Kaede still couldn't fully wrap her head around it.

Not that it mattered as Kaede's posture reached Kai -- the full draw.

Her mind melded into the arrowhead to form one entity. Her eyes saw nothing but the target itself. Her thumb and fingers then released the string, hurling out the arrow across the open air.

The arrow in flight represented something sacred to Kaede, bringing her a sense of perfect serenity.

...Just before it soared straight into the straw dummy.

Lowering her bow, Kaede's concentration returned from her intense focus. It had felt good to leave the world behind, to put aside all of her worries and consider only the absolute truth:

Her arrow was fated to pierce the straw man's throat.

She heard a few cheers. "Dead center, every one of them!" A nearby Lotharin cried.

Sixteen practice arrows, four targets. All of them in the sniper's 'triangle of death'. Had the targets been made of flesh and blood, every one of those hits would have been fatal.

She hadn't split any of her own arrows though. That represented the pinnacle of archery that she had yet to reach.

"Damn impressive for a girl your age," even a relaxed Ranger Captain appraised.

"Thanks," Kaede beamed as a logistics trooper retrieved her arrows. Then, as she slowly walked back after accepting them, she noticed two familiar faces within the dispersing audience.

"Ariadne!" She waved before taking a staggering step, her legs still sore from the Princess' punishment two days ago.

"Good morning, Kaede," the serene lady seemed to bewitch the bystanders as she strode across the grass. Her pink tresses and fiery uniform billowed in the morning breeze, while her hand held the reins of a pristine white pegasus.

Flanking her was not her fiancé but a tall, broad shouldered young man with gray eyes, chiseled chin, and a full mustache.

"Sergeant... Steinmetz, was it?" Kaede greeted with a smile as she remembered the section leader from Captain Karen von Lichnowsky's company, who had drank with her after the desperate fighting at Nordkapp.

"Sir Lieutenant now," the yeoman thrust his muscular chest forth with pride, a shiny new Knight's Cross decorating his collar. "But you can call me Eckhart."

"Congratulations," Kaede eagerly shook his massive hand, also noticing the difference in uniform -- he now wore the black-on-burning-red of a Knight Phantom.

"Pascal and Colonel von Hammerstein recruited him for the Ghost Riders while he was recovering from a wound in Nordkreuz," Ariadne explained as she noticed Kaede's gaze. "He's still learning our tricks in using the Phantom Steed, but we're certainly glad to have a decorated veteran like him with us."

"I serve as Captain Gerd Kessler's new second-in-command."

It was almost shocking how quickly everyone's rank rose after the White Typhoon campaign. The Ghost Riders had paid in blood during the Air Battle of Nordkreuz. But in exchange, the survivors received the honor of becoming the 6th, fully-fledged Knight Phantom formation in Weichsel's armed forces.

"I can't think of anyone more deserving," Kaede grinned from ear to ear. "Are the two of you out for a stroll?"

Ariadne nodded with her elegant smile.

"I was giving him another lesson on some of our aerial maneuver tactics. Gerd is a good leader in the field, but he's not the best at explaining details."

Leadership really is half mentoring, Kaede nodded.

"I noticed back at Nordkapp," Eckhart added as he stared at Kaede's weapon. "But your bow really is unusual. There aren't many archers in Weichsel; but now that we're in Rhin-Lotharingie, it's obvious that your archery style is odd too."

"I do come from a fabled land," the Samaran girl glowed with a mysterious smile. "The Lotharins use the three-fingered 'Inner Sea draw'." -- Kaede noticed as 'Mediterranean' translated into its Hyperion equivalent as soon as her lips formed the words -- "But I come from the Far East. We use a variant of the superior 'thumb draw' commonly seen among nomadic societies."

"Why's it better?"

Presenting her bow, Kaede curled her right thumb around the bowstring and pulled on it, while wrapping the index and middle finger around in a tight grip.

"The nomads use a thumb-ring instead of a glove, but the idea is similar. The thumb is a single digit that holds greater strength than the other fingers combined. This brings the advantage of a narrower grip on the bowstring that pulls harder, further, and never suffers an uneven release -- unlike the three-finger draw which must stay coordinated even as the fingers tire, otherwise they'd foul the shot."

Ariadne looked up, her eyes impressed:

"How long have you been practicing archery?"

"Since I was... nine?" Kaede tilted her head to ponder. "Pa took me to Mongolia -- a region in the east -- for a trip, and I was fascinated when we watched a tournament. My style has changed some since then, but I've been shooting for a good seven-eight years now."

My Kyūdō teacher wasn't pleased by my 'crude' steppe habits though, she thought back with a wistful smile. Though he'd probably scream heresy if he saw my bow now.

It was his biggest drawback when going to tournaments: his form was 'contaminated', so to speak. Always had points taken off.

...His father had complained of Japanese racism though. 'Can't let a half-blooded foreigner win, it'd insult their Dai Nippon pride,' he would grumble in private.

Kaede shivered as a new breeze blew across the clearing, while Ariadne's pegasus neighed in the chill. With her attention drawn to the steed, Kaede changed the subject to chase away the bittersweet homesickness:

"What did you name your new pegasus?"

The Samaran girl still remembered that moment atop the skywhale, when a Northmen berserker hacked into Ariadne's first familiar and mount. The lady had been thrown off and almost killed, before Kaede saved her with a miraculous, last second arrow.

"Edelweiss."

A shadow of guilt ran through Ariadne's cyan gaze as her gloved fingers combed through the pegasus' mane with adoration.

It was the exact same name she had given to her first familiar.

Kaede's stomach flipped. Had she died in battle, would Pascal just summon another and call her 'Kaede'?

Don't be ridiculous, her mind chided. Pascal certainly hadn't tried to name her after another.

Given that a master's death would doom the familiar but not vice versa, the familiar bond's magic really was unfair. But then, that was the case for any relationship where authority and power were inherently skewed, be it master and familiar, aristocrat and peasant, or bourgeois and proletariat...

Authority was unavoidable in any social structure. What differed and truly mattered, was respect.

"That name is really special to you, isn't it?" Kaede forced a grin towards the lady, trying to suppress her bothersome thoughts.

For a moment Ariadne said nothing, not even as a nostalgic smile began to form. Then:

"It's the flower Parzifal gave me when he first asked me to a dance."

Kaede's eyebrows shot up at that. The Edelweiss had been enshrined in Swiss and Austrian culture because of its rarity, for the flower only grew on high, rocky passes and symbolized the untarnished beauty of the mountains. Retrieving it to give to a beloved was meant to be a test of courage and dedication. Since the translation magic rarely matched terms without equivalence in the meanings beneath them, she expected that the Hyperion flower had a similar background.

Sure enough, Eckhart's eyes swelled:

"He fetched one himself? Our healer is a brave man."

"Where do they grow in Weichsel?" Kaede asked the Lieutenant.

"They don't. They only grow on the high mountains -- the Dead Mountains," he stressed as danger flashed across his gaze. "The Edelweiss is the only flower that survives uncorrupted in those forsaken lands."

The legacy of extinct vampire clans continues to this day. A gray, poisonous mist that covered those rocky, steep slopes which could kill an unwarded man within minutes. Even for a mage, this was a challenge that would tax both his physical and magical endurance, not to mention the courage it took to brave treacherous mountains with zero visibility.

"He did admit to me later that he had help from Gerd, who mountaineers for a hobby," Ariadne accentuated as though she clearly thought Gerd was crazy. "He picked the flower himself. But the most important part was what he said to me, even back then when he was all shy and embarrassed and insecure."

With an angelic smile blooming across her cherry lips, Ariadne recounted the scene that had began the love of her life:

"He said I should never be without my noble purity, for I was his beacon of guidance in this world."

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25 thoughts on “Extra 1 - The Marksman and the Noble

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  1. AVR

    A typo or two -

    as danger flashed
    That might be correct, or it might be 'as anger flashed'.

    had began the love
    had begun the love

    Reply
  2. Kemm

    Thanks for the chapter.

    ...His father had complained of Japanese racism though. 'Can't let a half-blooded foreigner win, it'd insult their Dai Nippon pride,' he would grumble in private.
    ^-If I remember right, Kaede was half-russian-half-ainu? In that case it's even worse, as he would have been regarded as mostly full foreigner.

    Counting only from after the Three Kindoms Wars in the mainland continent, there have been tipycally four different races in Japan: Yamato (a little bit contaminated by native blood, but just about 10% max), Ryuukuans (about half-Yamato-half-other, living in Okinawa), Koreans (refugees from the mainland, closely related to the Yamato) and Ainu (merge of at least two different native tribes); of them, Ryuukuans are sometimes regarded as japanese (foregtting their history and culture) sometimes as tourist attractions (for people outside the prefecture, forgetting they are humans), (japanese) Koreans being regarded as both outsiders and pariah, Ainu as either non-existent (it didn't help that they were forced to intermarry with regular japanese to avoid persecution after WWII), tourist attractions (same as Okinawans), now extinct ancestors (barefaced lies) or tattooed barbarians, while Yamato descendants are called "Japan japanese" (Nihon no nihonjin) and regarded as the sole existing race in the japanese archipelago (many have said, included one Prime Minister, that Japan is a one-race country.

    Given that Ainu are native to almost the whole Kuril-Sakhalin-Japan archipelago, plus Kamchatka peninsula, they are sometimes regarded as japanese, sometimes as russian (it doesn't help that most Ainu have assimilated with either), and in the case of one of them marrying a Russian person, japanese people would regard the couple as mostly russian, so the offspring of the couple would be even more of an eyesore than a regular "half" (how they call people with just one japanese parent) as not only is mostly foreigner, they have the gall to have a japanese name, as if they were real people.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      I know that's the historic attitude. Although shouldn't that have gotten better (to a degree) since the government reversed its policies 20 years ago?
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ainu_people#Current_affairs
      Especially given very few people still hold onto the old Ainu culture and are pretty much indistinguisable (I always laugh when East Asians say they can distinguish each others' ethnicity by appearance, then completely fail when put to the test). Given Kaede is written to consider herself half-Japanese it would mean his/her mother melded into the JP cultural side (and then married a Russian anyway xD)

      Although technically she (Kaede's mother Honoka) was of Ainu ethnicity, a fact that the more pretentious and xenophobic individuals amongst the locals reminded her of, even up in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido. - Volume 3, Chapter 1

      Btw, her father isn't ethnically Russia either (he's a Komi), but culturally/politically a Russian Nationalist (much like how Stalin was Georgian yet somehow became more fanatically-Russian than real Russians).

      Reply
      1. Kemm

        I don't know how exactly. The last I've seen on things happening just this 5 past years, there has been (continued from the past) csome cultural appropriation, that quote about Japan being a "single-ethnicity country" by a PM (had to backpedal a bit due to foreign complains) and a lot of comments whenever Ainu make it to the news that fall into either one of two categories of "but they still exist?" or "those tattooed bastards should learn their place" (taking the cake one where the person who made the comment pretty much vouched for them to be put to death). So piecing that along with the weird consideration japnese have about foreigners, the only way their treatment is better is that they are spoken less as real living people (meaning less badmouthing).

        My sample sources may be biased without my knowledge, though.

        Reply
  3. WinterRED

    You know, I've always wondered what gender Aorii is. I'm not asking nor do I need an answer, but I've always been curious. Most writing reflects the experiences and biases of its authors, and I wonder if these romance scenes are from a male or female perspective.

    Anyways, this was a nice little short "story"! Keep up the great work =)

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Aorii is Aorii - Kadi, when discussing genders

      My inspiration for Romance writing is Tolstoy, not "male" or "female" (=P), prefer to take a thematic realist approach with a dash of romanticism.

      Reply
      1. WinterRED

        Figures that even the romance has something of a researched background heh. But surely you can't say that your writing is completely void of a little personal preference right?

        I've not read Tolstoy before (though the name sounds familiar to me), but the contrasting images of romance between Kaide's (our) modern world and the one depicted in this short story for Hyperion are pretty interesting to note. Is there any particular significance? Probably not, but Hyperion is loaded with references and reading it usually goes along the path of 'Hyperion Chapter -> Comment Section -> Wikipedia -> Bewilderment at how you can be an engineer and still have time to absorb so much knowledge'.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          I read wikipedia (and its sources) as a 'relaxing pasttime' ^^;

          I don't research romance (=P). If anything, I guess it reveals my views on romance as a genre -- it needs to be realism tempered by romantic ideals, and not romanticism with a dash of realism (if any).

          I grew up on historical-political fiction, so the idea of 'love' transcending social barriers has always been kind of absurd. They happen, but they rarely end well. Now, if they are on the same playing field in intelligence, wisdom, and skill, share similar values despite differences in culture/religion, then we can discuss long-term happiness.

          Reply
  4. xrick

    Oh man, when I read Edelweiss...I imagined Kaede asking if there weren't a black steed called Kurogane or a red/brown steed called Vermillion xD

    Reply
  5. Hachi

    I had forgotten how great these slice-of-life chapters were. Feels like a breath of fresh air! It's also nice to see Ariadne again ^^ Thanks for the extra chapter, it was really good. Very nice slow and calm pace with a little more fun facts and information inserted made it a fun read! Extra points for flower symbolism =)

    (Can I have a Parzifal too?)

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Fun fact: Parzifal is inspired by Neville Longbottom
      I remember reading the Harry Potter series and going, omg JKR could have done SO MUCH with this character if she would just give him the opportunity to mature, instead of glorifying that foolhardy idiot of a protagonist.

      Reply
      1. Hachi

        That only makes him more awesome imo ^o^b
        I remember reading Harry Potter and always loving Neville. I'd love to hear your thoughts expanded on "glorifying that foolhardy idiot of a protagonist." xD

        Reply
  6. Arcane

    every one of those hits 'wound' have been fatal > every one of those hits 'would' have been fatal

    Reply
  7. Glacierfairy

    Ah, I really miss the slice-of-life chapters, thanks for posting this! Makes me wonder how would Ariadne react once she found out Kaede actually saved her back then.

    PS: "her mind childed" should be "her mind chided".

    Reply
  8. Sylvia

    I know certain bows have certain traditions regarding knocking an arrow and how to fire, but wouldn't this be a case of "when the bow is different enough in 1 key aspect, its handling must also change"?

    I say this in regards to the fact the material of the bow is much stiffer/harder to pull, the fact it would normally require much more strength to pull than the original bow should mean that during the line up of the arrow to the target, instead of trying to pull back the string (and risk injuring the fingers or wrist) wouldn' kaede be better off pushing forwards on the bow for the same final pose?

    I had to research this a while ago when looking into bow types and their methods of draw for somewhere else.

    Reply
    1. AoriiAorii Post author

      Kyudou does both pulling + pushing at the same time. I think all thumb draw does that, although not necessarily as obvious.
      As far as I know, a bow's form determines the archery style, while a bow's material composition determines the shot's strength. Otherwise, nomadic archery wouldn't have stayed the same despite advancements in their bow's material technology.
      Though I'm not expert (not even an amateur) so don't take my word for it xD

      Reply
      1. zog11

        one of my friends is a archery instructor. so I know a little and usually get to get a free session about once a year as a bonus,so I have some experience.

        its a little more complicated: finger drawing styles to some extent is a case of personal preference today. I personally use a three finger draw but I have thicker fingers so I tend not to have a problem with finger fatigue as most of the strength is drawing from your arm and leg muscles if your doing it right. It tends too give me a cleaner release and more accuracy also I've never really got on with the thumb rings.(some people with thinner fingers prefer them as fatigue can be a real issue particularly for younger people drawing stronger bows. I just find them awkward in comparison but I learnt using three fingers and then tried other styles and variations) The draw really is all about aiming and controlling power to keep your releases clean and smooth.(ideally focus on your breathing and arcing/aiming your shots as you draw and release) fingering is really about the motion you use to aim, draw and release. (pushing using a thumb ring is really about the release you let your arm go forward as you let go to smooth out the shot to improve aim and control power as you let go of the string/ thumb ring)(ideally you push to help release from the ring smoothly) I hope that helped clarify as someone who done some archery (using thumb rings) and seen a fair few people learn.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          It's said that the three-finger draw is easier to learn (with a higher 'novice accuracy') because it has a cleaner release.
          The arm carries most of the strength required to make a draw, although as the arm grows tired the fingers tend to become shaky...
          Thanks for the insights~

          Reply
          1. zog11

            I wouldn't class my self as anything more than novice, I was mainly pointing out that a thumb ring or thumb draw you push on the release to keep it smoother and improve accuracy (it also stops it curving slightly to the right) (at least that was what I was told and what seems to work in practice) ( its a more complicated release motion and I just prefer the three fingered draw personally)
            the shakiness due to arm getting tied and the finger strain are slightly different problems. smaller longer fingers some times tend to cramp or become uncomfortable and sore which is why some younger people are better off with a thumb ring when learning, from the start. (these days its more a reducing injuries while practicing archery) (the three finger draw tends to be easier starting point and most don't suffer injury using it depends on the persons hands)

      2. Thanatoss

        Thumb draw isn't better that three finger draw. It wouldn't be used if it was worse!!!
        However thumb draw works better with very short bows like mongolian bows for horse archery. Still british WAR longbows were always used with three finger draw. I doubt they would use it this way and simply were so stupid not to try another "better" draw.
        I know Kaede isn't allknowing but she/he was an archer and she should research the topic a little more.

        Reply
        1. AoriiAorii Post author

          The Mongol bow is not as large and long as the English one, but it is vastly more powerful. The draw weight of an English longbow averages around 70-80 pounds (*my research says it's between 80-100), whereas the Old Mongol bow had a pull that, according to George Vernadsky, averaged at around 166 pounds... Whereas the English longbow could shoot at distances up to 250 yards or around 228 meters (*effective range with normal arrows, not max range with flight arrows which goes up to 400yds), the Mongol counterpart can hit its target at 350 yards or 320 meters and, if the archer is well trained for the task, even beyond that.

          Yeah sorry, the English are FAR outmatched in term of better archery. We're talking about people who practice it as a profession (english) vs people who practice it as part of their lifestyle (nomads). Mongol/Turkic troops carried multiple bows into battle (for diff ranges/weather) and could easily shoot 10/minute (while the English preferred to stay under 6/min or they'll tire too quickly). The Mediterranean draw is just more famous because it was used by all western nations and there's a profound western-bias in all English-source history/literature =P

          People generally use what is readily available and does the job rather than what is best.

          Reply