Warning: spoilers for up to Volume 3 Chapter 8
If there’s one subject in Daybreak that’s been more divisive than any other, it’s the topic of how Sylviane treats Kaede.
Sylviane was trained to be a future ruler. She had been drilled for years in geopolitics, statecraft, and diplomacy, skills that are most essential to any monarch. Negotiation and oratory skills are her speciality, which she demonstrated in story while in talks with King Leopold (v2/v3) and in her speech to soldiers (v3ch6).
However, none of this changes the fact that she is a young girl fresh out of her teenage years, with all the problems one often sees. If anything, the pressure to groom her for the throne has left her with even more insecurities than the average, Instagram-using college girl. Sylviane doesn’t just compete with her class and schoolmates in trying to stand out. She competes with young ladies across an entire Empire, all while trying to maintain her betrothal to one of the most eligible bachelors on the continent — Pascal.
(seriously, when you consider Pascal’s political rank, his family reputation/influence, his inheritance over an economic/strategic city, plus the fact he’s both intelligent and handsome, you really have to wonder just how many proposals for political marriages he used to get! Irregardless of his personality faults.)
Much of what Sylviane does towards Kaede is expressed as very unusual for her character. Kaede herself notices in v2 after talking to the castle servants that they seem to all have a very favorable view of the Princess’ kindness, except she herself receives none of it. I’ve done my best to paint this aspect of Sylviane — her deep insecurity, her concerns that she won’t measure up to all the expectations placed upon her, her often-problematic relationship with Pascal, etc. All of this contributes to her moodiness.
Sylviane’s character was partially crafted over a simple fact — most young people are too busy trying to resolve their own self-image issues to handle the demands of high leadership. Hence why most societies believe leaders should be above a certain age.
As many older readers know, Daybreak’s volume 3 focuses more upon this Sylv-Kaede relationship more than anything else.
Sylviane’s early aims have been established in volume 2: since she can’t get rid of this bothersome girl who is now glued to her fiancé, she at least want to establish herself as the one on top, with all the power and authority to control the relationship. A lot of readers don’t like this (and Sylviane gets called the b-word a lot). Nevertheless this is classic female politics, especially for court drama and in polygamous societies. And Kaede knows it perfectly. In fact Kaede understands fully well that Sylviane has been very mild in expressing this compared to cases in Earth history, given the sheer difference between their social standing.
Sylviane’s attitude, however, reaches its climax in v3ch8, where she truly lashes out and scares Kaede. Yet, as this episode’s consequences play out in the chapters after it, I did notice more and more obviously that there is one factor missing.
Sylviane never truly threatened Kaede in a way that it shook the familiar to the core.
So, after writing v3ch13 draft, I decided to return to v3ch8 and added the following scene. This happens right after Pascal was kicked out of the cabin following his row with Sylviane, and after Robert has a conversation with him as he fumes off.
“Your Highness, please,” Kaede pleaded on her knees before the Princess’ bed. “I understand that Pascal’s actions were brutish and foolhardy, if not outright stupid. But please allow me to place a word on his behalf.”
The Samaran girl lowered her head until it touched the floor in a classic Japanese dogeza bow. It was such a self-debasing posture that even a princess from another world could not mistake its intentions.
However, that didn’t mean Sylviane was used to seeing such a gesture. The Princess took a deep breath before she allowed bewilderment to push aside part of her anger. Her eyes were still hard as she looked down upon the familiar. But she nevertheless offered her a chance, even if the tone was somewhat begrudging:
“Your Highness,” Kaede began as she sat back straight on her heels. For once, her wispy voice was a blessing as the familiar found it easy to keep her tone soft and non-provocative. “I do not wish to try to excuse His Grace’s actions, for it was undoubtedly wrong. There is no excuse for a man to ever resort to such barbaric methods in a relationship.”
The Samaran girl could see the anger being expelled as Sylviane took another deep exhale. It was always good to show that they were in agreement first on such a sensitive subject.
“However, I simply wish to plead for leniency, on the grounds that Pascal only did it with the best of intentions,” Kaede continued. “We were on a field of battle, and Pascal is a soldier, not a diplomat. In his rush to do what he saw as the best thing, he failed to consider all options and chose the blunt force solution. It is wrong. I do not doubt it for one second. But should we also not consider why he did it?”
For a moment it almost seemed like the Princess’ gaze was starting to soften. Yet all that changed when Kaede spoke her last sentence and stepped onto a landmine.
“Why!?” Sylviane snarled as a new wave of anger rose to fill her expression. “Because he thought his judgment is superior to mine, that’s why!”
Kaede could only purse her lips as she couldn’t even deny that. However Sylviane was far from finished:
“Your Master thinks that just because he is smarter than most people, his opinion is automatically superior to all others! That just because he thinks an action is correct, everyone who contradicts him must be in the wrong! Has he, ever once in this entire debacle, considered MY perspective?”
No. Kaede could only think as her lips struggled to open before the anger of royalty. She knew fully well that Pascal’s lack of consideration was his greatest failing.
“–And this goes beyond mere opinion,” the Princess’ pitch continued to rise as she unloaded what had clearly been a long and deeply held frustration. “He even believes that the rules of society do not apply to him, so long as he himself benefits! How many other men do you think would be so brazen that they would sleep with a mistress just down the hall from his lawful, future wife!”
The Samaran girl blanched as she landed solely in the crosshairs of that burning, wisteria gaze.
Kaede knew that Sylviane had a personality that was both envious and insecure. She knew that it was going to be difficult to explain such behavior to the Princess. Yet she made the decision anyway, all because her nightmares had pushed her to the breaking point.
— And this time, Pascal wouldn’t be in the room to take the blame.
“Tell me, Kaede,” Sylviane’s brows twitched as her eyes bore down upon the familiar. “Do you know what the punishment is for treason?”
The familiar couldn’t even respond this time. Her mind had virtually blanked out and her body trembled as the cold, creeping fear spread through her nerves.
In addition to this, there are some minor additions in other parts of ch8 and ch9. Most of them are just to help manage the continuity. However one exerpt while Kaede was kneeling on the rock outside in ch8 may help clarify some things.
Kaede wasn’t sure how long she’d have to suffer before the Princess released her. However none of this was comparable to what she had feared at first. When Sylviane dragged her out of the cabin after declaring her actions tantamount to treason, the Samaran girl had sincerely feared for her life.
It was another reason why she’d rather suffer here than leave and risk escalating the Princess’ ire.
I hope this helps in adding to the overall drama and characterization in this volume, and will help make what’s to come more gratifying.
~ AoriiAuthor's Comment
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