Kaede pressed down upon her stomach as she tried not to let the discomfort show in her countenance.
The Samaran girl was sitting on the guest bed that she shared with Pascal. The room was barely lit as every curtain had been shut. This left the room quite dark, as only indirect light from the morning sun streamed in through the curtains’ gaps.
However, the room was also a little crowded as three healers, a princess, and two armigers were all crammed inside. All of them stayed in close proximity to each other, and none of them spoke, which made every movement all the more obvious.
The Samaran girl watched as Fleurette — the young healer with whom she had ridden back from Ceredigion — finished taking off the bandages that wrapped around Pascal’s head. The girl then peeled away Pascal’s blindfold, before stepping aside in the barely lit room.
Sir Ariel, the elderly healer who had treated Pascal after the battle, sat opposite the young lord in the only other cushioned armchair. His eyes glowed with a blue hew as he leaned forward to examine the young Landgrave’s gaze with an active spell.
“His eyes… look different.”
Kaede’s comment came in a bare whisper as she noticed the slight disparity in hues between Pascal’s turquoise eyes. Her enhanced vision thanks to being a familiar gave her better visibility than everyone except Sir Ariel in the dim, shadowy light.
“His Grace must have turned to the left when he lost control of the spell.” The senior healer with salt-and-pepper hair commented as he laid his hands on Pascal’s cheeks. He forced his patient’s face to turn left and right before continuing.
“My guess is that His Grace was casting the spell through his right hand when he lost control. His right side received considerably more damage than his left. The same applied to his eyes. And while Regeneration could heal the pupil and cornea, it is incapable of regrowing a mage’s sensitive neural retina — which is laced with too much magic to be restored with foreign mana.”
“Are you saying that he’s going to be half-blind?” Sylviane spoke in an alarmed voice.
“Not quite.” Ariel remarked as he peeled back Pascal’s right eyelid. “When I realized that neither of his eyes was likely to recover full efficiency, I took the liberty to transplant some of the surviving good retinal nerves from his more damaged right eye to the healthier left. And with the help of Dame Kaede’s blood, the operation came out successful.”
You can do that? Kaede’s jaw fell in disbelief as even on modern Earth, this was experimental medical technology at best.
“If you could transplant optical nerves, couldn’t you have given him some of mine?” The familiar asked next.
“We have no idea how his eyes might react to a Samaran’s nerve cells. And I do not think we are in a desperate enough situation to warrant human experimentation.” Ariel expressed his disapproval in a slightly harsh tone.
It immediately shut Kaede up as she was reminded that in the eyes of Hyperion’s mages, magic was a science and not merely handwaving. Furthermore, Ariel was too professional to take unnecessary risks that endangered the lives of his patients.
“I estimate that His Grace’s good eye might have recovered eighty percent of its previous functionality. With further treatments and good care, this might reach over ninety percent. However,” Ariel’s tone fell as the elderly healer turned to examine the other eye with a frown. “His Grace’s bad eye will, at best, reach fifty percent function. Currently I’d estimate it’s closer to thirty.”
“Is that why I’m seeing blurry doubles?” Pascal spoke with a scowl.
“Yes.” Ariel replied. “Your brain is having trouble matching the dramatic difference in perception between the two eyes. The effect is not too different from someone who is severely inebriated. Close your right eye and you should be able to see me more clearly.”
Pascal did as he was told, albeit with some difficulty. He had to use his hand to push up his right cheek to fully close his right eye. Even the scowl he made in response was more lopsided than usual as a result. It was as though the right side of his face was partially paralyzed.
“Your Grace’s muscles and nerves on the right side of the face also took considerable damage and have yet to fully recover.” Ariel commented. “Given the nature of cells in the area, I believe most of the damage will recover over the next week or two as the regenerated tissues connect. However, there may be a long term imbalance in your facial expressions.”
“Great, his smirk is going to be even more insufferable than before.” The red-headed Reynaud joked as he tried to lighten the mood. It brought a faint smile to Kaede and Sylviane. However, the humor never reached Pascal in the slightest.
Nevertheless, with one eye closed, Pascal was able to look around at everyone and focus on each figure in the room’s shadowy light. It took him a moment and several blinks to adjust. But the faint sigh of relief that came from his lips proved that the elder healer was correct.
“I recommend for Your Grace to start wearing an eyepatch from now on.” Ariel stated plainly. “Your right eye’s vision will only worsen in bright light, as many of the retinal nerves were badly damaged and will react poorly to stimulation. Therefore, it would be best for Your Grace to focus on using only your left eye.”
“But he can still see well with just one eye?” The Princess asked next in an anxious voice.
“Not quite, and certainly not right away.” The old healer frowned as he pulled out a small crystal that shed a soft, yellow light. It came from what seemed like a tiny ember burning inside. “Please follow the light, Your Grace.” He said as he moved the rock from one side to another in front of Pascal’s eyes.
“Medical studies on patients with monocular vision have shown that it takes time for the brain to adjust to the loss of one sensory organ.” Ariel continued to explain as he watched Pascal’s gaze track the crystal. “Furthermore, even after years of adjustment, there is a consistent decline in patients’ ability to perceive depth, judge distance, and track objects in motion.”
“Are you serious?” Pascal spoke in disbelief as he stopped looking at the rock and glared at the healer instead. “What kind of a military commander cannot judge distances?”
“Your Grace will retain some ability. It just won’t be as accurate as before, especially at long ranges.” Ariel responded straight. “Needless to say, as I’m sure you’ll brave the battlefield again, it is imperative for Your Grace to protect your remaining good eye. As there is no fallback now.”
“And you can always use my eyes when the need arises.” Kaede noted with a reassuring smile.
Nevertheless, Pascal’s temple twitched as he sighed audibly at the news. Once again, his left cheek moved slower and noticeably less than his right. However, he didn’t speak further of his eyesight, and instead shifted the topic towards a different concern:
“What about my right arm and hand.” The young lord asked. “I have had trouble grasping, even something as simple as an eating utensil.”
“As I’ve mentioned, Your Grace’s right side took more damage as a result of how you were casting the spell.” Ariel reiterated in his serious tone. “My guess is that you reflexively tried to shield your face using your right arm. Proportionally speaking, we’ve had to apply more Regeneration spells on your right arm than anywhere else. And while your Median and Radian nerves — the main nerve stem on the arm — survived and largely recovered, I cannot say the same for more surface level branches.”
“Do you think it will recover?” Pascal asked plainly. He tried to clench his right hand but his forearm began to shake as a result. And even after letting go, a faint tremble remained with his right arm.
“I believe your motor functions will recover in due time. Although this may come with a diminished sense of touch and reduced dexterity in your fingers.” The elder healer predicted. “Your Grace may wish to consider transitioning to become left-handed.”
“We’ll see.” Pascal commented in a nonplussed voice. Nevertheless, an audible sigh left his lip as though he was already reconciling himself to the worst possible outcome.
“Stay optimistic, Pascal.” Perceval spoke as he put on an encouraging smile. “Remember that many of your muscle tissues had to be regrown. They’re inexperienced and untrained just like those of a baby. You’ll need to practice and retrain them to regain the same functionality. And we’ll be helping you every step of the way in rehabilitation.”
Hyperion should have a good rehab process already given the prevalence of Regeneration spells. Kaede hoped.
“That is certainly true.” Sir Ariel nodded in agreement. He pulled a small sheet of paper from a waist pouch and began to write on it. “A regime of daily exercises, especially for your arms and hands, will help hasten recovery. I’ll list my recommendations. But please make sure you perform exercises with professional supervision to ensure that you do not overly strain and damage the new muscles.”
Kaede watched as the healer wrote down a list of activities including everything from squats to skipping stones. He passed the paper to Perceval after finishing, then reached into his belt pouch again.
“And before I forget again,” Ariel said as he pulled out a crocheted ball of wool. “Keep this in your right hand and give it a squeeze from time to time. It’ll help rebuild your fingers’ control and strength.”
Pascal accepted the ball and gave it a few practice squeezes. The effect was nowhere as good as a rubber ball in Kaede’s opinion. However, as rubber was expensive due to it being a distant import from Skagen’s Frontier colonies, the use of layered wool would have to suffice.
“Your Highness,” Sir Ariel remarked as he slowly stood up from the cushioned armchair. “I believe that is all I can be of assistance for today. I will continue to check on His Grace’s condition weekly while Sir Perceval helps with more daily needs. But if there are no further questions, then I must be off to see my other patients.”
“Of course. And thank you, Sir Ariel.” Sylviane responded as she gave a sincere and deep nod of gratitude. “I’ve never apologized properly for my unkindness to you in the aftermath of Glywysing. But please have it, Sir Ariel, as I see now why my late father said that you rank amongst the most exemplary of healers.”
Kaede watched as a mild smile spread across the lips of the old healer for the first time. It was a reminder of just how much power words had. A few sentences of flattering words were essentially free for the Princess to give. Yet for Sir Ariel, it had made all the difference in their relationship.
“Please think nothing of it, Your Highness.” The healer answered. “There is no one who does not become emotional when it is the lives of their loved ones at stake. I only pray that His Grace uses his magic with more prudence in future conflicts.”
Sir Ariel’s words ended in a somewhat harsh tone, which made it clear that he had not forgiven Pascal for the Lotharin deaths caused by the failed spell. However, he also did not see its effect as Pascal’s head drooped with a scowl at himself.
Regardless, the elderly healer did not speak further before he gave the Princess a slight bow. He departed the room after that, while the junior healer Fleurette then followed his heels out.
“Well, are you up for a little exercise, Pascal?” Perceval tried to cheer Pascal up as he spoke in a sunny voice. “Some fresh air after days of being cooped up would surely do wonders for your mood as well.”
“Sure, I guess…”
Pascal’s reply came devoid of any enthusiasm. But he nevertheless forced himself to stand up. His right arm shook as he used it for leverage against the armchair. And Perceval had to help support him to make sure the young lord didn’t stumble on his unsteady right leg.
“You should cover your eyes with something to reduce the light though. Some black lace or a veil would do.” Perceval noted before he turned towards the girls in the room.
“Let me ask the maids…” Kaede spoke with a grimace as she straightened her back to stand up. However, as she did so from the bedding that she had been sitting on, Sylviane laid a hand on her shoulder and bid her to stay put.
“Elspeth?” The Princess turned towards her bodyguard. “Please see if you can acquire something to match Sir Perceval’s request. I’ll stay here with Reynaud until your return.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” The petite bodyguard nodded before rushing out the door. Meanwhile, Perceval and Reynaud partially opened the outer curtains, which allowed more light to stream in through the lace, inner screen.
“You stay here to rest, Kaede.” Sylviane added kindly. “Your period cramps are acting up again, aren’t they?”
“Yeah.” The familiar nodded as she pressed down against the hot water bag strapped to her midsection again. “It’s always the worst on the first day…”
—– * * * —–
Kaede stayed in bed for the rest of the day. She had started on the book City of World’s Desire: Arcadia and the Rise of the Inner Sea, which she had brought from Pascal’s library in Nordkreuz. The thick and heavy tome detailed the rise of the Inner Sea Imperium from its humble beginnings as a small, trading outpost. Yet today, Arcadia was the capital of the powerful Holy Imperium — an empire in decline, but still the premier military and economic superpower of the world.
The book was famous among the academia of Hyperion’s history. Kaede had encountered countless references to it from her other reading. All of them referred to the book’s author, the historian Livia, as an ‘Imperial nationalist’. Yet, despite being written during the Empire’s glory days at the beginning of the Age of Faith, Livia lambasted her country of decadence and ‘imperial overreach’ in her foreword The greatest empire no longer.
The promotion of a single ideology as morally superior to all others. The increasing disregard and disrespect towards the needs of allied and vassal states. The overreliance on military muscle to conduct foreign policy. The internal divisions as a wealthy, patrician class abused the system to the detriment of the poorer citizens. Livia was merciless in her criticisms against her own state. And for that, she was reviled as a ‘traitor’ and marginalized to the fringe of society in her own time.
Yet, all of her warnings would come true. The rise of the Caliphate. The birth of Weichsel. The fifth rebellion which sparked a fire that consumed the northwest and became an independent Rhin-Lotharingie. All the mistakes of foreign and internal policy contributed to the decline of the Imperium.
A true nationalist. Kaede couldn’t help but appreciate the author’s work.
It reminded her of a discussion she once had with her father. She had argued that people who truly loved their country did not beat their chests and knee-jerk at critique — those were the ‘idiot nationalists’. Instead, true nationalists examined their country’s faults, openly debated its excesses and problems, and even studied the advantages of its adversaries. It was because they wanted to make it better, because they truly loved their home state.
Perhaps that was why today, hundreds of years later, the same Imperial institutions that once branded Livia a traitor now studied her work. It was a great irony of history. But was there still enough time for the Imperium to revitalize itself?
Only time would tell.
My first role model from Hyperion. Kaede smiled as she thought to herself. She had finished only the book’s opening chapter, and she was already certain that Livia would sit among her list of favorite scholars.
If I could become like her for Elder Sister and Rhin-Lotharingie, then my whole existence here would have meaning.
Nevertheless, Kaede knew that she was still inexperienced. To properly recognize patterns in society and history, she would have to voraciously devour books and treatises from all sides. Otherwise, with limited perspectives, it was too easy to fall into bias and look only for evidence supporting one’s sought outcome. This was among the reasons why most amateur discussions of geopolitics back on Earth — especially in media entertainment circles — were just slightly more sophisticated echo chambers.
As Kaede’s father once joked: “If I had a yen every time someone predicted China’s imminent collapse, I’d have enough today to pay off Japan’s national debt!”
Perhaps that was what Kaede could offer her new homeland in the interim. She could serve as the needle that sought to pop sheltered bubbles, to ensure that the decision makers didn’t fall prey to their own propaganda and bias.
The door to her bedroom opened as Sylviane entered with Hauteclaire perched on her left shoulder. The Princess immediately stepped aside and held the door as Perceval helped Pascal inside. The young lord had one arm draped around the healer’s shoulders as he limped through. Somehow, his gait was even worse than when he left earlier today.
“What happened?” Kaede asked as she pulled off the bedcovers and rushed out of bed.
“Pascal pushed himself too hard and tripped on the way back.” Sylviane commented before she turned towards the familiar and her eyes went wide.
The Princess’ glare laid upon Kaede’s lower body. The Samaran girl had taken off her skirt before getting into bed. However, she forgot to put it back on when she emerged. Her crotch-hugging undergarments and stocking-covered legs lay exposed in the open beneath her pseudo-uniform shirt.
“It’s all right. I’ve treated her before.” Perceval commented to remind everyone. Even bared female skin wasn’t exactly a rare sight for healers like him.
Nevertheless, Kaede couldn’t help feeling stupid as she pulled on her skirt.
I can’t believe I did that. The familiar berated herself. I’ve grown far too comfortable in front of Pascal.
Sylviane’s disapproval was palpable as the Princess continued to glance towards Kaede with a scowl. Even Elspeth — who followed the others in with a huge, silver tray full of food — sent a look of disdain towards the Samaran girl. It made Kaede realize just how strong was the Hyperion taboo for women to show skin beneath their waist. Thinking back, even the prostitutes in the Lotharin army camp never dared to expose their legs in public.
Meanwhile, Perceval helped Pascal over to an armchair before helping his patient sit down. He then knelt down to examine Pascal’s ankle, before wrapping his hands around and giving it a bone-cracking jerk.
Pascal hissed as a painful grimace filled his expression. Nevertheless, the young lord clenched his teeth in a refusal to cry out while the healer cast an Invigorate spell.
“Your ankle was twisted, so I gave it some adjustment. Keep pressure off it tonight and it’ll heal.” Perceval said as he stood back up. He then turned towards the Samaran girl with a purposeful grin. “Kaede, I’m counting on you to keep him in check.”
“Y-ye, yessir.” Kaede stuttered at first as her mind was still ruminating over her earlier mistake.
“Well, I believe that’s all I can help with here.” Perceval stated before he looked at the Princess and bowed slightly. “Your Highness, I bid you a good evening. I must go meet my wife-to-be before she gets angry at me for being late to her birthday dinner.”
“Thank you, Sir Perceval.” Sylviane beamed. “And please tell Lady Ariadne ‘happy birthday’ for me.”
“From me and Pascal also.” Kaede added. “And sorry I cannot come to celebrate with her.”
The Samaran girl also made a mental note to herself. She wanted to ensure that next year at least, she would be able to give a birthday present to her first benefactor in this world. The food and comfort that Ariadne offered during their first meeting was a deed that Kaede would never forget.
“I shall.” Perceval nodded with a huge smile. “And don’t worry about it, Kaede. Aria knows you’re busy. Besides, she wanted dinner for just two tonight. Even Reynaud and Gerard will only be joining us briefly.”
I guess it is almost Valentine’s Day. Kaede thought before she realized: does Hyperion even have a Valentine’s Day?
Perceval waved one last time before he walked out and closed the door behind him. It left a quiet room as Pascal was frowning at his legs, while Kaede returned to looking sheepish beneath Sylviane’s gaze.
The only sounds came from Elspeth as she laid out food for three on the table. The petite armiger did so while perfectly balancing a tray that was longer than her arm in one hand. Then, with the small table full of appetizers and soups, she placed the remainder on top of the dresser.
“Your Highness, is there anything else you’d like?”
“No, that’ll be all, Elspeth. Thank you.” Sylviane responded with a kind smile. “Please take some time for yourself tonight. I won’t be going anywhere so there’s no reason to be concerned about my safety. Besides, I have Hauteclaire with me.”
The phoenix familiar chirped as his comforting, warm glow bathed the entire room.
“Very well, Your Highness.” Elspeth nodded, albeit with slight reservations still lingering in her voice. “Please excuse me then.” She curtsied before departing the room.
With only three people remaining, Sylviane exhaled slightly as her lips twisted with a nostalgic gaze.
“She’s just not Mari.”
Kaede could see a tear brimming in the Princess’ eye. It was clear that Sylviane missed the lady’s maid who had been like an elder sister to her all these years.
“Are you planning to make her your new Lady’s Maid, elder sister?” Kaede asked.
“I’m considering it.” Sylviane spoke with a reluctant voice. “Elspeth certainly deserves the honor. Father knows I wouldn’t be alive now without her. But…” She trailed off into a sigh as though saying ‘it’s complicated.’
“One problem is that while Elspeth is very detailed at her work, she clearly doesn’t enjoy doing my hair or managing my accessories.” The Princess then continued with a deep frown. “In fact, I’m not sure she likes any feminine activities. The Summerborn are usually energetic and athletic, so the girls tend to be tomboys. I feel like she’s forcing herself right now. And that being my maid in the long run would just make her unhappy.”
“Have you spoken to her about it?” The familiar questioned next, to which Sylviane nodded.
“Elspeth said she wants to be my bodyguard, just like her sister was to my late father. The problem is that it’s not the same as my father, who never cared for a personal assistant. I need a lady’s maid to help with my dress and appearance. And the position isn’t meant to be separate from my bodyguard.”
Not surprising. Mari wouldn’t even let you take a bath without being present. Kaede thought, which then gave her an idea:
“Maybe you can have another armiger be your lady’s maid. That way your bodyguard would feel more comfortable taking a break.”
“Hmmmm, that’s a potential option.” Sylviane pondered as she sat down on the remaining armchair facing Pascal. “I’ll bring it up with Elspeth to see what she thinks. Wouldn’t want her to feel that I was diluting her role.”
“Then please don’t tell her I suggested it.” Kaede added as she sat down on the edge of the bed, where she could just reach the table.
The familiar took a fork and the small plate of appetizer into her hands. It held what looked like a crepe that had been folded into a square. And in the middle was a slice of ham and a sunny-side-up egg.
“Why, you two don’t get along?” Sylviane raised her eyebrows.
“No. It’s just…” Kaede frowned as she tried to put her feelings into words. “I feel like Elspeth judges me a lot, and not in a positive manner. Though maybe I’m just being oversensitive.”
“Summerborns do tend to form opinions quickly, and you and Elspeth haven’t really had time to know each other.” The Princess smiled. “Give it some time. You’re both good girls.” She stated before picking up her appetizer plate. “Let’s eat, Pascal. You must be hungry after all the exercise.”
The young lord was staring at his right arm as he squeezed and unsqueezed the wool ball in his palm. His muscles still trembled each time he applied strength. Though it was noticeably less than this morning.
“We only walked around a bit.” Pascal commented with a sullen look.
“You’re recovering. One step at a time.” Kaede replied with an encouraging smile.
“Easy for you to say.” He retorted. “You were completely fine the moment you woke up after Gwilen.”
Kaede frowned as she couldn’t even counter that. It was certainly true that despite losing her arm at the Battle of Gwilen River, she had made a complete recovery after just a few days, thanks to her nature as a Samaran.
“Kaede’s injuries were nowhere as severe as yours, Pascal.” Sylviane pointed out after taking a few famished bites from her own crepe. “Even Sir Ariel had given up on you. It was only thanks to our insistence and Kaede’s blood that he was able to heal you at all!”
The Princess began to scowl as she stared at her fiancé. All her discontent with the risks that Pascal took, which she had been suppressing for days, came gushing to the surface.
“Do you have any idea just what an INSANE risk you took to cast that spell!?”
“I thought I could keep it under control.” Pascal half-grumbled as he looked down at his arm again. His depressed tone made Kaede look at Sylviane with a pleading look.
Sylviane took the hint as she exhaled a deep sigh.
“Sorry, Pascal. I shouldn’t blame you. You only did it because we were desperate. Because we were on the verge of total defeat and both of us knew it.” The Princess admitted. “The Caliphate’s overnight advance had caught us flatfooted. And if you are to blame for using the spell, then so am I for not being prepared.”
“No. It was a military matter, which meant the responsibility was mine.” Pascal stated. “I had been too fixated on the victory at Lysardh Point. I did not consider how our enemies might respond. The spell had been my last card to play, so I used it in trying to salvage my mistake.” The young lord then let out a deep sigh of his own. “And in the end it did not matter at all.”
“No. It did matter.” Sylviane declared in an insistent and absolutely certain voice. “Without the magic of combat saturating the battlefield with ether that day, the forest might not have awoken at all. And without your spell in destroying the Caliphate right wing and leaving them disorganized, I doubt we would have survived long enough for the Migrating Trees to turn the tide.”
Kaede frowned as she listened to Sylviane speak. The Princess’ words certainly made sense. The late awakening of the forest — they only uprooted near the end of the battle — made it clear that proximity was not the only factor. Nevertheless, something felt off about the explanation, as though she had a gut instinct that it was wrong.
“That’s why you shouldn’t doubt your contributions, Pascal.” Sylviane added firmly as her wisteria eyes met Pascal’s turquoise gaze. “It is your risk taking that I’m bothered by, not your results and certainly not your intent. To manipulate that much mana and cast a spell so advanced… at your age, it’s unheard of!”
For certain. Kaede thought as she nodded along. If she had any doubts before about Pascal being a prodigy in magic, the mushroom cloud that towered above the town of Glywysing that day corrected them.
Even now, the fact that Pascal detonated a magical nuke still left her astounded.
“Your Highness,” the Samaran girl then spoke up as she realized she never told Sylviane the full truth. “The spell that Pascal cast — it wasn’t just him making wild guesses. I had told him about a weapon from my world, a weapon capable of destroying an entire city in moments. I had thought my descriptions were quite vague, as I myself didn’t understand the details of how it worked. Yet, somehow, Pascal figured it out.”
Sylviane pursed her lips as Kaede revealed her part. The Samaran girl expected at least some blame to fall upon her shoulders, as she certainly felt responsible for the knowledge she thoughtlessly shared with Pascal. Yet, instead of a sharp look or cutting words, Kaede felt only the Princess’ gentle hand lay upon her shoulder.
“It’s certainly not your fault, Kaede. Especially when Pascal took it upon himself to advance the spell without consulting you.”
“Kaede is too sensitive to deaths on the battlefield.” Pascal commented this time as he grasped his spoon and took a hungry bite at last. “I did not wish to trouble her conscience further. Not when she was already having nightmares as a result of Nordkreuz.”
I don’t think hiding it from me makes it any better. Kaede frowned. After all, there was just no way for Pascal to conceal a nuclear blast.
“How did you figure it out so quickly?” The familiar asked. “It had taken thousands of people back in my world, who worked for years to figure out how to create a nuclear bomb.”
“I did not have to, not most of it.” Pascal gave a half-shrug. “I met Colonel Gunther-Hans Rudel of the Dawn Sky Knights Phantom while he was recuperating in Nordkreuz…”
“Rudel?” Sylviane’s voice grew alarmed as anger filled her eyes. “That war criminal?”
“Yes.” Pascal simply answered. “I was looking for a reserve card that I could play, a powerful spell that could inflict massive casualties on the battlefield. I was bringing my gem box after all, and I did not have any good spells to pour that much mana into. Colonel Rudel might be… a bit callous, but he is also the most accomplished battlemage in Weichsel.”
“A bit.” Sylviane almost spat with disgust. “The man is a sociopath! He butchered entire villages of Lotharins during the War of Imperial Succession.”
“Villages that had been fortified by the Imperials.” Pascal countered almost on reflex. Clearly, the incident had caused a diplomatic spat between the Weichsens and Lotharins.
“But we digress.” The young lord returned to the topic as he continued to explain. “The Colonel had been experimenting with a spell that could mimic the sun’s power — Solar Initiation. His only problem was that the mana required to cast the spell was tremendous, yet the overall input-to-output efficiency was unimpressive. It could not compare to even the Firemist Ignition combination spell. Gunther-Hans was ready to give up on further research into the spell when we met. So when I offered to continue his work, he was all too happy to share the spell’s details with me.”
“You knew it had potential based on what I had told you.” Kaede realized.
“Yes — ‘a weapon utilizing the power of the sun’.” Pascal nodded. “Though I did not learn about its fuel, heavy and tri-hydrogen, after we set off from Nordkreuz. A chain reaction was necessary for most combination spells to achieve their effectiveness. The Transmutation Matrix spell was capable of manipulating matter on a subatomic level, as long as the changes were simple and stable. Heavy and tri-hydrogen atoms are certainly that.”
“Transmutation Matrix?” Sylviane’s eyebrows rose. “I’ve never even heard of that spell.”
“It is a spell used by physicists to conduct experiments, especially in the realm of electromagnetics by manipulating charge.” Pascal explained. “I learned it from the researchers of Königfeld Academy.”
I’ve severely underestimated Hyperion’s knowledge of physics. Kaede thought.
Sure, they haven’t broken into the quantum realm yet, but they didn’t have to. Man learned how to make fire long before he understood the chemistry of combustion. Hyperion’s knowledge of subatomic particles was just enough to let them ‘cheat’ their way into the atomic age. It might not be long before someone in this world came up with Einstein’s famous E = m*c^2 equation, except with a variable to account for magic this time.
“Pascal…” Kaede’s wispy voice was barely audible as she spoke. “You cannot let anyone else learn about how you cast this spell. Please, promise me that you won’t tell anyone else, including the Colonel whom you learned it from.”
“I…” Pascal looked conflicted. “I may not have promised Gunther-Hans. But sharing information with him was implied.”
“Pascal!” Kaede exclaimed in a pleading voice. “Those weapons I spoke of, they were only used twice in the history of my world for a reason!”
That wasn’t exactly true, as there were countless ‘nuclear tests’. However, ever since the journalist John Hersey exposed the US government’s ‘Hiroshima Cover-up’ and revealed the devastating aftereffects of atomic warfare to the world, nuclear weapons had become widely rejected as a conventional weapon of war.
“Many of the scientists who worked on them immediately regretted it when they saw the results.” Kaede stressed. “These weapons are so devastating that if one side used them, and the other retaliated, the devastation unleashed would quickly consume the entire world and destroy civilization as we knew it!”
The request left a bit of an odd feeling in Kaede. As an avid reader of geopolitics, she had never exactly been anti-nuclear. For as much as the weapon was horrifying, many scholars also believed that nukes were the only reason Earth hadn’t seen another war between great powers for decades. And just as WW2 had proven, humanity didn’t require nukes to destroy cities and kill by the millions.
However, Hyperion wasn’t there yet. War was still devastating. But it was far from a wave of industrialized destruction that swept across the land.
Meanwhile, Pascal raised an eyebrow as he connected the dots in Kaede’s statements. “Just how many of those weapons did your world make?”
Enough to destroy Earth several times over. Kaede grimaced. Clearly, even the people of another world could immediately recognize the insanity of building thousands of warheads. A hundred or two for the purpose of deterrence would have been more than sufficient.
“Regardless, I agree with Kaede.” Sylviane stressed with a stern look. “Pascal, you must not tell anyone else about this, least of all that war criminal. Knowledge of magic this destructive is far too dangerous to be allowed to proliferate! In fact, I forbid you from casting this spell again — even for testing purposes — unless you had explicit permission from either Kaede or myself.”
You’re giving me the nuclear keys!? Kaede blinked as she turned to the Princess. But Sylviane’s expression was serious. Clearly, she trusted the Samaran girl to make up for her mistake in the future.
“I could not cast the spell combination again even if I wanted to right now.” Pascal said in a slightly sulky voice. “It had taken nearly a decade of the mana that I have conserved in gemstones to achieve what happened at Glywysing.” He finished with a scowl before he consumed the remainder of his crepe.
It reminded Kaede that she had been so drawn into this topic that she forgot to eat.
“Not quite.” Sylviane commented before putting down her utensil. She reached into an extradimensional belt pocket before pulling out an oval, intense-green diamond of over a hundred carats.
It looked like the same gem that Kaede once saw as the centerpiece of Pascal’s jewelry box, though the green hue appeared deeper than before. Kaede had once read that modern gemstones were often treated with ionizing radiation to change their colors. Nevertheless, that left her a bit concerned as she wasn’t enough of a physicist to know how long lasting, or how harmful, the radiation captured in a gem could be.
The glowing radiance that emanated from within the diamond also wasn’t as bright as before. The amount of ‘compressed mana’ compacted within had clearly decreased. Nevertheless, the gemstone was still filled with flowing, turquoise sparkles that looked like trapped light.
— And just like before, the familiar immediately found herself mesmerized.
“One of the soldiers who rescued you found it.” Sylviane spoke as she examined the precious stone between her fingers. “I’m not an expert on gem magic. But it seems to me that you’ve only spent a portion of the mana held within.”
“About half.” Pascal estimated as he gazed upon the gem.
“I’ll return this to you, but on one condition.” The Princess then declared. “I want you to swear upon a binding oath that you will not cast the spell Solar Ignition again, nor speak of your process to anyone, unless it is done with the explicit permission of either Kaede or myself.”
“What am I, six years old?” Pascal retorted as he clearly did not like the idea.
“Pascal!” Sylviane almost yelled. “This is NOT a joking matter! You know as well as I do that such oaths are not to be taken lightly, as they are binding for life. I would not have requested this if I did not think that spell was one of the most dangerous things in this world!”
The young lord sighed as he met his fiancée’s eyes with a scowl. He might not like being controlled this way. But it was also quickly apparent that he recognized Sylviane was right.
“All right, all right. I will do it.” Pascal declared. “Later tonight, once we have finished our dinner and had some time to digest. Now, could you please put away the gem.” He added before glancing towards Kaede.
The familiar was staring at the brilliant gemstone with her mouth held slightly ajar. Her rose-quartz eyes were glued to the diamond in Sylviane’s hands as though nothing else mattered.
“What’s wrong with her?” Sylviane was puzzled as she looked back at Pascal.
“I guess Kaede just loves shiny rocks that much.” Pascal commented with a nonchalant shrug. Meanwhile Sylviane did as he asked and stowed away the gem.
“I do NOT!” Kaede shut her eyes before giving a light shake of her head as she finally recovered her senses. “You know that your gems have a weird effect on me!”
It brought a faint smile to Pascal’s lips as he drank a spoonful of his clam soup. And Sylviane immediately noticed it as she chuckled slightly.
“I’m glad that at least your sense of humor wasn’t crippled by the blast.”Author's Comment
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