I’d taken a scenic route back to the manor, having wandered around a bit of the castle and into the gardens. I’d taken a moment to admire Neptanie’s own section as well. The bright colors almost making a rainbow of petals. The lively and beautiful blooming served to prove the green thumb that she has for herself. By the time I reach the manor, the appointed time draws near as the starting light of dusk begins to filter down into the kingdom.
When I check back to my room for some final preparations, I come to discover the form of woman laying in my bed. The deeper blue hair like ocean falling about her body like waves and the serene, restful expression she wears, Neptanie has made good on our arrangement.
In her arms is a green frog wearing a raincoat. She holds it close as she sleeps peacefully. Without the heart to disturb her or raise any ruckus, I gently shut the door and skip to visiting Juna.
She’s quick to answer. The door opens to reveal her yet tussling with the buttons of her dress shirt. I notice her cute abdominal which has always been well defined from all of her training. Though it wasn’t an extremely uncommon a sight in times before, for some reason I can’t stay my eyes.
“You’d made it just in time. I was just getting all of my equipment together. Come on in while I finish up.” She invites me.
I make my way inside and seat myself on her bed. She finishes buttoning her shirt and tucks it into her skirt.
Since the two of us had formed our own team together, we’d made up our own uniform to share. A blazer with a white dress shirt with combat boots. A small difference between Juna and myself is that she often wears a ribbon fastened in her collar while I inconsistently wear a tie. She also often wears a cream colored vest while I keep to just my blazer and shirt.
Taking her armor, she seats herself beside me on the bed and begins fastening it to her chest. Her bracers are already prepared upon her boots and arms.
“You usually always prepare yourself starting from the feet, don’t you.” I say after a small chuckle.
“It’s simple and comfortable like that. Meanwhile you’d always start with your top and work down, wouldn’t you?” She look to me and smiles as she continues fixing herself up.
“That way is more comfortable for me. Were you in your sleeping clothes all day until now?”
“I was. It was really relaxing and it felt even better to be back to studying the way I’m used to when at home. Meanwhile you’re always so dressed up! Never without your uniform a single day or moment! Sometimes I wonder to myself how you can live like that. But that’s my Khiron. You’ve always been so committed to being the Celestial Knight, even before you were him. That’s why you’ve always been the only man for the job in my eyes.”
As she finished securing her armor, she leans over and her head falls onto my shoulder. She closes her eyes for a brief moment and rests. With a smile on her face lit up with the early dusk light, she speaks.
“Even though we’ve known each other for so long, I feel like there’s still so much I don’t know about you. That’s most likely a part of why it’s never a dull moment with you. I always look forward to learning just a little bit more about you every day.”
I’m struck silent by her words. In the small rest, I raise my arm and place it around her to hold her gently but firmly against myself.
“Me too. It’s always been a joy to learn more about you day by day. I guess that’s what being fellow knights is all about.”
As my thoughts turn to the scar, I feel my heart slide low into my chest. The stinging picks up a hint as my mind turns to a depressed wondering. The question still assaults me: would anyone accept me even though I’ve been touched by the most vile force in this world?
“Is something wrong? You look a little troubled.”
I peer towards her and her eyes catch my own. I’d likely let my heart find its way to my sleeve.
“I can’t hide anything from you and I really… shouldn’t. My apologies. It’s just that I’d felt a little sick again for a moment. It really comes and goes, doesn’t it?”
“You’d had a moment like this only a few days ago. It’s worrying me with how frequently it’s been happening lately.”
“N-No. It’s nothing to worry yourself over. It’ll pass in time.”
“I think I can make it go away faster.”
She leans forward and catches my lips with her own. Her fingers find mine and laces with them. A tingling little spark glides from her lips and through my entire body. My mind fills with thoughts of Juna and for a moment, nothing else besides the two of us exists. She parts from me and sends me a gentle smile that makes my heart leap.
“Is that better?” She asks me shyly.
I hadn’t even realized it, but the pain had completely vanished on the instant without a trace left behind. I touch my scar yet I can’t even recall why I had been so afflicted to begin with.
“I-It is.” I’m in disbelief.
“Then it looks like we’ve found a quick fix for the time being, haven’t we?” She giggles sweetly. “Now that you’re all healed up, we should get going while we’ve still got the time. Come on.”
She rises from her seat and pulls my hand gently, taking me with her. The two of us make our way hand in hand beneath the sweet tangerine light of dusk.
✩ ✩ ✩
Both Juna and I are taken aback as we wander about the castle training grounds. Not only is it quite elaborate and spacious, but the technology is the most advanced either of us have ever seen. On the route into our own chamber for the evening, we were awed by every single sight. Which leads to our training room that has nearly everything a knight could ever need for their practice including designated force fields and shields for various forms of training.
“Being the Celestial Knight is quite a privilege.” I chuckle to myself, still riddled with surprise.
“I’d thought being a maiden would come with its perks, but I wasn’t quite expecting something this grand.”
We mute ourselves while we breathe it all in. Though our academy had taken good care of its training grounds, it couldn’t even extend a shadow to this spectacle. As Juna and I lock eyes, we can already tell we’re on the same page.
“We… should give all of this equipment a proper test. Get ourselves familiar. It’s our knightly duty to understand all we’re working with for the greatest efficiency, isn’t it?” I propose.
“You’re right. We do our best with a more hands on style of learning, so we should get it all figured out so it’ll be easier on subsequent visits.”
A single nod shared in unison.
✩ ✩ ✩
“No chance you’re going to catch me! I’ve ran with Mercy! I’ve ran with the best! I’m unstoppable!” I yell out to Juna while dipping and dodging the barriers and force fields she erects before me.
“Don’t get too cocky! I have the reflexes of a plains cat! You simply can’t compare!”
“You’ll be eating those words!”
I quickly slide beneath the coming force field and end my momentum with a roll to raise back to my feet. A quickly jutting hurdle flies out before my legs and I just barely catch myself and leap over it.
“If you’re going to get me, you’re going to have to try even harder than th-”
My skull rattles as I meet face to face with a clear field I hadn’t taken account for. I stutter to a halt.
“Uh-oh! Looks like someone lost this round!” Juna laughs in victory as she pumps her fist. “How about another bit of training to toughen up our hero?”
The barriers continue flying and setting. All to quickly I’m boxed in with glowing walls every which way.
“I’d like to see you get out of this one. But you can always give up and confess I’m the superior dungeon master!”
“Not a chance! I’m just getting started!”
I get the most momentum I can possibly squeeze out of the tight space and leap against the wall. With deft and measured focus, I kick climb my way up while rebounding off of the opposing walls until I launch myself out of my prison, breaking the fall with a swift roll.
“You got lucky!” She growls through the intercom.
“That was all skill. If Eclipse’s forces are anything like you, it’s going to be an easy time saving Celestia!”
“Then I’d like to see how you measure up to this!”
✩ ✩ ✩
The two of us sit in the middle of the room, fatigued but still good enough to go. With all the excitement, we’d gotten well sidetracked from the real reason we’d even come to this place. While we’d both taken a small reprieve, I was able to fill Juna in on a bit of my lessons with Urania.
“That was good training.” I say with a small sigh.
“Yeah it was. It felt good winning again.”
“Winning? Nah. I was the better dungeon master, obviously. I’d gotten you nicely with that elemental canon.”
“What are you talking about? You ran into so many of my barriers!”
An uncontrollable laugh bursts from my heart and it overwhelms Juna. Soon we share in glee without a care in the world.
“I guess I’ll let you call this a truce if you’d like. We probably did good enough for a draw. We can find out the real winner later on with a rematch.” I say when I regain control of myself from the throws of laughter.
“Sure, sure. The loser always tries to compensate with a draw, so I’ll let you have your pride.”
“It’s been a while since we’d joked around like that. We’ve both been so busy with training. It reminds me of when we were little kids.”
“It was a lot of fun. I’m glad we didn’t get caught while were so carried away. I’m more than certain we would have been reprimanded.” She breathes a contended sigh. “I remember back when you and I would sometimes wander off from the academy and explore the woods together. You’d always tell me that if any Dark Seeds appeared, you’d take them down in one swing.”
“Gratefully my dumb and foolhardy kid self never came across any monsters. I’m not too confident he could have taken them.”
“Has it really been so long? It barely feels like yesterday we were both wandering around aimlessly. Even if when we were teenagers we’d still go off to search for adventure together. In a way, we never really grew up, did we? Look at us now, all tuckered out from playing around.”
“It’s hard to believe some days that we’ve come all this way. Now I’m the Celestial Knight. All that’s left is to get you to your dreams. Then I think our lives will be just about complete, won’t they?”
“Maybe they will.” She draws her legs into her body and sighs deeply. “I wonder what the future will be like. The years have already gone by so fast.”
“No use in worrying so much about the future when today is the day to take another step towards it.” I say with a chuckle. “We’ve had enough time resting. I think we’d best get started on your training while we have some energy left.”
“You’re right. It’s back to the present and back to being adults again.”
She takes my offered hand and raises to her feet. So her training begins.