Chapter 26:

Bright Summer Morning

Lovely kNight

The pale blues of morning light rouse me awake. The first sensations I feel come from the warm, gentle form pressing against me. That’s she’s still deep asleep, I barely have the heart to rise for the day. So I hold her close and let time slip by while I take in the feeling of Juna so near. As I let my fingers run through her hair, she sighs in delight. Though the rest and ease is so comfortable, it’s only a short time longer until she wakes.

“Good morning.” I greet her.

She stretches long and presses her face into my chest. She yawns daintily before peering up to meet my eyes.

“Good morning, Khiron.”

She returns to nuzzling me and holds me even more tightly.

“I had a wonderful dream.” She sighs, contented. “You were there with me and we were walking through the old places we used to visit all the time years ago. Suddenly you’d brought me to that fishing spot we’d called our own. The one off into the trees where a river runs through it. Poles were already there waiting for us as they’d leaned against the trees, so we didn’t waste a single moment and started fishing. We’d just rested there in our seats. We didn’t need to say a single word. It was so relaxing, being together with you.”

“It’s been a long time since we’d been there last, hasn’t it? Maybe someone else managed to find it. It’s a wonder what had caused you to dream about that old place after all of this time.”

“I think it’s obvious why I’d had that dream.” She squeezes me in a hug. “It’s because you’re here.”

Her words cause a small spark to leap onto my cheek and heat it up.

“I’m here…?”

I’m rendered speechless. Time drifts by like the morning light misting inside. It isn’t until Juna continues the conversation that our silence is broken.

“I’d had another dream after that one. It was… different.” She twists her head and places her cheek against me.

Though she pauses as if begging me to ask the question, she eventually begins with a hint of hesitation in her voice.

“It was dark and storming. The flashes of lightning illuminated the world outside and I’d seen you there on your knees. You were soaked through as you’d remained outside in the darkness. You looked like you were in so much pain. You’d looked… so sad.”

Her hands grip fistfuls of my shirt strongly. As if she desires to keep me from escaping her embrace. To hold me there and accept all the comfort and care she has to offer.

“I’d grabbed an umbrella and walked out to meet you. The very first chance I’d gotten, I’d given you the umbrella and left myself open to the rain. But this rain was strange. It felt like fire as it fell on my body. It was so painful. Though now you were safe and that’s what mattered. Even if you’d offered me the umbrella, the rain fell right through it and onto me as if it wasn’t there. So you’d taken me into your arms and carried me back indoors. It felt so far away. The pain I’d felt made it seem as if seconds were now hours. So I’d held onto you as closely as I could and endured it all. And when we’d finally arrived, I woke up.”

Hearing her dream, the scar had been the first, most prominent thought that had come to my mind. Though perhaps dreams are just dreams and little else but random visions strung together by a host of memories interacting, it still brings me to wonder. If Juna knew about the scar, would it hurt her?

I shelve the thought before it can begin to fester.

“You’d had plenty of dreams tonight. I’m glad that that second one is over. It didn’t sound very pleasant at all.”

“It wasn’t a nightmare or anything. I’d felt happy that I could have given you that umbrella. It felt like I’d finally gotten to repay you for that day in the rain.”

“You’re still thinking about that?” She manages to earn a laugh from my lips. “Of course there’s nothing to repay. And I think causes pain is much more serious than a simple cold shower.”

“What about you, Khiron? You didn’t dream?”

“I had one, but it wasn’t really anything that made sense. Just being lost along in some strange building. It felt like something was following me, but couldn’t quite see it. It wasn’t much of anything to report and probably shouldn’t be given too much thought. I was a little bit unnerved, sure, but having you nearby to wake up to made that all go away.”

“It did? Then I’m glad to be of service!”

Her cheesy joke happens to find a soft spot and the two of us laugh together.

✩ ✩ ✩

When the two of us finally muster the will to rise, I walk with Juna all the way to her room. Our timing manages to be impeccable as Neptanie just so happens to be on her way towards us as she wanders the halls.

“O-Oh. Good morning, you two.” She greets us with surprise written on her face.

“Good morning to you, Neptanie. You’re awake early today.” Juna greets her in kind.

“I’d woken up and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I’d decided to walk around for a little bit.”

“Are you feeling well today? Don’t forget that you’re free to rest in my room whenever.”

“I’m feeling okay right now, but I promise I’ll remember that.” She pauses as a small redness strings itself along her face. “So you two really are close, aren’t you?”

“We really are. I’d had a wonderful night sleeping with Khiron. It was just like old times.” Juna wraps herself around my arm as she speaks.

Her relaxed form and words in front of Neptanie cause me to stumble gracelessly over myself.

“W-We did sleep together last night… But not like anything more than that. The usual is all. I don’t mean that there’s any particularly unusual way for us. Just hugging closely… Hugging is all.”

“I-I see...” Neptanie’s gaze fails to meet my own. “So do you feel any different?”

“Different? What do you mean?”

“We’re supposed to be imparting magic to you… so I was wondering if there’s anything that’s changed for you given last night.”

“I’m not entirely sure, but I do feel well rested at the very least.” I shyly mess with my hair.

“That’s… good.” She taps the floor with her foot. “Juna has an important day ahead of her, so I should let you two prepare. I’ll be walking around for a little bit longer until breakfast.”

With a quick wave, she’s off on her way with a hurried pace. Juna and I barely get a chance to say our partings before she’s turned past the corner.

“That wasn’t my most dignified moment.” I sigh.

“I thought you were pretty cute getting all flustered like that.” She snickers to herself while a smug smile plants itself onto her face.

“It’s too early in the morning to be feeling this embarrassed. I don’t know why, but I feel like I have to explain myself or else misunderstandings are going to start popping up like weeds in a yard.”

“It’s fine, isn’t it? As long as you and I know the truth, that’s what matters. So I don’t think you should let yourself get all worked up about it.”

“But still…”

She skips a step ahead of me and twists on her heel to about face with a full smile. She leans forward and laces her fingers together behind her.

“I feel like having a small change of pace for the morning. Would you like to go out and have breakfast somewhere else?”

“Like at a restaurant?”

“That’d work. I just want to enjoy the morning with you alone. We could go to a food stand, a food cart, a restaurant; it doesn’t matter. As long as I get to be with my partner for extra luck on my tests.”

“That doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all. But of course you don’t need luck when you’re as skilled as they come. I’ll get ready for the day myself and then we can go to town. I’ll write a note for Plutia before we leave.”

“Deal.” She responds with fervor. “But before that, do you mind coming in closer? I have something for you.”

“You do?”

I’m instantly overcome with curiosity. I lean in and she plants her lips onto my own. Though it’s a quick peck, it’s still a shock to my system. I’m left frozen while she skips into her room and turns to face me at its threshold.

“Thanks again for last night.”

She shuts the door and leaves the hall to me. I’m slow to recollect myself in the wake of her surprise kiss.

“You’re welcome…” I reply to my partner belatedly.