Vestil stands looking out to the sun which draws near to the horizon. Its warm rays wrap around her and commit her uniform to a deeper crimson. Her face is at rest while her mind is steeped into deep thought.
When she hears my approach, she breaks her attention from the sun and shows me her handsome smile.
“There you are.”
“I’d kept you waiting for so long. It was likely quite some time to be left aimless. My apologies.”
“It’s all good and fine. I’d expected that it would take even longer given everything that happened. If you’d taken hours with Juna, I wouldn’t have had any issue for a single minute of it. And besides; I’d enjoyed meeting the maidens for the little time I was able to. But I knew it’d be better to wait on you so I’d kept that time as brief as I could. I’m sure we’ll all get a chance to know each other even better in the future. I won’t fret it.”
She sighs to herself and leans against the windowsill to peer out to the grass which ripples with the wind and glitters richly with the sun’s light. Given how she seems to be so taken with the sunset, I’d imagine that she’s tending to her own downed spirit. Taking it all in stride as I am.
“Did you enjoy meeting the maidens?” I ask her to start our path to the inevitable conversation we’ll share in.
“Of course I did! They were all beyond beautiful! I’d even felt a little envious of you there for a bit. I’d heard of the others, but I had no clue just what kind of deal you’d earned yourself!” She smirks. “If I could have known this and have been allowed to become the Celestial Knight, you might have had yourself some more competition back when.”
“I suppose I should be thankful. I’m no match for you in combat so I doubt I could have won against you.”
“But I’m sure that knights with their eyes set on maidens wouldn’t be able to become the Celestial Knight by some technicality. After all, the gorgeous women are kept a secret for a reason.” While she continues to watch the world outdoors, she begins to think aloud. “That Celine sure is something. Long, silky hair and a cutely shy personality. She sure does make some sparks fly, doesn’t she?”
“M-More than you’d know.” I blush while remembering our meeting at the academy.
“She’s a sweet one. I get the feeling that she might make for quite a bride. Not to mention how well that uniform of hers suits her figure.” And then her grin takes on a more predatory gleam to it.
“You’d mostly talked with Celine?”
“Though I’d gotten a chance to say hello to the other maidens, she had plenty of questions to ask. And there’s no way I could say no to a face like that. So I did some Q&A. She seems to be inquisitive and sharp. I like that.”
“By the sound of it, you might take some time off your work just to visit her.”
“The kingdom probably wouldn’t smile upon another knight other than yourself getting too familiar with the girls. I promise I’ll behave. But I wouldn’t mind coming by to visit them every now and again… And yourself, of course. Especially since we’ll more than likely be working together for time to come given the situation.”
“Yes… Of course…” I jest for a moment before turning the conversation to its true point. “This is by far one of the worst states that I’ve ever seen Juna fall to. Having the carpet torn out from beneath your feet is difficult enough, but the fact that she’d been completely rejected from the knighthood is unthinkable.”
The thought alone gives the scar a more prominent voice. A flame of anger picks up with its calling through my body.
“It’s most definitely an unjust sentence, but there is a major piece to all of this I’m sure you’ve been unaware of.”
“What is it? I want to know.” I let my urgent feelings find their way into my tone in a rare slip.
“Having a sentence like this overturned will be a challenge. Chamelis is a superior judge. Few would dare to go against her because of that... Yet, there’s more reasons as to why this entire situation is questionable. It has everything to do with Chamelis herself.”
Vestil’s humorless, aggressive expression she’d shown during the ceremony flashes before my eyes. The way she’d looked at Chamelis and how sharp she was that she herself had nearly become a blade to thrust and slash.
“I’ve wanted to know just what it is about her that had you so on edge during the ceremony. Who is she?”
She takes a deep breath and balls her fist on the sill before she pushes herself off of it. Standing before me with a strength to her posture as a knight who has fortified themselves, she prepares to speak. The glow of sunset reaching its full bloom lights her up, making her stance and the edge of her eyes appear even more fierce.
“Superior judge Chamelis is a suspect rumored to be biased in her decisions and all the same involved with illegal activities.”
My skin crawls and the rage I feel gains another spray of fuel from her words. The mere thought of a criminal harming Juna brings my knight’s soul to unrest.
“Illegal activities? Just what is she caught up in?”
“They’re all rumors, but after everything I’ve seen and investigated on my own time, there are traces that can’t just be ignored. Though she seems to most likely bring bias and corruption to her office, there isn’t anyone who would dare to stand up to her. Anyone who begins to is snuffed out early on and their mouths are sealed shut. Those I’d interviewed in secrecy quickly had a change of heart about talking when Chamelis was brought into the conversation.”
She takes a pause as she collects her thoughts and returns her gaze out the window which stripes vermilion light across her body.
“Trafficking, favoritism, cronyism, sabotage, unlawful espionage… silencing of witnesses… The list of her rumored offenses is long. The moment I’d seen her step into the courtroom, I knew something horrible was stepping in right behind her. I’d been investigating her in secret for all of this time and to suddenly find that she was overseeing Juna’s trial… I only wish I could have apprehended her right then and there. And yet…”
Her sigh is heavy as her energy seems to be winding down with the sun’s own body.
“And yet there isn’t enough evidence to do anything about it at this moment. If I’m going to go after her, I need a sure shot. And I’ll need to make sure she doesn’t catch wind of anything before I can indict her. She can’t have a single opportunity to retaliate.”
“Is there anything we can do about this? As long as she stands as the acting judge over Juna’s case there’s little chance that Juna will be recognized as a kingdom mage knight.”
“As I’d said; you and I are going to be meeting a lot more often from now on. Whether it’s in this manor or somewhere else, I know I don’t even need to ask you if you’ll help me with this situation.”
“I’d promised Juna that I’d make her dream come true and I’m not going to let anything like this stop me. I’ll be there with you through all of this. And I’m a knight just like you. I couldn’t call myself a knight… I couldn’t call myself the Celestial Knight if I’d let someone like this walk free.” I clench my fists tightly while my next thought comes to the surface. “…If I’d let the one who’d harmed Juna go without their just desserts…”
“With the Celestial Knight by my side I have a feeling that things are going to go much differently. While she and her friends may not bat an eye at muting the mouths of their enemies, I’d like to see them raise a single finger against the one with both the king and the kingdom’s own blessings and protection. With how deep this entire ordeal may go into the knighthood, I know that you’re the one man I can trust without a doubt in my heart.”
She offers her hand to me and beams a confident smirk fit for a resolute knight unwilling to bend to impurity. I grasp her hand hard so she can feel my own resolve and all the passion I have to usher in a new order of justice.
“Together we’ll make Juna’s dream comes true. I vow this on my life.”
“Together we’ll make this kingdom a safer place. I vow this on my life.”
We both shake and affirm our knightly oaths to each other with the dusk sun as our witness forging our bond with fire. As knights, as friends, as fellow avatars of justice. We vow to protect Juna and the kingdom of Celestia as comrades in arms.
✩ ✩ ✩
Vestil had left the manor after a salute to myself and a handsome display to the maidens who’d seen her off with me. While the sky begins to cool to more weary shades of blue which are quickly chased away by the moon and stars, I wander through both the halls and my own thoughts.
Yet I’m brought to a still as I see a lunar haired maiden striding towards me. With how firmly her eyes are set on me as she draws near, it’s unmistakable that she seeks for me.
“Do you have time for one last talk?” She asks without the edge to her voice that I’ve grown more or less accustomed to.
As the moonlight peers into the manor and lights the paths with its platinum rays, I nod my head to her and follow her lead.