Chapter 37:

A Hopeful Moon

Lovely kNight

A gentle night breeze sweeps through the landscape. The fields dance beneath its caress as the rays of the bright moon’s light glitters off of the waving grass. It ripples and shimmers like the surface of a restful lake. Among all the stress and chaotic moments that wore on my nerves throughout the day, the sights I watch from the back porch of the manor help to melt a few of those concerns away. The pain I feel in my chest at last returns to its most merciful torture.

Celine had a word to speak with me and yet she’d requested that I’d take a moment to look out to the landscape with her. So she rests before me, legs tucked beneath her while she watches the fields sway in the moonlight.

Apart from her attitude, she’s always been an elegant woman, the silver rays gracing her make her even more alluring. Her white hair nearly glows like the moon itself and the blue of her eyes takes on a sparkling like boundless oceans. Switching my attention from the fields, I find myself staring at her. She notices my gaze and locks her eyes with my own.

“Juna…” She begins, surprisingly undaunted by my brash staring. “She was extremely disturbed with what happened today.”

“She was. It wasn’t incredibly rough for her. Have you heard all that happened?”

“I have. Your friend had told me about it himself. But even if they hadn’t, I knew something was deeply wrong. Her heart has been wounded to a depth that can’t simply be ignored and yet she’s trying her hardest to hold it all in when she’s in front of others.”

For a moment I think to correct her on Vestil’s identity, but continue with the matter at hand. She’ll likely learn soon enough.

“As usual, Vestil’s there to lend a hand. I suppose you’re mostly caught up then. And even then you’d already understood there was something wrong when we’d returned. It surprised me that you’d caught on so quickly.”

“It’s nothing. Juna’s just… a unique character so she stands out is all.” Celine blushes lightly. “It’s easy to tell when something is wrong even if she tries to hide it. Especially since you’d asked to postpone the celebration we’d prepared for her. It doesn’t take much to realize that she’s hurt.”

“Still, nobody there at the facility nor on the road could tell there was something bothering her. They wouldn’t have been able to detect that as quickly as yourself either even if they’d been given the chance. I’d wager that you’re just downplaying your gifts, but that chat can wait for some other time.”

“Right.” She takes a breath to dispel the red that had collected from her face and returns herself to complete tranquility once more.

As gentle and as still as the moon itself, she begins.

“Juna has long dreamed to be an Elite Mage Knight. Ever since she was a child. It’s much more to her than a simple aspiration or job. There’s a deeply personal reason that she dreams of being a mage knight. A reason why she’s so adamant and tirelessly hardworking towards that end.”

“Everything you’d said is right on key. To Juna being a mage knight isn’t just some dream job or vocation. She doesn’t to just have some badge of honor for the kingdom. To Juna, being a mage knight is her meaning to life. An important treasure she dreams of every day.”

“I’ve been curious about her dream ever since we’d first met. She’s such a bright and sincere person and yet there’s so much she keeps locked inside. If I may, I’d be grateful to hear the reason as to why she wishes to be recognized as a kingdom mage knight.”

With that one request made, the innumerable memories come rushing back to me.

“I can remember the moment she’d first confessed it all to me as clear as day. It might even be one of the brightest memories of my life. Every single time she’d speak about it she would have this smile on her face when she’d list the reasons why she’d vowed to myself and to everyone that she would become an Elite Mage Knight. She sparkled like a star and spoke with nothing but the deepest love you could imagine. Always so adorable and beautiful as she’d recite everything by heart.”

I look to Celine and see her deep in focus listening to every word I have to say. She nods to me solemnly, bidding me to continue.

“There’s someone she’s always looked up to. The way she’d tell her stories about them with all the energy she’d have, I could swear I’ve met them myself. Even if I never have. I suppose despite that fact they feel like family to me.”

I look up to the night sky and see the glittering stars spangling the deeper blues of the expanses. And in that sky, I see a constellation up on high.

“She is an Elite Mage Knight held in the highest regard and esteem by the kingdom. I’ve heard it spoken as well that she’s nothing short of a prodigy. The kind that only comes to this world once in a century at most. Once in a lifetime. They’re wise and scholarly beyond most anyone. Powerful, capable of all types of magic and yet they’re also the sweetest, most caring person you could ever meet even if they’re so far advanced and on their own level. Maybe it’s even because of that they’re so endearing and adoring.

“She’d served the kingdom with everything she had to give. She alone advanced various fields of research and created forms of magic that I’m sure even Urania has studied. Urania probably even knows her well herself.”

“Who is she? She almost sounds like a myth.”

“I suppose that she is so amazing she might be mistaken for a dream herself.” I laugh to myself before I at last speak her beloved name. “Libera. She’s the person that Juna adores and chases after. Juna’s own flesh and blood: her aunt.”

“Juna’s related to such a powerful magician?”

“Although she’s incredibly proud to be her niece, she doesn’t often mention that detail to anyone. It’s almost entirely a secret to everyone but her closest friends. Libera had raised her alongside her parents. She would help Juna study, dote on her and care for her as if she was her own daughter. Every chance she would get, Juna would cling to her and follow her wherever she went.”

“Libera.” Celine speaks her name with a shimmer of awe in her eyes. “Why doesn’t Juna claim her own relationship to her?”

“I’d imagine you’ve more than likely come to this conclusion yourself, but Juna is particularly defensive when it comes to Libera. She’s adamant to keep her relationship to her a mystery so her own potential shortcomings won’t be reflected on her aunt’s legacy. Though I know she’d be so proud of her, she’s very stubborn with this particular issue.”

“I’d imagine that bearing such a heavy namesake would be difficult.”

“That is one other reason. But she can be a bit too headstrong to admit that she’s afraid. I know that for sure.”

“You two are so alike.” Celine smiles to herself as a small laugh floats from her lips. “After everything I’ve come to know about you two I can tell it’s a foregone conclusion. I trust you know best how to help Juna, but I hope that you won’t mess things up.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it. Even if it seems dark right now, I’m not going to let her give up on her dream.”

“Your friend had told me a bit about the judge who had been given her case. I take it that the meeting between the two of you was about her as well.”

“First thing we need to do is find a way that Juna can have another chance – a fairer chance – at being granted knighthood. So although we’ve only just begun, I’ll be working with Vestil to make sure we can give her that opportunity.”

“It seems that it will more than likely be dangerous. Juna’s counting on you just like all of Celestia is. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you. It would… break plenty of hearts.” Celine’s serenity begins to waver as she glances away to the moon.

“I’ll be sure to keep safe. Vestil is with me already so I know I have a good friend I can rely on.”

“Juna needs you so very much right now. And I’ll trust you with this. Though I’ll do all that I can to help her as well. Please take good care of Juna like you always have.”

“Thank you for sharing this with me.” She rises to her feet and smooths out her skirt before preparing to step on her way. “Maybe we’ve even grown a little bit closer from this. Juna and I as well.”

She steps to the threshold of the manor but I can’t hold myself from giving her the last few thoughts teeming in my mind. She twists around at the sound of my voice and gives me a look of curiosity.

“Thank you for everything. Despite all that we may have bumped heads over before this, I’m glad to know that you’re a friend. It means more than I could ever say that someone would care about Juna’s well being. It’s a pretty inane statement and something more than obvious, but you really are a sweet and lovely woman.”

She stands still as a statue with her hand rested on the door to the manor. A lapse of silence hangs in the air while the summer night’s wind whistles past us, teasing her hair and skirt. A creeping tinge of pink made even more apparent against her moonlit skin magnifies itself until she’s a seething red.

“Wh-Why are you spewing out such a lame a joke after such a serious conversation? It’s… in strange taste…”

“A joke? It wasn’t a joke at all. I mean it when I say that you’re a considerate and kind woman. It’s become more and more clear to me every time I get to know a little bit more about you. Not only do you have concern for Juna, but you seem to take care of the other maidens too.”

“It’s… The maidens can’t do their jobs properly if they’re all unfocused anyway. I just do what I can since my life is on the line with this along with this entire kingdom.” She looks into the manor and the corner of her lip begins to shake. “Y-You can say whatever you want, but I’m a busy woman who doesn’t have t-time for jokes! I have somewhere to be so if you don’t mind – not that I care or anything – I’ll be on my way!”

She steps inside and stops midway to glance back towards me. Her twitching lip dances even more clumsily as it fights to curl itself high. Though she quickly regains her pace and shuts the door with a bit of muscle put into it, leaving me to the moon and the sweeping fields of green.

I turn the entire day over in my mind while I look out to the night for a few moments longer. I laugh to myself when I finally reach my time with Celine that had concluded only a few moments prior.

She sure is a strange one. A woman of mystery, perhaps. But she’s fun. Different than anyone else I’ve ever met. I suppose we’re going to get along just fine after all.”

The moon feels hopeful as it watches me from the starlit sky.