Chapter 41:

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Lovely kNight

I’d psyched myself up to see what business awaits me in the main hall. But at the doorway all the might and mettle I’d pumped through my veins comes crashing to cinders an in instant. With a single exhausted exhale, the ashes fly out of my mouth and I tiredly walk my way to my bed to collapse onto it.

I give myself 30 minutes at the most to find a fragment more of rest. Then, I reason with myself, I’ll truly be ready to take on the challenges that are prepared for my day.

While Juna runs around in my mind, I doze off to an obscurity between states of consciousness.

✩ ✩ ✩

The sounds of light shuffling slowly pries my body from the waves of sleep I float through. My goal with resting had been to scrounge up more energy for the day and yet I feel even more taxed as my weary eyes open. I weakly pull myself back to wits.

A blur moves about at the corner of my fatigued eyes. I focus on its black, white and pink shape while sitting up in bed. I jump to slam my head against the ceiling when my vision rights itself.

An intrusion. An unfamiliar character now wanders through my room. Their head is a sweet blossom pink and their eyes are like a fine, pale wine. Their garb is black and white; a uniform that is undoubtedly that of a maid’s dress.

“W-Who are you?” I strain to yelp.

As opposed to how shocked and skittish I am, their manner is calm and joyful. They face me with a bright expression. The very moment their eyes connect to mine I’m able to recall their identity with full clarity.

The very maid I’d met in the streets yesterday. The same woman who’d nearly forfeited her life for a platinum coin.

“You’re awake! I was wondering just how hard you must be worked as the Celestial Knight.” She giggles to me. “Everyone had told me that being so tardy is unlike you, so I’d come to visit you myself.”

“You’d come into my room all on your own?” I ask nervously.

“The door was locked so I’d been given help with entering.”

“Plutia, wasn’t it?” I mumble at a range she wouldn’t have a chance to hear. “Putting that aside; you’re that person I’d met yesterday. Why are you here in this manor?”

While she’d made herself busy tidying up my room, she takes a rest to give me her undivided attention.

“You’d remembered me! I’m so grateful and feel honored! I couldn’t live without properly thanking you for everything. So that would be just one reason why I’m here now.”

“It’d be a lot more difficult to have forgotten after what had happened… Just one reason? There are other reasons?”

Amid confusion, I begin to wonder just what ludicrous statements or situations would be coming to me shortly.

“That’s right. There’s plenty of reasons for me to be here right now!” Her wine colored eyes light up as she beams towards me and takes a step closer.

“W-Well, please do go on. It’s not everyday someone would wake up with an acquaintance suddenly in their room so you have my curiosity.”

“I apologize. I’d meet you again so much that I might have gotten a little impatient. To make my intrusion up to you I’d thought that I could fix up your room. But it looks like you’re a wonderfully well kept person so there isn’t much to be done. Though I’d expected that you would be the kind to take good of whatever is in your hands.”

“It’s okay. Don’t mind it too much. You really didn’t need to come by for repayment or anything like that. Just like I’d said then: it’s what a knight does. You shouldn’t think that you’re indebted to me or owe me.”

“That’s not true at all! I’ve heard that knights are unbelievably honorable and just but it’s no small thing that you’d rescued me from what could have been something truly awful!”

She raises her voice excitedly and takes another step closer. She leans forward and stares into my eyes. Her face burns hot and her eyes read of excitement. Her energy crashes against me and runs my train of thought off the rails. A stranger so passionately shouting and drawing near is the perfect storm to throw my soul back into the shy spirit of my youth. I stumble with my words and lean away from her while struggling, steeped in an utter loss. Before I’m left entirely shipwrecked I’m more or less saved by another intrusion.

Plutia steps into my room while the other maidens have gathered at her back. One by one they filter in, filling my room quickly. It may have rescued me from my frozen mind but it certainly didn’t help my bout of nervous tension.

“O-Oh. Hello, everyone. Strange seeing all of you gathering in my… room…”

“You were taking so long! We were wondering why the heck we were still waiting! Thought we’d might as well come see for ourselves.” Marcia’s words are as gentle as a brick lobbed through glass.

“We’d asked you to bring Khiron down with you so that all of us could visit with him together.” Celine speaks to the maid, a tiny bit miffed.

While the maidens chat, Neptanie plants her face into my mattress. Every tongue is silenced as we look to her sleeping soundly by the very second she’d met the bed.

“My apologies for barging in.” Plutia takes it upon herself to resume the conversation. “I’d thought that it would be for the best if I was here for your first meeting with the newest Celestial Maiden. She will be joining us in this manor from today onward so it’s important we’d all become acquainted. The other ladies had desired to be there to meet her as well.”

“I-I guess that’s fine, but…”

My addled mind catches her all too important words a beat behind the tempo. My entire body rattles with the pure impact of a life changing statement and shakes loose any trace of lethargy I have left in my taxing my system.

“Did… Did you just say there’s a new Celestial Maiden?”

Mercy snorts loudly and Venna giggles to herself with a pleased glee.

“You’ve heard correctly. This fine woman is a new maiden who will be giving her magic to you so to aid your mission.”

“You really say that like it’s an everyday thing.”

“My place as a maiden had been discovered two days ago. The kingdom knights had come to visit me at my work and administered a small test. After that I’d been informed that I’d soon be changing my living situations into this manor. And today is that promised day!”

“They should really… start telling me these things in advance…” I sigh while every ounce of weight that that truth bears presses down on my neck. “You mean to say that you’d known you’d be… well… working with me from the moment we’d met? What drove you to run away?”

“I’m so sorry that I’d ran away. It’s just that… you were so handsome. And amazing. It would have been the perfect time to have introduced myself but my heart couldn’t take it. It was the most fantastic way I could have ever come to know you because it was a dream come true for me.”

“A-A dream come true, you say?”

“With how you’re acting, it sounds like something crazy went down.” Marcia thinks aloud.

“Oh my! This most certainly is a story I must tell every single one of you!” The maid about faces to address her fellow maidens. “Khiron… the majestic Celestial Knight saved my life!”

All together the maidens share murmurs in a buzz of excitement.

“While I was out for a stroll on my own business and lost in my thoughts, the Celestial Knight came and held me so near! While he’d taken all the force of a building falling on his shoulders, he’d kept me safe and showed me his eyes which are so like fields teeming with life and love! The strong feeling of his arms around me and how he was unwilling to let me go…! It was a beautiful dream come to life!”

“Y-You’re making it sound like the entire building fell on us…”

“Oh my, oh my, oh my!” Venna coos and holds her cheeks which now flush a colorful red. “Please tell me more! Let me know every detail!”

“Damn it. Now there’s another person here to enable her.” Marcia palms her face.

“I-I suppose he is a knight after all.” Celine looks to the side with her arms crossed and a hint of rose on her own face.

“Anything you could imagine – everything you could imagine – it was just like that! With a grace like the stars themselves he lead me to safety and spoke to me countless sweet words that made my heart race! Even if all of that was as beautiful as a rose in its season the most dreamy part was that my mother’s words had finally been fulfilled the very moment I’d met him!” She joins Venna in glittering with all of her dreamlike fantasizing.

“Oy, knight! You’ve got some nerve to flirt with a girl you’d only just met!” A sword sits on Marcia’s tongue.

“I-It wasn’t like… At least I don’t think I’d…”

“My mother would always tell me that on the day I’d meet a man who would save my life, there’s only one thing I could possibly do! That day had come at last! From this day onward, Khiron, the Celestial Knight, is my fiance and husband to be!”

The entire room pauses to a still so silent that the sound of a bug’s skittering feet would be as loud as a detonating bomb. Everyone raises their voices in unison as a choir of astonishment. Even Plutia is left utterly surprised. But Mercy’s shock is quick to melt away into a burst of riotous laughter that shakes her entire body while she pitches her head back to howl.

“W-Wait! Wait! We’d only just met yesterday! Don’t you think that’s a bit…”

“Not at all! Mother always said that the man who saves my life is doubtlessly the man meant to be my husband! It’s so beautiful, so destined that there’s no other way around it! Who would have thought that I’d get to be the Celestial Knight’s bride? I really am the luckiest woman alive!”

By this point she’s almost entirely abandoned our universe for her own dreams, but I need to reel her back to reality to make sense of everything I’d woken up into. I’ve already accepted my fate to be meeting and… exchanging magic with a new Celestial Maiden, but there’s just one thing that I should know before anything more comes my way.

“I-I can talk with you about those sorts of… arrangements later. That can wait a moment. For now I still haven’t even had the privilege to hear your name.”

“I’m so sorry, darling! I was just so excited to be with you that I’d forgotten all of my manners!”

She takes hold of her skirt and curtsies to me as dignified and as elegantly as the very famed image of a maid. The look in her eyes is so elated, so enamored that it nearly suffocates me with how saccharine of a sight she is to behold. My face begins to burn at the sight of her matchless cheer.

“I am Jupa. A loyal maid at your service and yours alone, darling. I look forward to learning even more about you and giving you all the magic that I’m capable of in the name of our kingdom and our union to be!”

So begins another chapter in my life. Just when I’d held a shred of comfort that I’d found a rhythm in my newfound service as the Celestial Knight…