I follow Urania through the castle halls en route to the king himself. Though I had met with his majesty briefly after the Hero’s Tournament, it could hardly be said I’d gotten to know him. Any knight worth their salt knows that only the utmost respect is in order for his majesty. It goes without saying that I have some tension over the conference to come.
We take a pause as we reach the grand doors of the throne room. My nerves crash through the room as I get an eyeful of their imposing, intricate wood. Judging by the looks I’m given by the knights standing watch, my nerves pulling on me most likely morph me into a misplaced piece of abstract art.
“You’re still quite nervous, aren’t you?” Urania regathers my attention.
“Please don’t mind nor concern yourself into hysteria.”
“I wouldn’t quite say it’s a hysteria, but...”
“You’ll find that his majesty is more casual and welcoming than you may assume.”
Without waiting, Urania opens the doors and steps inside, leaving me not a single second longer to prepare myself. I almost trip over my heels while I attempt to play it cool and follow her lead.
The red carpet from the hallways continues into the room. The marble floor is polished so magnificently that it’s a mirror set beneath our feet. Pillars reach high into the heavens and support the tall ceiling which is painted with luxurious details of clouds and blue skies. Stained glass windows encapsulate the lengthy walls and let in a beautiful glow of noon light.
At the end of the carpet ascends a glorious wooden staircase which leads to the spectacle of the throne. Golden with velvety red cushions. Jewels are embedded in its surface and the width and height of it are formidable. Though no matter that the throne commands attention, nobody rests in it. Rather, off behind the throne, peering through the windows at its back is a handsome man.
His face seems to be no more experienced than my own with its youthful, eye catching countenance appearing more like a piece of fine art than belonging to that of a living person. His short, white hair is swept towards his left shoulder in a stylish fashion and his emerald eyes are so deeply content as they stare to the world outdoors.
His clothes are refined yet hold a knightly appearance to them, only being sparingly different than that of the usual kingdom knight’s uniform. One such difference being the length of his cape which falls to the back of his heels. On his breast, securing his cape, is the crest of the kingdom’s royal family.
He turns to face us, having heard our approach. He shows us his smiling face as he watches us drawn near. Though Urania is well on her way without hesitation holding her steps, I’m more reluctant as I proceed forward.
“Well met, Celestial Knight, Khiron. Why do you stand so distantly? Please come join me, fine sir.” With an outstretched arm, he beckons me.
I swallow hard to regain my composure and muster up the resolve to forge forward. I ascend the stairs step by slow step and meet before him.
“Master Ophikka, I’m grateful to see you are in good health today.” Urania speaks to him with a small bow of her head.
“As it is a pleasure to see you are well, dear Urania. Thank you for escorting our hero to join me.” His smile only grows as he looks me over from head to toe. “It’s been a little bit of time, hasn’t it, my friend?”
“Friend?” I repeat while rife with confusion.
“Of course! You’re quite the man, Khiron. Not only will you be saving our kingdom, but I know very well that you’re a man of integrity I can trust with my own life and love for the people. How could I not know you as a friend?”
When I had met King Ophikka during the closing ceremonies, he was quite placid and focused; seeming like the humorless type. Yet as I see him now, smiling, calling me a friend, I’m thrown into the ocean from off the side of a ship.
“I-I understand King Celestia. I-”
“Please don’t mind any formalities here. Friends aren’t so stiff with each other, are they? Go ahead. Call me by my name.”
The look in his eyes plead for me to make good on his request. Though my lips are stiff as stone to start, I’m able to crack them free.
“There we are! See? There’s nothing to be so timid over.” Ophikka speaks with a wide grin and he snakes his arm around my shoulder. “Now then, why don’t we go and enjoy the view together?”
“I-I would be an ho-” I stop myself and lighten up. “That sounds fun.”
The view beautiful beyond words. The trees, the skies and the city are sprawled out to be watched over. The way the leaves sway on the branches of the large oaks which stand tall in the distance is magnified further by the excellence of the throne room. Taking it all in, I find myself wondering if Ophikka always watches over his kingdom like he had been when we’d entered into the room. I think to myself about the countless people wandering to and fro. The people I’ve dreamed to protect for my entire life.
“Here it is. The Kingdom City of Celestia. I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share of the heights when you’d taken yourself up into those mountains, but this view – this sight is reserved for the greatest heroes and guardians this kingdom has to nurture it. Before you is the people, the places that both you and I cherish. Whenever I have time to rest I peer out and admire the beauty that is my kingdom. It’s breathtaking not only because of its inherent beauty, but because of the souls and smiles that I’m sworn to protect.”
“When I look out from here I feel the same. The treasure of this kingdom, to me, is the people that live in it. Not the jewels and riches but those who make it the beautiful place it is.”
His embrace grows stronger as he gives me a sidelong hug.
“I knew you’d see it too. A kingdom is nothing without its beating heart. When I’d witnessed your spirit in the tournament, all remaining doubts that you are truly the Celestial Knight fled from me. I’d simply wondered to myself how you were going to come out as victor, not if. This is all the reason why. Standing beside me is all the evidence to prove that my heart and soul were correct.”
He laughs to himself and relinquishes me as he wanders closer to the pane.
“Truth be told; I didn’t have any reason to call you here. Nothing urgent or pressing. I believe Urania has covered over all that would be necessary as she’s a fine scholar. There are few I trust more than her. The real reason that I had asked for your company was for my own joy. To be able to at last say hello to my friend I’ve been eager to see once more.”
“You’d called me here just to talk with me?”
“Precisely. Would you mind telling me a bit more about yourself? I’m dying to know.”
✩ ✩ ✩
Urania had been dismissed back to her duties as we’d begun talking. Time quickly whittled away while we shared ourselves. I’d spoken of my upbringing as a knight. In exchange, Ophikka had spoken of his own lineage and a small history of his family as the royalty of the kingdom. During my recollections of my life, he had been deeply focused and intent to listen.
“The royal family was comprised of the first knights who had protected the kingdom. Having defended against the threat of Eclipse and returned order to the lands, they were given the authority to rule by the very desires of the people. And so knights became an important part of the culture of Celestia. To uphold and stand for peace. To defend against the dangers of the world. To guide all of our people into a brighter future with every passing day. That is the duty of my family first and then to the knights we bequeath the honor to serve.”
“In all of my life and my studies in the academy, I’d never once heard this tale. I’d never known that the Celestia royal family had been the first knights.” I’m in awe of his lessons.
He places his gloved hand against the cool glass before him. His green eyes reflect the noon glow as they become ever softer gazing out to the land and the people they love.
“The blood of Celestia’s first knights runs through my veins and it is my greatest privilege to serve this kingdom as a knight first and then a king. As yourself, since my earliest years I’ve given my greatest efforts in training. If I had the privilege to be the Celestial Knight I would take that honor without a second thought. But the kingdom need its king.”
He turns to me and gives me the warmest, kindest look I’d never once imagined I’d be gifted from the king himself.
“I’d say I have a small longing inside of me but I’m put at ease to see that it is you who is the Celestial Knight. So refined in honor, so caring with a heart of gold. The kingdom couldn’t ask for a greater knight than yourself. As you take your duties upon your shoulders, I promise that I will be taking my own share in all that I am capable. So that I may assist you and ensure the safety of this kingdom. If ever you have a request to such an end, I will act to fulfill it.”
At his revelation of his heart offered to me, Juna’s sorrowful face is back to the forefront of my mind. My mouth begins to move as if it was the most natural course.
“I have a request I’d like ask of you.”
“You do, my friend? Then please let me hear it.”
His attention is undivided for me yet I find myself stuttering. To ask a favor of the king is one issue, to ask him at all to assist in a court case is another situation entirely. But the most important thought that pauses my tongue for thought is the possibility that Juna would not be happy to have earned something without having met or exceeded the qualifications. Simply handing her the title of a kingdom mage knight is absolutely out of the question and would go against all that she and I stand for.
“My greatest friend I’d told you about… Well, she’s in a bind at the moment. It has to do with her candidacy as a kingdom mage knight. I’m still searching for a way around the situation, but I may ask you for help in reviewing her case. She was denied the honor despite her incredible abilities. At that, it seems her place as a Celestial Maiden was used against her in the decision.”
“Ah, yes. Your knightly friend who is not only an adept mage, but is likewise a maiden. She has quite a captivating character. She sounds like she would even make the loveliest bride from all that you’ve told me. I’ll have a special assistant whose sworn duties are to review such cases for the kingdom. I will ask for him to visit her in the eve. I hope that this will help to bring her a resolution or at least push it the situation into the right direction.”
I’m instantly overwhelmed by his giving spirit and the warmth he exudes. The thought alone of Juna’s dreams coming true makes my heart race with joy. If I lacked the control, I would rattle where I stand. Though still I can’t seem to decide how to handle myself nor how to respond. I think to fall to my knees, but Ophikka wouldn’t desire that of me. I just remain breathless.
“You seem so shocked. You shouldn’t be. This is the least I can do in favor for our wonderful knight who will bring peace to this kingdom.”
I finally find my decision as I outstretch my arm. I expect him to simply take it and shake but I’m thrust into another bout of surprise for the day as he pulls me into his arms. He gives me a tight embrace and a strong pat to the back. Releasing me, he beams ever brighter.
“You’re welcome, my friend.”