Chapter 48:

Call to Arms

Lovely kNight

A mere dozen seconds after my KNITE Signal has processed its first booting, a chiming catches me off guard. Listed on the screen at its top is the name of a friend.

Vestil, L.E.S. Beta

I tap the green button on screen and place the device to my ear.

“Vestil? Is that you?”

“Khiron!” Her voice comes through energetically from the speaker. “I’d been waiting for you to finally get your phone! The moment I’d been alerted you were available, I’d hit that dial key!”

“You’d been alerted?”

“It’s a nifty feature I’d been given thanks to my ranking. I was able to see the moment your device had been powered on.”

“I wasn’t expecting you to be so quick on the draw to call me. Did you just want to talk?”

“You’re not wrong. I mean, I’m glad that I have a better contact line with my pal, but there’s something important we have to talk about.”

She bides a second by before she continues; her merry tone is replaced with a serious one.

“It’s about Juna’s situation.”

✩ ✩ ✩

It was of the moment, but the two of us had arranged a meeting point. I pushed myself into a sprint the very instant our call had concluded. As I open up the door to the restaurant, Vestil is waiting in, she’s already there waiting for me.

Apparently off duty, her jacket is draped over the backrest of her chair and her tie has been loosened in her dress shirt which now has its top button undone. She greets me with her friendly smile giving off confidence matching the sun’s own light.

“Just as I’d expected; you’re here at the drop of a hat. But I understand. Can’t blame you. An opportunity to protect and provide for your wife has shown itself.”

“It wouldn’t be a meeting with you unless there was some form of teasing.”

I pick up the menu laying on the table before me and begin to skim through it for something light and quick. Though it seems that she’s already gotten her own order figured out as she lets her menu rest on the table with her hands knit over it.

“Before we get down and rough with what I have to talk with you about, why not fill me in on the situation since last we’d met? Knowing you, there’s likely a lot to say even if it hasn’t been twenty four hours yet.”

I enlighten her and pass by dozen minutes in conversation over the latest developments. From Juna’s state to the inclusion of a new maiden. She listens intently and all the same makes a point to give her cheeky responses whenever she finds an opening.

“A maid, a fiance and maiden all wrapped up in one cute package?” Even if her meal has yet to be laid down for her, her mouth is already salivating. “I see that your diligence has been its own reward. What a lucky, lucky man you are, Khiron.”

“I’m worried about what will come of it if Juna catches wind. I’m going to need to find the time to talk with Jupa and make sure that she drops this entire fiance business. It’s… embarrassing…”

“You really are the sweetest kind of guy. The greatest feast left before you and you’re still so withheld and reserved. Truly the kingdom’s most exemplary knight.” And then a teasing smirk crosses her lips. “And how adorably loving it is that you’d be watching out for your beloved!”

But her tone changes to a pensive and serious ring partway through.

“It’s been such a difficult time for Juna. Hearing something like that right now just might give her a heart attack. Even if you’re… well… you,”

“What the heck does that mean?”

“you’re still not entirely lost along the way. I really was right when I’d thought there’s something deep down.”

“I’d think any friend would be shocked to have news like that suddenly dropped down on them with little warning. Of course this entire fiance thing isn’t true. I haven’t even agreed to it. But it’s absurd all the same. Juna has enough to work through. Adding anymore kindling to the fire might just make it blaze.”

Vestil takes a pause and stares at me with her hand in her cheek. The way her brow raises gives her a slightly puzzled expression, but it also reads that she has a question in mind she desires to let free.

“A friend, huh? Mind if I ask you a little bit of a hypothetical?”

“I suppose it should be just fine. Though knowing you it’s likely going to be used to tease me like always.”

“Alright then, I’ll ask away. What would you do if Juna was someone’s fiance?”

Blasting away all expectations, I’m reduced to a gap mouthed, shocked man with a soaring pulse. Her acting seems to have improved even more. The way she holds an expression devoid of any jest is a new feat and height for her joking.

“Real funny. I suppose you’ve found a new way to embarrass me now.”

“But what’s your answer?” Still no give to her serious expression.

“I’d… be shocked. If that day came then I’d have to get used to Juna not… being by my side everyday. That… would be difficult to begin with, I’m sure…” My eyes slink away from hers as I can’t bear even a single second longer of her teasing. “There… I gave you your answer. This feels a lot more intense than your usual teasing.”

“My apologies.”

Yet she remains so serious, not even breaking frame to finally smile like a lunatic at my own expense. It leaves me disconcerted and on edge. But the situation is lightened when our orders are delivered before us.

Before the waitress can go on her way, she pauses mid step as Vestil calls to her. With her most handsome and alluring smile, she pays her extravagant compliments. While she slinks away, she uses the tray she carries in her hands to guard sight of her burning blush. Vestil is more than proud as she watches her leave with a shaking step.

“Never gets old.” She smirks with a mischievous gleam before beginning her dining.

The two of us relax for a time while enjoying our meals, but the true reason for our meeting is soon to spring upon us. As she comes to the end of a course, she places down her fork and refocuses herself, returning the sharpened and keen gleam of a vigilant knight to her eyes.

“I think it’s time we’d started speaking about our pressing business. About Juna’s case.”

“Yes. Please let me hear it. I want to know.” I sit tall and open my ears to every single word spoken.

“Lately it seems that there has been more outward evidence of drug trafficking happening throughout the kingdom. By our own investigations we can conclude that there is an organization behind these dealings. It’s looking like it’s gotten sloppy with selecting its dealers in recent. Within the last month we’ve been able to apprehend 3 of them. Just yesterday another set was rounded up for us. I’d read the reports: you were there when it happened.”

“I had been there when they had been attacked by a vigilante. Apologies I hadn’t told you that yet. With Juna’s situation and everything that came with it I suppose it fell to the back of my mind.”

“There’s no issue here, of course. But I would like to be able to hear about it firsthand. It may just be the break that could point us towards a way to getting Juna her mage knighthood.” She tents her fingers before her chin and looks towards me with expectant eyes. “So go on. And tell me about this vigilante you’d mentioned.

“After hearing what you’d had to say about Chamelis yesterday, I’d began to wonder if this was tied up with them. But to hear that those people who were apprehended had to do with drug trafficking; that brings all of it under a new light.”

I take a breath and collect my thoughts and memories.

“The vigilante had been the one to have incapacitated most of those suspects. I had only handled one myself. They’re a peculiar person who seems to be dead set on apprehending each and every member. From my own assumptions, they have a personal vendetta against the organization. I’d expect that their actions are fueled by a form of revenge if not justice.”

“This person, what did they look like? Were you able to see them clearly?”

It’s difficult to manage given that my partner is Vestil, but I withhold myself as I remember my promise to Judgment. Vestil being an unfamiliar knight, she’d likely be against my speaking of herself to her without her permission. And right now Judgment’s trust is something that direly needs to be to protected.

“I’d seen them. They wore a black hood that obscured their appearance as they’d walked the streets. They would take great issue in hiding their identity but most of what they wore was black.”

“…Just as I’d thought.” Vestil peers to her shoulder and clicks her tongue. “Your description matches the few eyewitness accounts we have of any suspect individuals confirmed to have been near these vigilante incidences. I’ve been curious of them for a while. Since they seem to be targeting the dealers, that means that they must have information we could use. If you ever get the chance to confront them, do it without hesitation. That vigilante could be the ticket to solving Juna’s case and Chamelis’ underhanded dealings.”

She takes pause and readjusts herself to be even more formal and sharp before me. Whatever comes next is doubtlessly of consequence.

“I’ve received a tip that a deal will be taking place in the city tomorrow night. Someone had overheard talk on the streets and had reported it to the knighthood. I was lucky to get that word just in time before anything could be thwarted or changed… If my suspicions are correct.”

“A deal tomorrow? Then I suppose that it’ll be up to us to apprehend the suspects.”

“You’ve caught exactly what I’ve been meaning to say. Myself, yourself, and my men will be working together to cut this branch quickly and take in our suspect for questioning. And I know without a doubt you’ll be there. So meet with me at dusk tomorrow. From there we’ll go over the strategy.”

She brandishes her KNITE and begins to flick and press its screen. My phone chimes shortly afterwards and I pick it up to see a message containing an image file.

“For now I’ve prepared a map of the rumored district. This map will be discussed in greater detail during the meeting.”

“Understood. I’ll do everything I can for Juna and this kingdom. If this brings her closer to her dreams then I’ll give it even more than everything I have in my soul.”

“It’s only going to become more dangerous from here on out. So be ready for hell.”

“It’s what we knights were made for: to stand up at the gates of hell and kick them down.”

Vestil and I send each other the most resolute of nods and affirm our bond with our eyes. Tomorrow night the first step to righting the wrong against Juna will come under my boots.

✩ ✩ ✩

At the end of our meal we exit the restaurant together. While Vestil drapes her jacket over her arm, she coolly pockets her hand and walks beside me. Looking from face to face of the women passing us by, she continues joyfully chatting with me. But as my KNITE chimes again I brandish it and see a new notice waiting for me.

This is a message from the kingdom judiciary branch delivered to the Celestial Knight, Khiron.

As per his majesty’s request, a hastened order for reevaluation has been filled promptly. I will be arriving towards the Celestial Manor posthaste before night arrives. This message has been delivered on his majesty’s own command so to inform you that your request has been fulfilled.

If you wish to stand as audience in the meeting then that is fair and up to your own discretion.”

The message bears a signature from its sender and the seal of the kingdom for confirmation of its legitimacy.

“Looks like that thing you’d asked his majesty for has already been served hot.” Vestil says with a smirk. “Good job there, Juna’s hubby. It’s only been a day but it seems we’ve both made some good progress.”

“Will you be coming with me?”

“I have a few things to handle tonight but I can push them back.” She picks up her pace and glances back to me from over her shoulder. “Let’s hurry. We wouldn’t want to miss a moment of this.”

I carry on after her lead and the two of us rush towards the manor with hopes and heads held high. Praying for a ray of light to shine down and cut through the darkness tormenting Juna’s heart.