Juna and Plutia are seated in the conference room. While Plutia has taken the head of the table, directly opposite to Juna is two unfamiliar individuals.
The first is a middle aged man clad in a fine suit with his top hat set on the surface of the table. The second is a woman with darkened eyes set behind a set of glasses. She gives off the feeling that she’s deeply restless in a way that simple sleep couldn’t remedy. She has a travel typewriter set before her, fingers poised and rapidly snapping away while she records the ongoing conversation between all who are present.
As I’m noticed, the meeting comes to a halt and the sounds of clicking keys shortly take pause.
“Khiron!” Juna voices in relief. “And Vestil? You’ve come as well? It’s good to see you.”
“Same here. Moment I’d heard this get together was happening I knew I had to at least stop by. So here I am.”
“Seems that we have one more guest than anticipated. Nevertheless, this man would be the one that you were waiting for?” The suited man asks Juna.
“Yes. This is Khiron.” She speaks as a smile edges at the corners of her lips.
“It’s of no issue that I’d attend this meeting as well, is it?” Vestil asks the man.
“Not at all. Please do join us and have yourself a seat.”
“Good. Because I wasn’t going to be leaving either way.” She borders herself on jest and genuine defiance.
I take my place beside Juna at the table with Vestil at my right.
“You must be the one that Oph-…” I catch myself lest I’d be too casual about our king. “…his majesty had sent for.”
“That I would be.” He nods his head. “As for our own introductions, I am Lupin and this fine assistant is Corvani. It was so very abrupt that we would be summoned. I had been informed that it’s an expressly urgent matter so I’d made haste to make a befittingly quick meeting. My briefing beforehand was short and as of your entrance, I was in the process of being enlightened to the deeper matters of the situation.”
“I thank you for coming despite how short notice had been. It means so much to me.” I bow my head to him in gratitude.
“It was on order of the king so most certainly I will be giving this my absolute focus. But even beyond that I’m grateful to be of service. You yourself would be the Celestial Knight, would you not? There’s no need for such formalities. Please raise your head. The honor is all mine to have made your acquaintance, young sir. If I may inquire, have you yet ventured into a Dark Seed?”
“I’m still in the process of training. Though it shouldn’t be too long now until my first departure.”
“Words could never do my heart’s gratitude justice. I eagerly await your rescue of this kingdom. Though I know very little about the actual matters of the Celestial Knight it seems that his majesty has been gracious to have gifted you many assistants to aid you. From what I’ve gathered, this young woman is one of those hands.”
“Every single one of my assistants have been so greatly helpful. Juna herself has been with me long before my time serving as the Celestial Knight. Ever since our youth we’ve both supported each other. She continues to help me perhaps even more so now that I’m to campaign for the sake of the kingdom. Which would bring us to the matter at hand.”
I glance to Juna who shares a quiet moment with me before I press onward.
“Juna has always been the most astute and studious person I’ve known. To the point of being experienced beyond her years. I trust that you have already come to know that this meeting entails Juna’s rejection for candidacy as a kingdom mage knight. I can promise even on my own name as the Celestial Knight that she is far beyond the calling. The kingdom would be blessed to have her service. It is blessed right now that she continues to put all of her effort towards its welfare.”
“I had been told the beginning details on her rejection from candidacy. Seeing her: a lass filled with such desire and longing to be of service to the kingdom, she reminds me of my own daughter who is only a year or two her senior. Yes, my beloved daughter who has so long dreamed of becoming a kingdom mage knight herself. She’s studied well and to the late hours since she was a fledgling magician. Though she has yet to prove herself through testing, I have high hopes in her. Maybe I see a bit of my daughter in this young woman.”
Lupin offers us a warm expression that only a father could muster.
“Everything that Khiron says is true.” Vestil joins at my side to plead Juna’s case. “Even having served as a kingdom knight for the years I have, I’ve never seen another knight like Juna. She’d even acted as my tutor at times with my own magic studies as I was in academy. Though I’d never been able to grasp the art as deeply as others. If there ever was one who should be a mage knight, it’d be her without a doubt.”
“In no world or way is it just that Juna would be excluded from the knighthood as she has been. She was born to be one of the greatest knights to have ever served this kingdom. If you’d ever seen her magic I know you would agree quickly. She is one of the most beautiful things in this world.”
Lupin’s expression mists over with intrigue and a hint of confusion.
“Did you mean to say that her magic is one of the most beautiful things in this world?”
“I apologize, sir. That is what I’d said. I’m uncertain what it is you mean to ask.”
I switch my eyes about the conference room and land on Juna who lowers her head and plays with a lock of her hair while cutely shy and red. Meanwhile Plutia and Vestil both grin in a teasing fashion and Corvani busy typing away peers up to me from over her glasses.
“Truth be told that I was curious as to whether or not you would be unopposed to the possibility of meeting my daughter. You seem to be a fine lad with a fine head on his shoulders. Though I suppose that might be irrelevant altogether.” Lupin laughs heartily. “From all sources I speak with it seems that the voices are in agreement that this maiden is a fine magician. The likes of which may very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity to make acquaintance with.”
“She’s all that and more.”
I feel my passion grow in its intensity as I place my hands against the table and brace myself to divulge the building feelings from my heart.
“The fact of the matter is that Juna’s trial was concluded with what seems to have been an abhorrent bias. Being barred from the knighthood and not even given a fair trial to once more stand before her peers or a separate overseer was a breach of justice and law. This unjust decision was argued to have been on bounds of her duties as an assistant to the Celestial Knight. But that is a null point. Is it not an honor to support the knight who campaigns to protect all of the kingdom?”
“For all accounts I would imagine it to be a badge of honor and never a demerit. Why was this point of her duties made into a negative aspect against her candidacy as a kingdom mage knight?”
“It was stated by the case’s assigned judge that there would be a conflict of duties which could jeopardize the kingdom’s safety.” Vestil speaks up. “Though that may be true in a manner of perspective as she is Khiron’s assistant, she is doubtlessly a person that only has the best in her heart for anything and everything she is passionate about. Her serving the kingdom would in no way influence or cause issue with either task that she has been given. That’s something I can swear on with all confidence. Her and Khiron have already served together as knights since academy so why should this be any different than that?”
✩ ✩ ✩
Pressing on, Lupin gave his ear to us and spoke with warmth to his words. He was engaged as Vestil and I acted as witnesses to Juna’s character and she herself had spoke up when it was necessary. As the meeting winds down just after the half hour’s mark, he seeks after for a resolution to the case.
“Given all that I’ve heard I find it difficult to argue or play devil’s advocate from anything else but morbid curiosity. I should be able to file for a second hearing which would be personally scheduled for her sake. Since it is by order of the king himself it should be quick that that trial will come.”
“Thank you, sir. Thank you for every second of your time and assistance.” My words of gratitude gush forth like an opened faucet.
“As a knight myself and a great friend of hers, you have my gratitude as well.” Vestil gives him a bow where she sits.
“Before I can wrap up this meeting, there is one detail I will need to know in order to properly file for the hearing. A detail I’d somehow managed to have neglected to ask for this entire time. Pardon me. I’d admittedly found myself most taken with your lot. It seems that all of you are quite precious to each other. Seeing such camaraderie and friendship is always a pleasure to my heart.”
“Anything you’d like to hear, just say it and I’ll share.”
“I’ll need to hear the name of the presiding judge that had handed down this verdict towards Juna.”
“The assigned judge was judge Chamelis.”
As I let her name be known, the room comes to a sudden still and the rapid tapping of the keys stutters to a pause for an instance. With a slow pace, she manages to pick up from where she’d left off. Both Vestil and Plutia are visibly on edge as this awkward moment comes and goes. The gentleman himself sits silently while the kind warmth he had exuded retreats with the appearance of a strained smile.
“I… see…” Lupin attempts to fix his posture but instead fidgets about without comfort. “So it was judge Chamelis herself that gave you this verdict.”
Finally caught up to pace and given a beat of silence, Corvani’s quick typing returns to a still. She sighs and lets her shoulders slacken for a breath but she’s just as quickly back to recording.
“To… summarize this incidence I’ve been called for… Juna had been delivered a sentence by judge Chamelis. This sentence was to bar Juna from retrial and notice of kingdom knighthood until the completion of her second duty. And then only if that would be allowed by the judge’s own approval could she be reconsidered for candidacy.”
“That would be correct, sir.” I agree with him apprehensively. “But I would be grateful if Juna would be allowed a second trial before jury for her knighthood. Perhaps even to have her next test administered and decided by a different judge. As you’d stated earlier, there doesn’t seem to be a precedent situation in which a knight had been completely barred from the privilege of retrial. I’d go so far as to say that it’s unlawful and a dishonor to the very idea of justice.”
“I suppose you are correct that there hasn’t quite been a case of one being barred from retrial outside of a taxing demerit that had been placed on their record.”
Juna’s eyes light up with a spark of hope as she listens to Lupin speak. Another peculiar pause is found in his speech and he shifts about in his seat some more. Tugging at the collar of his shirt, he breathes a deep intake and begins.
“H-However… I suppose that… Lady Chamelis is a truly time tested judge herself. If there was ever anyone… who could know what is best for the knighthood, it’d most likely be her. She… She was a knight herself for a time after all. It’d likely be… inconsiderate and out of line if I were to oppose her ruling. She’s served her position for longer than I’ve held mine.”
“What? What are you saying, sir? You don’t mean-”
“Pardon my sudden inquiry, but you wouldn’t happen to be the niece of an Elite Mage Knight by the name of Libera, would you?”
“What does that have to do with anything?” I ask him sharply.
“I… I would happen to be, sir.” And Juna answers him no matter my interjection.
Lupin’s shoulders grow tense as he swallows the truth of her admission. Again the room grows cold and the notary shudders. He raises from his seat and replaces his hat upon his head, eager and more than prepared for a hasty departure.
“…It seems that I was mistaken. It’s best that this case’s ruling would stand as it had been decided by the superior judge. There’s little I can do given such circumstances but to trust the good judge.”
“You’d given your word that Juna would be allowed a retrial!” I shoot up from my seat with the feeling of daggers’ edges beginning to press into my chest.
“I… simply cannot press the issue and it’s best that I wouldn’t. I hope you will understand.”
“Understand?! What’s there to-”
I pause as I feel a hand grasp my shoulder. Vestil stands with me and silently cautions me to calm myself.
“I understand, sir. We are very passionate to have Juna’s case given justice. It is alarming and it hurts us deeply but I suppose we’ll make do another way. Thank you for your time.” She speaks in my stead while smiling cheerfully.
“Yes… The best of wishes for yourselves and your friend.”
He turns around at the doorway to peer back to me. Though so ever subtle, I can see a fracture in his mask he battles hard to bear. A frown and lowered brow with the fragment of a broken heart reflected in his eyes.
“You’ll rescue this kingdom, won’t you? I… place my hope in your hands.”
As Corvani’s typing comes to a conclusion, she packs up her materials into a suitcase and goes to join her partner. While he leaves the room behind with a rush in his step, she twists to about face us at the door. With sepulchral eyes made to look even more dire and forlorn by the dark rings she bears, she dips into a bow. A bow that speaks volumes to us without a single word. A deep apology.
It takes every ounce of will to hold myself from chasing the man down and demanding of him.
“That man.. he’s…”
“Silenced with fear.” Plutia who had been silently listening and acting as a witness to the meeting now speaks up. “There’s nothing else that we can do with this present situation at this point in time. There have been records of previous Celestial Maidens holding knightly offices and yet this kingdom still stands.”
“So you mean to tell me that Chamelis has gone against precedents with her ruling?”
“Regrettably. And it seems that even that man has something floating over his head to stop him from going with his own justice.” Vestil adds.
The thought sickens me to my soul. Corruption, blackmail, whatever it may be that holds that man at bay from helping Juna’s case. Even by proxy Chamelis is toying with others and that reality now seems to be beyond any possibility of denial.
The clattering sound of a chair throws my attention to Juna. She stands from her seat and her bangs fall before her face, obscuring her face from view, save for her lips which are held in a flat and tense line.
“I’m… going to study.”
She walks past me without so much as a glance into my eyes. Denying me the chance to see the burdened expression she hides away.
“Juna. Wait.” I step out into the hall after her. “I’ll go with you.”
“I’m sorry, Khiron. I… think it’s best that I’d be alone for now. You should take this time to do your duties as the Celestial Knight. I’m sure there’s much you need to do. Thank you for helping me.”
I want to stop her but I freeze where I stand. A deep stinging like a viper’s fangs injecting their venom lashes at the scar and seizes me. I keep it from showing on my face but eventually succumb to the pressure and grip tightly to my shirt.
Before she can leave the hall behind, she crosses paths with Celine who at once is thrown into shock. In response Juna covers her face away with her hands and is fast to escape. Celine watches her leave as I do. Tears begin to bead at the corners of her clear blue eyes.
“Juna…” She speaks with sorrow.
By the very second she notices my attention, she wipes at her tears and carries on her way while she too hides herself from me.
With the overwhelming sensations of defeat welling up in my heart, preparing to burst, I heave a sigh to chase away the pain that brings my soul to a sting. When I turn back to the conference room Vestil and Plutia wait for me and beckon me to join them.
I retreat therein and brush away Vestil’s concerns of the scar’s torturous voice. With a heavy heart and a mind filled with Juna, one more meeting commences.