Chapter 53:

Shadows in Ink

Lovely kNight


I’d left Jupa to her own volunteered labors as a maid for not only myself, but for all of the manor. While shy and hot in the face, I’d only had one request after having been hit by her unbelievable confession. I’d asked that she would take care of all the maidens and to give a share of her love and warmth to the manor. And together with that, the most important part of that promise: to watch over Juna whenever she is capable.

Before I could settle myself in my own room, I couldn’t deny my heart’s pleading that I’d check on Juna. There could be no way I’d be able to sleep so long as her own status remained a mystery. When I’d gently peered into her room, there I’d seen her sleeping on her bed so exhausted not even a cover laid over her body. So I’d paid forward the kindness I’d received earlier in the day and delicately draped a blanket over her while witnessing her tearful face yet touched by her broken heart.

As ever I had only been able to see the aftermath of her broken heart. I’d lightly dabbed away those tears and kissed her forehead goodnight. It was a fight to shut the door, but I was able to gain that small victory.

While the sun’s light dwindles to a faint blue leading to the star laden canopy of night, I lay in my bed and let my mind wander. I’d recalled the small portion of food Jupa had given to me before I’d left the manor in the morning. I’d enjoyed it and was dumbfounded how delicious it had been despite the lack of time she had to prepare it. It made me more than eager for the coming time when she would prepare something more substantial for myself and even the maidens.

“A maid… A personal maid…” I think aloud.

That statement alone sits on my tongue like a hot coal and causes me to spit in embarrassment overwhelming.

“What is even happening anymore? It’s only been a week and yet…”

I breathe out all the confusion fogging up my mind. It’s my intentions to finally seek after some rest but the moment I lay my head down on my pillow, my KNITE chirps alive from my bedside table.

A message from Vestil directed towards our newly formed group. The file is an attachment to a news article.

I have some bad news to bear. Something huge went down this afternoon. Something so crazy that nothing of its caliber has happened in the last half century. It’s already made rounds in the kingdom so I’d wanted to make sure Khiron here is in the know.

Vestil’s message speaks to me from the screen.

Without a second thought as pins and needles prick me with concern for Juna’s case, I access it.

Black and white paragraphs extend from beneath a photograph of a striking individual. An unmistakable face I’d seen countless times throughout recent years. It’d be hard to forget them given that theirs is a face you’d see appearing on a common basis in the media.

Black hair with blue eyes. A handsome face so perfect and clean that they seem to shine like a star with a smile to match the might of the heavens. Their uniform is razor sharp and refined despite how its design is so simplistic. The way they wear it is what makes them seem to be fit for royalty. With all the sheer confidence they ooze as they’re captured amid their speech in a still, its only natural that eyes would easily be drawn to such charisma.

Prince Pegacae, as everyone calls them. Despite that they are not a rightful prince for the throne, their rich business they’d gained the reins of from a young age has placed them high on a pedestal.

The Sunshine Steel Group. A group responsible for construction and the manufacturing of steel implements and tools which nearly every workman of the kingdom uses. To say that their inheritance is influential would be to sorely misunderstand the very hold they have over the community and business as a whole. Only rivaled by Ophikka and the Celestia family itself.

So begins the article.

TRAGEDY

A PUBLIC MEETING INTERRUPTED

Today tragedy has visited the kingdom of Celestia as an attempt had been made on the life of Sir Pegacae’s during a public speech he himself had orated. What began as a simple publicity meeting had quickly spiraled into a shocking site as the leader of the Sunshine Steel Group was struck with an arrow to their left shoulder. The gasps and panic could be heard all throughout the streets of Celestia be it from the public grounds where the meeting was held or from the insides of the taverns and stores littering the city.

Though injured, Sir Pegacae remained on stage and endured the pain of the injury to continue his address and see to its fulfillment. Onlookers and witnesses were quick to speak of their disbelief. Not only at the attempt on his life they had bore witness to, but by the very fact that he had shown incredible discipline and strength to have successfully delivered his speech in spite of his condition.

Eye Witness Accounts

“The guy barely even flinched. Just sat there quiet for a moment with eyes closed before picking up from where he left off. Now I’ve heard good things about our Celestial Knight, but I’d say this guy could have been a close second candidate for his place. No offense meant, mind you. Just what I’ve got to say.”

- R.V. Cae, Business owner

“The prince’s bodyguards tried to get him off stage but he’d resisted. He’d swatted their hands away and gripped more tightly to the podium. It was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else take a hit like that. I suppose that is what makes him the prince and rightful heir to the group. It’s kind of dreamy.

I’m sorry. Can you please not include that in the article?"

- Alae Forh, Forge Employee

After leaving the stage, Sir Pegacae chose to walk the streets without any armed units to raise their shields for his safety. He had walked by himself the entire distance towards their metal carriage from where they returned to their home. Official public reports detail that Sir Pegacae is currently being tended to by his own personal medical staff.

Updates will be published as more details of this incidence are revealed. For now the group is pleading for the citizens to be on vigilant watch for potential suspects. A reward is being offered by the group as to the capture and arrest of the character who had sought the blood of the good sir. All knights whether kingdom or freelancer are allowed to participate in the competition for the bounty.

But most importantly, as they had stated themselves, the Sunshine Steel Group has cautions all of the public that it is for the best nobody gives into panic.

I’m in disbelief as I finish reading the article. Never once had such a bold attempt on any figure’s head happened in all of my years. That they were so bold as to execute a plan in public is unthinkable. Yet as I come to grips with the situation, a thought breaks through to the forefront of my conscious.

I’m quick to type down a message and hit send.

An attempt on Pegacae’s life. Just what could anyone be after with something so brazen? Do you think this has anything to do with our investigation?”

It’s much more simple and callous than you’d might expect with your big heart.” Plutia sends in to the conversation. There are a few possibilities. The first is that this is an attempt to sow discord and fear into the hearts of the citizens. But it could also be that whoever has taken this risk has arrangements to see someone else takes his office. After all, Prince Pegacae is the last remaining immediate relative of his family.”

The group has their own private investigators on the case but that isn’t going to stop the kingdom’s justice system from running its own investigation. We should hopefully know more about all of this soon enough. But you’re on the same wavelength as me, Khiron. Call me a conspiracy theorist looking for shapes in my morning cereal, but I have a feeling this just might tie back into my the case I’ve been investigating. We’ll have to see.” Vestil’s message is next to bring my phone to chime.

Whatever this is, it’s anything but good news. I’ll need to pick up and do even more to make sure this doesn’t become a trend.”

Relax. There’s only so much we can all do. But I wouldn’t be against it if you’d kissed your bride some more just to make sure.”

And don’t forget that I’m here for some kisses as well, handsome.”

Lucky damn...” From Vestil.

Despite how serious and tense the situation had been, the fact that these two have the ability to joke and lighten up so quickly is surprising. Their messages earn a groan from me.

Whatever the case may be, tomorrow will be important given what has just happened. I’ll be ready to apprehend whatever criminals may show themselves. Be sure to send any more updates you receive on the prince’s situation.”

Will do, sir Celestial Knight. Until tomorrow!”

Take care, handsome.”

I replace my phone beside me and take to staring out at the risen stars. Though their twinkling shines of hope, the darker expanses which haze between their light manages to capture more of my attention tonight. A part of me that fears a what-if that keeps its grasp on my mind. What if someone I hold dear ends up being targeted if I stumble. But even with that potential being lofted over my head, I’ve already vowed and know that I’ll see this to the end.

For the kingdom’s sake.

For Juna’s sake.

The faster we make a canal for the root to whatever darkness lingers in the kingdom, the faster everyone will be safe and free from malice and tyranny. There’s no other choice but to strike before the rot can spread any further like a weed choking life from the beauty which surrounds it.

Though troubled with the scar’s voice cackling in my chest towards the misery of the kingdom, I close my eyes. While meditating to quell its torture and dampen the sounds of fear in my heart, I turn the day’s events over in my mind.

Tomorrow will be a turning point. I can feel it. Juna’s dream will be that much closer to becoming her reality.