Chapter 54:

Wake Up to Wonder

Lovely kNight

“I… I can do this. So much time has passed and yet… Almost all of the others already have… Why is this so hard? Even if it’d be nice to…”

A shy, quiet voice is my first greeting to the day as I slowly come to. With the way that voice is so delicate, almost as if it was a mirage that would fade away at the tiniest whisper of wind, its owner is unmistakable.

Neptanie? Just what is she up to?”

Another day of waking up to someone having sneaked their way into my room. Even though I’d forgotten to lock my door yesterday due to how fatigued I’d been, by this point it’d likely be to no effect even if I had.

I choose to feign sleep while preparing myself for whatever strange breed of situation would be coming my way. Though I doubt Neptanie would ever be as aggressive as Plutia had been, that memory alone gives me second thoughts of making any sudden movements.

“O-Okay. I’ll do this. No more holding back. It’s… It’s for the greater good. For… everyone…”

I feel a ticklish sensation sweep across my cheeks and forehead, caressing my skin. That ticklish touch grows until I feel a gentle pressing against my lips. A sweet scent joins her as she holds herself near with her hand falling onto my shoulder. She’s shy as she kisses me, unconfident as she wavers. She pulls herself away and by complete accident I reflexively open my eyes.

She sits with her knees on the bed. Her hair is a touch disorderly and tossed about as her bangs cross and weave with each other. Her eyes are shut and her reddened face glows brightly. She continues to think to herself aloud.

“I… I think I did it right. So I think it’s mission accomplished.”

She pumps her fist cutely in celebration and opens her eyes which just so incidentally click with my own immediately. The fragile shape of confidence cracks and collapses into a messy heap as she begins to quake where she sits. At the brink of a cold sweat while her skin plummets pale at crashing speed.

“Kh-Kh-Khiron! I…! This is…! I thought you would…!” Not a single thought can be completed through her maddened stuttering.

“Good morning, Neptanie. I wasn’t expecting to meet you so early.” I laugh in a bid to stow away my embarrassment.

“Now I’ve done it…!”

Just having her near, my shy nerves trip my mettle and send it scraping into the earth. The two of us become the perfect pair. Clueless as to how to proceed, as quiet as mice. Nepanie’s eyes shoot around the room and avoid mine at all costs. She throws her vision towards the door repeatedly, more than likely considering a hasty retreat.

“Were you feeling sick last night?” I ask and raise myself to sit beside her.

“…I was. I’d remembered what you’d said so I came to your room. But you were already fast asleep. I was too tired to bring myself anywhere else so I’d… I’d laid down beside you and fell asleep. I tend to have short naps at times but I’d ended up here the entire night… It was… comfortable… When I woke up about an hour ago I couldn’t help but think to that I’m probably a maiden and… yet…” She clams up as she daintily places her wrist against her mouth.

“I hadn’t even noticed you’d been next to me this entire time. But I’m grateful you’d remembered my offer and rested yourself. It’s a surprise it just happened to be while I was here too. Before you can begin to apologize, please don’t mind that at all. So long as you’re safe, I’m glad.”

She hums a note and nods her head shyly. Despite the momentum our conversation had gathered, everything comes screeching to another halt. Nerves tangle and stand tall.

“Here I was thinking I’d kicked old habits and would be far past feeling this way, but… it looks like I wasn’t as advanced as I’d imagined myself to be. There’s still a little piece of the old me lingering after all these years.”

“Old… you?” Her curiosity is piqued and her timid glance makes that known.

“That’s right. When I’d first began in the academy I was an extremely shy person. If there was ever anyone outside of family that would come and talk with me, I’d be struck silent and would lose every single trace of confidence immediately. It’d take months to… open up to others. Let alone even talk to them. Maybe there were times when others thought that I didn’t care or thought I was better than them. I suppose it could seem like I was a cold person.”

“I… could never imagine you to be a… cold person.”

“If it wasn’t for Juna and Vestil, I’d might have continued being like that even to today. I could easily see myself never speaking at all. And yet… yet…”

The thoughts that return to me reinforces that strange spirit of timidity even stronger but I give a push to recover lost ground.

“When you were so near yesterday, it felt… nostalgic. Perhaps that’s the word I’m looking for. But truly that feeling had been with me ever since we’d first met. I would reason that it was unconscious to begin with but it finally stepped out to light after that fiance thing happened. And now that it has, I’ve realized every moment it was there.”

“To be nostalgic… I… I understand. I… feel nostalgic too… when you’re near.”

“You do? You feel that way too? And to think that I was worried I’d come off sounding unhinged to admit that.”

“N-No! Never… You’re… warm. You’re a warm person. S-So… it feels like home when you’re near. So I understand.”

“Like home? I don’t know… Maybe that’s how I feel. It reminds me of why I’d wanted to become… the Celestial Knight…”

Like a fire spreading and then rising higher by its own swelling inferno, we’re both made to glow together.

“S-So… I’m glad that you’d kissed me.”

She squeals at my uncouth statement, sounding much like a wisp of steam escaping from a kettle.

“That was really clumsy of me to say it like that, but it’s the truth. I was worried I wouldn’t have what it took to move forward and it turns out that you’d ended up being the one to take the first step. Waking up to that is… a surprise to say the least.”

“W-Well… That’s… It seemed like it’d be so much easier and less of a bother for you. I wouldn’t want to trouble you at all and… I didn’t want to wake you.”

“You wouldn’t be troubling me. Though I’m still really shy about this whole… Celestial Knight and Maiden business. I’m grateful for your help and for the fact you’ll help me even if it’s nerve wracking for you. You were brave to face your own fears as you had.”

“I was…?”

“You were.”

I rest my hand on her head and give her hair a gentle rustling. Though it’s likely a peculiar choice given her age, it feels like a natural thing to do. And sher head is a tad messy, I imagine she won’t mind. Her red face shines even redder and her eyes shoot wide open. Yet she leans down and accepts my touch.

“Thank you…” Her lips tremble but beyond her flushed face, she’s well joyful.

“Now that I’m awake, maybe we could try together?” The question flies out of my mouth and I manage to surprise even myself.

She peers to me with shock tacked to her, but that gives way quickly.

“Y-Yes. I would like – I mean… I should! I need to do my best as a maiden!”

I face her and peer deeply into her eyes. She flinches after a solid second and fidgets about uncertain of herself. When she finds her composure she waits for me.

I lean in and rest my hand on her shoulder. Pulling her closer to my heart, I make the distance to her lips and touch mine against hers. She offers a small yelp in surprise and she stiffens, but she soon relaxes herself. I palm her cheek delicately. Her form feels even more soft and sensitive than every other maiden who had gifted me their magic. It’s as if one wrong move could break her apart. So I hold her as gently as I possibly can.

I let her go and draw back to catch her eyes which float about in a sweet dream. She stares at me with stars dancing inside of her and she holds my hand upon her cheek with her own. It’s a tender, deep moment as if we were both plunged beneath serene waves together. When she wakes up from her daydreaming, the moment slowly fades away.

I’m left in the stars myself while I savor the sensations I’d experienced with her. Something about them was haunting. Enchanting as if I had fallen into a dream I could breathe in but never have enough of.

“Did… Did I do good?”

“Of course you did.”

“Then I’m happy.” A faint smile brings a beauty to her soft features. “I hope this will make you even stronger.”

“I suppose I do feel something.” I mumble beneath my breath. “I wonder if that magic I’ve heard about is finally starting to work.”

My own imagination manages to embarrass me. Neptanie’s blushing is more wild as she sits on my bed with her knees tucked beneath her. She plays with the fabric of her skirt while I feign to make myself busy with my KNITE.

“I-It’s morning so I suppose we’d best get ready for breakfast.” I rise up from the bed and fail to face her while I speak.

I feel her presence there behind me. It’s a sensation that strangely brings me to reminisce upon the summer winds of years long passed.

“We should…” She agrees but remains seated. “I’m sorry again that I’d… slept with you. I was so tired. Thank you for letting me even though…”

“There’s no need to apologize. I’d promised you that you’re allowed to use my bed to rest. Given how you were when you were stumbling through the halls before, I can only imagine how it must be for you. It’s nothing drastic to me. Not in the slightest.”

“…Thank you…”

A sniffle catches my attention. I face her to see a small, dewy set of tears at the edges of her eyes. So sensitive and so beautiful when overcome with emotion. I can feel the waves of the ocean she contains inside push against me.

“Thank you for your kindness… Even if I’m a strange person… It was warm and I’d felt…”

Though she piques my curiosity, I couldn’t dream to give chase for her thoughts when she’s already so overwhelmed and taken by her soft heart.

“I should be the one thanking you. For the… magic. It’ll help me live my own dream as the Celestial Knight. You’d actually woken me up at a good time too, you know? I have a meeting with Mercy I should be catching after breakfast so I hope you don’t mind if I go on my way for the day.”

“No. That’s okay. Of course it is.”

“If you’re still feeling tired, you’re more than welcome to continue resting here. I’ll let the others know. I assume you’ve been given your own communicator so you can contact me if you need something.”

“I’ll do my best to remember that… I’ll… be sure to do what I can for you.”

“R-Right.” I nervously rub my chin. “Then I’ll be off.”

I take a step but halt at the sound of her rising from my bed. My guard is broken as she rises onto the tips of her toes and captures my cheek with a kiss. She’s quick to draw away and lets her gaze meet at her twiddling hands.

“O-One more for good measure… For the best of everyone… and for you.”