Chapter 58:

Good On Promises

Lovely kNight

Jupa had lead me to the same lounge room where I’d fallen asleep on Venna’s lap the day prior. She takes my side and keeps herself close as we begin to eat. When I have my first taste of her latest creation, I can already see her eager eyes waiting for my review. But of course it’s just as marvelous as all the meals she’s created up to this point.

“I feel really spoiled with everything you’ve done for myself and the others so far. I wish there was a way to repay you for all of it but I’m sure you’d tell me not to worry about those things.”

“You’ve learned quickly! Of course you don’t have to think about anything like that. And the reasons are all so clear. It’s already been a pleasure to take care of everyone in the small ways that I can. In so doing I wonder if I’m helping Celestia itself. Not only am I privileged to make the Celestial Knight stronger, but I’m allowed to bring the best out of the maidens as well.”

“When you put it beneath that light, you really have taken quite a bit onto your shoulders. But please don’t run yourself ragged. I won’t stop you from doing what you desire, but remember that you’re more than a maid. You’re one of us and your own health and life are precious to the kingdom.”

“You’re the sweetest knight I’ve ever met.” She cradles her cheek and smiles with a full blush. “I never want to distract you from your duties nor be a burden. I promise that I’ll give myself a rest when I need it. But you’re even more fantastic; going through all you are for everyone. Even taking on extra duties on top of yours as the Celestial Knight. It’s inspiring.”

“It was my lifelong dream to be here someday.”

“To be here with me?” My words capture every granule of her attention. She watches me and waits for my answer.

“W-Well, you’re not technically wrong. I hadn’t a single clue that I’d be meeting maidens or anything of the sort all those years ago. But I’m grateful to help and lend a hand to citizens and people such as yourself. S-So being able to meet and help you has been a dream come true.”

“That makes my heart race.” How bold she is to speak her feelings without reservation. “When I’d asked of Plutia, she’d told me plenty about everyone. And about you too.”

I just hope she hadn’t taken any creative liberties.” I grimace within.

“She’d told me that you’d wanted to be the Celestial Knight since you were a young boy. That everything you’ve ever done has been to catch that dream. It was so romantic and knightly. It only made me fall for you even more deeply than I already had.”

“I guess she’d decided not to tease me after all. That’s a relief.” Noticing the confusion that overcomes Jupa, I fix my tongue. “She was right. From the very moment I’d met the previous Celestial Knight, my entire life began to change. I’d started to realize a world that I’d never known existed. The more I’d learned about them and the history of the knights, the more I’d wanted to be a part of that world. Seeing Solus, experiencing him, it made me realize just what it means to be a knight. To be the Celestial Knight.”

Before I can find myself rambling without cease about Solus as I have a habit of doing, I hand the conversation to her. Even if she listens so intently, I’d feel selfish to speak without end.

“That’s just a little bit about myself. But I’d like to know more about you too. What about your own dreams?”

“Aw. You’d stopped too soon! I’d wanted to hear more.” She pouts cutely and exaggeratedly. “But fair is fair. My dream since I was a child is probably as common as they come. I’d wanted to be a bride and to have a family.”

“That’s an incredibly peaceful dream. There’s nothing wrong with simple nor sweet.”

“It’d be on my mind so often. I’d been read stories of knights and maidens by my mother and I suppose that’s a part of why that idea caught my imagination so deeply. I’d even begun practicing cooking from a young age hoping that someday I’d be able to take care of my family to be as well as my family that was.”

“Wow. You were so serious about it even from all the way back then. Just with this little bit of insight, I already feel like I’ve come to know so much more about you. And it conveniently answers a few questions I’d had. Some people think of cooking as a chore and yet you seem to derive plenty of joy from it.”

“It’s its own craft and just like any form of art; the best takes emotion and heart from its creator. To be frank, I sometimes take to cooking if I have something to think about. I couldn’t sleep well last night anyways so I’d gotten up early and started.”

“Was something bothering you? I apologize if I hadn’t been able to realize that.”

“No, no. Of course not. You’re still learning about me for one. And I wouldn’t have any problems anyways if not. It was something that worried me. A friend of mine happened to have gotten themselves in trouble so I’d began cooking to settle my mind over it. They’re someone who has a lot of drive and passion but it can often end up placing them into troubling circumstances.”

“What happened? They’re not seriously injured or anything, are they?” It’s by my instincts that my nerves pick up in concern.

“They’re okay. It’s just that receiving that news was shocking to me. I wish I could make them promise me they’d take better care of themselves, but that’s just not their style. And if you’re after what they’re after then I suppose it just comes with the territory. It took some time for me to accept that.”

“Are they a knight? I couldn’t imagine many people finding themselves in the kind of trouble you’re speaking of. That is if I’m understanding correctly.”

“…More or less.” She shyly rubs her arm. “But cooking really is so soothing. It really helped me to calm down and enter a better mood. Every time I create a meal, I feel like I’m giving a bit of myself to others. And every time I hope that it helps them to grow and shine. You know, I’d began training to be a maid from the age of 14?”

“I suppose that’s a bit younger than usual, isn’t it?”

“It’s actually a little bit late. Some girls are taught from the age of 12 depending on their lineage and family. Like those belonging to the bloodlines of royal maids.”

“You’d mentioned before that you’d served a royal family. Do you have any relation to those families?”

“Now, now. I want to learn about you as well. I’ll answer your question only after you’ve shared a little bit more about yourself.”

She winks at me and places her finger before her mouth to signify that her lips are sealed until I play my own part. There’s a tickling feeling of anticipation resting just behind the sense of disappointment that her story is put on hold. Though I suppose she must have felt the same with my own quick conclusion prior.

“Let’s see… To give my own fair share I should talk about my own lessons. I’d began attending the knight’s academy at the age of 12. It was in thanks to the written recommendation from someone special that I’d been admitted in. For one, my family had never had one knight in its entire lineage so I didn’t have any family honor to rely on for my case.”

“Someone special? That would be Solus, wouldn’t it?” She tents her fingers before her mouth to hide away the smile she now wears from hearing my story.

“You’ve caught on quickly. It seems you’ve been told just enough to be able to fill in some of the blanks.” I’m admittedly sheepish at her knowledge of that tender place for me. “Yes. Solus had written the recommendation.”

“What academy did you attend? I know enough to at least remember that there’s a few academies meant to train knights in the kingdom.”

“It was none other than Dusk Light Academy. It’s the most prestigious there is and its express purpose is to prepare knights for kingdom knighthood. But Juna and I were a part of a minority group that was seeking to become freelancers. Many may say that would be squandering such a high honor, but for my mission to become the Celestial Knight, I saw it as the best course of action to help me towards my goal. I’d attended all the way until I was 18. Juna had graduated alongside me at the age of 17 herself.”

“But what about Juna? If that academy is so prestigious, how was she able to attend? Is she related to any nobility?”

“You could say that. While I’d had a written recommendation from the Celestial Knight, she’d been recommended by her aunt who is an honored Elite Mage Knight for the kingdom. Libera is her name.”

“How beautiful.” She sparkles with glee. “It’s likely time for me to continue sharing my own piece and not leave you wondering. I’d been assigned to take care of a famous family that could be considered royalty. They’d decided it’d be best for me to undergo training as a maid and from that day onward, I’d started being their personal caretaker. Though I’d worked with many families, they were special to me.”

“Special? How so?”

“Well, they were a loving family with the most adorable son. He was always so energetic and full of life. I was given the task often to watch over him when his parents were busy and I too had been given the job to help his studies. We’d grown very close together in that time. Although I am now given to this manor as a maiden, I know I’ll be missing them from time to time.”

“You don’t have to. I’m sure you could visit them often enough if you’d wanted.”

“My duties to my fiance and my kingdom are of the utmost importance. Though I’d love to visit them when I’m able to, I must stay focused as a maiden.” She’s resolute with her words but tenderly so. “You know that cute little boy used to follow me wherever I would go. At first he was so shy but as time went on he’d grown more familiar and comfortable with me. It would be often that he’d give me flowers upon my visit and I’d wear one in my hair just for him.”

Recalling those times shared with the boy, she blossoms a delicate expression of love and nostalgia. With one look I’m seized. It becomes increasingly difficult to stay my eyes so I just watch her kindly beauty quietly.

“I’d already told you that I’ve always wanted a family and I’ve thought about it so often. I’d always hoped that someday I’d have 4 beautiful children to take care of. Whenever I was around that boy, it felt like a dream come true. His name was Maanen. And everyday I’d spent with him made me yearn for my dream to become reality even more.” Breaking away from her reminiscence, she turns to me and asks me another question that leaves me astonished. “What do you think about children, master?”

“W-Well, we were all children at one point in time.” I stumble over myself and lose my grace. “I think they’re adorable and mean the world to any kingdom. They’re the future, after all. When I see children playing together or walking around the streets, my first thought is that I want to protect them and give them a better tomorrow.”

“That’s beautiful and everything I’d expect from the Celestial Knight. But,” she giggles cheerfully, “I’m meaning to ask you what do you think about having children?”

“H-Having children?” I swallow hard as she’s so direct and unrelenting in her gaze. “I’ve… considered it briefly at times. I’ve wondered about such a thing. But… But if I have to say something I know for sure, it’s that I hope to adopt a child someday. I want to… take care of them like I’d been taken care of by… a wonderful person.”

“Adoption? I hadn’t even thought of that!” So pleased with my answer, she begins to laugh to herself and blush brightly. “Now that I think of it, I’d enjoy that so very much too. To take someone into our family…”

Our family. The words come crushing down on me like a blacksmith’s anvil falling out from their shop’s second story window and onto my unfortunate head. Jupa is likewise left flustered by her statement and begins to squirm and light up more red than she’d already been.

“I-I’m sorry. I’d meant…”

“It’s… alright.” I accept her apology full and readily in part to cease any further wear on my heart. “Family… is an incredibly important treasure.”

“It… truly is…” Her voice is one with a dream and it’s filled with love and the light of the heavens.

✩ ✩ ✩

We’d been mostly silent after she’d caught me fully off guard. And as our meal comes to a close, I prepare to go on my way. Though it’s apparent that she’s reluctant to say farewell. Her body language is shy but longing yet with all of her discipline and maidly training, she reserves herself. Though I have one last question to ask as we both stand from our seats.

“About Juna. You were able to give her something to eat earlier, right? She didn’t push you away or leave it sitting without having a single bite?”

“I’d brought her the soup I’d prepared, but she was so very withheld. It was the first time I’ve ever gotten to meet her myself, but I could tell that she must be so very far removed from the person she naturally is.” The forlorn thoughts teeming about Jupa’s mind are laced within her speech. “Even if I’d speak, she had very little to say. But I’d made sure to remain with her until I’d seen her at least take a few spoonfuls. I couldn’t bear to leave her until I could know for sure she was at least eating.”

It comes back to me when I hear her account; the stabbing pain in my chest. Its toxic force comes out in my breath while I exhale deeply and nurse the pain I feel.

“I can’t thank you enough for taking care of her. It’s disappointing that circumstances prevent you from being able to meet the true, bright and beautiful person Juna is first.”

“It’s my privilege. And it’s nothing that I should be fearful nor sorrowful over. I know that soon enough I’ll be able to enjoy her for who she is and the person you adore. Of that much I have faith.”

So quaint and proper, she really feels like a light of hope as she stands and remains serene with confidence in her stance.

“Tonight will be an important night to that end. I apologize that I’ll be leaving again shortly, but I’ll bring good news with me when I return. Both your company and the meal you’d prepared have been marvelous. I look to learning more about each other.”

I give her a smile and a parting wave before I turn and start away. But my step is reeled short from the threshold of the room as she calls for my attention.

“Master… I’d like to do my part… to save the kingdom.”

When I face her, she’s already approaching me with all of her grace and charm as her long skirt sways at her ankles.

“To do your part? You’re already doing that. Especially with watching over Juna. I couldn’t ask you to do anything more than that.”

“But there’s so much more that I can do and desire to do. So… I’ll do it. For you, master.”

“What do you mean? I-”

She removes the final pace between our bodies. Raising onto the tips of her toes, she meets her lips with my own and holds them there. Tucked away to herself, reserved as any maid may be to her master, she holds her hands closer to her heart while she kisses me. Refined and dignified. The way she’s so near and yet so far is an entrancing, paradoxical feeling that tugs at my heart strings and causes it to dance in my chest.

And just as quickly she had reached me she retakes her space and places her hands at her lap. She keeps her eyes away and bows deeply before me.

“I-I’m sorry if it was too sudden or if I’d violated any confidence, master. I’d just wanted to… To…”

Her neck is red like a tomato. Of course, it’s no issue to me, but I keep silent while I come close to her and gently raise her up to stand before me.

Without another word, I take her to myself and give her a kiss of my own. Delicate, as peaceable and gentle I can be hoping to convey my gratitude to her with my own touch. I hold her hand and give it a light squeeze to show her that there’s no harm, no need to be so timid. And then I let her go.

She stands still but fidgets with her fingers. They play and tap together while her words fail her and her heart is out in the open for me to read. All she can do is twitch her brows and hold her breath. Even if she’d been so forward and confident up until this point, it’s as if it had all been a ruse.

“Th-Thank you for being my first kiss, master! It was even better than I’d dreamed it would be!” She practically shouts while diving headlong into a bow.

It’s uncharacteristic that I would find myself laughing at such a display, but I do. And I make sure she’s back to standing tall in front of me before I take her into my arms and embrace her closely. Her hands slowly move from her sides until they touch my blazer and grab a hold of its hem.

That embrace is all that I need to convey my final thoughts to her and her alone.