My heart had been pulled along so powerfully that there could be no possibility that I could change route. I was magnetized with too great of a force to break away from the path that it set for me to follow. Even if the road ahead was an inferno of sweeping flames, I’d resolved that I would cross it and anything the world could throw at me to impede my destination I’d sought to reach.
Before Juna’s door Jupa’s own experiences bear down on me. Trepidation, concern, sorrow. Standing, contemplating, gathering my courage and esteem to press forward. I grab the hold of the knob and twist.
Yet it barely budges. Set in place, sealed up. I’m relegated to complete astonishment while a bitter chill runs down my spine and my torso opens up to let my soul bleed out.
★ ★ ★
It had been a year’s time since I’d parted from my adoptive family to attend classes in Dusk Light Academy. My relationship with Juna was still in its developing stages as we were growing together. We were growing closer. Yet no relationship can be without its share of strife. Whether it would be from misunderstandings, hurt or the difficulties of life bringing tears to the eyes.
Through the course of the year Juna had been faced with her own share of hardship. When the initial shock had come, she could barely function. Sealed away, unable to eat, it was heart wrenching to have witnessed all the pain she’d endured. And as time passed, that wound seemed to close itself shut.
“Juna? Juna? Would you please open up? I’m worried about you… Have you been eating?”
Days had passed without her by my side. Classes that were always so fun and interesting were made to be boring without her there to join me in feverish study and joyful conversation. Everything slowly began to fall pale and lifeless. My fears began to meet and conspire together inside of my heart.
Depression had overtaken her and as that depression grew, so did the distance between us. I was terrified at the thought of losing her. Terrified by the very possibility of being left alone. So I’d tried my best to draw near to her her and to find a way towards her. Yet it felt like things were only getting worse as my desperation grew like the waters during a long summer squall.
Days of reaching out to her. Speaking through her door hoping to hear her voice return to me. That day I’d raised my voice once more but to no avail. Nothing. Not even the most delicate of humming. Not even a stirring to be heard beyond. I’d remained there doing anything I could to try luring her out or to find my way in. It was all fruitless.
Then came a fateful night that would change my life.
I’d come to Juna’s room rain came down in torrents and lightning flashed through languid skies which empathized with my own grieving heart. Unlike any time before, the door wasn’t just unlocked, it was left open a peek. When I’d pushed through, I’d found that her room was empty of her presence. The blankets on her bed were left messy and her desk too was in chaos. It was the first time I’d ever seen her so disorderly and it struck fear into my core.
While the charges of lightning roared out their anguished cries, the sparks of their strobes struck me and brought my chest to an electrified stinging.
I took off into a run. I’d searched everywhere in the dorms and then the academy as fast as I could possibly push myself, even forcing entry into the classrooms. But no matter where I’d looked, Juna was nowhere to be found. It was as if she’d vanished altogether. Spirited away.
But as I’d entered into the last classroom; the very room overlooking the distant hill with a single tree standing tall from it, I’d spotted the flowing river just beyond. Without a moment wasted in thought, in all of my panic as fearful images entered my mind, I’d jumped from the second story window.
With all the pain teeming inside of me, thundering with the skies, I’d sprinted at full give until I’d arrived to the rocky bed of the riverside. It was there I’d seen her in the dim world where the skies cried out in misery.
Soaked through to the skin, her uniform was made messy with mud and debris. She held her academy issued sword in hand instead of her own practice sword. She swung it as she’d been taught but her focus would easily fracture apart as her emotions would return and overwhelm her. Then her swings would deteriorate to wild, ferocious chops while the blasts of light through the skies revealed her red eyes and face soaked with countless emotions.
Then once she had recollected herself, she would begin from the top only to repeat the cycle. Giving herself to the anguish of her heart.
My concepts of heroism at that time were unrefined. Too naive in their imaginings. I was still early into my training as a knight and emotions could run high in my mind. I hadn’t even realized it then, but I’d made a mistake that had harmed Juna. As she took out her aggression with her untamed lashes I would learn that to be true. But at the same time that moment I would do something right. When all is said and done, mistakes are necessary to growth and success. Both as a knight and as a human being.
“Juna! Why are you out here? It’s pouring! You should be back inside and-”
“Shut up!!!” Her voice was like booming thunder which shook me to my foundation. It still rings in my mind as true and as raw as it had in that moment.
She pointed her sword towards me as the rain ran over her angered face. Shaking from the cold, shaking from all of the emotions which warred inside of her. The look she gave me chilled me solid down to my heart.
“All of this time you’ve been nothing but a pest! Not even one moment to myself! Every chance you get, you’re there! How haven’t you gotten it through your thick head? I want you to leave me alone!”
“But why? You’re hurting so much! You can’t just expect me to leave my best friend alone when she’s unwell! It’s been months and you’ve still been missing classes! You’ve still been so sad.”
“Because that’s what it’s like to feel pain! It doesn’t just go away like it never existed! It’s always there and there’s always a scar left behind!”
Her words cut me deeper than she knew. By that time I was still shy to share myself for anything else but my memories of Solus and my dreams of becoming the Celestial Knight. So she couldn’t know any better. Her sharp tongue became a lance to pierce me through and opened up the scar afresh. I’d held it together and bit down the pain while I’d continued listening to all of her pent up rage at last releasing to condemn the world and everything on its face.
“I’ll never be like her! At my age she was at the top of her classes! She was the greatest magician in the entire academy! She didn’t get anything less than the highest scores for her swordsmanship tests! But here I am just being the embodiment of mediocrity! In everything! Do you expect me to be okay when I feel like my dreams are falling apart?!”
Even if I had a world of responses and thoughts I’d wanted to say back to her, I’d just shut myself up and listened. Even if I’d wanted to speak about the scar, I couldn’t bring myself to. I was too afraid. And even now I still am. But I’d wanted to tell her that she was wrong about everything. That she wasn’t mediocre. That she wasn’t a failure. That any scar could be healed. Although that last statement may have been more to serve myself than her. I’d continued to grip my blazer roughly and duel with the agony I’d faced.
“I… I just wanted to help. I can’t stand seeing you in pain so I want to do anything I can to make things better.” I’d finally spoke to her after the sounds of showering rain filled our silence. “I hate pain… I hate seeing others in pain… I don’t want anyone… to feel pain…”
“What would you know?” She spoke so coldly as she stood there with her sword in hand, not even giving me the respect of her own eyes’ attention.
She reconvened her practice and swung her sword with even more aggression and reckless abandon than before. The rain soaked ground was beginning to give way as the soil grew looser and looser. She took one step further for a lunge… and her heel slipped.
She fell to the earth and upon her sword.
✩ ✩ ✩
I’d carried her all the way back while she’d clutched the wound opened in her side and whimpered with pain. I remember it was another rush of terror as I ran with her in my arms all the while trying my best to keep her wound from worsening. When we’d entered into her room I’d laid her on her bed and was quick to return with a medical kit.
I was begrudged as I’d made that request of her: that she would need to take off her shirt and blazer so I could treat her injury. Back then it wasn’t something normal for us. Before that time I’d never once seen her in anything but proper uniform but it was a desperate time and I was in fear for her health. Fearful what would happen to her reputation if her misgiving was discovered.
She’d listened to my request and slowly, timidly removed her clothing that had been soaked with both rain and blood. Though it was a painful laceration just beneath her ribs, it was a blessing that it didn’t dive too deeply into her body. What could have been her death was relegated to a hard lesson. I remember how nervous I was as I’d treated the wound. Both from worry of making things worse with my inexperience and for the fact that she was so unguarded with only her undergarment left to cover her.
While the rain continued to pour and the lightning illuminated the scene, I’d finished patching her up. While I’d reorganized the kit and felt the fatigue of my novice mending magic, I’d taken notice of her expression. Holding back the pain she’d inside lest it would fall in streams with the storm that rattled the window pane. The words she’d spoken in anger still played at my young, sensitive mind and I’d turned to leave.
But her hand caught my dampened clothing.
“Please don’t go.” Her voice wavered with sorrow while she so timidly plead to me.
For the last hours of the night with the door locked behind us, she held onto me tightly as we’d laid to rest. Even though I was completely drenched and my clothes soaked everything they’d touched. Even though her body was still so cold despite her fresh bandages and clothes. She’d hidden her face from me as she’d wept into my drenched clothes.
It was the first time we’d ever slept in the same bed together. Even if I’d made a mistake – even if we’d both made our mistakes – that moment was a turning point in our relationship.
★ ★ ★
My eyes return to the present when I hear the light clicking of heels on the approach.
Dressed in a comfortable, pure white sweater with its shoulders left open, exposing the fair skin of the one who garbs it. A blue and black plaid skirt and white stockings on the legs. Celine comes towards me with a dispirited disposition.
Though her eyes are usually so full of emotion and mystery, the look on her face now is only sorrowful with eyes that seem to be peering into a world unseen. Intensely languid and dim. Her phone is delicately wrapped in her fingers while she slowly drags herself forward.
It’s only when I’m an arm’s length away that she realizes my presence. At first she’s shocked. And then she’s frustrated. Then finally she’s placid with a knowing look on her face no longer willing to attempt hiding her sunken spirits. She takes a deep breath and silently motions for me to join her. I nod and let my footfalls sound with hers.
I send a parting glance back towards Juna’s door to say goodbye for now.