Chapter 74:

Shallows

Lovely kNight


Neptanie was restful as she’d laid in her bed. It was centered in a boundless shallow of placid water. Water so at peace that it expanded out as a mirror reflecting the blue skies painted with clouds above. She’d visited this otherworldly setting many times before. It had always been the most serene, relaxing world she would sojourn to. And yet today as she laid in her bed, she began to feel discomfort and unease wash over her.

She stirred and tossed until she couldn’t take it anymore. The warm water was pleasant to her senses as she rose to her feet. No matter how calming it felt as it warmed her, it couldn’t stop the sensations now stressing her heart. She wandered and searched about, wondering what it could be that was causing this unwelcome feeling to enter into her own little world.

It was then she saw something surprising.

Dressed up as proper as he ever had been, he approached her. A golden haired man so full of confidence and kindness that shone in his eyes like pure light. The uniform he wore was pristine and he hadn’t a care in the world as he’d dampened his boots in the shallows.

“It’s… It’s you…” Neptanie couldn’t control herself but to smile as she saw him.

Against her own weariness in the waking world, in this world she could be so full of life and energy. She ran up to him and heard the splashing of her bare feet until she’d met him and looked up into his loving eyes.

“I’m glad to see you, Neptanie. I hope you’ve been doing well while I’ve been gone. Did you get enough rest today?”

“I did. The best that I could. But for some reason I didn’t feel well today. Not sick like usual with my body being so tired. It felt like there was something wrong in my heart. Something wasn’t right. Even now when I’m asleep I still feel it.”

“…That’s a problem. You’re always so tired, how much more tired would you be if you didn’t sleep properly?”

“You worry about me so much. I… that’s one of the reasons why you’ve meant so much to me.” She shyly looked down to the clear sand teeming with life and swimming fish just beneath it. “Thank you for always caring for me. For always having cared for me even if I’m so helpless and useless.”

“Come on. You should know by now that you’re not useless. Saying that is just going to make you think worse of yourself and it won’t do any good for your health. That’s my main concern for you and I would hate it if anything worse came to you. So please take care of your heart too.”

The two watched as a large sunfish, so large it was nearly the size of a building, swam beneath their feet. They laughed together in joy at the wonders which surrounded them. Even unto the gulls and starfish which flew in the infinite skies.

“I’ve worried that if anything would happen to me, you couldn’t take care of yourself. There are others who will help you along the way, but I still want to see the day that you’re all better and you no longer need to worry about being sick or falling. It breaks my heart to see those times.”

“I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t push myself, but there’s so much I should do. I have a lot on my mind.”

“I know that. Believe me, I know!” He said with laughter so intense that it caused ripples to echo from his soles and into the far reaching distance.

“But you probably have so much on your mind all the time too. With how much you take on your shoulders and how you’d promised to help the kingdom. I should be asking you as well if you’ve been sleeping well.”

“…In a way you could say I have and I will be.”

Neptanie felt alarmed at how somber he seemed. Not just in this moment where he eyed the school of tuna swimming past his right. She could tell from the beginning that something was bothering him deep down inside.

“What do you mean? Are you going to sleep soon? It’s probably so late. Are you home right now?”

“I’m not home at the moment. I’m sleeping somewhere else right now. I’d gotten a little caught up in a predicament and I suppose things are a bit strange right now. It takes a while to get used to… this sensation…”

“Where are you? What’s happening? I’m worried.”

“It’ll be okay. I promise it will. Just have a little bit of faith. Even when things may seem hopeless, having faith and hope beyond all is what’s most important . We should never forget that, even when we feel the most dire and cutting pain in our hearts or bodies. Just like how you shouldn’t ever lose faith that someday you’ll be cured of your sickness.”

“…I won’t… I promise I won’t…”

Tears began to bead at her eyes as she was coming to understand what the feeling in her chest meant. It began to grow more powerful with every passing second. She embraced that sensation and held her own heart in her hands while she’d let the tears flow and become one with the never ending waters abounding.

“I’m so happy to hear that. It’s a promise you need to keep, okay?” His smile grew so deeply bittersweet. “I’m going to be going away for a while. It’s to a place where you can’t follow. Stay here and take good care of yourself.”

“…I don’t want to lose you.”

He stepped near her and began to wipe away her tears as delicately as one would touch a priceless treasure. She looked into his eyes out of habit and he stared right back without flinching.

“I don’t want to lose you either. That’s why you’ll take care of yourself while I’m away.”

She nodded to him to affirm her promise and he stood tall, filled with pride for her. He about faced and began to leave towards the distance where the sun was beginning to set. The beautiful sky now alight with magenta and orange made the lake into a sea of gold.

“Take care, Neptanie.”

Her eyes were on him for every second as he walked towards the sun until it had left the world behind. And he had left the world together with it. The moon and stars now sparkled overhead as Neptanie’s tears continued to fall and cast ripples to bring a dance to the heavens. She wished he would wipe the tears away one last time, but he was gone. All she could do now was keep the promise she’d made to him.

✩ ✩ ✩

Neptanie wakes up slowly, languidly. All of the feelings she’d held in her heart while far away in her dream lingered behind along with the tears that streamed down her face. She gives herself a moment to pull herself together before she takes to her feet and starts walking through the halls.

The feeling in her heart grows heavier and heavier until it feels like a boulder crushing down on her chest. When she enters into the lobby, she happens upon every maiden waiting there together. Not a single smile can be found upon their faces.

Celine’s eyes stare into Neptanie’s own while hers are full of hurt and concern. They’re wet and reddened, but they hold together the best they’re capable to. Even Mercy’s face is downcast and the look is an ill match for her. It feels as if she’s a different person altogether without her endless energy. Marcia holds fast to Venna who is in tears and can barely stand on her own two feet. Jupa simply sits on the stairs by herself. She closes herself off while her eyes remain darkened. There isn’t even a shadow of a spirit for maidly duties found within her.

As all present slowly look to Neptanie, the pain they feel pushes even harder against the breaking point.

“Neptanie. There’s something you need to hear. It’s about Khiron.” Celine speaks to her somberly.

“What’s wrong? Why is everyone so sad? What happened?” Neptanie asks despite the fact that she knows well what news will soon be revealed to her.

“Neptanie… Khiron… Well… Khiron…” Celine’s voice begins to waver while restraining the waves of her tears fighting to free themselves.

“…Khiron… is dead…”