Celine, Mercy and Neptanie arrive at the hospital. Though a part of their visit would be for the sake of paying their respects to the late Celestial Knight, by this time the curtains had been drawn shut and the room locked tight. They’re instead lead to Juna’s room.
The nurse raps lightly on the door and asks its occupant if she’s decent and ready for visitors. Yet it isn’t Juna’s voice that calls from inside. Instead the calm voice of Plutia gives the clearance for entry.
The interior of the recovery room is nothing short of sterile and nondescript. Though there’s a colorful arrangement of flowers set for its patient upon the desk, it somehow manages to make the room feel even more dour. Plutia seats herself at the bedside with her arms and legs crossed. Her listless, sad expression is a perfect match to the visitors’ own.
But Juna is another case entirely.
Absolutely devoid of emotion. Her eyes are lost and nothing reflects in their rosy color. Not happiness nor sorrow. Not fear nor confusion. She lays in her bed as rigid as a statue and stares up to the ceiling, failing to register anything or anyone around her at all. Her unfathomable despair makes entering the room feel more like one has entered into a pocketed world frozen and disconnected from the rest of reality.
“I’m glad to see all of you.” Says Plutia with only a hint of relief beyond the spirit of sorrow looming over her. “It’s been a… trying time. Seeing some familiar faces is more than welcome.”
“Thank you for staying here with Juna.” Celine bows to Plutia and although she wishes to ask for Juna’s condition, she holds her tongue, believing that much to be self evident. “I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it’s been.”
The room sinks into an uncomfortable silence. Juna’s despondency, the deep aching feelings of misery having taken root in all of the company, it’s nearly too much for anyone to bear.
“How long has she been like this?” Asks Mercy with little grace about her words.
“…At first she was out of control. She’d fought her hardest and tried to go to him by any means she could, but… I knew I couldn’t let her. I… I don’t know if what I did was right, but I’d restrained her and managed to pull her back into her room. She’d made a mess of the place until her anger fell to sorrow. When she’d become silent and exhausted, she became like this. A nurse helped me to clean up after what had happened.”
The three have no words to speak. They’re left entirely speechless. It would be difficult to imagine the refined and knightly Juna even once being anything but withheld and in control. Even if Celine had heard of that moment beneath the rain in hers and Khiron’s past, the image still proves elusive for her. Though they hadn’t witnessed it themselves, having heard of her lapse in control manages to make his passing feel even more real. It’s as if it had been the first real step out of denial and towards acceptance.
Khiron truly is dead and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Though everyone feels their emotions straining, preparing to fall out into the open, the mere presence of each other keeps them in check. Though Celine can see all that and more. She hears the voice of each heart beating clearly in the room.
“You… You really must be so tired. You’ve watched over her and you’ve been awake all night, haven’t you?”
“I have been awake, yes. I didn’t get a chance to sleep last night with everything that had happened. I held off for a bit with sharing the news, but I knew I couldn’t escape telling all of you. It’s my job as the leader of the manor to inform each and every maiden of important matters after all.”
“Please go get some rest. I’d slept enough last night so I’ll watch over Juna while you’re gone. All three of us will be here for a long while, I’m sure.”
“I can’t do that. It’s my duty to-”
“I want you to go somewhere and get a breather. I want to be with Juna. So please let me.” Celine stands up and makes her whims known. She would refuse to back down no matter what. Plutia comes to realize that with a single glance to her.
“Then… I’ll leave her to you and I’ll go take a walk. I have other matters to tend to so I can’t promise that I’ll be sleeping soon.”
She rises from her chair and strides out of the room silently. Left to keep Juna company, Neptanie takes a seat by her bed and lays her head upon it, turning her cheek to watch her; the one who remains as still as ice.
Mercy begins to pace around with knotting nerves and inspects every little piece and fixture of the room. Meanwhile Celine takes the second seat beside Juna and silently watches over everyone all at once. She tries her best to keep Khiron out of her mind for the moment, even if it’s a painful struggle. All she desires is to focus on Juna’s heart.
✩ ✩ ✩
Plutia had taken a long walk in hopes that she would bounce back from the inner turmoil she had fallen into. If it wasn’t enough to witness Juna losing her mind and breaking apart, Khiron, the man she had found herself falling in love with had left the world behind. The fear of wondering what would become of Celestia without him weighed heavy on her shoulders.
Going to the medical library where no other servant could be found, she finally gave herself a moment to let out a wisp of steam.
Leaning against a bookshelf, she takes a deep breath and collapses onto the floor where she sits and sulks. Unbecoming to her reliable, strong self that everyone sees. The only version of herself she is willing to reveal to anyone. Though no tears are shed, she lets her head hang and her emotions show. The deep, aching misery sinks its nails into her and begins to penetrate down to her very foundation.
Yet her moment to let loose is unfairly brief. The sound of a turning page makes her ears stand up and forces her to shape up as she quickly stands and dusts herself off. When she turns the corner of the aisle, she’s unprepared to meet the one who sits just beyond. With a leather bound book in his hands, seated at central table, Ophikka silently reads by himself.
She thinks to let him be, imagining just how much the Celestial Knight’s death has affected him, but before she can turn and leave, he begins speaking to her.
“You’d finally decided to take a break. I’d thought you would be unwilling to leave Juna for even a second for the next year. But that’s one of the reasons you’ve always been such a fantastic assistant. You’re loyal even to a fault.”
His eyes had become fixed on her and he showed her a kindly grin.
“Your majesty. I hadn’t expected to have met you here.”
“I’m just taking a short breather myself. This library isn’t as well used as that of the castle’s own. I’d felt like doing a bit of reading in the meantime.”
“In the meantime, sir?” She asks, perplexed.
“That’s right. I’m just biding time by in one of the best ways I know. I have business to come and so I’ll be tending to it once I must.”
“I… understand, sir.”
The sound of another turning page is what cuts through the momentary silence standing between the two.
“I wonder if you’ve read this book in the past. I’d imagine you have since you’re an assistant of the royal family.”
“Which book, sir?”
“My apologies. I’m only speaking to myself.”
He neglects to answer her question as he sets a bookmark in the pages of the book. Rising to his feet, he strides towards Plutia and passes her by with a touch of his palm to her shoulder as he heads towards the exit.
“If I’d intruded on your rest, I apologize, your majesty.”
“No, that’s no issue at all. I’d simply thought I’ve spent enough time reading for now. I know it may be sudden, so I apologize in kind. It has nothing to do with yourself, I can assure you.”
He turns back around and continues on his way.
“You… You seem relaxed.”
“I suppose I may. But to share the honest truth with you; I’d had a moment of weakness. I’d been overcome with fear and had lost my faith and temperance for a small time. I’ve come back to my senses. I remember now that I call do is wait.”
“I apologize if I don’t fully understand, but I’m just grateful that you’re able to stay hopeful and find resolve even in a time like this. The kingdom truly is blessed to be ruled by a king so courageous and bold.”
“And I’m blessed to be supported by amazing persons such as yourself. I may be the king but the kingdom is truly all about yourselves. I treasure all of you so very much.”
He steps on his way, his cape waving as he vanishes from view beyond the door. Plutia wonders to herself if he had understood that she could use time alone. Although she’d managed to compose herself quickly, she knows that she will need the moment. Though she couldn’t know for sure, she trusts in all of their past together given how many innumerable times he had managed to read her like an open book. She shows her gratitude to him, the one she’d thought of not only as a king or a friend, but as her own younger sibling, with a bow despite that he’s no longer near.
She rests herself in the seat directly beside the king’s own chosen place and lays her head down on the table to rest her eyes for a blink. Even though she only intends to catch a quick breather, she’s soon fast asleep. The last thought that comes to her mind is her curiosity as to the leather bound book he’d carried with him as he’d left the library behind.