Chapter 25:

Ex: The One You Say Goodnight To

Lovely kNight

Juna and I had parted ways to our rooms after bidding each other good night. So I lay in my bed restlessly staring up at to the ceiling. A swarm of thoughts buzz about in my mind and chase away my rest.

“Solus...” I call upon the name of my hero.

The first conversation we’d had when he’d taken me to his house was that his library was open to me. I was free to read its books as I’d so pleased. It was his gift to me while I was suffering from the pain of the scar.

While he went out to do his duties as the Celestial Knight, I take advantage of his offer. There were so many tomes on magic and knighthood and stories about fanciful worlds that filled my young mind with imagination and wonderment. Beyond the pain that I’d struggled with, it was a wonderful life.

Memories of The Day of Eclipse stained my mind to its deepest core. Sometimes those haunting images were all too much for me to bear. From time to time my life fell back into the harrowing darkness I was thrown into that terrifying day. The already agonizing pain I’d feel would crush down on me without mercy or sympathy. Yet my hero would always be there for me during those times and the Celestial Maidens of that age guided me through my despair. I remember how closely he and the maidens would hold me when I was in pain. Their embrace would help ease those feelings, but it was still a struggle.

Among the suffering I’d had with that scar, Solus’ words have always shone brightly as a beacon of hope.

Your life isn’t over. It’s just begun and it will be a beautiful life filled with hope and love. Every day is another chance to overcome this pain. Someday it will be long behind you. Until that day comes, we’ll be here for you every step of the way. We’ll be your family.” He held me even more firmly and delivered his kindest words as I quaked in pain. “You’ll be the greatest knight this world has ever known. Please don’t give up.”

With his guidance and training, I was able to gain an advantage over the pain of the scar. Little by little the more I’d focused my mind and followed his lessons, the more I could handle the pain I’d felt until it was only a whisper compared to the piercing voice it once screeched to my soul with. It was all thanks to him for taking me in and helping me during my darkest hours.

I would later learn by his own mouth that the pain I’d felt had been the greatest pain a human being could ever experience. That even he, the hero of Celestia, had never felt such a bitter pain. So he smiled to me that bright smile of his that rivaled the sun’s life giving glow.

You’re the bravest man alive. Even braver than me. I’m proud of you for choosing to live, Khiron.”

After Juna’s kindness today, I now understand more fully the power of the maidens. All that time ago they had cared for me with Solus and helped to take away my pain with their love and care. I’m indebted to those maidens of the past who protected and loved me as their own.

I’d made my special family a promise. I’d promised them that I would be the Celestial Knight who would rid the world of Eclipse for good if I could. I’d do my best to find a way and never look back.

“I’ll make every one of you proud.”

My reminiscence is put on hold when I hear the sounds of rapping at my door. I raise from my bed and open up to see Juna.

“Juna? What’s the matter? It’s pretty late and you’re still awake?”

“You are too, aren’t you?” She says with a small giggle. “I won’t lie that I haven’t been having the easiest time sleeping. So I was hoping you could help me with that.”

“Help you?”

✩ ✩ ✩

The moon peers into the room through the window and its silver rays bring Juna’s gentle features to a glow. Her fiery red hair dances in sparks from the radiance of the heavens drifting down. I watch her as she lays before me on my bed. Her kindly eyes stare back into my own and she rests her cheek upon the back of her hand.

“I’d say it’s been a while, but I guess that’s not technically true since you’d slept with me on the night after the tournament.”

“But it already feels like it’s been so long. So much has happened since then.”

In an ensuing beat, I can’t help but admire her as smiles towards me. As usual, her guard is lowered as she is clad in little else but a dress shirt.

“We’d let it fall out of style since we’d lived a little bit further from each other after we’d graduated. I guess it feels a bit novel again, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah.” She exhales a restful sigh. “Thank you, Khiron.”

“For what?”

“…For so much. But I mean thank you for stopping me in the training room today. You were right. I wasn’t thinking clearly enough and wanted to step where I wasn’t prepared to go.”

“Of course. There’s no need to thank me for that. I’m just grateful you’re safe. When the time comes, we’ll tackle it together. Just like we always do.”

“And thank you… for letting me be here.”

“You mean sleeping by me?”

“Yes… Truthfully… I was a little bit scared and restless. I know you’ve forgiven me, but I feel really dumb about what happened. My mind suddenly drifted off to depressing things. I really am anxious about the test. It feels like I’m just becoming more nervous with each minute passing by.”

“I understand. I’ve been scared plenty. It’s never all that fun or recommendable, is it?” I chuckle. “If you need to, you’re more than welcome to come visit me if you’re having trouble. Whatever I can do for you, I’d love to.”

I stretch myself out and yawn.

“I’ve had plenty on my mind and it was a little hard for me to get rested too after all the excitement today. I was scared all the same, but I’m sure you’d already figured that one out. A world without you, Juna, isn’t a world I’d like to be in.”

Her features pick up a lighter hue of pink that is barely noticeable beneath the pale light of the moon. She twists her face for a moment and lets it be obscured by her own pillow she’d taken along from her room for the night.

“I… wouldn’t want to be in a world without you either, Khiron.”

Even though it had been so simple to state the same thing, having it reflected back to me somehow makes me realize how embarrassing that statement actually is. I look up to the ceiling to admire its blank, featureless white for a moment.

“Do you remember that night before our finals? It was kind of like this, wasn’t it? You were so nervous that you couldn’t rest. So we’d talked together for so long about whatever came to our minds. The moonlight, the bugs we’d seen, what we’d do when those tests were all behind us. It’s a little bit nostalgic.”

“I really can be a worrywart, but I’ll never be as bad as you are.”

“Hey, I’m just looking out is all. You can never tell what’s going to happen.”

“Right. So you’d pushed that kid out of the way of that chariot when he was nowhere near because you were just being cautious.”

“You had to bring that one up. I still feel embarrassed whenever I think of that. Doesn’t matter how much time passes.”

“His mother was so confused and his father was about ready to attack you. If I hadn’t stepped up to explain, things might have turned out differently. Just some freelancer knight running up and shoving your kid onto the ground when he’s not even in any imminent danger.”

“Y-Yeah. I probably would have taken that beating silently too.”

“But that’s something I like about you, you know? You’re always so thoughtful and caring, even if it can cross over into panic every now and again. You’re a sweet person, Khiron. How could I not be happy to be your partner? And besides, I still get a good laugh whenever I look back on that moment.”

“Go ahead and laugh it up.” I say and it isn’t a second later that Juna lets loose the chuckles she was probably bridling for my sake. “I’m grateful to be your partner too, Juna. You’re so talented, hardworking and you love so much and so deeply. You’d taken care of your fellow knights from time to time as well with helping them with their studies. People really liked your notes. Couldn’t blame them with your penmanship and organization. Not to forget to mention that unlike me, you didn’t assault a child and rather bought one an ice cream when they’d dropped theirs.”

“You know you would have done the same.”

“Sure, but you were faster on the draw.”

Another light fit of laughter fills the moonlit room.

“I guess you’re right about that. You were too slow to win that round!”

As her next giggle fit winds down, she draws herself closer to me. She rests her head against my chest and grips onto my shirt. Just like how she always would when we were so young.

“I was right. When I’m with you, I can feel at ease. Just being near you can calm me down so much.”

“It’s… It’s the same for me too. Thank you for always caring for my sickness, Juna. I won’t let it get in my way. Not now, not ever.”

I wait for her response and I’m repaid with silence. It quickly dawns on me that she’d somehow fallen fast asleep in barely more than a second’s time.

“You really must have been tired.” I say to myself with a laugh. “Rest up well, Juna.”

I wrap my arms around her and hold her close. I embrace her as strongly as I can manage without disturbing her. Her breath is deep and rhythmic while I stroke her hair and experience her own warmth I’ve always cherished. Yet sleep quickly catches up to me as I struggle to keep my eyes open. I struggle against the rising tides so I can see her, to feel her for as long as I possibly can.

Juna is alive. She’s safe and she’s here in my arms.