Cicadas cried out from the trees as the sweltering heat rained down on the woods. The full canopies above filtered the light through in patches and spots all along the grassy path. Where a winding river cut through nature, the two of us hopped across the stones and into the path just beyond.
“I don’t think I’ve told you about that time my aunt helped to solve an equation that the kingdom’s top scientists had been puzzled with for weeks!” The singing voice of Juna who now waited on the other side of the river danced through the trees.
Though I, her partner, would often respond, I was too busy balancing myself on a stone in the river to answer. Even if the cool course of the river did sound pleasant to bathe in under the summer heat, I didn’t want to risk the chance of revealing the scar through a dampened white shirt. She continued ahead and was more than eager to speak so her patience was thin.
“It was a theoretical formula for a sort of conduit to be used in a piece of computer technology. They’d been just short again and again but along came my aunt who was contacted by the king himself to help! It only took her a day!”
I reached her side and together we strode down the path that was quickly becoming our own personal haunt. She had a skip to her step as she went along with the most flawless smile anyone could imagine for a girl. But that was just how it was when Juna would talk about her beloved role model.
“I hope that someday you’ll get to meet her too! She’s the one that sent me off to this academy! She’d written a letter of recommendation just for me!”
Though it was a bit out of the norm for a girl just a couple of years past a decade to speak so childishly and excitably, that’s what her love for her aunt did to her. And I wasn’t much different either. We took turns doing this after we’d first met. Perhaps the fact that we’d both had people we’d loved so dearly was a part of our bond together.
Even at that age she wore her uniform to the highest standards of the academy. Her hair was shy of her shoulders as she’d always enjoyed it to be. She was more tomboyish back when. Much more rough around the edges than she’d eventually grow up to be. But even if she did become a little more feminine, she’d never been afraid to get her hands dirty and work hard.
“My auntie is the best magician in the entire world! She’s a living legend and I can’t wait to be just like her! I’ll create new magic and invent new things! I’m her niece and I’m her protege! There’s no other way that I’ll be anything else but an Elite Mage Knight!”
She held her wooden training sword aloft as she stepped up high on a small boulder in the path. The way that the summer sunshine fell down on her in rays made her truly look like a hero with all of the confidence she’d held inside pushing that image even further.
“When I get to meet Libera, I hope she’ll like me.” I spoke a shyly.
I was truthfully intimidated by her legacy even if I’d been raised by Solus, the Celestial Knight himself. To be so close to the one Juna looked up to was a scary idea at the time.
“She’ll love to meet you! I’m sure she’d even teach you so much about swordsmanship! She was amazing at that too! Not just magic! I wonder if she’d ever got to meet Mr. Celestial Knight too. I’ll have to ask her when we meet next! I hope it’s going to be this autumn! She always takes me to the carnival!”
We were two carefree children guided along by both our heroes and our dreams all that time ago. It wasn’t too long after the two of us had met but even if it was a brief moment in time, it stays with me.
As I see Juna asleep against her desk, the pencil rolled out of her hand, I remember that child that loved her aunt with all of her heart. The one that chased her dreams as if she was chasing after her hero in a little game of tag they would play.
The page her tome is opened to is the exact same as it had been the last time I’d seen her studying it. And her notebook lacks any new messages scrawled down save for a single word.
Tears had fallen from her eyes as she’d wept upon her desk. A stray few continue to be as dew on her as she sleeps. The look on her face is so at peace and yet there’s a small sorrow upon it. I wonder to myself what dreams she could be having.
But a desk is no place to sleep. Even more so after having endured such a troubled day.
I gently lift her into my arms and bring her to her bed. Before I can set her down, her hand grabs a hold of my shirt and she pulls herself even closer to me. So I let her embrace me and seat myself on her bed.
So defenseless, so delicate in this moment she reminds me even more of that child I’d met so long ago. The tears begin to fall once again as she lives out her dreams just behind her closed eyes. A rare moment where I have the opportunity see her tearful face so clearly.
But I refuse and look away.
“...Auntie…” She speaks with a deep yearning.
I hold her close until her grasp falls from me. All the day had exhausted her so much that she won’t even wake as I place her to lay on her own bed. I lay beside her and stare up to the ceiling while I listen to her breathing and the sound of crickets singing from outside.
Her fingers lightly run against mine and I bind them with hers. By her side, I let sleep overtake me.
Together just like when we’d first shared our dreams with each other. Just like the moment when I’d first learned of her beloved Libera whose footsteps she’s long followed after.