Chapter 42:

Ex: Youthful Heart

Lovely kNight


When all of our minds collectively glued themselves back together and I was able to find my nerve again, I’d requested everyone to depart from my room and wait for me elsewhere. All had obliged kindly and left the sleeping Neptanie to my company. But of course I’d laid her down on the bed so she’d have a better resting posture.

Though groggy, she came out of her bout of sleep and sat up unsteadily. Having been the only maiden outside of Juna to have yet to hear the new maiden’s incredible statements, she was entirely ignorant of the scene that had played out while she was dreaming.

“F-F-Fiance…?!”

“It’s… another situation for me to handle.”

“H-Her fiance…” She repeats to herself yet slips into somber frame.

“Is something the matter? It’s shocking news for sure, but…”

“A-Are you going to accept her pr-proposal? Are you going to be her fiance?”

“I’m going to set things straight when I get the chance. Though given the… peculiar motherly advice she’d received, I have a strong feeling that she won’t be all that willing to let go of her resolve without a fight. I’m okay with her being a personal maid if she so desires, but there’s only so far to go before I’m well out of my comfort zone. Even with everything I’ve been subjected to in recent, that’s cutting it a little too far into the extreme.”

Eye to eye with me so suddenly, she seems to have something lingering in her mind. A burning question hanging on her heart.

“I suppose saying subjected to is a little bit harsher than I’d meant for it to sound. It wasn’t my intentions to come off so roughly. But all that has happened to me has been unlike anything I’ve ever known. All the people I’ve met have been a bit more… bold of character than I’m used to… For the most part.”

“O-Oh no. That’s nothing of an issue. It’s just… I wasn’t sure what you’d meant to say. Do you mean to say that you won’t be her fiance?”

“Even if she continues saying that I am, I really can’t accept that sort of proposal. I hate to be so blunt with such a delicate matter of the heart, but I could only answer no.”

“I see. I-I think… that’s good…” She mutters to herself lightly.

“That’s good?” I ask and she shoots up straight with painted rosy cheeks. “I didn’t expect that you would be that concerned for my comfort. It’s kind of heartwarming to hear. Thank you, Neptanie.”

“O-Oh… That’s right. Y-Yes. It’d be bad if you were forced into anything that discomforted you or complicated your life further than it already has been with… all of this… That kind of proposal w-wouldn’t be fair.”

“There’s no use beating around the bush, is there? It isn’t the most fair choice to spring up something so outrageous onto someone by their second meeting alone. But it leads me to wonder how anyone could be willing to accept an arranged marriage.”

I sigh and sink into thought. While more of the morning hour passes by in silence, Neptanie shifts her seat on the bed before she raises her attention to me. My focus naturally draws to her as she watches me.

“What… What would you do… Well… I’m sorry that it’s hard to find the words to ask my… question.”

“It’s no problem. Take your time.”

Abiding by my gesture, she takes a few deep breaths and gives another attempt to speak her inquiry.

“When… would you be okay with becoming a… fiance?”

“That’s a new question.” I chuckle but am quickly plunged into a nervous tension. “I… suppose the answer isn’t one I was ready to give so if you’d bear with me…”

I too now shift about where I sit. To find a bit more comfort, I cross my legs and arms while lifting my thumb and forefinger to touch my chin to foster my own thought process.

“I… I’d need to be as comfortable as I could with the person who’d ask me something like that to begin with. I’d like to know them and trust them. To be able to give them my heart and my everything. If you couldn’t do that with someone then I suppose that it would be really difficult, wouldn’t it? But what am I saying? I’m a man so I shouldn’t really be answering as if I were to be the one who’s proposed to.”

Although I find myself laughing nervously on impulse, Neptanie’s eyes catch a glimmer in them as her gaze upon me intensifies. Even more thoughts are teeming about in her mind that seems to be so much like a deep lake.

“Then… if a woman who was just like that proposed to you, you would… accept?”

“You’re really making me think on my toes.” Even more nerves begin to tangle as I think over her next curiosity. “I suppose that I’d be flattered and would be more than grateful if that day were to come. Though I should likely take the lead, if we were both on the same wavelength then it wouldn’t be so bad, would it? I’d have to say yes.”

“Then someday…”

“S-Someday?”

Though she had been so forward and collected but a second prior, her resolve crumbles in the blink of an eye as she takes a keen interest in the door. Delicate, so reserved and shy with a quivering to her body, a place in her expression finds a way to pick up my heart’s pace. With her tenderness and vulnerability, my eyes are quickly drawn to her lips. Though her skin is always so pale with her fatigue and frailty, they always seem so cutely pink. I’m brought to ponder and to realize the fact that of all the maidens, she is one I have yet to kiss.

T-To kiss Neptanie…”

With a pounding heart leading the way, I gently slide myself just a bit closer to her and incidentally place my hand on top of her own. That unintentional contact causes her to return her eyes to mine. With a reddened face to pair with a nervous, uncertain form, she slowly leans in closer to me. So shaken, so taken by the suddenness of our contact, a set of tears begins to bead her eyes.

I’m set at a breath’s distance from her before I even realize it. Yet despite all of the times prior – all of my practice and training – the seed of shyness sprouted in my chest proves to be too mighty to overcome. Feeling my core twist and wrap in on itself, I whinge beneath the pressure and draw away from her with a heart beating so wildly I’m left without a granule of hope I could stay it.

“I’m sorry. It’s rude of me to invade your personal space.” I shoot up from the bed. “I-I should let you rest and be off to my day. Time is… limited and you still seem tired.”

“N-No! I’m… sorry that I’d come close to you like that. I shouldn’t have… I was… I was…” She places her hands in her lap and peers down to them while sparking brightly rose.

“I-It’s more than okay. You did nothing wrong… I…” I twitch with nerves crackling through my body.

Before the two of us can get even more tense and strange, I step forward and let her be with only a wave her way as I exit. I couldn’t face her to look into her eyes all the while.

I place my back against the wall outside of my room and take a deep breath to steady my rhythm. To feel so shy again as if I’d been taken all the way back to the days of my timid youth. Somehow having her by my side sent me deep into the past.

“K-Kissing Neptanie…” The simple thought makes me blush deeply. “Why does it… feel so different when it’s her?”