Chapter 61:

Ex: Regal Visitor

Lovely kNight


Though he’d been offered the head of the table, Ophikka had humbly declined. Instead he chose for himself a center seat. Though he did have one request: that I would be his right hand. To put it simply; I was left speechless. What little I could manage to do was flap my mouth uselessly while words wouldn’t come. But his warm laughter quickly thawed me out of from my frozen state.

Save for Juna, all maidens have made themselves present. The conversation was lively and plentiful as everyone began speaking with his majesty as a friend. There wasn’t even a trace of hesitation to be found. Yet I’m the odd man out, being awkward and slow to speak. So I simply sit and listen.

“I’ve still been training as hard as I can. I’m thinking that this time around I’d might be able to try my hand at something new when the next athletic meet comes around.” Mercy is relaxed leaning on her fist while speaking with Ophikka.

“Khiron himself has helped you to take up fencing? What a magnificent privilege. With his instruction I’m more than certain you’ll be ready to enter the ring so very soon.”

The others begin to give Ophikka updates on their lives as of late while conversation pushes on. From their opinions on their living situations and even to their duties as maidens, he shows interest in all that they have to say. Though Venna and Plutia are more than ready and willing to speak their piece, the likes of Celine and Marcia are more reserved and vague. Just hearing those conversations causes me to flare up brightly.

While Celine continues conversing with Ophikka, Jupa returns from her venture to prepare a serving of tea for all a hair beneath the half hour’s mark. She pours each glass and gently hands them to each member seated at the table. Though when she places my own before me, she gives me a smile and a bow fit for a king.

“I’ve been given the privilege to have one of my paintings placed on display during the university’s carnival exhibition. I’d received the letter just yesterday.”

“What fantastic news to hear. Though I’m sure that was a simple decision to be made that you would be elected. The more difficult choice had to be that they’d honor their rule of limiting each artist only one piece of art per exhibit.” Ophikka chuckles to himself and sips on his tea to warm his throat.

He places it down onto the saucer before him and directs his attention towards Jupa who stands at my shoulder.

“So very marvelous. I could only expect such fine brewing from an excellent maid as yourself. The aroma is relaxing and the taste is understated just rightly so to bring out the very sense of the setting. The most perfect cup to have while spending time with marvelous friends.”

“I’m so very honored, your majesty. If there’s anything else at all I could do for you, please let me know and I’ll see that it is done.” She bows elegantly to him.

“I do have a simple request I desire to have fulfilled: that you would have a seat and join us. Relax and spend time with an old friend. I could understand that you may be quite taken with the Celestial Knight and would desire to serve him, but you too have need for rest.”

“Of course, sire.”

Another quick bow and then she’s soon seated beside Mercy and across from me.

“Old friend?” My first words I’ve spoken for all the meeting and how embarrassing that they were born from confusion.

“That would be correct. During special events and banquets, our kingdom is pleased to hire extra maids who have been certified for work with the royal family. It’s a highly sought after right and it is highly honored. A portion of the reason being so that we may invite many to improve themselves and to come closer to the royal family. Jupa herself was one such a maid. She had shown great talent and potential, thus she was selected and had become an exceedingly familiar face in time. It’s been scarce there’s ever been a calling that she has been absent from since she was given recognition by the kingdom.

“I’d often had the opportunity to speak with her and with each reunion, to know her personally. She is the most bright and gifted sort of soul. I say with pride beaming in my heart that she is a friend. How especially wonderful that she would be a Celestial Maiden to meet and serve yourself. I was elated to know that both of you would be able to know each other.”

“It’s been my honor, your majesty. I vow to serve master Khiron with the greatest service I can provide.”

Ophikka bows his own head to Jupa and his warm expression grows even more gentle. A bead of nostalgia begins to twinkle in his eye while he glances from face to face.

“I’ve had the great joy of befriending all of the maidens. I wouldn’t be so reserved to neglect mentioning that all of you are the finest examples and ambassadors for our kingdom. How fitting it would be that you would each play an important part in its protection and nurturing.”

He peers from my eyes and then to Mercy’s own as if to bid me to follow him.

“Mercy is not only gifted in sports and competition, but she too is quite a gifted mind. A conversationalist through and through. Perhaps it may not seem that she would carry such an interest, but she does enjoy to read and I’ve carried conversations on literature in times passed.”

“Oh geez, you might even make me blush, you smooth talker.” Mercy giggles. “Mr. King is a pretty swell guy. First time we met it was early in the morning while I was pining to exercise. He’d been the one to invite me to exercise while we’d talked. You wouldn’t believe it – I couldn’t believe it – he went prone on the ground and began doing push ups right in front of me. Can’t say there’s been many times I’d been shocked so hard I couldn’t budge, but it really did take me a dozen seconds to come back down to earth after being blown away. I’d gone ahead and joined him.”

“The two of us had a pleasant conversation while letting our blood flow. It was a memory I’ll cherish.” Now turning his eyes to Celine, he continues. “Now Celine is an amazing artist; that I’m sure you’ve seen firsthand by now. That is true but it may be more hidden that she’s also one of the most pleasant and soft hearts I’ve ever known. When I’d first met her, she’d sprinted to a child who had fallen amid our conversation expressly to make certain they were safe. I’ve had many attempt to fool me into believing their characters are sweet and compassionate so I would happen to know what an actor would be. But with how fearful she was and how her steps were so quick and forceful, I knew it was the truth of her heart.”

“Y-Your majesty!” Celine yelps with a crack in her voice while her face flames up.

“And to go further beyond even that beauty she holds, she’s so dutiful with her studies and often has so very much on her plate to contend with. No matter that, she’s more than willing to make time for her friends and those who could use someone to be there for them. I know that I could trust her with my own life and that yours is in safe hands with her.”

Marcia continues to snicker at Celine’s own embarrassment and her target can only hide her face with her bangs and the palms of her hands. This attracts Ophikka’s attention as he next speaks of the sisters.

“The very depiction of a loving family. I’d had the privilege to first meet the two while walking through the city. I’d noticed how close they were in heart and it was a magnificent sight to see. Marcia herself was fed by her sister’s hand even if she was red in the face. She too shared food with her sister in the same way while they’d both linked arms and walked closely side by side. I have yet to have a moment alone with either, but I would believe a great part of knowing one is in knowing the other. Since my youngest years I’ve long dreamed that I could be blessed with a blood sibling just as near and dear as Marcia is to Venna.”

“It’s all true! Marcia is a good girl and being with her is one of the best things about being alive!” Venna wraps herself around Marcia.

“H-Hey now! That’s not fair! You shouldn’t… tell him those things…” Her sister tries her hardest to wave off her own flustering but utterly fails.

“Neptanie, dear, are you tired? Should you go to rest?” Ophikka asks Neptanie as she seems to be quite slack in her seat.

“I-I’m sorry. I am, but I don’t want to miss seeing you. I can stay awake for a little while longer.” She replies with a weary voice.

“I understand. I’ll honor your wishes.” He gently assents to her. “I’d first met Neptanie when she was sickly in an infirmary. I had heard word of her before through a bit of hearsay in the kingdom and quickly knew I had to visit her myself. Though she was so tired, she was still so incredibly kind and gentle. I’ve met others who, being as sickly as she was, would be filled with ire or irritation. Far beyond the desire nor the temperament to entertain a moment for meeting. We’d carried conversing and she’d told me all about her latest dreams. How fantastic they were to hear. I’ve wondered to myself if it’s due to her dreams that she always seems so beyond this world. It becomes clear how wise of a woman she happens to be once she’s begun to openly share her mind with others.”

“Thank you. I hope you’ll visit again soon so I can tell you even more about my dreams.” She smiles faintly but so full of happiness.

“And it should come as no surprise that I’ve known Plutia since we were both very young. She does so happen to be my elder in years and I would even say that she’s once acted as if she was my surrogate elder sister. It was by my request that she would be hired to her position and it was one of the wisest decisions I’d made as a fledgling king.

“The most reliable, witty and dutiful of assistants. It’s in great thanks to her that I’ve been able to serve my kingdom to the degree that I have. Without her, the present may have been so vastly different and nowhere near as hopeful as it is. I’m truly grateful for her and am blessed to have met her.”

“You flatter me so, your majesty.” She dips herself with deep respect for her king.

“Though there is one that I have hopes to meet and make friends with. I have heard of her current predicaments and how troubled she has been lately.”

“Juna…”

“I don’t mind that she’s absent, please make no mistake. I only wish the best for her and that someday I’d have the privilege to at last speak with her personally. All I’ve ever heard of her from yourself and those who have spoken of her character, I can know assuredly just how splendid of a character she is. To be forthright; I would like to speak over their situations more, but I will reserve that talk for a time soon to come.”

“If you would have me, I’d hope that I could talk with you about Juna’s predicament as well. It’s been difficult to say the very least.”

“I can only imagine how trying it has been for the both of you during this time. I understand as well your own morals and identities as knights so I would only do that which I would be given approval and liberty to do.”

“Thank you, Ophikka.” Apart from the sullen caress that had touched my spirit, I can thank him with a smile on my face.

✩ ✩ ✩

The scent of Jupa’s specially infused tea had carried its aroma through the room for the brief remainder of the meeting. Everyone had visibly been down in spirits to know that he would soon be leaving and all of us had followed him into the foyer where he speaks his farewells.

Yet he takes a keen focus on me and bids me to follow him as he approaches the door.

“Khiron. If you would be so kind, I had come to visit desiring that you would accompany me for a sum of time so that we may speak together. I have important matters to discuss with you including your own predicaments.”

I’m speechless once again but I’m quicker to pull myself together and follow after him. With a wave to the maidens, I join him while holding hopes for Juna in my heart.