“He’s the knight of Celestia! He’s the Celestial Knight! The victor of Celestia Hero’s Tournament!”
The girl at my side danced and swayed her hips. Her skirt flourished and fluttered as her cute and excited voice sung with magnificent cheer. With delightfully rosy red hair, matching red eyes which gleamed as deep pools of crimson, and a gentle, slender face full of fervor and energy, Juna, my best friend and partner, celebrated at my side for the evening. Truly she was my partner for every evening, but that never diminished the value of her company. Not by a single bronze.
The two of us rested in my home. Although I’ve never been too much of the drinking type, the situation called for something special and so we both had ourselves a stein of beer as we chatted the dusk away.
“So how does it feel to be none other than the Celestial Knight. The knight who will campaign to save the Kingdom of Celestia, victor?” Juna asked me, her voice held in it a hint of jest.
“It feels amazing. The real magnitude of everything has yet to set in fully. I can feel that for sure. Come tomorrow it’s going to hit me like a ton of bricks.” I chuckled.
“You have the honor to visit the castle tomorrow, so it’s up and early even if you’d love to party all night long!”
“The knights had said I could take one guest to join me for the first day. You're coming along with me, aren't you? Or should I be taking someone else instead?”
“No, no! Of course I am! Of course! I wouldn't miss it for the world!” She hopped up and down with her joy spilling over the brim.
“I’d thought that was going to be your answer.” I smirked. “I’m sure Vestil wouldn’t have been quite as exciting as having you by my side. She’s likely seen the place plenty by now. Probably sick of it by this point.”
“That’s right! So it’s best you’d take me instead!”
Her cutely delighted giggle flitted through the air as a glittering smile illuminated her features. I caught my own with how contagious hers had been.
“It’s been amazing having you beside me for all of these years, Juna. With all the chances in the world, I’ve been blessed to have a friend like you. Without you, there wouldn’t have been a chance to make this crazy dream of mine come true. And yet, when we’re finally here, with you with me, it feels even better than I’d ever thought it would.”
“C-Come on. You could have done it. I know you could have because... you’re you.” She became more reserved as she’d leaned over the counter and let her fingers play over her stein. “You’re an amazing knight. And with how much you’ve always had a drive to do, I don’t doubt you wouldn’t make it.”
“For starters, you’ve kept me sharp all these years as a knight. But beyond that, you’ve been a gift to me. The greatest kind of friend anyone could ever ask for. In all of this, in all of the celebration, you’ve been on my mind the entire time. If anything, I’ve probably been celebrating you even more so than my victory. I owe so much to you, Juna. All of your support and care.”
She remained silent. Despite all of her feverish bouncing and dancing about, she’d suddenly ended up so tight lipped and pensive. With a little bit of a pink hue touching her, she gave me her eyes.
“I remember when I'd first met you in the academy all those years ago. You were always going on and on about how you'd be the next Celestial Knight. Your spirit was so infectious it made me root for you from that day forward. All of our training together, all of our bruises and sweat, it was worth every second just to see this day.”
“I’d needed every moment of it. That final challenger really put me to my absolute best. If I’d faltered even just a little bit, I'd have missed out on my dream for my entire life. All that pressure was on my shoulders. But in some of those moments when I was losing my wind, I’d remembered you. All the time spent sparring with you and all the wooden swords I'd received across the face got me set for that battle. Thank you for everything, Juna.”
“Y-Yeah.” Her face lit up to match the petals of a rose in its season as she took another drink from her stein. “Seeing you happy and so fulfilled is the best kind of reward… But maybe you could give me something special?”
“Something special? What would you have in mind?”
“M-Maybe... Maybe...” She tilted her head down and she began to play with her bang as she hid herself and her voice from me. “...A kiss...”
“Apologies. I couldn’t quite catch that.”
“I-It sure is strange how the hero has to be a fresh knight at his prime, but it probably makes sense with how dangerous the journey is! Just promise me you won't go dying after all your hard work to get there! That’s the something special you can give me! Promise me you won’t go dying or anything as you fulfill your dreams, okay?!”
Seeing her so flustered, I felt a little bit of a grin coming on. I reached out to her and held her hand gently. Feeling her slender fingers in my own, I looked her right in the eyes and swore my promise to give her the special gift she’d desired.
“On all that I am, all the sunsets I’ve ever seen with my own eyes... I promise I won’t go dying. I’m going to save Celestia and all of its people. I’m going to make the world better for yourself and everyone else. I don’t have the privilege to find myself in an early grave.”
Her cheeks grew even more red as she stared into my eyes. She lightly clutched my fingers and gave me that bright and wonderful glowing smile I know her for.
“Then it’s a deal. Save us all, hero.”
“I will. And I wouldn't dare leave you behind when I have to see your ceremony of ascension the day you become an Elite Mage Knight. So don't you worry a single second because it's not going to happen.”
“That's right! You can't die on me until you see me become an Elite Mage Knight! It's off limits! After that, though, feel free to keel over whenever you please. You've outlived your usefulness to me.”
We’d both had ourselves a delightful chuckle.
“Sure thing. Promise I won't die until then.”
Just like me, Juna had gone through nearly her entire life with starry eyes filled with a bright dream. For me it was to someday succeed my one opportunity to become the hero of Celestia. For her, it had always been to have the honor of entering the number of Elite Mage Knights proper. Though simply reaching our dreams would be just the beginning. The adventures that would come afterwards would be the real journey.
The setting sun's light now dyed the room in its richest fiery hues as the steins which were full of beer in the beginning now came closer to their ends. Juna and I both had done well to hold our liquor, but there had been some drinking before this moment with many involved with us. Friends from our old academy were in that number. So as I’d glanced towards Juna, I'd noticed that look in her eyes when she'd begun feeling the alcohol setting in.
“Khiron… It really is such a special day today. Do you… want to celebrate more?”
“Celebrate more? I think I’ve celebrated enough. I was going to sleep here soon and you should probably as well so that we'll both be able to make it to the castle bright and early. Since it’s already so late, you’re free to stay here for the night.”
She looked to me with a hint of shock in her eyes, but as I’d looked into them, she’d snappily twisted away and shakily started on her way towards my room.
“Y-You’re right. I think I’ll take you up on that offer.”
✩ ✩ ✩
Juna had fallen asleep nearly the moment she'd touched my bed. But that’s par for the course when she’d had enough to drink. It had been quite some time since we'd last roomed together so it was a welcome end to such a momentous day.
As the moon sat high on the horizon, I’d tucked Juna in. Her soft breathing and tranquil features were calming as I’d laid beside her to rest. My mind was filled with thoughts of her and my coming initiation. I’d watched her features so at peace as she’d laid at my side. And I’d let that peaceful image carry me off to sleep.
✩ ✩ ✩
The sun had taken the distant hills as the baby blues of the dawning day began to sweep through the skies. I was awake as I'd equipped my armor. It had taken a bit longer until Juna herself began to rise and shine. Though a bit sluggish in her movements as her head bobbed and swayed with eyes yet heavy laden.
“What happened last night?”
Her bleary eyes met mine. I’d taken a moment to collect a proper answer while admiring how beautifully red they were.
“Well, I’d won the Celestia Hero’s Tournament, but I feel like you probably remember that much. After that we’d had fun with old faces until you and I had come back to my house. We’d had a bit to drink and you know what happens when you’ve had enough liquor. You fell asleep the moment you’d touched the bed.”
“Oh. I see… So no kiss then…”
She seemed to snap to awareness as her face grew ever so slightly a higher shade of pink. Her once weary eyes went wide.
“N-Nothing… I’m just tired and mumbling to myself is all.”
“It is a pretty early hour to rise after how much happened yesterday. I’m even exhausted today. Plenty of aches all over after fighting in that tournament, but time is wasting.”
As Juna remained silent, I picked it up as a cue to continue. She was likely still lethargic from yesterday’s drinks.
“It had been a while since we'd last slept together. It reminded me of those times during our training. Especially when we’d shared that blanket beneath that tree. Feeling you asleep against my shoulder while I’d watched the stars was so much fun.”
“I remember that night. But... did I really fall asleep before I could-” She shook her head and patted her cheeks. “Anyways, we should be going soon, right? Just let me get dressed!”
She rose from the bed and wandered on her way into the halls. I joined her to make a quick and light breakfast before our departure.