Chapter 6:

Lessons Taught

Lovely kNight


A petite frame with a set of spectacles upon the bridge of the nose. A knit sweater with a small arm band pinned to its right sleeve. Faintly icy blue hair which could potentially be confused for gray if the lighting were just right. It’s secured into a rather mature looking side tie falling across the right shoulder.

One might say such a character is up to par with the quintessential image of a bookish individual. Though perhaps a bit cliche, that’s the kind of face which watches me from across the table we both sit at in the castle library. But what I hadn’t expected was that my tutor would be such a cutely and fragile looking woman. With a glance at her face alone, someone could easily mistake her for my junior. I would have too had I not been told by Plutia that she is in fact several years my senior. Given that she’s an entire head shorter than me, it certainly doesn’t help such impressions.

“Urania, meet Khiron. Khiron, this is Urania. You’ll be committed to her care from this day forward so please do make sure you play nicely.”

Plutia plays the middleman between us as she introduces us to each other. But that minutely ironic tone of hers still remains in her voice.

Adjusting her round framed glasses by its stem with her thumb and forefinger, she bobs her head into a combination of both a bow and a nod. Her serious looking indigo eyes do betray her youthful countenance as they study me closely with little humor in them. I could swear that I feel like I’m being stripped down to my most basic components.

“You're my tutor? You look a… few years younger than I was anticipating.”

“Appearances can be a deceiving thing.” Urania responds with her cool, nearly robotic voice that carries a hint of regal refinement.

“You two have fun now. I'll be attending to more matters I’ve been tasked with for the day. I bid you adieu.”

And so Plutia steps on her way and leaves me in the hands of my teacher for the evening. She opens the rather large tome before her on the instant and sets her eyes into its pages. So begins her lesson.

✩ ✩ ✩

Loveless.

The children of Eclipse. The warped and demented creatures which spread themselves like a festering disease across the land. Born with an insatiable bloodlust and wrath, they are miscreants that have no belonging in this world. Abominations hidden away in the dark of their nests, the Dark Seeds. Should Loveless ever break free from their roosts and into the kingdom, unspeakable terror and bloodshed is bound to be left in the wake of their march. Blood to flow like rivers of red from their cold, merciless hands.

Dark Seeds.

The vile homes of darkness. These wilds of warped creatures spread as sky reaching and earth diving labyrinths of malicious design fraught with innumerable dangers. Nearly indistinguishable from castles, forts and ruins from the outside, they appear in the span of mere days like weeds rising from the ground. Their presence could be said to follow the blight of harmful parasites as the fertile grounds they touch are slowly reduced to deserts and wasteland. If not for the decade rest in between their appearances, the world may have been reduced to endless deserts stripped of beauty.

The first Dark Seeds were unleashed upon the world thousands of years ago as the malevolent being, Eclipse, had begun its attack upon mankind. It had been given its name due to its crippling darkness which withers and corrupts all that it touches, stealing away light from the world.

Only the power of the Celestial Knight may overcome the might of Eclipse. Though its existence may not be erased, time has told, it may be sealed away at the faintest sign of its return. The seal upon its containment is reinforced every 10 years as the Dark Seeds, its envoys of chaos, are plucked from the kingdom. The hero's journey is a dutiful one of honor and love. Love for the kingdom of Celestia and its people as well as a love for the maidens from which his power is gifted so graciously.

And once the core of these labyrinths, the Roots, have been slain, all of the darkness within is purified from the earth, returning nature to tranquility. In time the damage the weeds had caused will be mended.

Love and life will return to our world.

✩ ✩ ✩

The lessons given had been a bit of a refresher more than anything, but there was a bit that I had learned from her.

“The Dark Seeds are labyrinths? Here I was thinking all this time they would be something like a wild jungle or swamp land. But instead of being lovely, they’d be dark and dreary.”

“It is a wonder, but the nests which are spread from Eclipse, becoming Dark Seeds, are much more like structured buildings. Although it is very common for them to take on a form akin to forts, there are instances that they may instead become towers and large mazes. Though they may be located in wild lands like jungles, all Dark Seeds up until this point have only been observed to have rigid structure.”

“And what of their interiors, what could I expect venturing into a Dark Seed?”

“At the entrance and earliest segment, they too appear quite ordered. However, as one would travel deeper the more obscure and dark they may become. From reports made previously throughout history, it is said that it is most often the closer one comes to the original core of a Dark Seed, the more they will begin to see darkened vines sprawled about the environment. These vines may too lead to the core. And at that, the more powerful a Dark Seed is, the greater corruption and darkness will be found. So too there is a warning I must give to you.”

She takes a pause to flip through the pages of her book and continues when she spots the page she seeks.

“Due to the otherworldly origins of the Dark Seeds, their bodies and interiors are often subject to change. The more time one has to grow, the larger it will become.”

“As I’d thought. They can grow and contaminate even more. There’s no telling what would happen if they’d grow too great.”

“That is true, but there is something more I need to make sure you hear.”

She adjusts her glasses and gives me her blank expression.

“As well as they may grow, their halls and rooms may shift about. It is improbable, perhaps impossible and unreliable to make a permanent map of any of these labyrinths. If you are forced to leave behind a Dark Seed before you are able to slay the Root, the next time you would enter therein it is very likely that the entire floor plan will have changed entirely.”

“The Dark Seeds change from the inside? From what I’m hearing it seems that I’ll just need to make sure I get the job done on my first visit.”

“Though that is a fair idea, that strategy isn’t recommended upon your first expedition into any of these Dark Seeds. Due to the sheer danger in your campaign, it is advisable that you’d make multiple visits to weaken the forces within until it is manageable enough for you to delve deeper. Our kingdom desires that you wouldn’t take any unnecessary risks that could greatly jeopardize your life.”

“I understand. I suppose whittling down the amount of Loveless would be a place to begin. But I’m very curious when I can begin traveling to the Dark Seeds and fighting Loveless?”

“That won’t be for some more time.” She tilts her head as she speaks. I get an inkling of a sense that like she’s found herself amused by my motivation. “Firstly, you yet have your important task to gather strength from the maidens in preparation for combat.”

All until she’d mentioned it, I’d conveniently forgotten that particular detail about my knighthood. My comfort burns away to ashes as the remaining flames heat up my skin. My embarrassment grows so great that I unconsciously attempt to hide it away from my stoic tutor who isn’t beneath openly staring towards me.

“That’s… That’s right. I… have to do something like that too, don’t I?”

“It is of the greatest importance to your knighthood. Please make sure that you don’t forget nor slack on that duty and kiss the maidens as much as you are capable.”

“You really aren’t the type to feel awkward about this sort of thing, are you?”

“Embarrassed? Why would I have need to be embarrassed? It is simply a matter of fact and it is a very sacred thing.”

“I’d… thought as much.”

She gives me a seemingly curious eye despite her expressionless mask and returns to her reading.

“Not only do you need to perform your duties with the Celestial Maidens, but there is one more reason why you should not enter into the Dark Seeds until the proper time arrives. Dark Seeds are naturally sealed off until they reach maturity. Until this age we have yet to find a means to enter Dark Seeds prematurely. However, to make up for this, we actively monitor the activities and statuses of all discovered and present Dark Seeds. When the point of maturity comes and it opens, we will immediately communicate this finding to you. We will continue our research into means to infiltrate unopened Dark Seeds.”

“So I really will have to focus on the… thing with the maidens for now.”

“From all that we have observed, it seems you have a fair bit of time before you may enter Dark Seeds, so please make good use of the time you have. I suppose one kiss a day would likely suffice for magic strength given the strength we have calculated from the most mature Dark Seed we have been monitoring. But it would be advised that you’d kiss as many maidens as you may at any given time.”

“S-Sure. But… I mean, even if I were to… be more comfortable with it, there’s no telling if it would be that simple.” I mumble to myself and just fall short of her ears.

“Before our time together reaches its conclusion, there is one more topic of which I desire to briefly converse over.”

She flicks through a number of pages before she lands on one which bears a morbid image. A darkened shadow standing out from the background as a mass of hazing darkness. The only discernible feature in that blotch is a set of eyes. One is a chilling blue like the skin of a corpse and the other is the red of blood splattered and drained from the lifeless body.

“...Eclipse.” Simply speaking the name of the demon alone leaves a bitter taste on my lips.

“Correct. I must tell you something that is of utmost importance.” Though she continues placid, I can tell that she’s deathly serious. “Eclipse is an incredible threat unlike anything else. It is well recorded that any touched by its hands are burdened with an excruciating curse. Many have described it as a living nightmare. And those that have met with that fate have lost their lives. Due to an unimaginably agonizing pain, all on record that have ever been afflicted had broken beneath its weight and lost their will to live. Their lives were taken by their own hands.”

I clutch tightly to my shirt as I listen to her warning. Unconsciously, I grit my teeth while I listen to the humming tone of pain which splits through my chest. My eyes continue to stare down those of the abominable monster depicted on that page.

“No matter what, you must not battle Eclipse. There’s little else waiting for you but a horrific end. Please focus on sealing it away. Though it is an unlikely situation, if ever you meet with Eclipse, protect yourself and don’t do anything reckless. Flee.”

✩ ✩ ✩

Of the necessities and furnishings I’d been given in my new room in the manor was a standing mirror. As Urania’s solemn warning replayed on repeat in my mind, I’d stood before that mirror and watched my own reflection drawn on its silver surface.

My golden hair falling to my chin. The bangs are straight and neat yet asymmetric as they are parted towards my right shoulder. Clad in a white dress shirt with its top buttons left undone. Black pants with their legs tucked into boots. Around my neck is secured a black belt. As I stare deeply into my own eyes, their green calls me into fields of times long past.

I guide my hand to my shirt as I feel a bold and deep mark just beneath its fabric. I begin to undo the shirt button by button until I open it and reveal the odd patch of flesh I’d felt with my finger tips. Long with jagged branches, the mark extends from the edge of my right pectoral and falls to my right hip. Upon a glance it’s more than clear what it is.

A scar. A deep and unsightly scar.

The sensations return to my soul. A ripping, scathing pain which felt like a burning plume of magma had scorched and burned beyond my skin and down to my very spirit. Yet no blood leaked forth from the wound. Somehow Death had remained far away. I’d had a morbid wish as I’d experienced that suffering. How I’d so wished for his touch. I’d screamed and pleaded for it so I could know escape from the agony which pulsed through my body with each beat of my heart.

From that day forward nothing would be the same ever again. The aching of that dark chapter in my history reverberates even if dully every day of my life. And sometimes it spontaneously erupts once again as if the wound was reopened with a burning blade.

I remember the sight of a house viewed from a small gap in a doorway. The light of blazing fire making the horizon glow the hazing, damned red of perdition. All things were calm as the images of torture had fallen to a still. Yet my view of the world from that gap was eclipsed by a harrowing darkness. Red and blue peeking into my eyes.

“Found you.”

The last words I’d heard before all of reality blurred and muddled into a mess. I’d laid on the floor as I’d quaked uncontrollably in the throws of pain. The darkness reached out towards me as a wicked grin crept on its misted black. It delicately stroked the new marking I’d been given in my flesh.

“Khiron? Are you in there?” The voice of Juna drops me back into the present.

I quickly shut my shirt and begin buttoning it.

“Yes! Just a moment, please! I’m not decent yet!” Panic accidentally finds its way into my voice.

Only after I’m able to secure all of them do I let her in. She opens the door a peek at first before she wanders inside.

“Are you going to be busy with anything? The other girls?” She leans towards me with the smallest hint of expectation.

“I’d just returned from some tutoring. I haven’t had anything in particular planned for today.”

“Good!” She beams yet falters for an instant. “I-I mean, I was just thinking we could maybe go out and get some of our things from our houses? Since you happen to be free.”

“It would probably be a good idea to get that handled today so we could make up our rooms a bit more. It would be nice to have some extra clothes to exchange as soon as possible.”

“I’m so glad you think the same!” She pauses and begins to shift her feet about. “And maybe afterward we could do some… training too.”

“I would like to get some sword practice in today, so I wouldn’t mind at all. If that’s the case, then we’d might as well go out in full dress, right? I’ll go get my armor and we can get going.”

“O-Oh… I’d meant to say. Uhm.” She struggles with speaking her mind.

“Is there something else you’d had in mind?”

“N-No! Just… training.” She rights herself and starts towards my door, looking back at me from the hall. “I’ll get prepared so we can go soon!”

So I’m left to solitude in my room once more. I turn back towards the mirror and place my fingers on the collar around my neck. With a sigh, I release my hand and gather my armor.