Chapter 8:

Sudden Date

Lovely kNight


I jolt awake and check my surroundings in a tizzy. Finding that today I’m not made to be a prey so early in the morning, I heave what may be one of the deepest sighs in my entire life. So I begin to set about my day.

While I gather my clothing, I take a moment to pay my respects to the painting which now hangs on my wall. Brought over yesterday from my previous residence, it makes this manor feel a little bit more like home.

✩ ✩ ✩

I pay Juna a visit after breakfast. Her desk is layered with a series of books. A thick tome lays open before her. She’s so taken by it, she glances to me from over her shoulder while she holds the page, at ready to proceed.

“Already have your eyes in a book so early in the morning? Seems your focus is as fine as ever. Feeling any nerves for the test?”

“I can’t say that it isn’t making me a bit anxious. I’d studied for as long as I could last night, but I still feel like I have so much more to do. So I’d decided that I’ll dedicate all of today to studying.”

“I understand. But make sure you give yourself some time to breathe and relax. Shutting yourself in and going at it without relent wouldn’t be the healthiest option. What are you working with?”

“It’s a book on advanced spellcasting. Topics like diffusion of elemental energy, absorption of natural sources and combination of forces. But I’m worried that I’m not getting this one memorized well enough. Besides that, I have plenty of other things I hope to read.”

“It looks like my lack of studying these topics in depth has come back to bite me.” I sigh. “I’d never had too great of a handle on diffusion spells alone. I regret having not trained harder with that. Maybe then I could have been of help to you today.”

“You shouldn’t worry about that. You’d had your own studies that were completely different than mine. I wasn’t really able to help you with those either. I don’t even have the first clue about some of the topics you’d studied.”

“I suppose you’re not wrong, but I don’t think it would do any harm if I was a more capable spellcaster. If it wasn’t for all of your help, though, I likely wouldn’t be where I am with my magic abilities.” I prepare to step on my own way. “If there is anything you need help with, please let me know. You’re the type that picks up these sorts of studies much better when left to silence, so I’ll make sure to leave you to it.”

“If I could use your help, I’ll be sure to find you. Anyway you can help, of course I want you to be with me.” Juna’s face flushes ever so slightly. “S-Since I’ll be busy for most of today, I think it might be a good choice for you to finally spend time with the other maidens.”

“Why do you think so?”

“Well, Plutia said that you’ll magic from every single maiden to save Celestia. It wouldn’t be very productive towards accomplishing your dream if you’d spent all your time with me…” Her voice falls muted. “…Even if I want you to…”

“You trailed off at the end.”

“It’s nothing. Please don’t waste today away when you can be doing even more to realize your dream. In time you’ll be gaining all of the maidens’ magic, so you should get a start on it. You haven’t done much more than introduce yourself and talk over breakfast up to this point. Meanwhile I’ll be working the next steps towards my dreams as well.”

“I probably haven’t done the best so far, have I? It’s kind of difficult.”

“It’s just been a little more than a day. You’re still getting used to it and it wouldn’t be fair for anyone to expect results with the snap of a finger. I know you’ll be able to do it. You’ve made it this far and even won the tournament with your own strength. Compared to that, this is nothing.”

“W-Well, this and… what I’ll be doing are completely different.”

“I-I-I… Maybe. But I know you’ll be able to do it. With how wonderful you are and how good of a kisser you happen to be.”

“Oh.” Now it’s my turn to blush wildly. “I didn’t expect you’d think that… Same… for you.”

We both freeze and shut ourselves up as our faces glow red as two cherries. Stricken with nerves, my hand jiggles the doorknob while Juna’s fingers pinch and pull at the hem of her skirt.

“P-Please excuse me while I return to studying. Give it your best with the others, okay?”

“...Okay.”

She twists hides her reddened face in her book. I step out of the room with a web of uncertainty tangling my steps. When I shut the door behind me, I feel like I’ve been thrust into the icy winds of a glacier.

“I need to… with the other girls… I’ll be k-k-… doing that…” A sigh escapes my lips. “B-But… I’m just grateful Juna was my first.”

I speak softly but become conscious wondering if she could have managed to hear me through the door. I begin forward before my feet have the chance to meld with the carpet from the heat of my embarrassment.

✩ ✩ ✩

Completely unlike myself, I walk through the halls without an iota of motivation in my step. Without Juna, I feel like a fish out of water. Or maybe a pond fish thrust into the sea would be a more apt simile… Here in a manor filled with women I’d eventually be… yeah… no matter that I hadn’t even the most minor of connections forged with them.

With near absolute strangers.

Just as my head is in a heavy, dour cloud, I cross paths with a lavender haired woman. She halts in her step and faces me with her energetic eyes filled with glittering light. Those eyes fall from their surprise into a reserved smile as she sweeps away a bang from her face.

Venna, wasn’t it?”

“It’s delightful to see you outside of a morning meal. It seems like our two resident knights are busy people.”

“Yesterday had ended up being full with lessons and then training with Juna. But we’ve both rounded off the rest of our arrangements. As of now, we’ve more or less properly moved into the manor.”

“Oh! That’s right! You’d brought that wagon with you. I’d taken a pair your-” She catches her own tongue and her grin gains an even brighter gleam. “Pardon me. That’s beside the point and nothing too relevant. You and Juna practice together all the time, don’t you?”

Sounded pretty relevant to me.” I quip internally but decide to let the topic go for both of our sake.

“The two of us are a team ever since we’d first met. She’s studying to be recognized as an Elite Mage Knight and I have my job to do as the Celestial Knight, so we both need to be in the absolute best condition we can muster.”

“I’m really grateful you’re the hero.”

“Did you say something?”

“I was wondering if you were free today.”

A desire to find any reason to excuse myself snaps through my mind, but honesty is the best policy. And dancing around a maiden isn’t exactly the mostly knightly of choices. I’m both regrettably free and engaged to my duty with the maidens.

“I haven’t anything planned for my own day, so I was seeking business. Though I suppose I have everything cut out for me.” I reflexively rub the back of my head in nervousness.

“Wonderful! I’d wanted to invite you to a picnic. It’s a fine day and even a knight like yourself could use a bit of a breather. My, with how arduous that tournament must have been on your body, I’d expect you could use just a little more time to ease off the fatigue! I would love to give you a proper welcoming.” There is an unmistakable energy flowing from her.

Memory of an identical woman slips its way into my thoughts. The tone and body language of that mirror image had been a lot less jovial and soft spoken all the times I’d met her.

“So… Who will be coming to this picnic? Is your sister going to be there?”

“Marcia? Sadly, she’ll be away for today. She’s too busy sleeping. And don’t you worry! It’s just going to be you and me!”

“Sleeping? It’s already about 9AM. You mean to tell me she went to sleep right after breakfast?”

“She has a habit of sleeping whenever she desires to. She handles plenty of her life as if she was a cat; so don’t mind her. It’ll just be you and me! Isn’t that swell?”

“Well, I suppose-”

Venna’s hand already finds my own and begins yanking me her way. My feet stumble until I catch stride and give in to her will.

✩ ✩ ✩

“The sunlight is so comfy today!” Venna coos.

At my side, she’s so jolly in her own world. At her hip is a wicker basket filled with the meal and some treats. She delightedly begins to portion out what she’s brought and hands a glass to me, filling it with a healthy helping of wine.

“Th-This is all quite a bit for a first outing and picnic, wouldn’t you say?”

“Nonsense! I’d say that more picnics should be like this! But this is a special date! We can’t forget that!” She chirps cheerfully. “I proudly welcome you to Celestial Manor!”

“That’s quite a merry spirit you have. I’m grateful you’ve gone through all of this trouble for me.”

“It’s the absolute opposite of trouble! I’m so glad to have this chance. Don’t you mind one bit!”

Venna’s eyes flit about the green of the park. They happen to find their way towards me time and time again. When I catch them with my own, she smiles and asks me a question.

“I’d heard it was your dream to be the Celestial Knight. Why would that be?”

“That’s a question I surprisingly only ever rarely hear. There’s so many thoughts and emotions behind that desire.”

I notice just how serene the park is in the day all the while I prepare the answer from my heart. The swaying grass and the whispers of the leaves on the trees. And somehow she perfectly compliments the gentle landscape of nature we accompany each other in.

“If I were to strive to put it all simply; it’s been my dream ever since I was a boy. To be the very person the kingdom and its people can depend on. To be the one that can protect and care for it all. I’m sure it’s a really boyish fantasy to hear. The type of game that a kid would play make believe with. But it’s no game to me. It’s the duty I’ve always looked forward to committing myself to.”

“It’s a lovely dream! You sound just like a knight if I’ve ever heard one’s voice!” The pools of her eyes twinkle. “When did that dream begin?”

“Another rare question.” I say while a smile flits onto my face.

“It is? I would expect that anyone would want to hear the story as to how someone became so passionate about being a hero. I really do love passionate people and I’m always curious to hear and interesting story.”

I settle myself a bit more and decide to take a sip of my wine. With a small bit of reminiscence, I indulge her curiosity.

“It all began when I’d met the previous Celestial Knight when I was such a little boy. If there was ever someone that captured the perfect image of a hero, it was him. Protective, kind, wise… he was everything I’d dreamed to become.”

I let myself be taken by the cool breath of the wind and watch it dance through the park. Its touch intertwining with my nostalgia, it pushes me forward to continue my word.

“Everyday in he had on his tested armor with his head held high. He would walk the streets with such a focus in his eyes, watching out for everyone at every moment. Just having him around made the entire world feel safe. Back then I was always so shy. I’d just sit and watch him when he’d walk by my house. Somehow he would always notice me through the window. He was a perceptive perceptive person, but I’m sure it also had to do with how often I’d be there waiting to see him. He would just wave to me and give me the most kindly smile.”

My mind trails off into some absurd territory for a moment. I mutter silently to myself as small sparks of flame form a wreathe on my cheeks.

“But I hadn’t ever expected he’d gotten his power from… kissing…”

As the memories and thoughts flow from my heart, I become a bit self conscious to my long winded talk. Turning to see Venna, I hadn’t noticed how much closer she’d moved towards me. Her eyes which twinkled before now beam brightly as if they had stars from the heavens soaring through them.

“So, so cute!” Her voice booms with energy. “So that’s why you’re the Celestial Knight! From the moment I’d first seen you, I knew you were someone special!

“You think I’m special? Why is that?”

“Marcia and I watched you during the tournament, you know? When we saw you fight, you were unlike any other competitor! The passion and wit! Just one look and I knew you would win! I felt your heart and everything you’ve told me is just what I’d sensed.”

“So you were at the tournament as well?”

“Of course! I was too excited wondering who the new hero would be. After all, I am a maiden, so I’d be getting to know them well in time to come.”

With a small, sneaky expression coming to her smile, she flits her eyes about before leaning closer to me in mock secrecy.

“Don’t tell Marcia I’d told you this, but she was really impressed with your swordsmanship. She’d thought you were an excellent fighter. Every single second, she was at the edge of her seats watching you.”

“She was? I really hadn’t expected that. Since our first impressions I’ve never exactly been able to reason that Marcia has been all that fond of me.”

“She was! She was! She’d even started calling out to you at times and shouting! She was so caught up in the whole tournament, but was even more interested in the battles you’d participated in.”

So Marcia may be a bit of a fan of the warfare and battle side of knighthood. I make a mental note to myself that that avenue may be one to take to form any sort of bond with her.

“Can’t say that was one of my most intimately held expectations.” With a beat to ponder, I fire back my own question. “Well, you’ve asked of me, so I should ask of you. How long had you known you’re one of the maidens?”

My question heightens her excitement and I can see it bubbling inside of her. She rights her already refined posture and faces me with a smile even more alight with glee.

“I’d been found and brought to this manor months ago. Both Marcia and I were scouted and found to have the magic within us, so we’d lived in the manor for a while waiting for the hero.”

“Are you happy with being a maiden? If it was anything like how it was for Juna, it must have been very sudden.”

“I am! I am!” She giggles. “You are right that it had just happened in a mere second one day, but it’s all been so exciting and thrilling! Making new friends of the other maidens, being able to live comfortably and to be an important part of the kingdom! But I was so eager to see the hero ever since I’d learned what it means to be a Celestial Maiden. When the tournament arrived, we were given special seats near the king. We’d watched you from that balcony along with Mercy, Plutia, Celine and Neptanie. And now you’re here at last!”

“O-Oh. I had no clue that every one of you had already seen me before I’d met you. That really opens an entirely new perspective.” I fidget a bit nervously. “You’re really excited about all of this. If I didn’t know any better, it seems you’d be the only one. Besides yourself… and maybe Plutia, I think you’re the only one who is happy with these circumstances. Even I’m shocked. I’d expected that I would just either be going to the Dark Seeds or wandering the streets on watch for my day to day duties. I-I… I wasn’t prepared for that other thing… And I still wonder if it’s all some big jest.”

“Are you unhappy with being the Celestial Knight? Are your expectations not met?” Venna’s eyes fill with a soft concern.

“...It’s not that. I’m just surprised is all. I’d never known about my other duties, but I’ll get to protecting the kingdom in time… So I suppose there’s no problem.”

“But what about the maidens? What do you think of us?”

She crawls her way even closer to me and locks her eyes with my own. A small blush is painted on her face and her features soften to a shy expression with a sensitive gaze.

“That’s a… fairly broad question you’ve asked there… I’m a bit lost on the road as to how I should answer.”

Though I pause, hoping for a relent, Venna is hard pressed for my answer as she continues to silently peer into my heart. She doesn’t let up from me even a solitary nanometer.

“I-I’m not opposed to it… and you’re quite lovely women. But I’m a knight, so… S-So I’m not used to this kind of contact. E-Especially things like… kissing.”

“You’re so sweet, aren’t you? Kissing is special, after all.”

“W-Well…” I avert my eyes, unable to manage an instant longer.

“I’m glad. I promise that I’ll help you make your dream come true.” She delicately lays her fingers on my hand and inches herself nearer. “I can already tell you’re a pure soul and you dream of helping others, so how can I deny that? Plus you’re… quite a knight.”

A silence overtakes us and Venna draws closer to me. Panic strums the tightened strings of my composure. I reflexively reach for the next treat in the basket and place it before my face.

“W-We still have more to eat! Let’s not let all of this basket you’ve put together go to waste!”

“You’re right! Pardon me, pardon me!” She backs away with the red hue of her face falling into a deeper rose. “Oh! It seems you’ve grabbed the gift Marcia prepared for you.”

“A gift from Marcia?”

I peer down to the small package I have in my hand. A pale envelope.

“There’s something in this? Chocolate?”

“She’d asked me to make sure you had that yourself. So please open it!”

Unbinding the package, a seed of intrigue takes root in my chest. As the seal unbinds, I peer inside. A loud snap catches me off guard and I shudder as a spray slaps me in the face and dampens my skin. Touching the moisture, I look to my hand to see it painted black.

“Wh-What?”

“Oh no!” Venna drops the snack in her hands onto the cloth below. “Oh, Marcia! Now you’ve done it!”

“What was that?”

She brandishes a cloth from her skirt pocket and begins to softly dab and clean off my face without a word of warning.

“Marcia… I swear. My sister can be quite a joker from time to time and it looks like she’s pulled another one of her pranks. An ink trap again. She’s a good girl, I promise! It’s just… I’m so sorry about this!”

“No, no. It’s quite fine. Perhaps that’s just her way of welcoming me?”

“Y-Yeah… Maybe.” She seems uncertain herself.

Amid her careful wiping of the ink from my face, her hands halt and our eyes catch each other. At first she is flushed and mute, but her eyes soon shut as she draws herself closer to me. Our lips meet as the gentle breeze carries its way through the park. She holds herself against me firmly, lost in her own world while mine spirals about. I can barely believe my senses.

As swiftly as she had met me, she parts, flowing gently on the breath of the calm winds. With a flushed face and her hair lightly swaying with the breeze, she touches her lips and smiles radiantly.

“That was my first kiss.”

My mouth seals itself shut as if she’d locked it with her kiss. All I can do is continue watching her in my shock. Though at first she had an inkling of confidence in herself, I witness it melt away like ice under the summer sun. She shakes, seeming to have understood the gravity of the situation we’d plunged into.

“I-I’ve enjoyed this picnic, but I should be going!” She raises to her feet and starts into a light jog down the hill. “Th-Thank you, Khiron! I’ll see you later, okay?”

“Yeah.” I hesitantly wave to her.

When she’s well into the distance, the sigh captured in my bosom releases itself with a heavy heave.

“Just what was that all about? She’d left everything behind too.”

I make myself busy with packing up the picnic. I put the wine bottle back into the basket and feel a thud strike my head from above. A red apple bounces lightly against the grass beside me. When my eyes flit up to the branches of the tree overhead, I spot a lazy cat laying on one of its limbs.

And by lazy cat, I mean Marcia whom sways her leg back and forth while watching me with a pleased smirk on her face.

“Why, hello there, hero. Didn’t think apples could penetrate your defenses so easily.” She chuckles.

“Marcia? How long have you been there? And why are you in a tree?”

“I’ve been here the whole time. This tree was a nice and comfy vantage point to picnickers and all. I wonder if such a dull knight can really save Celestia?”

“You were stalking us?”

“Well, duh. Try to keep up.”

Rolling her body, she slides to catch the branch and hang from it as she prepares to return to solid earth. I snap my attention away as her skirt nearly comes up short on her legs. She leaps down.

“You got lucky with Venna this time, but don’t count on it happening again, guy.” Her once lackadaisical and joking tone jerks to an indignant one.

“Lucky?”

“Don’t play dumb with me! My sister acted before I could get the drop on you!”

“Were you planning on drop kicking me or something? I wasn’t even prepared for your sister’s sudden… k-kiss. It was just as much of a surprise for me, I can assure you.”

“You didn’t stop her, did you? Besides that you’re the Celestial Knight,’” she makes air quotes with her fingers, “I think you’re looking a whole lot like a regular man after all.”

“I don’t quite follow what you’re meaning to say.”

“It looks like you’re slow to boot. What a mess we have standing here.” She puts her hands on her hips and steps towards me with an edge of intimidation. “If you’re playing dumb and aren’t just stupid, then get the message through your head that you’re not going to just waltz in and do what you like with Venna. Doesn’t matter if you’re the hero.”

“My apologies. I don’t have any intentions of harmin-”

“Yeah, yeah. Always apologizing. But you’d better watch your hands, knight.”

“Watch my hands? Anyways, I’ll be needing to work together with both of you. Celestia will be more difficult to save if we don’t cooperate.”

“Real noble talk for some dime a dozen lecher with an excuse.” She flicks her hair with an aggressive swipe of her hand. “We can find another kingdom, but Venna is the only Venna in this world. As far as I can tell, you wouldn’t know the first thing about having a sibling or a twin.”

“W-Well, about that-”

“I’ve heard enough for today and I have places to be.” She twists her back to me and pushes forward before I can even continue my thought. “Don’t get cocky now.”

With that, she’s on her way without a solitary concern in the world. I sit and stew in the aftermath of our little friction.

“Looks like another hurdle to my job as the Celestial Knight…” I sigh so strongly I can almost feel my soul shoot out from my lips. “I’d expected dungeons and monsters would be obstacles, but not women… Okay. That may have come out a bit more harshly than I’d intended it to, but the point still stands.”

I lift up the basket into my hands and continue watching Marcia departing away into the distance.

“Even I have difficulty believing that we’ll need to be working together for something so… bizarre.”

I make my way to my own rhythm while the memory of Venna’s kiss plays on my thoughts.