The entire university setting is a grand sight. The central square is a park all on its own with pathways routing to the different facilities. The original central building is an antique which looks much like an old, grand mansion. The additions are more modern and most are made of red brick. Overall the scene gives off the feeling of a city’s center.
I’d heard well in the past about Celestia University and yet despite all of my years, I’d never once visited it myself. I was much too busy with my efforts in the knight’s academy and handling tasks to have had the time or reason to find such a place. Though I had seen some quests dealing with the academy in the past.
“The theater section, huh?”
I return the map to my pocket and begin after the path I’ve memorized.
✩ ✩ ✩
For a better turn of fortune for the day, I’ve arrived at a fine time as classes are coming to a close. Thanks to my new armband, entry into the building was a simple matter. Events seem to be going in my favor, maybe a little overmuch. I wonder to myself if this roll will continue unhindered or fall flat like a wet blanket.
With a sign reading atop the door reading the exact name Urania had jotted down, I take my gamble and enter in. To more of my good fortune, I find Celine standing by herself with a bundle of papers in hand. She’s deeply focused as she continues to flip through its pages.
“Pardon my intrusion.” I say while knocking on the wood of the opened door.
“Kh-Khiron?!” She spirals to face me after a snappy double take. “What are you doing here?”
“I came by to visit you for a moment.”
Her expression seems softer than usual at first, but it quickly changes to a more dire and repulsed one. Something I’m more accustomed to by now. She looks over the room and then snaps.
“Did you really stalk me all the way here?”
“I wasn’t doing anything like that. But I was looking for you. I hadn’t a first clue where I could find you, but it’s thanks to Urania that I’d ended up here.”
“Creepy.” She shudders. “Listen, this campus has plenty of students, so don’t think I’m just going to pepper you with kisses or anything. Don’t get ahead of yourself.”
“A-Ah. Yeah. That situation. I don’t have any intentions other than talking with you for a moment. Would you please hear me out?”
She impatiently rolls up the pages in her hand into a cylinder and folds her arms while her grim expression is engraved onto her face.
“Seven minutes. Seven minutes is all that I’ll spare to you.”
“You have my gratitude.” I bow before speaking my mind. “I’m sorry for how strange things have been between us. I hadn’t ever expected anything so… weird would happen. Let alone again and again so rapidly. It was unfortunate we’d ended up across each other during those situations.”
She now taps her foot while studying my face. Her eyes seem to flit across my skin, likely in memory of the many marks that had covered me when last we’d met.
“I apologize for bumping into you in the hallway a few days ago as well as… that other thing today. And then there’s that situation with the wine…”
Though a few silent moments stand as I wait on pins and needles, her stance and expression soften at last.
“Alright, alright. Apology accepted… Even though I suppose it’s a bit unnecessary to apologize for those things. All things considered…”
“Thank you.” By impulse, I let out a heavy, relieved sigh. “Once more, pardon the intrusion. I wasn’t able to catch up with you before you’d been on your way. Since you’re a student, I suppose you leave the manor at a usual time?”
“I leave shortly after breakfast and return to around 4PM, usually. Though I had returned in time to see the end of your special session with Plutia since I’d happened to have had free time from classes.”
“Is that right? I’d better make sure I memorize that so to make things easier for yourself and myself. Should I leave you be for now? You’re pretty busy, aren’t you?”
“...I can spare just a bit more time.”
She takes a deep breath and seats herself in one of the chairs in the semi-circle.
“Then I’ll stay a little longer.” I seat myself with a chair left open between us. “Urania let me know a little bit about your studies. It was a nice surprise to hear that you’re into such a wide variety of topics.”
“So she let all of that spill?” Yet another sigh drifts from her lips. “Well, since it’s all out in the air already, I’d might as well come out and say it myself. I’m a student of the arts.”
“I’ve never been the most knowledgeable when it comes to the arts. There were many classes and opportunities given in mine and Juna’s academy. I’d taken a few classes alongside Juna. She was really eager to try it herself.”
“Is Juna an artist?” Her curiosity is at once raised high.
“She can be really modest and doesn’t like to say yes to that question, but she really has a gift. While I’d been clueless more than anything, she’d catch on in mere moments. Perhaps with how studious she is and how difficult studying magic can be, learning something like art might be comparable.”
“Geez. You make it sound as if art is some kind of absurd phenomena. It isn’t that hard. It just takes more time and dedication than some things. With how much I’ve heard you’ve dedicated towards your swordplay, I’d expect that you’d be a fair artist if you’d spent more time on it.”
“Well, isn’t it? From everything I’ve ever known, art is an abstract thing that is entirely based on expression. There isn’t exactly a wrong way to do it, unlike swordplay. There most definitely is a wrong way to sword fight and I’m sure there’s been a number who have... lost out because of that. I’d even go as far as to say that art might be a form of magic itself.”
“A form of magic? You weren’t lying. You must really be lost when it comes to art.” She snickers to herself. “But it is a little bit flattering when you say it like that.”
“I’m more than likely biased from my time spent with Juna, but I have a lot of respect for anyone involved with art. It takes plenty of patience for starters. And maybe this is due to my own views and opinions as a knight as well, but anything with that sort of determination and discipline is admirable.”
“…It’s rare to hear anything that kind.” Her eyes soften suddenly and she peers down to her shoes.
“It is? I’d thought to myself that it must be par for a course that an artist would hear praise for their work.”
“Perhaps from time to time, but it’s more often than not you’d hear someone speaking of talent in the same breath. Sure there is talent involved with art just like there’s talent to anything, but it’s much more than that.”
“When you mention that, I could understand it’d be frustrating hearing those things. Nobody is born as a master. There are talented people in this world, but talent can only get you so far. What should come with that ability is the training to refine it.”
“You’re… surprisingly understanding. Have you ever heard such things as well?” There is an unmistakable feeling of interest inside of her.
“Likely not nearly to the degree that you have, but there are some who have commented saying that I’m a talented swordsman and knight. That’s far from the truth. I was as clumsy as they could come to begin with. It was necessary for me to train endlessly to reach the point in my swordsmanship I’m at right now.”
“You’re… That’s not a very arrogant way to speak of yourself.”
“Huh? Sorry, did I come off a bit differently than I’d intended to?”
“No. That’s not…” She shifts in her seat and lets the thought go. “…Would you like to continue practicing art?”
“To continue? I’ve considered it. I likely would have if I’d had more time I could devote to it. With how busy things have been ever since the tournament, I’ve still been looking for that time to spare. Given that I have plenty of duties and people to meet.”
“Well… It seems like the two of us are required to be near each other from now on. I suppose that it’d be best if we’d had a common thread holding us together.”
“You’re not wrong about that. Given everything up to this point, it feels as though I’m a bit distant at the moment without a common link. So I suppose art could serve that purpose to begin with.”
“I wouldn’t be so down about it…”
“Down about it?”
“Everything that happened is… Well, it’s in the past. I’m letting it go, so you should as well. And if you’d like to, someday I could give you some lessons in art. Because it… seems like you’re not entirely impartial to it.”
“I’m really flattered. I can tell that you haven’t all the time in the world to spend, so I’ll make sure to make the best of whatever you have to give to me.”
“Y-Yeah. That’s right. So make sure that you keep to that and don’t waste it.” She turns her eyes from mine while a lighter cherry hue is upon her. “I’ve been busy working on theater productions so I have what I need to focus on.
“The main issue I feel concerned over is that it doesn’t seem like you have all that much to gain from helping me like this. So perhaps I could teach you the basics and beginnings for studying magic? To give you something in exchange.”
“I really don’t know anything about magic, but I doubt I’d have much use for it. And besides… I’m not entirely opposed to teaching you or anything. So don’t get hung up on some repayment or some knight’s honor thing. What I’ll be doing is for the best of the kingdom. Or so I’ve been lead to believe.”
She sighs with a huff and an indignant wave is found in her brow.
“I understand what we’ll be needing to do together. But don’t go flying too close to the sun. I’ll allow all of it, but you’d better be careful about boundaries. We’ll work together for now, but when our time is up, we’ll both be on our separate ways. So it’s best that you’d make sure you don’t get too attached.”
She clutches her papers in her lap tightly. Though the pages had been pristine to start, she manages to crinkle them ever so slightly. When she catches herself, she attempts to subtly fix her mistake.
“That’s a bit of a grim way of looking at things, but I can understand your apprehension. I wasn’t at all prepared to have these kinds of a duties dropped on my head. It was nothing short of a shock”
For what seems to be the hundredth time for the day, my face flushes.
“But please don’t worry. I’m a knight before anything else and knights live by very defined standards. I won’t cause you any trouble nor distress as far as I can help it… Well, anymore than I’d already caused you in these last few days.”
“If you say so, then I guess I’ll try to exercise a bit of trust in you.” Yet after she speaks her resolve, she too grows flushed and looks back towards the wall at her shoulder. “I really hope you’re not expecting that I’ll be doing what you’d done with Plutia.”
“D-Don’t worry about that. That’s… a bit above my level and out of my own comfort zone. I’m actually glad to hear that won’t be the case. Just… We’ll work together on it.”
I scratch my cheek nervously and grasp for a continuation to the conversation to lighten up the air of embarrassment I feel.
“How long have you been attending this university?”
“This is my second year. I should have two left to go after this. I hope to be an actress someday in the future. Right now I’m studying to the best of my abilities so I can make that dream come true.”
“I can sympathize with that a little bit. It was my dream to be the Celestial Knight. I’ve managed to make it come true, but now it’s time to do the work. It’s my hope that I can help you reach for your dreams however I can. We’re both here to support Celestia and you’ll be helping me so I can reach my dreams of peace. I think it goes without saying that I’d like to repay your kindness and hard work in time to come.”
As my speech finds its conclusion, Celine mutters to herself quietly. So quietly that I’m unable to hear it at all no matter how tall my ears may stand.
“Is your dream really to protect this kingdom? Not to have your fun with women?” She looks up to me with studious eyes.
“It is.” I answer confidently and without a second’s hesitation. “Ever since we’d first met, Juna has helped me train for just that. It’s all been so that we could both help each other towards our dreams. I hadn’t the first clue about this other side to the hero’s job until the moment we’d met.”
“I was shocked as well when I’d first learned that this… Celestial Maiden business would be my job.”
“It’s okay. We’re both in a strange situation, but we can do our best to act as a team to get through this.”
“I suppose I may have been a bit hard on you to begin with, but it’s not exactly easy hearing that you’ll be so… intimate… with someone.”
“Knighthood really doesn’t entail things like… kissing. That surprise had ended up throwing a wrench into my own ideals. It’s not exactly easy, I agree.”
Given back to silence, she seems to be deeply pensive and caught up in thought. She retrains the conversation as she speaks her mind.
“You’d said that Juna is an artist. How is her work?”
“What can I say that isn’t predictable? Her style is beautiful. I don’t doubt at all that you’d adore to see it yourself. I have a particularly special painting she’d made back when we were students. If you’d like, you could come to my room and I could show it to you.”
“Y-Your room?!” Rather than look calm and cool as the moon, her face is closer to that of the sun when she hears my thoughts.
“That’s right. That painting is one of my most treasured possessions. I’d visited my house I’d lived in before being moved to the manor mostly to bring it back with me. It’s hanging up on the wall to be viewed from my bed. So if you’d like to see it, then just come with me.”
Celine is still completely red in the face and she’s bankrupt of words to speak. It takes me a beat to at last realize why that is. And my already tense nerves pull so hard they could snap with the touch of a single feather’s weight.
“Oh! Oh, no! No, no, no! Nothing like that! That’s not what I’d meant to imply! I’d just meant that the painting is placed so I can view it while I’m in bed and…! Okay, that’s still not a good explanation. B-But, I’m not saying I’m trying to bed you or anything! And I’m not implying that wouldn’t be of interest! I-I-I mean to say that you’re a lovely woman and I’m sure that someone would really be interested in that! And…!”
My own face is now as red as hers. I palm it and try my best to calm my wind.
“…I’ll just stop there before I can dig this hole deeper…”
“Y-You’re actually really clumsy, aren’t you? For a knight…”
Against all of my expectations and stressed anticipation, she doesn’t yell at me nor kick me out of the room in the instant. Instead, she lightly fidgets on her heels while lit up as brightly as light itself.
“You’ll… need my magic to save Celestia… That’s what I’ve been told.”
“Th-That’s what I keep hearing. I’m still in disbelief of it myself.”
The two of us fall into an awkward, heavy silence and we shift about in our chairs, uncertain. I resolve that it’s time to take my leave now that I’d achieved my objective of righting things with Celine lest the current situation should throw a wrench into the works.
“Thank you for your time. I’ll let you get back to work now that we’ve talked more personally.”
I stand from my seat and step towards the door. Mid stride I hear Celine’s own chair whining. I face her and she stands before me with a face reddened with embarrassment.
“Celine? What’s the mat-”
Before I can finish my sentence, she grasps at the collar of my blazer and my lips are brought down to be seized by her own. Their taste is sweet and their surface is a soft, dreamy sensation as they hold mine. She pulls me even closer and holds my jacket even tighter as she eliminates the space between us.
“If...” She pants. “If I can give you some of my magic, you’ll be stronger. You’ll be an even better knight, won’t you?”
“R-Right… But, Celine. I-”
Once more my words are snatched away by her lips which are even more forceful than before. Her hands slowly fall from their rough grasp as she places her palms against my chest and brings her own body against mine. Though the sensations are shocking and… pleasant… I’m instantly filled with worried that she’ll somehow feel the peculiar flesh lying behind my clothes. I catch hold of her hand with my own and gently separate her from myself.
“Celine? What’s gotten into you? You were just-”
A quick peck shuts me up and slays my words from the gate.
“…All that we have to do as a knight and maiden is kiss, right? After that, everything will be done, won’t it?”
She gingerly laces her fingers with my own and peers deeply into my eyes with her own the color of the starry night’s sky.
“I’d been lead to believe that would be the case, but I think we’d have to kiss more than just once…”
She begins to run her free hand from my chest and down to meet my other hand. Her fingers softly caress against my own, asking to be held. So I shyly connect even closer to her.
“Then I suppose we should do our duties while we have the chance to… T-To get it out of the way for the time being. Sh-Shall we?” Her voice is fraught with a timid frailty.
I can barely even speak. Just a few moments prior she’d been so edged and seemingly disgruntled to be in my presence. And now her character feels as if it has entirely flipped on its head.
“I’d… thought you didn’t at all...”
“This is just to do my job for now so I can… have more time to study. That’s all. If we work hard for a bit it should last through at least the week. Do you think that’s right?”
“I couldn’t tell you for sure. I don’t know how this whole kissing thing really works… Or if it does at all.”
“Then… we should try and see what happens. S-So I can have some peace and be left alone.”
She dodges my eyes for a moment as her cheeks redden themselves even more. I take a deep breath before I catch her cutely chin in my grasp. I raise her vision and her lips to meet my own.
“Then… the least we can do is try.”
She closes her eyes and they strain in a nervous tension. I take a moment to admire Celine as she leaves herself vulnerable. I meet her lips and we begin to kiss. She’s a touch rigid to start, despite that she had originally been the initiator. It isn’t much longer until she softens herself.
I feel her hand slacken to rest in my own. Her freed hand slowly, nervously wraps its fingers around the edge of my blazer. As she slowly builds her confidence, she finds her way to embracing me.
She opens her mouth just as timidly as she stands and even more walls falls down between us. We’re both caught together in the middle of the room without a care in the world. So caught up in our duties as a knight and maiden, it’s a sensation I’d never expected to share with her and yet here we’ve found ourselves.
Though I grow quite winded and need to come up for air, it feels like she’s just getting started. But I can’t hold myself any longer as I carefully push her away and take a deep breath.
“Th-That’s...” I nearly gasp.
But it seems that’s all the rest I’m getting for now as she draws me back to herself without a single warning. As hard working a woman she seems to be, perhaps she’s taking her maidenly duties just as seriously as well. If she wanted a week off to focus on her studies, I likely have no other recourse than to let her have just that. So I make sure to kiss her all the more deeply.
“Khiron...” She nearly mumbles into me.
I let my arm trace its way around her body and hold her close to me. Feeling my own embrace, she gasps, but doesn’t drop a beat. It feels like together, we set ourselves on the moon looking over the world beneath.
“Hey, Celine. I was wonderi-”
A blast of pain ravages my entire body as Celine’s teeth slam shut in surprise of hearing another voice intrude our world. She shoves me backwards and off from herself.
“Wh-Who?” I wonder, starstruck, while I seek our company.
A thin framed girl dressed in the same uniform as Celine with glasses perched before her widened eyes stands as a statue with a burning red face as if she’d fallen into a fire pit.
“O-Oh.” She stutters shyly. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were… b-busy...”
“A-Ah! N-No! You see… this… this is...” Celine herself falters her words and her hands can’t seem to find rest as they bounce around.
“I-I’ll leave you and your… h-handsome... r-really handsome boyfriend some time to… together. I-I had no clue you...”
So she brings the papers in her hands high to cover her quickly flushing face as she departs in a rush.
“W-Wait!” Celine shouts as she’s conflicted on whether or not to chase after her.
“W-We kind of were out in the open with that, weren’t we? S-Sorry about that.”
“It… It happens.” Her brow furrows. “We need to be more careful if we’re going to do this in the future.”
“You’re not off key with that. L-Looks like a sort of rerun of earlier today, huh?” I laugh nervously.
“Sh-Shut up! It’s embarrassing! Y-You-!” She nearly mumbles her next words to herself. “That was… my first time...”
She starts out the door with a strong huff and clacking in her step reverberating the room. Yet despite her dramatic start, she pauses at the doorway and looks back towards me with a demure expression.
“I’m sorry for biting you. It was a knee jerk reaction…” She caresses the door frame nervously. “I hope this is enough magic for now. S-So let me be for a bit, okay? I guess we can try again soon enough. Just to make sure that Celestia is safe. S-So… Take care.”
With that, she’s out of the room.
“That was… an experience. Though it seems we’re in the clear together now… I think… I hope that little run in isn’t going to cause any more trouble for her.”
I sigh heavily and get my own step in rhythm to see myself back to the manor.
“Are we just destined for awkwardness together?”