For all the negative aspects that the scar has brought into my life, a silver lining is the fact that when compared with everything I’ve ever experienced, most pain is a trifling matter. Despite that Celine had unfortunately come down on my tongue like a guillotine on accident, it’s fairly minor for me to handle.
And yet the absurdity of the situation itself weighs heavy on my mind and makes me lose sight of where my feet take me. I only come back to earth from my scattered thoughts when I see myself in an uncommon district.
Bursting with activity, stores and stands every which way. The business owners call out for customers and speak of the values and deals they offer. Though there are plenty of times that I’ve wandered through this section to do shopping, it had been a fair sum of time since my previous visit.
As I pass by a fruit stand, I find a store with weapons and armor on display in its windows. The sign hanging above reads, “Gold InGot Armory”. The middle character of “ingot” being intentionally left emphasized. Upon closer inspection of smaller, more difficult to read characters, I find it too has written on its face an addendum; “& Sundries”.
Calling back to mind Urania’s information on my new armband, into an adventurous spirit to break up the off key pace for the day.
✩ ✩ ✩
Weapons and armor lines the walls and displays of merchandise. Just as the sign had very subtly advertised, there certainly is a variety of merchandise. While I’d expected an arrangement, I hadn’t seen the scope of the goods coming. Even clothes are included in the catalog.
The moment I take my first step, the attendant at the counter turns about quickly and greets me with a full smile on her face. With fashionable clothing perfect for a sales representative and an overwhelming energy, she’s more than prepared to make herself a new customer.
As I draw closer, I begin to see that her characteristics are different than the usual person’s. For starters, her hair, rather than being of a single color, has dueling tones of gray and a mid level brown. Her eager eyes beaming towards me as if I’m a mouse ready to be captured are a sweetly hazel. Now such a look is quite remarkable in and of itself, but the final pieces to complete her appearance are utterly unexpected.
Perched atop her head are two pointy ears which bounce and twitch with excitement. They are entirely like those of a cat. Meanwhile her eyes dilate into slivers. She keeps them trained hard on me as if I’m prey. Though despite her unusual self, she doesn’t feel overly foreign. After all, there are a handful of others that share her culture.
A feline, they’re often called. Individuals hailing from foreign lands that few if any in Celestia have ever visited. Most of the knowledge of their culture comes from our visitors and the records that have been kept throughout the ages. Though most end up becoming salesmen just as this woman has. Perhaps it’s their unique charm and rumored abilities of persuasion and pursuit that make them a good fit to such roles.
“Greetings, greetings! Glad to see you, glad to have you! Now what can I do for you on this fine day?” She welcomes me with her her sky high energy spilling out and into the room.
“I’d come by and-”
“Hey, hey! Look at that arm band you’ve got there! Looks like today is a good day and an honor~!” She merrily chirps while stepping on my words. “The Celestial Knight himself is gracing my store! Sometimes it’s pretty good to be alive!”
And with the end of her statement, her head momentarily falls slack to stare at the counter while a haze hangs over her.
“...But some days it’s unparalleled suffering.”
“A-Ah. Are you ok-”
“Just wonderful! Never better! But you know what isn’t okay? These crash prices reserved just for you, my friend!”
She snaps back to sunshine so rapidly that I can almost feel whiplash from the rotation of the earth.
“You see, this kingdom has recognized my store as an official seller to those fancy knights we have walking these streets! So it looks like you’ve got yourself a special menu to choose from as well as some more incentive for doing your due diligence to save this kingdom! Back when before all of this I used to sell plenty of random stuff, so I’d thought I’d might as well continue with my new store license. No use chucking out old inventory when you can expand a customer base, right?”
“Is that so? I really can’t recall ever seeing this store before, so that answers one of my questions.”
“Is your next question what kind of new, beautiful blade I can deal to you to cut through some freakish monsters and be the hero you are?”
“I’m not exactly in the market for a new sword. And this armor I’m wearing is fairly new itself. I’m not in dire need of anything of the sort, but I was just curious about your store is all.”
“I see, I see. If you ever have a need for something or you happen to change that mind of yours, don’t forget to come directly to me! But since you’re looking to see what I’ve got here, I’ll show you just that!”
Pulling out a box from beneath a counter, she brandishes a silken black tie with a golden symbol upon its bottom most portion.
“Since you seem like the real proper type, looking at you, here’s something that will likely be of interest! This fine tie is a rare item that is very limited in supply! Its knitting is the greatest quality one can find and it too is a symbol of wealth and prosperity!”
She hands the tie to me and I give it a closer look to discover that two golden letters are captured within the golden circle on its surface.
“What is this insignia? I can’t recall ever seeing it before.”
“That is an excellent question, my friend! You see, this tie is a symbol of a foreign business company! It was quite a profitable one and had wonderful success!” She then turns to whispering under her breath. “You know, besides the entire thing with those murder situations.”
“I’m sorry, but did you just mention murder?”
“It’s no problem at all! Don’t mind my muttering! With how elusive this tie is in Celestia, I’m sure you can understand why it’s such a rare item! But my, is it so fashionable! A stark contrast of colors that compliment each other making for a sleek and stylish fashion that is understated but profound once you’ve noticed it! A real attention grabber when it needs to be, it holds a certain authority and power that it bequeaths to anyone fortunate enough to wear it!”
“That’s quite the description. Though I’m not entirely sure if anything like that is real, it does look pretty nice. But how did you manage to get this transported to this island?”
“I have my ways.”
She gives me a wide grin and the conversations seems to fall out of the air for a solid few seconds.
“...And I miss my friend. I miss him so much.”
Suddenly she’s back to being painfully crestfallen. Her pointed ears fall like loose and soggy leaves. The sepulchral aura and expression about her is enough to nearly strip the colors from the room as if it’s been doused with a generous helping of paint thinner.
“I-I’m… sorry to hear-”
“I’m all good! Enjoying life here on this island! Even if I’d wished I could go back, I can’t yet until I’ve gotten the official okay from the kingdom! Though that’s taking a while.”
“Well, Celestia is really strict with its foreign affairs. In my entire life I’ve only seen a handful of outsiders. I haven’t ever gotten the chance to speak with any of them myself outside of business. If it makes you feel a little bit better, none of us Celestians can leave either unless we have an important purpose. The few people who really seem to be able to are the Celestial Knights of the past.”
“Do you mean to say that you could leave?!” Her ears stand tall and dance as she’s overcome with interest.
“W-Well, I’m not going to be able to go anywhere until Eclipse is dealt with. I couldn’t quite help you out there at the moment.”
“Ah. That’s unfortunate. But you’re the Celestial Knight! You’re probably in good graces with the kingdom and maybe even the king himself! Would you please, please put in a word for my papers?”
She makes an adorable, kitty cat face to sway my heart. It’d be a hard sell for even a hardened man to let a “no” fall from their lips.
“I’m sure I could do something to help. Though I’d think that I’d need a name so they’d know who I’m talking about.”
“Mia! My name is Mia! I’d entirely forgotten to introduce myself at the start!”
“I’m Khiron. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’d tell you a bit more about myself, but I’m sure you already understand my job well enough.”
“Right you are, sir! How could I possibly forget the one who will be saving the kingdom? I’ll make sure to be the best provider for your journeys!”
She snaps her finger and continues on without wasting a single second.
“And speaking of wares; there’s more rare goods where that came from! Since you’re mister knight, I’m all open to showing you the rarest items I’ve got!”
Quickly fetching a fine box of measurable size, she fishes out another peculiar article. With a crystal clear glass containing water and a little world inside, small white flakes fall like snow within it.
“Behold! The snow globe!”
“Oh, I’ve seen one of these before. They’re a bit of a neat trinket, aren’t they?”
“Oh, sir! You misunderstand! This isn’t just some trinket, but memorabilia of a hero!”
I look again and spot the small, white sphere I’d entirely overlooked thanks to its rather simplistic design. It bears a full smile on its cute face while it sits atop a wintry hill with a candy cane standing tall beside it.
“What is that?”
“That is none other than the great elf turned snowball who just so happened to have saved Christmas!”
I stare towards the globe in her hand teeming with a flurry of snow blankly while I attempt to understand just what in the blazes I’m being told.
“It’s… a foreign festival.”
“So this creature saved a festival?”
“Sort of. It’s kind of important since it’s celebrated all over in that world. But that shouldn’t stop you from recognizing the pure valor this little guy displayed as he took out a demon with his snowy powers! It’s thanks to him that the children were filled with joy!”
And she snaps away to stare blankly at the wall with a light fallen from her eyes.
“…Those poor elf slaves though...”
“Tell me: are you sweet on anyone?” Her cat-like glimmer returns as if it had never left.
Juna’s face quickly flashes in my mind as I contemplate her question. And she’s followed by the likes of the other Celestial Maidens one after another.
“I wouldn’t… particularly say I am. But I suppose it’s a bit of a strange situation that I’m not entirely able to share… For various reasons.”
“Ohoho~! Seems like a nice way to evade speaking truth in your heart! Somebody has a lovely one on their mind! You see, all of these rare knickknacks would make for some wonderful gifts to win over some hearts. And it may be a rumor, but I’ve heard that the Celestial Knight really is a popular one. I wonder if it’d help to ease up some of the burdens of your journey to give out some special presents here and there. I’m sure it’ll earn you some easy affection points.”
All the times I’d spent fretting over growing deeper bonds with all of the maidens and overcoming the nerves that seem to find me more often than not comes to light. Giving some gifts could help ease some tensions and then help those that aren’t entirely against me. Off the top of my head I reason that both Celine and Marcia might enjoy something of a gift.
“Now that you mention it, I suppose that wouldn’t be entirely out of the question. If anything, it could help this predicament I’ve found myself in.”
“Predicament, you say? Get on your cutie’s bad side? Cheat on her with various dames and want to make up for your grand infidelity? Have yourself a host of lovers thanks to your newfound fame and glory!”
“H-Hey! Where did that come from?! That’s not… There’s…”
My mouth seals shut with a bolt and lock. All the while I try to think my way out of her devious questions, she leans in closer to me and her face becomes even more smug as her eyebrows raise and her eyes peer at me with a teasing curiosity.
“…You’re wrong about two of those.”
“Hehehe~! I’d thought I would hit the target with enough arrows! So what do you say there? Want to make some girls smile? I promise that my services could help you out.”
At once I envision meeting Juna at her door. Caught up with her studies to late hours as usual, she’s a bit fatigued from the day. Seeing such a gift raises her spirits and energy to keep going. With how much she’d helped me earlier on with that... Plutia situation… it’d be nice to show her more of my gratitude however possible.
But I’m yet a little shy on the draw to answer Mia, so I point to another little item in curiosity. It’s oddly shaped with small snags and aberrations to its form. As if the fabric of reality itself had unfortunately buckled around its body. It’s a bit hard on the eyes, but it has a certain ugly-cute quality to it.
“What’s that bug thing?”
“It’s a bug.” Her answer is a bit underwhelming for starters.
“Not quite getting it? You see, when a computer program has an error...”
“Ah, I think I’ve seen that a few times. I’m sure Urania would know all about that.”
“Urania sure sounds like a cute name. One of those girls you’ve got wrapped around your finger? Don’t you think she’d enjoy this?”
“Nothing like that. She’s sort of an outsider to everything. But all things considered...”
Step by step I’m reeled into her salesmanship and exotic charm until…