TEMPORARY NOTE BEFORE CHAPTER
I've been very busy with working and a multitude of things so I thank you for your patience with the faltering of the weekly uploading schedule. This will resume in time as I get a bit more sleep. This author happens to be quite busy and sleep deprived most often. wwwww As a bonus, I'll be adding one more chapter due to the schedule slip and will attempt to catch up with all activity regarding the story on this site!
This chapter is the finale for Part Three. As Part Four comes into the fray, the momentum builds for all of the novel's first half! Look forward to it!
Thank you all ever so much for your kindly support.
I’d collected my newly purchased belongings and departed into the streets with a full smile, but that glimmer of joy slowly began to slip off more and more with each step. All until I’d reached the manor.
I sit at its front steps with a listless spirit and dulled senses while I stare blankly far off to a thousand yards away. The full bags are set at my sides as my companions seated with me for my dispirited pouting.
“...I suppose this is what they call buyer’s remorse.” I talk to the goods. “All I was thinking of buying was that snow globe for Juna, and yet…”
I sigh out all of sulking spirit and slap my face to get all of my cards back into the pack. Though I’d ended up going overboard, and my wallet has seen better days, therein lies opportunities to give out some good will to the rest of the maidens.
“...And the discount was only for armor and weaponry. This wasn’t a cheap ticket... How did she talk me into buying all of this stuff? It’s all so blurry.”
✩ ✩ ✩
“Yo, Celestial Knight. What’s with all the baggage?”
Mercy is the first to greet me as I enter the manor. She’s nonchalant and cool as a cucumber in her approach, but the curiosity is written on her face.
“It’s a bit of a story, but hey, I have plenty to give out.”
“In the gift giving spirit, are we?” She snickers. “Today must have gone pretty well for you to get you into this kind of mood.”
“It… had plenty in it. That’s for sure.”
“Got anything in your bags to spare this way?”
“Well, I’ve got some shirts, a few dolls and-” I start to think over the contents I carry.
“Wait a second. Is that soup?”
She points to the solitary bag holding a rather large canned container.
“I’d heard some good things about it, so I’d given in and got some.”
Before I can give the say so, she yanks the bag from my hand and looks down into it with a full, winning smile.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about! This is mine now.”
“O-Oh. If you’re interested in it, then by all means go ahead and enjoy yourself.”
“Most graciously! Thanks plenty for the gift! It’s going to get its fullest use here with me!”
Lifting the can above her head, she scoots her heels and takes off into the room with a purpose.
“I take it she enjoys soup.” I’m seized with a chuckling. “That’s one down. Suppose I might be able to make all of this binge spending feel justified after all.”
✩ ✩ ✩
When I’d bought all of this, I feel like I’d originally had a set plan, but it washed away the more I gave into a cat-like fervor. With a quick regrouping, I’d picked out how I would divvy up the spoils.
In the resting quarters is a set of twins who relax together lazily. While Venna sits with a book opened before her, Marcia has her feet on her sister’s lap and lays around like a lazy cat with a full belly.
“Khiron’s back!” Venna cheers as she sees me.
She shuts her book and gives me her full attention. Meanwhile Marcia seems rather grumpy having been pulled out from her napping.
“Oh, great. That guy.”
“I’d gotten a little something for both of you. Since you two seem to like matching each other, how would you like some matching clothes?”
“Geez. Talk about stereotyping. Just because we’re twins doesn’t mean we do everything the same!”
“Marcia, you’re wearing the same clothes as I am right now and you’re right here with me. No need to be so snippy to Khiron!”
“Sh-Shut it, you!” Marcia flushes with a disgruntled look on her face.
“What is it? What have you got for us?” Her sister, meanwhile, is high strung with anticipation.
I brandish the matching shirts of complimenting designs and color and give them to the duo. She’s all aboard and immediately takes an interest in the design. On its front is a hummingbird with splashes of colorful blues and yellows.
Marcia is mostly stony but it’s obvious she keeps her lips from raising against her will. She seems particularly taken with the reds and greens that are paired alongside the design of a sawfish.
“I-It’s okay, I guess.” Her words come out quietly as if to stealth their way past me.
“How did you know I adore birds?”
“I’d taken an educated guess. Though I’d expected a sawfish would be closer to Marcia’s fancy. You know, give her personality and all.”
“What the heck do you mean by that?”
“But you do like sawfish.”
“C-Come on! Are you going to do that every time!”
“You should just be a little bit more honest with yourself and others. I wish people could see my sweet sister for all she is more easily.”
“Why do I put up with you sometimes?”
Marcia hides her face away by placing her jaw in her palm and looking into the interior of the room all the while her sister continues to tease her with laughter. The exchange between two close sisters is enough to rub off on me and I feel a giddy bubble welling up in my breast.
“What the heck are you still doing here? Hoping we’ll swap shirts so you can creep on us?”
“I-I’d of course like to see how they’d fit on you two sometime, but not, like, right now, of course!” I blush at her blunt and crass statement.
“You’re out of luck, dude! Just buying me a shirt isn’t enough to get you near my sister!”
“Come on now, Marcia! Is that any way to treat someone who gave you a gift?” She pats her edged sister on the head and treats her like a kid.
“E-Enough of that! If you’re going to be like that, then I’ll just get it out and over with!” She lightly swats her sister’s hand out of her hair. “...The shirts or whatever. Thanks.”
“That’s so much better! You can be a good girl sometimes!”
Venna catches her sister into an embrace and begins to stroke her hair, much to Marcia’s mortification.
“I-I told you to quit that! N-Not in front of him…”
✩ ✩ ✩
With the strange meetings I’d had with the three other maidens for the day, I take to a more subtle approach to giving them their gifts. I quietly place a bag on their door for whenever they’d check it themselves.
For Neptanie, I’d chosen a fluffy, cute frog doll dressed in a yellow rain coat. Given how she’d seemed to blissful in the garden today, I’d expected she’d enjoy something simple and adorable.
For Plutia it had been a curious book from foreign lands that I’d been told many knights of that kingdom had read. Since she’s an assistant, I’d reasoned that it would at least be of interest to her. Something a bit more cerebral or of antique curiosity.
And then to round it all off, I’d placed a musical CD on Celine’s door. Some singer from the past in a foreign island somewhere. Kawakami Midori, the idol singer sensation.
For the day’s climax, I knock on Juna’s door. Despite myself, I feel a few nerves bundling together during my wait. She’s quick to answer and the door opens to reveal that she’s clad in only a dress shirt which hangs down to the high of her thigh.
“Khiron? You’re back?”
“I’d arrived about half an hour ago. I’d spent some time in town, so that took up a bit of my day. Are you preparing to sleep now? It’s a bit earlier than usual.”
“I was just relaxing. I’d studied plenty today and was planning on taking the rest of it off.”
“You definitely deserve it with all the hard work you’ve been doing. Mind if I come in?”
“Of course not.”
I step inside and find that she’d switched out her study books for another form of literature. A simple novel is on her desk in place of the bulky types she’s always so attached to. She retakes her seat at her desk while I rest myself on her bed.
“Still reading, huh? If you keep that up, you might be needing glasses soon.”
“I really can push my limits, can’t I? But you were gone and all, so I wasn’t sure what else to do. I was feeling a bit shy, so I’d stayed in my room.”
“I don’t think it would hurt for you to get a little bit more acquainted with your fellow maidens. Perhaps next time you can visit with them for a bit. After everything I’ve heard, they really seem to have taken a curiosity and shine to you. But both of us can really be shy from time to time.”
“You’re probably right. It’s really antisocial of me to shell myself away. I do feel a little bad being so shut in all this time.”
In the pause, she points to the bag I carry.
“What’s that you’ve got there?”
“This. It’s for you.”
I reach into the bag and pull out the snow globe. Her eyes light up seeing it and she takes it into her hands excitedly.
“This… It’s so cute. Is this… that legendary snowball?”
“The shopkeeper had told me something about the guy, but I wasn’t expecting you would already have heard about him.”
“Of course I have! I’ve read a few of the stories about him! They’d translated some into Celestian, though anything apart from those books is really rare to come by! Thank you so, so much, Khiron! I love it!”
She places the snow globe onto her desk and captures me into her arms.
“I’m glad I wasn’t wrong that you’d enjoy it. If we’ve been together for this long and I’d gotten it wrong, then I’d really have failed.”
The two of us carry on chatting together and I fill her in on the outcome with Celine and the peculiar salesman that had managed to reel me into becoming a big spender for the day. We have ourselves a good laugh over it.
“I want to repay you and I think I know just the way I can.”
“No need to repay at all of course. This was just a simple gi-”
She pushes me into muteness by she pushing her lips against my cheek.
“I think we’ve both had pretty full days. Maybe you should go and get some sleep.” She cautions me forward.
My mind stumbles and the words are far and out the window, but I give a good chase and catch them all before the breeze can scatter them.
“You’re right… I am a little bit tired. I’ll… get some rest for the day.”
I raise up from the bed and reach the door where we share a final parting for the night.
“Good night, Khiron. You did wonderful today.”
✩ ✩ ✩
The rest of the presents to be are stored away in my closet. With the amount I’d purchased, there’s still more left over, but I would make sure it doesn’t go to waste. In the future, I’d give them out as well.
But that fancy black and gold tie is all mine to keep.
Working on things to close out the day, a peculiar sight catches my peripheral vision. I spot the mirror and catch a red mark left behind on my cheek. One more print the shape of lips left behind. The sweet remnant of Juna’s kiss.
A flowing joy gushes from my heart as I see it and touch it.
For tonight, I’d be keeping this one to savor it all that I can. Though I dread that I’ll have to wipe it all away again come morning light.