As I’d remembered my plans to meet with Urania, I’d stepped on my way towards her office. Yet on the way there, I feel a small strike against my head as I pass beneath a tree. Throwing my vision high, I spot a redheaded woman among the cool green leaves.
“Looks like you’ve failed to guard yourself from a dangerous apple once again, knight. I’m starting to question your abilities.” Marcia smiles to me, pleased with herself.
“So do you just hang around in trees all day waiting to drop apples on the heads of passersby?”
“Only when I feel like it.”
And somehow I can imagine that to be more than jest.
She prepares to swing down from the branch. Her skirt nearly gives away her modesty, but I quickly throw my vision to the deep red apple laying to my right before that can happen. Though it seems that she’d decided to wear my gifted shirt today.
“You should be more careful when you dismount like that. With a skirt so short, it’s not going to cover you properly when you move around like that.”
“Why did you look away? Why not just give in already. I know you want to. All you men are perverts in the end, so there probably isn’t any use denying your true nature.”
“It’s not right for a knight to look at a woman in such an unbecoming way. As a sworn knight, I-”
“You didn’t deny what I’d said though. So I’m right, aren’t I?” She chuckles to herself.
“That’s not it… Just...”
“How about I give you a second chance. Then you can stare to your heart’s content just this once. I promise I’ll keep it between us and you can have your knight’s honor.”
She grips handfuls of her skirt and motions to lift. I snap my vision away faster than a bolt of lightning can reach from the heavens.
“I-I’ll take a miss.”
“What a shame. It looks like you’ve squandered your last opportunity. But don’t blame me if you lose control of yourself somewhere else. But of course Venna is off limits.”
“A-Anyways, I have somewhere I need to be.” I sigh and try to carry on my way.
“Hold up there, knight!” Yet she thrusts herself into my path and halts me.
“Is something the matter?”
“Speaking about knights or whatever; what’s that thing you always carry with you?”
Although I’m like a fish snagged out of water by how quickly she changes her modes, I follow her pointing finger to see the circular object latched to my belt. There is a gem at its center and it gives off a slightly silver sheen.
“This?” I too point to it.
“Yeah. That thing. I’ve noticed you wear that thing every day. I’m thinking it has something to do with that knighthood of yours you’re always obsessing over. Especially given that fancy armband you have on today.”
“This armband is a part of my job. Urania gave it to me to help me with my work-”
“Yeah, yeah. I believe you or whatever. But what about that thing?”
I pluck the object to present it to her. She takes it from my hand before I can react and begins to inspect it closely. Flipping it around in her palm, she passively listens to me as I begin.
“That is a magic shield. It’s a tool some knights use to protect themselves against both physical and magical attacks.”
Against all my expectations, I’m surprised to find that she patiently waits for my continuation.
“This one has been my personal shield for years now and it’s certainly outdated. The scope a magic shield has to withstand damage is based upon the user themselves as well as the model and its technological abilities. Since I’m not as well versed in magical attacks, I’m more capable to use the shield to defend against physical damage. And given that this model is dated now, it won’t able to endure as well as a new model could no matter my own strength.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this before. I don’t exactly hang around knights anyways.”
“Believe me, I can tell.” I accidentally let my thoughts slip.
She fires a leer towards me and I do my best to play dumb. I shrug it off and continue.
“If you’d like me to, I could show you how it works.”
“Really?” Try as she might to hide it with a dull tone, her face clearly reads of interest. “I guess it’d be something to kill some time.”
She hands the shield back to me. I return it to my belt.
“This model of shield can easily be fastened to your arm or placed on your belt like so. Of course I prefer to have it on my belt since it’s out of the way and simple enough to access. It goes without saying that this shield is a bit personal to me as well.”
With a touch of my finger against the embedded gem, I activate the machine. A small glow is emitted as it’s armed.
As per my years of experience and training, I focus my mind and envision the shield upon my left arm. A glowing light sparks and shines where I'd imagined it to be with a halo rimming its borders. Witnessing its manifestation, Marcia lets out a light gasp in awe and her hand shoots up towards her mouth. A smile plants itself upon my face seeing the rough maiden so caught.
“Of course the most usual and simplest place to manifest a magic shield would be upon the arm like this, but you can do much more with a magic shield. Take for instance; this.”
I refocus my mind and channel the magic from my arm and into a barrier before my body as I face my palm towards her. The shining light stands between us.
“It may not be the most creative usage of a magic shield, but this is one of many alternate manifestations. While the previous is useful for combat, this way is a fine means to defend others and the user themselves from trouble. It's more of a quick defense option in the face of sudden distress.”
“Wow. That's an interesting one.” She taps her knuckle against the shield and earns an echoing ring in response. “I wonder how much this thing will be able to take?”
Before I can respond, she twists her body with frightening speed and slams her heel against the surface. Though I can feel the force crash against me, I’m able to endure it without so much as drawing back into myself.
“Seems that you’re a bit more resilient than I’d given you credit for.” She says with a small smirk on her face as she grinds her heel against the shield.
“I’ve trained my best as a knight, so this much shouldn’t be anything I can’t handle.”
“I don’t know. Most people don’t stand a chance against my kicks.”
“It was an impressive one. I didn’t know you have that kind of strength in you. Seems I’d underestimated you. Have you been trained?”
“Nope. But when you need to kick someone’s ass, you’d better be able to.”
She removes heel from the shield and relaxes her stance again. But her interest in the shield doesn’t drop an inch.
“I take it that you’ve had experiences where push came to shove?”
“You could say that. So what exactly happens when this thing breaks? It has to break eventually, right?”
“Since the user must place their own strength into manifesting the shield, when their capacity is overwhelmed, the shield shatters. Depending on the amount of energy they’d invested, the user can undergo penalties from the shield’s destruction. This can range from temporary paralysis to confusion or even unconsciousness. Though some newer models have fail safes against overexertion, my model doesn’t. Instead, I’d chosen to undergo training in order to properly control and manage my own body against the effects of failure.”
“I see. So if I broke your shield right now, what would happen?”
“Since I’m not placing too much of my energy into the shield, it’d likely just collapse in front of me and we’d both be pushed back with recoil should I react appropriately as per my training.”
“So this is just a bit of your strength? Impressive. Unless you’re just inflating your abilities to look tough.”
“I can assure you that I’m no slouch. A magic shield still needs to be a shield to protect its user. If it took too much strength to use then it would be nearly self defeating and a physical shield would be the better choice. Though there are still those that prefer physical shields or attach their magical shield to a physical shield for more defense.”
“They sound useful. If only I could have had one myself back when.”
“Back when? Did you get into some fight? If you don’t mind my asking; what happened?”
“It isn’t just some story. Plenty of different things happened. A few skulls needed to be busted and some idiots needed to learn their place. If anyone steps the wrong way, I’m not going to give them the leisure to do it a second time.”
“Seems you’ve had a few run ins. That’d probably explain a few things.”
“What was that?” She sends me a strong glare.
“I didn’t ever see any of these fancy shields during the tournament. Did everyone forget theirs that day? You didn’t even use one.”
“The Celestia Hero’s Tournament has rules against usage of magical items. Since the kingdom needs a hero based entirely on their own merits, anything that could give them an edge is disallowed. So if any shields are used, they must be physical. Of course magicians who wish to be heroes have to rely entirely on their own strengths for spell casting too. That’s pretty rough on them if you’d ask me.”
“I guess that explains it. But I wonder where I could check out something like this for myself.” Her eyes yet examine the shield with intrigue.
“You’d have to find a store specializing in resources for knights. I’ve actually recently come to know a good one that I could point you towards if you’d like. Perhaps you could find a nice shield there, though it takes a bit of training to use. Say, I do get a discount. So-”
“I don’t need any of that from you. I’ll get it myself.” She takes a sharp tone with me.
“If you change your mind, all you need to do is ask and I can help set you up with something.”
“Sure, sure.” A dismissive wave is flagged my way.
“Is there anything else you’re curious about knights that you’d like to ask? You can go ahead and ask away.”
“So far you’ve managed to teach me a few new things, so thanks there, guy. Really grateful for that. Gotta say.”
Uncharacteristically polite, Marcia extends her hand towards me and has a smile decorating her lips.
“Put ‘im there!”
“You want to shake my hand?”
“Of course I do! You’d actually impressed me a bit there, so maybe I can go a bit lighter on you from here on out.”
It’s a somewhat hard belief to foster given the animosity of the past, but I can’t bring myself to shoo away any good will. We link hands and shake.
“I’m glad I can be of help. I look forward to working with you, Marcia.”
“Oh, but I think I have one last question I’d like to ask, if you don’t mind.”
“Go on ahead. I don’t mind.”
“You always carry that sword around with you. Both you and Juna are like that, even when you’re hanging around the manor. Seems like you two can never relax.”
“Well, it’s important for a knight to be as prepared as they possibly can be at all times in case of an emergency.”
“Sounds good enough. Though I’ve never really been able to see your sword myself. Not yet at least. Do you mind?”
“That’s a bit sudden, but it’s no issue.”
I deactivate my shield and take up my sword. I place the blade on my palm as I present it to her. Her eyes light up, though she hurriedly attempts to stifle her excitement.
“So this is the sword that won the tournament, is it?”
“That’s right. It’s the sword I’d fought with, but the difference is that this gem wasn’t in its handle.” I point to the red gem planted in the center of the cross guard.
“And what does that exactly do?”
“Like what you’d seen with the magic shield, this gem helps to protect the blade from damage so it can last longer. Gems can also be used for a variety of utility from improving the blade’s endurance to aiding in elemental control. This one is a shielding type but it was also infused to improve usage of fire type magic. Since usage of magic and performance altering machines isn’t allowed in the tournament, I had to do away with it. So my sword took quite a beating.”
“There are all sorts of chips in it. Looks like you might need a new one soon enough.”
“I wouldn’t dream of throwing this away. This has been my sword since I was in the academy. I’d received it as a reward for my diligence and although it’s quite a generic issue, it’s very personal to me. I haven’t had the opportunity to have it repaired yet with all of my new duties coming first, but I’ll likely go with Juna to the smith the first chance I get. For now the gem is helping to keep it intact if I need to use it.”
“Have to admit, if I’d had a sword, I’d probably get really attached to it too. I do like weapons though I’d never had anything more than a knife. When you don’t have the money, you can’t just get yourself a sword to walk around with.”
“Swords can be expensive, which is another factor as to why I still carry around this one. But a sword would be virtually useless unless you’ve had proper training as well. It seems like yourself and Venna had some difficulties before you came to this manor. Getting into fights, and by the sound of it; possible difficulties with finances. Am I misunderstanding?”
“No. You’re not entirely wrong. Sure we had hard times, but we are where we are today, aren’t we? Nothing you need to know.” Her tone once more takes an edge to it.
A slightly bitter aura begins to permeate from her as her eyes sharpen while she wanders through her memories of days long gone.
“If you ever want to talk about anything, I’d like to listen. I’d like for us to get to know each other better. Not just because of this entire maiden and knight predicament either. Outside of the friction we’ve seemed to have had, you’re an interesting person.”
Her eyes and stance soften. She watches me while seemingly in disbelief and astonishment.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Just as I’d said. You’re interesting and there’s something about you that seems magnetic. Even if you can be a bit rough, you seem curious and vibrant. All the time I’ve known you, you’ve never seemed anything but passionate. Be it your sister’s welfare or your interests and jokes. It’s hard not to feel some sort of energy with you around. Venna is a lucky girl to have a stand out sister like you.”
“Y-You’re just saying that to get on my good side, aren’t you?” Her face begins to glow a red to suit her hair and eyes. “Don’t think that you’ll get my approval with such flattery. There’s no way that I’m going to help a useless knight like you!”
“I hear you, I hear you.” I stifle a chuckle attempting to weasel its way out into the air. “For now, let’s just work on getting to know each other better. For one, as I’d offered you: if you ever want to know more about knights and knighthood, then you’re free to ask me anything you’re curious about.”
“S-Sure thing. But don’t think I’m just going to flock to you whenever. I have a life.”
“But of course. I’ll be open for whenever you feel like it.”
“I’ve enjoyed the conversation. But I should be going on my way to meet with Urania.” I sheath my sword. “I’ll be seeing y-”
When I try to release my grasp from the hilt, I find that my hand refuses to cooperate. It’s as if it’s calcified into cement.
Marcia explodes into a boisterous fit of laughter and she doubles over in its throws.
“You really fell for it just like I thought you would! You really are an easy one to read, aren’t you?”
“What is this? Why is my hand-”
She peeks her tongue out of her mouth and reveals her palm to me. I only now notice that she wears a thin, clear glove bearing a strange symbol.
“...Is that a spell insignia?”
“Now you’re catching up to pace. Nothing a little adhesion spell can’t fix, right? And don’t worry; there’s no way you’ll lose your beloved sword now!”
“Adhesion spell? How am I going to break this? I can’t go walking around with my hand constantly on my hilt! People are going to think I’m looking for a fight!”
“My, how brutish of our Celestial Knight to constantly be menacing the citizens! What would our kingdom think of such a thing?” Her smug smirk only increases in its pleasure.
I continue trying to pry myself from my sword to no avail. When it continues showing no signs of easing, I begin to force with my other hand.
“That’s not going to get you anywhere! This spell is a doozy! I would know since I’ve used it plenty of-”
With one last tug and a quick utilization of my shield to break the seal beneath my hand, I manage to tear myself away without a scratch. But with all the might I’d used to pull myself away having nowhere else to go, I stumble forwards with the ensuing momentum. Marcia being unprepared and laughing at my expense stands no chance against me. I quickly brace myself and slam into her.
We plummet onto the grass.