It had felt endless. All of the misery and anguish had made the morning carry the weight of years back to back. During a moment when every maiden had found themselves at a window of enough emotional strength, they’d regrouped into the lounge where they’d spent their time mourning together.
Celine had stayed as strong as she could for everyone. Unwilling to let tears flow, unwilling to be anything but the strength of all during this devastating time. Neptanie laid her head upon her lap while Marcia continued to hold fast to Venna and console her. Though her sister’s sorrow was hard enough to bear, it was plain to tell that Khiron’s passing had taken a tremendous toll on her heart as well.
Mercy was quiet. That alone was enough to chill anyone to the core. She simply sat down and idly thumbed at her clothing repeatedly while staring off to nowhere. Venna had given herself over to wails from time to time but Jupa had simply sat down so prim and proper. Despondent, unable to so much as flinch in her seat. Her appearance became reminiscent of an ornate doll forgotten upon a shelf.
So continues this time where their hearts ache together.
“Plutia had said… that his body just seemed to refuse their care.” Celine is the first to speak among her fellow maidens. “They had fixed the cracks in his bones and had gotten the bleeding to stop. They’d fixed everything but… but she’d told me that it was like he was refusing to live. It was like something was calling him away and he couldn’t stop himself.”
Her voice is alone. Though the others listen, they can’t bear to speak. Only to remain in silence given their collective states.
“They did everything they could… Everything and more. Even Hyla and Urania were there. But…”
She runs her hands through Neptanie’s hair and peers down to her sleeping face. Her mind fills with wishes that she had gone somewhere more hopeful than the world she now sleeps in. Though she had always done her best to hide the moments she would care for Neptanie from the others, now was a time when she didn’t have the strength to put up a front before anyone. She kept playing with her hair while hoping she would stay asleep for a little while longer.
“I just… don’t get it. He’d wanted to save this kingdom so badly, why would he leave it? It couldn’t have been his choice. Something else was wrong. Something that the doctors overlooked. There has to be.”
“He’s… He’s a real piece of work, but he wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t leave everyone like that. If he had the chance to return, he would.” Marcia responds to Celine yet it sounds more like she’s attempting to comfort her bereaved sister.
“I was hoping we would at least be able to spar one more time. Even if he was busy,]. Just one more time. I’m sure I’ll never find a teacher as good as him.” Now Mercy finally speaks up but her eyes remain empty.
“Plutia is doing her best to comfort Juna right now… I… I think I should…” Celine’s thoughts trail off listlessly.
Her hands pause in Neptanie’s hair as she begins to lightly wrestle about. When her eyes open and find Celine’s own, she soon speaks.
“You want to be there, don’t you?” Celine’s response is silence to her words. She takes it as her sign to proceed. “You want to be there for Juna.”
“…I’d made a promise to Khiron I would help her is why. That’s all… That’s why…”
Her tears begin to well up once again as she fights against her own heart. Hiding it away from the others.
“You should do it for him then… I can go with you so you’ll have someone to keep you company.”
“You shouldn’t push yourself too hard. You should stay here if I were to go. You need your rest.”
Neptanie simply remains silent as she wonders to herself.
“If you want to go, go. Don’t let us hold you back. I’m going to stay here with Venna for a little longer. We can… visit him eventually. Juna probably needs more support. You’re… kind of good at that sort of thing sometimes.”
By this time Venna simply holds close to her sister and buries her face into her. Unwilling to look out to the world she’d thought was so filled with beauty. Meanwhile, Mercy raises from her seat with fatigue apparent in her body. She rubs her shoulders tiredly and begins to walk forward.
“I’ll go with you then. I can help carry Neptanie if she gets tired. It’s better with more people there. The more the merrier or something.” Yet not a single singing note is to be found in her statement.
“…Do you want to go, Neptanie?” Celine asks her.
“Then off we go.” Mercy helps her up from the sofa and onto her feet.
Taking her side, the two begin on their way, but Celine spends a moment to herself as she watches them move. The rising form of Jupa catches her attention and she sways to look at her. Step by stony step she gets on the path out of the room.
“What will you be doing, Jupa?” Celine asks bluntly but out of deep care.
Of everyone, Jupa in particular worries Celine. As a new face she yet has yet to understand, she has no clue how she deals with sorrow. She had been shaken to the point of having become hollow and it frightens Celine to wonder if she’ll be able to cope. A piece of her desires to remain behind for her sake, but she’d already made her promise to Khiron she intends to keep. Still that doesn’t stop her heart from aching for her newest friend.
“…I’m… You’ll all be hungry eventually. I’ll make something for you to come back home to when you do. I’ll feed Venna and Marcia and make something special for Juna. Khiron wanted me to make sure she eats right. I’ll do that. And I’ll have something waiting for him too when he’s back.”
“He’s… coming back… He has to. I’d promised him that I’d be his wife someday. I still haven’t repaid him for saving my life…”
She states her dream so matter of fact and doesn’t miss a single beat as she continues towards the kitchen. Even if her face is hidden away from her, Celine knows just what it looks like at this moment. And that intuitive feeling is confirmed as she sees a trail of tears left on the wood floors.
It’s a moment of decision and will for her to take a step forward like the others. As she sees Neptanie and Mercy pass by and shut the threshold of the front door, she gives herself another beat and stands before it. The surface is cool against her head and it become even cooler to the touch as her face and eyes grow hot. She lightly shakes while beads drip to her feet but she stifles the moan of anguish that fights to free itself into the manor.
The moment is short. She raises herself straight and wipes away those tears silently. Her eyes are shut as she lets the light peering in from the glass of the door wash over her face. Back to having her calm, recollected, she leaves the manor behind to join the two.
She can cry later when she’s alone, she thinks to herself. For now, everyone needs her more than ever before.
✩ ✩ ✩
Khiron is ashen. His face is completely devoid of its color and the light remnants of bruising on his neck is a stark contrast to the pale complexion left of his skin. His hair is a mess, ruffled wildly and displaced all around on the pillow. Though now should have been the time that a white sheet would be pulled to hide the grim vision of his lifeless body, he is still on display for everyone.
A steady stream of light remains in the room. Two sets of hands are risen above his body, glowing with a warm light. They’re unwilling to cease, still faithful not to abandon all hope. To the other hospital staff the two seem like naive, broken souls still trapped in denial. So they’d been left to their own devices as the reports were filled and spirits were crushed to pieces.
Knowing this, without taking a pause, Hyla turns over to her friend one more time and speaks a kind word to her. The fatigue slowly sneaks its way into her melodic voice.
“Thank you, Urania, for staying with me.”
“It’s the least I can do for both of you. I suppose it’s a bit unprofessional of me to continue even to this point, but if you think there’s a reason and a purpose to this, then I won’t doubt you.”
“Just a little bit longer. Just a little bit more. I… I’m a little tired but I won’t stop until it’s done. Until there’s nothing left of us.”
“Nor will I. I’d believe this is at last the time I test my absolute limits. I’m not a magic researcher without cause, after all. I’ve gladly taken after my father.
Hyla speaks one last statement before she and Urania redouble their focus and reaffirm their vow to fight to the finish.
“I’ll keep my promise to Solus no matter what.”