Voices upon voices, noise on noise.
I rise through a sea of sound and I feel myself ascending towards the light waving at the surface. When I break through and find myself in the surf, I take a breath. All the sound silences and draws into the ringing of a single voice.
Standing before me in the white smear of a room is a woman in white. Her long hair sweeps like dancing rays. Around her is arcing light reaching far from her like outstretched wings.
I blink my tired eyes and my visual begins to clear. All that I’d seen which was once only white is now painted with color. The spreading wings are but the long fabric of a lab coat caught with the rays of dusk sunlight peering in through the window.
That very sunset catches in her hair and although once seemingly white, it is now as rich as fields of wheat ready for the harvest. While I dial into focus, her kindly eyes radiant like the morning heavens stare right back into mine.
She’s dressed as a knight yet carries herself as innocently as a fair maiden.
“You’re conscious.” She speaks with a note of relief in her voice. “So much sooner than I’d anticipated. My prayers have been answered.”
With one last blink, the finer details tune in with my vision. I can see the soft and sensitive features of my company’s face. Naturally glowing, made even more striking from the red of dusk, she is breathtakingly radiant.
“Hello, Sir Celestial Knight. I’m Doctor Leoticae Hyla. I’m here to take care of you. Please allow me to perform a few checks for your health. I promise none of it will hurt.” Her soft voice conveys her utmost care.
Before wagering to ask any unnecessary questions, I glance about the room to make sense of the setting. It’s quickly obvious that I’m in a hospital room. Given how blank and white it is with few amenities save for a dresser, cupboard and counter spaces, that much is clear to me. I lay beneath a white sheet and look up to her from the padding of the bed.
My attention naturally returns to her; the one who is a pleasant sight to see. Though I remain silent, contemplative and a bit mixed up. I’m easily caught on her beauty as she stares back at me unabashed. After confirming a silent affirmation on my part she goes about her duties, beginning with a vision test using a small pen flashlight.
✩ ✩ ✩
Concluding the procedures, she takes a seat before me on a rolling stool.
“I have both good news and bad news. But there’s nothing you have to worry over; the bad news is over with.” The smile Hyla pays me is sweet, comfortingly so. “For the bad, I regret to inform you that you’d suffered an accident. But you’re going to make it through just fine. Most of the trouble has already passed.”
She allows me the courtesy of a pause in her recounting events for my sake. I contemplate what I’ve been told and through a stuttered mind, attempt to piece together what had come before my enrollment into this hospital. Images flicker one after another, memories returning. Or what I can fathom are memories.
A world where even the heavens were held prisoner.
The death of someone beloved in the merciless fields of war.
A grand and infinite library filled with limitless books.
I feel an aching in my chest begin as the scar soon pays me its own hello for my return. From there my head begins to ache alongside it. A disgusting feeling catches up to me, a weighty emotion of despair.
“I’d… been in a bear attack?”
“Oh my.” She stifles a small laugh from hearing my ludicrous attempt at guessing. “No, there was no wildlife involved. Especially nothing as imposing as a bear.”
“It was a Feral, wasn’t it? The bear? I’d…”
“There were no feral bears around at the time of the incident. Though with how things played out for you, I can understand why you’d feel that could be the case.”
“Feral… Feral exist, right?”
“There are feral animals, sure.” She lightly runs her pen against the memo pad she has placed on her lap. “It seems that you’re suffering from disorientation yet. That’s only natural, don’t worry. It was quite an incidence.”
“What really happened then? I’m struggling to recall.”
“Before that, could you please tell me your name and date of birth? Just to check up on your long term memory is all.” She soothes my rising nerves with her gentle bedside manner.
“My name is Khiron Carpenter. I was born in the year 2010 on the date of December the 9th.”
“It seems that your memory is doing well despite being a bit shaken up. That’s a relief, isn’t it?”
Folding one leg over the other daintily, she looks into my eyes and all of her concern is conveyed through the most minute twinkling found therein.
“I’ll let you know what was reported to have happened. So please just relax and listen.”
✩ ✩ ✩
Hyla had recounted everything to me. The storm, that I had been reported to have taken off after Juna, having feared for her life. I’d entered into a training center and had secluded us both before her own mishandling of a magic spell had caused a severe incident. I’d carried her body all the way to the infirmary and from that point had collapsed completely unconscious.
The impact I’d endured had resulted in severe damage to my soft tissues and skeleton. Though given how I had carried on in spite of that, it’s a miracle I’d managed to have traveled as far as I had given the range of my injuries.
“Juna is safe. She’s okay.” Hyla quickly puts my qualms to rest. I can feel her empathy bleeding through, understanding well how disturbed I could become at the worries for my friend’s safety. “She’d gotten away with little more than a mild concussion. Due to her injuries she was unconscious for a bit of time but had come back together quite well. The one that you should be worried about is yourself.”
“I feel just fine. I think I’m well enough to leave this place by tonight. But I would really appreciate if I could see Juna.”
“Take a moment to relax. You’ll be able to see her soon enough, but I couldn’t, in good conscience, let you leave until I’d made sure for myself that you’re in the right condition to. And besides, you haven’t heard the most important part of the event you’d endured.”
I respectfully but reluctantly do as she requests. Reclining deeper into the bed, I keep my eyes on her and sigh deeply.
“I’d thought that it had might be best that you’d hear it from someone you yourself have a personal history with. So as we’d been talking, I’d sent out a notice for her to come and pay you a visit.”
At the end of her statement, a knocking clacks at the door.
“It seems that she’s arrived with the most impeccable timing. It’s okay to come in.” She calls to notify the visitor behind the door.
As the door sweeps open, I feel relieved at the sight of a woman with darker violet hair. She approaches and her usually elegant and confident face is uncharacteristically downcast. Though she does her best to quickly put that look away as our eyes meet.
“Plutia. It’s good to see you.”
“Khiron… I’m grateful that you’re coming along. It’s good to see you as well.” She gives a light sigh. “Thank you for notifying me first thing, Hyla. I came as quickly as I could.”
“Of course. It’s the least I could do.”
After their small greeting, Plutia takes the seat by my bed and the two discuss simple matters before Hyla passes the torch off to her.
“Now, Khiron. This is likely going to come as quite a shock to you, so just unwind listen to what I have to tell you.”
She folds her hands in her lap, tentative and uncertain despite her usual confidence. Piecing it together in her mind, she heaves another sigh as she finds her place to begin.
“Hyla had already told you well enough that you’d met quite a shocking fate. There were plenty of knights and paramedics who’d laid eyes on you and couldn’t help but think that you’d looked like the reaper was breathing down your back.”
“I understand that I’d been gravely injured, but I’m doing very well right now. I have all of my limbs, my digits, I don’t really feel any notable pain. For all that I can tell, I think I’m ready to be off.”
“I’m sure that you’re more than eager to return to work, and it is extremely important work, but it can wait for a bit. We’ll manage all that we can.”
She nods her head as a gesture to settle myself down even further despite my hangups.
“I’m not sure how to say this…”
Yet another pause keeps her as she continues to struggle. Exchanging glances with Hyla, Plutia finally gathers the last sum of courage she needs to come right out and say it.
“You’d died, Khiron. You were dead for an entire day.”
I can hardly believe what I hear. Stunned silence is all I have as my response as I’m held fast to her violet eyes. Somewhere in there, I think to myself, must be a sign that she’s being facetious. Yet the way she stares into me makes it clear that she’s absolutely serious.
“I was… dead?”
My mind turns in on itself and takes me back into the deadly halls of the Zodiac Prison. Remembering the hissing of the large, metal doors as they opened. The prisoners I’d witnessed in their cells either emaciated and poor or laying in dried, dark puddles.
I slowly rise from my bed and as Plutia and Hyla give an attempt to prevent me, I gently hold up a hand to both of them. They pause in their tracks and simply watch me as I rise to my feet. I’m stable, without a single flinch or sign of weakness as I make way to the window. I open it up and lean outside to stare up at the sky.
The sunset light falls upon the far off hilltops and shines through the city with large, streaking rays of gold. Not a single sign of glass to be found, no stars held captive. Yet while I stare out to the streets beneath, I receive flashbacks to the streets of Stelaris that lived in a lull under the watchful moon that was as much of a prisoner as the citizens.
“Khiron… what is it?” Plutia asks me, dueling with worry.
“It’s nothing. I’d just needed to see the sky. I’d wanted to confirm something for myself.”
I stand still, staring out for a moment longer when I begin to wonder to myself.
“Fortino… could you still be alive? Or was it all just a dream?”