Chapter Sixty Five: Destined Encounter
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I’d left my room to wander about. Even if I’d resurrected and had even been gravely injured, sleep continues to evade me. And I couldn’t bear to lay alone while lost in thought for a moment longer. Not with the sheer amount of unanswered questions hard in my mind.

I’d never been a fan of hospitals, but I’d say that most anyone who is sane wouldn’t be interested in hanging around places of sickness and death. But while the wonders of other worlds witnessed yet play about in my mind, I begin to wonder to myself for the first time in my entire life if I was completely lucid myself. If I was really sane at all.

That being said, the hospital itself is one I’d never seen myself since I’d never had a reason to pay any a visit. But at the late hours walking the halls of the building has its own charm. Save but for a few nurses and doctors working the night shift, it’s all but empty.

In the center of it all, in the convergence of all windows peeking inward is a pleasant garden path where the stars shine down. The lush grass, flowers and trees give a wonderful feeling of thriving life. A welcomed change of pace after having received news of my own death. Having seen such desolate landscapes in those visions, the sight is relaxing. I stand at the railing and look towards the vibrant petals at foot. The small path lights in their bushels glow. Up above me gleams starlight that is so unlike the stars of the Stelaris.

The stars of that dream were beautiful. In their own way. But it’s wonderful to see Celestia’s own after all this time.” I catch my own slip and breathe another sigh to myself. “What am I saying? Celestia’s own? Stelaris… may not have been anything but my own delusions from death. Or… could it have been the underworld?”

Before my thoughts can slip any further into the absurd, having now poised itself at the edge of worry for Juna once more, the sound of gentle footsteps grabs my attention. Directly behind me, intentionally approaching me in the lonely setting I’d chosen.

I turn to face my oncoming company and am brought into surprise as I see the knightly uniform they wear.

A red jacket lined with golden trimming hangs from his shoulders as his arms remain beneath, outside of its sleeves. A formal, strikingly well kept white dress shirt with impeccably sharp collar tips pressed down with golden pins. That collar holds the pristine red tie which is worked so finely it could be used as a text book example. It comes complete with a golden clip fastening it in place. At his neck is a clear sight of an undershirt peaking out and to above his collar.

His black vest is clean and neat, leading down to the long, white pants he wears which carry way to the shining and well polished dress shoes clicking against the stone path.

Yet most of all, his eyes carry a keen focus in their verdant green, in them is the regal sense of refinement of a fine gentleman. His aqua colored, perfectly kept hair is as serene as calm waters.

He carries with him a sword for service but its ornate fashion of a weaved and sculpted handle shows clearly his own knightly pride. He comes bearing a cup in each hand. There isn’t a moment of wavering nor a lack of confidence as he boldly walks towards me. So I pay him the respect of facing him with my full attention.

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Pardon the intrusion, you were looking a bit contemplative out here so I’d thought I’d come and see how you’re doing.” Rounding out his gentlemanly appearance is a soothing yet firm voice.

I was a bit lost in thought, but it’s nothing to worry over. It seems I’d accidentally made myself look troubled standing out here alone.”

If you wouldn’t mind, I’d be grateful to give you some company. I’d brought a drink with your name on it. I’d thought it’d be nice to have something warm on a night like this. I hope you’re not against green tea.” He offers the cup in his left hand to me.

I have nothing against it at all. It’s very thoughtful of you.” I take his kind offering without a second thought.

The stars are so very clear tonight. You know, the moon is meant to be in Taurus right now. It won’t be there for much longer but it’s said to be the sign that is exalted with the moon. A fun trivia though it’s really only useful if you’re into that kind of thing.” His choice for an opening conversation as he moves to the railing I was leaning against. He leans his back against it and looks up to the crescent moon barely holding its illumination.

I’ve never been quite attentive to that kind of thing. Though I know that there are some forms of magic that require certain placements of the stars. Usually the types that those who are deep into the ancient magics use.”

That’s right. I’m not so sure myself if there would be any real significance to it, but it’s interesting to think about.” He takes pause to sip from his own cup which rises with steam. “Suppose I’d best just let it out already.”

He looks over to me and gives me a full smile to warm up his next words.

I’d heard that the Celestial Knight was having a stay in this hospital so when I’d seen you out here, I had to come by and meet you myself. It’s an honor to have seen you with my own eyes.”

I hadn’t expected anyone would know it was me. Well, it’s always an honor to meet with a fellow knight. Thank you for coming by to talk.”

The honor is all mine. There had been a few nurses chatting together and you were their topic of conversation. Though it was by order of his majesty to keep your presence here an utmost secret, it seems their gossiping had gotten the better of them.”

I can understand why it may have been made private information, but I wouldn’t mind it being known. Even if I’m the Celestial Knight, I’m still a citizen to this kingdom and a normal human being as anyone else.” I ramble to myself. “But that uniform you’re wearing; it’s not one that I can recall seeing before. It looks different than what the Empyrean division of the knighthood wears, that’s for certain.”

It would be a surprise if you’d know about this uniform. It’s one few wear. It’s actually the uniform worn by the knights who work in a tiny little settlement called Equo.” His face lights up at the very mention of that small town. “I’d lived there for a good bit of my life and it wasn’t until recent that I’d found myself posted here in the big city. I’d been gratefully allowed to keep this uniform while I work here. I have a personal attachment to it, so I’m grateful for that consideration.”

I feel like that name should be familiar, but whether or not I’d really ever heard of that town escapes me for now. When did you come to Empyrea?”

Only recently. At the start of the month so it hasn’t been all that long. My work today was to watch over this hospital on the night shift so it gave me this opportunity to cross paths with you.”

Returning my gaze from the stars above, for the tentative moment they had remained there, I look to him and study his face. I only now realizing that I’d been missing an important part of introductions.

My apologies. I hadn’t given you my name yet. I’m Khiron Carpenter. I’ve lived in Empyrea for all of my life and, as you know, I’d ended up becoming the Celestial Knight.”

Ended up becoming? I’m certain that it was more than a simple fluke. You’d had to have worked hard to have earned that title.” There is a chuckle in his words as he speaks humorously. “I’m grateful to meet you, Khiron. You can call me Thirteen.”

Thirteen?” I’m taken aback by the peculiarity and simplicity of his name.

That’s the name I’d been given. It’s kind of a nickname but I feel it’d be odd not to be called by it, so I hope I have your patience on that matter.”

Of course. It’s no problem to me. Thank you, Thirteen.”

There is a lull to our conversation as the two of us simply look up to the night sky. Having waited for my tea to cool, it’s only now that I take my first sip. At the right temperature, it helps to soothe my emotionally fatigued body ever so slightly.

If it isn’t so intrusive, I’d be curious to ask you about how you feel right now, Khiron.” Thirteen’s voice reaches out to the skies I watch and pulls me back down from their endless expanse.

I find his eyes again and he watches me closely, intently as if seeking.

It isn’t much of an issue. If I were to be forthright, I feel a bit tired right now. There’s been quite a bit going on lately, but I’m all set to handle it. I just need to figure out by what means I will.”

I wouldn’t expect any less from the Celestial Knight. Being the figurehead of the knighthood, Celestia’s pride and joy, is one thing alone, but I’m sure you have so much more on your shoulders with all of your duties.” That look in his eyes as if he’s looking through me continues as he gives himself a moment in thought. “It was meant to be kept a secret, for certain, but I’d come to know that you had in fact died while you were in the hospital. It must have been quite a situation if that had come to pass. But you look like you’re doing well for a corpse walking.”

It’s the very least to say that his confession catches me off guard. But I simply come to accept it and don’t miss a beat, still matching gazes with him while I begin.

It’s true; I’d died. It was odd to hear it from the doctor after I’d returned to consciousness. I’m still in disbelief myself. For many reasons.”

Doctor Hyla, right? Did you know that there are many who call her ‘Celestia’s Angel’? She’s said not only be breathtakingly beautiful, but also a prodigy in medicine. It must have made things a bit easier to have woken to her.”

Celestia’s Angel? Well, she was a pleasant. I can’t deny that.”

I’d heard that she’d started being called that name since a few patients she’d rescued in emergency situations had seen her as their first returning sight and her beauty had lead them to think that they’d met with an angel.”

That’s a bit humorous and… on the nose.”

Were you in that number?” The smile he wears jabs me.

I could be counted.”

Coming back from the dead and seeing someone like her; it makes perfect sense why you’d think that. I’m glad to have had that rumor proven true.”

He takes one last drink from his cup and finishes what was left. Picking himself up from his resting place, he visibly readies himself to carry on with his duties.

It’s been a joy to speak with you, Khiron. It seems you have much to work through and every second you have is precious. I’ll let you be to continue working on what you can.”

I appreciate the thought. I think I’ll be returning soon enough but it would be good to have a moment before I go back to that bed. They’re not the most comfortable beds in Celestia, that’s for sure.”

If fate were good, you’d never have to lay in another one of those again.” There’s a smirk on his lips. “Fate is a strange thing. Destiny even more so. It’s all a wonder, really. But that’s a thought that could needlessly prolong conversation. And I think you could use more sleep.”

Right now, I feel that sleep would be the ticket. I shouldn’t hold you from your duties as well. Thank you for the drink and the company, Thirteen. Maybe we’ll meet again someday.”

Don’t worry, we will. I’m sure of it. Until we do, make the most of your time and live the best you can.”

He pays me a short, dignified bow before waving his hand and turning heel face to return into the hospital. I watch the waving of his shouldered jacket as he goes on his way, curious as to what he’d meant that he was sure we’d reunite.

Fate and destiny.” I start pondering to myself. “The difference of the two is that fate is a path that we can’t avoid but destiny is a path that we choose. Solus used to tell me that. That maybe we are fated to be who we are but the path we walk is ultimately our own choice in destination.”

When Thirteen exits from view, back into the building, I conclude my wondering.

Then what of my life? And what should I do to help Juna? There have been too many mysteries lately and too few answers.”

I take in another spot of tea but my eyes happen to catch an anomaly that hadn’t been present before.

The small path light by where Thirteen had rested had gone out sometime, no longer shining its light. The flowers there are shadowed from its darkening.

Suppose it may need a bit of TLC or a battery check.”

When I peer down to my cup, there’s an interesting pattern like an hourglass formed from the sunken tea leaves. I shrug my shoulders to all of it, having had enough to think about and less than willing to add on anything so inane.

I thank Thirteen one last time in silence, drink the rest down and head back to my room in hoping to get some sleep.

† † †

And so comes the last major player of the story, Thirteen. Just what could the future be holding for him and Khiron? 

His character illustration may be viewed here.

https://twitter.com/LovelykNightDL/status/1703823118194893257

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