Even in Darkness, the Sun Shines
When the future Sun Knight Platoon met their future Captain for the first time, their first thought was, “This is the Sun Knight that we are going to serve.” Their future Captain looked like the Sun Knight of the legends, too perfect to even describe. Their hearts soared at the sight of his benevolent smile and his elegant demeanor. All twenty-five of them decided right then and there that there was no person more perfect than their future Captain. They couldn’t wait to serve him.
The higher their expectations, the easier they were to destroy.
“The sunlight is brilliant today thanks to the God of Light’s generosity, bright enough to pierce the deepest darkness in our hearts, so bright that Grisia was blinded but for a moment and let slip his sword. Please accept Grisia’s sincerest apologies for his grave mistake,” rambled their future Captain.
After the millionth time of having a sword fly at your neck, anyone would doubt the future Sun Knight’s abilities even if the future Sun Knight had the impressive skill to spin any tale into his favor or to talk so convolutedly that people got lost in his praises about the God of Light and forgot all together what he was talking about in the first place.
Adair was perhaps the person most disappointed by his future Captain, and one of the first, if not the first, to wish he had been born earlier so that he could have served in the previous Sun Knight Platoon under the Sun Knight known as the strongest Sun Knight of all times instead of this future Sun Knight who Adair suspected was all appearances only.
Their Sun Knight was weak.
Certainly, he fell flat on his face after his third cup of wine like the Sun Knight of legends, and he had skin as fair as white snow and a smile as radiant as the sun, and he ignored all women in his vicinity and never even looked at them, but that didn’t add up to “Sun Knight” for Adair.
That was why Adair refused to take any orders from his future Captain. He even wondered if he should transfer to another platoon with a captain he approved of more, like the future Leaf Knight’s platoon, but Adair was a stubborn guy, so even though he did not approve of his Captain, he stubbornly stayed with the Sun Knight Platoon and stubbornly rebutted the future Sun Knight each step of the way.
Serving the Sun Knight had been his dream. He wasn’t going to let go of that so easily.
“I refuse,” Adair said when his future Captain commanded him to fight a skeleton warrior they had been sent out to exterminate to test the future platoon’s capabilities.
The future Sun Knight merely looked at him patiently, wide smile in place, but Adair wasn’t going to be tricked by that smile as he had been before his delusions had been shattered.
“May Grisia ask why you refuse to rid our city of this pitiful creature that should have been laid to rest already? May the God of Light take pity on this lost lamb.”
“Captain,” Adair stressed even though the person before him wasn’t yet his Captain and Adair didn’t see him as his Captain either, but the point was, he was their future Captain, so that meant he had an example to set and a lot to answer to before any of them would follow him willingly and wholeheartedly. “We all know you absolutely detest undead creatures. Please, don’t hold back because of us.”
What Adair really meant was, Prove to us you can fight.
For a second, Adair saw his future Captain’s smile waver before the golden-haired teenager who was not yet old enough or impressive enough to be called a man turned and pointed his sword at the skeleton, sunlight glinting more off his hair than off his blade.
“Cease your movements, you detestable creature!” his future Captain yelled in a clear voice. “The time has come for you to return to the earth from whence you came!”
The holy knights next to Adair looked somewhat impressed. Adair wasn’t. He watched as his future Captain dashed forward to whack at the skeleton. Adair was a skilled swordsman in his own right and could tell how his future Captain wasn’t holding his sword right, how his strikes were hitting in all the wrong places, how any moment now, his future Captain was going to find his sword missing from his hand…
There went the sword.
It was a disaster to watch. His fellow holy knights yelled out encouragements, and some were probably even tricked by the show their future Captain had put on, but Adair hadn’t been tricked. He was surprised, however, when his future Captain dived for his sword, retrieved it, swung at the skeleton again, and caused the skeleton to crumble into pieces after a burst of white light. Adair had almost been blinded when that had happened.
Adair stared. He actually knew from the start that whacking at a skeleton was stupid unless you went for its joints — after all, it was all bones — but his future Captain had somehow disintegrated the skeleton all together, most likely with some well-timed holy magic. The skeleton was now a pile of dust on the ground.
Everyone around him clapped heartily.
His future Captain turned to Adair with a warm smile. “Grisia must thank you for allowing him to carry out the God of Light’s will today, surrounded by all of his fellow brothers who must have been enlightened by what the God of Light wished for us to learn from this encounter.”
Through his future Captain’s extravagant speech that caused many of his fellow holy knights to blink incomprehensibly, Adair heard the underlying message.
Don’t underestimate me.
Being the stubborn guy that he was, Adair wasn’t that easily convinced even if his future Captain wasn’t as weak as he thought. All Adair had learned was that his future Captain was also sneaky. He continued to rebut his future Captain, questioning his actions, and forcing his future Captain to do things personally instead of having one of them do it. Adair did not believe for a moment that their future Captain was better than them, that he shouldn’t get down and dirty like the rest of them.
Adair became even more skeptical of his future Captain when he discovered his future Captain knew even more swear words than he did and that his future Captain held grudges for a very long time. Oh, how he held grudges.
There wasn’t a day when Adair didn’t find misfortune befalling him.
On top of being a terrible swordsman, his future Captain was a fraud. He wasn’t even the benevolent person Adair had thought him to be. That shattered his world even more, his dreams of serving the perfect Sun Knight falling to pieces around his feet.
Before he knew it, Adair had become the leader of the sun knights in the platoon who were dissatisfied about their future Captain. Their future Captain knew this and confronted him.
“What has Grisia done to wrong you, Adair?” asked his future Captain sadly. The other platoon members twittered among themselves, for this was the first time their future Captain had ever called one of them by their name.
Adair stared in disbelief. His list of grievances was too long to utter. His future Captain had commanded him to beat a dog for him. He’d used him like a servant. He’d asked him to lie for him, to cover up for him. On top of that, his future Captain couldn’t even keep his hold on a sword. He was not at all forgiving. He was stingy, lecherous, and the biggest bastard Adair had ever met. If not for his appearance, Adair would have claimed that this person was the person most unfit to be the Sun Knight one could find. Once Adair had bared his fangs and shown his disapproval, his future Captain began spiking his food, replacing his clothes, stirring up gossip about Adair, specifically singling him out in front of the other members of the platoon, tossing the hardest tasks at him…
He’d long since added petty to the list of grievances.
In comparison, his future Captain hadn’t done anything outrageous today, but Adair could endure no more. One could say this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
It was night. They were outside training, or well, the platoon was outside training, but their future Captain was not because he was looking down at his dirtied clothes in dismay. It was just clothing, a frivolous concern. Adair bet that they had the only captain out of all of the Holy Knight platoons who was more concerned about the state of his clothes than the state of his platoon members.
Adair had it. He stomped over and threw his sword down in front of his future Captain.
“I’m done,” he said.
That was what had caused a stare down between them, and what had prompted his future Captain to ask him what he had done to wrong him.
But most of all, he had shattered his dreams.
“No answer?” his future Captain commented softly, fake smile still on his face. “Let me tell you that I have not wronged you, but you have wronged me plenty.”
Adair stood, stunned. He started sputtering at the ludicrous claim his future Captain was making, but his future Captain merely continued to smile like a fool and pointed at the cliff.
“Jump off the cliff,” he said in his deceptively soft tones, as if he were saying, “Have some pie, my dear,” instead of telling someone to off themselves.
“No,” Adair gritted out, almost bursting in fury at his future Captain’s irrational command. “I refuse.”
“Oh? Well, that’s your first offense. Insubordination.”
Before Adair knew it, he was falling from the cliff even though he certainly had not jumped off. When he fell, he saw his future Captain’s smiling face, and the stars far, far behind him.
Then came the boulder that he almost hadn’t been able to dodge.
When he climbed up the cliff, he was battered and bleeding all over the place, but he didn’t let his pain show. He refused to let it show. It wasn’t just his body that had been bruised. His pride had been damaged even more. He refused to let that show.
“Moderate Heal!” his future Captain said in an even tone. The orange healing light settled over Adair’s body. The pain faded, and Adair could hear the other members in the platoon sigh in relief that Adair hadn’t been killed, but Adair didn’t feel healed at all.
“Jump off the cliff,” his future Captain commanded again.
Everyone stared at their future Captain like he was crazy. Adair clenched his hands together, nails digging into his palms.
“You haven’t learned your lesson yet,” his future Captain said with a large smile. “I had to give you a push.”
He didn’t know how he’d been pushed — he hadn’t seen his future Captain come near him at all — but there was no way he was going to jump off the cliff by his own free will.
“I refuse,” Adair said once again.
“So be it,” came the perky response accompanied by a fraudulent smile. Adair found himself falling once again, the ground coming up much too soon despite how far down it was. Once again, he saw stars and a head of golden hair that never got swallowed by the darkness even as he fell.
He got hit by the boulder this time and almost couldn’t make it back up the cliff. He kept that head of golden hair in sight, his fury and discontent keeping him steady, fueling his adrenaline. The platoon members pleaded with their future Captain not to kill Adair, but their future Captain merely smiled and said that Adair hadn’t learned his lesson yet.
And so Adair continued to refuse to jump off the cliff, and his future Captain continued to refuse to stop commanding him to jump off the cliff. Each time Adair climbed back up, his future Captain threw a healing spell at him, commanded him to jump, and when Adair refused, he’d find himself blasted off the cliff with a all kinds of spells, from holy magic to wind magic to ice magic.
His future Captain was crazy. His holy magic and his offensive magic all seemed limitless. How was it possible for his future Captain to know so much magic…?
“Do you know what your second offense is? No? Insubordination.”
That was what his future Captain said to him after Adair fell for the 26th time and got healed for the 26th time.
“And your third offense? Insubordination.”
That was after the 52nd time Adair fell and climbed back up.
“I don’t think I need to tell you what your fourth offense is, do I? Well, I will. It’s insubordination.”
That was after the 89th time Adair saw the night sky above him.
In this way, Adair fell. He hurt. He climbed back up. He fell again. But he never gave up. After the 100th time he got thrown over the cliff, he had an epiphany as he fell through midair, eyes trained on the face of his future Sun Knight.
The world made sense again.
The 101th time his future Captain commanded Adair to jump off the cliff, Adair stood up and jumped before his future Captain could throw a healing spell at him. Everyone’s eyes widened, and he could hear calls of “Adair!” as he fell, the clearest voice going to that of his Captain’s.
When he opened his eyes, it was to brilliant golden hair under the moonlight and a warm, healing spell. Adair couldn’t help it when he thought that even in darkness, the Sun shone brightly, so brightly that Adair was going to let himself be enchanted once again, this time by his Captain’s true personality. Dreams were dreams, but reality could be even better.
“Ultimate Heal!” his Captain gasped out, eyes swimming with emotion, dratted smile finally gone from his face. “Don’t you dare die on me, Adair!”
“No,” he whispered, a ghost of a smile playing at his lips. He’d thought his Captain didn’t care, but he was so wrong. Each time he fell, he watched that face and thought his Captain’s expression never changed, smile ever present on his face, but Adair had seen the worry, just like how he had heard past his Captain’s words and received his true message.
His Captain had a role to play. Adair had one as well.
“I dare not disobey that command,” Adair said.
“Good, have you learned your lesson?” asked the golden-haired boy who was soon to become a man and a captain who would command undying loyalty from a group of men who would follow him through hell and back.
“Insubordination,” Adair replied from the ground under the stars. “I’ve learned my lesson.”
And he truly had learned his lesson. He thought the Sun Knight he was going to serve to be weak, but he was far from weak, and he was definitely no pushover. If Adair was stubborn, his Captain was even more stubborn than he, and he was damn good at healing spells, and he was a damn good actor, one that would be able to carry on the weight of the entire Holy Temple on his shoulders. If his Captain wished to present to the public a perfect image even though he wasn’t actually someone perfect, Adair would help him be that perfect Sun Knight. Adair would help him and serve him because he was his Captain despite his flaws, for in turn, his Captain would heal him over and over and over, no matter how much it took, and his Captain would never ever give up, even if there were few he could show his true personality to.
Loyalty went both ways.
“Good, good, now get up and fetch me some blueberry dessert.”
“What, not going to do it? What are you all staring at me for? All of you, jump off the cliff!”