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Journal of a Paladin
Episode XIII: Romantic
By Matthew R. Fleming
A.K.A. the Cheddar Paladin

Entry #14 – The Twentyfourth of November in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Ninety-seven

A true romantic does not need to have the ability to be suave or charming or even attractive. A true romantic is, in the simplest terms, perpetually honest and devotedly respectful to his heart’s desire. I’ve always thought that, if given the opportunity, I would prove myself to be a true romantic to the person that I loved. Unfortunately, at that time, I had never been given the opportunity. Or perhaps I had and missed it. Either way, the opportunity presented itself to me and time was not on my side.

I had envisioned my revelation to Kagome to be a wonderful evening of dancing and music, an evening known as Winguard’s annual celebration of love: Affection Eve. That evening was rapidly approaching; I only had until that Monday night. It was a mere three nights away. I had made my decision while watching her that morning during target practice, a vision that has been emblazoned in my mind’s eye. From that point, I had all of Friday, the weekend, and until Monday night at the Affection Eve Ball, hosted annually at an upper-class social hall known as “The White Reef” located in the Lighthouse District of the city.

With my inexperience and lack of time, it was inevitable that I started to loose concentration on what I was required to do the rest of the day. If I had fired another bolt from my crossbow that morning, I most certainly had missed my mark, as I could not keep myself from being distracted for too long. I had to wait until after the class before I could get any work done.

I remember after Marksmanship, I talked to Jordanello about my predicament before we met the others at our usual table, “Will you be escorting a fair lady to Monday night’s gracious event?”

“…dude, you aren’t asking me out, are you?” replied Jordan in his usual jest.

“NO! No, of course not. Why? …what?”

“I’m joking, man, damn. Uh… no, I haven’t asked anyone, yet.”

“Oh,” I said, “Drat, I was hoping you could help me… with asking… you know… because there’s… hmmm…”

“You wanna ask some girl out?”

“Yes. If you don’t mind helping me.”

“How? I mean, you want me to be, like, a messenger of some kind?”

“Oh, no. I really just wanted to ask you about… have you ever… been…”

“Dude, calm down. What do you need me for?”

“Have you ever been in love, Jordanello?”

“I donno. I guess. I’m not sure.”

“Well, I’m not certain, but I do believe that I am.”

“Really? With who? Do I know her? Wait… you aren’t talking about the Princess are you?”

“No. Not anymore. I realize that I’m not in her league, not at the moment anyway.”

“Good because that wasn’t gonna go your way.”

“I appreciate the support and good faith I receive from you, my best friend,” I said coldly.

“Not a problem. Now, who is this new girl you think you have a shot with?”

Just then, as if summoned, Kagome met us, “Hi, guys!” she exclaimed with her usual pep and her kittenesque smile, “What’s up?”

“Scarf-boy here has a crush,” said Jordan, wasting no time in releasing the cat from the bag.

“Oh my gods!” shouted Kago, “Who is it, who is it, who is it?! You have to tell me!”

That was when my inner coward jumped out from my throat and with words more yellow than the scarf on my shoulders he said, “I don’t think I have much of an appetite today, so I’m just going to skip out on lunch. I wanted to see Professor Flekag about something anyway. See you both later.”

As I walked away from them, I imagined them both laughing at me for my obvious attempt to flee from the topic. That and I could have sworn I saw Kago and Jordan embrace each other right in plain sight. Pushing those obviously warped images out of my head, I simply told myself that I had to preserve the moment of revelation for a truly romantic occasion and not waste it on a lunchtime conversation. Besides, Jordan was no help to me for this problem. I had to go to someone with a greater understanding of the chemistry between two people in love. And seeing as how I knew no one like that, I went to the only person I knew who had any knowledge of chemistry in general, Professor Matell Flekag.

“Ah, Mr. …what’s your name again?” the esteemed professor greeted me with his usual absentmindedness. I told him my name, reminded him I was one of his students and presented him with my problem. It was much easier than talking to Jordan as I knew the professor wouldn’t remember our conversation by the time the school day was over.

“Well, lad, you seem to have a dire situation on your hands, I’d say. So, let me get this straight. You’re crazy about some girl and you don’t know how to tell her that you’re nuts about her. To top it off, the two of you are like peas n’ carrots,” Prof. Flekag usually put things in a metaphorical way, “is all that right?”

“I’m not entirely sure anymore,” I said in confusion. And I thought I was the one who talked strange.

“Well, kiddo, that’s what you told me walkin’ in.”

“Then, yes, that is my problem exactly.”

“Okay. Well, I don’t know about how to make things special for a woman, just the usual courtly stuff. Y’know, pull her chair out for her, take her coat, that sorta thing. But everyone knows that. What I DO know is about love lost, kid. So take my advice:

“If you love her, or even if you just think you might love her, you gotta tell her. Now, you might think, ‘well yah, man, that’s the point,’ but it ain’t so easy. I mean, here you are, talkin’ to me about what to do, when you should probably be out there tellin’ the girl of your dreams that you’re wild for her. That tells me that you’ve got some security issues. Now, I ain’t gonna ask you about those, don’t need to know.

“My point is that you got a girl out there that doesn’t know you love her. A friend of mine, also a doctor, once told me that if you keep something like love bottled up inside, it can make you sick. And I believe that. So don’t waste any time. Every second you wait is another opportunity for some other guy to take her away from you.”

“Thank you very much, Professor,” I said, “I appreciate the advice.”

“No problem, chief,” he nodded and gave me a thumbs up, “Oh, and, heh, that’s a shnazzy scarf you got there.”

I left the Professor in search of another mentor as I thought his advice, while just, didn’t serve my purpose. I couldn’t just tell her. Not here. It wasn’t the right time or place. It HAD to be special. The only thing I could think of that was special was making something for her, a gift that only I could give her. And the masters of creation were in the art department.

“Sir Scally,” I announced as I entered the auditorium, “Are you in here?”

A beautiful flourish of note rang forth from a harpsichord and I knew that Sir Scally the Bard, master of music and lyrics was in my presence, “Ah, dear boy, how might I be of service to you?” he asked in his powerful, booming voice; a voice fine tuned for singing operatically amongst other genres.

It was wonderful to know that I wasn’t the only person in Winguard to speak with eloquence, “If you would be so kind as to advise me on a problem I’m having, I would be phenomenally grateful.”

“Tell me about your troubles. Why would you need my help in particular?”

“I’m having trouble with romance, as a matter of fact.”

“Ah, romance! I must admit that I’m not the greatest romantic there ever was, but I shall lend my experience to your cause. Specifically, what led you to my tutelage?”

“My problem is that I am in love with a girl who knows not that I love her. I know I must tell her. Unfortunately, I have not the slightest idea as to how I should go about doing so.”

“Well, my boy, you have come to the right instructor for this type of advice. Might I recommend-”

Sir Scally was cut of by the monotonous voice of my other art instructor, Master Phissier, a world class painter, sculptor, and architect, “You are wrong, Sir Scally.”

“I beg your pardon?” questioned the bard, “I haven’t even given him any advice, yet.”

“He has not come to me, therefore he has not come to the right instructor for that type of advice. I would like to hear your take on his problem though.”

“Ho ho, Master Phissier,” challenged Sir Scally, “you speak quite highly of your experience in romance.”

“Let’s here what you have to say, Scally. Ready. Set. Go,” he stated flatly.

“Alright, lad,” Sir Scally advised me, “In my opinion, to really get a lady’s attention, a noble man must sing to her heart.”

“And what if the boy can’t sing?” questioned Master Phissier.

“Well, boy, can you sing?” Sir Scally asked me.

At the time I really didn’t know. I supposed I could if I meant it and knew the song well enough. So I nodded.

“According to the boy, he can sing, Master Phissier,” Sir Scally replied to the visual artist.

“That’s all well and good,” said Master Phissier, “but the song matters most.”

“Well, lad, would you have a song in mind?” Sir Scally inquired to me.

“Well, no,” I answered, “until now, I hadn’t thought of singing, let alone what song. I’m not even sure what music she enjoys.”

“I have an idea,” thought Sir Scally, “Can you write?”

“Yes, I can, sir.”

“Maybe you can write what you feel for her. A poem. I can show you how to play a ballad.”

“Can you show me by Monday night?”

“Oh… you never told me that you had a deadline.”

“It’s for Affection Eve.”

“That would be absolute… if you’re a fast learner that is.”

“That’s not all you can do,” said Master Phissier, “I know you can draw very well. You’re very devoted to your work in class.”

“Much abliged, Master Phissier,” I thanked my art instructor.

“I believe the best way to show a woman you love her is to give her something she can keep forever and see anytime she wants.”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked.

“Paint her something, or sculpt something, whatever you want. I have the supplies here.”

I took a moment to decide what I would do with the time I had. There was no doubt that she would be at the ball, so I wasn’t worried about her attendance. Secondly, I could have a suit tailored by Sunday if I commissioned one that afternoon. I only had to memorize one song and I didn’t have to make her something large, just memorable. With the time I had, I thought I had a shot at finishing before Monday night.

“I’ll do both,” I said.

Sir Scally taught me the rhythm and meter of a traditional ballad and I told him I would return with a full set of lyrics. I decided to make Kagome something portable, concealable, yet beautiful. So Master Phissier suggested I make her an amulet or a necklace of some kind. I agreed and he told me he would gather possible materials for me. When I got back to the city, I went to my preferred tailor for a suit and when I got home I started writing a ballad.

I came back the next day and went to work on both projects, taking breaks between switching off from one project to the next. Sir Scally approved of my lyrics, changing very little. As for the amulet, I went with a simple stone, a lapis stone, suspended by a slender, silver chain necklace. It did not take long to assemble, so I devoted the most of my time to learning how to play an instrument.

I opted to learn the mandolin. It was a small, portable instrument, and the sound it played was surely the sound of classic romance. Sir Scally told me that the mandolin was difficult to play correctly. However, I insisted especially seeing as I’d only be learning how to play one tune. We went over the basics the first day and we crammed the melody into my skull the next.

On Monday morning, once again during lunch, I visited my generous instructors to make sure everything was going to be perfect. Master Phissier gave me the necklace to keep on my person until that evening. I rehearsed my ballad one last time for Sir Scally and he assured me that I had no problems with my song. Confidently, I lived throughout the rest of the day, picked up my suit that afternoon, and that evening I made my way to the ball, necklace in my pocket and mandolin in grasp.

The lighthouse district is the most wide open area of town. The estates are far apart from each other, each has their own massive yards, some decorated with luxurious gardens and mazes. All of these estates are along one single winding road leading up to Winguard’s brilliant lighthouse, the second brightest beacon in the city, after the light atop Katah Tower. Halfway up the road is a porcelain building with large, reflective, curved ridges along the exterior walls giving the building a look similar to pound cake made of tooth enamel. That building is the White Reef, the location of the Affection Eve Ball.

One may expect a middle class citizen like me, amongst others, to not have the quality enough to enter an upper class establishment such as the White Reef. The tradition is that even the upper class can appreciate the idea of love amongst all classes, at least for one night, anyway. So they put on the ball every year, as a showing of good will to anyone who dress appropriately.

I commissioned a suit that was simple, black, and featuring a royal blue ascot tie. I uncharacteristically left my scarf at home. It was fading due to frequent use. If it were the real family scarf, I would wear it proudly to an event such as this, and I would probably have been allowed entry sooner.

“An’ jus’ who in ‘ell’re you, then?” asked the guard at the door.

I told him who I was and where I attended school.

“So you think you can get in ‘ere, now, izzat it?” he challenged.

“I most certainly do,” I defended, “Do you know who I am, sir?”

“You bet your arse, I does. You’re that horse’s arse that cheated ‘is way ta winnin’ ‘at tourney awhile back!”

I had presumed that wasn’t an issue anymore, “I take it you aren’t a fan?”

“I lost money on you!”

“It serves you right.”

“Why I ‘aughta’!” he reeled his arm back for a swing when a burly hand grasped hit fist as it was about to come down upon my forehead.

“You shouldn’t hit people,” said Sir cary, “It’s not nice.”

“But… I… WAHGHHH!” the guard called out as he was flung like an old, dirty rug into the back alley of the establishment.

“My dear friend, Cary!” I greeted my savior with enthusiastic relief.

“Ahh, my cheesy, good buddy!” he said as he gave me a big hug that I was more than happy to receive.

“What are you doing here, Cary? Not that I’m complaining.”

“Yeah, I’m working the door tonight. Keepin’ out the bad guys. Kickin’ ass. That sorta thing.”

“I am most grateful for that to be sure. Are you going to get in trouble for tossing that guard?”

“Nah. Not if he knows what’s good for him. And he DOES!” Cary emphasized into the alley to kill any doubts that my would-be assailant had about keeping his mouth shut.

“Thank you, my great, chaotic friend.”

“WAHHHHH it was nothin’.”

Without any further interruptions, I made my way into the ballroom. The interior of the White Reef was, as described by the name, much like a coral reef, only everything was shiny and white. There were many curved columns and several small fountains. The room was adorned with many clamshell themed decorations. It was like an undersea fantasy.

At the bar, I saw Jordanello. He was consuming some sort of green drink. I walked up to the bar and ordered a chilled tea with cherry grenadine. “How was your weekend?” I asked Jordanello.

“It was very good. Kago and I hung out on Saturday. I rode up to the school and snuck her out. Cary let us by.”

“Let’s hope he doesn’t get in trouble for that,” I said remembering the incident outside, “Why just a few moments ago-”

As I started to tell Jordan my story involving the guard, my eyes caught a truly wonderful sight. She was attired in a knee-length dress that has an eastern style to it. It was trimmed with gold and was primarily, of all the colors it could have been, royal blue. Her raven hair was done up and held together with two sticks crossed like an “X” through a bun; I always wondered how that worked. Her oceanic eyes pierced through the crowd as she made her way toward the bar. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought her to be one of the goddesses reborn as a Guardian.

“Oh my gods, I haven’t seen you since before lunchbreak on Friday!” gushed Kagome, “Where have you been?! Jordan and I missed you this weekend! I’m so happy to see you!” she gave me a friendly hug and waited patiently for my answer. All I could do was stare at her in longing fascination.

“You’re… so… wow,” I whispered.

“What?” she said, cocking her head and smiling that kitten smile of hers.

“I… said… I was very busy this weekend… working… with the art instructors… Sir Scally… and… the… other one,” it was hard for me to focus but that excuse seemed to pass.

“OH! Were you making something?!” she always enjoyed seeing when I made something artistic, “What’s that in your hand? Is that what you made?”

“Are you gonna play something?” asked Jordanello, noticing the mandolin, “Since when do you play music?”

“Since this weekend, actually,” I stated proudly, noting my hard work.

“Will you perform on stage?! I’d LOVE it!” begged Kagome.

“On… stage…?” I wearily repeated. I had only planned to give my ballad to her in private.

“He doesn’t have to do it on stage,” Jordan defended me.

“AWWWWW!!!” Kago exclaimed with disappointment.

“Okay,” I conceded, “I’ll do it for you, Kagome, as a gift in honor of Affection Eve.”

Kago gasped with joy and let out with a, “YAY!!! You’re so awesome!”

I smiled a big smile, took a swig from my tea, and went backstage to ask if I could perform. The man in charge allowed me to go on after the next song, but only because it was for a special girl. I got on the stage and looked out at all the people on the ballroom floor. Most weren’t paying any attention and those that were wondered what disappointing rookie is interrupting their fun now?

“If I may have your permission, my dear, lovely audience,” I started, “I would like to perform a ballad for a person whom I adore very much. Though the words may not suit your love, or even if you are without one to love, perhaps you will appreciate these lyrics regardless and just bask in the emotion, in hopes that you, too, can love yours like I love mine.”

“Ooh! I wonder who he’s talking about! Is she here?!” Kagome asked Jordan, still at the bar and far beyond my audible range.

“I donno,” replied my best friend, “He never told us who he had a crush on. He wrote her a song? Whoa.”

“Will you write me a song, too?” asked Kagome.

“Eh? What?” replied Jordan.

I started the ballad with a few romantic chords and then proceeded to recite my lyrics:
I give my love to Winguard,
For that’s where she resides.
My raven-haired beauty with
Her sparkling deep blue eyes.

If e’er there was a diff’rence
‘Tween her and the stars above,
It’d be that I can touch her
And feel her radiant love.

Her presence is alluring.
Her light, it shines ablaze.
And if I ever loose her,
I’d die without her gaze.

If you do not believe me,
Go see her, then you’ll know.
You’ll find yourself fixated
With my true love, Kago.

The crowd was mixed in their reactions but I wasn’t booed, so that felt good. I wasn’t very concerned about them anyway. I bowed and left the stage and returned to the bar to see what Kagome thought of my ballad.

I wasn’t at all pleased with my findings. Jordanello looked at me with a look I’d never seen before on another man. He looked at me with shock, and pity at the same time; I didn’t know what to make of it. Kago had tears welling up in her eyes. I had a horrible feeling that they weren’t tears of joy.

“Why… didn’t you tell me?” asked Jordan.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, “Kagome, didn’t you enjoy the song?”

“I- I did… it’s just…” she hugged me and sniffled on my shoulder.

There was a pause, and I looked at Jordan with a pleading expression, begging him for any answers as to why Kagome was acting as she did, “Kago and I started going out on Saturday,” he announced.

My heart stopped cold I dropped my mandolin and, I don’t know exactly how long it was, but it felt like I wasn’t there for several minutes. I was a statue in my own mind. When I could move again, I reached into my pocket, placed the lapis amulet in Kagome’s trembling hands, and started walking for the door.

“Oh no,” Kagome cried, “no, no, no…”

“Wait,” pleaded Jordan, “Don’t go. I didn’t know.”
But I was too far away to hear them. I wasn’t even on the planet. My body was moving automatically towards an exit and then home. It was my only defense from the rage I felt. If I did not separate my emotions from my body at that moment, I knew something horrible would have happened. I subconsciously made the decision that, for all of us to be happy, I had to leave them alone. As such, I left. I did not even notice Cary waving goodbye to me as I made leave of the building.

The next thing I remember, I was lying in my bed on a tear-soaked pillow. Cobalt lay curled up under my arm. At first I had no idea what happened after I left stage. Confused I looked around for a moment and checked my pocket for the necklace. My hand coming up empty, I suddenly remembered where it went and everything that happened. With that depressing knowledge restored to my memories, I returned my head to the damp pillow ad cried some more.

I was regretting my inaction, how it could have been avoided if I had listened closer to what was being told to me. I should have just told her. When I saw her three days before, a day before she started seeing Jordanello, yet still after everyone I went to for advice told me that I should just go to her and tell her how I felt.

It could have all been avoided, but I wanted perfection, which is something no one can truly achieve. What is true romance but honesty and respect between two people? I gave Kagome neither of those things that weekend. Instead I gave her a song and a stone. I was doomed to be a hopeless romantic and she deserved better.
This is a big one. 12 pages total here. Single spaced. Lotsa dialog so hopefully it'll read smoothly anyway.
Big chapter, important chapter.

Based on a true story.

Heh, I've always wanted to say that
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Holic-chan Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2007
I remember that night. That was so long ago. Oh how everything was so sad and confusing back then. I think you really played this out well though. Love looove the ballad. All the dialog really made you feel like you were in the story. But. haha. guess that was kind of a joke : D

Very nice though. I actually think this is my favorite so far.
And I know this won't help anything from back then but I'm sorry that everything went the way it did.
cheddarpaladin Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2007  Student Digital Artist
Ancient history, my dear. Water under the bridge, or over the dam, or wherever you want it.
Still, it's fun to remember how I felt up until that moment. And that's what I would have done, y'know.

I'm glad you enjoyed the dialog. I had fun writing this chapter and tying everything together like I did. I agree with you, I think it is my best chapter so far.

Heh, remember the poem I wrote for you back then? [link]
That's what I based the ballad on. 'Cept, it's a little different and I altered the meter for a traditional ballad.

Thank you very much for the :+fav: on top of everything else.
Holic-chan Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2007
yes i remember that, so perfect. You are going to make someone very happy one day, know that?
cheddarpaladin Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2007  Student Digital Artist
I hope so.
I'm glad you think so.
EmziePoodlez Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2007
Really good chapter :D
cheddarpaladin Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2007  Student Digital Artist
Thank you very much, Emzie.
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