Yuna’s ordinary life was stolen in an instant.
On that day, Yuna was walking on the main paved road, just as she had many days before. She was making her way to the herb market, looking fondly at the many shops lining the street. Shopkeepers acquainted with her greeted her warmly as she passed by, which she returned with a wave of her hand. And just as she rounded the corner, with her slow measured steps.
Something happened to her body.
Thinking back, the details rose to the surface with frightful clarity: the piercing scream of a young woman, the wet breathing and high-pitched neigh of the horse, who realized far too late, and a large horse carriage filling her entire vision.
And the last thing she saw was the wide eyes of the coachman…
— I was run over and killed by a carriage.
Yuna reached that conclusion faintly.
And now she found herself standing alone in an unfamiliar, white world.
She finally remembered everything just moments ago. Until then, she had been spacing out, unable to process what had transpired for quite a long time. Her memories took time to slowly emerge from the white nothingness of her head, much like her surroundings, to piece together the truth. And the truth that she found was “death”, a ruthless conclusion.
It was quite a short life, she thought. She had only lived to be eighteen. So many things undone – there were probably less things she had accomplished than those she hadn’t. It wasn’t as if she lived with the goal of accomplishing something great, but still she felt like there was more she had wanted to do.
(I wonder if that is the reason I came to this strange place. I have some half-felt regrets, and unfinished feelings… and maybe that’s why I can’t move on to the afterlife.)
Yuna did a circle to take in her surroundings one more time.
—And the world was still as empty as it had been. Unfalteringly white, with no sense of direction or dimension. Yuna was completely alone in a completely white world.
(Ahh… What should I do?)
She couldn’t even tell where she should focus her viewpoint. She had simply been staring blankly ahead, though doing that showed no signs of helping to remedy the situation.
(What is going on? Could this be the afterlife? What they call Heaven? This is completely different from what I was taught though… I don’t know what I should do all alone by myself. I ended up in this utterly unknown place because I died. Actually, was there a particular reason I had to die? Even though I lived ordinarily… Why? In my short life, did I somehow amass karma deep enough to result in my death, O’ God–)
Yuna began to grow more and more confused. Covering her mouth with her quivering right hand, she looked around her surroundings restlessly.
Then, finally, as if someone heard her wish, her eyes caught a dark shadow far away.
Quite a distance away was a lone figure.
Had the figure been there all along? …No, it had to have appeared just now. There was no way one could miss a dark figure in a world so brilliantly white.
Nevertheless, there was a person. Yuna was not alone. Perhaps this person was just as confused as Yuna. When she thought that, she felt immediately at ease. Yuna’s feet kicked at the white space as she made to walk.
Yuna panted as she sprinted to the figure; the figure became clearer and clearer as the distance closed. It was a woman looking down, covered in a loose dress which hung on her thin frame, and her hair was hanging down covering her expression. Her pale arms gave off the impression that she was still young.
Yuna called to the girl, stopping a few paces away. She wasn’t sure how to start a conversation though. In a situation like this, even a “hello” would feel a bit odd.
“I’m sorry. I found myself here when I came to. How about you?”
The figure showed absolutely no reaction. Yuna felt a little discouraged by this, but pushed on.
…Yet the figure appeared unaffected.
“Um. I do apologize for speaking to you out of the blue–“
The woman’s mouth definitely opened, but the voice came out in a think croak and so was hard to hear. Yuna took a step closer and brought her ear closer.
“I despise you.”
Yuna was struck dumb for a moment. She couldn’t understand the girl’s words. But as a few moments passed and Yuna began to grasp what she had been told, a blinding light suddenly enveloped the girl and collapsed from within to form grains of light.
Yuna couldn’t move a single muscle. She couldn’t comprehend what just happened. And, as her eyes were wide with surprise, the grains of light danced about the air and then disappeared from sight.
But that was not all.
The disappearing lights once again returned, recovering their brightness, and floated gently above Yuna’s head.
There were several of these faint grains of light. By no means were they a strong light, and even now they were fleeting and seemed like they would disappear at any moment.
“W-What? What is this?”
Yuna unconsciously took a step back, but there was no place to run or hide in this empty space.
“Yuna. The poor soul of a young girl ran over by a carriage.”
All of a sudden a voice reverberated through the area.
A strange voice that could not be distinguished as male or female. Yuna held her breath.
“We are the ones who took your wandering soul to this place.”
“W-Who are you? Where are you?”
“We are beings who no longer have a name, and we are here beside you.”
“What does that mean? I don’t understand anything!”
“Calm. Please calm yourself and listen. There is no time.”
Yuna, who had become teary-eyed, somehow kept her silence and looked at the ball of light floating in the air. Right now, it seemed like there was only this ball of light to rely on.
“This place is neither heaven nor hell. It is a place of nothingness. We called you here to ask you to lend us your strength.”
Lend… her strength? She, who was already dead? Yuna frowned uncertainly.
“Yuna, do you know of Saint Celiastina?”
“Yes. Revered in your world, sent by the God, Vida, to be his voice. These daughters with his symbol on their necks are worshipped for generations.”
Yuna nodded while being confused. There wasn’t a single person who wouldn’t know of that name.
“Of course I know. The current saint is Lady Celiastina. No matter what kind of town in the countryside, that is common knowledge that everyone is aware of.”
“Then you must know of the saints’ duties. For generations, it is customary for the saints to marry the First Holy Knight, determined by the country, and the two serve the country through their life.”
Yuna nodded again. This was also common knowledge throughout the country. What she didn’t understand was how this had anything to do with her right now.
“That very Saint Celiastina–“
She felt like their voice was suddenly tinged with sorrow.
“Attempted to drown herself.”
Yuna was so surprised she lost her voice. The saint, a being that was closer to God than anyone else, committed suicide! It was such a shocking event. She had never heard of such a thing happening in the past.
“Unfortunately, there is no one who knows of her present deed. Naturally, right now the light of her life is about to disappear.”
“T-That can’t be!”
“But we cannot let this pass. It is likely that a successor will not appear for a saint who has taken her own life. If that happens then various calamities will befall the world. We cannot cast aside her life like this.”
In other words, Celiastina being dead was a troubling thing. But of course, for a saint to do something like commit suicide, it was an unprecedented action.
“Therefore, we spent our powers, and bound Celiastina’s life. However, we cannot so easily manipulate the life and death of people. It is extremely difficult to establish a soul into a body that it has detached from. It will take quite some time for Celiastina to awaken once more. But the body, which has become an empty shell, will rot before then. And so, Yuna, we require your strength.”
Suddenly being addressed, Yuna gazed at them in stupefaction. She couldn’t even imagine how she was involved in the current topic.
“Yuna. While Celiastina’s soul is sleeping, we would ask of you to enter her body and live as a substitute.”
“We cannot leave that soulless body as it is. However, we also cannot return her soul to her body immediately. As we stated before, she requires time.”
She understood the reason. There were also feelings of confusion but she decided to leave it as if she understood. But still, why did she have to bear such an important duty? She just couldn’t comprehend that one point.
“We might even be able to call this a miracle.”
“The moment that Celiastina suicided and the moment that you were hit by the carriage, was a perfect sign whereby a type of distortion occurred. Because of that, it was possible to connect your soul and Celiastina’s body. Although, our powers can only keep your soul in place for a year.”
“P-Please wait! This is absolutely impossible! You’re telling me to be the saint?”
“Yes, that is right. As Saint Celiastina; please sleep, wake, eat, laugh, be furious, feel sorrow, and feel joy.”
“But I’m just a commoner! I’m not fit to be the messenger of God!”
“The messenger of God is nothing but an image that humans have created. The real saints are frail humans who barely have powers. There should be no differences between them and other humans.”
“T-That’s not the problem! To us commoners, the saint is someone above the clouds and someone we would never be able to meet in our lifetime. By no means is someone like me…”
“Yuna, please we beseech you. No one but you can do this. Please do not abandon Celiastina.”
Those words were unfair. But, vaguely, she began to understand that she wasn’t in a position to refuse. From the start, she was someone who had died. No matter what kind of world awaited her after death, she couldn’t complain. It seemed like there was nothing to do but resign and accept this. In that case…
“You will undertake this, correct?”
It wasn’t a question.
“We do not know how long it will take. At most, it will be one year. Until then, we entrust this in your care.”
Leave it to me, was something she couldn’t say. She was still grasping for composure. But the fact that she couldn’t refuse weighed heavily in Yuna’s chest.
“Ah, our time is up. Yuna, please do not forget. We will always be watching over you.”
“Wait. Why are you all concerned with Celiastina… Who are you? Are you… God?”
The floating light flickered as if it would disappear even now.
“No, we are not God. We are–“
Before hearing their answer, Yuna’s body was suddenly engulfed in a dazzling light. It was so brilliant that she couldn’t see anything. Her consciousness faded away from that white world.
Her voice didn’t reach anyone– suddenly, Yuna’s world became black.