For generations in this world’s only country, Sibelius, it was tradition for the saint, always a maiden, to serve the royal family. There was only ever one of these in the world, an extremely beautiful girl with the Holy Mark on her neck. This was the only proof needed for a saint; it didn’t matter whether she was born as a noble or as a peasant, so long as she had that mark then they were acknowledged by the royal palace and welcomed in. In other words, without the holy mark then one would never be acknowledged as a saint.
Whenever the previous saint drew her last breath, it was a given that the following year a new saint would be born. It was a rule of the country that the saint had to be discovered before she reached her 15th year and welcomed into the royal palace; and, as she entered the royal palace, it was necessary for her to be joined with the young man awarded the position of the First Holy Knight in an engagement ceremony. If this wasn’t done, then it was said that a disaster would befall the kingdom. In the long history of Sibelius, there were only three instances where a saint had not been welcomed into the palace. During the first time, the people underwent a great flood and 40% of the population died; during the second time, the three most powerful forces in the kingdom clashed and all three powers were destroyed in the civil war; during the third, an epidemic had spread and it was reported that 40% of the population had died. Because of these, the entrance of the saint into the royal palace was not just an issue limited to the powers of the country, but a serious event all of the people in the country looked forward to.
In this way, the existence of a saint was one that the country could not be without, but these women were also endowed with mysterious powers. There were those proficient in foresight and those who could read minds; however, there was one thing all the saints shared. When a saint approached death, the Holy Mark on their neck disappeared. And once the Holy Mark disappeared, within three years, the saint was sure to pass away. For that reason, it was customary for the kingdom to use that as a reference to decide on the next First Holy Knight. A child, born when the current saint’s Holy Mark disappeared, would be raised to become the husband of the next generation’s saint. Up to now, everything went smoothly like that. Although it was not a problem for the saint to be welcomed into the royal palace so long as they hadn’t reached 15, they were generally discovered when they were young and moved to the castle. As for the Holy Knight, they were raised to accept their duty from the moment of their birth. Naturally, their stability would be solid and their bonds deep.
But, of its own accord, this time was different.
First, it took an extremely long time to find the saint. Celiastina was an abandoned child, one that was not doted on and grew up in the corner of a declining orphanage. The director and his wife managed the small orphanage between the two of them, but it took all their efforts to keep the large amount of children there “alive”, and so they didn’t keep a particular eye on Celiastina. It took a very, very long time for the Holy Mark on her neck to be noticed. In most cases, it was at the request of the parents themselves that most saints were discovered, but if there was no one who came forward then the search became extremely difficult. By the time the director approached Celiastina, who had matured beautifully as a 15 year old, with malicious thoughts, and noticed the mark on her neck for the first time, the entire country was already drifting in a mood of despair. At any rate, the country of Sibelius, which had somehow located its saint, burst into excitement. Celiastina was welcomed greatly throughout the country; her unlucky upbringing greatly helped in attracting the people’s concern. Moreover, her beauty which surpassed that of all previous saints mesmerized everyone. Similarly, the First Holy Knight, who had been brought up and raised under personal care, had matured into a strong young man. With just this, everyone could see the light in the future of their kingdom.
–However, Celiastina passed her time obediently in the royal palace only for the first two years. When she became 16, she suddenly changed. It was as if her obedience up to then had been a lie. At any rate, there was a change.
Her change was known only to those in the royal palace. To the common people, Celiastina was always a magnificent messenger of God.
But the present Yuna had no way of knowing that.
Yuna was surprised when she woke up in the morning and the splendidly ornamented and colored ceiling entered her vision. Upon wondering where she was, she immediately cast her vision about and what she saw seemed to be the bed canopy. The thin lace that covered the area fluttered and swayed from a breeze coming in from the window. Yuna’s body was submerged in the middle of that.
(Ah, that’s right.)
As expected, she was able to remember her situation quicker than the time she woke up at the riverside yesterday. She was Celiastina and this was her luxurious room. She had been rescued from the forest yesterday and, while she was thinking everything over, she fell asleep.
“Good morning, Lady Celiastina.”
A maid said in an apathetic voice. It looked like she had been the one to open the window.
For a moment Yuna was slow to realize who the maid was calling out to, but when she quickly realized that it was herself she raised her head… just when she had confirmed her situation too. I am Celiastina, I am Celiastina; Yuna chanted this like a spell.
When Yuna lowered her head sincerely, the maid’s expression stiffened as if she saw something unbelievable. Was she not supposed to use polite words?
“Please wait a moment, I will call someone immediately to change your clothes.”
The maid barely seemed to get those words out, so Yuna limited herself to just nodding in order not to frighten her any further. Besides… someone to change her clothes. Not just for bathing, but did she have to use maids to change as well?
Her premonition was realized. Soon, two maids arrived, and a complete set of clothing, loaded on a tray, was placed solemnly on a table.
“Lady Celiastina, please excuse us.”
The maids strove to say that without emotion. Would every morning be like this? Oh, come on, that’d be something she’d want to pass on.
“Um, I would like to change alone though…”
Even as she wondered if this would end the same way it did yesterday, she couldn’t let this happen without resistance.
“By yourself, my lady?”
“Erm, well, it’s definitely not because you people are nuisances. Please believe me. Even if it’s late, I just find people helping me change to be…”
Even though she tried to choose words that would not provoke them as much as possible, it seemed useless. The maids were completely flustered.
“U-Um, did we do something as to offend you, Lady Celiastina?”
“N-No! Look, wouldn’t you people think it’s weird to be changed by someone as well? I might have allowed this to happen up to now as if it were natural, but honestly I felt a little embarrassed.”
Ah, it’s no good. The more she spoke the more she got stuck. Seeing the maids unmoving as if they were frozen Yuna had no choice but to draw back this time as well. Without saying anything more unreasonable Yuna entrusted herself to the maids who changed her with extremely awkward motions. Once the preparations were done, the maids left the room like they were running away.
(Umm, it seems like they were really frightened.)
Even someone like Yuna noticed that. The maids and everyone were scared of her; they finished their work in the shortest time possible so that they could leave and avoid any unnecessary interactions.
(Who is Lady Celiastina? Is she that scary of a person?)
It looked like that was the case. And that was why if she behaved even with the slightest bit of modesty she might receive reactions of people looking at her like she was a monster.
(Just what kind of person was the Lady Saint?)
Oh dear… just as she was sighing there was the sound of a light knock. Please enter, she said these brief words and soon the door opened allowing a man to enter the room in a leisurely manner.
As soon as she saw the man’s appearance she felt like her heart was being gripped tightly and, for a second, Yuna’s breathing stopped.
While being confused by the hammering beat of her heart, Yuna looked down and furrowed her brows. This was the same as when she felt anger towards the woman called Yodel last night. A feeling born from some unknown part of her. Why was she becoming so upset right now? Just what exactly was this feeling? She didn’t know the reason.
As the throbbing of her heart slowly lessened, Yuna pulled herself together and raised her face. The man who entered her room looked like he was a bit past his mid-twenties. His hair was a deep brown, a shade darker than the door, and tied into one bundle where it flowed behind him casually. Even though he walked over to her with a gentle smile and his appearance looked kind she could feel somewhat of a pressure. Having said that, when she thought about it, she felt like this was the first time she saw someone smile since arriving here.
“It seems like you really are unharmed, hm.”
She was surprised at his voice. Even people like that important-looking young man and Yodel used terms of respect towards her, and yet this person… Could he be the king or someone in a position linked to that?
“Hm? What’s the matter?”
“You aren’t feeling unwell, right?”
Yuna gave a small nod.
“You’re acting quite strange.”
Startled, her body became stiff. This only deepened the other’s suspicions and he narrowed his eyes to observe her closely.
She was also surprised to hear him call the saint by a nickname. Who was this? Could he be Celiastina’s lover?
“What on earth is the matter? You’re like a lion without fangs.”
What the heck was with that expression. When she glared at him indignantly, he smiled with amusement.
“Yes, yes, that’s more like you. But something more like you would be if you said “What? Just who are you speaking those words to? Do you want to become dust?””
Yuna became speechless at those words.
“As I thought, it’s strange.”
“Celia, try saying my name.”
“You can’t possibly say you forgot it, or something like that, right?”
It was no good, she couldn’t trick him. Yuna realized this instinctually; she couldn’t do anything but surrender to someone who saw through her and thought her strange in a one to two word conversation.
“… Um, I don’t know. I’m sorry.”
When she answered apologetically, the man kept silent and just raised an eyebrow. He was a strange man, one that she couldn’t even guess at what he was thinking about. She really didn’t know.
After some time of silence, he opened his mouth again.
That’s right! Yuna was hit with that sudden realization. This was good. In this case, some strangeness would be overlooked. She had been taking a walk in the forest, her foot slipped and she fell into the river, and then she lost her memory from that crash. Alright, she’d go with that.
“Somehow, that seems to be the case.”
“Is that so?”
Even though he was the one who brought it up the man tilted his head and then walked directly up to Yuna. He watched attentively as she unconsciously clasped both her hands and then suddenly grasped her chin, raising her face up. Even though she wanted to raise her voice and ask him what he was doing she found herself in a strange situation where she couldn’t resist. There was not a speck of sweetness in this atmosphere, instead a tense air wrapped around the room. Her opponent had a serious expression and looked carefully into Yuna’s eyes.
“Is it just memory loss? You know, I don’t think so. Your eyes have the color of a guilty conscience. I didn’t think you would try to deceive me. Now, please confess everything. What’s the reason as to why you’ve become as meek as a lamb and obedient?”
A really worrisome opponent had appeared; Yuna clicked her tongue inwardly as she thought this. But, if she considered this calmly, this might be the thing she needed. There was a limit to what she could do in the midst of everyone around her being a complete stranger. If that was the case, wasn’t it better for her to have at least one ally? Having that on her mind – or more like she couldn’t help but think that – Yuna gave up and opened her mouth.
“I… am not Celiastina.”
And then she began to speak haltingly. She spoke about how Celiastina’s soul was exhausted, how God was worried greatly about that, and how he took her soul to be cared for. In the meantime, she was a completely different soul sent here to maintain Celiastina’s body.
Of course she didn’t talk about the suicide. She also didn’t know the true identity of the lights and so decided to gloss over them and call them God. But even so, most of what she said was the truth. Realistically speaking, these contents weren’t something one could accept but the man listened to her story very seriously and she was glad.
Once she finished her story from start to end, Yuna let out a sigh of relief. This story was much too large of a thing for one person to be saddled with and she almost couldn’t bear it. Somewhere in her heart, she might have wanted someone to hear everything and share this weight.
The man, after a while of staring at Yuna as if he were looking for something, solemnly nodded.
“Well, this is a story that deviates wildly from common sense, but it is true that you are not Celiastina. I cannot think of you as anything but a pure and innocent girl, without an ill-natured bone in your body. Even if you were acting, Celiastina wouldn’t be able to have such clear eyes.”
If he believed her then it’d save her a lot of trouble, but his words were unexpected.
“U-Um, who are you?”
“Hm? Me? Ah yes, you don’t know anything, huh. I am Linus Ventris, an advisor to this country’s prime minister.”
“Advisor to the prime minister?”
As she thought, he was an important person. It was difficult for Yuna, who had been a commoner just last night, to imagine but if he worked under a person who could influence the politics of this country then there was no doubt that he had considerable status.
“And I am also Celia’s guardian.”
In other words, he acted as Celiastina’s foster parent. In that case, she could understand his informal attitude to her.
“Anyway, that’s enough about me. You say you are to live here in place of Celiastina but your personality and thoughts are 180 degrees different. I’m worried about whether you’ll be alright.”
“Was Lady Celiastina that… um… amazing?”
It is not what one says but how one says it, Linus seemed to mean as he laughed in an amused way.
“Oh yes, she was quite amazing. She was a person with an amazingly twisted personality; a person who would not let anyone get close to her, and one who would do whatever she pleased. I don’t need to say how everyone looks at you with suspicious eyes, right? That’s how it is.”
“There are moments that come to mind, yes. Like how everyone stands on ceremony.”
On the contrary, there were also people who showed a cold attitude that couldn’t be settled with just the words “stands on ceremony”.
“Um, are you familiar with the person who found me yesterday?”
“Do you mean Asyut?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t even know his name.”
“The black-haired and dark-eyed handsome young man?”
Yes, most likely that person. Yuna nodded slowly.
“He is the First Holy Knight. In other words, Celia’s fiancé.”
That person was her fiancé!? Even though he showed such hatred towards her!? Yuna was reflexively taken aback.
“T-Things don’t seem to be going very well, are they?”
“Yes, that’s right, Celia is hated by him.”
Oops, Linus seemed to say as he smiled and shook his head.
“I’m not such an uncouth man as to poke my nose into the love affairs of a young couple.”
Realizing that she had asked a very obtrusive question, Yuna shrank back.
“Oh my, why are you apologizing? If you are going to be Celia from here on, you will fall short like that. Come now, raise your head higher.”
“But I don’t know a single thing about Lady Celiastina. What should I do?”
That’s right, Linus seemed to say as he put his hand on his chin and thought.
“Then how about I tell you a bit about Celiastina’s daily life?”
For example, he implied as he folded his fingers and started counting.
“When the maids are doing up your hair, you say “Hey, you. Stop pulling. It hurts obviously” and glare sidelong at them. When eating, every time you have to complain about at least three dishes. When people who pass by greet you, you say “Shut up” once every three times. When they don’t greet you, you say coldly “Who do you think you are?” and immediately fire them. If there seems to be something like garbage on the path you are walking, you will immediately call a cleaner and fire them. During times of prayer in the cathedral, you will face the priest doing the long sermon and click your tongue before sighing on purpose… Hm, yes, that’s about it for now.”
Being told these outrageous things in such a bright tone, Yuna was frozen. She turned his words over in her mind as she stood there, stuck. Can these things really be settled into a category using a sweet word like “ill-natured”? Also, are these things that she would have to do in the future?!
Yuna was led to that conclusion without even a second of hesitation.
“Until the real Celiastina returns I will act like I am amnesic. It’s impossible for me to act in a way that won’t make people think I’m weird.”
“I suppose so. I’m fine with that… but, Celia.”
Was there more? Half wanting to hang her head and cry, Yuna only glanced at him.
“There are people you must be cautious about. They are people who would not show you any mercy even if you told them you were amnesic.”
“The priestess, Yodel Vidoria. House Vidoria is a famous household of priests who have served this kingdom for generations. They have equal, if not more, influence than your fiancé, the First Holy Knight.”
That name struck her immediately. It was the woman who greeted her at the gates last night. Yuna had thought that she was an important person the moment she saw her, but to think it was to this extent.
“For a long time she and Celia have had bad relations. Well, considering Celia’s personality, that might have been inevitable but Sister Yodel is quite strong-willed as well. At any rate, Sister Yodel treats Celia like an enemy and also has influence so she quarrels with Celia without much timidity. If she sees an opportunity, it will certainly be dangerous. There are also rumors that she is trying to abase the saint’s authority.”
Goodness, weren’t there nothing but enemies around the saint!? Moreover, even a person who was supposed to get along with the saint seemed to regard her with hostility. This really made Yuna concerned for the future.
“… Is there something more?”
No matter what he said, she wouldn’t be surprised.
“You don’t need to use such polite language towards me. Even if you are another person, having Celia’s body act so humbly is creepy.”
She blanked at that unexpected change in topic. But she was thankful for those friendly words and obediently nodded. And, as if he were satisfied, Linus grinned and stroked Yuna’s hair.
“You’re a good girl, Celia.”
Celia, that was such a nice nickname. At any rate, while feeling relieved at having found someone to share her secret, Yuna quietly let her hair be stroked.
Of course Yuna didn’t know this but apparently the saint had a daily routine of attending a Ceremony of Worship in the morning. Due to Linus’ visit, she completely skipped out on that daily routine. Yuna became depressed at how this would just make everyone’s impression of her worsen.
It wasn’t that Linus also didn’t know but, originally, he came to see Celiastina’s state just a bit before the worship. He would never have dreamed that her soul had been replaced with another person. It was no wonder that the topic of the worship hadn’t been brought up.
“You are still feeling unwell from last night’s events and thus was absent from today’s worship. I’ll settle it like that.”
“Yes, I am grateful.”
“Now, now, your language.”
“I-I apologi–… ack.”
Linus gave a wry smile upon seeing Yuna flustered.
“Celia, just now you said you wanted to make your story seem coherent by claiming amnesia, right? I support that, but I don’t think you should claim it openly.”
“For what reason? No, I mean, uh… why?”
“Up until now, you have been behaving with extreme eccentricities, and now it has become a situation where there are those who question the state of things with you as a saint. That is also a reason as to why Sister Yodel treats you like an enemy. Well, as long as there is the Holy Mark on your neck, people won’t actually interfere with you. Nevertheless, it is undesirable to mess around and increase your enemies. If people found out that your disappearance last night was the cause of your amnesia then, not just your enemies, your allies may also take advantage of you and it could bring about a lot of trouble.”
The Amnesic Immoral Saint. Without a doubt, it would be a huge commotion.
“Nonetheless, it would be impossible to do everything the same. I believe it would be best to talk about your amnesia only to those necessary. People who could back you up as if it were no big deal.”
“For example, someone like your fiancé, Asyut.”
Upon remembering that piercing gaze, Yuna felt reluctant. If she said she was amnesic it seemed like he would treat her even more coldly, to say nothing of covering for her.
“He will immediately notice that there is something strange about you. Of course, you don’t intend to tell anyone about replacing Celiastina’s soul and things like that, right?”
“Yes, of course not. I wasn’t intending to tell anyone but you, Linus.”
“If that’s the case, maintain your expressions well and behave as much like Celia as possible. And if people frown at you, you can indirectly hint at your amnesia. But do that conservatively. You can keep that up until that girl returns eventually, right?
Although it was summarized concisely, it was not as easy as it sounded for Yuna. She was just an ordinary girl that one could find anywhere, and yet she was to act occasionally like a wicked woman and occasionally like a pitiful girl who lost her memories… If she could act like that, there was no mistake she would have led a much more different life. Though that life was already finished.
“Well then, please rest here for a while longer. I will go and explain today’s absence to the priests in the chapel and tell them that it’s because you have a Ceremony of Blessing for the nobles just before noon.”
“Huh!? W-W-What is this Ceremony of Blessing?”
“After a number of nobles arrive at the room of blessing, you receive them there, and give them a single word of blessing. It’s just that kind of ceremony, don’t worry.”
“Even if you say that… w-what kind of words should I say?”
“Hm, let’s see, something like “Before asking for my blessing, shouldn’t you go to a barbershop and ask for a wig?” to Lord Boundi today.”
… She shouldn’t have asked.
“I’m kidding, it’s a joke. Though you should say things in a sarcastic tone like how Celia used to. Just think of it as a place to practice acting cruel. Even the nobles who turn up aren’t expecting sweet words from you. They are conditioned to sharp words. –Now then, I’ll come by later to pick you up so be nice and quiet for a short while.”
“… Yes, of course.”
“Also, language again. Be careful.”
Her journey ahead was going to be full of trouble.
During the time she was waiting in her room for Linus, no one else came to visit.
Did the girl, Celiastina, spend her time like this every day? Not doing anything, just being bored. What awaited her next was a meaningless and boring ceremony. Once that was over, would she come back and pass the time in idleness like this? If that was going to repeat every day, she would definitely grow to hate it. Certainly, it wasn’t like she had dramatic days in her previous life, but there were many small pleasures; there were small medicinal herbs she grew personally and set up in her store, various dishes she studied, friends who entertained her, and holding and looking after her relative’s baby. None of that was particularly special but they were definitely scenes of a precious time to her. To think that, right now, they felt like such far away things.
Not having anything to do, Yuna threw herself down onto her bed. What exactly was she supposed to do before noon? What did Celiastina do? As far as she could see, there were just high-class looking furnishings that were arranged coldly and inhumanly. Linus gave her a warning to be quiet but moving around in this room was absurd.
(Ah, that’s it.)
Yuna realized it. She couldn’t feel any suggestion of a person living in this room. It was hollow. The only gentle thing she felt was from the sunlight shining in from the balcony. As soon as she realized this, Yuna felt homesick.
(No, I don’t want to stay in this room.)
I want to go home, Yuna thought strongly. But it was too late, she remembered there was no place for her to return to anymore.
She would never again return to those trifling days which weren’t anything special.
(I didn’t leave anything behind. Because I thought those days would keep on going. I never thought I would suddenly lose them like this. If–… if I could return back to that time, there would be so many things I’d want to do. It was almost time for me to transplant my potted norma grass into the garden. I wasn’t done mixing the medicinal herbs that Auntie Hanchi had asked for, even though she had said that my medicine worked the best. And I was still in a fight with Rin.)
Things she wanted to do and things she hadn’t done rapidly came to mind. She didn’t think it would be so painful to have to give up on the things she normally did.
“If I could return to those days, I would tell dad and mom that I loved them dozens of times.”
At the very least, she tried to say the things she hadn’t said, but there was no one here to reply to her.
The year would surely be long. This time that would be her last “time” that was given to her as Celiastina. This time she could see the end. And that’s why she didn’t want to leave behind any regrets.
Even if that wasn’t time as “Yuna”.
Just like he said, Linus came to pick up Yuna some time around noon.
On their way to the blessing room, she was instructed as to how to act as Saint Celiastina. She was told to be arrogant, listless, and offensive. Was there no positive advice?
“The rest is just a formality but don’t move from the altar. The others will greet you first but all you do is just say one word of blessing, without returning their greetings. There is seven of them, so just repeat that. Once everyone is done, they will excuse themselves and withdraw. Simple, right?”
“But what are the words of blessing?”
“Don’t worry about it and just say something appropriately sarcastic. Don’t think too hard.”
“Appropriately sarcastic” he said! Sorry, but she had never done anything like saying appropriately sarcastic things. However, even though he said something like that, Yuna didn’t have a response and so she quietly held her tongue. They went passed through the courtyard of the royal palace to the room of blessing. Upon arriving at the entrance, Yuna passed through alone.
The room of blessing was surprisingly small; it was just a preciously white hexagonal room. The vaulted ceiling had several large skylights from which natural light shone down brightly. From the entrance, she could see several stairs deep inside and they reached an altar at the top. The structure of the room was very simple but, conversely, it struck her as being more divine.
She ascended to the altar. Somehow, this space reminded her of “that time”. That space where Yuna’s life had been greatly driven crazy. Where was the mysterious existence right now, the one that brought about a second life for her?
“Please excuse us.”
There was a sudden voice some time after she reached her seat, and then the dignified-looking doors opened. A middle-aged man of a fine appearance gave a deep bow and entered the room. Following that, six men did the same and entered.
Yuna immediately realized it was beginning. She psyched herself up to make a listless expression but, as she was psyching herself up, doubts floated by about how she was already far from being listless.
Leaving that in her mind as it was, she solemnly went forward with the ceremony.
The men lined up in a row in front of the altar. Everyone was wearing tailored and dazzling clothes and they were just like the image of “aristocrats” that Yuna had in her mind. She was repeating herself but for Yuna, who was a commoner, just having them line up in a row made her feel as though her breath stopped.
“Lady Saint, my name is Delioru Yubius.”
The rightmost man opened his mouth abruptly.
“Please grant me your blessing.”
It was extremely frank. It was so direct that Yuna’s mind went blank. Sarcasm. She was supposed to be sarcastic in such a holy atmosphere. That was impossible.
Yuna mumbled, losing her presence of mind. But the seven people, as seven, did nothing but keep their heads lowered and no one interjected.
“… I grant you the blessing of our God, Vida.”
Unable to endure the atmosphere of this place, she spoke some extremely normal and mediocre words. As soon as that happened, the man called Delioru raised his head with an expression of fright.
“M-My name is Balus Missiu. Lady Saint, please grant me your blessing.”
The second person, who seemed to have pulled himself together, said these words timidly.
“… Our God, Vida, will always be at your side at any time.”
When she said that, the second man’s eyes widened and he raised his head.
They were scared. They were absolutely terrified. Yuna could see that but, that being said, she had not the slightest idea of what she should do. The nobles themselves looked extremely defeated; everyone was stiff with pale faces. To be this frightened of common words of blessing, just what kind of abuse had been hurled at them normally? It looked like Celiastina was someone completely unimaginable.
This wasn’t good. In the end, being decent wasn’t going to work. Yuna hid her grim resolve in her chest.
“L-Lady Saint, my name is Claude Trevasen… P-P-Please grant me your blessing.”
The seventh man had shrunken into himself pitifully. He was surely a great noble who lived without care in his own land. And yet, right now, he was a miserable sight and trembling more than a child would in that area.
As she gave him a look of pity, Yuna opened her mouth.
“–look like a peacock wrapped in a fancy scarf. Are you an idiot?”
In that moment, the area was completely frozen.
“I’m done. No more!”
“Calm down, Celia.”
Linus entered the room of blessing while trying to hold back his chuckles.
“As I thought, this is impossible for me! I can’t be like Lady Celiastina!”
“No, really, that was a masterpiece.”
Linus wiped away a tear in the corner of his eyes while his shoulders still shook. Yuna felt a great resentment as she gave him a sidelong glare.
“Isn’t it strange? I just said some common things and they were that scared. That was absolutely weird.”
“What are you angry about? To me, I can’t see this as anything but a clown who failed at their performance under the spotlight getting angry at the wrong person.”
“Are you calling me a clown!? Who do you think told me to do something like that!”
“Now, now, you still did well. I didn’t think that, after coming to that point, you would go there at the very end… ahaha.”
“Please stop laughing already!”
It was really terrible. At the very, very end because she lost her mind and blurted out those words, the place became wrapped in a cold atmosphere. The only man who was spoken ill of, the peacock man Claude Trevasen, looked to be incomprehensibly at a loss. Each and every one of the others, who were also dumbfounded, looked between Yuna and Trevasen, silent. Unable to endure being in this quiet confusion, where no one said a word, one second longer Yuna told them “Get out”. The moment she said that the aristocrats scattered and disappeared like spiderlings. When Yuna opened the door, while falling into deep self-loathing, Linus was there – having stealthily been taking a look at how things were going from the outside – holding his stomach and laughing.
“If you treated them in that manner from the beginning then it would have ended without an incident.”
“I can’t do that normally.”
“Didn’t you just do that at the end? Well, in short, you’ll become accustomed. There are heaps of other ceremonies like that, so sooner or later you’ll be able to naturally be insulting.”
“Is that supposed to be something good…?”
This man, who she couldn’t read, didn’t respond to her muttering and only kept smiling.
“At any rate, you might actually have more talent than the real Celia. It’s more powerful to show contempt for just one person rather than showing contempt for all of them equally.”
“I told you to stop talking about that already!”
“Anyway, keep up with this attitude. You can do it when you try, Celia.”
It was neither something she wanted to do nor something she felt good about doing. That was what she thought, but Yuna didn’t have the energy left to open her mouth any more than that.
Yuna had deliberately ignored what Linus said about there being “heaps of ceremonies like that” but, after half the day, she came to realize painfully the weight of those words.
First, after the Ceremony of Blessing, there was the Ceremony of Noon Purification, where she was thrown into a room with burning incense for an hour. Once that was done, the next was the Ceremony of Hymns where a number of priests and priestesses faced each other on their knees and praised God. Yuna was able to rest a short while after that but then, around evening, she had to appear on the balcony of the royal palace and wave in response to the cheers of the people who gathered there. Even more, after that, the Ceremony of Celebration followed where she had to give a kiss of blessing to the statue of a fantastical animal, the God’s beast, Arco.
Why exactly was this necessary? There were many things that held no meaning.
Yuna, and other people like her, were followers of their God, Vida, who they held with reverence. She couldn’t they say they were zealous, but they were pious enough to devote prayers occasionally to God in their daily lives… though, she had been pious. For some reason that feeling seemed to have disappeared; she went through way too many meaningless ceremonies. She had no intention of being blasphemous to God but she couldn’t understand the importance of these ceremonies at all.
Besides, in that “white world”, the mysterious light had said that the saint being a messenger of God was nothing but a pretence that the people made up, and that they weren’t God. If that was the case then what exactly were the saints and God they worshipped? Even though she tried thinking on it, she couldn’t see the answer.
(These ceremonies… aren’t they just things to satisfy ourselves as humans?)
Haa, breathing out a large sigh, Yuna staggered alone through a long, long passage.
She had just finished the Ceremony of Dusk Purification, where she had to bathe in cold water away from the royal palace. It was also a meaningless ceremony but she was able to spend time alone there and had a change of pace. There had been many people who minded over her excessively; moreover, all of them were clearly frightened of the saint. Considering how Celiastina was up to now, it would have been unnatural if she was amiable. But even so, Yuna wasn’t able to treat them badly. She was stuck between a rock and a hard place and so it was extremely tiring. By the time she was waving her hand on the balcony, she had been so tired she couldn’t even feel nervous.
However, the servants really couldn’t seem to stop themselves from glancing at Yuna. It seemed Celiastina doing something like obediently attending all the ceremonies was normally unthinkable. And so, the expressions of the people who looked at Yuna – though unsociable had waved at the people without complaint – had such a pained pallor that, on the contrary, she was the one who became scared.
(I also haven’t seen Linus at all since that time.)
That person was still someone she didn’t know well. But even so, the other had no hesitance in interacting with her that she was able to relax. She would have liked to have him by her side to support her, but it looked like he didn’t have any intentions of concerning himself with her more than was necessary. Maybe because he was the advisor to the prime minister of the country he didn’t have that much free time. He might also be telling her that since it was her body she was to do something about it herself. He seemed to be a friendly person but he might be the type of person to draw a clear line between him and others.
Suddenly, there was the sound of other footsteps in the passage. Tap, tap, the footsteps were brisk and had a regular rhythm. When Yuna’s gaze, which had been wandering aimlessly at the dim scenery outside the window, returned to the passage she saw a familiar black-haired young man walking her way. She recalled that his name was Asyut.
“… Good evening.”
Because he seemed like he was going to ignore her when his walking speed didn’t change, Yuna spoke up first. It seemed like the other hadn’t been about to ignore her though, since he stopped and greeted her with a bow.
“Have you recovered your good health?”
Those words were an obligatory expression; they held no emotion. It was plain that he did not really care about Yuna’s health.
“Yes, thanks to you.”
“I am relieved. If anything were to happen to your body, I would not be able to express the depths of my regret.”
Do you really think that? Yuna reflexively wanted to ask this.
“Where are you heading to from here?”
Somehow she was able to endure it though and threw out a safe question. She remembered that the direction Asyut was heading had nothing but places set aside for ceremonies, and so she suddenly had questions about why this man was heading there.
“I thought to practice my swordsmanship. I believe Lady Celiastina is not aware of this, but on the way to the purification rooms there is a training ground.”
Looking at him, Asyut’s clothes were definitely different from the time she saw him last night. He was wearing a shirt that opened loosely around his chest, black pants, and boots; the whole ensemble looked comparatively easy to move in. And then in his hand he carried an elegant long sword which was ill-matched with the simplicity of his clothes.
“Yes. Though I was training with the soldiers until just now.”
There was absolutely no momentum to the conversation. Yuna thought that was natural since the other person hated her, but there was something she still couldn’t understand. The relationship between these two. Linus had said these two were engaged. But no matter how she looked at it, he acted like he was a retainer. She couldn’t feel any air of them being a future couple.
“It appears that you are alone as well. Has something come to pass with your maids?”
A fleeting accusation appeared in Asyut’s eyes. And Yuna, who was not used to his gaze, flinched.
Moreover, she couldn’t possibly tell him that she pressured her maids to leave her.
“Please limit your acts of convenience and be careful with your health.”
It looked like he hadn’t been wanting an answer from the start and immediately continued talking. Even though he was indifferent to her, all he did was scold her. Yuna suddenly became angry.
“Thank you for your concern!”
Saying that, Yuna went to pass by Asyut. If they spoke any more than this they would just increase their mutual hate for each other. She needed to hurry and limit this to just leaving.
However, unexpectedly, Asyut stopped Yuna who had been leaving.
What? All she did was turn her head to glance at him.
“May I inquire about something?”
“What is it?”
“Did something happen yesterday?”
Yesterday. Even if he asked that, she couldn’t think of anything but what happened at the brook.
“I felt that you were acting strange since the morning of yesterday. However, without saying anything, you went alone into the forest. What happened there? After I found you in the river, this sense of discomfort has increased even more.”
She was obviously flustered. Asyut narrowed his eyes slightly and examined Yuna.
It looked like he was waiting for the continuation of “That’s…”.
“I don’t remember… what I was thinking about… that morning.”
Nervously, Yuna opened her mouth. However, it didn’t seem like that was an answer that satisfied him. For a moment, Asyut had an expression of astonishment before he glared at Yuna.
“What are you saying…”
“I don’t remember anything. Not myself. Not you. Nothing about everything around me. Because I’ve lost my memories.”
Upon seeing the color of Asyut’s face change, Yuna hurriedly talked on.
“What I remember is coming to awareness underneath that cliff. I know absolutely nothing about what I’ve done up to now, and what kind of person I am. I discussed this with Linus, but he said that my memory loss wouldn’t be welcomed and so I was to do my best not to tell anyone… I told you because you didn’t seem like you’d drop this.”
“Truly, you’ve managed to come up with another vicious torment.”
“It’s not a prank! Honestly, I went through this day with a lot of difficulty. Do you know how glad I’d be if this was all just a trick…?”
“I don’t care about any of that.”
Asyut declared this flatly. His eyes were cold. And he looked down on Yuna, as if piercing her with that look.
“If you claim that you’ve forgotten, then I would like for you to remember everything as soon as possible. Did you think that these words about memory loss would put an end to everything that happened up to now? At least, it has no effect on me. If you are expecting me to be kind and considerate to you, please throw those expectations away immediately.”
At those extreme words, Yuna felt herself quickly turning pale. It didn’t matter if she lost her memories? She was greatly mistaken to think he’d treat her kindly? – Those words – were they not too much?
“How are you able to say such cruel things? Weren’t you the one just now who told me to tell you about anything that happened? So, why do you have to look down on me? If you hadn’t asked, then I wouldn’t have told you about my memory loss.”
“Because you are too irresponsible.”
“Are you talking about my carelessness in going to forest alone and slipping and falling into the river? If so then yes, you may be right, but to say those things because of that…!”
“You are mistaken.”
Asyut interrupted Yuna’s agitated words and shook his head.
“It is impossible to return your deeds up until now back to nothing. I absolutely won’t forgive you. That is all.”
It felt like her head had been struck with how his words crashed into her head. That stinging pain passed down into the inner corner of her eyes when she blinked.
“In addition, Lady Celiastina, please do not use polite words on me. You are a person who stands at the very top of all the people. You do not have to treat a retainer like me equally.”
Yuna glared at Asyut.
“Linus said the same thing. But Linus laughed when he said that it was creepy for me to use polite language towards him. You–… are different, aren’t you. You don’t see me as anything but a decorated messenger of God. You think that as long as I’m alive and here then that is good enough.”
“You… hate me very much, huh.”
You’re saying that now, at this point? Asyut’s unimpressed gaze seemed to mean as he looked at Yuna.
Her heart was in unbearable pain.
Every time, when she looked back on that incident, it felt like something was squeezing her chest.
Yuna buried herself in her bed and hugged her trembling body. The maids had brought dinner but she didn’t have an appetite. Even the warm steam carrying the smell of food was nothing but a bother to Yuna right now.
Asyut’s powerful eyes. His strong voice. When she first met him, she remembered being drawn to both of those. But now that was futile. It wasn’t ever going to happen again, the way his eyes and voice enveloped her directly like that time at the river. Besides, at that time, the only point of importance for him was whether or not the “saint” was alive or dead. There was certainly not the slightest hint of consideration for the young girl who had been suddenly dropped into a forest with no one there.
Why did he hate the saint? He even declared that he wouldn’t forgive the deeds that had been done up to now. What exactly did Celiastina do to him? Could it be, that it wasn’t just him? Did she commit an unforgivable folly to every single person around her?
(That might be it.)
It wasn’t normal for everyone to be so frightened of her. Would they shrink away so blatantly if she had been a saint who was just more or less annoying and selfish? Wouldn’t they just have had disgusted expressions and think, ah, it was that troublesome woman again. However, the only thing that appeared on everyone’s faces was the color of terror.
(Should I try asking Linus?)
And then he could tell her in detail as to how Celiastina acted up until now. But then again, he wouldn’t tell her about the antagonism between Celiastina and Asyut.
(What should I do?)
Haa, releasing a big sigh, Yuna turned over in her bed. In the quiet of the large room, her sigh resounded terribly.
There was also one more thing she was curious about. Not long ago, there were additional feelings that occupied her heart. Anger, hatred, and– sadness. Which, right now, mirrored her current feelings well. However, it was clear that these feelings were “someone else’s”.
(Are you… here?)
In her heart.
Yuna tried asking softly.
She’s experienced this several times since yesterday; this sensation of another person’s feelings eroding her heart. Someone else. There was only one person to be considered.
Without speaking, Yuna tried calling that name. There was no response. However, Yuna had confidence in this. She couldn’t explain it well but she felt like she was definitely right.
Once again, she called out.
Right now, you’re feeling sad, aren’t you.
Yuna tried closing her eyes patiently like that but there was no response through feelings or words. Instead, for some reason, there were flurried noises coming closer to here. It seemed like people’s footsteps. Several of them. At the same time, there were sounds of voices raised in a small struggle.
(… What the?)
Suspicious, Yuna sat up in bed. The footsteps that she had thought would pass by stopped unexpectedly in front of her room. As a voice rose loudly into a shout, someone knocked on her door.
“Who is it?”
When she answered, frightened, the voices outside ceased suddenly. Even through the door she could hear the presence of someone catching their breath. But then, soon, the voice of a young man called out “Excuse me” and opened the door with force.
The person who entered was a young man who was around her age. With blond hair and blue eyes he brought about an aristocratic air, but going by his appearance she didn’t think he had much status. The man focused on Yuna with an expression of being at his wits’ end and kneeled. Behind him stood soldiers, who appeared to be his comrades, and there were several maids who held back and lingered near the vicinity of the door. Yuna was completely bewildered, but it was obvious that they would do nothing but stand and watch.
“Please excuse my sudden appearance at this time of night.”
The young man said this in a dignified voice, in contrast to the faint sweat on his face due to his nervousness.
“My name is Aeneas Delray. On this occasion, I have a request to beg of you, Lady Celiastina. I acknowledge my rudeness.”
Aeneas, one of the soldiers who were standing bolt upright at the door muttered this in a voice packed with censure. It looked like they had done everything they could to chase after and stop this young man. But, because that didn’t happen, they were now at a complete loss.
“A request of me?”
Yuna was also puzzled. In this entire day, there hadn’t been a single person who called out to her in this form. It was probably an abnormal situation.
Aeneas swallowed loudly.
“It is about the matter concerning Neisan.”
“Perhaps Lady Celiastina does not remember this. This is about the soldier who acted with impoliteness towards Lady Celiastina previously and was sent to the Holy Jail.”
Holy Jail? Those were words that she had never heard of before. Yuna furrowed her brows, wondering what it was, but that expression must have come off as being displeased to Aeneas. The faint sweat on his brow became a drop that slid down his cheek. But, even still, he didn’t avert his eyes.
“As you are wise, Lady Celiastina, you must already be aware of what I am about to request but allow me to dare say– Please, I beg of you, grant Neisan your forgiveness. Please, permit me to release him from the dungeon.”
Yuna vaguely began to understand the situation. And, at the same time, her fingers suddenly became cold.
“Lady Celiastina, I’ve turned to you before for Neisan. You told me that if he could endure being in the Holy Jail for three months then you would grant him your mercy. It has already been four months since Neisan has entered the Holy Jail. He has endured it. Please, as you’ve stated, I beg of you to grant him your forgiveness.”
Saying that, Aeneas lowered his head to the ground.
At once the chill from her fingers went up her spine. His words were too shocking. The more she assimilated his words the more she began to recall distinctly the merciless treatment that Celiastina of the past had done– her vision went white. It can’t be. No way. The misdeeds that Celiastina were guilty of exceeded her imagination vastly.
“I… ordered for Neisan… to be transferred to the dungeon, didn’t I.”
Yuna said this in a hoarse voice; she needed to confirm this firmly.
Aeneas raised his face and nodded weakly.
This happened four months ago. Furthermore, the promised period of three months had passed, which meant that Neisan had been left as he was there.
“Neisan… what did he do to me? Do you know?”
“Could you tell me?”
“… Four months ago, Neisan and I received orders to guard Lady Celiastina personally, and so we came to greet our lady. On that occasion, um, Lady Celiastina, you… called out to me, especially.”
Aeneas suddenly became evasive and started speaking ambiguously. But Yuna managed to somehow understand what he wanted to say.
“Right, I was interested in you. And then?”
“At that time, I had a fiancée that had been decided by my family. Because of that, I could not… accept Lady Celiastina’s… words.”
In other words, he had been the target of a seduction but refused that invitation.
“Neisan knew the circumstances and proposed to be my replacement to Lady Celiastina.”
“That… was an unforgivable proposal from someone such as a squire.”
That was it? It was just that? Just because of that, Celiastina had a person called Neisan tossed into jail? Her cold body began to grow hot. At the same time, her heart quickened.
Yuna closed her eyes and told herself repeatedly to calm down.
When she opened her eyes again, she directly met Aeneas’ eyes.
“Will you guide me to the Holy Jail?”
Those words must have been unexpected, because Aeneas’ mouth dropped open and he lost his voice. The soldiers who had been watching the development of these events also widened their eyes.
“But the dungeon of the royal palace is not a place suited for someone like Lady Celiastina to go…”
Yuna said this strongly and so Aeneas, while still being somewhat bewildered, acknowledged her words.
“We’re leaving right away. Now, please stand.”
At her words, Aeneas staggered to his feet. He most likely came here with the resolve that this time he would be the one ordered to jail. When he realized he wasn’t going to be threatened, he seemed somewhat astonished. Moreover, he extended a hand to Yuna, who had been getting out of bed, with the proprieties of a knight. Just now, he said his comrade, Neisan, was a “squire”. It was probable that he had the same position. From his actions too, she wouldn’t have thought of him as an ordinary soldier who didn’t know etiquette. The town soldiers that Yuna knew were all sociable and frank people. They may have slapped each other’s shoulders familiarly but she couldn’t imagine them extending a hand. But then, right now, why was he wearing the clothes of a soldier? Most likely, when the events of four months ago happened, Celiastina also ordered his status to be revoked.
“What are you all going to do? If there are things you wish to say then I will listen to everything.”
Yuna looked to the other soldiers who were still standing there. Upon receiving her look, their bodies which had relaxed immediately stiffened; they looked at each other with confused faces, but soon shook their heads timidly.
“If that’s the case, then would you all return to your stations for this evening? I absolutely won’t do anything bad to Aeneas. If you are worried about him then I can promise that much, so please be at ease.”
When they heard those words, their expressions became relieved to some degree. However, they couldn’t bring themselves to completely trust Celiastina and threw worried looks at Aeneas before bowing their heads scatteredly and, though they still had hesitations, they soon left in uncertainty.
–It is impossible to return your deeds up until now back to nothing. Asyut’s words were brought back to her mind. Yuna bit her lip and left her room.
In the royal palace, where the evening was deepening and there were few people, the sight of the two of them was conspicuous. Each time the occasional servant passed by they would take a quick look at both of them with a surprised expression. A soldier and a saint. From the outside, it was certainly a strange combination. If they were going by the expression of Aeneas, who was walking in front with a scared look, they probably suspected some sort of misfortune befell him. However, his actual expression was more akin to bafflement than fear. From time to time, the look on his face when he turned his head to confirm that Yuna was coming along seemed to ask “Are you serious?”. Yuna didn’t say anything in particular, she just followed after Aeneas in silence.
The glamorous interior of the royal palace changed dramatically at night; the night brought about an indescribable illusionary atmosphere. The numerous decorations on the ceiling, made diligently by rare artists, and the delicate carvings on all the pillars were wholly concealed in the darkness. Instead, the light from the candle that reached the walls and their feet wrapped dimly around this space.
“Please watch your footing.”
Yuna took Aeneas’ hand and slowly descended the stairs of a spiral staircase.
“Are you absolutely certain about this?”
Suddenly, Aeneas spoke up and asked this question. When Yuna nodded, he turned to face forward again in resignation, and it was as if he had never asked this question at all.
And then, at that time, the atmosphere in the area changed abruptly. The atmosphere– no, even her visuals, changed entirely and distinctly. The elegantly designed spiral staircase, within one step, changed without warning to stone stairs covered in dust. There was no divide or anything. The marble stairs that she had been stepping on had just, in the next step, disappeared and changed into plain stone steps that had not been polished. The path to the prison was clearly displayed.
Even though the beautiful royal palace was right there if they turned around, right now, Yuna was certain that she was stepping into the entrance of despair. Putting one hand on the hard and cold stone wall that appeared suddenly and descending down the stairs that had bad footholds Yuna was filled with uneasiness. Even though she came all this way to confirm precisely what Celiastina had done, perhaps this decision was too dreadful for this body. Unconsciously, she tightened her grip on Aeneas’ hand. Aeneas, who felt that, sent a glance at Yuna. But the silence remained protected; the only sounds were the echoes of their shoes.
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, there was a towering flat stone wall in front of them. A narrow passage continued to their right. And, coming from that side, faint ghastly groans, “Ahh… ahh…”, resounded.
Yuna swallowed, hard.
“… You are certain?”
Aeneas confirmed at this last moment.
She couldn’t draw back at this point. Once more, Yuna gave a firm nod.
When they passed through the narrow passage, what lay ahead of them were more narrow and complicated passages which only allowed one person to pass through. There were many walls of mortar in a row, limiting their visibility. There was barely any light and this damp and clammy space only made Yuna more depressed. And it was cold. A cold that could not even be expressed with the word cold. Yuna rewound the stole around her body slightly firmer, but even so, her freezing body trembled.
She continued walking slowly, following after Aeneas who was advancing with a lamp in hand. Every time she took a step, there was an indescribable smell which became stronger. It was like the stench of something rotting. A stench of sweat, dust, and moisture mixed together. And– most likely, the stench of blood. All of those things were mixed together and pierced her nose sharply. Yuna reflexively grimaced.
As the passage slightly opened up, prison bars appeared on both sides. Fearfully, she turned her eyes in those directions but, contrary to her expectations, there was no one there, only a gaping empty room. But there was something like a dark malice that seemed to swirl there, and Yuna was unable to feel relieved at it being uninhabited.
The faint groaning sounds of prisoners steadily grew louder. And, as if it were covering up those voices, the sound of heavy clothing being rustled followed lowly. In the next moment, CLANG, there were the sounds of prison bars being shaken, and that high-pitched sound tore at her ears.
She reached her limit.
She felt like she realized more than enough. Yes, Celiastina had done something unspeakably heartless. Because she was able to force unrelated people into this world without any light of day reaching them. Without any just reason. Justice? No, on the contrary, it was with unjust reasons.
Without realizing it, Yuna stopped. Both of her legs were trembling and she couldn’t walk well. Aeneas, who turned around, immediately came to her side with his brows furrowed.
“Lady Celiastina, this is enough. You do not need to look at a place like this. I am merely asking for your forgiveness.”
When she raised her frightened face, she met his eyes which were filled with compassion.
Her trembling voice unintentionally leaked out.
“Why do you have such a kind expression?”
Aeneas’ eyes widened lightly, questioningly.
“You hate me, don’t you? I forced your friend unjustly into this place. And it wasn’t even a fight you picked. You yourself also must have suffered. In truth, you want to throw me into this dungeon, right? And yet, why, how are you able to look at me, when I’m frightened at the entrance to this prison, with such compassion?”
“Lady Celiastina, I’m not–“
“–Let’s go. To meet Neisan.”
He must have been a person who, by nature, couldn’t hate someone. Receiving that kindness and concern in a place like this, instead just made Yuna irritated. She could also feel an irritation from that “other” slowly growing larger. But still, his concern strengthened her. When she resumed walking and almost passed the confused Aeneas, he hurried to catch up to her side.
Their path became even more complex.
There were prisons lined up in disordered spots, and were uninhabited. But there remained clear evidence that, in the past, people used to be there. What did that mean? Were the prisoners safely released? Or were they…
A low groan was heard right beside them and Yuna’s shoulders trembled with a start. When she turned, the gloomy cell that she had thought was empty had a shadow that moved. When she resolved to move closer, a stink assaulted her to the point of making her want to reflexively draw back. But even so, she managed to walk up to the bars and was able to faintly catch sight of the man who was stirring inside.
The man was strangely emaciated. His wavy black hair was greasy and was stuck closely against his cheeks; those cheeks were completely hollow and had a color like dirt. Because he was looking down she wasn’t able to catch his expression, but that might have been better for Yuna.
Both the man’s feet and hands were forcibly brought together and bound. Due to that, the man’s body was curled unnaturally over his knees and, occasionally, he would just groan. He didn’t look over at them. Beside him, there was a dish with rotten food that was rolled over. Most of its contents had spilled out, but it was strangely covered.
“Lady Celiastina, please, this way.”
Aeneas grabbed Yuna’s arm as if in reproach when she stood there unmoving and staring at the state of that man. Unable to resist, she was pulled away from that prison cell.
Yuna mumbled this instinctively. It was like that prisoner hadn’t been treated as a person. Not only was he not given proper food, but it was clear that he had been tortured.
“It would be better if you did not look too closely.”
Aeneas led Yuna, doing his best to avoid the direction in which groans and jarring noises were heard. Even so, there were a number of prisoners covered in despair and stagnating. She could tell with a glance that any one of the prisoners had received horrible treatment. There were also rooms were the entire floor and walls were covered in traces of blood. –She didn’t want to imagine what had occurred there.
The circumstances around her were so gruesome that it felt like she had become completely numb. But still, the only thing she didn’t want to do was avert her eyes from this reality and so she continued determinedly to look at the sights in front of her. She was here in this place right now to find out what Celiastina had brought about to these people.
“LET ME OUT, LET ME OUT FROM HERE!”
There were shouts and the shaking of bars from those who still had the energy and physical strength. But there were also many who had no energy to stand and were collapsed on the floor, as if they were dead.
There was one person to the side of Yuna and Aeneas who stood in front of the bars. The prisoner was looking down and seemed to be mumbling something. He noticed Yuna and stretched out his hand clumsily. Yuna approached him, as if drawn, but was stopped again by Aeneas.
“Lady Celiastina, please do not approach them. It is dangerous.”
Yuna came to her senses, but behind her another man called out.
“Celiastina, you said? Hey, are you there?! HEY!!”
It was a young voice.
“What happened to my wife, Rin? Hey, what happened to Rin!? I beg of you, I don’t care what happens to me, but please save Rin!! Celiastina, you’re listening, aren’t you!?”
She couldn’t see the owner of that voice. It was a shout that came from one of the many prisons. Yuna, who took a step to find the source, had her arm gripped tightly by Aeneas. Her stole, which had been wrapped around her, slipped and slid off her shoulders.
“You mustn’t. You must realize how dangerous it is to face them in this place, right?”
“That’s true, but…”
“In any case, let us move with haste.”
She moved forward steadily with her hand pulled along by Aeneas. Just how long had they been walking since they entered this separate place? Most likely, as far as distance went, it wasn’t anything significant. But to Yuna it seemed like this passage would continue without end until, suddenly, it came to an end with just a few words from Aeneas.
“He is… Neisan.”
Finally arriving at their objective, this prison cell wasn’t any different from the others, it was just as gloomy and filled with an offensive smell. When she looked inside, there was a red-haired man reclined against the wall with both his legs stretched out. From his unmoving state and closed eyes, she had fears that he was already… but then she saw his chest moving up and down faintly and was able to know that he was still alive. Yuna heaved a sigh of relief.
He was also emaciated and his hair, which went past his shoulders, was wild and unkempt. The upper half of his body was not covered by clothes and instead was littered with wounds. There was nothing inside this empty cell except his body and he was unconscious.
Aeneas confirmed that Neisan was unconscious before he brought Yuna up to the prison bars.
“I heard that Neisan survived every torture. It is likely that your words about it being three months somehow bolstered him.”
Aeneas muttered this while directing pained eyes at his friend.
“Normally, those who are sent to the Holy Jail do not survive past one month. There are those who do not have the strength, and those who can not preserve their spirits. In actuality, I do not know of anyone who has exited this place alive. But I believe Lady Celiastina is more than aware of this. Amongst that, Neisan has survived four months.”
Aeneas bit his lip.
“Lady Celiastina, please have mercy. Please grant Neisan your forgiveness. If possible, not just Neisan, please grant your mercy to all those who are here…!”
There were tears mixed in at the end of his speech before Aeneas lowered himself to one knee, as if he were offering a prayer to Yuna.
Yuna shouted in a bitter voice. At that moment, the dungeon was wrapped in a uproarious atmosphere. The prisoners became agitated and started rioting.
In the midst of this ghastly cacophony, Yuna somehow continued her words while trembling.
“I am not a person who you should be begging mercy from like that. I don’t have those qualifications. A saint… I’m nothing like that.”
The answer to the question she was about to ask was possibly going to knock her down completely. But she could not and would not avert her eyes from reality. Something, a sense of purpose, a sense of duty, or a slightly different resolve moved Yuna.
“This dungeon… is a bit too unnatural, isn’t it?”
Yuna looked straight at Aeneas.
“It’s too close to the royal palace. Moreover, there isn’t a single guard at the entrance. If this was the kingdom’s prison, they normally wouldn’t torture prisoners in such a way. Even if you looked at everyone’s behaviour–“
Yuna clenched her hands into fists.
“–not just Neisan. Everyone in here… was confined by my orders, right?”
She didn’t want to realize that. But she did.
This Holy Jail was surely a place made on Saint Celiastina’s whim. In order to torment innocent and guiltless people and to make them suffer.
“… Why… are you asking that, at this point?”
A very clear answer came back.
So that’s how it was.
Suddenly, as if she felt something covering her shoulders, Yuna crumbled down. This heavy and loaded space was a whirlpool of malice towards her. The low echoing groans of the prisoners were voices of hatred towards her. –Aah, Celiastina, how terrible you are.
Once more, Yuna slowly looked around the area. She had to burn this sight into her heart so that she wouldn’t forget. This space… was the darkness of Celiastina’s heart.
Yuna slowly nodded.
“Let’s return, Aeneas.”
“Of course Neisan will be released. Not just him, but everyone else too. And then we’ll destroy this place so that, never again, will there be people trapped in here.”
As Yuna was saying this, before she knew it, she was shedding large tears. Even though she hadn’t intended to cry. But she couldn’t stop. What use did her crying have? Rather, these easy tears, would be the dirtiest thing to these innocent prisoners.
“Hurry, someone needs to be called. I can’t save everyone alone. I’m the one who made them suffer through this. Hurry, get them out, wipe off their bodies, give them something to drink, treat their wounds, and let them sleep in warm beds– ahh…”
Unstoppable tears. A small swirl of hatred in her chest began to well up, as if hating her tears.
Why, Yuna asked. Why are you angry? What are you so torn over?
Aeneas hesitatingly stretched out a hand and gently wiped away the tears sliding down Yuna’s cheeks. Don’t be so kind to me, Yuna screamed in her heart. – Yes, like that person – he should be looking at her with hate in his eyes like Asyut. But, contrary to those feelings, Yuna was unable to refuse Aeneas’ warm hand.
Neisan, who at some point had regained consciousness, stared over at them with a strange look in his eyes.
Even when his look was caught by Yuna, he didn’t look away or glare. She couldn’t read any sort of emotion in those exhausted eyes.