Afterwards, Linus immediately came to retrieve her and, as stated, Yuna spent several days in her room.
The large room was as wearisome as usual, but thanks to Linus’ consideration there were several new things inside the tasteless room. There were various books, ranging from religious texts to the popular, arranged on her bookshelves, and a complete set of lacework placed casually on the table. Most of the books were difficult for Yuna and hard to read, and the lacework too was unmanageable for her since she didn’t have experience in the aristocratic arts. Even so, she was grateful for Linus’ thoughtfulness and expressed her thanks in her heart.
The room was provided with a private bathroom and, as long as food was brought in, she could live inside her room without any inconvenience. On this, she was grateful.
Yuna, who had been excused from every ceremony, quickly became bored though and looked around the room. After wandering around the room aimlessly, she looked at the mountain of books. Just looking at the spines made her feel overwhelmed but she managed to pull herself together and pull out one book.
It was a book on the history of this country and the saints. It wasn’t something that was impossible to read but it would take a lot of time to decipher the words and it was a bothersome history book to understand for Yuna. However, it was precisely because of this that it was something she could use to pass the time, and she also wanted to know more about the relation between the saints and this country, so it was like killing two birds with one stone. She was lacking in too much knowledge.
(Ever since the long gone time of myths, there has always been the existence of a saint.)
By the time Yuna, who was carefully reading each page, sighed and reached a point in the book where the events were only 1000 years ago, the maids had brought in candles for light. While lifting a cup of brewed tea to her mouth, she found herself unexpectedly astonished at the “deep-rooted” history of the saints.
In the past, this country was just one of many countless countries that crowded around this land. But, even at that time, it was known to the other countries that there was a saint who served Sibelius. The kingdom of Sibelius protected its saint from the other countries, sparing no effort. And then, one day, it came to have the power to overwhelm the other countries; it was written in the book that the other countries naturally surrendered to Sibelius when they understood the preciousness of the saint. And, about 1000 years ago from now, the world became unified under Sibelius and the other countries were left as vassals. However, even Yuna vaguely understood that, in the world of entangled interests and speculations, the conflict between all countries was not so easily settled. It was more likely that the present Sibelius was formed after a dark morass of exchanges.
Now then, more importantly, about the saints.
Yuna roused herself again and skipped past the political parts of the book until she reached the part referring to the saints, where she narrowed down her focus to continue reading the book.
The saints who appeared in this history book were all women who were sublimely beautiful, more than anyone, and like angels. Everyone was portrayed as a faultless saint and praised on how they served their country with their body and soul. Yuna had some doubts. She had only experienced a few days of living as a saint and she was already feeling tired. There had to be girls who couldn’t endure the heavy pressure of a saint’s duties being pushed onto them since they were young, right? Or did everyone just continue to exist as the ideal saint without a single complaint? It all seemed very suspicious, that was Yuna’s honest impression.
But, well, there was that; it was no surprise that the previous generations of saints, from hundreds of years ago, were deified. Even if there were scandals here and there, no doubt the details of those stories would be omitted. But still, as she continued to read about these saints, she couldn’t help but groan at how Celiastina was really a heretical saint. In these thousands years of histories, there was not a single appearance of a saint which had committed atrocious acts. No matter how the author of this book colored their evaluation of Celiastina, it was impossible for them to write down something like “she served the country with complete devotion”.
(In that case, what about the saints from just a few generations ago?)
She turned over a large width of the book to look at the last few dozen pages. It looks like this book was made relatively recently because there were things written about the previous saint– the saint before Celiastina! Yuna curbed her impatience and read the entry.
That saint was called Malveneska. It was a grand name, but it was said that she was a peasant. According to this book the women, upon becoming the saint, were bestowed with a name by the king. In other words, Celiastina’s name was, strictly speaking, not her real name. Generally, the name of a saint contained similar characters to their original name but with a holy sound to it.
Malveneska was a brunette, with plentiful hair, and a beauty with a mysterious atmosphere. She had an obedient and silent personality, without many facial expressions, but she conducted her ceremonies without missing a single one and was a woman of deep piety. Each successive generation of saints held special powers, and in her case it appeared to be the ability to “sing well”. Compared to the power of clairvoyance in past saints, her power was quite plain but her singing was beautiful to a point of being heavenly and those who heard her voice were struck with such wonder that tears would flow down their cheeks. The book described exaggeratedly at how the First Holy Knight loved his fiancée so much from the bottom of his heart that he could not even wait for her to turn twenty to marry her.
The descriptions around Malveneska were around this amount. It looked like this book was written during her life and was published when she was still quite young. With this, Yuna was unable to know how Malveneska lived her life as the saint. Thinking that this was a shame, Yuna casually flipped to the next page. And then her eyes landed on a number. Yuna was so surprised to see Malveneska’s birthday that her breath caught.
Adelbert 2. Wasn’t that just forty years ago!? In other words, if she were still alive she would still be in her mid-forties. But Celiastina being here was proof that Malveneska no longer existed in this world. Yuna didn’t know the exact age of Celiastina but, looking at her appearance, she was unmistakably around twenty years old give or take. If she used that for her calculations, then Malveneska died prematurely around the age of twenty. It is hard to think that she had an accidental death in this royal palace. Then, maybe she died from an illness?
While thinking that, she couldn’t feel anything more than sympathy. Perhaps it was because she was overlapping herself with Malveneska.
Yuna closed the book and looked up at the ceiling. –How much time was she allowed? She could only feel a sense of helplessness at the certain feeling of an imminent death. Malveneska might have lived as the saint while having these same thoughts. For what sake did she devote her prayers to as she approached death? For herself after her death? Or for the country that continues even after her death?
There was no doubt in her decision to move forward on the path she believed in. But there was another doubt that swirled in Yuna no matter what she did.
In the next few days, the room showed various changes. It was likely that, in the short time Yuna was bathing, the servants changed the things she had to pass the time with. The set of lacework that were on the table on the first day disappeared and were replaced by a beautiful painting set, and just by looking at it she could tell it was expensive. The flute-like instrument that she didn’t understand was changed to a small music box, which made enchanting music.
They probably caught Yuna’s lack of interest in those items; the things that were replaced were all things that Yuna hadn’t touched much. At any rate, they must have thought that it would be bad for the saint to become bored. Most likely it wasn’t done out of a feeling of “apology” but rather a “there will be trouble” meaning, Yuna thought with a self-derisive smile. And then she gave an empty sigh.
But it was hard for her to imagine that the servants used their own judgement to prepare this fine painting set and music box for her. Thinking that it might have been Linus’ consideration for her again, she asked the maid who appeared to clean up her dinner.
But, surprisingly, when she did so the answer that was returned was “Those came from Lord Asyut’s consideration”. It looks like, from the start, Asyut was the one who ordered her maids to prepare these various items.
(…… I can’t believe it.)
Considering the attitude he had when she had faced him, she had though there was no way he would care about her sake. However, she didn’t think the maids would lie about this. These various items were definitely prepared by Asyut.
(It’s so pretty.)
Yuna picked up the music box again; it was inlaid with several gems and glittered.
(I wonder if I can be friends… with Asyut.)
Was that an impossible wish? Was it completely impossible to fill the deep trench that stretched between them?
(I want to become friends, huh……)
Why did she think that way? If she had been a village girl, then something like being friends with a good-looking young man with both status and education like Asyut was such a grand thing that it wouldn’t even be granted in her dreams. Much less wishing for a relationship that would be more than that. Besides, if by any chance, hypothetically speaking, she was able to become friends with Asyut then what awaited them was an inescapable separation. And yet, why did she…
(I might be starting to treat things through Celiastina’s point of view, little by little.)
Linus had spoken about this before. He told her not to equate herself with Celiastina. It’s true that Yuna thought the same. But, without her noticing, it became like this. Even though she knew intellectually that she was just increasing her own pain, the more she felt this world with these eyes, these hands, and these feet, the more she wasn’t able to treat things like they were somebody else’s problem.
Haa, she sighed, and then at the same moment she dropped her sight to the music box again the room echoed with the sound of a knock on her door.
Who could that be? The maids had just cleared away her dinner.
Yuna startled at that voice and then her body stiffened. It was the voice of the person she had just been thinking about. It was Asyut.
For some reason she felt awkward. As she tried to pick her words, Asyut opened the door and entered the room. When he noticed the music box in Yuna’s hands, his eyes narrowed slightly. It was an expression that had no emotion.
“W-What is it? Did something happen?”
“No, I wondered if you were not feeling inconvenienced from being alone. Is there anything you feel you are lacking?”
“No, I’m fine in that respect but……”
Did he come here out of his way to confirm that?
“T-Thank you very much.”
“That isn’t necessary. This is a part of my duties as well.”
In other words, he was implying that he came here unwillingly because it was his job. Yuna felt a little indignant but she somehow stifled that feeling.
“Um, how long am I supposed to be on standby in this room?”
“I believe it will only be a little while longer.”
“Amongst those who were released from the Holy Jail, there are those who really hate me, aren’t there? Of course, they still haven’t settled down, huh.”
“That is right.”
Asyut stated that without hesitation; there was an implication that she should know, since she had the memory of having done those things herself.
“The question is whether there is a possibility that hatred can lead to some kind of action. While watching over them, we are eliminating all of those possibilities.”
From the start, they never thought to soothe the feelings of the victims but acted in a way so that the victims would not act violently. Is that what he meant?
Each and every one of Asyut’s words were harsh. Feeling that sharply, Yuna curled her body inwards.
“And why is it just now that you’ve decided to talk about releasing everyone from the Holy Jail?”
Asyut muttered this while looking slightly downward. It was a quiet mutter, as if he were speaking to himself, but it reached Yuna’s ears.
“I-I…… I’ve said that I’ve lost my memories but I don’t want to close my eyes to the past.”
Yuna stood up from the sofa and brought this up strongly. Yes, she thought, this was the only thing she wanted to tell him. Even if her other words didn’t reach him, she just wanted these ones to do so.
Asyut, who looked surprised at Yuna’s ferocity, widened his eyes slightly. While he stood there, unable to move in his confusion, she pressed on with her next words.
“Rather, I want to know about more things from now on. Not just myself, but the mistakes I am guilty of and the results that happened because of those. I know there is no meaning behind me reflecting on my past mistakes when I currently have no memories, but even so, I want to know. I want to confront the past me.”
She wanted to confront Celiastina.
“The Holy Jail is one of those. I went to that jail and saw it with these eyes. The reality that I had brought about with my fickle orders. It was a horrible sight……”
“I’ve said this before, that no matter what you did your sins would not be forgiven.”
But, Yuna continued her words again.
“Is it hopeless to wish for one more chance to do things over again? Of course, my sins will not disappear for my entire life, and I think I will not be allowed to forget that. But, bearing those sins in mind, I want to walk forward once more, staring straight ahead, if that is possible.”
If even that was not allowed then surely Celiastina would not return. There would be no place where Celiastina belonged.
“What are you saying… at this point…”
Asyut said evasively, as if he were being told a lie.
“You took away the lives of a great many people. The lives of those people won’t return no matter what you do. And yet, you’re saying you want to do things over again, when you’re the only one who can?”
It was painful to be told that. She did think his words were true. But Celiastina had ended her life once. She ended her life with her own hands, so that she would not even be able to choose the choice of redoing things. Still she could not die and that was because she was this world’s one and only “saint”.
(That must have been very painful, right, Celiastina?)
A dull pain ran deep in her chest. It was like there was another her who was crying.
It might be a selfish thought to want to redo things, but at the very least she did not want to abandon Celiastina, even if she was the only one.
“The saint cannot die.”
At those words, Asyut raised his face as if he were taken aback.
(That is why I am here. The very least I could do is–)
“I want to make the people I meet from here on happy. Asyut, you too.”
Yuna was terribly nervous as she said this. It was obvious that she would receive a strong backlash from Asyut.
It was the expected cold voice.
“What is this happiness you speak of?”
It was a difficult question. Asyut’s happiness. What was it that she could do right now?
“…… For example, uh, we’re going to be married in the future, right? But, at this moment, it is something like torture to you, Asyut, right? So, maybe we can have a relationship that is a little calm when we’re together, or at the least not painful.”
“In the upper class, it is an everyday occurrence to have a political marriage of convenience. It is not necessary to find any other meaning there.”
“I think it’s best to have pleasant days whether you are an artistocrat or royalty.”
“That would be nice, yes. If that was possible, that would be the best. But, even if that wasn’t doable, a marriage that must be done has to be done.”
“Are you saying you’ve already given up? But, wait, I’ll do my best. I will endeavour to understand your feelings, Asyut, even if it is just a little.”
“No, thank you. I believe such efforts will be in vain, even if you try. If you really want to do something, I would appreciate you making an effort not have anything to do with me.”
Yuna lost her words.
“The marriage is merely for form’s sake. When you entered the royal palace, we exchanged vows at the engagement ceremony. And, at the age of twenty, we will perform the marriage ceremony. Once done, this country will continue its long peace. That is all.”
“I-I don’t like that way of thinking!”
“You might not be able to understand the thoughts of those who, from the time they were born, were raised and told on how things are to be done for the sake of the country.”
“However, I too, cannot understand your way of thinking. After having done such things, why would you think you could be open and friendly with me?”
Yuna could not object to those words. Looking at him, she understood, even if she did not want too, that he was talking about something unforgivable that had been done. But what exactly did she do? She wanted to ask, but feeling Asyut’s strong rejection and how getting to the core of that was something he would definitely not allow, Yuna could only swallow her words.
“…… I apologize. I only intended to come and inquire about your circumstances.”
As if uncomfortable, Asyut suddenly averted his eyes. Yuna bit her lip when she saw that. –He had no intention of being friends with her. On the contrary, he had no intention of discussing anything with her. He had no intention of meeting her eyes. It was a complete rejection.
Asyut lowered his head politely and left the room.
“From the time they were born, they were raised and told on how things are to be done for the sake of the country.”
Once she was alone, Yuna turned over Asyut’s words in her mind over and over again, and then noticed something.
The responsibility he carried on his shoulders. That pressure. That crushing weight–.
Right now, Yuna knew very well the pain of being squeezed into a stereotype. One she couldn’t escape from, both as the saint and as Celiastina. It felt like she was gradually becoming faint and at the end she would disappear without even leaving a trace. Yuna wanted someone, even just one person, to see her. Not as anyone else but to look at her as “her”. On one hand she was trying her best as Celiastina but, on the other, she had these feelings as well.
Did Asyut cry out the same like this?
From the time he was born, he was set up as the First Holy Knight and raised like that. That pressure was unfathomable. Perhaps even the person himself didn’t know what he was like, stripped bare. Because the moment he wasn’t the First Holy Knight it would be like he didn’t exist.
She was sure that Asyut was excellent in meeting everyone’s expectations. His dignified appearance and firm personality was absolutely amazing. He possessed a light that those who stood at the top should have. There were even many times where rumors of the First Holy Knight reached Yuna’s ears when she was still a village girl. He was intelligent, he was skilled in swordsmanship, he supported the king well and was deeply trusted. His appearance was not like that of an ordinary person. But those were not just rumors. Even Yuna, whose association with him was still superficial, could understand that he was a great person.
But there was no way a perfect person like that existed.
(Yes, it’s strange.)
It would have been better if she had noticed. A person should refuse and turn down things they dislike. Was she a child for thinking that way? In this world, could things not be as simple as that?
Even if that were the case, she believed it was wrong to have to accept the unreasonable pain of doing something like marrying a woman one hated from the bottom of his heart. It was as easy as saying “I don’t want to”. First, he should just try saying it. And, from there, something might even change.
A feeling similar to anger started to bubble and well up.
It might have been anger to herself. At herself for saying all kinds of things to people because of her rampant feelings but, at the end of the day, not being able to break down her situation. Yes, she was just being swept away. She was being swallowed by a violent current.
However, if she gave up here and now then it would be the same as giving up on everything in the future. Including the future of the sleeping and injured Celiastina. If she pushed on without giving up then maybe one day Celiastina would be able to face her past. It was the same for her. She wanted to be able to accept this moment some day as one where she could feel like this suffering was something that made her stronger.
–Even if, in the next moment, she would have to meet and accept the end of everything.
The following day, at tea time, a maid that Yuna had never met before appeared.
“My name is Nasha and I will be serving you starting from today, Lady Celiastina.”
“I-It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
The girl called Nasha was still young, looking to be around the same age as Celiastina. Due to nervousness she didn’t seem to move her body, and stood there upright without moving an inch. Up to now Yuna hadn’t had a person serving her full-time and so this was an unexpected encounter, but just being able to make a completely new acquaintance made her happy.
“Pleased to meet you too.”
Yuna returned her greeting with a wide smile, making Nasha’s eyes widen with surprise.
The maid beside Nasha scolded her in a low voice.
“I apologize deeply, Lady Celiastina. Nasha has only just started working here, so please forgive her rudeness.”
Nasha, who seemed to realize her attitude had been wrong, turned pale and lowered her head. Yuna hurriedly waved her hands.
“There’s nothing to apologize for! Don’t be too hard on yourself, get used to it slowly, okay?”
“Y-Yes. Thank you very much.”
“Nasha, how long has it been since you started?”
“A week, my lady.”
“Then, you’re still in the middle of remembering everything. It must be hard.”
“Are you living here while you work?”
“I see. Is your home far from here?”
“No, it is very close, my lady.”
“Ah, then it’d be easy to return home. That’s nice.”
…… It’s hopeless. The conversation wasn’t flowing at all. It felt more like she was doing an interrogation. Nasha seemed to be nervously answering her questions with the word “yes” and so forcing any more of a conversation just seemed wrong. Yuna showed a smile and then gently ended their conversation.
While they were doing this, the senior maid had completely arranged all the preparations for tea.
“–Wah, such pretty pastries!”
Yuna raised her voice enthusiastically when the pastries were served. They were such artful dishes that just looking at them made her content.
“I wonder how they make them so pretty. Ah! Nasha, are you good at making sweets?”
Upon this topic suddenly getting brought up, Nasha moved her body hastily.
“Um, me!? –I-I like to eat them more than I like making them.”
It was a very clear answer.
But, as if realizing her inappropriate words, Nasha turned red and looked down.
“It’s fine. I like eating more than baking too. Next time, let’s eat and compare sweets together.”
“Y-Yes. Ah, no, I mean, that would be out of the question.”
“…… Lady Celiastina, we apologize for taking up your precious time. We shall now excuse ourselves.”
As if deciding that it wouldn’t do to ruin the saint’s mood by exposing her to any more of this disgraceful behavior, the senior maid bowed sharply, and brought the cart out. Nasha, the new maid, gave a clumsy bow and followed after the other maid hurriedly.
“That girl, Nasha, seems nice. –I wonder if we can be friends.”
While she was shut away in her room, Yuna had another unexpected visitor.
The next day, the person who visited Yuna, was a person whose appearance shocked her the same way Asyut’s visit did.
The priestess wearing deep purple robes, Yodel.
According to Linus, she was a woman who held a top class power and authority in this country. And she hated Celiastina, who wasn’t like a saint, and was thinking of a way somehow to abase her influence. Due to Linus’ warning about how she would be taken advantage of if Yodel saw an opening, Yuna’s body naturally stiffened.
“How are you faring, Lady Celiastina?”
Exactly like the first time they met, those eyes looked straight at Yuna and pierced her. She couldn’t meet Yodel’s eyes and unintentionally averted her gaze.
“…… Thank you for your concern. I have been spending time without being in any discomfort.”
She returned her words cautiously. Following that, Yodel suddenly showed a sarcastic smile.
“That is good. If that were not the case then Lord Asyut’s efforts would have gone to waste. Because he had firmly told everyone in every direction to not ruin the mood of the Lady Saint, who is shut in her room.”
Yuna clenched her fist. The “other” that occupied a part of her heart began to feel a rage. There was an extraordinarily sharp reaction against Yodel. –Calm down, please calm down. Yuna muttered this inaudibly over and over again. But at this rate she didn’t feel confident in being able to face Yodel while controlling herself. Yuna slowly stood up from her seat.
“Y-Yodel, would you like some tea?”
She worked to keep her voice level and nonchalant.
“You are going to make the tea personally?”
“I don’t know how well it will taste though.”
“No, thank you, then.”
Behind Yuna, who was standing in front of the tea utensils, there was the presence of Yodel standing up. When Yuna looked back, Yodel was staring firmly at her with eyes that held an open anger – even more than before – towards her.
“Let us not continue these indirect barbed greetings. It is a waste of both of our time. I will get straight to the point. –Lady Celiastina, why have you released everyone from the Holy Jail at this point in time? I would like to know.”
Yuna remembered the conversation she exchanged with Asyut yesterday, and slowly turned to face Yodel.
She clenched her fist again. This time it was to rebuke her scared self.
“I saw those who were hurt with these eyes, and I wasn’t able to let that pass. When I thought about what I could do for them, the first thing I thought of was releasing them from the Holy Jail.”
“Why are you talking as if this was someone else’s problem.”
Yodel’s eyes widened as if she heard something she couldn’t believe.
“You, the person who found joy in hurting others.”
“…… Asyut also asked why now of all times. And that it was ridiculous to do things over again.”
Yodel spat that out hatefully.
“It’s already too late, anything and everything. You should understand if Lord Asyut also said that. There is no point in smoothing things over at this time and acting like a good saint!”
“No matter how many people tell me this, I don’t want to give up. It’s true that I am too late on a lot of things but I don’t believe it is too late for the future that is still to come.”
That sharp voice, sharper and more pointed than a sword tip, pierced Yuna.
“The blood that has flowed for your sake will continue to spread without stopping, until even the future ahead is stained. You will definitely feel that soon.”
At those menacing words, Yuna couldn’t move.
Yodel said that coldly over her shoulder, flipping the hem of her long robe, and exiting the room without giving Yuna any time to respond. She passed Nasha, the maid who just arrived and who looked at Yodel’s departing back with surprise.
“Ah, sorry……, Nasha.”
At Yuna’s weak voice, Nasha showed some hesitation before soon coming into the room.
“U-Um, if you wanted, I was thinking of preparing lunch.”
“Yes, please. Thank you.”
Yuna displayed a smile, but there was no strength in it. The exchange she had just had with Yodel exhausted her energy terribly. Even though she replied firmly with something about how she didn’t want to give up, it sounded optimistic, and was it nothing more than just a convenient thing for her self-satisfaction–?
(I don’t know.)
She felt like everything Yodel said was honest. From the start, was trying her best and cheering herself up just a stupid and useless thing to do?
“Um, Lady Celiastina…”
“…… What is it?”
Raising her head, she saw Nasha looking at her worriedly.
“Your pallor does not look very well. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, thank you for worrying.”
“That lady just now was Lady Yodel, wasn’t it?”
Nasha sent a fleeting glance at the door but of course Yodel’s figure was no longer there.
“…… She seems to have changed quite a bit.”
“Wha, Nasha, you know Yodel?”
“Ah, no, we aren’t acquaintances! I just know about her from my side.”
Nasha hurriedly waved both hands. But then, after seeming to think for a little bit, she brought both hands gently to her chest.
“…… there is this though.”
She took out a beautiful pendant with small purple jewels from underneath her clothes.
“I was given this by Lady Yodel when I was a child.”
“Yes. It was when I was still just a child and it was my daily routine to go to the church nearby my home. Every day I showed up at that church alone. One day, on some kind of occasion, Lady Yodel stopped by that church. And then the priest introduced me to Lady Yodel.”
Nasha smiled sweetly at the nostalgia of the past.
“At that time, Lady Yodel must have been younger than I am now but she was very lovely and mature. As a child, I thought she was an amazing young lady. Lady Yodel crouched to meet my eyes and then asked “For what do you wish for that you come to this church?”. And I told her that I wished for my friends, strangers, and everyone to live peacefully and happily. At that, Lady Yodel smiled widely and said “Don’t ever forget those kind feelings” before giving me this pendant.”
Saying that, Nasha gazed at the pendant in her palm. Yuna followed her actions, quiet.
–It was a beautiful purple without any impurities. A sublime and holy color.
Yuna thought that it was exactly like Yodel herself.
Yodel was not treating her badly for no reason. She was acting on her own beliefs, calling what was right as right and what was wrong as wrong. Amongst those, Yuna – as Celiastina – was deemed as “wrong”. She was sad about that but it wasn’t Yodel’s fault.
(I’m sorry, Yodel. I really do understand what you and Asyut have said. And I think what you two have said might be the right thing, but still… I want to try.)
Even if this was a journey that no one would welcome, even if this was nothing more than self-satisfaction, if there was something she herself could do then there was no way she could just stand still.
Even more days passed and, just as she was approaching a week of having been shut in her own room, Linus appeared again.
“It’s been a while, Celia. Nothing has happened?”
Yuna nodded, somewhat disappointed at his words about it being a while. It’s true though, just like his words, it has been a while since she saw Linus. During this week, he hadn’t come to see her even once, and Yuna was a bit bitter about that. –Wasn’t he quite heartless?
Whether Linus noticed Yuna’s sulky attitude or not, he continued on talking as if not seeming to care.
“Good job on enduring this long time. For now the commotion of the liberation of the Holy Jail has calmed down more, so I won’t mind you regaining your freedom soon.”
At those words she had been impatiently waiting for, Yuna’s face quickly split into a smile. The faint anger that she had held just now for Linus was blown away in an instant.
In any case, the only thing she could think about in these past few days was hurrying up and leaving this room. She couldn’t do anything locked up in her room. Celiastina’s past up to now, her own future from now, the things she wanted to do, the things she should do– she thought on a lot of things but if she didn’t actually act then nothing would change. Just thinking about those things only made her irritated at the time she was spending locked in her room.
“I’m so glad. I had started to wonder if maybe I wouldn’t be let out of this room anymore.”
She said this jokingly, but in truth she was secretly concerned. She thought that maybe it was their goal to use the commotion of the liberation of the Holy Jail as an excuse to imprison the dangerous saint– but it looks like she worried over nothing.
“No way. Because you still have to work hard from here on. For example, the ceremonies you must attend every day. In fact, in just a bit, the Ceremony of Blessing must be done.”
She had to do that ceremony where she said words of blessings again? She felt completely depressed that the first thing she had to do after coming out of her room in a week was “that”.
“You can attend, yes?”
“…… Mm, I’ll attend.”
Although she nodded, a heavy sigh leaked out of her mouth.
“Somehow, it seems very tough to be the Lady Saint. Every day there’s nothing but repeating ceremonies, huh.”
“That’s not the case for today though. Once the Ceremony of Blessing is done, there is just the Ceremony of Dusk Purification.”
“Really? You mean every day isn’t full of ceremonies like that time before?”
“There were especially many on that day. In a month it happens twice or thrice. If the whole day was filled with ceremonies then you’d be crushed.”
Breathing out, she was relieved all at once. And then, immediately, if this was the case, a thought surfaced in her mind.
“Then, once the Ceremony of Blessing is over, can I go to where Aeneas is? I have something I want to talk about.”
He was that young man who lead Yuna to the Holy Jail that night. He was also a victim of Celiastina. And yet, he was someone who showed kindness and concern for his assailant, Celiastina–.
Linus, who received Yuna’s proposal, unexpectedly hesitated. He had an indecisive expression that seemed to wonder at what he should do. Yuna looked at that Linus with surprise. She had thought, without a doubt, that he would say “Go ahead, as you please”.
“…… I wonder whether his feelings will be a positive or negative contribution to you. It’s still in a questionable stage, so I would suggest not getting too deeply involved with him.”
His feelings? Was he talking about the feelings of hatred towards the saint? If so, Yuna understood that.
“There’s something I need to meet him directly to talk about. I understand and I won’t stay long enough to rub his feelings the wrong way. Once I’m done, I’ll return immediately to my room.”
“Hmm, it seems like you’ve completely missed the point.”
“Missed the point? What did I miss?”
“Nevermind, it should be fine. If that is your wish, then go ahead, as you please.”
Finally, the answer that she had predicted was returned to her. But she was extremely curious about his vagueness halfway through. However, if she asked him about it then he wouldn’t tell her anything. They’ve only known each other for a short time, but somehow she understood that he was that kind of a person. That’s why she didn’t touch the subject of Aeneas any more, and changed the subject before he could change his mind.
“Hey, Linus, you work as an advisor to the prime minister, right? I don’t know much about that but isn’t that a position of considerable status? Is it okay for you to be here wandering about by yourself?”
Linus had an exasperated look on his face.
“Wandering about, to think you’d say that.”
“Oh, um, I’m sorry.”
“But, actually, I’m not that busy. An advisor to the prime minister and the deputy prime minister are different, you know? I, hm, attend some meetings where I meet a number of people, act as someone the prime minister can gossip with, and other menial jobs like that. The prime minister discusses political issues with the deputy prime minister, and the things he discusses with me are things like his mustache gloss for the day.”
“…… You’re being modest, aren’t you?”
Who knows, Linus seemed to say as he merely smiled.
“Well, presently, my job is to be the babysitter of our lovely Lady Saint Celiastina. In other words, it is about time for us to head to the ceremony– is what I ought to say.”
Ending the conversation there, Linus took Yuna out of the room. As they headed towards the room of blessing, Yuna stared secretly at the broad back in front of her.
For some reason, the more she knew about him the less she understood of this person that was Linus Ventris– Yuna thought.
When the Ceremony of Blessing was safely finished, Yuna jogged through a long corridor alone.
She was heading to meet Aeneas.
According to Linus, Aeneas was right in the middle of training. The training grounds were at the base of a tower, which Linus had explained to her sketchily by pointing out a window at it. Yuna dashed towards that sneakily while keeping an eye out on her surroundings. As she thought, Linus wasn’t going to guide her there but it was better for her this way. If he arrived at the training grounds of the soldiers together with the Lady Saint, there would be a small commotion without a doubt. If that happened then meeting Aeneas would just cause him a great deal of trouble, which was why she was sneaking out alone. At this time, the soldiers would be on their afternoon break and if everything went well then she might be able to draw him out alone.
Normally, she wouldn’t be heading out to meet Aeneas and would instead be calling him to her. Not doing so was unnatural and incomprehensible as the saint. However, Yuna wasn’t that arrogant to do something like call Aeneas, who had been hurt terribly by the incident four months ago. In that case, it was better for her to head out to meet him even if it would be somewhat suspicious to others.
So that she wouldn’t stand out badly, she removed all her clinking jewelry and gathered her pale blonde hair into a bun before covering it with a thin veil. She also wrapped a scarf around her neck so that the Holy Mark couldn’t be seen. And then she started walking quickly towards her goal, the tower, but– she was too naive, and Yuna immediately started to regret.
As she stepped out into the west side of the royal palace, for the first time, it appeared to be a space open mainly for servants and soldiers. There was a bit of a corridor but it soon became sandy soil that spread out without any meaning. There were many small buildings lined up along the side, creating just the shape of a corridor, and this open atmospere with no ceiling and no walls was almost like a village. Unlike the surroundings she had spent so far as Celiastina, the people who passed her all seemed to be common people, and there were many. On that subject, this might be the residential area of the servants. Yuna was made nervous as she saw the sight of young men in soldier uniforms hanging out in large groups and sitting on stairs or wooden boxes while chatting pleasantly. –It was clear that she was unsettled. But, at the same time as that nervousness, there was also a part of her that felt nostalgia. Yuna was still just a village girl, only a few weeks ago, and it was obvious she would feel that surrounded in this atmosphere. Though, as expected of this place being within the royal palace, it was still many degrees more refined than an ordinary village.
Although Yuna was nervous, she couldn’t feel any hate or fear in the eyes of the people around her. It seemed like they were just conscious of her as a young lady with some kind of status. Come to think of it, the lower the class a person had, the less of an opportunity they would have to come in contact with the Lady Saint. Normally, even the maids who serviced her were all sponsored as daughters of aristocrats. Which meant that it wasn’t strange for there not to be anyone who recognized her face in this place. But still she couldn’t be relieved. It didn’t change the fact that she was out-of-place.
(Uhm… everyone’s looks are starting to hurt.)
There was no one who called out to her directly, but everyone was observing her actions. The soldiers who were sitting on the ground and cracking jokes as they polished their swords. The servants carrying ingredients from the carts to the storehouses. The cleaning women who were heading to the washing place while carrying baskets full of dirty clothes. Everyone was glancing over at her intermittently.
(If I was going to have to pass through this place no matter what, he could have at least given me a warning.)
A specific irresponsible babysitter, who wasn’t here, appeared in her mind.
(There are more people than I thought. At this rate, even if I make it to the training grounds I might not be able to call out Aeneas.)
Aeneas, when his name came to mind, Yuna became a little depressed. He must have been from an upper class aristocratic family to be a squire at that young age. For that kind of person to be thrown into the ranks of a common soldier and treated the same as them, how humiliating was that. Yuna, who had been a commoner, and was experiencing the world of the upper class aristocrats, was just now starting to realize the difference. And that’s why she felt like she could understand his mortification. To her this was a comfortable and calm atmosphere, but to an upper class aristocrat like him wasn’t it just like a pigsty? –It’s depressing but she was sure it was like that.
Yuna, who had been thinking meaninglessly and idly as she walked, soon reached her objective, the tower. It was remarkably tall, perhaps to fulfill its role as a lookout, and its painted white walls made it a cold building. Flat ground was spread immediately beside it and it seemed like that was the training grounds. Looking to be on their break, there were soldiers scattered here and there stuffing their cheeks full with bread and fruit. But there were too few of them. In the wide training grounds there was a countable amount of people. Again, Yuna had an “oh no” moment of regret. It looked like, when they were on their break, the soldiers were allowed to leave the training grounds. And that was why she had seen so many soldiers along the way here–.
Aah, heaving a large sigh, Yuna turned around in a circle to look around the area. But to her disappointment she didn’t see the person she was looking for. Aeneas was most likely taking his break at some other place.
It didn’t seem to be a good idea to wait here until he returned to ambush him. If that happened, it would become a large fuss. Giving up, Yuna decided to return for now. It couldn’t be helped and somehow she would have to guess the time that Aeneas would finish his training–.
Yuna jumped upon hearing a voice call out to her suddenly.
Yuna, who had mistakenly thought that there was no one here who would call out to her familiarly, turned around greatly perturbed. And there stood a completely unknown man. He was looking down at her with an amused smile.
–Who was this? Right away, Yuna looked the man up and down, observing him. He had a very distinct and cheery blond hair, more so than Celiastina or Aeneas, and dark skin. His eyes were the same color as his hair, gold, and they shone bright like a cat’s eyes. At a glance his hair was carelessly disheveled and stretched long in the back; she also glimpsed a countless number of earrings on his ears. She had thought Linus was large but this man would be able to compete with him. But he was much more muscular than Linus and his body was tight with a skilled force. He was clothed in a white uniform of such quality that if Aeneas had worn it he would have looked like a prince without fail, but on this man it was so worn that she could not even feel a sense of its elegance.
(He’s like… a lion.)
That was Yuna’s first impression of him.
During the time Yuna reached that conclusion, the other party seemed to have also gotten an impression of Yuna. The man, with a broad and daring grin, shrugged his shoulders somewhat exaggeratedly.
“What’s a noble lady looking like you doing in such a savage place like this? If you’re lost then I suppose I could escort you.”
Were those words one would use towards a noble lady? Yuna quipped inside her mind as she hesitated.
–Who? Who was this? Moreover, at this man’s appearance, wasn’t she standing out more and more?
As she became flustered from the gazes of everyone around them, the man laughed out loud in an extremely loud voice.
“Aw, don’t be so scared. It’s not like I’ll eat you.”
“Uh, you say. What’s with that reaction? Strange girl.”
The man chuckled again. It was impossible for Yuna to understand just what was so funny.
The man suddenly brought his face close to peer at her face under the veil. Yuna hurriedly drew back.
“A beauty exactly like the rumors.”
What?! As Yuna stared at him in shock, the man continued on with his words.
“You’re– Saint Celiastina, aren’t you.”
Having her name suddenly guessed right, Yuna’s words were stuck. Should she confirm it? Or should she deny it? In this situation where she didn’t know a thing about the other person, she couldn’t make a decision.
She looked around, troubled, but of course there was no one around to bring her help. But, though she was in a difficult situation, it didn’t seem like the people around them heard the name this man said. There only seemed to be a small commotion as their surroundings took notice of their conversation.
“I said it before, but you don’t have to be so cautious.”
He said it as if he had nothing to do with what was going on, but in her mind Yuna objected and thought that it’d be impossible not to.
“My name is Siegcrest. I’ve seen you before but it was always from a distance, so this is the first time we’ve met face to face. –Pleased to make your acquaintance from hereafter, Lady Saint.”
As if he were playing around, the loud man called Siegcrest sketched an elegant knight-like bow. Yuna, worried about the people watching them, hurriedly stopped the man.
“U-Um. Please don’t do that here.”
“Because you came here sneakily–?”
“Just what kind of business is it to have the Lady Saint come here personally? If it’s okay, could you tell me?”
“Saint, saint… please don’t call me that repeatedly.”
“But the saint is a saint and you’re a saint, so I can’t call you anything else.”
Siegcrest, amused at Yuna being flustered, repeated the word “saint” many times on purpose. At this, even Yuna would become irritated.
“Celia. Please call me by name.”
“Oho, that’s an honor. I’m gonna tell you now but I’m the type of person who doesn’t hold back. If you tell me to call you Celia then I really will call you that.”
“Go ahead, as you please.”
In fact, it’d be the most fitting to be called Yuna but she couldn’t do that. In that case, being called Celia was many times better than being called Celiastina. She thought the sound of the name Celiastina was pretty but each time she was called by that name it felt like there was a wall between her and the other person that grew increasingly taller.
“Then Celia it is.”
Siegcrest threw an arm around Yuna’s shoulders and pulled her closer.
“W-What are you doing!? Please let me go!”
…… She had thought that the walls around her and other people were towering but something like this was a little too casual, wasn’t it? Yuna became flustered and protested.
“Hm? Isn’t this okay, since we’re in a relationship where we call each other by nicknames. Oh, Celia, you smell nice.”
“We don’t call each other by nicknames! I haven’t called you anything!”
“Don’t be shy, I don’t mind if you call me Sieg.”
“No, thank you!”
Looking down at Yuna, who was flailing under his arm, Siegcrest laughed in amusement.
“Your beauty is exactly like the rumors, but your personality doesn’t seem to be like the rumors.”
Choosing the chance when Siegcrest’s arm relaxed for a moment, Yuna quickly turned aside.
“So, what kind of business does the unexpectedly naive and serious Celia have to come to a place like this?”
Yuna sent a fleeting glare at the man who turned to face her directly. Just who exactly was this abnormally frank man? Their conversation up to now – if this could even be called one – left her knowing nothing about him except for superficial things such as his name. And yet this man by the name of Siegcrest was pressing onward with the conversation. It was definitely a fact that she didn’t know what to do, being in a place like this alone, but was it okay for her to trust in this man?
(No, it isn’t.)
Suspicious. He was too suspicious in multiple meanings of the word. Seeming to understand what was going through Yuna’s mind, Siegcrest raised both his hands in a surrendering pose.
“You seem to have been put on guard. Ah, I’m shocked–“
She’d like to see a girl who wasn’t put on guard from a showy man like him.
“Well, I can understand if the Lady Saint has no interest in the troops of the country. But it is just a li~ttle painful for you not to have even the slightest recognition of the name Siegcrest and this uniform. You don’t know me?”
It looked like he was a well-known man. But there was no way Yuna, who just recently became the saint, would know. –Although, she felt like she knew that white uniform. Remember, remember. A white uniform…
“–Ah! The Order of Holy Knights!”
“…… That uniform. It belongs to them, right?”
“…… Well, you’re not wrong. Okay, that’s right. Let’s leave it at that.”
It seemed like Siegcrest had wanted her to guess who he was. But, even though he was somewhat dissatisfied, he didn’t keep it in mind and Yuna felt relieved.
Several times throughout the year at the Prayer Festivals, she’s seen the Order of Holy Knights before in parades. During those times, all the knights wore white uniforms. The memory of that remained faintly in Yuna’s memories. Yuna, who was more interested in eating than the parade, didn’t remember any more than that. But even so, Yuna had a rough idea of the structure of the country’s military.
Siegcrest was saying he belonged to the Order of Holy Knights. They were the leading group of knights in this country. They were a super elite group which only allowed people who possessed both status and power to enroll. Yuna remembered that Aeneas and Neisan, who used to be squires, were considered a part of the Order of Holy Knights too. Incidentally, Asyut being appointed as the First Holy Knight meant that he was a knight who was to become the saint’s spouse and was a position with a religious tinge. Although tentatively it could be considered he belonged to the Order of Holy Knights, it didn’t seem like he was as restricted as they were. There was one more group of knights and they were the Order of Knights. Compared to the Order of Holy Knights they were a little more plain, but there was no change in how they were also a group of elites. For village girls, generally, if pushed to say, it was a dream to fall in love and marry a Knight of the Order to gain money and social status. It was rare for the Order of Holy Knights to leave the royal palace and, so to speak, they were exclusively for the daughters of aristocrats. They were beings who commoners could not reach. Compared to that, the Order of Knights were in every direction and patrolled through towns and so were easy to approach…… saying that though, the past Yuna did not know even one knight. There was no mistaking that a knight, no matter what kind, was still a far removed existence.
The knights of the kingdom formed these two elite groups, but there was another army of regular soldiers. Currently, the majority of the soldiers in this area right now belonged to this group. Aeneas, who had been sentenced to have his status demoted, was living his life as an ordinary soldier. The army was a group that generally accepted anybody who applied, regardless of social status or pedigree. For Aeneas to be thrown into the army was something that was hard to forgive, no matter how Yuna thought about it. –Yes, she came this far to talk about that today.
Suddenly, Yuna had a strange thought. This was definitely the training grounds for soldiers. So, why did Siegcrest, who belonged to the Order of Holy Knights, appear at the training grounds for soldiers?
“Um, Ser Siegcrest.”
“I told you Sieg is fine. More importantly, let’s finish your business, Celia. I’ll come with you, since I’m free anyway.”
“Even you know that you’re a girl who has led a sheltered life, right? It’ll be bad to wander around in a place like this by yourself. –C’mon, c’mon, talk to me as a buddy. I might surprise you as a man who can do anything, you know?”
Yuna was troubled. Was it okay for her to confess that she was searching for Aeneas? If Siegcrest was part of the Order of Holy Knights then he used to be a colleague of Aeneas. What did this man think when he heard a comrade of his become demoted because of the saint’s actions? Thinking that, she was at a loss as to how to talk honestly about her goal. But she was also well aware of how she wouldn’t be able to meet Aeneas by herself at this rate……
–ARGH, she couldn’t help but be conflicted by this and that!
“I came here to see someone called Aeneas. Do you know Aeneas?”
As soon as he heard that name, Siegcrest had an expression that even she as an outsider could see was extremely serious. From the start he had been a loud and flashy man but his serious expression had a strange intensity to it.
“What, is the Lady Saint still infatuated with him?”
His voice clearly contained the color of contempt. Yuna, who heard that voice, felt her breath catch for an instant. But she didn’t have time to be afraid and so psyched herself up.
“So you know where he is right now. If possible, I’d like to talk to him alone.”
“You’re still gonna say that? That guy has no interest in you. Just stop, you’ve already crushed him completely under your foot during that time. Seriously, leave him alone.”
“Y-You’re mistaken. I don’t have that kind of an interest in him! So you know about what happened four months ago. In that case–“
“Of course I know. I was quite interested in that guy. –And, when I heard you released everyone from the Holy Jail, I thought you were someone who unexpectedly could reflect on their actions but–“
“It’s related to that. I was thinking that I want to return Aeneas to his original social status. And so I wanted to talk to him directly about that, because I didn’t want to just thrust another change at him and be like “Okay, case closed”. I don’t want to do things that way.”
Siegcrest kept silent and stared at Yuna as she connected her words, one after another after another.
“I don’t intend to do anything more to him. I swear. If he wishes, this time will be the last time I will ever appear in front of him again.”
“–Hmm, I see.”
Yuna was bewildered upon hearing a suddenly relaxed response…… what happened?
“I guess I can’t coldly refuse a beautiful girl’s request like that, huh, as a man.”
“Okie dokie, leave it to me. I’ll take you to Aeneas immediately.”
Suddenly returning to a joking attitude, Siegcrest once again pulled Yuna into him by the shoulder. She was getting crushed under the arm of such a large man. Yuna desperately tried to pull herself away from Siegcrest but he didn’t give an inch.
“It’s enough to just tell me the place!”
“Aw, don’t say that. Right now, that guy is in a place I called him to. So, I need to head over there too.”
Siegcrest called Aeneas out? Surprised, Yuna looked up at Siegcrest. When she did, the contempt that had been on his face was gone as if it didn’t concern him anymore, and instead Siegcrest had an expression that was close to being called enjoyment.
The place that Siegcrest brought her to and that they arrived at was an isolated shed, on the outskirts of the path. Around the entrance were many sacks and barrels, this place was most likely used as a temporary storehouse for food supplies. In any case, it didn’t seem built to be a place for someone to live at. But Siegcrest stepped into that shed without hesitation. No way, was Aeneas inside? Yuna was perplexed, but she followed him.
“Yo, sorry for making you wait, Aeneas.”
–And sure enough, there he was.
Between the cramped and piled up boxes and barrels, Aeneas just stood there doing nothing. There was a tinge of sorrow in his eyes and he seemed to be staring vacantly out the window.
Aeneas slowly moved those depressed eyes of his, looking at Siegcrest, and then seeing the delicate girl hidden behind his shadow– an expression of shock appeared.
Returning to himself, Aeneas quickly straightened his back. Even though she hid her face behind a veil, it seemed like he knew immediately who the girl in front of him was.
“Hey, are you ignoring me?”
Siegcrest, who groaned that, was ignored even more.
“Lady Celiastina, what on earth is someone such as you doing in a place like this?”
“Y-Yes, um, about that.”
“Ah, could it be that you were dragged here against your will by the vice-captain……”
“Vice-captain, do you mean Siegcrest? W-Wait, no, you’re mistaken. I came all this way on my own. Because I have something to talk to you about.”
“A talk… with me…?”
Aeneas’ gaze wavered, and he was unable to hide his bewilderment.
“That’s right. And so Sieg led me to where you were.”
At that, the two of them finally concentrated their gazes on Siegcrest. The man in question appeared to be in a bad mood, with a deep furrow in his brow.
“Hey, Aeneas, you have some guts, don’tcha. Did you just accuse me of kidnapping a miss against her will?”
“I-I didn’t go so far as to say that…… I apologize for my rudeness.”
“Just wh~o do you think has been the most concerned about you, a low ranking regular soldier?”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
“You don’t seem thankful at all, punk.”
“No, that’s not true…”
Oh well, Siegcrest seemed to imply as he snorted.
“You know, I called you out here to convince you. I was gonna intervene and appeal directly to Celiastina to return you to your previous position of being a squire.”
But, Siegcrest seemed to say as he glanced at Yuna.
“It looks like that’s not necessary anymore. Because, the Lady Saint herself went out of her way to come here. I’m sure the current Celia won’t do anything bad to you.”
Suddenly being talked about, Yuna felt her body startle and stiffen. He openly didn’t trust her and sent her a challenging-like smile, as if testing her. The man called Siegcrest had a direct expression. Right now, Yuna didn’t have the backbone to accept that straight on. Wondering what to do, her gaze started darting around.
“U-Umm, o-of course.”
“Good. Then the third wheel is going to leave now. I’ll leave the rest to you two young people. Take your time.”
Smirking, Siegcrest quickly left the shed…… somehow she felt like he left in a way that she couldn’t understand. Although she was astonished, Yuna was thankful to Siegcrest for taking her here and letting her be alone with Aeneas. On the other side, Aeneas was staring at the door that Siegcrest left through with a dumbfounded expression.
He breathed out and then once again straightened his back.
“I-I apologize, Lady Celiastina. He acts on appalling rudeness……”
“I’m fine with that. Because someone like me isn’t particularly admirable or anything.”
Yuna was flustered at how ashamed Aeneas seemed to be. She reassured Aeneas who was covered in a cold sweat and bowing his head over and over again, before the two of them finally sat down on some wooden boxes.
“So, um, what I wanted to talk to you about was…… your status.”
“Me? –No, I mean, about me?”
“It’s really okay not to be so humble. Let’s talk normally. If you don’t then I’ll start to feel like I need to talk politely.”
“That would be unthinkable! Please do no such thing. I wi– I’ll try to talk normally as much as possible.”
Good, Yuna nodded greatly. Nevertheless, he still seemed concerned about having a polite tone but that couldn’t be helped.
“…… Due to my past whimsy, you were demoted to the status of an ordinary soldier. But before you used to be a squire, right?”
“Yes…… that is right. I was a trainee until fifteen years old and for four years since turning sixteen I have been serving the country as a squire.”
There was even a period of being a trainee? Yuna lost her words out of surprise. She was sure that being a trainee was an apprenticeship period to becoming a holy knight, and only granted to sons of aristocrats who had considerable power and influence. In other words, Aeneas was absolutely the young master of a well-to-do family. And yet……
“I really did an outrageous thing, huh. –though I already knew this.”
“No, I’m fine.”
Aeneas calmly shook his head.
“In fact, this has been a good experience for me. I feel like I’ve really understood in these four months just how large the world is and how self-centered and ignorant I was.”
Saying that, Aeneas gave a faint smile. There was no trace of a lie or exaggeration in that expression.
“Besides, I’m happy to have been freed from all the bonds and obligations that were around me up to now. Since I was young, I was surrounded by people who told me that becoming a holy knight was everything in life. And, before I knew it, that may have became a heavy burden on me. Now, on the contrary, I’m not carrying anyone’s expectations and simply living just relying on my own strength. It is a comfortable responsibility to carry.”
Aeneas’ words were gentle. And calm. But she was certain that he suffered quite a lot to come to this point where he could speak these words. She was sure that he wasn’t able to make friends because of the difference in status, that he had to do work that couldn’t be called anything but odd jobs, and that whenever he remembered his past it would be a long-passed glory. And yet, this person– was amazing. Yuna felt her heart tighten.
“I think you’re someone who should be a holy knight.”
Yuna thought about how she’d like someone like this to be a person who stood at the top.
“Don’t you want to return to your previous position?”
“You mean being a squire?”
“Yes. Having been deprived of your position by my whim and then having it returned might be asking too much but I can’t leave you here like this. Moreover, I want a person like you to become a holy knight and support this country…… um, in other words, this is merely my personal hope.”
It was frustrating. What could she do to get her feelings across to him? Yuna tried her best to spin her words but no matter what words she used she felt like it wouldn’t completely convey what she wanted. All her acts up to now covered and blurred her true meaning hard. Any words she used would slip on that offensive film, be covered with disgrace, and be reduced to an atrocious form.
But there was no contempt in Aeneas’ eyes as he quietly looked at Yuna. And then he dropped his gaze, and muttered to himself.
“…… You’re a strange person.”
“It feels like you’re a different person than the one I met before.”
Ack, Yuna felt her words become stuck. There was no way she could tell him that he was exactly right.
“I’ve thought about how I should hate you for my best friend, who you put into the Holy Jail. I felt like that was my duty…… But, I wonder why, why is it that I can’t seem to hate you?”
“Until I met you again a few days ago, I’m sure I hated you. But now I–“
He suddenly closed his mouth.
“–Nevermind, sorry. I’m talking about bygones.”
He was a serious and kind young man. Yuna thought that even if it hadn’t been his best friend that was imprisoned but himself, this young man would probably say these same words in this place. No, it might have been because it was his best friend that had been imprisoned, that Aeneas suffered even more distress.
“Thank you, Aeneas. But the words “thank you” are the only things I can respond to your kindness with. Otherwise, I have no skill other than to throw around my position as a saint selfishly.”
That was mortifying. Could it be that the past Celiastina was also caught in this kind of conflict? Did she fall into despair at how she actually had no power?
“Please do not look down on yourself like that. Because you are the hope of the people just by being here like this.”
“Originally, maybe. But in this royal palace there’s no one who finds hope from the current me. I’m all alone.”
A solemn air wrapped around the place. This won’t do, Yuna returned to herself. She didn’t come here to talk about her life. And even if there ever was a day, an entire day wouldn’t be enough. Yes, wasn’t she supposed to talk to Aeneas right now about his social status?
“S-Sorry, our conversation became strange. Let’s return to the topic. Um, at any rate, as long as you’re okay with it, Aeneas, um, how about becoming a squire… again?”
Saying that, she became timid knowing that it was a convenient suggestion for her. But she honestly thought it was wrong for him to spend his entire life as a low soldier like this.
“I am truly content with my current circumstances…”
“But, if you’re asking me to choose another path then I have one I want to choose.”
“W-What? What is it?”
Startled, she felt her heart beat fast. If he said something like wanting to become the leader of the Order of Holy Knights then even someone like her would be troubled. Although she wanted to atone, it was Yuna’s honest feelings not to want to use her power as the saint. Though, she didn’t think it was likely that someone like him would wish for something so crazy.
And then the serious expression that Aeneas had up to now broke down, and a mischievous smile appeared. Upon seeing that childish look on his face, Yuna became flustered in another way.
“If you want to return me to the position of being a squire– then I have another request. Two, actually, that I would ask of you to grant, please.”
Yes, Aeneas nodded.
“First– I would like Neisan, my best friend, to also be returned to being a squire. Once he recovers.”
He was talking about the red-haired young man who was confined in the prison. Yuna remembered him immediately. His emaciated form was, even now, still burned to the back of her eyelids.
“That was my intention as well. As long as he wishes it. Once he recovers a little more, I’d like to meet and speak with him.”
“Then, until he makes a comeback I want to continue training in the army.”
“…… I see.”
She couldn’t ignore his feelings and force him. And so Yuna nodded.
“The other thing is– in the event of returning to being a squire, I would like to serve as your bodyguard, Lady Celiastina.”
This time an unexpected suggestion was proposed and Yuna looked into Aeneas’ eyes in surprise.
Aeneas gave her a small warning that what he would say next might sound rude.
“I want to know more about you as a person. Of course I won’t simply be by your side to satisfy my curiosity and I will not ignore my duties.”
Aeneas, looking like he was holding in a playful smile, returned her look directly. His appearance was so knight-like at that moment that she was inadvertently charmed. Yuna, in order to hide her red face, started to play with her hair.
–When she was young she was attracted to stories about knights and princesses. She suddenly remembered that. Right now Aeneas was nothing but an ordinary soldier in simple and slightly dirty clothes. But his voice, his eyes, and his resolute actions, were exactly like the noble knights of her stories.
“But, um, w-wait a minute.”
“You won’t allow it?”
“It’s not that I won’t allow it but, um, are you really okay with this, Aeneas? Once you become my bodyguard you’ll have to see me every day even if you don’t want to, right? Really, you wouldn’t want to see my face ever again, right?”
Saying that, she became sad. But Aeneas just quietly shook his head.
“If that was the case, then I wouldn’t have requested such a thing myself.”
“That’s true but…”
But, really, she felt like it wouldn’t be impossible with someone like Aeneas, who had integrity. Burning with a strange kind of sense of duty, he might accept duties that were out of character with his feelings.
“Please, Lady Celiastina.”
He lowered his head fully and Yuna was unable to flatly refuse him.
Seeking an answer from Yuna, who had sunk into silence, Aeneas raised his head again. He looked at her straight on with resolute eyes and Yuna found herself staring back.
A silence, where she had nothing to say, spread.
And then, in the next moment–
“–Hey, you two, stop right there!”
The person who opened the door and entered, as if right on time, was the loud lion-like man, Siegcrest.
“Ah, um, sorry.”
Even she didn’t know why she was apologizing but, at any rate, Yuna lowered her head. Siegcrest, who was walking beside her, just shook his head as if in exasperation. Aeneas wasn’t around. He had been ordered by Siegcrest to return to running around the training grounds.
“It’s scary when a natural airhead runs into another natural airhead. Just a while ago, that had been an unreadable battle. Anyway, don’t get pulled in too much by that guy. Even though he’s like that, he’s a guy who really lives seriously. He’s especially lacking in judgement.”
“Wha, no, I wasn’t planning on getting pulled in–“
“Well, whatever, let’s hurry and return to the north side.”
North was the area in the royal palace where Yuna spent all her time. Siegcrest, who had told her that he was going to escort her close to her room, walked beside her. But, and maybe it was just her imagination, it felt like the gazes from the people around her were even more painful than when she had been going to Aeneas– no, it didn’t seem like it was her imagination.
Could it be that the man called Siegcrest was as unsuited to being in this place as Yuna? It was certainly out of character for a holy knight to be in this place but, bearing that in mind, the gazes were still a little too much– yes, maybe because he was a person who would do something as absurd as keeping an arm around the shoulder of the saint? Anyhow, there was twice the amount of looks from her surroundings. Come to think of it, Aeneas called him “vice-captain”. Yuna was completely ignorant of the structure of the knight groups, she knew the meaning of “vice-captain” at least. It meant the second leader. In other words, it meant that someone was an organization’s number two… But, really, this careless man? He was endowed with a powerful atmosphere but something like dignity was another feeling. Besides, he also looked young. The Order of Holy Knights were also divided into countless units, so maybe he was one of those units’ vice-captain. Well, he was still unmistakably an important person. Yuna decided that on her own.
“Anyway, it’s surprising the people around you let you head to the west side alone. Did you do something on a whim again?”
Rude, Yuna furtively sulked. She was a bit scared to object directly and so she decided not to.
“Don’t cause too much trouble, geez.”
It sounded like he was chiding a reckless little sister. However, she could sense a little bit of scorn mixed in there. Just like before when she had told him that she wanted to meet Aeneas. This man interacted with her lightheartedly but, deep inside, he didn’t trust her. Because she realized that, Yuna became a little sad.
“So, what are you going to do about Aeneas? Are you really going to make him your bodyguard?”
“That’s, well, if Aeneas says that he’s fine with that then…… But.”
Her answer became very indecisive. Was it really okay? Once the real Celiastina returned then this time he would–.
Huh, Yuna suddenl raised her head.
“Now that you mention it, right now I don’t have any bodyguards, right?”
“Huh? What’re you talking about all of a sudden……”
Uh oh. Siegcrest didn’t know that she had lost her memories. Though, it wasn’t like she actually lost her memories.
“Um, uh, from the start I’ve disliked having people around me so they randomly started to clear away. So if I had bodyguards in there then I wouldn’t really know.”
She tried to come up with a disordered excuse. She didn’t know if it even worked as an excuse.
“…… they disappeared, huh. Because the thing with Aeneas and Neisan happened, there was no one who would take over being your bodyguard. The holy knights are basically full of young lords and so, because prestigious families were glaring at the country’s back with scary faces, it’s difficult for the country to force people to be bodyguards. And so, merely for form’s sake, they wanted to assign the lowest knights from the Order of Knights as bodyguards– but you haven’t met those kinds of people either, right? It’s because their status is so low they normally wouldn’t be allowed an audience with the saint. Well, that’s just an excuse as well. If those people were also killed by the saint then the reputation of the country would be completely ruined. It’s that kind of thing.”
Siegcrest gave a detailed explanation. Indeed, so that was how things got this way– But it looked like she was hated everywhere. Thinking that, Yuna’s mood sunk completely.
“What’s with that meek face. Are you feeling sad because no one comes close to you? If that’s the case, you should reflect carefully and try changing your way of life.”
Change her way of life, huh. He said such a difficult thing without any hesitation like it was easy. The fact that she was a completely different person in this body didn’t change the fact that she was enclosed by these surroundings one bit. Even if she just changed herself, if the people around her didn’t accept that then there would be no point–.
While they talked about that and walked for a bit, familiar scenery jumped into Yuna’s vision. They reached the north side of the royal palace. There were few people walking around the area but each one had a neat appearance and prim face. Seeing that they returned, Yuna breathed a sigh. And she thought on how strange it was that she would feel relief at this cold environment. Familiarity was a frightening thing.
“Well, this is my stop and I’m going to go back now.”
“Wait, you’re going home already?”
She accidentally let out a dependent voice. Even if he felt contempt for her at the bottom of his heart, it was hard for her to part with Siegcrest who faced her with a smile.
“Hm? What, what, are you seducing me? That won’t do, Lady Saint, to be fond so easily towards a lower class person.”
“N-No, that’s not……”
She received a light shock to be perceived in such a way. But it looked like he was just playing with her lightly. Siegcrest had a wide smirk as he looked at Yuna and continued to crack even more jokes.
“Eh, you’re saying it’s not so easy for anyone to be invited by you? Could it be that I’m a chosen man? Then that’s an honor. If you’re saying that you’re making an advance as a woman then okay. If that’s the case–“
She intended to reprimand Siegcrest but, conversely, Yuna was greatly startled to hear a misdirected reprimanding voice in her direction. Furthermore, this voice was one she had heard before. Or more like one she had gotten used to hearing.
Turning around with a weary face, sure enough she could see a black-haired young man with a taciturn expression walking towards them. He was angry again. Rather, it was sad that she hadn’t seen him not be angry.
Now, how could she get out of this place?
As she thought on how she wasn’t able to contend with Asyut as an opponent, Yuna sent a glance at Seigcrest beside her. As she did, unexpectedly, even Siegcrest had a scowl on his face as if he were saying “a bothersome encounter is coming”.
(Huh, do they know each other?)
She thought that because she could see in Siegcrest’s scrunched expression something like amusement at facing a close friend.
Of all things, Seigcrest raised his left hand lightheartedly and called out to the First Holy Knight without any titles. Yuna’s eyes went round.
(This person is amazing!)
She was impressed more than ever.
“–Sieg! What are you doing to Lady Celiastina……”
At any rate, that Holy Knight Asyut overlooked Yuna and seemed to question Siegcrest. On her part, she was surprised to see them acting towards each other like old friends.
“What am I doing. Hey, that’s rude, dude. I didn’t really do anything. It’s just that Celia was wandering around alone in the west side and so I protected her.”
“You, how can you call the saint by a nickname!”
“What, it’s fine isn’t it. Since Celia was the one to ask me to call her that. Right, Celia?”
Right, Celia, he said. Yuna felt intensely dizzy. He also disclosed that she went to the west side. In addition, Siegcrest was also making it her fault that he was calling her by a nickname?
At any rate, it looked like Asyut’s attention turned towards her due to Siegcrest calling out to her. With a severe expression, he fixed a stern and unsparing gaze on Yuna.
What amazing force.
“You went to the west side alone?”
“I was searching for you when I heard that you suddenly disappeared. –Even though I had been relieved when you participated in this morning’s ceremony quietly. The moment I looked away, you do this?”
“…… I-I’m sorry.”
“If you are going to apologize then please refrain from doing these careless actions in the first place. Because it would be too late if something were to happen to you.”
“Hey, calm down Asyut. It looks like Celia is reflecting on her actions?”
“You shut up, Sieg!”
“Moreover, Lady Celiastina, I am not impressed at you walking with “this” in front of everyone.”
Did he just call Siegcrest “this”? An angry First Holy Knight was completely terrifying. And no one could stop him.
“Surely you are aware of who he is? To have a personal relationship with the future leader of the Order of Holy Knights is outrageous!”
“Wha, leader of the Order of Holy Knights?”
She didn’t hear about that! But there was no one who caught the scream in Yuna’s mind. Asyut’s lecture continued.
“You know this isn’t something that can be settled on a whim. To be indiscriminate with the vice-captain of the Order of Holy Knights– such a thing is an act equal to smearing the face of this kingdom with mud!”
“H-Hey Asyut…… you’re going too far.”
As one would expect, the looks from their surroundings became painful. Though it wasn’t as bad as the west side, there were a lot of servants here. Even those walking in the hallways, were glancing at them – though not to the extent of being disrespectful – but they were still closely watching them.
“Same goes for you! Hurry up and understand your own position! Do you know what kind of impression you give to everyone when you and the saint are walking alone together? It’s troubling when you keep on wandering around with that irresponsible attitude!”
“I get it, sheesh! My bad. I was the one who made a pass at Celia on a whim. Besides, it didn’t seem like she knew who I was. Don’t get any angrier than this.”
“Then, will you get angry in my stead?”
“I don’t want that either.”
“Good grief! You’re always like this.”
Haa, Asyut released a huge sigh. He pressed against his forehead with his right hand and looked like he was completely exhausted. Even while she was the one being raged at Yuna thought about how he seemed the type to burden himself with every worry.
“So, what exactly was your business in the west side, Lady Celiastina?”
This time it was this question. What now? If she talked honestly about Aeneas then wouldn’t she cause him trouble as well? Yuna, whose words were stuck, panicked but she knew that she was facing someone who wouldn’t overlook her panic. But, that’s why……
“She went to see Aeneas.”
As if not caring about Yuna’s hesitation, Siegcrest was the one who spoke. The instant he said that, Asyut’s face stiffened.
“Aeneas? From the House of Delray?”
“Yes, during the incident everyone’s talking about, Aeneas Noah Delray was demoted to being an ordinary soldier in the army.”
She was flustered as she tried to warn him not to say that, but she was too late.
“It looked like this time she wanted to apologize in person to him. And return the status of being a squire that was deprived from him.”
She pulled the sleeve of Siegcrest’s uniform in protest but Siegcrest didn’t seem to care. Rather, he was calm and acting like he didn’t even notice his sleeve being pulled.
“Lady Celiastina, what is the meaning of this?”
“Well, hold on, Asyut. Do something about that scary look. It’s because of that that Celia is so scared that she can’t say anything even if she wanted to say something. Besides, let’s not continue to stand around and talk here. For the time being, escort Celia back to her room. I’ll explain everything properly later, ’cause I heard everything.”
So he had been eavesdropping on their talk in the shed. But Yuna couldn’t even be angry any more. Asyut also had a dissatisfied expression but it looked like he agreed with how this place had too many eyes and so didn’t pursue the topic any deeper.
Yuna quietly breathed a sigh of relief and exhaustion.
Asyut, who had delivered the saint to her room, straightened his posture directly and walked quickly down the corridor.
The place he arrived at was the waiting room of the vice-captain of the Order of Holy Knights. I’m coming in, he said and opened the door in a familiar movement. Inside, not suiting the ceremonious and imposing interior design of the room, was Siegcrest who was sprawled out languidly on a sofa and polishing his sword listlessly.
“Oh hey, Asyut. That was fast.”
Siegcrest responded lightly in a voice that didn’t sound energetic at all. He only looked over at Asyut and grinned.
“I thought you would cross-examine Celia on a ton of things. But you really came to me to hear everything, huh?”
“You’re the one who said you heard everything.”
“That’s true but it’s certainly quicker to ask the person themself if you want to hear everything…… is what I thought you’d conclude.”
“…… I’m bad at talking alone with Lady Celiastina.”
As if feeling sulky at having spoken his true thoughts, Asyut sunk down into the opposite sofa.
“Well, the talk wasn’t that important anyway. It was just like I said. Celia took responsibility and went to Aeneas by herself to apologize. She was probably going to use that opportunity to go and apologize to the other person, that guy Neisan who was also harmed together with Aeneas. She also said that she wanted to return them to the position of being squires.”
Asyut kept silent and listened to Siegcrest’s story. It was quite rare to see Asyut relaxing with his legs crossed but for Siegcrest it wasn’t that particularly unusual. More importantly, there was a little feeling of discomfort mixed in the profile of the young First Holy Knight, and so Siegcrest left his sword and raised the upper half of his body.
“What, you look like you want to say something.”
“It’s not like it’s bad, right? What Celia did. It’s just that you’re always getting mad, so it’s hard to talk about small things.”
“I know that. –It’s true that what Lady Celiastina did wasn’t bad.”
But that was why he couldn’t understand it, Asyut’s words were stuck.
“Today, just a while ago, was the first time you met Lady Celiastina, right?”
“Well, yeah, but what about that?”
“”That” Lady Celiastina is different from usual.”
“If she was her usual self then she’d be the person of the rumors on the streets.”
“Capricious, cold-blooded, cruel, and uncontrollably selfish.”
“It’s like a story of a wicked witch.”
“Yes. And that’s why I arranged it so that you and Lady Celiastina wouldn’t meet directly. Because, without a doubt, you would have enraged Lady Celiastina.”
“Hmm, I see, so that’s why I, as the vice-captain of the Order of Holy Knights, never met the saint until now. –But, actually having met her, isn’t she just a cute young lady?”
“That’s why I’m saying it’s strange.”
Although she lost her memory, could someone change that much? Asyut wondered without saying anything. She told him that she wanted to make everyone involved with her happy. And she was actually starting to act for that sake. But, the woman he had known up to now would never admit her mistakes and go to apologize. Even if heaven and earth were to be reversed– Asyut thought. However, because the heaven and earth have remained the same, the circumstances now were reality.
“In other words, you’re saying it doesn’t make sense for Celia to suddenly become a good girl.”
“Well…… yes, putting it simply.”
“Isn’t that good? If she’s moving in a good direction.”
“It’s not just me, there are many people who are bewildered by Lady Celiastina’s change. She’s attended her ceremonies without a single complaint, and accepted her house arrest as a matter of fact. There have already been people who discussed with the king whether or not she was planning anything.”
“And what did he say? The king.”
“–The same as usual. He didn’t have much interest, and the messengers were sent away immediately.”
“”Hum, well, what will be, will be” or something like that?”
“Exactly like that.”
“Heh, you’re in a tough spot, huh. A thoroughly dissolute king who walks his own path, and a thoroughly selfish and heinous saint.”
“Don’t say anything. My head will hurt even more.”
As if he was actually in pain, today Asyut had sighed countless of times. Right now, even the man in front of him was “one of those people” and so had to be managed.
Siegcrest laughed with the air of it clearly being someone else’s problem. Asyut threw a glare and then warned him.
“I intend to have you working hard too though.”
“I want to ask you to be Lady Celiastina’s bodyguard.”
“Although the majority of the Holy Jail event has been settled, this does not mean that anyone who wants to harm Lady Celiastina will not show up in the future. Up to now, it’s been an actual problem not having any bodyguards. I was going to find a suitable person earlier but…… it looks like you and Lady Celiastina surprisingly get along. I’m counting on you.”
“Hooooold on, wait, wait. I don’t have that much free time, you know? Just how many units do you think I manage as the vice-captain? You’re telling me to watch over the saint and the knights? I’m not superhuman here and that’s gonna be impossible.”
“It’s about time to start bringing up the next vice-captain, because you’re not always going to be the vice-captain. Shouldn’t you be slowly handing over your work?
“Hey now, you’re saying it so easily…… oh, I know, if you’re looking for a bodyguard then a candidate has appeared. Yes, yes, I was going to tell you about that too.”
“–Yep, that Aeneas guy.”
Suddenly getting a serious look, Siegcrest examined his friend in front of him. Asyut’s brows inadvertently furrowed and he returned Siegcrest’s look.
“Truly? Did he himself suggest being a bodyguard again?”
Upon Siegcrest’s nod, Asyut grimaced as if implying that it was hard for him to understand.
“Just what is that person thinking.”
“Are you sure he didn’t have any choice because Lady Celiastina threatened him?”
“It didn’t feel like that.”
“Then how did it feel?”
That’s right, Siegcrest tilted his head a little for a moment, and then straightened his posture with a too serious expression. He kneeled like a knight and pierced Asyut with a direct and strong look, staring intently at Asyut’s face.
“I want to know more about you. Please allow me to serve as your bodyguard.”
“…… what are you doing?”
“I’m being Aeneas.”
Asyut didn’t have anything more to say. Seeing him become speechless, Siegcrest sighed lightly.
“Well, unlike that guy’s appearance he’s a hot-blooded man for better or worse. Something about Celia must have touched his heartstrings or something. Though the person himself might still be unaware…… he seems to have fallen in love with Celia.”
“He used to be your subordinate. Did Aeneas feel that way for Lady Celiastina before?”
“Nah. Until he was appointed as her bodyguard, it felt like he didn’t have any kind of interest. After the incident, he didn’t condemn Celia publicly or anything but of course he didn’t seem to be interested in her either. Even I don’t know exactly what happened inside that guy.”
“I see…… And, what did Lady Celiastina have to say about this matter?”
“She was scared. It looked like she hadn’t thought Aeneas who suggest such a thing either.”
“That would be the case.”
“For the time being, between those two, it seems like the talk was concluded with them waiting for Neisan – the other person related to the incident – to recover before Aeneas takes his position as her bodyguard.”
“Has this reached the ears of Lord Linus?”
He, as the guardian of the saint, had the right to decide on anything related to Celiastina. For example, even if the girl herself was interested, if Linus didn’t consent then things wouldn’t proceed smoothly. Asyut thought on how Aeneas’ house, the Delrays, were prestigious among the noble families and for that sake they would not want to expose him to danger – in more than one meaning – by having him take a position as the saint’s bodyguard again. Even under normal circumstances, this talk about Aeneas was a large problem. They couldn’t aggravate this situation any more. Could he somehow get Linus to dismiss this proposal?
“He still doesn’t know I’d think. Since the talk the two of them had was just a while ago. But, when he’s heard it, that person wouldn’t oppose it, right? He hasn’t up to now, and he won’t ever, no?”
That was true. Linus, no matter what absurd or selfish things Celiastina said, wouldn’t remonstrate her. It might have been because Linus was running around and checking the catastrophes so that their damage was held to a minimum, unknown to everyone around, but when he looked at how aloof Linus was from the world, he didn’t believe that. Deciding that it was best not to have any expectations, Asyut immediately changed his thoughts.
“It’ll be a nuisance but it can’t be helped. I will think of a way to persuade Aeneas. At any rate, you will undertake being a bodyguard until this matter is settled.”
“Okay, okay, roger that. Geez, what a bother.”
“It might be a bother but I will be in trouble if you cut corners. Because Lady Celiastina, no matter how the person herself is, is this country’s treasure.”
“This country’s treasure… huh. Well said.”
“Those are heartfelt words.”
Yes, no matter how much he hated that woman. No matter what, Asyut couldn’t deny that one fact. And no matter how heavy a yoke that was to him. Asyut quietly lowered his eyes.
Unnoticed, a faint crescent moon illuminated the evening sky fleetingly.