The endlessly wide starry sky wrapped around this world equally.
Were her friends and parents – people she could no longer see – staring up at the same moon? While thinking that, Yuna looked up at the night sky, alone. She liked the unique smell of night. The slight moisture that was mixed in with the air made her recall a sense of nostalgia for some reason. It wasn’t a bad thing. Rather, feeling comfortable, Yuna closed her eyes softly. There must be flowing water nearby because the gentle sound of running water passed faintly through her ears and she concentrated on it. –Even though the afternoon was just as quiet, when it became night it was like the world changed and she noticed various things that she hadn’t noticed under the sun.
(How long can I remain here like this?)
Leaning against the balcony, Yuna did nothing but continue to look at the scenery. When she thought about how this scenery would be something she wouldn’t be able to look at soon, it became all the more harder for her to avert her eyes. By nature, she had a personality where it wasn’t a pain to stand still in once place for a long time. And this night too, she looked up at the stars and moon for a long time.
(–I want to meet them, my mom and dad.)
She understood it intellectually; her former self was already dead. All she did was inflict a large injury in her parents’ hearts. Even if she intruded on them, she could easily imagine her parents’ reactions to seeing an unfamiliar girl. Just about everything of her appearance was different from the one her parents gave her. Her hair, her eyes, and even her hands and feet. If she called out “mom” in a voice they haven’t heard, she was sure she would frighten her kind mother. If she appealed to them saying “I’m your daughter” then she could see her father, as good humored as he was, falling into a rage and telling her not to joke around.
(But even so, I want to see them. Before I die again.)
It was a completely selfish wish. But, most of all, it was an innocent selfish wish.
And it was a selfish wish that would never be granted, Yuna pursed her lips tightly.
(–I can’t blame myself for thinking it though. I should sleep soon. Before I catch a cold.)
The night wind was slightly cool to her skin. Although it was pleasant, it still wasn’t good to expose her body to it like this for a long period of time. Running away from her thoughts with painful reluctance, Yuna quietly pulled her body away from the balcony. Suddenly, when she returned her gaze to her room, its tasteless atmosphere induced an inevitable sense of loneliness.
Breathing out a single breath, Yuna sank into bed.
(Like I thought, I’m not cut out for living like a noble.)
Smiling wryly at how the core of her heart still had the nature of a commoner, Yuna closed her eyes.
The next morning, Yuna washed her face like usual and let her maids help her dress like usual. Standing in front of the full-length mirror, she checked to make sure her clothes and hair weren’t disordered. Alright, she muttered under her breath.
Last night she had gotten lost in thought. The various things she had tried not to think about during the day had flowed copiously and then, like a fountain, gushed out one after another to swallow Yuna. In that moment, she felt like she hadn’t been the “saint” or “Celiastina”, but she also wasn’t the past “Yuna” either.
At times, she grew scared. Right here and now, just who was she? Where was she heading? Was she moving forward or had she not even moved a step? Each time that happened she shook off her doubts and did nothing but think of the future.
The light of day was kind to Yuna. Under the bright sunlight, she could be released from her imposing and revolving conflicts. She was able to think innocently on how she would try her best today as well.
(Yes, today I’ll go and ask Linus.)
Her reflection in the full-length mirror nodded. And then a light knock sounded. When she opened the door, Linus stood there relaxed and with good timing.
Linus gave a single yawn and she felt like the color of his face wasn’t well, but maybe he had been busy with work.
“Nothing has changed for you, right, Celia?”
Occasionally, Linus would come to check in on Yuna. It depended on his whim and so the pace wasn’t decided, but his arrival this morning was just in time. Yuna gave him a sweet smile.
“Linus, since you’re here, come in. Let me pour you some tea.”
“…… What’s with that smile?”
Linus entered the room, looking like he saw something suspicious.
“I don’t want tea, thank you. You have something you want from me, don’t you?”
As expected of Linus, he could see right through to Yuna’s thoughts.
“… Mhm, um, I have a request.”
“What is it?”
“I– still want to meet directly with the people who were hurt by the Holy Jail. No matter what.”
“… Oh dear.”
Haa, he gave a deep sigh.
“You’re still going to ask that?”
Linus showed a bitter smile, like he was chiding an unreasonable child. But Yuna did not withdraw.
“I stayed in my rooms for about a week. During that time, I had the chance to talk to a lot of people. I listened to those various opinions from various people. And I also thought about things on my own. I think it’s true that, like you said, I’ll aggravate the victims if they see me. But if I just avoid them and run away then I wouldn’t be moving forward at all. I want to face a lot more people. This might just be my selfish thoughts, but I’d like you to forgive me for that.”
In spite of her desperate appeal, Linus didn’t look like he had any intention of consenting. Please, she clasped both hands, and looked up at that hard-to-please face. However, it looked like the damp eyes of an uncommonly beautiful woman wasn’t enough to touch Linus’ heart.
“You know, how about you try spending your time a little more smartly?”
“Eh, what do you mean?”
“Why is it that you feel like you must confront everything directly before you can settle down? It’s so overwhelming that if it were me I would be in a cold sweat.”
“How could you say that!”
“If possible, I’d like you to be more obedient and quiet. Just thinking about something happening to you makes me shudder. I’m worried for you.”
“Really? Isn’t it just because you’ll have to take care of more things?”
“How could you say that!”
Linus purposefully imitated Yuna’s tone, and pursed his lips.
“… That’s creepy, Linus.”
“Anyway, you don’t know the feelings of a parent yet. A parent loves how single-minded and passionate their child can be, but at the same time they’re scared.”
“I personally don’t think that I’m really that straightforward. If I hadn’t been placed in this situation then I don’t know if I would be able to do the same thing. I would have thought it was unfair. But, right now, I think I want to live honest and upright.”
She only had a little life left. That preciousness urged her on and drove her body more than any moment she’d been through up to now.
“–Hum. I have no choice, if you’re going to say it like that then I won’t oppose you any longer.”
“However. I cannot allow you to meet with the victims alone. You will take your bodyguard with you.”
“Yep, you might not know this yet but Asyut prepared someone interesting.”
“Could it be Aeneas…?”
No, Linus denied it shortly.
“But, well, that also seems like it’ll become interesting in its own way.”
With a mysterious smile, Linus closed his mouth on that note. That smile looked like it contained all the secrets in the world– Yuna looked up at the heavens upon feeling that.
The training ground near the purification rooms was normally a quiet place.
It wasn’t very wide and there were no special facilities, but the number of people that came by this place was extremely small. For the sake of not passing by the corridor that the saint frequently walked through, the knights themselves decided independently to refrain from entering. In fact, the only people who used this training ground was Asyut, the leader of the Order of Holy Knights, and Siegcrest, the Vice-captain.
Even now Asyut was the only person in the unpopulated corridor as he walked toward the training ground.
However, it wasn’t to practice his swordsmanship. It was to have a secret bout with a certain person.
When he opened the door to the simple training ground, there was already a person in there. It was Aeneas.
He stood upright with a terribly nervous expression, but he didn’t make the slightest movement. Upon noticing Asyut’s appearance, he gave a quick bow and then returned to his previous stance.
“You are Aeneas Noah Delray, correct?”
Asyut confirmed the other’s name in a sharp voice. He did not come here today as an ordinary person, but was here as the kingdom’s First Holy Knight. His intention was to let his opponent know this implicitly.
Aeneas, who was facing him, seemed to be more than aware of this. With a tight expression that did not slacken for even one minute, Aeneas gave a short affirmation.
–It was an expression that indicated that he seemed to already understand what was going on. It looked like he was an intelligent man.
Asyut evaluated this young man, who he was meeting face-to-face for the first time, like that. Even though Aeneas must have known nothing, he didn’t show a frightened or confused face, and instead quietly returned Asyut’s gaze. A man of average measures wouldn’t have been able to do this.
“I apologize for calling you out here while you were busy. Let us finish this matter quickly.”
Only saying that, Asyut drew out his long sword from its sheath in a flowing motion.
“I want to know your ability. You are going to be my opponent.”
Taken aback, Aeneas also dropped his hand to his own sword. After seeing that, Asyut leapt towards the other’s chest without indication.
He gave Aeneas more than enough time to react, raising the sword in a large motion and then slowly bringing it down. Aeneas, who was in the act of drawing his sword, stopped the blow firmly. But his torso was inadequately defended. If Asyut pulled back his sword and swung it sideways then he would certainly cut his opponent in two. He decided that in an instant, but took it upon himself to retreat one step back. His objective wasn’t to kill his opponent.
In the slight pause, Aeneas’ face twisted and became strained. His expression seemed to be asking “Why did you back off?”. Aeneas himself understood that in the opportunity just now, this match could have been settled already.
(If he can conclude that from that moment then he’s not a man who cannot use a sword.)
This time, without holding back like he did before, Asyut rushed towards Aeneas instantly and swung his sword upwards. But Aeneas also stopped this swing with nice timing. And then Aeneas jumped back agilely like that to maintain distance.
However, Asyut did not wait. He stepped towards Aeneas even more and lunged with his sharp sword. Aeneas, who hadn’t adjusted his stance, had to tilt his body in an unnatural way and raised his left leg–
(You can’t avoid this!)
Is what Asyut thought. He could already see underneath his eyelids just how his own sword would pierce Aeneas.
–Asyut’s blade sliced through the air.
In that moment.
Asyut felt a flash in his head and moved his sword intuitively at the same time he turned around.
The screeching noise of a blade striking another blade split the air.
It was Aeneas’ blow. Not only did he evade an attack from that posture but, in an instant, went around to Asyut’s blind spot to counterattack.
Furthermore, Aeneas did not loosen the hands that he swung down with. He saw Asyut holding his sword in one hand as a chance and was going to face down his opposition with all his strength in a duel with their swords locked like this. But Asyut had no intention of competing in this stance. He intentionally pulled back the hand holding his sword, but his body was already moving to Aeneas’ side. Aeneas immediately followed Asyut with his eyes, but his body couldn’t catch up.
In his mind, Asyut cried this out in a thundering voice. He had that much luxury.
And then Asyut aimed accurately at Aeneas’ hand. With a sharp sound, Aeneas’ blade went flying.
Aeneas glanced at his hand, where his sword went flying from, but then immediately looked back at Asyut. His eyes were steady. In the distance, there was the dry sound of his sword tumbling across the ground but he didn’t look over there at all.
(He doesn’t seem discomposed.)
In a state where both of his hands were virtually empty, his concentration wasn’t interrupted at all. Because this was a bout, Aeneas understood that a conclusion had been reached. But if they had been trying to kill each other, then he would have never given up.
Even so, in the end, this was just a bout.
(If this had been a death match, I wouldn’t have stopped at just sending his sword flying.)
Asyut placed his sword into its sheath. In that second, the air that had been stretched relaxed somewhat.
“I was completely defeated.”
Aeneas muttered in frustration. It was likely that, from the start, he didn’t think he could win against Asyut. But, at the same time, he must have thought that they wouldn’t reach a conclusion so quickly. He understood completely the insufficiency of his own ability, but still frustrating things were frustrating. Asyut thought that, like Siegcrest said, Aeneas seemed to be a single-minded man.
“You still have a ways to go.”
“… Yes, ser.”
Aeneas clenched his fist. Was he unable to endure his own disappointing self? Or was he preparing himself to receive the words that Asyut was going to say now. Perhaps it might have been a bit of both.
“Do you know why I called you out here and suddenly faced you with a sword?”
“I believe I know.”
“I see. Then, you must know what I am about to say now, correct?”
Aeneas raised his lowered face and looked straight at Asyut.
“I am aware that it is impudent of me to not know my standing and state that I would like to serve as Lady Celiastina’s bodyguard with this level of swordsmanship.”
Asyut nodded. Yes, he wanted to say these words to Aeneas. If he was unable to actively wipe the slate clean on the matter of bodyguards then he had no step other than to have Aeneas withdraw from his end. If it was the current Celiastina then she might possibly consent to Aeneas, who was not to blame, for his withdrawal.
However, even though Asyut heard the words he had imagined he felt his own feelings drift far away from “satisfaction”.
Maybe it hadn’t been good to cross swords? Even though it was a short time, he felt Aeneas’ serious feelings flow into him through his sword. Was it okay for him to break Aeneas’ will in this way? Even if it was for the sake of Aeneas’ family, wasn’t it going against what Aeneas himself wanted? Such thoughts were raised at this point in time.
“However, Lord Asyut.”
Aeneas still opened his mouth. When Asyut looked at those eyes, the light in them hadn’t been lost at all. –Ah, this man hasn’t given up. Knowing that, Asyut was secretly relieved.
“I did not put out my request because I was confident in my own swordsmanship. It was because I want to protect Lady Celiastina with these hands. Just this emotion.”
“Why do you feel that?”
“It’s strange, is it not? It doesn’t make any sense. What on earth has the saint brought to you? What was given was just a heart of hatred and despair.”
It was truly nothing but strange. He wanted to protect Celiastina with a sword in hand? Wasn’t Celiastina the one who he should be pointing that sword at? At the very least, Asyut himself was unable to hold a sword in front of that dreadful woman– or he would commit a mistake that he could not commit.
Looking back at him, Asyut could not see any clouds in Aeneas’ eyes. He was an idiotic man. Asyut could tell just by looking. He knew from crossing swords. But what he didn’t understand was why this kind of man trusted “that” saint.
“… I myself don’t understand it very well.”
Aeneas opened his mouth in wonderment.
“But when we were in the Holy Jail, together in that extreme situation, I felt like I was able to touch a deep part of Lady Celiastina, a part of her that was not a lie. It wasn’t like anything special happened in that place. Even I don’t really understand. It’s just, in that moment, my heart was greatly touched by that person. To the point where all my hatred and resentment up to then was erased.”
Were those even things that could disappear? Out of character, Asyut was driven with the urge to refute Aeneas in a raised voice. The thing called hate couldn’t be so easily purified. It built a nest in the darkest parts of a heart and ate at a person. And that was why he was suffering, right? To this extent.
“Even now these feelings of mine confuse me. But that is exactly why I want to be by her side more. I want to know her, the person called Lady Celiastina.”
Aeneas lowered his head deeply.
“Lord Asyut, please, I ask of you to allow me to serve as Lady Celiastina’s bodyguard. I will train every day and devote myself to acquiring an adequate strength.”
“On this matter, despite whatever happens later, I will have no regrets.”
“Wait. Lady Celiastina is dangerous. Certainly, she might look calm right now but you cannot think of that as her true nature. Some time again, a day will come when she will betray you.”
“Even then. I do not want to turn my back on my present feelings, fearing betrayal in the future.”
–He couldn’t overturn this man’s feelings.
He was scandalized at Aeneas’ recklessness and genuineness. But at the same time he thought it was dazzling.
“Ah, it’s nothing.”
Asyut himself lost his bearings in the doubts that were born inside of him.
(“I want to know more about Lady Celiastina”, huh.)
He could not forget the agony of that moment. Even now, hatred smoldered inside of his chest. So as not to show that on the outside, he tried to the best of his ability not to be close to the saint. But what about now? Little by little, he was unable to avert his eyes from her. Inadvertently, there was a part of him that was curious about her.
(The only thing she did was release everyone from the Holy Jail, no?)
Did that one single action change his evaluation of Celiastina inside of him? Even though it could have simply been nothing more than a whim.
That wasn’t it. He knew. Everything started on that night. Since he caught her eyes below that cliff.
In that moment, everything up to then was decisively changed by something.
Asyut gave his head a small shake. Closed his eyes. He wasn’t going to face Celiastina. He wasn’t going to think deeply on the saint’s words. If he didn’t do that then sooner or later the carpet would be pulled from under him. And if he collapsed this time, there was a chance he wouldn’t be able to stand up again– like that time.
Before he knew it, his mouth had become parched and dry and Asyut swallowed hard.
That noise resounded violently in his ears.
Yuna waited until it became noon to go and visit the victims of the Holy Jail. According to Linus, that meant she had to go towards an infirmary that was dedicated to the Holy Jail victims.
Linus warned her about going alone and so she was waiting in her room for her bodyguard to come and pick her up. As Yuna walked back and forth through her room, she found the slowly passing time vexing.
“Yo, looks like I made you wait, Celia.”
Yuna, who had been adjusting her bed sheets meaninglessly, raised her head in surprise upon hearing an unannounced voice that came from her door which had been opened suddenly without a knock.
Just like the time she met him the other day, a large man in a worn white uniform stood leaning against the entrance to her room.
“Did something happen?”
“Did something happen, you ask. You’re going to go to the victims of the Holy Jail from here, right? I’m that bodyguard.”
She was sure that Siegcrest was the Vice-captain of the Order of Holy Knights, right?
“I’m just gonna say this once, but I didn’t take on being your bodyguard. It was pushed onto me by that guy, Asyut. Geez, he’s a high-handed fellow, that one.”
“I-I don’t know what to say, um… sorry.”
“Well, it’s okay since it’s just for a limited time. In the end, it looks like Aeneas will be your official bodyguard.”
He didn’t seem to be saying it in a nice manner. But, in spite of everything, Aeneas was going to be her bodyguard, huh. Yuna felt happy yet apologetic; it was a complex feeling.
“It’d be great if that Neisan dude doesn’t suggest to wanting to be your bodyguard too.”
“Couldn’t you have refused, Sieg?”
“Even if I wanted to refuse, I can’t. Because it’s an order from that demon, Asyut. That guy is a man who will definitely go through with something once he decides on it. That’s why even I was surprised about the Aeneas thing though.”
“The Aeneas thing?”
“Everyone was opposed to Aeneas serving as a bodyguard. Asyut was the same. He should have gone to persuade Aeneas by force but, something happened, and conversely he came back moved. Celia, did you hear anything from him… nah, there’s no way you could have, huh.”
Unfortunately, she didn’t hear about anything. There was no way Asyut would approach her to talk about anything that wasn’t necessary.
“Never mind that though, you’ve changed your clothes quite a bit, haven’t you?”
Siegcrest looked Yuna up and down with interest. Right now Yuna was wearing casual pants underneath her knee-length dress. Her long hair was also gathered simply into a ponytail and she was wearing easy-to-move-in sandals on her feet.
“I thought it’d be hard to move in my usual fluttering clothes.”
“Hey now, what are you going to do there? You’re not going to a duel like a certain someone, right?”
Yuna smiled ambiguously and left her room.
As she walked down the long hallway she noticed – despite not wanting to – that the greetings from the servants who passed her were even more awkward than usual. It looked like Yuna being in casual clothes was making everyone extremely uneasy. They must have been wondering what was going to happen this time or whether a disaster would befall them. She could understand everyone’s thoughts like she was picking them up. It was painful for Yuna to see everyone’s stiff faces due to nervousness, to the point where she unconsciously looked down. But this deep trench couldn’t be filled so easily.
“What’re you going to do when you meet the victims?”
Siegcrest, who had kept quiet and walked half a step behind, suddenly asked a question.
“… Good point.”
Yuna, who had been looking down the hallway, raised her head and let her gaze wander aimlessly through the empty air.
“Do you think it’s better for me not to go and see them?”
“Well, it’s complicated.”
“I think so too. But, in spite of that, I want to help out and be of some use. Like cleaning the room, changing the sheets, or something like that.”
“You’re just going there for a bit and then helping out for a bit. There’s not much meaning in that, right?”
“That’s right. If possible, I was thinking of going there every day though.”
Beside her Siegcrest suddenly stopped.
“Wait, wait. Hey, hold on.”
“I’m not saying this for the sake of atoning. More than that, I want to do something for those who were hurt.”
“No, I’m not talking about that. E-Every day?”
“Um, do you know? If you’re going there every day then that means I also have to go there every day.”
“Now that you mention it, that’s right. Thank you in advance.”
Yuna bowed her head courteously.
“Hey, hey, hey. Don’t joke around. Who do you think I am? Someone who has that much free time?”
“I don’t think that.”
“Then how about thinking a little on my situation? It’d be sad if I died from overworking, right?”
Yuna tilted her head slightly.
“I’m not going to think about that. Because I’m a selfish saint.”
“Don’t turn on me at a time like this!”
Siegcrest had an expression that couldn’t be called anything other than disheartened. Even though she felt apologetic to him, Yuna was unable to apologize.
When they passed through the long hallway this time elegant pillars lined a cloister on their left and right. Around them was a plain courtyard where a small amount of trees and flowers swayed in the wind. Beyond the straight hallway, on the other side, there was a tall wall painted white. A sturdy door was closed tightly and Yuna couldn’t imagine what kind of atmosphere was spread on the other side of the door. –This was the infirmary.
Siegcrest slowly opened the door. The soft smell of freshly washed sheets tickled Yuna’s nose.
It was a very large and spacious room overflowing with cleanliness. On both sides of the room there were many large windows where the wind breezed in and rustled the curtains, making them sway. The room was quiet to the point where the only sound that could be heard was the rustling of the curtains. When she looked up, bright light from the sun poured in through a large rounded skylight and Yuna’s eyes creased with delight.
What a gentle place. But there was another person inside of her that felt at a loss in this scenery. That “feeling” appealed earnestly at Yuna to run away from this place. It’s okay, it’s okay, Yuna repeated many times.
“This is the place, huh.”
Siegcrest whispered softly. It was a very delicate voice coming from someone who looked as rough as him. In the beds, which were placed at large intervals, there were people sleeping. They were none other than the victims of the Holy Jail.
“Mm, it looks like everyone is asleep.”
Yuna murmured in a quiet voice.
In that moment, the air in the room changed completely. There was a very distinct sound of rustling and crinkling sheets. The calm and peaceful room, in an instant, was wrapped in a hair-raising atmosphere.
Many beds squeaked dully.
–They were scared. Of Saint Celiastina who appeared all of a sudden.
They knew it was her just from her voice. And then they shrunk their bodies, stiffening. Yuna, who was shocked, could only stand stock still.
Someone came out from the back immediately. They must have noticed that the air in the infirmary became odd. It was a kind-looking middle-aged woman. When she noticed Yuna and Siegcrest, her small eyes widened as large as they could and she raised her voice in a high-pitch going “Oh my, oh my”.
“To think that you actually came here.”
It looked like she decided to greet Yuna since she had seen her face. But it didn’t seem like she was going to ask about anything specific. The woman approached Yuna and Siegcrest with surprise and an imperceptible discomfiture.
“I apologize deeply for the lack of any welcome.”
“No, no, I’m the one who suddenly intruded. I must have surprised you, right? Sorry.”
Yuna bowed her head, flustered. The woman looked at Yuna with an even more surprised face.
“… Besides, it looks like everyone is shocked because I came.”
“Ah, um, that seems to be the case. Not in their wildest dreams could they have imagined a noble like the saint coming to visit them.”
Yuna, Siegcrest, and even the woman herself who said it knew of course that this was not the reason. Yuna didn’t respond with anything in particular and just gave a slight smile.
It looked like the people in the beds were holding their breath and secretly watching the three of them. Everyone had their blankets drawn up to their head and so she couldn’t see their expressions. But the tension they felt that was painful to look at was conveyed firmly. Yuna was also hooked and wanted to shrink back but she scolded herself and took one step forward.
The blankets shook for a moment. It looked like even her footsteps caused their frightened bodies to stiffen. –Her existence was like a severe poison to them.
Yuna kept silent and lowered her head. How easy would it be to say “I’m sorry”. But she felt like she shouldn’t say those words so lightly.
Even when she lifted her head after a long period, the injured people in the beds were unchanged and stiff, like they were frozen. She knew. Even if she said she was sorry here it was impossible for her to receive a smile and a “Don’t worry about it”. Yuna told herself that and then turned back to the woman.
Yuna closed her mouth.
“Oh, forgive my rudeness. My name is Mislee.”
“Mislee, I have a request. Could you let me help out with taking care of everyone?”
Mislee raised her voice as if completely surprised.
“Something like wiping the floor or washing dirty things. I’ll do anything that I can do. Though I have to attend ceremonies and so I might not be able to do this all the time.”
What was she saying all of a sudden?! That was written plainly on Mislee’s face. Siegcrest had an exasperated expression, oh boy, and all he did was stare up at the heavens.
“S-Something like wiping the floor. I cannot let you do something like that.”
“I might not be able to help you much, but I want to do something.”
Mislee sent a look at Siegcrest with a troubled expression. What should I do? She was implicitly seeking help.
“Isn’t it best to just let her do what she wants until she’s satisfied?”
Siegcrest, being himself, had a careless air and it was impossible to think of him as someone who was temporarily the saint’s attendant.
Ignoring Mislee, who was at a loss, Yuna raised her voice when she looked into the room at the back.
“Were you just about to wash things? In that case, please let me do that!”
Alert, she discovered a big laundry basket with a huge amount of white sheets inside. Before Mislee could say anything, Yuna quickly lifted up the basket.
“Ack… i-it’s surprisingly heavy. Sorry, but where’s the washing station?”
“W-Wait, wait, you mustn’t do that! The Lady Saint shouldn’t do those things.”
“Ah, I see a washing station in the back yard. I’m going to borrow that.”
Yuna interrupted Mislee’s words on purpose and quickly headed to the back yard. Mislee, who was left behind, stood still and was unable to catch up to this unexpected development. Siegcrest lightly patted her shoulder and muttered at her to leave the saint alone.
For a week Yuna went to the infirmary every day like she said.
One day she brought fruits and on another she brought flowers. Because everyone became frightened when Yuna came close, she swept the floor and folded the laundry as far away as she could wherever it was practicable. In the beginning, whenever she just stepped foot into this room there was another “feeling” that raised a bitter voice, but little by little it calmed down. From the fifth day, Mislee seemed to calm down when Yuna’s maid, Nasha, came to help take care of everyone too. It must have been mentally tiring on her to manage her routine duties alone together with the saint in the infirmary. At the beginning, Nasha was also very stiff from her nervousness, but after two days she was completely relaxed and able to perform her duties well.
“I’m sorry, Nasha, for you having to accompany me like this.”
“Oh no, please do not be concerned about that.”
The two of them stood side by side, busy washing. Yuna secretly looked at Nasha, beside her, but she couldn’t see any dissatisfaction on the girl’s face. –But the maids themselves that accompanied her were all noble ladies. So doing something common like washing these dirty things by hand must be nothing but a humiliation. But this was just Yuna’s suspicion.
“… You don’t mind this?”
“Yes, in fact, I’m used to this kind of work.”
“Yes. I think you know already from my name but I am a commoner.”
So that’s how it was. Yuna looked at Nasha’s profile in surprise. It was true that “Nasha” wasn’t a very noble-like name. Most aristocratic names were longer. But up to now – and even now – she hadn’t thought that Nasha came from a common background. Because there should have only been high ranking nobles around the saint.
“I apologize deeply for someone like me to serve beside the Lady Saint as a maid.”
“Why?! I’m happy!”
Yuna unintentionally let out a loud voice. Ah, was that why she felt a familiarity upon their first meeting? Because they were both commoners?
“Yup, because I come from a common background too. It’s still very mentally draining. I feel like everyone around me is honestly more remarkable than I am. But isn’t it unusual? There’s no other commoners around you, right?”
Nasha spoke slowly and ambiguously. Could it be… Yuna suddenly understood.
Was Nasha sent to serve under her as the so-called scapegoat? The closer a maid was to the saint the higher the possibility of being caught in her vicious ways and having misfortune befall them. So that no one became like what happened to the saint’s bodyguards in the past there might have been a fierce competition between the maids. And, in front of the saint who was acting increasingly strange, they placed a maid where if, by any chance, something were to happen then there would not be any trouble–. Nasha might have been that commoner maid chosen for that reason.
“I’m sorry. Things must have been hard.”
“Oh no! It’s not anything that Lady Celiastina has to apologize for.”
When she thought that, Yuna comprehended the nervousness in Nasha’s eyes when she arrived to Yuna’s side at the beginning.
Celiastina, when you return, you won’t hurt Nasha, right? Please, don’t do such a thing. Yuna asked that other person in her chest. There was an unpleasant feeling that spread slowly, as if it were rejecting Nasha, but Yuna prayed strongly and pushed that back. –Even if you don’t understand right now, realize it one day. The feeling of caring about someone and the warmth it brings to one’s self.
“Well, let’s work hard, we just need to wash a bit more. Once this is done, you can rest, Nasha. I’ll go back to my room after I’m done sweeping the room.”
Trying to regain the mood, Yuna deliberately spoke loudly.
“No, I will join you.”
Nasha, who smiled as she said that, had softened to a point where it wasn’t even comparable to how she was on the first day. Just seeing that smile made Yuna’s face naturally turn into a broad smile.
“–Now, how about a short break for the both of you? I’ve just poured us some delicious tea.”
Mislee, who popped her head out from the rear entrance of the room, called out to Yuna and Nasha in a bright voice.
When they returned to the infirmary, Siegcrest was sitting in a chair, looking bored, and dozing. He looked bored but at the same time he looked content. That was how pleasant the room was and how it was enveloped in a refreshing air. It was all thanks to Mislee’s attention to every nook and cranny.
The victims of the Holy Jail were still unaccustomed to Yuna. Whenever she was here, they covered their heads with their blankets and showed no reaction. But even still, their fear seemed to have weakened and they no longer shook and trembled by her just being in the same room.
Nevertheless, Yuna secretly looked at the victims. There was one thing she was curious about.
–Neisan wasn’t here.
Everyone was covered by a blanket and so she wasn’t able to identify anyone individually, but from being together with Siegcrest and looking at his attitude it didn’t seem like she was mistaken in the fact that Neisan wasn’t amongst them. The majority of the Holy Jail victims should have been recuperating here but was Neisan in another place with a small minority? In this one week, she was secretly worried, and felt like it was time for her to confirm this.
Siegcrest’s voice was extremely languid. Was he really being a bodyguard for the saint?
“Neisan isn’t here, is he?”
“Ah, that guy? He’s recuperating in his own room.”
“His own room?”
“Yep. He was quite hurt but in the last month it doesn’t seem like he was tortured. During that time, he must practiced moving his body a little to the extent where you wouldn’t think that he spent four months in that place, which is good. He really isn’t an ordinary person. Because of his body, and his own wishes, it was okay for him to rest in his room. There are also others who are recovering in their own rooms, you know.”
“Is that so.”
“Don’t think about intruding.”
Suddenly sending her a sharp look, Siegcrest restrained Yuna.
“… Eep, okay.”
“I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s just that guy is quite sensitive to the atmosphere around him, so you going there is a bit… Leave him alone and give him some more time.”
Great, Siegcrest nodded with satisfaction and then patted Yuna’s head. Mislee and Nasha, who were watching the situation, both sucked in their breath. It must have been because it was an unthinkable attitude for a bodyguard to have towards the saint. And, more importantly, she should have been a saint who wouldn’t be content to accept that treatment. But, in reality, in front of them was just a young girl who, as if sulking, pulled her shoulders in and made herself look small. The dignity of a saint could not be found anywhere.
Even the Holy Jail victims, who were concealing their breathing and hiding their bodies under the blankets, peeked their faces out a little to look at Yuna.
“Now, it’s about time to head back, Celia.”
“H-Hold on, please wait. The laundry still needs to be dried and then once that’s done I have to sweep the floor.”
“Argh, stop! I’m busy too, you know! ‘Cause I have to go and put in an appearance at the knights’ training ground after this. You can leave the rest to Mislee and Nasha to do.”
During these five days, it was always this when Siegcrest opened his mouth. From the moment they entered the infirmary he would want to go home. It was true that this was a boring time for him though. In this place, those who would want to hurt Yuna, no matter their innermost thoughts, wouldn’t actually do it. It was also absurd for him to accompany Yuna in cleaning and washing. And so, as far as he was concerned, he had nothing to do. Every time Yuna met Linus too, she would bring to his attention that she didn’t need a bodyguard but he appeared to turn a deaf ear to that and would not respond.
“Alright, how about this then. I’ll take you with me to the knights’ training, Celia. You don’t go out often, right? Don’t you find it boring to just come and go from your room to ceremonies? Now that you’ve stretched your legs like this to the infirmary, I think it’ll definitely be fun to look around other places too.”
“Lady Celiastina, we will be fine here. I will handle the rest from here and, from time to time, you should accompany Lord Siegcrest.”
Mislee said in a bright voice while smiling.
“That’s right, Lady Celiastina. I will also help Mislee, so it’ll be okay.”
With even Nasha saying that, it didn’t seem like she could continue to remain here by force.
Besides, it was true that Siegcrest had been accompanying her all this time because of her selfishness. Like what Mislee said, it might be good for her to go along with Siegcrest’s suggestions once in a while. But to ignore the victims in front of her today was…
Nasha and Mislee looked at each other carefully upon seeing Yuna fall completely silent. However, only Siegcrest seemed to take that silence as an affirmative and, with an exaggerated nod, he took Yuna’s arm and stood up.
“Good, good, let’s go then. Everyone’ll probably be terrified and make a ruckus when they see you, Celia, but oh well don’t worry. If they become curious and make a pass at you I won’t let any one of them lay a single finger on you.”
If one just listened to his last words then he sounded very knightly and reliable. But somehow she wasn’t very happy about this situation. She felt like she was being treated like a rare animal in a circus tent or maybe that was just her persecution complex?
At any rate, without being able to put up a resistance, Yuna was dragged out of the infirmary.
The knights’ training ground was in a small corner on the north side of the royal palace. It wasn’t like the training grounds of the soldiers, which was attached to a lively place, rather it felt like a cut off and separate dignified place, with a strange feeling of pressure. While thinking that a place like this must certainly discipline a person and motivate them, Yuna followed after Siegcrest.
When the heavy door to the training ground was opened the first thing that stole Yuna’s eyes was the largeness. It wasn’t just wide, even the ceiling was extremely tall. Inside the royal palace, there were many buildings that had unbelievably tall ceilings. To Yuna it was still a huge surprise, because during the time she lived in a village only a building like the church would be like this.
When she looked back down, after looking up at the ceiling for a while, the sight of dozens of knights swinging their blades entered her vision. As one would expect, they were not wearing the tight white uniforms but practice uniforms that were easy to move in, though there was no loss in the quality of the material. Their atmosphere was clearly different from the soldiers she had seen before.
One person noticed them and sent their gaze to them. And then, like a ripple, the awareness of the knights gradually concentrated on Siegcrest and the saint. Though Yuna felt uncomfortable she couldn’t do anything but accept their gazes in silence.
The knights who noticed the saint widened their eyes in startlement and then fell silent. The swords they held also lowered and then everyone in the area stood upright. As one would expect of the Order of Holy Knights who valued strictness, there was no fuss or noise. But it was easy to imagine the great shock they seem to have received.
“Yo, looks like everyone is training properly.”
Siegcrest, the only one who seemed unconcerned with the atmosphere in this place, called out to the knights in a bright voice.
“I’m sure you guys already know, but this is the Saint Celiastina. She said she wanted to take a field trip to see your guys’ training and so I brought her. Anyway, don’t worry about us and continue on with your training.”
What irresponsible words. To Celiastina and to the knights.
What should they do, the knights seemed to ask with their eyes as they started to look at each other. Why did the saint suddenly say she wanted to see their training? Why did she appear aimlessly in clothes unsuited for a saint? They must have had a lot of questions. However, more importantly, to do something like resuming their training in front of the saint… they might have felt uneasy about doing anything to bring her wrath down on them.
It was only a short period of time that the knights exchanged glances with one another. Soon, their gazes gathered to one point in the very back. –Towards a black-haired and remarkably awe-inspiring young man.
Inside her mind, Yuna screamed.
On the other side of the knights that separated them, Asyut stood in an imposing stance with his arms crossed and glared over at them. There was a pressure of silence. It was very scary. The other knights seemed to leave the development of events in this place up to Asyut’s decision over Siegcrest’s. The gazes that were directed to and relying on Asyut were waiting on his words.
“Gah… I mean, hey, Asyut. You came too, huh.”
“… Because I asked you to be the bodyguard of the saint. In exchange, I’m taking part in the knights’ training.”
“Hmm, I see. Nah, that really helps me. ‘Cause I haven’t been able to find any time to show my face here. I finally made some time right now.”
Asyut’s glare almost seemed to make a sound. Yuna instantly realized that anything said here was likely to anger him. And her thought was probably not mistaken.
“Why has the saint appeared together with you in a place like this?”
“Why, you ask. It’s because Celia said she wanted to see everyone’s training.”
Was it going to be her fault again? Yuna abandoned all the trust she ever placed in Siegcrest. And then she secretly pinched his arm. Siegcrest turned to look at her petulantly, but Yuna firmly glared back.
“Even so, a bodyguard would not so easily bring her along. This is a place where real swords are used in training. How will you take responsibility if anything were to happen to the saint by chance.”
“Ah… mm. You’re right. My bad.”
Siegcrest didn’t seem to think he was in the wrong at all, but it looked like Asyut was used to that. He didn’t complain any more than that about Siegcrest’s attitude; instead, the furrow between his brows just deepened.
Reflexively, she replied and straightened her posture even more so than any knight in the area. Beside her Siegcrest burst into laughter.
“… I will escort you back to your room. Siegcrest, I’m leaving the rest of the training to you. Do not slack and train them firmly.”
Like this, Yuna’s field trip to the knights ended in five minutes and she was to return to her room.
As they walked down the long hallway side by side, Yuna surreptitiously glanced at Asyut’s profile, which looked unhappy. He hadn’t said a single word since a while ago. To that Asyut, who only fixed his gaze straight ahead and continued walking, Yuna could do nothing but keep her mouth closed.
(This is awkward.)
By nature Asyut didn’t have a personality that was easy for people to get close to. But the way he had a presence of rejection to Yuna was unbearable to the point that it hurt.
Yuna, not having anything to do with her hands, linked them behind her back and looked down as she walked. Naturally, she fell behind Asyut. Each time that happened Asyut would slow down his steps to match Yuna’s pace. And when she noticed that Yuna would run up to Asyut hurriedly. This repeated many, many times.
(He shows that kind of concern even to someone he hates. I’m sure he’s doing it unconsciously.)
Asyut was strict to others and definitely strict on himself. There must have been a lot of people who were afraid of him. But there was a kindness too. Yuna thought that he really was a good person. And that’s why it was sad to be so thoroughly hated by someone like that.
(What should I do?)
She suddenly looked up at the sky. From the large windows between the tall white walls and the roof the soft rays of the sun shone in. What was on the other side of this wall? If only she was a good friend with Asyut then she could suggest taking a small walk before returning to her room.
Before she knew it, being preoccupied with the sunlight, the space between her and Asyut opened up again. Asyut turned around and quietly stopped.
“… Lady Celiastina.”
Like a student who had been scolded by their teacher, Yuna shrunk her body and ran up to Asyut’s side. The servants passing nearby looked at the two of them strangely. They must have thought that this was a very odd exchange.
“Is something the matter?”
“No, it’s nothing. Sorry.”
It looked like all she could do was apologize.
“I am not angry. I am simply thinking that it is strange. Last time, you were at the west side of the royal palace, and now this time here. Recently, I have been seeing you in completely inconceivable places.”
“Incidentally, what is with those clothes today, too?”
Yuna’s body suddenly stiffened when she was asked that. Her knee-length dress and simple pants. Come to think of it, this was the first time she had worn these clothes in front of Asyut. Easy to move in capri pants were one of Yuna’s favorites, but she could easily imagine that not being something Asyut would be pleased by.
“Uh, um, it’s quite easy to move in these.”
It was a lacking answer.
“All you did today was visit the victims of the Holy Jail, right? Why is it necessary to wear clothes that are easy to move in?”
There was no way she was going to say that she did things like wipe the floor and use a broom there.
“Did Siegcrest drag you into something idiotic again? If so, please tell me immediately.”
“No, I just like these clothes. It’s okay if I wear saint-like clothes properly when it’s time for ceremonies, right?”
“There is a problem if there are times when you are “like” a saint and “unlike” a saint.”
You’re mistaken, Yuna opposed strongly in her heart.
“That’s because before I’m a saint I’m just a single human.”
Because it took her courage to oppose him her voice was small, but even so Yuna slowly said that. When she glanced at Asyut to gauge his reaction, just as she thought, he was frowning and looking down at her.
“I think of being the saint as something like a job. It’s a very, very important job but I don’t think of it as being everything.”
“If you are going to do that, are you not setting a bad example to the people who spend their days supporting the saint?”
“It’s not like everyone is living to support the saint though, right? Everyone has their own precious things. They have important things that are there for the sake of their own selves. It’s that kind of thing.”
She knew this well because she used to be a commoner. Who exactly would think about the saint every day in the middle of their lives? Who would think about the Holy Knights? Commoners were indifferent to those people who they didn’t know anything about. What was much more important than the far away saint was the plan for the day’s dinner or how they would spend tomorrow’s holiday.
“That’s why, it’d be nice if we could all be the same.”
Asyut interrupted in a monotonous voice. A stormy atmosphere slowly spread, similar to the time they quarreled in Yuna’s room. But Asyut, unlike before, seemed to be consciously trying to suppress his emotions.
“I’m sorry, Asyut, but I–“
Yuna opened her mouth, immediately trying to find her next words. However, at that time, Asyut wasn’t looking at Yuna. His black eyes were slightly widened– that gaze was looking at something behind Yuna.
Upon realizing that, Yuna reflexively looked back. She turned around.
And then she unconsciously held her breath.
There, right beside her, was an unfamiliar young man.
At the same time Yuna moved to turn around the man spoke in a low voice.
“Celiastina, I’ve finally caught you–!”
(T/N: It wasn’t me!! The author is the one who ended it on this massive cliffhanger! So, as an apology, I threw in another illustration. Here’s a reminder to support the author’s book too, especially if you want to see more of Kishida Mel’s art! There’s almost one illustration per chapter!)