Everything that happened after that passed by in an instant.
The silhouette of the tanned man suddenly became larger. He lifted his right hand up with great force and, the moment she realized that, he swung it down. She could hear the sharp sound of the passing wind by her ears. And then, roughly at the same time, a dull shock impacted against her. Yuna was completely confused. In that moment, her entire body had judged that she was going to be attacked by that unfamiliar man. But the coldness of the ground striking her cheek brought Yuna’s consciousness back to reality.
Right now, Yuna was lying on the ground. The one who had pushed her and thrown himself on top to cover her was– Asyut.
By the time Yuna managed to raise her upper body, Asyut had already brought himself up to a knee and was guarding her against their opponent.
The person who assaulted her was someone who was around the same age as Asyut. He gripped a dagger in his right hand. And he was looking down at Asyut and Yuna with hatred burning in his eyes. There was an unthinkable strength that poured out of him, despite his haggard appearance, but Yuna trembled with fear just from his appearance.
“–Don’t get in my way!”
Shouting, the man leapt at them again. Asyut placed a hand on the handle of his sword, but he didn’t move and simply glared at the other person. As the distance shrank Yuna was unable to bear it and gave a small scream. Right at that moment, a thick arm stretched out from behind the man and twisted the right hand of the man strongly. Like that, the man’s body was thrown into the air and then immediately hit the ground.
The owner of that arm was Siegcrest. Placing his weight on the man’s back, Siegcrest skillfully held the man down so that he could not move an inch.
“… Whew, that was a close call. I’m glad I came to check on you two.”
It was around that time that their surroundings started to make a commotion. Everyone who had been here hadn’t been able to move during those sudden events. But the spell was broken and it seemed like everyone started to realize the abnormality of the situation.
“Wretch, there is no way you don’t know who this lady is. You must understand what you’ve done, right!?”
Asyut, who had stood up, questioned the man harshly.
“There’s no way I wouldn’t know!!”
Even though the man was held down by Siegcrest he was able to answer firmly.
“As if I could forget this woman’s face! The saint, more horrible than any demon, Celiastina! That’s right, I’m going to kill you. I’ll definitely– kill you. I’LL KILL YOU!!”
Yuna lost her words at the shouts of the man, who seemed to be peering into madness.
This excessively violent and deep hatred. –His murderous intent.
It wasn’t something she could take. Unconsciously, Yuna took a step back. But, as if caught, she felt herself getting drawn into those burning eyes.
“On top of committing this kind of violence towards the saint, you would still mock her!?”
“I did it knowing that I would die, do you think I’d care?!”
The man shouted wildly, uncaring about the pressure from Asyut.
“This woman stole everything from me! The happiness I finally got! Give me back Rin, give her back…!!”
“I won’t listen to your nonsense. Guards, take this man to the prison immediately.”
Yuna’s voice, which was out of place, broke in. She had shouted instinctively.
“It’s fine, let him speak. I’ll listen to everything he wants to say.”
Reining in Asyut, who had objected, Yuna faced the man. His eyes widened, as if in disbelief, but then his expression was immediately dominated by a furious anger.
“What, are you pretending to have mercy at this point in time?! What’s the point of that! You stole everything from me. Our future, our smiles, and even our meager happiness!”
“Why did you kill Rin?! Why did you kill my wife!? Why couldn’t you just have killed me. Why was it Rin!? What did she do?! Isn’t that absolutely mad?!”
–She remembered. He was the young man who had been imprisoned in the Holy Jail. On the night she had visited the Holy Jail, he was that voice who had begged her to spare just Rin–.
“I’ll never forgive you. I WON’T FORGIVE YOU!!”
The man struggled violently, even though he was held down, but he was unable to thrust aside Siegcrest. But still, somehow his right hand escaped its restraint and crawled along the ground for the dagger that had been thrown down beside him.
“As if I’d let you!”
Asyut quickly kicked the dagger and it made a light sound as it tumbled across the stone floor. Yuna picked up the dagger, which had rolled close to her, and felt its coldness in the palm of her hand.
In the moment where Yuna’s attention had been stolen by the dagger, the man was pressed down to the ground again by several patrolling guards, including Siegcrest still.
“Guh, let me go!”
“To think that you would still try to harm Lady Celiastina even now. Do you want to lose your neck here?”
With cold eyes Asyut drew his sword this time.
The man’s shoulders trembled at the clear sound of the sword blade leaving its sheath. At the same time, Yuna felt like her heart was being seized. –During the Ceremony of Worship, there was a black shape crawling on the ground, and soldiers who looked down at it. And then it was killed all too soon– the poisonous bug.
Yuna ran up to Asyut as if she sprung to him. And then she held his left hand and looked up at him desperately.
“Stop, don’t kill him!!”
“Lady Celiastina, please step back. In any case, this man will receive capital punishment. We cannot allow you to be hurt by any chance.”
“I said no! Because I don’t even have a single scratch. For that to be a capital punishment is crazy!”
“You’re saying that? –Borrowing this person’s words, you’re saying that at this point in time?”
The gaze he had directed at the man moved onto Yuna. There was also a flicker of hatred in Asyut’s eyes.
“No, no! I don’t care if it’s too late! You absolutely can’t kill this person!”
Irritated from the bottom of his heart, Asyut sighed. Siegcrest, who had been silent up to now, rebuked Celiastina in a low voice.
“Hey, Celia, I told you to correct your selfishness, right? To direct a violent act towards the saint is an act that is definitely not allowed. It’s natural for that to be a capital punishment.”
“But originally this person’s wife was…”
Siegcrest’s voice was rough and Yuna shrunk her body at that.
“Don’t you understand? If you forgive this person here, the royal palace will fall into chaos. No one would be punished for carrying out their revenge on the hated saint. There will definitely be lots of people, knights like me, who will come out. Because there are heaps of people who hate the saint.”
It was such a sound argument that Yuna couldn’t say anything back. –The seeds sown by Celiastina had grown large and those vines were now chasing her wherever she went and entwining around her. Was he saying that if she overlooked this man right here then the resentment towards her would just increase even more?
“We have to settle this in front of everyone who is watching. This is the duty of those who stand at the top. That is why Asyut will harden his heart and execute this man. Listen, Celia, the death of this man for your sake will stain Asyut’s hands. Do not forget that.”
Something like that. Such a thing–.
Her vision grew dark. Siegcrest wasn’t wrong. She was sure she was the one who was wrong. But if the only thing gained from pursuing a proper path was just suffering then, even so, was she supposed to withdraw?
Yuna thought this strongly.
Whether this was selfishness or arrogance, or if she was told that she wasn’t thinking about anything or the outlook of the circumstances and future of her surroundings, she didn’t want to hurt the people she could reach any more. She wasn’t going to let such a thing repeat anymore, never.
“You absolutely can’t! How can you take a life so easily? He’s alive. Right now, this person is alive. He’s someone who can continue living, even into the future, I’m sure. Please understand just how precious that is.”
Siegcrest had a sour face.
“Celia. People like us are humans who have made fighting their livelihood. Do you think we easily kill people without thinking anything? That’s impossible. It’s obvious we understand what it means to take the life of a person. It is on top of that which we are saying this man should be executed.”
They didn’t actually understand! Yuna’s body trembled from the shout that welled up from the bottom of her heart. The tomorrow that was to come was never going to happen for an eternity; they were surely unable to really understand that meaning. Even she didn’t understand– a bird that flies straight through the blue sky, the trees that rustle and shake their bodies to the passing of a gentle wind, the soft and sweet smell of flowers shone on from sunlight filtering through the trees… just what exactly did it mean for this “world” that she could react to with her whole body to be lost forever? And, surely, she would never know. How big that “world” was supposed to have spread over a long, long time–.
Yuna put strength into her hands that clung to Asyut.
“I’m begging you, don’t kill him. Please…!”
And then she kneeled like that. Seeing that, everyone in the area became speechless. Of course Asyut did, the passerbys who were watching the course of these events, Siegcrest who was holding the man down, and even the man himself who was being held down. Everyone was looking in mute amazement at the saint who had lowered her head.
Haa, Siegcrest exhaled a deep sigh. What do we do, he pestered Asyut with just his eyes. Asyut, who received that gaze, had an unpleasant expression, of course, and the furrow between his brows deepened.
“… It looks like Lady Celiastina will not be pleased to have dirty blood flowing in front of her. But then that is very natural. To sever the neck of this manservant in front of the saint, who is the messenger of God, was a foolish manner for me to have. Please, I beseech you to forgive me.”
With an expression that oozed irritation Asyut faced Yuna and bowed formally in a knightly style.
“For the moment, let us transfer this man to the prison. Afterwards, the appropriate measures will be taken.”
Asyut interrupted the saint’s criticism and quickly called out to his friend beside him.
“Sorry, but take this man to the prison together with the guards. I will take Lady Celiastina back to her room.”
“Yeah, got it.”
“W-Wait. What I want to say is–“
“Now then, everyone, return to your stations. It is forbidden to make a fuss about this carelessly.”
This time it looked like no matter what happened he wasn’t going to defer to her. Ignoring Yuna completely, Asyut ordered the people in their surroundings with a firm attitude. In this way, an atmosphere spread all at once of this being an issue that was settled. The people, who had been standing still and watching the development of events, each and every one scattered quickly without saying a word. And then what remained behind was Yuna, who was stunned and still clinging to Asyut’s arm, and Asyut who looked down at her with an indescribable expression.
“Lady Celiastina, you should return as well. It would be best for you to compose yourself in your room.”
–Horrible. Horrible, horrible.
Calm down in her room? How could he say such a thing calmly. Even though someone had been about to lose their life in front of their eyes.
Her anger bubbled and welled up but she couldn’t strike Asyut with it. –In the first place, the main cause was Celiastina. And that Celiastina right now was none other than herself. If it had been Celiastina in the past she might have even drank her tea calmly in this situation.
–Horrible. Horrible, horrible. Horrible–!
Just what was? She didn’t know anymore. What was she being so angry towards? Yuna suddenly felt exhausted and was driven with the urge to collapse on the spot.
Returning to her room Yuna threw her body onto a sofa with a thud. Exhausted. She was completely exhausted.
Asyut came in following her and calmly eyed Yuna, who had her head dropped, and closed the door behind him. Yuna thought he would have immediately left once he escorted her to her room and so she raised her head questioningly at his action.
“You appear to be quite concerned about that person.”
Yuna only stared blankly at Asyut.
“Lady Celiastina, you should still be missing your memories and so you must not know of who that person is, correct?”
She gave a small nod.
“His name is Duo Ulugh. He lived in the royal palace and worked as a cook. Recently, he brought his fiancée to the palace and they had just married. Originally, Lady Celiastina, the motive for Duo’s imprisonment was that there was something like a small stone in your soup. The one who made that soup was Duo and so you called for him. The conversation became an argument and the result was Duo being sent to the Holy Jail.”
Of course this was the first time she heard this, but she wasn’t very shocked. She already knew without a doubt that the excuse for what happened was a small thing.
“It was my orders to execute Rin, right?”
“I heard Duo’s voice in the Holy Jail. He was shouting… that he didn’t care what happened to him and that he just wanted Rin saved.”
Perhaps she should have confronted him the moment she heard his voice.
Most likely that would have already been too late. Because it was after Rin had been executed by Celiastina’s orders. Even so, if she had talked to him properly that night, and maybe this was nothing more than her conceit, perhaps he wouldn’t have done something to get him imprisoned again.
“… Asyut, could you let me be alone for a while? You can go back now.”
Yuna muttered this without any strength. And yet Asyut, who received those words, did not move at all.
“Please, I want to be alone.”
Right now, she couldn’t bear to be beside anyone. Yuna tried to keep back, one way or another, the part of her that wanted to lash out unreasonably. She wanted to throw a tantrum and she wanted to hit someone with this anger and irritation that had no outlet.
But Asyut did not leave.
“Lady Celiastina, if it is your command, then even the laws of this country can be overruled.”
It was a quiet voice.
“If you say you do not want that person to be executed then no one, no matter who they are, would be able to lay a hand on him.”
“… But, but, just then–“
“Yes, Siegcrest and I opposed that. Because we believe that one should refrain from abusing one’s authority like that. If one passes their own unreasonable demands then it will buy great animosity from the common people. And not just that. This time, like Siegcrest said, this could also expose you directly to danger.”
At Asyut’s voice, which was persistently calm and quiet, Yuna was naturally brought back to calmness.
“It is necessary for you to understand your own position more. Furthermore, I as the First Holy Knight and Siegcrest as the Vice-captain of the Order of Holy Knights cannot so easily accept your selfish requests on the spot, or else the displeasure of the people there will be amplified… Right now, the royal palace is like a microcosm of the relationship between this country and the saint.”
“… That may be true, but–“
“Do not think that things will go well as long as one follows their morals.”
Yuna lowered her head and bit her lip. Asyut wasn’t wrong. A death penalty on those who worked to harm an important person was this country’s law. And so sentencing Duo in that case was the proper course of action. She herself thought that she shouldn’t brandish around the saint’s authority and she agreed with Asyut and the others that doing that wouldn’t be desirable.
“Even so, I want to spare that person.”
Hearing those words Asyut quietly closed his eyes.
“I’m sorry, but I just can’t let that happen no matter what. If someone important to me had been hurt then I’d be the same and I wouldn’t be able to forgive the saint.”
Haltingly, she changed the whirlpool of thoughts inside her into words. While he listened to her words, Asyut’s face twisted as if in pain.
“Lady Celiastina, you are the saint of this country. You cannot make decisions based on your feelings.”
“No, that’s not it. Like I said before, I cannot be the “saint” when someone’s life is concerned.”
“Asyut, you would understand that person’s feelings, right? You wouldn’t be able to forgive me if that person was executed with this and then I walked around the royal palace looking like I owned the place, right? Please, say it. Say that you won’t execute that person.”
Asyut shook his head. That his expression looked like he was about to cry was surely just her imagination.
“… You really have lost your memories, haven’t you.”
Nevermind, he only answered in a low voice.
“I must fulfill the role that was bestowed upon me. Even when a person’s life is concerned. Lady Celiastina, please withdraw your words. If you do not, then we will only continue to talk past each other.”
“I can’t do that! If you say my orders are absolute then, please, spare that person. If he is in jail then release him immediately!”
“You have been told repeatedly that doing so will change the entire atmosphere in this royal palace. If, by some chance, there is an increase in the people who wish to harm you then we may not be able to protect you. This person, Duo, had been regarded as dangerous after the liberation of the Holy Jail. And yet this situation happened when we had been paying close attention to him so that he would not come near you. What will happen if the royal palace falls into even more chaos?”
“But if that person was executed here, the animosity everyone feels towards me won’t disappear. In that case, even if that person is saved–“
“Lady Celiastina, you do not seem to understand the influence your words have on the common people. Not just you, but that person– people’s views towards Duo will certainly change. If you, who has ordered people to be executed without any hesitation up to now, suddenly spared Duo unconditionally then everyone would speculate as to what means Duo used or what kind of relationship he has with the saint.”
“To Duo that would be more painful than death. It would be the utmost humiliating thing for him, would it not?”
–She hadn’t thought about that. It was true that to Duo there might be bad rumors spread. And if that happened then it would cause him a lot of pain. But was that more important than life and death?… She didn’t know what she should do.
“In any case, please rest for now. I do not think a conclusion will be reached even if we continue to talk like this. Duo will not be executed today or tomorrow, so please consider the best course of action carefully.”
Asyut straightened his posture again and inclined his head slightly. As he lowered his head, his eyes did not connect with Yuna’s. It might be that Asyut himself had doubts. Yuna swallowed the words that had reached her throat and somehow managed to nod.
After Asyut left the room Yuna laid down on her wide bed. She felt like all the strength in her body left her. Turning onto her back she stared hard at her canopy. Fine patterns were gathered together to make one large design. Maybe because she had been staring at it for such a long time, but she started to see an optical illusion of the pattern moving slightly.
Duo’s situation was devastating. It was the first time she had been faced with such intense hatred. Up to now, she had met with people who had been hurt by Celiastina’s follies. But each and every one of them seemed to hold themselves back when coming in contact with her. Was everyone actually holding violent urges just like Duo?
(Why did things come to this point?)
Yuna clenched her hands on the white sheets. She felt like she was undeserving of the sensation of the soft and slippery sheets.
(Celiastina must have regretted a lot of things to end up thinking hard about committing suicide. In that case, was she unable to redo things before they got to this point?)
As she thought this, she was suddenly assaulted by a feeling of nausea. Irrepressible feelings of violent anger and hate attacked Yuna.
It was so intense that, even now, Yuna felt like she was going to be swallowed up.
(In truth, even you don’t want Duo to die, right? Celiastina.)
Even as she tried talking no words were returned. However, there was a “feeling” clearer than words that hit Yuna directly.
Yuna slowly sat up. She scooped up her long hair, which flowed down and spilled across the sheets, into one tight bundle. And then she took the bell placed on top of a table and rang it without hesitation.
“Lady Celiastina, you called?”
Nasha immediately appeared. Yuna gave a single nod and, while wrapping a stole around herself, faced Nasha.
“Nasha, I’m sorry but I have a request… Could you call Aeneas here for me? If possible, without letting anyone else know.”
“… I-Is something the matter?”
“I want to head out for a bit. But it’d be bad for me head out alone. And if Sieg is called I think we’ll stand out too much.”
“Where will you be heading?”
Nasha asked in a troubled way. Of course, Nasha knew that there was an attempt on Yuna’s life. She was sure that the people around her had been warned not to let her go out recklessly. Sorry, Yuna mumbled in her mind.
“I’ll definitely come back soon, so… please.”
Nasha kept silent at Yuna’s unusual attitude. She must have been wondering, in this short time, what Yuna was thinking and whether she should report this to Asyut or Linus. Nasha stood still but, at the end, gave a nod.
“I understand. Please wait a moment. I will call him immediately.”
She bowed before leaving the room. And then, within moments, Aeneas appeared in a soldier’s uniform but with an extremely elegant coat. At a glance, he looked like a high-ranking noble.
“Aeneas, what’s with those clothes?”
“The Vice-captain… Lord Siegcrest, gave me this coat to wear. He said that if I entered into this area wearing a soldier uniform I would draw too much attention… I apologize, but at the time I was in the middle of a conversation with Lord Siegcrest.”
Had she been found out by Siegcrest? She was sure he knew what she was going to do from here. But she should be able to take the fact that he went out of his way to give Aeneas that coat as his tacit consent.
“Oh, I see. Sorry.”
“Don’t be. More importantly, where do you wish to go?”
“… To Duo.”
Aeneas lowered his eyes, as if saying he understood.
“Then let us depart immediately. Once it becomes evening, there will be many people coming and going. We should make our way there before that.”
“Right! Thank you, Aeneas!”
Yuna had thought that he would strongly oppose her, but instead she was relieved at his response and walked to Aeneas’ side.
The prison where Duo was imprisoned was quite a simple construction. Although it was small and dim it was kept neat and clean, unlike the Holy Jail. There were three rooms separated by brick walls. Presently, including all the rooms, there was only Duo who was imprisoned.
Yuna, somehow managing to talk her way past the prison guard, walked down the wide passage. Due to her nervousness, her steps naturally became cautious. There were no other sounds apart from their footsteps. Duo must have heard their footsteps but she couldn’t see any movement from him. Yuna wondered if he was sleeping, but that thought missed the mark.
In the deepest cell, Duo sat with a knee raised, and appeared to be motionless while hugging that knee.
It looked like he was staring steadily at the prison bars in front of him with blank eyes, but in actuality he wasn’t seeing anything. Even when Yuna came up to the bars he did not make the slightest movement.
Yuna called out timidly. Duo’s shoulders twitched. And then, slowly, he turned his eyes their way. Slowly lifting his head up, he looked at Yuna who was standing past the bars.
Duo was silent.
Yuna didn’t know what she should say. She had prepared herself to be yelled at immediately; instead, the way he stared at her silently made her flustered.
“What did you come for.”
At last Duo opened his mouth. His voice rattled out of dryness. He might have constantly yelled after having been captured. That painful voice made Yuna bite her lip.
“Did you come to sightsee? I defied you and was thrown into jail. Then, after being freed on a whim, I snapped at you again without learning from experience and was thrown back into jail. This idiotic appearance must be a side show for you to pass your time, huh.”
“No, that’s not it.”
“Then what is it. What did you come for.”
“Duo, I have a request.”
Yuna kneeled before the prison bars.
“I am going to get you out of here. I’ll persuade everyone. I’ll definitely get you out of here, so I want you to live Duo.”
Duo’s expression changed into a harsh one.
“Shut up. Why do you have to request that? Hurry up and leave.”
“Please, listen. Please don’t give up on the future.”
“SHUT UP! I TOLD YOU TO HURRY UP AND LEAVE! At least let me forget about you in my last moments.”
“Don’t say those words!”
At Yuna’s steady shout Duo swallowed his words. Aeneas, who held back, extended a hand to help Yuna stand, but Yuna refused that and pressed on with her words to Duo.
“Duo, please don’t think about dying. If you die then everything will end. Your hatred might not disappear in your entire life, but please don’t die holding onto that. If you live then you might be able to find happiness again.”
“Don’t fucking joke around. You’re not qualified to say that lip service! The day I learned about Rin’s death, anything I saw or heard, everything was grey. EVERYTHING in my world changed!”
“In any case, this is the end already! At that point in time when I tried to kill you it was certain I would get the death penalty. My feelings don’t mean anything. Or, what? Is it a new game for you to cut my head off the moment I have hopes about living?”
Aeneas broke in. He was the one who couldn’t endure this situation more than Yuna.
“The fact that you have not been executed and are safe here like this is because Lady Celiastina negotiated with them. Throw away your position; Lady Celiastina was the only one who spoke about setting you free.”
“Ha! You were even deliberate enough to prepare a role for someone to flatter you.”
An exhausted smile leaked out from Duo.
“You want to make me innocent? That’s such a joke. To acquit a person who turned an intent to kill at the saint, but to execute a normal girl who didn’t do anything? Can there be anything more ridiculous? Don’t look down on Rin’s death any more than this.”
“JUST KILL ME! Execute me, even right now! I was resolved to that from the very start. Even if the saint releases me, I’ll just come to kill you again!”
Duo’s voice, which cracked, resounded through the quiet prison.
The setting sun shone in from the window and illuminated both Duo and Yuna. Another day ended without her being able to do anything.
The following morning Yuna stared down vacantly at the luxurious breakfast lined up before her. She didn’t feel like moving the fork in her hand. When she thought about how probable it was that Duo wasn’t eating much in that prison, she couldn’t seem to raise an appetite. Only being able to tear a small piece of bread and throw it into her mouth, she washed it away with water.
After that, she participated in her ceremonies as usual. And then went to the victims of the Holy Jail. Siegcrest tried to stop her lightly, but she shook him off and went. She didn’t want to neglect other things just because this situation with Duo was happening. Besides, if she just stayed still then her feelings would run rampant.
(I’m really powerless, aren’t I.)
The laundry in the tub of water sank.
(I want Duo to regain his hope for life but I don’t know what I should do at all. He said clearly that he’d prefer to die over getting help from me.)
She understood Duo’s feelings. To receive pity from someone one hated enough to kill was, without a doubt, unbearable.
But, at the same time, another thought swirled inside Yuna. Whenever she remembered Duo’s words a feeling much like irritation arose deep within her heart. –That was a fact she needed to acknowledge.
(These are… my… feelings.)
They weren’t the feelings of the “other” that she had experienced many times. This was certainly Yuna’s own feelings.
(Why can’t everyone understand.)
Why did Asyut hold his duties to be more important than a person’s life? Why did Duo rush to his death for the sake of revenge? Why wasn’t anyone around her raising their voice to save Duo?
(And why am I running around alone like an idiot?)
Burning selfishly with a sense of duty, she was recklessly agitating the situation. And, in the end, she couldn’t do anything. What was she doing when she hadn’t even been asked to do that. It might have been better, for everyone and for Duo, if she had just continued to stay locked up in her room from the start. Just what did she think she could do when she was this powerless.
She didn’t have the energy to pull out the sunken laundry. Staring at her hands, exposed in the cold water, she remained still.
Perhaps because she was watching, Nasha, who was beside her, suddenly stopped her hands and looked at Yuna.
“Um, Lady Celiastina.”
At that worried and serious voice, Yuna finally raised her head.
“W-What? Is something wrong, Nasha?”
“Ah, um, I… don’t know the details of anything but, um, I support Lady Celiastina so…”
“Uhhmm, ah, I’m sorry. Someone like me can only say these unsatisfactory things. But, Lady Celiastina, please do not be troubled by yourself. This may be presumptuous of me but I want to be of help to you, Lady Celiastina.”
Choosing her words with the utmost care, but still being unable to do it well due to her nervousness, she managed to get that much out despite not knowing what to say here and there.
Yuna, who received those words, froze and her mouth dropped open in amazement. And then, in the next moment, she pressed her lips together and her expression twisted.
“–Nasha! Thank you!!”
Yuna hugged Nasha with a lot of force. Nasha yelped and flapped her arms. Siegcrest, who seemed to be watching the two of them, sighed as if in astonishment.
“You two ladies, what’re you flirting around for with each other. Let me join in.”
“… Sieg, you pervert.”
“What did you say?!”
Hyah! Siegcrest used a hand to throw water in Yuna’s direction.
“What are you doing! I’m going to get wet!”
“Naturally. Since I threw water at you.”
“Sieg, you idiot! Pervert!”
“Huh? The one who calls someone an idiot is the idiot. So following that rule, you’re a pervert above being an idiot. Yo, pervert saint!”
“What’s with that “pervert saint”?! Please stop calling me strange things!”
Undaunted, Yuna used both hands to throw water back. When she did, without a moment’s delay, Siegcrest returned fire and soon the place became filled with childish insults and the sound of water. Nasha, who was the only one with a pale face, tried to stop them but couldn’t find an opportunity and could only watch over them nervously.
“Sheesh, we should stop now.”
Finally, Yuna ended everything but it was already too late. Because of the water that was scattered everywhere, the two of them were drenched. No, if she included Nasha who had gotten involved, then it’d be more correct to say the three of them were drenched.
She knew that Nasha and Siegcrest were worried about her. It was because she entered this place with an expression that looked like the world had ended, and no doubt even the victims who were recuperating here were surprised to see that. While thankful to Nasha and Siegcrest for managing to cheer her up, she muttered in a peevish voice.
“This place is a hospital. We’ll be a bother if we’re too loud.”
But Yuna’s voice was erased by the laughter of a bright woman.
“Lady Celiastina, I don’t mind at all.”
It was this infirmary’s caretaker, Mislee.
“Rather, having fun like this will be good for everyone’s sake as well. It’s important for them to think about wanting to play in water like that, or tell jokes and laugh. The most important thing to heal wounds or sickness is one’s frame of mind. It’s necessary to look forward, even just a little, using any small thing as an excuse. Actually, just a little while ago, everyone had been interested in Lady Celiastina and the others.”
Being told that, Yuna moved her gaze to the inside of the room but everyone had their sheets covering them up to their heads, as usual, and she couldn’t see anything.
“Right now, everyone has become quite energetic. And that’s why they are showing an interest in things outside their beds. It is thanks to you, Lady Celiastina, for coming here every day.”
No, Yuna bit her lip. Everyone regained their health thanks to none other than Mislee. Their hearts were healed by her serene personality and kindness. Mislee was a strange woman. She wasn’t eye-catching but she made everyone feel a kindness wrap around them, deep in their chest. Even now she treated Yuna to smiles that held no ill feelings. That was a serious thing.
“I know you must be busy with various things, but even coming here like this for a short amount of time pleases everyone.”
At Mislee’s calm words Yuna smiled.
(I’m… not alone.)
She realized that once again.
Hadn’t she been thinking that she had to somehow do everything herself? Hadn’t she been set on thinking that she bore everything on her shoulders, such as being able to open Duo’s heart and release him?
(That isn’t the case.)
There were a lot of things that she couldn’t do by herself. For example, this mountain of laundry would have been too much for her to wash without Nasha’s help. It was only with the concern of Mislee, who stood in front of her, that they were able to bring these peaceful days to the victims.
Nasha’s words about being of help to her gradually spread through Yuna’s heart.
When Yuna had still been a village girl, it was natural for her to spend every day supporting each other like this. For her to forget such a thing…
(The same goes for Duo’s situation. If I can’t do anything alone, then maybe a path will open with the help of others.)
Thinking that, she was able to release a little tension from her shoulders. It wouldn’t be a simple road. But it wasn’t a road that she couldn’t pursue–.
“So, you’ve come to me?”
Linus was seated deeply in his chair and he combed back his bangs lazily. There were heaps of documents in front of him on the desk; it looked like he wasn’t actually a person with that much free time.
Yuna, after finishing her help at the infirmary, intruded on Linus’ office in the afternoon. She regretted interrupting his work, but it wasn’t like she had much time either. She couldn’t leave Duo to be imprisoned in that jail for several days.
“You know, I’ve said that I was your guardian, but that doesn’t mean I’m your exclusive jack of all trades.”
“I know, but I don’t know what I should be doing alone. Do you have any good ideas? Linus, can’t you think of a way to save Duo?”
“I can’t think of any.”
An immediate answer. It was like he didn’t think about it at all and she grew irritated.
“Please, think on it some more. A person’s life is concerned, you know?”
“Sorry, but I have a lot of other things that I need to think about.”
The hand that was making his pen run stopped. And when Linus raised his face his eyes were unusually cold.
“Are there that many things which are more important than a person’s life? Why is everyone–“
“There are many. You don’t understand. Asyut and Ser Siegcrest gave you a kind and thorough explanation, no? About why the young man called Duo cannot be saved. That is all there is to it. And anyone else you depend on will say the same.”
“I don’t want him to die, I just want him to live. Is thinking that such a wrong thing?”
“I won’t say that you are wrong. However, things do not move simply in this world just from that. I am certain there are many others who do not wish for Duo to die. There must be people who care for him, not just his dead wife. But the fact that those people have kept silent means they understand that there is nothing they can do with arguments just based on emotion–“
“I don’t understand.”
Yuna interrupted Linus.
“Honestly, you… What I don’t understand, more than anything else, is nothing other than you.”
Linus slowly stood and walked to Yuna’s side. Yuna, who had to look up at Linus, felt her breath catch at this sense of intimidation.
“Why are you able to care so much for a complete stranger? Clearly, you have absolutely nothing to do with Duo’s matter. You didn’t imprison him and you didn’t kill his wife. There should be no need for you to feel responsible. And yet, you’re working so hard to beg for his life. –Listen, Celia, what I have to think about is you.”
Linus stretched out a finger to touch Yuna’s cheek softly.
“Exactly what are you? You said this and that about God declaring that Celiastina’s soul was exhausted, but am I supposed seriously believe that? I have been entrusted to be the saint’s guardian. There is no way I can accept this situation without having any doubts. Your true identity, the cause of the incident, and future interactions– there are many things that need to be clarified.”
“Why, are you talking like that… I haven’t spoken a lie.”
“Really? I cannot believe that. You said that Celiastina will return soon. But is that truly the case? When I watch your actions, it does not make me think that you intend to return this body to Celiastina. Resigning yourself to being scolded for things you haven’t done, atoning for sins you haven’t committed, behaving in ways to make yourself appear even the slightest bit more lovable to the people around you and, finally, running around frantically to save a man who committed treason.”
Linus placed a slight amount of strength into his finger.
“Yes–, no matter what it seems like, I can only think that you are taking over Celiastina’s body, no, her life.”
She felt like her chest was struck.
At once she was awash with tears and Linus’ shape distorted. The sound of her heart echoed loudly in her ears.
“I… I’m not doing that.”
Somehow, she managed to muster her voice.
“Even I’m not acting as the saint because I like it. I didn’t want to be Celiastina’s replacement. Of course I wondered why it was me! But I didn’t want to be trapped only in those thoughts. And so, just for a little bit, I told myself repeatedly to work hard. That’s the case with Duo. No one is working to save Duo. Even the person himself doesn’t want to be saved. When I asked why I was rejected and told that I didn’t have the right to speak of those things. I’m done!! I feel like I’m being crushed!! I want to throw away absolutely everything. But I won’t give up… because I don’t want to lose the things I’ve believed in up to now.”
Linus, with the finger that was against Yuna’s cheek, gently wiped away her tears.
“I am Saint Celiastina’s guardian. I have to always be thinking about her and this country. Even if I feel that your cries and tears are real, I cannot accept that compliantly. Sorry.”
Linus’ hand was warm. Even though her feelings were thrust away coldly, why was his right hand on her cheek so warm?
That made Yuna all the more sorrowful.
A balcony where the setting sun was dazzling. This place where one could see the setting sun directly was said to be one of the best scenic spots in this large royal palace. In order to participate in the ceremony of showing herself to the general populace, Yuna had to walk out onto that balcony.
She walked through the polished hall while staring at nothing but her own reflected image. In the end, Yuna was unable to gain Linus’ cooperation and, instead, she was stabbed in her most painful spot. She felt like the enthusiasm that Nasha and the others had brought to her was all washed away. But even so, her participation in this ceremony was partly something like obstinacy. If she chose to run away once then she felt like she really wouldn’t be able to return.
Yuna quietly went down to stand on the balcony where the people were waiting.
In that moment, she raised her head to loud shouts of joy that pierced her ears.
The mysterious light that dyed this entire side red was very beautiful. But, before her eyes could be stolen by that sight, she was overwhelmed by the amount of people surrounding the balcony. The plaza that was thrown open to the general populace was literally closely packed and jammed with people. No, maybe she should say the people willingly packed themselves in. It was like a sea of people and Yuna looked at them in astonishment. Everyone had excited smiles and were waving their hands eagerly in her direction.
She had attended several of these ceremonies to show herself to the people but, compared to the first time she appeared on this balcony, it felt like the amount of people gathered here had increased. She was sure that the previous times hadn’t been this crowded. Was it because they wanted to catch a glimpse of Celiastina who, unlike before, was appearing at these ceremonies without missing a single one?
(No one here knows, huh, the person that Celiastina is.)
The beautiful saint. The maiden beloved by God. What they knew was nothing more than the “model” of Celiastina. And that was how they could offer worship to her, right? But her career and beauty were different from the real her. The real Celiastina was cold-hearted and cruel. No, even that might not be the “real” her. Yes, no one actually knew… the kind of person she was…
(Why did Celiastina become the “Cruel Saint”?)
Unintentionally, a perplexed expression appeared on her face. Even though she was in the middle of the Ceremony of Display what occupied her heart was a person who had gone to a place far away. Who was Celiastina? And, who was Yuna–.
Yuna came back to herself with a start. No, she was in the middle of a ceremony right now. She was in front of many people who had rushed here to catch a glimpse of Celiastina’s gorgeous appearance. If she looked down on everyone with an uneasy face then no doubt they would become uneasy as well.
(But is that true? Once they leave this plaza, anything about the saint will surely fade completely from their minds. Because the saint is a person unrelated to their lives. That’s how it was for me. There were many days where Celiastina’s name didn’t even come to mind. And nothing troubling happened even once…)
Yuna stared at the people with a crease between her brows. Everyone’s carefree smiles were now painful. The person here wasn’t the real Celiastina. She was a fake. She didn’t have any special powers and she couldn’t save anyone. She was just a small human being.
When she dropped her gaze again Yuna noticed something.
While being brushed up against by all the people, and while being a member of that themselves, there was an old woman who looked up eagerly. –Her face was streaming with tears but she had absolutely no scruples about looking at Yuna wholeheartedly. She had both hands clasped firmly above her chest, as if she was kneeling down in front of God.
Suddenly, Yuna remembered.
(Asyut talked about that… about there being people who spent their days supporting them. I see, they exist. They really do exist.)
Accepting that old woman’s direct gaze Yuna didn’t avert her eyes.
Asyut’s desire was to answer this woman’s gaze. He chose to accept a path where the hearts of people found hope from him and believed in him. That he continued to be the First Holy Knight meant that. It was the same as suppressing his own emotions and executing Duo. If he listened to his heart and easily pardoned Duo, he would be abandoning his role as the First Holy Knight– in other words, if he saved Duo it might mean that he would be betraying others.
(What Linus was saying too might have been this.)
Yuna realized that it was as though she didn’t comprehend the importance of the “saint” that she bore.
(It’s true that I might have just been saying selfish things. Without doing anything myself, or thinking about the position of others, I just shouted about saving Duo blindly. Thinking that I was right I blamed others for not working to save him.)
However, it was surely not a matter of who was correct or mistaken. Asyut and Linus had their own paths that they “believe” in. And, undoubtedly, they couldn’t change their course easily. Without even understanding that, she just forced her thoughts onto others and asked for help.
(The story of the poisonous bug… how did it go? About the boy who changed into a poisonous bug.)
The black bug that was crushed in cold blood passed by her mind.
(Only looking for help and not being able to do anything by himself– yes, didn’t he die?)
Doing one’s best with help and demanding help without doing anything seemed similar, but they were completely different.
(I… didn’t understand a lot of things.)
Once again, Yuna looked over the gathered people. And then, for a long time like that, she did not move.