It was an unexpected person who moved in this stalemate.
“Lady Celiastina, it looks like Lady Yodel is making a move to save Duo!”
One afternoon, after several days had passed, Nasha, who came to prepare tea, reported this to Yuna excitedly. Nasha knew about the situation with Duo. Rather, this matter spread throughout the royal palace in the blink of an eye, to the point where there was likely no one who didn’t know about it already. Many sympathized with Duo’s position, but the fact that he pointed a blade at the saint meant that the majority’s view was that there was no choice but to execute him. And so, why Duo hadn’t been executed yet was making everyone suspicious.
It was most likely that not many knew about how the saint was thinking about ways to free him somehow. But, due to Nasha having spent a long time with Yuna, she could sense those feelings. It seemed like she was hoping this information she brought would be able to cheer up Yuna, who had been depressed lately.
“By Yodel, do you mean that priestess?”
“Yes! The lady who gave me the pendant I talked about before.”
Yuna was genuinely surprised. Ever since she had been severely rebuked that one time, she hadn’t seen Yodel again but it looked like she had been making her own moves. –And it was to save Duo.
“I hear that she is gathering signatures from those who want Duo to be released. The subject of the movement being what it is seems to make it so they can’t act too publicly, but it seems like she is centered on requesting signatures slowly from the servants and even the nobility.”
For the first time in a while, her feelings were uplifted. She had thought Yodel was a cold and strict person, but she was actually a person who could extend a hand voluntarily to a powerless person standing in a dilemma. A petition to save Duo–.
“Wow! Yodel is amazing!”
“She is, isn’t she. She is a really wonderful lady!”
Yuna and Nasha held each other’s hands, overjoyed. Ah, so there was that kind of method. There must be many people who want to save Duo. It’s just that, even if they thought that, it was difficult for them to raise their voice. In that case, if someone took the initiative and gathered their voices… If one person’s voice wouldn’t reach, then wouldn’t a group of them become a large force? Yodel understood that.
“I wonder how many signatures she’s collected.”
“Most likely there’s not many…… it appears to be a small movement still. Even if they have the support of Lady Yodel, there are still many people who are resistant to writing their own names down.”
That would be certain. –Nasha didn’t state it but, in other words, if people signed they would be getting in the way of Lady Celiastina. No one knew that the saint wanted to release Duo. Rather, in light of her actions up to now, they think she’s going to go ahead and execute him. And so joining this petition would mean going against the will of the saint.
(But it’s best if I don’t declare that I want to release Duo. If I do, then in the end Duo might be saved because of my influence.)
Nonetheless, she couldn’t just stand still here like this. She finally saw the light. A light that could save Duo.
“I want to help out secretly too.”
“I want to help collect signatures. When I went to the west side of the royal palace before, the people there didn’t seem to recognize my face. I might be able to collect signatures over there without being found out as the saint.”
“B-But Lady Celiastina.”
Nasha became flustered at the unexpected direction this talk went on.
“I’ll even ask Aeneas to accompany me. Oh, that’s right! I wonder if the people at the infirmary have given their signatures already? If not, then maybe I should ask them. I’m sure the people at the infirmary will want to save Duo, right?”
“U-Um…… are you really going to do this?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll do it very quietly…… it’ll be a secret from Yodel too. I’m sure it’s best if no one knows that I’m getting involved in this movement. Yes, now that I’ve decided I should hurry and go. There’s another ceremony in the evening so I’ll return before then.”
Yuna quickly prepared and called Aeneas to her room without time for Nasha to stop her. Aeneas, who had just arrived, appeared hesitant to refuse Yuna when he saw her liveliness. Still, Yuna had to smile wryly at how worried the two looked.
“Sorry, I’m always just doing what I want. But I feel like I’ve finally found what I should be doing. –Thanks to Yodel.”
The western side of the royal palace was as lively as always, just like the time she went there before. As she thought, no one here seemed to recognize her face and most of the people passed by. Sometimes, soldiers would call out to Aeneas and poke fun at his relationship with Yuna, but never would they have dreamed that she was that saint.
“Lady Celiastina, I apologize for my comrades making you feel uncomfortable.”
“I don’t mind at all. Rather, I’m the one who should be sorry.”
“Oh, Aeneas! Are you on a date?”
It was other soldiers who called out to the two of them from behind. It looked like three of them were carring a large bundle for some reason. They all laughed when Aeneas rebuked them, calling them idiots. When Yuna also turned around, the faces of the three soldiers froze instantly.
(Ah, could it be that they recognize me?)
“…… Aeneas, w-who is this amazing beauty?”
Yuna turned red when she realized they meant her. That’s right, Celiastina was an outrageous beauty. Normally, she didn’t have the time to keep that in mind and so she had forgotten, but she herself had become speechless the first time she saw Celiastina’s appearance.
But, why not use it since she had it? Yuna, while feeling nervous, tried smiling sweetly at the three soldiers.
“Um, actually, right now we’re going around to request something from everyone.”
What is it, they asked and immediately took the bait.
“Do you know about the person called Duo who was imprisoned for defying Lady Celiastina?”
“Aa, yes we do.”
“Knowing Duo’s personal history, don’t you think it’s unbearable for him to be executed like this under treason? And so, we’re going around asking for signatures from everyone in order to free Duo.”
“Signatures to free him?”
The soldiers looked at each other with embarrassed expressions.
“No, well, I do sympathize but…”
“Ah, but a signature is……”
“Please, lend your strength. Lady Yodel is the one who started this movement. I’m sure Lady Yodel will deliver everyone’s voice to the proper place.”
When she looked at them with a desperate expression that was not an act, their faces turned red as they exchanged looks with each other again.
“…… Aeneas, did you sign?”
“Aa, of course.”
At Aeneas’ firm nod, they also seemed to have hardened their resolve. They took the pen and signed, one by one.
“Thank you so much!”
Yuna cried out in a lively voice and gripped the hands of the soldiers. Other people, who had been watching them at a distance, came closer with great interest. Most of them were men but gradually a large circle was formed without a difference in men and women.
Yodel’s name showed an extraordinary effect. There was quite a lot of people who signed when they heard Yodel’s name. Yuna couldn’t help but feel how much Yodel was trusted by everyone. In the middle of collecting signatures, she frequently heard angry voices directed at the saint but there was not one person who said something bad about Yodel. There were even people who declared that Yodel was more suitable as a saint. Yuna was ashamed to hear that but, in any case, she was concentrating on collecting signatures right now.
“You are all quite enthusiastic. There are people who are collecting signatures like this closer to the center, but everyone here is putting in their utmost effort.”
A good-natured woman said and smiled serenely. Yuna, when she heard that, panicked inside. It would be bad for her to bump heads with the real people under Yodel. It wasn’t like she was doing anything wrong, but Yuna wanted to avoid having her true identity revealed.
“Aeneas, how about we finish for today?”
It looked like Aeneas had no objections to that either.
“Can we drop by the infirmary on the way back? I want to collect signatures there too.”
“Of course. Then, let us return.”
As they returned to the center of the royal palace, Yuna and Aeneas both quickly put on the thin cloaks they each had. They wore plain clothes so as to not stand out in the western side, but on the other hand they would stand out terribly like that in the center. By putting on a well-tailored cloak, they were hoping they could dodge any looks.
When they arrived at the infirmary, they saw Mislee sweeping at the entrance.
“Oh, Lady Celiastina. Your bodyguard is someone else today, I see.”
Mislee raised her face and smiled with her whole face. Aeneas also bowed lightly and exchanged greetings.
“Now then, please do come in.”
“No, this is fine. Actually, Mislee, I have a small request……”
“Ah, yes, the signatures. I heard from Nasha and right now she is in the middle of going around to everyone.”
“Nasha…… um, then is everyone willing to sign?”
Mislee gave a large nod.
“Everything is well. I am sure the people here are those who wish to save Duo more than anyone else, no? Of course, I also signed. If you wish, you could take a look inside.”
“If I go in then everyone will shrink away and the signatures would be forgotten. I think I’ll leave it to Nasha since she’s doing her best.”
“Is that so?”
Mislee made a slight noise of disappointment, but she didn’t press.
“In that case, please do come by again to show your face. We will be waiting for you.”
“Yes, thank you very much!”
And then Yuna and Aeneas returned to her room. Yuna breathed a sigh of relief at being able to return without being seen by Asyut or Linus. Aeneas, who also seemed to have a relieved look, gave a bow to Yuna.
“Then, I will take my leave, Lady Celiastina. If there is anything else you need, please call on me at anytime.”
“Okay, thank you so much. I might rely on you again for tomorrow, so I look forward to being in your care at that time.”
Aeneas smiled gently and then left. After she saw him off, Yuna leaned her back against the wall near the entrance to her room and dropped her eyes to the signatures in her hand…… She was able to collect more signatures than she thought. More than anything, she was happy that everyone wanted to save Duo just like her. If there was some sort of opportunity, then everyone would move like this.
(Even Duo would be a little cheered to see this, right?)
There were a lot of people who were thinking about him. That was all she wanted him to know. He might have felt that he was all alone in a world where his wife was gone, but that wasn’t true.
–You aren’t alone. Yuna appealed strongly to Duo, who had been holding his knees in the jail.
Turning on the lamp at hand, Linus leaned back against the large back of his chair. He realized again that he had spent quite a long time facing documents. His current job was to create a report on the abnormal event that occurred to Saint Celiastina. It was necessary for him to compile plans on how to deal with the current events and the future hereafter.
(Good gracious, she is someone who does strange things one after another.)
Not long ago there had been a report from a maid. Celiastina took Aeneas along with her and went to the western side. Even though she had been attacked by an unknown man just the other day, did she not think about the dangers of going out to a place like that?
The contents of any of the reports that he was submitting periodically to those at the top was becoming astounding. It was like that when that Celiastina liberated the Holy Jail, and it was like that when she went to take care of the victims at the infirmary. This time it was wanting to help a young man who tried to kill her. As he wrote that, Linus wanted to laugh at this joke.
How did Celiastina achieve a complete change like this? He had reported to the top that maybe it was a case of her personality splitting. He had never seen an actual example of that, but he had heard stories. But even if they asked if that was really the case, they had no evidence. The truth was known only to those “two” Celiastina.
“Lord Linus, may I enter?”
At that moment, there was the muffled voice of a woman from the other side of his door.
The person who came in was the priestess, Yodel. The face that stuck out from the plain robe that covered her body was beautiful, but as expressionless as usual.
“May I have some of your time?”
“I don’t mind. I wish to speak with you as well.”
Yodel narrowed her eyes cautiously at his answer.
“No, thank you. This is fine.”
Yodel walked up to Linus and looked down at him with her usual indifferent eyes.
“I want to ask about the recent Lady Celiastina.”
“Clearly Lady Celiastina has been acting strangely recently. I have had the opportunity to speak to her many times but, compared to before, she is almost like a different person. And someone like you must be aware of that.”
“…… Have you not looked over the reports I submitted up to now?”
“I do not have permission to view those.”
Hm, Linus’ mouth relaxed.
“I see. Well, that may be a wise decision. You’ve been prone to treating Celia like an enemy, so those people at the top must have thought it would be best not to give you imprudent information.”
“Then, as I thought, something happened to Lady Celiastina, right?”
Linus kept silent as he showed Yodel the report in front of him. Yodel hesitated slightly before she took it. She read in silence for a while but her expression gradually became stern.
“Split personality from memory loss? What is this. In other words, having lost her memories up to now, a new and separate personality has been born in Lady Celiastina?”
“It’s simply a hypothesis.”
“Why all of a sudden? There haven’t been any signs of that up to now, right?”
“I don’t know if this is sudden or not. She could have always been holding something like pain inside of herself.”
“You’re saying she could not endure that suffering and created another personality? …… The current Lady Celiastina seems to be in quite a charming state. Is she trying to act like everything up to now didn’t happen and is trying again to be a good saint beloved by everyone?”
Yodel spat that out hatefully. It was clear that she would not accept such a thing.
“Lord Linus, you aren’t possibly intending to accept that, right? The animosity towards Lady Celiastina is reaching its limits within the royal palace. Soon the time will come when the saint’s way of doing things will be corrected. It is taking too much for granted to think about wanting to redo things at this point in time.”
“Reaching its limits, huh. –But I think that current seems to be calming down little by little from Celia’s recent actions.”
“Everyone is simply being abused by her whims. What is there to say about her liberating the Holy Jail? In the first place it was Lady Celiastina herself who created an abominable place such as the Holy Jail. I would appreciate it if she did not suddenly take actions that make no sense and confuse everyone.”
“In other words, you’re saying that it was more convenient for you if she didn’t do something like liberate the Holy Jail, no?”
Linus smiled with amusement and rested his chin in his hands in a relaxed manner. Yodel remained expressionless and looked down on Linus in silence.
“You would have preferred – and even been thankful – if Celia remained as she was and continued with her misdeeds, correct? Just a little bit more and even a large rebellion towards the saint could have occurred. But because she suddenly liberated the Holy Jail, it was as if she dodged you. I even heard that immediately following the liberation of the Holy Jail you marched to where Celia was and pressed her about why she did that. For someone as composed as you to take that action… you must not have been able to stomach it, no?”
“Now, it looks like everything is connected. So, this time, let me ask you some questions.”
Linus sat up and crossed his arms. Despite being looked down on by Yodel, he had an atmosphere as if he wasn’t in that position.
“You were the one who incited Duo, were you not, Lady Yodel?”
Yodel did not open her mouth. Only the sharp light in her eyes was reflected in the lamplight.
“After the liberation of the Holy Jail, the intense murderous intent that young man held towards Celia was judged to be a problem. Starting with Asyut, everyone checked him and paid discrete attention so that harm would not reach Celia. And yet, in the end, Duo slipped through that strict encirclement was able to draw near to Celia. That is impossible for the likes of a person who is at most a servant. Which means that there was guidance from someone else. And that person would also have to be someone with comparable authority and influence as us.”
“It must be a shame not to be able to bury Celia.”
“It appears that you are misunderstanding something.”
Yodel answered without any discomposure. Linus raised an eyebrow and closed his mouth.
“From the start I have not wanted Lady Celiastina’s death…… I just wanted her to relinquish her influence.”
It was a clear voice. Though quiet, it resounded through the room well.
“The Holy Mark on her neck has not disappeared. Meaning that it is not her time to die yet. If that was forced, I do not know what kind of catastrophes would befall this country. We need Lady Celiastina to live. However, all she needs to do is be alive. She just needs to breathe and sit there.”
“Do you mean becoming a lifelike doll?”
“From the beginning I did not think that Duo could kill Lady Celiastina. I have not underestimated Lord Asyut and the others. However, I wanted the fact that Duo aimed a blade at Lady Celiastina. Of course he would be imprisoned. And then executed.”
“And then you would manipulate the emotions within the royal palace in view of that.”
Yodel showed her first smile.
“Manipulation, you say. It is simply a natural flow, is it not? He was imprisoned on a trivial event and his wife was killed. This young man in despair assaulted the saint to fulfill his revenge. However, that was not granted, he was caught, and then executed. –It is quite a tragedy with no salvation. And it is not difficult to imagine how everyone would feel to accept that. All I did was give Duo’s back a light push.”
“What a pleasingly clean decision. Do you not feel any guilt for using Duo as a sacrificial pawn?”
“We cannot weigh one person’s life to the security of this country. If everyone can smile and live happily then that is certainly a wonderful thing. However, those who are at the top cannot just pursue ideals. At times they need to have the resolution to bear sacrifices.”
“Well, you have a point. –Is what I think but what about you, Asyut?”
Haa, Yodel closed her mouth. There was a small crack that can be seen from the door to the room. It opened slowly. And there, with a grim look, stood Asyut. For the first time in this conversation, Yodel’s expression showed displeasure.
“Today seems to be a flood of customers. Don’t stand there and come in.”
Asyut stepped into the room at that invitation. Linus could see the other’s irritation from his direct steps, which lacked any hesitation.
“Lord Asyut. Eavesdropping is a disgrace to knights.”
“I do not believe now is the time to talk about such things.”
Asyut rejected her words in a quiet voice.
“Lady Yodel, in order to undermine the saint’s authority, you spurred on Duo, am I correct?”
Yodel did not surrender. By nature she was a woman with nerves of steel.
“Lady Celiastina cannot continue to be given power like this, and even you understand that, right? If we leave her unregulated then those who are hurt will continuously increase. In order to protect this country, we need to act now. Even if it involves some pain right now, these are small things when looked at in the long run.”
“…… Are you honestly saying that?”
“Am I mistaken somewhere? I believe my way of thinking is the same as yours, Lord Asyut. After all, you have no objections to executing Duo, am I wrong?”
“You are not. In my position as the First Holy Knight, the only thoughts to have are about his execution. Not just me, but everyone who is in a position to govern this country thinks so. The only one who doesn’t think so by now is Lady Celiastina.”
“And? Have you also been moved by her?”
“…… I wanted Lady Yodel to accept that role.”
Yodel’s eyes widened, as if she had been struck in an unguarded moment, and lost her words.
“Everyone in the royal palace trusts you, Lady Yodel. There are many who regard you as sacred in comparison to the cruel Lady Celiastina. Only Lady Yodel is not confined by the ties of obligation and authority and will stretch her hand out to those who suffer in front of her– as far as you’re concerned though, that may simply be an illusion people hold of their own accord.”
“Lady Yodel, you started a petition in order to save Duo. Rumors are starting to spread slowly about it. If you intended to dispose of Duo from the beginning, why did you start such a movement?”
“I believe it is a hard question for Lady Yodel to answer, as it will crush your trust in her even more.”
Linus broke in.
“I will explain it on her behalf. First, Lady Yodel knows that she has a “role” like you have said, Asyut. By showing herself acting for Duo’s sake she will hold a saintly image and, in reaction to that, everyone’s animosity to Celia will amplify. If there is a mansion beside a dilapidated house, then wouldn’t that dilapidated house’s shabbiness stand out even more? It’s that kind of thing. Second, I believe that by letting servants and even nobles participate with their signatures the aim is to make them feel as if they are personally involved with the problem this time. I do not think anyone can be indifferent to the life of a young man they signed about “wanting to help” being taken. This is also effective in inflating the animosity towards Celia.”
If there is a part you want to correct, please go ahead, Linus seemed to imply as he paused unconcernedly. Yodel remained silent.
“In any case, it will not work out just having signatures. It would be another story if signatures of prestigious nobles were to lined up one after another, but it does not seem like the movement right now has spread to those high-ranking people. At this rate, it will not have enough power to overturn Duo’s execution in the end. This is also within Lady Yodel’s calculations though, I believe.”
Asyut sent an austere look to Yodel. Yodel, as if to throw off that gaze, shook her head furiously.
“–I am always acting with thoughts of the country in mind. I do not care how you perceive me. I do not believe that I am doing anything wrong!”
Then she turned, flipping the hem of her robe, and left the room at a quick pace. Asyut, who was left behind, pressed his lips together tightly and stared after her back. On the other hand, Linus shrugged his shoulders in exasperation.
“I also don’t particularly think she is mistaken though. But with a look like she was running away, I wonder if the person herself, in honesty, thinks that she is wrong somewhere. Though you might call that being unthorough, or being weak.”
“…… I also cannot completely repudiate Lady Yodel’s course of actions. However…”
“You can’t help but think about aiding Celia, who is trying to save Duo regardless of appearance?”
Linus smiled wryly.
“You came here because you wanted to consult me about what to do with Duo from here, right? –In conclusion, I do not intend to act. Celia also came to beg me in tears but I thrust her away coldly. It looked like she was stricken quite hard in being unable to attain anyone’s help. However, if Celia, without feeling discouraged, came to say that she wanted to save him no matter what then– at that time, I think I would agree to help out.”
Asyut kept silent when he received those words. It seemed that complicated emotions that even he himself couldn’t grasp were squirming around inside him. Should he move to help Celiastina? Or…
(It’s best to think it over carefully. As the relationship between you and Celia from now on will change greatly upon this decision.)
Linus added that without putting it in words.
(T/N: The plot thickens! Who saw this coming? ;D)