I wonder if the flower will bloom soon, a young girl said.
Yeah! I hope it blooms soon. Yuna replied with a smile.
In a quiet garden surrounded by tall walls, flowers that weren’t planted or bought swayed in the wind. In there, Yuna and the other girl surrounded a small sprout and exchanged grins. It was a baby plant, smaller than even their palms. It wasn’t unusual to Yuna, whose family ran a herbal store, but when she looked at the other girl who stroked its leaves sweetly, her own face naturally smiled. I hope it blooms soon, Yuna thought from the bottom of her heart.
A little tired from crouching for so long, Yuna stood up and stretched. When she closed her eyes and raised both arms to the sky to stretch, a groan slipped out. Her body felt refreshed and lighter– but at the same time she felt something disquieting and so Yuna opened her eyes with a snap.
The young girl had disappeared.
Alone, the sprout that was left behind shook helplessly in the wind. Yuna blinked many times and looked around to search the area for the young girl who disappeared. And then she noticed something. Something was different with the view she had just been looking at. The garden was cramped and the walls of the building that had looked like they were hanging over her didn’t seem so high. Her view, which should have been close to the ground, was now closer to the sky.
The world had shrunk.
Is what she thought, but she immediately realized that wasn’t it and held her hands open to the sky. Long and nicely-shaped fingers trembled slightly. They weren’t small, soft, and warm hands that made one want to wrap them up. These were, unmistakably, the hands of an adult.
That’s right, she wasn’t a child anymore. Yuna closed her hands and lowered her arms. At the same time a strong wind blew and scooped up her golden hair, as if trying to run away with it.
“You’re here in a place like this.”
As she stood there, trying to keep her hair down, the calm voice of a man trickled down Yuna’s back. She knew who the owner of that voice was without needing to turn around. When she turned to face him instead of replying, Asyut was coming up to her with a soft smile.
“Your hair is disheveled.”
Asyut reached out gently to Yuna while chuckling. Touched by that large hand with the utmost gentleness, Yuna’s eyes closed partly in pleasure. As he tucked her long hair behind her ear, the warmth from his fingers spread gradually. The indistinct uneasiness she felt just a few moments ago vanished and her chest slowly filled with the thought of wanting this moment to continue for a long time.
“Shall we return, Lady Celiastina?”
Hearing that name called in a whisper Yuna turned her gaze, which had been lowered, to Asyut.
She was– yes, Celiastina.
The supreme being called a saint that, just by living in this country, would promise prosperity to the world. The only one in this world with absolutely no substitute. The only one in this world with no possible substitute. A special being.
She was no longer Yuna. There was no one who would call her Yuna.
She knew that, and yet this truth still overwhelmed Yuna.
Asyut’s voice, eyes, and warm fingers were not for Yuna. He was always facing “Celiastina”.
Hey, Asyut, the one in front of you isn’t Celiastina. In truth, I’m a completely different person. What would you do if I said that? Would you believe me? Would you accept me?
However, a future of knowing that answer would never come around.
As Yuna sunk into a slow despair she noticed Asyut had turned his back and started walking. His regular pace gradually carried his back farther and farther away. Yuna tried to hurriedly chase after him but, as if roots had sprouted from her feet, she couldn’t move one step. Ah, was this punishment for having bad thoughts? Even her voice seemed to have withered and she wasn’t able to call out his name.
Wait, wait, Asyut.
Her body was heavy. She wasn’t able to raise her arms or move even a finger, to say nothing of chasing after Asyut. Heavy, heavy. Why was she so heavy.
At that moment Yuna noticed an abnormal phenomenon happening to her own body.
Her skin… was melting.
Slowly, like it was mud, but it was happening.
What is… this. Yuna, who should have had a frightened expression, could clearly feel the unpleasant sensation of the skin on her face dripping down. The skin on her entire body, and her flesh, was melting and dripping thickly onto the ground.
Yuna felt like everything went dark in front of her– no, the world actually turned dark. The idyllic garden scene that had just been there disappeared somewhere and it seemed like there was only Yuna standing alone in the darkness.
In that, there was only the echoing blunt and heavy sound of flesh falling.
(No! Someone help!)
Even trying to scream was not granted. With this much terror, she could not find the courage to check her own appearance. Instead, she stared intently at the white lump that was gathering at her feet. Yuna’s “thing” was unable to bear its own weight and collapsed, slowly oozing and permeating the ground.
How long did that continue to happen. Before long, the spread out “thing” revealed two purple grains, like jewels. Even in these circumstances the glimmer of that purple, which would make a person think it beautiful, calmed Yuna a little in the midst of her confusion. However, the instant those two grains goggled and moved to fix firmly in her direction she realized that they weren’t jewels but human “eyes”.
From those purple eyes, the outline of a face started to rise from the lump. A straight nose, shapely lips, and a refined jaw.
A chill ran down Yuna’s spine as those cold eyes looked up at her without expression.
“I despise you.”
That face told her that clearly.
Breathing in sharply, Yuna woke up.
In the darkness, her rough breathing was the only thing that sounded.
Sweat poured from her entire body and this dampness wrapped Yuna in an unpleasant chill.
She couldn’t move. Yuna threw her gaze into the darkness in a daze.
Helped by the faint moonlight shining in from the windows, she began to understand that what was spread out in front of her was her familiar bed canopy. Slowly, she took in the fact that it was still the middle of the night. But still, she was unable to escape her state of confusion and her body remained rigid and tight.
Did she have a dream? That must have been it.
Telling herself that, she calmed her breathing down little by little. And then, moving her heavy eyelids, she blinked multiple times.
There was only quiet in her room, late at night.
Yuna closed her eyes, as if leaning in closer to the quietness of night. Gradually, tears appeared in the corner of her eyes.
At that moment.
There was a sound. It might not have been one she would have noticed during the day with the sun shining. But in this hushed space where everything seemed to be asleep it seemed like an outrageously loud noise.
A little bit of open air entered the room. And then a very small sound of rustling clothes followed. Someone seemed to have entered her room through the balcony and she could tell that they were approaching her bed, where she was lying down, from its presence. Was this also a continuation of her dream? Yuna kept her eyes closed and thought this dimly.
The intruder soon came to the side of her bed. But they didn’t move from there and just seemed to stare silently at Yuna who was in the bed.
There was complete silence.
But Yuna wasn’t assaulted by feelings of fear or uneasiness. Far from that, if she had to say, a feeling like “acceptance” dropped straight down in her chest. She didn’t know why she had that feeling. However if, for example, the intruder were to pierce her like this with a blade then she had a feeling she would accept that as something very natural.
How long did this last and would it continue like this? Suddenly, the intruder moved.
Even with her eyes closed she could understand the other’s movements.
The intruder moved quietly and crawled up onto the bed with a slow motion and straddled Yuna’s body. Along with the rustling of clothes there was a solid metal noise.
At that, Yuna slowly opened her eyes.
The moonlight thinly illuminated the intruder’s appearance.
A mass of black that seemed to melt into the darkness. Because of the mantle that covered them from their head down, she couldn’t distinguish whether they were a man or a woman. Holding a slender dagger-like thing in their hand, they held the blade’s tip to Yuna’s throat without hesitation.
“…… –ll me?”
Yuna murmured in a hoarse voice.
The shadowed intruder, upon hearing her voice, stiffened.
“Are you going to kill me?”
It was quiet, but this time she said it clearly. Barely being touched by the open air, the other’s eyes widened slightly.
They were bright amber eyes, equal in brightness to the moonlight.
–Ah, they weren’t purple eyes. Different. They were different.
The intruder continued to hold the dagger at her throat, without any tremor. Yuna also didn’t move and only prompted them with her eyes.
For a long time they continued to stare at each other in silence.
At the same time when Yuna blinked and breathed out faintly, the intruder finally moved. They withdrew the blade they had positioned at Yuna’s throat and quickly moved it into the depths of their mantle. And then, with a slow motion, they got down from the bed and headed towards the balcony.
Lightly, and without a sound, they climbed over the railing and disappeared. It was a movement that was like an idle stroll, but at the same time one without any openings. –They disappeared without any hesitation.
Yuna, who was once again alone, finally raised her body and looked towards the balcony, searching for the form of the intruder who had just disappeared. However, the lingering memories of what just happened disappeared before she noticed and she wondered if the event of a stranger coming into her room was actually just the continuation of her dream.
From the open balcony door the cold night breeze blew through the room.
Suddenly, tears ran down her cheeks.
(Didn’t kill me.)