She couldn’t turn her eyes away now that she came this far.
She would visit the orphanage where Celiastina lived. It didn’t matter how trivial it was, as long as she could learn about anything related to her there the thread wrapped around her heart would surely come undone.
Asyut also did not stop Yuna. He himself might have wanted to uncover what lay at the bottom of Celiastina.
It was decided that Asyut would investigate as to the whereabouts of the orphanage.
That said, the investigation was not that complicated because it was the orphanage where the Saint Celiastina grew up. The royal palace had to know where it was.
There was just one worry; whether that orphanage still existed now. According to the rumors on the street, Celiastina was identified as a saint when the director approached her with intentions to assault her. It might have been a story created to make her personal history tragic, but if it was the truth then it was likely the orphanage’s doors wouldn’t be open in the present. The director was punished and there was a possibility that the people who were involved scattered.
“That’s a serious look on your face. Is something the matter?”
A voice suddenly called out and Yuna returned to herself.
Nasha, who was preparing tea, tilted her head and peered at Yuna.
“Ah, no. It’s nothing.”
Hurriedly putting on a smile, it might have looked a bit strained.
The next day, after talking with Asyut, Yuna waited quietly in her room for him to contact her. There wasn’t much she could do and shame sank into her body. Except for repeatedly passing the time with her usual ceremonies, Yuna couldn’t do anything. And even those ceremonies were going to decrease; out of concern for the movements of the anti-saint faction.
“It’d be nice if you could freely go out again soon.”
Yuna hadn’t talked to Nasha about the problems she was carrying at all. She didn’t want to involve Nasha in this maze with no exit and she wanted Nasha to stay smiling, unrelated to these problems. And being able to occasionally have tea together like this was Yuna’s salvation.
“I believe things will slowly move in a better direction.”
Nasha murmured this encouragingly as she looked worriedly at Yuna, who was silent. Move slowly in a better direction. It’d be nice if that were the case. If light was able to fall down gradually on the people in the royal palace who were suffering from pain.
“I found a lovely shop in town the other day. They have a lot of delicious desserts. I’m sure you will also like them, Lady Celiastina. Once things calm down, please attend it. The shop’s interior is also clean and cute.”
Yuna smiled and gave a large nod at Nasha, who was being concerned about her.
“Then, at that time, I’ll have to ask you to take me there, Nasha.”
“… Yes! I would be happy to! I am looking forward to it.”
When she exchanged smiles with Nasha, a reserved knock was heard before another maid entered the room. A letter was held in her hand.
“Lady Celiastina. This is from Lord Asyut.”
As she received the white envelope which was presented to her, Yuna straightened her posture slightly. She didn’t have to guess at what was written in the letter. It was about the orphanage that raised Celiastina. He already investigated it.
Nasha must have noticed how Yuna’s expression stiffened for an instant, because she did not ask about the letter’s contents.
“If you have need of anything else, please call on me at any time.”
Nasha gave a bow, as if aware of Yuna’s feelings, and then left the room. Yuna broke the seal on the letter slowly while feeling appreciation for Nasha’s consideration in giving her privacy.
The written contents were concise.
He knew the location of the orphanage that raised Celiastina. It still functioned as an orphanage in the present. If she wished to visit, then Asyut would come along as well. And, if that was the case, then arrangements needed to be made starting tomorrow.
The location of the orphanage was a short trip east on horseback from the royal palace.
The name of the orphanage was… Centurial Eastern Orphanage.
Yuna had been reading casually but the moment she saw the orphanage’s name she was caught by a strange sensation.
Centurial Eastern Orphanage. Centurial… Eastern……
(I’ve heard that name before.)
Yuna’s hands clenched on the paper, wrinkling its edges.
Maybe she had simply heard the name in passing, since the orphanage wasn’t that far from the royal capital. No, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t just that.
(It’s not that far from the royal capital. It’s not far from my past house too.)
Her temperature shot up as her emotions seemed to swell.
The memories of the past that she had completely forgotten up to now were slowly coming back.
A young Yuna. Her mother was pulling her by the hand to a far away place. It wasn’t that far from their house, but Yuna thought the distance was like a little trip. They arrived at an old and large building in a swaying carriage. Ivy crept through the entire area. There was a large nameplate hung on the gates. She asked her mother what was written.
“Centurial Eastern Orphanage.”
Yuna dropped the letter in shock. The rustling, as it landed on the ground, was sucked into the carpet.
(I’ve been there before. To that orphanage.)
She suddenly remembered it clearly.
Ah yes, sometimes her mother would head out to the orphanage to help them, since they didn’t have enough people. Yuna, who had been a child, was curious about what seemed to be her mother’s secret place and wasn’t happy that her mother had one. And so she asked her mother to take her with her. The first time she visited the orphanage she was scared by how old it was, but there were many other kids and she immediately made friends. It was really, really fun. And so, every now and then, she would go with her mother and show up at the orphanage. However, all Yuna did was play with the other children and didn’t help out at all.
But that did not last long. Her family’s herbal medicine shop became busy and her mother couldn’t visit the orphanage as much. The distance was too far for Yuna to go alone too. And so, naturally, Yuna stopped going to play at the orphanage. At first, she complained and made things hard for her mother but since she was a child she soon forgot about the orphanage and became engrossed in something else…
(I’m certain this is the orphanage from that time.)
So, Celiastina had been there.
Yuna closed her eyes and tried digging through her memories again. Had Celiastina been there amongst the children she had played with at the time? A girl with golden hair and purple eyes. She would have surely been extraordinarily cute at the time and so it wouldn’t be strange for memories of her to remain.
Faces of children, whose names she had already forgotten, appeared and disappeared in her mind. There had been an introverted girl with cute curly hair and a girl with slightly slanted eyes. There had been a cheery and kind boy, who was like everyone’s older brother. Come to think of it, there had also been a black-haired older girl who was the boy’s secret unrequited love. The boys had made the area near the front gate their base, so the girls generally played around the backyard. When they played house, there had been a girl with braids who was always the mom. The role of eldest daughter and second daughter were generally decided too. Yuna was often given the role of the dad who didn’t come home often because of work. Like that, they would run around excitedly– but she suddenly turned around.
Yuna could see a human shape at the edge of the backyard. Someone was standing there alone. She couldn’t see the person well, because they were hiding behind plants, but she could see their shape. It was someone’s back with flowing golden hair. Who was that? She hadn’t talked to that person much, so she decided to try talking to them.
And so she went closer. She was envious of the pretty golden hair, which was different from her brown hair. Hey, what are you doing? Let me join. When Yuna said that, the young girl’s shoulders twitched before she turned around. Her large eyes, which were wide open, were an entrancing purple…
Yuna stood still in her room, shocked.
Why did she forget? Why didn’t she remember?
Why… why had it taken her this long.
The two of them immediately opened up to each other. The blonde girl didn’t have many friends to play together with, but she didn’t dislike Yuna being beside her. The two explored the orphanage and made secret passwords. Yuna learned that the reason the girl was always alone in the backyard was because she took care of the plants. Because of Yuna’s family’s job, she knew a lot about plants and so she taught that girl how to raise them. The two also exchanged presents. Yes, Yuna honestly didn’t mind giving that girl her favorite ribbon, which her mother had given her. Thank you, I’ll treasure it, is what the girl said, smiling. Looking at her made Yuna happy too.
Even though there were all these memories.
Something welled up suddenly within her chest before becoming overflowing tears. The tears fell, one after another, without stopping. These were Yuna’s own emotions. And, at the same time, Celiastina’s emotions. Right now, the two had the same feelings. These tears were for the both of them. Unable to bear this impact which seemed to shake her soul, Yuna collapsed on the spot. And then, like that, she continued to cry for some time. She cried, and cried, and cried, and still it wasn’t enough.
Now that Yuna thought about it, when she had first been thrown into that white world, there was a woman standing there alone. Her long hair hid her expression and so Yuna couldn’t confirm who it was, but now she knew that it was Celiastina.
I despise you.
The one who said that was the Celiastina in that moment.
What did she mean by that? Were those words about how cold-hearted Yuna was for easily forgetting their childhood memories? Or was it…
She visited Linus’ room again in the evening.
In contrast to last time, when he had been elegantly reading a book, today there were various documents scattered across his desk. Yuna showed up as he was in the middle of picking up a document with one hand, a difficult expression on his face.
“Sorry. Am I interrupting?”
“No, I don’t mind. I apologize for the mess. Sit?”
“No, thank you. I’ll be going back soon.”
Linus gave a low chuckle.
“Linus, I’m going to try and go to the orphanage that raised Celiastina.”
When she muttered that bit by bit, Linus looked up in silence. His eyes shone with faint surprise.
“… To be honest, I’m still lost. I haven’t sorted out my feelings. But my feelings for wanting to understand Celiastina haven’t changed. There’s no certainty that I’ll find anything if I go to the orphanage, but I still need to go.”
Linus just stared at Yuna with a serious expression.
“… I see.”
But, in the end, he gave a single nod.
“I know it’s rash to go out in such an unstable time. But I can’t put it off anymore. I feel like if I stand still now then something I should have caught will disappear. Besides, I don’t have any time.”
“And with your little time remaining you’re going to spend it for Celaistina, hm.”
For a moment, Yuna pressed her lips together tightly.
“… For Celiastina… and for myself.”
Right now, she was two people as a single person. It was another person here in Celiastina’s body. But Yuna was sure that wasn’t herself either. Yuna thought that in this place there was someone who was neither Celiastina or Yuna.
“Have you told Asyut? That you’re another person.”
Yuna shook her head.
“Has he asked who you are? He should be noticing it by now. That you’re not the same person as Celiastina.”
“Even if he did, I wouldn’t answer.”
It was because it was Asyut that she didn’t want to say needless things.
“Linus. Today, I thought I would tell you that I was going to the orphanage. It’s thanks to you that I know quite a lot about Celiastina, but there’s just a little more. That’s why, Linus, please wait for Celiastina.”
Before her feelings could become more disordered, Yuna declared all the things she wanted to say in one go. Linus seemed to sigh in irritation but he pursed his lips and said nothing more.
Yuna turned on her heel to leave the room. But then she remembered something and turned back.
“Hey, Linus, do you know? Celiastina’s true name before she came to the royal palace.”
Linus blinked, caught off guard, but then he slowly nodded.
“Her real name is Cella.”
Cella. Yes, the girl that she knew was also called Cella.
“Thank you, Linus.”
Yuna murmured before quietly leaving the room.
The next day, in the afternoon, the person who came to pick up Yuna after she finished her ceremony wasn’t Aeneas but Siegcrest. The large and showy man raised a hand casually in greeting and walked towards Yuna with a relaxed expression.
“Yo, Celia. Great job.”
“Sieg? Did something happen? Why are you here for me?”
“Nah, I just felt like it. It’s nice to do this every so often, right?”
Be that as it may, it wasn’t like the Vice-captain of the Order of Holy Knights to go out of his way on a random day to pick her up just because he “felt like it”. She couldn’t say this definitively with Siegcrest’s whimsical nature, but it was still unnatural. Yuna put some distance between them, thinking that he was planning something, and made Siegcrest cross his arms with a semi-offended look.
“What’s with that. How rude. I even went out of my way to come here for you.”
“Yes, but why?”
“I told ya that I just felt like it.”
As he said this he uncrossed his arms and rushed towards her. In the moment when Yuna breathed in, she was lifted easily by those thick arms.
“W-What’re you doing!?”
“You’re free after this, right? Then let’s go see the knights at the training ground. Those guys are being noisy, asking me to bring you there once more.”
“Eh?! What are you going to do if Asyut sees that again! He’ll get angry!”
“It’ll be fine. He doesn’t come that often.”
“It’s not fine!! Please put me down!”
“Come on, let’s go! Don’t worry, I’ve told Aeneas that I’ll be taking you there.”
How could he tell her not to worry! But she already knew he wasn’t a man who would listen to others’ opinions and so Yuna could only hang her head in resignation.
Yuna, who was being held in such a way that she was sitting on Siegcrest’s left arm, felt like wanting to disappear when all the people who they passed stopped to look at them with startled eyes. By nature, someone as big as Siegcrest carrying someone in his arms and walking down the hall was bound to draw attention. But because the one being carried was THAT Celiastina there was no way people wouldn’t be surprised.
However, the surprised look on everyone’s face only lasted a second before it changed to a wry smile, as if they were thinking “Oh, again”. At some point in time, the fact that crazy things happened whenever Siegcrest and Yuna were together had become common knowledge. When they entered the training ground like that, even the knights didn’t seem too surprised.
“You guys! Like I promised, I brought Celia.”
Yuna turned even redder when he raised her high in the air, as if she were a spoil of war.
“Sieg, please put me down already!!”
Of course Yuna’s request didn’t reach Siegcrest’s ears. The knights, who were also looking up at Yuna, seemed to be enjoying this situation. They lowered their swords and whatever they were holding to gather around Siegcrest.
“Celia has said that she’d like to participate in today’s training and to be fully taught all of the techniques.”
“I didn’t say that!”
“Oh, my bad. She wants to participate in today’s training and teach you guys techniques.”
“I didn’t say that!!”
The knights raised their voices in criticism, en masse. Even if their superior was reckless, it seemed like his men were decent. On a side note, she hadn’t yet met the “leader” of the Order of Holy Knights, but if he was as absurd as Siegcrest then she was worried for the future of this country.
Finally Siegcrest placed her down and Yuna sighed in relief. It was slightly rough but the feeling of the firm, hard ground was a comfort.
“By the way, Asyut didn’t come here, right?”
While glancing around, Siegcrest asked his men quietly.
“He wasn’t here.”
Great, Siegcrest nodded seriously.
“Then, today, I’m going to watch over your guys’ training with Celia. If you do it mushily then Celia’s gonna go home. So show her your best.”
When he gave one loud clap, the knights took that as the signal to return to their original positions. There were some who looked reluctant to part from Yuna, but they also seemed fired up. Soon, spirited voices and the sound of clashing blades resounded through the training ground. The speed at which they switched over, showed that they really were professionals.
Following Siegcrest, who sat down on a couch that was placed against the wall, Yuna lowered herself quietly beside him.
“You don’t really give them solid training, huh.”
“Didn’t I just tell them what to do?”
He tugged lightly on her hair.
“Uwah, your hair is so silky, Celia. It feels nice.”
“Please stop, geez. I’m not going to sit beside you, Sieg.”
“Hey, wait a sec.”
Grabbing Yuna’s left hand, when she rose to run away, Siegcrest pulled her back with a sharp tug. Thanks to that, she ended up sitting down beside Siegcrest again.
“… I heard you’re going out to a town.”
Yuna startled and then stiffened at this unexpected topic.
“To be honest, I don’t really know the details of what you did in the past at the royal palace. It’s most likely the people at the top and Asyut hid it from me intentionally. It’s the same as having been told not to meet you for a long time. That’s why I might be able to say this, but I think you should do more of the things that you want to do. From what I’ve personally seen, you’re a good person who follows her own beliefs. It’s not like everything you do is the right thing, but there are certainly people who were saved by your actions.”
Siegcrest looked straight ahead with a serious expression. In his line of sight were his men swinging their swords earnestly, but right now something else might have been reflected in his eyes.
“It’s bad right now. Timing-wise.”
“You must have heard too, right? Lately, disturbing movements have been spreading in the royal capital. The anti-saint faction people have made an organization and are starting to move.”
Yuna, who was looking at Siegcrest’s profile, lowered her eyes unconsciously. For Siegcrest to be concerned meant that the anti-saint faction had become a sizable problem. People who were not happy about Celiastina were about to take action. Even though she should have been prepared for this, her heart was still inevitably hurt by this fact.
“This group existed before. But it was a group that was too small to deal with, so they were left alone. And now, they suddenly became a huge organization. To a point where they can’t be ignored any longer. –There may be a civil war soon.”
Yuna’s breath caught when she learned that it was more serious than she thought. Her nervousness spiked at hearing such a dangerous word like civil war slip out of Siegcrest’s mouth. In the last few decades, there hadn’t been any large conflicts that could be called a civil war. For Yuna, it was a word that had nothing to do with her. And yet, to think that it was no one else but Celiastina– this body that was the origin causing such a huge situation.
“You understand, right? Just how dangerous it is for you to be going out in such a time.”
“… I understand.”
Yuna couldn’t raise her lowered head. The malice that the past Celiastina had released had gradually eaten into the people and now they had become a force that knew no bounds. No one could stop it. Even if she tried to gather it all up desperately, it would rapidly spill from her hands and spread– and then, one day, it would become a large black lump.
And then, suddenly, there was a gentle impact on Yuna’s head. Siegcrest’s large palm was wrapped around Yuna’s head. When she looked up reflexively, her hair was mussed up.
“Don’t be depressed. You’re no longer surrounded by just enemies. So what if everyone isn’t your friend. Even I’m hated by some people, but I came all this way trusting in the people who follow me and believe in me. Right now, Celia, you also have a lot of people you can trust in, you know? For example, this handsome man in front of you.”
Yuna smiled wryly and nodded.
“Ah, what was that! You look like you have an objection. It can’t be that you’re thinking I’m not a handsome man, right?”
“I don’t think that. I understand.”
“Really? Anyway, Celia, there’s certainly people who are carrying blades and hate you. But, what I don’t want you to forget, is that on the other side there are also people who are carrying blades to protect you. Just who do you think is protecting you from the anti-saint faction? –Us, of the Order of Holy Knights, said to be the greatest in the kingdom of Sibelius! RIGHT, EVERYONE?”
Siegcrest shouted that out in a loud voice. When he did so, the knights in the area, who seemed to have heard some part of their conversation, raised their swords firmly into the sky and roared back a response.
Those strong voices, lacking any hesitation, echoed directly in Yuna’s heart.
“Yep, so it’s like that.”
Siegcrest looked over the knights with satisfaction.
“Do you reaaally understand?”
“Do you really really understand?”
Yuna’s reply resounded clearly through the room at a level that wouldn’t lose to the knights. Siegcrest nodded with a bold smile.
“Good then. –Go to the town.”
At those sudden words, her slack face was pinched.
“Because you want to go to the town right? Right now, it’s dangerous around you but we’re with you. And you understand that. Besides, Asyut will be together with you. That guy will definitely protect you, Celia. It’s true the risk is huge, but sometimes you have to move when there’s no choice but to move.”
Her pinched cheek tingled with pain. But that pain stimulated her train of thoughts. What Siegcrest was saying. Why Siegcrest brought Yuna here. Like a misty landscape clearing, Yuna understood it little by little.
“Thank you… thank you, Sieg. And everyone!!”
This time Yuna looked over at everyone with a full smile. It made her happy that there were many people who accepted that smile. And now she was fully understanding just how fortunate and grateful she was.
She had to move. No matter what lay ahead, she would move because that was what she decided. The people who gave her that push and supported her, encouraged her more than anything else.