The next morning, a letter was delivered to Yuna who was having breakfast in her room.
It was an exceedingly fine-looking envelope with an imposing wax seal. Because the messenger purposefully carried it to her on a golden tray, she could tell that the letter came from someone of status. However, for Yuna, who hadn’t received a letter in this life up to now, she had no idea who the sender could be.
In any case, nothing would start if she didn’t open it.
Finishing her breakfast and drinking her after meal tea, Yuna placed her cup on the table and then took the envelope in hand.
She carefully opened the seal – it would be a waste to destroy such an elaborate and delicate wax seal – and took out a single card from within. When she looked at its contents, a simple sentence was written in very beautiful handwriting.
–Won’t you join me for lunch today in my garden?
That was all. However, before she could dodge the invitation, the signature attached to the end struck Yuna dumb.
“Ah… this is…”
Sibelius. The person who was allowed to call themselves by the name of the country was…
At her trembling murmur, Nasha who was preparing another cup of tea beside her stopped her hands.
“Eh? It came from the king?”
“Ronbarno Sibelius… it says. W-What do you think?”
“… That it is undoubtedly… from the king…”
For the time being, Yuna returned the card back into the envelope. But she wasn’t able to do even that well with her mind having gone blank.
Why, why, why? Only a question mark ran around in her mind. Why was it now that the king of the country decided to call out to her? Was there some sort of problem? No, she had surely sent more than enough problems his way through the days up to now, but why now so suddenly?
“Um, was something quite serious written in there?”
Nasha, who seemed to feel that Yuna’s dumbfounded state was unusual, asked that question reservedly.
“No, um, yeah. He asked if I wanted to eat lunch together with him today.”
“Oh my, it was a meal invitation.”
Nasha relaxed her shoulders, as if she were relieved, and smiled. Looking at that smile, Yuna tried to regain her calm somehow. That was right, it shouldn’t be strange for the king to invite the saint to a meal. Their positions were different, but the two of them stood at the top of this country. It might even be an important job to meet face-to-face and interact from time to time.
—However, up to now, there hadn’t been an opportunity like this at all.
And so, like she thought, something abnormal must have happened.
“W-What do I do?”
“What to do… For example?”
“I’m guessing I can’t not go.”
“Eh!? You’re going to refuse!?”
Nasha’s eyes turned round and her voice became high.
“Right, that’s impossible, huh.”
“N-No, I wouldn’t know.”
What should she do?
No matter how long she thought about it alone, she made no progress.
In these times—.
“So, you’ve come to me again?”
Linus, who seemed to be straightening up his documents in his room, greeted Yuna with an apathetic look.
“In these times, Celia, you’re supposed to go to Asyut and not me. There is no man who would be displeased to be relied upon by his fiancée.”
He was saying that because he knew it was hard for Yuna to go to Asyut.
“But Asyut always seems to be busy so…”
“I’m busy too, maybe you can tell by looking.”
Tap, tap. Linus knocked on a pile of documents with the tip of his pen. Oops, Yuna’s words were stuck. It was true his desk was buried under documents, boxes, and things that Yuna wasn’t able to understand.
“Oh well, I’m certain that he has his hands full with his own problem right now.”
Was Linus implying that the problem was her? Feeling uncomfortable, Yuna straightened her sitting posture without reason.
“And so, King Ronbarno has invited you to a meal?”
“Mhm. In and of itself this might not be unusual but this sort of thing is my first time. I’m worried that something happened…”
Linus took the presented letter and read it through before returning it to Yuna immediately.
“There’s not much to worry about. The reason the king and saint do not meet often is due to the political problems involved. That he is calling out to you amongst all this is a sign that “something” has started to move. Perhaps he is thinking that he needs to talk to you once.”
Yuna shifted on the sofa, feeling unsatisfied.
Was the “you” that Linus spoke of in this situation Celiastina, or…
“The king is aware, right? Um, that I’m not the real Celiastina.”
“Yes, of course.”
That was what she thought. There was no way the king would not know about the serious matter of there being a completely different person inside the saint.
In other words, the king was wanting to talk to “Yuna”.
The more she thought about it the more preposterous she felt it was. Because Yuna was just a simple former village girl. She didn’t have any special knowledge or education, and so she didn’t think she was very qualified to talk to the king of the country. Even doing so as Celiastina would have been a bit better. But this time she was being told that it was not so.
“Didn’t I say you don’t have to be so worried and everything will be alright? The king is, well, a bit strange but not a terrifying person. Even if you were to make small blunder, he won’t eat you.”
It would be nice if it ended on just a small blunder.
“So, accept your fate and go.”
Linus waved a hand and showed an iron smile that would not allow any further words to be spoken. She wanted to snap at that merciless attitude, but thinking more on it, it was the person seeking mercy from him who was mistaken. Yuna gave a small sigh and looked out the window. In the deepest depths of this royal palace, the king who she hadn’t seen yet was waiting for her.
The king’s room, which she passed through, wasn’t that much different from her own room.
There was a difference in atmosphere between a man and woman’s room, but in general the size of the room itself did not change much— rather this one seemed smaller. Thinking about it, Yuna received extraordinary treatment as the saint, so perhaps it wasn’t strange for her room to be at the same standard as the king’s room.
However, this room seemed to be the king’s private room for guests. It seemed like his bed and other such things had been set up in an entirely separate private room. She saw now that the refined furniture and fresh flowers were probably perfectly designed to make someone feel welcome.
That Yuna was able to look around this room without reservation was because the owner was absent. The main point – the king – could not be seen anywhere. When she asked about that, the maid that was guiding her gestured to a glass door at the back of the room while staying respectfully attentive.
“Beyond that door is a garden exclusive to this room; the king is waiting there already.”
Past that door! Yuna felt her heart leap, but she couldn’t be seized with fear and stand here forever. Following the maid, who had started walking towards the garden, Yuna strengthened her resolve and took a step.
The moment the door opened, the soft and fluffy scent of flowers teased her nose.
There was a colorful flower arch. Beyond that gentle curve, there was a single table with a dazzlingly white cloth on top. The table had already been prepared and there were at least two people who stood to the side, postures straight.
And then in the center was— a man, around sixty years old, who was seated calmly. He had a quiet manner and showed an amiable smile…
Yuna’s mouth dropped open.
“Ro—, Ro, Rono!?”
In the next instant, before she noticed, she had shouted that out.
What exactly was going on?
At this outrageous shock, she was unable to say anything more. The person who was seated in the king’s seat, who she should have been meeting for the first time, was an unexpected acquaintance and so it would have been crazy not to be surprised.
(This can’t be, b-but…)
It was unmistakable. He was that Rono who saw Yodel off on her departure with her. That person who appeared in unexpected places and at unexpected moments, was full of mystery, but also the one who encouraged her and gave her back a gentle push.
“W-Why is Rono… ah, wait a minute, you mean you’re the king.”
Her confusion was so great that Yuna stood still in her spot, flustered. Rono looked at Yuna with a gentle smile that hadn’t changed from that time.
“Well, first, let’s take a deep breath and calm down. And won’t you take a seat?”
“Eh, uhm, huh?”
She couldn’t understand the meaning in Rono’s words.
“I apologize sincerely for shocking you. That wasn’t my intention… hm, maybe it was a little.”
While chuckles slipped out of his smile, Rono stood from his own seat and guided Yuna to hers. Even when she looked up at Rono, who stood immediately beside her, she didn’t think there was any difference with him from the previous time they spoke together.
Rono was the king. The king— ah, she saw now.
Deep in Yuna’s mind, something dropped with a thump.
That was why he could stand on the terrace without anyone questioning him on the day Yodel went on her journey. That was why he was able to stand alone in the garden in front of the saint’s personal rooms, where even the average aristocrat could not enter.
Once she accepted it, she felt like she was able to understand everything, to the point where she wondered why she hadn’t noticed it until now. It was because he was the king— honestly, she should have realized that sooner!
“Now, since you’re here, let us eat before the dishes are cool. After all, we can talk while we’re eating.”
Rono said this with amusement. Taking his seat again, he toasted Yuna with an aperitif. Under his invitation, she put it to her mouth and the coolness down her throat finally made Yuna feel herself again.
“To introduce myself again, my name is Ronbarno, the king of this country. We’ve spoken to each other on many occasions up to now, but please excuse how I did not divulge my identity. I apologize for my rudeness.”
“N-No, not at all, y-you did no such thing.”
Was she being polite enough? A sweat she didn’t understand well traveled down her back.
“Um, Your Majesty, I apologize deeply on my part. That is, until now, I have been terribly impolite…”
“Nonsense, please do not worry about that.”
Rono smiled widely like a good-natured old man. Placing down his glass of aperitif, he clapped his hands once.
“Okay, with this, let’s call it even between us. Why don’t we throw away our statuses as king and saint, because it would please me to talk to you without hesitation like we did before. Please call me Rono as well.”
“But, because, however— let’s drop those. Although, of course, you have the right to blame me for hiding my identity.”
“I can’t do such a thing as blame you.”
“That you and I have spoken many times is actually something that even my aides know very little about. Because it is understandable that meeting with you in person would cause trouble. And that is why I thought it best not to divulge my identity.”
“I-Is that so.”
“Well, it’s true that I also thought this way would let you talk to me without hesitation. Oh, dear me, I am a dishonest person.”
“Not at all…”
Yuna hurriedly shook her head.
At that point, the waiters brought over the meal. Fresh vegetable salad, rich and warm soup, and grilled chicken that overflowed with juices when stabbed with just a fork. While they ate their entire meal, they continued with idle and leisurely chatter. It was mainly Rono who spoke.
On the other hand, Yuna couldn’t help but shrink. Rono had said to throw away their statuses, but was she really allowed to talk to him carefreely? After all, to Yuna, the king was someone who was so high up in the clouds that he couldn’t even be seen. That right now she herself was the saint who had a status comparable with the king was another problem in and of itself.
Rono, who seemed to notice how timid Yuna was, showed a troubled smile.
“In the end, is it impossible? Can you not trust an old man who hid his identity?”
“Y-You are mistaken. That’s not it at all.”
“You know, Lady Celiastina, we each have a plain and simple status that is expressed by one word: “King” and “Saint”. However, when placed beside each other we are in a complicated position. I, who stands at the top of this country in a political position, and you, who stands at the top of this country in a religious position. Then, without making a distinction between politics and religion, if there is a question of which one is greater, even now I do not actually have an answer to that.”
That is why the opportunity for us to talk face to face is quite hard to come by, is what Rono said. Before she came here, when she dropped by, Linus had mentioned this kind of thing too.
“But I’ve always thought of the king as being greater.”
Unintentionally, Yuna, as a commoner— Yuna spoke her own thoughts. To the general public, they thought the king was the greatest in the country. However, remembering that she herself was a person related to the current problems, Yuna hurriedly closed her mouth to stop from talking as if it were somebody else’s problem. Even if it was okay since Rono seemed to know her true identity, there were waiters around them who knew nothing.
Rono, who seemed to understand the meaning of Yuna’s panic, dismissed all the servants after they finished pouring the after meal tea. With this, the two of them were completely alone. Yuna gave a sigh of relief. Whenever she spoke with Rono, her real thoughts always seemed to be pulled out. And she was uneasy about other people’s opinions of their conversation.
“The king is greater, hm? Well, certainly, most people would think that. However, that’s not stated clearly anywhere and, in recent years, the influence of the priests has grown. It is a fact that the “saint” has been increasingly raised higher and higher.”
What did Rono himself think about that? Yuna quietly looked at Rono, as if she were searching him. Rono immediately noticed that gaze and, once again, smiled at Yuna.
“There are not many people who can answer this issue. And, before the trouble comes to a head, everyone is trying their best to keep us away from each other… which is why I thought to prepare a ‘spokesperson’.”
Yes, Rono nodded.
“What exactly is the ‘saint’? Why do they exist? Are they really beings who should be revered as pillars of the country?… When Lady Celiastina herself appeared as the saint, I thought this would be an opportunity to reveal these questions that had smoldered in me for a long time. I allowed her to continue doing as she pleased as much as I dared. And then I waited and used this passage of time as my spokesperson to address everyone.”
Yuna couldn’t understand why Rono was interested in talking about this now. Wasn’t this topic too grand for her to be able to accept? But,perhaps it was like Linus said about “something” having started moving that Rono had decided to speak with Yuna. If that were the case, even if she couldn’t grasp this topic, she would stay quiet and lend her ear to his talk. Yuna decided on this.
“Do you not think the business of being a king is quite easy to understand? A person with power stands at the top of this country and using that power governs the country. If the king is seen as being inadequate, someone else with power would drag them down out of that seat… and this continues on and on. However, the saint is different. The saint is an unclear existence whose very identity has been recognized by ‘God’. Perhaps it is because I am in the position of a king that I have always thought about this completely different existence standing beside me.”
What exactly was the saint? Why did they exist? Yuna dropped her eyes to her hands and stared at them.
“It may be because I am a contrary person but, in actuality, I do not really like this history of everyone worshipping this being called a saint. Certainly, to people who live every day, I understand it is important to have an existence to rely upon. But the saint should not be different from a normal human. These women had their own way of living— perhaps, did they not?”
Did you know? Rono continued to press for an answer.
“Most of the majority of these generations of saints have spiritually and mentally suffered in their life at the royal palace. They were given luxurious rooms, luxurious clothes, and ate luxurious meals. And, as long as it was within the law, they were able to do whatever they wanted. Yet, why were these women not happy?… I believe I do not need to explain this for you to understand, right?”
Yuna nodded in silence. Yuna herself had thought about her own body compared to the past saints.
“I think the saint is a slave of the country. In this long history, they have never been released.”
Rono’s calm composure did not collapse at any point, which was why she could not tell if he were angry, lamenting, or caught by another emotion.
“Rono, do you wish to free the saint from the country?”
Yuna could not suppress the question that arose in her heart and said it. Rono blinked multiple times and then breathed out while shaking his head with a smile.
“No, no, I am not such a good person. I might have chosen words that are nothing but pretty. To say it clearly, I want to remove the influence of the saint and priests. For that purpose, I have used this existence called Lady Celiastina. Her unprecedented behavior has exposed in broad daylight the meaning behind this existence called a saint, the perversion of worshipping the saint, and the dangers of religious authority.”
“A despicable method, right. But, you are correct— only…”
Rono’s words ended there, and then once again he turned straight to Yuna.
“I feel like a new path is being opened right now, overcoming all the expectations and predictions that I had. By your hands.”
“Yes. Lady Celiastina’s future, which I had imagined on my own, held nothing but ruin. However, your existence is remaking the future that should have been determined. Ever since I realized that, I have been watching – with a different feeling – over Lady Celiastina… you. Where we go from here, may be up to you.”
Yuna tried to say something but was unable to find her words and closed her mouth. Rono, who was watching Yuna, suddenly raised his head and squinted his eyes at the sunlight that poured down. When Yuna followed his gaze, the white clouds flowed leisurely across the expansive blue sky.
“Right now, once again, a large wave has been born. —The anti-saint faction’s last uprising will soon occur. I know this. Actually, even if it occurs, it would not be difficult at all to suppress it. However, the people are watching this uprising against the ‘saint’, and it is a great shock to the country’s people that there exists people who would risk their lives to challenge the saint. Even if they can be easily suppressed, the public’s view towards the saint and priests would become severe.”
Rono’s smile withdrew and, instead, he looked at Yuna with serious eyes.
“Of course, voices will be raised to criticize me as well. But to me that would be easy to work with.”
Because he could fulfill his responsibility of strictly controlling the priests and saint— is that what he meant.
“Then, does this mean you are hoping for the anti-saint faction’s uprising?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“… But, if the anti-saint faction’s people are caught, they’ll receive punishment, right.”
“It will undoubtedly be capital punishment.”
Aah— why was it like this. Why was it so difficult to find a path for everyone to be happy? Duo and Yodel appeared in her mind’s eye. Duo, who risked his life to get revenge on the saint. Yodel, who tried to drive Duo to a death penalty and fan the flames of people’s anger to crush the saint.
(It’s the same. The exact same thing is going to be repeated.)
Despite changed eyes, and changed times.
She was always powerless.
“I, as the king, am hoping for the anti-saint faction’s uprising and… no, that is all.”
Rono quietly continued.
“Just— there certainly exists a part of me that thinks what will happen in the future may be up to you.”
Yuna looked back directly into Rono’s eyes. His words slowly bled into her chest; gradually, little by little, into Yuna who could not move. She may not have the right or power to deny the path he chose.
Yuna stood up without averting her eyes from him.
“I don’t know what’s best for the fate of the being called a saint or the future of this country.”
She also couldn’t be arrogant enough to claim that the path she chose was the best.
“But I think there has to be other ways to do things.”
Yuna clenched her fist strongly.
“I’m sorry for saying something arrogant. But I cannot support you, Rono. I want to go down the path that I believe in. Even if someone finds fault with that, I will continue to move forward— until the last moment.”
A gust of wind blew through the gardens after she left. The plants and vegetation swayed greatly and made rustling noises. As if the flowers were whispering to each other, wondering what was going to happen now— Asyut felt this.
“I do not mind if you come out now.”
A calm voice, its state not having changed, called out to him like that.
Asyut stood from where his back was leaning against the wall and slowly walked over to the owner of that voice. Without turning around to the evenly paced footsteps stepping on the grass, the king had just raised his cup of tea, which had already gone cold, to his mouth.
“I appreciate the trouble you went through, standing for such a long time, Asyut. If you would like, please sit down in front. The dishes haven’t been cleared, but I believe you don’t mind that, correct?”
The king smiled, finally turning to look at Asyut who came up immediately beside him.
“… What are your intentions, having made me wait there.”
Asyut sat in front of the king, as suggested, without losing his stern expression. Originally, he would have definitely declined once, but right now that etiquette was annoying. In the first place, the other person’s nature wasn’t concerned about this, and so on this occasion he would not mind either.
“I was thinking that I wanted you to hear everything as well.”
“Your feelings on politics and religion, or your information on the anti-saint faction’s attack?”
“Both of them.”
“You will need to be well-prepared as well. Because the path that I choose, and the path that child will go on— will soon cross. And I believe you will be accompanying us, right?”
Asyut pressed his lips together tightly.
“Of course, I am aware that you are in a difficult position, since from the start, the First Holy Knight, although my direct subordinate, is a position that was expected to be like a bridge between the royal family and the priests. Conversely, this is exactly why you will have to work hard from here on. I do not wish to expel the priests, I simply need them to follow under me.”
“For that reason, you are spurring on the anti-saint faction. Is that what you are saying?”
The king raised one eyebrow and closed his mouth.
“I have questions about what you said, just now. —You have some sort of connection to the anti-saint faction, don’t you?”
The king’s smile deepened even more.
“Why do you think that?”
“At the very least, someone from the anti-saint faction is one of your people, no? That is why you speak like you ‘know’ the anti-saint faction’s attack will happen soon and ‘hope’ for their uprising.”
The king spread out both hands and tilted his head.
“You have not changed since the past, hm, to point out something like me, the king, having a connection to the anti-saint faction. I do not believe you have forgotten that that fastidiousness has brought hell to you in the past.”
Asyut’s expression didn’t change, but the hands placed on his lap clenched strongly.
“… If you just wished for me to hold my tongue, you would not have called me over here.”
“Hm, that is correct. I do not mind if you say everything in your mind.”
In contrast to the king who was calm through and through, Asyut’s tone hardened as he called out that name.
“There should not be any connection between the leader of this country and the insurgents of this country. If this is known to our surroundings, even your course of actions may be affected.”
“Oh my, Asyut.”
The king blinked, as if he had said something greatly unthinkable.
“I have not said one word about being hand in hand with them. Even if, by any chance, a spy was sent with my backing, I do not believe that constitutes as a betrayal.”
Certainly might be true. However, he had said clearly that he was waiting eagerly for the anti-saint faction’s uprising. Not being fully satisfied was a pressure on Asyut’s chest.
“At any rate, the anti-saint faction’s attack is no longer avoidable. And it doesn’t appear like your fiancée will watch in silence. You should be very careful that that adorable girl is not hurt from carelessness.”
“… Are you going to use even Lady Celiastina as your tool?”
The king’s shoulders shook as he laughed.
“Since earlier, you have been treating me as an incarnation of evil. At the very least, I really like that young lady. Always eager and lovable. While watching her, I know for the first time now, that some things can be changed with earnestness. If I were thirty years younger, I believe I would not hand her over to you.”
“Please do not joke.”
“Was that a joke?”
Looking at his smile, Asyut could not see into his heart. And that was why, no matter how many questions he asked, or answers he was granted, he had never been satisfied up to now.
—But, only this, he could not help but ask.
“May I ask one more thing?”
“I do not mind.”
“Just now, Lady Celiastina said ‘Until the last moment’. What did she mean?”
In that instant, he felt as if the teasing light in the king’s eyes disappeared. However, the king immediately lowered his eyes and Asyut could not confirm that.
The king slowly shook his head.
“Hm, did she say such a thing?”
And then he reached for the cup again and carried it to his mouth leisurely.
Asyut, who had left the king’s private rooms, walked down the corridor at a quick pace, feeling irritated.
At times, the civil officials he passed glanced at him, wondering what happened, but Asyut paid them no attention. He heard that he always had a serious look on his face.
More importantly, what exactly was the king intending to do?
For as long as he could remember he served King Ronbarno and, no matter how much he couldn’t read the other’s heart, he thought he was generally able to understand most things; such as how the king didn’t quite like the rise of the priest faction and that he welcomed the anti-saint movement— In other words, Asyut knew those.
However, he did not know the king’s true purpose in talking to him in such a way.
Even Asyut had not considered that the king had sent a spy to the anti-saint faction. He had said he was not in an alliance with them, but how much could Asyut believe that? Furthermore, Asyut was unable to understand why the king spoke to Celiastina about the movements of the anti-saint faction.
What was the king seeking from her? In addition to that, right now, she was dealing with a large problem. Asyut didn’t want her to suffer by bearing even heavier burdens.
—Yes, Asyut had noticed that Celiastina had some sort of problem. Recently, her attitude was strangely awkward. To be more specific, she was clearly avoiding him. And was that not related to the “problem” too?
In that case, what was the problem?
As long as she did not tell him, he wasn’t clear on what it was. But Asyut felt like he could vaguely see the answer inside him.
He had asked the person herself in the past.
Lady Celiastina, are you saying the moment you regain your memories, “you” will disappear?— is what he asked.
It was like an obscure anxiety. Even while thinking it was ridiculous, it was an expansive terror that couldn’t be erased.
Was Celiastina and “her” a completely different person?
He wondered when he started to think such a thing. It wasn’t like there was any clear evidence. Simply, during the long time he had interacted with her, that thought naturally arose in his mind. Those cold eyes which mercilessly reaped the lives of the innocent, and those direct eyes which wept with feelings for those who were hurt, being the same person… that surely couldn’t be possible, was what he thought.
—However, that might just be something he wanted to think.
He couldn’t meet her and she wouldn’t tell him anything; there was a part of him which was in pain just from that. Before he knew it, she had become a very large existence to Asyut. To an extent where he was distinctly aware that he didn’t want to lose her, this irreplaceable existence.
However, for a long time, Celiastina had been a torturous existence for Asyut. Even now, the antagonism of the distant past raised its head inside Asyut’s heart. He wasn’t able to forget. Asyut was sure that, in this life, he would remember everything that happened between him and Celiastina.
And that was precisely why he wanted the past Celiastina and the present her to be different people.
In the end, was that the “truth” or nothing more than Asyut’s “desire”?
If it was the truth, then the meaning of the words that Celiastina said just now, “Until the last moment”—.
Once he thought that, the idea would not leave his head. Celiastina hadn’t admitted it but she hadn’t denied it either. Following this, the idea in Asyut began to change into a conviction.
He wondered if Celiastina intended to continue saying nothing like this. Was it nothing more than optimism to think that she would eventually put things in order and disclose everything to him? If he just waited, she would go to a place where he could no longer reach her. —This premonition wouldn’t stop.
Asyut’s chest tightened violently as he had a bad feeling while thinking this.
A chill ran down his back and his body trembled. And right at that moment.
He accidentally knocked shoulders with someone who was probably passing by just now. Surprised, he turned around and saw that the person who called out to stop him was Celiastina’s guardian, Linus. He was holding documents in his hands and most likely was on the way back from a meeting somewhere. However, they did not have a relationship where they would make light talk in the hallway if they saw each other, and so Asyut could not hide his confusion.
“What’s wrong, Asyut? You have more wrinkles between your brows than usual.”
As if not knowing tact, Linus nonchalantly used his index finger to trace the space between his own eyebrows.
“No, it’s nothing.”
Asyut’s words naturally became evasive.
“Did the king push unreasonable demands on you again and make your stomach hurt?”
Did this man know that just now he had been summoned by the king? Otherwise, Linus wouldn’t have called out to him, no?
“How much do you—“
Know exactly. He was about to ask that unconsciously but closed his mouth. The other person was someone who was as equally unreadable as the king. He didn’t think he would receive a decent answer if he asked.
Linus leaned slightly against a window frame in the corridor and shrugged his shoulders.
“You are suitably troubled as well, hm. Have things not been going well with Celia lately?”
At the name of the person who he had been thinking about right now, Asyut’s body started a little.
“That girl has also appeared quite depressed. I thought she had a fight with you, but apparently it doesn’t seem like such an easy problem.”
Not an easy problem— that was certainly true. However, how much of a deep-rooted problem was it? Celiastina would not disclose anything to him. And he was sure not in the future either—
“She will not allow me to share her pain.”
Asyut murmured that unknowingly. At that, Linus’ eyes widened slightly and he kept silent.
“Why does she try to carry everything alone? I don’t understand.”
“… I’m sure she’s not taking ‘everything’ upon herself. I think she trusts you more than enough. She simply hasn’t opened up about the main thing.”
“Which is what I want to know.”
Asyut spat that out, frustrated. Even though he knew it didn’t help to say such a thing to Linus, but he couldn’t stop.
“If I’m not told anything, isn’t that the same thing as knowing nothing?”
“But, you see, isn’t it very difficult to expose everything to someone? There are things which we can’t say because we are thinking about the other person.”
He thought he was only going to obtain an answer that was wrapped in smoke, but unexpectedly Linus responded to Asyut’s reckless words directly.
“Of course, whether that is really for the other person or not is another problem. But the person themselves thinks that. That the best way is to not say anything until the very end.”
Until the very end—.
Asyut’s heart started to shake again.
Linus, whose name was called anew, raised an eyebrow slightly.
“You know, don’t you. The relationship between the past Lady Celiastina and the present Lady Celiastina. Is it true that these two are completely different people?”
“That is not a question I can answer.”
Linus cut his question down completely.
“Conversely, Asyut, I would like to ask you a question. If the past and present Celiastina were the same person, unchanged, then what exactly would you do? Would you not forgive what has happened up to now and thrust her away? Or would you go back on the cordial time you spent together and verbally abuse her?”
—He felt like he was bathed in ice water.
Asyut was at a loss for words and stood there stiffly.
“The events in your pasts… no, we may not be able to call it the ‘past’ yet. Because the matter with your younger sister hasn’t been concluded yet. This problem may make you suffer even more from here on. But even still, are you able to accept the present Celiastina?”
Linus stopped his words there and dropped his eyes to his feet. But he soon raised his head.
“There is new information regarding your sister that I must tell you. —Right now, she is with the anti-saint faction.”
Asyut pressed his lips flat and took a long hard look at Linus’ face.
“I think there was a rumor about that before, but we couldn’t find out if that was the truth until now. However, lately that has been made clear. By the king’s order, we made the necessary arrangements to rescue her in secret, but it ended in a failure. The king has decided to discard her.”
“It was not that long ago. It has been relatively recent that the king was able to get an ‘eye’ inside them. Necessary information is coming to us from there, but we’re not able to pull strings from this side yet.”
The tips of his fingers grew cold. That scene, which attacked Asyut on countless occasions, came back to his mind again. Milifaire, his precious sister. That face, which still held traces of youth, was frozen with fear— he could only remember her face at that time.
At the same time, Celiastina’s figure came to mind. Her gentle smile, which he should have become used to seeing now, had disappeared and in its place a wooden expressionless face, like a mask, was stuck on.
“Do you understand the reason the king gave up so quickly on Milifaire? She is not a ‘trapped princess’. Far from that, she has become a member of that organization on her own. Meaning she is fighting against the royal palace. Even the king won’t extend mercy to a rebel.”
Linus straightened his body which had been leaning on the window frame and slipped past Asyut.
“It seems harsh, but you too should be prepared— about many things.”
And then he walked away slowly. Asyut was unable to stop him, and only looked at that back.
(T/N: Blah, sorry about the long wait! There was a lot of political dialogue in here so my speed stalled until I got to Asyut’s part, oops. Next chapter is shorter so hopefully I’ll be able to get that out soon! Also, who was it that called out where Asyut’s younger sister was because, damn, you guys are spot on here.)