The sunlight, which seemed to pierce, shone mercilessly on the young lady’s back.
While gritting her teeth, the young lady carried a basket on her slender shoulder and walked at an even, unbroken pace. When she finally reached the building that was her goal, she opened the door with her body and dropped the basket she had been carrying with a thump. At that impact, an undersized fruit rolled out of the basket which was full of vegetables. It rolled to another young person. A muscular body bent to pick up the fruit and then, while throwing it into the basket, he gave a deep sigh.
“How many times have I said that you don’t need to do this kind of work, Mille.”
“And I’ve said many times that I’ll do it, even if you tell me not to, Jin.”
The young lady, called Mille, gave a chilly glance at the tall man before she poured water into a cup from the water jug beside her and drank it all at once.
“What’s the plan today?”
“Everyone has their own work. We won’t be gathering today.”
While saying that, the young lady made to go out again.
“Hey, wait. Where are you going this time?”
“The well. There’s not a lot of water in the jug, so I’m going to draw some.”
The man roughly mussed up his short-trimmed hair.
“I’ve said you don’t—…”
“Didn’t you tell me to do whatever I wanted? Or am I not free to go and draw water from the well?”
“We’re not talking about what you’re free to do. It’s something more different, like what you’re asked for—“
“Once I’m done drawing water, I’m going to do maintenance on the weapons.”
Waving a hand, the young girl disappeared beyond the door. The man folded his arms and clicked his tongue.
“It’s not about that either. You know what I’m talking about, Lady Milifaire.”
Milifaire stopped by the storeroom when she left the house and pulled out an empty bucket. Carrying it in both hands, she walked quickly on a paved road. Just then she had been acting fine, but in reality her shoulder hurt a bit. She frowned at how, as expected, what she had been carrying had been too heavy.
She was here on her own will.
Milifaire always took the initiative to act, in order to show that she wasn’t a trapped princess, but an individual with their own will. Having that will, she belonged to the organization called the anti-saint faction.
And that was why, like everyone else was doing, she usually tried to earn money properly with work – as expected, since she couldn’t work publicly, she had to do inside work like embroidery – and living in a hideout she did the cleaning, laundry, and cooking. At first, because she was a young lady who couldn’t do even that, she only held back others when she offered her help. However, now she could be proud of being a person “of use” in and of itself.
“Still, in the end, heavy things are heavy.”
Filling the bucket to the brim with water, Milifaire lifted it up with great force. Before, she could scarcely even pull up the well bucket with the well’s rope, but she had improved greatly since then. The day would come soon when she had a weapon instead of a bucket or basket, but she didn’t find that scary. Rather, she wished for that. Because the only thought kept in her heart was risking her everything to fulfill her revenge.
When she raised her head, the blue sky didn’t have a single cloud as usual and the sun shone brilliantly. As she exchanged greetings with familiar faces she passed by on her road home, she felt the word “revenge” was terribly hilarious. Yes, her life right now was extremely quiet and calm. To the point where she was confused as to whether this was okay or not.
It wasn’t like this at the beginning.
In those days when she exited the palace she had wandered on the roadside and was at last given shelter. She had been taken to a hideout in a back alley, where people with guilty consciences looked like they would gather, and was confined in a dungeon. They told Milifaire, who didn’t understand anything that was happening, that they were the “anti-saint faction”— an organization formed to avenge themselves against Saint Celiastina. In that shape, they stood before her then and declared that. They provided clothes and meals and never harmed her, but for a while Milifaire did not feel alive.
The days passed with her frightened and wondering if she would be killed. But, as time went on, she stopped grieving and fearing. Nothing mattered anymore, she could only think these careless things.
How many days were counted like that? And then, one day, a man who she had never seen before appeared. He seemed to be in his mid-thirties. Standing in front of Milifaire, he looked down at her with unwavering eyes and said this.
Would you like to try and “live” again?
Milifaire stared carefully at the face of someone standing directly in front of her for the first time in a while. The man didn’t say any more than that, but she felt like she could understand everything with that single phrase. It was a feeling like lightning running through her entire body.
For a while Milifaire kept silent and then answered “I will live”.
To Milifaire, that was probably her beginning. Since then, time passed by dizzyingly. She left the basement, moved from a number of hideouts to other hideouts, and met with a lot of comrades. Her comrades, who knew her as the First Holy Knight’s little sister, shed tears for her past, and then were happy to become encouraging friends. Gradually, Milifaire was not just taken in by them, but decided on her own to slip deeply into the organization.
The man who pressed a choice onto her— Ghada, the person in the position who managed the anti-saint faction, she learned after quite some time passed and she became familiar with the organization. Because there were many other men who were older than Ghada she thought this resolute and muscular man was more the type of person who displayed a strength in battle over managing people.
However, nowadays, Milifaire was more than convinced about Ghada leading the anti-saint faction. He was certainly a man who boasted of strength, but that wasn’t all. There was a strictness and sincerity to him which attracted people somehow. “I want to be recognized by him”— this thought, before one knew it, they would start to think to themselves. And Milifaire was no exception.
(I can be of help. I’m no longer an aristocratic lady who can’t do anything.)
Certainly, compared to others, she might be less powerful. But because she was herself there must be something she could do.
A voice suddenly called out behind her and, at the same time, something poked her head. Knowing immediately that it was Jin who caught up to her, Milifaire looked back with a glare.
“What are you doing?”
“It took too long for you to draw water. —Besides, you had a look like you would stab someone with your eyes. Don’t look like a vicious thug in town.”
When Jin took the bucket from Milifaire, who fell silent with a discouraged face, Jin shrugged his shoulders in exasperation.
“I’m sure no one thinks of you as a former aristocratic young lady.”
“Don’t say something like that so easily. We don’t know who could be listening in.”
In public, the two of them were passing as brother and sister. In a humble house outside of the royal capital, they lived as three people with their father. Of course, their “father” was a member of the anti-saint faction. The youngest daughter, whose body was weak, was taken care of by her father and brother, who would alternate, and the other would take on the role of heading out to their daily work away from home.
Though not everyone in the organization lived in disguise like this. Most of them lived their lives as they were and only joined up with the others when it was time to meet. It was only those whose circumstances didn’t let them do this who lived in this pro forma “family”.
“Don’t flare up at every little thing. If you’re this scared right now, you’re not going to hold up.”
“I’m not scared.”
Jin shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m prepared. I won’t lose my nerve.”
Jin looked back from a few steps ahead of Milifaire, who stopped to declare this firmly.
“I’m expecting those words on the day of the attack.”
Milifaire bit her lip hard and glared up at Jin.
Although he was a bit rough and thoughtless, he was a man who was quite good at taking care of someone. It could be said that the reason Milifaire was able to become familiar with the organization so quickly was because of his help. However, there was a part of him that was guarded against Milifaire in some way.
Milifaire was somewhat able to sense the reason.
Because Jin questioned how strong Milifaire’s feelings of hate were towards Celiastina. The events that occurred during the past— that moment, the one who truly saw the meaning behind the word hell, was not Milifaire but her brother Asyut. That was why the degree of Milifaire’s personal anger was known. At least, that was Jin’s point.
(But that’s not true.)
Unexpectedly, she recalled the despair that stained her brother’s eyes. Milifaire shook her head hurriedly and drove that image out of her awareness.
(I’m here on my own will. I’m here.)
Chanting that in her head once more, Milifaire closed her eyes.