Yuna walked around her own room in circles, unable to calm down.
She couldn’t bring herself to sit down quietly. She had to do something, anything— this thought pushed her on without meaning.
Two weeks had already passed since she learned of the fact that Rono was waiting eagerly for the anti-saint faction’s royal palace attack. There, Yuna had declared “I will go down the path that I believe in” but, in actuality, she couldn’t find anything for herself to do. Just by stepping out of her personal rooms she came under care of a bodyguard, so there was no way she could rush out into town and persuade the anti-saint faction.
No, even if for example she were able to face them and talk to them, they would not accept Yuna’s opinions without objections. Far from it, the result would be them gleefully pointing their blades at their target who appeared on her own. These people were planning an attack with their own motives. No matter how Ron thought, this was an unchangeable fact. They were neither being coerced nor were they being instigated.
She could only wait— the more she thought about it, the more she realized this was the only answer.
(What do I do?)
Yuna sat down on the edge of her bed and didn’t move an inch for a while. For some reason, her body felt a little heavy. If she were to lie down like this, she felt like she wouldn’t be able to get up. Before that could happen, she immediately stood up again and diligently stretched out the wrinkles made in the sheets without any meaning.
(Anyway, maybe I should consult with Linus or Asyut. But they’ll probably say there’s nothing that can be done, huh. And indeed that’s exactly the case.)
Especially people like Linus, it seemed like he would say he was also looking forward to the anti-saint faction’s attack. Asyut would take her a bit more seriously, but right now it was awkward to meet him more than anything else.
(I’d like to ask Neisan about this.)
If only Neisan, who had experience from slipping into the anti-saint faction, could tell her about the internal affairs of the organization. It didn’t matter what it was, but if she knew their condition then maybe a bright idea could come to mind. However, a meeting itself with Neisan was forbidden and so that couldn’t be granted either.
(Aah, I really can’t do anything.)
The moment she sank into the sofa, sulking, there was a knock on her door. Even though there should still be time before the ceremony.
A listless reply accidentally slipped out of her mouth. In a hurry, she pulled herself together.
“Sorry, come in.”
The person she saw was Nasha, who seemed to be somewhat happy. Yuna didn’t remember requesting anything and thought she came to pour tea, but that didn’t seem to be the case either.
“Oh, Nasha. What’s wrong?”
“Lady Celiastina, please listen! Previously, you had planted an asiatic jasmine in the infirmary, right? Just now, I was talking to Mislee from the infirmary when we passed each other and apparently it has grown a small bud.”
At the surprising news, Yuna leaned forward on the sofa.
“It shouldn’t be that big yet.”
“Yes, that’s why Mislee was surprised as well. She said it was surely because the plant received your blessings, Lady Celiastina.”
Nasha, who was smiling widely, seemed to be as happy as she would be if it were about herself.
Nasha must have gone out of her way to bring this bright news over in order to cheer up Yuna, who had been depressed recently. Nasha was always sensitive to when Yuna was in low spirits and supported her from the background.
She wanted to respond to that kindness—. Yuna returned a tremendous smile to Nasha.
“Oh, I know, why don’t we go and see it together since you’re here, Nasha? You haven’t seen the seedling yet, right? We’ll invite Aeneas and everyone can go. Maybe pastries will be brought out for us too.”
This is our secret though, when Yuna said this with a laugh, Nasha clapped her hands in delight.
“How lovely. Then I shall call on Ser Aeneas immediately!”
And then, like she was bouncing, she left the room. As she watched Nasha leave, Yuna felt ashamed at her recent pessimistic attitude. How long had it been since she smiled from the bottom of her heart like that? It was true she felt depressed when she thought about the future, but she couldn’t make everyone worry needlessly. Yuna took this to heart.
The infirmary was quiet today as well.
There was a servant who seemed to have cut their finger, but it seemed like their treatment had just finished and, as they were returning, they hurriedly gave Yuna and the others a bow before passing by them like that and exiting the room.
“Oh my, welcome, Lady Celiastina. And Ser Aeneas and Nasha too.”
While tidying up the treatment tools, the person in charge of the infirmary, Mislee, greeted the three of them.
“I see you have a large crowd with you today.”
It was not unreasonable for Mislee to think it surprising. Nasha had helped out Yuna with caring for the injured people here before, but lately she hadn’t shown up here and Aeneas was always standing in front of the room like a bronze statue and would never enter the room.
“Yes, I was pushy today and had the two of them accompany me.”
Right? Yuna threw a smile at the two behind her. Nasha nodded with a large smile, meanwhile Aeneas seemed to not know how to respond and gave an ambiguous smile.
“But is it really alright? Having me together with you. You are all ladies so perhaps…”
Aeneas started to ask this reservedly.
“Of course it’s okay. How many times have I asked you, before we got here, to come together with us today?”
“Now, now, since we’re all here, let’s all take a seat. I will prepare some tea right now.”
Mislee seemed to sense they were going to repeat this subject and so she stood from her seat and tried to head to the kitchen quickly. However, Yuna stopped her without a moment’s delay.
“Ah, please wait. May I prepare the tea today?”
“Oh no, I could not possibly let you do such a thing.”
“Don’t worry, I know how to make some tea at least. I’m not sure if I can prepare it deliciously though.”
It was the least she could do for making them worry up to now. That was what Yuna had decided before she came here. She couldn’t do anything large, but she could at least prepare some tea with all her feelings.
“I’m going to borrow the kitchen. Wah, it’s a small kitchen but very tidy, huh.”
Yuna pretended not to notice Mislee’s bewilderment and hurried to the kitchen. Because it was a clean and orderly kitchen, she immediately knew where the cups and tea leaves were.
“Lady Celiastina, please let me help at least.”
Nasha followed from behind, raising her voice. But Yuna shook her head.
“Thank you, but I’ve wanted to try this. I’ll make something drinkable so sit down.”
Nasha also seemed to give up and left the kitchen. When Yuna glanced back, the three were sitting at the table facing each other and appeared to be exchanging a few words. There didn’t seem to be an awkward atmosphere and so Yuna was relieved.
At any rate, it had been a really long time since she prepared tea like this. Yes, since the time she was “Yuna”. Before, Mislee had joked about her tea here being “cheap” but for Yuna it was still quite luxurious. When she poured the hot water, the gentle smell of the tea leaves spread out all at once and Yuna took in a deep breath.
“Sorry for the wait.”
Yuna returned to the room with the tea placed on a tray. And even she thought it was a somewhat strange sight, making her burst out laughing. The three hurriedly stood up from their seats to help, but Yuna stopped them again. Placing down a cup in front of each person, Yuna also reached her own seat. Along with the tea cakes Mislee put out, she took a drink of her tea. The three unanimously praised her tea for being delicious.
“I-It almost seems like I made you all say that, sorry.”
Yuna smiled wryly with embarrassment.
“No, it’s true. It will be a memory I will remember for my whole life, drinking the tea that Lady Celiastina prepared.”
Perhaps deciding to enjoy this situation, Mislee relaxed completely and tossed another tea cake into her mouth. Next, Nasha also relaxed and nodded to Mislee.
“But this must be kept a secret between the four of us, huh. If it was found out that I drank the same tea at the same table as Lady Celiastina, I may get fired.”
“Ah, that’s true, isn’t it. That won’t do, that won’t do. Then, so that no one comes in, I should hang a sign that says ‘reserved’ on the infirmary’s door.”
“I’ve never seen an infirmary with that kind of sign.”
The three women shared a laugh. Aeneas looked even more reserved from that, but Mislee pulled him little by little into the conversation circle.
“Ser Aeneas, when I look at you from this close distance, you really do look like a fairy tale prince, don’t you.”
“That blond hair and those blue eyes are very handsome. Right now, there aren’t many people with blue eyes, right?”
“Is that so. Well, there are many with blue eyes from my mother’s side of the family.”
“Then I wonder if you have your mother’s face, Ser Aeneas. In any case, I’m envious because I have plain brown eyes.”
“I’m the same, Mislee. I’ve wanted a rare and pretty eye color since I was a child.”
At Nasha’s sigh, Aeneas turned his head to her.
“I know someone who has an even stranger eye color. Someone whose eyes change depending on the light that hits it…”
He said up to that point before coming back to himself and swallowing his words. Yuna knew who that was and acted unconcerned as she continued the conversation.
“Neisan, right? I was surprised when I noticed too. There are people like that, huh.”
“Y-Yes… the person himself does not seem to care though.”
“Oh? Neisan is like that? I’ve met him several times but I never noticed at all.”
Which reminds me, Mislee said as she dropped her fist on her open palm.
“I’ve forgotten the main topic. Lady Celiastina, you may have already heard from Nasha, but the asiatic jasmine in the garden has started to bud.”
“Ah, yes! I was shocked when I heard about it just now. I thought it would still need a long, long time.”
“I only just saw it this morning. There’s only one and it’s small, but it must have responded to the love you poured into it. Life is strange, isn’t it?”
Life was strange. That was too true.
“Shall we go and see it right now?”
Nasha suggested, standing up and rocking on the balls of her feet.
“Mm, let’s go and see. Aeneas, you too.”
The four of them went together to the backyard. Many branches of the asiatic jasmine’s vines were stuck to the wall of the building surrounding the garden and it was beginning to assert its existence. A single tree standing in the middle of the garden swayed, seeming to be pleased by the growth of its new companion. From the entrance of the backyard, it was like a painting. The asiatic jasmine was certainly beginning to blend into the garden.
“It’s growing up well, huh.”
Nasha murmured this admiringly as she looked at the asiatic jasmine that had grown to the height of her waist.
“Ah, there’s the bud. It’s so small and cute.”
“When it gets bigger, a lot of pale pink flowers will bloom in a good season. Like a flower curtain.”
Yuna approached the asiatic jasmine and reached out a hand, gently caressing the small bud.
“This place is sunny and it’s growing up receiving your love, Lady Celiastina. I’m sure beautiful flowers will bloom.”
Mislee squinted her eyes at the radiance of the sun and murmured this casually. Yuna looked back at the three and then looked up into the sky just like Mislee.
Aah, I’m happy, she thought.
There was a feeling of being filled from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. If she closed her eyes like this, she felt like she was going to be sucked up quietly into the blue sky—.
Right now, she didn’t feel any rush, or fear, or anything. A smile slipped out naturally. Yuna spread out both arms and took in a deep breath.
Aah, I’m happy. Once more, she thought that.
After a while, the four people who had returned to the room, took to cleaning up the teaware in a peaceful atmosphere.
“Lady Celiastina, are you still okay for time until the next ceremony?”
Mislee asked this while stacking up the cups they had finished drinking from.
“Yes, I still have a lot of time.”
She smiled and nodded, but Nasha interjected with a hesitant “But”.
“You don’t seem to look very well. Perhaps you should return to your room early to rest.”
Yuna tried to feign ignorance, but in reality she could feel it too. Her body was somewhat sluggish— before she came here, at that time in her room she had simply thought it was because she was depressed.
“Let us return to your room temporarily. I will check on the state of the next ceremony.”
Aeneas said this in a tone that was slightly strong. This was after she had thought about not wanting them to worry. Yuna felt like she was pathetic, but if she forced herself on then they couldn’t help but be worried. I think I’m okay, but she nodded while making such a declaration.
Leaving the rest of the clean up to Mislee and Nasha, Yuna and Aeneas left the infirmary.
As was pointed out, she started to feel increasingly worse. Yuna walked naturally behind Aeneas in silence. Aeneas, out of concern for Yuna, slowed his speed but for Yuna right now even that was still too fast.
“Lady Celiastina, for how long?”
Aeneas asked in few words.
“Sorry, but I didn’t notice myself until just now.”
“Your face is looking very pale. If you do not mind, let me carry you to your room.”
Yuna shook her head strongly at that proposal.
“No, it’s okay! It’s not that bad. I’m fine.”
See, Yuna made a smile and started walking again firmly. No, she tried to. But her hand was taken by Aeneas and her feet tangled.
“Lady Celiastina, won’t you rely on me more?”
“I’m really okay. It’s not that you aren’t reliable, Aeneas.”
Being careful not to shake him off, Yuna pulled her hand out from Aeneas’ hand. He clenched that empty hand and his expression looked hurt. Unable to stand seeing that, Yuna faced straight ahead without a moment’s delay.
He called her name once more.
At that sincere voice, Yuna bit her lip and stood stock still.
If she took a single step like this, Aeneas would surely not say anything more. He would surely swallow his own words at that time and think of Yuna’s body and thoughts first.
How many times up to now had she turned her eyes away from his feelings like that?
And now she was about to run away from Aeneas again.
Yuna bit her lip harder as she continued to stand still.
“Lady Celiastina, I…”
Aeneas spoke to Yuna’s back.
“I… love you.”
His voice was as if it were squeezed out from the depths of his heart.
Yuna felt her chest tightening.
“I apologize for the abruptness. I know I shouldn’t be telling you this at this time. No, in the first place, I should bear in mind my own position. But.”
Aeneas’ voice was already in pain.
“I cannot be beside you with these feelings unsettled any longer.”
Yuna finally looked back and faced the young man who stood reliably. Aah, just like his voice, his face was filled with distress.
“I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t gather my thoughts and my head is all messed up. I’ve tried my hardest to be calm, but in the end it’s hopeless.”
“I really think you’re precious.”
Yuna walked close to Aeneas and gently took his right hand. It was a very cold hand. The moment Yuna’s fingers, which had drew away just earlier, touched him, Aeneas pulled back his hand as if afraid.
But she stopped that with a strong force.
“Thank you, Aeneas. Your feelings make me really happy.”
His insecure look made him seem like a young boy.
“But I’m sorry. I can’t answer those feelings.”
Yuna told Aeneas this while looking straight into his eyes.
She thought to herself that she could not avert her eyes no matter what.
“I love Asyut. It has nothing to do with position or anything. I just… like him.”
“So, I’m sorry.”
Yuna gripped Aeneas’ hand even more strongly. She thought he would break away, but Aeneas didn’t do that.
“Why, why am I not good enough?”
“I don’t know. I can’t give you an explanation. That’s why this hurts so much.”
Conversely, Aeneas’ hand, which had been wrapped by hers, gripped both of her hands back. Lowering his head, it was an action like he was clinging to her hands. His bangs fell down lightly and quietly hid his face.
It hurt, it really hurt.
Having feelings that would never come true.
That was why she fully understood Aeneas’ feelings. She was sure Aeneas too, while asking “why”, would fully understand Yuna’s feelings.
I’m sorry, and thank you.
In her heart, apologies and thanks repeated over and over again many times. She was thankful to Aeneas, so much that these words weren’t enough to express them.
Yuna, while staring faintly at Aeneas, opened her mouth slightly.
She tried to say some words but noticed that her lips weren’t moving anymore.
It wasn’t just her lips. Her hands and feet too, everything was like it was buried in mud and wouldn’t move.
The sight in front of her eyes grew dim. Aeneas raised his head, puzzled, and the contours of his face blurred.
Thinking that, in the next moment, everything went blank. Only Aeneas’ voice, calling out her name sharply, managed to remain in her ears.