“It certainly seems like even the royal palace has fallen into an uproar.”
Hearing Asyut murmur this Yuna was relieved that, contrary to expectations, he was calm.
In the corner of the complicatedly built palace; the two of them stood on a tasteless terrace.
They could see the royal palace’s west side plaza, one of the places where the names of the members of the anti-saint faction was posted, clearly from here. Once again, she realized that there were many of these elevated places built into the royal palace where one could see movements below in one sweep. Even now, there was no one – amongst those who were standing in front of the bulletin board – who noticed them here.
“It is because there are many in the anti-saint faction who live normally on the surface. If the names of acquaintances are on there, that alone would cause great upset.”
“… That’s true.”
That was the action Rono chose.
Yuna still couldn’t believe that was one side of the king, who she saw as a calm and good-natured old man. One could not just be gentle, but at times had to be ruthless— perhaps it was something like that. Or was it that the gentle smile directed towards her was nothing more than a fabrication? Yuna didn’t know.
“How much do you know about my younger sister?”
Asyut asked that to Yuna who was looking at the plaza with solemn eyes. Returning her gaze to Asyut, Yuna shook her head slowly.
“Nothing really. There was a huge problem which happened between me and you, Asyut, and that was the excuse to drive your little sister out… that was all I heard from Linus.”
I see, Asyut said and nodded.
“Then, Lady Celiastina, you do not know anything about the problems that occurred between us.”
“In order to talk about that, we will need to start by retracing the past. However, it will be long… Do you mind?”
Of course she didn’t mind. When she looked up directly at Asyut with that meaning, he closed his eyes for a brief period and then slowly started talking.
From the start, there was no discord between Asyut and Celiastina.
It was best to say that they interacted with one another in a very common way, as a man and woman who were in a political marriage. Although Celiastina seemed to have an intense fear of strangers, Asyut did not take care to treat her specially because of that, nor did he seem to have an interest in her. He would have been the same no matter who the other person was. Asyut attended to Celiastina with that intention.
Perhaps, if nothing had happened like that, they would have slowly closed the distance between them and started living like a married couple. However, that wasn’t the case. A few years after Celiastina arrived at the royal palace, after every servant connected to her was fired all at once, everything fell apart.
No matter how much time passed, the two remained as distant as ever. But that didn’t mean Celiastina was unfamiliar with the royal palace at all. Towards others, Celiastina started opening her heart clumsily. Asyut thought she would slowly fit into the royal palace like that, and so did everyone else.
Suddenly, Celiastina completely changed. No one knew the reason. Only that she started acting unreasonably and cruelly. She didn’t lend her ears to anyone’s persuasions at all. Far from that, she declared without any hesitation that those who opposed the saint would be sentenced with capital punishment. When it became clear that it was not just a threat, those that remonstrated her decreased across the palace.
There was no one but him to stop Celiastina.
It was not very long before Asyut thought that with a strong determination. He could not allow Celiastina to continue doing whatever she pleased like this. To stop her, it was necessary to know the reason for her complete change. Asyut started investigating information from when Celiastina had arrived at the royal palace. There must have been something, anything, a decisive event. A truth that people simply didn’t know, but that was surely sleeping in the royal palace—.
The majority of his investigations ended in vain, but he was able to obtain one curious information. That was the Record of Congratulations and Condolences. Asyut had flipped through that record book quite accidentally. Because his exhaustion had accumulated, most of the content didn’t enter his mind. However, on the contrary, perhaps that was for the best because something suddenly occurred to him.
Since Celiastina had arrived at the royal palace, the number of accidental deaths had increased.
—Ah, that was how it was.
Asyut thought as he woke up. Why did he forget this? Hadn’t there been secret rumors about this at the time?
Once he realized this, the rest happened in the blink of an eye. After investigating the histories of the people who had passed away in the years before Celiastina’s sudden change, it was clear that all but one had been people who had a history of serving Celiastina. Furthermore, as a result of questioning people there at the time, it was brought to light that only the people that Celiastina, who had an intense fear of strangers, opened up to had died.
Was this simply a coincidence? That was impossible.
It had something to do with the reason Celiastina had become like a different person. Asyut changed his intuition into a conviction.
And then Asyut resolved himself to confront Celiastina.
Since her sudden change, those who told their opinions to her either suffered the death penalty or, if fortunate, went through the bitter experience of being banished from the royal palace. However even Celiastina could not act out strongly against her fiancé, Asyut. Thinking that, Asyut visited Celiastina alon…. though when he realized that his thoughts had been too shallow, he was already stuck deep in such a way that he was unable to backtrack…
“In other words, what do you wish to say?”
Interrupting Asyut, who had started to talk, Celiastina looked at him with cold eyes.
“Pulling up those old records; what do you wish to do with me?”
Facing the cold air that was wrapped around his fiancée whom he had not seen in a while, Asyut shuddered inwardly. Everything was different from the first time he met her. He even felt that there was a complete stranger in front of him.
“In the end, you think me a hindrance.”
Unable to speak, Asyut only shook his head. Seeing him like that, Celiastina sneered with a cold expression.
“This Record of Congratulations and Condolences: Irufis, Sonia, Paul… they are all nostalgic names. I wonder why everyone died. Lord Asyut, do you know the reason?”
“I do not know. However, you must know.”
And he wanted her to say it. He wanted her to reveal everything without carrying it all alone—.
But Asyut’s thoughts did not reach Celiastina. For an instant there was a fleeting sorrow that could be taken as pity which appeared in her eyes, and then Celiastina opened her mouth again.
“You not knowing is a lie. You thought it, didn’t you. That I killed everyone. And you came here to ascertain that with me. Am I mistaken?”
I killed everyone. Hearing those words, Asyut felt something cold run down his back.
“Lord Asyut, if I were to say here that I did not kill those servants you have brought up, would you say you believe me? If I said their deaths were not my intention, I wonder how you would respond. Which one do you believe. Me, or yourself—“
Asyut couldn’t answer. Celiastina’s insanity swelled up before his eyes. Even if he tried to stop it, Asyut could not find the means. He finally realized that the current Celiastina was not in a state to talk properly, but it was already too late.
“But that is truly cruel! If you say I killed them then I would kindly ask you to show me the evidence. Because I did not kill them and I did not wish for their deaths. And yet, everyone disappears from me!”
“Lady Celiastina, please calm down.”
“Do you think I can be calm? You tried to smear a baseless crime against me, the saint. You tried to mark me as a murder. Though I am innocent! Even if you are the First Holy Knight, this won’t end with just a crime of slander. For, just now, you have made an enemy of God!”
“I did not say you killed them! I only want to know what happened at that time!”
“SILENCE! I do not wish to hear any more from you!”
Celiastina, who glared sharply at Asyut, was crying. Asyut stared at those tears spilling over and falling from eyes filled with anger with a feeling like hopelessness.
“And then I received Lady Celiastina’s judgement.”
Asyut did not try to look at Yuna and did nothing but glare at the current plaza. Yuna looked at the side of his face and just silently urged him on.
“However, even the king could not easily dismiss me as the First Holy Knight. While severely admonishing me for casting improper doubts on Lady Celiastina, he was considerate enough not to hand down a serious judgment on me personally.”
But still, it was said that Celiastina could not accept that.
“In front of me, who had not received a great crime, Lady Celiastina caused a commotion by implying that she would end her own life. She said that she was unable to endure being unfoundedly condemned by me, her fiancé. And that if the country were to try and protect me then it would be better for her to be gone.”
Celiastina shouted that while holding a sharp blade to her neck. It was right against the area with the Holy Mark. Those who surrounded her once again remembered the meaning of her being the saint. —If she died, then the lives of thousands of men would be exposed to danger like that. Only the absence of the saint must be avoided no matter what, no matter what other sacrifices had to paid—.
In the end, Asyut was to be punished once again.
Everyone around him weighed the merits of Asyut and Celiastina. At which time it was clear as day as to which side it leaned to greatly.
Asyut also did not hate those who made that decision. He held no grudge because he personally would have arrived at the same conclusion. Compared to losing Saint Celiastina, his existence was equal to a speck of dust.
But Celiastina did not desire for Asyut to lose his standing or his death. Celiastina decided to punish him in another way. She suddenly sent for an urgent assembly under Asyut’s name. There was an announcement for only those related to Asyut to gather at the royal palace as soon as possible due to special circumstances.
The deadline for the assembly was a few hours.
“I wonder how many of your relatives can be gathered in this short amount of time? I suppose those gathered will be those who have pledged a deep loyalty to this country and you.”
In the beginning, Asyut did not understand that meaning. He wondered what she meant by gathering only his relatives…
One person after another, people who Asyut recognized, came. Everyone seem to be puzzled by this sudden assembly. There were those who paled upon seeing Celiastina but they were no longer allowed to return home.
“Everyone, thank you for your hard work. However, there is still time. Let us wait a while longer. And then we will have a very important conversation.”
When he watched the beautiful profile of Celiastina, who was smiling sweetly, Asyut gradually began to catch onto her intention. Celiastina had seen through exactly to what would make Asyut suffer the most. The best way to punish him, more painful than having his own body torn to pieces—.
“Brother, I’ve arrived.”
The last who appeared was his little sister, Milifaire. The instant Asyut saw that small figure he forgot how to breathe. He was driven by an urge to shout and ask why she had come. But in front of an enormous hopelessness, not even that energy could arise.
“Now, everyone, you’ve all gathered well.”
Celiastina showed a smile laden with madness.
“Everyone, I have gathered you all here to have you compensate for the crime of my fiancé, Lord Asyut.”
The air in the place shook. Ten people were gathered here in all. There were men, most of them with heavy responsibilities in the royal palace, and amongst them there were several wives included. And then there was still his little sister, Milifaire, innocent enough to be called a young girl. They all looked at each other. And then, at the end, they directed their gazes to Asyut as if relying on him. As if they were asking what this was all about.
“Lord Asyut, you may choose only one person.”
Celiastina nestled close to Asyut with a smile that instinctively charmed people and said that while gently holding his right hand.
“—The one person you choose will be saved. The rest will all be executed.”
He understood, but his mind would not move in that moment.
Right now, what did she say? His mind refused to comprehend it. Asyut just stood still there on the spot.
The gathered people also responded similarly. —A response that showed that they weren’t even able to respond.
In this gorgeous but small room, the air had completely frozen over. Time stopped and there was no one who moved. They just stared, overcome with surprise, at the girl who smiled sweetly like a goddess.
“I will stop blaming you personally, Lord Asyut. Your words injured me to an extent where I thought I would die, but you said what you did with good intentions, didn’t you? In that case, as your future wife, I should stop holding a grudge against you. However, responsibility needs to be taken for mistakes. If not, this will continue to be dragged out between us. That is why.”
Celiastina’s eyes gently narrowed with satisfaction and she looked over the gathered people.
“I will let it all be washed away with these ladies and gentlemen.”
Finally Asyut, who broke the spell, raised a shout that came from the depths of his body. Had there ever been such an irrational method? Weren’t these all people who had no crimes and had not the slightest bit of contact with Celiastina? And yet, and yet—.
“This was a solution I thought up without sleeping for days. Please do not refuse it. This is because when I tried to punish you before, the king and the people around him stopped me. This time I consulted them in advance. And these eminent people said that if it would reconcile everything then it would be fine.”
Who the hell was it? What foolish person granted that permission to this mad woman—. Asyut felt an anger enough to make him tremble, but he wasn’t able to explode that rage. Celiastina’s life was absolute. That was the conclusion that he himself had derived.
“… Lady Celiastina. These people have nothing to do with us. If you cannot forgive me, Lady Celiastina, then please I beg of you to bestow punishment on me personally.”
Please, Asyut said and kneeled on the spot. Just before he bent down, the sight of his sister with tears from her fear entered his vision.
“What are you saying? That won’t do. I won’t hurt you. Having had discussions with the king, I have also changed my mind. And that, if I were to lose you, my fiancé, I would also follow after you.”
It was futile no matter how he struggled. Asyut and the others had been abandoned. They were trapped in this small room and forsaken. They were chosen as sacrifices to abate Celiastina’s mad desires.
Asyut stood up, swaying, and looked over at his gathered relatives.
His parents had died early. There stood the figure of an uncle who was reliable and had supported that Asyut and his little sister, Milifaire. He also spotted the figure of his older cousin, whose political opinions he didn’t agree with but whose steadfast honesty and versatility was exactly the same as his. There was also the face of the madam who his little sister loved dearly like a mother. Everyone was pale but there was no one who broke down or lost their presence of mind.
“I intend to take your opinion in, Lord Asyut. That is why you may choose one person. I will send that person home without raising my hand to them.”
There was no way he could choose. That would be too cruel. Choosing only one person meant nothing other than Asyut abandoning the rest by his own will. If that was the case, then it would be better for them all to be executed and for him to be killed on top of that.
… But Celiastina understood that much.
“Lord Asyut. Please hurry and choose before Lady Celiastina changes her mind.”
His maternal uncle said that firmly. Those eyes told of how he had already resolved himself.
“… Y-Yes, that’s right. There is someone you must choose, isn’t there?”
His paternal uncle smiled and drew his wife towards himself. His wife also had a pale face but she showed a smile and gave a steady nod.
“No, no! There is no way I can choose one person. At least— at least half of them!”
If he had to make a cruel choice then he wanted to save even one person more. However.
“No, that won’t do. Only one person.”
Celiastina informed him clearly in a penetratingly cold voice.
“Now, who will you choose? You can’t choose amongst those here? In that case, I can send another call out and we can wait a while longer. Then, once more people have assembled, you should be able to choose amongst those, right?”
Asyut glared at Celiastina with a look filled with murderous intent. But Celiastina just squinted her eyes and smiled as if she were receiving a gentle breeze.
“Lord Asyut. Hurry, everyone understands!”
“Yes, you lost your parents early so you know what you cannot lose anymore.”
“You’ve decided on who you must choose, right?”
Asyut continued to glare at Celiastina and promptly placed a hand on the handle of his sword. Everyone in the spot jumped at Asyut and pinned him down.
“Idiot, what would become of things if you did that! Disasters would be caused and there would be an incomparable number of victims!”
“THIS WOMAN SHOULD BE PUT IN PRISON NEVER TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY AGAIN! OTHERWISE THE SAME THINGS WILL JUST BE REPEATED!”
Asyut lost control of himself and yelled. But that voice did not reach.
“If I am put in prison, I will bite my tongue and die.”
Celiastina told him that in a sing-song voice.
It was his little sister, Milifaire, that settled Asyut, who had lost himself, with a voice soaked in tears.
“Stop, brother. Stop…”
The strength in Asyut’s body suddenly left him. Unable to stand, Asyut dropped to both knees on the spot.
“Now, Lord Asyut, hurry and choose.”
Asyut sluggishly raised his head at Celiastina’s voice which seemed lively somewhere. Milifaire, who was trembling with both hands covering her mouth, entered his vision. As soon as their eyes met, Milifaire violently shook her head.
Who would he choose? No, he didn’t want to choose anyone. But if he didn’t choose then the number of victims would just increase aimlessly. He had to choose someone. Who would he choose? Now, hurry—.
Hurry and choose!
“In the end, I chose my younger sister, Milifaire. And then, the following day, the rest of them were all executed. My sister did not forgive me for choosing only one person. Furthermore, she could not forgive herself for being the only one saved. A chasm that could not be filled was opened between us.”
In that opportune time, Celiastina passed down an order to banish Milifaire. It was said that Milifaire disappeared from the royal palace without Asyut even having the time to reach out.
“There are not many who know of this inside the royal palace. As one would expect, it would be bad for the saint’s reputation to have executed the relatives of her fiancé, and so the truth was hidden… although, because ten people suddenly disappeared, there are many who realized that something happened.”
Yuna was silent and continued to watch Asyut’s profile.
There was no way she could find the words she should say. She was too powerless— and too much an outsider to share in his pain.
She couldn’t… do anything. She couldn’t say anything.
“Even so, I chose to remain in the royal palace. I suppose those who knew the truth could not understand that at all. Having received that treatment, why did I still cling to the position of the First Holy Knight? Why did I resign myself to the position of being the fiancé to Lady Celiastina, who I should have hated more than anyone else? I believe there were many who were vexed and thought that I should be doing something else.”
Not true, is what Yuna screamed in her heart.
She felt like she could understand Asyut’s persistence, to the extent where he killed his own heart. Regardless of how much she was hurt, how much despair tormented her, there was something she would not yield on. The people who lived and supported her daily— if they were not illusions and certainly existed then she would want to stand straight for them. Even if she were to become covered in wounds, she did not want to turn her back and run. All the more so because there was nothing else left—.
Wasn’t it the former Asyut himself who taught her that?
“In any case, since Milifaire left the royal palace, I immediately began searching for her whereabouts. From corner to corner of the town, I even investigated to the brothel at the outskirts. However, I could not find her at all.”
Naturally, she understood what that meant.
“That she could not be found even after doing that much meant that she was intentionally slipping through the search net. A single powerless girl would not be able to do that, so I considered that there was an ‘organization’ hiding her.”
“The anti-saint faction…”
“Correct. In the beginning, she might have been something close to being confined. However, I believe that, surrounded by people who held grudges against the saint and royal palace, the more time Milifaire spent with them the more she saw kindred souls and began to think and act the same as them.”
Asyut’s expression twisted in pain. At the end of his gaze was the bulletin board that had Milifaire’s name posted. Of course, it was too far to read from here but it was certain that her name existed there.
Yuna tightly squeezed the terrace fence with both her hands. She tried to say something to Asyut and then closed her mouth. She couldn’t find the words to say, because she was sure that he didn’t want words of apology or words of comfort.
“It is clear that Milifaire is affiliated with the anti-saint faction. There is likely no mistake in how she has not just been captured. Naturally I have thoughts about wanting to rescue her. However, if she attacks the royal palace as a member of the anti-saint faction.”
Asyut glared at the plaza with grim eyes.
“I cannot go this way and that way with an indecisive attitude. I will confront her resolutely.”
How many times had he made a tragic decision like this? When Yuna thought about Asyut’s mental state, she felt like her heart was being gouged out.
“—This has been quite a long talk.”
Perhaps he was concerned for Yuna, but Asyut returned to a calm voice again and said that.
“The wind is becoming cold so let us return inside the building. I apologize for you have not regained perfect health yet.”
“No, I’m okay.”
As she answered, Yuna felt very much like crying. This impulse that welled up inside of her heart was surely the tears that Asyut had not shed.
(But that’s exactly why I can’t shed these tears.)
Yuna clenched her teeth. She wouldn’t cry. She absolutely wouldn’t cry.
While clenching her teeth, she thought on how strong Asyut was. How much despair had he been assaulted with, how much helplessness had he been stricken with? She was certain that it was not just once or twice where he seriously wished to abandon everything.
She wasn’t strong like Asyut.
Even so, she wanted to continue walking forward in the time allowed. Aah, how far could she go?
(I haven’t given up yet either, Asyut.)
Yuna, without making a sound, said that to the broad back in front of her eyes.
Yuna, who was escorted back to her room by Asyut, rushed out of her room again.
This time alone. She did not have a bodyguard.
If she called Aeneas she was certain of what his reaction would be when she told him her destination. Yuna thought that, rather than convince him, it would be quicker to act first.
While running through the corridors at a jog, Yuna suddenly looked out the window. The sun, which had just begun to wane, shone on the flower garden and dyed the whole surface a faint red. It was an indescribable and wondrous sight. When the sun sank completely and the area was wrapped in darkness, the season when torch bugs instead would bloom like flowers of light was close.
(But for me…)
There was probably no more time.
She didn’t know how long she had. But she was certain the “end” was approaching— that was the premonition she had.
She was scared. She was unbearably scared.
If she stopped once, she felt like she would be crushed by the fear of death. That was why, up to now, she had continued to avert her eyes from that feeling. She tried not to be conscious, as much as possible, to what it really meant to die.
However, a few days ago when she had suddenly lost consciousness, Yuna was confronted anew with “death”. The moment she had let go of her consciousness, while she had no idea what was going on, an instinct passed by saying that this was her end now. In the end, it was her imagination but she couldn’t help but think that there would certainly come a time when her groundless fear became reality.
(I can’t fulfill the promise with Asyut.)
That promise of going to see the torch bugs together.
Yuna felt that, even if she still existed when the golden season for torch bugs was reached, she shouldn’t stand beside Asyut. Because the promise held a completely different meaning from a connection such as meeting him suddenly and having a friendly chat or sitting beside him at ceremonies.
(That’s why I absolutely don’t want to him to lose his sister.)
If only, instead of her who couldn’t be by his side, he had even just one more important person beside him. Yuna’s wish for Asyut was only that. He had already walked a cruel life up to this point. And there would surely be various difficulties that waited him in the future, so it would be best that he had even just one more person to support him.
Asyut had lost his sister once.
That was why she didn’t want him to lose her again.
Bracing herself and running through the corridors, by the time she noticed, Yuna had come near Linus’ office.
She had crossed paths with many servants up to this point, but there was no one to question Yuna for acting alone. They were probably ill at ease to call out directly to the saint. Instead, there may be someone reporting to Asyut or Aeneas around this time.
Before she was brought back, she had to do what she wanted to do. Although her own power was small, it was better than doing nothing. It was with these thoughts that Yuna focused her mind once again and knocked on the door to Linus’ room. —However.
The tall and sturdy door did not move at all, as if it were rejecting Yuna. She knocked several times in succession but there was no response from inside. Was Linus absent? Yuna bit her lip and then someone called out to her from behind.
“Um, Lady Celiastina, do you have business with Lord Linus?”
It appeared to be a soldier who was assigned to the security around this area. Perhaps he was unable to just watch Yuna’s actions and so he approached while looking slightly scared.
“You appear to be alone though.”
“Hey, do you know where Linus is? I have something urgent with him.”
Yuna asked the other person, interrupting them. Because she couldn’t do anything if she was brought back, she consciously imbued her voice with pressure.
“H-He has gone to a meeting.”
“Where is it?”
“I, um, do not know. I apologize though.”
“Did he leave the room a while ago?”
“Not very… not more than an hour ago.”
As he answered, the ends of the soldier’s eyebrows steadily went downwards. Seeing his timid appearance, she felt apologetic for scaring him any more. Yuna gave up and started to back out when, this time, another person broke in.
“What seems to be the matter?”
He had an unfamiliar face but looked to be a civil official with quite a high position in the royal palace. The soldier, who had drawn closer to Yuna, took a step back with a look of relief when he saw the official. It was also convenient for Yuna. He might be a person knowledgeable about the affairs of the royal palace, since he purposefully called out to the saint on his way through.
“I heard that Linus went to a meeting but I don’t know the location of the meeting room.”
“Lord Linus, you say.”
The civil official showed a hesitant expression for a moment. —He knew.
“Please tell me. I want to see him immediately.”
“I apologize, but that’s…”
“You know, right? Please tell me.”
“Unfortunately, the king is also present at the meeting Lord Linus is attending. That meeting cannot be interrupted… How about waiting for Lord Linus to return?”
The king, Ron, was also attending.
Was this a matter of everything working out as desired? Yuna felt more and more roused.
“Please tell me the location right now.”
“Lady Celiastina, please accept my apologies…”
“I won’t ask you to guide me. And I’ll take full responsibility.”
Yuna declared this clearly, her back having been pushed by an unknown force. How long had it been since she spoke in a voice steeled from the bottom of her chest like this? Perhaps he was overwhelmed by Yuna’s force, but the other person was silent for a brief time before he opened his mouth in resignation.
“… They are in the Great Scholar room, close to here.”
Yuna gave her thanks in a hurry and ran away immediately.
Yuna knew from before that there were several meeting rooms close to Linus’ office.
However, even though she knew about the meeting rooms, she didn’t know the names of each room. Yuna had attended so many ceremonies, to the point of hating them, but she had no relation to meetings.
But Yuna didn’t get lost. If the king was participating as well, she just needed to go to the door of the most decorated meeting room. With that anticipation, she headed to the place she was told. Sure enough, there was no need to carefully look at the door’s quality; on both sides of the door to one room, there were two sturdy looking guards who stood at attention with spears in their hands.
Maybe they were there to clear people away because, when Yuna approached, she was sent a strikingly harsh look from them. However, as soon as they recognized her as the saint, they became spineless like a flat string. The guards looked at each other’s face at the arrival of an unexpected person.
When Yuna walked up to them, saying that, the two lowered their heads slightly without saying anything.
“A meeting is happening right now, huh. Is the king inside too?”
There was no answer to that question. Unable to measure Yuna’s intention, they must not be able to answer. But Yuna immediately knew that their silence itself meant an affirmation.
“Then I’ll wait here until the meeting ends, since I’d like to talk to the king.”
This time the guards clearly revealed their dismay. She supposed that would be the case, since the saint was standing next to them and waiting for the meeting to end. They couldn’t keep silent and watch the course of this event.
“Lady Celiastina, what matter do you have?”
One of them opened his mouth, as if he couldn’t bear this any longer.
“Just a little something.”
“If you inform me of the matter, I may inquire on your behalf.”
Is what the other said.
“That’s okay, I’ll wait here until it ends. If it’s certain that the king is here, then I don’t need to hurry.”
“But to wait here in such a place…”
“Please don’t mind me. I won’t make myself a responsibility for you two.”
However, it seemed like this questioning and answering was heard from inside the room. Shortly thereafter, the door that looked like it wouldn’t open swung wide from inside the meeting room.
The figure that appeared was Linus.
“What is going on?”
As he said this his eyes stopped on Yuna’s form and even his eyes widened.
“Celia? What are you doing here.”
Beyond Linus’ shoulder, there were several people who looked over quizzically while remaining seated. At the very back of the room was— Rono. Only he did not show any perturbation and, rather, he looked at Yuna with interest.
Now that it became like this, it didn’t matter anymore.
Yuna slipped past Linus and entered the meeting room.
It wasn’t as large of a room as she thought. There was a massive desk with its legs in the shape of lions between five people who were face to face with each other, including Rono. If Linus was included, that would make six people. All of the other men were treated with nearly the same treatment as the king, clad in clothes that did not compare unfavorably with the king. It seemed like, amongst them, Linus was the lowest rank.
These people were the pillars of authority in this country.
“This is a surprise.”
Ron, who was sitting back in his chair, said this without looking surprised.
“To see Lady Celiastina in such a place.”
“Sorry, but there’s something I wanted to talk about no matter what.”
Is that so, Rono said without breaking his calm composure.
“I apologize for there only being enough seats for those present. At the very least we should also stand but we are an old bunch, so would you allow us to sit and listen like this?”
Of course she didn’t mind, Yuna nodded. Linus closed the door and came back to stand behind Yuna.
“And, what has happened?”
“I would like you to call off the posting of the names of those in the anti-saint faction.”
Yuna broached the subject and got right to the point.
“I heard that there is chaos in the royal palace and the streets due to that posting. Because we are in this period, shouldn’t we avoid any unnecessary chaos?”
As far as Yuna could imagine, she intended that to be the best idea. However, Rono stared intently into Yuna’s eyes and, after keeping silent for a while, shook his head.
“Unfortunately, we cannot do that. It is because we are in this period that we decided to put up the notices.”
“What does that mean?”
“Celia, I will explain.”
Linus, who stood behind her, took a step forward and lined up beside her.
“You also must have heard the rumors on how the anti-saint faction’s activities have become a problem in the streets. Their handiwork has become violent nowadays.”
“Yes. For example, making loud noises late at night or early in the morning in residential areas to rant and rave about their displeasure towards the saint and the royal palace, throwing molotov cocktails into crowds without care, and things like that. Before they didn’t act in ways to trouble ordinary people, but it has gradually become more severe. Not just to the royal palace but also to the general public; the anti-saint faction is becoming a nuisance.”
“And so we decided to disclose information on the anti-saint faction to the general public. Of course, the royal palace will settle them in the end but, even though they are ordinary people, there are many who want to protect themselves. Who is hiding in the towns as an anti-saint faction member; if they know that then it’s possible for them to deal with it on their own. Furthermore, as the number of people arrested and their names presented to the public increases, the towns will be all the safer.”
Linus’ point was easy even for Yuna to understand. Rono lit a fire under the bottom of the anti-saint faction and made them determined to attack the royal palace— that was what Asyut and the others said, but the goal of what Linus said might also be true.
But, even still, she couldn’t withdraw like this.
“Then, at least can’t you erase Milifaire’s name?”
Milifaire; all the men in the meeting room made an unpleasant expression at that name.
“I believe you already know but that is the name of Asyut’s younger sister. Even if it is certain that she is presently in the anti-saint faction, I don’t think it’s necessary to publicize that information. Wouldn’t that just invite unnecessary confusion…”
“I understand quite well what you wish to say.”
Linus opened his mouth again but Rono gave a single nod, as if interrupting him.
“However, we cannot erase that name.”
“Because we absolutely cannot allow her to slip away.”
Yuna wasn’t able to understand immediately and furrowed her brows.
“For example, you see, in regard to the people belonging to the extremes of the anti-saint faction, even if they escaped their influence would not be much. This may be a horrible way of saying it, but to put it plainly, I do not care if they were left alone. However, Milifaire comes from an upper class of aristocrats, is still a young woman, and previously a tragic figure. Those kind of humans are optimal to be elevated as a symbol of an organization.”
In other words, Ron continued with a serious look in his eyes.
“If by any chance Milifaire were to be left at large, there is a fear that the organization will return to life centered on her. Unfortunately, even if the anti-saint faction is suppressed, it would be impossible to capture every single person. In that case, whether the remaining people will scatter or gather again depends on the presence or absence of the person who will be the ‘key’.”
“Lady Celiastina, please understand.”
Rono rose on the spot and lowered his head.
“My way of doing things may not be said to be suitable for the path of a person.”
Murmuring that, his eyes squinted slightly. Was he saying that not only the anti-saint faction, but also Milifaire’s name was released to the public? Or was he saying that he was using the anti-saint faction to try and chip off the power of the priests—.
“However, I am also the king of this country. I must look ahead to the country and choose the ‘right’ way to think as a king.”
His tone was calm throughout everything. But in front of those words filled with legitimacy, Yuna lost sight of her rebuttals.
She was terribly angry at herself for only being able to get the word “But” out. Everyone who was watching Yuna had, at one point, turned sympathetic gazes towards her. However, there was no one who helped. Everyone in this place respected Rono’s thoughts and decided to follow them.
The side of Asyut’s face was recalled. While being calm, it was like he gave up— but somewhere there was pain.
“What can I do to have you pardon them?”
“If they are caught as members of the anti-saint faction, what should I do to prevent them from being executed?”
Yuna could only clutch at straws now. There was nothing she could do but hope against hope.
“Lady Celiastina, please stop right there.”
At that moment, one of the men who had kept silent and watched the proceedings until now opened his mouth. He also stood up and turned to Yuna firmly.
“My lady’s mercy and overflowing consideration for others is something that most definitely echoes in our hearts. However, we cannot move the country swayed by emotions. We will deal appropriately with the anti-saint faction. I can only say this.”
“That is correct. Lord Linus, please escort Lady Celiastina back to her room.”
Even though she tried to hang on when they all broke off the conversation, the men only shook their heads. In the end, Linus reached out with his hands and grabbed Yuna’s shoulders tightly.
“Come on, Celia, let’s leave it like this now. You came alone, didn’t you. If you don’t return soon, the people around you might worry.”
“Linus, let go.”
“I won’t release you. Now, give up.”
As he said that Linus pulled Yuna with great force to the door.
“Rono! Have you seen Asyut’s pained face? And it’s not just Asyut. There must be many who are enduring it with the same feelings. Please don’t continue this vicious circle anymore.”
Rono called out once more to Yuna, who was growing distant.
“The answer is not in me. It is in you.”
As soon as she tried to think of the meaning in those words.
The door was closed in front of her eyes.
“Good gracious, your actions went utterly beyond astonishment that I can’t help but be amazed.”
On the way back from the meeting room, Linus sighed while saying this.
Perhaps he was trying to cool Yuna’s head because he purposefully chose to walk down a drafty corridor. A comfortable breeze blew past Yuna’s skin and fluttered the hem of her one-piece dress.
The waning sunset was now nestled close to the horizon. The lit lamps that illuminated patches of the corridor intermittently were dim as if to comfort Yuna who passed by. The red of the sunset, which was brighter, illuminated Yuna’s profile clearly as she looked down.
Linus, who glanced at Yuna out of the corner of his eye, continued his words even further.
“To think that you would march into that meeting room by yourself. I suppose you heard about Milifaire from someone?”
Yuna nodded without any strength.
“How much did you hear.”
“Probably everything. From Asyut.”
Linus made a thoughtful face.
“However, he did not open his heart to you for you to do something unreasonable. Reckless actions will also hurt Asyut.”
“Was it reckless? To tell Rono my thoughts.”
“I wouldn’t say that your actions this time were reckless. But, if nothing is said to you, you look like you’ll do something even more outrageous.”
Yuna did not raise her lowered face and remained silent for a while.
Her hand, which had been raised to hold back her hair from fluttering in the wind, clenched.
“I thought that Rono would understand.”
Rono, huh, Linus said as he turned that over in his mind.
“Because you and the king seem to have gotten along well, hm.”
“That’s because Rono told me what he thought towards the anti-saint faction. And he told me to act if there was something I could do. Yet, listening to what Rono said just now, he doesn’t seem to have any intentions to stop the anti-saint faction’s attack. I don’t know what Rono intended.”
“Did the king not say it clearly?”
Yuna finally raised her head at that.
“That the answer is in you.”
“What does that mean?”
“Who knows. Only that that person seems to expect you to do ‘outrageous’ things.”
Linus looked down at Yuna and smiled widely.
“It’s pointless to think about persuading that person. What you yourself asked, about what you should do to prevent them from being executed; do not ask the king that, instead ask yourself and how about thinking it over once more?”
Yuna wondered if Linus, who said that, had a good method come to mind. She glanced up at him with a searching look, but Linus only shrugged his shoulders lightly as if he saw through to her thoughts.
“I will tell you now that I do not have any good ideas. It’s impossible for the anti-saint faction to be forgiven after attacking the royal palace— I can only think that. The king must think the same. But, if it’s you, there is a feeling of wondering if this situation can be overturned. Like the time with Duo previously.”
Duo; hearing that name Yuna reflected on the not-so-distant past.
It was around the time when Yuna was starting to become familiar with life as Celiastina. A young man, by the name of Duo, attacked Yuna to try and clear his resentment over his wife being irrationally killed.
Because he pointed a blade towards the saint, he was obviously sentenced to capital punishment. During that, many people, including Yuna, worked together to release him. Gathering an armful of signatures, his freedom was finally wrested.
The situation at that time and the situation this time was somewhat similar.
But it could also be said to be completely different.
At that time, it was a situation of individuals versus individuals. Thinking of Duo’s personal circumstances, it wasn’t strange for many people to appear in sympathy and raise their voices with the want to save him. However, this time it was a confrontation of organizations. Even if there were individual circumstances to consider, of the people who made up the anti-saint faction, if an action was taken to oppose the “country” as an “organization”, the movement to advocate that would be dramatically reduced. Ron had said that the country’s people were shocked due to the anti-saint faction’s raids and would criticize the country. But the number of people who would try and openly do something must be small. They sympathized with the anti-saint faction but there was no helping if they were punished— there was no doubt that was the trend. If Yuna alone raised her voice, just how many people would agree with her?
“Well, it doesn’t seem like signatures will work this time.”
Linus muttered that as if speaking for what was inside Yuna’s heart.
There he stopped and turned around, as if he suddenly noticed something. Following him, Yuna also turned around and saw a person coming across the long corridor and rushing over here.
It was Aeneas.
His voice seemed to be squeezed out from the bottom of his chest. When he came up in front of her, Aeneas’ shoulders dropped and he placed both hands on his knees, trying to catch his ragged breaths.
“Look, Celia, it appears that you’ve caused quite the worry. You should apologize earnestly while he escorts you back.”
Linus said only this and lightly patted Yuna’s shoulder before taking his leave. Yuna eyed Linus’ back reproachfully but when she thought of the young man in front of her she hesitated to explicitly detain Linus.
Facing him once again, when she called out reservedly to him as he remained bent over, Aeneas finally raised his head— and glared at Yuna sternly.
“What exactly were you intending to leave your room by yourself!”
“You must understand how dangerous of a time it is right now. Moreover, you had just collapsed the other day…”
Saying that, Aeneas shuddered as if he were horrified. It had been Aeneas who had watched right beside Yuna when she fell down onto the ground. Naturally, he would worry over Yuna more than anyone else.
“I’m really sorry.”
Yuna could only apologize earnestly for that. It was herself who had taken actions that had no excuse.
“… Why did you not call me? Is it because you thought it would be awkward from what happened before?”
“No, that’s not it. I had business where I suddenly wanted to see the king. I thought I needed to see him right away so I rushed out of my room without calling for you, Aeneas.”
While hastily rejecting that, Yuna was flustered inwardly. That was right, she hadn’t faced Aeneas properly since she was confessed to. Yuna still hadn’t said her thanks for being carried after collapsing either and, in the first place, it was uncertain as to whether their conversation at that time had finished conclusively.
“… Um, Aeneas, when I collapsed you were the one who looked after me, right. Thank you very much and I’m sorry for the late thanks. Also…”
“That is enough. You do not have to speak.”
Aeneas nodded, as if saying he understood.
“I understand your feelings well, Lady Celiastina. The only request I have is that I would like you not to keep a distance from me. I do not want things to be awkward, Lady Celiastina. Please, treat me the same as you did up to now.”
When she nodded obediently, Aeneas released the tension in his shoulders like he was relieved.
And then the corner of his eyes relaxed slightly.
“Well then, have you finished your business already?”
“Mm, thank you. I’m okay now.”
“In that case, shall we return to your room?”
As she answered, Yuna was struck with a concern.
“Come to think of it, has it already been spread to everyone that I disappeared alone from my room?”
She was apologetic that it seemed to have become quite a fuss. When she asked Aeneas searchingly with these thoughts, he smiled wryly and replied “No”.
“The patrols that saw you in the corridors called out directly to me. After hearing what everyone had to say, I knew your location immediately, so I have not reported this to anyone yet.”
“I see, that’s good.”
“It is not good. I lost a year off my life.”
“Ack, y-you’re right. It’s not good, huh. I’m sorry.”
When she became flustered, Aeneas suddenly burst out laughing. Geez, Yuna expressed as she pouted. —Phew, Yuna was relieved inwardly. She was the same in that she didn’t want to be awkward with him. She had thought it selfish to treat him the same as before and so had felt somewhat withdrawn, but if Aeneas also said the same thing then she was thankful.
No, maybe he was just speaking for Yuna’s feelings. So that he wouldn’t trouble her, or hurt her. Putting off his own feelings— because he was always thinking of Yuna first.
But still Aeneas wasn’t the one. Yuna’s heart had already decided on one.
Aah, a person’s heart was truly a mysterious thing. Yuna looked up at the sky, whose sun had mostly fallen, and said that to herself in her heart.
Several days later, Yuna understood through experience that the royal palace suddenly became busy.
Although she spent the majority of her day in her own room, and whenever she participated in her many ceremonies, even in the short time of leaving her room and walking down the corridors, she could clearly sense that.
She wondered if it had anything to do with the names of the anti-saint faction posted up throughout the streets.
Frankly, thinking about the main causes, she could only come up with that.
She tried indirectly asking her maid, Nasha, about that but she didn’t seem to know anything concrete. If it was Aeneas, then it looked like he would know something but Yuna, who recently had been nothing but trouble, was ashamed to make him worry by her having an interest in something strange again.
It was at this occasion that Yuna happened to come face-to-face with Siegcrest by chance at the infirmary.
These days it had become a daily routine for Yuna to come and water the asiatic jasmine and she was surprised to see the flashy and large man, far from the gentle atmosphere of the room, sitting on one of the beds.
Despite Yuna’s surprise, he raised one hand in a carefree manner. When she saw that arm wrapped in white bandages, Yuna became more and more startled.
“Ah, this? Nothing much.”
“Oh my, Lady Celiastina, good morning.”
Mislee, who poked her face out from the other side of the partitioning screen, welcomed Yuna with a cheerful smile.
“For you to be injured, Sieg…”
“Hey now, fighting is my occupation so one or two injuries isn’t anything to lose your mind about.”
Yuna, who had never seen him injured enough to have bandages wrapped, was unable to suppress her unrest even while she thought that his point was plausible.
“I was just cut a little when I mediated a quarrel. It wasn’t anything where I needed to come here, but I heard you come often, Celia.”
Yuna tilted her head, staring at him in puzzlement.
“The other time, I had to end things vaguely during the middle of the talk. After that, I’ve been around dealing with many things so I left it like that, but I was curious.”
She recalled the conversation between the three of them, with Siegcrest and Asyut. It was none other than Siegcrest who told them that the names of the members of the anti-saint faction had been posted. And then he gave them a push to the back to talk firmly with each other.
“In the end, you heard the story from Asyut, right?”
Yuna gave a single nod when asked. It was then that another servant just so happened to come in to receive medical treatment and so the two of them moved to the backyard of the infirmary.
“Ohh, so this is the asiatic jasmine that you’ve been taking care of. It’s pretty good looking, ain’t it.”
As soon as they went out into the garden, Siegcrest looked up at the lush climbing plant. Yes, the asiatic jasmine had already become tall enough to pass Siegcrest’s height. It was a growth that was unimaginable. Yuna also came to stand beside Siegcrest and she smiled at the sight of the “miracle” brought about by the saint. Its buds were still hard but they were starting to increase by ones and twos.
“Sieg, thank you for that time. Asyut spoke about everything. What happened in the past, and his sister’s situation.”
“I see. That guy was finally in the mood to talk, huh.”
Actually, Siegcrest added with a mischievous smile.
“You know, even I don’t know exactly what happened to that guy in the past. Of course, I heard through the grapevine that it was a major incident but I’ve never heard it directly from that guy’s mouth. At that time, tons of rumors were flying about so even now I don’t know what the truth is.”
“Is that so.”
“Well, I knew he didn’t want to talk about it so I thought that was fine. But, still, I had the feeling he was about to reach his limit soon.”
“Yeah, he’s close to his limit. He’s a guy who stores up everything inside himself and doesn’t show weakness to people. That’s why it’s no use to force him to open his mouth. So, knowing this, it’s a good thing he felt like talking to you, Celia, with just a little push to his back.”
Siegcrest stretched wholeheartedly with a refreshed expression.
“… But I can’t do anything. Nothing about Asyut’s sister.”
In contrast, Yuna hung her head despondent. She just discovered her powerlessness the other day.
“Oh, right, I heard you marched into where the king was and threatened him to erase Milifaire’s name.”
“W-Wha! How do you kno…”
Hehehe, Siegcrest tried to stifle his laughter.
“I have connections too in my own way. Well, Asyut doesn’t know so don’t worry.”
There had only been six people in that place, including Ron and Linus. Moreover, from Siegcrest’s words she felt like the facts had been exaggerated greatly.
“No, really, you’re amazing. When I heard that I was a bit exhilarated. The king is a guy who, once he’s seriously decided on something, he’ll never reverse it but there’s merit to you just letting him have it too.”
She felt like that wasn’t something for him to openly praise to that extent. Especially if someone like Asyut knew about it, then he would blame himself again for being the cause.
“But, in reality, regarding the posting of names, the effects are beginning to appear immediately.”
Siegcrest crossed his arms as he said that.
“I don’t like the way the king is doing things, but there are people giving themselves up after seeing the posting.”
“Giving themselves up?”
Yuna asked that, repeating his words like a parrot.
“Yep. There are quite a few people who can’t live their lives after having their names exposed, so they’re going to the royal palace themselves. If they give themselves up before doing something big like attacking the royal palace then, for the time being, they’re exempted from the capital punishment. It seems like there’s been more than ten people already.”
Yuna nodded in comprehension. The choice of giving themselves up should have been a common thought but she had completely overlooked that. She had thought that everyone in the anti-saint faction was willing to die to confront the royal palace, but naturally there would be people who weren’t. Particularly, with the posting of names this time, there were those who were able to take another good look at their futures.
—In that case, maybe.
“Um, has Milifaire…”
It wouldn’t be strange for her to appear personally at the royal palace. Yuna looked up at Siegcrest beside her with that hope, but he shook his head with a frown.
“Too bad but Asyut’s little sister hasn’t appeared yet. I’m guessing the king is also just aiming at half of them. It’s not gonna go that easily.”
Yuna’s shoulders fell. However, it was still too early to give up. There was more than enough of a possibility that if they became more and more cornered they would have no choice but to surrender. If she thought this way, putting aside the right or wrong of disclosing Milifaire’s name to the public at this time, it could be said that a good possibility was brought forth.
The rest was up to Milifaire’s feelings. Conversely, Yuna thought that if Milifaire’s resolve was firm to the point where she would not surrender even with this then— it would become an extremely large worry.
Yuna wished for Milifaire to appear somehow. Right now, she could do nothing but pray for that.
“Celia, you gotta be especially careful in the future too. Because the inside of the anti-saint faction is gonna be messed up by this action. It’s going to be really soon before they become desperate and attack the royal palace.”
Yuna stared at Siegcrest, holding her breath. These were words that had been said many times but, now that an actual movement had happened, it resounded and increasingly asserted itself.
“You didn’t come here alone, did you?”
“Don’t worry, Aeneas is waiting outside.”
Yuna answered, assuming an air of calm but she was inwardly startled. She felt like her selfish actions the other day were being seen through.
“That’s good then.”
Siegcrest nodded without pursuing that any further.
“Anyway, there’s just a bit more before everything happens. Though it’ll be tough again after everything ends… at that time, Celia, you have to support Asyut.”
Siegcrest was surely saying that without a deep meaning and Yuna should have answered “Yes” obediently. But her voice wouldn’t come. She wanted to support Asyut, she felt that more strongly than anyone else, but it was a wish that could not be granted.
How did he take Yuna’s silence? Siegcrest glanced at Yuna’s face but in the end said nothing about it.
“I have to return to the Order of Knights soon. If there’s trouble, tell me at anytime.”
Siegcrest placed the palm of his big hand on Yuna’s head.
Yuna was finally able to give a single nod.