Recently here, the number of guards had rapidly increased.
Asyut thought that as he briskly walked down a corridor wide enough to fit three carriages lined up side by side.
In the royal palace, a person was able to find soldiers carrying weapons no matter where they looked. Even this large corridor was the same. Here was one person, over there was one person, and further beyond was another person. This strict security was rampant throughout the royal palace.
By this time, two weeks had passed since the names of the anti-saint faction’s members had been released to the public. The disorder that triggered in the royal palace did not show any signs of calming in the least. Already the number of those who gave themselves up was reaching thirty soon and, in addition, the number of those caught by reports from the common people was increasing steadily. With this, it was calculated that nearly twenty percent of the anti-saint faction’s people had been caught. It was natural for the royal palace side to think that half of the remaining members would become desperate and attack the royal palace.
As the security within the royal palace was strengthened on the king’s orders, the female servants were able to stand by at home if they wished. Joint training had also begun with three troops of different ranks: the Order of Holy Knights, the Order of Knights, and the army. Even the western side of the royal palace, which until now had been comparatively free for people to come and go, began to confirm identities strictly. As a result, the West Royal Library that had been open to the common people was temporarily closed– and so on. The effect of the anti-saint faction spread in every direction and the regular scenery of the royal palace completely changed.
The majority of the soldiers were ordered to stay in the royal palace, and secretly voices rose about how “Now that it’s come to this, I want the anti-saint faction to hurry up and come”. Of course, such frivolous talk wasn’t heard around Asyut’s surroundings – people throughout the royal palace already knew of the painful position he was put in – but gossip about the anti-saint faction heard on the wind never ended.
“Lord Asyut, good morning.”
He was greeted by a young man dressed in an unfamiliar uniform as they passed each other. The jacket was a dark blue cloth with golden embroidery added on. He was a knight that belonged to the Order of Holy Knights. Normally the Order of Holy Knights were only allowed to wear white uniforms, but actually this dark-colored uniform also existed. When they were actually going to battle then they would wear this dark blue one. However, as this opportunity had not existed in these past ten years, there were many who did not know that the Order of Holy Knights had two kinds of uniforms. In such times, for the dark blue uniform to be allowed to be worn– it was a small act but a large change.
“There hasn’t been anything strange in particular, has there?”
“Yes. Currently, it is quiet.”
“I see. But I would ask of you to continue without dropping your guard. Once a small change occurs, a large current will follow immediately.”
“Understood. I will bear that in mind.”
The young knight nodded seriously and then left. Casually seeing off that back, Asyut resumed walking. He had been ordered by the king to walk around the royal palace personally and report the situation to the king, and so he sharpened his senses so as to not miss any slight disturbances and looked around his surroundings. The king feared needless chaos within the royal palace due to the anti-saint faction’s attack more than he did the attack of the anti-saint faction itself.
(According to the schedule, there’s three more days until the raid.)
Three days. A long time that seemed short. A short extension of time that seemed long.
The date of the raid on the royal palace had become clear because of the intelligence brought from the king’s spy. However, the anti-saint faction may no longer stick to the decided date. To them, with their scattered and internal chaos, no matter when they carried out their attack the result they would obtain would not change.
Yes, they no longer had a future. And they themselves should know that best. Nevertheless, that they hadn’t given themselves up meant that the will of the remaining members was immeasurable. Amongst the many who were arrested for taking the anti-saint faction’s actions as a political “exhibition”, the remaining members were purely those with vengeance who risked their lives to retaliate against the saint and royal palace.
The fact that his little sister was also participating still weighed heavily on Asyut. While he imagined the scene of Milifaire standing in front of him with an awkward expression countless times, that scene still had not become a reality. With things the way they were, he would have to oppose his sister, his one and only blood relative– what a nightmare. However, the stage where he thought about locate his sweet and pure sister had long passed. From the moment Linus thrusted Milifaire’s present condition at him, he keenly felt the possibility that the next time he saw her would be when he stood facing off against her as an enemy. That was something that he himself could not accept more than anyone else. But, even if he averted his eyes, that “time” would certainly come.
Unable to hide his dark expression, Asyut looked down as he began to descend the stairs. When he looked out a large window that stretched vertically, the tranquil scenery of a flower garden spread beyond the window. Even though a battle running with blood might start soon, as long as he looked at this scenery, he could only think of it as a joke of some sort.
(Don’t drop your guard.)
Asyut took the lines that he had said to the knight just now to his own heart. Especially in his case where if he relaxed then it would be the very end; it seemed like the strength would leave his body and he wouldn’t be able to get up.
“Ser Asyut, what are you doing in such a place.”
Asyut, who had been glaring out the window at some point, snapped back to his senses when he was suddenly called out to. Looking up from the bottom of the stairs, and the one who called out, was an old man clothed in long priest robes, Roblin.
Even as Asyut responded by saying his name, inside he wanted to act like he hadn’t noticed and leave. In particular at this time, it was a very depressing duty to have to deal with an obstinate priest who opposed the king’s side. Like the meeting that had been held before, it was easy to imagine him arguing vehemently, half-shouting, with Asyut.
“Is something the matter?”
Saying that, Asyut descended the stairs. However Roblin, who had been waiting, only opened his mouth partly with a sullen expression.
“Recently, the royal palace has completely changed.”
“Yes, you are right. I suppose because there has been a move to suppress the anti-saint faction in earnest.”
Like how you quite especially wished for, but Asyut didn’t say that.
“They are thorough preparations. To an extent that makes one feel unbearable.”
“… Is that so.”
Not having anything to answer with, Asyut spoke ambiguously.
“The anti-saint faction are also pitiful people. Even knowing they are dancing on the king’s palm they do not know the way to stop dancing.”
Good gracious, Roblin muttered as if finding it foolish. Asyut stared at him in secret. –Was he aware of the king’s intention again?
“The responsibility for leaving the crazed saint unregulated is undoubtedly with us priests as well. However, I would not have thought in my dreams to use even the madness of the saint as a personal tool like that king. A saint is a saint. To us, they are absolute entities.”
Perhaps that had been where they were wrong, Roblin sighed deeply. It was the first time this man had shown words that could be taken as weak.
“Maybe it was the duty of us priests to have remonstrated the saint much earlier. –As Sister Yodel tried to do.”
A beautiful priestess who was not here right now. Unlike the other exclusionary priests, she struggled to proactively head out and create bonds with her surroundings. And then finally trying to stop Saint Celiastina by dirtying her own hands; she was a unique being as a priest.
More than half a year had already passed since she left the royal palace. If she was here now, Asyut wondered how exactly she would take this situation.
“However, even if we regret, nothing will begin. We will protect the saint in our own way. Even if we remonstrate her, we cannot abandon her. To abandon the saint is to abandon our faith. Even if the king uses the saint as a convenient pawn, we will preserve her sanctity.”
Roblin’s quiet composure did not crumble. It was Asyut’s first time witnessing him be this calm and talking so deliberately. In the first place, Roblin never attempted to talk properly in front of him. Roblin had always looked down on him as being a young man who understood nothing.
Why did Roblin feel like talking about this? What did he mean by preserving her sanctity?
Asyut was unable to ask about that. Before Roblin’s strong will, he had lost sight of his own words. Roblin snorted and, as if he had lost interest in Asyut, took his time in leaving.
Asyut, who was ruminating over Roblin’s words in his head while he walked, noticed a familiar voice calling out to him and turned around, somewhat relieved. In the passage that continued to the training ground, Siegcrest came towards him while raising a large hand.
“What are you doing, you’re late. The Order of Holy Knights’ meeting is about to start soon.”
“Ah, my bad.”
The two lined up and resumed walking at the same time. Once the meeting with the Order of Holy Knights ended, next was one with the Order of Knights, and then the army, and then later he would go and explain the situation to the king. Furthermore, upon returning to his office, he needed to take care of his regular work that had been accumulating.
In truth, he wanted to go and see Celiastina. At last, in the present state where a raid was imminent, she had been mostly confined to her room. Her daily ceremonies had been narrowed down to only the truly important ones, and the people she could meet were more limited than ever. It was already unreasonable to turn up at the infirmary for the plant she had begun to raise and, even apart from that, whenever she left the room there was a thoroughnes of having her bring Aeneas, along with a few others as bodyguards. Under these circumstances, even she would keenly feel that the attack of the anti-saint faction was approaching in front of them.
(As long as she doesn’t do anything reckless.)
That was one of Asyut’s concerns.
She had been informed of the scenes behind the anti-saint faction assault from the king, and she was thinking of wanting to save them somehow. There shouldn’t be anything that even she could do, but she might not have completely given up yet.
(At any rate, above all, we must avoid exposing Lady Celiastina to danger.)
It must be boring to be confined to her room, but she just needed to keep still for a little while longer. That was all he wished for.
“Still, we’ve made all sorts of preparations it feels unbearable.”
Siegcrest shook his head in exasperation while wearing his usual worn white uniform.
“It makes me wonder if we need to go this far.”
“… More importantly, that uniform of yours.”
“What? It’s not like I’m not allowed to wear white, yet.”
Siegcrest threw a glare at Asyut beside him.
“When I wear that blue one, it feels like I’m about to fight and that’s not good.”
“Well, blue doesn’t suit you.”
“Shut up, leave me alone.”
While they cracked jokes, Asyut felt like he understood Siegcrest’s thoughts. Siegcrest personally wasn’t one to fear fighting, but he was being considerate of the eyes in his surroundings. He didn’t want the servants and officials to be uneasy and wonder whether a battle was going to break out soon by walking around the castle in a uniform that was different than usual.
“Roughly speaking, the number of people in the anti-saint faction isn’t enough to reach two hundred. So, what’s with this talk about bringing in the country’s armies to battle to oppose them.”
“Don’t say anything at this point.”
But, Siegcrest protested by pouting. However, it was true that the scale of this uprising was one that could be easily settled with the army, or at most the Order of Knights. That this wasn’t done was solely because of the will of the king.
“It is the king’s plan, as he wishes to prevent any harm to the side of the royal palace. Moreover, the arrangement is to meet the enemy at the entrance of the main gate. The eyes of the common people will be there, so we should try to capture as many alive as possible. If we shed too much blood then we will provoke unnecessary animosity from the people.”
“The king’s plan, huh.”
Siegcrest muttered that, unamused.
“That’s quite something.”
“… You’re like Father Roblin.”
A dozen knights were already in the training ground by the time they arrived. They were commanding officers who managed four units each belonging to the Order of Holy Knights. Everyone was talking to each other as they pleased but, when Asyut and Siegcrest entered, they naturally gathered close to the entrance.
“You’re here. This is everyone then, hm.”
The one whose voice was raised and carried across was the leader of the Order of Holy Knights, called Vansaider. A man who was in his late thirties but still led the country’s greatest and most adept knights; a man who, on top of being sharp and able, was a skilled swordsman. He knew Asyut from when Asyut was young and was one of Asyut’s few trusted friends.
“Well, let us start this meeting without delay.”
When he announced that, the air in the area transformed into one with tension. There was no table or chairs, only a massive training ground. However, there was no one who complained. Everyone in this place was an upper class aristocrat but, for those who had undergone the Order’s severe training, they couldn’t care less about being comfortable at this meeting.
Yes, the Order of Holy Knights were not just a decorative army.
The king was trying to show that both inside and outside with the conflict this time.
–How wily, the words of Siegcrest came to mind.
“According to the information from a certain source, the assault has been reported earlier to be three days away. However, there is more than enough of a possibility for it to happen before or after those days, so keep this information firmly in your minds.”
Vansaider began to talk while looking at the documents in his hand.
“There will be eighty people in groups of twenty from the Order of the Holy Knights, deployed at the front. There will also be eighty people from the Order of Knights, deployed in the rear. The army will provide assistance around; they will look at the amount of people and respond according to the circumstances.”
Everyone nodded silently. They had already been notified of these postings.
“The clash with the anti-saint faction is expected to be at the entrance of the main gate. All other gates will be closed and security will be carried out by the Order of Knights. If, by any chance, the anti-saint faction were to go around then we must cope with that swiftly. We will move with purpose to secure everyone on the spot.”
“What about the impact on the surrounding residents?”
One commanding officer raised their voice.
“Regarding that, the Order of Knights and the Civil Guards will cooperate and deal with it. Our duty is to subjugate the anti-saint faction as quickly as possible without using unnecessary force.”
There Siegcrest, who had been silent, opened his mouth.
“One more thing. What about securing Milifaire?”
All the commanding officers on the spot suddenly held their breath.
“–The utmost priority. See to her safety first.”
Vansaider answered that without hesitation.
Receiving that answer, Siegcrest nodded with satisfaction. Asyut, grateful for Vansaider’s consideration, also nodded in silence. Now that Milifaire did not seem like she would give herself up, her participation in the assault could likely not be avoided. In that case, at the very least, he would secure Milifaire himself. Asyut secretly hardened his resolve to participate in this battle.
The bustling day was finally about to come to an end.
The sun had set entirely and it was around the time when the stars in the whole sky became a veil that covered the night sky. Asyut finished his work from start to end in a hurry and left his office at last.
As he returned to his private room he could see the figures of guards from time to time, even in this hallway which would normally be empty of people. While he passed through, giving words of appreciation for their work, he suddenly thought about Celiastina.
How was that person spending this night?
Once he thought that, his feelings overflowed for her to the extent where he could no longer stop them.
–He wanted to see Celiastina.
Not thinking anything complicated, he just wanted to be close to her side. Even if they did not exchange words or anything, it was enough just to stay next to her. Just how satisfied would he be with only that. As if the problem of the anti-saint faction, the discord between his sister, the meaning of the words “Until the last moment” that Celiastina murmured– could be settled without thinking… without thinking about anything.
(I must be tired.)
Asyut shook his head lightly and scolded himself.
At this most important time, he wasn’t in the position to let his mind wander. That was what he told himself. He knew full well that problems would not be settled even if he averted his eyes from them. No matter how painful it was, it was important that he first turned his eyes directly onto it.
(I know that.)
However, there were certainly things that were impossible to do by reason alone. The feelings of wanting to see Celiastina right now was one of those. If he wanted to think of a reason to meet her, countless ones came to mind. Like whether she was being obedient in her room, whether she was troubled by anything, or whether her health was really better after that incident… but it was as if there was no point in these excuses– He just wanted to see her.
(Once this anti-saint faction matter calms down…)
He would talk to Celiastina properly once more. So that she would open her heart about all the pain she had been carrying. And so that they could overcome this problem together with the two of them.
Just a little bit more.
Asyut said this to himself and continued walking down the long corridor back to his private room.