The anti-saint faction would soon arrive at the royal palace; Asyut, who received that report, was already heading towards the main gates in a formation along with the commander of the Order of Holy Knights, Vansaider, who was leading the army and the others.
At last the time has come, and Asyut pressed his lips tightly together.
Thus far, everything was moving within their range of expectations. The numbers of the anti-saint faction, their equipment, and their combat strength too, it was the same as the information they obtained beforehand. After all, it was only a small uprising by the common people. No matter how they struggled, they would not even be able to get a blow at the royal palace. However, the fact that they were literally “risking their lives” bore hard on Asyut’s heart. It must be the same for the soldiers who were about to clash swords from this time on.
Vansaider muttered that in a voice without emotion as he stared at the group that appeared beyond the opened gates. Asyut, who stood beside him, felt cheerless upon actually seeing the appearance of the anti-saint faction right in front of him. –Although they had equipment, weren’t they just exceedingly ordinary people.
(Must we point our blades at them?)
Of course, he did not reveal his unrest though.
The rebel army, consisting of less than a hundred people, stopped in front of the main gates. No one opened their mouths. Everyone only glared over at them with burning eyes.
“Who is the leader.”
When Vansaider asked that, a large man that stood at the head of the group stepped out.
Asyut recognized that figure. He was a man called Ghada and, originally, was in a position of managing one of the units of the royal army. Although information about how he was leading the anti-saint faction was known beforehand, the sight of having to oppose a former comrade was still shocking.
“We demand for you to hand over Saint Celiastina, and we have no intentions of conceding on any other suggestions.”
He declared that clearly. But, of course, Vansaider did not waver.
“We cannot accept such a demand. Abandon your weapons and surrender. Or you’ll be spilling blood in vain.”
“There is only one thing we desire! Hand over Saint Celiastina!”
Ghada raised his voice even more. And then, as if identifying with him, his comrades followed after with shouts. Give us Celiastina, bring out Celiastina!
–In the end it was hopeless, huh.
It was at the same time that Asyut decided this that Vansaider raised his right hand, giving a signal to the waiting soldiers.
The dialogue between the two, which couldn’t even be called a dialogue, ruptured in an instant.
In that moment, the area was enveloped in a great noise. No one from the anti-saint faction let go of their weapons; far from that, they lifted those weapons and actively dove at the royal army. Not having the slightest fear of death, that spirit drove them on towards a battle that held no salvation for them.
(… They haven’t the slightest fear of death, huh.)
It was a sight of the anti-saint faction raising their swords with desperate expressions.
They fought according to their own beliefs. Even though all that awaited them was only “death”, that satisfaction was what they believed in.
Asyut burned the sight before his eyes into his mind firmly.
(Is this truly the right way.)
The answer to that was obscure but it was certainly in his heart. If Celiastina was asked the same question, the answer “that makes no sense” would be returned without a moment’s hesitation. And then she would surely act. In order to move on the path she believed was right, she would rush out regardless of appearance. That was the kind of person she was.
Yes, that’s exactly why.
The instant the atmosphere of the area changed and he noticed the appearance of Celiastina at that center, Asyut closed his eyes and felt relieved somewhere in his heart.
Celiastina, who jumped into the battlefield with a frantic expression and nothing but herself. Other than being a saint, she was a normal girl with no powers in particular. And yet, she was always confronting people with everything that she had. And, before he knew it, he had expectations for her because of that.
Celiastina stood resolutely on the spot.
It was Asyut himself who proposed locking her in her own room; it was a proposal he made because he thought it was impossible for her to stay silent and watch the anti-saint faction’s uprising. Locking her in from the outside was a somewhat rough way, but it was because he thought he couldn’t stop her if he didn’t do that.
Asyut wondered if Linus decided to overlook her, but he immediately negated that thought. Linus also agreed to contain Celiastina in her room and, though he was a man who couldn’t be read, he had never once done anything that would expose her to danger. Under these circumstances, it was unlikely to think he let her out of the room.
Instantly, various faces came to mind. Amongst them, there was only one person who caught on Asyut’s mind.
None other than the man who purposefully summoned Celiastina and breathed out information about the anti-saint faction. Because he also said things such as having hopes for Celiastina’s actions, it was consistent if Asyut thought the result of that was this.
(King Ronbarno, what exactly do you want her to do?)
He asked that to a man who was not here. Everything was moving according to that man’s will– and yet, what more was he looking for at this last moment.
“Let us secure Lady Celiastina immediately.”
One of the captains beside Asyut suggested this. However Vansaider, who was also right beside Asyut and watching these proceedings, raised a hand to check him.
“This place is a critical moment for her as well. We should not move.”
Looking unconvinced, the captain sent an imploring gaze at Asyut. A caution that leaving things like this would put Celiastina in danger flickered in that man’s eyes. Asyut knew, but he also didn’t feel like stopping her.
“As the commander said, let us watch over the situation for the moment.”
At Asyut’s response, the captain shook his head like he couldn’t believe it. On the other hand, Vansaider, who had been staring ahead, looked over at Asyut for the first time.
“However, Asyut, you are not in a position to merely watch over this situation, no? –There must be something you are concerned about.”
Asyut lightly bit his lip at Vansaider’s words. As the commander of the Order of Holy Knights, he was acquainted with Asyut since Asyut was a child. For Vansaider, who had a long relationship with Asyut that exceeded work, Asyut’s worries and uneasiness seemed to leak out. Asyut gave a single nod and threw his gaze once again at the people of the anti-saint faction. As he roughly glanced over them, it was apparent as to what Vansaider was saying.
“Your younger sister isn’t there.”
Yes, no matter how hard he stared to confirm this, the sight of his younger sister, Milifaire, was nowhere to be seen.
He had wondered the moment he saw the anti-saint faction. Where in the world was his sister. This should be the last uprising. And that’s why there was no doubt she would surely be in this place– is what he thought.
“Try thinking about the meaning behind her absence.”
Urged by Vansaider, Asyut closed his eyes for a few moments and cut off his awareness from the tumult of this place.
Sharpening his senses, he began to mull over the matter.
Milifaire was not participating in the attack, so did she withdraw from the anti-saint faction?… No, in the information they obtained from the king just before this, there was no talk about that. Milifaire was unmistakably participating in the anti-saint faction, and should have been expected to join this assault as well.
Then did a situation suddenly occur where she couldn’t join? Such as being stopped by someone, or getting involved in something before she came here– some circumstance like that.
But, if there were such circumstances, the fact that her comrades of the anti-saint faction currently in front of him were this calm felt out of place. Her existence should be a large key to them. The one and only blood relative of Asyut, who was the First Holy Knight. It would be quite attractive to use her as a bargaining material. That being the case, on top of her appearance not being seen now, the behavior of the anti-saint faction, as if she hadn’t been in the organization to begin with, made him feel a faint catch.
(Is Milifaire acting separately?)
Suddenly, that assumption came to mind.
Acting separately. If that was the case, then what for.
What meaning was there in having a powerless girl act separately.
(I have a bad feeling.)
Asyut felt something cold run down his back.
Milifaire, as his younger sister, was a member of one of the prominent noble families in this country. In the past she lived inside the royal palace and naturally knew all about the western side, but also the northern side where only those with status could enter.
–Knew all about.
(It can’t be.)
Asyut looked back at the royal palace.
He called out to Vansaider beside him.
“I’m leaving this place to you. Please ensure nothing serious befalls Lady Celiastina.”
He only said that shortly and, upon seeing Vansaider nod, Asyut ran from that place like the wind. He went in the complete opposite direction of the center of conflict, towards the royal palace.
In preparation for the anti-saint faction’s assault this time, a strict guard system was laid throughout the royal palace. A sufficient number of guards were arranged at all gates, and they paid firm attention to not allow anyone from the outside to enter. For example, even if the raid group at the main gates were a decoy for another group to attempt an invasion from the shadows, it would almost be impossible.
(Almost, being the problem here.)
It was troubling but Asyut happened to know something which made him unable to declare that it was “absolutely” impossible. There was only one place, an “entrance”, where soldiers were not arranged.
Asyut cut across the plaza, plunged into the building, and ran even more. He rushed up the stairs, skipping steps, dashed through the corridor, and then ran down another set of stairs while skipping steps. It was extremely quiet inside the royal palace, which had almost no signs of life. Only his own breathing echoed right beside his ears.
He came out into a large corridor. There was also just a few people here. If he continued through this corridor and entered a narrow hallway, the end of that lead to the residential district of the royal family and noble families.
And, if his prediction was correct…
Asyut thought while he was out of breath. It may have been correct for Celiastina to slip out of her room. Because, under these circumstances, it couldn’t be said that her personal rooms were absolutely safe.
And then Asyut gradually slowed his feet. There was no one around anymore, only a long corridor that was deathly silent. There were sculptures of goddesses placed at equal intervals on both sides of the corridor. When he approached one of them, he pushed it to the side without hesitation.
If one paid attention to how much strength was used, the statue moved with a feeling that was much lighter than it looked. In the square of the brand new floor that hadn’t been exposed for many years, a notch entered his eyes that he wouldn’t have seen if he didn’t strain his eyes for a long time. The complicated patterns of the floor were meant to deceive, but there was a small knob there. When Asyut put his finger on the knob, a hidden door opened.
A staircase, where only a single person could pass through, appeared. A lamp was prepared on the stairs a few steps ahead but there was no need to touch it and Asyut proceeded cautiously in the dark.
This hidden passage was an emergency escape passage, exclusively for royalty and influential nobles.
In order for only a limited amount of people to be aware of this passage, naturally guards were not arranged here in this assault.
However, Milifaire knew about this passage. At a certain age, royals and some noble families were informed about the existence of this passage. As far as Asyut could remember, a situation where it was actually used had never fallen. That’s why it was mostly forgotten, but perhaps– he came here driven by that thought.
When he stepped off the stairs, next was a straight path that continued. Asyut carefully confirmed his surroundings while he caught his breath. –In the cool air, there was no smell of smoke. If a person had passed through this passage earlier, they would have surely carried a lamp to light the dark path. That there was no lingering scent meant that no one had passed through here for a while.
(Did I overthink it.)
It was just at that moment when he released a sigh of relief.
A fleeting glimpse of light was seen up ahead.
It was so faint that he thought it was his imagination, but it wavered slightly in the distance without disappearing. Asyut straightened his back again and gazed steadily at that light. He held his breath and concentrated all his senses while watching over it. In the meantime, the light steadily came closer and closer. There were two lights. There was no doubt any longer, someone came to the royal palace secretly using the hidden passage.
His heart was leaping greatly to the point of being noisy. Who was it that was carrying the lamp.
Even though he should know the answer, Asyut could not imagine it clearly in his mind. The feeling that he still couldn’t believe it, even after coming to this point, fogged his mind.
But, at last, the moment came.
The person who carried the lamp noticed Asyut’s presence and stopped their feet. For a while, there was not the slightest movement like that, but eventually as if they had resolved themselves the footsteps once again came towards him.
Two indistinct human shapes rose out of the darkness. And it was impossible not to recognize one of them.
They were a person who had been separated from him many years ago.
Asyut murmured that without any strength.
That figure, several sizes smaller than him, stood in front of Asyut without a sound. Behind her, a young muscular man also stopped.
The small shape– Milifaire, responded as if making sure.
A distant memory was revived once again.
His young sister who always followed behind him, giving her utmost trust to him. On that day, in that room where Celiastina summoned them, she shook with nothing but uneasiness. The instant Celiastina told him to choose only one person, Milifaire’s expression froze with terror. He had never been able to forget that but–.
Asyut stared hard again at his sister, who stood in front of him today.
The long glossy black hair was now casually cut short. In the uniform of a squire that must have been prepared from somewhere, she looked like a young man at a glance. It was as if her face was entirely without her former delicacy and sweetness, and those unwavering eyes were those of a fighter.
Neither of them voiced anything, they simply stood still on the spot.
Asyut came here precisely because he thought she might use the hidden passage. However, now that he was actually confronting her like this, he lost any and every one of his words to the shock that seemed to strike his head. And Milifaire appeared to be the same in front of him.
There was a heavy silence.
“Mille, so this man is your brother, Lord Asyut, huh.”
The man who held back behind Milifaire raised his voice. Mille, that must be Milifaire. Asyut felt a faint irritation at the man who called her by a nickname as if it were natural.
“That’s right, Jin.”
Milifaire murmured that in a voice that was suppressing her emotions.
“I never thought we’d be discovered before we arrived inside the royal palace. In fact, I wasn’t planning on stopping even once until I went to Celiastina’s personal room and killed her with these hands.”
“Brother, you won’t overlook us, will you?”
Milifaire passed the lamp to her left hand and, without the appearance of hesitation, reached for the dagger fastened to her waist with her right hand. The man behind her, Jin, similarly placed his hand on his sword. However, Asyut was the only one who did not do that. Keeping both his hands down, he stared intently into Milifaire’s black eyes.
“–Yeah, I can’t overlook you two.”
Finally, he only muttered that.
“Then we’ll go through you even if we have to use force.”
“Milifaire, give up already.”
Now wasn’t the time to be stricken with emotion. Asyut told himself that and desperately gathered his reason. If he lost his focus it felt like he would become dazed at the reality in front of him. However, at this opportunity to face his sister which finally came around, he couldn’t just stand still and let her pass.
“I want you to give up and surrender. Even if you break into the royal palace, Lady Celiastina is not in her room. And the others who are assaulting the main gates have also been suppressed by this time.”
“I’m different from you, brother.”
Milifaire did not seem to be fazed, and glared back firmly at Asyut.
“Unlike you, brother, I’m not a person who resigns themselves to their lot. Sorry, but I also have no sympathy. On that day, since the moment you “saved” me at the expense of all the others, I’ve lived just to get revenge on Celiastina. Whether I kill that woman with these hands, or whether I die– there is nothing but that.”
Pierced by those strong eyes, Asyut’s words were stuck.
“… It’s exactly as you’ve said.”
Asyut clenched his fist.
“I’m a weak person. Up to now, I’ve given up on a lot of things. But I don’t think that all the choices I’ve made to this point were mistakes. And I believe, saving you on that day too, was the right choice.”
“That is nothing more than self-satisfication, brother. To me it was a hellish choice!”
Milifaire’s voice was ragged and when her own voice echoed through the passage she seemed to return to herself.
“Anyway, I didn’t come here to talk with you, brother. If you are thinking of me, even the slightest bit, then I’m asking you to be silent and let us pass.”
Asyut called out that name once more, this time with force.
“From that day on, we’ve reached this day without being able to talk properly even once. Honestly speaking, I’ve been afraid to face you when you’ve become a member of the anti-saint faction. But I don’t want to avert my eyes from you anymore. And it’s because we’re here now that I wish to talk to you properly.”
“Don’t listen, Mille. This man is already our enemy.”
Jin whispered sharply from behind. Milifaire’s shoulders shook slightly.
“Isn’t that the case?”
Milifaire spat that out in strong tone.
“I know, that this person is our enemy. That’s right, this person who has always stayed by Celiastina’s side, despite being completely hurt, and who hasn’t done anything. Far from that, he’s about to marry that woman soon. Abandoning his conscience, he’s been reduced to a man who should be looked down on for just chasing power!”
Asyut, not to be outdone, raised his voice.
“I didn’t choose to remain in the royal palace in order to gain power. There is no doubt I hated Lady Celiastina, and there were countless times I thought about wanting to leave the royal palace and live somewhere far away. I also thought about ending my own life and being released from all this pain. I felt the same things as you, Milifaire.”
“How dare you say it’s the same!”
“That’s why I fully understand your feelings of trying to get revenge by becoming a member of the anti-saint faction. I might have become one too– were I not the First Holy Knight.”
Yes, that was a large problem for Asyut. As he spoke, Asyut firmly confronted his own feelings once again. If that duty hadn’t been given to him, he wouldn’t have been standing in this place right now. That might be what Milifaire called an insistence on power. However, she was wrong, it wasn’t like that.
“Before I am the man called Asyut Rothenlukia, I am this country’s First Holy Knight. And I think the First Holy Knight is an existence which holds a heavy significance. No matter the injuries I bear personally, the “First Holy Knight” must hold their head high and stand tall. If the saint cannot become the people’s hope then, at the very least, I thought I could and that is how I’ve passed the days until today.”
“I can’t understand!”
“Yeah, and I didn’t think about having you understand. I’m certain there are many who think I’m foolish for killing myself as an individual to serve the country. That’s why you don’t have to understand– I only wish for you to know my thoughts.”
Milifaire narrowed her eyes with hatred.
“Are you wanting to say that even marrying that Celiastina, if it’s an important duty, you would be willing?”
For a second Asyut was pressed into silence. However, he soon continued his words in a voice with no hesitation.
“… After you left the royal palace, so many things happened. The situation has changed greatly from that time. And you could say Celiastina is one of the most extreme changes. Though you would not understand right now.”
“What do you mean by that. Are you saying I’m already an outsider?”
“That’s correct, at least right now. That’s why I want you to know. Don’t throw away your life here, and get to know what has happened until now. And I want you to watch the things in the future as well.”
“It’s useless to try and placate me like that! We ourselves know best that there’s no future for the anti-saint faction. That’s why we’ll stick to our beliefs to the end.”
“You don’t know yet whether there’s a future or not. No, I’ll be sure to do something about it. I’ve decided that.”
In that moment Celiastina appeared in the middle of the battle with the anti-saint faction.
He didn’t want to give up any more things any longer. Like what she’d been doing this past year– he wasn’t going to hesitate to move forward on the path he believed in.
“Don’t listen to him, Mille.”
Jin moved forward, as if to push aside Milifaire. He pulled out his sword from its sheathe in a smooth motion and pointed it at Asyut like that.
“The objective you came here for isn’t your “brother” but “Celiastina”. There’s no time to stop here. Mille, take out your blade too.”
Even Asyut’s eyes could see Milifaire tighten her right hand which remained gripping the handle of her dagger. And the slight hesitation that made her hand movement slow for an instant.
However, Asyut’s words could not completely silence her will.
Milifaire bit her lip hard and then yanked her blade out of its sheathe all at once. The blade of the dagger was illuminated dimly by the lamp’s light.
Asyut realized that if he drew his own blade then he would not be able to turn back. But, while that may be true, he couldn’t just show these two into the royal palace before his own eyes.
What exactly should he do.
A silence was brought about by Asyut’s indecision, but a quiet sound heard from behind him immediately broke that.
The sound of a lamp being picked up and fire being struck. Following that, the sound of footsteps descending the stairs slowly.
Someone had noticed this passage. Asyut unconsciously made to let Milifare get away. However, soon the figure who showed up was an unthinkable person and Asyut’s mind went blank.
As that name was shouted, Asyut stood dumbfounded on the spot. Milifaire and Jin, who were right beside him, also became speechless with an expression of disbelief.
Wasn’t this some kind of mistake? Asyut doubted his own eyes, but that man was undoubtedly King Ronbarno Sibelius. Not minding the hem of his clothes becoming covered in dust, he stepped off the last step of thet staircase with a relaxed footstep. And then, upon recognizing Asyut and Milifaire’s forms, the corners of his eyes crinkled slightly. Behind him followed two people, Neisan and Aeneas.
“I apologize but I heard your conversation.”
The king began to talk in a tone that lacked any tension. There was no tension but it was filled to the brim with a pressure that brooked no disagreement.
“I intend to understand your thoughts truly. Each and every person is supported by their beliefs and trying to walk on the path they believe in, aren’t they… However, I have taken it upon myself to obstruct that.”
“King Ronbarno, I…”
Milifaire opened her mouth but the king shook his head and interrupted that.
“I do not meant to criticize you here and now. I came to tell you– one truth.”
“Correct. You and the anti-saint faction, even if you were to defeat all the soldiers, you can never reach Saint Celiastina… I came here in order to tell you the reason for that.”
Milifaire’s eyebrows drew together.
“Never reach, what do you mean…”
“Come. To where “she” is.”
The king only said that and then turned around. But the one who couldn’t keep silent was Jin, who came here along with Milifaire. He raised his drawn blade firmly in front of him and spoke in a firm voice.
“We can’t do that. If we follow you like this, we’ll just reach the prisons anyway. To us, you share the sin of leaving Celiastina at large, and if you’re going to get in the way then I won’t hesitate even if you’re the king!”
But before he took a step, Neisan and Aeneas stood in his way without saying anything. Their hands rested on the handle of their swords, and their eyes told of how they would cut Jin down without hesitation if he were to move any further.
“I believe you do not just want to rage about wildly. If there is still an unknown truth then do you not wish to know it? More so if it relates to Saint Celiastina.”
The king only sent a glance at Jin and then began to climb the stairs in the dark.
“… Let’s go, Jin.”
Milifaire was glaring at that back, but she said that in a quiet voice while she returned her dagger to its sheathe.
“In any case, if we’re here already, I’d like to know the unknown truth if there is still one.”
“The situation had changed greatly from that time. Celiastina being one of the most extreme– isn’t that so, brother?”
That cold voice was tossed at him and Asyut, who stood still in that spot, turned to face his sister again.
Asyut gave a clear nod. However, a feeling similar to terror swirled in his chest. Where was the king going? And what exactly was he trying to say? In truth, he already knew. He knew but he also wanted it to be in precise words. And that was soon to be granted. However–.
His feet on the stairs were heavy. But he couldn’t do something like turn back. Asyut looked up at the back of the king who was climbing the steps and narrowed his eyes slightly.
(T/N: In case this chapter is confusing in terms of the timeline, Yuna ran onto the battlefield to do her stuff in the previous chapter. This chapter shows Asyut’s POV of that but then he leaves the battlefield to confront his sister. While he’s confronting his sister, King Ronbarno shows up and collects Asyut and his sister to bring them to the battlefield where he then announces that Yuna is not Celiastina, thus joining back up with the end of Yuna’s chapter. Basically, we went back in time a little.)