Asyut gently released a sigh that echoed quietly in the depths of his ears.
The crisp night air clung around his body as Asyut walked quickly on the pathway.
Dim lights that dotted the corridor created vague outlines of black shadows over and over again that saw him off as he passed them. Besides that, there was no one who knew that he passed by this place.
Every time he came to a corner Asyut looked around carefully. He quickly slipped his body into passages with few guards, so as to not catch any attention as much as possible. Repeating this many times, Asyut eventually arrived at the corridor that led to the courtyard.
A moon that was close to being full floated in the sky. Because of that brightness, the surrounding stars flickered with reservation. Asyut, who was illuminated by the moonlight, narrowed his eyes slightly as he looked up at the night sky. Right now, his body was clothed in simple travel garments.
The soldier who stood at the entrance to the lookout on the castle walls showed that he seemed to notice Asyut. Asyut, without breaking his calm, walked over there coolly.
The guard straightened his posture and gave a bow to Asyut.
“I heard that Vice-captain Siegcrest was in charge of the east side security tonight. Where is he?”
“He appears to be confirming the security just now. Currently, he is at the top of this lookout.”
“I see. I’ll be passing through.”
The path was yielded to him and Asyut entered the lookout. He wasn’t carrying a lamp and so it was pitch dark at his feet. But still, there was no difficulty in going up the spiral staircase he had come and gone through on countless occasions.
By the time he climbed to the top of the lookout, the moonlight illuminated the figure of the person he was searching for distinctly. Siegcrest, whose back Asyut stared at, turned around alertly.
“Oh, what, if it isn’t Asyut.”
Apparently, he seemed to be in the middle of receiving a report from a subordinate soldier. When Asyut glanced at the soldier, the soldier seemed to know enough and left the area.
“There’s something urgent I’d like you to hear.”
“What is it. Does it have to do with how that is nothing like your normal look?”
“Somehow, you look like a traveler who has skipped around to many places.”
“Yeah, I’m leaving the royal palace tonight.”
“… That’s sudden, hey.”
“Sorry for being late in telling you.”
Siegcrest gave what seemed to be a deliberate sigh.
“You found Celia?”
“Not yet. But I was able to grab a clue.”
“She seems to be in a rural town called Svet.”
“Svet… never heard of it.”
“It’s at a distance that’s said to take a day and a half from here on horse.”
“Wow, it’s that far. And you’re saying you’re going there?”
“When will you be coming back?”
“I don’t know. I’m thinking as soon as possible though.”
“You prowling around alone at this time means it’s not a trip you got permission for, right?”
“Yeah, I haven’t received permission. It’s a completely selfish decision.”
“You know, you’re resembling me.”
Siegcrest said that and gave a smile that seemed to be amused somewhere.
“It’s not that I resemble you. I simply had no other choice.”
“But, if it was the usual Asyut, you wouldn’t say this. You’d say, acting without thinking of the consequences, what do you intend to do afterwards. No matter how you weigh this, it’s not going to fall in a good direction for you, the First Holy Knight, to decide on your own to slip out of the royal palace at this time. –Are you quitting as the First Holy Knight?”
Asyut lowered his eyes at the words of Siegcrest, who suddenly showed a serious expression.
“I wasn’t intending that.”
“Really? It looks like “maybe I’ll quit” is written on your face. But then again it’s dark and I can’t see well.”
The atmosphere suddenly became joking. But, on the contrary, it pulled out Asyut’s next words.
“To be honest, even I don’t know what I want to do.”
“It’s not that I’m concerned about the legends of disasters occurring in the country if the saint and First Holy Knight are lost. I think of the First Holy Knight’s position itself as something that is very noble. I wish to respond to the expectations and hopes everyone has sent to me up to now as the First Holy Knight. And those feelings haven’t changed since long ago.”
“But for me it’s not just that now. Yuna is also important… extremely.”
“I’ve ended up thinking that I don’t want to lose either. I am acting right now, unable to give an answer, as I’m pressed in by the imminent time. As you’ve said, I am fully aware that moving to drag Yuna out to the royal palace again is very selfish though.”
He couldn’t pretend as if nothing happened. He couldn’t just pray from a distance for Yuna’s happiness and entrust the role of saving her to someone else. Even if his position as the First Holy Knight were to be put in a predicament he would not yield. But did that not mean that the existence of the First Holy Knight was being disrespected by none other than himself?
“Well, isn’t that a good thing.”
Asyut looked at Siegcrest and his indifferent words with a suspicious face.
“Asyut, you’ve changed a lot.”
“Changed, you say.”
“Because, up to now, no matter what happened you’ve chosen the First Holy Knight, right? Everything else is tossed out completely without any hesitation. I was seriously worried you were nothing but the First Holy Knight. But you’re deathly troubled right now. As a person you’ve acknowledged that Celia… no, Yuna, was it? That she’s important. Isn’t that a huge progress?”
“Is that the problem at hand?”
“Besides, you’re finally being vulnerable!”
Siegcrest looked happy as he wrapped an arm around Asyut’s shoulder. Leaned on by that giant body, Asyut staggered involuntarily.
“I thought it was about time for you to complain as much as possible. And I’ve been telling you all this time to rely on people more and let yourself be weak.”
“… I don’t remember this being said at all though.”
“Well, whatever about that. If you’ve faced your feelings up to that point, then all that’s left is to try and act. Anyway, try doing what you can with all that you have and you might naturally find the answer.”
Asyut did not reply with any words and only stared up at Siegcrest.
“Go on. Until you’re back, I’ll protect the place you belong to the last.”
Disregarding the troubled person in question, Siegcrest alone had a bright face. Asyut, while not feeling fully satisfied with everything, expressed his gratitude in his heart for his best friend who pushed his back.
His confident smile was more encouraging than anything else.
“Yeah– I’m going.”
Siegcrest nodded with a large grin.
Asyut picked up the horse that he asked Neisan to prepare in advance close to the west gate.
Though he conveyed that any horse was fine, the one tied to the trunk of a tree and standing obediently was none other than Asyut’s favorite horse. Although it’s glossy coat blended mostly into the dark night he could see, even from afar, that it stirred happily when it noticed Asyut.
From a rough glance, it seemed that the bare minimum necessities for travel were already fastened to the horse’s back. Asyut’s horse, though accustomed to the weight of gorgeous ornaments, was experiencing carrying this practical luggage for the first time. With a feeling of apology and gratitude, he stroked that back with a firm hand.
When he went to the west gate, straddling his horse, of course there were guards here as well.
The guards showed caution at the sudden appearance of a man on horseback, but when they realized it was Asyut this time they showed a completely different confusion. Why did the First Holy Knight show at this time, even more with preparations for going afar–. Asyut calmly looked down at the men who faltered and told them this briefly but clearly.
“By the king’s orders, I am leaving the royal palace for the time being in order to receive the girl who has served as the saint’s substitute in this past year. During my absence, I want each and every one of you to carry a sense of duty and ensure the security of the royal palace.”
The guards murmured this, their bewilderment deepening more and more. Because there were no directions in advance, it was natural they were unable to understand the situation without difficulty. But, uncaring about this, Asyut passed by them.
Of course, they would report this matter to their superior immediately. And then that superior would consult with their own superior. Finally, there was no doubt this matter would pass through to King Ronbarno.
At that time, how would the king approach this?
In a sense, this could be said to be a declaration of war against the king too.
Regardless of the king’s plans, Asyut would wake Yuna without exception. For that, he would not hesitate to involve the king. If the king were to try and erase Yuna’s existence, then Asyut was willing to confront him on the opposite side.
In any event with his proclamation right now it could be said that, regarding his departure without notice, it was confined to the king who was the only one taken into consideration. And so, it was not a departure “without notice”. Asyut had declared that it was by the king’s orders. Then, naturally, the people would seek an explanation of the situation from the king. The problem started from there.
Would the king throw away Asyut?
Or would he accept Asyut’s nonsense and try to keep the First Holy Knight by his hands even more?
(Even if I think about it now, answers won’t come.)
Asyut lightly kicked the sides of his horse as if to shake off those thoughts.
The consequences would become clear when he brought back Yuna.
His horse continued running like that with great force.
(The day will be breaking soon.)
By this time it was several hours since he departed from the royal palace.
Asyut adjusted the cloak that was caught by the wind on his shoulders again and, while gripping his horse’s reins, looked up at the sky.
Because the time was what it was, he couldn’t see any people at all in the small towns outside the royal capital. Only the uninterrupted sounds of the bugs heard from the grass and the rhythmic hoofbeats of his horse resounded reservedly in the quiet outskirts.
Thinking about it, it was a first experience for him to travel alone like this.
Up to now Asyut had never known of the world outside of the royal palace. Of course he would go afar sometimes, but on those occasions he was always accompanied by someone. Not being limited by someone and acting on his own will was in and of itself unsual for Asyut.
When he pulled the reins slightly, his horse shook its head a little. It may have sensed that the journey from here was not common with how Asyut sometimes showed an appearance of discomfiture.
Although having said that it was night, on the highroad just outside of the royal capital he could see people now and then. The majority of them were merchants bringing in their goods to the royal capital for business. For the merchants having come here from far away, it didn’t matter if it was morning or night. Even as Asyut passed them along the road, there was no one who paid attention to Asyut who seemed to be in the middle of a long trip. Various kinds of people came and left from the royal capital. Even Asyut right now was nothing more than a part of the scenery to them.
As he watched the landscape pass by on top of his horse, Asyut’s mind went to completely different matters.
The words he exchanged with Siegcrest not long ago repeated in his head many times.
–I was seriously worried you were nothing but the First Holy Knight.
Precisely because it was this time right now that he couldn’t help but think about these words.
(It’s like Sieg said. I really am nothing but the First Holy Knight. If I was told to choose just one thing that was most important to me then, up to now, I would have answered being the First Holy Knight without hesitation.)
In order to respond to the people who supported and believed in him.
He thought that he could sacrifice everything else.
(Come to think of it, I was also told the same thing by my sister Milifaire.)
That he had abandoned his dignity as a person and was a pitiful man clinging to power.
He immediately answered at the time that she was mistaken and that wasn’t the case. It was the same even now. He was not in this seat for power. It was because things happened with Saint Celiastina that he alone would raise his head firmly and stand in front of the people–.
Dimly, he could see inside his heart.
The long chaotic days they had lived their lives until now. It was like that from the time he was old enough to understand things. For Asyut, for the people around him, and for the country’s people. The previous saint was one who tended to be ill. Her husband, the First Holy Knight at the time, had died early due to sickness and it was an age where people could not find any hope at all in the saint and First Holy Knight. It was in such a period that Asyut was raised.
That might have been why.
That he, especially in his generation, would try to become a First Holy Knight and saint that could make everyone smile. He swore that to his child’s heart on that day. And it became shackles like that which solidified sturdily around his own body.
Every day when he was very young people, whose faces he did not even remember, would say to him one after another.
–Please become a fine First Holy Knight.
–You are the light of hope.
–When I watch your growth, I can be confident that the future is bright.
Those words tickled Asyut’s ears like a curse. Even now, in this very moment.
(I had forgotten.)
–As long as you are here, Lord Asyut.
He suddenly looked up at the sky.
In the night sky he saw from atop his horse there were countless stars, that would not pause no matter how far he ran, and they would glimmer even to Asyut’s destination. Even if he closed his eyes, those stars would not disappear from overhead.
–Ah, I see.
The radiance of these stars were too dazzling.
And that was why he couldn’t throw away this position.
Even in this moment of seeking Yuna and absconding from the royal palace like this, he was unable to throw off the cloth of the First Holy Knight himself. He couldn’t betray them; the people’s expectations and their hopes.
The path after that was very smooth.
Soon the day broke and, under the bright sun, he rode through the path that rose like a wave. While passing through several towns scattered along his way, he determinedly continued to ride through the soft dirt of the plains. Even in the town he dropped in for a short break, there was no one who saw through to Asyut being a knight of status who came from the royal palace.
The scenery he saw on his horse was an unchanging carpet of grass for a long time. Instead, it was the color of the sky that changed distinctly over time. The near transparent light blue sky of the morning eventually changed to dark blue and then, as his horse continued to run, started to bleed red little by little until finally it stained dark red.
When he arrived at a small village he grabbed lodgings for that day and departed early next morning. He would arrive at his destination of Svet after passing through one more small village. Due to his good progress, it seemed he would arrive just before noon.
He did nothing but ride his horse.
Riding single-mindedly through an empty field it felt like he had become the wind.
Before long he passed through the last village and then went through one more field.
And, at last, he grasped a small village that was spread out in the distance.
–It was the town of Svet.