(WARNING: This chapter ends on a PAINFUL cliffhanger and it doesn’t get resolved until Chapter Nine so for those who hate cliffhangers please don’t read this chapter until Chapter Nine comes out. Trust me, it’s a really really REALLY bad one. When I read this book for the first time I actually skipped Chapter Eight entirely to read Chapter Nine LOL.)
The next morning Asyut once again proceeded to the medicine store that Yuna’s parents ran.
He may be disliked for appearing right on the heels of yesterday; however, even then he did not care, and Asyut was half-defiant. The interaction at the church with Hariet and last night’s small drinking party pushed Asyut’s back. Hope had not been exhausted yet. A miracle was surely within reach.
He went up a long slope.
Having come to this town, only a few days had passed, and yet he was able to find many familiar faces amongst passers-by who came and went past him. There was the old man who sat under the same building yesterday, the children running around in the back alley, and the housewives chatting beside the well… Indeed, like this “acquaintances” would increase in a flash. And like the young men, who he drank together with yesterday, said, it made sense how any rumors were spread immediately.
Before long he arrived at the medicine store and through the window there was Madela’s figure.
Here too, the same as yesterday, she was sitting on the cashier’s side and apparently seemed to be deep in talk with a preceding visitor.
When he quietly opened the door and entered inside Madela showed a soft smile along with a “Welcome” like she did on the first day. The woman who she was talking to turned around as a result of that voice and was– surprisingly the priest’s daughter, Hariet.
Hariet, upon recognizing Asyut’s appearance, furrowed her brows without hesitation like she did on the first day.
“Oh, Sieg, you came again.”
Hariet sent a sharp gaze without a moment’s delay to Madela who greeted Asyut in a relaxed manner.
“Hold on, sister-in-law. You know about this person?”
“Hm? Yes, he’s the traveler who stopped by here yesterday.”
“Stopped by here, you say.”
Once again Hariet glared over at him.
As he received her warm reception Asyut discovered the reason for her thorny attitude towards him alone and nodded inwardly with comprehension.
Hariet called Madela her sister-in-law. In other words, she was a relative of Yuna’s. And that’s why she was guarded – more than needed – against Asyut, a visitor from the city– from the royal capital.
But what did that really mean?
(As I thought, Yuna didn’t just die.)
Gathering these small fragments little by little, Asyut’s hope changed into conviction.
“For you to have already buttered up to my sister. You’re outrageous.”
“Hariet, what are you saying. He is Yuna’s friend and came all this way from the royal capital for Yuna.”
Madela’s chiding voice did not reach Hariet.
“Sister, you can’t believe that bullshit. There’s no way he can be her friend. You can tell just by looking at him. He’s definitely a person with social status, even in the royal capital. So, how did this person get to know Yuna?”
“Don’t assume things like that, Hariet… I’m really sorry about this, Sieg.”
Asyut shook his head a little at Madela who was trying to mediate the situation with a troubled look.
“No, since I am the one who surprised you with my sudden visit… Miss Hariet is Yuna’s…”
“I’m Yuna’s aunt. Yuna’s dad, Rendo, is my older brother.”
If that was the case then that meant the priest of that church, Maurice, was Yuna’s grandfather. So that was why Yuna’s parents relied on this church and moved here. It wasn’t them moving to a rural town at random.
“Now, I’ve made my identity clear. This time I’ll have you talk in detail about your “true” relationship with Yuna.”
“I said stop it, Hariet.”
Placing her hand on the angry Hariet’s shoulder, Madela made the woman, who had risen from her seat, sit down again.
“I would also like to ask Sieg all about Yuna. But, since it’s a connection to Yuna that has been made with effort, doesn’t everyone wish to talk about it comfortably?”
When Madela smiled softly it seemed that even Hariet was unable to show a stubborn attitude any more than that. She pouted her lips, as if having become sulky, but didn’t say anything more.
“Wait one moment.”
Saying that, Madela withdrew into the back room and then returned immediately with three cups of tea. She handed each of them to Asyut and Hariet and placed her own on top of the cashier’s shelf. And then, as soon as she disappeared once more into the back, she pulled out a chair this time and offered it to Asyut.
“Please sit down as well. I apologize for it being in the shop though.”
“But what if other people come to shop.”
“It’s fine. I normally sit down and talk with customers like this.”
Urged by Madela who didn’t seem concerned about that, Asyut sat down as he was told. And when he tasted the tea he was given, in order to dodge the dangerous glare sent over from Hariet who was beside him, the faint sweetness of the leaves spread in his mouth and the warmth gradually seeped into his body.
“Now, where did we talk to yesterday. You told me you became acquainted with Yuna through Lady Celiastina, right?”
Madela tilted her head while drinking her own tea. Meanwhile, Hariet startled and her eyes widened.
“Yes. And that Yuna and Lady Celiastina were friends from the time of the orphanage.”
“Aah, that’s right.”
“You said that you had done a disservice to Yuna during that time of the orphanage. What was it?”
“Oh, so we even talked about that. No, actually, it was only for a short period of time where I took Yuna to the orphanage. Even though she was always looking forward to going to play at the orphanage, it seemed I made her quite sad when she was unable to see her friends because of my circumstances.”
“This may sound like I am prying but what circumstances were those? Ah, you see, Yuna personally explained that she wasn’t able to go to the orphanage because her parents became busy.”
“Being busy was, in truth, an excuse. In reality, I was afraid.”
Madela lowered her eyes and drank her tea again.
“I wonder if you’ve heard… about the name of a girl called Cella who was living in the orphanage at the time.”
“Yes, I know of it. It is the real name of the present Lady Celiastina.”
“You really know a lot… Now that I think about it, I was rather silly. But, at that time, I believed in it firmly.”
“That in those days, at the orphanage, there were people who died now and then.”
“At the time, I heard by chance strange rumors. That the people who died were only those deeply involved with Cella. Of course, at first, I thought it was people starting bad rumors and didn’t think too deeply on it. But, later, when a staff members who cared particularly for Cella met an accident and died I quickly became frightened.”
Maybe she was thinking back to that time but Madela’s complexion wasn’t very good.
“I suddenly became concerned, remembering that my daughter Yuna was good friends with Cella. Rather, at that time, Cella didn’t have many friends and seemed to play only with Yuna. When I started to think that it might be Yuna’s turn next I wasn’t able to contain myself.”
“So, you kept a distance from the orphanage?”
“That’s right. I made reasons about one thing or another and tried not to take Yuna to the orphanage. Yuna had pleaded while crying that she had a friend she’d like to see, but I didn’t permit that. I even forbade the topic from being brought up and I thought that Yuna had also eventually forgotten about the orphanage, but perhaps she’s always thought about deep in her mind… That you and Yuna were acquainted through Lady Celiastina means that Yuna was reunited with Lady Celiastina in the royal capital, right?”
Asyut lowered his eyes. He couldn’t find the words to reply with.
However, in any case, he had no choice but to say that Madela’s decision was correct. If Yuna had passed the time as good friends with Cella like that, there was no mistake that sooner or later Yuna would have died due to Cella’s distorted ability.
“I’m sorry for talking to you about such a thing. Honestly, I thought I would talk to Yuna properly one day and apologize. But I can’t even do that…”
Madela averted her gaze from Asyut and looked off into the distance somewhere. Hariet also lowered her eyes to her hands with a grave look. He wondered what kind of feelings stretched out after those words that trailed off…
“Thank you very much for informing me about various things. Ever since I heard that story from Yuna and Lady Celiastina I’ve always been curious, so one load has been taken off my mind.”
Her feeble smile was painful to look at. It was the expression of a mother who was looking back on the memories of her deceased daughter.
Why was she looking so sad? Wasn’t Yuna supposed to be alive? It was as if Madela would never see her again–.
Abruptly being unable to endure that Asyut opened his mouth, carried along with that momentum.
“Madela, could I please meet with Yuna?”
“If there’s a grave then I would like to offer flowers. Or–“
If she wasn’t dead yet then. Asyut managed to stifle the words that seemed about to come out and, instead, caught his breath.
“Thank you. But due to circumstances I can’t show you to the grave. If you wish to remember Yuna then… ah, I know, please offer prayerse at the church in this town. If you do then I’m sure your prayers will reach Yuna as well.”
No, that wouldn’t reach her. Neither these feelings, nor this voice, not one thing.
“Can you tell me about those circumstances?”
“I’m sorry. It’s all a little complicated.”
“I am aware that it isn’t a topic an outsider who suddenly intruded should pry into, but I wish to know about Yuna by any means. I was truly saved a lot by her. It is not an exaggeration to say that my life has been saved by Yuna. And I simply cannot return home without knowing Yuna’s fate.”
“Hey, you, my sister said it was impossible.”
Hariet leaned forward as if to protect Madela.
Madela’s gaze dropped and she behaved as if she were indecisive over how to answer. But.
“–In the end, this is our family’s problem.”
At last she did not give in. It was as if she were telling herself that, saying it slowly one word at a time.
Aah, at this rate it would be all over.
The truth about Yuna’s death would be buried forever by her family.
That was the only thing he wouldn’t allow.
“–Is Yuna truly dead?”
In the end Asyut spoke the words that struck at the core.
He no longer wanted to act any more in a way that distanced Yuna from “life” with ambiguous words.
He wanted them to say that Yuna was alive.
“What are you talking about?”
Hariet muttered this in a stiff voice.
“… No, it doesn’t matter even if you don’t explain. This is more than enough. Please go home right now.”
“Yuna’s death is a problem that hasn’t even been assimilated yet among us, her family. I can’t bear it being rudely disturbed by an outsider.”
“Hariet, he came all this way from far away.”
“Sister, you’re too soft-hearted.”
Madela tried to argue even more but Hariet’s anger couldn’t be calmed down.
“Please wait. Won’t you please listen to what I have to say?”
Asyut opened his mouth calmly trying, as much as possible, not to imbue his words with emotion.
“Hariet, as you’ve said, I would like to properly explain who I am. Because many things truly happened with me and Yuna.”
Asyut clenched both of his hands.
It would not be easy to have them believe the events of this past year. Still, he had to hold nothing back. He had to tell them his purpose, in all sincerity with no false feelings. And then he had to get them to accept it–.
However, Asyut was unable to continue his words any further.
Because the appearance of sudden visitors in the shop broke the tense air.
“Apologies but we will be interrupting your conversation, madam and company.”
In contrast to their words, several men and women of the same age as Madela passed through the store’s doors with absolutely no reservation– and there was also a figure Asyut had seen once, Madela’s husband Rendo.
Madela and Hariet widened their eyes and stood at the sudden visitors. Rendo had a haggard expression and his head was bowed deeply. Just from that appearance it was clear that the visitors did not bring any good news.
“What seems to be the matter with everyone? Is there something my husband has done…”
Madela took a single step towards them and they sent a cold gaze towards her. Then, when they glanced over to confirm Asyut’s figure, their eyebrows openly knitted.
“So, the traveler is here as well. It was exactly as we worried.”
Among them, the most senior looking man said this provokingly.
“Madela, we have already told your husband but we will tell you once again. We are already at our limits living together with you and yours.”
“What was that?”
Madela’s bewilderment showed that she didn’t understand what they were getting at.
“We are talking about how we cannot protect you any longer in this village. In the first place, we were opposed to accepting a suspicious girl to begin with. We have our way of life and it is intolerable to have the country’s eyes on us by being burdened with danger that need not be beared.”
The man’s talk wasn’t very relevant to Asyut but it seemed to have been conveyed more than enough to Madela. And not only Madela. Hariet sunk into silence, standing beside Madela, with a pale expression as well.
“And, as I had feared, an investigation has come like this from the outside at last.”
Asyut received their gazes and understood that this matter was connected to him. And then– he comprehended everything this man had said. It was Yuna. The sleeping girl and her parents had been accepted together by this village. They knew about her and were adverse to that fact. Asyut could only think this.
“Mister, who exactly do you belong to? Are you truly just traveling? Or have you not come to this town of Svet to investigate something?”
“Why’d you drop in all of a s-sudden! This person is an outsider. Please don’t start that topic in front of an unrelated person!”
Before Asyut could respond with an answer Hariet raised an irritated voice.
“Hmph, I wonder if he is truly unrelated. If it is in accordance with our concerns then there will be serious consequences. It will not be something we can endure, Hariet. And it will be a problem if we are called accomplices, including the town, to the crime of sheltering a girl who blasphemes the power of the saint. Because we are merely victims who have had this heavy burden forced unilaterally upon us.”
“What did you say!”
Hariet’s voice was rough with a force where, right at this moment, she could spring at them. For an instant, the man looked frightened but then he cleared his throat once and continued further.
“In any case, beyond this, your daughter–“
There Madela’s husband, Rendo, broke in.
“Please, I beg you, don’t say anything more.”
“Madela, who is that man. What exactly were you talking about?”
Rendo looked at Asyut with downcast eyes.
Madela’s words didn’t continue. It was natural because Asyut had not explained about himself yet. That backfired in this place.
“… He’s just a guest. There’s no connection.”
Hariet declared this in a low voice.
“We can’t let an unrelated person go along with this complicated talk any more. Anyway, let’s ask him to go home.”
Asyut bit his lip. He could see that the situation would become unnecessarily complicated if he clung on here. And if that were to get in the way of Yuna’s family then he could only obediently withdraw now.
However, it was the residents of the town that didn’t allow that.
“Hariet, what are you saying. It would be quicker if we had this person listen to this as well. We, and the other residents, should make it clear here that we are unrelated to the matter of Rendo’s daughter.”
“No, because this person is unrelated to that matter. This person said so himself.”
“In the first place, is a disguised investigator not such a thing.”
“But he’s not one. He’s only a traveler and just a customer.”
“And yet, looking in from the outside, it seemed like you were having a very serious conversation.”
“Trying to lie means that we hit the nail on the head, no?”
Once again an explosive air slowly but steadily spread.
When Asyut raised his voice, the people who were glaring at each other turned their heads to him as if suddenly surprised. Asyut looked at each and every one of their expressions.
The self-assured residents, the exhausted Rendo, Madela who was determinedly holding her tongue, and Hariet whose cheeks were tinged with red due to anger.
“Please allow me to say only this. I am certainly a person from the royal capital and I am not unrelated to Yuna’s matter. However, I did not come for the reasons you are concerned about. I came to this town to confirm Yuna’s state and with feelings of wanting to save her, if possible. But I would like to tell the detailed circumstances to Yuna’s family later.”
He turned his gaze to Rendo, Madela, and Hariet and deliberately stressed this.
“I absolutely won’t hurt Yuna.”
And, in order to have them believe that, he had to withdraw now.
“–I will pay my respects again at a later time.”
Lowering his head slightly, Asyut left the store.
Asyut returned to the inn and threw himself onto the hard bed like that.
“Welcome back. If it would please you, would you like some tea brewed?”
The voice of the owner’s wife came from beyond the thin wooden door.
She must have been anxious, noticing that Asyut was strange when they passed each other in the hall just now.
“No, I am fine. Thank you very much.”
Just saying his thanks through the door, Asyut closed his eyes.
(I was foolish.)
Suddenly, the feeling of regret fell onto his body.
His own thoughtless actions had caused that disturbance not long ago.
Without revealing his status or purpose he had loitered around to sound out the town for several days. In a town where travelers normally didn’t come, it must have attracted a lot of notice. Like the residents that had pushed into Rendo and Madela’s store, there might be many others who had imagined bad things.
(If I had properly confirmed the circumstances to Yuna’s parents from the beginning…)
Of course, he didn’t think they would have easily accepted the situation. In either case, getting them to approve would not have been easy. However, if he had disclosed everything to them, putting aside whether they believed it or not, they should have had other actions too. Asyut’s methods of removing obstacles in the way of his objective had, in the end, done nothing but treat Yuna’s parents as outsiders and gone around planting a seed of misgivings into the surrounding people.
What exactly should he do now?
This wasn’t the time to be crushed by regrets. Whether his feelings of remorse became stone weights that tangled his feet, now was the moment where he had to move forward.
(There’s no time. For me, and for them.)
Asyut turned to look up on the bed and, covering his face with both hands, sighed heavily.
(I’ll go to meet them once again tomorrow morning. And there, this time, I’ll explain everything.)
Asyut had decided on that.
In the end even that resolve was not fulfilled.
Because he wasn’t able to approach the next morning without incident.
That evening the married couple, Rendo and Madela, came to the inn to visit Asyut.
Borrowing the small yard that spread out behind the inn, the three faced each other once again. Of course, it wasn’t an atmosphere where one could greet each other light-heartedly and the light that leaked out of the bar on the first floor illuminated the stiff expressions of the married couple unreservedly. That light was surely shining on Asyut’s hard expression in the same way.
“I apologize sincerely for visiting you at night.”
Rendo broke the ice with an exhausted voice.
“I heard about you from my wife and Hariet. With the situation being as it is, I couldn’t put this off.”
Asyut nodded with brief words.
Rendo and Madela looked at each other slightly. When Madela nodded firmly, pulling her chin in, Rendo opened his mouth again at that sign.
“Sieg, it seems that you were acquainted with our Yuna through Lady Celiastina. I’m surprised by the fact itself that she had a connection to Lady Celiastina recently… But, anyway, let’s put aside that topic for now. So, you heard that Yuna died and came to this Svet in order to confirm that.”
“Correct. However, I personally believe that Yuna is still alive even now.”
Rendo and Madela stared into Asyut’s eyes.
“Yuna is alive. Isn’t that so?”
Asyut strengthened his tone and asked that. It was a tone that was almost pleading.
There was a small pause.
And then it was Madela who broke the silence.
“… Yes, that’s right. Yuna is alive.”
Rendo rebuked his wife beside him with a strict voice but she did not falter as she didn’t just before noon.
“I believe in Sieg. Either way, it’s become like this, and we can’t hide it any longer.”
Isn’t that right, Madela seemed to say as she looked up directly at her husband. And then she faced Asyut firmly again.
“That Yuna was in an accident about a year ago is true. After that she’s continued to sleep without ever waking up even to this day in this town’s church where Rendo’s father serves as the priest.”
“In the church?”
He hadn’t thought that far.
Then that church he visited for the first time on the first day– Yuna had been there?
“There’s no sign of her waking at all?”
“Yes, none. She’s really done nothing but continued to sleep. Of course, she hasn’t eaten or even drank water. But she hasn’t become thinner and she’s also breathing steadily. I don’t know how to understand this situation. Is it God’s will…”
“Anyway, we can only continue to wait for the day Yuna wakes up.”
Rendo also continued his words as if resigned.
“At the same time we had to hide Yuna’s existence at all costs, because we ourselves knew best that it wasn’t natural for her to continue sleeping for a year. We thought that if her existence entered the king’s ears then danger would undoubtedly approach Yuna.”
“Because only the saint alone can cause a miracle in this world?”
“Other “miracles” are not recognized as miracles. I thought that they would be removed by the country as not having happened from the start.”
“And so we disclosed the circumstances only to some residents of this town and decided to hide Yuna behind closed doors in this entire town.”
So, among some of those residents were those men who showed an opposition at last. There was no doubt that for the married couple, Rendo and Madela, who thought to receive cooperation, they had endured a lot of the others’ objections.
“We don’t have any hopes of waking Yuna up. We can only wait for the next miracle to happen. But even that should be difficult like this. There is also a limit to living in fear of the royal capital learning about Yuna’s existence. The complaints of the people in the town will only become bigger from here.”
Madela hung her head and murmured this. What extent were the feelings of a mother whose daughter was treated unkindly?
“Actually, this matter has already passed to the royal palace, right?”
Rendo focused on Asyut once again. That gaze was clearly asking who he was.
“… The story that Yuna has continued to sleep for a year did not reach the royal capital through rumors and it was not by someone prosecuting her with ill will. I was told this as a fact that Lady Celiastina felt.”
“Lady Celiastina knows all about Yuna being hit by a carriage and sleeping for a year afterwards. Because all these events were caused by Lady Celiastina and Yuna, and the relationship between the two.”
“W-What do you mean?”
Madela clasped both hands against her chest.
“As you are aware, the two were good childhood friends. However, they only spent a small period of time together and after that the two grew up separately. Still, to Lady Celiastina, those young days became an irreplaceable support to her heart. That is why, on the day she felt the limits of her life in the royal palace, her ability summoned Yuna who was hit by the carriage.”
The start of everything was a small friendship from a long, long time ago.
It was so small that it hadn’t been kept in mind by anyone.
“Yuna’s soul was not called to the heavens and in this past year she has been together with us in the royal palace. I’ve been beside Yuna during this entire year.”
He heard the sound of Madela and Rendo’s breath catching.
It was like time stopped and there was no one who moved.
“My real name is not Sieg. I am–“
At that moment.
The faint wind blew through stronger.
And clouds began to cover the clear starry sky.
At first no one noticed that the liveliness of the bar suddenly changed to a different one.
The cheerful claps and laughter turned to a swelling noise. It was evident that the air in the area changed greatly, to the point where it was conveyed clearly to even Asyut and the others in the yard.
“… Did something happen in the bar?”
Rendo muttered this with unfocused eyes.
Asyut felt a slight clamor inside his heart.
Leaving the two in that spot, he went around to the front of the inn quickly. When he did, at the entrance of the inn that was wide open, a long-haired woman who was standing still there turned around. In that instant, he met eyes with her.
“–YOU’RE THE WORST!”
As she turned around she grabbed his collar without mercy. Asyut couldn’t read the situation. However, it was there he finally realized the woman was someone he knew.
It was Hariet.
The bar fell silent as if splashed with water at the sudden intruder and the abrupt action.
“I won’t forgive you. I absolutely won’t forgive you!”
Hariet was completely enraged. She tried to punch Asyut like that but was pushed back by the men who came back to themselves at that point. But still, she didn’t stop piercing Asyut with eyes covered in rage.
“Hariet, what’s going on!”
The married couple, Rendo and Madela, who came around late to the front, joined the men in a panic and tried to restrain her.
Asyut managed to ask just that somehow. But, even as he asked, there was an extremely bad premonition that spread slowly through his chest.
“How dare you have such an unconcerned face! You and those priests of the royal palace…! Because of you, that girl, Yuna is–!!”
Her words were a little bit unclear due to her agitation but it was more than enough for Asyut to comprehend the contents.
“It can’t be.”
He felt blood draining from his entire body.
Asyut raised his head and looked up at the church tower that rose in the dark night.
–Yuna was in danger.
(T/N: Chapters are queued to release every Friday, but I’m ahead of schedule so I’m opening up the option for the next chapter to be sponsored HERE. If the goal is reached it’ll be posted immediately and the next chapters moved a week up.)