A little break in the weather could be seen.
Linus suddenly stopped in the hallway and gazed surreptitiously at the one streak of light visible from the sky, covered by thick clouds, outside the window.
Truthfully, there was no time to be staring leisurely out the window, because he had to attend an important meeting from here. However, Linus’ heart was oddly calm and it was that reason that made him unable to feel like heading to the meeting room in a hurry.
In contrast to Linus, the people he passed in the hallway some time ago were all restless. There were many whose faces were clouded, not losing to the cloudy weather today, and a clear different air unlike the usual dominated the royal palace.
But that was also something inevitable.
By this time, five days had passed since the First Holy Knight, representing the country, abruptly disappeared from the royal palace.
When the report about Ashut leaving the royal palace alone came from the guards at the west gate, the top officials of the royal palace furrowed their brows once but no one made a grandiose ruckus.
It wasn’t possible for that too serious First Holy Knight to take such a reckless action at a time like this. Everyone thought this. That there must have been some mistake and even now he must be working hard at his duties.
However, when it was apparently noticed that Asyut really was nowhere in the royal palace, everyone’s chaos was too pathetic. Inquiries at many levels also came flooding to Linus, to the point where that day ended without him doing anything like work.
As a man said to be the most trusted person in the royal palace, who always thinks about the country and is serious and steady, why did he do this–. It was because the royal palace had been constantly suffering due to Saint Celiastina that they were granted a shock at Asyut’s recent actions, when their hearts had relied on him, as something that was suddenly hard to believe.
(They should have shown that trust to him much earlier.)
The people of the royal palace had always treated Asyut’s existence as something that was a matter of course.
Was there anyone who wondered how much he killed his heart, threw away everything, and devoted his body and soul to that position?
(He may have even decided already not to return.)
He departed by the king’s orders. Once it was confirmed Asyut left those words, everyone went to request an explanation from the king unanimously.
The king’s response to them was only one thing, “Wait for Asyut’s return”.
However, Linus, and others like him, even felt amusement inside at how Asyut did quite an impressive thing as well. To throw everything onto the king was something the young man, up to now, wouldn’t have ever decided to do.
On the other hand, there were also people who accepted these series of events happily.
Those were the people of the priest faction lead by Roblin.
That Asyut rushed out of the royal palace at this delicate time could be said to be a clear failure. If it was ordered by the king then the issue of where the responsibility lay was with the king himself. For the priests, who had no grounds to stand due to Celiastina’s matter recently, this must have been suitable material for a counterattack.
If, for example, it was not the king’s will but an action based on Asyut’s own decision then Asyut should be blamed this time. Since he was originally a First Holy Knight who was hard to handle and close to the king, if they could question his responsibility in this opportunity, they could take away his authority to a certain extent.
Moreover, even if his authority could not be broken with this incident, there was the existence of the imposter saint.
A fake saint– quite some time had passed since Yuna disappeared from the royal palace. The king’s faction’s explanation that she was missing was still unchanged and everything continued to be vague.
With Asyut’s departure this time, the focus came onto Yuna once again.
If circumstances permitted, they could question the king’s faction about how the fake saint was placed in position in this past year. To deliberately replace the saint was an enormous problem that was unprecedented. What the priest faction wanted to press in on was nothing less than that point.
(But, in actuality, I received a report from Ser Siegcrest that Lord Asyut’s departure from the royal palace was because of a secret agreement with Father Roblin.)
Roblin must have switched over and decided it was a better plan to use this matter as a weapon to hound the king than to wait quietly for Asyut’s return.
Even at the meeting that was about to start now, he could see Asyut’s matter being raised as an issue.
Publicly, it was a nominal meeting to persuade the priest faction who had confined Celiastina in the Priest Tower. The king’s faction intended to thrust an ultimatum at them that would tear off the mask of this discussion. And say that, if they will not release the saint then they could not wait anymore– it was time for a separation.
If that happened, there was no doubt the priest’s faction would use the current events as a counterattack to buy time.
(Now, I wonder if it’ll go that well.)
The discussion with the priest faction was held in the “Great Scholar Room”, which was used only for the utmost important topics.
The king’s faction, including Linus, was a total of five members with the king at the top of the list and then his aides. In contrast, the priest’s faction had a total of four people, apart from Roblin there were key priests who often participated in normal joint meetings. The room wasn’t very large and, when its large desk was enclosed by this number of people, the surrounding was filled with an unpleasant pressure from just that.
Roblin, who just so happened to be sitting right across from Linus, showed a severe expression that held no fragments of civility as usual. However, only his eyes were glittering brightly, as if he were a ferocious beast targeting a prey. The other priests had a somewhat uncomfortable expression and each of them were sitting with their heads looking down.
“Thank you for assembling today despite your busy schedules.”
The civil official, who was the facilitator, looked over the gathering faces and broke the ice.
“The agenda this time is about the future treatment of the Lady Saint, Celiastina.”
“As we both do not have time, allow me to offer a full report of our intentions frankly.”
The one who raised his voice promptly was Roblin, as expected.
“Lady Celiastina cannot be released as is. Our opinion is unchanged up to now. There are too many things lacking clarity to bring the saint, who is a messenger of God, from the tower. First, those things need to be made clear or there will not be a discussion.”
One of the aides of the king’s faction raised their hand.
“Those are quite ambiguous words. What is lacking clarity?”
“First, above all, it is about Lady Celiastina’s movements. Because the saint has been spending her days up to now on the king’s side, we were also late in understanding the situation, but in this past year she was replaced with a completely different girl. Of course, it is impossible for a simple countryside girl to suddenly become Lady Celiastina’s substitution. It has to be someone who was prepared.”
“And you are saying it was us?”
“In order to make that clear, it is necessary to listen to the story of the person themselves who was replaced.”
In that case, another aide said and raised their voice.
“Why not inquire with Lady Celiastina, who you have currently confined in the tower.”
“The Lady Saint will not say anything related to this matter. I fear it is likely that she is in distress over the punishment to be handed down to the girl who served as her substitute. Lady Celiastina is truly a gentle woman… However, that is precisely why we must reveal the truth with our own hands or we will not be able to explain ourselves to God. The imposter saint needs to be brought to the royal palace. Unless we hear everything from her mouth, we cannot proceed forward.”
The aides looked at each other.
The king continued to sit with an air of composure and did not open his mouth at all.
“That Celiastina does not try to talk about the situation is nothing more than your arbitrary explanation. Whether she’s truly keeping silent and, if so, what thoughts does she have, those are what should come before us to allow a judgment to be made.”
When Linus opened his mouth in their stead, Roblin’s eyebrows arched up greatly in that instant.
“Do you mean for Lady Celiastina to prove herself? How dare you propose that very idea. Even still, you are that lady’s guardian! It is truly deplorable.”
“May I ask you not to change the point at issue. What does Celiastina think about this current matter? This is a talk about how we also have the right to ascertain that. It is not about her proving herself or not proving herself.”
It was about time Celiastina should be released.
He didn’t intend for her to be kept in this old man’s bird cage for as long as that man liked.
“… When the appropriate time comes, we will respect Lady Celiastina’s opinion. However, now is not the time. Surely, you must also understand.”
“I do not understand. When is it the appropriate time?”
“First, there is nothing to say until Lord Asyut returns. For him to leave the royal palace in these difficult times, I wonder if he will not return at all? According to what I heard, his departure was due to the order of the king. Is that true?”
Roblin’s gaze shifted to the king.
It was none other than Roblin himself who instigated Lord Asyut though. Linus snorted inwardly. It was clear he was using Asyut’s words as a shield to pull out some sort of promise from the king.
“The king will not speak about this matter until Lord Asyut’s return.”
An aide struck back businesslike, but of course Roblin was not convinced.
“Why. Lord Asyut is trying to bring the girl who deceived the saint to the royal palace, is he not. May I not consider that to be for the sake of clarifying the facts? In that case, it should not be necessary to keep silent. –Or, conversely, do you intend to butcher the truth in the darkness?”
“You had best be careful what you say, Father Roblin.”
Linus remonstrated him in a gentle tone.
“Allow me to say what should be said. I am uneasy and I would like you all to consider this. If Lord Asyut had left to receive the girl, knowing her location, then is it not long past the time he should have returned? –Does he truly have any intention to return? In the beginning, I thought that if everything would become clear by waiting for his return then I agreed to try waiting. However, does it not seem like he will not return anymore?”
Those words of Roblin caused a small commotion not just with the king’s aides but also the other priests. Overcoming their positions, they exchanged looks and confirmed whether there was anyone waiting for answers on Asyut’s matter. And then, in the end, their entangled gazes were collected on the king.
However, the king still didn’t open his mouth.
“Even I do not wish to think like that. However, when I reflect on this past year, Lord Asyut adores the imposter saint greatly. It should be evident, even to outsiders, that he opened his heart to that girl. If he chose the path of fleeing together with the imposter saint then…”
He wondered if Roblin’s concerns were real or not. Right now, he was seriously losing his temper at Asyut who hadn’t returned no matter how long they waited.
“If Lord Asyut disregarded the real Lady Celiastina and, of all things, chose the imposter saint then it would be an eternal embarrassment to all of us here. He, who opened his heart to a wicked being, would no longer be suited as the First Holy Knight.”
A heavy silence descended on the spot.
The other priests did not advance any objections, of course. However, at the same time, there was no one who tried to open their mouths in the king’s faction either. They may have been suppressed by Roblin’s threatening attitude but, above all, his left no room for a rebuttal.
In such a place, Linus snickered.
The wrinkles between Roblin’s eyebrows deepened even more at that moment.
“Ah, pardon me, it was because Father Roblin’s imagination is plentiful. I believe it must be difficult to have that many imaginary worries.”
“If you do not even see the reality floating in front of you when you take into account the situation calmly, then you do not have what is needed to carry the heavy responsibility of the country.”
“No, what you are seeing is not reality. In the end it is a delusion.”
“What did you say?”
In the instant Roblin objected to Linus.
The knock resounded quietly and the tense air of the spot was smashed quickly.
This time everyone turned their heads to the door.
“Excuse my intrusion.”
The ones who entered were the Priestess Yodel and the Vice-captain of the Order of Holy Knights, Siegcrest. No one could grasp the situation at this strange arrangement.
Yodel, without looking at the people in this place, stepped forward in silence.
Her body was clothed in her constant habitual dark purple priest cloth. That, in this moment, her appearance looked like a mourner was perhaps because of her painfully subdued expression.
Yodel walked directly to Roblin’s side with her back held rigidly straight.
“Won’t you end this, Father Roblin.”
She spoke with a soft voice.
“W-What are you speaking of all of sudden.”
Roblin was taken aback and looked up at Yodel.
“Let’s end it already.”
“Who do you think you are stepping into an important meeting and spouting these things!”
“To use the Lady Saint’s status to aim for self-protection– there is no meaning to such a thing anymore.”
“What are you…”
“I am thinking about the future of this country, that was your favorite phrase in the past. Perhaps you once encouraged yourself by reciting those words. However, now it is different. Now, when you speak those words, it is only when you wish to move things for yourself and to use the pardon of the magic words that it is for the country and for God.”
Yodel’s words were calm but the contents were exceptionally rude and frank.
It was as if Roblin’s anger was so much that he had forgotten even his words already. The others were also like that and just watched the proceedings with their mouths open, dumbfounded. Among them, only the king was leaking out chuckles, unable to hold back.
“Father Roblin, please, I beg of you to stop already.”
“There is a limit to insulting others! What does a little girl like you understand.”
No, Yodel said and shook her head.
“I am surely closer to you than anyone else here. I believe I understand your distress and sense of crisis more than anyone else. But still, no, but that is precisely why I dare to say that which must be said.”
Roblin glared at Yodel with bloodshot eyes. Linus thought it was a look that could kill someone. And yet, Yodel did not show a scared appearance; she was a courageous woman at heart.
“I would like you to recall once more, right now, what it is that we should aim for originally. Is it only the power to stand equal to the king that shines dazzlingly at the end of your prayers?”
“That is not true.”
“Should we not be content to serve God with one heart and mind?”
“Of course, however simply praying will not change anything in this world.”
“You are too much a slave.”
“To what exactly!”
“To the ideal world you desire.”
Yodel’s face twisted in pain.
“You have been taken prisoner by your ideals and have lost sight of reality. Even though what is truly precious and what is necessary is all in reality… I learned that from my own experiences. Father Roblin, with who you are, surely you have noticed this. Please, I ask of you, stop already.”
Perhaps it was due to the humiliation but Roblin’s fists, which were clenched on top of the table, shook.
“… Old man, you’ve really done it now.”
Siegcrest had been watching at the entrance of the room but he called out to Roblin in an even voice. But just how many people in this spot noticed that a violent anger was placed in there. Siegcrest, who wore his anger quietly, stood at the entrance with his arms crossed and did not move.
“A report from my men came in just now. Roblin, you used thugs from the former anti-saint faction to send assassins to the “imposter saint”.”
“W-What are you saying at your own convenience! I haven’t done anything.”
Roblin tried to deny this with a startled face, but–
“It’s useless to play dumb.”
He was warned by Siegcrest’s cold voice without a moment’s delay.
“We confirmed the circumstances with ex-members who did not join in with the assassins. They said a man, who hid his identity, commissioned an assassination on a girl named Yuna. Having suspicions about the impossibly high reward, they secretly investigated and it was made clear that the client was you, Roblin. Some members seemed to accept, led by the reward, but apparently their leader, Ghada, chased after them right away to stop them.”
“Wait, what in the world are you talking about!”
“You don’t know when to give up!”
There, for the first time, Siegcrest’s voice roughened, but Roblin also did not keep silent.
“T-There’s a mistake. I know nothing!”
Roblin denied it with a desperate look but, in contrast, the surrounding eyes were cold.
“Where is the proof that it was my orders…!”
Siegcrest was unruffled and, with a calm action, took out a piece of paper from his breast pocket. Raising that high, he walked to the center of the room.
“Ghada caught a man who accepted the commission and, upon inspection, instructions came out. There is a signature at the very bottom. This sign is used by you whenever you’re issuing orders in the dark, in a manner of speaking it’s a “false name” or something like that.”
Indeed, there was an unfamiliar signature in the bottom right of the paper. It didn’t bear the slightest resemblance to the signature Roblin normally used for official documents and the like, but– the pallor of Roblin’s face as he stared at it intently became pale as they watched.
“I know nothing. I-I…”
He tried to deny all the more in a shrill and nervous voice.
In that moment the king, who had been completely silent up to now, quietly opened his mouth.
Having his name called, Roblin’s shoulders jerked awkwardly.
“Have you tried to murder a person without mercy, even while being someone who serves God? It seems like the God you believe in is completely different from the God we believe in, does it not?”
In that moment, the king’s blazing and glittering eyes were similar to a beast who cornered its prey.
“Regarding the future of the country, I shall undertake responsibility without needing your concerns.”
Roblin lost his expression more and more and began to shake violently.
“Until the end, I was not able to reconcile with you, hm. –It is a shame, Roblin.”
That one phrase was the last notice to him.
It told Roblin that his life as a priest ended here. Linus could tell that clearly.
Shortly thereafter, the meeting was dissolved and the participants left as they pleased with somewhat empty expressions.
Who would have imagined that the meeting would conclude in this form. It was as if they were already too exhausted to raise an objection or demand an explanation and the end of the meeting became anticlimactic. The matters related to Celiastina and Asyut remained undecided.
As everyone dispersed from the meeting room, Linus slowly looked back at the king.
“King Ronbarno, may I mumble to myself a little?”
“… Even though I appear like this, I have been paying attention to Father Roblin’s movements these past few days. From his movements up to now, I have some doubts that he actually had the opportunity to attempt contact with members of the former anti-saint faction.”
“It may be that someone moved on behalf of those who seemed too busy.”
“Someone, huh. I see, that may have been the case.”
“Well, from the start, that man also had those intentions. It is the same even if the time period was a little out of order.”
“I wonder what happened to Yuna, who had assassins sent to her.”
“Asyut is with her. In that case, I’m certain everything is fine.”
The king smiled as if it was of no concern.
Was it because he trusted Asyut from the bottom of his heart? Or…
Linus opened his mouth to ask one more question but stopped.
–What exactly do you know and to what extent is it in your grasp?
Instead of saying anything, Linus sighed in his mind. In the end, this person was truly a terrifying man.