It was late at night on the eighth day since he rushed out of the royal palace.
At last Asyut returned.
The front of the main gates was bright like daytime due to the large torch lights.
Asyut stopped his horse before the gates. Beside him– the carriage carrying the sleeping Yuna, who was dead to the world, came to a stop in the same way. From the window of the carriage the only thing that slightly peeked out from the girl whose body was wrapped in a linen blanket was her defenseless slumbering face. Those steady sounding breaths let him know that she was certainly alive. Peering at her face like that, Asyut gave a relieved sigh. No matter how many times he confirmed this, his anxieties still wouldn’t disappear. She was right beside him but would she stop breathing before he knew it?– That was his anxiety.
Come to think of it, when Asyut just met “Yuna”, they returned to the royal palace with her on a horse like this. That was the beginning of everything. It was at that time that she just transferred to Celiastina’s body. He was certain that she was at a loss inwardly, not knowing anything.
(This girl built up many things beginning from there.)
Now, it was time for Asyut to grit his teeth and bear with this. Yes– just a little more.
The gatekeepers were greatly flustered at Asyut’s sudden return.
People came and went here and there in a panicked rush, and it was the same as that time one year ago. Everything was connected to the beginning–. Asyut got down from his horse and brought out Yuna from the carriage, carrying her carefully. His horse and baggage ended up being entrusted to the gatekeepers.
It was planned that he would meet with Yuna’s parents at the royal palace after several days. Not knowing the treatment he’d receive at the royal palace, Asyut tried persuading them to wait at the town, but he was unable to get them to nod in the end. Rendo and Madela declared that, even if they were to be jailed, they would not leave Yuna’s side.
Ghada, of the former anti-saint faction, was also to arrive later to the royal palace, bringing the assailants that were caught in the town of Svet. Asyut had thought Milifaire would be the only one not traveling with them, but in the end she planned to come together with them too. She didn’t accept this, but she wanted to know the conclusion. That was what she said the night before he left Svet.
“Welcome back, Asyut.”
In the bustle at the front of the main gates, a voice called out to stop Asyut who started walking.
It was Linus.
In general, he was a man who appeared in unexpected places and at unexpected moments, but it was rare for him to come and welcome Asyut on purpose like this. Unconsciously, Asyut tightened his arms around Yuna and turned to face him tensely. Linus acted as if he did not notice Asyut’s actions and peered at the girl in his arms with deep interest.
“So, this girl is Yuna. Oh, what an adorably peaceful sleeping face.”
“… Lord Linus, I have returned.”
“Great work. I’m glad to see that you two are unharmed. There was some trouble with the priests who headed to the town on Father Roblin’s orders, was there not.”
Asyut nodded at Linus’ words.
“I was aided by Ghada and the others, sent by the king… Although, I cannot surmise the thoughts of the king.”
“It’s you, so I would guess you have a rough idea.”
“What happened to Roblin.”
“As he plotted to assassinate the First Holy Knight and others using mercenaries, for the time being he has been dealt with on house arrest. Well, he also has status so it is unlikely he’ll be sentenced to death but, taking into consideration his behavior up to now, he will be imprisoned for a long time.”
To what extent were Roblin’s crimes? Asyut didn’t know.
“The king’s actions were earlier than I expected. I didn’t think the situation would change to this point before Yuna was brought back.”
“He seems to have free time ever since Yuna was gone… that man.”
Linus showed a smile that could be taken as wry.
“–That king has summoned you. This is the critical moment, Asyut.”
In this royal palace, there were three rooms, large and small, as audience rooms.
There was a large hall that was used for major events of the country, and a corresponding medium hall. And then, on occasions of further personal-flavored meetings, the Savary Hall was used. Savary was the name of a goddess who appeared in the myths and, because her dancing figure was incorporated into the canopy of the throne, the name of the room was said to become that.
This Savary Hall was a small room that would be suffocating if fifty people were to be crowded in. Compared to the extravagant structure of the large and medium audience halls, this one was somewhat plain. It had impressively patterned wooden floors and tall walls based on the colors white and blue. The throne was established several steps above the floor and, from there, a crimson carpet was laid out like drawing a ripple. The candlestands set to both sides of the throne were of a simple design, without grand decorations. –Roughly, that was pretty much all that could be seen in this hall.
The current generation’s king, Ronbarno, often used this room by preference. It was easy to clear people away and this room, where he could talk to the minimum amount of people, was just right for him who valued practicality. And, at the same time, it was convenient for Asyut right now as well.
Asyut, who bowed at the entrance, looked up and confirmed the presence of King Ronbarno at the end of his sight. There was no one around– apart from one person, the helpless figure of a young girl lying down on a pedestal in front of the king. Asyut raised his gaze again after firmly ascertaining the safety of Yuna who was brought ahead of him. He was facing the king for the first time in a while and, like the last time he saw him, the king was completely unchanged from his extremely calm appearance.
“I appreciate your efforts, Asyut.”
When he looked at the king’s expression, who said that smiling, he couldn’t see anything but a good-natured old man thanking his relative for the long trip.
“Please do not be reserved, come closer.”
Asyut walked up to him as told and bowed his head deeply once again.
“It feels like it’s been quite a long time since I spoke with you. Lately, we have both been busy with various things, haven’t we.”
“If I had spoken to you a little earlier, I would have heard many interesting plans, and that is a shame. The pleasure from hearing these things, after everything is concluded, is halved.”
“Even if Your Majesty hasn’t heard anything, you’ve seen through everything, have you not.”
The king’s voice was imbued with a faint amusement.
“That is not true. To think that, Asyut, you would throw everything onto me and take a rest in the countryside was unimaginable.”
While saying such a thing, it was obvious that even that had been seen through, but Asyut did not dare to argue.
“Allow me one correction.”
Asyut raised his head and stared directly up at the king.
“What is it.”
“It was not a break. I went to complete a task.”
“A task, hm.”
The king finally showed an expression that was clearly a smile to anyone who saw. It was as if he could not help but be pleased, that was what was written on that face.
“It may not have been a task to be handed down to anyone else. However, to me, it was an enormous task that would have influence on my whole life.”
“And the fruit of that task was– is this girl, is that it.”
The king slowly narrowed his eyes and stroked his own beard. With a gentle smile, he looked at the girl who continued to sleep atop the pedestal.
“You found her at last, Asyut.”
“It is not over yet. It would also not be an exaggeration to say that this is the beginning from here.”
“In that case, do I still have an opportunity to worship a miracle and the likes from now?”
“If Your Majesty so desires.”
“That is quite an unpleasant manner of speech.”
The king showed a wry smile. It seemed that his mood was quite good.
“Even I do not intend to deny the existence of things such as God and miracles. Regarding the circumstances of the girl called Yuna, she is full of unknowns. Do you not agree, Asyut? That is precisely why this world is interesting.”
Asyut looked up at the king with a serious gaze.
“… I heard that ever since she was struck by a carriage a year ago, she has continued to sleep without waking up even once. Whether it was an opportunity granted by God, or granted by another thing entirely, we may never understand forever. Only, surely to her, the year in this royal palace were like events in a dream. I wish to wake her up. I wish to make her dream a reality. I want to make such a miracle possible.”
Asyut told him that in an unwavering tone. He didn’t want to overlook the slightest movement of the king’s expression.
The aforementioned king seemed to miss those days he had with Yuna. In those gentle crinkled corners of his eyes, it was certainly felt that feelings of fondness existed inside him. However, at the same time, it was impossible not to notice the shrewd light that rested in those eyes.
–Did he not intend to permit Yuna’s awakening?
Asyut couldn’t read that.
“Incidentally, Asyut, how exactly are you going to wake this girl?”
The king very calmly asked this.
“… I will use Lady Celiastina’s ability, as a saint.”
“Oh? What sort of ability?”
“To lead those she has connected with to their deaths– that is what we had thought her ability was up to now.”
“That should be the case.”
“However, it became evident from her that, in actuality, she was endowed with a completely different ability.”
“Her actual ability is placed in the exact opposite direction. Her original ability is the amplification of power towards “life” for those she connects with.”
“I heard that Lady Celiastina and the girl named Yuna were childhood friends from the time of the orphanage. They were not simply acquaintances, but extremely good friends. That is why, using the power she originally had as the saint, she is able to awaken the comatose Yuna. Lady Celiastina herself has said that this will surely be a success.”
“Hrm, I see. Indeed, this could be said to be a wonderful “miracle” if realized.”
The king gave a smile that was felt to have composure.
“I am deeply aware that Your Majesty has planned for the weakening of the saint’s and priest’s influence, but still, may I ask you to agree to her miracle here?”
“In the story I heard from Linus just a while ago, Father Roblin was caught on charges of plotting my assassination during my absence from the royal palace. The priests must be greatly confused and in a disorder hereafter.”
“Roblin, you say.”
The king showed an ambiguous smile.
“For them, Father Roblin’s loss of standing should be an exceedingly great shock. Even if it was not, due to Lady Celiastina’s merciless actions over the past few years, the attitude towards religion has weakened. –Now that it has become this, on the contrary, I think it being too weak is also a problem.”
“In other words?”
“Is it not possible to say that it is not a good plan for the country to knock down the priests thoroughly here and now? At this rate, seen not only by people of the royal palace but also the country’s people is the king one-sidedly targeting the priests– I worry that it could be taken as you oppressing religion.”
“Religion is a large existence for the people of this country still. You’ve mostly succeeded in removing substantial authority from the priests, thus even if a miracle of the saint were to be shown to the people here it should not be a threat to you, the king. Rather, in cutting loose religion from the basis of their lives hereafter, I believe it is necessary to support it whenever there’s a chance.”
At that moment, when he talked on and on in one breath, the king gently placed his index finger on his own mouth.
“You’ve spoken a lot today, Asyut.”
Asyut’s words became stuck instantly at the king’s teasing words.
“I also understand your case. However, you see, I don’t particularly care.”
“… You don’t care, meaning…”
“I know only too well that what I am trying to establish will not be easy to do. If I am to centralize power, there is no way conflict can be avoided. Do you not think so, Asyut? Presently, we are standing at a crossroads of a large wave in this period. If you wish to choose to advance on a path with your own will, and not just be swept along, then you must be prepared to be accompanied by a great deal of sacrifice. The confrontation with the priests was one of those. I am well aware that evicting Roblin alone will not do anything. In the near future, religion will certainly come around and once again a large conflict will occur. I am prepared for the opposition from the people. You will not be able to accomplish anything if you are afraid of animosity being directed towards you.”
The king’s words had an unquestionable persuasive power. In front of that, Asyut’s assertions and the like were, in the end, nothing but false arguments. Having this evident fact thrusted at him painfully, he involuntarily felt like he was about to be overcome. However, Asyut himself could not draw back here.
“Certainly, I am aware it is as you say, Your Majesty. Only, is it not too premature to abandon religion entirely at this time. At the least, after creating a situation to obtain the understanding of the people…”
Asyut closed his mouth again when his name was called in a quiet voice. He looked up with eyes wavering with uneasiness at the king who showed no sign of being moved at all.
“How about we stop talking in circles?”
“… Your Majesty.”
“I wonder why you are so desperate. There is only one reason, is there not.”
And then once again the king dropped his gaze to the sleeping Yuna.
“You simply wish to save Yuna.”
His words pierced Asyut’s chest directly.
No matter what sort of pretentious statements were lined up.
(I just want to save her.)
That was it. That was all.
“In that case, you should have said those words only from the beginning.”
Asyut stared firmly at the king this time with a gaze full of determination. The king’s eyes, as he sat comfortably on the throne, crinkled slightly when he received that.
“I thought you had come to a resolution when you flew out of the royal palace on your own decision. The resolution that, for the sake of following through with your own will, you would pay whatever sacrifices there were, not caring even if that were to turn me into an enemy. And I am convinced from that now. That, as I thought, I was correct in placing you in the position of the First Holy Knight.”
Perhaps that was why he did not discard Asyut and, conversely, did something such as lend his hand.
Abruptly, the king said that.
“If you say you can wake Yuna then you may try it. I am sure I said previously that I had an interest in the fate of this girl called Yuna.”
Asyut slowly sucked in a breath.
“… Thank you very much.”
And then lowered his head deeply.
“However, if you are able to successfully wake up Yuna, what do you intend to do afterwards?”
There was a brief period of silence.
“–I intend to fulfill my duties as the First Holy Knight, unchanged.”
He had already decided that.
His words did not falter.
He could not quit being the First Holy Knight.
During his short stay in the town of Svet, Asyut had strengthened that will.
Those cheery residents of Svet, though shy of strangers, were truly warm and accommodating. They who loved their calm everyday life, where nothing overambitious happened, more than anyone else. And even those who understood the blessing of this ordinary life and perceived it as a “miracle”.
That was surely not just limited to the residents of Svet. No matter the city, or town, or village, people were living in the same way. They create the world.
What Asyut wanted to protect was their “miracle” which spread out without any limits.
This “miracle” which could be said in other words to be a “hope”.
–He wanted to protect it, now and in the future.
That was exactly why.
“I wish to remain as the First Holy Knight in the future as well.”
“You’ve told me something interesting, Asyut.”
The king once again placed his index finger against his lips.
“It is a tradition that the saint and First Holy Knight must be married before twenty years of age or a disaster will occur, but that is simply nonsense without any basis.”
“… I see.”
“Oh my, you aren’t asking for more details. You aren’t curious as to whether my words just now are the truth or not?”
“Most likely it is the truth, is it not. When I look at Your Majesty’s face, I can tell.”
“I thought I was of the nature to not express things easily on my face though.”
The king played with his beard and made several faces.
“From the start, the marriage of the saint and First Holy Knight has no powers. It is nothing more than a custom that our distant ancestors began for the sake of making the foundation of the country stronger. By taking into the country the girls who held mysterious powers called saints, the king’s unifying force must have been raised. Furthermore, there is no need to discover the saint before the age of fourteen. Everything was made up for the convenience of the country.”
“Then the history where the saint was not actually found and the country was assaulted by natural disasters…?”
“History can be rewritten in any way, Asyut.”
The king smiled without an end, as usual, and Asyut wondered how serious he was. He wanted to doubt that everything might be the king’s lies, but– he was terrifyingly sane.
“In the dawning of the country, there was a need to borrow the divine power of the saints. I also know that well. However, it is different now. Without borrowing unknown powers and the influence of God, we can develop this country with human will and human power. –I will make such a country from now on.”
As the king’s smile deepened he looked down at Asyut with a piercing gaze.
“Let us make it together, Asyut.”
(–Even to this point.)
He wondered if everything was read by the king.
Beginning with the confinement of Celiastina to even the great loss of the priests led by Roblin.
Even Asyut rushing out of the palace, but returning to him in the end.
Everything was as he willed.
(Certainly, I am still standing in the palm of the king.)
He had noticed this a long time ago, but did not try to jump off from that palm personally.
However, Asyut was already different from the past him up to now.
It was no longer possible for him to be a convenient First Holy Knight for the king.
(I will go down the path I believe in. And I may choose a path that will be in conflict with you someday.)
Maybe even that was in his expectations? But he may have been convinced to raise Asyut even in that case.
(I am still lacking in power now, but down the road…)
He will surely acquire the power one day capable of protesting to this king.
And then, Asyut vowed, he would carry out his duties, not just in appearance, but as a true First Holy Knight.