“Mm, when they’re lined up like this they look wonderful!”
“Truly. The smell of herbs is somewhat soothing, isn’t it.”
In a corner of the infirmary in the royal palace, Mislee and Nasha clapped their hands happily.
Before their eyes was a fine, newly built medicine shelf. The shelf, which was at the height of the waist of a lady, was crowded with various small and large bottles that were lined up. Inside those bottles were many different kinds of medicinal herbs. There were various uses such as ones to be brewed or grounded and then coated on.
“Until now, we could only deal with small external injuries in this infirmary, but with this the kinds of patients we accept will also increase.”
Mislee placed both hands on her waist and gave a satisfied sigh.
“This place won’t be called a place for soldiers to slack off anymore.”
“Of course. This place is better than the main infirmary too!”
“Ahaha, it’s not like we’re competing with them though. But I really am happy. Thank you very much— Yuna.”
Mislee turned to look back at Yuna, who was cleaning up her compound station at a table a little ways away.
Yuna raised her head and returned a wide smile.
“No, I’m the one who’s grateful. I’m sorry I can only puff out my chest for knowledge on medicinal herbs though.”
“What are you talking about. I’m really happy just to work together with a cute, young lady such as yourself.”
“Y-you’re exaggerating. Even if you sweet talk me, you won’t get anything out of it.”
Yuna hurriedly lowered her face and stacked her mixing instruments with awkward motions. Nasha watched as Yuna carried those over to the washing area.
“—But it still feels strange for some reason. Three years have passed since then and now we’re able to spend our days together like this again with Yuna in the infirmary.”
“I don’t find it all that strange, because I knew we would surely see her again.”
Mislee said that in a leisurely tone. Beside her, Nasha hurriedly waved both hands.
“Of course, I believed that too!… Well, it’d be a lie to say I didn’t feel any worry though.”
“That’s true. During the three years without Yuna you weren’t lively at all, were you, Nasha. Even when I encouraged you, saying Asyut would soon go to pick up Yuna personally, it was as if there was no effect. When I saw you walking alone in the corridors, I thought there was a ghost roaming around.”
Yuna had also heard about how Nasha’s depression at the time couldn’t just be called a funny story. Nevertheless, to be able to respond to that right now with mutual smiles showed how this warmth was certainly in their hands. She was sure she would never let it go again.
“Yuna, I’ll help wash the dishes too.”
The two stood beside each other at the washing area. Somehow, it became silent and they listened to the sound of water while moving their hands.
“… But I’m really glad that you came back, Yuna.”
Nasha murmured that in halting words. Even now it seemed she wasn’t accustomed to calling Yuna’s name, but though she called it out awkwardly it was lovable. Yuna turned her face to Nasha beside her.
“I’m saying this only because it’s now, but although Mislee laughed about asking Lord Asyut to comfort me, that wouldn’t have been of help at all! Because he didn’t tell us your situation in any detail, Yuna. I know it was really hard to deal with various problems and because I couldn’t do anything there was no helping the matter though.”
“Is that how it was.”
“Yes, that’s right! I seriously did think many times about clinging to Lord Asyut’s legs and crying out that I wouldn’t let go until he told me what was going on though.”
“I wonder what kind of reaction Asyut would have had if you really did that.”
“I should have tried it, huh.”
Nasha snickered; she had also grown strong to talk like that about Asyut. Yuna had heard that Nasha was officially serving as Asyut’s maid, but with this they were probably getting along well together.
“Ah, I just remembered, Yuna!”
Mislee’s voice leapt to them from outside the washing area.
“May I ask you to run an errand to Ser Siegcrest? I don’t mind if you finish up for today like that.”
When Yuna returned to where Mislee was while wiping her hands, she found Mislee diligently transferring the salve Yuna had just made several days ago into small jars.
“Yes. It seems that the salves the training grounds keep on reserve for emergency treatment of wounds is about to run out. Apparently, they normally order from the main clinic but this time they want to use your salve, Yuna, since you made some.”
“Is that so.”
That was gratifying to hear but also a heavy responsibility. —Although, because she was employed as a personal herbalist of the royal palace, opportunities like this would surely increase steadily in the future.
“It would be best that people like Ser Aeneas don’t personally hurt themselves because they wish to use your handmade salve though, Yuna.”
“There’s no way they would do that, jeez!”
Mislee handed the basket with jars over to Yuna while giggling in amusement.
“Have a good day and I look forward to working with you tomorrow again.”
“Yuna, thank you for your work today. See you tomorrow.”
“… Okay, I’m going.”
Even though she showed a sulking face, in the end Yuna nodded shyly.
It had been a very long time since she showed her face at the training grounds of the Order of Holy Knights.
She recalled the time she had been forcibly brought by Siegcrest before. She was put on his shoulder like some sort of object— it was an extremely embarrassing experience, even remembering it now.
Fortunately, this time she wasn’t in the spotlight and she was able to arrive at the training grounds very calmly; although, in a sense, a simple girl who could be found anywhere standing in front of the training grounds of the country’s greatest starring Order of Knights might stand out.
She popped her face in from the entrance to peek around.
It looked like training had just ended and each person seemed to be having friendly conversations as they pleased or were maintaining their weapons. Yuna looked for the person she came for even while having strange looks sent to her by the knights who were leaving the training grounds.
(Ah, Aeneas and Neisan spotted.)
On the far left side of the training grounds, Neisan was sitting on the step of a wall and Aeneas was talking about something to him. For squires like them to be here meant they might have been doing a large joint exercise.
(But it’s hard to call out to them…)
If it was only those two in this place then she wouldn’t hesitate to call out.
But when she was wondering what to do and staring at the side of their faces, Neisan was the one who noticed her gaze and turned to her. As usual, he was a person who erased his own presence cleanly but was sensitive to the presence of others. Neisan said something to Aeneas and Aeneas whipped around to Yuna’s direction.
When she gave a shy nod, Aeneas returned a nod in the same way. And then he came to the entrance immediately like that. Neisan didn’t seem to intend to move from his spot and drank his water alone.
“Yuna, is something the matter? For you to be at such a dirty place.”
“Erm, I’m on a bit of an errand.”
“Yep. I have something to hand to Sieg.”
The knights passing by looked at their interaction with teasing eyes.
“Aeneas, a delivery for you? How nice.”
“His popularity is booming as ever, that Aeneas.”
“It’s not like that!”
Yuna gave a wry smile at Aeneas’ panicked state. Because there was no one among them who knew that this girl right here had been a temporary Celiastina, the current Yuna must have appeared in their eyes as a servant who was carrying a present for a knight she admired at present.
“I apologize, Yuna.”
“No, I’m the one who should apologize. I feel like I’m interrupting somewhat, sorry.”
“Ah, no, not at all.”
When they both said words of apology to each other, a particularly loud voice broke in between both of them.
“What, isn’t it Yuna there! What’s up?”
Siegcrest appeared from the back of the training grounds. His impression of being a loud lion was as usual as he raised a muscular right arm and waved a hand in their direction.
He was the only one from an early stage – no, perhaps the instant he knew her name – who seemed to have no resistance to calling Yuna by that name. Strangely enough, even Yuna herself was like that, but there was no sense of discomfort at all when she was called Yuna by him. Even though she still felt a ticklish sensation when those she knew in the royal palace called her Yuna, it was different only for Siegcrest.
“This is the salve you asked for. I hope it works properly though.”
“Ooh, so this is that stuff! I’ve heard rumors that there’s no mistake with your mixing skills.”
“No way, I still have a lot to learn. But if there’s something I’m able to prepare then please let me know at any time.”
“Yeah, thanks. We use this salve the most, so for a while we might just be asking for these all the time. But, well, I’ll watch out so that Aeneas doesn’t hurt himself on purpose to hog the salve.”
“Vice-captain! I wouldn’t do such a thing!”
Siegcrest flapped his hand in response to Aeneas who protested with a red face. Yuna secretly smiled, feeling like she had experienced a similar exchange just earlier ago.
“So, are you going back to the infirmary after this, Yuna?”
“Oh, no. I was told that it was okay to finish up for today.”
“I see. Then, do you wanna go out to town and get dinner with everyone? There’s lots of things I want to ask, like how things have been going with Asyut lately.”
“T-that’s a little… There’s nothing to talk about.”
“No, no, that can’t be true. I heard there was a huge mound of problems.”
Siegcrest didn’t seem the type to have an interest in people’s gossip, but when it was related to Yuna and Asyut he wanted to know all the details and it was troubling.
“I’m sorry, but we’ll have to do that next time… Erm, I was thinking about going to Linus after this.”
“Oh what. Getting ready for marriage?”
“T-that’s not it at all! There’s just simply too much I don’t know, so he’s been teaching me a lot.”
For several hours after the day’s work, she studied under Linus on days his schedule was open.
As the saint’s guardian he also ended up undertaking being the guardian of the “miracle girl” born by the saint. She learned from him the knowledge necessary to live as a member of the royal palace in the future, such as reading difficult literature and the history of the country.
It was Yuna who declined firmly in the beginning, feeling apologetic for how busy he was, but she was told by Linus that he didn’t mind at all if he was able to neglect bothersome work with her. Although it wasn’t like she accepted those words without question, she accepted his kindness gratefully and from time to time she was the one who carried herself to his office.
“Well, if that’s the case then go and work hard. For me though, I think it’s enough for you to be next to Asyut even without any knowledge, Yuna.”
“I-I’m going now!”
This topic was embarrassing and made her squirm, unable to stand being there. Yuna turned on her heel hurriedly and, slipping into the knights who were on their way home, she left that spot as if she were running away.
Passing through the corridors in a run, she headed to the area where there were offices of high-ranking aristocrats.
Once she came this far, the number of people in the corridors was quite small. The people coming and going in this area already knew about Yuna’s existence, and so she was not given strange looks whenever she was occasionally in the royal palace. Yuna heaved a relieved sigh and finally slowed her walking speed a little.
Along with a light knock she opened the door to Linus’ office. Because it wasn’t locked, it seemed like he was present in the room.
“It’s Yuna. I’m coming in.”
Linus, who welcomed Yuna while facing his office desk, seemed to notice the basket held in Yuna’s hand immediately with sharp eyes.
“Oh my, could it be that you brought a gift for me for working so hard?”
“Ah, sorry, this is empty.”
It was the basket which had contained salve jars until recently. When she turned the basket over with a look of innocence, Linus shrugged his shoulders with a disappointed look.
“Good grief, you’re teasing me.”
“Next time I’ll bake bread and bring it with me then. I’m pretty good at cooking.”
“I’ll look forward to that. —Well, would you like a seat?”
Yuna sat down on the sofa, as offered.
“I didn’t intend to stop by today, so I came empty-handed. Because something unexpected happened, I ended up appearing here suddenly.”
It was hard to say she was embarrassed being teased by Siegcrest and escaped to here. Linus didn’t pursue that topic any further when she prevaricated her words.
“Well, it is also good to relax from time to time, since when you’re left alone you keep at something for too long.”
“I don’t do that.”
Linus leaned back heavily on the chair’s backrest and clasped both hands, which were on the armrests, in front of his stomach.
“It’s almost a month since you came to the royal palace. It’s been quick, hasn’t it.”
“Have you already grown completely accustomed to living in the royal palace as Yuna?”
“Yes, that’s right. Thanks to you.”
Yuna nodded with an ambivalent smile. Certainly, she was used to living here but not to the point of being completely accustomed. In the end, it was quite different from the way it was before. Even if she had knowledge about the royal palace, if she was living here in a different position then she would run into various walls.
Furthermore, three years had brought more significant changes to this royal palace than she thought.
—No, it wasn’t simply because time passed, but because a change was clearly brought by those carrying a strong will to try and change things.
First, everyone’s eyes towards Saint Celiastina, who even now did not leave the tower, changed.
During the time Yuna was substituting as her, the people to the very end did not have that much unpleasant thoughts about Celiastina; however, a fundamental part changed.
Celiastina’s true ability became known to those in the royal palace.
Until then, her her ability was said to “unknown” publicly, but underneath it was a situation where many horrible assumptions flew around. However, on and after it was made public that her power was said to amplify the life force of those she connected with, the gazes of the people in the royal palace towards her became warm, mixed with respect.
It also became well known to a part of the royal palace that Yuna herself had also touched the grace of Celiastina’s power. On rare occasions, she was also treated as the “miracle girl” and she had a small portion of prestige as Yuna. However, perhaps owing to that, she was accepted without dissent to work at the royal palace.
But, of course, iit was not like everything was accepted smoothly.
Saint Celiastina dissolved her engagement with the First Holy Knight and was to spend the rest of her life in the tower as the bride of God—.
In regard to that announcement, not only the royal palace but also the whole country descended into a great chaos. And then, still lingering in that shock, a great majority of the citizens who knew nothing about the circumstances did not believe that fact.
“Hey, Linus, how has Celiastina been lately? You’ve met her during this time, right?”
“Yes, that girl is doing fine.”
Hearing those words, Yuna was relieved.
“Please be at ease, because I will properly watch over Celia.”
When Linus saw Yuna nod, he suddenly stood up. He glanced at the window behind her and made a surprised, oh my, noise.
“That person is alone there again.”
Drawn by Linus’ exasperated voice, Yuna also walked over to the side of the window. The first thing that jumped into her eyes when she looked outside the window was the red of the sinking, evening sun. And then on the narrow trail from the far left of the window— there stood a small human figure.
From here the size of that figure was only as large as a single petal of an asiatic jasmine.
“There is only person who saunters about in that place without bringing along attendants.”
Yuna and Linus exchanged looks.
“—I’m going to go there!”
“Alright, alright, take care.”
Yuna left Linus’ office in a great rush. As she ran through the corridors she realized she forgot the empty basket in the room, but decided not to care.
When she exited the building, the sun was about to set at last.
Yuna took in a deep breath and filled her chest with the clear air that was slightly damp.
It seemed like it had rained. The dew reflected the red light and everything glittered like it was magical.
The king just so happened to be walking back to here on a single trail. Yuna stood still in that spot and waited as his figure gradually approached. He seemed to have noticed Yuna after a while, but he was not particularly surprised and accepted her presence with a wide smile.
“Hello, what a beautiful sunset, is it not?”
Yuna, who came back to herself at those words, nodded repeatedly.
“Against my better judgment, I slipped out of work and came for a stroll. My retainers will get angry at me again, hm.”
Yuna unconsciously called out to him like that. When he was called, he tilted his head slightly with a calm expression still.
He stood at the top of this country— as the king. However, it was only when they faced each other alone together like this that she was able to speak to him as the strange, old man, Rono. A person she could express her ideas to as she pleased, leaving out all the difficult things such as politics, authority, and other things.
Even so, it was the first time the two were meeting alone after she came into the royal palace as Yuna.
“I’m glad I’m able to meet you again like this, Rono.”
“Oh my, oh my, I am also very glad. It is quite moving to be able to see you here, even now.”
Why was it that her chest felt stuffy?
She knew he had various faces. Even his merciless side as the king was thrust before Yuna’s eyes countless of times up to now. But still, in the end, Rono was Rono. She thought his smile was warm.
“How is life in the royal palace?”
“Yes, I seem to be managing somehow.”
“That is good to hear. It was worth the effort Asyut put in as well, hm. In just three years, this royal palace has changed quite a lot. The engagement between you and Asyut is also starting to be accepted.”
“That’s also because of your support, Rono.”
“Oh, no no. I simply acted with my own thoughts.”
Lowering his eyes, he showed a troubled smile.
“Truly, many things have happened, haven’t they.”
“I’ve hurt you many times.”
“Down the road, I may choose a future as the king that will hurt you.”
“Nevertheless, I am glad that I can relax and view the sunset with you like this right now.”
Yuna raised her head and stared intently at the sun which was sinking beyond the horizon’s trees.
“I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart for the push you gave on a lot of things, Rono. I haven’t been hurt by you because everything I did was what I wanted to do.”
When she said this with a laugh, Rono blinked his eyes many times.
“Hahaa. Now that you mention it, that was the case. Mm, certainly.”
Yuna smiled wryly.
“It’s the same about Asyut too… Rono, is it really okay? I’ve run after that person up to here. And I wish to stay beside him forever after too.”
She couldn’t look away from the sunset. She couldn’t look at Rono’s face.
His words soaked slowly into her heart.
“Of course you can. Please remain by his side.”
Those were words she wanted more than anything else. That was what she thought from the bottom of her heart. She couldn’t see the future she was walking to yet, but right now in this instant she wanted those words.
“—Thank you, Rono.”
Yuna bit her lip hard; she could tell that beside her Rono had smiled suddenly.
“Did you know? That Asyut, in these three years he’s been apart from you, has stood alone in that flower garden over there at sunset every day.”
Why alone— standing in the flower garden?
In that instant, Yuna immediately found the answer within herself due to a small light which just so happened to pass beside them.
“Oh my, a torch bug.”
Yuna took a single step, as if she were invited by that light.
“Rono, I’m going to the flower gardens for a moment.”
“Of course. —Go on.”
Yuna’s footprints were engraved with every step she took on the damp ground. Yuna loved the sound of the dirt getting pressed like this. That was why she especially loved the period of time after the rain.
She walked on the small path, where there was no one, together with whimsical footsteps.
And then, as if to get ahead of Yuna, another small light floated past her.
After that was another. Following that, two more. Little by little, a fleeting light began to emerge in her surroundings.
Yuna took another single step, as if she were invited by that light.
Her face spontaneously broke into a grin.
The setting sun had completely nestled close to the horizon.
Yuna’s vision, which began to be covered in darkness, was illuminated by the light of the torch bugs that began to increase rapidly in number. The vegetation that was overgrown alongside the path suddenly cut off— in exchange, a flower garden that stretched to the horizon spread out.
Yuna was walking in the middle of lights now.
There was already a countless number of torch bugs dancing in the air.
Even the stars of the night sky, as if ashamed at themselves, twinkled quietly in the far distance.
Every time the wind blew, the faint lights swayed. The flowers, which wore the lights as if they were substitutes for petals, continued everywhere— it was just like a sea of lights.
(Honestly, a lot of things happened.)
(There were many times I thought I couldn’t go on anymore too.)
(But I can be glad from the bottom of my heart that I walked to this point.)
From here on, she was sure she wouldn’t stop walking. She could walk to anywhere.
Because the world was filled with this much light.
How beautiful it was. Why was it so wonderful?
There was no way she could stop and stand still.
If, no matter how painful and hard the journey was, once it was overcome, this kind of scenery was spread out.
Behind Yuna, who stood there absentmindedly, a pair of even footsteps approached.
Yuna did nothing but stare ahead, not turning around.
Eventually, the footsteps stopped right beside Yuna.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it.”
Asyut, who was next to her, murmured that in a calm voice.
Yuna also answered with few words.
Because this moment was filled enough, to the point where words weren’t needed.
“I’ve been waiting all this time.”
“To spend this time with you like this.”
Yuna bit her lip and nodded.
These three years seemed to be short, yet felt so long.
She still did not believe that she was enough to stand equal next to Asyut like this.
However, gradually, little by little with time, she wanted to become someone who could get close next to him.
Wherever you are, I will always come for you.
The words of Asyut in the past came to her mind.
Exactly like those words, he chased after Yuna countless of times.
Even when hatred covered his body. Even when Yuna tried to leave.
And now, even at this very moment.
“Finally, I was able to fulfill our promise.”
The promise which she thought would surely never be fulfilled.
But now he was next to her.
No matter how many times I say thank you it wouldn’t be enough.
No matter how many times I say I’m happy it wouldn’t be enough.
That’s why I’m not going to say those.
But I want to say just this.
“—Let’s always come and see this sight, in the future too, Asyut.”
(T/N: It’s been two years but we’ve finally reached the end! Thank you to everyone who followed me on this journey, commented, and quietly lurked and read this. If you enjoyed this novel, please do consider supporting the author by buying her novels through Amazon JP. Links are in the master page! Also, it’d be nice if some reviews were left on novelupdates, haha. I’m going to post the afterword and character page after this.
But, yeah, honestly I can’t believe I made it to the end LOL. Oh, btw, I’ve also edited the past chapters to fix typos, tense errors, formatting, and words I missed. Nothing major was changed but my style has changed in these two years. It’s been an interesting learning experience to have completed an actual translation project.)