Light Beyond Road’s End
The sky was high, Yuna thought.
A clear, cloundless, blue sky spread out this morning. Yuna took in deep breaths while still looking up. Recently she realized that whenever she was thinking, or troubled, she found herself looking up at the sky; somehow it had become a habit. It was a strange thought because she didn’t do this before. It might have been because the sky was the only thing that hadn’t changed since her previous life, and looking at it naturally calmed her down.
“Lady Celiastina, is something the matter?”
“Ah, no. It’s nothing.”
Aeneas was escorting her to the balcony that overlooked the plaza.
Asyut picked up a piece of the report that was spread out in front of him and then tossed it aside after a glance.
Unable to feel motivated, he stood up from the sofa and poured himself a glass of water from the shelf before draining it in one go. –As he thought, work wasn’t something to be brought into his private room. Along with his sigh Asyut felt that keenly. But there was a mound of problems and they were all serious matters that could not be ignored. During the day he was up to his neck in dealing with business that the only way to think slowly over these problems was to set aside a short time at night.
The enviroment surrounding the Saint Celiastina was once again starting to change greatly.
There were many points related to her that he was concerned about. First, the most immediate problem was the matter of her bodyguards. Ever since Neisan, a victim of the Holy Jail, was announced as a candidate to be her bodyguard, everyone’s doubts began to swell again.
The same situation occurred when Aeneas became one. Why did he expressly want to serve as the hated saint’s bodyguard? Was he not hiding a plot to avenge himself? If that was not the case then, conversely, was the saint the one who appointed him as a bodyguard again? If so, then for what reason?
Certainly, the surrounding voices gradually became smaller as Aeneas did his work with devotion. From an outsider’s view, the master and servant relationship was also favorable and, from the start, Aeneas’ nature made it hard to associate him with shadowy actions like deceiving people for revenge.
But what about Neisan? Those who had knowledge of him, know him. Originally, he was a man whose specialty was gathering intelligence and assassination. Various factors, which happened in a row, led him to walking a path as a squire but, even if his title changed, he might still be acting behind the scenes of the royal palace as a “shadow”.
The nice weather continued and, even this night, she could see the stars glimmering beautifully in the night sky.
While walking back through the quiet corridors, she unconsciously looked up at the sky in fascination. The night sky, which could be seen past the breaks between buildings, was like a framed picture. Thanks to the full moon and the ceaseless amount of stars, the corridors at night were relatively bright. Even without the lights that dotted the length of the corridor, she wouldn’t have been uneasy about her footing.
Doing something like walking alone this late at night was foolish, even she knew that. But still, Yuna slipped out of her room. Because she wanted to talk alone with Linus.
She heard casually from her maid, Nasha, that occasionally Linus left his room to stand in the courtyard at night. In the past, it seemed like Celiastina often stood beside him, and this sounded like a subject she shouldn’t touch but since Nasha became her maid – and since Yuna became Celiastina’s substitute – this hadn’t happened even once, which was thought to be strange.
She didn’t know if Linus was going to be in the courtyard tonight. If he wasn’t there, then she decided she would visit him again tomorrow. Why she didn’t just do that from the start was because, if she visited him in the middle of the night, she was hoping that Linus would take off his usual mask and show his true intentions a little.
Regarding the existence of the historical archive, it appeared to be an open secret within the royal palace.
It is said to be reached by climbing the stairs in the deepest corner of the royal palace library; and that it had special documents relating to the history and politics of this country. In particular, there seemed to be very sensitive documents that would never be made public. On one hand, it was an extremely precious mountain of treasure on the knowledge of this country, but if used poorly by the current ruler, it could be a terrible poison that would drive the country into a predicament. That is why the people at the top of the country hid its actual existence, or at least those were the rumors.
If she went there, she would be able to know the truth about the past of the previous saints.
Ron’s words were brought back over and over again in Yuna’s mind.
If his words were true, then to Yuna that place would be just what she wanted. It would have been suspicious if she borrowed Celiastina’s appearance and went around asking this and that from everyone, but there was no need to be concerned if she was consulting books, and she would be able to acquire as much knowledge as she wished.
Linus knew Yuna’s circumstances, and he would be well-informed about the past saints and about Celiastina. However, she couldn’t help but feel nervous at going to visit him. Although he helped during the signature matter, they still had not talked enough about her relation to Celiastina. If that subject was brought up and a distance was placed between them again then–. The blade of words that had struck her once, couldn’t be immediately forgotten even after leaving.
If that was the case, then she should head to the historical archive without hesitation. Her own voice sounded awfully distant when she declared that. That Yuna wasn’t able to move immediately and follow her own words was because there was still hesitation inside her.
Yuna, who was sprawled over her room’s sofa, pulled a cushion towards herself and trapped it against her chest.
–She was afraid to learn about Celiastina.
Neisan was appointed to be a bodyguard of Saint Celiastina.
The news rushed through the royal palace with a small commotion. There weren’t many people who did not know the name Neisan. Once imprisoned on the whims of the saint, the young squire whose life or death was unknown– to think that he was alive, and serving again as her bodyguard. Just what exactly was going on for him too to follow the similar circumstances of Aeneas. It was not unreasonable for everyone to be puzzled like this.
Be that as it may, it was rather painful to just accept the criticisms from her surroundings. Even the moment when Asyut called out to her before the ceremony and said “I wish to speak to you”, Yuna was unable to hide her dejected look. What Asyut wanted to talk about was clear as day. Nevertheless, it was obvious that she couldn’t run away.
During the divine service, Yuna listened to the flowing music. She closed her eyes and entrusted her body to the comfortable melody. Beside her, Asyut was the same as usual and offering up prayers, like her. Nowadays Yuna didn’t feel any discomfort sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Asyut, but she wondered what he felt. At the very least, she didn’t feel like he was treating her coldly like he did in the beginning. He was probably intending to criticize her about Neisan, but he wouldn’t be attacking with feelings of hate for Celiastina.
That they were able to build this calm relationship honestly made her happy. But she knew that she couldn’t just be pleased.
Yuna still didn’t know anything about the deep trench that stretched out between Celiastina and Asyut. Even when she peeked, all she could see was an endless darkness, as if there was no bottom. And though they sat here peacefully like this now, what would happen at the time Celiastina returned?
(When Celiastina returns…)
The words that she herself called to mind resounded very clearly in her head.
(What will happen when she does?)
The weather today was ideal for a departure.
Yuna finished her one ceremony in the morning and walked hurriedly down the corridor.
Her quick footsteps and leaping breath overlapped and the usual quiet atmosphere was transformed just in this moment. As if to soothe Yuna, who was impatient, gentle sunshine shone in from the window and created a loose shadow behind Yuna.
Following behind that shadow was her bodyguard, Aeneas. It didn’t seem like he was in as much of a hurry as her, but there was a little bit of a bewildered air about him.
“Lady Celiastina, I do not believe you need to be in such a hurry.”
“But there’s no time already.”
Yuna answered briefly and ran up the stairs. Aeneas followed after in the same way.
“We can see the gate from the terrace over there, right?”
“Yes, you should be able to.”
“Then, if we hurry we might be able to make it.”
Please, let me make it in time.
Instead of saying those words, Yuna leapt up the stairs as fast as she could and rushed out onto the landing. The flat floor, as if surprised, caught Yuna’s body. As she climbed up even more stairs, the corridor that opened up was completely devoid of people. The entrance to the terrace waited at the end of this corridor.
The gate that could be seen from the terrace was often used by aristocrats for going outside anonymously. In this quiet place where few people come, even within the royal palace, the inconspicuously small gate was built as if it was part of the wall of an elaborate building. It was certainly perfect for those who wanted to leave unseen.
This time was no exception and the gate was about to be opened as if it were for an aristocrat to head out incognito. No, this traveler could not be put together with the likes of an aristocrat. In actuality, it was a person from a priest family that held more power than that and, at this time, was organizing their preparations for a journey in front of the gate.
I hope the flower blooms soon, a young girl said.
Yeah! I hope it blooms soon. Yuna answered with a smile.
In a quiet garden surrounded by tall walls, flowers that weren’t planted or bought swayed in the wind. In there, Yuna and the other girl surrounded a small sprout and exchanged grins. It was a baby plant, smaller than even their palms. It wasn’t unusual to Yuna, whose family ran a herbal store, but when she looked at the other girl who stroked its leaves sweetly, her own face naturally smiled. I hope it blooms soon, Yuna thought from the bottom of her heart.
A little tired from crouching for so long, Yuna stood up and stretched. When she closed her eyes and raised both arms to the sky to stretch, a groan slipped out. Her body felt refreshed and lighter– but at the same time she felt something disquieting, and so Yuna opened her eyes with a snap.
Do not worry, and look forward.
If done, the “feelings” you have nurtured up to now without giving up,
even if they are released from your hands, will steadily rise up,
and you will notice that you have started to walk.
It is difficult to change things.
No matter how hard you work, the fruit of your efforts will not appear immediately.
But, even if you cannot see it, a change has certainly “started”.
That is why you should believe.
You should walk on the path you believe in.
As long as the flickering light beyond the road’s end is within sight.
(T/N: I’ve updated the page list with the second book’s summary and index!)
Here are the character pages for the first volume of this series! They actually appear at the front of the book, but I decided to show them at the end because they spoil who you’ll be seeing in the book, so… Anyway, I’ve included the way character names are spelled in Japanese too so you can make fun of my romanization (LOL) and so that you can match the names with the images.
EDIT: I should probably put a warning that seeing the pictures may destroy the picture you already created in your head for these characters, oops.
This was Asyut’s first time going to this jail.
Originally, this place was nothing more than a temporary detention facility for those who caused trouble in the royal palace. Normally it was a forgotten space where no one entered or exited. Even when there was the occasional imprisoned person, they would be properly transferred within a few days. Duo was probably the first person to have stayed in this jail for several weeks.
And that Duo… what was his emotional state as time passed?
When he thought about that, Asyut felt like he could understand a little bit of the emotional whirlpool in Duo. The sorrow of losing a loved one, and the pain of being unable to save them. No, it was surely more than that– it must have been a deep and violent feeling of self-condemnation that tormented him, as if he had done it with his own hands. He must be thinking he could never get up again–.
(Duo also hasn’t thought about wanting to be saved, huh.)
People have said that because there are people who wanted to live more but couldn’t, one mustn’t treat their lives poorly. That living itself was something to be rejoiced. But those words only suited one’s own convenience. Why did they not think about the suffering of those people who want to die but can’t? Why did they have to compare themselves with people who stood in exact opposite positions? It was not always possible for people who were facing the past and forced to face the future to take one step forward.
There was almost no possibility for someone, who was hurt in the heart enough to wish for death, to find hope in themselves. If such a person were able to stand up again……
Yodel was the only remaining one.
Finally she attained Asyut and Linus’ cooperation. She was scared to face Yodel for many reasons but there was no way she could run away at this point. Feelings of wanting to hurry and see her but also of wanting to let this pass by and not see her fought against each other inside of Yuna.
Asyut was the one to arrange a face-to-face meeting between her and Yodel. The meeting was inside the tower where Yodel lived, and it seemed like Asyut was going to guide her there. Her meeting was going to happen in a short time.
“Lady Celiastina, excuse my intrusion.”
Yuna, who had been looking over the signature list on the sofa, raised her head at Nasha’s voice. Nasha entered the room shyly while pulling a small cart along.
“Um, I am very sorry knowing that you just had breakfast but, if you do not mind, would you like to try this?”
What was revealed was a delicious-looking fruit mousse.
Looking up at the high blue sky, Yuna breathed out.
For some time she had been raising her voice and, as one would expect, she wasn’t able to hide her fatigue now.
“Shall we take a short rest, Lady Celiastina?”
Beside her Aeneas looked at Yuna’s state with concern.
Yuna and the others had been running about the next day, and thereafter, collecting signatures. Right now, they had even stretched out to the vicinity of the entrance to the gates of the royal palace and soliciting help from the people who passed by in order to release Duo. Signatures were being collected smoothly and in these few days they had actually exceeded 100 names from twenty percent of the people going in and out of the royal palace.
“I’m okay, let’s continue on a bit more. We’ll have to return soon anyway.”
It was an unexpected person who moved in this stalemate.
“Lady Celiastina, it looks like Lady Yodel is making a move to save Duo!”
One afternoon, after several days had passed, Nasha, who came to prepare tea, reported this to Yuna excitedly. Nasha knew about the situation with Duo. Rather, this matter spread throughout the royal palace in the blink of an eye, to the point where there was likely no one who didn’t know about it already. Many sympathized with Duo’s position, but the fact that he pointed a blade at the saint meant that the majority’s view was that there was no choice but to execute him. And so, why Duo hadn’t been executed yet was making everyone suspicious.
It was most likely that not many knew about how the saint was thinking about ways to free him somehow. But, due to Nasha having spent a long time with Yuna, she could sense those feelings. It seemed like she was hoping this information she brought would be able to cheer up Yuna, who had been depressed lately.
“By Yodel, do you mean that priestess?”
“Yes! The lady who gave me the pendant I talked about before.”
Yuna was genuinely surprised. Ever since she had been severely rebuked that one time, she hadn’t seen Yodel again but it looked like she had been making her own moves. –And it was to save Duo.
“I hear that she is gathering signatures from those who want Duo to be released. The subject of the movement being what it is seems to make it so they can’t act too publicly, but it seems like she is centered on requesting signatures slowly from the servants and even the nobility.”
Everything that happened after that passed by in an instant.
The silhouette of the tanned man suddenly became larger. He lifted his right hand up with great force and, the moment she realized that, he swung it down. She could hear the sharp sound of the passing wind by her ears. And then, roughly at the same time, a dull shock impacted against her. Yuna was completely confused. In that moment, her entire body had judged that she was going to be attacked by that unfamiliar man. But the coldness of the ground striking her cheek brought Yuna’s consciousness back to reality.
Right now, Yuna was lying on the ground. The one who had pushed her and thrown himself on top to cover her was– Asyut.
By the time Yuna managed to raise her upper body, Asyut had already brought himself up to a knee and was guarding her against their opponent.
The person who assaulted her was someone who was around the same age as Asyut. He gripped a dagger in his right hand. And he was looking down at Asyut and Yuna with hatred burning in his eyes. There was an unthinkable strength that poured out of him, despite his haggard appearance, but Yuna trembled with fear just from his appearance.
“–Don’t get in my way!”
Shouting, the man leapt at them again. Asyut placed a hand on the handle of his sword, but he didn’t move and simply glared at the other person. As the distance shrank, Yuna was unable to bear it and gave a small scream. Right at that moment, a thick arm stretched out from behind the man and twisted the right hand of the man strongly. Like that, the man’s body was thrown into the air and then immediately hit the ground.