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Three days pa.s.sed.
Celiastina continued to sleep on.
Perhaps it was because she had been seen sleeping often lately that, at first, the people around did not thing much of this. The doctor’s diagonsis did not point out any problems in particular and so it was thought she would wake in a day this time as well.
However, to their regret, the days this time were too long. Now that three days had pa.s.sed without her waking, everyone began to feel a sense of danger and could not view this problem optimistically. A specialized medical team was created to quickly explain the cause and what exactly happened to her body.
But it was likely no one would be able to find out the cause–.
For Asyut these three days were exceedingly hectic.
Firstly, he was moving around for the establishment of an inspection body that would monitor the saint as well as the priests. Asyut, as the First Holy Knight, had considerable involvement with the priest faction. And so it was expected, on that point, that he would be entrusted with coordinating with them. His surroundings sympathized with him for being pushed with an unfavorable role, but Asyut himself didn’t particularly mind. It was best for difficult problems to continue without giving him time to rest– so that he couldn’t think about anything else, such as other things.
Secondly, he made preparations for the release of the anti-saint faction members who were caught these past few days.
Yes, they were expected to be released soon.
That was because a pardon from the king was officially announced. The king, who planned to incorporate the main members of the anti-saint faction into inspectors, showed Asyut and his nearest subordinates that from the start he had intentions of wanting to release those underground members. However, the priest faction opposed greatly, as was expected; but even if they did not, visible disapproval was shown through the royal palace at how an acquittal was going too far. And so it became that the decision was postponed.
The “miracle” that Celiastina caused took part in putting that to effect.
The plant she raised matured in an instant and bloomed splendid flowers–.
It was regarded as a miracle that occurred because Celiastina was saddened at the anti-saint faction’s a.s.sault and wished that the suffering would not continue any more. The asiatic jasmine also grew in a place where anyone could enter and so there were endless visitors from morning to night. This story also spread quickly and the following day of the “miracle” it became well-known through the royal palace.
Once it became like that, it was undoubtedly extremely easy for the king to use. If it was a “miracle”, then it wouldn’t follow that his intentions were to weaken the authority of the saint and priest, but if he were to establish an inspecting body with success instead, then it would be thought of as a good thing.
But even that didn’t mean anything to Asyut.
Although Asyut was a.s.sailed somewhat by vertigo, he shook his head lightly and dropped his eyes again to the doc.u.ments at hand.
This was a conference room in one corner of the royal palace. There were ten chairs surrounding a square desk– presently, apart from Asyut, none of the seats were filled yet.
Another meeting was to start again. It was to be a discussion about dealing with the anti-saint faction members after they were released. Of course, they would return to their original lives but there were questions as to whether they would be monitored for a period of time, if so how long that would be, and on what scale. To begin with, in the case that understanding could not be gained from their surroundings, how would they be integrated into their original lives– would support be necessary and, again considering public opinion, would that even be possible. Issues were piled as high as mountains.
“Your complexion seems quite bad, are you alright?”
It was Linus that called out to Asyut who was absorbed in thought. It was planned for him to attend this meeting as well as the saint’s guardian and he sat beside Asyut without warning.
“Lately, you seem to be moving as if possessed by something. If you continue to push yourself, you will collapse before long.”
For Asyut right now, it was the most annoying thing to have that pointed out. Leave me alone, normally he’d spit that out only in his mind but…
“And you seem to be looking unusually well. Those gentlemen are about to return soon though, so are you anxiously awaiting them?”
“Oh my, it’s rare to hear your sarcasm. Have you been run down at last?”
Linus showed a calm smile.
“In actuality, I can hardly keep a carefree mind such as anxiously awaiting them. We still do not know if Celiastina will really awaken, and if the previous personality is to return then… things will become difficult.”
While speaking, Linus took a gla.s.s of water that was prepared on the tabletop and drank a sip.
“Besides, even I unexpectedly liked “that girl”. If she won’t return anymore, isn’t that a sad event?”
Asyut looked at Linus’ expression from the corner of his eye and did not respond. –Sad, or something like that. If things could be settled with that word, then there wouldn’t be any problems, would there.
“In any case, it seems there is still much to come after this. Don’t push yourself too hard, and take care of yourself properly. Or you won’t be able to act if anything were to happen in the future.”
Linus said that and then dropped his eyes to the doc.u.ments of the material as well and fell silent. His advice was so horribly common that there was no doubt he said it on purpose, knowing Asyut would not appreciate it.
Aah, he didn’t want to think, he couldn’t think. He hoped the meeting would start soon.
Asyut dismissed Linus’ words from his head and tried to concentrate only on the materials in front of him.
In these three days since Celiastina fell asleep, there were people who felt her “absence” no less than Asyut.
There was the maid, Nasha.
Nasha was terribly scared by how Celiastina continued sleeping for three days and, furthermore, she was sensitive in feeling that something about Celiastina’s appearance was different. By nature, Celiastina was a thin woman but she became gaunt in these three days. Whenever Asyut came to her room to see her, Nasha was usually standing there first. Moreover, she was there regardless of whether it was morning or night.
He was certain he looked like this at her side too. And that’s why Nasha’s suffering was painfully conveyed to Asyut. Still, nothing could be done. If anything could be done, he wanted someone to tell him how to do it.
Aeneas conducted himself without any changes from his usual self but his heart must not have been calm. In addition to actively partic.i.p.ating in training as a squire, he also seemed to be putting excessive effort into independent training. A superior officer spilled that it was as if Aeneas was trying to hurt his own body.
Those who surrounded Celiastina started to become exhausted little by little.
Asyut wondered if she knew this in the end. How much of an irreplaceable existence she was to someone.
Night arrived again.
Once tomorrow came, the time without Celiastina would continue to acc.u.mulate.
And just how much acc.u.mulated time would he have to look up at. Asyut stared at the waning moon from the window, thinking this.
When Asyut received the message that Celiastina woke up, he was in the middle of training and crossing blades with Siegcrest. Siegcrest had been unable to watch Asyut remain glued to his desk from morning to night and so dragged him, half by force, to the training grounds.
The one who brought the news was Aeneas.
His expression at the entrance of the training grounds, when he informed them that Celiastina woke up, was terribly tense. Even Siegcrest who knew nothing about the circ.u.mstances furrowed his brows at Aeneas’ unnatural appearance.
“It seems she woke about an hour ago. Although her maid, Nasha, was there she was told to call Lord Linus and several priests and seemed to have left the room. Just a moment ago, Lord Linus and the others were meeting with Lady Celiastina.”
“… Did you meet Lady Celiastina?”
“No, I… it appears that Lady Celiastina herself does not wish to meet with many people.”
Answering that, Aeneas behaved as if he were wary of something rather than being disappointed. His nervousness came across. Asyut felt the sword he was holding grow damp with sweat.
“Did Nasha say anything?”
Aeneas shook his head again.
“Nothing. However, she had a very grim expression. I wonder what exactly happened…”
Asyut closed his eyes tightly and took several deep breaths. He knew already. He knew. And yet he was terrified– to the extent where it felt like his knees would shake.
He would meet her.
However, in contrast to Asyut’s mind, Aeneas’ words pierced him without mercy.
“I came in a hurry to inform you of a message. –Lady Celiastina wishes to meet with Lord Asyut.”
“… I see.”
Of course, avoiding this wouldn’t be allowed. He… knew that.
“If she’s awake, isn’t that a good thing.”
Siegcrest opened his mouth while he sheathed his sword. But his expression was not as hopeful as the contents of his words.
“I dunno what happened, but if she kept on sleeping like this then it’d put her life in danger.”
At Asyut’s evasive answer, Siegcrest pushed him in the back.
“Hey, what’s with you being like that. Put some more spirit in!”
Asyut knew that was his way of encouragement and so he nodded firmly, while still being at a loss. Yes, if he was nervous at this situation, then who in the world would be able to face her directly. Asyut told himself this somehow and also put his sword in its sheath.
“I will… speak with her.”
He didn’t know what awaited him. But he was certain only that he could not run away.
He had never felt that the corridor to Celiastina’s rooms were this steep.
Until now, he had always been made to worry about her. He had never thought this distance was “pleasurable” but only this time it was not even comparable.
His footsteps became heavier the more the distance shrunk. It felt like he was going deeply into a maze with no light. He even felt like turning back and retracing his steps immediately but– he couldn’t do that.
He had to see Celiastina.
Asyut arrived in front of the room and, raising his right hand to knock, he was unable to move like that for a while. He could not explain the reason why or anything like that. Only, he couldn’t move his body no matter what. His whole body was rejecting the being that should be beyond this door.
An unpleasant sweat appeared on his forehead. His throat was painfully dry.
Nevertheless, Asyut managed to rouse himself somehow. He clenched his raised fist tightly once and then knocked on the door with resolve. A light sound echoed, at odds with Asyut’s desperate resolution.
It was silent beyond the door for a while. But even that was just for a slight moment. Soon, a delicate female voice came back.
It was undoubtedly the girl he had grown used to hearing this past year. Even though it had only been three days, it was a voice he felt like he hadn’t heard for decades. However, at the same time, it was also the voice that thrust him down to the depths of despair in the past.
“Excuse my intrusion.”
Asyut answered with a tense voice and opened the door.
In that instant, a slight breeze pa.s.sed through. Unable to allow himself to be comforted by that, Asyut unconsciously looked around the room.
Nothing had changed. It was the exact same room as when he came in the morning today. It wasn’t like he stepped into an unknown world, Asyut told himself this.
The bed was empty. Instead, the person he was looking for was standing just beside the terrace. As he stared at that long golden hair which swayed a little, Asyut stood still at the entrance.
She turned around slowly. And those violet eyes, with no mirkiness, looked directly at Asyut.
Nothing had changed– yes, that’s what he saw. However, it was certain that something was different. Asyut also stared at her eyes and pressed his lips tightly together. So that he wouldn’t run, so that he wouldn’t scream. In any case, he was just that frantic.
“… It has been a long time, Lord Asyut.”
Celiastina broke the ice with a quiet tone.
That was the decisive blow for Asyut. He was dizzy with vertigo, like his head had been smashed by a blunt impact. Just how peaceful would he be if he collapsed like this and let go of his consciousness.
“I am the original Celiastina. The former saint who drowned in madness, unlike the girl who conversed with you a few days ago.”
Celiastina’s eyes were calm. The shadow of madness she showed in her last moments in the past were completely hidden. It was also different from the time Celiastina first arrived at the royal palace. It was much calmer and, if he had to say, it made one feel an enlightened atmosphere.
–I can tell that Celiastina’s consciousness is right beside me.
Those words were brought back to Asyut’s mind. He wondered if, exactly like those words, Celiastina had watched over everything by the side of the girl who was her subst.i.tute for the past year.
“I have… returned.”
Celiastina murmured that and he finally noticed she was gripping something in her pale hands. When she opened her hands gently, there on her palms was a single ribbon.
And then Celiastina gripped the ribbon once again and, as if offering up a prayer, she brought both hands to her face. That entire chain of motion was so fleetingly beautiful that Asyut was involuntarily entranced.
After some time, Celiastina raised her head again. It was a gaze that “she” showed for the first time and made him feel her strong will.
“I would like to go and save that girl.”
Asyut could not comprehend those decisively said words.
“That girl– my friend named Yuna.”
It couldn’t be.
Asyut’s heart began to beat fast like an alarm.
“What do you mean–“
Their conversation was suddenly ended there.
When he quickly turned around, there were several men wearing black priest robes who were entering the room without reservation. Noticing their dreadful expressions, Asyut protected Celiastina behind him at once.
“What is going on.”
Asyut responded with a firm att.i.tude, but his opponents threw him a sharp glare with no timidity.
“Lord Asyut, we would ask of you to step aside from there.”
“Before that, how about you answer my question.”
The priests looked at each other before giving a small nod.
“We came here in order to protect Lady Celiastina.”
“In this place, covered in earthly life, Lady Celiastina cannot maintain her peace. In light of all the events that have occurred up to now, it is as clear as day. Therefore, us priests will protect her in your place. That is the will of G.o.d.”
Asyut looked back long and hard at them, unable to understand them. No matter how he saw this, he could only think they were here to harm Celiastina. That was how severe their expressions were. How did they intend to protect her with that?
However, at the appearance of a new priest there, Asyut was finally able to understand a part of the situation.
–Roblin. A senior priest who held a high position even among those who a.s.sumed priesthood.
He came into the room with a heavy gait.
“Lord Roblin! What is the meaning of this.”
“So it is Lord Asyut.”
Robling gave Asyut a single glance.
“You have shown up early. I thought Lady Celiastina would still be alone.”
And then Roblin turned his eyes to Celiastina, who was protected behind Asyut, and reverently bowed his head.
“Lady Celiastina, I sincerely apologize for this disorderly situation. However, everything is for the sake of protecting you, Lady Celiastina. I ask for your patience for a short while more.”
“Lord Roblin, I demand an explanation!”
Asyut called out that name again with irritation and Roblin raised his upper body to glare at Asyut with cold eyes.
“As I have said, we will protect Lady Celiastina in our own way.”
“What relation does that have with these actions.”
“We would like to move Lady Celiastina out of these rooms and to the Priest Tower.”
Asyut’s breath caught at Roblin’s declaration.
The Priest Tower. It was a white tower that stood looming over the surroundings in the northeastern part of the royal palace, and acted as the foundation of the collective life of the priests.
That tower, which was built as a community that was closed to everyone other than priests, exceedingly disliked the comings and goings of anyone except those who served G.o.d. Even the king was not an exception and was not allowed to enter without permissions or a legitimate reason. And, conversely, the priests rarely left their tower. Only high-ranking pirests that were involved in the affairs of state were not like that– and one of those was Roblin.
So they were going to take Celiastina to that tower.
“There is no way such selfish actions will be recognized.”
It can only be said that they lost their minds. But Roblin appeared quite calm.
“It is regrettable that you would slander our actions as selfishness. To begin with, Lady Celiastina is someone who belongs originally to the side of us priests. It is your side that dishonors her by pulling her about and around for ceremonies and such things. Yes, it was a mistake from the start. Lady Celiastina is to be together with us and that is naturally the right path.”
“That is just an arbitrary explanation.”
Asyut raised his voice without hesitation, but Roblin snorted at him.
“You may take it as you wish. In any case, we cannot endure this any longer. How can we kneel to a king who treats us and the saint as tools? Lord Asyut, I see you as someone with some value. Please do not disappoint me. Be silent and allow us through.”
With those words as a start, the priests once again approached in Asyut’s direction. No, not Asyut’s direction, their target was the one person behind him, Celiastina.
“Will you not stop!”
It was a situation of five against one. Moreover, if his opponents were priests then even Asyut could not treat them roughly. It took all he had to just ward off a priest’s hand when they tried to grab Celiastina’s arm.
He reached for his sword unconsciously. But the one who held him back was none other than Celiastina.
“Please calm down, Lord Asyut. If you point a blade at the priests, things will become unnecessarily complicated.”
Asyut managed to give up on his plan somehow at that composed whisper. –Aah, his head was heavy and he couldn’t make calm decisions. Asyut grinded his back teeth.
“Let’s do as they say for now. Another path is sure to open.”
Celiastina said that and then proceeded to step in front of the priests herself. Roblin’s complicated expression did not break down, but he nodded and turned on his heel. And Celiastina and the other priests followed after him. Asyut could only watch over the proceedings in a daze and without any strength.
What did this mean.
It was all incomprehensible. Too many things happened all at once and Asyut’s mind was in complete chaos.
Celiastina’s back rapidly became smaller and smaller. Like this she was leaving him and, no matter who it was inside her, it was still a sight that gouged at his heart in the end. He had the impulse even now to chase them down and take her back.
However, upon taking her back, it wouldn’t be the person he sought to return–.
“I would like to go and save that girl. That girl– my friend named Yuna.”
Celiastina’s words echoed in his mind once again.
Asyut tried saying that name.
It was an unfamiliar name. However, it was surely the person he needed now more than anything else.
He wondered if he could save her.
He didn’t know. He didn’t know but–.
Asyut felt that the flame which had disappeared in his chest was burning once more.
If there was hope, even just a little bit, then…
He wouldn’t give up.
Asyut decided strongly that he would try doing whatever it would take.
(T/N: And this concludes the third volume. I plan to post the afterword, character page, set up the prologue for the last volume. And then my plan is to translate about half of the last volume before releasing it all in scheduled posts since most of you didn’t seem to mind however I wanted to handle the translation but some would like a set schedule.)