When they finally arrived at the royal palace, they found the vicinity in uproar.
The expressions of the people who had reached the threads of their patience. Irritation was displayed, and eyes swung back and forth in anxiety. Fatigue was clearly marked on everyone’s faces, from important-looking people to the one insignificant gatekeeper.
Among that, the young man and woman returned on horseback.
The response as the two were discovered was fierce. Shouts of joys were mixed in with the sighs, and there were even those who began to cry, as if threads of tension had been cut.
Celiastina shrank back at meeting such an excessive reception for the first time. Had the saint going missing really invited such disorder? She was beginning to see how important a saint was.
But well, if the saint disappeared then it would certainly be a serious matter involving the kingdom. If the saint was dead to top it off…she was terrified imagining the chaos that would erupt.
“Everybody, Saint Celiastina has returned in safety. She is gravely tired, but it is not major. Return to your individual posts, and resume work. ——Messenger, send to the search party for their return posthaste. That is all.”
The man restored order to the area with a few pointed orders from atop his horse.
He must wield a lot of power, for no one cut him off and all returned to their stations as ordered. There must have been a lot of questions they wanted answers to, Where did the saint go? Why does she look so worn-out? But not a single person dared to offer objection.
While admiring him, Celiastina was taken inside the gates and delivered into the custody of maids. Not even offering his name——it wasn’t his first time meeting her, so that was normal, but——he cast a disgusted glance at Celiastina as he took his leave with a few words of “Well then, excuse me.”
(Wha……what in the world.)
Celiastina sighed, suddenly feeling tired.
The cause was probably how she had suddenly been pushed into this maelstrom of a mess—more than anything else, it was the way that young man’s stinging attitude tied her into knots, distressing her.
He did not seem to be merely angry at her for going missing on her own. There was more to it than that—she could only sense something akin to hatred. In that swamp, it was only for a split second, but his eyes had been unclouded and direct. Afterwards, he only looked at her with eyes narrowed in what seemed to her contempt.
If it was nothing, then he wouldn’t hold that attitude against her, would he? She must have gotten into a dispute him that she wasn’t aware of. It didn’t seem like there was a way for her to find out what that was for the time being. Right now, right here, if she asked the maids standing beside her “Why do I have such a bad relation with that man?” they would surely think there was something wrong with her.
Although she wasn’t satisfied with the way things stood, Celiastina tried to hold in her discontent as the maids led her by the hand inside a nearby room.
Before long, an elderly man—a physician—came in.
He skillfully looked at Celiastina’s state, and confirmed that her wounds were only scratches. In a very businesslike manner, he offered no words of sympathy—but that was probably something he couldn’t easily offer to the saint. All he asked at the end was “Do you feel terrible in any way?” and when she answered she felt well, he quickly withdrew from the room.
This time it was another change of location. Similar to the last, she was guided by the maids and taken to an unnecessarily spacious bathroom.
It reminded her that she was wet to the skin and covered in mud. She had no doubt she looked very pathetic and unfitting for the role of a saint. If that was true, the physician from earlier had probably recommended letting her have a bath.
Suddenly the maids said “Excuse me” and began to help Celiastina remove her clothes. This made her jump in surprise. As someone who had been a commoner not so long ago, getting help while taking a bath was unthinkable! She understood it was common for nobles, but her impulse was to step away and refuse.
To suddenly be spurned, the maids frowned in confusion.
“Uh, that is, I, I’ll bathe alone,” she answered hesitantly.
The maids’ eyes widened in surprise.
“Has something happened?”
“No, I only feel like bathing alone today.”
“Please do not suggest something like that, Lady Celiastina. We cannot leave you to bathe alone.”
There was reason for that. She was the saint who went missing after she proposed going out alone, and she might be guilty of other eccentric behaviors she was unaware of. Meaning they were standing guard, and someone had to stay by her side. However…
“Um, I’m begging you, so please let me bathe alone.”
“It’s OK!” she said with unintended force.
The maids’ faces were suddenly filled with fear. Huh? In the short time she had to wonder, the maids bowed their heads in grand obeisance, repeating over and over, “Please, understand.”
“We have offended you, please accept our apologies. Replacements will be called for immediately, so will you please calm your temper?”
There was no need for her to calm her temper. Like the maids who had suddenly become frightened, Celiastina herself became flustered.
“I–I should be the one to apologize. Um, the one in the wrong was me. So, please raise your heads.”
It was difficult to tell who was the servant from all the head bowing. The more Celiastina tried to apologize, the more the maids were confused. In the end, there was nothing she could do when the color drained from their faces and they kept begging for forgiveness.
(Though I’m the saint, I was acting so subservient I must have frightened them. But even so, there was no need to be that fearful.)
While she was in a dither, the maids’ replacements took over, and she was no longer in a state to insert her desire to bathe alone once more. Helplessly, she left everything to the maids, and she thought she would die from the humiliation while her bathing came to an end.
It was already past midnight when Celiastina returned to her room and was finally alone.
Though one could say she returned, it was actually this Celiastina’s first time entering the room. It was outrageous—excessively big and luxurious, and she guessed it must be equal treatment to what the royals received.
But she no longer had the energy to be moved by anything. She threw herself on the soft, canopied bed and sighed loudly.
(I’m tired… So extremely tired……)
There were things left and right she didn’t know about her current situation, and nothing she could do about it.
The thought of her days continuing on like that every day from now on made her weary. She couldn’t help fiercely missing her old life as a simple village girl, even though it had been unexciting.
(Ahh, but I can no longer return. I—Yuna is dead. Once the real Celiastina’s soul returns, I will truly be called to the other world, and then I’ll…disappear from this world.)
What a cruel fate, Celiastina thought.
At that time, that moment, if she had only been completely dead. Thinking about it, she felt slightly bitter, even towards God. She felt a little sorry for herself, having to spend the rest of her days tormented by the fear of death gradually drawing closer. However, now that things had turned out this way, inevitably there was no way she could avoid living without being constantly aware of the shadow of death. She simply could not separate it from her mind. She’ll die, she’ll die, without exception, in the near future……
She was also saddened over the prospect of no longer being able to see her parents.
Once the current situation calmed down a little, maybe she could try to steal out to meet them? After thinking that, she felt a bit confused. Her parents were probably mourning the loss of Yuna. To go and meet those grieving parents? How in the world would they react? ——Oh, that’s right, I’m the unfilial daughter who died before her parents. What right do I have to show my face before them?
Wherever her thoughts turned to, she became depressed.
Celiastina slowly turned her head around, taking in the spacious room.
There was a big full-length mirror in the corner.
Come to think of it, she had yet to even see her own appearance once. As soon as she remembered that, Celiastina quietly slipped off the bed. Timidly, she approached the mirror. Nervous all the while, she stood in front of it, and slowly raised her head.
——She was astounded.
What—was this? Was this the appearance of a human?
Reflected in the mirror was a woman so beautiful words were not enough to describe her.
She had pale, translucent skin and blue eyes that stood out in sharp contrast. Straight, light blond hair reached down her back, almost shining to the eyes. The pleasing shape of her small lips were now opened in an expression of surprise. Long eyelashes flickered each time she blinked, probably capturing the eyes of other people on them.
And then——at her neck the holy mark was firmly engraved.
She had heard rumors before.
That no jewel in this world surpassed the beauty of Saint Celiastina.
It had been her impression that it was one of the pretty things said to praise the saint—but she was wrong. It was not merely flattery. There was no doubt she lived up to the rumors. Needless to say, Yuna could not even begin to compare, everything about Celiastina was that divine.
She remembered the scornful looks that man had openly sent her even though Celiastina was this beautiful a woman.
With her good looks alone, it seemed like anyone would get on their knees for her, but he hated her. Why……?
(——Arghh, no matter how much I think it’s no use. Stop, stop! I should be getting sleep, because tomorrow will be just as rough.)
She shook her head in hopes of changing the path of her thoughts.
Indeed, starting tomorrow it would be difficult. The current Celiastina had not a single acquaintance, while everyone around her knew who she was. She didn’t even know the first thing about herself. Sooner or later, the people around her will begin to look at her with suspicion. But God was asking. So that Celiastina’s suicide may not be noticed. So that that truth may not be discovered anywhere. In that case, she had to do her best in order to grant His request.
The life she lived until now was over.
And her latest life had just begun. The girl who was once Yuna closed her eyes, holding fast onto that truth.