Several weeks had passed since they’d left the royal capital. Yulifalet thought he’d considerably opened up to Clementine and Alhelm, compared to how they were at first. But no matter what he did, things just wouldn’t go well with Agedilus, and it made him feel sad.
Agedilus wouldn’t open his mouth unless absolutely necessary. Besides that, he would finally speak up after being teased by Clementine and Alhelm, that was all. There weren’t many opportunities for Yulifalet to directly talk to Agedilus.
Being from the countryside, Yulifalet was what some might call ‘unknowing of the ways of the world.’ Agedilus would only sigh exasperatedly at him, and make no further attempt to have anything to do with him. And Yulifalet too, couldn’t freely poke fun at him the way Clementine and Alhelm did.
Because of that, their relationship was as if it followed two parallel lines. At best, the only progress in this weeks-long journey was that they could now call each other by first names.
That black-haired wizard, beautiful like the night fairies in the picture books from Yulifalet’s childhood. Extremely beautiful, even from the same gender’s perspective.
Not to say Yulifalet wasn’t afraid of that black hair. But more than that, he thought it was nothing but beautiful, going well with his otherworldly beauty. Perhaps it seemed like that all the more because neither Clementine nor Alhelm showed any signs of fearing or loathing his black hair either.
Agedilus would keep his thick hood on all the time, stubbornly not showing anyone else his hair. ‘You really don’t have to go that far, hiding it completely all the time.’ Yulifalet couldn’t help thinking that. But he realized just how naive that thought was, when they stopped by in a city in the middle of their trip.
That was in an inn where he’d stayed a long time ago once. Settling down in one corner of the inn’s lively dining room, he ordered everything he could think of. It was in the middle of this trip that he learned that if he didn’t eat while he had the chance, he’d regret it later.
Two people out of the quartet hid their faces, wearing their dark robes. It would be an understatement to say that they stood out a little, but Yulifalet couldn’t bring himself to care. His body was tired from sleeping outside here for some days; each and every single one of the various dishes made by actual chefs tasted delicious, spreading throughout his body.
After a while, the four had all eaten their food in silence and had ordered more, finally feeling relaxed.
「—Aah! Roasted rabbit ain’t bad either, but proper cooking really is somethin’ else!」
Alhelm smiled in satisfaction, drinking down the ale in his mug in one gulp. Beside him, Clementine was gracefully drinking her wine.
‘Nevermind Alhelm, just where does Clementine fit that much food into her thin body? And she’s even ordering more. Is this one of the so-called mysteries of the female body?’ Yulifalet was having thoughts like that when a bang came from beside them. He looked to the side to see Agedilus had got up from his chair.
「Agedilus? What happened?」
「I’m going to my room, I’m full.」
「Huh? But, our extra orders aren’t here yet?」
「I’m good, the three of you eat.」
He had a completely unapproachable way of speaking. Yulifalet felt more lonely rather than angry at him, grabbing Agedilus’s robe as he was about to turn and go upstairs.
He certainly didn’t pull it that hard. So it may have just been bad luck. Agedilus’s hood fell off. Yulifalet’s fresh green eyes widened. With his hood unfastened, that unparalleled beauty was exposed. That pure jet black hair that captivated the eye more than anything.
‘Ah—!’ The sound of a muffled scream came from somewhere. That lively, hustling and bustling dining hall fell silent in an instant. Everyone’s gaze fell on the table where Yulifalet and the others sat – or, to be more precise, on Agedilus as he stood there.
Everyone watched Agedilus, mouths shut. No sooner had Agedilus grimaced and clicked his tongue once than he put on his hood again. But even so, the fearful gazes towards Agedilus remained the same.
After a pause, he heard someone murmur, 「Is he a demon?」 That was the beginning. Everyone around them started making an uproar. 「Demon.」 「Devil.」 「Fiend.」 And then, 「Monster.」
Although the black-haired wizard’s existence was a famous story in the capital, if you went away from the capital, it was considered nothing more than fake rumors. Even Yulifalet didn’t believe Agedilus existed until he saw the black-haired wizard in front of him for the first time.
The dining hall seemed like it would turn into mass panic if left alone. This time, Clementine stood up. She took off her hood by herself, exposing her wavy silver hair. The people grew excited at the sight of that color, which was a sign of people that had received the goddesses’ divine protection. There was only one person in this kingdom that had that silver hair, more famous than Agedilus’s hair.
「Could it be, the princess……?!」
「That is correct. My name is Clementine. I am the true daughter of the king of this country, the firstborn heir of the throne. Do you have a problem with my companion?」
With her grand, imposing voice, everyone couldn’t help but believe that she certainly was the princess of the country. That style of hers was impossible to imitate for a scoundrel pretending to be the princess – it was the natural style of someone who truly held that position, they understood.
「N-no, not at all—!」
Watching as everyone started kneeling hastily, Clementine calmly smiled. It was a dignified smile, as if saying, ‘there’s nothing shady going on here at all.’ Her smile captivated everyone, and the dining hall fell silent again. This time, silent in a different way.
And then, from the middle of the silence, someone murmured, 「Are they the hero party?」 Yulifalet almost reflexively nodded, as if replying to the incredulous gazes. Everyone exchanged glances, unable to hide their surprise.
Some weeks had passed since Yulifalet and the others had left the capital. But in that time, rumors of a ‘party of heroes’ had slowly but surely started to spread across the nation’s people. Suddenly, in an entrance even the heroes burdened with being the last hope against the demon king couldn’t expect, the surroundings erupted. As if the silence that had been there a second ago never happened.
「The landlord just has to show off even more than usual when he meets the party of heroes!」
「That’s right, you! Well now, great heroes, please eat and drink to your heart’s content!」
「Oi, landlady! This isn’t the food or drinks we ordered!」
「Oh shut up, men don’t get so fussy over little things like that!」
The inn’s landlady put new mugs and large plates of food on Yulifalet and the other’s table with a bang. The inn’s landlord had boasted that he made everything from the ingredients himself, and there was nothing on the table that didn’t attract Yulifalet’s eye. But there was something that weighed more on his mind than that.
The image of Agedilus’s retreating figure, quickly fixing his hood and hurriedly leaving the dining room, was burned into his eyes and wouldn’t go away. And the guests, who would stiffen up as he got closer, their faces cramped.
Just what face was Agedilus making as he took in their reactions? Yulifalet would rather Agedilus have looked hurt, even if only a little. Because he couldn’t figure out Agedilus’s true feelings from his usual, expressionless face.
——Agedilus, what face are you making, what are you feeling right now?
When he thought that, he couldn’t bear it anymore. He stood up sharply, his chair making a loud creak. Bringing out dishes one after the other, the landlady blinked in surprise.
「Excuse me. Sorry about this, but I’m going to return to my room a little early.」
‘You don’t mind, right?’ He asked Alhelm and Clementine with his gaze. Alhelm lightly waved his hand,and Clementine briefly said, 「Do you as you please.」 Taking that as a good opportunity, Yulifalet slipped through the customers that were all gazing at him in surprise. He hurried towards the stairs leading to the floor above.
Then he reached the room they were lodging in tonight. Yulifalet took a deep breath, standing in front of the door. Although he didn’t have any bad intentions, he was most definitely the reason that Agedilus ended up leaving the dining room like that. He knew he couldn’t just settle it with a couple of sarcastic remarks, but he still wanted to apologize.
He opened the door, stepping inside the room. Resolving to quietly take everything Agedilus would say to him.
But contrary to his expectations, Agedilus was nowhere to be found. Yulifalet felt an anticlimactic feeling, an unfortunate yet relieved feeling that was difficult to describe. He was looking around the room when he suddenly noticed ‘that’ thing placed on top of the small desk that was provided with the room.
For some reason or another, it weighed on his mind so he picked it up and spread it in his hands. It was a handkerchief. Carefully embroidered on one corner was a small yellow flower with red leaves. Yulifalet tilted his head, staring fixedly at it.
‘Who could this belong to?’ This wasn’t here when they arrived at the inn and were shown around the room. Which meant this had to belong to one of the four people here. It wasn’t his, so it had to belong to someone from the other three. It was just a little too pretty for a man to keep. ‘So is this Clementine’s?’ As Yulifalet guessed that, gazing at the handkerchief, a sudden chilly night wind brushed gently by his skin.
‘Hm?’ He raised his eyes from the handkerchief to the balcony across the flung open window. There stood the person Yulifalet was searching for, the royal palace’s head wizard.
With the big blue moon in the background behind him, Agedilus was gazing right at him. Yulifalet realized all too late that he instinctively gulped. Although it wasn’t the right time to think that, Yulifalet still thought, ‘How beautiful.’ Not to say that the sight of his hood removed, exposing his jet black hair.
His hair looked so alluring in the moonlight, his sunrise-colored eyes mixed with purple and orange glittering. Each and every single one of his facial features was of superior quality, arranged so magnificently not even the word ‘perfect’ was enough to describe them, on his transparent-like white skin. So beautiful.
Yulifalet didn’t have the words to describe all that. Agedilus, with his impossible to read expressionless face, was so absolutely beautiful to the point Yulifalet was speechless.
Just how long did they remain silent like that? It felt like a moment, and it also felt like eternity. Even so, Yulifalet somehow opened his parched mouth.
「……Oh, Agedilus, about earlier……」
Before he could continue with ‘I’m sorry,’ Agedilus had stepped up to him without hesitation. Yulifalet looked at him, barely managing to bear the instinct to step backwards in retreat. Agedilus stuck out his white hand in front of Yulifalet.
「Give it back.」
「I’m telling you to give that back.」
「By 『that,』 you mean this?」
「What else is there?」
Agedilus said that in irritation, unusually exposing his feelings plainly. Yulifalet looked at him, comparing him and the handkerchief. Then he slowly held out the handkerchief to Agedilus. Almost at the same time, Agedilus snatched it from his hand instantly. Yulifalet wasn’t offended by it – rather, he was doubtful about Agedilus’s unusual state. Just like that, he brought up his doubts.
「Is that… handmade by someone?」
「That’s none of your business.」
「T-that’s, that’s right, I guess. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. I was just a bit worried about you.」
Agedilus declared that so sharply, as if suddenly slashing him in half with a sword. Yulifalet felt like his heart might break. But, he’d experienced this many times on this trip. And on top of that, it wasn’t just Yulifalet. Agedilus used the same tone with Alhelm and Clementine too, so he wasn’t really that hurt.
Yulifalet awkwardly scratched his cheek, sheepishly laughing. Agedilus let out a sigh, and then softly muttered.
「It’s a gift from……」
He didn’t hear it properly. Yulifalet tilted his head to the side. Agedilus turned away his face, as if trying to escape from those green eyes filled with curiosity. But the green eyes sparkled, awaiting Agedilus’s response. Finally being outlasted by those eyes, Agedilus half-sighed and half-spoke in his beautiful voice.
「I said, it’s from my fiancée.」
Yulifalet’s train of thought instantly stopped at those words.
He couldn’t help raising his voice, bewildered. Agedilus furrowed his brows at the noise. But from Yulifalet’s perspective after having hit with the reality of that sudden shock, that reaction was a trifling matter.
「You, you have a fiancée?!」
「Is that bad?」
As he raised his voice, still in shock, Agedilus glared at him. That beautiful face already had an intensity to it, but it was all the more incredibly terrifying when it was deliberately faced towards you. But Yulifalet was in the middle of such a surprise that it even surpassed the fear.
「It’s not bad! But, really?!」
「Why would I lie about something like that?」
Agedilus spat that out; he could almost hear ‘are you an idiot?’ in his tone. ‘No, no, no!’ Yulifalet internally shook his head.
Considering Agedilus’s social status and position, it wasn’t strange at all for him to have a fiancée. Since Agedilus’s circumstances were different in just about each and every way from Yulifalet’s, who was nothing more than the heir of a small countryside aristocrat family. But, even so, he couldn’t help being shocked.
Was that because of the otherworldly, out of touch atmosphere Agedilus had about him? That air of pushing other people away. No doubt if someone carelessly touched that cold atmosphere, they’d get ripped apart. And someone like that, had a fiancée. Sooner or later he’d get married, and there was someone who was capable of being his life partner.
He couldn’t just believe that so easily. Even though Yulifalet had just realized in these weeks that Agedilus wasn’t just an indifferent person rumored about by society, he still couldn’t help thinking, ‘No way.’
But Agedilus ignored Yulifalet’s confusion, very carefully folding the handkerchief. He caressed the embroidery in the corner with his fingers, as if checking it.
How could he best describe Agedilus’s expression then? Yulifalet certainly was captivated by that expression. It was an expression completely different from the expression he showed Yulifalet and the others on this trip, this journey that couldn’t be called long but not short either.
That loving expression, imagining someone who wasn’t here, was the most beautiful expression Yulifalet had seen, even out of Agedilus’s expressions.
Yulifalet muttered that. Agedilus gazed suspiciously at Yulifalet, having put the folded handkerchief inside a pocket in his robe. The delicate expression he had on earlier vanished, replaced with a glare as if he wanted to say something. Unintentionally laughing at how calculating that expression was, Yulifalet continued.
「Nothing, I was just talking to myself. Don’t worry about it.」
The reason Yulifalet couldn’t help worrying about Agedilus until now was because he saw Agedilus as someone who pushed everyone away, staying alone.
Agedilus had naturally jet black hair. That meant that no one could help but being terrified of him, more or less. It was only natural he tried to stay alone to protect himself. And then, he slowly became really alone. Thinking that way made Yulifalet worry about him naturally.
But Yulifalet was wrong. Agedilus’s earlier gaze towards the handkerchief, his hand caressing the embroidery, had clearly shown Yulifalet that he did have someone he lowered his guard around.
Yulifalet couldn’t help being relieved, ‘Thank goodness.’ Being alone was lonely. It was sad. It made Yulifalet so happy to know that there was someone out there who held onto Agedilus as he tried to choose the path of solitude. He couldn’t help feeling relieved that Agedilus had someone out there who he could make that expression towards.
And at the same time, he was just a little annoyed. The several weeks they’d spent on this trip together couldn’t be called long, but they certainly weren’t short either. But now he realized that despite that, he still hadn’t gotten through to Agedilus.
Agedilus furrowed his brows as if to say ‘for what?’ But Yulifalet smiled and didn’t speak any more about it.
This was the night that Yulifalet’s fierce attack on Agedilus began. He started talking to Agedilus each and every single opportunity he got, followed him around like a baby bird clung to its mother, tried getting closer to him more and more.
At first, he was almost always ignored, but he wouldn’t give up. Then Agedilus began to reply to him with phrases like 「Cut it out.」 And then, eventually Agedilus started letting him do what he wanted, saying, 「Do as you wish,」 as if being outlasted by Yulifalet.
Alhelm would watch over the two of them, grinning broadly. Clementine would say, 「How charming,」 as if she was enjoying herself too.