Those words were the signal, and the doors in the back opened. Arms linked together, Agedilus and Filmina quietly walked along the center path. And then, slipping through the space between the attendants, they walked to the altar where they faced each other and stopped.
「In the name of our Goddess. Take your oaths.」
Clementine’s voice was like a chirping bird, but still mysteriously majestic. Accepting her words, Agedilus opened his mouth, facing Filmina.
「I will think only of you.」
Taking a lock of Filmina’s hair in his hand, he pressed a kiss onto it.
「I will appreciate you. I will care for you. I will help you. I will support you. I will respect you. I will protect you. I will trust you.」
After each sentence, he kissed the back of Filmina’s hand, the palm of her hand, her fingertips, her cheeks, her eyelids, one by one. Just those repeated kisses were so breathtakingly beautiful, it was the very definition of a noble ceremony.
「I request you.」
And then, one last kiss on the forehead. As if waiting for Filmina’s response, Agedilus kneeled on one knee there. As if replying to that, Filmina smiled. A kind, gentle, happy smile. Gently bending down, this time it was Filmina who kissed Agedilus’s forehead.
「I accept all of you.」
At her words, Agedilus’s sunrise-colored eyes were filled with a delicate light, not just delight, but not relief either. He stood up again, putting his hands around Filmina’s waist.
「——I love you.」
After those last words from Agedilus, the two’s lips met.
Carefully watching that, Clementine made grains of light from her hand that rained over the couple.
「May there be much happiness in the couple’s future. May the blessings of our goddess be upon you.」
In the middle of the raining light particles, Agedilus and Filmina bowed to the statue of the goddess, before turning to the attendants and bowing again. Thanks to the sunlight from the window above, the light particles glittered and sparkled all the more brightly.
The scene was nothing but absolutely beautiful. Yulifalet felt there was something filling him up from the depths of his heart. Why couldn’t he help thinking, ‘Ah…’ Filled with a flood of emotions, Yulifalet clapped for the two leading roles today along with all the other attendants in a grand applause.
And then, that night. The celebrations were held at the Lancent Estate. Even though they were ‘celebrations’, they weren’t formal at all. Everyone flung off their stiff, formal uniforms, gathering together with comfortable clothes as they pleased.
It was a rather private occasion, with them eating their meal made by the women of the Adina family, and indulging themselves on the prized sake of the Adina family and Lancent family’s respective heads.
The Adina family’s head’s wife was usually in the kitchen, and Filmina and the wet nurse also made their own dishes. Each of their food was delicious, and it made Yulifalet remember the food from his hometown.
He drank countless glasses of sake as he was recommended to, and before he knew it he started feeling like he was floating around mid-air. By the time he realized, ‘Crap, I’m drunk,’ it was too late. No matter how much he was told he could stay at the Lancent Estate, he still felt guilty.
‘Guess I’ll go out and get some fresh night air.’ Thinking that, he left his seat. Everyone had drank sake, and were all immersed in conversation. Taking that as a good opportunity, he slipped outside without telling anyone.
It was a bright night. A night where the big blue moon brightly shone. The cold night wind pleasantly brushed against his skin, warm from the sake he’d drank. Even though it had only been some weeks since he’d defeated the demon king, it felt like it had been years ago.
Since he returned to the capital, all of his days were spent busily and full of commotion. But today felt like the time flowed by so slowly and restfully as never before. Why?
He took a deep breath, then exhaled. The clean air filled his lungs.
It was quiet. The Lancent Estate was right in the busy center of the capital. Even though it was so bustling and busy in the day, that liveliness unbelievably disappeared by night, so quiet. He wanted to stay out here and bask in the night air forever, but he couldn’t do that.
‘I should be heading back soon,’ he thought, facing the door and about to return. It was then that Yulifalet was surprised by someone standing there.
「Huh? Mrs Filmina?」
One of the lead roles of today, Filmina, stood with the door behind her. She was clad in a simple dress, different from the pure white one from the daytime. Her long hair that had been let down was now arranged in a chignon.
Her appearance gave a completely different impression from the daytime, but there was no change in the gentle atmosphere about her. Yulifalet didn’t feel wary around her.
He tilted his head to the side in confusion, asking Filmina a question.
「It’s your big day, why are you here……?」
「Because you aren’t there, Sir Yulifalet. Perhaps the cooking was not suitable for your taste?」
She anxiously looked towards him. Yulifalet shook his head, as if she’d said something outrageous.
「No, not at all! The cooking was really tasty. I just felt a bit tipsy, so I wanted to get some fresh air.」
「Is that so? I’m so relieved to hear that.」
At her light smile, Yulifalet felt his face go red for some reason. Even though he knew she was a kind of woman he’d never been around before, and that she was a newlywed married woman who his friend had married, his chest suddenly felt overcome with emotion. That must be the sad nature of men.
‘It’d be bad if the groom found out, huh,’ he thought, as if looking at the situation from an outsider’s perspective. He was about to say, 「Well then, let’s go back together.」 But before he could, Filmina opened her mouth.
He blinked, as if to say ‘for what?’ Filmina erased her gentle smile. She looked straight at Yulifalet with a serious expression.
The phrase 「Thank you」. He had heard those words countless times since he returned to the royal capital. 「Thank you for defeating the demon king.」 「Thank you for saving the world.」 He’d heard those words so many times it bewildered him. But for some reason, Filmina’s 「Thank you」 felt different than other people’s 「Thank you.」
「『Thank you』, for what?」
「For believing in Edi without giving up.」
Yulifalet was finding it increasingly more and more difficult to understand. Filmina continued.
「I heard it from Alhelm and the others. That everyone believed Agedilus was alive until the end…… And, especially you.」
「Oh, yeah, that? But you were the same too……」
「No. I wasn’t the same. I gave up hope.」
‘So…’ Filmina grasped her hands tightly as if blaming herself, and continued her words like she was confessing something.
「The reason Edi could come back home like this was because of you and the others.」
「—That’s not true!」
Filmina cracked a self-deprecating smile, so different from her gentle one. At the sight of it, Yulifalet couldn’t help but grab both her shoulders. Perhaps overwhelmed by the force, Filmina’s whole body shook in surprise, her eyes blinking. Looking into her eyes from close-up, Yulifalet smiled.
「I think the reason Edi came back alive has to be you.」
He knew just how much Agedilus had lovingly thought of Filmina during the journey. That day, when the moon was as bright as the moon today. Surely no one could make Agedilus make the expression he did then except Filmina. There was just one person who could call him 「Edi」.
The reason Yulifalet was able to believe Agedilus was alive, was all thanks to Filmina. He couldn’t help but think of Filmina as the last thread that was holding Agedilus to this world.
Filmina’s wet eyes blinked, and then she softly murmured.
「Is… Is that so?」
「It’s true, I guarantee you.」
「……To think, a great hero is guaranteeing it for me. There can’t be any stronger guarantee than this.」
Yulifalet vigorously nodded, and Filmina smiled. It was a gentle smile that made everyone who saw it naturally feel relieved, and Yulifalet also let out a sigh of relief. If he’d made her cry right here, just what excuse would he have given Agedilus?
As he thought, ‘Thank goodness,’ he suddenly laughed. At that mischievous laugh, Filmina blinked in surprise once again.
「What is it?」
「Won’t you form an alliance with me?」
‘What do you mean?’ She urged him to go on with her eyes. Yulifalet smiled broadly.
「That’s right. The goal is to protect Agedilus’s happiness.」
Filmina’s eyes widened in surprise. She blinked incessantly, before her eyes finally had the same light as Yulifalet’s——namely, a mischievous light.
「Ahaha. Sir Yulifalet, you really are a curious friend.」
「……Agedilus said something like that to me once too. Wonder if it’s okay to take it as a compliment?」
Though, Agedilus had said it much more frankly than Filmina. 「A strange person」 and 「A weird person」 were rude things to say indeed.
Giggles escaped Filmina’s mouth, as if she couldn’t contain herself. Not answering with a yes or no, she did nothing but laugh. Yulifalet scratched his cheek, embarrassed. Facing him, Filmina extended her slender hand to him.
「An alliance, you say. If there really is something like that, I’ll gladly join.」
Smiling even harder, Filmina continued.
「Well then, I look forward to working with you from now on. Please just call me ‘Filmina’, I don’t mind if you drop the ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’.」
「Then won’t you call me Yuli too?」
「Yes. I look forward to working with you, Sir Yuli.」
「Me too, Filmina.」
They shook each other’s hands. That was the moment they were allied in the 『Protect Agedilus’s Happiness Alliance』.
The chilly night wind blew between them. If he stayed out any longer, his body might get too chilly. ‘This time, let’s hurry up and go back already.’ Opening the door, they returned inside.
As the two of them walked together towards the large room where the dining was taking place, they instinctively stopped at the sight of someone approaching them.
「……What were you doing?」
That beautiful voice was so low you could plainly tell he was in a bad mood. Yulifalet and Filmina exchanged glances, before looking at him.
「Agedilus? What’s the matter, what are you doing here?」
When Yulifalet left his seat from the dining room, Agedilus had been thoroughly engaged in conversation with Alhelm and Filmina’s younger brother. But for some reason he was here now, his beautiful face twisted into a displeased look.
He approached quickly, took Filmina’s arm and pulled her beside him.
「That’s my line. What were you two doing, sneaking around?」
Agedilus fully exposed his bad mood, so disturbed that he might start yelling if Yulifalet said something foolish. It made Yulifalet realize once again just how important Filmina was to Agedilus. There were only a few times even during the journey that Agedilus had bluntly shown his feelings like this.
‘He really does love her, huh?’ he thought. As Yulifalet thought that, he found himself jealous that Agedilus had someone to think of dearly. He exchanged glances with Filmina.
Several seconds passed as their gazes clashed together. Then, the two of them suddenly blurted out together.
「A secret, I guess.」
「It’s a secret.」
Agedilus looked like he was saying, ‘Just what does that mean?’ Filmina linked her arm around his arm. At that gesture, Agedilus looked clearly surprised as he looked at Filmina, shutting his mouth.
「Well now, let’s get back to our seats quickly. Both of us left, so I’m sure everyone must be waiting for us.」
‘Right?’ Filmina pulled at his arm, looking up at the man who had become a husband today. Yulifalet had to hold back his laughter as Agedilus quietly listened to her. Then, he followed them back too. Agedilus and Filmina. Watching them from behind, Yulifalet certainly was happy.
‘I hope they stay like this forever.’ He couldn’t help praying for that.
* * *
「Yuli! Hey, Yuli!」
「……Huh? Oh, yeah, what is it, Marie?」
「Don’t ask me what’s the matter. You just zoned out right as you broke that envelope’s seal!」
‘I was so worried!’ With her cheeks puffed up, his childhood friend glared at him, and Yulifalet scratched his cheek. It seemed he’d gotten lost in thought, somehow or another.
After attending Agedilus and Filmina’s wedding, he quickly left the capital behind as if escaping, kicking away the wealthy merchants and aristocrats who endlessly kept running after him with marriage proposals and bribes.
When he finally returned to his hometown, the people that came to greet him were his childhood friend and his parents, his butler who was the family’s head servant, and the people that lived there. Everyone was in tears, all saying, 「Thank goodness you’re safe.」
That was when Yulifalet was finally able to accept what is called ‘peace’ in this world, not as the ‘Hero’ Yulifalet but as the Yulifalet who was just an heir of a small countryside aristocrat.
And then, he had been able to regain a peaceful everyday life. Not exactly like how it was before, but certainly peaceful. And today, he had received this letter. As he looked at the envelope with its seal cut, he smiled.
He took out the paper from the envelope, only to have his nose tickled by the light flowery scent. Narrowing his eyes in pleasure at the refined scent, he opened the folded up letter.
——Dear Yulifalet Lila Schtorenvihein.
The letter started with those customary words. The handwriting looked as if it revealed the writer’s personality; it had to be Filmina’s. Although his signature was added jointly at the sender’s name part, that Agedilus wouldn’t go to the trouble of sending a letter by himself.
The fine quality paper told of their present situation, and asked how Yulifalet and the others were doing. Although it would be true to say there was nothing interesting or fun in it, it still made him so happy that he could peacefully exchange letters with them like this.
As he naturally smiled, Marie said, 「Hey!」 and pulled at his sleeve a few times.
「So, who was that letter from after all?」
「Hm? Well, it’s…」
「From my dear friends.」