His jet black hair was so glossy it looked damp. That hair was proof that he held more magical power than anyone else.
To be honest, Arche still thought his hair was scary. She knew it was shameful of her to think that, but she couldn’t help it. Although she’d gotten better with it than before, there were still times it would terribly frighten her until she couldn’t bear it.
She would look at him in the arbor from between the plants with that fearful gaze. She was relieved that each time, he simply continued reading his book in silence, giving no hint of noticing her gaze.
She didn’t think it was possible in reality, but let’s say he laughed hypothetically, cried or got angry, showing that he too was human after all. But even so, his black hair would surpass his human emotions, making one unable to feel anything but fear. That was the power it had.
With black like that, beautiful yet terrifying, terrifying yet beautiful, he was a being unbelievably different from his fellow humans.
But that’s precisely why that gentleman was strong. That’s precisely why he was the royal palace’s head magician, that’s precisely why he was chosen as one of the heroes to defeat the demon king. That’s what he was like.
There was no way he’d die. No doubt he’d defeat the demon king with the other heroes and return safely back to this medicinal plants garden, back to her.
That was what Arche believed as she showed him a final smile with all her might, saying, 「Take care!」 and watched as he left.
That’s why Arche was shocked, ‘that can’t be,’ when rumors started spreading in the palace that Agedilus had died in the middle of a fight.
She tried countless times to think, ‘it’s just a rumor, there’s no way that could happen.’ But she knew that rumor was true when it was whispered around the palace as if it was true, and then she heard Agedilus’s disciple left to follow the party of heroes.
Inevitably, she was sad, so sad. She slumped into a depression to the point where she began neglecting Agedilus’s garden, the one thing she’d usually put her utmost effort into. She ended up being so sad that her father realized her unusual state and told her, 「Rest for a while.」
Days passed even if he wasn’t there anymore. She couldn’t even look forward to wondering ‘when will he visit this garden again?’ anymore. She was sad, but she couldn’t stay mourning forever. Before long, she started getting used to daily life again. That was when it happened.
Suddenly, the dark clouds enshrouding the sky cleared. Everyone saw a light fall in the far north. Just like before the hero had been chosen, when the holy sword was pointed at by the heavens. It looked like it pierced through the sky, dazzling but it didn’t hurt to look at.
And then, some time passed. What was that light? Why had the clouds suddenly cleared away? Was it, perhaps…?
Those doubts spread over the country. Then the king himself made a big announcement from the palace. That they had received news from the party of heroes. News that they had defeated the demon king.
The entire country – no, the entire world rejoiced at the news.
But Arche honestly couldn’t be delighted at the news. ‘That gentleman died, and yet…’ She couldn’t help but think that.
But her sadness was short-lived. Right before the triumphal return party of the heroes was held, she was informed of a certain truth. The truth that the wizard thought to be died, Agedilus Von Lancent, was alive. Now, finally Arche was overjoyed.
She did stand to one side of the parade, watching with her friends, but she deeply regretted not getting a better seat earlier.
Why hadn’t they just announced that he was alive when they announced the defeat of the demon king? Why had Agedilus’s existence been made so secret? Apparently, that was because on top of the difficulties he faced while he was thought to be dead, he also received a serious wound in the final battle. There were moments where it didn’t seem possible that he’d remain『alive』.
Deep inside the royal palace, the medical officers and wizards had used up their entire power on him, until finally his condition remained stagnant. But still they couldn’t afford to be optimistic, and so it was reported that he would be unable to attend the parade.
Arche was worried upon hearing that, and also thought it was unfortunate. But then, she felt the same amount of – no, even more happiness at the thought of him being alive.
Like that, some weeks passed. Until finally, Arche’s crush returned to his personal medicinal plants garden that Arche was looking after.
——It really, really is Sir Agedilus!
Her heartbeat spontaneously started throbbing, and she couldn’t hold back her face from turning red.
That black hair, so glossy it looked damp just like usual. Those mysterious, miraculous sunrise-colored eyes with purple and orange intermingling together. She hadn’t seen Agedilus in so long, he looked so beautiful she couldn’t help but be fascinated again. There was a scar under his left eye, but it didn’t damage his beauty one bit.
Besides that scar, Arche could see another change in Agedilus. It was a change that would probably go unnoticed by all except those who really observed him. The change looked rather similar to the smile he did once, the second Arche realized she’d fallen in love with him.
——What could it be…? It feels kinda like, the air about him changed?
Before he left on this trip, he had a stiff, hard air about him. Even when he was alone in the arbor in the medicinal plants garden, it felt like he was pushing away other people. But now, just what had happened to the air of the person in front of her? Even though there was still some stiffness left, it had become remarkably calmer compared to before. Somehow softer, gentler.
‘I wonder if it’s because the world’s finally at peace now,’ Arche thought. He had been burdened with the great responsibility of defeating the demon king, and now the journey had finally ended. A journey so short, but it felt so long. No doubt that must be more than enough to put him at ease.
On top of that, now everyone would sing his praises as one of the saviors of the world, a complete change from how he was loathed for his black hair before. Even though they had all been mixing fact and fiction in their rumors, speaking ill of Agedilus, since he came back they were all saying nice things about him. Arche did resent them for being so selfish. But more importantly, hearing him be praised like that made her so happy and proud, as if she was the one being praised.
If this was how Arche, someone else felt, no doubt the person himself must be even happier. That may have been what softened his attitude.
‘Or maybe, what if…’ A question came to Arche’s mind. Was this because she was the one in front of him? Was she the only one he’d show these emotions to? Was he in fact showing them just because she was there?
「C-congratulations, for defeating the demon king!」
「Right. Good job, you’ve been working hard too.」
Flustered, she quickly lowered her head at the first appreciative words she’d heard from him. If she hadn’t, he’d definitely have noticed her red face.
What if, what if that was true? What if it really was Arche who’d soothed Agedilus, softened his attitude?
——Uwaaaah! What am I even thinking!
It was a ridiculous, absurd thought that made her want to shake her head quickly to shake it off. But why did she have a feeling that thought was strangely true? Just the thought of his pleasing voice saying something like 『I love you』 was so, so unbearable. She felt like she might faint right there.
「Um, this is the crops I harvested while you weren’t here – tea leaves, herbs, medicinal plants. I couldn’t harvest everything, but…」
Arche handed a paper bag to Agedilus full of different kinds of plants, dried up and separated by their types. She’d carefully compared the herbs and plants Agedilus ordered her to raise before he left, hand-picking the ones he would order most often. It seemed he had a special recipe for medicinal plant tea. She wanted to try that tea someday.
Agedilus took the bag from Arche, turning his sunrise-colored eyes towards her. Her heart made a sudden, violent thump.
「……You understood well.」
「That’s just because I’m your gardener!」
Saying that in an admiring voice, Arche puffed up her chest in pride. ‘That’s right. This beautiful being’s gardener.’ There may be those that said she was just a peasant gardener, but Arche knew how difficult it was to be his gardener. It was really difficult to be close to someone loathed for having black hair. But she’d done that long before he became a hero.
She’d allowed that to happen, and she definitely would continue it for long after too. She could be near to the one she longed for. She liked him. She loved him when she slept, she loved him when she woke up, she loved him so much it was unbearable.
Agedilus left, holding the paper bag full of medicinal plants and herbs. Arche watched him leave, basking in the lingering aftertaste of joy.