「Welcome, Sir Agedilus.」
He turned up at the Adina Estate, brought along by Uncle Lancent several days after he’d healed my paper cut. By then, he’d stopped hiding his black hair at the Adina Estate. I never got tired of looking at his glossy black hair no matter how many times I saw it. Though sometimes it would remind me of the 『past』 world I could never return to, making me feel something difficult to describe.
You could call it homesickness. Nostalgic and painful. Although I don’t want to deny the world I live in 『now,』 I can’t completely cast away the 『past』 world where I had so many regrets. That boy’s black hair pushes 『me』 onto myself.
Did he realize that? Or did he not realize it? I still don’t know the answer to that. But when I asked him to let me touch his hair, he obediently let me touch it, albeit unable to hide how bewildered he was. As I ran my fingers through his smooth hair, it felt somehow different from mine, as if it was consoling my heart.
「You can call me…」
That was right as I was combing his hair. As I said his name – that name, like a tongue twister no matter how many times I said it – he said something to me. As I tilted my head, he looked over his shoulder at me, now frozen as I held the comb.
He repeated, 「You can call me Edi.」
It took me a while to properly understand what that meant – Edi.
「Sir Edi, then?」 I asked, my head still cocked to one side.
He replied in a soft voice as if I’d gotten it wrong. 「You don’t have to call me Sir.」
「Very well – Edi, is it?」
He nodded. And at that moment, grand fireworks were set off inside me. ‘Edi’ was a nickname for ‘Agedilus’. I knew that he greatly cherished the name ‘Agedilus’ that his beloved step-father, Uncle Lancent had given him. And yet, he still told me that I could call him Edi.
It was then that I knew that I was now an individual to the animal who wouldn’t trust anyone besides his step-father, a person who he let his guard down around. How could I not be delighted? If there’s anyone who has a problem with that, I’d like them to step out. If you have a fight to pick, I’m right here.
Letting my mind wander, I said his name for the first time, my facial muscles stretched into a grin. 「Edi.」
「Just testing it out.」
He turned his face away, silent at what I said. At a glance, not very charming behavior, but I know that’s how he hid his embarrassment. It’s not impossible to say I instinctively smiled ear to ear at that.
And so, I got used to the name Edi on my tongue much faster than I expected.
He was much more grown up than his age or appearance suggested, and spending time with him was fun. …No, the right word is comfortable, to be precise. It’s not that we got along well or anything. It’s just that none of the other children would come over on the days he visited, so I felt less burdened by responsibility.
He didn’t talk much, or laugh or cry either. I was set free from my ‘good older sister’ position when I was with him, and it felt great.
While it’s bad for me to say such a thing, I was never tactlessly interfered with him like other children, and spent most of our time together reading. I could say we both felt the same since he never objected to it either.
To put it more childishly: Best Friends Forever. By the time I realized it, we’d fallen into that sort of friendship, which definitely happened the time he let me call him ‘Edi’. Well, even if I say we were friends, the only things we did were – as I mentioned before – just reading together, and letting me touch his hair.
In this world, no one would even think about why none of the other kids would come over when he was at the Adina Estate. It’s only natural. Even my three years younger brother instinctively knew the meaning of black hair more than I did. That must be why he never approached him, except when we were together.
And my brother was used to Uncle Lancent being around – it goes without saying the other children, from families not close to any magicians, would never go near him.
There was just one time where he ran into some kids, and it was terrible. It was really terrible. In complete contrast to the crying, wailing children, he didn’t even say a single word let alone cry. I really thought, ‘it’d be better if he just cried,’ but he didn’t. I remember feeling angry at him for not crying.
If he’d just cried, I could have comforted him as much as he liked. I knew I could have even protected him. But in reality, he just stood there, expressionless, leaving me with nothing to do but grasp his small hand tightly. Even though nothing had changed between us, I felt the warmth of his hand and was mortified at myself for being unable to say anything to him but his name.
And that’s how it was always just the two of us whenever he visited. And I started looking forward just a little bit more to that.
Two years passed in the blink of an eye.
We had – were supposed to have – a pleasant friendship. He hadn’t had another accident involving running into kids since, and nothing else had changed. We repeated each day doing the same things I mentioned before.
We certainly did things other than just reading books too. I don’t remember the exact date and time, of course, but I strangely remember exactly what we did on this certain day.
From the start, he spent his days avoiding the public eye, often turning up at the Adina Estate since Uncle Lancent was busily working as a palace magician and didn’t want him to be left alone. The ‘Black Hairs’ weren’t just respected and revered in the public eye – that boy was in a peculiar position where there was unfortunately no one who would look after him but us. It seemed my parents had promised Uncle Lancent that they would look after Agedilus and provide support where Uncle Lancent couldn’t.
In the midst of all that, this certain day was strange because he didn’t show up to the Adina Estate – I was the one who went to the Lancent Estate. Agedilus greeted me and guided me to the medicinal plants garden in the courtyard of the Lancent Estate. It was spring, and there was not only greenery in the garden but a multitude of flowers, all blooming profusely.
「This is amazing! Does Uncle take care of them?」
「Yes. They’re mostly used as medicine.」
「They can be used as medicine, even though they’re so pretty?」
I remember we were having a conversation like that as we walked through the garden. As I followed him, he slipped through the middle of some tall flowers, and I realized we’d arrived to a small isolated field in the corner of the medicinal plants garden.
「……This is the field I look after.」
It wasn’t unreasonable for me to instinctively raise my voice then. Because no matter how much Uncle Lancent had guided him along the way, it was an incredibly splendid field for a 9-year-old. In the midst of several kinds of growing flowers and medicinal plants, a flower suddenly caught my eye.
「Could this yellow flower be a creeping woodsorrel?」
Surrounded by a red plant with leaves resembling a clover’s, a small yellow flower with five petals was blooming. To compare it to the other grand flowers would be a bit unfair — which is exactly why it stood out. Even he looked surprised as I was entranced by it, but when he saw me crouch down and gently touch it, he finally opened his mouth.
「That’s right. It’s a weed, but it can be used as a natural remedy.」
「My, even this is medicine? I only knew that it has a very strong vitality,」 I said, remembering it from my 『past me’s』knowledge.
He nodded. Even I knew what creeping woodsorrels were. They were categorized as weeds, like he said, but to think that they could be used as medicine too…
「Hey, Edi, do you know what woodsorrels symbolize?」 I asked, casually remembering the language of flowers. He blinked his sunrise-colored eyes in surprise. It seemed he didn’t know what flower symbolism itself was in the first place.
I myself was surprised when I found a book on flower symbolism in my father’s library. I hadn’t expected the concept of a floral language to exist in this world too. And like that, I sometimes found more things this world had in common with the 『past』 world, and I always fell into a complicated mental state each time it happened.
「All flowers have their own meanings. Woodsorrels are certainly weeds, but even this flower has its own meaning too, you know.」
It’s not like I knew all the details, but in my 『past』 life, my 『previous』 『mother』 relied on me to get rid of the woodsorrel weeds that grew in our garden. So I researched about it, and incidentally came to learn about its symbolism as well.
「Woodsorrels symbolize, let me see… Joy, and a radiant heart. And then…」
Yes, and then there was one more. I thought it was so lovely when I read it, but saying it in real life felt a little embarrassing. His sunrise-colored eyes gazed at me as if urging me to continue, but I pretended not to notice and laughed.
「And well, sorry. I forgot the rest.」
The topic of flower symbolism ended, and later we relished some tea cakes Uncle Lancent had prepared for us earlier, reading a book I’d brought from the Adina Estate together like usual until it was time for me to go.
I repeat myself, but in the two years since I’d met him, it’s not like we never had trouble with each other. But even so, we certainly spent our days peacefully and calmly.
—That must be why. I may have been too careless.
That was the time I got involved in his accidental burst of magic.
No, ‘got involved’ is a wrong way to put it. As to why, I repeat myself but it was my mistake. A mistake I can never stop regretting.
I had never thought he could read that book, let alone put it into action. While that was unmistakably the real motive, now it’s nothing more than a postscript explanation.
That book of advanced magic was in the house just because it was the home of the Governor of Magical Books. By all rights, it was a book that we shouldn’t have come near at the time, but I wanted to act a little older in front of that boy who was slowly overtaking me. Even if the age of our bodies was the same, we were different on the inside: a parent and a child. That’s why I wouldn’t give up. As a matter of fact, it was embarrassing.
I brought out that book just like that from my father’s library, saying it was fine if I took it just for a little while. As we read that magical book, on the topic of fire magic, an illustration of a flaming beast caught my eye.
Four main types of magic exist in this world, namely: magic in its narrowest sense, using your own magical power; Spirit Magic that used the power of spiritual beings; Light Magic that used the power of the gods; and black magic that used the power of demons.
For the very widespread Spirit Magic, a spiritual being that normally can’t be seen is necessary, as the name suggests. To summon a high-level spirit that actually listens to the wizard that summons it is rare in itself, and containing it in this realm is called a Herculean task.
Putting that all aside, I was just fascinated by the beauty of the drawing of the fiery beast, murmured, 「Magic really is amazing,」 which was a perfectly natural thing to say, but now it was too much. My hand stopped as I was about to turn the page, and he, still quiet compared to other children, strangely said my name clearly.
「What is it?」
「Do you want to see it?」
Had I not realized? That those sunrise-colored eyes of his were endlessly earnest and serious? I must have realized it. I had to have realized it. But I didn’t realize it. That’s why I replied with no hesitation. That I did want to see it.
Everyone can probably guess what happened next. A beast with a flaming body appeared, called and refined by his magic. Even though the summoner himself didn’t have any real power, the beast cruelly moved to attack the one that had summoned it. I let out a scream.