After deserting my regret, that boy – that man – steadily began breaking through a lot of things. In more ways than one.
The first thing that surprised me was that he gave absolutely no hints of him coming back home from the Academy of Magic. No matter how many times I asked him when he’d visit, in our exchange of letters, his only response was 「I’m not returning for now.」 Before I knew it, I stopped asking at all.
I can’t say I wasn’t impatient at how the only way we could talk was through letters. In the 『past』 world, using technology was so natural, a part of daily life. But in 『this』 world, there was no way to talk directly to him except exchanging letters. Besides that, the only way I could learn more about his present situation was the very primitive method of hearing rumors at rather big evening parties or tea ceremonies.
In those days, mine and his connection was like a fragile, thin thread that might snap any second if I was careless. To keep that from happening, I mailed him letters so frequently it surprised even myself.
He always sent back precise replies to all my letters, which was, how to put it… Fortunate. He never failed to reply, and I was surprised to see that he was a careful writer, writing out precise replies. But beyond that, I was also always relieved to receive his letters. It made me happy to know that he wasn’t forgetting me. Even though his letters were short and not about anything in particular, it still made me happy.
In response to those letters from him, I would often include little gifts along with the paper on which I wrote about my present circumstances. There were times I hid a pressed flower of the season or fallen leaves in the envelope, as well as times I gifted him an embroidered handkerchief.
Thankfully, I’d inherited my mother’s nimble fingers, so my embroidery looked good in itself. So I always took the chance to send him many pieces. He could use them or throw them, it was all fine. When I sent it to him, the piece had already gone from my hands, so I thought he could do whatever he liked with it.
But in the midst of that, just once I thought I’d send him something simple.
A small yellow flower with red leaves and five petals sewed onto a white fabric.
「——Do you remember?」
That’s right, the reply to this handkerchief with just three words stitched onto it was the slowest reply he’d ever given me.
It was a handkerchief embroidered with the woodsorrel he’d shown me at the Lancent Estate in our childhood. The only time his usually fast reply took so long to come back was when I sent him that handkerchief.
Of course he’d forgotten me after all, that’s why he didn’t reply. It wasn’t unreasonable of me to think that, right? Well then, all I could do was send another letter. Right as I started thinking that, a letter from him at the Academy of Magic finally arrived.
The Lancent family crest that was usually sealed on with red wax was yellow this time — I remember thinking that was strange. As I wondered if it meant something, since everything but the color was as usual, I tore the seal of the thin letter in my room.
I opened it to hear a ‘pop!’ as if something was bursting out. Instinctively closing my eyes, in a few seconds I felt something in my hands that felt too different from the letter. I timidly opened my eyes only to have my breath taken away.
The buds in the center were a vivid yellow, and the white petals surrounding them gave a lovely contrast. Those flowers were held together in a bouquet by a blue ribbon wrapped countless times around them. As I blinked in surprise at the bouquet in my hand, a card lightly fell to the floor at my feet. I picked it up to see there were some honest words written on it.
I was dumbfounded, standing still as I held that card with only two words written on it, and the somewhat small bouquet that had come from the letter.
What the heck is this?
Those were my honest thoughts. I wondered if it was some kind of magic, but the light scent that drifted to my nose and the weight I felt in my hands were certainly real. That told me the bouquet was real.
Just how much did he change mentally for him to send me flowers of all things? All his letters were so matter-of-fact I couldn’t even imagine him being interested at all. Just what face was he making as he made that lovely bouquet of daisies? No matter how hard I thought of it, I couldn’t imagine him doing that at all.
Daisies in response to woodsorrels. I put the bouquet on the top of my dresser and tilted my head. Reflected in the mirror was my own head with question marks flying over it. No matter how much I looked at it, I wouldn’t get an answer from there.
I didn’t know if that man had understood my intentions or not, but I couldn’t sit still. I left my room and hurried to my father’s library.
My brother had taken up camp at the desk in the library in the place of my father, who was at the castle.
「Has something happened?」
I’d entered without so much as a knock. He stood up as he observed me, with that smile on his orderly features inherited from his father. I wished he’d go off and smile at some other lady; his sister complex hadn’t gotten better at all since he was a child. Well, he certainly was a cute little brother to me, but there were times I wondered if it was alright for him to stay like this. But I digress.
Setting that aside, I spoke of the main problem. 「Err, I just wanted to look something up. Hey, Fernan, would you happen to have a book on flower symbolism?」
「Flower symbolism, is it? Just wait a second, I’m sure it was around here……」
Without hesitation, he went towards one of the large bookshelves that surrounded him left and right. It must be a piece of cake for him, studying to be the Governor of Magical Books, to know where the books in his own house’s library were.
Even as I tried to control my impatient heart, I kept feeling somehow restless and fidgety. My brother looked at me with a puzzled expression as he handed me a bulky book with a dark green cover. This was the same flower symbolism book I’d found in this library years ago.
「Here you go.」
I hurriedly thanked him and checked the index to find the daisies page, opening it. Of course, I did feel my brother’s gaze on me but I couldn’t bring myself to care anymore.
Daisies had many more meanings than woodsorrels. I traced each meaning with my finger. A beautiful person, innocence, purity, peace, cheerful, hope, and – ….
I couldn’t help but be silent.
「Sis, your face is red. Is anything wrong?」
「N-nothing’s wrong, Fernan. Please don’t worry. Sorry for bothering you.」
That was all I could say then, as he tried to peek into the page I was glued to. I closed the book right in front of him and once again hurried back to my room. I looked at the bouquet upon my dresser. The white flowers that had been sealed up and sent in a letter were in full bloom and just as lovely as ever.
「……Did he send this because he understood what I meant?」
It was purely hypothetical, but what if that man had, as I feared, put that meaning into these daisies? In other words, had he found out what that last meaning of woodsorrels were, the meaning I’d put into my letter?
Embarrassing. Even though I’d caused this myself, it was incredibly embarrassing. I disgracefully jumped into my bed, hugging my pillow and rolling around.
Once I got over my embarrassment, I arranged the bouquet in a flower vase. My wet nurse who knew I sent him handkerchiefs helped me. 「Sir Agedilus also gifts you a lot, doesn’t he?」 She nodded at me with a knowing look, and I felt like running away. Her pleasant gaze on me hurt.
And then, all those daisies in that flower vase – except one I took from the middle – were decorated in my room until the last one died. Every time those white flowers caught my eye, I was shaken up and confused, feeling mortified and frustrated for some reason.
Did that man feel the same when he looked at the handkerchiefs I sent him? No, what a foolish and impossible thought. I kept immediately denying that thought whenever I had it. How foolish.
Seven years passed with episodes like that. Yes, seven years. Of course, he’d asked me if I would wait for him, but I never thought I’d have to wait seven years. I was shocked the first time my mother pointed that out, 「Seven more years?!」
Speaking of seven years, that would be a very suitable time since I was to be at a marriageable age for a noble family’s daughter. When seven years passed, that man finally returned. He was the youngest student and top of his class at the Academy of Magic, just like when he got in. He had a brilliant track record.
The Academy of Magic was a place for those with an ability for what is called Magic, and I’ve heard that in a sense it’s even more results-based than the Chivalric Order of Knights.
That man had been thrown into such a place and ended up achieving great success, being the top student. I never heard about his student life from him himself, all I know is rumors but in any case, it seems it wasn’t very peaceful.
With his jet black hair showing his endless magical power, those good looks, and having enough talent to top the entrance exams while being so young. Everyone must have been jealous of him, right? Uncle Lancent talked to me about it, showing a bitter smile as he said, 「I remember that too.」
He began to form a lifestyle there since the age of 9, sent to the Academy of Magic that must have been a bed of thorns for him, even going through puberty there. He ended up becoming quite eloquent, and pissing me off – ahem, my apologies, I’ve surprised you.
Seven years before, he would barely talk around me, someone he’d known for so long. But then he became rather assertive, talking more.
If I just said that, I might be told, 「Isn’t it good that he became sociable before coming back?」 And yes, that’s right. If his way of speaking could just be called ‘sociable’, that would have been so good. But that man’s way of speaking was not that lovely at all.
I still remember it clearly. The day before we’d meet after seven years, I looked at the bookmark I’d made from one of the daisies he’d sent me once, feeling like it was the longest night I’d ever lived through. I knew that if I didn’t fall asleep early it’d interfere with tomorrow, but I just couldn’t sleep.
Just how had he grown up? No doubt that was what my throbbing heartbeat asked, I thought uncharacteristically. I thought that finally, he was coming back to meet me and would stand beside me. That the promise he’d made to me with this daisy was finally going to be fulfilled.
I was embarrassed, but above all, happy. It made me realize how much I’d been waiting for this day for seven years. I felt like a little, fanciful maiden from somewhere, excited and wanting to celebrate. I was terribly surprised at how I was being and was even more unable to sleep.
And then, I stood directly in front to meet him, and saw him. He was splendid and beautiful. So beautiful I was at a loss for words. There are many people who are cute as children, but grow up to become disappointing. But he wasn’t one of them. In fact, when he was a child, his youthfulness stood out more, his beauty not perfected yet.
Now, at the age of 16, he had become even more beautiful. Before I knew it, the sweetness that could be called fairy-like or angelic had now grown into an androgynous beauty. I was unexpectedly transfixed by his otherworldly looks.
What did he say to me as he faced me? His first words on our first meeting after 7 years. I can still clearly recall his exact expression and tone of voice.
「——How unfortunate, you haven’t changed at all.」
This was what he said. Just who could blame me for wanting to retort back, saying, no, wait, just what is that?
It’s not like I wanted him to say something like 「You’ve become so pretty,」 but… But still. Is that really what you say to your fiancee who’s in the prime of her life, to your childhood friend that you’re meeting after seven years? Unfortunate, just what does that mean? Not even greeting me at your return and saying ‘unfortunate’. Unfortunately, sue me.
I was more surprised than angry then. How could that boy say something like this? I couldn’t take it. Well, when I think about the only times he would smile like a child, I guess I knew it all along. But still, I didn’t want to believe that someone so beautiful could force such words on me. It was a good chance to punch him suddenly.
I think it was excellent of me to manage to keep a smile on my face as he kept throwing more and more cynical lines at me. …….Well, that was also because of the fact that I was happy at meeting my fiancee after so long.
Having graduated from the Academy of Magic, that man began working at the palace just like that, and put off the wedding by saying, 「We’ll do it once I’ve settled down.」
I wanted to say, hey, hey! I’m already of age to get married! But I couldn’t. At the very least, I just wouldn’t and couldn’t ask him to do that.
Working at the palace that he both hated and loved (or so it seemed), the years began to pass and he grew more and more beautiful. At the same time, he also grew more and more glib…… Or, rather, he grew a sharp tongue. The cynicism, sarcasm and disagreeableness from his brilliant mind kept shining that blade, sometimes sharp and sometimes dull.
If he was a man that was all talk and incapable in everything else, he might have been lovable. But unfortunately, he was very capable. He was better than everyone, even more than Uncle Lancent, in magical power, magical skill, and just about everything.
News of his ability spread over the land, taking over all the popular conversation topics, and before I knew it, rumors of the beautiful young wizard with jet black hair ran rampant over the country.
Along with that, that man’s surroundings grew more and more hidden as if by an invisible wall.
Like that, once again before I knew it, the years passed by, and he was given free reign as the head wizard of the royal palace. He received such fame that there was no one in the country who didn’t know the name Agedilus.
I couldn’t do anything but watch that from the side. Sometimes, he would show up at the Adina Estate to escape the public eye, and all I could do was smile and usher him in.
Could this engagement, maybe, be cancelled? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about that often. It’s not unreasonable for me to think of that, I couldn’t help it. I hadn’t thought I’d use words like cynical or disagreeable to describe the man I would be marrying soon.
If I was the same mental age as my body, no doubt my heart would have completely broken long ago. Him saying those harsh words to me on purpose might have made me break the engagement off. It’s no big deal if I just got used to him saying those things, but at first it really did trouble me.
Even though he sent me daisies in reply to my woodsorrels, the first words from his mouth on our meeting were 「How unfortunate.」 And then he showed no signs of talking about the marriage. Just what did he want to tell me?
If he hated me, he could have just said that clearly, and I could have broken off the engagement and avoided more trouble. But nothing definite ever leaves that man’s mouth, so in the end, I just have to keep depending on him.
「You don’t have to wait anymore.」
Until the day he says that, I’m going to be nothing more than his fiancee. I’ve decided that.
I dealt with my confused heart, feeling complicated things, sometimes looking forward to the day I’d be more than just his fiancee and sometimes the opposite. And I dealt with him throughout all that.
「What is it?」
「This tea is bitter. I’d rather make my own tea than this.」
「Oh, I’m sorry. Well then, Edi, I’m asking suddenly but, you’re treating me to some tea, right? Shall I prepare some new tea leaves for you?」
「……Wait, who said I’d be making the tea?」
「My, well, if you would show me an example of how to make good tea, next time even I won’t fail.」
Whenever I’d smile at him like that, he’d always click his tongue, twisting his majestic, royalty-like features, and avert his sunrise-colored eyes.
We weren’t really on bad terms, but before we knew it, we’d fallen into a daily routine of talking like that.
By the way, the tea he makes is incredibly delicious; it’s one of my few pleasures. Wizards know about medicinal plants too, and the tea he makes with the original blend of medicinal leaves he brings sometimes is just to my liking, exceedingly delicious…… But I digress.
One time, as I was once again enjoying the tea that the head wizard of the royal palace had made in person for me, I suddenly remembered something.
「I just remembered, I heard the other day that you were invited to the princess’s tea ceremony.」
「…Where did you hear that?」
「My father says that rumor’s the hot topic of the palace.」
My father had smiled even more than usual, saying, 「That Agedilus, huh.」 I don’t know if it was just my imagination but it felt like he was waiting to see my reaction.
At my answer, he made a sour face as if he’d drank something bitter. It was strange how beautiful things stay beautiful, even when making a face like that. They say you could get tired of a beautiful person in three days, but in reality, even as I got used to him I never got tired of looking at him.
As I thought about that, I asked him again. 「What kind of person is the princess?」
「Does it bother you?」
「Yes, they say the princess’s beauty is one of our kingdom’s prides.」
The beautiful princess. The lovely princess. The princess that received the divine protection of the goddesses at birth, with amber eyes like honey with her wavy silver hair, that boasts an overwhelming popularity with the country’s people.
To be honest, I’m also one of her fans, to the point where I bought a small painting of her last year at her birthday festival.
Even though it was just a portrait of her, I knew that her beauty still rivals that of that man. If he is the night, she is the morning. With her innocent face, no one could not like her, that princess. Including him.
He said that, narrowing his sunrise-colored eyes, as if he was hurrying his thoughts to the palace that was just a little bit further from the Adina Estate……. As if he was looking somewhere far away.
I thought that was strange.
I’d realized whenever he judged other people, including me, he was usually very harsh, and seldom praised anyone. But I think that was the first time he hadn’t criticized or praised someone as he judged them.
Looking back on it, I should have realized that was the first red flag.