He’s deep in sleep. I don’t put shoes on, to hide my footsteps and not wake him. I pick up my gown that was lying on a nearby chair, put it on over my night-clothes, and go to the balcony. A chilly sensation travels from my bare feet all over my body, but I just don’t feel like going back in the room again.
「……The moon looks so beautiful.」
The moon lightly floats in the night sky, which looks like it has spread out the highest quality of velvet. The 『past』 world’s moon was ivory-white, but this world’s moon is a whitish-blue, and bigger. With my hands on the balcony railing, I do nothing but gaze at that moon. I often looked at the moon like this from the balcony of my room in my parents’ house too.
In the first place, this estate was the birth home of the late wife of this man’s foster father, Uncle Lancent. Or, rather, not uncle – my father-in-law. The late wife’s parents had died early, so after she died, it was just left in a corner of the capital. My father-in-law Lancent very generously gave it to us in good condition, saying it was a wedding present. He had smiled and said, 「She’d be happier too if you lived here instead of me just owning it and leaving it alone like this.」
The moonlight brightly shines on our estate grounds, really making the silence of the night stand out.
The nights of the world I live in now are far too quiet. Sometimes, I miss the noise and clamour of the nights of the 『past』 world. Though in those days I would complain, 「Let me sleep, I gotta go to work again tomorrow!」
In this world where silence spread out, that screaming voice stuck in my ear in my dream. It feels like I can hear it again, but I don’t feel like going back to bed. Just why is that so, really? I’m worried. I really am worried. Why do I feel like this, even though they say a lack of sleep is beauty’s greatest enemy?
It was then, as I watched the moon like that, when suddenly a pair of arms enveloped my body from behind.
……I would like you to please praise me for not screaming.
Since the warmth I felt through my gown was familiar, I narrowly manage to settle down after just stiffening for a second. I can’t move since he’s holding me, so I move my neck, timidly looking over my shoulder. As I expected, close to me is that beautiful androgynous face that would charm even a night fairy.
「E-Edi? Did I wake you? Please don’t frighten me like that.」
My husband, who had woken up and crept behind me without me noticing, now tightly hugging me from behind, furrows his brows at my words.
「You’re the one that frightened me first.」
He whispers those words by my ear, his voice somewhat lower than usual. That tells me he’s in more of a bad mood than usual. But I don’t remember doing anything to displease him.
「Did I do something to you?」
All I did was caress his head and cheek. Since I restrained myself from pinching his nose, I don’t recall doing anything else that would anger him. As if responding to my question, he slowly tightens his arms around me. Hey, wait, if he holds me any harder I really might not be able to breathe.
But it’s no use. I think it’s completely unfair. He’s just showing me that expression full of displease and a hint of worry, but I can’t just shake his arms off like that.
「——Edi, would you please let go of me?」
「……What if I say no?」
「Oh, that’s worrying. I can’t hug you like this, can I?」
I tilt my head and look up at him to see his sunrise-colored eyes blink in surprise. I suppress a laugh at that expression, I don’t get to see that usually. His arms loosen in surprise, and I manage to turn around, pressing my cheek to his chest and wrapping my arms around him, clad in his night-clothes. It seems like that action relieved him from the chill his body was engulfed in.
The crying voice stuck to my ear is replaced by the sound of this man’s heartbeat. It’s the sound of being alive. I instinctively close my eyes at how comfortable it feels.
As I close my eyes, I’m suddenly up in mid-air. For a second I have no idea what happened, but my mind slowly catches up with the situation.
He’s carrying me, in the so-called bridal style. I look up at him as if asking why. His beautiful face, standing out against the blue moonlight, is as indifferent as usual.
No doubt all women have that problem of wondering ‘I’m not heavy, am I?’ I did think, ‘he does have awfully wonderful muscles, even though he’s skinny.’ But at any rate, just why is this man carrying me so lightly?
「W-what’s this all of a sudden?」
My voice naturally comes out as a squeak. Looking down at me, he snorts.
「This may be a balcony, but you’re the only idiot who’d go outside barefoot.」
Why call me an idiot? I can’t help feeling angry, but I also can’t deny him calling me an idiot since the nights are still chilly this season, as he said.
I’m at a loss for words. He carries me back in, takes me to the room beside the bedroom, and puts me on the couch. He snaps his fingers; the magic jewel in the room shines, a light orange light fills the room. Silent magic is his strength. That warm light feels like the opposite of the moonlight, and I instinctively narrow my eyes at its radiance. Leaving me there, he heads towards the door connected to the corridor.
「Wait a bit.」
「But, but you have to wake up early tomorrow……」
I say that, implying ‘so you should go to bed right away.’ He looks over his shoulder and glares at me. Being glared at by that unparalleled beautiful face would make almost all humans except a small minority go pale. But I’m one of the ‘small minority’ so I’m just confused.
I can’t help feeling like it was absurd for him to glare at me like that when I didn’t mean to say anything odd. As if saying he didn’t give a damn about me being confused, he leaves the room. Left alone in that vast room, the only thing I can do is obediently wait, as he said.
He returns in less than a few minutes. In his hand are two cups with white steam rising from them.
I can’t help but tilt my head in puzzlement. He silently sits down beside me, holding out one of the cups to me. I reflexively take it, and the light fragrance with a hint of sweetness wafts up to my nose. Just why did he do this? I look at the beautiful amber liquid filling the cup and at his face, comparing the two countless times. He’s already started drinking his. Without looking here, he unconcernedly says:
「Hurry up, drink that and sleep.」
「Oh dear, did you really go to the trouble of making this for me?」
Its scent is softer than even the usual medicinal plants tea. Just the scent alone softly warms my body right from the core. It seems like I can hope it’ll make me very sleepy. Holding it with both hands and basking in its warmth, I ask him that but he silently drinks from his own cup. Silence is golden. In other words, it seems he did make it for me.
I bring the cup to my mouth. What spreads in my mouth is the unique flavor of medicinal leaves tea along with a flavor as if fruits have been chopped up in it. It’s still a bit too hot, so I take my time drinking it. As I do, my face naturally loosens up and relaxes. I sneak a sidelong glance at my husband; he pretends not to notice, sipping the same tea as me.
Sure enough, he doesn’t respond. I can’t help giggling at his predictable reaction. This man is supposed to be extremely smart, but at times like this he can’t say a single clever word.
But I’m probably also hopeless for liking even that part of him. If he actually finds out that I think it’s cute, I’m sure he’d get in an even worse mood.
And then, I finally drink the last sip. I put the cup on top of the table, somehow or another moving closer to the man beside me. The warmth inside me from the tea and the warmth beside me from this man finally make me sleepy. I start feeling like I’ll end up closing my eyes at the comfortable warmth. I cover my mouth, feeling like I’m about to let out a small yawn. Just then, having finished the same tea as me, he stood up.
I feel a bit upset at the warmth disappearing from beside me, but he picked me up again with such timing as if to say, ‘you didn’t think I’d let you stay upset like that, did you?’
‘No, I can walk by myself, so please pardon me from this.’ I look up at him with my gaze saying that, but as expected, he ignores my complaints and carries me to the bedroom again. Unable to oppose him, I’m lowered onto the bed. As I look up at him to say, ‘what are you doing?’ I realize his face is surprisingly close to me.
A soft feeling touches my lips. As I’m dumbfounded, he drags me into bed as if pushing me down, and holds me. With no margin to remove my gown, I have no options but to lie down on the bed with his arms around me, gown and all. He holds me tightly. I feel it’s like he’s saying, ‘I’m not going to let you go.’
It feels like heat is spreading from my lips that he kissed, to the rest of my face, filling it up. My cheeks feel hot. Looking at me as if content, he moves his mouth just a little to say:
I just barely manage to reply with a small voice. Although we’re close to each other, I wonder if he actually heard it. But he says nothing more than that, closing his beautiful sunrise-colored eyes. With that face just like Sleeping Beauty close to me, I remain dumbfounded as I suddenly think of something.
Sleeping Beauty woke up from the prince’s kiss. There’s nothing about me that would make me a princess, and he’s not a prince but a wizard. So if you just look at it appearance-wise, he’s definitely the one that fits the name of Sleeping Beauty. But even so, I realize just how extraordinary the effect of his kiss was. The sleepiness that had finally come to me just flew away then.
It’s strange. We have done much more things than this many times since we got married, but I still haven’t been able to get used to it.
The sound of my heartbeat is irritating. Instead of covering my ears, I bring my face closer again to his chest as he hugs me, trying to sleep. The arm over my back tightened once again, but this time it made me happy.
In the end, I spent that night unable to fall asleep. Completely forgetting all about that nightmare. Looking back on that, that dream was the beginning of everything. But of course, there was no way for me to know that back then.