At the blinding silver light, I instinctively closed my eyes. I couldn’t understand exactly what had just happened. Not knowing when I could open my eyes, I left them closed, and then my arm was forcefully pulled.
Gasping, I instinctively tried to resist, but wasn’t able to. Before I could twist away, I was seized. In my ear I heard the barely audible sound of a sigh of relief. The smell of medicinal plants and herbs tickled my nostrils. The owner of that particular scent, I was very familiar with.
I timidly opened my eyes, and looked up at the person who had his arms tightly wrapped around me. And what I saw did not betray my expectations, an androgynous white beauty. Seeing his lovely face, I felt a wave of relief pass over me. My husband strengthened his embrace. My face was inevitably pressed against his chest, so my vision was filled with the black of the robe he was wearing and I couldn’t see the expression on his face.
「… gl… you… …fe」
At the muttering of that hoarse voice, I blinked. Just now, what was I told? 「I’m glad, you’re safe.」That’s what it sounded like. But it might have just been what I wanted to have heard.
At his unusual countenance, I couldn’t bring myself to push Edi’s embrace away, but at the same time, it wasn’t like I could just stay here like this, and so I was at a loss as to what to do. Then I heard a dignified voice in my ear.
「Agedilus, I understand your feelings, but this really isn’t the time.」
At those words, Edi released his hold in an extremely reluctant manner. I finally got hold of myself. Or, I say that, but I was still wrapped up in one of his arms.
Even so, once I somehow managed to regain the ability to move, I freed myself from his arm and looked to where I had heard that voice from a moment ago. There stood our country’s living gem, Princess Clementine.
And without attendants or guards, what was she doing here? That question must have been clear on my face, but instead of answering it, she just smiled, as beautiful as a blooming lily.
「It is good to see you again, Filmina. Particularly the fact that you are unhurt.」
For now I nodded, but I had no idea what was going on. Looking to Edi, he wrapped his arm around me and instantiated his staff in his other hand. In response to my unvoiced question, he opened his mouth,
「I said that if you came in contact with the culprit, that core would react, didn’t I? In order to transport me and the princess to your location, I just cast a simple teleportation spell. It wasn’t much, really.」
「Don’t 『It wasn’t much』 me! And what are you thinking, involving the princess?」
I looked to the princess for an explanation, and when our eyes met, she smiled widely.
「My precious friend was in danger. Also, I wasn’t sure if that man alone would be enough to rely on. And it looks like I was right.」
「What do you mean by that?」
「Oh my, a lack of self awareness is a serious affliction. Did you not leave Filmina by herself? Would you call a husband foolish enough to leave his wife all by her lonesome at this essential time reliable?」
That voice was somewhat tinged with anger, and Edi had no comeback. His hold around me tightened, and the princess laughed contemptuously. That figure still made an elegant picture, but really, the princess was as merciless as always.
In the first place, the reason I had been alone was because I ignored his telling me to stop and left the lab of my own volition, so Edi wasn’t in the wrong. Holding me, Edi’s face twisted unpleasantly, but he held his tongue. Being able to shut Edi up like this, my respect for the princess was renewed once again.
「Hey, could somebody please tell me what exactly is going on here?」
An out-of-place, carefree voice suddenly cut in. Looking around for its origin, I gasped yet again. That carefree tone was not suitable with the scene. The captain of the knights was squatting on the ground, pinning Celves facedown on the ground with his hands behind him. The bandages around Celves’s arms were scorched black and had loosened, exposing the skin beneath. A dark red design was carved into his skin, calling to mind images of that demon. My idle suspicion was gradually becoming more certain. Even so, I didn’t want to accept the truth right in front of me, instead wanting to cover my eyes.
「Why?」I couldn’t stop from thinking. Wanting to say something, I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. His arms pulsed with power again. At that point, I realized that I was trembling.
「Explanations will come later. Alhelm, tie him up like that.」
It was a low, chilly tone. Even the knight captain, who hadn’t fully understood the situation, would realize from that tone that this wasn’t a good time to make a joke. Even though he had a mountain of questions he wanted to ask, he followed Edi’s instruction without raising any objection. Celves didn’t resist as the knight captain used those bandages to tie his arms together. The knight captain looked this way, as if to ask, 「Is this good enough?」Edi voiced no response, holding me with arm and brandishing his staff in the other, he glared at Celves.
「You pulled quite the clever ruse, Celves Sin Ronein. 」
Pinned to the ground by the knight captain, Celves lifted his neck to glare back, his gaze turning sharp. At the sight of those blue eyes filled with hatred, I trembled. Seeing that, those ocean-blue eyes softened at once, looking like they were about to cry.
「Sir Celves,」I was about to cry out, but before that happened Edi spoke first.
「Daring to cast a curse on my wife, don’t think I’ll let you die easily.」
「A curse!?」After that declaration the knight captain broke the silence, raising his voice in shock. His brown eyes widened, and he muttered 「Seriously? And when you say curse, you’re talking about a contract with a demon, right?」
「Is there another kind? Anyway, could you keep quiet for a little while?」
「Even if you tell me that, Princess…」
At the princess’s statement, the knight captain frowned, troubled. Then, looking at Edi, whose staff was pointed at Celves and who was looking like he might cast an attack spell at any moment, Alhelm made an unpleasant face.
「Oi, Agedilus, could you please not kill him? If he really contracted with a demon, he should be turned in to the knights and judged the proper way.」
What the knight captain was saying was correct. To this country who worshipped the goddess, contracting with a demon was a serious crime. Even Celves, a noble from the esteemed House of Ronein, was no exception. I didn’t want to believe it, but it looked like Celves really was the one who had cast the curse on me. It’s said that people who contract with demons are marked with a characteristic pattern somewhere on their bodies. The dark red design on his arms must be that mark.
But even seeing that, there was some part of me that just didn’t want to believe it.
Pinned to the ground, Celves muttered something faintly. 「Hm?」the knight captain asked, tilting his neck quizzically, and at that same moment the bandages restraining Celves’s arms filled with light, surging like a raging flame.
The bandages burned up, and the force of the light threw the knight captain into the air. Colliding with a nearby tree, he let out a moan. Paying no mind, Celves immediately rose, the marks on his arms flickering with sinister light. His blue eyes were aimed, not at my husband, but at me.
「Wrong! I, Suzette, I had no intention of hurting you!」
————What’s your name?
The question he asked when we first met replayed itself in my ear. That voice wasn’t filled with anguish like it was now. It was a calm, collected voice.
————My name is Suzette.
At that time I had lied, and that lie had grown to involve not just me, but all of the people here too.
Referring to me as Suzette, Celves was stared at in suspicion by both the princess and the knight captain. The man holding me in his arm looked at me with those sunrise colored eyes, as if to ask, 「What’s he talking about?」
Then, Celves looked at me pleadingly. I had a reply to those blue eyes, but it was certain to hurt him.
Freeing myself from Edi’s hold, I stepped forward. Dodging the hand that tried to stop me, I stood in front of Celves.
「I am very sorry. My real name is Filmina Von Lancent. I am the wife of this Agedilus Von Lancent.」
Celves’s handsome face filled with despair. He had always looked resolute, and I didn’t want to see this expression. But I wouldn’t forgive myself if I looked away. This was my guilt. The lie I had told at that time had caused this man to make this sort of face. It had hurt him this much.
At the time I had thought it was only a little lie. But it resulted in this. It had caused us to start spending time with one another. I had thought fondly of him, and I had thought that he thought fondly of me. And because of that, precisely because of that, it was this painful.
Talking to him was fun. I was happy when he ate the sandwich I made. I was happy to have a friend who would listen to my concerns.
If, at that time we had met, I had told him my real name, even if I had at least only told him my first name, not Suzette but Filmina. If I had done that, maybe it would have turned out differently. Even if I thought that, it was far too late. All I could do now was regret.
I could do nothing but clench my fists. As if to protect me, Edi stepped between me and Celves. At that moment, Celves’s blue eyes flashed with a disturbing light.
「You! If only you weren’t here!」
Along with that resentful voice, the pattern around his arms shone brighter with that dark red light. Clicking his tongue, Edi tried to grab me. I should have been able to go along with him, but for some reason, my body moved to oppose him.
With all of my power I pushed him away. Those sunrise-colored eyes opened wide. Then the impact ran towards my body The last thing I saw was fresh blood flying through the air, more vivid than rose petals.