The first thing I see when I slightly open my eyes is a white ceiling. An unfamiliar ceiling, different from the one in my home – the mansion – and from the ceiling of that man’s laboratory too.
Somehow or another, I’ve been put on a bed without me realizing it again, just like before.
Even if I try to move slightly, my body feels heavy like lead, not even twitching. The pungent aroma of medicine stings at my nose, and nothing enters my ears. It’s deathly silent, almost scarily. It’s far too quiet and I can’t help but wonder if I’ve really woken up or not.
——Ah, but it’s alright. I’m definitely awake. There’s no need to doubt that. The warmth gripping my hand certainly tells me that this is unmistakably reality.
I look away from the ceiling, moving my gaze to beside me. There’s that man, my husband, holding my hand with both of his hands, sitting in a chair with his elbows on the bed I lie on.
His upturned eyelashes are thick and long, casting a shadow over his white face which has lost so much color it’s looking pale. He bites his lightly colored lips tight, as if holding something back. That face of his normally has so much force that you get overawed just by it being there. But now, for some reason, the life in it has faded, let alone the force in it, it’s completely lost its usual presence.
It seems he still hasn’t realized I’m awake. He looks just like he’s praying, just holding my hand with his eyes shut, not making even the slightest movement.
It’s not like him. It’s completely not like him at all. Where did he throw away his usual annoying calmness? To think, he’s praying to the goddess after so long, even though it’s not like him at all.
My mouth is parched up, dry. My tongue won’t move properly. But I somehow manage to squeeze that name out. He raises his head instantly. And then just like that, he looks at my face. He looks like he can’t believe it. I move my rigid muscles, smiling stiffly at him.
He calls my name as if making sure, and I reply to him. His expression grows warped, like a thread being pulled to its utmost length before loosening up. Even with that face, he still looks beautiful. I grip his hand back with my weak hand, and the light in his sunrise-colored eyes changes in a flash. He holds my hand even harder, the light in his sunrise-colored eyes shaking. ‘Ah, this is bad.’ I murmur that internally, and at the same time, his shout strikes my eardrums.
That harsh voice has no compassion or forgiveness in it, as if completely changing the atmosphere of the room itself. My cloudy thoughts instantly wake up.
‘Idiot’, that’s not a very nice thing to say. ‘Couldn’t you say that just a little bit differently?’ I feel like complaining that, but I can’t. Before I can even open my mouth, he throws question after question at me with tremendous force.
「What were you thinking?! An attack like that would do nothing to me! And yet, despite that, you protected me like an idiot, going too far…….!」
His voice trembles with anger, and then it’s like it can’t come out in words anymore. Those sunrise-colored eyes glare at me as if to say he won’t accept any excuses; flames of anger burn brightly in those eyes.
‘I keep making him angry lately,’ I think matter-of-factly, looking at his forceful face. I know this isn’t the right time for it, but I feel like laughing. I can’t hold it back, and my laughter spills out just like that. I know this will only make things worse but I can’t control it. My body hurts when I laugh but now that I’ve laughed once, it’s hopeless. His eyes grow even sharper.
「What’s so funny?!」
「Ha, hahaha. I mean, Edi, you’re just so…」
Still lying down on the bed, I reach out my hand to him, the one he isn’t tightly holding. Just like my body, my hand is definitely slow and very heavy. But even so, I somehow manage to touch his face.
He gasps at my sudden movement. Gulping down the words he was about to say, he looks at me, and I can’t help but laugh again at his expression. ‘He’s hopeless,’ I can’t help but think once again. Has he really not realized it? I caress those lines on his cheeks, smiling like usual.
「I mean, you’re crying, even though you’re angry…」
His sunrise-colored eyes blink at my words, making a tear fall onto my hand. His endless tears fall along his cheeks.
It seems he’s realizing for the first time that he’s crying. But he doesn’t wipe those tears, holding my hand even tighter, quietly shedding tears as he mutters:
「Like hell I’m crying……!」
Look who’s talking, with tears definitely streaming down his face like that. It’s not very persuasive at all with that shaking voice of his.
I had never imagined that a day would come when I’d regret not being able to wipe his tears properly so much. And at the same time, I think something else. I end up thinking, ‘It makes me happy that he’s crying for me.’ Of course, I feel guilty for making him cry, but more than that, the reality of him crying for me makes me so happy I can’t bear it, even though it’s inappropriate to be happy at this. This must be because of love too, although it’s rather twisted if I do say so myself. By the way, I’m half-joking.
Still crying, he looks down at me with an expression of anger that he can’t do anything about. What I should do now is obediently apologize. But instead, I say:
「I won’t apologize.」
「I said, I won’t apologize.」
Those sunrise-colored eyes blink. Once again, a transparent teardrop falls on my fingers. He stares at me as if saying, ‘What do you mean?’ I smile at him.
No matter what anyone says to me, I have no intentions of apologizing about this. Because I don’t feel a single shred of regret for protecting him. I didn’t protect him for his sake, I protected him for my own sake. It was just because I couldn’t allow him getting hurt. That’s why my body moved before I realized it.
But I never thought it would end up making him cry like this, though I did think I might have made him angry. Although it hurts when I make him angry too, my heart hurts even more when I make him cry. That’s why I just want him not to cry. This wound is my pride. I want to tell him I never wanted to make him cry.
「——In the end, you’re just like always.」
Those beautiful eyes with purple and orange mixed in them, as if cut out from the dawn sky itself. Looking down at me with those eyes, still full of tears, he keeps holding my hand with both his hands tightly and continues:
「You keep pampering me like that, and yet. And yet, you won’t do what I want you to do the most.」
His voice is sorrowful, as if stifling his anger and full of sadness. ‘Is he blaming me?’ That question comes to my mind but I immediately deny it. The one he’s blaming isn’t me. He’s blaming himself for being protected by me. That’s such a foolish misunderstanding.
「That’s because I don’t want to just obediently be protected.」
Didn’t I say that already? That just being protected isn’t enough anymore. That I want to stand beside him as an equal. I know it’s so ridiculous to say that to the savior of the world, but even so, this is my unexaggerated real intention.
He looks like a deer in headlights, looking down at me once again. I look up at that unusually idiotic expression of his, deepening my smile even more.
「I don’t regret it. In fact, I feel like praising myself, ‘well done!’」
I say that bluntly, smiling sweetly at him. He makes a face like he just swallowed something bitter. It’s rather funny since even with that face, beauty is still beauty. His grip on my hand loosens. Returning my hand to the bed, he takes a sigh so deep, like it’s been scooped out from the bottom of his lungs.
「If you say that, then. Then I won’t say anything from now on. I won’t ever thank you or apologize either.」
「Alright. Please do so.」
Once again, that’s a strong way to say it. He caresses my cheek so gently, it’s unimaginable considering his tone of voice. His hand is ticklish, as if fawning on me.
I can’t help but smile at that childish response of his. A single tear falls along his cheek from his eye as he glares at me sullenly. Making sure that’s the last tear, I try to sit up from my lying down position.
Almost at the same time I hear his restraining voice, a pain runs through my body. My entire body trembles. I can’t sit up, ending up having to once again lower my upper body back into bed. As I silently fall back in agony, he moves my hair from my cheeks, his voice growing concerned as he looks down at me.
「Don’t push yourself too hard. Right now there’s only painkillers working on you, that doesn’t mean your wounds have completely recovered.」
I see, so that’s why my entire body has been feeling sluggish and fatigued the entire time since I woke up.
That reminds me, this question is a bit overdue but just where am I? I look around; realizing my intentions, he nods once, 「Oh.」
「This is the White Lily Court’s healing room. The healer’s away right now. Your wound’s calmed down one way or another with the healer’s treatment, and the princess’s and my magic. But it was a risky gamble whether you’d wake up or not since you’ve been cursed.」
He says that indifferently but there’s an eerie echo in his words. Instinct tells me that it would be a bad idea to continue this topic, but there’s something I just have to ask.
「Edi, this is just a hypothetical question, but…」
「If I didn’t wake up, what would you do?」
Those sunrise-colored eyes widen at my question, then after a moment, slowly squint.
「Who knows. I have no idea either.」
「Wow, so there actually are things you don’t know too?」
「That doesn’t really sound like a compliment.」
「Is that so?」
「Yeah. It sounds sarcastic.」
Well, that’s rude again. I try to smile my way out of it; looking displeased, he entwines his fingers in my hair scattered over the pillow, playing with it.
How long does he keep doing that? Finally, he smiles. That smile is certainly beautiful enough to fascinate me, but for some reason… A definite chill runs down my spine.
「——But, that’s right.」
It’s cold. The room is supposed to be at a moderate temperature thanks to magic, but for some reason, I feel like it suddenly gets colder. I timidly look at him, my gaze clashing with his flickering sunrise-colored eyes that have a cold light in them. At the same time, I feel like the temperature gets even lower.
「If you didn’t wake up. I would’ve become the second demon king, and even if I didn’t destroy the whole world, I might have at least destroyed one or two countries.」
「…………That’s a joke, right?」
I can’t help but grow silent. Looking at me, he laughs throatily. He laughs like a child that just successfully pranked someone; I realize he was teasing me. I laugh a little late, 「Ahahaha,」 but my laughter turns dry.
Thank goodness. Reaaaaaaaaaaally, thank goodness I woke up. Now that I think I’ve had a job change from ‘the wizard’s fiancée’ to ‘the hero of the world’s wife’, I can’t laugh at the thought of having a job change to ‘the demon king’s wife’.
I feel like pinching his cheek as he looks so nonchalant. But my body can’t move freely, as if it’s been tied down to the bed, so I can’t do that either. His hand reaches out and gently caresses my cheek. Making do with just that, I look up at him. ‘What?’ He returns my gaze.
There’s something I just have to ask him. I know for sure that he doesn’t want to hear it, but it’s something that I just have to ask.
「——What about Sir Celves?」
The atmosphere freezes at that question. I felt the air around him stiffen the moment I spoke Celves’s name.
「Does that worry you?」
I wordlessly reply with a nod to his question. It would be crazy if I wasn’t worried at all. I’m in this state right now because of the curse he cast on me, but I know nothing about what happened during the time I was unconscious. His atmosphere really says ‘I don’t want to talk about it’, but perhaps he realizes I have no intentions of dropping the topic. So he opens his mouth in a half-sigh.
「He’s under the custody of the chivalric order of knights. He’s probably being interrogated right now.」
I nod to his reply, which is as I feared. Even I know that his reply is an appropriate way of dealing with Celves. Making a contract with a demon is a serious crime. He’ll receive an appropriate punishment for that crime. And then, a peaceful daily life would return to me. Without ever meeting him again.
That’s all completely obvious and natural, but for some reason. My chest hurts. It’s not strange at all for him to be punished, but my heart – not my body, my heart hurts.
What am I trying to say? I blurt that out, not even knowing that. But I’m not allowed to say any more than that. His white hand covers both my eyes.
「Sleep for a bit.」
「I’ll be right beside you. I’ll tell you everything later too. So rest now.」
I feel him brushing away my bangs, then a soft sensation on my forehead. At the same time as I realize I’ve been kissed, sleepiness gently comes closer to me. Now I have no way of resisting anymore. Even though what I really want is to hear more, my consciousness won’t allow that as sleepiness gradually invades it. I’m so sleepy I can’t bear it. I don’t know if that’s because of his magic or because of the warmth covering my eyes. I’m thankful for his hand, hiding my tears that are about to overflow for some reason.
I’m not scared of sleeping. Because I know, I won’t see the nightmare anymore.