Some weeks had passed since I was kidnapped by Lunamerie and then saved by the man who is my husband and the knights. Thanks to the daily devoted care of the medics in the White Lily Court and that man’s healing magic, I finally became able to get out of bed and move around even by myself. But even so, I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed alone thanks to my overprotective family and that man. But just today was different.
「……Edi, can you please stop making that face?」
「It’s not really different from usual.」
「How can you say that, with your brows all furrowed like that?」
As I talked to him, the two of us walking down a long corridor together, he answered with an unusually low, beautiful voice. A feeble-hearted person would have frozen with just that, but I was used to it. I could do nothing but already smile wryly at this man, exposing his bad temper which was unusually easy to tell.
Anyhow, the one that put him in such a bad mood was unmistakably me. At my smile, he opened his mouth as if to say something, but in the end he didn’t say anything, continuing walking to get close to me. Since I was supported by him, it was much easier to walk. Even though he was so irritated by me, he still didn’t forget to be considerate towards me. I felt extremely complicated emotions over that, gratitude yet guilt.
Everyone we passed by all quickly lowered their heads almost at the same time they recognized him. It was a spectacle, in a way. Before long, a huge door with a crest of iris flowers engraved into it came into sight.
Yes, this was the Blue Iris Court, the part of the palace that this country’s knights occupied. In front of that door, a familiar person lightly raised his hand almost the same time as he recognized us.
「Hey. You’re early.」
「Sir Alhelm. Have you gone to the trouble of waiting for us?」
「That’s, well, given the circumstances. How’s yer health, Filmina?」
Standing in front of the Blue Iris Court, the head of this court – the leader of the knights – looked at me anxiously. He’d come to visit me some days ago when I was in bed, so he must have been very worried. Ever since I was kidnapped by Lunamerie, he was fussing considerably over me.
I wouldn’t say that I completely don’t mind, but it’s fine if he didn’t worry so much over me since I was trying to somehow return to my safe everyday life. I smiled at the knights’ leader, putting those thoughts in my smile.
「Thank you very much for your concern. As you can see, I’m in good health……」
「She can just walk for a short while now. Though I’d still like to keep her fastened to that bed.」
I couldn’t help but fall silent at the words from the man beside me, sounding like he’s worrying. The leader of the knights looked down at me as I made a bitter expression, looking up at that man. Then he looked at the man who, while expressionless, still looked clearly displeased. Comparing our faces, he said, 「O-oh, is that so,」 and averted his eyes. It seemed he realized he was stirring up a hornet’s nest. Clearing his throat as if to pull himself together, the knights’ leader touched the large door behind him.
「Well anyway, first of all, enter. I’ve done all the preparations here.」
At those words, I unconsciously swallowed. He opened the door with a creak, and we followed him as he walked ahead.
I hesitated over even making small talk just because we were in this place. Although no one meant for it to happen, in the end, no one opened their mouth to say anything, continuing to step forward.
Before I realized it, we’d reached a place that was considerably deep into the Blue Iris Court. Left and right, there were doors lined up with a set space between them, numbers engraved into them. As I walked between them, even I could tell that my footsteps were getting increasingly heavier. And that wasn’t because of my wounds hurting, and not because it was the first time I’d walked so long in a while either.
Even though I was the one who’d suggested this, my body was honestly responding like this – it was hopeless. I felt that man give me a sidelong glance but I pretended not to notice, stepping forward.
Then, the leader of the knights walking in front of us, came to a stop in front of a certain door. It was in the depths of the absolute depths of the long corridor, and there was no number on it. At a glance, I could tell it was much more magnificent than all the doors we’d passed by on our way here, but it was also much more grave and sturdy as well. What stood out the most was the large padlock furnished on the door handle. It shone silver, asserting its own stern presence.
「This is it. What are you gonna do?」
Turning to look at me, the leader of the knights asked me that. His reddish brown eyes looked straight at me. 「What are you gonna do?」 he asked once again clearly, and I was at a loss for words for a moment. I felt my feet paralyzed with fear.
Right now, the knights’ leader was not standing in front of me as my friend, but as this kingdom’s leader of the chivalric order of knights. His question was the ultimatum. If I missed this chance, it would never come back to me. That’s why I parted from that man, taking a step forward, and deeply lowered my head.
「Thank you very much for guiding us here. It’s no problem if I go by myself now, is it?」
「……Will you be alright?」
I nodded at the knights’ leader’s anxious voice. As if understanding my determination, from his breast pocket he pulled out a key that was the same color as the padlock, unlocking the padlock with a ‘clank’. Then, stepping away from there, he exposed the firm door behind him to me. Perhaps it was because of my nerves that my left hand grew sweaty; I grabbed the door handle with it, when the man beside me grabbed my wrist. I looked up at him to see those sunrise-colored eyes saying, ‘do you absolutely have to go?’
Even though he came all the way here, he still didn’t want to let me go any further. I wanted to say ‘Why now, at the last moment?’ but I knew he was just thinking of me, so I couldn’t just treat him with disdain. As he held my wrist, I put my right hand on his hand, looking straight up at him.
「Edi, it’s alright. Besides, I have this too.」
The bracelet shining on my wrist. I showed it to him, it had a design with the magical jewel in the middle; that magical jewel was said to be the child stone of the magical jewel in his staff. In the 『past』 world it could be used as a replacement for the so-called GPS, wiretaps, telecommunication, looking rather tenacious – it even made me fearful. When I showed him that, he was suddenly at a loss for words. Anyhow, this was something that he gave to me. I figured I couldn’t say ‘in your face’ then.
I gently pulled off his hand still on my wrist, not giving up easily. He opened his mouth as if to protest, but then closed it in the end. After a moment, he finally muttered:
「If anything happens, I’m coming in – no arguments.」
From his low voice, I could sense his definite seriousness. With a strained smile, I nodded. Then for the second time, I faced the door. Before I realized it, my nervousness had disappeared somewhere. Sensing the gazes of that man and the leader of the knights at my back, I turned the doorknob especially slowly. Then, I entered that room. From behind, I immediately closed the door.
The interior of the room was extremely simple. In the center was a table with two chairs in front and behind it. Along the wall was a plain bed, and there was nothing else. There wasn’t even a window, instead the only light source was the light from a magic jewel, permanently placed there. It wavered slowly, making the room awfully bright. Then, recognizing the sight of one person sitting on the bed, I gulped. He slowly lifted his head, making a gentle smile I’d never seen on him before.
「Hey, Suzette. …….Or, should I say, Filmina.」
This room…… It could be called prison assigned to people of noble social status. I knew that in this room, he——Celves, would be here. But even so, I couldn’t help but be surprised.
Celves smiled bitterly at me as I froze in front of the door. He stood up from the bed, sitting again in the chair in the center of the room.
「You should sit too. Your condition can’t possibly have returned to normal, right?」
Celves pointed at the chair on the other side of the table. I somehow managed to nod in reply, sitting down into the chair as I was told.
The request I asked that man was if he’d let me meet Celves, currently in confinement.
Of course, I was stopped like it was only natural. I was also told 「Are you an idiot?」 again. Even I myself thought I was being an idiot. It was incredibly selfish, if I do say so myself. But in the end, he gave in. He talked to the leader of the knights and prepared this place for me.
I can’t thank him enough for this. But now that I was in front of Celves, I couldn’t figure out what the heck I wanted to say. Even so, I opened my mouth somehow, searching for words.
「Um, Sir Celves, your hair……」
Even I myself think that was a stupid thing to say for my first words. But even so, I couldn’t help but ask that. As far as I knew, his hair color was white mixed with grey, and it was supposed to be plaited, reaching his mid-back. But now, his hair was different. His hair had been cut short to the top of his shoulders, the grey that was certainly mixed in it before was lost, it had become completely white. It wasn’t like the princess’s hair, sparkling silver either. It was just… White. Even though it was just his hair color that changed, he looked considerably aged from the Celves in my memory.
At my question, 「Ah,」 Celves entwined his fingers in his hair like it was no big deal.
「This? It’s been like this ever since I was cuffed with this magic seal. The color came out.」
Celves showed me the slender white rings on both of his wrists, as if cutting through the dark red bruises entwined around his arm. It looked like the rings had been somehow welded onto his wrists, impossible to remove. As I lost my words, Celves just smiled gently.
「Don’t make that face, would you? It’s strange even for me, but I’ve gotten rather comfortable since it turned out like this.」
Those words were probably not just to comfort me, but what Celves really thought. The Celves I’d come into contact with until now normally had an atmosphere of a certain hardness to him. But now he was different. The gentle smile on his face told all that.
——Black hair is a sign of magical power. The closer a person’s hair is to black, the stronger that person’s magical power is.
I remembered a theory in a magical book I read with that man when we were younger. Celves’s hair turning to white meant nothing other than he had lost his magical power. But Celves didn’t seem to care, in fact, his atmosphere was gentler than before, and he was just smiling calmly like that. I couldn’t say anything. There’s no way I could say anything. As I remained silent, Celves continued.
「It’s not my place to say this considering what happened, but I’m really glad you’re alive.」
My shoulders shook. I didn’t know how to reply when none other than he was telling me that straight to my face.
「I’m sorry for saying these things. But in this room, when I heard that you were alive, I was certainly happy. Although I might not have been able to believe it, I was really happy.」
Unable to find the words, in the end I replied with nothing but silence. Celves smiled worriedly at me.
「But, I was also worried. Because once she found out that I’d failed to erase ‘Lancent’s wife’, she… Luna would definitely make a move herself.」
「……Sir Alhelm told me that they could arrest Lady Luna thanks to you testifying that you cursed me on Lady Luna’s command.」
「Haha. Luna must’ve been in a bad mood. Ever since the old days, she never let me oppose her.」
At his close way of speaking, I realized that Celves and Lunamerie were certainly engaged, as she said. It was rather ironic since his testimony had turned into a clue of truth that Lunamerie was quite literally aiming for my life.
The other day, the leader of the knights came to visit me and told me that when I was kidnapped by Lunamerie’s subordinates, they heard everything thanks to the magical jewel. That conversation was unshakable proof that Lunamerie was the mastermind behind all this.
While Lunamerie said everything there, it was all transmitted to that man and the leader of the knights through the magical jewel. But he told me with a wry smile that it was really hard to stop Agedilus, who kept trying to teleport there and scramble in first.
Then, based on that proof, Lunamerie was arrested just like Celves. According to what I heard, she still couldn’t understand her circumstances and kept wanting to see that man, Agedilus. Celves didn’t exist for her. Celves seemed to understand that already without having to be told that.
「——It was impossible, unreasonable from the start.」
I reflexively raised my head which was cast downward, at those words he muttered. Celves looked like he was looking somewhere far away, narrowing those eyes of his, azure like a deep, clear sea.