The bright sun’s rays descend gently this morning. Like always, I went to see this man – my husband – off to the door as he left for his work in the palace.
「When do you plan on coming home tonight?」
「……Earlier than usual.」
「Ahaha, but I suppose I shouldn’t get my hopes up then.」
I said that, smiling sweetly. In response, he made a very reproachful face. When it came to this man, even the most difficult to compliment expression of his looked beautiful. But I wasn’t going to be fooled by that. I could count on my fingers the number of times he actually came home 『earlier than usual』 in the past several months.
He doesn’t make it on time for the conventional dinnertime; if he’s unlucky, he gets home after midnight. The reason he returns so late isn’t just because of the people who keep trying to meet him and chase after him since he’s ‘the savior of the world’, but it’s also simply because of his own personality.
Even though he doesn’t hesitate to get rid of annoying things, he never refuses any sort of work given to him. There’s just one reason for that: he himself doesn’t dislike working.
I know how to describe a man like this. Namely, a research idiot. If I had to describe it in the words of the 『past』 『me』, he’s what I’d call a workaholic.
In the end, he must enjoy immersing himself into research one way or another. Well, it’s good to love what you do as a job, and I myself don’t want to have a shy, happily newlywed lifestyle so I’m not complaining. In fact, spending a life like that with this man sounds nothing but terrifying.
Saying things like, 「Welcome home, dear. Would you like to have dinner? Or have a bath? Or, have me?」 That’s just too unreasonable to ask of me. It’s good to have a healthy husband that stays away from home. That’s a wise saying.
But, however. It’s really annoying that I have to obediently accept this reality. The reality that I end up constantly waiting for him to come home, without having dinner or end up staying awake really late.
Though, it can’t be helped, can it? Because I want to tell him, 「Welcome home,」 no matter how late it is. Because I do think, ‘I want his home to be me.’ I can’t help thinking that they do use the term for someone like me as ‘crazy in love’.
「I’ll be heading off.」
「Alright. Have a good day.」
He realized that I meant to wait until however long it took for him to get home. He said nothing more, softly kissing my cheek before getting on the carriage.
I watch the carriage as it leaves the estate, making clattering sounds, and I grab my cheek. Just where did that distrusting, misanthropic man learn how to do such a thing like this?
It’s been several months since we got married, and our physical relationship has definitely increased with great vigor. But I still can’t get used to it. In fact, I feel like I’ve actually started getting more nervous about it. So this is what ‘marriage’ is like? Something’s wrong with me for having my heart throb like this, so unbecoming for my age.
Closing the door to our mansion, I hold my still hot cheek. The estate, quiet as death, isn’t particularly big. But for two people, it’s more than enough, vast and spacious.
Even the standard regular aristocrats employ servants as a minimum, to take care of their daily needs. And for a hero, it wouldn’t be strange if we employed several servants and did nothing ourselves. But things wouldn’t work that way. Although he was a hero, there were still many people fearful of his jet black hair. Even trying to take applicants for it would be unthinkable.
Perhaps fortunately, in the Adina family my wet nurse also worked as our maid, and we had no other servants. Because of that, I inevitably had to take part in some chores like cooking, cleaning, and doing the laundry. More importantly, my housework skills that the 『past』 『me』 knew came in handy.
The mansion we live in is rather spacious for just the two of us. Although there are places I can’t manage just by myself, I compensate for that by borrowing his magic. For example, having him use wind magic to dust an area that I can’t reach, or having him use water magic to do the washing. When I earnestly murmur, 「Magic is so convenient,」 he says in a tired voice, 「It’s just like you to make me do things like this.」 But I digress.
Right now, I have no intentions of stopping doing the housework. Even though it’s nothing to be praised for as an aristocrat’s wife, let alone a great hero’s wife. Like always, I see off my husband as he leaves for work, then tidy up the tableware from breakfast, and lightly do the cleaning. If the 『past』 『me』 had gotten married and become a housewife, she might have spent her life like this.
After finishing up the general housework, I find myself basically having more free time than I know what to do with. That’s my present state. I do get invited to evening parties or tea parties but since my marriage hasn’t clearly been made public for now, I can’t carelessly attend.
Therefore, the things I can do to pass time are things like embroidery, knitting, or reading. Since I got married and started living in this mansion, I spent my everyday life rotating between those hobbies. But today, I’m somewhat different. No, not just today. Lately, I just can’t bring myself to do those things. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that willpower has been stolen from me.
I make a cup of medicinal tea in the kitchen before sinking into the couch in the living room. The sweet-smelling fragrance tickles my nose, and I feel my stiff lips loosen up.
This medicinal plants tea is one that he blended himself, it’s been my favorite from long ago. At first, he told me the way I made tea was unacceptable, but now he finally doesn’t say that anymore. It’s still a frustrating truth that the way he makes it is more delicious, though.
The tea has a slightly sweet fragrance and taste, despite not having any sugar or honey added to it. Drinking it, I finally feel rested. My body on the couch feels heavy. My nerves had been strained since I watched him leave and finished all the housework for today; they finally relax now.
I almost drowsily close my eyes, before suddenly sitting up straight in a hurry. That was a close call. The tea was about to fall over along with my body.
「……Am I sleepy?」
Murmuring that, I think over that sentence in my head. That’s probably right. I said it in a rather distant manner, but my current state can be summed up with those words. I probably am……No, I really am sleepy. That must be only natural. Since I haven’t been able to sleep properly for the past few days, or maybe a week.
That nightmare I saw the other day, where someone keeps doing nothing but crying. It wasn’t just that once, I’ve seen that countless times since. That dream where someone cries, and cries, and cries, and sobs. That voice, as if singing of despair. It’s slowly but certainly scraping off my glass-like delicate nerves.
At first, I thought it was a nightmare. That sometimes, I just see similar dreams. But that dream was far too vivid to settle off with just that. I keep hearing someone’s crying voice, repeating and repeating until I just want to say, ‘Haven’t you had enough already?!’ It’s happened more than just a few times, that I get dragged into bottomless despair by that voice until I just want to scream and jump to my feet.
But somehow, I manage to keep calm thanks to the warmth of that man sleeping beside me. The reason I’m not prisoner to that extraordinary nightmare is thanks to none other than him.
But that doesn’t change the reality that I can’t sleep properly. Now, I’m right in the middle of a high state of sleep deprivation.
When I think about falling asleep and seeing that dream again, the thought of sleeping scares me. I can’t help thinking that one day, I’ll drown in that dream and never wake up again. And then, the thought that ‘what if I die like that?’ crosses my mind not even as a joke, and a chill runs down my spine.
Yes, if I had to say what scares me the most, it’s not waking up from that dream. I want to think that it’s impossible, but the crying voice reverberating in my ear and the darkness burnt under my eyelids feel strangely real. They’ve planted fear within me.
That nightmare sneaks up on me every night, disturbing my peaceful sleep. I can just say ‘it’s just a dream’ and that’s that. But if I just settle it away with that phrase, I can’t help feeling like this situation is really just too strange. That unchanging dream……No, that dream that’s getting worse, just how could I settle it away by saying it’s just my imagination? I feel like it’s as if someone’s cast evil magic on me.
Yes, magic. If magic really is the cause, I should definitely ask that man. I don’t know anyone I can rely on more for magic than him. But I hesitated talking to him about such a vague thing when he’s already spending his days so busy.
The problem is just my skin, getting in worse shape from the lack of sleep, and my heart, getting weaker and frailer. There’s nothing else. I know I’ve been enjoying my happiness. Maybe I’ve been basking in it too much, and I can’t help seeing this small, trivial thing like a dark shadow over it. That’s what I think, and that’s just why I’ve been unable to tell him about it.
I don’t want to cause unnecessary worry. Because he’s already worrying far too much about me. I know that’s because of the scars on my back. That day when we were young, he summoned a high-level fire demon spirit. When it was about to attack him, I reflexively shielded him.
As a result, I received scars on my back that would never fade away. And he, still young, was burdened with an obligation he shouldn’t have been burdened with. And I too, was burdened with the obligation that 『I’ve made him indebted to me』. Even though we’ve managed to overcome those feelings of guilt and obligation, the past can’t help but overrule all.
The night of our wedding, he saw the scars on my back for the first time, those twisted wounds as if the beast’s claws had torn them apart. Caressing them with his finger, he murmured, 「I’m sorry,」 in a voice so small and unthinkable considering how he usually talks.
I had my back facing him, so I don’t know just what kind of expression he made then. I don’t think I want to know. I just know that I don’t want him to ever speak in that voice again.
Now, I’ll have to investigate the cause of this dream……Or not, I can’t go that far, but I’ll have to figure out some way to deal with it. Since it’s not something I can fix with medicinal tea alone for now – my apologies to that man who made it.
Once I decided that, all that was left was to take action. Finishing my cup of tea, I got up from the couch.
Right as I did, I felt like I could hear that crying voice by my ear again. But I pretended not to notice.