Is she 15, or 16? Her facial features show that she’s at that exquisite time when she’s about to change from a girl to a woman, so absolutely lovely I can’t help but be captivated. If we call our princess a white lily, this beauty must be a violet.
Her straight, blonde hair flutters in the wind, the sunlight subtly changing its color to a slightly red tint. That’s probably what they call strawberry blonde, isn’t it? With a grace so difficult to describe, that hue adds even more color to her sweet features. Her big eyes are a deep purple, bordered by long, thick eyelashes the same color as her hair. They’re almost like amethysts, glittering in the light.
I freeze at the sudden appearance of this beautiful girl, and her deep purple eyes look towards me. I become even more unable to move at that excessively direct vision. The girl smiles sweetly.
I thought I’d gotten used to beauty, with that man at the top. The young man who was the hero was also beautiful, the princess too, the leader of the knights too. But this girl is different from the ones I knew. She boasts a beauty that’s more appropriately described as ‘lovely’.
Was her flower spirit-like appearance the reason I couldn’t move? I don’t know what she thinks of me as I stay silent, but she slowly opens her light pink mouth.
It was just then that a new person entered that place.
「Please wait, don’t just enter whenever you want–…… Filmina?」
I murmur that really softly, letting out a sigh of relief – all without realizing it. That beautiful voice I know by ear, calling out my name. I look in that direction to see that familiar beautiful face, the same as when I sent him out from the mansion in the morning, clad in that black robe that’s the mark of wizards working in the Black Lotus Court.
By the time I realize it, my stiff shoulders relax. Closing the parasol I held, I approach the man who is my husband.
「How do you do, E—」
「What are you doing here?」
At those sunrise-colored eyes squinting at me with an expression of loathe, I stiffen up again. I wonder if I misheard, but his expression shows me whether I like it or not that he really meant the words he said.
Although we haven’t made it public yet, I am his wife for the time being, going through the ceremony and everything. I’ve visited him just like this countless times, so there’s no reason for him to make this face at me after so long.
I don’t understand. It’s because I don’t understand that anxiety crosses my chest. What’s going on here? I look at the man who’s stopped in his tracks, but our eyes meet for only just a short moment before he looks away. Looking away from me, those sunrise-colored eyes look towards Arche.
「Have you harvested today’s lot?」
「That’s enough for today, then. Good job. Leave for the day.」
「O-okay. Excuse me…..—!」
Arche too must have realized that his voice was lower than usual. Right as she quickly, strongly bows her head, she runs away from here with the same force. ‘What kind of way is that to talk to the girl that does so much for you?’ I wanted to say that but my voice wouldn’t come out.
Left here are me, the man supposed to be my husband, and the beautiful girl I’m seeing for the first time.
「That’s so cruel, Sir Agedilus! I wanted to talk to try talking to that lady too.」
「She’s no one you need to be worried about. More importantly, please return indoors right away. This may be inside a castle, but I don’t know what might happen.」
「Oh, but you’ll protect me if something happens, won’t you?」
「Right? So there’s no need to worry.」
At his unusual manner and actions, I can do nothing but remain frozen as I’ve been since this girl entered. Ignoring me, they begin a conversation, standing together.
The combination of the man that boasts matchless beauty like a night fairy, and the girl as beautiful as a flower spirit. This might not be the right time to say this, but they really do make a perfect picture together. To be honest, it’s a sight for sore eyes.
Now that it’s come to this, I’m the one that feels out-of-place. Just like he said, 「What are you doing here?」 It’s so strange. Oh dear, I just can’t stand still being here.
Ah, just what’s up with this? I’d rather run away without saying anything, but I can’t do that. At any rate, she’s the kind of person that he has to speak using polite, honorific language to. They say wizards are the kind of beings freed from social position. This man is supposed to be singled out among even that handful of beings, and he’s talking so humbly.
I can vaguely see some leftover rudeness, but it’s still a rather polite way of speaking compared to usual. Just who can this girl be to make him talk to her like that?
By the time I realize it, my basket is about to fall off my arm. Holding it properly again, I silently look at the two of them. The girl suddenly looks over here. I can see myself looking so foolish, reflected in her glittering, deep purple eyes.
「Nice to meet you. What’s your name?」
That lovely voice, perfectly suited to her beautiful looks. Flustered, I lightly get on a knee and bow, the way one would to a superior. I don’t exactly know her social position, so it’s just for the time being.
「So lovely to meet you. My name is Filmina—」
「She’s Filmina Veer Adina. You must know the Adina family, the Governor of Magical Books.」
He says that, drowning out my words. I’m speechless at what he said, fumbling with my words. Ignoring that, the girl claps her hands in front of her chest. She quickly nods countless times, looking fixedly at me. There really is a strange impact you feel when being stared at with that direct gaze and those looks.
I smile vaguely, brushing it off one way or another, and she puts breaks into a smile on her lovely face. Perhaps it’s because of how young she is that her glittering eyes pointed towards me are certainly dazzling; I can’t help but feel like flinching.
「Oh my, you’re from the Adina family! I’ve heard of you in rumors, about how you have the king’s favor.」
「No, it’s nothing like that……」
「Haha, so you’re being modest. My introduction’s rather late now. I’m Lunamerie Elle Valentine. I hope we stay acquaintances from now on.」
Just who could blame me for gulping then? Just wait a minute. Did you say ‘Valentine’?
Once again, I freeze. In front of me, that girl smiles like a blooming flower beside that man. Ah, they really are picture-perfect together…… No, this really isn’t the time to think such escapist thoughts. I hurriedly bowed again, deeper this time.
If I didn’t have this basket to hold, I could’ve taken a more formal bow by holding my dress too. But unfortunately, both my hands are being used now so I can’t do that. That’s why I go lower on my knees, bowing my head so I can’t see her face.
「So you’re Lord Valentine’s daughter. Please excuse me. I apologize for being rude.」
The Valentine family. That’s one of the grand aristocrats of this country, with eminent political power. It’s not one of your ordinary, run-of-the-mill aristocrats.
Earlier, she said my family, the Adina family 『had the king’s favor』, but the Valentine family easily surpasses the Adina family in that area. I’m not very familiar with politics, but I’m familiar enough with it to know how much the Valentine family has dug into the center of this country.
The man in front of me has just erased his earlier displeased look, now expressionless. Now I can easily understand why he was talking like that to her. He may be the royal palace’s grand wizard, the hero that saved the world, and a man that basically doesn’t care about social status and position. But of course, he still can’t take his plainly blunt, cold attitude in front of 『that』 Valentine family.
Why is the daughter of the Valentine family here? With my head still lowered, I turn over those thoughts in my head. A worried voice comes from above.
「Would you please raise your head? I find formalities difficult to deal with. Please call me Luna.」
「I’m telling you it’s alright. There’s no need for such restraint.」
There’s no way I can protest more than that. I raise my head to see Lunamerie innocently smiling. She’s so cute you just feel like taking her home right then and there. Just like that man, she’s like the best, highest-quality doll. But her lively glittering eyes are proof that she certainly is a living person.
「So if you’re from the Adina family, what’s your relation to Sir Agedilus?」
「Our fathers were friends, so we were so-called ‘childhood friends’.」
「Oh, I’m so jealous!」
Looking up at him, Lunamerie smiles. It’s a smile that would make every ordinary person in the world that saw it smile back, including me. In spite of that, he holds his expressionless face, not letting anyone see his emotions.
Lunamerie’s smile is something that would more or less liven up the hearts of every single person that saw it. But my husband doesn’t seem like even a shred of his heart livened up at it. Or perhaps he’s making that face because I came in like an annoying bug when the two of them were finally meant to be alone?
「Sir Agedilus must have been so lovely when he was little. Hey, Lady Filmina, what was Sir Agedilus like then?」
I can’t instantly answer to her question, with that blooming smile. Even if she asks, ‘what was he like?’
Well, he was certainly very lovely when he was little, and then he was a beautiful child. But on the inside, he was a beast that wouldn’t trust or get attached to anyone who wasn’t his adopted father, my father-in-law Lancent. To be honest, I still wonder why he obediently worked hard at reading books with me then…… Well, I’ll put that aside for now.
Lunamerie looks at me, her deep purple eyes sparkling in excitement, and I wonder just how can I ever explain that to her. The man who hasn’t interrupted until now meets my eyes for just a moment. If I had to decipher what that gaze meant, was it saying ‘don’t say too much’? I’m about to open my mouth but shut it at that gaze. As if replacing me, he opens his thin, nicely shaped lips.
「Miss Lunamerie. Please pardon me, ask no more.」
「Oh my, are you embarrassed? And Sir Agedilus, didn’t I tell you to please call me Luna earlier in the first place?」
Sullenly, he puffs up his cheeks. The sight of that beautiful girl looking up at him in protest has a different charm to it than her smile. Looking down at her, those sunrise-colored eyes narrow. It’s a gesture I’m used to, but a gesture that’s nothing but scary to others. Whether you feel like glaring back at the person himself or not, it doesn’t change the fact that his intensity is doubled.
But even with that gaze in front of her, Lunamerie isn’t discouraged.
「If you call me Luna, I’ll pretend like what I asked Filmina earlier never happened.」
「———Lady Luna. Is it fine now?」
「Yes, Sir Agedilus. Now please call me that without the ‘Lady’ part.」
「……I’ll think about it.」
「Oh come on, that’s so mean!」
Lunamerie smiles happily, and he lets out a small sigh. Watching that makes me myself feel like I’ve had a huge shock. Those sunrise-colored eyes look towards me again. Even if I try to say something, it doesn’t come out in words. I feel my lips tremble slightly.
What am I trying to say? What’s the correct thing to say? I can’t find the answer even if I think about it; in the end, there’s nothing to do but remain silent. As I stay silent, the man begins to say something indifferently.
「Filmina. So what did you come here for?」
I want to say ‘is it bad if I come without a reason?’ Although, well, certainly a wife visiting her husband’s workplace without a reason is just far too absurd.
I tightly hold the basket in my arm. It would be so simple to just give it to him if I think about doing it. 『I just brought you some lunch.』 This conversation ends with just that sentence. But right now, he probably doesn’t want that. I know that. I can’t help but know it.
That’s why instead of giving him the basket, I put on my smile mask for the second time today. Really, it’s such a handy thing my father taught me.
「I was delivering something to my father, so I just thought I’d take the opportunity to come and see you too. But I’m so sorry, I’ve ended up being such a bother.」
Lunamerie’s cheeks suddenly change to a lighter color. I’ll never be this lovely. It’s different from the otherworldly beauty of this man or the princess. No doubt that loveliness is beloved by everyone just because she’s human and still manages to be capable of having that loviness.
‘Cuteness is justice and power.’ Remembering something the 『past』 『me』 often said, I can’t help but softly smile. Those deep purple eyes blink in surprise, and the sunrise-colored eyes narrow in suspicion.
「Well then, I’ll take my leave from here, please excuse me. Have a nice day.」
I don’t say ‘Please take your time talking’ since that would’ve been rude, but that’s really what I think. Before leaving, I bow deeply once again. Then, holding my basket properly, I open my parasol and turn back to leave on the same path I came from.
I didn’t hear a single voice calling out to stop me.
Taking that as a good opportunity, I leave the garden and walk along the same trackless path in the courtyard as when I came here. The basket in my arm feels strangely heavy. Why, even though I didn’t think it was heavy at all when I was coming here?
The sandwiches have nowhere to go now. It might be alright if I actually give them to my father, just like the excuse I gave earlier. But then he might say things like 「Did something happen?」 or 「You should show your face around our home too once in a while」 which is honestly irritating.
And besides that, I might carelessly reveal how I’ve been going to the library lately. Considering that, I really do hesitate to go to my father. And if so.
「……There really isn’t anything to do but eat these.」
That’s such a trivial problem…… Well, I can’t say that, but I have to finish these off before that man comes home at night. It seems awkward to hold onto them until night for dinner, and sandwiches aren’t appropriate dinners in the first place.
Overeating along with the sun’s ultraviolet rays are beauty’s greatest enemies, but I kind of feel like eating them today. Something’s made me feel that way. I’m certainly not binge eating out of stress. Yes, certainly not.
Then, I walk in one of the arbors dotted along the courtyard. Sitting down on the bench, I put the basket onto the table. Randomly deciding to settle down at an arbor in the castle and have lunch there can probably get me a stern warning, but I especially chose this arbor that’s out of people’s sight in this vast courtyard. I could say there’s almost no chance of anyone finding me here.
Taking out a sandwich from inside the basket, I bring it to my mouth. As I chew it, crunch crunch, what returns to my mind is of course what happened just earlier.
Miss Lunamerie Elle Valentine. Even in memories, she’s a lovely person. Judging from her actions and words, it’s easy to imagine she’s in love with that man. That sweet response she’d shown me at the end with her cheeks red was like proof of it. And the reason that man didn’t name me as Lancent in front of a girl like her was——I dare say, to protect me.
No doubt other people would say, ‘what of that was 『to protect you』?’ It wouldn’t be strange if I was laughed at, ‘just how is she misunderstanding this?’ Well, certainly there aren’t many women who would feel the way he interacted was protecting them. The only reason I can think that is because I’m more or less more sensitive to the delicacies of his emotions than other people, since I’ve known him for so long.
If it wasn’t for that, I’d leave behind a note at my current home saying, 「I’m going home,」 making that into my second home and really going back to the Adina family.
Standing next to the daughter of the famous Valentine family, grand aristocrats in the middle of the grand aristocrats, that man isn’t any less than her. In fact, he’s better. It wouldn’t be strange if the Valentine family was trying to get him, the hero of the saved world. Because of that, I’d be nothing but a hindrance since I’m already his wife. There’s a chance they’d apply some sort of pressure on me.
Although I may be from the Adina family, working for generations at the unique position of Governor of Magical Books, that’s mostly meaningless against the Valentine family. That must be why he introduced me as not from the Lancent family, but the Adina family. Implying that I’m nothing more than just a childhood friend. Without thinking of how I’d feel about that.
God, he really is a hopeless man. I’m not as weak as he thinks. But on the other hand, I’m not strong enough to have a clear boundary line like that drawn around me without getting hurt.
By all rights, isn’t someone like Lunamerie more suited to that man? Thoughts like that cross my mind. He must love me. From the surprisingly increasing physical relationship since we got married, I’ve realized that so much it embarrasses me. And yet.
I don’t feel something soft and fluttery like ‘I’m so happy it scares me.’ It’s something muddier, dark and stagnant. The anxiety I felt when I was talking to Arche too is revived once again, slowly but steadily encroaching on my heart.
By the time I realize it, the hand I was eating the sandwiches with has stopped, along with my mouth. I feel dizzy. I can hear someone’s crying voice. It feels like fog spreads over my field of vision, and I can’t sit properly anymore. Somehow, I manage to return the half-eaten sandwich to the basket, leaning my unsteady back on the back of the chair.
I hear that crying voice, like a ringing in my ears. For some reason, I feel like I’ve heard it before, and it bewilders me once again.
Drowsiness attacks me suddenly. If I fall asleep here, no doubt I’ll see that dream again. I can say that with full conviction. But that unceasing crying voice which was supposed to be loud and annoying, is actually trying to lead me to the world of dreams. Then, as if laughing at me as I desperately try to fight off my sleepiness, my eyelids gradually start to close.
‘Ah, too late, it’s hopeless.’ It was then that it happened, the second I thought that.