I blink in surprise at that call. The crying voice becomes distant, receding. Blink, blink. I blink twice again, and my sleepiness goes away as well. Suzette isn’t my name. But I know the only person who calls me Suzette.
「What are you doing in a place like this?」
In front of my wide open eyes stood the young man Celves Sin Ronein, clad in a black robe, looking at me with those deep blue eyes. His shapely features, like a noble youth’s, were frowning dubiously.
‘Huh?’ I suddenly remember my current state, and hurriedly hide the basket on the table behind my back.
How could I lie to get out of this one? Those eyes the color of the ocean stare at me piercingly, big and beautiful, calculating. They lock onto the basket I’m hiding. A cold sweat runs down my back.
Well, what is Sir Celves doing here in the first place? But that reminds me, this is close to the Black Lotus Court. As the robe he wears signifies, he’s one of the wizards that work in the Black Lotus Court just like that man. It’s not strange for him to come here to rest for his lunch break. Now that it’s come to this, there’s nothing left for me to do but curse my bad luck for running into him.
As I fumble with my words, he walks around to my back, still frowning. I can’t help but raise my voice, 「Ah!」 Before I can stop him, Celves picks up the basket I was hiding behind me and peeks inside.
It was a frank way of speaking, as if to say ‘I won’t let you talk your way out of this.’ I can do nothing but smile sheepishly. Ah, when he does things like this, he really is just like that man. That must be why I can’t go against him.
「……It’s something I made for lunch.」
At my response, Celves blinks in surprise. It’s right then that it happens. A low grumble comes from Celves’s stomach.
After a short period of silence, Celves’s white face starts to turn red before my eyes. Taken aback, I can’t help but cover my mouth at the laughter that’s slowly building up within me. But that laughter just can’t possibly be contained by my hands, bursting out from between my fingers. Now that it’s come to this, there’s no point in holding back my laughter anymore.
Even though I say that, the laughter I’ve burst into once just can’t stop. I keep endlessly giggling, and Celves glares at me. But his face, red with shyness, has not a single bit of force or anything in it.
As I can’t stop laughing, tears appear at the corner of my eyes. Wiping them with my fingers, I ask Celves a question as he puts the basket back on the table.
「I have to apologize for laughing. So if you like, how about we have it together?」
It seems like my words were rather unexpected for him, his deep blue eyes opening wide.
「……Is that okay?」
Looking at the basket and at me, he says that as if trying to guess my reaction. His voice is bewildered, so unlike him. It’s rather similar to when he replied to me the other day, when I concernedly asked him about his pale color. I nod at him, moving from the center of the bench to the right side so he can easily sit down.
「Yes. It’s not just one portion in the first place.」
「To be honest, I don’t think I can eat it all by myself. I don’t know if it’ll suit your taste, but it would greatly help me if you could eat it with me.」
I add all that as Celves hesitates, about to refuse. I smile to make sure, and he twists his face as if embarrassed.
It must be some kind of fate that I met Celves here. Judging from his appearance, he’s empty-handed and there’s no signs of him having anything to eat – it’s all just perfect. I’m not going to stand letting him escape now.
Whether he knows my intentions or not, he silently sits down beside me. When I take out a sandwich from the basket and hand it to him, he takes it from me surprisingly carefully. I thought he’d eat it just like that, but instead he stares fixedly at it for some reason.
「……Although I can’t guarantee it tastes good, for now, I haven’t put any poison in there, you know?」
「Are you an idiot? Who said that?」
At my words, Celves glares at me sullenly. It’s so rude to call me an idiot. He just seemed like he was being very timid about eating it, so I just told him there wasn’t any poison in it. I accidentally said it with the same tone as when I talk to that man, but was it really inappropriate?
As if noticing my troubled gaze, Celves seems to resolve himself and takes a big bite out of the sandwich. He silently chews and swallows, just as I did before, and then murmurs:
Those words were nonchalant, as if unaffected, but they were the utmost words of praise for me.
I can’t help but feel happy, presenting more sandwiches in front of Celves. When a child says something pleasing to a grandmother, she will end up wanting to pamper the child more.
「Please eat as much as you like, there’s still a lot left.」
Saying that, I take out the half-eaten sandwich I’d put back in earlier and bring it to my mouth. Hmmm, it really is delicious. Good job, if I do say so myself.
Right now, the sleepiness and anxiety I felt before Celves called out to me have completely been swept away. Just what was that? I only see that nightmare at night, has it now started slowly creeping up when I doze off in the afternoon too? If so, the situation is grave now. I’m coming and going to the library to try and do something about it, but far from getting better, it’s actually getting worse. It’s no laughing matter.
I swallow down the sigh that’s about to come out, along with the sandwich. I sneak a fleeting sidelong glance at Celves to see him silently eating a sandwich, starting on his second one before I realize it. It seems he greatly likes them.
Temporarily stopping his chewing, the young man looks at me with his deep blue eyes.
「So you’re an aristocrat.」
If you weren’t, they wouldn’t let you come in here. If you were a maid working here, you would be wearing your uniform from the palace. There aren’t many people who can come so close to the Black Lotus Court in a plain dress.
I’m told all that as if he’s making sure, and I feel my smile freeze. I’m at a loss for words. I have no reply to give him. It’s exactly as he says.
I had only given my fake first name to Celves. To him, I was probably just a commoner. I didn’t mean to deceive him, but I can’t deny that it’s turned out like that in the end.
「Yes, I have my name entered in the smallest aristocrats, more or less. I’m sorry for……」
「No, it’s alright. I knew it. Everyone can tell from your behavior that you’re from a good family.」
Reaching out for his third sandwich, Celves says that with an expression as if it’s an old topic now. Really, he’s eating like he greatly enjoys them.
「……Is that so?」
———That reminds me.
That reminds me, did I forget that this man is also one of the grand aristocrat families? Celves’s surname is Ronein, which he hasn’t told me about. One of the grandest aristocrat families among the grand aristocrats, next only to the Valentine family. By all rights, he’s a person I wouldn’t even be able to talk to, just like Lunamerie.
It must’ve been easy for him to tell my social position from my behavior. But despite that, he didn’t say anything for me. Both of us hadn’t questioned the other about social status. But, even so.
He furrows his brows as if to ask, ‘what for?’ Smiling at him, I too bring the sandwich to my mouth again.
In the end, most of the sandwiches end up in Celves’s stomach. Just like that, we part in the arbor. I don’t feel like going back to the library so I return to the estate that is my home. I make dinner, more fired up than usual, and then wait for that man to come home like usual.
He returns home unusually early, at a time that’s considered the proper 『dinnertime』 by the world’s standards.
We greet each other with those same old but irreplaceable words, and I look after the black robe he’s taken off. It’s soft and feels pleasant whenever I touch it; I fold it up, being careful not to let any wrinkles form. For some reason, I feel eyes on me from above.
「Edi? Is something wrong?」
Those sunrise-colored eyes stare at me fixedly, wavering at my question. I stare up at him fixedly in return. After ten-odd seconds of locking eyes, holding the silence feels difficult. But the one that opens their mouth first is not me, but him.
「Aren’t you angry?」
I tilt my head in confusion as he doesn’t mention about what. Those sunrise-colored eyes blink, then fill with a bitter light.
「……About what happened at lunch.」
「Oh, about that? No, not really.」
Since it couldn’t be helped, there’s no need to get angry. Thinking that, I smile, and he suddenly furrows his brows. Why is he making that face even though I said I’m not angry? How unreasonable. Wouldn’t it be most satisfactory for him if I wasn’t angry?
Or perhaps, does he want to anger me? I feel angrier at his attitude now than in the day. I look up at that beautiful face, famed as a night fairy, as if challenging him.
「Well then, what would you do if I said I was angry?」
He’s at a loss for words just like that, not saying anything further. See, didn’t I tell you? What happened in the day just couldn’t be helped. I dare say that’s the best way to deal with it. Because if we look deeper into this, I may have only been bringing him lunch, but it was my fault for intruding without an appointment.
So it’s fine. That’s what I tell to myself. As a wife, I smile at my husband who isn’t saying anything.
「It’s alright, I understand. It can’t be helped.」
『But how long should we continue this thing that ‘can’t be helped’?』
I want to say that, but my mouth just wouldn’t move.