I’m in the middle of darkness as usual. I can’t help but think, ‘not again.’
The pitch black I’ve gotten used to is trying to blot out my very being, sinking me in this darkness that will never fade. The heartbreaking crying voice pierces my ears as usual, invading me as I can’t seem to plug my ears. Yes, it’s the same as usual so far.
I see something. Even though I shouldn’t be able to see anything in this darkness. Despite that, my eyes certainly perceive something. Something standing out in the midst of this darkness, as if a spotlight is on it. And it’s:
I can’t help but murmur that at the sight of that being I could never mistake, no matter how dark it is or how far away he is. ‘Why?’ My lips tremble, unable to make a sound.
‘Why are you here?’ Even though I want to ask that, my voice won’t come out. This is supposed to be my dream, it’s supposed to be that extraordinary nightmare. So why is none other than this man here, despite all that?
That captivating black hair is clearly different from the stagnated surroundings, that white beautiful face glitters as if drawing a line between the darkness, washing it away. Those sunrise-colored eyes, as if the light of dawn has been scooped up in them, are too beautiful, more than anything.
‘Aah.’ I feel like bursting into tears suddenly. Indescribable relief spreads in my chest. Is this how much I need him, this man who I’m supposed to be used to seeing, who’s naturally supposed to be beside me? I think that’s rather pitiful of myself, but even so, that man brings me so much joy I can’t bear it.
I try to rush up to that man, standing far away in the darkness. But my feet don’t move how I want them to. I’m stuck in this mud-like darkness, the more I try to move the more I sink in it. At the same time, the crying voice gets louder too. That man moves farther, becoming distant.
‘Wait. Don’t go.’ I open my mouth to say that, but the darkness enters my body from there. It’s agonizing. I can’t breath. My body sinks. As I recklessly reach my hand out, the man who was about to turn and leave halts in his tracks. ‘Did he notice me?’ I hope. Just then, a person runs past next to me, wearing a gorgeous dress, fluttering.
I gulp at that lovely voice, like a songbird chirping. That strawberry blonde hair, sparkling even in the darkness, is seared into my eyes. Indifferent to me, she stands next to him, smiling widely like a blooming flower. It clearly looks ‘just like a story.’
This time for sure, my feet sink into the darkness as if missing a step on some stairs. It hurts, it hurts so much I can’t stand it. I can hear the crying voice. It feels like I’ll drown in this darkness, this crying voice, at this rate. The feeling of my body sinking is the only thing that takes over my entire self. The crying voice steadily gets closer. That crying voice I remember, that I certainly know, that I’m certainly supposed to know more than anyone else.
‘I’m the one that should be crying now.’ I get angry at myself for thinking things like that. Just what is this? To cry at something like this is no joke.
Even if he chooses her and not me, I’m not going to cry. In fact, I wish I had the kind of fighting spirit to slap his oh so pretty face, say, 「Farewell, it was a fun newlywed life we had.」
That’s right. I have to be that strong. I mustn’t be deceived by a nightmare like this. Because, isn’t it true? If I can’t do even that, then I’m not allowed to stand beside him——……
My eyes open. I slowly lift my face which was pressed onto the table, slightly narrowing my eyes at the pale daylight streaming in from the window. I finally remember my present state from the book I was squishing…… Namely, a magical book.
That’s right. I was reading a magical book in one corner of this national library. It looks like I got tired from my usual magical book search without progress, felt exhausted by the slight yet soft sunlight streaming in from the window, and dozed off.
The sunlight from the window has already turned a bitter orange, making me realize I’ve slept rather long. Is this the time generally considered the time to start preparing dinner, by the world’s standards?
I’ve gotten used to that nightmare whether I like it or not, but the nightmare I just had is depressing me more than ever before. Normally, the nightmare simply ends with just the darkness and the crying voice, so just what was that earlier? It was more concrete than the vague nightmare of darkness and that crying voice, to the point I couldn’t face it.
To be honest, I can’t help but be surprised at how wounded I am by that spectacle, more than I thought I’d be. It seems like I’ve really gotten frail. Just as I think that, a fear occupies my chest, as if I’ll crumble at my feet.
It’s been many days in itself since I started seeing this nightmare and visiting the library every day. Along with that, the number of magical books I’ve read has also increased significantly in itself. Despite that, there’s not a single sign of me finding a breakthrough solution, which spurs on my anxiety even more.
I dare say this nightmare could be some kind of curse. What else can I call it but a curse, this nightmare that’s been scraping away at my emotional strength, today going even beyond that and scooping it out?
It must be the kind of magic prohibited by this country that hates the very beings that are demons: Black magic. Namely, the magic that’s called a curse. I can’t completely erase the possibility that it’s spirit magic, but in my case, it seems magic involving spirits is repelled by the scars on my back. So it’s probably fine if I say it’s not that.
Therefore, the biggest possibility is that it’s a curse by black magic. However – this might sound strange coming from myself – I’ve been living so modestly until now, there’s no reason for anyone to curse me. ‘Did I do something for someone to hold a grudge against me?’ I tilt my head——oh, wait a second.
Suddenly realizing something, I check the magical book squished under me. Then, I let out a sigh of relief. Thank goodness. I didn’t drool on it, and there aren’t any creases on this robust magical book either.
It’s out of the question for me to have the name of the Governor of Magical Books’ daughter, doing things like dozing off and not using a valuable magical book. And on top of that, this is one of few magical books that references black magic, even if only a little. Magical books that go more in depth on black magic aren’t open to the public as if it’s only natural, so this is all I can read. For now, I make sure the magical book is alright, and then let out a deep sigh.
「Ah, this is such a worrying problem.」
In reality, it can’t be summed up with just 『worrying』. I smile wryly at myself for still calling it that, trying to lie. It really is such 『a worrying problem.』
Well now, it’s time to go home soon. I move my arms to try and loosen up my body, stiff from leaning down on the desk. As I do, I feel something about to fall from my shoulders. I reflexively grab it just as it’s about to fall on the floor. My eyes widen at that soft texture.
Make no mistake, this is a black robe. Why is a robe, the mark of wizards in the Black Lotus Court, hanging on my shoulders? Just whose is this? ‘Hmmm?’ I’m still tilting my head in confusion, holding the robe, when I feel someone approaching me.
「Have you woken up, Suzette?」
「Oh, Sir Celves!」
I blink in surprise at the young man looking at me with those deep blue eyes, holding several magical books in one arm. It’s too late to ask why he’s here, right? Since this is the national library, there’s nothing strange about him being here, a wizard working in the Black Lotus Court. And we’ve met countless times at this table already.
If I dare to raise a question now, it would be about the black robe on my shoulder. Celves isn’t wearing the robe he usually wears now. I immediately understand what that means.
「Here is your robe back. Thank you very much.」
「It’s nothing to thank me for. I’d be the one with a bad conscience if you got a cold here.」
I get up from the chair, presenting his robe to him. His response really is rather blunt. If he had a bit more civility, I’m sure he could be popular with the ladies; it really is such a waste.
Taking the robe from my hands, he sits down in his usual place in the seat in front of me, putting the magical books onto the table. These are advanced magical books that I can never possibly reach. Just like that, he silently begins to read, and I can’t help but smile at it.
Although his way of speaking is rather blunt and forceful, that’s just what makes him him. That awkward kindness of his reminds me of that man.
「……What’s so funny?」
「No, it’s nothing.」
Those deep blue eyes squint sullenly. I shake my head, smiling. There’s no way I can say something like 「I thought you were being 『so sweet.』」 Pretending not to notice his suspicious gaze, I tidied up the books spread over the table. Picking those heavy books up again, I bowed to Celves.
「Well then, I’ll take my leave now. Have a good da—」
I stop my feet, which had turned around and were about to begin walking away any second. I turn around to see those deep blue eyes were looking at me, full of seriousness. I tilt my head, ‘do you need something?’ After a moment’s hesitation, the young man opened his mouth.
「While I don’t think you would, don’t ever think about getting involved in black magic. Although black magic can certainly be used even if one doesn’t have any magical power of their own, you have to compensate by paying something of equal value as well.」
Those are unexpected words. It was written in the book I was reading earlier, as Celves said, that black magic can be used even if an individual has no magical power of their own. That by paying something of equal value, you can borrow the magical power of demons.
Celves thinks I want to become a wizard. It’s not strange for him to think I’m planning to get involved with black magic; he’s seen me reading these books about black magic, the ones I’m holding now. I can’t help but stare fixedly at him, and he immediately averts his eyes. That’s a different reaction from what that man would do. If it were him, he would definitely stare right back as if to say, ‘What?’
——I can be only amazed at myself for constantly being reminded of that man even after seeing that nightmare. Have I really always been like this, since the 『past』? Thinking that, I smile at Celves. Those deep blue eyes glare fixedly at me; reflected back in them is not my smile mask but a real smile.
「You’re so kind, Sir Celves.」
That kindness, not frank, is rather similar to that man. But it’s easier to understand than that man’s kindness, and I can’t help but think of it as far too sweet. If I actually say that, no doubt he’d get angry, so I decide to keep these thoughts in my chest.
「There’s no need to worry. I’m greatly obliged for your advice.」
Certainly it seems like I might think about the possibility of getting involved with black magic now that I’ve come so far, but since I still don’t know the origin of my dream for sure, I can’t do things that complex and puzzling. I realized at the age of 9 that magic must be practiced with the motto ‘peacefully and safely’. I literally realized it so much it hurt.
It’s very unlikely that it’s the source of my nightmares in the first place, but it’s that black magic. Since the demon king was defeated, the demons have certainly weakened but they’re still a threat to ordinary people. The likes of me, an ordinary person, could never possibly manage them.
When I think about that, I certainly do come to the conclusion that I must ask for an expert’s opinion on this. But that’s something else, for now I decide to leave that be.
「More than that, Sir Celves, please take care of your health.」
I thought the same thing when we met here before, but his complexion still doesn’t look fine. It’s rather like the pot calling the kettle black if I say it, but his looks worse than mine. His valuable, shapely features too have decreased in vitality, his charm halving.
Celves widens his eyes the same way he did when I gave him advice before, then he slowly nods. He doesn’t say anything, but it seems like that’s the most he can do. I myself can’t say any more to him, so I bow my head once again and take my leave.
Then, I return the magical books to their original bookshelves, get on a carriage and head towards the market. I choose out vegetables and meat suitably, and then set out to return home. Since I dozed off, I’m returning later than usual today.
I have to make dinner right away. Actually, no, that man’s going to come home late tonight as well so there’s no need to hurry so much.
Thinking that, I arrive to the estate. As I put my key into the lock of the door, I tilt my head in surprise at the unexpected sensation.
It’s not locked. Even though I thought I’d properly locked it after sending that man home this morning, and when I left afterwards.
‘Is it a burglar?’ Unpleasant thoughts cross my mind. Although there’s nothing that valuable in this mansion.
What do I do? I’m scared of carelessly opening the door now. I’d rather just do a 180 degree turn right now, but I can’t do that. I hold the bag full of ingredients properly, gulping.
It’s no use just worrying here. I put my hand on the knob, slowly pulling the door open. I feel like a horror movie protagonist as the door opens with a ‘creak’. I carefully slide into the mansion.
The magical gem I have starts glowing whenever there’s people around; it suddenly goes bright, illuminating the room. It doesn’t seem like there’s any sign of the mansion being broken into, as far as I can see. I unconsciously let out a sigh of relief. It’s just then that it happens.