I reflexively straighten myself at the sudden voice that comes from above me. I look up at that all too familiar voice. At the top of the spiral staircase in front of me stands my husband, that man. And that too, with an extreme air of unrest about him.
Just what is this? I can’t help but be suspicious. What is he doing here in the first place? No, well, there’s nothing strange about him being here since this estate is his home. The right way to put it would be ‘what is he doing here at this time?’
No matter what happens, my first words at him coming home are already decided.
「Edi, welcome home.」
「That’s my line.」
「Oh, now that you mention it, that’s right. I’m home.」
Certainly, he’s the one that came home first so I should be the one to say I’m home. It’s the opposite of what usually happens, so refreshing I can’t help but feel like laughing. But I can’t do that. The atmosphere coming from this man makes me hesitate to laugh. He’s clad in this rattling air, and it seems like I can’t say anything foolish either. ‘Just what is this?’ I assess his attitude, and he descends the staircase to stand in front of me.
「We have to talk.」
Those words are indifferent and short, but I can’t simply read between the lines of the firm intent within them. For some reason, I have a vague…… No, a certain bad feeling about this. I put on a smile with all my might and look up at the man.
「Let’s have dinner before that. I’ll make it right away.」
「It doesn’t matter, we can have it lat–……」
「But you’ve finally come home early for me. Won’t we have dinner slowly and peacefully once in a while?」
I press him further, not letting him finish. He swallows down the words he was about to say, looking down at me. Hehe, he can’t say anything when he always, always comes home late. Or, rather, I won’t let him say anything.
He isn’t dense enough to not realize the implicit meaning in my words. With a sour look on his beautiful face, he nods really reluctantly. Yep, it’s really very well that he’s being so obedient. Although I’m afraid of what comes next, right now it’s my victory.
I smile once again as if making doubly sure, then I head to the kitchen, passing beside him. I feel a gaze at my back as if wanting to say something, piercing through me just like an arrow, but I ignore it. I tell myself, ‘As if I’m going to be moved by that!’ I manage to reach the kitchen, taking out the ingredients I’d bought at the market.
On today’s menu is a stew full of vegetables. I bought these ingredients just for that.
Rolling up my sleeves, I rouse myself up, ‘Come on!’ I nimbly begin my cooking. I’ve made this dish countless times already, there’s no delays at this point. Standing in front of the pot, I slowly stir the stew with a wooden spatula so it won’t burn and get stuck.
The pot filled to the brim with stew makes a tender simmering sound. Yes, now this is the kind of sound I like. A warm sound, completely different from the crying voice I hear in my nightmares.
Listening to that sound as it clears my ears, my eyelids suddenly become heavy. The darkness under my eyelids has been dyed a darker black. In the blink of an eye, I can’t hear the simmering of the pot anymore. What I do hear instead is certainly that crying voice. That crying voice, sunken in despair and grief. Although it’s as if it’s urging me for something, I still can’t figure out what it’s saying.
And then, I’m unable to do anything but watch the spectacle in front of me. Watch the sight of that man and that girl, beautiful like a flower spirit, standing together as if they’ve perfectly been placed there.
「……–i, oi, Filmina!」
I suddenly open my eyes at the voice from nearby. I silently gulp at the sunrise-colored eyes looking at me closely.
「……Y-yes? What happened, Edi?」
「Something awful. Looks like the pot’s burnt, but are you okay?」
He’s turned up beside me before I even realized it. At his words, I hurriedly look at where my hand is. The stew has been magnificently burnt, and the savory smell that wafts up to my nose is extremely sad. I thought I’d only dozed off for the blink of an eye, but just what had happened here?
I stiffen, dumbfounded. Beside me, the man snaps his fingers, extinguishing the fire of the magical stone – what we use here in place of the 『past』 world’s cooking stove. As he glances down at me, I drop my shoulders and cast my eyes down.
「Um, Edi. I’m really sorry. I’ll make it again now.」
What kind of a disgrace is this? To think, I’ve made such a simple mistake when I pride myself in housework. I say that, averting my eyes from the scene burnt in my memory. He shakes his head, not angry.
「No, this is fine. I’ll do the rest, you go to the table.」
「『But』 I said this is fine.」
He’s unapproachable. I’m completely cast away, all I can do is nod. In front of what I’ve done, I can do nothing but dejectedly withdraw.
Exchanging roles with that man, I take out the spoons and forks from the cupboard and sit down at the dining table, waiting for a little while. Before long, he shows up with the stew dish on a tray. Placed in front of me is the stew, scooped out while avoiding the burnt parts. If this was the only stew you saw, white steam rising from it, you wouldn’t think it’s burnt at all.
I admire him for being so clever. He sits down in the chair in front of me. Then he crosses both hands and I do the same, in the prayer pose.
「Thanks to the grace of the goddess, the Most High.」
I murmur that word of prayer after his statement, take the spoon in hand and bring the stew to my mouth. It tastes rather decent, considering it’s been burnt. All of this must be thanks to this man for skilfully scooping it out.
——Today hasn’t been going very well, neither at lunch nor just earlier. I end up thinking, ‘if this is how it is, maybe I should just stop being so reckless and tell everything to the man in front of me.’
That may be a regret that’s all too late. But even so, what if that nightmare turns out to be true? What if the rumors are true, and he’s become close to Lunamerie? If so——what am I going to do? What am I supposed to do?
「……What is it?」
As we both silently eat the stew, the one who speaks first is that man. I can’t make eye contact for some reason, dropping my gaze to the stew as I reply. He continues, definitely in an indifferent voice.
「There’s something you’re hiding from me.」
It’s not a question, it’s a confirmation full of belief. I can’t help but stop my hand with the spoon in it. I raise my face from the stew to see, sure enough, those sunrise-colored eyes looking straight at me. I’m pierced by that gaze, as if it certainly won’t let me avert my eyes. I don’t know what to do.
「……What do you mean?」
Even though there were better ways I could have played dumb, what comes out of my mouth is that line. This is bad. It really is bad. No, the taste of the stew isn’t bad at all. What’s bad is this situation.
What I’m hiding from this man is my nightmares, and the fact that I go to the library. Both of them are my top secrets that I can’t expose now of all places. But from the looks of him, it seems like he’s found some sort of evidence, which is why he’s asking me.
「Where did you go today?」
No doubt that’s why he’s throwing these direct questions at me like this. His sunrise-colored eyes are as sharp as a bird of prey spotting its catch. If I was a normal noble family’s daughter, I’d faint right then and there.
I can’t run away from this. Even if I awkwardly struggle, I’ll only be digging myself a deeper grave. I know that even if I don’t like it. I can’t help but internally tut-tut, ‘it really is a problem that we’ve known each other so long.’
「……To the national library.」
「Oh? By yourself?」
「What are you trying to say?」
When I reply in a murmur, he piles up more questions, clearly implying something. When I ask him a question in return, he suddenly smiles. That smile, so beautiful I can’t help but be charmed. This might be worse than I thought. I somehow manage to fix my expression; he smiles at me, his smile feeling too cold just because he’s so beautiful. This is bad.
「Widnichol said he saw you at the library today.」
「Oh, is that so? He should have greeted me.」
This man’s disciple, Widnichol, is an obedient, sweet boy completely unlike this man. I’d always been praying that our paths wouldn’t cross, but it seems I’ve finally been found by him, huh?
It’s far too late for excuses. I’ve just been lucky to not get caught until now in the first place. I knew I’d be found out one day, but to think that that day has finally come… But I don’t understand why just that has put this man in such a bad mood.
Certainly, I do think it was bad of me to silently go to and from the library, but there’s no reason going to the library itself should be criticized. Since there’s not just magical books there, but books of all sorts of genres of the country. If he only saw me, he still wouldn’t know that I was reading magical books. Maybe if he talked to me about it I’d get exposed, but for now I’m supposed to be safe. But.
「He said he couldn’t even if he tried. Since you were with Ronein.」
I blink in surprise at the name ‘Ronein’. Of all the things that boy Widnichol had to have witnessed, it was this.
The time I spent sitting with Celves Sin Ronein today certainly wasn’t that long. The timing was just far too bad for me to be witnessed doing that. Well, it’s not like it was a secret meeting or something, but it feels really uncomfortable to have it pointed out by this man.
「……Do you know him?」
「He was my classmate at the Academy of Magic. Though he was only my classmate for less than a year, at most.」
He says that as if it’s no big deal; I can’t do anything but nod. This is the man who graduated the Academy of Magic by constantly skipping grades. There’s nothing strange if in the midst of that, he ended up knowing Celves who has enough power to work in the Black Lotus Court. But it seems like they didn’t get along well. The uncomfortable way he speaks Celves’s name is a fine proof of that.
‘So what’s the matter with that?’ I ask him with my gaze. His smile disappears, his expression saying, ‘Don’t you get it?’ I can do nothing but be bewildered.
「Don’t meet him anymore.」
「……Even if you say that……」
There’s no ‘what’s here. All of the times I met Celves until now have been nothing more than coincidences, it’s not like we particularly agree to meet or something. Even if he says 『Don’t meet him』 it’s not something I can do so simply. He is certainly my husband, but he doesn’t have the right to interrupt in my friendships with other people in the first place, right?
Those sunrise-colored eyes gaze at me irritatedly. Those eyes, such a wonderful color that changes from orange to purple, are like a treasured item to me. But just this time, they’re annoying me. Because, isn’t this situation just simply unfair?
「Even you’re always with Lady Luna, aren’t you?」
The rumors of him and Lunamerie are far from resolving; they’re slowly becoming more and more credible, reaching my ears every day. Anybody and everybody is talking about nothing but this, I’m fed up with it. I’ve had enough of it.
Certainly I’m the one supposed to sit in the position of this man’s wife. But now that I’ve gotten here, staying here itself seems so foolish. I’m really just like an idiot.
Those sunrise-colored eyes widen in surprise at my words. Even though he doesn’t say it in words, his eyes eloquently show that he’s heard something unexpected. Was he so thick-headed as to think I didn’t know about the rumors?
What comes to my mind is the sight of this man and Lunamerie standing together. Even though all kinds of noble daughters snuggle up to him, the only one that this blunt, cold man has allowed to enter his laboratory, his room, is Lunamerie. Is it because of her good family? No, this man has never shown any interest in political power from the start, so it can’t be that. If he’s the same man I know, it can’t be that.
Or perhaps, has he changed? Has he ended up changing? All without me realizing, me, the person supposed to be closer to him more than anyone else. Has he gone somewhere I can’t reach? Just like in that dream.
Ah, I can hear the crying voice.
「You’re so unfair.」
Even in the midst of that unceasing crying voice, the words I’m saying are unshaking. It’s not lovable at all, if I do say so myself. Then, there isn’t a single shred of loveliness in the words I’m saying.
「You never share important things with me, and now you want to interfere just at times like this?」
Wrong. This is wrong. I don’t want to say things like this. I should’ve been calm, I should’ve laughed it off like always. I know I should’ve done that, but my mouth won’t stop. The man says no words, just looking at me. My face reflected in his sunrise-colored eyes is cruel, even if I say so myself.
I didn’t want to show him this twisted expression, trying to smile but failing, but unable to cry either. I desperately swallow down the all the words about to overflow from me any second. The crying voice is so noisy, I can’t stand it.
『Just』 what? I don’t know. The resounding crying voice in my head, in my heart, steals my thoughts from me, even swallowing down and washing away my words. The spoon slips out of my hand. Then, the world lurches slanted, rapidly going dark.
In the midst of that unceasing crying voice, I only awfully hear the voice of that man calling out my name. That’s my last moments before my consciousness is plunged into darkness.