Sinking. Falling. Deeper and deeper into the darkness, still sinking. In that darkness filled with the sound of crying, there was nothing that I could depend on. The darkness, darker even than the pitch black behind the eyelids, poured into my body through my mouth as I tried to cry for help. As if to erase my very existence.
Somebody, I screamed. Somebody, save me. My soundless scream had no effect on the darkness though. Nothing changed. There was no sound, only my body, sinking deeper and deeper.
Crying for help, even though I lost that right long ago, was pathetic. If I was going to cry for help, I should have done it a long time ago. The one who couldn’t do that was no other than me, and as a result this happened. If I were to be blamed I would have no defense.
Enveloped in the darkness that had not one speck of light, even so curiously I could see my father, my mother, my little brother, my wet nurse, Uncle Lancent, my friends. As if nobody noticed me sinking in that darkness, they all left me there.
Then, as if in a slideshow, the scene changed. That man, together with Lunamerie. His back was to me, so I couldn’t see what expression he wore. But Lunamerie was smiling, her cheeks rose-colored. Seeing that, I had a feeling I knew how his face looked.
Not able to see anymore, I closed me eyes. But the crying voice did not stop. That voice was the only sound permitted in this darkness, but it could not do anything to save me. I only continued to sink. As I sank, I was getting closer and closer to the crying voice, and I covered my ears. Despite that the crying voice entered my ears, continuing to echo inside me head.
Within the crying voice, a second, trembling voice was interspersed. At that voice, I unthinkingly opened my eyes. Taking in my surroundings, the only thing around was that deep darkness. But in that darkness, I could make out a faint figure.
I knew that being. There’s no way I wouldn’t. Sitting in the darkness, shoulders trembling, heaving with sobs, 「she」 was none other than …
Suddenly, at the same time that I unconsciously muttered that, I regained consciousness. Transitioning from the dream to reality, it took a while to regain my senses. It appeared I was lying in a bed, I noticed. Where was I? What exactly happened to me? Somehow moving my heavy body, I sat up. And then I tilted my neck.
Right before I lost consciousness, the last thing I remembered was that man calling out to me, in a surprised voice. I would have thought that I’d have been carried to my room, but that didn’t appear to be the case.
The bed I was sleeping on, one of those so called canopy beds, surrounded with sheer sheets decorated with delicate lace. Looking around the room, each and every piece of furniture was extravagant and beautiful. That being said, nothing was gaudy, simply tastefully elegant. Why was I sleeping in this room? I had no idea. The crying voice still echoing in my ears disturbed my train of thoughts.
It replayed itself in my mind, that dream of darkness. Everybody left me. That man, my family, my friends, that nightmare had intended to steal all of them. And after everything had been stolen from me, in the end what would remain, I wonder.
A little while ago, the last thing I saw in the darkness was an existence that no one in this world except me should know about. Inside the darkness, that figure sobbing alone, I knew well. There’s no way I wouldn’t. 『She』 was…
「Oh my, you’re awake.」
As the door clanked open and I heard that voice, I jolted upright with a start. Glancing at the door, I saw someone far outside of my expectations, standing there with a smile.
Proof of the Shrine Maidens’ blessing, long, silver, wavy hair. Slanted eyes, with large pupils, reminiscent of a proud cat, amber-colored, like honey. Each strand of hair, each eyelash even, so delicate, as if someone had crafted a fine quality piece of art, paying meticulous attention. Pale, almost transparent skin, asking whether or not it was enviable would be foolish. Crimson painted lips, like flower petals blooming in the spring. Those perfectly arranged features, both beautiful and lovely, would draw anyone’s eye.
Even me, who was used to that man’s beauty, instantly stiffened when that dazzling beauty entered my view. Another person might be overwhelmed. If a white lily in full bloom were to take human form, surely it would look something like this.
In contrast to myself, who could only stare at her, she, without hesitation, made her way towards me, elegantly sitting at a chair next to the bed. The scent of flowers tickled my nose.
If someone were to criticize me for my inarticulation, by all means, that person could take my place.
「What is the matter?」
She tilted her neck cutely, the smiling silver-haired beauty, one of the heroes, our kingdom’s living jewel, the famous Princess Clementine.
Since I had first met her at my wedding, we had become friendly, but even if that weren’t the case, any citizen of our kingdom would recognize her. That figure was completely unmistakeable. All I could do was sit there dumbfounded.
Frantically searching for words, in the end, that was what came out. Looking at me, who was completely lost, the princess smiled. The smile worn by the holder of an outrageous beauty had, as you’d think, outrageous power. Not able to say anymore, I stared at the princess’s face, and she giggled then lightly poked my forehead with the tip of her thin, pale finger. It was faint, but the light impact brought me back to my senses, Feeling my forehead, I looked around in confusion, and the princess laughed again.
「Is that 『Why?』 a 『Why is the princess here?』 by any chance?」
Unable to verbalize a response, I somehow nodded, and the princess, still showing that beautiful smile, peered into my face. At this distance her beauty was even more dazzling, and I became flustered. Our kingdom’s living jewel, today, as always, was shining so bright that I hesitated even to look directly at her.
Not knowing what my speechless self was thinking, the princess continued, smiling.
「That is not the right question. The correct one, what you should have asked, was, 『Why am I in this place?』」
What was she talking about? That confusion must have shown on my face, because the princess’s smile deepened. Ahh, that mischievous expression is also beautiful, I thought, entranced. Then the princess brought me back to reality.
「This is my bedroom. Incidentally, you are in my bed.」
When one says that a person froze, this must be what they are talking about. The blood flowed from my head, and my body became dangerously cold, if I do say so myself. I couldn’t bring myself to say 「Ah, I see. That’s why this room is so extravagant. I understand now.」 Wait a second. This is the princess’s room? I’m in the princess’s bed?
「I’m terribly sorry! Please excuse my terrible behavior…」
No matter how friendly we were, something like sleeping in the princess’s bed was unforgivable. It was both a problem of social status, as well as an issue of the princess’s popularity.
This situation, men and women of all ages of this world would be envious. More than envy, maybe even resentment. Anyhow, that Princess Clementine’s bed. Soft, and fluffy, and sweet-smelling, I didn’t know it at the time, but I had enjoyed quite the privilege.
Saying this much makes me seem like a pervert, but that is the extent to which the princess is popular among the people. I, too, was a fan from the start, but as I learned more and more about her, I became more and more infatuated. That man would ask me 「What’s good about her? What exactly?」, staring at me as if I had bad eyes, but that’s my line. Even though he went on a trip together with her, how could he possibly not understand her appeal? Well, when I think of him noticing and understanding her appeal, and then, as if in an RPG, falling in love with the princess, that brings out some extremely complicated feelings in me. But this isn’t the time for daydreaming.
Panicking, I leaned forward to get out of the bed, but the princess gently stopped me with her hand.
「There is no need for you to worry. More importantly, you should rest. I personally gave permission for you to use this room, and if there is someone to blame, it is your husband.」
I blinked at the unexpected turn of events. I don’t understand. Why is it Edi’s fault? My thoughts must have been clear on my face. The princess shrugged, as if to say that she was confused also.
「Yes. He suddenly teleported in front of me, holding your unconscious body.」
「Depending on the circumstances, I wouldn’t have been satisfied that easily」, she said extremely carefreely, giggling without a hint of anger. But I, hearing this, reacted completely differently. No, no no no, suddenly teleporting right in front of the kingdom’s princess, that must be unheard of. He didn’t seriously do that, did he? I looked at the princess, but she didn’t say any more, just kept her smile. That reaction meant that she was telling the truth.
「I am extraordinarily sorry. In place of my husband, let me apologize from the bottom of my heart.」
My apology was so-so, and from my position on the bed I couldn’t express my gratitude, but even so I apologized as much as I could. That idiot husband, I thought. I wouldn’t forget to scold him.
There was no helping it. He was as idiot after all. He was supposed to be extremely smart, but what in the world was he doing. If not for the extreme generosity of the princess, it wouldn’t be strange if he had gotten fired. My husband, and before that my childhood friend, I had spent so much time with him, but trying to understand what he was thinking, and why he acted so recklessly, just made my head hurt.
Appearing to understand my struggles, the princess suddenly stopped smiling, and looked at me seriously. Her clear amber eyes, looking golden, reflected my puzzled face.
「Even if I tell you not to worry about it, you probably won’t accept that. But really, there is no need for you to apologize. Particularly, the ”you” right now.」
「What exactly do you mean?」
「You yourself probably haven’t realized. But, hm. That is a story for the culprit “you”. The magicians of Black Lotus Court haven’t even realized.」
I couldn’t even understand half of what the princess was saying. Tilting my neck, I waited for her to continue speaking. She sighed, once. A heavy sigh.
「Even if I say that, that’s an issue with the Black Lotus Court magicians. Geez, coming this far without realizing it. How long does that man intend to enjoy his newlywed life?」
What exactly was the princess talking about? I could only tilt my neck more and more. At that time, I heard a noisy voices. Outside the door, some kind of argument was taking place. Within it, I thought I heard an extremely familiar voice. It wasn’t my imagination.
「Oh my, it looks like he’s here.」
At that unsuitable, and somewhat cheerful reaction to the ruckus outside, the door slammed opened with an enormous thud. I had reflexively cowered, but at the location of my gaze was, as expected, him.
Those sunrise-colored eyes quickly found me, and my husband walked towards me with brisk, long strides. At his intensity, I couldn’t help but feel anxious at the thought that he might grab me. Hm, but why though? Up until now I’ve made him angry, but he’d never looked this intense.
My inner heart raised a scream. Stepping in front of that man with his overly-disturbing air, as if to protect me, was none other than the princess, who had silently risen from her chair. At that gallant, overflowing with composure, figure’s coolness, I once again became charmed.
Compared to that, his figure was, how should I say- his originally fair skin looked ghastly pale, his glossy hair was disheveled, compared to the princess, he lacked all sense of composure.
I peeked at that appearance from behind the princess’s back. He, as if to say, 「Get out of the way」, glared at the princess. The extent of his intensity was already past being able to describe, but even under that gaze, the princess didn’t tremble a bit. Far from that, she even let out a small chuckle. I couldn’t help but be awed.
「Entering a lady’s room without knocking, what exactly are you planning?」
At the princess’s teasing tone, he narrowed his eyes and stared at her. I could sense invisible sparks going off in the space between them. Should I stop this? Ah, but I don’t have the courage to step between these two right now. In the end all I could do was be silent, looking back and forth between the princess’s back and Edi’s grim face.