For a while, the silence continued. When it became so hard to bear that it was hard to breathe, the princess glanced back at me, then looked at him once again.
「You know, Agedilus, our kingdom’s leading magician has fallen pretty low, huh?」
「Yeah, you’re right.」
At his grave and unpleasant voice and expression, I couldn’t help but feel surprised. Even though it was the princess, to think that he would just take that sort of cutting remark. Ordinarily, if it was Edi, even if he was speaking to the princess, he would pay it back many times over.
Like myself, the princess did not seem like she had expected this response. 「Oh my」, she said, looked surprised. 「I didn’t think you’d honestly admit it. I guess even you have some sort of clue with this kind of thing. If you had been difficult, I would have felt justified in slapping you across the face.」 As if to say 「How unfortunate」, she concluded in a bored tone. I couldn’t see form here, but based on her voice and what she was saying, I was certain that she was wearing a cold expression.
「P-Princess?」, I timidly called out. She turned to face me, and on her face was not the cold expression I was expecting, but a kind, warm one. A soft expression befitting of the Goddess’s beloved child, the Shrine Maiden Princess. The definition of beautiful. A precious sight. The princess showed me her largest smile yet.
「If anything happens, don’t hesitate to call me. If you ring this bell, I’ll come immediately,」 she said, pointing to a cute golden bell on top of the bedside table.
I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I nodded anyway, and the Princess nodded, looking satisfied. Then, she turned back to face Edi, and continued:
「Please be careful not to hurt my precious friend any more than this. Next time, I personally will bring the iron hammer down on you.」
Hearing 「precious friend」, I became unbearably happy, but what followed after, the princess’s dangerous speech, caused my face to stiffen. An iron hammer… It was not a word that should come out of this beautiful princess’s mouth, who looked as if she had never held anything heavier than chopsticks – or, well, I guess a fork and knife.
His eyebrows twitched. Those sunrise-colored eyes shifted their focus from the princess to me. I was just able to suppress the urge to burrow completely into the blanket, but I couldn’t meet his stare, so I lowered my eyes. I felt his aura get even heavier.
I was seized by a sudden urge to run away. But that wish probably wouldn’t be granted. Silence descended on the room once again. The one who broke the silence was, as expected, the princess.
「Well then, I’ll step out for a little while. In the meantime, you two should talk things out.」
『No, that’s impossible.』 Before I said it, I restrained myself, or rather, I should say that my voice didn’t come out because of surprise. Being left alone with this man would be unbearable.
But the princess showed me a quick smile and then gallantly stepped passed Edi and left the room. The only two remaining were myself, sitting up on the bed, stiffening, and Edi, keeping up his silence. Unable to even call out to him, I looked down. Suddenly, a shadow fell over me.
Looking up, I saw that Edi had come to the chair, but rather than sitting, he was looking down on me.
With a sigh, he asked the short question, his tone remarkable softer even than usual. The beauty of his voice only magnified how fearsome it was. I unconsciously clenched the bed sheets. He was completely expressionless, except those eyes, which exposed his feelings clearly. The name of that emotion expressed by those flickering sunrise-colored eyes, with their gradient of purple and orange, I knew well. It was anger.
「Why, didn’t you say anything?」
「What do you mean?」
「You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? That dream. Lately, you’ve been seeing that nightmare haven’t you?」
At this point, even if I tried to stubbornly play dumb, it would be pointless. That logic ran through my head. 「I won’t let you escape」 is what those eyes seemed to say. I became unable to move.
The dream he was speaking of, that nightmare that I had been experiencing just before I assumed. How he had figured out, just by my collapsing, about that dream made me curious, but even I understood that this wasn’t the time to ask.
I was at a loss for words. Still with that quiet voice, he continued.
「Did you think that even if you told me, it would be pointless?」
At first, I didn’t understand what he was saying. I stared up at his face, puzzled, and for the first time he showed an irritated expression. His elegant, androgynous beauty, that made you question that he was even human, made even that expression look beautiful.
He didn’t normally expose his emotions, and I was taken aback. He said, as if spitting out the words,
「Am I really such an undependable person to you?」
In that voice, I heard some tinge of confusion. I suddenly noticed that he had his fists clenched tightly. With that amount of force, his nails would be biting into his palms. It must be painful. Even so, as if he didn’t even realize that, he glared at me.
「What’s wrong? You decided to take care of it yourself because I can’t be relied on, didn’t you?」
That’s wrong. That wasn’t it. Even though that wasn’t what happened. I, I just…
Even when I tried to explain, as if something was stuck in my throat, the words wouldn’t come out. I felt my lips trembling, as if they were another person’s. All that came out of my mouth was a weak sigh, with no sound. Those sunrise-colored eyes were looking down at me. That strength of the light inside of them, cause me to clench the bedsheet tighter.
「I’m very sorry.」
「Why are you apologizing?」
「I caused you trouble.」
The air trembled at his angry voice. I felt goosebumps over my whole body.
Seeing me cower, and perhaps taken aback at the fact that he had raised his voice, he stopped in the middle of talking. From his face I could tell he was regretting that he had yelled.
Why can’t it go well? I wondered. It wasn’t like I wanted him to make this face.
I really shouldn’t have gotten found out. I couldn’t help but think that. Once I decided to hide it, after that, no matter what, I needed to hide it. If not, I should have realized that this man would blame himself.
Not saying anything, I reached out my hand. I took Edi’s hand, and opened his fist. Yep, as I had thought, his nails had left red marks on his palm. That must have been quite painful. I stroked his hand, trying to comfort him. Looking tired, he sank down into the bedside chair that the princess had been sitting in. He smoothly took his hand from mine.
「…You, why are you like that?」
「I’m very sor-」
「No, that’s not it, I’m not trying to get you to apologize.」
Repeating 「That’s not it」 over and over again, he hung his head, hiding his face in his hands.
「Edi?」 I attempted to call out to him like usual, but for some reason I hesitated.
Then, unable to call out to him, unable to embrace those shoulders, I heard a thin, but decidedly male, voice in my ear. Leaking out from the gaps between those bony fingers, an unexpected word.
That one words, and then the room became silent again. I realized my eyes had widened. What exactly what he saying?
「Edi, why are you apologizing?」
At my question, he raised his head. His messy jet black hair hanging over his fair-skinned cheeks, hiding the scar under his left eye. The sunrise inside his eyes was flickering. I nearly unconsciously reached out for that face, but I clenched the bed sheet again and endured it. Within that beauty was an expression of regret. Whether or not he noticed my confusion, he continued to apologize, as if repenting.
「I should have realized sooner. I should have been able notice sooner. The fact that I didn’t was neglect on my part.」
「That sort of thing…」
「I won’t let you deny it. Even if you don’t think so, it’s the undeniable truth. When the princess pointed it out to me, I had no reply.」
「Edi, that’s not true.」
「Yes, it is.」
「No, it’s not.」
Whatever he said, this at least, I wouldn’t let slide. I guess my unusually strong denial was unexpected, because he blinked.
「How can you claim that it’s your fault? This is something I brought upon myself. I didn’t want you to notice. I acted so that you wouldn’t realize anything was wrong.」
「Because I’m undependable, I guess.」
Saying that again. He was too stubborn. We’ve known each other so long, it would be nice if he understood that I was trying to say that that wasn’t the case. But if there was a guy who could understand that, it definitely wasn’t this one. That sort of man, wasn’t my husband. I shook my head at his statement and continued.
「No. It’s just, that I…」
He was both stupid and helpless. But I was definitely the same. No, I was probably even more stupid and helpless than him. I didn’t want him to worry? That was true. I didn’t want to cause trouble? That was also true. But the real reason was, I just,
「I just, wanted to be strong.」
He wrinkled his brow. In contrast to his puzzled expression, I was smiling. Knowing that it would look forced, I still plastered a smile on my face. If not, it seemed like I’d cry.
「I realized that I’ve been protected this whole time. And I was genuinely happy with that. But, somewhere along the line, I became unsatisfied with just that.」
The reason why he didn’t make the marriage to me public, even if he didn’t say it, I knew it from the start. It was to protect me. Just passing the days, without a care in the world. I wanted nothing more, I was truly happy. To say that wasn’t enough anymore, another person would probably call it ungrateful. But somewhere along the way, a seed of loneliness sprouted in my heart. Unable to stop it, spread its roots deeper and deeper in my chest. Then, when I saw him together with Lunamerie, that loneliness bloomed into a spectacular flower.
What was I to this man? Unable to stand beside him, simply passing my time in concealment. Was an existence like myself really suitable for him? I let myself wonder. That thought became stronger, transforming into a certainty inside my heart.
「I just wanted the strength to be fit to stand beside you. I wanted to think I was strong enough, so I tried to endure it.」
I wasn’t cute like Lunamerie, nor did I have the social status to justify myself at his side. I didn’t realize it for a long time, but when I finally did, it became a pair of shackles around my ankles.
So that’s why, I guess. At the very least, I wanted to be an existence worthy of standing next to him. I wouldn’t accept being a weak woman who was brought down by a mere bad dream. Even if it was caused by some other person’s meddling, I wanted to deal with it myself. Even if that wasn’t what Edi would have wanted. Even though I knew that just obediently being rescued would be best. Even so, I wanted to stand beside this man. I wanted to be his equal.
When the nightmares started happening, they took the form of that unrest. They brought my heart’s feelings to life. I tried to take care of it by myself, to protect my position.
How uncute. How impertinent. I should have taken a lesson from Lunamerie. If I was such a cute girl, I’d surely be able to contentedly smile at his side. Like this man wanted.
My grip on the bed sheet was painful. I could tell that I was exerting so much force that my hands were white. But I couldn’t relax. The darkness of the nightmare appeared in my mind. There, so beautiful that they appeared to sparkle, were the figures of Edi and Lunamerie, standing next to each other. Always being talked about as being a good match, just imagining the two of them made my chest hurt.
Edi stared at me, his eyes widened in surprise. Grateful for him not saying anything, I muttered,
「I’m sorry. I’m so, so, sorry, Edi. In the end, I ended up causing even more trouble.」
「What should I do? Going so far as to even bother the princess?」
Even though he told me to stop talking, I shook my head and continued. What exactly had I been doing? Unskillfully trying to endure it, putting up a brave front, in the end, the result was this predicament. I had done nothing but make the situation worse, failing to accomplish even just one thing, and making him suffer like this.
I felt something warm run down my cheek. It took me a second to realize they were tears. Ah, in the end I couldn’t even stop from crying. Frustrated that I was so pathetic, my tears brimmed.
「Filmina, enough already.」
「No. No. I’m sorry. I, I—」
「I said, enough already!」
I’m not worthy of you. That’s what I was going to say, but he wouldn’t let me finish. I couldn’t say anything else either. Obviously. Being kissed this roughly, there was no way I could say anything. Even if I had something to say, it would just be swallowed by his mouth.
Eventually I had to twist away just to take a breath, and I managed to get free. But only for the instant it took to breathe, and then instead of another kiss, he grabbed me in his arms, tightly.
I was being hugged so hard it was painful, but I couldn’t muster any form of resistance. I stiffened, unable to do anything else. Embracing me to my limit, he whispered into my ear.
「No matter what anyone says, no matter what happens, you are my wife. I won’t recognize any wife other than you. I wouldn’t want anyone else either.」
His voice was so passionate. Timidly, I put my arms around him, and was gripped even tighter. When I closed my eyes, there was darkness, but it was completely different than the darkness from that dream. The me drowning alone in that darkness was no longer alone. Being embraced with this warmth told me that I wasn’t alone.
Hugging me, he’d said that his wife was none other than me.