The expanse through the doorway was larger than I had expected. On the dome shaped ceiling, despite the fact that this should be underground, was a twinkling blue moon and glittering stars of various colors.
Looking at it clearly, they were simply models imitating the waxing and waning of the moon, and the movements of the stars, but simply reducing it to that was a slight to its beauty.
In contrast to the ceiling, the ground was empty but for a drawing of one large magic circle. It was intricately detailed, with archaic magical words written inside it. Those were glowing a faint purple.
「Edi, what is this? If I’m allowed to ask.」
First was to figure out if an ordinary person like me was even allowed to know what this place is, seeing as it was clearly hidden. Tilting his neck at me, Edi answered matter-of-factly,
「This is a place for tuning magical power, so to speak.」
「Yes. It seems a previous elite wizard created it. This magic circle can magnify or weaken an individual’s magic power. It was used for training.」
That which he said so easily, I could just let slide. Magnification and weakening of magic power. If that was possible, regardless of whether they had black hair or not, this world could be overflowing with powerful wizards. If this were to get out to the public, it would make more than just a commotion. Compared to this scandal, my and his marriage is nothing. Even at best, this would overturn the world’s common sense. No doubt, countless people would want this deeply. There could be countless wars over the possession of such a thing.
As if he read my fears, Edi smiled slightly.
「No need to worry. I said this was for training, didn’t I? The effect only lasts inside the magic circle. Once you leave, its influence disappears. The wizard who created this understood well its danger. In order to prevent someone from transcribing it, each individual character has been sealed with a spell. If not, this wouldn’t still be here. Even when I first saw this, I was conflicted as if I should destroy it immediately. Well, I guess now I know that I made the right choice not to.」
I nodded my acknowledgement, but even so, internally I was seized by a terrible cold sweat. Maybe it’s wrong to say, but I don’t want to know about a place like this.
It would be better not to know about this place of national secret level importance. The fact that I’m trusted so much is nice, but if I was asked if I was happy about this, I’d have to say no. It was all I could do to keep from face from twitching.
「I understand what kind of place this is. But knowing that, I don’t understand. Why did you bring me here?」
Yes, that was what I was confused about. I couldn’t figure out his motivation for bringing me here this training area for the strongest wizards. Wasn’t he going to lift my curse?
At my confusion, he nodded as he played with the quill pen in his hand.
「This is a training area, but at the same time, it can be used as a magic barrier. It can prevent magic power from leaking outside, and block any external magic power from interfering with things. There’s almost certainly magic on your curse to prevent counterspells, but if we’re here, this should prevent that.」
Having said that, he smiled slightly. But those eyes weren’t smiling one bit. I knew his anger wasn’t aimed at me, but still, it gave me goosebumps.
Unwanting to ask any more questions, I could do nothing but awkwardly assent, 「I see,」 once again.
「At this point, I still can’t lift the curse. I need to know who’s behind it. I said I’d drive it out, remember? From now, I’ll call him out.」
「Call him out?」
「Here, whatever I do, I don’t have to worry about the ramifications. Whatever I do.」
Why exactly he felt the need to say that part twice, I couldn’t bring myself to ask. He was definitely ignoring the look I was giving him. He handed me the parchment and pen.
「Write down your name here.」
I reflexively took them, but I didn’t understand why. I looked at the pen and parchment in my hands, and then back at him. He nodded seriously, his eyes twinkling.
「Right. There is a high possibility that the curse on you has origins in your name. Binding a name to a soul is the simplest powerful curse in the world.」
「You can turn a name into a curse that easily?」
「Even if you don’t know the target, if you only know their name then the curse is relatively simple. On the other hand, casting a curse on a person whose name you don’t know is pretty tough. Now if you can get your hands on a part from their body, it’s a different story, but since we don’t have any reason to think that, I think starting out assuming that the curse is based on your name is correct.」
As expected from a professional, he knows his stuff. Up till now I’ve been researching a bunch of things, but he plans to solve this in just a few hours. At the realization that I should have consulted him immediately, a bitter feeling began to well up inside me. Whether it was regret or shame was hard to say.
Crouching to hide the expression on my face, I set the parchment on the ground. I wrote 「Filmina」 on the parchment, then stopped. For a second I was conflicted as to what to write after.
But it was just for a second, and then I gathered my confidence and finished 「Von Lancent」. The thing he had told me on the princess’s bed gave me confidence. Filmina Von Lancent. That was my name now.
Finishing writing, I stood and gave Edi the parchment. He glanced at the writing and then nodded.
At his satisfied, and somewhat pleased-looking expression, even though this wasn’t the time nor the place, I started to feel a bit bashful.
He walked into the middle of the magic circle and placed the piece of parchment on the ground. I started to move closer, but he called my name and stopped me in my tracks.
「Filmina,」 looking straight at me with his sunrise eyes, 「From here on out, I’m going to do something I don’t want anyone else to see or hear.」
That beautiful voice didn’t suit what it was saying at all.
「So, close your eyes, and cover your ears.」
He went so far as to clarify further. I knew his real intentions though. I had known him for so long, after all.
Shaking my head, I deliberately stepped forward. At my action, his eyes widened. I realized that I had started to smile. Stepping next him, looking up at my husband, whose surprised expression just made him more beautiful, I grinned.
「I will look. And I will listen. This is my affair. I didn’t ask you to take it all upon yourself.」
In the first place, this curse is on me. The responsibility lies with me. Whatever it is that he doesn’t want anybody else to see or hear – he probably thinks it’s his responsibility.
Even so, he’s doing this for my sake. I understand that. So, whatever ends up happening, I want match up to him, just a little. Not because it’s my duty, but simply because I want to.
His mouth moved as if to say something, but in the end he silently closed them. And then once more, he opened his mouth.
「You’ll regret it.」
「I’ll deal with that when it comes.」
「You’re an idiot.」
「Ara, ara,」 I laughed. What happened to his usual wicked tongue? His cutting wit seemed to be off. Calling me stupid, or an idiot, for some reason, right now, it didn’t hurt one bit. Seeing my smile, his face looked like he had swallowed something bitter. Finally, he sighed deeply.
「Well then, I’ll start.」
When I nodded at his declaration, he lifted one hand up in front of him. The space warped slightly, then a staff appeared. His favored staff, which he created himself and wielded during the defeat of the demon king.
The magic gem on the staff had already started to glow faintly. Even though there shouldn’t be any wind here this far underground, his jet black hair started to float into the air.[gibberish]
An incantation flowed from his mouth. The surrounding magic circle began to glow brighter. The purple light, which was faint just a while ago, was already dazzling.[gibberish] [gibberish] [gibberish]
High. Low. Whispering. Singing. As if he were reciting a beautiful poem.
Magical language is made up of words. Each word, each sound, transforms into energy to control one’s surroundings. Even I, to whom things like magic were far beyond my abilities, felt it on my skin. The concentrated magic power thickened, and moved toward the parchment with my name written on it.[Filmina Von Lancent] – the words shimmered then peeled off the page and floated in the air. The letters unraveled one by one, then gathered together and became a glowing mass of light. But that light could by no means be called beautiful. It began to darken, as if resisting him, then blinked repeatedly. [gibberish] [gibberish]
He continued to chant. Glancing at Edi, his eyes shone bright enough to rival both the bundle of light and the magic circle. As if they really were the sunrise. And then,
At the same time, the mass of light scattered at once. No, that was wrong. The light that I had thought scattered once again gathered together, but it was completely different than before. It was more defined, and before long the blinking stopped, and what remained took my breath away.
That thing, floating in the air, looked like a baby. But after blinking I realized that it wasn’t a cute existence at all.
Dark red skin. A head too big for its tiny body. Large eyeballs with no white, completely black and glaring towards us. From the pointed ears to the jagged mouth, and sharp fangs. Its hands and legs were skinny, and it’s stomach protruded out. It flapped the wings sprouting out of its back, tattered and thin like those of a bat. Its appearance hit me as if I were dashed with a bucket of cold water.
I belatedly noticed that I was shivering. I wonder why. Again. Again I could hear a crying voice. Like the waves, drawing near and then pulling away, the voice became quieter, and then louder, and then quieter. It echoed inside my body. I felt as if that crying voice would carry me away.
At that quiet voice whispered into my ear, I swallowed. Filmina. That is mine. Nothing else, just my name. I didn’t move. Then, I was being pulled at my waist. I had a feeling that if I gave up my body to that warmth, the shivering would stop.
Pathetic. Really, if I do say so myself, pathetic. What a state of affairs. There’s a limit to how pathetic one can be. Even if it’s your first meeting with this magic beast, this is too much.
Yes, a magical beast.
To anyone’s eyes, this dark red creature is obviously a magic beast. That evil appearance, sinister and filled with evil intent.
Wielding the staff in one hand, and holding me tightly in the other, Edi continued to chant in a clear voice. From four directions of the room, dazzling silver chains stretched out to bind the creature.
「Kii」, the sound of nails scratching on glass, un unpleasant shriek made my eardrums throb. Enduring the impulse to cover my ears, I intently watched the scene. Edi stopped his chanting and asked the creature,
「I’ve got just one question for you, bastard. Tell me who made a contract with you and cast a curse on Filmina.」
A chilly voice, as cold as absolute zero. That voice, without one iota of emotion, indicated exactly how angry he was.
At Edi’s question, the magic creature’s mouth twisted.
「Kihihihi! Who would tell you? It’s your fault that our king…」
「I think I said I only had one question.」
As Edi talked, the silver chains tightened. He had no such thing like mercy. The creature writhed in an attempt to somehow escape its chains, but after glancing at Edi’s expression, I realized it was futile. The creature must have realized that too, and after showing a face of despair, it laughed as though it was broken.
Those black eyes goggled at us, looking like peering into the depths of hell. I shivered reflexively. Edi’s arm around my waist tightened its grip. As I leaned in to him, the beast laughed again, as if it were making fun of me.
「Kihihihi! That woman! Cursing her was easy!」
Its unpleasant, shrill voice beat against my eardrum.
「Unattractive, unskilled, useless! Hated by the spirits, an impure one!」
Against the barrage of resentment, I had no rebuttal. Why, because it was all true.
I’m not pretty, nor do I have any special talents. When I took this injury on my back from a high ranking spirit, I lost their divine protection- even general-purpose healing magic became ineffective. But I haven’t once thought that was a bad thing.
True, it would be handy if my injuries could heal quickly, but normal medical care works fine enough for me, so there’s no problem. That thought might be because of the memories of the previous me. But even so, even if I think like that, those around me don’t. Particularly, this man standing right beside me.
「Curse you! Curse you! Drown in eternal darkness!」
Edi muttered something quietly. Not noticing, the creature continued its verbal abuse. I wonder if eternal darkness would be like that nightmare. I see, that’s it exactly. Certainly, if I continue to see that nightmare, I would drown in it, and die. In that pure black darkness, with nothing but that crying voice, echoing.
「Curse you! Curse you! Curse y-」
「Shut up, I said.」
Edi suddenly let go of the staff, and it fell to the ground. The staff’s ornament resounded clearly, like a row of bells. The magic gemstone’s light faded, and the silver chains’ brightness dimmed. The creature regained its composure and made to ridicule me in its high voice again. But it looked at Edi and stiffened.
Before I could see Edi’s face to find what had happened, he separated from me and advanced toward the magic beast. Using the hand that used to be holding his staff, he reached out toward the creature’s head, his white hand a contrast to the creature’s red skin. And moving, almost gently, he gripped the monster’s head, and at the same time, there was a sound of something burning.
「Say it. The one who made a contract with you.」
The screams before were nothing compared to this one. This pain must be much worse than that of the silver chains. Unable to twist away, it simply continued to scream.
I smelled something burning. The smell was nauseating, and I covered my nose and mouth with both hands. Despite the fact that it was this bad to me, who was still a short distance away, Edi, in the thick of it, didn’t move a muscle. He simply gripped the creature’s head, watching its shrieking figure.
「I- I can’t tell you! That was part of the contract!」
The creature finally managed to get that out, piece by piece. From behind him, I couldn’t see what expression Edi was making.
「I see,」 he said, nodding, 「Then I have no more use for you.」
As if crushing an overripe, rotting fruit, he squeezed the beast’s head. It was over in an instant. The monster’s flesh, instead of staining Edi’s hands, dissolved into thin, sand-like particles, and floated away into space. Then, with a thud, an octogonal object fell to the ground.
It was wrapped in silver thread. If I said I wasn’t curious about it, I’d be lying. But before that, there was something more important.
「Edi, look at me.」
Even though I called him twice, he didn’t respond. Deciding that waiting anymore was pointless, I stepped forward, moving to face him. Looking up at that beautiful face, I placed my hands on his cheeks.
「And for what reason are you making such a pitiful face?」
「… I’m sor-」
「If you say it, I’ll pinch your cheeks.」
An outsider might think his expression emotionless, but to me it seemed like he was about to cry. Really, what a hopeless guy.
After all this, I wouldn’t let him say something like 「I’m sorry」. That wasn’t what I wanted him to say.
Before we came to this underground room, that statement he said was unreliable, I said again.
「It’s okay, Edi. I’m okay.」
The one who gave my the courage to face my nightmare was none other than this man. The scar on my back was only proof that I protected him. So I’m okay already.
But despite that, this man worries about me, more than I do. That’s why, no matter what, he tries to protect me. Even though that’s more painful to me than actually getting hurt.
「I couldn’t find out the name of the one who curse you.」
「Why are you acting like this doesn’t concern you?」
At him raising his voice, I couldn’t help but smile. Basically, what he wanted to say was that this curse wasn’t solved yet. Which was certainly troubling. My hands touching his cheeks, his sunrise-colored eyes cast down. I smiled at that hopeless man.
「You’ll be there for me, won’t you. So, I’m okay.」
At my words, he swallowed, and embraced me. Wrapping my arms around him, patting his back. It’s okay. It’ll be okay. If I have this warmth, I can believe that everything will be okay. Pretending not to notice the strawberry-blond face in my mind, or the crying voice ringing in my ear, I continued to repeat,