I smile and try to separate from him, only for him to tighten his arms, which have moved from my cheek to around my back in the blink of an eye. I don’t even have the time to tilt my head, ‘huh?’ before I’m tightly hugged just like that.
Despite him being thin, he has arms that you can clearly tell are a man’s. It’s a bit suffocating to be hugged by that strength, but more than that it’s comfortable. My body is filled with a warm sense of security. It feels like I’ll definitely end up falling asleep like this.
If I relax, it feels like that crying voice is trying to echo in my eardrums. But if I’m in these arms, it grows distant; that, coupled with my lack of sleep these days, makes me drop my eyelids.
「Filmina, wait. Don’t sleep yet.」
Feeling so good in his arms, I’m about to fall asleep but his voice brings my thoughts back to reality. I manage to somehow regain my swaying consciousness, slipping out of his now relaxed arms to look up at his face.
As I do, he thrusts his hand towards me, a small cloth bag in it. I blink in surprise. He continues, 「Give me your hand.」 I do as I’m told, reaching my hand out, and he drops it into my palm.
Judging from appearance, it looks like an ordinary talisman bag. The purple bag is tied up with a long string, probably to wear it on my neck. I can’t tell what’s inside just by looking, but judging from touch, it seems there’s something hard inside.
「May I open it?」
Urged by his nod, I untie the string on the talisman bag, dropping its insides into my palm. The sight of the object takes my breath away, just like when we confronted the demon.
I can’t say anything else. My sleepiness vanishes in a second.
Inside the talisman bag is the octahedron that had fallen to the ground after this man destroyed that demon. Its surface gives you the impression that it’s smooth glass; it’s the same as that demon, a dark red color that’s difficult to call beautiful by any standards. Coiling around it over and over are thin white threads. If it was just that object, it could only be described as bad luck and ominous. But the white threads strangely alleviate that.
‘Why this?’ I can’t put that question in words, but it must’ve gotten through to him. He lifts up the object from my hand, putting it up to right in front of my eyes to show me.
「This is the core of that demon.」
I tilt my head, and he returns the object to my hand. I take it without protest, staring fixedly at it. The more I look at it, the more I can see it’s an object that gives an impression of bad luck to whoever looks at it.
It’s not glass, it’s not steel, it’s not even a kind of precious jewel. Just what is this octahedron object? I compare the man’s face with this object, in the end unable to do anything but tilt my head in confusion. He then says something inexcusable that I just can’t let pass.
「Yes, it’s the core. Or perhaps I should say, it’s where the demon’s life resides.」
……What’s with that ominous explanation? I can’t help but feel like hurling it out of the window. From that explanation, it clearly can only be something dangerous. Before I can object, he continues.
「I couldn’t find out the person’s name, but it’s a truth that that demon was connected to the person that cursed you. By all rights, I want to have that destroyed too, but since he didn’t say that. That’s why this core was left. This is a clue connected to the culprit. Although, it’s really annoying.」
He grandly clicks his tongue. I’m reflected in his sunrise-colored eyes, making a delicate expression. He probably can tell each and every single thing I want to say but I’m not saying. But he, my husband, purposely ignores them, tightening his otherworldly, androgynous beautiful face. He grasps the demon’s core in my hand.
「You probably don’t want to, but keep this with you. If you come in contact with the culprit, it’s going to respond without fail. I cast a charm on it.」
「Respond? How so?」
「You’ll know when it does.」
His answer clearly doesn’t have enough words in it, but he probably won’t answer me if I keep asking any more. If this man says 『you’ll know when it does,』 then that must be true.
「……Understood. By the way, what is this thread around the core?」
Perhaps it’s because the core is such an ominous color, it makes the beauty of the silver thread curled around it look all the more beautiful. It’s certainly not just a thread. Besides, I feel like I kind of remember seeing it somewhere. But I can’t remember what it is. As I squint at it, he easily says:
「It’s the princess’s hair.」
It takes me a moment to comprehend what he said. I raise my head from the core to state at his face. The princess’s hair…?
Just how and why did he get that? It’s completely impossible to understand. I know I respond a more than usual to things related to the princess, or about my father-in-law Lancent.
I can’t just let what he said right now slide like that. ‘What do you mean?’ I ask with my gaze. He lets out a sigh, as if implying he expected my reaction.
「While this may be just a core, a demon is still a demon. If you keep that with you all day and all night, I can’t say there won’t be a negative influence on you. This is a countermeasure against that. Since the princess’s hair alone, with the divine protection of the goddess, has plenty holy power in it. There’s nothing more sacred than this for an intermediary with a demon’s capture.」
「T-that may be true but, still, to actually receive the princess’s hair……」
「Calm down. I didn’t even have to ask her for it, she gladly offered it herself.」
「……Well, I’ll have to give my thanks to the princess once again.」
I certainly can’t say that I’m not at all reluctant to carry this ominous object. But if even the princess has cooperated with me, then there’s nothing else I can say. I’ll say it’s best to obediently carry this around with me.
But if I take this man’s words at face value, doesn’t it basically mean that unless I come in contact with the culprit, this core is a completely useless object?
No matter how much I struggle, no matter how much this man is here for me, this culprit that we still haven’t caught fills me with anxiety.
I have no information besides the assumption that this person is probably a wizard, I have no idea who cast this curse on me. Just how useful would this core really be?
「——This is just a theory, but. There’s a high chance that the person that cast this curse on you is probably near you.」
Those are unexpected words. What does that mean, near me? I don’t remember noticing anyone that suspicious around me. As if replying to the question I couldn’t put in words, the man continues matter-of-factly.
「The princess called it 『the seed of the flower,』 which is correct. If this was a normal curse, the one taking care of this 『seed of the flower』 would be a demon. But this time, it seems like the demon just planted the 『seed』 and didn’t do anything else. If so, the person raising this 『flower』 has to be none other than the one that cast the curse.」
I feel like I understand, but also don’t understand. I understand that the person taking care of the flower usually would be a demon, but this time it’s the person that cast the curse themselves. But how does that turn into this person being ‘near me’?
「If the curse still continues even after we destroyed the demon the culprit made a contract with, we can consider that the culprit is directly interfering with you. I don’t know if the culprit is aware of this or not, but considering the curse is growing worse, it’s only natural to think that they’re in a close position to you. Because curses are a kind of magic. It can be said that the closer a spell-caster is to you, it more or less has an effect.」
I can do nothing but nod vaguely. At any rate, in summary, it means that the culprit is near me and when I come into contact with them, this core will have a reaction.
It’s rather irritating that I can’t attack them as soon as that happens, but even so, this is a big step forward compared to when I’d blindly rummage through magical books by myself, not knowing anything about them.
I put the core back into the talisman bag, tie it up, hang it from my neck til it reaches my chest, and hide it in my dress. I suddenly feel a gaze on me. ‘Hm?’ I lift my head to see the man making an unusually sad face, looking at me.
「……Do you think you can’t depend on me?」
I blink in surprise at the unexpected words. This isn’t a nice way to put it, but just what the heck is he saying?
「I’m called the Head Wizard and yet I can’t break a single curse on my wife, I’m just standing here and watching. It’s laughable.」
He says that in a self-deprecating way, bitterly laughing. It’s not like him at all; in fact, it’s timid and fainthearted just like when that incident happened a long time ago.
I snap my finger at his forehead. Those sunrise-colored eyes widen in surprise. I swallow down a sigh, looking at him as he’s at a loss for words. Really, just what idiotic things is he saying?
「What are you saying? Who do you think has helped me stay here for so long without losing to that dream?」
I know that right now, this man is the one putting more effort in than me, the actual person that got cursed. I know that he’s prioritizing me over everyone and everything else. I know that he worries over me while neglecting himself, thinks of me dearly more than anyone else.
How can he call that laughable? If anyone has a problem here, I’d like them to certainly come forward. If anyone wants to have a fight over this, I’ll gladly take up the challenge.
I smile, moving closer to that man. He grimaces, burying his face in my shoulder as if to hide it. His arms wrap around my back. He hugs me tightly just like that. I comb through the black hair right beside my face with my fingers entwined.
「You should blame me more.」
I can’t help but smile at those whispered words. His breath on my shoulder feels ticklish.
「Oh my. Shouldn’t you be the one blaming me more, Edi?」
「What would I blame you for?」
「Because I’m the one that stayed quiet and let this whole situation get worse.」
「But it was my responsibility to realize that.」
「You were just enjoying this life so much, weren’t you? That’s why we’re even.」
He doesn’t enjoy the feeling of an everyday lifestyle, and yet he still enjoyed living with me so much. There’s nothing worth more than that. If he could relax around me, that makes me so happy. But even so, he still doesn’t realize these feelings of mine, raising his head and saying this as if he’s so completely surprised:
「You’re such a softie.」
Rude. That’s certainly a way to speak to the woman who’s your wife. I have no intentions of being a softie. I chose this man as my partner. But even though I chose him, this man probably doesn’t realize that the special one here is him. ……Well, if he did, he wouldn’t say complaints like this.
I smile like usual at my husband as he slowly raises his head to look at me.
「I’m depending on you, my dear husband.」
His eyes widen for a second at those words, before he finally smiles. At that bold smile, I’m relieved here. As a natural smile spills from me, he too smiles naturally.
「——Yes. Of course.」
Then those lips, meeting mine as if it’s only natural to do so, are strangely sweet.