It was fine to receive the ‘talisman’ from my husband, made of a demon’s core and the princess’s hair. But there certainly hasn’t been any significant changes so far.
The days pass, and every time I have a nightmare that man wakes me up. The nightmare shows up whenever I sleep. It tries to capture and imprison me day and night, but I’m always rescued just before that happen by him. Every time I wake up, I see him looking at my face with an expression full of relief from the bottom of his heart. All I can do for him is smile back like usual, and there are days I think it’s irritating.
——But, however. These past few days have been different, not just a little but bewilderingly different.
「……It really is so bitter.」
Those casually muttered words are sucked into the mountain of books surrounding me, and disappear.
I return the now-empty teacup to the saucer, letting out a sigh. I pour in more medicinal plant tea from the teapot on the low table, bringing the cup to my mouth again. The bitterness spreads through my mouth, making me want to grimace.
It’s a flavor unlikely to be popular by any standards, but this much is just perfect for me right now. This medicinal plants tea is especially made to keep me awake; its peculiar scent and taste clear away the mist of my consciousness, which feels as though I’ll be dragged into sleep if I relax.
I blink repeatedly to clear away the heaviness of my eyelids, leaning onto the back of the sofa and looking up at the ceiling. What I see is not the familiar light flower pattern of my home. It’s a simpler, plain, monochromatic ceiling. I look around my surroundings to see various books from all ages and countries, and equipment that I have no idea what it’s used for, all lined up crowded and piled up.
For some reason or another, I can’t settle down in this atmosphere completely different from my home. Trying to deceive this sensation, I bring the teacup to my mouth once again.
Now that I’ve said so much, you probably already understand.
Right now, I’m in a corner of the royal palace, in the Black Lotus Court, in that man’s laboratory.
Attending the palace not to go to the national library, not to deliver a present either – for no reason at all, really. And on top of that, walking into the head wizard’s laboratory. I may be his wife, but it’s really impossible for me to relax like this. I know that. But there are unavoidable circumstances for this.
This is all because the other day, as I was making dinner, I finally lost to my sleepiness and collapsed.
He has been coming home at a regular time since he found out about my curse, so early as if he never came home late at all. He thought it was suspicious that I didn’t come out to greet him when I usually do, so he looked in the kitchen only to see me collapsed there. I myself only realized I had collapsed because he woke me up with a desperate expression on his face.
Luckily, it didn’t turn into something more serious, but he saw the whole incident as grave. So he started bringing me along with him to the laboratory when he attended the palace. Should I follow his example, the audacity of dressing me in a spare black robe and grandly entering the palace? Even though I’m just uneasy, wondering when I’ll be caught.
It’s turned into a rumor the past few days. The mysterious person wearing a black robe with the hood pulled deep into their face, walking with that highest ‘black-hair’, the beautiful man who is the ‘hero of the saved world’ — I’m going to be honest with you, that person is me.
By the way, I haven’t told Widnichol about the details of this situation. But he’s a clever boy, so it seems he does faintly suspect something has happened. But he still doesn’t say anything, perhaps because he trusts that man – his master – so much, or perhaps he thinks that man won’t answer him even if he asks. …… It’s probably both. Good god, that man really has a well-balanced disciple.
‘Shall I bring one or two baked sweets tomorrow again?’ Thinking that, I finish the last of the medicinal plants tea in one mouthful.
I slowly turn there at the voice that interrupts my thoughts. As expected, there stands the man I know very well. He sits beside me, holding a really very heavy-looking magical book so lightly as if he’s used to it. At the relief on his face, I realize it seems I’ve once again made him worry.
It would be easy to settle it away with a few words like ‘he’s overprotective’ or ‘he’s prone to worrying’. But it’s none other than me that made him like this. That’s why I smile like usual, just to put him at ease. That’s all I can do.
「Don’t worry, I’m not sleeping.」
「Then it’s fine.」
To be honest, no matter how much medicinal plant tea I drink, my sleepiness doesn’t change. But even if I say that now, it won’t be solved at all. All it would do is pointlessly make him worry and lose his peace of mind.
It’s very difficult to keep trying not to sleep. No doubt even this man knows that. That’s exactly why at random moments, he shows up at the break area in the laboratory where I am.
「Edi. I’m very sorry, but may I please borrow your shoulder for just a minute?」
「……Are you sleepy?」
「Yes, a little. It doesn’t matter if I only sleep until you go back to your seat there.」
「I’ll wake you up right away if you make any sounds.」
「Alright. Thank you.」
Alright, I’ve got his promise. As he opens the magical book he has on his lap, I lean my head on his shoulder. I smile just a little at how his shoulder is just the perfect height, closing my eyes.
The darkness under my eyelids should be scary, but now it’s just comfortable. If I was alone, soaked in that darkness, it would be a direct course to that nightmare. But now, the warmth supporting me from beside certainly keeps me in reality.
At how comfortable it feels, I unconsciously snuggle closer to the shoulder of the man I lean my head on. As I do, something gently covers my body. He probably put a lap blanket or something on top of me. I giggle with my eyes closed, feeling a hint of sullenness beside me.
Oh my, that’s rude. I thank the man for still not waking me up, not even moving his body from that posture for me. My body soaks in a nap, as if melting drowsily.
But it’s not long before that peaceful time shatters.
The man’s body shakes with a twitch. At the same time, I open my eyes too at the talking voice approaching here. The only people supposed to be here in this laboratory now are me and this man, and then Widnichol. Considering that neither me nor this man has spoken, the only one left is Widnichol. But the talking voices approaching here are somehow mixed with a voice that isn’t his.
I feel like the man’s gentle atmosphere somehow changes, raising up my body and looking up at his face. He looks at the passageway, an expression on his beautiful face as if clicking his tongue in displeasure.
「You can’t go there—! I’m telling you, you can’t—!」
「Oh, but why? Sir Agedilus is in here, isn’t he?」
Two voices I remember hearing——particularly the second person’s sweet, lovely voice like a songbird’s chirping. My body naturally stiffens. I can’t forget that voice even if I tried. Because it’s a voice I hear every night in my dream.
I reflexively pull my body away from that man, moving to the other end of the sofa. He stands up without a sound, standing in the way in front of the passage to hide me.
「Sir Agedilus! At last, we can meet!」
My body unconsciously trembles at that joyful voice. I don’t even have to say she is, that beautiful girl with a smile all over her sweet features, her carefully brushed strawberry blonde hair flowing down her back. I quietly lean forward on the sofa, peeking at the other side of the man’s back. Not having noticed me yet, there stands Lady Lunamerie Elle Valentine, gently laughing like a spring breeze.
「You seemed busy lately so I’ve been refraining from visiting, but I just couldn’t bear it any longer. Have I made you angry?」
「……No, it’s not—」
「Ah, thank goodness! Oh right, I brought you a present. These are some baked sweets I had our family cook make, I hope they suit your taste.」
She keeps talking, her expressions abundantly changing from one to another. Even from the eyes of me, the same gender as her, she’s very lovely. Then, she proudly presents the smallish basket she holds in one hand to the man. I can’t tell what’s in it from all the way over here, but if it’s handmade baked sweets by the Valentine family’s cook, no doubt it must be splendid. Definitely more so than the ones I make.
I can’t call out to her. I know he doesn’t want that. He probably wants to take her out of this place just like that without realizing I’m here. Just because I know that, I can do nothing but closely watch the situation with bated breath from the sofa.
As I do, my eyes meet with Widnichol, watching the man and Lunamerie just like me, standing behind Lunamerie with a puzzled expression on his face. He soundlessly mouths, 「S-o-r-r-y.」 Even though it’s not his fault. I can do nothing but smile wryly at him as he honestly apologizes to me.
「Sir Agedilus, how about we have some tea soon along with these sweets?」
「No, I still have work to do.」
「But if you keep working so hard, you’ll ruin your health.」
「I’m greatly obliged to you for your kindness. If you have something to say, please tell me over there. So I can’t……」
That’s my husband, completely, fully, and easily cutting off even a beautiful girl’s innocent words so bluntly. I can’t help but worry a little if the man’s alright. But I can’t awkwardly interrupt into the conversation. In the end, I can do nothing but silently watch. As I do, suddenly from beside the man, Lunamerie peeks to where I am. Her amethyst-like eyes see me.
「Oh, Lady Filmina?」