The chirping of a songbird tickled my ear. It sounded almost like a group of young girls whispering and laughing about some shared secret. I slowly opened my eyes. Behind the intricate lace curtain, through the large window that connected with the balcony, the yellow morning sun shone into the bedroom. Morning had come, I belatedly thought.
A peaceful awakening, like always. I sighed with contentment. Next to me, my husband continued to sleep, breathing lightly. Blessed by a night fairy, he had both masculine and feminine charm, and at the sight of his androgynous beauty, I smiled. 「You tire of a beauty after three days」 might be the saying, but no matter how many times you see a beautiful thing, it’s still beautiful.
The fact that such a beautiful existence was my husband, particularly now that this was common knowledge, felt strange at times. But no matter how strange I, Filmina Von Lancent, thought it was, I had not even the slightest of intentions to let another person take my position.
At that thought, I remembered the incidents a couple of months ago, when I was cursed by Celves Sin Ronein, and when I was kidnapped by Lunamerie Elle Valentine.
I was this man’s wife. That was what he himself had assured.
「No matter what anybody says, no matter what happened, you are my wife.」
I had taken those words to heart, and had been passing every day as his wife. They had finally came, the peaceful days, without nightmares. Even the fact that, after a while, I was feeling a tad bit bored, made me happy. That each day was important and precious, I reminded myself every day.
Trying not to wake him, I gently kissed his forehead and made to slip out of bed, but my wrist was grabbed suddenly.
「You’re up already?」
His voice was deep, but pleasant to hear. I turned to look over my shoulder and saw that his eyes had opened, and he was looking at me somewhat unsatisfied.
Those rare sunrise-colored eyes peered from under his long eyelashes. Perhaps because he was still half-asleep, he was unusually listless. It was extremely attractive. If another person were to see this sight, it would make them giddy, but I had become used to it, so this much was nothing.
「Edi, are you awake? Please let me go. If not, I can’t get changed, much less make breakfast.」
「It wouldn’t be a big deal if you didn’t do that today.」
「Ara ara. That’s not something the head magician of the kingdom should say. Besides, you have work to do today too, don’t you?」
He met my logic with silence, letting go of my wrist with reluctance. Geez. The fact that this spoiled man was the kingdom’s finest magician, one of the world’s heroes, Agedilus Von Lancent, the world is incomprehensible. That a man with such an absurd title would be my husband, was even more incomprehensible.
You couldn’t tell on one glance, but since I knew him so well, I could tell that that was dissatisfaction on his face, and at his pouting face, I smiled.
「Don’t make such a face. Today, I’ll bake your favorite cheese cookies, okay?」
「Don’t treat me like a child.」
「Ara, but you are acting like a child. My cute Edi.」
I smiled widely as I made to leave, and he made a sullen face and sat up on the bed.
「What’s wrong? I don’t mind if you keep sleeping…」
But I wasn’t allowed to finish my statement. His hand stretched out and gripped my chin, and stole a kiss from my lips. That soft sensation left me flustered and he made a mischievous smile.
「Who is a child?」
The fact that that was all I could say was extremely vexing. Not because I couldn’t think of a comeback, but because I had left the bed, as if to run away.
Kissing, up until now we had done numerous times, but I still wasn’t able to get used to it. Whether that was because of the previous me, that there were still vestiges of the me from Japan, or if it was just the current me’s character, I wasn’t sure, but regardless of why, I hadn’t gotten used to it.
This man knew that I was weak to this sort of skinship, and sometimes would do this sort of thing. I couldn’t help but think of him as unfair.
「Well then, I have to prepare breakfast. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.」
His reply was brief, but at his smile I internally grinded my teeth as I entered the adjoining room. I quickly got dressed into my usual, what other people had called 「plain」 clothing, and tied my long hair up in its usual style, then departed for the kitchen.
「But I really do want to get used to this already.」
Walking through the hallway, I muttered to myself. Still feeling the sensation on my lips, I pressed a hand to my flushed cheek, and sensing the fast beating of my heart, began to plan the day’s breakfast.
I meandered uncertainly through the bustling marketplace. I tried to weave through the pockets the waves of people going this way and that, but even so I’d constantly almost bump into someone and have to apologize, as I worked my way forward.
If I lost focus, it felt like I would be swallowed up in the hustle and bustle. Back in the time before the demon king had been subjugated, this sight would have been unbelievable. In those days, many shops closed down, and the few that stayed open were all very expensive. Public safety was at an all time low, a women out walking alone was unthinkable. Compared to that, now everybody was smiling and the shopkeepers called out to the crowd, chatting with the people walking through. It made me grateful for the peace.
In the market, various flowers were used as decorations here and there. It wasn’t as if there weren’t some that had bloomed early, but the vast majority were still in buds. Now there were already an uncountable number of them, but soon there would be an absurd amount, and this whole market, actually the whole city, would be covered with them. The reason behind them was the Great Festival that would happen soon.
I referred to it as that, but that wasn’t actually the official name. It wasn’t as if it didn’t have an official name either, but it was in the holy language, and there wasn’t a good translation for it. The closest term was the generic 「Flower Festival」but that was just but one meaning of the festival. It was a harvest festival to express gratitude to the goddess. The Great Festival hadn’t been celebrated during the time of the Demon King, but this year it had finally been reinstated.
It was still more than a month until the actual day, but the market was already getting into the mood, more lively than usual, the people dashing this way and that. Without noticing, I got swept up in the atmosphere, and got persuaded into buying more groceries than normal. And before I had come to the market, I had borrowed a fairly heavy book from the kingdom’s library.
And the result of that was, needless to say, quite heavy.
Anyway, it was heavy. The amount of weight I was holding in both hands made me want to sigh, but I managed to endure it. I had a feeling that if I did sigh, my heart would break.
I looked down at the basket I was holding, and realizing that this was what I got for buying too much stuff, I sighed. Shoot, I was trying not to do that. I felt that I could hear the sound of my heart breaking. I stopped my feet, and this time, let out a large sigh.
No, don’t give up, me. If I can make it to the main street, I can get a carriage. I’ve just got to somehow make it to there.
Readjusting my hold on the basket, I renewed my morale. Suddenly, the moment I stepped forward, I felt a solid impact. For a moment I didn’t understand what had happened, but then I realized that I had run into a person in front of me. Timidly looking up, I felt an intense sense of regret.
A crowd of three rough looking men surrounded me, making vulgar smiles as they looked my way.
「Oi, oi. That hurt.」
「That might have broken a bone, huh?」
「You’re gonna take responsibility for this, right?」
Smiling, they said those rehearsed-sounding lines. I was troubled, not knowing whether I should be scared or shocked. I tightened my grip on the basket. Breaking a bone simply by being bumped into, what a terrible case of calcium deficiency.
Speaking of that, just a while ago, the lady at the flower store had said that lately some unseemly thugs had been hanging around this area, and to be on my guard. And just now, I remembered that.
They wouldn’t bother a plain looking girl like me, I had said smiling to the shopkeeper. Sigh. I supposed that these were the guys that she had been referring to. I looked up at them. One of them smiled broadly, and snatched my basket.
I unconsciously let out a cry. One of the men grabbed me, and that feeling sent chills down my spine. It was unbearably uncomfortable.
「Please let me go.」
「「Please let me go.」 she says. Don’t be haughty.」
「It’s not like I hate this type of woman though. With this sort, once you get them in bed, they get wild.」
「Oi. Before that, pay my medical bills.」
「While you’re at it, give us some tender nursing.」
What medical bills? What nursing? Don’t joke with me. That sort of thing, even if you fell to the ground begging, I’d refuse. At the very least, go fix your face and then come back and ask.
Or that was what I thought, but I didn’t say anything. The one who had his arm around my shoulder pulled me into an empty alley. He pushed me up against a wall, and I bit my lip in the process. The basket was still in the men’s possession, and I was surrounded with my back to the wall. I couldn’t see a way out.
I unconsciously touched the bracelet that Edi had given me, still around my right wrist. He had taken a child stone from one of the magic gems in his staff to use as the main piece, and because of that this was connected to his staff. If I used this, he’d probably get here immediately. But, but even so. Even under normal circumstances, he was swamped with work. Was calling the kingdom’s head magician really okay? Although he would certainly say 「If you have time to think that, hurry up and call me.」
Even so, my will power stopped me from doing that. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it strength, but as his wife, to hold that position with pride, I didn’t want to rely on him whenever the going got rough. Because it was him, Though, if I requested his help, far from being displeased, he’d actually be happy. But, if I continued to do that, someday I’d lose my place as his equal. I feared that much more than my current predicament with these men.
And while I was engrossed in these thoughts, I was silent. The men grew angry at the fact that I didn’t look particularly scared or flustered, and threw my basket on the ground.
The ingredients were strewn across the ground, along with the book that I had just borrowed. I unthinkingly let out a loud cry, and they smiled, trampling the groceries underfoot. One picked up the book. To go so far as to trample food, must be a damning act. Thinking that it would be nice if the goddess smote them right there, I glared at them.
「What are you doing?」
「It’s your fault for spacing out, isn’t it?」
「Exactly. Even though you’re a girl, reading this big of a book.」
「Rather than a book, we’re much more fun to play with you know.」
At their remarks, I clenched my trembling fist. What were they saying. 「Playing」 with them, or reading, there was no need to compare. To even propose a comparison was impertinent.
「Regarding the fact that you all have ruined my groceries, I will reluctantly let slide. But I won’t overlook the book. Please give it back.」
「Please show us exactly how you won’t overlook it.」
「Don’t touch me!」
The man in front of me stretched his hand out to touch my cheek, and I instinctively slapped it away. Th sound resounded through the alley. Shoot, I thought, but it was too late. Looking at his red hand, he grew angry.
「I had thought I’d treat you gently, but then you do this!」
「Don’t be so stuck up!」
One of the men threw the book against the ground. In that instant, something fluttered out from the pages.
Panicking, I tried to pick it up, but just before I could get to it, one of the men got there a step faster.
「…A bookmark, I think.」
「Please give that back!」
He was holding in his hand my bookmark, which had been between the pages of my book just a moment before. Several years ago, back when Edi had still been in the Magic Academy, I had sent him a handkerchief embroidered with a wood sorrel, and in return, he had given me this bookmark, of a pressed daisy. To me, it was one of my treasures.
The men must have been able to tell from my expression and voice just how important the bookmark was to me, as they grinned broadly at each other and feigned self-importance. One made a disgusting smile.
「I was mistaken. This isn’t simply any old bookmark. It looks like this bookmark is verrry important to this lady.」
「Looks that way.」
Smiling, the men exchanged looks, and then looked down at me. The man dangled the bookmark right in front of my eyes, but when I moved to grab it, he held it out of reach. I simmered with irritation.
「Please. Would you give that back?」
「That depends on you.」
「Right. If you pay our hospital fees, we’ll consider it.」
I could feel my body trembling. Not out of fear, but out of anger. My left hand touched the bracelet around my right wrist. Calm down, calm down, I told myself. In this situation, because of these guys, if I called Edi, I’d never forgive myself. Even if Edi himself would want me to call him in this situation.
I wracked my brain trying to come up with a way to deal with this with my own power, but nothing good came to mind. I couldn’t do anything but silently glare at the pair. That seemed to get on their nerves –
His hand came up and I instinctively shut my eyes. 「Ahh, I messed up.」 For some reason I was strangely calm. Taking a solid blow to the face like this would definitely swell up something fierce.
Edi’s quiet, furious figure floated through my mind. 「Why didn’t you call me?」, he would ask quietly, and then find these men and scheme some revenge. He really was a troublesome guy.
I knew that, and still didn’t call him right away. I knew that, and yet still – come to think of it, I had been bracing for the inevitable pain of this strike, but it never arrived.