「Ow! Ow ow ow!」
Instead, I heard the man cry out. I opened my eyes, and the scene in front of me made my eyes open wide.
「Let go of me! Ow ow ow!」
The hand that the man had raised to hit me with was being pinned by an unknown tall figure. That figure was wrapped completely by a long cloak, wearing a deep hood, which, at my height, made it impossible to make out the face. Aside from the figure’s tall height, I could tell nothing else, age and gender were both a complete mystery. The figure let go of the man, and he fell to the ground pathetically.
「Hey, are you all right?」
「Shit! What the hell do you think you’re doing?」
I stood dumbfounded. The men that had accosted me became enraged. But the mysterious figure showed no sign of worry. It slipped past the men’s punches as if dancing, and took from its pocket a bundle of short poles connected with a chain, which was studded with red orbs that resembled magic gemstones. The figure pulled on the tip of the chain and the bundle changed into one long pole. I pulled the name of that strange weapon from the previous me’s knowledge: Ah, I see, it’s called a sectional staff.
While I was processing that, the figure wielded his staff, and swung it once through the air. The men began to tremble in fear, but, as if not able to admit defeat, they rushed on the mysterious figure once again.
But the difference in skill was obvious even to an amateur like me. The staff cut through the air, at times thrusting, at times sweeping. In the blink of an eye, the three men have been forced to the ground. I could do nothing but watch.
「Um, excuse me!」
「Don’t screw with me! Stop right there!」
As the mysterious figure silently turned to leave, one of the men arose staggering, and taking out a knife from a belt wrapped around his thigh, rushed at the figure. I instinctively jumped at the arm holding the knife, but I was one step too slow.
Bright red flew through the air, but not my blood. The mysterious figure held his arm, and turned around.
「Heh. Serves you right!」
The figures staff mercilessly came down on the man’s head, and he fainted. I let go of his arm. The only people still conscious were me and the mysterious figure.
「Is your injury all right?」
In response to my question, the figure said nothing. This was awkward. Extremely awkward. I had some amount of confidence in my communication ability, but being met with absolute silence this whole time, I had no idea what to do. It was like Edi when he was very young. He would only ever say the minimum amount necessary. This figure in front of me had the same feeling.
Putting that aside for a bit, the mysterious figure folded its staff and put it away, and then crouched down and picked up the book and bookmark off the ground. Knocking the dust off, it held them out to me.
I took them and examined the bookmark. Because of the men’s rough treatment, the paper had gotten slightly twisted, but the pressed flower appeared unharmed. I sighed in relief. I looked up at the mysterious figure, but it had already moved and was about to disappear into an alley.
I ran up to it and grabbed it’s cloak. I sensed a somewhat annoyed feeling, but I ignored that and bowed deeply.
「This bookmark is an extremely important possession of mine. I cannot express my gratitude.」
As expected, no reply. That was fine. I took out an embroidered handkerchief from the pocket of my dress coat.
「I am extremely sorry about your injury. I am afraid I can do nothing more than stop the bleeding.」
A red line of blood ran down the white skin under the torn cloak. Because the cut was done with a sharp knife, it was likely that the cut ran deeper than it looked. I wrapped the handkerchief around it and tied it tightly. I nodded, satisfied with my work. Next, it would have to go to a doctor or a priest and get it treated.
It would be nice if I could use spirit or light magic, but while I had some amount of knowledge, with regard to actual ability, I had none. All I could do was use the handkerchief to stop the blood.
「This will do for now. Please take care.」
Then, I looked up at the figure’s face. At this distance, I could peek under the hood, and what I saw there was
I swallowed. What I had seen under the hood was not a face, but a mask. Covering the entire face, a silver mask. Neither masculine or feminine, but a detailed mask that had a dove, wings outspread, carved into each cheek. The symbol of peace. That was proof of involvement with the temple that worshipped the goddess.
I released my grip on the figure’s arm, and in the instant, it flourished it’s cloak and disappeared into the crowd of the main street. I could only watch, dumbfounded as it left.
After the figure left, I once again went about buying groceries, and made my way back home. As for what happened to the three men that accosted me, I left them with the knights that were stationed near the market.
It would have been fine just to leave them there in the alley, but letting those guys go without punishment might mean that they would do the same thing again. Particularly with the Great Festival approaching, the knights ought to handle these things.
Fufufu, the ruined groceries had gotten their revenge. The wrath of food was frightening. Thinking that, I stirred the pot.
「Now then, this looks about right.」
I ladled out a bit of the carefully simmered vegetables and sausage soup into a small tasting dish, and started to blow on it. Judging that it was cool enough, I tasted it, and the umami of the vegetables and salty seasoning of the sausage melded into the perfect flavor and filled my tastebuds. I smiled. That one was done. The flavor wouldn’t clash with the main dish, an herb-seasoned whitefish, either.
「It’s about time for him to get back… ara?」
Speak of the devil. The magic gem affixed to the doorway of the kitchen began to sparkle. That reaction meant that the master of the house had returned.
It looked like today he had been able to leave at the prescribed time. Thinking that that was quite a rare event, I extinguished the magic gem that provided a heat source for the pot, washed my hands, and headed to the entrance.
「Welcome back, Edi.」
In response to the daily greeting, my husband shed the black robe that was proof of his post at the Black Lotus Court, and smiled lightly.
「The food is ready. Let’s eat it while it’s still hot.」
「Yes. By the way, Filmina, did anything happen today?」
I lost my words. 「Did anything happen today?」was a question he asked every day. And I almost always responded 「Nope, nothing.」 But today was different than most days. Well, even so, in the end nothing big came of it, so there wasn’t any huge need to tell Edi about it, so I wasn’t intending to, but I messed up. I internally clicked my tongue at my blunder. I had gone silent, and his gaze was piercing.
「What do you mean, 『Eh』?」
I folded his robe and averted my eyes, and that deep voice questioned. This was bad. Unable to respond skillfully, I stayed silent. He sighed lightly.
Not angry or shocked, although I was ready for either of those as I looked up at him, but instead, that pale, beautiful face just smiled.
But that smile didn’t relieve me at all. It sent chills down my spine. Timidly calling him by name, his smile deepened.
「If you don’t want to tell me that’s fine. Instead, I’ll just have you show me directly.」
Confused, I cocked my neck. He took my right hand. On that wrist was the magic gem bracelet that he had given me. In a theatrical manner, he raised my hand and kissed the bracelet. I became aware that my face had gone red.
Where exactly had he picked up these sorts of embarrassing displays of skinship. This was terribly frustrating. Still smiling at me, he continued.
「Do you know what this gem can do?」
「Yes. Only roughly though… wait, by some chance, Edi?」
During a previous incident, he had told me that it had functions that resembled a listening device and GPS. Honestly, it felt somewhat like I was on a leash, but what with the incident with Lunamerie, and the fact that I was the wife of the kingdom’s head magician, I thought I’d have to endure this level. But I didn’t have conversations that I needed to hide, and I didn’t intend to go to places that I didn’t want him to know about, so I didn’t really mind. But, if it was the case that this bracelet could do more than that, and by the way he was talking, it was…
「Um, are you saying that this bracelet is capable of replaying my actions?」
Actually, hadn’t he said that? As long as I was wearing this bracelet, if he felt like it, he could see all of my actions.
I hadn’t done anything to feel guilty about, and I was the one who had caused him to worry so much. I closed my eyes. This was bad, I thought, filled with unease. As if he could sense that, he smiled, unusually kindly. This was a rare, precious expression. But this wasn’t a situation where I could say 「What a nice smile」.
「If you’d told me what happened, I wouldn’t need to use a more forceful method. Oh well.」
Still smiling, he reached for my arm. The gem started to shine faintly. Panicking, I shook my arm away.
「I understand! I’m very sorry! Um, I just met with a little trouble in the market, is all.」
「Yes. But I was saved by a kind person, so it didn’t come to anything.」
It was a very strange 「kind person」but I didn’t go into that. More importantly, I had told him the truth as he requested, but for some reason he looked dissatisfied, which bothered me.
「I’m not hiding anything else.」
「Okay. If you say so, I guess that’s fine.」
His tone made it seem like he had more to say. I looked up at his sullen face, and he muttered,
「Why didn’t you call me?」
「…I would have wanted to save you.」
Not knowing what to say, that was what came out. He slipped past me into the dining room. That those normally pale ears had turned bright red was not my imagination.
He was, perhaps, pouting? Reaching that conclusion, I couldn’t help but smile.
「Please wait a bit, Edi. I’ll reheat dinner.」
We had taken longer than I had expected in the entryway. The whitefish and vegetable sausage soup that I had gone to all the trouble to make were probably already cold.
Suppressing my smile, I came up to him and he glared at me. Far from making a crying child silent, that glare of one of the world’s heroes could make even a laughing adult break into tears. But I was used to it, and his blushing face took away all of its intensity.
「I’m quite pleased with how today’s soup turned out. Please enjoy it.」
Smiling at that straightforward reply, I fell into step next to him. Then, the memory of the incident at noon flashed through my mind.