I wasn’t not sure when, but we were approached by the Princess herself. When I looked at her, I saw that she wasn’t wearing her pure white shrine maiden robes from the ceremony. She had put on a beautiful, deep crimson dress. She looked very poised and excellent. Just a moment ago she was smiling pleasantly while talking with leaders of foreign countries and charming them, but she must have made her way towards us on purpose. I was not sure if it was the right choice of action against the man in his present state, but thanks to the Princess’ arrival I ceased to express my emotions just as I was about to.
The man bowed once to the Princess with his emotionless expression and I followed. Of course, the Ambassador and Lucius both bowed as well. The Princess received the bows as a natural thing and swiftly turned to face the Ambassador. She stretched her hand. He took it and kissed it gently. He narrowed his eyes, as if looking at something very dazzling, sighed with admiration and relaxed his gaze.
「I have heard many rumors about Princess Clementine. A living gem, indeed. You bestow to us all a radiant light and truly indescribable beauty.」
His passionate praise and admirations were completely different from the greeting he had offered me. That didn’t sadden me at all, though. Deep inside I agreed with his praises and thought:「As expected, even such a man as the Ambassador is under our Princess’ spell. She really is our country’s, Valgentum’s treasure.」. I felt that his praising words were not sufficient, but the fact that he complimented the Princess directly was admirable… While I was thinking so, everybody’s gaze turned towards the Princess. I touched the man’s hand and entangled my own fingers with his, it was just for a brief second. He didn’t look at me, but I felt his fingers entwining with mine, which was enough. He let go instantly, but that short interaction, shorter than a second, filled my heart with warmth.
I wanted to calm him down with this gesture, but instead it was me, who felt reassured and calm. As usual, I’m only receiving. I thought that with regret, while the Princess got kissed on the hand and smiled in a relaxed and calm manner, so mature for her age. Such a smile on a beautiful lady’s face was a powerful thing. Even Lucius, being a beautiful person on his own, blushed slightly which made his eyes reflect the sun. The reaction of the surrounding people was very similar. The Princess, who seemed to be used to it, simply deepened her smile and opened her crimson, petal-like mouth.
「It’s an honor to receive such praises. However, as for the subject of your conversation with master Agedilus, it’s not the time and place for such talks. Do allow me to arrange an appropriate place for you to continue this subject another time and for now let us enjoy the celebration, shall we?」
Perhaps it was my imagination, but even though her smile was as dazzling as ever, I could feel a dangerous atmosphere around her, as her words seemed to be stinging.
It wasn’t clear if the Ambassador read the room and her mood well, but he simply said「Perhaps you are right.」and laughed shortly as he gave her one more bow. He quickly turned on his heel and without arranging any other meeting time, he walked away and disappeared in the commotion. Lucius followed the Ambassador, but he looked back at my husband several times with regret. His sunrise colored eyes hidden under long lashes seemed to be urging him and pleading「Aren’t you going to call after me? Aren’t you going to make me stop?」but after being reproached by the Ambassador, he resigned. His tottering figure looked like a disheartened little dog with his tail between his legs, that had finally gotten to meet his owner, just to get pulled away a moment later. How should I look at that elusive beautiful young man now? I knew it wasn’t the time and place to escape reality, but I couldn’t help it.
After that the celebration continued without any further disturbances. Even though we were still exposed to curious looks of the surrounding people, after a while we got less and less of them. As for that man, even though at first glance he didn’t look any different, I knew he kept thinking about Lucius and the Ambassador. He stayed absent-minded even after we left the palace and returned home. I was annoyed with myself for not being able to find any suitable words to say to him, as he continued to remain silent. Even as I changed from my dress to my nightgown and as we both prepared for bed, he said absolutely nothing and his face was hardened into a severe expression. I was certain he wasn’t actually angry, just worried. When I examined his beautiful face, usually looking like a doll made by a skilled craftsman and with a soul put inside, I thought that at that moment he looked more like an actual doll than ever. Before, however expressionless his face was, I could always guess his feelings with certainty. But since the celebration I could not see what was hidden in his heart, because of that, the only thing I could do was guess.
He was a man who held his step-father, my honorable father-in-law in very high esteem. His respect and affection was at an almost alarming rate. He was also a man abandoned by his family, who didn’t care about him at all, that was something we had both known for a long time already. But perhaps it didn’t mean that he had completely threw away the idea of having a「family」or that he has stopped yearning for it. Blood is said to be thicker than water. I didn’t doubt his affections but there were bound to be parts that were indivisible. If indeed he completely threw away the idea of「family」, surely he would not devote all of his affection to my father-in-law.
I spoke for the first time since the celebration at the palace.
He was sitting on a chair in his nightclothes, with the never-changing brooding expression. And at last, he turned his sunrise-colored eyes towards me and finally, finally looked straight at me.
「…What is it?」
「Spell it out, what is it?」
It was his usual voice. His cold voice, sounding as if he tried to push you away or to bluntly refuse you. It looked like nothing changed and everything was as usual, but strangely I couldn’t say anything. Naturally, there were things I wanted to say but even though I opened my mouth, nothing but air escaped them. I couldn’t utter a single syllable.
Of course he noticed the strange state I was in, got up and peered into my eyes.
「Filmina? What’s wrong?!」
Without realizing it, I fell into his arms. I wrapped my arms around him tightly, and hugged him with all the strength I had. He gasped trying to catch his breath and as I looked up to examine his face, I saw his sunrise colored eyes opened wide in surprise. I was starting to feel a bit embarrassed and self-conscious, but regardless I didn’t pull myself away from him. And while I held him and looked into his eyes, I finally found my voice and one by one I formed the words. I spoke as if to an infant.
「Edi, please, please, don’t forget that I am by your side. Remember that you have me, and Uncle Lancent, and Yuli, and the whole Adina family…!」
I wasn’t able to end the sentence. The man tightened his embrace and hugged me with all his might. I was buried into his arms to the point where I couldn’t move anymore. I wanted to see his facial expressions so much, but I know he wouldn’t forgive me if I looked.
「Yeah. I understand.」
With his face close, he whispered into my ear.
「I understand it well.」
He said it as if it wanting to let me know it was the most natural and obvious thing in the world. Still, he didn’t let me see his face. I wanted to say that he should let me see him while speaking such words, but for some reason I hesitated. I didn’t say anything. There were other things I wanted to say, but the only thing I could do was caress his back. It’s not like I wasn’t happy with him saying contently 「I know.」. But he didn’t get one thing. There was a difference between 「I understand.」and 「I know.」[1. TL Note: While in Japanese both mean ‘I know’, Edi’s ‘I know’ means ‘I know it in my mind’, while the other one means ‘I know it in my heart’.] And he didn’t get how big a difference it made. He had lived this way until now. When at that moment I realized that, I felt helpless and my heart became full of terrible sadness and loneliness.
I wondered what will that boy, claiming to be my husband’s 「younger brother」, bring to our lives from now on? That beautiful boy, that looked just like Edi. Who was not intimidated by him, like others. And who called him 「older brother」with such overwhelming affection, it was almost too much. I wondered…
I still didn’t understand many things, but I could say this one thing with certainty. I wished with all my might that he would not snatch that man away from me. Tightly held in my husband’s arms, I couldn’t help but pray for that to the Goddess in heaven.
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