Lucius shot a fleeting glance at my husband. Even though he looked as if he expected something from the man, he remained silent and didn’t respond in any way.
I felt somewhat sorry for that pitiful boy who at that moment followed me out of the drawing room to the guest bedroom, with his shoulders dropped in discouragement. I had half expected Yulifalet to stay with us in the mansion during the festivities, so I went ahead and prepared the spare bedroom just in case, so it was more or less prepared for the sudden visitor. Be that as it may, I would have never expected that it would be used by such an important person.
Before long we reached the bedroom door and I turned around to look at young Lucius.
「Master Lucius, here is your room. Please feel yourself at home.」
「Thank you very much, ehm… Madame Lancent.」
I noticed that he said my name hesitantly, avoiding my gaze. While I was opening the door, I smiled at him and said.
「Master Lucius, feel free to call me however you wish, as long as you feel comfortable.」
Immediately after I said the words, just like before, his mood changed in an instant. His eyes brightened as he smiled widely and said「Well then…」in a reserved manner.
「Uh… Can I call you sister – Filmina-neesan?」
…Ooh, I didn’t think about that. It was such an unexpected question that I was at a loss for words. But that’s it, isn’t it? If that boy is that man’s「younger brother」, even though they didn’t have the same mother, that would make him my younger brother-in-law, wouldn’t it? Right? Right. I didn’t think so far ahead to reach this conclusion earlier. Regretting my own blunder internally, I put on a smile and nodded at him.
「Yes, it would be an honor.」
If my own younger brother heard this, I’m sure he would yell at me 「That’s not funny!」. He wasn’t even present, but I couldn’t help but worry about him. To my response Lucius relaxed his gaze and smiled ever so broadly. His face was so similar to that man’s, but of course there was no way Edi would ever make such a face expression. To this gentle face I finally relaxed. At the same time I noticed Lucius… Could it be that he has been even more nervous to talk to me than I was to talk to him?
Unintentionally I put myself on guard, but in fact, that young boy had a sort of sweetness in him that made a person not want to leave him alone or neglect him. Naturally, I did believe his story from a logical standpoint. But still…
「Well then, master Lucius, as soon as the dinner is ready, I will call you again.」
「Yes, thank you, I will appreciate that.」
I waited until he disappeared behind the closed door and turned on my heel. But instead of heading to the kitchen, where the half-finished meal was waiting, I hurried back to the drawing room.
There I found the man sitting on the sofa in exactly the same manner as before, his posture straightened, his face expressionless. It was quite mysterious. The only change in his appearance that I could see was that he brought his pale white hand to his chin.
From this gesture I figured that he was pondering, but I would rather he had expressed a more understandable reaction to the story we had heard. Suddenly, a different thought popped into my head.
No, no. After all, it’s fine. When I thought about it, such a reaction was enough. A man with his face full of expression and excessive gestures would be a completely different person to me. Young Lucius is a good example of that. I realized that even though they are like two peas in a pod – minus the age gap, hair color and the fact that my husband had a scar under his left eye – the differences in their speech and conduct or face expressions make it impossible to mistake one for another. No matter how similar they seemed, I only had one husband.
Standing behind him I called 「Edi」. He hadn’t moved in the slightest until that moment. Finally he looked at me over his shoulder.
「It took you a while.」
「Oh, is that so?」
His curt words sounded more indifferently and coldly than usual. I walked around the sofa and sat next to him. His facial features looked as beautiful as ever. I was used to seeing this face, but this time it was even more still and expressionless like a mask than usual.
I stretched out my index finger and poked his cheek. He moved his eyebrows in surprise and looked at me. I smiled broadly. Unable to conceal his surprise he let out a sigh, took my finger in his hand and rested it on his lap.
「What are you doing all of a sudden?」
「It’s because you didn’t move your face at all. I was checking to make sure it didn’t solidify.」
「There’s no way it could happen.」
His words mixed with a sigh were more gentle and affectionate than I’d expected. But even though his voice sounded like that… nay, because his voice sounded like that I felt a heavy burden in my chest, as if a gloomy shadow covered it.
I stared fixedly at his face. There was no anger, nor surprise in his beautiful androgynous features. Just like his voice it was gentle and I couldn’t read the emotions behind it. I wanted to be more sensitive to his subtle signs of emotions but this one was too hard to read.
「Is Master Lucius really your younger brother?」
No matter how much they resembled each other. Even though his sudden claim of being my husband’s 「younger brother」was followed by an explanation, I was not able to swallow it without chewing. Troubled, the man nodded in a serious manner.
「So it would seem. During today’s convening His Majesty himself explained it to me, so I think it must be true.」
He spoke calmly as if he was talking about somebody else’s business. But no, rather than being calm, it was simply「empty」. It seemed as if he purposely eliminated all his emotions from his voice. I wasn’t sure anymore in what way was it best for him to speak. At any rate, it was clear that he wasn’t planning on saying all kinds of things about young Lucius.
「…….is that right? Well then, I shall proceed with the dinner preparations.」
With him behaving like this all I could do at that moment was to go on as my usual self.
Since the man said so, I feared it was likely that young Lucius was indeed Edi’s younger brother of a different mother. It was the truth. I finally understood the reason behind this morning’s royal summoning. By telling him the truth His Majesty was also giving him a warning. As the Kingdom’s Head Magician, he plays an extremely important role in our country. He wasn’t only letting my husband know about the fact that he was a blood relative of Lucius. More than that, he reminded him about his position to restrain him before he acted in any way. He must have referred to the man’s character flaws. I knew that it was proof of how important this man was to the Kingdom, but I was sure it couldn’t have been a pleasant conversation. I also couldn’t help but think that understanding and consenting were two different things.
「Now, Edi. To make Master Lucius happy, I will try my best to cook a good dinner, so let’s make this evening enjoyable, shall we?」
Let’s use our skills to make him happy. I exited the drawing room leaving the man deep in thoughts once more.
While I was walking down the corridor, I thought about how young Lucius’s sweet smiling face looked so differently than that man’s, even though their features were so similar. What was he about to bring into our lives? It was only a short moment of peace and quiet since the events that happened on Nibbelata Island. I was overly sensitive and nervous about even the slightest change.
The boy was only going to stay at the residence for two weeks, but I hoped nothing would happen. Wishing that, I hurriedly headed to the kitchen.
It was the following morning. I was in the kitchen preparing breakfast for one more person than usual and rethinking the events of the previous night. The dinner was memorable. It’s not that the menu was that wonderful. It was the people present, the two men of excessive beauty sitting together. While eating the first course, Sole meunière, I thought that even though it was my own home, it felt like a faraway place.
Lucius was smiling broadly and chatted my husband up at any chance he got, to which the man responded with the bare minimum words he could. I couldn’t help but quietly observe the difference in degrees of enthusiasm with cold sweat. Lucius was an important figure from our neighbouring country, so he was not a person to be left neglected, which is why the man kept him company to some extent. There is no doubt that, were Lucius only his 「younger brother」, he would probably ignore him completely, only opening his mouth if he felt like it.
Considering that, I couldn’t say that man’s interaction wasn’t relatively fine… No, after all he was being unreasonable, and Lucius’ behaviour was proof enough of that. During the dinner, at first his voice was lively and encouraged but he gradually got more confused and uneasy, lost his confidence until in the end he hesitated to say anything and mumbled with every sentence. After that the dinner, that was supposed to be enjoyable became more like a wake.
Naturally, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for young Lucius and wanted to somehow help the boy but my every attempt died down because of that man, just like a rescue ship that encounters an iceberg. Just like the day before, the boy had to return to the guest room disheartened with his shoulders dropped while I watched him unable to find any words of comfort or encouragement.
Perhaps, in spite of his appearance, he has learned his lesson and gave up on trying to get closer to that man? Had he been treated this way during their first meeting, perhaps he would have been shocked and angry. I was miserable to think that the funeral-like atmosphere of the previous night should continue for the next thirteen days. I also hated the number thirteen. It was too ominous.
I stifled a yawn while grieving about the next few days as I was preparing consommé broth soup. Suddenly I heard the small kitchen door open. Thinking that it was my husband, who was already up when I woke up, I looked up from the pot of soup. There stood an unexpected person. Peeking from behind the kitchen door he said.
「Good morning, Filmina-onee san.」
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