My thoughts suddenly rise up at that voice. That faint yet audible crying voice gets distant, before disappearing.
What I heard from behind was a familiar voice, and an all too familiar name. 『Suzette.』 That's not my name. But it took me a few seconds to realize that voice was calling out to me, not someone else. I know only one person who would call me by the name of my wet nurse.
「You've got some nerve to ignore me, eh?」
It seems the person got irritated at me for not replying, saying more words full of displeasure. I get up from my chair and turn around. Then, I take my same old plain dress in my hands, lightly lifting it, curtsying for the high-class noble talking to me.
「I'm so sorry. I was just a little surprised. How wonderful seeing you after so long, Sir Celves.」
Saying that, I lifted my head to see deep blue eyes, not even trying to hide their displeasure. Then, hair that was white mixed with grey, in plaits long enough to reach his back. His facial features are well-arranged, certainly looking very high-quality for an aristocrat's son. His name is Celves Sin Ronein.
The Ronein family is one of the grand aristocrats of this country; he is one of the people who take that name. He's recently been working in the Black Lotus Court, which I know because of the black robe he wears.
I met him just a few months ago, when I had just started turning up at the library like this.
Back when this nightmare wasn't tormenting me, when I would simply read magical books for no particular reason other than I found them interesting. I was sitting in this seat when I happened to hear a certain conversation by chance.
It was not something pleasant to hear by any means. From the other side of the bookshelf, I heard what sounded like some people - probably two men - curiously quarreling with a young boy. They were saying things like 『Don't get too cocky,』 and 『You're just a commoner,』 very loudly in a library that's supposed to be one with silence.
The boy, on the other hand, was unable to find any proper replies, going 『Um,』 and 『Err…』 Was this the so-called bullying? Jealousy towards a boy that had a bright future ahead of him? I didn't know the details from the other side of the bookshelf, but it was probably something like that.
Should I butt in to stop them or not? I hesitated for a while. I would like you not to simply say 'of course you should have stopped them.' My deepest apologies to the boy, but my own safety is also dear to me. I didn't want to awkwardly get involved. But since I'd noticed the argument, just ignoring it weighed on my conscience. No, but, still.
Those scornful words had no signs of ending no matter how much I heard them. It was then that it happened, as I was racking my brains over just what was really going on. It was then that I heard those words.
『You're disgusting, Black-Hair.』
Thud. The chair I was sitting on made a surprisingly loud sound. By the time I realized it, I'd forcefully gotten up. The voices from the other side of the bookshelf suddenly stopped. With the same force as when I got up, I went around the bookshelf.
Standing there was that man's disciple, another boy whose hair compared to my father-in-law Lancent's certainly had black mixed in it, albeit just a small amount. Surrounding them were two men with the light grey hair that wizards often have.
By all rights, I should have let the matter drop. But even though the men surrounding those boys were wearing the black robes from the Black Lotus Court, which all the elite wizards in our country belong to, I couldn't stand their words.
At first, the two of them looked surprised when I suddenly appeared from the other side of the bookshelf. After realizing I was nothing more than a mere girl, they looked relieved, before smiling as if ridiculing me. Looking at them, I sweetly smiled. Saying, 『There's something I would like to ask you.』 They furrowed their brows in suspicion; I took no notice of it, simply continuing.
『Since you gentlemen are two of the greatest wizards of our country, I thought you would be able to answer me.』
I'm sure there's no doubt they thought I was a woman saying silly things. But it seemed their curiosity was piqued at the phrase 'greatest wizards of our country', so they smiled broadly and said, 『What is it?』 Thanking them, I smiled and continued.
『Sir Wizards, how would you describe the color of the night sky?』
『What about the color of the ink that writes beautiful poetry? What about the color of the coal that warms you from the winter cold? What about the color that makes gold or metal, gems, pearls and corals, all so beautiful?』
『Oi, what are you sayin'?』
At my continuous words, the two men as well as the boys opposite them all blinked in surprise. I softly smiled at just those boys, before once again putting on that expressionless look called 'a smiling face' I inherited from my father. I slightly tilted my head to the side.
『Please tell me, Sir Magicians. What color are the robes that you wear?』
『What do you wanna say, woman?!』
『Don't you understand?』
Even though I was smiling on the outside, I nodded at those words on the inside. 'Ah, that's right,' I knew it myself too. 'I'm being just like that man, aren't I?' Was I really the kind of girl that said such offensive things like this? No no no, it's not supposed to be as horrible as the things he says. They do say married couples begin to resemble one another, but I haven't been through married life for that long yet.
I knew I should've had my fill and shut up, taken those boys away somehow, and escaped from there right away. But despite all that, my mouth just wouldn't stop talking.
『You yourself wear that black with pride, yet you look down upon the black of others. Don't you think that's just funny? Oh, or perhaps, you know that you don't suit that color yourself?』
Finally livid, one of them raised his hands despite being in the middle of those narrow bookshelves. I didn't try to dodge or run, just simply staring right at them with an expression full of anger. It was that moment.
『———What are you doing?』
You probably understand already by now, but I'm going to be frank with you. It was that young man Celves who made his entrance then.
The boys who were standing still trying to completely forget about the men, went even whiter in the face at the sight of the new black robed person. I simply clicked my tongue on the inside, 'Oh, another one?' But the two wizards' reactions to him were different from what I expected.
The one that had raised his hand towards me seemed to realize him, lowering his hand and went completely pale. The other one was also the same by then.
『Guinea, Tonay, what are you two messing around for? Was the work I gave you really that simple?』
He said those words indifferently, his expression unchanging. But as if that wasn't already enough, it seemed as if he was sprinkling sarcasm freely over them. At his words, the two of them said, 『『I'm sorry!』』 and ran away.
Celves also said, 『Leave now,』 to the boys, who ran away so hurriedly as if he'd lit a fire at their tails. The only ones left were me and the young man Celves, looking at them leave with a cold gaze.
『……I give you my thanks.』
『I was just criticizing my subordinates for playing around. Don't get the wrong idea, it makes me sick.』
His response to me was, how to say……. How do I put it? Yes. It awfully reminded me of a certain someone from somewhere. I won't make any reference to thoughtless questions like who that certain someone was. In my usual manner, I replied to him.
『I'm sorry about that. But it's true that you saved me. If I stayed like that, I would most likely be hurt. The one who saved me from that was none other than you.』
『……I don't think being pushy is a virtue.』
『That's just how I am.』
I smiled at the young man in the same way I always smiled at that man. He glanced at me fleetingly before letting out a cold sigh. Even that completely cold action reminded me of a certain someone…… Namely, my husband. I couldn't help but smile.
『Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.』
I looked down to hide that smile, holding both sides of my dress and bowing in thanks to him. When I raised my face, I saw a bewildered light in the young man's deep blue eyes. It stayed for just a moment before quickly vanishing. Then there was nothing but the same cold light as when he appeared here.
『You, what's your name?』
That's why it was surprising when he asked that. I reflexively ended up shaking my head.
『Me? Oh, I'm nobody important……』
『You're not even going to give your name to the person that saved you?』
Earlier he said he was just warning his subordinates, and now he was talking like this. As I felt it was somewhat ridiculous, I was about to say 'Filmina' but I stopped. It would be more accurate to say I couldn't.
It's true that I've used the name Filmina as identification countless times to enter this national library. But surely neither my father nor that man would do something like go through all the trouble of searching for my name throughout the entire enormous visitors' list. So that was fine.
But leaving that aside, of course I hesitated over naively giving my true name to a young man that was that man's colleague in the national library. Now, if you asked me whether Sir Celves really seemed like the kind of man that would tell his coworkers about each and every single conversation he had like this, that would be greatly perplexing.
But there was still a worst case scenario. So what left my mouth was:
It was that. The name of my beloved wet nurse who had always been with me since the day I was born. That was the first name that came to my mind. Of course, I didn't give him my surname. But he didn't press me further, briefly replying, 『I see. I'm Celves,』 and leaving. It wasn't until later that I realized he didn't tell me his own surname either.
How many times had we met when I found out his full name? In those days, I'd sit at the same seat every day with a magical book open. For some reason, he started calling out to me before also sitting with me.
He could easily read the magical words I couldn't as if it was just a normal book. Although he'd say, 『You don't need to know this,』 he'd still teach me how to read them.
In the midst of all that, it was a complete coincidence that I saw the name 'Celves Sin Ronein' on his belongings. There probably isn't a single person in this country that doesn't know the Ronein family. It's one of the grand aristocrats that everyone has heard of at least once.
But I pretended not to notice. Even though it's now been months since we met, I still pretend not to notice. Because if he hasn't said it himself, it probably means he doesn't want me to know or talk about it.
Being from a grand aristocrat family, there must be lots of restrictions and obligations placed on him. Wizards are, in a sense, beings set free from social statuses. But the world isn't kind enough to just settle it off with just that.
Anyway, that's how someone from the noble Ronein family, one of the young elites of the Black Lotus Court got acquainted with me. And for now, we're building a not-bad friendship. Though for instance, when I get up from my chair and especially thank him, he simply snorts his nose, 'hmmm'. Looking at it from an outsider's perspective, it would seem like he's behaving intolerably.
It's no big deal if I'm snorted at. Because although that man has slightly quietened down since we got married, his sharp tongue is still the same. He definitely does thoroughly criticize me.
「……Oi, Suzette? What are you doing, zoning out?」
「Oh, ah, no. It's nothing.」
I should bow, but instead I simply shake my head and reply to Celves as he dubiously looks at me. I messed up, I ended up getting lost in thought. He looks down at me incredulously with his deep blue eyes.
「Were you perhaps dozing off there?」
「No, definitely not.」
「Is that so?」
I smile, and he moves his eyes from me to the table. His azure eyes squint, scrutinizing, before returning back to me. What he looked at was the magical book I had open.
「How many times must I say 'this is too much knowledge for you' before you can understand it? Have you still not given up?」
「I do agree with you, but this isn't a matter of giving up or not.」
At my response, the young man grimaces unpleasantly. He really thinks that I want to be a wizard. No matter how much I tell him that it's not like that, I really just read these books out of curiosity, it seems he doesn't understand properly. And so, every day he tells me things that would break the heart of any person that actually wanted to be a wizard.
Certainly, there aren't many people that read magical books just out of simple curiosity. Although it's strange for me to be saying that, considering how just until recently I myself read magical books out of curiosity.
But from today onwards, it's not just a longing for magic. I have a clear reason and goal: To get back my peaceful sleep. I may be an eyesore for Sir Celves who doesn't know that and simply sees me as someone who keeps doing pointless things, but I won't give in to just this.
I don't think I can become a wizard, but can't I find out the origin of that nightmare myself? ……Although, to be honest, I have started thinking impossible things like 'It'd be better if I just became a wizard myself to deal with this nightmare situation.'
Stifling a sigh, I look up at Sir Celves only to see him suddenly tilt his head. 'What is it?' I also tilt my head to the side in confusion. Then, in a voice I've never heard him speak in before, he asks:
「You look pale.」
He says that faster than I can ask, 'What do you mean?' I instinctively blink in surprise. Does his voice contain, by any chance, something like worry? To think that he'd realized… Did the makeup I wear to better my face in order to stand beside that man give me away at a time like this?
I'm at a loss for words. At my reaction, he thankfully murmurs, 「Just my imagination, huh?」 It seems like he hasn't realized. Relieved, I smile at him like usual.
「Sir Celves is the one here that really shouldn't be working so hard.」
He already has skin so white I envy it, but it's somehow far whiter today…… Actually, it even looks pale. I shouldn't be the one pointed at in this situation.
At my words, his deep blue eyes widen in surprise.
After a slight silence, he nods. I blink at that unusual yet honest, meek gesture. He stares intensely over here before quickly leaving. I peek at his retreating figure to see his ears were slightly red.
At times like this, I think he's even more charming and lovable than that man. If it was that man here, first of all he wouldn't even have nodded like that, and he wouldn't show me anything like his ears getting red.
'That's why the fact that he got red at the sight of me in my wedding dress on our wedding day is so important to me.' Thinking that and watching the young man's retreating figure, I once again sit down and begin turning the pages of the book.