The nightmare that visits me every night is unchanging, and I feel like it's getting deeper day by day. At first I was half in doubt over it. But now, It occurred to me that 『What if it's magic that's causing it?』 I mean, it could be magic, right? Right from the start, this nightmare that kept bothering my peaceful sleep every night just seemed 'unnatural'.
Just who would do it, and why? There are endless questions, but I decided as my top priority to first do something about the nightmare.
And now, it's already been a few days since I started going to the national library for this. I'll stop beating around the bush and say it upfront: I haven't been able to find anything…… Not even a single thread of clarification about the source of this nightmare.
「To think I've come up empty handed today too…….」
Muttering that to no one in particular, I close the magical book in my hands with a thud. I've started feeling kind of pathetic.
I didn't think I could easily figure it out from the start, but of course it's depressing to keep blindly fumbling in the dark like this. It's really quite troubling that my sleep deprivation is adding to it.
My body feel tensed from all this. Stifling my sigh, I reach out to the next magical book. What if I go for a book on light magic for a change? Even if the reason for my nightmare isn't written in it, there may be something on how to improve the situation. Hoping for that, I opened the bulky book on light magic on the table. It was then that it happened.
I hear bells chiming beautifully from outside the window, stopping my hand as it was about to turn the page. It's the chimes of the clock tower that towers above all else in one corner of the palace. Ding-dong, ding-dong. That sound still echoed around even in the days when the nation's people were terrified in the demon king's shadows.
At that sound, I close the magical book and stand up. I return the books piled up on the table back to their original places. I get the basket and dress coat on the chair beside me, and also my parasol.
The bells indicate that it's midday. In other words, it's time to have lunch. Yes, today, I didn't just come here only to find out more about the reason behind my nightmare. I have a proper, full-fledged reason I can say loudly, my chest puffed up with pride.
I lightly nod in greeting to the librarian; since I come here almost everyday, we became acquaintances before I realized it. Then I leave the library, stepping out into the corridor. I can easily slip by the guards I come across halfway through, by showing them the bracelet that man gave me.
It's needless to say where I'm going. I'm going to that man's place of work, the Black Lotus Court.
I know from experience the further I go inside, the less people there are. I look down at the basket in my hand. Inside are the sandwiches I made this morning. It must obvious who they're for by now.
Since we eat breakfast and lunch together at home, I didn't realize it for a while. But thanks to secret information I received from a certain cooperative person…… I.E., that man's disciple, the young boy Widnichol, I found out that that man usually works without having lunch. Since then, I've been making him lunch like this.
I usually make sure to make something as simple as possible so he can take it along with him in the morning. However, since we overslept today, I couldn't do that. There are many reasons why we overslept, like the typical reasons for newlyweds or because of the usual nightmares, but either way, that's why I'm bringing him lunch today.
I know that he wants to hide not only our marriage, but also the fact that I exist. The Black Lotus Court isn't a place I can freely waltz in like this. But even so, I want him to forgive me today. I've dropped by until here countless times, but today I came here especially.
「……It's no good.」
The dream I saw last night was the most horrible one until now. It was a dream where as I kept hearing that crying voice, my feet felt like they were sinking down like in mud. I barely managed to wake myself up, but it makes me shudder to think about what would've happened if I hadn't been able to wake up.
They do say that sleep is one of the big three desires of humans, but do we really get so helpless if we don't get it? Judging from the common sense of the 『past』 『me』, a woman intruding upon her husband's workplace is nothing but nuts. But thankfully, this world is rather easy-going when it comes to matters like that, so I freely take advantage of it.
His laboratory is located in the innermost depths of even the Black Lotus Court. There is a fixed route that goes straight through the Black Lotus Court. But it's much more faster to go around the palace courtyard and to his medicinal plants garden. And on top of that, it's not very visible to other people either, so it's rather convenient.
Holding up my parasol, I go down into the courtyard from between the pillars, and in the blink of an eye I travel along a trackless path that I'm used to. Finally what comes into sight is the familiar scene I expected.
All kinds of plants are coming out in that medicinal plants garden; there is a young girl hard at work with the harvesting, her shears going snip, snip. An acquaintance, I called out to her from outside the garden.
「How do you do, Miss Arche?」
「Eh-oh, Lady Filmina!」
She shakes in surprise at my call, before raising her head and looking here. Her eyes are the color of black tea, open wide in surprise. When I wave at her, she hastily runs over here. Her walnut-colored hair is done up in a rather short ponytail, cheerfully shaking. It looks just like a puppy's wagging tail, and I can't help but relax at how charming it is.
Arche Mashie is the brave girl that whimsically accepted the unthinkable position of becoming that man's gardener. When she reaches here, she quickly lowers her head. She's just an ordinary cute girl, but she must be incredibly capable for that man to allow her to enter his garden, when he doesn't accept compromise in work at all.
In reality, it seems the quality and harvest number of the plants and herbs here has greatly increased from when that man controlled the garden all by himself. I still remember when he unusually said, 「She's not bad,」 even though he's the type to seldom praise people.
I myself gratefully enjoy her blessings as well. One of them is how that man's special blended medicinal plants tea has greatly increased in variety. Another is the delicious Delia nut I receive, once in fashion with the young girls but still popular even now. Yet another is that through that man, I got a chance to see those early-blooming white flowers, valuable as both herbs and flowers.
I first met her by the side of a pond in this palace's garden. I was walking along the same path as I did today when I saw this young girl sitting by the side of the pond.
I wondered if she was sick, calling out to her. What came in reply was a grand crying voice. I couldn't do something like ignore a sobbing young girl, so I stayed with her until she stopped crying. But I certainly didn't think she was that man's gardener. I'd heard that he employed a skilled gardener, but who could have thought it would be this girl, so young?
The young girl who had kept working for that man before he became the hero that saved the world, when he was just a rare 'Black-Hair'. I could imagine things like——what was she thinking, working for such a man? I didn't mean to be dense enough to not realize the meaning behind that gaze she looked at him with, full of that passion.
That's why I ended up giving her my name. Not Filmina Veer Adina, but Filmina Von Lancent. Told her that I'm his wife.
Now, I think it was embarrassing. Being jealous towards a girl who could be my own child considering my mental age, going as far as to restrain her - there's a limit to immaturity, if I do say so myself.
Yes, back then, I just said those words out of a light jealousy. But now, why is it that I'm tormented by a deeper jealousy——by anxiety? I don't have enough self-confidence to allow someone to actually have feelings towards that man.
If he wanted to leave me, now is his chance since I haven't been made public yet. His beauty may be androgynous enough to look like a beautiful woman, but he's still a 『man』. It wouldn't be that strange if he ran to a cute girl younger than me, would it?
I want to think 'that's not possible' but for some reason, this anxiety still remains in my chest no matter how much time passes. When did I start feeling like this? It couldn't have been like this in the beginning. But even so, for some reason… On the inside, I'm puzzled at the doubts that rise up within my heart. Once again I start feeling like I can hear that crying voice.
「……Lady Filmina? What happened?」
「O-oh, I'm sorry. Just a little dazed.」
For some reason, I feel guilty at those black eyes looking at me full of worry. She's a good kid. She really is a good kid. I've come to know her in person by visiting this garden countless times and talking to her - she really is a kind-hearted girl.
That's why I feel so guilty at what I said when we first met. I'm her crush's wife - to her, I'm a being that's way beyond just a pain in the butt for her. But despite that, Miss Arche always gladly keeps me company. Ah, her cute smile is so dazzling. I'm realizing just how narrow minded I am.
She looks at me as if to say, 'are you alright?' I smile, lying. At times like this, the 'smile mask' I inherited from my father comes in handy. As the name suggests, it beautifully hides my innermost thoughts.
「Ahaha, thank you for working so hard. It's already lunch time but you're still making such an effort.」
「Huuuh?! Oh no, is it already lunch?」
'That reminds me, I'm hungry,' Arche puts a hand on her stomach. That gesture is once again so cute, I can't help but truly smile this time.
「Thank you, as always. Here, you can have this if you like.」
I take out some baked sweets wrapped in wrapping paper from the basket I'd brought, putting it in Arche's gloved hands. She blinks in surprise, looking at me as I smile at her.
「It's a reward for you always working so hard. Please eat it whenever you're free.」
「T-thank you so much! Aaah, I'm so happy!」
Arche smiles widely, looking at the wrapped package as if it's something important. By the way, inside are the cookies I baked yesterday. I always make sure to bring something for Arche whenever I come here, as much as possible. It's the least atonement I can do…… Or not, but for now, she's happy to have them so I approve.
「Has Edi already been here for the day, Arche?」
Along with Arche who starts working early in the morning, that man also goes to work early. It's to preserve the plants and herbs Arche harvests while they're still fresh, but today he left unusually late. Worrying over me as I couldn't wake up early, he especially went to the trouble of making breakfast for me.
Since I have additional experience from my past life, I have more housework skills than maids when it comes to areas like this. But that man can easily surpass me even when it comes to that. He really, truly is a man that can do anything skillfully.
Now if his civility and communication skills were also flawless, he would truly be perfect…… No, I'll stop myself. Thinking of him being sociable with a dazzling smile is just creepy. All people are more likeable when they have some flaws. Nodding along to myself internally, I look at Arche. For some reason, she looks around, fleetingly glancing at that man's laboratory.
「Um, Lady Filmina, today is……」
「Oh my, so this is Sir Agedilus's garden!」
A voice covers Arche's words, lovely just like a songbird's chirping. I and Arche both look to see where it came from. Then, I can't help but gulp.
A girl stands there, so beautiful she could be mistaken for a flower spirit.