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   “I’m so tired…” said Lutz.


   The clip-clopping sound of the horse’s hooves was very peaceful. Seated on his own horse next to me, Lutz continued to stare straight ahead with vacant eyes, like those of a dead fish. Looking up at the blue sky, I didn’t respond. Neither of us really had the will for small talk.

   When we were kidnapped, I was first discarded on the floor of the wagon, and then I went a bit overboard with the magic I wasn’t used to handling yet. I was tense the entire time, so I’m worn out.

   At this point, I wanted to sleep quicker, even if it was only by a little.

   For now, our neighbors from Vind will be keeping the King of Sckellz’s private force in custody. Any further trouble popping up from here on out belonged to our comrades; our roles ended here.

   After a mostly uneventful questioning, we were sent on our way.

   The knights we were handed over to pointed out the frontier fortress the His Royal Highness seems to be lodged at, but we politely declined the offer to stay.

   At our response, the dedicated knights hesitated, but no one offered a protest after Lutz smilingly said, “It’s the first time we’ve ever been without the chokers, so if we were to lose consciousness and somehow lose control…no, there’s no question something will happen.”

   Even though he must have been even more exhausted than I was, Lutz seemed to share my sentiments.

   Even if we’re not much of a threat, it’ll be a pain if we make it difficult for others to stay in the castle, so we should hold back, I said, feeling full of apprehension, and he readily agreed with an obedience that was unusual for him.

   “I wanna…” he said.

He’d barely stirred himself, so I’d begun to worry he’d fallen asleep on his horse.

   What? I thought, turning to look at him. He continued to stare absently in front of him.

   “…go back.”


   The whispered confession was a common phrase.
   But it was the first time such words had ever passed his lips.

   When Lutz and I met at the orphanage it was summer and we were both seven years old.

   With his nearly white silver hair and pale skin, he was so faint he seemed to disappear into the background with the garden’s elderflowers. His delicate hands and feet had seemed out of place on a boy the same age as me.
   The only thing unique about his image, the deep indigo color of his eyes, had been bereft of life, and he’d barely seemed alive.

   How did you have to raise someone to create this pale imitation of the living?
   I understood the answer as soon as it occurred of me to ask the question.

   Lutz had always lived a life of concealment. With the exception of his parents, no one had known of his existence. Not the grandparents who lived far away, nor the people in his neighborhood.
   How? I wondered. As a newborn baby, there was no way they could have known he had the makings of a wizard. But even then, there may have been no saving for Lutz. His outer appearance was normal, but signs of his abilities may have already begun to manifest.

   When a wizard used magic, the color of their eyes often changed. Mine changed from red to gold, and Lutz’s changed from blue into silver.

   Had his parents become aware of it, and decided to lock him away? Since they were dead now, I can only surmise how he’s lived until now.

   When he was sent to the orphanage, Lutz never opened to anyone around him and ended up a loner.
   Well, even if you talked to him he just ignored you, so he got what he deserved. I became the only one willing to go up to him.

   My story was somewhat similar to his. The moment I was born, I was immediately abandoned in front of the orphanage. By the time we met, I’d been in the orphanage longer than the other children, and had become something akin to a surrogate big brother for the kiddos. I was fond of them, but I could never wholeheartedly think of them as family. Perhaps because vaguely suspected I was different.

   The more I yearned for the future which had rejected me, the more it frightened, and from time to time, choked me.
   Lutz continued to act indifferently to me, but only by his side did this pressure ease and I could breathe easier. The time I spent in his company increased.

   Behind the orphanage, there was a small mountain. A giant tree had sprouted out there, and the base of it had become his favorite spot. As soon as he finished his daily tasks, that was where he went, and I followed him as I pleased, sleeping on the branches of the giant tree. That became our daily routine.
   Lutz would read, and I would sleep. We barely conversed. Before the sun set, I’d say, “Let’s go back,”and he never once replied.

   I can say with confidence that the orphanage was probably not our home. Not for Lutz…and not for me, either.

   10 years old. Winter.
   I revealed the fact that I had magic to the Father.

   Several years before, I slightly sensed an uncontrollable power inside myself. Magic easily influenced the roll of emotions, and in my case, I was easily overcome with “rage”.

   I became irritated with the flowery speech he used to try and persuade me with.

   You know nothing! I snarled, my body quickly bursting in flames.

   When I saw how taken aback the Father was, a feeling of despair and resignation put me in check.

   So I really am a monster, I thought.

   It was only thanks to Lutz that I didn’t lose control then and there.
   Noticing something amiss, the children began to gather, with Lutz at the forefront. He held his hands out to my burning body, and froze me in a clash of our powers.

   “I’m the same type of monster he is,” he declared. I can never forget the look on the Father’s face. Fear and hopelessness. Contempt and pity. All the dark emotions boiling down in the same pot, and he looked at us with glazed eyes.

   And yet, the Father insisted we were “good children”.
   You’re good children, only strong in character. My important family, he said.

   He normally smiled when he came in contact with us, but if we displayed even a hint of magic, he would berate us, saying it was evil. Magic was the power of the Devil. The way he looked at those times, I’d verily thought he terribly resembled the Devil he spoke of.

   It came to a point where he no longer even became upset.

   The Father willfully turned a blind eye to us.
   He became desperate, and thought the problem would go away if he ignored it.

   For our sake, he wasn’t mad. He cared about us, so he wasn’t avoiding our magic. He was “the one who could not bring himself to accept the children”, that was all.

   Time flowed, and we turned thirteen.
   Our existence had finally been exposed to the kingdom, and our warped play of family came to an end. The Father laid eyes on the knights who came to take us under their care, and even though his lips moved in protest, relief shone on his face. Our relationship, which continued to ignore the strains, had deteriorated to the point where reconciliation was no longer possible. Without need for the coercion, the end probably occurred right before our eyes.

   We were taken to the royal palace, and that was where we met the princess, who was three years younger than us.
   Her gently wavy platinum blonde hair fell down in long waves to her back, and long lashes framed big blue eyes the color of a clear sky. Even for someone like me who barely touched books, she was the very image of those vaguely depicted storybook characters called “princess” with both her fluffy loveliness and her dignified beauty.

   However, contrary to her image of innocence, the princess who seemed to have been shaped with only beauty was sharp as a whip. While I’m at it, I’ll add she’s also rather strange.

   At first, we believed she had been ordered by her older brother to acquaint herself and win us over, but we soon discovered how very honest she was—almost to a fault.
   When we asked if she found us frightening, when she was told off for pitying us, she stood in front of us and answered that we were frightening, and that she did pity us.

   With the words returned so frankly, their poison lost its effect.
   We could also detect no falsehood in her words when she said she wanted to know us better. With nary a fragment of ill will to be found in her eyes, what choice did we have but to believe in her?

   She was someone propriety would never have allowed us to approach, but the princess never lost interest and continued to talk to us.
   She never got upset when Lutz rebuffed her, and little by little, she closed the gap between them. She brazenly said she’d feed him, but when she actually brought out handmade sweets, of course we found it surprising. There was never a single platter of sweets made by the her that had not been swept clean, for what she made had been even more delicious than the concoctions cooked up by the chef.

   No matter how cynical I was, when I was faced with someone who made so much effort to meet me halfway, I could no longer think it only a façade. Before I knew it, my heart had started to fill with the warmth she gave us.

   That was plenty for me.
   I would not ask the impossible, and wish that she accept us as wizards.

   Even though I’d steeled my resolve…

   She had already accepted us for what we were, long ago. She never averted her eyes like the Father had, she very naturally accepted us, and most of all, she stayed by our sides.

   As soon as I realized that, my shoulders had dropped in relief.

   Anyhow, no matter how cool we tried to act now it would be pointless, because we were a stove and an icehouse. When I thought of that, I found the thought so strange, so amusing, I could not stop laughing.

   I want to stay here, had been my thought.

   Family. Friends. Even if it was one between a master and her servant, I’d take it.


   “Mm…? You called?”

   I’d been lost in recollections of the past.
   From the way he kept looking at me in suspicion, it seems like he found my silence concerning.

   “What made you suddenly go quiet?”

   Your tummy aches? he added, and I stared at him in amazement.
   The slightly amused words sounded indifferent, but I could tell from the look on his face he was truly worried. It was a response I never could have imagined from the boy from the past.

   “Wow, you’ve really become soft.”

   “What! Someone worried about you, and that’s all you got to say? Are you making fun of me?” he said heatedly, looking at me in disbelief.

   Not only had he mellowed out, his range of expressions had become more abundant.

   “Nah, I’m touched.”

   “If it’s a fight you want, just ask.”

   “It’s all thanks to the princess.”


   Lutz’s pale cheeks began to redden.
   Lost for words, he turned his face away, trying to hide his blushing cheeks.

   “You’re stupid…”

   “Maybe,” I laughed with a light heart, and Lutz said no more.

   After that, we rode in silence to the royal city.
   Along the way, we napped when could during riding breaks, but by the time we finally arrived, we were completely exhausted. Half-dead things barely summoning the will to move.

   Weaving unsteadily on our feet, our destination was not our designated room, but the greenhouse we’d often frequented.
   There’s no guarantee she’ll be there, what are you thinking? Even I was amazed with myself. But I wanted to see her at any cost. And I had a feeling I could meet her there.


   I opened the door to the greenhouse.

   The guard knight standing next to her immediately reacted, snorting in displeasure. Try not to get mad.

   “Princess,” I called to her in a small voice.

   The dreadfully hoarse sound that came out was unlike anything I’d ever thought could belong to me.

   I feared it hadn’t reached her, but her shoulders shook as if she had heard.


   This time it was Lutz, like he was competing with me. That voice had the same husky, difficult to understand timbre.
   But the princess turned around. Her clear blue eyes found us, opening wide.

   They’re gonna fall out, I thought absently.

   “……, ……”

   Her trembling lips slowly mimicked the shape of our names. But no sound came out.
   She took a slow, teetering step. When her guard knight tried to offer his arm to support her, she waved him aside and gained control of herself, taking another step.


   Finally hearing the voice he had been waiting for, Lutz seemed embarrassed for he responded curtly.



   “Yes, princess?” I answered with undisguised delight, a smile stretching across my face.


   Overwhelmed with surprise, her eyes gradually blurred. Instead of a voice, the sound of air seemed to fall from her lips, and her face twisted into a smile.

   “Theo… Lutz…”

   Calling our names once more, jewel-like drops of tears slipped down her cheeks in rapid succession. One after another, they fell.
   Without hiding her tear-stained face, the princess cried openly. She spoke, sobbing without restraint.


   What I felt at that moment was great joy.

   If I couldn’t help my own crooked smile when I saw hers, then doesn’t that mean I’ve been wrapped around her finger?

   For without hardly a care to her appearance, she cried tears of happiness.


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