Editor: Gold Swallow
On the night before I departed for the expedition, Nidel-dono, in bird form, entered from the window as I was making preparations for the journey.
I’d expected him to come today, and thus was ready to halt my preparations.
「Sorry, are you busy?」
「No, I’m already done with all the preparations.」
Nidel-dono, who’d returned to his human form, gave a small laugh, saying “Is that so.” Ever since those rumours had spread in the Royal Palace, Nidel-dono’s expression had clouded over a little. When I thought of how it hadn’t clouded over because of his own situation but rather because he was concerned for me, it made me exultant being worried over like that.
I gazed at Nidel-dono.
When I thought of how I wouldn’t be able to meet Nidel-dono for the next month starting tomorrow, I felt desolate. At present, the only person I got along well personally outside of work was Nidel-dono.
Nidel-dono, not wearing his hood, had his face exposed, but because he was shorter than me, even if I lowered my head, it was difficult to decipher his expression.
「Are you hurt anywhere?」
Nidel-dono spoke with his soft voice and held my hand, checking for any injuries. I’d often hurt my hand unconsciously, and there were many times when Nidel-dono healed it for me. This happened the first time we met too.
「You’ll be going out on an expedition, right? If you’ve got any injuries, I’ll heal them for you.」
Nidel-dono had already taken my other hand. Nidel-dono’s beautiful hands touched my hands to check them. Whenever Nidel-dono’s slightly cold fingers touched me, I’d always feel as if it was my insides that were being touched. It was an inexplicable feeling.
I felt embarrassed, seeing Nidel-dono who’d always adopt an easygoing attitude while giving me special treatment and tenderly worrying over me.
I thought of silly things such as how nice it would have been if I had gained even a small injury as it meant getting healed.
Nidel-dono, while holding my hand, remained silent with a downcast head. When I wondered what happened, Nidel-dono let out a sigh.
「I’m really sorry.」
At the words Nidel-dono uttered, I knitted my eyebrows in doubt. I didn’t understand what he was apologising for.
「I’m really sorry, for everything that happened. It’s all my fault.」
「What are you talking about?」
「About the rumours. Legato and mine…I never thought such a terrible thing would occur.」
Letting out a sigh, Nidel-dono let go of my hand. I felt a little disappointed.
「That’s not something Nidel-dono needs to apologise for. Nidel-dono is also one of the concerned parties. We’re the same.」
「We’re not the same.」
Nidel-dono gave a wry smile and looked at me. 𝒊𝒏𝒏𝙧𝗲𝓪𝙙. c𝒐𝙢
「There’s the fact that I’m always holed up in the tower too, but your and mine statuses are different. I’m a petty magician of the Tech Order who people don’t even spare a glance at, but Legato is different.」
Nidel-dono’s mouth twisted into a grimace, but the eyes that looked at me were gentle.
「It’s inevitable you’ll be successful in life. You’re set to become the Captain of the Knight Order in the future. You’ll become the face of the nation. You have that much strength in you.」
Being praised by Nidel-dono surprised me. I didn’t know he thought so highly of me, and my heart felt restless. I don’t have that great a power as Nidel-dono imagines, and I’m still a greenhorn, but being told so by Nidel-dono gave me unbounded joy.
「You are of noble lineage, and also have a rank. Both your looks and personality are great. You’re a hard worker and are polite even to those below you. Moreover, you’re are loved by everyone around you. You occasionally mess up, but still, I think Legato is a perfect man.」
「…Nidel-dono, you praise me too much.」
Praised to the skies, I felt my temperature rise from the embarrassment. I felt my face burn up, and in an attempt to evade it, I placed my hand at the back of my neck.
「Leaving a stain on you, who is looked up to by the whole kingdom, makes me feel deeply regretful.」
Nidel-dono lowered his eyes in self-reproach.
「…Nidel-dono, it isn’t particularly a stain or anything.」
「It’s a stain. The news of you and me has spread in the whole Royal Palace. From now on, no matter what life you lead, this story will follow you. You should have been able to marry a person suited for you, and lived a wonderful and happy life without anyone pointing fingers at you behind your back.」
「It’s because I got carried away. I took advantage of your kindness. I selfishly got you involved. I’m really sorry.」
Nidel-dono, saying so, lowered his head to me, his robe quivering. I was puzzled. I really didn’t hold any grudges towards Nidel-dono, and I honestly thought it was a good thing that I got along well with him. Many good things had happened thanks to the rumours too.
When I thought of voicing my opinion, Nidel-dono continued his words.
「I don’t think the rumours will disappear completely, but I think by the time Legato returns from the expedition, it should be more calm. If it doesn’t affect us anymore, I don’t think the people around us will raise a fuss either.」
I felt my temperature, that’d risen from Nidel-dono’s praise, plunge to freezing depths.
「Legato must have had marriage meetings, right? Once you get married to a woman, the rumours too will die out. I’ll properly tell the people around not to say anything bad of you.」
Gazing at him speak increasingly vehemently with a serious face, I realised something.
Is he perhaps, talking of breaking up?
When I thought of that, my chest suddenly started to feel heavy. To stop Nidel-dono, who was still rambling on, I threw a question at him.
「Nidel-dono, is this breakup talk?」
When asked so, Nidel-dono, caught off-guard, opened his eyes wide and returned my stare, then gave a wry smile.
「Even if you call it breakup talk…it isn’t as if we’re going out, so there isn’t any breaking up either?」
「That’s true, but…」
「Well, take it in that sense. Let’s stop meeting privately now. Legato too is leaving the castle for a month. This is a good opportunity.」
「…No, Nidel-dono. Even if you say it out of the blue, I think of Nidel-dono as a precious friend, and if you say that, I can’t accept it and readily reply ‘Yes, I see’.」
When I said that seriously, Nidel-dono once again made an expression of shock and then laughed a little.
「Is that so… I’m happy to hear that. But well, think carefully on your expedition, while you’re away from the Royal Palace. It’s about your most important future.」
After Nidel-dono said so, while saying「Do your best on the expedition. Take care of your body.」he patted my arm once and transformed into a bird. And then just as I began to speak, he left from the window.
I watched that figure disappear into the daze in a daze. I didn’t know what I should to say, but I knew that I had to stop him. We needed to have a proper chat.
I let out a sigh and sunk onto my chair. And like that, I was absentmindedly absorbed by my thoughts.
What Nidel-dono had said was logical. It was strange to continue such a relationship with Nidel-dono.
It’d have been better if we hadn’t joined bodies. If it’d been so, even if we’d frolicked about a bit, I could have been confident that he was simply a friend. Even at that time in the meeting, when I was questioned by the King, I could have told my honest feelings, that 「Nidel-dono is an important friend, we have nothing to be guilty about.」.
However, with a body that had intimately connected with him many times, I couldn’t say that he was 「simply a friend」.
However that was lust, and if asked whether or not I loved him, I wouldn’t nod in agreement. I think of him as a truly important, precious friend whom I can open up to. Although, I wonder if that’s love?
I was the one who should have apologised to Nidel-dono.
I was the one who took advantage of Nidel-dono’s feelings towards me and used him as I felt convenient.
I looked at the half-open window. Even though it wasn’t as if Nidel’s-dono would return, I couldn’t bring myself to close the window.
And so, early in the morning, the Captain of the Royal Knight Order left for the Northern Fortress.
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