Sorry for delays, but it is the Thanksgiving season here in Iowa which means food, work, alcohol, and sleeping off food comas, overwork, and baaaaaaad hangovers. Things are building up to the end of the year, so I hope you all are having a good time as well.
The Night Before
The calmer the rest time is, the quicker it passes.
And all too soon, the eve of our decision greeted us.
I looked up at the night sky alone from the mansion’s garden. The manor provided a moderate amount of light, yet the area still felt isolated as if they were in completely different worlds from each other. It is the perfect place to calm one’s nerves. Besides, this corner of the garden was hidden behind a complex arrangement of plants, so no one would stop by unless they had reason.
Inside the mansion there are people constantly coming and going–even at night. There are few places where a person can go to be alone.
This place was somewhere that Ordo had recommended to me. I still remember the restless tone he used when he murmured, “the ideal place to think up new plans,” at the time.
The wind blew across my iron shoulders while I enjoyed the silence of this place…….
I heard my name called and looked around to see who else was here.
Percival was watching me from a second floor terrace overlooking this section of the garden. Realizing that the gaze from my helmet had locked on to him, he lightly waved at me……..before melodramatically tilting his head to the side.
“…….Wait a moment, perhaps the armor is moving by itself without permission. Is there a proper Monette in there?”
“I’m in here. You’re quite rude aren’t you?”
I turned my head away in a huff at Percival’s teasing words. Probably thinking he was funny, I could feel him smiling above me. I guess this is his way of having fun.
“Miss Monette, what are you doing there?”
“Just as it looks. It’s an intricate place, so why don’t you……”
I forcefully swallowed the words I was about to say down my throat.
A looming shadow dimmed visibility, and a calm breeze swept through the area. Raising my helmet up in astonishment, I saw a picture of golden hair standing out against the backdrop of inky darkness.
Percival’s body passed through the sky, heading straight for me. But rather than just describing him as having ‘gotten off’, it was more like he ‘flew off.’
And when he landed near me, he took a moment to correct the wrinkles that had formed in his outerwear as he flew. His landing was light as if such a leap were natural, and there was no tension or worry in him.
I cannot believe that he jumped off the top of the first floor at such a height. It would be to the extent of having jumped down to the bottom of a stairway.
Although I was stunned with his nonchalant landing, I still managed to move my lips,
and chide him.
“Is that so?”
“What would you do if you got hurt before tomorrow? If you fractured something then we would have to take you by dragging you in the dirt!”
Or so I cried, but I could tell by Percival’s face that he thought my worries needless. Instead, he changed the subject with a simple and easy to understand, ‘By the way,”
“By the way……what was Miss Monette doing here?”
“I was safely bathing in the moonlight. Safely, as in without causing injuries to myself.
“Oh, yes, being safe really is for the best.”
Perhaps he was finally feeling some of the pressure in my words, but Percival responded with a dry laugh and a bead of sweat flowing down his forehead.
Then Percival slowly breathed out, and with a wistful look on his face, muttered, “It’s tomorrow.” At his words, I stopped chiding him and creakily nodded my helmet.
We head towards the royal palace under Ordo’s command tomorrow.
It is because Emilia does not handle mornings well that we are aiming to strike at dawn. No matter how many times I told her against it, she would always stay up late making a funny prayer that things would go well for her and her dream, so the next morning she would trudge out of bed sleepily scratching her eyes and looking like her brain was made of mud.
It was a warm memory. However, all it did was make my chest tighten now.
But tonight would be the last time my heart would tighten like this.
Tomorrow everything will end. No, I will end it.
Thinking that way, I took a deep breath, and then I looked up towards Percival.
“Percival, what are you going to do once all this is over?”
“I’ll spend my days being repeatedly beat upside the head with something resembling a brick.”
“……that’s right huh.”
In his matter-of-fact reply, I could do nothing else besides shrug my shoulders.
Even in this place, at this time he is talking about, ‘something similar to bricks’. What a tensionless person…….I was so amazed I unintentionally released a large sigh………and took a breath.
Percival’s eyes narrowed, staring at me as if he were loving my frustration.
Even though normally when someone stares at me my heartbeat quickens and a cold sweat would break out, for some reason I wasn’t feeling like that now.
My heartbeat still quickened, but my heart was getting warmer……..
“Every day, I will be beaten by something similar to a brick.”
“W-Well, that’s right…..”
“Then I can see Miss Monette every day.”
Percival’s eyes shined like a torch in the light as my eyes went wide from his words.
It was completely different from the serious look he has when acting as an escort knight or the light tone he takes whenever he is up to his usual mischief. And of course, it was very different from the first time I saw him where all you could see on his face was a mixture of despair, fear, and hostility.
Right now he looked truly happy, almost like a child.
I was hit straight on by such a smile and panickedly turned my helmet away.
“E-every day……I am a very busy witch! I will have to use a spell to remotely hit Percival with something similar to a brick every day!”
“Sure, you could do it with magic. So then, Miss Monette……”
So then……..enunciating his words and taking a breath, Percival pulled out a small box.
It was a tiny thing that fit snugly in the palm of his hand. I was immediately curious as to what could be inside. The box itself was well made and looked sturdy, so the contents were surely something important.
But when Percival put his hand forward as if to offer it to me, my eyes darted between it and Percival’s face.
“…..Something similar to a brick.”
“Something similar to a brick!? It actually exists!?”
My gaze quickly focused in on the box.
It certainly never gave me the impression that it was ‘brick-like.’ In contrary to my reaction, Percival was looking a little restless.
He refused to answer me when I asked him what was inside instead just urging me to accept it.
Does he want me to open it up and check the contents for myself no matter what? I tilted my helmet curiously at this, but I decided to accept the box as he prompted me to.
It was tied up in a beautiful ribbon. It was surprisingly light in my head and was become less and less ‘brick-like’ in my opinion.
However, even by weighing the box I am unable to guess what could be inside, so there was nothing else for me to do other than unwinding the ribbon and opening the lid……
My voice cracked.
Inside the box, a single flower presented itself. It was not a fresh flower, but its beauty was a fine work of art with a beauty and nobility that would not lose to a fresh cut flower.
The silver petals were adorned with scattered lightly colored gems, and it shimmered with light before the box had been fully opened. Truly wondrous. I gently took hold of it and watched as the light changed shades every time I tilted it a different direction.
Still the light was dim enough to not be a burden when worn in your hair.
I remember this flower.
I saw it in the town at the border, but I gave up on it because it did not suit me…….this, it was that flower hair accessory.
“…..It looks like a brick.”
Percival unexpectedly turned away.
His words shocked me and my eyes naturally fell to the hair ornament in my hand.
Of course, it does not look like a brick at all. Although he continued to insist that it was certainly, ‘brick-like’.
I watched puzzled as Percival’s face continued to die in deeper shades of embarrassment, and most likely understanding my gaze from underneath my helmet was on him, he coughed into his hand.
“That is something similar to a brick. So……”
“…….So please accept it and hit me with it when everything is done.”
Percival’s voice told me that something was nagging him, and it was easy to see how tense he was at a glance.
But I cannot afford to say anything against him, let alone make fun of him. Catching sight of his vibrant blue eyes causes my back to shiver, and his words, “Of course I mean the Monette in the armor,” echo in my heart.
Seriously, feverishly, his unsettled look caused my heart to tighten.
The walls are closing in on me.
Someone had hit a bell and my cheeks had suddenly started on fire while my heart beat so hard that it hurt.
It seems like my brain is going to melt from the heat.
I had lived almost my whole life inside the old castle, and as I looked at this flower in my hand, I had no idea what to call this emotion surging forth from my heart.
A hair decoration that I gave up on because it did not suit me. I would feel no pleasure in crowing it upon my silver helmeted head, but it would be a waste to have such a beautiful ornament worn underneath where no one’s eyes could lay upon it.
Either way, I thought that it would be like throwing pearls before a swine, and I even thought it would be rude of me to purchase such a treasure.
But, there was one alternative that I had never thought of.
If I were to not wear my helmet and not cover myself, if I were to wear the ornament normally on top of my head……
Such unusual thoughts sprung to mind as I looked at treasure I held, but then I noticed Percival was still watching me and ripped my gaze away towards him.
He looked completely embarrassed, but he kept giving me an unsettled look with the implied question, “Will you accept it?” Compared to his usual expression and the pure smile he wore earlier, he looked kind of miserable now.
In spite of this, I found myself smiling slightly underneath my helmet before putting the hair ornament back in its box. I put it back carefully so as to avoid putting a scratch on it before slowly closing the lid and rewrapping the ribbon.
“Yes, it certainly seems like a brick now that you mention it.”
“I see………um, yes. It’s similar.”
“It can’t be helped. When everything is over, I’ll hit Percival with this every day.”
Hearing my reply, Percival broke out into a large smile and excitedly nodded his head.