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The sun was just about to set when I, who’d remained asleep for nearly the entire day, returned to the academy with Father.
The one who came to greet us was Shade. He put on an expression as if nothing was wrong, but fatigue was evidently showing from the corners of his eyes. He probably had it tough with the matters at school, and I might’ve worried him quite a lot too.
When Shade saw my face, he smiled as if letting out a breath he was holding in.
「You’re looking a little better」
「Sorry, Shade, I’ve been a burden to you」
「…what commendable words when you’re going to neglect your brother after this and head off to your fiance」
Shade made a wry smile but discussed Wolf with me and Father along the way.
He told us that Wolf had now secluded himself in his own room and wasn’t even eating his meals.
There had been talks to send Wolf back home to recuperate like I did, but it seems the person himself firmly declined.
Wolf extremely despised exposing his weak side in front of his father, the Duke Ranunculus. I’m sure his relationship with his father wasn’t bad, but I sometimes wonder even if it wasn’t strained. The relationship between a father and a son, as I imagine, might be different from the relationship I had with my father, though.
At times, I’ve tried telling Wolf that if he’d act spoiled now and then, it would even make the duke happy. But Wolf would simply make a wry smile and tell me, “maybe, but it’s pretty difficult”.
There isn’t anything that comes to mind when talking about Wolf’s weak points, but if I had to think of one, it would be that he was no good at being spoiled.
I stared at the door to Wolf’s room and thought. Even now, he was fighting the nightmares alone inside this room without asking anyone for help.
「Well, I’ll be talking to him for a bit」
After informing my father and brother with a deliberately light tone, I placed a hand on the knob with the tray that held liquid food and water that I’d taken from the kitchen on my left hand.
Wolf’s room was as silent as a grave.
When I closed the door behind me, the sound reverberated across the room very loudly.
Then, it turned dark.
Rather than saying it’s because the sun was setting, it’s because the heavy curtains were obstructing the bright light that was still coming from outside completely.
Only the light from a small magical lamp was evident in the dark room.
Did he forget to put the lamp under the sun at noon? The light was almost used up and was barely lighting the room.
Wolf was on top of his bed. The futon had ended up falling to the floor, but that didn’t bother me. What concerned me was that Wolf remained quietly lying on top of the terribly wrinkled sheets. Because his eyes were concealed under both hands, I can’t tell the expression on his face.
When I called out to him, his arms jolted a little. It seemed he wasn’t asleep.
「Uhm, sorry to barge in without permission. But I have something I wanted to talk to you about…」
For a short time, there was silence.
Taking advantage of the fact that he didn’t start blaming me about what happened, I edged closer to his bed, bit by bit.
When I came close enough, I found Wolf gasping in pain. I set the tray on top of the waist-high drawer I spotted when my eyes got a little used to the darkness.
「Wolf, I brought along water and food. First, have some wate…」
My words were interrupted by an arm that sluggishly reached out to grab my wrist.
「Did you… come back for me, Lycoris?」
It was painful to hear the horrible crack in his voice. But, I’m happy to hear his voice all the same.
「Yeah. I got back just a little while ago」
When I answered, I peeked into Wolf’s eyes. But, his blue-violet eyes seemed somewhat unfocused that I was having doubts whether he was even paying attention.
Right in front of the puzzled me, Wolf’s expression twisted.
Not only did the corner of his mouth lift up in a cynical smile, a dangerous glint also appeared in his eyes, it was an expression I couldn’t imagine on Wolf. I ended up being pinned down by the piercing gaze of those vivid blue-violet eyes.
「And so? Who on earth will the person you love be this time?」
I only drew back after he said this because I’d been surprised. That’s all.
But Wolf, as if telling me he wasn’t going to let me run away, pulled my wrist with enough strength as to be painful. I was dragged along and ended up getting thrown on top of the bed.
Locking me in place on the bed, Wolf’s expression twisted yet again. This time, he grimaced in pain, and as if he was squeezing the words out of his lips, he pleaded with me .
「…please don’t say it. I’m begging you… please don’t make me go insane」
He said it in a tone that made my heart ache.
「No more… being cast aside by you, going insane from jealousy then killing them… making you hate me because of that, making you cry…. Being forsaken by Father… I can’t take it anymore. I don’t want to lose you… I’m begging you…」
「It was just a dream, Wolf」
When I touched his cheeks with the hand that he wasn’t holding on to, Wolf instantly opened his eyes as if startled.
「… that maybe so. But, they weren’t just dreams」
「What do you mean?」
It doesn’t look like Wolf was talking entirely in his sleep.
He may have been shifting back and forth between his dreams and reality that he could no longer tell the difference. For now, at least, he was talking with the closest he had to awareness. As testament to that, his blue-violet eyes were locked into mine.
「When I destroyed everything there… even though it was supposed to be a nightmare, I felt relieved inside the dream. I had no way to change your mind anymore」
「What you want inside a dream doesn’t reflect what you actually want. They’re just nightmares that embody the things you’re frightened of」
「It would’ve been okay if that’s all the nightmares were about」
Wolf’s words were contrary to my expectations.
「What truly frightens me… What these nightmares are showing me… is that I might not be able to stop myself from hurting you for real」
「Even after I woke up, I kept thinking. After this, you’ll debut into high society. Even if it’s you, once you’re there, you’ll clearly realize enough not to misunderstand what others feel about you. You’re a desirable woman. You can have your pick of other men. Then, when you come to your senses, you’ll end up leaving me. If that’s going to happen, then…」
Wolf’s hands, this time, gently reached out to my neck.
Those blue-violet eyes captured me. That earnest look was an expression that I knew to be Wolf’s. I knew, at this moment, he was himself.
「… I’d rather kill you now」
Surprised as I was, in front of me, as if his own words surprised him, tears rolled and spilled out from those blue-violet eyes.
Was it strange to say that when I heard those words and saw his tears, I felt warmth brimming in my chest?
At this moment, I could no longer talk my way out of thinking about how dear Wolf was to me. Even when he was strong, even when he was weak, even when he was suffering, and even when he was loving someone.
That’s why I smiled at Wolf, in order to relay these feelings as much as I could.
「It’s okay. There’s nothing to be afraid of. After all, there’s now way you’d ever hurt me, Wolf」
Taking the big hands that were merely holding on to my neck, I pressed them against my cheeks.
「I know for sure that Wolf really, reaaally loves me… I do too, I like you, you know. I like you very, very much. I love you. That’s why it’s fine if you act a little spoiled with me」
Overcome with surprise, Wolf didn’t say anything to me, even after a while.
My face rapidly reddened, maybe it was because I was being overly self-conscious, but the words made an echo in my head.
Before I could cry out with a “Anything is fine, just say something!”, Wolf whispered fervently in my ear.
「I love you… I’m not letting go again, so, be prepared」
Just like that, Wolf embraced me, sending me to my wits’ end.
I could hear the palpitating sound of my heart thumping loudly, and I don’t mean the circulation of my blood was getting cut off, it was more of, while late, I finally realized the situation we were in: two people on top of a bed.
Wolf wears his usual getup even when brandishing a sword on the training field, so this was a rare casual wear for him. With his sleeves rolled up, two buttons unfastened from his shirt, I can feel his body heat. That wasn’t all there was, there was also the sound of rustling clothes and his fervent breaths.
Although I’d always thought of them as just 『Wolf’s hands』 up till now, I became keenly aware of their body heat just now. Big hands crawled down my lower back, then his rough skin which had formed from handling swords, touched my skin and gave me goosebumps.
I felt relieved when Wolf parted from me, but then, he buried his head on my neck and kissed it. Surprised and stunned, I ended up shouting.
「Hey – wait! Wolf!?」
Bam!, came Father, making the noise when he opened the door, then my younger brother rushed in and made the exact same frozen expression as my father.
As for Wolf, he fell asleep as if losing consciousness, just like that.
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