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*laughs* And a bit of effort to today's post courtesy of yesterday's pathetic showing. ^^; This brings us up to somewhere on page 237.


Hearing footsteps behind her, Lydia looked up. She quickly relaxed her hands after realising she'd be clenching them so tightly that her nails were biting into them. Francis put his hand on her shoulder.

"We're done."

Lydia felt relief pour over her at the sight of his smile. She quickly got to her feet.

"Um, is it be okay to go be with him yet?"

"It should be okay. Ah, he said something about not wanting you to see him looking undignified, didn't he? But it was surprisingly how collected he was. If it were me, I probably would've been screaming."

Lydia couldn't help feeling it a bit painful that Edgar was so stoic. She bowed slightly and moved to leave to be with Edgar.

"He has a lot of old scars, doesn't he? They're not that obvious, but you can't help wondering how he must've lived to get those," Francis said. More than to inquire, it seemed like he said it more to tell Lydia about them. Lydia ran off.

'I can bear physical pain. Because it disappears once it's gone.'

For him, pain was simply so commonplace. And Edgar knew something even more painful that that. Something that didn't disappear even when it was over. Something that was constantly tormenting him.

What about mental pain?

Being told that he should never have been born was too much. Edgar realised it was his fault that his parents had been killed and he'd been hurt by that. Even so, he survived for Raven's and his other comrades's sakes, and he's finally reached the point where he finally had some hope for the future. Lydia intended to help him keep that hope, but she couldn't help wondering if he'd been truly able to enjoy himself with her even though they were on their honeymoon. Even though he'd tried his best for them to have fun spending time together.

Lydia ran into the room and found Edgar sitting on the bench struggling to put his shirt on. He looked at her and smiled as though nothing had happened.

"Lydia, I'm sorry to have worried you so."

Most likely his body was still tense from the ordeal. He was having a hard time getting the buttons done up.

"Wait just a moment and I'll get my clothes on so you can hug me. That's right, the mermaid's trident turned into water as soon as it came out......"

When Lydia drew closer, she saw that there was blood on his wrists and they were chafed. A rope made from a torn sheet lay on the floor. She realised that he'd been tied up to keep him from moving while having the trident removed. And he'd had to bear so much pain that he'd ended up rubbing his wrists raw.

"Does it still... hurt?"

"It doesn't hurt anymore."

It was as though, to him, even something like that was of no consequence once it was over. Lydia sat down next to him, and while normally she would have looked away in embarrassment, this time she reached out and touched his bare skin.

"Lydia?"

She stared at the fading scars on his chest, shoulders and arms tracing them with her fingers. The still angry looking scar on his chest was from the injury he sustained before their marriage, when he tried to protect Lydia.

"I didn't know......"

Because she'd never tried to look at him. She'd always been so embarrassed she never thought to look at him, and she still didn't know what he was wanting.

"I can take it all off if you prefer."

Lydia looked up in surprised and blushed. How shameless she must be to suddenly peel back a man's shirt and then stare at his body.

"Wh-what are you talking about?! I didn't mean..." She moved her hands away and averted her gaze only to realise that she shouldn't do that. She turned and looked at him challengingly. "So...... I want to know! Because I thought that there's still a lot I don't know about you, but you don't need to take them off!"

"You should say that sort of thing seductively rather than like you're trying to pick a fight."

He pulled her to him giving her no choice but to lay her head against his bare chest.

Even as she felt flustered unsure what to do, Lydia felt pain almost like sadness. Not knowing about the hurts of someone you care about very much ends up causing so much pain for oneself. And because she thought that they would be able to share any pain made this all the more difficult. She realised that Edgar may have felt the same way when he discovered the bruises on Lydia's body.

"I'm sorry......"

"Um, I was joking."

"I intervened in something and fell and ended up with those unsightly bruises. I'm sorry for hiding that from you."

"It's not about them being unsightly."

"Your present, too. I'm really happy with it, yet I couldn't just be happy about it. I'm sorry. I'm such a boring girl that you can't enjoy yourself......"

"What are you talking about?"

"But I don't know. What am I supposed to do? What is it about me that's wanting? But it's new to me. All of it......"

"Yeah, you're right."

She wanted to do what he wanted without feeling so embarrassed. But even being held by him like this was enough to make her go completely tense.

"You're not wanting in any way."

"That's a lie. I didn't know about your scars."

"The scars I bear all happened when I was fighting with my comrades. They don't hurt or bother me in the least."

He stroked Lydia's hair as though to allay her fears.

"In fact, for me, they're signs of my freedom. That I was able to do as I wanted, and in exchange for going through situations so dangerous that I ended up being injured, I gained things one by one and managed to drag myself out of the worst of slums. When I was with the prince, it was out of the question for me to become injured. But that was only natural. I was to be the vessel for the prince's soul, so it wouldn't do for me to be damaged or sullied in any way. They treated me very carefully, as though I was extremely valuable china, and they only tried to kill the spirit that makes me who I am."

Wanting to touch his soul, Lydia raised her hand and lay it against his chest. She was very aware of his broad chest which was so different from hers. He was trying to protect her with this body, and he loved her with the heart that lay hidden deep inside.

"That's why you're heart's always been hurting."

She looked up. Edgar knit his brow looking tormented as he gazed at her. "Lydia, you're not lacking in any way. I'm wanting something of you that I've never wanted of anyone. And because you try to reach out to me like that...... I can't hold back."

He tangled his long fingers in her hair and kissed her deeply entwining his tongue with hers.

"Lydia."

Lydia fell back on the bench and she felt the weight she'd only recently come to know bearing down on her. It's possible that there was nothing shameful or inappropriate between them. And realising that made everything seem very dear to her.

"Lydia......"

He repeated her name over and over. And perhaps he too was trying to reach out and touch Lydia's heart. He held her so tightly she could barely breathe.

Edgar's mental pain was unimaginably great and deep, and Lydia felt that she finally managed to touch the pain revealed before her. If he was wanting to bury that hurt, she had no choice but to experience that pain and thirst with him. Lydia believed that would give some comfort. She buried her fingers in his blond hair.

"Edgar." She desperately called his name between kisses. "Whatever happens, I love...... you." Her words came out as little more than a sigh, so she didn't know if he heard them or not.

His demanding kisses and his hands that groped at her body slowly changed into a tender embrace. He lay still with his ear pressed to the swell of her bosom.

"......Sorry. Did I frighten you?"

"No, I'm okay," she said, but no doubt he could hear her heart racing and her ragged breathing. But she hadn't been frightened so much as she felt a strange sense of excitement.

"Thank you...... Lydia," he said as he lay still. "I wasn't sure how far you'd be able to accept me being this way. I could feel that you love me a lot, but I keep wanting so much as to bury this pain...... And I thought that my being like this would only end up frightening you."

"Don't hold back anymore...... I'm very grateful to God. Because you were born, and because we met one another."

He slowly sat up before helping Lydia sit up. He looked at her longingly.

"It's funny. All this time, I've tried to forget my pain, and yet I can't help wanting you to touch it. Most likely, this pain is proof that I'm alive."

He slowly bent down and kissed her. It was his usual kiss; a kiss so gentle it made Lydia's heart ache.

(My lord,) Arrow's voice said. (The princess of Armorica comes.)


The City's Princess's Wish


"Edgar! We've got trouble!" Following Arrow's interruption, Francis came rushing into the room. But his trouble was unrelated to Arrow's announcement. "The gold key's gone! I must've dropped it somewhere."

"What was that? Where did you lose it?"

"I don't now. It might've happened when I got swallowed by that wave back in the castle on the island......"

Edgar put his hand to his chin and seemed to be lost in thought, but he soon looked up again and got to his feet. "If that's the case, then there's no helping things. We'll have to come up with another plan."

He picked up his shirt and quickly finished getting dressed.

"What's this gold key you're talking about?" Lydia asked as she stood.

"It's something that Francis stole from Diana in the past."

"What a terrible way to put things. I decided it was best left in my care, that's all. But Edgar, without that......" Francis paced nervously in front of the door.

"Lydia, according to the legend, if the princess is given what she wishes, even men can safely return from here, right? So, we thought that may the princess was wanting the key to the royal city's floodgate. And we thought that Diana may have searched for that key and gone to the royal city in order to negotiate with the princess.

"So Francis had that key, and just in case you were hoping to bargain with it to return safely?"

Edgar nodded. But Francis said he'd lost it somewhere.

"But I wonder if that's what the princess really wishes for."

"I'm sure it is. Even more than her own life, the princess cared about this city above the sea. Francis argued.

"The princess, who carried fae blood, created this royal city for her father the king on the border between the human and fae realms. At the time, the Vikings were the greatest threat in nearby waters. And they were unable to invade because the city was protected by magic; it was the perfect capital city. And for that reason, no one could defy her, and men were made to wait on her as she wished. That's how the legend goes."

"And the princess cared about the royal city more than her many lovers and more than her father the king?"

"That's what I think. She didn't trust anyone. She seduced any man who caught her fancy, and since it's said she had them banished when she grew tired of them, I figure that's how it was."

Since the princess carried fae blood, most likely she had a free and uninhibited soul. While the fae are faithful to the promises they make, they don't accept having things pushed upon them. Since she could use fae magic and she defied the teachings of the sages, most likely she was beyond people's comprehension. And that's why, despite having a number of men serve her, she didn't have a lover who truly understood her. And the devil took advantage of that weakness in the princess's heart. Most likely, the devil tempted the man she'd been opening her heart to.

"......The royal city was the only thing that was supposed to protect her. Yet because her lover betrayed her, and the city's keystone—the key to the floodgate—was stolen..."

...Could it be that even now, the princess wanted the key to the floodgate which could only serve to remind her of how prosperous the city once was? If so, it was too sad. Even if the city that used to be above the sea were to exist now in the waters off Bretagne, it wouldn't bring the former royal kingdom back.

"In any case, we'll talk about that later. We have to get out of here. Francis, Aeris is apparently headed this way."

Francis became even more agitated upon hearing that.

"She found out where we are? Weren't we supposed to be safe from discovery here as long as the ward was up?"

(It's effective against the fae. But the princess is only half-fae, and she has human senses as well. Most likely she noticed the smoke from the fireplace.)

"That was careless. I thought there were no other people here but us," Edgar said as he pulled Lydia by the hand.

"She's been alive for over a thousand years, so for her to still feel things like a human......" Lydia murmured as they hurried towards the door. For all that one of her parents had been one of the fae, if she'd given up dying like a human when she sank into the sea with the city, she was no longer human. Yet despite that, could it be that she did what she could throughout the years to remember her human side? Come to think of it, Aeris had human-like compassion. She was like that towards women. Perhaps she hadn't become disgusted with the human realm after being betrayed and abandoned by men.

She remembered the portrait of Aeris wearing the red moonstone ring. The ring that had been her fiance's. What could the princess of the city's sad heart be wanting? For this ghost-town of a royal city to once again appear above the seas? To get the gold key that was needed to make that possible? As long as they could give her what she wanted, they should all be able to get out alive, so Lydia desperately tried to think things through, but she had no leads.

"We can't get out this way. We'll leave from the back door," Edgar said turning back after checking how things looked outside the front door.

Apparently, the mermaids had closed in on them. Going through the inner courtyard, the three hurried as they headed towards the tower that was even further in back. They went from what appeared to be the kitchen with the earthen hearth out to the back lane.

(Head southward. The road connected to the small island is to the south, after all."

"Edgar, I have a favour to ask of you," Francis said suddenly turning formal while walking. "Make me a family retainer."

"Huh? Do you want to play knight or something?"

"I'm serious. I'll swear fealty to the Earl of Ibrazel."

"I don't see much point in doing that now. There's no guarantee Aeris will go easy on you simply because you've gained ties to the earl's house," Edgar said sounding a bit baffled, but Francis wouldn't back down.

"It's a emotional issue. So I've decided that I will share your fate. You might not have known Diana, but you're the lord of Ibrazel."

"Aeris wants to kill me. She lured Lydia to the island in order to do that. She doesn't think I'm fit to call myself the Earl of Ibrazel. You heard what she said earlier, didn't you?"

Francis should have realised that Edgar wasn't a legitimate member of the earl's family.

"It could be that Diana thinks the same way."

But Francis had no second thoughts despite that.

"This is my own problem and has nothing to do with what Aeris or Diana thinks. I couldn't have come hear on my own. Even if I'd been able to find Aeris's old castle, most likely I would've hesitated because of the legend that all men are eliminated. Not to mention Diana rejected me, so I have no right to love her." Francis smiled at Lydia who watched them looking worried. "I don't have that right, but seeing the two of you, I felt that I wanted to get closer to Diana. I didn't try to get to know Diana, yet wanted to make her mine. So Edgar, I'll trust the name you go by. I want to face Aeris as a retainer to the Earl of Ibrazel. That's the only way I can learn more about Diana, right? After all, plain Francis would have no right to ask about Diana, who'd been working for the earl's household, and her whereabouts."

Edgar stopped suddenly. He quietly turned and faced Francis and called Arrow. It was almost strange how naturally Francis knelt before Edgar. Lydia vaguely realised that he too, was the descendant of a knight from long ago.

"The merrow's great sword...... Diana'd told me about that star sapphire, too."

Edgar raised the sword before him. Francis closed his eyes as though in prayer as he felt the tip of the sword touch his shoulders. There were no words or anything else, and most likely it was that alone that created something holy that bound the two. Lydia watched them and it was only when Francis, still on his knees, took her hand and kissed it that she realised what he'd done.

"Let's go."

Perhaps that too was part of the ceremony. Edgar said little as he started walking quickly again.

However, not long after they left the back lane, they found mermaids standing before them. Their scantily clad seductive figures blocked their way. Even though they were in human form, the voluptuous mermaids had a presence no human woman had.

"There's no point in running."

Mermaids carried a litter up from between the ranks. Aeris sat in the beautifully decorated chair meant for a lady of noble birth. She wore an ancient Roman style tunic and a blue cloak the colour of the sea hung on her shoulders. A pearl tiara sat on her black hair. Unlike the Aeris of the grey dress that tried not to stand out, the person before the bore the elegance and dignity of the princess of the ancient royal city. But either way, there was no question that the person before them was Aeris.

"I won't allow men to leave here alive."

She got down from the litter and stood before Lydia and the others. Edgar held his sword keeping Aeris in check.

"The merrow's sword...... That you actually managed to claim it is quite the feat. However, even if you strike me down, you will not be able to leave here."

"I can make sure that you can't harm Lydia."

Aeris chuckled. "Kindly make no mistake. I'm on Lydia's side. Now Lydia, come over here. I'll see to it that you can return safely."

Lydia shook her head and took a step back. "I'm staying with Edgar."

"Do you intend to die with him? Is that alright by you, Earl?"

"She's going back with me," Edgar said firmly.

"That's not possible. Because there are rules to this place."

"The rule that men can't return if they cannot give you your wish?"

"My wish...... A wish that is meaningless now. So Lydia, think carefully. Your abilities as a fairy doctor should be used for the sake of the world. And you, earl, you should realise that if you really love her, you should do as I say." Since they were surrounded by mermaids, they had no choice but to listen to what Aeris had to say. She looked at Edgar coolly. "If you're saying that it's against your will that you're called the "Prince of Calamity", don't you think you should accept dying for Lydia's sake? As the Lady of Ibrazel, Lydia can take on that sword. Since the social position is nothing more than something determined by humans, in the Fae realm, Lydia can become the master of Ibrazel. No doubt, she would do what she can, for humans and fae both, to ensure that the magic of the Unseelie Court is never used for evil again. It just means that the position Earl of Ibrazel no longer exists in England."

Edgar looked tormented as his breath caught.

'You're wrong,' Lydia thought. 'I'm not so great a fairy doctor. While I want to become a proper fairy doctor, I've never once thought that I want to become the master of the fae.
I just wanted to become like my mother—trusted by the fae and content with being so greatly loved by my father—she was always smiling so happily, so I wanted to become like her.'
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