Completed ― “I Don’t Love You,” Said the Ice Magician to His Unrequited Love, Who Was Disguised as Me

Completed ― “I Don’t Love You,” Said the Ice Magician to His Unrequited Love, Who Was Disguised as Me

Chapter 1: A poor daughter

The northern border of the Roston Kingdom.

This region facing the 《Demon’s Mountain》located on the north side of the kingdom has always been plagued by damage caused by demon beasts.

Demon beasts, led by the flying dragon species, the strongest creature in the eastern continent, cause tremendous damage at a high level.

The situation began to change seven years ago.

That wizard single-handedly changed the power balance between humans and demon beasts.

《Witch of Dawn》

Four years ago, she destroyed the stampede of record-breaking demon beasts that attacked the northern region, causing a great shock to the kingdom’s magical world. The following year, she achieved the first-ever solo defeat of a flying dragon species in human history.

Despite being called the strongest wizard in the history of the kingdom, with overwhelming power and few people having seen her, little is known about her with her unique magic theory that cannot be fully understood by modern magic.

Her origin is unknown.

Many people have a strong interest in her and have tried various methods to explore her surroundings, but they have not been able to obtain useful information.

Who is 《The Witch of Dawn》?

It is one of the biggest mysteries in the Roston Kingdom.

◇  ◇  ◇

That mansion was rumored to be a ghost mansion by the surrounding area.

A dilapidated residence and a desolate garden that had been built for centuries, no one knows how long.

Count Westmeath’s daughter, Finne Westmeath, lived there because she was confined by her step-parents who were the current owners.

Her parents, the former owners, died when Finne was five years old, fourteen years ago.

For the uncle and aunt who inherited the family estate, Finne was a nuisance.

She was useless and had no talents or skills.

They resented Finne and hoped she would disappear naturally.

She was given only one meal a day.

A shabby bed and torn rags.

She was not allowed to use the magic-powered water heater and had to wash her body with cold water even in winter.

She was confined inside the mansion and not even allowed to talk to outsiders, let alone have friends.

The petite and skinny girl always read books in the library alone.

Her maid felt sorry for her but couldn’t give her food against their employer’s wishes since her own livelihoods were at stake.

The maid couldn’t help but say, “This is terrible. . .too terrible, no matter what, ” about the arranged marriage this time.

The Duke Creutzfeldt family is known for being cold and lacking human blood, with many bad rumors surrounding them.

Finne was chosen as the eighth wife of the current head, Bernard, who is known to the public as an honest person but rumored to have sadistic tendencies and to be violent towards his family.

The corrupt Duke covers up his countless unforgivable actions with money and power, living a life consumed by greed.

Bernard, who likes young girls, reportedly set his sights on Finne, who is disliked by the head of the family after being rejected several times due to the bad rumors.

“What a wonderful story. Bernard-sama has spoken to you, ” said Isabella, her mother-in-law, with a satisfied smile.

“I’m so jealous, Onee-sama. He must love you passionately. So much so that you’ll be left with an indelible scar for life. I think his previous wife broke her spine and is still hospitalized, ” said Olivia, her stepsister, in an excited voice.

“He’s a perfect match for my useless and incompetent Onee-sama. After all, no one will be sad even if she dies, ” she added.

(How. . .How terrible. . .!)

The maid bit her lips as they sneered at Finne.

(Finne-sama, how pitiful. . .)

She didn’t know what Finne was thinking as she trembled quietly with her head down.

(No. . .I can’t be happy yet. . .)

Finne thinks to herself,

(Finally, I can leave this house. . .! I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. . .!)

With joy in her heart that makes her want to scream, Finne pretends to be sad as she listens to the talk of her marriage proposal.

Chapter 2: Ghost Mansion

Since she was a child, Finne loved books.

After losing her parents at the age of five, books saved her from feeling alone in the vast world.

Fortunately, the ghost mansion where Finne was imprisoned had many books left behind by their owner.

She carefully brushed off the dust from the damaged old books and immersed herself in the world of books.

Among them, Finne loved the mysterious books lined up on the back shelf.

The faintly glowing books seemed invisible to the maids.

She confirmed it many times through experiments, and she was sure that only she could see those books. That’s why Finne read those glowing books with enthusiasm.

(Surely they must be special and amazing books!)

Although the books were written in a language that Finne did not know, she could somehow understand the words written there.

[That’s great, kid. You can read that book. ]

The person who spoke to her had long, fluffy hair and a beautiful face that had a dreamlike quality to it.

He wore a robe that made him look like a famous wizard and looked at her with interest.

“Who are you, Ojii-san?”

[I’m not Ojii-san. I’m your Onii-san. ]

The man’s voice, with his narrowed eyes and smile, seemed to resonate directly in her head without passing through her eardrums.

[Moreover, you can see me. That’s amazing. You’re a prodigy. ]

His body was translucent, and if you looked closely, you could see the window in the back faintly peeking through.

“Um, are you a ghost?”

[Well, isn’t this where you should be more surprised?]

“I’m busy reading now, so I’ll talk to you later.”

[Huh? Oh, okay. . .]

From then on, Finne immersed herself in reading and left the ghost alone for half a day.

“Phew, that was interesting.”

[You’re really laid-back, aren’t you. ]

“Because Mr. Ghost. . .this book is so interesting.”

[Well, as the author, I’m honored to hear that. ]

“Did you write this book?!”

Finne leaned forward and asked the Ghost many questions.

He was known as the 《Sage of Dawn》 in the past and knew everything.

Naturally, Finne began to admire Mr. Ghost and called him Master.

“Hey, Master. Let’s play hide-and-seek. You can be the demon all the time.”

[What kind of bullying rule is that?]

“Hey, Master. I ate a mushroom in the garden, and now my mouth feels tingly.”

[Spit it out!]

“Hey, Master. I can’t sleep, so can you stay with me?”

[Sure. What do you want to talk about?]

Although she was embarrassed to say it, spending time with Mr. Ghost was very comfortable for Finne.

As a teacher, friend, and surrogate parent.

When a maid heard their conversation, she wiped away her tears and said, “Imaginary friend. . .! Finne-sama, how pitiful. . .!” so they couldn’t talk too loudly.

While learning various things from her master, Finne steadily became a full-fledged wizard.

“Hey, Master. There’s a magic paper contest coming up. Can I submit something?”

[But it says in the rules that you have to be over 18 years old. ]

“It’s okay. I’ll use a fake name so my stepmother won’t find out. I’ll probably only make it through the first screening anyway.”

[That’s true. I think you have talent, but it’s tough to write something that will work for an adult-oriented paper contest at the age of 12. It’s okay as one experience. ]

Thus, Finne’s ‘Consideration of Magic Formula Collapse Constants in Eight and Twenty-Four Dimensions’ submitted under the name the《Witch of Dawn》 was welcomed with shock in the kingdom’s magical world.

The wizard with an unknown identity became known as a person with unprecedented talent in the history of the kingdom.

“Master! you said it wouldn’t work! Why?!”

[Well, because I didn’t think you would write something that good. . .Seeing you working so hard, I can’t tell you to stop releasing them. . .]

Finne stopped writing her thesis because she didn’t want any more trouble.

Instead, she started flying around and defeating demon beasts in the back mountains while hiding her identity behind a mask.

(This way, I can practice magic and relieve stress! It’s the perfect solution since it’s in the countryside and no one will see me. It’s truly a genius solution!)

However, the demon beasts in the back mountains that Finne defeated were classified as disaster-level creatures that inhabit the 《Demon’s Mountain》, one of the most dangerous areas on the continent.

As a just wizard protecting people from the threat of demon beasts, Finne’s reputation skyrocketed.

She was called various nicknames such as “the greatest genius in the history of the kingdom, ” “the pure and noble witch of salvation, ” and “the most dangerous woman in the north.”

While active as the《Witch of Dawn》, Finne, who had been living as a confined noblewoman, began to desire marriage with corrupt nobles after a conversation one day.

“Is there anything you want to do, Master?”

[Something I want to do?]

“Yeah. If you have something to do and you’re free, I can help you.”

[Finne is kind. ]

“Shut up. Just talk.”

Mr. Ghost laughed at Finne’s blunt response.

[I want to complete the research I was doing. I was so close. ]

“Well, why don’t I help you?”

[Thank you, but I can’t conduct the necessary experimental verification here. I need one of the legendary magical tools called 《Three Sacred Treasures》 in the Roston royal family, the 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》. ]

“Where is that mirror?”

“The Duke Creutzfeldt family owns it. I looked into it, but it’s currently off-limits, and even the owner doesn’t know where it is. I can understand why they would want to hide its power.”

Finne investigated the Duke Creutzfeldt family.

Bernard Creutzfeldt.

The absolute ruler of the Duke Creutzfeldt family.

He was a corrupt aristocrat with various dark rumors, such as unimaginable bribery, collusion with the Holy See, backroom deals with drug cartels, repeated suspicious deaths of his close aides, illegal drug trafficking, and illegal weapons manufacturing.

He liked young girls and committed unspeakable atrocities.

(So, a noble daughter who is estranged from her family and has no connections around her should be more interested. )

It wasn’t difficult to spread rumors about a noble daughter who was confined to a remote mansion and couldn’t go outside and create a marriage proposal.

[Why are you doing this? It’s dangerous, and there are risks. . .]

“It’s okay. I just wanted to do it. Besides, it would be fun to take down that corrupt Duke with a righteous hammer.”

[. . .I’ll definitely protect you. ]

“Thanks. Let’s pulverize that evil Duke together.”

Finne loaded as many books from the library as she could onto the carriage and set off for the Duke’s house.

“Poor Finne-sama. . .! I will always be on your side, no matter what!”

Mia, the maid, followed along forcefully.

Although she seemed to have many misunderstandings, Finne stopped thinking about it since having many allies was a good thing.

(Now! The evil and corrupt aristocrat is right in front of us! I’ll give him a running start and knock him out!)

As she was warming up and rotating her shoulders, it happened.

“Something terrible has happened! Charles-sama, Bernard-sama’s son, has rebelled! Bernard-sama has been detained by force, and Charles-sama is said to become the new lord. . .”

“. . .Eh?”

Chapter 3: The new head of the Creutzfeldt family

It seems that the corrupt nobleman who was supposed to get married was betrayed by his family members and ended up losing his position.

“I’m sorry. I involved the Westmeath family’s daughter in my family’s affairs.”

They arrived at the Duke’s mansion.

In the magnificent reception room, the new head of the Creutzfeldt family, Charles Creutzfeldt, smiled calmly and said so.

Although he should be in his mid-forties, he looked quite young.

His polite behavior, with every finger carefully polished, and gentle demeanor had a unique power that made Finne feel like she could let her guard down, which is why she found him scary.

She felt something unnatural in his kindness.

He became the new head of the Creutzfeldt family after toppling Bernard, who had a strong power base, and there were many bad rumors about him. Finne thought it wouldn’t hurt to be cautious.

“I don’t know how you felt about marrying my father, but I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for causing you some mental stress and anxiety with this incident. As an apology, I’m thinking of preparing a replacement partner.”

Charles narrowed his eyes and continued.

“Your parents want to deepen their relationship with the Duke Creutzfeldt family. Considering your position, I think we should prepare an appropriate partner for you.”

“Your offer is very kind, but. . .”

Finne carefully chose her words.

“Why are you going to such lengths? If it’s Charles-sama, I think you could just send me back forcibly without any problems.”

“My father served as the head for quite a long time, so it’s reassuring to have the support of the Westmeath Count amidst the expected backlash from those who are dissatisfied with me becoming the head.”

(I see, that makes sense. )

Because he became the head immediately after overthrowing the previous one, he wants to increase his allies even a little.

(However, saying that it’s reassuring is just flattery. )

The current Count Westmeath, who is the brother of Finne’s father, the former head, is not an outstanding person. Although it has not become public knowledge, he is a shallow person who has caused trouble many times since becoming the head.

(It’s dangerous to say that you find such an uncle reassuring. )

While being cautious, Finne returns a smile.

“Thank you very much. I’m very happy with your offer. So, who is the replacement partner?”

Probably not a very good partner.

In the kingdom’s social circles, there are rumors about Finne, who never leaves her remote mansion.

Her Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law are spreading lies about Finne being unattractive and clumsy and unable to appear in public.

(Well, I don’t care what people think. )

Growing up in a harsh environment and reading many books, Finne had acquired a strong heart that could withstand adversity and her own unique way of thinking that could not be easily swayed.

(I don’t care who the partner is. I only chose marriage as a means to let Mr. Ghost do what he wants. )

As long as she achieves her goal, she can make up any reason and disappear.

(However, it’s a bit troublesome if he’s a good person. I can’t just hit “him” without hesitation. Although, the Creutzfeldt family has a lot of bad rumors, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. )

Charles would surely introduce her to some corrupt and immoral aristocrat who is worth punching.

Finne was excited with anticipation when Charles said to her,

“I want you to marry my son.”

His smile seemed too friendly.

“Zion Creutzfeldt. He will be the man who will carry the future of the kingdom in the near future.”

(I can’t believe I’m being introduced to the next heir. . .)

After the meeting, Finne sat on the sofa in the reception room, pondering over Charles’ unexpected words.

(He is 22 years old. Considering the average age difference for marriage among the wealthy in the kingdom, three years older is not much of an age gap. With a good family background and promising future, it’s an excellent condition that I couldn’t even wish for. . .)

It made her dizzy to think that she was supposed to marry a monstrous pervert who was over 50 years older. The range of difference was too great.

(But, I feel like I’ve seen this face somewhere before. )

She stared at the photo, trying to remember, but couldn’t recall it.

Finne grew up with little social interaction and wasn’t good at remembering people’s faces.

(I feel like I’ve seen this person somewhere before, and it feels like it’s someone I had some kind of connection with. )

She traced her memory, but couldn’t remember.

[Good for you. It seems like he’s not as bad as we expected. ]

Mr. Ghost said in a cheerful voice, and Finne whispered softly,

“Well, since he’s the son of that suspicious new heir, he’s undoubtedly a pretty bad person. This will be worth hitting.”

[. . .The expectations are too off the mark. ]

She was clenching her fists and raising her morale, while ignoring Mr. Ghost looking up at the void.

“Finne-sama! Um, I was guided to the room prepared for Finne-sama in the separate residence on the premises. . .”

In a hurry, Mia, the maid, entered the room.

“It’s a bit difficult to describe the state of the room.”

(I see. So that’s how they’re going to harass me. )

As expected of a corrupt noble family with many bad rumors.

(However, I wonder if their harassment about living conditions will work on me, who used to live in a mansion with leaking roofs and became friends with bugs in the toilet. )

With a challenging smile, Finne said:

“It’s okay. I don’t mind even if it’s a little dirty.”

“No, it’s not dirty. Rather, it’s so beautiful that I can’t find the right words to describe it with my vocabulary. . .”

“. . .Huh?”

Chapter 4: Luxurious rooms and delicious snacks

She thought it was an absolute lie.

She was so angry that they used whatever means necessary to make Mia tell such a lie in such a short period of time.

(Really beautiful. . .)

The villa where Zion, the next head of the family, lives.

The room prepared on the second floor was so luxurious that it made her eyes dazzle.

A beautiful crystal chandelier.

At the back of the spacious room, a large bed like the one the royal family sleeps in was placed, and the wind invited by the beautifully decorated windows shook the deep red curtains.

The carpet was as soft as feathers, and there wasn’t a single speck of dirt on any of the furnishings, from the dressing table to the small accessory case.

In disbelief at the sight, Finne covered her mouth and her voice trembled.

“Such. . .I can’t believe a room without any leaks at all exists in this world. . .”

[Your asking standard is a little too low. ]

Mr. Ghost said, holding his temple.

“Finne-sama, I feel sorry for you after all. . .!”

Mia, the maid, said with tears in her eyes.

“This is strange. This door is too smooth to open and close. Normally, doors should make a creaking sound like the end of the world every time you open and close them.”

[I’m sorry that my mansion is too shabby. ]

Finne was surprised that there were no cracks in the glass windows, tilted her head at the lack of sound from drafts, and jumped up in surprise at the soft bed.

Every time she did so, Mr. Ghost looked sad and Mia wiped her tears with a handkerchief saying “Finne-sama, you poor thing. . .”

“Zion-sama is scheduled to return tomorrow. Please relax here until you meet him. I brought marmalade and cream cheese pie.”

“Oh! This is a wonderful dish! With this amount, I won’t need to eat tomorrow!”

“. . .Eh? this is just a light snack.”

“A light snack?”

“Dinner will be served at 6 pm.”

“Dinner? At 6 pm?”

Finne was confused.

Mr. Ghost and Mia nodded slightly while wiping away tears.

“This pie is unbelievably delicious. . .”

She ate the pie with confusion.

At first, her movements were hesitant, but they quickly became faster.

After finishing the large pie in no time, Finne spoke.

“I see. I understand the general aim of Duke Charles Creutzfeldt.”

“Duke-sama’s aim. . .?”

Mia tilted her head, and Finne continued.

“Why would they treat a Count’s daughter who can’t even go outside and is being talked about behind her back in high society so well? The reason is simple. They want to enjoy the contrast.”

“The contrast?”

“Give hope and make them happy, then take everything away and make them despair. It’s something that a shady noble would think of.”

“T-That’s terrible. . .”

“It’s not a problem. Once we see through their aim, we will be in a better position than them.”

Finne smiled slyly.

“Let’s enjoy it to the fullest. Suck up every bit of this luxurious time to the bone, and when it’s taken away, we’ll say ‘Oh, we knew it all along. ‘ They spent so much money on this, they’re sure to regret it!”

“That’s amazing. . .! Your toughness and meanness are perfectly layered like a mille-feuille, Finne-sama!”

“Once that’s decided, let’s ask for seconds of the pie. Mia, you can have some too.”

“Yay! Thank you very much!”

Thus, Finne had three servings of pie for two people during the first day’s snack, confusing the mansion’s cook.

On the other hand, her body couldn’t keep up with suddenly eating so much, and she suffered from stomach pain, spending the rest of the time moaning in bed.

When she desperately said, “Don’t throw away the dinner I couldn’t eat because I’ll eat it tomorrow. . .!” Mr. Ghost was at a loss for words at her stubbornness, but for some reason, the evaluation of the mansion’s cook went up, saying “Even in poor health, she still cares about not wasting our food. . .!”

And then, the next day arrived.

It was the day of the meeting with the Duke family’s heir.

Chapter 5: Face-to-face meeting day

(Oh, what a delicious meal. . .! I can’t believe there are such wonderful things in this world. . .!)

Second day of the new life at the Duke’s house.

Finne was tapping her cheeks with her hand, enjoying the leftovers from yesterday and breakfast.

“Finne-sama! This meat is so tender and delicious!”

Mia, the maid, exclaimed with excitement.

Although Finne’s master allowed it, he twisted his neck wondering about this maid’s professional ethics as she ate at the same table without any hesitation. However, Finne, who was completely absorbed in the delicious food, didn’t seem to mind.

After the meal, she lounged on the soft bed to her heart’s content.

She rubbed her cheek against the soft sheets and fully enjoyed the momentary happiness of her future life as a Duchess before preparing for the face-to-face meeting.

“Zion-sama is scheduled to return in the afternoon. Please choose your attire for the meeting from here.”

A row of bright dresses lined up in the dressing room.

Finne had been living in tattered clothes at the ghost’s mansion, so she was overwhelmed by the flood of colors.

“Why do they make these fabrics so thin. . .? They should use thicker ones!”

She touched the dress nervously, afraid she might accidentally tear it.

“Finne-sama looks so beautiful in that . . .”

Mia cried when she saw how beautiful she looked in that dress.

Mr. Ghost laughed mischievously.

[It suits you. ]

“Shut up.”

She felt embarrassed for some reason.

As she whispered away, Finne’s mind wandered to the next head of the Duke family, whom she was going to marry.

(I feel like I’ve seen him somewhere before. . .)

A vague fragment deep in her memory seemed to be trying to tell her something.

However, Finne couldn’t remember.

It was at that moment when she was staring at the photo.

(Maybe his hairstyle is different. . .?! No, there might be other differences too. . .)

The photos used for marriage are inevitably more dressed up than usual.

(And if he looked completely different from usual when I met him. . .)

“Finne-sama, Zion-sama has arrived.”

The maid’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“I’ll be right there.”

When the man appeared, Finne was left speechless.

(This person. . .is he the one from back then?)

She remembered.

She remembered him covered in wounds and on the brink of death.

Four years ago.

A stampede of record-breaking demon beasts attacked the northern region, causing tremendous damage that is said to be the worst in the kingdom’s history.

It was later revealed that the damage had been exacerbated by mistakes in the initial response.

[A stampede of demon beasts in this area hasn’t happened in over two hundred years. ]

The lack of preparation and delay in initial response due to complacency proved fatal.

In the midst of an obvious shortage of personnel, it was recorded that only one magician had stopped a group of demon beasts of an unprecedented scale.

Three years later, at the age of eighteen, he became the youngest member of the 《Five Sages》 and was called the 《Ice Magician》.

Finne does not know what Zion Creutzfeldt was thinking when he went to his death, defending the town of Scalagholt single-handedly despite the desperate situation.

All she knew was that his body was found among countless dead demon beasts.

Zion told Finne as she approached, defeating the remaining demon beasts, “Kill me.”

He seemed disappointed that he was still alive.

Finne somehow felt that he wanted to die.

The fine rain, like mist, soaked everything there.

Zion’s face, as if he had given up on the world, irritated Finne.

“I’ve decided. I won’t let you die.”

It wasn’t easy to help him, but Finne activated seven types of recovery magic in parallel and forcibly stopped his dying body in this world.

She carried him to an unused mountain hut near the ghost mansion and continued to cast healing magic for a month, improving his condition to the point where he could be treated at a civilian medical facility.

During that month, Finne talked to him about various things.

Because she was annoyed that he wanted to die, she talked endlessly about the wonders of being alive as a form of harassment.

Wrapping oneself in straw under the bedsheet on a cold and sleepless night and sleeping surrounded by a fragrant scent.

Thanks to the leaky roof, being able to enjoy the sound of rain longer than others.

The stars in the night sky seen from the roof were as beautiful as jewels.

The “homemade grass soup” they drank at that time was the most delicious thing in the world.

“Is it good? The world is such a wonderful thing. If you understand that, don’t think negatively about wanting to die. Try saying you want to die again next time. I’ll beat you up until you can’t stand up again.”

After harassing and threatening him thoroughly, she sent him to the town of Skarholt and returned to the ghost mansion feeling refreshed.

However, using him to relieve stress would lead to an unexpected situation.

“Is the 《Ice Magician》 looking for the 《Witch of Dawn》?”

“It seems like he has something he wants to talk about.”

“He’s offering ten large gold coins to whoever brings her to him.”

The rumors spread throughout the kingdom, reaching even Finne, who lived on the border.

(Oh no. . .He’s definitely trying to get revenge for what happened last time. . .)

If it was just an ordinary opponent, there would be no need to fear as she could easily blast them away with magic.

The problem was that he was a famous magician who had caused a stir in the kingdom as a child prodigy.

The cold-hearted and merciless 《Ice Magician》 who had no human blood flowing through his veins.

He always had a statue-like expression, and no one had ever seen him show any human-like emotions.

He was an absolute zero-degree mechanical doll who would stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

Finne was at a loss as she heard the unsettling rumors.

(Have I made an enemy of an incredibly dangerous opponent?!)

She had been harassing him for a whole month, not realizing how dangerous he was.

If she were caught, she didn’t know what kind of fate awaited her.

Fortunately, when she acted as the 《Witch of Dawn》, Finne disguised herself to prevent her true identity from being revealed.

She hid her slender body under a robe made from torn curtains and covered her short stature with homemade secret boots.

She changed her hairstyle with a wig she made by braiding her own hair and wore a mask made from scrap materials.

(I don’t think anyone will be able to identify me. . .)

However, the movements of the 《Ice Magician》 far exceeded Finne’s imagination.

She collected information about the《Witch of Dawn》 extensively and conducted a charity project that provided identification cards to impoverished women while buying up the poorhouse in the northern region.

(He’s really trying to find me. . .!)

From where in their elegant and intellectual conversation did he deduce that 《The Witch of Dawn》 was a woman belonging to the impoverished class?

(I don’t want to die. . .I can’t let him find me. . .!)

It’s an opponent with a significant history.

(My lack of interest in others is causing trouble. . .I can’t believe he was the next head of the Duke Creutzfeldt family. )

She may have heard of him in the course of her research, but she had forgotten all about it because she was not interested in his family background.

That’s why Finne forgets how to breathe when she sees her future husband.

(This person, did he notice my true identity and still proposed marriage. . .!)

It’s an impossible situation to escape from.

She was terrified that she would be locked up in a prison called the graveyard of life and bullied with cold-blooded emotional abuse.

His silver hair sways, and she feels the pressure of his magic clinging to her.

His emotionless eyes are fixed on Finne.

“I’ll tell you this first.”

Zion Creutzfeldt said.

“I won’t love you.”

Finne is confused by his words.

(What is he talking about. . .?)

It should have been a perfect opportunity for him to capture his long-standing opponent, revel in his victory, and feel good about himself.

“This marriage is temporary and meant to strengthen the unstable foundation of the Duke Creutzfeldt family due to the change in leadership. I agreed because I heard that you dislike interacting with people and have been holed up in your mansion all this time. I judged it to be convenient since it wouldn’t interfere with my affairs.”

Zion said in a monotone voice,

“Just stay in the mansion and do nothing. Don’t interfere with me. That’s all I ask of you.”

(Is this. . .could it be. . .)

Finne realized.

(This person doesn’t even realize that I am the《Witch of Dawn》!)

A feeling of relief and joy filled her chest.

There is no doubt.

As her mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been spreading, she is thought to be a shut-in daughter.

(Here it is. . .! It’s convenient for me, an indoor type, to be able to stay shut-in as much as I want. Moreover, information about the 《Ice Magician》 who is targeting me is leaked to us from the inside. What a too-good-to-be-true situation. . .)

Finne nodded with excitement in her voice.

“Understood! I’ll be careful not to interfere with you, Zion-sama.”

Chapter 6: Distorted family

“It’s terrible! It’s so rude to suddenly say something like that out of the blue!”

Zion and his attendant left the room, leaving Mia alone with Finne.

“I heard he was cruel and heartless, but I never expected him to be like that.”

“It’s fine. It saves time. It’s even easier not to get involved.”

Finne doesn’t seem to care at all.

In fact, she seems to be humming a tune, but Mia doesn’t seem satisfied.

“As you said, it was a strategy of raising and dropping. . .”

Mia says with her head down.

“I thought Finne-sama had finally found a real family.”

“A real family?”

“Madam and Master treat Finne-sama like a nuisance. Even the Westmeath family, which was originally Finne-sama’s parents’, started boasting ‘this house is mine’ as soon as they died.”

“Uncle has the right according to the inheritance law.”

“But they did a lot of illegal things. How many things did they sell without permission to pay off their debts?”

After exhaling bitterly, Mia says:

“That’s why I was hoping for this story a little bit. I hope Finne-sama can have a truly reliable family.”

“Don’t worry. Mia, you know? Life is like a masterpiece romance novel.”

“Um. . .Does that mean you’ll mostly suffer from amnesia if you have an accident?”

“No, it’s not like that.”

“Well. . .I give up. What do you mean?”

Mia tilted her head in confusion, and Finne narrowed her eyes with a smile.

“It’s something that can be enjoyed even alone, more than enough.”

❂❂❂

(I didn’t expect such a bright response. )

Zion Creutzfeldt pondered over their conversation.

Finne Westmeath.

She was the daughter of the late Count Westmeath, who was unable to socialize and was a shut-in young lady who couldn’t even go outside. Rumors spread by the current head couple said that she had no social skills, no education, and was a hopeless failure.

However, Zion felt that the actual person was different from what was rumored.

(She doesn’t seem to have such poor social skills. Is there another reason why she didn’t show up in society?)

After thinking for a while, Zion raised his head.

(It’s none of my business. )

There is no love in noble marriages.

At least, that’s how it is in the Creutzfeldt family where he grew up.

His grandfather Bernard hurt many people as an irredeemable villain who indulged in debauchery and was eventually betrayed by his own son.

The family was in terrible shape due to his grandfather’s selfishness and immense power.

Zion’s parents hated his grandfather and rarely came home, so he always spent time alone.

He had no one he could trust.

Naturally, Zion became immersed in the world of magic.

While he was absorbed in magic, he could forget about his twisted family and the loneliness of not being loved.

However, fortunately or unfortunately, he had two rare qualities.

[Amazing. . .I’ve never seen such numbers before. . .]

One is his outstanding talent in magic that surpasses others.

[Hey, can you tell me the name of that wonderful person?]

The other is his bewitching eyes that attract others even if he doesn’t intend to.

The surroundings are naturally drawn to him, losing their composure.

His talent, which is often viewed with envy, was mostly a curse in his case.

A few days after his eighth birthday, Zion was held down by an older man and touched inappropriately.

The man was a bishop of the Holy See who was close to her grandfather.

Zion stopped trusting adults.

In the summer when he was ten years old, he was taken to a hiding place by an older woman and touched inappropriately.

Zion stopped trusting women.

A chilling sensation remained in his head.

He felt like she had become dirty.

Since there were many other similar incidents, Zion was always wary of his surroundings and came to believe that he couldn’t trust anyone.

(Humans are alone from birth to death. )

Zion thinks.

(People can’t be trusted, and there’s no need to trust them. I don’t need family or lovers. )

However, despite trying to think that way, one image keeps coming to mind.

Someone who saved him when he had always wanted to die.

(What are you thinking when you’re about to get married?)

Zion shakes his head and takes a deep breath.

(I’m fine alone. That’s enough. )

Chapter 7: Wedding and banquet

A few days after the introduction, Finne and Zion’s wedding was held.

After the ceremony, there was a reception and a standing party.

What happens there is a power struggle between nobles.

They monitor each other’s every move, from the order of greetings to who interacts with whom.

Especially now that the head of the family has changed, the Creutzfeldt family must be extremely careful.

The Duke family seemed to be proceeding with the meal carefully under meticulous preparation and planning.

As the next Duchess, Finne will inevitably be greeted by various people.

(I don’t feel like I can remember anyone’s face or name. . .)

For Finne, who grew up in the ghost mansion without interacting with outsiders, the social world is too hectic and difficult to keep up with.

(Everyone is so good at doing such troublesome things. I want to go home and read books while lounging around. )

However, there are good things about such meals.

The prepared dishes were so luxurious and colorful that Finne had never seen anything like it before.

It was her first time experiencing such food as she grew up poor.

(I have to conquer all the menus without being noticed by those around me. )

Finne poured all her mental resources into finding the optimal solution for conquering the food without being noticed.

At that moment, she was approached by her mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

“Don’t get too comfortable. You have no allies as a useless person. Don’t forget that, ” said her mother-in-law in a low voice, while her sister-in-law spoke next to her.

“Good luck. It probably won’t go well, though.”

The Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law were quite dissatisfied with Bernard losing his position and marrying Zion. However, it seems that they cannot express their opinions openly because the other party is the Duke family.

They still seemed to want to complain, but they closed their mouths when they saw a well-known noble nearby.

“What unpleasant people, really.”

Mia whispered.

“Don’t worry about it, Finne-sama.”

Finne was looking down.

Her bangs hung down.

A melancholic expression.

(I wonder if I can put this meal in a container and take it home. )

Only the long-time companion ghost realized that Finne was only thinking about food.

Looking at Finne with a look of exasperation, the ghost suddenly shook her eyes.

At the end of her gaze was a man with a beard.

In the glamorous social scene, the man was alone, writing something in a thick book.

[Oh?]

He peered into it with interest and then beckoned Finne over.

[Come here for a moment. This person is doing something interesting. ]

Only Finne could hear the ghost’s voice.

Acting as if she suddenly became interested, Finne approached the man.

The white-bearded man was writing small letters all over the margins of the book.

Written in ancient Almerian magical language, it cannot be understood by ordinary people at all.

However, having been exposed to magical language at the ghost mansion, Finne could understand the content to some extent.

It seems that he is considering a new hypothesis by applying magical theory written in ancient books.

(What’s this, interesting. . .)

The more Finne looked, the more she was drawn into his hypothesis.

There were many of the latest modern magic theories that Finne did not know, and there was a charm that made her want to think about it.

Finne stared at the book and thought.

“Finne-sama?”

Mia’s curious voice was not heard at all.

Emotionless eyes.

Accelerating thoughts.

The small seed of inspiration rapidly bore fruit and extended its branches.

As if guided by something, Finne picked up the fountain pen that the man had placed on the table and began to write down what came to mind on the table.

After writing a proof that applied the theory of ancient magic used in the old civilization, she gasped and came back to herself.

It was strange behavior for the next Duchess.

The strange gazes of those around her gathered.

Her mother-in-law and sister-in-law looked at her with faces that seemed to say, “What is she doing?”

Above all, what made it a failure was that the man with a beard who had started it all was frowning at Finne.

(He’s really angry. . .I’ve completely messed up!)

She tried to cover it up in a hurry, but no words came out.

“W-Well, Finne-sama loves books and is very smart. So, she was just intrigued by what she was reading.”

Mia followed up while trembling and turning pale under the gaze of the noble people around her.

Just as Finne was about to speak up as well. . .

“Why. . .no, there’s no mistake. . .”

The man with white whiskers said in a trembling voice.

“A genius. . .”

Chapter 8: Brilliant way of doing things that no one notices.

The man continued, leaving Finne confused and unable to understand the situation.

“What is your wish? I will prepare anything that I can. Please tell me how I can call you to the laboratory.”

His words were overwhelming.

Just as Finne was about to step back from the man who leaned forward, a citrus scent wafted in the air.

Interrupting them was Zion Creutzfeldt, her formal husband.

“Sensei, has my wife disturbed your contemplation?”

Perhaps Finne had made a mistake.

It was natural to think so if anyone had seen the situation.

(Who is the person that the 《Ice Magician》 calls “sensei”?)

On the other hand, Finne was thinking about who the bearded man was.

She wasn’t very familiar with the magical world of the kingdom.

She didn’t want to know more because it would only add to her worries, and she wasn’t interested in other people’s affairs in the first place.

For Finne, magic and books were more important than anything else in the human world.

(Maybe he’s someone quite high up. Who is he. . .?)

Finne stared at the white-bearded man intently.

The man spoke to Zion, “Tell me, who is she? How can she write such a proof?”

“Proof?”

Zion looked puzzled as the man pointed to the proof written on the table.

“. . .Did you write this?”

Finne nodded, still confused.

“Yes, but. . .”

“The approach and way of thinking used here are completely different from modern magic theory.”

The man with the white beard says,

“Even as an honorary professor at the Royal Magic College, I cannot fully understand the advanced and complex application of ancient magic.”

(Honorary professor?! Isn’t he an incredibly amazing person?!)

Finne is speechless at the unexpected big shot.

“Moreover, it was improvised. She looked at my notes and wrote this in less than a minute.”

The honorary professor says excitedly.

Before she knows it, a crowd has gathered around them.

(Something serious is happening. . .!)

Finne’s eyes roll back in panic.

For her, who has been living alone in the ghost mansion, the attention is too much to bear.

(I need to calm down. . .I can’t be overwhelmed by something like this. I have adversity resistance like a dandelion growing on the roadside. . .!)

She raises her spirits and returns a smile to those around her.

“I just thought of it because there was a similar idea in a book I happened to read this morning. As expected, you’re good at praising, Professor. Well then, excuse me for today as my stomach hurts.”

When in doubt, run away.

A perfect plan to naturally exit the situation.

(As expected of me! Pretending to be sick is such an advanced strategy that no one else would have thought of it, and there’s no way they’ll find out!)

Finne, who grew up without much communication with others and is ignorant of the world, left the scene with a confident expression of victory.

(What was that obvious fake illness. . .)

No one could stop Finne’s escape plan because it was too low-level and transparent.

Humans are strange creatures. When they are shown something blatantly vulnerable, they tend to suspect that there must be some ulterior motive behind it.

Moreover, in Finne’s case, the situation up until now had been pushing her forward.

She was a Count’s daughter who showed talent to the point of leaving Professor Austin, who served as an honorary professor at the Royal Magic College and was also known as the 《Ice Magician’s》 teacher, speechless.

A shut-in who couldn’t even go outside, a failure who couldn’t do anything.

Such rumors in high society had begun to be completely overwritten in just a few minutes.

(She’s not incompetent at all. Is this why the Creutzfeldt family has their eyes on her? Where did she get that much power from. . .)

The nobles gasped in amazement.

(Who is that girl. . .?)

Chapter 9: Unexpected confession

After Finne left, Zion stared at the magical language left on the table.

He pursues the highly abstract theory that it indicates, his lips tightly drawn.

As if he had noticed something, he opens his eyes wide.

“Um, Zion-sama. Sister-in-law seems to be feeling unwell, so if you like, I can——”

However, Olivia’s words, who is Finne’s sister-in-law, did not reach Zion’s ears.

He raised his face as if he had been bounced off and hurried in the direction Finne had left.

The fragments of proof written on the table were shaking his heart violently.

(That is the same ancient magic logical development as the “Consideration of Magic Formula Collapse Constants in Eight and Twenty-Four Dimensions” written by the《Witch of Dawn》——)

He couldn’t control his impulse.

He followed Finne with a blank mind.

Finne, who had left the venue using a fake illness, was sitting on the sofa in her private room and breathing a sigh of relief.

“Are you okay, Finne-sama?”

Mia said with concern.

“I can’t believe Finne-sama who ate rotten food served by the mistress as harassment without noticing it and said it was delicious could get a stomach ache. . .”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

“Finne-sama just narrowed her eyes and said it was delicious.”

(Huh? Maybe I have a really poor palate. . .?)

For a moment, she had such doubts, but it’s good to feel that everything is delicious, so she decided not to think deeply about it.

Finne avoids anything inconvenient and lives happily every day.

“Oh! My stomach is starting to feel better. Looks like I’m okay.”

“Really?! That’s great.”

“Now that my stomach is better, I’m starting to feel hungry. Could you ask the maid in charge of cleaning up to bring me the remaining dishes?”

“Okay! I’ll bring back a full container!”

Mia leaves the room with enthusiasm.

Alone, Finne breathes a sigh of relief and looks around.

Mr. Ghost is nowhere to be found.

He must have found something interesting and wandered off.

(Ah, this is calming. . .! Being alone is the best. . .!)

Leaving the noisy dining hall full of people, she lies down on the sofa and relaxes. Suddenly, she hears a knock at the door.

(Mia! That was fast!)

Humming a tune, Finne opens the door and freezes upon seeing who’s there. It’s the《Ice Magician》Zion Creutzfeldt, her husband-to-be and archenemy of the 《Witch of Dawn》.

“I-I didn’t lie about my stomach ache. I just said I felt better after returning to my room.”

“I knew it was a lie from the beginning.”

“Huh?!”

“More importantly, it’s about what you proved earlier. Who taught you to use the second auxiliary formula in the sixth line?”

(Oh, this is like a situation I’ve seen in romance novels. )

The classic move of cornering someone against a wall.

(I never thought I’d experience this day as someone who has hardly talked to any real men. )

Thinking it’s someone else’s problem, she considers her response to his question.

(To tell the truth, I learned it from Mr. Ghost, but if I say that, he’ll just treat me like a crazy person. . .What answer could I give to deceive him?)

Zion said to Finne, who was lost in thought.

“You learned it from the 《Witch of Dawn》. Am I right?”

Finne forgot how to breathe.

“Why. . .?”

“The same logical development as in the paper ‘Consideration of Magic Formula Collapse Constants in Eight and Twenty-Four Dimensions’ written by the 《Witch of Dawn》 was used. I don’t think there is another wizard who can master that.”

Finne, the author of the paper, understood better than anyone else that his words were based on objectively valid facts.

(Why did he investigate so thoroughly. . .)

Finne held her head in her mind.

(Does he hold such a strong grudge against me. . .?!)

There is no doubt.

Her life is in danger.

She must avoid being identified at all costs.

However, even Finne, who had little experience with people, could sense that clumsy deception would not work.

(He probably didn’t think I was the 《Witch of Dawn》 myself because I’m too young. )

He probably didn’t think that she wrote the paper ‘Consideration of Magic Formula Collapse Constants in Eight and Twenty-Four Dimensions’ at the age of twelve.

(If that’s the case, I’ll use that mistake to create a believable lie. . .)

“Yes, that’s right. I learned it from the《Witch of Dawn》.”

Zion’s well-shaped eyes widened.

“Where did you meet her?”

“It was on a mountain behind the mansion. I happened to meet her while playing outside the mansion and we became friends.”

“When was this?”

“Eight years ago.”

This was before she started her activities as the《Witch of Dawn》.

This way, even if he investigates, no clues will come out.

“I finally found a clue. . .”

A small murmur slipped out.

It felt like a great feeling of joy was mixed in there.

(Huh? He seems a bit more human-like. )

He was supposed to have a reputation for being ruthless and emotionless.

While admiring his unexpected expression, Finne thinks of a plan to make the most of this situation.

(The《Ice Magician》will probably pursue 《The Witch of Dawn》’s true identity from now on. He might be more aggressive than before. )

A dangerous enemy trying to expose her true identity.

To ensure safety and explore the inside of the Duke’s house, she wants to create a situation where she can obtain information with high certainty about his movements.

“If you don’t mind, I could you.”

Zion frowned at Finne’s proposal.

“. . .Help?”

“I was wondering if I could help you chase after the 《Witch of Dawn》 too.”

“Why are you making such a proposal?”

“Well, we’re technically partners now, so I want to be of help.”

“You don’t have to go that far for me.”

Zion said.

“But I have a reason to do so. Because you’re my husband.”

“I coldly rejected you.”

Ah, so that’s what he was worried about.

“It’s okay. I’m not bothered by it at all.”

“But. . .”

Zion hesitated to speak.

Finne tries to get him to talk, but the strong will wall is hard to break down.

“I can’t do it. I can’t ask you to do that for me. Absolutely not.”

“Why not?”

“Formally speaking, it’s because you’re my wife.”

(I see. Asking for help in finding other women may not be the right thing to do for a newlywed wife. )

Even if the reason was to find and beat up the 《Witch of Dawn》, it wouldn’t be a happy thing for a spouse.

(So, if we can dispel that anxiety, the situation can be improved!)

Finding a breakthrough, Finne said.

“It’s okay! I also intend to have a political marriage in name only, just like my husband. I don’t see you as a man at all! I love books and magic more than living people, so I can guarantee that I won’t be hurt no matter what happens! So please rest assured and let me help you.”

Zion hesitated for a while before saying,

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. No problem.”

“Even if I were chasing after her for whatever reason?”

“Yes. I have no interest in my husband at all.”

With a strong assertion, Zion looked at Finne and said,

“Okay. Thank you. I’ll count on you.”

(All right! Cooperation relationship complete! All the information within the enemy’s camp is mine!)

Finne smiled wickedly in her mind, confident of victory.

(Now, let’s gather information. First of all, what kind of revenge does he plan to take?)

If she could grasp the content of the revenge, she might be able to prepare countermeasures in advance.

“But why are you looking for the 《Witch of Dawn》?”

“Well. . .”

“Don’t worry. I won’t be put off by any cruel reasons. Please tell me along with the outrageous revenge methods you have prepared.”

“What do you think of me?”

“A slightly troublesome heir who grew up in a not-so-good family?”

“. . .”

After taking a deep breath, Zion spoke.

“It’s not for the reasons you’re thinking. It’s actually the opposite.”

“The opposite?”

“I am grateful to her. And maybe. . .”

Finne couldn’t quite catch the words that were spoken in a voice that seemed to be fading away.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t hear that well.”

“Oh, sorry.”

Scratching his head and turning his face away, he said.

“I’m in love with her. With her.”

“. . .”

Finne looked up at Zion with a blank expression for a while.

Eventually, she said.

“. . .What?”

Chapter 10: Motion

Surprisingly, it seems that the 《Ice Magician》 is in love with the 《Witch of Dawn》.

She confirmed it so persistently because she couldn’t understand the meaning, but he didn’t change his opinion at all, so his words are probably true.

“. . .What do you like about her?”

Finne says while hiding her inner turmoil.

“That person has some human problems, or so I think she might have harassed me.”

“Is that the kind of person you know as 《The Witch of Dawn》? Interesting.”

He looks at me intently and then squints his eyes.

“The 《Witch of Dawn》 I know was a kind person. She treated me for free when I was as good as dead and kept telling me how wonderful it is to live. I thought she was a person with a warm heart and deep emotions.”

(Is my harassment being interpreted in an extremely positive way?!)

She was acting with 100% pure malice because she didn’t like the way he looked at her when he said ‘kill me’.

“But, isn’t it just a one-month event from four years ago? It doesn’t seem like something to keep thinking about so much.”

“For me, it was the moment when I felt for the first time since birth that I wanted to ‘live. ‘ It was the most valuable month of my life. I was saved.”

“But, in just that amount of time, you wouldn’t know much about the other person.”

“I can’t say that I know everything about her. But she told me a lot about herself. That there’s something mixed in with the smell of books that gives happiness. That listening to the sound of rain calms the heart. That the wind on a summer night feels good. That drinking soup made from wild grass on a rooftop is really delicious.”

Finne is perplexed.

(Why such harassment has become a beautiful memory. )

“More than anything, what I felt was wonderful was her way of thinking.”

Zion says.

“Even in an unfavorable environment, one can be happy depending on their way of thinking. Her positivity and strength shone brightly. It’s also nice to be able to feel happy in the small moments of everyday life. The unusual things that make her different from ordinary people are also great. For example——”

(Is he really praising me so much?! Is he in love with me?!)

Finne is dizzy from experiencing something she has never experienced before.

Zion suddenly realizes and says, “I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?”

“No, it’s not that. I’m actually happy to hear more.”

“Why does it make you happy?”

“Well, I like love stories. Especially stories about unrequited love.”

It was a lie that came out spontaneously, but it was fortunate that it became somewhat convincing.

There is a general image that women like stories about love, so he seems to have understood.

“But I don’t want to confess my feelings to her. She seems to come from a poor background, and the Duke family, which we belong to, has a bad reputation. We are not allowed to get married, and I might hurt her by getting too close. However, I want to meet her again and express my gratitude. Thanks to her, I was able to feel like I wanted to live.”

It was a mixture of love and sadness.

(No, it’s me. . .)

He never seemed to dream that he was already married to her, and that she was right in front of him in an ongoing relationship.

(W-What is this situation?!)

Finne is flustered but tries hard to hide her inner turmoil.

Chapter 11: Expectations

[Sounds like it’s going to be quite interesting.]

Mr. Ghost’s voice was heard after Zion left the room.

“Well, eavesdropping is not a good hobby.”

[I do feel bad about it. But as someone who needs to protect you, I thought it was important to know what was being discussed.]

“Indeed, it was an important conversation to consider our future plans. . .”

Finne recalled the conversation and held her head.

“What does it even mean that the《Ice Magician》 had a crush on me? It’s such a confusing situation! All I did was harass him!”

[Feelings are often difficult to convey properly. However, his earnest efforts to find you do change the impression of his true feelings.]

“. . .”

Finne blushed as Mr. Ghost narrowed his eyes.

[I’m happy if you’re having fun.]

“Shut up.”

Finne stares resentfully, then says.

“Anyway, considering our goals, the situation is moving in a positive direction. We can now keep track of the《Ice Magician》’s movements as a collaborator and start exploring the Creutzfeldt family with peace of mind. The 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》 is necessary to complete Mr. Ghost’s research. Although it was unexpected that Bernard lost his position as head of the family, we can still use my position as the wife of the next head of the family to obtain it.”

[Are you sure about that?]

Mr. Ghost asked with a puzzled expression.

“What do you mean?”

[I don’t need your help. More than that, I want you to be happy. Listen to your heart, do what you want, and make your wishes come true. There were only problems with the marriage to the corrupt Duke, but the next heir seems like a decent partner. It seems like he is strongly attracted to the 《Witch of Dawn》, you, and if you reveal your true identity, you might be able to have a happy married life.”

“That’s impossible.”

Finne said.

[That’s not my type. I have a personality that can live happily alone, and I don’t like the idea of having someone else take care of me. I can’t forgive anything crooked, so I’m not suited to living in noble society. Above all——.”

After hesitating for a moment, she continued.

“Mr. Ghost is much more important to me. You have no idea how much you saved me when I was alone. There is nothing more important than fulfilling the wish of my benefactor.”

[But I want you to prioritize yourself first.]

“This is what I want the most.”

Finne said.

“There is no need for a change. Let’s proceed with the plan.”

❂❂❂

Private room at night.

After finishing work and taking a break, Zion reflected on his conversation with Finne.

(It was completely different from what I imagined.)

Despite being unable to go outside due to her poor interpersonal skills, she was an easy person to talk to.

Despite having resistance to trusting others and revealing his innermost thoughts, he found himself speaking honestly about his feelings.

Why did he feel like he could trust her?

Zion knows the reason for that.

(She is like that person.)

The 《Witch of Dawn》 who saved him.

Her voice and way of speaking felt similar to what he heard back then.

(Probably because she was by her side as her disciple.)

She would have been influenced not only by magic but also by her human nature.

Even just that faint presence made Zion feel completely satisfied.

The time that flowed away in four years and the fading memories.

The shadow of her that he had been desperately pursuing.

(I finally found it. . . I’m close. . .)

He opened the door and stepped out onto the balcony of his private room.

The pleasant night breeze blew through.

A small star peeked through a gap in the cloudy sky in the north.

He reached out to it, twinkling in the northern sky.

He knew he couldn’t reach it.

But that was okay.

He wanted to reach out his hand.

He wanted to meet her and talk to her like back then.

And he wanted to tell her that he could live thanks to her.

He felt like he had found a clue to getting everything in the world.

She must be such a valuable existence to her.

It was just a little progress.

Yet, his heart was full just from that.

(It would be nice if we could meet.)

There was a childish, faint hope in his heart.

Chapter 12: I didn’t want to

Morning.

The chirping of birds and the clear sunlight pouring in through the curtains.

Stretching, Finne realized that her body was feeling better than usual.

(It’s so much more comfortable than the bed in the ghost mansion…I’d fall asleep right away because it feels too good.)

Memories of the ghost mansion came to mind.

The tattered bed with damage everywhere was hard with straw laid on it, and her joints hurt every day.

(Not bad at all, this future duchess’s life.)

“Good morning, Finne-sama.”

Mia and the Duke family’s maids helped her get ready.

(They’re so attentive…it’s amazing, the upper class.)

“Breakfast is ready.”

She headed to the room they had prepared while enjoying her comfortable life.

(Amazing! Such a luxurious meal from the morning!)

Finne squinted at the colorful table.

At that moment, an unexpected person appeared in her peripheral vision.

“…What are you doing here?”

Don’t get involved with me if possible.

That husband said that on that day, and he was there.

Zion fell silent for a while at Finne’s words.

A soundless room.

A long silence.

He looked at Finne with a quiet expressionless face.

Then he looked away and said,

“…I want to hear about that person.”

Finne’s eyes trembled.

A faint agitation.

(She really likes this person (me).)

Embarrassed, she scratched her cheek.

Mr. Ghost passing by noticed and narrowed his eyes.

She glared sharply and chased him away.

Finne talked about the 《Witch of Dawn》.

Zion listened quietly while nodding his head.

Finne felt a little uneasy at his cool expressionless face where emotions couldn’t be seen.

(I wonder if I’m not speaking well enough. .)

Finne, who has been imprisoned in the borderlands and has had little experience with people, finds it difficult to talk to others due to her lack of social skills.

(I must not be speaking well.)

Zion said to Finne, who was struggling to find the right words.

“Please continue.”

“Huh?”

“I want to hear more.”

His words were calm, but his strong will could be felt.

Upon closer inspection, he seemed to be leaning slightly forward more than when they started talking.

(He seems to be really enjoying this.)

Finne stopped thinking and continued her story.

“It’s a bit technical, but the 《Witch of Dawn》 uses a magic formula with a special structure here.”

“The Henri-Scholz formula. It creates an optimized smooth velocity vector field and a fragile pressure field.”

“Do you know about it?”

“I have studied the ancient magic she uses.”

“Oh…”

“It was a very beautiful magic formula.”

“What?! Yes! That’s right!”

Finne leaned forward and spoke excitedly.

“That magic formula has a very beautiful structure. It’s like the whole thing resonates and harmonizes as if God created it. It’s a bit disappointing that it lacks practicality, but a beautifully shaped magic formula has an invaluable value in itself…”

“But there is something more important than practicality.”

Finne spoke quickly, but Zion listened and nodded repeatedly.

As two people who love magic and have been devoted to it since childhood, they must have some similarities.

“May I ask you during dinner?”

As they were finishing, Zion said.

“But, I asked the maid, and she said that Zion-sama is always busy and comes home late.”

“No problem.”

After that, they started having dinner together with Zion, but it seemed like the “no problem” was a lie.

He is the next head of the prestigious Duke family and one of the most promising individuals in the kingdom’s magical world as the 《Ice Magician》.

He clearly pushed himself to adjust his dinner time to Finne’s schedule and started bringing a huge amount of work home.

“It’s not like it’s a story worth going to such lengths to hear.”

[Isn’t it because he loves you so much?]

She punched Mr. Ghost’s smirk.

The feeling of cutting through the air and the body dissipating like smoke. It was troublesome because she couldn’t hit an opponent without substance.

“This is only temporary. Once he realizes that he can’t hear anything significant from me anymore, we should return to the relationship he initially wanted. More importantly, let’s focus on achieving our original goal.”

Using her position as the future head’s wife, they gather information on 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》. However, it seemed like the former head had hidden its location very carefully.

They couldn’t find any useful information or even a hint.

(I was planning on finding it quickly and leaving…)

The search wasn’t going as planned.

Time passed by.

An unwanted but comfortable new life went by.

Chapter 13: Mysterious feelings

“Where did he hide it?! The former head of the family is too cautious!”

A month had passed, and Finne still couldn’t find the 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》.

Relying on faint information, she sneaked into the mansion where the successive heads of the family lived at night and searched for suspicious places, but only irrelevant things came out.

The former head of the family, who was called an evil aristocrat, had hidden the 《mirror》 very carefully.

[Probably, he anticipated that someone might come after him. He had a side that couldn’t trust humans because he was aware that he had earned the resentment of many people through his own actions.]

“It’s a good nuisance from my point of view. I want to end this life as soon as possible.”

[Huh? But you seem pretty happy with your current life.]

“…Yes. I won’t deny that point.”

“Is there any other problem?”

“It’s too comfortable.”

Finne shook her fist.

“I get three meals a day, and every night there’s a full course on the table. The bed is soft, and it feels so good to rub my cheeks against it. The magic shower has warm water, and the bath is big enough to stretch my legs. The chef always has baked goods and cakes ready, so if I eat them every day, I’ll gain eight kilos.”

[You were so thin that your original self would be surprised, so I think it’s actually healthy.]

“It’s just too comfortable here! Why can I eat until I’m full?! I don’t understand why the walls don’t creak in the wind or why the shower is warm. If I get used to this life, I won’t be able to live a normal life! It’s normal to have one meal a day and sleep wrapped in straw while shivering in winter!”

[That’s not normal.]

Finne was deeply confused by the comfort of her new life.

It was a comfortable life that was completely different from her days in the ghost mansion where she was imprisoned.

The resulting familiarity with the rise in living standards frightened Finne.

“If I live like this, I won’t be able to go back to a normal life… I can’t live a normal life if I can’t enjoy the taste of grass around here.”

[Normal people don’t eat grass around here.]

“Still, this is a corrupt noble family with many bad rumors. My marriage partner is the ruthless and merciless 《Ice Magician》. I was supposed to regain peace of mind from the stress caused by being oppressed. Life is about living positively even in difficult situations and cherishing small happiness.”

[What was the result?]

“Recently, we’ve become friends in a normal way…”

Finne held her head.

“After talking twice a day for breakfast and dinner for a month, we somehow started to feel close to each other. The 《Ice Magician》 listens to my stories with interest, and I enjoy talking to him.”

[You guys feel like normal good friends lately.]

Terrifyingly, Finne and Zion had good chemistry.

Perhaps it was because they were both strongly attracted to magic from a young age and had devoted most of their lives to it.

Surprisingly, they got along well, and they had many common values.

Above all, Finne had been alone all her life.

There was Mr. Ghost and Mia, but this was the first time she had made friends with someone outside the ghost mansion.

A friend from the outside world that she had made for the first time in her life.

It seemed like her existence was just enough to quench Finne’s loneliness and thirst.

(Is this what having a friend feels like…)

Mr. Ghost smiled as he saw Finne’s eyes tremble.

[I’m glad you’re happy.]

“Shut up.”

She punched him to hide her embarrassment.

But something warm remained in her heart.

❂❂❂

The Grand Palace, located in the center of the capital of the Roston Kingdom.

Zion Creutzfeldt was known as the most outstanding young magician in this place, which is the political center of the kingdom.

“You’ve been looking good lately.”

The one who called out to him was Cornelius, who served as the prime minister.

He had known Zion since childhood and served as the highest-ranking official in charge of practical affairs in the country. Zion’s rapid promotion to become one of the Five Sages at a young age was largely due to Cornelius’ favor and support.

In that sense, it was known that there was a deep connection between the two beyond the usual boss-subordinate relationship.

“. . .is that so?”

“The guys who came back from the expedition were surprised. They said, ‘Zion’s eyes aren’t dead! His mouth is up by two millimeters!'”

“Is it just your imagination?”

“No, it’s true. Leos, who is your secret fan and has made observing your every move his life’s work, said so.”

“What a creepy existence.”

“Your expression has definitely become more human than before. It’s a big difference compared to when you only volunteered for dangerous front-line missions and came back with a depressed face.”

“I don’t think there’s that big of a difference.”

“A small difference can contain something big. Don’t be fooled by appearances. What’s important is what lies beneath.”

Cornelius stared at Zion before narrowing his eyes.

“It seems like your newlywed life is going well.”

“Please don’t pry into my private life.”

Zion said in a cold tone, and Cornelius waved his hand, saying, “Sorry, sorry.”

“As someone who has known you for a long time, I’m happy to see your changes. After all, it’s you, Zion. You were feared as the 《Absolute Zero of Cold Blood》 who cut off all human relationships as useless and spoke without any filter. And now you want to go home early because you want to talk to your wife.”

Cornelius said in a bright voice.

“She must be a wonderful person.”

“I’ll decline this job and pass it on to someone else.”

“Wait. I need you for that case.”

“Then please do your job without wasting time on small talk.”

Zion said with a cold look and turned his back.

“Just one more thing before I go.”

The voice from behind was heard when he put his hand on the door.

“Do you no longer want to die?”

Those words sounded different from the usual banter.

Perhaps that was what he wanted to hear the most.

“I don’t know.”

He went out of the room and closed the door.

That was his honest feeling, the complex emotions he had carried since childhood.

A family without love.

A cruel and heartless grandfather and the cold gaze of society.

He had been alone in a crazy house since his parents left.

His grandfather found pleasure in hurting those around him.

The screams continued to echo.

He felt dirty just by breathing.

Even when he reported being touched by the bishop, his grandfather found it amusing.

He felt like he was getting dirtier just by existing.

All that surrounded him were relationships tainted with greed and desire.

He had never seen or known of any healthy and warm love or connection, nor did he know how to create one.

He thought he would continue to live alone like this forever.

But now, he finds a little joy in living.

That day, the 《Witch of Dawn》 saved him.

Because he found a clue that he had been pursuing for four years.

And Zion enjoys spending time talking to the mysterious woman who resembles her.

(Why do her words slip so easily into my heart?)

The more he thinks about it, the more mysterious it seems.

He, who became distrustful of humans due to his childhood experiences, can talk to her naturally for some reason.

Recently, he has even found himself enjoying listening to her stories unrelated to the 《Witch of Dawn》.

He was supposed to choose someone he could avoid getting involved with to avoid the pressure from those around him who wanted him to get married because he was not good with women.

(I want to talk to her.)

For him, who had been living alone all this time, it was the first time he had ever felt that way in his life.

It might be different from a normal husband and wife relationship.

But that time was very comfortable for him.

(What is this feeling?)

A strange feeling faintly lit up in his heart.

He was so happy that time was passing by.

(If I finish my work, I can talk to her.)

Zion faintly smiled and started writing on the documents in front of him.

Chapter 14: Royal Magic College

“Helping out at the Royal Magic College?”

It was dinner time.

Zion nodded in response to Finne’s question.

“Yeah. Honorary Professor Austin really wants you help with his research.”

She remembered the white-bearded man she met at the post-wedding reception who had eagerly invited her after she accidentally proved a difficult hypothesis.

“I don’t think it’s an overestimation, and I don’t want to disappoint him, but I really don’t want to go if I can help it.”

“You’re a talented wizard. You’re the disciple of the 《Witch of Dawn》, after all.”

“. . . Is that so?”

“Yeah. You’ll definitely be able to hold your own at the Royal Magic College.”

It was an unexpected compliment.

(I don’t feel bad about it.)

Finne thought.

(It might be good to experience what the university level is like for future reference.)

This life could end at any moment.

This might be her only chance to enter the Royal Magic College.

“I understand. If there’s anything I can do, I’ll be happy to help.”

—A week later.

After seeing Zion off for work, Finne headed to the Royal Magic College by carriage.

The comfortable vibrations and unfamiliar scenery of the capital city passing by outside the window.

Upon arriving at the university, Finne was overwhelmed by its magnificent facilities and infrastructure above all else.

The clock tower that exuded a sense of long history and the largest library in the kingdom.

The beautifully manicured lawns reflected light with a refreshing sheen, and the presence of magic and magical experiments could be felt everywhere.

(This is the university…)

Austin, the honorary professor, welcomed Finne, who was breathless in this unknown world.

“Thank you for coming, Finne. Come this way, please.”

She was led to the honorary professor’s laboratory.

The eyes of students and teachers were drawn to them along the way.

“Hey, who’s that?”

“That’s the rumored Count’s daughter. The honorary professor is making a fuss about her being a genius.”

“I see, so that’s her.”

(I’m getting a lot of attention…)

Feeling bewildered in an unfamiliar situation, Finne walked down the hallway of the research facility.

“Excuse me, Honorary Professor.”

The man with silver-framed glasses called out to them.

He was accompanied by four other professors and spoke in a cold voice.

“It is against university regulations to allow outsiders into the laboratory. Is that not so?”

“I think there is no problem with inviting excellent researchers from outside according to the rules.”

“Well then, if she is an excellent researcher, there is no problem. However, she has no achievements. Isn’t it true that she has been studying alone at home all this time?”

The man with silver-framed glasses spoke in a calm tone.

“There is no way someone like that could have acquired university-level knowledge and magical skills. Knowledge and skills are honed by interacting with people. If she is allowed into the laboratory, I will have to sue you for violating the confidentiality rules.”

“Her ability is real.”

“Then prove it. If she can pass the task I am about to assign her, I will recognize her ability.”

The students around them began to stir at that moment.

“Hey! Professor Stegen is going to do that harassment test again.”

“Seriously? No one has solved that task since the founding of the university.”

“It was said that even the court magician of the Magic Empire couldn’t solve it.”

“Poor thing. I hope she doesn’t come to hate magic because the devil glasses…”

In an unexpected turn of events, Finne was at a loss.

(Somehow, I feel like I’m getting involved in something strange…)

Chapter 15: Practical Assignments for Demon Professor

The 6th practice room.

It’s a practical task by Professor Stegen, who is feared by students as 《devil glasses》.

The 《Emeraldera Box》 used there is the latest magical tool with the highest hardness.

To open the box, which is coated with 198 magical barriers, you must derive the magic formula that is set as the solution.

It is an abnormally difficult task that even the court magicians of the Magic Empire could not open.

Moreover, the female assistant in charge of preparing the box had a personal grudge against Finne.

(I can’t forgive that girl for marrying Zion-sama. . .!)

Anger wells up.

She had known Zion since her student days and deeply remembered that he was a special existence who should not be approached as 《everyone’s Zion-sama》.

No one will be allowed to get away with it.

If she does such a thing, she will be punished accordingly.

(It’s only natural to suffer. After all, she has experienced a situation that is too enviable, marrying Zion-sama.)

The flames of jealousy burn fiercely in her chest.

Her strong feelings have taken away her calm perspective.

(I’ll pretend to make a mistake and switch it with a spare box that doesn’t have a set answer. I’ll make a fool of herself in front of everyone.)

Professor Stegen’s practical task, which was hastily arranged.

The 6th practice room was filled with curious students and teachers.

(Why am I getting so much attention?!)

It’s because for the past month, the honorary professor has been mentioning Finne’s name at every opportunity and going around saying she’s a real genius, but Finne has no idea about it.

Feeling nauseous and not used to being in front of a large crowd, Finne was about to faint. Stegen, wearing his 《devil glasses》, spoke in a cold voice.

“You will open the 《Emeraldera Box》 that I have prepared for you. Of course, you know what this box is, don’t you?”

“. . .What’s that?”

As Finne learned magic in a ghost mansion in a remote place, she was not familiar with modern magic knowledge.

Although looking exasperated, Stegen politely explained the basic information about the box like a teacher.

“It is the latest magical tool with the highest hardness among those that have been put into practical use. To open the box, which is coated with 198 magic barriers, you need to activate the set magic formula that serves as the answer.”

“I see. So I just need to find the set correct magic formula like a puzzle.”

“The time limit is sufficient. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes. No problem.”

She took a deep breath and focused her mind.

“Begin.”

With the command, she placed her hand on the box.

198 woven magic barriers.

She sank into the sea of thoughts to find the correct answer.

She could no longer hear anything from her world.

The high-speed development of magic formulas in her mind.

Searching for answers at the bottom of a deep sea.

Time passed by.

The air was tense.

The audience watched with bated breath.

Eventually, she opened her eyes and said with a slightly surprised expression,

“There is no answer to this box.”

It was clearly an inaccurate answer. Stegen had certainly set an answer, and it was a well-known fact that he was not the type of person to play such pranks.

“Wrong. The answer is set.”

“Could there have been some mistake?”

“Before you suspect others, why don’t you try doubting yourself a little more?”

Doubtful glances were cast.

Finne tilted her head and looked at the box.

“After all, it doesn’t seem like there’s an answer, no matter how you look at it.”

It was then that Stegen’s eyes flashed.

The identification number on the box was different from what was prepared.

There must have been some mistake somewhere, and they were swapped.

If that’s the case, then it’s true that there is no answer set for this task.

(To notice that in such a short time…)

While inwardly surprised, Stegen tried to stop her, but it was too late.

“I see. Force it open, huh? I understand now.”

In an instant, Stegen’s mind went blank.

A surge of magical pressure that rose explosively.

A burning magical presence.

He didn’t know what had happened.

He couldn’t stand there and involuntarily stepped back.

Multiple high-speed magic formations unfolded one after another.

Simultaneously activating multiple spells with multi-casting.

Anti-magic formations that neutralize magic barriers successively unlock the defense mechanism of the 《Emeraldera Box》.

(No way, she’s breaking through the 198 magic barriers with brute force——.)

It’s impossible.

It shouldn’t be possible.

However, in reality, she was invalidating the magic barriers at an incomprehensible speed.

Everyone was speechless.

They were staring without blinking or breathing properly.

Their mouths were dry.

(What…What’s wrong with her?…)

Chapter 16: Pile-up accident

(Phew, I managed to open it somehow.)

Finne was relieved that she was able to pass the practical exam by opening the 《Emeraldera Box》, but what awaited her was a situation she had never expected.

“G-Genius…!”

“To have that level of magical technique at such a young age…I can’t believe it…”

The teachers’ eyes trembled.

The students who were watching were also stunned with their mouths open.

(Did I overdo it…?)

A bad feeling crossed her mind.

Her personality of not being able to see her surroundings when she concentrates became a problem.

“N-No, it was just luck that I was able to do that. I’m not that great of a magician…”

Finne tried to bluff her way out somehow.

(That’s right! The ultimate plan of pretending to have a stomach ache!)

A high-level skill invented by Finne, a genius with overwhelming intelligence, pretending to be sick.

“M-My stomach doesn’t feel well…”

However, her weak voice did not reach the ears of the excited professors.

“Please come to our laboratory!”

“Can you help me too?”

“We need your help!”

The professors rushed in.

The passion of the professors who did not want to let go of a talented person was tremendous.

They were all unique personalities who could dedicate their entire lives for magic.

In short, she couldn’t see anything around her completely.

(O-Oh no, there are so many people…!)

For Finne, who had spent most of her life alone, the population density was too much for her to handle.

(I’m getting dizzy…!)

She tried to refuse somehow, but persuading the professors who were like pigeons flocking to breadcrumbs was too difficult for Finne, who lacked interpersonal experience.

“I-I’ll do it! I’ll do it, so please forgive me!”

Defeated completely, Finne hung her head and agreed to help the professors’ research as a temporary researcher three days a week.

“Why did this have to happen…”

Mr. Ghost smiled as he narrowed his eyes at Finne, who was holding her head in her hands.

[It’s okay. I’m happy that you’re needed by so many people.]

“I feel like it’s not my problem.”

“It’s good that my disciples are highly valued by everyone. As her master, I don’t feel bad about it. Besides, it’s interesting.”

“You find it amusing.”

The punch she threw missed its target.

Mr. Ghost chuckled while Finne looked dissatisfied.

(Oh well, there’s nothing I can do.)

And so, the Royal Magic College’s assistance began.

As she stretched and headed to the laboratory to help out, the ghost muttered while watching Finne’s back.

[I’m really glad. Because you’ve been alone for so long, I want you to be surrounded by more people and loved as you live.]

Then he gazed at her back.

[I probably won’t be able to stay with you forever.]

❂❂❂

Roston Kingdom Grand Palace.

Prime Minister Cornelius’ office.

“Hey, have you heard? Your wife is amazing.”

Zion looked annoyed as Cornelius leaned forward to speak.

“I want to talk about work right now.”

“Well, listen. You know she went to the Royal Magic College to help out recently, right?”

Zion nodded as Cornelius continued.

“Everyone doubted her true abilities. They thought that a teenage girl who had secluded herself in a mansion in the borderlands and studied on her own could not possibly have the power that the honorary professor was raving about. However, when they opened the lid, they were surprised. Everyone was jumping with excitement at her incredible talent.”

“I think it’s natural to have that kind of ability if it’s her true strength.”

“Oh, I see. So, you also acknowledge her.”

Cornelius said with great interest.

“It seems that she is a true powerhouse. With that kind of feeling, she has the potential to go down in history as a magician. It would be a loss for this country not to utilize such a talent.”

“I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”

“I’m saying that we should ask her to help us with our work. A talented magician couple supporting the kingdom. It would be a great topic, and we could also showcase ourselves as a progressive country by valuing women. It’s also a good opportunity for her career advancement. Don’t you think it’s a great idea?”

Cornelius grinned.

“Of course, her will is the top priority. Just suggest it to her. This is an order.”

(Frankly, I don’t like it. .)

Zion sighed deeply as he mulled over Cornelius’ order.

It had only been two months since they got married.

She had spent all her time in the borderlands mansion without interacting with people, so it was natural for her to take time to adapt to the outside world.

In addition, she was helping with the search for the 《Witch of Dawn》.

From the traces found in the mountains of the northern borderlands that she had shown him , there were indeed many signs that the 《Witch of Dawn》 had been there.

From the mountains in the northern border that she taught them about, several traces were found that suggest that 《The Witch of Dawn》 was indeed there.

(I don’t want to burden her. I’ll talk to her and let her know it’s ok to refuse)

❂❂❂

When Cornelius’ proposal was conveyed during dinner,

“Why, even the Prime Minister…?!”

She held her head and crouched down.

She seems to be quite confused, as evidenced by her strange expression.

When told that she can refuse,

“Is it okay?”

She raised her face surprisingly.

“Oh, it’s fine.”

“But he’s a very important person, isn’t he? He’s even your boss, Zion-sama.”

“I won’t force you to do something that inconveniences you. You’re already helping with the search for the 《Witch of Dawn》.”

Finne stared at Zion intently.

“Zion-sama is quite kind, isn’t he?”

Zion almost choked on his words at the unexpected comment.

“What, all of a sudden.”

“I heard that you were as cold as ice and had no human blood, but I feel that you are very considerate.”

(How can someone say that in front of the person themselves?)

In terms of human relationships, she sometimes has some unusual aspects. However, Zion found those unusual parts to be desirable.

As someone who grew up in a noble society where everyone played a false self, her frankness was rather comfortable.

“It’s just your imagination.”

As he answered, Zion himself was aware that he was different from usual. There was no one around him who could be called an ally. He couldn’t trust anyone. He had always lived with her guard up so as not to be caught off guard.

There were many enemies in the Creutzfeldt family, and there were also ugly adults who would touch him with despicable methods if he showed any weakness.

He couldn’t let her guard down. He couldn’t trust anyone. She had been living like that for a long time.

In her presence, there is a strange sense of comfort that he feels.

(Maybe because she doesn’t try to get too close to me.)

Among those who approach him with malice and ulterior motives, she seemed to have little interest in him.

She keeps an appropriate distance without getting too close.

Perhaps she is conscious of the fact that he told her not to get too involved at first.

(I said some pretty terrible things.)

He remembers the day they first met, and it makes him dizzy.

Even so, she got involved with him without any concern.

(I’m really grateful.)

She is the first person he has ever trusted.

Her presence was steadily becoming something significant within Zion.

Dinner time is over.

He’s reluctant to let her go, but it’s not fair to keep her from her time.

“Well then, excuse me, Zion-sama.”

He sees her off as she leaves the room with her maid.

He wants to talk more.

It was at that moment when he was swallowing those feelings.

“Waah!”

The voice belonged to Mia, the maid whom she trusts.

It seems that Mia stumbled on a slight step between the carpets.

Mia stumbled and collided with Finne.

A collision accident.

In front of Finne, who lost her balance, was Zion.

(――――Huh?)

Vision shakes violently.

Pressed against the wall.

Something wet touches his cheek.

The feeling of soft skin.

Smooth and fragrant hair tickles his nose.

It smelled like fresh green apples.

“I-I’m sorry!”

She quickly jumped back, covering her lips with a bright red face.

Then, she stumbled on the spot for a while before running out of the room in a hurry.

The sound of footsteps fading away.

Even after Finne left the room, Zion couldn’t move from where he was for a while.

The flood of information he had never experienced before was causing him intense confusion.

“Zion-sama, I would like to start cleaning up dinner soon.”

“… ”

He couldn’t even hear the butler’s voice.

He stood still, reflecting on what had just happened.

He felt like there was something he needed to confirm.

He carefully and cautiously traced his memory.

The warm and soft sensation of human skin.

Something wet that touched his cheek.

And her face, blushing as she pulled away from him, covering her lips.

(What is this…?)

In the midst of a storm of unfamiliar emotions, Zion stood there dumbfounded.

❂❂❂

“I want to die… I want to die…”

Finne, who had returned to the room as if running away, pressed her face against the pillow and flailed about on the bed.

(Even though I was pushed away, I kissed him on the cheek and pushed him against the wall…! That’s something that should only happen in romance novels!)

Finne’s theory was that such things were good only in books.

Doing it in reality was honestly a little painful.

(And to make matters worse, we’re the opposite gender…! I was the one pushing a man down!)

The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to die from her terrible behavior.

She had been building a good relationship as an outside friend for the first time.

(It’s over. I’m just someone who has to die now…)

That night, every time Finne remembered what had happened, she held her head and groaned with a voice that echoed from the depths of the earth.

Chapter 17: Salty response

The next morning.

Zion’s demeanor during breakfast was completely different from before.

He ate his meal with a completely expressionless face and in a monotone manner.

There was no conversation, and he showed no reaction to the talk about the 《Witch of Dawn》.

(What a cold response. He has completely closed off his heart…)

It was like he was a completely different person from yesterday when they could talk like close friends.

(Of course, that’s understandable. We did something so embarrassing like a romance novel, and I was even the male side…)

She remembered last night’s memory that made her want to die just by thinking about it.

If there was magic that could rewind time, she would have wanted to change it with all her might, but time travel is still one of the unexplored magics.

However, even after such an event that she couldn’t regret enough, Finne’s spirit was never broken.

(There’s no use worrying about it. I’ll focus on this delicious meal and switch my feelings!)

Compared to the comfort of food, the nuances of human relationships were trivial.

Growing up in such a terrible environment, Finne has acquired an abnormally low threshold for happiness and an incredibly strong mental strength.

(Ah, the bread is delicious today too.)

Finne savored the freshly baked bread with narrowed eyes.

❂❂❂

(Why can’t I speak well…)

Remembering breakfast with her where nothing went well, Zion held his head in his hands.

It was as if he had become a different person.

He didn’t know how to talk or how he had been able to talk so naturally until now.

At least the relief was that she didn’t seem particularly concerned about his own awkwardness.

Although not exactly the same, he remembers her happily eating her meal as usual.

Confused by unfamiliar emotions, he made mistakes that were unlike his during his work at the palace.

“It’s okay. I’m actually relieved to see your human side.”

His boss, Cornelius, smiled and snapped his fingers.

“I bet you’re in love, aren’t you?”

“I’m not.”

He denied it without emotion.

He could interact with others as usual, but not when it came to this.

(What am I doing…)

He held his head and let out a deep sigh.

Chapter 18: Determination

Even if things weren’t going well with her partner, life continued at an unchanging pace.

The university job that Finne started as a temporary researcher was getting busier day by day.

The amount of work requested kept increasing.

“Finne-san! We need your help!”

“Please come to our lab! We haven’t been able to solve this problem for three months.”

“Are you the female researcher rumored to be incredibly capable? There’s something we really need your help with——.”

She could refuse simple cases, but she couldn’t treat them rudely because everyone brought difficult problems that they were really struggling with.

Above all, the complex magical research they brought fascinated Finne.

For her, who had been studying alone in the ghost mansion on the border, the research in the outside world was fresh and interesting.

She wanted to help the distressed and exhausted faces seriously, and above all, it was really fun and satisfying to solve problems that no one else could solve and be appreciated.

They asked her to come to work three days a week, but if possible, five days, and even every day.

However, Finne had something she had to do besides helping with research.

That was to obtain the 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》 necessary to complete Mr. Ghost’s research.

It seemed that it was in an unknown location since the former head of the Duke Creutzfeldt family, who was supposed to have it, was betrayed by his son and imprisoned.

[Originally, only former head Bernard knew where the 《Mirror》 was. It seems he managed the information very strictly.]

“It seems like he was a really cautious person. It would be great if we could go and talk to him directly.”

[Well, that’s difficult. The current ruler, Charles, is keeping a close eye on the Bernard faction of nobles. Even insiders don’t seem to know where Bernard is being held.]

“I don’t want to do anything that would make them suspicious of me.”

Finne thought for a moment before speaking up.

“Additionally, it seems like Bernard believes that the 《Mirror》 holds something extremely important that cannot be given to anyone else.”

[That’s true. Considering the power of that 《Mirror》, it’s only natural.]

“Hey, about the power of that 《Mirror》——.”

Finne trailed off and stopped speaking.

“Never mind, it’s fine.”

[Are you sure?]

“If I ask, I’ll have to think about a lot of things. I prefer to leave those kinds of troublesome things to other people.”

“Wow, you’re amazing. You sound so cool saying that.”

“Fufu.”

Mr. Ghost thought for a bit before speaking up.

[But if the 《Mirror》 has special powers, there’s a possibility that I could misuse it. And considering the possibility that you might get dragged into it as well…]

“Misuse it?”

[I won’t, but…]

“Well then, there’s no problem.”

Finne let out a sigh.

“How long do you think we’ve been together? I know Mr. Ghost better than anyone else. I know he won’t use it in a way that would cause trouble for anyone. And above all, you’re not the kind of person who would do something so grandiose.”

[Well, when you put it like that, It feel a bit small and complicated.]

“I like that about you, It makes me feel safe.”

As a wizard, Mr. Ghost was an amazing person, but Finne liked that he never acted superior. It had been that way since they first met. Even when he said outrageous things, he would look her in the eye and take her seriously.

(He was the important person who talked to me a lot and saved me when I was alone after losing my parents.)

That’s why Finne wanted to repay Mr. Ghost. Even though it was not enough compared to what he had given her.

(I will definitely get the 《Mirror》 and complete Mr. Ghost’s research.)

With determination in her heart, Finne said,

“Our next goal is the former head’s villa. Let’s sneak in and look for clues about the 《Mirror》.”

Chapter 19: Only the Starry Moon Night Knows

Even at dinner that day, Zion was still distant.

My careless misconduct——

“Hahaha! I dirtied you with a forceful kiss!”

“That’s so cruel… how could you…”

With such outrageous and wicked deeds like a demon prince, her husband’s heart was in disarray.

It was probably difficult to regain composure at this point.

(Huh? Maybe the gender is reversed after all…)

There were some things that bothered me, but she decided not to dwell on them too deeply.

If the conversation doesn’t flow, it’s okay to enjoy the silence.

Above all, the deliciousness of the food prepared by the cook never changes.

What else is needed to live a happy life?

After enjoying a dinner that made her cheeks almost fall off, she went to her private room.

“I’m tired today, so I want to go to bed early. I want to sleep soundly, so don’t wake me up. Try not to let anyone come near my room.”

“Understood! Leave it to me!”

Mia replied enthusiastically.

By the way, Finne became a demon prince unintentionally because of Mia‘s clumsiness, but Mia didn’t seem to feel any responsibility for it at all.

She didn’t even seem to notice, saying things like “Finne-sama! There was a pill bug in the garden! It looked healthy!”

When she first met her, she thought she seemed stupid and had no worries at all. But now that their relationship has deepened, she still thinks she seems stupid and has no worries at all.

It’s a good thing.

The secret to living happily is not to overthink things.

Thinking such thoughts, she pretended to sleep with a cushion in my bed.

She took it out from the back of her room, hidden behind the dropped light.

A hidden pocket she made in the back of her bag.

Using magic to compress space, she hid her robe, hat, secret boots, and――mask.

She opened the window.

The wind blowing through the room shook the lace curtains.

Squinting at the moonlight, Finne said,

“Well then, let’s start the witching hour.”

《Transformation Magic》 is one of Finne’s most proficient magic.

Originally, it was a magic she studied to leave the ghost mansion without being noticed, but it turned out to be the most useful magic when she was active as the 《Witch of Dawn》.

In the darkness of night, Finne transformed into a crow and flew in the pleasant breeze.

Her destination was Bernard’s former residence in the fifteenth district of the royal capital.

This mansion, which was used as frequently as the main residence, was surrounded by a magical barrier to prevent intrusion. (The eight visible barriers were decoys. The real ones were hidden behind eleven barriers.)

Finne, transformed into a black cat, takes his time to carefully analyze the structure of the warding.

[It’s a pretty complicated barrier, but are you okay?]

“Yeah. Leave it to me.”

Nodding back at the ghost, she made a small hole in the barrier net.

It was too narrow for humans to pass through, but Finne could pass through by bending down as a black cat.

She walked through the garden of the mansion.

The moonlight reflected off the dewy grass.

[Where do we enter from?]

“Let’s enter from the skylight on the third floor. The surveillance network is thinner than on the first floor, and there is less risk of being noticed by someone.”

Balancing with her long tail, she climbed up to the roof of the third floor with light steps and cut out a circular skylight with a thread made of water magic.

“All right, perfect.”

They infiltrate the old Bernard’s mansion.

Only the stars in the night sky are aware of Finne’s secret.

❂❂❂

Dinner didn’t go well.

With a bitter taste of regret, Zion headed to Finne’s private room.

He wanted to apologize for his rude behavior, but the trusted maid who stood in front of the room blocked his way.

“Finne-sama is tired from helping at the university. She said she wants to sleep without talking to anyone today!”

It seemed like bad timing.

(I wanted to talk first because there’s a possibility I won’t be able to come back for a while.)

He sighed at how things weren’t going as planned.

Waiting for him in his own office was his senior subordinate, Hans.

“Are you really going to do it, Zion-sama?”

“Yeah. There are many inexplicable parts to my father’s actions. Grandfather is probably hiding something in that villa.”

Zion said.

“We’ll infiltrate and find out what grandfather is hiding.”

Chapter 20: Crossing

The third floor of the former head’s villa.

Finne, who had turned into a black cat, explored the mansion while wagging her tail.

The feeling of the carpet under her paw pads.

The villa, decorated with luxurious furnishings and artworks, was in an unusual state that was different from its original state.

Scattered documents and piles of books.

Open drawers and a deep red scarf hanging from them.

A messy room as if it had been ransacked by a thief.

However, seeing that the magic barrier was functioning properly, it seemed unlikely that an outsider had invaded and committed the crime.

(If there were such facts, information would have circulated within the Duke family.)

Necessarily, someone inside the villa had ransacked it.

“The most natural line is that the new head was looking for something hidden by the former head.”

[Yeah. However, if we assume too much, there is a possibility of misjudging the situation.]

“There is also a line that the former head was looking for something taken away by the new head.”

[In any case, I think we can assume that there was something worth searching for here.]

Something worth searching for.

(The most likely thing we are looking for is 《The Mirror of Cucumericulus》.)

“It seems like they were searching in a hurry. I wonder if something unexpected happened.”

[They may have been impatient because they couldn’t find it. Or maybe it had already been taken from where it should have been.]

“Or maybe they wanted to pretend that they had already searched by making it look like that.”

Finne says.

“It’s pointless to search through the ransacked room. It could be a decoy, and we’re searching so desperately. Even if there was something, it’s undoubtedly already been taken away. We should be searching for a place that hasn’t been touched yet.”

[A place that hasn’t been touched?]

“A hidden room.”

The cat’s eyes gleamed mischievously as she spoke.

“It’s the former lord’s nature to be suspicious and cautious. Don’t you think there might be a heavily concealed secret underground room or something?”

❂❂❂

“Are you sure you want to do this? Is it really okay to do this?”

Hans looked uneasy as he spoke, but Zion answered without changing his expression.

“It’s not good.”

“Then why——.”

“If we don’t find anything, there won’t be any problems.”

Zion spoke calmly, and Hans looked troubled as he replied.

“Don’t make me an accomplice to illegal activities so openly.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll protect you no matter what.”

His words conveyed a strong determination.

He was a rare genius who had been chosen as one of the Five Sages at a young age and was highly valued by the prime minister in the royal palace.

The reason he had risen through the ranks at an extraordinary speed was not only due to the Duke family’s behind-the-scenes work but also because of his confidence and sense of responsibility in going to the most dangerous places himself.

Four years ago, the historic stampede of demon beasts that attacked the northern region.

Half of the border security forces fled in despairing battle conditions.

Those around him knew that the legend of him fighting until the end and protecting the villages and towns in the north was not a lie.

“It’s okay if you don’t protect me.”

It was because of his nature that his subordinates said such things.

“Don’t say lonely things like that. We’re working with that kind of determination for Zion-sama.”

Zion looked surprised and opened his eyes slightly.

After a moment of silence, he spoke.

“. . .Thank you.”

Honest and straightforward.

It was hard to believe he was from the infamous Creutzfeldt family with a bad reputation.

Hans sighs.

They arrived at the villa and looked at the magic barrier surrounding the perimeter with a puzzled expression.

“This is a very strict magic barrier.”

“My grandfather was always wary of betrayal. My father inherited that caution.”

“Even so, there was no need to go this far.”

Hans stared intently at the magic formula of the barrier.

“This is the level of magic that only a wizard who will go down in history can break through.”

“I don’t think it’s impossible.”

“That’s because you’re one of those who will go down in history.”

They opened a hole in the barrier and entered the grounds of the mansion.

Hans looked back at the barrier from the inside and let out a deep breath.

“Why are they so cautious? What are they hiding?”

“Maybe it’s a facility for manufacturing illegal drugs.”

“No way. That’s impossible.”

Hans smiled.

Zion stared expressionlessly at the mansion.

To cut to the chase, there was a secret basement in the former head’s mansion.

Nineteen types of concealment magic were strictly applied.

A secret entrance hidden behind the bookshelf in the library.

It must have been the work of a skilled barrier wizard.

Even though they were aware of the existence of the underground room and searched for it, it wasn’t easy to find. People without knowledge of magic would hardly be able to find it.

❂❂❂

Finne was left with her head in her hands after seeing what was inside.

“Why is there an illegal drug manufacturing facility in the basement of this villa?!”

She whispered so as not to be noticed by researchers and security guards.

The smell of chemicals made her dizzy.

The concentration was far beyond normal levels.

The former head of the household, who had a bad reputation, seemed to be worse than the rumors.

(I’ve heard that Zion-sama has a personality that doesn’t actively try to get involved with people, so maybe this is another factor. .)

If the most powerful person in the family is such a dangerous person, there is a possibility of causing trouble for even those who are close to them.

(Even those who seem to be blessed have a lot of difficulties, don’t they?)

While thinking about such things, Finne looks around the research facility.

(There are five private soldiers guarding. They seem to be quite skilled based on their movements.)

[It’s clear that illegal activities are taking place. Let’s inform the appropriate organization and have them deal with it.]

“I refuse.”

Finne said in a low voice.

“There are villains right in front of us that we can beat up without hesitation. It’s the perfect opportunity to relieve stress that I’ve been waiting for! I haven’t been able to beat up demon beasts as the 《Witch of Dawn》recently, so my desire to punch for justice and make things right is at its maximum!”

[I’ve been thinking this for a while, but you’re not defeating demon beasts for the sake of the world, but for your own stress relief, right?]

“Of course. All I have is a pure desire to beat them up. As long as it feels good, that’s all that matters.”

[I may have created a monster.]

The ghost sighs while holding his head.

“But the opponent is armed with illegal magical weapons. They’re not an easy enemy to defeat.”

“That’s why it’s good. There’s no point in beating them up if there’s no challenge.”

Finne narrows her eyes and returns to her human form.

“Watch this.”

Water magic was activated.

A white mist like smoke envelops the area.

“Hey, what are you doing!”

“No, I’m not doing anything――.”

The researcher must have thought that something went wrong.

Taking advantage of their argument, she circled around and attacked from behind.

She knocked out one person with a lightning spell and closed the distance with the other person nearby.

She took out the second person with a lightning strike to the neck.

“Hey! There’s something here!”

There were three people left.

The illegally manufactured magic wand had an abnormally powerful long-range attack that could be fatal with just a graze.

However, in this situation where their vision was obscured, there was a possibility of friendly fire among their comrades.

Confusion and hesitation.

“What’s going on…!”

The soldiers were shaken by the unseen enemy in the thick fog.

Flashes of lightning flickered in the mist.

“Calm down! Gather together and coordinate.”

A man who seemed to be the leader called out.

“It’s just you left now.”

She whispered from behind and sent a lightning strike to the neck, causing him to faint.

After that, she knocked out the researchers with lightning strikes, and her job of setting things right was done.

(Now, I should report to the Royal Knights… No, it’s better to inform Zion-sama first.)

If Zion exposes the former head’s corruption just after taking over, those who support the old regime will lose even more power, and his reputation is likely to increase.

(Fufu. Even though it’s just in name, I might have done my best job as a wife.)

Since it was a temporary marriage to complete Mr. Ghost’s research, she wanted to repay her husband appropriately for providing her with such a comfortable and great life.

“But we didn’t find any clues about the 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》.”

[Not entirely.]

“Huh?”

[Look at this document.]

Written in complex magical characters was a research document on forbidden magic.

(. . . A universal wish machine that can grant any wish.)

It was too difficult to understand the details, but she could tell that they were thinking of something terrible.

(For now, I’ll take this and read it carefully later.)

As she reached for the document, it happened.

[Not good, Finne!]

She quickly pulled her hand back at the sound of the voice.

In an instant, an ice spear grazed her fingertips.

(Even though I was distracted, I couldn’t even notice.)

Undoubtedly a skilled magician.

A strong magical presence that made her shudder.

(Who on earth is this. . .)

While remaining vigilant, she turned her gaze and froze in place.

“You, are――.”

There stood the 《Ice Magician》 with a stunned expression and wide-open eyes.

Zion-sama, who has a crush on the 《Witch of Dawn》, was there.

Chapter 21: Encounter

Zion couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

It was the villa owned by his grandfather Bernard, the former head of the family.

At the end of the secret passage in the library was an illegal drug manufacturing facility.

(Doing something so despicable. . .!)

As he stepped in with anger, the soldiers and researchers had already been restrained.

The only one left was a wizard who was deeply engrossed in reading documents.

(Betrayal or a third party?)

At any rate, she is surely quite skilled.

(Arrest her and then hear her out.)

Instant activation of ice magic.

A surprise attack from a concealed magic state.

However, she reacted to an attack that she shouldn’t have noticed and avoided it.

(She avoided that. . .how?)

However, Zion’s thoughts turned white as he saw her figure looking back at him.

“You are. . .”

There was the person he had been searching for for the past four years.

The 《Witch of Dawn》

The person who saved him that day was there.

◇  ◇  ◇

She had no choice but to say that he was the worst opponent.

Zion Creutzfeldt, the ice wizard known as the strongest in ice and snow magic.

Above all, the problem was that he knew Finne well.

(If I reveal even a little bit of information, I’ll be exposed immediately. . .! Moreover, he seems to have a crush on me in the 《Witch of Dawn》 mode. . .)

Her face became slightly hot under her mask.

Since Finne had hardly any experience with people of the opposite sex of the same age, it was also her first time being treated with favor.

Thinking about it made her feel self-conscious.

[You’re blushing like someone your age should be, and I’m happy about it.]

“Shut up.”

She said in a low voice while looking at the Ice Magician in front of her.

(He likes me, so I’m sure he won’t come at me with all his might.)

Finne tried to escape by taking advantage of the gap, but hastily dodged the rushing ice spear.

(No mercy?! Is this a joke?!)

As he put his hand on the ground, he looked up at his face and realized.

(Oh, that’s the face of someone who’s trying to catch me no matter what. . . In romance novels, he would be classified as a so-called ‘persistent’ type.)

The ice wall surrounded the surroundings.

Hastily kicking the ground, Finne thought.

(Keep distance and don’t let me get close. . .! He has researched my magic thoroughly. . .!)

◇  ◇  ◇

Zion Creutzfeldt had thoroughly researched the usage of magic and fighting style of the 《Witch of Dawn》 from all records.

It was not just because she was someone he had been searching for and wanted to meet again.

As someone who loved magic, he was strongly attracted to the magic she used.

It was a highly advanced application of lost ancient magic that could not be fully understood by modern magic.

He knew that she was an unreachable opponent.

Still, he wanted to catch up with her even a little bit.

He had put all his prepared strategies into action, but the 《Witch of Dawn》’s movements exceeded Zion’s imagination.

(She responds so accurately. . .!)

Against Zion, who had thoroughly studied the best moves in advance, she returned with only a slight delay but with the best response.

Her activation accuracy and judgment had reached the level of supernatural ability.

(What a monster. . .)

Undoubtedly, she was on a different level from other wizards that Zion knew.

However, he had anticipated that his opponent would exceed his imagination in advance.

As someone who knew the most about the 《Witch of Dawn》 in the kingdom, he valued her abilities higher than anyone else.

And on top of that, he had meticulously prepared the most difficult battle and strategy to deal with her.

(Alright, it’s working.)

Zion grinned at the 《Witch of Dawn》’s reluctance and impatience.

There was no need to hurt her.

If he could just create a situation where she couldn’t escape, he could achieve his goal in this place.

And what Zion chose was a secret plan to freeze the entire outer edge of the basement and trap her in the basement with him.

(She’s not an opponent you can win against without sacrificing something. But I can secure victory in this situation by taking her down with me.)

His breaths became white and hazy with excitement.

He noticed her intention and used ice magic to pin her down to the exit.

She skillfully dodged the rushing ice spears, but the exit she tried to jump into was blocked by Zion by a hair’s breadth.

(I caught her.)

The secret plan was a success.

At that moment, he was confident of his victory.

But then, her body disappeared into a small mist.

(Illusion by water magic. . .)

He sat down on the frozen chair, left alone in the basement.

He shook his head and chuckled bitterly at his defeat, which he hadn’t experienced in a long time.

(You really are amazing after all.)

Chapter 22: Evaluation and Reality

Former head, Bernard, of the Duke Creutzfeldt family was involved in illegal drug manufacturing.

On the other hand, the judgment of the new head, Charles, was accurate.

He clearly stated that the responsibility lies with Bernard and declared that he would fight against the previous regime that had been corrupting the kingdom from within.

His attitude of disclosing information without hiding anything was unprecedented in the corrupt and secretive noble society of the kingdom, but the people received his actions favorably.

The new head faction fighting against the corrupt former head.

In the kingdom, Charles Creutzfeldt’s evaluation is steadily increasing.

“It’s impressive. Your father did a great job.”

Zion responds without changing his expression to Cornelius, who serves as prime minister.

“Thank you.”

“You’re not exactly a person of justice as people say. That’s why you’re reliable. As you’ve always said, we can’t let our guard down.”

Cornelius nods and then looks up.

“Anyway, what I want to hear today is about that person who is rumored in the capital.”

“That person?”

“The 《Witch of Dawn》.”

Cornelius says in a low voice.

“The legendary wizard who achieved the solo defeat of the 《Demonic Crimson Dragon》. Due to her overwhelmingly exceptional power, half of the kingdom’s magical world is skeptical of her existence, while the other half idolizes her.”

“Yes. I think that perception is accurate.”

With the appearance of the legendary 《Witch of Dawn》 in the capital city, the Royal Knights have entered a first-class special alert status. His Majesty and neighboring countries are also watching her movements, but he wants to hear from someone who knows more about her by directly engaging in combat.

He continued to stare at Zion with sharp eyes.

“Who is she?”

Zion did not answer the question for a while.

He remained silent, as if waiting to find an answer that satisfied his own heart.

Then he spoke.

“She is a wizard with power that cannot be measured by our common sense. In addition to having a naturally high aptitude, some unique environment must have made her an extraordinary wizard.”

“Unique environment?”

“An environment where you can learn ancient magic that existed in the lost ancient civilization. For example, being able to study under the ancient sages.”

“That sounds like a somewhat far-fetched hypothesis.”

“Yes, I think so too.”

“But she has something that makes it necessary to consider such things.”

“That’s what I mean.”

Cornelius exhaled deeply before speaking.

“With that much power, she protects people from demon beasts and corrects the misdeeds of nobles.”

He exhaled deeply again before continuing.

“She must be a great person with a noble soul.”

Cornelius’ eyes were no longer looking at Zion as he spoke. His expression was as if he was looking at something far away from here.

“Perhaps she has a higher perspective than us and is someone who has a clear heart free from various desires in this world. I would like to talk to her once.”

❂❂❂

(These sweets are so delicious! I can’t stop eating them!)

At the same time,

Finne was devouring the cookies and madeleines that were prepared in her room.

“Mia! Get me seconds! Bring me more!”

“Understood!”

She asked for seconds with her desire.

She had already had three servings, but her momentum showed no signs of weakening.

[Isn’t this too much to eat?]

Mr. Ghost looked at her in disbelief, and Finne shook her head in exasperation.

“You know? Life is like a great romance novel.”

[The sweeter, the better?]

“No one knows what awaits us in the future.”

Finne said while pointing her finger.

“That’s why we have to live in the present with all our might. After all, if we hold back, we might not be able to eat these sweets.”

[Even so, it’s better to hold back a little.]

“This is delicious! It’s amazing! I have to ask for seconds of this one next!”

[You didn’t listen. . .]

Finne devoured the sweets with her desire.

It was a disappointing sight that was completely different from the rumored “Witch of Dawn,” who was said to have a noble and pure heart.

Shortly after this, she would despair on the scale, but of course, she had no way of knowing that future.

Chapter 23: Special child

“I’ve decided. I’m going on a diet.”

Finne declared after the tragedy of the weighing scale incident that followed her binge eating.

In her right hand, she held a package of cookies.

[So, what are those cookies for?]

“It’s a reward cookie for myself for declaring a diet!”

ghost thought to himself, (Sigh, it doesn’t look good.)

ghost decided not to say anything, knowing that there are things in this world that cannot be helped even if you say something.

“However, exploring the former head’s mansion was quite difficult. I never expected that illegal drug production would continue in such a large underground facility.”

[Even now that the former head has been caught, it seems that his subordinates are still active.]

“For me, it was lucky because I was able to relieve stress comfortably.”

[My beloved disciple is too reckless, and it baffles me.]

However, Finne didn’t seem to mind and continued.

“But encountering my husband was quite a pinch. He had taken various precautions, and I could have been caught if I made one mistake.”

[So you’re amazing for not making mistakes there.]

“That’s because I learned from an excellent Master.”

[Hehehe.]

“Aww.”

It was a gentle world.

The teacher and student exchanged shy glances before resuming their discussion.

“The problem is where the 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》 is. It’s said to be an all-purpose wish machine that can grant any wish.”

[If someone is trying to activate it, we need to find it quickly and stop them. We don’t know what could happen if it’s misused.]

“That’s right. We need to build up some momentum and hit it hard, savoring the feeling.”

[Your motivation for action is too unique.]

Finne had a face that seemed like it was nothing out of the ordinary.

(If she wasn’t born a noble, she would probably be the queen of bandits or something. . .)

It is clearly far from her personality as a noblewoman.

Even though she has been alone and hardly influenced by anyone, she must have done something like a boss monkey feared as a tyrant of the forest in her past life.

(She’s a special child, really.)

Come to think of it, it has always been like that.

Every time demon beasts appeared in the neighborhood, she would get excited and say, “A dangerous demon beast that scares the villagers?! Great! I can hit it as hard as I can!” and unilaterally beat them up, ignoring all of the ghost’s advice.

“Strategy? Isn’t it enough to just punch them straight on and knock them out?!”

That expression she said with a feeling of really not understanding is still vivid in the ghost’s memory.

Although she loved magic, it was amazing how he raised such a wild horse to become such a refined wizard.

(I did a good job, even if I say so myself, while thinking about future plans.)

[We should try to find out about the movements of the former head faction nobles. There should be others working in the shadows too.]

“That’s fine. It’s good to meet opponents you can hit comfortably.”

[I see. If you say so, then I guess so.]

The ghost said in an emotionless voice.

[I hope you can attend parties attended by the former head faction nobles.]

“I understand. I’ll talk to my husband about it.”

Finne narrowed her eyes and said.

“Now, wait for me, corrupt nobles! I’ll blow you away with my justice punch and relieve my stress!”

(Nobody would ever dream that this seemingly quiet child has such a wild personality.)

Having been confined to a mansion in the borderlands for a long time, she looks like a sheltered young lady at first glance. The ghost sighed as he gazed at her.

Chapter 24: Question

“Do you want to go to a party?”

Zion asked, and Finne nodded.

“I also want to contribute to the power of the Creutzfeldt family as the next lord’s wife. I think we need to work together to fight against the negative legacy left by the former lord and the current situation.”

“I appreciate you saying that, but. . .”

Zion said after a brief pause.

“Are you okay?”

“What do you mean?”

“I heard that you’re not good at socializing.”

Finne thought, (Ah, I was supposed to be a shut-in daughter who couldn’t even go outside.”)

It seemed like he was concerned about her.

Looking back, she had never been invited to such social events despite being the next lord’s wife.

(Dealing with those kinds of things is troublesome, and honestly, I’m grateful.)

While thanking him for his consideration, Finne said, “Thank you. But I think it’s an important time now. It wouldn’t be good if strange rumors started spreading because I didn’t attend social events.”

“I’m used to bad reputations. You don’t have to push yourself.”

“Don’t worry. Please let me try my best once in a while.”

Zion looked at Finne intently and said, “Okay. There will be a birthday party for the second prince in the palace garden in a week. I’ll let them know that you’ll attend.”

(A birthday party for the second prince. . .! It’s a bigger event than I thought!)

She clenched her fists in her mind.

There should be many nobles from the former lord’s faction attending this event, making it an excellent opportunity to gather information.

“Please do.”

The days leading up to the birthday party passed quickly.

Finne ate tarte tatin, cake rolls, and sweet potatoes as a reward for sticking to her diet.

As a result, Finne’s weight continued to increase, and she became desperate as she couldn’t wear the dress she had prepared.

“Why. . .how. . .”

[I think it’s strange if you don’t gain weight when you’re having seconds at every meal.]

Finne groaned in a voice that couldn’t be heard, but the mansion’s maids encouraged her kindly.

“It’s okay. You were too thin to begin with, and I think you’re healthy and just right now.”

“Let’s wear this dress that fits perfectly.”

They did her makeup.

(I look like a different person, so beautiful!)

Impressed by the magical-like technique, Finne and her husband rode in the Duke family’s carriage to the second prince’s birthday party.

Her husband sitting next to her looked out the window with a melancholic expression.

A quiet space with no conversation.

Although Finne and Zion are supposed to be married publicly, their relationship is more like acquaintances than friends.

(We were getting along pretty well last week.)

When she stumbled and accidentally kissed him on the cheek, her husband’s pre-existing mistrust of women worsened.

The shutter of his heart closed with a clatter, and he felt even more distant from her than before.

(The first friend I made in the outside world. . . I’m a little sad.)

Zion-sama is said to be originally distrustful of humans and avoids deep involvement with people around him, so it may be unavoidable, but Finne does not have such a delicate personality to give up so easily.

(It’s a precious time for the two of us to talk! A chance to repair our relationship!)

While secretly determined, she brings up the conversation without being a burden.

The result was better than she expected.

She thought she was more disliked, but it didn’t seem to be the case.

In fact, Finne seemed to remember every detail of what he said before and even had the illusion that he was quite liked.

(Then why does he avoid me?)

It’s a contradictory behavior that is hard to understand.

She thinks about it while looking at the ceiling of the carriage, but it was impossible for Finne, who grew up without much contact with people outside, to read the subtle nuances of emotions.

(Why. . .I can’t understand people’s hearts. . .)

In the carriage, she thinks like a sad monster.

Above all, what she couldn’t understand the most was when she talked about the《Witch of Dawn》. The long-awaited partner that Zion-sama had been searching for.

However, he doesn’t seem as eager as before to hear about it.

Still, it doesn’t seem like his interest has faded since they met.

There seems to be some hesitation in asking Finne about it.

(Why is there a need for hesitation?)

She thought about it, but couldn’t figure it out.

The carriage was filled with nothing but questions.

Chapter 25: Birthday party for His Royal Highness the Prince 1

The Roston Kingdom Palace was a beautiful building called the 《Navy Blue Great Palace》.

It was a huge facade made up of symmetrical composition. In front of the entrance, there was a lush lawn and fountain garden, with seasonal flowers in full bloom.

To Finne, who grew up in a dilapidated ghost mansion where the rain never stopped leaking, it was an entirely different dimension from anything she had ever seen.

She followed the butler who guided her while feeling completely overwhelmed.

Suddenly, a man in a robe spoke to her.

“Zion-sama. I’m sorry to bother you, but there is a matter where we would like to borrow your power.”

It seemed to be a job offer.

“I’m fine on my own. Please lend them your strength without worrying.”

“. . .I’m sorry.”

She watched her husband’s back as he left.

(That was quite a good response as the next Duchess.)

Thinking that, Finne arrived at the venue and was immediately captivated by the sight before her.

(There are so many colorful dishes, meat, and cakes!)

The luxurious dishes were beyond anything she had ever seen before.

It must be because it’s the second prince’s birthday party.

(I’m glad I’m alive. Thank you, God.)

For now, let’s eat and then think. That’s what she decided to do.

As Finne happily headed towards the food, she was approached by a young lady with fluffy curly hair.

“Oh! Finne-sama? It is Finne-sama, isn’t it?”

Her voice was lively.

As the next Duchess, she needed to behave properly.

“Yes, that’s me.”

“You look different. You were so thin at the wedding that I was worried.”

“Yes, that’s right. The food is so delicious that I ended up overeating. I started a diet, but my weight gain just won’t stop.”

“You’re thin enough already, I think you can eat more.”

“Well then, may I have some of that meat over there?”

At Finne’s serious request, the curly-haired young lady chuckled.

“Let’s have some. After all, it’s the dish they prepared for us.”

The two of them enjoyed the delicious meat side by side.

She introduced herself as Layla, the daughter of Duke Glacier and a childhood friend of Zion.

“He used to have a straightforward, cheerful, and lively personality. But when he was about eight years old, something happened and he became like a different person, closing his heart. Even if I ask for the reason, he won’t tell me, and before you knew it, he was always alone with a distrust of people.”

“Indeed, I may have never seen him meeting with friends.”

“In this kind of situation, he often ends up being alone. It’s cute in its own way though.”

Layla said with a small smile.

“In addition, he always does dangerous jobs as if he’s running away from something and always has a cold expression, so he’s called the ruthless 《Ice Magician》. . .I couldn’t imagine a decent married life with that social misfit Zion. I wonder if the other party is okay. And besides, Finne-sama is said she’s not very good at communicating with people.”

“Indeed, objectively speaking, it doesn’t seem like it will go well.”

“But in reality, Finne-sama was a little different from the rumors. From the way she talks, it’s hard to believe that she was so afraid of meeting people that she couldn’t go out of the house. I heard that she has amazing magical talent and is active at the Royal Magic College.”

“Oh no, it’s just that everyone is overestimating me.”

Although she had avoided the social scene because it seemed troublesome, it seemed that the wind had changed towards her without her realizing it.

(Even though I thought Okaa-sama and my sister were spreading absolutely terrible rumors about me.)

I guess that the reputation at Royal Magic College has been so positive that a few bad rumors do not bother them at all.

(Come to think of it, I haven’t seen them today, but where could they be?)

The Duke Creutzfeldt family was deepening their ties with the Count Westmeath family.

It was impossible for them not to attend, and if they were, they should have come to say something sarcastic.

“I’ll help you with anything, so please consult with me.”

Layla-sama says.

“Zion has some problems with his personality, but he’s not a bad person at heart. If you can endure it patiently, I’m sure you can become a good couple. That’s why I want you to not give up on him.”

“Layla-sama likes Zion-sama, doesn’t she?”

“It’s not that I like him, but it’s more like a relationship where I can’t help but worry about him. He’s really clumsy and dangerous to be around.”

Layla-sama sighs with a look of exasperation.

It seems that she really is worried about him.

“But, Zion-sama has been talking to me about various things since the beginning. He even tries to have breakfast and dinner together.”

“You don’t have to lie to me. I know Zion well enough to know that he’s an irredeemable social misfit.”

Layla-sama said with a gentle, goddess-like face.

It took some time for her to believe that it was not a lie.

“D-Did Zion really have breakfast and dinner together with you?!”

“Yes. We both like magic, so we had a common topic to talk about.”

“Such. . .a socially awkward person like Zion showing such a human-like behavior. . .”

Layla-sama was stunned for a while, but eventually wiped her eyes and said,

“I’m glad you met the right person, Zion. . .”

Then she took her hand and continued.

“Maybe Finne-sama is a special existence for Zion more than she thinks. Please don’t abandon him. He is not a bad person at heart. I will also help.”

(A special existence, huh. . .)

Certainly, I must be a special existence for Zion-sama.

As someone who can listen to the story of his unrequited love――the 《Witch of Dawn》.

So, it is not me he likes, and it is not the kind of relationship Layla-sama thinks we have.

(No, in that sense, he likes me because I am the one he has an unrequited love for.)

It’s the first time someone has shown me affection.

So I was happy and embarrassed about his feelings for the 《Witch of Dawn》.

However, there was a feeling of unease in me now.

I don’t know why.

(Could it be a heart condition. . .!)

It could be a matter of life and death.

When she gets home, Finne thinks she’ll read books on magical medicine to check her symptoms.

Chapter 26: Birthday party for His Royal Highness the Prince 2

(I can’t forgive this. . .that failure being recognized as Zion-sama’s wife. . .)

Olivia Westmeath was burning with intense jealousy towards her sister-in-law.

As someone inferior to herself, the daughter of the former head of the family always filled the empty space in her unsatisfied heart.

It was an engagement that could never lead to happiness with a corrupt aristocrat, which is why she allowed her to leave that mansion.

She had not heard that the next head of the Duke family, who was expected to have a future, would be her sister-in-law’s partner.

(If only I had a chance. . .! If I had taken the engagement instead of my sister-in-law. . .)

She couldn’t regret it enough.

She could have been in a position that everyone envied.

Furthermore, her sister-in-law was recognized for her magical talent and was even working as a temporary researcher at the Royal Magic College.

A genius who shakes the magical world with her astonishing talent——every time she hears such evaluations, she becomes white with anger.

(Everyone is being deceived. There’s no way that wicked person has such talent. After all, she couldn’t even leave the mansion because of her incompetence. She’s just pretending to be capable by covering up her surface. . .!)

In addition, the fact that Finne’s evaluation is increasing in the Westmeath family has become a new source of worry.

[What if that child is recognized by society as the next head’s wife and gains strong influence? There is a possibility that our own reputation might be damaged.]

Having seen the inside of the Westmeath family, Finne knows about the misconduct committed by her parents-in-law and the fact that they sold off assets belonging to the previous generation against inheritance law.

If she were to accuse them as the next Duchess, everything they had built up could be lost in an instant.

(Why do we have to suffer because of such a failure. . .!)

Olivia clenches her fist.

(To protect our family name, I will embarrass her at this party and bring her reputation down. She should regret getting carried away. . .!)

As an inexperienced future Duke’s wife, her job is to greet people and remember their faces and names, but as Finne, who was imprisoned in a ghost mansion, it is really difficult.

(I don’t think you can remember them. . .)

❂❂❂

While trying to find some distinctive features and memorize them, she thinks about magic.

“Ah, I want to go home. . .I want to read books. I want to study magic. . .”

[Yeah, yeah. I’m happy that my disciple is diligent.]

“I want to spend all day in bed reading magic books. I want to admire the beauty of imaginary theorems and unstable magic formulas all day long. I want a life where I can eat sweets while reading books and laze around forever.”

[You’re not diligent. . .?]

As Mr. Ghost looks puzzled, she draws magic formulas in her head to calm herself down.

(Ah, why is the world of magic so beautiful?)

A beautiful world created on a neat and orderly system.

Compared to that, the human world is irregular and chaotic, making her dizzy.

(I’m still not good at socializing.)

A conclusion typical of Finne the hikikomori.

(The only time I go outside is when I go to the university to help with magic research or when I go to beat up bad guys.)

While realizing once again her active hikikomori-like personality, she waits at the back for the party to end.

Now, an elite performance by the Royal Knights was taking place.

The knights were demonstrating their impressive sword skills using swords specifically designed for the performance.

According to insiders, this entertainment by those involved is an annual tradition at the second prince’s birthday party.

Representing the kingdom, traditional dances by renowned dancers and acrobatics by famous acrobats were performed, each having prepared their acts for today’s event.

At first, Finne had no interest in the performance, but the techniques honed through unrelenting training by these top-class performers had an overwhelming impact when seen live.

(There are so many amazing things in the world that I don’t know about. . .!)

She applauded with all her might as the knights lined up and bowed.

Just seeing this entertainment made her feel glad she came today, and she waited eagerly for the next act.

“Next up was supposed to be Clementelli-sama, the opera singer who is famous throughout the kingdom. Unfortunately, due to an epidemic, she cannot attend today. However, someone has volunteered to perform in her place.”

(I wanted to hear the singing of the kingdom’s most famous opera singer. . .)

Just as she was disappointed as a spectator completely absorbed in the performances, it happened.

“Please welcome with applause! This person who has been making a name for herself recently at Royal Magic College——Finne Creutzfeldt-sama!”

A spotlight dyed her head pure white.

It was hot like the sun was nearby, but Finne’s mind was not on that at all.

(Do I have to perform?! After those amazing people?!)

She held her head in her hands in her mind, knowing that it was a situation where embarrassment was inevitable.

All eyes in the venue were on her.

There was no escape now.

Guided by a nobleman who was helping with the proceedings, she stepped onto the stage with a guilty gait.

(Why?! How did this happen. . .?!)

Chapter 27: Birthday party for His Royal Highness the Prince 3

The second prince’s birthday party.

Finne stood in the middle of the glamorous stage, struggling with her weakness in social circles. The spotlight that dyed her vision white burned her skin.

(What should I do. . .?! What can I do. . .?!)

Her thought process was in a state of confusion that seemed to shatter into pieces.

(I’m bad at sports and have no sense of rhythm, so dancing is impossible. And I’m tone-deaf, to the point where Mr. Ghost would laugh at me if I sang. . .)

The more she thought about it, the more hopeless the situation seemed.

(No, but I have to do it! Please, God! Just this once, make a miracle happen and let me dance an amazing dance!)

She relied on her vague memories and stepped out some semblance of a dance.

The next moment, Finne found herself looking up at the ceiling in a position that felt like the end of the world.

(I’m so bad at sports that my body is doing something incomprehensible. . .)

The air in the frozen venue was tense. In the stillness that felt like time had stopped, murmurs leaked out.

“W-What was that. . .?”

“She was moving like a ghost.”

“I don’t understand. . .What was she trying to express. . .?”

Feeling her face grow hot with confusion, Finne stepped up to the microphone.

(If dancing won’t work, then singing will! Please, let a miracle happen!)

With all her heart, she opened her mouth.

“. . .”

She was so nervous that no sound came out at all.

Finne’s eyes filled with tears.

“W-Why is there no sound. . .?”

“Could it be. . .she’s trying to sing without making a sound. . .?”

“I don’t understand. . .What is she trying to express. . .?”

(I was having fun, why do I have to suddenly suffer such a huge embarrassment!)

Anger welled up inside her.

There must have been some misunderstanding, but she wanted to throw everything away and run away from the irrationality of the world.

(That’s right. If it’s come to this, I’ll just do whatever I want.)

Finne, who had given up, stood up straight in the center of the stage.

(I won’t do any proper entertainment anymore. I’ll send everyone flying with my magic as a greeting!)

❂❂❂

For Allen Roston, the second prince of the Roston Kingdom, the entertainment performed at his birthday party was boring. The impressive skills that had moved him when he first saw them had become dull and no longer moved his heart after seeing them countless times.

However, as the second prince, he couldn’t put it into words. If he said he was bored, this entertainment would disappear. But how would those involved in this entertainment feel at that time? They might feel like their efforts and dedication were being denied.

Moreover, public imagination is always fierce and unforgiving.

[That acrobat messed up at the second prince’s birthday party.]

[That’s why he was kicked out. He was already on the decline anyway.]

[It was ridiculous to invite such a silly act to the party in the first place.]

Baseless rumors could spread.

(I can’t let these feelings out.)

This is also true when having personal conversations in his private room.

He doesn’t know where the conversation will leak from, and often, the way it spreads as gossip causes more damage.

As someone who carries the responsibility of the country, he has learned to live while suppressing his emotions.

He observes his surging emotions with a cold eye as if they were someone else’s problem and composes himself.

(Life is full of boredom and suffering. That’s how it’s made. So I’ll kill my heart and fulfill my duty.)

Even towards Finne Creutzfeldt, who had to hastily take on the role of a substitute due to the opera singer’s absence caused by an epidemic, his heart was completely cold.

(She seems to be a show-off. Not that it matters.)

However, her performance that he had been looking at with a cold gaze was different from what he had imagined.

(What is that completely incomprehensible and mysterious movement she’s doing. . .?)

Bewilderment and confusion.

Why did she think of performing something like that on this grand stage?

(What is she trying to do. . .?)

In front of the bewildered audience’s gaze, she seemed to have made up her mind about something.

She firmly stepped on the stage with her two feet and gently drew something in the empty space with her right hand.

Something began to dance in the venue, fluttering around.

Silently falling onto the table, it was snowflakes.

Semi-transparent ice crystals like feathers danced in the air.

Snow falling under the chandelier in the palace.

And what appeared were water spirits.

The spirits, who were adorned with fantastic beauty, flew around the wide venue with pleasure.

(Summoning magic to call forth spirits. . .There should only be a few people in the kingdom’s magical world who can use it. . .)

Magic formulas unfolded one after another.

Countless spirits and snowflakes danced beautifully in the sky.

Eventually, a huge magic circle appeared in the background.

From a beautiful ring of light emerged a dragon made of water magic.

The dragon and spirits danced in the snow-filled sky.

(How. . .how beautiful. . .)

A world so beautiful and fantastic that it didn’t seem of this world spread out before them.

The second prince couldn’t even begin to guess how long the dance of the spirits had continued.

It feels like it was a long time, and yet it also feels like it was just a brief moment.

The spirits disappear, and Finne Creutzfeldt bows.

No one can speak.

All they can do is stare in disbelief.

The magical technique is beyond any standard for the future duchess of the Duke’s heir.

(Who is she. . .)

Chapter 28: Cheers and Incidents

It seems that the entertainment using summoning magic was more touching to the nobles than Finne had imagined.

Everyone was so impressed that it was surprising, and she was confused by the unexpected reaction.

(But if I didn’t do something like that, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with everyone’s amazing entertainment. Let’s just say it’s all good since I avoided a major disaster.)

She breathed a sigh of relief after surviving an emergency situation that could have become a black mark in history.

Since she wasn’t good at standing out, Finne was looking for a less popular place where she could calm down when a man she didn’t know grabbed her arm.

“Excuse me, that magic earlier was amazing! Where did you learn such a magic formula?”

He had an excited expression and flushed cheeks.

He smelled strongly of alcohol.

“I really want you to teach me magic next time. I’m from the Count family, who are lords in the Meister territory——.”

He spoke rapidly, almost like he was rushing.

Perhaps he couldn’t control himself because he had been drinking.

(As is often the case with people who love magic. . .but still!)

Although she could sympathize with him, it wasn’t a good situation for her as the next Duchess to have her hand held by someone else.

She had come here to enhance the reputation of the Creutzfeldt family, and it would be counterproductive if strange rumors were spread.

(I have to refuse in a smart way!)

She was excited to have a chance to show off and think about how to refuse him.

However, the problem was that Finne had hardly interacted with people outside, so she lacked surprising social skills.

(I can’t think of anything. . .what do people usually say in this situation. . .?!)

At that moment of confusion, the familiar profile appeared before Finne.

“Please stop troubling my wife.”

“Z-Zion-sama. . .!”

The man’s voice trembled.

It was then that he realized, perhaps due to the alcohol, that he had lost control of himself.

“I-I’m terribly sorry. Excuse me.”

The man quickly left.

Finne looked up at her husband’s large back, who had intervened.

(How cool and smart! It’s like a romance novel!)

She admired the people in the city.

(If I were the protagonist of a romance novel, I would have fallen in love for sure. I’m glad this is reality and not a novel!)

That was a close call.

She praised herself for being able to distinguish between fiction and reality in her mind and thanked her husband.

“Thank you for helping me. The power of the city is amazing!”

“The power of the city?”

“I have to learn from it too.”

As someone who grew up in the countryside, Finne found urban things even more beautiful.

Looking at her with an admiring gaze, wanting to become someone as cool, stylish, and elegant as him, her husband asked,

“What was that magic earlier?”

“It’s my special party trick that I can perform anywhere without feeling embarrassed!”

She puffed out her chest proudly.

“A party trick. . .that was. . .?”

“Yes. I thought I did well personally.”

Looking up at her husband’s face, Finne said,

“Did you not like it? Please tell me if there is anything I can improve on. Next time, I’ll show you an even better performance.”

“What’s with that high consciousness about magic. . .”

“As someone who loves magic, I can’t aim for anything less than perfection even in party tricks.”

“. . .The Creutzfeldt family is also known as a prestigious family that has produced excellent ice magic users for generations.”

Her husband said in an emotionless voice.

“How many Magicians do you think were able to use a summoning magic of that scale in the long history that has lasted for hundreds of years?”

“About ten people?”

“No one.”

A chill ran down her spine.

She may have gone too far. At least, she had done something that couldn’t be overlooked by this person, who was one of the kingdom’s leading genius Wizards.

“Answer me. How far have you gone——.”

At that moment, a very urgent voice shook my eardrums.

“Zion-sama! I have something urgent to tell you.”

It was the attendant who was accompanying them.

After hesitating, Zion listened to his whisper and opened his eyes slightly.

He looked like he had been shot.

She could sense that something bad was happening.

“I’m sorry. I have to go back to the mansion right away.”

“What happened?”

Zion hesitated for a moment before speaking.

“My father was attacked. He’s unconscious after being attacked by my grandfather’s accomplice.”

Chapter 29: Witches disappear into the night

Upon returning to the Creutzfeldt mansion, Finne and the others were met with a gruesome sight.

The mansion was partially destroyed, and the servants were injured.

When Finne found the young woman who had taken care of her, she was mortified.

“Mia. . .! Mia, what happened. . .!”

“She tried to help us when we were attacked.”

The maid with bandages on her right hand said in a trembling voice.

“She said that Finne-sama would have done it. She covered for us in the end. . .”

Mia was wrapped in bandages all over her body and slept like a doll.

She must have received treatment from a magic physician who rushed to the scene.

Although there was no immediate danger to her life, it would take considerable time for her to fully recover.

The anger that welled up inside Finne could not be contained.

She had originally wanted to beat up the corrupt nobleman.

However, the anger burning in her chest now was different from the light anger she had felt before.

(Lord Bernard. You did something you should never have done.)

Bernard is said to have escaped from the basement where he was imprisoned and is likely to be acting with accomplices.

Finne returned to her room and packed her bags.

Her mind was already made up.

(I will thoroughly crush them until they can never hurt anyone again. Even if I have to use any means necessary.)

[Are you sure? If you don’t explain it to him, you may never be able to come back to this house again.]

“It’s okay. I was planning on disappearing after beating up the corrupt nobleman anyway. It just took a little longer than planned. Being able to experience the privileged position and life of the next Duchess even temporarily is too much happiness for me.”

Delicious food.

A soft bed.

The pastry chef’s sweets and cakes.

Her husband was surprisingly kind.

The pastry chef’s sweets and cakes.

The university people treated her so well that it surprised her.

The pastry chef’s sweets and cakes.

For Finne, who was imprisoned in the ghost mansion, everything was such a wonderful experience that she didn’t want to let go of it.

But even that can be discarded because she is so angry that her blood vessels are about to burst.

Moonless night.

Finne leaves Zion’s mansion through the window with a large bag in hand.

She jumps over the back gate fence and takes out a mask from under her robe.

(Goodbye, life at the Duke’s house.)

As she put on her mask, she, the 《Witch of Dawn》, disappear into the night.

◆  ◆  ◆

“What is wrong with that girl. . .! I didn’t ask for it! It’s impossible for her to use such amazing magic!”

It was on the way back from the second prince’s birthday party.

In the Count’s carriage, Isabella slapped Olivia’s trembling cheek in anger.

“What have you done. . .! Because of you, everyone at the party was talking about that girl. Some even suggested giving her an important position in the palace. Above all, what if it becomes known that you were the one who brought her onto the stage this time? She might try to crush us.”

Isabella hits the carriage wall as she speaks.

“What will happen then?! We’re finished. It’s all your fault.”

“But, it was because Mom and Dad accepted Bernard-sama’s proposal——.”

“Shut up.”

“Let’s get rid of the nuisance and gain more money and ties with the Duke family——.”

“I said shut up!”

The sound of a slap echoes through the quiet moonless night.

Olivia’s sobs, unable to be contained, could be heard outside the carriage.

“You cannot change the past. Let us think about the future that can be changed.”

It was Count Westmeath who said.

Finne’s uncle, the Count of Westmeath, continued in a calm tone, “What should we do to protect the honor of our family and clan? That is what is important.”

“It’s already too late! What can we do?!”

“There are many ways to silence someone.”

Count Westmeath says.

“Bring that child to our house. Leave the rest to me.”

A suffocating and cold silence enveloped the carriage. It felt like someone was holding their breath and listening intently. No one said anything. Only the creaking of the swaying carriage and the sound of the wheels scattering small stones could be heard.

It was then that the carriage, which had been traveling on a deserted road, suddenly came to a stop.

“Why are we stopping here?”

“W-Well, you see. . .”

The coachman spoke in a frightened voice.

There were soldiers armed with weapons and an old man leading them.

Westmeath’s face turned pale when he saw the old man’s face.

“Bernard-sama. . .You were supposed to be captured. . .”

“I simply did not wish to leave. Charles has gained some wisdom, but he’s still green. With my power, I can escape from there anytime.”

Bernard smiled gently and said, “I would like to ask for your cooperation. I need your strength to punish those foolish enough to underestimate me.”

Chapter 30: The absence of you

“Finne is gone. . .?!”

“Yes. It seems she escaped from the mansion through the window last night.”

The butler said to Zion, who was stunned, carefully choosing his words.

“There were no signs of anything being stolen from the room. Only Finne-sama’s luggage was taken. Just to be sure, we will check the things outside the room from now on.”

“There’s no need to check. She wouldn’t do something like that.”

Zion said while being intensely confused.

Why did she disappear from the mansion at this timing?

The possibility he didn’t want to think about came to mind.

(Grandfather and Finne were colluding. . .?)

It seemed like a hypothesis with more than enough persuasiveness.

It was certain that Bernard, who had a cautious personality, thoroughly investigated Finne’s surroundings before the engagement.

If he had anticipated this and had someone colluding beforehand. . .

He wanted to believe it was impossible.

However, if he couldn’t completely deny it, that possibility would linger in his mind and torment him.

Above all, what shook Zion was the fact that she was gone.

Since they got married, she had been close to him like family.

They made time in their busy lives to eat together and talk about various things.

At first, he was interested because she was a disciple of the 《Witch of Dawn》.

But that was just the beginning.

Somewhere along the way, he had become interested in her.

She was the only person he could talk to naturally in a corrupt and false-filled house where no one could be trusted.

The existence of her had become something significant within Zion, more than he realized.

She was not here.

Just that fact alone made his mind go blank.

Perhaps she would never come back.

Such thoughts made it hard for him to breathe.

(Defeat grandfather and find her.)

Using the information network his father had, he searched for information on his grandfather and her.

The nobles who had been searching for information on their own and were in conflict with his grandfather cooperated with him.

“Bernard has 39 bases within the kingdom. He has deep connections with a drug cartel called the drug kingpin in the underworld and is guiding various criminal activities from behind the scenes. He is extremely cautious in his actions and not someone who can be dealt with easily. Above all, each base is armed with state-of-the-art illegal weapons. If we invade, we must be prepared for significant damage.”

“In the worst-case scenario, there may be casualties.”

“Yes. Both you and I.”

The tense atmosphere filled the room.

One of the spies his father had left behind burst into the room.

“Something terrible has happened! Someone attacked Bernard’s base this morning! The site was completely destroyed without a trace.”

Silence enveloped the room like a torn-off piece of cloth.

“This is impossible. . .How could they have breached such tight security. . .”

The nobles were dumbfounded.

“Where? Which base?”

“Here, and then here and here.”

“Three places?”

“Seven places.”

The spy said.

“Perhaps something beyond our understanding is at work.”

“Could it be the 《Witch of Dawn》?”

“It’s highly likely that she’s involved.”

However, Zion felt that there was another person involved there.

The most knowledgeable disciple of the 《Witch of Dawn》.

Last night, when she saw her injured servant, she had eyes like a blade.

There is no doubt that Finne is there.

Chapter 31: Anger

On that day, Former Duke Bernard’s secret base in the 19th district of the royal capital was in chaos.

An attack on surrounding bases.

All the information gathered was dubious.

[The culprit is a drug cartel from another country.]

[The upper echelons of the kingdom are pulling the strings behind the scenes.]

[There is a traitor who is actually facilitating it from within.]

Hugo, the head of the base responsible for controlling drug trafficking in the surrounding area, was scrutinizing the information.

Something red and black was on both of his hands.

Beside him, a low-level drug dealer was covered in blood and convulsing.

“Don’t make a fuss. This base is different from others. No matter who comes, they won’t be able to do anything.”

With abundant equipment and illegal weapons, his base was known to have the most military power among all the bases in the kingdom.

Even the elite of the Royal Knights would not be able to break through without internal information and a thorough security system.

With each base being attacked, their vigilance had been raised even higher.

(The problem is what kind of organization the enemy is.)

Hugo glared at his notes.

Silence fell in the room.

It was as quiet as if it had sunk to the bottom of the deep sea.

The dust floating in the light of the lighting was reflecting.

The first anomaly was a small vibration that shook the building.

A vibration so small that one wouldn’t notice if they were standing up.

However, the surface of the water in a glass placed on the table was definitely shaking.

Hugo had felt a slight discomfort from that vibration.

He felt like there was something abnormal about it.

That was when communication came in from the magic communication device held by the lookout outside.

“Attack! Something. . .! There’s something here!”

The communication was cut off there.

“What was there? Answer me.”

There was no response to the question.

All that could be heard was a scraping noise.

The sound of distant rumbling.

A vibration filled with something ominous was slowly approaching.

[It’s not good! I can’t stop it!]

“Ahhhh————!”

Urgent voices and noise.

The interrupted communication never reconnected.

(What the. . .What’s going on. . .?)

Confusion.

The next moment, he was hit by a chill that felt like liquid nitrogen was being poured into his spine.

His thoughts turned completely white.

His throat was parched.

(What is this abnormal magical pressure. . .?!)

He couldn’t stand up.

The two executives in the same room were also trembling, unable to wipe away their drool under the magical pressure.

(What is . . . What the hell is in there?)

A feeling of fear that he had never experienced in his life.

Something beyond the ordinary world he knew was there.

Eventually, the door opened quietly.

“Good day. Impressive. Enduring without fainting.”

Appearing before him was a masked woman wrapped in a robe.

She approached Hugo with calm movements, as if taking a morning walk.

“If you don’t want to die, answer me. Where is the dog that hurt my precious person?”

Chapter 32: All-purpose wish machine

A luxurious mansion located on the outskirts of the capital city.

The mansion, which is supposed to not exist externally, is heavily guarded by fifteen types of concealment magic and magic barriers.

Invited by Bernard, Olivia entered the mansion and was struck by the grandeur of the place.

How much money would it take to build such a building?

Every detail, even the invisible ones, is a masterpiece that has been carefully crafted and unified.

“Thank you for inviting us.”

Isabella’s smile revealed her hidden joy.

Having seen a glimpse of Bernard’s power, she was convinced that he would return as the head of the Creutzfeldt family.

“I invited you here because I wanted to ask for your help with a job.”

Bernard says.

“I want you to get close to them, get on their radar, and get me information of value. That’s what I was thinking.”

Count Westmeath nodded.

“Leave it to us. We will definitely be of service.”

“However, the earlier report has changed our plans a bit. It seems we can perform the ritual earlier than planned. We have to move forward before any interference occurs.”

“Of course, please proceed as Bernard-sama wishes.”

“You should also watch. Have you ever heard of the labyrinth artifact called 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》?”

“I’m sorry, I’m not knowledgeable about it.”

“Well, it’s not widely known because it’s a very valuable magical tool discovered in the ruins of a lost ancient civilization. There is also a legend that it was created by ancient sages who once existed, but that is not true. It is impossible for humans to create such a powerful magical tool.”

Bernard continued with deep wrinkles around his mouth.

“Once in a hundred years, there is an all-purpose wish machine that can grant any wish. However, anyone who tries to use this 《Mirror》 to make a wish inevitably meets a tragic end. Do you know why?”

“Why?”

“The 《Mirror》 demands compensation. To have your wish granted, you must pay an appropriate price. Our predecessors made mistakes there. They misunderstood the nature of the compensation and were swallowed up by the 《Mirror》 that demanded compensation.”

“Does that mirror swallow people?”

“More precisely, it swallows people’s souls. Especially those with magical power.”

Bernard says.

“The total amount of magical power that the soul possesses is important. You must offer enough soul and magical power to have your wish granted. It’s natural when you think about it. To make a big fire, you need to burn enough firewood.”

Opening the door to the back room, Bernard continued.

“That’s why I prepared the firewood. Do you know that the Duke Creutzfeldt family owns eighty-two orphanages in the kingdom?”

“No way. . .”

“Children without relatives who possess magical power. If I gather three hundred of them, it will be more than enough for me to gain eternal life alone.”

A dry laugh echoed.

In the dark room, children who had been put to sleep by magic lay like dolls.

Count Westmeath gasped at the abnormal sight.

He could sacrifice innocent children without hesitation for his own desires.

This man is completely insane.

“But the situation has changed a bit. Foolish people have rebelled, and someone is still crazily destroying my bases. Even if I gain eternal life with the power of the 《Mirror》, it will be meaningless if I lose my wealth and power. First, I need to gain the power to bury my enemies.”

Bernard walked deeper into the dark room.

Kicking aside the lying children, he put his hand on the large mirror placed in the center.

“My wish is this. Mirror, give me the power to become the strongest being in this world.”

The mirror emitted a purple light.

At that moment, an abnormal amount of magical energy filled the surroundings, and the fallen children disappeared, leaving only Bernard behind.

He smiled contentedly in the dark room.

“So, this is power. I see why everyone desires it.”

He swung his arm as if trying something out.

With that gust of wind, the walls of the mansion burst open as if torn apart by a giant.

(“M-Monster. . .”)

The Count couldn’t stand and fell to his knees.

“S-Splendid, Bernard-sama.”

Isabella’s voice trembled uncontrollably.

She instinctively realized that with just a little whim from him, her life could easily be taken away.

At that moment, one of the private soldiers who had been guarding outside rushed into the room.

“Bernard-sama! There are intruders in the mansion!”

He was probably a man in a responsible position among the soldiers.

His body, clad in decorated armor, was slammed into a wall twenty meters away in the next moment and buried under rubble beyond three walls, motionless.

Red liquid soaked the bodies of the Count of Westmeath, Isabella, and Olivia.

The liquid had an innocent lukewarmness as if unaware of what had happened.

“H-huh. . .Ahh. . .”

They couldn’t breathe properly and all three of them collapsed and trembled while making meaningless sounds.

“I changed my mind.”

Bernard said with a bored expression.

“I have obtained this much power. I no longer need any allies.”

His lifeless eyes captured the three of them.

(No. . .I don’t want to die. . .!)

When Olivia closed her eyes in fear, a huge water cannon broke into the mansion while crushing it.

It had the power to semi-destroy a three-story mansion in an instant, and it blew Bernard’s body sideways and slammed him against the wall behind him.

“I’ve wanted to meet you for so long.”

The woman behind the mask appeared from the dust.

She was wearing a large robe and lifted the brim of her big hat as she spoke.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve dreamed of this. Finally, my wish has come true. I’m so happy.”

The witch smiled under her mask.

“I won’t let you off with just one hit. I’ll beat you up so badly that you’ll regret being alive.”

Chapter 33: The Witch of Dawn

(I’m alive. . .! I’m alive!)

Olivia checks her body half in disbelief.

Her heart is pounding like crazy.

While repeating hyperventilation, she looks around at her surroundings.

Fragments of the half-destroyed mansion, as if gouged out by a water magic cannon.

The masked witch who suddenly appeared.

A magical pressure that makes her skin crawl.

The presence of a powerful person completely different from an ordinary human.

(No way, that person is. . .)

Olivia had an idea of who that person was.

The hero who defeated the 《Demonic Crimson Dragon》 that attacked the northern border alone.

The legendary existence known as the strongest wizard in the history of the kingdom——

(The 《Witch of Dawn》. . .)

She thought it was just a rumor someone made up.

She couldn’t believe that she actually existed.

Olivia stares at her with amazement at her dignified figure.

(Unbelievable. . .facing such a monster. . .)

She couldn’t believe they were both human.

What a pure and beautiful stance she had.

To Olivia, who was on the brink of death, the masked witch looked too dazzling.

(Amazing. . .so cool.)

◇  ◇  ◇

After crushing fourteen hidden bases in half a day, Finne finally found Bernard’s hiding place.

Breaking through the concealment magic and magic barrier, Finne stormed into the mansion and had a faint suspicion about the feeling of her success.

“Hey, could it be that that dog-bastard is already using 《Mirror》?”

[Yeah, no mistake. He seems to have an unnatural power like a monster. Probably, he paid a price to seek power from the wish machine.]

“A price?”

[When we looked into Bernard’s background, you mentioned that he was enthusiastic about running orphanages.]

“There it is. They were looking for children with magical talent.”

[He’s probably using those children’s souls as sacrifices. We need to do something quickly.]

“He’s truly an irredeemable villain. My excitement is rising.”

Finne shrugged her shoulders.

Meanwhile, Bernard appeared from the dust nonchalantly, cracking his neck in boredom.

Not a single scratch was on his body.

“This is boring. It seems like I’ve become too strong.”

(This doesn’t seem like it will be easy.)

Finne observed Bernard while whispering to the ghost.

“――――――.”

The ghost opened his eyes slightly.

A few seconds of silence.

He nodded.

[You can do it. I think you can do it.]

“Then let’s go with this plan.”

Bernard stared at her with emotionless eyes.

“Who are you talking to?”

“My Master, who knows the most about magic in the world.”

“Don’t try to bluff me. You’re alone here right now.”

“If that’s what you think, then that’s what it is in your mind.”

“You’re wasting my time with these tactics.You’re trying to modify the magic formula of the《Mirror》 to steal my power, aren’t you?”

Finne’s lips were pursed.

“. . .You’re quite perceptive.”

“But it’s meaningless. It’s all meaningless, 《Witch of Dawn》. The technique used in 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》 is a lost ancient magic technology. As someone who is most knowledgeable about ancient magic in the kingdom, you should know that it’s not something that can be made by humans.”

“But there are also stories that say it was made by an ancient sage.”

“Legend is just legend.”

“Even so, there’s no reason why I can’t do it. Whether it’s a god or a sage, it doesn’t matter. Because I’m better than them.”

“Aren’t you too overconfident, 《Witch of Dawn》? What do you think you are?””

“I am the cutest and coolest, unparalleled in heaven and earth.”

At Finne’s words, Bernard chuckled.

“It’s refreshing when arrogance and pride go too far.”

“I’m not being arrogant. I’m just affirming myself. That’s all.”

“How can you be so overconfident in yourself?”

“It’s because there are few people who believe in me. If no one believes in me, then I’ll be pitiful.”

Finne smiled quietly.

“Watch this. I’ll modify the magic formula of the 《Mirror》 to give you a taste of your own medicine.”

“Seems like you need some education. It’s the duty of elders to teach foolish people their place.”

Boredly shaking his head, Bernard said, “I’ll break your spirit in ten seconds.”

In an instant, Bernard was standing behind Finne.

She couldn’t even perceive the hand chop that was swung at her.

She tried to take evasive action but it was too late.

She fell through three walls of the mansion.

Blood flowed from her hairline and down under her cracked mask.

“——It didn’t even take a second.”

Bernard picked up Finne’s hat.

He tore it apart like paper and then stepped on it boredly.

The ground shook violently.

Underneath a large hole, what was once a hat rolled around.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

From under the rubble, Finne stood up unsteadily.

Five ribs and both arms were broken.

While casting recovery magic on herself, Finne glared at Bernard.

“My heart isn’t broken. Even after ten seconds.”

“You understand the difference in power now. Continuing is meaningless.”

Bernard said with a cold gaze.

“If you admit defeat and beg for your life, I won’t take your life.”

Finne thought for a moment before saying,

“. . .It seems like that’s the only way for me to survive.”

Sadistic light shone in Bernard’s eyes.

“Yes, kneel before me. Rub your head on the ground and beg for forgiveness. If you do that, I’ll spare your life.”

Finne bit her lip and fell silent.

After a long silence, she took a deep breath and said,

“. . .I understand.”

She stumbled and slowly walked towards Bernard.

She looked like a criminal heading towards the guillotine.

Fear and terror seemed to weigh down her footsteps.

Her face was lowered, hiding the cracked mask under her drooping bangs.

“Kneel. Beg for your life.”

At Bernard’s words, Finne’s body trembled.

A hesitant silence.

Conflict.

Then, still looking down, she said,

“Of course not, you stupid noble.”

In an instant, Finne swung her fist.

The punch that hit Bernard’s cheek didn’t even bring as much impact as a fly’s body check, but Finne’s goal was to touch Bernard.

The magic formula was activated.

Immediately after, Bernard’s body shook violently as if convulsing.

“What are you doing. . .”

One magic formula after another unfolded.

While using plant magic to bind Bernard’s body.

“I told you, didn’t I? I have a Master who is the most knowledgeable in magic in the world. My Master is a ghost, but while I’ve been buying time, he’s been analyzing the 《Mirror》 and creating new magic formulas. A formula that manipulates the structure of the spell to make it spit out what it has swallowed as compensation.”

“You’re foolish. . .The 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》 is a miracle created by God. There’s no way a human wizard could analyze it——.”

“Well, that’s true. I don’t think any other wizard could have done it.”

Finne says with a smirk.

“But, too bad. My Master is an ancient great sage.”

Bernard’s body begins to burn.

The 《Mirror》, having lost its compensation, is trying to swallow the soul of the spellcaster.

“I won’t die. . .I absolutely won’t die. . .!”

However, Bernard, who has become the strongest creature in history, does not stop.

He strips off the plant magic restraints and tries to escape from the 《Mirror》 that is sucking him in.

“You’re persistent. The fight is over, so give up.”

“It’s not over yet. I’ll silence the 《Mirror》 by using you as compensation!”

“Ugh. . .!”

Bernard’s thought process had led him to the only way he could survive in just a short amount of time.

That’s why Finne was trying to restrain Bernard with countless plant magics using 《Multiple Chanting Multicast》 because she was wary of it.

Plant magic that generates vines that absorb magical power and life force from the target.

The great magic that dries up the king of snakes, Basilisk, in seconds cannot stop Bernard though.

Bernard grabs Finne’s robe.

Desperately casting water and lightning magic, Finne couldn’t even scratch Bernard.

“It’s my win.”

Bernard smiled.

At that moment, ice blades tore through Finne’s robe and rushed towards Bernard’s body.

“Join in, 《Witch of Dawn》.”

Zion Creutzfeldt.

The youngest of the Five Sages, also known as the 《Ice Magician》, was probably searching for his grandfather’s hidden base as well.

Finne instantly coordinated with him to cast magic.

Thanks to Zion’s thorough investigation of the 《Witch of Dawn》, they were able to achieve a miraculous coordination that didn’t seem like their first time.

Their magic had more power than simple addition and attacked Bernard fiercely.

In the midst of the muddy stream-like onslaught, Bernard’s arm, which he had stretched out with all his might, was just out of reach of Finne.

“Aaaaaah————!”

Bernard’s body was sucked into the 《Mirror》.

Like a stone dropping into water, Bernard’s body was absorbed into the mirror surface.

A purple light shone brightly around them.

Only the 《Mirror》 remained there, with its fingertips stretched out and sucked in.

Chapter 34: Family

Just after Bernard was sucked into the 《Mirror》, Finne found herself standing in a completely white world.

There was nothing around her.

Only a vast expanse of white.

She tried drawing a magic circle.

A magic that would make a small flower bloom.

But there was only the white void.

(Probably, it’s a special world that operates on a different principle than reality.)

“That’s right. As expected, you’re excellent.”

Standing there was Mr. Ghost.

He was standing in the space where there was supposed to be nothing.

His usual calm smile.

However, Finne couldn’t help but gasp at his appearance.

He wasn’t translucent, and his voice definitely shook her eardrums.

He was standing there with a tangible form, not as a ghost.

“This is a special space I created with magic. It’s like a spiritual world, so to speak. I wanted to talk to you. This is the last chance.”

The ghost said.

“Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, in the distant past when the Great War broke out and the old civilization was destroyed, there was a boy who loved magic. And he loved humans. He thought that if he invented magic and magical tools, everyone would be very happy. He polished his skills happily. It was an incredibly happy time.”

The ghost narrowed his eyes lovingly.

And then he continued.

“But eventually, even such a season comes to an end. The people around him began to engage in ugly fights, seeking his magic and magical tools. He was deceived, betrayed, and made to realize the ugliness of humanity. Above all, what hurt him the most was that his magic and magical tools were misused, causing countless deaths. He began to hate himself. And then, he began to hate humans too. He stopped interacting with the people around him and became a recluse in a remote mansion.”

The ghost says.

“However, people did not leave him alone. No matter how much he hid, they searched for him desperately and asked him to create even more amazing things. More magical tools that could generate more wealth. More powerful magic that could kill enemies and subjugate enemy countries. He truly began to hate humans from the bottom of his heart. And then, he developed magic that would make it impossible for others to recognize his existence and cast it on himself. He was supposed to have a peaceful life and spend his remaining years quietly.”

The ghost continues with a bitter smile.

“The magic failed. He had failed more than anyone else, but this failure was truly fatal. He became an existence that was outside the logic of this world and could not die, living forever without being recognized by anyone.”

He sighs.

“It was an empty time. I didn’t even know if I was alive or dead. Only the flow of time kept getting faster and faster. A great war broke out, and the world came to an end. From there, a few survivors slowly began to rebuild the world. It didn’t matter. I would live like a dead man, alone, for the rest of my life. That’s what I thought.”

After a moment of silence, he spoke,

“That was when you found me.”

Finne recognized the gentle expression on his face.

His soft bangs swayed.

“I was really surprised. I never dreamed that there would be someone who could see me. You called me Master and we did many things together. This is a secret, but I thought of you as my daughter. I know I’m not qualified to be a father, but still.”

The ghost said.

“Even so, you were an important presence to me that I couldn’t help but think that way. I would do anything to make you happy. I’ve been thinking about what I can do for you and what I should do. So, I’ve been preparing for this day. And I lied to you. Although I do want to complete my research, honestly, it doesn’t matter. My goal was to obtain the all-purpose wish machine that I made in the past, the 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》.”

A large mirror appeared next to the ghost.

A bewildered Finne is reflected in the mirrored surface.

She didn’t understand what he was saying.

(Didn’t Mr. Ghost want to obtain the 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》?

Why?)

“I will make my wish come true with this 《Mirror》.”

The ghost said.

“I will change the past and create a world where your parents are revived and you can live happily as the daughter of the Count family. You should live loved by your real parents. It’s wrong to live your life in that dilapidated mansion, estranged from your adoptive family. You should experience life as a normal Count lady, interacting with people in the outside world, experiencing both good and bad things. That’s the best gift I can give you.”

Finne remained silent for a while.

Eventually, she spoke up.

“But there must be a price to pay for using the 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》. How much compensation is required to change the past?”

“What’s important is the total amount of magical power that the soul possesses. And I know someone who has enough magical power to fulfill that requirement.”

The ghost looked at Finne.

“I will activate the 《Mirror of Cucumericulus》 by using my soul as compensation. Be happy. With your real parents who will love you in the new world.”

He shook his head regretfully in front of the mirror.

Then he said,

“Goodbye.”

The ghost’s body was sucked into the 《Mirror》.

“Wait——”

Finne ran towards him.

She reached out to keep the ghost in this world.

But it was too late.

Her outstretched hand couldn’t reach him, and only Finne was left in the white world.

The 《Mirror》 emitted a blue light.

The white world began to rapidly change color.

The past was being altered, and another world was being created.

Finne lowered her head.

It was almost unbearable if she let her guard down.

She felt like crying.

But she didn’t have time to cry.

She had to expel the compensation and make it seem like nothing had happened with the activation of the 《Mirror》.

The sound disappears from the world.

Sinking into the sea of accelerating thoughts.

Fingers draw complex geometric patterns repeatedly.

What she created was a huge magic formula.

The 《Mirror》 emits a dazzling light.

The world is enveloped in light.

“I can’t believe it. How did you. . .”

In a pure white world, Finne said to the stunned ghost,

“I am your top disciple. It is the disciple’s job to imitate and learn the techniques you have shown me.”

Looking up at the ghost and getting closer to his face in an intimidating manner, she continued,

“Don’t decide my happiness for me. The days I spent at the ghost mansion were an important time that made me who I am today. Sure, it was a terrible environment, but I gained a lot from it. I learned to sleep on hard straw in three seconds, and because I could only eat one meal a day, I learned the importance of food. I became more patient and could endure anything. I learned to look at things positively even when they were bad. But most importantly, you were there.”

Finne said,

“I’ve kept it a secret, but I’ve always thought of you as a father figure. You were always there for me, never disliking anything I did. Your kindness gave me courage when things didn’t go well. I never felt anxious because you were always on my side, and when I made mistakes, you scolded me seriously. Even though you were angry, I was happy because I could tell that you really cared about me. You were such a big presence in my life.”

“But that’s because there was no one else.”

“No, that’s not true. I truly believe that it was you.”

“I can’t touch you, and no one else can see me. We’re not even related by blood.”

“So what? It doesn’t matter to me at all. I’ve received so much from you. Even if I had to redo my life many times, I would still want to be your daughter.”

Finne narrowed her eyes.

“So please stay by my side for a long time, Otou-san. . .”

A tear flowed from the ghost’s eyes.

It traced a beautiful line down her cheek and fell to the ground as a droplet.

Finne smiled at the ghost, who covered his eyes with his palm.

“You’re crying too much.”

However, Finne didn’t know how much those words meant to him, who had lived alone without being able to connect with anyone for so long.

And the ghost didn’t know either.

For Finne, who had lost her parents and was shunned by her new family, he was such a grateful presence.

They couldn’t understand each other perfectly.

They weren’t even related by blood.

One of them didn’t even know if the other was alive or dead.

Nevertheless, there was undoubtedly an invisible bond between them.

There was a family that could be found anywhere.

Chapter 35: I want you to tell me

After a warm but somewhat embarrassing time, Finne suddenly found herself back in her original world.

Bernard’s hidden mansion was in shambles and seemed about to collapse, and her adoptive family was slumped over in the distance.

The 《Mirror》 had disappeared, and the children who had been swallowed by it were sleeping around it.

“Are you okay?”

A familiar voice.

Zion was closer than Finne had thought, and she was startled.

She wished he would stop surprising her.

Her heart had been acting strange lately when she was with Zion-sama.

(But I’m the 《Witch of Dawn》 now!)

It was a world behind a mask.

If she spoke, there was a possibility that her true identity would be revealed.

She had suddenly disappeared, and even though she could no longer return to her life as the future wife of the Duke’s heir, if her true identity were to be revealed, it could lead to an irreparable situation later on.

(Just don’t answer and leave silently. The《Witch of Dawn》leaves coolly.)

As Finne began to walk away, Zion stopped her.

“Wait. There’s something I want you to tell my wife, Finne, your disciple.”

Something he wants her to tell his wife?

What could he possibly want to talk about?

There shouldn’t have been any common acquaintances between him and the 《Witch of Dawn》――

No, that’s not it.

There is one person.

“It’s about my wife, who is your disciple, Finne.”

(It’s me. . .)

It’s definitely not going to be good news.

At first, they got along surprisingly well, but something went wrong along the way.

It was probably because he accidentally kissed him on the cheek.

It was only natural for Zion-sama, who had a distrust of humans and women, to start avoiding her because of that.

(It’s safe to say that he doesn’t think highly of me.)

Moreover, she left the mansion without permission during an important time when the lord was attacked.

As the next Duchess, her actions were undoubtedly at their lowest score.

Those happy days cannot be returned.

(I actually liked spending time with Zion-sama, but that was just for my own convenience. I was undoubtedly a bad wife for him.

Still, even if I’m insulted, listening to him is my last duty as a wife. I had a good time with him.)

She turns silently to Zion.

Without a word, she turned to Zion-sama.

“Your meeting was a political marriage.”

She quietly opens her mouth.

“I, who cannot trust people, conveyed the conditions for marriage to her. It was truly a terrible act. But she stayed by my side without any concern.”

Zion-sama says,

“The time with her was truly pleasant. It was the first time for me to get along with someone without any calculation or malice. Her presence had undoubtedly become something significant within me. I want her by my side. I am so selfish to think that.”

With a melancholic sigh, he says,

“I want her to come back. That’s all I wish for. I pray for it. Please tell her that.”

Then, Zion-sama says,

“I love Finne.”

❂❂❂

Finne couldn’t return his words.

She stiffens for a moment and then turns her back on him while trying to maintain her usual 《Witch of Dawn》 demeanor.

She kicks the ground.

Her running speed gets faster and faster.

She takes refuge in an unpopular forest.

In the depths of the deep forest where no one can see, she leans against a tree trunk and breathes heavily.

An unfamiliar feeling of embarrassment and warmth, and confusion.

(Zion-sama likes me? What does that mean? But wait, he should like the 《Witch of Dawn》 instead of me. . .well, I am her, so it’s still me.

Why am I being confessed to twice in someone else’s body?

And liking both the disguised me and the real me, isn’t Zion-sama liking me too much. . .?!)

[Your face is all red, Finne.]

“Shut up.”

She hid in the ghost’s blind spot and hugged her knees.

In the pleasant sensation of feeling light and fluffy for the first time, Finne was stunned.

Chapter 36: Epilogue

A week has passed since she disappeared.

Zion Creutzfeldt feels a void in his heart.

However, his life as the next head of the Duke family does not wait for him.

A series of illegal acts committed by the former head, Bernard.

The investigation of the truth and the capture of key figures.

The condemnation of the Creutzfeldt family was not as loud as expected, perhaps because there are many dark sides to other nobles in the corrupt noble society of the kingdom.

That is why he must impeach the actions of the previous corrupt leader and create a new Duke family.

He worked desperately for his father who was attacked and is now in the hospital.

He was prepared to take over as head in case of his father’s death, but fortunately, he survived.

However, he does not know if that is really a good thing.

Zion does not know much about his father.

His father, who hated his grandfather, did not come home often.

Zion, who was liked by his grandfather, grew up in a dilapidated house while being shown the ugliness of humanity.

They say that too much power changes people.

His father may also start to behave like his grandfather and go astray.

Or maybe he is already hurting someone somewhere without Zion’s knowledge.

Zion has been exposed too much to the ugliness of humanity to innocently trust people.

Because his father has his grandfather’s blood flowing through him.

And so does Zion himself.

He may someday stray from the path or go crazy under the rain of desire.

But that is why Zion wants to be right.

To break away from the evil tradition.

To obtain a family and life that he does not have to be ashamed of.

(How nice it would be if you were there.)

However, it may be an impossible wish.

Zion, who grew up in a crazy household, does not know what a healthy family is like.

Marriage life was probably not good for her.

It’s natural that she didn’t come back.

The conditions she was presented with at first were too terrible.

In addition, Zion knew too little about her.

He realized this when he learned the truth about the Westmeath family during the aftermath of the incident.

Northern borderland.

Imprisoned life in a dilapidated mansion.

Living conditions that are too terrible to be considered human.

Certainly, the woman he met seemed quite thin, but he never imagined she was in such a situation.

They mistreated her, a legitimate successor, and sold off the property of the former head of the family to which she had rights without permission.

Their actions not only violated inheritance laws in the kingdom but also went against basic human decency.

Details of the incident and their actions have already been submitted to the High Court.

The Westmeath family has enough power to easily suppress petitions from ordinary citizens, but this time they are up against the Duke Creutzfeldt family and the highest judicial body in the kingdom, the High Court.

It is impossible to completely cover up their actions.

There are already rumors that several newspapers are investigating the surrounding area as a scoop.

In another month, their actions will be exposed to the public, and the Westmeath family will lose their power and fall into ruin.

And she, as the daughter of the former head, regains the rights and honor that were unjustly taken from her.

She will probably be able to live without working for the rest of her life.

Howover, she may not come back.

As a disciple of the 《Witch of Dawn》, she has an extremely talented wizardry ability.

The professors at the Royal Magic College are said to be grieving over her absence, and her whereabouts could be anywhere.

(I guess I have to think of it as a good thing.)

However, there was a part of him that wished he didn’t have anything like before.

If it were a situation where he had no choice but to rely on himself, she might have been by his side.

Weak and ugly emotions peek through.

In the end, this void cannot be filled without her.

He has come to know the happiness of having someone by his side.

Until then, he had never felt lonely.

(Do not think. Focus on what you should do.)

He worked tirelessly on a minute-by-minute schedule.

Searching for the hidden base owned by former head Bernard.

Seizing and organizing evidence.

Discussions with legal officials about rights issues.

“Zion-sama, you’re working too hard. You should take a break for a little while.”

However, he couldn’t stop working.

He could visibly see that if he had free time, he would start thinking about unnecessary things.

On the way back after reporting his day’s work to his father.

Finally, there was no work left for him to do today, and Zion let out a deep sigh.

The hallway of the hospital owned by the Creutzfeldt family.

The red and transparent sunlight is shining through the window.

( I didn’t know I was this fragile.)

A side of himself that felt like a stranger, even though he should have known it better than anyone else.

(It’s all your fault.)

He smiled wryly and looked up at the sky outside the window.

The bright red sky at sunset.

(She is also under this sky.

What are you doing?

Is it studying magic that you love?

Maybe you’re being taught by the《Witch of Dawn》 as her disciple.

Perhaps she even scolds you sometimes.

I wanted to know more about you.

But that’s life, there are also wishes that cannot be granted.

I have to taste that bitterness and move forward.

You’re probably living happily somewhere.

That’s enough.

For now, I just wish for your happiness.

May your future be filled with so many happy moments that you can’t hold them all.)

A bittersweet aftertaste.

Starting to walk with a long shadow.

Voices of various people can be heard from the hospital room.

A page of an unknown life faintly glimpsed.

“Finne-sama! Where have you been?! We were worried about you!”

He stopped in surprise.

He turned back to the door of the hospital room diagonally behind him.

He had forgotten to breathe.

Standing in front of the door, he put his hand on the handle.

The hospital room.

Beyond the open door.

She was making a troubled face as a maid hugged her tightly.

“Mia, calm down. Calm down.”

She calmed down the maid and pushed her back onto the bed.

Then she noticed Zion and held her breath.

Eyes that were averted.

Hesitation and indecision.

She probably didn’t plan to meet here.

Of course not.

She might even be trying to live without getting involved with him at all.

But even so, he thought it was okay.

He reached out his hand.

It’s okay to get hurt.

It’s okay to fail.

This feeling can’t be stopped anymore.

“I want you by my side. I want you to walk through life with me.”

Zion said.

“I love you.”

Finne opened her eyes slightly in surprise.

She looked around like a cat and pursed her lips.

A face looking down.

Her well-shaped ears were dyed red.

“Am I good enough for you?”

“You’re good.”

Finne stumbled.

She was visibly confused, flustered, and spinning around.

Then, like a young girl, she nodded once with a small “yes.”

Chapter 37: The ghost and the girl (Final chapter)

He had always liked being alone.

It had been that way since he was a child.

Playing with friends was fun, but there was always a part of him that wanted to go home and read a book.

He could spend time without worrying about others or conforming to their expectations.

He could have his own time and enjoy what he liked as much as he wanted.

Even now, as an adult, it was a happy and luxurious moment for the ghost.

He immersed himself in the world of his beloved book, enjoying the pleasant ticking of the clock and the light reflecting off the dust through the window.

When he finished reading, the ghost closed the book carefully, holding it close to his chest and inhaling the fragrant smell of the paper.

It was then that he heard the sound of lively footsteps and the door opening with force.

“Teach me magic, Mr. Ghost!”

A small girl entered the room.

The six-year-old girl took her place in front of the ghost, spreading her arms as if to say, “Look at me.”

“Oh, the afterglow. . .”

“Hm?”

The girl tilted her head curiously.

The ghost couldn’t help feeling disappointed that the afterglow had disappeared.

However, the girl’s eyes, wearing shabby clothes, sparkled like when she saw a birthday cake.

(She was looking forward to learning magic from me.)

The ghost felt something warm spreading in his chest.

“Sure. What do you want to know today?”

“Well, this and this and this——.”

The girl quickly told the ghost what she wanted to know while opening the book.

After answering her questions carefully and explaining everything, the ghost realized it was time to finish.

“Okay, I understand. Thank you. See you later.”

The girl turned around and left the room.

(Just ask what you want to know and leave immediately. . .too free. . .)

He felt like he was being treated like a convenient man.

After that, he thought again about what he had been feeling lately.

(This girl has something cat-like about her.)

The ghost mansion’s little girl, Finne, resembles a cat. It was one hypothesis that the ghost spent three months coming up with.

She is honest with her feelings and does not try to match her facial expressions or read the atmosphere.

Even when she was taught magic by the ghost, she would only ask about what interested her and then turn her back and leave the room.

Her small back seemed to say, “I can live alone.”

It was like saying, “I’m totally fine even if you’re gone. I have plenty of room.”

Perhaps the fact that she lost both parents and is being treated coldly by her step-parents is affecting her.

She is afraid that the people she becomes close to will disappear again.

Still, she tries to make herself okay.

The ghost found her bluff endearing.

(I have to tell her that there are people who won’t disappear.)

The ghost faced Finne kindly and gently.

However, spending time with a child for the first time was more difficult than he had expected.

(It’s not going as planned at all. . .)

Finne is a wild horse who seems to have been a boss monkey in her past life, and the ghost always ends up being manipulated by her.

When he taught her fire magic, she set him on fire, and when he taught her ice magic, she froze him.

“I couldn’t control my desire to do it,” Finne said.

“If I don’t raise this child properly, She’ll cause trouble for others,” the ghost shuddered.

The ghost did everything in his power to empathize with her. He made eye contact and patiently explained things to her until she understood, even when he wanted to raise his voice.

However, it seemed that his efforts were not very effective.

Finne was satisfied with trapping the ghost with plant magic.

(This is the pain of raising a child. . .)

Expectations are always betrayed, and one’s own powerlessness is shown in stark relief.

Above all, what made the ghost sad was her small back.

As soon as he took a breath, she turned her back and said, “I can live alone.”

(Maybe I’m not the kind of person who can handle difficult things like raising a child, since I prefer magic to human relationships.)

But he knew that he should not give up.

This was something he absolutely had to do.

He didn’t know why, but he had that feeling.

It was one night.

The sound of rain echoed.

The rain that began to fall with the setting sun increased in intensity as the night deepened. Occasionally, a strong light dyed the room white. Thunder shook the earth a little later.

The wind shook the mansion, and a creaking sound echoed from the depths of the earth.

That was when someone knocked on the door of the library.

At first, the ghost didn’t realize it was a knock.

It was such a small sound.

He heard the faint sound of knocking again, and the ghost hurriedly opened the door.

The girl stood with her right ear turned like a cat.

“What’s wrong?”

The girl turned her gaze towards the end of the hallway at the words of the ghost.

“. . .I can’t sleep.”

The ghost talked about various things in her bedroom until the girl fell asleep.

Every time thunder roared, the girl shuddered.

It was a long night.

The flow of time seemed to be stretched out, and something different from usual seemed to be mixed in the air.

“I have one question. . .”

The girl said in a small voice that couldn’t be heard without listening carefully.

“Yeah. What is it?”

However, the girl didn’t say anything.

She seemed to be hesitant about something.

In the darkness of the night, the ghost felt something like that.

“You can tell me anything you want, okay?”

The girl looked at the ghost as if trying to gauge his reaction.

After a moment of silence, she opened her mouth.

“Mr. Ghost, you’re not going anywhere, right?”

It felt like an important question that couldn’t be answered easily.

The sound of rain grew stronger.

The ghost looked straight at the girl and said, “I’m not going anywhere. I won’t go anywhere.”

“Really? Will you stay with me forever?”

“I will. It’s okay. I’ll always be with you.”

In the darkness, the ghost felt like the girl’s expression had changed.

It might have been just his imagination, but he felt like the girl had become a little more relieved.

He hoped it was true.

But it might have been just a dream and not reality.

Before he knew it, the ghost had fallen asleep, leaning against her bed.

When he opened his eyes again, Finne was looking down at him with her lips pursed.

“You fell asleep first. Honestly, that’s just like Mr. Ghost.”

Finne shrugged her shoulders and muttered,

“You really don’t understand how to treat a lady. I’m worried about your future.”

(I don’t want to hear that from someone who was playing around with burying me alive with earth magic.)

Although he had some thoughts, he decided not to say anything.

There are many situations in the world where things go more smoothly if you remain silent.

(However, I failed. I fell asleep before her.)

As an adult, he had intended to watch over her until she fell asleep.

Regret and disappointment.

He couldn’t even do such a simple thing properly.

Maybe he really isn’t cut out for raising a child.

The girl spoke to the ghost, her face lowered.

“But, it wasn’t entirely unpleasant to have kept me company all night. . .Well, I was happy.”

She looked around like a cat before continuing.

“. . .Thank you.”

She whispered before turning her back and leaving the room as if running away.

Her small back was slightly different from usual, without the usual bravado of “I can live alone.”

The ghost felt a strange feeling in his chest.

Living with a cat-like girl in a dilapidated mansion.

He likes being alone.

But maybe it’s not so bad to be with someone else.

Outside the window, the morning sun after the rain was shining brightly on the town.

~The End~


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