Chapter 19: The Color of My Eyes
While it was raining steadily, I raised the collar of my coat and hurried to my destination.
The warm rain soaks my clothes thoroughly.
When I opened the door of the stylish cafe, two people with chestnut colored hair seated in the box seats behind turned to look at me.
“Leah, over here!!”
Despite the humid outside, Poppy, who had a bright smile on her face, waved her hand towards me.
Riley, also with a smile, raised his hand lightly.
I approached the box seats where they were waiting, taking off my coat and sitting opposite the two of them.
After ordering coffee from the employee who came to take our order and taking a breath, Riley starts to talk to me.
“Hey, it’s been a while.”
I can’t help but smile at his unchanged smile, even though his face has become tanned and sharp.
“Yes, it really has. You’ve been so busy with business trips that you hardly come home.”
When I say that, he scratches his head and smiles wryly.
Poppy sighs beside him.
“It’s been hard on Father too. Riley has been away on business trips all the time these past two years, and he doesn’t even have time to catch his breath. In these past two years, we have changed so much that we don’t even look like twins anymore.”
While saying this, Poppy stirs the cafe latte, which is the specialty of this shop, with a spoon, but her face is also gradually becoming more mature.
As she has begun to combine her natural cuteness with the calm of an adult, she is growing into an attractive woman.
“Well, Father is good at judging products, but he has high expectations of others…”
While saying this, Riley pacifies Poppy.
“Well, it’s no use complaining about people who aren’t here right now. Riley, tell us about the business trip you took recently. We’ve been looking forward to hearing about your souvenirs.”
Poppy turned to me as if to ask for my agreement, and I nodded my head in affirmation.
“I’d like to hear too. Weren’t you in a territory with mountains stretching out everywhere until recently?”
“Yes. The territory I stayed in on my business trip had mines where jewels were mined, and the city was famous for its jewelry industry. Duke Moore also sells jewels, so if you have the opportunity, you should go see them.”
Riley seems pleased as he talks about the events of his business trip.
For a while, he talks about how to identify jewels and the sparkling jewelry he saw in the city, but then he suddenly lowers his voice.
“…Then something happened.”
I repeat, and he nods gravely in a low voice.
“A magical beast appeared in the city.”
“Whaat?! A magical beast?”
Poppy exclaims with a startled face, and Riley nods heavily.
In this world, there are things called “magical beasts.” Magical beasts are like natural disasters, and although they have the appearance of beasts, many of them are shrouded in mystery.
Scholars say, “Magical beasts look like living beings, but they are not living beings. They are a kind of natural disaster that suddenly occurs from nature. They appear occasionally and scatter energy around like a storm.” Therefore, it is considered the best response to quickly leave the area if you encounter a magical beast in a forest or other place.
This is because magical beasts can damage the substances around them and absorb the life force of living beings.
It is rare for magical beasts to appear in cities, but when they do appear, the Knight’s Order organizes a subjugation team.
It is speculated that the power source of magical beasts is the “object like a mineral” that is embedded in their bodies, because the mineral gradually becomes smaller and disappears at the same time as the magical beast disappears, but in any case, magical beasts completely disappear without leaving any remains or trace, so the cause has not been revealed.
“I saw a magical beast for the first time. It stood on four legs and its body was like burning flames that couldn’t be seen clearly. The knights of the territory came and faced it, but…”
Riley shakes his shoulders violently.
“Just thinking about facing that monster makes me shudder. I never want to have anything to do with magical beasts again.”
As he says this and sips his drink, Poppy shakes her head with relief.
“Anyway, I’m glad Riley is okay.”
“It must have been tough.”
As Poppy and I express our concern, he nods with a mysterious expression.
“Hey, Leah. Are you okay?”
After chatting about memories for a while, Poppy whispered to me quietly.
“Okay…what do you mean?”
Not understanding what she was asking, I asked for clarification, and Poppy had a serious expression.
“You’ve been living as a man since you enlisted in the Order at the age of 8, and now that you’re 14, are you okay? Is it hard? Do you feel uncomfortable?”
As Poppy asked, Riley also looked at me seriously.
“I was also worried. Isn’t the Order a male-only organization? Are you having any difficulties or feeling troubled?”
Feeling at a loss for an answer as the two of them looked at me so worriedly, I fell silent.
The sense of frustration that grows with each physical change that becomes more feminine. The sadness at not being able to happily accept the growth of my body. The discomfort that comes from using a “he” pronoun that doesn’t feel right and acting like a man.
I have felt a helpless agony in continuously denying that my body is female.
At the same time.
As a woman, no matter what, I am inevitably weaker than men when viewed comprehensively. I came up with my own way of moving to overcome the gender difference in muscle mass, but I don’t know how long it will be effective. While thinking “I don’t want to hate my own gender or body”, I cannot stop fantasizing, “What if I were really a man?”
The pain of not being able to be my true gender as a “woman”, and the contradiction of dreaming of being a “man” instead.
Thinking about it in detail, I turned to the two people in front of me and replied.
“Since I am the first escort knight of William-sama and have been given a single room, I don’t have many problems for now. There are various things I think about, but…”
Gentle lapis lazuli colored eyes come to mind behind my eyelids.
“If being in a position to support William-sama comes with it, then that’s fine.”
Answering without hesitation, the two people look at each other with an indescribable expression.
And at the same time, they sighed and stroked my head.
“Hey, what’s suddenly wrong?”
As I was being stroked and flustered, they stroked my hair even more strongly.
“Leah is determined once she makes up her mind and goes straight for it. I won’t say anything now… but really, if you get tired, tell us.”
“In front of us, you can be yourself. We’re friends, after all, so feel free to rely on us a little.”
With white and black eyes, I nodded to their words.
“William-sama, this way please.”
“Oh, sorry. I was so curious I ended up looking at the townscape.”
At William-sama’s request, he and I came to a town famous for its jewels in the Moore duke’s territory.
A few days ago.
William-sama was thinking as he faced a letter from Prince Finlay.
According to the letter, “I was feeling down because I was kept in the palace for a long time. I hope you’ll forgive me. But my words that I consider you a close friend are true.” It began with this kind of wording, and it was written that people suspected of being anti-royalists had been safely arrested, that Princess Sofia, who had been in a long semi-confinement, wanted to give a gift because she had accumulated a lot of stress, and that if possible, William-sama wanted to choose a gift together.
William-sama happily sent a reply of approval and asked me, “Is there a good place to choose a gift?”
When I was asked that, I remembered a certain town in the Moore duke’s territory that processes jewels as an industry that I had asked Riley about the other day, and I told him, so we immediately decided to go and see it.
As I walked, I remembered the phrase “people suspected of being anti-royalists were safely arrested” in Prince Finlay’s letter while paying attention to William-sama’s appearance.
In the manga “You and The White Rose,” after Prince Finlay graduated from high school, the anti-royalists gained momentum and secretly worked towards overthrowing the Martinez royal family. According to Prince Finlay’s letter, “the anti-royalists have been arrested,” but if things proceed as they do in the manga, it is unlikely that this big capture would completely eliminate the anti-royalists.
If I knew the names of the noblemen in the anti-royalist faction, I might have been able to cooperate with the investigation and remove the materials of concern. However, the names of the noblemen in the anti-royalist faction were not specifically mentioned in the manga, and even if I had known them, I would have been questioned, “Why do you know such a thing?”
(It’s not going to be easy…)
I was thinking that, but
“Leah, what kind of things would Princess Sofia prefer at her age?”
I came back to myself at William-sama’s question.
It was when we were walking around a corner with open-air shops lined up.
I stopped involuntarily when I saw something.
It was an ear cuff with delicate silver work and a deep lapis lazuli gem and a white pearl that shone in seven colors depending on the angle it was viewed from.
(This gem… it’s just like the color of William-sama’s eyes)
It was only for a moment that I was captivated, but William-sama noticed my state and asked with a curious face,
“No, it’s nothing.”
Even though I said that on the spot, William-sama seemed to have noticed the jewelry I was captivated by, and narrowed his eyes as he looked at the ear cuff.
“Wow, it’s beautiful. Is it something to wear on your ears? The silver work is very beautiful.”
As William-sama smiled and looked at the ear cuff, a woman who seemed to be the shopkeeper came over.
“Boys, did you like the ear cuff? The pearl used is a small but top-quality beautiful one that was harvested in this Duke Moore’s territory. And that gem is called the [Sea of Wisdom], a gem that changes color from deep blue to pale purple depending on the lighting.”
As the shopkeeper leisurely took the ear cuff in her hand, the color of the embedded gem swayed and wavered.
“The silver work of this ear cuff is also made by a famous craftsman in the Duke Moore’s territory. The work with shells and the sea as motifs matches well with this gem and pearl. Recently, neutral designs are popular. This ear cuff is also a design that does not distinguish between men and women, so it is recommended for men like you boys.”
The shopkeeper, who said that with a smile, offered us the ear cuff.
“You can also try it on. How about it?”
William-sama turned to me with a mischievous smile and whispered,
“Leah, I guess you’ve been curious about it? Why don’t you try it on?”
I hesitated for a moment, but made up my mind and accepted the ear cuff.
When I put it on my ear, I peeked into the mirror prepared in the shop.
(…yeah, it’s a beautiful ear cuff after all)
I thought so as I looked at my own ear.
“This ear cuff is beautiful.”
I said that with a bashful look and turned to William-sama.
William-sama was staring at me, with his eyes wide open.
I called him suspiciously, but there was no response.
“William-sama, William-sama, what’s wrong?”
I shook his body as I called him.
He blinked rapidly and then, before I knew it, he turned pale and covered his face with his hands, crouching down.
When I asked him what was wrong,
I was puzzled, but at that time the store owner called out to me, so I turned my attention there.
On the way home, I was worried about William-sama’s face looking pale and blue, and I called out to him several times, but he didn’t answer me about the reason.