“Wow! It’s been a long time!”
As the summer vacation was about to turn around, I was enjoying a night flight in the sky.
Just above was an infinite starry sky that seemed to fall at any moment. Below was the shine of a city that also played a role as a guidepost.
And what I can see now is my hometown(dukedom) where I was born and raised. I can’t help but lean out and peek in.
The city looked like a diorama, with lights everywhere, and it looked like I was looking at beautiful toys.
“Rebecca, don’t fall.”
That’s what His Highness said as he hugged me from behind. He had a playful tone, but his voice was extremely calm, and I’m sure he was enjoying this trip.
“Your Highness, look! That’s the pride of our territory, the tourist town!”
“Oh, let’s go tomorrow. What’s the specialty?”
It’s “Mochimanju,” invented by my mother! Oh, that particularly bright one is the art museum, and for some reason, a picture I drew for father when I was three years old is being displayed as the main attraction!”
“As expected of Duke.”
I felt like a tour ambassador and promoted my territory to His Highness. He replied to each of them, and when no one was looking, he brought his lips close to my cheek.
It was happy but ticklish, so I laughed lightly and twisted my body sometimes.
Today is the day that I promised with His Highness before, to visit Duke’s territory together.
It’s not an official business, it’s just a little trip back home, or rather, a date. That’s why Nii-sama was hesitant and said “I can’t bear to be kicked by my beloved horse.”
The means of transportation were Christina and Grue. We alternated between riding one and taking breaks on the other, and with the wind magic blowing in our favor, we arrived in one day. Amazing.
When we got off in front of Duke’s residence, my uncle came out to greet us. His face is always friendly and he never loses his smile.
“Welcome back from your long trip… there may not be much to see here, but please enjoy your stay…”
He is in charge of managing the territory instead of my father who works in the Royal Capital.
Despite his appearance and attitude, he is a real operator. I call him “uncle who seems to fly away with just his hair blowing in the wind”.
When His Highness heard me call him that, he struggled to hold back his laughter while greeting my uncle and looking up at him.
Since it’s already late today, we plan to take it easy and sightsee tomorrow. We’ll stay here again tomorrow and return to the Royal Capital the day after.
His Highness seemed to be looking at the Duke’s residence with interest. To be honest, even I haven’t been to all the places in the house. It’s quite large.”
After having dinner, I led His Highness’ hand and headed towards my mother’s grave.
When we went out to the backyard, the sounds of summer insects greeted us. Although the temperature was lower than during the day, there was still some sort of suffocating heat.
We advanced towards the back, as if chasing the dots of orange-colored lamps.
The farthest back was my mother’s graveyard. She was supposed to be buried in the cemetery where the ancestors of the Duke family are buried, but my father refused.
I sat down in front of the tombstone. Because there were many flowers that I had planted around it, it looked like a flower garden.
His Highness also sat down next to me.
“I’m home, Mother.”
I said while tracing the letters engraved on the tombstone. I couldn’t see it now because it was dark, but it should have said [Here lies Sophia Slutarch]
I folded my hands in front of my face and offered a silent prayer.
When I slowly opened my eyes and looked to the side, His Highness still had his eyes closed.
In the dark where nothing could be heard except for the insects, I looked his profile for a not-too-short time without getting tired of it.
His Highness opened his eyes. He stood up and took my hand again.
On the way back, His Highness stopped his feet.
He murmured like a sigh, looked around lightly, and pointed at one of the flower beds.
“Rebecca, can you stand near that flower bed?”
I wondered and did as he said. When I turned to His Highness by the flower bed, His Highness aimed his right hand like a tube at his eyes and looked at me.
It feels like I am being photographed.
“This is it.
“What is it?”
“The first time I saw Rebecca’s figure.”
His Highness said as if cherishing the memory.
I first met His Highness about a year and a little bit ago, but he saw me much earlier. Because His Highness can magically create [windows].
His Highness is probably looking at the small me through me now.
“Then this is the place to remember.”
I approached His Highness and pressed my cheek against his chest. His Highness gently put his arm around me.
“Rebecca, won’t you guide me to the basement?”
I looked up and met His Highness’ blue eyes, even in the faint light.
“Yes, but there’s nothing there.”
The Duke of Slutarch does indeed have a basement. But there’s nothing there, just a hollow room. What’s the point of that?
I led His Highness and walked along the outside wall of the mansion. After a short while, there was a rusty double door.
When I was little, I wanted to open it and go in for no reason, but it was heavy and didn’t budge. That’s nostalgic.
Now, if we open it by lifting it with force, we can see that there is a descending staircase. His Highness lit the lights with magic. We are going down slowly together.
“There’s really nothing here…”
There is no door, and when we reached the bottom, it is just a basement.
It was colder inside than outside. In the pitch-black space where I could not see anything, my voice echoed.
But His Highness took one step forward. He lightly raised his hand and created multiple light sources on the ceiling.
I wonder what he’s doing. Returning my gaze forward from the ceiling, I was stunned.
There was a person in the middle of the basement.
But he was not alive, he was just there, eyes closed tightly in a transparent crystal mass.
I knew that this was eternal sleep.
I called his name with an incredulous feeling.
————It was the name of the man who spent the last year helping me, the daughter of the woman he fell in love with.
Because he was said to have committed a crime a long time ago, I knew that he was sealed again. But.
“Since when have you been here…?”
I couldn’t help but ask with a trembling voice. Perhaps His Highness noticed that I was about to collapse from losing strength, he put his hand on my waist.
“Around March. After hearing about him from Rebecca, I got permission from the principal and my uncle and moved him here. I thought it would be better to be near Duchess.”
My chest was hit. My nose hurt and my vision became blurry.
I only spoke with Ouka three times. At first I just thought he was terrifying. Next, I thought he was a mysterious person with something unknown about him.
Finally, I felt gratitude and admiration for him like a father.
Even though he looks like he’s about to open his eyes and start moving, and even though he has a face that makes me think he’s going to suddenly smile and raise his hand, he is now a person who can no longer speak.
If only I could hear his voice again, if only I could see his red eyes again, how great would that be.
“Your Highness, thank you.”
Even if I can’t stop the tears that keep overflowing, there’s someone who will wipe them away for me. That’s thanks to both my mother and Ouka.
I was truly happy to have at least been able to see him once.
I hope that he can rest peacefully, in the same place as my mother.