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“I need to find a place to build a fire.”
He moved about skillfully, gathering pieces of wood that hadn’t gotten wet yet. He had become familiar with a lot of things on the battlefield. During that time he had nearly died several times as well, so it seemed he had even become accustomed to that.
As soon as the fire was lit Alex removed his wet shirt, exposing his upper body. That is going to make things difficult for me. I’ve thought this before, but Alex’s future wife is going to be really happy.
While he had been wearing clothes I hadn’t even noticed his well developed shoulders or the muscles on his forearms, but after he removed a layer of clothing I unconsciously started to blush.
“No, it’s nothing.”
I could have dried off quickly using magic, but I couldn’t be bothered. Once the fire was blazing, I dried my clothes by slowly circulating the air around.
I had been wearing wet clothes for quite a while, so I let out an involuntary sneeze in front of the crackling bonfire.
“Are you okay?”
After just a single sneeze, Alex hurriedly grabbed me and put his hand on my forehead. Oh man, he’s making it really really difficult for me here.
What should I do about the strange thoughts I kept having in front of this innocent child? Every time this kind of thing happened, I became aware of the fact that my mind wasn’t that of a 15 year old.
He wasn’t an oblivious child, so if he wanted to walk around like that, then there was no reason for me to stop him. I kept a straight face and diligently pretended to be nonchalant while ignoring what Alex was doing.
“You don’t seem to have a fever. All the same, I’m glad that your clothes dried quickly.”
“Maybe there was some wind. Your Highness, are you all right?”
“I train regularly, so this is nothing.”
He said he was fine, but his cheeks were red. Was it because we had gotten rained on too much earlier? When I reached out and touched his forehead, it felt pretty warm.
“You seem to be running a fever.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“What do you mean you’re fine? Please lie down here.”
We’d be in trouble if Alex actually got sick. Alex’s cloak was still damp, so I dried it neatly using magic and then spread it out on the ground. I gladly offered up my lap for Alex’s sake.
In a moment of bewilderment he lay down and rested his head on my lap. He seemed unfamiliar with this type of hospitality. Welcome. This is the first time you’ve experienced something like this, right?
As we created these precious memories, I prayed that our future would change a little. I like you a lot, so please don’t hate me too much.
I sang him a lullaby as I gently stroked Alex’s dark blue hair, which resembled the night sky.
“Please take a moment to sleep. If we don’t return by tomorrow, Theo will come and find us.”
“I’m sorry. I thought you might be crying alone.”
I had almost considered him to be a bit of a nuisance, but I decided to gratefully accept his kindness since he had worked so hard to come running to me.
While dealing with this unexpected incident, I had become much more comfortable using magic. I now had the confidence that I would be able to fly into the sky and escape if someone picked a fight with me after I entered the palace.
“Thank you for coming to get me.”
I was calm and serene, but Alex was not. He reached his hand out towards me with seemingly sad eyes.
“I was terrified…”
Alex’s hand was trembling slightly. Had he been afraid that something would happen to me? Or maybe he had been afraid of the situation earlier where the magic beasts had swarmed towards us?
His hand had gone cold. I clasped it tightly and softly stroked his hair.
“Afraid of what? Your Highness, there’s no need to be afraid of anything.”
He wasn’t a villain like me. He was a main character whose victory was practically assured. Even if I didn’t know anything else, I could guarantee that one thing.
I held his trembling hand tightly. Alex placed his head on my lap and closed his eyes.
Bathed in an orange glow, the fire crackled and the sound of pouring rain accompanied the darkness as it crept in.
While watching Alex sleep, I also started to nod off.
When did the sound of the rain die away? Feeling the presence of someone else, I opened my eyes. Once they were open I could see a long shadow being cast from the entrance of the cave. Theo had come to find us.
“Did I come here for no reason?”
Alex was still sound asleep. Right after I woke up I put my hand on his forehead and, fortunately, he wasn’t feverish. Suddenly the rain clouds parted, revealing a golden moon that shone like my hair.
Theo diverted the water flowing from the mouth of the cave to the side and then brushed my mud-caked hair back.
“I didn’t know that the falling rain would drive away the magic beasts.”
Theo was adept in offensive magic. From his perspective the magic I used must have seemed strange.
“It was my fault for destroying the magic beasts’ home in the first place…”
“Magic beasts are dangerous existances that cause harm to humans. I’m worried that your wayward sense of compassion will end up hurting you.”
He could have worded that a bit nicer. But the bottom line was that he was worried about me.
It was my fault for having a brother who couldn’t be honest in the first place.
My body ached from sleeping in such a cold place. I needed to return to the residence quickly, so I decided to wake Alex up.
“Your Highness, please wake up.”
My lap must have been pretty comfortable because Alex grasped my hand tightly and made no effort to get up.
I wanted to shake my hand in order to wake him up, but Theo approached from out of nowhere with a displeased look on his face and spoke loudly into Alex’s ear.
“Your Highness, I’d like for you to let go of my sister.”
As soon as Theo spoke, Alex’s eyes shot open.
“I understand how much you care for my sister, but it will be a bit awkward if you stay like that.”
This was the perfect situation to cause misunderstandings. Perhaps frightened by Theo’s fearsome expression, Alex hastily jumped up and started scrambling to explain himself.
“No, I… I didn’t mean to do this.”
“Let’s go back now.”
“Your Highness, please take this.”
I giggled, handing Alex his shirt which had been dried completely via magic.
Theo, who had had a displeased look on his face for some time, held me in his arms.
“I thought it wouldn’t bother me, but it feels worse than I thought it would.”
“What do you mean?”
“However, you did well. I hadn’t expected you to use that method.”
My strict brother Theo complimented me first. Did the sun rise in the west today? Why was my brother acting like this?
Theo had never done that before. No matter how much I thought about it, I couldn’t understand what he was thinking.
* * *
Using some extra scrolls that Theo had brought, we returned to the mansion in the blink of an eye. I was covered in mud, but Isaac, who had been waiting for me all day and night, took me from Theo and embraced me.
“I’m sorry, Brother. Were you surprised?”
“I was worried. Are you hurt anywhere?”
“I don’t have a single scratch.”
“I prepared a bath for you.”
Alex and I both looked pretty terrible. I slipped into the herbal bath that Clara had prepared for me in advance and warmed myself up with the hot water.
Ahhh, I feel better now. After thawing my body with hot water, I returned to my room as Meryl attended to me.
“Hey dummy. What’re you up to?”
Louis dropped in without knocking even though I was still in my bathrobe. The troublemaker was ousted by Meryl, but he was able to re-enter the room with Theo, Isaac, and Clara, who had been waiting for me, once I had finished changing.
Meryl was startled when I casually used wind magic to dry my wet hair.
“Miss, something about you seems different from yesterday.”
Competence improves with practice. Seeing that I had become vastly more skillful in just a few days, Louis became openly envious and started to whine.
“Not fair! Brother, give me special training too.”
“It’s pretty late in the day…”
“It doesn’t matter. Sister, you can go too and watch them.”
Go on, Theo! Show Clara your cool side. I was putting in painstaking amounts of effort to bring my shares in Theo and Clara’s relationship to fruition.
I wanted to watch too, but Clara was worried about me. My sister anxiously felt my forehead.
“Ciel, are you sure you don’t have a fever?”
Have a good time on your date. Also, please hurry up and get together. I winked at Theo and sent Clara off.
“What is His Highness doing?”
I wanted to dry Alex’s hair with my newfound ability, but unfortunately I wasn’t even able to get near him due to Isaac’s strict surveillance.
“You two have been together for far too long today.”
“I’m hungry~ So then, I’ll just go eat a snack. Okay?”
“I’ll go get it.”
Operation Act Cute failed. Telling me to never leave the room, Isaac went down to the kitchen himself.
I was going to try to stealthily sneak out of the room, but the door swung open without even a knock. Startled, I covered myself with a blanket and hid.
Hearing a voice that I hadn’t expected, I pulled back the sheets and bolted upright.
This dude had taken advantage of a gap in Isaac’s surveillance, but why the heck had he come here? Isaac wouldn’t just stand back and do nothing if he was caught.
Stan, whose leg still seemed to be hurting, limped into the room and closed the door behind him.
Seeing that he was sweating profusely, it looked as though he had worked hard to walk up here on his lone good leg.
He looked a bit pitiful. It seemed like Stan might fall over, so I got out of bed and helped support him.
“Don’t overdo it.”
“Ciel. I have something that I really want to say. Please listen to…”
“What the hell are you doing?!”
Isaac, who had brought back some snacks, found Stan in the room. He seemed like he was seriously mad and I was afraid that he’d do something bad again, so I shook my head as I supported Stan’s weight.
Stan was injured and I was able to use magic well enough to defend myself now.
Even if Stan was someone who would become an impediment to my future, I couldn’t just send him back after he had come all the way here in this state.
‘This landmine would definitely turn into a nuclear bomb, right?’ 
Personal grudges start from unexpectedly trivial matters. I soothed Isaac and sat Stan down on the bed.
“Having a conversation is fine, but before that please promise me something.”
“Don’t try to pressure me into anything.”
Whether it was a conversation or physical contact, I only wanted something when I agreed to it. If he ignored how I felt because it was just the two of us and he approached me against my will, then grudge or not, I wouldn’t let it go.
When the opponent was a grand duke, just the pressure to smile could be suffocating. Stan accepted my firm warning with a resigned expression.
“Isaac, wait outside of the door.”
I decided to listen to what Stan had to say while keeping Isaac on standby just in case something happened. He had limped all the way here, so I could see that he was being sincere and I decided to give him one last chance.
“So, what did you want to tell me?”
 Meaning that a problem that started out small could grow into a much bigger issue