The London sky was unusually cloudless.
Above the River Thames, a flock of birds circled about. Ships unfurled their white sails to catch the refreshing winds and set off on their journeys with pride.
Amidst the echoing of various signals, the steam whistles and the shouts of sailors, was this perfectly formed crowd of people aiming to board the passenger ships that crossed the Atlantic Ocean? For while there were refined travelers, there were the laborers that dreamed of striking it rich amongst them too.
Off to the side, amongst the large scale ships that refrained from making such a long voyage, was an ocean liner moored in the domestic harbor. Its bell continued to ring, urging passengers to board.
"I have to go."
Lydia said, but Edgar wouldn't let go of her hand so easily.
"But there's still ten minutes until departure."
There's only ten minutes left.
Lydia's father, who had sensibly boarded ahead of time, was probably beside himself worrying about whether Lydia would miss boarding or not. However, Edgar, who was reluctant to part, lifted up the hand he was tightly grasping and kissed its gloved fingers.
Seemingly unsatisfied with just that, he pulled Lydia's head, which was covered in a bonnet, closer to him and kissed her on the forehead.
He was Earl Edgar Ashenbert, and Lydia's fiancé. Although he was known as an earl of many love affairs and had gained a reputation throughout high society for being a philanderer, he suddenly reversed his conduct and for some reason continued to make advances only on Lydia.
It seemed that he had completely settled his past and was now happily engaged.
Lydia had no means of confirming this, but had decided to trust him for the time being.
At the very least, Edgar was always demonstrating his love, going to extremes that bewildered Lydia.
Although they were about to be married, the more they were alone together, the more Lydia felt that she ought to be careful about acting improperly, due to the excessive skinship*.
That being said, even though there was a difference in the degree of their expressions of love, for now they were most certainly a happy pair of lovers.
"I'll also be going to Scotland next week. Even though we won't be able to meet for a little while, you'll be able to endure it right?"
"I'll be just fine."
"I'd like it if you felt just a little bit lonely though."
She still wasn't used to conversing like lovers. Even so, Edgar smiled as if he was having fun.
Lydia was about to return to her hometown in Scotland with her father. It was in order to visit her mother's grave and report the engagement to her. Edgar said he wanted to do so, and the trip was hurriedly planned, but due to circumstances, he ended up having to leave a little later.
Due to this, Edgar was in the position to see Lydia and her father off today. Even though he said that they would be apart for only a few days, he suddenly seemed very reluctant to part.
"……By the way, I wonder what happened to Lota. She said she would come to see me off."
Feeling embarrassed by Edgar's long, steady gaze on her, Lydia quickly averted her eyes, and the conversation, elsewhere.
"She can't come today. It's because a large rebellion against her Grandfather was uncovered in the East End*."
"Don't tell me, you were the one that uncovered it?"
Edgar shrugged his shoulders.
"Since we won't be able to meet for awhile, I just didn't want this precious time to be interrupted."
Even as she grew tired of it, Lydia had already accepted Edgar's unbelievable ways.
"We'll meet again soon."
"You won't forget about me, right?"
That's true, something like that had happened before.
Once, when Lydia left Edgar and returned to Scotland, Kelpie cast magic that made her unable to remember her engagement to Edgar.
"It'll be alright. Please don't worry."
Kelpie -- speaking of which, he seemed to be appearing in front of Lydia even less compared to before. She thought that he would follow them to Scotland this time too, but he disappeared off somewhere, saying he had business to attend to.
Ever since she became engaged, her surroundings, and Lydia herself, were changing little by little.
"If I could, I want to board this ship and leave just like this together with you."
"But, you have important business to attend to, right?"
Of course, it was the same for Edgar too.
In preparation for marriage, Edgar was thinking that as the head of the Ashenbert family, he needed to strengthen his standing as an earl even more.
The title he held was Earl of Ibrazel and it was a lineage that had endured since the Middle Ages. Due to this history, it had a pretty high rank amongst England's aristocracy. However, since the position was left unoccupied in Great Britain for 300 years and Edgar himself was quite young, with no relatives nor backers amongst the aristocracy, there were inconveniences as well.
When he appeared in society, he garnered much attention as a flashy and attractive earl, but that wasn't enough in order to restore the family name. It was also necessary to have a track record within Great Britain.
For that reason, even though he was going to socialize with some nobles this time, it seemed that it wasn't just to play around with his friends or some ladies.
"There's nothing that's more important than you. Ah, that's right, that's why, if you said that you don't want to be apart for even a moment……"
"Edgar, I won't say such a selfish thing so rest assured."
"You don't understand. In the whole world, only you can make me do your bidding at any time."
Even lines like this were ordinary for him. Even though Lydia knew she should think of it as mere flattery, this time she suddenly felt as if he was also being serious.
"I won't do things like forget you, so please don't worry."
"Even if someone over there tries to court you, you'll properly reject them, right?"
"There's no way something like that would happen."
"You mustn't get caught by a man who only pays you lip-service."
I already have though -- is what Lydia wanted to say, but she swallowed these words.
"I know that I'm completely unpopular within my hometown, so much so that I feel dejected."
"You're wrong, Lydia. From now on, the ones that will feel dejected are all the men in town. They'll definitely realize that a wonderful woman was taken away by an outsider."
If she continued to listen to his endless sweet talking, she would actually miss the ship.
Finding a short pause, Lydia tried to definitely board the ship this time when she caught a glimpse of the young man who acted as a valet standing behind Edgar.
Since a while ago, the dark skinned boy named Raven was looking around the surroundings many times. Thinking that it seemed like he was looking for someone, Edgar suddenly had an idea and said,
"By the way, I don't see Nico anywhere?"
"Yes….he was deep in conversation with some fairies he knew, but I wonder if he's boarded the ship already."
The fairy cat named Nico was Lydia's childhood friend and also her partner when she worked as a fairy doctor.
He was impudent, capricious, and always doing as he pleased, but he was surprisingly compassionate at times too.
That Nico had been getting along well with Raven nowadays. Even so, Raven might have thought that boarding the ship without saying anything was rather cold-hearted.
"Ah, that's right, Raven, Nico said to give you his regards."
I wonder if that sounded forced.
Lydia gave a deceiving smile but Raven, who was normally expressionless, simply murmured "Is that so?", and she was unable to tell whether he was pleased or angry.
Even so, Raven, who hadn't opened up his heart to anyone but Edgar until now, seemed to think of Nico as a friend. Having been informed of this by Edgar, Lydia, who thought that it would be undesirable for Raven's developing emotions to regress, became irritated with Nico's cold-hearted attitude.
Nico became friends with anyone depending on his mood at the moment but with fairies, even if you did them an injustice, they wouldn't notice. That's why, for Nico's sake as well, Lydia had to take care that Raven did not get hurt.
"Well then, Raven, we'll meet again in Scotland. Please keep Nico company for me at that time too."
The sailor's bell rang in a more hurried manner. Along with the sailors' shouts, it urged passengers to board quickly.
"Heeeey, Lydia! If you don't come quickly, the ship will leave---!"
Nico's voice rang out. With fish that he probably received from the harbor fairies in both hands, he rushed over on his hind legs. It was fortunate that by mixing in with the rushing crowd of people, no one noticed the presence of a strange cat, but all the same, Lydia felt nervous.
"Oh, Raven, good timing. I'll give you one of these."
After closely inspecting the fish that hung from both arms, he flung the smaller one at Raven. Whether Raven felt happy at receiving raw fish or not, Lydia couldn't even begin to guess.
"Lydia, be careful."
Once more, Lydia received a kiss from Edgar on her fingertips, and feeling slightly ceremonious, gave a light curtsy.
I wonder if, as a lady about to marry into nobility, I'm able to act the part just a little bit.
Edgar also answered with a formal bow while smiling, then began to wave.
While feeling somewhat embarrassed, Lydia scooped Nico into her arms, then hurried towards the ship.
When the long summer sunshine finally began to disappear, Edgar headed towards a certain pub near Charing Cross.
Passing by the entrance through which lively voices audibly leaked out, he climbed up a set of stairs adjacent to the building. This was the entrance dedicated for use by the upper class.
From downstairs, the creaking of floorboards and the clapping of hands along with sounds of dancing rang out. Removed from this boisterous merrymaking, this floor had a long haired carpet that erased the sounds of footsteps and muffled the gentlemen's conversations.
Edgar surveyed his surroundings, looking this way and that for a familiar face.
From a seat deep within, a middle aged man stood up.
"Lord Ashenbert, over here."
The one beckoning him was Duke Glen. He was an influential aristocrat that Edgar had recently started to become close with.
After exchanging greetings, the Duke introduced Edgar to the other man he was sitting with.
Introduced as Connaught, the leader of an influential clan of the Highlands, the man seemed tough despite his small build.
"It's an honor to meet you, Earl."
"The pleasure is mine, Mr. Connaught."
The Highlands was a region in Scotland that was made up of the mountain districts and the Western Isles, and had its own language and culture. For that reason, there had been some opposition towards England's royal family, but now it was part of the United Kingdom.
That being said, it was difficult for Edgar to understand anything about the Highlands. In order for an outsider to learn about the region, they needed to be acquainted with a master of the region at the very least.
For Edgar, it was necessary to know about the Highlands.
He knew that Lydia's late mother had left the McKeel clan, a clan of the Hebrides archipelago, and on top of that, a person of the McKeel clan had said that it was decided before Lydia was born that she would be the fiancée of the next clan head. Due to this, he decided to get himself involved with the clan's matters.
Edgar had thought that he absolutely must not make enemies of the McKeel clan so in this manner, he met with the head of another clan first.
"By the way, Lord Ashenbert, you're interested in the development of the Highlands, is that right?"
After chatting for awhile, the Duke cut it off.
"Yes, well, investing into a new industry would be good, but I was thinking that I wanted to try doing other things as well."
"Hoh, for example?"
"Just increasing my assets has no meaning. Thinking long term, if I were to make a significant investment towards the development of Great Britain, then the Highlands would still remain untouched as a land with much potential."
The Duke smiled and nodded his head in agreement.
"It was for this reason, Mr. Connaught, that I introduced Lord Ashenbert to you."
Even if his round face expressed an amicable smile, as expected of the head of the Connaught clan, his eyes were sharp. While from under his heavy eyelids his eyes directly took stock of Edgar, he said what had probably been on his mind since the beginning.
"You're extremely young, yet you have such sturdy plans."
"What, there's nothing to worry about. He's the current head from a prestigious family of earls and he's already invested in a number of businesses and found success. Unlike those nobles who can't even keep track of the income and expenditures of their territories, he's an extremely ambitious young man."
"Since my father passed away early, I've had no choice but to protect the family name with my own efforts."
As Edgar said this cheerfully, Mr. Connaught scratched his head as if ashamed.
"Forgive my rudeness. I see, so we only have Duke Glen's expectations. Then let me say this frankly. Our family is experiencing extreme poverty. Of course, it's not just the Connaught clan, but many other clans have become unable to sustain themselves……"
"I had heard that crop failures were continuing in the Highlands, but is it really that severe?"
"It's particularly bad towards the islands where those who were unwilling to give up their land have started to die out. On top of this, acquisition of the land by outsiders continues to progress, so many are driven out from their family lands before they have a chance to renew their lifestyle."
It seemed that as the head of the clan, he came to London seeking financial assistance.
When Edgar heard of this from Duke Glen, he thought that there was no disadvantage in making the Connaught clan indebted to him. Much like the McKeel clan, they possessed an extensive amount of land throughout the Hebrides.
From hereafter, they could probably be helpful to Edgar.
"Mr. Connaught, is there any merit to me investing in your clan?"
"Shall we have a talk about the finer details?"
He said that while leaning forward in excitement.
"Do you want to make an influential clan of the Highlands your ally? Is it your intention to crush the McKeel clan?"
After the Duke and Mr. Connaught had left and Edgar sat deep in thought alone while gazing at his glass of Scotch, a familiar voice called out to him.
While masking the resentment that sprouted in an instant, Edgar raised his head.
"It's been awhile hasn't it, Lord. …….no, Your Highness"
A young man, young enough to be teenager, put his hand to his chest and gave a forced bow of his head.
Ulysses Barlow. He was a member of the secret organization that Edgar went up against, and a close aide of their leader, "Prince".
Prince had only just recently died in front of Edgar's eyes. However, Prince was merely the product of a process akin to black magic, and was the key to preserving the organization. The memories of Prince still lived on.
And now, they were inside of Edgar.
Prince, who was a descendant of the royal family that was driven out of Great Britain, kidnapped a young Edgar, who was the eldest son of a noble family that happened to have ties to the same lineage, in order to make him his successor.
After escaping by his own power, Edgar fought back against the organization that was chasing him. However, even though Prince died, Edgar ended up taking over his memories, and thus, nothing had truly ended.
Therefore Ulysses, ignoring the fact that he once thought of Edgar as a traitor, now treated him as his master.
"This place is supposed to be used only by members of higher society though?"
Edgar said this with as much displeasure as possible.
"I hadn't realized."
Ulysses wasn't bothered at all.
"I have some information relating to the Prophet of the McKeel clan."
"I don't want to hear it. Disappear."
"The Prophet exists in order to defy the magical power of the Unseelie Court. Even we couldn't have predicted that such a person existed but, should he awaken, he'll likely try to erase you eventually."
"Can you not hear me?"
"However, sealing him away is not simple. We also, once, had some measures in place. For example, if we were able to borrow the power of the Goddess of War Macha……however we are unable to revive Macha. In addition, we also lost a Nightmare."
Of course, Edgar was the cause of this. That's why, even though Ulysses kept up a polite attitude, his inner frustration was unmistakable. He continued speaking while ignoring Edgar.
"With nothing but Prince's power, in other words Your Highness, with the magical powers and ability to deal with the Unseelie Court that you have within you, along with the Merrow's Sword, there's already no other way but to use these."
"This matter is irrelevant to your circumstances. I'll do as I please when it comes to dealing with the Prophet."
"Is it your idea to crush the McKeel clan, so that no one will be able to awaken the Prophet? But I wonder if you'll make it in time. The next chance to awaken the Prophet is on the day of the next full moon. Once every nineteen years, during the summer when the moon descends upon southernmost point, the entrance to the Holy Land is opened. Until that day, all the members of the McKeel clan must be doing all that they possibly can. They'll obviously try to make your fiancée the Prophet's fiancée by any means necessary."
"Didn't I already tell you to disappear?!"
"In order to bury the Prophet, that day is also our chance. In the case that the entrance to the Holy Land opens, please deal with him before he awakens. Since you're not yet a complete "Prince" , I believe that it will be very difficult for you to win with an awakened Prophet as your opponent."
The contents of the glass were flung at Ulysses.
Although the customers of the pub looked towards them, Edgar paid them no heed and took hold of Ulysses' damp head with both hands in a tight grip.
The boy's hair became disheveled, exposing the scar of his damaged ear. It was something that Edgar had ordered his attendant, Raven, to do some time ago.
"Since you can't seem to hear anyway, should I rip your remaining ear to shreds too?"
When Edgar started putting force into the hand gripping the ear, as expected Ulysses grimaced in pain. However, he raised the corners of his lips and grinned.
Even though Edgar was scowling in his general direction, his eyes contained a trace of fear and were trying not to look directly at him. From where his nails dug into his ear, a single stream of blood flowed down his cheek. Although he must have felt fear from that pain, Ulysses still tried to show a grin.
"What's so funny?"
"….I see, it's just as the previous Prince anticipated; you are magnificent to an annoying extent. Frightening, such that even we have no choice but to be afraid, we've been searching for an absolute master. Because if we don't, then our greatest wish won't be granted, of course."
As he was thrust away with full force, Ulysses crashed into a nearby chair and got tangled up in a tablecloth before collapsing to the floor.
Edgar turned to leave the noisy store interior.
"The exact whereabouts of the Holy Land, if it's Prince then he definitely knows. If you save yourself the hassle of searching, then you'll definitely make it in time for the full moon."
The voice he heard just as he was on verge of leaving the store stayed in his ears forever.
In a town in Scotland, not too far from Edinburgh, was the place where Lydia was raised.
If one looked down the main street, if it can be called that since it was barely a dozen yards in length, one would see residences scattered alongside it with fields and orchards spreading out beyond their gardens.
In this tranquil place, a residence was set up for the Carlton family, but since Lydia's grandparents had passed away and she had also left this house with her father when he took up his teaching job at London University, it hadn't been their family home for awhile.
After airing out the house and unpacking their luggage, Lydia sat around the table with her father and Nico, and the three of them had a late supper. While relaxing at the dining table lit by candlelight, Lydia aimlessly looked around the familiar dining room.
When she was a child, her mother sat next to her. Across from them was her grandmother. As she thought this, she felt the passage of time.
"Lydia, for you, the time spent in this house may now be your last," said her father solemnly.
I wonder if that's true. In accordance with Edgar's wishes to hold the ceremony as soon as possible, once she finished reporting the news to her mother's grave, she would return to London and get married. The fact that she was getting married still hadn't quite hit Lydia yet, but her feelings of wanting to stay by Edgar's side had become certain.
"But, even after I get married, I'll still come home from time to time at least."
"It seems as if the Earl won't part from you so easily though."
"It's not like that. He even said that since you'll be by yourself, I can come meet you whenever I want to."
"I have a very hard time believing things like verbal promises made before marriage."
Nico said, while stuffing his cheeks full of bacon.
"Speaking of which, Nico, it seems that a room for your personal use has been readied at the Earl's estate."
"Eh, Nico's also going to live at the Earl's residence?"
In a manner suggesting that this was completely unexpected, Lydia's father looked over at the grey cat who was skillfully using his knife and fork.
"What? Nico, were you going to stay at home with Father?"
Even Lydia was taken aback. Nico had been by her side since she was born. She had never doubted the idea that he would naturally be by her side from now on as well.
"Well…..I haven't decided yet, you see."
He answered hesitantly as if troubled, and wiped away gravy from his whiskers with a napkin.
Originally, he was a fairy that Lydia's mother had brought along with her when she left the island that was her birthplace. Although he had the appearance of a cat, because he was a free-willed fairy who didn't belong to anyone, there was no choice but to accept his decision concerning where he would live.
Although she thought there was no choice, Lydia once again felt that her surroundings were undergoing a great change, and a feeling of loneliness came over her.
Suddenly a strong wind blew, rattling the windows of the old house. Although it was summer, the nights were chilly. The curtains flew up and the lamp's flame flickered.
Lydia stood up and closed the window. Scotland's night sky, its wind, and the dense presence that isn't in London but is everywhere here; she vaguely remembered this uneasiness.
Something that wasn't of this world was strangely stirring up a fuss.
As she thought this, the doorbell rang.
"Oh? I wonder who it is at this hour."
"I feel a fairy's presence."
"But Nico, fairies don't come to visit by ringing the doorbell."
For this homecoming, a housemaid from London came along with them, and her footsteps could now be heard hurrying towards the entryway. A little while later, those footsteps approached the dining room. The housemaid that appeared was quite bewildered.
"Master, someone claiming to be your son has arrived."
"Huh? It can't be, it's not Edgar, is it?"
"Lydia, the Earl isn't my son yet."
Although Lydia's father had resigned himself and given his daughter permission to marry, he was sensitive to these distinctions and immediately corrected her.
But, he became all the more bewildered.
"Professor, it's about time your illegitimate child came to light."
As Nico said that, Lydia's father gave a serious look of indignation.
"Wh-What are you saying? I only had my wife. Mrs. Cooper, please send these incomprehensible visitors away."
Nodding, the housekeeper turned to go back when at that time, a different voice cut in.
"Excuse me. Would it have been better if I had said 'son-in-law' instead?"
Seemingly having entered without waiting to be received, a youth with long hair stood in the doorway. His luxurious wavy hair sparkled orange in the glow of the lamp, but in the shadows it also looked dark red. While he wore ordinary clothes, he gave the impression of coming from another world. Even so, he smiled cordially.
"Ahh, but, even that's not quite right. But well, it's a pain, so please allow me to call you Father."
"…..a pain? …..therefore 'Father'……?"
Lydia's father seemed unable to make sense of anything, and just stared dumbfounded at him.
The youth just continued to smile and started to step towards Lydia.
"Well, and you must be my little sister, right?"
"Wait a minute, who are you?"
"Your elder brother."
That's not the answer.
"I don't have an elder brother."
"It's understandable that you wouldn't know. I'm Aurora's illegitimate child…."
*clink* Lydia's father's fork fell.
"There's, there's no way that's true!"
"It was just a joke though."
It wasn't funny.
As one would expect, Lydia's father stood up in indignation.
"Did you come just to tease my family? Would you mind leaving at once?"
"I didn't come with that intention. I wanted to talk about circumstances from now on."
"Don't you want to hear? Lydia, how about you? Well, no matter how you answer, I would really like for you to listen."
Even if he left like this, it was true that she had become curious about just who this person was.
"Ummm, well….hey Father, it seems that he has some circumstances. He even knows Mother's name."
Her father heaved a deep sigh.
"In any case, Lydia, it seems that he has business with you. Please let me excuse myself."
Saying so, he left the dining room.
Seeing him off, the "son" shrugged his shoulders and sat down in Lydia's father's seat. He stared at Lydia and gave a smile of satisfaction.
"You'll listen right, to my story?"
"But, you aren't making the slightest bit of sense. If you aren't Mother's illegitimate child then…."
"You, you're half-fairy right? Although you have a body of flesh like a human's, your soul has the strong presence of a fairy's."
He turned to look at Nico who had just said these words.
Unsurprised that a cat had just spoken, he casually replied, "That's exactly right."
"Half-fairy? Is that true?"
"Lydia, you are also the same. However, while living in the human world, you seem to have assimilated with the humans quite well huh. Yeah, you look completely human."
"Um, Mr. ……."
"Wouldn't you please call me big brother Brian?"
The man who seemed to be called Brian turned his eyes imploringly to her.
"Until you were taken to the human world as a changeling, you used to call me that. You probably don't remember though."
"Y-You're saying that I was a changeling?"
"That's right. We were born from the same parents."
Since she was a child, Lydia had heard the whispered gossip that she didn't resemble her parents. This, coupled with her reputation as the strange girl who could see fairies, made the children around her tease her by calling her a changeling.
However both her mother and her father obstinately denied the rumors that she was a changeling.
"…….Please don't tell lies. I'm the Carlton family's, Father and Mother's daughter."
Ever since she was a child, Lydia had always worried about where her true place was. However, recently, she had heard that her mother was a changeling.
It seemed that her mother's relatives, the McKeel clan, had dealings with a fairy tribe where in exchange for continuing the practice of changelings, magical power would continue to get passed down within the clan.
Intending to cause a stir about this rule of the clan, her mother eloped with her father and left the island.
Knowing all this, it seemed even more so that Lydia mustn't believe things such as her being a changeling.
"Well, you being my little sister is the truth."
Nonetheless, Brian made this assertion. Getting up from his seat, he started to talk in order to persuade Lydia while slowing crossing the room.
"You were exchanged with Aurora's daughter. At that time you were too young, so it was hard for me to imagine what you would be like as an adult, but now that you're here right in front of my eyes, I know with certainty that you are my little sister. You've become more beautiful than in my imagination but, there's no mistake. There are traces remaining."
"If that's so, then the real daughter of the Carlton family should be at your house in the fairy world, right? Take me there. Until I meet her I won't believe you!"
"See? You're spouting nonsense after all."
"Because she died. It was when she was still very young, you see. That's why I have always spent my time thinking about my little sister who was in the human world."
Mother and Father's real daughter may no longer be anywhere anymore?
Thinking of this, Lydia began to acquire feelings of guilt.
She felt as if she was deceiving both her father, who while feeling lonely was also joyful about her marriage, and Edgar, who believed he was accepting the true daughter of the Carlton family as his wife.
"So, what did you want to do once you met your little sister?"
Nico, who had be closely watching the course of events, quietly asked this question instead of Lydia, who had become completely silent.
"Nothing in particular. I just wanted to see her. ……The family we have blood ties to, the McKeel clan, used to live on the surface after separating from the fairy tribe, but since the Unseelie Court fairies on the island have increased it became difficult to live here. On the next day of the full moon, the special day on which the path to the heavens opens up, we plan to leave this island."
"The heavens? You, what kind of fairy tribe were you originally?"
Philis Chyris, the Aurora Fairies. They were those who danced in the night sky, the dancers of light.
Mother was a descendant of that fairy tribe. Lydia too, whether she was a changeling or not, was a descendant of Philis Chyris to some extent.
Brian looked at Lydia with gentle eyes. As if he was truly looking at his younger sister, his eyes were filled with affection and nostalgia.
"Even though I'm descended from humans, once I leave this island and part from the human world, I'll be able to live completely as a fairy. Before that, I wanted to meet my little sister."
When he said this so solemnly, Lydia's heart wavered.
"That's why, I'm begging you. Before the day I leave the human world, won't you please spend some time with your big brother?"
"It's okay if you don't believe my story. It's okay if we even just pretend to be siblings. I just don't want to forget that I had a little sister."
If one were to live as a fairy, then familial bonds like those of humans begin to fade. Even the feelings one had for their family, along with their memories of the surface, will certainly fade away.
Half fairy, but also half human. It was hard to guess what a person like this was feeling, but coupled with the idea that while she was being raised as a human, her mother had known that her real parents were in the fairy world, was a feeling that Lydia could not forsake him.
"…….As long as you don't tell Father about me being a changeling."
In the end, Lydia ended up saying that.
"I understand. I promise."
"I wonder if this is going to be okay," Nico muttered in disbelief, while enthusiastically licking sauce out of a spoon.
After finishing dinner, Lydia knocked at her father's door. When she gently opened the door, the figure of her father, sitting in a chair by the window and gazing outside into the distance instead of at his open books, came into view.
"Father, …..that person only wanted to experience what a human family was like, is all."
She went to his side and squatted beside him, taking his hand into hers.
"Mother's real parents were relatives of a tribe in the fairy world. As members of the McKeel clan, they were people who had their human blood mixed with fairy blood. That's why, since we're relatives, he called me his little sister. Amongst them, they have no distinctions like that of cousins."
Lydia explained while deceiving him.
However, just by hearing about Mother's relatives, there's no certainty that he won't be reminded of changelings.
It might be that he remembered this when the young man suddenly appeared, calling Lydia his little sister, and that's why he left his seat in the dining room.
Whether Lydia was a changeling or not, probably even her father didn't know the truth. That's why, there was no doubt that he didn't want to hear talk that would negate his feelings of wanting to believe.
"Because he was only ignorant of human common sense, he didn't mean to insult Mother. He also didn't mean to hurt Father……"
Slowly, her father's gaze returned from beyond the window, and his face had a calm look.
"Lydia, you don't have to worry. I was just remembering a little about your mother. After many months have passed, rather than feeling lonely or sad, whenever I remember her it feels like I'm talking to her after a long time."
"Then, I wonder if I interrupted your conversation with Mother."
As Lydia smiled, her father also smiled fondly at her and gently stroked her head. Just like when she was a child, Lydia placed her head on her father's lap.
"When fairies are involved, I'm powerless. I thought that it can't be helped. All I could do was accept that my wife had fairy blood in her and look after her."
"Mother was definitely grateful to Father, who did all that for her. That's why she also told me that it was fine for me to take pride in my ability to see fairies. She said that it was because a person who accepted me for who I am would definitely appear someday."
"Ahh, but the Earl is pretty different from me. I was too much of a bystander. I wasn't able to do anything to help Aurora."
What exactly was he was talking about, Lydia wasn't able to understand well.
Perhaps he meant that Lydia's mother always had no choice but to deal with fairies on her own.
"The Earl is choosing to get involved with fairies. It's not that this can't be thought of as reckless but…..by just being different from me, I expect that he will be a good partner for you."
Speaking of which, Edgar had even been trying to get involved in fairy matters. One way or another he had gone as far as entering the fairy world, and seriously fighting against fairies who could use magic.
Although he didn't have mental prowess like Father, unlike Father, he was in a position where he couldn't avoid dealing with fairies.
Just with that, Lydia might be able to learn skills as a fairy doctor beyond even her mother's capabilities. Because if she married the man who held the title 'Earl of Ibrazel,' then she would definitely become the Lady of the fairyland.
I wonder if I can become one.
The wedding was already decided. However there was still a slight uneasiness.
"Aren't you cold?"
Her father asked her, worried about the wide open window.
"No, I'm fine."
Her father slowly started to tell her another story.
"You know, when you were born, your mother seemed truly happy. 'She'll definitely grow up into a healthy and beautiful woman,' she said."
"I'm healthy, but I wonder about the beautiful part."
"Lydia, we were always worrying about how to keep our elopement from causing you pain."
"There's no way I felt hurt by that."
"……If that's so, then it's alright. However, it was because I tend to be unreliable as a father."
"Not at all, because Father, you've always tried to understand me."
Although she came with the intention to comfort her father, in actuality, she might have come and snuggled close to her father in search of something that could deny her worries about being a changeling.
Her father had probably noticed something like that.
The existence of the fairy tribe on her mother's side of the family was definite proof that her mother was a changeling. That's why he would notice that Lydia might also become insecure.
"Thank you, Father."
The girl murmured, while believing in her mother and father, who were more definite blood relatives to her than some brother who suddenly appeared.
＊ ＊ ＊
"……What is the matter, Earl?"
Edgar was brought back into the present by the sound of Paul's voice.
While listening to his story, he suddenly fell into deep thought, and seemed to be spacing out.
"Ahh, excuse me. What was it again?"
"Yes, um, it's been 2 weeks since those two from the McKeel clan have departed London, but they don't seem to be especially moving differently compared to the rest of the clan."
A little while ago, from the McKeel clan that lives in the Hebrides archipelago in the Highlands, the son of the clan chief and a man claiming to be a fairy doctor appeared in London.
They had come to search for the daughter of Aurora, who was a descendant of a fairy tribe.
Although they had come to find Lydia, once they learned of her engagement to Edgar and as a result of being thoroughly threatened, the two of them returned back to the island.
Just in case, Edgar had ordered an association of his comrades to pay close attention to the association of London residents affiliated with the McKeel clan, but Paul came to report that there seemed to be no reason to worry.
Was it okay to think that the McKeel clan had already given up on Lydia?
In the parlor of the Ashenbert residence, with the painter Paul right in before his eyes, Edgar brooded.
The next full moon was the problem. In order to solve the problems of famine and illness that had spread about their island, the "sleeping Prophet", said to be their savior, had to be woken up. For this reason, it was necessary to have a young maiden descended both from the McKeel clan and the fairy tribe but, there was already no one else but Lydia. Furthermore, this particular full moon only happened once in nineteen years.
Would they really give up so easily?
He must be on guard. According to their attitude, Edgar might also have to put up some strong measures. However, these were already Edgar's personal circumstances.
It seemed that, just as he feared, there was some sort of antagonism between the McKeel clan's Prophet and Prince's organization. That's why Ulysses was getting involved with the McKeel clan's movements. He was trying to incite Edgar into burying the Prophet.
Since he didn't want to let go of Lydia, Edgar intended to do just that. However, at the same time, Ulysses, who was definitely an enemy, would benefit. This, could then be a betrayal to Paul and that association, the "Scarlet Moon", who fought in order to eradicate Prince.
"I understand. Let's stop with the surveillance. After that, Paul, I think I'd like to quit being the leader of the Scarlet Moon soon. After all, Prince has died, and I don't think there is any necessity to me being the leader anymore."
"But Earl, if everything hasn't truly ended, then you might be targeted again…."
In order to interrupt the words of a worried Paul, Edgar stood up.
"Please let everyone know. Regarding remnants of Prince, if you guys are worried then it's fine to continue investigating, however, you have no duty to report to me."
"Um, Earl, do you also already have no use for me? Not as a member of Scarlet Moon but……"
"What are you saying, aren't you already a friend? Just as you have until now, it's fine for you to come visit whenever, because I'm sure Lydia also feels the same way."
While saying so, Paul wore a look as if he couldn't quite accept the outcome, and gazed over at the Earl with a look of loneliness.
"I'm sorry, but I have some business to attend to now so you'll have to excuse me. Ahh, but please take your time here and drink some tea."
Even after he exited the room, he could feel Paul's sad gaze on his back and felt pained.
Paul had noticed that Edgar was carrying some burden all by himself. Perhaps he had also perceived that Edgar cut his ties with the organization called "Scarlet Moon" in order to act on his own. That's exactly why Paul had wondered whether he could lend his strength, even as an individual. While he felt grateful, Edgar also thought that that would be inexcusable.
Above all else, Edgar didn't want to lose Lydia. In order for that, even he didn't know himself what sort of acts he had to commit. Furthermore, since Paul was a friend, he thought that he definitely couldn't allow Paul to get mixed up in this any further.
After leaving the parlor, Edgar entered his study and before long, Raven appeared. From this point forward, only Raven would be fighting alongside him, so he should be glad at his good fortune that he wouldn't be all alone. While thinking this, Edgar wordlessly nodded.
After checking the hallway and closing the door, Raven entered the study.
"I've obtained a map of the Hebrides archipelago."
He spread the map out on top of the table.
"The McKeel clan's lands are on this island here in the Outer Hebrides."
"So they occupy more than half of the island. I heard that where Lydia's mother used to be was in the northernmost village. So that means, somewhere in this area must be where the Prophet is sleeping, the Holy Land."
The Hebrides archipelago, located in the northwestern part of the Highlands, was said to have around five hundred islands of various sizes. Which clans owned which islands was noted in great detail on the map, but the place in question was even farther, such that it could be said to be located at the end of the earth. But of course, one wouldn't know the exact location of the Holy Land with just a map. Most likely there weren't any paths in the area.
Ulysses had said that if it were Prince then he would know.
Would he have to make contact with Prince's memories again?
"What is this blank piece of land? If it doesn't belong to any clan, then I wonder if that means an outsider purchased it?"
"Most likely. This map is at least ten years old, so the buyout has most certainly progressed by now."
The village of Lydia's mother was also said to have had a lot of people that left or died. Edgar knit his brows.
"I wonder if there's any relation between outsiders buying up the islands and the ominous magic enveloping the islands that those two from the McKeel clan mentioned."
"Who can say? I get the feeling that the theft of the islands is just the situation brought about by human selfishness. However, the fact that a great many landowners have had no choice but to sell their land is probably due to the effects of the famine brought about by crop failure, and the bad things piling up might be, as the McKeel clan believes, due to the influence of some wicked magic."
Edgar thought that the Prophet is meant to defy that magic, and yet he must prevent him from waking up.
As long as those guys were fixated on Lydia, and as long as the Prophet was an existence that threatened Edgar's life, then there was naturally no other choice but to regard the Prophet as an enemy. He sympathized with the McKeel clan's misfortune, but he wasn't going to be a victim for their sake.
"Raven, we must go to the Hebrides before the next full moon."
"Understood. But how is the next full moon special?"
"I looked it up. Nineteen years…..or more accurately, once every eighteen years and six months, it comes around. The movement of the moon brings it to the position where it's the closest to the horizon, then it sinks with the southern wind. That's the kind of day it seems to be."
Therefore, even if you ask "how", Edgar didn't know very well himself. Raven also tilted his head in confusion, but it seemed to be essential to the Prophet.
"Before that, we have to go to Lydia's hometown. Please make the necessary preparations."