-Their Christmas, 2 Years Later (2)-
A question formed in Lila’s mind as she saw Lacias’s eyes squeeze shut. She gazed from him to the wedding drink, eyeing the label on the wine.
Lacias’s eyes snapped open at her words. Then he yelled, “Lila—don’t drink that!”
“Why? What’s Wedding Drink?”
It wasn’t sold in the Empire, so Lila didn’t know what kind of drink it was. The name seemed unfamiliar.
Lacias brushed his face. Where to begin? And who had the right mind to serve this to Lila at a dinner? “Well, that’s…”
“Why are you being so careful with words? Just tell me.”
Lila was right. All he has to do was explain to her what kind of drink Wedding Drink was, and why it wasn’t sold in the Empire.
But he couldn’t shake his embarrassment at the thought of talking about it.
“Just don’t drink it,” he said. “It tastes horrible.”
“Horrible? Is it bad?”
“It was being kept in the cottage, and it’s definitely old.”
The tip of Lacias’s tongue hurt a little. He was sensitive, to begin with, so his taste was sensitive as well. That was why he didn’t even prefer sweets, as the taste hurt his tongue.
“Why are you trying to ruin your appetite? Give it here.”
Lacias casually took the wine glass from Lila’s hand. Then he set it under the table.
“Now, shall we eat? I’ll cut you some turkey.”
The dinner seemed to be going well.
Soon after she had eaten to her heart’s content, Lila fell asleep to the crackle of the fireplace and the feeling of Lacias’s warm hand patting her head.
Lacias stared at Lila’s sleeping form for a moment, then kissed her forehead.
“Sleep well, my Lila. My wife.”
He put a blanket on her and then put out the candle. Only the warm fireplace lit their surroundings. Patting her head, Lacias continued to stare at his wife, and was sorry to have to leave the room, doing so only after he had kissed her some more. His expression quickly transformed, his smile fading. He turned into the perfect Lord and walked down the stairs, clutching a bottle of wine.
The winter wind blew through the cracks in the windows. And Lacias heard another sound.
“I can’t find it anywhere.”
“Where did it go? How could it just disappear like that?!”
He recognized those voices. Hizette and Lugar. Lacias’s eyes flashed, and he stepped outside, deciding not to hide his presence. He walked as elegantly as a noble should.
The equally sensitive Lugar instantly turned his head.
“Greetings, My Lord,” Hizette joined in.
Both bowed, looking down as they did. And they caught sight of the thing they were desperately looking for, resting in Lacias’s hand.
Lugar wished he didn’t have to lift his head again. It would’ve been better if he’d just fainted, but his everlastingly healthy body wouldn’t listen to his wish. A glance at Lacias told him the man wasn’t in the best mood.
There was silence.
“The owner of this bottle,” Lacias added. “Come out.”
He should step up, but Lugar’s feet wouldn’t move. Thankfully, Hizette wasn’t saying anything. Lugar appreciated this silence only in times like this.
“This came out during my dinner with Lila.”
Lugar’s eyes widened. How could something so horrific happen? He’d definitely hidden it under the tree so he could try it later. Lugar just didn’t understand where it had all gone wrong, only that he wanted to smash his skull with a hammer.
“And I tasted it.”
“Ugh. Are…are you okay?”
Lacias looked at Lugar as though demanding to know what he was talking about.
“It…it increases your stamina. Even with just one glass.”
He shouldn’t have said anything. No matter what he said, he wouldn’t be able to follow up. Lugar lowered his gaze again in shame.
“You think I’d become like that off just one glass.”
Lacias understood what Lugar was saying. He tossed the bottle into the air and caught it, scoffing.
“It was a lie…”
Lugar remembered the eighty-year-old man who had been selling the wine. Thank goodness it was a lie. If it actually worked… He couldn’t even begin to imagine.
“So you’re the owner of this bottle.”
“Of course it would be you.” Lacias threw the bottle at Lugar. It shattered on the floor.
“Additional training for you for a month.”
“Ah! Please, n-not that!”
Lugar fell to the floor, crying. Additional training!
It was called training and was basically hell—the worst punishment.
Lila rubbed her eyes. When had she fallen asleep? She’d been chatting with Lacias only a moment ago. And now he was nowhere to be seen.
I should go and look for him.
She had no idea whether he was only gone for some time. There was no memo.
I think I fell asleep for a bit. Is he coming back soon?
It took Lila a moment to decide: she should just take a look around.
“It’s quite cold.”
The cold blasted her skin the instant she left the room. It had been warm thanks to the fireplace. Was Hir sleeping someplace warm? She hadn’t had dinner with him and so hadn’t had a chance to ask.
Maybe she should walk around the cottage and find Lacias and Hir. Pulling on a thick cape, Lila began walking around.
The cottage was empty. There weren’t many people paying for such a large space. Only a few knights and Jane were staying here. Feeling a bit creeped out, Lila rubbed her arms.
It is still pretty.
It was snowing outside. Lila thought it looked like a pretty white world.
The Nixon kingdom’s atmosphere had changed quite a bit since her last visit. Was it because she’d felt lonely coming here alone? It wasn’t pretty. Only the image of an empty city filled her mind. But that was no longer the case. The Nixon kingdom was beautiful.
Lila was busy gazing out the window, having already forgotten about her search for Lacias and Hir. She lost her senses at the beautiful scene created by the snowfall.
Something small and warm ran into her as she stared out the window. It was Hir. He quickly latched himself onto her leg.
“What are you looking at, Mother?”
“Just the scenery outside. Isn’t it pretty?”
“It is! Both you and the snow.”
She chuckled. “Is your mother pretty?”
“Yes. This cottage is full of pretty things: the tree, the stars, the snow, and you!”
He flashed her an adorable smile and her lips twitched. This was why people often said the greatest joy was having a child.
“Shall we go outside, Hir?”
Lila lifted Hir and stepped outside. It would be cold, but she wanted to feel the snow, not just look at it.
I can’t find Lacias anywhere.
Lila opened the door, feeling a twinge of disappointment.
Lila’s eyes widened.
“It’s cold outside.”
Her love stood there like a present, snow swirling around him.
Lila slowly grinned.
“Let’s go under the snow together.”
Lila’s eyes watered at the thought of walking on snow with her loved ones. She couldn’t tell whether the tip of her nose had reddened from cold or from happiness.
“It’s so pretty…”
As she looked at the snow, Lila whispered, “You’re prettier.”
“You’re way more pretty, mother!”
They were both looking at her with love. She gazed around. The white snow falling on her felt like the pure love that Hir and Lacias were giving her.
Just like that, the love came.