Epilogue: The Fish of Dawn
It was a night full of stars, as if a silver fish was swimming.
Riz came to a place called “Dawn’s Hill” together with John.
This place was outside the royal capital in the eastern district. It was called that because the sunrise colored the entire gentle swell of the hill with light. It was also called the Lovers’ Hill because people could enjoy an entire night sky of stars. Riz and John weren’t lovers and it was more correct to call their relationship a master and servant, but— this was a secret time that wouldn’t be written down in the diary she touched every evening.
“Is it acceptable, my lady?”
“Letting Emil go like this.”
John, who stood beside her, asked this while looking into the distance.
There was a single carriage crossing a darkened hill at the end of his line of sight.
“Even though it was a marriage to your advantage, you gave up on it quite easily.”
“John, even someone as ignorant as I am about love knows that you shouldn’t get in the way of other people’s romance.”
“It’s very humiliating to be admonished by my lady.”
Even though he spoke horrible words, the eyes that turned to her were calm.
Her heart suddenly stirred. Riz quickly turned her face away and stared at the fading carriage.
Her former fiancé and his lover were riding inside that.
They eloped hand in hand.
“To help a man who didn’t choose you and took another woman’s hand. You’re a simple soul, aren’t you.”
After a while John said this with exasperation.
Riz and John lent their hand to fake Emil’s death.
“No one would have accepted that Sir Emil died because of a curse with that painting alone.”
That was where John came in. He made other cursed paintings and caused unnatural phenomenons to make everyone tremble. After all, he was a real demon; he had complete mastery over miasma and nightmares.
Emil’s “corpse” was also prepared by John, but she wasn’t going to ask where he procured that.
After preparations were complete, a part of Emil and the others’ memories were rewritten for them to think John was a “human” because she didn’t know how long they’d keep John’s true identity a secret.
“We received the paintings that decorated their study, so that’s more than enough.”
Unfortunately, there was no distorted paintings among the other works though.
“Paintings over marriage, hm.”
“Naturally. But I did something awful to my mother.”
Virma had been looking forward to Riz’s marriage. Upon Emil’s “death”, she was considerably depressed.
“It’s fine they eloped, but I do not think things will go well for them.”
“That man is an aristocrat. However, as long as he has abandoned his status, he must work as a commoner. I do not believe he can endure such a painful life.”
“I think the same.”
“You helped them while knowing that, my lady?”
John looked at Riz with puzzled eyes. Riz gave a slight smile.
“They may regret it some day. ‘Why did I make such a stupid plan at that time’. But it’s human to throw yourself into an instance of love.”
“For you as well, my lady?”
“I spend my life on paintings.”
“Then if you fell in love with an impossible person you’d give up?”
Could she fall in love?
Riz suddenly looked at John while being troubled over that.
Words spilled out from her mouth without permission.
“I can’t think of a reason to give up.”
He raised an eyebrow. This was the expression he had when he was in a good mood.
“Even if it was an unpermitted love?”
“What do I need apart from my own permission?”
“Even if that person was a different species?”
“Do I look like I’d be daunted by a difference in species?”
It was a gentle expression to the point where she wanted to suspect he was a fake.
“I see. Then it seems unnecessary to fake the death of my lady right now.”
“Yes, rest assured… Huh?”
What did he mean?
Riz tried to ask but then staggered.
Instantaneously, John’s face became her guardian.
“It’s time for your medicine.”
“No, do it later. More importantly, what did you just say? Tell me again.”
“Your cheeks are red. You’ve stood out too long in the night wind and I shall escort you to the mansion.”
He paid no heed to Riz’s fluster and took her hand to bring her close to the carriage that was waiting close at hand.
“You become feverish immediately. Do not come to the art gallery tomorrow and rest obediently at the mansion.”
“I don’t want to rest. We haven’t found the demon you’re looking for, John.”
“There is time. Endless time.”
“I’m not immortal like a demon.”
“My lady, you’ve been caught by me.”
Saying that, he removed one of the pocket watches that hung down from his jacket.
Right as she wondered what John was doing, he wrapped the chain of the watch around Riz’s finger with a pleased appearance.
Was this to act as reins? Or was it to act as a thread of fate?
Riz turned her head to the sky, troubled. Above her head was an entire sky of stars.
There really seemed to be a fish swimming in the night sky. Its tail swayed smoothly like the hem of a dress.
“In the first place, you are hopeless without me.”
She should have known. He was extremely misleading but this demon had no secret intentions. It was useless to expect anything.
“Right. John, you’re to serve me as if you loved me until I die.”
“Because it was our contract.”
“… Our contract, huh.”
John seemed to be as happy as he was when he had a painting in front of him.
“Are you dissatisfied with the expression ‘as if I loved you’?”
“Do you wish me to be your husband?”
“Oh? You don’t have the courage to ask a demon for love?”
“Does a demon have the courage to want love from a human?”
When Riz became desperate and retorted, John pulled lightly at the chain wrapped around her finger.
“No, don’t answer. Whether you want it or don’t want it, John, you’re my demon.”
“Without a doubt.”
John laughed out loud.
“I will not let you be bored.”
“If you go to sleep obediently, I’ll tell you something good.”
“Something good… what is it?”
Riz returned her gaze, which had been facing the sky, back to John. She felt a little strange. The sound of her heartbeats were quick.
“An extremely enjoyable thing that will make my lady ecstatic— for example…”
John’s face came close until his outline became blurry. Her heartbeat became quicker.
“That the famous picture, which everyone knows, is actually a puzzle.”
A breath grazed her lips.
“Or that there are a number of dreadful symbols carved inside the walls of the Seventh Church.”
Riz was unable to endure it and pressed her forehead into the demon’s chest.
There was no way she could refuse such an enjoyable thing.
“Don’t you want me to tell you?”
His arms went around her back.
It was the highest temptation that overshadowed even the gorgeous starry sky.