“These are all the stories I have written in the last three weeks.”
Under the glare of Vena, Ruby proceeded to put down several stacks of papers on the wooden table. Altarin was standing a little away from the two women in front of the room’s door—prepared to prevent anything slashing related thing that his currently high spirited sister might attempt.
Because even though she was asked by Eden to ‘please get along with Ruby’. She seemed to only interpret it as ‘please don’t kill her’.
“This is quite a lot,” Vena said with surprised gaze, begrudgingly admitting to herself that she was amazed at the red-eyed girl’s diligence.
The three of them were currently inside Ruby’s room on the second floor of the bookstore.
For the record, her room was quite small, with only a table in the middle, a wardrobe, and a bed under the window with not much else to speak of. The other pieces of furniture inside the room were predictably bookshelves filled with various kinds of books and as a whole, they gave the impression that the owner was a book-loving literary girl.
The literary girl in question, however, was currently wiping the sweats of her forehead. “You can read them yourself and find out…”
To what Ruby said, Vena responded by making a curious noise and sat down on the wooden floor, picking up a stack of papers from the piles and started reading it… then she went into complete silence... for a really long time. So long, that the already a little curious Altarin noticed and moved to her side
—What could it be about? Altarin thought and began to read as well.
The story was called 'Nede of the Exiled'—it was a romantic tale about a runaway 'Princess Nede' encountering with a male commoner merchant 'Athemyst' and falling in love as they were chased around by the assassin the evil prince sent after them. And with a strikingly familiar description given to the princess’s appearance. Altarin couldn't help but began to feel a little interested.
—Isn’t this, Eden? But she’s a girl?
So he continued to read the story. At first it was a sweet story about love. Princess Nede was raised in an enclosed environment and knew very little about the outside world while the merchant Athemyst was a jaded and cold man.
They both initially didn’t like each other but were forced to be together by circumstance. But as they became closer and closer, Nede was taught by Athemyst how to take care of herself in the cruel world while Athemyst was reminded of his lost innocence by Nede—eventually, they began to rely on each other physically and mentally.
—Typical romance story stuff.
Or at least, until the halfway point—the story heavily shifted its focus to the sexual aspect—with extremely detailed narration from the viewpoint of the ‘Athemyst’ as he started teaching all sort of erotic knowledge and skills to ‘Princess Nede’ from the gentle cuddling types to wanton, hardcore lovemaking!
“Hold on a second!”
Altarin stepped on the brake for his action and slammed to the stack of papers back on the table! He then glared at Ruby and shouted, “Don’t you think there is something strange about this—?!”
“Ah… um... well... that…” Ruby tried to avoid his eyes.
“They…” Altarin’s aggressive and overwhelming aura began to fill up Ruby’s small bedroom. The power of a High-Ranked Divine Spirit gave her a sense of never before seen oppression!
“I-I was… just..” Ruby waved her arms about trying to explain herself to Altarin, but the immensely powerful strength he emanated from his body prevented her from forming any coherent sentence.
Ruby and Altarin’s eyes locked in uncomfortable silence until eventually, Altarin said, “They never would outright allowed something like this in their monthly releases—!”
“Y-yes! I-I’m sor—...Eh?” Ruby closed her eyes and reflectively responded… then made a noise of confusion when she realized that he didn’t exactly scold her.
“You said that Anorlon Times Magazine contacted, right? Then that’s strange… despite publishing a few articles targets at adults audience. They never would allow something like this in their monthly releases. The Magazine’s reputation as a family-friendly entertainment would be ruined.”
Altarin insisted, completely Ignoring Ruby’s confusion—actually, he didn’t even notice it in the first place.
—That’s what’s you’ve found strange about this?! That threatening aura was because of a freaking magazine?! Suffice to say that Ruby didn’t expect to be called out on this particular aspect.
Still confused and now a little angry, she asked Altarin anyway, “Do they really?”
“Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.” Altarin’s eyes glinted with the light of wisdom as he pushed the non-existence glasses on his nose.
Ruby strangely became convinced of his opinion, and if assuming what Altarin said was true—she started to wonder as well. “But then… why did they contact me?”
“I’m not sure… what do you think, Vena?”Altarin pinched his chin turned to ask Vena who was sitting by his side.
“...” But he was met with only silence...
“...” She still didn’t respond to him.
“Heh? Oh, right? What’s up?” Finally, Vena jolted out of her trance.
“Where were you?”
“I was just… you know?”
“...You know what?”
At Altarin’s and Ruby’s questioning gazes—Vena started to blush.
“A-anyway…. What are these stories!? How dare you portrayed the cute and innocent little Eden—I mean Nede in s-such an... obscene…”
And at Altarin’s and Ruby’s knowing gazes—Vena decided to shut up.
“Well, I originally wrote it as a normal romance story…”
...Ruby turned to sit down on her bed, picking up a pillow and hugging it in front of her ample chest.
“But then my memories of that day came back to me…”
...She began to blush.
“The feeling of Eden’s kiss, Eden’s touch… they came back to me even in my dream…”
...Then she buried her face in the pillow she was hugging. Even now when she thought back on it she still found that the temperature of her blood rapidly rising.
“So my writing started to change its focus... and when I realized it. I already wrote everything out.”
...Finally, she fell sideways onto her bed. Vena and Altarin watched on with cold gazes as the red-eyed girl melted into a pulp right in front of their eyes.
“That’s why I was acting suspiciously earlier... I’m fine if anyone else read this but I can’t just say in front of Eden that I was having weird fantasies about him, can I? What if he starts thinking that I’m that kind of girl?”
—Then why did you published it to the whole city? Altarin and Vena thought at the same time.
Altarin stroked his chin, pondering seriously for the first time about Ruby’s relationship with Eden. He knew a bit about Eden’s past, at least what Athena allowed him to know. And after a while, he could only sigh and told Ruby.
“...I can understand your sentiment, miss Fairwright, but I have to be honest with you. I don’t think the kind of relationship you want to seek with Eden can be properly understood by him.”
“What... do you mean?” Ruby looked up from her pillow.
“What you did to him… or what he did to you… For him that’s normal.”
But Altarin’s answer didn’t make any more sense to Ruby… noticing her confusion, Vena spoke up solemnly, “Lady Athena told us very little about Eden’s past, but what we can discern from his behavior and attitude… we’re scared to even imagine the full story.”
“You have seen his choker and bracelet, right?” Altarin pointed at his own neck for reference.
Ruby nodded weakly. Altarin continued to ask, “Then have you seen him fully naked?”
“I… huh? I haven’t… that’s weird. Why is that?”
“Ha! That’s obvious, isn’t it? Back then why would he trust you, the person who he had just met for the first time?”
“...” Ruby rolled her eyes at Vena’s remark, but secretly she was feeling a little disappointed that she couldn’t deny it. However, the next thing the twins said brought her attention back.
““We have seen it.””
They said, the image of Eden’s naked back flashed through their mind—Altarin tightened his fist, Vena closed her eyes. Ruby could feel their cold seething rage from the other side of the room. For a second she almost felt like she was standing in a violent snowstorm that threatened to freeze her alive.
“It was the second most cruel thing we have ever seen…” said Vena with a suppressed voice.
“What’s crueler was that Eden himself didn’t even realize how cruel it truly was...” said Altarin, releasing his clenched fist.
“That pain—” said Vena.
“That past—” said Altarin.
““For him. They’re normal,”” the twins declared at the same time.
Ruby found herself baffled by what was being told, not quite sure what to make of it all.
“So miss Fairwright, you may be thinking that we’re overreacting, and in some ways Vena kind of is. But we have good reasons to worry about Eden… right now, he’s simply just too young,”
Ruby cast her eyes downward. “I will… think about it.”
Seeing that his point had been made, Altarin shifted the topic to try to elevate the suddenly tense atmosphere. “Besides I don’t think Eden would make a good boyfriend anyway, aside from being cute who knows what goes on in that little head of his?”
““Being cute is enough!””
But the girls weren’t going to let that slide.
“You people are incomprehensible to me.” Altarin shook his head but his tactic seemed to work, for Vena and Ruby who had been fighting this entire time finally found a topic they could both go on forever with, even though it was also the very reason why they were fighting.
“Eden may seem naive and simple but sometimes—he would do something completely unexpected... that’s why he’s so cute!” Ruby said with enthusiasm.
“Or as lady Athena would say it. There is the Incomprehensible, the unfathomable, and then there’s Eden? Or was it something else? Most adorable, cutest, and then there’s Eden?” Vena looked equally mesmerized.
“The future, the hearts, and then there’s Eden...” Altarin recalled his lady’s sighing expression every time that phrase was spoken and thought that maybe he should make one of his own… what would his, be? Pretty girls, beautiful ladies, and then there’s Eden? Wait, hold on—
“STOP! Why does this… every single time?!” Altarin gripped his hair in anguish once again.
While the twins were off in their own little world. Ruby noticed something and spoke up, “By the way, are you guys okay about this? Leaving him alone for so long?”
At her words... Vena and Altarin looked as shocked as if they both saw a real human!
“W-we have completely forgotten about him!!” Altarin abruptly stood up.
“Aaah—! E-Eden! W-what if those hungry looking Valkyrian angels do something to him!?” Vena suddenly exclaimed. Then they both ran out of the room in a panic.
With Ruby quickly following after.
When Vena and Altarin came back to the storefront, they were greeted with an inexplicable scene. In the now quiet bookstore, the previously energetic and lively group of Valkyrian angels were sitting in a row side by side, whispering quietly to each other, some of them were even slightly blushing.
A little away from them was Eden, leaning against one of the many bookshelves in the store and reading something with his long golden hair spread across the wooden floor of the shop, framing the perfect image of angelic pureness.
“Big sister Vena… Brother Altarin.”
Eden’s small voice came out but to greet them but he didn’t look up to meet their eyes. The atmosphere was starting to get a little bit weird to Vena and Altrarin, and when Ruby came back to join them—
Eden asked innocently... and no one knew what kind of face they should be making at that question.
“W-why do you want to know that?” Vena, who had recovered quicker than the rest of them, asked back with a flushed face.
“Because I did it—“
“““YOU DID WHAT?!”””
Everyone questioned their ears!
“—In this story.”
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief...
“This is me... isn’t it?”
Eden held out the book he was reading to Vena and Altarin, and they immediately recognized what it was by title. They turned to Ruby, she shook her head to indicate that she had no idea.
They kept looking around the room questioningly until they eventually got a reply from one of the nearby Valkyrian angels.
“I’m sorry…” one of them spoke up, and the others followed after.
“I recognized the similarities between little Eden and the princess Nede, and brought it up...”
“She asks us to show it to her…”
“And we did.”
“At least you didn’t write it.” Vena threw a side-eye glance at Ruby, then look back at Eden. “Eden, I know that when you’re curious about something you have to know it, but this...”
“Will it happen again later… in the story?”
“No! Not at all! Definitely not!” Ruby ran up to Eden and snatched the book away from his hands, then she threw it to the side.
“But I’m curious…”
“““DON’T BE CURIOUS ABOUT STRANGE THINGS!!!””””
But when everyone thought it was over. Eden rummaged through his messenger bag for his dictionary and began looking through it.
“It’s not in here either… maybe I should ask for… an upgrade?”
Fortunately, Eden eventually muttered in disappointment when he couldn’t find it…
“A-anyway Eden! The reason why I ask you to come here today!” Ruby tried to divert Eden’s attention, Eden turned to look at her, tilting his head questioningly.
“The reason why I ask you to come here—” Ruby reached out to held Eden’s cheeks.“—Is because I really miss you.”
Eden widened his eyes at a small presence of melancholy in Ruby’s voice.
“Ruby… were you… lonely?”
Eden placed his hand on Ruby’s and asked, his concern touched her heart to no end and her face revealed a soft smile.
“Eden...” But when she was about to respond... what the twins said made her changed her words. “...I want to talk to you for a bit, is that okay?”
Eden glanced toward Vena and Altarin, then turned back to Ruby and nodded.
“Let’s do it in my room, you haven’t been there before have you?” Ruby smiled and led Eden by the hand to the backside of the store.
After the two disappeared…
“—Wait, what did she just say?” Vena brows suddenly furrowed.
“I mean, they’re both girls,” said one of the nearby Valkyrian angels, the rest followed.
“It’s probably nothing,”
“Huaaaa!” Altarin let out an immeasurably deep sigh that contained almost every single emotion possible—and said out loud, “Eden is not a girl...”
Except for Vena’s… the eyes of everyone else in the store were all on him.
And after a moment of silence.
Cries of confusion echoed throughout the Realm of Gods.
[ Fairwright’s General Bookstore - 2nd Floor ]
The door makes a soft sound, indicating that it’s successfully locked. I turn around to see Eden’s inspecting the room—my room—and suddenly can’t help but feel a little nervous.
I didn’t leave any weird thing lying around, did I? Ah~! The original drafts! Their contents are more hardcore than the published version!
“N-no! Eden t-that’s not—”
Before I can reach out and hide the stack of papers—Eden has already picked it up! I lunge toward him to try to snatch them off his hand, only to fail and cause both of us to tumble to the ground!
And I’m now sitting on Eden’s small body, surrounded by papers that have been dropped messily to the floor...
““....”” We both stare at each other in silent... or at least I am silent, captured by the radiance of Eden’s golden eyes.
Eden is just, too beautiful.
Even among the goddesses of Anorlon, I don’t think anyone can rival his beauty, It wouldn’t be surprising if he turns out to be the child the goddess of beauty herself, Alphelia—whose appearance is unknown to all outside [The Flying Palace] ever since the Holy War ended—she leads a life of seclusion for her beauty would instantly charm anyone who lay eyes on her…
Would Eden, eventually be condemned to the same fate? Locked away in a cage for his radiance shines too bright it burns all that basks in its light? —If so, then I would even give up my life to save him from that, without hesitation.
Right now, Eden lies under me… with those beautiful round eyes, pink lips and small cute nose.
Looking at him alone, causes desires to rise from within. I want his eyes to always reflect mine, I want our hands to intertwine forever, I want his mouth, nose, hair, nails, teeth—I want to have him all for myself!
But unfortunately, these desires seem to be one-sided...
I examine the black choker on his neck while the words of Vena and Altarin echo in my mind. They make me realize that my meeting with Eden was merely a coincidence… I was just in the right place at the right time, not fated to be with him or anything like that.
What am I to Eden, really? I’m not smart or powerful. That crazy woman can probably protect him better than I could and brother Altarin the low-key pervert seems… reliable. Am I pretty? Please... comparing myself to Eden would be an insult—and not to me.
In the end, he even says so himself that he doesn’t love me.
A sweet voice brings me back to reality.
“Huh? What is it?”
Eden looks back at me with a serious expression and says, “You’re heavy…”
—H-heavy!? M-me?! I was too deep into my thought that I forgot I’m still on top of Eden! B-but, heavy—?!
“A-am I really that heavy?”
“I promised Athena.... that Eden would never lie or hurt anyone…”
“So yes… Ruby is heavy…”
Eden… your honesty is bringing tears to my eyes, literally.
“But it’s not very heavy… just pretty heavy… or really heavy… so it’s fine.”
—That’s not making it any better at all! You even say ‘heavy’ 3 more times!! White lies without any lies are worse than the truth!!!
“It’s fine.. so don’t worry about it… You can stop... worrying now.”
Huh? W-what does he mean by that? I look at Eden once more, trying to discern the meaning behind his words…
“Do you… know what I was thinking?” I carefully ask him.
Eden doesn’t say anything in response, I lightly poke his soft cheek for a reaction—he doesn’t react to that either but seeing the marshmallowy cheek conforms to my finger is very adorable… Eventually, I ask him again.
“Eden, do you love me?”
—The same question.
“No, I love Athena.”
—The same answer…
I smile in defeat. I guess I can only pretend till here… But as I’m about to get off—
“But I like Ruby… Is it not enough?”
(Is it… enough?)
To me, Eden looks so pure and bright that he seems to almost sparkles. And like a moth that is instinctively attracted to flame, I find myself helplessly yearning for him even in my sleep.
“Is it... enough?”
What do I actually want from Eden? His love? His affection?
I look at Eden's beautiful face and my heart finds the answer.
—No, it’s none of that…
“Of course, it’s enough! Because the only thing I want from you, is your cuteness~!"
—Even if I can’t have anything else… Just seeing your cute face is enough!
I pull Eden into my embrace.
"Hey, Eden, do you know? When my grandfather died, I thought that all my life would become gray and lifeless—but then you suddenly appeared in front of me, and everything turns bright and colorful again~!"
—You become something that makes me regain hope! Just by being around you paints everything with magical intrigue of nigh-infinite possibilities! I feel like I can do anything when I’m with you!
I continue to say into Eden's ears, hugging his small body tighter and tighter.
“I want to stay by your side forever. I will keep chasing after your shine even if it leads me to the depth of the abyss! So, of course!”
Because I’m in love! Because I’m helplessly hopelessly head over heels in love with you.
Just by seeing you makes me happy! Just by holding your hand makes my heart pound!
You are so wonderfully cute that the whole realm seems more beautiful just because you exist!
“So even if you don’t love me, Eden… even if we were not fated to be together… I still want to dedicate all my life to make you smile. Are you okay with that?”
Because I'm still embracing him very closely, Eden's response is a bit muffled, but— Aaaaahh~! He's so ‘cute’~! How could any living thing be allowed to be this ‘cute’?! It’s almost a crime to my heart!
Muuwa~! Muuwa~! Muuwa~!
I hold Eden’s face with both my hands and repeatedly kiss all over it. Right now I’m the only one who can do this, you know? Just thinking about it makes me kinda jealous of myself!
“Ruby… Ear... Don’t bite.”
How could you say something like that and expect me to not—want to do it!? Now, I really want to do it! I really, really want to do it!
No, no, no, no, no. You can’t, Ruby!!
Brother Altarin is right, Eden’s still too young, he needs to grow up and become a healthy adult, so you have to hold back!
“Aagh~! But still though…”
Holding Eden’s face with my palms, I bite my lips in disappointment.
He was so good at it as well… —W-wait a minute, hold on, why was he so good at it? How does he know how to do all that stuff? Who taught him that?
“Ruby… why did you… call me here?”
“Eh? Oh, right…”
I’m supposed to talk to him about something, but now that I think about it, there’s nothing to talk about anymore. Soo…
“Eden, do you want to just… read books?” I propose awkwardly.
“Okay…” And Eden agrees, somehow?