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drei

 

 

            That profile, constantly changing with a variety of expressions.

            Those deep, pretty, azure eyes.

            —... At first I thought, What a cute girl.

 

            Really, nothing more than that.

 

 

            “Let’s be friends,” she said.

 

 

            With that intent gaze, my heart raced.

            ... For some reason, it felt... tight.

 

            My first friend.

            I was happy. So very—... very happy.

 

            The loud beating of my heart was as rapid as an alarm bell being struck, and for some strange reason the sound was caught in my ears. I wondered if the girl sleeping a short distance away could hear it.

 

            What will I do if she thinks I’m weird...

            When that occurred to me, I had a hard time falling asleep.

 

            —... But.

            That’s not to say... that I disliked the time I spent until I fell asleep.

 

            A warm feeling was steadily welling up inside my heart. So much that I began to wonder, was this uncontrollable feeling going to overflow?

 

            —... And all of a sudden, the thought scared me. So with my hands clasped to my chest, I curled up as tightly as I could and fell asleep.

 

            Honestly, nothing was going to spill out. I know that now. But at that time, I truly thought it would.

 

            It was a new feeling.

 

            I didn’t really understand it, but... it was like I was happy, yet in a little bit of pain. But when I thought, I made a “friend,” I was very content.

 

 

            Was—... that why?

 

            In the morning, we waved goodbye... and as your hand disappeared behind the door... I felt an urge to grab it and stop you from leaving.

 

 

            I really wanted—... to be with you.

 

 

            drei (Bewusstsein) ~ 】

 

 

            Since then... before I knew it, three months had already passed.

 

            As for me, I spent my days the same way I always had: wake up in the morning, and eat breakfast with everyone. Then work at my part-time job, and come home with bread.

 

            The things that changed were—...

 

            When returning home, rather than taking the turn before the usual winding road, I would turn down onto the road right before it. Along the way, I would gaze up at a certain lone streetlight as I passed by. And also—... when I went to bed, I would sleep curled in a ball.

 

            Ahh, it’s as if I’m searching for you.

            —... Just... when was it, that I began think that and smile bitterly?

 

            I—... didn’t even know anymore.

 

            I wanted to see Nanoha again.

 

            Feeling a sharp pain as I thought that, I clutched my chest. As I lay curled up on my bed—... I muffled my voice, and just for a little bit, I cried.

 

 

            Everyone was here. Linith was here. But—... I was lonely. I missed Nanoha.

 

            ... This, is strange.

 

            Those ideas that would start spinning around the moment I let my guard down. Those feelings that bored into my heart. It was overwhelmingly—... painful.

 

            Nanoha...”

 

            The name I murmured so many times, as if it were a plea. ... Even though there’s no way it will be answered—...

 

            I squeezed my eyes shut, plunging my vision into darkness. Ahh, this is bad. I have my part-time job tomorrow morning—...

 

            As I went to turn off the lights—... it happened.

 

 

            Clink.

 

 

            From somewhere came a faint noise. What was that? I cast my eyes around the room.

 

            No... There wasn’t anything particularly different. It was just my room, in its normal state. Maybe a leaf or something had been blown against the window. I reached for the string of the fluorescent lamp, and clink. I heard the sound again.

 

            ... Was the wind really this strong today?

 

            Cocking my head, I reached for the window and threw it open wide. Far above me, not a single cloud could be seen in the sky.

 

            “... I didn’t realize the sky had gotten so clear...”

 

            The breath expelled along with those words turned my vision white before being swept away by the wind in the form of a thin ribbon.

 

 

            Ahh, that reminds me. I can see the sky from here—... for only a little longer.

 

            The right arm that I had been holding to my chest, I suddenly thrust into the sky. It wasn’t like anything was there, but I tightly clenched my fist like I was catching hold of it.

 

            Again—... the wind blew.

 

            My usual twintails were down since I thought I would be going to sleep, and stroked by the blowing of the wind, that hair slipped off my shoulders and fluttered about the air as if dancing. In that instant, my field of vision was dyed that golden color—...

 

            —... And then.

 

 

            “Fate-chan.”

 

            Hearing that gentle voice—... I wanted to cry.

 

            “... Nano... ha?”

 

            Was it a dream? An illusion I created by wishing to see her...?

 

            “Good evening, Fate-chan.”

 

            Looking down from the window, before my eyes was the faintly shy but smiling face of Nanoha. How long had she been there? Her cheeks were touched with red, probably because of the cold.

 

            Nanoha...!”

 

            Grasping the window frame firmly, I leaned outward. I caught a glimpse of her panicked expression as I leapt out to where she was.

 

            “Eh... wai-...! F-Fate-chan!?”

 

            With a thump, my right hand touched the ground. Staggering from the impact, my body was quickly enveloped in warm arms. In that moment, my nose was tickled by a sweet fragrance—...

 

            “Geez, Fate-chan, what if you had gotten hurt?”

 

            Stretched before my sight were deep, deep, gentle eyes. In the dark of the night where everything was black except for the moonlight, that blue was the only thing that shone. —... It gave color to everything around it. My world was tinted with blue.

 

            “... I missed you.”

 

            When I wrapped my arms around her, her hold on me grew a little tighter.

 

            “Yeah... I’m sorry it took so long to visit you...”

            “Mm...”

 

            And then, just for a while, we stayed like that. Our bodies were wrapped in a gentle warmth and perfect silence.

 

            All that could be heard was—... my heart beating faster then usual and Nanoha’s heart, which was beating just as fast.

 

            The slowly repeating sound of our breathing, and the singing of the leaves caressed by the wind.

 

            My slightly flushed cheeks were stroked by her flaxen hair, tied up in pigtails. It twirled about in the breeze and, as if being led by it, my own hair leapt into the air as well.

 

            ... It almost looked as if they were dancing.

 

            Inside this world where flaxen and gold blended together, all I could see was your smile. Those gentle eyes, narrowed in happiness, made my heart pound... and—... leap.

 

            Acting on impulse, I embraced her more tightly and rested my forehead on her shoulder. The warmth that we shared was comfortable—... It was bliss.

 

            After a few moments, Nanoha rested her forehead on my shoulder in the same way.

 

            “Fate-chan... I missed you too...”

 

            Hearing the yearning in her voice—... my chest tightened.

 

            Mhm...”

 

            —... I slowly released my arms, and as if lured along, Nanoha released hers as well.

 

            Feeling embarrassed all of a sudden, I tried covering it up by scratching my cheek. Nanoha too, was blushing with an embarrassed grin, her face just as red as mine.

 

 

***

 

 

            We made our way to my room slowly and noiselessly, so as to not wake anyone. After preparing two cups of warm milk in the kitchen to warm our thoroughly cold bodies, I then returned to my room, where—... I watched Nanoha’s form as she looked around almost nostalgically. I was about to tease her since it had only been three months...

 

            —... but recalling my past behavior, It wasn’t “only,” I thought with a bitter smile.

 

            “... But, I’m glad. I thought we might not see each other again...”

            “Why? I said I’d definitely come see you again~.”

 

            With that, she puffed out her cheeks. “But you never told me your address or anything!” When I said this, I heard her make an “Au...” like she’d gotten in trouble.

 

            “And because... I’m going to be moving.”

            “... Huh?”

 

            Her eyes opened wide. A little sadness showed through—... and she slowly closed her eyes.

 

            Again—... I felt a sharp pain in my chest.

 

            “... This spring, I’m going to the castle.”

            “Eh? ... The castle?”

 

            “Yes. Because I’m... enlisting. I’ll be living in the barracks.”

 

            I would be moving in only as many days as I could count on my hand. I didn’t really know what the barracks were like, but it was possible that this time I really might not get to see Nanoha again.

 

            ... That... made me feel impossibly sad.

 

            “... Which barracks?”

            “It hasn’t been decided yet, but... I think I’ll be in the care of the supreme commander.”

 

            When I said this, Nanoha said, “I see,” as though she had understood.

 

            “That’d be Lindy-san’s place. ... The special escort forces then?”

            “... Eh?”

 

            ... Why... would Nanoha know something like that?

 

            Just then—... something clicked.

            —... But, it was only for a moment.

 

            I was aware of how I tended to be a little oblivious about things and thought, Ahh, I see. She’s a famous person, so she would be fairly well-known by the public. —... I was a little embarrassed for my ignorant self.

 

            “Is... it alright if... I come to see you again?”

            “Yes, if it’s okay with you... I want to see you again.”

 

            Her hands were tightly fastened to mine, and mine to hers.

 

            “... I... have to go now...”

            “...... I see...”

 

 

            Hearing those words—... Again, I felt my heart tighten. What’s going on...? This isn’t like me.

 

            The happiness that had been filling my heart until now, finally overflowed.

 

            ... I never knew... that to make a friend, to be with a friend, was so joyous.

 

            ... I never knew... that to be parted from a friend, to be separated from a friend, was so painful.

 

            Ahh, I never knew a friend could be something so precious.

 

            If it’s this hard, this painful with just one friend, do the children I see with many friends feel like this each time they’re separated?

 

            That—... Yeah. I think that is really amazing.

 

 

            “... It’s dark, isn’t it? Will you be alright alone?”

 

            When I walked her to the entrance, everything was still cloaked in darkness. But when I spoke, thinking that it would be dangerous for a girl alone, she smiled,

 

            “Yeah... um... someone from home is coming to get me. I’ll be alright.”

 

            “—... I see.”

 

            —... Our intertwined fingers unfastened.

            Like before, slowly, finger by finger.

 

            I wanted to capture that fading warmth. The fingers that reached out—... were tightly clenched into fists before they could touch Nanoha’s hand.

 

            “Thank you for coming today, Nanoha.”

            “No, I should be thanking you. I’m sorry for coming so late.”

 

            “No, it really is alright,” I replied.

            “If it’s okay with you, I’d like you to come again.” When I said this, Nanoha smiled happily.

 

            “Good night, then... Fate-chan.”

            “Mm, good night. Nanoha.”

 

            The wind blew again.

 

            For a second, I thought I heard Nanoha murmur something, but—... Carried away by the wind, it never reached my ears.

 

            “... Nanoha.”

 

            To be able to see Nanoha today, I was truly happy.

 

            But, even though we had only just parted, it already—... hurt so much. It was overwhelmingly agonizing.

 

            “... I wonder what’s wrong... with me.”

 

            Hesitating at this new feeling. Without sorting through my jumbled thoughts, I fell back onto my bed with a poof.

 

 

            —... A hint of Nanoha’s scent still lingered in the room, and little by little, it warmed my heart.

 

 

            Has she returned home already?

            Is she keeping warm?

 

            I hope she doesn’t catch a cold...

 

 

            As these thoughts passed through the back of my mind, my eyelids slowly closed.

 

            “Good night, Nanoha.”

 

            While the image of Nanoha’s smiling face rose to the surface and tickled me a little, I surrendered to the visiting drowsiness.

 

            When will we meet again?

 

 

            While looking forward to that,

 

            I gently fell into the depths of sleep—...

 

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