～ acht ～
I wasn’t such a child that it was beyond my understanding.
—... I didn’t want to understand.
The fact that I could do nothing but sever these feelings that were more precious than anything, the ones we’d finally been allowed to connect.
—... I didn’t want to know.
The pain of the moment when those connected feelings were severed. ... The feeling at the time when I had no choice but to sever them.
Even now I can say it with pride.
“I love you.”
Because you are more precious to me than anyone, anything.
Because I truly love you, so, so much.
For this reason.
—... Do I... have to say goodbye...?
【 acht ～ (Entschluss) ～ 】
I wonder... how much time has passed. I breathed a sigh into my room. Before I knew it, everything had been dyed in dim colors, and even if I strained my eyes I could only faintly recognize anything.
As I lay on my bed, I stretched my hand toward the ceiling.
The hand that couldn’t grasp anything, remained this way for a moment before it feebly sank into the sea of my sheets.
... It was almost a week since Hayate had explained the truth to me.
I’m not sure how I walked back to my room after that. Despite my worn out state of mind, I somehow managed to pass the next day’s written examination, and as of tomorrow I would have a fresh start not as an “apprentice,” but as a “full-fledged knight.”
—... Despite this my mood showed no signs of clearing up, and I had spent my whole holiday in the sea of my bed.
... I should just stay here and drown.
As I thought such things, I let out another sigh, the latest of, I didn’t know how many.
Though I was in my own room, whether I looked right or left, all I could recall was Nanoha’s smiling face.
How many times did I open the door and let her in to visit?
How many times did we sit on this bed, and while smiling together, get lost in conversation?
Now, it just... — hurts.
Everything in this room, like it’s burning me, hurts.
“... Na, no...,”
Now, I can’t finish calling that name.
Back then, I could call it. Like a treasure, over and over.
“... -ku... a... ah..., huu...”
I’d gaze into your eyes—... over and over.
“... Nano, ...”
Even though it wasn’t so long ago. Now, no matter how far I hold out my arms—... they will not reach. ... No... That isn’t it.
—... They must not reach.
Round and round I spin. Round and round I hurt.
The more I try to stay away from you, the more I’m reminded of your smiling face. It’s just a feeble act that only reconfirms my feelings for you.
I can’t think, or cry over you.
I can’t call your name.
Again I bit my lip tightly to swallow the name coming out. Having repeated this again and again, yet another wound opened, and I gradually tasted the flavor of iron spreading inside my mouth.
Amidst this, a faint sound suddenly resounded in the dim room.
I didn’t even stop to wonder what that sound was. Again, I heard the sound repeat dozens of times.
Each time... my chest throbbed hopelessly.
But, surely it couldn’t be her.
That’s right. ... It couldn’t be.
Please... let that be true.
—... If she was here now, I’m sure... I...
“... May I ask who’s there?”
—... There was no reply.
I turned toward the door that had fallen silent, and it remained so. ... But, I was certain someone was there... Strangely, I knew.
“... It’s dark out, so... it’s... dangerous...”
I spoke in a manner I was unaccustomed to. And I could tell that the girl behind the door had caught her breath after hearing it.
“... Fate, chan.”
At that voice, hopelessly so, my chest—... tightened. Beyond this door was the girl who I missed so much.
“I’m sorry... I, that...”
“I beg you... please, go home.”
Please, I’m begging you, no more.
—... It was tearful, pained, that voice.
Ahh, I don’t want to hear her use that kind of voice.
If I open this door, I could see her at once.
I could tell her not to cry, and embrace her.
“I... beg you.”
I... can’t do that. ... “Why, why?” Another me is crying out. Even though I want to see her. Even though I’m dying to see her.
I can’t—... see her like this anymore.
“I’m sorry... for not saying anything. But I... love you, Fate-chan.”
I stretched my hand toward the one who spoke in that pleading voice, and touched the boards of the obstructing door. Where the ends of my fingertips touched, somehow, it felt a little warmer than usual.
I wonder... could Nanoha be touching the outside of the door like this too? —... When I thought this, I suddenly felt like I was going to cry.
With my forehead resting against the door, I clenched my teeth, trying to fight the tears that were welling up. From the other side of the door I heard a voice that sounded as though it was, in the same way, trying not to cry.
“... I love you, Fate-chan.”
—... Ahh, if I cry it’s useless.
It’s useless.... ... Even if, it’s useless....
“... I beg you... please, don’t say any more...”
My emotions, my wishes.
“I love you too! More than anyone, more than anything! But... it’s useless now!”
Overflowed, spilled out—... and wouldn’t stop.
“... It’s... useless.... You, and I... It’s useless...”
“It isn’t useless! ... It’s nothing like useless! I will, I... will!”
If I open the door right now, I’m sure you’ll accept me even as I am. —... But I’m sure... that it would be regretted.
Not by me, but by the one who fell in love with someone like me... By Princess Nanoha.
Not by “Nanoha,” but by “the other Nanoha.”
“... Go home. ... Don’t come back again.”
I don’t want to cause worry. For the people important to you. And most of all, for you.
“... Fate, chan... I’m... begging you... look, at, ‘Nanoha’...”
I am looking, even now. Always, I’ve looked at you, not as a princess. Nanoha is Nanoha, so I fell in love with you. Even if you’re a princess, this feeling will absolutely not change.
“... Please. I have to get up early...”
In the real world, there was a wall that was so big nothing could be done about it. Different from a door that could be opened like this... was its existence
[Difference in social status.]
The orphan turned knight, “I,” and the daughter of the king, the princess “Nanoha.”
“... I’m sorry.”
So... see? After all... it’s useless.
... Someone like me, is useless.
I took my hands from the door, from you. Then I phoned Hayate, to come get Nanoha.
—... When Hayate came to pick her up, Nanoha’s finals words were.
“Ahh..., -gu..., ... uuh...”
“I love you.”
That soft voice. Those sweet words. Even though a short while had passed.... Still—... they would not leave my ears.
“Kuh, aah... aaah! ... uah, ah”
... I—... can’t forget.
I’m not so mature that I can turn my past with you into memories. ... I don’t want to be separated. I don’t want to be separated from you.
Then, what should I do?
What do I do?
I’ll do anything.
I’ll do anything I can.
Please—... someone, tell me.
“... Why did I give up...?”
Because I thought—... I couldn’t protect Nanoha.
Ahh, what’s that?
Then, isn’t it a simple matter?
If I’m of low birth. I’ll become so great that no one can complain.
If I’m a beginner, and I’m weak. I’ll become so strong that I’ll be able to protect you from everything.
So strong that I won’t lose to anyone.
“... I’ll become strong.”
So, right now I still can’t... meet Nanoha.
This wish, may be trouble for your important people, and I can’t even guess how many years it will take.
In that time, Nanoha may come to hate me.
If it is a dream that can really come true. If I pray.
“At that time, as Fate... will I be able to meet Nanoha...?”
If there’s hope, I’ll try as hard as I can.
So, I pray. Somehow... please let this prayer be answered.
—... Until then, I will.
Swear to be by your side as “Fate, the knight”... and to protect “Nanoha, the princess.”