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            —... Over and over, I shouted it. To make sure. To persuade myself.


            To plead.




            I was scared, absurdly so. I was scared.

            I will be taken.


            That voice will.


            Take you.


            Take me.



            Take my, everything.



            zwolf ~ (Stimme) ~ 】



            It was a day with unusually good weather. It was still a little too chilly to call it spring, but the rays of the sun felt good.


            “Captain Fate, nothing out of the ordinary here.”

            “Yes, got it. Thank you.”


            Ending the umpteenth communication of the day, I breathed a sigh.


            Before my glare, were the strangely silent streets of the town. Although night had yet to arrive, the sparse light coloring those streets was gradually creating a melancholic mood.


            As I stared at this, I recalled the contents of the documents I had read repeatedly, to burn into my mind.


            A neighbor to the kingdom we lived in.


            ... In spite of this, it was a kingdom we had not had much contact with, not even once engaging in diplomacy with them. For that reason not much information came to us from there, and it still held many mysteries. The population was guessed to be about 3,000 people. It wasn’t very large.


            From what we had seen today, one could say there were no problems like the brass had claimed. They seemed to have some semblance of military, but it was ornamental. ... And above all, they were not seen doing anything like training.

            Well, they probably wouldn’t make it so public that outsiders could see, but it was a much too calm, quiet place.


            My feet that had stopped, slowly, moved forward.


            Because the sea was close, in the harbor a large number of what appeared to be fishing boats were anchored. Catching the light from them, the waterfront glistened and sparkled with various shades of red, blue, and yellow. From a short distance away, it looked as lovely as a jewel.


            A sea breeze carrying a little sand caressed my skin. For an instant, my vision was dyed golden. Catching my disarrayed locks of hair, I pushed them back.


            —... Before my field of vision, I didn’t see anything particularly strange.




            That morning, the mission I received under momentous secrecy was. —... Reconnaissance.​ ​... And, rescue.


            A unit had been conducting a reconnaissance mission up until a few days ago. And returning to the castle, bringing information, were three people. No matter how small a unit, that number was too few.


            —... On top of this, there was no sign of their captain.


            When the commander inquired, thinking it strange, with trembling bodies they spoke a single phrase.


            “... He was taken.”


            What exactly that meant, was not known. Speaking deliriously, they repeated only that.



            I don’t think that a war will actually happen. But that’s okay. We’re better off without war.


            “... Nothing out of the ordinary here. So much so that it’s too quiet.”


            “Yes, nothing here either. At this rate it will be dangerous if we’re here for too long. —... It might be better for everyone to return to the castle together and assemble our information.”




            Rather than exposing ourselves to them by just moving blindly, it would be better to compile the information we’ve gathered. Thinking that, I issued orders to my deployed subordinates to return to the castle.


            As I turned to leave as well, it was that moment.


            I felt a spine-tingling presence from behind, and there stood a lone woman with a faint smile upon her face.


            “... Good evening.”


            Smiling as much as I could, I greeted her. I was wearing civilian clothes. Telepathy was covered by several levels of protection so nothing should have leaked out. Just in case, I checked for evidence of anything like hacking, but didn’t find any.


            Then, to her I should come across as nothing but an average tourist. If I become flustered here, I’ll arouse suspicion instead.


            “Good evening.”


            The woman replied with a smile. Relieved, I tried to leave quickly so she wouldn’t memorize my face.


            Hehehe. ... You are Fate Testarossa... are you not?”


            At that voice that sounded strangely cheerful. An indescribable chill ran through me. I could feel a cold sweat run slowly down my back.


            I felt my heart pounding in shock, and a mass of ice plunging into my head.



            “... Why, do you know my...!?


            My voice, shook. ... Certainly, she had said it. Fate Testarossa.


            Not Fate T. Harlaown. My former name, “Testarossa.”


            “... Why indeed? Hehehe.”

            “Answer me. ... Why do you know it? Depending on your answer...”


            As I reached for the Device concealed in my pocket, again, that laughter grew loud. ... For some reason, that voice resounded strangely in my head.


            Hehe. Of course I know it. ... The more I look at you, the more you look alike.”

            “... What are you talking about?”


            It throbbed, and hurt.


            “Hey, Fate-ojousama. How long do you intend to do this?”


            I felt terribly nauseous.


            Stop it. Stop it!


            Every time I heard that voice, I was struck with a pain like my chest was being crushed. I don’t want to hear! No, next is.


            “That person is waiting, you know?”




            My head hurt—... as if it were about to crack open.



            “... Who...?”

            “Honestly now. You’ve truly forgotten, haven’t you?”


            No, no. Don’t remember, don’t remember!



            —... Re-member?


            What am I saying? Remember what?


            My entire existence is here. Here, now.



            “About Precia-sama.”


            ... All, of it is.





            Dumbfounded, I spoke that word. —... As though I were burning. As though I were being torn.


            It hurt. My heart, making a loud noise, grated.



            As if to laugh at me.



            All around—... the toll of bells, resounded loudly.


            “My, my. It’s this late. ... Already, huh. I look forward to meeting you again before long. Fate-ojousama.”


            “Wait! ..., !”



            From the moment I heard my name, the pain in my head wouldn’t stop.


            “..., wh-y?”


            Within my head—... the voice, wouldn’t stop.




            —... The voice calling for “me.”






            “Fate T. Harlaown. ... I’ve returned.”

            “Good work, Fate.”


            Carrying my heart that held a pain like it was being cut into pieces, I returned to the castle. ... How I returned, even that I could no longer tell.


            That voice, just wouldn’t stop.


            Somehow controlling it, I completed my report of what happened to my superior officer, Chrono. ... I didn’t report on that woman.


            I, couldn’t.


            A blaze burned, scorching my body.


            The voice, wouldn’t stop.


            I will be, by me—... “taken.”



            “... I’m going to check on the princess.”


            For some reason, I wanted to see Nanoha. ... Hopelessly, I wanted to see her.


            I wanted her to say, “It’s alright,” and embrace me.

            I wanted her call my name. “Fate-chan.”


            I wanted to see that shy smile.


            “... The princess has already retired for the night.”

            “I’m just going to see her face.”


            I said this as I was leaving the room.


            “... Give up on Princess Nanoha already, Fate.... For your own good.”


            I heard him say that in a low voice. —... At that voice, my body flared up in a hot rage.


            “Don’t try to decide what’s best for me!”


            In the silent room, my lamentation resounded. The corners of my eyes became hot. Before my vision, Chrono became blurred.


            “Fate, you’ve got to stop this! Consider your standing!”


            “If you pursue this further, you’ll only experience more pain,” he continued.

            —... I know. I know.




            “What’s standing!? What’s position!? We’re all humans! So what’s the difference! What’s wrong with it! What’s right? ... What... what...,”


            My doubts that I ordinarily would have been able to endure, suddenly weighed down on me.




            If only I could live by your side with just these emotions. Greedily, I seek our bonds that were once connected. I struggle.


            “I just... love her-”


            I struggle. —... And we are separated. Even if I reach out.


            I wonder if eventually, these hands will be cut off.




            The voice, won’t stop.


            My head, hurts.



            Don’t remember, don’t remember.


            “... I’m sorry, Chrono. It looks like I’m a little tired. ... I’m going to bed.”


            I closed the door. The long, long corridor to my room, I walked alone.


            —... I thought that the red carpet that was spread out, was like flowing blood. It was dyed deep red, deep crimson. ... Just like, my eyes.


            Red, deep. An existence accompanied by pain, that color.


            “... Welcome back, Fate-chan.”


            At that voice, my consciousness was pulled back. Lifting my downturned eyes, —... There, was she who I now hopelessly wanted to see.


            In front of my room. Leaning against the door. ... Is this a dream? I thought. It isn’t an illusion I created?


            Though I tried to reach my hand to her cheek. My fingertips only quivered, and it didn’t happen.




            She called my name. Almost the exact opposite of the one resounding in my head, a warm voice.


            “... Fate-chan.”


            I gripped that outstretched hand. I pulled that body toward me tightly.


            I wrapped that body that was half a head shorter than me within my arms completely. My nose was tickled by a sweet scent. My chest tightened.


            “... Don’t cry, Fate-chan.”


            That hand ran through my hair again and again. Again, and again, and again.


            “Na... no, ... ha...”

            “Yes, I’m here.”


            Nanoha, Nanoha... Nanoha-”


            I couldn’t worry about someone seeing us. I just called that name, and embraced her.


            I wish I could live with just my feelings for you.




            Don’t, remember.


            From somewhere in the corners of my brain, a menacing cry arose.


            —... Don’t remember.


            That voice, that cold look.



            If I remember them, it’s the end.



            “Nano, ha...,”



            Nanoha, myself.



            All of it.



            “I” will,




            —... take them away.



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