I awaken to the sound of raindrops striking violently against the window. I open my eyes with an empty mind to see that it is pitch-black, and the only sound to be heard in the room is that of the window rattling in the wind and rain.
Heavy rain in the middle of the night.
It is almost a reflection of my heart; it is possible that I am still dreaming.
The deep darkness of hopelessness. The torrential rain of Iskia continues to pour down within me, never ceasing.
It was supposed to be clear. The rain was supposed to stop and I should have been blessed with a sparkling, seven-colored rainbow.
Our time together ended. No, in truth, it had never even begun.
Because Kurono-kun had a partner from the very beginning. There was a woman that he loved much more than me.
But that woman was a demon-like child –
「Kuh! Nnh, uu…」(Nell)
I feel nauseous from just remembering it. The wicked smile of the Fairy who is innocent and beautiful only in appearance.
I understand, I truly understand. That girl wants everything of Kurono-kun’s. She will own his body, conquer his heart and monopolize his very existence. She will not allow anyone to touch him or even lay a single finger on him. Do not approach him, do not talk to him, do not look at him – he is mine.
The reason I instantly understood her twisted intentions even without telepathy was undoubtedly because I, too, had the same –
「N-no! I am different, I am not like that, I am always thinking of K-Kurono-kun above all else. That’s why, that’s why…」(Nell)
That’s why I was supposed to become Kurono-kun’s number one. I had to.
But reality was different; Kurono-kun embraced that child and the witch… without even glancing in my direction…
「Lies, lies, everything is a lie… It’s wrong, it’s wrong, this is wrong, no, I definitely do not want to accept this!」(Nell)
That’s right, Kurono-kun needs me. He needs me more than anyone else; I must be the closest person to his side.
「He is being deceived, he is being deceived, Kurono-kun is being deceived by that wicked child…」(Nell)
That’s right, that’s right, Kurono-kun is simply being deceived; he is not to blame for anything. I know that Kurono-kun is very honest and very kind.
The image that surfaces in my mind is that of Kurono-kun who is always doing his best. I remember the emotions of grief he felt at the death of his companions that I saw in the fragments of his memories.
That’s right, he is a person who pushes through with his own strength, never blames others and shoulders his own responsibilities.
That is why he is taken advantage of. Without even noticing that he is in the trap of a cunning demon.
「I-I have to… save Kurono-kun…」(Nell)
Only I can save him. I must do it, I must prove that that girl is a demon. Quickly, right now, I must go to where Kurono-kun is –
But my mind and body are frozen. They will not move, they cannot move. Raising the upper half of my body is my limit. I cannot even get out of my bed.
I will go to meet Kurono-kun. The moment I think this, it surfaces in my mind again.
「Ah, you two are really the number one for me.」(Kurono)
The image of him embracing the two of them and whispering gently to them.
「Ah, uu… Uuuu…」(Nell)
No, no! I don’t want to see, I don’t want to see that anymore. I can’t bear to see it. If I witness Kurono-kun being kind to other girls in front of me again –
「No, no, no, no, no, no no no no no, no, stop it, don’t make me see that!」(Nell)
I will go crazy. My mind will go crazy and my heart will break.
But the thing I am truly scared of is…
「… Don’t… come to love… that girl.」(Nell)
I’m scared to say it to Kurono-kun face-to-face.
「The one I love is…」(Kurono)
If he makes a clear declaration, it is finished. I am certain that it will be the end of me.
「Ah, aah… No… Kurono-kun, don’t throw me away, please don’t throw me away, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry –」(Nell)
I can’t meet Kurono-kun because I am scared of being rejected. I cannot muster the courage to go and meet him. I have no confidence that he will accept me.
That is why I cannot move. No matter how much time passes, I cannot leave this soft bed.
「I’m sorry… But I want to see you, Kurono-kun…」(Nell)
I want to see him. I want to see him right now. I want to see his face, I want to hear his voice. I want to hold his hand, smile softly and have meaningless conversations. I want him to be by my side.
My feelings grow stronger. No, my『feelings』are not such light things. This is definitely, yes, it is – a desire.
「I want to see you… I want to see you, Kurono-Kun…」(Nell)
Loud thunder echoes, drowning out the words of desire spilling out of my mouth.
The flash of lightning preceding it illuminates the room for just an instant. In that moment, I see my own reflection in the window that doesn’t have its curtains drawn, and I shudder.
A second flash of lightning. I see the face of a ghost in front of me once more.
The gloomy, cloudy, blue irises of bloodshot eyes. Thick shadows beneath them that appear to have been hastily drawn on with ink. The terrible appearance of my eyes is more than enough to indicate that both my body and heart are suffering from the burdens of despair, fatigue, lack of sleep and frustration.
The beautiful black color of my hair that I had always been secretly proud of has completely faded away; my hair has become unkempt and is protruding in numerous directions from my head. My skin that was white to begin with has become even more pale; it is now the ominous color that one would expect to see in the skin of a seriously ill person.
Despite that, I am gasping as I voice my desire to meet Kurono-kun.
「… I feel sick.」(Nell)
I feel sick, I feel uneasy. What an unsightly woman I am.
「Fu, ufufu… There is no way I can meet you, is there…」(Nell)
I have merely arrived at such an obvious conclusion, but for some reason, my tears will not stop.
As I feel large tear droplets spilling forth from my filthy eyes, my eardrums shake with the second roar of thunder.
Its rumbling sound, which I can feel vibrating in the pit of my stomach, is violent enough to make someone fear for their life. But the inside of my head is completely white; that sound is not enough to shake my emotions even a little.
Even so, as a third flash of lightning comes, I instinctively avert my gaze. I don’t want to see my pathetic self. I don’t want to realize how unfit I am as a woman for Kurono-kun.
And then in the direction that I desperately turn my gaze to, I see it.
The shadow from the window, cast on the floor. The shadow of a person.
「Who is it?!」(Nell)
Feelings of fear and anxiety rise within me in an instant as I turn towards the window. Someone is clinging to that window.
「Ah… Umm, good evening, Nell?」(Kurono)
「Eh… Kurono… kun?」(Nell)
Ah, I’m sure I am having a dream, seeing a hallucination.
The only thing I can see is the man who has continued to be on my mind for a long, long, long time. He is currently somehow standing on a window ledge on the third floor of the women’s dormitory while being struck by the heavy rain.
Kurono-kun has come to see me. There is no way that such a convenient event could be reality –
「… This is Kurono. I’m commencing infiltration into the management cadet women’s dormitory.」(Kurono)
I whisper these words unconsciously as I see the large, three-story building towering over me in the darkness of the night. I feel like I’m either a secret agent who has been entrusted with a special mission, or a panty thief with hidden sexual perversions.
A feeling of unpleasant nervousness wraps itself around my entire body. I don’t know whether it’s cold sweat or greasy sweat, but I feel some moisture on my body. There’s no doubt it’s because I’ve been caught by the heavy rain that started pouring down in the evening. Let’s blame it on that.
「I wonder if this is really alright… Will.」(Kurono)
I feel more than a little unease, but even so, this is not only the sole viable way of visiting Nell, but also the plan to revive her that Will has come up with with absolute confidence in himself.
In the afternoon, after finishing the shopping that I had done for certain reasons and some rather unsuccessful information-gathering at the headquarters of the Adventurers’ Guild in Spada, I sat alone on a bench in the academy and discreetly opened the envelope that Will had given me.
This is the basic summary of what was written on the paper inside:
「If you visit Nell, she will definitely become healthy again, so you should sneak into the women’s dormitory, Kurono! Check the other side for detailed instructions on getting inside!」
So that’s how it is. On the other side of the paper, there really were detailed instructions on how to get inside as well as a lot of other information such as the areas of surveillance and patrol routes on top of the times and frequency of female students entering and leaving. Will, how on earth did you find all of this out… No, I shouldn’t think too much about that right now.
「Alright, there’s no sign of any people. If I’m going, now’s the time, I suppose」(Kurono)
The steel fence stretching around the building in front of me is about three meters in height, I guess. This is the fence that encloses the women’s dormitory, and the place I’m at is a little towards the back of the building. If I climb over this and run across the back yard that’s been turned into something of a garden, I’ll reach the women’s dormitory made of beautiful, white-painted Spadan architecture.
The first barrier, the fence, is of a height I can get over with a vertical jump, but my jump and landing will make a loud noise. This naturally limits my available options to just one.
Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I used these without Hitsugi. As this thought runs through my mind, I climb up the tentacle that I’ve extended to the top of the fence and make a successful, silent landing on the other side.
With just a brief glance left and right, I start crossing the garden quickly. I pass between the neatly pruned shrubs and jump over the flower bed, making sure not to trample the flowers that are receiving the sky’s watery blessing.
I safely reach the dormitory’s white wall. According to the rough sketch of the women’s dormitory that was included in the envelope, this spot should be right below Nell’s room.
A considerable amount of time has passed since the sun set; people have likely finished eating their dinner. Nell’s curtains have remained open, despite all the others having been drawn. Not only are the curtains open, but the window is unlocked as well.
This trick is truly simple. Nell’s last visitor today was Will, so he apparently set things up this way.
Or rather, Seria had visited Nell, bearing gifts from Will.
It seems that it’s not easy for even the Second Prince of Spada to set foot in the women’s dormitory where the presence of men is forbidden. However, it is also true that Will is Nell’s childhood friend. Sending her get-well gifts is only natural.
Well, nobody would suspect that it was a trick to let a man get inside, but… No, really, if I get found out, I’ll probably actually be put on Avalon’s wanted list.
「I’ve come this far, I can’t turn back now… Sorry, Lily, Fiona.」(Kurono)
I feel bad for those two since they were worried about the risks of getting to close to members of a royal family, but as a friend, I can’t leave Nell like this. If someone tells me that she’ll feel better if I visit her, a little risk isn’t enough to make me hesitate – in fact, I’m doing it now.
Alright, here I go, Anchor Hands!
Firing myself up, I begin climbing up the wall’s surface along the tentacles I’ve extended to the roof. Mentally prepared to die, I climb the wall and pray that nobody sees me.
Lightning flashes with a loud sound in addition to the heavy rain; the weather couldn’t be worse. But it doesn’t cause me any trouble in climbing three floors. Even though my apprentice robe has absorbed plenty of rain and become heavy, it’s fine. Really, my only worry is that someone will see me…
With my heart pounding unpleasantly, I reach the window of what should be Nell’s room. Supporting my body with only my left hand that’s grasping the tentacle, I quietly take a look inside.
I see, this window does indeed have its curtains drawn back. The preparations were perfect.
However, perhaps Nell is asleep; the lights are off. Hmm, I can’t bring myself to wake her up if she’s asleep.
In that case, I have no choice but to resort to plan number two that Will gave me. In other words, I have to quietly place my get-well gifts and a letter of encouragement next to her pillow.
Alright, let’s go with that – but at that moment, I hear thunder. It’s quite close; the flash of lightning is quite bright.
And then our eyes meet.
In the single moment that the inside of the room is illuminated, I see the pale face of a girl with shadows beneath her eyes.
The princess who has just woken up, whose hair is standing boldly in multiple directions, opens her eyes wide in surprise as she looks at me.
I wonder what I’m supposed to say at a time like this. I wonder what kind of face I’m supposed to make.
「Ah… Umm, good evening, Nell?」(Kurono)
In the end, I reply with the safest choice of words, along with a half-hearted, forced smile.
「Eh… Kurono… kun?」(Nell)
Nell’s expression is one of true amazement, as if she can’t believe her eyes. I suppose if you think about it normally, anyone would feel nervous if a man appeared at their window in the middle of the night.
No, if you think about it normally, I have a feeling that what I’m doing right now is terrifyingly absurd.
Uwah, now that I’m consciously thinking about it, I’m feeling even more nervous. Could it be that Will has set me up…?
「A-ah, I came to visit you, but… It seems I’m causing trouble for you, so I should go –」(Kurono)
Despite coming all this way, I say some pathetic words in a weak voice in an attempt to leave, but Nell interrupts me with her own shouted words.
It is not only the volume of her voice, but her actions that surprise me.
There are three consecutive noises that make up her reaction.
The first is the sound of Nell’s wings spreading as she sits up in her bed.
The second is the sound of her blanket being flung to the corner of the room by her wings as they expand outwards.
And before I know it, Nell is standing right in front of me. What incredible speed of movement.
「Wait, please… I don’t care if this is a dream or a hallucination, so please don’t disappear from my sight…」(Nell)
Through the glass window, her gaze is directed towards me as if she is trying to cling on to me – or at least, I think it is.
The only thing I can see is my own face that has a bit of a stupid expression on it, because there’s another flash of lightning behind me. This weather phenomenon that happens right behind me turns the window’s glass into a mirror.
That’s why I can see my own face. I’m sure Nell is looking at her own face right now as well.
And a moment later, the glass turns transparent once more and I see the face of a princess just a few dozen centimeters away from me.
As I hear the rumbling sound of thunder immediately after the lightning, I notice that Nell’s face has changed completely.
I thought her face looked quite tragic, but now her face has turned considerably red from embarrassment. She’s opening and closing her mouth like a goldfish as if completely shocked – her reaction is like she’s just noticed a huge failure on her part.
「N-no! Actually, no! You can’t right now, no, don’t look at me, please don’t look at me when my face looks so terrible, hyih!」(Nell)
She places her right hand in front of my face, and in the next instant, the curtains are drawn shut by her left hand. And so, Nell rejects me.
Mission failed. This is Kurono. Mission failed, Colonel Will.
And then I speak my words of defeat.
「Sorry. I’ll go back after all.」(Kurono)
「Wait, Kurono-kun! Please, just wait a moment! Five minutes – no, one minute, no, thirty seconds, I beg you from the bottom of my heart, just wait a little!」(Nell)
Judging from the fact that the order of her requests is a little strange, it seems that Nell is a little panicked, but… Hmm, well, considering that she asked me to wait, I suppose my visit has been accepted.
「A-alright. You don’t really have to hurry that much, so you can calm down and prepare or whatever you need to do.」(Kurono)
「Wah, ah, ah – I need to wash my face – What should I do – Toilet – Where did I leave my comb – What should I do, there are only ten seconds left –」(Nell)
As I hear her voice intermittently through the closed window, I realize that she didn’t hear me at all. I wonder just why she’s in such a hurry.
But, well, Nell is a girl of that age, so I guess she needs to make certain preparations before letting someone into her room. I’m sure that her unkempt bed hair and defenseless négligée are things that she would be particularly unwilling to let someone of the opposite sex see. Girls are really conscious about their own appearance; guys can’t even compare. Not that guys disregard their own appearance entirely, though.
In any case, I decide to wait patiently until Nell invites me in. Holding onto my tentacle three floors up, looking like an exceptionally suspicious individual.
Nell, can you hurry and let me in… If someone sees me, I will most certainly die in a social sense…