Disclaimer: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, so please, no legal actions, because the mention of those words scares me to heck, and since I can't ask Nanoha and Fate to help me, so yeah...
Take A Shot
The night was young, and the atmosphere was calm and nice. The pub had a cozy, smooth feeling to it; the perfect set for a long-haired man who had just entered it. His eyes trailed down the multitudes of women who walked about; their slightly blurry figure amongst the dim, sensual lights increased their allure. He batted his eyelids to the eyes who caught his glimpse; mostly, an awed sigh escaped his targets' lips, a proof of his charm. The man took his coat off, giving it to the keeper lady. She did not take her eyes off the man that gave her the coat for a little too long; her hand became unsteady and the coat dropped from her hand.
The man smoothly weaved through several more women who caught him in their eyes; a rewarding blink swept them off their feet. He made his way to the bar; he didn't need to wait long before the waitress came up to him.
"A shot of scotch, please, baby." The man said smoothly. "The least you can do is call me Caldina, sweetheart." she replied, a slight laugh escaped her full, red lips.
It didn't take her long to compose what the man had ordered, and within seconds, the glass slid down the smooth table, ending at the waiting hand that belonged to the long-haired man. As he was about to sip the liquid, another man took a seat beside him.
"I'll take a hot milk, if you have one."
"Milk? We have that, but..."
"Nobody ever orders it, right?"
The voice sounded so familiar, so familiar in fact, that the long-haired man had to stop his intention to drink, put the glass down and turn his head to the person who sat beside him. The glass that slid on the table cruised to the person's waiting hand, and without a pause, the person sipped the simmering drink. His shoulder-length, blond hair obscured his somewhat sunken eyes, but that did not present any difficulty to the long-haired man to recognize him; despite the appearance, the person's voice was very distinct.
"Be careful, that thing's hot." the long-haired man said, clinking his ice-and-liquor filled glass. The person merely put the glass down slowly, rubbing his lips.
"A little bit too late there, Sherlock."
"Inspector, if you must, Mr. Archaeologist."
"So I'm the tomb raider?"
"Not sexy enough in my opinion."
The two men laughed and clinked their glasses together.
"It's been awhile, Inspector Verossa Acous." The blond-haired person spoke.
"Don't call me like what the head chiefs do, please; call me Rossa. Or would you like me to call you Professor Yuuno Scrya for the rest of the evening?" The long-haired man replied with an amiable smile.
"No thanks, point taken." Yuuno smiled too in return. The two men then clinked their glasses again and took a sip from their respective drinks.
There isn't anything more distinct than the smell of sweat, even during the dark hours of the night. Their bodies became a proof of that, as their hurried breaths filled the warm night air. The sweat that trailed down their bodies flowed down the curves of their cheek, their neck, their chests, and it disappeared along the way. The rush that filled their hearts had just subsided, but the memory of it won't be gone, not that they had done it many times before. An orange-haired girl spoke up, breaking the silence as two person came up to them.
"That...was exhilarating...right?" she said amongst her hurrying breaths.
"Yeah...hell yeah..." the blue-haired girl beside her piped up, also caught up between her breaths.
"Lemme tell this, all of ya; you guys stink, big time." the red-haired, petite girl that stood in front of them spoke, somewhat harshly. The four people that sat before her turned their heads up in apprehension and worry. Seeing their expression though made the red-haired girl respond quickly.
"I mean your sweat, guys, put some deodorant on before we start next time, kay?" she said as she clamped her fingers on her nose, amplifying her point. At this gesture however, the four people sighed in relief. A small, brown haired boy who sat with them asked, rather timidly.
"So...did we, uh... do good this time?"
"Depends on what you call good; the hothead with skates here nearly just got up close and personal with Graf Eisen, eh, Subaru?" the petite figure addressed said person, eyeing the addressed person sharply.
"But...Sub-Commander Vita...you're just too strong for me..." the blue-haired girl responded, still trying to catch her breath. The instructor was about to say something before a brown-haired, ponytailed woman beside her responded sweetly.
"You'll thank her later for making you a much better Mage, Subaru. Same goes for you, Teana, Caro, Erio." she said, her smile somewhat obscured by the dark night.
"Meh, these guys needs some more hardcore combat, Nanoha. They just need to learn about the harshness of real-life situations. Maybe I should just go full-force at any of ya to illustrate my point. I'm sure Graf Eisen won't mind that too." Vita smiled evilly, with a machinelike tone emanating from the Device that she wielded, confirming her words; the four trainees gulped down nervously in response.
"On another note, Teana's suppression fire and Erio's Blitzkrieg attack was well done; that was probably the only time I was nearly caught off-guard." Vita added, her hand clapping slightly. "And that dragon of yours, Caro, he was pesky as heck, but excellent at keeping my attention away from the attack elements." To which the dragonlike creature cooed happily, "You yourself wasn't bad, Caro; if it wasn't for your defensive support, Subaru would've been a ground beef by now." Vita added, somewhat offhandedly. "...which leaves you, moron." she finished, looking at the bandanna-wearing girl who smiled even more nervously than before.
"What she's telling you, Subaru, is that you should keep your cool. You have an explosive, close-range power, as I told you before, but your hotheadedness is making you susceptible to attacks." Nanoha summed the sentence up for Subaru, the addressed person nodding her head slowly. "Which is damn right; don't get thrown off the tempo. If I hadn't seen you coming, that would be a near-flawless attack. A screaming attack from afar might be visually impressive or whatever, but it's an utter tactical failure." Vita added.
"Now, now, Vita, enough with all that already, they've had quite a day now. I'm sure they'd need some rest. And also, if you keep on going, they might fall asleep instead of listening to you, you know." Nanoha smiled humorously, followed by a loud 'humph' from the small-framed instructor. The resulting slight laugh of the trainees was interrupted by a screen that suddenly appeared beside Nanoha. An image of a woman with glasses appeared on the screen; her worried expression was enough to warrant an instant attention from everyone who's present.
"Na-Nanoha-san, there's an urgent matter!"
"What's wrong, Shari? Is there any attacks or anything?" Nanoha responded quickly, fearing the worst.
"Um...it's not that...it's..." the woman gulped down before pressing a button. The screen switched and a loud, crying voice filled the air. The small, orange-haired girl's crying face can be clearly seen, along with a nervous and distressed large blue wolf; its expression can be easily read as if there was a large 'help me!' sign on it's face.
"I'm not sure what she wants, and Zafila couldn't say anything..." the woman's voice rang again.
"Vivio, oh my...I'll be right there!" Nanoha said as she shut of the monitor. "Vita, can you close up shop for me? Sorry for the trouble!" She shouted as she dashed towards the exit staircase from the training area.
"...I guess being a mother and an instructor at the same time is a really hard work..." The pink-haired mage said.
"You bet. And since you all know how dedicated she is towards all of you and with anything else she is taking care of," Vita said seriously "...you guys better not make her load of work harder. Any of you does anything like that and it's hammer time." she added as she swung her hammer and pointed it at the trainees with an expression much resembling that of a killer; again, all four faces showed a worried, nervous expression as they replied, "Yes, ma'am!"
"...you guys know I'm half-joking right? I'm more than happy to make your life hell in the way of training, but I won't use deadly force on any of you, even if you did what I just said; I'd just triple the hell for all of ya with a compound interest." She sighed, putting her hammer away, finally shrinking it, forming her necklace. "Now go, have some dinner, and rest up. We won't know what will happen tomorrow, or even several hours after this."
Vita walked away, leaving the trainees on the ground. Before long however, she stopped and returned. "Subaru, Teana, both of you'll be washing the dishes with me." Vita said shortly.
"Eeeh, why?" Subaru replied, not believing what she had heard.
"...because I said so. Now get your butts moving." Vita replied shortly, somewhat impatiently.
"So...what makes Mr. Workaholic himself to come here?" The long-haired man said.
"What makes Mr. Busy Playboy come to a pub?" Yuuno replied, half-ignoring the sentence.
"A lot of women here, and some booze, you get the drift." Rossa replied, whistling slightly as he stared at the curves of several women's hips that passed by him. At the same time, Yuuno took the chance to utter an order to the bartender.
"Another glass please, miss."
"You know, honey, you're the only one who ordered milk and being nice to me. Tell you what, your drinks are on me tonight." The bartender smiled sweetly.
"Eh, what about me?" Rossa pointed at himself.
"You need to pay your tabs, Mister Inspector." the bartender dismissed him coldly.
"Bbbrrr, cold as the mountains. Hit me again, babe." he called to the waitress, half-swinging his empty glass.
"Really? May I?" she responded, bringing up a particularly large bottle by the neck, holding it like a club.
"Er...I'd like to go clubbing, but not like that..."
"Call my name, and this glass's on me."
"Alright, Caldina, you win. Now can I have my scotch please?" Rossa sighed resignedly, holding his hands up.
"Comin' up!" she smiled. Her dark-skinned hands deftly filled the glass and slid it down the table. Rossa smiled somewhat seductively as his hand received the glass.
Yuuno half-chuckled at his friend's antics. Their friendship wasn't that long, but they bonded quite nicely with each other. It was as if a coincidence too that Rossa went to investigate matters in the Infinity Library, and Yuuno had happened to be there to help him. It was a beginning of a relationship. And now, they're here, just like a coincidence.
"I wonder if today is a coincidence, Yuuno." Rossa absently said as he sipped his liquor.
"I read that there are no coincidences, only fated events." Yuuno replied, consuming his drink.
"Well, the way I know it, once is an accident, twice is a coincidence, thrice is an enemy action." Rossa answered matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, you're an Inspector after all. That doesn't explain why you're here though. Undercover investigation?"
"Ever heard the expression 'Men can't live on bread alone'? I can't live on work and food alone. There has to be some women as the jewels in my life. Ain't that right, babe?" he said offhandedly, lightly slapping the bartender's bum. Said bartender didn't take it lightly as she gave a glaring look, "Next time you ask for another shot, I'll give you a real shot through the head, playboy." she threatened. Yuuno could only laugh his head out as he witnessed the exchange.
"Hey, don't worry Yuuno, she likes it rou-ouch, hey, stop!"
"You already got some nice women around ya, Mr. Playboy, so why not lay off me for a while?" Caldina said in a mock anger, pinching Rossa's ear.
"She's my adopted sister, y'know, and that's...ow..."
"What about the other one, the one with a cross hairpin?" Caldina replied, not letting go.
"Well, she's...ouch...my ultimate target, yeow. Hey, come on, lemme go, willya?" Rossa said desperately, mockingly tapping the table as if in a wrestling match.
"The hunter became the hunted, I see." Yuuno commented humorously. At Rossa's plea, the woman dropped her assault and continued on her duty nearby.
"Well Yuuno, that's what you get when you're a ladies' man." Rossa said proudly, slightly throwing his hair to the side, his bangs and his hair straightening up. Several small girlish squeals can be heard behind him.
"Yeah, well, good for you." Yuuno said offhandedly, clinking his glass. Rossa took notice of the imminent, yet subtle change in tone. He sipped his liquor and said promptly, "Ah, having women problems, are we? That's why you look like a complete mess. I should've known better."
"Mess, me?" Yuuno raised one of his eyebrow.
"Well, look at what you wear, I swear I could almost arrest you for such a 'fashion crime'. And that hair of yours is kinda...too revolutionary for the Yuuno I knew. And your eyes look like someone who's on crack and did three consecutive days of being cooped in, uh...well, you get my point." the detective analyzed humorously, yet precisely
Rossa was right, Yuuno was wearing a simple shirt underneath his hooded jacket, a jeans trouser and a pair of sneakers completed the attire. However, none of them looked in a good condition; the shirt and the jacket was disheveled, one of his sneakers' looks worn out, his hair is somewhat tousled, and his sunken eyes no longer radiate brilliance and optimism as it once had. Those eyes only shone an eerie focus.
"We don't need one more mad scientist Yuuno, and believe me, you're above being that. So what's the deal?" Rossa asked curiously as he sipped his drink again.
"Nothing. I was just working." Yuuno replied shortly as he sipped his milk.
"Yeah right. Look, if you got some problem, you need to tell me what's going on first." the long-haired inspector urged his friend. Deep down however, he didn't expect him to tell him anything.
"It's nothing, really. Don't worry about it." Yuuno smiled at his friend. To Rossa, though, it looked more like an exhausted, forced grin.
"And that smile of yours...man, Takamachi won't be happy when she sees you like this." Rossa exclaimed as he looked at his bitter smile. The name hit the mark as Yuuno stopped mid-motion, and put his glass down to the table slowly, very slowly. Rossa's eyes picked the movement carefully, just like what he always do when he observed people.
"So it's about her, huh?" he concluded.
"You don't know about it yet."
"So it's simple then; tell me. Everyone will know it eventually, so why not spare me the trouble of talking to a hundred different people and tell me directly, for friendship's sake?"
"It's a long story."
"Go ahead, I'm a good listener."
Yuuno heaved a sigh; he knew it won't be an easy topic for him.
"Sorry Zafila, I'm la-"
Her words are caught short by the little girl's squeal as she latched to Nanoha's legs like opposites sides of a magnet. The large blue wolf can only shook his furry head as Vivio hugged Nanoha tightly.
"I am NOT going to my puppy mode again even if she begs. I will not tarnish my reputation as—"
"Sorry Zafila, I'm really sorry..." Nanoha replied mentally, apologetically.
"Well, as long as you know that fact..."
Vivio wasn't crying anymore when she saw Nanoha, in fact, she was happier than when Nanoha had left her. Now she was literally squealing with joy as her beloved mama has returned.
"I guess she just wanted her mother, Zafila. You can go now. Sorry for the trouble."
Said wolf only nodded its head and scurried away as fast as it could from the room. The beast however, turned its head and looked toward the instructor and nodded his head somewhat apologetically. Nanoha nodded back before she turned; she knelt and patted her beloved child as she asked her, "I'm back Vivio, how was your day?"
"It was good, but...Mr. Wolfie won't change to Mr. Puppy again..." Vivio replied slowly. "Now now, Vivio, what did Fate-mama tell you? Being selfish is not good."
"But I'm bored..." as she let go of Nanoha. "Why are you always so busy, Nanoha-mama?"
Nanoha didn't really know how to answer this one; Bureau matters would be too complicated for Vivio's simple, innocent mind. The TSAB Ground Forces Court-Martial had nearly jeopardized the entire team, especially when the probe explored Fate's and Hayate's dark past. If it weren't for the public announcement of support from the Three Admirals and support from the 108th Battalion, they might have been disbanded; and rumor has it that an appeal and another trial has been scheduled. Aside from that, the Relic Case is still pending; Scaglietti is still at large, and his Numbers unit is-
The innocent word snapped Nanoha back to reality. But getting back to reality is a simple thing; a thing that she discovered when she had to fumble for a reason on not being able to be with Vivio during the day. She knew that using lies is a bad way of raising a child, and she's not about to start, but she needed an explanation, a good one.
"Nanoha-mama...is busy raising other kids. One day they're going to be knights in shining armors and it's mama's job to make that come true." Nanoha made it up. Of course, it isn't that much of a lie; she was just using metaphors, but that didn't help in making her feel a little guilty.
"Then...what about Fate-mama? Is she busy too?" Vivio asked further, hiding her face somewhat beneath Nanoha's skirt. Nanoha could only nod her head slowly and acknowledge the fact by saying a very slight 'yes' at her words.
"Papa...where is he...?"
Nanoha knew this was coming. Any question about her and Fate's whereabouts can still easily be answered, but this is a very difficult question; Nanoha could never forget that day where he said goodbye with such a face that Nanoha feared that it might be the last time she will see him. The 'he' in question was none other than the blond-haired librarian that she liked, and who used to like her too in return.
Yes, 'used to'.
That phrase caused a deep gash in her heart, thinking that for a reason that she knew not, he had left her. Those eyes that she saw were full of lost hope and resignation. Gone were the optimistic, hopeful glow that used to shine in his eyes. And then, he left, swallowed by the multitudes of people moving about, seemingly disappearing from the stage of the world. Work and conflicts have never given her a moment's chance to even contact him anymore.
"Papa...will come here...right?" Vivio half-sobbed to Nanoha's shirt. The brown-haired instructor could only embrace her child's small frame.
"He will, Vivio, someday." Nanoha said, a single, tearless sob mixed with her breath.
The kitchen area was deserted; only a few who worked inside was still on. Amongst them were three figures; a blue-haired girl who wore a bandanna, a twin-pigtailed girl, and a small, red-haired girl on a set of small stairs, all facing the wash basin. Around them were piles upon piles of empty dishes. One half are dirty and full of grease, the other half sparkling clean. In-between, the wash basin formed a small bubble bath, dishes coming in and out.
"Well...that was a nice dinner, ahahaha..." Subaru laughed rather nervously.
"Stop laughing like an idiot and do your dishes." Teana replied flatly.
Every now and then, Subaru would try to break up the awkward feeling of silence, only for Teana to reply flatly, causing Subaru to lose her initiative. However, despite what the two had done, Vita had remained silent, seemingly very focused on her share of dishes.
"Erm...Sub-Commander Vita...why are we doing the dishes again...?" Subaru nervously asked. Of course, that question warranted a 'shut up' glare from Teana. This time however, the petite-framed instructor only stopped doing her dishes and froze for a couple of seconds.
"Say, you guys..."
"Have any of you noticed something strange lately with Nanoha?"
"Strange?" Teana couldn't resist to respond at this seemingly odd question.
"As in, anything out of the ordinary, slowpoke." Vita replied, with a slight rise in her octave, which just as usual, enough to make two of her disciples slightly flinch in horror.
"Eerm...let me see...she hasn't had any mock combat with us for some time...but...what else?" Subaru tried to came up with anything that crosses her mind as 'unusual', but she was usually too busy with her training to notice.
"She's more absent-minded than usual. She advices less and less, and it's usually in general. Moreover, in the last mock combat, she was easily distracted too...and not to mention her personal life..."
"Yep, that's about it. But I know for a fact that she is quite some multi-tasker, and just by having that child around would not make her that distressed, now would it? We're all busy with all the recent trial and whatnot, but still..." Vita concluded, her hands scrubbing the dirty dishes once again. "Problem is, she never really told me much about her life, even if I try to ask her..."
"Yeah. Still though, whatever is bothering her mind, if it's that personal, then we have no right to interfere, much less to help." Subaru added, a concerned tone evident in her voice.
"...you guys go rest up. I'll finish the job here by myself." Vita suddenly declared. Subaru and Teana could only look at each other as the sudden order left them somewhat dumbfounded; so what was the reason for calling them here?
"I'd say I refuse, Sub-Commander Vita." Teana said promptly as she continued washing the dishes in front of her. "Me too." Subaru added. Just about when Vita is about to open her mouth, Teana interrupted her, "You called us to do the dishes, and now you're cutting us off for no reason? Honestly, if you want to talk to us about Nanoha-san, you could've called us and talk like she does to us. Now we can't just let you do the work all by yourself; you being our instructor and all."
"...I sure do hope your speech disregarded the difference in our ranks, Private Teana Lanster. But whatever." Vita concluded, continuing to wash the utensils. "I'm so going to enjoy kicking both of your butts at the next morning's mock battle; what with both of you having a lack of energy and tired from all the washing." she smiled evilly again.
"Call it, 'solidarity', ma'am." Subaru added, smiling.
"Heh, nuggets talking big..." Vita smiled as the washing sounds continued.
"Wait, wait, wait, lemme get this straight," Rossa said as his hand nearly missed his third shot, "You broke up with her because..."
"Yeah..." Yuuno smiled sadly. His finger shook the glass on his hand, the liquid inside it dancing around the walls innocently, forcedly. He took a peek as Rossa clinked his glass again; the ice seemed to glide around, colliding with the walls of the glass as the liquid carrying it splashed.
"You know, I kinda remembered this story that I heard once. See, a wood could only stood for so long amidst a large current; it will either float with it, or break to pieces." Rossa half-whispered, deep in his thoughts.
"What about a stone? A stone should be strong enough to hold its own." Yuuno replied, his eyes still on his glass.
"True, a stone would not be broken. But it will be eroded, and then reduced, merely a fragment from what it was before." Rossa replied again.
"What I'm telling you is not to get bogged down, Yuuno. You need to move on. If you think you had done the best for her, then the best you can do is to let time be the judge." The long-haired man smiled kindly, lightly patting Yuuno's back. "Though...it's hard to let go of something you had held so dear, I guess."
Yuuno said nothing as he gulped down the remains of his drink. He remained silent, deeply absorbed in his thoughts, seemingly endlessly barraging his mind with incessant chains of questions. His mind wandered away once again, amidst the blur of the soft music and the people in motion around him. The wings of his mind took him back to the time seemingly like eternity to him.
"But...the reason I—"
"...might not have anything to do with me, I know. But you see..."
"When you're in trouble, I want to be your strength, just like you were to me." Yuuno whispered softly.
"Hm, did you say something?" Rossa turned his head.
"Nothing." Yuuno smiled pleasantly, the memory still fresh in his mind as he transitioned back to reality.
"Well, suit yourself." Rossa sat down, his back facing the bar, looking at the crowds of people moving, sitting, drinking. He absently reached for his glass and emptied it in one gulp. He returned the glass to the table, his eyes observing the people in front of his eyes, all of whom paid no attention to the observer.
"You know, you haven't answered me yet. Why are you here?" Rossa said as he kept looking to the crowd, seemingly not noticing his friend beside him.
"I need something to do in my break time, that's all." Yuuno said shortly, somewhat heavily.
With his words, both men seemed to drown in their thoughts again. It's as if their throats are now dry, their drinks empty; no more words are exchange, no more gestures observed, both drowned in their thoughts. For one fraction of a moment, the two seemed like a stranger to each other.
That is what Yuuno thought anyway, until the silence was broken.
"I guess, whatever's the reason you came here, it wasn't for some rest and relaxation, seeing that you're so busy with your thoughts. So I guess it would be best to bid you adieu for now, Yuuno." Rossa said calmly. He turned around, wearing his smile.
"Ah, not really, I was just—"
"Don't worry Yuuno, if you have lots to think about, I won't really bother you about it." so he said as he calmly left his seat. He threw his hair around again elegantly. Rossa then walked away from the bar. Suddenly, he stopped and he returned, lightly tapping Yuuno's shoulder. As The librarian turned, Rossa looked straight to his eyes.
"Whatever it is you're thinking, or holding in your heart, whatever your problem is, you'd better solve it. Otherwise..." Rossa turned away and said as he looked back to his friend "...in no time, that glass won't be filled with milk anymore, but with the strongest liquor. And you'll be just like the stone, reduced away mercilessly."
Rossa than calmly walked away, smiling to women that he met along his way to the exit. Yuuno's eyes observed his movement as he made his way out.
"Oh dear, he left, didn't he?" the bartender's eyes looked for signs of the long-haired men before she settled to Yuuno.
"He didn't pay his tabs again..." she sighed resignedly. "And no, dear, you don't have to pay his tabs, I'll just have to wrap him up in a duct tape when he comes back here. Man, this ain't cool." she petulantly said as Yuuno was about to take his wallet.
"Erm...what about my drinks?"
"Oh, I told you it's on my treat. It's cheap anyway and it's not like you drank a whole tankful." she humorously said, wiping one of the glasses with a towel. Her dark-skinned complexion made for a stark contrast with the bar background as she deftly moved around, serving other patrons or cleaning glasses. Yuuno had paid little attention however, as his mind wandered as if a cageless bird.
It was a simple question, really. Why did he come here in the first place?
"...I guess I better get going. Thanks for the treat, Miss Caldina." Yuuno said slowly, politely.
"Oh, anytime dear. Come here often!" The bartender said as she served another customer.
With those words, Yuuno stood from his seat and walked away from the scene. As he made his way to the exit, his ears was deafened as the pub was filled with an applause. He turned around as a soft music filled the room. A small stage was there, previously obscured by the multitudes of people. A singer was there, standing behind the microphone, opening her mouth as she took a deep breath. Within moments, a melodious voice filled the atmosphere.
"How can you say goodbye, my love, when we haven't even said 'hello'?"
The singer's distinct voice reached the blonde-haired man's ears as the song continued. He stood on his place, as the notes and the voice's timbre made its way smoothly, entrancing his senses. But more than ever, is not how the singer sang, it's what she sang. It resounds greatly within him; it was too much for a coincidence.
"How can you go on living in the past?"
It was too true for the Archaeologist. To him, the world of the past had fascinated him since childhood, and it continues even now. And probably for this very reason that he is still tied to it.
"Dance with me again, and walk this way..."
Yuuno turned his back to the singer and walked away. The tones continued to please his ears as he made his way to the exit. The last that he could hear are the mellowing, jazzy feel of the saxophone as he closed the door. His breath turns to fog in the chilly midnight air as he wrapped his hood over his head. The stars seemed to have tired, for none of them shone that night.
"I guess, even Spica is mad at me."
The three figures walked along the relatively cozy corridors. The difference that set the three was readily apparent; the smallest figure walked confidently, full of energy, while the two larger figures weren't in the same shape; their bodies hunched, and their steps dragged.
"Geez you two, we aren't even washing for the entire battalion yet." the small-framed girl smirked.
"We-we...give up..." Subaru replied weakly.
"Heh, poor lose-what's that?" Vita suddenly froze in her tracks.
Sure enough, a strange sound emanated from a half-opened door that all three recognized as the officer's quarters. It sounded as if steps were coming and drips of liquid. Several other sounds made the small instructor's behavior very odd; it was definitely something that the trainees never seen before.
"Oh, oh no...not again..." Vita gulped nervously, stalking silently towards the door. The exhausted trainees could only watch curiously as she edged closer to the door. With one swift movement and a large gulp, the small girl opened the door.
A loud scream filled the air as the door was thrown open. For a split second, Teana couldn't see anything before her. That is until...
"Honestly, you could knock before you open the door Vita." a deep, feminine voice rang. Teana knew who it was, but she couldn't see; something white blocked her eyes.
"Oh no...why, Signum, for crying out loud, why?!" Vita's high-pitched voice bellowed.
"It was the movie I waited for so long, and midnight's the best time to watch it." the deep voice sounded again in reply. It wasn't until Teana broke free of whatever's blocking her view that she could comprehend what happened:
Subaru was practically holding on to her with all her might while Vita was sprawled on the floor, looking terrified. From the opened door, Teana could see a terrifying image, a sort of a contorted face of a woman, with a small icon on the top right of the image. It didn't take long for Teana to figure out what it was.
It was a "Pause" icon.
A pink-haired figure stepped out of the dimly-lit room. The woman addressed the trainees, "You girls better go sleep and prepare for tomorrow."
"Uh...First Lieutenant Signum..."
"I know, this is a hobby of mine, right Vita?"
"Shut up! How am I supposed to rest when you're watching that?!" Vita retorted hotly, still on the floor.
"You can always close your bedroom door."
"It's not enough to—oh jeez..." Vita sighed resignedly. She quickly stared at the trainees, silently threatening them not to say anything.
"Forgive your instructor, trainees, she's a little—"
"Uh...I think we need to really rest, right Subaru?" Teana nervously said as a certain stare persuaded her. She didn't really wait for an answer as her partner is still latching onto her as strongly as she could. So before long, Teana dragged her partner away from the scene, her strength miraculously revived.
"Well, I'll be watching it. Little kids should sleep." Signum said lightly as she turned inside the room and sat on the chair opposite the large TV.
"Grrr...this really sucks..." Vita sighed.
The dimly-lit room was deserted, save for a few figures that was there. A soft voice filled the air as a petite, reclining child drifts off to the dream world.
"...finally, the Prince and the Princess lived happily ever after." the soft voice ended.
Vivio's steady, small breaths are the only noise that's left as Nanoha closed the story book that she had just read. The brown-haired girl, already on her nightgown, put the book away and rose to her feet. The dim moonlight that shone illuminated her curves somewhat, but she need not worry, for nobody is there to see her; much against the wish of a small part of her heart. Nanoha watched over the window as the lights emanating from the nearby city illuminated the skyline. As she stared down the street, she knew that this was not her hometown, for this city never sleeps.
The door suddenly opened, and a much familiar, yellow-haired woman came in. Nanoha didn't need to see her; she knew who went in.
"I'm home, Nanoha. Sorry, I'm late."
"Welcome back, Fate-chan." Nanoha smiled warmly through the dark room.
The blonde-haired woman soundlessly made her way to the changing room, emerging with her nightgown before long. She hadn't paid much attention, but just before she reached her bed, she noticed something.
"Nanoha, why are you staring out like that?"
"Ah, it's nothing, I'm coming."
As she made her way to the bed, she glanced again at the storybook. The last sentence resounded greatly within her. She wrapped the warm sheet around her body, but her mind wouldn't allow her body to rest. When she finally closed her eyes, only one thought remained in her mind.
"There's always the prince, and the princess...and they'll live happily ever after..."
As she closed her eyes, she never realized that a pair of eyes watched her closely, tenderly, concernedly
The dark room smelled somewhat faintly of old garments discarded about, which is just about as accurate as it can be. As the sole occupant entered the room, he took no trouble in turning the lights on; he was too familiar with his own home. That assumption was his literal downfall as something tripped his feet, causing him to tumble down and crash onto a chair.
"...I really do have to clean up..." a rueful voice sounded shortly afterwards.
The figure simply stood up, and reached to the nearest switch. With a click, the room was illuminated.
The small, cozy flat seemed to spring to life as the soft yellow light cleared away the darkness. The compact, somewhat disorganized flat was strewn about with old clothes, though the pantry is largely clean. The occupant stood just in front of the pantry, behind him a small TV, and a small, comfortable chair that he landed on. As the man's feet began to move, they traversed the clothes-filled floor; the carpet flooring protected his feet from the cold tiles underneath it. He made his way to the bathroom, just behind the large bed that occupied the portion of the room.
His slender hands removed the hood covering the head, previously shielding it from the bitter cold air outside. It slowly took the entire garment off, his shirt following suit just afterwards, his bare chest reflected in the mirror. The short blond hair was somewhat disheveled, no longer long and brilliant as it was before, yet it gave a particular shine to it, a reflection of the warm light that illuminated the small bathroom. The person looked at his own reflection in the mirror, and said to himself.
"Yuuno Scrya...you really have changed..."
His thin hands turned on the faucet, the cold water rinsing his hands, which in turn washes his face and his hair. Not troubling himself to use a towel, he emerged from the bathroom somewhat drenched as he made his way to his bed.
Yuuno turned the lights off before he finally crawled on top of his bed. He edged to the small table beside it, observing a small device on top of it. With a press of a button, a machinelike voice rang.
You have three messages
With another press, the message played back.
A somewhat deep, young male's voice rang out.
"Hey, Yuuno, it's me, Chrono. Was just saying thanks for the rush report today, you did a great job. I tried to call you today, but you—"
Yuuno pressed a button, skipping the message; he was too familiar with these.
A different male voice rang out.
"Hey, it's me. I was just wondering about you. Seems it takes a long time from the bar to your home, eh?"
The familiar voice rang out as Yuuno somewhat smiled at the voice.
"Was just saying, y'know...about last time. What I wanted to say is this, no matter how deep or how complicated a thing is, you can always take your shot at the chance to remedy the problem. Who knows, what you think is a rock solid problem can actually be solved in the simplest of ways. You just need to think about it."
Yuuno slightly smiled to his friend's advice; it's quite something to see him so insightful.
"And oh, sorry for running away, but I can't really get caught with my bills there, so yeah. Sorry for all that Yuuno. Have a good sleep."
"Yuuno-kun...are you there?"
The feminine voice was much, much more familiar than the others; much more than Yuuno was willing to admit.
"Sorry I haven't had any time to call you lately, I was busy as usual, and a lot of things came up, so..."
The sweet voice filled the room, reaching Yuuno's ears. For him though, it was a special torture, a bitter joy that both pleased him and tormented him. With each words, his stomach churned, a sinking feeling set deep inside.
"...see, our unit's Court Martial was successful, we're safe for now, and the training and investigation has resumed. The trainees are doing good and..."
The voice seemed to trail away, an uneasy breath filled the room; yet it didn't belong to the room's occupant.
"...and well...Vivio's missing you a lot. She keeps asking where you've been. Perhaps if you're not busy, maybe you can take her somewhere again? Sorry if it's too much for you Yuuno-kun. And as for me..."
The voice trailed away again.
"...me...well...ahahahah, I'm okay, I guess. I'm...pretty much healthy, no problems. Fate-chan too. So well...I hope you're alright too, don't hang out on these chilly air, it's not good for your health, Yuuno-kun. And...I guess I'll wish you luck on everything, okay? Have a nice rest tonight, Yuuno."
End of messages
For a whole minute, there was no motion, not even a single dust moved, save for the breaths that disturbed the air. Slowly, one hand reached for the machine. With several clicks, the machine whirred for a second, until an affirmative sound emanated.
The blond-haired man then lied down bare-chested on his back, his eyes looking straight to the ceiling. After a few moments, he closed his eyes, shutting the world from his mind for the night. As he did so, he whispered softly.
"Fortune, good-night: smile once more; turn thy wheel."
Okay, second fic, as promised. Guess I'll do the final part once I'm in Qatar.
Again, the title is a pun, albeit an easy one. There are some references in the story, both being the last sentences of a 'section'.
The lyrics used are from "Don't Be Afraid", sung by Elisa Fiorillo, composed by Muranaka Rika, all rights reserved. Originally sung in the PS2 game Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the slow, jazzy music was...much too perfect for this fic, a shame not to include it.
The name Caldina is from CLAMP's work, no stealing there. And yes, the idea about Signum and horror movies is taken directly from Chaos2Frozen's fic "Arfira" (read it, it's great), thanks for the permission.
So well, the last part of the trilogy is coming soon. Please, please give me incentive to write by reviewing, because this one took much, much longer time than anticipated.
Until next time.