Yay! Terms out so have a bit more free time to do some writing. As promised, a long time ago, I've finally got round to writing an AkoxNodoka, which is gonna be interesting as they're both uke characters and I'm attempting to write most/all of the story from a first person perspective...but I'm hopeful it will work out well :) (I think I'll be happy if it can live up to even half your expectations for this pair Sony ;)).
(By way of disclaimer I no more own Negima than my sister owns a wild rabid heffalump with shiny silver wings XD - Oh, also this story will stay as a T in line with my usual format (so as usual will have a separate M rated epilogue)).
A Gentle Warming
Summer vacation, a year after the Magic World Arc: Ako's POV:
'The ACL is one of four major ligaments along with posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) that are important in stabilising the knee. The ACL connects the distal femur to the proximal tibia…'
I'm losing my train of thought. This stuff won't make sense to most people but for me it's usually fascinating. I guess it's like playing an instrument, once you've learnt to crawl and walk the running at the end is so much more rewarding. Besides, to heal those who are hurt is a joy in itself…although a terrible burden on the odd occasion things go wrong…
Ahhh! Bright sun-beams burst behind, covering me.
How many days have I been coming here now?...Over two weeks and there's still another week until Makie returns, two before Yuna finishes her dig. But being here allows me to escape feeling too alone in the meanwhile. To escape that still small voice whispering that I'll never fall in love again. I am over last Summer though, really, bar the dull ache but I'm sure there are plenty of others who'll hurt just as much as I, over Negi alone. After all he can't end up marrying half the class, right?
Speaking of which here comes one who stands to be hurt more than most. Purple hair with a slim, daintily curving figure and so often staggering about with enormous piles of books, the quiet librarian Miyazaki-san.
I wonder what she's really like?
There she is…and with far too many books as usual.
She's crossing from the west to the east wing through the library entrance hall. Before she tried staking her claim to Negi I knew nothing about her. Not that I really know that much more now though, aside from the fact she's shown both courage and patience in dealing with her feelings for Negi.
If she wasn't so far off I'd offer to help. But the sunlight from the ringed arched windows behind has trapped me in with its warmth, like Garfield in Makie's comic books.
So sleepy! Think I'll just take a nap for a little while here...
"Are you alright Izumi-san?"
Ahhh…Speaking, noise, blurry image…Books, purple hair…Oh its her! But she's much closer now, just outside the circular alcove I'm sitting in. C'mon wake up and get a grip Ako!
"Yeah, I'm alright Miyazaki-san. I was just napping cos it was so warm."
She's carrying far too many books again. God knows how she manage it?
"How do you manage to carry so many books Miyazaki-san?" She tilts her head slightly and smiles shyly.
"I'm not really sure. I just got used to it. At first I'd carry about half this amount but I always kept wanting to add one more and one more after that to avoid the extra trip..."
I can't help but glance at her arms and legs to confirm they really are holding so many books. They're smooth and surprisingly powerful for a girl who spends her time in a library, although to be fair this isn't any old library.
"Ummm..." Still she could do with some help right? Even if she can manage alone. It's not like I'm really in the mood for studying anyway. I've reached my saturation point…for today at least.
"Would you like some help Miyazaki-san?"
Miyazaki's face looks conflicted. She's wavering. I guess Miyazaki-san also has a fair amount of pride. It's surprisingly cute...
"I mean I know you can manage by yourself but it will be a lot faster if there's two of us."
Brightening up she dumps the stack down on the table and takes the top half.
She really has a beautiful smile. I nod an acknowledgement. My legs push me up and propel me anti-clockwise round the circular wooden table filling the alcove. Reaching the books I pick up the remaining half, my fingers sliding under the cold, heavy paper creatures that seek to drag me down.
Even half the pile is quite heavy, nearly reaching my chin.
"I'm really impressed Miyazaki-san! You're able to carry so many books in one go!"
I can't see her face as she's already walking ahead but I sense she's smiling. There's a long silence as we pass through some of the larger parts of the library. Finally Miyazaki-san pushes past a large wood panelled door into a quiet rectangular room on the south side of the building overlooking the lake. She dumps her pile by one of the many towering bookcases near the middle of the room. I follow her lead and gratefully start dropping my pile to the ground.
"Stop Izumi!" I do, surprised. "You'll hurt your back if you lower them like that. You need to squat down like this."
Miyazaki-san promptly demonstrates by slowly squatting down with an imaginary pile of books. Her skirt sliding dangerously up her well rounded thighs. I'm starting to feel warm inside. How can Negi even consider others over her with her beautiful form, strength and kindness? Then again we really do have a very 'blessed' class and Asuna is a force to be reckoned with, but still…
Woah! Miyazaki's face is suddenly inches away from me.
"Are you alright Izumi-san?" she asks for the second time today. "You're looking flushed and spaced out..."
With her face so close I can't help but stare. Those beautiful purple eyes like lakes reflecting fields of primrose flowers, her cute button nose and her soft lips. My face is growing redder. Must drop books! I switch into override mode to escape and squat-drop the books down mumbling,
"Sure I'm fine Miyazaki-san. Just felt a little dizzy for a second." Breathe deeply. Air is always good, even mild and musty library air. Calming down. Another deep breath and I feel able to slowly rise. I smile at Miyazaki-san. "See I'm fine." Miyazaki-san smiles back with relief and happiness, which very nearly revives the flush in my face but I'm aware of the danger this time. Although it is a very pleasant sort of danger, and slightly alarming. Best not to think too deeply about it. "So what do we do next?"
I look about the room. Miyazaki-san seems positively joyous at my offer to help further. Does she ever meet anyone much here in the library? Presumably Yue from time to time but Yue herself seems to have been spending most of her time in recent months training at Eva's place. I wonder if she ever gets lonely down here? For that matter I really don't know that much about her. I should probably try and find out at least a little more as we work. Besides I have the feeling working with her could be a lot of fun and, given the library she works in, adventure filled. The next few weeks suddenly seem a lot less dreary...
...Gasp!...Gasp! So tired! I've been stacking and carrying books for hours. Well it feels like hours. I'm pretty sure the sunlight through the windows is a deeper golden now. Not that I mind. The hard work's a refreshing change, but even I'm starting to feel well exercised now.
How's Miyazaki-san? Well it's a relief to see she's only human too as sweat's formed on her brow. Yet still she keeps working diligently.
Ouch! Thump. Thud. Damn! Ow! My arm aches...Klutz! This is what comes of not paying attention! Must pick up books. I hope to God they're not damaged! What is Nodoka thinking? Is she amused? Despairing? No, she's on her knees before me helping to gather up the books...
"I'm sorry" I mutter ashamedly. She gives me a comforting smile. For the zillionth time today how did Negi not fall for her? It's a small comfort to know I never stood a chance with Negi.
"It happens," Miyazaki-san says simply. "Actually that's how we, I mean me and Negi first met."
Was there a note of regret there? For the first time today Miyazaki's eyes are glancing down and away and her left hand is shaking slightly as she picks up a book. Before I can think of something to say the moment passes.
"Anyway," she says, "it's late and you've worked really hard Izumi-san. We should go for a drink once we've done these books." A drink! Definitely!
"Yeah, sounds great!" It seems a fitting way to end the day and with all the work I still haven't had a chance to learn more about Miyazaki-san, and my curiosity has been piqued.
Perhaps here is a friendship waiting to take off, somehow I really want it to. If only such an illusion isn't shattered by finding out we have nothing in common at all, but at the very least Nodoka is smart, kind and brave. I can't help but already respect her and she has me beaten all ends up in the looks department! Well in this school nothing new there. Not that I'm a bad looker but...
I put the last book in place and Miyazaki-san spins in her red-rich school uniform and begins walking towards the exit. She feels its her duty as librarian to wear it, although not for going underground or casual visits apparently. Ah! She's still several steps ahead. Must speed up! I draw alongside her as we reach a descending curling staircase in the corner of the large room.
"We'll go to the lower cafeteria," she says. "It's quieter and prettier."
"Okay." We start descending through several mesmerising, large and varied halls. How fun it would be to explore such a large place. Maybe I should tomorrow instead of studying. I voice the idea out loud and Nodoka seems to slow for a second before picking up her pace.
"Well I'm planning to do a tour of some of the lower shelves tomorrow, Izumi-san, if you'd like to come with me. It'll mean an early start though…"
Eh? Really! I was going to study but…
"Yeah, sounds good! How early?" Miyazaki-san flashes a mischievous grin back at me.
"Lets say eight in the morning."
It could have been worse though. I thought she'd go for six or seven. Getting up early really isn't that much of a bother for me, given I have to on days that I'm on nursing duty and when I go for early morning runs with Makie. Aha we're here!
We've reached a small pavilion cut off from the main library by ferns and palm trees and looking out on a small lake that lies in the centre of this library floor. Polished wooden tables and black marble chairs line the tiled pavilion with vending machines to the right and left sides. Miyazaki-san indicates I should take a seat and steps quickly over to one on the left. The area's empty which is hardly unsurprising for an evening in summer vacation. I move over to a seat near the lake. Why waste such a good view after all.
"What do you want Izumi-san?"
"Blackcurrant juice, if there is some." A clink, whirr and thump confirm that there is and is followed by a second as Miyazaki-san chooses her own before stepping lightly over, skirt rippling in a breeze.
A breeze in a library! But then I suppose its no stranger than the lake really. Miyazaki-san plonks the purple carton down in front of me and starts unwrapping the straw on her own orange carton as she slips into the seat opposite.
Need to unwrap my straw, it's fiddly but…done! Push in and sip…Ahhh! Ooohhh! Mouth freeze! But so worth it! I put the juice down. What should I ask her? What do I say? Need to think of something, not too personal…
"Do you often work so hard here during the vacations Miyazaki-san?" Miyazaki-san finishes a sip of her juice, blinks and nods.
"Yep! There's always so much to do: Books coming in; books to be taken away; maintaining the different areas and dealing with requests…There will never really be enough people to ever keep this place properly maintained, but I do love it…" I nod and make a small questioning noise. "Well I mean hard work itself is always satisfying at the end of the day and from time to time I come across some really interesting books…and the library itself is so varied and exciting! I think sometimes my ancestors must have been explorers."
Miyazaki-san giggles, her eyes bright with excitement.
I'm really starting to envy her, but…I feel a frown crease my forehead. Everytime I've seen her she's been on her own.
"What's the matter Izumi-san?" she asks. Ah well, may as well ask…
"I was wondering if…Well, doesn't it get awfully lonely sometimes you know? After all I've only ever seen you doing everything by yourself in the last few weeks."
Damn! I knew this would happen. The light fades in Miyazaki's eyes and for a second I sense that those purple lakes are shimmering a little. She's still smiling but this time it feels strained.
"Ah, only a little sometimes. I mean it used to a lot until Yue and Haruna started helping me out. Then it felt a lot less empty exploring the library, not that I don't often find it fun on my own."
If that was an attempt to reassure me she's fine it didn't work. She referred to Yue and Haruna's help in exploring in the past tense and I'm pretty sure that at least Yue hasn't been coming by in a while. I don't want to press this too far but I want to be sure…
"Are Yue and Haruna away over the vacation then?"
Nodoka sputters slightly as she finishes another sip from her carton and for a brief moment glances away.
"N..no not exactly. They've just been very busy recently you know. Yue's having to study really hard to become an armoured magic knight when she leaves school and Haruna's rather obsessive about her creations. She's incredibly good now, which is kinda scary sometimes…"
Miyazaki-san gives a small shiver. Is it wrong that a part of my mind just wants to walk round the table and hug her? She's too cute, and too alone. Suddenly studying seems the least important project for the next few weeks.
"And what about you? What do you plan to do in the future Miyazaki-san?" Her eyes open a little wider and her mouth scrunches slightly as she thinks.
"I don't know…not exactly. I want to do something that involves travel and exploring though. I used to think merely becoming head of a library, well this library, would be enough but more recently I think a job where I could travel throughout this world and the magic one would be far more exciting. What about you Ako-san? What do you plan to do?"
Me? I feel rather outclassed by Nodoka's travel filled plans, but nonetheless I'm still proud of the route I'm taking.
"I'm going to study to be a doctor. Which means several years training here in Japan. After that though I don't know exactly where I'll practice…" Miyazaki's stare makes me feel like I should explain further. "I really do like helping people who are hurt, although I still really hate the sight of blood…"
Danger! My left hand almost involuntarily runs to stroke the scar on my back. After suffering on that day I wanted to help others so they could live and not suffer like me and if possible not even to have to bear such hideous scars, but its best not to dwell on such things. I tail off lamely...
"…anyway yeah, but I love the idea of travelling too. Perhaps I should go on to become a doctor in the magic world as well…"
When I paused I thought I saw a flicker of concern cross Miyazaki's eyes but I'm probably overanalysing. At any rate her soft smile and warm eyes are watching me as she finishes the last of her juice, the carton crumpling and a gurgling noise echoing from it.
"That's fantastic Izumi-san! I considered becoming a nurse but blood makes me feel rather dizzy so I didn't think I'd be any good, but maybe I should really try and find a way to combine travel and helping others…"
Her gaze becomes more thoughtful and serious. Then she laughs. "Well that can wait until later. I have some more stuff I need to sort through before I get dinner and turn in. I'm guessing you needs to head back too?
I glance at my watch. Sky blue hands on a white background etched with lilac flowers, a birthday present from my parents and one of my prize possessions. 7pm! It's a good half-hour walk back to my room and even on Mahou Campus, or perhaps especially on Mahou Campus, its best not to wander alone in the dark.
"Um, yeah. I guess I had better head back before it gets too dark."
I have enough time to get back before it gets dark. Shouldn't get dark till 8.30 at latest. Miyazaki-san nods and gets up.
"Then follow me. I can show you the way up and out."
I do and soon we emerge into the main hall lit by shades of dusky red and tinged with gold. Miyazaki-san spins round, her skirt twirling and skin glowing in the golden light. She looks…radiant. I gulp, my throat numb and mind dazed.
Silly! You don't want her thinking you're ill again!
"Thanks for today Ako-san. You were a great help and…"
Miyazaki-san suddenly seems a little less certain of herself as though she's wrestling with a decision inside. But in an instant the tensions released and her eyes hold mine.
"...I really enjoyed you being around."
My chest suddenly feels like its been gently roasted and my mind feels a little drunk. At least it feels similar to that time Makie and I tried some sake in her room. I manage somehow to force words up into my throat.
"Yeah, I had fun too Miyazaki-san." She puts a finger to her lips and then quickly adds,
"Would you mind calling me Nodoka? I know we haven't hung out much but..."
She wants me to refer to her as Nodoka! I have a hard time to stop my face twisting into an idiotic grin.
"Sure! As long as you call me Ako."
Maybe its egocentric of me to think she suddenly looks as happy as I've seen her all day at those words.
"Then meet here tomorrow? At eight?" She says and I find myself nodding eagerly.
"Then take care Ako," she says as she gives me a final smile and turns away.
"You too. Night Nodoka."
Stepping out of the library the fresh lake breeze wraps its cool mantle about me. But it makes no difference to the warmth and colour sparked inside my heart. Or the fact that right now the only thing I'm looking forward to is tomorrow morning.