This is the final Chapter of this story (but I'll try to have an M rated epilogue set one year on before the New Year).
At any rate I hope everyone reading has a great Christmas and Happy New Year :D
Nothing Can Tear Us Apart
9.12 am Monday, Library Island: Nodoka's POV:
I feel sick. Perhaps not surprising given I spent last night in a state of nervous agony with no sleep. I've been waiting here since 7 O'clock sipping coffee and I spent a good few hours dressing and making myself up before then. Outside the dreary weather is built upon a series of layered clouds emptying soft grey drizzle upon the land.
Ako's late, for the first time since we started meeting. Well I'm hoping she's late, but...I'll wait till quarter, no twenty past. Somehow though the fact she wasn't here by 9 O'clock doesn't give me much hope. To try and fail is better than not to try at all but it doesn't feel like it at all at the minute. I nervously twirl my hair round my finger, a bad habit from when I was younger.
Damn tears! Must dry eyes just in case, but still no sign. I'll have to abandon the trip and do something else for today then.
9.15 am. Something far away from everyone else.
Baka! To be so blunt and forthright, it seemed like such a good idea at the time. God this place is so lonely without anyone, without her. I bite my lip. Ugh! I can't stand this!
9.17. She's not coming. I'll take a last look out of the window and if I don't see her then I think it's safe to assume she isn't.
My footsteps sound so loud in the empty hall. Deep breath and look, but amongst the fragile curtain of rain there is no sign of her. Of the one my heart is aching over and spilling fragile tears. Not a trace or a phone call. What she and her friends, if she tells them, will think of me...must think of me! It's almost enough to encave me here in this library forever. I need to go to that corner and just spend a while shedding these turbulent emotions in private where no one else can hear. Ah, the tears are starting already...
9.38 am outside the Library: Ako's POV:
Ow! Fudge! This is so retarded!
Not only is my left ankle somewhat painful but in the fall my umbrella was swept up and off by the gusty wind. All of this because I was running to make it for 9 and was so lost in a maze of happy joy that I was obliviously blind to my surroundings. Baka! I'm usually so much more sensible.
Even worse in my rush I left my mobile at home. Sigh. I better have used my bad kama up early today so that the whole accepting Nodoka's offer part works out well, but will she still be waiting? My ankle's slowed me down considerably. So very painful to walk on... I wouldn't have continued if it the meeting was any less important.
Ah! Up the final bloody step! Damn steps! Then through the doors into the main hall.
No-one. No-one at all. I'll try looking for a message. The desk seems a good place to start. Ah, my insides are cold just thinking of Nodoka waiting here for me, of where she is now and how she might be feeling. Papers, so many papers. Aha! A note.
'To Mia, have gone exploring in level 3 near room 106. Should be back by 7pm to help clear up.' Level 3? I pull out my own map. Thankfully my camouflage-coloured rucksack is reasonably waterproof and the map is only a little damp from the rain.
Hmm, level 3, right. Room 106, it's not too far. Well still a reasonable way and with my foot... To hell with my foot! I can do this! I can't bear the thought of Nodoka thinking I've rejected her...Ous! I'll leave a note in case I miss her and she returns though. Hmm...
'Sorry I missed you, lotta things happened :( - have gone after you but in case you miss me I'll be at room 106 or back here for 7pm. Love Ako xxx'
Should I write love? It's a bit of a spoiler but at least she'll have a taster of the good news if we do miss each other. Damn! I'm wasting time here and I have plenty of ground to catch up. I must cut a pathetic sight dragging my left leg across the main hall towards the far door. Never mind. This is a trial of love and I won't back down!
11.42 am: Nodoka's POV
Finally the tears have dried and my heart is duly exhausted. The rain has become a torrential downpour encasing the library in a veil of tears so much greater than my own. There's a certain listlessness about me as I enter the main hall. Very few people today, so very few, yet still my traitorous heart finds in itself enough hope to glance about the room for her. As if…but someone is signalling me. I smile half-heartedly at our timid, brown haired librarian Mia who gives me a shy wave and a surprised grin.
"Miyazaki-san! I thought you'd gone down to room 106."
Ouch! Nothing like being slammed in the chest whilst you're down. I forgot I'd left that message.
"Ah, yeah, change of plan. I didn't feel like going in the end." For some reason Mia's face flexes to a concerned frown.
"But it seems your friend's already gone down looking for you."
What! Eh? No, it can't be...I practically snatch the paper from Mia's hand as she holds it out to me. Beneath my neat handwriting is Ako's more untidy scrawl. I scan it with growing joy…
'...love Ako xxx.' Does that mean? I'm such an idiot! I've wasted away the morning in misery whilst Ako's been looking for me. Maybe though that ending was her way of letting me down gently. A sort of tragic kindness. Well I just need to go find her before anything happens to her.
Oh! She's entered the library during a torrential rainstorm, not to mention traps and creatures. What on earth was she thinking?!? Phone her, that's best. My pride can stand that now she's come.
...Damn! No pickup. I guess that's part of the 'lotta things' that went wrong, whatever they were. Hmmm. Try and stay calm Nodoka. Best to look her up in the book. I know I promised myself not to but there was an exception for emergencies. I just need to see where she is.
"Thanks Mia-san. I'll take it from here and ensure she's okay."
Mia nods and I grab my rucksack from behind the desk and stride across the hall, plunging between some of the huge shelves off to the side. Halfway down the West Wing of the Hall I dive into an empty alcove where the rain thrums with alarming power against the ground and roof. I slam open the book and whisper with a mixture of urgency and reverence.
The image forms all too slowly like a child working an etch a sketch and when it finally completes my eyes almost refuse to believe it as text starts flowing beneath.
Ako's being swept by a torrent! Then she must have wandered into one of the passages carrying water into the bowels of the library to replace water lost. But she can swim better than that right?!? My eyes drag themselves to the text. It feels awful reading it without her knowing but I'm desperate.
'Ow! Ugh this is bad. Damn left foot! Damn water tunnel! Asked for it, mustn't give up…mustn't, Oof! Cough!'
I need a location Ako! Give me a location! Before I die from watching this!
'I must tell her. I mustn't die before she knows! Ledge! Large room, slippy, must get higher...'
Yes! Hang on Ako! Hang on! Don't let go! Ah! I think I know where you are. That room's not far off from 106.
'And claw up...too tired...will have to hope this'll do. Nodoka...I...'
I shut the book. If I hear it Ako then I'll hear it from your lips and your lips alone. That's the only way I can and want to know and I don't have time to watch on now. Hold on Ako and I'll get you...
...Stairs, musty rooms and traps have each been cleared in record time. Speed is of the essence and I'm a strong swimmer so I decide to try and swim the current myself. Cold water carries me in torrents and the world blurs but I know enough to retain a rough sense of where I am.
Cold, chill and pain but I won't rest till Ako's safe! Close now! So close! And there! I emerge from the water and force myself diagonally across the current to grab the edge of the ledge running alongside the fast flowing stream. She's there! She's alive! I hope. My dress is a wreck like her own clothes. Neither of us are wearing our shoes as we both had the sense to kick them off. I roll her body over and check her breathing. It's faint but there, phew!
Even with her hair soaked, makeup ruined and clothes a wreck she's beautiful though. Now to get her somewhere warm, fast! Our destinations only fifteen minutes away. We'll try and make it there. There's first aid for a start. Oof! I'm carrying Ako! Actually she's not any heavier than the books and much softer. Well every cloud has a silver lining. God, I'm so glad she's alive.
1.34 pm: Ako's POV:
Hazy memories: Of coldness, water and weariness; of briefly waking to feel myself swaying in another's grasp; hearing the rumble of a doorway opening; the soft crunch of snow; a chill and then a contrasting warmth and softness. Am slowly waking in the warmth. Nodoka! I must tell her! I'd better still be alive. Maybe when the cold has been fully banished by the warmth I reach heaven? Please no! Not yet!
Open eyes...Ah blurry but so nice. I'm pretty sure I'm wrapped in soft, fluffy cotton sheets. Low wooden beams crisscross the ceiling overhead. I doubt they'd have something so practical in heaven, or comfortable in hell. I breathe a sigh of relief. But then where on earth am I?
I slowly roll my head left. The bed I'm in is up against a wall with a small, square, quartered window directly opposite my face. The windowpane's frosted but just about visible beyond is a snow filled street intersected by a bookcase and lit by a Victorian lamppost. It should really surprise me but I'm slowly learning that when it comes to Library Island there are no surprises.
Hmmm. Ah! It seems I'm naked. Well I guess my clothes were soaking. But then who!!! That's right someone must have rescued me. Could it have been!!! Then she saw me completely...Wait…
If I listen hard enough I can hear something bubbling and a faint humming. I roll over to my right and take in the rest of the room. It's not a large room, just a small bedroom tucked away into a front corner of the building. There's probably a metre beyond the end of the bed to the far wall and half that between the bed and the wall I'm now facing. All the walls and floor are made of polished wood. A small chest of draws by the bedside carries a light, tamed beneath a cream lampshade, which adds to the flickering glow of the fire crackling in the hearth at the foot of the bed. A smooth wooden stool stands next to the bed alongside the chest of draws. It's a room so cosy that just looking round makes me want to cuddle back up beneath the blankets and fall asleep.
It's her! I know those steps from anywhere! Help! What do I do? What do I say? I could pretend to sleep but I have to see her. Then she's there; framed in the doorway by the warm light from the fire and wrapped in a towel held in place with a climbing rope tied around her waist. It looks a little comical but I barely notice the oddity.
"Nodoka!" Is all I can gasp.
"Ako!" She exclaims and relief and joy is written all over her face as she rushes over and embraces me with a hug.
"God I'm so glad you were all right! You scared the life out of me Ako!"
I can only make a slightly guilty 'un' in reply. I don't deserve this much bliss from my own carelessness. Nodoka releases me all too soon and a little hastily as she drops down on to the stool. I need to tell her soon...
"I've made some soup which I'll get in a second, but are you okay? Is there anything you need?"
Umm, need? Well aside from my foot. Oh yeah my foot...Ah! Still a bit painful.
"Is something wrong?"
"Ah, well only my left foot and feeling tired. That's kinda why I was late this morning. I was an idiot and left my phone behind and then tripped on the way and sorta sprained it a bit..." I trail off feeling increasingly ashamed. Nodoka's eyebrows have moved from concerned to incredulous as she moves to the foot of the bed and peels back the sheets so that my feet are showing.
"Ako...You mean to say you went down into the Library On...Your...Own and with an Injured...Left...Foot!!!"
I nod weakly as Nodoka presses various points on my left foot until I gasp in pain. She seems about to say something further then checks herself.
"I'll go get bandages and the soup," she mutters in a dangerous tone that implies the inquisition is far from over.
Ah well. More importantly how should I tell her? Some sort of grand speech? How? It's not like I can get down on one knee whilst totally naked or anything. Think Ako! Or am I over thinking?And given the look Nodoka gave me I'm not in the clear yet. Ah, here she comes...
Nodoka enters with a bowl of soup and places it by the bedside and then pops out again, returning a few minutes later with a bowel of hot water and first aid kit, not looking at me once. Then she places my foot in the hot water to let it soak before looking directly into my inquiring eyes.
"Well? What on earth were you thinking Ako? What possessed you, with an injured foot, to limp down into Library Island and worry me sick?"
It's really not fair! Of all the things I've done today the motive behind that one was the one I was proudest of and yet it was the one that caused her the most hurt. A tear stings my eye. I've hurt her and caused her to worry so much more in the end.
"I'm sorry Nodoka. When I arrived late and thought you'd gone on ahead I was distraught. I thought you might have started thinking the worst and couldn't bear the thought of you suffering any more. Even for a bit more than was necessary...and..."
I'm gonna say it! I'm so red but I pray you'll see I mean it Nodoka. I'm becoming tense and rigid.
"I was also being selfish Nodoka because I couldn't wait to tell you that..."
It feels like the world has stopped and Nodoka's hands about my foot have frozen, her eyes fixated on mine. In them I see hope and the tiniest trace of anxiety which I seek to quickly crush.
"...I'm in love with you Nodoka! Totally and utterly lovestruck, which is why I went charging off so recklessly. But I'm sorry I did because of the hurt it's caused you." I close my eyes to try and find what I want to say. "I'm so confused. The one thing I did out of love turned out to be the thing that hurt and nearly destroyed it."
There's a rustle and a shifting on the bed and when I open my eyes it's to find Nodoka's face close to my own and her body straddling mine, be it with the covers between us. The depth of love in her eyes is overwhelming.
"Ako, I'm so happy you took such risks to try and lessen my hurt." Her arms wrap round my back and her touch is warm. "And you needn't take such risks to prove your love to me again or worry that I'll think less of you for not trying. I love you and I'm happiest when you're safe and sound and close." Nodoka's face is suddenly much, much closer. "Besides I thought it very romantic..."
Soft lips brush mine and the sheets fall from my upper body but I barely register the fact. Warm moist contact with her and her body so close. She's so beautiful, so Mmmm! Ah, goosebumps. Must ensure the bowl of water doesn't overturn, but God this is thrilling! Mmmah, hah! I'm falling backwards with Nodoka on top of me, her head by my right ear. How pleasant…
"How did you manage to find me?" I muster in a whisper.
"Ahhh, I'm sorry Ako." Nodoka tenses a little. "I used my magic book."
Is that all? But oh! So she could see what I was thinking...
"I promised myself I wouldn't use it except in an emergency and I shut it before I found out what you wanted to tell me. I wanted to hear the news from your own lips after all. I promise though that I won't read your thoughts unless I think you're in danger."
Nodoka's whisper is urgent and hurried. The concern in her voice and the worry over losing me is in its own way nourishment for me to know she cares and it gives me equal pleasure to reassure her.
"Or unless I allow you to, though to be honest I wouldn't mind Nodoka learning and hearing my thoughts. Although I guess some wouldn't be so pleasant. But I'm glad I was able to tell you myself."
My hand runs through her soft hair and Nodoka's head nuzzles against my neck planting the occasional kiss. We lie there for what feels like days rather than half an hour, occasionally shooting off questions but for the most part content to lie and rest. It's only when the water about my foot has turned lukewarm that I whisper,
"Might be an idea to take care of my left foot. It's starting to get kinda cold."
Nodoka gives a murmur of acceptance and starts to rise before blushing and head diving into the pillow next to me.
"Is something wrong?"
"Ako, you may want to, umm, adjust the sheets before I come up or else I might die from loss of blood."
Oh! Shoot! Now I'm blushing. A nosebleed though, seriously! Flattery like that will get one anywhere…
"Didn't you run the risk of death putting me to bed?" I ask lightly as I adjust the sheets and allowing Nodoka up.
"Ah, no. Well I was very careful not to look but you could say I was putting my life on the line and came perilously close to death on a few occasions," Nodoka replies. Her face once again approaches mine and gives me a tantalisingly short feather like kiss before slipping down to the end of the bed and drying my foot on the fluffy white towel wrapped about her. Then she opens up the first aid kit she brought and takes out a roll of white bandage.
"Right then Dr Ako. What should I do?"
Several hours later the pair of us are snuggled up on a soft red sofa in the main living room waiting for our clothes to dry. My foot's bandaged up wonderfully and both of us are wearing large fluffy white towels wrapped about us whilst we wait for our normal clothes to dry. It turns out that this place is a room just off room 106, a seasonal town amongst the bookshelves. Apparently its seasons always occur quite randomly. Apparently there's a cafe, tailors, sweet shop and library (!) always fully stocked here. Truly the Mahou Library is a magical place! All the same I can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else right now than snuggled against Nodoka with a log fire burning gently in the hearth. We watched TV for a while (this place is really well supplied) but with nothing good on we've spent the last hour or so simply talking.
"What are we gonna do about getting back?" I ask aware its half eight already. Nodoka, whose legs lay across mine and whose head is tucked up against my neck murmurs,
"We may as well stay here tonight and head back tomorrow. It's cold outside." I'm not sure if she means the room outside or outside the library but either way I agree.
"What about the note we left Mia arranging to meet at 7?"
"Oh, I forgot about that..." Nodoka bites her lip. "I'll just have to apologise tomorrow for making her worry."
"Won't she look for us?" I ask.
"Hmmm," Nodoka muses as she wriggles round to straddle me again, her hand brushing then cupping my left cheek. "It's okay, only Yue and Haruna know of this place." Only Haruna?
"Only Haruna?" I query, "that's like the whole school knowing." Nodoka giggles.
"Well yes but is that really so bad? They'll all have to know sooner or later." For a second she looks worried that the idea might freak me out but this was a factor I'd already considered and accepted.
"Sooner or later," I murmur in agreement and move my face to meet hers. Every feature of her face is so delicate and beautiful. Every time we meet is heavenly and fills my body with such energy! Was that a bang and footsteps...?
"Nodoka! Thank..." We pull apart and freeze. Yue's standing in the entrance to the room with a glazed look on her face. Slowly this melts and then she heats up faster than a forest fire until I wonder how steam isn't coming out of her ears. More steps follow and Haruna enters the room and takes one look before collapsing in a pool of blood.
Oh boy! Guess that's sooner then. But even as the inevitable rush of panic starts sweeping my system I feel Nodoka's hand squeeze mine and see her encouraging smile. I squeeze and smile back feeling my fear drain away, replaced by bubbling laughter as Yue stares pointedly at the floor to her right and starts stumbling out an apology. After all, whatever happens now, nothing can ever tear us apart.
khanto: Thanks! Yeah my experiments with differing texts hasn't gone so well. I think you're right, simple quotations in the end are better.
xxWfCPxx: Yep :D I felt that 'joy' moment too - hope this was an enjoyable last Chapter :)
Sony Ninja: Now that was a list of crazy pairings! I love it :) - In terms of being able to write those though:
YuexMakie: I like this one best, can definitely see it having potential, and could tie it in with AkoxNodoka. Hmmm. If I do write one of these pairings this would be top.
SakurakoxKu Fei: Quite like this one aside from not knowing much about them. It might be more suited to a one-shot.
HarunaxAsakura: Again I could see this one working, actually if I was to pair Haruna with someone Asakura wouldn't be a bad bet at all...Possible, only I'm not Haruna's greatest fan so probably wouldn't be a first choice.
NatsumixChisame: Tricky. Can see the appeal but would need some work to try and bend them to each other. Also their characters don't really inspire me much atm but I guess if I was to start they'd grown on me...
ChahamaruxSayo: Love this one! I can so see it with Sayo and Chachamaru being given new improved flexible bodies...ahhah...totally odd but I think I'd rank it alongside YuexMakie.
ChaoxKonoka: Very bizarre! But it's gonna take a lot to convince me to write another KonoxAnyone other than Setsu fic and the whole time travel thing would complicate it (Time travel in films/manga etc. generally irritates me to a greater or lesser degree as its almost always badly explained).
Also thanks for the suggestions and your support this year Sony XD And as ever it's great to see someone else being creative with the Negima pairings :D