This is a Sora No Woto fan fiction. I do not own any of these characters. The pairing is Noël/Aisha with hints of Rio/Filicia in the background. If you haven't watched the thirteen episode, please do so. It's available at .com.
Disclaimer: This story does not use honorifics. I apologize for this. While writing the story I heard the honorifics in my head, but I didn't want to chance screwing them up. Just pretend Kanata says "Rio-sempai" and others call her "Kana-chan" and so forth.
Synopsis: It has been almost two years since the war ended and Noël is waiting for a letter from Aisha, who has been her faithful correspondent. Not long after the mail arrives, she gets another present from Rome.
My thanks to Rosa for editing this story.
Noël allowed herself a tiny sigh as she watched the rain fall outside of the window. Shuko, their northern white-faced owl, hooted beside her as he perched in the windowsill. She replied as if he had asked a question, "Two months."
Two months had been how long since she received a letter from Aisha, the Roman soldier who had come into her life so quickly and had left just as fast. The war had ended a year and a half ago and Aisha and Noël exchanged letters faithfully since they parted.
Noël knew that the mail system wasn't the most reliable. Aisha's letter could have gotten lost, and the young genius had taken that into account. Noël had written Aisha a letter after the first month of receiving no news because she didn't want the Roman soldier to think that she had been the one to stop writing. Still, no letters had come since.
The seventeen-year-old white-haired genius just couldn't keep Aisha out of her thoughts. Everything reminded her of the Roman: from the sounds of Kanata's trumpet to certain shades of the blue sky that matched Aisha's eyes.
"Noël," Kanata greeted as she walked into the kitchen, "What are you doing?"
"Thinking," Noël replied in her normal fashion of short answers. While far more social than she was before Kanata arrived, she still kept her sentences as short as possible.
"Ah," The brown-haired girl said as she inspected her friend. She decided her friend needed a hug. She came up behind the white-haired girl to wrap her arms around Noël's body and rested her chin on the girl's shoulder. Noël was stiff as a board at first but after a moment in Kanata's warm embrace, she relaxed just a little.
The two friends remained in the embrace, watching the rain fall down. Kanata closed her eyes so she could concentrate on listening. Her extraordinary ears picked up the sound of the rain hitting various types of surfaces, their two hearts beating, and a faint rumble. She knew that rumbling sound.
"It's Claus's bike."
Kanata released her friend and smiled, "Maybe he has some mail. Shall we go…"
As soon as she heard the word 'mail', Noël was running out of the kitchen. Kanata cried out as she started running after her, "Ah! Noël! Wait for me!"
Kureha, who had been cleaning a window down the hall, jumped as the two girls rushed by her.
"Mail's here!" Kanata shouted over her shoulder. Kureha quickly dropped her cleaning rag and ran after them. Maybe the letter she had been waiting for had arrived. Plus, it was never a hardship to see Claus.
Somehow, the three managed to get their raincoats on before rushing down the fortress's stairs to the bridge that separated the fortress and the main road. Filicia and Rio, who had been working in the distillery when they heard the other three running by, soon followed them.
Filicia smiled at them as she started adjusting their rain coats.
Rio scowled them, "You should always and properly put on your raincoats. If you get soaked in weather like this, you'll catch cold."
"Yes, ma'am," The trio replied.
Claus's bike soon came down the road and parked at the other end of the bridge. The tall man was covered in a large raincoat and thick goggles. He picked up an oiled canvas bag and tossed it over his shoulder. He walked to join them on the other side of the bridge.
"Wont you come in, Claus?" Filicia asked with a bright smile.
He nodded. The group walked back up the stairs. Noël and Kureha couldn't keep their eyes off his bag.
They took off their coats and rain boots at the entrance way. Filicia led them towards the kitchen, where Kanata started making a pot of tea. Claus sighed as he sat down in a chair.
"Came through a thunderstorm a few miles back. Thought I was in for it," Claus reported.
"You're so brave and dedicated," Kureha pledged, "To come here in such weather."
Claus smiled at the girl, who blushed. The sixteen year old still wasn't over her crush on the much older man.
Realizing all the younger girls' eyes were on him, Claus sent a questioning look to Rio and Filicia.
"They're waiting to see if they have mail," Filicia answered.
"Ah. Well, they do," Claus said. He dug into his bag just as Kanata came over with the tea.
"Here's one for you, Filicia, from headquarters," Claus said, handing the blonde a thick letter.
"Rio, something from both capitals. I'll need your signature for both," He handed Rio a letter and a medium-sized package.
"Kanata, a letter from your family it seems. Kureha and Noël each have a letter too from..."
Kureha and Noël snatched their letters away before Claus could finish. Kanata politely took hers from the stunned man.
"It's a letter from the Medical University of Helvetia," Kureha exclaimed, "On whether or not I've been accepted."
Noël felt her heart start pounding as she recognized Aisha's handwriting. She wanted nothing more than to flee and read it.
As if reading Noël's mind, Filicia stood and placed a hand on Noël's shoulder. She said, "Let's see Kureha's news first before anything else."
Noël wanted to defy the older woman's suggestion, which was really an order, but she also knew this was an important moment for her friend. This letter would tell Kureha if she had been accepted into medical school, where she could follow her dream of becoming a doctor.
Kureha's hands shook as she opened the envelope. She stopped as she drew the letter out and asked, terrified "What if I wasn't accepted?"
"We'll deal with that after you read your letter," Rio said, placing a comforting hand on Kureha's shoulders, "No use in making plans before you see what's on that paper."
Kureha nodded. She opened the letter and started reading. Her face, which had gone pale with fear, was flooded with color.
"I'm accepted!" She cried, "They accepted me! I can start in the Spring!"
The group cheered and laughed as they congratulated the girl. She was on her way to completing her dream.
Sensing Noël was running out of patience, Filicia said, "Noël, you may…"
She was interrupted by a honking sound. Kanata rushed to the window, "A jeep just pulled up. I was so excited I didn't hear them."
"Who could it be?" Filicia wondered out loud.
"It's Maria," Kanata happily exclaimed, "I just saw her face."
"Maria?" Rio repeated, "I wonder why she's here."
"She has someone with her. Let's go see who it is," Kanata said before racing out of the room. She enjoyed chatting with the glassmaker. She didn't get to see Maria often since she was always at her father's factory, so Kanata was thrilled with the time she did get to spend with the sandy-haired eighteen-year old.
Noël wanted to groan. She wanted nothing more than to read Aisha's letter, but Filicia was already steering her out of the room to go greet Maria. She did perk up when the thought crossed her mind that Maria may be delivering the glass fuses she requested from Mr. Carl.
Kanata was already greeting Maria at the entrance way, taking her raincoat.
"I can't stay long," Maria said greeting them all with her easy smile, "I came with the fuses you ordered. Boss told me to wait until the storm was over, but when a traveler stopped into the factory for directions to here, I decided to bring them both."
"That was very nice of you," Rio said, taking the box from Maria, "Stay a moment and we'll repay your kindness."
The fuses were for the airplane that she and Noël were rebuilding. It had taken some time but they were almost finished with the engine.
"May I take your coat?" Kanata asked the hooded visitor. The stranger took off their cloak and everyone gasped except Noël. Noël's violet eyes widened as she was stunned speechless.
"Hello," Aisha greeted. Her accent was thick, but she spoke Helvetian clearly. Noël had told them that Aisha had been learning their language from her grandmother and translators as much as she could.
Aisha looked at each of them in turn, but saved Noël for last. As bright aqua eyes met dark violet, a smile came across Aisha's face.
"Hello, Noël," Aisha softly greeted.
Noël didn't remember moving but she must have since she now had a surprised Aisha wrapped in a giant hug. Overcoming her surprise, Aisha wrapped her arms around the shorter woman and held on tight.
After a moment, Noël jumped back, "Your wounds…"
Aisha chuckled, "They've been healed for some time now. I mean they ache when it rains like this, but they're healed."
"Ah," Noël said.
Since Noël seemed content with just staring at the dark-skinned Roman, Filicia took over. "Aisha, it's good to see you. You didn't tell us you were coming. We would have a proper welcome ready."
"What?" Aisha asked, looking confused, "Did you not receive my letter? I sent it two months ago saying I was coming."
Noël raised up the letter she still held in her hand and everybody looked at it. Maria laughed, putting a hand behind her head, "Well I guess that shows how slow the mail can be."
"So what brings you here, Aisha?" Kureha asked, "Just visiting?"
A confused look crossed Aisha's face. She turned to Noël, "You didn't tell them?"
Now it was Noël's turn to be confused. Tell them what? Her brilliant mind raced for an answer, but came up with nothing.
"Oh," Aisha suddenly said, as if the answer dawned on her, "You wanted to wait until I arrived before telling them. To see if I really meant to keep my promise."
Aisha took Noël's hands in hers, "Well I'm here now and I meant what I asked you. We can tell them now, together."
Noël flushed as Aisha took her hands. She had held Aisha's hand as she recovered the first night they brought the wounded Aisha to the fortress. She had held Aisha's hand as Aisha told her that she forgave Noël for the acts she had done in the war, and she had held Aisha's hand before seeing the Roman off to the Roman medics when they said goodbye and promised to write each other.
Aisha turned to the group of waiting individuals and said, her voice clear and proud, "Noël and I are to be married."
"What?" Everyone gasped together, even Noël.
"Married? You never told us you were going to get married," Kureha said, gripping the stunned Noël by her shoulders.
She was bumped out of the way by Kanata, who wrapped Noël in a huge hug, "Congratulations, Noël. Your dream is coming true too."
"A moment, please," Filicia said causing all the commotion to stop.
"Noël, you seem unaware that you were engaged to Aisha," The blonde said, adjusting her glasses.
Noël could only manage, "Uh…"
Aisha's brows came together in a frown, "But…I asked you. In my last letter, at the bottom, I asked if I could have your hand in marriage. You replied yes. See, I have them right here."
Aisha let go of Noël's hands and turned to open her pack. She pulled out a large bundle of carefully kept letters. She sorted through them until she reached the one she wanted.
She opened the note and held it out to Noël.
"See," she said, "The first line you wrote that I could have your hand in marriage."
Noël's vision focused on the sentence as she felt the others crowd around her.
Kanata remarked, "It's in Roman."
Noël pointed her finger at one word. She softly asked, "Heiraten? That means marriage?"
Aisha nodded. Noël felt her entire face flush with embarrassment and shame. She wanted nothing more than to run away in shame.
"Noël?" Filicia asked, "Did you know what you were writing?"
"I…I thought it meant…I translated wrong," Noël admitted with a blush, "I thought the word meant something else."
"Oh," Aisha said, looking crushed. She tried to laugh, "Well, I guess I should have known better. You're far too incredible to marry someone like me, a retired Roman soldier."
"Retired?" Kanata asked.
Filicia said, interrupting her, "Let's not stand here. The tea is probably cold so we should make a fresh pot."
"I should be going," Claus said, "I have other things to deliver and the rain looks like it's stopping."
Aisha glanced out the nearest window. Indeed the rain seemed to be slowing but her mood had darkened. All the way from Rome there had been this light burning in her heart and now it had been doused.
"Maria?" Rio asked, "Didn't you say you had to leave soon?"
Maria laughed, "The old man can wait a little while. I mean if you want me to go, I'll go. I just thought I'd stick around to see if I can be of any help. Perhaps take Aisha in since her plans aren't turning out the way she thought they would."
Aisha felt a rush of gratitude towards the glassmaker. She was sure Noël was disgusted by her now. The white-haired girl had a look of anger on her face.
"Aisha is still more than welcome to stay here," Filicia said, "We should straighten this out. Kanata, Noël, could you please go make up a guest room. We shall go make a fresh pot of tea."
Kanata took her friend by the hand and started leading her away. Noël meekly followed. Once in the hall that housed their rooms, Kanata picked one of the empty ones with a bed. As she went about tidying up the room, she said, "If you don't want Aisha here, just say the word. I'm sure Maria can take her in at the factory."
"Hurt," Noël muttered.
"Hmm?" Kanata asked.
"I hurt her. I never wanted to hurt her," Noël said, tears forming in her eyes, "I didn't mean to. She will no longer want to be my friend."
"Oh, Noël," Kanata said. She came over and wrapped her friend in a large hug, "She'll get over it. You're an amazing person, Noël. She'll still want to be your friend if you ask."
Kanata smiled as she nodded, "I'm sure of it. Now help me make the bed."
As she made the bed, Kanata had to wonder.
"Noël?" She said, "You said your dream was to be a lovely bride. I always assumed …I mean… I thought you wanted to marry Aisha. You always seemed to glow when you got her letters and you smile whenever you talk about her. I thought she was the reason for your dream."
Noël flushed a deep red but didn't say anything. Kanata came over to finish tucking in the sheets on Noël's side as she waited.
"I'm…I'm too damaged. I've done so many horrible things," Noël said as tears started to fall from her eyes, "I'll never be a lovely bride. No one will want me if they knew everything."
"Hey now," Kanata said, her voice firm, "Don't toss away your dream like that. You have a person in the kitchen who just traveled hundreds of miles to marry you. Aisha knows more about your past than I do, which is fine. I don't need to know unless you want to tell me. But she knows about the things you've done and she forgave you. Don't you remember?"
Noël didn't think she'd ever forget that moment. It felt like a weight had been lifted from her heart. Someone from the other side of the war had forgiven her for recreating bio-weapons that massacred thousands of their people. Aisha had seen her past firsthand and she had still forgiven Noël.
Kanata took out her handkerchief to wipe the tears from Noël's face. She smiled, "Now let's go see what they're doing in the kitchen."
Noël nodded and let Kanata take her hand again. She followed as they came into the kitchen, where everyone had a steaming cup of tea in front of them. The moment they walked into the room, Rio gently nudged Aisha, who sat beside her. Aisha quickly rose to her feet. She rose so fast that she knocked her chair off its feet, but she didn't move to pick it up. There was a heavy blush across her cheeks.
Noël wanted to chuckle over the last time she saw Aisha blush so hard but then started to blush herself as she fully remembered the situation. She had grabbed Aisha's breast to stop the Roman from trying to attack her. Aisha had screamed and jumped back. The Roman had quickly retreated back onto the bed, where she covered herself up.
The young genius wasn't ashamed of what she had done. The scared soldier was going to stab her if she hadn't done something. Noël had thought about the situation often, but now when she did, she couldn't help but remember how nice Aisha's breasts were. Even Captain Filicia had said so when she was interrogating Aisha.
Noël had never been concerned about sexual matters. Before the war ended, she ignored them. She knew all about sex from books, but had never given the subject much attention after that. She would blush when people said dirty things, but never thought about actually being with someone. She had never even thought of kissing someone in a passionate manner. That all changed with one dream.
One day, a few months after the war ended and Rio had returned, Noël had been dozing in the sun. She slept with one of Aisha's letters clutched to her heart. In the letter, Aisha had said she didn't know what to do with her life now that the war had ended. The Roman, who had been drafted when she was ten, had always thought she would die in battle so she never gave any thought to the future. At the end of the letter Aisha finally wrote that she now dreamed of someone to marry and settle down with.
As Noël dozed, she dreamed a vivid dream. She wore a wedding dress and Rio was walking her down the aisle towards Kanata and Kureha in bridesmaid's dresses and a nicely dressed groom whose face was fuzzy. Yumina pronounced them married and said they could kiss. Noël was able to get a good look at her groom's face and it was Aisha.
Aisha kissed her and the scene changed. They were living in the fortress, though in a hall further away from the others. Noël worked on machines everyday and came home to Aisha at the end of every day. They were happy. The dream changed again and it was nighttime. Noël waited in bed. She knew she was naked under the sheet and she was trembling, but not from fear. Aisha came into the room. She smiled at the white-haired girl as she took off her shirt, revealing the large, full breasts.
Aisha crawled into bed with Noël, kissing the woman. Her hands eased down the sheets while Noël's tugged at the Roman's pants, urging her lover to take them off. Noël gasped as Aisha lowered her head and took one of her nipples into her mouth.
Noël awoke with a gasp as flashes of her white skin rocked urgently against Aisha's brown skin. She couldn't believe what she had dreamed. Her breathing was heavy, her heart raced, and there was an unfamiliar feeling between her legs. Noël wanted for the first time in her life.
The sound of Aisha clearing her throat caused Noël's mind to stop drifting. The Roman said, "Noël Kannagi, I would like the honor of courting you, if you would allow me."
"Courting?" Noël and Kanata asked.
Aisha nodded firmly, determination writing across her face, "We may not be engaged but that doesn't change the way I feel for you. Rio mentioned it is customary for people to court each other before asking to marry. Since you didn't know of my intentions with the letters, that doesn't count as courting. So…may I court you, Noël?"
Noël was stunned speechless again for what seemed like the millionth time today. She normally didn't talk much, but her mind was always running. She was always able to speak when she wanted to, but it was disconcerting to be unable to speak now.
Kanata nudged Noël, which prompted her to nod, blushing fiercely. The young genius wondered if it was harmful to blush so much and made a mental note to research it later.
Relief flooded into Aisha's face. There was still hope.
Everyone beamed at each other as Noël and Kanata took a seat.
Maria grinned, "Aisha's going to come work at the factory."
"Are you sure Mr. Carl will allow it?" Kureha asked. Maria laughed as she flapped her hand dismissively, "I know just how to make him say yes. As long as she works hard, she'll be fine. She wont be learning glassmaking for some time. She'll be fetching things and cleaning up. We can give her room and board. I mean she could stay here but it's a long drive to the factory back and forth on the days she would work."
"She'll stay here," Noël said firmly, surprising everyone, "I'll drive her."
"We only have the one jeep," Rio pointed out.
"I'll build a new one," Noël said, her face determined.
Kureha said, fighting hard not to smile since she knew Rio was teasing Noël, "We also don't have much gas."
"I'll build an engine that will get more miles per amount of fuel than a normal jeep," Noël said, her face scrunching as it always did when she had her stubborn mind set on something.
Aisha quickly added, "And I'll help pay for the fuel with what I make at the glass factory. I wish to stay here…if that's alright."
Noël and Aisha shared a quick glance at each other before blushing.
Filicia smiled as she adjusted her glasses, "Of course it's fine if you stay here. We'll work something out. Now, Maria, are you staying for dinner?"
Maria shook her head, "I should probably go before Boss gets worried about why I've been gone so long."
"I'll see you out," Kanata said, rising quickly from her chair.
Maria smiled at the brown-haired girl and followed her out. Rio and Filicia shared a look at each other before shaking their heads. Rio didn't know if she could handle Noël's new relationship and she was certain she couldn't handle Kanata getting into a relationship at the moment.
Noël let out a long sigh just to watch the air from her lungs condense into little white droplets that she saw as a white mist due to the cold winter air. The clocks told her it was well after midnight and everyone else in the fortress was asleep.
Noël shook her head as she turned to go back inside the warehouse, her work area. The entire town had shown up to help rebuild the one they had blown up to go stop the war. It was even better than the one before with large cargo doors and proper work benches. On one side of the room was the frame of an ancient aircraft. They had finally placed the engine in the frame and were working on fixing the rest of the body. The motor still didn't work, but Noël wasn't giving up.
She didn't turn her attention to the airplane as she walked back in. Instead she headed to her latest project, a motorcycle like Claus's. It was for Aisha so she could come and go to the glass factory and town as she liked. Rio had found the broken machine from somewhere and Noël was repairing it. Unlike the airplane, motorcycles weren't that complicated.
Noël meant to grab a wrench and work on the bike some more, but her thoughts turned to Aisha again. It had been a month since the Roman had arrived. Noël was certain it was the most wonderful month of her life.
Their relationship was hesitating at first. They knew each other well, but only through paper. It was hard to talk in person at first, but soon they could talk as easily as they wrote each other.
On the days Aisha worked, they were only able to talk in the mornings and evenings. Aisha refused to visit Noël in her room at night or allow Noël to enter her room. Noël asked Rio and Kanata about it as they were in the warehouse looking over the plane. The question was directed at Rio since Aisha and Rio were the same age at twenty, though the Roman looked younger.
Rio instantly blushed. She cleared her throat, "I'm sure she doesn't want anyone to think she took advantage of you during your courtship. She does it to keep your reputation pure."
Noël looked confused and turned to Kanata. Kanata blushed but whispered in Noël's ear, "Aisha and Rio don't want people to think you two are having sex."
Noël's cheeks instantly reddened, a common occurrence nowadays. There were so many things about courting that Noël didn't understand.
The young genius stared at her workbench as she reflected over the fact courting was a weird custom. On the bench was a tiny vase filled with flowers Aisha brought her randomly along with other things the Roman gave her. There were pieces of glass that Aisha had picked up and thought were beautiful. She also found and gave old machine parts she found when searching through ruins.
Aisha liked exploring the town of Seize and its surroundings. She planned to go see the fossil of the angel once the weather warmed. No one believed it existed until Kanata had confessed to seeing on her first day in Seize, when she had fallen into the water. Noël couldn't believe there was a large winged fossil in the water with no head attached. She would like to see it, but she couldn't swim. Once learning this, Aisha promised to teach the white-haired girl how to swim when Spring came.
Noël gave things to Aisha too. Tiny windup machines that provided endless entertainment for the dark-skinned woman. They often went on walks together since both were fascinated with the world around them.
The young genius wondered what the rules of kissing were with courting. She wanted so badly to kiss the Roman, but was scared to. She was also afraid Aisha would simply change her mind one day and leave. She was full of many fears. Aisha had been able to soothe some of her worries.
One of Noël's fears was that Aisha would want to go back to Rome. The white-haired girl didn't know if she could leave her friends and the fortress. She didn't know if Rome would accept her since she was the Witch of Helvetia. Once learning of this fear, Aisha said there was nothing left for her in Rome. Her grandmother had died a few months after the war had ended and she had been her only living relative left. It had broken Aisha's heart, but her grandmother had died happy that the war was finally over. With no family and no longer in he military, there was nothing tying Aisha to Rome. There was one strong bond tying her to Helvetia though and Noël was relieved of one worry.
"Are you warm enough out here?" A voice asked.
Noël spun on her heels to see Aisha walking into the warehouse all bundled up. There were white flakes on her coat and she said, brushing them off, "It's starting to snow."
The white-haired girl nodded once, looking at a portable furnace she had near the bike. Aisha nodded also, pleased the girl was warm. Still, she took off the yellow scarf around her neck and wrapped it around Noël's. They shared a tiny smile as she did.
The scarf, which was originally Noël's before the war, often swapped back and forth between the two women. It had gone with Aisha when they were separated after the war and had returned with her. They now seemed to trade it every day, using it as an excuse to get close to the other.
"How far did you get on the aircraft today?" Aisha asked. Her accent had gotten better after spending so much time speaking Helvetian.
"I put in a seat. It's comfortable," Noël reported in her usual solemn, monotone voice. Aisha grinned, "Can I try it out?"
Noël nodded and Aisha walked over to the single passenger airplane. She climbed up the steps built out and onto the wing. She then climbed into the pilot's seat. There was lots of leg room since there was no control panel or any steering device. The seat was filled with cushions. In case of a hard landing, Aisha supposed.
Aisha reached over the side and held her hand out to Noël, "Join me."
Noël hesitated before climbing onto the wing. She said, looking down at the seated Aisha, "There's no room."
Aisha merely smiled and tugged Noël into the cockpit with her. Noël obeyed and found herself sitting on Aisha's lap, the Roman's arms securely around her waist.
Noël blushed for a moment before relaxing into the hold. It was a comfortable position though she felt strange for some reason. She shivered as Aisha rested her chin on Noël's shoulder and asked, "Can you imagine flying in this?"
Noël shook her head, "I like to be on the ground."
Aisha laughed, "I know and me too. But just imagine this being in the air. You're flying over Seize, over the river, across the mountains. You're like a bird, like Shuko."
With Aisha's voice in her ears, she could imagine it. It was alright to imagine flying with Aisha's arms around her, keeping her safe.
"Beautiful," she simply stated.
Aisha leaned back into the seat, causing Noël to lean back with her. She gently rested her head back against Aisha's shoulder.
"Noël?" Aisha asked.
"Why do you not sleep at night?"
Noël quickly sat up. She wanted nothing more than to escape, but Aisha wouldn't allow it. She tightened her grip. Noël stopped struggling after a moment and said, "I like to work at night. Easier to think."
While not quite a lie, it wasn't the whole truth either. Aisha knew that. She said, staring out the cargo doors into the dark, "I have trouble sleeping at night too. I was a soldier for eight years. So many things I did…so many people I…killed. They like to haunt me. The dark brings them. It's easier to sleep during the day."
Noël felt her heart start racing as her face paled even more with fear. Aisha asked, gently squeezing the woman, "Is that why you don't sleep at night?"
The young genius closed her eyes and took a deep breath. After a moment, she nodded.
"How old were you when you made it?" Aisha asked, talking about the Invisible Reaper.
"I didn't make it," Noël clarified, "I recreated it. I was put into the academy when I was four. Most children don't start until they're ten and graduate after five years. I graduated when I was six. They put me to work in a lab. They let me build and tinker to my heart's content as long as the machines were usable. If I was good, they'd let me go outside to play. Sometimes I didn't make anything useful and they shouted at me."
Aisha felt a rush of hatred towards the people who put Noël through that. That wasn't the kind of childhood anyone should have. She then recalled her own wasn't that much better, filled with death and bombs. Aisha merely pulled Noël closer to offer more comfort.
Noël gripped one of the arms that held her and squeezed back, "I recreated the biological weapon when I was eight. The launcher wasn't hard to make, but the chemical equation for the gas took the longest to figure out. They wouldn't let me actually mix the chemicals together. I was too 'important' they said, and the chemicals were highly explosive and poisonous. They had me rework the formula so many times…I can only imagine how many people died trying to make it before it turned out right. I can only imagine how many war prisoners they used to see if it worked correctly before telling me the project was a success."
Noël took a shaky breath, the horrors coming back to her, "I didn't know what I was making. I mean I knew, but I didn't want to know so I made myself not think about it. However, one day I found the Invisible Reaper project folder. They had just left it out for me to see. I was…horrified when I read it. It told me what happened to people exposed to the gas…there were pictures. It told me how many were confirmed dead. It…it was in the thousands…"
Noël gripped her head in her hands as tears started rolling down her cheeks. She cried, "I did it. I killed all those people. I could have easily have killed you. I'm a monster. A horrible monster. How can you stand to be near me?"
Aisha turned Noël so that she was sitting sideways on her lap and pulled her closer to let her cry. She knew Noël needed to cry. Noël buried her face in Aisha's shoulders and merely sobbed.
After a few minutes, when Noël's cries were dying down, Aisha started humming Amazing Grace, the song now known for ending the war. Noël quieted as her tears finally stopped. Aisha said, "I could say that you were too young to know what you were doing and it would be true. Even if you were older, they would have made you work for them. They took your childhood from you and forced you to create weapons of destruction. It's not your fault, but you will still blame yourself. People can say I was forced into the army and made to fight and kill. If I hadn't…well…I don't want to think of the consequences. I would have faced a traitor's death, which isn't nice. So people can say I'm not really to blame for the death I caused, but I still blame me. We're the same, Noël. We both can't sleep at night from the ghosts that haunt us."
"But you sleep at night sometimes," Noël said, "How do you do it?"
Aisha smiled as she gently kissed Noël's forehead, "I think of the good things. I think of the brief good times I had as a soldier with friends, of my family, and beautiful things I saw. These days I think of the people here in the fortress and town and glassmaking. But I think of you the most. If I go to sleep thinking of you, I go to sleep with a smile on my face."
Noël's eyes lit up as she felt a warmth start growing in her chest. It helped fade the memories of her youth. She closed the distance between them and kissed the dark-skinned girl, no longer caring about rules for kissing-while-courting, not that she knew them in the first place.
Aisha's eyes widened briefly in surprise, but they quickly closed as she deepened the kiss. The Roman had a little more experience in sexual matters than Noël, but not much. Only a few kisses with other soldiers and once an evening in a brothel that her commander had paid for so all his soldiers could have a good time. An older woman had taken her by the hand and led her into a dimly lit room, amused at how naive Aisha had been. Despite those adventures, it was nothing compared to kissing Noël.
Noël moved a hand up to tangle on in Aisha's hair and put the other on her shoulder. It wasn't possible but she tried to get closer. After a moment though, she had to break away for air.
"Breathe through your nose," Aisha gently instructed before kissing her again. Noël did as she was told. She hadn't known there was an art to kissing. As a genius it intrigued her that there would have to be a lot of experiments to get kissing down to a perfect form. She hoped she and Aisha would have lots of chances to experiment.
Aisha ended the kiss with a series of little ones before pulling away slightly. They were both flushed, though not from embarrassment. They sat, holding each other. Aisha knew they would have to go inside soon, the temperature was dropping fast and the snow was coming down harder from what she could see. Still, she didn't want to move. The Roman then gathered up her courage.
"Yes," Noël answered, feeling as if the moment couldn't get any better.
"May I have your hand in marriage?"
Violet eyes looked into aqua. Noël smiled as tears started coming from her eyes at the same time. Aisha raised a hand to wipe them away, "Is that a yes or no?"
"Yes. It's a yes," Noël quickly stated, "Yes, Aisha. I want to be your bride."
Aisha broke out into a large grin and started digging around in her pocket. She pulled an old gold ring with a tiny diamond in the center. She said, "It was my grandmother's engagement ring and my mother's. Would you honor me by wearing it? We can get someone in town to fix it if it doesn't fit."
Noël's eyes brimmed with more tears and she nodded, holding out her hand. Aisha slipped the ring onto her finger. It was a little loose, but Aisha thought it looked beautiful on Noël's hand.
"I love you," Noël said. It occurred to her that she should have said it before they became engaged, but that was alright to her.
Aisha didn't think she would ever stop smiling, "I love you too, Noël."
They kissed again, never noticing the two pairs of eyes spying on them.
Kanata turned to Rio and whispered, crying out of happiness for her friend, "Isn't this great?"
Rio nodded, trying not to tear up at the moving scene herself. She gestured for Kanata to follow her back inside the fortress.
Kanata was lost in thought on the walk back through the snow. She asked, "Rio, are things going to change now?"
Rio sent her pupil a questioning look.
"I mean Kureha is leaving in a month for school. Aisha and Noël will get married. They might leave. You'll leave when you take the airplane to go find a new world. Dreams take people away from me," Kanata said, obviously troubled.
Rio sighed, "People you love often leave you, Kanata. That's a sad fact of life. However, they often come back; if only for a visit. Aisha and Noël may or may not move. Kureha could come back to be a doctor here or somewhere else."
"And you?" Kanata asked, "Will you come back? Will you come back to Filicia?"
"What?" Rio asked, suddenly worried Kanata had found out her and Filicia's secret.
Kanata blushed, "We've all seen you two. We just don't say anything because you don't say anything. We know you leave her room every morning."
Rio rubbed her head, realizing she had been caught. She finally gestured for them to continue walking since they were almost to the fortress. Once inside she said, "My dream is to fly and find a new land. I never said I'll want to stay there. I'll come back and tell everyone about it. I'll come home, here to the fortress where Filicia will be waiting. Then we'll decide if we want to go to the new land together."
"What if you have different dreams by then?" Kanata asked, still worried, "Naomi and Mr. Carl split apart because they had two different dreams."
"People don't always break up because they have different dreams," Rio said, patting Kanata's shoulders, "They make adjustments. If they can't adjust then yes, the couple may split. I don't know what the future holds for any of us, Kanata. Right now, I'm just chasing my dream while holding everyone I love to my heart. That's all I can do."
Kanata nodded after some time. She bid Rio goodnight and headed to her room. She thought over what Rio had said as she lay in bed that night. Kanata knew Rio was right. No one knew what the future held for them. A new war could start. The land could die before Rio found a new one. Kureha could leave them behind forever. So many things could happen.
Kanata knew her dream was a borrowed one. She knew she might get one of her own some day. When that day came, she would do as Rio did. She would chase her dream while holding all she loved close to her heart.