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My eyes are open wide, I'm racing to her side

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 It's dark.

 

 And hot as hell.

 

 Futaba can't breathe properly, dust trying to get into her nose. She gathered the last of the strength in her arms and pushed the rocks and debris of wood off her. The cough coming out of her lungs stings, but it's nothing compared to the pain in her shoulder.

 

 It could have been worse if Kuro hadn't pushed me .

 

 Then she stops.

 

 How long had she been out?

 

 Why doesn't she hear any more fights?

 

 Where are her friends?

 

 Where is Claudine ?

 

 Adrenaline gives her the final boost and she manages to get out of where she was.

 

 What she sees when she gets up doesn't calm her nerves one bit.

 

 Destruction everywhere, nearly half the buildings are gone.

 

 But she can better measure the damage once she finds the others.

 

 Her shoulder seems to throb with every step the warrior takes, but she can't stop now. Her heart thunders in her chest and her mind mounts the worst-case scenarios of what could have happened to her friends.

 

 Futaba walks for a few minutes, with fruitless results.

 

 Then she takes one of her arrows, lights it and, ignoring the searing pain in her shoulder, shoots it upward in the hope that someone will see.

 

 She waits.

 

 Then a flash. And right after a crash.

 

 Rui

 

 One of her rays actually, and then a fireball, certainly from Shizuha.

 

 Nothing from Claudine.

 

 She runs to the origin and sees them.

 

 Shizuha looks fine and Lalafin isn't too far away, Rui gives her a small smile in greeting and then goes back to healing Fumi.

 

 "Is everyone okay?"

 

 Who updates Futaba is Shizuha.

 

 "Yes, we were looking for you and Saijou-san. The only one with the most serious injuries was Yumeoji-san and Akikaze-san is already taking care of that."

 

 "Right. And Kuro?"

 

 The other girls look at each other for a moment and then shake their heads.

 

 "After the attack that took you out of combat everything started to get worse." Fumi started. "I didn't see Claudine anymore after that..."

 

 That's not good, as Futaba remembers Claudine took damage from a blow that was meant for her, after which she hasn't been seen again.

 

 No no no no no no.

 

 She is fine.

 

 She has to be okay.

 

 "Let's go find her."

 

 "Fumi still can't move much or transform, maybe for a couple of days." Lalafin speaks for the first time.

 

 "So you stay here and I'll look for her. I won't go far, just the evacuation camp. All the wounded have gone there, if she isn't there then...she will be there. If she isn't here she has to be there."

 

 "Futaba, let me heal you first."

 

 "Thank you, Lalafin."

 

 Futaba sat down and Lalafin went to work. Shizuha, ever attentive, realizes that Futaba's mind is far away, wherever Claudine is.

 

 "Isurugi-san, Saijou-san knows how to take care of herself."

 

 In response, Shizuha just gets a small sad smile.

 

 Then Futaba heads to the evacuation area while the rest of the group stays in what's left of the village. Rui was still healing Fumi and Shizuha stayed to look for the wounded nearby or in case Claudine showed up.




 Futaba can hear Claudine's singing in the distance. Nothing like the soft melody when she's singing her poetry and stories.

 

 The melody is sharp, aggressive, and Futaba listens as the raw power emanates from every note.

 

 It's angelic in the same way.

 

 The warrior could feel her strength increasing due to Claudine's sheer power amplifying her own.

 

 Because of course Claudine would rather amplify her power than focus a hundred percent on her own battle.

 

 The enemy is only one, but the monster has several heads and as if sharp teeth weren't enough of a concern, some of the heads give off flammable gas and others fire, its tail is big and strong.

 

 Frankly, they're lucky the thing doesn't fly.

 

 Futaba shoots an arrow into one of the beast's eyes, then takes a battle ax and goes into its hands. Fumi is using her forest magic to hold the creature in place, while Shizuha, with Lalafin amplifying her power, and Rui attack with electric rays and block fire with water, interspersing the functions with each other.

 

 Much of the village has already evacuated, so they focus on taking down the creature.

 

 Somewhere the warrior hears Rui shout Fumi's name and can see the sorceress running towards the druid.

 

 Claudine's singing stops for a moment and Futaba stops and looks for her girlfriend, seeing that she just went to help Shizuha with one of the heads of the thing.

 

 Rui is now just in a defensive position beside Fumi, trying to get the unconscious girl off the battlefield, with tears in her eyes.

 

 Time for a change of strategy.

 

 Fumi is far from the fight zone and now Rui can refocus on attacking with renewed fury, Claudine amplifying her power.

 

 Shizuha catches a head's attention every time it gets close to Futaba, and the warrior takes this opportunity to dig her sword into one of the beast's big paws, then backing away to escape being trampled.

 

 She doesn't see the tail approaching.

 

 Claudine sees.

 

 Everything takes less than minutes.

 

 Claudine runs in and pushes Futaba, ending up in the impact direction of the attack. Futaba crashes into the rubble of a house, the impact of the tail knocking the rest of the rubble down on top of the girl.

 

 The last thing Futaba sees before she passes out is Claudine being flung away.




 Damn, why did Kuro have to do this?

 

 Futaba replays the moment of the fight in her head over and over, blaming herself for what might have happened to Claudine.

 

 She distances herself from the fighting ground and begins her search. Tiredness grips every part of her body, the warrior just wants to lie down and sleep, but she would never do that before finding Claudine, nor does she think she would be able to. It feels like a lifetime since she's slept without the blonde's arms around her.

 

 Chest tight with worry and determined features, Futaba moves on.




 "Do you have problems?! Why did you do that?!"

 

 "I have a lot, one of them now is an incredible headache that you're not helping to get better by screaming like that."

 

 "Well I wouldn't scream if you weren't an idiot and didn't get hit on the head because of me."

 

 "Sorry for helping." Claudine says rolling her eyes, sarcasm flowing into her tone.

 

 "...Come here."

 

 Claudine looks at her.

 

 "I want to see if you got hurt more than you look."

 

 "...Right."

 

 Claudine sits down and lets Futaba examine her. The bard's face is pale with weariness and her body has several small bruises, her blond mane messy from the ordeal, but nothing to worry about too much. The warrior is sitting behind the girl and can see that she is bent over.

 

 "You'll be fine, you just need to rest, you look like a ghost."

 

 Claudine turns and faces her.

 

 "Hmf, do I need to rest? Look at yourself."

 

 "I wasn't the one who nearly had a concussion, idiot, go to sleep."

 

 The blonde lets out a sigh and accepts that she is too tired to buy this battle.

 

 "Alright alright, anything to stop you complaining."

 

 Claudine prepares to get up and go to her own tent already set up.

 

 "You can stay here if you want."

 

 The silence that extends in the place worries Futaba. Did she cross a line?

 

 Claudine soothes her concerns by simply responding.

 

 "Yes, thank you..."

 

 The two settle in the warrior's tent, the blonde lies with her back to her and Futaba wants to run her hands through her impossibly silky hair.

 

 Now, that would be crossing a line.

 

 Instead, Futaba chooses to just say...

 

 "...Thank you, Kuro. Good night."

 

 "Good night, Futaba."




 That was the first time Claudine had done such a thing for her. Futaba hated the feeling of guilt at the time and hates it even more now, unlike the first time, she didn't know if Claudine was okay.

 

 What would she do if Claudine wasn't?

 

 No, she is fine. She is alive.

 

 Futaba doesn't even have a guarantee that Claudine left the fight area, but there's not much she can do, Shizuha already said she would wait there, so she'll look further.

 

 She doesn't let herself think about the possibility of not finding Claudine anymore, trying to occupy her mind with something else.

 

 She lets her mind sink into memories.




 "What do you have to say in your defense?" Fumi narrows her eyes and crosses her arms, facing the four culprits, with only one of them looking truly repentant.

 

 "Rui?"

 

 "I went against my will, I'm sorry, Fumi!"

 

 With a sigh the druid moves on to the next.

 

 "Isurugi-san?"

 

 "They were being idiots, they deserved it."

 

 "Lalafin?"

 

 "It sounded fun!"

 

 Futaba thinks Fumi will have gray hair before she turns twenty.

 

 "Claudine?"

 

 "I was bored. Wanted to start shit."

 

 Shizuha just giggles in the corner.

 

 "Cool… cool…"

 

 "Fumi, I think this vein will pop out of your forehead." Claudine offers helpfully.

 

 "Honestly, why the hell did you guys think it would be a good idea to start a bar fight with wanted thugs?!"

 

 "They were being idiots, I told you."

 

 "I think she doesn't want a sincere answer, Futaba." Lalafin whispers.

 

 "Shizuha, by the arcane, help me here."

 

 "I don't know, Yumeoji-san. I'm enjoying watching."

 

 "Traitor."

 

 "Fumi, everything turned out fine, relax." Claudine shrugs her shoulders. "They were even arrested in the end, they won't steal or threaten anyone else, and no one here got hurt." She looks around. "...much."

 

 Claudine and Shizuha shared a conspiratorial look.

 

 "Hmm Fumi, I think Rui needs someone to kiss her wounds better~"

 

 Rui combusts.

 

 "Shizuha!"

 

 "Am I lying?"

 

 Claudine just enjoys the chaos she helped create.

 

 Futaba looks at the bard, into the magenta eyes that were once filled with suspicion and pent-up pain, but now only carry joy.

 

 Those eyes are aimed at her now.

 

 "Hey, beautiful."

 

 Claudine rolls her eyes and smiles.




 Futaba quickens her pace, she doesn't care if her body begs her to stop and rest.

 

 She eventually approaches the evacuation area. Passing through the people, Futaba walks at a slow pace, nothing like her heart, which looks like it wants to leap out of her chest.

 

 She looks for such unusual blonde curls or tries to hear an angel-like voice.

 

 There are many injured in the makeshift beds - grass wrapped in rags - to give as much comfort as possible to someone in this situation. The children line up to get some food and then run to their parents.

 

 Futaba can also see some people crying, inconsolable.

 

 Tears are welling up in the warrior's own eyes and she feels her throat close in anguish.

 

 She doesn’t shed any tears, just walks faster and looks away from people, ignoring the little voice in her head that whispers that she might be one of them.




 The pair rested at an inn after protecting the village against a small dragon. The grateful residents offered them housing for a few days.

 

 Futaba was arriving in the room after cleaning herself, to find Claudine already clean and tidying her belongings.

 

 Claudine recognizes her with a nod and lies down on her bed with a sigh, closing her eyes for a few seconds and then staring at the ceiling.

 

 "Are you going to stand there?"

 

 Futaba lies down on her own bed.

 

 "So… today was a day, am I right?"

 

 "You took a risk to save that little girl's parents."

 

 "I couldn't just do nothing."

 

 "Hmm."

 

 The pair remain silent for a while, Futaba wondering if she should ask the question on her mind.

 

 "Why the comment?" Futaba takes the risk

 

 And she didn't know exactly what she expected, whether it was Claudine to closes herself again and go to sleep, or just say it wasn't important and turn away.

 

 But she certainly didn't expect that answer.

 

 Claudine sighs and closes her eyes, as if she's immersed in distant memories.

 

 "I wanted someone to save me when I was that girl's age."

 

 "What happened?" Futaba's voice came out in a whisper.

 

 "I was from a noble family. We had titles and power, my parents worked a lot, but they also always found a way to be with me. I loved them so much." Claudine's voice starts to crack. "But we were betrayed, I was the only one who survived." On a late note she adds, "I never trusted anyone easily again after that."

 

 The warrior takes a few seconds to let the information sink in.

 

 "Damn it, Kuro." Futaba runs a hand over her face. "That's so fucked up."

 

 "Yes, I think so."

 

 Futaba leans on her elbows in an almost sitting position.

 

 "Why are you telling me this now?"

 

 Claudine finally opens those pretty magenta eyes and seems to be looking into her soul.

 

 "I trust you."




 It was just the two of them for a while, but then they became a small family with a sorceress trying to find herself and a druid who disinherited from her former group, seeking a new life.

 

 Their small family grew again when a couple arrived, a witch who made a pact with a fairy, not of her own free will but due to circumstances, and a fairy who was so intrigued by the girl's intentions that she decided to accompany her from then on, their relationship becoming more than that pact.

 

 They were a family. Small, chaotic and always getting into trouble, but Futaba loved them with all her heart and is sure the same goes for the others.




 Claudine has to be here, anywhere. Futaba has to find her.

 

 Despair has seized a claw in the warrior's heart the moment she found out that Claudine has gone and is rooting for more and more every minute she’s not found.

 

 Futaba runs through the makeshift camp, but it has no results.

 

 She can't leave me.

 

 Please.

 

 Please.

 

 The warrior can see the end of the camp.

 

 But she can't see Claudine.

 

 She's not there.

 

 "Kuro… Claudine…" Futaba repeats the name, almost in prayer, to no one in particular.

 

 But no miracle comes to her.




 Futaba walks alone through the village, looking for a place to rest after the fight.




 Futaba walks, alone, looking for a place where she can fall apart far from the world.




 Still thinking about the girl who suddenly appeared to help her in the middle of the fight and then disappeared just as quickly.




 She manages to reach the nearby village after a while walking practically in shock. Lost in thought, replaying every moment she'd ever had with Claudine.




 When she hears a voice, the same angelic voice she's heard on the battlefield, but without its previous ferocity. She quickens her pace.




 The warrior is taken from her own mind by the voice she loves most in the world. The voice she thought she would only be able to hear again in her dreams and thoughts. She quickens her pace.




 She search.

 She search.




 And see her.

 And see her.




 She was there, singing to cheer the children up. Her long golden hair fell over her face and shoulders, her skin bruised and scratched.

 

 As Futaba approaches, her own labored breathing and Claudine's voice are the only sounds registered in her mind.

 

 Claudine looks at her and, just like the first time, her heart skips a beat.

 

 What differs is the feeling of relief that her love is alive. She can feel the tears falling and does nothing to stop them this time.

 

 The blonde gets up as if she wants to run towards her, but shudders and looks at her right leg, which Futaba notices is all bandaged and the foot immobilized. This forces her to snap out of her stupor and run towards her, Claudine looks at her with relief and opens her arms.

 

 Futaba sinks into the embrace, tucking her head under her chin and breathing in, exhaling all the anguish she felt throughout the day. She listens for the heartbeat, assuring her that Claudine really was here and that she was alive.

 

 Futaba cries, now with joy, and tries to pull her girlfriend closer, as if possible.

 

 "I'm fine. Everything will be fine. I was transferred here for better care, along with a few other wounded." Claudine calms her down, or tries to, but the blonde knows one thing that will be effective.

 

 Claudine gently pushes Futaba away and takes her chin.

 

 It was like kissing her for the first time again. Futaba sighs and gives in to the sensation, Claudine's upper lip was cut and the kiss tasted salty from Futaba's tears, but none of that mattered to either of them.

 

 It was perfect.




 "Hey, thanks for helping me fight today."

 

 "You're welcome, it was good to fight by your side."




 "So it's getting late, we ended up talking for a long time. Where are you leaving tomorrow?"

 

 "To the kingdom of Seigfeld." The blonde responds with a small smile.

 

 "Would you like a fellow traveler? That's where I'm going too."

 

 "I would love to."