It was Shin’s first visit to his grandfather’s house, so after he politely refused the offer to stay for the night, he returned to the residence of his guardian in name, Ernst.
He opened the door, and was welcomed by his returning comrades, Frederica, and Lena, who was invited over by Ernst. Nevertheless, even after returning to Ernst’s residence, he did not feel like he had returned home.
For some reason, Lena’s eyes were teary, and it might be due to the maid Teresa making Republican dishes.
To Shin, it was the country he was born in, one he was long estranged from. Despite that, it was still Lena’s homeland…one she was nostalgic for.
To forget, to abandon…such were not words to be said easily. At this point, Shin understood this well.
The Republic was the oppressor, and the Eighty-Sixes mobile strike package, being the oppressed, were still worried for their own fates…and unable to lament the destruction of their homeland.
He however never noticed that such thoughts was so distant from him.
Henceforth, he had to pay attention, and was worried for Lena. As Lena had said on the snowy battlefield, he never cared about that to begin with.
The large table in the living room was laid out with the card game Frederica loved to play, and Shin joined in while they were playing. Lena, usually checking the battlefield maps and battle reports, was staring intently at the cards while holding them in a fan. She was giving the face of a commonplace carefree girl, smiling brilliantly. Frederica’s right arm had yet to heal from the prior battle as she continued to fawn towards Ernst, who was losing terribly and dejectedly lowering his head in an immature manner.
Teresa joined in after clearing the dishes, and the manner in which she bombarded Ernst with all her might was a terrifying sight to behold.
Soon after, it was late at night. Frederica started to feel a little sleepy, and playtime was over.
“Good night, Shin.”
“Yeah. Good night.”
Shin led Lena to the guest room Teresa had prepared, and after greeting each other, he returned to his room. The bed was much larger compared to the cramped bed of the barracks and the eighty-sixth district, and he buried his head into the bed he was still unused to.
Suddenly, he realized something.
Ernst’s residence had many more rooms than the number of residents present, and the extra rooms were used as guest rooms. Actually, the rooms assigned to them were guest rooms, and Shin was closest to the other empty rooms because it was the quietest.
In other words.
A mere wall separated Shin’s personal room from Lena’s.
Once he realized that, he had a sense of vague relief in his heart.
…Next to him.
She would not suddenly vanish again now that she was next to him. She would not be taken away mercilessly, unreasonably.
He could not abandon her.
The fact left him exceptionally relieved. Once he let down his guard, an irresistible, mandatory sense of drowsiness struck him.
His consciousness was fading into oblivion, and ringing in his mind was the silver bell-like voice from beyond the Para-RAID.
–I will not leave you behind. I will definitely be waiting for you.
As she had said so.
He too will continue to wait for her.
The conversation two years ago, one he presumed would be their last, echoed in his mind again.
–Do not leave me alone.
If it’s me now,
I would have given a different answer.
Having such thoughts, Shin fell into the dark slumber, feeling satisfied.