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74 – Young Friends

The first thing I did upon seeing my friends burst into tears, was to apologize for making them worry. But they only scolded me for not getting treated first, as I was covered in scratches and scrapes.
I explained that this whole thing had happened because I had mistaken the route back, and had involved Sashia in the process. They couldn’t tell if it was the map that was wrong, as I had lost it when we fell. In any case, it didn’t change the fact that it was my inattentiveness that had caused it.
I wanted to avoid any kind of witch hunt in regards to the map. If it was understood that a noble had been injured because of a commoner, then things would become very troublesome. Even if there wasn’t prejudice over your class, there would be a distinction. The world was a hard place to live in.

I was treated by the person in charge of first-aid, then returned to my room to take a shower. I had to change my clothes anyway, but I was also careful not to let the bandages fall off. None of them were anything serious, mostly lots of small scratches.
While I couldn’t soak in the bathtub, I was still able to wash my hair before getting out and putting on my pajamas. Just when I was finished, I heard a knock on the door.

“Yes…?”

Who could it be at this late hour? Maybe it wasn’t the most ideal time to take a shower, but this was quite the disaster for me. It wasn’t just about the muddy bedroom or being a noblewoman or a girl.

“Maria, are you awake…?”

“Primera?”

She sounded much more deflated than usual, but it was her.
There was no need to hesitate now that I knew who it was, but she was not alone when I opened the door.

“Eru too? What happened?”

Both of them were in their pajamas as well, and neither of them looked happy. Their eyes and nose were bright red, and while they weren’t crying, it seems like they would at any moment.
They had worried about me and cried with relief when I returned. I had assumed that they would have quickly gone to sleep, their hearts and bodies must have been tired. And so I was going to tell them about what happened tomorrow.

“…Your injuries, are they bad?”

“Oh, this is really an exaggeration. It’s only a scratch.”

It was more efficient to bandage the whole part instead of each scratch individually. And so my foot and part of my arm were wrapped up. There was a waterproof effect put on with magic, that allowed me to keep them on while showering.

“I am to be looked at it again when we return to the academy, but it is not supposed to scar.”

It really was just some scrapes, though I really did tumble down, so I would undergo an inspection. Even the teacher who had treated me said it would probably be fine, but I should get checked just in case.

“That is a relief…”

“I’m sorry for making you worry so much.”

As if relieved from the bottom of their hearts, they visibly relaxed their tense shoulders. I felt bad at what I had put them through. It had ruined what was supposed to be a fun time.

“Is that why you came to see me?”

“Uh, um…that as well…”

“…Uh, um…”

Their expressions that were so dark only a moment ago were now a little troubled…reluctant. They looked at each other for a second, then Eru opened her mouth after keeping it tight until now.
I hadn’t noticed it until that moment, but it was very rare for Eru to keep silent for so long. Not that she was especially talkative, but she would usually talk before Primera did.

“Um…could we sleep here tonight?”

“Huh?”

“You’re injured, and maybe it would really be best for you to rest in peace…but, something…makes us uneasy.”

Their friends had gone into the forest and had not come back.
Apparently, that had a much larger effect on them than I had thought. But it was really not surprising, I think I would have felt the same if I were in their position.
Even if they knew that I had returned safely, they were still worried when they couldn’t see me. Baseless thoughts would still run through their heads. What if I had not been found? What if I had been badly injured? Their friend may not have been here now.

“…Thankfully, this bed is big.”

It was too big for one person to sleep in, but it was perfect for three girls.

“I, I always wanted to sleep together with a friend.”

“Then…”

“Here, get on. We have to sleep early or they will leave us here tomorrow.”

“Yes!”

“Thank you, Maria.”

We three sat down on the large bed. Primera was gently wiping my still wet hair with a towel. Not roughly scrubbing it, but as if slowly soaking in the water to avoid damaging my hair. Just like Ann had done before entering the dormitory.
Soak in as much moisture as possible before drying the rest with hot air. Like pulling the hair downward and drying it while its straight. That way you can control the volume…I think. Primera dried with the towel and I finished the rest with the hairdryer.
It seemed like Primera enjoyed touching hair. Especially mine, as it was long.

“Maria in the middle!”

“Uh…I don’t mind being on the edge. I wouldn’t want you to fall out.”

“That’s what we should be saying. You are the one who is hurt.”

We all fit rather comfortably in the bed, even though it was technically a single bed. Now, did I move around a lot in my sleep? …I wouldn’t know, I have never seen myself sleep.
I wondered what might happen to our friendship if I kicked them both off in my sleep? Seriously.

“Also, there would be no point in us coming if you aren’t in the middle.”

“…Alright.”

Apparently, it was important for me to be in their vision in order to deal with this fear that I had brought on them. That was why they had come, so their choice was obvious.
Now that we had decided our places, the only thing left to do was to sleep. There was nothing to do tomorrow but return, but there was still a strict schedule to adhere to for waking up.

“Okay, good night then.”

“Good night.”
“Good night…”

Eru seemed like she would fall asleep at any moment. I thought she sounded a little soft and then before I knew it, I could hear her soft breathing. In three seconds. I was jealous.

“Primera. Are you not too squished? Do you have enough blanket?”

“I’m fine. Thank you.”

Eru and I weren’t very big, and Primera was on the smaller side. It was kind of miraculous that three junior high school students could sleep in a bed together like this. And normally, I would have had it all to myself.
Really, I don’t think I will ever understand the wealthy.

“…I’m sorry.”

“Hmm…?”

“For suddenly forcing ourselves onto you. We know that you are okay now, you are safe… You’re alive, we know that.”

I turned my back toward Eru so that she did not wake up. Now that we were facing each other, Primera held my hands in hers. She always had the softest air about her, like she was the perfect image of refinement. But now she had the most surprising strength in her grip, it was not painful, but it could stop the circulation of blood.
But I also felt that this strength represented her fears, and I could not tell her to let go of me.

“But it’s no use… I tried to sleep, but I was so uneasy. I knew I would have bad dreams. No, maybe you were still in the forest. Maybe you being here is the real dream.”

“…”

“I’m so glad. Really… Thank you.”

Why was she thanking me? Because I was found? Because I had not been gravely injured? Or was it in gratitude for everything I did for her?
With those last words, the strength left her hands, and she entered a peaceful sleep.
Now that I think about it, they had both cried so much. Perhaps Eru had only fallen asleep so fast because she was exhausted.

“I’m sorry…”

I probably had a certain resistance to things that affected many normal girls. Of course, for negative things. Frankly, I was just glad to not be dead.
But even with this incident, it has probably affected me less than others would expect. I had been lost in the forest, any normal noble lady would have…a normal child would have been traumatized by it. And yet I could probably enter the woods again without a second thought tomorrow.
But I did feel bad for the tears that my friends have shed.
They had worried for me, worried about my body and my heart. They were so worried that the mere sight of me had brought them to tears.

“Thank you.”

I felt so bad about it, but I also felt happy. Did that make me twisted?
It was like I was being tickled, it made me anxious. It was an emotion that I could not easily accept due to my lack of experience. It was a relationship that had been alien to me until now, in spite of reaching so many different ends.

Marybell did not have this. I was stuck between two precious things that I had attained from square one. I knew that I would have good dreams tonight.


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