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Chapter 1 - Autumn Dawn

Rays of light spilled through the curtains, brightening the walls of the bedroom before finally coming to rest on my face. I slowly opened my bleary eyes and made my way to the window. I gently touched my fingertips against the dew-covered glass, feeling the sun's warmth.

I turned around to see you still lying in bed, asleep. Your tranquil expression was illuminated by the same dawn light that had stirred me from my slumber. I moved in close, pressing my nose against yours, but you didn't stir. I gently stroked your hair, but you still refused to wake. In one final attempt to rouse you, I pinched your cheek, but all you did was make a face and roll over. Gently chuckling to myself, I straightened the bedsheets and left the room.

I went to the kitchen and began warming up the soup left over from last night. Next, I started making the salads we were going to have for lunch later. Lettuce, ham, and hard-boiled eggs. I cut up a tomato, taking care to only add the slices to one of the salads. After all, you don't like tomatoes.

I remember you telling me the story.

'I think I was about four years old. My father tried to feed me a tomato, and I spat it right back out at him. I have no idea why, but I just can't eat them.' You laughed and looked away, a twinge of guilt playing across your eyes.

Just as I was finishing up with the food, I saw the bedroom door swing open.

'Good morning,' you said, stretching. It was clear you'd enjoyed your doze.

'Hey, Edgar.' You looked at me.

'Edgar?' You called my name.

'Edgaaar...' You called my name over and over.

'HEY! EDGAR!'

You...

'Huh?'

My eyelids snapped open. My ears were suddenly filled with sound.

I was in a restaurant in town. Sitting across from me was my friend, Henry. His long, green hair was unkempt, as though he'd just rolled out of bed. A small trail of steam rose upward from the hot plate of food he had in front of him. I instantly understood what was going on.

'Um... Can I get you some water?'

The waitress, Clementine, was standing over us. I looked up into her eyes. They were as clear and blue as a summer sky.

'Oh. Yeah, I--' Henry started to say.

'No, we're okay. Don't worry about us,' I interrupted.

Clementine looked confused, but stepped away to see to the other customers.

'What do you mean, 'Don't worry about us'? What if I'm thirsty?!' Henry furrowed his brow at me.

'I don't want to bother her,' I said, glancing in Clementine's direction for the briefest moment.

'Bother her? It's just a glass of water, man.'

Henry sighed and began sullenly chomping on his food.

'Here. Have mine, too.' I pushed the plate bearing my untouched sandwich toward him.

'My head's all muddled. I don't think I have much of an appetite anymore.'

'That's been happening a lot lately. You okay, man?'

Henry's dour expression turned to one of concern.

'I'm not sure. I keep getting flashes of this one scene. It feels like a memory, but...I don't recognize it at all.'

I raised my gaze and stole another glance at Clementine as she walked through the restaurant, smiling and talking with the customers.

Henry followed my gaze toward her, and a look of understanding came over his face.

'Now that I think about it, this all started after you first noticed her, huh? Ah, I should've known. I've seen the sad eyes of a lovesick fool before.' He nodded to himself, knowingly.

'Is that what it is?' I questioned Henry, yet I couldn't take my eyes off Clementine.

'Well, I guess you know me best, Henry...'

As I spoke, Clementine noticed my gaze and gave me a warm smile before returning to her work.

'...since I don't seem to know myself anymore? I sighed.

All my dearest friend could give in response was a troubled chuckle.

September, S.1294.

Leman--home to the headquarters of the Epstein Foundation.

I'd planned to devote my time here to performing research alongside the other members of the foundation.

But then I fell in love.

第1巻  「始まりの秋」

カーテンの隙間から、淡く光が漏れている。のっそりと起き
上がって、寝ぼけ眼で窓に近づく。結露でいっぱいのガラスを
指で撫でると、そこだけ太陽の暖かさを感じられる気がした。
                            
 後ろを振り返れば、君の寝顔がある。鼻がくっつくくらい顔
を寄せたけれど、ピクリともしない。前髪をそっと触っても、
目は開かない。ほっぺたをつまんだら嫌そうに寝返りをうった
ので、掛け布団を直して寝室を出た。           
台所に行って、鍋に残っていた昨日のスープを火にかける。
次はサラダを。レタスにハムにゆで卵。トマトはくし形切りに
して、2つ並んだ片方の皿だけに盛る。          
 君は、生のトマトを嫌っているから。          
「4歳の時だったかな。                 
 お父さんが食べさせようとしたトマトを、        
 口に入れた途端に吐き出したんだって」         
「何がダメだったのか自分でも分からないけれど」     
「飲みこむのも嫌なんて、ひどいよね」          
 申し訳なさそうに、君は言っていた。          
                            
 支度が整ったところで、寝室のドアが開いた。      
「おはよう」                      
 君は気持ち良さそうに背伸びをする。          
「ねぇ、エドガー」                   
 君はぼくを見る。                   
「エドガー?」                     
 君はぼくの名前を呼ぶ。                
「エドガー」                      
 何度も名前を呼んでくれる。              
「おい、エドガー!」                  
 君は――                       
                            
「――!」                       
 勢い良く広がる視界。耳に駆けこんでくる喧噪。     
 ここは町の食堂。向かいに座っているのは友人のヘンリー。
伸びかけの若葉色の髪に、寝癖をつけっぱなしだ。目の前には
彼が注文した料理が。瞬時に状況を整理する。       
「あの、お水を持ってきましょうか?」          
 声をかけてきたのは、ウェイトレスの少女・クレム。ぼくを
見つめる瞳は、青空のような色を宿している。       
「ああ、一応……」                   
「いえ、大丈夫です。お構いなく」            
 ヘンリーの言葉を遮り、彼女に断りを入れる。クレムは困惑
しながらも、テーブルを離れていった。          
「なーにが『お構いなく』だ。イイ人ぶりやがって」    
「余計な手間をかけさせたくない」            
「まぁ、水を飲んだところでって話か」          
 ヘンリーはまたムシャムシャと食事を再開した。     
「これ、ぼくの分もあげるよ」              
 手をつけていないハーブサンドを勧める。        
「頭が重くて、食べられそうにないから」         
「最近、そういうの多いよな」              
「うん。しかも急に。自分じゃ知らない風景が映るんだ」  
 視線を上げると、忙しなく歩き回るクレムが見えた。食堂に
集まる客に話しかけられ、笑顔で返事をしている。     
                            
「思うに、あの子のことを意識し始めてからだよな。    
 恋い焦がれる野郎共を散々見てきた俺には分かる」    
 うんうん、と頷くヘンリー。              
「そう、なのかな」                   
 ついクレムを目で追いかける。             
「ぼくのことはヘンリーに聞くのが一番だね」       
 視線に気づいた彼女は、こちらに優しく微笑んでくれる。 
「なんだか自分が分からなくなってきたから」       
 ため息を吐くぼくに、親愛なる友は困ったように笑った。 
 ――七耀暦1294年、9月。エプスタイン財団の本部を抱える
レマン自治州にて。財団の一員であるぼくはヘンリーと共に、
これまで通り研究と実験にこの身を費やすつもりだった。  
                            
 1人の少女に、恋をするまでは。            
                            
 

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