Winds of Caution
an Infinite Stratos fanfiction by The Overlord Bear
Summary: Charlotte Dunois tries to make some sense out of rejection with some dear friends.
“President Dunois’s child?”
“Poor girl, resorting to begging from that lech.”
“Or maybe she’s a gold digger. You never know until they hit you.”
Childhood had me numb to most of the impact of those whispers. Needless to say, they still made me bite my lip and clench my fists, few moments those pieces of body language may have taken.
But I had to get by somehow, and I had to work for it. I’d let others call it as wrong as they want as long as I could get my freedom.
“You know, Charlotte, you should be honored. This plan to make you seem like the second male to pilot an IS may be a tad overdramatic, but still, I’m sure you’d be able to have more fun that way!”
I made sure to smile with my eyes closed whenever I had to meet with him. Just the sight of that man and his theatrics immediately made me compare myself to him, especially in terms of negative similarities.
“Do pray tell what is that you mean by ‘fun,’ then, Mr. President?” I asked him, narrowly suppressing my usual anger.
“Having a stupid lover!” he shamelessly answered. “No offense to your mother, but you gotta admit that stringing a cute little fool like that along gets a person giddy, yeah? I mean, ‘stupid’ is definitely written all over that Ichika Orimura’s face. And we’ll get Tabane Shinonono’s attention even more this way!”
“I see,” I answered, mentally recalling my many plans to slowly torture and kill that piece of trash to suppress my burning rage even further. “It does get me giddy.”
“I know, right? And man, you really look like your mother right now…Always loved that secretly pissed look on her face, you know?”
Either he had a death wish or he was just that arrogant. Probably the latter.
Fortunately, he dismissed me soon after, sparing me the sounds of him trying to get under his rightfully vitriolic secretary’s skirt again.
Still, I went along with his stupid request to spy on Ichika Orimura. Anything to get away from that man and have some comfort, I’d do, but I also have to struggle with self-loathing over how selfish I probably am, especially considering how I instinctively thought “Oh, his media control will make no one question how I let myself be the subject and beneficiary of deceptive PR.”
Along with that, it’s so damn easy to fall into living a life that goes “There’s nothing else I can do.”
Maybe that’s why I fell for Ichika. I was on his level of stupid.
“I’m sorry, Charl. I’m honored that you see me that way, but…I can’t return those feelings the way you want it.”
I had to be reminded that Ichika and I still had more growing up left to do. That, and our growing up most likely meant being friends at most. I like to think that I saw it coming, but that sounds more like an excuse than anything better. I can claim that I’m the sanest among what they call “Ichika’s Harem,” but never someone who isn’t selfish and can’t be dumber than Ichika.
The pain of that rejection also made me despair for a while, to be honest. Where else was I supposed to go after all we’ve been through in IS Academy? Would my rivals-turned-friends drop the “friends” part for something worse when we all have to go back to our home countries?
“Charlotte Dunois, you’re going to be housemates with me and Laura one way or another. Just pretend that my country never left the EU, though.”
“Besides, your father and his goons won’t really care if you leave, correct? And if they feel slighted by your existence enough to go after your life, then rest assured that Cecilia and I shall personally channel the likes of lovely brides like Liam Neeson and Bruce Willis to protect you.”
Turns out that I thought of the wrong answers for those two despairing questions I had back there. Still…
“Did Ichika reject you two, too?” I asked.
“So blunt…” Cecilia Alcott cringed.
“It makes sense, but it still hurts,” Laura Bodewig closed her uncovered eye.
“Well, at least we got all our true feelings out, no?” I smiled for them, feeling back to my own self more and more again. “And we’re still friends.”
“So we’re in the friendzone…” Laura thought out loud with her usual serious expression, causing me and Cecilia to giggle a bit. “It’s definitely different from how people on the Internet usually describe it.”
“And the power of friendship grants great superpowers!” Cecilia stood and smiled proud, and then she lowered her face to seriousness. “Still, aren’t you worried for Ichika, Houki, and Miss Chifuyu?”
“Of course we are,” I answered, while Laura nodded in agreement. “Also, don’t forget Rin.”
“Yeah, don’t forget me, you white girls,” Lingyin Huang jumped in, grabbing onto Cecilia’s back and cramping our British friend’s style. “I’d love to help my childhood friend, his sister, and my childhood friend’s other childhood friend, but then I had to remember how dumb I am at politics. Damn Representative Candidate business!”
“Get off me, Rin! Are you trying to choke me?”
And then Cecilia and Rin had another wrestling match. Laura and I laughed at all that, but still…
Still, was there really anything we could do? That despicable feeling called helplessness was making itself known to us with its fangs bared again, and again, it hurt.
Then I felt a hand over mine. It came from Laura, who was sitting right beside me.
“Retreating from the battlefield and biding our time are legitimate strategies, Charl,” she told me with a small smile. “Besides, aren’t soldiers also supposed to make sure that we all don’t need to have a fray to enter in the end?”
“It all sounds stupid whether or not we do all that, though…” I replied, still feeling uncertain.
“No wonder we fell in love with Ichika, then,” she shot back with a bigger smile.
Now that certainly gave me a big push for me to keep on living and fighting.
“Somebody! Somebody tag me out of here! I’m sorry for arriving late!”
“I’ve been studying professional wrestling during my spare time, Rin! And this isn’t just about your lack of punctuality today! Now taste my Noblewoman’s Foothold!”
Looking at that fun wrestling scene, I turned to Laura with a sly smile.
“Want to be a tag team with me?”
Laura answered with a dangerous smirk.
Author’s Note: Big thanks again to Kerlongsj Evert Orlejov for inspiring my further Infinite Stratos fanfic writing. This was originally supposed to be a fanfic with Charl and Ichika working part-time at the Gotandas as a framing device, but I found that a little too angsty and romance-centered, so yeah, this happened.