“Ugh, this is taking forever…” Zuikaku moaned as she, along with Shoukaku and a crowd of townspeople, traveled the winding path leading to the hilltop, a twisting and turning road with seemingly no end in sight.
“You can complain now, but once we got there, you wouldn’t regret it,” with a laugh, Shoukaku answered. Zuikaku had only expressed a mild interest in the event before, but she went along anyway, probably more because she didn’t want to feel left out; pretty much everyone else was going.
“Aren’t we only going stargazing, though?”
“Oh, trust me,” Shoukaku returned her attention to the road ahead.
When they had finally reached their destination, Shoukaku knew she was right when she overheard her sister gasping. Even without looking, she could imagine Zuikaku’s expression—wide-eyed admiration at the starlit-sky, something her sister must’ve shared with the murmuring crowd.
Looking up, Shoukaku wasn’t surprised. The starry heavens were indeed magnificent—and it’s about to get even more so, maybe in less than an hour.
“Whoa…I never knew they could look this pretty…” Zuikaku couldn’t look away even if she wanted to; her hand reached upward as though she was trying to touch or even grasp one.
“I’m glad you could see them,” Shoukaku spoke, “but stargazing is not the only thing we are here for.”
Though it wasn’t Shoukaku’s intention, Zuikaku shifted her gaze to her, frowning.
“Right. Something the Commander called…the Per…um, Per—”
“Perseids,” Shoukaku finished for her sister.
“Oh yeah. That. What is that anyway?” Zuikaku wondered what it was and then why it must be some hard foreign words.
“Why don’t you go find and ask him that yourself?” Shoukaku suggested.
“Good idea. I was thinking of that, actually,” replied Zuikaku. The enthusiastic reply wasn’t something Shoukaku had anticipated because she was only joking. In her momentary distraction, she failed to hear Zuikaku saying goodbye; when she had already realized it, Zuikaku had slipped away.
Sighing, Shoukaku braced herself to go through the crowd, which in such a short time had already grown.
Shoukaku silently thanked the gods that it didn’t take much trouble to find Zuikaku. She noted that it apparently didn’t take long for her sister to find the Commander either; they were talking when she arrived. Just nearby stood Takao and Atago and several crewmembers, each busy with themselves.
“Ah, Shoukaku-nee,” Zuikaku noticed her sister and waved. She was in a good mood, Shoukaku noticed.
“Commander, Zuikaku,” Shoukaku offered both a nod.
“Unlike your sister here, you don’t seem to be excited. Seen everything, I reckon?” the Commander commented after returning the gesture.
Zuikaku snorted when she heard that, while her sister only smiled; as usual, though, she cannot really tell what’s behind it.
“Even if I am, I assure you that I’m looking forward to it,” Shoukaku insisted. “Perhaps I should ask the same question to you, Commander. You don’t seem to be…excited.”
“Haha. Maybe…I’m the one who has seen everything. Well, excuse me, girls. Got something to do. Don’t wander too far, yes? Especially you, Zuikaku.”
“Geez, I told you I’m not a child!” Zuikaku shot back; the Commander simply laughed and walked away.
Their conversation went like usual, but Zuikaku couldn’t help but think something’s odd, but she cannot really tell why or how. She’d only realized it when Shoukaku asked the question.
And looking at her sister, who was solemn for some reason, Zuikaku thought she must have been thinking the same thing.
As the night went on, the people were getting even more anxious. They murmured among one another, and the shipgirls present were no exception.
“…Come on, come on,” Zuikaku mumbled. Now that she’s aware of why people gathered there, she was swept in the excitement, too; her earlier concerns were left forgotten. Shoukaku was more subdued, but she nevertheless kept her eyes to the skies.
“There! Over there!” someone cried out, and all heads turned in the direction. A streak of light can be seen flashing through the sky, and everyone cheered raucously. It was quickly followed by countless others, and the cheer only seemed to grow along with them.
“Pretty romantic, isn’t it? Perhaps you can make a wish,” Shoukaku remarked. Zuikaku rolled her eyes at that.
“Eh, I told you I’m not a child,” Zuikaku replied, shrugging.
“A pity. I’ve already made one,” Shoukaku giggled. The words were met with a blank stare.
“…Really,” Zuikaku mumbled. It’s less a question and more of an expression of doubt.
“Yes. I’m not telling you, though,” Shoukaku turned back to the meteor shower. It didn’t look like it’ll stop anytime soon.
“Fine, I’m going to make one, or even two, and I’m not telling you either!” Zuikaku stuck her tongue out.
“I’m fine with that, but make it count,” Shoukaku replied. Zuikaku saw her knowing smile, and in a rare moment of clarity, she caught on to what her sister had wanted to say.
The shower went for about an hour. Zuikaku thought it was a little short, but everyone else was satisfied, and she cannot really complain about it.
When she and Shoukaku met with the Commander again, he was with the others.
“Hello, you two. We didn’t get to talk before, huh? Did you girls make a wish?” Atago was the first to notice the pair.
“We do,” the two replied in unison.
“Oh, that’s great. Times like these are perfect for wish-making. Even if they don’t come true, just having something to wish for feels great.”
“Mutsuki wished for candies! Lots of it!” the little destroyer chimed in. The Commander chuckled. “Okay, noted,” he said; it got Mutsuki, and even Kisaragi, cheering.
“The Commander, though, as always, didn’t make any,” Atago continued, shaking her head, her lips forming a pout. “Onee-san is starting to worry.”
“Nah, I’m good,” the Commander laughed it off. “No need for a wish.”
“Hmm, I wonder…”
Zuikaku flinched at the smile Atago passed her.
“This proved to be an exciting event, but it’s getting late, and most of us are on duty tomorrow,” Takao, who had been silent, spoke. The Commander acknowledged it with a nod.
“Alright, everyone. The show’s over, dismissed.”
With that, everyone dispersed.
Seeing that the Commander stayed, though, Zuikaku paused. Shoukaku raised an eyebrow, but she noticed the Commander as well and decided to continue walking.
“Commander, are you not going?” Zuikaku inquired; she now recalled their conversation earlier, and suddenly the air felt awkward.
“Oh, I’m just going to admire the sight for a bit. Why are you not going back, though?”
“I—I’m just worried about you.”
“Worried about me? That’s flattering. But I’m alright, you know?”
“No, that’s not it…You know, I—”
The Commander, his smile faltering a little, went to Zuikaku.
“…I’m alright,” he repeated.
There’s no helping it, Zuikaku realized. She put on her best smile.
“If you say so.”
“Oh, look, another shooting star. Hey! A bit late, you!” Looking up, the Commander noticed a lone meteor passing through. Zuikaku only saw bits of it; it was too fast.
“That was your last chance to make a wish this year,” she said; again, the Commander only laughed.
As she’s still looking up, Zuikaku didn’t notice the Commander glancing in her direction. His smile was tender.
“I told you, I’m good.”