Zuikaku felt really stupid right now, to end up getting trapped in that bus stop as the heavy rain continued to pour over the town without any signs of stopping. How on earth could she forget the rainy season had begun, and thus she neglected to bring an umbrella along with her?
“Come to think of it, Shoukaku-nee did say something as I left, but I was too in a hurry to get this errand done. I did not hear it clearly...Maybe it was a reminder...” she mumbled to herself. There was no one else taking shelter there, and when she looked at people walking under their umbrellas, she felt even stupider.
Zuikaku pondered whether she should just run through the rain, even though she knew she would get drenched and Shoukaku would find out and make a fuss. But then again, she did not want to leave the Commander wondering why she has not come back either. And besides, it’s getting colder—rubbing your palms together to generate heat can only do so much—and she will miss lunch if she stayed.
With that in mind and the realization Shoukaku would worry either way if she did not return soon, Zuikaku stood and pulled the hood of her long coat over her head.
Despite already getting ready to go, she ended up staying, as she saw the Commander, wearing a raincoat and a pair of thick boots, walking towards the bus stop, under the protection of a shocking pink umbrella that she thought was too ridiculous, even for him.
“Whoa, there you are, little birdie. Apparently, I got here just in time—you’re about to run through the rain, aren’t you...?” The Commander said as he stepped into the bus stop, took a seat, and closed the dripping umbrella.
“Uh, I, I’ve been staying here too long... that’s why...” Zuikaku replied and returned to her own seat, avoiding eye contact with the Commander. The predicament she was in was embarrassing enough, and the Commander’s ever-present grin only made it worse.
“Yeah, I think so too, that’s why I came looking for you. Shoukaku volunteered to do that for me, but I figured I’ll do it myself, so I borrowed these boots from one of the dock’s grease monkeys and set out to find you. After all, a leader must not abandon his subordinate who might be in need.”
Zuikaku felt her face heating up, a feeling she found unwelcome despite the cold.
“Uh, ah...you shouldn’t...trouble yourself that much for me, Commander.”
“Eh. It was nothing. I need an excuse to get out once in a while. Besides, I look cool when I said that, don’t you think...? Admittedly, though, I wanted to bring you an umbrella, but it seems I forgot to take it with me.”
Zuikaku had no idea how to answer that; all she managed, in the end, was a stuttered gratitude. The Commander laughed it off and handed her the plastic bag he was carrying.
“Anyway, are you hungry? It’s lunchtime, after all. I bought you food... they’re just bread, though.”
Aware that her stomach has been rumbling slightly—and she was thankful to the gods they did not growl so audibly—Zuikaku took one of the bread from the bag and slowly nibbled at it. Usually, she would’ve finished one quickly, but at that moment, she still felt somewhat self-conscious.
“Um...ah, thank you...Um, I’m curious, though...how did you find me...?” She asked after a while.
“Ah, this town wasn’t that big. And since you don’t seem to be the type to wander around during a job, I thought I should start from the area where your errand was. And voila, I was right.”
“I see...um, Commander, you’re staying...? Zuikaku asked again when she saw the Commander remained in place, hoping he wouldn’t be offended by the question. She’d thought he would only check on her and then leave; there was never a real need for him to stay anyway.
“Well, well. You don’t want me to?” The Commander asked. “You might get lonely if I leave.”
“I’m... I’m not a child, I won’t,” Zuikaku replied, though deep down she was a little unsure how true it was.
“Ah, is that so? Okay then,” the Commander, still smiling, reached for his umbrella, seemingly about to leave.
Seeing that, Zuikaku hurriedly said,
“...Um, actually, you... don’t have to leave, Commander. I don’t mind you staying.”
The Commander turned to look at the shipgirl, who had just realized what she’d said and blushed hard.
“Is that so? You do know you’re getting stuck here with a boring old man, don’t you?”
Zuikaku bit into her bread to distract herself before answering.
“... no, I don’t find you boring...”
Though she wasn’t looking at the Commander, Zuikaku could hear his relieved sigh at the reply.
“Oh my, I’m really flattered. Okay then, guess I’m staying here for a while. It was lonely at the base without my secretary around, after all.”
Zuikaku once again thanked the gods that she already swallowed that piece of bread because she was sure she would’ve choked otherwise. Looking at the Commander, who now seemed a little too pleased, and the rain, still not showing any signs of stopping soon, she sighed.
Shoukaku is going to have so much fun with this.