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The Fortress Across the Bridge

Chapter Text

                Kongou sat in the shallow bathing pool and watched as her rigging, with smoke pouring out of them, was hauled off by the fairies, into the next room. Almost immediately, the whirring of welders, and other machines, began. The higher-pitched parts of the sounds of repair rang in her ears and hurt her head even more than it already was- in response, she squeezed her eyes shut. She leaned back against the walls of the little spring in the repair docks, and tried to ignore the sound. Just relax. The sound still seemed to pierce her ears no matter how hard she tried to close them off to it. 

                Just as she let out an exasperated sigh, a fairy flew by and dropped a warm, soaked towel on her forehead. It helped her headache… a little bit. She opened her eyes, and turned her head to the fairy, tapping her fingers on the surface of the water to make a little splashing sound.

                “Excuse me!” she called to the fairy. When she turned to face her, Kongou asked “Do you know when these repairs will be done?”
                “Of course Miss Kongou." The fairy paused, took out a small note which she looked over, then winced. "Um… ten hours.” she quietly reported.
                “Ten hours?!” Kongou exclaimed.
                “You were damaged very badly I'm afraid...” the fairy noted. “We are very sorry for the inconvenience.”
                “It’s fine, I guess,” grumbled Kongou, as she slouched further into the small pool, until her shoulders were just barely above the surface of the water. The fairy went off to do other things, leaving Kongou alone.

                Placing a hand over a scrape on her arm, she could almost feel it dissolve in the water. As fast as wounds of the body could heal in these springs, the rigging would take far more time. 

                How do you kill ten hours of time?

                She narrowed her eyes at the wall. It was rough and unpainted concrete-ish material, that seemed to cast a shadow over itself and the room in its grayness. She’d remembered the times she ran her fingers against a wall much like this one, and it felt like the bumps of the stone would crumble in her hand. Maybe if she glared at the walls hard enough, they would crumble, too. Could she, though? The wall felt so far away from the edge of the water, the distance measured by a number of clinically white floor tiles that Kongou couldn’t be bothered to count right now.

                The soaked towel almost slipped over her eyes, requiring she gently shift it back into its place. It reminded her of a particularly boring game that she was sure Kirishima was rambling about at some point. Something where you had to keep a counter on-centre for 8 hours.

                It seemed impossible that a game like that could exist. Of course, she could only decide to either trust her sister’s say-so on the matter or not. Kongou did wonder where Kirishima found out such things about the world outside their naval base- though, there were many books on various topics out there in her room, and she imagined the admiral was the one who gave them to her.

                Of course, everyone had to trust his say-so when it came to the outside. If Kongou had to say, she’d say the admiral was indeed trustworthy on that topic, and not just because he was the only one in the base who’d actually been there. He and Kongou hadn’t talked often, and even less about the outside world, but the tidbits he handed out were intriguing, and they didn’t sound too outlandish or anything. Plus, why would he lie to the ship girls like that?

                She wondered if she had a bit of bias towards the admiral, though. After all, she couldn’t help but smile when she remembered their talks, and sometimes when she did, a blush would come over her face. Though, she hadn’t noticed that last part until Haruna pointed it out that one time.

                Those thoughts seemed to turn in on themselves, into memories. The summer day was warm, and the view of the sea from the window glittered in the sun. The admiral was standing in front of that window, fiddling with something. She went over to get a better look at it- a Rubik’s cube, the admiral told her. Apparently, it was a rather popular kind of puzzle-toy-thing back on the mainland. The point was to put all the squares of one colour on the same side, so that each side of the cube was a solid colour.

                She remembered taking it into her hands, and turning the layers upon layers, with a rather unladylike growl- as she could not, for the life of her, figure out how it was meant to be solved. The admiral just laughed, and told her to keep it and try to solve it while he was away for the next week. Taking him up on the offer, she would spend her nights in her room, playing around with the cube, trying to get the arrangement just right. Kirishima had offered to help her, but she felt that would be cheating.

                By the time the admiral got back from the mainland, a week later, Kongou was able to proudly show him that she had completed one side. Seeing it, he smiled, and patted her on the head- then he took the cube, pondered it for a moment, then solved it right before her eyes.  

                She was snapped out of her giggling reminiscing when the fairy from before took the soaked towel off her head and replaced it with a new one. To be fair, the other one had gotten a bit dry. How long was she lost in thought?

                “How much longer are repairs?” asked Kongou.
                The fairy sighed. “Nine and a half hours. We are very sorry miss, again.”
                Kongou blinked. As it turned out, she wasn’t out that long at all. She let out an exasperated sigh.
                “Perhaps you can try to take a nap? It is not easy but it is something.” suggested the fairy in response.
                “I guess I could,” noted Kongou. She sunk down into the water until her neck would lean against the edge of the pool. It wasn’t the best pillow, but she guessed she needed something to do. Still, the whirring and clanging in the other room just wouldn’t let her rest, let alone the hard floor her head was resting on.

                She was beginning to ponder if asking for a pillow or something similar would help, when a familiar face in the corner of her eye darted in. Kongou turned, and saw Akashi smiling, holding a bucket. Instantly, Kongou felt a wave of relief come over her.

                “Great news! You won’t have to wait so long,” Akashi cheerily stated, jostling the instant repair bucket a bit, before rushing into the repair room. With a smile, Kongou felt like she could relax just a bit better, despite her aching head and the shrill sound of machines in the other room- which quickly quelled, anyway.

                Soon enough, Akashi was back. The bucket was still half full, just enough was used for the rigging. Akashi turned and poured it into Kongou, who smiled as the water streamed over her head. Afterwards, she stood up, and examined herself. No scrapes, and for another fact her head was no longer causing problems for her.

                “Thank you, Akashi!” she said with a big grin.
                “Oh, no!” deflected Akashi, who seemed like she was going to say something else before she stopped, and looked at the bottom of the bucket. “Huh. Is that a note?”
                “Is it? Can I see?” asked Kongou. In response, Akashi tilted the bucket her way. Sure enough, a piece of paper enveloped in a plastic cover was at the bottom. She reached in, and pulled at it- it unstuck with ease, and she brought it towards her to read.

                Dear Kongou,
                Please meet me in my office once your repairs are complete.
                I wish to discuss an important matter with you.
                Signed, Admiral Arinori Kase

                Akashi, who was reading over her shoulder, commented “Must be important.” With a smirk, she continued- “Maybe he’s looking for another girlfriend, again.”
                The two of them laughed. Akashi had to gather her breath before she could speak again.
                “But in all seriousness, I don’t think you should keep him waiting.”
                “Mm…” Kongou looked away from the note for a bit, and saw the fairies carrying her rigging back to her. “I told my sisters I would play a game of soccer with them after the sortie, and after my repairs were done.”
                “Oh… that does sound unfortunate, but I doubt it would take too long, no? Besides, it’s pretty late and your repairs were supposed to take 10 hours. I doubt they’d be waiting for you now,” Akashi told her, with sympathy.
                “True, true… say, what time is it?” asked Kongou.
                “Uh… a quarter to 2 AM, just about.” Akashi informed her.
                Kongou mused out loud, “Ah, then they’ve probably gone to sleep. No worries, then!”


                Akashi sent her off with a wave and a smile as she walked out of the repair docks- Kongou was smiling too- for a mix of reasons.