Fanfiction for the mobile game "Azur Lane."
|Helena often heard people saying that time sometimes passes unusually slowly in the Sakura Empire. She found the idea rather hard to believe, despite being the kind of person who is not so inclined to be skeptical. After all, the way things usually went in the Imperial Capital was anything but slow.
Yet right now, she has just opened her eyes and realized that she had been dozing off yet again— as happened several times before. Before long, she was convinced that perhaps there is truth to that statement.
Her admittedly mundane daily life probably was also the reason but compared to the horrors of the war...
She will not trade it for anything in the world.
Glancing at the clock hanging on the wall, she was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was not as late as she imagined. That person will not be back anytime soon, she recalled while blindly searching the surface of the tatami for the needle she dropped. She'd hoped to locate it quickly, or at all, even with no SG radar to help her this time.
Of course, she could always get a new needle, but her supplies were limited. She'd rather not waste even one―a notion embraced by many in the Sakura Empire.
To her relief―and surprise―before long, she had already found it, barely avoiding being pricked, and set to resume her work, mending a piece of garment.
After that, as the house has been cleaned beforehand, she figured she'd prepare dinner. Helena was grateful that person did not seem to mind Western food; Sakura cuisine remained an elusive, tricky beast for her to conquer, even until now.
But it was hardly a problem for her; she had plenty of time to learn now that she found a place she could call home.
Home. What a heartwarming word, she thought, pausing for a moment to savor the warmth seeping into her heart—a feeling that never failed to bring a smile out of her, no matter what.
And she had been smiling more often than ever.
I'm home, she repeated, drawing each word. I'm safe.
Helena allowed herself a laugh at that and resumed her work until she heard a voice saying, "I'm home" from the porch. It was followed by a series of footsteps, then the sound of shoes being removed and placed on the floor.
Oh, so soon? I haven't prepared dinner...
That can wait, she decided before turning to the person who had just arrived. His coat is still on, and it looks like he has no intention to take it off anytime soon. She set the garment―thankfully finished―and caught up with him.
"We-Welcome back. You...are early, Kido-san. "
The man laughed when he saw how flustered the girl was.
"Why are you looking so surprised, Rena?"
As he had expected, she became even more flustered. "Ah...No...Am I really? You see...you returned home earlier than you said... "
"Ahaha, that's right; Mikasa- dono's orders. Maybe she thought we were overworked or something. Well, it's a good thing in any case."
"...Ah, so that's why. And, Rena ...? You...haven't called me that in a long time. If you want to, you can always call me that, you see."
"Fine offer. And though it's easier to say, when I think about it now, I feel that 'Helena' suits you best."
"Ah...I see...Um, are you hungry...sorry, I...I haven't got dinner prepared. I thought you will be back late today," Helena apologized rather embarrassedly as she recalled about dinner.
"That's okay, I cannot tell you that my plans changed anyway; in fact, I guess it's a good thing you did not prepare that dinner," he said, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. As he did, he could tell she was anxious, but it disappeared as quickly as it comes.
Helena looked up; he had a meaningful smile on his face, directed at her. "What do you mean...?" She asked. He gestured at the door.
"Since I'm free, that means we're going out tonight. If you feel like it, that is. Hope you do, though. We haven't had much chance to do that, have we?"
He definitely had something planned, and Helena knew that. He is acting a touch more happy than usual, and in that case, she cannot bring herself to refuse.
"Let me get my coat then," Helena replied with a smile, and he removed his hand from her, allowing her to go. He watched as she undid the knots that held her apron in place, took it off, and folded it neatly before tucking the item inside the closet. From the same place, she pulled a coat, which she then proceeded to put on.
"I'm ready," she said when she went up to him again after redoing her hair and making sure she looked presentable.
"Splendid," he said, taking her hand and led her out.
They stopped holding hands once they were out on the streets. People here frown on public displays of affection, and they can be rigid about it too, she remembered what he told her before.
Thus, they kept what is called a "respectable distance " as they walked, with her slightly behind him. It did not stop them from talking to each other, so she cannot really complain.
Compared to when the war has just ended, it was clear some semblance of normality has returned to the imperial capital. People were walking at leisure's pace; even some were smiling and looked carefree. Meanwhile, with Union funding, the streetcars have also resumed their operations. Though, she never rides in one. They were seldom vacant and always too packed to the brim for her comfort.
The only remaining proof that war has just passed is the ruined buildings around them. Some were in the process of being demolished, others had scaffolds around them while they were being rebuilt.
Mikasa-san was right, Helena mused; she once said the people will rise again, just like the sun. It's no wonder this country is often called 'Land of the Rising Sun.'
"Fine weather, huh," she heard Kido saying, and she silently agreed. The early summer rain spell had long passed, and she could see the stars seemingly dancing above, not obstructed by the clouds.
It was indeed a pleasant summer night—warm, yet slightly chilly.
Helena thought she would have enjoyed it more, had she known where he intended to lead her to, instead of just wandering.
Nevertheless, she held back from voicing her concern, while he kept on speaking of things decidedly trivial.
Have you got the letters from your sisters?
No, not yet; delay as always, probably.
Makes sense; they were halfway across the world.
Are you tired?
Mm, not really; you seemed more tired than I am, though.
No, not really.
Things like that.
"Oh, here we are."
The sight of the vast, even busier streets of Nihonbashi welcomed the pair as Kido spoke, along with its century-old shops eager to do business again. At a distance, Helena could spot the famous bridge, unscathed by the war, still sporting its lampposts and its magnificent lions.
The lights of Nihonbashi were brighter; the crowd livelier, though Helena did not have the time to admire, as Kido gently but briefly pulled her away.
"Stick a bit closer to me this time, these people will not notice or care," he told her, "I don't want to be separated from you."
There was genuine concern over it in how he spoke; she could feel it. Feeling the heat rising to her cheeks, Helena slid closer to him as people passed them by. That was apparently not enough. He nearly lost her at one point, after which he decided to take her by the hand anyway.
"Don't let go."
" I won't."
Kido brought Helena to the middle of the bridge, where he let go of her hand, eliciting a confused look from her.
"Well, here we are," he began, eyes on the river below, and the lights reflected on its surface. "Do you know the significance of this place?"
Seeing Helena shaking her head, he continued, "I come here often. Nihonbashi...is known as the 'Kilometer Zero,' you see. When people in the past traveled out of Edo, whether through Tokaido or Nakasendo, They'd start here."
He gestured for Helena to move closer, and she did as told, now growing even more curious than before.
"But what does that...?"
"A journey, no matter how long, began with a single step. To me, this place is a good reminder of that. Every time I have a goal, I will often come here and remind myself; that I've to see it to the end.
As for you...ever since I joined Mikasa- dono 's resistance, and then I got to meet...and eventually fight alongside you, I became increasingly...and painfully aware of...well...your fears. Your worries. But..." He paused, taking a deep breath before continuing, "...I knew you wanted to cast your old self and the weight that you carried within your heart away. I knew you have taken the first step, and I couldn't be prouder of you. So...keep throwing those unneeded baggage away as you go. Remember, I'll always be by your side."
By the time he finished speaking, Helena was nearly in tears. She eventually managed to swallow it and maintain a degree of composure.
"Thank you...Kido-san," she muttered with her head bowed so that he could not see her face, knowing the emotions boiling within her will not subside for a while.
Looking at the girl tenderly, Kido reached inside his coat but paused before he actually pulls anything out.
"Speaking of starting a new journey...There is still one I've yet to take," he continued, finally revealing a small lacquer box, which he opened before the astonished Helena to reveal a ring.
"Well...this is one Union custom I've never heard of before, and my jeweler friend looked at me as if I was crazy when I placed this order. Anyways, it might not actually look like this over there in your country...But the most important thing is, now I can really say we're marr-"
He didn't get to finish as Helena leaned forward and drew him into her embrace, nearly knocking the ring off his hand.
"...You have done so much for me, and yet I could never repay you."
"Well, no need to because I lo-"
He was once again interrupted as Helena removed herself from their embrace, then tugged at the hem of his clothing to draw his face towards hers.
But instead of a kiss like he had expected, she merely whispered something into his ears.
When she finally let go, his face was red all over, but he was smiling widely, and that, he realized, is probably the same reaction he would have had she really kissed him.
"Aha...haha. That's...the first time I heard you saying such bold words..."
When their gaze met, he saw that Helena's face was just as red as his, her smile earnest and radiant despite the small tears forming within the corners of her eyes.
"I hope you will get used to it, Kido-san," she said, coyly twirling the fringes of her blue hair, "because from now on, you will be hearing it a lot."