Chapter 5: Escape
Panic settles between the two remaining warships as their flagship lies unconscious near them.
"What do we do!? What do we do!? The enemy is attacking us and we can't fight back!?" Asagumo breaks down as large shells fall all around them, creating large geysers of water to further confuse them.
"Asagumo-san, c-calm down" Kitakami shakily yells out, "Shigure-san is down, b-but we're not out of the woods!" she raised her arm to shield herself from the shelling.
A painful sting hits Kitakami as her arm was blown off from a shell, causing her to cry out.
"Kitakami-san!?" Asagumo made to race over to the Torpedo Cruiser, but another girl's voice drew her attention.
Looking down on the prone form of Shigure, Asagumo's stomach lurched heavily as she saw the pathetic state of the Shigure's incapacitated sister. Half of the pinkette's face was missing, and blood leaked out of the large gaps on her back. She quickly realized that Harusame had essentially shielded her own sister from harm.
"Shimata! Harusame-san! Hang in there!" Another she'll explodes on Harusame, cause her to cry out in agony.
"You're going to be fine, Harusame-san! J-just hang in there!"
"I...I'll be... fine...? N-nevermind me... G...get Shi... Shigure... née out..." the pinkette ordered.
"Uh... Okay, you're clearly not fine, Harusame-san! L-let me help!" Asagumo pleaded.
Asagumo bit her lips hard. Sure she could tow one of the destroyers back, but two at once? Not only was one of them unfit to take the waves, the other one was unconscious, meaning she had to carry both of them herself.
"Kitakami-san, could you help-"
"- Can't do that, sorry." Kitakami rejected immediately, keeping her back facing them.
"Cause destroyers are annoying." She answered simply.
"Just take Shigure and go, s'not like Harusame has any survivability as she is. You'll be bringing back scrap."
"...Why?" Her hands couldn't stop shaking, why was Kitakami acting like this?
"Why are you acting like this!? If you pitched in and towed Harusame-san, we could pulled them out alive!"
"Harusame gonna be dead in a few minutes, nothing we can do to stop the blood loss." Pulling her hand back towards the Asashio-class, she continued, "Pass me her torpedoes, I'll better off with them."
Asagumo stared at the haughty Torpedo Cruiser with disbelief.
How... How dare she orders her to leave Harusame to sink and give her the torpedoes.
"It's okay... Asagumo..." Harusame gently consoled the distraught girl. "She is right..."
"Hate to disturb your precious good byes, but the enemy is approaching and I'd really like to be armed for the next attack."
"You little bitch!" Asagumo screams at the Torpedo Cruiser, "We should have let you sink yourself at the mine field earlier! If you were going to be this bitchy about Harusame-san, do us a favor and sink yourself!"
A brief silence fills the area as the waters returned back to the ocean, Kitakami turns her head partially and meets Asagumo's eyes from the corner.
"You're the bitchy one, trying to save everyone." She coldly snaps at the red head. "This is war, you can't save everybody. Harusame just took six shells into her back, she's bleeding out rapidly and doesn't seem to be there at all anymore. Delaying the inevitable is not mercy."
Asagumo snaps her head back towards the pinkette. Sure enough, the girl's eyes was fading, as she doesn't seem to be breathing anymore.
"It's okay... It's okay..." The girl mumbles. "I'll be fine..."
Harusame's breathing slows to a stop, as she stop mumbling anymore, her eyes remained open but unfocused.
"What'd I tell you? Hand me those torpedoes, destroyer." Kitakami coldly repeats herself.
Gritting her teeth in anger, Asagumo unfastened the torpedoes launchers from Harusame's amputated legs, tossing them over to the Torpedo Cruiser without a word.
"Thanks, now get out of here."
Asagumo reluctantly separates the sisters from one another, laying the expired on flatly on the sea surface.
Wordlessly she releases the pink haired destroyer, watching her sink into the ocean for a while before she moved over to pick up the unconscious destroyer.
"Kitakami-san, I hope you sink in the most torturous of ways." she cursed the light cruiser.
Kitakami simply turned back forward, ignoring her curse. Without hesitation, Asagumo restated her engines, slowly towing Shigure away from Kitakami.
As she listened to the sound of the engines fading away, Kitakami suppresses the urge to laugh, feeling the pain in her abdomen from the chuckles she failed to contain.
Similarly to Harusame, her body was riddled with holes, except none of them had passed through her body, her left arm was gone, used to shield herself from a few shells aiming towards her face while her right knee no longer has flesh, showing only bloody bones and kneecaps.
"Sorry Asagumo, but I think you'd panic even more if you saw me..." Kitakami whispers to herself softly as the whistling of shells grew closed.
Holding the launcher with her teeth, she transfers the torpedoes from Harusame's launchers to her own, filling up the remaining spots of her launcher with Harusame's last six torpedoes, throwing the launchers into the sea as soon as she was done with them.
"Adding those six, I should have twenty eight in total..." she confirms with her observation. "Guess I couldn't hold onto that promise, Shigure-san..." She smiles as her eyes focused on the approaching fleet of battleships and cruisers.
"I'll show you the power of Super Kitakami-sama." She grins as she begins deployment of four torpedoes. Aiming her gun as the closest destroyer, she opens fire and let it strike right into it's magazines. As the battleships steer themselves towards the Torpedo Cruiser, the two torpedoes hit the battleships spot on as they opened fire on the slow moving Torpedo Cruiser. The brief fire explosive brought satisfaction to Kitakami as she slowly moved herself into her position of her next attack.
A couple of shells lightly hit her from her right, pulling her attention towards another plair of destroyers. Grimacing in pain, she shifted her aim towards the left one, hitting the further destroyer right in the eye. The destroyer exploding in flames before they sailed away from her range.
A dull throb hits her as she deployed the next Salvo of four, informing her that she had been hit on her left thigh, her breath hitched as she swallowed the urge to cry, keenly intending for Asagumo to not be worried. Turning towards the Heavy Cruisers, she returns fire on them, scoring several insignificant hit as the torpedoes travels towards them unnoticed. The Heavy Cruisers moved forwards to finish the lone cruiser, only to erupt into a fireball.
Four down, a hundred to go, she assures herself.
Her teeth clamps down on her lips hard, allowing the Torpedo Cruiser to ignore another two blows in her head and chest respectively. Spotting a fleet of three warships heading to her right, she launches another four torpedoes at their direction while moving perpendicular in their direction, sinking the ships with unnverving accuracy, leaving her with only twelve torpedoes.
Re-orientating herself, she spies a pair of Light Cruisers heading straight at her. Dropping two fishes into the water, she grimances as she see they avoid the shots with ease. Following up with a pair of shots from her single 14cm gun, she scores two hits on the legs of one of them, causing it to sink into the water.
She drops another torpedo into the water, dropping a second one in a different direction before firing off the last two shots at the Light Cruiser. One of the shot hits the Chi-class, sending it reeling to it's left, right into the torpedo's path.
A Ta-class approaches her from her back with her escorts. Kitakami opens up with two torpedoes that hit the destroyers, followed by another four that sinks the rest of the Ta-class' escorts. Arming the last two, she stops moving as her engines died on her.
Kitakami smiles randomly as the battleship lifts her by her collar, the look of contempt filling the Torpedo Cruiser with satisfaction. "Are you ready to sink, monster?"
She swings her left hard into the naval of the Ta-class, letting the contact activate the warheads of her last two torpedoes. The Ta-class wails in agony as the magazine in her turrets are caught up in the explosion, turning her into a source of fuel for the fireball that encompasses the two warships.
The Light Cruiser begin sinking as the fire died down, letting Kitakami give off one last laugh before water filled her vision.
As the Torpedo Cruiser makes her way down into the abyss, she gave herself one more selfish though.
Man... the next time, I'd like to be reborn... As an Aircraft Carrier in my next life phrase...
...Even an Repair Ship isn't bad...
It's been two hours since Asagumo separated from Kitakami.
That's the word the girl settled on as she watched the Torpedo Cruiser fall into the Abyss. Kamusus like her usually have a large sense of hatred towards their Admiral as they fell, always cursing and swearing the authority that left them to die.
So... why is someone like her... merely disappointed in herself?
Questions resonated through the hollow body as she mutely watched the lifeless corpse sink, meeting the unfocused grey eyes with her own, emotionless amber ones.
It was not the only one, earlier, there was another destroyer that was content in her passing.
It was... interesting how they felt no regret being sent to their deaths.
The young mind was not concerned, the hull she resides in would not able sea worthy for another few months, so she had plenty of time to understand to minds of the two unique specimens that entered her grasp.
Humming a monotonous tune, she circled the two ship girls slowly, seeing if their physical appearance might give them a reason.
One similarity was the large quantity of wounds displayed on the lifeless hull, Kitakami's larger body was riddled with countless amount of missing flesh of various sizes while Harusame's was six notable large gaps in both her stomach and head.
She questioned if it was possible for the wounds to be their source of content.
...it would be impossible...
Besides, she was also subjected to a similar treatment, so why would she be the exception?
The echoing cries of gunfire made Asagumo both glad and mad. On one hand, it meant Kitakami was still buying time for them to leave.
On the other hand, it mean that Kitakami was still alive. The same Torpedo Cruiser who told her to abandon Harusame.
Shaking her head out of her steaming hatred, she took in the sight of the sunrise. Despite the fog obscuring visibility down to a short distance, it was bright enough for the girl to assume that the sun was well up into the sky.
Which mean that, Asagumo mused silently, if she could still see the sun, she could sail away from it to reach her homeland.
Key word being 'if'.
"Damn it Asagumo, this is why you're never on time in those outings with Yamagumo-nee..." she berates herself as she adjust her grip on Shigure. Poor girl must have taken a hell of an impact to be knocked out for so long.
Sailing forward, she rummaged through Shigure's pocket, hoping that the Compass would provide some sort of assistance.
"Kami-sama, if you're there, please allow Shigure-san to return home." She prays silently as she pulls it out of Shigure's skirt. Holding the compass straight ahead, she observes the spinning motion of the arrow.
Silence fills the empty waters as Asagumo concentrated on the compass. Occasionally, she glances at the unconscious Shiratsuyu-class destroyer for any signs of return.
She was hopeful once while she sees Shigure stirring for a moment, contemplating whether to set Shigure down from her shoulder since she was going to wake up. However, the other destroyer chose to remain unaware of the living world, much to her disappointment.
"So much for escaping the Abyss... Aoba-san is gone, Kitakami-san and Ooi-san are gone." Asagumo despondantly muttered. "Even Harusame-san, the optimistic girl is gone... Leaving the two Nishimura girls alone."
She was suddenly aware of the how wet her face was. At first she chalked it up to the water geysers from the exploding shells, but the renewed wetness caused her to touch her face.
They were tears.
She immediately thought of rubbing it off, seeing it as a sign of weakness.
But... there's no one here, no one to see her relapsing into weakness. Shigure is unconscious and wouldn't wake up for a while. Perhaps she'd stay asleep until her strength returns.
She let the tears flow, mourning the group of girls who followed her in to dangerous territory and bonded from that. While unfamiliar with the Heavy Cruisers, she learned alot more about the recently deceased than she did in her entire lifetime. Kitakami was equally dependant on Ooi as much as Ooi was, and Harusame always wished to be of some use to her allies, even at the cost of her own life.
As much as she hated to admit it, Kitakami's willingness to remain behind as a decoy was an admirable choice, Asagumo her was not sure if she could make that choice if it came to it.
Something odd occurred to the compass as she finished drying her tears, drawing her attention to the golden disc.
It has stopped spinning and was pointing straight ahead.
Hope filled Asagumo again, as she accelerated forward. She didn't noticed the fading crackling from her radio.
"Scouting fleet, if you can hear this, please respond!"
"Eh?" She blinks in surprise, reaching over to her radio set and tapping into it.
"A...Asa...gumo here..." She fidgets as she thinks of what to say. " I'm... uh... here?"
Sighs of relief could be heard through the radio set.
" Asagumo-san, thank goodness! We're all thought you were dead!" A young woman's voice reverberated through the speaker. "Hang on for a moment, what's your position right now?"
"Aaaahhh..." A brief panic settles into the redhead, and she began looking around frantically to spot any sort of land mark she could use.
"I... uh... don't know..." She finally admits after a while, "I think we should be somewhere north west of our last position, but there's nothing here that seems unique to me."
"North West..." Asagumo hears the woman. mutters repeatedly. "North West... northwest... Asagumo-san, how many islands can you see around you?"
"Eto... two, maybe. There's one up ahead surrounded by reefs and corals, and I think there is another on off to the left side."
"Stand by, Asagumo-san, how many other ships are with you?"
Leaving the radio mic muted, she then turned to check on the unconscious Shigure. Seeing no prior changes to the other destroyer, she replied to the radio operator.
"There's only two of us, the others did not make it."
"How can that-!?" Sudden silence stopped the conversation short, probably because said operator released the microphone button in shock. Asagumo simply welcomed the silence, staring off aimlessly into the distance as she waited for further orders from headquarters.
"Asagumo-san, could you explain the circumstances which led to your survival?" the radio eventually crackled, abeit with a more masculine one. Recognizing the voice to be that of her admiral, Asagumo slowly recited her tale.
"It started about two hours ago..."
These feelings bubbled through the small body of the abyssal as she scours her territory for the last two foolish ships girls.
Frustration was running rampant as all signs of them in the abyss no longer existed. But she knew they were not there yet.
Visions of empty oceans drifted past her eyes as she growled lowly.
A view of two ragged ship girls nearly slipped past her, the capital ship who saw them dismissing them as inoperable. She wrestled control from the observer, focusing and observing the details
One of the ships wore ragged dark shirt and skirt, badly torn from shell fire.
The other had a white shirt under a grey suspender skirt, equally damaged as the first.
She smiled, her target has been found.
Ignoring the wind drifting through her pale hair, she ordered the carrier to prepare for an attack on those two girls, her grin grows savagely as she imagined the despair on their face.
"You can run, but you can't hide"
"...And that's how we ended up here." Asagumo ended with a somber nod.
Nothing was spoken from the radio set in her rigging as the base personnel complied the destroyer's observation and predictions.
"So we were right after all, Abyssal Sea Mines, electrical interference, even being able to remove logical thinking from the ship girls within it..." The admiral spoke. "Asagumo-san, I will be sending these observations to Headquarters immediately. We have determined your location and are sending over an escort fleet right now."
"H-hai." Asagumo answered back, "I await good news."
As her hands left the push to talk, a chill went down her spine. Spinning around, she could not help but feel that she was being watched.
Who was watching her, and why?
Double checking the condition of Shigure, Asagumo checked began scanning the distance with her turrets, paranoia settling in as the eerie atmosphere began to affect her.
Calm down, Asagumo. She berated herself. Its over already.
The sound of motors caught her attention. Turning towards the source, she began calling and waving towards the source, hope returned back to the red haired girl as she imagined her tearful reunion with Yamagumo.
Her face faltered slightly as her eyes detects a pair of air crafts coming from the direction which the sound originates from. No worries, they should be scout craft on regular patrol, the ships would be coming next.Tension began rising as more planes flew into view, unnatural for a simple reconnaissance patrol. Part of her warned her that it could be an enemy attack, but she forced it out if sight. It can't be the enemy, we have already fought with them enough, can't things go well for a change?Said thought was swiftly crushed as details of the aircraft was recognized. White, round balls with sharp pointed teeth.
What was the sound of hope turned into despair, Asagumo limply readied herself for anti aircraft combat, knowing full well that at the best circumstances, only one of them will return. Her eyes, once bright and shining, dulled greatly to an unfocused frown.