A mother's love is unconditional, Fubuki…
There was a young destroyer kanmusu named Hibiki. She was lovely like the echo that was her namesake. She possessed everything a ship-girl could ever want: A doting destroyer flotilla leader in Tenryuu, a cool big sister figure in Tatsuta, and her loving sister ships Akatsuki, Ikazuchi, and Inazuma. She was always happy.
But one day, her mood changed for the worse. Hibiki turned dour. She refused to be cheered up by her sisters.
Tenryuu grew concerned about her ward. "Kiddo," she asked the little white-haired destroyer one day. "Why are you sad?"
Hibiki explained what bothered her. She had read the latest issue of The Daily Aoba-
"That paparazzi..." Tenryuu gnashed her teeth. "Hibiki! Did that snoop blackmail you to participate in an erotic photo shoot for the centerfold spread?"
Because Aoba had done that exact thing to her before. The resulting Heavenly Dragon Unveiled special issue turned out to be a best seller.
"I'm going to cut her," Tenryuu declared as she brandished her sword.
"No," Hibiki corrected her.
-and heard the wonderful news.
Admiral Putin of Vladivostok Naval Base has declared himself ready for a provisional wedding! But he will only marry a ship-girl who brings him the heart of either a human or a ship-girl as a show of devotion! This heart has got to be fresh and warm and the real thing! Anyone who brings a fake heart will be thrown into the Gulag!
Cold tears overflowed from Hibiki's sky blue eyes. "Tenryuu, I have seen this Admiral," she confessed to her destroyer flotilla leader. "He is a true Communist. I do not want to live if anyone else marries him. I will scuttle myself if I am not the one who weds him..."
Tenryuu's motherly heart plummeted down her ribcage. She couldn't have Hibiki suffer like this!
She knew what needed to be done.
"Stay here," she told Hibiki before heading off with her sword resting upon her shoulder.
Her ward did as ordered. Hibiki waited patiently. She knew Tenryuu would find a way to make her wish come true.
The purple-haired light cruiser came back a while later. Tenryuu's tough clothes were soaked in blood and she dragged her ichor-covered sword behind her as if she was too tired to heft her favored weapon off the ground.
"Tenryuu! Are you all right?" Hibiki fussed over her bedraggled flotilla leader.
"I'm fine, kiddo. Here."
Her left hand bore a blood-soaked bundle of thick cloth. She opened the bundle to show Hibiki a heart so fresh and warm that the ripe red organ still throbbed with tell-tale thumps.
"Hurry up, kiddo," Tenryuu urged the astonished destroyer. "Take this to the Admiral you love and present it to him."
"Where did you get this, Tenryuu?" Hibiki turned pale. "Did you kill a human or a ship-girl for this?"
"What? No! It's the heart of an Abyssal. They count as ship-girls, too, in a roundabout sort of way. Anyway, I looked for a Re Class and killed it. And I did it solo, too," Tenryuu bragged before she turned pale and hastily covered her mouth right before she began coughing.
"The Re Class got some good hits in before I killed it. But it'll take more than this to kill me, kiddo. I'll be right as rain after I soak in the repair docks."
"We need to get you to Akashi-san."
And Hibiki took hold of Tenryuu and began steering the admittedly shaky cruiser towards the repair facilities.
"I can make it to the repair docks on my own, kiddo," Tenryuu assured the worried little escort. "Now take this to that Russian Admiral you like before it gets cold."
"Do you want some other ship-girl to beat you to Admiral Putin? I hear Fubuki-chan likes him too," Tenryuu warned.
A chill shot through Hibiki's stiff spine. Her eldest sister Fubuki was indeed her rival for Admiral Putin. The Blizzard could speak fluent Russian and recently expressed her wish to become Putin's Winter Destroyer.
"What if Fubuki-chan has already found a heart of her own to give to him?" Tenryuu warned. "She'll be the one who gets Admiral Putin's provisional wedding ring."
Hibiki could not have that. Admiral Putin was hers!
"I'm sorry for being so selfish, Tenryuu," she sniffled. "I'm sorry for being a bad destroyer."
"You don't have to apologize for anything, kiddo. I did this because I love you."
Persuaded at last, Hibiki accepted the cloth-wrapped heart. Upon laying hands on the precious package, her reluctance melted and courage filled her chest.
"Thank you, Tenryuu."
"No sweat, kiddo." She ruffled her hair. "Now go get him."
Straightaway the young destroyer steamed towards Vladivostok at flank speed, the Phoenix sailing as fast as her red-lined boilers and turbines could sustain.
Soon she was just a few miles away from Vladivostok. There Hibiki would present the heart to Admiral Putin, whom she adored with all of her mind and body of soul. And he would fit that desired diamond ring upon her finger, making her his Verniy, his faithful Ekho.
She was almost there. She would reach Admiral Putin's HQ within an hour. And it appeared that Hibiki had indeed beaten Fubuki in the race for Putin's ring and heart.
'Thank you, Tenryuu...'
Just then her keel stuck a hitherto-hidden sandbar, causing the distracted destroyer to stumble and fall on her knees. The cloth-covered heart leaped out of her hands and sprawled onto the disturbed sand.
"Ugh," whimpered Hibiki as she struggled to find purchase in the soft sand. "I won't sink… as expected, this is embarrassing…"
"Kiddo! Are you all right?"
Hibiki went rigid. It sounded like Tenryuu. Had her guardian followed her instead of going to the repair docks? But what about her injuries?
"Tenryuu? What are you doing here..."
Her light blue eyes stared the source of the loud outcry... which lay before her.
There, resting upon a nest of red cloth and wet sand, still pulsing with life, was the heart that Tenryuu had given her.
Just short of the entrance to the repair docks, tracking blood across the floor and wall, the fallen Tenryuu slumped against the wall.
"Sorry, Hibiki," she murmured. "I'm not strong enough to defeat a Re Class or brave enough to murder any of our friends for their hearts..."
Her weary eyelid finally lost the battle to stay open. But she knew it was worth it. She knew she had won.
Hibiki would have reached Vladivostok by now. She would have given her gift to Admiral Putin, whom Tenryu hoped was a fine man who would make her little Echo resound with happiness.
"But... I want you to be happy... Always…"
The last thing Tenryuu saw before the darkness claimed her was the smiling Hibiki showing her the diamond ring adorning her finger.
Tears poured down Hibiki's ruddy cheeks. She bawled her little lungs out as she gathered up the heart and hugged it to her bosom.
"Tenryuu! Tenryuu! TENRYUU!"
For Tenryuu did not give just any heart to Hibiki. She gave her own heart. Because her child deserved the best.
And even at that moment, that mother's heart still felt love for her daughter.
a mother's love is unconditional
Sheo's Notes: I wrote this during the lead-up to Valentine's Day and based this off an old folk tale. I've rewritten it for SV.