A/N: Refer to "A/N" for "Near to You"; same blabber is applicable here.
As usual, point out any mistakes I missed/made, ConCrit is appreciated.
Disclaimer: KHR belongs to Amano Akira!
"I can't believe this."
"I can, kora!"
It was anything but quiet in the forest. The sounds of wildlife calling out to one another resounded everywhere. For Colonello and Lal Mirch, the sounds of rushing water and loud croaking of frogs were their accompaniment.
The duo were currently huddled inside a makeshift tent of tree branches and fronds. Somehow, they'd managed to light a small fire. Lal Mirch was dressed in a ripped sleeveless top and black shorts, a far cry from her usual military uniform. Her cape was hung over the fire, in a bid to dry the material. Colonello was similarly undressed, his army fatigues thrown over a branch placed near the fire. He was now clad in only his under shirt and boxers.
The indigo-haired woman glared at the nonchalant blond. "You're having fun, aren't you?"
Colonello feigned a hurt look, placing his left hand over his chest. "How could you accuse me of that, Commander? I can't possibly be having fun in these unexpected circumstances, kora!"
Lal Mirch looked unconvinced. "Good. Don't think this exercise will end like this. We're doing extra training to make up for this back at base."
A wide grin broke out on Colonello's face. "Actually, I'm quite happy that we're split up from the others, kora! They won't get to see how pretty you look in casual clothes, and – achoo!"
The Commander of Squad 6 scowled, reaching out to cuff her student over the head. "Moron, I told you to take off that vest and let it dry."
The dim lighting, paired with her tan skin, covered up the mild pink that had risen to her cheeks.
"I know I'm handsome, Commander, but you made my heart flutter with those straight-forward words!"
She hit him again, a painful punch to his right arm.
"Okay, okay, I got it," wincing, Colonello stripped and tossed the thin vest beside his other clothes.
It was quiet in the tent.
Whoever is up there, thank you for giving me a chance to be alone to be alone with the woman I like. This is a sign that I should further improve our relationship, right? The blond peeked over at his Commander.
His cheer was instantly dampened. Lal Mirch's forehead was creased, a pensive look on her face. It wasn't the first time he'd seen that face. Sometimes, he caught the Commander looking like that, mostly during the times when training was over and Lal Mirch seemed to have free time.
He wasn't a peeping tom, okay? He just... Tended to pay more attention to the woman he liked, that's all! In any case, he didn't like it. Her fiery temper seemed non-existent, and she was zoned out, totally ignoring Colonello and the other soldiers wandering around the base.
Not that anyone aside from him seemed to have noticed anything.
Take earlier for example. Squad 6 had been hiking through a particularly dense patch of undergrowth, wary of blood-sucking insects and their short-tempered instructor. The soldiers had been too focused to spare the energy to grumble amongst themselves. Colonello was following right behind Lal Mirch, and tried to chat with her whenever he caught his breath. After the first few times she responded, the irritable woman had brusquely told him to "Shut up and cease your inane chattering."
He was given the silent treatment afterwards, but persisted anyway.
Then with no warning whatsoever, a loud gunshot split the air. The whole troop had immediately dropped to the ground, as it was basic protocol Lal had drilled into them. The teacher herself had reacted slower, causing a worried Colonello to pull her down with him.
She'd shoved his arm off and snarled, "I can take care of myself!" Hissing out orders to the rest of the squad to make their way back to camp by 12 noon the next day, all the males scattered.
Ever the worry wart, Colonello had stuck to Lal's side. He would have been given a vicious scolding, if not for the fact that she was busy hunting down the shooter, dragging him out of his hiding place, and roughing him up thoroughly.
The culprit turned out to be an ordinary poacher. After scaring him badly (Colonello was sure the guy would be traumatized for life), Lal decided to get back to the camp and wait for the rest of the trainees.
In an unfortunate turn of events, just as she walked past the poacher, he decided to stretch his legs and shakily get to his feet. This resulted in Lal Mirch tripping and falling into the nearby river. The man cried out in alarm, scrambling away backwards in fear. Colonello sprang into action, jumping after Lal into the river.
As it turned out, Lal was swimming back when Colonello collided into her. Hard. He knocked her unconscious.
Of course, the thick-headed idiot hadn't realized that fact, all he registered was that she was limp. So Colonello clutched onto her tightly and tried to swim back to land.
He failed terribly.
Which led to their situation now.
Colonello had finally managed to drag them both onto shore, but he had no idea where they were. While waiting for Lal to wake up, he constructed a tent and hunted for food. She regained consciousness two hours later with an aching head, saw a head of blond hair, and proceeded to beat Colonello to a pulp.
By then, it was evening and light was fading fast. Lal agreed that it was better to wait until there was light to find their way back to camp, rather than stumbling around in the dark. With her resources, she started a small fire to cook the food.
Back to the present moment. Colonello wasn't quite sure what she was thinking about, but guessed it was about the way back to camp. "Lal, you don't need to worry! I'll definitely find a way back to camp, kora!" Reaching out to pat her shoulder reassuringly, his hand was sharply slapped away.
The frown on her face changed to a look of surprise.
"You're freezing, imbecile! Why didn't you say so earlier? Did you want to catch a fever and skip training?"
Colonello flinched. "Uh, I just thought it was normal, kora," scratching his head, the blond Italian shrugged.
He left Lal Mirch at a loss for words. Were all her student this dumb? Taking a look outside, she noticed that the moon had risen and stars could be seen dotting the sky. Moving over to her cape, the brown-eyed woman felt the cloth and deemed it dry. Pulling it off, she cleared a space on the floor and sat down.
"Get dressed, your uniform should be dry by now."
The younger COMSUBIN member did as told, then turned to face his deadpan instructor. She beckoned him over.
Bewildered and slightly wary, he walked over and was rudely yanked down, landing painfully on the ground. Lal Mirch pushed him down so that he was lying evenly on the floor, laid down as well, and draped the cape over the both of them. Her eyes fluttered shut.
She looked peaceful.
Colonello did not feel that way. His eyes had widened to the size of saucers, and his heart was thumping rapidly in his chest, blood rushing up to his cheeks. What was the meaning of this? Was Lal confessing her feelings for him, in her own awkward way?
Only one way to be sure. Swallowing the saliva that had gathered in his mouth, Colonello stammered, "U-uh, Commander? What's...?"
"Shut up and go to sleep. We're waking at daybreak tomorrow. Conserving heat is easier this way."
Eyes still shut, Lal answered his question.
Oh. "Ah, okay," concealing the melancholy in his voice and face, Colonello followed his instructor's example and drifted off to sleep.
In the middle of the night, the time when the temperature dipped the most, he curled instinctively nearer to Lal for warmth.
A pity he was sound asleep and never noticed that her arms had tightened around him in return.
The next morning, Colonello was rudely woken with a boot to his chest. Lal kicked him out to wash up and hunt breakfast. As he stumbled to the river, the blond rubbed his right arm and mumbled, "Strange... Why does my arm tingle?"
Knocking down the tent, Lal was blushing faintly, her hair damp. With breakfast taken care of, Lal led the way back to camp.
"Woah, how do you know where to go, Commander?"
"Blockhead, yours is the third batch of students I've brought here."
"Oh... But it's the first time something that exciting happened, right?"
Lal just grunted in reply.
All of Squad 6 reported to camp in one piece, and marched back to base. Along the way, Colonello sneezed several times, and his nose started running. Lal Mirch glanced over at him and commented, "That legend of fools being immune to colds is fake. Also, don't think you're exempted from training because of this small inconvenience."
He'd just smiled and replied, "Yes, Commander."
And it's all because I'm a fool for you.