Chapter 1

"Just because you've won hands down every other year doesn't mean you're guaranteed this year too!" Zuikaku yelled. She was right up in Kaga's face, and Kaga in her's, just as angry.

Well, unfortunately for you, Zuikaku, history tends to repeat itself. You know that," Kaga replied. Her voice was hard and cold as ever. Turning on a heel, she grabbed her partener, Akagi, by the sleeve, and pulled her away. "Let's go. This cancerous talk will get us nowhere." She stalked off.

Shaking with rage, Zuikaku turned to her sister, Shokaku. "Do you freaking hear this? Kaga here's talking as if she's already won! Hell this pisses me off!" Shokaku in turn grabbed her sister by the arm and pulled towards Mamiya's Cafe. The entire base knew Mamiya to be one of the best cooks in the whole Pacific, and definitely the friendliest. She was slightly older than many of the girls living on base, similar in age to Hoshou, and consequently, had a tendency to act in a motherly towards those she was close to.

"Look, Zuikaku, I hate those two as much as anyone here, but getting up in Kaga's face won't change anything. We'll just try our best again this year. Who knows? Usually it's only us, but maybe Hiryuu and Souryuu will join in. It'd be a nice change. She eased herself into a booth, and looked around. As she took in the walls of the cafe, her blood turned to ice. Hanging on the back wall was another poster put up probably by Kaga, asking for support in this year's Carrier Competition. It didn't help that it specifically mentioned the fact that those two girls had gone undefeated for 3 years straight. Shokaku tried not to stare at it too long, for fear of Zuikaku seeing it. As Mamiya walked over to see them, she saw what Shokaku was glaring at.

"Oh, yes, that,' Mamiya was sympathetic. "I can remove it, if you'd like." She smiled, while glancing at Zuikaku, who hadn't moved in the past five minutes. She sat with a scowl on her face, looking out the window.

"That would be nice, yes," Shokaku said. Mamiya nodded. She walked over and pulled it down, throwing the paper in the trash outside her kitchen.

"So your normal then?" She called.

Yes, thanks. Zuikaku here will as well," She answered. Zuikaku only nodded in response. She'd obviously been hurt and offended by Kaga's remarks, and seeing her posters all over the base didn't help. Shokaku put a hand on her shoulder.

"We can go talk to Hiryuu and Souryuu. IF they do enter, then it may be easier or us to scrape a win. What'd you think?" Shokaku really did want to beat Kaga this year, even if she wasn't as vocal about her desires as her younger sister.

"Here we are," Mamiya called, bringing over a pair of ice cream sundaes for the two. Sundaes were a common comfort food foe those who were stressed, and Mamiya always kept a few in the freezer in case she needed them.

"Ah, thanks. With the Competition starting tomorrow, we'll be up late. Thanks, Mamiya-san!"

"Yeah, thanks," Zuikaku said glumly.

"Oh come on now. Kaga can be quite, uh, what's the word? Overconfident?" Mamiya said quietly. She took a seat across from the two. Leaning in closely, she whispered, "If I'm to be totally honest, many of the girls here are just as fed up seeing Kaga and Akagi always winning these anyway. Not a few have expressed hopes that you'll beat them this year. Anyway," she continued, standing, "I have to get going. Good luck, really. I'd like to see those two beat myself. I'll definitely be there to watch you guys!"

"Thanks, we'll try!" Shokaku called.

As the two finished up, Zuikaku looked at her sister. "Are we gonna ask Hiryuu and Souryuu to join in? We'll need them if we're to have any shot at winning this at all."

Of course. We'll go now, if you want," Shokaku offered. Nodding, Zuikaku stood.

Bidding Mamiya goodbye with a quick wave, she two carriers made for the dorms of the 2nd Carrier Division. Knocking once, Zuikaku waited. Hiryuu answered the door.

"Oh, Zuikaku, this is a surprise. What brings you here?" She asked.

"Well, are you planning on entering the competition this year? Apparently the whole base is wanted us to win, but it'd be easier if there were more of us, to make things harder for Kaga," Zuikaku answered.

Hiryuu nodded, then looked over her shoulder. "Hey, Souryuu, we weren't planning on entering this year, right?"

"I wasn't planning on it" came the response.

"I see."

"Sorry guys. You know we a team of two to compete," Hiryuu said sympathetically.

"That's fine. If we can at least tie the other two this year then I'll be happy. Thanks," Zuikaku said. Departing with a wave, she turned to Shokaku. Nodding in relief that at least one part of their plan had worked, the two headed for their dorms, in real need of some rest.