It's raining. Falling, falling, always falling, the clouds cry steadily as if they are mourning the sun's death. The rain engulfs me like a flowing curtain. It flows over my long black hair, slicking it into a smooth sheet of slate. It soaks my once pristine military uniform, the cloth clinging uncomfortably to my chilled body. I'm in hiding, kneeling in the cover of a few fallen and rotting trees. My rifle lays beside me having been rendered useless due to the fat drops of water falling from the gray canopy above me; all I have left is a small dagger and a concealed pistol, in a more-or-less waterproof pouch. I would only need that in an absolute emergency. The battle has been going on for a while now, and I have survived thus far without a scrape. I can only hope the same fate upon my cadet, my greenhorn and naive trainee. We had been - -
I push the thought of him out of my mind in a heartbeat as a wet crunch resounds around the forest. My breath catches in my throat as I listen carefully to my surroundings, filtering the sounds of rain and searching for sounds of life.
There! I snap my head towards the desperate panting coming from the tree behind me. I stand, tossing my wet mass of hair over my shoulder. "Come out of there!" I command fearlessly, my voice heard over the pounding rain.
"You found me," an arrogant voice replies and a lieutenant, by the looks of it, as soaked as I, appears from behind the tree. "Ah, it's the enemy commanding officer! Buona sera, Signora." He slurs.
I'm not surprised at his drunkenness; instead, I am wary. I know many men who become more violent with the presence of alcohol in their blood. I reply with stony silence, accompanied by a glare that could pierce armor.
"Ah, the kitten wants to fight, does she?" He laughs, a harsh bark of sarcasm. A dagger appears in his hand, pulled from his utility belt. I pull mine out and the fight begins.
I lunge, water spraying off my feet and body. My dagger becomes an extension of my arm as I slash forcefully towards my attacker, taking his saturated mind by surprise. He dodges at the last second, but not quick enough – I catch his forearm and the blood begins to seep, mixing with the rain falling on his arm. He cries out, a yell that would scare any child. I want this to be over quickly; I have better things to do than brawl with a drunken brute, enemy lieutenant. However, the beast is angry, and he flings himself at my smaller frame, dagger outstretched. He's desperate now, and he swings his weapon around dangerously, trying to catch any little part of my body. I dodge and duck, putting my years of knowledge and training to use.
Despite my steely gaze, I begin to panic, my heartbeat quickening. This brute wasn't going to give up any time soon, and the rain had begun to pick up. As the water from above runs into my hazel eyes, only to run out of them again, I realize that I have to make a quick decision. Dodging yet another drunken swing, my legs begin to pump swiftly, carrying me away from my assailant who is now yelling after me.
"Coward!!" He bellows, beginning to give chase. His muddled feet slip around in the slick underbrush for a moment, and then finally find traction and he speeds towards me.
The only thoughts in my mind at the moment are getting away from this alcohol-saturated lieutenant and finding my comrades. Normally, I wouldn't care if my company was separated from me, but in a dangerous battle like this one was, plus the added weather conditions to flood our minds, I felt it was right to find the others I had fought along side earlier. Not to mention my cadet - - no. I push the thought of him out of my mind again. I would just have to trust the training I put him through, and hope that he was all right.
The man chasing me snaps me back to reality. His thundering steps land with a wet splash upon the ground. They sound like they are getting closer, so I answer by quickening my own steps. The rain streams down my face in tiny rivers, small drops making their way into my open and panting mouth. We swerve around trees and various obstacles; I give an occasional glance over my shoulder to see my breathless, dripping wet, and blazing mad attacker. Once, I glance over my shoulder to see the lieutenant's knife flying at me at high speed. My brain tells me to dodge, my body begins to move away – but it is too late. The blade catches me in the side, and I stumble from the glancing blow. My legs begin to slow, and my attacker catches up to me quickly like a falcon swooping in on a tiny mouse. But, little did the falcon know that the mouse has a concealed weapon.
I whip around to face him, one hand on my wounded flank and the other on my tiny revolver. I yank it out of the pouch, point it at his broad chest and shoot, all before the rain can soak the powder fully. Just as quickly as he appeared, the drunkard falls backwards and is silent.
I stand there for a short moment, panting heavily. I don't know where I am and my side is throbbing painfully. I begin to take inventory: all I am left with is a water-soaked pistol, a wounded side, and the thought of a missing, foolish cadet. I realize that, because I shot my assailant, the sound of the shot would draw other enemies to this site. I'm left with no other choice but to run and find my cadet. My feet begin to move again, slowed down due to fatigue and my acquired injury. I press my hand to the wound to stop the blood and keep moving.
I don't know how long I'm running for. The trees rush by, thunder rumbles in my ears and I continue to move. My mind battles fear and apprehension away, along with too many thoughts of my cadet. For some strange reason, his smile keeps appearing in my mind's eye. That smile he gives me no matter what, even when I yell at him and punish him with endless amounts of push-ups. The tiny chuckle that bubbles in his throat when I become flustered because of some flippant compliment he gives me rings in my ears above the pounding rain. As much as I try, I can't shove his image out of my thoughts.
Suddenly, a bright and blinding flash of lightning snaps me back to reality. I'm standing before a forest clearing, puddles forming all around from the heavenly downpour. Something, or someone, in the back of the clearing catches my eye. That someone is bearing the camouflage uniform of my unit, and is dragging something, also bearing the familiar print. It can't be…
"You there!" I yell and my voice sounds far away from me. I take a slow step into the clearing.
The standing shape jumps and turns towards me. I recognize the worried face of my cadet's roommate, and my heart quickens a pace. "Ma'am, is that you?" he calls out, his voice almost lost in the rain.
I stay silent and quickly make my way over to him, hand forever glued to my wounded side. With every step I take my heartbeat thunders in my chest. These two cadets were inseparable, and I fear the worst for the trainee I call mine.
My cadet's comrade is unusually solemn, his eyes glazed over by some unknown feeling. He keeps staring at me with an almost sorry gaze, and I begin to panic. I shove my heart out of my throat and force myself to look downward at the shape at our feet. My heart immediately leaps back up.
The first thing I notice is his familiar blond hair. The camouflage bandana he keeps tied around his head is stained – from rain or blood, I'm afraid to discern. His chest rises and falls shallowly; his normally crisp white shirt is also stained darkly. I am frozen for the first time by the sight of an almost dead man.
A voice from behind me begins to speak. "I'm sorry, ma'am… We were attacked, you see, and he…" the other cadet trails off, then mutters, "he took three bullets for me, ma'am. I'm sorry…" And with that he is gone, off finding our unit.
Silence is pierced by the sound of falling rain. My whole body is numb as I kneel down beside the one I trained for months.
"Hey. Are you wounded?" His once strong voice is now week and barely there. His blue eyes gaze up at me.
"You… You idiot." I'm surprised at my shaking response.
He tries to chuckle, but coughs instead. Surprising myself yet again, I reach my hand out towards him, and he takes it in his shaking own. "You were always the tough one." He grins, a weak and sad smile.
I can't help but notice his breathing is slowing down. Another lightning bolt strikes, providing me with enough light to see the damage done to my trainee – and it's worse than I thought.
"Hey, don't cry for me, okay?"
Am I crying? "Help is coming, don't –"
He cuts me off with a slow shake of his head. "It's too late to help me now." Any my heart feels like it's been hit with an army tanker.
He must have seen something in my eyes, because he begins to smile again. "Keep being the strong commander I know… but take some time to be more ladylike for once." And with a single chuckle, his voice is fading like a setting sun.
Hands curl around mine, pull them up to his heart, and squeeze them one last time. As the rain continues to fall, my heart plunges along with it.
( Machi-Love speaks: Hey everyone :) This was a short story project for my English class that turned into an account of Colonello's death in Lal's eyes. I really, REALLY like how this turned out, for once, and I thought I would share it here with everyone. Thank you so much for reading it and staying with me - even though I don't update very often ;; Hope you enjoyed! Read on!! )