Yui opened her locker in preparation for her newest mission. Izumi sifted through the locker on her left, while Kazusa occupied the one on her right. Kazusa briefly nodded toward Yui as she spoke.
"So today's the big day, huh?"
Yui appeared less confident than usual. She suited up in her black and yellow uniform as she tried to put her feeling of uncertainty in order.
"Yeah. Intel says it's the largest BETA hive we've encountered since Kyoto..."
Izumi latched the final pieces of her protective gear in place and pushed her glasses back on to the bridge of her nose before curiously turning her attention to her teammate. Her pilot suit was white and blue, the same colors as her customized TSF.
"What's wrong, Yui? You've become a lot stronger since then."
Kazusa joined in with a sarcastic smirk. She was wearing the signature red jumpsuit she had used ever since graduation. Always one step ahead of Yui and arrogant to boot, it was no wonder the two of them were still friendly rivals.
"Yeah, I'm sure you're at least a better marksman now."
Neither of their comments seemed to rally Yui. She placed some of her things in her locker as she sighed.
"No offense, but talking to you guys at a time like this reminds me luck is the only reason I got this far in the first place."
Kazusa snorted as she brushed a few loose strands of her long black hair over her shoulder.
"Who cares if it's luck? All that matters is you're still around to kill those things."
Yui stared blankly into her locker as she considered the advice. After a moment in thought, she glanced over toward Izumi in an eager attempt to change the topic.
"How's the boyfriend?"
Izumi blushed softly when she replied.
"We're a lot happier now that we're able to see each other again. His superiors even offered to let me share his quarters after I was assigned to his ship. They keep going on about how we're the perfect role models for repopulating the human race, but we don't really think it's creepy or anything. I guess people like us give everyone else something to believe in."
She looked toward her feet in sudden remorse.
"I just wish we had an easier time getting back together."
Kazusa offered her condolences with a casual shrug.
"That's just how it is, Izumi. Sometimes life chews you up and you just have to make the best of it."
Izumi quickly snapped her head toward Kazusa. An offended glare brewed behind her glasses, but an incoming signal on her radio prevented her from taking it any further. She glanced just off to the side and pressed an index finger against the equipment covering her ear.
"Lieutenant Noto speaking."
Yui and Kazusa listened to muffled static that only Izumi was able to hear properly. She spoke into her radio again once it went silent.
"What about the new remote weapons for the Shiranui? Did you have time to install them?"
More unintelligible noise came through the receiver, followed by Izumi cheerfully nodding her head.
"Thank you, sir! I'm on my way!"
Izumi turned to Yui and Kazusa to give them the exciting news.
"Sorry guys, but Kyushu's eighth fleet is already deploying. I better hurry up or I'll miss my ride!"
She was gone before Yui had a chance to say goodbye.
"That girl is hopeless."
Kazusa shook her head and grumbled her thoughts aloud. She winced slightly as she worked on a stiff joint in her arm.
"But I guess she doesn't have much to worry about after what she's been through."
Yui's response came in a half-hearted murmur.
"Sometimes I wish I was in her place."
The corner of Kazusa's mouth twisted into a disgusted frown. After shuffling through her locker a final time, she turned toward Yui and raised her concern.
"Look, I know you're trying to protect Izumi's whole love and family thing and you're always telling yourself you need to be as good a pilot as me, but you can't let us stress you out when things get rough. You should think of us as inspiration."
Her expression changed to an encouraging grin.
"Besides, what kind of pilot would you be if you let a couple figments of your imagination scare you?"
The sound of Yuuya's footsteps brought Yui's mind back to reality. He had come in the door behind her, undoubtedly to tell her it was almost time to start the mission. Her eyes briefly glimpsed toward the empty locker on her right, then her left, before she turned to face her partner.
Yuuya was surprised when he saw the doubt in Yui's eyes.
"Is something wrong, Yui? You look a little worried."
Yui paused for another moment, then slowly shook her head. A relieved smile finally started to form across her lips.
"It's nothing. I was just thinking to myself."