The first time I ever met the man who had stolen the name of Harry McArthur, I was barely a teenager. Introduced by my father on his deathbed after a raid gone wrong. “This is my good friend,” he had told me in English, a language I barely knew. “He will take care of you. I promise. He promises… right, Harry?”
“On my honour, Okita Jyuuichi, I will take care of your daughter,” he said, bowing in a particularly Japanese way, contrite and respectful. Were it not for the solemnity of the situation, I would have laughed when Harry offered me a handshake. Instead, I took the hand and grasped it firmly. We said nothing, but the conversation was there in our eyes. That this was going to hurt. That it would be tough. That together, we’d get through it – the loss of a father, the loss of a friend.
I didn’t see McArthur for a while after my father passed away, and the next time I did, it wasn’t intentional. I’d joined the other nine of the Resistance’s ten warriors, the Juuyuushi, in performing a raid on dam in the southwest of Arlandria. The bombs we had used were a tad more potent than we’d anticipated. The explosion knocked me off my feet when I was about 500 meters away, and I was hit by shards of metal and chunks of falling concrete. By the time I stumbled into the woods and found a tree to prop myself up against, I’d already lost a lot of blood. I just about managed to take out a flare and toss it into a dry bush, setting the whole thing alight.
I passed out, and when I came around, I was being carried by a familiar man with a familiar face. Apparently, I had reached for his glasses and pulled them away, only to be gently chided for my actions. “I need those to see, Kanon. Please return them, otherwise I might be less inclined to heal you.”
I managed to rest them on my stomach before fainting again. The next time I came around, I was in the bedroom of Harry’s apartment, the fragrance of dark coffee wafting throughout the house like smelling salts. My wounds were healed completely, the first sensation of that odd, electric feel under my skin. I was weak still, having lost a lot of blood. Stumbling to the kitchen, I must have looked less like a warrior and more like a sick child – it was testament to my upbringing that at 15 I considered that a bad thing. I was brought up to think I was invincible, and to accept death when it came with open arms. Warrior logic, for a time long after real warriors had really existed. Those like me, we were living legends, but in a way that was without pride or satisfaction.
“You’re making coffee at this time?” I asked in mumbled Japanese, my throat dry and head heavy.
“It’s four in the afternoon,” he replied, gesturing at the fading sunlight outside. “And you shouldn’t be up. You need to rest.”
“I’m fine,” I said in a frustrated tone, as I stepped forwards and almost immediately collapsed onto the linoleum. “Okay, maybe I could use some rest. But I’m also starving.”
“I’ll bring you breakfast,” he said, as gently as he lifted me from the floor with his rough hands. “Now please, I made a promise to your father that I’d take care of you, and your stubbornness is making that a little hard.”
He set me down on the couch, and I couldn’t really move from there. In spite of how hungry I felt, I couldn’t eat, even when he brought me a light breakfast of rice, eggs and some sort of smoked fish. I managed a few mouthfuls before I couldn’t eat any more. About the only thing I could stomach was the green tea, the bittersweet warmth far more soothing than the food.
That wasn’t the last time I saw him, obviously, but it was the last time I let myself get so heavily injured on a mission. We lost good men and women, men and women even he couldn’t save, and I refused to let him break his promise. He said he’d take care of me, but in order to do that, I had to take care of myself. I pieced together armor, started training with firearms. Even managed to ‘requisition’ some night vision equipment and experimental tech.
By the time I was eighteen years old, I hadn’t had a single injury inflicted upon me by an enemy. But I still met with Harry. Still sat with him in that dingy apartment, with a pot of fresh coffee on the side.
“You Japanese used to have names for different eras, didn’t you?” he once said, as he passed a plate of toast across to me, the brown bread roughly buttered and topped with some lemon and lime confection. “What do you call this one?”
At the time, I remember leaning back into the chair, and attempting to think. The last Emperor’s heir was the emperor when the invading forces took control, and had been killed as a result of the uprising he hadn’t instigated. That was the Meiji era. Then his father took over once again, but he was sickly, and only reigned for another 14. Emperor Taisho, we’d called him. After that point, so many Japanese had been killed, and so many remnant factions were dispersed across the country that we hadn’t really worked out who was eligible for the role. It was like a vast disease had swept across the country. And that gave me the idea.
I took a pen and notebook, and sketched down two kanji. One meant ‘disease, sickness’ – ‘Shou’. The other was the old name for Japan – in Chinese, that was ‘Wa’. “Let’s say this era is called ‘Showa’ – the Diseased Japan. And since it’s been sixty years since the Emperor passed… that would make it Showa 60.”