Showa 60 – Act 1, Scene 3, Page 5 – [25/05/2016]

“You enslaved me?!” Anayama was beyond angry. Small hands were balled into fists, knuckles white. “You are insane, Okita! Insane! All you had to do was execute that Resistance creep, and he threw his life on the line for me. Why couldn’t you just do what everyone wanted you to?!”

I looked away, out of the window of the inn where I had taken to staying. “It wouldn’t have been right.”

Justifying it like that was weak, I knew that much. But I didn’t want to admit my own weakness at the time, my own inability to draw blood from those who didn’t deserve it. That night, I saved two lives and dealt justice. We didn’t have the population to execute someone for a simple mistake. Though, the Magistrate had it coming – whoever was there simply by bloodlust’s call had it sated; there was no man guiltier than the one who simply sat around and handed out sentences. At least I did it by my own hands.

“Don’t talk to me about what’s right,” Anayama spat bitterly. “You were just too weak to do what was necessary.”

A crack echoed through the room as the back of my hand hit her face. She stumbled, and fell to the ground, her wedge sandals offering little support. “I saved your life, you ungrateful bitch! And I don’t think highly enough of you to execute an innocent man when you were clearly the one at fault.” I leaned down and grabbed her by the collar of her kimono. “You are enslaved because you’re worth more to the Juuyuushi alive than dead. I can free you whenever I wish, but until you realise that this this me doing you a favor, you’re under my command. Got that?”

She nodded carefully, still nursing her hit cheek with one hand. The other drifted to the metal ring around her neck, fixed in place by a complex locking mechanism. Like slavery itself, the concept was archaic, but effective. Her place, her punishment was visible for all to see. “I understand. I apologise, Mistress Okita.” There was an odd sincerity in her address, which made me feel a little more comfortable with a most definitely uncomfortable situation.

I offered her a hand up, which she refused, and awkwardly pushed herself up from the ground. She asked for leave and I gave it to her – to my own shame, I’d put her through a terrible ordeal. One that could have been far worse overall, but with less drawn out suffering.

I returned to reading my book in the candlelit room, the bedside lantern still bright upon the table. All things considered, it was difficult to concentrate upon the content. Setting the book aside, I blew out the candle and decided to head out, hoping some fresh air would clear my head. Okutama was cold that night, the breeze running through the mountains cooling the moisture in the air. It was a little unnerving, given the warmth of the day. Superstition told me it was a sign, one that my own warmth was failing, that I too would become cold and dark. I never was one for superstition though, so I simply pulled my cloak from my pack, swung it over my shoulders and continued.

I made my way down the hill to one of the many bridges that crossed the Tama River, leaning on the varnished wood and staring up at the moonlight. The stars, like brushed metal amidst coal dust, glinted in the distance and for a moment, I wished that I could vanish somewhere out there, somewhere far away from the accursed country I constantly fought to protect. Footsteps brought me back to earth.

“Contemplative isn’t a look that suits you, Okita.” The sardonic male voice was too familiar. I couldn’t escape the bastard. “What are you doing out here this late?”

“I could ask you the same thing.” I stood up straight and brushed off my cloak. The pale bluish-white of the uninterrupted moonlight made everything feel strange and dreamlike. “What do you want, Mochizuki?”

He came over and stood next to me, stared up at the sky with dreamy, half-asleep eyes. “I wanted to thank you.” No eye contact was made, but the tone was sincere. “I couldn’t have dealt with Anayama being killed, and that would have made me leave the Juuyuushi and the Resistance. By sparing her, you spared me by extension, and I will forever be grateful for that.”

Smiling warmly, he turned to look at me, and I looked away quickly. Heat rose in my cheeks and I folded my arms. “Don’t think I was doing it for you or anything. I wasn’t. I just didn’t want to kill an innocent or a teenager tonight. The Resistance doesn’t have enough men and women to kill people over minor transgressions. That’s all.”

The man shrugged and began walking away. “Say whatever makes you happy, Okita. Fact is, tonight you made a great leader. One as suited to politics as to battle. Maybe you should be the new Magistrate?”

Whatever words would have been a suitable response didn’t come to me, so I stuttered pointlessly until he had disappeared. I sighed and slumped down against the bridge’s guard rails. Magistrate? Me? Naturally, I’d always said that I could do a better job than the now-deceased one, but to actually have the opportunity and the support to do it was… exciting.

The next day, I formally took the post as Magistrate and mayor of the town, and began drawing up plans for how it could be developed in the wake of the attack. We didn’t have the manpower to wage a war, but we did have the manpower to build a solid defense. And that was what I intended to do.

“So, you want to build a castle?” Mochizuki said with a smirk, at a meeting a week later. Anayama rolled out the plans I had drawn up with the help of the town architects. Some it involved ‘acquiring’ resources from various enemy locations or friendly trade partners, but it was our best bet. “Not even a castle. A citadel, practically.”

I pulled out another scroll and laid it over the top of the blueprints. “Take a look at this. This is the nation they call ‘Suspiria’ which takes up parts of Shizuoka, Kanagawa and Yamanashi prefectures. It started as a citadel for a politically-allied group of British, German and Russian settlers. Nobody thought they’d survive, and yet they are considered one of the strongest nations. A practical modern day Oda clan.”

“And you want to emulate their success, I see. As your deputy, I’ll arrange for all resources to be put towards that,” Mochizuki said with a bow. “I’m impressed, Okita. You’re less a Magistrate and more a Daimyo.”

The constant compliments would do nothing for my ego, I told myself. And yet… things would soon change.

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The Sunday Summary: Hits, Walks and Six Months in Japan

Hey everyone, welcome to my new Sunday blog where I talk about life and general shenanigans. This won’t be an interruption to Showa 60 or to my other writing – I’m just viewing it as an outlet.

So, without further ado, I’ll split this up into the pieces mentioned in the title!

Hits

I was taking a brief perusal of my stats for all the time I’ve owned this domain (about two years or so, I think?) and I have to say, I’m impressed with Brazil. Either I’m getting a lot of spambots, or I genuinely have a lot of Brazilian fans. Check this out!

Screenshot 2016-05-22 22.42.46Screenshot 2016-05-22 22.47.42

453 lifetime views. The UK, I can sort of understand – my friends and family are from there, and some of them are particularly avid readers of my stuff (thanks guys!), and the NaNoWriMo group on Facebook is predominantly American, which explains the US. But Brazil? A total outlier, so I’m impressed. Muito obrigado! Also, Italy, you’re a confusing one for me too, so a big grazie mille to my Italian fans, wherever and whoever you are. And for those of you in Japan… ありがとうございました!

Walks

Everyone and their mother always seems to recommend running as a quick fix to getting some exercise, but it’s never really worked for me, and if you have the wrong sort of shoes (which I do) then it can cause serious damage to your legs over a long period of time.

For me, swimming is my main exercise. It’s low impact, it works on strength, suppleness and stamina, and it’s extremely relaxing. Unfortunately in Japan it’s hard to find a public pool (the closest one to me requires taking a train and then a taxi or bus), and private gyms practically require a small loan to attend regularly.

Therefore, I drop down to my second favourite exercise – walking. Fortunately for me, I live in a reasonably low plains area fenced in by the Tanzawa mountains and the greater Tokyo Metropolis. And the Pacific Ocean, I guess, if you go far south enough. My city has hundreds of years of history as a farming town, and by following the river through town, you quickly reach the farms surrounding the local agricultural university. The route alongside the river is pleasantly flat, and courtesy of the foliage and water it’s also pretty cool temperature-wise. The route I followed today was a good three miles, but didn’t feel like I was exerting myself especially hard. That being said, apparently I burned two hundred calories, so that practically takes care of that mint chocolate ice cream I had earlier in the day…

I also took a few pictures, which I thought captured the hazy sunset of the evening pretty nicely:

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All in all, it was quite the beautiful trek, and if it keeps me fit and healthy, I might take a similar route every Sunday – provided I don’t have anything else planned or something more strenuous on the cards. The hard working lifestyle of Japan combined with the boredom of living alone are an excellent soup for losing weight, so I’m beginning to feel better about my health and my body. Goodness knows I could have done with losing a few pounds when I got out here, but now I can barely keep my suit trousers up…

Six Months in Japan

Speaking of which, I’ve been here six months now! It’s quite incredible how the time has flown by really. In that time, I’ve visited so many places, met new people and learned new things.

In terms of places I’ve visited, there’s actually too many to list in great detail, but I might make another page with the places I’ve been and maybe try my hand at some travel writing. For now, here’s the not-so-brief overview:

  • Okayama, Okayama Prefecture
  • Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture
  • Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture
  • Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
  • Enoshima, Kanagawa Prefecture
  • Tokyo Metropolis
    • Ikebukuro
    • Shibuya
    • Harajuku
    • Kichijoji
    • Shimo-Kitazawa
    • Odaiba
    • Ginza
    • Asakusa
    • Akihabara
    • Shinjuku
  • Osaka, Osaka Prefecture
  • Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
  • Nara, Nara Prefecture
  • Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture

Before I leave Japan, the places I really want to visit (that are reasonably accessible) are:

  • Hakone and Lake Ashi
  • Mt. Fuji and Fujinomiya
  • Fujiyoshida and Fuji Five Lakes
  • Kofu
  • Hachioji
  • Nikko
  • Hakone-Yumoto

Time will tell whether I get to go to these places! In the case of Fujinomiya, I’d at least have a place to stay (courtesy of a friend living out there), but as for most other places I’d definitely have to make a weekend of it.

Who knows what the next weekend will bring? That’s kind of my motto when I’m out here – some places are far cheaper to get to than you’d probably expect, and there’s always the option of getting up (begrudgingly) early and taking local trains to the destination.

Anyway, that’s about all I have time for, so thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Japan updates, more Showa 60 and eventually, more of my novel.

Showa 60 – Act 1, Scene 3, Page 4 – [18/05/2016]

The entirety of the Resistance in the village stood before me, nervous and chattering quietly. It reminded me of the opinions of non-Japanese I had heard long ago, that our culture was based around the concept of shame and duty. In circumstances like these, it was both true and helpful – we were a collective of individuals, doing our best to survive. A traitor to one was a traitor to all.

A bell sounded to call this meeting to order, the townspeople looking upon their supposed protectors with discomfort. Given the day’s events, I didn’t blame them.

“On this day, our location was discovered by a lone infiltrator, an enemy with technology far beyond the reach of normal nations,” I said aloud, raising the rifle above my head by its integrated carry handle. “The infiltrator destroyed any evidence of their existence rather than be caught, leaving naught but a question – who led them here, and why?”

There was nervous chatter among the people, and then all heads turned towards Anayama, who had something clutched tightly in her hands. Of course it would be the child, the one who hated me. She stood up, slender legs shaking. Branches in the wind, knocking together and somehow staying solid in spite of it. “I believe it was this that led them to us, some sort of device. Hi… I mean, Mochizuki said he had found it attached to one of his men, Nakayama Shunsuke, I believe.”

As if it hadn’t been difficult enough with Anayama alone, I now had a decision. Would I punish her for not informing me sooner? Would I punish Mochizuki as leader of the expedition? Or was this all upon Nakayama, the one who had allowed it to happen to him? But then again, perhaps this was all a ploy for the little couple to cover their rears.

Mochizuki stood up from among the crowd, pulling the one named Nakayama to his feet. “Indeed, dear leader.” His title for me was pure theatrics, not an ounce of seriousness in even a syllable. “It is as Anayama says. This one fell behind, and when he caught up to our group, this item was attached to his cloak.”

I frowned as I inspected the device. It was a radio transmitter of sorts, fitted with a small series of hooks. Not the kind of thing a trained warrior would allow to be clipped onto them. But perhaps something a young girl with a lack of athletic prowess… it was all very hard to believe. That being said, the whole town was present and they wanted to see justice. Anayama had fallen behind, that much was certain – she was trembling, couldn’t even make eye contact with me. Nakayama on the other hand seemed calm, like someone who had accepted his fate in spite of it not being true. To execute him would put this whole thing under wraps, but it would be killing an innocent. To execute Anayama would be the height of controversy – Mochizuki would likely try to kill me again, the townspeople and the resistance would be shocked at the death of their little idol wonder girl. Letting an innocent man fall for someone else’s mistake… could I truly allow it?

“A decision must be made, Okita,” the magistrate said from his seat behind me. “Our town has been put in danger, and the one who allowed it to happen must pay. The people seek blood.”

I turned around to face him, silhouetted in the lantern-light. “And blood they shall receive. But you know as well as I that this situation is not as it seems.”

Smirking, he opened his fan and began to waft a gentle breeze towards himself. Gold rings glinted upon his fingers as he moved, and I felt myself become increasingly frustrated. “So you would fracture the Juuyuushi? Kill a child to suit your own ideals of justice? The warrior in front of you has accepted his accusation in silence; he wishes to place his life on the line in spite of the truth. Do you accept his offer? Or would you sooner break the heart of your comrade by killing another?”

At my side, the sword weighed heavy. Drawing it would mean drawing blood, and a betrayal of this caliber, even accidentally, meant that someone had to die. But, were there fates worse than death? Fates embarrassing and shameful enough to be considered a fitting punishment?

“There will be no execution tonight,” I said loudly, facing the crowd with my arms folded. The crowd roared in indignation, throwing around insults suggesting I was cowardly or weak. “However! However… justice will be served. I hereby sentence Nakayama Shunsuke to labour and indentured servitude at the damaged onsen.”

“And the girl?” Mochizuki said, a hint of hope in his voice that I might let her get away with her obvious transgression. “What becomes of Anayama?”

I glanced away for a second, unsure as to whether I should really do this. She required punishment; she had threatened the safety of the entire village and kept the transmitter for assessment without obviously disabling it. “Anayama Kiriko,” I said, pointing towards the girl, “You are now stripped of your Juuyuushi rank, for the Juuyuushi does not accept slaves into its ranks. You are to report to me, and serve the rest of the group as I see fit.”

Mochizuki looked heartbroken, but then bowed his head. I stared at him, and when our eyes met, he gave a weak smile. This had all been for him. He turned away and left the crowd, and I was sure for a moment that he brushed tears from his eyes.

The magistrate chuckled behind me, still clutching the fan between his fat fingers. “So you’re enslaving the girl? You do realise that is against the laws of this village… surely executing her would have been more merciful. Or perhaps you think you are above the law?”

I clicked my blade from it’s sheath, revealing an inch of metal. “No, Magistrate. I don’t think I’m above the law.” With all the speed I could muster, I span and sliced the blade vertically up his body, rending fat and cartilage in one sweep. “I am the law.”

Showa 60 – Act 1, Scene 3, Page 3 – [11/05/2016]

Water collarbone deep and towel sat atop my head, I finally started to relax. The dagger never left my reach, sat beneath the water at my side. I knew, from prior experience, that I could draw the blade in one second with the water resistance. My only issue was if someone brought a gun. I could throw the dagger, but I might be shot in the process, and it wasn’t enough to use my abilities when my movement was hindered.

Grinding my teeth, I tried not to focus on possibilities. Possibilities were endless. Certainties were much fewer and further between. What I knew for certain was this: Mochizuki had tried to kill me. Harry McArthur was dead. As was the Vice President of Arlandria I needed to ensure the plan continued smoothly, otherwise all our efforts thus far would have been for naught.

I caught sight of my reflection in the water, noting that where my so-called comrade’s sword had cut, he’d sliced off a good chunk of my hair. Taking the dagger, I removed the rest along the line, the cut now short and bobbed. Not that I was one for vanity, but it didn’t suit my face.

As I was about to set the blade back into its sheath, there was a rustle in the bamboo and I stood up as sharply as I could, scanned around for any disturbances. This wasn’t a good place for me to be if someone planned on sneaking in. If I hid my position in the water, the ripples would give me away. If I left the water and returned to the building, I’d leave footprints on the floor. I frowned and jumped into the flowerbeds surrounding the pool, masking myself as best I could.

A lone figure dropped off of the fence and landed in the water, clad in a dark green cloak and wearing now-soaked camouflage trousers. I saw the badge – Technisian.

Technis was the worst of the little ‘countries’ spread throughout what once had been called Japan. They were a state run by the numerous corporations established there – far more technologically advanced than most, but also far less ethical in the process. There were tales of an undercity rife with crime and murder, while the upper classes lived on the surface with their portable computers and cellular phones. Their military was advanced too… but not this advanced.

I pounced on the soldier, pushing them under the water and disarming them in a flash. Arms and legs flailing, they struggled. I waited, and then pulled them to the surface, tossing their water soaked body onto the hard floor at the side of the pool. I took the rifle – a mixture of metal and composites, bullpup arrangement with the magazine behind the trigger – and aimed it at the infiltrator’s head. Their face was covered by a state-of-the-art tactical helmet, which I was reasonably convinced wouldn’t stand a point blank shot.

“Identify yourself.”

My order was unlikely to be followed, I knew that much. If they were Technisian, failure to defeat a ‘technologically inferior’ foe was shameful. For their Special Forces, such a situation would be punishable by death. The weakened soldier raised a hand, a remote clutched in it. They had nothing to lose – and I had a lot. I dove into the shallow water of the hot spring as a significant amount of plastic explosive detonated, the noise still deafening beneath.

As I surfaced, I witnessed a scene that looked like something from a war zone. The ground was dented with a crater, the surrounding area blasted into pieces. The entire wing of the ryokan had been demolished, the view through the corridor now a clear shot of the town below. A wall had been damaged on one side, and the other was spattered with blood and shrapnel. I realised that I hadn’t exactly come out unscathed either, my back and arms stinging with small cuts and burnt flesh. Fragments of fabric and plant matter descended from the sky above like black snowflakes.

My mind was full of questions, even in spite of the pain. I certainly hadn’t been followed – I hadn’t even been close to Technis in months, and I wasn’t stupid enough to get tagged. But that meant someone had. I got out of the hot spring, redressed and headed towards the main door.

“Kanon? Thank the gods you’re alright… what happened?”

I gestured to the demolished wing, and the kitsune’s face fell. “Inari blessed. What manner of monster could do this?”

“Another human, unsurprisingly,” I said, holding up the unusual rifle, still dripping slightly. “One with technology far advanced beyond normal consideration.” I hit the magazine release and found a full stack of rounds – the rear of one bullet displayed 5.56mm x 45mm. Those weren’t rounds I registered being used by anyone… but yet, gut instinct still told me this was Technisian.

Koto looked at me nervously as I reinserted the magazine and checked the chamber. “What are you going to do?”

“Someone led these bastards here. Someone compromised the Resistance, the Juuyuushi and the safety of the Remnants,” I tossed her a small coin from my purse. “I’m going to find out who. And when I do… I’ll have to call a mason, because someone’s going to need a new headstone.”

Showa 60 – Act 1, Scene 3, Page 2 – [04/05/2016]

I stormed into the onsen and slammed the sliding door so hard behind me the frame rattled. The woman behind the desk jumped, her human form failing a little, fox ears and three tails flickering into existence briefly. A kitsune, a spiritual being hunted to near extinction for their magical tails, and for more… unpleasant purposes.

“You seem troubled, Mistress Okita. Is there anything I can do to ease your worries?” Her tone was gentle, but tainted with the magic of a glamour. I shot her a look and her next sentence held little power. “I apologise, I was merely thinking for the safety of the inn. You have been known to be quite destructive in your bad moods.”

Sinking down to remove my boots, I smirked. “You always did know how to charm a girl, Koto.” Tossing them loosely to the side, I stepped up onto the wooden floor and took a cup of tea from her. “My long-time handler sacrificed himself for me, and this,” I said, pointing to the stinging cut on my face, “This was done by that treacherous bastard Mochizuki while my back was turned.”

Koto raised a gentle hand to my face, and I felt the warm electricity of healing magic. “And you’re sure you didn’t provoke him in any way?”

Embarrassed, I remained silent. I had provoked him – perhaps not enough to kill me, but enough to warrant a reaction. I was pissed off, and I took it out on him. That probably meant I owed him an apology, but I wasn’t about to utter a single syllable to that coward until he apologised for my face.

“Did I ever tell you the story of me and my sister?” Koto began, her voice tinted with magic, but not the coercive kind. “It all started two hundred and sixty four years ago. By the standards of most of my kind, we were little more than children, but we weren’t unintelligent. Just unused to what family meant.” Her voice washed over me like a warm flow of water, comparable to the very springs the building was host to. “We had a huge argument because she fell in love with a human. A foreigner, at that. He was a Britannian naval officer, sharply dressed with fine features – certainly interesting to look at as a human with a very storied past. But as you know, we live far longer than humans, and she was so young…”

I felt her hands running through my hair and across my shoulders, searching for more injuries to treat. “What happened?”

“I tried to warn her that her first mate should not be from a short lived species, but she wouldn’t listen. She was in love with the man, and nothing I could say would change that,” Koto continued, unbuckling my armour to reach a minor laceration on my side, presumably from diving out of the window a few days back. “She eloped with him, possibly back to his native England. I didn’t see her again until twenty years ago. As it turned out, after his death, she was heartbroken. She wandered hopelessly looking for a place she could connect to the spiritual world, but her spirit was so weak, she could barely cope. On one hand, it was pathetic – a creature of her power, mourning a simple human – one with the barest hint of magical talent. On the other, she was still my sister, and I had missed her dearly.”

The point she was making here was obvious. Stupidity and selfishness had caused her and her sister to grow apart, to become sidetracked with their own thoughts rather than considering the other person’s feelings. I nodded solemnly as the sensation passed through my side and up into my body, suggesting that the wound was infected. “So what did you do?”

“I killed her.” Koto jabbed her claws in my side as she said that, and I yelped in shock. She giggled and withdrew a few fragments of glass. “Just kidding. I welcomed her back, as any true sister would. I listened to her side of the story, finally.” The fox spirit set the glass into a small container and healed up the small cuts with gentle fingertips.“Your issue is different, however. I provoked someone who meant a lot to me, who still held love for me even when I disagreed with her following her dreams. You, Okita Kanon, provoke those who hold no love for you, merely the simple bonds of camaraderie. Do not allow your own rage to sever these ties… otherwise those you have abandoned may sever bone and sinew.”

I grimaced and set my hands out as she passed me a kimono. “And what of you, Koto? Do you hold any love for me?”

She smirked and set herself on the counter, crossing her pale legs so that the silk of her kimono brushed back either side of them. “We kitsune find you humans very entertaining… and I do consider you a close friend. To earn my love however, you’d have to show a degree of skill that… can’t be earned on the battlefield.”

All I could do was look at her blankly. “Are you propositioning me? Or am I misreading this situation?”

Her expression still coy, she drew a smoking pipe from under the desk and lit it. “You can read it however you like, Kanon. We are but characters in a book, and our relationship is to the reader’s interpretation.” She sauntered over to me and blew a gentle ring of sweet-smelling smoke around my face, leaving her red lips pouted ridiculously. “How about you and I… read between the lines?”

I walked straight past her and towards the washroom. “I’m going for a bath. Read that and see how it entertains you.”

As I passed through the sliding door, I was convinced I heard her saying something about ‘ship fodder’, whatever that would mean. I shook my head and shoved my boots into the rack, before undressing and selecting a basket for my clothes. Ready to relax, I almost went to wash myself off, but returned to grab my dagger. Now wasn’t the time to lower my guard.

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