"War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It's peace that's wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with." -Lois McMaster Bujold
"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." -Mother Teresa
He'd joined the army after the firebombing of Tokyo destroyed his home; he'd been out on the streets scavenging while the winds scattered live ashes onto their rooftop. The flames had overtaken their small wooden frame house, his mother burned to ash.
Enlisting wasn't so much a decision of pride; after Kotori, his sister, withered away from starvation, it was a matter of mere survival. Soldiers weren't allowed to starve if their lives could be spent otherwise.
He'd done everything he could to save Kotori, stealing into others' houses and taking their ration cards, but the small amount of food, her heart condition, and a spring heat wave had overpowered her.
Despite his small stature, he possessed an excellent strategic mind. His ability to keep moving forward despite hardships impressed his superiors, who promoted him up a rank. In time, fellow soldiers began to regard him as a leader, of sorts.
"All right, Kusanagi, you head around to the west end and keep an eye out for snipers! That thick brush can be deadly. Help those troops shift the artillery to better vantage spots. Arisugawa, check the progress of the new soldiers on the north side. We don't want them making any stupid mistakes. The Americans are landing now, so go!"
He could see the dark shadows of amphibious vehicles slowly making their way to shore. It was an hour before dawn, and the cold sea wind settled deep into his bones, making his body stiff and slow.
They had just finished assembling their land weaponry when the world exploded in shells of bullets. The Americans had managed to overtake the majority of his defenses when he saw him.
A tall, dark-haired (judging by his strong eyebrows) soldier creeping along the brush, so breathtakingly handsome beneath the vise of his helmet. His American uniform nearly hid him in his surroundings in the pre-dawn light. The man tensed, having heard a rustle from the bordering landscape.
"General?" A white-faced private beside him whispered, ripping away his attention. "What do we do?"
His gaze pleaded with Kamui, so uncertain and afraid. A loud bang, then his eyes rolled back into his skull and he dropped to the ground heavily. Stunned and blood-splattered, Kamui looked back to see the American, the barrel of his gun now pointed at him, smoking with the discharge; their eyes locked for a split second, the American's jaw going slack as his rifle lowered slightly. The pain in his eyes was apparent. Kamui needn't take a second glance before he sprinted into the concealing underbrush. Shaken to the core, he tried to get his bearings.
"RETREAT!" He bellowed at his remaining forces and watched them scatter. "Retreat, goddamn it!" Bullets whizzed around him like violent buzzing insects. Cries of torment filled the chilly air, soft thuds echoing as bodies hit the ground. Suddenly, an enemy soldier sprung up before him like a jack-in-the-box, amber colored eyes glowing, a wide smirk on his face; Kamui had seen these kinds of soldiers before, monsters that enjoyed the chaos and the death their uniforms allowed them to cause. A horrible pain ripped through his right shoulder, and that was all he remembered of the war on the island.
It was a year later, a year after he had woken up in a makeshift hospital floating under the influence of the drugs with his shoulder and arm bandaged to his side, the bone shattered. The government had given him an honorable discharge, his last paycheck, and a black hole of memories that threatened to swallow him whole during his daily life.
The time after the war had been rough for all the people of Japan. He didn't really want to return to Tokyo, and instead headed to Yokosuka, a sleepy fishing town to the south. He was generally withdrawn from others and avoided them in his spare time, walked along the warm sandy shore with his arm hanging limply at his side. He could still use it, but it ached when he rotated it and he usually tried to keep it pressed gingerly against his side.
A general store offered him a job running the front register. He would stare out the window, wipe down the counter, and find a spot outside to eat his bentou box lunch alone, clumsily eating with his left hand. At night, Kamui tried to read, but typically ended up staring unfocused at the page. His dreams were mostly unhaunted by the war. In fact, he usually didn't dream at all, his sleeping hours simply a vast emptiness, like that silently still island before the violence had erupted.
He was one of the lucky ones. Subaru, one of his former classmates, simply couldn't function in real life any more after what he'd been through. He and his twin sister had been staying with relatives in Nagasaki during the war and after her death, he'd given up on everything. The city had been a living hell after the bombing, starving and dying people scattered moaning in the streets. The radiation scarring on his back and the loss of his right eye from the flying debris caused by the shock wave of the atomic blast had outcasted him, had made people turn away from the sight of his devastation. Such a bright, cheerful child, he had no faith anymore. He spent his time in a dark, shuttered room despite the summer heat and spoke to no one.
One noontime, Kamui was on his lunch break, walking in a fog to the cigarette stand around the corner. He didn't smoke too much, but on days when his shoulder ached real badly, he found it a comforting habit to hold something.
Blindly turning the corner, he crashed headlong into someone much broader and much taller than him. Immediately, he cowered away.
"Ex-excuse me," he stammered. He looked up to find familiar eyes, and his mouth dropped open in shock. The American from that war-torn day stood before him, and had apparently recognized him as well. He was even more beautiful in the bright sunlight, his wine-colored eyes widened in surprise. He was in civilian wear, all tan skin and wide shoulders.
His mouth moved, foreign sounding words falling like a deeply-noted verse. Kamui shook his head, confused. "I can't understand you." His exposure to English had been limited during the current occupation. There weren't many Americans who came down from Yokohama to this little town.
"Name?" The tall man said. He pointed to himself and spoke slowly. "Frederick Monroe."
"Oh!" Kamui exclaimed, understanding dawning upon him. "Kamui. Shirou Kamui."
"Kamui." The stranger repeated. He shook his head in slight disbelief. "Kamui."
Kamui held out his hand, a custom he had seen on the store's tiny black and white TV. The American looked at it and laughed. Instead, he held out his arms and folded Kamui into an embrace.
And Kamui, with his wounded shoulder and his scarred mind, tried the best he could to hug him back, head falling down to rest upon this stranger's shoulder. It must have been fate that had brought them, two former enemies, back together in this unknown town. Tears soaked the American's t-shirt as he held on tight, trembling, for once feeling anchored to this life he now had. The world looked so different in peacetime.
Written for livejournal's 30_smirks community. Theme #20, Violence, War.
Notes: The firebombing of Tokyo occurred mostly during March/April 1945. The Nagasaki bomb dropped on August 9th, 1945, which is obviously too short a time for someone to be a well-trained soldier so I tweaked the timeline a bit. I spent a while trying to figure out an English name for Fuuma, and figured 'Monroe' was pretty close to sound as 'Monou'. Frederick is a common enough name that begins with an 'F', so I just stuck to that. The US occupied Japan until 1952.
I just took Japanese history, so I was inspired to write about WWII that didn't concentrate completely on the atomic bomb droppings.
Please review! I'm particularly fond of this ficlet, I'd like to know what you thought.