Ikamusume was sitting in a room filled with filing cabinets and computer servers. She was wondering what she was doing in there.
"He...hello? Is anyone there -de geso?" her voice quivered.
She walked over and opened the door and then peeked her head out into the hallway. It was dead empty. She slowly exited the room she was in and then began to walk down the hallway.
"Hello?" she called out.
No one answered. She continued walking down the hallway.
"Takeru? Chizuru? Eiko?"
Still nothing. Now she was getting really scared.
"Someone answer me -de geso!" she called out.
That was when the door next to her swung open and out jumped a man weilding an axe above his head. He was about to drop it down onto her but then he was shot and fell to the side. Ikamusume screamed and curled up into a ball. She heard the footsteps getting close to her and then felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Ikamusume! Get up!"
She knew that voice, it was Takeru's. She looked up at him and saw him clad in combat gear and a rifle in his hand.
"Come on!" he said as he pulled her up.
"Ow! Hey! What's going on Takeru?" Ikamusume asked.
"Base is getting overrun. I've called for med-evac. You'll get out through them." he said to her.
He grabbed her wrist and then pulled her through the hall to another room and then closed the door behind him. When he did, he let go of her. She looked around and saw a lot of wounded people. She covered her mouth when she saw. They were all badly wounded. She even saw someone with their leg completely blown off. She thought she was going to throw up.
"We're safe in here for now. The base's automated turrets have been picking off the oncomers but they're going to die very soon." he told her.
"Takeru...what...what happened to..." but was cut off.
"Wounded. All of them. Some of them are just barely hanging on by a string." he told her.
She looked around once more at the wounded men. Some of them were groaning and some of them were trying to not make any noise. Some even looked like they might be dead. She watched as Takeru kneeled down to a man wearing a different uniform than him. The flag on his shoulder was also not the Japanese flag but one with red and white stripes with a cornered off section of blue with white stars.
"How much longer until evac man?" the wounded spoke in English.
"They will be here soon." Takeru responded.
"Fuck, it hurts so much man. I don't want to die...I don't want to die..." he said.
"I know, and I'm doing everything I can. Drink some water, it'll help." Takeru said as he held the canteen up to the man's lips and poured him some water.
The wounded drank until he coughed. Takeru capped of the canteen and then set it next to him.
"Help will be on the way soon. Just wait a little more." Takeru told him.
With that, Takeru stood up and went to tend to others but was called back.
"Hey!" the wounded called.
Takeru turned back to look at him. With great strain, the Marine reached into one of his pouches and pulled out a letter.
"Look, I...I understand if you can't get to me...so can...so can you give this to my wife?" he said.
Takeru kneeled down and took the letter and nodded his head.
"I will." he replied.
The Marine nodded his head and then leaned back and tried to relax and will away his pain. Takeru looked at the folded-up note in his hand and then stuck it in his pouch. He then stood up and then looked over at Ikamusume.
"This is what happens during a real invasion Ikamusume. People get hurt and die." he told her.
Ikamusume didn't say anything. At that point, Takeru heard a helicopter outside. It was the med-evac chopper he requested.
"Heli is here. Come on, follow me." he said.
Takeru grabbed her wrist and then let her out of the base and then to the helicoper. Others were beginning to load up the wounded into it. He motioned her to get in and she complied. Once the heli was filled to capacity, Takeru motioned them to take off.
"Stay safe Ikamusume. These guys will take good care of you and get you back home." he told her.
"What about you -de geso?"
"I'm going to stay here, I have to help more people and make sure that the enemy doesn't overrun the base."
With that, Takeru waved to the pilot and the heli began to ascend.
"N-no! Takeru, don't leave me!"
"I'll be fine! I'll see you soon Ikamusume!" he called.
She watched as he ran back into the base. A few moments later, she saw an onslaught of people overrunning the base. Ikamusume held in a breath and wondered what Takeru was going to do.
3rd Person - Takeru
Takeru ran back inside the base once Ikamusume and the others were secured on the helicopter. He moved over to the surveillance screens and watched as he saw an endless number of enemies begin to move to rush the base. He knew he couldn't fight them off. Not by himself. But he wouldn't let them capture the wounded. He wouldn't let them capture the base and the secrets it holds. He wouldn't let them capture him.
He set his rifle down and picked up a remote and then gripped it tightly and watched the enemy soldiers pour into the base. If he was going down, he was going to take down a hell of a lot of them with him. He heard them getting closer to his position, but he would wait just a little bit longer. Finally, when enemy soldiers kicked in the door to the room he was in, Takeru looked at them.
'I'm sorry Ikamusume...'
Takeru then pressed the button on the remote and then the whole base was engulfed in explosions and flames.
3rd Person - Ikamusume
From above, Ikamusume watched as enemies began to pour into the base. She was scared, really scared. And the gunner sitting next to her didn't make it any better.
Ikamusume turned and looked at him.
"What's going to happen to him?" she asked frantically.
He shook his head.
She turned back to look at the base and right when she did, the whole base exploded. Ikamusume's face turned pale with shock.
"TAKERU!" Ikamusume shouted as she jolted up.
She was breathing hard and she took a moment to calm herself down. She looked around and saw that it was morning. She sucked in a breath and then let it out and then got up out of bed. She could smell breakfast being prepared, but she wanted to see Takeru. She walked over to his room and then knocked softly on Takeru's door.
"Yeah?" came his voice from the other side.
"Can...can I come in -ika?" she asked.
"Door's open." Takeru said.
Ikamusume gripped the knob and twisted it and slowly opened the door and peeked her head in the door. Inside, Takeru was sitting at his desk and running something over it. He turned his head and looked at her and smiled.
"Come on in. Close the door behind you." he said to her.
Ikamusume swallowed a lump in her throat and then did as asked.
"Please, sit." he said as he motioned towards the bed then went back to what he was doing.
She walked over to the bed and sat on the edge and then looked at what he was doing. He was running a funny-looking curved knife on some sandpaper.
"What are you doing -de geso?" she asked.
"Sharpening my karambit. Pretty cool little knife, huh? A friend of mine who's an American Marine gave it to me." he said.
"Yeah. It's a Southeast Asian knife. It originated in Java but got popular in Indonesian and Filipino knife fighting styles, so they're sometimes credited with the creation of it. It's made for slashing and gutting rather than stabbing. As you can see, it's not really a knife you can stab with." he said.
"A fighting knife -de geso?"
Takeru stopped sharpening for a moment to show her.
"You see, you stick your finger through this hole here. This ensures a tight and secure grip on the knife and really makes it a part of you. It makes it easier to gut as your grip is really tight and it isn't going anywhere. It also functions as a knuckleduster of sorts." Takeru explained as he made some punch-gut-pull motions to give her an example.
"What's a 'knuckleduster' -de geso?" she asked.
"Brass knuckles." Takeru said, "It's basically a piece of steel shaped to fit around the knuckles. It's designed to preserve and concentrate a punch's force by directing it toward a harder and smaller contact area and results in increased tissue disruption, including an increased likelihood of fracturing the opponent's bones on impact."
Takeru then went back to sharpening.
"So...why are you sharpening with sandpaper -de geso? Whenever Chizuru or Eiko sharpen the kitchen knives, they usually use some steel rod or a stone -de geso."
Takeru chuckled, "Because it's cheaper and easier than using stones and I get the same results. That and I suck at using stones. And that 'steel rod' they use is called a 'honing steel' and it's NOT used to sharpen knives, only to hone them."
"Well what's the difference -de geso?"
"Well 'sharpening' a knife is to literally take the edge and make it sharp while 'honing' the knife is to keep and maintain the edge but not sharpen per se. A honing steel is useless and won't do anything if the knife is dull, in which case you'll need to sharpen it. If the blade is sharp and just needs some touching up, you use a honing steel or a strop."
"You ask too many questions, Ikamusume." Takeru laughed.
He looked at his knife and then blew off the small shavings and felt the edge with his thumb.
"Cool. Now I get to touch it up with some 2000 grit then I'll strop it up." Takeru mumbled to himself.
He reached over and grabbed a sheet of 2000 grit sandpaper and then began running the knife over it.
"So how have you been Ikamusume? We didn't get to talk too much last night." Takeru said after a few moments of silence.
"I missed you -de geso..."
"I did too. That doesn't really answer my question though." Takeru replied with a small chuckle.
Ikamusume bit her lower lip and looked over at him. He was concentrating on what he was doing, but was listening.
"Takeru...you were away longer than you said you'd be -de geso..." she said.
"I know I know..." but he was cut off.
"No! I don't think you do know! I waited for you every day since you left and was so excited when the end of when you said you'd be back came, but you never did!" Ikamusume exclaimed.
"Well it wasn't really my fault Ikamusume. JSDF was hurting for men. They still are. They extended my contract. It's not like I had much of a say." he said, his eyes not straying from the task at hand.
Ikamusume stood up and gripped his wrist and stopped what he was doing. Takeru looked up at her when she did that. He saw her lip quivering and eyes were getting glossy.
Takeru placed his other hand on top of hers.
"I missed you Takeru...I missed you so much -de geso..." Ikamusume's voice wavered.
Takeru then stood up and then he wrapped his arms around her and held her to him. She then began sobbing and buried her head into his chest and held him tight.
"Takeru..." she cried.
"Oh Ikamusume. You big crybaby." Takeru teased softly.
Normally she'd hit him back with a rebuttal, but she'd let it slide this time around. Takeru rubbed her back is a soft and soothing manner while he let her cry on him. He didn't vocalize it, but he really missed her too. In fact, he was confident that he missed her at least as much as she missed him, if not more.
After all, he placed his life on the line a lot of times and there were times, such as the previous day, where he was wondering if he would make it back in one piece or if they'd have to mail him back in pieces; giving his dog tags and a boot back to Eiko and Chizuru saying 'we're sorry ladies, but this was all that was left of your younger brother'. At any rate, he was home now and in one piece. He was back where he wanted to be. Their soldier had come home alive and not in a box. He couldn't ask for any more.
Ikamusume began to calm down and then he looked down at her and smiled at her. She looked up at him and rubbed her eyes.
"I'm...I'm sorry Takeru. It's just...it's just..."
Takeru placed his index on her lips to silence her.
"Shhh. It's okay. I understand."
She then rested her head on his chest again and just enjoyed being held. She didn't want this moment to end. But almost as if the higher powers were against her, they heard a knock on the door.
"Hey. Breakfast is ready." came Eiko's voice.
"Ah, alright thanks. Be right there." Takeru said.
He then looked down at Ikamusume and then gently pulled away from her.
"Go ahead and go downstairs. I'll join you all in a moment. I just want to finish up my work here. I'll only be a few more minutes." he said, motioning toward his karambit.
"Okay Takeru..." Ikamusume nodded.
She turned to leave, but Takeru placed his hand on her shoulder and turned her around and placed his finger under her chin and tilted her head up.
"Go wash your face before you go downstairs. Don't let them see that you've wept." he said to her softly.
Ikamusume nodded her head. Takeru then nodded as well and then sat back down at his desk and got back to work with his knife.
Ikamusume looked at him for a moment and then smiled to herself and left the room, closing the door behind her. She then headed to the bathroom to clean her face off. Once she had eliminated all evidence of her having cried moments earlier, she headed downstairs and sat at the table.
"Where's Takeru?" Chizuru asked.
"He'll be down in a moment -de geso." she said.
Ikamusume looked at her food and then just smiled softly and thought to herself;
'My warrior has finally come back...'