The first, second, third, fourth and fifth books of Sakura—The Kenji Saga are now complete.
Book Six has begun.
The various parts of the story so far are as follows:Kenji Book 1: Five Years That Break A Man
— Year 1 — Kenji's second year at Yamaku (this post, see below
— Year 2 — Kenji's third year and some relationships20070402-20070610
— Year 3 (1) — Kenji's third year (again) with a familiar face20070611-20071007
— Year 3 (2) — Kenji's third year (again) with new friends20071008-20080330
— Year 3 (3) — Kenji's third year (again) and graduation20080331-20080727
— Year 4 (1) — Kenji enters university under strange circumstances20080728-20081228
— Year 4 (2) — Kenji learns about wisdom and folly20081229-20090329
— Year 4 (3) — Kenji learns about other people and is very sad20090330-20090830
— Year 5 (1) — Kenji has dreams, and has one shattered forever20090831-20100418
— Year 5 (2) — Kenji is broken, and broken again2010 April
— Year 5 (Coda) — Back in SaitamaKenji Book 2: The Sound of Wings
— Year 1 — Kenji begins to come to terms with powerlessness and loss2011.04-2012.03
— Year 2 — Kenji learns to say goodbye2012.04-2012.09
— Year 3 (1) — Kenji starts work as someone else's comes to an end2012.10-2013.03
— Year 3 (2) — Kenji learns that friendships still exist2013.04-2013.09
— Year 4 (1) — Kenji comes to some conclusions2013.10-2014.03
— Year 4 (2) — Kenji works his way to a different conclusion2014.04-2014.09
— Year 5 (1) — Kenji goes underground2014.10-2015.03
— Year 5 (2) — Kenji looks up into the lightKenji Book 3: Distant Drums
— Year 1 (1) — Kenji becomes a father2016.01-2016.03
— Year 1 (2) — Kenji learns a lot about friends and family2016.04-2016.09
— Year 2 (1) — Kenji's daughter turns one, and Hisao says many things2016.10-2017.01
— Year 2 (2) — Kenji's son is born, and Kenji thinks a lot about work.2017.01-2017.04
— Year 2 (3) — Kenji has to deal with a very bad mistake.2017.04-2017.05
— Year 3 (1) — Kenji looks Death in the face.2017.06-2017.09
— Year 3 (2) — Kenji is supportive to some old friends.2017.10-2018.01
— Year 3 (3) — Kenji sees things differently.2018.02-2018.08
— Year 4 (1) — Kenji learns more about the world he lives in.2018.08-2019.02
— Year 4 (2) — Kenji helps people, not just those he likes—hi Misha!2019.03-2019.08
— Year 5 (1) — Kenji thinks about friendship and makes decisions.2019.09-2020.03
— Year 5 (2) — Kenji realises that the good years are ending.Kenji Book 4: The World Turned Upside-Down
— Year 1 (1) — Kenji considers action and inaction. And rooftops.2020.10-2021.06
— Year 1 (2) — Kenji goes overseas and feels old when he gets back.2021.07-2021.12
— Year 2 (1) — Kenji makes promises and does a soy sauce investigation.2022.01-2022.05
— Year 2 (2) — Kenji meets life, death, and a new brother.2022.05-2022.08
— Year 3 (1) — Kenji deals with... matters of the heart.2022.09-2022.12
— Year 3 (2) — Kenji's friendships are strained to the breaking point.2023.01-2023.04
— Year 3 (3) — Kenji thinks about resource scarcity.2023.05-2023.08
— Year 4 (1) — Kenji revisits some of the past.2023.09-2024.03
— Year 4 (2) — Kenji thinks about legacies.2024.04-2024.08
— Year 5 (1) — Kenji says a final goodbye to an old friend.2024.09-2025.03
— Year 5 (2) — Kenji thinks about knowledge, and leaves the future to itself.Kenji Book 5: The Taste of Dust and Ashes
— Kenji introduces himself to us again.2030-2034
— Kenji deals with problems domestic.2035-2038
— Kenji's past and future haunt him.2039-2040
— Kenji's had a long farewell.2041-2042
— Kenji discovers that he's become an old man.2043
— Kenji's now -the- General, his father having died.2044
— Kenji turns 56, and enters a new phase of life.Kenji Book 6: Broken Pieces of a Silent War
— Kenji looks back at the beginning of this period of his life.:2045a
– Koji introduces his part in this account.:2045b
– Akiko adds her own voice to the other two.2048
— Kenji hates his job, but his home life is fine.:2048b
– Akiko prepares for a major life-change.:2048a
– Koji has tea with some ladies.2052
— Kenji has a chat with HisaoI'm not sure if Kenji's joking when he says that Book 7 is called The Grey Havens.
We realise that it is unusual to preface such a document with an editorial note.
However, Natsume Ooe and your humble scribe agreed that Kenji's account should stand alone.
While it might fit within a loose continuity
established by other editors and writers, it is… uniquely Kenji's.
=====This is the first instalment of the first part of the redacted archive of Kenji Setou.
Sadly, it contains no references to Families, nanotech, or biotech. Well, not any that weren't redacted… Kenji 1: Five Years That Break A Man—Year One
Damn Saitama. It breaks my heart because it always does and there’s no way out. Look at that arrogant smart prick, my father the genius master. Kenji, he told me, never trust the women and he was often right. But look, look, Mother’s grave and what did she do to deserve that? And now, now, it is intolerable. Give me the pills, the goddamn psychic spies can’t see my thoughts through the fog. Oh God, what if there AREN’T any psychic spies and everything is wrong? What if?
Down the tunnel Kenji goes, the rabbit hole, the dreams of little shelves with little buns saying ‘Knead Me’, the path through the story that I once called ‘Katawa Shoujo’ because it seemed that my life was a visual novel, a bad one. Before I throw up and tell you everything, you’ll get nothing from me you feminist bitch. But then of course, if you’re a bitch it’s your duty and I can’t fault you for it. It’s the same reason I spent four years instead of three at Sendai.
These are my redacted log entries from 20050404 to 20100418. 263 weeks of my life, ending today. I will call them ‘Five Years That Break A Man’. Note to editor: my weeks all start Monday and end Sunday. Note to reader: if you can read this, it doesn’t matter any more, my strong encrypt is broken. So I might as well tell you 20050404-20080319 is Yamaku stuff and 20080320-20100418 is post-Yamaku up to the time I got here. If you are the man you should be, I wish you all the best. If you are not, my wish is that you go to hell.
Let’s start with 2005, anyway—such a long time ago.
First week of school again. Now I’m second year I get to check out the first years. I bet they’re a damn sight better than my own; of course it’s a bet since I can’t really tell unless I’m up close and personal. One day I will make autozoom eyes for myself, or get really rich and hire someone to do it for me.
Eeeeh, that one is way too cute. “Helloooo, I’m Riri Satou!~ One day I’ll run for Student Council!~” It sends shivers down my spine I tell you. Shivers.
I drift down the corridor, intelligence-gathering at every classroom, taking the long safe way to my own class where I won’t have to bump into the wrong people. Bump. Oh shit, bumped into someone. Ngah ngah ngah! Ngah! What the hell is she saying?! Oh, I made her drop her stuff. That’s not a manly thing to do, so I help her pick them up, although it means I have to bend really close to the ground.
“That’s a kind thing to do, young man. Miss Hakamichi thanks you for helping.”
That sounds like Mutou-sensei, probably the manliest teacher around. Some day I will grow up to be like him. He doesn’t seem to like long scarves though. Hakamichi? I can’t remember where I’ve heard that name before.20050411-20050417:
Why the hell are people always bumping into me?! I mean, I use the first-year corridor because it’s quieter and I can take the other staircase up to second-year. “Sorry!” the little fair-haired girl says, so quiet I have to strain to hear, probably a sympathy ploy. Then she stumbles again! Is she making a pass at me? “Thank you,” she whispers when I stop her from falling by reflex. “Setou,” I reply, because if you’re going to be a hero, you need to give your name. “Enomoto,” she says sadly, as if she curses the day she was born.20050418-20050424:
I think I give up on the first-years. Today I got hit by one. Stupid girl, running around like a maniac. I’m chatting to a junior, Watanabe or something, about how to find his way around, when WHAM and more ‘sorry sorry sorry’. What’s it with these people! Ow, you goddamn bitch, hurts a lot. “Did I hurt you?! I shouldn’t be running without looking, aww!” I try to get up, grab her knee for help, GAH! She’s a fembot! The plastiflesh must have ablated on impact, because it’s all plasteel from the shin down! I tell Watanabe to run and I run the other way. I hope he made it, I know there are a few fembots around.20050425-20050508:
Thank the Emperor for Greenery Day. Everyone runs around saying how beautiful nature is while I get to finally put my new cooling fans and heat-sinks into the box. Power! And a long weekend, and Golden Week! No more interesting but weird conversations with strange red-haired guys who suddenly stop talking and fling their sleeves into your face. Although that Tezuka is certainly quite a chap, he can talk the backside off a dandelion.
I know where I’ve heard the name Hakamichi before. It’s a big company, where my sister’s best friend’s father works. Or something.20050509-20050619:
Got into a great discussion on missile weapons. Shirakawa’s only a girl, but she knows helluva lot about crossbows and ballistas and indirect fire devices. I wish she were in my class, then I wouldn’t be so bored. She gets into the nitty-gritty too, just like a guy, knows all the historical development and even the metallurgy. Why the hell I haven’t noticed this asset before beats me. Too much strategic thinking maybe, not enough ground-level tactical research.
She stopped talking though, when I got excited about the Siege of Belgrade in 1456. I said it should be a national holiday for the Belgradians, and I poked her in the chest for emphasis. 300 cannons! 5000 janissaries! Walls of fire! The Sultan takes an arrow in the leg! I think it was too exciting for her and she ran away.20050620-20050626:
No sign of Shirakawa. Maybe she’s a shy one. Or I just fantasised about her and she doesn’t really exist. Like the toilet ghost. Brrr. Chill, dude, it wasn’t real, right? Walked into one of the unisex toilets after getting my meds from the dispensary on the third level, then heard this sobbing from a cubicle. So I say, “Wassup, dude,” and knock on the door because you never know when a bro might need help, and I get this high-pitched heavy-breathing. Then, he shrieks, “Leavemealonegoaway!” What the hell, might be suicidal, the kind that later goes up the roof and jumps off! So I climb up and look over the cubicle door, at first I don’t see much, because it’s dark and my eyes aren’t so good… and holy shit! I run the hell out of there, trying to chase thoughts of long-haired girl ghosts with scarred faces out of my mind.20050627-20050724:
I like Sea Day. Back home I used to climb Hodosan and look down Arakawa Gorge. You think how it goes down to Tokyo Bay, where all the prosperity of Japan boils like a pot of instant noodles. In this godforsaken place, my hero is Date Masamune who built the castle 400 years ago. He had only one eye, but he was free and independent and he loved the sea. If you climb the right parts of Aobasan, you can see the sea too, and also the Hirose River wrapped around the school. Great fortification idea!
Before we go on summer break, they have a little festival here. Pushy people selling fried food and stuff. I don’t mind the food, but you never know who you’ll bump into or who’ll bump into you. I sometimes hit the festival early before they can fix the prices, get supplies, and then recce the school before holing up again. 3-5 this year has the best food, they have all the oldest and smartest students, so I get a shitload of tako balls from them and three bentos in disposable boxes. I pack them in my backpack to keep warm and head back to school.
Strange. Spooky! There’s music coming from one of the practice rooms, a sad violin or a cello maybe. One of those things you can pretend to carry but it’s really a Tommy Gun. American gangsters in Yamaku? I can see the headlines. On the Net everybody thinks random American students hang out at Japanese schools to date the cool chicks and win their hearts.
That’s not how it goes down. It’s how I met Takahashi, my senior lady, and then she broke my heart and that’s all there is to it. But ha ha, Kenji has TWO hearts! So there!20050725-20050828:
I hate going home more than I hate going to school. I can’t transport my gear home safely, so I have to secure everything and pray nobody assaults my room. Once that dangerous fireworks display is over, it’s the end of term. Elder brother is of course no more with us, so there’s no fun once I’m home. Sister is a pain, she’s ten years old and what a nag she is, she’ll die single I tell you.
At least I have the Net. Shirakawa’s online sometimes, she doesn’t seem to mind talking, so I chat her up. She talks better online than in real life. Some people are like that, I guess. Can’t wait to go back to Yamaku and hang out in the library again. She helps out there in her spare time.20050829-20050904:
I go to the library to borrow some books and hang out with Shirakawa. Goddamn it! I almost die of shock when I see the toilet ghost sitting on my favourite beanbag. She covers her face and glares at me, then screams. I run like hell—note to self, need physical conditioning for survival purposes—and bang into Shirakawa. So embarrassing! Concussion x2, so we head off to the medical centre. Incompetent female nurse fusses over Shirakawa and dismisses my throbbing head as ‘you need new glasses that’s why you have a headache’. But she keeps us in for observation in case our heads are really cracked, and we get to share a room but with a table full of equipment between our beds.
Shirakawa makes squeaky noises at me as if not happy. “What?!” I ask, and she says, “Setou, that poor girl! She can’t help it! So sad, so sad.” That alarms me. “You saw it too?” I reply. Incredible! Maybe I’m not mad or I have someone to accompany my madness. Unless Shirakawa doesn’t really exist either.
“She’s not an it! Her name is Hanako, I heard she’s an orphan,” Shirakawa says, sounding sad. I wonder why she should sound like that, because everyone knows Hanako’s story. “Of course I know that!” I reply, “She’s the toilet ghost and she appeared because I was dumb! I went to the third cubicle of the third toilet on the third floor and knocked on the door three times!”
“Setou, you’re mad!” says Shirakawa. Yes, I know, pretty girl. “Her family name is Ikezawa and she’s a real person. Her given name is Hanako, and she’s not the toilet ghost Hanako.” God, really I am mad, I cannot believe this. Maybe Shirakawa is telling the truth. Maybe not. I look around and eat all Shirakawa’s pills. And mine. They will help me know the truth.20050905-20051023:
“It was a mistake,” I tell the nurse, a male one this time. “I thought they were pills to help me see better.” I did, really. And for that, I spent four bloody weeks in a hospital after they pumped my stomach out. I am sure they put in a microchip, but I can’t detect one.
He looks at me with the smile of a compulsive disbeliever. “Ha! I bet you took them so you wouldn’t have to go home for Autumn break.”
What the hell! “Mister,” I say, “How the fuck do you know such things? Are you a psychic spy?” I get ready to knee him in the groin and run for it. He has the grin of a man who knows too much. I jump up and collapse from my treacherously weakened muscles.
“Friend,” he whispers to me like a manly conspirator as I lie on the floor, “Let me tell you how it is. You’ve been taking the wrong pills, that’s what’s making you so crazy. People can lie to you better if you are taking certain medication. I’m not lying there, you know it. These pills here, they’re the real ones. But I’ll let you have four choices—the red ones, the blue ones, the white ones, or none at all.”
I feel better now. A lot better.20051024-20051218:
I’m a shame to my ancestors. When my elder brother Masaru passed on, my father told me, “You were the spare tyre. That was your name. Now you are the main tyre, even if I won’t change your name.” Then he never spoke to me again, except to say ‘approved’ or ‘not approved’, ‘good’ or ‘no good’. Sometimes he spoke to me through my mother. Now Mother speaks to me only through whisky.
I’ve been screwing around with my work too much. I get the shakes when I see how much work there is to do. I can’t study any more. The library is best, but the ghost is there. And maybe Shirakawa is a ghost too. But maybe not. Maybe she can help me study, she knows a lot, she’s the only one who talks to me.
If I fail the examinations at year’s end, I am the one who should be a ghost.20051219-20060108:
I am two-thirds a ghost. Ha ha. Kawada-sensei has sent me an email about it. Failed two terms, have one more to make it. How to tell him I’m seeing ghosts? I know I’m smart. Something is wrong.20060109-20060115:
Each new term means mandatory review by the head nurse. Shit! It’s now the guy with the foxy face, possibly a psychic assassin. He’s got rid of the old chief and taken her place!
I whip off my scarf, ready to do battle. He says, “Sit down, Setou. Put your scarf back on, you’ll catch cold. We’re comrades, we deal with feminine wiles like men.” Now he’s talking. From one of the rooms at the back of the medical centre, I swear I hear an indignant huffing sound, but he doesn’t react. Must be my meds again.
“Now listen here,” he says seriously. “You shouldn’t be taking alcohol at all. It’s illegal and it’s affecting uptake of these drugs on your list. Actually,” he looks curiously at me, “I don’t think you need some of these drugs anyway. You’re not schizophrenic, for a start. But you will have hallucinations if you mix alcohol with all this stuff.”
No alcohol? Then how can I talk to Mother anymore? That would shame her, it would not be the right thing for a filial son to do. I smile at him, but it is the smile of the face and not the heart. “Yes sir, no sir, won’t do it again sir.”
He scowls at me. His dimples normally make him look younger. Now they make him look like a pit viper. “No alcohol, and get some proper exercise and sunlight. You look like a cheese with green veins and fungus on top,” he growls, wagging a finger at me rudely. Damn psychic.20060116-20060122:
I’m spending a lot of time studying. Also bathing. Cleanliness is important because I don’t want to become a cheese. But once you’re clean, you need to cover up, or the dirt lands on you again and infects you. I study with Shirakawa. Her name is Yuuko, which is nice to know. My new meds are working out well.20060123-20060129:
“Kenji, would you… ah… like to… ah… escort me back to my room?” Actually no, I wouldn’t, because of the fembots. I mean, normal human women are fine, but how can you tell in the dim light? We’ve been studying so late that the library is closing. It is the manly thing to do, though. “Sure, Yuuko. Kenji is your man.”
So I make sure all my gear is stowed neatly where I can get at it and I follow her out. I make sure she skirts the courtyard instead of just walking across the open area—that’s how people get killed, you know. When we reach the girls’ dorm, she pauses, and I think that this is fine, best to let her go inside alone, they won’t harm her.
Her face is a bit red. Surely we haven’t been walking that fast, although better to walk fast in the open and slowly in the shadows. She latches onto my hand and drags me inside. Damn! Is she a fembot too? No, no, this hand is soft and warm. I like it.
We walk up to her room. I remember the number, it’s 314, easy as anything. I feel prickles at the back of my neck as we walk past a communal toilet, but everything seems OK. She signals for me to keep quiet. Oh. Maybe there are regulations about being here after 2200h? I should have read up on them.
Her room is pleasant. She has a lot of cushions and even a beanbag. It’s cosy too, and the night air is very cold. She pulls me inside gently and says, “Ah, um… it’s nice to have… have company…” I look at her. She is very sweet, and her hair is that medium-brown colour. Mother would approve.
Yes, it is indeed nice to have company! But if you’re too warm, you shouldn’t wear so much. That’s all for my log for tonight!20060130-20060205:
Goddamn! I need to score 80% or better for ALL my papers, I need 90% for Japanese and World History! Argh! Yuuko whispers to me it will be all right, how does she know, she doesn’t have such a burden. A man has to do what a man has to do, right? Maybe it’s OK to have a woman help him. I like smart girls. I have one more month. One. More. Month.20060206-20060212:
“It’s OK for you, Kenji, you’re rich,” she whispers, crying. Her words are cutting into my heart, I can’t stand it. All I said was that education is no big deal. I mean, look at genius master father idiot man. He’s got all that paper telling him how big his head is, and he has no time to look after his cripple children with his cripple genes. I know sister’s sight is going bad like mine. Even I can see that. Ha. Ha.
Yuuko says she’ll have to work at part-time jobs just to afford night classes. Come on. I will work hard and I will help her pay the fees. She deserves to go to university. This is only second year anyway, plenty of time to save money.
Saturday is National Day. When my father is drunk he calls it Empire Day, but that’s something all Japan’s neighbours think is very rude. I don’t care. One day I will make Japan great again. Not to bully other people, of course, but not to be bullied! Not to be controlled by crazy Americans ever again! I smuggle whisky into my room for a celebration.20060213-20060219:
Eeeeh. I might have to not drink whisky for a while. “What are you doing?!” I asked her. She cries and says she thought I liked whisky. Yes, I do, of course! But that’s not how you drink whisky! So I teach her how to drink whisky and she gets quiet after a while.
When I get into 2-2 on Monday, it’s very quiet. I wonder why. Am I going deaf as well? Then I look at my watch closely. Damn! It says 1700h, not 0700h. I thought something was wrong, I was right. Kenji, you are a bloody genius. I hope Yuuko got to class on time.
The headaches are getting worse, and examinations start within the fortnight. The seniors have already finished theirs, and I think some of them have been very successful. Not to worry, I am a genius and I will be there too some day.20060220-20060305:
The examinations are starting. It’s not a problem, I am Kenji the cool. Yuuko has given me some help, she’s good at spotting the kind of question that will come out, but otherwise, it’s all me. Dude, you are the best.
Why does it take so long to write? Damn, I got cramp writing all those essays. Japanese, English, German, Civics, History, Geography… if I didn’t have to do all those, my hands would not be hurting so much. Sciences, Maths, those are the manly subjects, they don’t make you guess like girls do.
I bumped into a bunch of juniors today. Is ‘gaggle’ the right English word? It’s a bunch of girls, all gagging and giggling at the same time. English has some really horrible sounds, but I must master it if I’m going to succeed. Right, the girls—one of them has a really evil eye, it glows, I swear it does, one normal, one like a Deathlok auto-targeting optic. She says to me, “Senior-san, could you please get away from my friend before I complain to the Student Council?”
What the hell, all I did was scream. What do you expect when you turn round a corner, your eyesight is not so good, so you look at the pretty dark-haired girl you almost bumped into, and it’s the toilet ghost! I screamed, she screamed, but she couldn’t run away and I couldn’t either because it was the corner near the drinks machine and there were too many people. I dropped my glasses in shock—note to self, buy elastic spectacle holder.
The other girl was smarter, she found my glasses and said, “Senior-san, your spectacles.” Then she ignored me and went off to fuss over the scary girl. Then I remembered she wasn’t a ghost, so I said, “Ikezawa-san, I apologise for being such an idiot. I am Setou from class 2-2, if there is anything I can do, just let me know.”
“Setou-san, maybe you could go away for now,” says the fembot with the targeting eyeball, giving me an even dirtier look than before. But the ghost-girl seems to have calmed down a bit, and it’s surprising to everybody when she says, “I-it’s okay, I screamed at h-him too.” She seems like the determined sort, and quite solid, not a ghost.20060306-20060319:
That’s the end of the year! Meet Kenji Setou, I’m the man, top in 2-2 for the year! Well, for this term anyway. After they averaged out the scores, turned out I passed, I get promoted. But this term was magic, it means that working with Yuuko is major. And she’s nice to be around, although I wonder why she’s sometimes just not anywhere in school during the afternoons.
Now I have to secure my room and set the traps before I go home for the break. Who knows who will try to hack into my machines when I’m gone? I did a great counterhack though, the school computer thinks my corner of the men’s block is fully occupied. Now I have space all to myself. And Yuuko, of course.20060320-20060402:
Before the new school term starts, I visit my mother. I whisper to her, “See, Mother, your son does not betray his ancestors. I didn’t do so well, but I improved a lot. There’s a beautiful girl, a bit shy but she’s got your hair and your brains. Father can say all he wants, but he knows I’m good.”
I look at all the cherry blossoms falling around us, just me and Mother. Although I’m dry, I can hear her voice saying, “Son, that’s wonderful. Just make sure you protect the cherry blossoms, and the cherry blossoms will take care of you.”
=====AtD Main Index