This is the seventh and last section of Kenji Setou’s long-suppressed ‘Book Five’. He never wanted it published, but in later years, when we had painfully clawed our way back to a kind of true friendship, he began to change his mind. In places, it is a very personal chronicle, much like those of his youth.
—N; Osaka, Japan; 2084
Kenji 5: The Taste of Dust and Ashes
• January Is Winter With Two Faces •
It’s New Year’s Day. Rin Tezuka is not here this cold morning, which makes it easier for me. It is never easy when friends get in the way. After all these years, I find it hard to display public emotion. But I am still soft and weak in that way, and now, as I stand next to my other friend’s bed, I can feel my tears lying in ambush.
I doubt I will be Miki Miura’s last visitor before the end. That’s not my first thought. My first thought is that I regret so much, that I hurt so much, and so does she. But we regret different things, I think—and we have been hurt in so many different ways.
I look down just as she opens her eyes. It is somehow her, and not her at all. The lovely hair, the expressive eyebrows, they’re gone and she’s so pale and I am standing here crying. It’s stupid and painful and I’m angry that I never spent enough time with her because sometimes you look after the cherry blossoms and the birds eat the plums. It’s all coming out, isn’t it?
“Shit, Kenji, stop dripping on me and give me a hug,” she whispers.
“I can’t stop dripping. Do you mind?” My voice sounds nasal even to me. I have an ugly voice.
“No.” Weakly, she reaches up. In my mind, I can only remember that the last time we embraced was more than a quarter-century ago. Now, she is too enfeebled to give me one of the bone-crushing hugs of our past.
I put myself into it, as much as I can. I remember yellow silk fluttering on a hill in Nagasaki, not so far away, and a beautiful girl who was my friend and not my lover, and the Kenji that I was thirty years ago thinking to himself, “How is one so fortunate?” and the Kenji I am is weeping as he feels the frail bones and the wasted flesh.
This Kenji from a distance notices that they’ve taken her hand away. Her left arm is in a protective cocoon of some sort, much as it was when we were in school. I cannot think of this well without distancing myself, so I’m writing this as if I am not there. I’m writing this as if Naomi Inoue is sitting next to me and telling me how to write better.
She has cold skin, but a warm heart. I feel her heartbeat and I want to scream, Why is it that my lousy heart continues beating and hers is coming to an end?
You know what it is? It’s not that she was mine, but that she was lovely and full of life, and soon there will be nothing of that left.
“You’re my f-friend, Miki,” is all I can say. “You’re m-my friend.”
There are more things that I murmur into her ears, things I cannot trust myself to say aloud without cracking. We have had a long friendship, even with the breadth of Japan between us. I am reassuring her, from what little faith I have. I am reassuring myself, that good things can still happen.
“You’ve been a good friend too, Kenji. Look after the fucking cherry blossoms, willya?”
“Yes, I will.”
She tries to smile. Watching her almost breaks me completely.
When she cannot stay awake any more, I stop abusing my privileges as a senior civil servant and let the nursing staff escort me towards the night.
A week later, she is dead. When she is laid to rest on Tsushima, I am there. I watch the tiny funeral from a distance, as usual, since I should not appear in public. I feel part of my soul is gone, part of my life. My youth is gone and I am a pathetic middle-aged man who would give all his power just for one day that disappeared too long ago.
Rin looks up. Even with my cloak, I know she sees me. I have made myself visible in the narrow band that she prefers. I have come in person because my microdrones have no souls. Her face refuses to understand what is happening. Her expression asks me a question I can’t answer, so with great sorrow, I turn away and I’m gone.
• It Was A Long March •
I remember the March weather because it was beautiful. I remember March because it had Yuuko’s birthday in it, and I felt guilty and fortunate that I’d ended up with the one woman in my life who hadn’t died before her time. I felt guilty that I hadn’t mourned for Naomi enough, hadn’t had time for the Fist before she unclenched her fingers and let go of her life. All that damn guilt.
And then there was Koji, my son, and he wanted to speak to me. What right did I have to be his father?
Our conversation is a confused mess. I am a bad father, and he is a son who is like his mother. He is a good man, and I don’t even know what that is. But March is coming to an end, and Koji has a story I didn’t want to hear before.
“Kaori? You? And her? At the Shanghai?” My questions are sharp, upset, unbelieving, amazed. What was my son thinking when he decided to have a date with his mother’s half-sister in Sendai, of all places?
“Yes, and Akiko was not happy, although she concealed it very well. But it was unpleasant.”
“You? And Kaori Shirakawa? Your aunt!?”
“Mother’s half-sister, who is younger than I am,” he replies mulishly.
“You idiot! There are good reasons why you should stay away from Kaori.”
He opens his mouth, as if he wants to be punched in it. Suddenly, I feel ashamed, because which man knows why his son opens his mouth? Surely, not so he can put his fist in it. My thoughts are flying around like wasps.
“Kaori is my friend. And so was Akiko.”
“Was? Akiko? Are you two never going to get together?”
“Father, I only want to talk to you. I was not having a date. I was asking for advice.”
“From Kaori? That girl’s had a crush on you for ages.”
Appalled, he looks at me. I’m also appalled. I’ve said something that shouldn’t ever have been said.
“No, Father. I don’t think so.”
“Akiko and I, it will never work out.”
“Whatever. Anyway, I have something to do.”
“This one apologizes for inconveniencing his father. However, one…”
Without further words, he leaves the room. After the door is shut, I let my forehead sink to my desk. I’m so stupid. I’ve become my own father. Maybe not so bad, but almost. I want to call Koji back, but I’m a coward. It’s not the first time. I’m feeling like a piece of shit. That’s not a first for me either.
• April Is For Fools •
“So that is what you said to our son, my husband?” says Yuuko to me.
I nod, feeling bad.
“So our son now has nobody to talk to, perhaps?”
“He can always talk to you!” I blurt out. “He always has!”
“Not always, husband. Some things, boys talk to their fathers about. Normal boys, not ones whose fathers are directors-general of some big government institution.”
“Well, he’s not talking to me now.”
“It’s not a surprise. He talks to my sister a lot more now. Who else has he got left? Yet he knows that I can’t let him be with my own sister, no matter if she’s only a half-sister and younger than he is. And you know there are other reasons, although some of them I’m not allowed to know myself.”
Suddenly it hits me. It’s unfamiliar, this feeling. Damn it. Yuuko is actually angry with me. She is not only angry, she is bloody furious. It’s just that I’ve not been paying attention.
What Koji wanted to really talk to me about was the death of Meiko Ibarazaki, Akiko’s maternal grandmother. In my own thinking about death, Mrs Ibarazaki’s passing had been nothing to me. What a bastard you are, Kenji
, I tell myself. You never gave your son a chance.
It had been a mysterious death, even though it hadn’t been unexpected. The police had investigated and found it to have been a natural death. At least, that is what the coroner and the AI suite had agreed upon. It was the flag on Tezuka that caught my attention. Nobody really saw anything, but with Rin, who could tell?
“Well, husband, young Akiko is off on Olympic training, and then to San Francisco, and she’ll be back in August. By then, I don’t know what our son will be like. Knowing him, he’ll just work himself to death for Shizune. He respects her a lot. But he tries to respect you too, and you won’t let him.”
“I don’t deserve it.”
“I never correct my husband unnecessarily.”
“I’m sorry, wife.”
“So am I.”
• June Is The Turning Point Of The Year •
The weeks have passed. I look at the invitation before me. It glows and a little sim of Shizune Hakamichi rises from it. There’s something creepy about how her synthetic speech sounds so much like distant memories of my late mother’s own voice. There’s an obvious reason for that, but I don’t know if it’s the right one.
“Director-General Setou, this message is from Principal Hakamichi of the Sendai-Aoba Mountain District Academy. We would like to invite the Director to grace our Sports Day as Guest-of-Honour on 10th October 2044. As an alumnus of Yamaku who has risen to high rank and yet has kept in touch with us, we would be most honoured by your attendance. The school would benefit much from even a few of your casual observations or, if you would be so kind, a brief speech. We thank you for your most generous attention despite your busy schedule.”
I wonder who generated this script. It certainly doesn’t sound like my friend Shizune. But it is typical of corporate culture, even when trying to sound friendly.
“Replying, personal, Hakamichi, Shizune. Dear friend, you know I cannot make so public an appearance. However, I will be there. I trust young Koji is giving you satisfaction in the performance of his duties, and am greatly honoured by your long friendship and thoughts of me. Signing, personal, Setou, Kenji. Send.”
The little sim bows and vanishes, leaving me to look morosely at my grey little office, windowless and secret. With Akiko Nakai away on Olympics duty, surely my son is performing his duties without distraction? Director-General Setou, me. What do I direct, generally? The people lack direction, the worst are filled with passionate intensity.
I remember who first read that poem to me, and I tap my fingers sharply and painfully on the old table. The sudden loss of Naomi Inoue a few years back, and then Miki Miura’s passing—these have affected me a lot. Corporate powers have now turned Japan against itself. We have become like other powers of the not-too-distant past, forgetting to serve the interests of the people and serving the mindless growth of wealth instead. You can be wealthy and raise the less fortunate, of course. This is known to be a fact. But you can be wealthy and deliberately keep the less fortunate as slaves to your system. This is also a fact.
, I think grimly to myself, one of those corporate assassins who demean us all will get to Natsume Ooe and the unthinkable will happen. If not some day soon, some day not so soon. Does she know everything about her upbringing? How much does she know about Shizune’s late father? I am sure she knows it all, and more.
My mind chases itself. I think of the children. I always think of the children, especially my own—poor Koji, cast aside once, cautiously finding love again; Masako, doing what she can on the other side of the globe; my friends’ children, in their twenties and thirties, who will inherit whatever Japan will become.
How has the damned Westphalian system survived?
It has survived because we have all conspired for centuries to balance power against power. We do not know where it will all end. I have sleepless nights talking to my dear wife about such things, for she is a student of the past, and neither of us can see the future.
Crazy old Kenji would not have lasted long in this world, although he could certainly see it better than many of his peers.
Now I am indeed an old Kenji, though not Old Kenji, and I am crazy like a fox. I stand up, stretch my creaky limbs, trigger a couple of minor implants, and walk out of my vault. There are people I need to activate, old friends whose actions will have real effects in this world—and perhaps, in other worlds.
• August Is Not For Lovers •
You know how it is when you try to be your best and you lose it anyway? You become your bad self, you try so hard not to be but you can’t control it?
I am a bad father again. Maybe not as bad as in March, but quite bad. I want to be a good one, but it all goes to hell when this time it’s Koji who’s wrong, not me. He says he can only ever be friends with Akiko. That’s all it’s ever going to be. So what, then? He says he’s thought about it. He says he should have realized he could only be happy with Kaori. They’ve discussed it.
At that moment, Yuuko steps into the room with her half-sister. She’s just heard the last few lines. I’m upset, and everyone is stunned.
I’m already thinking: Oh my God, my God, my God! No!
I’m only just able to hold onto my shit. But what takes me by surprise is this: Yuuko, my pleasant and soft-spoken wife, she erupts at Koji. She explodes. Koji is so shaken that he turns paler than pale.
Then she turns on her sister. Calls her a slut. Kaori is already fair to begin with. Any more, and she’ll go transparent and colourless. I don’t need implants to know that everyone here is going to have a heart attack or a bleed or something.
“My son is not going to marry my sister!” says Yuuko. I use ‘says’ because Yuuko sounds like an enraged goat, and I don’t have a word for that.
I am having a migraine. I’m so tired. Kenji’s so tired. Kenji was so much happier alone on a roof, in the old days. I’m Kenji, heck, I’m more than one Kenji. I can do this. I have to do this, whoever I am.
“Sit down!” I shout. And because I seldom shout these days, people sit down. Damn, I almost sit down myself. Also, I almost shit myself, really. “Nobody’s marrying anybody! You’re all crazy people!”
The irony hits me a second later. We’re all crazy people
, laughs Old Kenji from his little nest inside my head. Some of us just hide it better than others.
Old Kenji pushes apart the bushes in my mind, and peeks out through my augmented eyes. He shakes his head disapprovingly, then begins to talk. I’m suddenly thirty years younger, like I was when I was him.
“It’s very simple. Koji is a romantic idiot, runs in the family. He can’t marry Kaori, I’m going to explain to him exactly why not. Kaori also never said ‘yes’ anyway, most excellent wife will talk to her about why not to ever say ‘yes’. Koji, come with Father now. Women, stay here. Best listen. Old Kenji knows everything.”
I’m locked up behind my eyeballs, listening to myself talk. Myselves. I have a few. I haven’t been myselves for a long time. I’m having a conceptual breakthrough, as they say. Or maybe a conceptual breakdown. I don’t know. Old Kenji would know.
He’s talking again. “Oh don’t you think of it, Kaori Shirakawa, sister of my wife. You’re too soft. You don’t understand. But you will. After I talk to my son and Wife talks to you, I’m talking to you too. Hate talking to people, but I’ll talk to you. Tell you about tea with the Black Dragon, also other stories. Haha, will be fun.”
Old Kenji’s never really gone away, I realize. He’s always been part of me, ever since my Mother died, or maybe even before. I’m terrified of him, even though I’m in charge most of the time.
Everyone is quiet now, and then everyone begins to move, slowly and twitchily at first, like the puppets I used to manipulate when I was Old Mad Kenji back in Yamaku. I put a hard but trembling hand between Koji’s shoulder-blades and guide him out. Somewhere distant, but in my own head, I feel the crisis pass.
• September Is When The Leaves Begin To Fall •
Sometimes, it is not as bad as it seems. Sometimes, my life goes round in circles. Akiko has returned, an Olympic medalist for our country, in the heptathlon. I accept my own fate: it is time for me to meet my old friend’s daughter again. I realize that it will be hard. The last time we met, I chased her out of my house. This time, it’s even more difficult. Akiko doesn’t get along well with the woman I have to speak to next.
[Good morning, Madam Principal Boss Lady!]
Most people don’t understand that Shizune has a good smile. When she smiles, she puts everything into it; when she half-smiles, she puts exactly half. Today, I’m getting a full smile.
[Good morning, Director-General! Curious to have illustrious friend unexpectedly on comms today, and also using this band.]
“Personal matters, my friend.”
She laughs. Of course, on a working day, her augments are on. [Why? Also, you’re not forgiven for standing me and Natsume up last year at Sports Day.]
“Surely the Chicago package was an acceptable token of my undying regret, you evil feminist warlord?” I don’t reveal that I attended this year’s summer sports meet at least, and I’ve already met with Natsume.
“Hey, you can’t call Shi’chan an evil feminist like that, General-san!~ Even if the cheesecake~ was a good one!”
“Oops. Hi, pinko.”
Misha’s face squeezes into the transmission zone, slightly distorted. She sticks out her very pink tongue at me and then makes a pouty face. “If it’s personal~ matters, I’m allowed to listen~, right, Shi’chan?”
She’s playing with me. Misha’s as old as we are, and her hair is more brown than pink these days, with a dash of grey. We’re too old for such games.
[Yes, it was a good cake. But you’re beginning to repeat yourself! I think you ordered one for me when I was in Chicago years ago.]
Her mock sternness suddenly softens. I think she knows that it’s not an accident I sent her a souvenir of a time very long past.
[I’m glad you agreed to visit this year. Also, I understand why you don’t want to be Guest of Honour. So, why are you calling me?]
“I think I need you to talk to Koji. After all, you’re his boss. Also, I need to talk to Akiko, so it’s good that Akiko’s other half-mother is also here.”
Misha gasps, and I think it’s not acting this time. Shizune’s lips thin slightly. I can tell she is having unhappy thoughts because her eyebrows are a tiny bit closer together. [We can give you permission to talk to Akiko, but you’ll have to arrange it yourself. You don’t actually need permission. You probably need a security detail.]
“Shi’chan, that’s very rude! Akiko wouldn’t hurt~ anybody!”
Shizune grins. [Well, she is bigger than General-san. She might accidentally crush him, and then where would Japan’s security be?]
Damn feminists. I wait for them to stop laughing, then continue. “What’s the best way to do this?”
“General-san, best~ is to ask her Uncle Hideaki. See, Misha knows that you and Hide-chan and poor old Hi’chan were good friends. Akiko won’t mind if Hide-chan arranges the meeting. Now you can thank Misha, please?~”
Shizune nods, and I smile at both of them. It’s a good plan.
And that’s how, on one cold evening in September, Shizune is having a chat with my poor son, and I’m having a quiet talk with Hisao’s daughter. If I had to say, I would hope for good weather ahead.
• October Is Not Always Grim •
Sports Day is always in October. That’s why Yamaku has two sports meets every year—one in summer or early autumn, and one during the nationally designated period. I met Natsume in August, and we exchanged words. We watched the children run, and it was at that time that I decided I would not let them down.
Today, I’m sitting with an old acquaintance in the VIP seats. The air is cooler than it was in August, so the security dome is open. The invisible net around me is not.
“How has it been, Director-General?”
I look at her. It’s just not her. “Madam Ikezawa, I’ll never get used to it.”
“W-what?” She looks confused.
“You had a beautiful body even when you were a toilet ghost. Now you’ve got too beautiful a face. How can you keep getting more and more beautiful?”
She blushes, a perfectly natural blush. The nano-restructured skin is flawless on the right side of her face, so good that the nanotech had to be applied on both sides to keep things even.
“That was just vanity. My dear husband complimented me in a more elegant way, but he was completely unsettled for weeks.”
“Well, I will be unsettled for life. How are the children?”
“Good. Kitsune is down there, with the first years. Shiina is at school back in Saitama.”
“Good, good. And the god-children?”
Hanako Ikezawa Hakamichi, Deputy Chairman of the Nakai Foundation and lethal opinion-piece writer, turns towards me. “Ah, so that’s why we’re talking again, most gallant and p-powerful Director-General.”
She still wears her hair long on the right side, I notice absent-mindedly. But she’s not the skinny and frightened girl I once knew. It’s not that I ever think she is, I haven’t thought that for many years now. But she is actually quietly frightening, like a very clean knife found lying alone on your bedspread one morning. I pity the fools who try to stop her.
“No, not that.” I pause, because I don’t know if I want to know. Then I realize that I do. “It’s just that I haven’t heard from Koji for some months now. The last time that happened, we had… disagreements.”
She smiles grimly. “I can tell you that my god-daughter seems happier these days. Also, that I don’t live in Sendai much. If you can understand what I have just told you, then you’ll know what Koji’s been doing.”
Happier? Living in Sendai? I have no idea what this is all about, but my brain likes a conspiracy. Also, I think I know which piece of my army this old acquaintance of mine will be.
• December Is Sometimes Happy •
It’s a grey kind of day. I’ve been looking at my network for a while without really processing anything. Damn. Then there’s a knock on the door. So futuristic we are, half-way through the twenty-first century, and still people knock on doors
, I muse irritably to myself. It can’t be Chiaki, who no longer knocks.
It’s been a hard day, a hard year. It takes me some time before I realize I’m not hearing voices. Actually, I am, but this time, for real.
I have not seen my son for months now. Even though Hideaki’s wife gave me what she pretended were clues, I’ve not had the time to unravel them. I’ve been busy, but my only success is that nobody has died so far, except some people who really deserved it.
“Happy birthday in advance, my father.”
“How the fuck did you get in here?”
He looks a little hurt. When I’m surprised, my language can be impolite. I was badly brought up, I guess.
“Director Hasegawa brought me in through the old 29-3 entrance. We had tea together.”
“When did you stop calling her ‘Aunty Chiaki’?”
“I haven’t. I just don’t feel comfortable calling her that in this place.”
He nods stiffly. Can’t blame him. Could never really blame him. He’s my son, and a better man than I ever was.
“Akiko and I got you something. I left it at the house with Mother, because Aunty… I mean, Director Hasegawa said that bringing it here would be corruption.”
“What? But you’re my son. Also, how come Mother’s at home? And what’s with ‘Akiko and I’?”
“Your security detail probably doesn’t know I’m your son. It’s Christmas Eve, Dad. What are you doing here still?”
“Defending the country,” I say ironically. Then I realize he’s not answered the question that suddenly is more important to me than all the rest.
“Akiko and you, you said?”
I lurch out from behind my desk, like a drunken fighter trying to land a last telling blow. “Congratulations, son!”
“Errr, long story.”
“What?” I feel as if I’m a boxer who’s missed his target and is staggering around in the middle of the ring.
“We’re not getting married.”
“No?” My heart sinks.
“We’ve just decided to live together forever. At either her flat or mine. It doesn’t matter. But we take vows very seriously, and both of us promised we’d never get married.”
I’m confused. I’m so confused that it takes time for all this to make sense. I realize I’ve been sad for so long that I don’t know how to accept good news. It is good news, isn’t it?
I retreat and sit down in my chair, feeling strange. My heart, even though stabilized by technology and drugs, feels oddly heavy in my chest. A little sensorium alert begins to blink, pink and orange in the corner of my eye.
“Hnnnggggghhhh,” I hear someone say. Of course, it’s me. It sounds quite far away.
The light goes green again. Then orange. So pretty. Superior Japanese technology, a stray thought reminds me.
Koji comes towards my desk and I have to wave him away. He isn’t proximity-cleared. It would be dumb if the security beams cut my son to pieces for being a good son.
Damn, he’s still coming. Stop, damn you
, I want to say. But I can’t, and I have to watch, horrified, as he moves to me in something like slow motion. The blue flashes indicating encroachment begin to appear as the collimated X-rays prepare to blast their target to ashes. Dust and ashes
, I hear Old Kenji say bitterly from the depths of my skull.
Green, orange, pink, orange, green. Then nothing. I’m fine. I can’t feel anything, but that’s good. The nanotech is doing its job.
“No, don’t…” I whisper as loudly as I can, but my son, my tall skinny romantic idiot of a son, he keeps moving and his arm reaches out for my shoulder.
I flinch as he makes contact.
“Koji, how come…”
“Are you all right, Dad?”
He’s still alive. The blue flashes indicate an appropriate clearance level before they fade away. Of course. Chiaki had to clear him before getting him down here, and she probably cleared him all the way.
“Thank your Aunty Chiaki,” I gasp. I feel tense all over, but it’s beginning to loosen up. Superior Japanese technology, indeed.
I shake my head. “Never mind. You were saying that you and Akiko… are happy?”
“Very,” he says. He sounds more than happy. He sounds joyful.
For the first time today, I smile. “Come on, son. Let’s go home, see Mother, and celebrate. If Akiko is lurking around outside at some café where you people left her, let’s pick her up too.”
“How did you know?”
“I know everything, son.”
“Really, Dad?” he replies, giving me the skeptical look of a qualified historian, before returning my smile.
It’s not all bad, life. I remember my horrible January and all the other months since then. They seem so long ago now.
My network twitches. [Boss, don’t leave too quickly. It’s Christmas Eve.]
[What?] I signal back to Director Hasegawa, ushering Koji out through my office doorway.
The corridor is lined with officers who ought to be defending the country. Or who ought to be home with their families. A familiar figure is waiting right outside my door, her long night-black hair and penetrating gaze somehow reassuring me that things are under control.
“Hi boss, have a good holiday. We just wanted to wish you happy birthday, and goodbye.”
“Goodbye? Okay, see you next year, then.”
There’s a sad look in her eyes that wasn’t there before. My heart lurches. I’ve lost so many people, so many. “What now?”
“You don’t know?” she asks, noticing my discomfort.
“What?” I growl desperately.
“The Prime Minister’s internal memo. Congratulations, boss! Next April you’re getting your Rising Sun, Second Rank.”
Everyone’s clapping now, so loudly in the narrow corridor that I almost miss what she says next.
“But with effect 2 January, you’re also Cabinet Intelligence Director. You’ll be Japan Central, now. So it’s goodbye, boss, and very many thanks.”
She’s holding out a box of something. A gift? Are those tears in her purple eyes? Surely not. In my mind, I hear the slamming of doors. How long have I worked with Chiaki Hasegawa? How long since Shizune smuggled her into my department? It’s been twenty years.
Wordlessly, I bow and accept my present. “Thanks, Chiaki. Thank you, everyone.”
My name is Kenji Setou. I was the second son, the less-promising offspring of the late General Nobuaki Setou (JSDF, retired). I will soon be the most endangered bureaucrat in the country.
I think these thoughts as I sniff at the most excellent whisky that my son and his forever-girlfriend, my best friend’s daughter, have brought me.
I look across the table at my lovely wife, who is a bit rounder than when I married her, but every bit as wonderful as she’s ever been. It’s a pity my daughter and her strange husband are not physically here. But it’s Christmas Eve in the middle of this century, and so they have telepresence even though they’re in Brazil.
From the lousy memories I have of growing up, I remember one image. If you take gold and burn away all the dust and ashes, what remains is pure. We might be on the eve of a long war, but here is all the gold I have left. As if she can read my thoughts, Akiko Nakai blinks.
I think of her late father, and of rooftops. I smile at her, at everyone, and lift my tumbler. “Drink up,” I say. “Drink up.”
Editor's Note: This seventh part of the General's 'Book Five' was aggressively redacted and its original manuscript was also damaged. There is a lot of missing material. The next two decades were very hard on everyone. Nevertheless, some perspectives on this patchy conclusion may be found in Rin Tezuka's account [here] and of course, the last part of Akiko Nakai's account [here]. This humble editor need not point out that there are other fragments to be found elsewhere, but here Book Five must end. Thank you for reading thus far.
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