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Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Book 6 complete 20190527)

Posted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:24 pm
by brythain
The first six books of Sakura—The Kenji Saga are now complete, and with that, the main story of his life.
The last and seventh book, which is an epilogue to the saga, is yet to come.

This is the tale of Kenji Setou, reluctant hero and second-string character
—from his painful childhood to his final transformation.

The various parts of the story so far are as follows:

Kenji Book 1: Five Years That Break A Man (2005-2010)

20050404-20060402 — Year 1 — Kenji's second year at Yamaku (this post, see below).
20060403-20070401 — Year 2 — Kenji's third year and some relationships.
20070402-20070610 — Year 3 (1) — Kenji's third year (again) with a familiar face.
20070611-20071007 — Year 3 (2) — Kenji's third year (again) with new friends.
20071008-20080330 — Year 3 (3) — Kenji's third year (again) and graduation.
20080331-20080727 — Year 4 (1) — Kenji enters university under strange circumstances.
20080728-20081228 — Year 4 (2) — Kenji learns about wisdom and folly.
20081229-20090329 — Year 4 (3) — Kenji learns about other people and is very sad.
20090330-20090830 — Year 5 (1) — Kenji has dreams, and has one shattered forever.
20090831-20100418 — Year 5 (2) — Kenji is broken, and broken again.

2010 April — Year 5 (Coda) — Back in Saitama.

Kenji Book 2: The Sound of Wings (2010-2015)

2010.05-2011.03 — Year 1 — Kenji begins to come to terms with powerlessness and loss.
2011.04-2012.03 — Year 2 — Kenji learns to say goodbye.
2012.04-2012.09 — Year 3 (1) — Kenji starts work as someone else's comes to an end.
2012.10-2013.03 — Year 3 (2) — Kenji learns that friendships still exist.
2013.04-2013.09 — Year 4 (1) — Kenji comes to some conclusions.
2013.10-2014.03 — Year 4 (2) — Kenji works his way to a different conclusion.
2014.04-2014.09 — Year 5 (1) — Kenji goes underground.
2014.10-2015.03 — Year 5 (2) — Kenji looks up into the light.

Kenji Book 3: Distant Drums (2015-2020)

2015.04-2015.12 — Year 1 (1) — Kenji becomes a father.
2016.01-2016.03 — Year 1 (2) — Kenji learns a lot about friends and family.
2016.04-2016.09 — Year 2 (1) — Kenji's daughter turns one, and Hisao says many things.
2016.10-2017.01 — 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 (2020-2025)

2020.03-2020.09 — 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 (2025-2044)

2025-2029 — 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 (2045-2064)

2045 — 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 Hisao.
:2052a - Koji has a date with yet another lady.
:2052b - Akiko is angry but finds someone to talk to.
2056 — Kenji finds himself at a loss.
2060-64 — Kenji comes to an ending.

I'm not sure if Kenji's joking when he says that Book 7 is called The Grey Havens.


Editors' Note:

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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!


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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.


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 | next

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-1 up 20140625)

Posted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 2:30 pm
by forgetmenot
brythain wrote: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!
That girl, she's a heartbreaker all right. :wink:

It's a good start. Consider my interest piqued. I don't think this particular spin on Kenji has been done before, so I'll be patiently awaiting whatever comes next.

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-1 up 20140625)

Posted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:49 pm
by brythain
forgetmenot wrote:
brythain wrote: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!
That girl, she's a heartbreaker all right. :wink:

It's a good start. Consider my interest piqued. I don't think this particular spin on Kenji has been done before, so I'll be patiently awaiting whatever comes next.
I've decided to spend more time thinking about the other people at Yamaku; I think it's difficult to find new stuff on any of the 'major' characters, but Kenji and Hisao have been plaguing my dreams of late, with their two-man comedy routine. :) Thanks! (And thanks also to Kagami, who first expressed herself through you.)

Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-2 up 20140628)

Posted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 2:52 pm
by brythain
This is the second instalment of the first part of the redacted archive of Kenji Setou.
In which he develops relationships with three young ladies in particular, all of which will someday prove significant.

Kenji: Five Years That Break A Man—Year Two

Mostly, I hate being home. It is so frustrating! My genius father with his stupid government job and his, “Get yourself an education and make sure you step on all the lesser mortals!” All he can do is step on his children. Me. Sachiko. I am sure that he’s like that because Mother is no longer around to look after him. They say women were made so you can’t live with them, also can’t live without them.

I’m going up Hodosan, Kenji rising, that’s me. I take the tourist transport and then disappear halfway. I climb the rest of it into the deep green, where the wintersweet blooms yellow in winter and the sakura blooms pink. It’s beautiful. When I reach the top I will look down at Arakawa River and think of water, all that water, washing the sins of Japan away. Bugger that, I just like looking down on people without having to step on them.

You know why they say, “Don’t look down!”? It’s because you may lose your balance and fall.

This stuff comes from my redacted log entries, from 20050404 to 20100418. I call them ‘Five Years That Break A Man’. I was broken in many ways. Let’s continue with 2006. You can learn the lessons I learnt. Or not.



First week is always short. I will make this entry long to balance that. They have a ceremony on Thursday, welcome all the new students, you know. Yamamoto-sama, the big boss of the school, is the man. He greets every one of those, like almost a hundred, students by name. What a memory. He must have a chart like mine, but bigger. A lot bigger. Good idea. How much wallspace do I have in my room?

I get to school earlier actually. Monday. Then you get to unpack your gear and set up security before people can mess with you. From my corner room, you can see the courtyard. You can see all the new people, and see if anything has happened to the old people. Some of the girls grow bigger, turn into women. You need to look carefully in case they are not who they seem. I use a telescope for that. Enhanced.

The head nurse sees me personally, at the medical centre. “Setou!” he barks. “Taking your meds, no alcohol?”

He’s not that good a psychic, but I know why they call him ‘head’ nurse. I am happy to say I only drink alcohol when talking to Mother, but of course I don’t say that. What’s between mother and son is family. I just hope he gives me more choices about the drugs. I will call him ‘Nurse’ only, it will weaken his powers.

The menace with fake legs hangs out with him a lot. I note this for future reference. Maybe she has some hold over him.


Huh. Catching up on my reading. The main threat to secure comms is laser beam eavesdropping? No, cannot be. Too much interference from breeze. Idea! Move computer nearer window, convection current from heat sinks will stop laser-audio eavesdroppers. Also, cover windows to stop telescopic lip reading. I can’t do it, but who knows. The Hakamichi girl looks at my lips a lot.

I’m a senior now, the juniors call me ‘senpai’. I can look down on them and protect them from bad people. I look down with my telescope. One of them is strange. Every day you can see pink hair (very loud) or green hair or orange hair, but this one is pure white. Must be another spirit-girl. Do I have the courage to confront her?


Mother, I can’t study without Yuuko. Something is wrong. Maybe the drugs, must stop the drugs. Kenji, you’re a smart bastard. You can do it.


No you can’t.


Holiday week. Stay in room. Interrupted by Fujimoto and Iwamoto, those two loud assholes. Why are they in my corner of the block? Running illegal wifi, I think, and wondering why there’s no signal near, above or under the room marked ‘Ken Watanabe’. Haha. Jammer works.

Studying doesn’t. Where is Yuuko? Pull head together. Don’t shame ancestors. Mother? Cold, so cold. Can’t see the drugs. Wait, these are sweets.


I put all my notes up. I have a big chart now, just like Yamamoto-sama’s. I will know everything that happens in the school. If I don’t, I will at least know what I don’t know. It reminds me I have unfinished business. Who is that girl with white hair?

I decide to go out on recce, practice my tactical movement. Damn the disadvantage of not having portable long-range vision. I get ambushed on the second-year corridor which was my homeground last year. Ahhhh, it’s targeting-optic girl and her nosy fair-haired friend! I look around frantically in case the flower-ghost girl is there too.

“Setou-san,” says targeting-optics. “We humble second-years would like to ask you for some advice.”

It must be a trap. Is she a fembot or a genuine human augment like me? Why does she need glasses as well as optical enhancement? “Ah, ah, identify yourself please? I am very short-sighted.” It is a good excuse.

Is that a look of sympathy I see? Fair-hair interrupts. “Respected senior, she is Ooe and I am Inoue, we are junior reporters in the Newspaper Club.” Well, they certainly sound respectful, and reporters can be your friends, so I give them an interview.


I like Ooe. She is an honest alternative-media reporter and not a fembot. She let me stare into her eyeball for a while, then she slapped me, but it was not a hard slap. Inoue laughed a bit, possibly in relief that we were all friends.

Now I have my own column. It’s called ‘Keep It Personal’ and it’s all about security. Protecting your stuff. I wanted a more powerful title, but Inoue said something more subtle would go nicely with the anonymous contributor thing. Good idea, that girl. Also, now I am friends with not-the-toilet-ghost girl. She carries a mean camera, the Newspaper Club has two photographers.


Oh God oh Mother I failed my midterms. Shirakawa was too busy to help me and I should have helped myself. I used to be smart. Now I am a dumbass. Bottom of 3-2. How could it happen? The pills. It’s the pills. I will see my manly friend at medical centre and it will become all right.


Mother’s not talking to me. Nurse-san said no more pills at first, so I showed him my manly outrage. Then he said, “Fine. I have some sugar pills, they’re good for when you need something in your mouth, haha!” Six times a day? They must be good. The first one tastes like cinnamon, and the second one is like preserved plums.

There’s no more whisky. I hate being in the open, but I may have to go down into the city. Date Masamune would despise me, he always had enough supplies up here. There must be an ancient well, but that’s only water. I need a wingman. Maybe Tezuka, my junior from 2-3, would come with me. My own class is full of morons.


Disturbing, but also hopeful. I think that Nurse-san’s new pills are doing their job. I feel better and my mind is clearer. I went down to town to get supplies, with Tezuka. His vision is really good. After a while, I didn’t mind his ‘turn left, turn right, enter the doorway’ mentality. He should write walkthroughs for computer games, because he knows how to get to any store in the city. I think. I’m sure some of those moves were unnecessary, but you never know. Maybe you do it the long way to avoid traps, or maybe Tezuka is just paranoid.

He’s a bit strange in some ways, though. Very literal-minded, will take your metaphor to the cleaners or to the bank, it’s all one with him. Oh yes, Mother, he has no arms. I asked him if he missed them. He said his mother gave birth to him without them, it’s congenital so you can’t miss what you don’t have. I made a joke about Miss Congenitality. He said something like ‘ballocks’, in English. I admire people who can swear the manly way in another language.

I have decided I will be Tezuka’s friend. The bugger has to hang a basket around his neck when he goes shopping, no wonder his voice is so strange, almost like a low-pitched woman’s voice. Example. He enters the art shop, lifts the basket handle with his mouth and sticks his head in under the handle. Hup. That’s damn smooth, but still. Then he picks stationery with his feet! No wonder he uses a traditional shop, he can just put the shoes at the doorway and that’s just being polite. Good man.

I found him outside the Art Room two days later while looking for Takahashi. He was leaning against the wall, as if he was about to light a cigarette, that kind of pose. Bumped into him, actually, because I was looking the wrong way.

“Hello Tezuka,” I say. “How’s things?”

“Hell-o, Setou,” he replies in his sorrowful low voice. “Things is fine.”

WHAM. “Oh sorry sorry sorry!” Mournful voice: “Emi, running into people is not helpful to them.” Ringing tones in my ears: “You have been hit by a bus.”

What a nuisance! I tell Tezuka, “Be careful about making this one your girlfriend. She’s dangerous. She might not be a fembot, but those legs are very hard.”

Tezuka replies, “She’s a girl and she’s a friend. I think. What’s a fembot?”

Poor guy.


Is she avoiding me? Shirakawa is not in the library after school. She’s not in the study room, not in the dorm, not anywhere. Then I find her in the 3-5 classroom after all. She is having a conversation with Mutou-sensei, the Man of Science himself. I can hear part of it from where I’m standing in the corridor.

“Your grades are good. I can help you by writing a recommendation. I can also ask about funding. It’s commendable that you want to earn your way, but it’s very hard work. I’m proud of you, Yuuko; if you need anything, just let me know.”

“ … ,” she replies, sounding very thoughtful. I can’t hear what she says. She must have her back to the doorway.

“Why not talk to Miyagi-sensei about that? One of her degrees was in Arts, at Tohoku. I hear they have a very scientific history programme, with archaeology and cultural anthropology. They call it ‘science of cultural properties’ there.”

“ … ,” she says cheerfully, then laughs.

“Great! See you tomorrow!”

Interesting. But I don’t want to see her today. She has been keeping secrets from me. So I turn around and make my getaway. What should I do?


It’s worse than I thought. Went down to town to get more supplies because too busy helping Tezuka last time to get enough. Tezuka came along anyway. He’s got big pecs and I wonder how he did it with no arms. Can neck exercises do that for you? I should line my scarf with lead.

Finished buying the imported whisky. My glasses make me look like an old man, the cashier said. Well, damn, something good out of my difficulty, eh? Then we exit the store and I see Shirakawa hanging around the back of the Shanghai where lots of our students go for tea. She’s all dressed up in a maid uniform. Oh God! Is that what she’s doing in her spare time?

Then she sees Tezuka and me and she runs inside. I think she’s crying. Aaaah! Horrible! Now what do I do?! Everything is getting worse. Maybe she thinks I’m gay, hanging out with Tezuka. My redheaded friend just looks confused, then mutters, “I’m sure I don’t look so terrifying, it must be you.”


Monday is Sea Day. It is a kind of anniversary. Takahashi looked at me blankly one year ago. “Who are you?” she said. I’ll never forget that. How could she forget me after the long talk we had? So sad, Kenji. My grades have gone to hell. I need to talk to Mother more. Thank God I bought supplies.


It should be holidays, but Yamaku always has two extra weeks because of 6-8 August being Tanabata Festival. Let me tell you the stupid story. There’s a guy. He likes a girl, but the girl is really high-status, the Emperor’s favourite daughter. He tries to hang out with her, but he gets caught while they’re in bed. The Emperor’s pissed off and he puts a river of whisky (well, it says milk, but that’s dumb, it would go sour or harden to cheese) between them. Now they can only meet once a year. It’s a stupid story because then they’d probably have kids once a year, and the father wouldn’t be around to help the mother with them. OK, that’s not such a stupid story, quite realistic.

As usual, I go up on the roof and look at the moon. It’s almost full, in two nights’ time, all the excitable kids will be making out up here. I drink a bit. Mother tells me, “Yuuko loves you. Sooner or later, you have to let go and move on. But I’m always here for you, until then.” Damn whisky, it tells me all the wrong things. I miss Mother. I wake up cold and alone on the roof.


Home again. I should be studying. I can’t remember anything. I can’t even remember if I secured all my gear. I just took the long bus back to Saitama. Sachiko’s home already. She gets away from school earlier than I do because I go to the cripple school that has less of a holiday than anyone else.

“Eh, Sachi, how’s your rich boyfriend in the funny house?”

“He’s not my boyfriend! I’m only eleven, I don’t have a boyfriend. How’s YOUR boyfriend?” she retorts.

When did she get so rude? It’s because Mother isn’t around, that’s what it is.


Maybe she’s a vampire. Stays indoors during the day, hides in shadows in the evening, is never around at night. But there are no such things as vampires, right? In Japan, one must learn never to say, ‘no such thing’. There are too many such things. Things to put on grocery list: large pencils, garlic, maybe holy water. I should start going to church or something, maybe it makes you taste more boring to vampires.

I’ll need the female Hakamichi too. That one may be a valuable ally, since her brother is compatible with my sister. But how to communicate? Sticky notepaper. The cute stuff, probably. One more thing for the list. She has a friend, the one whose hair can be seen from a distance even with my bad eyesight. Also, a very loud voice. Note to self: stealth means Hakamichi doesn’t bring her friend.

But the manly thing is to give Shirakawa a chance first. Would be terrible to nail the wrong coffin, as they say. Time to think up a proper plan. Also, if Mother’s right, I must save her. I love her, or at least, I think I did.


I have other things to prepare. Don’t I have a midterm exam coming soon? Also, the 18th is Respect for the Aged Day, and that means proper libations for Mother.


It was an accident. Love makes a man blind, that’s OK, that’s a manly feeling. But blinder than usual is bad. I caught Yuuko coming in late, and one thing led to another and then she confessed, or maybe I confessed, and another thing led to another. I’m so confused. She was in a loose blouse and jeans, I’ve never seen her that way before. But she smelled of food and stale beer. And smoke.

Mother told me on Monday night to be careful, remember the cherry blossoms need protection. Why not just tell me straight out, no need for the oracular sayings? What if Yuuko gets pregnant? I could feel her body, under the thin material, her firm flesh. We both felt so good. And whisky. There was whisky.

She bit me, but there was no blood. And. And what? What do I say to her tomorrow? Too many questions. Kenji is out.


“Setou! That’s it. I’m going to raid your room. No more alcohol is no more alcohol. I can commit you to a programme and put the police on you, you know. What?! Did you just say you’re a father?”

The fox-faced psychic can hear my thoughts. I’m so screwed. I’m so sorry. My ancestors will be angry.

“Your ancestors will think you’re insane. But you’re not. You just keep taking other people’s drugs with alcohol!”

Oh Mother, oh Mother, I remember thinking. He’s good, ‘Nurse’ is too innocent a name for him. He grounds me in school for the whole break. I deserve it. Oh, and they indeed raid my room. When I get back, I’ll have to check for bugs. I’m shivering. I’m shivering. It’s so cold. If I survive I’ll tell Tezuka all about it so that he won’t make the same mistakes.


No drugs, no alcohol. No drugs, no alcohol. I can’t vomit, no juice. I’m cold. Shirakawa visits me, but it’s all a trick, she did this to me, she did. Am I being unfair? Part of me says yes, but it’s too cold to think. Mother’s not here either.

Ooe and Inoue visit. They say they’re sorry. What for? Why are they sorry? Inoue has beautiful eyes both the same. Ooe has beautiful eyes both not the same. My friend the ghost-girl is with them. She smiles a bit, but looks worried, anxious. I tell her it will be OK. It comes out funny.


Are these mid-terms? Shirakawa says I must study, but I can’t. Some days I wake up loving her and some days the fighter squadrons fly through my head. I’m not in the medical centre. I’m in my room. They have left no traces, but I won’t give up looking for bugs. Amahide comes by to give me a chicken pizza, good of him, didn’t know he cared. Not every day your class representative comes by with pizza. He stays to chat.

Amazing. He tells me how the Hakamichi girl and the Satou girl are competing for the Student Council as if it’s national politics. Outgoing Council President Shintetsu just laughs and says if two ladies want to fight over his job, he’s happy he’s leaving it to them.

I need to study. Amahide looks at me sternly. “Yeah man, you need to work your ass off. Your grades are in serious shit now. If you need help, just call me, I’m two floors down.” He turns his head as if wondering about something. “Y’know, who the hell else lives around here? I don’t recognize the names on the doors. ‘Ken Watanabe’ sounds familiar, but I can’t figure out what class he’s in.”

Ha ha. I hope he never finds out.


There’s too much work undone. But Kenji is humble, and Kenji is a man. So I go look for Shirakawa, and ask her for help. She helped me before. Will she help me again? I can’t remember. Was I rude to her? Ha ha, Kenji is not rude. All it takes is a hello, right?

So I go to her room, it’s 314, and she tells me to go away. Why? What?


OK. This is serious. I need to log all of this, or I will go out of my mind. History is important. Family is important. My father will kill me. My sister will laugh at me. What’s the manly thing to do, Kenji? First, say what happened.

I go to the library. I listen carefully at the study carrels, because sometimes Yuuko hides there to study. I am right. She is whispering to someone, but I have sharp ears, so I can hear a bit. Mother, she’s talking to Takahashi! I’m dead! But I have to listen, and my hearing’s not bad.

“… pregnant, test blue… what do I do?”

“… you told him?”

“… no, what can he… his father’s money…”

“… we’re friends, I’ll help…”

“… thanks… but please, forget it.”

“… if you want me to…”

“… didn’t mean it, but you…”

She’s crying in there. Oh God, she’s pregnant. What do I do? I feel like rushing into the room. But Kenji doesn’t do that, does he? Will I? I run out of the library instead, it feels better. I feel like Hanako Ikezawa. How unmanly, but who cares.


I buy flowers. I go to see her on Thursday, it’s Labour Thanksgiving Day, all about productivity and human rights, very appropriate. It’s the manly thing to do.

I get her to open the door. I ask about the baby. She turns white. “I’m not… I’m not…” she says. “They’d kick me out if I was.”

“Nah, they can’t do that. I’ll help you look after it. Is it a boy or a girl?” See, Kenji being REALLY stupid here.

She slumps onto the bed. “I’m not, not… Kenji. I’m having bad cramps. It’s that time, so I… I’m… I can’t be pregnant. It hurts a lot. Go away.”

She has a lot of little bottles too, in her room. I never looked before. Whoa, serious pain meds. Respect. “What’s FM?” I ask her, curious. Maybe it’s ‘female menstruation’ or something.

She snatches the scrap of paper away from me. “Kenji, ah… no… get out!”

“I want to help!” I shout at her.

With surprising force, she shoves me out of the room and slams the door. She’s kept the flowers though. I can’t think, I feel really dumb. Especially when I see Tezuka lurking around, the lucky bastard having a go in the henhouse. But he disappears before I can say anything.

A few days later I am clever. Henhouse? I go to see the foxy guy. “Nurse-san, do people ever get pregnant at Yamaku?”

He raises his eyebrow, then he lowers it and raises the other one. “Hah, Setou, you need a little square package or two? Or does someone need a test kit?”

“Boss, just man to man, what happens if someone gets pregnant here?”

“Well, we have a deal with the Church. I send a call to one of Bishop Martin’s people, and they look after the mother-to-be if that’s what is needed. Else it’s our deal with the Hospital.”

“Who’s this Martin guy, he sounds like a foreigner, what’s he doing with our women?”

“Setou, don’t give me that nonsense, your father’s Catholic and you know who I’m talking about. Hiraga-shinpu is a good man.”

I’m not reassured. And I can’t talk to Takahashi, because she hates me or something. What if I have a child out there, and they’re all keeping it from me?


I have to study. Ancestors must be proud. Son must be proud of father.

I can’t do this any more. Mother, forgive me.


“Kenji, you are a bloody fool. You are not even half the man Masaru was.” That’s what my father says. But he doesn’t say it. I’m saying it. My father is talking to Principal Yamamoto, who is looking sad, anxious, I don’t know… I can’t see clearly.

I was talking to Mother. And one thing led to another. I missed the examinations. I missed them! I was working so hard for them!

I won’t graduate this year. I am shamed. I think of my elder brother, he would clap a big strong hand on my shoulder and say, “It’s OK, be a man.” But he’s gone, so I have to be one, and I’m not. This is a nightmare.

My father looks grimly at me. He says nothing. Yamamoto-sama, big man of Yamaku, he says, “Kenji, your father and I agree you have the potential to do well. But your habits are not good. You have been living in a very irregular way. So you must attend regular counselling, and if you agree, we will let you stay at Yamaku for one more year.”

The shame is so great it’s like death. But I’m not dead. Irony. I am undead.


I study. I don’t know why I study. But I will read everything in the whole library. I will read, I will learn, I will be Kenji the magnificent. Yeah, really. I’m just Kenji the idiot.

Just a few lines left to write in this school year. The only person who shows me sympathy is Ooe. She brings pizza and beer. Crazy girl. I don’t fancy her, but she’s nice. She also brings Inoue, but I can tell Inoue thinks I’m stupid. I want to talk to Yuuko, but… well, that’s for the last part of this log.

It’s a cool day, springtime evening. She’s graduated. She’s a woman now. I don’t know where she’s going. She won’t tell me. I have so many questions to ask, but I don’t know where to start.

I tell her what I think. She keeps saying she’s not pregnant, never was. But I know what I heard her tell Takahashi. And that woman, she’s good at forgetting, so I won’t get anything out of her. We stand under the cold black sky. I don’t care that I’m exposed to sniper fire.

“Kenji,” she says, “I’m your… friend. I really like you. But you have to stop being… crazy!” She turns her back to me. I think she’s crying. She walks away.

I thought she was lying. But what if she’s not? I can’t deal with this, all this conspiring and whispering and shame. I wrap my scarf around my neck, and I walk back to my room.


There’ll be a new Kenji this year. I’m battle-hardened now. Mother whispers to me amidst the fallen flowers, “Son, you can do it. Protect the cherry blossoms, and the cherry blossoms will protect you.”

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Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3a up 20140701)

Posted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 2:10 pm
by brythain
This is the first section of the third instalment of the first part of the redacted archive of Kenji Setou.
In which he comes to terms with his life of shame and meets a new friend who may be familiar to us.

Kenji: Five Years That Break A Man—Year Three (Part 1)

It was in 2007-2008 that things hit crisis point. I was born on Christmas Day and made to feel bad about it for many years afterwards, but in this one year I felt different about that.

Until I was eighteen, I thought I was just moody. I had friends sometimes, I thought funny thoughts about them, but I didn’t think I was abnormal. You can’t think you’re abnormal, because then you are spiting your ancestors by your thoughts. You should think you’re gifted, maybe special in a funny way.

But I talked to someone. And someone else. And then this guy came along. And suddenly, I’m sure. This is the story of the first part of that year.

All this stuff comes from my redacted log entries, from 20050404 to 20100418. I call them ‘Five Years That Break A Man’. Looking back, the year you’re looking at was more important than I thought.



I have made the decision to be a man. So the first thing to do is find out what is wrong with me. Once I’m dumped at the Academy again, shamed and dejected, I still grit my teeth, haul my stuff up to my room, and spend four hours fixing security and checking for bugs. Then I go visit the psychic fox in the medical centre.

“Nurse-san. What is my medical condition?”

“You mean you don’t know?” He seems truly surprised. But I would expect no less of a psychic fox.

“No.” I fix him with my best mental shield of unyielding circumstance.

He sighs and walks over to his computer. “Okay, sit down, Setou. The previous medical officer, it seems, may have not conveyed to you some important points about your situation.”

“Hey man, you’re frightening me,” I say calmly. But something in my chest is acting up. It feels tight. I am on the edge of revelation, it’s like waiting for God to say something.

Glancing at me from where he’s reading something from his terminal, he tells me the truth. It feels right, I can sense that we are being man to man about this.

“You have something called congenital mitral valve stenosis. Your heart’s mainly fine as long as you don’t overexert yourself; that’s why you’re excused from physical education class. You also have mild tinnitus and some neurological deficits—all this came from a difficult pregnancy. You have bad eyesight, but you also see things that aren’t there, just like you hear things that aren’t there. You might not have been born, Setou. It was a miracle you survived.”

“… ,” I say. I realize I’m trying to say something, but it isn’t coming out. “Fuck!” I say, and that comes out. I cover my mouth.

The fox stares at me. Something like kindness seeps over his mental shields. “Setou, that’s why I changed your meds. You’re not mad. You’re just having problems making sense of anxiety attacks and false inputs induced by your physical condition. I’ve no idea why your previous regime was so wrong.”

Of course I’m not mad, I want to tell him. But sometimes you’re not paranoid, they really are out to get you. How can you tell? Traditional stories tell us that the fox is not to be trusted. We live in a world of magic realism. Ikezawa knows about that, we talked about it once. Unusually honest for a woman.

“And I’m not sending you to a counsellor. I’m sending you to a sort of therapist.”

That’s too much. There’s too much. And that’s the end of my usual beginning-of-the-year long post.


They’re all looking at me. Maybe I deserve to be mocked, silly Kenji who let his life get screwed up and is taking third year all over again. But no, this is new Kenji. If I’m getting false inputs, at least I can try to get them right. If people say something, I will ask them what they said, test them to make sure it is what they said. I will map my world.

3-1 is full of people who can’t hear. 3-2 is full of people who can’t see. 3-3 is full of people who can’t people. 3-4 is Tezuka’s class, also his dangerous friend with the rocket-propelled prosthetics. 3-5 is… full of ghosts. I heard a familiar violin playing in there once. I didn’t dare to look.

My ‘therapist’ is revealed. The universe plays funny tricks. Ha, this time the fox has outwitted himself. I have a guide I can trust. His name is Mutou, my favourite science teacher. He is the manliest therapist you could get. In the first session, he asks, “If you can't observe something directly, then how can you observe it?” He makes me answer the question. He makes me question the universe, to think about implications. That’s the key. Trust nothing. Test everything.


It’s holiday week. I sum up the evidence. I’ve tested everything. The only common factor is Shirakawa. Whether I love her or not, her presence is what made me like this. I must avoid excitement. My heart can’t stand it. Also, why are there so many women in the school? It should be 50/50, not 60/40 or worse. Surely being a woman is not a disability? They would be the first to agree. How cunning! Further study required. I will hide a spycam and microphone in my scarf and collect more data.

But who is safe? The men should be OK, but some may have been suborned. The only one I may be able to trust is Tezuka. I hacked the school computers and discovered how wily an ally he is. He has changed his sex to read ‘female’ and infiltrated the women’s wing of the school. I wish I had thought of that. But even he may be suborned, especially by the speed freak.


I’ve just realized. All the class reps are female now. That Satou with the sly ingratiating feminine voice, she is in charge of 3-2. I am doomed. But she is a good organizer, I’ll give her that. She is undermining Hakamichi. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not. They had a fight, and the Student Council is all over the place.

I’m now wrong. Not all the class reps are female. Hakamichi moved to 3-3. I thought her loud friend would take over in 3-1, but she’s moved to 3-3 too. Huh. 3-1 has a guy in charge now, Masuda. Also, 3-4 has Uchida and 3-5 has Sugiyama. Ha, I turn away from the notice board victorious. We can still win this!


“You should be glad,” says my ‘therapist’. “Miss Shirakawa has agreed to work part-time for us in the library. If you need a listening ear, she has agreed to be there for you.”

What?! No! I… I… don’t know how to feel. Am I being betrayed again? Clearly there is a conspiracy. There cannot be a rational reason apart from that. There can only be irrational reasons. Surely. Why would Mutou-sensei do this to me? Then I know. He had words with her. I heard them talking.

I look in his direction and give him a bitter smile. “Why would I talk to Shirakawa?”

I swear he actually looks sad and surprised. Good acting. No more ‘therapy’ for me!


I can feel the storm coming. Something is going down. Matsushita-san, the boarding manager, was walking around my corner of the dorms today. He shouldn’t have any reason to do so.


Oh my God! They’ve killed Ken Watanabe! I came back from class today and they had broken into Room 119 and stripped out my equipment! The jammer room is no more. It is a damn conspiracy. Nobody knew the gear was there. Nobody should be moving into that room, because I hacked the computers to show my Watanabe persona was already in that room. What could have given the game away?

I need to take more precautions. I go down to the city myself to buy stuff. Nobody will betray me again.

20070604 (Monday):

The week 20070604-20070610 is one of the most crucial in my account. To show you why, I must be more detailed.

Monday, I’m dreaming. I think. Mother is still alive and my father has not yet married again. I can hear their voices in the corridor. They are helping me set up my jamming equipment where it’s supposed to be. No! Mother mustn’t know! No! Father mustn’t know! One of them. Both of them. The door slams. I wake up. Dream. But I hear sounds. Quietly, I check my corridor cams.

Damn. At first I wonder if it really was a dream. Yes, not mine, but somebody’s father and mother, that’s for sure. They’re dragging a body into 119! No, it’s just luggage. I look closely at the screen. Somebody’s moving in. How suspicious!

I check all my locks and decide not to go to school today. Whatever’s happening, I need to make sure they don’t get in here.

Much later that day, if it’s a trick, it’s a weird one. There’s a new man in 119, name of Nakai. Way too friendly if he’s not a plant, actually knocked on my door and introduced himself with both his names! So I made a field decision to show friendliness and test some basic countermeasures.

“Wassup, man? The name’s Kenji!” I breathe at him, making sure he gets a faceful of garlic fumes. He shrinks back, but doesn’t run away. Clearly not a vampire. I shake his hand with wolfsbane lotion, and he doesn’t flinch either. So far, so good.

I try some basic logic with him, and also try to confuse him. He seems quite resistant to the confusion, and has a fast logical brain, although he seems a bit depressed. Maybe he is a casualty of the feminists as well. I must try to find out more about his background. It would be interesting if they decided to put all those whose hearts were broken by feminists into one dorm area.

I stare at him close-up, trying to fix his rather nondescript features in my brain. There. Done. I hope he will be an intelligent ally.

20070605 (Tuesday):

If he is an ally at all. There have to be ways to test him. If my erstwhile ‘therapist’ could be trusted, at least in this matter, you can test things by indirect cause and effect. Let’s start by nailing his identity.

I hack into the school computer network again. Yep, he seems to be what he seems to be. Transfer student, but no details here. They must be on the medical network, or in those damn old-fashioned paper dockets. I need to make him think I’m harmless. Or… mad? Ha ha. I’m good at that.

I lay a trap for him after school. He’s been to the library. He must have met Shirakawa by now.

“You’re a psychic spy!” I say to him vehemently. He seems genuinely confounded, maybe even a bit upset.

“I’m not psychic!” he replies. I note he does not defend himself against the charge of spying.

“How do I know that? I’m not a mind-reader!” I wave my finger at him, trying to pressurize him into a definitive response. Ah, Mutou-sensei, you would be proud to see me testing this new fellow. “Unlike you!” I growl in triumph.

“Stop that, man. We met yesterday. What's wrong with you? I live in this room,” he says, vaguely gesturing at Room 119, where I had set up my ‘Ken Watanabe’ persona and jamming gear.

“Lies. If you think you can pass as Hisao because I'm legally blind you are sorely mistaken.”

Oops, almost gave the game away there. I’m not supposed to be friendly enough to use his first name or to hint at his own identity. I quickly switch my angle of attack and probe him concerning his beliefs on feminists. I try to force him into rudeness or indiscretion. With each probe, he seems more tired and also more alarmed. He also begins to talk about his encounters, says a girl he met is cute. It is a very normal response. Too normal. A man like this will fall victim easily because he is not emotionally strong.

Enough is enough. I’m tired too. I disappear back into my room, and wonder what to do about Hisao Nakai. He’s not an enemy. But is he a friend?

20070606 (Wednesday):

Only one way to tell. I must press him all the way. Are there any holes in my concept of feminist domination? A true friend would tell me if there were. I could tell him a version with real holes in it and see if he points them out to me. If he did, he would be a friend. And lastly, a good friend will always be selfless about sharing. I can’t share a girlfriend with him, since neither of us has one, but I could ask him for pizza money or something.

Meanwhile, I will step up surveillance. He is certainly spending too much time with Ibarazaki the speedy menace. I overheard Nurse-san sic her on him as a spy.

20070607 (Thursday):

This time I ambush my neighbour in the shower stalls. They say that when you’re naked you can’t hide anything.

“What are you doing here? What the hell, you scared me! What's your problem?!” he yells at me.

What a surly fellow. But now it’s time to test the extent of his sense of brotherhood. I cook up a fake desire for pizza and see if he’ll lend me some cash. I also hassle his personal space (though not his person) and talk about the objectivization of women in the popular media. When I’m done with him, I’m quite sure he’s an innocent dupe.

I’m also quite sure he’s pissed off with me, with the kind of angry frown he gives me up close. Even with steam fogging my lenses, I can see that quite clearly. Good: he may have fighting spirit.

What’s really surprising is bumping into him with my ghost-girl friend later on in the day. Boss Satou is making us all work for the coming festival in her usual passive-aggressive directorial way, but that’s OK because at least the work gets done. I paint cryptic anti-feminist slogans in very tiny Greek text in the margins of the class banner, disguising them with more traditional motifs and giant kanji that even a blind person can see at ten paces.

He’s volunteering to give a hand! Ha ha. I sober up quickly, sharpening my senses. Is he making a play for Boss Satou or Ghost Maiden? The one he goes for will tell me what kind of character he is.

What a subtle man. He chats the Boss up first, and she seems surprised that he knows me. He even makes it seem like an asset to his portfolio. Then he brings Ikezawa over to help me paint my banner. Objectively, he’s just scored points with all of us! Good game, man.

Ghost-girl greets me, which is nice. At least she won’t shame her former senior in front of the new guy. I’m glad for that. She’s not an evil feminist. Nakai asks me where they should start, and I leave them the decorative artwork, which is something I’m not so good at. Ikezawa’s quite artistic, it seems, she chooses colours for both of them. Hidden depths, that one.

Nakai is a cooperative worker. At close range I watch him mirror her, and she’s obviously impressed by his willingness to work. Ha! Way I see it, it’s Satou 1, Ikezawa 1. That Nakai is a player. I wonder if he knows what he’s doing, so when he works his way over to my corner, I have a quiet chat with him. He hints that he’s using Ikezawa to get to Satou, which I think is a bad trade.

Or maybe he’s playing a deeper game? I try that out, but he just seems confused. He even seems to believe that I’m infiltrating my own class. Yeah, right, as if I’d fail a grade just to come under Boss Satou’s sensitive thumbs. Well, good intel, no matter what. It’s a good day, though. The work got done.

20070608 (Friday):

I’ve not spoken to Mother for days. I know I’m not mad. Either there is no conspiracy, or there is one. Maybe there isn’t one, but they behave as if there is one. Pragmatically, there would be no difference to my life.

Two days before the festival, I collect supplies from my secret supply dump and stealth my way back to my room, only to run into Nakai. He’s unavoidable, since he’s in the room across from mine. He interrogates me, and I have to create some reason to not reveal what’s in my bag.

He calls me up on some inconsistencies. Idiot. Doesn’t he know I’m trying to make sure we both avoid trouble? In desperation, I blame my activities on the feminine conspiracy, the fake one I’ve invented for him and not the real one that I suspect. I add a tribute to my secret hero, visualizing a floppy hat to go with my colourful scarf. The conversation turns surreal as I try to convince him I don’t use a phone and get knotted up in the implications of this falsehood.

As our mutual grasp of reality begins to slip, I finish him off with the lip balm gambit. We Japanese hate sharing personal items, and it’s a great way to terminate a conversation.

20070609 (Saturday):

I feel lonely today. I really did love Shirakawa, or I felt that way. She always listened, like Mother used to before she and Masaru left us. But that’s the key for me, I think. If I end up with someone like Shirakawa, it can’t be just to make up for Mother. Mother wouldn’t want that for me, I think. And Masaru would just laugh, from wherever he is now. Damn, if elder brother were still alive, I wouldn’t need to be a success. I eye the big bag in the corner, and think about happy people eating fried food tomorrow, and I feel sick. I’ll need to talk to Mother about all this soon.

Useless, Kenji. In a fit of public service inclination, I decide to help Boss Satou set up the stalls. I feel sorry for her, having to fight Hakamichi for us all the time. Not that I don’t feel sorry for Hakamichi either. Oh, stupid, stupid Kenji.

20070610 (Sunday):

Strange thing is that it’s Nakai who makes the first move. He knocks on my door in the morning and I have to scramble to disarm my security. He actually wants to know what I’m doing today. I’m about to reply that I will bum around, collect a huge supply of cheap food before they raise the prices, and sit around in my room watching anime the whole day on my souped-up computer system.

Then it strikes me. The poor bugger is lonely too. Heck, if not for me, he might have just committed suicide by now. Unless his female friends have given him some reason to live, of course. I decide to give him some excitement to keep him going.

“I can hear them. It's loud… don't tell me… Has the invasion begun?”

I spin a tale of snipers and more conspiracy. And he buys it! Despite us all working together for the festival, he thinks I’m going nuts BECAUSE it’s Yamaku Festival. What a gullible guy. I feel a bit guilty. If he survives this weekend, I’ll try to be a better friend. But for now, I’m quite enjoying our little drama.

“Agh, no, no! I can't do it. They'll eat me alive out there, I know it,” I groan, sounding as if we’re surrounded by evil monsters. “What are you going to do? We should hang out in here; you can help me build my fort. We might still make it if we work together!”

He looks a little guilty in return. And then I get the answer to my Thursday speculations: “Your class project seemed pretty cool, and I gave a hand with it so I want to see at least that one and chat with Lilly I guess.”

Aha! Well, one last bit of drama? Who could blame me for wanting to try it on?

“Are you out of your mind?” I stage-whisper. “That blind broad is up to no good; I can feel it in my spleen, man. Her presence is like a dark shadow that's in the way of my great vision.”

I wave away his objections, something about me being blind as well, and continue portentously: “I can see the future of mankind, and it's a dark one unless the threat of women is stifled.”

I can barely stifle my laughter now. I must make an exit for myself before I crack up. “They are everywhere,” I grind out, controlling myself and playing with my scarf to keep sane. “I'm going to have to find some place to hide in, a safe haven. And then knock the lights out of myself so that I don't have to experience this horrible day.”

He’s looking horrified. I should stop soon. “I must prepare now. Don't go to the festival,” I hiss, making it sound as if he’ll be sacrificed to some demonic entity.

“Okay,” he whispers back. Oh shit. If he misses the festival because of me, I’ll feel really bad. I say a quiet personal prayer that he goes and has fun and maybe even ends up watching fireworks with Ikezawa or Satou. He might be happy. I wish him all the best.

I suddenly feel very tired. “Later, dude,” I say, clapping him on the shoulder and closing the door softly on his nervous face.

In the end, it might not have mattered. Looking back to that day, his burden of happiness and sadness was already being formed. I’d like to think I helped him get a good ending, but I don’t think anyone can ever know such things.

prev | next

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3a up 20140701)

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 2:13 am
by forgetmenot
Only one way to tell. I must press him all the way. Are there any holes in my concept of feminist domination? A true friend would tell me if there were. I could tell him a version with real holes in it and see if he points them out to me. If he did, he would be a friend. And lastly, a good friend will always be selfless about sharing. I can’t share a girlfriend with him, since neither of us has one, but I could ask him for pizza money or something.
Hmmm. Bold strategy, if I do say so myself. I like seeing a new spin on a character, especially one so canonically insane as Kenji. You add new layers to his crazy, but somehow make him a little more understandable. I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone, a little bit.

Anyhow, good job. This is a fun read.

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3a up 20140701)

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 2:43 am
by Serviam
Did I just see a reference to South Park? :lol:

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3a up 20140701)

Posted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:51 am
by brythain
forgetmenot wrote:Hmmm. Bold strategy, if I do say so myself. I like seeing a new spin on a character, especially one so canonically insane as Kenji. You add new layers to his crazy, but somehow make him a little more understandable. I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone, a little bit.

Anyhow, good job. This is a fun read.
Thank you! It's actually almost as hard to get into Kenji's mind as it is to get into Rin's mind. Rin is honest; Kenji is either delusional or pseudo-delusional.
Selviam wrote:*reference to South Park?*
Heh, I think there are references to all kinds of pop culture in what we think of as Kenji's route.

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3a up 20140701)

Posted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 2:34 am
by inthewind
Strangely, I did once pose the internal question of Kenji's sincerity. It all started when the seed was planted from, 'even a trope-constructed caricature couldn't turn out like this,' and grew into, 'what if this 'madness' is a facade?' (I'm too lazy to cedilla.)

Admittedly, this passing fancy lasted all of two minutes, but I can appreciate the tri-d chess at hand.

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3a up 20140701)

Posted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 5:23 am
by brythain
inthewind wrote:Strangely, I did once pose the internal question of Kenji's sincerity. It all started when the seed was planted from, 'even a trope-constructed caricature couldn't turn out like this,' and grew into, 'what if this 'madness' is a facade?' (I'm too lazy to cedilla.)

Admittedly, this passing fancy lasted all of two minutes, but I can appreciate the tri-d chess at hand.
Hmm, yes, it is a bit like 3D chess. There's Kenji, KS-Kenji-from-Hisao's-perspective, and Kenji-as-seen-by-others. :)

Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3b up 20140703)

Posted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 12:30 pm
by brythain
This is the second section of the third instalment of the first part of the redacted archive of Kenji Setou.
In which he shares a hangover, speculates on genetics, and makes new friends.

Kenji: Five Years That Break A Man—Year Three (Part 2)

As I was saying, 2007-2008 was an important year. It had import, and later, export. You might think that’s a bad pun, but remember—import means significant stuff that comes in, export means significant stuff that goes out.

In retrospect, the few months I’m about to show you were maybe more important to Hisao Nakai than to me. But they were important to me too, and to my family. Somehow, I was able to understand him better than my own people, and that was a tragedy more to me than to him.

This is about the rest of the first academic semester of that year. Note to foreigners: that would be up to the start of the short October break.

All this stuff comes from my redacted log entries, from 20050404 to 20100418. I call them ‘Five Years That Break A Man’. I think, though, that breaking a man is sometimes the only way to put him back together aright.



Argh! Argh! Hangover! Yesterday was strange. Ooe and Inoue came over looking for Nakai. I think they found him. I ate a whole 18” pepperoni pizza with nori strips and sliced takoyaki balls, extra cheese. Thought of going up on the roof. At first, no, what if I barf all over the people below? Then I looked at the whisky in my big bag and decided to go up anyway. Nobody cares about Kenji, Kenji must care for himself.

In corners of the roof, young lovers. I have the missing-someone feels, and it’s all about Yuuko Shirakawa. So I wander around on the roof, looking for a quiet spot where Kenji won’t be a nuisance. It’s hard to see in the twilight and at least once I step on some people and they are not happy at all.

But there’s a spot, and I sit with my back to some concrete vent and watch the sky. It’s peaceful. Until someone sneaks up on me.

“Hell-o. There’s only one of you.”

I lurch sideways in shock, but it’s only Tezuka. He’s walking around in a stained painter’s smock or something. I heard he was doing a mural somewhere, but I’ve not seen it. Well, I brought two tumblers.

“Hey, dude. Means your eyesight is working. Here, have a drink.”

Tezuka’s quite a man, for all that pretending to be a chick thing. He sits down next to me, man-to-man, and I help him drink, since he’s got no arms. He slurps it down without coughing. Damn, his throat must be immunized by turpentine.

“Maybe this will help me find me. I’m a bit lost, really. I did a lot of work down there, but now there’s nobody.”

What’s he talking about? He sounds like me when I’ve had too much. Have I had too much? Did I forget? No, there’s still more than half the bottle here, and the other one is still sealed. But he sounds really sad, so I mutter, “Eh, it’s something for another day. There’ll be somebody, don’t worry.”

I put a manly arm around him and he doesn’t seem to mind. It’s nice, just me and a bro looking up into the sky, no noise, no talking. Just the occasional sip, the burn, the soft chattering and twittering of other people on the roof. It fills the missing-someone spot in my heart a bit.

“This stuff tastes like stars. It’s all dark and heavy and then a light burns through and there’s fresh air all around. Also fire.”

“Damn, Tezuka, that’s poetry. I thought you were another kind of artist.”

“What kinds are there?”

“Ah… hrmm… paint, clay, stone, wood, metal, dance, whatever… it’s either you use stuff or you are stuff, right?”

“I think I am stuff. But I don’t know how to say what I am, and if I don’t say it, I won’t be. It’s nice to sit here. At least one person knows I’m here, then.”

Is he thinking of jumping off the roof? Damn! The feminists have got to him. Maybe the menace on no legs has jilted him. I talk to him, and he talks to me. Nobody jumps. I think we fall asleep. In the morning, I’m all alone.

It’s a terrible day. Everyone’s hung over too. I don’t see Tezuka. I’m not surprised, but I hope he hasn’t done something silly. The fog lasts two more days. On the second day, I see Nakai sneaking away to the tea-room where Boss Satou hides during lunch breaks. Ikezawa is with them. Ah well. You win some, you lose some.

The week is good for studying. I realize that there are days that Shirakawa (damn, I keep thinking of her as my lovely Yuuko, but she’s not really mine, right) isn’t in the library, and I plan my schedule accordingly.

I manage to get hold of Nakai on Saturday morning, though. The manly arm doesn’t work so well on him; indeed, he seems pretty put off by it. Cautiously, I test the waters about his relationship with Boss Satou.

“What, you mean Lilly? The one from your class?” Ah, he’s on first-name terms with her. I knew it. I fix him with a grim stare, wondering what his response will be to my next gambit.

“Well, never mind that. I'm here to warn you. You know. Man to man.”

“Warn me about what? Lilly?” It’s amazing how defensive he looks, and I regret that I can’t stop giving in to my baser nature. I can’t help but test a defence if it’s offered.

“Yeah. You don't know her, man.” And then I’m off into the Satou Mafia thread. I even try getting info out of him about her time in the Student Council, before realizing he can’t possibly know unless Hakamichi or Satou (or the Pink Sound) told him—a very unlikely event. To rub it in, I decide to expose his ignorance.

“Now, what nationality is she?” Blonde hair, blue eyes, probably Western or Northern European, I’m guessing. But she might be Japanese by citizenship, given her father’s name. In which case, she is just as much a cherry blossom to be protected, even if one of unusual colour.

“The Roman Catholic Church?” Hmmm, while I was busy thinking and talking nonsense about what major conspiracy Satou belongs to, Nakai’s blind-sided me. Good idea, that man. I don’t think Bishop Martin would be happy about that aspersion though.

“… Well okay, there's that. But there's also the Mafia. Come on. Rich, foreign, there's no way she doesn't have connections to them.” I continue feeding him rubbish about Sicily and Russia, wondering if he’ll crack. Clearly she has no Mediterranean or Slavic features at all. To his credit, he manages to look vaguely dubious. Sadly, he appears also to be thinking seriously about it.

“When the time comes, we'll need all the help we can get. I don't want to lose you, comrade,” I add, waving him goodbye and tacitly accepting his own wave. I wonder about introducing him properly to Tezuka.


I’ve aced my term tests so far, before the midterm exams later in July. Ha ha, Kenji is back on top. Satou beat me in English, but she’s probably got some kind of genetic advantage. And, big news, she’s leaving to go home to the UK for a couple of weeks. Frankly, I’ll miss her domineering ways. She got this class to do their shit right. Nakai doesn’t look so happy, though. He crashes our class farewell, but what can you say, a man in love will do anything.


Well, well, well. The man’s not a broken wreck now that his girl is off in yellow-hair land. He’s happily hanging with Ikezawa instead. Except when she disappears, as she sometimes does. Oh, damn. It’s her birthday soon. Poor Nakai.

I think about preparing him for it, but that would be intrusive. A bro needs to have his privacy. Then I bump into him alone in the cafeteria, which is most unusual. Even more so, his response when I thump him between the shoulder blades.

He coughs, chokes, acts like he might be having a seizure. Then he rounds on me and says something like, “DON’T EVER DO THAT AGAIN YOU MORON!” It’s way out of character for him, and for a moment, I don’t know what to do.

His face softens a bit. Probably realizes that everyone’s looking at the rude new kid. But he tries to make good by inviting me to join him for lunch. That’s fine with me, especially since I need some info from him: it occurred to me that nobody in 3-2 actually knows what Lilly’s foreign half is, and I stupidly started a betting pool in her absence. So far, ‘German’ is trending hot. I have my doubts.

The ensuing conversation is very amusing. So, she’s Scottish. What a loophole. Technically, not English, so I lose. But so does everyone else. Yes! The house wins by default. I try to muddy the issue by thinking of ‘Braveheart’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ as I imagine what kind of culture the Scots have. Then I remember ‘Highlander’. Ho ho! It’s OK, Nakai, there can be only one.

As he wanders off, having had an unsatisfactory lunch (his fault, he let his food get cold), I go my own way. I think not talking to Mother for a few weeks has actually made me think better. Mother was always kind, but she tended to take away the need to think. Maybe it’s like that with him and Satou, without her around, he can have a normal relationship with Ikezawa, just good friends.

And that’s why I go wandering down a long-forgotten corridor. But the lady I’m looking for, she’s not there.


Monday is Sea Day. As long as I live, it will be a kind of anniversary. Let me get this down before I forget. There’s a woman in the school, she’s not a ghost and she’s not quite a student. She’s a talented musician, at least a year older than I am, and her name is Takahashi. She ‘went supplementary’ last year and is still on that list, not a surprise once I found out her disability. They’ve put her in Tezuka’s current class for admin purposes, but she doesn’t go to class most of the time.

Auburn hair, like autumn. Grey eyes, like the sea. And every Sea Day, since 2005, I have remembered her. Because she can’t remember for herself. There’s something in her brain, and she can’t help that. So, heartbreak. It’s just a crush, I’ll get over it. In about 40 years, maybe.

In other news, yes, Nakai’s back with our Scottish acquaintance. I wish him all the best. At least she’ll remember him.


This is half-vacation period, when we hang around Yamaku on holiday but still attending make-up classes and stuff. Every other school in Japan is already on holiday, I think. Sachiko mocks me for it. It makes me sad, because my little sister is already losing her eyesight, and some day she’ll be at Yamaku too. Some days I feel so angry for her. Yeah, she’s a girl, also a feminist. But she’s my only sibling, and she behaves as if Mother is alive. She tells everybody ‘my parents’, when she means ‘my father’. That’s worse than me, right? Or maybe not. I guess I can’t blame her; she wasn’t even six years old when it happened. I miss her. I miss them all. Except my father.

In more other news, Satou is off to Scotland for good. She’s already left the school gates, I saw her bodyguard drive her off in a black car. I’m shocked. Nakai is—what’s the German phrase?—‘empty trousers’. He’s deflated, trying to act normal. She didn’t even attend Tanabata with him, the heartbreaker. Ikezawa’s coping better than he is. But 3-2 now has a male class rep, so it’s not all bad. I just need to be around for Nakai, I guess.


Before I go home for the break, I leave Nakai a note: [You can always call her, but if she’s not coming back, I think Ikezawa is one of the prettiest girls in the school. Just don’t forget the brotherhood. And avoid fembots.]

He’s in his room, but there’s no response, no sign of movement. I hope he’ll be OK. As I leave, I notice Hakamichi and Pinko lurking around the building. I decide to leave a note under Tezuka’s door too, in the other wing: [Hey, look after our friend Nakai. He needs a bro.] My crafty redhead friend has removed his nameplate to avoid detection! Then I remember that Tezuka has left for Tokyo. Something to do with art school. Well, all the best to him.

And then a few more matters to settle, mostly security. Then it’s home. Which I don’t know whether to feel happy about or not.


I’m back in Saitama. Sis is twelve years old already, and independent enough to go out for meals on her own, or so she says. I guess I’m a bit wounded that she won’t go out for pizza with me anymore. I make sure she’s OK though, which is why I know she’s actually having ice-cream with that weirdo Hideaki Hakamichi. What a thing, this kind of childhood friendship. It’s nice to have a normal life.

I go visit Mother and elder brother instead. It’s the right thing to do. I bring a white pizza—garlic, cheese and wasabi mayo; onions and octopus. And whisky. “Mother, sorry for not chatting for so long. Brother, respects also to you.”

I tell them about my life. About Yuuko Shirakawa and Kagami Takahashi, about Hisao Nakai and Lilly Satou and Hanako Ikezawa, about Natsume Ooe and Rin Tezuka. For an hour, I eat pizza, I share the experience of life and flavour with the ghosts. My father is Catholic, but I’m not sure what I am. Maybe just human, and soft enough to want to have something to remember.

Maybe it’s only the breeze in the trees. But I hear the voices, “Be yourself. Protect the flowers. You will always be good enough for us.” And I resolve that nobody will be forgotten.


The last week has dramatic irony in it. I ask Sachi why she hung out with the Hakamichi kid, and she says, “Because he takes me seriously.” I laugh at her, and then realise what an asshole I’m being. She just stands there with her arms folded, glowering. So I apologise.

Two days later, I am heading back to Yamaku on the train to Sendai, and… ha ha, I bump into the other Hakamichi, Madam Council President herself. She politely gestures for me to sit down, and it’s a quiet ride since we can’t really exchange words. I try some signing, which she seems to appreciate. Then I remember my conversation with Sachiko and realize I’m hanging out with my own ‘Hakamichi kid’. It’s all I can do to not laugh, especially when I consider that if I laugh, Shizune will fold her arms and glower at me.

Can there really be a feminist conspiracy? Come on, Kenji, be logical. I have to ask myself really tough questions: if the flowers need protecting, what’s wrong with them protecting themselves? And is it good for Japan? Damn, I could be all wrong on this issue. Confused, I smile at Hakamichi. She smiles back faintly. Later, I walk her back to the dorms just to make sure she’s not going to invade my block. Also, she’s not so bad as company.

This week, though, is different. It’s the end of the first semester, and I really need to study. I am also concerned about security. If I can hack into the main school server, then can’t other people hack into mine? Shit, everyone in the world is a hacker now. Maybe the trick is to let them read everything, but make it seem different. I need to read up on my cryptography, and I can’t do that on the Net, because then people will know what I’m doing.

Nakai is still in bad shape. His room stinks even from where I’m standing. But I hear that some of the feminists have got together to save him from himself. More power to them, as long as they don’t turn him female, I guess. I knock on the door, but there’s no reply. Maybe he’s not ready for the manly touch yet. Damn.

A few days later, there’s some kind of altercation in the corridor. Damn feminists, invading the manspace. It’s Hakamichi and the Voice, trying to get Nakai out of his room. I use my corridor cams to see what’s happening. Whoa. They finally get him out of his room. He looks awful, and he starts crying and saying he’s sorry. I secure my room, get back to my secret book stash, and hope he’ll be OK.


I have a talk with Mutou-sensei at last after a long while. He is still the manliest teacher around. So I’ve booked a career counselling appointment with him and there we are sitting in the Bunker and looking through higher education brochures. I show him my checklist. He looks amused, but he is willing to work with me.

At the end of our time, I have exactly one main choice for what I want to do: I need to get into the National Defense Academy, the place they call ‘Bodai’. I look at Mutou. He looks back, thinking hard.

“Well, Kenji, physically you’re not a good fit for that. But you have a few months left to pass the physical, and I have no doubt you’ll meet the academic requirements. Your eyesight may be a problem, but I hear they’ll take you in if your corrected vision is adequate. Are you sure you won’t go for Todai instead? You might make it, considering your most recent scores. You’re good at computing, physics and maths. I’ve seen you work in the lab as well—you’ll make a good engineer from what I see.”

He’s too kind. I can always do better. But from physics to physical education is a big step, and you could die from being hit by an Ibarazaki. Decisions, decisions. My alternative is the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokodai)—I like their motto because it says, “We are engineers who use knowledge, technology and passion to change our times.”


Monday is Respect for the Aged Day. Nakai indeed looks about 20 years older, but is civil to me again. I offer to help him clean up his room, but the feminists have beaten me to it. His room gives off the odour of cherry blossoms, which is patriotic and something I can’t fault him for, seeing as mine smells of garlic, cheese and tomato paste.

He’s going running with Ibarazaki again, I soon find out. I need to get fit, but no way am I running with that menace. One hit from her and it’s goodbye, Kenji. But she avoids Iron Fist, who’s also a good runner. Not a bad looker either, actually, so I go chat her up.

“Hey,” I say, but my voice is a bit rusty from too much studying and lack of use.

The Fist looks around in surprise. “You talking to me, Setou? Damn! The world is coming to an end.”

“I need someone to give me a workout.”

“Ha, Buddha’s balls, Setou, that’s the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard.”

What? She can’t be serious. I’m not trying to pick her up. Besides, she’s got a creepy fembot hand which she keeps taking off and putting on. Imagining that hand on my… on me… eeeeurgh. “Not picking up, Miura. Trying to get fit. Need to pass a physical.”

“Seriously? Why not ask Ibarazaki? She’ll train anybody, it’s the way she is.”

“She’s a menace. She’ll kill me by accident,” I say, from the bottom of my heart.

“Ha! Ah fuck, I tell you what, might be fun, you teach me math, I make you run. But there’s rules.” The Fist waves her plasteel arm in my general direction.

Rules? I don’t mind rules. “Ah. Miura, what rules?”

“No touching. Also, running in the evening, not the morning, cos that’s when Ibarazaki’s at the track. And you’d better not have a heart condition.”

Damn. I don’t mind not touching, or running in the evening. What was it Nurse-san said? Mitral valve stenosis, right? That’s heart. Shit.

“Sorry, Miura. Wasted your time then. Got a broken heart.”

“Setou! You made a funny! Really? Hey, if you’re like Nakai, broken-hearted and with a condition, that’s sad. But if you’re only broken-hearted, we can run. Just to be clear though, it’s not my heart I’m giving you.”

“Heart condition.”

“Aw. Well, if it’s not too bad, a light jog might help.”

“I’ll give it a try.” This is me being direct. I want that exercise. I have no idea how to start. And Miura is actually the manliest girl I know. She has biceps and everything.


“What the hell were you doing running around like that?!” yells the foxy face swimming around in my very bad field of vision.

I try to look around, but my glasses are gone. I think it’s Miura sitting over to one side, someone dark with long hair. Yeah, that strange bandage she uses to cushion her fembot augmentation, I recognize that. I try to talk, but nothing comes out at first. Then I gasp, “Mutou…”

“Mutou? Mutou-sensei put you up to this? If you’re serious, I’m going to have words with him. Your condition can’t take this. You are EXCUSED PHYSICAL EXERCISE, and for a reason! And Miura, I gave you no instructions nor permission. If he had dropped dead, what then?”

“Sorry, Nurse,” she says softly. She sounds miserable. Did she push me too hard or did I push me too hard? Can’t remember. Want to sleep. “Thud-hiss-thud,” I imagine my heart saying. And then things go dark again.

That’s how I found out I wouldn’t get to go to Bodai, and well, that’s for the best. I don’t think I would have made a good soldier on my way to where I am now.

prev | next

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3b up 20140703)

Posted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 3:07 pm
by Oscar Wildecat
What? She can’t be serious. I’m not trying to pick her up. ...
What a shame. Kenji and Miki would make a cute couple. And by "cute", I mean absolutely hilarious. There's actually a fic (a Hanako GE epilogue, if I recall correctly) out there somewhere that has Kenji and Miki as friends with benefits...

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3a up 20140701)

Posted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 5:38 pm
by Mirage_GSM
inthewind wrote:Strangely, I did once pose the internal question of Kenji's sincerity. It all started when the seed was planted from, 'even a trope-constructed caricature couldn't turn out like this,' and grew into, 'what if this 'madness' is a facade?' (I'm too lazy to cedilla.)
Well, "facade" is relative... In this story, Kenji is still quite insane - his insanity even has layers...
that would be up to the start of the October break.
Do you mean August? There is no break in October...
what’s the German phrase?—‘empty trousers’
Actually I can't think of a German phrase of that sort...
Are you sure you won’t go for Todai instead? You might make it, considering your most recent scores.
Toudai? How has Kenji improved from being held back a year to being one of Japan's top students in just half a year?

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3a up 20140701)

Posted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 7:27 pm
by brythain
Mirage_GSM wrote:
that would be up to the start of the October break.
Do you mean August? There is no break in October…
I think he means the short break around Sports Day.
what’s the German phrase?—‘empty trousers’
Actually I can't think of a German phrase of that sort...
Heh, neither can I. I think Kenji makes it up.
(Actually, he might be referring to the 'poor empty pants with no one inside them' from Dr Seuss, who isn't German.)
Are you sure you won’t go for Todai instead? You might make it, considering your most recent scores.
Toudai? How has Kenji improved from being held back a year to being one of Japan's top students in just half a year?
Here either Mutou was being a bit optimistic, or Kenji read it that way. But to be fair, he's been studying the same stuff for an extra year.

Re: Sakura—The Kenji Saga (Part 1-3b up 20140703)

Posted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:50 pm
by brythain
Oscar Wildecat wrote:
What? She can’t be serious. I’m not trying to pick her up. ...
What a shame. Kenji and Miki would make a cute couple. And by "cute", I mean absolutely hilarious. There's actually a fic (a Hanako GE epilogue, if I recall correctly) out there somewhere that has Kenji and Miki as friends with benefits...
You have no idea… but then again, you've seen how Miki turns out! :)