Previous Thread: >>13752205
After that, the conversation became difficult for Misa to follow. Talk of communicating with aliens, talk of military victories…there was no way a middle-schooler could be expected to understand. And yet, it was the first time Misa had ever seen a young man disagreeing openly with her father. Usually, they shrank before him, often not even daring to speak, but Riber was actively debating with him. And the young man’s tone conveyed a strong and sincere hopefulness.
Why was Misa’s heart thumping as she watched Riber? She became uneasy…couldn’t her father, Herbert, and especially Riber... couldn’t they hear her pounding heartbeat?
But the three men were speaking to each other as if in a dream, and other things, like to penetrate the conversation.
“Why is my heart beating so loudly?” Misa thought. “Please quiet down.”
Before long, the party began drawing to a close, and people started leaving in groups of three or five. Misa continued detaining the Fruhlings, and they stayed to the very end of the party. Finally, even the two of them left the house, and silence settled back on the estate.
As the usual quietude returned, the tumult of the party gave way to a sense of stillness. Even the sound of Misa’s mother putting away the dishes didn’t disturb the conspicuous tranquility surrounding the house. Misa carefully climbed into a deep, large chair, and sat dangling her legs. And for some reason there was a small handkerchief wrapped around the little finger of her right hand.
Misa’s father returned from seeing the Fruhlings off at the gate.
“Thanks for everything,” he said to Misa’s mother.
She simply replied, “Not at all,” and continued straightening up the dishes. She was usually quiet, and had appeared at the party like a woman of unfathomable depths. She had lovely features and a taste for gorgeous things, but, like an old-fashioned lady, she stayed behind her husband.
“The food tonight was exquisite,” Misa father remarked as her took her mother’s hands, making her pause as she picked up the plates. “You’ve worked enough for one night, don’t you think? Let me finish putting everything away.”
“Oh no, dear. Really, that’s not necessary.”
“All right then, let’s do it together.” So saying, he started cleaning up as well. He was not accustomed to such work, and even his hands seemed uneasy. Next to him, Misa’s mother deftly stacked the glasses and plates. Both of them were breathing in rhythm. Of course, Misa always loved her father, but she loved him best when he was showing tenderness to her mother. Misa always wanted to watch them get close to each other, but she was also grown-up enough to know when she was getting in the way. So she clambered off the chair, said good night, and went up to her room.
But even after she had gotten to bed, her excitement wouldn’t allow her to sleep; the evening’s party had been that much fun. For a long while, she dwelt on Riber’s promise…
“Coming here, looking out the VTOL’s window, I was amazed at how New Tokyo has developed.”
“This is your first time in New Tokyo?”
“Yeah, but I really like it.”
“Good. Then you should enjoy exploring.”
“Well, then, shall I give you the guided tour?” Misa interrupted. Riber looked surprised for a moment, but then broke into an easy grin.
“Thanks,” he replied. “I’d be happy to be shown around New Tokyo by such a pretty young lady. With the Commodore’s permission, of course.”
Commodore Hayase frowned slightly. Misa worried that he would refuse. “It’s all right, isn’t it, Father?” she ventured.
“Hmm. Well. I suppose it’s fine, with Riber around.”
“Thank you!” Misa cried, jumping for joy. “So, next Sunday. Promise!”
“Got it. Next Sunday.”
Misa stuck her little finger out in front of Riber’s face, but he didn’t understand that he was meant to do the same, and so just stared at it.
“It’s a pinky swear,” offered Misa. “Don’t you know it?”
“Sorry,” Riber replied. “I guess we don't have that custom in Germany.”
Saying, “You do it like this,” Misa took Riber’s right hand, and hooked their little fingers together. Riber, at Misa’s mercy, was amused at her childish conduct.
“Pinky swear!” declared Misa. “If you tell a lie, you must swallow a thousand needles!”
“Well, then, I guess I’d better not break the promise, huh?” Riber said, laughing
Recovering herself with a quick exhale of breath, Misa jumped to her feet. Turning on the light, she ran to the calendar and drew a big circle around the following Sunday with a red marker. “Today’s Wednesday,” she remarked to herself. She frowned charmingly and ran her finger along the days on the calendar between now and Sunday. “Still three more days…”
Rest of paragraph after "with" is from Page 29, since most of Page 28 itself is inserted in >>13763589.
Those days, however, passed quickly.
“Have you been waiting long?”
“Oh no, not at all,” Riber replied, laughing. “Actually, I just got here as well.”
“I’m sorry,” Misa said. “A friend called me just as I was about to leave.”
The truth, however, was that she couldn’t decide what clothes to wear. Trying on flashy clothes, followed by chic dresses, and then, before she knew it, it was time to leave. The outfit she finally settled on was a white, fluffy affair that looked somewhat childish, but she though it suited her.
“Shall we go then, Mister Riber?” she asked.
Riber frowned slightly and said, “Please don’t call me ‘Mister Riber.’”
“I’ve only ever heard it used for adults. I can’t get used to being called ‘Mister Riber.’”
“All right, Riber,” Misa answered. Then she tilted her head slightly. “It feels strange to address someone formally, and then two seconds later, speak to them casually…”
“Anyway,” said Riber, “Let’s go.” He stood up and Misa noted that he threw a number of chewing gum wrappers into a trash can. Probably, he had showed up at the agreed time, and had been waiting a long time for her to come. She felt a small pain in her chest.
The two of them ascended to revolving viewing platform near the top of the Shinjuku Trade Center building.
“Oh, look! Over there, where those small buildings are lined up? That’s Aoyama, where the big military base is.”
In the gap between buildings, they could see a mass of steel frames. “Oh, there’s New Tokyo Tower. It’s about fifty meters shorter than this building. The old Tokyo Tower is on the other side…you can’t see it from here. Oh wait…it’s behind us.”
New Tokyo Tower disappeared among the throng of super-skyscrapers. Only the pinnacle could be seen over the lifeless buildings as they rotated away.
“Riber, what is your birthplace like? Is it like this?” Misa asked, pointing out the window. The super-skyscrapers rose to the heavens like multiple Towers of Babel, burying the gardens of Meiji Shrine in the valley below.
“Oh, no,” replied Riber. “It’s very different. Röhm, where I grew up, is out in the country. It’s not a big city, like this.”
Until he said the name, Misa had never heard of Röhm. She asked, “What kind of place is it?”
“I’ll show you sometime, if you’d like,” he answered. “It’s quiet, but it’s a good place.”
Riber’s eyes filled with scenes of Röhm. Green hills, wide fields; cows chewing on grass, birds chirping and soaring high. Taking a deep breath, he felt the gentle scent of early summer tickle his nostrils.
Really, it was just an average German rural area.
“I’d really love to see it, the place where you grew up,” Misa said, breaking Riber’s reverie. The scenery of his hometown faded, replaced by the crowd of super-skyscrapers. The vanished daydream left the young man with a sense of wistfulness.
The view of the sky was lovely as the two descended back to earth.
Shinjuku was always filled with young people. The town was filled with gaudy outfits, and shrieking with color. The air was clogged with the scent of youth. The city was the cutting edge of exuberance for the entire world.
The show windows were adorned with goods, outfits, shoes, and accessories that anyone would want. Misa and Riber lost track of time, gazing at all of these things.
Harajuku, Shibuya, Roppongi… Riber wanted to visit these famous historical areas. However, Misa was acting as his tour guide, and for the twelve-year-old girl, Tokyo was just another plot of land. But for the young Riber, all of it was exciting. Still, when a very youthful Japanese person leads a foreigner who is new to Japan around Tokyo, all but a very small amount of information is bound to slip through their grasp.
“Are you hungry?” Riber asked suddenly. “Should we get something to eat?” It was already mealtime. But this invitation made Misa uncomfortable. Probably lunch was already waiting for her back home, and eating out was strictly forbidden in her household.
“Just a moment, please,” Misa said. “I’ll need to call home.” Her cute legs scurried off. When she was about ten meters away from where Riber was standing, her expression changed. She hesitated, then grasped the phone receiver. She paused again before inserting her phone card. She slowly pressed the buttons for her home phone number, one by one. Before she reached the last number, though, she hung up. But then, she decided again to call.
All during the phone call, a nervous look covered her face. She was hesitant about her explanation, but once it was out of her mouth, she shrugged her shoulders. First she was surprised, then she was happy. As she hung up the phone, her whole face split into a big
(Rest of last paragraph from the next page).
This was her very first adventure.
(Recommend playing "Watashi no Kare wa Pilot" as you read the rest of the page.)
Misa and Riber traveled to Yokohama by VTOL. Riber said he was hungry for Chinese food, so they headed for Chinatown.
In Chinatown, the small, household-style shops are better than the big restaurants. And the backstreets are better than the main roads. But because those restaurants are well known, they’re always crowded. And this day, since all the famous places were full, Misa and Riber went to one of the places on the main street.
A girl who looked to be in about third or fourth grade brought them some jasmine tea. As she placed the tea cups in front of them, she stared wide-eyed at Riber.
“Mother,” the girl called, “doesn’t this man look just like Kaifun?”
A matronly woman flew over from inside the shop, saying sternly, “Minmay! What are you saying about our customers?”
The woman shooed the little girl away. “I’m very sorry,” she apologized to Riber and Misa, bowing many times. “Please forgive my daughter’s impudence.” Misa didn’t think it was worth making a fuss over, and soon had forgotten the whole situation.
However, the person named Kaifun would one day influence Misa, just as the girl named Minmay would influence the fate of the world, although there was no way Misa could foresee that.
After their meal, Misa and Riber went to a café near the harbor. Because it was April, the days were still short, and already, the darkness was beginning to spread. The New Marine Tower lit up, and the harbor navigation lights started running. Even the lights of the shop were reflected in Misa’s cup of coffee.
(Rest of last paragraph from next page.)
Misa gulped down the mug full of the harbor night, and looked out the window. “I always dreamed of being the captain of a small ship, and traveling around the world. I’d say all my hellos and goodbyes in harbors like this.”
“Hmm…I always wanted to be either a poet or an astronaut,” Riber mused. He suddenly got a distant look in his eyes. “But you’ve still got a good chance for your dream…that’s great.”
“A good chance?” Misa asked.
“Yeah. It’s wonderful if you can pursue your dreams. Don’t throw them away, like I did.”
Riber’s eyes conveyed a seriousness which surprised Misa. Her “dream” was really a romantic fib she’d just made up. Actually, if she had any dream at all, it was forever to remain “Daddy’s little girl.” But as she knew there was no way for that dream to come true, she was currently in the process of searching for something new.
“Why did you abandon your dream?” she asked. As soon as she did so, though, she regretted it. There are some subjects that people should never broach, and judging from his expression, this was one of them.
“Well,” Riber began, “you saw that my Dad’s a tough, iron-fisted old soldier. He enrolled me in officer’s academy against my will.” He spoke briefly, but she could tell there was a lot going on in his head that he wasn’t saying. She thought Riber’s Dad sounded like her own inflexible, military father.
“Well, if that’s the case, why don’t you just drop out of the academy?”
>>13764042 is Page 34. Sorry for not adding that.
Ah, she didn’t need to hear this! She felt like she was poking him with burning hot tongs.
“Ultimately, I guess I just don’t have the courage to disobey him. And it’s not like I’m opposed to the military, really. So I just keep getting dragged along.” Riber let out a hollow laugh.
But Misa instinctively knew there was more to it than Riber let on. It wasn’t that he had no reason to quit; in his own way, he was merely accepting the necessity of the military in his life.
Quaffing the last of his now-cold coffee, Riber checked his watch. “Shall we get going?” he asked.
They walked through a park with a view of the harbor. The cold wind was sending chills down Misa’s spine. Riber removed his jacket and draped it around the girl’s shoulders. This above all made her feel warmer, and she felt the lingering heat from his body. The two of them felt tranquil and calm.
Then, a jet fighter tore through the night above them, enthusiastically smashing through the starry sky. Riber’s eyes followed the fighter’s trail, then stopped. “Oh look,” he exclaimed, “there’s Mars.”
Misa looked to where he was pointing and saw a shining star. It was the first time she had ever seen it. Because she had never been interested in astronomy, she had never really noticed any of the heavenly bodies.
The two of them gazed at Mars for a short while. Misa wished she could lock this moment up and keep it forever.
Riber said, “If I get space duty, I’d like to go to Mars.”
“Romantic, huh? Hmmm…it looks pretty from here, but really, it’s all deserts and windstorms.”
“So why do you want to go, then?”
“I’m interested purely in the science of it. Also, I’d like to escape the war, if I can.”
To Misa, this sounded odd. “Escape the war?” she asked.
“I can’t kill people the way other soldiers can,” Riber explained. “There’s got to be a solution that doesn’t involve becoming a murderer.”
Misa stiffened. “My father has killed people in war. Is he a murderer?”
Riber’s face fell, and it was obvious he knew he’d said the wrong thing. He had forgotten that he was speaking to the daughter of the decorated Commodore Hayase.
“Sorry,” he said at last. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
However, Misa’s mood was beyond repair. She felt that Riber had insulted her father. She took off Riber’s jacket and handed it back to him.
“I’m not cold anymore,” she said, although the opposite was true: her heart and body were ice-cold.
“I'm sorry,” Riber said again. “I’ve upset you.”
“No, not at all.” She tried to flash a grin, but it looked hollow and unconvincing.
They continued trudging through the park, and didn’t speak even two or three words to each other. They were like two gears completely misaligned, and any words they could say slipped through the gears’ teeth.
Riber escorted Misa to her door, but even after he left, she felt sour.
“I’m home,” she called.
“Welcome back,” said her mother. “Did you have fun?”
Yes, lots of fun,” she answered brusquely, and started climbing the stairs. “But it’s been a long day and I’m tired, so I’m going to bed.”
Her mother looked worriedly up the stairs after her. “She was so looking forward to this,” she said. “I wonder what happened?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Misa’s father said, not looking up from the newspaper. “You can understand a young girl’s mood swings?”
“I hope nothing bad happened…”
“Hmmm.” Commodore Hayase’s eyes rose from his newspaper, and a worried look spread across his face. “As far as Riber’s concerned, I’m sure he didn’t pull anything. He’s quite a good lad,” he said, and then fell back to his newspaper. But the furrow on his brow didn’t go away completely. He read the paper thoroughly from one end to the other, as if trying to forget his worry.
“Riber, you idiot.” Misa threw her pillow against the wall. Then her favorite teddy bear hurtled through the air. Then a doll bounced off the wall.
When she had run out of nearby things to throw, Misa calmed down a bit. She picked up her huge pillow and plunked herself down on the bed. In her mind, she recalled Riber’s form.
“And it’s not like I’m opposed to the military, really,” she recalled him saying.
“So you’re not anti-military?” she responded in thought.
“That’s pretty much right,” he answered.
“But people always get killed in wars,” she pointed out.
“There’s got to be a better solution than murder,” the Riber in her imagination said. His face turned sorrowful. “In the end, I guess the army is just a necessary evil,” he concluded, then gave a heavy sigh. Misa lay on her bed face up.
Misa had heard from her classmates about the anti-war and anti-military movements. At the time, it seemed like a silly and naïve attitude to take. However, Riber believed in the same cause, and she wasn’t opposed to him. Deep inside, she felt an almost physical pain from the gap between reality and her ideal. And then, finally, she understood.
It wasn’t a repudiation of her father’s philosophy, it was an entirely new line of thinking. And as she thought more, she felt Riber draw near, larger than life and completely mesmerizing.
Completely reversed from the way she had felt when she first entered her room, Misa drifted into sleep feeling happy and content.
Riber, meanwhile, was fretting. He was contemplating how such a small, off-hand comment ended up making Misa so angry. How could he defuse her rage? And how could he communicate his own feelings?
A few days later, Riber appeared at the Hayase residence bearing a large box. Mrs. Hayase was both surprised and delighted to see this unexpected guest. Misa on the other hand had peevish look on her face. She knew that he had come to apologize, but somehow she couldn’t flip her feelings around and accept that.
“Thanks for the other day,” said Riber. “I had a really good time.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“I’m sorry for speaking out of turn then. Are you still upset?”
“No. Please forget about it,” Misa answered, more brusquely than she had intended. Inside, she was thinking, No, no, but her attitude remained stuck. Why couldn’t she be more open?
“Still, I want to apologize,” Riber said, handing the box to Misa.
“What is this?” asked Misa, and just this once, her face broke into an honest smile. At any rate, it was the first present she had ever received from Riber. And it was big, too. She gazed hopefully at the box. “Is it all right if I open it?” she asked.
“I’ve been waiting for you to,” replied Riber.
Misa quickly undid the ribbon and tore off the wrapping paper.
“Oh my!” she cried, with wonder in her voice. It was a blue summer dress…a little childish maybe, but it suited her.
“I hope you like it.”
“It’s beautiful,” she breathed.
She held the dress up against her chest. “Well, Father,” she asked, “is it me?”
“It’s very you,” he replied. “You should thank Riber for such a splendid gift.”
“Of course,” said Misa, bowing her head. “Thank you very much, Riber.”
“Well,” he said, “It’s not very high-quality, really. The design is a little old-fashioned, and it was quite cheap. So I should be thanking you for making a big fuss over it.” He smiled brightly, but there was a far-off look in his eyes.
“We’d all love to see you in it,” said Misa’s father.
“Sure!” said Misa, already bounding joyfully up the stairs.
“Is it all right, getting such an expensive gift?” asked Commodore Hayase, a worried look on his face.
“It’s not important,” Riber shrugged. “It’s made her happy, hasn’t it? So it’s worth it.” The Commodore noticed the distant look in Riber’s eyes.
“I assume there’s some reason…?” he said.
“Of course there is. But you’re making me feel a little ashamed, Commodore,” Riber answered with a bright laugh.
Mrs. Hayase grasped the situation. “Why, what on earth are you getting at?” she asked.
“All right, here’s the truth. That outfit was my younger sister’s.” For Riber, time seemed to stand still. The past started fraying, memories unraveling.
“If she had lived,” he continued, “she’d be about Misa’s age.”
“She passed away?”
“Yes…when the Unification War started, there was an outbreak of guerrilla warfare around us. It became one of my incentives for joining the officers’ academy, but…”
(Originally "guerilla", but that was a misspelling by Gubaba.)
“So it wasn’t recent.”
“No, it happened about a year and a half ago No, wait. Not quite a year and a half. Anyway, both Misa’s looks and manner, even her way of speaking, resemble my sister’s…” Riber trailed off, cutting his words short. His buried feelings of longing suddenly gushed out. The Hayases understood and stayed silent. A single tear flowed down Riber’s cheek.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Overcome by memories, I’m afraid.”
“I think we can all sympathize,” said Mrs. Hayase, closing her eyes.
“Well, at any rate, that’s it. When I saw Misa, I was reminded of my sister. So you might think it improper, but I decided to give her clothes to Misa, so that she could try them on…” He stopped himself short again. The three of them were bathed in a warm glow from the early spring sun as a ray moved slowly through the room.
(Rest of final paragraph from next page.)
“But…please don’t mention any of this to her. It would only make her upset again.”
“Look! It fits me perfectly!” Misa cried as she tumbled down the stairs and stood before the three onlookers.
She was in the blue dress, sunlight glinting in her hair, her shadow spreading across the floor. A warm breeze caressed her ankles. The scene looked like a painting.
“What is it?” she asked. “You all look shocked.”
“Er, not at all. We were just stunned by your beauty.”
“Oh Riber, don’t talk like that!” Misa twisted in embarrassment.
But Riber wasn’t really looking at Misa; he saw his late sister standing there. If Misa’s flaxen hair had been golden blonde, they would have been identical. But that difference merely reaffirmed that his lost sister was gone.
“What’s wrong?” Misa asked.
Riber blinked, and saw Misa again, looking worried.
“I was just overcome by how lovely you look.”
“Flatterer! I can see right through you, you know.”
“Sorry, sorry. Really, I just got some dust in my eye is all.”
“Well, that spoiled the mood!” Misa laughed. And now, their cogs were again meshed together, running in concert, as destiny continued marching forward…
Under the glistening July sun, the outside of the Alien Star Ship-1, which had fallen to South Ataria Island, was too hot to touch. The atmosphere was muggy with humidity and salt which permeated the entire island. One gunshot was fired, echoing through the air.
The Japan Autonomous Region was the first to hear that gunshot. UN Forces Far East High Command immediately dispatched troops to South Ataria Island to defend the A.S.S.-1. Both Misa’s father and Riber’s father were summoned.
“Well, I’m off,” said Commodore Hayase.
“Take care, Dear.”
“Father, please return safely.”
Misa’s father grinned and lifted her up in a big hug. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back before you know it.”
Misa brushed his cheek with a goodbye kiss, and he in turn kissed her. The unshaven stubble hurt, a little. He put Misa down and picked up his luggage. Misa hurriedly grasped another suitcase.
“That one’s too heavy for you,” he said.
It certainly was. Even using all of her strength, she could barely lift it off the ground. Her father made a move to get the suitcase, but she refused him.
“It’s all right,” she grunted. “I’ll carry it to your cabin.”
“No, it’s not all right, Misa,” he said firmly. “ Even though you’re family, civilians aren’t allowed on battleships. We’ll most likely see some action. As an officer’s daughter, you should understand this.”
Realizing the futility of arguing, she put the suitcase down. With a smile, her father lightly picked it up.
“Be sure to take care of everything while I’m gone,” he told her.
Misa’s mother nodded in assent.
The Commodore looked back as he climbed the ramp onto the ship. In the space between the husband and wife, the thread of long-cherished love pulled taut, but of course it remained strong and unbroken.
Similar partings were being acted out all along the ship’s perimeter. Even Riber was there. His farewell to his father, Herbert, was much simpler. Just a silent handshake, and that was all. There were no words of farewell, but they each understood the other’s feelings.
Family, friends, and lovers were all lined up on the pier. With similar sadness in their eyes, the men gazed at spouses, mothers, fathers, and loved ones. If asked, they would deny it, but they were heartbroken thinking they might never return to these people.
Some early cicadas were buzzing in a distant tree. Seagulls were squawking, fighting over some small fish. Besides these sounds, the waterfront was silent. Suddenly, the quiet was broken as the military band started playing a lively march.
The fender lifted and the anchor was winched up. The steam whistle sounded, drowning out the marching band.
The aircraft carrier Sentinel broke away from the pier. A tug boat helped pull it from dock. From each of the piers, ships like the battleship Minsk and the ancient aircraft carrier Intrepid began to depart. Surrounded by many smaller ships, the UN Forces Third Mobile Naval Division majestically moved out from Yokosuka Harbor.
The crowds waiting at the pier gazed on until the last ship disappeared over the horizon. As the Sentinel vanished from sight, Misa put her hands together and prayed from her heart, “Please God, let my father come back quickly and safely.”
Suddenly, she noticed a horrible stench, like sulfur and grease mixed together. It was the first time she had smelled the stink of war, but she still didn’t know the true misery and hardship contained within the odor.
Arriving home with her mother, Misa was almost shocked by how empty the house felt. Things that should be there weren’t. The oft smoked pipe was gone from its place on the shelf. Things she should have been doing, she couldn’t. She always sat on her father’s lap in the cozy armchair while he smoked his pipe. Voices she should have heard, she didn’t. Her father wouldn’t be scolding her. He wouldn’t be praising her, either.
Misa threw her arms around her mother and wept. Mrs. Hayase gently stroked Misa’s hair. In spite of the emptiness Mrs. Hayase felt at the absence of her husband, she didn’t cry. From the moment she became the wife of a soldier, she had started preparing for a day like this. But, when she really thought about it, she became worried and upset. He had tried to encourage her by telling her things like, “Be sure to take care of everything while I’m gone,” and she was resigned to more days of hardship. But thinking about it all made the day seem cruel. She longed with all her heart for the day when he would return.
To the Hayase mother and daughter, that summer seemed never-ending. The days passed, hollow and empty, and then the next day would come, exactly the same. Not a day went by in which they didn’t dwell on thoughts of the husband and father. Misa would meet with Riber, but there was no joy in it; her heart was off wherever her father was.
The conflict stretched on. The Anti-UN Forces put up an unexpectedly strong opposition, and the UN commanders spent day after day with no rest. Because the island was small, mopping up the guerrillas was not a difficult task, but no sooner was it done then more would invade from the neighboring islands. They came, slipping through the gaps in the defense network. The commanders fought alongside the weary enlisted men. Supply lines were cut, and the days between replenishments grew longer.
The one thing that could alleviate the soldiers’ fatigue was a letter from home. Only when the mail arrived did their grimness turn to smiles. They greedily devoured the letters and read them over and over again.
The families left behind, for their part, were reading the letters from the troops and rejoicing and worrying by turns. The mail was delivered just once a week, but they wrote every day. And always on mail day, they would be gathered around the post box, clutching their treasured letters. But among them, there would sometimes be a final letter, delivered personally by an officer. The officer would be standing gravely by the door, a mournful expression on his face, and the family’s happiness would melt into despair.
During the long summer, such an officer never visited the Hayases. And before Misa’s pale skin was bronzed by the summer sun, the conflict had ended. Finally, the last of the guerrillas were eliminated from the area surrounding South Ataria Island, and the hot summer continued in peace. Still, Commodore Hayase had to process the wrap-up of the conflict, so he didn’t return home for a while.
That day, an unexpected visitor arrived at the Hayase residence. Misa and her mother were preparing dinner when they heard the door open and the visitor was standing before them. Misa’s mother dropped the dish she was holding, and the cup slipped out of Misa’s hand.
(Rest of final paragraph from next page.)
“I’m home,” said the visitor, Misa’s father. He stood in the doorway, holding his heavy suitcase. Mrs. Hayase rushed toward him, stepped on the forgotten pieces of the dish. Then she stopped, bent down, and started picking up the broken shards.
“Don’t do that now,” the Commodore said. “Come here.” He embraced and kissed her with the love born of two months of sadness and loneliness. After the lengthy kiss, he looked into her eyes long and hard. “You look a little tired,” he said finally.
“And you’ve gotten much thinner,” she replied.
It was true. Two months of worry had eaten away at his body, making him almost gaunt. His wife had been worn down the same way.
The couple gazed at each other for a long time, Misa all but forgotten. Which was fine with her – she understood that her parents were a man and woman reunited, and a child had no place in this reunion.
Finally, her father turned to her and said, “Hello Misa.”
She leaped to him, shouting, “Welcome home, Father!” Then her eyes grew moist and the room blurred. Misa’s mother’s body fell slack from relief, and she started crying.
That night, he told them about the fight against the Anti-UN Forces: how the enemy crept in in the dead of night, about their surprise attack, and about the lives lost in the battle. They talked well into the evening.
Misa’s eyes glittered as she listened to his tale. To her, her father was just like Superman, fighting the Anti-UN Forces who threatened the unity of the planet, and restoring peace to the world. Today, more than ever, she thought he was splendid.
But still, Riber’s words from before continued to gnaw at her.
“Killing people isn’t a solution.”
What her father did was right, wasn’t it? And if her father was right, then Riber’s assertion was wrong. To Misa, it seemed like both of them were right, but that was impossible. She couldn’t tell which one was correct, and she started to feel uneasy, but she drove the thoughts out of her head and continued to listen, enraptured, to her father’s story.
And on that day, tranquility returned to the Hayase household.
That tranquility, however, only lasted the night. The following day, the officers from the Defensive Battle of South Ataria Island got together for a surprise visit. People whose life Commodore Hayase had saved, people who had saved him, wounded people, people who had downed the enemy, all of them came to visit and talk about the battle. Among them were Riber’s father Herbert (who had brought Riber along with him) and a charming bachelor, somewhere in his forties, named Commander Global. There was only perhaps a five-year difference between Global and Hayase, but Global had never been married and as such had no children. It wasn’t really his choice, it was just the way fate had played out. In spite of being childless, or perhaps because of it, Global liked children. The truth was, if had had a daughter, he would have liked her to be like Misa. Despite the the difference in their ages, they became fast friends, and Global often found himself visiting the Hayase residence and spending long hours chatting with Misa. Misa’s father joked that Misa had two daddies now. difference in their ages, they became fast friends, and Global often found himself visiting the Hayase residence and spending long hours chatting with Misa. Misa’s father joked that Misa had two daddies now.
(First paragraph coming from previous paragraph and continued here.)
With her parents and Riber, and now with the addition of Global, Misa’s world continued revolving slowly and calmly. Before long, a year had passed, and Misa turned thirteen. She finished the first year of middle school and was about to start the second. Probably that year – 2003 – had the most ups and downs of any in her life.
In March, Global got married, to a woman he met through the Hayases. His fiancée was a stunningly beautiful young lady in her twenties, and everyone found the match to be faintly unbelievable. Her name was Miho, and she came from a highly respectable family.
At the wedding, while exchanging vows, a spotlight fell upon the couple. Global looked a little startled, and his embarrassed bride hid her eyes. Her dress glittered in the lights, throwing sparkles off among the guests. Everyone gasped in wonder at the beauty of the scene.
Of course, Misa was also mesmerized, and she daydreamed about the day that she might wear a bridal gown, resplendent in a white dress. And naturally, Riber would be next to her. Upon seeing a wedding dress, any girl will fantasize. Such daydreams are pure, and thus beautiful. And they make the girls themselves beautiful.
Then, in the dwindling light of the March evening, the bride and groom walked down the aisle, and everyone applauded and threw rice. The couple bowed and tossed out the bouquet, which Misa caught, convincing her that she was destined to be with Riber…but that conviction was like a castle made of sand.
After he got married, Global didn’t visit the Hayases much. It was just to be expected, really, but it led to drab days for Misa. And whenever Global did visit, he brought his wife along. This was also just to be expected, but it likewise left Misa feeling bored and excluded.
The season started to change. Flowers and trees started blooming, and the faint sound of brooks could be heard. And then, among the fluttering, falling cherry blossoms, Misa started school. Riber for his part finished his second year at Officers’ Academy, and was appointed a Second Lieutenant.
He stood smartly at the Hayases’s front step. Neatly dressed in his uniform, he snapped a salute as Misa opened the door.
“Riber Fruhling,” he announced, “recently given the rank of Second Lieutenant.”
Commodore Hayase, who was also at the door, saluted back solemnly. Such was the military, a world Misa hadn’t entered. She was stunned by how different Riber looked, and though he had gone to some far-off place.
He saluted her as well. But the way he dropped his hand was pure, familiar Riber. The difference was only because of his uniform. Misa wondered if she would look as formal too, if she were wearing one.
“Riber, wait a moment.”
“What is it?”
He stooped down and put his ear near her mouth, and she spontaneously kissed his cheek. It was the first kiss she had ever given a boy, and she was surprised at her own boldness.
“Just because the uniform looks so good on you.”
“Thank you. And you’re entering the second year of junior high, right? Congratulations.”
“Thank you. And someday, I’d like to try on a military uniform, too.”
Adjourning pic from page 53.
“Oh,” Riber said, “girls shouldn’t wear a uniform like this. Oops, I shouldn’t say things of that sort in front of an equal-rights advocate like Commodore Hayase.”
The four of them laughed, but although he played it off as a joke, Riber was actually expressing his real feelings. He didn’t like the idea of women going into battle, carrying guns, or killing people.
And even though he said that, Misa couldn’t abandon her longing for a military uniform. She decided that she would follow the same path as Riber, and in five years she’d be where he was now. For every day’s work that he put in, she’d have to do more, and then she might actually overtake him.
Riber’s path, however, was approaching a crossroads that Misa knew nothing about as yet. Because of this, Misa’s own path would change. And then… And then…
And time passed. And destiny flowed along, tossing people around in its rough currents.
The cherry blossoms fell, the hydrangeas changed color under the heavy rains, and summer arrived. The stifling air was bewitching, and was suffused with the fragrance of life. Cicadas chirped at people walking under the trees. At night, the new Moon rose, looking like a sharp, poisonous serpent’s fang.
It was another sweltering day, and Misa was in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park. The buzzing of the cicadas was deafening, and the sunlight was blinding. She was lingering in the shade of a tree holding a wide-brimmed hat. She was wearing the blue dress that Riber had given her.
Standing in the copse, there was an oppressively strong smell of grass, and the air was filled with the chattering, shouting voices of children playing in the pool. She stood still, dripping sweat in the heat. Because she loved summer, she didn’t feel terribly uncomfortable. The day wasn’t very humid, so standing in the shade of the trees was pleasantly cool, and a small breeze wafted by, coiling itself around her.
(Rest of final paragraph from next page.)
Suddenly, hands covered her eyes. “Guess who?” a voice asked. She knew it was Riber, but this seemed a little childish for him.
“Riber, most likely,” she replied.
Misa turned around to see Riber standing there, his face bright and smiling. Too bright for his usual low-key demeanor. For a while, they said little. Riber found it difficult to talk to Misa when she so resembled his late sister. Misa of course had no idea that this was the cause of his reticence.
Finally, Riber spoke. “I told you before that I wanted to go to Mars, right?”
“Yes, you did,” Misa answered, as a small sense of dread welled within her.
“Well, today, my application was approved! I’m going to Mars!”
Misa heard something inside of her break.
The buzzing of the cicadas, the voices of the children, all of it faded.
I’m going to Mars! I’m going to Mars! I’m going to… At Riber’s words, Misa’s heart felt like an empty hole. She didn’t even know how she could remain standing. But from inside her, another girl, another voice answered him.
“Um, oh. That’s really wonderful. I’m so happy for you!” The other girl franticly concealed Misa’s shock and agitation. But the words she spoke weren’t the ones Misa wanted to say.
“Whew,” said Riber. “Thank you. It all happened so suddenly, I was really worried that you’d be angry or something.”
“Of course not! It’s your dream come true, so of course I’m happy!”
I’m starting to hate Riber. Hate him, HATE HIM.
“And I’m sure your father’s efforts helped push my application through,” Riber added.
For perhaps the first time ever, she resented her father.
“I’d like to thank him in person,” continued Riber, “but until then, please give him my sincerest gratitude.” But his words simply passed through the hollow void inside Misa. Riber looked up into the blue summer sky. “People will be migrating to Mars before long,” he mused. “I’ll be one step ahead of the pack, huh?”
Misa finally spoke. “I will join the military and go to Mars myself,” she resolved.
“Great!” Riber said with a chuckle. “I’ll be waiting for you.”
Riber thought she was joking, but she was completely serious, and determined to become a soldier. After all, joining up was the easiest way to get to Mars. She would become a soldier to follow him. As she thought about it, tears welled up in her eyes.
Riber looked at his watch and said, “Well, it’s time to go. There’s a lot of procedural red tape that’s keeping me busy. I’ll drop by your house tonight to express my thanks to your family properly.”
Continued from Page 56.
Misa closed her eyes and put out her lips. Riber smiled and planted a small kiss on her forehead. And then he spoke:
“So…” Misa prayed for time to stop.
“…I…” The seconds slowed down.
“…guess…” Ah, if I have to say “Don’t go” a hundred thousand times to get him to stay, I’ll say it millions of times.
“…it’s…” No! This can’t be happening! I’ll become a soldier and follow him to Mars. Tears continued to well up in Misa’s eyes.
“…good…” No more, no more! Please God, don’t let this instant ever end!
But… God can be cruel.
At the sound of that last word, time’s slowly grinding cogs popped back to life. The dammed- up seconds burst through in torrents around Misa. She was swept away like a small stone in a hurtling current. Completely dumbfounded, completely washed away. Then, she could hear the whine of the cicadas. She saw Riber waving as he walked away. She waved back, looking like a wind-up doll.
The evening cicadas started buzzing: Weeeeeeep… weep, weep, weep... weeeeeeeeeeeep…
And Misa knew that her first love had ended.
How are you? I’ve been doing fine. After a long, three-month journey, I’ve finally reached Mars. It wasn’t a comfortable trip, and that’s an understatement! When so many people are crammed into such a small space for that long, people tend to get stir crazy, to a greater or lesser extent…so we were all pretty ecstatic when we arrived here. There’s nothing living here; it’s a dead world. All day long, sandstorms rage and gust, and our base is just a fragile little outpost of humanity, clinging to the bare rock in the middle of those storms.
My work is mostly observation. I watch the movement of the high and low air pressure fronts, which is useful in predicting sandstorms. However, we have to use an annoying method very different from weather forecasting on Earth, since we’re still in the process of mapping out Mars’s weather patterns. The rest of the job involves watching the heavens. Because the atmosphere is thin and there isn’t much light, the stars are astonishingly clear. When I’m on watch, and everybody else is asleep, I turn the telescope to distant earth. It looks like a small blue jewel sparkling in space. It seems close enough to reach out and grab, but I know that there’s a three-month voyage across the sea of stars separating it from me. In the entire solar system, with its wealth of air and water, it’s the only world that holds life, but it’s also the only world that has wars. Here on Mars, that makes me extremely sad.
Continued from Page 59
Inside the base, life is pretty regular – that is to say, monotonous. Everyone wakes up on schedule, does their jobs on schedule, and goes to sleep on schedule. Of course we’re all aware of the state of affairs on earth, but it doesn’t really affect us here on the red planet. You’d probably be surprised at our self absorption. Mostly, we just look for ways to kill time. Some people read the same books over and over, others play games. Henry, the guy next door (he’s a reaction furnace engineer), is making a ship in a bottle. Me, I’ve started writing poetry inspired by the Martian landscape.
So here’s a really terrible poem I wrote (please don’t laugh at how awful it is!):
Surrounded by a lonely sky and desolate land.
The land is the crimson of blood from a long past war,
The sky is dyed violet with sorrow.
The road was bulging with people,
The stores were bustling with energy,
Boisterous voices were heard in the bars,
Happiness filled every home.
Now there is no one.
Time has dragged on, and the people have vanished.
The wind blows, and the long hair tosses and flutters.
The rattle of the thoughts of men echoes in the wind.
In the ancient city,
At the decaying pillar,
A hollow sound rings out.
On a different topic, we’re currently prepping heat plates for the polar base. The plates will melt the ice at the polar cap, which will help change the climate of Mars to make it habitable. That said, it’ll take nearly a hundred years for that to happen.
The staff at the polar base rotates out completely every three months. I haven’t been assigned there yet, but the guys who have say that it’s pretty tough work. Obviously, it’s freezing up there. But right now, I’m dying to slurp up all the information about Mars that I can get my greedy little hands on, so I think the polar base might actually be a lot of fun for me.
Uh-oh, it’s already 2 AM! I’d love to keep on writing, but I’ve got to get up early. There’s still so much that I want to tell you. The Martian landscape, the wind, my friends, etc., etc. However, I should really stop here.
I’m including a goodnight kiss with this letter.
P.S. I’m sending you some Martian sand in a separate package.
Continued from Page 61
I got your letter today. It was waiting for me on the table when I got home. You seem to be doing better than ever! Your enthusiasm about exploring a new and different world really shines through in your words.
It’s November already, and the wind is getting chilly. It’s too cold now to wear the dress you gave me, unfortunately.
And so, I’ve firmly decided to join the military. When I talked with my parents about it, my mother started crying (I must be a terrible daughter to make my mother cry). My father didn’t say anything.
Later, he said that he didn’t think I should become a soldier. He said that my future husband (!!! I’m only 13!!) would be a splendid military man, and I should be content with that.
Right now, I think about thirty percent of the armed forces is made up of women. But they still face a lot of discrimination, so I understand my parents’ reluctance. I think that they at least want me to wait until I finish high school before deciding.
But I’m going to do my best. Because I hate to lose, even to my parents, I didn’t bring it up again (I’m also stubborn!!). I’m sure I’ll be able to persuade them eventually.
To change the subject, I thought the poem you wrote in your letter was very beautiful, so of course I didn’t laugh at it at all. Is the Martian landscape really as lovely as you make it sound? If so, I absolutely must go to Mars myself, and I expect I will, once I’ve enlisted.
Since you’ve been gone, I miss you each and every day. It’s just like last summer, when my father was sent to South Ataria Island. And whenever I look at the picture we took together, I’m overwhelmed with memories.
Well, because I was so excited to get your letter, I can’t think of anything else to say, so I’ll just leave it here. But I’ll write to you every day.
I was surprised to hear you say you wanted to join the forces. When you said it before, I confess I never expected you to go through with it. I think I mentioned this before, but I don’t like the idea of women becoming soldiers. There’s a fundamental contradiction for a woman to bear children and to kill people. It’s not because I’m sexist or anything like that. So although I know you want it, I still think you shouldn’t. But of course, that’s merely my opinion. Take it for what it’s worth.
Also, although I’d love to get a letter from you every day, I won’t be able to reply as often. Quite simply, I don’t have the time here on Mars.
0700 – wake up. 0830 – start work. 1730 – finish work. 2400 – go to sleep.
Now if I just typed that out and made dozens of copies, I’d have an accurate journal of my year at the polar base. But at least there’s peace and quiet here.
So while I’d be ecstatic to get a letter from you every day, I’m afraid I’ll be a poor correspondent.
Continued from Page 63
Merry Christmas, Riber.
Because you said that you couldn’t respond even if I wrote a letter every day, I haven’t written in a long time.
You said you really don’t like the idea of women soldiers. But if they’re in a noncombat position, like you are, are you still against it?
Because Father is a soldier, I don’t think he really opposes me becoming one.
This letter is very late, I know. Today, I’m wondering what Christmas presents I’ll get. Father started the process of enrolling me in officer cadet training, which was the loveliest gift I could receive. (Of course, he usually still treats me like a child. Last year, he gave me a giant stuffed bear! Ugh! I’m not a kid anymore!)
So I think Father has finally given in, but even though my mother hasn’t brought it up, I still don’t think she approves.
Still, next March I’ll be starting Officers’ Academy! I’m never going to be a high school student… Did you know? Toyo Eiwa Elementary School will be the last traditional on my résumé! I attended junior high school for two years, but it won’t be going on my records. When I get to Mars, my final school to be listed will be Far East Officers’ Academy.
Here in Tokyo, not much snow has fallen, but it’s winter everywhere. When I go out, I really need to bundle up, and when I’m inside, I don’t want to let go of the heater or stop eating tangerines. But where you are, it’s much colder, right?
Now, my mother is teaching me how to knit a scarf. Because it’s the first time I’ve ever knitted anything, I’m not progressing very quickly. Actually, I wanted to send it to you as a Christmas present, but since I have no idea when I’ll finish it, please accept the promise of it instead. (And please don’t expect the actual scarf. It’ll probably turn out to be a total disaster! I’ve got no talent for this kind of thing!)
Continued from Page 64
So, I won’t get a reply until after New Year’s, but that’s okay. I’m using my winter vacation to go skiing in Nice. I’ll stay until New Year’s Eve.
I’ve always been hopeless as a skier, so this time I’m really going to try with all my might! I don’t really have any time for proper training, but I think it’ll be useful when I get to where you are. I’ll be working on cross-country skiing and driving a snow mobile, so when I get to the Martian polar base, I’ll be able to show off my skill!
I get the feeling 2004 will be a wonderful year!
Happy New Year, Riber.
I haven’t heard from you in a while, and I’m a little worried. Could you reply, please?
Merry Christmas, Misa. Also, Happy New Year!
I’m sorry. Since I was at the polar base from a little before Christmas until January, I didn’t receive your letter until well after New Year’s. I haven’t had any free time to write a response lately, but I haven’t forgotten – I’ve been thinking about it every day. I’m really happy for you that you’ve entered officer’s academy. Congratulations! I have nothing but admiration for your perseverance. You must tell me your secret someday! If I had just a tenth of your drive, I think my father would be happier with me. I’d love to be able to follow in your footsteps!
Life at the polar base was more than I expected. Everything there freezes and turns to ice. Not only does your breath freeze, but rather lovely little ice crystals form on the tip of your nose. Observing the weather was part of the job, but we’ve also got to install the heat plates, and we only have a little time each day. Even with ten people working as quickly as possible, we could only install three heat plates per day. The installation rate has been cut by about 50%.
(Rest of last paragraph's last sentence comes from next page.)
(Rest of Riber's letter from Page 65.)
At any rate, it’s always a war against the cold. Don’t try cross-country skiing here unless you think you’d enjoy turning into a human icicle in a matter of moments. That’s how cold it is.
Anyway, I’ve got a report that desperately needs to be written, so I’ll have to stop here. Again, sorry for the delay.
No letters arrived today, and I feel a little lonely. My last letter was the final one I ever wrote as a junior high school student, and now I’m writing one as a cadet at Far East Officers’ Academy.
This is the first time in my life that I’ve left home and moved into a girls’ dormitory. Because I’m an only child, I’m used to doing whatever I like whenever I like, but it’s different here. Since I now live in a five-person room, we’ve all got to work around everyone else’s schedules.
To be frank, the classes are really tough. Because the subjects are all high school level, they’re difficult for someone like me, who never even finished middle school.
Furthermore, my classmates (that sounds wrong, but I’m not sure what else to call them…Upperclassmen, maybe?) are all older, and high school graduates, so there’s a huge gap between my skill level and theirs.
(Rest of Misa's letter from Page 66.)
Still, everyone works really hard, and the teachers are very polite and professional. (Heh, heh, heh… I’ll catch up to them all one of these days, Watson!)
But what I really hate with all my body and soul is outdoor drills. The equipment is heavy, your clothes get all muddy, you run some ungodly amount of kilometers, the classes still pile on the work, even though you’re exhausted… (These words would, I’m sure, make my Father weep in shame, but I guess I’ve grown rebellious.)
This letter is much longer than my previous ones, isn’t it? Perhaps I’m trying to change everything too fast, but sometimes I think it’s just impossible to.
Still, I won’t lose heart! And one day, I’ll be a fully grown soldier!
I’m sorry… I’m writing these words under my covers, using a flashlight. I’m a little worried that one of the upperclassmen might catch me! Tomorrow morning, we have to run five laps around the training area, so I apologize, but I’m signing off.
(Takashi Hayase's letter to Riber starting from Page 67.)
Second Lt. Riber Fruhling,
Let me dispense with the preliminaries. I wish to extend my gratitude for your thoughtful words recently. I must find myself agreeing that sending my daughter Misa to military academy before she had even finished her compulsory education was a rash decision. Furthermore, it is indeed a fact that I entered her into the academy in an exceptional manner, by using my political influence.
No doubt you will think me an overindulgent father. It pleased me enormously to think that my only child’s desire was to carry on the family legacy.
And therefore, I am committed to do all I can for her.
You presented your opinion, that because of a parent’s attempt at aid, the girl is now struggling as best she can, but deep in sorrow. I, however, do not find this to be the case. If Misa works her hardest, I believe that will be sufficient for her to excel, despite the supposed handicap of her relative youth. I have no “angle” or “scheme” here, but having been talking to Misa, it appears that the teachers may be going somewhat easy on her, and she has also been making friends among the other cadets.
I also understand that you are worried that Misa will be placed on a battlefield, carry a gun on her shoulder or some such. For several generations, the Hayase family has had a legacy or career military service, and I believe that Misa was brought up not to be ashamed of that legacy. Moreover, that sweet and kind girl has no first-hand knowledge of death or murder. At any rate, when she graduates, she will be an officer, and will not be participating in any battles on the ground, just as you haven’t.
(Rest of Takashi Hayase's letter to Riber starting from Page 67.)
Naturally, because of her determined and competitive personality, I am concerned that if she detects my influence in her affairs, she will rebel. And thus, I earnestly request that you say nothing of this to her. Furthermore, placing my trust in you, I humbly beg you to keep the contents of this letter private, and talk to no one else about it.
Signed not as a soldier, but as a doting father,
P.S. Burn after reading.
Thank you very much for the sweater. I found it and the scarf you sent me earlier to be extremely helpful when I was stationed at the polar base. At any rate, shut in with permafrost all around me, I had the sweater and scarf with me at all times. Also, thanks for the books! You sent me everything that I’d read about in the newspaper book review that looked interesting. Shubie Borts – His Life of Bleach and Isolation was especially great. I heartily recommend it to you.
Life at the Mars Base never changes, as regular and systematic as clockwork, but it doesn’t seem like Earth is the same. Every day, the front page of the newspaper is covered with horrible news: guerrilla wars have broken out everywhere, and it looks like the national liberation fronts aren’t quieting down anytime soon. When I was on Earth, even normal events weighed on my mind, but now that I’m on Mars I’m even more worried. If things keep going in this direction, I wonder whether Earth will even be all right? When I get the paper, I immediately search the headlines for the name “Tokyo,” and it’s only after I don’t find it that I can relax. If I do see it, I have to read the entire article from beginning to end. I’m just making sure that nothing bad happens to the area you live in.
It seems really quick, but it’s been one year now. A year since that day in Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, when you told me you were leaving for Mars. It’s been as hot all day today as it was then.
Why couldn’t I say what I wanted to that day?
“Riber, don’t go. I love you.”
But I simply couldn’t say it. If somehow I could see you now, though, no one would be able to stop me.
I’m feeling melancholy today.
I’m wearing a mourning dress, remembering my first love, which has died.
(This letter was never sent.)
I apologize – I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to write. In order to catch up with all the people around me, I’ve set aside all my free time for studying, and weeks pass in the blink of an eye. Recently, things have gotten much worse here on Earth. I know you’re aware of this – the bad news tends to stand out a little more in the headlines, doesn’t it?
(Rest of Misa's 7th letter from Page 70.)
The SDF-1 (which my friends say stands for “Sugoku Dekai Fune,” i.e. “Really Big Ship”) Restoration Project is running well behind schedule, and the cost is ballooning astronomically. Furthermore, defense spending has gone way up in order to build a space fleet, and military spending in general has sharply increased. Naturally, the world economy is taking a huge hit because of this.
It’s just a rumor, but I’ve heard that most of the military budget is going towards a single mysterious project. (Editor’s Note: This is the Grand Cannon Project.) I wonder if it’s true.
Because of all this, everyone in the academy is getting a lot of criticism and hostility. Even I, when I go out into town, get nothing but cold stares. Maybe I should start wearing civilian clothes when I go out…
Oh! Speaking of civilian clothes, I’ve got some terrible news – the blue dress you gave me doesn’t fit anymore (and it’s not because I’ve gotten fat or anything – REALLY!!). I’ve been growing taller, I guess. It’s natural, of course, but I still regret it.
I tried to put it on the other day, but it’s hopeless. My arms stick out from the sleeves and the skirt is much too short. Before, when I wore it for one of my friends, she kept calling me “Blue-Dress Misa.” Unfortunately, I think the dress is going to stay inside my cabinet. I’d like to give it to my daughter when she’s old enough, but for now, I have to say farewell to it.
But still, why do they have to attack people like Father and me?
Hmm… I reread what I just wrote. I think I’m a little incoherent right now. It’s probably because one of the tabloids ran an article today titled "The Truth about Officer’s Academy.” Everyone here is furious about it.
But really, since November arrived, everyone here has suddenly gotten very busy and flustered. If things keep going this way, I’m worried about what’ll happen next.
(Postscript of Misa's 7th letter from Page 70.)
P.S. I’ve included a photo of me that one of my friends took. If you look at it closely, maybe you can see that I’ve grown (NOT gotten fat!!!).
I’m a little surprised… last year, you never talked like this or showed any interest in topics like increased defense spending. Perhaps being around an older crowd is rubbing off on you…?
Concerning the backlash against UN Forces personnel, it sounds like people’s concern
about “The Alien Menace” is beginning to weaken. The crash of the A.S.S.-1 originally
gave people a serious shock, and everybody understood that there were extraterrestrials
out there with enough firepower to cause a lot of damage to the planet. But that was five
years ago, and nothing’s happened since. Once the danger’s past, people tend to move on,
and everyone’s probably starting to forget the terror they felt before. Therefore, I guess
they’ve started to get annoyed about paying taxes to prepare for an alien invasion which
may or may not ever come.
The thing is, if they say the Overtechnology of the A.S.S.-1 (they’re calling it the SDF-1 now…?) is bad, then it’s bad, despite the fact that it helps civilians as well as the military.
Oh wait, someone just walked in, and he’s got a pen…
Hi, nice to meet you! I’m Henry Colton. I’ve heard all about you from Riber, who talks about you all the time. See ya!
Sorry, sorry. Henry from next door just walked in. Because he wrote on this letter, I can’t really continue what I was saying. I was trying to write a sober, thoughtful letter, but that’s ruined now. And since I can’t delete his words before I transmit this letter, I guess I’ve just gotta be more vigilant. What a pain.
Still, don’t be mad at Henry. He’s a good guy. Next letter, he and I will send you a cool present.
(Last two paragraphs of Riber's 5th letter from next page.)
>>Concerning the backlash against UN Forces personnel, it sounds like people’s concern about “The Alien Menace” is beginning to weaken. The crash of the A.S.S.-1 originally gave people a serious shock, and everybody understood that there were extraterrestrials out there with enough firepower to cause a lot of damage to the planet. But that was five years ago, and nothing’s happened since. Once the danger’s past, people tend to move on, and everyone’s probably starting to forget the terror they felt before. Therefore, I guess they’ve started to get annoyed about paying taxes to prepare for an alien invasion which may or may not ever come.
The New Year arrived with a massive riot in Russia. 2005 has dawned with trouble in the air.
Troops are currently massing at South Ataria Island, and Father departed yesterday to defend the island again. I had a special pass, so I was able to see him off. It’s sad to see any ship head out, but these soldiers might die (I don’t want to jinx them, but it can’t be helped – it’s just the truth) so saying farewell to a military ship is especially hard. Since I became a cadet, I’ve tried to always be stoic, but I ended up crying, and Mother looks ten years older than she did the day before yesterday.
During the First Defensive Battle of South Ataria Island, every day was difficult and lonely, but it’s not like that now, because every day I’ve got incredibly tough training. But I can’t be there for Mother, and I kind of hate myself for that.
The SDF-1 Restoration Project was started in order to prepare for war with aliens, but the ship itself has become the symbol for the UN Government, so I guess I’m not surprised that it’s become a major target for the Anti- Unification Forces.
Oh, why did the ship have to fall on South Ataria Island? If it had fallen further south, it would’ve fallen under the jurisdiction of the Antarctica Branch or the Australia Branch, and then Father wouldn’t have to go off to battle…
(Rest of the letter from next page.)
Thank you! And thank Henry, too! I received your present today! You weren’t lying when you said it was cool! I have the only ship-in-a-bottle made of Mars crystal in the entire world… no wait, in the entire universe!
Of all the presents I got for my fifteenth birthday, yours was by far the best. My heart is still thumping while thinking about the present that was better than my wildest dreams. I don’t think I’ll even be able to sleep tonight!
My bunkmates are all quite envious. The little Misa Hayase who’s always dragging everyone else down has suddenly been transformed into a queen!
Thank you, Riber. It must have been hard work, collecting all that Mars crystal.
Thank you, Mr. Colton. I can’t even imagine the painstaking skill and long hours it took to assemble such a beautiful ship.
Let me say it again: Thank you both very, VERY much!
Let me send you both a kiss of gratitude along with this letter. Since I think the kisses will arrive before the letter, you’d both better have a cheek prepared!
(Lat paragraph of letter from next page.)
Suddenly, there’s only a week left for my first term. Just the other day, I wrote an uneventful letter about my end of term, but really, something happened which I still can’t believe.
It happened yesterday. All my friends finishing the first term and I went off to Hakone for a picnic. Since it was still March, and cold, we figured that Hakone would be on the off-season. Plus, there’s a hotel there that Father knows.
Riding separately in a few cars, we went off to the hotel in Hakone. That night, we were pretty noisy into the wee hours. The next day, again by car, we visited Lake Ashi, Fuji Five Lakes, Jukai, and other places.
A lake with no one else around is a great thing, isn’t it? But there’s something a little sad about it, too. No matter how boisterous we got, our voices sank into the depths of the water. But... that’s not important, really.
What happened was, we decided to go to a restaurant for lunch. As is often the case, there really wasn’t much around except a family restaurant.
(Rest of Misa's letter from previous page.)
As soon as we walked into the place, the whole atmosphere changed. Before, the families eating were chatting away happily, but when we entered, the talk stopped, and they just stared at us coldly. To be honest, I got a little scared. Everyone was looking at our military uniforms.
The girls said that they wanted to leave, but the boys were concerned about showing the proper military pride, so they strode forward and sat down boldly. The waitress didn’t even bring us water and was very curt with us, but she still took our order.
But then, the food we ordered didn’t arrive. The boys tried to show off their bravery by talking and joking loudly, but after a while, cracks began to appear in their façade. The girls were simply silent.
After a bit, some of the local no-good boys started harassing us. “Oops, sorry!” they’d say, spilling a glass of water on us. “It’s my fault, sorry about that!” But they were grinning while they said it. And we heard them saying awful things about the military.
But we did our best just to ignore it. If a fight broke out, it’d be in all the papers, and that’s exactly what the boys and their supporters wanted, no doubt. It was like enduring the most punishing training possible, but we withstood it.
When the food finally arrived, we ate it very quickly. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten food that tasted that terrible before. When the atmosphere is that ugly, it naturally affects the taste of the food as well.
It was my first experience with anything like that. Of course, in our town, there are people who give us cold looks, but they’d never do anything so nasty. Probably because it’s a base town.
I really didn’t realize before now how much hatred there is for the UN Forces uniform outside of our town. Of course I’d heard rumors, but I didn’t think it would be this bad.
It’s gotten me very depressed.
(Last paragraph of Misa's letter from previous page.)
But now, I’m going on to Second Term. If I quit now, I lose, simple as that. I’ve got to be prepared for people to misunderstand, and I’ve got to show them what a splendid officer I am.
It’s March 29. A day that humanity will remember forever. Today, after a long wait, the Space Destroyer Oberth enters service, and humanity brings its firepower into space. After the first Oberth-Class ship will come the second and third, and on and on, filling the void. But that’s not important. The important part is that the goal is to inaugurate the UN Space Forces by July. Until now, the UN Forces have controlled the land, sea, and air, a three-branch organization, but now they’re creating another corps. Our superior officers are many: Army Captains, Air Force Lieutenant Colonels, Navy Lieutenant Commanders and the like. Me, I’m a member of the Air Force, but Henry is in the Navy. Once the Oberth launches, the Space Forces will rise in status and importance. Humankind will finally turn its gun away from humankind, and point them elsewhere. March 29. Ah, a day to be remembered. I hear that members of the Space Forces will be chosen from all three branches. Misa, please sign up with the Space Forces.
Don’t worry. It looks like all of us have been awarded the necessary qualifications for joining the Space Force. And of course, I hope to join. Now I’m starting to prepare for the entrance examination. Everyone at the training center is excited about the creation of the Space Force. As you might suspect, because we’re young, pretty much all my friends want to sign up. As horrible as it sounds, I hope none of them pass – after all, it would diminish my chances of being accepted.
I never knew that a single day could bring such fear and uncertainty. It’s spring now, but it all feels gloomy, and it’s like everyone is holding their breath.
I’m sure you know this already, but the day before yesterday, April 14, the first Prime Minister of the UN Government, Harlan J. Niven, was assassinated. They say they’ve finalized the succession, but still…
The sound of the assassin’s bullet has shocked the whole world. In stealing away one man’s life, the killer has also changed the earth’s destiny.
Why did Niven have to die? And right in front of the general public, no less? Where did he go wrong? That’s the discussion going on now, with no solution in sight.
But they’re saying it hasn’t even begun. The dead don’t come back to life, after all. Tensions between nearly every Autonomous Region have swelled. At the training center, the mood is strained, and everyone’s on edge. If someone makes even a small mistake, the instructors lash out at them.
What’s to become of us now, I wonder?
(Rest of last paragraph and last sentence come from next page.)
The death of Prime Minister Niven has exerted its influence all the way out here, to Mars. Everyone is looking towards tomorrow with a sense of uneasiness. Personally, I was really unhappy with a lot of his policy decisions. I hasten to add that most of his policies were mere stopgaps, and we’ll never know what he had planned next. However, I don’t think the assassination has changed the situation much. Public sympathy will flock to the UN Government ruling party. The Anti-Unification Forces killed him as the symbol of the UN without realizing that by doing so, they have turned themselves into photo-negative symbols. They’re as unprepared to make policy as he was.
Why do people think that violence is the answer to all problems? In the end, are we nothing more than Neanderthals bearing reaction weapons?
(As the Mars Base was under martial law at the time of the writing, the section criticizing Niven’s policies was blacked out by the censors.)
I’m terribly sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written. The truth is, last June Fifth, my mother collapsed. At the beginning, we thought it was just strain, and she was receiving treatment at home, but it didn’t work. So she went to the military hospital for a thorough examination. There, they discovered that she had chronic liver disease, and promptly hospitalized her.
Mother’s body was always weak, but to have her go into the hospital was completely unexpected.
Father wasn’t there, so our house was a whirlwind of activity. I want desperately to visit her every day, but as an officer cadet, I’m helpless. On every leave day, I go as fast as I can to the hospital, and every time I see her, her face is thinner and more emaciated. Her awareness is still sharp, but that’s small relief.
I’m very sorry to hear about your mother’s collapse. I wish there was something I could do from here on Mars, whether visiting her in the hospital or even just sending flowers. But don’t get discouraged. Right now, it’s very important to keep your spirits high. If you feel down, you mother will worry. The right attitude can conquer any illness. I’ll be cheering you from the sidelines, so do your best! …Of course, I hate that I can’t do anything but offer words of encouragement.
Right now, there’s an ugly rumor floating about the base. It’s been said that the creation of the Space Force has been delayed, due to the increased guerrilla activity after Niven’s death. What in the world are we going to do? I want to get an accurate report ASAP!
(2nd and final paragraph of Riber's letter from next page.)
Finally, Father has returned. Mother has also come back, to convalesce. Today, she even took a second helping at dinner. Father doesn’t want to leave her side until she completely recovers.
However, the Second Defensive Battle of South Ataria Island was a long fight, nearly six months (I can’t believe it’s been half a year since I’ve seen Father! The summer before last felt much longer. I guess it’s because that year, I had nothing to do, but this year, I’ve been so busy with training…).
Father has been promoted to Rear Admiral for distinguished service, and Commander Global has been promoted to Colonel. Furthermore, Commander Global, no, wait, he’s a Colonel now… so Colonel Global has been given command of the second Oberth-Class Space Destroyer, the Goddard, it seems (being inaugurated next week).
Father returned carried on the shoulders of his men. Instead of being tired, he suddenly emerged.
In addition, I’m sending a photo of Rear Admiral Hayase and Colonel Global.
Your father’s return should allow you to surface for air a bit, and I’m also a little relieved. I’m sure you’re also thrilled to see your long-absent father. Accordingly, I’ve got some happy news of my own: Henry asked a young woman named Alisa Haggard to marry him, and she accepted! The two of them met here, and got engaged here. When the Space Force comes into being, they also plan to marry here, and give birth to children here. The Martians of ancient times are extinct, but it seems like we’ll be having some new Martians before long.
Please give my congratulations to Henry. However, after only a week, I’ve been plunged back into unhappiness.
Father has left again to join another military action.
As I’m sure you know, repeated instances of guerrilla warfare have broken out all over America. And a huge segment of the Anti-Unification Forces headed to America to exploit this. To fight them, Father has departed for the front. However, because of his recent promotion, he’s now the commanding officer…
Mother’s condition was improving, but after she heard about Father’s departure, she took another turn for the worse. While I understand that it’s his duty, I think it’s unreasonable to force Father to abandon his sick wife for the battlefield. Of course, I’m a soldier’s daughter, so I know that orders from above must be obeyed, but I still think it’s cold.
I appreciate that this is an inevitability in military life, but I can’t stop thinking, How terrible it is to be a soldier!
And because I’m so worried about Mother, I haven’t even touched my studies recently. Is family supposed to be scattered around the world like this?
(Rest of Misa's letter is from next page.)
I hope your mother is doing all right. How is she?
Well, July has come, and no sign of the Space Force. Everyone here at the Mars Base is overcome with uneasiness. Every day is gloomy, and we never talk about anything else. Sometimes people say there was never any intention of making a Space Force in the first place, other times the rumor is that it’ll be inaugurated tomorrow. All of us are full of fear and doubt. I guess the guerrilla war outbreaks really are creating an obstacle. But we can’t shake the sense that the way things are, the Space Force will never come into being.
The UN Forces must look to the future. I mean, that was the original intention, right? It’s the only branch whose guns won’t be pointed at other humans. What can the brass be thinking?
I, too, am worried about the future of the Space Force. I can’t believe that the current Space Division will continue as it is now, though. It should definitely be an official military organization.
I haven’t heard anything about it from Father, as he hasn’t come home yet. Mother obviously has no answers. None of my friends, even the ones with high connections, knows anything concrete, either. Why can’t anyone give an answer to ease our worry?
With Father gone, Mother’s condition continues to worsen steadily. The blood vessels in her arms are bulging out, looking like the roots of a withered tree, and she’s lost a lot of weight. She also hasn’t been eating, so they’ve hooked her up to a drip. I’m very worried.
Someone once wrote, “WORRY x WORRY = HOPE.” But this isn’t hope. Until the Space Force is created and Mother recovers, I’ll keep working my very hardest.
(Riber's letter starting from previous page.)
Something terrible has happened. The Mars Base is about to be closed down, and it’s all because of that oft-discussed topic, the guerrilla warfare breakouts. In order to quell the insurrections, the UN Forces are recalling all troops. So soon, all of the top class officers here are going to withdraw from the base and will be assigned to different areas all over the Earth to join the defense. The brass are looking only at the short term and are missing the big picture. What will the abandonment of the Mars Base mean for humanity? We’re losing our foothold to the deep stars. The information we can obtain in one day here is over one hundred times what we could get by observing the planet from earth. If they shut down the base for even one year, that’s one hundred years worth of information that we’ll have to catch up on. In order to wage a needless war, the military thinks it has the right to delay mankind’s progress by more than a century.
But of course, whatever I say, I’m still a soldier. Even if it’s contrary to my hopes and desires, I’ve got my duty, and I must carry it out to the best of my abilities. If you weigh a century of progress against the unity of humanity, I guess unity comes out the heavier. I’m not a coward, running to and fro, trying to escape.
Everyone at the base is shocked speechless. Henry and Alisa are being especially strong, though, probably because they really plan to stay here forever. They want to get married here, have children here, and be buried in Martian soil. These last few days, they’ve gone the day through without speaking a word. My fear, and, I think, their fear, is that they’ll be separated once we leave Mars. After all, Henry is Air Force, and Alisa is Navy. But enough of that. They plan to conduct the wedding ceremony as soon as we reach Earth.
Rest of Page 87
The withdrawal is being carried out at a fever pitch. Our hands are full just sorting and packing all the research documents. I’m probably leaving most of my personal effects here. The books and disks you sent me, I’ll keep on my desk, where they are now. That way, when I return, it’ll be like nothing has changed.
I wonder when I’ll be able to come back here.
When this letter reaches you, I’m guessing you’ll already be aboard ship, coming home. The news of the closure of Mars Base has even reached earth. Everyone at the training center is terribly depressed about it; they all wanted to go there someday soon.
So the Mars Base staff is just adding more numbers to the troops fighting here on Earth… That day when you received approval to go to Mars, you were so happy and your eyes were so bright, but… surely, it was unfortunate. At the time, I was thoughtless, and couldn’t really sympathize.
But that was just selfishness on my part. I understand your feelings, but I’m overjoyed that you’ll be returning.
My life recently has been nothing but terrible things happening one after the other. The anti-military sentiments and the cold stares, Mother’s sickness and hospitalization, Father going off to war… You returning home is the only good news I’ve had.
To be honest, I feel a little guilty to be so happy at what for you is a tragic turn of events, but what can I do? Still, since you left, it’s been two long years. A reunion after two years.
Do you remember? Since that day you said farewell to me in the park, it’s been nearly two years to the day. Since that time, many things have happened, and I’ve learned many things, too. In these past two years, I’ve grown up considerably.
When you return to earth, I think you’ll notice how much more of an adult I’ve become. I’m not the “little princess” I was when you left, I’ve turned into a splendid soldier.
Ulp! If I don’t hurry up and send this, I’ll miss getting it on the next ship out. There’s so much more that I want to write, but I guess it’ll have to wait until I see you when you return. Really, since a ship in transit is so hard to pinpoint, who can decide what fixed time gets approval for urgent letters? It’s really irritating!
So let me say goodbye, eagerly awaiting our reunion in three months.
When Riber finished reading the letter aboard ship, he smiled. The way Misa emphasized her adulthood came off to him as rather childlike, really.
And in the next instant, he was enveloped in light.