“Grandfather?” Izanami asked incredulously.
“Yes. He’s my grandpa,” I softly replied.
I...I was feeling overwhelmed at meeting one of the two people who makes Mama sad whenever she talked about them. The other person who makes Mama sad was my Grandma, who died of birth complications from giving birth to triplets.
“The name’s Marco Dimasupil Ma’am. Oh, I almost forgot. This is my wife’s thank you gift for saving our granddaughter.”
Grandfather pulled out from nowhere a Tupperware container filled with cold purin – wait.
If it’s my deceased grandmother who made that, then that That’s not purin. That’s leche flan, the Filipino version of purin.
Izanami accepted the Tupperware of leche flan, with a very eager look on her face.
Guess she likes purin.
“Why are you here in Izanami’s place?” Ibuki asked.
“Let’s say...I’m on a mission from God.”
...I know I heard that somewhere before, I just can’t remember where.
“And what was...mmm...that supposed to be?” Izanami asked while...oh.
She’s already started eating the leche flan with one of her soup spoons.
She really likes purin.
“I’m going to train her.”
My eyebrows rose at that statement.
“In what? If your god has told you all the information, you’ll know she doesn’t have a single firearm in her inventory.”
“Well, there’s building up her strength and endurance. Look at my grandchild. Look at her.”
Grandpa approached me, pulled my left arm up and patted my skin.
“She’s just skin and bones...my, what lean muscles you have here Kurumi. What did you do for exercise?”
I stared at him in a deadpan.
“Taking care of my baby since the age of thirteen, plus half of the household’s chores.”
“That reminds me. I want to talk with you about that later, Kurumi,” he muttered.
I already had that talk with Mama and Papa. I don’t need to go through this again.
“If you’re thinking about her muscles, she’s going to develop that as we go along training her in various weapons, Marco,” Izanami said.
“No, no, no, no, no! Body building first, everything else later. We want her to be able to put some force behind her strikes. We want her to keep striking for a long time.”
“Oh come on. My followers never had any of that when they were living.”
“And when did these followers of yours live, Ma’am?”
“When humans in Japan were still using stone for tools.”
“...oh. Now I see why they wouldn’t,” Grandpa commented with a deadpan expression.
On my own part...I was kind of amazed.
Izanami was that old?
I was still sleeping on the new mattress that Izanami made for me on the second day, when I heard a noise.
My eyes were already open and I was wondering who it was when Grandpa’s voice rumbled.
“Time to wake up Kurumi.”
“What are we going to do at this time of the day?” I instantly replied.
Grandpa immediately made a surprised noise.
I rose from the bed.
In daytime, Izanami’s pit house was not well lit. When it’s dark, I could only navigate the place by memory, and faint starlight helping outline the shadows of objects around the house.
Right now, the pit house was quite dim but it looked like my Grandpa, who I’m seeing as a human shaped shadowy figure, can navigate the place much better than me.
Must be the result of jungle warfare experience.
“Stretching exercises, and then we’ll start jogging. Now, follow me.”
I yawned, stretched, and slowly walked after Grandpa, out into the forest clearing at...since one part of the sky was starting to get a pink color, I’ll put the time at around 5 o’clock.
“It seems like you’re used to getting awake this early,” Grandpa commented.
“I am. I always wake up at around four thirty in the morning to start making lunch for me and Ichigo, and the food I sell at school. And when Ao was a baby I had to be a light sleeper. ”
“I hope the kid who got you pregnant appreciates what you’re doing for him,” he grumbled.
“He does more than appreciate it, he actually helps me. He prepares our clothes and toiletries while I’m cooking, and after we bathe and get dressed for school together he wakes Ao for breakfast time,” I replied.
“Together?!” Grandpa whirled around towards me.
I must still be not all there. Oh what I wouldn’t do for some coffee right now.
“It’s faster if we took a bath at the same time.”
“Oh really? That’s all you two do in there?” he asked.
I stayed silent.
Grandpa, it’s not your problem if we sometimes do in the bathroom what couples naturally do.
“My God. What will you do if you get pregnant again, huh? Tell me, what will you do?” Grandpa hissed.
I was open-mouthed in surprise.
How did he guess – wait.
“Are you reading my mind?”
“No. But I’ve been married to your grandma for all these years, and I took care of your mother and uncles until they were twelve. You all stayed silent just like that when there’s something you didn’t want to admit was true.”
Well, at least this shows that I am my mother’s daughter.
“What? Nothing to reply to that?”
Ok. Grandpa’s still waiting for me to answer.
“Look we’re – wait. I don’t have to answer that Grandpa, it’s – “
“It’s also my business. I’m now worried that my granddaughter is going to give me another great grandchild, when she still hasn’t graduated high school. What are you two going to feed your kids if you get pregnant, and your parents suddenly refused to support another one, huh? Air? Garbage?”
I’ve got to give him some answer or he’ll give himself a conniption.
“Grandpa, we’re using protection,” I said to him.
Grandpa looked surprised, as if he didn’t expect me to consider that option.
“And where are you getting your protection?”
“Buying them with money we earned from selling food at school.”
I refused to divert any of Papa’s or Father in law’s money for that need, so we’re taking some funds from that tiny source of money.
Thankfully, rubbers are very cheap nowadays.
“What kind of food are you selling? Or is that a euphemism for something else?”
Food is food. What else could the word ‘food’ refer to? Oh never mind.
“Filipino style rice cakes,” I answered him.
“Rice cakes? Kakanin? As in bibingka, puto, and suman?”
“Those three and kutsinta didn’t sell well. The ones I cook and sell were sapin-sapin, halayang ube, maha blanca, kalamay and biko.”
What the latter group had in common that the former didn’t have was that they were all sweet. And their presentation was more appealing.
I felt Grandpa’s incredulous stare, so I explained further.
“We always sold out at school. And since it was genuine homemade foreign cuisine, I could charge higher for the rice cakes than what Mama suggested.”
Mama's suggested prices were downright ruinous to any Japanese vendor. I mean...ten yen for one slice of sapin-sapin? Impossible! I might as well give them away for free!
“Ok, ok, ok. While I know someone back home who managed to raise three kids on selling kakanin, that’s the Philippines! Pinoys love to eat street food. But you’re in Japan, land of high tech marvels like the Walkman, the shinkansen train and industrial robots. I can’t imagine a Japanese city girl walking the streets from sun-up to sun-down, loudly advertising her multiple woven trays of rice cakes to businessmen, factory workers and saleswomen,” Grandpa protested.
Grandpa, you should’ve seen photos and drawings of Meiji era Japan. There were a lot of peddlers who sell their wares in the streets in the way you described. And even today, there were still a lot of street vendors around Japan’s cities, selling their products from food carts to all that, plus housewives and school children.
“What’s so funny? Are you seriously thinking of doing that for the rest of your life?!”
“No Grandpa. I just thought your idea was funny. I’m actually aiming for something higher than being a street peddler.”
“And that is?”
“I’m going to build my own bakery.”
I beamed at Grandpa, quite sure that he can see me.
Grandpa made a grumbling noise.
“Is that not good enough to your liking?” I asked.
“It’s a good business.”
Thank you –
“But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to give you a piece of my mind about your pregnancy!”
Ok. That’s it, I’m talking back now.
“Grandpa, it’s already been almost five years since I got pregnant. Five years. Ichigo and I already got lectured and shouted at by our parents, grandparents, teachers and social welfare workers. I’ve already heard all the arguments so what you’re doing is just a waste of our time.”
Grandpa shook his head and made some frustrated noises, and then he quieted down.
Thank heavens he –
“Aside from your mother, have you heard anything from your Filipino side of the family?”
...now that I think about it...
“No word from Tatay or Nanay?” Grandpa asked.
Tatay, Nanay? If I remember right...those words meant father and mother respectively. So he means my great grandpa and great grandma in the Philippines.
“Well, now’s our chance to say something about it.”
“Grandpa, look. I already agree that having sex before marriage is wrong. I already agree that unprotected sex is idiotic, and what Ichigo and I did the day I got pregnant was stupid. I agree that taking care of a baby and raising it was no easy task, nor is living in with a boy and his parents something trivial.”
“Good! At least you understand you made mistakes!”
“Yes! Yes I do Grandpa! But I’ll gladly go through the pain and hardships all over again if it means I’ll meet Ichigo and fall in love with him again, and if it means I’ll hold my daughter in my arms again.”
Grandpa looked befuddled.
“Are you saying you don’t regret anything?”
“I regret nothing.”
“Nothing,” I insisted.
Grandpa stared at me, and then he started rubbing his forehead.
“My God, Kurumi. You sounded just like a radio drama protagonist.”
I didn’t know whether that was a compliment or an insult since I never listened to the radio, so I stayed quiet.
“Granddaughter...we may not know much about each other but please know that I’m only expressing seventeen years worth of unexpressed concern for my descendants.”
“Grandpa, I understand. But...for me, that felt more like an attack than an expression of concern to me."
Grandpa scratched his head and sighed.
"At the very least try to teach a lesson if you're going to lecture?"
That's the most frustrating thing with everyone else who's not Mama or that woman from the Equal Employment, Children and Families bureau who was insistent that I give Ao away for adoption. All I heard from everyone else was I did something bad, I did something bad, I should be punished for this –
What about what should I do next? What about telling me what my options were? Do I have to tell them to give me options before they stop lecturing and start giving advice?
“Teach a lesson, huh...ok. Let's do it that way. I’ll tell you a little story."
And now he went the other way, thinking of me as an eight year old. Oh well, I told him to teach a lesson so I better listen to what he thinks his lesson is.
"Me and my wife, named Anna by the way, had a classmate back home in Batangas. Her name was Rica. She got pregnant at sixteen, married her boyfriend at eighteen. And according to my wife, who was her best friend, Rica said she had some regrets.”
I suddenly had an uneasy feeling at the story that Grandpa was starting to tell. But I’m also kind of curious about where he’s going on with this, so I listened.
“Rica said she regretted being stupid enough to have unprotected sex. She also had second thoughts about her husband, since he’s the type who won’t be denied if he wants to have sex.”
Oh shit. Poor woman. I...I could only wish her luck.
“Her only consolation were her children. Last time I saw her, I’ve met them myself and I could definitely say they’re sweet little angels.”
Thank heavens for that.
“With Rica in mind...I want to ask: Are you really content with what happened in your life? No regrets as you said earlier? No problems?”
I stayed silent.
“Me and my wife only got informed the day after you fell into a coma of the fact that you gave birth to a daughter at age twelve, and you’re happily living in with your boyfriend. Before that, all we knew was that Magdalena went to Japan, got married there, and had one child. Nothing else. We don’t know what’s running through your mother’s mind when she let you move there, we don’t know anything about your boyfriend, we don’t know what his family is like or what they’re doing to you while you’re there, we don’t know anything else. Period. Can you can see what’s got me, and my wife up in heaven, agitated?”
I imagined myself in their place, and Ao as the one in my place. The result came to me quickly. Not knowing anything other than Ao gave birth to a child, and is happily living in with her boyfriend would quickly drive me crazy with worry.
“Yes. I now know what’s driving you with this conversation, Grandpa.”
“So for our peace of mind, are you happy?”
Better to tell him most of the truth. He's my grandpa, after all.
“I am happy. But I also have one thing I worry about, which I’m not telling you,” I replied.
“Because I still don’t know you that much. I know you’re my Grandpa but that doesn’t mean we’re close.”
“And have you told your worries to Magda?”
Magda? If I recall correctly, Magda is short for Magdalena.
“To Mama? No, I haven’t. I...I don’t know how she’ll take it.”
Grandpa sighed again.
“Then I hope we do become close enough for you to tell me that. Can I?”
I could feel resignation from Grandpa.
“I’m going to get back to this later Kurumi. For now, let’s start stretching.”
After a few minutes of stretching exercises, Grandpa told me to stop. He then slowly led me down the mountain.
I was already amazed at how much better he could see in the dark than I could. But the fact that he was quickly guiding me down a heavily forested mountain, in the dim light provided by the dawn, astounded me. As a result I wondered just how much combat experience Grandpa had in the Southern Philippines.
Surely the war in the Southern Philippines was just a few sniper attacks and minute long fire fights here and there, right? That's what a guerilla war is typically like, right?
By the time we reached the coastal plain, the sun was above the horizon. And from that point on we started jogging around the coastline of Awaji…
And jogging until my muscles finally failed and I dropped onto the sand, with my face upwards.
Just as it was supposed to happen if I’m building up my body military style.
Of course knowing that didn’t lessen the pain, which ranked up there with giving birth, and the beating I received from that green skinned team leader whose name I now remember, Meria.
“Get up Kurumi,” Grandpa suddenly said while bending over me.
“Five minutes,” Inhale, exhale, “please Grandpa?”
“You’re that tired already? My God, we’ve only been jogging for...less than six kilometers. I even kept myself from going all out in consideration for you.”
Consideration. Ri-i-ight. Can we not forget the fact that my occupation was housewife slash student, who never jogged or run this much in her life before?
“Well I’m sorry to disappoint you Grandpa,” inhale, exhale, “my exercises consisted of cooking, shopping, washing,” inhale, exhale, “cleaning, walking, school,” inhale, exhale, “sex and playing with Ao,” Inhale, exhale, “and lately, archery and javelin throwing. So of course I’m going to get tired,” inhale, exhale, “easily from jogging.”
Damn tiredness. My sentences keep breaking because of the need to gasp for air.
Grandpa suddenly looked like he bit something very sour.
“Do you know how awkward it is to hear your offspring say the word ‘sex’ so nonchalantly?”
As a matter of fact, I dread the day that Ao learns what sex is.
“If you do, then why include that in your list of exercises?”
“Because it’s one of the most strenuous physical activities,” inhale, exhale, “I perform lately. I have,” inhale, exhale, “to be completely honest with you so you,” inhale, exhale, “can train me properly, right?”
“Yes...but it’s still awkward.”
“Well, since you’ve already reached muscle failure, there’s no point in forcing you to move your body any earlier than this afternoon. For now I’ll settle with learning about your recent lifestyle so we could start putting on muscles on your body.”
Grandpa bent down and slowly lifted me from the sand. And then he started carrying me over his shoulder like a sack of rice.
“And one more thing Kurumi.”
“For God’s sake, please don’t tell me about your sex life. I don’t consider that exercise.”
Don’t worry Grandpa. I won’t, because even I’m not that shameless.
Ever since day 28 in this place, there had been changes in my lifestyle thanks to Grandpa’s orders.
One change was in my diet. Grandpa told me that I was to eat more rice, more leafy vegetables, more fish and beef, and drink more milk to replenish all the energy I was using up, and to put on more building materials for muscles and bones. Izanami quickly agreed to cook more of those, although she was quite miffed by Grandpa’s disdain of mushrooms. Grandpa even asked her to not bother with putting in mushrooms in my food.
Another change was in my sleeping schedule. Before, I was sleeping at around eleven in the evening, and waking up at seven. With Grandpa’s new schedule, I was supposed to be asleep by nine and surprisingly, not to be up before eight in the morning.
At first I thought it was just a touching gesture of familial love on his part. But on the first day that I woke up with eleven hours of sleep behind me, I was surprised at what I felt. I’ve never been more recovered from the previous day’s exertions than I was at that particular time.
The last change was that I suddenly have more ‘me’ time than I’ve ever had before.
No, really. Jogging composed half of all the exercises Grandpa was making me do, and it was the kind of physical exercise that gives you time to think. Also, thinking while jogging was an excellent way to keep the feeling of fatigue from one’s mind.
Unfortunately, I don’t know what to do with my newly found ‘me’ time.
I can’t watch anime here with Ao, nor can I talk with Ichigo about anything interesting. Doing more training is out of the question, since I need the time for rest. Thinking about what my family was doing right now is almost useless, since only one hundred sixty or so minutes have passed since Ichigo and Papa had their fight.
I’m also reluctant to just start chatting with Izanami. After all, she is one of Japan’s most important gods. I can’t just go start talking about things with her unless she starts it. And even when she does start one, I’ve noticed that she doesn’t do normal conversations very well. As for Grandpa...after that talk about what I do in the bathroom with Ichigo, I’ve felt very awkward around him. The awkwardness made me unable to talk with him about my personal life.
So I was left with doing nothing else but contemplate endlessly on my life so far. And doing that would quickly drive me crazy.
Maybe I should start talking with Grandpa. I’ve had the feeling that he was waiting for me to go and talk to him.
“You should start talking with him. This is your only opportunity to do so, young one.”
I almost stumbled in surprise as Izanami suddenly spoke from beside me.
In front of me, Grandpa suddenly slowed down and looked back at us.
“I’m sorry for surprising the two of you, but there is something I wish to discuss,” she said while she kept pace beside me.
“What is it, Ma’am?” Grandpa asked.
“I wish to discuss my dissatisfaction with a particular aspect of your training methods, Mr. Marco.”
What’s unsatisfactory about Grandpa’s training? It’s the same sort of physical exercise soldiers around the world were given in Basic training, if only modified for the non-inclusion of anything about firearms or other things.
“What’s unsatisfactory about my current training program?” Grandpa complained.
“The amount of time you have her spending on it. Because of your training, she hasn’t practiced with what I’ve taught her in the past few days. And that’s bad because she’s still a beginner. There’s a chance her newfound skills will degrade if she doesn’t get some practice here and there.”
...is it just me or did Izanami sound like someone whose pride had been injured?
Grandpa stopped jogging, making us stop too or risk colliding with him.
“Ma’am, I have no disrespect for what you have taught my granddaughter. But she will be fighting alongside a modern day army. And her opponents had also switched to mainly using guns backed up by magic and melee weapons. I don’t see any reason as to why she should be limited to throwing javelins and charging with a sword and shield at gun wielding opponents.”
“She’s not that limited.”
“I know she can do more with that ring of hers, but I don’t know the exact details. That’s why we’re waiting for the Greeks to come. In the meantime, I’m asking, no. I’m demanding that you give some time for her to practice archery and javelin throwing.”
“...if you insist. But I still don’t see any way for javelins and arrows to compete with guns.”
“With magic and the right preparations javelins and arrows can compete with guns,” she boasted.
The boast piqued my interest.
I know there were some western movies that had characters that were killing gunmen with bow and arrow, like Rambo and...Rambo. But that’s fiction. This is real life.
“Exactly how can they compete?” I asked.
Izanami suddenly had a bow and an arrow in her hands.
She quickly drew the arrow at a high angle while looking at a spot that was in front of us, and then she let go of it.
“Is it some marksmanship feat?” Grandpa muttered as we watched the arrow lazily fly into the –
The arrow suddenly exploded into thousands and thousands of arrows raining down onto a big sized area that starts from about fifty or sixty meters away from us.
“That’s not going to work in urban or jungle – “
Grandpa suddenly shut up when all the arrows suddenly burst into flames hot enough to make my skin sweat at this great distance.
Izanami suddenly snapped her fingers. And the blazing inferno suddenly turned into a solid, misshaped chunk of ice as big as the home me and my family were living in, that’s full of ashes in the act of flying freezed inside it.
“I suspect that the Greeks will teach Kurumi something along those lines. Now, what do you think, Mr. Marco?” Izanami asked Grandpa, who was still staring at the ice.
Izanami looked puzzled at his reply. But I think I understood what he was thinking.
What Izanami just showed us was that magical thrown weaponry weren’t competitive with guns. They’re competitive with grenade launchers, and quite possibly short range artillery like mortars, since I do remember reading somewhere that arrows could be shot to around half a kilometre away.
“If you can teach her how to do something like that, I’ll set aside half the day for her to train with archery.”
“Set aside? You mean after you’ve sucked out all the energy out of her with jogging? No. I demand that she practices archery and javelin throwing in the morning while she is still at full strength.”
While my Grandpa and Izanami started negotiating...bickering over my training time, I looked at the chunk of ice and smiled.
It looks like I’m not so defenceless anymore.
Day 41: around 164 minutes in the real world.
I started seeing the destination, a hundred or so meters away in front of us.
“How do you like my target range?” Izanami asked me from behind.
Earlier on, when Grandpa and I was about to start jogging to all the newly made target ranges that Izanami created throughout the island last night, she suddenly walked out of the pit house and told us she wants to join. Grandpa expressed some doubt over her ability to keep up with us.
Izanami insisted she can keep up with us...and she did, to my pleasant surprise.
When we stopped for a breather later on Izanami was breathing raggedly, but obviously still game. I asked if she was using some magic, and her reply was that she wasn’t originally an Earth goddess for nothing.
That made Grandpa grumble an apology.
“I can’t comment until I’m on it, your holiness.”
“Call me Izanami.”
That almost made me stumble.
I quickly recovered and stared at her.
Did she just told me to be on first name terms with her?
“Yes I did. It’s irritating to be called ‘your Holiness’ this, ‘your Holiness’ that all the time, especially by a mortal who doesn’t worship me.”
“If that is what you want, yo...Izanami.”
“Thank you Kurumi,” she beamed at me.
I felt a little uneasy at calling her by her name, but since she wants it...
I’ll try to make a practice of doing that.
“How about now?” She asked.
We were now on one of her target ranges.
It consisted of a big, circular space where the vegetation had been cleared, a log on the end that’s right beside the trail serving as the firing line and a few targets on the other end of the cleared space.
And the targets were very different this time.
Instead of paper shooting targets pasted to wood with magic, they were five straw dummies as tall as me, dressed in white, hemp shirts, pants of the same description, and what I recognize to be replicas of Kofun era armor and helmets, the full iron ones – no.
Izanami was the one who made this whole target ranges, so those might very well be genuine artifacts, or new ones made by the people who lived in that time.
The straw dummies also had a rectangular wooden shield tied onto the end of one hand, a three meter wooden stick embedded in the other hand, and were all in what I recognize to be the military’s parade rest position...if only modified for the presence of the shield and a spear taller than a man.
“Is Kurumi supposed to hit the parts where the armor doesn’t cover?” Grandpa asked.
“Yes. But there’s a catch here, Mr. Marco.”
Catch? Wha –
I yelped in surprise as all the straw dummies suddenly moved from parade arms to…I don’t know what to call it.
They had their shields in front of them and their spears were all pointing straight at me.
“The catch here is I want Kurumi to shoot the unarmored parts of all the straw dummies while the dummies are moving towards her. If she hits the dummies before they get to her, she wins. But Kurumi loses and will have to start all over again if one of the dummies poke her with a stick.”
I looked behind me to see Izanami had her hands raised in front of her as if she’s playing with a puppet.
“Poke me?” I asked in incredulity.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to make them poke hard. Just hard enough to tickle you.”
After an hour of the fastest arrow shooting I have ever done, I’m tired, and quite sore from all the pokes I got from the fucking straw dummies.
“That’s impressive Kurumi,” Izanami stated.
“Why is hitting eleven times in twenty nine retries amazing? That’s a rather poor performance in my opinion.” Grandpa said.
I glared at the straw dummies.
They were all lined up back where they started, the wooden shields studded with my arrows and the iron helmets and armor…undamaged from all the direct hits. The only arrows that were sticking into unarmored parts were all on the legs.
“Because I wasn’t expecting her to get a single one in her first day.”
I frowned at Izanami.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” I muttered.
Izanami coughed and looked away in embarassment.
“No insult intended Kurumi. Just being realistic.”
“Now that’s over, why don’t we jog to the next firing range?” Grandpa suggested.
“Yes. Let’s go now Kurumi. Time’s running,” Izanami urged me.
Just damn it.
Day 59: around 236 minutes in the real world
Sit on the sand and gasp for breath.
Wow. I…I didn’t know there’s such a difference between jogging on firm soil or a rocky beach and jogging on sand. I’m now as exhausted as when I was during the first seven days of Grandpa’s training.
“Granddaughter! We still have some ways to go to the next shooting range! Let’s go!” Grandpa yelled from my left, on the grassy, firm soil part of the coastal plain. Behind him was Izanami.
I’d better answer him quickly.
“Three minutes Grandpa! And why won’t you come down here on the sand?”
“Because you’re the one who’s supposed to suffer here, not me!”
I really like Grandpa Marco. After I broke the ice thirteen nights ago, he quickly proved to be a font of humor and more adult wisdom.
“New targets! On the sea!” Izanami suddenly shouted.
I looked to my right.
There were a few buoys floating around on the sea, with small helium balloons attached to them via string. And they were seventy or so meters away.
Izanami wants me to shoot several targets that move so erratically... while they’re too far for my range? What on Earth? And also, why is this so familiar? I could swear I heard something like this from a Japanese History class.
“They’re too far!” I yelled back at her.
“Just try it!” Grandpa hollered.
I quickly incanted a toxo and velos into being, while wondering what happened to the prepared shooting range I was supposed to be jogging to. These balloons, while they’re very tricky targets, were also very crude compared to the Izanami’s armored straw dolls of poking, of which I’m downing more and more frequently lately.
Maybe they decided to mix things up.
I was about to stand up from the sand when Izanami suddenly shouted something.
“Stay in that position Kurumi! I want you to fire the bow sideways from a sitting position!”
Grandpa and I looked askance at her.
Shoot a bow sideways? Why would I do that? Isn’t that bad aiming, just like aiming a gun sideways is a guarantee of inaccuracy?
“Shooting sideways is how one uses a bow while crouched or in hiding! Try it Kurumi! Or if that’s still too much for you then try shooting diagonally at first!”
“Izanami, isn’t aiming anything sideways a bad idea?!” I asked.
“That’s not a gun!” Izanami shouted angrily, “What is it about those contraptions that had all of you so in love with...you’re not using a gun, you’re using a bow and arrow! Take it from me and all those who worshipped me in the past. You. Can. Shoot. Sideways. With. A. Bow!”
Ok, ok, ok! Don’t get angry Izanami.
I hurriedly titled the bow diagonally, nocked the arrow, took a long look at the target, drew and then let loose.
I watched the arrow fly into the air and...wow.
“See! I told you!”
I could only nod while staring at where the arrow sank.
The arrow, as expected, fell way short of the target and landed in the water. What was unexpected was that I reached my personal best of around fifty meters, while the holding the bow in an unfamiliar position.
“Now I’m going to drag the targets nearer to you. I expect you to hit them, alright?!”
I watched as the targets quickly floated nearer to the beach thanks to the waves.
“Is that close enough?!”
“Yes, it’s close enough. Now I just need you to calm the waves Izanami!”
Izanami laughed out loud.
“Kurumi, the difficulty is the point of the floating targets!” Grandpa shouted to me.
I softly sighed.
I’m going to be stuck here for the rest of the day, trying to recreate – oh! Now I remember! Nasu no Yoichi at Yashima…where he shot off a small fan on top of a bobbing ship…floating far from the beach…where he’s on horseback…
I looked at Izanami in incredulity.
She wants –
“I want you to top Nasu no Yoichi! And after you pop all of the balloons with arrows, I want you to use javelins on the next batch!”
“Why?!” I complained piteously.
This is ridiculous! She’s making me do something that Nasu no Yoichi could have problems with. His target was only moving with the ship. My targets are floating every which way the wind makes them go, in addition to whatever motion the water gives them through the floats. Also, I have multiple targets to shoot, while he only had to shoot one target.
No matter which way you look at it, I have the more impossible target. So why is she pushing this on me?
“Why not?!” Izanami answered with a grin. Beside her, Grandpa was looking at me and Izanami with a mystified look.
Oh dear Heavens. I’m going to be stuck here for days.
“Days, you said?” Izanami asked while looking at the results of my handiwork.
Grandpa, for his part, was clapping in congratulations for my feat.
I’ve destroyed the two batches of balloons with both arrows and javelins. And it only took me until almost sunset to do so.
It’s not Nasu no Yoichi level, but this is miraculous. Simply miraculous.
Day 83: around 332 minutes in the real world
“Watch where you’re stepping. As much as possible, avoid things that would make a noise,” I muttered as I slowly stepped onto a bare patch of forest ground.
“And?” Grandpa asked as he silently walked beside me, an assault rifle on his back and a machete hanging by his left hip.
“Test your footing first. You never know how firm a surface is at first glance,” I replied.
We were currently in the south central part of this magical version of Awaji island, where a big, thickly forested valley was located. In the real world, Izanami informed me, this is where Minami-Awaji city would be located.
Just this morning, after a final round of shooting armored straw dummies and floating helium balloons, Grandpa and Izanami had made another change in my training schedule. This time I was to learn how to move and fight in a jungle...using the nastiest, most dangerous version of Japan’s forests that Izanami could conjure up.
Which was why Grandpa was armed in the first place, and I already had a kopis in a scabbard by my hip.
I didn’t voice out my opinion of urban combat being a more likely possibility than jungle warfare when it concerns magical girls because, silly as this might sound to anyone else, I felt learning some jungle warfare would give me more of a connection with Mama’s side of the family.
“Very good. And what do you do if the ground is completely covered with leaves?”
I mentally shook of the reminiscing and got myself back to the present.
“I think...either step slowly or brush the leaves aside with your foot,” I replied.
“Good. Now...practice walking silently on that piece of ground there.”
I looked towards where he pointed.
It was a patch of the forest floor around twenty meters away, that had no protruding tree branches or bare patches of ground to silently walk on. Instead, there was a mat of dried tree leaves covering the whole area.
“The goal here is to get from this side of that patch of forest floor to that big tree on the other side without making any noise I could hear from over here. If I hear a noise, you have to start all over again.”
“And if I succeed?”
“I’ll...get back to you later on that.”
“What?” Grandpa exclaimed.
“Mama always said the same thing whenever she doesn’t have the slightest idea on what to do,” I said as I tiptoed towards the leaf covered patch of forest floor.
I remember this one time when I was seven. I asked Mama if I can buy this one doll that I saw inside a store in Tokyo. It was one of the cheapest on display, and I also promised her that I’ll take care of it very, very carefully. I’ll learn how to wash the doll’s clothes, and brush the hair, and other things involved in taking care of a doll.
Mama had given me a very awkward look on her face, and said that she’ll get back to me later on about that doll.
She didn’t get back to me with the doll, and it wasn’t until I was pregnant with Ao and learning how to take care of my own baby that I learned why. Apparently, the doll that I wanted to buy looked like something out of an American horror movie she once watched. And she didn’t want to wake up screaming in the night because of nightmares or risk the chance that I might buy an actual haunted doll.
I laughed at that time...come to think of it, I also say the same thing to Ao when I have no idea on what to say.
I guess that phrase is now a family trademark –
– What was that?
I looked down to see that a snake near my left foot. Its head was cut off from the rest of its wriggling body by a stone axe wielded by Izanami, who was frowning at me.
“Never, ever lose your attention on your surroundings, especially in a forest. The moment you do so, very bad things could happen to you,” Izanami suddenly said while frowning at me.
The noise of leaves loudly being thrown in the air suddenly started coming from behind me.
“Shit. Shit. Shit, I’m losing my touch. Are you alright Kurumi?” Grandpa asked me from behind.
I turned around and glared at him, while feeling sweat trickle down my face due to shock.
What do you think, Grandpa?
Day 150: around 600 minutes in the real world
I’ve finally finished the jungle training yesterday. And...I don’t want to talk about it ever again.
Grandpa, I’m very, very sorry that I ever thought fighting in a jungle was a somewhat easy task.
Anyways, right now I’m still in the same valley, although Instead of an ancient forested valley it was now occupied by a complete reproduction of the modern day city of Minami-Awaji, down to the parked cars on the street and electric appliances that were turned on. And all that...gave me and Grandpa shivers.
I mean, it’s giving off the feeling that we’re the last humans on Earth.
As an aside, Izanami laughed at the sight of us shivering.
“Are you really sure you want to go straight to trying to hunt each other?” Grandpa suddenly cut into my thoughts.
An assault rifle was already in his hands, and his ALICE gear was chock-full of grenades, magazines and a machete. And what’s more he was finally wearing a green colored steel helmet.
“Sure. I remember most of what the American field manual says about urban combat. I just need to have more practical experience.”
“Ok. Don’t run around naked in frustration,” Grandpa reminded me with a frown. Behind me, Izanami started to laugh uncontrollably.
I grumbled at remembering what happened in the last ten days of jungle training.
My final test was to hunt Grandpa down by getting into position to inflict a potentially lethal hit without being spotted, while Izanami was the referee between the two of us.
It took me nine days of getting spotted twenty six times, and finally going for broke on the tenth by going completely naked and rubbing mud and plant leaves all over me for camouflage, to finally get the drop on him. Once.
...I still can’t believe that I went naked outside of my bed.
“Alright – hahaha. Let’s *snicker* let’s start this test right now. Kurumi, you go we – we – *snicker* west. Marco, east,” Izanami said to us amidst bursts of snickers and laughter.
We started walking to our places when suddenly I smelled a boar, and heard the sound of one running.
“Izanami! Kurumi! Where are you two?!”
I looked towards the south, where Ibuki’s voice was coming from.
Ibuki was running at speeds that could match that of a shinkansen, with the asphalt street being gouged out by his feet and every car in his way being thrown into the air or bisected in half by his body.
Around a hundred meters away from us Ibuki suddenly stopped running and tried to brake, however it took until a few meters away from us for his momentum to completely go away. Behind him, the road had one giant trench in its middle, made by Ibuki’s feet and butt.
“What is it?” Izanami asked, all previous signs of her amusement gone with the wind.
“New development. The human’s Prime Minister is having an announcement on the TV contraption. You got one here?”
Izanami pointed to a nearby electronics store with a signboard that says they’re selling surplus TV sets, whose screens are all filled with static.
Ibuki made a grunt, and all the screens suddenly switched to a live view of NHK’s main reporter, inside the TV Studio. Underneath it was the lower third of the screen. The title shown was ‘Press conference on the Matsumoto shootout.’
Ibuki then looked back at all of us.
“The fucking Indian rat did his job too well,” Ibuki spat out with distaste.
I was puzzled by his words.
If I remember correctly, wasn’t the idea to reveal the existence of magic to the governments and get them to help wage war against the invading magical states? And all the gods of the world was onboard with the plan? Then what’s Ibuki fuming about here?
“The Prime Minister is now entering the room,” the reporter suddenly said.
I cut off my thoughts and concentrated on the broadcast.
I watched Shinzo Abe walk across the room, as if he had – no. He must have drunk some wine, judging by his flushed face.
By the time he got up on the podium, all the reporters were silent. In fact, the room was as silent as the graveyard. The cameras weren’t shooting. The reporters weren’t muttering anything.
My guess was it’s because of the look on his face. He looked scared. He looked bewildered. He looked like a child who upon opening their birthday gift was shocked at seeing it was horribly vandalized by permanent markers.
“My fellow Japanese,” he begun.
“As you all know from the news reports on TV, radio, newspapers, and on the internet, around thirty six hours ago, on May 3, 2013, there was an extremely violent incident in Matsumoto, Nagano. An intense fire fight happened beside Camp Matsumoto involving eight perpetrators and the members of the 13th infantry regiment, 12th brigade who were on base at the time.”
Abe paused and then took a deep breath.
“The resulting number of casualties are the following. Six perpetrators had been found dead, while according to our informants, the last two had already escaped Japanese territory.”
The last two escaped? I guess Imas the jelly woman was one. I don’t know who the other survivor is.
The room exploded with questions.
From what I could make out, the reporters were trying to ask if the perpetrators of the shoot-out were North Koreans.
“Silence!” Abe suddenly screamed, making me jump slightly in surprise.
The room quickly got quiet, shocked by the unimaginable outburst from our Prime Minister.
Abe slowly massaged his forehead, his temple, and the bridge of his nose. He then continued.
“As I was saying, six of the perpetrators were found dead while the last two escaped. On the Japanese side...fifty nine Japanese have died, twenty five of them were JSDF personnel while the rest were all civilians.”
“Fifty nine,” I muttered to myself in horror.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Poor folks,” Grandpa said from behind me.
I remembered some of those. The girl cut in half. The pregnant woman. The motorcyclist. The businessman. And then there were the explosions and the magical beams...it’s got to be those two that caused most of the deaths.
“And there were eighty two wounded. All but five were permanently crippled.”
If one goes by the portrayal of lethal magical beams...the least you would get is losing a part of your body by vaporization and severe burns – wait a minute.
Is father in law among them? Or the dead?
...I hope not. I dearly hope not.
“In these past thirty six hours the Ministry of Defense, the Public Security Intelligence Agency, and MEXT has investigated the identities of the perpetrators, and has been assisted in this task by...by certain, very unique informants.”
The reporters started buzzing as soon as MEXT was mentioned, since obviously MEXT is as involved with national defense as the Ministry of Environment. Which was, none at all.
On the other hand, I understood that MEXT would be involved to prove or disprove that Abe’s ‘very unique informants, Gaunilo certainly among them, are genuine magical beings.
“And in light of the information that had been given to me...I’m now taking the following steps.”
“Remember this moment Kurumi. This is going in the history books,” Izanami said from behind me.
Her tone of voice gave me the feeling that I won’t like it.
“First of all, with the most extreme reluctance, I...”
Abe paused. And then he coughed. He has the look of someone who can’t believe something is happening to them.
“I am now declaring that Japan is currently in a state of war with several foreign powers.”
...well, that just happened.
That just happened.
Many thanks to Strypgia, Atreidestrooper, and Naeddyr of Spacebattles for beta-ing my work.
And also to sofman of the website xnxx, for helping me portray how a grandparent would act.
Also, I have forgotten to give credit to Aleph back in chapter 7 for giving me some insight into archery. Sorry Aleph.