As the sun rises,
A thousand men march forward,
While red blossoms bloom.
A thousand men march forward,
While red blossoms bloom.
海 勝 日
軍 利 本
祭 の は
り 日 強
! ! い
Lively fanfare, bombastic music, and the sounds of an excited crowd filled the air as Kyoto welcomed the Imperial Navy Festival to its streets. Thousands of men and women in uniform marched in tandem with the lively festival music, while the crowd watched on. Children hoisted upon their parents shoulders mesmerized by the show, while elders watched with a knowing reverence. Meanwhile, further along the parade route, the actual festival grounds were packed with people playing games, performers putting on shows, and naval officers hunting for individuals, hoping to embolden their ranks.
"Hey, you!" One of the officers shouted to a young man who looked to be alone. "Come here a moment."
The young man, barely out of school with a wispy mustache and shaved head, tried to avoid the gaze of the officer as best as possible and slip into the crowd. However, the recruiters had grown accustomed to this behaviour, and had help ready and waiting nearby. Just as the young man thought he had escaped, he bumped into a young woman about his age.
"Ah, excuse me." He muttered, a bit flustered at the sight of her. "I was distracted."
"Oh?" The young woman inquired with a smile. "What’ got you distracted?"
Sheepishly, he nodded over his shoulder, in the direction of the officer. "The headhunters were trying to get me. They're like sharks at these sorts of things." He gave an awkward chuckle, trying to keep the conversation light. "This is the fifth time this month they've tried to recruit me."
As he spoke, the young woman nodded along, furrowing her brow a bit. "Do you not want to serve?" She asked, looking him over. "You seem like the type who would be good at it."
With those words, he realized exactly what was going on. Ever since the navy started allowing women to serve in non-combat roles on ships, they’ve also been used to help officers recruit gullible young men. He knew he had to find a way to separate from her,though, he didn't want to make a scene and draw attention from any of the more conservative older folks. "Oh, no, no." He muttered. "I would love to but…" he stalled, thinking for a minute. "My back. Er, I hurt my back working in a factory. I'm afraid the navy wouldn’t have any use for me like this. It’s… Disappointing." As he spoke, he moved a hand to his lower back, feigning a phantom pain as he spoke. "At least I know my pain helped our soldiers down South." He feigned, hoping she wouldn’t catch the lie.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that!” She replied with a frown. “Though, I’m sure the officer would be understanding if you told him that, right?” She then paused, smiling. “I have an idea. Why don't we go over together, and explain. I'm sure the officer would understand." She said in a happy, helpful tone. "That way he doesn’t think you’re being rude or avoiding him. After all, people like him are the reason people like us can enjoy a festival like this. I want to thank him myself, so why not go together?”
With that, the young man lowered his head in defeat. There was no way he was talking his way out of that. With a nervous smile, he accompanied the woman over to the booth, where the officer was waiting, a smile on his face. He tried to explain, like the woman had managed to convince him to, though he was already in their trap. It only took a couple more minutes before the young man, with a grimace on his face, had been strong-armed into signing his name on some papers. They promised that, after an evaluation, if he was truly incapable of serving, that would be it. Of course, he knew they would find out he was fine, but… He’d have to figure that out later. Not wanting to go away completely empty handed, he turned to the woman and, with a smile of his own, asked if she would join him at the fair, since she seemed to be alone. She apologized, and said she was actually on her way out, running off before he could even respond.
As he waded back into the crowd, defeated, he heard the officers voice from behind him, calling out to the next unfortunate victim.
Meanwhile, a bit further away at the imperial palace…
"… I'm afraid that, if things keep going this way, we may not have the supplies we need to keep things going at their current pace. We don't have enough men to man the front lines, the ships, and the factories. We either need some allies, fast, or…" the speaker trailed off, his gaze moving to the man seated in front of him.
"No, absolutely not!" The older man said, squinting from behind round spectacles. "I already allowed our men's wives and daughters onto our ships. I'm not letting them fight, I was very firm on this the last time you brought it up." As he spoke, there was a bit of a wheeze to his voice, making him sound much older than he actually was. "So long as I am emperor, I will not see my daughters put on the battlefield."
A solemn bow was the only response that was given by the man addressing the emperor. He knew there was no value in trying to argue this point any further. Raising himself, he turned to another in the room. A woman with extravagant hair and makeup, wearing traditional garb and sitting beside the emperor. Catching the glance, she nodded.
"Dear." She said in a soft voice. "You know that I agree with you on this matter fully. However… I think what Mr. Watanabe here is implying isn't the front lines, but instead, the factories. I know you've said they can be just as dangerous but… If we don't want to falter in this war, perhaps the danger closer to home wouldn't be so bad an idea…"
She was cut off as the emperor raised his hand to her, looking her in the eyes. “If you can honestly tell me that you would want yourself, or even one of our daughters working in a factory, then maybe I’ll consider letting this pass on to the Prime Minister. However, if you can’t tell me that, then why should I send anybody else’s daughter’s off to do it?” As he spoke, his eyes almost seemed to sink, as he paled a bit.
“Yasuhito…” The woman choked, trying to remain composed. “I understand what you are saying but…” She looked over, almost pleading for help from the members of the emperor’s cabinet present. “It’s not the same, dear. Me and our daughters… We’re not made for such things. It’s not fair to make such a comparison!”
As she was speaking, her eyes widened, looking to her husband. At first, she thought he was getting angry but… He began to reach for his throat and chest, and his face started to change from pale to almost purple. Panic in his eyes. It was clear he was struggling to breath.
"Go, get the doctors, now! Yasuhito is having another attack! Go!" She shouted to the cabinet members, many of whom were already rising to their feet at the sight of their emperor’s state. A couple lingered to ensure things were fine, but they followed the crowd when the prince, Nobushige, rushed to his father’s aid.
"Don't you dare, Chichibu!" The empress hissed through tears. "You'll make it through this one. Just like you have all the others.” She then turned to her son, watching as he started lifting his father to take him to his bed. “Be careful, Tatsu…” She mumbled, using her sons nickname.
“Of course, mother.” Was all he said as he disappeared into the hallways of the Kyoto palace, his footsteps joining with those of everyone else running about the castle, leaving the empress alone and sobbing in the meeting chamber.
Before long, an ambulance siren could be heard approaching the estate. A few minutes later, it began to fade, until it was drowned out entirely by the sounds of the lively festival n the distance. A sudden roar of cheers and laughter echoing through empty streets, as somebody managed to set off an early firework that briefly decorated the afternoon sky with hundreds of small, red blossoms of sparks. The people completely unaware of what was happening to the emperor only a short distance away.
Tampin, British Malaysia
A group of Japanese soldiers sat silent in underbrush, watching British guards patrol makeshift walls on the settlement ahead. Following their defeat at Malacca, the Brits retreated to Tampin, leaving a token force to buy time for their main force to properly set up defenses at Negeri Sembilan. In order to secure a victory, the Imperial Army would have to take Tampin quickly, and travel north along the road to Sembilan before the Brits could fully dig in. If they secured Sembilan, then there was nothing left between the Imperial Army and Britains final naval base on the mainland; Port Dickson.
With a quick conversation between two of the soldiers, one slinked away, to deliver the orders to advance to the main army, which was lying in wait a ways down the road. Returning their attention forward, all that was left for the scouts was to stay hidden and wait for the show to begin.
After about ten minutes of waiting, a gunshot rang out, followed by another, and another. However, the shots weren't coming from the road, nor were they coming from the Brits on the wall. Quickly fumbling for binoculars, the scout returned to looking at the Brits, just in time to see one fall forward over the shoddy walls, clutching a bleeding wound at their side. In the distance, faint yelling in English could be heard, but it was drowned out by a roar of shouts in Malay. Immediately, the Japanese soldier with the binoculars began hissing for one of the others to go and halt the army until they knew what was going on.
As yet another of their squad disappeared into the growth, the binoculared soldier watched on, as the Brits on the wall turned their backs to the road, and aimed their guns down into the town itself, opening fire on an unseen enemy.
Within minutes, bullets, stones, and assorted household items began flying at the soldiers on the walls. One rock pegged one of the Brits right on the left eye and dropped them to their knees, while another took a bullet to the shoulder. A third, watching this occur, backed up and practically threw themself off the wall, bloodying their hands as they did so before getting up and attempting to take cover in the underbrush; heading straight for the two scouts. Immediately, their hands went to the weapons at their sides,as they rose to greet the British soldier at gunpoint.
"Surrender!" The soldier who had been using the binoculars shouted at the Brit, who stared at the two like a deer in the headlights. "Stop!" The scout said, a bit clearer. Pausing, and looking over their shoulder at their falling comrades, the Brit raised their arms.
"Well hurry it up!" They spat, voice and legs shaking. "I'll take a Japanese prison over that bloody mess any day."
Almost hesitating out of confusion, the two Japanese scouts detained the British soldier, before hurrying along and taking them back to their CO, hoping that they could explain what the Japanese army was about to march into. As they march, they take note of just how shaken their prisoner is, and muse at what he must have seen peering into that settlement. However, neither are fluent enough to ask, so they march in silence, only breaking it to bark orders at the Brit.
When they finally make it to the main force, they find a messy assortment of vehicles pulled up on and alongside the single lane dirt road connecting the two settlements, confused and agitated soldiers strewn about between them all. From somewhere in the mess, an annoyed baritone called out over the crowd.
"Is Hirano here yet? I want to know what's going on! Hirano!"
Upon hearing his name, the binoculared scout called out in kind. "Hirano, reporting in." As he moves forward, he leaves their PoW with his squad mate, and weaves in the direction of the voice calling to him. "Excuse my delay, General Takeda. Something unexpected happened at Tampin. However…" He trailed as the general and his entourage came into sight, and have gave a firm salute.
"However, we managed to take an Englishman into custody. They can tell you more than we can. I think it's a local uprising, but I can't be certain."
As Hirano speaks, his partner eventually catches up, the Brit in tow.
"Very well, being him here. Return to your post, Hirano. I want to know if anything happens that we should be worried about." Takeda says, before turning his attention to the British soldier.
"I am going to talk to you." He says in accented English. "You will give me answers." As he speaks, he places his hand on the blade at his side. "Come." With that, he turns around and heads towards one of the vehicles pulled to the side of the road, and climbs into the back. The Brit is quickly escorted to the vehicle, and his hands tied to the seat to secure him.
"Now, tell me all you saw inside Tampin."