“Please man, I just want to see my family!”
Genjirou lowered his rifle, “Family?”
“I got a wife and four kids. They live with her parents. I haven’t seen them in years. Shit, I never got to see my youngest,” he lifted his shaved head and with childlike eyes pleaded his case. “She’s a year old now. That’s why I risked coming back these woods. I wanted to see them, one last time,”
Genjirou’s mother died during his deployment. His father had lost the use of his arm after that and no longer hunted. He knew these things because his brother continued to write about the miserable details stemming from his absence.
“I’m sorry,” he couldn’t go home again, and neither could this convict. “I have my orders,”
“Listen, man, I know you’re not the only ones looking for us,” water pooled in his boyish eyes. “This map on my body, it’s made me a dead man. If I give you my address in Otaru, can you please just give me an hour head start. Let me see my wife and kids, one last time,”
Genjirou rubbed at the back of his neck.
Lieutenant Tsurumi allowed none of Abashiri’s escapees to live if they were covered in tats. This dolt knew his fate and all he wanted was a chance to say goodbye—but damn, he if he couldn’t shake the feeling this man was a liar.
Dagger unsheathed, Genjirou cut his bindings.
“Thank you so much,” the goon fidgeted like a squirrel.
Genjirou shoved a pencil and a five yen note at him, “Write the address down,”
“I never saw this denomination before,” he studied it before setting on the table.
“What’s wrong?” Genjirou demanded.
He forced a smile, “I can’t write words,”
Genjirou snatched up the pencil, “Tell it to me,”
The man spoke of an address in Otaru that was known to him.
A green battalion had been sent to it by the Lieutenant in his quest to corral the first escapees. Those convicts hiding there butchered every one of those First Year Private’s, some he considered friends.
“Get out of here before I change my mind,” said Genjirou.
The white-haired fool charged out without a word of thanks, leaving the door wide open.
He and Private Noma found this place several days ago and sfter cleaning the inside, Genjirou convinced the Corporal to use it as a center of operations for their convict search.
It was a furrier’s shack judging by the tanning hooks and hide looms, and it housed a Daruma stove that needed constant feeding of wood to keep the place warm.
Stoking the fire, he again pondered the ethics of the Lieutenant’s plan; if that convict has a family, how many other prisoners collected by the Lieutenant and then skinned, had families too?
Pushing it from his mind, he cycled through plausible stories to give about why he let the convict flee to Otaru. None of them were particularly compelling. Corporal Tomai had personally asked him to accompany them on this mission and the notion of letting him down was depressing.
The shack’s door slammed shut, toppling Genjirou over in fright.
Superior Private Ogata stood there, the hood of his cloak pushed back, and a gun slung over his shoulder. The wind following him in was scented with clove cigarettes and ripe body odor; a potent mix that took Genjirou back to that night after Mukden.
“Explain to me why you just let a prisoner walk out of here, Private First Class Tanigaki?” Ogata demanded.
Genjirou came to attention, “I know where he’s going, Sir,”
Ogata kicked snow from his boots, “You know where he’s going?”
“His family is in Otaru,” he explained. “Many children, and a wife living with her parents,”
A smile spread on Ogata’s handsome face, “Shiraishi Yoshitake doesn’t have a family. He’s been in one prison or another all his pathetic life,”
Genjirou’s cheeks burned as Ogata set his rifle by the door and untied his cloak.
“Save that scratch,” Ogata said of the banknote. “In case someone needs to wipe their ass with it later,”
“Did you cross paths with Noma?” he asked.
“Noma’s likely already back at headquarters,” Ogata said. “Bragging to Tsurumi about how you two captured another map,”
Genjirou grabbed his goatskin shirt from the chair and charged for the door.
Ogata got in the way, “Where are you going, Private First Class Tanigaki?”
“I got to catch up to him!” he declared.
“I don’t think you want to show up at HQ empty-handed,” Ogata’s strange brows rose. “Tsurumi doesn’t punish men like us the way he punishes important little boys like Koito. When he hears you got scammed by a wet weed like Shiraishi, you’re going to feel the pain,”
“Please step aside, Superior Private Ogata,” he said.
Ogata folded his arms over his chest, “If I don’t?”
He dreaded being on the wrong side of Ogata.
“Permission to speak freely?”
Ogata lowered his arms.
“How have I wronged you, Superior Private Ogata?” he asked, stare unwavering. “You’ve not spared a kind word to me since-”
Ogata’s expression soured enough to stop him from finishing.
“You’re nothing but insolent to me,” he said instead. “I demand to know why,”
“Insolent?” Ogata ran a hand over his cropped scalp. “That’s a big word for a Matagi,”
“I won’t stand here and be insulted!” he cried.
“Then be insulted sitting down!” Ogata drove his hands into Genjirou’s shoulders and shoved him to the floor. “Don’t get up, Matagi,”
“What happened that night we sheltered from the blizzard,” he threw caution to the wind. “Is that why you’ve been so abusive to me?”
“I wasn’t disappointed if that’s what you’re asking,” Ogata grinned. “What happened was instigated by me, after all. No one forced you to take part, Tanigaki,”
“I wanted your respect-”
“—jerking each other off in the dark while our comrades slept all around us?” Ogata moved into his space when he stood. “There are better ways to build respect, Matagi,”
“I’ll return and take my punishment from Lieutenant Tsurumi,”
“Get back on the floor, Private First Class Tanigaki,” Ogata pulled out his pistol when he didn’t do as ordered. “Get back on the floor. I’ll determine how to best discipline you,”
Ogata backed up to the door as Genjirou fell to his knees. He pulled the wooden door jamb down into its locking brace and regarded Genjirou with a gleam in his eye.
“I do respect you, Tanigaki. You’re more a man than most of the morons in this outfit,” Ogata brought his finger to his temple. “And the way you got everyone thinking that brain of yours is a dry sponge, that’s inspiring,”
He kept his eyes front and his mouth shut.
“That’s good, Private First Class Tanigaki, you know when to keep those pretty lips of yours closed,” Ogata entered his line of vision. “If you must know, it’s my respect for you that makes what I’m about to do, so difficult,”
“You’re a better liar than the Escape King,”
“Oh no, you got me beat on that front, Matagi,” Ogata circled him. “That thick-headed mountain boy routine even has Tsurumi fooled,”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,”
“Get off your knees and sit on the table,” Ogata barked.
Genjirou chose not to move.
“Now, Private First Class Tanigaki!” Ogata shouted, pulling the belt from his waist.
He jumped to his feet, “I’ll not be spanked like a child!”
“You’ll do as you’re told,” Ogata raised his pistol and this time cocked it.
He swallowed hard before sitting on the edge of the table.
“Don’t worry, Matagi,” Ogata grinned. “This isn’t off because I want to beat you with it,”
“Superior Private Ogata,” he delivered a bored sigh. “Why not explain to me what’s going to happen and how I need to proceed,”
“Aren’t you a little bitch,” Ogata said.
He scowled and curled his hands.
“Where’s my mind? I forgot that the Ani Matagi doesn’t like that word,” Ogata mocked. “Who was that Private in the trenches that you laid out cold for saying it one too many times?”
“I lost my temper and apologized to the man,”
“Part of your mountain boy routine,” Ogata mused. “It’s funny, your brainless hick act had me going until Mukden,”
Genjirou felt his heart quicken as Ogata moved closer.
“You knew Shiraishi was full of it, but you let him go,”
He couldn’t explain his reservations about their current mission; despite what occurred between them in Mukden, he still didn’t trust the man.
Ogata whispered, “Our current orders aren’t sitting well with you either, are they, Tanigaki?”
He gazed at his boots instead of answering.
“Still going to keep playing the idiot, eh?” Ogata said. “I bet that’s why Tamai brought you along,”
“What are you talking about?”
“Tamai chose this stretch of woods for his convict hunt, just like he chose you, and Okada, and Noma,” Ogata said. “You’re all questioning Tsurumi’s goals,”
“We’re loyal to the 7th,”
“They haven’t brought you into the fold yet,” Ogata studied his face. “I approached you too soon. Not the first time I’ve done that, right Tanigaki?
“You can’t believe that about them?” he argued. “After everything we’ve been through?”
“Tsurumi’s onto them,” Ogata said. “That’s why I’m out here,”
“I’ll speak to them-”
“—You’ll do no such thing, Tanigaki,” Ogata’s hand flew up and his long fingers grasped hold of his chin. “The moment you say a word to them is the moment you are part of their mutiny,”
“Superior Private Ogata,” he said. “Please release me,”
Ogata let go, “Present your fists, wrists together,”
“Binding me is unnecessary,” he rolled his eyes.
“Do as you’re told,” Ogata snapped.
“I’ll return in your custody to Lieutenant Tsurumi,” he said, knowing full well what was in store; Tsurumi’s injury made him unpredictable and men like him were punished brutally for their failures.
“Do as you are told, Private First Class Tanigaki!”
Looping the belt around his wrists, Ogata was close enough now that his body odor blunted Genjirou’s senses. The countryside had replaced their barracks, forcing them all to make do without proper showers or laundered clothes.
“My grandma had one these Daruma’s on a big square of sand near the kitchen. She got tired of the cats pissing and shitting in the sand,” Ogata stepped to it and opened the hatch. “Leave it to Noma to find a cozy place like this. You jerk him off, too?”
He didn’t need the memory of that night thrown in his face, but what happened was inevitable considering Ogata’s actions leading up to it. They’d lived in those trenches for weeks and more than once he caught the sniper staring at him.
The night they took refuge in that cabin with the Lieutenant, Ogata had stalked the room waiting for Genjirou to pick a spot on the floor. Once settled, he made sure to lay right beside him.
“Noma ever tell you how he got that scar?” asked Ogata.
“I wasn’t there,” he said as Ogata paced like a cat in a cage. “I heard about what happened with you and the Sergeant because of it,”
“Tsukishima,” Ogata mused. “You never see him coming, and when you do, it’s too late,”
“I disagreed with his course of action,” he said. “You were insulted by Noma, and you reacted,”
Ogata repeated Noma’s insult, “Son of a whore is a whore himself,”
He snapped, “I don’t like that word-”
“—What word?” Ogata moved in close.
“Prostitutes serve a purpose,” he explained. “They deserve better than a dismissive word like whore,”
“Tanigaki, your principles surprise me with each new day,” Ogata ran a finger along his ear, finished with the posturing and useless conversation.
“Superior Private Ogata, Sir,” he chose to incite. “What must I do to keep you from telling Lieutenant Tsurumi that I allowed the convict to leave?”
Ogata coughed up a laugh, “Bolder than I imagined, too,”
Genjirou looked into the sniper’s eyes.
“Don’t look at me,” Ogata ordered.
He faced front, “So, there’s a reason you hunt in the dark?”
“Close your eyes, Matagi, and shut your mouth!” Ogata’s clove-scented breath tickled his ear. “You open your eyes or say another word, and there’ll be no reprieve,”
Eyelids dropped as hands seized his waistband.
“You keep those eyes closed. I catch you peeking and any truce between us to ensure my silence is forfeit,” Ogata’s breath remained steady as he yanked Genjirou’s trousers down to his boots. A hand found the stiffness beneath his fundoshi. “The first time I saw this thing, I thought I was dreaming,”
Ogata withdrew, and Genjirou sensed him sit down on the table beside him.
“You keep those eyes shut, Matagi,” he warned, gently taking Genjirou’s chin and pulling him in for a kiss.
Lips parted and allowed the man’s tobacco lined tongue to lash at him with abandon. A hand returned to his arousal, working the foreskin with the skill of a baishunfu.
The temptation to disobey was unbearable.
“Don’t you dare look at me, Matagi,” Ogata hissed against his lips.
Shoulders caught, Genjirou was pushed onto his back.
Impatiently the sniper shoved his bound wrists up and undid each shirt button. Soft hands plied his ribs and hips before fingertips scratched through the mess of hair along his stomach.
Ogata squeezed his pectorals, he let out a sigh.
“Keep those eyes shut, Matagi,” he whispered.
Genjirou sensed him circling, his breath heavy.
Hands slipped between his shoulder blades and the table, and with a grunt from Ogata, he was dragged across the surface until his head hung off the edge.
The sound of him pulling his jacket from his shoulders came before the noise of his trousers being undone.
Genjirou opened his mouth eagerly; he was no stranger to kissing a man’s cock. In the mountains back home, it was expected of the young men to have their faces violated if they returned empty-handed to the camp.
A hand found his chin as Ogata’s slender erection pushed past his lips. Bitter remnants of Ogata’s day assaulted his tongue, but the taste became tolerated along with the lingering stink of stale sweat.
“That’s a talented mouth you have, Matagi,” Ogata observed, winded, and then pinched Genjirou’s nipples. “Let’s hear you sound off,”
Mouth full, he groaned as ordered.
“Shit, you’re going to finish me faster than I expected,” Ogata withdrew and walking back around he slapped Genjirou’s thigh, “Feet on the floor, forearms on the table, now!”
He moved as ordered, his half-lidded eyes catching the filthy mirror above the washbowl stand; he spied Ogata behind him, face masked in lust as he focused on Genjirou’s backside.
“Keep those eyes shut, Matagi!”
Hands pawed at his buttocks, kneading and spreading, pushing him and the underside of his manhood against the tabletop.
Something syrupy and cold dripped over his flesh and slithered down his testicles.
“I keep a tin of red-seaweed oil,” Ogata bragged. “Just in case I’m lucky enough to find a rugged piece of ass like you, Tanigaki,”
He whimpered as Ogata’s thumb invaded while a determined hand fondled his testicles. The tip of the sniper’s erection dragged up and down the slope between them, and Genjirou raise his hips, eager for more than the man’s thumb.
“You’re a mountain,” Ogata whispered. “And I’m going to climb you, Tanigaki,”
Genjirou groaned his approval and bore down as Ogata pushed his way inside. His manhood was small, his invasion exquisite, but his hand on Genjirou’s arousal wasn’t kind; he worked him roughly, slapping his shaft against the table’s surface just to hear him cry out.
Genjirou couldn’t help but open his eyes as the sniper’s grunts gained volume. Complete control over Genjirou’s body turned Hyakunosuke Ogata into a virile beauty. Enslaved by the sight of him, he couldn’t look away.
The sniper’s eyes suddenly lost focus and his lips spread into a sated smile. He pushed fitfully into Genjirou’s flesh and cried to the ceiling, his porcelain neck exposed and that perfectly formed lump in his throat quivering.
Genjirou pressed his sweaty forehead to his wrists; seeing the sniper’s climax bloomed an intense pleasure in the pit of his gut. On his toes he cried out, shuddering as his body emptied itself onto the tabletop.
“You looked at me, didn’t you?”
Genjirou shook his head, and kept his eyes clamped shut.
“You watched me breed you in that mirror, didn’t you, Tanigaki?”
“I never opened my eyes-”
“—You’re a lousy liar, Tanigaki!”
Ogata jerked free of him.
“I didn’t, I swear Hyaku-!”
Rage colored Ogata’s face and silenced Genjirou.
The sniper refastened his trousers and pulled on his uniform jacket. His eyes continued their embargo, snatching up his cloak and gun he wrenched open the door and stormed out of the shack.
“Why’d you have to say that, you moron,” he scolded himself, freeing his wrists from the belt. “You should’ve just laid there with your trap shut,”
At the washbowl, he rinsed away all remnants of Ogata and his oil.
“Why do I attract the damaged ones?” he mused.
Redressed, he scrubbed the table clean and tossed the rags and wash water out into the snow. The moment his boots were cinched tight, Private Noma barged into the shack with Tomai and Okada on his heels.
“He wasn’t a convict?” Noma demanded.
Genjirou was unsure what to say.
Tomai frowned at Noma, “You should’ve checked him for tattoos before leaving-”
“—Corporal, he was covered in tattoos,” Genjirou said. “The names of his children, his wife, and his many lady friends. None of them were of a map,”
“We know,” Okada sighed. “Superior Private Ogata told us the same thing when we met him on the hill,”
“What’s that son of whore doing out here anyway?” Noma groused.
Okada shrugged, “He wasn’t supposed to meet with us unt-”
“—he’s here hunting skins like the rest of us,” Tamai silenced them.
“Only he’s looking to poach ours,” Noma said, nodding.
“He came in here and checked the man’s tattoos,” said Genjirou. “Then he left without saying a word,”
The trio exchanged suspicious glances.
“Let’s get some more tracking done before the sun sets,” Genjirou walked to his skis and grabbed his goatskin pull-over.
“You and Okada go, I need to check in with the barracks at Otaru,” Tamai tapped him on the shoulder. “Where’s your belt, Private First Class Tanigaki?”
“Here it is,” Noma retrieved it from on the table.
Genjirou caught it when tossed, and as he laced it into rungs of his waistband, he saw that Ogata’s belt was too narrow to secure. He covered the unfastened buckle with his goatskin pullover before following Private Okada out into the snow.