“What was his name?” he asked, sitting in the mud beside him.
Superior Private Ogata was a rare sight in the trenches. Perched on the ridge or nested on the high-ground, he wasn’t considered part of the charge-corps.
Genjirou said, “Kenichi,”
The marksman brought out a worn cigarette tin and offered it up.
“No thank you, sir,”
“I heard your interaction with him,” he said. “Need to talk about it,”
“Respectfully sir,” Genjirou closed his eyes. “It’s not a story I want to tell right now,”
“Understood,” he pulled a flask from his jacket and offered it up.
“Is this Russian?” Genjirou asked and ran a finger over the Cyrillic script etched into its bowed surface.
“It’s shōchū,” he said.
Genjirou twisted off its tiny metal cap, “I meant the container,”
“Came off a sailor at Port Arthur,” said Ogata. “Our ship made landfall just north of here, the water was filled with floating arms, legs and ushanka. I found this on the beach with a hand still wrapped around it,”
The shōchū was ripe and robust.
Genjirou cleared his throat, “This is from the Corporal’s bottle,”
“Tamai owed me some money,” he said. “He gave me some of this instead, since none of us are getting out of here alive,”
Ogata drank his fill and offered him another taste.
“Thank you, Sir,” said Genjirou, accepting.
“Where are you from again, Tanigaki?” he asked.
Genjirou gave him back the flask, “Does it matter, Sir?”
“No, it does not,” he said, hand on his brow.
“You think it’s true what Christian’s say about hell?” Genjirou asked.
“They’ve got too many versions to know which one is right,” he said. “Russian’s think hell is their saints coming back and shouting, I Told You So. Spanish think we’ll burn in eternal fire. The German’s, they think nothing will happen to us because we don’t believe in their damn God anyway,”
“There’s no place for me among the Kami,” said Genjirou. “Not anymore,”
“Why is that?” he asked.
“I prayed for the opportunity to kill a man,” Genjirou said. “Only to find out that he didn’t deserve death at my hands,”
“So, you’re like Izanami?” he said. “You’ve eaten the foul food of the Yomi, and now you’re doomed to a life in the shadows,”
Genjirou grinned, “There’s no one searching for me in the shadow realm,”
“Greeks have the same stories,” he said.
“They believe in Izanami and Izanagi?” Genjirou asked.
“There are two Greek stories like theirs,” cigarette lit, he stretched out his legs. “The first is Eros and Psyche. He’s a god of erotic love, he strikes you with an arrow, and you rut the next person he strikes with an arrow,”
Genjirou laughed, “That’s Cupid,”
“Greeks call him Eros,” he offered Genjirou a drag off the cigarette.
“No thank you, Sir,” said Genjirou. “I know the story of Cupid and Psyche,”
“Then you know it’s a lot like Izanagi in the shadow realm,” he said. “All he had to do was wait until he got her into the light, but he had to look,”
"My father" said Genjirou, smiling. "He said that's why he never watched my mother give birth,"
"Yeah," smoke fumed from his laugh. "My grandma told me that too, she said nothing rots a woman faster than when a man loses interest in her body because she gave birth. Women with men that reject them like that, they're the walking dead. Just like Izanumi,"
“Izanami knew she was rotten,” Genjirou said. “She tried to get him to leave. He should’ve just listened and left her there,”
“Persephone is another Greek story like hers,” he stubbed out the lit stick against the sole of his boot. “She ate seven pomegranate seeds and was forced to stay in the underworld forever,”
“A pomegranate?” Genjirou grinned. “That’s not sexual at all,”
“Seven days,” Ogata laughed, “If she just kept her hands off herself for seven days,”
Genjirou laughed with him, “I supposed Hades was more attractive than the Greeks thought,”
“No, Persephone wasn’t innocent,” he said. “That's why Hades wanted her,"
"She was a virgin, right?" said Genjirou.
"Persephone was just soiled enough to attract the attention of the underworld's lord and master," he said. "There’s no such thing as an unsoiled person, Tanigaki,"
“I wouldn’t know,” Genjirou said. “I only attract the corrupted,”
Ogata was staring at him.
“You get back what you put out,” Genjirou said. “Isn’t that how the saying goes?”
“I met someone unspoiled,” he said.
“Not here I hope,” Genjirou said. “This place is an actual hell for the unspoiled soul,”
“What does that make us?” he asked.
Genjirou closed his eyes, “Already dead, Sir,”
Ogata brought his knees up and buried his head in his arms.
“Sir?” Genjirou whispered.
His shoulders trembled as he sobbed. He then raised his face to the sky and through his tears began to laugh.
“I’m an oni,” he cackled joyously.
Genjirou turned away, unsure of what to say.
“I decide who lives and dies in my little portion of hell,” he said. “You want to live, Tanigaki?”
Genjirou met his gaze, “I don’t know if I should,”
There was nothing agreeable about Ogata’s toothy smile.
“Well then,” he said. “You’ll get to stay another day,”
Genjirou watched as he rolled to his feet.
“Tamai and I are sticking close to Tsurumi,” he said.
“Lieutenant Tsurumi?” Genjirou asked.
“That smooth bastard is charmed, he'll live through anything,” said Ogata. “None of your team is left. Just come with me to the ridge, I’ll take you to Tamai,”
“I can’t leave this trench unprotected,” Genjirou said.
“White Sashes will be back through here when the shit starts again,” he said. “It won’t be empty for long,”
Genjirou stood and followed Ogata, “Thank you, Sir,”
"Just report to the Sergeant," he said, leading him onward.
"Sir?" Genjirou asked. "What kind of name is Persephone?"
"It's Greek for Tanigaki," he said.
"That's not funny, Sir," said Genjirou.
"No it is not," he said, petting a hand over his brow.
Ogata turned suddenly and fixed the long barrel of his rifle upon Genjirou's shoulder.
"Don't jerk-off in here for the next seven days," he warned. "Or you'll be stuck with me forever Tanigaki,"
"I'm certain I'll emerge victorious," Genjirou said; not that it mattered because he was already rotting inside.