Mirth filled the air along with the aroma of charred salmon and roe-laden rice. These Ainu of Akan were as boisterous with welcomed guests as they were with those accused of defiling animals.
“That’s an ugly fish,” said Ogata.
Sugimoto snatched a speared flank from the fire-plate, turned his back on him and began to eat. Protective eyes focused on Asirpa, fast asleep beside Shiraishi.
“I’m going to wash my uniform,” Ogata stood.
“Don’t use all the water,” Sugimoto snapped.
“Water bins are full,” said Genjirou.
The women lugged many buckets back to the kotan for washing and cooking, as they refused to bath or launder their clothes in the lake.
“Good, maybe he’ll drown,” Sugimoto said.
Ogata departed without biting back. His mood had tempered after Sugimoto recounted the death of Tamai, Okada, and Noma.
Genjirou now understood the sniper’s anger during their confrontation in the forests outside Otaru.
Rumors had abounded at Takesu, but Genjirou never heeded whispered tales. At 203 Hill, after Private Noma took a bayonet to the face, Ogata had loitered around the medical trench daily, pacing with a rifle in hand, trying not to appear anxious when asking about the man’s condition.
The wind kicked at the door partition.
“We’ll see a little rain tonight,” Kirawus said.
There was no rainy season in Hokkaido. Back in Ani, summer delivered an afternoon shower with every sunset.
Cikapasi spoke as if reading his mind.
“Her name was Nikko?”
“She comes as rain before the planting of the rice,” Genjirou wrapped his arms around the boy in his lap. “She leaves behind her waters for the rice grow in before the fall harvest,”
Cikapasi’s head dipped, “There are farmers in Ani?”
“Yes,” on his feet, he hoisted the sleepy boy up and laid him beside the slumbering Shiraishi. “The mountains and everything upon them belongs to Nikko,”
“Only Matagi can hunt on her mountains,” the boy parroted lazily.
“That’s right,” he swaddled Cikapasi’s legs with his attus and stuffed Shiraishi’s discarded coat under his head. “Who was the first hunter?”
“Banzaburo,” the boy whispered, smiling.
“Shot mountain god Akagi through the eye with his arrow when Akagi took the form a snake and kept gobbling up all the bird’s eggs,” he grabbed the boy’s knees, making him squirm and giggle.
“That’s when-” Cikapasi yawned before closing his eyes. “She let him hunt and he gives her an ugly fish so she-”
“—always rains,” he whispered, petting the boys oily hair.
Genjirou returned to the cooking fire.
“You could’ve offered him some,” he scolded.
“If he’s hungry,” Sugimoto sucked his fingers. “Let him go back to Hijikata and get something to eat,”
He filled a bowl with rice and grabbed a skewered fish.
“Take him some bear meat,” Sugimoto cracked.
Genjirou grinned; none of them wanted any part of Anehata Shiton’s bear.
The warm wind pushed him as he walked along. Behind the longhouse where the rain bins stood came flickers of firelight and animated laughter.
Women were the same all over Japan; mothers and married girls in Ani often communed on summer nights for a refreshing bath.
Suddenly, a very naked Ogata appeared in the distance.
Catcalls peeled out after him as he stumbled.
Come back sisam, you’re still dirty!
Such a smooth boy come back!
Sisam, come let us dry you!
A grin on his face, the sniper, hurried into the tall reeds.
“Ogata!” Genjirou called.
One of the thicker women rounded the corner, naked under her attus.
“It’s the cub!” eight others stepped up behind her.
“Another dirty, sisam!” they crowded around him.
“No, please,” he said, trying to retreat.
“He brought us some food,” one said, taking the bowl and fish. Dexterous fingers loosened his buttons and grabbing hands made short work of his belt buckle.
“Please, no,” he begged as they pulled him toward the rain bins. Soon he was on the ground with his pants being peeled from his legs.
Ogata must’ve been washing his uniform when they happened upon him with the same intentions.
“Ladies!” a groggy Shiraishi stood there wavering. “I’m in desperate need of scrub,”
Like vultures, they flocked to the drunken man allowing Genjirou to grab his clothes and flee. The marshland loomed; a mass of bone-dry stalks that swayed noisily with the breeze.
Narrow tree limbs tied together with twine were laid upon the wetlands as walking planks. He followed the maze as bushy-topped foxtails rattled, drowning out the chirping frogs.
The tempest was now laced with chilly air that reminded Genjirou of home. He dropped his clothes and lifted his arms, savoring the wind as it lashed his body.
A whimper arose in the distance. He stepped cautiously until reaching a fork in the wooden path. Through the reeds came another guttural cry. Under the moonlight, he strode off the plank and pushed through the cane.
On his knees with his backside up and his face pressed to the moss, Ogata was pulling at his hanging erection, and with his other arm stretched, he was digging into his–
–Genjirou turned about, face hot with shame.
The fleeting vision of Ogata fingering himself brought fourth the voice of Superior Private Noma.
All you need is your middle finger, Tanigaki. He and Okada had laughed at Noma’s sage advice as they took a break from patrol and warmed themselves by the fire. Get that finger moving in and out, you’ll drive any whore crazy, man or woman.
“Genjirou Tanigaki,” Ogata’s deep drawl tickled his spine. “Did you bring me an ugly fish?” balmy hands found Genjirou’s hips as a forehead pressed between his shoulder blades. “Tanigaki,” he dragged out the name while his hands crept toward Genjirou’s growing arousal. “This will make a fine fish,”
Aching to be touched, he turned back around and dropped to the ground, pulling Ogata onto his lap.
Eyes shut tight, his mouth feasted on the skin beneath the sniper’s chin. An arm wrapped around his head and thighs held his waist like a belt. His manhood dueled with Ogata’s becoming trapped between their colliding stomachs.
Ogata twisted in his lap as he ground against him, avoiding his kiss until giving in with his eyes closed. When his tongue invaded, the sniper sucked it with vigor. An arm hooked around Genjirou’s neck as Ogata brought their arousal’s together and jerked them as one.
Head tilted back, he fixed his eyes on the bright moon above and grabbed hold of Ogata’s buttocks, moving the firm flesh as it ground over his folded legs. He touched the puckered flesh between them and felt the hand working his cock relax when his middle finger entered.
Ogata’s breath quickened as the digit slid in and out and soon, the sniper bucked into it, fiercely pulling at their erections. His hairless skin felt so good against Genjirou’s chest and the harder his body rocked, the tighter Genjirou held him. Brow upon Genjirou’s shoulder, Ogata’s pleasured groans came with a single utterance of Noma’s name.
Genjirou’s groin tightened when the sniper’s hips lost their rhythm. The pressure abated and gave way to a serenity that spread through his body like a drug. He grunted as his cock spent itself into the hairs of his chest, spilling its last drop as Ogata’s seed added to the muddle.
The pair slumped against one another, unfazed by the mess. Each with a cheek upon the other’s shoulder, that sat entwined several moments as the wind-swept foxtails applauded their demise.
“Ogata,” Genjirou whispered. “I’m sorry about Noma,”
“I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when,” said Ogata. “I’m cursed, Tanigaki, cursed by the man that made me.”
Genjirou didn’t know what to say, but then he never did when it came to Ogata.