“What do you think?”
Uchida turned and faced him. Uchida. No honorifics. For Mitsuo Uchida had lost any rights to that kind of respect eighty years ago. Eighty long years ago when the older officer made Mitsuo believe in the war crazed ideals of imperial Japan.
“Good enough,” Mitsuo said.
He spent 50 years atoning for his sins in Sweden until the day he suddenly arrived in Japan. He spent six years reliving a very different kind of adolescent in a very different kind of Japan, and then he found out that Uchida hadn’t succumbed to cancer in the late 1970s.
That took a few years to forgive. What eventually sped that process up was when Mitsuo realised Uchida had atoned in his own way. In both worlds.
He always knew what I thought. “Yes, for now.” Mitsuo growled silently. He didn’t like the older man at all. “Look, you try anything funny with the Wakayamas and I’ll have every last goon you’ve hidden in Japan vanish within a couple of months. Are we clear?”
“Are they that important?”
Raw emotions flooded Mitsuo. Feelings of friendship, almost bordering on love soared through him. There was nothing sexual about it, but just as intense anyway. “They’re my friends. They made friends with me even though I never deserved it in the first place. I’ll die for them if I can stop you from hurting them.” It wasn’t even conviction, just fact. He owed them more than his life – he owed them coming alive again. Only once had he felt that strongly in his life before, and that time it was a tall, silver haired girl who turned his life upside down seventy years earlier.
Uchida stared at him. “You’ve grown.”
A sudden sensation of pain in his stomach delayed Mitsuo’s realisation that he wasn’t ill. Then he burst out in all but hysterical laughter.
“Moron,” he said after the attack ebbed out. “The hundred years old tells the ninety years old that he’s grown.”
“You’re ninety five.” There wasn’t even a trace of humour in the voice.
Mitsuo decided to react accordingly. “In this world I’m forty. In this world, and especially in this Japan I’m the one with the power to stab you from behind. In this world I left the worst parts of the seventy years I lived in that other world behind.”
“Talk, just talk.”
“You’re part of those bad parts. Two things of mine, only two, were never tainted by evil.” Mitsuo dug up old memories and sighed. Yes, this was what he truly believed. “My wife, and my daughter.”
Uchida’s eyebrows rose. “And Christina?”
Mitsuo had expected that. “She’s my granddaughter. She was never mine to begin with.” He didn’t dare to tell the older man that she carried memories of deeds almost as dark as his own. He hadn’t dared to tell Ulf when he still hoped that the man turned boy would stay by Christina’s side for a lifetime.
“About young Wakayama?”
Somehow Uchida must have read his mind. Thinking of Ulf made Mitsuo think of the kid who currently played the role of Christina’s boyfriend.
“He knows, as his sister does. He knows that their parents are involved with us, but I suspect that my friends are still unaware of how much the kids have understood.” Mitsuo scratched his chin. “I agree, he’s an excellent bridge between Sweden and Japan, but I believe Ulf’s a better one.”
“He’s an arrival. He should pick one of the nations when he’s grown into manhood again.”
“Because you don’t want him to stand with a foot in each? Is that imperial army fucking major bloody moron speaking, or did you at least learn the basics of what it means to be a decent human being since you arrived here?”
Uchida looked like he was going to explode, but as he calmed down Mitsuo had to accept that the older man probably had. Learned the basics at least.
With a sigh Mitsuo concurred. “This is a different world. Not just because it’s a different world, but more importantly because this is the twenty first century. Ulf’s young enough to be comfortable with globalisation. He’s not one of us.” With a grimace Mitsuo tasted the pain Ulf would experience should he choose to stay in Japan. “Uchida, that boy will carve out a small part of this nation and change it. Unless you want to torment him for the rest of his life, please accept that he needs a connection with Sweden to stay sane.”
Uchida looked thoughtful for a while. Then he shrugged. “Torment or not. I don’t care. If he’s useful or not is the only important thing. An honourable man knows how to fit into society.”
And with those words Uchida proved to Mitsuo that, while he might represent the Swedish side, Uchio’s core represented everything ugly with a Japan of the past that Mitsuo still kept running away from.
“Ulf could teach you about honour,” Mitsuo said with disgust filling his stomach. “I’ll help you with building a power base for young Wakayama, but if you try to fuck with Ulf you’d better keep the body bags ready.”
“Are you threatening me?”
“No, Mitsuo said. “My threats send people to hospital. You’re still standing.”
In the background Hasegawa-san looked like he was going to be sick.
“Don’t worry,” Mitsuo offered him. “In difference from your colleague there are perfectly decent arrivals. If it’s any comfort I can tell you that you should be deeply ashamed of what you did to your daughter. Young Wakayama is a good man.” Mitsuo nodded at Uchida. “I’m just trying to make this arsehole understand that Ulf is an even better one.”
“Enough with the pleasantries,” Uchida said, and finally some of the humour returned to his voice. “Can we agree on cutting that Kareyoshi idiot down to size?”
Mitsuo nodded. Uchida might be a sorry remnant of a past best forgotten, but in this case he was right. “It’ll take some time, and I’ll need your help, but we have to give Himekaizen back to the arrivals.”
“Then we have an agreement.”