Shichinin no Nezumikishi, Part II
Posted by Doug on May 22, 2009
Part two of my series of short vignettes of the history of the Seven Gray Knights:
Lieutenant Watanabe Hiro of the 7th Titan Battalion searched the halls of the Toyama Defense Station. A milquetoast young man of sixteen, he had only been given his commission as an officer nine days before, and felt ill at ease with his new title and responsibilities. He, too, was a titan pilot, and had deployed to the Toyama prefecture with the rest of his unit to reinforce the routed Kamiichi unit, but by the time the 7th arrived, the battle was long since over.
That had been four days ago. The rest of the 7th had returned to Tokyo yesterday, after the state funeral for the titan pilots who had died during the defense of Kamiichi. While still attached to the 7th Battalion, Watanabe had been given permission to assemble a special squad of titan pilots who could rapidly deploy to critical battles. He had spent months writing the proposal up, and had been shocked when it had not only been approved, but he had been promoted in order to make the proposal a reality.
He had tried speaking to one of the surviving pilots from the 72nd Battalion, Warrant Officer Takagi Miharu, yesterday at the state funeral. Takagi’s service and combat performance records were exemplary, by all accounts her tactical instincts were second to none, and she was even being recommended for the Order of the Rising Sun for her heroics in the Kamiichi battle. She was a perfect choice. Unfortunately, when he had tried to explain his proposal…
“Hottoite-kure-yo!” Takagi had growled. The phrase meant “Leave me alone!”, but the way she phrased it was extraordinarily profane.
Watanabe feared that Takagi would punch him if he tried talking to her again, but despite that, he sought her out. Meek and timid as he was, he was a titan pilot, and titan pilots did not allow fear to dominate them.
Or at least that is what they tried to tell themselves.
Finally Watanabe learned where Takagi was from one of the base personnel, and he rushed to a storage room in the back of one of the titan hangars which, Watanabe was told, had been the hangout of Takagi’s Squad Three.
He hesitated at the door, and resolved to stay at least five paces from Takagi at all times, lest she decided that violence was an appropriate answer. After mustering up his courage, he knocked.
Takagi answered the door. “You again,” she said.
Watanabe noticed her cheeks were still wet with tears. “Yes. I’m Lieutenant Watanabe from the 7th—“
“I heard you yesterday,” Takagi said, not moving from the doorway. “You want me to join your new outfit. Fine. I want a hat like yours.”
Watanabe was confused. “What?”
“Your hat,” Takagi repeated. “I’ll join your unit. Not much reason for me to stay here anymore. Just give me a day or two to send my team’s stuff back home, and get me one of those hats, and I’ll transfer in.”
Finally, it clicked in Watanabe’s mind. “Oh, my beret?” he asked. Instead of the traditional officer’s cap, he wore a non-regulation gray beret. “You want one of these?”
“Isn’t that what I said?” Takagi said.
His mind still boggling at the ease with which his recruitment of Takagi had transpired, Watanabe laughed nervously. “Sure, I’ll get you one of these. It’s not anything fancy—I got it from a mail-order catalogue. Would you like some help—”
“No,” Takagi said sternly, then her expression softened a little. “I…need to do this myself. Just give my CO the paperwork, he’ll rubber-stamp it.”
Watanabe nodded. He understood how Takagi felt. He had lost friends in this war, too.