Why must I mourn the attacks on those great Western bastions: Paris, New York, and London? Do they mourn the attack on Kyoto? Are they even aware of it?
I doubt it.
I doubt they know how we channeled Aether through our blades to cut down the Martians. I doubt they know how we gave everything we had to protect our people.
I doubt they look past the ends of their noses and their narrow view of the world. Even if they did, they could scarcely understand the struggle of the people they call “Japanese.” They do not understand us, any more than they understand Martians, but we understand them.
I understand their attempts at softening my people to better manipulate, assimilate, contaminate, colonize. I understand what they have already done to the people of China. I reject their ways and so should you. It doesn’t surprise me that they fell prey to the Martians as easily as we did, that their military arsenals were no obstacle to the alien invaders. Arrogance breeds vulnerability. Believe me; I know this intimately. Look at the Meiji blockheads who think they control these islands. The West has more in common with Mars than it does with my people.
I have been asked by others of the Kinou no Bushi the same question, time and again: “Why did the Martians attack Kyoto?” It’s something to which my immediate response was incorrect. What I said first, born of hubris, was “They knew Kyoto to be our historic capital! They knew our people to be a threat based on our grand victories and Kyoto’s significance! They attacked us because we were special!”
Ah, I was a fool. Arrogance and hubris, indeed. My love of my people, the history of this land, my pride in the bushi, forced me to become a propagandist. As the Martians cut through our homes, libraries, markets, and shrines, I was bolstered with a naïve view that this attack somehow was an honor! One week after the other cities of the world were assaulted, now it was our turn! Surely, this meant the Martians recognized our strength and wanted to eliminate us from the board — truly a blessing and a curse.
I now know my assumption to be only part true. The whole truth is more complex but tells us something interesting of these invaders from another world: the Aether drew them here. Yes, Kyoto was and remains a mighty city of importance beyond our borders, but they were less interested in the place and its history than the intellectuals housed within. Scholars, scientists, priests, monks, and bushi who Tesla’s mob would call “Aethernauts” were the targets, and oh, how the Martians easily burned through our cultural centers to find them.
If the Warriors of Yesterday were not in Kyoto in force, perhaps the Martians might have struck another city in another land, bypassing our country entirely. The thought gives me pause and sometimes fills me with regret. Was it my assembling this faction, dedicated to the fall of the usurper Meiji and the restoration of the traditional, better ways, that led to so many deaths?
I cannot afford to have my thoughts clouded with doubt and sentimentality. Even if true, I do not believe the Martians to be stupid. They came here ahead of Shanghai, Tokyo, or Seoul (where I understand the rats of the Edison Illuminating Company have been hard at work) because they knew or sensed what we were developing and hungered to steal that power away, and if they couldn’t steal it, they were content to deny us access to it.
The Kinou no Bushi were so close. So close to unwinding the damage of the last three decades, perhaps more. With another month, maybe even two or three weeks, we could have reinstalled traditional roles of loyalty, honor, law, and glory to every one of our people. We could have swept away the Meiji, shown Edison’s thieves that we were the true masters of time, just in time for them to forget it all, and set this world on a better course. We could have unwound time with Aether. We could have erased it all and made a new future.
But it was not to be. The Martians came, they destroyed what research they could, they snatched up dozens of our bushi. Unlike in London and the other target cities, they did not try and remain, gorging themselves on the ruins of human civilization; they were here to raid, like pirates of old. And we fought back with virtue on our side.
I have never been so proud of my people as on that day, when we once again drew our swords and used them to shape our Aether, sliced through the metallic limbs, skeletons, and frames these Martians use as carriages and ships. You would be proud, too, to see Ryuki scaling one of their tripods like a lizard and cutting the top open with a single slice. You would feel strength to see Kazusa bring a Martian low and then pry the fleshy mass from its shell like a crab or oyster. Tesla’s students call us “Gogs” for using our weapons as instruments of our Aether, but what I see are warriors, ennobled with a true righteousness.
We lost many of our number. We lost so much that was written, but I mourn this less, for thoughts can be re-thought. What happens when a bushi is taken to Mars and dies there? Will they be reborn, and if so, where? These are thoughts for someone wiser than me to contemplate, for they fill me with nothing but anger.
The Martians will pay for their attack on us.
Do not mistake me, reader. I am no exceptionalist. I possess neither the British ambition of world domination nor the American delusion of “manifest destiny.” I know that independence from the world’s depredations, whether those of men arriving on ships with rifles in hand and coins in their pockets, or from Martians with death weapons affixed to their helmets, can only come through knowing the enemy, mastering what they have not, and using it to change the world we know. It will take effort, it will take loss, but it can be done. Whether it will be done is down to nothing but fortitude and skill, and those are things I can but gamble on.
All I know is something must be done, and my warriors must do it before the world I want to see is out of reach forever.
Grip your sword and cut the enemy open without blinking. Do not avoid the spray of their black blood. There is to be no compromise.
From The Translated Works of Takamori Toshiro
Trinity Continuum: Aether Serial Part V, by Matthew Dawkins
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