Saitama Prefecture, Japan, 1936.
Death danced among the plains and mountains of that cold land. There were both smells of blood and pain in the air, and a dry agonized scream of voices that left, without mercy, towards the tomb. Honored or not, that day could pass unnoticed, were it not for the present apprehension that took over the streets, through the eyes of each inhabitant.
It was February, the ice was already melting, making everything even more humid and sad, thick tears more than one cycle that ended.
But not all cycles ended.
The military coup against Hirohito did not affect. Emperor Shōwa was not a fool as his opponents supposed, and when he was warned of the rebellion, he contained it with death and strength. Many young officers were killed, punished for treason against their leader, bringing dishonor and shame under their names.
Regardless of the political issue that made the blood of all the inhabitants of the island tremble, the ten-year-old boy wept beside the bed, not for the dead soldiers, or for the new war that was already on the horizon. He was sorry for his mother, who was too weak to lift her head, just comforted him with a gentle affection in her hair.
Shiromiya Kazue had lost his father in the invasion of Manchuria. He was only five years old at the time, so he didn’t remember his father’s face clearly, but he grew up hearing about the manhood that generated him, about how he had been a hero in the Great Kantō earthquake when he saved many people who were buried. for the houses that fell during the event. However, the hero had died fighting in Asia, leaving his sick wife and two young children helpless.
The mother worked, taking care of the rice fields that surrounded the poor hovel in which they lived until the body could not take it anymore. He and your Brother Satoshi had helped her in any way they could, but they were both too old to do the hardest part of the job, and the heavy routine undermined the rest of the strength that existed in the fragile woman.
“What will become of us, Nii-chan ?” He asked his brother, who sat in a corner, his eyes wide.
Satoshi lowered his face, mortified. He was twelve, but he was a kid, almost the size of his younger brother. However, the big difference between them was their appearance. Shiromiya Kazue was incredibly beautiful, with almond-shaped eyes and black hair like the starless night. The upturned nose formed a harmonic ensemble with a smallmouth. So beautiful it looked like a girl. And that was the reason for anecdotes in the whole community, but the child did not seem to notice. Oblivious to everything, the little boy kept running from side to side, playing with ears of corn that he pretended to be his friends, regardless of the backbiting. Satoshi, however, had no such torpor.
In the circle of friends, he was ridiculed because of his brother. On the street, the older ones pointed at Kazue and laughed, annoying Satoshi. They told him that he should take care of the “sister”, as she would be very beautiful when she grew up. If the father were alive, he would surely end the malicious words. But Satoshi, despite being, at that time, the oldest male member of his household, could not protect the honor of the Shiromiya as his father would do and that irritated him intensely.
Then, that anger, without realizing it, was gradually transferred towards Kazue. Damn, why had he been born? started to question. The mother was never the healthy woman she once was after giving birth to her. They would have been much happier without that brat with a female face in the house.
Satoshi hugged himself, in a vain attempt to shake off the bad feeling.
“We will still have each other.” Kazue came over and wrapped his arms around him, misunderstanding that painful silence.
The old plank house creaked with the friction of the wind. A dog in the distance howled, and then the sound of the rain hit the clay roof. A faint moan escaped his mother’s lips. Kazue and Satoshi ran to their mother and waited.
That afternoon, they both wept in mourning. Life took from them, too soon, the person who would love the most, leaving them in the dark and lonely in the face of what fate was preparing for them.
The sound of the cart made the boy look at the wheels. The old wooden transport seemed about to collapse, making it clear that it was at its limit. Kazue observed the canvas that the brother placed on top, intending to form a den on cold nights. Shortly, he asked his mother’s spirit to keep the cart upright for the necessary time, afraid of having to be without a shelter.
They were thrown out of the house the morning after their mother’s death. The owner of the house they lived in had told them that it was not a child’s place. She was giving the house to a couple, who would pay for the roof with the lab or in the field. Kazue wanted to kneel before her, beg for mercy, but Satoshi was convinced to leave.
It had been three months since then, and they had achieved nothing but a little food and water for the work they had done. With the conflicts that would soon begin, the economy was visibly declining, and most people could not afford to hire boys to help with the harvests.
“I’m hungry” the little one whined.
Two days had passed since the last rice cake. And they had walked a lot, looking for work. His stomach burned, his mouth watered, and his mind made him dizzy.
“I am hungry too!” Satoshi shouted angrily. “Stop pestering me!”
The youngest wanted to cry but feared that his brother would take a stick and hit him in the butt. Then he just quieted down, holding the corncob doll he had brought with him.
They arrived at a village shortly after. The rustic, poor, ugly houses were the perfect match for the unpleasant smell of dirt.
“Where are we?” the minor asked.
“Stay here” was all he heard.
Satoshi walked to a place that looked like a bar. Men sat on wooden stumps. A smell of sake invaded his nostrils, bothering him.
Shortly after, the brother returned. He was accompanied by an old man, looking about fifty years old. Both were serious and Kazue held on to the old wagon, nervous. But then the man smiled in his direction. The childish eyes turned to his brother, questioning.
“He’s going to give us food,” Satoshi said.
However, there was no connotation of relief or happiness on his face. The scowl looked more conflicted and guilty.
“Arigatou “ the boy bowed to the man.
The old licked his lips, staring at him curiously.
“He looks like a girl with short hair,” he said for the first time.
“It’s a boy” Satoshi insisted.
In seconds, he was at her side. The wagon stopped between the deserted street and a concrete wall blocked the view of passersby. With privacy, the older brother did not blink, and as soon as he approached, he pulled his pants down, exposing his tiny penis.
Kazue was startled, tidying the fabric under him again, covering himself. Blushing, he buttoned his pants, looking awkwardly at the man. He saw him laughing softly.
“It’s very cute,” he murmured, delighted. “ How much do you want?”
“Three hundred yen and two rice dishes with fish” Satoshi fixed.
“Money is not the strength of this village, my boy” the man comes back or licks his lips.
Kazue was disgusted by the damp image. He turned to face his brother, trying to understand what was being negotiated.
“I need the money to support myself” the oldest of the Shiromiya justified himself.
“I give you the two rice dishes with fish, a bag of corn and, some potatoes for you to take on the trip”.
Satoshi seemed to ponder.
“Okay,” he said at last. “But you will only get what you want after paying. “
The sun was already down on the horizon when the man with the wet mouth returned. As agreed, he brought ready” made rice and fish in a bowl, and bags of corn and potatoes. Kazue smiled happily, almost running towards the food when his brother turned to him.
“Get in the cart,” he ordered.
He did not understand the order but obeyed it. As soon as he was sheltered, he sat between the cloths that served as a cover, his ears attentive to what was happening outside. However, there were no sounds or discussions. He just heard the sound of footsteps and imagined it was the man walking away. He had been wrong. It was Satoshi who walked away. The wet-lipped man got into the cart and sat across from him.
He felt uncomfortable, especially with the way he was looked at.
“What’s your name?” the man asked, licking, again, his lips.
The child’s stomach turned over again, and he thought he was going to be sick.
“Kazue,” he replied.
The man nodded.
“Sit here on my lap, Kazue,” he called. “I want to play with you ...”
Satoshi was shaking so badly he could barely hold the damn bags. He heard Kazue’s screams for the next fifteen minutes as if it were hours. He was pale, cursing himself, knowing he was condemning his young soul to hell after that.
However, motivated by despair, he decided to ignore remorse. After a few days without eating, Satoshi knew he would do anything. I would even get in the cart if the man wanted to. But he was not nearly as handsome as Kazue, nor did he attract so much attention.
When the big body got out of the cart, it finally came out of the tor. The man waved at him, smiling and left. Satoshi then walked to the cart, knowing in advance the image he would see.
He solidified his heart enough to feel nothing, even when the sight of the ten-year-old boy, naked and bloody between his buttocks, hit him hard. He closed his eyes, filling his lungs with air. Then he opened them again, cold.
“Here, the rice,” he said, as he placed a ceramic pot beside the lying child. “Eat,” he said.
Kazue looked up at his brother with watery eyes. Then, however, his small fingers sank into the food, and with an agonizing urgency, he ate it all with grief.
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