“I’m not used to discussing myself with my men,” said Yamaguchi. “Though I am not surprised that you asked. It was much the same when I was stationed in London–even passersby on the street were full of questions.”

“You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” said Major Leigh. “I thought it might pass a moment, that’s all.”

“My grandfather was a samurai–do you know them in your country?”

“I think I’ve heard of them. Like knights, right? Loyal to their lord and full of honor and chivalry?”

“That is, I think, how they would describe themselves,” sighed Yamaguchi. “Fifty years ago, my grandfather and his ilk were respected and unique, scholars and poets and warriors. They alone had the right to wear a sword in public, and they alone could cut down a peasant who showed them disrespect at will.”

Leigh squirmed at the mental image. “Sounds good for the samurai, not so good for the peasant.”

Yamaguchi shrugged. “It was never something that actually happened. But then, the Emperor decided that it was time for ours to be a modern country with a modern army, and the time of the samurai was over. My grandfather did not know how to adapt to being a simple soldier, one among many, and he took his own life. My father has worked as a postal inspector his whole life, and his feeling was that dedicated service in an important but unrespected profession was the ultimate proof of loyalty to the Emperor and to the nation.”

“We have a word for that as well. The good old Puritan work ethic.”

“I could not live that life. I wanted to show that the martial spirit of my grandfather and his ancestors lives on. So I joined the military. I’ve seen many battles–this is not the first time Russian guns have been turned on me. But in the end, Major Yamaguchi is…a postal inspector. I keep small things moving around and getting where they are supposed to go, and unlike my father’s letters many of them are unruly or undisciplined. And unlike him, I have more to fear than a papercut.”

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