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Hellooo~? This still works right?
Hearing you loud and clear.
You hear what they’re saying?
How couldn’t you? Nobody will shut up about it.
All rabbits of the Partridge Unit, please respond. Going to the sea tomorrow, should be fun.
We still hidden? We are.
Quit it with that. Yeah, you. Present.
Present. I’m honestly...
Yeah, I’m here. Present. I’m honestly kinda scared.
Lady Yorihime is asking for you. Crap! Ahh, shit! Lady Yorihime!?
Hey, we all are.
Seiran sneaks mochi from the pounders when no one’s around.
You alright? Hey! I don’t!
Yeah. They aren’t interfering with these channels? What a relief...
Ke~gare kegare~! They already landed. What’re we gonna do?
Hey, cut that out, that’s not funny.
It’s kinda funny. Stop using the coms to talk about eating mochi.
They’re humans. All of them? All of them. YUM YUM MOCHI’S GREAT Stop it!
What are humans doing on the Moon? Ringo sneaks mochi from the pounders when no onGUILTY
Hey if any of you guys want to give me mochi
What about Keiun? Does she steal mochi? I will take your mochi.
Lady Toyohime is in talks with Lunarian higher ups about what to do.
The truth is: all rabbits are mochi thieves.
NO! No! Nuh uh! I’m not. No. I’ll still admit it, at least on here. Don’t rat, guys.
Does Reisen steal mochi? Of course! For rabbit ears only!
I don’t. Looking for my mallet. Anyone seen it? Are we gonna be okay?
What’s it look like? I hear we’re deploying. Like, for real. We can take ‘em! No.
It has a star on it, heh heh. Oh no... really?
Hey guys, have you heard? Hey! Someone come over Eastways and help me with the training dummies!
Toyohime, or Momohime? Heard what? Out with it! No way!
Heheheh Haha Ha, that’s funny. She won’t stop stealing peaches! Hey remember we’re all in this together.
Peaches or mochi, who do you love more!? Hope you can fight, rabbits. I’ve got all of you.
You, mochi! Always you! None of us can fight. Thanks, Ringo.
HAHAHAHA!! Heheh Come on guys this is serious. Except Reisen.
I don’t want it to be serious. Can’t we just goof off? “Come on” yourself. Hey Reisen, how you holdin’ up?
Reisen? Hey! Listen up! Won’t be long now! I’m gonna try to broadcast some music,
The pure land is definitely being tainted. Wait what Reisen? hold on.
I tune everyone out.
The chaos of worries and chatter, rumors and feeling all fade.
Except that music.
Music on the Moon’s been the same since before I was born. Our Lunarian masters like “eternity”, and not changing.
But, this music Ringo’s bringing in is from Earth. She caught the signal and is sending it over our ears. I’ve got to give it to the humans: it’s a nice sound. They use old, primitive instruments to make laid-back, smooth tunes in their orchestras. It helps me relax. I really need to relax. I send Ringo my thanks.
「You’re welcome, but the others are worried about you, so get back on the wide band.」
No can do. I tell her to tell them I’m asleep.
「Putting lies over the waves? That’s unheard of.」
I laugh, mainly through my nose, and hug my knees to my chest. I look out past the Sea of Tranquility, watching and listening to the Earth below us. The sea’s calm ambience goes nicely with these easy sounds.
... The name they gave me was Reisen. I don’t know if my parents would’ve given me a different name. They were named like that, too, by their owners. I’m one of the pet rabbits of the Ladies Watatsuki, and they decided to make me a soldier of the Lunar Defense Corps. It doesn’t tend to mean anything... strict training that most rabbits skip out on, and no sorties or real combat. We exist in the Lunar Capital, and it’s not easy getting in here in the first place. We’re the first line of defense should any of our other automatic defenses fail, and we’re a hidden society ran on incredible technology so I think it says a lot how unimportant we, the Corps, ultimately are. But, unfortunately today marks one of those rare events in history: a time when the Lunar Defense Corps has to mobilize. I was hoping I’d die before that happened, not that dying’s easy when you exist in a pure land, away from mortality. I don’t really want to die before I “should”, that’s all... Or, no, that’s not all. I really, really don’t want to go. I really don’t want to fight. But, even more unfortunately for me, I’m good at it: fighting. I’m going to fight.
And, I’m going to die.
I try focusing on the trumpets and slow strings coming over my ears, but I keep thinking about the truth: that my job is to prove more serious measures need to be taken. We are the test. They won’t say that outright, to not slander our masters who manage and direct the Corps, but that’s what we are. I remember learning about it: how during the last invasion all the lunar rabbits sent to fight were killed, which prompted the Lunarians to fight on their own. The way they wrote about it, “The Lunar Defense Corps were unsuccessful in stopping the initial attack of the youkai,” is just like them, too. We know. Even if it happened a long time ago, we know what happened to our comrades and family. We’ve told it throughout the ages – the deaths and meals made of the rabbits in those battles – and not over our ears, but to each other, in our homes. It’s the truth.
The truth is, no matter what, I’m a tool.
My ears begin to crinkle and droop.
“Ohh...” I moan, petting them and trying to smooth them out. I pet, and pet, and my anxiety keeps building. My resentment keeps building. I may be the best rabbit my masters have seen, but I am still a rabbit, and I’m still scared, and worried, and I just want to hide in bed—just want to munch on something away from everywhere else. Just don’t want to get caught up in anything. Just want to sleep, and dream. But that’s not anything a slave can do, at least not now. They’ll let rabbits off the hook when nothing serious is happening, because rabbits will be rabbits, but during history-making like this... It won’t only be me; we’re all going to fight.
「You’re still broadcasting a little to me.」
「Don’t worry about it. Get back to the estate, we’re mobilizing.」
I go completely silent.
I get an incoming, 「You there?」
「I’m heading over. Can you give me the equipment storage key?」
「We’re not supposed to have that, or go in there without Lady Yorihime’s permission.」
「But you have it right?」
I feel frustration from her signal.
「What do you even need from there?」
「Listen, I’m the one who knows the weapons and equipment best. I’m going to do an evaluation and try equipping everyone properly.」
「... That right?」 ... her signal is... cool? 「Just this once, Reisen.」
I give her my thanks again, and stand up.
“Listen up!” shouts Lady Yorihime.
“The first strike—” can be heard echoing over the manor from a distance.
“The humans have planted their flag just beyond the Sea of Tranquility, claiming it theirs and spreading impurity in this Pure Land.”
“—is for Lady J̰̥͓o̯̰͚̼̤̕u̦͉̲̚g̸͚̭͇̹͑̄̈́̄͒a̭̘̻̱͇͙̻ͦͮͦ̓̔ͩ͐!“
“You will depart for the Sea and move past it in an hour.”
“The second strike—” the chant continues.
“I know that you are all scared...” says Master, her hands behind her back.
“—is for Lady J̶̺̻̥ͧ̄̇̓̒̎o͙̝̼̹̦͛ͩ̌́̉̈́u͓̟g̀͗ͮ͡ȁ̙͎̖ͣ̉͐̚!“
“... but this is where you will prove your worth to Lunar Society.” Her eyes are closed, and she seems to mean this earnestly.
Of course she does. For all our follies, Lady Yorihime always believes in us.
I stand at attention in a group of fifty rabbits, dressed in black blazers and white skirts woven with Lunarian technology for defense and more. We each have a rifle to fire bullet curtains (each with unique settings and properties to suit every rabbit), a helmet, magic, and red eyes that cause Lunacy. We are the first line, and I am part of the vanguard. Beside me is Ringo, a short-haired blond, floppy-eared and mostly lazy rabbit (which, if you think is redundant, you haven’t met Ringo), eating dango as always. She get that allowance since it makes her more powerful. What a funny ability...
Behind me is the blue-haired and twin-braided Seiran, looking and glaring at Ringo. She’s one of the top soldiers in our Corps. Keiun, another skilled rabbit, is somewhere at the back of our formation. Every rabbit aside from us looks pale, and they’re all trembling. I take my hand to my abdomen, and grip at my uniform.
“If all goes well,” Master continues, striding as she speaks, her long ponytail (violet as mine) flowing in the wind along with her split skirt, “you will engage in no fighting. The plan is only to sabotage the humans’ vessel, the ‘Apollo Eleven’. A ship named after the Sun is doomed to fail on the Moon. You will most definitely succeed.” She stops, the hilt of the sword she always has at her waist clinking at the abrupt motion. She looks over us, and it seems particularly to me. “And should it still come to engagement, if you still have to fight...” Lady Yorihime begins in her deep voice, “some of the best rabbits to have ever entered the Corps are with you today, and Reisen—” I jump, “—has given you all means to win, equipping every last one of you uniquely to best ensure your survival, and of course, victory.”
I swallow, and harden my eyes, not looking at anyone else. Ringo looks at me, and her ears twitch in the corner of my eye, but she doesn’t send me any ESP waves. I feel my own ears crinkling.
“Elder Sister? Do you have any words for the rabbits?” Master asks Master, who is sitting in a tree watching us, eating a peach.
Lady Toyohime, gorgeous as ever, her yellow, bountiful hair radiant as the Sun, still won’t give us much to bolster morale. We all look at her; she swallows a bite of fruit and says, “I think you’ll all do fine. You may just be rabbits, but they’re just humans.”
A backhanded compliment, like always. Nobody is happy about that, as our murmuring thoughts meld together in collective disappointment. If there was ever a time to cheer us on, Lady Toyohime, it was now.
“Then, my last word is that I have all faith in you. Prepare for deployment in approximately fifty minutes! Dismissed!” Lady Yorihime shouts, and all the rabbits but me begin to scramble.
I stand still, my comrades running all around behind me.
And I keep my abdomen gripped.
“Hey,” comes a whisper at my ear. I look to see that it’s Ringo, with her hand on my shoulder. “Let’s talk a minute before anything else.”
She looks serious for once... She... probably figured me out, I guess.
This smaller rabbit drags me beneath a tree, out of any sort of earshot, and says in a voice only for my ears, “Why’d you take a Lunar Veil?”
I don’t answer her, shifting my eyes. She grabs me by the shoulder again, “Hey, Reisen, I get it but... you’ve gotta be strong now, for everyone. Come on.”
I can feel tears welling in my eyes, and suddenly I’m pulled down into her chest, where she keeps me hugged. “Alright, alright, calm down little bun,” she says, squeezing me further. I grip at her blazer, and keep hiccupping as I wet it, almost uncontrollable. She keeps trying to console me, starting to pet my hair, “Chill Reisen, I know... I know it’s tough, ‘cause everyone’s relying on you. You especially. You haven’t been listening, but most of us are putting our hopes on you, and that’s not fair.” I shake, sobbing. “We good guys are the ones everyone’s going to look to in this battle and... yeah, I think it’s gonna be a battle.” She finally lets me go, looking into my broken face with pity, “But that’s why we need you. We need everyone, together. You can’t... You can’t escape now. Please.” She grips my shoulders, and I continue sniffling. She takes out a cloth, and begins wiping my face.
“I-I-I’ll t-try b-but... I... I’m not any less s-scared than you guys...” I tell her.
“Yeah,” she says. 「I know.」
This is Reisen, the vanguard is nearing the opposite shore of Tranquility.
Alright girls, do your best.
scared Can anyone see it? Can anyone see Apollo 11?
This is Keiun. I can see ‘em.
Hey, our suits generating atmosphere correctly?
How many? scared
Yep, no problems.
Three, looks like.
Just three? There’s fifty of us, this’ll be cake! Are we gonna be okay?
stay strong, stay strong
I’m really scared
Don’t get lazy now, they’re spreading impurity, and we don’t know what sort of weapons they have.
Let’s make Lady Yorihime proud!
go go go
I raise my gun. I can see it now too.
Humans. I’ve never encountered any before them, and only know about their culture. They’re primitives, nothing at all like Lunarians. Impurity rots them to their cores, and they live and die on a ball of polluted dirt. Going down there... is an absolute last resort.
「Landing! Make it soft and make it gentle, ladies! Let’s keep our cover, come on come on—move, move!」 I order, and we begin to land on the sands of Tranquility, hiding behind dunes. I look behind myself: the rabbits from the middle and the rear guard are waiting for our signal to approach. Ringo is still beside me, having gone into a meditative seating position with her eyes closed. Her ears are nudging under her helmet; seems she’s trying to figure out the area and situation. I excel at wave manipulation myself, but Ringo has a knack for “finding” things.
I begin organizing the other troops. Most of the girls here are for backup in case things go poorly; we at the front just have to get in, sabotage the Apollo 11 vessel, and get out. To that end I’m paramount. I can manipulate waves surrounding us such that we can’t be perceived visually or audibly. I just... hope it’ll work on humans. Lady Yorihime said it should, but my heart is pounding and I’m anxious beyond belief.
Ringo opens an eye to look at me.
I nod at her to reassure her, and she picks herself up, getting into a squatting position to start briefing us.
「Here’s the deal: they’re definitely prepared to deal with threats, and they have weapons, but I couldn’t figure out how they work from what I could gather. There’s also no good news, unfortunately.」
「What?」 someone asks.
「They have some sort of equipment that should allow them to find us if we get too close, even with Reisen’s manipulation. I don’t think we should risk a man to test if that’s true. I don’t want any rabbits dying today.」 Ringo starts rubbing her hands together harshly, and I get the feeling she’s worried. 「 I’m saying we overwhelm them.」
「It’s what we’re really trained for, and we have our orders, right? No diplomacy.」 She looks at me with a severe expression. 「We have to fight.」
I swallow, nod, and begin delivering orders.
We form a sniping-heavy position while I send others to begin surrounding the airspace. I tell them to be careful because of Ringo’s call that they could see us, but I cloak them and make them imperceptible just in case.
And, while I’m looking over the surface and sky of the Moon, I’m shocked by a piercing scream beside me. We all huddle down under the dune we were manning, and try to identify who that was. It turns out it was Terere, and she’s holding her face and struggling to hold back her voice, writhing in agony on the ground. I take charge at once, and pull her hand from her face,
“Wh-What the...!?” I whisper, and a wave of panic spreads throughout our ears and minds.
Terere’s cheek has been sliced open, her blood burst across us all and her own face. Nobody knows what happened.
I order her treatment at once by Yuuwa, who rushes over and applies medical tape to start healing. I shoot a look at Ringo.
“What was that!?” I shout.
“I-I don’t know! Their weapon!?” she says in a loud whisper.
And the rumor immediately spreads, sinking our morale. The invaders seem to possess invisible bullets. Nobody knows how to comprehend that.
“Why’d they fire on us...?” I murmur, thinking, thinking. Did someone get spotted? They got too cocky? Did the enemy notice our rifles? What happened?
“Can’t you use your skills to see anything invisible!?” Ringo asks me.
“Wh-What if it’s not? It could just be fast...”
“That fast...!?” she whispers, sinking into herself and pushing her hand under her helmet. “No, no, there’s no way.”
I send out an order: 「Those in the air! Rain on them!」
And a battle begins in earnest.
First, with our weaponry, it seems the humans have mostly no problem surviving attacks in their strange white armor and bizarre, dark, mirrored helmets. What’s more, they can avoid most of what we throw at them. They hold rectangles in their hands, and though using them seems to throw their arms out of whack, it isn’t long before I’m seeing rabbits dropping out of the air as they loudly blast them over and over, aiming at the sky.
I charge then, not even thinking.
I hear actual shouting behind me while frequencies blare with insistence that I come back, but they’re wrong. I need to act. I need to get out there. I abandon use of my rifle, letting it swing behind me on its strap, and I lift my hand. I look at them and point, shooting a volley of my own raw magic at them while sending madness and fury through my gaze. Steadfast, they throw a sphere.
It drops below me and I stop, concerned. A white streak flies before my face then. That must mean—
Keiun, the pale rabbit, scoops up the sphere that had dropped at my feet and hurls it away before grabbing me into the cradle of her arms. I see the scar over her closed right eye for a second before she turns her face from me and leaps back toward our sniping position. The sphere then explodes.
The air shimmers, and pieces of metal fire out from it in all directions. A bit slices over the side of Keiun’s ear, and she doesn’t flinch. As the smoke fades, I look over the battlefield surrounding the three men from Earth, and feel myself going cold.
... The white and gray world is being stained. Pink and red colors have been streaked and cast all over. My comrades are either motionless, or braving the chaos to retrieve the motionless. Bullet curtains are being bombarded down on the humans and their ship, while more explosions go off, crackling POPs resound, and rabbits make sounds of horror. But it isn’t the sound that starts to break me: it’s the quiet. The voices ending over our ears. It’s not something I’ve ever felt before, like I know the others are vanishing and I think they’re only going to sleep, but no calming waves come from their signal, no images of dreams... no, no signal. Just gone.
Keiun brings me back to the company of the others, and as I realize there are twenty of us still thinking, I immediately recede into myself. She looks at me through her messy bangs with her sole red eye and turns to explain to the others. “I never thought the humans would bring their Earth weapons to the Moon, given the difference in gravitational force,” she says. “They’re stupider than I thought, or desperate at least.”
“What do we do?” asks Yuuwa.
“I’m not good at strategy, Yuu. It’s better if...” she pauses, and she looks at me, “... if someone else takes charge.”
“We’re losing real bad!” Houka exclaims.
Then, another voice goes silent, and Ringo opens a pouch of hers.
“R-Ringo,” I say, “don’t,”
“I’m tired of this deal,” she says, reaching into the pack, “I’m going to take a better hand for all of us.”
“Even if you go, it’ll just be you!” I yell.
She takes out her hand, and a grip of candied balls. Dango.
“Then,” she says with a maverick smile, “don’t let me go alone.”
She begins swallowing the mochi desperately, gorging herself while also sending out orders to the rest of the troops. Stopping herself from choking. Forcing it all down. 「Try to confuse them,」「Someone have my back,」「We’re going for the ship, and then for our friends.」
“Ringo...” I say, my voice fluttering.
She stabs a skewer into the pouch, taking the last of the dango in it from there. She stands up and says aloud, “It’s really now or never,” putting the skewer to her mouth, and biting the dough off of it. She swings herself over the hill, her clothing ruffling in the small amount of air, and she starts racing toward Apollo 11 at once. The rest of the Corps flies to join her, as she picks up the fallen on her way with ease, her strength overflowing.
I sit at the hill, still too scared.
Ringo is shot, in her arms, and in her stomach, and the strange bullets don’t pierce or wound her skin. I can see her face, as the other rabbits see it and broadcast: her look like stone and her eyes focused. Finally, one of the humans manages to get a shot off on her forehead and her neck cranes back from the blow, knocking off her helmet. She skids to the earth, gray smoke spreading like fog, before she brings her head forward again, and a small piece of crushed metal falls down from between her eyes. A tiny rivulet of blood is left behind, and she grasps tightly the clothing of the corpses in her hands, determined to move forward again.
She has one more minute of power, and no more dango left. Using it all at once like this is almost miraculous, but a constant stream of strength is why she tends to eat all the time instead.
Everyone is desperately fighting but it’s not good. I can see where this is going, and know where it’s gone before.
Ringo wants to save whoever we can and still succeed, but this is the truth:
Everyone hears me broadcast this, but they all tell me this can’t be over. I reach for my abdomen again, inside my uniform, and remove the Lunar Veil. It shines and glitters, twice my size but weightless in my hands and cool as the moonlight it’s spun from.
I look up. “Above” (below) is the Earth, colorful as ever. I hold the mantle around myself, and with more tears in my eyes as the screams grow louder, the sounds of battle fiercer, think: 「Everyone, I’m sorry.」
I leap toward the blue planet, “voices” split between calling my name, and fearing the End before it comes, it comes, it comes, and it comes, cutting them short again and again.
But as I go, one thought is clearer than the rest. Crystal clear in my head, I hear the words:
「Reisen, I understand. Don’t be sorry. I’m sorry, too.」
I enter the stream of cosmos that leads to the Earth, my form and spirit carried through space by the Veil in a tunnel of blearing and infinite stars. After that, all thoughts fade.
They say that using the Lunar Veil will remove parts of your soul, and you’ll come out the other end with memories missing.
My last selfish wish, is that my memories of today all leave me.