FIREFLIES AND STARS IN THE NIGHT

By: Miyano Ran

This fictional work is based on the true story – "Comfort Women: Slave of Destiny" written by Maria Rosa Henson. The story was a dark depiction of the sufferings that the comfort women had to endure during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines from 1941 to 1945. Maria Rosa Henson was a victim of this form of human trafficking and was the first Filipino to narrate her story first-hand.

Comfort women: They are the women enslaved by the Japanese military in their home bases in many countries in Asia which they conquered, as sex slaves. This didn't only happen in the Philippines, but also in Korea and China. "The Rape of Nanjing" is a very famous event which would never be forgotten. Aside from women slavery, the Japanese in the past have also done mutagenic experiments on the Chinese as guinea pigs for their new drugs, injected them with bacteria to make them sick, and operated on them to study body parts! But that's another story.

This story is a tribute to all the comfort women who had to undergo such pain. I was inspired to write this upon reading Rosa's story. Up until this day, the Japanese government refuses to write the truth in Japanese school textbooks to let their youth think that their ancestors were heroes. Due to the mounting pressure from the Korean government, the Japanese government has paid some monetary compensation to the families of the victims (who are now in their late 80's perhaps or who have passed away) but still hasn't given an official public apology.

I have nothing against the current Japanese people since they weren't the ones responsible for their ancestors' crimes – they are nice people and I have Japanese friends who I love, but the past mustn't be neglected. Fight human trafficking!

The world must know the truth, even the Japanese youth.

PS: I still believe that there were Japanese soldiers who had a good heart and who were against this abuse of women, but were too scared to go against the emperor, just like Captain Tanaka who loved Rosa dearly. He always called her "Bara" and did many great things for her. He tried to protect, pitied her, and wanted to get her out of the trade, but he said he simply couldn't find the courage to break his vow to the emperor. This story gives the what-ifs in a scenario when someone with a heart like Captain Tanaka's, a heart that wasn't as black as the other soldiers, bravely acted on their instincts on what is right. While writing this, I was so sad.

A TRIBUTE STORY:

June 7, 1963

I woke up in the middle of the night in such a terrible state – I was sweating heavily and my heartbeat thumped wildly against my chest, so much that I couldn't even catch my breath. I blinked tears off my eyes. A nightmare – I saw the past again, I saw him with blood dripping from his forehead… but he had this weak smile on his countenance when he saw me. I want to remember him as the healthy, young soldier that he was… not the one soaked in his own blood. He was different from them. He had a pure innocent smile with his eyes almost turning into a straight line. His laugh was so melodious, and every time he was by my side, I would momentarily forget all the tears and the disgusting struggle I was in. I wouldn't be where I am now if it weren't for him. I turned to my side and gazed at my loving husband who I met a little bit less than 10 years ago. He was wonderful and he loved and understood me for what I have been through, but I still can't forget him- the man whom I owed my life to. But how can I give my thanks to him now?

I closed my eyes and as if on a time machine, rode on a flashback to the hell I have been through twenty years ago.

My brother and I were happily playing on the fields of Pampanga. It was about nine in the evening and we had just finished dinner and were catching fireflies with our nets. We loved to go out whenever the stars were bright, and eight year old Ramon was so excited to feel the breeze of the cold December air outside. How can I resist him? Our parents called out to us from the house a few meters away, instructing us to quickly enter the house since it wasn't safe these days – especially for girls – now that the Japanese troops have their home bases made here. But I didn't listen – what could go wrong? I was with my baby brother and he said he'd protect me! I was fourteen then and I was incredulously foolish. I yelled back "A few more minutes!" to my mom before running and giggling with my brother again.

I never felt so free in my life as the wind brushed against my face and the stars shimmered brightly to greet me. The glowing fireflies hovered around us as Ramon and I jumped up and down to catch them. It was the best feeling ever. "I caught one again!" Ramon called out, then I pushed him lightly and said, "Who catches the most, wins!" We ran and ran, ignoring my mom who I can see from the corner of my eye, going towards us. I felt like there was something wrong when the tone of my mother changed. "Get inside, kids, hurry." She said, grabbing the nets from our hands and pulling me and Ramon with such panic. "No! All my fireflies are gone!" Ramon cried out while trying to jump up and use his bare hands to catch them. "Playtime's over." My mom said again, yanking our wrists. I saw my dad and the rest of my family with anxious faces, waving at us from our house.

"Mom, what's wrong?" I asked worriedly while running with her. "The Japanese troops are here tonight! They are scouting for young girls who are still outside!" My mom explained, her tone shaking. Ramon whispered, "Then let's head home! Let's keep Ate safe!" Just when we closed the front door, we hushed each other not to make a sound when we heard the loud screeching sounds of trucks stopping. We heard loud footsteps and shouts which we didn't understand because they spoke Japanese. My parents, Ramon, my two elder brothers, my six year old sister and I hugged each other, shivering in fear. "You'll be safe as long as you're inside the house." My dad reminded while hugging me. I nodded while my lips were quivering. The soldiers' footsteps and voices grew louder and louder. Tears started to stream from my face when I heard familiar voices shouting from the neighborhood. "Mom, aren't those Sarah and Julia….?" My lips trembled as I reached out for the door.

"Don't!" My brother Jaime called out, saying. "Angel, we can't lose you to them. Once you step out of that door, they will take you!" My family grabbed hold of me and pleaded, stopping me from opening the door. To my horror, from the window, I saw my two best friends, Sara and Julia, brutally carried away by the Japanese troops, separating them from their families. I could see them crying for help, but no matter how much their parents pleaded, they wouldn't be set free because they were out during curfew time. I couldn't stop crying as I saw what was happening to them, and what's worse, I couldn't do anything to help. Sara and Julia were carried and harshly thrown into the trucks and I gasped with every act of brutality they did to my friends. That was the first act of violence I witnessed firsthand under the hands of the Japanese. I used to think that Japanese men were smart gentlemen, but it was only now that I realized they could be monsters. I wanted to go out and save my friends, but my parents forbade me to. It wasn't only Sara and Julia…. But many other girls were taken into the trucks as well.

"What's going to happen to them?" I asked fearfully while wiping my tears when the trucks left. "They can't return anymore." My mom whispered and her voice, cracking. "What will they do to them?" I asked again. My elder brothers Jaime and Emil embraced me tight and they said I wouldn't be able to take it if they described it to me. They just said that they were to be 'comfort women'. I didn't quite understand what that meant at that time. Perhaps the girls were asked to nurse the wounded soldiers, hence, comfort women? Or maybe they would be asked to me maids and serve them tea for lunch? They would be asked to clean the bathrooms? I didn't know. All I know is that I cried and cried the whole night with my heart pounding. I imagined my two best friends cleaning the toilet bowls or even sweeping the floor filled with cockroaches, so far away from home. I shivered at the thought. I had no idea that I was too innocent. I didn't know that the meaning of being captured would be so much worse. What did 'comfort women' have to do anyways?

The few evenings later, it was five minutes before curfew time when I decided to go out of the house. Probably that was the greatest mistake I did. It wasn't because I wanted to run and play but because our drum of water ran out and I decided to go to the nearby well to get a bucket of water so that I can bathe. I could've asked my dad or my brothers to do it, but they were busy playing crossword that I didn't want to disturb them. Mom's tired enough with housework, too, so I didn't bother to ask her to accompany me. I decided to run fast and go straight home after getting the pail right before curfew. It was a peaceful night and I didn't see or hear any loud trucks so I was sure I was safe. I was able to get the pail and I ran straight home. The pail was so heavy that my shoulders started to ache badly; I had to put it down and rest a while. My house was really nearby and I sat down the cool grass to take a rest. Suddenly, I heard noises from the bushes behind me. I ignored it, thinking it was just a frog since there were lots of frogs in our field.

When I decided to finally stand up with the heavy pail on my hand, I was horrified when I felt large arms around my thigh, pulling me towards the ground, I screamed. The bucket of water fell on my stomach so hard that I was entirely wet and I couldn't stand because of the pain. My heart tapped wildly against my chest and my tears started to fall when I felt hands roaming the insides of my skirt. I turned around in fear when I noticed that I wasn't lying on top of the grass anymore. A hideous face of a Japanese man in his fifties terrorized me when I saw his huge malicious smile on his face. He just chuckled when I screamed and cried helplessly; trying to break free from his strong grip, but it was futile. He pushed me and as I fell on the ground, my head hit on a hard rock and it was severely painful. He climbed on top of me and I begged and begged but it was like he was deaf to my pleas as he laughed maniacally, touching every part of my body with such force that it made me so weak. "Please stop! Please" I shivered but he continued, tearing my dress open until I felt so cold because I didn't have my clothes on anymore, and I was wet.

I heard my parents shouting from a near distance, calling my name worriedly. I bet they were worried sick as to where I was. I tried calling out for help, but every time I did, his lips would press on mine so hard that I couldn't breathe. He punched me so hard that I lost all energy to fight back. I was shivering in the cold, I was parched, and I was in so much pain… I felt like my innocence, just at fourteen, was stripped of from me. I was in so much pain that my toes curled tightly against the sole of my feet, and my hands were balled into fists. My eyes were so blurry with tears that I couldn't even see his face, but I could feel him against me. I was so disgusted, why, why is he doing this, why? The only thing I could make out were the stars, shining so brightly in the night, but they were not smiling at me, rather, looking at me with pity.

I woke up with my whole body aching. I felt so sick and chilly as I got up to survey where I was. I had actually thought that I was back in my room again, safe and sound with my family, that they had seen me in the middle of my assault and had rescued me. When I felt the warm blanket around me, I smiled, thinking it was my mother who put it for me, until my eyes widened in utmost terror when I saw that a Japanese man, not the one who previously hurt me, was actually the one who put it. I jolted up the bed fearfully until the blanket fell off of me and that's when I cringed, squeezing myself with my own arms, wrapping myself with the blanket tightly, when I realized that the blanket was the only thing on me. I whimpered, asking. "Where am I? Please I want to go home." The man's eyes were as cold as ice when he said, "You work here now." Covering myself, I rose and headed for the door but then three more of them entered and pushed me down the floor. "You can't leave." One said with a strict tone in his voice. "She's a beauty isn't she?" The other one said with a really gross tone in his voice. "And she's so young, too." The other one nodded in agreement.

I wasn't expecting it when they all came close to me…and one of them yanked the blanket from me. And though I resisted and pleaded and cried so hard… they were merciless as they did the same thing to me. I heard that my job was to be a comfort woman. Only then did I realize what that meant. I cried and cried that night as I imagined what Julia and Sara were going through. I felt like I was doomed to die. I hated them so much. They were monsters. They had no conscience at all. I scanned the place around me and saw that there were other girls around me too; all of them were like me. I shouldn't have gotten that bucket of water, because that was the start of my nightmare.

It was a daily suffering for me; my dignity was torn apart. I stopped screaming and resisting because it won't do me any good. I was a prisoner of war, but to these Japanese soldiers, I was their source of 'comfort'. Each time they were comforted, I was in agony. The more I screamed the more bruises I got. Sometimes, I would like at myself at the mirror and pity what has become of me so much that I would break down and cry. I didn't scream anymore, but I always cried, every time. Each time they did that to me, I would feel my tears would run down my face, and my heart would thump in fear. I didn't know how long this would last. It was literally hell on earth and many times, I would want to kill myself because there was no form of escape, but I didn't know how. There were no sharp objects, no way to end my life, nothing. Every single day… it was torture for me and all the women there… there would be at least a score of men lined up outside my room and I would have to suffer, from day to night. They weren't humans – I saw them as abominations, monstrosities, devils with horns, wild beasts! If I were Hercules, I would beat them all up. Now I hated being a girl, because girls like me would end up like this, defenseless and at their mercy. If I were a man, this wouldn't happen to me. If I were a man, I would defend girls like me and stop these monsters from hurting us.

Even at times when I was really ill, they wouldn't spare me. They were very unkind, hitting me and sometimes even tying me against the wall. I was hungry and cold, but they didn't care. They were all devils, and I was a captive in hell. Four months passed already, and still I was trapped. Animals in our farm were in much better shape than me. My whole body was filled with bruises which never disappeared since there was always a new one. Some were old men, some were young, some looked wicked, others looked kind and were gentler but they were all the same. They were all hateful people. This was a hateful world. Every day, I would wake up to the terrible sight of these demonic creatures outside my door. I would lie down and gave every bit of myself while crying as they took everything from me. Nothing was left. I was so depressed when I thought of the fact that already more than a thousand has touched me by now. I don't get used to it even if it's the same every time. It's always painful and heartbreaking. I prayed and prayed that one day this would stop, and I would be happy again. I missed my family so much that I just wanted to die, so that I could at least see them as a spirit.

One day in the garrison, my life changed. It was the usual day of suffering for me as men entered my room again, one by one. They were all the same, they were demons, but one of them was different. I was so sad and tired after another assault. I watched him walk out the door as I slowly put my dress on, my hands still quivering. I thought he was the last one for the day, it was already midnight, but I shivered on the floor as dreadfully I closed my eyes at the sound of the squeaking door opening. There was another guy who would enter this room and hurt me… no – no… I couldn't stand it anymore, oh God, please, make it stop, please. I was unconscious that I was already chanting it out loud as I sobbed, "Please, no more, please. Please, have mercy on me…"

My eyes were still shut, already bracing myself for being hurt and used and abused yet again, expecting more pain, but I gradually opened my eyes when I didn't feel a single touch on me. In front of me was another soldier, he looked so young, maybe just in his teens. He was tall and unlike the other shameless guys who came unclad, he wore his green military uniform. He had this look of pity on his face and he knelt down to look at me face to face. With my clothes on and already partially buttoned, I just stared at him as he stared back at me. I wiped my tears and softly asked, "Why are you staring at me? Why are you not hurting me like the others?"

"I'm so sorry for what the Japanese government has done to you and your people." He said in such a sincere tone that I was taken aback. This was the first time a demon from here apologized like that. It was something I never thought was possible. "Button your clothes." He said. I gasped in shock as I quickly did as told, and it was the first time in four months that I felt again the natural sense of shame to be naked in front of a man. Somehow, I felt like my dignity came back. With him, for the first time, I felt safe to be with a guy. He didn't touch me at all or even go near me, but he spoke. "My name is Kino. I was just seventeen years old when the Emperor forced us to join the army, now I'm eighteen. I didn't want this. I didn't want to join the military. I don't want to harm you and your people. But I have no choice… I'm an orphan and I don't have a family so no one could tell me that I shouldn't go. Many of us are just young boys and we were sent here against our will. Not all of us avail of this… this comfort women services thing that the adults say. I guess some men are so homesick that they need you guys… but I think it's so wrong. It's so wrong for them to hurt you girls like this…" I was not anticipating his words and then, fear showed again in my eyes when he stroked my hair.

"I'm not like them. Don't worry, I won't hurt you." He said while stroking my hair again. "Today's the first time I decided to check out this comfort women services thing, and I just couldn't stand what my fellow soldiers were doing to you all. I waited until this late before I came back because I wanted to see you. I saw how the man a while ago hurt you…and I noticed that you have more bruises than the other women. I saw how you cried, my heart ached and it's like I couldn't go back to my cabin without seeing you." My tears fell once again and I whispered, "Thank you, Kino." "I know you hate us all, but, I'm different." He said again. "In behalf of my nation, I want to apologize. And not all Japanese people are bad, please remember that." I nodded quietly and inside, I thought of him as the angel I asked God for. "What's your name?" He asked as he started to get some ointment from his pocket and apply it on my wounds. "Angel, short for Angelina…" I replied quietly as his gentle hands nursed my injuries. "And how old are you?" He asked again. "I'm turning 15 next month." I saw the pain in his eyes when I said that. "You're so young to be suffering like this. I'll call you 'Tenshi'. That's 'angel' in Japanese." He gave me a warm smile and I smiled back.

That was the best night in the duration of my stay in this garrison of hell. That night, Kino helped me go to sleep as he let me lie on his lap. Kino was my first friend in that hellhole. He was far too nice to be one of them, to be even here. He had such a nice heart; I could feel that it was real. After such a long time of pain and fear, I actually felt peaceful that night. Now my heart was relieved and my faith in humanity was restored. At least I knew that not everyone in this place were demons. There was Kino, and he wasn't like them. He was a human being, or even an angel.

Ever since that night, Kino always visited me. He says it's the least he could do to ease his conscience on what his country is doing. He was always the last guy who entered my room every single night, but he wouldn't touch me and instead, would comfort me and clean my wounds. There were also times wherein he would come and visit in the afternoons, and he would stay in my room for more than an hour on purpose, just so he could lessen the time I would be abused by others. How I wish all the guys who lined up at my door were like Kino. No one would come and take advantage of me, and they would sit down and talk to me, and be my friend. Kino even said that if it was allowed, he would buy me, just so that I could be exclusively his and I wouldn't have to suffer anymore under the hands of others. It already became my habit to anticipate Kino's return every single day, and he would visit me without fail. Every morning, when I wake up, Kino was the only reason now that could make me smile and he made it easier for me to live each day.

Even as I was still abused my many other soldiers, all I thought of was Kino's kindness and that one day he would get me out of here and return me to my family. One day, Kino could break free from his responsibilities to his country and he'd stay with me. The other soldier guards in the area thought that Kino was abusing me for a very long time, since he was in my room for long, and that I was his favorite, since he came every single day for me. But they didn't know that he would actually lend his shoulder for me to just cry on and allow me to rest. Kino was such a gentleman. This happened for three months… and this was already the seventh month that I was in the garrison. Though, unlike the first four months, my stay there in the last three months wasn't as bad, because I had Kino by my side. By the end of the month, I admitted to myself that I was in love with him.

It was midnight again and I stared at the wall, waiting for Kino's return. This is the only time he hasn't come to visit me. What could have happened to him? What if something bad happened to him? Images of Kino's body sprawling on the bloody floor popped up in my imagination and that caused me to moan and cry. Suddenly, the door opened and my face was still covered in tears. I was scared that it would be another guy, but I gave a sigh of relief that it was Kino. I stood up and ran towards him, observing him worriedly. "What happened, Tenshi? Were you seriously hurt by one of them again?" Kino asked with worry plastered all over his face, wiping my tears. "I thought something bad happened to you when you didn't come. I'm so glad you're… you're safe." I said until I broke down in his arms. He and I sat down on the floor mat and he tapped my head gently. "I'm sorry I'm late." I shook my head and said, "It's not even your obligation to be nice to me." "Tenshi, I…" I looked up at him curiously until he said. "I love you." My eyes dilated as I heard him say those words, so tender and lovingly said. Never did I imagine this kind of scenario when I first fantasized my first love. I always imagined my first love to be in the fields of our barrio, to a Filipino like me, and he would visit my house and go talk to my parents… I never imagined that my first romance would be in this horrid state I am in, and to a Japanese soldier, who was technically 'part' of this disgusting system. He was blood related to those monsters. But he did everything but bad, and I fell for him. I guess, God can make good things out of bad. I guess our love was even sweeter, because it bloomed even in a rotten place like this.

"I love you, too, Kino." I mumbled tears started falling from my face again. "You do? Oh my God…" He sighed with a smile on his face as he gave me a tender chaste kiss on the forehead. "I want you to get out of here. Every day I want to kill myself when I recall the fact that you are still here and I'm doing nothing about it. What I'm doing isn't enough. I have to take action. I have to set you free…." Freedom… When I thought about freedom, my heart fluttered in joy. It's like; I'm a caged bird who would be set free by his master. I no longer have to endure the abuse of these men, and I could live happily with my family again! But… my heart sank when I thought of Kino. What would happen to him if he sets me free? Would he be killed? I was torn. I wanted to get out of here so badly…since I can't imagine living like this forever, but I can't stand the thought that Kino would have to pay the price. "But Kino… what would happen to you? I heard that if a soldier disobeys the Emperor, they would shoot him dead…" My lips trembled at the thought as I cried.

"Unlike others, I am an orphan. No one's waiting for me back in Japan. Maybe God made me an orphan so that I wouldn't have a reason to go back to Japan, so that I wouldn't have the reason to stay alive, so that I would instead have the reason to exchange my life to save yours, Tenshi. Take my offer." He hugged me tight and for the first time, I saw him cry. "But Kino, no… I don't want you to die. My conscience wouldn't be able to take it." I said honestly as I smoothed his hair. "You're God's gift to me, Tenshi… you gave my life a purpose. I can save you and even the other women too…Please let me do it, Tenshi. Please don't live a life of guilt, Tenshi. If I set you free, you must promise you will be happy. You will forget about me." Kino whispered near my ear. I shook my head vehemently and cried out, "Kino, how can I forget you? Can't… can't we escape here together?" "You can't save me now, this is my destiny. You have to leave and I have to stay. So, what do you say?" Upon hearing this, my heart was torn between freedom and keeping Kino safe. I couldn't answer as I sobbed in his arms, undecided. This was very, very hard for me. Many would think I'm a terrible girl, allowing such a nice angel like Kino, a gift from heaven, to just die for me.

I no longer thought of myself now but of my family. What would my family think if they knew that I had a way of escaping and yet didn't take it? And I was trying to protect a Japanese soldier like him? They would call me stupid, they would hate me. They would say I deserved it if I was being abused – I was foolish enough to have left the house right before curfew, and I was foolish to have chosen to stay because I was foolish to have fallen for someone like him. It was such a dilemma I couldn't make up my mind. My freedom or Kino's safety, which will I choose? Damn if I do, damn if I don't. Why is this so hard? If it was a random soldier who'd let me out, I'd gladly run for my life, but then I fell for Kino…and now he owns my heart. I don't know what to do! I want to escape so badly, I didn't want the pain or the suffering, but at the same time I can't picture Kino being beaten up by his superiors, being killed for being a traitor. All this time I thought of my answer to Kino, he let me cry in his arms and all he could do was to hush me to sleep.

When I woke up, it was morning, since I saw little light from the outside. I was surprised to see Kino still beside me. I smiled. He stayed all night with me and he was peacefully sleeping beside me, his head rested on my shoulder. I gazed at his handsome countenance and thought that if I weren't in this pitiful and horrifying situation, I wouldn't have met Kino. Was it worth going through the pains of being abducted as a comfort woman, brought far away from home, being repeatedly abused, just to meet an angel like Kino? I didn't want to answer that question. Some might judge me that if I said, being in here was worth it since I met Kino, and they would say that I probably enjoyed the assaults too, that's why I'm able to say such things. But I didn't. I hated every minute of it. But at the same time, I can't deny that Kino changed my life. He made me more understanding of the Japanese soldiers, miles away from their homes, not that he was justifying their immorality but he has taught me to become more forgiving, and made me realize that not all of them were heartless. I can't say that it would be alright with me to forget Kino, now after I have met him.

Kino shuffled in his sleep, and eventually, he woke up. He looked at me and smiled tenderly, squeezing my hand for reassurance. "Please Tenshi, take the offer. And I wouldn't be able to rest in peace if you live a life of guilt." I looked into his eyes and bit my lip, not saying anything. Then, I heard footsteps coming towards the door. Oh no, not again, not again… I hyperventilated as I fearfully stared at the door. My whole body was trembling. "I'm still using her, go away!" I stared at Kino when he shouted that and then I saw the shadow slowly go away. I inhaled sharply, and after a night of deciding, I finally said, "Yes, I'm taking your offer." "You won't regret your choice. You know why? It's because there are so many great Filipino men out there for you. God knows that a yellow monster like me who came from this repulsive and abusive system is not worthy of you."

I gasped at his self-infliction and said, "No, Kino! You're the kindest man with the purest heart I have met. Don't say that." "I'm not worth protecting, Tenshi. Go live your life. It's such a pity that our love blossomed under these circumstances. You hate my race and…" "No, no I don't hate your race. Thousands of men raped me…and all my friends, and the Japanese government attacked the Philippines, and I had the reason to hate the Japanese. But after meeting you, just you, Kino, you alone, made me change my mind. How can I have the right to hate the Japanese people if you showed me the best that Japanese can be? How can I hate the race from which you came from? You're an angel, Kino…" I whispered, then, he lightly kissed me on the lips, and that was the purest kiss I have ever had. I got nervous and thought that since we both love each other now, Kino would do to me what husbands and wives do. It would be different now and it wouldn't be called an abuse, since Kino and I both truly love each other, and I would be willing to give myself to him. But I was nervous…I was only fifteen and he was my first love. I was still nervous even after thousands of assaults since they were monsters who wronged me, but now, the one in front of me was an angel.

Kino must have noticed my body becoming tense when he kissed me since he pulled away. It was a short and brief kiss and then he released me. "Do you think I would do that do you? I won't… you're so young, and you're already so traumatized, I can't demand that from you; I will show you that real love from a man doesn't demand that of a woman. Your worth is much higher than that. But I love you so much…I love you so much that I won't touch you." By this time, my tears came rushing down upon hearing his sweet words. I was right without a doubt. Kino was an angel. "Thank you, Kino." I said while wiping my tears from my face, and he helped me, with his large hands.

Suddenly, the man from earlier I presume, knocked from the door. "Finished yet?" He asked. Kino sighed and stood up, shouting, "Yeah, hold on I'm leaving." He looked at me with sorrow in his eyes and squeezed my shoulders for comfort and assurance. "I'm so sorry I have to give you to this douche. Be strong, Tenshi. Soon, real soon, you'll get out of here, I promise." I smiled sadly, though with hope in my eyes, and said. "I will just think of them as you, to make it easier for me." And I think I was so dumb to have said that. I offended Kino. Kino had a hurt tone in his voice and said, "No, Tenshi please don't think of them as me. I want you to have a pure image of me, and always remember - I'm not like them." "I'm sorry." My eyes were downcast. "It's alright. Just remember, no matter what happens - I will always love you." I love you, too, Kino, so much…" He embraced me for the last time before heading for the door.

Three days after that day, Kino gave me military clothes to wear, and cut my hair, so that I could pretend as a Japanese boy. I could pull it off, he said, since I had fair skin, and he led me out of the cellar. We were nervous and careful during our escape, and then when I was at the boundary of the garrison, only a footstep away would mean freedom, we hugged each other for the last time. He kept reminding me how much he loved me and how I should continue with my life while I kept telling him I would be back for him once I got help. "I'll watch out for you." He said softly as I ran out of the gates, the intense feeling of freedom finally surging inside me. Then, I turned around to look at him again. He mouthed a "Don't look back." And as painful as it was for him as it was with me, we parted, and I scurried away for freedom.

I was able to reach home and all my family members cried upon seeing me, especially after they knew what I have been through. I told them about Kino and about the other women trapped there. Our men, the guerillas and Filipino soldiers, rushed into the garrison and rescued all the women from where I was held captive. There was a bloody battle, the Japanese weren't happy, but we got to free them. We were so overjoyed when we had set them free. When I saw Sara and Julia, I was so happy I cried while running towards them, hugging my best friends and telling them that we're free at last! But then, I was anxious in finding… Kino! Then my heart stopped… when I entered an isolated room in the garrison, and I saw Kino. Both his arms and legs were tied to the wall, and whiplashes blemished his fair skin. I saw whips near him and I realized what happened to him. I saw a pool of blood beside him, and so all kinds of gashes and gory wounds on his angelic countenance. I saw bullet marks on his body, and his small eyes stared at me with no emotion. I couldn't resist it… I ran towards him and wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed his bloody cheeks, whispering, "I love you Kino, listen, I'll get you out of here…" Then, I wailed as he was as cold as corpse and unmoving in my arms.

My husband must have heard my sobbing since he woke up and asked tenderly while hugging me, "Sweetheart, did you dream of Kino again?" I felt so guilty. My husband always felt like he had to compete with the dead. Every single night I would have nightmares about Kino's death, and about our forbidden love. "I'm so sorry, Leon. I have not been a good wife to you. I always disturb your sleep with my crying. Do you hate Kino?" "Of course not honey. How can I hate Kino? He was the one who saved your life… I know you can never love me more than Kino, but I promise you that I will love and cherish and protect you all my life." He said as he kissed my cheek. I smiled and whispered to him, "Thank you, and I love you; don't you forget that." But as I laid down the bed in the arms of my loving spouse, I couldn't stop looking at the shimmering stars and glowing fireflies outside our window, contrasting the ebony night, because I believe that Kino is either a star or a firefly, watching over me with his warm smile. He washed the stains of my past. I would thank him by living happily and being a good wife to Leon. Kino was the light, contrasting the darkness of my suffering. And if we weren't meant to be for this lifetime, maybe we are in the next life.

Written on January 18, 2014 2:40PM until 9:45 PM

hope this tugged your heartstrings and this story of mine help raise awareness about the truth behind the comfort women victims under Japan.

i suggest that you search the net about comfort women and their stories... :)

let's stop ignorance and raise awareness