It is a classified fact that the Ship-Girls are the souls of World War Two warships reborn into the bodies of human girls. The reason for this remains unknown and is the subject of much discussion among the scientific, military, and religious communities.
Upon realizing this pattern, the military forces of the world frantically canvassed the civilian population in search of these invaluable individuals who stood as the only hope of the human race against the unending onslaught of the Abyssals.
For some of the ship-girls, the transition from civilian life to military service was jarring, to say the least. The hardest hit were the numerous destroyers, mostly preteens with a sprinkling of teenagers. Their commanders did their best to cushion the shock of combat on these draftees, and for the most part they successfully acclimatized.
For other ship-girls, it was like coming home after a forty year exodus into the desert with only manna and quail on the menu. They not only responded to the beat to quarters with pennants flying, but dove headfirst into the water and thrived in the battlefield.
And for one girl in particular? The Sniper of the Seas?
One wouldn't believe where the JMSDF found I-19. Or who and what she had been reincarnated into.
Our Lady of Imari Abbey
Imari City, Saga Prefecture, Japan
"Sister Kobayashi? May I have a moment of your time?"
"Yes, Reverend Mother-sama."
The white-veiled novice sister followed her Mother Superior to the latter's office. Upon noticing the two men dressed in crisp white military uniforms, she bowed. "Oh, good evening, gentlemen."
"Good evening, Sister-san, Reverend Mother-sama," replied the older, distinguished-looking gentleman. "I'm Admiral Goto and this is my aide Lt. Sean Matsuda." The Admiral gestured to his companion. "Forgive us for imposing on your time, but you are Kobayashi Ikuko-san, correct?"
Sister Kobayashi chuckled. "Such renown makes me happy. I'm Ikuko Kobayashi," she confirmed.
"A pleasure to meet you, Sister Kobayashi."
"Yes," she added with an impish smirk. "Calling me 'Iku~' is fine, too, ikukuku~"
The lewd pun got Admiral Goto to blink and brought a blush to Lt. Matsuda's face.
"Sister Kobayashi," chided the amused Abbess, who was fully in the know about her nun-in-training's well-hidden and usually-suppressed humor.
"I apologize, Reverend Mother-sama, Admiral-san, Lieutenant-san," the smiling sister contritely apologized. "I couldn't help it."
Admiral Goto cleared his throat. "No offense taken, Sister Iku-san." He noticed that the young nun seemed pleased to hear someone using her... saucy sobriquet. "We came here to ask for your help."
"How can this humble servant of the Lord help you?"
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"How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" - Luke 2:49
One long-winded explanation later...
"So I'm the reincarnation of a World War II submarine of the Imperial Japanese Navy?"
"Essentially, yes," Admiral Goto summarized.
Sister Kobayashi turned to her superior with a serious expression on her cherub face. She asked:
"Reverend Mother-sama? If what they're saying is true... is my being a reincarnation grounds for charges of heresy?"
"That is a possibility," the Abbess agreed. "Pope Benedict the Sith is much stricter than his predecessor when it comes to enforcing doctrine."
"Nowadays everybody expects the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," Sister Kobayashi recalled.
"Their chief weapon is no longer surprising due to overuse, and the lack of faith is disturbing…"
Something bugged Lt. Matsuda. "Don't you mean 'Benedict the Sixth'?" he pointed out to the nuns.
"I said what I said," the Abbess said to the confused officer.
"I would think that the Abyssals are a greater concern than the Pope," Admiral Goto argued.
"Yes, and to lighten the bleak mood Sister Kobayashi would have made a joke about how you're trying to convince her that she's the anthropomorphic second coming of a long, hard tube filled with seamen waiting to shoot her explosive load into the sterns of attractive targets when they least expect it," replied the straight-faced Abbess.
Her junior and her guests gaped.
The pink-faced Sister Kobayashi found herself in the awkward position of having to scold her superior for making a ribald joke. Normally she was the one who needed a dressing down during the occasions that her natural irreverence breached the prim and proper expression that she maintained. She'd never expected the Abbess to reveal such a… a lewd side. And to strangers and guests, at that!
"What?" The unrepentant Mother Superior shrugged. "I'm a prune, not a prude."
"Was that a US Marine joke?" Admiral Goto dared to ask.
"My ex-boyfriend is a member of US Navy. We broke up because we both wanted to take holy orders. Father Costello's a Navy chaplain now. We keep in touch," the Abbess revealed.
To Lt. Matsuda's surprise, his boss nodded. "That explains so much," Admiral Goto realized.
"Sister Kobayashi," the Abbess advised. "The decision remains yours. However, if I were you, I would go with these fine young men."
Admiral Goto looked slighted by that remark. He didn't consider himself to be old and didn't feel old. But flag rank did require the experience and maturity that only came with age and/or massive trauma.
"But Reverend Mother-sama, I've just completed my postulancy. I'm still in the first month of my novitiate," worried Sister Kobayashi.
She had approached the Abbey last year to petition for nunhood. Her successful completion of the twelve-month postulancy period made her the youngest novice nun in all of Japan (and possibly the world) in modern times, a fact she was secretly proud of.
"You are young," the Abbess replied. "You should see the world first before committing on a course in life."
"I wish to serve the Lord with all my heart and soul."
"And perhaps you will serve Him best alongside these brave men."
"But I don't want to fight!" Tears welled within Sister Kobayashi's brown eyes. "I don't want to hurt anyone or to… to kill anyone! Even if they are Abyssals!" She buried her face in her palms. "No one deserves to lose their life!"
The Abbess smiled. She expected such fervor from the gentle girl.
"Sister Kobayashi. Would you accompany me in prayer?"
"Huh? Ah, yes, Reverend Mother-sama..."
"Excuse us for a moment," the Abbess told their guests before leading Sister Kobayashi to the side.
The two nuns -representatives of two separate generations and products of different upbringings who had been brought together by faith and Fate- knelt side by side.
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Lord God, our power evermore, whose arm doth reach the ocean floor, dive with our men beneath the sea; traverse the depths protectively. O hear us when we pray, and keep Them safe from peril in the deep. Amen.
After crossing herself, Sister Kobayashi looked to the Abbess. "I've never heard of that prayer before," she wondered.
"It is a hymn called Eternal Father, Strong To Serve. It's a traditional hymn of mariners that was inspired by Psalm 107, verses 23-26."
"Oh." She racked her memory for the appropriate verses, only for the Abbess to recite the exact lines.
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
"Did your ex-boyfriend teach it to you?" Sister Kobayashi asked.
The Abbess chuckled. "Father Costello was such a nice young lad," she reminisced.
"But why didn't you two marry? Why did you become a nun?"
"The Lord our God works in mysterious ways, Sister Kobayashi. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods," quoted the Abbess.
Now this chapter and verse the Sister did remember. It was the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25.
"And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one…" Sister Kobayashi's throat hitched. "To every man according to his several ability..."
The Abbess had always used her surname of Kobayashi when addressing her. This was the first time her Mother Superior used her bawdy nickname.
"The Lord our God gave you those talents for a reason," said the grandmotherly woman who had grown gray in the service of their Lord. "It would be a waste if you hid here at Our Lady of Imari when you could be out there helping other people."
A year ago, Ikuko Kobayashi arrived at Our Lady of Imari Abbey in search of respite from strange visions where she prowled hostile waters like a shark scenting blood and dragged unsuspecting victims kicking and screaming to the bottom of the graveyard sea, dark dreams that always ended in a series of eardrum-popping eruptions that shattered every bone in her body and drove the silently screaming Ikuko sinking into the abyssal plain where she rotted alongside her victims for the rest of all time.
The nuns welcomed the tormented Ikuko into their warm abode. They took her in without question. They taught her to cope with her improper urges and gently rebuked her antics during the times when temptation felt so strong, too strong for her to handle by herself. They stayed by her side, prayed for her, prayed alongside her, prayed for those trapped in her nightmares. And their prayers were answered as Ikuko found peace from those terrible dreams in her new identity as Sister Kobayashi.
Now, other people were asking Sister Kobayashi to help them. She was being given the chance to help other people just as she had been helped in the past.
"As Saint Paul told the Romans," the Abbess said. "Do not be overcome by evil-"
"-but overcome evil with good," agreed the reincarnation of the Type B1 submarine I-19, who now accepted her identity and history. "Thank you, Reverend Mother-sama."
"You're welcome, Sister Iku."
Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
"Now, what say you to us embarrassing that nice Lieutenant some more?" quietly proposed the Abbess in a conspiratorial chuckle.
"I would like that, Reverend Mother-sama," giggled Sister Iku.
to be continued / itutuloy / つづく
This is my first full-fledged short story. It is inspired by a discussion on the SpaceBattles forums covering the civilian lives that ship-girls might have led before they became kanmusu. I decided to go for Hard Mode and made Iku a nun, and it snowballed from there.
Sister Iku's surname of Kobayashi is derived from her last commanding officer, LCdr. Shigeo Kobayashi, who was lost with the entire crew of I-19 when she was sunk by USS Radford on 25 November 1943. I picked Kobayashi instead of Takakazu Kinashi, the "sniper of the seas" captain who sank the carrier USS Wasp and the destroyer USS O'Brien and damaged the battleship USS North Carolina with a single torpedo spread for a very important reason: Kinashi is the same captain who ordered his men to machine gun the survivors of the American freighter William K. Vanderbilt, so if I wanted to justify Sister Iku's different personality, a different captain was called for.
In my original version, her surname was Iwagami, after Cpt. Hidetoshi Iwagami who also died aboard her. I mistook him as the CO of I-19, when in fact LCdr. Kobayashi is her captain and Cpt. Iwagami is his boss as the leader of ComSubDiv 2.
Admiral Goto is based off the character of the same name in the Kant-O-Celle Quest run by Planefag. Lieutenant Sean Matsuda is similarly based off a character in The Greatest Generation, originally written by Sasahara17 and recently re-released as The Greatest Generation RESTARTED.
Guess what famous Forties and Fifties comedy duo the Abbess & Fr. Costello were based off? If you guessed Abbot and Costello, congratulations!