"Say everything on your mind. Don't ever hesitate to tell someone the things you love that are in your heart. Because for us fleet girls, tomorrow is a luxury, but never a guarantee." – Akagi

When I opened my eyes, I stood on a sea of glass as far as the eye could see. Purgatory was weird, as I found myself sailing like an ice skater in the middle of a calm ocean. It felt right, as if I had done it all my life. But do I remember actually dying? Well, no, not exactly. There was some sort of accident on the highway as I drove to work, so I must have been killed unless this was a dream.

But I could smell the ocean air and feel its warm breeze caressing my face. It was wonderful. There was also joy in sailing, a feeling of freedom I didn't realize I was missing. I felt the shackles of my old life binding my soul falling away as I smiled and closed my eyes. But that soon passed; there was something I couldn't ignore. More oddities than just finding myself standing on top of the ocean.

"Instead, perhaps this is Yomi-no-Kuni," I sighed, my mood shifting to confusion, looking down at my attire.

When I woke up this morning, little did I know that I would find myself standing in the middle of the ocean wearing a traditional Japanese archery or Kyudo uniform. It included a black muneate, or protective chest piece, a white blouse, or keiko-gi, and a short red pants skirt, or Hakama. A beautiful yumi or bow was in my left hand, and a yugake or padded glove covered my right. Or that I knew the names of each piece without knowing a lick of Japanese.

Although according to one of those family DNA sites, I did have about eight percent of that ancestry. This wasn't a surprise as my mom loved explaining that great-grandpa Takeo lived in Paris around the 1900s after having trouble with the Imperial court when he met and fell in love with great-grandma Jeanne. Still, I shouldn't know the language.

And pretty sure the Japanese underworld wasn't so wet.

Frowning, I turned slightly, running my fingers over the arrows stored in my yebira or quiver. And for a moment, they were replaced with visions of a hanger full of Mitsubishi A6M Zeros, Aichi D3A dive-bombers, and Nakajima B5Ns torpedo-bombers. I had no real knowledge of military history but somehow knew these were Imperial Japanese aircraft from World War Two.

Then a tsunami of memories flooded my brain as I clenched and unclenched my fist while lowering and raising my aft elevator. I didn't want to believe it, but there was too much pointing to the impossible. However, as much as I tried to ignore the flight deck strapped to my arm and another on my waist. Something else had been burned into my soul.

"My name is Akagi."

This made absolutely no sense; how could someone be both an aircraft carrier and a girl? This couldn't be real. And then a sense of impending doom gripped my heart as new visions assaulted me of American aircraft diving out of the sky filled with killing intent.

Instincts took over, and I began to maneuver, trying to get away from the phantom dive-bombers before finally coming to a complete stop. Rubbing my chest, I looked around in confusion to find myself alone. Where were the others? No carrier sailed by herself. The sea should be filled with girls, ships? Including a cheerful destroyer who loved to dance and the others silently weeping as they lined up to shoot…

"Torpedoes," I whispered, rubbing my side. "Oh, poor, Maikaze."

Then memories of my sinking started to overwhelm me, and I began to panic. Who was I? Where was I? Where was everyone? How did I get here? What happened to my mom and dad? My sister, no, I didn't have a sister, but I did.

"Amagi," I cried softly, remembering a girl who used to laugh with me as we were being built in Kure Naval Arsenal. Then that horrible earthquake where she was lost to me. But there was also Kaga, my friend and stoic companion of Carrier Division One, who I knew underneath that icy cold exterior was a wonderfully warm person.

And just as suddenly, an unnatural alien cold clenched my heart. Eerie voices filled my ears, telling me to surrender to the darkness. Oh, I knew that feeling. Slipping into the void would be easy, just to sit back and wallow in pain and anger. However, panic attacks were nothing new; and that strangely familiar feeling anchored me to this world. Instead, I took a deep, cleansing breath, forcefully pushing away whatever that was.

Breaking down and freaking out wasn't going to help, no matter if I was the ghost of the Japanese carrier Akagi or a Sales Analyst. And perhaps my human life wasn't all sunshine and unicorns, but I wasn't going to succumb to whatever that was. Frankly, it was pissing me off.

Momentarily setting aside my carrier/human dysphoria, I noticed that those conflicted feelings seemed to have churned up the waters a bit as dark clouds drifted off in the distance. Sailing into the sudden squall, I hummed a familiar song but changed the lyrics to rough seas as they never bothered me anyway. It felt both refreshing and cleansing, and something told me that being here might be a second chance.

But for the Japanese carrier Akagi or for myself, I didn't know.

But I needed to keep moving forward. My last memory as a ship had me sailing in the middle of the Pacific. If that was the case, where to go? My fuel supply wasn't endless, but I had plenty, depending on the direction I wished to travel. Even had aviation fuel for my aircraft and, worst comes to worst, ammunition to defend myself. But thankfully, we weren't at war with anyone.

Decisions, decisions. So, let's assume that my location was actually in the middle of the Central Pacific, near where the Japanese fleet had an awful day back in the summer of 42; traveling to Japan wouldn't be too much of an issue, but that country was not my home, no matter who I managed to turn myself into. Midway Island, if it existed, would only be about forty to fifty nautical miles south-ish. But it's a barren rock, San Francisco was way too far, so perhaps Hawaii would be a better choice.

Looking at my charts, we sat roughly 1200 nautical miles to the northwest, so theoretically, only a little over two days' sailing time at a comfortable speed that wouldn't strain my engines. Or I'm totally wrong, and I am about to run into the Aleutian Islands or the Australian coast. Although, I wouldn't be terribly upset if I landed on a Mexican beach somewhere.

OK, the irony was actually not lost on me wanting to sail into Pearl Harbor. However, I imagine I now looked more like a Japanese woman than an aircraft carrier, at least I thought I did; hard to tell without a mirror. Now, slipping onto a beach and walking around Honolulu would be fine too. I could do some shopping, but oh right, no money. Maybe find a phone, and call my parents? And how do I even explain this to them?

Hi Mom, it's me. Sorry, I disappeared on the way to work. I'm in Hawaii. Yea, weird, I know. Can you buy me a ticket home? Oh, by the way, it seems your daughter has turned into a Japanese aircraft carrier.

Dad was a bit of a miser, but I could probably convince him to lend me enough money to buy a ticket home. Although I have always been anxious about the numbers on my bathroom scale, exceeding the weight allowance of an aircraft was never a worry. Likely they wouldn't allow me to fly anyway without a driver's license or any other type of ID. Also, can you imagine the fit I would give the TSA and their metal detectors? Or how about those body scanners? Would it show a girl or a ship?

Now I had no plans to shoot my fellow countrymen, but I also had no desire to be sunk again either. I really wanted to see if I could get someone on the radio, but it would only end in tears if it was still 1942 or even a few years after. In the meantime, I had my radio officer monitor any traffic and maybe even get a fix on a Hawaiian radio station.

Oh yea, that tsunami of memories made me realize that besides navigation charts, I had a crew, lots of them too. I could sense them walking around, doing whatever sailors do on a warship. It made sense; a ship cannot function without them, although there were towns with fewer people than I held inside my hull. But they were adorable, little fairy-like girls in uniforms speaking only one word, Hey, which somehow, I understood.

While deciding upon my destination, I also had a conversation with the Captain but realized as we spoke that this wasn't Aoki Takijirō, my Commander during Midway. I still have memories of the crew not allowing him to join me in death, but somehow, he still managed to leave a small part of himself on the bridge. They all did. And although the crew probably have all moved on, their memories are part of who I am now.

Darkness wrapped itself around my shoulders by the time I finally changed course toward the Hawaiian islands. Between talking to the Captain and other officers, I had been sailing in figure eights for most of the day. Why? It gave me a little practice at ship handling. Yes, I had memories of doing that, but I needed those few hours to find what I could and could not do since I was more than just a ship. The only thing I hadn't done was launch some aircraft off my deck, but that could wait until morning.

Now, traveling the seas on a dark night, you would think would be peaceful, but it's not without its problems. No, I wasn't afraid of sharks or anything like that, I'm a warship, for goodness's sake, but other things hunted the deep. So, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the thought of submarines trying to get a peek up my skirt made me just a little uncomfortable.

Would a US sub just shoot a spread of torpedoes at me without saying hello? I had no idea but didn't want to make it easy for them, so I started to zig and zag a little. Not sure if it actually helps, but it made me feel better. However, there was a silver lining to sailing at night. The stars confirmed my location, and after several course corrections, I continued toward the Hawaiian islands.

Unfortunately, it was a rather long and tedious night. Did I sleep? No, not even sure I need it anymore. Instead, I found myself lost in memories of both lives. This was probably a good thing; being introspective finally allowed me to shake off the remains of that icky cold feeling. And as darkness lifted, I realized my choice of destination ended up being a good one; sometime during the night, an angry storm snuck up on me from the west. But unlike that small squall late yesterday, this one felt unnatural.

"Ippan Shihanki," I commanded aloud, and the whole ship came to life as I started to turn into the wind.

My flight crew had already armed and fueled my combat air patrol earlier, so I wasted no time setting my feet and drew my bow all the way to my ear. With a straight back, I released an arrow, which flew into the false dawn and then exploded into a flight of three zeroes that began circling above. It was all very Zen-like.

While I launched another flight of Zeroes, fairies on my bridge and deck began searching the waves. Even though we didn't stay in general quarters for long, I still planned to send a cap up throughout the day. But my pilots were not the only ones I was putting to work; this wasn't a pleasure cruise, no siree.

So, while some of my Zeros hunted the sky and others for pericopes, I shook the rust off the crew that had accumulated since 1942. All sorts of drills were performed especially damage control procedures. At the same time, the gunnery officers checked and then double-checked their guns. Sometime in the afternoon, the fighter cap moved further out while the anti-aircraft gunners filled the sky with 20mm, 12cm, and 25mm rounds. It was then time for the torpedo and dive bombers crews to practice take-off and landings.

All in all, a very productive day.

"Hey, Hey," the air boss shouted, but I had already spotted the Zero circling to come in for a landing.

It was the last of those I had sent out to look around. I might have lacked Sōryū reconnaissance aircraft, but my fighters were more than capable with their long-range. What was brilliant, instead of radio communication, although that worked too, I could see what the fairy pilots could see through their eyes if I concentrated.

I sent them in three directions. The first was towards the storm, which only remained long enough for me to take a quick look before I ordered it back to base. The second, well, Midway was still a rock, but not the heavily fortified rock that my memories held during the war. So, it didn't look like I went back in time; but it appeared abandoned, with no life, well, no humans anyway. But it also felt off, much like my choice of sailing west toward Japan; I knew passing over the island was a good thing.

And finally, two Zeros searched the leeward Hawaiian islands but found very little. Well, more rocks, as expected; nothing lives out there, but strangely, no boats, pleasure, fishing, or otherwise. Kauai and the other larger islands would be in range tomorrow. But, if I increase my speed a little, I could easily have a mimosa on a beach someplace around lunchtime.

The radio was of no help. Still no music, nothing but creepy radio static and, on occasion, voices calling out, some in pain, while others were trying to talk to me. Ya, that's a hard no. Spooky radio stuff never turns out well, but I hesitated just to turn it off.

When the sun rose on the second day, I was getting close to panicking again between the weird radio signals and the lack of signs of humanity. Maybe this was truly the afterlife. And the storm, which seemed to be following me throughout the night, didn't help. Thankfully for my sanity, my scouts came to the rescue a few hours later. A cheerful little fairy voice announced over the radio, confirming that humans were on Kauai. Immediately I began to look at the island through their eyes.

Coming in from the northwest, the view was primarily massive volcanic cliffs covered in green, but heading north around the island, the pilot found a highway. And although it was still a little dark, sure enough, far below were homes. I also took notice of the numerous cars on the road, but they all seemed to be traveling east in a hurry. What was happening? Not waiting to cause any panic by flying lower, I recalled the Zero, increased my speed, and headed there myself.

The island of Kauai was really a beautiful place. Tropical, green, somewhere I would want to spend a long vacation on the beach enjoying the sun. All along the coast were cute little houses; I imagine quite a few that one could rent for a summer. The sandy beach was also inviting, but I didn't want to get my tabis wet.

OK, so sue me, damp and sandy socks I didn't need. Instead, I continued to hug the coast while coming up with a plan on how to unsummon my flight deck and the rest of my rigging. My thirty-seven thousand tons would definitely crack pavement otherwise. So, in theory, I just needed to become more girl than a ship. Well, according to my fairies, anyway.

"Where did everyone go?" I mainly murmured to myself; even the cars seemed to have vanished.

"Hey, Hey, Hey." A fairy standing on my shoulder replied.

"Yes, they could have been evacuated because of the storm. Strange though, anyway, I'm going to head toward that marina."

The slips were pretty empty, so the idea that everyone evacuated had merit. I wouldn't want to be on the island when that angry storm rolled in.

"Hey, Hey." A fairy pointed to port at a few ladders, but I wasn't sure I could pull myself up.

"Oh nice, a boat slipway, that will work."

Reducing speed, I began to creep along, which kept my wake down, not wanting to swamp the docks before coming to a complete stop. Unsummoning my rigging in a swirl of light, I successfully stepped onto the concrete. The Akagi has landed.

"Hey, Hey"

"Yes, yes, very funny, so I am a magical ship girl too."

My bridge was full of comedians.

Since I didn't buckle the ground, thank goodness, I continued walking through the marina and towards the street beyond. Everything around me was quiet; from what I would tell, the evacuation must have been recent. What was strange though nothing was boarded up. I had memories of watching the news, which showed homeowners covering windows with wood to protect them from the high winds of hurricanes.

But those thoughts vanished like smoke when I finally saw my reflection in the window of a coffee shop. No dysphoria, no discomfort, or strangeness. I was looking at myself, IJN Akagi, the woman, not the ship. This was me, as I have always been. Maybe a little less chesty than my old self, my hips were slightly bigger, and I had legs for days, but I was also a lot younger. Maybe in my early twenties. However, Akagi, my new self, was very pretty. It was eerie, almost supernatural beauty, as if this body was created by the thought of the perfect Japanese woman.

"Well, whether I'm a magical girl, ghost, or kami, we still need to see what's happening."