LIVING A LIFE FORETOLD
Chapter 12: "To Whom We Commend This Soul"
A Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Toshihiro entered the apartment softly. He listened for some sound of life.
"Mina?" he inquired. There was no response. She was probably still out saving the world. That's what Sailor Venus did.
And she was Sailor Venus. It was still hard to wrap his head around that concept. His beloved hyper, fun-loving, gorgeous, slightly addled, incurable slob, hopeless dreamer girlfriend was Sailor Venus, and before that the legendary Sailor V. She was a sailor senshi. He never knew, even though he'd been dating the woman for three years now and living with her for nearly a year.
And he'd wanted it to be more than just living together. But she'd always held him at arm's length before, enjoying his company but never able to commit to something long-lasting. He'd always feared it was because she didn't love him as much as he loved her. He thought it was perhaps because she was holding out, using him as a "second option" but hoping the mysterious Ace would sweep in and whisk her away. He'd never met the man but he'd pieced together what had happened to break up her first marriage and the feelings she still held for him. He'd always thought that was it.
Maybe he was wrong. Maybe this was why she couldn't commit to him. Sagging on the sofa, Toshihiro turned on the television and pulled up the news.
" . . . footage of the dramatic confrontation between the Sailor Senshi and what has been described as a cybernetic Mobile Armored Suit run amok in Tokyo's manufacturing district."
His throat tightened. There she was, dodging blows from a metal monster nearly a meter taller than she was. She was fantastic - - and yet all Toshihiro could see in his mind was the monster possibly catching her and ripping her to pieces before his eyes. How many special effects action dramas had he thrilled to over the years? There was little surface difference between them and what he witnessed now, yet it was completely different. This was reality - - deadly reality.
A key turned in the lock. Toshihiro looked over and found Minako and Artemis framed by the door. Both parties looked at the other with surprise, as if each hadn't expected the other to be there.
"Oh," Minako mumbled awkwardly. "Hi, Toshi-chan."
"Hi," he said, giving her a faint smile. "Um, I was-was just watching you on the news."
"Did they get my good side?" she offered lamely.
A pall hung over the room.
"Look, Minako," Toshihiro ventured timidly, "I'm sorry for suspecting you. Sorry for what I said."
"Well, it's not like I didn't give you reason," Minako replied. She ambled in and sat on the sofa near him - - but not next to him - - and looked down. "I wanted to tell you. I should have told you."
"No, I understand. You super-heroes have to do stuff like that, don't you?"
Minako tried to suppress the snort of laughter.
"I don't know," chuckled Minako. "I guess the thought of me being in the same category as Tetsuan Atom and 8-Man is funny." Her shoulders sagged. "It's not like it's some rule or something. I just - - didn't know how you'd take it." Her hand moved to her eye, like she was trying to conceal a tear. "I don't want to lose you, Toshi. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. Even better than this TV series. I was scared, I guess. I just didn't know how you'd react to me running around kicking the stuffing out of bad guys in a sailor tunic and a skirt up to my butt."
"Maybe you were right to worry," Toshihiro whispered. "I'm still not sure how to take this. There's a part of me who knows that you're doing something for the good of humanity. That's a lot more important than a guy who just directs TV sitcoms. But part of me worries that you might walk out that door some day - - and never come back."
With a tremendous look of sympathy, Minako leaned in and put her arms around Toshihiro. The couple remained that way silently for a few moments.
"I'll try, though," he told her. "I'll try to deal with it. Because driving you away would be almost as bad as losing you forever."
"Aww, Toshi," Minako sniffed. "You always know just what to say."
The pair cuddled up together on the sofa.
"Hey, Artemis," Minako said after a few minutes, "why don't you go see if you can spend the night with Luna."
Artemis gave her an acid look that Toshihiro managed to miss.
"There you go, treating that cat like he can understand you," Toshihiro chuckled.
"Yeah," Minako grimaced. "About that . . ."
"You know," Toshihiro said, rubbing her arm, "you really do look sexy in that sailor uniform."
"You think?" Minako leered.
Then her cell phone went off. The couple both emitted frustrated sighs.
"You're out to get me, world," she muttered. "Hello? What's up, Makoto? She did?" Minako listened for a few moments. "Oh no. Where is she? How's she doing? You want me to come down?" There was a pause. "OK. I'll stop by her place tomorrow and check on her." She closed the phone.
"Mina?" Toshihiro inquired, concerned about his love. "What's wrong? Is it more Sailor business?"
"No," Minako replied absently. "It's not that. Urawa died just now"
In the office of Dietman Shinjiro Hino, a conference was taking place. Prime Minister Arashi sat across the desk from the man he had pegged as his inter-party rival and a man to be watched carefully. And yet, Arashi found himself in the unique position of being in Hino's debt. It was the latest in a series of recent events that had sent the normally steady politician reeling. This meeting was, on the surface, to convey initial thanks as good form demanded. He was also there, though, to look Hino over more closely and try to decide what his true motives really were.
"I merely did what anyone who believes in the democratic execution of government would do," Hino replied. Arashi silently admired the man. Hino always had a gift for speaking. It was one of the things that made him a dangerous adversary. "It's true we've had our philosophical differences in the past, but those things are trivial in comparison to maintaining the very system of government we're all sworn to uphold."
"I'm glad to hear that, Hino-San," Arashi replied. "Given the involvement in this plot of Toguro-San, I can imaging you were - - conflicted."
"I freely admit my debt to Toguro-San," Hino told him. "He was a good friend and a better mentor. But you can only draw on debts of honor so far. Treason crosses the line and a person must choose between honor and country. I feel I made the right choice. We'll see how Tadano feels when he gets out of prison."
"Doesn't surprise me that he's going to fall on his sword for Toguro," Arashi scowled. "Some lessons in life are hard. Too bad Toguro isn't going to see the inside of a cell for this."
"Toguro-San is pretty well finished in the halls of government because of this," Hino reminded him. "Knowing him, that may be punishment enough."
"And then to find out that the bombing was staged as well. You're certain Toguro had nothing to do with that?"
"Yes. It's too clumsy. Besides, with the death of Ishii-San, his assistant was only too happy to outline the man's entire role in the incident. Kujawa certainly has a mess to clean up in more ways than one - - assuming the company even survives."
"Yes," Arashi nodded, then paused. Hino waited patiently. "Hino-San, I know we've had our differences, but this incident has demonstrated to me that - - given the urgency of a particular issue to the nation - - we can put aside our differences and work together. That's a very valuable thing to know."
"Thank you, Arashi-Sama," Hino nodded.
"Committee chairs are coming up next year," Arashi ventured. "Perhaps I can do something for you in that regard. Of course it will depend on how the fall elections go."
"I will not fail your faith should you choose to place it in me, Prime Minister," Hino said and Arashi wanted so to believe him.
The men got up, bowed and shook hands. Arashi departed while Hino sat back behind his desk. Only when his guest was gone did Hino allow himself a smile of triumph.
His assistant buzzed. "Hino-Sama, Toguro-San is on the phone for you again."
"I'm still out to Toguro-San," Hino replied cooly.
"May I ask for how long?"
"Permanently," Hino replied with a steely glare.
Through the funeral, Ami looked down at her hands. Her friends flanked her on either side. Usagi and Mamoru were on her right with Rei. Her mother was on her left, with Makoto, Sanjuro and little Akiko. Akiko lay on her mother's shoulder, sucking on a pacifier, oblivious to the solemn ceremony around her. Minako and Toshihiro were seated behind them. During the ceremony, Ami steadfastly refused to look up. Some of those with her noticed she consciously avoided looking at the coffin that held Ryo's body. Tears streamed down her face, but Ami remained in control. She didn't become hysterical - - no matter how much she wanted to. It was easier than she'd imagined it would be, given the flood of support she was receiving from her mother, from Usagi and from the others.
Near the coffin was Ryo's mother and father. In their sixties now, the graying couple seemed fragile as porcelain. There was sadness between them, but few tears. Still Usagi looked at them with infinite sadness, yearning to somehow ease their grief.
There were few other mourners. Ryo's life as a loner and a self-chosen outcast hadn't
allowed him the luxury of making friendships. Off in a corner of the Confucian Temple was
a woman in her mid-twenties and a little girl about five. Rei and Minako both had noticed them,
but nobody recognized her. The only other mourner was quite conspicuous, despite his efforts otherwise. Unfortunately it was difficult to be anonymous when you were the Prime Minister of Japan and you traveled with government bodyguards. Only the demand of the temple monk and the detachment of two of his bodyguards to the door kept the press out.
When the service was done, Prime Minister Arashi got up and was first to meet with Ryo's parents. Though still grief-stricken, the elderly pair met Arashi and bowed with dignity to him. He handed them the traditional offering envelope. Then to the surprise of everyone, he knelt down on his knees before them and pressed his forehead to the floor in a traditional Japanese bow of supreme penance.
"Please accept condolences on my own behalf and on behalf of the entire Japanese government," he said. "And please forgive us for taking your son without cause."
For a moment, the Urawas were too stunned to talk. Finally Ryo's father found his voice.
"Thank you, Prime Minister," the old man said, choking back his emotions. "We are honored by your presence - - and grateful for your apology."
Arashi straightened up, then rolled off his knees to his feet. He nodded to Ryo's mother, then turned and left, his bodyguards following. Ami was next in line.
"I'm sorry this had to happen," she choked out. "We did everything we could to save him. But he was just too weak to go on."
"I'm sure you did," his mother offered. "My Ryo had a difficult life. Living was an ordeal for him in many ways. Though he's lost to us and we hurt because of that, I think he may be happier in the afterlife than he ever was on Earth."
Ami nodded and began to leave. But the elderly woman reached out and seized her hand. Surprised, the young doctor turned back to her.
"You're the Mizuno girl, aren't you? Ryo often spoke of you," she told Ami, "and very warmly. You were one of the few joys he had in his life. I think the gods actually took pity on him one day and let him meet you - - to relieve some of the misery in his life."
"Thank you," Ami whispered, emotion robbing her of speech.
When she turned away, Usagi and Makoto were there. The others hovered nearby.
"He knew," Ami told them, haunted and distant. "He knew before he entered the square that doing what he did would lead to his death. And he did it anyway, to save us all." The young doctor wiped her eyes. "He was the very definition of a hero."
"Yes he was," Rei whispered. "It's not fair that people like him die and people like Toguro live on."
"Ami?" whimpered Usagi, in tears herself. "I wish there was something I could do for you!"
"You're doing it, Usagi," Ami replied softly. The two women hugged. "I know death is the inevitable result of life. I know that intellectually. But it's never easy to confront. I wish he was still here!"
"I know," Makoto said, snaking her arm around Ami. "It's going to hurt. And you're going to miss him. If it ever gets to be too much, call me - - day or night. We'll get you through this."
Ami started to speak, but her throat seized up. Instead, she only smiled and nodded.
"Um," came a timid voice and they all turned to it. It was the young woman from the corner. She was a small woman with short black hair and unremarkable features. The child with her had straight black hair and hid timidly behind her skirt. "Forgive me for intruding. Did you know Urawa-San?"
"Yes," Ami whispered. "We were - - old friends. Did you know him?"
"Not very well. Not as well as I would have liked. I tried to help him. He seemed so thin and, well, tortured. But he wouldn't let me." The woman realized she was babbling. "I'm sorry. My name is Keiko Futuhara. This is my daughter, Ami."
"Really?" Ami replied, the hairs on the back of her neck raising. "My name is Ami, too. Ami Mizuno. How do you know Ryo?"
"Well," Keiko began, embarrassed, "about five years ago I was nearly hit by a truck. It was my own fault. I was, well, having trouble with my husband and I was preoccupied. I stepped out into the street and, well, this truck was coming. And then Urawa-San appeared. He pushed me back out of the way of the truck. I didn't see him, but he must have run from across the street, through traffic, just to save someone he didn't even know!"
She looked down and caressed the head of the shy five year old behind her.
"And my little girl, too. I was five and a half months along. That truck would have killed us both if not for him." She looked up at Ami with the most wondrous expression. "I-I was so grateful, I wanted to reward him somehow. And he just looked at me - - like he knew what I was going to say. He said I was going to have a beautiful little girl - - and she was going to grow up to be a brilliant surgeon. And he asked me if I would name her 'Ami'. Well it was the least I could do. Was he thinking of you?"
Overcome again, Ami just nodded.
"I didn't believe it for a minute when they said he'd tried to kill the Prime Minister," Keiko continued. "I knew he was innocent. It's so terrible what happened."
And out of the blue, Ami reached out and caught Keiko in a hug.
"Thank you," Ami whispered, squeezing the woman tight.
"For what?" Keiko asked.
"For giving me one more wonderful memory of him that I can cherish."