Chapter 12: "War's End"

A Sailor Moon fanfic

By Bill K.

Sailor Mercury looked up from her computer. Her eyes confirmed what her sensor array reported. Hana Saito held Sailor Moon in front of her, a forearm around Sailor Moon's throat and a knife pointed to her jaw. For a moment she considered using Aqua Rhapsody, but Sailor Moon was too close.

Sailor Jupiter stood at bay, Sailor Venus next to her. Every muscle in her body longed to lunge at this fifteen year old girl with the moves of Jackie Chan and the intent of taking one of the most important things in Jupiter's life. She wanted to lunge, but she couldn't trust herself to be fast enough. And the shower of water from the sprinkler system prevented her from using her electrical powers. In all this water, Jupiter would end up electrocuting everyone except Mercury.

Sailor Mars looked up, on her hands and knees, and could only focus on the knife pointed at Sailor Moon's jaw and the surprised look in Sailor Moon's eyes. The water prevented her from using her fire powers. So did Sailor Moon's proximity. So did the paralyzing fear of what might happen. The thought of losing her, after losing her mother, after losing her grandfather, after - - after Derek tore her heart from her chest. It was too much.

Sailor Venus looked for a shot, an opening to use her Crescent Beam or her Love Me Chain or even her Love And Beauty Shock, and knew she didn't have it. Hana Saito was too good, too cagey. How does someone that young become that good, she wondered to herself and instantly remembered that she had been that good that young, and even younger. Venus imagined the frustration everyone she had ever fought had once felt, for she was feeling it now. The only way out of this might be to let her go. They could always pick up the trail again, and if another few Yakuza thugs bit the dust, well she wasn't going to feel as bad about it as Sailor Moon might. The key was to get Sailor Moon back safely.

Venus started to speak, but Jupiter started first.

"You let her go," Jupiter rumbled like a simmering volcano.

"When I'm safely away," Hana replied, mentally tracking the moments. The police would respond to the fire alarm any moment. She had to go now.

"If you so much as bruise her," Jupiter snarled, glaring at her with a wolf's eyes, "I will track you down and . . ."

"Jupiter," Sailor Moon wheezed out. "Don't. Don't even think it."

Jupiter was amazed, but not as amazed as Hana was.

"Please don't do this," Sailor Moon said to Hana. "Please let me help you. Violence will only bring more violence and everyone will suffer in the end. Please put down your vendetta and your violent ways and let me help you be a normal teenage girl again. It's not too late."

And Hana wanted to believe.

But the footfalls of a dozen men, led by Superintendent Sakurada echoed through the corridor as they approached from behind Mercury. Venus glanced to each side and found more officers filling the two branch corridors. Every exit was blocked and unless Hana could pass through cinder block walls, she was trapped.

"PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPON AND SURRENDER!" Sakurada bellowed forcefully.

Several officers behind her had their service pistols drawn and ready to fire. Right now Sailor Moon was the only card Hana had left to play. But how should she play it? Should she try to force her way out with the senshi as a hostage? Or should she surrender and trust that Sailor Moon could somehow help her and her Kuroda-Otosan? It wasn't a decision she was trained to make, either as an assassin or as a fifteen year old girl. Hana's arm tightened around Sailor Moon's throat.

One of the officers spotted this and fired. Mercury heard the shot rather than saw it, and she felt the bullet fly past her to her right. She was looking directly at Sailor Moon and Hana, as the other senshi were, so she saw it clearly.

She saw Sailor Moon twist in Hana's grasp and throw herself in the path of the bullet. The bullet struck her chest high and to the left. The impact shoved Sailor Moon into Hana and the two fell backwards onto the floor. Everyone, from police to senshi to Hana herself, experienced a moment of shock where time seemed to stand still.

"HOLD YOUR FIRE, HOLD YOUR FIRE!" Sakurada yelled.

Mercury shot forward and knelt beside Sailor Moon. She could hear Mars howling like a wounded animal to her left. Peripherally she saw Jupiter pounce on Hana Saito and lock her in a bear hug. Venus held down the girl's legs, but Hana offered no resistance. The teen was too stunned, for she realized exactly what Sailor Moon had just done.

Then the area was swarmed by police. Several officers took charge of Hana and cuffed her. The senshi, Sakurada and some other officers crowded around Mercury and Sailor Moon. Sakurada was already on her cell phone, summoning a medical unit. Mercury had pulled her bow off and was using it as a pressure bandage. Sailor Moon's breathing became rasping. She clutched at her chest in pain and all the senshi's hearts clutched in horror. Then Sailor Moon's right hand rose feebly, stained with her own blood.

"Please," Sailor Moon gasped out.

"Don't try to talk!" Mercury urged her.

"Sakurada-San," Sailor Moon persisted. "Don't be . . . too hard on her . . ." Sailor Moon swallowed. "Not her fault . . ."

Hana continued to stare, stunned and amazed.

They all heard the flap of a cape. Then several officers were shoved aside and Tuxedo Mask appeared. He and Mercury exchanged a silent, meaningful glance. With a single, graceful motion, he scooped Sailor Moon up and was off with her down the corridor at a speed few humans could match. Without a word, the four senshi followed as best they could.

Hana stared after them until they were no longer in sight. Then she bowed her head.

Blue eyes opened. A drug-induced haze fell away slowly and the room came into focus. She was in a strange bed with something beeping in the distance. A hand grasped hers. Usagi looked over in the direction of her right hand.

"Mamo-Chan," she smiled. The inner senshi, in their civilian identities, stood behind him. The outer senshi, also in civilian form, were to the side. She was happy to see them all. Then events came flooding back. "How badly was I hurt?"

"Traumatic Pneumothorax, with a fractured left scapula and fractured second left rib," Ami leaned in and said. She seemed relieved.

"Um . . ." Usagi grimaced and smiled sprouted on the group.

"The gunshot broke your second rib and punctured your left lung," Mamoru explained in layman's terms. "It was stopped by your left shoulder blade. The surgeon inserted a pin in your rib and repaired the pleura around your lung. You'll be sore for a few weeks, but you'll recover."

"That's good," Usagi murmured. "I'm sorry I worried everybody." Then a horrific thought made her eyes bulge. "My deadline! I'll never make my deadline! My editor will kill me!"

"He'll have to beat me to it," Rei leaned in. "What in Heaven's name were you thinking?"

"That officer was going to shoot Saito-San," Usagi said innocently. "I promised to help her."

"That's going a little above and beyond the call, Hon'," Makoto told her.

"She's never had a chance, Mako-Chan," Usagi maintained. "I didn't want to see her die. And I didn't want to see her die before she's had that chance."

Minako scowled. "Well, I hope this isn't too much of a bummer for you then, but I was at Superintendent Sakurada's office earlier today. She says Saito and Kuroda are being charged with multiple counts of murder. Kuroda probably won't see the outside again. Since Saito is only fifteen, she goes through the family court system, but she'll probably be locked up until she's twenty. And she may be a Yakuza target during her stay or after she's out."

"But that's so unfair," Usagi complained.

"Well, she did kill people, Usagi," Minako explained. "Sakurada-San said that's something the government can't officially condone, no matter how little they thought of the victims."

"No, that's not it! Of course what she did was wrong, but punishing her won't help her victims," Usagi gasped out, clearly agitated. "And it won't help her! Only forgiveness and guidance will help her!"

"Usako, you need to calm down," Mamoru advised her. "Don't stress yourself."

"It's the system we all exist in, Usagi," Ami offered. "Perhaps she'll receive the counseling she needs while she's incarcerated." Usagi looked down doubtfully.

"I did get some good news while I was with Sakurada-San," Minako added. "She told me to tell you that the officer who fired is getting reprimanded for improper use of deadly force," and she pulled an envelope out of her purse, "and she sent you an official letter of apology. And she said she'll come in and apologize in person if you want." Minako glanced at the others. "Plus the gunshot report the hospital filed is going to 'magically disappear', along with the names of the parties involved. Sometimes it pays to have someone on the inside."

Minako went fishing in her purse again and came out with another letter.

"She also asked me to pass this along to you," Minako said, holding out another envelope. "She said it was a letter from Hana Saito to Sailor Moon."

"Read it, Mamo-Chan," Usagi whispered. Mamoru took the letter from Minako.

"Dear Sailor Moon," he began. "I want to apologize deeply and humbly for what happened to you. I still can't understand why you jumped in front of a bullet to save an enemy. I guess maybe it's why you were defending the Yakuza I killed. I wish you hadn't risked yourself to save me.

"Please believe me when I tell you that I wouldn't have hurt you with that knife. I saw how all of your team value and respect you, and I thought I could bluff my way out. I was going to shove you aside and run when the officer shot. I only killed people who deserved to die and you don't deserve to die. That's why I wish you had let them shoot me."

"Oh, that poor girl," Usagi gasped.

"You were right," Mamoru continued, "about me wanting to stop killing and become normal. I think that's beyond me now, if it was ever in my reach. But if you were serious about wanting to help me, please visit me if they will let you. You seem very wise and perhaps you can help me after all. And even if you can't, please try to help my Kuroda-Otosan. He only picked the targets and trained me. I'm the one who killed them.

"Please find it in your heart to forgive me, if nothing else. I did not mean for you to get hurt."

The room fell silent after Mamoru finished reading the letter.

"Minako-Chan," Usagi said softly.

"Yeah?" Minako asked.

"Ask Sakurada-San if Sailor Moon can visit Saito-San."

Mamoru smiled warmly. "When you're better."

"Yes, Mamo-Chan," Usagi nodded dutifully. "When I'm better."

A week had passed. Usagi was out of the hospital and resting at home with Luna keeping a watchful eye on her. The story they told Usagi's parents and brother, as well as Ryoko, Usagi's editor and anyone else not in on their secret was that Usagi had slipped and fallen and broken her shoulder blade. It was a plausible story, given Usagi's reputation, and everybody accepted it at face value. And Usagi was all too happy to accept the doting her mother and especially her father visited upon her. Between them and Mamoru, it was almost like being a kid again.

She'd even managed to try drawing with one hand, as her left arm was still in a sling from her damaged shoulder blade. She'd confessed during one of Rei's incessant calls to check on her that she could manage it at a reduced speed. Then she complained that she was slow enough as it was and she was going to have to hire someone to ink for her just to be only three days late with the story. That's when Rei began to tease her and the argument would erupt.

Rei smiled at the memory. It was nice to have a little normal in her life. And between fussing over Usagi and preparing for the Bon Festival Hikawa Shrine was hosting this year, the priest was able to not think about Derek Johnson too much. Surveying the grounds and seeing all of the people praying at the shrine and all the kids bouncing from booth to booth made her feel just a little less alone. And it was weak moments like this when Rei contemplated calling Derek in whatever city he was in now playing his little boy's game and talking to him and maybe forgiving him.

"Hi, Auntie Rei!" a child's bellow echoed across the grounds.

Rei turned toward the sound and found Akiko Ikegami running up to her on her chubby little legs. The girl was nearing three years old, Rei recalled, and the priest would have to get her a birthday present soon. Makoto was walking behind them, Ichiro in her arms. To keep from being pulled off of her feet, Makoto had released the leash attached to the harness that Akiko wore and the tether dragged on the ground behind the girl. Rei bent down and caught Akiko, lifting her into the air.

"Hi, Akiko-Chan," Rei smiled and for once it wasn't forced. "Are you enjoying Bon?"

Akiko nodded vigorously. "Mommy's going to get me cotton candy!" Rei looked inquiringly at Makoto.

"I figured it was festival, why not," Makoto shrugged. "You only live once. And maybe Akiko will get lucky and meet her Grandma and Grandpa here. Then THEY can be the heavy."

"Since when have grandparents EVER been the heavy?" Rei chuckled and it brought a smile to her friend's face. "So how's the little man doing?"

"Growing like a weed," Makoto replied. "I may have to go back to working at the restaurant just to keep up with the clothing bills."

"Well he's certainly quiet and well-behaved."

"Yeah," Makoto's smile dimmed. "Sometimes he's almost too quiet, you know. I worry about it sometimes. Ami looked at him and said he's healthy. He's just - - quiet."

"Makoto, you'd worry no matter if he was quiet, noisy or just right."

"Would not," Makoto blushed and looked away.

"Maybe he'll be another super-genius like Ami," suggested Rei. "After all, she was quiet."

"Not if he's got my genes, he won't," chuckled Makoto. She looked Rei right in the eye. "So how are YOU doing?"

Rei's gaze dropped to the ground.

"Sorry if I brought up a sore subject," Makoto continued, "but we're all worried about you. You don't have to tell us what happened in America if you don't want to, but you certainly don't have to sit up here and hurt by yourself. We're all here for you."

"I know," Rei replied and was able to look Makoto in the eye again. "And I appreciate it. And I'd like to get passed this, because it's messing up my second sight. It's just - - I can't. Not yet. I want to, but . . ."

"OK," Makoto said. "If you ever do decide the time is right, you know the number. Say, why don't you come over next Sunday? You can have a home-cooked meal and spend a little time with Akiko and Ichiro. We can talk about anything you want to talk about. I know San-San is always happy to have you over."

Rei considered it. "All right. I'll be there. Hopefully the world won't be invaded Saturday night."

"Yeah," Makoto grinned. Then she turned to her daughter. "OK, kiddo, let's get you that cotton candy."

Akiko pulled out of Rei's grasp and dived for the ground. It was all Makoto could do to snatch her leash and restrain the child from dashing madly across the grounds. Rei watched them walk away and felt a warmness in her heart that hadn't been there for a while.

"Can I have a goldfish, too?" she heard Akiko ask.

"No, you cannot have a goldfish," Makoto replied.

"BUT I WANT ONE!" Akiko howled and Rei had to turn away to conceal her laughter.

After one more sweep of the grounds to see that everything was running smoothly, Rei entered the shrine to get a few moments to herself. She reflected on memories of past Bon Festivals when she would have to keep one eye out to make sure Yuiichiro didn't mess something up and the other eye on her grandfather to make sure he didn't get his face slapped. And she felt a longing for one more thing she could never have again.

And then she stopped. A figure was kneeling at the table.

"Kaasan?" Rei whispered in amazement.

"It's good to see you again, my little Rei-Chan," the ghostly figure replied.

She was a willowy woman, perhaps a little thin and as fragile-looking as fine glass. Long black hair cascaded down her back and violet eyes looked up at Rei and seemed to see everything. She wore the red and white robes of a shrine maiden and Rei suddenly wondered if she'd ever seen her mother wearing anything else. The sadness was still in her eyes, the sadness that had always been in them and only seemed to dim when Rei was near her. Rei walked over and knelt at the table to her left.

"I've missed you, Kaasan," Rei whispered shyly.

"I've always been here, Rei-Chan," she said. "You've grown up to be a fine woman. It made father so happy when you became a priest, and I have to admit I was proud, too. And you do so much more as Sailor Mars. I knew you were special when I held you in my arms at the hospital. I just didn't realize how special."

"Thank you," Rei said softly. She felt like she was five again.

"You're troubled," her mother observed. Rei suddenly felt embarrassed. "You still ache over what happened in America."

"You know about that," Rei replied, chagrined at being so transparent. "Kaasan, why do men have to be like that?"

"Men are human," she answered. "Humans are vulnerable to their weak moments. We all have our weak moments and we must forgive weak moments."

Rei wanted to argue, but couldn't. She sat silently. Her mother seemed to recognize the posture.

"Perhaps if you forgave him, and forgave yourself for trusting him, you would feel better," her mother ventured.

"How can I?" Rei argued. "Look at what trusting Dad got you."

Rei's mother saddened. "Rei-Chan, I did not die of a broken heart. I died of Leukemia. Your father felt terrible for his choices in life when I took sick and lamented my passing as much as you did. We are all vulnerable to our weak moments. We cannot banish them with a will of iron and an unrelenting critical eye. To be unforgiving of one's self is to live a sad and angry life. To be unforgiving of others is to live apart and alone."

"I can't, Kaasan," Rei said, her anguish painted on her face. "I'm not like you. I just can't."

Reflexively the spirit reached out, but her hand passed through Rei's shoulder.

"Perhaps one day you can," her mother offered. "You have a long life ahead of you and much time yet left to grow and learn. Dwell upon that which is right within you, Rei-Chan. Learn from that which is wrong within you rather than punish yourself for it. And know that I will always walk by your side and I will always love you."

Overcome with emotion, Rei just nodded.

"And your grandfather says 'hi'," her mother added with a smile. "And he says you worry too much and don't enjoy life nearly enough."

"He would," Rei chuckled through her tears. As she gazed on her mother, Rei realized that the spirit was fading away. "Kaasan?" she said almost desperately.

But the woman was gone. Rei took a few moments to get hold of her emotions and then rose to her feet. She went to the door, then paused. Rei thought of Derek And then she thought of Usagi. And then she thought of the match.

Maybe there were things she could still learn. And maybe she did need to enjoy life a little more.