Disclaimer: Sakura Taisen (aka Sakura Wars) belongs to Ouji Hiroi, Sega, and Red Entertainment. The Teito Hanagumi belong to Kousuke Fujishima and Hidenori Matsubara. I'm just a Uni student trying to release the tension from my thesis through fiction writing, with the amazing Sakura Taisen saga as foundation.

'Dawn of Seasons' is a prequel to a bigger story I'm cooking up right now. Read this like how you watch 'Sakura Taisen: Ouka Kenran', as a background and reference. I try as much as possible to put the Hanagumi members at the heart of the story and to minimise the domination of my original characters - they do not appear in this first chapter, for instance, except through mentions in conversations. I'm also trying to keep the Hanagumi members in character, with exception of Iris, whom I imagine to have grown up.

I think I've said enough for this time. Hope this is enjoyable enough for you, and hope I'm not offending anyone through my story. One thing I want to make clear is that there is no Mary Sue-s here. I won't base any of my characters on myself - it just feels weird.

Dawn of Seasons

Chapter 1

Tokyo, Summer 1947

The night was getting older. Up in the sky, the full moon shone demurely. Just like a young lady's shy, gentle smile. Trees stood solemnly on the roadside, green and still. These few days had been insanely hot and dry; what a good time to hold a Revue International Conference. The stench of the meeting room was still so vivid in his head, even after almost an hour after it was over.

He turned to the road ahead of them. They were getting closer to the office, and he was grateful for that. His deputy had taken over the chauffeuring duty from him tonight, insisting that he should rest after such a day. Their secretary seconded that, so he has no choice but to oblige. Women clearly knew how to talk men into doing something. Or, more exactly, into not doing something.

"So, what do you think, Captain?"

"I don't really know, Maria-kun," he answered, glancing at the Eurasian woman beside him. It struck him that his 'girls' were really getting older. Maria might look like her 20-year old self on stage, but without her make up on, she really looked her age. The crows' feet and laughter lines gave her away.

She seemed to catch his change of expression, for she smiled. "Yes, Captain, I am this old," she said, tilting her head to keep her fringe away from her eyes. "I'll be graying in a few years. Won't be long until I start forgetting things. Hopefully it's not my lines, if you would still have me on stage."

"I would kick you out," he replied, grinning, "so that I can have my wife all for myself."

"Well, we must let Sakura choose, mustn't we?"

They both chuckled, as the aforementioned woman dozed quietly on the backseat. A whole day of note-taking was surely overwhelming.

"That's a good line, Maria-kun," said the Captain. "Suitable for a nobleman. No wonder your daughter initially thought you were her Dad."

They chuckled again, remembering that day when they discovered that Maria's daughter Chiharu, then two years old, had been assuming that Maria was her father instead of her mother. The poor eight years old was still embarrassed when her neechan-s teased her about it.

"That wasn't actually as bad as when Natsue walked into the rehearsal to see me holding her mother," Maria mentioned, as they passed the familiar downtown Tokyo buildings. "It took Sumire a great pain to explain to her that Sakura and I weren't cheating on you."

"And she didn't think it was her tjotja[1]," the Captain added, half-laughing. "See, Maria-kun, the effect you have on young ladies."

"I'm used to it, Captain," Maria replied cooly, "I've been in this position for more than twenty years. And these days I share the attention with Leni, so it's not as bad. Actually they're after Leni more than they're after me, for she spent more time on stage recently."

The majestic silhouette of Daitekoku Gekijou started appearing at the distance. On its side was the illuminated billboard, glistening against the deep blue night. Beauty and the Beast, staring Leni Milchstrasse and Iris Chateaubriand, Tokyo's hottest on-stage couple. People said they have this chemistry – as good as, if not better than, Maria Tachibana and Shinguji Sakura's.

"Should we remake Arabia no Bara?" asked the Captain. "You and Leni on the stage, playing Princes. We might get some young ladies passing out on their seats."

"Sure, if we have time," Maria agreed, slowing down as they approached the guarded gate of the theatre. No one greeted them; the soldier in the security post was snoring with his head on the table. The Vice Captain opened the window and fired her empty handgun into the air, causing the young man to spring on his feet and scramble to the car.

"Could you please open the gate for us?" inquired the annoyed Captain.

"Yes Sir!" shouted the soldier, scrambling back to the post to open the automatic gate. Slowly, the metal door slid open, revealing the stone-lined driveway and the immaculate gardens on its sides. The Captain, Maria, and Sakura silently drove in, straight to the garage at the far end. The gilded door rolled up as it sensed their car approaching, permitting them into the dimly-lit room. On its other edge was an ajar wooden door. There stood a moderately tall woman in skirt and blouse, not dissimilar to what Maria and Sakura were wearing except in colours.

"Speak of the devil," muttered Maria good-naturedly, smiling. She quietly parked the car and got out, opening the backdoor to wake Sakura up. The secretary opened her eyes the moment Maria's hand land on her shoulder. Years of working together had gotten them used to each other, in so many ways some people found it slightly creepy.

As the two ladies gathered their stuff and documents, the Captain walked towards the wooden door. The lady standing there gave him a salute, which he returned. Now close enough to this second youngest 'girl' of his, he noticed the red tinge on the silver-haired's cheeks. Leni had been drinking.

"Anything big happening when we were away?" he asked, frowning.

"Nothing much, Captain," answered Leni, stealing a quick glance at Maria who was busy gathering the mountain of documents they brought from the conference.

"Chiharu?" the Captain whispered.

Leni nodded. "Been waiting for Maria all the afternoon, wanting to show the new Kanji-s she'd learned. She ended up sitting at the bottom of the main staircase for hours. Finally she fell asleep."

The Captain secretly sighed. Maria was never a full time mother; she was back to administration duties a week after Chiharu's birth and to acting as soon as she weaned Chiharu. Until recently, though, she always had time for her daughter, at least two or three hours in the evening. Now, Chiharu was even lucky to see her mother for five minutes in a day. Revue International had been giving them too much trouble lately.

"Has anyone moved her away?" he asked, clearly not wanting the little girl sleeping on the staircase.

"Kanna was here earlier today, so Chiharu got a piggyback from her oba-chan[2]," answered Leni. "Iris put her to bed."

The several next minutes passed in whispered chatters, as the Captain and his staff of ladies moved into the main building. Maria and Sakura wanted to check on their daughters before they went off to sleep that night, so the four stopped by the children's quarters. It was one of the most secluded places in the building; a fairytale-themed closed apartment with its own living room and kitchenette. Chiharu Tachibana and Natsue Oogami shared this quarter with Aki Kayama, daughter of Revue International's Yuichi Kayama and Kaede Fujieda.

Iris answered the door and welcomed them into the living room, where she was previously sewing headpieces for the girls. The mothers went to their daughters' rooms, as the Captain sat with Leni in the kitchenette, enjoying cups of tea Iris served them. Looking around the apartment, he could see the girls' books and toy items. There were no sign of war, no sign of poverty, no sign of sadness.

Since their last attack in 1927, the evil forces had never again visited Tokyo. Since then, Teikoku Kagekidan had slowly evolved into a real revue, though officially they were still doubling as a defence troupe. Their big family had expanded since then – with several marriages, births, and adoptions.

Looking at the family picture painted on the wall, the Captain fondly thought about each of his eight 'girls' and what had become of them. He momentarily wondered what Kanna, Sumire, and Orihime were doing at their houses, and what Kouran was busily working on at Hanayashiki development quarter. The four had chosen to leave Daitekoku Gekijou, though they still dropped by, unannounced, at least once a week – could be more if there was a show coming. He hadn't got the chance to spend some time with them recently; he was so busy. Sometimes he missed those old days, when the nine of them were inseparable.

He turned to Iris and Leni. The two sat across the table, each nursing her cup or tea. Iris was slumping over the table; the dark circles under her eyes revealed her lack of sleep. Leni leaned back on her chair, head thrown backwards, eyes closed. These days must also be hard for them, juggling their nieces, the upcoming play, and the managerial duties abandoned when he, Maria, and Sakura went to conferences. He remembered being initially concerned about leaving most of the household affairs to the youngest two. But Leni and Iris lived up to their brother and sisters' expectations in all fields, if not exceeding them.

He silently recalled watching his two youngest sisters growing up, physically and mentally. Shortly before her 18th birthday, Leni hit a drastic growth spurt and caught up with him in height – she stood just a mere half inch shorter. Her sisters started her on adult male leading roles when she was 20 – would have been sooner, if they didn't have to wait until Iris is mentally mature enough to play the female lead. The latter grew into a dashing female lead, with her expressive eyes and wonderful adulthood voice. She was a good head shorter than Leni, making them such a good-looking stage couple.

Both Iris and Leni had been subjects of romantic advances from young noblemen and business heirs since they were in their twenties, though so far they had yet to respond to any. After living in the theatre most of their lives, the prospect of leaving it was daunting for them.

Or so Leni said.

At the very start of Leni and Iris' adulthood careers, Sakura gave birth to Kazuma. He was soon followed by his younger brother Koujiro and Maria's eldest Lievya, and the Captain knew Leni and Iris' fates were sealed. The two had been tending their nephews and nieces, who had been rapidly coming ever since. They were both as shattered as Sakura and Maria when Kazuma and Lievya left Japan to join All Nations' Revue Troupe. As he watched the ever-composed Leni wept quietly in the corner of the kids' study that day, the Captain realised that there was no chance Leni and Iris would get families on their own. Their lives were so entwined to those of their nephews and nieces, who had busy, constantly absent parents.

The approaching swishing sounds told him that Maria and Sakura had resigned from the girls' rooms. Seems that the girls had slept through their mother's visits. The Vice Captain and the secretary soon joined the tea-drinking party at the kitchenette, the looks on their faces unreadable. The Captain knew that there were a bit of sadness in their hearts, though. The years they spent working together in a tiny room had given them this ability to sense even a small change in each others' emotions.

"They were too tired," informed Iris, who had also figured out what her elder sisters were thinking about. "Sumire and Orihime drilled them hard for Beauty and the Beast's Finale. Aki handled it the worst, though – I walked into her crying to her father on the phone this evening."

"I don't blame her for that," Leni commented, staring down at the brown liquid in her cup. "Her voice is developing – and we could already tell that she's going to be a soprano. Getting her to sing a boy's part was kind of too much."

"We sort of have no other choice, though," Maria reasoned. "We have three child sopranos, a mandatory boy's role to fill, and no answers for our call for low-voiced child actresses. Aki was chosen because she is the tallest."

"If only we could stop making the girls cry," Sakura sighed. There had been more than a few fights between the girls – mainly Natsue and Aki – about who would be playing a boy role. They were in that developmental stage where they wanted nothing to do with boys, let alone playing one.

"They'll get over it," said Maria. Leni nodded in agreement, and with a pang of sadness in his heart, the Captain recalled that the two women had shed too many un-wiped tears in their childhoods.

"Would be better if we can find a young actress to play boys for us, though," he said, looking at the four. "If only it's easy to find a girl who pass the spiritual energy level test." Revue International had made it mandatory to employ only permanent actresses with high spiritual energy level, to keep outsiders unaware of what we are doing.

"Dr. Asakawa's husband was the heir of a ninjutsu clan, if I'm not mistaken," Leni said, referring to the female doctor in charge of all Hanagumi members. "I recall they have a daughter about Natsue and Aki's age. Perhaps we could try our luck with her."

"As far as what I heard of, the child's totally helpless," Maria replied as she poured Sakura and herself cups of tea. "Ever since her father died and her mother moved to Tokyo, she's been living only with her father's sister. Her aunt was born deaf, mute, and visually impaired, she could not do much to help the girl develop her spiritual power."

"Besides, she won't leave her aunt," Sakura added. "Dr. Asakawa had asked her, numerous times, to spend a few days here in Tokyo. She wouldn't budge, even with the promise of a front row seat for one of our performances."

"Let's just not put young boy roles in our productions until Revue International give us one who could play it," said the Captain. "I don't really want to involve more families in this whole business."

Iris put her cup down and looked at them, a spark of curiosity in her eyes. "Did they mention the idea of creating a new fighting troupe again today?" she asked the Captain and the two oldest women.

"As if they ever stop mentioning it," the Captain replied tiredly. He rubbed his temple – the tension from the heated discussions he had earlier with some Revue International officials was clearly still there. He could feel Maria and Sakura fidgeting on his sides; clearly the two ladies weren't fond of the discussions either. Surely you would not be happy being called 'old ladies' when you were not yet 50.

"They are actually accountable of the threat imposed to Japan now," commented Iris. She reached for the sugar container and took a spoonful out. "Most of the troupes they established in Southeast Asia and East Europe have always failed to stop the spread of the Dark Force all over their respective countries."

There was silence, followed by a splash created when Iris dropped the spoon into her tea.

"You would not get a strong team, when all members you recruited are unstable teenagers," Leni broke the silence. "Even a trained Captain could not do much without cooperative team members."

"Actually, I second that," agreed Sakura. "I heard that some of those girls have terrible diva complexes, and that they would not work together with their team mates. Seems that all those troupes lack cohesion."

"According to Kaede, those teams have issues with unresolvable personality clashes," Maria said. "As a result, the team is divided into opposing fractions. Each member will do everything to put the other fraction on the commander's bad book. It became a competition for attention and acknowledgement, rather than a collective effort. How are you going to win a battle, if you're too focused on outshining someone else there?"

"Hopefully they will mature in time," said the Captain, looking at his ladies. "I have seen their spiritual energy graphs, it's a pity that they waste such wonderful energies."

They all slipped back into their silences, too tired and too occupied to talk. It didn't take long before they all finished their teas and dissolved for the night, trying to fit in a decent amount of rest before the next long day started.

End of Chapter

Note:

[1] (Rus) Aunt

[2] (Jap) Auntie

So, that's all for now. Hope to see you guys soon :)

-N-