WAGES OF OUR FOLLIES
Chapter 12: "The Legacy Of War"
A Sailor Moon/Sakura Taisen fanfic
By Bill K.
Standing under the gate to the shrine, Will and Chris Ohlendorf and Kentaro Kino gaped at the tableau before them. The massive lizard demon Bachikasai, the living embodiment of many of the spirits of the dead killed at Hiroshima, lunged for Sakura Ogami, its talons out and aimed for her body.
The priest took two steps forward, her sword before her as if to strike. Then she dived to the cobblestone walk and rolled twice until she was underneath the lunging monster. It twisted in midair even as she moved, seeing what she was attempting. However it couldn't avoid her strike. Ogami shot to her feet out of the roll and stabbed up with her sword, burying it almost to the hilt into the lizard's abdomen. Bachikasai let out a howl of pain and rage that seemed to shake the grounds. It landed awkwardly on the grass near a seventy year old tree, falling onto its side. The momentum of its leap had ripped the sword hilt from her hands. Sakura turned and crouched defensively, should the demon rise again.
"Did she kill it?" asked Kino, standing at the entrance with cakes of salt in his hands. Already Gon Narita and Futabara Hino were converging on the heavily panting priest. Will and Chris inched forward a few steps, Will's hand locked around the trigger of his rifle.
Then rise the demon did. As it rose to unsteady feet, the great demon-slaying sword was sucked into the demon's abdomen until it disappeared. Sakura stared in growing horror as the most precious heirloom of her family and the sword which had protected Japan for generations was gone, possibly forever. The priest struggled to keep her feet, as she could feel her knees grow rubbery beneath her.
"Our need for vengeance is too strong, Priest," Bachikasai hissed with low warning. "You cannot kill us. You do not have the power."
A cold feeling passed through Sakura Ogami, for she realized that the demon was right. She didn't have the power to kill it, not by herself. Maybe, just maybe, if the entire Imperial Flower Division was still around, the deed could be done. But they were gone, half of them dead and the rest gone with the winds of war.
A shot rang out, echoing through the grounds of the shrine even as Bachikasai recoiled in pain. Allowing herself a moment to glance toward the origin of the sound, Sakura saw that Will Ohlendorf had taken careful aim and shot the demon in its left eye. And a plan formed.
Swiftly she motioned Narita and Hino to her. A few words were all they needed. Nodding, the two novitiates sprinted toward the demon's left side, avoiding a snapping lunge from the wounded beast. As they moved, Ogami hurriedly motioned Kino to her. Once in reach, she grabbed the cakes of salt from him.
["Keep firing, Private!"] she yelled to Will. ["Aim for his head and do not miss!"]
It was all the motivation Will needed. The Marine continued firing, emptying his clip into the demon with little effect. While he changed clips, Chris picked up some cobblestones and threw them at the lizard, actually hitting it on the nose with one. Harried by the stinging bullets, Bachikasai was unable to defend itself when Sakura ran up. She burst the salt cakes into smaller clumps and flung the material in the demon's face. Again the monster roared in pain and lashed out with its front foot. A backward somersault took the priest easily out of harm's way.
Enraged, Bachikasai started forward, attempting to strike Ogami as she landed. But it stopped in its tracks, held by a mysterious force. Turning, looking with its good eye, the demon found that the two novitiates had, working in tandem on its blind side, spiritually tethered the beast to the huge tree. Tugging accomplished nothing, for the tree was solid and sturdy. Angrily it lunged and snapped at Narita and Hino, but the pair had erected a barrier and were beyond the demon's reach. In futility it roared to the heavens.
When it locked its good eye on Ogami-Sensei, it found the priest kneeling just out of reach. As shots and cobblestones continued to strike it, Bachikasai saw Ogami-Sensei begin the binding ritual. A new sense of urgency flooded over the great lizard. It fought and thrashed to try to escape the spiritual tether. Kino looked nervously to the two novitiates holding the great beast and wondered if they could maintain it. Narita and Hino were straining and visibly pressed to their limits.
"I banish you!" Sakura Ogami said, rising to her feet and engaging the mystical hand gestures. "I consign you to this tree and bind you there! May the gods keep you there for all of eternity!"
Bachikasai strained one last time to break free of the spiritual restraints and avoid being bound to the tree. Placing her hands wrist to wrist and spread, Ogami reared back and then thrust at the demon. A powerful spiritual force struck the great lizard and thrust it back against the massive trunk of the tree. The demon stood suspended against the tree for a moment.
"You win, Priest!" Bachikasai hissed as its form merged with the great tree and disappeared into it. "But heed my warning! Should the terrible heat and power of the man-made sun ever touch this land again, I will return! And woe upon the heads of those who allow this to happen, for even your great power and cunning will not save them from me!" And Bachikasai faded into the tree and was seen no more.
"Master!" Narita shouted, running over to Ogami as she sank to her knees. Hino ran to the shrine to get a rope of mystic talismans to place around the tree and seal the binding. Kino and the Ohlendorf brothers quickly converged, too. "Are you all right?"
"I am," wheezed Sakura. She looked up at her novitiate. "You were a great help, you and Hino. Thank you. I think you both have taken a gigantic leap towards achieving your goal, Narita-San."
"Only a gigantic leap, Master?" Narita asked with a wry smile. "I would have thought this feat would earn me a full priesthood." Sakura gave him a warm smile in return.
["Is it gone?"] Will asked. Sakura looked up to him.
["Yes, Private, it is gone. My thanks for your help and that of your brother's."] She turned to Kino. "And my thanks to you, Kino-San." Kino bowed to her.
"Thank Mizuno-San as well," Kino replied. "It was his salt. Um, perhaps you could pay for it? I'm still a little short of funds." Smirking, Ogami nodded her head.
["They are never going to believe this in Mankato,"] Chris muttered. Will playfully shoved him.
"But what happened with Oba-San and the American?" gasped Usagi. Rei grimaced.
"Usagi!" the priest hissed. Feebly Sakura waved her hand and quieted Rei.
"It's all right," grinned the ancient woman. "Of course she'd want to know. Poor Yoshiko-Chan endured three long, lonely months after the tearful departure at the Tokyo port when her Will-San was sent back home."
"Wait," Makoto gasped. "The Yoshiko in this story is your grandmother?"
"Mom never liked to talk about her," Usagi responded. "I saw pictures of her once in an album. But her husband was with her, too, and he was American."
"That's because Will-San made it back," Sakura told her. Usagi's eyes lit up in excitement over the romance of the tale. "Yoshiko had given up hope of ever seeing him again. She'd found a job with an orphanage, caring for war orphans and was helping her friend Yuki with her pregnancy." A warm smile came over the old woman. "And one day he was there."
"How? I can't imagine the Japanese government letting him back in," Ami asked.
"He joined one of the Christian Missionary groups back in America and got back in the country that way," Sakura explained. "Then, knowing that he and Yoshiko would not be safe as a couple in the city, they ran off to the countryside. They bought a farm in a remote part of the south and lived there for about fifteen years. Only when they felt it was safe for them to return did they come back to Tokyo. By then, they had two beautiful children."
"Mom and Uncle Toshiro," beamed Usagi. "No wonder Mom can cook and clean so well. It's probably all she did as a kid."
"And on that note," Makoto quipped, rolling her eyes.
"Well I guess the other American never came back," Minako said wistfully, eliciting a shocked reaction from the others, "because Mom told me that Great-grandmother Yuki had to raise Grandmother all by herself. It was one of her classic guilt trips." Then she locked eyes with Usagi and grinned. "You know what this means, Usagi?"
Usagi thought a moment. Then her face lit up. "Mina-Chan!" she squealed. "We're sisters!"
"Cousins," Ami corrected her sourly.
"No lie?" Makoto gasped in surprise.
"Kind of explains a few things, doesn't it?" scowled Rei. Usagi and Minako shot their tongues out at her in unison.
"Oh, the friendship you all have," sighed Sakura breathlessly. "It reminds me of when I was your age and of the friends I had in the Imperial Flower Division." The woman grew melancholy.
"We're sorry for making you relive things you might not want to think of again," Rei offered.
"It's all right, Rei-Chan," Sakura exhaled. Clearly she was tiring. "Reliving memories are pretty much all I have left now. And my memories of Iris and Maria, Kohran and Kanna, Reni and even Sumire are the most pleasant of all." She wheezed out a tired breath and Ami signaled that it might be time to go. "It was nice to see you again, Rei-Chan. I wish I'd had a chance to see Gon again before he died."
"He wished the same," Rei told her.
"Please forgive an old woman," she said to the five of them. "I really have to rest now."
Rei reached in and kissed the woman's forehead. They all backed out of the room
In the car, on the way back to Tokyo, the five women were still talking about the story they'd heard.
"I can't believe Grandmother Yoshiko was a Pan-Pan Girl after the war!" Usagi exclaimed. "Ami?"
"Yes, Usagi?" Ami asked as she drove.
"What's a Pan-Pan Girl?" Usagi glanced in bewilderment at Minako as her friend struggled to keep from laughing out loud. Meanwhile Makoto noticed the coloring in Ami's cheeks, something she hadn't seen Ami do in a while.
"Um," Ami swallowed, "maybe you should Google it."
"You know," Makoto began, trying to change the subject, "we should find that tree and make sure that the seals are intact. I wouldn't want to have to take on that Bachikasai thing."
"Don't worry, it's fine," Rei said with assurance. Everyone glanced at her. "The tree is on the grounds of the Shrine on Sendai Hill."
"You knew this whole story?" Minako asked.
"Not the whole story," Rei explained. "I knew Ogami-Sensei had left the shrine in Grandpa's care when he became a full priest. When I was little, he would always warn me to avoid one particular tree on the grounds. He never explained why, but I figure that has to be the tree Ogami-Sensei sealed Bachikasai in. And Deimos and Phobos won't go near it, which is another clue. I've been careful to maintain the seals after he died."
"That's good," Minako sighed. "So where did Ogami-Sensei go?"
"She returned to Sendai to atone for losing the family sword, according to Grandpa," Rei related. "Then she spent the rest of her life wandering Japan and doing good, until she couldn't physically get around anymore." Rei looked down, the enormity of the memory weighing on her. "She's a remarkable woman."
There was silence in the car.
"I just wonder," Rei continued, her brow furrowed, "she's lived with that story for over sixty years. Why did she feel the need to tell us now?"
Saturday, March 5, 2011:
After her usual morning walk through the grounds, Rei returned to her living quarters in the shrine. This was the first day she'd understood the feelings she'd always experienced when she walked past a particular tree on the grounds. So that was where Bachikasai slept.
Noticing the light was blinking on the answering machine next to the phone, Rei walked over. Her finger moved to press the button, then held up. The machine was a gift from Usagi because, in her words, she "was tired of calling and not getting an answer" and her friend had gone on and on about how it was past time Rei joined the twenty-first century and how she shouldn't be afraid of it. Finally Rei accepted it just to shut Usagi up. But now she hesitated. The machine had only been there for two weeks and she still wasn't sure she knew how to operate it. And she hated machines anyway because you couldn't read the little monsters like she could humans.
Spotting a button labeled "play", Rei grimaced and pushed it.
"This is the Restful Hills Retirement Community, Hino-Sensei," the machine said, playing back the phone message. "I'm sorry we weren't able to speak to you directly. We're calling to tell you that Ogami-Sensei died this morning. The cause of death has been determined to be respiratory failure due to old age. We're very sorry for your loss. If you can contact our office as soon as is convenient to make funeral arrangements, we would greatly appreciate it. Good-bye."
Rei just stared at the answering machine, tears welling in her eyes. She'd just seen Ogami-Sensei yesterday. It had only been yesterday.
Continued in "WRATH OF THE GODS"