written by Patrick Drazen
using characters created by Naoko Takeuchi and others associated with
the manga and anime “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon”
Chapter 10: “For the Moon Kingdom! Final Battle on Enoshima!”
They waited until Urabon was over. On the final day, after a time of charity to man and beast—when not even an insect was harmed—the five girls met before sunrise at the bridge. At least, they tried to meet; everyone from the ward was there, each carrying the family’s salute to their O-Shorai-sama: a small carved boat filled with balls of cooked rice and raw dough. Everyone placed their toy boats in the river, and watched as the sun slowly rose over the mountains and the birds made short work of the rice balls. As they devoured the food, a boat would tip over; a signal that the family’s ancestors had returned for another year to the land of the dead. Some left early as soon as their boats capsized; others waited until the sun had cleared the mountaintop. That signaled the end of Urabon.
As the crowds dispersed, Usagi waited by the bridge. The others appeared in short order, including Ami, dressed once again as Shinnosuke for the first time since Urabon began.
She beamed as if she were in love. “I’m so glad I was able to be a girl for Urabon,” she told Usagi. “All this time, I felt like I’ve been lying to my father by pretending to be a boy. But I feel fine now.”
“Let’s hope it lasts,” Rei interrupted. “Are we all here?”
The cats were missing, so the girls decided to wait. It was a full hour after sunrise before Shiro and Mikazuki appeared, smiling contentedly. They seemed to have gotten visibly fatter during Urabon.
“The first thing we need is a ship, and someone to get it to Enoshima,” Mika said.
“Leave that to me,” Usagi said, as she headed for the docks. The others followed as quickly as they could. They all knew where she was going and what she had planned.
Mamoru was at the office, even though few other people were about. “Mamo-chan! Where is everyone?”
“Probably at home. Urabon may be over, but I don’t think people are rushing to get back to work today. It’s going to be a hot one.”
“So why are you here?”
“Oh, I just have a few odds and ends to take care of.”
Usagi took a cushion and sat next to him. “I don’t bother you, do I, Mamo-chan?”
He knew better than to answer questions like that directly. “Don’t worry,” Mamoru smiled, “I’ll tell you when you do.”
“Well, I think that business will be a little slow today.”
“It probably will.”
“It would be cooler to be in a boat sailing down the coast, wouldn’t it? The wind and the spray and so on…”
“It probably would.”
“And I’m sure Chiba-san wouldn’t mind if you maybe borrowed a boat for the day…”
“Usako, why don’t you just tell me what this is all about?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t, not until we’re close to where we’re going.”
“But where ARE we going?”
A chorus of voices rang out from behind the corner of the building. A second later, Rei stormed up to Usagi, with the others close behind. “Honestly, Usagi-chan, couldn’t you just have asked him? Why hint around all over the place?”
Usagi turned to the miko. “Easy for you to talk,” she said barely above a whisper, “but I have plans for Mamo-chan beyond today. I don’t want to mess that up.”
“That’s all well and good,” Minako added, “but we don’t have a lot of time.”
“So let me see if I understand.” Mamoru had leaned his own head in close to the circle of girls. His interruption left them all flustered. “I’m to get a boat and take all of you down to Enoshima, and very soon. Is that it?” An embarrassed Usagi just nodded. “Well, Chiba-san has a boat down at the end of this pier that should hold all of us. Have any of you ever sailed before?” The girls looked at each other, then all but Makoto shook their heads.
“I been on some boats; nothin’ big or fancy, but on an island as small as ours you’ve gotta get wet sooner or later.”
“Fine. I may not need much help, but I’ll let you know when I need it. Now, the boat is…” Mamoru started to point, then stopped in mid-sentence. The girls knew exactly which boat to take.
It was the boat with a black cat and a white cat standing at the bow, each with a curious crescent moon on its forehead.
* * *
In no time at all Mamoru was maneuvering the boat out of the bay and into the open waters, turning and following the coast to Kamakura and, beyond it, to Enoshima.
Usagi’s love of ships lasted as long as she wasn’t on one. They seemed solid and pleasant enough from the dock. On deck, however, life was another story. It was all Usagi could do to get from point A to point B on the boat without sliding past her target, being thrown off-balance or hit in the face with ocean spray. They hadn’t been away from the docks for ten minutes before Usagi stated her verdict on the trip:
“I changed my mind! I wanna go back!”
Ami, on the other hand, was loving every minute of it. The higher the boat bounced on the choppy waves, and the more she was splashed with spray, the happier she seemed.
“I’ve never been on a boat before,” she told the others. “I had to stay close to home, for my mother and for my master. But this is wonderful!”
“Of course,” Mika said, referring to the word “mizu” in her name, “but it’s more than just part of your name. The Water Star Suisei is the source of your power, as it was when you served the Moon Princess.”
“I can believe that now,” Ami said, just as the boat burst through another oncoming wave. The spray blew back and soaked Ami from head to foot. She laughed delightedly and took off her glasses, trying in vain to dry them on her sleeve.
At that moment, Mamoru came forward to adjust the sail, having asked Makoto to hold the tiller. He glanced at Ami, then stared, then went back to the tiller, wiping his eyes.
“What do you think his problem is?” Ami asked the others.
Minako turned toward Ami, then burst out laughing and said, “You are!”
Ami glanced down, and everything became clear. As far as Mamoru knew, Ami was still a boy named Shinnosuke. Yet that last wave had soaked Ami’s clothes so that they clung to her body, revealing every detail of her breasts. Her face went a violent red as she used her hands to cover first her burning cheeks, then her chest, as the other girls laughed at her embarrassment and Mamoru’s confusion. They decided there would be time enough to make a proper introduction when they returned to Edo.
Once they passed the hills at Kamakura, the sea seemed to level out. The wind was behind them now, and they’d make good time to Enoshima.
Usagi, now in far less distress, approached Mamoru. “I’m so sorry to inconvenience you like this.”
“Don’t mention it, Princess,” he smiled.
“Princess?! How did you know?”
“Then it’s true. I’ve had such strange dreams the last few weeks, about your friends, and you and me.”
“I’m so glad you know. I never knew how to tell you all this, but I knew that I had to.”
“Usako, it… I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter. I still can’t ever marry you.”
“My parents have been dead for ten years. That’s how long I’ve lived with Chiba-san. But you don’t know why my parents died.”
“I don’t care why it happened.”
“You have to care. They—They were put to death by the shogun.”
“Put to death? What… No; I don’t care what they did.”
“You must care, Usako, because if they ever come for me, I don’t want you to be hurt.”
“Why would they come for you, if you were a child when it happened? What happened?”
“My parents hid a Christian sympathizer and refused to give him up. It was my grandfather.” Mamoru had been staring straight ahead, afraid to look Usagi in the eye. Now, however, he turned to her. “I don’t want you to suffer their fate, and you might if you became part of my family.”
“Tell me, please.”
“Usako, don’t make me…”
Tears welled up in her eyes. “Mamo-chan, I beg you!”
That was it. He could make Usagi keep her distance only so long. But when she started to cry, he could deny her nothing.
“All right then. You know that before they were banned, there used to be two kinds of Christians in Japan. One followed the Society of Jesus; the other followed the teachings of Francisco. My grandfather was a Buddhist monk, but he spoke with the followers of Francisco. He liked it that they dealt mostly with the poor and the sick.
“Then my grandfather began to teach that Francisco was a bodhisattva; an enlightened soul who refuses to enter paradise, but stays behind in order to help the rest of us to go in. It was a dangerous teaching, and the shogun Hideyoshi ordered that my grandfather be executed. My parents hid him for a while, but soon he was discovered, and they were all put to death. By that time, I had been given to Chiba-san to raise me as his own son.”
Mamoru sighed. “Now you know. I didn’t keep the truth from you out of shame. It was a dangerous truth, and I didn’t want any danger to come to you.”
Usagi answered by taking Mamoru’s hands in hers. “But I’ve been fighting all summer, and I’m on my way to our last fight with this Beryl—one way or the other. But I’m not worried. Nothing serious has happened to me so far, and nothing will happen to me today.”
“Hey! Everybody!” Makoto’s call from the tiller focused their attention ahead of them.
“Is that it?” Minako asked.
“I’ve seen fog come in, but not like that,” Mamoru said. “This feels all wrong.”
It was as if a small cloud had decided to rest on top of the ocean. It covered a small area with a dense fog that the midday sun could not burn away. “Enoshima is definitely in there,” Mamoru went on, “but that fog is unnatural.”
“That shouldn’t surprise us,” Shiro said. “Everyone! Be on your guard.”
“Usagi-chan,” Mika turned to the nervous girl. “This fight will probably be more dangerous for you than for any of us. You may have to call for additional power…”
“Mika, don’t!” Shiro turned on her. “Don’t tell her!”
“Tell me what?” Usagi interrupted. “If there’s a weapon I don’t know about…”
“Only because it could either save your life or kill you!” Shiro said.
Usagi thought back on everything she had seen and done in this impossible summer. “Mika, please tell me about it.”
“Only if defeat seems unavoidable must you resort to this last chance, Usagi-chan. You must invoke the name of Ginzuishou, the Silver Crystal.”
“Don’t even say the name now. Unless you intend to be a samurai like your father, and face the very moment of your death.”
The sea was calm—unnaturally calm. A small cove lined with boulders waited for the boat as if it was built for it. The island was dead quiet; no insects, no birds, no larger animals. Even the lapping of the waves against the side of the boat seemed unnaturally muted.
“Be careful.” Even though Shiro’s voice was low, it seemed loud against the unnatural stillness of the island.
They all stepped out of the boat onto a boulder, then onto the grass. A small green space bordered the trees at the center of the small island. The trees, however, seemed so thick that none of them could see more than ten feet into the woods.
There were no dead leaves or fallen branches; nothing to make a noise underfoot. All their nerves were at the highest tension as they stepped slowly into the woods.
Suddenly there was a rush like the wind. Before anyone could speak, vines shot down from the trees, wrapped around the ankles of everyone but Usagi, and pulled them off the ground, hanging them twenty feet in the air.
“NO!!” Usagi screamed.
Mamoru started to call to her, but another vine wrapped around his face, silencing him, as all the others were silenced.
“That’s better,” came a voice from behind Usagi.
She turned, to face a monstrous distortion of a woman. She stood nine feet tall easily. Her eyes had the dull chemical glow of rotten wood in a swamp.
“One against six? As your friend said, I don’t like the odds. I am Beryl, and you are mine, Princess.”
“Wait! Are you sure this isn’t a mistake? My father’s a samurai; that hardly makes me…”
“Shut up. It’s no mistake. You and your senshi fought me and my forces a thousand years ago when I was extending my empire to the moon. Well, here there are no soldiers, no senshi. Just you and me, as I promised.”
She gestured toward the grass between them. At once two katana appeared, one larger than the other but otherwise identical. “Pick yours up and let’s get started,” Beryl snarled. “You have cost me too much already.”
But Usagi was in the grip of total fear. No cat, no friends, no magic could help her. Had she learned any of the tricks of her samurai father? Had she really followed bushido—the way of the sword? She moved slowly toward the nearest katana, always with an eye on Queen Beryl.
“The longer you drag this out, the worse it will be for you. What’s the matter—afraid that I’ll attack you before you even get your sword? I can fix that.” The other katana shivered, then jumped off of the grass and into Beryl’s hand.
Usagi grabbed the handle of the other katana, then backed away quickly. “You said no magic!”
“I said a lot of things. I meant it when I said that I was going to restore the Dark Universe of Queen Metallia. And this time you won’t stand in my way!” She brought the blade down straight toward Usagi’s head. She brought up her own sword to block it, but it felt like five men were pushing back at her. Usagi kept her arm as steady as she could, but she could feel herself sliding backward on the damp grass. At the last possible moment, she sidestepped, causing Beryl to drive her blade into the dark earth of the island.
“Not bad,” Beryl sneered, “but not enough to win!”
With a horrid shriek Beryl swung her own blade at Usagi; it missed her stomach by inches. Usagi fought back the desire to run for the boat. She held her ground and took one or two cautious steps toward Beryl.
Beryl let loose a torrent of blows. Usagi deflected them, but she was being worked backward, further into the trees. She didn’t want to think what might be waiting there for her.
For a quarter of an hour they fought: Beryl using brute strength and anger, Usagi calling on hidden reserves of energy. However, it wasn’t enough. The Queen of the Dark Universe again began pushing Usagi into the trees. This time, Usagi couldn’t stop it.
She tried for one last swing on her part, but Beryl’s blade caught it at a sensitive spot. Usagi’s blade snapped in two, the point flying into the grass.
Usagi had nothing left to fight with. No; wait. She did. “GINZUISHOU!!” she shouted.
Light. Everything in the world had turned into light. Usagi was no longer sure she was even standing on solid ground. The dazzling light seemed to dissolve the rest of the world; there was no Beryl, no island, no ocean. Just Usagi.
And the other two.
At first Usagi could not believe her eyes. There was something about the others, the woman holding the child, which reminded her of… but worry about that later. Her first impulse was to drop to her knees in a low bow, covering her head with her hands.
“Aren’t you the Kannon? The Goddess of Compassion?”
“Of course not,” the woman laughed. “I am just as human as you are. In a way, we are one.”
Usagi looked up. Yes, there it was. The strange woman with the gold-colored hair wore Usagi’s face! “I don’t understand.”
“We rule over what Edo will become hundreds and hundreds of years from now—a far-distant future when you shall be reborn as a queen.” And the land behind this woman, indistinct until now, came into focus. This can’t be Edo, Usagi thought; it must be Paradise! There were buildings taller than the tallest trees, taller than anything Usagi had ever seen, made not of wood but of something clear and shiny as ice. “Perhaps this would be more helpful.” A third figure now appeared beside the other two: a man. A man who was dressed in odd clothes Usagi had never seen before, but whose face was that of Mamo-chan! “Your Mamoru will be here, reborn as your king.” She glanced down lovingly at the child sleeping in her arms, a little girl about five years old. “And this child shall be your child,” she went on. “Your friends will be here, too; Ami and Rei, Makoto and Minako. But it all depends on you now, and the outcome of this battle against Queen Beryl. You cannot let her defeat you now.”
“I’m afraid she already has,” Usagi said, bowing her head and starting to cry. “I don’t know what else to do.”
“The power of the Silver Crystal will be revealed to you. When it is, do not hesitate to use it. Or else all will have been for nothing.”
“Use it? How?”
The divine family started to fade.
“Stop! Tell me what to do!”
As the Queen of the Future and her family faded into nothingness, Beryl’s voice cut through: “Fine; I’m telling you to DIE!!”
Beryl appeared, slicing her sword through the air straight down at Usagi’s head. In a flash, Usagi brought up the broken sword, catching Beryl’s blade in the guard. Beryl pushed the blade with both hands now, trying to make sheer force work where even her magic had failed. Usagi pushed back with her right hand as best she could, propping herself up with her left, when out of the corner of her eye she was distracted by a silvery glint from the broken sword blade, now looking too short to be much of—
Too short!? No; just short enough!
This had to be why samurai had a matched set of swords: long and short. Usagi’s fears suddenly vanished; simply knowing that there was even the slightest hope bolstered her confidence. She knew she had to do this carefully; if she overplayed her hand, Beryl would figure it out and change tactics. She pushed back harder and harder with her right, drawing on strength she didn’t know she had, forcing Beryl back a step at a time, until Usagi came within reach of the broken blade. A final push brought her within range, as she drew herself up to a squatting position, freeing her left hand. In a fluid movement she swung her free hand down to the ground, grabbed the blade and shoved it into Beryl’s side. It slipped between the ribs, exactly parallel to them, and didn’t even come close to scraping bone. Usagi kept pushing the broken blade with the flat of her hand until the shard was totally embedded in Beryl. Then her left hand slid away because of the blood; she lost her balance and fell onto her back. Beryl advanced, not noticing what had happened to her, intent only on finishing the girl with the broken sword.
She reared back, prepared to strike—then froze.
Beryl finally felt the blade within her. Whether from pain or panic, she screamed, an unearthly howl. But along with the sound of her agony, moonlight streamed out of her mouth. And her eyes, her nostrils, the wound in her ribs; silver light consumed Beryl from within like a doll tossed into a fire. Usagi couldn’t take her eyes off the ghoulish figure as it dissolved into a flash of silver radiance. Then, the light too faded into nothingness. There was not a trace of Beryl to be found.
At once the fog began to lift, and noises started crashing through the forest. But these were noises Usagi had waited to hear:
First came the cats, bounding out of the thinning fog, with Mamoru and the girls in pursuit. Usagi couldn’t even say his name; she just fell against Mamoru’s chest, crying and crying as her friends congratulated her.
Finally, she pulled herself together. “Everyone, I think I’m going to let my little brother be the samurai in the family. I’m not cut out for this.”
“It doesn’t matter, Usagi-chan,” Mika said. “It’s over. You fought the battle of your life today, and you won. Beryl and her armies will not trouble the earth again; well, not for hundreds of years, anyway.”
A cooling breeze blew across Enoshima, scattering the last of the mists that covered it. “Let’s go back,” Mamoru said.
Usagi recovered enough when she was on the ship to stay next to Mamo-chan as he worked the tiller. The winds favored them, speeding them back the way they had come.
Mamoru smiled. “I could just leave the others at the docks. Then we could stay on this boat and sail wherever we like.” He leaned forward as if to kiss Usagi.
Before she could answer, the boat was pushed nose-up by a sudden swell and fell just as suddenly. So did Usagi, landing on her butt at Mamoru’s feet. Wincing in pain, she stood up again. “I think I’ll be staying around the house for a while. My mom is supposed to teach me to sew.”
“You’ll be making kimono?”
“Something more important: cushions!”
The others laughed. The wind picked up, speeding them all on their
way back to life in Edo.