written by Patrick Drazen
using characters created by Naoko Takeuchi and others associated with
the manga and anime “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon”
Chapter 2: “Attack on the Daimyo! Usagi Meets a Miko!”
Daimyo Kuruda had no doubt at all about the attack. “This was an attempt to assassinate me, of course; what else could it be?” He addressed his household staff the morning after the attack on Tsukino. “A man who attacks a brick in a wall is regarded as a fool, unless his real plan is to get through to whatever’s on the other side of the wall. My retinue of samurai is my wall, and any attack on it can only be seen as an attack on me.”
The daimyo’s secretary, Morobiki, spoke up: “With all due respect, my lord, can we be sure that there is nothing amiss in the Tsukino household? It would be better for us all if the misfortune were aimed at him alone.”
“I have thought of that. But my wife was there just yesterday afternoon, visiting with Tsukino’s wife. She said she saw nothing amiss, and I trust her in this judgment.” Kuruda did well to trust her. He had married the daughter of a policeman, and she had learned much from her father. Her powers of observation were almost unequaled, and he used her visits to his retainers as an excuse to spy on them. Nobody suspected that she was anything other than the gossipy wife of a daimyo.
“Therefore, after lunch I will go to the shrine, to see what the spirits can tell me of the reason for this attack.” With that, he asked Morobiki about the next order of business for the day.
After lunch, the daimyo headed up a party of about twelve people, including samurai, who passed through the streets of their quiet section of Edo toward Kazan Jinja, the neighborhood’s Shinto temple. Usagi was in the crowd that followed behind, not getting too close. She wanted to go to the shrine herself, to pray for her father’s recovery.
When she got to Kazan Jinja, however, she saw that the daimyo’s party had gone to a small shrine off of the main building. Usagi clapped her hands, rang the bell to get the gods’ attention, and made her own prayers sincere but quick. Then, she trotted over to the doorway of the small chapel to see what she could see.
Inside the small building the daimyo’s samurai knelt closest to the door. Usagi knew most of them and was tempted to at least wave to them, but it would be worth their heads if she did that. She just looked further around the room. A large bonfire blazed on an altar in the center of the room. The daimyo’s party sat well away from the flames, except for Kuruda himself. He respectfully sat just behind a girl who looked no older than Usagi, wearing the white shirt and red pleated skirt of her calling.
This is my lucky day, Usagi thought. I get to see Hino Rei in action!
The same family had been the priests of this Shinto temple for generations, and yet the reports were that they had never produced anyone of such spiritual power as the girl Hino Rei. Her family had decided when she was quite young that she would be more than just another temple maiden. Rei was literally born to be a miko, a Shinto priestess. When she was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and her left arm, while she actually held the cord in her little fist. That omen alone—being born as if she already held a rosary—would have been enough for anyone else. But there was more to come.
She started out by seeing into unseen places and finding lost objects; then at age six she began drafting horoscopes. At age seven her parents started teaching her enough Chinese so that she could read the I Ching; within a year she was thoroughly adept at using that book to divine the future. A year later, she added divination by yarrow stalks. She had even performed several exorcisms, casting out the evil spirits of the dead. And she was only fourteen years old. Nobody knew what she would be capable of if she kept on this way.
But for all her fame and talent, Hino Rei was not happy. People who had heard of her treated her more as a curiosity than as a person. Other temple maidens in Edo refused to have anything to do with her, saying that she was “trying to get above herself”. Some people even treated her as if she were a performer, and expected her to do magic tricks on demand. Except for her grandfather, the high priest of the temple, she didn’t seem to have any friends.
Usagi didn’t have time to feel sorry for the girl, though; the ritual was just getting interesting. Rei’s rhythmic, monotone chant grew louder and louder, as the flames seemed to grow higher and higher, until she seemed in danger of being scorched by the bonfire that she didn’t even notice was there. All at once, the flames died down, and Rei slumped down, almost falling over. A young apprentice at the temple helped her to her feet and made her walk around for a minute or two to clear her head. Only then did she kneel again to face the daimyo.
“Forgive me, my lord, but I have bad news about this attack. It will not be the last. Things here are not yet done.”
A chill ran down Usagi’s spine like a mouse with cold feet. Those were the exact words of the ninja in the garden.
“Dark powers are being raised against you,” Rei continued, “and against certain other daimyo in Edo. These forces come from far away; beyond Korea, beyond China, beyond India, beyond Europe, beyond anyone’s ability to see. They have only started their campaign, and their numbers will grow.” Rei paused and closed her eyes. “But you need not worry, my lord. There are also forces at work protecting you, the shogun, the nation and the world.”
With that, she slumped over again, as if she had gone to sleep. The apprentice again helped Rei to her feet and out of the building. However, just as they came out and stood next to Usagi, they stopped. Rei turned to Usagi and said, “Don’t distract the guards next time.” Then she continued across the yard.
At first Usagi was too stunned to be offended. She had her back to me the whole time; how did she know…? And what nerve! Telling me how to act around people I’ve known my whole life. She started back home. She knew she shouldn’t stay away too long, especially if there might be the chance of another attack.
But she waited all day, and no attack came. She picked at her food during dinner, keeping her ears pricked up for the slightest sound of danger. Still no attack. She pretended to go to bed earlier than usual, but kept listening into the night. Nothing threatened the Tsukino household. Grumbling to herself about wasting a perfectly good day—but regretting that thought just long enough to say yet another prayer for her father’s recovery—she finally settled into a deep sleep around midnight.
A sleep so deep that Mika actually had to swat Usagi in the face several times with her paw to wake her up a couple of hours later. “Mika! It’s the middle of the night! Why are you doing this to me? I’m not a boy cat, and the window’s open if you need to pee.” She rolled over to go back to sleep.
“Get up now, Usagi!” This cat was beginning to sound more and more like Usagi’s mother. “This time, it’s not your father who’s in trouble; it’s the daimyo Kuruda!”
Usagi dressed as quickly as she could, took her father’s sword and ran out into the street. She didn’t try to stay in side streets now; this was an emergency. If the daimyo were killed or even injured, her father—wounded or not—would have failed in his duty. Usagi understood exactly what that meant. Losing his job would be a welcome prospect; even being thrown homeless into the street would be better than having him commit seppuku.
But the house and the street were quiet. Nobody had been sent by the daimyo to fetch Tsukino. Why was this cat--?
Usagi turned the corner, and almost collided with Shinnosuke. “Oh hi! What are you--?”
“It’s all right,” Mika said from atop a stone wall. “Shinnosuke is one of us.”
“One of who? You still haven’t said—“
“Later! Shinnosuke, you need to defend the daimyo.”
“Wait a minute!” the boy interrupted, adjusting his glasses. “I study healing. I couldn’t stab anyone.”
“There are other ways beside the way of the sword, and we both know it. Do you see that star?” The cat indicated the east, where the Water Star was shining, anticipating the sunrise in an hour’s time. “The morning star is the source of your power. Call to it!”
“Suisei, chikara-wo yobidasu!”
And Shinnosuke vanished. At least, he seemed to. After a few seconds, Usagi realized that Shinnosuke was now dressed as a ninja, but with clothes that were not the usual black of a ninja. Usagi could see through him; could see the cat sitting on the wall behind Shinnosuke, although everything seemed to shimmer, as if she were looking at a reflection in water.
“Fine. Now go!” Without another word Shinnosuke cleared the wall in a single jump and vanished into the daimyo’s garden. “Your turn, Usagi.”
“You want me to be a ninja?”
“NO! Just call to the moon, like you did the other night.”
“O-tsuki-sama, chikara-wo yobidasu!”
Again the silver radiance possessed Usagi and her father’s sword. She effortlessly jumped onto the wall beside Mika, and looked into Kuruda’s garden.
A half dozen of the daimyo’s men—samurai who lived on the estate—lay on the ground, felled by a force of ninja twice their number. The dozen ninja had just regrouped and were preparing to move on the house when, one by one, they swiftly started falling to the ground unconscious. Out of reflex, the last four jumped up into the tall pine trees on the estate, out of the way of whatever was felling their comrades. Usagi knew what to look for, and could just make out Shinnosuke, dashing from one ninja to another and silencing them with a blow to the head from a nunchaku.
As the four remaining ninja watched from a high branch, a flash of light flew through the air toward them, cutting the branch that held them and sending them toward the ground. They reached out to other branches to break their fall, but the branches moved of their own accord just out of their reach. When they landed on the ground, the shining maiden with the shining sword was waiting for them.
“You cross our path again, girl?” one of them hissed in that strange voice.
Usagi had no idea where the words were coming from, but she was speaking them: “And I always will. I stand for love, and I stand for justice, and I stand against you and your plans.” She moved the point of the sword until it just touched the exposed wrist of one of the ninja.
She didn’t see what happened next, since the ninja wore black from head to toe, but the second the moonlight sword touched his skin, it started bubbling like water on a hot rock. The ninja’s agonized screams lasted only a few seconds, until he was reduced to empty clothes on the ground. The others panicked, rounded up their fellows who were just awakening, and fled the way they had come.
There was a movement in the air. Shinnosuke had removed his hood, and was now visible to Usagi. He examined the empty clothes on the ground. “What did you do?”
“I just touched him with the point, honest! I didn’t know that was going to happen.”
Mika had walked up and was now sniffing the clothing. “I was afraid of this. Some of the enemy isn’t even human. You must both be very careful.”
“Don’t worry, Mika. I think I’m getting the hang of this now.” Usagi sheathed her father’s sword and turned to go back over the wall. As she turned, the sword got tangled in a shrubbery. Usagi tried to pull it out, and only succeeded in losing her balance and falling into a carp pond.
Mika just shook her head. “I hope you get better at this soon,
Usagi-chan, because the dangers will only get worse.”