written by Patrick Drazen
using characters created by Naoko Takeuchi and others associated with
the manga and anime “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon”
Chapter 3: “Battle in the Shrine! The Third Fighter is Born!”
Usagi and Shinnosuke agreed to meet at first light to go back to the temple. At least, that was the plan. Shinnosuke had been told to send a message to Hino Rei to tell her they were coming, and then to wait at the end of the street near the Tsukino household. “Don’t knock,” Usagi had said, “and don’t worry. I’ll be the first one awake.” Shinnosuke got to the end of the street, and waited. He bought a couple of rice balls from a passing vendor for breakfast, and waited. He watched dozens of tradesmen going to their jobs, dozens of women going to the market. And waited.
Finally, after two hours in the same spot, Shinnosuke saw Usagi come dashing out of her front door, carrying the black cat. She stopped in front of Shinnosuke just long enough to say, “It wasn’t my fault!” Then she ran down the road, stopping after a few yards. “Well, come on! We’ve got to go to the temple!”
Shinnosuke smiled, shook his head and ran to catch up with Usagi.
When they arrived at the small side-chapel that was Rei’s domain, they found Rei inside offering up prayers. She stopped as the shadows crossed the doorway.
“I’d just about given up on you two,” Rei said as she rose from before the fire. “You did say early morning, didn’t you?”
“Well, you know how it is,” Usagi began, “and things come up—“
“And you took too long to wake up.”
“You don’t know that! You’re just guessing!”
Shinnosuke stepped between the two of them. “Maybe we should stay with what we know.” Then they told Rei about the battle the night before, and of the ninja who evaporated when touched by the moon-sword. “Rei-san, what did you mean yesterday about dark forces?”
“This isn’t a political plot; it never was. I’ve seen those all my life. One shogun gets rid of another, then their retainers kill each other off. This one is different. There’s a sense of evil under all these attacks, and that mysterious ninja proves it. It’s as if this isn’t a fight between two armies, but between two gods.”
“Can’t you get rid of it?” Usagi asked.
“I don’t even know how big the threat is, or how far it’s gotten. I was just about to send out my messengers.”
Rei looked up to the hole in the roof that let out the smoke of the sacred fire, and clapped her hands three times. Almost at once, two very large, very black crows sailed in through the hole in the roof and landed at Rei’s feet. She at once crouched down and started talking to them.
“I have a very important job for you two. There have been…”
One of the crows interrupted, cawing loudly.
“Then you know what I mean. I need to know how far it’s gone, and who’s behind it.”
The other crow cawed.
“Don’t be rude; they’re my friends.”
Both crows put up a racket. Usagi and Shinnosuke exchanged nervous glances.
“Oh, all right,” Rei said, clearly annoyed. “These are two new friends of mine, Tsukino Usagi and Shinnosuke.” Rei gestured toward the crows. “These are my agents, I suppose. They’re my eyes and ears. They can cover the entire island within a week. I call them Takaki and Fukaiumi—Tall Tree and Deep Ocean.”
Usagi wasn’t sure, but she could have sworn that the crows bowed to her and Shinnosuke. The boy, for his part, bowed to the crows as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “I’m pleased to meet you.” He shot a quick glance at Usagi.
Usagi felt foolish. Still, she thought, if I’m talking to cats now, why not to birds too? She also bowed to the crows. “The same here.”
With that, the crows shot back up to the roof, through the chimney-hole and into the sky. “Now I can really find out the truth,” Rei said, almost to herself. “No more guesswork.” Usagi cleared her throat, a little too loudly. “What is it?” Rei said, a bit annoyed at the disturbance of her train of thought.
“Rei-san, this is all really interesting, but I’m still worried about my father. Are they going to try to get him again?”
“I have some good news: they aren’t interested in attacking him anymore.”
“Nope; they’re interested in attacking you.”
“It’s something about you. They really think you’re the biggest threat they have. Can’t imagine why,” Rei sniffed.
“You just think you’re better than everybody else because of your little magic tricks.”
“TRICKS?! This is serious work here! You talk with one cat and you think you know everything.”
“Well, you make it seem like you’re the only one who…” Usagi finally stopped. “What do you know about the cat?”
“I told you my crows keep an eye on things.”
Shinnosuke seemed a little nervous at this prospect. “Do you think something will happen again tonight?”
“Count on it. The only thing we don’t know is where and when. We’ll just have to wait. Meanwhile, I can offer you some tea.”
“Gee, why don’t you have one of your animal friends do that?”
Rei glared at Usagi; Usagi glared at Rei. Shinnosuke, meanwhile, looked at the two and started chuckling.
“WHAT’S SO FUNNY?” they both demanded.
“You two. You fight like sisters. You must really like each other.”
Rei and Usagi both looked at Shinnosuke as if he’d said something in really bad taste. Then they looked at each other—and couldn’t help but laugh at their own seriousness.
On the way into her room, Rei called to an acolyte in the yard to bring them a pot of tea.
Usagi, settling into a pillow, said, “I was really impressed with what you did yesterday.”
“It was very strong,” Rei agreed. “I don’t get readings like that very often. But it doesn’t seem worth it sometimes. I’ve got to stay around the temple while you have all the fun.”
“You mean my life?” Usagi asked in surprise. “It’s hardly fun; mostly I call it one colossal bore.”
“You just know your own lives too well,” Shinnosuke said. “If you traded places, you’d probably see things differently.”
“Well, you can have my little demon-brother any time,” Usagi joked.
Rei didn’t answer right away. Instead she jumped to the screen-door and slid it open. An elderly little man almost fell into the room. He had been standing near the door listening. “Grandfather! What are you doing?”
“Just making sure you’re all right,” the little old man said as he picked himself up. “Two pretty girls and a young lad off by themselves… Say, you ARE lovely, aren’t you?” he said to Usagi. “Why not come to see me when you’re through here? I could show you the secrets of the cosmos,” he said, grabbing the front of his pants for emphasis.
“YOU PERVERT! LEAVE US ALONE!!” Rei shouted as she pushed her grandfather out into the yard and loudly closed the door. “Stupid old fart.”
Shinnosuke was blushing, in a way that made him seem to Usagi even cuter than before. “That was…interesting.”
“My grandfather’s getting too old. Seems like we have to watch him every minute.”
Just then the acolyte arrived with a pot of tea and three cups. Mika slipped into the room when he entered. He set everything down on the table and silently left the room.
“Anyway,” Rei said, getting ready to pour the tea, “you said something about the other night…”
“STOP!” Mika sniffed around the pot. “Don’t drink that! Something’s wrong with it!”
“Ew,” Usagi frowned, “like there’s bugs in the tea?”
“More like there’s poison in the tea.”
“Be quiet!” Rei barked. When she continued it was in a whisper. “Whatever attacked the daimyo and your father is trying to get all of us. So let’s make them think they succeeded. We’ll pretend to be asleep, then grab them when they come in.”
They all fell back onto the floor. Usagi started snoring, until Mika put a paw over her mouth. “Don’t overdo it,” the cat whispered. So they waited, watching through almost-closed eyes.
At first, nothing happened. They waited for hours and still dared not move. Finally, at almost sunset the shoji door slid open. Six men in full ninja dress, faces covered and daggers drawn, slipped silently into the room. They approached the youngsters. Before they could do anything, however, Usagi yawned, stretched and rolled over. She really had fallen asleep.
Shinnosuke couldn’t help himself. “Usagi!!”
That shout sent the invaders back to the walls, as the three stood, Usagi a little groggily, in the center of the room.
“Alright, Rei,” Usagi half-muttered, “which one am I supposed to grab?”
Rei, meanwhile, had fixed her gaze on the acolyte. “I think I know why you did this,” she said in a low, level voice.
The acolyte gave a ghostly chuckle, his voice scratchy as dead leaves blowing across stones. “You don’t even know who we are, and you can’t even begin to imagine our purpose.”
“Whatever it is, it won’t succeed.” Usagi noticed a quick movement of Rei’s hand. From somewhere in her clothes she had pulled a stack of ofuda: papers with spells against evil spirits written on them. Quick as a ninja throwing shuriken—and just as accurate—Rei’s ofuda hit the six intruders and stuck to them. When they did, Rei called out the enchantment:
With that, the six intruders fell unconscious to the floor. But the three barely had time to catch their breath when the screens slid open on three sides, revealing another dozen ninja in the courtyard.
“Transform!” Mika yelled.
“But my father’s sword…”
“It’ll be all right! Hurry!”
The ninja started coming through the screens. Usagi drove them back as best she could with a moon-katana that appeared in her hand even as she spoke the words. Shinnosuke, almost invisible, dashed from one entrance to another, wreaking havoc among the ninja.
Rei was no longer the center of attention—except for the men trying to kill her. But she had run out of ofuda and grabbed a thin flower vase from an alcove, even though she knew it was worthless as a weapon. “You seem to be in charge here,” she said to Mika; “what do I do?”
“Your powers come from the red fire-star, Kasei. Call to it!”
“Kasei, chikara-wo yobidasu!”
Rei’s clothing didn’t change, except in intensity. Her white tunic now dazzled like the sun reflected off hot sand; her skirt blazed red like the inside of a volcano. But the vase she carried had grown to a spear over five feet in length, topped with an elaborate crystalline point. The acolyte seemed to recognize it and backed away, but Rei was quicker. Just as with Usagi’s moon-sword; no sooner did the point touch the acolyte than he dissolved into a mist, leaving only his clothing behind. The other ninja saw what Rei had done, turned and ran from the shrine.
Usagi was fascinated by the lance Rei now held. “What is that?”
“A jintsuukon,” she said quietly, just looking down at the weapon in her hands; “this is the weapon of a demon hunter. I’ve only seen one other like it.”
“Well, this one is yours, when you call upon the power of the red star.”
“Mika, this is… I don’t know what to say.”
“Just say that, whatever is going on in Edo, you’ll fight it with Usagi and me,” Shinnosuke said. “We’ll all fight together.”
“As long as I remember Usagi-chan isn’t a demon,” Rei muttered, “and that won’t be easy.”
“Yeah? At least I wouldn’t need a fancy sword for you; I’d swat you with a fan like every other fly!”
“And I’d throw a sandal at you, like a rat!”
“Is that so?!”
“Just like sisters!” Shinnosuke laughed until he cried.