written by Patrick Drazen
using characters created by Naoko Takeuchi and others associated with
the manga and anime “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon”
Chapter 5: “Attack in the Stables! The Fourth Senshi Appears!”
In the days they waited until Kuruma’s return, Makoto spent a lot of time with the others, but especially with Usagi. The three gave Makoto a whirlwind tour of Edo; at least, as far as they knew it.
When Usagi took them all down to the docks, Mamoru was again tallying the loading of a cargo of rice onto a ship. However, this cargo was small and he could take time to talk. He exchanged introductions with Usagi’s friends, and they asked questions about ships before Mamoru was called away to sign and seal some papers.
“So, what do you think?” Usagi asked.
Makoto spoke up at once: “I think he reminds me of a boy I knew back in Terima.”
“Now wait a minute! If you think…”
“Relax, Usagi,” Rei interrupted. “We’ve all seen the way you look at him.”
“An’ I seen him tryin’ not to look at you the same way,” Makoto added. “You got nothin’ to worry about with him. Or me,” she grinned.
The morning after the daimyo’s return, Makoto’s father had an audience with Kuruda. At noon, Makoto went to the temple to report on that meeting.
“…an’ he was so pleased that he gave my daddy a job in the stables tendin’ the horses! Pays a lot better’n what we made farmin’. We figured we’d get a fresh start by movin’ to Edo, but I didn’t figure we’d do so well so soon!”
“I’m so happy for you!” Shinnosuke said.
Makoto slid out from the table, shifted onto her knees, and gave Usagi a low bow in the Chinese manner, her forehead touching the floor. “An’ I really owe you a debt. Whatever you said about my daddy really worked. I’ll never forget it!”
“Don’t do that! I really don’t deserve it!” Usagi protested, even though inside she was loving every bit of the attention.
“No, I mean it! Anything I can ever do for you.”
“Just don’t offer to cook for her,” Rei loudly whispered; “Usagi-chan is a bottomless pit.”
“That’s not fair!” Usagi whined, upset because she was just about to ask Makoto to cook something. “Besides, what about the time at the temple when we were almost poisoned?”
“That WAS poison! And I didn’t have anything to do with it!”
“That’s what they all say!”
“Er, pardon me,” Makoto interrupted, “but you two aren’t relatives, are you?”
Shinnosuke started laughing again, and after a while so were the other three.
“Anyway,” Makoto went on, “I was gonna go down to the stables a little later. Anybody wanna come with me?”
Usagi realized that she hadn’t been to the stables in years, even though it was one of her favorite places when she was a little girl. “I can show you where they are! The horses are so nice!”
“Do you think the rest of us would be allowed?” Shinnosuke asked hesitantly.
“As long as you’re with me, there’ll be no problem. I used to play there all the time.”
“How about you?” Makoto asked Rei.
“There are things to do here at the temple. Let’s wait and see.”
“Well, let’s all meet here before dinner. That way, we’ll know
if you can come along.”
Late that afternoon, Usagi and Shinnosuke arrived at Kazan Jinja to find Rei and Makoto already waiting by the gate.
“Glad you could make it,” Shinnosuke said.
Rei shrugged. “I just thought maybe I could help.”
That caught Usagi’s attention. She knew Rei’s reputation for being able to look into the future. Can’t we just go and look at some horses in peace? she thought. As if to confirm that they couldn’t, Mika walked around the corner at that moment. Wonderful, Usagi thought; she usually means trouble. Still, as long as she didn’t start talking to Makoto…
The four of them—with a somewhat subdued Usagi—went to the stables where, as she’d hoped, one old caretaker recognized Usagi. “Just look at you!” he beamed. “I was wondering just the other day why Little Missy didn’t come around anymore. But I can see you’ve got other things on your mind.”
“But I could never forget you, Moriyama-san.” Usagi made the introductions, saving Makoto for last.
“So Kino-san is your father?” Moriyama said. He went on without waiting for an answer: “Seems to be a good man. Knows what he’s doing, doesn’t talk a lot.”
Makoto rubbed the back of her head. “Well, he says I talk enough for the both of us.”
Moriyama turned back to Usagi. “Well, Little Missy, I suppose you remember the way.”
“Of course. Good to see you again!” She waved at the old man, spun on her heels and led the others into the stables.
The horses were kept in a long, low building with a carefully tended roof. The animals within were tended just as carefully, with attention paid to their food and water, their shoes and saddles. The stables were kept immaculately clean; so clean that even with the large number of horses in the hottest days of summer, there was seldom a problem with flies.
“The daimyo’s favorite is on the end,” Usagi explained as she led them to the last stall. There, a large and impressive roan eyed the strangers warily.
Makoto took an involuntary step back when she saw the animal. “What’s wrong?” Rei asked.
“This is gonna sound dumb, but I was just rememberin’ Terima. One of the worst bandit gangs there was called the Red Horse Gang, because they all road roans. And they were mean. They could ask for one-fifth of your crops, then you’d offer them two-fifths and like as not they’d half-kill you anyway and take it all.”
“Half-kill?” Usagi asked.
“Yeah. They’d want to keep you around to grow somethin’ they can steal next year.”
“Aren’t you glad to be away from there?”
“It’s not that simple. That’s my home. An’ Edo’s the biggest city I’ve ever seen. I prefer forests.”
“Well, you’ll like it here,” Usagi said, patting the roan on the haunch. When she did that, it reared violently and gave an unearthly scream. That was when they noticed its eyes were glowing a dull fiery red.
“Back off now, big fella,” Makoto tried to soothe the horse.
“Makoto-san, don’t!” Rei shouted. “It’s not a horse!”
She was right. As they watched, horns sprouted on the roan’s head and shoulders. Razor-sharp fangs appeared in its mouth. Its mane started to grow before their eyes, turning into long threatening tentacles of hair. Two of those tentacles grabbed Usagi and Shinnosuke by the throat before anyone could react.
Makoto saw a hand-scythe for cutting hay in the neighboring stall. She grabbed it, but the hair was like iron and would not cut.
Rei had taken an ofuda out of her pocket, but just as she started to recite the spell, tentacles of hair wrapped around her throat and wrists.
The demon horse continued to breathe like a furnace, its mane choking the life out of the three. Makoto started to back away, helpless.
The Okinawan girl thought she must be losing her mind. A horse was turning into a demon, and now a cat was talking to her!
“Listen to me, Makoto!” the cat continued. “You have power granted by the Tree Star, Mokusei. Call to it! Say, ‘Mokusei, I summon your power!’”
“Mokusei, chikara-wo yobidasu!”
In that moment, Makoto’s yukata blazed with light like a fire fed with fresh kindling. She also now held what seemed to be a pair of silver tonfa.
The demon-horse reared and tried to strike at Makoto; she used her left tonfa to block the attacking hooves, while hitting at the mane with the right. This time the hair parted like wet paper as she freed Rei from the mane’s grip.
Rei fell to the barn floor still gasping for air, but flung the ofuda onto the horse’s forehead and managed to gasp out, “Akuryoo … taisan!”
That stopped the demon-horse cold. The light went out of its eyes; its fangs and horns vanished; the tentacles of hair dissolved, leaving Usagi and Shinnosuke coughing and gasping on the stable floor.
“Watch out!” the cat called; “you only stopped the horse!” Several dozen ninja slowly moved out of the shadows of the barn.
“I have to take care of them, too?” Makoto asked the cat.
“Just wait for the others, and follow their lead.”
This was the largest force of ninja they had ever faced in such close quarters, and at first Usagi and the others held back, afraid of injuring one of Kuruda’s horses, or each other, by mistake. But soon they slipped into the rhythm of their defense as they clubbed, stabbed and otherwise dispatched dozens of the dark ninja. Only a few retreated this time. Maybe they had been told to finish the business once and for all.
Soon it was over, and the young people watched the dozens of ninja on the floor evaporate into mist, leaving no trace behind.
Makoto simply scratched the back of her head and muttered, “Sonovabitch.” She looked at the cat, then at Usagi and the others. “Does this happen a lot in Edo?”
“Let’s go back to the temple,” Rei said, “and we’ll tell you all about