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Part 1

A Sakura Taisen fan fiction story
by Elsa Bibat

A Tale in the Dances of the Music of Time Sequence

Disclaimer: Sakura Taisen is owned by Sega, Red Company and Ohji Hiroi. All licenses belong to the proper people. This is used without permission. Arthur Machen's "Dreamer's Ode" from "The Satyr" is used without permission, but it's in public domain in Canada, so hopefully the boys in black helicopters won't land on the lawn. ^_~ This disclaimer also applies to several intellectual properties referred to in the text. Please be guided accordingly. This file can be freely distributed so long as it appears in its complete form and proper credit given. No part may be reproduced for monetary gain without permission from the author.


We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;

World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams.


June 4, 1927

Dear Sumire-chan,

It is such a good thing to hear from you. I can never say how much all these stories you send in your letters please me. They give me such happy moments when I read them. You have such a fertile imagination! That last story you sent actually made me cry! What made you want to retire your namesake, for heaven's sake? I want more, Sumire-chan! These stories are a joy for me to read and I would not want them to end.

However, I must ask you that you be careful in sending such large letters. The Kempeitai probably think I am part of some sort of conspiracy, with all these military-themed stories you keep sending me.

They are quite an achievement, Sumire-chan. I would suggest you have them published but I know your sentiments. I can read between the lines, cousin, and I think there are quite a few in the Kempeitai who can, too.

I also have a story to tell you. The next time we meet I will tell you the whole story, but for now, let us say that something happened to me that is almost as strange and wonderful as the stories you tell of the Imperial Capital Defense Force. I even have a small memento of the encounter, a red teardrop amulet that is like nothing you could see sold in the jewelry shops.

I have to cut this letter short. This will undoubtedly reach you before we arrive at your home, Sumire-chan, so we will continue this talk in person. By the way, Auntie says that you have a marriage meeting coming up. I wish you good luck and I hope he is handsome.

Your cousin,
Kanzaki Kikyou


June 8, 1927
Yokohama, Japan

Smiling, Kanzaki Sumire adjusted her large horn-rimmed glasses as she read her cousin's letter. Kikyou-chan was coming to visit!

Then she frowned.

Kikyou-chan liked her stories. How was she going to tell her that she wouldn't be writing anymore of them?

She had hesitated at first in sending them to her cousin, but the fact that they were both avid readers of Hinawajuh, Bokken Sekai and half a dozen of the other story magazines like Shin-seinen and Gurotesuku had prompted her decision of sending the stories. Added to the fact that it was Kikyou-chan herself who had shown her Edogawa-sensei's Kasei no Unga, she had ample reason to think that her cousin would enjoy the stories that she had written.

She sighed.

She would have to tell her cousin everything when she came.

She couldn't write them anymore.

The Dream had ended.

She couldn't figure out the how or why, but the Dream had ended and she would never see it again.

Five years of closing her eyes every night and waking up to the wonderful life that she had always dreamed of.

Being beautiful and talented. Being confident and in control.

Sumire put down her cousin's letter and looked at the mirror.

Sleek black hair against her dreamself's brown. At least her hair was as smooth and silky as in her dream. Of all her attributes, it was her hair that was most true.

A flat freckled visage, framed by ugly glasses bought from a street optometrist, instead of the angular beautiful face of her dreams.

Short and flat-chested, she could only hope for the svelte, sensuous figure of her dreamself.

Dressed in a hand-me-down kimono rather than the latest and daring styles.

Sometimes, when the Dream was most beautiful, she thought to herself that she was the dreamself and that she was really Kanzaki Sumire, scion of the Kanzaki zaibatsu, actress and member of the Teikokukagekidan.

She much preferred the dream to the reality.

But the truth was unchangeable.

She was Kanzaki Sumire, daughter of a minor government official in Yokohama, one of a brood of five. She could not act, she could not fight, she could not sing. Friendless except for a few female cousins here and there. Addicted to the story magazines and the kamishibai and the theater.

Just a dreamer, for awhile, a Dreamer.

And the Dream had finally ended and she was nothing more than herself.

A poor, lonely girl lost in her dreams.

"Sumire-chan!!!"

A poor, lonely girl who was about to get engaged.

"Coming, Okaasan!"

Sumire and her parents waited patiently for the other party to arrive. The marriage meeting had been arranged by a friend of her father and she didn't know anything of her prospective iinazuke, a fact that irritated her to no end.

Pestering her parents with questions had gotten her nowhere.

No name, no description. Just "you'll like him, Sumire-chan" and "he's got a bright future ahead of him" and all such blind assurances.

As if she hadn't known better. This was another one of her father's ploys for social advancement. Connections were important in this day and age, add the fact that her father was a very ambitious man, she had suspicions about her fiancé-to-be.

The door silently and slowly slid open. The other family entered on their knees, a sign of good traditional training.

The parents did not merit her attention. It was the young man she had come to meet that she looked at. A thin, wolfish face, topped a rather weaselish frame dressed in the uniform of the Kempeitai.

They engaged me to one of the secret police! The thought echoed inside her mind as she looked at the young man before her. Promising career, indeed!

Chips of black charcoal regarded her with a steely gaze as her prospective fiancé gave her a once-over. Even her distaste for the man was overcome by her shyness. If I'm lucky, I'm too ugly enough for him. Her hopeful thought echoed in her mind as the two families bowed to each other.

"Kanzaki-san"

"Ogami-san"

Sumire almost fell over in her bow. Recovering herself, she regained her composure. Ogami wasn't exactly a unique name.

"Ichiro, my eldest. He has recently been promoted to second lieutenant of his section. He was a constant high achiever in school and is on excellent terms with many superior officers in the Army. He has shown himself as a source of pride for our family and we hope that he would meet with your approval."

Sumire was trying to control herself. Ichiro! Ogami Ichiro!

He doesn't look like—

"Sumire, my only daughter. She may not look like much, but she is accomplished in her own right. She is skilled in the domestic arts. She has shown herself adept in calligraphy and ikebana. She is obedient and knows what is required of her. She would make an excellent wife for your son."

A flash of quickly suppressed surprise appeared on the young man's face as he heard her name being mentioned. Her curiosity was even more aroused as the young man whispered into his father's ear. The elder man nodded, features in agreement to what had been suggested by his son.

"It seems that my son wishes to be alone with your daughter for awhile."

Her father smiled at that, though one could see the surprise in his eyes as he looked to his daughter. The fact that she and this young man would spend some time alone was part of the meeting, but for the young man to request it himself and this early?

Sumire could only imagine what thoughts were running through that mind of his.

The two pairs of parents bowed and silently went out in the traditional manner, an almost-slide of knees on tatami.

The two were left alone looking at each other, Sumire in confusion while Ichiro's eyes looked her over. He stopped his inspection and looked into her eyes. Sumire didn't know what to say.

It was him who broke the silence.

"Where's the off-shoulder purple kimono?"

Sumire glared at him for a moment before, eyes starting to become wet, she crossed the space between them and engulfed him in a hug.

"You should be the one to talk. I thought you were a Navy man… and much more handsome at that."

"I am as handsome as you are pretty, Sumire-chan. I assume this means that you are Kanzaki Sumire, the Hanagumi Teikokukagekidan's top star?" The smile on his face made his sharp features friendlier, softer.

"And you, Ogami Ichiro, the Imperial Theater's ticket boy?"

Her glasses were starting to fog but she didn't care.

He took off her glasses and wiped the tears from her eyes. "I thought I'd never see you again. Well, technically, I'm not seeing you again. You are definitely different here, in the real world."

Sumire smiled shyly as she realized her close proximity with him. Loosening her embrace, she took her glasses from his hands and set them over her face once again.

"You are different, too. Look at the pair of us, people who dream themselves a better life."

They disengaged and they sat, looking each other over.

"I would think you would be pleased with your life as it is, Second lieutenant Ogami," Sumire said, gesturing with her hand at the uniform. Ogami frowned.

"The uniform and the pips on my collar are not exactly indicative of my feelings about working in the Kempeitai."

An eyebrow peeked out from under the frame of her large unwieldy glasses as Sumire arched an eyebrow. Ogami smirked and continued.

"When I joined the Kempeitai, I was expecting to work against those who would threaten my Emperor, not those who threaten his toadying cronies. Not against those who are nothing more than honest men and women who seek my country's betterment and the cause of peace."

"That is a strange sentiment to hear from one of the secret police."

Ogami barked out an ugly laugh. "I would be shot, or at the very least 'disappear' from sight, if I was ever heard to say that. But I trust you, Sumire-chan."

Sumire blushed. "Already calling me that after a few minutes of talk, how shameless."

A gentle smile was on Ogami's lips as he looked at the slight young woman kneeling before him. "A few minutes and a few years worth of Dreams, Sumire-chan."

Sumire looked up into those hard eyes twinkling with amusement. The spark of joy in them could not mask the toughness in those two orbs. What horrible sights they must have seen in their time.

She smiled.

Diamonds were hard, too. In her own way, she had managed to find a bit of the Dream in the real world.

A slight thought nagged her at the back of her mind as she hugged this man who was to be her husband.

If he was here, then that would mean the others should be here also, wouldn't it?


February 19, 1938
Manchuria, China

Ogami Ichiro looked up from the report on his table.

"Are you sure about this?"

"Yes, Captain." Standing at attention, his subordinate looked like a stick. Ogami looked down again at the report on his desk.

"She has been confined?"

"Yes, sir."

"Has she been interrogated?"

"Yes, sir."

Ogami looked down at the report again. "Properly?"

"Er…"

"Lieutenant, if you just beat the answer out of her then you may have the wrong person. Again, did you interrogate her properly and have her investigated thoroughly?"

"Captain—"

"Lieutenant, they may be teaching you differently now in Kyoto, but the last time I was there we did things in a civilized and logical manner. Now is there any other proof corroborating your report?"

Hesitation blanketed the room with silence.

"Damn it, lieutenant, I will handle this investigation! If she is not the person we're looking for, then the individual that we're supposed to have captured is still out there doing mischief! Personally, I think you made a mistake, so I'm sending you out to look! Again! GO!"

The lieutenant walked out of the room so quickly that it was almost a run.

Ogami looked down at the report again. Looked at the name written there. He leaned back into his chair and looked up into the wooden ceiling. It was a bit blurry.

He covered his eyes with his hands and wiped the sweat from his face.

Ogami Ichiro took a deep breath as he stood before the door of the interrogation room. The guards by the door studiously ignored him.

Looking one of them in the eye, he glared. "No one is to disturb me."

The guard nodded in response.

Ogami put his hand on the doorknob and took another deep breath. He opened the door and stepped inside.

The woman before him had the look of the prematurely aged.

She should have looked younger. He knew why. He saw the effect of the world's harshness, of the burdensome pain of reality, on him every time he looked into the mirror. Even Sumire had the slight mark of it on her features.

The world was hard on Dreamers.

But this was worse. Purple bruises knotted her face. Swollen and split lips barely covered imperfect and incomplete teeth. Ratty hair streaked with grey framed a stone face that had been battered by hammer blows of fist and wood. The sight of the pounded face angered him and he realized what methods his subordinate had used. Ogami knew all the techniques, after all. Had used them on many men and women in his time.

He never cursed himself more in his life for his knowledge of the arts of blood and pain than that moment when he looked into the face of Li Kohran.

Kohran tried to glare at her captor. That was rather difficult since her left eye was covered by a bruised and bloody eyelid and her right eye only gave her back a blur of light and shadow. She tried not to wince as she felt a twinge of pain tug at her back. Her interrogators were rather thorough.

She had awakened from her light sleep when the sound of the turning doorknob had woken her up. Muscles aching, she resigned herself to another session, though she wondered what her captors wanted from her.

She had confessed, after all. Saboteur, arsonist, bomber. Li Kohran turned the thoughts around her head. Not bad for a half-Japanese partisan with nothing but a bit of know-how and a penchant for explosives.

She tried not to smile. Smiling hurt.

Silence. Then the sound of the chair across her being dragged back and paper landing on the table. A good sign. They'd have pushed the table away to the side if it were going to be a 'rigorous interrogation'.

The sound of someone sitting down.

"Your name is Li Kohran?"

Her mother had taught her the language. A mail-order bride bought by a rich merchant has to have a few joys. Her mother was the only good Japanese she could think of. She used to dream of going to Japan when she was little, meeting friends, singing… dreams made to ashes when the Imperial Army marched in.

"Yes."

She had to stay focused. There must be a way to get out of this. She looked at her captor and could see a flesh colored blotch of a face and a green blotch that was a uniform.

Once again, silence. Then he, her interrogator, started to hum.

After the first few bars, the memory came back and she knew the song.

She had heard it in her dreams. She had sung it with others on a stage, a dream she had thought she had forgotten. It all came back to her as the song continued. She ached to sing, but her throat hurt and her mouth felt as if they were filled with cotton. Her eyes hurt. The salt in her tears, tears she had thought were long exhausted, tasted like the sea.

How does he know? The question ran through her mind mixed with hate, fear and loss. Was there nothing safe from the grubby hands of these marauders? Her country pillaged, her life shattered, now they took away her dreams.

She was sobbing. She hadn't noticed it until she felt a hand running through her hair and patting her back. A voice was telling her he was sorry. So sorry.

She lashed out. Her hands could not hurt him but her words still could.

"Sorry! You kill my mother, rape me, leave me for dead, torture me, and you Japanese are sorry! Sorry does not bring back my life! Sorry does not bring back my mother! Sorry does not bring back my dreams!"

The hands stopped. The voice stopped. When it returned, Kohran could almost swear that there was slight hitch in that voice.

"I… Li-san, you are to be released. You are obviously not the one we were looking for."

She could not believe her ears. The man continued. For some strange reason, Kohran thought she knew him.

"However, because of your harsh treatment, you will be unable to be released just yet. You will be treated for your injuries and, as means of reparation, you will be given employment."

"My wife will be visiting me in a while. She will need a maidservant. I know this is not enough to repay your suffering, but it is just a first step. Me and my wife will try to help you as much as we can. Please accept my apologies."

The man walked stiffly away, his feet clicking on the floor giving him away. In the few seconds that it took him to reach the door, Kohran finally remembered where she had heard that voice.

The long tunnel of her life had finally revealed a light. A bit dim and distant, but a light nonetheless.

She raised her head and saw nothing but shadows and heard the slight turning of the doorknob. She summoned her voice.

"Captain!"

Silence.

"I'll see you around, Kohran."

The doorknob completed its turn and Kohran was blinded by the light.


Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story,
We fashion an empire's glory;

One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown.


December 24, 1938
Paris, France

Iris Chateaubriand sighed and brushed away a lock of honey-blonde hair from her face. She slipped the jeweled necklace down her dress in a specially prepared pocket and drew in a great big breath.

Then she screamed.

It was a scream that echoed all through the large manor of the Vicomte d'Alembert, as it was supposed to.

One minute before the other guests arrived and found the open safe and, of course, Lupin's little calling card. She had managed to palm one of them after her little run-in with the arrogant popinjay. Another jewelry theft blamed on the Son of the Wolf would be both be investigated thoroughly, while the Surete would be blind to the fact that someone else could have possibly done it. After all, Lupin placed his card there didn't he? Who else could have stolen it?

Iris thanked the Lord in Heaven for idiotic policemen while she surveyed the scene one last time before she went into her little "faint".

The safe's cast-iron door was thrown wide in the shadowed room, bereft of its main occupant and several other trifles which Iris had secured in a secret compartment in the newly delivered mahogany table of the room. The window was open and a rope tied to the casement showed an easy avenue for escape.

She nodded in satisfaction and proceeded to "faint", slumping down to the floor with an audible plop.

As she lay on the plush carpeting, Iris Chateaubriand thought of another place and another time, when her acting drew applause and her strident voice moved men and women to tears.

All gone now, the Dream had ended the day her father blew his brains out and she and her mother got thrown to the poor house.

She had not thought of it for years now. The letter must have caused her errant thoughts to stray in that direction.

A letter from Japan. From a woman named Sumire Kanzaki.

When she was little, she dreamed of going to Japan. That was the time of the Nouvelle d'Orient, and China, Japan and the Far East had held Paris in thrall. The fad had come and gone, but in her heart of hearts the dream had stayed alive for years.

Japan. The name and address on the envelope was written in French but the letter inside was in the chicken scratches of the Japanese. She could not understand… No, that was not true. She had felt the spirit of it.

Come. Come here. I want to meet you.

Japan. Her lips twitched into an unnoticeable smile as the room was discovered. One place was good as any to lie low for awhile.

And she would like to meet this woman who had a name from her dreams.


November 5, 1942
Stalingrad, Russia

It was snowing in the City of Steel.

In the ruins of buildings, in the realms of shattered steel and broken concrete, a huntress waited for her prey.

Maria Tachibana looked through her binoculars and spied her targets.

Gray Wehrmacht uniforms and helmets. Five. Three were around a small fire and a cookpot. One was answering the call of nature. One was separate from the others, ostensibly on watch.

She set up her rifle and looked down the scope, down the crosshairs.

Comrade Zaitsev had praised her riflework, telling her she was a natural.

She should be. She had been doing this since the Revolution.

First, the most distant.

Take a deep breath. Like Papa taught you. Like Aniki taught you. See the head. See the middle of his eyes.

Bang!

Pull the trigger and another Nazi devil went to hell.

Shift.

Bang!

He was zipping up his pants as the bullet went through his chest like pencil through paper.

The three had noticed and were scrambling for cover.

Bang! Bang!

One through the heart and another through the back.

The last one had managed to reach cover and was crawling through debris.

Feel. Make a guess, Maria-chan. Left or right?

Are you feeling lucky?

She let go of the breath she was holding and drew in a quick one as she shifted the rifle a couple of centimeters to the right and pumped a bullet through flimsy wood.

The soldier fell down dead.

She sighed as she closed her eyes and relaxed.

Her sensitivity heightened by adrenaline, she could hear the snow fall and her heart beating in that familiar one-two rhythm. She eased her rifle from its perch and lay there in the quickly-gathering snow.

Father. He had come to Russia from Japan as a member of the Communist Party, seeking a new life after the oppression and censorship of the Meiji. Up the Siberian railway to Moscow.

He had met her mother in the ghettoes of the capital of Tsarist Russia.

Brother was born shortly afterwards. Then her.

She rolled over and looked up into the grey skies distributing white flakes of ice. She smiled a cold little smile.

Maudlin in your old age, Maria-chan? Maybe it is the snow.

It's snowing like the day Aniki died.

For awhile, after the Revolution, she had dreamed comforting little dreams. Maybe it was the headiness of the success of the Communist dream. Lenin and the Party were in power and everything was going to change.

Singing, dancing, a small little family of sisters.

Then Djugashvili— No, he called himself Stalin, had come.

She felt a drop of wetness on her cheek. She raised a hand up and wiped it away with her gloved fingers.

Maudlin in your old age, Maria-chan?

Her father had gone to the gulag and she and her mother barely escaped, mostly because her father had asked Rakhmetov for protection for the two of them.

Her thoughts wandered to the man they called the Iron Colossus and sighed.

For all his popularity, it was a close thing for him and his associates. He was still under suspicion and that had meant his assignment here, to the City of Steel. A rather easy way for that madman Stalin to get rid of him without raising the ire of the Russian people. She had followed him in the hopes of repaying her debt to him, but she had ended up being assigned to another sector.

She was getting tired of all of it. And for some strange insane yet sane reason, she wanted to sing.

You are getting old, Maria-chan.

She shook her head and prepared to move.

That was when she made her first mistake.

When she had rolled over, her binoculars had come out of their sheath and the glass glinted in the weak light.

That was when she made her second mistake.

She forgot to check her surroundings immediately.

Maybe her melancholic thoughts distracted her. But, she delayed surveying her surroundings for a few seconds.

That was when she made her third mistake.

She stood up.

There is an old soldier's saying that was oft-repeated by veterans of the Stalingrad siege.

You were only allowed three mistakes in the City of Steel.

After that, you die.

It was as if an enormous hand had slammed into her chest with the force of a locomotive. It threw her several feet backwards and knocked her into the ground.

Surprisingly, it was all so strangely painless.

All over the world, seven people felt as if a part of their soul had been ripped away. For them it was a moment of indescribable sadness.

And a woman sleeping in a shrine in Sendai wept in her sleep.

And for Maria Tachibana, moments before her vision left her, she thought she heard women singing.

Snow fell gently on her body, a white shroud for her funeral. An unmarked grave in the city of broken concrete and shattered steel.

In the City of Steel, an angel had found her peace.


August 6, 1945
Hiroshima, Japan

Sister Leni Milchenstrasse sighed and stifled a yawn.

She had been awakened earlier by Captain Hino, a strange little man who didn't exactly fit anywhere in military hierarchy of the local government, and was questioned on the disappearance of Doctor Mizuno from the military stockade.

The officer obviously thought she had something to do with the woman's escape. She was quite glad that Megumi had escaped, of course, and she was planning to do exactly what the Captain had accused her of, but it seemed that someone beat her to the punch. She had the impression that Captain Hino would have beaten her to find the truth out of her had she not been a nun and a German citizen. He was that kind of man.

Hopefully, Megumi Mizuno would be safely hidden away by her rescuers, whoever they may be.

Leni sighed. It was things like these that made her leave Germany and her old career. Not that she was going anywhere acting. Her childhood dreams made it seem so easy to be a success, but the real world was a lot more demanding.

Plus, the Gestapo did not like her for being outspoken against the Reich.

Better to be a nun and halfway around the world, even if it were in Japan.

Well, being in Japan wasn't as onerous as it seemed. She had dreamed of it too when she was young, but then it was more friendly…

Pfah. Enough wool-gathering.

Turning her thoughts to other things, Leni checked off her mental to-do list for the day.

Visiting Himeko Kino in the infirmary would be the first order of business. Having a child out of wedlock was something Leni frowned upon, but one cannot force people into things they didn't want to do. The poor girl must expect the father to come back for both of them. Who can say? Maybe, maybe not. But still the woman needed emotional support and Leni could offer that to her.

Kimiko Aino was going to visit again and help with the children. Her family was in the United States when the war started, and the worry about them had almost driven her insane, had not Leni suggested that she work off her nervous energy with the younger children. Nearly twenty years of age, the young woman had boundless energy and her rollercoaster of emotions would hopefully be on the upside today.

The Tsukino family had moved out of the loft and into the countryside. They were thankful for her help and offered to pay the Sisters for their kindness with what little money they had left. She had refused and just asked Ichiro to carve an icon of Jesus Christ as payment, deliverable anytime he felt like it. Ichiro Tsukino was such a superb artist that it would be more than enough.

The loft was free now and she thought of offering it to Himeko, knowing that the young woman had lost her housing during a recent bombing raid. And it would have the mother and child within easy reach of the orphanage and convent.

The children were playing in the courtyard as she entered the orphanage grounds. Leni smiled as they recognized her and waved at her, bright grins appearing on their faces.

Some of the layworkers bowed in acknowledgement of her presence.

Leni looked at her watch on her left hand while she waved her hello to the children with her right.

8:15 a.m.

She heard shouts of warning from some of the layworkers at the orphanage and she looked up.

Then, there was a flash of light as bright as the sun.


And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;

For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.


End of Part 1

The Hanagumi Teikokukagedan will return in Beautiful Dreamers, Part 2

 

Author's notes:

I know, I know, a bit too scanty for a return post. I'll finish off part 2 and sent it out ASAP. A complete annotation will be supplied in Part 2.

Anyway, see ya!

Beautiful Dreamers, Part 2
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Last revision: May 21, 2007

Old Gray Wolf