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Part 2

A Sakura Taisen fan fiction story
by Elsa Bibat

A Tale in the Dances Set to 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. Clark Ashton Smith's "The Dream Bridge" is from "The Star-Treader and Other Poems" and "In the Dream God's Realm" is from "The Potion of Dreams" and they are both used without permission. And thanks, Ed! Just got your e-mail and smacked the epitaph in. It's fairly appropriate, I should say. Just hope my nihongo's correct. This disclaimer also applies to several intellectual properties referred to in the text. Please be guided accordingly.


All drear and barren seemed the hours,
That passed rain-swept and tempest-blown.
The dead leaves fell like brownish notes
Within the rain's grey monotone.

There came a lapse between the showers:
The clouds grew rich with sunset gleams;
Then o'er the sky a rainbow sprang—
A bridge unto the Land of Dreams.


September 10, 1950
Okinawa, Japan

A petite bespectacled woman with grey-streaked hair smiled as she walked up the cliffside path.

The sons of the one she sought had told her she would be here, by the sea that she loved.

They were all big strapping men, those sons of hers. They all reminded Sumire of their mother in a strange way. Kenji had a laugh that could bring down a house. Jiro had an appetite that should have eaten him out of house and home. Shuichi taught the martial arts at the local American military base.

They were good men. Their mother had raised them well, they said. She had kept the family together through thick and thin.

Kenji had told tales of his mother working eighteen hours a day, just to get enough food for the family. She was proud and stubborn that way.

I will not let my family starve or want for anything that I can give them, he remembered her declaring when he had begged her to slow down. Your father has gone away for awhile and I was left in charge. He left me three healthy sons and, by heaven, I will show him three healthy sons when he comes back.

Then she was off to work, coming home with a smile on her face and some sweets for her children.

Sumire shook her head as she remembered Jiro's story of his mother, that small, slight woman, facing down a man from the army who wanted to requisition the family house and dojo. Nothing but a scowl, a loud voice and righteous indignation had beaten the great Japanese Army. The fact that her husband was a war hero had nothing to do with it at all, Jiro said with a conspiratorial wink.

Shuichi's story was the most touching of all. He remembered going to sleep to tales of heroism and adventure. Of the beauty of Tokyo and the wonders found therein. Of eight beautiful girls and their captain, who fought to protect that beautiful, faraway place. For a country boy who only knew the island of his birth, they were like fairytales from a distant land that could only be reached by dreams. And mother had told them so well!

"They're still fresh in my mind y'know? Fifteen years and they're still in my head. And in my heart. It was as if Mama had lived those stories, the way she told them." Sumire had almost broken into tears when he told her that.

Sumire looked up into the high noonday sun and listened to the sound of crashing waves.

The Battle of Okinawa was probably the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. Over 100,000 Okinawan civilians died. When Sumire had first heard of it, she wept, for she knew that her friend was dead and gone, for she felt that indescribable sadness come over her during those eighty-five long days, like it had for her husband who had been lost in China, or for dear little Kohran who died in a bombing raid early in the war, so many years ago it seemed. Iris had felt it also, and they had wept in each other's arms.

But Kanna had done her best, and she had gotten her family through safe and sound. She was just the price for it.

Her sons did not know how she died. They just knew when she didn't come back to the cave where they had sought shelter in those dark days when the cannons roared and the sky belched death.

They had cried as all sons do, but they remembered what their mother had taught them.

Dead is dead. Move on.

Sumire's eyes teared up as she stopped at the small grave marker dedicated to her old friend, one who had shared a dream like no other.

"Hisashiburi desu ne, Kanna-chan."


December 23, 1967
Sardinia, Italy

Orihime shivered in the cold and she tightened the quilt around her old shoulders.

She leaned back into her rocker as she surveyed the starlit grape fields below. Everyone had gone on home or went to sleep, leaving her alone, at her favorite spot overlooking the vineyards of her family.

She smiled to herself as she shifted her gaze to the skies above. Not bad for a bastard daughter. Not bad at all.

Her mother had borne a Japanese sailor's child, named her after a misspoken word and ran away with a traveling chocolate salesman. She was thankful that her grandfather and her uncle were a lot more forgiving than most others who would have turned her out.

She would have been turned out if her aunt had any say about it, but happily enough, she didn't, and she had outlived the horrid old harpy.

She had done more than that. The Soletta winery had prospered under her management after the troubles had taken away her grandfather and uncle. She had fought tooth and nail for it, and she had gotten the government and the lawyers to turn it over to her as the oldest living descendant.

That was over four decades ago.

She had lived the life of a spinster aunt to her nieces and nephews; she had given her life to the winery that her grandfather and uncle loved so much. It was the least she could do to repay those two men who loved her more than her own mother.

I am happy, aren't I? Orihime thought to herself as she looked up at the twinkling stars.

Yes. In a way.

But I wanted to travel the world and sing beautiful songs and dance on the stage, like the men and women I saw on that long-forgotten evening when I was young.

I was only waiting for Jacopo or Marco to grow up and take over the winery, and I would go all over the world and be an actress and make people smile and laugh and dream.

But you do make them laugh and smile. With your wine. The best red wine in all of Sardinia.

Orihime shivered against the cold. Winter gets colder when you get old.

It was a full life and a happy one. But, I think I'm missing something, Orihime thought to herself as she settled down for a light nap.

Far away, there was the sound of singing. How stupid. Carolers, this late at night?

But they sing very well and they sing softly enough for me to go to sleep…

Orihime closed her eyes. For a moment, she thought she knew what the carolers were singing.

They found her in the morning, a smile on her face.


July 24, 1969
Sendai, Japan

"How long has she been like this?" Kanzaki Sumire's voice trembled as she asked the question, while one hand stroked the snow-white hair of the sleeping woman.

"Going on sixty years now. Ever since she was a girl."

The old priest had shown her the room when she had said the name. At first he was adamant that there was no one here, but she had heard stories of a woman sleeping for decades, yet alive without taking food or drink. So she said a name.

A name that could only belong to her.

The features were faded, but she knew that face.

No doubt, she was as beautiful as she was in the dream when she was younger.

Sumire touched the wrinkled cheek of an older Shinguuji Sakura.

"It's not true that she doesn't eat or drink. She just doesn't when her caretakers are around."

The priest had settled down across her, while she held Sakura's hand in one of her own.

"I've left food in this room and the next time I came in, it was all gone."

Sumire nodded and ventured to ask a question.

"How did she… end up like this?"

"Well, as far as my predecessor worked it out, it was shock."

"Shock?"

"Her father, a military man, died when she was little. She was there."

"How—"

"Train accident. They were going to Tokyo for a holiday. Seems that her dad promised to show her the sights and the theater."

"The theater?" Sumire's voice had a hitch to it as she asked the question.

The old priest sighed and a wistful smile appeared on his face.

"I went through Shinguuji-san's belongings when I was a novice. Had to clean things up around here and the head priest wanted to make sure they were packed up good and tight so that when she woke up…" The old man trailed off, then continued. "The young girl had the acting bug, I can bet you that. Posters and magazines from Tokyo and the whole caboodle."

The priest let out another sigh.

"She never did wake up. She's missed over half a century sleeping like that.

"Won't be long now before she has no chance to wake up at all."

The priest looked up and gave Sumire a sad, little smile.

"She must be having one helluva dream."

Sumire had asked for a moment alone with Sakura. The priest only nodded and slipped out of the room.

"You know… I don't know whether to kiss you or to kill you, country girl," Sumire said with an affectionate pat on the unconscious woman's hand.

"You're the one aren't you? The one that got all of us together in the dream? I don't know how you did it, but you did it.

"You and I are the last ones left, you know. I can feel no one else since Iris died. I don't know why I only thought of going to Sendai now, not when I was younger. Maybe I was afraid. Of all of us, you seemed the most dreamlike. Now I know why.

"Are you still there, Sakura, inside the Dream? Are you alone? I hope you're not. At least one of us should live the Dream. And you deserve it most of all."

Sumire.

"I am deluding myself again. I thought I just heard you say my name."

Sumire.

"There it is again. I am really getting old."

Sakura smiled and opened her eyes.

"Sumire." Her voice was as clear as summer sunshine.

"Sakura, you're—"

"I just wanted to say thank you. And goodbye. He's waiting."

"What do you mean—?"

"We'll all be waiting. But, first you have something to do, sister of my dreams."

Sakura kissed her dumbstruck sister on her forehead then closed her eyes and fell back into a sleep that never ends.

And so the last of a sisterhood of Dreamers was left alone in the world, weeping for her lost brethren.


I wandered down Sleep's vast and sunless vale,
Where silence and Cimmerian darkness lay
That never moon nor stars disturb, nor Day
With sword of golden light. Beside the trail
I groping followed, through that secret dale,

A deep and voiceless river stole its way—

Dark Lethe's stream, owning whose opiate sway
I onward went without a doubt or fail.


May 15, 1972
Yokohama, Japan

Sumire felt weak. She smiled at all those who surrounded her deathbed. They all looked so grim. In her opinion, they needed to lighten up.

So she made a joke.

"So… this is what dying feels like."

"Mama, don't joke like that!" Yuki, her daughter-in-law, said to her.

"But you're all so glum! Smile!" Sumire knew it was her time. She had finished her book and she had sent it off to an old friend who'd take care of everything.

They had found her collapsed on her writing table after she had penned the last line of the story. Her cousin Kikyou had lost the originals, but Sumire still remembered them as if they were written yesterday.

Everyone was starting to tear up, and even her stoic son had the shine of moisture in her eyes.

"You'll find my last wishes with the lawyer, Yuuichi. Kaede-chan, would you come here?"

Kaede was a beautiful young lady now and she had the most wonderful voice.

"Now, Kaede, dry your eyes and take a deep breath. Sing a song for your family so they won't be sad."

Good, fine young woman, Kaede. Your father raised you well, and you have your grandfather's steel in you. So you will buck up and ask me what to sing.

"Ye-yes, obaasan. What song?"

"Do you remember when you were little and I told you stories? Sing me the song I taught you then. Sing it loud and wonderfully. For me."

Kaede is such a wonderful singer…

And that voice…

Sumire closed her eyes and listened to the song as she drifted off into her sleep.


Till, lo! the atramental veil of night
That, stifling, hung about, behind, before,
Was sudden parted by some unseen hand,
And on my vision leapt a marvelous sight—
A green and joyous plain, with fair skies o'er,
The Dream-god's sunlight-drenched, enchanted land.


There Is No Time Here:

Sumire opened her eyes.

It was a beautiful room. The purple wallpaper was a bit bright, but it accentuated the browns of the mahogany dressing table and the voluminous closet. She blinked in astonishment as she noticed she was sleeping in a four poster queen-size bed.

It was all so… so… young. And bright.

I am too old for this sort of thing, she thought to herself.

"You are as old as you need to be, Kanzaki Sumire."

A handsome young man had appeared as if by magic at her bedside. Dressed all in white and with unruly white hair, he looked like an alabaster vision.

"What do you—?"

Her voice. Beautiful. Not the gravel of her old age or the squeaking of her youth, but the utter perfection of…

She looked at her hands. Delicate fingers. Smooth skin.

She turned to the mirror and saw a face that she had longed to see for more than half a century. The tears on her face did not mar the elegant beauty of it.

"This is the part where I say 'Welcome back', but I already think you know that."

The man in white smiled as she looked up at him.

"Who are you?"

"My name is Helios. And I was, am, and will be the lord of this realm."

"I'm dead, aren't I?"

An indulgent smile appeared on the man's face.

"A part of you is dead. But, like all things, a person is made up of so many things that when he or she dies they start to come apart. Let's just say that the universe has decided to take you piecemeal and divide you where you're needed. I managed to steal away that bit of you that is important to me and mine. Now, I need to ask you a question."

Sumire had wiped away the tears and looked at Helios with curiosity. "What question?"

"Do you wish to stay in this Dream?"

"What sort of question is that? Of course I want to stay."

"Ah, but there are things you must know. This Dream is but one of many, brought about by the collective will of humanity across the Worlds, for the realms of Dream are the fabric that connects all the worlds of the multiverse. A Dream is not just a creation but a mirror, also. So I give you a choice, to stay in this Dream of World or to enter the World of this Dream. For all intents and purposes you will be the Sumire Kanzaki of that World. You have a choice to live a life as she."

Sumire frowned. "The other choice?"

"That you live in the Dream. For I have need of warriors, of heroes and heroines, Kanzaki Sumire. There are dark things brought into being by the mind of humanity as disgusting and evil as the beauty and goodness of its creations. I need Dreamers who fight with not just blade and fist and fire and flame, but with song and tale and brightness and hope.

"So I ask you this: two choices, that are both rewards and responsibilities of their own. Which do you choose?"

Sumire considered her dilemma. Then she smiled as she asked a question. "What did the others say?"

Helios smiled, then laughed a laugh that created worlds. Then he answered, "I think you know the answer to that."

Sumire was starting to cry again as she remembered her lost sisters. She knew their decision and she knew they would be waiting. "Then I think you know my answer."


On a hill in Sendai, there is a meter-high monument underneath a centuries-old cherry tree.

Simple and rather austere, it is made of stone that would stand the test of time.

Every year when the cherry blossoms bloom, there would be an offering set before it, of flowers and incense, accompanied by a bit of singing. That was the request after all.

Most residents think of it as an eccentric little landmark, and those who have seen those who maintained it thought of it as some peculiar monument to another age.

It was quite strange actually. It looked like a war memorial, but it wasn't dedicated to the Pacific War; that was obvious enough. Those were large things to commemorate the loss of entire companies and sons and fathers and brothers.

No. It seemed to be dedicated to a theater troupe, a group of women at that, some of them gaijin. But there were military ranks corresponding to a military unit. Strange to find such a thing. But the locals waved it off as the fault of some insane actress from the big city who wanted to commemorate her fellows. That was the story they heard, after all. You know the big city, filled with strange people. The dedication message that accompanied the names was strange, too. Truly, city folks were crazy people.

But, though the locals may occasionally complain, they would never have that meter-high stone torn down or removed. And every once in a while they would look up the hill and smile, especially when the cherry blossoms fell and the sounds of beautiful singing would be heard.

To the infrequent tourist who was curious enough to go up the hill and gaze at that simple monument, this was what they saw carved on the stone:

HANAGUMI TEIKOKUKAGEKIDAN

Ichiro Ogami Taii
Tachibana Maria Chuii
Kirishima Kanna Nitogunso
Li Kohran Gunso
Shinguuji Sakura Heiso
Vicomtesse de Chateaubriand Iris Jotohei
Soletta Orihime Jotohei
Milchenstrasse Leni Jotohei
Kanzaki Sumire Jotohei

Yumejin ga shinde ka mo shirenai
Demo Yume ga mugen


Author's notes: Thanks for all the C&C for the first part. I really appreciate them. I know, I promised a full annotation but I'm tired as hell and this was a difficult piece to write. So, to all the dreamers out there…believe.


The Hanagumi Teikokukagekidan will return to the Dance in…

The Dreamquest of Luna and Artemis

Catablanca
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