|A Year and Change|
|Memories of Tokyo|
TOKYO DOES NOT have many parks, something that surprises people who think that Japan, famous for its nature-loving culture, would have filled its capitol with lovely landscapes. It surprised Urawa Makoto that this park was still here, for there had been talk that it would be replaced with yet another commercial/residential complex even before she met Tsukino Usagi, before she knew she was a senshi . . .
There were happy memories of this place . . . This was the dock she had spent many an hour standing on, or sitting on the edge, talking with Minako, or or sometimes Usagi, or sometimes even Rei. That was the tree she was sitting by when Usagi first shyly approached her. Almost all the good things of her life began with that moment, by that tree, which still stood, and still lived. Appropriate that it should have all started at these things of wood . . .
It did not look like the park would be here much longer. There were surveyors working, stakes and strings being driven and strung, and even some of the bushes and smaller trees dug up and waiting to be moved, with holes where more of them had been. Fortunately this had been done only on one edge of the park so far, so as long as Tammy and Zara stayed on the other side, as they were ordered, they shouldn't be falling into holes. ZoŽ was keeping them out of trouble, anyway. And Philip? He never went more than a few meters away, and he kept looking back, making sure she was still there.
"Don't get to close to the edge," Makoto said in English.
"Hai, okasan," Philip answered. Philip was not only fluent in Japanese; he spoke it without an American accent. If one did not see his wheat-blond hair and his round blue eyes, one might think he had lived in Tokyo all his short life. Bundled up with his hair stuffed under a knit cap, perhaps people still would not notice . . .
It was a cold day, a quite cold day for September, too cold to bring out the babies for any length of time, so they were back with the Ayakashi. All their children were old enough to be in school now, so there was always one Auntie at home available and very willing to watch the babies . . . For all their globetrotting and dimension travel, and all the men in their lives, and all their bickering, the Ayakashi were still together.
And no one was trying to take any of their children away.
Actually, Makoto would have rather stayed with her babies, but Philip would not go out without her, and he had not been out for more than a week, except to local markets with Makoto a couple of times. It was not the same as going out and just being a six-year-old outdoors in fresh air, or at least as fresh as it ever got in Tokyo. Maybe the air was a little better than when Makoto was young . . .
Tammy and Zara were on the other side of the lake now, ZoŽ trying to catch up. Zara was undoubtedly leading Tammy in this game, and the game was to drive ZoŽ to distraction. They were getting into . . .
"Tammy! Zara! Stay where ZoŽ can see you!" Makoto shouted. But there was road work going on by the park, by the part that was being dug up, and it was noisy, and the children did not hear, or they could say they did not hear; Zara was not above that sort of thing.
Makoto picked up Philip and began to run around the lake. When she finally came upon Zara and Tammy, hiding in along in the dense shrubs along a path not laid out by the park, but beaten by many feet over many years. Mako remembered this path . . .
Makoto screamed: "Zara! Tammy! I told you not to get out of ZoŽ's sight!"
"I'm sorry!" said Zara, clearly shaken. ZoŽ was staring at Makoto . . .
Makoto stopped. She set down Philip, and hugged Zara and Tammy. "I'm sorry. But I worry so much about you . . . There are bad men here in Japan, too. You must be careful."
It would have been easier to follow the path, but Makoto went back the way she had come, taking the children with her.
Game Center Crown was an electronics store now, the secret equipment long since removed to the operations center in the secret second basement of the Alvarson Mansion. Fruit Parlor Crown, surprisingly, was still in business under the same name. Since the Ayakashi did not live in Juuban and had not for many years, Makoto was surprised that Petz knew of it. Of course, being a professional teleporter for the Grey Company, Petz had no problem making a mere fifteen-kilometer hop for lunch. Being a senshi, and with two chibi senshi among her charges, Makoto had no trouble joining her, except a fear that they might be caught. But Petz said, "Nothing to worry about in Tokyo. The ones that notice, they think they must have had a daydream or something, and they soon forget."
"Aren't you bringing Juzo?"
"Oh, Juzo wouldn't be caught dead there! Fruit Parlor Crown is for families and old people like us now, not for stylish middle school boys!"
Juzo heard that, of course, and with a look of resignation shut off his video game and came to stand with his mother and the rest of their not-so-little crowd, for it was Sunday, and all the Ayakashi and all their children were home. Makoto had time before they teleported to wonder if Juzo knew about the Dark Moon, and his father . . .
Petz was right about not having trouble, though she had been prudent enough to pick a relatively secluded spot: the roof. It was empty, though there was a little outdoor furniture indicating that it was not always unoccupied. <Perhaps they can sense their targets,> speculated Makoto. The Ayakashi were fast friends, but they had their secrets, and they were part of the Grey Company. If its Founder had not informed the senshi, of some secret of the Company, none of the members would.
Fruit Parlor Crown was also as Petz had described, a restaurant catering to an older crowd now. There were some vaguely familiar faces, but they did not seem to recognize Makoto--no surprise, since she wore a black wig, negating her most distinguishing feature: her brown hair invariably worn in a single ponytail. And, of course, she had not been in this place for more than a decade.
Makoto definitely identified "Joe" the crane game wizard at one table, trying to manage a fussy boy of around four. An empty high-chair indicated that his wife must be off with a younger child. Poor Joe was without a cap now, and he had lost almost all his hair already. He looked right at Makoto as she passed his table, but there was no recognition in his eyes.
To seat such a large group, the manager opened up a smaller dining room, explaining to Makoto, a new customer to her, "We usually use it for private parties, but your friends are perhaps our most faithful customers."
The meal went well, especially dessert--Fruit Parlor Crown had not lost its touch with sweets, and the children were transported. Cooan ate as enormously as Usagi once did, but she had an excuse, since she was eating for more than one--three; she was carrying another set of twins. The other Ayakashi teased her mercilessly, but Cooan ate on. It did not seem to affect her figure that much; her legs and her arms were still rather skinny. The swelling of her pregnancy made Makoto think of an olive on a toothpick.
It was secluded enough for Makoto to nurse, which meant she had to forgo eating for awhile, since Soraya and Zeus had definite opinions about one of them getting to nurse while the other waited. Tammy responded by feeding Makoto. She was amazingly adept with chopsticks now. Juzo turned beet red when he returned from the restrooms to find Makoto baring her breasts to her infants, but Karabaras' boy seemed to take it in stride.
The Ayakashi were wont to finish their meals with liesurely coffee, and Fruit Parlor Crown was also excellent at that, though Makoto was used to American-style coffee rather than the French-style brew they served.
With the babies napping in their carriers, Makoto escorted Philip for a restroom call. Zara and Tammy had gone with ZoŽ, but Philip was still permanently attached to Makoto. But not so attached that he would to in the Ladies room with her--he had begun drawing the line there about a year before. So, Makoto found herself waiting outside the Mens room.
And it was there that she found herself face to face with Hasakawa Toshiro, coming out of the Mens room. He had his eyes down, as one generally does when emerging from a place where one has taken care of one's personal functions and is among strangers. He began to pass her. But then he stopped, and turned back to face her.
"Makoto? Is it you?"
"Hai," said Makoto, responding before she thought--or rather, thought of the present.
Why was she doing this? She could have slapped his face for it. But this was Toshiro, and he had said the right words, and . . . and now she was here, peering through the bushes, hoping he would finish before anyone came. He groaned . . . perhaps it would be over soon. She used the tricks Mrs. Nobunaga had taught her to make him finish sooner. It was just a chore to her. Perhaps one day . . . but there was no joy in it today. <Hurry up, Toshiro, before . . .>
And then she heard someone chuckle. She had been watching the way to the lake, the way they had come from, but they were on the other side. And she suddenly knew they had been watching all along.
There were five of them, all Toshiro's friends.
"Makoto . . . I almost did not recognize you. I would have missed you except for those green eyes," said Toshiro. "So you dyed your hair then? I thought you were one of those northerners with natural color."
"Oh . . . This is a wig," said Makoto. <I can't make a scene of this.> "It is easier for me than fixing my hair all the time."
"Ahhh. It doesn't suit you. You should get one in brown. Or red . . . Like that red-haired waitress who was here when we were in Middle School. That would look nice on you."
"I have never thought of it," said Makoto blankly.
Philip emerged from the Men's room and took her hand. This prompted Toshiro to say, "Are you a nanny now?"
"This is my okasan," said Philip stubbornly, in perfect Japanese.
Makoto said quickly, "My stepson, but he is as one of my own."
"You are married?" said Toshiro, obviously surprised.
"I am a widow, Hasakawa-san."
ZoŽ appeared behind Toshiro with Zeus, halting a few paces from him. Toshiro seemed to take no notice. He said, "That is too bad . . . Do you have a card?"
"Take one of mine, then . . . I have some contacts who prefer the company of more mature women. It would be both pleasant and rewarding . . . perhaps we can get together sometime, too."
She took the card and examined it for a moment, burning with anger and shame that it took every effort to conceal. "Do you have a wife now, Hasakawa-san?"
"Of course I have a wife. What has that to do with this? I thought you could use the work."
<He actually thinks he is doing me a favor.> "How thoughtful of you, Hasakawa-san."
When Toshiro was gone, ZoŽ came up and asked, "Who was that?"
"Just someone I knew in school," Makoto told her.
ZoŽ came close and whispered, "Then why were you ready to kill him?"
"Okasan, I could see your sigil."
The church Philip and Tammy's parents belonged to now had members in Japan. Not many; Christians of all sects still were only a small portion of Japan's population. But as in the United States, they were very active, and now their leader had enjoined them to search for the "lost" children in Japan. Cry that he might, Philip stayed in the apartment when Makoto went out. At first she waited until Philip was asleep, but by the middle of October, he suddenly decided he liked Mari, Beruche's girl, and if they were together, it was safe to go out--safe from Philip's tears, at least.
Late one afternoon, Makoto slipped out of the crowded apartment alone and made her way to another special place: Hikawa Jinja, where Rei had lived, and the place the young senshi had most often gathered. But it was not mere nostalgia that brought Makoto to the shrine. She came to seek the help of the gods of her native land.
Kneeling before the sacred fire, Makoto wondered what Rei might read from the flames. What future was left here? As a planet senshi, Makoto could not go through a gate to another worldline unless there was a mission there--not just a rule of the Grey Company, but something in her nature. The only exception seemed to be the world of ZoŽ, Nancy, and the Grey Lady, but there was another reason Makoto could not stay there. <Send Tammy and Philip there?> There was no question that Nancy and her family would make a place for them, but . . .
<I could go to jail here. What would happen to ZoŽ, Zara, Soraya, and Zeus?> Makoto shuddered, thinking of them becoming wards of the court. Zara had some family in the United Kingdom, but the closest relative of her babies would be . . .
<Uncle Giro. If he's still alive . . .>
Makoto's reverie was interrupted by a woman's voice. She sprang up and took a stance. If it had been a man's voice, she would have done more . . .
The woman recoiled a bit. "I am sorry if I disturbed you. But are you Kino-san?"
Makoto felt shame. "Sensei. I am sorry . . . forgive me, Sakurada-san." She cast her eyes about. They were alone; afternoon had become evening while she had been meditating.
"It is Wakagi-san now," said the red-haired woman. "I found my husband after all."
It was the woman she had known as Sakurada Haruna, a teacher at her last middle school and then at Juuban High.
"With me it is Urawa-san now, sensei," said Makoto. "I found my husband too. But he is with the gods now."
"I know, Kino-san. I mean, Urawa-san," said Mrs. Wakagi. "I remember your husband. He was not at our school long, but he was a fine boy. He must have been a fine man."
"He was a very good man," said Makoto, feeling a tear running down her cheek. "Is your husband Wakagi-san the policeman?"
"Hai, Urawa-san," Mrs. Wakagi replied. "I am afraid that is how I know of you now."
"Please don't tell him," said Makoto.
Mrs. Wakagi was silent for a time. "Urawa-san, the longer you wait, the harder it will be for you. Perhaps it would be better--"
"They are not your children, Wakagi-san," said Makoto. "When I first found them . . . Philip could barely speak when I found him, and he was three. Tammy would hide the toys I gave her because she thought her parents would punish her and take them away."
Mrs. Wakagi was silent again, before saying, "I will not lie to Toshio. I will say that I met you here. But I do not know where to find you, do I?"
"Thank you," said Makoto.
Mrs. Wakagi sighed. "The Tokyo Police have many more important things to do than look for you, but they will find you sooner or later. If you change your mind, I think you should go to my Toshio or to Auntie Natsuna. She is retired now, but she has many contacts in the Metropolitan Police Department and the Justice Ministry." As she talked, she fished cards from her purse and handed them to Makoto. "And my card, too. I have no powerful friends except Auntie and my Toshio, but I will do what I can."
"Thank you, Wakagi-san," said Makoto. Looking at the cards, Makoto said, "Wakagi-san, your husband knew me before I knew you. Did he tell you--"
"Hai," said Mrs. Wakagi.
There was another silence between them. This time Makoto broke it.
"Wakagi-san, why have you come here?"
"To do what I always do when Toshio is out on an operation," said Makoto's sensei of old. "To ask the gods for his safe return. And to ask for a child. We have none, yet."
"May the gods grant your wishes, sensei," said Makoto with complete sincerity. And just as she did, either a puff of wind or perhaps a newly-exposed bit of pitch made the fire flare up for a moment . . .
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