Sakura Wars Fan Fiction ❯ Aftermath ❯ Questions ( Chapter 2 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Author's Notes:

SPOILER WARNING!!! If you haven't seen the Sakura Taisen Kayou Show Final (Shin Ai Yueni) and have intentions of watching it, plus is allergic to spoilers, then please back out now. This story is highly inspired by that show, particularly the events in Act 2, and I don't really want to ruin such powerful scenes for you.
More references are made here, including about one or two from the OVAs. Note that I didn't use anything from the TV series, as that probably took place in an entirely alternate universe, and is one that I'm not really quite fond of.
Disclaimer: Sakura Taisen is owned by Sega and Red Entertainment. I am not making a profit out of this fanfic, but still, this particular story is mine, so please don't take it.
The door to Sumire's room opened, causing Oogami to look up from his leaning position on the wall. Reni soon emerged, quietly closing the door behind her. She looked at Oogami, gave him a curt nod, and began to move towards her room without a single sound.
“Reni,” Oogami said gently. “Can we talk?”
Reni still had her back towards him, but at least she had come to a stop.
Oogami took a deep breath. "I know," he began, "... that you were bothered by what Sumire had said. Would you care to tell me about it?"
Reni was hesitant. She didn't really want to talk about anything to anyone at that moment, but at the same time she felt that if she remained silent, she would burst from the various different feelings coursing through her.
But the captain had always been there to help her, even though she usually never asked for it. Surely he could do something to ease her confusion.
"(1)Taichou..." she began, though abruptly stopping, as her sharp ears caught the sound of someone coming up the stairs at the end of the hallway.
Oogami heard it, too. "Would you like to join me at the library?" he offered, not really comfortable in asking if she would like to talk in either one of their rooms.
Reni shrugged, but she followed him anyway.
On the way, they passed by Maria, who was the one they heard earlier as she walked towards Kanna's room. They acknowledged each other with a short nod, before they all went to their respective destinations.
When they arrived at the library, Reni leaned against the wall beside the entrance and stared at the floor. Oogami stood a few feet in front of her, waiting... encouraging her to begin the conversation.
“Y-you once told me,” Reni finally spoke, “that our reason for fighting was to protect the ones dear to us.”
Oogami nodded, remembering. (2)It was during the time when Reni was under Suiko's influence, when they were trying to prove that she was not merely a machine raised solely for fighting.
“But if we were unable to achieve that goal, then what does that make of us? A failure?”
“Reni, I don't think we would ever come to that...”
“Please answer me, Taichou.”
When Oogami couldn't reply, Reni lowered her head, disappointed that he was not able to disprove her query. “I see...”
Oogami vigorously shook his head. “No, I don't think you do. Reni, nobody is a failure!”
“You did not sound so convinced yourself.”
Oogami winced. Reni was right - he did felt like he was a failure. He was the captain of the Hanagumi, and the over-all commander of the Teikoku Kagekidan. It was his job to ensure that everyone in the troop was safe. He even promised them so many times that he would protect them without fail.
What happened to those promises? And how can he ever explain himself to Yoneda, who had (3)entrusted both his position and the lives of his precious daughters to him?
“True...” he finally admitted. “Right now I feel like I had totally let Sakura-kun down, even though I know I probably had no fault... that no one was at fault. I'm not even sure if I could still face her like I used to, with this feeling hanging over me.”
He frowned. “No. Actually, I'm very grateful that I can still face her. If she hadn't come back... well, I'm not sure what I would have ended up doing.” He sighed deeply, hoping it would never come to that.
“But you know, Reni, failure is just an adjective. An emotion. A feeling that may gnaw at you permanently, but only if you let it. Once you stand back up and start walking again, it gradually dissipates.”
“Based on your logic, you're also saying that in the end even our enemies are not failures, though they failed to achieve their own goals,” Reni scoffed.
“They're not,” her companion argued. “Because they were still able to get their message across, no matter how twisted it may be.”
Oogami could see that Reni was still unconvinced, so he continued. “The fact that we are able to touch the life of even just one other, human or otherwise, intentional or not, during or beyond our lifetime... it is, without fail, every single being's greatest achievement. If you think about it, it is the basis why all of us even have reasons to do what we do.” He shrugged. “And when someone has achieved something so great, then he can't be called a failure, can't he?”
Reni was staring straight ahead, her eyes unfocused and looking past Oogami as she dwelled on what he had said. “ touch the life of another...” she murmured.
“(4)Shiro is a good example of that.”
She blinked, her thought process disturbed. “Shiro?”
“He may only be a dog, but he was certainly able to carve himself a little niche in your heart by just playing with you.”
Reni had to smile a little to that.
Oogami sat down on a nearby chair and leaned on his knees with his elbows, his palms brought together in front of him. “So... what happens if I'm unable to achieve my goals? Yes, I would feel like a failure, as I had just admitted earlier. But I would like to think that I would eventually be able to pick myself up again, and spend the rest of my life atoning for my shortcomings, reaching out to other people and carving new aspirations for myself in the process.
“Just like what (5)Yoneda-chujo had done...”
His last statement was said so softly, Reni was hardly able to hear it. But she did. And she understood.
It was enough to allay her insecurities. For now.
Oogami closed his eyes. He truly wished that he could be as strong as Yoneda if such a tragedy does occur. (6)The Hanagumi already had so many close calls - in fact, Sakura's “death” meant that all the six original members of the division had already “died” at one point. In all cases, Oogami placed all his focus on fighting against the enemy, if only to forget that they had been lost. He never had the time to truly lament - luck always seemed to be with them, as they were all revived before he even had the chance to grieve.
But someday, that luck they had come to rely on would run out. Someday, there would not be an Angel Michael, or any other miracle that could bring a beloved comrade back to life. And he didn't know if he would ever be ready when it does happen.
Just the mere thought of it made his chest constrict in pain.
Oogami looked up. While he had been preoccupied, Reni had moved forward and was now kneeling in front of him.
“Vouching for the other Hanagumi members as well as myself, you have, without a doubt, long attained that greatest achievement of which you claim, and continue to do so now.”
“Reni...” Oogami couldn't say anything else.
“I just thought you ought to know.”
With that, Reni stood back up and left the library.
Oogami paused for a while, before leaving the room himself.
As he had predicted earlier, he still had a long night ahead of him.
Her hands folded on her lap as she sat quietly on Iris' bed, Sakura watched while Iris put on her nightgown and tucked her blond hair beneath a nightcap. Though she was only 8 years older, she felt something akin to maternal pride as she observed that the young French girl who was hardly 10 years old when they first met was now promising to be a beautiful young teenager.
Although I don't think Jean Paul will ever be detached from her, no matter how old she gets, Sakura slyly noted as Iris gently picked the teddy bear up before sitting down right next to her.
Though they often had conversations late into the evening this way, it wasn't often that Iris would lay her head on Sakura's shoulder, and it was even rarer that she would grip her kimono's sleeve as if trying to make sure that she stayed put, similar to Kohran. But tonight she did, and Sakura knew it was her way of saying that she needed comfort.
Comfort Sakura wasn't sure she would be able to provide that night.
“Iris,” she began. “I'm not sure if I had thanked you enough for what you and the others had done for me today.”
Iris shook her head slowly, but didn't say anything. Sakura felt her tremble, though, her hold on her kimono tightening, as if Iris knew what she was going to say next.
“I'm really sorry for having the need to ask this.” Sakura tilted her head a bit so that she was looking directly at Iris. “But... would you really have exchanged your life for mine, had the others not stopped you?”
“Yes,” Iris immediately answered.
Sakura swivelled towards Iris as the younger girl raised her head. It pained her to state what she had to say next, but she knew that she had to do it. For Iris' sake. “Iris, I need you to promise that you won't ever do, or even think about doing that again.”
Iris glared at her. She just knew that Sakura would ask that of her. But she would never listen. Not when her friend and caretaker's life was at stake. “No, Iris won't.”
“Iris, please...”
“No!!” Iris said vehemently. “Why can't Iris do it?! Sakura has always taken care of Iris! It's only right that Iris should give something in return!”
Sakura was tight-lipped as she tried to dissuade her charge. “Even if I took care of you for the rest of our lives, it would still not be enough to pay for your life. How do you think I would feel if I found out that you died in place of me?”
“Iris doesn't care!” the young French cried. “Iris doesn't want to be in a world without all her friends! Iris wants to be with everyone!”
Sakura gave her a reprimanding look. “You're just being very selfish,” she scolded.
“No, `am not!”
“Iris...” Sakura reached over and tried to give her a consoling hug. “We all can't be together forever. No matter how much you love someone...” she paused, trying to control her emotions as she thought about her father. “Well... everyone dies sooner or later.”
“But with Iris, it's different! Iris has the power to bring people back to life!”
“Iris should also learn to value her own life more,” Sakura argued gently.
Iris buried her face in Sakura's shoulder, still shaking her head, still refusing to give in. “Sakura is not being fair...” she whimpered. “How many times had Sakura protected Iris from harm? How many times had Sakura almost seriously injured herself because of Iris?”
(7)The memory of her covering Iris with her own body when a bomb had exploded in the dressing room came to Sakura's mind, along with all the other times she used herself as a shield for others.
(8)Oogami at the basement.
The young mother and her baby at the shrine.
Suddenly, pain flared from where she had obtained her wounds earlier that day. It took all her willpower not to wince and let Iris know of her discomfort.
“Iris really loves onee-chan, so she can't... she just can't...” Iris wept, tears forming rivulets on her cheeks as they fell from her eyes.
“If Sakura is willing to die for Iris, then why can't Iris do the same?”
Sakura bit her lip. It has been so long since Iris had called her “onee-chan” - the last she could remember was when she was still trying to assimilate herself to the newly formed Hanagumi, so many years ago. She had always been grateful to the little girl, as she was the first one whom she became closely acquainted with during those trying times - sure, Maria had also been friendly, but she was really more of a mentor than a friend, which was what Sakura sorely needed back then.
She was losing her internal battle. The back of her eyes were stinging; her throat was choked as a sob threatened to come out. She pressed Iris even closer to her, whispering as she dared not trust the strength of her voice:
“Because Sakura doesn't want to be in a world without Iris, either...”
Because I am just as selfish as you.
Iris was now crying in earnest. Sakura continued to hold on to her, and wept silently as her self-appointed charge wrapped her arms around her as tight as she could.
When Oogami reached the hallway leading back to the dormitories, he was surprised to find Maria emerging from Kanna's bedroom. Given that Kanna was just as drunk as Sumire had been, he had not expected that Maria would take as long as she did in getting the Okinawan ready for bed.
“Ya, Maria...” Oogami said after she had turned and noticed him as well. “We seem to run into each other quite often tonight.”
Maria gave him a small smile. “True, Taichou. The Hanagumi... seem to be in need of some counselling tonight on account of what happened.”
Oogami nodded in agreement, now having understood why Maria was held back.
“Anyway, I was able to contact Orihime and have already spoken to Kanna, so you need not worry about them. Sakura seems to have been able to handle Kohran and is currently with Iris. I trust that you have taken care of Sumire and Reni as well.”
“Yes... thank you for all your help,” Oogami said, grateful for her assistance.
“You're welcome.”
There was, however, a hint of hesitation in Oogami's voice earlier - one which Maria was quickly able to pick up. “What is it, Taichou?”
“How about you, Maria?” Oogami asked quietly.
“Experiences such as these are common on the battlefield,” she quickly replied. “You might say I'm already a veteran.”
Oogami placed his hands in his pockets and leaned back against the wall. “That doesn't mean that there isn't anything bothering you.”
Maria chuckled softly. “You're as perceptive as always, Taichou.”
The Hanagumi commander shrugged. “It's my job.”
His vice commander shook her head. “No. It's just you.”
From their location at the hallway, they could hear Iris sobbing from her room, so they quietly decided to give her more privacy and vacated the area. I still haven't done my night rounds anyway, Oogami thought as they wandered aimlessly around the Teigeki with no particular destination in mind.
They passed by the vice commander's room, where Kaede laid sleeping, dead to the world after she and Yoneda had also gone on a drinking spree of their own somewhere in town. It seems that, unlike her older sister, she couldn't handle alcohol very well herself, and much like Oogami with Sumire earlier, Yoneda had to half-drag, half-carry her back to the theatre, muttering to himself that he would never get Kaede drunk again.
That was before Yoneda saw Sakura - the Hanagumi's own party was still on at full-blast when they got to the theatre. Upon laying his eyes on her, the aging man suddenly broke down, and he had to be pried away gently from Sakura and brought home himself, with Kasumi escorting him.
Oogami knew that he was thinking about Shinguuji Kazuma again.
When they reached the salon, they stopped by to pet Shiro, who had taken shelter in the room for the night.
It wasn't until they reached the hall leading to the terrace before Oogami asked Maria about her concerns.
“I'm worried,” Maria answered. “Not only for Sakura, but for all of us, in general.”
“I guess you're also thinking about how today marks the day when everyone in the Hanagumi sans Reni, Orihime, and myself had died and was reborn?” Oogami inquired.
Maria glanced at him, slightly surprised that he had the same thoughts. “Yes.”
Oogami exhaled slowly.
“It's not about our fighting skills,” Maria said quickly, thinking that perhaps her captain felt that she was reprimanding him for his leadership skills again. “It's more about... well...”
She paused to collect her thoughts. “I'm just wondering how different we are from our previous enemies, given that we ourselves are also reviving the dead to fight again.”
Oogami's eyebrows knotted together. “You mean... like the (9)Hangon no Jutsu?”
Maria nodded. By that time they had already made it to the second floor audience seating within the theatre, where they sat down to continue their discussion as they stared at the empty stage below.
“When it happened the first time, these thoughts didn't occur to me,” Maria admitted. “It wasn't the choice of anyone within us to be revived - someone else had done it for us. But for Sakura, we were desperate. How long can this go on before we begin to seek other sources of power if only to keep our loved ones alive?”
“And how long would that quest for power turn into lust, eventually blinding us and setting ourselves up against those we had once sworn to protect?” Oogami muttered, his voice sounding detached, as if he was a million miles away.
Once again, Maria stared at Oogami, him having finished her question for her. “Yes...”
The Hanagumi captain pondered on the query for a while. “Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I could provide an answer to that,” he finally said, sitting up straight in his seat. “We're all individuals after all, and we have different reactions to different situations.
“(10)But Yoneda-shihainin had probably said it best when he confronted Shinnosuke Yamazaki when he was revived by Kyogoku.” Oogami smiled. “'Don't place too much trust on strength alone,' he had said. And we all know that that is true within the Hanagumi, as we have also come to place our trust in each other, and in the power we know we have within ourselves.”
In other words, when faced with issues, we are more than willing to exhaust everything within our own capabilities, including the possibility of giving up our own life, before we would even dream about harming others.
“As long as we continue to build that trust, I don't think we need to worry,” Oogami said. “And as for the difference between us and the enemy, well… here's something to think about.”
He turned and met Maria's green eyes. “You're still you, right? You're not acting on anyone's behalf. You're your own master.”
Maria held his gaze for a moment, as she felt relief wash over her. “You're right.”
They stayed at their seats a few minutes more, reflecting on everything that had been said and done that night. Eventually, Oogami was left alone, as Maria got up and bade him good-night.
Story Notes:
(1) - “taichou” - captain/commander
(2) - Reference: Sakura Taisen 2 Episode 6
(3) - Reference: Sakura Taisen 4 Act 3
(4) - "Shiro” - the dog Oogami, Sakura, and Kohran adopted in Sakura Taisen 2 Episode 4. The name may vary depending on the player's choice. In this case, the name Sakura had suggested is used.
(5) - "Yoneda-chujo” - Lt. General Yoneda. Also, what is referred here is that Yoneda had lost all his comrades from the Tai-Kouma Butai, but he continues to move on despite being depressed about it.
(6) - As far as I understood, each Hanagumi minus Oogami and Sakura died when they began infiltrating the Seimajou in the final episode of Sakura Taisen 1. I never completed the game with anyone else other than Sakura though, so if I am mistaken, please feel free to correct me.
(7) - Reference: Sakura Taisen “Gouka Kenran” Episode 1
(8) - Reference: Sakura Taisen 1 Episode 6 (Episode 7 in the PS2 version)
(9) - "Hangon no Jutsu” - literally, “anti-soul technique”, used by Kyogoku Keigo to revive Yamazaki Shinnosuke and Shinguuji Kazuma in Sakura Taisen 2, and was in Sakura Taisen 4 said to be a technique mastered by a certain Okubo Nagayasu during the Edo era, used to make the dead to work at the mines
(10) - “Yoneda-shihainin” - Manager Yoneda. Also, note the reference to Sakura Taisen 2 Episode 1