Under the Rabbit’s Moon
Their story did not have a happy ending. Happy endings were endings, the finishing of things. Their story cycled into the hibernation of another ancient pattern doomed to be repeated in a later generation. Her boys died to save the world and all it had achieved was a handful of years meant for peace.
But it was peace, and hoards of people were too tired and too lost and too broken to believe it was anything less than what they had been fighting and dying for all along. The fatherless drank deep cups of sake in a shared tent and sang until they couldn’t feel the tears on their face anymore.
To them it was enough.
Not for her.
Sakura felt cursed with her inability to let go and see the resolution to their conflict as anything less than what it was. She couldn’t lie to her self, (though she tried), and believe things were okay. No, her boys were dead and that force was not yet defeated. Their last, best hope hadn’t been enough to lay the moon goddess to rest for good. The mother of all chakra still remained, but Naruto, Sasuke, and Kakashi were all gone.
She was alone, and that was why she dug through the ancient tree, peeling back bark and acid sap and carving out chunks of the innermost wood before reaching the nub of gelatin like coating that housed the immortal. Sakura’s body was decaying fast, burning down to bones, but she peeled it back and broke the pod open, yin seal blow wide and glowing.
‘‘You hope to kill me?’’ Kaguya’s voice was a mournful echo between Sakura’s ears. “Ah, if only you could. There must always be a cursed one. That is the price of things. Magic, chakra, power…it isn’t free. Don’t you know that silly child?’’
Sakura screamed, feeling her face burn as the seal spread out lines of iridescent purple thicker and thicker across her body. She was dying and being reborn all at once, but it wouldn’t last forever. She would run out of chakra and die soon enough and no one would be around to find her body. No one dared come close to the sacred tree, not after they saw what it had done at the last battle. Too many people remembered being a part of it, of being sucked dry by it.
“I’m taking you with me,” Sakura grunted through clenched teeth.
The woman’s voice tinkled like a bell. “Will you do it? Will you free me from this curse?”
Suddenly, it was more than just a voice between Sakura’s ears. She saw the moon goddess standing in the darkness, her skin ash white and eyes as wide and ancient as the surface as the moon reflected across a still ocean. Sakura’s mental defenses sprang up in response, strong and faster from all those years of developing a second persona. Mental hands reached for the mental moon goddess, but froze just shy of squeezing her to death.
“I’ll give you what you want if you can take it from me,’”Kaguya intoned, closing her pearl colored eyes and opening the slit on her brow to show a spinning third eye, patterned with the sharingan.
Sakura’s body was nearly gone, approaching the point of no return as the acid burned faster and harsher than ever. In her mind she fought against the woman, but in the real world she was paralyzed. It wasn’t unexpected. Sasuke and Naruto had been powerless when they teamed up alongside Kakashi. What made her think she would be enough?
“But you are. They were going about it the wrong way,” Kaguya cried.
Sakura screamed, feeling the pain of her physical body give her the last mental boost needed to finish closing her fists and squeezing the woman out of existence. Kaguya was gone in a cloud of shimmering moon dust and Sakura collapsed, knowing her body wasn’t going to last more than a minute.
’That’s fine. I’ll see them again,’ she thought, closing her eyes.
In the back of her mind she felt cold fingers run patterns through her thoughts. There was a tinkling of bells and womanish laughter. “Yes, you will.”
That had been three years ago.
Sakura makes it a game to guess the ages of the children who dare each other to pass into her hedge garden, a place she’s tended to with the intention of making it a place for healing the sick and tending to the injured. It just so happened that too many of the men and women she restored took to repaying her with cultivating the land into a zen garden surrounded by intricately trimmed hedges. It makes it easy for her to develop a genjutsu on the hedges that keep out intruders.
Children too young to see through her illusion wander until they are tired and give up or fall asleep in the cooling shade. More than once she’s had to carry out sleeping children, proving further stories of horror and terror.
There is a boy today too young to be much older than five or six with ashen blond hair, stumbling around, trying to get through. Sakura recognizes him as one of the boys she has had to carry out. Admittedly she found him cute with wide eyes and a face full of soft baby fat too innocent and too young for the leg guards and gauntlets he already sported.
When he falls asleep under one of the hedges Sakura stops just outside the reach of the hedge’s shade and wonders if she shouldn’t just keep him to herself, protect him from the fighting she knows is happening not too far away in a land she has no interest in.
She kneels, loose pants brushing the soft grass as her knees touch down. His mouth is open and drooling onto his arm as his legs stretch out in sleep. He is content where he lies, he feels comfortable in the shade and it nearly breaks her heart.