MINAKO THROUGH THE MIRROR
Chapter 1: "Timing Is Everything"
A Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
Sailor Moon and all related characters are (c)2008 by Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha and Toei Animation and are used without permission, but with respect. Story is (c)2008 by Bill K.
When Rei Hino read the return address on the letter, she didn't even wait to get back to the shrine to open it. She opened it right there on the steps leading up to Hikawa Shrine. The return address was from the Dominican Republic. There was only one person she knew from that part of the world.
"Dearest Rei," the letter began, "how have you been? I hope you haven't been missing me too much. And yet, I pray you miss me a lot and will never forget me. Selfish, I know, but I can't help it where you're concerned.
"My bat has stayed hot. I'm tearing up the Dominican League. Everyone says it's early and I'll cool down, but I've always started slow before. I hope this is a sign from God (or whomever, Sensei) that I've finally turned the corner. I'm seeing the ball so clearly and driving it so effortlessly. The Padres scouts are encouraged and if I can keep this up, their left field job is mine.
"Off the field, I see your face everywhere I turn. I wish you were here with me. I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. I understand your commitments. But there's a loneliness to my life that I never had before. There's an empty spot in my life that's just about your size.
"The Dominican is a beautiful place, if you can look past the poverty. In a few ways, it's like Japan. You should visit. I think you'd like it. I know I would. Say the word and I'll send you a ticket. And yes, I'm trying to tempt you.
"Say 'hello' to your friends for me. I hope the pregnant one has a happy, healthy baby. And be well, Rei. Write me soon, please. Something, anything, that was connected to you at one time, even something as small as a letter, will help make the bus rides between games a little shorter.
"I dedicated my first homer to you. It felt good. But it didn't feel as good as you do.
A wistful smile dimpled Rei's cheeks and caused the tear in her eye to trickle down the edge of her jaw. Her hand caressed the letter lightly, hoping to extract some faint residue of his psychic aura. Failing that, Rei carefully folded the letter back up and put it into the envelope. Then she raced up the steps for the shrine. Chores could wait. Answering Derek's letter couldn't.
And then her Senshi Communicator sounded. Momentarily crestfallen, Rei shoved down her disappointment and answered the page.
In her apartment, Makoto Ikegami moved for the closet where she'd stored her overnight bag. Remembering that the January winds were blowing, she pulled on her coat first and then tried to bend down for the bag. Her distended abdomen got in the way.
"Oh, damn it," she muttered to herself. "Akiko! Come on! We have to go!"
"Want me to get that for you, Kino?"
Makoto turned to Shinozaki, standing in the hall behind her. He had dropped by out of the blue for a visit, for no reason he could name. While always glad to see him, she was really glad to see him now.
"Would you? Bending isn't something I do very well anymore and my knees hurt enough as it is," Makoto smiled. Shinozaki swept up the bag and held onto it. "I can still carry!"
"You're carrying enough as it is," he shook his head with that maddeningly calm way he had. "Now aren't you glad I stopped by?"
"I'd like to know how you knew," Makoto eyed him with humorous suspicion. Then she grimaced.
"Yeah. Don't worry, we've got time."
"I didn't know, actually," Shinozaki said, his lanky frame leaning against the wall as he held the overnight bag. He still looked malnourished to Makoto, as he always had. "For some reason I just thought I should look in on you. Since you're going into labor, I guess it was pretty good timing."
"Always there to rescue me," Makoto chuckled.
"Are you all right, Mommy?" little two year old Akiko asked from the doorway. Though she was familiar with Shinozaki as a family friend, the sudden bustle had her uneasy.
"Yes, Akiko, I'm all right," Makoto told her daughter. "It's just - - your brother's telling me he's ready to come out and we've got to go to the hospital."
"Oh," Akiko replied, scowling sullenly.
"Akiko, don't be like that," her mother sighed. "Now get your coat on! We have to go!"
"Did you call everybody?" Shinozaki prompted.
"Called San-San," Makoto nodded. "Called Ami and her mother." Makoto beamed at him. "Ami is actually going to deliver this one! I'm so excited!"
"Has she done it before?"
"Her first time. That's why she wanted her mom on hand to assist. I told her she could do it fine, but Ames has to be thorough." Makoto seemed to dampen just a bit. "I wanted her to deliver Akiko, but she didn't get back from college in time."
"Is it that important?" Shinozaki asked.
"We toasted. We swore," Makoto answered. Then she colored slightly. "I figured it might be bad luck."
"Haven't changed a bit, Kino," he smirked.
"Shut up," Makoto grinned. "And it's IKEGAMI now!"
"You'll always be Kino to me."
"You're lucky I'm pregnant or I'd kick your butt," Makoto volleyed back. "Akiko, let's go!"
"I don't want to go!" Akiko whined.
"Tough! Now get your coat on!" Makoto replied sharply.
"Ohhh-kay!" her daughter huffed.
The trio headed down to the garage. Shinozaki escorted them to his car and, when everybody was buckled in, started it up. The auto moved into daytime traffic with ease. Suddenly, though, a buzz cut through the car. Shinozaki and Makoto simultaneously looked down to the device on Makoto's wrist.
"What's that, a pager?" Shinozaki asked.
"Um," Makoto said, staring at her Senshi communicator, "yeah."
Shinozaki looked at her. "Bad news?"
"Looks like," Makoto grimaced. "I hope they're not going to need me."
Minako stood in the hallway outside of a Tokyo area recording studio. Her hands trembled with excitement as she fumbled to dial the number on her cell phone. Even now she couldn't believe what had just happened and she had to tell someone or she'd burst. Holding the phone to her ear, Minako counted the rings anxiously. Three. Four. Five.
"Answer the phone, Toshi!" she gasped to herself in frustration. Her well-cared for figure jiggled in her jeans and knit top. It wasn't glamorous, but recording studios were nothing if not ultra-casual.
"Yes, Minako," Toshihiro finally answered. His tone was measured and struggling to stay calm.
"Before you start, I know I'm not supposed to call you when you're on the set, but this was an ultra super mega-emergency!" Minako stated pre-emptorially.
"You got a write-up in J-Pop Weekly?" Toshihiro replied blandly.
"Blow it out your ear!" his lover shot back with playful indignation. "Ko Agashi called!"
"You got the part?" Toshihiro asked, perking up.
"I GOT THE PART!" Minako squealed. "Shooting starts in a month!"
"Wonderful," she heard him sigh happily. "This is really going to do things for you, Mina. That role is the perfect step up from what you're doing now. Pull this off and you'll be even bigger."
"I know! It's all coming together! Oh, I'm so happy!," Minako sighed. Then she straightened up. "You are OK with the kissing scene I have with Kojiro Futabara, aren't you?"
"I'd be more OK with it if you'd marry me," Toshihiro replied.
"Toshi!" Minako gasped. "Don't spoil things!"
"How is that spoiling things?"
"Toshi, I love you! Why do we have to get married to prove that?"
"I keep telling you that you don't have to be scared of it if we truly love each other."
"Why is this so important to you?" Minako fumed.
"We both know why," Toshihiro answered. "The reason I want a commitment from you is the same reason you're scared to make that commitment." There was a silence. "I'm still happy for your good fortune. I'll see you tonight. Take care. Love you."
"Love you, Toshi," Minako whispered. "Bye."
She leaned back against the wall and expelled a breath. That could have gone better. It was a problem with their relationship that didn't seem to want to go away. The specter of Kaitou Ace still stood between them. It made Toshihiro unsure about her commitment to him because he knew the history she had with Ace. And it made her uneasy about committing more to him for fear of drawing Ace back into the picture. He had vowed that she would never know happiness with another man and she knew he would live up to that vow if at all humanly possible.
"Minako?" her record producer said, to her relief, popping his head out of the studio door. "We're ready for you now."
Shoving off the door, Minako headed for the studio. Personal problems were pushed aside, as she did when she went into action as Sailor Venus. The professional took over. And just before she grasped the door, her senshi communicator went off.
"Not now!" she groaned. It took her a second to scan the message. She burst into the producer's room. "I'm sorry, Kuwabuki-San! Something's come up! I've got to go!"
"Minako!" Kuwabuki, a middle-aged veteran of the music industry, exclaimed with shock.
"I know! I'm sorry! It can't be helped! I'll do double duty when I get back! Please apologize to the others in the studio for me!"
And she ran for the elevator. Once more, the professional took over and shoved her regrets down inside her.
In a residential section of Azabu-Juuban, Usagi nervously paced the sidewalk outside of her apartment building. She scanned the street for the ninth time, searching for a familiar Toyota mid-size. When her search again proved fruitless, the woman wrung her hands and fretted some more.
"What's taking so long?" Usagi thought. "Ami should have been here by now."
The morning had started out normally enough. Usagi had awakened, bleary-eyed and half asleep, amid the gentle prodding of her husband and the not-so-gentle prodding of Luna. They'd had breakfast, Usagi had seen Mamoru off, and had settled into her morning routine. The breakfast dishes were washed and she was listening to Luna nag her about starting the day's manga assignment while she let her concentration wander to anything other than work.
"Maybe I should go on without her," Usagi thought. "People may be getting hurt, after all."
Then the senshi communicator sounded. Luna quieted instantly and listened as Usagi answered it. Ami was on the other end of the communication. Word had gotten around the hospital that something was rampaging through part of the Odaiba business district and the trauma teams were on alert. From the information she gathered, Ami thought it was something the senshi needed to handle. Trusting Ami's judgment, Usagi agreed and sent out alerts to the other senshi while Ami drove over to pick her up.
"One of these days I've got to get a driver's license," Usagi thought as she waited impatiently. "It's funny how I never remember anything Haruka tries to teach me. I don't think it's her. She's an excellent driver." Then Usagi paused. "Of course, we'd have to get a second car - - and I don't think Mamo-chan would approve of that. I wonder if I could win one in a contest."
The woman shook herself.
"Concentrate!" she berated herself. "You're going into battle! You have to stay focused! People get hurt when you don't stay focused!"
Just then she spotted Ami's car. It pulled up and stopped in the middle of traffic long enough for Usagi to scramble in.
"I'm sorry for being late," Ami apologized as she pulled into traffic. She was still wearing her lab coat from the hospital. "It took a few minutes to get off of shift at the hospital. I had to arrange for coverage of my patients."
"That's OK, Ami," Usagi smiled charitably. "If I ever learn how to drive, you won't have to pick me up." She chuckled. "Or maybe you could invent rocket packs for all of us so we can fly to the trouble."
"The thought has occurred to me," Ami replied. "Unfortunately, the maintenance and fuel consumption of such devices would be cost prohibitive."
Usagi glanced at her and saw she was completely serious.
"Uh," Usagi began, "I called everyone else. I didn't get an acknowledgment from Mako-chan, though. I hope nothing's wrong."
"She didn't have a chance to respond," Ami explained. "On my way to the garage to get my car, I got a page from Makoto. She's gone into labor and won't be joining us."
It took a second for the news to sink in.
"MAKO-CHAN'S HAVING HER BABY!" Usagi squealed. Then her joy muted when she realized where Ami was. "Oh. Ami, if you want to drop me off and go back . . ."
"Mother's at the hospital," Ami shook her head. "She can deliver Makoto's child. She delivered Akiko, after all. And I'm needed here."
"But you were looking forward to it," Usagi protested.
"Duty doesn't always allow for personal preference," Ami told her. "We all know that. It would have been nice to perform my first delivery. Perhaps the opportunity will come again."
Usagi sighed with frustration. "Why do menaces have to be inconvenient?"
Her wrist communicator signaled again. Usagi opened the channel and found Luna on the other end.
"Artemis had gleaned more information on what's happening," Luna told her. Ami listened as she drove. "According to police communications he intercepted, there seems to be - - well, it was described as an Oni."
"An Oni?" gasped Usagi.
"Onis are mythological creatures!" Ami responded. "Is that report verified?"
"It seems to be accurate, Ami," Luna said.
"Then what's the trouble?" Usagi asked. "I thought Onis were cute girls in bikinis who chased after college students."
"THIS ISN'T ONE OF YOUR ANIMES, USAGI!" Luna roared.
"An Oni is a character in folk tales," Ami explained. "The males are hideous monsters with great brute strength and large horns and fangs. The females are supernaturally beautiful. They're supposedly the manifestation of souls of the dead so twisted by hatred and violence that they're unable to pass on and thus roam Earth. The males sow violence and destruction, while the females seduce unwary men into ruin. But such things are fairy tales."
"Winged horses and Spider Queens are supposedly fairy tales, too," Luna reminded them. "And yet you've both met examples of how real they are."
"Point taken, Luna," Ami replied. Though she'd missed the adventure against the Queen Spider, Ami had managed to piece together enough of what happened to know, despite Makoto's avoidance of the subject.
A loud noise, like weighty objects impacting, split the air. Traffic snarled and became impassable. Undaunted, Ami parked her car as best she could and she and Usagi ducked into a space between buildings. Moments later, Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury sprinted for the origin of the noise.
"Oh my goodness!" gasped Sailor Moon as she turned the corner. Mercury remained silent, but was no less impressed.
The section of the business district was a war zone. Windows were broken. Cars were smashed against buildings or bludgeoned. The street was pock-marked with holes and craters. A fire hydrant was broken and water shot forty feet into the air. The area was cordoned off by the police.
In the center of it all was the Oni. It was male and twenty-five feet tall, with a massive chest and powerful arms and legs. Its hairy body was draped only in a tiger-skin tunic and it carried a spiked club the size of a utility pole. Atop broad shoulders was a squat bowling ball head with black hair and a rough beard. Beady eyes glowed red with hatred beneath heavy brows. Below the squashed nose was a mouth of ugly teeth and long tiger-like fangs that looked like they could pierce steel. Bull's horns rose from the top of its head with deadly menace. The brute swung its club and roared a deafening bellow of defiance and anger.
For Sailor Venus had already engaged the beast in battle. She fired her Crescent Beam at it in response.
Continued in Chapter 2