MINAKO THROUGH THE MIRROR
Chapter 12: "Mirror Broken"
By Bill K.
"Something moving in there!" Mercury suddenly shouted out with alarm. Incredulously, everyone stared - - except Mars. She almost expected it.
Emerging from the fire, seemingly untouched by the hungry flames, Sureiya Dodekai walked. The demon ignored the flame, its angry red eyes glaring directly ahead at Sailor Mars and Sailor Moon. It cleared the fire with a slow, even, confident pace.
"Did you seek to impress me," the demon asked, then added with a sneer, "human?"
"D-Damn," Minako gaped, standing off to the side. Behind her, Jupiter came up beside Mercury. In the distance, Venus was circling back toward the team. "What's it take to kill this thing?"
"You will die for this," the tiangou pronounced as it headed leisurely for the two senshi. "You will die for the sin of your insolence, for the sin of your arrogance in thinking that you could for one moment destroy or imprison me."
"Please!" Sailor Moon said, stepping in front of Mars. "It doesn't have to come to this! We can reach an understanding! Yes, Minako was wrong for speaking to you as she did! But you were wrong for destroying her past! And everyone was wrong for letting this situation spiral into an angry confrontation! But it's not too late to rectify things! Please, please find it in your heart to forgive and let this situation go before a tragedy that can't be rectified happens! I know you can!"
The tiangou stopped. It stood ten feet from Sailor Moon. The anger in its face had dimmed.
"Know that I bear no personal malice toward you," Sureiya Dodekai said to her. "You are a being above these humans and I recognize that within you that elevates you from their stench. You have done nothing against me save to seek to protect these humans you have aligned with. I acknowledge that. It does you honor. But I will not be turned from my rightful desire for satisfaction by your honeyed words or your seductive energy. They have wronged me and they will pay. If you continue to align with them, you will pay as well."
And Minako felt the world begin to spin around her. This tiangou had taken their best shots and not flinched. Now it was going to end everything. It wasn't worth it. As dearly as she loved her old life and everything about it, it wasn't worth it. She took a pledge, to defend Sailor Moon to the death, her death. Even without her senshi ability, she couldn't stand by and let the unthinkable occur.
It was the shift of the tiangou's head that first alerted Sailor Moon. She glanced to the side as the hushed gasps of her other senshi sounded behind her. Minako was running toward them with a determined glare in her eyes. She came to a stop between Sailor Moon and the tiangou.
"All right, enough of this!" Minako shouted at the tiangou. "You've proven how tough you are! We don't need any more!"
"Minako!" gasped Sailor Moon. Minako half-turned to her and shoved the senshi away.
"Get back, Sailor Moon!" Minako demanded. She turned back to Sureiya Dodekai. "You listen. Your beef is with me. You leave them alone. You want revenge, take it on me! Leave them out of it!"
"Again you have the insolence to command me, human?" bristled the tiangou.
"I'm just trying to stop a war here," Minako countered. "A war that you think you'll win, but you might not! A war that might take so much out of both sides that they'll wonder after its over why they fought it in the first place! So you better listen up!"
"She's determined to get herself killed," Mars muttered, supporting Sailor Moon after the senshi had stumbled back into her.
"Can't you do something?" Sailor Moon whispered. "Seal it while it isn't looking? Anything to save Minako!"
"It's too powerful for me," Mars shook her head. "That demon stood up to your Moon Tier attack and shrugged it off. What chance do I have?"
"Maybe if we combined power? Sailor Planet attack?"
"You wouldn't know what to do," Mars told her. "I know how to seal that demon, you don't."
"This has all been about me," Minako continued to berate the tiangou. "They're not involved. They were just trying to help me. It's what heroes do! And those five people over there are the most heroic people I've ever known! And even if they don't remember me anymore, they still came to my aid! They don't deserve this! And I won't let you do what you want to do to them! I won't!"
Sureiya Dodekai stared down at her stonily, unmoved.
"I don't think I deserved this, either, but that doesn't matter anymore. Would my death end this?" Minako demanded.
"You place too much value on your life, human," the tiangou snarled. "I could devour you where you stand without agreeing to anything - - and who could stop me? What incentive do I have to accept less than is due me?"
"But what if," Sailor Moon whispered to Mars, "what if I funneled all our energy into you? Would that give you enough? Could you do it then?"
Mars thought for a moment, astonished by the concept. "I," she stammered, "I don't know." Then her features became resolute. "But I think it's the only card we have left. We may as well play it."
"Sometimes you have to settle for less," Minako said, emotion clouding her voice, "in order to avoid something worse. You want blood? Take mine. You want a sacrifice? Take me. Take me and call it even. Eat me here and now. I won't run and I won't fight." Then Minako's eyes narrowed. "But if you so much as look at them wrong, I'll start kicking in your stomach so hard that your ulcers will get ulcers!"
"Brave words, human," Sureiya Dodekai replied. "Were you not so low born, I might be moved to respect you. I do tire of this conflict. Perhaps there is some small wisdom in your words. Perhaps I should settle for your life as reimbursement." His muzzle slowly neared Minako. "Do not move, human. If you run, I will slay them all."
Minako steadied herself. Silently she said goodbye to everyone.
Sailor Moon closed her eyes. Suddenly all the senshi felt a familiar sensation. Without words, they knew what was being asked of them.
"JUPITER POWER!" Sailor Jupiter called out. The jewel on her tiara began to glow green.
"MERCURY POWER!" echoed Sailor Mercury.
"VENUS POWER!" and Venus joined the chorus.
Their power flowed into Sailor Moon and the winged heart medallion on her breast began to glow. His gaze shifting, Sureiya Dodekai crouched.
"MOON POWER!" Sailor Moon shouted for all the heavens to hear. Minako turned to look as the combined power of the other senshi flowed from Sailor Moon into Sailor Mars.
"Oh," Sailor Mars whispered. Her eyes bulged. Her mouth contracted into a small, surprised circle. The tiangou pushed off the ground and into the air, its great wings spread and flapping gracefully. Mars didn't notice. She continued to stare.
"Mars," Sailor Moon whispered, gently but urgently. It shook the senshi out of her stupor.
"Gods of heaven, Gods of Earth," she began to chant, pressing a ward to her forehead between steepled index fingers. "Hear the plea of your most humble servant! Seal this demon within your breast! Remove him so that his presence may no longer offend you! Honor my request as I have honored you, in the past and evermore!"
Pivoting, Mars launched the ward at the hovering demon.
"Demon, I SEAL YOU AWAY! BEGONE FROM THIS WORLD!"
The ward rocketed through the air, glowing with a rainbow radiance. Warily the tiangou turned and climbed into the air, but the ward altered its course and pursued. Halting its ascension, the demon turned and lunged at the ward, snapping at it with its sharp teeth and powerful jaws. The ward turned and avoided the thrust, then looped again to avoid a slash from the demon beast's razor claws. Despite a last lunge to avoid it, the ward struck home and bound itself to the demon's forehead. Instantly, the ward exploded in a display of light.
Reality began to swirl. The winds picked up until they howled through the trees at the foot of the mountain. Ominous storm clouds began to form in the sky. Sureiya Dodekai struggled in midair in the grip of an invisible hand that began to draw the great demon toward the mountain. As the senshi watched from below, the demon tiangou inched nearer and nearer to the solid rock of the mountainside. Despite its great strength, the demon could do nothing to break the grip around it. When it reached the mountain itself, the demon was drawn through solid rock, its form seeming to shimmer as it passed into the mountain. With a last, defiant roar of rage, Sureiya Dodekai hovered for a moment - - and then was swallowed up by the mountain. No trace of it was left.
With shaking arms, Sailor Mars extended her hands toward the mountain. "Burning," she shouted, her voice taxed by exertion, "Mandala!" The sacred fire symbols formed around her hands and then shot out, exploding against the side of the mountain in which the demon tiangou had just disappeared. Fire shot up and out, then dissipated, leaving the sacred symbols of the mandala scorched into the rock of the mountain.
Her work finished, Sailor Mars dropped her hands to her side. The energy of Sailor Planet Attack drained from her body and the senshi sank to her knees. Sailor Moon crouched beside her, supporting her friend.
"Mars?" Sailor Moon asked anxiously. Her friend turned to her.
"I never knew," Mars whispered, staring awe-struck at Sailor Moon. Tears filled Mars' eyes. "How do you do it?"
"I don't have a choice," Sailor Moon shrugged.
Minako, the cats and the other senshi came up to them. They all looked on with anxious curiosity.
"Is it over?" Minako asked what everyone else thought. "Did we win?"
It was the last thing she remembered.
Minako's eyes opened with the usual moment of uncertainty and disorientation she always experienced when she woke up. After a moment, her brain kicked in. She was in bed, the same bed she'd previously slept in with Toshihiro. A glance told her she was alone.
Rising up in bed, Minako could see a rumpled part of the sheets where Toshihiro had been. Glancing down at her body, she found she was dressed in the lacy red teddy she usually slept in, rather than the shirt Toshihiro had given her to wear the last time they'd gone to bed. Excitement grew in her breast. She reached back and felt behind her. A thick mane of golden hair was cascading down her back. A delirious grin sprouted on Minako's face.
"It worked," she whispered, momentarily wary of being too happy and breaking the fragile reality around her. "One more test." Minako extended her hand and concentrated.
Her henshin stick appeared in her hand.
"EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!" Minako shrieked happily. She rolled onto her back and began kicking her feet into the air.
"Minako? What's wrong?" gasped Artemis as the white cat raced into the bedroom. To his shock, Minako bounded off the bed, ran up and scooped him up into her arms.
"I'm back, Artemis! Back from the Twilight Zone! It worked! My life's back! It's all back!" Minako squealed, hugging the cat to her breast.
"Nnf!" Artemis grunted. "Can't - - breathe . . .!"
Minako spun around twice, then let go. Artemis flew through the air and landed on the bed. He looked up at Minako as she bounded out of the bedroom. From the expression he wore, the cat was seriously debating whether to have Minako analyzed or just simply committed.
"Mina, what is it?" Toshihiro asked as she raced full bore into the kitchen. He was wearing a full length apron and was cooking breakfast with a spoon in one hand and a spatula in the other.
Minako dived at him at full speed. Their bodies impacted and Toshihiro staggered back several steps. Minako wrapped her arms around his neck and planted a passionate kiss directly on his mouth. Confused, Toshihiro reacted out of reflex, wrapping his arms around her waist to support her and finally surrendering to the kiss. Nearly a minute later, Minako released her grip on his mouth. Toshihiro expelled a shuddering breath.
"M-Mina?" he asked.
"Toshi, let's get married!" she gasped. "Right now!"
"A-Are you serious?"
"Yes! You almost got away from me once and there's no way I'm EVER going to let that happen again! I'm marrying you, Mister, even if I have to hog-tie you and drag you to the priest!"
"What brought this on?" Toshihiro asked. He noticed Artemis in the doorway and the cat was utterly mystified.
Minako replied with a shrill, almost insane giggle. "You," she began, "you'd never believe me if I told you. Now come on! Say yes!"
"What about breakfast?" Toshihiro asked with growing bemusement.
"We'll have breakfast on the honeymoon!"
"You're not going to invite your friends?"
"I'll call a senshi emergency. We'll meet at the shrine. Rei can marry us!"
"Minako!" gasped Artemis.
"Not one more word, Artemis!" Minako growled.
"Mina, what's this all . . .?" Toshihiro began.
"Say 'yes' or I'll assault you!" Minako roared.
"Don't you have a recording session today?" he reminded her. "One you already postponed from yesterday because of Sailor business?"
Minako sagged in his arms.
"LIFE, WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS SABOTAGING ME?" she bellowed to the heavens dramatically. Her forehead came to rest on Toshihiro's shoulder. His hand pressed between her shoulders to comfort her. "OK, two days from now - - tops! But WE - ARE - GETTING - MARRIED!" She pressed her nose to Toshihiro's for emphasis. "Don't fight me on this! I know where you live!"
"OK," Toshihiro smiled. He was greeted by a look of infinite joy and gratitude from his house-mate. It made him feel warm. "I'm glad you finally gave in."
"Sometimes the gods have to hit me over the head," Minako chuckled. They began kissing again.
"I wonder if Queen Serenity would have been better served by picking someone else to be Sailor Venus," Artemis thought as he looked on with a sudden world-weary expression.
Ryoko Shimazuki was pulled away from her breakfast by the door buzzer. The twenty-six year old woman normally ate her breakfast at four pm because she worked the 5pm to 1am shift for Computer Help Associates from her single apartment.
She was still single. Her work hours kept her from meeting anyone. Her free time was the wee hours of the morning, when everyone else was in bed, or mid-afternoon when most people were working. But it wasn't the only reason she was still single. She just hadn't met anyone she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. The camping excursions she went on with friends was the only real time she had to socialize other than the weekends. No one in that circle really seemed like husband material.
Ryoko moved to the door. Being single was OK with her. Ryoko wasn't desperate to be married, certain not as desperate as her mother was for her to be married. She didn't mind being single - - most of the time. She had her sudoku puzzles and the internet to keep her company when she wasn't working. Peeping through the spy hole in the door, Ryoko found a strange woman standing there.
"Yes?" she asked after opening the door.
"Are you Ryoko," and Minako glanced quickly at a piece of paper, "Shimazuki?"
"Yes," she nodded. Then the black haired woman's eyes bugged out. Her mouth formed into a small 'o' and her hands came up to cover it. Minako recognized the reaction. "Oh my goodness!" Ryoko gasped. "You're Minako Aino!"
"You know me?" Minako smiled hopefully.
"I watch your show every week! Well, I mean I TIVO it and watch it after work. But I never miss an episode! I love the writing and you're just fantastic in it!"
"Thank you," Minako nodded gratefully, hiding her disappointment. None of the other senshi remembered what had happened, either. Apparently Minako was the only one.
"I can't believe THE Minako Aino is at my front door!" squealed Ryoko. "Oh, come in, come in!" She ushered Minako inside. "Um, why are you here? Did I win a contest or something?"
"Nothing like that," Minako grinned. "I just had some software problems with my PC and you came highly recommended. I wanted to know if I could hire you to take a look at it."
"Well, sure," Ryoko said. "But you could have called the help line for that."
"I guess," Minako shrugged, "but I don't always know what my schedule is like. Besides, I'm all thumbs when it comes to that computer stuff. I'd like to learn a little more about it and you can't do that over the phone. You game?"
Ryoko thought about it. "OK. I work five to one, but I'm free any other time. Maybe the weekend would be best. You don't shoot on weekends, do you?"
"As a matter of fact, I'm on hiatus right now," Minako told her. "Just finishing up on my new movie. Weekend sounds great. Um, I'm going to be having some friends of mine over for dinner. Would you like to sit in?"
"I don't know," Ryoko demurred.
"There's plenty of room," Minako persisted. "And believe me, once you get to know them, you'll really love them."
"OK," Ryoko smiled, though her head was swimming. "Um, can I get you something?"
"Sure, fruit juice if you've got it handy. Nice place," Minako commented, looking around the apartment. "Just you?"
"Yeah," Ryoko shrugged. "Haven't met anyone I want to inflict myself on."
"Hmm," Minako nodded. Already the wheels were turning in her head. "Maybe I could help with that, too," she murmured.
Ryoko stared at her, incredulous. "D-Do you do this a lot?"
"No," Minako replied, giving the woman a goofy smile like she couldn't believe what was happening herself. "I guess this was just one of those - - chance meetings."
Ryoko excused herself to get the fruit juice. Minako watched her go. It hadn't been a chance meeting in the least. Once she came back from finishing her album, marrying Toshihiro and taking an abbreviated honeymoon in order to make her movie's shooting schedule, Minako had bullied Artemis into helping her track Ryoko down. Her aim was to reuinte Ryoko with the four best friends she'd ever - - yet never - - known. It seemed to Minako like the right thing to do. Once she met the non-Sailor Venus Ryoko, Minako was certain of it. And hooking her up with Seiji would just be one more way to pay back the debt she felt she owed Ryoko.
And if other things worked out the way Minako hoped . . .
"You know, Louie," Minako murmured to herself with a smirk, as she spoke using the single worst Humphrey Bogart impression the world had ever witnessed, "this may be the start of a beautiful friendship."