BEHIND THE MASK
Chapter 12: "Once Broken"
A Sailor Moon fanfic
By Bill K.
"It's her!" Hojo Fuijitsu gasped in shock and alarm as Sailor Jupiter stepped over their broken front door and stalked into the room. The fact that she had managed to track them down was scary enough. But that paled in comparison to the ominous electrical field her body was generating, a field that seemed to light up the room and cast weird shadows in all directions.
And even that paled next to the look of utter naked fury on her face.
Fuijitsu's partner, Takashi Iwamura, spat out an expletive as he brought up his gun to shoot at the advancing senshi. But even as he did so, the power phrase "Sparkling Wide Pressure" rang out in the tiny apartment. A ball of electricity leaped for the barrel of the gun and snapped at Iwamura's hand. He flinched back, the gun flying from his grip and sailing over the sofa to the floor nearby. Iwamura glanced at it to see how far away it was, as he knew it was his only means of defense now. The gun crackled with electricity. Parts of it were melted and deformed.
Instantly Fuijitsu began scrabbling along the floor, panic-stricken and desperate to escape. Iwamura, though, pushed to his feet and charged Jupiter. That was the way "Taki" Iwamura operated. All his life he'd met every challenge head on. If he lost, at least he tried his best. As he charged, he noticed the rage in Jupiter's eyes seem to rachet up. He understood why. They'd taken her little girl. But just because he understood her anger, and just because she was a woman, it didn't mean he was going to go easy on her. Iwamura came up hard and fast, his speed belying his size, his fist seeking her face.
Hands seized his arm in a grip of iron and twisted. That deflected his swing and threw Iwamura off balance. In that position, he was a sitting duck for Jupiter's knee, delivered with all the force her rage could generate right into his ribs and sternum. The air shot from his right lung and pain covered his body in an instant. Maintaining control of his right arm, Jupiter lashed out with her right foot and swept across Iwamura's ankles. This threw him further off balance and allowed Jupiter to slam the thug face first into the floor. The man lay awkwardly, stunned and awash in a sea of pain.
Jupiter whirled in search of the other kidnapper. She found him at the window of the apartment, trying to climb out onto a decorative wrought iron terrace in his blind rush to escape.
"Supreme Thunder!" she raged, bellowing to the heavens.
Lightning coursed through her body and then leaped at Fuijitsu like a belligerent predator. It struck Fuijitsu and every part of his body seemed to shut down for a second. When his mind kick-started again, he was laying on the floor, quivering involuntarily. His muscles were jelly. His mind was blurred and confused. He wasn't aware of anything, not even his own name. All he knew was that everything he could feel was surrounded by a thick red coating of pain - - and that his pants were wet. A shadow passed into his clouded vision. Fuijitsu tried to focus and found it was Sailor Jupiter. Her hands locked onto his shirt and she dragged him upright.
"You threatened my daughter!" Jupiter snarled, her rage unquenched. "You used her to try to get to me!"
"I . . ." Fuijitsu tried to speak, but his mouth wouldn't work.
"YOU THREATENED MY DAUGHTER!" Jupiter bellowed and began shaking him. Waves of disorientation flooded over Fuijitsu and he felt the urge to vomit.
"I . . .uh . . ." he babbled weakly, searching for anything that would end the assault on him. "S-sorry . . ."
"SORRY?" Jupiter raged. "SUPREME THUNDER!"
And Fuijitsu's vision went, covered by jagged patters of blue and black and yellow. His body shook and a hundred thousand needles all jammed into his brain at once. A strangled gasp of agony emerged from him. All he knew was pain and it was a full twenty seconds after the assault ended before he realized it was over.
"TELL ME AGAIN HOW SORRY YOU ARE, YOU ANIMAL!" Jupiter screamed. "WHAT MAKES YOU THINK SORRY MAKES EVERYTHING DIFFERENT!"
"No more . . ." the lump of humanity in her hands whimpered weakly. And Jupiter was about to give him another blast, just because he'd asked her not to.
But then a hand closed onto her shoulder. Jupiter's head snapped around to see who it was, and found Sailor Moon behind her. Mars was behind them both. Jupiter glared at Sailor Moon, daring the woman to criticize her actions.
"Jupiter," Sailor Moon only said, her voice kind and soft and without judgment, "Akiko needs you."
And the anger seemed to drain away. Jupiter let the quivering form of Fuijitsu slide from her hands and moved over to her little girl, bound and gagged, watching her mother wide-eyed from where she was trundled over in a corner of the room. The senshi knelt down and undid the tape holding her daughter's wrists. When they were free, Akiko's arms came up and caught her mother around the neck. Jupiter enveloped little Akiko in her arms and clutched her tight.
"Mommy's here," Jupiter sobbed, pressing her child to her. "I'm sorry I'm so late. Please forgive me."
A pudgy hand pulled the tape away from a small mouth.
"WOW, MOMMY, YOU WERE COOL!" the child exclaimed. Surprised, Jupiter pulled back and stared at her daughter. Akiko gave her mother a reassuring smile. "I knew you'd find me. And I knew they didn't stand a chance against you."
Overcome with emotion, Jupiter squeezed Akiko to her. Mars and Sailor Moon glanced at each other and smiled. They both heard Jupiter sobbing as she hugged little Akiko. In a way, the child's reaction had caught them by surprise, too. And, in a way, it hadn't.
"That's so sweet," cooed Sailor Moon.
"Yeah," Mars grinned. Then she sobered. "But we've still got to deal with these two."
"Haven't they suffered enough?"
"That's not the question," Mars explained. "They still know Jupiter's identity. Nobody in her family is safe as long as they do."
"Well, maybe they won't tell," Sailor Moon suggested. "Jupiter's certainly scared them enough."
"We can't depend on that," Mars shook her head.
"Mars, you're not thinking . . ." Sailor Moon gasped.
"No, I'm not thinking THAT!" the raven-tressed senshi snapped. She produced a pair of wards. "But if you'll lend me your power, I think I can remedy the situation."
"All right," Sailor Moon replied curiously. She took on a silvery glow and then grasped Mars' hand
Instantly Mars stiffened as the massive power flowed into her. With supreme effort, she brought the wards to her forehead and softly recited a chant. The wards took on an orange glow, as if they were on fire. Kneeling down to Fuijitsu, Mars placed the ward on his forehead. The man seemed to sag under its weight. She repeated the process with Iwamura.
"So what does that do?" Jupiter asked. She carried Akiko in her arms, the child braced against her.
"It's a sutra for banishing bad memories," Mars told them. "I sort of adapted it for this situation. Of course, I'm not a strong enough priest to make it work the way we need it to work, so that's why I needed your energy, Sailor Moon."
"And they won't know Mako-chan is Sailor Jupiter?" Sailor Moon asked.
"It's not that precise," Mars admitted. "They probably won't remember anything that's happened for the last five years." Sailor Moon gasped.
"If it means my family is safe from them, it's all right with me," Jupiter replied. She cradled Akiko. "Come on, Kiddo. Let's go home. Your daddy and your brother miss you."
On a berm next to a country road, a male figure straddled a female figure, pinning her down to the dirt and rocks of the roadside. Junko stared down the barrel of the automatic. Beyond it were Akinori's eyes, eyes filled with a firestorm of rage.
"DO WHAT I TELL YOU!" bellowed Akinori. "I WILL KILL YOU IF YOU DON'T! I SWEAR I WILL!"
"Deep Submerge!" a woman called out like a clarion.
Instantly Akinori found himself engulfed in a wave of water. The surging wave carried him off of Junko and washed him down to the edge of a wooden fence. He took a moment to battle the disorientation and regain his breath. His hand felt around for the automatic and found it. As his vision cleared, the youth brought the gun up to use against his attackers. He found Sailor Uranus standing next to Junko, glaring at him.
"You back away from me!" Akinori yelled.
"Put that down," Uranus told him. Her eyes were narrowed and her gaze could cut steel.
"I'LL USE IT!" he bellowed.
"Put it down or I'll slice it to ribbons," Uranus replied, her Space Sword materializing in her hand. "And I won't be responsible if you get cut in the process." Still the gun pointed at Uranus.
"Aki, put it down!" howled Junko. "It's over! Don't make a bad situation worse!"
"Why?" Aki asked. He was riddled with anguish and defeat. "What do I have now? Disgrace? Prison? A lifetime without friends?" The gun turned and lazily pointed at his own temple. "A lifetime without you?"
"You made your bed," Uranus said unsympathetically.
"If you'd just done what I wanted!" Akinori wailed at Junko. She stared at him wide-eyed in disbelief. "It's all because of you!"
"Yeah, nothing's ever your fault, is it!" shouted Uranus. "Do it! Do it and save everybody the trouble of dealing with you! Or is this another one of your acts to get sympathy? Everything in your life revolves around you and everything you do is calculated to get your way! You don't know how to love anybody but yourself! Do it and do the world a favor!"
Akinori's face twisted in emotional rage. The gun swung from his temple toward Uranus.
"Space Sword Blaster!" Uranus shouted, bringing the sword into play. Energy arcs shot out from the blade and impacted with the pistol, slicing the weapon in two. Akinori stared at the pistol, of which he was now holding only the grip, the trigger and part of the hammer assembly, in disbelief. Indifferently, Uranus approached the youth, her body language communicating that she no longer considered him a threat. She allowed the Space Sword to fade away.
"This is," he mumbled. "It wasn't supposed to be this way."
"Life never is," scowled Uranus.
Akinori just stared down at the severed gun for a few moments. Dismissing him, Uranus turned to go back to Junko. Without warning, the young man galvanized into action. He was on his feet in moments and charging Uranus. Neptune crouched to launch an attack. Junko pointed and was about to shout.
But Uranus heard his approach. Wheeling, her foot connected with the side of Akinori's head in a spinning roundhouse kick. The young man dropped back to the ground on the berm like a sack of flour. He didn't move.
"I'll call the police," Neptune said, producing a cell phone. Uranus nodded and walked over to Junko. Junko's head was bowed, as if she were embarrassed by everything.
"You OK?" Uranus inquired.
"Yeah, Haruka, I'm fine," she muttered.
Then Junko felt her eyes widen and her cheeks flush. She'd called Uranus by her civilian name. The girl didn't look up, terrified of what expression she'd find on the senshi's face. But Uranus said nothing. In the distance police sirens could be heard, so someone had already summoned them. And Junko found herself silently praying that Uranus somehow hadn't heard her slip.
It was late afternoon at the Ikegami household. Makoto was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. It felt good. It was something normal and after the past few days she desperately needed something normal. And she desperately wanted to bring her family life back to normal for Akiko's sake - - although from the carrying on in the other room, the child seemed to be taking things better than the parent. Ami sat at the kitchen table to keep Makoto company.
"And you should have seen her, Daddy!" Akiko exclaimed. She was the center of attention in the living room, holding her audience of her father and her brother Ichiro rapt with her recounting of her rescue. "Mommy busts in the door - - WHAM! And then she goes 'how dare you be mean to this poor little girl! You're going to be punished!'"
"She did?" Sanjuro asked, trying to sift fact from four year old fancy as he listened.
"And then she went 'ZZZZZT' and the bad guy went down!" Akiko continued. "And then she went 'HAH HE HI-YAH' and the other bad guy went down! She was cool, Daddy!"
"I've always said so," Sanjuro said, hoisting his daughter up on his lap. Ichiro just stared at her in utter amazement.
"Would you listen to her," Makoto grinned to Ami. "She hasn't stopped chattering about that since we got her out of there."
"I think you've impressed her," Ami judged.
"And I thought she'd be frightened by seeing me zap those guys." Makoto braced herself against the counter top. "Ames, you don't suppose this is going to traumatize her, do you? She's all bright and upbeat now, but - - am I going to start hearing her crying in the middle of the night from some nightmare?"
"It's difficult to say for certain," Ami frowned. "She seems to be coping quite well. Many times young children have no real concept of danger. They can think of a large toy as a threat, but not the burner on a stove. While she was probably scared and uncertain, she may not have realized that she was in a life-threatening situation and that would reduce any post-traumatic stress she might experience. Of course any negative experience can have long term effects on a young child. Perhaps she'll come to associate some person or place with the mistreatment she suffered. But the fact that you rescued her helps reinforce her natural dependence and expectation of equating security with the parent. Unless something happened during her captivity that we don't know about, she looks like she's adapting well."
"If I find out they did anything to her . . ." Makoto began angrily. Ami touched her shoulder.
"Perhaps it would be best not to dwell on that unless it's necessary," Ami suggested. After a moment, Ami's view won out and Makoto nodded.
"Sounds like you had quite a time," Sanjuro said, holding Akiko in his lap. "Do you know why you were in that situation to start with?"
Akiko clouded over. "Because I told Mommy's secret." She looked up at her father and at that moment Sanjuro couldn't ever recall seeing that much earnest conviction in his daughter's face. "I'm really sorry, Daddy. And I'll never tell again, ever! I swear!"
"Sounds like you learned a lesson," Sanjuro said and he stroked her hair. Akiko nodded. Then, suddenly, she leaned over to Ichiro and tapped him on top of his head with her finger.
"And don't you tell anyone about Mommy's secret either, Ichiro," Akiko said firmly. "That's a secret and you don't tell other people's secrets. You got it?"
"Nee-Chan!" Ichiro giggled.
"Everybody ready for dinner?" Makoto asked, popping into the living room. She turned to Akiko. "I know you're probably hungry just from telling that story a hundred times." Akiko raced into the kitchen, followed by Sanjuro, holding Ichiro in his arms. "You're staying, of course," she said to Ami.
"Are you asking or demanding?" Ami asked wryly.
"Oh boy, I can't wait to tell everybody at school what happened!" Akiko exclaimed. She had already climbed up on her chair and perched atop the two books that got her level with the table.
"Akiko," Sanjuro said. The young girl turned inquiringly to her father. "Secret."
"THAT PART TOO?" Akiko gasped incredulously. Sanjuro nodded patiently. The child's spirits fell. "OK, Daddy," she moaned.
"You mean," Makoto asked nervously, "you want to go back?"
"Well why not?" Akiko inquired in confusion.
"Well," Makoto stammered, "after what happened . . ."
"Mommy, all my friends are there!" Akiko howled. "I gotta go back!"
"But what if something happens?" Makoto persisted.
"You'll protect me," Akiko replied with the conviction of an innocent. "You're Sailor Jup'ter, remember?"
Ami noticed the emotion welling in her friend's throat.
On a public street headed for one of Tokyo's many train stations, Junko Tenoh and her friend Aiko Kurumi walked and talked. It wasn't much of a conversation. Junko seemed a little down and, given the news that had traveled all around school about her and Akinori the previous day, Aiko could understand why. She'd judiciously avoided all mention of the subject, even though she was dying for details, out of respect for her friend's feelings. When Junko felt up to talking about it would be the appropriate time to sate her curiosity. Being there for support was what she needed and was what she'd get.
As they walked, both girls noticed a blue Fiat slow down next to them. When Junko stopped to peer in, the tinted window nearest them rolled down.
"Hey, little girl," Haruka called out to them from the car. "Want a ride home?"
And Junko hesitated. Aiko noticed it immediately and thought it strange, because she knew this was Junko's older sister.
"I've got candy," Haruka added with a sly grin. That did it. Junko's mouth turned up into a cynical smirk. She said her good-byes to Aiko and got in the car.
"You think you're funny, but you're really not," Junko told her sister as they drove off.
"Who said I was being funny? There's candy in the glove box. How else am I going to lure innocent young girls into the car?" Haruka quipped. She received an elbow shot from Junko. "So how are you holding up after yesterday?"
"I'll be all right," Junko sobered. "It already seems like a bad dream. Dad's the one I'm worried about. He's pretty bruised up. And all this, on top of his heart condition, has really got him depressed. He feels like he's a useless old man."
"Hmm," Haruka frowned. "Wish I knew what to say. Advice from me would probably be the last thing you'd need where Mom and Dad are concerned. I guess you'll just have to dote on him a little more." Haruka executed a right hand turn. "You're sure you're all right?"
"Physically, I'll heal," Junko told her. "But I'm wondering - - the next time a boy asks me out, am I going to see Aki and get scared? I mean, I thought he was the one, you know? And then he seemed to change overnight. How will I know the next guy won't act the same way?"
"There's always girls," Haruka said.
"Not happening, Haruka," Junko responded.
"Well, I guess you're just going to have to see past your hormones and look for the warning signs," Haruka advised. "You can spot them with experience: over-dependence, possessiveness, unreasonable jealousy. I spotted those in the guy right off, while all you saw was how gorgeous he was. You have to look at people with a critical eye and see what's there, not what you want to see." She glanced over with a grin. "And sometimes they'll still fool you."
"Nice," Junko sighed.
The pair drove on for a bit.
"So how long have you known?" Haruka asked out of the blue. Junko's heart froze.
"Known what?" she replied, willing her voice to calm. The Fiat immediately pulled into a parking lot and the engine stopped.
"Don't play games," Haruka scowled. "You called me 'Haruka' when I was Sailor Uranus yesterday." Junko's anxiety level shot through the roof. Haruka sensed it. "I'm not mad at you. I'm just curious."
Junko's head flopped back onto the headrest. "Since Kaioh-San was in the hospital. She was delirious and spilled. Nobody heard it but me."
"Why didn't you tell me you knew?" Haruka asked neutrally, so neutrally that Junko couldn't get a read on her sister's feelings.
"I figured," Junko began uneasily, "that if you wanted me to know, you'd tell me. And I didn't want to burden you with knowing I knew. You have so many other responsibilities."
The teen peeked nervously over at her older sister. She found that Haruka seemed to be amused.
"What?" Junko asked.
"It's amazing how alike we are sometimes," Haruka chuckled. "I thought about telling you from the beginning, but I didn't want to burden you. You're seventeen and you've got a lot of stuff going on in your life that's more important."
"Wow. Spooky," Junko said. The Fiat started up and pulled out of the convenience store lot. "So - - what's it like? Being a senshi, I mean."
"It's a lot of responsibility," Haruka explained. "You're given this power and you're supposed to use it to help people and protect Sailor Moon. And they didn't ask you whether you wanted it, whoever 'they' are. It's like 'Here's a weird power, go protect everyone.' Sometimes you don't know how. Sometimes you're tempted to do something - - that isn't right. And sometimes you can only hope you've done the right thing and you won't know for sure until it's too late to change things. I've messed up a few times. All I can do is keep trying and not make the same mistake twice." She glanced at her sister. "Sort of like you and your love life. All you can do is keep trying and not make the same mistake twice."
The Fiat pulled up in front of the Tenoh home. Junko got out, then leaned back in through the window.
"Thanks for the ride," she said. "And the talk. And the trust. And Haruka: Now that I've met Sailor Uranus in person," and she grinned mischievously, "she's way cooler than you are."
"Fine," Haruka replied. "Next time ask her to take you car shopping."
Junko wrinkled her nose and was off. Haruka watched her until she was safely inside the house and then drove away.
"I wonder how Michiru's going to react when I tell her she talks in her sleep," Haruka wondered with a devilish smirk.
In a little eatery in the midst of the Azabu-Juuban retail district, Usagi Chiba was having lunch with her father. She was taking a break from meeting with her editor, while he was taking a break from pursuing news to photograph.
"Thanks for meeting with me, Princess," Kenji said as he watched his daughter attack her meal as if she'd never seen food before. It was a familiar touchstone in his life. "I can never see too much of my darling girl."
"I just wanted to see how you were doing," Usagi remarked between bites. "I saw your photos of Sailor Moon in the paper. They were really good."
"Yes, they did come out well," Kenji nodded. "It was a good thing I was using high speed film. Getting that mysterious tip was a lucky break. But I can't depend on running into Sailor Moon once a month."
"It could happen," Usagi replied.
"Always the optimist," Kenji smiled. "Well I'm more realistic about my chances. I'm not going to depend on getting exclusive shots of her. Besides, I'm more convinced than ever that this isn't the life for me."
"But Daddy, you're a good photographer!" Usagi protested.
"But this isn't what I want to do for the rest of my life," Kenji argued. He could see his daughter still couldn't understand. "It's like this, Princess: you're a manga artist, and a good one. And you love doing it. But what if you lost your job as a manga artist and you had to support yourself sketching crime scenes for the police?"
"Blegh," Usagi scowled. "I'd rather quit and be a full time housewife for Mamo-Chan."
"Well I feel the same way. I want to create with my photo skills, not intrude into other people's tragedy." He smiled ruefully. "Unfortunately, I can't quit and be a full time housewife. I've got a wonderful woman to support."
"Daddy, Mamo-Chan and I can help you out with that."
"No, you keep your money," Kenji replied. "Put it in the bank for college for that grandchild of mine you two will eventually have. I can make a go of this until I find something else. This recession can't last forever."
"Well, OK," Usagi frowned. "But I think you're being stubborn. We really want to help you and Mom out."
Kenji reached over and grasped Usagi's hand. "Princess, this is just a temporary set back. I'll come out of it ahead. And even if I'm stuck doing this for longer than I hope, I'm still a very lucky man. I'm married to the woman of my dreams. I've got a wonderful daughter and a wonderful son. I've had a chance to give the world some joy with my old job. I've already had more than most people ever dream of getting. I can endure this. Just as long as you and your mother and Shingo are still in my life, this set back is nothing."
The waiter came with the bill. Kenji reached for it, but Usagi struck with the speed of a cobra.
"Ah, ah!" she said proudly. "This treat's on me. I can afford it more than you can."
"All right, Princess," Kenji grinned. "And thank you."
Usagi nodded and dug into her purse for her wallet. Pulling it out, she opened it - - and then gaped.
"Wait a minute!" she gasped. "I know I had eight thousand yen in . . .!" Then her eyes bulged. "Oh yeah," she squeaked. "The new shoes yesterday."
Kenji smiled at the familiarity of the scene. "I think they take credit cards here."
"Mamo-Chan won't let me have them," Usagi whimpered.
"Here," Kenji told the waiter, handing him some money. "Keep the rest for yourself."
"Thank you, Sir," the waiter nodded gratefully.
"I will pay you back, Daddy! I swear!" Usagi exclaimed.
"Princess," Kenji replied, basking in the glow he felt whenever he was with his children, "you already have."