Junko drifted back to consciousness, and was immediately greeted with a familiar sensation.
Pain. Her head throbbed, her arms ached, her right leg felt heavy and tight, and she was willing to bet that there was a knife embedded in her side.
Why was she feeling pain? She was dead. Dead people aren't supposed to feel pain.
Or... maybe she was in Hell. Yes, that was another possibility.
No, that can't be it. She could hear her own heartbeat in her ears, its dull pounding a mocking voice of her failure to take her own life. Had she trained with Tommy so much that his inability to die rubbed off on her?
The events of the past few days hit her with the force of a car. Junko drew in a sharp, pained breath and released it in a shaky, teary moan. Her mind numbed, and she barely felt the cool towel being pressed to her forehead.
"Glad to see you're still with us, miss," a female voice murmured. "Don't worry - you're in good hands. The doctor said that you should make a full recovery."
Make a full recovery and continue life plagued by her actions and false memories? Junko didn't find that appealing.
With considerable effort, she forced her eyes open and blinked several times. Her body still felt heavy from drug-induced sleep. As soon as her vision cleared, she could see the outline of a woman - a nurse, she supposed - and the white coat of a doctor. "You just had surgery, you know." The nurse tucked the blankets under Junko's chin as if she was a child. "Minor internal bleeding. You're fine now, though."
Junko rolled her head away from the nurse. News of a successful operation would please most people, but she wasn't 'most people'. Most people didn't try and murder the ones closest to them, and most people didn't jump off of cliffs.
Her tongue darted out to wet her lips, and she opened her mouth. "... W-who brought me here?" she managed to whisper, then almost regretted it. Her throat felt scratchy and dry.
"A nice family did. The father found you by the river and called the hospital just in time." The nurse held a glass of water to her lips, and Junko drank. "You should get some rest." There was a slight pinch in her arm. "I've given you a painkiller. Try to fall asleep. Ring the bell if you need anything." And with that, the nurse went away.
Junko laid very still as the painkiller took effect. After what felt like eternity, she finally closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Junko looked up at her mother, her little hands clenched around the ribbon she was playing with. "Yes, mama?"
Her mother walked over. "Your papa has asked me to take you somewhere special."
"Special?" she chirped.
"Yes. Special." Her mother offered her hand. After clumsily transferring the ribbon to one hand, Junko took her mother's.
The drive didn't last long, but it was long enough for Junko to count out loud twenty-three trees, thirteen people walking their dogs, and ten stop signs. She didn't know if her mother found her counting annoying; the woman didn't say anything the entire drive except for, "Sweetheart, put your seatbelt back on. Yes, I know the dog is very fluffy, but you'll have to see it sitting down."
Her mother pulled the car into the parking lot in front of a white building. Curious, Junko peered out the window. It took her five whole seconds to recognize the person standing on the sidewalk, looking at them.
"Papa!" Junko unclipped her seatbelt and opened the car door.
"Junko!" Her mother slammed on the brakes, but it did no good. The child wasn't used to getting out of moving cars, and she tumbled to the ground as soon as her foot touched it.
Strong hands picked her up before she even realized that she had fallen. Blinking, she looked at her father and his amused smile. "Careful there, darling. I don't want you getting injured on your first day of training." He kneeled and began dusting her off.
Tears that were beginning to form in her eyes quickly disappeared. "Training?"
"Yes." Her father walked to a nearby bench and picked up a small folded white uniform. "I'm going to teach you martial arts."
Junko's jaw dropped, earning her a chuckle from her father. "Fighting?" she asked.
"Fighting is not the only thing you'll learn. You'll come to understand patience and discipline-"
She wasn't listening. Excited, she began jumping up and down in place. "I'm going to be a Kung-fu master! I'm going to kick butt!"
Despite her excitement, she stopped when her father raised his hand. "Junko, dear, I don't teach Kung-fu."
Her shoulders slumped.
"But..." He smirked when Junko's eyes lit up. "I do teach a form of martial art that is just as powerful as Kung-fu."
"Yes. I'll show you." Smiling, he led her into the dojo and towards a changing stall. A few minutes later, both father and daughter emerged, with the daughter in a loose white uniform. "Since you're a beginner, you get a white belt," her father said as he tied a white belt around her waist.
She stared at it, then looked up at him. "But I don't wanna white belt!"
He blinked. "Then what do you want?"
Junko crossed her arms. "I wanna black one," she grumbled. "Like you."
Her father briefly glanced down at his belt. "Junko, you're going to have to earn your black belt."
"By listening to me and following my instructions."
"Okay!" She straightened her back and faced him square on. "Teach me, papa!" She bowed so low and so quickly that she nearly fell over.
Snickering, her father returned the bow. "Alright, Junko Akita."
When he raised his head, Junko couldn't hold back a shriek. His face was no longer that of her father's. Instead, Tommy's eyes stared back at her. Shocked, she looked around. They were no longer in her father's dojo. Instead, they were in the Arashikage courtyard and she was wearing a different training uniform.
"Alright, Junko Akita," her father - no, Tommy - repeated. "I will teach you."