a Sailormoon fanfiction by Dejana Talis
-not to be used without permission-
Ikuko jumped backward automatically as cold water splashed against her ankles and a shard of porcelain struck her foot. The sudden series of sharp cracks as the vase shattered against the floor was too startling, and she lost her grip on the piles of laundry she had been carrying. The mound of folded fabric slipped through her arms and flopped to the floor in disarray.
For a brief moment Ikuko simply stood there, staring down at the mess in disbelief. No, no, no. Not another thing going wrong. This couldn't be happening.
After only a breath the frustration she had been trying to bury in normal household chores boiled over. Combined with the spilled flour, the spoiled milk, and the toppled bookcase, it was just too much. Ikuko clenched her fists and screamed, her entire body quaking as she released all the stress that had been bottled up all day. Turning away from the pile of sheets and uniforms slumped over the scattered fragments of her favorite vase, the homemaker began kicking the wall beside her. Pain shot up her leg; house slippers weren't much protection from a solid wall, but she ignored it, slamming her palms into the painted surface as well. At least this costly western-style house with its strong walls was good for something.
Finally she stopped, taking deep breaths to calm herself as she shook the tension out of her hands. Shingo would be home soon; it would do no good for him to see his mother behaving like his sister.
Ikuko clenched her fists again as the knot of frustration retied itself in her stomach, but she forced herself to calmly kneel beside the mound of cloth on the floor and start folding up the spilled laundry. It had been a mistake to try to carry the filled vase and the mountain of washing all at once, but with all that had happened that day, Ikuko couldn't seem to calm down and think clearly even for an instant.
That foolish daughter of hers. What had Usagi been thinking? When she came home, she was going to get quite the talking-to from her mother. When she came home...
Something wet dripped from Ikuko's face and splashed against the white sheet she had been pulling loose from the chaos. How had the spilled water splashed so high? The woman put a hand to her cheek and discovered she was crying, the hot tears beginning to sting as they seeped from the corners of her eyes. Shuddering, Ikuko got to her feet and went to the kitchen for a tissue. It took a few minutes of leaning against the countertop, but eventually she calmed down.
She had to be grateful Usagi was coming home at all.
When the report about the demon attacks had interrupted her morning soap opera, the usual seed of fear had planted itself in Ikuko's stomach. These incidents had been happening so often lately that every parent in the city was a bit worried. This time, however, the concern was stronger. There were two creatures attacking, and the famous Sailor Senshi had split into two groups to tackle them. One was at the train station, and the other in the courtyard of Juuban Junior High. The very school where Usagi was, right at that moment.
Or so Ikuko had thought. Trying to swallow her fear the homemaker had spent an hour on hold with the school office, competing with countless other parents for a shred of news that her child was all right. After surviving a handful of automated messages and every attempt to convince her to stop worrying and hang up, Ikuko finally got to speak with one of the office assistants - only to be informed that her daughter, Tsukino Usagi, was not in class at all. Nor was she one of the attack victims that had been identified.
Ikuko trembled as she resumed folding up what had been clean laundry, recalling the near-madness she had suffered for the following hour. She could have sworn the telephone would never work again after all the calls she made - to Kenji, the police, that cursed game center where Usagi spent so much of her homework time, everywhere. At first fear had reigned; she just wanted to know her child was all right. Then, miraculously slipping through the few seconds between calls, the school contacted her. Usagi was back in class, right where she was supposed to be.
The mother had not even heard the flimsy excuse her daughter had given officials. Her rage at discovering the truth was too great for her to hear anything else for the rest of the afternoon. Usagi had been skipping class. Her daughter, poor student as she was, skipping class! If it hadn't been for the demon attack Ikuko might never have found out; who knew how long this had been going on? What could that stupid girl possibly be thinking? What would their relatives say? Ikuko clenched her teeth as she picked up one of Kenji's shirts, sopping wet from soaking up the liquid on the floor, and plucked a few scattered flower petals off the fabric. When Usagi got home, she would never hear the end of this.
This was the last straw. From now on, Ikuko would see that her daughter was escorted straight to school and straight home every day, she would sit in the kitchen and do her homework where Ikuko could watch her, and then it would be off to bed. No more of this silly dallying at the game center or getting ice cream with friends. Usagi needed to learn that her education was her top priority, even if it took extreme force. Ikuko was determined to break this skipping habit once and for all, before it was too late.
The homemaker sighed as she surveyed the floor. Half the laundry was wet and dirty and would have to be cleaned again, and her favorite vase, an imported anniversary gift from Kenji, was reduced to worthless shards. Sadly she bent down to gather up the crushed flowers and discarded leaves and stems. She had planned such a nice dinner for tonight, and now it would be ruined by the discovery that her eldest child was a delinquent. She couldn't imagine how Kenji would react. He'd probably suspect Usagi was wasting her time with some boy.
As she threw the flowers in the trash and fetched a dustpan and broom, Ikuko fought the glow of relief that was threatening to spread through her anger. Usagi was in deep trouble, yes, but she was alive, and safe. There would still be four people sitting around the dinner table tonight, angry or not. Ikuko had to be grateful for that.
Usagi's smiling face under a glow of blonde hair was shining in the woman's mind as she slowly swept up the pieces of broken porcelain, the remainder of a possession once so treasured and now lost. She had loved this vase, but it was only a thing, just an object that could be replaced. After all was said and done, what was gone was a mere item, not a precious loved one. There was no real reason to be sad about the vase.
Straightening up, Ikuko looked down at the floor. The mess had been cleaned up, and the only sign that anything had gone wrong was a small empty space on a shelf, easily forgotten within weeks. The loss of today would have been a lot more obvious, and permanent, if it had been Usagi who was missing. That would have created a hole in their family that could never be erased.
The homemaker gathered up the laundry again and resumed her journey toward the linen closet. Perhaps, if Ikuko just listened, Usagi would have a perfectly reasonable excuse for being absent from class. Perhaps she wouldn't have to be so hard on her airheaded daughter.
Perhaps the evening's dinner wouldn't be ruined after all.
After putting the laundry away, Ikuko sank down in an armchair near the television, but she could not concentrate on its flickering images. The thought of Usagi skipping class had settled firmly in her mind, refusing to be ignored. Where had she gone wrong? Things weren't perfect in Ikuko's household, but she and Kenji had always done their best. Parenthood didn't come with an instruction manual, after all.
There was another news story on about the demon attacks; the Sailor Senshi had made short work of both monsters. As usual, a few seconds of long-distance blurred footage was all the media had managed to capture. Still, it was clearly them, the five heroines of Tokyo in their short-skirted uniforms. Ikuko stared at the television, absentmindedly remarking to herself that obviously none of those slim-figured, energetic women had ever borne children.
Come to think of it, the Sailor Senshi seemed awfully young for warriors saving the world. Maybe it was just the bad focus of the news camera, but they seemed too petite to be adults. Ikuko chuckled to herself, shaking her head. Imagine, the saviors of Japan, mere children! Now that would be a parenting nightmare. She could just picture it: late nights, mysterious injuries, flimsy excuses, skipping...school...
Ikuko's heart skipped a beat. Her eyes widened, but she laughed nervously. How silly. It couldn't be. Not her Usagi.
Two of the Sailor Soldiers were blonde.
Getting out of her chair, Ikuko snatched up a cloth and began wiping dust off the television and its stand. It was impossible. The Sailor Soldiers were special, brave women, like legendary goddesses. Her daughter was the most normal young girl in the world. She slept late and got detention and failed tests. She was a crybaby who wailed like a banshee at the slightest injury.
She had been absent from school during the attack.
The homemaker threw the cloth to the floor, her hands shaking so badly she feared she would break something else. This was insane, a ridiculous notion. Usagi was a bad girl who skipped the classes she didn't like, that was all. Still, barely realizing what she was doing, Ikuko found herself heading for the stairs and climbing to the second floor, trembling from head to toe. She opened the door to Shingo's room and went inside, bending down beside her son's bed to reach underneath it. Her fingers touched a long, thin tube. Shingo always kept it hidden, ashamed that his idol was a woman in a skirt, but Ikuko was his mother. She vacumned his room every week. She knew.
Feeling sick to her stomach, Ikuko pulled the wall scroll out from under the bed and unrolled it with unsteady hands. There she was in full color, captured in one of the rare moments the press managed to get in for a closeup with a good camera. Sailor Moon, in her red and blue uniform with ornaments in her hair...
Ikuko stared at the image - and the fog rolled away.
It was like a curtain that had been pulled over her eyes was suddenly lifted, and she could not imagine how she had not noticed it sooner. How many girls in Japan wore their hair like that? Ikuko's vision became blurry as the tears welled up, but it was so obvious. There was the sparkle of her daughter's eyes, her wide energetic smile, her hopeful yet spunky attitude, printed in ink on cloth in a heroine's clothing. Ikuko shuddered violently, her grip tightening on the wall scroll, and she shook her head but the image was still there, undeniable.
Her daughter was Sailor Moon.
Shaking, she rolled up the wall scroll and put it back in its place. How could she have been so blind? It all lined up; the cat with its crescent moon bald spot, the mornings when Usagi was so tired when Ikuko knew she had gone to bed on time, the sudden unplanned outings with her friends - yes, her friends, they were the other Sailor Senshi, their images were a perfect match. It was all so clear now.
Ikuko clung to the railing as she stumbled down the stairs and headed back to the family room. Her child, her innocent child, fought demons in her spare time. Her daughter was responsible for the safety of the entire world. What was her mother supposed to do now? Numb, Ikuko reached for the telephone as she collapsed in a chair again. She would call Kenji and tell him. He would know what to do.
Slowly, Ikuko put the reciever back in its cradle. She knew her husband and his protective nature. Usagi was his little girl. He wouldn't take well to the news that his child was a warrior of justice, facing fearsome monsters with only a handful of other children to protect her. He'd never stand for it. He'd either be terrified, or he'd be out there with a rifle every time there was an attack. Ikuko, on the other hand, was already terrified. She wanted to confront Usagi with this and forbid her ever to fight evil again. It just wasn't safe. It just wasn't right for a child to have to do this.
Still...could she really prevent Usagi from being Sailor Moon? The thought of her daughter risking her life was frightening, but Ikuko knew these demons were nothing of this world. These incidents couldn't be handled by the police, or any military power. It took supernatural powers to defeat them, and only the Sailor Senshi had that.
Usagi had a gift, although Ikuko could not imagine where it had come from. As she forced herself to calm down and think more logically, the homemaker had to admit her daughter was obviously more responsible than she had thought. Usagi balanced school and family life with a secret crusade against evil; how many students could do that? Plus, she had gone to who knew how many extremes to prevent her family from discovering her secret. Usagi knew how worried her parents would be if they knew.
The television network had returned to its afternoon run of soap operas, but Ikuko paid them no attention. The Sailor Senshi battled unspeakable horrors and endured unknown tortures in their mysterious roles as protectors of the world. She could not imagine going through such trials as they faced without the support of family. Usagi had her four friends, but other than that, she was completely alone with her secret, all for the sake of her parents' peace of mind.
That could end now, if Ikuko wanted it to. She could confess what she knew, be her daughter's support, share her burden...and yet...would Usagi really want that? There had to be reasons why the girl had decided not to tell her family the truth. Would telling the truth be a blessing, or a further burden to her child? Would Sailor Moon go into her next battle preoccupied with what her mother might think of her? Would worry worsen the risks?
Ikuko jumped a foot in the air as the door opened suddenly, and footsteps walked inside. Shingo wasn't due home for another half hour. She leapt out of her chair, wanting to yell out to the mystery intruder, but her throat was completely dry from the shocks of the day. The footsteps shuffled forward, hesitant.
"I'm home," a quiet voice called.
Ikuko's blood ran cold. Usagi, home already? She hadn't had time to decide what she was going to do! What would she say? Should she tell her? Should she keep the secret?
"A monster attacked the school," her daughter's voice explained, her socks sliding reluctantly across the carpet as she approached the room. "They were worried about a gas leak, so they sent everyone home." Frozen to the floor, Ikuko's mind ran wildly as Usagi's pale face appeared around the doorway. She looked so normal, just the way she always looked, blue eyes bright beneath a crown of blonde hair...but everything was different now. The droop in the girl's shoulders under the weight of the world was so painfully obvious. The illusion was shattered, like the pieces of the broken vase lying in the kitchen wastebasket, and it could never be mended. Ikuko could no longer imagine that anything would ever be normal again.
"Mom? What's wrong?"
Swallowing hard, Ikuko forced a welcoming smile to her face and commanded her lungs to breathe. The least she could do was act normal. After all, her child had been playing that very game for months.
"Welcome home, Usagi," she said, summoning all her will to break her legs free of their numbness so she could step forward. Were those dark circles under her daughter's eyes? Was that a scratch on the neck of her precious child? "I'm glad you're all right. Come and have some snacks."
As her smile became wooden, Ikuko pushed past her confused daughter and headed for the kitchen. Usagi followed, obviously puzzled, staring at her mother as if Ikuko were the one who had been transformed.
"Haruna told me you called the school," the girl said slowly, a slight waver rising in her voice. "Mom, I... I..."
"It's all right," Ikuko interrupted, taking the cookie jar down from the top of the refrigerator and pouring a few cookies onto a plate. "I'm just glad you're not hurt. That's what's important."
Turning around, Ikuko offered the plate to her daughter, who eyed it warily as if the treats would turn out to be poisoned. After a long silence, Usagi finally realized her mother was not about to yell at her, and slowly accepted the plate. Mother and daughter separated. Usagi took the cookies to the table and sat down, and Ikuko crossed the kitchen to the sink and began scrubbing soiled pans.
Her daughter's secret was her own. Ikuko had no right to force a confession before Usagi was ready. That was a decision for the girl to make in her own time. She had enough to deal with without her parents butting in. For now, the mother was content simply to know the truth. The other Sailor Senshi were there to watch over her daughter. As long as Usagi had her friends, everything would be all right.
It had to be. If Ikuko couldn't trust in that, she'd never sleep another night for the rest of her life.
After a moment, she paused in her work.
A small grin came to the woman's face as she heard her daughter suck in her breath in fear, nearly choking on a cookie.
"You know, if there's ever anything you want to tell me, I'm always here to listen."
"I know, Mom."
"All right, then."
Ikuko returned to washing the dishes.
There was another pause.
"Thank you," a small voice whispered from the table.
Suddenly the air in the house felt a lot lighter. Ikuko breathed deeply, savoring the moment of peace. The sunshine through the window, the freshness in the room, even the scent of the dish soap was calming to her troubled heart. Today had brought big changes, but in this moment, right here, washing dishes while her daughter devoured a plate of cookies, everything felt blissfully normal. They were just a regular family doing regular things. That was the gift Usagi gave to her family every day by keeping her secret. If Ikuko confessed what she knew, nothing would ever be the same.
I'm home, Mom. I missed math class today. There was a demon in the library. It had six-inch claws on its hands and spat fire. It almost cut me in half, but I got out of the way just in time. Half the books got burned up. Mako-chan says maybe now we won't have to do our book reports. Haha.
Would it really be better to replace these peaceful afternoons with that nightmare? Even a shattered illusion had its comforts. Obviously Usagi understood that, and wanted it just as much. Perhaps this was her refuge from her unusual destiny.
Outside the kitchen window, a bird was singing. Leaves rustled in the breeze. Inside the house, a normal family continued its normal day.
Maybe she would tell her tomorrow.
But not today.
In a corner, brightly-painted shards of porcelain lay in a wastebasket, forgotten.
Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon and its associated characters and canon are the property of Naoko Takeuchi and Kodansha.