[FFML] [fanfic][Sailormoon] Moonshadow, chapter 17 (rough beta)

Mythril Moth mythrilmoth at sbcglobal.net
Thu Mar 4 12:05:41 PST 2010


Here we go. Warning: This is VERY MUCH the Tarantino chapter of Moonshadow.

C&C welcome. Usual disclaimers apply.

=======================================================

Four girls gathered at the main exit of Ueno Park shortly after nine in the 
morning. All four looked uncharacteristically grave.

"Hino-san, Mina-san," Usagi greeted. "You haven't met Mizuno 
Ami--Mercury--yet."

The two girls in the uniform of Mugen Gakuen hid their surprise--and 
discomfort--well, nodding respectfully to the bespectacled girl, who nodded 
stiffly back.

"So, Hino-san, you said you have a lead on finding Kino-san?" Usagi 
prompted.

"Hai," the raven-haired girl replied. She reached into the pocket of her 
skirt and withdrew Jupiter's henshin bracelet. "An unwelcome visitor called 
on me at home this morning, and gave me this. Though I have never seen it 
before, and have yet to meet Kino-shi, I knew immediately what it had to 
be."

Usagi accepted the green bracelet from Rei, face dark. "Un, this is 
Jupiter's bracelet." She pocketed it, then asked, "The person who gave this 
to you...you know them?"

"Unfortunately," Rei replied, scowling. "His name is Aritsuka. He 
is...extremely disreputable." She hesitated for a moment, then elaborated, 
"He is closely associated with a certain...ignominious segment of society."

"That is less than helpful," Ami replied. "With that alone, this man could 
be anything from burakumin to a child pornographer. Would you please be more 
specific?"

Rei's lips thinned in disapproval, but she nodded. "Aritsuka is involved 
with the yakuza."

Usagi groaned. "Yakuza?! Oh, this just gets better and better."

Mina looked at the three girls in confusion. "Yakuza? I'm...sorry, I'm 
afraid I don't know that term." She blushed sheepishly. "Sorry."

"It is alright, Mina-san," Rei said. "The yakuza are Japan's society of 
organised crime."

"The Western equivalent would be the Mafia," Ami added.

"Oh." Mina's eyes widened. "OH." She looked decidedly alarmed. "What the 
hell would the mob want with a Senshi?"

"It is unlikely that Kino-san's abduction by the yakuza is related to her 
alternate identity as Jupiter," Ami said. "We have learned that Kino-san 
supports herself through...less than ideal illegal means. This situation is 
most likely a consequence of her clandestine extracurricular activities."

"You mean one of US is a...gangster?" Mina squeaked, paling.

"Iie," Usagi replied, looking sad. "We found things at Kino-san's apartment 
that led us to believe she may be a prostitute."

The blond gasped. "A..."

"In a way, that is a relief," Rei replied, frowning. "I did not relish the 
notion that Aritsuka might be aware of my having become Mars. Or any of his 
associates taking an active interest in the Senshi. As I understand it, we 
have enough problems without having to guard ourselves against the yakuza as 
well."

Usagi sighed. "You realize that in order to rescue Kino-san, we'll need to 
go as Senshi. We'll be *making* the yakuza our enemies."

"Then we will simply need to exercise extreme caution in retrieving 
Kino-san," Ami said, adjusting her glasses.

=-------------=

Mythril Moth Presents

MOONSHADOW

Adapted from "Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon" by Takeuchi Naoko.

17: Without Honour Or Humanity

=-------------=

*Report.*

*The Senshi have a lead on Jupiter's location. They're cutting class to 
investigate.*

*Hmm. And what are you doing to help?*

*Princess Serenity asked me to arrange a distraction to keep her and Mercury 
out of trouble with their teacher...*

=-------------=

Ikuko stared at the morning news programme, mouth agape in horror.

//--urging citizens to remain calm, and under no circumstances to approach 
the premises until authorities have captured the animal. To repeat, Tokyo 
Tower is currently closed to the public after an escaped panther was sighted 
on the premises...//

"Oh kami-sama...I hope Usagi isn't caught up in that..."

=-------------=

"The problem is, Aritsuka is not likely to be directly involved in 
Kino-shi's abduction," Rei explained as the girls waited for a train. "His 
involvement with the yakuza is, at least so far as I know, mostly related to 
influence brokerage."

"A go-between for businessmen and corrupt politicians?" Usagi guessed.

"Hai." Rei paused. "He may know exactly who has Kino-shi. He may not. It is 
difficult to say for certain."

"Hino-san," Ami began, "Precisely how and why are you on such familiar terms 
with a professional criminal?"

The miko carefully schooled her expression, but nobody present missed the 
dark emotions which flashed through her eyes. "My apologies, but that is an 
extremely private matter. I will say only that Aritsuka is a blood relative 
who has been disowned."

"Fair enough. Please pardon my intrusive question."

*Ami-san...apologising?* Usagi cleared her throat. "So, Hino-san, since 
you're the one most familiar with this person...what do you suggest?"

Rei frowned. "The only course of action open to us at this time would be to 
interrogate Aritsuka. At the very least, we should be able to find out who 
has taken Kino-shi, and why, and with luck, where she is being held."

"And once we know that..." Usagi trailed off, sharing a meaningful glance 
with the others.

"So do we go in as Senshi, or...?" Mina asked, brow furrowed.

"It'd probably be a bad idea for four regular schoolgirls to start poking 
around in places we shouldn't be," Usagi pointed out.

"Precisely," Rei nodded. "Although I would not favour approaching this 
situation in our Senshi forms from the outset. At the very least, we would 
be endangering Kino-shi if we openly alarm her abductors."

"So what do we do?" Usagi asked.

Mina rubbed her chin. "I think I have an idea..." She reached into her skirt 
pocket and pulled out her phone...

=-------------=

"Disguise?" Artemis raised an eyebrow as he spoke into his mobile.

//We're going to be running into some pretty scary people,// Mina's voice 
issued from the small speaker. //Gangster types, if things are the way we 
think they are.//

"Yakuza?" the mage replied, feigning surprise. "Jupiter's been taken by the 
yakuza?"

//Rei thinks so.//

"That's definitely a problem. Hmmm..." After a momentary delay, Artemis 
traced a glowing silver sigil in the air with his free hand. "Tell Princess 
Serenity to hold out her hands and catch."

//Huh--oh. What the heck's that?//

"It creates disguises. It's pretty powerful, so the effect should last all 
day--just be sure to leave it in moonlight at night to recharge it."

//Okay. So how does it work?//

"Everyone who needs a disguise should touch it and concentrate on what they 
want to look like. It's as simple as that."

//Cool. Thanks. We'll be in touch when we find out anything.//

"Good luck."

=-------------=

Four young women stepped off a train in an upscale business district. The 
leader of the group was a teenage girl, barely fifteen years old if that, 
dressed in a deep violet kimono with a blood-red obi. Her long raven hair 
shone in the morning sun; her violet eyes were hard and sharp.

Keeping two paces behind her were three taller, slightly older-looking 
women: one, almond-skinned, brown hair tied up in tight, round buns atop her 
head; she wore a pearl-white cheongsam which clung tightly to her slim, 
toned figure and was slit high along the thigh. The second looked much like 
any office lady one would find in any city; a navy blue suit with matching 
high heels, short, bobbed dark hair, and small rimless sunglasses; the 
expression she wore was cold and forbidding. The third was a tall, tanned 
foreigner with medium-length, fiery copper hair which fell into her face; 
her attire consisted of tight black leather pants, high-heeled suede boots, 
an unbuttoned black gakuran, and a sarashi which left her midriff bare and 
afforded a distracting glimpse of cleavage.

"Ano...Mina-chan..." the cheongsam-clad woman spoke softly, "I'm sorry, 
but...that outfit..."

"I fear I'm probably to blame for...*that*," Rei said, keeping her gaze 
straight ahead. "I introduced Mina-san to late night anime, and..." She 
trailed off.

"Well...at the very least, it will be easy to pass her off as an enforcer," 
the office lady said, shaking her head.

Mina laughed, her faux copper hair falling across her face. "I couldn't help 
myself," she said. "I figured why not have some fun with it?"

Rei sighed. "I suppose your optimism is encouraging, Mina-san..."

At the rear, Ami whispered aside to Usagi, "Not that it is any of my 
business, but...does their friendship seem highly improbable?"

Usagi shrugged, laughing softly. "You know what they say...opposites 
attract."

Ami fell into a contemplative silence at that.

=-------------=

Luna rumbled satisfactorily to herself as she scaled the iron framework of 
the ridiculously huge tower the humans had built right in the middle of an 
absurdly congested city. *These humans...they are truly puzzling.*

Although she was forbidden to hunt humans for prey, and did not need their 
energy to survive so long as she was bound to the accursed moon mage, she 
could smell their terror at her antics; it filled her with a heady pleasure. 
She supposed in a way it was similar to what humans felt when they smelled 
flowers such as those in her master's garden.

As she bounded up the girders toward the highest level accessible to the 
humans, her nose twitched in irritation. *Something isn't right...*

The wind shifted; a sudden gust carried a stink to her nostrils which was 
all too familiar. Her eyes widened. *No...that's not possible...*

And then, she felt the distinctly uncomfortable sensation that she was being 
watched.

Deciding she had fulfilled the mission given her by the Princess, Luna 
angled down from her current perch, diving headlong into a pool of shadows 
some fifty metres below. As soon as her forepaws touched the darkness, she 
vanished.

Let the humans waste the rest of the day chasing a phantom cat that wasn't 
there. She had more urgent business to attend...

=-------------=

"Irrasshai! Welcome t--"

"Aritsuka. Which way to his office? Answer now."

The young, plain-looking receptionist blinked at the kimono-clad girl 
standing before her, eyes hard and angry. "Ano...sumimasen, but Aritsuka-san 
is--erk!"

The redhead had reached around the raven-haired girl and grabbed the 
receptionist by the throat. "She said tell us where the fuck that prick 
Aritsuka is! You got that?"

"H-hai!" the girl squeaked, terrified and gasping for air.

"Now now, Lina-chan. Manners."

"Right, sorry." The foreigner released the receptionist, then leaned close, 
staring her right in the face. "So, where is he?"

The trembling girl pointed a shaky finger down a hall to her right. 
"Th-third door on th-the l-left..."

"Thanks." The group turned and stalked off in that direction. The redhead 
paused long enough to toss over her shoulder, "By the way. Call the police? 
And I promise they'll be scraping your pussy off the ceiling."

The girl fainted dead away at her desk.

The Chinese-looking girl and the office lady turned beet red. "Mou, was that 
absolutely necessary?"

'Lina' shrugged. "So I let myself get carried away. Big deal."

"Just...don't overdo it, okay?"

"Sure thing, boss!"

Sighing, Rei rapped on the indicated door. She waited four seconds before 
opening it and stepping inside.

"Dammit, I said no disr--Rei-chan?!" The shocked middle-aged man at the 
lavish desk within exclaimed, staring openly at the kimono-clad girl.

"Aritsuka," Rei intoned harshly. "My associates and I must speak with you."

=-------------=

"I...sure. I always have time for you, Rei-chan. I don't believe I've ever 
met your fr--" His eyes widened as the group spread out, covering both sides 
of his desk, and the cheongsam-clad girl stepped forward, staring directly 
into his eyes.

"You...gangster are?" she spoke, her flawed Japanese tinged with a lilting 
accent.

Aritsuka blinked. "Wh--whatever gave you th--"

The office lady withdrew a small stun gun from her skirt pocket. "You will 
answer the question."

The middle-aged man gazed around at the four girls, sweat beading on his 
forehead. "Rei-chan...what the hell's going--"

"Speaking you not at my bitches! Speaking you is to me!" the Chinese woman 
screamed shrilly, slapping her palms on the desk. Aritsuka jumped.

Rei bowed her head. "Sumimasen. My Mistress is a rather harsh and impatient 
woman." She then flinched, as though expecting to be struck.

"Your...your what?"

"SPEAKING TO ME YOU IS I SAID!"

Aritsuka shot to his feet, a vein cording on his neck. "HORA! SHUT THIS 
CHINESE BITCH UP BEFORE I--"

The redhead picked up a stapler from the desk and swung it at the 
middle-aged man's temple, stunning him. He dropped back into his leather 
chair like a stone, eyes wide. "Shut yer fuckin' yap or I'll shut it for 
ya."

Rei coughed. "Aritsuka, I present my mistress, Xie Len. I should warn you, 
she has very little tolerance for Nihonjin. She only puts up with us because 
it's easier for natives to manage her affairs here."

"Her...her what? Rei-chan, what's going on?"

Xie Len lapsed into a long string of muttered, angry-sounding Cantonese. She 
then leaned forward and grabbed Aritsuka by his tie. "You is listen, you 
stupid, stupid Jap. We know you is punk Yakuza trash. No is care what you is 
doing, stupid Jap mob no is worth my time. But you is do some bad to my 
bottom bitch." She unclasped her small silk purse, and withdrew a glittering 
emerald green bangle. She held it under Aritsuka's nose, knuckles white and 
fist trembling. "You no is fuck with my bitches. You is fuck with my 
bitches, you is fuck with me. Nobody is fuck with Xie Len and live. 
Especially not stupid Jap. Wakatte me you?"

Aritsuka swallowed nervously. "Th--that..."

"You attempted to present this to me for my birthday," Rei said coldly. "It 
was stolen from an associate of the mistress. Therefore, your nakama are 
responsible for her disappearance." She paused. "You do not want the sort of 
trouble we are willing and able to bring down on your head, Aritsuka. It is 
in your own best interests to cooperate."

The middle-aged man fixed disbelieving eyes on the kimono-clad girl, face 
terribly pale. "Wh--who the hell ARE you people?" he asked in a quavering 
tone.

"I believe you know precisely who we are," the office lady with the stun gun 
said.

"Stupid Jap is stupid," Xie Len snarled. "We is from gangster in Hong Kong."

Aritsuka's eyes widened, and the remaining colour drained from his face. 
"Triad..."

"Do you now understand precisely how screwed you are?" Rei asked calmly. 
Even as she said this, the redhead cracked her knuckles, and the office 
lady's mirrored glasses shone white in the reflected fluorescents.

"H...hai."

"This is our offer," the office lady spoke in her cold, flat voice. "Tell us 
everything you know about the rightful owner of the bracelet. Who has taken 
her, where she is, and whether or not she is still alive. Tell us what we 
want to know, you live. Refuse..."

Aritsuka snorted. "Please. If I talk, they'll kill me. I'm dead either way."

"No dead if they dead first," Xie Len said.

"We intend to kill everyone involved in our nakama's abduction," Rei added. 
"With the sole exception of you, *if* you cooperate. They die, you live, we 
get our friend back. That's the deal."

Aritsuka swallowed nervously. "I...I just can't believe...my own daught--" 
He trailed off in a rasping gurgle as Rei clamped a hand around his throat. 
Fire danced in the raven-haired girl's eyes.

"Address me that way again, and you will never speak another word so long as 
you live. After all, you don't need your voice to tell us what we want to 
know. Understand?"

Aritsuka nodded, eyes wide as saucers, face faintly blue. Rei released him, 
and he collapsed back into his chair, wheezing.

"Now talk," Xie Len snapped harshly.

=-------------=

Several blocks from Aritsuka's office, once the Senshi had discarded their 
"Triad" disguises, Usagi turned to face the others, face down and blushing 
furiously. "Ano...I just wanted to say I'm sorry for...you know..." She dug 
her toe into the ground. "I mean, I said some really nasty stuff back there, 
and..."

"You were performing a role, acting as a character," Ami said dismissively. 
"As were we all. None of us take offence to anything 'Xie Len' said."

"Yeah, don't sweat it, Usagi. It's cool." Mina paused. "Although...I *do* 
kinda wonder where the heck you picked up a mouth like that. You hardly seem 
the type."

Usagi's crimson flush deepened, and she covered her eyes in embarassment. "A 
friend of mine is addicted to Hong Kong gangster movies. I get roped into 
watching them a lot. I don't like them that much, but..." She put a hand 
behind her head and laughed. "I guess it came in handy today, huh?"

Mina laughed. "No kidding. You should be in the drama club."

Usagi shook her head. "The only club I'm interested in is the 
'take-a-nap-before-dinner' club."

As they walked down a side street, headed for a train station, Mina walked 
closer to Rei, and leaned toward her ear. "Rei," she whispered, "that 
jackass back there...is he really...?"

Rei scowled. "He was stripped of the family name by Jijiue after the death 
of my mother, when we discovered his yakuza connections. He is ronin trash."

Mina winced. "I'm sorry I brought it up."

The miko shook her head. "I don't like to talk about it, but I suppose it 
was unavoidable after that scene in his office."

"So he gives you stuff to try to get you to stop hating him?" Usagi asked, 
having overheard the conversation.

Rei flinched. "He knows he isn't supposed to come anywhere near me, but he 
can't seem to give up on trying to win me back. It has become...tiresome."

The girls lapsed into silence then, waiting for the train to arrive.

=-------------=

Makoto closed her eyes and set her jaw angrily as two yakuza raped her. She 
refused to give them the satisfaction of crying out. *Just act like a 
corpse, dead to the world...like Motoki...*

Inwardly, she seethed. She vowed to herself that every single man who had 
"visited" her since her abduction would die in the most painful manner 
possible...just as soon as she could grasp that spark of power deep within 
her soul...

*Dammit, why can't I...just...FOCUS...*

One of her assailants suddenly let out a pained yelp and fell on his ass. 
"What the fuck?!"

"Oi, Inaba, what's your problem?" the other asked, glancing down at the 
fallen gangster.

"Somethin' fuckin' shocked me just now!"

The other rapist laughed. "What, this bitch's asshole got static cling? Man, 
you're fucked up..."

Inaba left; the other man continued his "entertainment." Makoto gave no 
outward reaction to either man, as before.

Inwardly, she bore a feral smirk.

*That's one point to Jupiter...*

=-------------=

"The Shitennou are up to something at Tokyo Tower," Luna rumbled without 
preamble.

Artemis looked up from the book he was reading, eyes intent. "You are 
certain of this?"

"Yes," the youma replied, dipping her head in a feline nod. "I don't know 
*what*; whatever they're doing there is well concealed. But I know they're 
doing *something* on top of the upper viewing platform."

"And how do you know this, if you have not seen it?"

"The stink of it is strong, strong enough to pierce their cloaking magic. 
There is a substance...a metal, yet not quite a metal, but more than a 
mineral. It exists only in the dark place where my kind dwell."

"Bulfecium. I know of it."

"The top of that tower reeks of bulfecium. It does not exist in this world. 
The Shitennou have constructed a device there, without question."

"I see. What do you suppose this device is for?"

"There are many possibilities, none of which bode well for the humans...or 
for us." Luna paused. "Also, I believe one of my broodsisters is guarding 
it. I could not scent her, but I felt that I was being watched. None but my 
broodsisters are capable of concealing their presence from me in such a 
manner."

"Which means whatever they have up there, it must be very important, and 
they don't want us knowing what it is until it's too late to do anything 
about it," Artemis summed up.

"Precisely."

The mage nodded, then returned to his book. "Return to the Princess and 
assist her in whatever way she requires. Once the current situation has been 
resolved, survey the tower again--without being seen by the general public. 
The more information we can obtain, the better."

"Yes, Master."

=-------------=

"This is the place," Usagi said.

The yakuza hideout, strangely enough, turned out to be a warehouse owned by 
a scholastic publishing firm. The girls stood under an awning at an office 
across the street, regarding the warehouse with caution.

After several tense minutes of silent surveillance, Usagi motioned toward 
the mouth of a nearby alley.

A minute later, four Senshi landed on the roof of the warehouse.

=-------------=

"Good afternoon, Mako-chan," Okuda sneered as he sauntered into the room. "I 
hope my nakama have been taking good care of you."

Makoto spat at his feet. The gangster chuckled. "Still as feisty as ever..." 
He turned to the filthy, pitiful corpse still hanging on the other side of 
the room. "I see why you were so fond of this one. I wonder...did you ever 
get a piece of this, hmm?" He looked back at Makoto; the grin on his face 
was malicious, sadistic, and vaguely alarming. "Well, better late than 
never, no?"

Makoto's stomach gave a lurch. *Oh HELL no.*

"What's wrong, Motoki-kun? Can't get it up? That's a shame." Okuda shook his 
head in mock pity. "Oh well, your loss." He smiled. "Of course, that just 
means more for me. Ne, Mako-chan?" He approached her, hands moving to his 
belt...

The room suddenly filled with thick, cold fog.

"What the--?!"

Makoto heard something which sounded like the beat of powerful wings, and 
felt a cold band of metal snap into place around her right wrist.

Immediately, power surged through her, every nerve ending singing with 
unbridled energy. The haze of pain and drugs fell away from her mind even as 
the thick mist began to clear.

Okuda stood in the centre of the room, looking around wildly in alarm and 
confusion. Four Senshi surrounded him, expressions grim.

The door burst open, and a half dozen yakuza poured in, various weapons 
drawn. Bullets filled the air, a hailstorm of death. The noise nearly 
drowned out the pounding rush of thunder filling Makoto's head.

What happened next took everyone by surprise:

Dozens of thick, corded, thorn-studded vines erupted from Makoto's body, 
rapidly engulfing Okuda. He screamed as the vines tore through his clothing, 
thrust themselves into his mouth, ears, and eyes; blood ran from the 
suddenly-empty sockets. Within seconds, the gangster was completely 
cocooned. The other yakuza stopped firing, frozen in alarm; the Senshi 
watched with horrified fascination.

Sizzling arcs of static electricity began flowing along the vines, from 
Okuda into Makoto, even as more vines enveloped her nude body. The screams 
from within the shell of vines trailed off; the vines themselves rapidly 
turned brown and withered, breaking away and falling to the floor.

Okuda's corpse, covered in blood, scratches, and horrific puncture wounds, 
lay mangled on the floor.

The chains that had bound Makoto gave way with a deafening snap, and Jupiter 
landed heavily on one knee, bracing herself with gloved fists.

"Thanks for the jump-start," she said to the mutilated body of her captor. 
She stood, somewhat unsteadily, and faced the yakuza looking on in shock and 
horror. "Now, boys...I think we need to discuss the matter of your bill..."

=-------------=

A haze of smoke curled in the still air.

Burning red eyes surveyed the grisly scene with grim fascination. "I guess 
you don't need my help after all," Luna rumbled as she emerged from the 
shadows.

Serenity tensed, then relaxed. "It's over, we've got Jupiter back."

"So I see," the panther replied. "Not without one hell of a fight, though, 
it looks like..."

The walls of the storeroom were pockmarked with bullet holes. The floor was 
littered with shallow pools of water, clotting blood, spent cartridges, 
withered brown vines, scorch marks, and several corpses, the visible wounds 
telling of a variety of spectacularly painful deaths. Jupiter stood in one 
corner, stretching; Mercury was surveying the scene with obvious distaste, 
while Venus looked like she was about to throw up. Mars simply hovered above 
the filthy floor, eyes unreadable. Serenity grimaced at the array of corpses 
and sighed, shoulders slumped.

"What the hell did we just do?" she asked of nobody in particular.

"We just murdered several armed criminals," Mercury replied clinically. 
"Each of whom were likely guilty of any number of capital offenses, not the 
least of which is sexual assault of a minor." She glanced at Jupiter for a 
moment, something dark and troubled in her eyes, before turning away to 
examine the walls.

"But...it's not our place to do that," Serenity said quietly. "We're 
not...we're not cops, we're not judges. We...didn't have the right..."

"Princess," Luna said quietly, "soldiers are often called upon to do 
distasteful things to protect what they hold dear."

"But we're not at war with...with these people," Serenity protested. "Our 
war is with monsters and demons, not..."

"These guys were monsters alright," Jupiter spat. "Don't get any funny ideas 
about that." Her gaze drifted across the room; Serenity followed her eyes, 
and gasped.

"Kami-sama..."

The others turned to look as well. Venus let out a scream.

Perversely, in the midst of the carnage, the dead body hanging limply by his 
wrists on the opposite side of the room had remained completely untouched.

Luna hissed. "Now *that's* a nasty way to die."

"Who...?" Serenity asked, even as Venus finally lost the battle with her 
stomach and dashed for the farthest corner of the room to throw up.

Mercury approached the hanging body cautiously, frowning as she studied him. 
"Furuhata Motoki-san, if I am not mistaken."

"Yeah," Jupiter affirmed, nodding. "How'd you--"

"The highest volume of calls on your home telephone's caller ID history are 
from this individual, whose last recorded call was dated Sunday evening." 
She paused. "Was he the...intermediary for your clientele?"

Jupiter blinked. "Huh?"

"Your pimp," Serenity clarified, closing her eyes and rubbing the bridge of 
her nose.

Jupiter's face drained of colour. "H-how did you know..."

"When you went missing, we sort of broke into your apartment to look for 
clues," Serenity answered sheepishly. "Well, after we searched your place, 
um..."

"It became obvious that you are a prostitute," Mercury said clinically, 
continuing to examine the corpse of Motoki.

Jupiter sighed, bowing her head; her fists clenched tightly at her sides. 
"Dammit..."

"Kino-san," Serenity began softly, taking a step toward the taller girl. 
"It...look, it doesn't matter. I mean, I won't pretend it doesn't bother me, 
but...we're still friends, and I still need you. Just...don't shut me out, 
okay? And please don't be angry with me. I think I can imagine how you feel, 
but..."

Jupiter sighed. "Nah, I ain't mad at you. I'm just...tired of all this shit. 
Every time I think I've got a good thing going on, someone finds out I'm a 
whore, and everything goes to hell." She shook her head. "But I'm glad you 
guys came to get me. Really, I appreciate it. Nobody's ever really stuck up 
for me before."

Serenity's eyes welled with tears. "That's about to change, Kino-san. That's 
about to change..."

=-------------=

Evening had long since fallen, and Usagi sat on her bed, lost in thought.

Mars had burned Motoki's body to ash; everyone present agreed it was the 
most respectful thing to do for him. The bodies of the yakuza had been left 
alone; sooner or later someone would discover the grisly scene, but linking 
it to the Senshi--much less their civilian identities--was unlikely, and 
they felt it prudent to leave the premises as quickly as possible.

After they had cleared some distance from the warehouse, Makoto had 
explained, in brief, her situation. In turn, Usagi and Ami had explained 
what they'd seen and done at her apartment.

"The window?" Makoto had said, brow furrowed. "I wasn't even at home when 
those yakuza trash got me, though. I was at the arcade."

"That explains why the front door was locked," Ami had nodded. "In which 
case, someone else--likely a petty thief--broke into your apartment during 
your absence."

"And emptied out her desk drawer?" Usagi had added, eliciting another nod 
from Ami.

"The locked one?" Makoto had asked, alarmed. "Goddammit...I had over 80,000 
yen in there..."

Now, hours later, Usagi's mind whirled with the events and revelations of 
the day. She was still wrestling with the morality of their actions in the 
warehouse; acting as judge, jury, and executioner as they had done gnawed at 
her conscience.

More pressing, though, was her concern for Makoto. The girl needed help, and 
Usagi was damned if she'd let her keep doing the same horrible things to 
support herself. There had to be some way...

An idea came to her, and she reached for her phone, suddenly thankful for 
her mother's insistence on adding a certain person's number to her 
directory. One ring...two...

//Moshi-moshi.//

"Chiba-san? Tsukino Usagi desu..."

=-------------=

"Konnichiwa, Aritsuka-san," an even, pleasant male voice said. The rough 
blindfold was removed from the crooked executive's eyes; he winced as the 
bright light stabbed his retinas, sending lances of pain into his brain.

He had been forced to his knees; he looked up and found himself staring at 
the back of a plush red velvet chair, beyond which stood a handsome oak 
desk. The walls were panelled in mahogany and bore many impressive 
certificates and framed photos. A small fireplace burned cheerily in the 
corner. Other than the two thugs holding him down, there only appeared to be 
one other person in the room: the occupant of the chair. He could only see 
the man's pale-skinned, weathered hand; silver rings on the thumb and 
forefinger of said hand gleamed as he idly flicked the hilt of a katana in 
and out of the throat of its scabbard.

"I trust you enjoyed your ride over?"

"Can't say I did," Aritsuka grumbled.

The man in the chair laughed. "I suppose not, no. But it's only polite to 
ask."

"Who are you and what do you want with me?" Aritsuka demanded gruffly.

"Straight to the point, I like that. None of this sneaky tap-dancing around. 
Good." The katana came to rest in its sheath with a particularly loud snap. 
"I'm...a security consultant, you might say. Certain people pay me 
considerable sums of money to plug leaks." The hand caressed the sword's 
hilt. "People such as your friend Okuda."

Aritsuka stiffened. "Okuda."

"He was killed yesterday," the man continued, in the same conversational 
tone. "Damn messy scene. Freakiest shit I've ever seen, and I've seen some 
freaky shit."

A pause. "See, Aritsuka-san, the thing is...when people buy my services, 
they're paying for the best. They're paying for iron-clad protection. So 
when one of my clients up and dies under suspicious circumstances, well...it 
doesn't do much for my reputation. And if people don't think I can keep them 
safe, well...I lose business. I don't like losing business, Aritsuka-san."

"Nobody does," Aritsuka replied.

The man chuckled, thumbing the katana's guard; a centimetre of the blade 
emerged, gleaming silver-white. "So when something happens, such as what 
happened to your friend Okuda, I have my people go through the various 
recordings to see if we missed a leak somewhere." He paused. "Well, it just 
so happens we found one great big damn leak, and you're it."

"I don't know what you're--"

"Four girls, claiming to be Triad, forced information about Okuda out of 
you," the man interrupted, his tone still calm and pleasant. "Yes, there are 
cameras in your office."

Sweat beaded the corrupt businessman's brow. "I...I had no choice," he 
protested weakly.

"I know you didn't, Aritsuka-san," the man commisserated sincerely. His long 
fingers wrapped slowly around the hilt of the sword. For a brief moment, 
Aritsuka felt as though the silver skull ring on the man's forefinger was 
leering at him.

"I know you didn't...and neither do I."

A flash of steel, and then darkness.

=-------------=

to be continued

=-------------=




==================
Mythril Moth
www.mythrilmoth.net



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